Queen Chrysalis awoke slowly as sunlight flooded the room. There were many things she despised on the surface world, but none as much as the sunlight. Even when she changed forms, her eyes could never adjust to the bright intrusion to her dreams—well, “nightmares” was a better term to use.
Letting out a low growl, she tried to roll over only to find that her forelegs and part of her chest were bound by some strange white rock. The Princess has caught me! They are probably going to torture me, execute me, then parade my carcass through the streets of Canterlot for attacking her! I have to get out…
In her panic, Chrysalis tried to escape from her prison when the all-too-familiar pain of broken bones caused her to gasp. She let out a small sigh as she remembered the failed invasion of Canterlot. That magic blast from that brat Cadence and the fool Shining Armor had drained her of her energy and had thrown her to some godforsaken land. It left her feeling broken and utterly empty inside, like a husk of her former self being stomped on by somepony’s hoof.
“Please, don’t struggle miss.” Chrysalis went completely rigid when she heard the male voice speak. “The casts are holding your broken bones in place. If you keep moving, they won’t heal properly.”
Chrysalis did everything she could to steel her voice. “Who goes there? Show yourself!”
She heard something walk from the side of her bed into her line of sight. He was a tall, lean stallion covered head to hoof in tattered rags that wrapped around his body. The only parts of him that she could actually see were his mocha tan muzzle and his coal black mane. Dark sunglasses shielded his eyes, which was odd considering the few rays of sunlight dancing around in the room.
“Are you with the Royal Guard?” Chrysalis hissed at the stranger.
With a smile he said, “No, I am not.”
She took a moment to think, “Where am I and why am I here?”
“You are in the Sundrop Deserts. I found you out in the sand dunes. You were gravely injured and in need of immediate medical attention. So I took you here, to my cabin, and treated your wounds.” He drew a strange rag from his pocket and raised it to his muzzle. Once he had wrapped it around his head, he moved to the side of the room towards a small door.
“Sorry to leave you so abruptly, but I have to run into town for some supplies. I should be back in a few hours so please don’t try to do anything. You might hurt yourself,” he said through the rag. Then, he opened the door and the room was flooded with bright light. Chrysalis closed her eyes at the sudden attack on her irises. She could hear wind howling from outside the building and the blast of air into the room tasted like dirt as she inhaled. The door slammed shut and all was silent and dark again.
Disobeying his warnings, she tried to move from the bed and escape. With all her might, she wriggled her way to the side of the mattress despite the intense pain in her ribs and back. Just as she got to the edge, she looked down at her appendages to see they were cast and bound by a plaster mold.
With a disappointed grunt, she muttered, “This day has been just perfect.”
Now she moved her way back to the center of the small bed panting. Having to worm her way around the bed was far more physical work than she was used to. Being broken and starved didn’t help either. She was completely exhausted. Within a few minutes, she decided to just sleep and wait for the stallion to come back…
“What kind of pony are you?” a young colt asked, his voice laced in malice. He was walking closer and closer to a small black foal. She was backing away…
“Those aren’t pegasus wings? How did you get ‘em, huh?” another colt asked, his voice filled with the same hatred.
"Um..." the black filly stuttered, but was abruptly cut off by one of the other ponies in the group.
“So which is fake, the horn or the wings?” a filly asked sarcastically. “Do you think you’re special or something?” The black filly continued to back away, but found herself pressed against a wall.
“Th-they’re both real, honest,” the small black foal said, her voice shaking in fear.
“Well then, show us!” the first colt said taking a sudden step towards her. Instinctively, she started to flap her wings, creating an insect like buzz.
“What was that?” the filly said.
“Sounded like a bug.”
“What a freak!” the bigger colt said. The black foal started to cry.
“Freak… freak… freak! Freak! FREAK! FREAK!” they chanted in unison. The foal collapsed to the ground crying. One of them kicked her in the ribs, which made her yelp in pain. The others followed their friend’s example, and started pummeling the young filly.
The beating continued for what seemed like an eternity. All she could manage to do was sob and whimper as they continued. Eventually, they got tired and walked away but made sure to say a few choice words. One even spat on her after he stomped on her foreleg and snapped it like a twig. She let out a blood-churning scream.
“If we see you around our school, we will have another little ‘talk,’ but next time, we won’t stop until we break every bone in your body.”
The young filly was left all alone to cry in the dirt.
Chrysalis opened her eyes slowly with a heavy sigh. She didn't have many recurring dreams, but this was one she wished would go away. After a few minutes, she looked around the empty room to see that it was a part of a very small cabin. From the bed, she could see a small stove, a round table with three chairs, a bookshelf, and a workbench with a dresser next to it. The only other thing in the room was an armchair facing the closed window and a small stand with a pair of reading glasses next to it. She noted that the room was covered in a thin layer of dust, and the light bounced off the tiny particles flying through the air.
She watched a small particle dance around her, perplexed by it as it swayed and floated around the room without a care in the world, making her smile.
Oh to be as you, she thought in envy as the small speck danced about the room, free to do as it pleased. The Changeling Queen was pulled from her reverie as the front door to the home opened, the small particle ran into some dark corner of the room and out of her sight. This time, the howling winds were much louder and there was a lot of sand blowing into her temporary prison. The pegasus pulled with all of his might to close the door and with a great heave, the thin wood was sucked back into its frame. She could hear him breathing deeply through all the cloth that still covered his maw.
“Wheew! Now that – that was a sandstorm!” he managed as he removed the rag. He started to chuckle, “I think I’m gettin’ outta shape!”
As he took a moment to catch his breath, she readjusted her position on the bed to keep an eye on him.
He walked over to the table and dropped one of his saddlebags down, spilling its contents. He sifted through the pile and after a moment, he found what he was looking for. From what she could see, she guessed it was a small dry plant with long winding roots. He threw the plant into a mortar and pestle and set to grinding it up. After the plant had been ground into a fine powder, he put it in a bowl and started looking for another ingredient.
“What are you doing over there?” she demanded. He glanced over his shoulder a moment, but then returned to his work. Her eyes narrowed. “I asked what you are doing? Was that not clear?”
“Oh, it was plenty clear, but it was very rude. I tend to ignore rude things.” His hoof landed on a small vial of liquid. He picked it up and poured the purple liquid into the bowl of powder. With a small crackle and puff of smoke, the ingredients mixed into something that smelled terribly foul. Chrysalis had to cover her nose.
“By the Creators! What is that stench? It smells worse than the rotting carcass of a cave worm!”
The pegasus smiled, “That is the smell of your medicine. It should help with the broken bones as well as fight off any infection that your body might have contracted.” With the bowl of repugnant liquid in hoof, he slowly approached the bed.
Her eyes went wide. “Wh-what are you doing?” she said, trying to back away from him but the combination of bandgages and searing pain held her in place. She was at his mercy.
“Why are you afraid? I’m just bringing you your medicine…” he started to smile and chuckle under his breath, which only made Chrysalis start to panic even more.
“Th – that is why!” Once again she tried to escape, but failed miserably. As he reached the bed, he held her down with one hoof and held the bowl to her lips with the other. His touch was firm enough to keep her from moving, but also gentle and careful so that he didn’t hurt her.
“Now say, ‘Ah!’” he said. Chrysalis’s words were muffled through her closed muzzle, but it was clear she had no intention of obeying his commands. “C’mon. You don’t want to do this the hard way, do you?” he asked. She simply turned her head to the side and closed her eyes like a foal refusing to eat her vegetables.
He sighed, “Very well then,” and in one deft motion, he moved his second hoof up to her mouth and opened her jaw by applying pressure to her chin. The putrid liquid spilled into her unsuspecting maw. It wasn’t much of a surprise that it did not taste much better than it smelled. She coughed and gagged as it slid its way down her throat like a large slug.
“Wh – GAH! – What the Tartarus was that?” she cried holding her plaster-coated hooves to her mouth. The after taste that stained her tongue was almost unbearable. Luckily for her dying taste buds, he pulled out a small bottle of water that she took and drank from greedily.
He started laughing again, “That was a solution of Cinder Root and extract of Nightshade. A little fast healing potion I learned how to make many years ago.”
She chocked on the water and stared at him as if he was crazy, “Aren’t both of those ingredients toxic?”
“Separately, yes, they are both the most lethal poisons in all of Equestria. However, when combined, they become one of the fastest healing potions known to pony kind,” the stranger finished as he walked over to his workbench. “Its effects should become apparent momentarily.”
Chrysalis started to argue when she felt a strange warmth welling up inside her. As it washed over her body, her pains were replaced by numbness, and then she could feel nothing but a light aching. She was completely stunned. Being royalty, she had access to some of the best potions out there and had tried many different healing solutions, but none were as potent as this. How had she never heard of this before?
“I’ll take that as proof it is working,” he said turning around to see her. She just stared at him, mouth agape.
He shied away a little. “Do I have something on my face?” he asked with a nervous chuckle.
She finally composed herself and decided to ask the question that had been on her mind since he left, “Why are you helping me? Do you even know who I am?”
"You know, you remind me of my daughter when she was just a foal. Always asking silly questions," he said over his shoulder as he turned back to the table. "I helped you because aiding a pony in need is the right thing to do, regardless of who they are or what they've done."
"Tch. What a stupid answer!"
"Well, I'm going to tell you the same thing I told my little filly 'You ask a stupid question, you're going to get a stupid answer!'" He started laughing. Chrysalis didn't like being talked to in such a demeaning way, but she still found his sarcasm rather amusing.
Just then, she noticed that the potion had restored her feeding magic and she could feel his joy, his love for his daughter, and his laughter pouring out of him like a fine wine. Using her magic, she reached forth and started to absorb the healthy emotions, but the taste was tainted by an inner turmoil. This stranger was haunted by his past, and it affected everything he did. She imagined that if she tried feeding on her own emotions, they would taste just as bitter.
Her train of thought was broken as he spoke, “Anyway, the medicine will help take the edge off and speed up the healing process. You’ll be up and moving again in about a week.”
Her eyes were downcast, “I am afraid I cannot wait that long. My sub – I mean, my family needs me. I must return to them post haste.” She tried to raise herself out of bed, but the strain caused her to become light-headed, and she started falling face-first towards the ground.
“Whoa, there!” The pegasus moved to her side with amazing speed and grace. He caught her in his hooves just before her head collided with the hard wood floor. Lifting her back into the bed with ease, he said, “You need to take it easy. Your ‘Family’ can wait until you are well enough for me to move you. For now, you need to rest.” The stallion put her under the covers of the bed and tucked her in, drawing up the comforter from the foot of the bed.
“Why are you doing that? It is already unbearably warm,” Chrysalis said. The room was extremely hot thanks to the desert sun beating down on the small cabin and she was not keen on being babied by the stranger at all.
He just continued to tuck her in. “It is going to get dark out soon, and as soon as the sun dips behind the horizon, it will get very cold very quickly.”
Chrysalis rolled her eyes. “I do not need this bedding to keep me warm. My kind are used to living in colder places than this.”
The pegasus started to walk over to the small chair by the window. “Trust me, you’ll need them. In your condition the warmer you can keep yourself the better.” He plopped his flank in the armchair with his back to her and removed his sunglasses, placing them carefully on the table next to him.
“If you need me, just holler,” he added with a wave of his hoof. Just as she was about to respond, she heard a light snore.
Wow. I didn’t think anypony could fall asleep so quickly… she thought, bewildered. After a few minutes, she gave up trying to figure it out.
Once again, she settled down under the covers, but tossed the heavy comforter aside,
I do not need such a heavy quilt. The hollow gets far colder than anything this desert could possibly muster!
Oh how wrong she was…