Moonshadow Mystery was born in the Changeling Hive hidden from pony kind in the dark caverns beneath that fabled cemetary, deep beneath the earth under the roots of that tree where Starswirl the Bearded had discovered and imprisoned the changeling race over a thousand years ago, a little over twenty years prior to the return of Nightmare Moon. He wasn't born so much as he was hatched, and the day he hatched was as a result of a number of unfortunate and highly unlikely events.
When his egg / chrysalis began to hatch it shook and twitched just as the dozens of others around him did, and the shaking of the various eggs nestled tightly against his own caused his to become dislodged from the thick sticky material that was used to attach him to the 'nest'. As his egg became dislodged it fell and began to roll along a stone trench carved out by water droplets dripping from the stalactites hanging from the cavern ceiling, the trench winded and twisted and turned for what would have felt like miles. When it finally came to a stop it had rolled out from an impressively sized hole in the side of a cliff and had collided with a bedraggled and abandoned hawks nest preventing it from smashing against the spikey stones near the ledge or plummeting down into the rapids that lay hundreds of feet below.
As the youngling writhed in his egg attempting to break free, the clouds had been parted by the pegasi weather patrol allowing sunlight and a small rainbow to shine down through directly on the chrysalis warming the youngling inside. Just before he hatched a pair of changelings emerged from the hole, having noticed the egg rolling away and followed in pursuit, not out of any instinctual desire to see the egg survive but more out of fear of Queen Chrysalis' rage should something happen to a loyal drone or soldier that could help her in her future endeavors. When they approached the jostling egg it began to crack and split open until finally the little youngling broke itself free and stirred about coated in slimey green embryonic fluid.
While the changelings at first breathed sighs of relief that the hatchling was safe, they quickly became confused as the embryonic fluid dripped off of its head. Tufts of brown fur, an underdeveloped mane stuck up from its head which strangely appeared more rounded more pony-like than what a changelings head should look. The rest of the young hatchling for the most part appeared to be 'normal'. As they pondered what could cause this strange formation of fur on the hatchlings carapace he began to open his eyes, and even more shocking than his short spikey mane was the fact his eyes were.....rainbow tinted. Needless to say the two drones were speechless at this sudden development and realization.
Unsure what else to do the two changeling drones carried the 'malformed' hatchling to Queen Chrysalis in her royal chamber. Naturally she was at first outraged by being disrupted while she was enjoying a 'meal', which was in the form of a few helpless little creatures that didn't seem to grasp the situation. Quickly the two drones explained the situation to the Queen and presented the hatchling. After a few moments of deliberation she decided it was of no consequence and that the youngling would be raised the same as any other "normal" changeling.
The first three or four years of his young life were more or less uneventful, as he was educated in what it meant to be a changeling alongside the rest of his "brother and sister" broodlings. His education included the basics of flight and use of changeling magic (which naturally included basic transformations), and the value that the emotion of love had above all other emotions as part of a changelings natural diet.
Unfortunately for the young changeling he didn't show a very strong proficiency in transformations the same way others did when the more experienced drones had the younglings immitate whoever they turned themselves into for practice. He seemed to have to struggle much more than they did at first, and even after succeeding they seemed to be short-lived or messed up in some way (wrong color, wrong pony type, etcetera). Likewise was said bout his ability to identify and feed upon the love of others, which was practiced by feeding on the love of innocent creatures and animals found nearby outside the hive. For the first few years of his life he practically starved finding it difficult to do what was supposed to come naturally.
The young changelings struggles continued as he entered adolescence as not only did his mane began to grow out more, but his vision began to slowly become bad. To his dismay his hearing did not as he had to endure the whispers and rumors about himself. How he looked like almost like a pony was a defective drone, was a complete screw up and failure, and how the hive would be better off if the Queen would just get rid of him before he could go out and accidentally reveal them all to the ponies. The worst thing for him though was the nickname they kept calling him "half pony" which they would often chant at him whenever the older changelings weren't around. The teasings and cruel whispers got worse as the older changelings would take the younger ones near and even into pony villages so that they could practice around actual pony folk and blend in.
He would often be kept near the back of the groups by the older changelings because of his problems, and would usually have to duck down and hide because whenever he got nervous he would lose his focus and turn back to normal. Similar problems would surface whenever they would practice feeding on the feelings of the colts and fillies at the playgrounds by turning into copies of their friends, while the others would have no problem he would get nervous and completely fail to act the right way or to absorb their love.
After one such failure on an extended outing to Ponyville, which was significantly farther than most of the places they tended to visit from the hive, the young changeling was given strict instructions by the group leader to stay behind for the next day or two in order to try and get himself together. They thought the pressure of his own survival would force him to shape-up more and improve his abilities. Naturally the others in the swarm laughed and scoffed at him, a few even stating that he wouldn't last an hour let alone all night. At first he attempted to reason with the group leader, but eventually accepted the decision and stood in his spot as the rest of the swarm buzzed off back to the hive.
Feeling abandoned and afraid he did his best to stay hidden in some of the back alleys away from ponies as much as possible. He even resorted to stealing an old child-sized cloak from a donation bin near a thrift stand that had closed for the day to conceal his body so that he wouldn't have to rely on his hit -or-miss transformations as much. As the afternoon went on and the sun began to set his troubles got a little worse for him, his poor eyesight made it hard to tell where he was going and what was in front of him as the light became a more dingy orange instead of the bright yellows and whites of the morning and noon times.
Wandering around trying to find someplace to hold down he accidentally ended up walking out from an alley and into the flank of an elderly green coated earth pony mare. To his own surprise he began to apologize in a very quiet stuttery fashion out of fear and embarrasment, keeping his head low as he did so. As he kept bent over he concentrated hard to make himself look like a blank flanked colt he saw at a different village days earlier, and when he looked up at her he was surprised to see that she was not angry. Further to his shock she seemed to recognize that he was not able to see very clearly, and being a kind mare she reached back into her saddle bag and pulled out an old pair of glasses and placed them upon his face after reaching with her hoof and pushing his hood off his head.
Assuming he was an orphan she told him to keep his head up and that things were darkest before the dawn before she gently pet him on the head and walked off. Surprised by the first gesture of kindness he ever experienced he barely could issue a thank you before she was out of ear shot. His first experience with kindness made him wonder why changelings acted so different to what ponies did, that train of thought quickly derailed when his stomach grumbled in a familiar pain. Now that he was able to see he pulled his hood back up and wandered around looking for someone who he thought he could try and feed off.
Before he could find somepony a delicious smell filled his nostrils, he had never really paid attention to scents before but his empty stomach compelled him to find the source. After a few minutes of walking he found himself standing outside of a restaurant that had tables situated outside each with candles lighting them as the sun fully set and Celestia raised the moon into the sky. The meals that were being eaten definitely weren't the typical type a changeling would eat, but for some reason it all looked delicious to him. Unfortunately for him it turned out that unlike emotions that could be simply taken using changeling magic, ponies expected meals to be paid for with gemstones or shiny coins they called bits. Hanging his head low he walked behind the restaurant and spied the trash cans where the buscolts had been dumping the uneaten food from the plates. The feeling of emptiness was overwhelming and with very little pride stands upon his hind legs with his hooves pressed against hte can, and grabbed whatever he could to devour greedily and quite voraciously. Tears filling his eyes as he consumed the partially eaten bits of meals, his stomach filling up as full as it had been for the first time in a long long while.
Burping as he finished his strange yet tastey meal he left the restaurant and walked around looking at the town for the first time with clear eyes and a mostly clear head. Before too long he found himself standing in front of what at first appeared to be an oak tree in town, but it had windows and a balcony and a door. Unbeknown to him he had found himself at the Golden Oak Library, which at the time was just that a public library as it would be many more years before the future princess of friendship would move to Ponyville and make the library her home. He approached the darkened "building" and using his magic similar to how a unicorn would managed to open the door. Since it was so dark he thought it would be a safe place for him to lay low for the night.
Concentrating he used his horn as al ight to look around, and was surprised to see shelf upon shelf of things he had never seen before (which naturally were books). The longer he focused on keeping the horn lit the harder it was to keep his charade up, which he was surprised had lasted as long as it had. He began to pull the books from the shelves and look at them, most he couldn't understand as he had not been taught to read before, but he enjoyed looking at the pictures in most of them and though he didn't know the stories he could somewhat make out what htey represented. This kept on late into the night before he finally fell asleep underneath a rather large table.
The next day after he awoke rather than sneaking out he decided to stay, and with the light of day he noticed that the shelves were somewhat dusty indicating nopony had been there in a little while. He kept looking around until he found some smaller books that would later be understood by him to be for foals and fillies (aka childrens books). While he couldn't read he did slowly start to associate the basic letters and pictures to words he had heard and understood. His focus was disrupted by his stomach grumbling a little, and though he hated to risk being out in broad daylight he felt he had to and decided to come back to that place again if he had a chance to.
The rest of that day pretty much went like clockwork, hiding in the cloak, practicing his abilities without the stress of the other changelings harassing and bullying him, trying to sneak the left over foods from trash cans near food vendors and restaurants, and waiting to see if they would come back for him. Naturally when the changeling in charge of him hadn't showed up he spent another night at that library. The next morning he left the library with the cloak on his back and carefully tried to navigate his way to where he first found it placing it back in the same bin he took it from before going to the outskirts of town hoping to see sight of one of the elder changelings coming to get him and take him back to the hive.
The next few years following would play out similarly, only the young changeling would slowly start venturing on his own back to Ponyville, back to that library, back to a place where he was surprised to admit he felt more at home than he had around his own kind. Eventually and gradually he taught himself to read and to write with a quill using his magic. Over time he became fascinated with the history of equestria, but more specifically with its culture and mythology. Eventually his fascination would expand to other areas including pony fashion, cutie marks, and even pony anatomy.
While things in the hive stayed the same, with the exception of being made fun of for wearing glasses and looking even more pony-like than he had before as a result, his abilities did slowly improve but were still a far cry from those of normal changelings. He began to compensate for the bullying, taunting, and teasing he endured by doing something he read that pony fillies and colts tended to do, he invented himself imaginary friends to talk to when he was all alone to try and make sense of his pain. And while it did help him to vent his frustrations it didn't help him with his feelings of loneliness. In fact, the more he did things that were considered pony behavior, even in private, the more he began questioning himself. The confusing thoughts, including the fact he had independent thought seperate from the seemingly single-minded singularity of the Hive, caused him to develop a bad habit of reaching his head back and nibbling on his wings whenever he was nervous.
Over time his magic and his ability to control his transformations improved thanks to his indulging his intellect & imagination, and eventually so did his ability to feed off of the emotions of ponies along with it. However, a strange thought occurred to him, he didn't like the way he felt after tricking somepony into believing he was their loved one in order to feed. While he did feel better when feeding on their love physically, his heart ached and his thoughts raced with the conscious idea that what he was doing was wrong.
As he contemplated the pros and cons to doing what comes naturally to changelings and what he was taught to be essential to their survival, a thought came to his head to try and go beyond just copying another ponies appearance. He began waiting until the dark of night to sneak away from the hive and find his way to Ponyville by flying, and enter the dark chambers of the library and there he would practice his personal transformations. Looking at various pictures and descriptions in books he began to forge his own appearance and while it took several moons to get it just right he finally felt happy with it.
His satisfaction quickly ended when he had an epiphany. While he had always been told he was a male changeling, he could not honestly tell the difference between male changelings and female changelings, with the exception of Queen Chrysalis. He looked into the old mirror he had dusted off to practice his transformations in and pondered that very thought. What makes him male? Unlike ponies changelings were for the most part unisex in appearance, and that puzzling thought plagued him for a long time. Eventually he could not resist the idea to create a new look for himself, a mare. He had copied mares while walking around alone before, though it had come close to causing a few problems since he had to quickly change his look more than once when the pony he was copying actually showed up. Once fully satisfied on his new forms he took to focusing on a cutie mark, since he was old enough now that a pony without one would look quite odd. He eventually after spending countless hours doddling on some old scrap paper settled on a design he thought was appropriate, a simple cube-like box with question marks on it. The symbolism to him was clear as day, mystery, intrigue, a puzzle of potential not yet solved.
Additional years began to pass, and eventually word had made it to Queen Chrysalis' ears about what the peculiar changeling, the "half pony", had been up to. It shouldn't have been a surprise to him that the Queen of the Hive would have some way of knowing what he was up to, and some part of him realized that no matter how careful he was there was just no way of guaranteeing that he would avoid every spy and guard. Her personal guard brought him before her and while even now he still couldn't tell one drone from another as far as their gender even he could see her beauty, and as odd as it might have felt he always did feel himself blush when she was near him. To him it had to be the same way for some pony who was in awe of Princess Celestia, or the younger sister Princess Luna whom he read about in old pony tales.
Glaring down upon him she had no quarrel about laying out the facts as she knew them of his activities, and while she had become impressed that he survived to maturity and had finally become adequate at his abilities, she was disgusted with the way he chose to use them. For Chrysalis there was no logical rhyme or reason behind actively avoiding harvesting the love from those weaker than her hive. But it wasn't so much his actions that infuriated and confused her, it was the fact that he didn't have the same connection to the changeling hive mind as her other drones. The fact that this changeling stood before her cowering like some pony, with a mane of pony-like hair and wearing glasses was practically a mockery of what it meant to be a changeling.
As she berated him for his 'individuality' she inevitably asked the question that would change his standing with his own kind forever, "What do you think it means to be a changeling?". For a moment he pondered that question, at first afraid to answer knowing that she could very well have him executed for his defiance if he were to give an honest answer. But, his own conscience would not be silenced and he responded, "Monsters, we're all a bunch of horrible monsters who feed on those who are innocent, kind, loving, and friendly to one another........we do nothing but steal something that is so precious to satisfy our own hunger for power leaving empty heart broken husks behind us. There has to be a better way for us to survive that doesn't force us to hide and feed like parasites."
His boldness surprised her, especially as for so long he had been meek, timid, and pathetic in comparison to the drones. And while it had not gone unnoticed to her that he had been a near by source of admiration as a youngling up to his current state, she was not going to tolerate his defiant attitude risking weakening the hive as a whole. With a sadistic sinister smirk she gave him two choices, to either shape up and accept his place in the hive, or to face the consequences of his attitude and be removed by force.
Shutting his eyes tightly his mind raced with those options, knowing that if he defied her this time it was possible he might not see another sunrise or sunset, he may not read another book, or taste anymore of the strange and yet delicous food he had come to depend on when in Ponyville or other villages in place of harvesting the love of the ponies. biting his lip roughly as he clenched his eyes tightly shut tears forming and trickling down his face as he mustered the courage to give his answer. He chose the ponies over his own kind.
Naturally his response was not pleasing to Chrysalis who commanded her own 'royal guard' to drag him from the Hive into the danger filled Everfree forest where they were to punish him severely and leave him to his fate. He tried to run, and even fly away from them to safety, but his habit of nibbling his wings had left them a little tattered which prevented him from flying as swiftly as they could. It didn't take much for them to slam into him and send him careening into the hive's cavern wall. The two royal guards used their magic to restrain him as they flew him out of the hive and dragged him into the dangers of the Everfree Forest.
Even changelings while dangerous were hesitant to go too deep into the forest, as it seemed to have a life and mind of its own. No need for earth ponies to tend the land, nor pegasi to clear the skies, and no sign of unicorns inside or outside to attend to any other aspect of it either. They threw the rebel changeling onto the ground and roughly into one of the vine and thorn covered trees. As they approached him and he gazed up at them he couldn't help but wonder just how things would end. CLosing his eyes tightly once more he endured the beating they began to inflict with their front and hind hooves, and even with their fangs.
When it was finally over he was beaten, battered, bruised, bleeding, and exhausted in ways he never experienced before. his flanks were riddled with new holes not as neat or perfect as the natural ones in his front and rear forelegs, his eyes were blurred as he layed in a puddle of his own blood which appeared almost in a purpleish red mixture (most likely due since changelings were a very insect-like race of ponies). As he looked around seeing their silhouettes flying away from him, he couldn't help but notice how poorly things looked. Squinting his eyes he finally found his glasses laying in the mud on the ground broken in half, the lenses cracked.
As he attempted to rise to his feet he winced in pain and struggled along. Barely managing to get his magic to work in his pain riddled state he lifted his broken glasses fromthe ground and held them shakily in front of his eyes, and slowly drudgingly followed the same path he saw the blurred silhouettes fly off down in hopes it would lead to relative safety. He was lucky as it was nearly noon when he awoke giving him plenty of light to go by, but in his weakened state unable to hardly walk let alone fly hours seemed to go by and the bright yellow-ish white of the noon sky faded to the dim orange of the afternoon and quickly seemed to fade towards sunset.
As the sun sank nearly over the horizon he finally had found his way out, but he was still a long ways from ponyville or anywhere else that he may have hoped to find help. But those thoughts quickly vanished as he realized he wouldn't be able to disguise himself, and he doubted anypony would want to help a changeling. Why should they, especially given the reasons he gave for not wanting to be around his own kind. Slowly he walked trying to make use of the fading sunlight as best as he could while he still had some to go by. Just as the sun was about set he came across a road, and in the horizon he could just barely see Ponyville and in the greater distance the mountain peaks on which rested the capital city of Canterlot.
More importantly though for him was he was lucky enough to find a cottage, or what looked like hte remains of one as the cottage itself was in poor condition and looked as if nopony had lived there for years. The straw thatched roof looked nearly ready to cave him, the front door barely holding on by its top hinge as it layd open half way. Stepping inside he didni't make it too far before he fell to his forelegs in pain, he had hoped that he hadn't been leaving too much of a trail of blood behind him from the forest as he glanced back at his aching flanks and his badly bruised sides. His carapace felt as if it had been cracked. If the Timber Wolves or some other creature sniffed him out he'd be their helpless victim.
Struggling to his hooves once more he managed to look around enough to spot a few old blankets and rags that had been left behind by whatever pony, donkey, mule, or other resident had previously lived there. Not having any time to worry about cleanliness he did his best to wrap them around his flanks and body with his mouth and pulled them tight. Cringing at the pain he struggled to find his way to what was once the bedroom and while hte bed looked far from comfy he laid himself upon it and quickly feinted from exhaustion. The only thing that kept him going to that point was the desire to not die, and it would be up to that subconscious desire to keep him alive over the next few days.
During his time unconscious while his body healed the Summer Sun Celebration would take place, and with it the celestial alignment that allowed Nightmare Moon to return. Unknown to the changeling of course, nor was it known that a new resident began to live out of the library. Make that two as the young mare had with her an even younger dragon. By the time he awoke the celebration had come and gone, his body was still sore and he was far from alright, but he was alive. Eventually after he had found some berries and plants to eat near by in what was once the garden of the previous owner, he would make his way to Ponyville using the blankets he found as a cloak to cover himself. And while he would now have to sneak into the library to find some glimmer of a spell to repair the only thing he truly owned, his precious glasses, he now had to face the harsh reality that he had no home, no family, he had nothing but those glasses and the forms he crafted for himself.
The time following would be spent almost entirely in Ponyville with very few exceptions when not living out of the ramshackle cottage he begun to call his home. The first few days after he fixed his glasses and had recovered were spent contemplating something he had never given thought to before......he decided he needed a name. But how to decide on one? As he pondered on this he considered his state during the return of Nightmare Moon, and his interest in the story of the mare in the moon, as well as his own cutie mark design for his pony form. He tossed a few ideas around here and there, Eclipse Puzzle........Party Pooper......eventually something clicked.
Eclipse was close as he thought about it, but it didn't roll of the tongue. Moon.....Moonshadow......but it wasn't enough. He thought more on things and then it hit him, the symbolism of his mark.......Mystery. Moonshadow Mystery. it had a nice ring to it, but he couldn't just go by that in both forms could he? Leting the first name settle he had a thought, Moonlight and shadow.......Moonlight Shadow. Sure it was fairly clumsy creating his own names like that but he was happy with them. Which was surprising since he really wasn't sure he knew what being happy about anything felt like.
While he would eventually hear about the Grand Galloping Gal-la, he witnessed partially first hand the chaos of Discord upon his awakening, the many parties of Pinkie Pie, Flim & Flam's attempts to scam the Apple Family and Ponyville, Nightmare Night, winter wrap up, and many other events. And though the news of Chrysalis attacking Canterlot reached his ears, he did his best to not think about what might happen if his true identity as a changeling were discovered.
Almost all of his time over the next several months and year or two would be spent intentionally went out of his way to be nothing more than a bystander. if one were to look at it from an acting point of view, which would be fitting as that is what a changeling is for hte most part an actor, he would be a stand-in, a background character, just some random face meant to make everypony else look good. Not that it bothered him since he wanted to learn more, he wanted to understand what friendship really meant, what love really felt like.
Life wasn't going to be an easy one, finding his true calling, figuring out what he was meant to do in Equestria, since he was born so different, was going to prove to be a mystery that is not so easily solved.