The information in this document is not widely known outside the Changeling Demesne. However, none of it is actually secret, and a dedicated researcher would be able to learn everything in this document.
Changelings are a shape changing family of fae belonging to the flutter pony tribe; they live in the Changeling Demesne, a fae realm outside the borders of Equestria. They are easily identifiable when undisguised by their insect-like appearance, holes in their limbs, manes and tails, and pointed fangs. Second only to their shape-shifting, they are known for their peculiar diet, requiring feeding upon the love of sentient creatures to survive. While this does not necessarily make changelings inherently evil, they must, at least in part, view other races as potential sources of food. This makes changelings an unwelcome race among others and is a constant source of tension.
While there are old changelings and powerful changelings, very few of them are even close to being as old and as powerful as the changeling queen. She is orders of magnitude more powerful than her subjects, possessing magics and abilities they do not. Every changeling but a very few elders is her descendant. All authority is derived from her; every changeling's ultimate loyalty is to her. She has no successors, no heirs, and opinion is divided on whether she can actually die. Whenever dealing with changelings, one ultimately deals with her. Indeed, her influence over changelings is so complete that, to exhaustively cover it, every following section would have to contain a subsection describing her. In the interests of (relative) brevity, such subsections have been omitted.
Changelings are similar to ponies in appearance, but there are several important physical differences. Instead of skin, their bodies are covered in dark gray angular chitin which is in turn covered with a fine layer of chitinous hair. Because this chitin is stiff, their bodies and faces have a more angular, segmented shape in order to facilitate movement. The chitin is not an exoskeleton, however; they have bones and muscles arranged largely as ponies have.
Changelings have both wings and horns, like alicorns. Their wings, which are attached to strong, smooth, deep blue carapaces on their backs, are transparent and insect-like. Their horns are smooth and thorn-like and do not naturally glow when they cast spells, though spell effects originating from their horns may give this appearance. In addition, they are capable of producing resin with specialized glands in their throats.
Like ponies, changelings have manes and tails, though the hair is made of chitin instead of keratin and is relatively stiff and fine. Their manes are often styled to resemble fins, especially in military assignments, but alternate manestyles are possible.
Changeling facial structure is adapted to allow them to move their faces and jaws despite their rigid skin; the angular shapes, in addition to the exaggerated fangs and faceted, glowing blue eyes, give them a sinister appearance by pony standards. However, they are capable of displaying as wide a range of emotion as ponies do. A brighter spot of light inside each eye shifts as they look in different directions, resembling a pupil and improving their ability to show emotion.
Changelings develop many holes in their bodies as they mature, though the number and position varies. The most prominent holes are in their limbs, but they also develop tears in their ears and wings, and their manes and tails tend to grow unevenly, as if they were developing 'holes' too. The biological function of these holes is unknown.
While the best-known, and most notorious, portion of a changeling's diet is love, changelings are capable of processing any kind of food a pony is, and a number that ponies aren't. Unlike ponies, who get their protein entirely from eggs, dairy products, and certain vegetables, changelings, like griffons, require meat in their diet.
Changelings' tastes in food, much like ponies' tastes, vary widely, but there are trends. Changelings in general have a much higher appreciation for bitter and sour flavors than ponies do, and while they enjoy sweet foods as much as ponies do, they are much more sensitive to sweetness, finding a grapefruit only mildly tart and a peach candy-like. In addition, although changelings are nearly immune to the irritating effects of pungent substances like piperine and capsaicin, they have taste receptors for 'spiciness', and often enjoy foods that would leave ponies begging for mercy.
Lifespan and Reproduction
It takes approximately half as long for a changeling to mature as it does for a pony to finish growing up. Like many fae, changelings also have the potential to live exceptionally long lives. However, only a few changelings actually live much longer than ponies; the Demesne is a harsh environment, and resources scarce.
Changelings reproduce sexually; rumors to the contrary, the vast majority of changelings are not the queen's children, though all but the very oldest living changelings ultimately trace their lineage back to her. Female changelings lay soft-shelled eggs, from which their nymphs (the term for infant changelings, who are similar in appearance to infant ponies) hatch. Unlike ponies, they do not grow smoothly to maturity, but instead experience periodic 'molts', during which they shed their skin, grow considerably in size, and gain more adult proportions. During this maturation period, they are neither male or female, but during their final molt, their gender is defined, based on personal preference, environmental pressures, and the rare direct intervention by Chrysalis or other powerful changelings. (Every so often, a changeling will fail to gain a gender; this is considered a sign that the changeling is unfit to breed anyway and carries a social stigma. Most cases of this turn out to be simply an unusual delay in the final molt.)
Changelings cannot naturally produce offspring with other races or species, even when under the effects of transmogrification magic.
Most changeling magic is accompanied by vibrant green flame in some form. This flame does not burn unless the magic is specifically intended to burn. They can also emulate the colors and visual effects of other spells through illusion magic, though they only do so when necessary due to the additional energy required.
The best known of a changeling's magical abilities is its ability to change its physical form. Although a number of other magical races have abilities to veil their appearance or change in form, the changelings' abilities to do so are completely unmatched.
Although changelings have always been able to shift their forms, prior to the War of Discord it was primarily used as a form of entertainment, involving large expenditures of love to transmogrify themselves into various fanciful forms. Only in the war's aftermath, with changelings facing starvation, did they truly refine their craft into its modern form and function, focusing on energy efficiency and uncanny accuracy.
To that end, a typical changeling's shape shifting is largely illusory. While they do undergo real physical changes, which allow them to (for example) get their hair cut and not leave fang marks in their meals, the bulk of the work is done by a sophisticated illusion spell that overlays a rough form and provides the fine details for every sense. For this reason, and because ponies are the sentient species changelings most resemble naturally, most changelings can only shape-shift into ponies, or close relatives to ponies (like zebras). However, it is possible for a changeling of sufficient power and skill to shape-shift into a griffon, small dragon, or other, more exotic form. Only the queen has the ability to change her size enough to mimic larger or smaller forms.
Changeling transformations come in two categories: mimicking an existing form and creating a new one. Both require practice to perfect, and both have their own limitations. In order to mimic an existing form, the changeling must be able to observe the target, and the success of its mimicry will depend on how well it is able to do so. (If the changeling is close enough to the target, its magic can gather fine details, including the sound of the target's voice.) Creating a new form, however, requires both creativity and attention to detail. Most changelings who routinely shape-shift develop a repertoire of forms to take in order to avoid having to come up with one on the spot.
A shape-shifted changeling must constantly expend both effort and energy to maintain both its form and the illusion around it. Inexperienced changelings may revert to their natural form when startled or distracted and will revert when sleeping or unconscious. While these limitations can be overcome with practice and training, changelings are prone to losing their transformations when knocked out, which is one reason they avoid direct confrontations when disguised.
Changelings feed on the energy of love and can draw it from other sentient beings.
Changelings have the ability to influence the minds of those around them, which aids in their infiltration of other cultures. In order to influence a target's mind, they must first establish a link to the target, usually by actively feeding from it. Once they have done so, they can use that link to send suggestions into the target's mind.
The most common suggestion for the target to be relaxed, calm, and unconcerned by events around them. This serves two functions. One, it helps to conceal the negative consequences of being fed on. Two, it dulls any suspicions the target may have that the changeling is not who it appears to be.
Once a changeling has fed on a target for some time, stronger suggestions can be planted, but this is seldom done. The victim will dutifully obey the suggestions, but, due to the impaired faculties necessary to convince them to do so in the first place, will be unable to do so in an unobtrusive manner. Lurching, green-eyed zombies call undue attention toward changelings.
It is possible for a pony or other sentient creature to be transformed into a changeling. This is very seldom done, as it both adds another mouth to feed and removes a food source from the population, but on rare occasions the queen merits it necessary. The art is also known only to a select few; only the queen, or a group of powerful changelings, can perform it, and only the queen can authorize it.
The being to be transformed is placed in a resin pod and kept there for several weeks. During this time, a variety of ritual spells are cast on the pod and the person inside, gradually rearranging their physical form into that of a changeling and implanting knowledge in their mind necessary to properly use their new body. The process also alters the person's personality, adding the typical differences in attitude between changelings and ponies and instilling a loyalty to hive and queen. (This is not mindless loyalty, however; the person remains largely themselves.)
Converted changelings are typically given assignments of some importance, as the effort necessary to convert them would be wasted on a pony that could not accomplish such tasks. However, they bear a mild social stigma, existing as they do outside of the creche system, and are more likely to suffer harsh evaluations and social snubs.
It is rumored that the process can be reversed - changelings turned into ponies - and it would seem to have happened in at least one documented case. However, the details of such a process are unknown, and the process is most likely extremely difficult, given the lack of other examples.
Changelings are capable of channeling magic in order to imitate the abilities of earth ponies, pegasi, and unicorns; however, the average changeling will underperform the average pony in these categories. Earth ponies will tend to be stronger, tougher, and more dexterous, and changelings lack earth ponies' nature magic. Pegasi will tend to be nimbler in the air and have superior senses, and changelings lack pegasi's weather magic. Unicorns will tend to have stronger, more delicate telekinetic abilities and have a plethora of potential spell talents.
Changelings do have advantages over ponies in some ways, though. They have superior spatial awareness, aiding them in navigation through their often confusing realm. They are more resistant to disease, poison, and other harmful agents than even earth ponies. They can outfly pegasi in a straight line, especially in a sharp dive or stoop. In the fields of illusion, fire, and force magic, they excel. They are capable of learning spells to emulate a broad spectrum of abilities and casting them without the telltale glow of a unicorn horn, though few changelings learn more than one or two: a strength-boosting spell, say, or a fire spell that isn’t green.
Most significantly, they can directly spend love to enhance any of their powers and abilities. Doing so is difficult to conceal and dangerously inefficient, given how dependent changelings are on love, but if they just need a modest push, they may take that chance - and if the choice is between being helpless thirty seconds from now and being dead in ten, it's usually an easy choice to make.
Changelings, like ponies, can manipulate objects with their hooves far beyond what a Terran pony is capable of. However, they are somewhat clumsier than ponies, particularly earth ponies, who have a talent for manipulating objects with their hooves, tails, and even (in some particularly unusual earth ponies) manes.
However, this ability is useful in another way. Changelings can secure a grip on a surface much more easily than ponies do. They can walk right up sheer cliff faces and stand upside-down on ceilings, and it's difficult to shift their footing if they don't want to be moved. (Changelings do not typically stand their ground in this fashion, however; they prefer to be mobile.) This ability helps them navigate the winding, warped-gravity passages of their home.
Changeling resin is produced by specialized glands in the throat, which mix water, chemical compounds, and magic in a variety of proportions and expel it on demand. The properties of the resin vary widely, depending on its intended use; some of the most common are listed here.
Resin can be formulated as a glue, a relatively thin liquid that dries into a rubbery, sticky substance with high resistance to cutting and stretching. Different compositions allow for everything from a temporary reusable adhesive to a permanent bonding agent. A thicker variation can be used in situations where some 'give' between the glued objects is desirable. (One notable use is in combat, where a changeling sprays a target with a particularly thick version which swiftly dries and glues the target to the nearest surface.)
Resin can also be formed into hard pieces in a variety of consistencies: opaque, translucent, rough, smooth. This takes somewhat longer, as the changeling has to build up a piece in its mouth, then add onto it bit by bit. It can be used for temporary construction material, in which case it's deliberately formulated to be brittle, or given more durability for long-term projects.
On the opposite end of the the spectrum, a changeling's resin glands can be used to produce a large quantity of liquid capable of transporting oxygen to the lungs of an air-breathing animal; it is also infused with magic which minimizes the need of animals suspended in it to eat or drink. It is used in pods intended to contain ponies or changelings for a period of time, for reasons ranging from imprisonment to quarantine to protection from the elements.
Changeling resin can also be combined with other materials to give it useful properties. For instance, thick, rubbery resin can be combined with certain plant saps and compounds from plants native to the Demesne to create a thin, translucent material akin to Equestrian latex rubber. While changelings tend to forgo using it in clothing (or wearing clothing in general for that matter), it is often used in decoration, as well as upper-class bedding and the like. (Analogs to wool and cotton are rare in the Demesne, and their fibers can catch uncomfortably on a changeling’s chitin.)
All uses of resin require the changeling's throat to be unmodified in order to produce it. Given how hard it is to pass as a pony after spraying someone with resin, most changelings don't bother to learn the delicate task of leaving just the throat untransformed.
Sticky resin can be removed through magic or liberal use of cleaning - even a strong soap and water will eventually wear it down - and hard resin can be broken, crushed, or otherwise destroyed similarly to stone or gems.
In addition to the typical senses of ponies, changelings have the ability to directly sense love. This sense allows them to perceive how much love a pony possesses; if the pony is feeling affectionate toward someone nearby, they can also perceive the flow of love and its intensity. (Ponies transfer love between each other naturally, but not in quantities that would cause harm.) This allows them to select good targets for replacement during a raid.
As changelings do not produce transfer love to ponies, they look somewhat different to this sense than ponies do. However, this is not a sure indication of someone being a changeling. A pony whose heart is closed for whatever reason--suffering from heartbreak, isolated from anyone they care about, supremely narcissistic, or the like--will not be radiating love. In addition, if a changeling chooses, it can hide its identity by deliberately radiating love. This is seldom done, however, as changelings seldom need to hide from each other.
Because changelings use love magic for every aspect of their lives, including living, they have low endurance compared to ponies. A unicorn who overdoes spellcasting is likely to experience a headache and a temporary loss of power; a changeling who overdoes spellcasting is risking death. When fighting is necessary, changelings focus on ending the fight as swiftly as possible, whether that be by bringing overwhelming force to bear or by fleeing. Changelings do whatever they can to avoid fighting in the first place, thus conserving precious resources.
The most basic social unit of changeling society is the creche, a term approximately equivalent to 'family'. In its basic form, a creche is a group of nymphs who are raised together and those responsible for their raising. While it is not unheard of for smaller creches analogous to a pony family with a mother, father, and their children to exist, they are not common. It is far more common to merge together groups of nymphs who are born at roughly the same time, and their parents, into a single creche.
Interdependence is the glue that binds these creches together. Every member strives to be useful to the other members and, in turn, calls on the other members in times of need. Changelings do not, in general, desire 'self-sufficiency' or 'independence', but they also strive to support burdens as often as they are burdens. Even young nymphs will display this behavior.
Creches can change over time, though not to the degree that other social organizations do. Joining a creche requires the support of all existing members and is typically a drawn-out process of both solemnity and celebration. Leaving a creche is considered a personal, grave insult to each member, and being expelled from a creche is just short of being murdered in its severity.
Most changelings will belong to two creches in their lifetimes: the one they are born into, and the one they form. Many join additional creches; someone whose other creche members have all died, for instance, will almost inevitably seek to join another, no matter how old they are.
Other social groups among changelings are informed by the structure of the creche. Sports fans, for instance, are no less zealous in the support of their team than those on Earth.
Somewhat confusingly, the term 'creche' is also used to refer to permanent buildings in which multiple creches share space, new creches entering as enough members of older creches mature and leave home. These buildings are located in the largest hives of the Demesne and simplify the care and feeding of large numbers of juveniles.
Hives (Societal Structure)
(See Hives (Physical Structure) for the physical structure called a hive.)
The other significant social unit of changeling society is the hive. While creches are largely biological associations, hives are geographic ones; where a creche is a binding social tie, hive membership is more fluid. Nonetheless, hives are every bit as important to changelings as creches.
Unlike a creche, in which all members are considered more or less equals, hives have strict hierarchies. Every new member of a hive swiftly learns their place, their duties, and who they are subordinate to and responsible for. In turn, hives themselves form a hierarchy, with the First Hive at the top. It is possible for a changeling, and to a lesser extent a hive, to shift within the hierarchy, and many changelings will change hives at least once in their lives, but just as many changelings are born, serve, and die without ever leaving their hive or moving more than a few steps within its hierarchy.
Few other social organizations model the hive; its structure was born of necessity, where the creche's is part of the changelings' essential nature. However, the term 'nest' is often used colloquially to refer to what is effectively a very small hive, like the inhabitants of an outpost or forward base. (More correctly, it refers to the physical structure that ponies would call a house.)
The Elder Council
At the top of the power structure of the First Hive, just beneath Queen Chrysalis in power, is a group of the oldest and most powerful changelings in the Demesne. This group, the Elder Council, is responsible for the high-level policy setting throughout the Demesne; the queen only intervenes in this process rarely, as changelings do not, as a rule, get old and powerful without displaying both ultimate loyalty to her and talent in their field.
With the Demesne now openly conducting diplomacy with the other races of the world, additional seats have been added to the Elder Council. At present, these seats are occupied by Princess Celestia, Princess Luna, and Elder Pixie Dust, formerly of the Tylwyth Teg tribe of flutter ponies. Other races have yet to contact the Demesne to request such seats, but should the eldest and most powerful of their race make such a request, it would be granted. These seats are largely honorary; those who hold them can influence the decision-making process, but they have no voting power.
Other hives will have lesser elders in charge, according to their size and significance. In many of the smaller settlements, a pony will claim the elder role for lack of sufficiently experienced changelings.
Changelings swiftly bond with the other changelings in their creche and express that bond primarily through physical contact. Hugs, grooming, and the like are common, as are more aggressive displays such as nipping or cuffing when emotions run high. Changelings not part of the creche are treated with more reserve and with a certain amount of ritual, though still, by and large, as friends. Ponies of the Demesne are treated well, though with a racism so deeply ingrained in changeling culture that few are even aware it exists; a typical changeling might be friends with a pony, but never equals. (That Equestrian ponies are upset by this, yet keep cattle, is one of those ironies that amuses those changelings aware of it.) As for ponies, and other races, outside the Demesne, the average changeling barely thinks of them as people at all.
Changelings have very little concept of personal space compared to ponies. They will sleep in piles to share warmth, live in claustrophobic dwellings by pony standards, and consider six inches a polite distance to have a conversation at.
Although many raiders have become quite adept at mimicking the behaviors of ponies in order to harvest their love, changelings, in their natural state, are significantly more feral than most intelligent species. It is not at all uncommon for changelings to hiss and growl at their displeasure and speak largely through body language. This extends beyond expression; most changelings, even to the queen herself, frequently fall victim to placing short-term, immediate desires above long-term goals. Whether this is something intrinsic to changelings or a result of years in the largely-wild Demesne is something of a debate in some circles.
Originally, changelings spoke primarily the language of the fae, now a dead language, simply known as the Old Tongue and used in old literature. However, over time, with the need to communicate with both those ponies sealed in the Demesne with them and new acquisitions from Equestria, the use of the Old Tongue faded, replaced by Equestrian. The Old Tongue survives in their form of writing, which still uses simplified versions of ancient runes. Translation between Demesne writing and Equestrian writing is fairly easy, and any changeling sent on assignment to Equestria learns Equestrian writing as a matter of course. They also learn how idioms and other informal methods of speech have drifted over millennia of relative isolation from the rest of the world.
Changelings with military assignments, including infiltrators and raiders, also learn a secondary language: a system of clicks, whistles, and other insect noises called Raider Terse. Originally a code for quick and discreet communication among a raiding swarm, it evolved into its own fully usable, though fairly technical and martially focused, language. Of particular note: Raider Terse has a call/response exchange that exists outside of the hearing range of ponies and similar creatures, which changelings can use to identify each other while undercover. Care must be taken, however, not to use this in the presence of dogs or other animals that can hear in those frequencies and alert ponies.
Additionally, though not a language in and of itself, changelings have a passive magic known as the 'Swarm Sense'. This is a very basic and low-level magical connection between changelings that, to varying degrees, allows them to pick up on each others' emotional states and, among close-knit groups, basic intent and general area. This does not allow changelings to identify each other, as does the Raider Terse call/response, but allows better coordination in small groups and reinforces the sense of unity among changelings in the Demesne.
While changelings draw, compose, write, perform, bake, and otherwise express themselves, their creations are unsophisticated, bordering on primitive, by pony standards. This is partly due to their isolation from the outside world, but also partly due to their sensibilities, which are martial and primeval. A typical changeling given all the benefits of a modern Equestrian education would still prefer a march to a minuet, would find 'Romeo and Juliet' hilarious, and would not really grasp the point of gourmet cooking.
Education and Employment
After a nymph's first molting, it will begin to receive general education equivalent to that offered in Equestrian schools from the creche caretakers. In addition, it will receive training and testing from the hive it belongs to in an attempt to identify its aptitudes and prepare it for working life. In what would be the late adolescence of a juvenile's life, it will be officially given its first assignment, the task that it will carry out for the hive.
Assignments are much like jobs. Changelings are compensated in proportion to the skills required for the task, the dangers involved, the importance of the task, and so on. They can be moved to more important assignments as their skills improve, or shift assignments if their interests and aptitudes suggest a better fit. They can even specifically request assignment changes, though these are much more commonly made by the hive.
However, there are key differences between jobs and assignments. Changelings do not simply quit assignments; they can request new ones, but if the request isn't granted, they have no recourse. Changelings are not simply laid off; if there's no further need for an assignment to be performed, the changelings will get new ones.
And changelings are not fired. If a changeling performs poorly at an assignment, the hive, and their creche, will make efforts to improve the situation. If these fail, the changeling will be reassigned. But every effort is made to avoid having a changeling assigned to an unsuitable task in the first place, and if a changeling nonetheless fails to perform in more than two or three assignments, they face expulsion from the hive... or worse.
The Changeling Demesne, also referred to as the Changeling Realm, is an area outside of normal space - the fae realm to which the changelings fled to escape the War of Discord, and in which changelings have been mostly sealed away for millennia. Its appearance is that of an impossibly large cavern - so large that it supports its own climate and environments, and that the ceiling is as distant as the sky. 'Ceiling', in fact, is a misnomer; 'down' in the Demesne is typically toward the exterior and 'up' toward the interior, and the lights in the sky are the lights of distant hives.
There are exceptions to the rule, however, as 'up' and 'down', as well as every other direction, are only loosely defined. Part of this is the nature of the Demesne; travelers will come across sideways caves, waterfalls that flow up, seemingly straight paths that loop forever, and mountains that never come closer. Other parts are due to changelings, like the larger hives, in which centuries of cramming more and more into smaller spaces has led to a fine disregard for spatial orientation. And some things are less clear... like why traveling in any direction without a destination in mind will, sooner rather than later, bring you to the First Hive.
The Demesne has no sun or moon, nor does it have seasons. Most of the natural light is provided by swirling auroras or ghostly sparks, leaving the realm in a perpetual state of flickering twilight that nonetheless does not impede vision. The calendar is divided not into days but into cycles, so named for the way the brightest ‘star’ in the sky, the Great Beacon upon the spire of the Queen’s Palace, which sits atop the First Hive, operates. The knowledge of what the Great Beacon is, exactly, is long lost, but it increases and decreases in intensity and changes color on an extremely regular cycle. Time of smaller increments is kept with clocks.
In its natural state, most of the Demesne is a cool, humid forest, not unlike the thick woods of the Everfree; however, the colors are more exotic, ranging from greens to purples and periodically broken by violent shades of every hue. The plants themselves are strange, twisted, and dangerous, the domesticated crops like something out of the Everfree, the wild growths something that would eat the Everfree for lunch. A cautious traveler, one who has learned the Demesne's ways, can nonetheless gather an incredible variety of useful things, ranging from food to construction material to magical reagents.
Despite the danger, the flora of the Demesne has a strange, alien beauty. The fauna is decidedly less attractive, many of the native creatures large and monstrous, like twisted versions of the animals found in Equestria. The creatures roaming the unsettled lands are vicious and savage, the kind that would tear through pony and changeling alike if caught unaware. Even the domesticated creatures of the Demesne are much larger than pets of Equestria, many in the form of giant insects or miniature monsters.
The Demesne is a beautiful place, for one with an appreciation for the alien, but it is also harsh and unforgiving. Storms roll through the aurora at times, sending flooding destruction in their wake. Earthquakes can strike anywhere at any time. Some parts of the Demesne are searing hot; others are blistering cold. To survive in the Demesne, changelings must also be harsh and unforgiving, sometimes cruel even to those they care about.
Standing tall atop the First Hive is the Palace of Queen Chrysalis. Exactly when this structure was built has been lost to the ages, but it is brilliant and proud, the beacon at its uppermost spire visible in some form throughout the Demesne, barring obstructions. (The color of the flame atop this beacon shifts regularly, measuring the hours.) Unlike many of the hives and settlements throughout the Demesne, the palace is built from nothing but the resin of hundreds, possibly thousands of changelings, giving it the appearance of being carved from a single, impossibly large gemstone. Business that affects all of changeling kind takes place in this structure, and only those close to the crown are let in any closer than the outermost chambers. Queen Chrysalis herself has become rarely seen outside of the palace, and even those that catch sight of her are even more rarely let close in recent days.
Hives (Physical Structure)
(See Hives (Societal Structure) for the societal structure called a hive.)
The largest permanent Changeling structures in the Demesne are simply known as hives. Built out of Changeling resin, stone, wood, and, often enough, simple dirt, hives are enormous artificial caves that serve the purpose of an entire city in nearly as dense an arrangement as possible. A complete hive has the overall shape of a large hill, often stretching vertically more than horizontally. Within is a complex series of tunnels and chambers, often with gravity that contradicts that of the outside. The chambers range in size from small nooks to wide-open caves, depending on the desired function of the chamber.
Although nearly any point in a hive can be reached on foot, it is much easier to get around by flying. Many of the main paths require flight at some point, leaving only the smaller, windier paths for the ground-bound. This would be disorienting enough on its own without the changes in gravity that occur throughout a hive, suddenly turning the floor into the wall or the ceiling. Newcomers to a hive can expect to get lost quickly if they stray from the beaten path; if they're not changelings, they can expect to get lost almost immediately.
The First Hive is the largest hive in the Demesne and takes up what used to be a naturally-formed landmass, much of it dug out and added onto. The First Hive serves as the capital city of the Demesne, or more accurately the military control center, and the Palace itself sits atop, accessible through tunnels at the top of the Hive. Other, smaller hives surround the First Hive, and still smaller hives radiate out from them, the hives interconnected by roads like an enormous snowflake.
The First Hive is almost entirely populated by changelings; smaller hives have a higher proportion of ponies, but in even the smallest changelings outnumber ponies considerably.
The Demesne is a dangerous place, and ponies, especially Demesne ponies, are ill-equipped to handle its threats. In order to most efficiently protect them while still providing them with as high a quality of life as possible, changelings have arranged for most of the ponies in the Demesne to live in suburbs, or underhives, so named because they are 'under' hives (or, more exactly, on their outskirts.)
Suburbs closely resemble the largest cities in Equestria, their architecture mixing changeling aesthetics and pony sensibilities to produce tall, narrow, hive-like structures separated by open spaces and parks. Like hives, they contain all the comforts of a city, with residences, commercial districts, industries, and public works. Unlike hives, they typically have consistent gravity, paths designed for the flightless, and generally roomier construction - the population is dense, but dense by pony standards, not by changeling standards.
The key difference between suburbs and Equestrian cities is defensibility. The suburbs are entirely walled in, with older suburbs containing the remains of older, smaller walls, and the skies and streets are regularly patrolled. The ponies that live in the suburbs find this comforting, not oppressive.
Suburbs are largely populated by ponies, but they do not outnumber changelings as much as changelings outnumber ponies in the hives.
Out from the hives and suburbs are settlements, which closely resemble the towns and villages of Equestria. These settlements provide an important service that hives and suburbs cannot: the harvesting of resources. Be they farming communities, logging camps, or mining towns, the settlements gather the fuel of industry from the land.
The architecture of settlements most closely fits Equestrian styles, albeit somewhat outdated ones. Much more wood and thatch is used than stone and resin, and spaces both inside and outside houses are broad. There is plenty of grass, flowers in a riot of colors, and often features like lakes and wide clearings.
Settlements are not as well defended as suburbs, but this is largely because suburb defenses are overbuilt, not because settlements are left vulnerable. Like suburbs, they are walled, and though the walls may not be as thick as those around suburbs, they are taller, more densely guarded, and equipped with heavy weaponry to repel attackers. The settlements stockpile food and supplies in case of siege, use reinforced construction and special shelters to hold natural disasters at bay, and maintain regular contact with the nearest hive so that support can be sent swiftly. All the same, the loss of a settlement is not uncommon, given the hazards of the Demesne.
The population of a settlement is roughly equally divided between changelings and ponies. The changeling population rotates regularly, partially to keep training and experience well distributed and partially because changelings find life so far from the hive hard on the psyche. Ponies are more likely to stick it out in a settlement, but moving to or from the suburbs is common.
The wilderness of the Demesne is a place full of beauty and surprises - and often enough, a swift and unexpected death. The thick vegetation of the forests, swamps, and marshlands is as likely to lash out with toxic barbs as it is to bear nutritious fruit, and the animals of the Demesne are strong, fast, and vicious.
Perhaps the greatest danger in the wilderness, however, was not native to it. Bands of rebel changelings, crazy enough to stand against the queen and strong enough to survive doing so, once flourished in the wilds, periodically raiding settlements for ponies and supplies. The fate of the ponies so captured was worse than death; unlike most changelings, the rebels did not practice sustainable 'farming'. Recent events, however, have supposedly wiped them out; there are rumors some have survived, but so far no concrete evidence.
Despite all of this, changelings still regularly journey into the wilderness. Many useful resources cannot be cultivated and must be harvested wild, especially substances with magical properties. There are also the ruins of failed settlements or ancient changeling works, some dating to before the War of Discord; if their secrets can be found and safely returned - no mean feat - the explorers will be rewarded well.
In a realm where the First Hive is surrounded by smaller hives which are surrounded by suburbs which are surrounded by settlements which are surrounded by the wilderness which is surrounded by... the First Hive, somehow... the concept of 'borders' can be nebulous. Nonetheless, the Demesne does have them, in the sense that, in certain areas of the Demesne, it is possible to cross over into Equestria and lands beyond, and vice versa. These areas are well-patrolled by the Border Guard, whose duty it is to prevent unauthorized travel from one realm to the other. Other members of the Border Guard search the wilderness for border crossings that may have spontaneously formed; any new crossings are sealed if possible and fortified if necessary.
Any fortified border crossing is, by necessity, a settlement at the very least. The largest and most trafficked border crossings become small hives.
Traveling in the Demesne is a dangerous proposition, but changelings do their best to make it less so. Hives are connected by a network of cleared, paved, warded, and guarded roads, and the paths from hives to settlements are regularly patrolled. Travelers move in caravans for mutual strength and protection, and fast couriers travel by air, which is somewhat safer. The most skilled (and expensive) air-couriers are capable of overcoming the massively turbulent gravity shifts toward the center of the Demesne, making them capable of flight directly from the ‘floor’ to the ‘ceiling’ of the Demesne in a straight line. They are most often used to relay official communiques and messages of great urgency. The largest of the inter-hive routes also have underground rail connections, drawn by hulking insect beasts.
Actually traveling to or from the Demesne can be a disorienting prospect, like waking up from a dream. At one moment, the travelers realize they're no longer in the realm they were in before, but they are simultaneously certain crossing over was a gradual process and unable to recall any details between being in one world and being in the other. Some crossings have artificial or natural features like caves or forests on both sides, making the transition less jarring.
Changelings closely monitor all travel from one hive, suburb, or settlement to another, and anyone going on such a trip is required to have travel documents, which they must produce on demand. That said, obtaining such documents is not difficult. Changelings will be issued them as a matter of course for any assignment requiring them, and requesting them for personal reasons is routine so long as it does not interfere with their assignment. Ponies have to have their travel plans reviewed, but the review is largely a formality, intended to ensure the population of changelings and ponies is properly distributed.
Travel to the border is much more restricted. A changeling wishing to go to the border must be on assignment, either as a Border Guard or as an infiltrator or raider. Ponies are only assigned to border settlements after careful scrutiny of their history and psyche, and a pony wishing to go to such a settlement must undergo this scrutiny as well.
No Demesne pony is ever permitted to leave the Demesne without express authorization from Queen Chrysalis herself.
The Demesne operates on a dual economy. The primary currency, despite what some may think, is physical. Pense are metal coins, somewhat smaller than bits, with a glyph on one side (Queen Chrysalis's official seal) and a denomination on the other. Different denominations also have different colors and shapes. The Demesne does not use paper money, but truly large amounts of currency can be converted to and from a form of check at any bank. (These checks are called banknotes, not to be confused with real-life bank notes.)
Demesne ponies are expected to work for a living. Those living in suburbs have guaranteed basic housing, food, and necessities, and all Demesne ponies have guaranteed protection from the dangers of the Demesne, in exchange for their love. Anything above and beyond that must be bought. Changelings simply do not have the manpower to take care of a population of indolent love sacks, let alone their many other duties. The sole exception to this rule is the feeder pony, who receives a basic income (sufficient to live in the lower middle class) simply for providing their love. Even then, many of them take part- or full-time jobs to increase their spending power.
Changelings are paid partially in pense and partially in love, which they can use as a pseudo-currency, trading it with other changelings for goods and services.
Many Equestrian ponies are unaware that changelings are not the only sentient inhabitants of the Demesne. During the War of Discord, many ponies who were in the Demesne at the time it was sealed by an unknown force found themselves trapped with the changelings, who soon realized that these ponies were their only remaining food source. Queen Chrysalis swiftly enacted a plan to guide the development of both ponies and changelings to ensure her people's survival, involving selective breeding, social reforms, and ruthless militarization.
The result of thousands of years of these efforts has led to ponies who are subtly different from their Equestrian counterparts both physically and socially. At a surface glance, they seem identical. They are born, grow, get their cutie marks, get jobs, fall in love, have kids, and do all the other things Equestrian ponies do with their lives. Their architecture is no more alien than that of a foreign country; their food is exotic, but not inedible. Even their society is based more on an Equestrian model than a changeling model, though of course there are influences.
The differences are no less important for their subtlety, however. Demesne ponies have been specifically bred to increase their ability to generate the energy of love that changelings need. Certain 'feeder' ponies are especially good at providing love, to the point that they are cared for all their lives in exchange for being fed on more frequently. Perhaps as crucially, though, Demesne ponies are content with their lives as changeling cattle, and would find the prospect of going to Equestria and being forced to be responsible for themselves as frightening as the average Equestrian pony would find going to the Demesne and being forced to live at the changelings' whims. In a harsh and cruel environment, in many ways they live better lives than the changelings themselves.
There are no other known sentient races in the Demesne.
The love of a sentient being is magic, and not in the metaphorical sense. Every known sentient being that experiences the emotion of love generates a magical energy in doing so, an energy that can be used, like any magical energy, to do amazing things. The sole exception to this rule is the changeling race; they can experience the emotion of love, but they do not create the energy of love. Unfortunately, they are also the only race that requires love energy to survive.
Love energy (referred to simply as 'love' for the remainder of this section) is essential to the metabolism of all sentient beings. Without it, changelings will weaken, sicken, and eventually die. In addition, all of their magical abilities use love as a fuel. Therefore, in order to survive, changelings must extract love from ponies and other sentient beings.
Changelings have three different ways of drawing love out of a subject: passive feeding, active feeding, and draining. Passive feeding is the simplest. Whenever a pony (or other sentient being, but the term 'pony' will be used for simplicity) feels affectionate toward the changeling in its vicinity, it automatically draws a small amount of love from the pony, proportional to the level of affection. (A changeling may choose not to do so, but it requires a certain mental effort.) This has almost no effect on the pony in question, but it also produces the least love, and a changeling attempting to survive on passive feeding alone would need to spend almost all of its time around dozens of friends, several close relations, or one or two loved ones each day.
Active feeding is more effective. The changeling expends a small amount of its stored love to begin pulling love from a willing pony. (A pony that feels affection toward the changeling is considered 'willing', but a pony may also voluntarily offer love to a changeling.) While this greatly reduces a changeling's feeding needs, to the point where a single good friend would sustain a changeling indefinitely, it also has lasting effects on the pony.
The most powerful, and dangerous, means of feeding is draining. Draining a pony requires neither directed affection nor consent; the changeling simply uses its magic to rip love wholesale from the pony's body. However, doing so is extremely obvious; the changeling must be in its natural form, the victim experiences wrenching pain, and surplus energies from the spell wreathe changeling and victim in flames. Victims must also be restrained or helpless lest they attack the changeling and disrupt its concentration. Nevertheless, this is the swiftest way for a changeling to gather large amounts of love.
While changelings were sealed into the Demesne during the War of Discord, the seal was imperfect, and weakened over time. Changelings discovered ways to re-enter Equestria and the lands surrounding it, often in desolate, uninhabited areas, but sometimes close to populations of ponies or other sentients. Using their shape-shifting magic, they began to feel out the possibilities of this; in time, the concept of infiltration became refined and formalized.
The most common way for a changeling to infiltrate pony society is as a traveler from one region to another. In the early days, they would have to invent the details of an origin far enough away from their target that no one would notice if they got them wrong. Later, as changelings returned intelligence from their infiltration, changelings who followed could supply more accurate cover stories.
Once arriving in a settlement, changelings act as ponies do. They modify their diet, using love to ease their need for meat and getting at least some protein from dairy products, eggs, and certain plants. They assimilate into pony society, seeking out relationships and professions where they will be valued (though 'firefighter' or 'baker' is more likely than 'mayor' or 'movie star', as they avoid positions where their activities are closely scrutinized). Then they send whatever they learn back to the Demesne through a variety of methods, from couriered messages to runic transmission devices.
Changelings do not necessarily restrict themselves to one form while infiltrating. In situations where a stranger is unlikely to draw attention, like the larger cities of Equestria or when a town is having an event that attracts travelers from other towns, they may temporarily adopt a new persona in order to get a more complete view of the situation.
Eventually, changelings return to the Demesne. Sometimes they are replaced by another changeling that has been briefed on their cover story; other times, they invent an excuse for their pony form to be 'moving on'.
Changelings have infiltrated lands outside of Equestria, but it remains their primary focus. Transforming into ponies is easier than transforming into griffons or dragons or the like, and ponies are likewise easier to control, which is important for raiding. The primary function of changelings infiltrating other lands is to monitor news that may impact their operations in Equestria.
The term 'raiding' once referred to an overt military operation against an infiltrated populace. The infiltrated changelings would gather information on those ponies most likely to thwart an attack on the town; these ponies would be quietly replaced with changelings. They would also study the town's communication with other towns and settlements; this information would be used to select a time for the raid that would give the longest possible period before the raid was noticed. Once all was in readiness, specially trained changelings would assault the town in conjunction with the infiltrators, subduing the populace and dragging them back to the Demesne. The ponies would then be separated (though close family groups were kept together in order to encourage gratefulness) and dispersed throughout the population of Demesne ponies.
As the population of Equestria continued to push back the wilderness, though, it became too risky to engage in outright assaults like this; legends and rumors began to circulate about them, and the chance of definitive evidence of their activities grew ever greater. As a result, modern raiding refers to a practice in which infiltrators study the population of a settlement, determining both the ponies most dangerous to changelings and the ponies least likely to be missed, whether because they're unpleasant loners or frequent travelers. These ponies are quietly replaced and brought back to the Demesne; the changelings replacing them remain as infiltrators, with the original infiltrators being rotated off of their assignments. Only in the event that they are somehow discovered do they risk open combat, and even then they focus on subduing the witnesses and using mind magic to cause them to forget the events of the raid. This change in their tactics and strategy made sure the rumors and legends stayed just that, and until the events of the assault on Canterlot, most ponies had forgotten them entirely.
|This information applies to Nightlands RP only:|
However, 'old school' raiding is still practiced on the very fringes of Equestria, in places where isolated settlements still face the hazards of the wild; groups traveling from one town to another are also sometimes targeted, with a changeling infiltrating the group and reporting their itinerary to raiders.
Ponies as Livestock
While raids bring fresh sources of love into the Demesne, changelings' primary source of love has always been the ponies native to their realm. Millennia of selective breeding have improved their love-generating ability and resistance to negative effects relative to Equestrian ponies, and millennia of social engineering have shaped their society into one that accepts changelings treating them as cattle as the natural order of things.
In addition to the passive feeding Demesne ponies supply to their caretakers, each Demesne pony has a daily quota of love that must be met, typically by giving it to changelings assigned the task of collecting it. These changelings are also responsible for carefully monitoring the ponies they collect from, watching for signs of injury or illness and addressing them swiftly.
The large majority of Demesne ponies live in the suburbs, where close proximity to hives and dense populations allow them to be most efficiently guarded and cared for. A smaller, but still significant, fraction of the population lives in settlements throughout the Demesne, providing both labor and a food source for changelings on assignment. Few ponies live in hives, the vast majority of whom are feeder ponies.
While changelings have bred Demesne ponies to improve their suitability as a food source, some are more suitable than others, and a select few particularly excel at providing love in large quantities with little harm to themselves. Often they will have a cutie mark reflecting this special talent, though not always. When this talent is discovered, they are named a 'feeder pony', and are expected to provide love to the hive that protects them freely and eagerly, above and beyond what other ponies are expected to contribute. In return, they are fed, sheltered, and pampered; feeder ponies never need to work a day in their lives, though many take up hobbies.
A changeling and a non-feeder pony who have a close relationship may also choose to formalize it. The changeling will offer the pony private feeder pony status; if the pony accepts, they are given a token of identification by the changeling and considered that changeling's feeder pony. This effectively forms a new hive with a population of two, the changeling and the pony; the changeling becomes solely responsible for the pony's care, but in exchange it has exclusive access to the pony's love. The arrangement is voluntary on both sides, and can be ended by either side, but is considered an honor for the pony and an obligation for the changeling.
Dreamers and Husks
|While the material in this section is canon on-grid, many of the details are sufficiently grim that discussion of them should be reserved for Nightlands RP. Discretion is advised.|
The long-term effects of ponies being fed on by changelings are well-studied in the Demesne, but accidents happen, especially outside the Demesne. The two most common terms for ponies injured by feeding are 'dreamers' and 'husks'.
When ponies are actively fed on for long periods of time, they begin to suffer symptoms of love deprivation: headaches, irritability, dizziness, lethargy, and other symptoms of a poor emotional state. Changelings can use their magic to minimize the appearance of these symptoms, but they do so by instead leaving the pony in a relaxed, tranquil, content state. Prolonged use of this technique risks making its effects permanent.
Demesne ponies who suffer from this condition are called 'dreamers', and treated much like feeder ponies, as they swiftly grow unable to care for themselves and are fit only for harvesting love from. Despite the obvious advantages in ease of harvest, changelings do not deliberately create, and make every effort to avoid accidentally creating, dreamers; within the Demesne it makes them much more difficult to care for, and without it draws undue attention to a disguised changeling.
Where dreamers are victims of long-term active feeding, husks are victims of draining. Ponies who are drained lose the capacity to feel positive emotions, and while a victim of a brief drain will soon recover with the support of their friends and family, a pony who has been mostly or entirely drained of love will become a hollow shell of their former self. Some victims lose the will to even take care of themselves and will starve to death if not cared for. Others are overcome with suicidal despair. A 'lucky' few simply become vicious, cruel, and violent mockeries of their former selves, caring for nothing and no one but themselves.
Those husks who survive will eventually recover their ability to feel positive emotions, though the psychological scars will take longer to heal. Former husks grapple with depression, anxiety, anger management, self-loathing, nightmares, panic attacks, induced phobias, and other mental disorders.
Changelings who create husks are expected to be able to justify their actions. As an infiltrator or raider, creating a husk draws unfortunate attention on the Demesne, and is expected to be an action of last resort. A changeling in the Demesne who creates a husk has destroyed the hive's resources and is answerable to it.
Demesne ponies who become husks are given the very best of care and a lifetime exemption from feeding.
While changelings do not, themselves, produce love, they can transfer it among themselves. Among crechemates and other close friends, the vigorous physical affection they show each other is accompanied by each offering love to the other; in more formal relationships, a ritual exchange of love is considered polite, like a handshake.
Love in the Demesne is a commodity. Changelings are paid at least in part in love and can barter for things with it. Even pony currency is love-backed, in a sense; changelings will pay ponies to provide love over and above their quota, and ponies can, in turn, pay to have part of their quota waived.
Changelings need love in order to survive; their metabolisms run on it in addition to more common things like air, water, and food. Indeed, if they lack any other metabolic needs, they can use love as a substitute; this is common during infiltration, as changelings use love to help modify their diets to pony standards. They also use love to power all of their magical abilities, from flight to illusions to mind magic. Even love-draining requires an initial investment; a changeling on the brink of death from love deprivation must be force-fed love by another changeling.
Changelings have, for millennia, restricted their diet of love in an attempt to conserve their resources. The Demesne can support only so many ponies, who can in turn support only so many changelings, and their population is near the ragged edge of that limit. The hazards of the Demesne take their toll as well, requiring them to raid regularly to keep the population up. As a result, the typical changeling is almost always hungry for love.
Changelings are always looking for their next meal. Seconds after feeding, even if a changeling is nearing its limits for the amount of love it can hold, the changeling feels hungry again, beginning to think about the next time it will receive love. A changeling that is actually starving will become more and more feral, eventually losing its wits entirely and attacking and draining the nearest source of love. Exchanging love eases hunger symptoms, but does not remove them entirely.
This perpetual hunger is one of the barriers that will have to be overcome for true changeling-pony equality. It is hard for changelings to empathize with ponies when they're practically salivating over them. It also makes finding a method of feeding changelings artificially difficult. (See Recent History for more details on these projects.)
Love Drunkenness and the Crystal Empire
If a changeling has ingested a great deal of love in a short period of time, it will become 'love drunk'. Its belly will be distended as if it had eaten too much, and its behavior will become erratic; the phrase 'drunk on power' seems apt, as it will begin exhibiting symptoms of both megalomania and drunkenness. (It is believed that this is responsible for Queen Chrysalis's lapses of judgment, leading both to the outright assault on Canterlot and to the chain of events beginning with Twilight Sparkle's suspicions that ultimately led to the changelings' defeat.) Even in this state, changelings have a craving for more love and may be reckless and aggressive in their pursuit of it.
The Crystal Empire, by contrast, has the unique effect of easing the hunger of any changelings within it, as the love it radiates is sufficient to keep them fully fed. However, under its influence, changelings exhibit a more benign version of love drunkenness, without the aggression and lust for power. Changelings under the influence have been known to proclaim their undying affection for ponies, engage in non-consensual snuggling, and even offer overly-intimate gestures like licking. For this reason, the queen has prohibited changelings from traveling there except in dire need. This ban has been reciprocated on the Equestrian side, due to Princess Cadence and Shining Armor's experiences during the invasion of Canterlot.
The War of Discord
The origin of changelings, like much ancient history, has been lost, at least among Equestrians. What is known is that for some time they lived in harmony with the other races of Equestria, and more closely physically resembled flutter ponies than they do today.
The history of changelings as they are known today began with the War of Discord, in which Discord attempted to seize power in Equestria, corrupting what he could and destroying what he could not. While most of the fae races, recognizing Discord's power, sealed themselves away in their own demesnes, the changeling elders, feared that, once Discord had conquered Equestria, he would come after their people next. With the survival of the changeling race at stake, the elders swore allegiance to Discord and committed their forces to the fight.
Unfortunately for them, Discord proved a poor ally, and when they and their army met stiff opposition from the forces of the Alicorn Empire, they received no support. Instead, they were driven from Equestria, retreating into a demesne, then sealed there by an unknown power, possibly the Elements of Harmony. Whether the creators of the seal were aware that, by doing so, they were sealing many ponies in with the Changelings is not recorded. Nor is whether this was intended to take them out of the war or to forever deny their return to Equestria.
In the aftermath of the sealing of the changelings, the most powerful of those elders not slain in battle, Chrysalis, took command of the changeling race, declaring that only radical reforms would save them from starvation. As her reforms bore fruit, the influx of love and loyalty from her new subjects caused her to undergo a radical transformation, the fae pony equivalent of ascending to alicornhood. The newly-christened Queen Chrysalis, now leader in name as well as in fact, instituted further programs of reform, including planned breeding, more martial social structures, and methods of controlling the pony population, that have led to the changelings of today.
The Invasion of Canterlot
While cracks in the seal developed over time, allowing changelings limited access to the outside world, it was not until the invasion of Canterlot that Equestria became once more aware of the existence of changelings. It was, in some respects, an act of desperation: the population balance between changelings and ponies had become disrupted due to more severe than usual losses of Demesne ponies and unusual difficulties securing more through raiding.
However, it is believed that the form of the attack, an open assault on the very seat of Equestrian power, was due to the queen being able to isolate and impersonate Princess Cadence Mi Amore Cadenza. While this seemed like a stroke of luck at the time, granting her access to very high-level information on Equestria's defenses and power over its military, the love Shining Armor bore for her proved so generous and intense that she entered a state of intoxication, behaving increasingly aggressively and thoughtlessly.
It was that aggression that allowed Twilight Sparkle to spot flaws in her impersonation and that thoughtlessness that caused her to seal Twilight into the very prison Princess Cadence was trapped in. It was also what ultimately led to her downfall, as she ignored the threat from Princess Cadence and Shining Armor until it was too late. Once again, she and her changelings were driven from Equestria.
Princess Cadence and Shining Armor's spell was powerful, but not as powerful as the Elements of Harmony. Though the changelings were driven from Canterlot and back into the Demesne, many changelings remained scattered through Equestria, and the paths to return remained open. However, now reminded of the existence of the changeling threat, Princess Celestia and Princess Luna began using their magic to locate border crossings and deploy guards to prevent the near-disaster of Canterlot from happening again.
Bereft of leadership and isolated from the Demesne, the remaining changelings in Equestria acted on their own initiative. Some revealed themselves openly, throwing themselves on the mercy of the victors. Others remained concealed among ponykind, confident in their queen's ability to overcome her defeat and return to guide them. Still others were discovered by a now-wary pony populace and became prisoners, given only the minimum of love necessary to survive but otherwise treated humanely.
|This information applies to Nightlands RP only:|
Meanwhile, faced with the starvation of the changeling race and humbled by her own failure, Queen Chrysalis took a radical solution to the survival of her people. Changelings from all across the Demesne were called to one final duty: to sacrifice themselves for the good of all. It is said that Chrysalis wept openly as the changelings loyally transferred all of their love to the hive, then were given a swift end by her personal guard. Their names were inscribed in the Hall of Remembrance, a chamber containing the names of every changeling to fall in service of the Hive.
Then Queen Chrysalis took an unexpected step: she presented herself, undisguised, at a border crossing near a town on the outskirts of Equestrian civilization and requested, as one ruler to another, an audience with Princess Celestia. Celestia assented to the request, and the two spoke in private for several days, with Princess Luna present to dissuade the curious and ensure her sister's safety. When the meeting ended, Celestia presented first the town, then all of Equestria, with astonishing news: changelings would be permitted to return to Equestria.
Princess Celestia explained that, having been reminded of the existence of changelings, she could not in good conscience leave them to a twilight existence in the hostile realm of the Demesne. She also expressed a hope that, should a true peace develop between changelings and ponies, it would no longer be necessary for ponies to live in the Demesne, and her long-lost little ponies would be able to come home. She further accepted the queen's explanation of the reasons for her assault, though many of her advisers, and many ponies across Equestria, would not do the same.
There were conditions, of course. Raids on Equestria would have to stop. Infiltration would still be permitted, but Queen Chrysalis was required to swear that none under her authority would do harm to any of the ponies of Equestria. Most importantly, changelings would be required to keep a public presence in Equestria, so that ponies and changelings could interact honestly, laying the groundwork for a true peace.
It was on this last point that Celestia faced a minor rebellion, as all across Equestria, ponies raised the same cry: 'Not in my back yard!' While some of these towns and cities have, with time, begrudgingly allowed changelings to make an appearance, only one town is, by and large, cautiously optimistic, a town known for bizarre happenings on a weekly basis: Ponyville.
In order to reduce the pressure on changelings to treat Equestria as the enemy, Princess Celestia and Princess Luna quietly contacted those ponies they believed would be most sympathetic to the hardships the changelings faced and arranged for them to be willing donors to changeling love-gatherers. These arrangements are largely kept secret from the populace as a whole, as there are those who would react violently to the very notion.
|This information applies to Nightlands RP only:|
Not all of those called on to sacrifice themselves for the good of their people did so in the First Hive. In an effort to rid herself of at least one drain on the pony population, Queen Chrysalis took a subset of those chosen, the most loyal and most skilled in combat, and sent them in strike teams to the wilds of the Demesne, seeking out and destroying the rebel camps that preyed on settlements. The fighting was long and bloody, and few survived, but the rebels are believed to have been completely wiped out. The dead are memorialized in the Hall of Remembrance; those who survived received lesser honors, but were permitted to continue to live and serve.
Ponies have undertaken multiple projects to solve changelings' dependency on love extracted from ponies. To date, none have been truly successful. The most promising device so far, a magical machine designed to process the ambient magic of Equestria into something changelings can ingest, produced 'love' that was simultaneously 'bland', unhealthy, and nearly addictive, leading to test subjects exhibiting the worst symptoms of love-drunkenness. (One prototype was destroyed when the test subject attempted to devour it whole.) In addition, the machine was difficult to build and terribly inefficient; even if the entirety of the Demesne were carpeted with them, they would not produce enough love to support the current changeling population. At the moment, these projects are on hold.
Over a period of several months, Chrysalis’s diplomatic contacts were gradually withdrawn. This raised suspicions in some circles that she was preparing for another attack. However, she then re-established embassies in Ponyville and Canterlot and reportedly made contacts with other races once again. The only explanation offered for this lack of communication was that she had been dealing with internal affairs.
Those dwelling outside of Equestria, such as the griffons and the dragons, were offended when Princess Celestia negotiated with the changelings without consulting them. When Twilight Sparkle and her friends used the Elements of Harmony to break the Demesne’s seal entirely at Chrysalis' request, they were outraged. Princess Celestia and Princess Luna have done their best to soothe ruffled feathers, but relations between Equestria and other lands are still cooler than they have been in some time.
As for relations between changelings and other lands, opinion varies. The most tolerant races negotiated similar deals with Chrysalis, allowing changelings in their lands so long as no harm was done to their citizens. Many races, however, have begun aggressive anti-changeling policies, researching anti-changeling magic and closely monitoring their populace.
Changelings living openly in Equestria are afforded the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of ponies by order of the Two Sisters. This policy has been controversial, but so far little abused. Infiltrators, by contrast, are without this protection; while their existence in aggregate is acknowledged, any individual whose cover is blown is subject to arrest and deportation. As, under the truce accords, infiltrators should not be causing harm to ponies, the most likely way for one of them to be discovered, they can expect little sympathy. Infiltrators who are revealed through no fault of their own, especially if it happens as a result of their acting to protect or help ponies, are treated more mercifully, but nonetheless must choose between deportation and integration. (This is the official policy. In practice, so long as an infiltrator does not attract the official notice of one of the princesses, no action is taken. Princess Luna and Queen Chrysalis play their games of espionage and counter-espionage quietly, so as not to upset the public.)
Queen Chrysalis has not been seen in Equestria in over a year. Even in the Demesne, the personal presence of the queen is rare; she remains in the First Hive, her decrees passed down by the Elder Council. No one knows why she has isolated herself, and few have even dared to ask the question.
In an effort to further improve relations between the Demesne and Equestria, Queen Chrysalis and Princess Luna negotiated an open-border policy. Trade between the two nations is permitted untariffed, though traders who wish to actually travel between nations, as opposed to meeting counterparts at the border, have to acquire authorization from both sides. In addition, Equestrian ponies may immigrate to the Demesne, obtaining dual citizenship and the right to travel freely between the nations (though they have to obtain authorization to leave the Demesne, this authorization must be granted in a reasonable time frame). It is unknown at this time whether Queen Chrysalis will extend this policy to Demesne ponies, though she has been quietly repatriating ponies seized from Equestria as part of a deal with Princess Luna.
Of note with regards to this immigration policy is the settlement of Earthblood, a newly founded settlement that has become the home for the first batch of immigrants (as well as a number of Demesne natives). This settlement is founded around an orichalcum mine, but also serves as a testbed for immigration policies.
Whether the queen seeks a genuine peace between changelings and ponies, is simply biding her time to build up her forces for another assault, or is attempting to infiltrate Equestrian society and conquer it from within is a subject of much debate. Ponies don't have a way to find the answer, and changelings don't bother to ask the question. She will command, and they will obey, whatever their personal views on the subject are.