by Nom deCheval
A sickly green weave of silk and sticky goo towered along the walls of the chasm. Clinging to the walls and stretching to connect to the random spires of stone, it stood as an imposing, frightful symbol of its people and their terrifying ruler. The royal hive of their dread queen.
And even from far outside, the screams of that same queen echoed against the cold stone walls.
A sweep of her foreleg sent twisted glassware, paper, and random items scattering off of a dark table. Immediately afterwards, that same table was flipped effortlessly into the air.
“RAAAAAARRGGH!” Chrysalis screamed in frustration. No words were fitting for the vitriol that she still felt. Her royal chambers, dark and twisted all the time, were disturbing right now, even to her own kind. For the past three days, since her defeat and expulsion from Canterlot, the constant tantrum of this room brought no solace. Her servants had come and quickly gone, trying to bring her captured ponies to feed upon, but she took none; anger was her only sustenance.
Stepping onto the balcony that overlooked her lands, the queen surveyed her rule. Changelings flew in and out of the royal hive, living their lives and performing their duties as if nothing had changed. Hundreds of smaller hives lined the walls of the chasm, each housing hundreds--if not more--of her subjects. Thousands of lives depending on her and obeying her every command.
“I had it all.” Her hollow, buzzing voice stated. “It was the perfect day. The one I had dreamed of since I was a child. Everything was mine. Canterlot was overrun. Their precious Celestia defeated and captured. How? HOW DID THEY DEFEAT ME?!”
Her horn spewed a bilious green energy, striking a column of stone and raining debris down upon the unsuspecting. Some were pebbles bouncing harmlessly to the ground, while others were boulders smashing and destroying everything along the way.
The destruction, normally a source of joy for the changeling queen, had a different reaction. She bared her fangs, in what should have been a smile, but this was without mirth. She turned back towards her chambers and started to step inside once more.
Chrysalis never made it all the way inside. The shadow growing in front of her caused her to turn and look around. A sphere descended towards her chamber, glowing with an intensity that rivaled the sun itself. Closing one eye, the queen turned her head slightly off to the side, avoiding the blinding glare as the globe descended towards where she stood. The changeling horde gave a wide berth as it landed on the balcony atop their hive.
“I can answer your question if you like.” A calm voice said.
The light faded, seemingly absorbed into the body of the majestic figure standing in its place. Princess Celestia stepped forward, revealing herself to all who watched.
“Queen Chrysalis.” She said, a slight nod of her head in acknowledgement accompanying the words, her voice a picture of calm.
“How DARE you?!” The changeling spat. “You come to my home--to my royal chambers--at a time like this?!”
“It seemed like the perfect time to me.” Celestia said. “After all, I wanted to discuss the terms of your surrender. Ruler to ruler.”
A pulse was visible in the queen’s huge, black eyes. “My...surrender?...” Her voice was a clear reflection of her past three days.
“Yes. Since you were defeated, it is natural to want to make sure that we agree on what is going to happen. Conditions for your continued rule.”
“My...rule?...” The insectoid pony could only repeat those words, her teeth grinding.
Slowly, the changeling queen’s lip twitched. It turned itself upwards slightly, curling upwards gradually, to finally become a full smile--and then open laughter.
“Bwah-ha-ha-ha-hah! You...you are serious, aren’t you? This is priceless.”
Celestia stared straight at the laughing mare, her expression seemingly carved in stone.
“You are amusing me, PRINCESS. But then, a QUEEN does enjoy the entertainment of fools from time to time.” Chrysalis mocked.
“I’ve never been one too focused on titles.” Celestia’s voice didn’t waver. “Everypony knows that I rule Equestria. That is enough.”
“Yes. Yes, that is true.” An oddly-holed hoof moved up to scratch her narrow jaw. “And here you are, all alone.”
“It does seem so, yes. Again, I thought it best to talk about this matter ruler to ruler. Matriarch to matriarch.”
“You know that we are not going to surrender.” Chrysalis said.
“You have no choice. This is simply a matter of working things out.” Celestia’s chest rose and fell as she took in a full breath. “And actually, I blame myself for all of this. This entire problem.”
“You do?” The queen raised an eyebrow.
“I do. You see, I knew that your kind were coming into Equestria and feeding on my subjects. But I was mistaken about what was happening. I thought they only assumed the form of a loved one, took some sustenance and left. Not pleasant, but not something warranting violent action or recourse. Emotionally draining, but no pony was in danger. I was wrong, wasn’t I?”
A smolder burned under Celestia’s voice. “The invasion of Canterlot revealed the truth. How were you and your kind going to assume the forms of loved ones and feed off of them if they were captured and tormented? Without the power of surprise and deceit, your changelings couldn’t feed on love quite so easily, could they? No. No, there was something else. Another way to sustain themselves. And the first body brought to me told me the truth.” The alicorn held her place, her voice, and her demeanor. “Those fangs aren’t for show, are they? You actually ingest life force as well, don’t you? Draining it from the living through wounds--through blood. If you can’t get love, you’ll take life.”
“I didn’t know until after your attack that your kind were killing or kidnapping ponies.” The sun goddess turned to look out at the swarming changelings gathering outside the royal hive by the hundreds. “I feel deep shame over that.”
The brief silence was broken by the mocking laughter emanating from the changeling queen, causing Celestia to turn around, finding her changeling counterpart cantering about on the balcony.
“That is where we differ, Celestia. Shame is not something that a ruler feels. Your subjects whimper and whine exactly like their princess. They see you standing on your throne believing you strong, but you are weak in every way, aren’t you? You simply rule your subjects. I am a true queen to mine. I control what they do. Their lives are mine to give or take. Everyone of them would gladly sacrifice themselves for me.”
“Really?” The white alicorn’s voice leveled off. “Well, I am a bit older than you, I think, so let me educate you on some simple truths.” Though their heights were equal, Celestia seemed to rise up to look into Chrysalis’ eyes. “You think that control equals power. True power is something far more wonderful, and something you will cannot have. You were defeated by something that you don’t--and never will--understand: pure love.
“You feed upon it, but you don’t feel it, do you? You have thousands of subjects, and if they loved you at all, you wouldn’t need Equestria or the ponies that live there. You cannot feed off each other because you don’t feel. That’s why you don’t understand how you were driven from MY home. The pure love that Shining Armor and Cadence shared was something so alien to you that even your own vampiric power couldn’t handle it. It was love that defeated you, Chrysalis.”
The black queen smiled, pushing her face towards the white Princess. “You seem so wise, Celestia, knowing all about what defeated me. Yet, you came here alone. Unguarded. Is that so wise?”
“It does appear that way, yes.” Celestia answered calmly.
“Well, don’t color me ungrateful. Having you as a hostage will be wonderful leverage to once more gain control of Equestria so that my horde can feast themselves fat on the corpses of those that you rule.”
“That isn’t going to happen.” Beneath the calm of the alicorn’s voice, a fire was rising.
“Isn’t it? I’ve already beaten you once, and that was in your own castle. You are standing in my home, princess, surrounded by thousands of my faithful drones. This is an already established outcome.”
Celestia took a deep breath. “So, are you willing to discuss the terms of your surrender?”
Laughter erupted once again in the room. “I will not surrender to the likes of you! I will crush you and return to Canterlot with your chained body on the front of my carriage!”
Celestia’s smile was not one of joy. “I came here wanting peace. Trying to create a way for our people to co-exist alongside each other.” She leaned in and lowered her voice so that only Chrysalis could hear her. “But I was actually hoping that you would say something like that.”
Rage gripped the changeling queen once again, and a beam of green power shot from her horn, striking the sun goddess squarely and sending her sprawling into--and through--the railing on the balcony, tumbling over the side and falling.
An air of expectation accompanied the black mare as she walked to the destruction on her balcony, prepared to see the fallen body of her foe damaged and broken far below. That wasn’t the case.
Hovering several feet below the broken rail, her mighty wings beating steadily to keep her aloft, was the princess of Equestria, her face painted with determination. “I decided to give you one free shot, since it is your kingdom.” She said. “Now it’s my turn.”
The princess' horn became a fragment of the sun, glowing with brilliance too intense to look at directly. The footing beneath Chrysalis crumbled as a ray of intense power launched out. The odd structural materials broke apart, sending fragments of varying sizes ground-ward. The queen’s insect-like wings rapidly beat as the world spun and twisted to her perceptions.
The horizon leveled as instinct kicked in, but a brilliant flash of bright power pressed the advantage against her. Carapace met the hardened pulp of the hive, and Chrysalis felt the impact shudder through her body. Familiarity provides opportunity, however, and green secretions seeped over the queen’s feet, giving her a foundation for the moment. She scanned the skies for her enemy.
The shadow above was falling out of the sky. The Equestrian would be on top of the changeling in moments, perhaps to deliver the final blow. The queen sent out green energy to grasp one of the larger chunks of her own balcony, launching it to intercept the descending princess.
Mass and momentum met in mid-air, with the sun goddess losing the challenge. The alicorn went sideways and then downwards, spiraling towards the ground. Chrysalis’ feet slipped free of the hive, confident that she would soon catch and finish her pale enemy. She didn't.
Hinderance became advantage as Celestia turned into her descent, her motion becoming a blur as the ground approached. Pulling out before hitting the ground, a loop righted her, but faster than her foe could follow. A dozen tendrils of light flashed out, blazing through the stale air of the chasm. The light was everywhere around Chrysalis, her eyes finally bringing into focus the shape of glowing bars connected on all sides and both above and below, trapping her.
“Minions! To me!” The dark queen called out, and dozens of drones flew to her at once, throwing themselves against the cage. Like moths on a flame, the smaller flying changelings burst apart in fire, screaming as they fell. The queen smiled, seeing the light bars flicker. A sphere of green detonated from the powerful mare at its core, shattering the ensnaring magic. It was enough of a delay to change the scope of the fight, as Celestia closed upon her opponent.
“You use your people, Chrysalis. You don’t care for them.” The sun goddess accused, her horn scraping against the malformed spire on the changeling queen’s forehead.
White and green magic rained down, casting a bright glow of sickness over the area. Changelings turned away, as watching the display became too painful, even as their queen spoke. “Because they are mine to use, princess. It’s something you will never understand.”
One horn slipped from the other, muzzles brushed each other for a moment in surprise as the queen moved towards her goal. With a smooth, practiced motion, dark fangs sunk into the white alicorn’s flesh.
Celestia screamed. More than just blood seeped from the wound, and her time to act was slipping away with every drop.
A muffled laugh came from Chrysalis as she felt her enemy’s strength bleeding into her own.
“You...will not...win!” Celestia forced out. Her horn became a beacon of power, calling to the source of her power above. Falling from the heavens themselves, a spire of pure sunlight came down, striking on top of the pair.
The chasm rippled. Drones flew against their own power, overcome by something greater than themselves. By the time the light faded, only one figure was still standing.
“It is over.” Celestia leaned down, placing her horn at Chrysalis’ throat. “You will now LISTEN to the terms of your surrender.”
“...I...will...not...” The queen began, only to feel the horn of the sun goddess push against her flesh, it’s tip glowing with power.
“You WILL!” The alicorn said. “This is no longer a discussion.”
The Equestrian’s eyes told the tale of this battle. Chrysalis’ eyes shifted down and away from the victor’s.
“Good.” Celestia said. “You and your changelings will no longer be allowed into Equestria. Any violation of that law will lead to immediate harsh repercussions. Or, to put it more simply, if you or any of yours come back into my homeland, I will be back. And if I come back...”
A thin line of blood appeared on the queen’s neck at the point where the horn met flesh. “I. WILL. END. YOU.”
She pulled back and looked down at the fallen queen. “Am I clear, Chrysalis?”
The changeling’s hoof came up to the wound on her throat. Her head moved in agreement, even though her words were still defiant. “I beat you once. I can do it again.”
“You beat me because Shining Armor’s love is that pure. That true. And you can never have that. I saw your eyes when our first battle began. You thought you were going to lose. You knew my power then, and you understand that power now.” Celestia looked at the army of drones surrounding them. “All of these subjects, and none of them care for you at all. You rule out of fear, Chrysalis.” She looked back at the queen. “I rule out of love. I would never let my subjects come to harm. They love me, and the very least I can do is hope to love them half as much in return.”
“You won’t get out of here alive. Do you really think my minions won’t take you down?” The defeated mare spat.
Celestia was bleeding, bruised, and battered. The scars of the violent battle covered her flesh, but they didn’t overcome her regal demeanor. Chrysalis saw a weakened foe, ready to be destroyed. Every other creature in the chasm saw the truth.
“How can you think that they won’t stop you?” The changeling queen asked with hatred.
Celestia shook her head. “The real question is: how can you think that they will?” She took four steps and then turned back one last time. “I have to go now. Luna and the army are waiting for me. You see, I did not come here totally alone. It took all of my charm to keep my sister and a legion of troops from marching in here. They are waiting right outside this chasm, ready to bury this place if I don’t return soon. Luna is especially upset, seeing as how you and yours were able to keep what was happening in Canterlot a secret from her. She felt guilt over not being there to help when she was most needed. She also understood why I needed to come in here alone.
“I wanted to prove to you that I didn’t need them. That I can indeed protect my subjects.” Fire burned in the goddess’ eyes. “Pray you don’t see me again, Chrysalis.”
As the sun goddess walked, the drones parted, giving her a wide berth. With a single beat of her wings, she took flight, rising into the sky. The nimbus of light returned, glowing like a small sun as she left the ground. Soon, there was nothing more than a speck on the horizon.
Chrysalis watched, her teeth gnashing and her eyes afire. Slowly, she rose to her hooves, stumbling. Three drone came over to catch her, only to fall away with a swift swat of her hoof. They scurried away.
Celestia’s words ran through her head. Her own subjects feared her. If they loved her she would have true power. A scowl grew on her lips. The words of the Equestrian continued to work through, driving into her again and again. A light extinguished the fire inside, her eyes widened and her lips curled upwards, first into a sneer and eventually into a wide smile.
“Why, you are exactly correct, princess. Thank you. Thank you for your wise counsel. It is good to know that you are the most beloved being in all of Equestria. And it is good to know that I was thinking too small.”
Her wings beat, tenuously pulling her into the air, defying the wounds that would keep her down.
“You are the key. They ALL love you, so all I have to do is replace you and their love will feed me until I am the most powerful creature alive. And then I will destroy all that you love, one by one, starting with those pathetic newlyweds and finishing with that meddlesome purple unicorn. And I will make you watch it all.”
Her voice grew, her body rising higher.
“So, thank you, Celestia. If it takes another twenty years I will have my revenge, and you have given me the plan. Your body and the love given to you will be mine--and then, Equestria will fall. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I see another perfect day in my future!”
Laughter echoed long across the walls of the chasm.