Male. Australian. Slightly crazy. Clop writer extraordinaire. Changeling cuddler/aficionado. Wars fought. Grammar corrected. Haters incinerated. Leader. Lover. And painfully average in all areas.
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Chrysalis’ eyes opened slowly, staring into the dancing, flickering flames in front of her. Coherency was slow to return, but return it did.
Evergreen was dozing next to her in front of the fire, and during the brief nap, she had been absorbing energy from him. It was hardly sufficient for anything long-term... But it would do. She wasn’t in immediate danger of burning out, but neither was she in the clear. If she left now, she would only survive a few hours before succumbing to the darkness again.
It made Chrysalis shudder to think how far she had fallen in a few short days. She had been about to get married, as Princess Mi Amore Cadenza no less! And now? Stuck in a cottage with a dumb-as-a-brick country bumpkin who actually enjoyed seeing her suffer.
Sensing the pony besides her stirring, Chrysalis feigned sleep. At least this way, she wouldn’t have to converse with the fool and she would have no need to violate her dignity just for him.
The earth pony stretched and shuddered, rising to his hooves and arching for a moment. He ran a hoof through his mane, making a face at the amount of mud, twigs and leaves that were tangled in it. All of that just from dragging the ungrateful unicorn into his home.
In his mind, Evergreen berated himself. The unicorn wasn’t ungrateful. Just those folks that lived on the hill were different from himself. They weren’t raised right; they didn’t feel the need to express their thanks to others. Didn’t mean they didn’t appreciate a little help, right? Some people just couldn’t accept help, no matter how bad they needed it.
Evergreen peered at the unicorn as she slept, frowning to himself slightly. Shivering slightly in the cool morning air, he moved over to her, and adjusted the blanket around her form. He cinched it down around her shoulders and flank, so that no creeping tendrils of cold air would be able to sneak in against her fur. He was careful to not touch her body with his hooves, out of respect. He inspected his work to ensure that she would be warm, while he left and braved the cold air of the forest outside to get more firewood.
The front door opened and Chrysalis splayed her ears, instinctively drawing the blankets closer about her form as a cold draft permeated the little cottage’s interior. The tension in her form began to relax as she realised that Evergreen had left for the moment.
Chrysalis had been but an inch of using the last of her magical reserves to cause him great pain. If he had but touched her once, she would have stripped the flesh from his flank and gleefully made him eat it. But thankfully for them both, he had done no such thing. She could relax and just enjoy the flickering warmth of the fire and the blanket.
It was bad enough that she had rested with her form touching his own, for hours! If he were to touch her without permission... Well. She just wasn’t sure what kind of punishment she would mete out upon him. The cottage was a long way from Ponyville and his screams would not carry far.
The sun was shining outside, every surface a bright, twinkling reflection of the sun’s weak rays. The golden glow of the rising sun mocked the violence of the previous night's storm, the sun itself doing little to warm the ground or the air. Evergreen could see the condensation rising in front of his face with every puff of air from his lips.
Evergreen slipped over to the wood pile, and began to tug down blocks of wood until he found the dryer stuff underneath. The stack itself was as high as he himself, and three times as wide; he had spent a week straight gathering it all at the beginning of the year, as he did every year, and it would see him through the colder months quite adequately.
Humming a jaunty tune, Evergreen shook himself, stamping his hooves against the cold as he began loading up a small sled with bits of firewood. He then dragged it around the front of the cottage and back through the front door. The sled scraped across the floorboards rather loudly as the wind slammed the front door closed with surprising violence. Yet the unicorn still did not wake. Evergreen snorted as he moved past her, pushing open the back door to his laundry and beginning to build a stack of wood under the metal cauldron in the corner.
Evergreen moved over to the crank pump, and led a long hose into the cauldron, pumping water into it with firm presses of his hooves until it was roughly three quarters full.
Deeming his work there done, Evergreen moved back into the warmer main room of the cottage, taking a box of matches from the shelf above his bed. He cursed as he felt the soggy exterior of the casing, sliding the package open and shaking his head. All of them were wet. The howling gale the previous night must have dislodged some of the thatching on his roof, and allowed a trickle of water to penetrate his cottage.
Scowling, Evergreen moved over to the fireplace and placed the box of matches nearby so it could dry before he turned to the unicorn. Welp, it was time for her to earn her keep.
“I’m gonna need yer help there,” he said rather bluntly to the sleeping unicorn.
There was a long stretch of silence and he blinked slowly for a moment.
“Oi, fancypants. I’ll need yer help,” he said, a little bit louder.
And still the unicorn didn’t stir.
Frowning deeply for a moment, Evergreen shifted closer and began to reach a hoof out to touch the unicorn’s neck to make sure she was still alive.
“And what, pray tell, do you think you’re doing?” the unicorn asked, her eyes opening suddenly, staring daggers at him.
Evergreen’s hoof hovered a mere inch from her neck before he withdrew it with a faint smirk. “So yer are still alive.”
“Do the dead regularly address you, Sir Evergreen?” Chrysalis asked, her tone showing unbridled venom.
A low laugh left the earth pony and he shook his head.
“Yer fancy words will only get yer so far out here,” Evergreen stated rather calmly. He pointed towards the back room with a hoof “Now, I need yer help. It’s time for yer ter earn yer keep.”
“Very well.” the unicorn replied, her tone ungrateful, rising to her hooves and pulling the blanket tighter about herself, giving him a dirty look as she moved towards the door, pushing it open with her nose.
Evergreen watched the unicorn for a moment, his eyes narrowing. He knew a filly like her once; his sister, in fact. She was a strawberry farmer now, and his family had weaned her off of her haughty streak pretty quick. Them high ponies needed a strict hoof to teach them how to treat others.
Evergreen moved after her, stepping back out into the colder air of the second room.
“What is it you need?” the unicorn asked, rounding on him and scowling.
“All my matches got wet from the water roundabouts. Need yer to light that fire,” Evergreen said, pointing with a hoof towards the large cauldron.
The unicorn turned towards the cauldron and her eyes went as wide as saucers.
A cauldron. A giant pile of wood underneath. Bubbling, boiling water. Alone here in the cottage with this strange pony who seemed rather eager to see her suffer.
Chrysalis peered around properly for the first time. There were a series of shelves in this room, with various herbs and flowers arrayed along them: cooking ingredients, perhaps.
A giant cauldron... Cooking ingredients...
“I will do no such thing!” Chrysalis protested suddely, taking a step backwards away from the cauldron, and away from him.
She was still weak. Her magic hadn’t regenerated enough for her to fight right now, and in this mare’s form, she had no chance of being able to fight back against the much larger earth pony.
“Yer will do as yer told!” the pony said, pointing at the cauldron emphatically, “I’m doing this fer you. The least yer can do is light the thing.”
“And next you’ll tell me that you wish me to climb inside!” Chrysalis squeaked, trying in vain to keep her voice even, shaking her head vigorously and stepping backwards.
“Of course I want yer to climb inside, besotted unicorn!” Evergreen cried, exasperated.
“You will not boil me so easily!” Chrysalis declared, the blanket thrown from her form as she reared up on her back legs. Her horn glowed green, pulsing with magical energies, her eyes beginning to glow.
Evergreen’s eyes widened and he began to shake.
Triumph flooded her. Yes. Let him fear her!
But then his shaking resolved into long, hearty guffaws. Chrysalis’ magic faded as quickly as she had summoned it, the changeling wrong-footed by his laughter as he began to roll about, pointing at her and chortling.
“W-what?!” Chrysalis asked self-consciously.
The pony took a moment in his laughter to pause and wipe an eye with a hoof, shaking his head at her slowly.
“Yer thought ah was gonna boil yer alive!” he choked out, before dissolving into laughter again.
Scowling, Chrysalis stomped her hoof hard against the dirt floor, “You admitted your intentions!”
“Wot?” Evergreen asked, rolling to his hooves and advancing on her. “Yer think that just because I want yer to climb in ter there yonder cauldron, that I’m gonna boil yer up and eat yer like an old kids scare-tale?”
Chrysalis backed away, trying her best not to cower in front of the larger earth pony. She couldn’t afford a confrontation, but this pony was just begging for someone to put him in his place. “You want me to make a fire under the cauldron so that you can boil the water while I’m in it!”
Evergreen lifted a hoof and prodded her right on the nose with it, rather sharply. Sparks began to build at the end of Chrysalis’ horn as she felt that thing touch her.
How dare he!
“Yer gonna be in the water, princess, because before it boils, it gets a nice temperature up fer a bath, yer idiot!” he growled and then jabbed his hoof towards the cauldron. He spoke the word ‘princess’ with as much annoyance and vehemence as he could. “Now light the sodding thing. Or do yer like being cold and muddy?”
Chrysalis bit back the words she was longing to say. She wanted to correct him. She needed to force this creature to bow to her wishes. She needed to break him under hoof. But it was rash, thoughtless actions like that that had led to her being here in the first place. She needed to swallow her pride.
“Touch me again, and I shall remove your hoof,” Chrysalis stated through clenched teeth, sidestepping the stallion before giving him her dirtiest look. Leaning forwards, she directed her horn at the built-up wood, a crackle of magical energies crossing the distance and causing a fire to catch in the tinder.
“Well whaddya know. Yer good fer something after all,” Evergreen said with an appraising nod.
Chrysalis swayed slightly in place, her eyes wide. There was a roaring in her ears again, and the darkness was gathering at the edges of her vision. She stared listlessly at the dancing fire. Such a simple magical spell had robbed her of the strength she had earned from that thing’s feelings.
“Woah princess,” Evergreen said, catching her before she could fall face-first into the dirt. “Are yer alright?”
Evergreen’s voice was echoing from far away again, and Chrysalis struggled to retain her coherency. Her mind was screaming at her, trying to force the words from her throat, Get your filthy hooves off me! But her mouth wasn’t working. Her body just wasn’t obeying her commands any more.
Chrysalis was weakening rapidly. She could feel it. Cold was rushing in to consume her very essence as the last of her energy reserves tried to battle the growing weariness. The great queen undone by a simple fire spell?
Her eyes flickered, and her head drooped.
Chrysalis was vaguely aware of Evergreen shifting to help ease her down onto her side. His voice was low and slow, echoing as though from down a long hallway. “Oi! Oi! Princess!”
Chrysalis tried to lift a hoof to push him away. One last act of defiance before the end, but all she managed was a weak scrabbling at the stallion’s chest. A poignant footnote to end the reign of the Dark Queen of the Changelings.
But then, Chrysalis felt it—tendrils of power beginning to suffuse her form. Beads of energy trickled along those tendrils, energising her.
Focus returned to her, and she took a deep, shuddering breath. Her entire form shook. She had been so close to the precipice of total failure.
“Cripes, Princess. If I had of known yer were so weak, I wouldn’t have asked,” Evergreen was saying, sounding worried.
Chrysalis tried to rebuke him, to prey on his insecurities, but her body still wasn’t under her complete control.
Chrysalis had never been this weak before. She didn’t understand her limits. Then and there, she decided that she would not be using her magic at all. She couldn’t afford another episode like like this. She couldn’t count on Evergreen providing her enough energy when she was so close to death.
“Princess? Yer okay?” the pony asked, nudging her once with his nose.
“G-get your f-filthy h-hooves off me,” Chrysalis rasped weakly.
Evergreen gave a hearty laugh, and Chrysalis felt the bond between them strengthen and increase the flow of energy to her side of their link. “Yer back, alright,”
he said, as he gently laid her down and stepped away, picking up the blanket and laying it over her form gently. As he moved away from her, heading towards the cauldron, he said, “I’ll get yer bath ready, ma’am. I’ll not ask yer to use yer magic again. Thank yer.”
In the back of her mind, Chrysalis was amazed at this pony. She had never met a personality quite like his. He seemingly enjoyed her suffering—liked her more as she suffered. And he was thanking her, even though she had given him no acts of kindness? His pride must be non-existent.
Chrysalis watched him with narrowed eyes for a long moment, and it was several seconds before she realised that she was envious. Her pride governed her actions, and this creature had no such limitations. He could accept help from anypony, beg kindness from others.
With a scowl, Chrysalis resolved to study the study oaf. She would learn to act as he did: without pride. It seemed as if it were the only way she could survive long enough to find a more substantial energy source. And that’s all that mattered right now..