“What could have gone wrong?” repeated Chrysalis again, pacing around her lair. “It was all perfect. I was this close. Where is the fault?!”
The Queen stopped and put a hoof to her forehead, calming herself.
“Okay. Just stay calm. Again. Let’s analyze this again, step by step… Minute by minute…”
The female Changeling was barely standing in front of her master. The small mare, who already was showing signs of growth, had chipped armor in many places and was panting heavily. The rough training session she’s just been through left behind a dozen or two changeling corpses.
“Good, good. You finally know a bit about hoof to hoof combat,” approved Chrysalis, looking down on her minion. The Queen could not help but think of Chip when she stared into the sky blue eyes of her newest pupil… The memory of the stallion brought both a sense of loss and hatred. But this time it was different. She kept careful watch over the thoughts and actions of the unnamed changeling (yes, she was not allowed to be given a name), gently altering or steering them as she saw fit.
The black mare was feeling happy at the moment, having received praise from her teacher and mother. As with the previous one, no matter the amount of punishment Chrysalis would give out, it was always received humbly and with a grain of gratitude. It was attention this young one craved – and the medium didn’t matter. The Queen could just simply beat the mare senseless and still cause her to smile before fainting. Which, truth be told, happened a few times.
Barely half a month passed since Chrysalis begun training, and the mare knew most of the basic things Chip did. When would she stop comparing her to him? Never mind… This changeling would not be as independent as the failure anyway. She was reliant on the Queen; her body didn’t know how to act on its own and most of the spells she used were cast from her hive mind. All she really knew was how to think. Thinking was all Chrysalis ever wanted in a changeling – a second pair of senses to whisper to her. Because no matter how well the Queen could steer a single drone, it was difficult to focus while thousands of others had to be maintained as well.
“I think this should be enough. We have wasted enough time as it is. Each second that traitorous changeling roams free is against us. Do you understand the gravity of your mission, drone?”
“I understand it is important to you, my Queen,” hissed the black mare, bowing to Chrysalis. “That is reason enough for me to be eager to begin my journey.”
“Good, very good. Then we shall not waste time. You shall leave immediately. I will keep a close eye on you, young one. I’m curious as to how will you fare in the outside world…”
It didn’t take the mare long to reach a building obviously created by ponies that marked the borders between nowhere and Equestria. Flying over it while invisible was the easiest thing ever – sensing the flow of search spells allowed the infiltrator to dodge detection without even breaking a sweat.
The question was, where did Chip go to? Both Chrysalis and the unnamed changeling debated that point for the majority of the trip; they finally concluded that the fool would probably look for the first largest settlement he would find. That would be a good place to start looking for him.
Fortunately for Chrysalis, the minion was very curiously looking around. The Queen wanted to painfully remind her to keep her mind specifically on the task at hoof, when something on the ground caught her attention.
The black mare felt compelled to land and hide in some nearby bushes. From there, still cloaked, she watched a family of three – a colt, mare and foal – go down the road, chatting about stupid pony things. The female was of interest to the Queen, so the changeling stared on her intently…
“What?!” gasped Chrysalis. “Impossible… But how?... What… Chip?!” Chrysalis was breathless. Before her mind’s eyes was the image of a pony she remembered as Chip’s first victim. There was no doubt – she looked a lot healthier and had a shorter mane cut, but the mark on her flank and the colors gave her away.
“How is this possible?” gasped the Queen. “Could it be… I was right. I knew I had a hunch. I was right… I was right” She broke into a sob. So she was betrayed. That traitorous Chip, that trash, that useless pile of meat set the pony free behind her back! Why did she trust him so?! Why?!
“But wait. If this one is alive… Then the rest…”
The conclusion nearly knocked Chrysalis off her hooves. Every pony she thought was dead, all the victims she so fondly remembered screaming in agony, were alive. And out there. Back in Equestria. With the knowledge of the changelings. With Chip helping them. This was a dire and grim reality that had to be dealt with right away.
“Kill them and hide the bodies,” whispered the Queen, venom literally oozing from the command.
“My Queen,” hesitated the changeling minion, surprisingly resisting the sudden urge to kill. “Is it… Is it wise?”
“You dare question me?”
“No! Of course not, My Lady!” whimpered the black mare, feeling her insides churn and twist under the rage of her master. “But… But… We can learn where the… traitor… is…”
She was allowed to breathe once Chrysalis looked past the veil of her own emotions. The changeling was right. These could be sources of information. They could be killed at any later time. But now, even more than ever, Chip’s death was very important.
“Fine… Then capture them… Question… Then kill.”
“My L-Lady…” started the minion again, shrinking at the mental feeling of displeasure wafting from the Queen. “T-That stallion… He looks like one of the guardsponies at that border… Don’t you think ponies would suspect something if one of their own went missing so near the border?”
“These vermin get lost all the time. One or three missing doesn’t make a difference,” snapped Chrysalis, ready to punish her subordinate again for questioning her motives.
“B-But milady… If they know of us… If they are informed about our ways, how we act, from where we come… Don’t you think that they would be suspicious?”
Again, the small young mind proved to be wiser than the millennia old Queen. She was right. If Chip was a traitor… No, because Chip is a traitor, the ponies must know of the changelings. When she sent scouts, they were never allowed to kill anypony. They were never allowed to be caught either, dissolving or exploding if caught. That way, the element of surprise was preserved until it could be used to deal that one, precise, fatal blow.
But they already knew what the changelings could do. So the element of surprise was weakened. Still, the exact time and place of such a strike was not known to them – thankfully she did not share her plan with Chip. So there was still hope. Maybe they could all be lulled into a state of security once that rotting traitor is out of the picture. Yes. She could wait some more time. Train some more minions like this one here, this little one who proved useful twice already…
It was disturbing that Chrysalis was so blinded by her personal emotions for Chip and his actions that she nearly made two critical mistakes on a whim… that would not happen again. Once the Queen gathered her composure again, she spoke to the mind of her waiting minion.
“Good. You can be happy with yourself. You did me very proud today. I expect that you keep up this level of dedication and spirit through your mission. We shall wait until the ponies go to sleep – then, you will inspect their thoughts, learn what they know of Chip and us…”
The black mare, still concealed in the bushes, smiled.
“Yes, my Queen,” she whispered, moving like a shadow behind the happy family of Night Star.
They were all so innocent in their sleep. So defenseless. The doors provided absolutely no protection – the changeling simply teleported inside, through the window. The Queen hated these figures, and the assassin mare understood why – they had filthy hair all over their bodies, no wings and only the male had a teeny tiny horn that could do next to nothing to a mighty changeling such as her. These creatures really deserve nothing else than to be feasted on.
A short scavenge through the house equipped the mare with a sizeable knife, ideal for cutting throats. Chrysalis and the unnamed one were both tempted to see how it works out in practice, but it was already settled that killing these particular ponies would be left for later. In the least expected moment of their lives…
The changeling minion approached each pony with her horn aglow, searching their thoughts and dreams. Night Star didn’t prove useful – she dreamed of the filly being all grown up, smart, having a great job and… Bleh, whatever. The colt was no better, having a kinky dream about his wife doing something Chrysalis only laughed about in her head.
Now the filly. She was useful. Of course wading through all the cotton candy and bunnies her dreams provided was horrible, but when the changeling reached Silver Heart’s mental image, it was accompanied by Chip himself.
“Oh look, Chip! It’s your friend! Hi there!” the filly smiled and waved her hoof to the minion who was ready to throw up from all the nausea she felt.
“Hello there friend! Would you care to join us for some tea? This is the best tea in Canterlot!” exclaimed the traitorous colt in a voice that was distorted and nothing like the real thing.
“Ugh… No, thank you, I’m in a hurry,” managed the unnamed one, trying to stop her stomach from churning.
“Oh, that’s too bad! This is the best tea party ever! Princess Celestia herself will be here any moment now! You sure you don’t want to stay?”
“No, thank you, child. I need to ask Chip a very important question. Can I speak to him for a moment?”
“Sure!” squealed the filly, excitedly jumping up and down on her chair.
“Alone?” huffed the changeling mare.
“Oh! Are you his girlfriend? Are you, are you?!” The foal was clearly too excited, and the imaginary Chip was already starting to approach Chrysalis’ minion with starry eyes.
“Arghh… Just… Just tell me where you are, Chip! Where did you go to?!”
“Me? I’m here, my love,” replied the Chip, doing a spin as he came closer. “In Canterlot. The place where dreams… Come… True…”
The changeling female finally allowed herself to vomit behind a bush, having raced to find a secluded spot for a few seconds. The filly’s imagination maybe was straightforward, but she damn well knew how a kiss looked and felt like. And it was probably Chrysalis’ fault that the dream colt slipped a tongue into her mouth…
“Pff! How dare you insult me! I would never!... Ugh!” The Queen watched with satisfaction as her minion hurled again and again, nothing but yellow bile leaving her mouth after the second or third stomach contraction.
It took some time for the assassin to gather her wits again and stop shaking – the scene that etched itself into her mind was both gross and humiliating. Another reason to kill Chip – the changeling traitor who lived comfortably in Canterlot, the capital of Equestria.
The night was still young, and a gentle breeze made flying towards the mountains in the distance very pleasurable. Even with the terrible feeling in her mouth.
Finding Chip wasn’t exactly difficult. Without any kind of shame or common sense he travelled through a green maze with a mare at his side during the night. She could end him right there, when she first saw him, with the knife she spirited away.
But that would leave the mare to deal with. No casualties in civilians, at least, not yet. The changeling would have to wait.
Days and nights passed, and the minion relentlessly dogged her target. He was in his quarters most of the time, ponies coming in and out of his new lair. There was a pink mare that was pretty tall and good looking for a pony, a fat colt who always smelt of burnt food and some others that rarely came by. The guards at the doors looked bored most of the time, and the changeling infiltrator amused herself with distracting them while cloaked. A pebble to the head, a gust of wind in the face or an adrenaline-rising talk while disguised were the pleasures that Chrysalis supervised and approved. It was funny to her too.
Once in a while, a white mare who looked like a pretty important pony would take Chip away in a carriage. The changeling’s learned she was referred to as Princess Celestia, the ruler of these lands. A very important figure to keep in mind. And the mare that spent time with Chip during the night sometimes was her sister, Princess Luna. It seems Chip was useful after all – marking all the important ponies saved Chrysalis the bother to look for them.
Personally, the changeling assassin didn’t think much about anypony or anything. She just fantasized about the way she would cut Chip into ribbons, leave his body somewhere in view and then manipulate everypony into paranoia. Some of the scenarios she even proposed to Chrysalis, much to her delight and approval. The two were getting along really great and the unnamed mare felt a connection to her master – something more than just puppet-master… Maybe something like… Similar to… Perhaps a… Friend?
About two weeks of waiting finally paid off – Chip was trotting at full speed alone, near the maze. It was now or never.
The changeling dove into the labyrinth and exerted some pheromones specific to the changeling race. They were rarely used at all, mainly to mark targets or to distinguish a changeling from a real pony when the Queen had to maintain many spies. The bait worked, luring the disguised pony-Chip into the cool shade of his final resting place.
Swiftly, the knife flew to his throat, gently pushing against his chin. The feeling delivered by his sudden fear and confusion was ecstatic to both the assassin and Chrysalis. Revenge would be finally served, with all the succulent torture and grief as an appetizer.
“Long time, no see, Chip,” said Chrysalis and the infiltrator in unison.
Chrysalis took over almost entirely, guiding the changeling’s mouth to torture Chip with images of death and despair. He deserved that. Those maybe weren’t facts just yet, but his friends would die sooner or later. If the colt could die with disgrace, topping it with guilt and grief only made the whole moment sweeter.
But then something went horribly wrong. The Queen mentioned something about the cottage they passed and… The next moment, Chip was on top of the assassin. His chin was sprouting green blood and there was murder in his eyes.
The first blow came. The infiltrator lost connection to the hive mind for a second, causing her to panic. She wanted to teleport away, get away from the pain, the confusion that suddenly hit her like a cargo train. Her head was hurting like it had never before and she felt her plate split in half where the stallion’s horn sunk into it.
The second blow. Her thoughts scattered, but the hive mind returned to her. Confused, the changeling begged Chrysalis to take her away. She could not perform anything alone. She wanted to leave, to live, to go away. She wanted it so very, very much. But there was nothing. No compassion, no fright. Nothing from the Queen.
Third blow. Her forehead was torn with pain. She lost her vision and the sounds were muffled – something wet was streaming down her face. It was sticky and hot.
“Please… Away… Mother…” mentally whimpered the changeling.
But there was nothing. Her body not her own, the assassin felt telekinesis reach for the knife and stab at the towering Chip. It was looking for an opening. The Queen would…
THUD. Pain was her whole world. She wanted to cry, to beg, to apologize. She wanted to live. But then, through the mist of red, she understood something – she never truly lived. She existed, as a tool. She was nothing. Just a leg, maybe even less. A pair of eyes, two pairs of hooves, wings and a horn. She was what her mistress wanted her to be. A knife that still searched for a place to stab at…
thud. She didn’t even feel that. Her whole body jerked violently. Colors flashed in all hues that ever existed, burning and pricing, piercing her little precious spark. She was being extinguished. Just like that. One last time, she begged the Queen to help her. To save her. But… There was nothing. Only a shove of a blade.
When did it end? She could not tell.
What would happen? She did not know.
Was she even here? It was a mystery that would never be solved.
Would anybody miss her? No. There was nothing.