Chrysalis shook her head and dropped the carcass of the small animal she had drained of emotions to the point of death.
“Not enough,” she whispered hoarsely, half-dragging herself through the forest. “It’s never enough in here... beasts! All I have to feed are beasts! Pathetic,” her horn lit up and magic encased a family of squirrels. “Little. Beasts.” With a vicious snarl, she ripped all emotions and feelings out of the squirrels, letting them fall from her hold onto the ground. “Never enough...” she mumbled as she felt her hunger increase. Her vision swayed as she struggled to keep herself on her hooves. She hadn’t had the energy, much less the will to take flight. She was barely able to keep herself alive as it was.
She tried to walk forth, towards her queendom, but she stumbled on something. Her jaw hit the floor, sending her vision into darkness and bright lights. She couldn’t move. She was too tired.
“Oh, dear...” she heard somepony speak.
Too tired to even feel startled, she slowly and painfully turned her head towards the voice. Her eyes settled on a white unicorn, who was looking at her with pity. Her vision swayed again, the forest and unicorn becoming a spiraling blur as her head burst with pain.
Then she knew no more.
She became aware of her own breathing at first. It was steady. She remained still. There were some noises around her. The shuffling of leaves under the wind and... crackling... somepony had started a fire nearby.
Slowly she opened her eyes. It was dark around her, except for the soft glow of the fire which encompassed little past where she lay and where the unicorn sat in silence, staring at the flames. For a second she felt something. A brush in her mind, but she couldn’t recognize it. Was a drone nearby?
She felt hungry, but less so. In fact, she felt better than the last couple of days since she had landed in this thrice-damned forest. That was surprising, since she hadn’t eaten much. Perhaps she had just been tired from lack of rest.
A wicked grin crossed her face as she considered the unicorn in front of her. Chrysalis recognized her now. It was one of Twilight Sparkle’s friends. The dress-maker. She would be perfect feeding material until she reached her lands and then she would be a perfect slave to keep alive and feast upon at her convenience... yes, a delicious provider of sustenance until she drained all of her emotions, one by one and only an empty husk remained.
Slowly, trying not to draw attention to herself, she shifted, ready to pounce on the unsuspecting pony.
“If you are quite done planning my untimely demise as your personal snack-bar, I think it might be better for you to sit up and get close to the fire, darling, I fear it gets chilly around these parts,” the mare said without turning to look at her.
“You–” Chrysalis stammered, eyes widening before she frowned and glared at the offending unicorn. “How did you know what I was thinking?”
Rarity snorted. “Please, as if changelings thought of anything else but their next meal,” she said, chuckling. “With the look you were giving me I could imagine myself as a sandwich.”
“Silence!” Chrysalis ordered. “I will not put up with this insolence! I am Chrysalis and I am queen!”
“No, you’re lost,” Rarity pointed out. “And you’re nowhere near the Hive, so tone it down, missy.”
“You- but- I- you- gah!” Chrysalis’ eyes flashed with inner green light as her magic enveloped the unicorn. She felt a trickle of emotion emanate out of the unicorn and she greedily latched onto it until she was suddenly unable to do so.
She was so surprised that she immediately stopped her assault. “W-what happened?”
Rarity shook her head. “You really think I would make it so simple for you? Please, darling, don’t take me for a fool.”
Chrysalis stared. “How did you do that? Ponies cannot stop us from feeding from their emotions!” she jumped to her hooves, suddenly very angry. “Did you discover a spell to starve us to death!?”
For a moment Rarity simply stared at her, then she started laughing. “Oh, please, you’re surely joking!”
“Shut up!” Chrysalis countered. “I don’t know how you did it, Oddity, but you are going to tell me!”
The unicorn stopped laughing. “Oddity?” she blinked. “Did you just call me Oddity?”
Chrysalis growled. “That’s your name, isn’t it?”
“The name is Rarity,” Rarity replied coldly. “Rarity.”
“Whatever,” Chrysalis rolled her eyes. “As if I would remember the name of a servant.”
Rarity’s eyes went wide. “A- a servant!? Why would you ever think I was a servant?!”
“You’re a royal dressmaker, are you not? That makes you a servant under the crown.”
Rarity actually smiled. “Well, my dresses do befit royalty, if I do say so myself, but I’m afraid you’re wrong, darling. I work only for myself and my sister.”
Chrysalis snorted but let it go, deciding to settle down and stare at the flames. She’d find out what spell the unicorn had used to stop her from stealing her emotions.
The pair sat in silence for a little while.
“What do you intend to do when you get back to the Hive, Chrysalis?” Rarity asked.
Chrysalis looked down. Weakness was punishable by death in the Hive. “I’ll probably have to prove myself stronger than my daughters.”
Rarity’s eyes widened. “Your daughters?! I’m an au- I mean, you’re a mother?!”
Chrysalis nodded. “Does that surprise you, unicorn? A queen needs a brood. And without successors our species would die.”
“No-no,” Rarity shook her head. “I- I just forgot you’re older than me, so... it was slightly shocking.”
Chrysalis chortled, giving Rarity a side-long glance. “Yes, I figure I’m older than you.”
Rarity was silent for a moment, although Chrysalis could tell that there was something she wanted to say. Badly.
“Are you going to test them?” Rarity whispered at last.
Chrysalis raised an eyebrow. “Of course. That is how it’s been done since the beginning,” she looked up at the night sky. “I’m hoping that Arachne will win in the end, she has all the attributes of a good Queen.” her eyes glistened with pride. “She’s merciless. She’s strong. Intelligent. Cold. She’ll be a fine successor.”
“What about your other daughters?” Rarity asked.
Chrysalis raised an eyebrow. “My, aren’t you a curious little pony?” she snorted. “If you must know, the next one is Acari. She’s also a good choice, but less so than Arachne. She’s... slower. But given time she can match any of Arachne’s plans. Sometimes she even gets ahead.” she chuckled, then sighed. “Then there’s Phasmi and Thysa. Those two are more concerned with playing pranks than getting anywhere. It’s as if they don’t care that if they fail they’ll be food for the others.” she frowned. “Phasmi is extremely good at shapeshifting. From an early age she was able to change into many forms, but she doesn’t seem to care for power. And Thysa...” Chrysalis shook her head. “When she’s not playing with Phasmi, she’s staring at plants and flowers. She’s useless.”
Rarity nodded as Chrysalis spoke, seemingly making mental images of Chrysalis’ daughters. “Phasmi sounds promising,” she said after a moment, drawing an incredulous glance from Chrysalis.
“Were you not listening to me? Phasmi and Thysa will surely die in one of the quests I assign them. They are neither strong nor smart enough to win.”
Rarity shook her head as she stood up. “I think we’ve rested enough, should we head towards the Hive?”
Chrysalis chuckled. “Sure, let’s march towards your grave.”
The pair walked in silence, with Rarity leading the way. Chrysalis felt some emotions coming out from the unicorn and again started feeding. For a moment she had suspected that Rarity had dropped her guard, but it was not so. The unicorn was feeding her of her own will.
“You said you have a sister?” Chrysalis asked, trying to gain more insight into her unexpected benefactor.
Rarity nodded with a small smile. “A young filly named Sweetie Belle. She’s beautiful; so full of life and wonder. She was at the wedding, you know? One of the flowerfillies. The little unicorn.”
Chrysalis vaguely remembered a little unicorn-shaped morsel preceding her into the hall when she was disguised as Cadence.
Rarity continued. “She loves me so much... it’s so empowering I have a whole week’s worth of energy from my little sister’s love alone to perform constant use of magic.”
Chrysalis laughed. “Ha! You’re sounding like a changeling, little pony!”
Rarity simply smiled.
They continued in silence while Chrysalis pondered Rarity’s words. “Why would you want Phasmi to win out of all my daughters? Is it because she’s weak and nice?” she eventually asked. “I can’t figure it out. You seem to know enough about changelings and must have learned from our earlier conversation that we value other things than being ‘nice.’”
Rarity shrugged. “I figured that you could use a change of pace,” she looked over her shoulder at Chrysalis, who was lagging behind and suddenly the queen could feel that emotion from earlier feeding her. “Phasmi seems like the type of changeling who would think things through and maybe attempt peace rather than war.”
“You...” Chrysalis closed her eyes and took a deep breath as she absorbed the emotion. It felt... familiar. “War is the only way we know.” She opened her eyes and looked at the unicorn. “Why are you doing this? Why are you helping me? It’s pretty clear that we are enemies.”
Rarity looked away and the trickle of emotion disappeared. Chrysalis almost growled. She wanted more.
“I- I felt like I also needed a change of pace,” Rarity said. She cleared her throat. “And, after you so kindly ordered your drones not to harm any of the fillies and colts... I was so glad to find out my sister was safe... I- I decided to pay you back by helping you out.”
“Right,” Chrysalis rolled her eyes. It was clear that there was more to it than that.
“Why did you not attack the children?” Rarity asked after a moment of awkward silence.
“They don’t provide emotions strong enough to sustain an adult changeling,” Chrysalis said immediately. She frowned and glanced in annoyance at Rarity when the unicorn chuckled. “Do you find it amusing?”
“No,” Rarity said, stifling her chuckles with a sad smile. She locked eyes with Chrysalis, who gulped. There was something in those eyes. Something very familiar. And hurting. And hopeful.
The changeling queen took a step back and shook her head, breaking eye contact. Again she felt that strange emotion coming from Rarity. So little, yet so invigorating. And it seemed to be stronger than before. What was it?
“I’m really grateful, Chrysalis,” Rarity said after a moment. “I really am. I truly feared for Sweetie Belle’s safety. If something had happened to her...” she trailed off before taking a sharp breath. “I- I guess you wouldn’t understand, not having any sisters.”
Was there a tinge of hurt in that statement? Chrysalis felt like there was something she should have noticed by now. There was an element here that was nagging at her. She settled for walking behind Rarity. The unicorn really seemed to know where she was going as she never even stopped to look for landmarks.
It was odd, as self-assured and happy as she seemed, Chrysalis couldn’t help but notice that there was an underlying sense of unhappiness from the unicorn. As if something was missing, despite the happiness she claimed to have in her life.
Chrysalis sighed. It was a familiar look. One that she constantly found in herself, for all her ambition and dreams of grandeur. For all her power and achievements... she was missing something precious. Something she had wished to have back more than once.
“I had... sisters once,” Chrysalis admitted into the heavy silence, making Rarity stop, but not look back at her. “My older sister, Cocoon, and a younger sister, Pupa. We three seemed to have fun for the most part when we went out on the quest our mother would send us on,” Chrysalis elaborated. “Cocoon always tried to be aloof, but she actually cared for both me and Pupa. I could tell, even if mother couldn’t.” She snorted. “Then again, the old hag never had time for us other than sending us out to do missions and see who would die first.”
Rarity didn’t move, nor look back, but Chrysalis saw her ears twitch as she listened.
“It was funny, actually,” Chrysalis continued. “Cocoon took Pupa under her wing and never let her know how much she cared.” She looked down with a slight smile. “I found it amusing to see how hurt Pupa would be at times because Cocoon was being ‘mean.’ If she had only known that Cocoon was doing that so that the rest of us wouldn’t notice...” she chuckled. “Cocoon was always a softie.” She lowered her voice. “But she was a fun softie. And Pupa... she was funny. My little sister couldn’t perform a serious shapeshift to save her life!” She shook her head, smiling. “There was this one time where she tried to transform into a bird and she ended up simply covered in feathers, I laughed so hard! Cocoon walked in and was all business but I saw her hide a smile behind her hoof.”
Rarity remained quiet, and Chrysalis shrugged looking up to the sky. “It wasn’t the only time she did some crazy attempt at shapeshifting but...” she sighed. “It was the last time she tried. That day mother sent for us and sent us for another stupid quest. And believe me, it was stupid. Finding gems, what the hay, right?” she looked down. “I lost both my sisters that day. And I became the successor to the throne.”
Rarity sniffed and suddenly Chrysalis was enveloped in that one emotion. It had exploded in strength. She soaked it up as Rarity stood in front of her, the unicorn’s body shaking slightly with each shuddering breath.
“Are you... crying?” Chrysalis asked, a small lump forming in her throat for no reason. She took a deep breath. Why was she getting emotional?
“N-no,” Rarity protested, raising a hoof to wipe her eyes. “I got something in my eye, dear, that’s all.”
Chrysalis had to blink twice. Because for a moment she thought she had seen something else. She swallowed, trying to push away that lump in her throat. What was happening here? Why was she acting all emotional? Why was Rarity getting emotional as well? Was the unicorn an empath? Was that it?
But... had she seen what she thought she had seen? A slight tinge of green light on the edges of Rarity’s mane? She frowned. It had been almost unnoticeable. The type of mistake only an experienced shapeshifer could both, notice and prevent from becoming a full catastrophe.
To any other changeling it would have been nothing. Not even a trick of the light. You needed an eye for detail that very few changelings could ever achieve. Besides herself, only Arachne had that capacity and she was still young and would need many years of practice to even get close to that level of skill.
No. Chrysalis trusted her instincts and her instincts told her that Rarity was not simply a unicorn. Not at all.
Rarity seemed to gather herself and started walking again, but stopped when Chrysalis didn’t move an inch. “What’s wrong, dear?” she asked.
Chrysalis looked at her carefully. “Where are we going?”
“To the Hive, dear, I told you,” Rarity replied. “Now, let’s hurry before they decide you’re really dead and have to fight a whole squadron of drones to prove you’re you.”
“No,” Chrysalis frowned. “There’s so much I hadn’t noticed before because I was distracted. How do you know where the Hive is?”
Rarity didn’t blink. “It’s well-marked in the maps of Equestria.”
“Hah, likely story!” Chrysalis growled, pacing in front of Rarity. “While I was disguised as Cadence, I took a look at the most up-to-date maps in preparation for future conquests... and my Hive was not to be found in any of them!”
Rarity didn’t respond.
“And then you seem to know a lot about changeling culture. You are not surprised by our customs. I have spent enough time with ponies to know that anypony else would have been shocked by the fact that we fight to the death for the right to rule, and yet you not only did not blink when I mentioned it, you knew about it from before!”
Rarity still was quiet, simply staring at Chrysalis with an inscrutable expression.
“In fact, the only reason I know you are not a spy or assassin that has been sent to kill me by one of my daughters is that you were genuinely surprised to find out I had daughters!” She walked forth until she was in front of Rarity her muzzle inches from the other mare’s. “A competent assassin wouldn’t have betrayed their emotions so easily and would have maintained the charade longer. A competent assassin wouldn’t have been affected enough to reveal the tiniest bit of changeling magic. And then there’s this uncanny control over your emotions, a feat impossible for a pony.” Chrysalis smiled viciously. “I know you are not a pony. Who are you? What is that emotion you have been feeding me?”
Rarity lowered her head. “Love.”
Chrysalis snorted. “That’s not love, I have tasted love. Love is different. And I know you don’t love me.”
Rarity chuckled sadly. “Not that kind of love.”
“What kind then?” Chrysalis asked, annoyed.
“Sisterly,” Rarity said, looking up at Chrysalis as her body was encased in blue-green flames. Her coat disappeared, revealing a black chitin armor. Her legs elongated, revealing holes in them and bringing her to just about the same height as Chrysalis. Her mane remained blue, but with green highlights, while her horn became sharp and jagged. Her flanks had, impossibly, the same cutie marks she had had when she was disguised as a pony. Her wings fluttered in the air as she took a couple of steps back from the flabbergasted Chrysalis.
“That–” Chryalis stammered as unexplained tears filled her eyes. “Who are you?!”
Rarity smiled shyly. “It’s me, Chrysy. Pupa.”
Chrysalis’s eyes went wide as she stared at this changeling queen in front of her. For she was a queen. No changeling princess would live to that age without becoming one. It was simply impossible by force of tradition alone.
“Y-you can’t be Pupa, she’s dead!” Chrysalis accused, taking a step back in tandem with Rarit-no, Pupa’s step forward. She knew it. It was her. But how?
“I... survived,” Pupa said. “And I didn’t. I became one with Rarity and Rarity became one with me. We both chose to be Rarity rather than Pupa.”
“But... how?!” Chrysalis asked just as the answer came to her mind. “Cocoon...” she whispered as her tears finally fell down her cheeks, splashing onto the forest floor. “T-that sentimental fool... she merged your souls.”
Rarity... or Pupa... Crysalis shook her head and settled for Purity, nodded.
“I didn’t know why...” ‘Purity’ confessed. “Until you told me...” tears welled up in her eyes. “I- I always thought she didn’t like me. That I wasn’t good enough for her and that, just like mother said, she thought I was useless.”
“She never thought that,” Chrysalis whispered. “That stupid fool loved you to pieces.”
‘Purity’ gritted her teeth as her body shook with sobs again. But this time she wasn’t alone. Chrysalis felt herself loose control of her emotions and soon she was crying as well. Both mares stayed put, neither moving to comfort the other.
After a few minutes, Chrysalis finally shook her head. Even through all of this, ‘Purity’s’ sisterly love had fed her enough energy to be able to take flight again and reach her destination alone.
“What do you intend to do now, Purity?” she asked.
‘Purity’ snorted. “Is that my new nickname?”
Chrysalis rolled her eyes. “I just couldn’t decide what to call you.”
Rarity shook her head and smiled. “You sis, can call me Purity.”
Chrysalis chuckled, taking a deep breath and looking straight at the mare across from her. “So, what are you going to do, Purity?”
Rarity shrugged. “I’m going back to Ponyville to make dresses and fuss and complain about my little sister.” She smiled. “I bet you would like her if you got to know her.”
Chrysalis rolled her eyes. “Sentimentality is for the weak, you know that.”
Rarity smiled sadly and nodded.
The two mares stood in awkward silence, mere steps away from each other and wondering what they should do now.
“I guess I should go,” Chrysalis said, looking up at the moon. “I think that now that I have enough energy to fly I should be able to get home easily enough.”
Rarity smiled. “I’m sure the fact that you will arrive in good health and with so much energy after a couple of days will only reinforce your power.”
“You don’t know my two eldest daughters,” Chrysalis snorted. She started walking past Rarity, who remained facing in the same direction. “I missed you sis. You and Cocoon. All this time.”
Rarity closed her eyes. “I missed you too... don’t be a stranger, sis.”
Chrysalis looked straight ahead. “If I survive, you’ll hear from me.”
Rarity nodded and looked up as her sister shot up into the sky, heading towards the Hive. “Goodbye sis.”
“Sis!” Sweetie Belle called, galloping up the stairs. “Sis!”
Rarity frowned as her control on her telekinesis failed and she ripped a hole through the fabric when her sister barged into her study and shouted once more, at the top of her lungs. “Sis!”
“What?!” Rarity growled, letting the fabric drop to the floor and glaring at her sister. “What is it, Sweetie?”
The filly had the grace to look guilty when she noticed the fabric and the obvious annoyance in her sister’s face. “I’m sorry, Rarity!” Sweetie said, cringing. “It’s just that there’s somepony at the door for you!”
“Sweetie Belle.” Rarity rolled her eyes and sighed as she followed her sister down. “Didn’t I ask you to tell anypony that came over that I was busy today and to leave a message?”
“No buts! We’ll talk about this after I have to turn this pony away... gently.” Rarity cleared her throat and opened her door. “I am sorry sir bu–” she cut herself off.
“It’s a royal guard!” Sweetie Belle said a bit too late. “That’s why I had to get you!”
“Hush, Sweetie, let me talk to the nice guard, okay?” Rarity said, patting her sister’s head. “There’s a good filly.” She turned to look at the guard. “What can I do for you, good sir?”
“I have a package for you,” the guard said, putting down a black box on the floor next to Rarity’s hooves. “And also a letter,” he added, pulling it out of his saddle bag and presenting it to her.
“This is–” Rarity gasped and looked up at the guard, who flickered slightly as he turned to go. “Thank you... is- is she–”
“All your questions should be answered in that letter,” the guard said. “Now, I must go.”
Sweetie watched the odd guard walk away. “What is it, Rarity? And what’s in here?” Sweetie immediately jumped down and opened the box before Rarity could protest. “Wow! Sis! It’s a crown made of jade!” Sweetie said in awe. “It really won’t look good on you!”
Rarity had to chuckle, because, as cute as it was, the crown was definitely designed for a much darker coat. Or armor.
Rarity slowly closed the door and sat down. Her magic took a slightly green tint when she opened the dark grey scroll. Sweetie took a look over her shoulder and frowned. “What does it say? I don’t understand that language.”
Staring blankly, Rarity translated,
“Purity, come visit next month, the family (or those that remain) would like to meet you. You can bring somepony else if you want, but you must, absolutely, wear what I sent you.
She closed her eyes, hugging the letter and crown close and soon she was crying again. But this time she was happy. Very happy. Until she felt a small hoof on her foreleg. She opened her eyes and looked at a very confused Sweetie Belle.
“Sis... who are Purity and Chrysy?”