A Blessing in Disguise

by Obselescence

Chapter 1: I really wanted my name to be Chain G. Ling but I guess the Queen thought that was too on the nose?

Hello and good day to you, friends! My name is Lemony Cutewhistle. I am a normal pony.

That is a lie. I am a changeling, and I have deceived you. My apologies for that. In addition to being a changeling, I am a consummate liar, so I am very good at lying. That too is a lie. I am extraordinarily bad at lying. Case in point.

In truth and not lie, I hate deception. I have hated it for at least two days, ever since I learned the true meaning of friendship. This learning occurred to me on a sunny Tuesday morn, when the normal pony Mrs. Cake gave me a thirteenth cupcake for no additional charge. "Of course it's free," she had said. "It's called a baker's dozen, dear."

I thought at first that she had gone mad. That I had drained too much love from these ponies of Ponyville, and that they had gone mad. I insisted to her that a dozen is twelve cupcakes, not thirteen. She insisted that she understood this, but I could still have a thirteenth cupcake anyway. At that moment, I understood. Her generosity struck me through the heart like a lance, but instead of killing me as a lance would, it merely killed my love for deceit. I must be a true friend to ponies now, as ponies are to me. My heart must be pure.

But perhaps I am getting ahead of myself. A proper story begins from the beginning. That is, truthfully, why it is called the beginning. So I shall begin there.

My first moment of consciousness was slimy. This is because I was hatched from an egg, as all changelings are. Eggs are slimy. You will remember this as fact. I was but a mewling larva then, but I remember clearly my first meeting with Her. That moment when the Queen looked down on me, radiant and beautiful as the Queen, and said, "No apparent defects." It was, prior to receiving a thirteenth cupcake, the happiest moment of my life.

I grew quickly into a proper drone for the hive, and the Queen assigned me to care for the newborns. I was often slimy, for I worked often with eggs. I hope you have remembered that they are slimy, for that fact becomes relevant now. These were the days of my carefree youth, rubbing nutrient slime into the egg slime to ensure the developing larvae within would gestate properly. I look back upon them fondly. Oh, for the days when I required no additional instruction, nor were my decisions complicated. This is foreshadowing. I would eventually have to make very complicated decisions indeed.

At the end of my third year of service to the hive, I experienced my midlife crisis. The Queen called me for assignment to Equestria. All changelings at midlife receive assignment to the pony lands, and despite my pleas to remain a caretaker, I was to be no exception. For you see, though I am not a normal pony, I remain a very normal changeling. It became my task to venture to the town of Ponyville, adopt the guise of a pony there, and drain ponies of their love for the glory of the hive. This is normal for a changeling.

I took to this task with great apprehension. "My Queen," I begged. "I cannot undertake this assignment! I have never before seen a pony!"

The Queen, in her great wisdom, considered my plea carefully. It falls to her to answer the many questions of the hive, and her judgment has been honed well by decades of experience. Surely, I had thought, my question had struck a chord of reason with her. She sipped of her loveshake and reclined thoughtfully on her throne, before declaring, "Not my problem."

Thus was judgment passed.

I recall a great nervousness when I first set hoof in Ponyville. My instructions were clear, my goal obvious, and yet I could feel naught but a curious anxiety. I was to be an earth pony, christened of the name Lemony Cutewhistle. The Queen had assured me that this was the sort of name a pony should have, but I was not a normal pony. You may recall that I have said this several times previously. Would the normal ponies of Ponyville accept me, a normal changeling pretending to be a normal pony? I had no way of knowing.

"Hello!" I said at first to a small group of ponies. "I'm Lemony Cutewhistle, and I'm new here from Manehattan! Would you mind helping me around your town?"

The ponies looked nervously at each other. I worried then that I had done something wrong. That it was not customary amongst ponies to identify their name and hive, then ask for instructions. Had I prematurely blown my own cover as a normal pony? Would they now encase me in slime and drain me of my hemolymph, as we did with spies in the hive? I could hardly contain my fear.

The ponies looked back at me. They began to say something, but were interrupted by a pony far pinker than all of them put together. "Hi!" said the very pink pony, as she shook my hoof. "I'm Pinkie Pie, and I'm from Ponyville! Of course I'd be happy to help you around town!"

I wondered at first if this Pinkie Pie was a fellow changeling, for her name was nearly as obvious as my own. I did not, however, smell upon her the pheromones of a changeling, so I concluded that she was not a changeling. Instead it appeared that she was a normal pony, come to assimilate me within her hive. I could scarcely believe my luck at that. Not only did I have a guide for this strange town I had been sent to, but I now had a perfect example of a normal pony, on which I could model my own behavior.

The pink Pinkie Pie dragged me unceremoniously about town, telling me names faster than I could properly remember them. "That's Sugarcube Corner!" she said, pointing to a large cake. "That's Quills and Sofas, that's the library, and that's nothing in particular! Made ya look!"

I looked indeed, memorizing all that I could manage. "Sugarcube Corner," I repeated quietly to myself. "Quills and Sofas, the library. Nothing in particular." It would be a long time yet before I knew all these things as well as Pinkie Pie did, but I was grateful to her for imparting me the knowledge.

Once finished with buildings, she listed off the names of ponies. "There's Derpy!" she shouted. "And that's Pony Joe! And that's a cloud!"

I could not help but notice that other ponies were staring at us. I understood this to be bad. "Pinkie Pie," I whispered to my normal pony guide. "Perhaps you should be quieter? We are drawing too much attention!"

"I know! Isn't it great?" She continued listing names. "That's Lyra! That's a door! And that's Twilight! Hi Twilight!"

"Twilight?" At this name I froze. "Twilight Sparkle?" The famed enemy of the hive! The one pony who had seen through even the Queen's disguise, and thereby ruined our invasion of Equestria. I cursed my luck at attracting her attention so soon. If there were any pony who could penetrate my layers of deception and see me as the changeling I truly was, it would be Twilight Sparkle.

She approached us with startling speed. "Hey Pinkie!" she said, looking to Pinkie Pie. Then she looked to me. "Who's this?"

"Lemony Cutewhistle!" Pinkie Pie said excitedly, then she hugged me. I was shocked at this, for I had thought we were amicable with each other. I did not understand what I could have done to provoke such an act of wanton aggression. I was even more shocked to hear how quickly she reversed positions. "We're friends!"

I believe that to be the moment I understood that Pinkie Pie was not a normal pony, upon which I should model my own behavior. So mercurial and whimsical was she.

Twilight Sparkle looked me up and down, a smile eventually coming to her lips. "Well, I suppose any friend of Pinkie's is a friend of mine! Nice to meet you, uh... Lemony Cutewhistle, was it?" She looked slightly confused at that, my normal pony name.

"Yes, I am Lemony Cutewhistle," I said to her, fearing at any moment that she would recognize me for what I was. "It is foreign. I am from Manehattan."

"O-kay, I guess," said Twilight. She looked again at Pinkie. "Just don't get into any trouble, you two."

Pinkie Pie laughed at that. "Pinkie Promise we won't, Twilight! Cross my heart and hope to fly." She then crossed her heart, and apparently hoped she would fly. But she could not, for she was an earth pony. "Stick a cupcake in my eye!" At this she stuck her hoof in her eye.

"My apologies, Pinkie Pie," I told her. "That is your hoof. That is not a cupcake."

Pinkie Pie laughed even harder. "See, Twilight? What a riot!"

"All right, all right," said Twilight, chuckling herself. "I'll just leave you two to it, then."

With a flap of her wings, she rose into the sky, and flew off. Presumably, as a princess of ponies, she was obliged to go quell the riots. I could not express my relief to see her go. It seemed that I had escaped her infamous scrutiny unchallenged, at least for the time being. This would not be the last of my close calls with suspicious ponies, but for the sake of brevity I shall refrain from speaking of most of them. Also, I have forgotten about them.

Through Pinkie Pie, I met many ponies and learned the names of many buildings. I was introduced as well to a normal pony by the name of Applejack, who was to provide with me my niche within the Ponyville hive.

"So, your name is Lemony Cutewhistle," she said, upon meeting me. "You sure that's right, partner?"

"Yes," I lied, eager to obtain menial work. "I will work very hard. This provides me value."

"Well, as long as you're willing to work hard..." She tutted at my carefully drawn résumé. My references were all lies. I am still ashamed of those lies. "And as long as Princess Celestia herself recommends you... Welcome to the Sweet Apple Acres team!" Applejack smiled and stuck out her hoof. I placed another copy of my résumé in it. Our accord was sealed.

Once more, I took duties as a caretaker. The apple trees were much like eggs, if eggs were not slimy. I poured fertilizing slime upon their roots, sheared defective branches, and read them bedtime stories, as is the lot of a caretaker. In return, Applejack allowed me to sleep in the barn. It was a large barn, filled with hay and moldy wood. In that way, it was much like my sleeping quarters in the hive, if my sleeping quarters were not slimy.

As with my duties in the hive, I was provided for in exchange for my service. Applejack paid in shiny bits of metal, which held no nutritional value. I suspected at first she was cheating me, for it was clear that I could not live off shiny bits of metal. Then I saw that one could exchange this metal for pony food, which also held no nutritional value. I purchased only baked goods in small quantities from Sugarcube Corner, which claimed to be made with love. I am still suspicious of this claim.

My year in Ponyville passed in this manner. I lived with the normal ponies as a normal pony, for I soon became indistinguishable from a normal pony. And all the while I fed on their love. I played their games and attended their parties, and sometimes forgot important lessons of friendship before a series of wacky hijinks reminded me of what matters most. I realized quickly that ponies did not often lie, which was okay, as I lied enough for all of us. Thus my friendship with the ponies grew, culminating in my receipt of thirteen cupcakes, where I had paid only for a dozen.

We are true friends now. I am a true friend, and true friends do not lie except in small mitigating circumstances which should be considered according to context. I do not live in one of those circumstances. I am not a normal pony.

The weight of my deceit burdens me even now. I spent at least two sleepless nights in the Apple barn, sucking the hemolymph of small rodents as I worried on the morality of lying to my friends. Pinkie Pie, Applejack, and even Twilight Sparkle; they have accepted me here as one of their own, as if I secreted pheromones of the same hive as they. I have been living a lie the whole time I have known them, pretending to be Lemony Cutewhistle, a humble earth pony from Manehattan. No, that too is a lie. I have been living a super lie. That sounds better.

Eventually I decided I could bear it no longer. "Hear ye, hear ye!" I cried to the town at three in the morning, because I begin work at five. "I have an important announcement! All must gather at the Town Hall tonight!" A can was thrown at me from a window. Thus I knew my call had been understood.

It is now tonight. I am at the Town Hall. The ponies have gathered around before the podium, wondering what my announcement could possibly be. Little do they know that I am about to drop all pretense. We are friends now. True friends! My heart must be pure, else our friendship is also a lie. The crowd is silent as I step up to the podium. They watch me with anxious eyes. I too am anxious. I vomit briefly. The crowd murmurs in disgust. Good. They are prepared now to feel true disgust.

"Ponies of Ponyville!" I say to them. "This year I have spent with you has been most enjoyable. Though I was but a stranger to your town, you all opened your hearts and accepted me as one of your own. For this I am very grateful!" Again, I vomit with anxiety. But I am tasteful this time. I do it under the podium, well away from the microphone. "However, I have a great secret I must share with you. A secret I have kept from you all this time."

The ponies hold their breath in anticipation. What could my secret be?

"For you see," I continue, "I am not Lemony Cutewhistle, the quirky earth pony from the hive of Manehattan. I have never been Lemony Cutewhistle, the quirky earth pony from the hive of Manehattan. I am a changeling from a normal hive. I am sorry."

The crowd is silent. A murmur rises. The ponies whisper quietly amongst themselves. From the back arises a voice: Rainbow Dash. She shouts.

"Well, duh!"

"I know this must be difficult for you to wait, what?"

This is not the response I expected.

"You never put on a disguise, ya doof!" she goes on, flying to the front. "We've known the entire time!"

"Oh." I glance down at the crowd. They glance back up at me. "And you all just never said anything about it?"

Twilight Sparkle, sitting in the front, speaks up. "Well, you were an undisguised changeling just walking around town." She shrugs. "We figured you knew?"

Murmurs of assent front from the crowd. They figured I knew.

"You did put your name down for the wedding guest list as Drone Seven-One-Three," Cranky Doodle Donkey speaks. "We figured it was just, uh, a legal name?"

Miss Cheerilee also has something to add. "You screamed that the larvae were in danger when you ran into our burning school building!" she says. "The class will never be able to repay you for saving their ant farms!"

"And you drained my love when I confessed my deep abiding passion for you!" Flitter joins in. "Remember our date's on Friday!"

"Oh." Venom wells up in my eyes. All this time, my friends knew. They loved and accepted me, Lemony Cutewhistle, not just as a normal pony, but as the normal changeling I always was. "I... I don't know what to say."

"I know what to say!" Pinkie Pie shouts. "Party time!"

And so the party commenced.

* * *

I don't remember much of what happened after I drank two gallons of punch. On that night, however, I learned the truly true meaning of friendship. That friends do not love friends merely for skin-deep attractions, but for aspects that cannot be hidden properly by a changeling's disguise. I would never have been able to guess. Not without hints, as are often found in the newspaper's crossword puzzles.

I sit now at the roots of apple trees, rubbing the fertilizing slime from a bag into the soil. It is good work, and I am paid well by my gracious employer Applejack. Tonight I will go to a party hosted by Pinkie Pie. It will be fun. That is not a lie. We will drink, play, and be merry, for as long as the night lasts. There are two years left before my lifespan as a drone expires and I return to the hive for processing. That will not be fun. I do not like to think of that, and so I will not. For now, and for the rest of my life, I am Lemony Cutewhistle, citizen of Ponyville. I am a changeling, yes, but I am also a normal pony.

Thank you for listening to my tale.

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