The night stayed young over the vast land of Equestria, the full moon in the sky continuing to radiate its gentle light. The outskirts of Equestria stayed silent for the most part, only a portion of the land’s creatures stirring through the darkness. A peculiar glow seemed to emerge from the black of night, radiating bright green under the trees of a large forest beginning to be inhabited by beings hated by everything else. The glow barely made it past the canopy, however, the green light only just beginning to take form in what it would become. New life would sprout from a changeling’s magic, and with it, the beginning of an unstoppable army.
Chrysalis walked along the edge of the clearing near the lake within the forest she saw as a home, her eyes averted to the ground as she walked around aimlessly. Augury had left only the morning earlier, Chrysalis left alone in the forest another time as Augury sought out his target. Loneliness crept around the corner and struck the changeling queen once more as she had watched the only other lifeform that could stand her fly away. Within time, however, Chrysalis knew that he would be back. If he didn’t want anything to happen to Tranquility, that is. Although, even with the assurance that Augury would be back sometime within the next three days, Chrysalis found herself falling back into her docile state of unrest that she thought had been pushed away when she first assimilated Salvation. The thought of having more changelings to talk to within the next few weeks comforted the changeling queen, but only temporarily. Their voices would be like a foal screaming for their mother, always needing to be by their mother every single moment, wishing that she would pay attention to them and them only. Their conversations wouldn’t be the same, their personalities wouldn’t be the same, nothing would be the same as Chrysalis’s first changeling in this new army. The loneliness and constant feeling of isolation would fade away as Chrysalis began to create her children once more, yet the feeling of meaning would almost be lost.
Chrysalis sighed lightly and stopped abruptly as she came to the edge of the clearing near the lake, her eyes staring at the border of grass and sand. “I wonder how long it’s going to take Augury for this one...” Chrysalis said quietly to herself.
“You really need to look at your surroundings once and a while.” A strained voice spoke, Chrysalis jumping slightly. The changeling queen looked up from the sand towards the lake, Augury sitting at the edge of the water. He had his hooves partially buried in the sand in front of him, not paying attention to the water brushing against him every other second.
Chrysalis felt her mouth curve into a small smile subconsciously. “Augury! I- I didn’t notice you there.”
Augury kept his eyes to the lake. “I can tell.”
Chrysalis slowly walked over to the changeling sitting at the edge of the water, the changeling queen lowering herself to the ground next to him. “What are you doing back so early? I thought you were going to take a day off.”
“Then why are you back the night of?”
“I thought it would be for the best.”
“What would be for the best?”
“Leaving Ponyville as soon as I could.”
Augury swallowed nervously. “I... I needed to ask you something.”
“Something troubling you, Augury? You seem less talkative than usual.”
Augury stayed quiet for a second, staring down at the sand in front of him with his hooves partially dug into the shore. “My hooves. There’s... there’s something wrong. I... I don’t know what’s happening.”
“Well, what is it?”
“There are... dents in them. Small... dents on each side, each one opposite from the other. I’m worried. I don’t know what they are. I saw them before, when I was in my house, but they’ve grown since then and have gotten deeper.”
“Dents? Augury, I’m surprised. With your attitude towards changelings, I would’ve expected this later on down the road.”
“What’s happening to me? What’s wrong with me? How do you know what this is? What did you do to me!?” Augury’s voice grew with anger every sentence, pushing himself off of the ground slightly with his front hooves and turning his head to look at the changeling queen next to him. Chrysalis moved her glance to Augury’s hooves. As the troubled changeling had said, small dents dotted themselves on his hooves, another dent on the opposite side of each one.
“Oh... Augury.” Chrysalis said, closing her eyes and laughing lightly. Augury looked down at his hooves and quickly lowered himself to the sand, covering his hooves once more.
Chrysalis opened her eyes and looked at the changeling next to her, Augury’s head turned to the water and his face slightly red. “I didn’t do anything to cause this, Augury, this is you finally adjusting to your changeling self. It was only a matter of time, really. Something happen on one of your missions?” Chrysalis asked.
Augury hesitated to speak. “I don’t... I don’t think so-” Augury cut himself off as something dug into his mind. Applejack’s burnt coat and her spiked mane flashed quickly in Augury’s vision, Augury feeling an overwhelming sensation wash over him. The sudden impulse of violence, the feeling of wanting to hurt Applejack... the pleasure he had gotten from it. This was not Augury, but another force within the conflicted changeling, slowly trying to break itself free from the grasp that Augury had on it. Augury recognized this sensation before, when Chrysalis had first made him put that assimilation gas into Rarity’s cocoon. Even if that was his initial feelings before the changeling within him took over, the outburst of hatred burning within his eyes was not who Augury wanted to be, let alone, be controlled by.
Augury stared across the lake with a partially horrified expression wiped across his face, his breathing becoming intense and coarse. “That... that wasn’t me. I would never do that... would I?”
“What?” Chrysalis asked, leaning forward to get herself in Augury’s line of sight.
“The orange mare, Applejack, Spirit of Honesty. Did I do that to her?”
“Augury, what!? What are you rambling on about!?”
Augury turned his head to Chrysalis, staring into her aggravated eyes blankly with the same horrified expression. The changeling queen only stared at him back as if she were scolding him, waiting for an answer to her question.
The expression on Augury’s face quickly turned form horror to anger, Chrysalis backing her head away slightly. “This is all your fault!” Augury shouted as he stood up. “I never would have been through this if it weren’t for YOU!” Chrysalis flew backwards as Augury kicked off of the ground, both of the changelings soaring from the edge of the lake onto the surface of the water.
Chrysalis kicked Augury away from her, Augury stumbling through the air and stabilizing to face Chrysalis as she regained her composure as well. “Augury, what are you doing!?” Chrysalis yelled. “Might I remind you about Tranquility? This isn’t-!” The changeling queen stopped short of her next sentence as she noticed the dark blue fiery aura around Augury’s eyes, the enrage changeling out in front of Chrysalis staring at her with wide and fierce eyes. The two changelings stayed silent for a second, the water beneath them rippling in conflicting circles as their wings fluttered.
Chrysalis positioned herself in the air into an offensive position, clenching her teeth together ferociously. “Augury, contain yourself. I don’t want to rid my army of you just yet, I still need you. Calm down and let’s talk about this.”
“There is nothing we need to talk about!” Augury snapped. “Your efforts to raise your army again were for naught. Your life ends here, Chrysalis!”
Chrysalis growled and charged forward at the changeling floating out in front of her, Augury doing the same. The two changelings clashed their horns as they came close, Chrysalis squinting her eyes as the fiery aura around Augury’s eyes came close. Chrysalis jerked her head off to the side, Augury losing his balance in the air as Chrysalis’s horn dragged his horn along with it. As he came to a stop with half of a turn in the air, Augury kicked his legs out behind him. Chrysalis lifted her hoof up to block the sudden attack, but only found her own hoof snap back into her face, the changeling queen floating backwards a few feet over the water before she came to a stop. Augury whipped himself around as fast as he could, but carried something in his hoof as a small surprise for the changeling queen as he turned around completely. With the curve of his turn, Augury brought his right hoof up like an uppercut, the dark blue fiery aura around his hoof arcing vertically and dashing ahead like a continuos slash of a sword. The bottom of the vertical arc of dark blue magic dug deep into the lake, the water within an inch of Augury’s attack parting and evaporating, the water around it quickly replacing the missing portion of the lake.
Chrysalis tilted her head forward and a smooth bright green shield appeared in front of her, the dark blue slash of magic colliding with the shield. The dark blue slash burst upon impact with Chrysalis’s attempt of a block, the bright green shield in front of the changeling queen bursting vibrantly along with Augury’s attack. Chrysalis floated backwards along the surface of the water even further, stabilizing herself as fast as she could. The changeling queen looked up from the water at Augury, her eyes widening immensely. Augury charged through the air as fast as he could, heading directly for Chrysalis. The same aura around his eyes surrounded the tips of his hooves, Augury holding his hooves behind him with his legs straight. Chrysalis quickly set a small spell on her hooves, the effect of Augury’s hooves lighting onto Chrysalis’s with a bright green hue. Chrysalis held her hooves up in front of her and braced for the collision between the two changeling’s magic. Augury let out a frustrated yell as he came close to Chrysalis, quickly putting his hooves up in front of him. Two large waves of bright green and dark blue magic pulsed from the sudden impact of two magic spells, Chrysalis tilting her head away from the burst of light. As the tow waves of magic disappeared from their proximity, Chrysalis and Augury continued to push against each other’s hooves forcefully, sparks of bright green and dark blue magic flinging randomly from their magic conflicting.
Augury leaned his head forward in between Chrysalis and his hooves, a large grin spread across his face. “Having trouble, my ‘liege’!?” Augury shouted, the two other voices coming back into Augury’s own voice.
Chrysalis winced slightly and pushed harder against Augury’s hooves. “Augury, contain yourself this instant!” Chrysalis yelled.
“What’s the matter? Not having enough fun!?”
Chrysalis yelled in anger and pushed against Augury’s hooves as hard as she could. The sparks flinging from each Chrysalis’s and Augury’s hooves quickly ignited into a bright green fireball around each hoof, bursting inward and engulfing Augury’s head for a split second. As the fires around Augury’s face cleared, Chrysalis took her chance at ending their fight. With a small maneuver of her wings, Chrysalis sent herself into a forceful front flip, stretching out her right hind leg. Chrysalis’s outstretched leg arced downwards into Augury’s head, Augury letting out a loud grunt as Chrysalis’s leg struck down on him. Augury flung down into the water of the lake as Chrysalis continued the swing of her leg, a large splash of water coming from Augury’s impact. The dark blue light of Augury’s fiery eyes disappeared into the depths of the lake, the changeling queen acting as fast as she could to bring him back up.
Chrysalis’s right hoof ignited with a bright green aura and she punched downwards toward the water, the aura around her hoof separating and bolting down into the lake. After waiting a few seconds, Chrysalis spiked her right hoof upwards, and the sound of a large and muffled explosion bursting crashed within the lowest point of the lake. Augury soon emerged out of the water, an immense fountain of the lake’s water following him upwards into the air above the forest. As Augury peaked in the air and began to fall, Chrysalis ignited her hoof with a green aura again and punched out in front of her. The timing just perfect, the quick fiery spike of magic coming off of Chrysalis’s hoof bursted into the falling Augury, sending him flying off to the clearing in which the two changelings had begun their quarrel from. Chrysalis watched as Augury skid across the water, smacked against the sand of the lake’s shore, and tumbled into the middle of the clearing next to the lake.
Chrysalis let out a small puff of air and made her away across the surface of the lake slowly, hoping to herself that she hadn’t have gone too far with her last few actions. The changeling queen set down on the edge of the clearing and quickly walked over to Augury, his back turned to her as he laid on his side. From what she could see, the aura around Augury’s eyes had disappeared, and from what she could hear, the two voices that had accompanied his disappeared from Augury’s breathing. Chrysalis sighed and turned Augury onto his back, the beaten changeling on the ground staring at her weakly.
Augury coughed lightly, a bit of blood seeping from his mouth. “Getting a little carried away, huh?” Augury joked weakly.
Chrysalis chuckled quietly. “Are you aware of your actions when that happens?”
“When what happens?”
“You know what I mean.”
“Oh. Yeah, I’m aware. Why?”
“Then you should know exactly why I did what I did. Do you think you’re going to be able to contain that little beast inside of you from now on?”
“I can try.”
Chrysalis lifted her hoof above Augury’s head. “I said-!”
“Yes, yes! Yes, I can. Not the neck, please.”
“Good.” Chrysalis tapped Augury on the cheek lightly. “You’re a good fighter, Augury. Just not good enough. You’re going to have to work on that.”
Augury laughed weakly as he rolled onto his stomach. “I’m sure I can manage myself in a fight.”
Augury cleared his throat and he stood up onto his hooves, brushing off his coat. “So... I’m not going to have any punishments for that am I?”
“As long as you don’t go on any more violent impulses, then I can let this slide because you barely laid a scratch on me. I need you for the army, Augury, no matter how much you don’t want that to be.”
“Thank you. It was hard to control my actions.”
Chrysalis smirked and began to change the subject. “So, Augury, where is the mare that you brought back this time? Which one was it?”
“Applejack, Spirit of Honesty. I put her in her cocoon already.”
“Ah. Now, would you mind telling me what you did to her? You were rambling on about something before you decided to attack me.”
“Uh... back in Ponyville, I let my changeling instincts get ahold of me, and well, I went a little far with my capturing the mare.”
“What did you do? Is she alright?”
“Yeah, she’s fine. From what I can recall, I kept her held against a zap-apple tree for longer than it would have shocked her normally.”
“You don’t know what those are?”
“No, and why would it shock her?”
Augury sighed. “It was zap-apple season in Ponyville. The trees must have only just been blooming their zap-apples. Being the weird magic trees they are, if you try and buck the zap-apples before they're ready, well, they zap you.”
“Mhmm, I see. You are sure that what you did won’t have any long term effects on the her?”
“And if it does?”
“It won’t, trust me. I may have held her there longer, but not long enough to hurt her seriously. She’ll be fine in her cocoon.”
“Oh, and Chrysalis?”
“I don’t know if this is some sort of personal changeling thing, and don’t take this the wrong way if it is, but what in Equestria were those green glowing sacs of goo next to the clearing?”
Chrysalis giggled lightly and walked over to Augury, putting a hoof around him. “Let me show you.” The two changelings disappeared from the clearing they stood in, reappearing in the clearing further off into the forest. They stood at the edge of the clearing, facing off into the forest beyond it. Past the first line of trees that Augury had decimated, four small bubbles that radiated with a green light sat in the surface of the ground. Each of the four bubbles were filled with a seemingly slimy green substance, and inside of the green goo, floated a small speck shaped like a bean.
“These?” Chrysalis asked, taking her hoof off of Augury.
“Yeah. What are these?” Augury said as he walked over to one of the bubbles, poking it gently.
“Your brothers and sisters, Augury. Metaphorically, that is. Don’t you recognize them?”
Augury looked up from the green bubble over to Chrysalis confusedly. “What are you talking about? My ‘brothers and sisters’?”
“Changelings. Natural born changelings, born from my magic and my genes. They are the pure changelings, the changelings that made up almost all of my last army. They may be a little more... primitive than the changelings that are assimilated, but they still get the job done.”
Augury turned his head back down to the bubble in front of him. “This is how a changeling is born? Growing up inside of a small bubble filled with glowing green goo?”
“As weird as it may seem to you, this is how changelings are born. Well, one way.”
“Don’t make me go into this.”
“Alright, alright. When do you think these changelings will be at full maturity?”
“Depends on the conditions. In this forest, about one to two weeks.”
“Why would the conditions matter?”
“Security, growth, a bunch of factors that I don’t want to explain right now, okay?”
“What ever you say.” Augury lifted his hoof up to poke the bubble in front of him again, but quickly set his hoof out of the way as he saw the dents within it. “Chrysalis, did the other changelings that you assimilated have this problem? The dents?”
Chrysalis began to walk back out into the clearing, Augury quickly following after her. “All assimilated changelings have this happen eventually, Augury. Some sooner than others. Think about it as a... cutie mark, as you ponies would say. Just a more forceful and destructive one.”
Augury and Chrysalis came to a stop in front of the six cocoons in which the Spirits of Harmony would take their places. “That doesn’t exactly sound like an accomplishment with your life. More of a turning point that you can’t come back from.”
“You’ll have to learn to deal with them, Augury. If you’re stubborn enough, maybe they’ll begin to fill back in. Though, that may hurt a little.”
“How would you know?”
“You act like I didn’t pay attention to my previous children and subjects. I’ve learned enough from them to know what you’re going through. You’re just going to have to tough it out and fight as hard as you can, it looks like.”
Augury sighed and turned his head to the six cocoons hanging from the trees to his left. Four of them were already inhabited by the targets that Augury had taken, Applejack hanging in the third to last cocoon from the right, Augury already completed the process of setting the assimilation process. Throughout the four ponies, Rarity seemed to be showing the most progress out of all of them with the assimilation process. The white unicorn’s coat had been slightly darkened to a light grey, and behind her partially closed eyelids, a light blue shade appeared to leak onto her eyes. Rarity’s horn had been smoothed only slightly, a small curve beginning to take effect on her horn as well. Her purple mane had deviated from her once smooth mane almost completely, the dark purple mane that hung from her head beginning to take a silky texture. Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie only showed minors signs of the assimilation process, the color in their coats beginning to fade and small bumps on their foreheads starting to form horns.
“When do you think Rarity is going to be... ready?” Augury asked, lifting a hoof up to Rarity’s cocoon and tapping it lightly.
Chrysalis leaned to the side to peer inside of Rarity’s cocoon. “Seeing how much of the gas has gone, it would seem that she’s turning at a much faster rate than I expected. She looks to be almost half way done with the process.” Chrysalis said.
“Half way? I thought you said it could take from a year to a month. It's been three days!”
“I realize that, and that’s what intrigues me. The changeling side of your magic seems to be developing very quickly. Tell me, Augury, what form have you been taking during your missions in Ponyville?”
“The form of a pale pink mare. Black mane, violet eyes, cutie mark related to medicine and health. Why?”
“Is this form modeled after anyone that you knew before?”
“Uh... I guess I never realized it, but now that I think about it, the form I’ve been taking resembles my old foalsitter.”
“When did you last see your foalsitter?”
“Back in Canterlot, when I was around three or four. Why does this matter?”
“Because the amount of experience or knowledge of changeling magic would require a lot of energy to recall a form that has been in your memory for that long. Much more for you to handle. Your changeling magic experience seems to have been quite developed since I told you to practice. Either that, or Tranquility’s love for you is even stronger than I thought.”
Augury turned his head away from the six cocoons over to Tranquility’s across the clearing, a smirk curving on his face. “Well, we have been friends ever since we were only three years old...”
Chrysalis rubbed her chin. “I see. Maybe you have developed in your changeling abilities, or maybe you’re just getting your power from Tranquility. Either way, I like it. On another note, Augury, you only have two more targets to capture. I’d like to see another one of the mares in one of these cocoons within the next three days.”
Augury quickly snapped his eyes back to Chrysalis. “What? Starting now?”
“Seeing how you have gotten all of these four mares under the three day limit, I think you can handle a bit of a shorter time to capture the next mare if you want some sleep tonight.”
Augury followed Chrysalis with his eyes as she began to walk off into the forest. “Wha- but what about security? I’m going to have to get past security, you realize! There’s no doubt that Ponyville is going to be more on alert!”
Chrysalis’s voice was faint from within the forest she slowly walked off into. “Learn to get around security as best as you can! You’re going to have to learn how to get past guards better later, anyways!”
“But- I- Chrysalis!” Augury’s pleads were unheard from the changeling queen, Chrysalis completely out of sight in the darkness of the forest. Augury sighed and walked into the middle of the clearing.
“Damn it.” Augury cursed under his breath as he laid down on the grass. “Looks like I’m going to have to get up even earlier tomorrow. That’s gonna be a pain in the flank.” Augury rubbed his eyes as he felt the fatigue of tiredness slowly paint itself over his eyelids. The changeling in the middle of the clearing let his head rest limply on his folded forelegs, slowly lulling himself to sleep as he muttered to himself.
“Happiness, time spent with the ones you love. Push aside the sadness... and stare into... the sky above... reflect on your past... the memories... nothing... fear...”