TEXT   544    36116   195.94 KB

BuggyCYOA

By Krivvy
Created: 17th February 2021 08:24:29 PM
Modified: 4th March 2021 09:26:10 AM

  1. You are Anon. You are the only human male living in Equestria. You are out on a cool autumn afternoon on one of your routine trips into the Everfree Forest. You earn a living by harvesting the many rare and magical ingredients that grow deep in that wild forest, something that the average pony would never dare to do.
  2. There is definite danger lurking out here, and you have had more than your share of close encounters, but you are capable of defending yourself, and the pay is good.
  3. After collecting a small patch of Snapcap Mushrooms, you continue on your way into a section of the Everfree that you haven't visited in several months.
  4. You pause as you hear an unusual sound in the distance, a sort of... buzzing noise, you determine.
  5. You listen carefully as the buzzing sounds out for a few seconds, only to stop for several more before repeating. It does not sound like the source of the noise is moving.
  6.  
  7. You decide to attempt investigating the source of the buzzing noise. Any time you hear something out of the ordinary in this magical forest, you feel both a sense of curiosity and a sense of fear.
  8. You navigate your way through the forest for a few minutes until you finally spot the source of the buzzing, which causes you to pause.
  9. Some distance ahead of you is a strange creature that you recognize as a changeling. You remember reading of them from the books about the various races that inhabit the world along with Equestrian history that Twilight Sparkle loaned you shortly after you first arrived in this world.
  10. This changeling has gotten itself caught in a Tanglehoof Vine. You watch as it struggles in vain to escape, its wings periodically buzzing as it tries to use them in an effort to free itself from the vine, confirming the source of the noise you heard.
  11. You have no idea how long it has been there, but the Tanglehoof is very effective at catching prey and it seems to be just as effective at keeping its prey trapped as well. The changeling's struggles have clearly only managed to entrap it further.
  12. You silently watch as you find yourself faced with a dilemma...
  13. You can't remember all the details about the changeling race from your studies in the books, but you do specifically remember that ponies consider them as vile, evil creatures.
  14. Logically it would be best just to leave it. However, you feel bad knowing the fate that awaits the changeling, either having to suffer starving to death or falling victim to a predator of the forest.
  15. The other part of you feels a little curious about the changeling. You don't know anything about them beyond what was written in the books, so you wonder if this is an opportunity to learn first hand about them. Are they truly as evil as the ponies make them out to be?
  16. You are torn between wanting to save it and not wanting anything to do with it.
  17.  
  18. You think about the nature of Tanglehoof Vines:
  19. Tanglehoof Vines are a type of magical plant that grows within the Everfree Forest.
  20. Tanglehoof Vines react suddenly when something comes in contact with them, quickly wrapping around and ensnaring whatever disturbed the vine. Attempting to struggle only makes things worse.
  21. The vines are strong and durable, though they can be easily destroyed by fire, magic, or cut with a sharp object.
  22. Becoming ensnared by Tanglehoof Vines is frequently fatal for those who are either not strong enough to break free by force, use magic, or use a sharp object. Causes of death can include asphyxiation, starvation, exposure to the elements, and attacks by wild animals.
  23.  
  24. You decide to attempt speaking with the changeling. As you cautiously draw close to it, the changeling notices you with wide blue eyes full of fear as it redoubles its efforts to try and struggle free from the vines.
  25. You notice that the changeling must have been here for awhile, as it's terribly caught within the vines. You watch as the vines react to its renewed struggles as more vines wrap around it, further reducing its ability to move.
  26. Suddenly, the changeling ceases its struggles as it gasps for breath, clearly exhausted.
  27. "Please... Help... D-Don't hurt me, please..." the changeling struggles to say as it looks up at you with a pleading look in its eyes.
  28. You find yourself staring at the changeling in surprise; you didn't expect it to speak to you, let alone beg so pathetically for your help. You feel yourself being somewhat compelled to help it, but...
  29.  
  30. You feel your empathy tugging at your heart as you cannot bear to see the poor thing suffer any longer like this. You decide to take action as you kneel down next to the mass of vines that ensnare the changeling.
  31. "Don't worry, I'm not going to hurt you." You say as you unsheathe your knife and begging cutting away at the Tanglehoof Vines.
  32. You watch the vines immediately become limp like wet noodles after you sever each one, making them easy to remove. The changeling silently watches you with wide blue eyes the entire time with no discernible expression.
  33. Finally, you cut the last of the vines as the changeling appears to visibly relax slightly as it takes longer, deeper breaths. You place your knife back in its sheath before reaching out and unwrapping the vines from around the poor creature.
  34. As you do, however, you are quickly taken aback by what you see, as the more you uncover the changelings body, the more you see how it appears to be severely anorexic.
  35. The changelings smooth black body appears largely sunken in, clearly exposing the contours of its ribs and other bones. Its legs have many pronounced holes in them, noticeably more than what you remember the illustrations in the books depicting them as. While its face is still mostly the same, you can see that its eyes are sunken in and its cheeks are severely hollowed, giving it a gaunt expression.
  36. You can't help but wonder again just how long this changeling was caught in the Tanglehoof, or if it was already starving prior to that happening.
  37. Regardless, you can tell that it must have been using the last of its strength in an attempt to escape, as its now struggling to rise to its hooves.
  38.  
  39. "Woah there, slow down for a moment. I don't think you're ready to get up quite yet." You say as you attempt to reach out and support the changeling.
  40. "N-No! I'm... fine!" It unconvincingly says as it finally makes it up onto all fours. You watch as it begins to move away from you, only to end up stumbling along several feet before bumping into a tree and falling to the ground again.
  41. "Alright, you need to stop doing that." You say as you kneel down next to the changeling and gently rest your hand on its side in an effort to keep it down.
  42. "I... I can do this myself... I-I'm not a burden... I'm still useful!" It weakly protests as its blue eyes begin to well up with tears.
  43. "Look, you really need some help right now. You're not going to make it out here in your current condition. Just tell me what you need." You say reassuringly to the changeling.
  44. The changeling pauses for a moment as it looks at you. You can see it struggling with something internally before it speaks again.
  45. "I... I'm hungry..." It says as its head droops down in defeat.
  46. "I'm sure you are." You say as you pause to try and recollect more of the information that you read about the changeling race in the books. You remember it being noted that they primarily fed from the emotion of love to fuel their unique magic, but you can't remember if that sustained them physically or not.
  47. "Do you eat and drink normal food?" You ask the changeling.
  48. "Yes... I'm hungry..." It says as it turns its head away from you.
  49. "Alright, alright. Don't worry, I'll get you something to eat. Just tell me what you like." You say, attempting to reassure the creature.
  50. "I like fruit..." It eventually responds.
  51. "Fruit? Okay... I'm afraid I don't have any food with me, but you can have this." You say as you remove a container of water from one of your bags before opening it and holding it out to the changelings mouth.
  52. The creature stares at it for a moment before its mouth slowly opens and lets you feed it the water. It eagerly swallows the water as you let more dribble into its mouth.
  53. "Thirsty... Thank you." It says as it finishes drinking.
  54. You smile as you put the container back in your bag.
  55. "Now then. I'm going to carry you out of here now. I don't want you to worry about anything, okay? Just relax." You say.
  56. "O... Okay..." The changeling says before you use your arms to pick it up.
  57. You begin walking back through the forest with the changeling in your arms for a while. It's surprisingly light despite its approximately waist high size, no doubt missing a lot of weight from its apparent starvation. It also occurs to you that you're not entirely sure what this creatures gender is yet, or if it even has a name. Though you suppose such things can wait until later, as there are more pressing issues at hand.
  58.  
  59. After walking a good distance while carrying the changeling, you decide to take a moment to rest and collect your thoughts.
  60. "We're taking a moment so I can catch my breath. Just lay down here and don't strain yourself." You say as you kneel down and gently rest the changeling on the ground. You then stand back up straight and lean backwards to stretch your muscles.
  61. "Thank you... for saving me. I'm sorry that I'm causing you trouble." The changeling says.
  62. You give the changeling a light nod. "Don't worry about it." You say as you idly scan the surrounding forest while you think about what to do next.
  63. It occurs to you that if what you read in the books were true and that ponies view changelings in a strongly negative light, there may be trouble if it's seen while you're carrying it back to your home. You've seen how the ponies can be rather... zealous in what they believe in.
  64. Granted, your home was built on the outskirts of Ponyville where there is little foot traffic, so that lessens the risk somewhat. You figure that you could also cover the changeling with one of your outer layers of clothing in the final stretch of walking to your home.
  65. In addition, you would guess that it is around mid-afternoon now. Most ponies are likely going to be at the market purchasing their food and other goods for the evening anyway.
  66. Your mind also turns to Zecora as a possibility...
  67. It would be quite a trek to reach her home deep in the Everfree from your current position. You estimate it would take roughly 45 minutes to walk to her home, versus about 13 for the remaining distance to your own home.
  68. Another thought strikes your mind as you turn your attention back to the changeling for a moment to stare at it. What if other races besides ponies hate changelings too? There's no guarantee that a zebra like Zecora would be accepting of it.
  69. You let out a deep sigh as you prepare to get moving again. One thing is for certain, however, and that is you're definitely going to be borrowing those books from Twilight again. You want to know more about this changeling race. This one that you've rescued is seemingly not evil... Yet.
  70.  
  71. You decide that returning to your home is the only plan that makes sense.
  72. You kneel back down and wrap your arms around the changeling. "Up we go." You say as you rise back to your feet and continue on your way.
  73. Walking the remaining distance is uneventful as you leave behind the Everfree and move into the normal vegetation as you near your home. You decided to take a slightly roundabout way so that the final distance between tree and underbrush cover and the relatively open field between your home is minimal.
  74. Upon seeing your home in the distance, you set the changeling back down on the ground as you proceed to remove a backpack of sorts that contains your forages and other things, followed by your coat that you wear in colder weather.
  75. The changeling notices this and looks up at you with curiosity. "What are you doing?" It asks.
  76. "My home, which is just outside of Ponyville, is up ahead. I've heard that ponies don't think too highly of changelings, to say the least. So I'm going to hide you with this coat." You explain.
  77. The changeling seems to cringe slightly at your mention of Ponyville and the ponies.
  78. "P-Ponyville...? Oh..." It mutters as it begins to look worried.
  79. "Relax, it'll be fine. Most of the ponies should be at the marketplace or somewhere else right now, not around here." You say in an attempt to reassure the changeling as you lay your coat over it before putting your backpack on once again.
  80. "Let's get this over with." You say as you pick up the changeling with your coat draped over it. It definitely will obscure what you're holding from a distance, but you hope that you're not going to meet any ponies in the next short distance.
  81. You step out into the open and begin to walk as quickly as possible without looking suspicious. As you walk, you look around and can see a few ponies off in the far distance, along with some pegasi flying over the main part of town. Thankfully, there doesn't appear to be any close by.
  82. You hear some shouting and look over to see a group of three young fillies running around and playing with each other. You sigh in relief when you see that they aren't paying any attention to you.
  83. You feel the changeling press itself against your body as it hears the voices of the fillies in the distance. "We're almost there." You reassuringly say.
  84. Soon enough, you make it to your front door, and quickly unlock it and head inside, locking it again behind you.
  85. You let out a sigh of relief as you walk over to a simple sofa and gently rest the changeling on it, removing your coat from it as you do so.
  86. "Here we are. Home sweet home. It's not much, but it's mine." You say.
  87. The changeling looks around nervously as it rests on the sofa.
  88.  
  89. "Listen, I'm going to head into town now to sell what I collected today, and to buy some food for both of us." You begin saying as the changeling stares at you with its full attention.
  90. You then proceed to take a few minutes to explain the layout of your home and approximately where everything it might need is.
  91. "...and if anyone comes up to the door and knocks, don't answer it, okay?" You conclude.
  92. The changeling nods its head in understanding.
  93. "Okay..." It quietly says, still looking a bit nervous.
  94. "Good, that should be about it. Let's see now..." You trail off as you walk over to your small kitchen.
  95. The changeling watches you with interest as you rummage around before returning to the sofa with a small tray.
  96. "Here you go, something to get you started." You say as you set the tray down on a small table in front of the sofa. The tray has a few apples, a glass of water, and a pitcher to refill the glass.
  97. The changeling stares at it for a moment before repeatedly looking back and forth between you and the tray a few times.
  98. "This... This is all for me?" It asks, almost sounding unsure of the gesture.
  99. "Of course. Is this fine? You said you liked fruit." You ask it.
  100. "Y-Yes! Thank you!" The changeling happily replies as you watch its horn briefly glow with green magic as it levitates an apple over to itself before grabbing it with its hooves and eagerly eating it.
  101. You smile as you walk over to a different part of the room and grab a blanket, which you lay over the changelings body to help keep it warm.
  102. "I'll be back as soon as I can. Remember, don't answer the door if there's a knock. I doubt anyone will stop by here, but it's a possibility." You say.
  103. The changeling nods as it continues to eat its apple.
  104. You head back outside, and after locking the door once again, begin your walk on the dirt roads towards the main part of Ponyville.
  105. Along the way, you begin to meditate on the nature of your new guest. You wonder just what exactly you're going to do from this point forward.
  106. Before too long, however, you find yourself arriving in the heart of Ponyville. Several ponies happily wave at you as they trot by.
  107. Now then, you have things to do...
  108.  
  109. You immediately get to work visiting your regular customers who buy your goods harvested from the Everfree Forest. The walk to each house doesn't take too long and you begin to sell the items you have on hand. In relatively little time you successfully sell everything and feel a satisfying weight from the bit bag hanging off your belt.
  110. You take a moment to consider what to do next. You begin to wonder if it would be a good idea to try and confide in one of the ponies you know about the changeling.
  111. There are a few ponies who you consider to be your friend, but you're not confident in those friendships being strong enough to just drop it on them. You need to feel this out somehow...
  112. After some forethought, you decide to hopefully accomplish two things at once and visit Ponyville's library. You've been meaning to visit it again for a while now.
  113. After a few minutes of walking through the streets, you arrive at the Golden Oak Library.
  114. You walk up to the door of the library and knock a few times before entering.
  115. "Anon! Is that you?" you hear a voice shout from upstairs.
  116. "Yeah, Twilight. It's me," you reply. You enter and see her quickly trotting down the stairs.
  117. "Anon! How are you? What have you been up to?" The purple unicorn mare happily says to you with a beaming smile.
  118. "I've been doing quite well. Just returned from another trip to the Everfree." You say with a smile.
  119. "Another one? You're always going off to that strange forest. Did you encounter any new plants or herbs? If you did, you can always bring them here and we can try and look them up in the botany books!" Twilight eagerly says.
  120. You chuckle at the bookworms enthusiasm. "I'm afraid not. But when I do I'll know where to go." You say.
  121. A small awkward silence falls between the two of you until you hear some noise coming from upstairs before you hear the voice of Spike. "Hey Twilight! Are you coming back up here? How did you want these things sorted?" You hear the young dragon call out.
  122. "O-Oh! Just a minute, Spike!" Twilight responds before turning her attention back to you with a sheepish look on her face.
  123. "Sorry Anon, I'm really busy organizing some things and Spike is helping me out. I should get back to that... Did you need something?" She asks.
  124. "Oh, um... Yeah, do you remember that book on the different races that I read before? Are there any more like that?" You ask.
  125. "Yes, of course! Let me just..." The young unicorn mare trails off as she trots over to some of the bookshelves, pulling three of them away with her magic before returning to you.
  126. "If that's what you're interested in, here you go!" Twilight says as she hands the books over to you with her magic, which you in turn grab with your hands.
  127. "Thanks, Twilight. I appreciate it." You say as you carefully put the books in your backpack.
  128. "No problem, Anon. So... What made you want to learn more about this?" She asks.
  129. "Well it's, uh..." You stumble over your words as you suddenly feel slightly nervous. You wonder if this is really the best time for this. Should you confide right now in Twilight?
  130.  
  131. "I... I was ju-" You begin before being interrupted by the impatient voice of Spike from up above "Twilight! Alphabetical, or chronological?" The young dragon calls out.
  132. Twilight immediately snaps to attention with a worried look on her face. "Be right there, Spike!" She yells back as she turns around and begins to trot back up the stairs.
  133. You watch as the purple bookworm stops for a moment to look back at you. "Sorry Anon! Let's talk about this more later, okay? I really want to hear what you have to say!" She says before hurrying up the rest of the stairs.
  134. You say nothing in response as you feel a sense of relief wash over you. Yes, maybe another time would be better...
  135. You head back outside of the library and stop to look up at the sky. You guess that there's around two hours left until sunset. You feel like you should hurry and buy your goods from the market before it closes.
  136.  
  137. You go ahead to the market and do business with the various ponies that are still set up there. You acquire a few pounds of dried oats, several apples, a jar of honey, a jar of blueberry jam, and a fresh loaf of bread.
  138. You also decide to purchase a small vial of what you can only describe as a vitamin potion. You're still not entirely sure what they're made from or how they are produced, but they are often given to sick ponies. They're not cheap, but you don't have much in the way of expenses compared to the income you gain.
  139. You feel it's worth it, as you have a suspicion that the changeling in your care has been in poor health for longer than you care to imagine, given its appearance.
  140. Satisfied with everything you've done in Ponyville for today, you begin your short journey back home on the well worn dirt roads.
  141. Along the way, you look around you and appreciate the autumn beauty surrounding you. The leaves are in full display with vibrant hues of orange, red, and yellow as they rustle in the breeze. The grass is a lush green. The sun is shining brightly overhead, though the chill reminds you that winter is drawing near.
  142. Though you had similar sights and sounds on Earth, you always end up marveling at how pure and untainted this world is, a quality that you deeply appreciate.
  143. As you begin approaching your home, you are suddenly reminded of the changeling you rescued and wonder about what you should do with it.
  144. Assuming you successfully nurse it back to health and it turns out to truly be friendly... Then what? Send it on its way? Try and introduce it to the ponies, who may very well have a real hatred of them?
  145. The thought frustrates you, but you know that attempting to keep it hidden forever is a pointless endeavor. But how do you approach any other option?
  146. You set those thoughts aside for now as you arrive at your front door.
  147. You quietly unlock and open the door, unsure of what exactly is going to await you on the other side. After seeing or hearing nothing inside, you enter and shut the door behind you, locking it again in the process.
  148. "It's me, I'm back." You say as you look around the entrance to your home. You hear no response.
  149. You quietly walk over to the living area with your sofa where you see the changeling laying with the blanket still covering it.
  150. A slight panic grips you as you wonder if the changeling died while you were gone, but with close observation you see the slow rise and fall of its breath.
  151. You smile when you realize that it's just sleeping. You look and see that it ate all of the apples you left for it, and drank nearly the full pitcher of water.
  152. Thinking about the apples brings your thoughts to your own hunger. It's time to make some dinner.
  153.  
  154. You leave the sleeping changeling to its rest as you walk over to your small kitchen area. You begin bringing some water to a boil while you set out the things you bought from the market, in addition to the books that Twilight loaned you.
  155. While you wait on the water to boil, you take the apples and chop them into bite sized chunks. You then take the loaf of fresh bread and cut off a few slices to toast in a few minutes.
  156. The water eventually comes to a boil, to which you add some of the oats along with the chopped apples, which you proceed to stir together at a simmer.
  157. Soon enough, the hot oatmeal is ready and divided into two bowls. You finish it off by drizzling some honey on top along with a light dusting of cinnamon. You also quickly toast the slices of bread and spread some of the blueberry jam onto them.
  158. A simple meal that is perhaps more suited for breakfast than dinner, or at least how it would be considered back on Earth, but it's easy to eat. You hope the changeling likes it.
  159. Speaking of which, you look across the room and notice that the changeling is once again awake and watching you intently from the couch.
  160. "Hey there." You say as you begin bringing the food over to the small table in front of the couch. The changeling silently watches you as you do so.
  161. You refill the pitcher of water and bring it back along with your own glass, which you promptly fill along with the changelings.
  162. Finally, you pull up a chair to the opposite side of the table and sit down, making yourself comfortable.
  163. The changeling with its curious blue eyes continues to stare at you, in which you do the same.
  164. "I imagine that you're still hungry, right? This is what I made for dinner... Or at least what I hope you can eat." You say as you gesture towards the steaming hot bowl of oatmeal with one of your hands. The changelings eyes appear to go slightly wider in surprise as it looks down at the bowl of oatmeal in front of it, before alternating between you and the bowl several times.
  165. "This... This is all for... me?" It quietly says, almost sounding in disbelief.
  166. "Yeah, of course. Why wouldn't it be? Dig in." You say as you pick up your own bowl and begin eating.
  167. You watch as a big, happy smile suddenly forms on the changelings face. "I-I... Thank you! Thank you!" It happily exclaims as it begins eating its own bowl of oatmeal.
  168. "It's delicious!" It says as it eagerly eats the food. You don't think it's that great, but it makes you happy that it's acceptable for the changeling. Though you suppose anything must taste wonderful to someone who is starving...
  169. You pick up and begin eating a piece of toast with blueberry jam on it. The bread, however... Nothing beats fresh bread that was baked that day, the jam is simply a bonus.
  170. You eat together in silence for awhile, until you notice that the changeling has stopped about halfway through its bowl. It appears to be looking down at it deep in thought.
  171. "Is something wrong?" You ask it.
  172. "Why are you doing all of this for me?" The changeling asks as it looks up at you.
  173. You find yourself caught slightly off guard by its question. Does it think you have an ulterior motive? In your mind, you shouldn't need a reason to help someone in need, it's just the right thing to do.
  174.  
  175. "Well... Shouldn't that be obvious? Where I am from, it's just normal to help others in need, and from what I've seen of the ponies that is true in this land too." You say.
  176. "The ponies would have left me there." The changeling abruptly replies with a frown on its face.
  177. "What? Why do you say that?" You ask the changeling. You've read that the ponies dislike changelings, but even then you find it hard to imagine the loving ponies leaving another sentient being to die.
  178. "Because they hate us... Most races do." The changeling says as it looks away from you, confirming what you've read.
  179. "Why? Just because you're a changeling?" You ask.
  180. The changeling gives you no response, however. You let out a sigh as you think about this reality.
  181. "Thankfully I'm not most races then, huh? You're the first of your kind that I've ever met, and I know next to nothing about you. I have no reason to hate you, and every reason to help." You say.
  182. The changeling turns to look at you once again. It gives no response, but seems to be thinking about what you've said.
  183. "How did you end up in that situation anyway? What were you doing out there in the Everfree?" You ask the changeling.
  184. Immediately the changeling looks like you pained it with your question, looking very unhappy.
  185. "I... I wasn't useful anymore. I had become a... burden." It says in a sad voice as it looks down between its forelegs.
  186. You feel really bad for bringing this subject up now. Silence fills the room as you wonder what to say, but the changeling begins speaking again...
  187. "The hive is... struggling. We have been struggling for many years now, but then things got worse, and... and then there wasn't enough love to support all of us anymore." It says.
  188. "First there were volunteers to leave, but it wasn't enough. Then the weak and undesirables had to leave, w-which included... me..." The changeling continues as you hear its voice begin to become strained. It sounds like it wants to cry.
  189. "M-Males like me aren't as important o-or valuable as the females of my kind in the hive... I-I was left to fend for myself, but I was too starved to transform anymore, so I ran into the forests to hide from the ponies, when... when I..." The changeling trails off for several seconds, before speaking again.
  190. "I w-was sure that I was going to die like that, b-but... But! I-I wanted to live! I c-can still be useful to somepony! I'm n-not u-useless!!" He cries out, finally giving way to tears.
  191. You suddenly feel awful for the poor changeling quietly sobbing into his hooves in front of you. You sit in a stunned silence, your mind racing as it struggles to imagine wherever this changeling came from being in such dire circumstances that ones like him had to be forced away.
  192. You don't understand yet why any of that had to be necessary, though you know that you're dealing with a unique race that you still know next to nothing about. You hope that your books and this changeling, who you now know is apparently male, will be able to explain more to you.
  193. However, as you look at the crying changeling, you know that's not what's important right now...
  194.  
  195. You set your bowl of oatmeal down and rise up, moving over to the other side of the table before kneeling in front of the changeling on the sofa.
  196. You lean forward and gently wrap your arms around the changeling in a comforting embrace. The changeling tenses up for a moment before breaking into his sobbing once more and hugging back tightly, his body quivering.
  197. "There, there... It's okay. You're safe now." You say softly.
  198. You hold the changeling for a few minutes as he cries into you. In response, you occasionally give his withers a gentle, comforting pat with your hand.
  199. Eventually the changeling begins to calm down as he nuzzles into your neck.
  200. You tense up at the sudden sensation of the changelings fangs pressing against your skin, but you persist in your attempt at comforting him.
  201. "Shhhhh... It's okay..." You whisper.
  202. The changeling seems to relax and begins to hug you less tightly.
  203. "I'm sorry." He says, a hint of embarrassment in his voice.
  204. "It's okay. You sound like you've been through a lot... We all need a shoulder to cry on sometimes." You reassure him.
  205. "I suppose so..." He says, his quivering beginning to subside.
  206. You sit like that for a while before the changeling pulls away from you, wiping his eyes before looking at you with a warm smile.
  207. "Thank you... All the kindness you have showed means a lot to me." He says.
  208. "You're welcome. Now then... Let's not let our dinner get cold." You say with a smile as you get up and move back to your own seat.
  209. You both continue to eat in relative silence, broken only by the changeling commenting on how delicious it finds the toast with blueberry jam.
  210. Now finished with both of your meals, you take a sip of your glass of water as you stare at the changeling. There's many things you want to ask him, but where do you begin?
  211.  
  212. "So, uh... Do you have a name?" You ask the changeling, breaking the silence between you.
  213. "Oh! Yes, I haven't introduced myself have I? My name is Notaulix." He answers.
  214. "Notaulix, huh? My name is Anonymous. You can just call me Anon though, most ponies do." You say.
  215. "Anon? That's an interesting name, but... What exactly are you? I have never seen another like you before." Notaulix says.
  216. "Human. The one and only in this world as far as I know." You answer.
  217. The changeling's eyes widen in surprise at your statement. "R-Really? You're the only one of your kind? Where... Where did you come from?" Notaulix asks.
  218. "That's... A long story." You begin as you pause to glance at a clock, noting that it will be nighttime soon. "Do you mind if we save that for another time? I actually had a few questions that I was hoping to ask you before it gets too late." You ask.
  219. Notaulix nods in response. "Of course, I understand."
  220. "Well, where to begin... The simple truth is that I know hardly anything about your kind. Not long after I arrived in this world I was provided a book that gave a brief overview on the difference races, which included changelings." You say.
  221. "What did the book say about us?" Notaulix asks.
  222. "It didn't exactly present changelings in a positive light..." You admit.
  223. "O-Oh..." Notaulix says with a frown.
  224. "When I was in Ponyville earlier I borrowed a few more books that are supposed to have more information... Of course all of these books were written by ponies, so I'm expecting the tone of the books to be the same. Don't worry about that though, I don't hold any preconceived ideas about you or your kind. I want to find the truth myself, so I'm hoping you can help me find that." You say.
  225. "Of course. I will answer all of your questions to the best of my abilities." Notaulix happily says with a smile.
  226. "Great! First thing's first; what exactly is love to a changeling? Do you actually feed off an emotion somehow? You mentioned that your... hive, didn't have enough love to support everyone. Do you need it in order to live or what?" You ask.
  227. "Love is what fuels our magic. Yes, we do feed from the actual emotion itself. We do not need love in order to live, but... it is still essential. A changeling without love cannot transform, and a changeling that cannot transform has great difficulty gathering love, which makes them require support from the hive, which makes them a... burden.... Like me." Notaulix answers with a frown.
  228. "It sounds like it's very hard for you to gather love even when transformed." You say.
  229. "Not at all! In fact, you've been feeding me with love since you rescued me!" Notaulix says in a cheery tone.
  230. Your mind grinds to an immediate halt as you try to process what the changeling just said.
  231. "W-What?! What do you mean? I-I'm pretty sure that I don't... you know, love you! We've only known each other for a couple hours at best!" You stammer as you feel your cheeks flushing out of embarrassment from the implications of what Notaulix just said.
  232. You watch as Notaulix's eyes go slightly wide before breaking into a brief fit of laughter.
  233. "Hehehe! I'm sorry, Anon. Let me explain... Love comes in different forms. Yes, there is the love that exists between two special someponies, which is the strongest type of love. I didn't mean that you were feeding me with THAT type of love!" Notaulix begins with a smile.
  234. "There is love between family and friends, and then there is love given through simple acts of kindness, generosity and empathy. That last form is the most common for us to feed from, and is what you have been providing me. It's the weakest source, but it's plentiful." Notaulix continues.
  235. You chuckle as you feel yourself calming down. "I see. That makes a lot more sense." You say.
  236. "So love just basically powers your magic? Is that all?" You ask.
  237. "Well... That magical power is also responsible for holding our bodies together." Notaulix answers.
  238. "Huh? What do you mean?" You inquire further.
  239. Notaulix stares at you in silence for several seconds before responding.
  240. "Being a race that transforms into others, our bodies are more magical than a pony or a griffin. Even being in our natural form is a drain on our magic... A very small one of course, but..." Notaulix pauses as he lifts up one of his forelegs.
  241. "This is what begins to happen to us when we are starved of love. Our hooves, legs, wings, horn, ears... Holes start forming in them. We can't control it, it's a survival reaction to lessen the drain on what little love we have left." Notaulix says as he lowers his foreleg back down.
  242. "That's... That's awful. Does that just keep getting worse the more starved you become?" You ask, fearing the answer.
  243. You feel your heart sink as the changeling only slowly nods his head with a sad look in his eyes. You don't want to know about what ultimately happens to a completely starved changeling.
  244. "I... I see... Thanks for explaining that to me Notaulix, I appreciate it." You say as you let out a small sigh, eager to steer the conversation somewhere hopefully less depressing.
  245.  
  246. "Hmm... It's going to be nighttime soon, I think that's enough for now." You begin as you stand up and stretch. "Do you mind sleeping here on the couch tonight? To be honest, I never expected to have anyone stay the night with me here, so the only bed here is mine." You continue.
  247. "I don't mind at all." Notaulix responds.
  248. "Perfect, I'm going to go shower in a moment and get ready for bed then." You say as you collect the dishes and bring them back to the kitchen.
  249. "Do you need anything else?" You ask the changeling as you walk across the room, activating magical lanterns that hang from the ceiling in anticipation for the sudden transition to nighttime.
  250. "No, I'm fine, thank you." He responds.
  251. You nod as you walk into the hallway leading to your room and the bathroom. You first stop in your bedroom to grab a change of clothes before heading in to the bathroom.
  252. As you do so, you hear both the clock in your bedroom and the living room play their little chime which announces that moonrise will be in 15 minutes. It took you awhile to accept the absurdity of the sun and moon being controlled by Princess Celestia and Princess Luna, with the abrupt transition that occurs when they raise and lower their respective celestial bodies. You quickly learned to appreciate the ubiquitous clocks of this land that play a simple tune 15 minutes before each transition.
  253. With fresh clothes in hand, you head into the bathroom and lock the door behind you.
  254. After activating the magic lantern in the bathroom, you undress as you step into the shower. You let out a content sigh as you enjoy the feeling of the hot water washing away the sweat and dirt of the day.
  255. As you clean yourself, your mind wanders as you meditate on the events of the day. Where do you go from here?
  256. You wonder what you're going to do with Notaulix. You want to continue helping him, but you're not quite sure how.
  257. What if the ponies reject him and turn hostile? What if he betrays your trust once he regains his strength? What if...
  258. Your train of thought is broken as the light coming through the windows quickly begins to change. Soon enough you are left with the pale bluish glow of the magic lantern illuminating the room. You quickly finish washing and turn off the water.
  259. You step out of the shower and dry yourself off with a nearby towel. You then proceed to get dressed in your clean clothes.
  260. You exit the bathroom and return to the living room, where you find that Notaulix has already made himself comfortable on the sofa with a pillow under his head.
  261. "Everything good over here?" You ask him with a gentle smile.
  262. "Yes... I'm sorry for being such a burden to you, Anon." Notaulix says as he looks up at you.
  263. "You're not a burden at all. In fact, I've enjoyed your company... Haven't had any in awhile." You respond.
  264. Notaulix smiles as he continues staring up at you.
  265. "Well... Good night. Tomorrow's another day." You say as you begin turning off the magic lanterns.
  266. "Good night." You hear him say.
  267. You arrive in your bedroom and close the door behind you. However, a thought crosses your mind that fills you with unease...
  268. As you stare at your bedroom door, you realize that doesn't have any sort of lock on it.
  269. You trust the changeling for the most part, but is it a good idea to leave yourself so vulnerable while sleeping?
  270. Looking around your bedroom, you see that you could use a chair to prop against the door, or you could just leave it be and go to bed.
  271.  
  272. You decide to trust the changeling and not bother with blocking off your bedroom door.
  273. Besides, your squeaky door hinge would likely wake you up if he does try to sneak into the room.
  274. Placing a magic lantern on the nightstand, you remove your shirt and pants before climbing into your bed.
  275. After making yourself comfortable under the covers, you reach over and turn off the magic lantern, immediately plunging the bedroom into darkness.
  276. You let out a sigh as you stare up into the darkness, your mind mulling over the events of the day as you await sleep to overtake you.
  277. Sleep does not come easy, however, as you cannot shake the lingering sense of danger in your mind.
  278. After tossing and turning for an unknown amount of time, you eventually drift off to sleep.
  279. Eventually you are awakened early in the morning by the chime of your bedside clock announcing the coming sunrise in 15 minutes.
  280. You groan as you roll onto your side and close to your eyes to continue resting until the sun rises.
  281. All too soon, your bedroom fills with light as the gentle sunlight filters through the windows.
  282. Lifting up your arms, you breathe in deeply and stretch while you begin to wake up.
  283. Letting your arms fall back to the bed, your mind wanders as you begin to think about what you're going to do today.
  284. However, your thoughts are interrupted as you hear the gentle sound of hooves clopping against the wooden flooring of the hallway.
  285. You listen carefully as the sound draws closer to your bedroom door, before moving past it, followed by the sound of the bathroom door closing.
  286. It sounds like Notaulix is able to walk around just fine now, you think to yourself.
  287.  
  288. You lazily climb out of bed and stretch your muscles further in an effort to wake yourself up before putting some fresh clothes on.
  289. After doing so, you open your bedroom door and step out into the hallway, where you hear the sound of the shower coming from the bathroom.
  290. You wonder how long Notaulix may have gone without a proper bath prior to meeting you... Thinking back to it, he was indeed quite dirty.
  291. Regardless of that, it makes you happy to be able to help the poor changeling out by sharing your home with him.
  292. It's certainly the most interesting thing that has happened to you in awhile here in Equestria, you think to yourself.
  293. You walk the short distance down the hallway until you arrive at the living room, where you make your way over to the fireplace.
  294. You quickly get a new fire burning in the fireplace, which begins to fill the room with warmth.
  295. Afterwards, you make your way over to the kitchen area, where you lean on one of the counters as you look through a window at the cold yet sunny morning outside.
  296. Thinking about what to do next, you decide that perhaps Notaulix would enjoy helping you make breakfast. Maybe it would make him feel useful?
  297.  
  298. After taking some time to think about it, you decide that pancakes would be a safe and simple option. Everyone enjoys pancakes, right?
  299. While you wait for the changeling to finish up in the bathroom, you get to work by pulling out a large bowl and a skillet, along with the necessary ingredients.
  300. You set out the large bowl and the ingredients on the counter, while you place the skillet on the stove top.
  301. Basic preparations complete, you walk back over to the entrance of the kitchen, where you look down the hallway towards the bathroom door.
  302. Notaulix should be out any minute now, you think to yourself as you go to tend the fireplace while you patiently wait for him.
  303. Soon enough, you hear the sound of the bathroom door opening and his hooves clopping against the hallway floorboards.
  304. You watch as Notaulix steps into the living room, where he stops and stares with a curious expression upon noticing you.
  305. "Morning." You begin as you wave at the changeling with your hand. "Did you sleep well at all?" You ask.
  306. "Good morning Anon! Yes, I slept very well... It's the best sleep I've been able to have in many nights." He says with a smile as he moves closer to you by the warm fireplace.
  307. "I'm glad to hear that." You say with a smile of your own as you watch Notaulix sit next to you by the fireplace.
  308. You take a moment to stare at the changelings smooth, black body, which now almost seems to shine in a way now that its clean.
  309. As you look, your mind begins to wander and consider how changelings appear to be very similar to ponies, besides the obvious differences like the eyes and the lack of a fur coat.
  310. You wonder how changelings are supposed to stay warm, or what exactly their bodies feel like. You didn't really pay attention to such things during the brief moments that you touched Notaulix earlier.
  311. Regardless, you push those thoughts to the side as your growling stomach brings you back to the task at hand.
  312. "So, I was thinking... Would you like to help me make breakfast?" You ask Notaulix.
  313. "H-Help you...? I would love to!" He responds as he happily beams up at you.
  314. "Great! Let's go get started." You say as you both move over to the kitchen counters where everything is laid out.
  315. As you arrive there, however, you realize a small problem as you look down at the happy changeling looking up at you expectantly...
  316. Being a comparatively tall human in a land of mostly little ponies that are about half your height came with its own challenges for accommodating your housing needs.
  317. Everything the ponies normally built had to understandably be scaled up for you, or else you would be constantly stooping over to use everything.
  318. In the case of your kitchen, the countertops were built up to a comfortable height for you, and your pony-sized stove had to be placed on a built-in platform to raise it up.
  319. This normally wouldn't be a problem, except that your eager helper has no good way to manage what's going on up on the countertops without putting an unnecessary strain on his still recovering body.
  320. The situation reminds you of a scene back home on Earth, of a large dog in the kitchen waiting expectantly for a scrap to fall to the floor, making you smile.
  321. Still, you need to figure something out... You take a moment to consider the best way to make Notaulix feel useful without straining his body.
  322.  
  323. "Uhh... I suppose the height of my countertops is a bit of a problem, isn't it? Do you mind if I lift you up here? I don't want you to strain yourself just to help me." You say to Notaulix.
  324. "I don't mind... I'm sorry you have to do all of these things for me." Notaulix says as he looks away from you with a slight frown.
  325. "Hey, I'm doing these things for you because I want to. We'll get you back to your full strength in no time." You say as you kneel down in preparation to pick the changeling up.
  326. "Okay... Thank you." Notaulix says as he looks back at you with a smile.
  327. Reaching out with both hands, you decide to grab hold of Notaulix behind his forelegs, in the same manner that you might lift a dog or cat.
  328. As you do so, you take note of how his body is warm to the touch, and appears to have a thick, tough skin, the closest thing it reminds you of being a soft leather of sorts.
  329. "Up we go!" You say as you rise up, lifting the changeling up into the air, which causes his hind legs to dangle below him in a humorous way.
  330. The light weight of the changeling is another reminder of his malnutrition, making you feel bad for him.
  331. You hold Notaulix over the counter as he raises his hind legs before setting his rear hooves down on the countertop, followed by his front hooves as you ease him down.
  332. "Now I'm taller than you!" Notaulix says as he turns to face you with a big smile.
  333. "Yes you are." You say in response as you look up slightly at the happy changeling. Standing on the countertop, Notaulix's withers come up approximately to eye level.
  334. As you look at him, you create the mental image of a Celestia-sized changeling, which you can't help but find the very thought of intimidating.
  335. You wonder if such a thing even exists... You make a mental note to ask Notaulix about that later.
  336. "How do you want me to help?" Notaulix asks you.
  337. "Right. Here's what we're going to do; I'm going to add all the ingredients to this bowl here, and you're going to mix it together for me. Does that sound good?" You respond.
  338. "Okay!" Notaulix happily responds as his horn begins to lightly glow. You watch as his green magical aura envelops a large wooden spoon that you placed next to the mixing bowl, lifting it into the air.
  339. You get to work adding the wet and dry ingredients to the mixing bowl, before placing the bowl in front of the changeling.
  340. "Alright, there you go. Mix it together now." You say as you begin putting the various ingredients back in their proper locations.
  341. Notaulix immediately gets to work vigorously mixing the ingredients together with a big smile on his face, making a bit of a mess in the process.
  342. "Woah, slow down there a little!" You say with a chuckle as you watch the eager changeling.
  343. "Hehehe! I'm sorry... It just makes me feel really good to be useful!" Notaulix says as he slows his stirring down a bit.
  344. You finish putting all the unnecessary things away as you make your way back to the stove to begin heating the skillet up.
  345. Soon enough, the skillet is hot and Notaulix has stirred up a nice and smooth pancake batter.
  346. "Alright, that looks great! Just put that spoon in the sink over there." You say as you slide the bowl of pancake batter over to the stove.
  347. Notaulix promptly levitates the wooden spoon over to the sink before moving closer to the stove to watch what you do intently.
  348. Taking a ladle, you begin to scoop up the pancake batter and pour it onto the skillet, making each pancake one by one.
  349. Notaulix proceeds to sit on his haunches as he watches you cook the pancakes with a happy expression on his face.
  350. You can't help but notice that Notaulix is indeed a male, as him sitting in his raised position on the countertop gives you a clear view of the sheath and testicles nestled between his hind legs, exactly like a stallions.
  351. You neither pay much attention to this nor really care, however, as you've grown used to catching glimpses of the private bits of mares and stallions in your time here in Equestria.
  352. Clothing is the exception here, not the norm, after all.
  353. As each pancake is finished cooking, you place them on a plate in the oven to keep them nice and warm. Eventually, you end up with a tall stack of fluffy pancakes as you reach the end of the batter.
  354. "Alright, now it's time to eat!" You begin as you pick Notaulix up once more before gently setting him on the floor.
  355. "Thanks for helping me out there, Notaulix, I appreciate it. Go ahead and make yourself comfortable on the couch, I'll bring the food over." You say to him.
  356. "Great! It smells delicious!" The happy changeling says in response as he makes his way over to the sofa.
  357. You take two plates and begin dividing up the stack of pancakes onto them, smearing each layer with the rest of the blueberry jam from yesterday. You make sure Notaulix gets a few more pancakes than yourself.
  358. You bring the two plates of pancakes over and set them down on the table in front of the couch. You also place the vitamin potion that you bought yesterday next to Notaulix's plate.
  359. "What is that?" Notaulix asks in a curious tone as he points at the small vial with one of his forehooves.
  360. "It's... some sort of potion that is frequently given to sick or injured ponies to help their bodies recover and heal. I bought it for you at the market yesterday, figured you could use one." You answer.
  361. "You did...?" Notaulix begins as he looks down with a small smile as his ears droop. "You're doing so much for me, a changeling, Anon... I don't know how to keep thanking you..." He quietly says.
  362. "Ah, don't worry about that. Drink that potion down real quick and dig into these pancakes while they're still nice and hot." You say while you pick up your own plate and a fork.
  363. Notaulix simply nods with a smile as he does just so. Soon, the sounds of a warm, crackling fireplace and forks clanging against plates are what fill the room as you both begin to enjoy your breakfast.
  364.  
  365. You both enjoy your breakfast in relative silence, broken only by Notaulix commenting on how delicious the pancakes are, and you getting up to put more wood on the fire.
  366. After finishing your meal, you decide that it's time to discuss what Notaulix's plans for the future are before anything else.
  367. "Hey, Notaulix?" You say to the changeling.
  368. "Yes Anon?" Notaulix responds, perking up as he focuses his attention on you.
  369. "Well... I think before we go any further, we should discuss what the plan for the future is." You say.
  370. "The future? What do you mean?" Notaulix asks as he tilts his head to the side slightly.
  371. "I'm talking about you. I want to help you recover and regain your strength... But then what?" You ask him.
  372. Notaulix's expression changes to a worried one as his ears droop slightly as he thinks about your question for a moment.
  373. "D-Do... Do you want me to leave?" He responds in a slightly sad tone.
  374. "Oh! No, no, I didn't mean that! If you want to leave after you're all better, that's fine, but I don't mind you staying with me, really. It's... nice having some company around." You say.
  375. "Oh... I see." Notaulix says, seemingly relieved by your answer.
  376. "Now, what I was trying to get at is... What do you want to do? From what you told me yesterday it sounds like you're not going to be able to go back to your hive, so wouldn't you like to have a job or something that you could do around here?" You ask him.
  377. "Yes, I would love to have a job! That way I could be useful to somepony!" Notaulix happily responds.
  378. You can't help but smile at the changelings eager attitude. You can really tell just in the short time you've known him that having a clear purpose in life is extremely important to Notaulix.
  379. In the back of your mind, you wonder if that is true of all changelings.
  380. "Well, that's great! The question, however, is what? You could find work in Ponyville, but that would require you to be transformed all the time, or..." You trail off as you think carefully about the subject.
  381. Notaulix stares at you in silence, awaiting whatever else you may have to suggest.
  382.  
  383. Suddenly, an obvious idea crosses your mind... You know that no pony would want such a job even if it was the last one in the world... Thankfully, Notaulix isn't a pony.
  384. "...Actually, you know what? What do you think about working with me?" You ask Notaulix.
  385. "What do you mean?" He asks, somewhat confused by your question.
  386. "Heh, do you think I wander around the Everfree just for the fun of it?" You begin with a chuckle. "I forage throughout the Everfree Forest, typically for rare and magical plants, herbs and mushrooms that the ponies use in potions and other crafts." You explain.
  387. "Oh! So that's what you meant! You said that you needed to visit Ponyville to sell things when you brought me to your home yesterday." Notaulix says with a warm smile.
  388. "Yep. I was a few hours into a trip through a section of the forest when I stumbled upon you. You could help me gather things to sell, and you would almost never need to be transformed once we got to the forest, as ponies very rarely ever go there. They're scared of the place. Plus... I think it would be nice to have someone else with me; you know as well as anyone how quickly you can get yourself into a bad situation." You explain to Notaulix.
  389. "That's a great idea! I would love to help you! But, I... I don't really know anything about the Everfree Forest, or magical plants and mushrooms, or..." Notaulix trails off, looking disappointed as his ears droop.
  390. "Hmm... I didn't know anything about those things either when I arrived here, but the ponies gave me books that I learned a lot from. I can teach you what I know." You say to him.
  391. "R-Really? You would take the time to teach me?" Notaulix says in a surprised tone as he perks back up.
  392. "Sure! We have plenty of time, it's not like you're in any shape to start heading out there anyway. You need to let your body recover first." You say with a smile.
  393. "Thank you Anon! Yes, I would love to help you! I will try my best to learn everything that I need to know!" Notaulix enthusiastically says with a big, eager smile as his wings twitch in excitement.
  394. "Great! I'm sure you'll have no trouble learning, Notaulix. It's really not that complicated. I'm looking forward to working with you." You say to the happy changeling.
  395. As you look at Notaulix, you can't help but feel happy yourself, knowing that you're helping him to have another shot at life.
  396. "When can you start teaching me?" Notaulix asks."
  397. "Uhh... Just about anytime that we're sitting around I guess. Though some days I'll be heading into the forest, or I may have errands to run... I usually head into Ponyville at least once a day, too." You respond.
  398. "Okay, I understand." Notaulix says.
  399. Silence falls upon you as you begin to think about the future and the best way to teach Notaulix. You take the opportunity to get up and put another log in the fireplace.
  400.  
  401. "How are you doing, anyway?" You ask Notaulix after putting more wood in the fireplace.
  402. "How am I doing?" Notaulix responds in a confused tone.
  403. "Your recovery. How is your body doing? And what about the whole... uh... love thing? You did say that there's love to feed from the kindness I'm showing you, right? Are you getting enough?" You clarify to him.
  404. "Oh, I see! Yes, I'm feeling much better already thanks to you, Anon. There is more than enough love from you for me to live off of. If I use my magic sparingly, my body might even be able to return to normal given enough time... I wish everypony would treat us changelings with as much kindness as you have. My hive brothers and sisters would be very envious if they knew how fortunate I am, or even my Queen herself!" Notaulix says, nodding lightly for emphasis.
  405. "Even your Queen, huh?" You say as you pause for a moment to think about what Notaulix just said. You wonder what sort of appearance a Queen Changeling might have.
  406. "Either way, I'm glad you're doing well. You'll be ready to head out with me in to time." You continue.
  407. "Mhm!" Notaulix nods in agreement.
  408. "But before then, we need to get you up to speed with the forest. Do you feel like being introduced to those books right now?" You ask him.
  409. "Yes please! I would like that." Notaulix answers.
  410. "Alright then, just give me a few minutes while I go grab them." You say to him as you move forward and gather up the dishes from your breakfast.
  411. "Okay." Notaulix responds as he watches you move about.
  412. After depositing the dishes by the kitchen sink, you make your way towards where you currently keep your books at, which is your bedroom.
  413. You pick out the relevant books, appreciating the kindness of Twilight Sparkle for giving you them on permanent loan from the library as you do so.
  414. She reasoned that you're probably the only one in Ponyville who would be interested in them besides her, and she had already read them many times over.
  415. That's probably not too far from the truth, you think to yourself.
  416. The books range from simple history lessons on the Everfree Forest itself, to an old, luxuriously illustrated compendium of the then-known flora and fauna of the forest.
  417. Without a doubt, the compendium was the most useful of all the books to you, and is one that you still frequently return to for refreshing your knowledge.
  418. However, as you've personally experienced, the compendium doesn't cover everything. The general lack of exploration means the forest still holds many undiscovered secrets to this day.
  419. For that reason, you started a journal of sorts to document anything new or unexpected that you encounter, which you keep by your bedside.
  420. With all the books in hand, you head back to the living room, determined to try and help Notaulix learn to teach himself from them.
  421. Arriving at the sofa, Notaulix scoots over to accommodate both of you as you sit down next to him, setting the books on the small table in front of you as you do.
  422. "Where do I begin?" Notaulix asks as he stares at the small stack on books on the table.
  423. You proceed to give a brief explanation about each book and the kind of information that can be found in each one, capturing the changelings full attention as you do so.
  424. "...and this last one here is just a book on the general history surrounding the forest. You don't necessarily need to read it, but it's interesting." You conclude.
  425. "Wow..." Notaulix quietly says as he ponders each book that you just described to him.
  426. "Now, where I recommend you start is..." You begin as you pick up the old compendium of flora and fauna. "...this one. If you want to learn about the plants and creatures of the Everfree, this is it." You continue.
  427. "Let's say you want to learn about Tanglehoof Vines, which is the plant you got caught in..." You say as you open up the pages to the flora section of the book.
  428. "Yes?" Notaulix says with a hint of excitement in his voice as he scoots a little closer to you.
  429. "This is all alphabetical, so you find your way to T, and then... Here." You say as you turn to the page detailing the Tanglehoof Vine.
  430. As you do so, you are caught slightly off guard when Notaulix moves in even closer to get a better look, resting his forelegs over your right leg as he peers intently into the book.
  431.  
  432. You find it a bit weird, yet endearing at the same time. You decide to roll with it by repositioning your right arm so that it gently rests on the changelings back.
  433. Notaulix responds by turning his head to look up at you, giving you a happy smile before turning his attention back to the book.
  434. You spend the next couple hours explaining to Notaulix how to look up everything he needs to know in the compendium, along with a few other books.
  435. The changeling intently listens to everything you have to say, sometimes asking questions along the way.
  436. As you do this, you occasionally get up to either use the bathroom or put another log on the fire.
  437. However, you eventually use the last piece from the small wood box that you keep inside, signalling that its time for you to do other things while its still nice outside.
  438. You explain this to Notaulix, and encourage him to continue reading on his own whenever he feels like it.
  439. After doing so, you lace up your boots; a relic from back home that are looking to be in dire need of replacement soon, throw on your coat, unlock the side door and head outside.
  440. Cool autumn air fills your lungs as you step outside, where you feel the gentle heat of the sun on your skin.
  441. You proceed to head around your house where you have a small woodshed for splitting and storing your firewood at.
  442. Picking up the split wood by the armful, you make a few trips back and forth until the wood box by the fireplace is filled.
  443. Notaulix doesn't seem to pay any attention as you do this, having already gone back to being engrossed by the books.
  444. Warming yourself by the fireplace, you begin to ponder what to do next. Being all dressed up with your boots on, it feels like a good time to do something productive outside now.
  445.  
  446. After taking some time by the warm fire to think about it, you decide that now is a good time to make a trip to Ponyville.
  447. "Hey, Notaulix?" You say, grabbing the attention of the changeling as he looks up at you from his book.
  448. "Yes Anon?" He responds.
  449. "I'm going to head over to Ponyville now before it gets any later. I don't know exactly how long I'll be gone, but I'm sure you can handle yourself here, right?" You say.
  450. "Okay... Yes, I think I'll be fine. I know where everything I might need is." Notaulix says.
  451. "Great! I'll be back as soon as I can. Remember not to answer the door if someone comes by and knocks." You say as you begin walking over to the front door.
  452. "Yes, I remember." Notaulix says in response.
  453. Before you reach the front door, however, you pause and turn your head towards Notaulix again.
  454. "Oh, do you want me to get you anything specific while I'm out?" You ask him.
  455. "Anon..." Notaulix begins as he turns his head towards you, looking embarrassed as his ears droop to the side.
  456. "I can't ask for anything when you are already doing so much for me... I'm grateful for anything that you get for me." He continues.
  457. "Are you sure? It really isn't a problem." You ask the bashful changeling.
  458. "Yes, I'm sure." He responds with a gentle nod.
  459. "Well... Okay then." You say as you arrive at the front door.
  460. You proceed to put your backpack on and clip your bit bag to your belt before heading outside, locking the door behind you as you do so.
  461. You set out walking down the dirt road towards Ponyville, eager to enjoy the beautiful sunny day.
  462. As you walk down the familiar dirt road, your mind begins to wander as you think about Notaulix.
  463. You wish that he wasn't so ashamed about you asking him if he wanted something for himself. It really isn't an imposition, you're just trying to be kind.
  464. Though, you can empathize with how he must feel. When you meditate on the matter, you can't help but imagine you would feel the same way if you were suddenly dependent on someone for everything.
  465. Those feelings aside, your mind wanders back to the subject of just what exactly you're going to do about your new changeling friend.
  466. With how well everything seems to be going, you feel reluctant to confide in a pony about his existence... Yet, what if hiding things results in a worse situation?
  467. You continue to mull over such thoughts in your mind until you find yourself approaching Ponyville.
  468. As you enter the outskirts of Ponyville, you look around at the scene of the town today.
  469. You see several ponies moving about the streets, entering and leaving their homes, stores, and other buildings.
  470. You also find that several ponies are already set up and selling goods in the marketplace. In addition, it appears that a train is currently at the train station.
  471.  
  472. You decide to make your way over to the train station first out of curiosity, as the train always seems to bring a rush of activity to the otherwise quiet town.
  473. Meandering your way through the streets, you find yourself near the train station as you stop to examine what is going on.
  474. You see several ponies inspecting various parts of the train, while a few unicorns and earth ponies work on loading some crates and other goods into a couple of box cars.
  475. It would appear that the train has been here for awhile and has had its shipments to Ponyville unloaded first, judging by the neatly stacked pile of crates by the train platform.
  476. A number of Ponyville residents are gathered around that pile, no doubt picking up whatever it is they may have ordered.
  477. Among those ponies, you spot Mr. Cake, who appears to be loading up his saddle bags with several small cloth bags.
  478. Most likely baking ingredients, you think to yourself.
  479. Your mind drifts to thoughts of Sugarcube Corner and their delicious, sugary delicacies...
  480. You try to avoid going there very often for the sake of your health, but you can't help but think it would be fun to pick something up for Notaulix there.
  481. He seemed to enjoy sweets, if how much he enjoyed that blueberry jam is any indicator.
  482. Though as you think back to the conversation you had before you left home, you begin to feel uncertain about doing so.
  483. Letting out a sigh, you put those thoughts to the side for now as you look around at the town, wondering what you should do next.
  484.  
  485. You turn your attention back down to your feet as you study the creases in the leather of your well-worn boots.
  486. They have served you well both back home on Earth and here in Equestria, but you know they only have so many miles left in them.
  487. Normally it wouldn't be a big deal to ask around about having a new pair made for you, however... You have hesitated to do so for nearly a full year now.
  488. That hesitation stems from the fact that you've never actually seen any material yet in Equestria that you could identify as leather at a glance.
  489. As you've quickly learned from your time spent in this world, it seems like nearly every creature appears to be sentient to one degree or another, including the cows.
  490. Because of that, you have had a lingering fear in the back of your mind that a material like leather may be considered a big taboo to the ponies.
  491. You've seen how the ponies can feel strongly about certain things, getting a bit carried away in the process.
  492. Word inevitably spreads quickly in this small town... You don't want anyone to think poorly of you, let alone the ponies you are close to who you consider to be good friends.
  493. Yet... This can't wait any longer.
  494. Winter is coming, and you know that you're going to be in big trouble if your boots finally decide to fall apart on you when ice and snow is on the ground.
  495. But who do you talk to? You think to yourself as you furrow your brow.
  496. Out of all the ponies you know, only two come to mind that both make sense and who you have a good measure of trust in.
  497. You could speak with Rarity... She has already helped you with clothing and your backpack, and her knowledge in textiles and materials may be useful.
  498. Though, you can't imagine her wanting to work with leather, let alone create a rugged pair of boots built for trudging through mud and filth.
  499. You could also speak with Twilight Sparkle... That bookworm is a walking encyclopedia of knowledge. If she didn't already have the solution, she would know where to find it for you.
  500. Additionally, you feel like you can trust her the most, though she can be somewhat irrational at times, which worries you... She has the ear of Princess Celestia, after all.
  501. You begin to slowly work your way back towards the center of town as you mull over what your decision is going to be.
  502.  
  503. In the end, you decide that you're the most comfortable with approaching Twilight Sparkle about the subject.
  504. Within a few minutes of walking the streets, you find yourself in front of the familiar sight of the Golden Oak Library.
  505. Feeling slightly nervous, you reach out and open the door to the library, where you immediately see Twilight looking up from a book to see who her guest is as you enter inside.
  506. "Oh, hello Anon! It's nice to see you!" Twilight says in a cheerful tone.
  507. "Hey there Twilight. Nice to see you too." You respond as you close the door behind you.
  508. As you walk into the library, you take a brief moment to look around to see if anyone else is here. Thankfully, it appears to be just you and Twilight at the moment.
  509. "Are you looking for something?" Twilight asks.
  510. "No... I was actually hoping to speak with you for a little bit." You respond as you turn your attention to the purple unicorn.
  511. "Oh! Of course! Did you come to continue our conversation from yesterday?" Twilight asks with a hint of excitement in her voice.
  512. "No, actually... Is Spike around here?" You say.
  513. "Spike's out helping Rarity with something at the moment, actually. Why do you ask? Is this about him?" Twilight asks you as she begins to look slightly worried.
  514. "Oh no, not at all!" You reassure her. "I was just hoping to have a brief private conversation is all." You continue.
  515. "I see... Well, I'm all ears Anon!" Twilight says as she places a bookmark in her book before setting it down, giving you her full attention.
  516. You let out a sigh as you mentally prepare yourself to get this over with.
  517. "Well, you see, it's about my boots..." You begin.
  518. "Your boots?" Twilight says in a confused tone as she brings a forehoof up to her chin before gazing down at your boots, studying them carefully.
  519. "What about your boots, Anon? I don't notice anything particularly different or unusual about them." She says as she looks back up at you.
  520. "I fear that these boots don't have much life left in them, Twilight. I'm going to need a new pair made for me, except that there's two problems." You begin.
  521. "The first problem is finding someone with the proper skills to make something like these, and the second problem being the material they're made from." You continue.
  522. "I'm sure I can help you find somepony fit for the job, but why would the material it's made from be a problem?" Twilight asks.
  523. "Because... My boots are mostly made from something called leather, Twilight. Does that exist in this world?" You answer.
  524. You feel your heart sink as you watch Twilight visibly stiffen up at the mention of leather, followed by scrunching her nose and pinning her ears back slightly as she looks away from you.
  525. "O-Oh... I... I see. Yes, I know what leather is, but it's certainly not something you're going to find here in Equestria. I've only heard of the Griffons producing small amounts in their homelands." She says.
  526. Time feels like it slows to a crawl as an awkward silence fills the air between the two of you.
  527. "I... I was hoping you might know of a different material that could be used instead of leather. Something similarly tough, durable and flexible." You say, breaking the silence.
  528. "Something similar? Hmmmm..." Twilight muses as her features begin to soften.
  529. "Maybe... Oh! I think know just the thing!" Twilight suddenly exclaims as she looks at you with a big smile.
  530. "Really? What is it?" You ask.
  531. "I can't remember the name of it off the top of my head, but I know that the Royal Guard makes extensive use of it in their armor and other gear. It should be similar enough to leather." Twilight answers.
  532. "That's great! Do you have any ideas about who I should talk to about making me a pair of boots out of that stuff?" You say.
  533. "I'll write a letter to my brother about it. He'll definitely know the right pony that can help you." Twilight says with pride.
  534. "Ah, your brother... I remember you mentioning him before. He's in the Royal Guard, right?" You ask.
  535. "Mhm! His name is Shining Armor." Twilight happily responds.
  536. "Shining Armor..." You repeat to yourself. "Are you really okay doing all of that for me, Twilight? I don't want to be a big imposition to you and your brother." You add.
  537. "Not at all! I understand that your feet need protecting. This is something that's important to you Anon, I'm more than happy to help with that." Twilight says reassuringly
  538. "Besides, isn't that what friends are for?" She adds with a big smile.
  539. "Yes, I suppose so." You say as you return the smile.
  540. You take a calming deep breath as you feel your anxiety over the situation leaving.
  541. "Now that we have that settled, did you want to talk about anything else, Anon? Or do you have things to do?" Twilight asks.
  542. Pausing for a moment to think, you decide that it would be best to return home as quickly as possible in case Notaulix is having trouble.
  543. "I would like to, but there's a few stops I need to make today. I also have a little visit to Sugarcube Corner planned." You respond.
  544. "Okay then! I'll tell you more as soon as I hear back from Shining." Twilight says.
  545. "Sounds good, and... Thank you for helping me, Twilight. I've been really worried about how you or any other pony would react over the subject of leather. I've been putting this off for a long time." You admit.
  546. "Aww, it's no problem, Anon." Twilight begins as she walks up to you. "I admit that I was a bit shocked, but that doesn't affect how I view you." She gently says as she looks up at you.
  547. "It would be really mean for anypony to think differently of you over something like that. Besides, Anon... You're my friend." She adds as she rears up onto her hind legs to give you a hug.
  548. You can't help but smile at Twilight's gesture of kindness as the purple bookworm gently nuzzles against your belly, being careful not to poke you with her horn.
  549. "Thanks, Twilight. I really appreciate it." You say as you gently scratch the mare behind her ears with your fingers, causing her to giggle softly.
  550. "Hehehe! That feels nice..." Twilight says as she enjoys the scratches for several more seconds before lowering herself back onto all fours.
  551. "I'll let you be on your way now. I hope the rest of your day goes well for you." She says.
  552. "You too. I look forward to hearing what your brother has to say." You say as you make your way back over to the entrance, followed by opening the door.
  553. "Bye Anon! Say hi to Pinkie for me!" You hear Twilight call out from behind you.
  554. "Will do!" You call back as you turn to wave at the purple unicorn mare before stepping outside and closing the door behind you.
  555. You feel like a weight has been lifted off of your shoulders now that you've finally spoken out about your boots. Especially since it sounds like an alternative to leather exists here.
  556. As you take a moment to look around, you begin to ponder what to do next. Regardless of anything else, you need to stop at the marketplace before heading home.
  557. Besides that, you also want to stop at Sugarcube Corner and pick up a treat for you and your changeling guest.
  558. You begin to casually walk down the streets towards your next destination...
  559.  
  560. You soon find yourself among the many ponies buying and selling their goods at the marketplace.
  561. After briefly checking what sort of produce is available today, you decide on making a vegetable scramble of sorts for dinner.
  562. With a dinner plan in mind, you visit the various vendors and acquire what you think will be good for the scramble.
  563. Being at the tail end of autumn, the variety of produce is dwindling, but thankfully there are still several late harvest choices available.
  564. You pick out some peppers, tomatoes, carrots, a bundle of spinach, and a small eggplant.
  565. You make some small talk along the way, and hear a little town gossip, though none of it is particularly interesting.
  566. Having figured out dinner, you continue on and pick up more oats and other dry goods, a bit more than you would normally get considering you have an extra mouth to feed.
  567. Eventually you finish your shopping and begin to move on for Sugarcube Corner. However, you pause when a particular vendor catches your attention.
  568. Your gaze falls upon a mare selling a variety of saddlebags. Normally such a thing would have no interest to you, but a particular thought has crossed your mind...
  569. You may have no use for a saddlebag, but Notaulix certainly would once he is healthy enough to venture out into the Everfree with you.
  570. It would certainly simplify working together, as he would be able to carry whatever he finds himself without the need to stop and place it in your own pack.
  571. As you stare at the saddlebags from a distance, you feel the desire to go and take a closer look at the selection, though a nagging thought in the back of your mind tells you that doing so may seem a bit strange.
  572. It's obvious that you have little to no use for a saddlebag yourself. So why would you be buying one?
  573. You can't help but imagine that you may very well be asked who you're buying one for, or perhaps if you've made a new friend. You wonder how you would answer that.
  574.  
  575. In the end, you decide to leave the saddlebags alone for now and instead continue on your way to Sugarcube Corner.
  576. The wonderful aroma of freshly baked goods fills the air as you draw closer to your destination, making you hungry.
  577. Soon enough, you find yourself at the origin of the delicious smells as you step up to the door and make your way inside. A ringing of a small bell announces your presence.
  578. You are immediately greeted with the sound of several ponies speaking. Looking around, you see that it's fairly busy in here at the moment.
  579. A number of ponies are gathered around little tables, enjoying some sweets and each others company. Several briefly pause to look at you before returning their attention back to their friends.
  580. "Well, look who's here!" You hear the familiar voice of Mr. Cake say.
  581. You look forward to see the friendly stallion smiling back at you from behind the main counter.
  582. "Hey there Mr. Cake. It's looking pretty busy here today, huh?" You say to him as you walk up to the counter.
  583. "Sure is! It's nice to have you drop by, Anon. What can I g-" Mr. Cake begins to say before being interrupted by the approaching noise of an excited Pinkie Pie.
  584. "...do I hear Anon out there?" You hear Pinkie Pie's voice draw closer before seeing her head poke out from the kitchen, followed by an excited gasp when she notices you.
  585. "Yay! Hiya Nonny!" Pinkie excitedly says as she comes bouncing out of the kitchen to see you.
  586. You can't help but grin whenever Pinkie comes along. The amount of energy and enthusiasm the pink mare has never ceases to amaze you.
  587. "Hi Pinkie! How are you doing today?" You ask her as she continues to happily bounce around you.
  588. "Hehe, I'm doing great! I can't stay and chat though, I need to get back to helping Mrs. Cake! I just wanted to say hi while you're here... Even YOU have a sweet tooth sometimes, don'tcha?" She beams up at you.
  589. "Yes. Yes I do... What do you recommend today? By the way, Twilight says hi." You say to her.
  590. "Oh! Oh! Did you visit Twilight today? Hi Twilight!" Pinkie says before breaking into a momentary giggle fit.
  591. "Hehehe... You should get some cookies Anon, we made all kinds of flavors today!" She continues.
  592. "Some cookies, huh? That does sound good... Anyway, if you need to get back to helping, I won't keep you any longer than necessary. It was nice to see you, Pinkie." You say to her.
  593. "Okie dokie! Enjoy those cookies, Nonny!" Pinkie says before bouncing back off into the kitchen.
  594. After recovering from Pinkie's burst of energy, you turn your attention back to Mr. Cake who gives you a knowing smile.
  595. "As I was saying... What can I get you today, Anon?" Mr. Cake says.
  596. "Oh, uh... I'll definitely be getting some of those cookies, but could you give me a moment to look over what else is available today?" You ask him.
  597. "Sure thing. Let me know when you're ready." Mr. Cake responds.
  598. You take some time and look over the various goodies for sale today. Sure enough, there is a big plate stacked with mixed cookies of many different flavors.
  599. You also see several cakes, pies, muffins, and pastries of assorted types, in addition to the many candies and chocolates that are available. You wonder what sort of things Notaulix might like.
  600. Satisfied with a decision in mind, you get Mr. Cakes attention again, who eagerly awaits your order.
  601.  
  602. "Alright then, I'll have two chocolate chip cookies for starters, and two more of the ones with peanut butter. I'll also have an apple pie, please." You say to him.
  603. "Gotcha, I'll have them ready in a moment." Mr. Cake says as he gets to work putting the cookies into a small paper bag and the pie into a box.
  604. As he does so, you take the moment to reach into the bit bag on your belt and place the appropriate amount of bits onto the counter.
  605. "Here you go Anon. Enjoy." Mr. Cake says as he places your goodies onto the counter before picking up the bits you placed.
  606. "Will do." You answer, quickly putting the bag of cookies into your backpack and picking up the pie with both hands, as there is a mare waiting in line behind you.
  607. With your pie in a box held firmly in both hands, you make your way back out of Sugarcube Corner and into the crisp autumn air outside in Ponyville.
  608. Having accomplished everything you set out to do in town today, you begin the walk back to your home with a small sense of pride.
  609. The walk back is uneventful, though you appreciate the feeling of the warmth from the still-warm pie seeping into your hands.
  610. Soon enough, you find yourself nearly at home again. One thing you notice, however, is that there is still smoke coming out of the chimney.
  611. Notaulix must have kept the fire going, you think to yourself.
  612. It seems so obvious, yet it's something that you failed to consider before leaving. You hope that no one may have noticed this oddity while you were in Ponyville.
  613. Arriving at the front door, you unlock it before opening it and stepping inside, where you are immediately greeted to the luxury of your home being toasty warm.
  614. As you close the door behind you and lock it again, you hear the sound of hoofsteps against the wooden floor drawing close from the living room.
  615. "Welcome back, Anon!" You hear the surprisingly cheerful voice of Notaulix say.
  616. "Hey there." You respond as you finish locking the door. As you turn to face the changeling, you find yourself a bit caught off guard by what you see...
  617. Notaulix stands at the entrance to the living room, looking up at you with a big smile, perked up ears and slightly ajar wings, reminding you of a pegasus who is excited about something.
  618. Before you have a chance to comment, Notaulix speaks up again. "I kept the fire burning for you, so it would be warm and comfortable for you when you returned!" He says.
  619. Any desire that you had to talk to Notaulix about the fire being a potential source of getting caught completely disappear at the sight of how happy and proud he is for doing such a simple yet kind thing for you.
  620. "I can tell! It feels great in here. Thanks Notaulix, that was very considerate of you." You say to the changeling, causing him to beam in happiness at you.
  621. You can't help but smile in return as you watch Notaulix move with some spring in his step as you both walk into the main living area of your home.
  622. Notaulix returns to his spot on the couch where he still has the compendium open, while you make your way over to the kitchen where proceed to set the pie down on the counter before unloading your backpack.
  623.  
  624. After spreading out all of your purchases from the marketplace onto the countertop, you make your way back over to the entryway of your home.
  625. Once there, you remove your bit bag from your belt along with your backpack, and hang both up on metal hooks by the front door.
  626. As you do so, you make a mental note to refill the bit bag before the next time you head out to town, since it's nearly empty now.
  627. You also take your boots off, and following a quick visit to the bathroom, return to the kitchen.
  628. Pouring yourself a glass of water, you take it and move over to stand by the fireplace.
  629. "So... How were things back here while I was gone?" You ask Notaulix, followed by taking a sip of your water.
  630. The changeling looks up from his book to stare at you for several seconds, looking almost confused by what you asked before smiling.
  631. "Everything was fine while you were gone. I continued to read and learn from this book while keeping the fire burning hot." Notaulix answers.
  632. "That's good, it sounds like you've had a relaxing day. What kind of things have you been learning so far?" You ask him.
  633. "Many things!" Notaulix happily proclaims. "I was hoping you could help explain some of them to me though... I-If you don't mind." He continues as his ears droop slightly.
  634. You can't help but chuckle in amusement at how quickly Notaulix went from being excited and confident back to being more reserved.
  635. "Sure, we still have plenty of time before dinner should be started. Scoot over and show me what you got." You say as you walk over to the couch.
  636. "Thank you!" Notaulix says with joy as he moves over to give you room.
  637. Once you sit down, Notaulix scoots in closer again and places the compendium onto your lap, where he uses his magic to turn to the first page in question.
  638. You proceed to spend approximately the next 45 minutes going over questions that the eager changeling had, in addition to clarifying some of the things he had learned.
  639. You find yourself thoroughly enjoying the time spent explaining things to Notaulix. Or for that matter, any time you've gotten to spend with him thus far.
  640. Being able to interact with a race that you know hardly anything about has proven to be surprisingly fun.
  641. There are still so many unknowns about your new house guest, and many questions that you would like to ask him.
  642. Eventually, you conclude discussing the compendium for now as you place it to the side...
  643. "Well, I'd say that you're pretty quick learner, Notaulix. If you keep these studies up while your body finishes recovering, you'll have no trouble at all helping me out in the Everfree." You say as you give the changeling a few gentle pats on his head.
  644. "R-Really? You really think so?" Notaulix says as he looks up at you with a hopeful look in his eyes.
  645. "Sure I do!" You reassure him, resulting in a big smile. "Anyway, I'm getting pretty hungry... Since you seemed to enjoy helping with breakfast, do you want to help me make dinner?" You ask him.
  646. "Yes, I would love to!" He eagerly responds.
  647. "Let's get to it then!" You say as you stand up from the couch, making a stop at the fireplace to put another log on as you both move over to the kitchen.
  648. At the kitchen, you begin to think about the best way to have Notaulix help you, who is awaiting instruction as he stares up at you with a happy look on his face.
  649.  
  650. "Umm... How about you work on the vegetables? I'll rinse things off in the sink, and you can prepare them over there." You ask as you point at the area of countertop by the sink.
  651. "Okay!" Notaulix enthusiastically responds as he moves over by the sink. You watch as he appears to spread out his wings and prepare to jump up before pausing for several seconds.
  652. Notaulix relaxes his posture, looking very embarrassed as he turns to look back at you. "I'm sorry Anon, but could you please lift me up again?" He asks.
  653. "Don't feel bad Notaulix, it's no problem. I know you're feeling better, but it's wise not to push yourself. It's only been a day, after all." You say as you walk up to him.
  654. "Yes, you're right." He says in agreement.
  655. You bend down and grab hold of the changeling the same way as you did last time, lifting him up until his hooves land on the countertop.
  656. "There we go. Now you're taller than me again, huh?" You say with a smile as you give his withers a firm pat for emphasis, eliciting a smile in return from him.
  657. You proceed to bring over a cutting board, knife, vegetable peeler and a grater, before showing Notaulix an example of how you would like each vegetable prepared.
  658. "...and two or three of these carrots like that should be enough. Think you got all that?" You ask Notaulix.
  659. "This will be no problem. I'll wash the vegetables for you too!" He happily responds.
  660. "That would be nice, thank you. I'll bring the pan out and get the eggs ready to go" You say as you turn away to go get the pan.
  661. "W-Wait! Eggs?!" Notaulix exclaims, starting you as you quickly turn back to look at the changeling.
  662. As you do so, you find Notaulix looking visibly distressed as he stares back at you. "W... W-What eggs, Anon? What do you mean?" He asks you in a worried tone.
  663. You find yourself taken aback as you struggle to try and figure out why Notaulix is suddenly so upset.
  664. "I, uhh... These eggs." You begin as you go and grab a small wooden box before bringing it over to show Notaulix.
  665. Notaulix intently watches as you open the small box, revealing it to be lined with straw on which several medium sized chicken eggs rest.
  666. "See? Eggs. From chickens. Are these okay? I guess I didn't ask you if you're able to eat such things or not..." You say.
  667. "Oh... Chicken eggs... Yes, these are just fine, Anon." Notaulix says as he visibly relaxes. "I'm sorry, I thought... Never mind." He adds before turning his attention to preparing the vegetables.
  668. "Is it really okay, Notaulix? It's fine if there's something that you don't want to eat. Really, please let me know if there is." You say to him.
  669. Notaulix turns to give you a smile. "Everything here is great, Anon. I was just... surprised. Where I am from, chicken eggs are a rare treat. I have never had one." He says before turning his attention back to his prep work.
  670. "Alright then..." You say as you stand there and stare at him for awhile. You can't help but feel unconvinced, and that you may have offended him somehow, but you don't want to sour the mood by pressing him further.
  671. You get to work on your side of the preparations, bringing out the pan you wanted to use and placing it on the stove top to let it begin heating up.
  672. Following that, you crack several eggs into a bowl and beat them together. Following that, you grab a knife of your own and chop up an onion to add to the mix.
  673. After doing so, you add a small amount of cooking oil to the pan, to which you add the onions to once heated up.
  674. The loud sound of sizzling onion suddenly fills the room, prompting Notaulix to look behind him to see what you're doing.
  675. "Oh no! I'm almost done!" He says as he turns his attention back to a bell pepper. You hear the speed of his knife work suddenly increase, making you smile.
  676. "Don't worry, there's no rush. These onions will take a few minutes before anything else needs to be added anyway." You reassure him.
  677. You occasionally stir the onions around until Notaulix levitates the cutting board over with several neat piles of prepped veggies on it. "Here they are!" He says.
  678. "Thanks. You did a nice job with these." You compliment Notaulix, prompting a warm smile to return to his face once more.
  679. One by one, you add in the vegetables in the appropriate order of cooking, filling the room with a nice aroma.
  680. Notaulix simply sits on the counter and watches you cook, curiously observing to see how you do everything.
  681. Eventually you add in the egg, and after a few minutes of stirring everything together, result in a finished dish.
  682. You remove the hot, fluffy vegetable scramble from the heat and set it to the side, where you sprinkle some basic seasoning onto it.
  683. "All done! Are you ready to eat? Because I certainly am." You ask Notaulix as you move over to lower him back to the floor.
  684. "Yes I am! It smells great!" He happily answers.
  685. You gently grab hold of the changeling and lift him up before placing him back on the ground. Afterwards, you bring out two plates and another glass.
  686. After dishing up and filling your glasses with water, you both head back over to the living room table where you make yourselves comfortable before digging in.
  687.  
  688. "This is really good, Anon!" Notaulix proclaims as he chows down on his portion of the vegetable scramble.
  689. "Yeah? I'm glad you like it. Could use some cheese though... That would make it even better." You say as you enjoy the meal yourself.
  690. "Cheese?" Notaulix asks in a curious tone, slightly tilting his head to the side as he stares at you for an answer.
  691. "Wait, you've never had cheese before?" You ask him in return, to which he simply shakes his head in response.
  692. You can't help but pause to think about what Notaulix just said. You can't imagine someone never trying cheese at least once. Even here in Equestria it's somewhat common.
  693. Many different questions begin to fill your mind. You realize that it would be wise to learn more about Notaulix and his kind sooner rather than later.
  694. At the very least, you want to avoid any future issues for what you can eat together.
  695. "Huh, well... Cheese is a type of food produced from milk. Usually cows milk. There's many different styles of it with different flavors and textures." You begin to explain.
  696. "Many types of cheese melt nicely when exposed to heat. So in the case of this vegetable scramble, having cheese with it would give everything a delicious, gooey coating." You continue.
  697. "Oh! That sounds interesting! Why didn't you get any cheese if it's so good?" Notaulix asks.
  698. You chuckle in amusement at the reality of the situation. "Because I forgot about it while I was in Ponyville. Sorry." You explain.
  699. "Hehehe... There is no reason to be sorry, Anon. This tastes great even without cheese." Notaulix says.
  700. On that note, silence falls between both of you as your focus shifts back to enjoying your meal while it's still hot.
  701. Several minutes later after you both finish your meal, you decide to start seeking some answers for the questions in your mind.
  702. "So, Notaulix... What exactly can you eat? Or rather, what do changelings prefer to eat? So far you seem to enjoy everything, but I don't want to accidentally get something that you either dislike or cannot eat." You ask the changeling.
  703. "What can we eat...?" Notaulix begins, bringing a forehoof up to his chin as he appears to think deeply about your question.
  704. "We can eat almost anything if food is scarce... But I have been told that the things we usually eat are similar to what the ponies eat." He continues.
  705. "You've been told? Shouldn't you know what ponies eat by now?" You ask, slightly confused.
  706. "Yes, I rarely ventured far from the hive. Most of my knowledge about ponies came from my hive sisters who lived among them. There are many things I haven't had a chance to eat." Notaulix explains.
  707. "So wait a moment, have you ever actually met a pony?" You ask him.
  708. "I have not." He plainly answers.
  709. "Oh, uh... Okay. Continue telling me about the food, please." You say, slightly surprised by what you just heard.
  710. "At the hive, we grew some vegetables and many mushrooms. Anything else is foraged from the surrounding land or acquired from the surrounding races." Notaulix continues.
  711. "Fruits are special. All changelings love fruits." He adds with a big smile.
  712. "I see. That explains why you liked that apple so much. So when you say that you can eat almost everything, does that include meat?" You ask.
  713. "Meat?" Notaulix repeats. "We... can. But it's not preferred. It is avoided unless necessary." He answers.
  714. "Understood. That's good to know, since I eat meat myself." You say.
  715. "R-Really? You eat meat?" Notaulix questions as his eyes widen, sounding very surprised.
  716. "Sort of, I don't eat it like I used to. Most animals here are far more intelligent than where I came from... I can't eat them, it just seems wrong. I only occasionally eat fish now." You explain to him.
  717. "That's very kind, Anon." Notaulix says with a gentle smile.
  718. You slowly nod your head a few times before picking up your glass of water and drinking from it.
  719. Staring at the glass in your hand, you ponder the things that Notaulix just told you. There may be many things that he has never tried, but you find relief in knowing that he at least appears to enjoy most common foods.
  720.  
  721. "What about your kinds magical capabilities? I've seen you pick up and manipulate things like a unicorn multiple times now, but what else can you do?" You ask Notaulix, resuming your conversation.
  722. "My... O-Our magic?" Notaulix responds, sounding both slightly confused and surprised.
  723. "Yeah. Besides transforming, what other kinds of magic do you commonly use?" You say.
  724. "Well... All changelings know how to transform, how to manipulate objects, and how to defend ourselves with a stunning attack." Notaulix begins to explain.
  725. "We can also study and learn any type of magic as needed if we are given enough time and love to do so." He continues.
  726. "Really now? If I remember correctly from what I learned about ponies, most unicorns only learn a small amount of magic in an area that they specialize in." You say.
  727. "Is that true? I didn't know that." Notaulix says as his ears perk up in interest.
  728. "Sort of. I think it was mostly implied that the average unicorn would have difficulty trying to practice anything they want, and that such a thing was more of a strength of particularly strong or gifted unicorns." You say, clarifying what you meant.
  729. "Basically, that would seem to imply that your kinds ability to learn anything is pretty special... What other magic have you learned, Notaulix?" You ask him.
  730. You watch as upon hearing your question, Notaulix suddenly looks embarrassed as his ears droop, followed by looking away from you.
  731. "I-I haven't learned any new magical spells... I'm sorry..." He answers.
  732. You can't help but stare for a moment as you wonder why Notaulix suddenly reacted this way.
  733. "What are you sorry for? There's nothing to be ashamed of." You ask him.
  734. "Because... Because I could be more useful if I knew more magic." He responds.
  735. "There's no need to feel that way, Notaulix. You're already plenty useful without knowing any extra magic." You reassure him.
  736. "R-Really Anon? Do you mean that?" He asks as he looks back at you with hopeful eyes.
  737. "Sure I do! There's plenty of ways you can help me just by being able to magically pick things up. That's something I can't do." You begin to explain.
  738. "You're able to help prepare meals, you kept the fire going while I was gone, and once we get out into the Everfree you'll be able to easily harvest things that are difficult for me to reach." You continue.
  739. "Thank you, Anon... That means a lot to me." Notaulix responds, once again looking like his happy self.
  740. You nod in agreement as you think about what to say next.
  741. "By the way, since you've mentioned it a few times since we met... Can you tell me about how changelings transform? Is it an illusion? Or..." You trail off as you ask Notaulix.
  742. "Our transformation no illusion. We are able to transform into most living things if it's a similar size to us." Notaulix answers.
  743. "So... Your body physically changes? Or something like that... Why does the size of the transformation matter?" You inquire further.
  744. "Yes, it's a physical change." Notaulix nods in responses. "And the bigger or smaller something we transform into is than us, the more it strains our magic in exchange." He adds.
  745. "We may be a race that can transform into others, but we still have our natural forms... Every transformation is an effort to maintain that deviation from the natural." Notaulix explains further.
  746. "I see... Wow, that's really interesting. Could you show me a transformation, please? I think actually seeing it would help me understand a lot more than anything." You ask.
  747. "I would love to, Anon! But... Would you mind if that waited a couple more days? I would feel much more comfortable transforming again if I could continue feeding on more love and recover more first..." Notaulix asks in response with a sheepish smile.
  748. "Not at all, there's no rush. The top priority is you getting better first. Other things can come after that once you're all back to normal." You say.
  749. "Thank you, Anon." Notaulix says with eyes full of gratitude.
  750. As you sit in your chair, you begin to ponder some of the things Notaulix just told you and their implications.
  751. You didn't think about it until now, but if the rest of Notaulix's kind are just like him, they are a race that can both use magic like a unicorn, yet fly like a pegasus...
  752. Such a combination would seemingly put them in the same class as the two mighty alicorns of this land, Princess Celestia and Princess Luna, though obviously weaker by a large amount.
  753. The implications of this raise many questions within your mind, but you choose instead to push those to the side for now.
  754. You take a moment to glance at a clock, noting that its getting later in the day.
  755. "Anyway, got any room for some more food? I think it's time for dessert." You say with a smile.
  756. "Dessert? What is that, Anon?" Notaulix asks in a curious tone as he tilts his head slightly to the side.
  757. You can't believe what you just heard. Surely everyone knows what dessert is...?
  758.  
  759. "Wait, you've never had dessert before?" You ask Notaulix.
  760. "N-No..." He plainly responds as he looks down at his forelegs.
  761. "Well it's time to change that. Wait here." You say as you stand up and make your way back over to the kitchen.
  762. Notaulix watches you in anticipation as you bring out two smaller plates before placing a generous slice of apple pie on each one.
  763. The changeling continues to watch you carefully as you return with two plates in hand before setting one of them down in front of him.
  764. After getting to the comfort of your chair, you watch Notaulix as he alternates between looking at you and the slice of pie in front of him.
  765. "What is this?" Notaulix asks, pointing a forehoof at his plate for emphasis.
  766. "A slice of apple pie. It's sliced apples mixed with sugar and spices placed in a pie shell, which then gets baked in an oven. I bought it in Ponyville today." You answer.
  767. "Try it, you'll like it." You say to encourage him.
  768. "It's... It's made from apples?" Notaulix says with a hint of excitement as he picks up his plate, bringing it close to his nostrils to smell. "It smells nice!" He adds.
  769. You watch as he proceeds to grab hold of his fork, followed by bringing a small experimental bite of the pie into his mouth.
  770. The affect is nearly immediate as you watch Notaulix's eyes widen, ears perk up and his wings spread out.
  771. "This is amazing!" Notaulix proclaims with delight as he digs into his slice of the pie, eating it with gusto.
  772. You can't help but laugh at the sheer joy your changeling friend is experiencing from his first slice of apple pie, prompting you to begin eating your own slice.
  773. Sure enough, it's a fantastic apple pie; the flavors reminding you of home. Although, you're fairly certain by now that everything the Cakes make is nothing short of fantastic.
  774. You both enjoy your dessert in silence, broken only by the occasional sound of Notaulix's wings briefly buzzing as he chows down on his pie.
  775. Upon finishing with your bellies full, you proceed to take some time and explain the concept of dessert to Notaulix, in addition to letting him know that more pie will be available tomorrow, much to his excitement.
  776. After putting another piece of wood on the fire, you examine the clock once more and see that the night will be arriving soon.
  777. Turning your attention back to the fireplace to warm your hands by, you stare into the mesmerizing flames as you ponder what to do next...
  778.  
  779. "I think I'm going to wash the dishes real quick before it gets any later. Do you want to help?" You ask Notaulix as you turn around and walk back over to the table.
  780. "Yes, I would!" Notaulix eagerly responds as he moves himself off the sofa.
  781. You quickly collect the dishes on the table before bringing them over to the kitchen sink, with Notaulix following you closely.
  782. "What do I need to do?" Notaulix asks as he looks up at you.
  783. "Well, how about you dry the dishes off after I finish washing them?" You respond.
  784. "Okay!" Notaulix says.
  785. You proceed to bend down and lift Notaulix up onto the countertop once more, followed by handing him a dry cloth.
  786. You then fill up the sink with some water and mix in a little soap.
  787. Soon enough, you are busy scrubbing the dishes clean, which you rinse and hand off to Notaulix to dry.
  788. Notaulix, in turn, dutifully does his job by grabbing hold of what you pass to him with his magic, followed by drying it off with the cloth held in one of his forehooves.
  789. After drying something off, Notaulix neatly places it off to the side on the counter. This process continues on in relative silence.
  790. As you work, however, a thought comes to your mind...
  791. "Hey, Notaulix? I've been asking you a lot of questions... Do you have anything that you want to ask or talk to me about?" You ask him.
  792. "You... don't mind? I didn't want to ask you too many questions when you have been doing so much for me..." Notaulix responds.
  793. "Ah, don't worry about things like that. I enjoy having something to talk about." You say.
  794. "Oh, okay! Well... Why are you always wearing clothes? Those... are clothes, right? I always heard that clothes were only worn for special occasions among the other races." Notaulix asks.
  795. "My clothes, huh?" You say as a smile creeps onto your face. You've been asked this very question by the ponies quite a few times now.
  796. It seems strange to you, though you understand why you're just as strange, probably more so, in the eyes of those who live in this world. Clothing is the exception, not the norm.
  797.  
  798. "My kind doesn't have fur, or feathers, or some sort of thick skin to help keep us warm. Without clothes, I would eventually die if it was cold enough." You begin as you continue doing the dishes.
  799. Notaulix listens with interest as he continues drying the dishes that you hand off to him.
  800. "Additionally, our skin isn't very strong, so our clothes help protect us from cuts and scrapes. We even make clothes out of extra tough material just for working in." You continue.
  801. "It's like those boots you've seen me put on; they protect my feet and make it easier to walk. It would be very difficult and painful to walk any distance outside without them." You explain.
  802. "Why do your feet look different from the rest of your body?" Notaulix asks as he leans over the counters edge to look down at your sock-covered feet.
  803. "Huh?" You say in confusion as you look down at your own feet, staring at them for a moment before you realize what the changeling is talking about.
  804. "Oh! Heh, that's because I'm wearing socks." You say as you turn your attention back to the dishes.
  805. "Socks?" Notaulix questions with confusion of his own.
  806. "They're a piece of clothing that goes over the feet to keep them warm and make wearing shoes easier." You explain.
  807. A brief silence falls between you as Notaulix thinks about the things you just said.
  808. "Do you ever remove your clothes?" Notaulix asks.
  809. "Of course. We usually only remove all of our clothes to either change into a clean set of clothes, bathe, have a medical procedure, or to, well... mate." You reply.
  810. "It was generally considered embarrassing and improper for fellow humans to see each other naked without clothes in public, which is why we almost always have them on..." You continue.
  811. "For example, even when it gets nice and warm in the summer, we just wear less clothing. Clothes have just always been a part of us humans, I suppose." You conclude.
  812. "I see... Thank you for explaining that to me, Anon." Notaulix says.
  813. "I think it's very strange though." He adds after a few seconds.
  814. You chuckle at the changelings honesty. "Yeah, I guess we are pretty strange, huh? You're plenty welcome, Notaulix." You say in response.
  815. Several more minutes pass by as you finish washing and drying the dishes, followed by neatly putting them away where they belong.
  816. Afterwards, you lift Notaulix off the countertops and back down onto the floor, when you then take a damp cloth and wipe off the counters to finish cleaning up.
  817.  
  818. "With that done, I think I'm going to head to the shower now and get cleaned up before bed. You need anything before I do that?" You ask Notaulix.
  819. "No Anon, I'm fine, thank you... Do you mind if I use your shower to clean myself? I didn't ask you before I used it this morning... I'm sorry." Notaulix says in response.
  820. "Don't be sorry, I don't mind at all. I do appreciate that you're asking now, though. You're free to use whatever is in there." You say to him.
  821. "Okay Anon, thank you." Notaulix says with a gentle smile.
  822. After speaking with your changeling housemate, you proceed to make your way to your room where you pick out a fresh change of clothes.
  823. Following that, you walk back out of your room and into the bathroom, where you lock the door behind you and begin to undress.
  824. Having placed your dirty clothes in a basket on one side of the room, you step into the shower and begin washing yourself.
  825. You make a mental note to pick up another bottle of shampoo soon, as your current bottle is nearing empty. This lilac blossom one that the mare recommended you is nice, but you prefer your normal choice.
  826. Finishing your shower, you dry off, shave, and brush your teeth. It occurs to you that you should buy Notaulix his own toothbrush, as you really don't like the idea of sharing one.
  827. Once your new set of clothes is on, you unlock the bathroom door and walk back out to the living room, where you find Notaulix reading the compendium once again.
  828. "Hey, Notaulix? I need to specify something about when I said you could use anything in the bathroom." You say to him.
  829. "What is it, Anon?" Notaulix asks.
  830. "Just, well... Don't use my toothbrush, please. I'll get you your own toothbrush tomorrow." You answer him.
  831. "Okay Anon, I won't use it." Notaulix says as he examines your new appearance from top to bottom, before his gaze settles on your feet.
  832. "Oh! Your feet don't have socks anymore! May I please see them?" Notaulix asks in an excited tone.
  833. "You... You want to look at my feet? I-I... uh..." You trail off, caught off-guard by the sudden strange request.
  834.  
  835. "...Okay, I guess. Why do you want to look at them?" You ask Notaulix.
  836. "Because you're so very different, Anon! It's very interesting to learn about you, especially since you told me you are the only one of your kind in this world." Notaulix answers.
  837. "It's very difficult to imagine what most of your body looks like, since you always wear clothes." He adds.
  838. "I see. Well, I understand the curiosity. The ponies are the same way." You say as you grab a chair and bring it close to the sofa that Notaulix is resting on.
  839. With Notaulix watching you in eager expectation, you sit down on the chair, followed by lifting both of your feet up onto the sofa.
  840. "There you go. Go ahead and look." You say to him.
  841. "Thank you, Anon!" Notaulix says as he scoots in closer to get a good look at your feet.
  842. You watch as the curious changeling carefully examines your feet from a respectful distance, frequently changing his position to look from a different angle.
  843. You can't help but smile in amusement at the situation. In your entire life you never anticipated that your feet would be the subject of such interest.
  844. "What are these strange things?" Notaulix asks as he points at the toes on your left foot with one of his forehooves.
  845. "Those are my toes." You answer as you wiggle them, prompting a look of amazement on Notaulix's face.
  846. "Wow! What purpose do they serve?" He asks.
  847. "Mostly to help me walk and stay balanced while upright." You answer him once more.
  848. "Wow..." Notaulix trails off as he returns to silently examining your feet.
  849. "Try feeling the bottom of my feet. I think you'll understand why I wear those boots once you do." You suggest to Notaulix.
  850. "Okay!" Notaulix says as he reaches out with one of his forehooves and begins to gently poke and prod at the underside of your feet.
  851. Almost immediately, Notaulix's expression turns into one of surprise as a sudden realization hits him.
  852. "It's so soft and squishy!" Notaulix exclaims. "There's no way you could walk on rocks or other sharp surfaces with these!" He adds.
  853. "That's right, and that goes for the rest of my body too. Now do you understand better why I wear those boots and these clothes to help protect myself?" You ask Notaulix.
  854. "Yes, I do. Thank you Anon, I appreciate you letting me look at your feet." Notaulix responds as he scoots back away from your feet while looking at you with an appreciative smile.
  855. "Yep, no problem." You say as you lift your feet off of the sofa and return to a normal sitting position.
  856.  
  857. You find yourself sitting together in silence, unsure of what to say or do next.
  858. As you do so, your focus falls upon Notaulix's forelegs spread out on the sofa, and subsequently you can't help but stare at the holes riddled throughout them.
  859. "Hey, Notaulix?" You begin as you point at his forelegs. "Do those hurt at all? Those holes in your legs?" You ask.
  860. "No, they don't hurt, but..." Notaulix begins to answer as he looks down at his forelegs "...it's uncomfortable. Each hole is numb. I can't feel anything around them." He continues.
  861. "That sounds unpleasant... Doesn't that make it hard for you to walk?" You ask him.
  862. "Sometimes, yes. It depends on where the holes form. Flying also becomes more difficult when we are starved of love." He responds.
  863. "Why would flying be more difficult? Just the lack of strength, or...?" You ask.
  864. "See for yourself." Notaulix says as he spreads out his insect-like wings for you to look at.
  865. As you look at the changelings wings, you immediately understand why. You failed to notice before that his wings have holes in them just like his legs.
  866. In fact, the more you look at him, the more you realize there are chunks missing from other parts of his body, like his ears.
  867. "Oh no! I didn't notice before that you had those holes all over your body! Can you even fly at all with your wings like that?" You ask.
  868. "Yes, but it's very difficult." Notaulix answers.
  869. "That's why you have me lift you up onto the counters, huh? I understand now." You say.
  870. Notaulix simply nods his head as silence falls between you once more. You can't help but think about what a dire situation changelings get into when they go through this love starvation.
  871. Why does it have to be like this for changelings? You think to yourself. Surely there is more than enough love from the friendly, loving ponies of this world for them...
  872. "You said that you've been able to feed from me being kind to you, right? Is that enough to eventually heal your body?" You ask Notaulix.
  873. Notaulix smiles in response to your question. "Yes, with all your kindness my natural form will eventually be able to completely heal. It will just take time to happen." He answers you.
  874. "Good. I'm glad that I'm able to help you that way." You say.
  875. Your focus falls back to Notaulix's forelegs once more, when a thought crosses your mind.
  876. "Mind if I take a look?" You ask as you point at his forelegs.
  877. "I don't mind." Notaulix says in a cheery tone as he stretches out his forelegs towards you.
  878. You scoot your chair closer to the sofa before reaching out and taking hold of Notaulix's right foreleg with your hands.
  879. You immediately note that the strange leather-like skin covering Notaulix's body feels the same here as it did on the main part of his body.
  880. In addition is the bizarre sensation of his foreleg being both warm and cold to the touch. On closer inspection, you realize that it is the areas around the holes that are cold.
  881. Running your thumb around the perimeter of one of these holes, you notice that they seem to be comprised of a different material that reminds you of your fingernails.
  882. As you continue to examine Notaulix's foreleg, you can almost imagine in the back of your mind that the leg holes appear ever so slightly smaller than when you found him in the Everfree.
  883. "You don't feel anything here?" You ask Notaulix as you press into the outer rim of one of his leg holes with your thumb.
  884. "No, nothing." Notaulix says as he shakes his head.
  885. "Huh..." You say in conclusion as you let go of the changelings foreleg before returning to sitting upright in your chair.
  886.  
  887. "Well, I think I'm going to head off to bed now and read a little before it gets dark. You need anything before I go?" You ask Notaulix as you stand up.
  888. "Okay Anon, I will continue reading here myself. And no, I don't think I need anything, thank you." Notaulix says in response.
  889. "Alright then. If you do need anything, you'll know where to find me... Sleep well." You say as you move over to the fireplace and put one more log on the fire for the day.
  890. "Good night, Anon." You hear Notaulix say behind you.
  891. After putting the log in the fireplace, you begin to make your way back towards your bedroom, when a thought crosses your mind, making you stop.
  892. "I think I'm going to turn off the morning alarm for tonight. Sleeping in sounds nice." You say as you walk over to the clock in the living room, which you then adjust the settings of.
  893. Notaulix simply watches you with interest as you adjust the clock.
  894. "There... Now it shouldn't wake you up first thing in the morning." You say to Notaulix.
  895. "That does sound nice. Thank you, Anon." Notaulix says.
  896. "Yep. See you tomorrow." You say as you make your way through the kitchen, into the hallway, and finally to your room where you close the door behind you.
  897. You then walk over to the clock on your bedside table, which you then adjust the same way you did in the living room.
  898. After doing so, you take a moment to look around your room in order to decide what to read.
  899. Immediately you notice the books on the different races of the world that Twilight had loaned you again just the other day.
  900. The same books that portray changelings in a negative light... A fact that now fills your mind with negative thoughts.
  901. You want to revisit these books to try and discern why exactly the changelings are viewed that way, but not tonight.
  902. Instead, you opt to spend some time in your journal, which you have neglected to update since your return from the Everfree when you discovered Notaulix.
  903. Grabbing the journal from your bedside, you walk over to your desk where you sit down and open up your journal.
  904. Upon readying your quill and inkwell; an acquired skill you have been working on in your time spent here in Equestria, you begin writing in new details on how you encountered Notaulix.
  905. During the course of writing, it occurs to you that it may be a good idea to purchase another journal book, one that you could record your interactions with Notaulix in.
  906. Eventually you hear the clock by your bed begin to play its signature chime announcing the coming moonrise in 15 minutes.
  907. You wrap up your writing for the day and move over to your bed, which you climb into after removing your pants and setting them neatly aside.
  908. Pulling the covers up around your body, you relax and unwind, reflecting on the days activities as you wait for the night to arrive.
  909. Soon enough, the lighting quickly changes as the sun sets and the moon rises, bathing your room in a welcoming darkness.
  910. It does not take long for you to drift off to sleep...
  911.  
  912. You wake up at some point in the morning, prompting you to toss and turn for several minutes as you work up the energy to get out of bed.
  913. Looking over at your bedside clock, you see that it's about 40 minutes past sunrise.
  914. Gathering up your energy, you throw the bed sheets back and climb out of bed, stretching and breathing in deeply as you stand up.
  915. You put on your pants and open the door to your room, making your way out into the hallway where you then make a stop at the bathroom.
  916. As you make your way into the kitchen, you are greeted by the sight of Notaulix reading his book on the sofa.
  917. Upon noticing you, Notaulix looks up and smiles at you. "Good morning Anon!" He says.
  918. "Morning... Did you sleep alright?" You ask the changeling as you get yourself a glass of water.
  919. "Mhm. I did." Notaulix replies.
  920. "Well that's good." You say as you lean on the counters and drink your glass of water.
  921. "What are we making for breakfast today?" Notaulix asks in an excited tone.
  922. "Hah! You're eager today, aren't you? I didn't have anything planned for today, so... What would you like to eat?" You ask him.
  923. "What I want to eat...? I... I don't know." Notaulix says as he raises a forehoof to his chin in thought.
  924. "I don't know of all the different things to eat, Anon. The... mushy stuff with the fruit was delicious, and the pancakes, and the scramble, and... and the pie too!" He adds.
  925. You smile as you nod your head slowly in understanding. "I see... Well, we'll fix up something good in a moment." You say as you fill up your glass with water again.
  926. "Okay!" Notaulix enthusiastically says.
  927. As you lean on the kitchen counter, you begin to ponder both what to do today, and what sounds good for breakfast.
  928.  
  929. Setting your now-empty glass down on the counter, you walk over to the fireplace and begin preparing a new fire.
  930. You start by scooping out most of the ash from the firebox into a container.
  931. Next, you spend the next few minutes building up the fire by igniting some tinder, then kindling, and finally full size wood pieces.
  932. With a nice crackling fire burning in the fireplace, you move over to where Notaulix is resting, who in turn looks up at you as you approach.
  933. "How does some scrambled eggs and fruit on the side sound for breakfast?" You ask Notaulix.
  934. "That would be nice, Anon. Can I help you make it?" Notaulix asks in response.
  935. "Sure, I'll have you cut up the fruit. Let's go." You say as you begin to move towards the kitchen. However, a thought crosses your mind, causing you to pause.
  936. "Actually..." You begin as you turn around to face Notaulix again. "Do you mind if I ask you a question real quick?" You ask him.
  937. "Oh? Of course." Notaulix says with a smile as he changes his position to sit on the sofa.
  938. "It's just... Are you really okay with eating egg? You seemed really upset when I mentioned it the other day... I've just been wondering what that was all about." You ask him.
  939. Notaulix's expression turns to a frown as he looks away from you, ears drooping slightly. "I'm sorry about that, Anon. I was just... worried." He says.
  940. "Worried about what?" You ask.
  941. "I was worried that you might be an egg thief too... I have heard stories of certain griffons sneaking into our hives to steal our eggs." Notaulix begins to explain.
  942. You can only stare in shock as the changeling begins to speak, your mind racing to process what he just said.
  943. "They steal them for sport, like a game of bravery... I don't want to imagine what they might do with them, if they break them, o-or... or e-eat them..." Notaulix continues.
  944. "...so that's why I reacted that way, Anon. I thought you wanted to cook changeling eggs... I'm sorry." He concludes.
  945. "No, no, you don't have anything to be sorry for. Wow, I..." You trail off as you struggle to think about how to respond.
  946. "Your... Your kind; changelings, lay eggs?" You ask in confusion.
  947. "Yes. All changelings are born from eggs." Notaulix answers in a matter-of-fact way as he looks back up at you with a neutral expression.
  948. You return to staring at Notaulix once again as you practically feel the gears grinding in your mind as you struggle to figure out the biology at play here.
  949. In an effort to check your sanity, you take a quick glance between Notaulix's hind legs again, where you confirm that he does indeed appear to have mammalian equipment.
  950. As much as you want answers to the questions that have filled your mind, you know that this isn't the time for them as you push them to the back of your mind.
  951. "That's... really awful, Notaulix. About the griffons and the eggs. I had no idea... Are you really okay with eating chicken eggs? Please be honest, I won't be upset if you don't want to eat them." You ask him.
  952. "Thank you for understanding, Anon. Yes, it doesn't bother me to eat the chicken eggs. I think they taste very good!" Notaulix responds.
  953. "Really?" You ask again.
  954. "Really." Notaulix reassures you with a smile.
  955. You take a deep breath and let out a sigh as you release a tension that you didn't realize you were holding. "Well, alright then..." You say.
  956.  
  957. Looking down at Notaulix, you can't help but feel more and more pity for him and his kind the more you learn from him.
  958. Unconvinced that things are really okay, you do the only thing that you can think of for him by kneeling down in front of the sofa and embracing Notaulix in a comforting hug.
  959. "A-Anon..? Why?" Notaulix asks in surprise.
  960. "I just feel like you need a hug. I don't even know what a changeling egg looks like, but I can promise you that I've never seen an egg around here yet that wasn't a chickens." You say reassuringly.
  961. "Thank you... That does make me feel better." Notaulix says as he presses the side of his head against your own.
  962. You maintain the hug for several more seconds before letting go, prompting Notaulix to look at you with gratitude in his eyes.
  963. "Come on now, let's make some breakfast!" You say as you give Notaulix a firm pat on his withers.
  964. "Okay!" He happily says as he follows you over to the kitchen.
  965. You go through the usual routine of lifting Notaulix up onto his spot on the kitchen counters, where you quickly instruct him on how to quickly cut an apple into slices without the core bits.
  966. Following that, you begin heating up a pan on the stove as you beat several eggs together in a bowl, which you pour into the pan once it's hot.
  967. Soon enough, you and Notaulix are both enjoying a simple breakfast of scrambled eggs seasoned with salt and pepper, apple slices, and some toast.
  968. You are both about halfway through eating your breakfast when there is suddenly a series of loud knocks at your front door, startling you both.
  969. Notaulix stares at you wide-eyed with fear, waiting to see what your direction is.
  970.  
  971. "Uh... Ca-Can you transform? Is that too much for you right now, or...?" You loudly whisper to Notaulix as you lean in closer.
  972. Notaulix simply shakes his head in response, still looking fearful.
  973. "Okay uh... Quietly go to my room and hide there, alright? Go! Go!" You urge him in hushed tones as you stand up from your chair.
  974. You watch as Notaulix immediately gets off the sofa and carefully makes his way towards your room, being careful that his hooves don't clop against the wooden floors too loudly.
  975. However, you then notice a problem with the fact that there are two sets of dishes with half-eaten food on both.
  976. Quickly, you begin scraping the rest of the food onto one plate as you hear a series of knocks at the door again.
  977. "Just a moment!" You yell out as you carry over the now clear extra set of dishes to the kitchen sink, which you then deposit them at.
  978. Finally making your way over to the front door, you check behind yourself in the hallway and see that the door to your room is now closed.
  979. You then unlock the front door and open it...
  980. ...where you see none other than Twilight Sparkle beaming up at you with a big smile, who is wearing a scarf of alternating pink colors along with a saddlebag.
  981. "Hi Anon!" She cheerfully greets you. "Did I catch you at a bad time?" She asks.
  982. "Hey Twilight. I was... just finishing making some breakfast." You answer.
  983. "Hehe! Sorry to knock on your door right at that moment, Anon... Anyway! Do you mind if I come in for a moment? I have things to tell you!" She says in an excited tone.
  984.  
  985. "Yeah sure. Come on in." You say to Twilight as you step aside while holding the door open for her.
  986. "Thank you!" Twilight says as she trots into your home and into the living room, where she then decides to sit by the warm fireplace.
  987. "Can I get you anything, Twilight?" You ask as you join her in the living room.
  988. "No thank you, Anon. I won't take too much of your time. I just wanted to let you know that I received a letter back from my brother this morning!" Twilight says.
  989. "Oh yeah? About my boots, right? What did he have to say?" You ask.
  990. "He thinks that one of the armorers for the Royal Guard will have no trouble making a pair of boots for you. In fact, he's already obtained the permission for you to go visit him!" Twilight answers.
  991. "Really? That's great! When can I go see this armorer?" You ask her.
  992. "You can go see him anytime you want, but...!" Twilight pauses, her horn glowing as she opens up one of her saddlebags with her magic.
  993. You watch as she levitates a small piece of paper out of it before moving it over to you. As you take hold of it and her magic dissipates, you immediately recognize it as a train ticket.
  994. "...I got us some train tickets to visit Canterlot today! You can visit the armorer, and I can go visit with Princess Celestia! It's been almost two months since I last got to visit with the Princess!" Twilight excitedly continues.
  995. "We could even stay at the castle overnight! It'll be a lot of fun, Anon!" She adds.
  996. "T-Today...?" You stutter as you look at the departure time on the train ticket. "In... In about an hour?!" You exclaim in surprise.
  997. "Well, yes... Is there something wrong, Anon? Are you not able to go today?" Twilight asks you as she begins to look disappointed.
  998.  
  999. You feel like you're suddenly caught in a trap.
  1000. Normally you wouldn't mind the short notice of Twilight's plan, but you realize that even a brief trip to Canterlot would mean leaving Notaulix alone for at least a day or two.
  1001. And yet, you cannot think of any good reason to give Twilight as to why you would not be able to go today. Not without seeming suspicious.
  1002. She knows that besides the days you are in the Everfree, you almost always have a very open schedule to do things with.
  1003. "No, nothing's wrong. I was just... surprised, is all. That was very nice of you to buy us the train tickets, Twilight. Thank you, it'll be a fun trip." You say to her with a reassuring smile.
  1004. "Great!" Twilight happily says as she clops her forehooves together in excitement. "And with that, I should head back to the library and finish my preparations." Twilight says as she makes her way back to the front door.
  1005. You walk with the bookworm and open the door for her, which she thanks you for as she trots on back outside.
  1006. Once out onto the dirt road, Twilight turns around to wave at you with one of her forehooves. "See you later at the train station, Anon!" She calls back at you.
  1007. "Yep! I'll be there." You say as you wave in return.
  1008. You watch Twilight take off down the dirt road for several seconds before closing the front door, letting out a loud sigh as you hear the loud clunk of the door lock moving back into place.
  1009.  
  1010. You walk down the hallway towards your bedroom door, which upon opening yields no obvious sign of Notaulix.
  1011. "Notaulix? It's okay now." You say as you walk around to the other side of your bed, followed by looking underneath it.
  1012. Finally, you open the door to your closet, where you immediately find Notaulix looking back up at you with a frown on his face.
  1013. "Come on out, it's just us again." You say reassuringly as you begin making your way back to the living room.
  1014. "O... Okay..." Notaulix says as he follows you out.
  1015. Once back out in the living room, you take a moment to put another piece of wood in the fireplace while Notaulix climbs back up onto the sofa.
  1016. "Who was that, Anon?" Notaulix asks as you walk back over to him. "And what happened to my food?" He adds, slightly confused.
  1017. "That was Twilight Sparkle, a friend of mine. I put all the food onto one plate, the rest of it is yours." You answer Notaulix as you pass the plate over to him.
  1018. "A-All of this, for me? But what about your breakfast Anon?" Notaulix asks you as he slightly tilts his head, now even more confused.
  1019. "I've had enough, really. Besides, I don't really have time to eat any more now." You answer the confused changeling.
  1020. "You don't have time? Why?" Notaulix asks.
  1021. You spend the next few minutes briefly explaining to Notaulix what Twilight's visit was all about, and why you need a new pair of boots.
  1022. "I understand the importance of this... Your soft, squishy feet need the protection. I'll be fine here, Anon." Notaulix calmly says in response as he munches on the scrambled eggs, which surprises you.
  1023. "Really? You're fine if I leave you alone here for a day or two?" You ask him.
  1024. "I don't want to be alone, but I feel safe here. You've only done kind things for me since you rescued me, Anon. I know you will be back, I trust you." Notaulix answers with a smile.
  1025. You can't help but feel your heart warm at Notaulix's answer, making you smile in return.
  1026. "Thanks, I appreciate that... Anyway, you keep eating your breakfast, I need to get prepared real quick." You say as you make your way over to the front door where your boots, backpack and bit bag are.
  1027.  
  1028. Grabbing your backpack and bit bag from their spots by the door, you walk back into your bedroom where you quickly pack a change of clothes.
  1029. Next, you kneel down by the side of your bed and reach underneath, pulling out a simple wooden box, approximately the size of a shoe box from back home.
  1030. You undo the two latches on the box and open it, revealing it to be about halfway full of bits.
  1031. Taking your bit bag, you open it up and fill it full of bits before pulling the draw string tight and tossing it on your bed.
  1032. After closing the box of bits and shoving it under the bed again, you then make your way to the pantry to check what sort of easy to eat things you have.
  1033. You determine after a quick examination that there is more than enough food Notaulix can eat without cooking for a couple days.
  1034. Following that, you take your two glass pitchers and fill them both up with water, after which you set them down on the small table in front of the sofa.
  1035. You then take a few minutes to explain to Notaulix everything you're setting up for him, along with what sort of food is ready to eat.
  1036. "...and you can go ahead and finish off the pie while I'm gone. There's a little paper bag next to it that has these things called cookies. Enjoy those too. Sound good?" You ask Notaulix in conclusion.
  1037. "R-Really?! I can eat the rest of that delicious pie?" Notaulix asks, now seemingly excited about the situation.
  1038. "Heh... Yeah, it's all yours." You answer him.
  1039. "Thank you Anon!" Notaulix says.
  1040. "Yep. By the way, let the fire go out and don't start it up again. Some pony might notice the smoke when they know I'm away, right?" You say to Notaulix.
  1041. "Oh... I... I didn't think of that." Notaulix says as his ears droop slightly.
  1042. "Don't worry, it shouldn't be particularly cold. There's extra blankets if you do start getting cold. Also, feel free to rest or sleep in my bed while I'm gone, it'll be much warmer." You say.
  1043. "Your bed?" Notaulix questions as his ears perk back up. "You really don't mind?" He asks.
  1044. "No, I don't really mind. I just want you to be comfortable... Oh, you can also use that toothbrush if you really want to. I'll buy new ones while I'm out there." You answer.
  1045. "Thank you Anon. I'm sure that I'll be just fine." Notaulix says.
  1046. "I'm sure you'll be fine too, though... What about your love magic reserves?" You ask him.
  1047. "Hehe... You don't have to worry about me that much, Anon. We can go without for a long time as long as we do not use any magic needlessly." Notaulix reassures you.
  1048. "Well, alright then, just making sure. I'm going to go finish getting ready now." You say as you begin making a trip around the house, drawing the curtains over the windows for more privacy.
  1049. You end up back at your room, where you put on a pair of socks after drawing the last curtain.
  1050. Placing your bit bag on your belt and donning your backpack, you walk back to the front door where you put on and lace up your boots.
  1051. After placing one last piece of wood on the fire, you walk over to Notaulix who looks up at you expectantly.
  1052. "Well, I'm going to head out now." You say to him.
  1053. "Okay Anon. Thank you for everything, I will be fine." Notaulix says to you with a smile.
  1054. You nod your head a few times as you stand in place awkwardly. It doesn't feel quite right to leave him yet...
  1055. You then kneel down, much to Notaulix's surprise, and embrace the changeling in another hug, which he quickly accepts.
  1056. Releasing the hug after several seconds, you rise to your feet, where you see Notaulix's expression filled with appreciation.
  1057. "Thank you..." He simply says.
  1058. "Right. See you soon." You say to Notaulix as you begin your departure, making your way out the front door and locking it once outside.
  1059. With everything you may need on you, you begin the walk down the familiar dirt road towards Ponyville and its train station on this beautiful, sunny autumn day.
  1060. The trip to the train station is uneventful, and you arrive there with time to spare.
  1061. Eventually, you see the familiar purple unicorn approaching, wearing the same scarf and saddlebag from earlier.
  1062. "No Spike for this one?" You ask Twilight as she draws near, noting the lack of her usual dragon helper.
  1063. "He had promised to help Fluttershy with something this afternoon, so Spike couldn't come along with us, unfortunately." Twilight answers.
  1064. "Ah, that's too bad... Well, are you ready to get going? Train should be leaving in a few minutes." You say to her.
  1065. "Of course! Let's go Anon!" Twilight says with excitement as you both make your way over to the train platform.
  1066. You both present your tickets and board the train. You let Twilight make her choice of seating as she plops herself down on one of the passenger car benches.
  1067. Removing your backpack and setting it on the floor by the nearby window, you then sit down on the bench opposite of her own.
  1068. You both sit in silence as you await the trains departure while a few other pony passengers board the train.
  1069. "All aboard!" You soon hear the train conductor yell from outside. Not long after that, you hear the trains whistle blow as it slowly begins moving forward out of the station.
  1070. Minutes later, you and Twilight find yourselves staring out the window at the scenery rolling by as the train speeds down the tracks.
  1071. "Oh!" Twilight perks up as she turns her attention to you. "Did you read through those books on the races that you wanted to see again, Anon?" Twilight asks you.
  1072. "Hah! It's only been a couple days, Twilight. I haven't looked into them again yet, I'm not quite the bookworm like you are, sad you say." You respond jokingly to her.
  1073. "Hehehe... That's right, sorry Anon." Twilight says while looking slightly embarrassed.
  1074. "Soooo... What made you interested in those books again anyway? You never got to finish telling me why." Twilight asks you, clearly curious of what your reason is.
  1075.  
  1076. "Oh, just, you know..." You stumble as your mind races for several seconds thinking how to answer Twilight without potentially exposing Notaulix.
  1077. "...I wanted to look over that information again now that I've lived here in Equestria for a couple years now." You begin to answer.
  1078. "Back when I arrived here, I was struggling just to get acclimated with all the new things around me, so I only really scanned through those books... Didn't read them in detail." You continue.
  1079. "I've lived here for awhile now, yet I've only really interacted with ponies up to this point, so I've just had this growing desire to learn more about the other races in detail lately." You conclude.
  1080. "I see... That's perfectly understandable, Anon." Twilight says as she brings a forehoof up to her chin in thought. "You should introduce yourself to a griffon next!" Twilight excitedly says several seconds later.
  1081. "A griffon, huh? They do stop by Ponyville sometimes, like those traders... Tell me about griffons, Twilight." You ask her; an action you almost immediately regret when you see her eyes come alive in excitement.
  1082. You proceed to sit and listen to Twilight spend the next hour or so of the train ride enthusiastically telling you the history of the griffon race and their way of life, much to the dismay of the other passengers.
  1083. It is admittedly both interesting and informative, but it's way more information than you want to process at once.
  1084. Only when Twilight notices that Canterlot is drawing near does she conclude her teaching lesson, to which every pony in the train car breathes a collective sigh of relief.
  1085. You thank her for sharing all of that with you, and begin to prepare yourself mentally for your arrival at Canterlot.
  1086. After the train has come to a stop at the Canterlot train station, you and Twilight both depart onto the train platform, where you immediately feel the colder air compared to Ponyville.
  1087. "Here we are!" Twilight says as she stops to turn and look up at you.
  1088. "Anon, I'm going to go to the castle right away to see the Princess as soon as possible. Wanna come with me? Or did you want to go find that armorer my brother recommended first?" Twilight asks.
  1089.  
  1090. "I'd really like to go and find this pony that I'm supposed to talk to. It's the reason why I'm even here, you know?" You answer her.
  1091. "Very true. Okay Anon, come and find me at the castle once you're all done. I'll see you later!" Twilight says as she waves a forehoof goodbye before turning to walk in the direction of the Royal Castle.
  1092. You reach into your pocket and pull out a piece of folded paper that Twilight gave you during the train ride. You unfold the paper to study its contents.
  1093. Upon examination of it, you find that it contains both the address of the armorer and a written note of recommendation by Shining Armor.
  1094. Holding onto the paper in one hand, you begin casually walking down the streets of Canterlot; the address being somewhere you have an idea of the general location of.
  1095. Much like your previous visits to Equestria's capital, you attract the attention of many stares as you wander through the streets.
  1096. It's something that you've never quite been able to grow used to, though you understand why it happens. The ponies here don't see you regularly like the ones in Ponyville do.
  1097. Regardless of that, you enjoy window shopping the large variety of stores and businesses as you move along.
  1098. Antiques, clothing, furniture, tools, art, restaurants and bakeries, traders from foreign lands, high end and low end, almost anything one may want to buy can be found here.
  1099. Your mind drifts to the doughnut shop that you visited once. You make a mental note to try and visit it again at some point.
  1100. Eventually you find yourself in the area of the city where several different workshops are set up.
  1101. Rounding a corner, you finally see your destination; a compound comprised of a few different buildings surrounded by a high stone wall, the entrance of which is a metal gate flanked by two royal guards.
  1102. As you approach, the two who you now identify as unicorn mares look your way and notice you, to which they proceed to stiffen up their posture. To look more official, you suppose.
  1103. You stop in front of one of the guardsmares, who looks up at you in response. "Excuse me, is this the place I'm looking for?" You ask as you hand her your piece of paper.
  1104. The guardsmare takes hold of the paper with her magic and reads it. She hands it back to you several seconds later with a smile on her face.
  1105. "Yep, this is the spot! You may enter." The guardsmare says as she opens the metal gate with her magic.
  1106. You hear the gate close behind you as you walk into the compound. Once inside, you look around and find things to appear not particularly busy at the moment.
  1107. There are three different buildings, where you occasionally see different ponies going to and from. In addition, you see several crates strewn about the area along with a few carts and wagons.
  1108. You wonder what to do next, as you don't know exactly who you are supposed to be talking to here.
  1109.  
  1110. You decide to make your way towards one of the buildings in an effort to find who you are looking for.
  1111. As you approach the building, you see what looks like a worker pony of sorts come out, and upon noticing you walks up to meet you.
  1112. After exchanging greetings, you explain to the pony the reason why you are here, and ask if they could provide you some direction.
  1113. The pony instructs you to go wait in one of the buildings while they go and inform one of the head craftsponies of the armory, who you learn is named Sturdy Stitch.
  1114. You follow the direction and walk over to the specified building. Upon entering, the heavy scent of a workshop fills your nose.
  1115. Looking around, you can tell that you're in the right place. Off on one side of the building, you see a few ponies gathered around workbenches, plying their craft.
  1116. They all stop to stare at their unusual visitor for awhile before returning to their work.
  1117. On closer inspection, you watch as they appear to be working mostly on the straps and harnesses the Royal Guards have built into their armor and other equipment.
  1118. You watch them work for a few minutes before turning your attention to the other parts of the building, which appears to be used mostly for storage.
  1119. There are sets of armor resting on stands in various levels of completeness, more wooden crates and boxes, and finally neatly organized stacks of raw materials.
  1120. You then notice several rolls of what to your eyes looks like leather, which you then walk over to inspect.
  1121. Sure enough, the material feels very similar to a sort of heavy leather, though in its subtleties you can tell that it's not the real thing.
  1122. As you examine the leather-like material, however, you notice an older looking unicorn stallion enter the building and begin walking towards you.
  1123. "I see you've already found what you're interested in, huh? You must be Anonymous, the human... Name's Sturdy Stitch, a pleasure to meet you." He says as he comes to a stop in front of you.
  1124. "Yes I am, it's nice to meet you. I was told that I might be able to get some help with a special request." You say to the older unicorn.
  1125. "I've been informed already. Come over here and take a seat, we'll see what we can do for you." Sturdy Stitch says as he leads you over to the workbenches where the other ponies are working.
  1126. Sturdy Stitch comes to a stop by an unoccupied workbench and gestures with a forehoof to a small stool, which you then sit down on.
  1127. "So you're here for some shoes then? Not the kind us ponies wear, at least..." Sturdy Stitch muses as he stares down at your boots.
  1128. "That's right. These boots are from my old world, and they don't have much life left in them. I've had trouble because they're made mostly from leather, but that's not really something available here in Equestria." You say.
  1129. "Real leather... Interesting, if a bit distasteful. You won't find much of that around here. But that's what brought you here, isn't it? You heard about the Glyph Skins that the Royal Guard makes." Sturdy Stitch says.
  1130. "Glyph... Skins?" You repeat the odd name. "Is that the stuff I saw piled over there that resembles leather? What is it?" You ask him.
  1131. "Indeed it is. It's an alchemical material made mostly from plant matter, which happens to be mildly resistant to magic; an improvement over an older creation." He explains.
  1132. "It's just as tough as leather, if not more so..." Sturdy Stitch adds. "So tell me first, Anonymous, what exactly are you looking for out of a pair of these boots?" He asks.
  1133. You proceed to spend several minutes explaining in detail the general construction and functionality of your boots, making sure to emphasize the need to support the feet properly.
  1134. During the course of your explanation, you notice the other ponies stop their work in order to come over to watch and listen.
  1135. "Very interesting... Nopony around here has any need for something that intricate. Do you mind taking those off for me to inspect?" Sturdy Stitch asks you.
  1136. "And this isn't a circus." Sturdy Stitch says as he turns his head to look at the other ponies. "Back to work, all of you. There will be time for looking later." He says to them.
  1137. You can't help but smile as you hear a quick "Yes sir." from all the other ponies before returning to their work.
  1138. "Sure, go ahead." You say as you unlace your boots and remove them, which Sturdy Stitch promptly places on the workbench with his magic.
  1139. You sit and watch as Sturdy Stitch begins by using a brush to clean off any dirt before carefully inspecting the construction of your footwear.
  1140. While the minutes tick by, the older stallions expression changes into one of increasing interest, as if he's discovered a new toy to play with.
  1141. "This is very interesting indeed." Sturdy Stitch begins as he turns to look at you. "Do you mind if I spend the time to break these down?" He asks you.
  1142. "Uhh... What do you mean by break down?" You respond, slightly worried by the choice of words.
  1143. "I want to undo the construction of these boots in order to both make patterns to work off of, and to see exactly how these are built." Sturdy Stitch begins to explain.
  1144. "Seeing as how you're the only human around, I have no references to work from. Having those patterns would give me something to work off of and make life easier." He continues.
  1145. "I would wager I can have the job done in about two or three hours... And don't you worry, I'll put them back together exactly the way they were." He reassures you.
  1146. "You'll have to wait around here for awhile, but I imagine you can entertain yourself by watching the apprentices. What do you say?" Sturdy Stitch asks you.
  1147.  
  1148. "Sure, go ahead." You answer him after thinking it over for a moment.
  1149. "Great! I'll get right to work then." Sturdy Stitch says as he levitates over various tools next to him, in addition to sheets of paper along with a quill and inkwell.
  1150. You watch in amazement as Sturdy Stitch, true to his word, begins to quickly deconstruct your boots one stitch at a time.
  1151. Within only about fifteen minutes, the old craftspony has most of the outer panels of one boot separated neatly on the workbench, in addition to the sole.
  1152. You can't help but notice as Sturdy Stitch works that he appears to be genuinely enjoying what he is doing.
  1153. Not long afterwards, what was once your left boot only a short while ago is now completely in its original pieces.
  1154. You then watch as Sturdy Stitch slows his work down to carefully write down measurements and notes before tracing the contours of the individual pieces onto the paper.
  1155. "You know, I've heard that the griffons make natural leather... But why should they? This Glyph Skin stuff seems like it has no downsides compared to the real thing." You say in an effort to strike up some conversation.
  1156. "Hah! The downside is that it takes a lot of time to produce, and above all it's expensive." Sturdy Stitch says as he continues writing down notes.
  1157. "Anypony could make it if they really wanted to, but for the average pony there's little benefit over using the predecessor to Glyph Skin: Barkmat." He continues.
  1158. "Barkmat...? What's that?" You ask him.
  1159. "It's a similar material to Glyph Skin; a much older creation. Slightly less durable than natural leather." Sturdy Stitch begins to explain, pausing his explanation to bring over a new sheet of paper.
  1160. "Most ponies who really need something rugged will make use of it. The process to make it is significantly easier, and as a result is much less expensive." He explains.
  1161. "That's interesting. So what drove the use of this Glyph Skin if it's so expensive?" You ask in response.
  1162. "The ponies protecting the land deserve the best, don't you think?" Sturdy Stitch says, followed by letting out a heavy sigh.
  1163. "In the past, there were problems with the straps, buckles and harnesses used with armor, chariots, wagons, and other equipment being a weakness." Sturdy Stitch begins to explain.
  1164. "You see, for nearly as long as Equestria has been founded, the special metal used in the creation of the Royal Guards armor is fortified to be magically resistant." He says.
  1165. "However, there have been times where especially clever threats learned to directly target with magic those very straps, buckles and harnesses that were made from ordinary material, be it heavy cloth or Barkmat." Sturdy Stitch continues.
  1166. "So that's what eventually spurred on the creation of Glyph Skin. It's been a very valuable addition to the Royal Guard." He concludes.
  1167. "Wow. Thanks for explaining that to me, I had no idea about any of that." You say to the older unicorn, to which you get a grunt of sorts in response.
  1168. Several more minutes pass in silence as you ponder what Sturdy Stitch told you, until a particular detail suddenly sticks out in your mind.
  1169. "Wait a moment." You say, breaking the silence. "Just how expensive is Glyph Skin? How much will I owe you for this?" You ask.
  1170. You sit in embarrassment as Sturdy Stitch breaks out into a laugh. He then looks at you after settling down.
  1171. "Don't worry about it. Your recommendation here doubles as a requisition order, the cost is covered for you." Sturdy Stitch explains.
  1172. "And even if it wasn't I still wouldn't charge you. You don't know how much joy it brings to an old colt like me to work on a unique project like this." He adds.
  1173. "Besides, if the rumors I've heard are true, you sound like somepony who could use the absolute best yourself." Sturdy Stitch says with a smile before turning his attention back to his work.
  1174.  
  1175. "Seriously? I don't have to pay for this...? Thank you very much!" You say with gratitude.
  1176. "Don't thank me, thank the royal treasury." Sturdy Stitch replies.
  1177. "That's true, but still..." You trail off as you think about what was said. "Wait a moment, what kind of rumors?" You eventually ask.
  1178. "I've heard you're the crazy type who makes a living out of trotting around the Everfree Forest. Is that true?" Sturdy Stitch asks in return.
  1179. "Well yes, it is... But where are you hearing that from?" You respond, prompting Sturdy Stitch to turn his head, looking at you with surprise on his face.
  1180. "Really? You're the only known human in the land, ponies are bound to be interested in you. Word gets around from out of Ponyville." He says before focusing back on his work.
  1181. "I really had no idea things like that were getting this far... But you're right, it makes sense I guess." You say.
  1182. Silence falls between you once again for several minutes. You take the moment to look around the room to see what the other ponies are doing.
  1183. "So... Got any stories about the old Everfree? You surely have some." Sturdy Stitch eventually asks, prompting you to chuckle at his interest.
  1184. "Yeah, of course I do. Let me first tell you about the time..." You say as you begin to regale Sturdy Stitch with some of your more notable experiences, barring the one involving Notaulix.
  1185. The minutes quickly pass by into over an hour as you do so, during which Sturdy Stitch has begun reconstructing your boots.
  1186. Sturdy Stitch isn't your only recipient however, as during the course of your tales you notice that you captured the rapt attention of the other working ponies.
  1187. Eventually you decide that you've shared enough and conclude your story telling.
  1188. "That's something else, Anonymous. Thanks for sharing all of that." Sturdy Stitch thanks you.
  1189. "No problem. Besides, it made a great way to pass the time." You say in response. "By the way, what sort of threats are out there that made Glyph Skin needed?" You then ask.
  1190. "Ohhhh..." Sturdy Stitch begins with a heavy sigh. "Evil unicorns mostly, along with the occasional magical creature." He continues.
  1191. "I see." You simply respond after several seconds go by. You get the impression that he doesn't want to elaborate on the subject further, so you decide to leave it be.
  1192. The remaining time passes by uneventfully as Sturdy Stitch finishes reconstructing your boots. Soon enough, they look exactly like before he started.
  1193. "That'll do it. Here you go." Sturdy Stitch says. After putting the insoles back into each boot, he levitates them over onto the floor in front of you.
  1194. "Hey... This is really incredible. Thank you." You say in appreciation as you carefully inspect one of the boots, finding it to be indeed rebuilt the same way it was before.
  1195. "No, thank you." Sturdy Stitch says as he takes a moment to stretch. "Go put them on, I'll be back in a moment." The older stallion says as he begins walking off to some other part of the building.
  1196. You do as instructed and get your feet back into the boots before lacing them up. About the time you stand back up, you see Sturdy Stitch returning with something in the grasp of his levitation magic.
  1197. "Here, take this home with you." Sturdy Stitch says as he hands over a small nondescript container, which you grab hold of.
  1198. "What's this?" You ask as you turn over the container in your hand, looking for some sort of indicator as to what it contains.
  1199. "Some hydrating grease. Your current boots need some badly, and your next pair will need it too." Sturdy Stitch answers.
  1200. "Oh wow! I didn't know this kind of thing existed here. Thanks!" You say as you take a moment to put the small container in your backpack.
  1201. "No problem... Now, I don't mean to be rude, but there are other things I need to attend to today. When your new boots are ready, they will be sent to Ponyville. You can be on your way now." Sturdy Stitch says.
  1202. "Okay, I understand. Thank you again for everything Sturdy Stitch, I really appreciate it." You say to him.
  1203. "You're quite welcome, Anonymous. Take care." He says in response before walking away.
  1204. You then proceed to depart from the building, making your way back over to the metal gate, which the guardsmares open for you once more.
  1205. Now back on the streets of Canterlot, you take a moment to stretch out your muscles as you look up at the sky. You would guess that it's around the middle of the day now.
  1206.  
  1207. As you walk back towards the main area of the city, you begin to think about your upcoming visit to the Royal Castle.
  1208. The thought of meeting either of the Princesses again fills you with a subtle nervousness.
  1209. Even though you have met both Celestia and Luna, and have been in their presence several times now, you have yet to get used to the experience.
  1210. You distinctly remember the first time you were brought to Canterlot, not long after your arrival in Equestria, where you met Princess Celestia for the first time.
  1211. It would've been an understatement to say that you were scared stiff...
  1212. You couldn't help approaching the situation like if you were to meet world rulers back home on Earth, where a misstep or poorly chosen word could get you into big trouble.
  1213. And yet... She was so gentle and kind to you and her pony subjects. Nothing at all like what you had expected, but a quality you immediately came to respect deeply.
  1214. Equally surprising to you was encountering a pony that was as tall, if not taller than you are.
  1215. As you think about your experiences from those early days in this world, however, your thoughts are interrupted by the growling of your stomach.
  1216. Remembering your light breakfast this morning, you decide to make a stop somewhere for lunch.
  1217. You walk over into the area of Canterlot where several different restaurants and bakeries are established.
  1218. After seeing what is currently open, you narrow down a few places that sound good to you at the moment...
  1219.  
  1220. You decide to visit the Emerald Way Eatery; an establishment that appears to be on the upper end of casual dining.
  1221. Upon entering the restaurant, you come to a stop in front of a pegasus waitress mare who wears a cute uniform. She looks up at you with a friendly smile.
  1222. "Welcome to the Emerald Way, sir! A table for one?" She asks you.
  1223. "Yes." You simply reply.
  1224. "Right this way, please." The waitress mare says as she leads you to your seat.
  1225. As you walk through the restaurant, you notice several other customers present who take their time to stare at you, some leaning over to whisper to one another.
  1226. You ignore them for the most part, as you've grown to expect such things. You do have to give credit to this waitress who didn't skip a beat though.
  1227. "Here we are." The waitress mare says as she gestures to a small table by a window with one of her wings.
  1228. You carefully sit down at the pony-sized table while the waitress brings you a menu, which she sets down in front of you.
  1229. "May I interest you in today's lunch special? Or will you be ordering from the menu?" She asks you.
  1230. "Tell me about the special." You say to her.
  1231. "Certainly. Today's special is freshly made squash soup with a side of tomato basil bruschetta topped with olives and parmesan, with your choice of drink." The waitress mare answers.
  1232.  
  1233. "That sounds good. I'll have the special with..." You pause as you look at the available drinks. "...cider, please." You say to the waitress mare.
  1234. "Got it. Your lunch will be out shortly." The mare says as she takes your menu and walks away.
  1235. You take a moment to look around the restaurant, where you find that the other ponies have returned to focusing on their own meals.
  1236. A few minutes later, the waitress mare returns with a glass of cider on a small tray held in her mouth, which she places onto the table.
  1237. "Thank you." You say to the mare as she walks away, followed by picking up the glass and sipping on the sweet, delicious cider as you stare out the window and watch the world go by.
  1238. Not long after, the waitress returns once more with a larger tray with your meal balanced on her wings, which she skillfully slides onto your table.
  1239. "Enjoy!" She says as she walks back to the entrance of the restaurant to greet a couple that entered only a moment ago.
  1240. You proceed to take your time and enjoy your delicious lunch. Once finished, you pay for your meal and exit the restaurant.
  1241. Once back out in the streets, you decide that now is a good time to make your way over to the Royal Canterlot Castle to check in with Twilight.
  1242. The walk is uneventful, and after only a short while you find yourself at the grand main entrance to the castle.
  1243. Walking past a series of gates and Royal Guards, followed by a short flight of stairs, you finally walk through the large doors of the castle's main entryway.
  1244. You admire the beauty and splendor of the castle surrounding you as you wander its halls, vaguely remembering the layout of its public area.
  1245. Rounding a corner, you see a small line of ponies in the room ahead of you trailing off in the direction you know to be the throne room; evidence that a day court is currently in session today.
  1246. You stop to take a moment and think about where to go or what to do next, as you know Twilight wouldn't be with the Princess during the day court.
  1247.  
  1248. You conclude that the natural habitat of bookworms is the library, so that is where you will go.
  1249. Making your way into the room ahead, you turn the opposite direction from the throne room, towards a hallway that you know leads into the interior parts of the castle.
  1250. However, a set of five Royal Guards block the way, protecting the interior from any would-be intruders or trespassers.
  1251. A unicorn stallion guard standing foremost in the center, who wears a slightly different armor, watches as you approach. "How may I help you?" He says as he looks up at you.
  1252. "Hey there... I'm trying to catch up with my friend Twilight Sparkle. She arrived here before I did. Do you happen to know where she is?" You ask the guard.
  1253. "Sorry, I don't know where she is. We've been expecting your arrival though. Do you need any direction?" He asks you.
  1254. "Yes, actually. I wanted to check the library first, could you remind me where that is exactly, please?" You respond.
  1255. "Better yet, I'll take you there. Follow me, please." The guard says as he turns around and begins walking.
  1256. You follow the Royal Guard as he takes you through the hallways of the interior portion of the castle. Soon enough, you come to a stop in front of a large, ornate wooden door.
  1257. "Here we are." The guard says as he turns around to look back up at you.
  1258. "Please keep a respectful volume inside the library. Additionally, you are free to wander most areas of the castle as you please. Have a wonderful day." The guard concludes as he begins to walk away.
  1259. "Thank you!" You say to him before turning your attention to the library door.
  1260. You open the large wooden door and step through into the library, making extra effort to quietly close the door once inside.
  1261. Immediately the heavy scent of old books fills your nose, providing a feeling of comfort as you begin to walk through the grand library.
  1262. After a quick search, besides the librarian and yourself, there are only a few other ponies here. However, none of them are Twilight Sparkle.
  1263. You let out a quiet sigh as you place your hands on your hips. You wonder what to do next as you idly examine the spines of the books on the shelves near where you stand.
  1264.  
  1265. After spending several minutes aimlessly looking at books, you decide to walk back to the main desk where the librarian currently sits.
  1266. Once at the desk, the distinguished looking unicorn stallion at the desk looks up at you from a book he was reading.
  1267. "Yes?" The librarian simply asks in a quiet voice.
  1268. "Hello, I was just wondering if a certain purple unicorn mare visited here earlier." You respond in an equally hushed tone.
  1269. "Hmm, Twilight?" The librarian begins with a knowing smile. "Yes, she was here not too long ago." He says.
  1270. "Do you happen to know where she went?" You ask.
  1271. "I believe she went to get something to eat approximately..." The librarian pauses as he turns to glance at a clock. "...twenty one minutes ago." He answers.
  1272. "Knowing that protégé of the Princess, I imagine she will return soon. After all, she entrusted me to make sure that nopony touches these books until she returns." The librarian says as he gestures to a small stack of books next to him.
  1273. "I see... I'll wait around for her then. Thank you." You say to the librarian, who simply nods in acknowledgement before returning his attention to his book.
  1274. You decide to pass the time by returning to looking at the many books in the library. Specifically, you attempt to find a book on changelings.
  1275. Unfortunately, you have no idea how the books are grouped together and arranged here, leading to you aimlessly skimming through books in an effort to find one with a promising title.
  1276. Eventually, you decide to give up the effort after going down one section of shelves and reaching the other end of the library.
  1277. Looking around from your current position, you see nobody else, though you occasionally hear the sound of hooves against the floor.
  1278. Something that does catch your attention, however, is what appears to be a small metal gate at the furthest corner of the library from the entrance.
  1279.  
  1280. Approaching the gate in order to inspect it, you find it to be of a relatively simple design with a keyhole for a lock.
  1281. The gate itself blocks a narrow, unlit corridor. Standing close by and looking through it, you can see a plain wooden door at the end in the darkness.
  1282. Turning your attention to the keyhole, you happen to notice a faint orange glow emanating from it.
  1283. With nothing else to see, you decide to leave the gate alone and make your way back towards the entrance of the library.
  1284. Once at the entrance of the library, you walk over to the door and exit back into the castle halls. Leaning against a nearby wall, you wait for Twilight to return.
  1285. Several minutes later, your thoughts are interrupted by the cheerful call of Twilight. "Anon!" You hear her call out.
  1286. Looking over, you see the purple unicorn happily trotting down the hallway towards you.
  1287. "Did you have a good lunch?" You ask Twilight as she draws close to you.
  1288. "Why yes, I did! ...How did you know I went to eat lunch?" She asks in response as she comes to a stop in front of you.
  1289. "I asked the librarian in there if he had seen you. You'll be happy to know that he's still dutifully guarding those books for you." You answer her.
  1290. "Hehe, I'm glad! Were you looking for me? How long have you been here?" Twilight asks.
  1291. "Yes I was. When I got here I saw the Princess had a day court going, so I figured you'd be elsewhere. I haven't been here for very long; must have just missed you when I arrived." You respond.
  1292. "And the library was the first place you checked?" Twilight says with a giggle. "Soooo, how did your visit with the armorer go, Anon?" She asks you.
  1293. "You know what? It went really well, actually. We got everything sorted out, and I'll be having a brand new pair of boots sent to Ponyville soon. I can tell you all about it later, if you're interested." You answer.
  1294. "That's great, Anon! I would love to hear about it in detail later." Twilight says.
  1295. "Anyway..." Twilight begins. "Princess Celestia won't be done with her duties for another hour or so. Wanna go see where your room for the night is?" She asks you with a warm smile.
  1296.  
  1297. "Sure, may as well. Lead the way, since you seem to know your way around here." You answer her.
  1298. "Okay Anon, just let me go get those books real quick." Twilight says as she makes her way back into the library.
  1299. You wait around for a minute or two until Twilight returns, her saddlebags now visibly weighed down with books.
  1300. "Let's go!" Twilight cheerfully announces as you both begin walking down the hallways together.
  1301. While meandering your way through the castle interior, you decide to strike up some conversation. "So what kind of books did you pick up?" You ask the purple bookworm.
  1302. "Ohh, mostly books on magic and magic theory. Just some light reading for tonight." Twilight answers.
  1303. "Just some light reading? Twilight, you had like five or six different books in that pile." You say to her.
  1304. "Well, yes... That's light reading, isn't it?" Twilight responds in a matter-of-fact way, prompting you to chuckle in disbelief.
  1305. "If you say so... It's a pretty incredible library in there, isn't it?" You say, changing the subject.
  1306. "The greatest in all of Equestria! There's so many books contained here in the castle that you cannot find anywhere else." Twilight proclaims.
  1307. "I bet. But... How do you find anything in there, anyway?" You ask Twilight.
  1308. "With the card catalog, of course." She answers.
  1309. "The... The what catalog?" You ask in confusion.
  1310. "The card catalog." Twilight repeats.
  1311. "What's a card catalog?" You ask her.
  1312. You watch in mild embarrassment as Twilight proceeds to stare at you like you're some sort of monster from another world, nearly stumbling over her hooves in the process.
  1313. ...Which admittedly isn't too far from the truth.
  1314. "Anon!" She cries out. "You've seen a card catalog before... R-Right...?" She asks you in disbelief.
  1315. "No, I really haven't." You respond.
  1316. "I don't believe it..." You hear Twilight mutter as she focuses her attention forward again. "I need to teach you how to use the card catalog before we leave, Anon. This is serious!" Twilight adds.
  1317. "Well, I would appreciate that. I really don't know how to find anything in a library like the one here." You say in response.
  1318. An awkward silence falls between you after that point. Glancing over at Twilight, you can tell that the gears are turning in her mind. Probably in disgust, you think to yourself.
  1319. Soon enough, you arrive at a section of the castle familiar to you: The guest rooms.
  1320. Meant primarily for visiting dignitaries and other guests of honor, you spent several days in one of these rooms not long after your arrival in Equestria.
  1321. "Here we are." Twilight says as she comes to a stop. You watch her horn glow with magic as she removes an ornate golden key from her saddlebags, before passing it over to you.
  1322. Grabbing hold of it, you examine it to see an elegant number five formed within the bow of the key, signifying your room number.
  1323. "Number five, huh? Which one did you get?" You ask Twilight.
  1324. "Room six. We get to be next door neighbors." She responds with a silly smile. "Meet me back here in about an hour? We can go see the Princess then." Twilight asks.
  1325. "Sure thing." You answer.
  1326. "Okay Anon, I'll see you then." Twilight says as she walks over, unlocking the door to her own room before entering and closing the door behind her.
  1327. You do the same as you walk up to the door to your own room, inserting the golden key into the keyhole, followed by a satisfyingly loud click as you turn the key.
  1328. Opening the door, you step inside and close it behind you. The sight that greets you inside is almost nostalgic.
  1329. Your assigned room is one of the smaller ones meant for one person, or perhaps a married couple. The room is laid out in a very similar way to hotels from your old world.
  1330. There is one large, luxurious bed, comparable to what you would call a king size mattress.
  1331. It's far larger than what any pony besides the Princesses would need, but you know that these rooms are meant to accommodate many of the different races.
  1332. Beyond that, the room is simply furnished in addition to a few paintings hanging on the wall.
  1333. There is a decent sized bathroom, along with a large window overlooking the Royal Garden and surrounding scenery, along with another door leading out to a balcony.
  1334. You remove your backpack and set it down on the floor, followed by walking over to the foot of the bed and sitting on it before leaning backwards and laying down.
  1335. Breathing in deeply followed by slowly exhaling, you stare up at the ceiling as you enjoy a moment of peace and quiet.
  1336.  
  1337. You decide it would be best to take a moment and freshen yourself up before appearing in front of the Princess.
  1338. Rising from the foot of the bed after removing your boots, you lock the main door before walking into the opulent bathroom.
  1339. Once there, you undress and step into a large shower where you enjoy the luxurious soap and shampoo available.
  1340. After finishing up and drying off, you put your clothes back on again, taking a moment in front of the mirror to tidy up your hair with a comb.
  1341. Stepping out of the bathroom, you put your boots back on and exit your room into the castle halls.
  1342. Wanting to try and familiarize yourself with the castle layout better, you begin to go for a short walk, starting with retracing your steps to the library and back.
  1343. After that doing that, you decide to fork off in a new direction and see where you end up.
  1344. Along the way, you pass by Royal Guards, servants, maids and other castle staff, who pay little attention to you as you walk by, for the most part.
  1345. You soon come to a stop at a four-way cross section where multiple hallways meet. Looking down each one, you cannot determine where exactly they lead to.
  1346.  
  1347. You decide it would be best to take a moment and freshen yourself up before appearing in front of the Princess.
  1348. Rising from the foot of the bed after removing your boots, you lock the main door before walking into the opulent bathroom.
  1349. Once there, you undress and step into a large shower where you enjoy the luxurious soap and shampoo available.
  1350. After finishing up and drying off, you put your clothes back on again, taking a moment in front of the mirror to tidy up your hair with a comb.
  1351. Stepping out of the bathroom, you put your boots back on and exit your room into the castle halls.
  1352. Wanting to try and familiarize yourself with the castle layout better, you begin to go for a short walk, starting with retracing your steps to the library and back.
  1353. After that doing that, you decide to fork off in a new direction and see where you end up.
  1354. Along the way, you pass by Royal Guards, servants, maids and other castle staff, who pay little attention to you as you walk by, for the most part.
  1355. You soon come to a stop at a four-way cross section where multiple hallways meet. Looking down each one, you cannot determine where exactly they lead to.
  1356.  
  1357. Continuing on straight ahead, you see nothing else of interest until you reach a corner.
  1358. At that corner, the hallway transitions from straight into one that is slightly curved, making it so that you cannot see where it leads.
  1359. Curious, you begin walking down the curved hallway, where you are immediately caught off guard by what you see.
  1360. Lining the full length of the outer curve are windows of alternating clear and stained glass in beautiful designs, framed by equally beautiful masonry.
  1361. You've seen how the Royal Castle has plenty of opulent beauty and ornate details, but this particular sight strikes you as exceptional.
  1362. Slowing your pace, you take the time to stop at one of the clear windows to look out from it, finding that it presents a fine view of the Royal Garden and surrounding mountainside.
  1363. You then take your time to stop and observe each stained glass window, with each one being a unique piece of art.
  1364. Before long, you notice the end of the hallway come into view, which you resume walking at normal speed towards.
  1365. You find yourself looking at another impressive sight before you; a floor to ceiling relief carved into the pristine white stone of the walls.
  1366. The relief depicts a large, detailed pair of splayed wings with a large horn placed between them.
  1367. Depicted above the wings and to the one side of the horn, is a large sun with its rays shining out. On the other side is a crescent moon with many stars surrounding it.
  1368. Finally, at each corner of the wall sits a large, ornate metal brazier, both of which are currently unlit.
  1369. Walking closer to the relief, you then notice two large doors on each side of the hallway.
  1370. One has ornate designs inlaid in gold, prominently featuring the sun. The other is equally as ornate but inlaid with silver, prominently featuring the moon.
  1371. On closer inspection of the doors, you notice that they appear to have no lock, only a simple ring for a handle made from each doors respective metal.
  1372. You notice that it's very quiet here. There is nobody here but yourself.
  1373.  
  1374. You may be curious where these doors lead to, but you don't want to be intrusive, as you suspect that these rooms belong to the Princesses, judging from the designs.
  1375. In the end, you turn around and walk back the way you came from, while taking the time to enjoy the other stained glass windows that you didn't look at.
  1376. As you round the corner back into the main castle hallways, you notice a couple Royal Guards on patrol glancing at you.
  1377. While walking past them towards the four-way cross section, however, they say or do nothing.
  1378. Coming to a stop at the hallway intersection, you take another look down the other two halls that you haven't explored.
  1379. In your mind, you reckon that you have enough time left to check out one more area of the castle before you should meet up with Twilight again.
  1380. At the same time, you feel a worry in the back of your mind over accidentally getting lost, or losing track of the time.
  1381.  
  1382. You decide to turn to the left this time, or rather what was once to your right when you first passed through this location.
  1383. Passing by several doors and a few ponies, you meander down the hallway until you arrive at a corner.
  1384. Rounding the corner, you find that the hallway transitions into two large doors that are currently open to the outdoors, or rather, the Royal Garden.
  1385. Walking outside into the Royal Garden, you are struck by how idyllic the scenery here appears; the picturesque landscaping of a beautiful park.
  1386. You've only seen a portion of this place before from the balcony of the guest rooms. If even that relatively small portion was deeply impressive to you, seeing the rest of it fills you with a sense of awe.
  1387. Walking onto a small stone bridge over a water feature, you come to a stop as you lean on the railing to observe the things around you.
  1388. You can tell there are more things to see here than you have time for at the moment...
  1389. From your point of view, you can see what looks like a hedge maze, a statue garden of sorts, a few outbuildings, and other decorative features.
  1390. You also see a few ponies tending to the garden and other duties, along with Royal Guards on patrol.
  1391. Looking down into the calm water below you, you take a moment to stare at your reflection and the reflection of the clouds in the sky.
  1392. Above all, you wish that you can see this garden someday during the middle of summer, when all the flowers would be in full bloom.
  1393.  
  1394. Having spent an enjoyable peaceful moment on the small stone bridge, you decide to head back into the castle, especially after seeing there is more to the Royal Garden than you have time for.
  1395. Once back in the castle, you walk down the hallway until you yet again reach the four-way cross section.
  1396. This time, you decide to go ahead and take a look at the final path, since you didn't spend that much time out in the Royal Garden.
  1397. Walking down this new hallway, you pass by plenty of doors to different rooms, in which you see plenty of castle staff going to and from.
  1398. You wonder what sort of rooms are behind those doors, but that's a question that you know there isn't the time to find the answer to.
  1399. Eventually, you end up at two enormous open doors that nearly span the height of the floor to the ceiling.
  1400. Looking inside, you see a grand dining room, where many ponies appear to be busily making preparations.
  1401. You don't go inside, as you don't want to potentially get in the way or be somewhere that you're not supposed to be.
  1402. To your left and to your right, the hallways continue. However, you decide to head back to the guest rooms, as you do not want to be late and stress out Twilight.
  1403. On your way back to your destination, you feel a pang of guilt shoot through you as your thoughts shift to Notaulix.
  1404. Part of you wishes that you could have stayed home to look after him, especially as it's only been about two days since you found him.
  1405. Even though Notaulix was doing much better after those two days, and has everything he could need at your home, you can't help but worry about him.
  1406. In that time, you've quickly grown to enjoy the changelings company, in his own unusual way.
  1407. Above all, though, the act of taking that weak, struggling changeling into your care gave your life here in Equestria newfound purpose; Something that you didn't even realize you were lacking.
  1408. You hope Notaulix isn't upset with you for leaving on a trip so soon.
  1409. Putting those thoughts aside, you arrive back at the castles guest rooms. You lean on the wall by the door to your own room, wondering what to do since Twilight is not yet present.
  1410. A twinge of fear crosses your mind as you consider the possibility that you've returned late, since you do not know what time it is.
  1411.  
  1412. Unlocking the door once more, you briefly enter your guest room, as you recall that there is a clock inside.
  1413. Checking the clock, you discover that you still have about eight minutes until the appointed hour.
  1414. With the current time clearly in mind, you lay down on your bed to relax for a few minutes.
  1415. Afterwards, you stand back up onto your feet and exit the guest room, where you wait for Twilight to join you.
  1416. Sure enough, the door to Twilight's room opens, followed closely by the purple unicorn mare stepping out, minus her saddlebags.
  1417. "Hey there Anon. Ready to go?" Twilight asks you in her usual cheery voice.
  1418. "Of course. Lead the way, Sparkle. You know where we're supposed to be meeting the Princess, not me." You answer her.
  1419. "Right this way." Twilight says as she begins to walk back down the hallway towards the library, which also connects up to the main hall leading from the public area of the castle.
  1420. Walking by Twilight's side, the journey is uneventful until you go to change direction at an intersecting point.
  1421. As the two of you round the corner, you find none other than Princess Celestia in all her radiant glory, along with an entourage of Royal Guards, approaching from no less than 30 feet away.
  1422. You come to an immediate halt, your mind racing in a panic as you try and determine what the best, most respectful course of action is in this unexpected situation.
  1423.  
  1424. "Princess Celestia!" Twilight joyfully cries out as she trots over to her mentor.
  1425. "Ohoho, Twilight!" Celestia giggles. "It is so very nice to see my faithful student today." The Princess says with her warm, soothing voice.
  1426. You watch as Twilight comes to a stop in front of Celestia, followed by Celestia craning her head down next to Twilight, the two then rubbing the sides of their heads together; a common expression of affection among ponies.
  1427. Meanwhile, you are still standing awkwardly by yourself, unsure of how to proceed.
  1428. Twilight may have a special friendship with the Princess, allowing her to safely skip many of the formalities, but that is a privilege that you lack.
  1429. Time feels like it slows to a crawl, until you finally find an example to follow...
  1430. You notice that not too far behind the Princess's entourage, a member of the castle staff is respectfully backed up against the wall and gently bowing.
  1431. Following that example, you do the same as you back up to the wall of the hallway and hold an awkward forty-five degree bow.
  1432. "I'm so excited to spend some time with you today! It's been almost two months, and there's so much I want to talk with you about!" You hear an enthusiastic Twilight say.
  1433. You hear Celestia giggle, then speak again. "Indeed, Twilight. Come now, we will have plenty of time to converse at our destination." She says.
  1434. The sharp sound from the clipping and clopping of metal hoofshoes fills the hallway as the entire group begins moving again.
  1435. Celestia's legs come into your view as she approaches you, prompting all the other ponies to stop.
  1436. "Anonymous..." Celestia says to you.
  1437. "Y-Yes, Princess?" You stutter, betraying your nervousness.
  1438. "Please, there is no need to be so formal in this situation. You are a special guest here in Canterlot." She warmly says to you.
  1439. Before you can say anything, the Princess steps closer to you, and uses one of her wings to gently push you back into an upright position, where you find yourself looking straight into her beautiful magenta eyes.
  1440. "There, isn't that better?" Celestia says before catching you completely off guard by stepping forward and embracing you in a hug of sorts.
  1441. You feel her hook one of her forelegs around your lower back, while resting her head against your own on your shoulder.
  1442. Your mind draws a complete blank. This has never happened before.
  1443.  
  1444. In that moment, you decide to roll with the situation and gather up your courage, in order to do what would be unthinkable with the ruling class of your old world.
  1445. You raise your arms and embrace Celestia, your arms gently wrapping around her neck, with your hands coming to rest on her withers.
  1446. Celestia responds by ever so slightly increasing her grip on you, along with a gentle hum escaping from her throat.
  1447. Meanwhile, you find yourself lost in the sudden barrage of sensory information coming over you.
  1448. The first thing you noticed was how absolutely luxuriously soft and silky the Princess's smooth, warm, pristine white coat is.
  1449. You've felt the coats of several different ponies before, and they were very soft as well, but they all pale in comparison to what you feel right now.
  1450. It takes all of your willpower in that moment to not start petting the Princess like some sort of animal, in order to explore this sensation even more.
  1451. The second thing you noticed was the wonderful, delicate aroma of fragrant flowers emanating from her body.
  1452. You don't know if it's the shampoo she uses or some sort of light perfume, but it's a very pleasing scent regardless.
  1453. However, you quickly snap back to reality when you realize that as the seconds tick by, the Princess still holds you in her embrace.
  1454. You feel your cheeks rapidly flush red in embarrassment, as you know that everyone around must be staring at you.
  1455. You remove your hands from her withers, thinking that perhaps she was waiting for you to do that. The Princess, however, only responds by slightly tightening her grip on you.
  1456. "Uhh... P... Princess?" You quietly say to her.
  1457. The alicorn suddenly snaps to attention as she releases her grip on you. As she moves back away from you onto all four hooves, you happen to notice something strange...
  1458. For a brief moment as she was releasing you from the hug, she was looking at you with her ears perked up and facing forward. As she looked at you, her eyes appeared to be filled with... Surprise?
  1459. Whatever that reaction may have been, it quickly disappears as Celestia resumes her normal peaceful expression that you have come to associate with her. This time with a hint of pink on her cheeks.
  1460. "Everypony deserves to feel a welcoming hug throughout their lives, do they not?" Celestia says with a warm, loving smile.
  1461. "Come, Anonymous. Let's continue on our way." Celestia says with a giggle as she gently nudges you to get moving with one of her wings.
  1462. "Right..." You say as the group begins moving as one once again. You walk alongside Celestia to her right, while Twilight walks to her left.
  1463. "Aww! That was so cute!" Twilight chimes in. You glance over to see her looking up at you with a big smile.
  1464. "Thank you for you for the kindness, Princess." You say to Celestia.
  1465. "You are most welcome, Anonymous." The alicorn responds.
  1466. The brief walk down the halls that follows is uneventful. Soon enough, you arrive at a particular door at the end of the guest room hallway.
  1467. Celestia's horn glows with magic as it opens the door. You let the Princess enter the room first, followed by Twilight and yourself.
  1468. Once inside, one of the Royal Guards closes the door behind you, leaving the three of you alone together.
  1469. Looking around, you find yourself in a medium sized room, a parlor of sorts, beautifully decorated with fine furniture, marble sculptures and artwork.
  1470. On one side of the room, several windows let plenty of natural light in to illuminate the space, while also providing a view of the Royal Garden.
  1471. Towards the center of the room, you find a large, pony sized table with different seating options surrounding it.
  1472. Resting on top of the table, you see a teapot with steam coming out of it, along with a few trays which hold different goodies to eat.
  1473. "Please, make yourselves comfortable." Celestia says as she steps forward to recline herself on a sofa, which happens to be long enough for her entire body to comfortably lounge on.
  1474. Twilight eagerly moves forward, choosing to sit on a comfy looking floor cushion right next to her mentor's front half.
  1475. You look at the remaining seating options around the table as you decide where to sit.
  1476.  
  1477. After a moment of thought, you walk over to a sofa opposite of Celestia's and sit down on it.
  1478. Celestia's horn glows with a yellowish white aura as her magic envelops the teapot, which she then uses to fill three teacups sitting on saucers.
  1479. The Princess then levitates one of the teacups over to you, which you grab hold of, thanking her in the process.
  1480. "Now then, my dear student..." Celestia begins as she turns her attention to Twilight. "I think anypony can see how eager you are to share something that you're passionate about. Please, do share." She warmly invites the purple unicorn.
  1481. "Oh yes! So I was reading more into some of Star Swirl the Bearded's manuscripts, when I came across a particular magic theory that..." Twilight begins to say...
  1482. ...Which is coincidentally about as far as you were able to follow the resulting conversation.
  1483. Unfortunately for you, the conversation goes into the deep end of magic. While the Princess may be able to keep up and understand the bookworm, you cannot.
  1484. Instead, you opt to sip your tea, which is admittedly quite nice. Sometime later, after Celestia helps herself to a pastry, you do the same.
  1485. The minutes drag onward into slightly over an hour as you feel the boredom really begin to set in.
  1486. While you do find the subject of magic very interesting, as it's something that did not exist in your world, there's only so much discussion of it that your brain can handle at once.
  1487. Occasionally, Celestia will briefly give you an apologetic look, to which you simply smile and nod your head in response.
  1488. As Twilight's ceaseless enthusiasm about knowledge and magic continue to spew forth from her little pony mouth, you glance at the clock again to find that you've been here for about an hour and a half now.
  1489. You begin to wonder just how much time you have left here before the Princess's schedule requires things to move forward.
  1490. The thought crosses your mind that you may not have the chance to speak with the Princess at all... Though, at the same time, you can't exactly think of what you would talk to her about anyway even if you had the chance.
  1491. Besides thanking her for the seemingly endless generosity, of course, you think to yourself as you pick up some sort of pastry filled with a lemon cream. Delicious!
  1492.  
  1493. Eventually, the clock strikes over to a new hour, and not long after that you hear a knock on the door, prompting the conversation between Twilight and Celestia to cease.
  1494. "You may enter." Celestia calls out.
  1495. You turn to look at who is entering as the door opens, revealing a member of the castle staff; a unicorn mare.
  1496. "Please excuse my interruption, your highness." The mare begins as she takes a bow. "It's time for you to attend the meeting regarding the funding distribution." She continues.
  1497. "I see." Celestia says with a bit of a sigh. "Very well, I will be on my way there shortly. Thank you." The Princess adds.
  1498. With that, the unicorn mare closes the door and departs.
  1499. "Oh no!" Twilight cries out as she looks at you with surprise in her eyes. "Anon, I'm so sorry! I... I didn't realize I was talking for that long. You should have said something!" She says as her ears slightly droop to the sides.
  1500. "Ah, don't feel bad Twilight. It's no problem, really." You say as you wave a hand dismissively. "I found the conversation to be quite... fascinating." You reassure her.
  1501. Celestia giggles at your response before speaking. "I'm sure Anonymous understands, Twilight. We can plan another time to visit together, a time when Anonymous can do all the talking that he wants." She says to Twilight.
  1502. "That's a wonderful idea!" Twilight says, now back to her normal cheery self.
  1503. "Now then, let's leave this room now, shall we?" Celestia says as she stands back up, prompting you and Twilight to do the same.
  1504. The three of you leave the parlor back out into the guest room hallway, where the group of Royal Guards that follow the Princess around still stand.
  1505. "I must attend to further duties now. Will both of you be joining me for dinner at the dining hall?" Celestia asks both of you.
  1506. "Of course!" Twilight answers.
  1507. "It would be an honor, Princess." You respond.
  1508. "Excellent! I shall expect to see both of you there in approximately... Ohh, thirty minutes? Feel free to do whatever you wish with your time until then." Celestia concludes.
  1509. You nod your head before you and Twilight turn to leave and let Celestia get on with her duties.
  1510. "Twilight? I almost forgot, may I briefly ask you something?" Celestia says to her student. "You may continue on your way, Anonymous." Celestia says to you with a warm smile.
  1511. "What is it, Princess?" Twilight asks in a curious tone as you continue on your way, with your first stop being your guest room.
  1512. After all, you have a strong desire to take a leak after all that tea you drank.
  1513. You hear Twilight and the Princess talking behind you, though you don't pay any particular attention to what they're saying...
  1514. ...Until you're about halfway to your room, when you can't help but hear your name being mentioned.
  1515. "...if Anonymous has made any new... friends, lately?" You faintly hear Celestia ask Twilight, causing you to nearly stumble over your own steps as paranoia runs wild through your mind.
  1516. What would normally be an innocent question, one you've heard the Princess ask about you before, takes on new meaning as you feel the full weight of carrying a secret weigh down upon you.
  1517. There's no way she could know about Notaulix... Right?
  1518.  
  1519. You keep on walking towards your guest room until you arrive at the door, which you promptly unlock and enter.
  1520. Once inside, you immediately head into the bathroom to relieve yourself.
  1521. Afterwards, you lay down on your bed in order to calm down and think about the situation.
  1522. As the minutes tick by, you reach the conclusion that it's going to do you no good to stress out over what is almost certainly only a fear in your mind.
  1523. You'll just have to see how the rest of the day plays out, you reason to yourself.
  1524. Soon enough, the appointed time to join Celestia at the dining hall arrives, so you once again exit the comfort of your room and out into the castle halls.
  1525. Thankfully, you happen to know exactly where the dining hall is, thanks to your previous exploration.
  1526. Drawing close to those massive doors once again, you can see Celestia already sitting front and center at a table placed on the far end of the room.
  1527. Entering the dining hall, you notice Twilight waving at you to come over with a forehoof, who happens to be sitting next to her mentor.
  1528. You walk down the length of the dining hall until you arrive in front of the two.
  1529. "Where should I sit?" You ask them.
  1530. "Anywhere that you wish, Anonymous. Though, I would most certainly enjoy having you join us at our table." Celestia answers with a gentle, loving smile.
  1531. "Come sit with us, Anon!" Twilight enthusiastically adds.
  1532. "Alright, alright." You say with a smile as you walk around to the other side of the table.
  1533. Once around to the other side, you consider your seating options...
  1534. This special long table of the dining hall, the one meant for the Princesses and their special guests, is arranged slightly differently compared to the other tables.
  1535. It's built to a standard pony height, which is low for you, yet it's placed on a platform, giving extra height to those to sit at it.
  1536. As for the seating itself, there are very comfortable, plushy cushions to sit on. In particular are the two very large cushions in the middle; a yellow one for Celestia, and a blue one for Luna.
  1537. Twilight is unsurprisingly sitting next to her mentor. Luna's spot is presently empty. Looking around, you catch no sight of the Princess of The Night.
  1538.  
  1539. You decide to sit down next to Twilight, who smiles at you as you do so.
  1540. "So what will we be having tonight?" You ask as you look at both Twilight and Celestia.
  1541. As if on cue, a unicorn servant levitates a menu over to you, which you grab hold of.
  1542. "Order whatever you please, Anonymous." Celestia answers you.
  1543. Opening the menu, you begin to look over the many different things available to eat.
  1544. However, your decision making is interrupted when you hear the unmistakable voice of Princess Luna.
  1545. "Hello, dearest Anonymous!" Luna calls out from halfway across the room, in a voice that you feel is slightly louder than necessary.
  1546. Looking up from your menu, you watch as a happy looking Luna trots toward your table, which she then walks around to the other side of.
  1547. "Hi Princess Luna!" Twilight says as the blue alicorn approaches, prompting you to bow in her direction as you sit.
  1548. "Hello, Twilight. It is good to see you." Luna says as she passes by. As she does so, she surprises you by flicking her tail into your face.
  1549. You feel your face flush in embarrassment as you hear the three mares all giggle in unison.
  1550. "Now Luna, it isn't nice to tease poor Anonymous like that." Celestia says, clearly amused.
  1551. "My apologies, dear Sister. 'Tis simply a bit a fun." Luna says as you turn your attention back to the menu.
  1552. You do not get very much time to read it though, as the next thing you know, Luna kicks the cushion next to you away with a forehoof, before magically setting her cushion down next to you with a loud thump.
  1553. "Do you mind if I sit next to you, Anonymous?" Luna asks as she stares down at you with a kind, gentle expression.
  1554.  
  1555. How do you respond?
CYOA AiE Anonymous Changeling Adventure Twilight Sparkle Princess Celestia Princess Luna

BuggyCYOA

by Krivvy