You’ll fall in love with today’s story before you know it.
Changeling Courtship Rituals
[Romance] [Comedy] • 38,574 words
For years, Twilight Sparkle and Queen Chrysalis have been at each other’s throats. Both have experienced victory over the other, and both have experienced defeat. Out of all the creatures in Equestria, none despise each other the way the pony Princess and changeling Queen do. They seemed destined to remain locked in battle forever, or at least until one is finally dead at the hooves of the other. The cruel insults, the vicious loathing, and the powerful spells that have passed back and forth between them at each meeting have become the stuff of legend.
Imagine Twilight’s surprise when she finds out changelings consider this dating.
And now they’re married.
FROM THE CURATORS: It’s always a great sign when the five of us approach a comedy and find ourselves unanimously agreeing on its hilarity. “Changeling Courtship Rituals is such a madcap pile of wackiness from start to finish,” Present Perfect said, echoed by Soge: “The story is a riot from beginning to end — the ‘meet the parents’ chapter is one of the funniest things I have read in ponyfic.” Chris appreciated the story’s self-subversion: “When this fic is on, it’s hilarious. Whenever it appears that it’s about to start taking its premise too seriously, it quickly pulls the rug out from under itself.”
It’s easy to see from the story description where the humor in this romantic comedy comes from, but one of the pleasant surprises that awaited us inside was the depth of emotion it also managed to work in. “Twilight decides that her best course of action is to use Chrysalis’ feelings for her to see if she can get Chrysalis to act in a way that’s more acceptable to ponies,” AugieDog explained in his nomination. “The ways in which this doesn’t exactly work out make for both the comedy and the drama, and the author covers every base I could think of.” Soge agreed: “The strong characterization work manages to really elevate its plot. It’s the story of Twilight growing as a person in very important and realistic ways, culminating in a powerful climax.”
He wasn’t the only one praising the story’s strong characters. “The side characters consistently steal the show,” Horizon said. “Celestia’s private reaction to Twilight’s news, and Discord’s first introduction, were both laugh-out-loud moments.” Ultimately, however, it was the story’s breadth — not just in tone, but in the range of humor it covered effectively — which sealed our feature. “It’s full of great character-assassinating humor, refuge-in-audacity silliness, and the like,” Chris said. “And it knows exactly how seriously to take all that audacity. Twilight makes an excellent straight mare in a world gone crazy, and yet that craziness is of a consistent-yet-ridiculous form that makes it easy to understand the world.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Codex Ex Equus discusses flying machines, reading superpowers, and multi-dimensional monsters.
Give us the standard biography.
Well, I grew up in a couple states around the Midwest, mostly Minnesota, which is where I live now. Started off going to college for Computer Science, dropped out of that mostly because of the math (multivariable calculus is actually harder than it sounds), ended up going back about a year later and getting a degree in graphic design. Now I work at a small company doing web design/IT/pretty much any random thing that needs to be done.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
My main inspiration was the phrase Deus Ex Machina, which is literary term describing when an unsolvable problem is resolved by some new element coming out of nowhere and saving the main character. The term translates as ‘machine of the Gods’, due to plays where it would be represented as a literal machine coming down from the heavens and carrying away the hero. Though, like most people, I was first introduced to the term thanks to the amazingly excellent Deus Ex video game series.
When I needed a name for my DA account, I went with Deus Ex Equus, or ‘horse(pony) of the Gods’. So when I made an account on FiMFiction, the obvious choice was to go with Codex Ex Equus, ‘pony of the books’.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Well, Twilight Sparkle and Queen Chrysalis are obviously at the top of the list. Applejack is pretty high up there too. And of course Celestia and Luna are always great, even though they spend most of their time getting captured by end-of-season villains.
What’s your favorite episode?
Again, for obvious reasons, Canterlot Wedding is up there. I also really enjoyed Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?, Slice of Life, and most recently, A Royal Problem.
What do you get from the show?
For me, it’s always been about the art. The show itself is absolutely beautiful, and has only gotten more so over the years. And the fanart is actually even more incredible. That’s what really got me into the show in the first place.
I also love the way the show creators acknowledge the fandom. Now, Slice of Life was great, but that would be too much if it was something constant. But they handle it just right. Seeing things like Derpy appearing every few episodes, or Trixie coming back and even becoming a major character after she got so popular, is just really nice. A lot of show creators don’t respond to fan feedback in that way.
What do you want from life?
Not a whole lot, actually. I’d really love to just write and draw (okay, and play video games way too much) all day. Even if there weren’t many people that liked what I create, I’d still be happy sharing it with them.
Why do you write?
I’ve always been a huge reader since I first learned how, and when you really enjoy something like that the urge to create more yourself tends to come naturally. I attempted to write novels twice early on, when I was about 12 and 14. They were based on Star Trek and Dragonlance, which I suppose means my first attempts at writing were also fanfics. Though there are plenty of writers that write for those franchises officially, so I saw it more as trying to write freelance novels for them, I guess.
Then when I was 18 or so, I started writing my own novel. Which I finished, at I believe ~180k words, making it actually fully novel length. Then I wrote a sequel to it, and another novel in a different series, and a short story and a half as prequels to that story. I never got any of them published, or even in a state where I really considered them publishable, but I do intend to go back to them. You know, some day.
So at this point, I write because I have to write. I get these ideas in my head, and I have to get them out so I can stop thinking about them and get some peace. I mean that literally, too. Between starting to write Changeling Courtship Rituals seriously and finishing it, it was what I spent a large part of my idle time thinking about. But after it was done, it was just kind of … gone from my mind. To the point where I half forgot a lot of it. In a way, I write to get the voices out of my head.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Read a lot! I have zero formal training in writing, but I like to think I’m a fairly talented amateur. All of that just comes from the fact that I read at what is probably a superhuman speed, and I read a lot. I first read Jurassic Park at age 10, started in on Stephen King books at 12/13, and just read more and more from there. I’m trying to come up with some sort of page count for how much I’ve read, and just looking at the books on my bookshelf and knowing how many times I’ve read each of them is scaring me.
So that’s where I think any of my skill comes from, and that’s the best advice I can give. The more you read, the more you’ll understand what makes a good story, how to structure and pace plot and build paragraphs and so on. In a lot of ways, reading a book can be good practice for writing, which doesn’t translate to other areas, like art, nearly as well.
I would also suggest getting a good proofer. I got an excellent one a while back, and they’ve been a big help. Catching all the stupid mistakes I make is nice, but what’s even better is getting feedback like ‘this sentence makes no sense’ or ‘I don’t understand what this character means’. It really helps to clean things up before a wider audience gets to see it.
What inspired “Changeling Courtship Rituals”?
What kicked it all off was a story on FiMFiction called ‘We Two Queens’ (warning: there is some clop in there. It’s fairly tame, though). It’s this great little story that ends with Twilight and Chrysalis going ‘well, I guess we’re in a relationship now?’
So I read that story, and I was kind of thinking about it, how I loved their sort of cautious ‘let’s see how this goes’ attitude, and how cute it was and all that. And then at some point there, while just kind of idly musing on it, a random thought said, ‘hey, what if everything Queen Chrysalis has been doing has actually been her idea of dating Twilight?’
And, well, there you go.
How did you keep a story about Chrysalis dating Twilight from tumbling headlong into “crackfic” territory?
It’s kind of funny, I’d never even heard that term before I posted this story. I wouldn’t even really consider Chrysalis and Twilight to be close to a crackfic, though, considering how much they’ve interacted. Especially if, as I did, you take the comics into consideration. I mean, if I was going to write a crackfic, I’d go with Vinyl Scratch and Tirek, or Ember and a time-traveling Starswirl the Bearded who instead of dying had actually accidentally sent himself into the far future. Something that really makes no sense.
I actually consider Twilight and Chrysalis to be a rather reasonable pairing. Opposites attract and all that. Or to paraphrase Terry Pratchett, ‘Love and hate aren’t opposites, they’re two ends on a spectrum. And sometimes, if you go far enough in one direction, you arrive at the other’. To put it another way, Twilight obviously had a lot of hate and fear of Chrysalis. So it didn’t really take much to flip that around to love.
Chrysalis’s attitude is one half of what makes it all work. To her, this isn’t a crackship. There’s nothing out of the ordinary about their relationship. In fact, to her, it’s like a fairy tale. It’s her ideal notion of what romance should be like. You’re supposed to try and kill the person you love. That’s only natural, isn’t it?
Twilight’s attitude, then, is the other half. The fact that she’s not on board, at first, is probably what keeps this all from descending into craziness. At first she’s terrified of the whole situation, then she’s kind of stunned, then she starts panicking as she realizes the full extent of what the consequences of this misunderstanding are.
And then … she starts getting to know Chrysalis. She starts to see her as not this one-dimensional monster, but as an actual person, someone with hopes and dreams and feelings, and reasons for acting the was way she does that are somewhat reasonable, if not reasons Twilight necessarily agrees with. So she still has all these emotions about Chrysalis, except now they have nowhere to go because she’s actually come to get to know Chrysalis and found out she kind of likes her. And that’s where you get the flip from hate to love.
So what keeps the whole concept from descending into craziness is just, well, being reasonable about things. There’s really no reason any given two people can’t fall in love, you just need the right set of circumstances and events. The events might be incredibly improbable, but that doesn’t make them impossible.
Do you find it a challenge to pull off this sort of broad comedy while still keeping the characters true to themselves?
Not especially. Most of the characters have fairly easy to write personalities. So when the Mane Six found out about Chrysalis and Twilight being married, they reacted in fairly standard ways: Rainbow was kind of like ‘that’s cool, you do you’, Pinkie was excited about throwing parties, Applejack was concerned about apples, Rarity was all about the wedding (I’ll admit, her reaction was kind of inspired by how she acted in Six Brides for Two Sisters). Fluttershy was the only one where I may have pushed her a bit out of character, but being scared and then suddenly trying to defend herself and everyone else is still close to how she acts.
Queen Chrysalis was the only real challenge here, but that’s only because she has no real personality on the show besides ‘take over Equestria’. Like the Princesses, she only shows up at the ends of seasons and just kind of sticks to a one-dimensional personality. I basically had to create a personality for her that let her fall in love with Twilight while still staying true to how she was depicted on the show. So that’s how stuff like her constantly trying to assassinate Celestia came to be.
When it comes to comedies like this, it’s not so much about keeping the characters in character. It’s more about creating a situation and then just … kind of seeing how they react to it. Maybe sometimes you push them a bit further than is really realistic, but in general any character can always have a ‘funny’ reaction to a situation. The trick is just to find that reaction. And then, sometimes, make it even more ridiculous.
How far into the future have you planned this series?
Rather far, but I’m kind of conflicted at this point as to what exactly I’m going to do. I was planning on following Pen Stroke’s example with how he’s been working Nyx into the show canon. Which was all fine, up until the season six finale threw everything for a loop.
The problem is, depending on how it all plays out, I might have to abandon that plan. If Chrysalis ends up transforming like the rest of the changelings, or even getting ‘killed off’ in some way, I’ll have to just ignore everything that’s happened on the show and move on as though the ‘timeline’ of my story diverged around the end of season five. I mean, I could retcon any changes I don’t like out of my own canon, but I don’t really like to do that kind of thing. I’d rather just go my own way. Considering that this season is supposed to be about family, and there are multiple changeling-centered episodes, I’m hoping it will all be worked out in the finale one way or another.
That said, I do know what the next chapter in this story is going to be. Essentially, it will be a series of vignettes, mostly just slice of life stuff detailing various little stories in Twilight and Chrysalis’s lives, just showing bits of what things are like for them as a married couple.
After that is another issue again, because my plans there involve a time jump of ten years or so. Which, if I want to keep things aligned with canon, obviously becomes tricky. It shouldn’t be insurmountable, though. I firmly believe that there’s no situation that can’t be written out of in a reasonable way.
So, quite a bit of stuff planned for any fans of this series.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Just that I love everyone who’s told me how much they enjoyed this story. It was originally supposed to be something I worked on on the side, just a silly little story, but your reactions are what pushed me to make the story so much better than I ever thought it would be. You’re why I do this.
Also, shout out to ShutterflyYay, my proofer. Without their help, there’d be a lot more mistakes in my stories. I mean, those mistakes are still in this story, because I wrote it before I had a proofer, but all the mistakes you don’t see in the stories after this one is due to ShutterflyYay’s hard work.