Alone once more. Finally.
Evergreen was just in the next room, so the tendrils connecting them remained strong—strong enough for Chrysalis to leech energy from him while she rested in front of the fire.
For the first time, Chrysalis had a look around. A proper look around.
The cottage was sparsely decorated, with a single photo frame of what looked like Evergreen standing with his parents, the photo itself yellowed with age. The shelves were covered in various bric-a-brac, from old flowers to tomes on alchemical ingredients and how and where to find them, as well as glass phials, beakers, and even a bunsen burner.
A single bed rested against one wall, with a book sitting atop it. The blanket blanket that would have been atop it was now wrapped around Chrysalis’ shoulders to help ward off the ever-present cold.
But Chrysalis’ eyes kept coming back to the glass beakers and vials.
The strange thing was, Evergreen didn’t strike Chrysalis as an alchemist. Sure, he had a cauldron and various alchemical ingredients, but his mannerisms and his godawful way of speaking didn’t exactly lend him the air of an intellectual.
Pondering this, Chrysalis was about to levitate a log into the fire, when she thought better of it, and carefully nudged it in with a hoof instead. Until her magic stabilised and she was stronger, she couldn’t risk using any magic.
Chrysalis rose to her hooves and moved to the window, peering outside. It was past sunrise now and the morning dew was starting to dissipate. It was still early though. Not warm enough for a trek outside just yet, but it was on its way there. There was no trace of last night's violent storm, except for the muddy ground and the drag marks from where she was so unceremoniously rescued by that lumbering oaf of a pony--the pony on whom she now depended.
Chrysalis cast her attention again towards the things that very pony owned.
Slipping over to the bed, Chrysalis picked up the heavy book resting on it. It was bound in faux leather, and was untitled. As Chrysalis eased the cover open, a strange silver object tumbled out onto the bed.
Chrysalis picked the object up, investigating it. She knew what it was; it was a spring-loaded hoof pen.
The idea was that the metal brace fitted over a hoof. As it was pressed downwards, the spring holding the tube over the charcoal stick would be pushed down until the charcoal tip was against the paper, and then all you had to do was write. They were built specifically for earth ponies and pegasi, seeing as unicorns and alicorns used their magic to write.
Chrysalis frowned for a moment as she slotted the hoofpen back into its place at the front of the book. She hadn’t pegged Evergreen as the kind of pony who could even read, let alone write.
But it seemed as though Evergreen did write. As Chrysalis flicked through the pages of the book, she found several neat, concise sentences on each page, as well as dried, pressed leaves and petals, flowers, weeds, herbs and the like; all with their own notations on their effects, preparation needs, and properties. The writing changed partway through and the plants seemingly changed location as well, as a large page had written on it ‘Everfree Forest’. Everything after that passage was written presumably by Evergreen, and everything before that, a different pony.
Chrysalis tried to piece together the information she was gleaning. He was helping to write an alchemical journal?
And Evergreen wasn’t just writing it all down, he was discovering the effects of the plants. Apparently, a sharp mind hid behind that dumb-as-brick exterior.
Giving a thoughtful hum, Chrysalis closed the book. She moved over to sit in front of the fire again, resting her head on her hooves to rest and garner as much energy as she could from Evergreen, trying to decide his fate.
chrysalis had options. Her magic was unreliable, but she could still just slip away in the night while he was sleeping. Just disappear into the darkness never to be heard from again. She could wipe his memories, but that required magic. Or she could just kill him. She toyed with the idea of torturing him until he died. She had done it before to those who had greatly displeased her. She was a little squeamish when it came to that kind of thing. But locking somepony somewhere with no food or water and letting them die of starvation and exhaustion wouldn’t make her lose too much sleep.
But then... Something in Chrysalis didn’t want to overtly harm the dumb oaf of a pony. After all, he had done nothing against her except being an insufferable hillbilly oaf, that is.
Chrysalis cast her mind back to a time when that would have been enough to earn her wrath, and then turned her thoughts inwards, probing her own feelings. She giggled faintly at the thought that she might be developing a conscience, or morals in her old age.
Instead, Chrysalis again imagined hurting the pony. Making him suffer and scream in pain. There was a time when such thoughts would have touched something deep inside her; it had made her feel alive and powerful to hold someone’s life in her hoof while she fed from their partner’s love. But she felt none of that familiar thrill as she imagined making Evergreen suffer.
Maybe she was getting soft?
Chrysalis shook herself out of her reverie, and snorted a moment.
At the very least, she would make him pay for touching her. She would burn down his cottage, perhaps, while he was out doing whatever it was he did when he left. So long as he wasn’t there at the time, she wouldn’t need to feel guilty over destroying his life. He would live. He just wouldn’t be very happy for a very long time. A fitting punishment.
Chrysalis heard the splashing of water as Evergreen crawled out of the cauldron, and she snorted a moment. “If there is but an inch of you that is not clean, Sir Evergreen, you are going back in.”
“I’m clean, you sodding unicorn!” came the muffled reply. Chrysalis gave a wry grin.
“And under your hooves?” Chrysalis called through the door.
“Yes under my sodding hooves!” came the rebuke, and Chrysalis giggled. She was treating him like a child. She would instill in him a submissive nature that would make her manipulatory magic all the easier. And with her current power levels, any spell she cast would have to be as easy as possible so she didn’t end up dead at the end of it.
The door opened, and Chrysalis’ narrowed her eyes at him, scowling slightly.
Evergreen rolled his eyes and turned in a slow circle, careful to flick his wet tail in her direction and spray her with water droplets as he rotated, before posing sarcastically. “Am ah presentable, Ma’am?”
A long silence stretched out as Chrysalis stared at him, before she sniffed slightly and turned back to the fire. “You are passable.”
“I am pleased that I am an affront to neither your eyes nor your nose, ma’am,” Evergreen said in such a perfectly cultured voice that Chrysalis twisted her head to stare at him, expecting a third pony to be in the room.
“Wot? Yer never heard them fancy ponies talk like that ‘afore?” Evergreen asked with a sly grin.
Chrysalis stared at Evergreen in wonder for several long moments, before blinking and shaking her head. “I... Just... Wow. And here I thought you had no more surprises.”
“I’m full’er surprises,” Evergreen said with a smile, moving over to the bench and picking up a metal kettle. he carried the kettle over to the fireplace and set it on a hook above the fire to boil. “But yer know. I never did quite catch yer name.”
“That is because I never gave it,” Chrysalis said coldly.
“Kinda figured that,” Evergreen said with a slight nod. “So I’m gonna have ta’ be knowin’ yer name now.”
“Why would you need to know my name? It serves no purpose,” chrysalis stalled, trying to think up what name would work best.
“It’s only polite, yer know?” Evergreen asked, raising a brow, before pointing out, “After all, yer know my name.”
“I only know it because you wish me to call you ‘sir’,” Chrysalis stated bluntly in rebuke.
“Yeah. I rather like hearin’ you high folk call me sir. Makes me feel important, see?” Evergreen said with a sly grin, before lifting a hoof to halt her words. “Yer gonna tell me yer name, or I’m gonna drink all this lovely tea by myself and not even offer yer any.”
“Very well,” Chrysalis huffed. “I am... C.”
“...C?” Evergreen asked, perking an ear upwards. “Wot kinda name is that? How do yer spell it?”
“...C?” Chrysalis offered after a moment, feeling her cheeks beginning to flush under Evergreen’s scrutiny. She berated herself for her lapse in confidence. She was a dark queen, not some blushing, unsure unicorn filly!
“That’s it?” Evergreen asked, blinking slowly at her, sounding skeptical. “Just plain ol’ letter C?”
“Double E,” Chrysalis added with a firm nod.
“So... Just C Double-E?” Evergreen pondered, and then shook his head teasingly. “Yer parents musta been illiterate. Were yer born third or something?”
“It is a lovely name!” Chrysalis huffed, drawing herself up into a sitting position and placing a hoof on her chest. “It is tradition in my bloodline to name the most regal of our children Cee.”
“Well Cee. I guess yer earned some tea. Yer musta had all the fillies making fun rhyming yer name in school,” he said with a snide grin.
Chrysalis blinked at that, her ears splaying backwards. She hadn’t had a childhood as such. In general, a changeling’s turbulent early years were mainly spent learning how to pry love from others before the love from their parents tapered off and their supply of energy ran dry.
“Uhm...sure,” Chrysalis said with a slight nod. “They did.”
“Or were yer one of those home-schooled fillies?” Evergreen asked, raising a brow. “Too good for the normal school, eh?”
“You say that like I had a choice in the matter,” Chrysalis snorted in response, seizing on the new lie to make it her own.
“I guess I never looked at it that way ‘afore,” Evergreen said thoughtfully, seeming to mull over the idea as he took the kettle from the hook on the stove and carried it over to the bench.
“Obviously.” Chrysalis scowled at Evergreen as he moved away, then tossed her mane contemptuously and turning back to the fire.
“Well sor-ree yer highness,” Evergreen said with a roll of his eyes, his tone sarcastic. The stallion slipped back into the back room to collect some ingredients together, returning a few moments later, hoof filled with flower petals and herbs. He placed them all in a mortar and pestle, and began to grind them up with firm presses and twists.
“Just call me ‘Cee’,” Chrysalis said with a growl.
“Yer don’t like being called ‘yer highness’?” Evergreen asked, casting a sly grin over his shoulder.
“I don’t like being addressed as royalty in that hillbilly tone of yours!” Chrysalis hissed vehemently.
“Ohhhh, so yer too good for being addressed as yer highness because ah don’t speak like yer do?” Evergreen asked, seemingly genuinely curious, and not at all bitter.
“I didn’t say that.” Chrysalis scowled.
“Oh, but yer did,” Evergreen said with a nod and a triumphant grin. “Caught yer in a lie there, Princess.”
Chrysalis growled at Evergreen once more. He was the most infuriating pony she had ever met. Ever!
“And how come yer a princess anyhows?” Evergreen asked, raising his other brow at her curiously. “Ah mean, s’far as ah knew, the princesses were all alicorns.”
Chrysalis shot Evergreen a glare with enough venom behind it to wilt a flower.. “You cannot fathom that my parents married into the royal line and I am the result of that?”
“Ah guess ah never did, thanks fer clearing that up,” Evergreen said, turning back to grinding up the leaves and herbs without another word.
Chrysalis blinked slowly at Evergreen, disarmed by his lack of rebuke to that. He wasn’t fighting her. He was robbing her of more chances to insult him and to cause him psychological trauma with barbed entendres. She felt misled.
Huffing, Chrysalis turned back to the fire to keep her hooves warm. She just closed her eyes and rested her head on her forelegs, her tail giving an irritated flick back and forth.
Evergreen finished with the kettle, tipping the contents of the mortar and pestle into it. He then placing the lid on it, swilling the contents around and then moving back over to the fireplace to place the kettle back on the hook to allow it to boil once more. He rubbed his hooves together in front of the fire for the moment, peeking at Chrysalis sideways.
“So what is it that yer doing all the way out here, alone?” Evergreen asked.
And there it was. The unavoidable question. Thankfully, Chrysalis had figured out the perfect cover. Keeping her voice carefully neutral, she explained, “Well... My parents arranged for me to marry a prince,”
“Sounds like yer got it made,” Evergreen commented.
“Hardly,” Chrysalis retorted, building on the lie. “I was with him for nary a week when he started... Beating me.”
Evergreen’s eyes flashed with anger and he lifted a hoof to halt her. His tone was dark as he asked, “So... Lemme get this straight. Yer husband-ter-be beat you?”
Chrysalis grinned inwardly at the palpable anger rolling off the woodspony. “Indeed he did... Once.”
“Please tell me yer killed him. Marebeaters are the lowest kinds a’ scum in Equestria,” Evergreen spat.
Oh this was delicious! He was wishing harm on another pony just for the sake of her well being! The swelling in her heart was like what she used to feel when crushing somepony’s love underfoot.
“I did,” Chrysalis replied carefully, keeping her tone neutral.
Evergreen blinked once. “...Oh.”
“As you can guess, the royal guard was none too pleased that I killed a prince... And they hushed the whole incident up. Said he broke his neck out hunting. Of course, by then, I was long gone... Fleeing towards the forest...” Chrysalis trailed off to let Evergreen’s imagination fill in the blanks.
“So the royal guard are chasing yer?” Evergreen asked, staring at her in wonderment.
“Wanted for questions regarding the ultimate fate of my late fiancee,” Chrysalis said in a calm tone.
Evergreen scowled slightly, staring into the fire.
“Well... Yer welcome to stay here long as yer need, Ma’am, I’ll not turn away those who need help. Even if they are a high-class pony who got no sense of gratefulness,” Evergreen said as he took the kettle down from the hook and proceeded to pour a pair of mugs full of the hot liquid.
Chrysalis let the jab at her go by without rebuke. After all, he was telling the truth. She took the offered mug, and paused as Evergreen raised his.
“To yer husband,” Evergreen toasted, raising his mug.
“To my husband,” Chrysalis said with a sly smile, clinking her mug against Evergreen’s own and then taking a sip of her drink.
Honeyed, silk-smooth liquid, both spicy and sweet assaulted Chrysalis’ taste buds, and her eyes widened. She stared for a long moment at the contents of the mug. The liquid within was gold, flecked with slight hints of brown where some kind of herb had made it past the filter, but it was heaven in a cup!
“This... This is...” Chrysalis spluttered.
“Secret family recipe,” Evergreen said with a wry grin.
“But... This is amazing!” Chrysalis said, taking another sip of the drink and giving a low moan as she felt the liquid slipping down her throat. Strictly speaking, she didn’t need sustenance the same way the ponies did... But that didn’t mean that she couldn’t derive pleasure from the act of eating or drinking, as she had all the necessary equipment to process food. She never really hungered, as it were, for ‘real’ food. But she definitely enjoyed eating and drinking, and this liquid was divine.
Evergreen grinned at that and shook his head for a moment, smiling, “Yer know what, Princess? If yer a good girl for the rest of the day, Ah’ll teach yer to brew yer own.”
Chrysalis peered at Evergreen over her mug for a moment, and for some reason, a smile found its way to her mouth. “I’d like that.”