The Best Present
By Bernard Doove © 2014
This one-shot short story was first presented on FiMFiction.net. It occurs at the earlier part of my "Growing Up Dandy" story.
“Can I be in the play next year?” Dandelion Dreams asked.
Whirring Cogs looked at his young daughter as she walked down the snow-covered street between him and his wife. The filly gave him an eager and hopeful grin.
“I don’t know, Dandy, but if you really want to try out for a part in next year’s Hearth’s Warming Eve play, I’m sure we can arrange that.”
Lavender Dreams added, “There’s a lot of competition for the parts among the foals though, so you’re going to have to figure out which one suits you best, and practice the role.” “Aw, yeah! I’m going to be the best!” Dandelion declared confidently.
“The play is done for this year though, so let’s just enjoy the evening, okay?” Cogs suggested.
Dandelion’s enthusiasm was not to be so easily dampened, however, and she pranced around them excitedly. “But I understand the lesson of the play. It’s like us – you’re a pegasus, Mom’s a unicorn, and we live in harmony together. Well, we haven’t got an earth pony, but Uncle Set Square is almost a part of the family. That works, doesn’t it?”
Cogs grinned. “I’m sure that he would be happy to hear you say that, so yes, that works.” Although he was actually a changeling, he thought that the lesson applied even more. Changelings and ponies could live in harmony together also, and to the benefit of both.
“Daddy, I’m cold,” Sky Fern complained from her position, riding on her father’s back.
“We’re almost home, dear. We’ll all be warm soon.”
“And we’ll have our Hearth’s Warming Eve celebration with lots of nummy stuff to eat,” Lavender said to help get the youngster’s mind off the chilly evening weather.
They were only a few houses away from their home, and soon they were stamping off the snow from their hooves on the porch before entering. Both Dandelion and Fern headed for the fireplace to warm up, while Cogs and Lavender went to the kitchen. Cogs started making up some hot cocoa for all of them, while Lavender attended to the vegetables that had been left to roast in the oven while they were at the play. A plum pudding was also nearly ready. Cogs gave a stir to the barley soup that was simmering on the stovetop, and then carefully sipped a sample from the ladle.
“The soup will be ready as soon as we have our cocoa,” he declared.
Lavender nodded in satisfaction. “The roast vegetables should be ready by the time we’re finished with the soup.”
“I’ll set the table.”
“Remind the girls to wash their hooves, will you?”
“Of course.” It had been the first thing both of them had done before handling anything, but the fillies were sure to forget - or ignore - the need.
It was not long before they were all gathered about the fireplace, sipping hot cocoa with marshmallows. No one talked, but they all were enjoying the warmth of a loving family just as much as the drink. However, the peaceful reverie was interrupted by a knock on the back door that was the family entrance to their combined shop and home.
“Were you expecting anyone?” Cogs asked Lavender.
Lavender shook her head.
“I’ll go see who it is.” Cogs set his mug down and headed out of the room, a little irritated at having the moment spoiled.
Cogs’ irritation rapidly evaporated when he saw who was waiting at the door. “Twilight! We weren’t expecting you. Come on in! What brings you here this evening?”
“You didn’t think that I’d forget to bring presents for my two goddaughters, did you?” she replied, levitating a few parcels up to show him. “I can’t be here tomorrow because I’ll be spending the day with my family and friends in Ponyville, so I thought that I’d get this done tonight. I haven’t come at a bad time, have I?”
“Never! The girls will be thrilled to see you.”
Cogs led Twilight to the living room, and the two fillies jumped up and raced over to her as soon as they spotted the alicorn.
“Auntie Twilight!” they exclaimed and gave her hugs which she happily returned.
“Hi, girls! Have you been good fillies since I last saw you?” Twilight asked.
“Yes!” they chorused.
“Then you deserve these presents that I brought for you. Happy Hearth’s Warming to you both.” She passed a parcel to each of them, and they grabbed them eagerly.
“Thanks, Auntie Twilight!” Dandelion said, and eagerly started unwrapping it. Fern quietly smiled her thanks and followed suit.
With the children distracted, Twilight was able to turn her attention to Lavender. “A happy Hearth’s Warming to you also, Lavender. I brought a little something for you too.” She levitated the remaining small parcel over to the mare.
“Oh, you needn’t have done that,” Lavender protested.
“No I didn’t, but I wanted to anyway. Open it later though.” She turned back to Cogs with a grin on her face.
Cogs said, “You’ve already given me enough for a lifetime, so I don’t want anything. Besides, you don’t have any more parcels.”
Twilight’s grin only grew broader. “Ah, but I do have a surprise for you, but I left it outside.”
“Why would you do that? Leave it outside, I mean.”
“And spoil the surprise? Come with me.” Twilight headed back to the entry, followed by a mystified Cogs.
Twilight opened the door, stepped outside, and called out, “Clue! Come on out now!”
A yellow unicorn with a green mane and tail stepped out from behind the corner and approached the two waiting on the porch. The stallion trotted up with a grin of nervous anticipation on his face, and said, “Hi, Cogs. Good to see you again after all this time.”
Cogs did not know the unicorn, and was surprised to be addressed so familiarly. He looked at the stallion more closely, feeling with his changeling senses also, and his eyes snapped wide open in shock. This was another changeling, but not just any changeling, but one from the Blue Hive, his old home.
“Who… who are you?” he demanded.
The stallion looked at Twilight. “Are we clear?”
Twilight nodded confidently.
The unicorn was abruptly enveloped in the green fire of changeling magic, and he assumed his natural form. Only then was Cogs able to properly recognise him. His jaw dropped and he gaped with absolute astonishment. “Karazen? Is it really you? I thought you were dead!”
The Harvester grinned. “I thought you were dead also. I thought I was the last of the Blue Changeling Harvesters left after we were expelled from Canterlot.”
“Me too! Oh, Celestia! It’s so great to see you!” Cogs bridged the distance between them and fiercely hugged Karazen, who quite enthusiastically returned it.
Twilight stood aside and watched in great satisfaction, unable to wipe the smile off her face.
Eventually they pulled apart, and Cogs’ eyes were brimming with tears. “What happened to you? How haven’t I heard about you before? And what’s with the new alter ego? You used to have a blue coat and yellow mane, didn’t you?”
“I ditched my previous identity, and I’m now known as Elusive Clue,” Karazen replied, resuming his unicorn form. “When I realised that I was the sole survivor of the Harvesters, or at least thought I was, I decided that I wasn’t going to return to the hive and let Queen Chrysalis force me to be a soldier again. To be sure that another Blue Changeling didn’t recognise my old alter ego, I decided to create another and start over again. I’m surprised that you kept your old one.”
“I was badly injured at the time, and I hadn’t intended to stay here back then. By the time that I realised that this was going to be my new home, my identity was established. Anyway, I’m very attached to this form, and I don’t think that I would want to change it. This is the real me now. So how did you remain undiscovered all this time, and how did Twilight find you?”
“I took jobs in isolated areas until I was able to get employment at a research facility outside of Vanhoover. Before that, I barely had enough contact with ponies to get sufficient love energy to survive. Of course, because I didn’t have to bring any of it back to the hive anymore, I was able to use it just for myself. The latest job has improved that a bit, but it also increased the risk of being discovered.”
“You always were the laboratory type. I couldn’t stay away from my preferred work either, so I understand why you’d take that job. However, that still doesn’t explain Twilight’s involvement.”
“I didn’t say what the facility researches. We specialise in finding solutions to problems caused by magic – rogue spells, curses, and such. Princess Twilight came to us to help in her project.”
Twilight interjected, “Remember that I promised that I would look into a compatibility spell for changelings with ponies, and I told you that it was very complex and would take a very long time? Well, it can be broken down into various aspects, and specialist groups can work on the parts they’re most expert at doing. I approached Vanhoover Thaumaturgic Solutions to work one of those aspects. They assigned a small team to the problem. Much later I met up with the team to discuss their progress.”
“And guess who was the specialist in changeling magic on that team?” Karazen said with some chagrin.
“Way to be inconspicuous, Karazen,” Cogs teased him.
“I thought that I was doomed. Imagine my surprise when the Princess got so excited when she found out that I was a Harvester.”
“How long ago did this happen?”
“Only about a week,” Twilight replied. “I thought it would make a nice Hearth’s Warming gift to let you know that you were no longer the only one.”
“Nice? This is the second best thing that has happened to me! Once again I’m in your debt, Twilight.”
“You know that it isn’t a debt, Cogs. After all, you’re practically family, and I had to reunite you with one of your brothers.”
“Changeling relationships aren’t exactly the same as with ponies, but I suppose brother comes as close as it gets. We grew up together, socialised together, and trained together until we were sent out on assignments to different places. I missed you a lot, Karazen.”
“I missed you too, Zevan.”
The two hugged again.
“Better stick to my pony name. My daughters don’t know that I’m a changeling, and Dandelion is old enough to be curious about little things like that.”
“Then you had better remember to call me Elusive Clue, or just Clue for short.”
“What’s taking you so long, dear?” came Lavender’s voice from the doorway.
Cogs turned to face her with a huge smile on his face. “Clue, this is my wife, Lavender Dreams. Honey, meet my brother, Elusive Clue. Twilight found him out Vanhoover way.”
Lavender looked puzzled. “But I thought you were… you know…”
“It’s alright, hon – he’s a changeling too and knows everything. He really is my brother.”
Lavender’s expression brightened. “How wonderful! You must join us for our dinner and tell us all about yourself. You’ve also got a couple of nieces to get to know.”
Cogs encouraged him to go inside, saying, “The food isn’t the only thing that you will get to feast upon. If you’ve been getting by on meagre emotions up until now, you’re going to be a little overwhelmed here.”
“I can taste them already, Cogs.”
Cogs looked back over his shoulder to Twilight. “If you think you’re going to skip out on this reunion, you’ve got another think coming. We’ll set a place for you at the table also.”
“Thanks, Cogs, and a very happy Hearth’s Warming to you,” Twilight said as she followed them inside.
“The very happiest, Twilight. After all, you brought me the best present that anypony could ever get.”
Twilight Sparkle, Equestria, and other My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic elements are © 2014 Hasbro.
Original characters and story copyright © 2014 Bernard Doove.
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