So I have a commission coming up that features a changeling, so I decided to do a very quick "study" of the changeling species. It was kinda long overdue anyway. o3o
This one is of the typical changeling only, not of the queen. A queen would look a bit different than the average changeling, similar to how an alicorn looks different from the three pony breeds. So I'll do one specifically for queens later (especially for Chrysalis), buuuuuut until then, have a large dosage of headcanon text of doom! >8D
FIRE DEH HEADCANONS!!!!!
Well, so far for my headcanon, changelings are large reptilian like creatures that resemble ponies and also harbor some insect-like features. They may be a variant of mythical equine, like the hippocamp or kirin, but no one really knows for sure. For simplicity's sake, let's say that they vaguely related to ponies, but that's about it.
The changelings are typically larger than ponies, averaging in at 5 ft tall at the withers. A queen can range from size to size, but they're typically bigger, around 7ft to 8ft tall. Chrysalis is unusually tall, especially, being taller than Celestia herself (whom is a little over 9"ft at the withers). Appearance wise, the changeling, as said earlier, has an appearance similar to an equine, but their faces also have a slight similarity to that of a snake (they even have very long, prehensile, forked tongues). Their bodies are completely armored in a very tough, leathery hide, similar to a crocodiles or alligator, which harden into chitin/powerful plating in some areas (the shoulder and flank, back). The softest part of their bodies is their underbellies, but even then it isn't all that much softer. The changeling is most commonly a dark gray, black, or smokey color, while their armored back usually comes in blue or cyan, although can come in magenta, red, or green.
There are, however, breeds of Changeling that instead has a smooth hide that could be likened to s snake's. The skin is still tough and hard to pierce through.
The wings, while similar in build like a dragon, are always insect like in nature, but their appearance can differ from changeling to changeling. The most common appearance is specifically a dragonfly's wings. The veins that are visible due to the thin membrane of the wings only make it look more like an insects wing (including a slight shine to the wing itself). The wings and eyes can come in different colors, cyan and green being the most common while yellow or brown being the least common. They have long, pointed ears, and their tails can either be long with fins at the end, or covered in hair. Their "manes" can also either be hair, or fins. They have a venomous bite , and very long, sharp, and numerous serrated teeth. Their teeth will grow back if lost.
It isn't uncommon to see a changeling with some mutilation to their bodies; it's actually a characteristic of them. A changeling typically has rips and scars all along their bodies, included their ears, wings, and faces (the skin there, if dry and brittle, rips there when stretched). The holes in their legs reveal the bone and muscle-structure, and their "hooves" can either be actual hooves or extend with claws. These claws spread when the leg is supporting weight.
Now, a changeling's diet is a peculiar thing. The changeling is omnivorous but highly prefers meat over herb-based food, but like a vampire, solid foods can only sustain a changeling for so long. Their primary source of food is Love, although a changeling can feed off of any sort of emotion. Love is the most preferred because it is positive in nature and very nurturing, which in turn provides the nutrients needed to sustain a changeling. A changeling will not feed itself with negative emotions, because it has no nutritional value to the creature, as well as the fact that the changeling experiences the after-effects of the emotion they feed on (for example, positive emotions, such as love and happiness, gives them a warm, sated feeling. Anger gives them the warmth but it isn't the same, it's the type no one really wants. And hatred and depression just gives the changeling a piercingly cold, very empty feeling they cannot stomach.)
There are, however, uncommon birth mutations that allow some changelings to be able to feed off of negative emotions without the side effects. This is a very preferred mutation; the changeling will be able to remain healthy and well fed while it's "victim" has all the negativity removed, leaving them with the positive emotions.
There are several ways to obtain Love for the changeling. The most ideal and rewarding method is to befriend and care for another that isn't a changeling. Two changelings can survive by living off of each other's love, but it isn't nearly as nutritious or as sustaining as the love of another creature. Any type of love will do, from platonic to romantic to family to friends to community. This way, it is rewarding to both parties, as both the source of love and the changeling share a mutual emotion and the source of the love will not feel any harmful effects. Sadly, this method isn't used very often because changelings, before Chrysalis, have only known "Find a pony, impersonate a loved one, and steal the love".
The second method was the most common, and that was to shape-shift into a love one of a creature and steal the love. This a very parasitic method and is harmful to the source of love (in this cause it's called the Host), slowly draining them of their life force until they are nothing more than mindless shells of their former selves, sometimes even death. It's possible to revert the victim back to their original state of mind through extensive magic rehab, but they will never be fully the same and suffer from the inability to fully trust anyone completely anymore.
The third method isn't as common, but often used by rogue changelings living away from civilizations. This method has the changeling literally hunting and preying on anything that moves, paralyzing it with it's venomous bite, and quite literally sucking the love out of their prey with magic. This is the most crude method and, as such, doesn't really yield rewarding results (the amount of love they received from this method is about a third of what they get if using the first two methods) Only the completely, truly desperate changelings without a hive will resort to this, often with wild animals. It isn't a common occurrence, since all changelings know the second method yields far better results, but there has been a few reports of ponies being attacked in this fashion by hunger-crazed changelings (being a part of the hive is what helps keeps a changeling sane. If it isn't in a hive (this can be in the form of a literal hive, friends, family, or even community) and is starved, then it will eventually go insane).
There are several other ways, but I'll get into that when I expand a little more on it later.
A changeling that's well fed often times don't have that many scars and rips as they heal much faster, their bodies are almost as full as a pony's (they still remain lean like that of a predator, but they don't look like their starving at all), and their body has a healthy gloss to it. When their faces contort and stretch, their skin will not rip, and the holes in their legs aren't as prominent nor as numerous, although they will remain. However, if a changeling is hungry and without steady sustenance, it'll begin to look like the changelings we see in the canon show. Skinny, thin enough to see its ribs, the face sunken in, and the skin so brittle that it tears easily when stretched. The holes on its legs are more prominent as well, and have the tendency to bleed. The more underfed a changeling is, the worse its condition will be.
Now, let's move on to breeding. This piece of headcanon will be a bit "meh"; I couldn't decided on it and it's a bit off the top of my head, so it's pretty tentative. Anyway, aside from the Queen, King(uncommon occurrence) and a very few rare cases, the changelings are agendered. They literally don't have a specific gender, nor do they normally have genitalia (only a queen or king and those rare cases have a definite sex). They can either be female or male (due to their shapeshifting ability, they can literally interchange between having male or female reproductive organs), but it's the changeling who ultimately chooses which sex they prefer to identify themselves (if at all). As such, any pair can have either partner as the sire or dam. When impregnated, the changeling acting as the "dam" is peculiar in which it can either give birth, or lay eggs. Often times, especially if their mate is another changeling, it will lay a clutch of up to 2 to 4 eggs at a time. If giving birth, it isn't uncommon for a changeling to give birth to twins or triplets.
Either way, when a changeling is "born", it will be tiny and soft. Those who are hatched will typically be far more developed than those who are born, however. A changeling whelp would have large eyes, large heads and ears, and a small body with tiny, useless wings. They will be "bald" for about a year before their fins or hair grows in. Also, a changeling whelp will have no visible marks that an adult changeling will have; they are born without the holes in their legs and wings, and if well fed throughout their life, the holes and marring of their body will never occur. This, however, is unlikely.
A changeling, due to their nature, is able to mate and reproduce with almost any sentient species there is. If that species is a mammal, then the changeling will give birth. If reptilian, then the changeling will lay eggs instead.
Changelings are sentient beings, however like the dragons, they don't necessarily have a nation or country. Instead, they thrive in a mindset that's similar to a bee's hive. There is one Queen or King, and sometimes there's even a King AND Queen, and the rest of the changelings serve them. Being apart of the hive allows the changelings to have a telepathic link to one another, where they can mentally communicate with one another from several feet away. Only the Queen or King can communicate with their subjects from miles away. Each changeling is an individual on its own, but regardless they still feel the instinct and desire to be as close to their queen or king as possible and serve them, whatever that role is. Even with this instinct, though, a queen or king can be seen as unfavorable or distasteful, which will eventually lead to their subjects overthrowing them to set a new "heir" to the thrown if this feeling continues.
There have been hives that are known to thrive without a king or queen, however.
The changelings are very sociable creatures, and must be in the company of a hive to live a long, healthy life. This hive can be considered an actual hive of changelings, a family, a mate, a group of close friends, or a close-knit community (such as Ponyville). They communicate, not only through telepathy and vocalization, but also through touch. The changeling can't go long without some sort of physical contact with another creature, otherwise it'll slowly begin to feel isolated.
WHEW!! That's about all I have so far for the common changeling. I'll probably begin updating this as my headcanon is sorted out, but I guess this will do for now. Please forgive some of the iffiness and sloppiness of some of the parts, though; some of it was kinda off the top of my head, and some of it isn't fully thought through yet. :C
But yeah. As always, feel free to ask questions if ya have them, and thanks a bunch for stopping by! Also, if you read through the whole wall of text, reward yerself with something. I know how wordy I can get sometimes. o3o