As Chip tried to turn around and quickly leave the scene, he was stopped. His own will got bent and broken, and the overpowering command of the hive ruler singled him out. His body froze and his primary mind numbed. His spark tried to regain control, but it was futile – it was way too fragile and new to be capable of beating the ancient mind of the Queen. A sound of shuffling wings neared, and soon after the Queen landed in front of the petrified changeling. She towered above him, a sleek figure of black with a greenish, greasy mane. Her horn flickered with venomous green, the colour of her eyes. Her slit shaped pupils focused on the small changeling before her. The mental grip on the changeling doubled, almost squeezing the existence from its body. A sensation like no other followed – as if someone was peeling the insides of his skull away, checking and controlling each part of it. Before he knew it, he felt the presence in his other mind. Should Chip understand the concept of horror, he would be the very avatar of this emotion. His one little precious thing was exposed and seen. It wouldn’t be long until it would be extinguished…
Instead of hearing a crack of breaking glass or feeling the nauseous sensation of being torn apart, the changeling felt…a gentle, dry desert wind sweep through his other self. It was rough, but in a way tender. It wasn’t there to harm him. He felt his spark in the grip of the Queen, but it was not being squeezed or blown out – it was being…admired?
This feeling went away as soon as it came, and Chip fell to his knees as the regal presence of the Queen backed away and returned to its perch above the collective mind. The Queen’s expression was as wicked as always, but in Chip’s eyes, something changed. She was no longer a master, to which he was only a servant. She was…a harsh mother that did what she did for the good of her children. This perception of Chrysalis made the changeling almost not notice that he was still singled out in the hive mind – he could barely sense his brothers and sisters, as If he somehow got carried away very far.
“So…Chip?” said the Queen in a cackling voice, a subtle reverb causing it to sound malicious.
The changeling froze again, this time of its own accord. The Queen spoke. In a voice. Her own voice. She said words, and he kind of understood them. What was a Chip? He knew and liked that word. Chip was something important. Yes, it was him. He was Chip. She addressed him – a changeling, one of many. But he wasn’t one of many. He was single. Now in more than just one way!
The queen rolled her eyes and began circling her subject.
“Yes, you…”, she snickered, causing Chip to lay low in a bow. The motion surprised Chrysalis, as there was no way she would make him do that. It only proved that Chrysalis was correct in her suspicions, which made her more excited than she already was.
“I will speak to you now, so focus your silly little…mind...”. Chrysalis paused and started circling Chip in the other direction. “Somehow, you got…corrupted…broken, in a way. I sensed that there were, and still are, many like you within my hive. Individuals… Changelings that have a way of denying what I ask of them”. She stopped and looked the changeling in the eyes.
Chip was mortified. His other self desperately flailed about, trying to understand what the Queen said and making sense of it. So Chip is a failure? He is broken, unfit for a changeling? With the primary collective mind almost gone, he could not think as straight as he hoped he could – never before in his life did he have to rely so much on his other self. He had to keep track of breathing, the muscles in his body, even blinking. Blinking was horrible. A blink was when the world went completely dark. What little visions he still had from the connection to the hive wasn’t enough, and he felt terrified.
Chrysalis was looking at him, and under that gaze he managed to calm down a bit. He once again felt the embrace of Chrysalis in his hive mind – this time it wasn’t as violent and predatory as before. It was the embrace of a mother, a protector. Chip’s vision sharpened and his muscles finally started listening to his other self – hazily, he stood up. He felt the support of his Queen, his…mother. This was only his to witness – never has he felt Chrysalis be so…like that…to any other changeling.
“You are still a young one. And your ‘spark’ is still a very delicate thing” uttered the Queen, inspecting the changeling both visually and mentally. She could barely hide the excitement and joy from the discovery of Chip. His autonomy, if used correctly, could serve her master plan that she so tenderly arranged for the past decades, if not centuries. Chip would be the first of many that could help her achieve the thing she dreamed of since she was small…
Chip’s mind was a mess, but the soothing sensation of the desert wind came back and rocked him into a secure (for a changeling) state. There were thoughts buzzing in the other self, and they threatened to take over again – that they didn’t was the work of the Queen, as she delicately put them away, or placed them in different formations that seemed more…coherent.
“I never thought I’d be doing this” said Chrysalis, allowing herself a small smile “Teaching a changeling how to think…”.
Thinking. Yes, Chip liked thinking. And learning too. He would learn a lot from books. But Chrysalis is better than books. She speaks to his mind better than the symbols and illustrations. He understands her more. He wants to learn.
The Queen was again a little bit startled when this time the changeling tried to mimic her voice and say something. It was a failed attempt, as a series of hisses and wheezes from a throat not used to speaking (in its unchanged form) cannot be considered a sentence. But in Chip’s mind, she heard the question clearly: “Who am I?”
“You are a changeling. As plain as the others…and as special as none of them. Don’t try to think too much over that, or you’ll just hurt yourself”, said the Queen in reply, making sure the chaos in Chip’s head doesn’t cause some actual damage. “From now on, you will learn under my personal tutelage. I will return you now to your brothers and sisters – but I expect you to focus on your other…mind. Tomorrow, come sunrise, I will summon you for our first lesson”
As promised, Chip was summoned the very next day. The call wasn’t an overpowering order as the changeling expected it – it was an offer (that should not be refused, but still) that he felt he had the control of accepting or not. Moreover, he didn’t hear the call in his primary mind. Chrysalis spoke directly to his other mind. To the Emptiness, that didn’t feel as empty now. Faintly, as if on the border of his five senses, he felt the Queen, her presence. It was comforting. And he would not make her wait for him.
As he entered the greenish road to the Queen’s lair, he felt the sensation of being torn away from the hive and embraced by Chrysalis. His spark started panicking again, but this time he managed to control it and calm himself. He still could hear whispers of the collective mind, the presence of the Queen and his own. Now his body possessed three spirits, he thought.
The Queen was as magnificent as ever. For him, there was no greater beauty in the world. Neither was there a more predatory and regal air than that around Chrysalis. She flew over to Chip and… Nuzzled the air around his neck. The changeling froze as he tasted the sweetest of all emotions being exerted from the Queen – care and affection. Under normal circumstances, a changeling would wolf down such a treat and look for more, even attack if necessary. But not only was Chip removed from that instinct’s origins, he also didn’t desire to let the emotion fade away. He relished in it for as long as he could, until it got replaced by a different one – steel and discipline.
The changeling bowed before the mighty figure, and dared to look up only for a short while. The Queen was smiling.
“Very good, my dear Chip. This was the first lesson that I gave you and you need to understand it well. The mind that you listen to every day, and which is the extension of my will, is no longer controlling you. You are not allowed to disobey me… ” she hissed, but quickly returned to her normal speaking voice “… But you should listen more to what your other self tells you. It is that mind that we want to train, bring out and strengthen. If you obey, you shall have whatever you wish. If you can imagine it…try and betray me…” she hissed again, unexpectedly tearing into Chip’s mind “And I will extinguish you!”.
Chip didn’t manage to react before the Queen retreated from his skull. The threat left him in disarray, but not for long. He was learning to control his talent…
Days passed and Chip was being taught many things. The most basic was controlling his body while not under the hive influence – at first, he was clumsy and forgot to breathe most of the time. The Queen was moderately patient, but would scold or mangle Chip if he failed too many times. It was tough. And the rewards were worth it. After each session, that is, when the sun would disappear behind the horizon, if the changeling did well, he received… Affection. A simple nuzzle, pat on the head or rarely an embrace was all that he needed to keep wanting to best himself. Somehow, the emotion that would normally be his nourishment and a tasty treat was better to be savoured without actual consummation.
One day, after an exceptionally good performance (the changeling was learning to speak properly and managed to put together a full sentence), Chip wanted to ask if he could possibly stay with the Queen overnight. Tired, he resolved to telepathic communication, trying to put together coherent reasons for such a request – but Chrysalis could see his true intentions as plain as day. The changeling really liked her company and desired to stay with her. Close. If she ever had to be honest with herself, she enjoyed Chip’s presence at least a tiny bit as well – all the beating and scolding aside, the changeling was a refreshing distraction and someone to actually talk to, and receive words that she did not suggest back. Dialog was the word, and it felt good to talk and exchange thoughts.
Permission granted, Chip was allowed to sleep at the far side of the lair, while the Queen resided on her greenish throne. The small changeling admired his teacher from afar – she even slept with grace, her side moving up and down in rhythm with her breath, the obscure rays of the moon reflecting on her polished chitin. Chip got accustomed to not hearing the chatter of his primary mind and learned to rely more on his own personality – as such he could truly admire the beauty of the Queen and crave her vicinity.
Trying to be as silent as he could, he approached Chrysalis step by step. Soon, he was nearly face to face with the mare. Her eyes were closed, and Chip could feel the air she blew out from her nose. A funny cold ran through his back, a pleasurable shiver. His other mind gave him crazy ideas about… Snuggling up to the Queen… Or at least fitting into that space between her head and front legs. His thoughts conflicted, so he finally resolved to sleeping a foot away from the Queen’s side, watching her. It was a tiring day, and he fell asleep almost instantly.
Chrysalis was always vigilant and observed with her mind’s eye Chip’s sneak attempt at approaching her. He was a wild card and she could not predict his actions – it was kind of exciting, a new feeling to her. She could not tell what her subject would do, but should he even dare to “snuggle up”, she would break his neck, stitch it back with magic as painfully as she could and then break it again, leaving him to stare at his flank for a day or two before fixing him permanently. Luckily for Chip, he decided to sleep just a step away from her. She looked through his eyes and hooked up to his thoughts – they were warm and fuzzy, the kind that gives power and tastes delicious. But instead of consuming those… She just felt them. She felt them until the little Changeling faded into sleep. The Queen realised that she was also learning something from her little student – something maybe not entirely reasonable or useful… But in a way… Precious…. Without a sound, the Queen moved Chip just a little bit closer with magic and put a wing around him.