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The Changeling Kingdom, or the 'Motherland' as the species often affectionately referred to it, was located far away from Equestria in the east, crossing plains, deserts and glaciers. It would take weeks worth of travel for any pony using non-magical means to reach the country, but once they did, they would definitely know.
It was a vast, depleted country, characterised by a desolate mountainous landscape which, during its infamously long, vicious winters, was always blanketed by thick layers of snow. The summer was not too pleasant, either; it sometimes got hot enough to kill scores off by heatstroke. The kingdom, especially as a mostly rural one, had its pluses like large forests and seas, but for the most part, it was the same greyed nightmare wherever you went. So as you can imagine, they did not do well in the tourism industry.
It was an established fact that the Changeling Kingdom was by no means the most modernised or wealthiest nation, even before the current monarch. Only 10% of the population lived in towns and cities, mostly in the capital; one quarter of larvae died before their first birthday and most adult Changelings were too poor to own their own bed, to name but a few problems. Most worryingly to add to all this, the majority of the population were peasants, having to work on the land but few being able to buy it, and seemed to be forever in debt and in danger of starvation. There were projects by the previous monarch for industrialization, with some success, but by now, the current monarch had long since abandoned them, leaving the Changeling Kingdom backward with few roads and limited industrialization, far behind most other countries in the world.
Yet would you believe that these problems and many more, although long-established, were becoming exacerbated? It was hard to believe, but under the reign of the current Queen, things were actually getting worse for the Changeling populace. The League of Nations had already issued several warnings of a possible future creaturtarian crisis. Though, you would never be able to convince her of this.
The capital city, its name also lost in translation, buzzed the most with life. Changelings flew in and out of the towering grey buildings of the city, living their lives and performing their duties as they did every other day. What stood out most was one of the kingdom's proudest landmark: a tall, imposing citadel making up the entire north of the city, containing the extravagant and relatively new palace that was the official residence of the royal family, having disposed of an older palace, which itself was a replacement of an old royal hive palace, a relic of ancient ways and practices long abandoned and best forgotten by modern Changeling society.
In the dead of winter, deep within the cavernous structure of the palace, in her dark and sickly green royal chambers, the Queen of the Changelings, Chrysalis of the House of Roachanov, stood up straight in the middle of the room, dressed in a flowing black silk and gold trimmed robe, eyes closed and face calm. She held a long, black violin up to her chin, raised the bow and brought it down against the strings. The chilling tune echoed up and down the chambers and the palace as a whole, but the only Changeling besides herself who served as its audience was sitting across from her at a round polished table.
This Changeling was a late middle-aged male sporting a long, wiry cerulean beard that reached down to his belly. He wore a simple black robe befitting a monk in contrast to the gold pendant that dangled from around his neck. In all honesty, he stood out from the whole like a sore thumb. On the table was a tall, green bottle, plucked fresh from the cellars and a plate of beautifully decorated cakes. With an unsteady hoof, he poured himself a full glass of the sparkling green vodka and downed the whole thing in one gulp, spilling some on his beard and shivered slightly. His head gently swayed to the song being played with flawless execution by his monarch.
She suddenly stopped, scratching on a note and her eyes opened. Her calm expression dropped and she lowered her violin.
"Weevil..." she spoke slowly, catching the attention of her number one adviser. "Why am I not loved?"
Weevil swivelled in his seat to face her and rested one foreleg on his table and said, his voice somewhat unfocused, "'Loved', Your Majesty? Of course you are beloved. Why would you ever think otherwise? Your people worship you."
"Doesn't feel like it. Actually... it hasn't felt like that in a long time."
Several years had passed since the failed siege on Canterlot. It was supposed to be her proudest achievement, but it turned into her most humiliating failure. With that blast of pure, concentrated love sending her flying out of the city, her slow, agonizing fall from grace began. She took a step back from the public eye, confining herself to her palace, and taking less initiative and relying increasingly on the council of her inner-circle of shady advisers in making decisions. In fact, her interest in the affairs of state had dwindled since that fateful day; she preferred lighter pursuits like playing her violin and finishing the construction of her palace.
But her indolent lifestyle was proving short-lived. A fear was keeping her up at night, disrupting her music and spoiling her appetite. She was growing worried over her relationship with her subjects and her public image.
It was considered vital for a Changeling monarch to have the love and adoration of his or her subjects. Their species' primary food was positive emotion, i.e. love and what better nourishment, as well as a popularity indicator, was there than the whole kingdom's love? Yet deep within her, she felt... a hunger? Yes, a growing hunger that she was feeling more keenly over the years. She could not sense their love, anymore; that sweet nectar that gripped her and all her species in ecstasy. Nopony could ever fully understand just how delicious love was. The feeling it gave you was indescribable. But for Chrysalis, it also confirmed her authority. Not to be able to feel it from her own people was troubling, to say the least. Could it be that her people no longer looked up to her as the all-powerful leader she was?
Letting out a heavy, strained sigh, Chrysalis trekked over to a luxurious chaise lounge and slumped down on it, dropping her violin and bow to the floor with a 'clunk'. She tried to make herself comfortable but failed, even when she adjusted the plump, silk pillows she laid against.
"But why would they not love you, your highness?" Weevil reasoned, stumbling off his chair and going over to pick up the carelessly discarded instrument. "You're the absolute ruler of this land and its people. You're very utterance is law. You are but a goddess to them!"
Chrysalis rolled her eyes, turning on her side. She had heard this praise time and time again. Her horn glowed its brilliant green aura and an ornate glass bowl full of dozens of writhing bugs levitated over to her. She caught it in her hole-ridden hooves and carelessly tossed the morsels into her sharp choppers
"But I don't feel their love, Weevil," she told him firmly, her mouth full. "That's not a good sign. There must be something wrong..."
Weevil became uneasy as he returned to the table and darted his vision over to his bottle, placed on top of a short stack of documents. He removed the bottle and took the documents in his hooves and scanned through them, before saying with reluctance, "Well... there are some... grievances that may be... clouding your subjects' judgement."
She turned on the couch, her malevolent harlequin eyes meeting his wild electric blue ones, sending a chill down his spine.
"Like what?" she asked, her tone turning dangerous.
"Umm... well, you know, it's the little things."
"What little things?"
Poverty. Famine. Crime. Alcoholism. They were all there in bold capitals, accompanied by the damning statistics. He straightened the stack out and answered, "Oh, you know... they're hungry."
This answer did not satisfy the matriarch, and she let out a grunt of frustration. She sat up on the couch and devoured more of her bug delicacies.
"Oh... so they're getting a little hungry and think it's all my fault? Is that what you're telling me?" She talked with her voice distorted by the sound of the bugs being grounded up in her mouth. Years ago, the hunger of her people was her most pressing concern. It was the reason she attacked Canterlot, after all. But now, it was just a bothersome recurring headache, one that she did her best to suppress.
When all Weevil could do was shrug, her temper flared, "I have you to make all the important decisions so I don't have to. They know that! So why am I getting the blame?"
"They, uh... they are a fickle people, Your Majesty."
Queen Chrysalis appeared to take this answer a bit better and slumped, raising her hoof and rubbing her belly while the other held the bowl, her vision turning to the beautifully painted ceiling. For a long time she said nothing, and wallowed there on the couch in deep, contemplative thought. Weevil returned to his drinking, thankful to himself for not having stirring the Queen's anger too much. She had read her secret police's file on this mystic confidant of hers, in which they said the amusing following:
'The royal advisor, Weevil, is consistently in one of the following three states: drunk, very drunk or completely drunk'.
She imagined him, at moment, in the first, steadily moving into the second.
At long last, watching a fat worm that moved in between the holes in her hoof, she spoke again, declaring placidly, "Something's missing, Weevil. I'm lacking something and it's driving me mad just trying to figure out what it is." Her lips formed an 'o' and she sucked down the worm like a short string of spaghetti.
"It will come to you, your highness," he droned, his drunkenness sinking in and losing his composure. He raised his refilled glass to his mouth, "But what could it be? What could you possibly be lacking?"
"That's just it. I have everything I thought I'd by the time I ascended the throne: power, wealth, good looks, but something's definitely missing from my reign." Chrysalis took half a bite out of a large, green beetle. "Something I want? Or is it... something I need?"
Weevil put the glass to his lips and tipped the bottom upwards, after remarking, "If it's something you need, then you must look at what the Kings and Queens before you had, say like, King Tho-"
The vodka half-sprayed out of Weevil's mouth, and the rest he swallowed hard, burning his throat and bringing tears to his eyes. He turned and trembled at seeing his Queen off the couch and hovering a few feet above him, her harlequin eyes glaring monstrously at him. If this could kill, this would be the sword plunged straight into your skull.
"What did you say?" she demanded in a voice overflowing with venom. It was the voice used whenever a Changeling's life was on the line. His life.
"N-n-nothing!" he fibbed, breaking out of his drunken stupor and trying to avoid eye contact.
"How dare you! You know the law; that name is never to be mentioned in this palace, especially in my presence!"
If he had enough space between them, Weevil would have been on his knees, kissing her hooves and begging for mercy. He did the next best thing and put his hooves up in a pleading fashion, spluttering fearfully, "F-f-f-forgive me, Your... Your Majesty, I, I... my tongue slipped. It was the vodka. You know you are the only monarch in my eyes, my dear Queen, your predecessors are but mere names written down on parchment!"
Queen Chrysalis raised her hoof and Weevil shut his eyes and cowered, expecting her to bring in down and smash open his head. It did not happen. Chrysalis brought down her hoof, but ran it smoothly against his hairy face. He opened his eyes. Her anger had vanished, and in its place was a gentle smile.
"That's much better. But you just remember, Weevil..." Chrysalis' scowl returned as she suddenly yanked him forward by the end of his beard, "Your council is valuable. it isn't irreplaceable." She let go of his beard and he fell back against the backrest of the chair.
"Indeed, I shall," the royal confidant groaned, rubbing his sore chin. He saw the Queen was now turning to leave the chambers. "Where are you going, Your Majesty?"
She did not answer him straight away, but said when she was inches from the double doors, "... on an excursion. I'll be back by midnight."
"Oh... okay. Do you wish me to accompany you? And what about your bodyguards?"
"Neither will be necessary. You remain here. Until I return, I delegate all power to you. If any problem or need for a royal decision comes up, you take care of it."
"So basically, you want me to keep doing what I've been doing, then?" Weevil took a few cakes off the table and cobbled them all up, with little bits of cream and cake running down the corners of his mouth and onto his beard.
"You heard me."
It was nighttime in the prosperous, modernised kingdom of Equestria. Princess Luna, the co-ruler and goddess of the night, had raised the moon and was now resting on a thick, large cloud high above the ground, gazing up at the beautiful white orb that was her charge. It was an exceptionally spooky winter night. There were no stars, sparse clouds to the one she was on, and the wind whistled eerily across the land. The full moon's glow reflected off the never-ending blankets of snow below. Something about the night was unsettling for the princess.
Her duties were proving as tedious and lonesome as they did a thousand years ago prior to her corruption to Nightmare Moon. She had learned to accept the ponies did indeed appreciate her beautiful nights (being non-immortals, they needed their sleep more vitally than her or her sister), but still, a little company would not have gone unappreciated on her part.
The 'Lunar guard', Luna's personal assigned bodyguards, did not count as company. They were only around to protect Her Majesty, not socialize and even so, Luna preferred them to keep a professional distance. Two of these guards were stationed a stone's throw away on a couple other thin clouds, wearing purple armour and armed with spears and keeping their vigilance.
Princess Luna kept her sight on the moon and spoke aloud, sighing, "Thou should be sleeping, sister."
She creaked her head and saw out the corner of her eye her elder sister descending onto her cloud.
"May we take it thou art actually taking the time for a friendly visit?"
"I wish that was the case, Luna."
Luna sighed again with greater tedium, "Then what dost bring thou to us, especially at this hour? It must be serious."
Princess Celestia kept her distance from her sister, neither looking nor facing her, as did she. She appeared tranquil, but beneath the surface, you could tell she was concerned.
"I wouldn't call it that serious. We just have a visitor tonight, sister."
This perplexed the younger of the two princesses, who slowly got up on all four legs and cocked her eyebrow towards her. The two guards looked at each other silently in confusion and then back at the two princesses.
Now the princess was even more confused, that is, until Celestia looked seriously up at the two guards. She breathed in through her snout and said, rather loudly, "I know it's you. There's no need for you to keep up the act anymore."
At first, Luna thought her sister had gone barking mad, but that changed when she noticed that one of her guards' eyes turned a glowing harlequin. A bilious green flash engulfed the second guard, sending him screaming through the sky, and the princesses gasped in shock.
Grinning ear-to-ear like a Cheshire cat, the "guard" let out a low cackle. It was not one befitting his gender; he sounded more like a woman. Flying down and landing in between the two ruler of Equestria, crackling green light appeared around the centre of his body and spread up and down, revealing a taller, darker and effeminate form, with a cerulean mane draping the body. It took a few seconds, but Luna recognized the imposter's identity, and it sparked a fire deep in her belly.
"You!" The princess of the night exclaimed, newfound fury twisting her facial features. "Thou hast some gall to dare come here!" She was about to charge at the Changeling and was only stopped taking two feet forward when Celestia held up her hoof and gave her a firm glance.
"Now, now," Queen Chrysalis smirked, flicking a strand of her mane. "Is that any way to treat one of your royal peers, princess?" That last word was spat out like a curse, complete with a matching scowl. Luna returned it. "Sorry about those guards of yours. The first one's fine; he's just under a sleeping spell. Can't say much for the second, though..."
The princess of the sun stepped forward and addressed the Queen of the Changelings sternly, narrowing her amethyst eyes, "What has given you the nerve to return to our kingdom unguarded, Chrysalis? I don't think either of us needs to remind you that you are still charged with war crimes against the state."
As unpopular as she was proving at home, Chrysalis was perfectly aware she was not entirely in the good graces of other international governments. Equestria was a no-brainer. They had never got over the siege of Canterlot all those years ago. To them, she was, as Celestia said, a war criminal, one whom had still not been brought to justice. A military counter invasion was attempted, but due to the geography and extreme weather, it was a disaster and the princesses were humiliated, resulting in a series of toothless joint economic sanctions which the Changeling palace snorted at.
However, more worryingly, even relations with nations that were traditional allies of the Changeling Kingdom were becoming strained. The Kaiser of the Griffin Empire recently publicly criticised her for her "worryingly apparent ineffectualness in dealing with the affairs of state", as well as her overreliance on shady advisers like Weevil. The President of the Diamond Dog Republic, on the other hoof, was much more blunt, denouncing her publicly as "an incompetent idiot". Luckily, it was not the love of these cretins she was after.
Chrysalis shrugged nonchalantly, rolling her eyes irritably. "Oh, are you still on about that?"
"Typical. I'll have you know, you may control the land of Equestria, but nopony controls the skies, you just manipulate it. This is closest we get to 'no mare's land'. Oh, and don't worry your pretty little head, princess. I'm not going to be here for long. I just wanted to quickly visit the two of you, you know, matriarch to matriarchs?"
Luna snorted, turning her snout up at the vile monarch. "And why exactly would thou wish to 'visit' us? Dost thou honestly expect us to believe thy intentions are pure?"
The Changeling mockingly mimicked the princess and strolled across the cloud to edge where Luna had previously perched, facing the moon.
"I just want to talk," she insisted, starring up at the moon as Luna herself had done. "Alright?"
A long silence followed that question. Chrysalis craned her neck over the crowd as if searching for something. Soon enough, she found it and point her holed hoof down at the earth below.
"There," she hissed darkly.
The two princesses walked over to edge, taking their places at Chrysalis' sides and looked down at where she was pointing.
Down on earth, unaware of the rulers' gazes, was a large group of individuals, dressed in furs and braving their way across the snow covered plains, many of whom carrying heavy bags on their back and pulling on loaded carts. Upon closer inspection, it was clear they were a family of Changelings.
"Those are my subjects!" The Changeling wanted nothing more right now than to blast those worthless peasants below to oblivion with a blast of her horn. "And here they are, flocking to your country in the hundreds of thousands like it's the land of milk and honey! It makes me sick."
Although as bad as relations between the two countries were, Equestria was amazingly finding itself a magnet for an unprecedented wave of immigration from the Changeling Kingdom. It began with a trickle of political dissidents who were under intense persecution by the Queen and her secret police, but year after year as the kingdom's economic situation worsened, the figures grew, going from dissidents to migrants - often temporary workers, and then to permanent workers bringing their entire families with them. Equestria at first placed strict restrictions on the numbers being allowed in, but once the benefits of these cheaper, skilled workers showed, some rich and powerful bigwigs managed to get these restrictions lifted. For Equestria, it was a golden opportunity, but for the Changeling Kingdom, the scale of emigration, as well as many of those leaving being skilled and qualified workers, it could easily be chalked up as another of Chrysalis' failures.
"Actually, they're not your subjects. Not anymore." Celestia's voice was deceptively placid, allowing only the slightest hint of displeasure to find its way into her tone. "You see, it's a little thing politicians like to call 'immigration'. It's not that complicated, really-"
"I know what 'immigration' is!"
"Then you'll also know that from now on, they're our subjects, not yours."
Chrysalis harrumphed indignantly, disgusted at the very notion. She turned her back on the two princesses and trotted across the cloud so that they were several feet apart, as if they were ridden with disease.
She let a growl escape her throat. "That's not the point."
Luna was losing her already thin patience. "Then what is thy point? We'd most appreciate it if thou would cease thy incessant prattle and make thy point, if thou even hast one!"
Resisting the urge to smack the night princess, the Changeling Queen took in a long breath and gave out a heavy, tired sigh. She repeated the question she had asked Weevil earlier that day, this time more informally and somewhat sadly, "Why don't my people love me?"
Neither princess had anticipated such a question. At first, they must have thought another of Chrysalis' snide jokes, but quickly found, to their bewilderment, that the Queen was dead serious. They looked at each other, expecting the other to give some sort of answer, but both only received dumbfounded silence.
"Why can't I feel their love?"
Luna was the first to respond. She broke through her confusion to remember the ongoing plight of the Changelings in their homeland she had been following through the news and statistics and allowed herself to become angered further by the Queen's display of ignorance. She put on a fake smile and a sweet tone. "Why, Queen Chrysalis, is not the answer to that question obvious?" The smile dropped and the tone became harsh. "Thy country has gone-to-POT!"
The Queen did not appear affected by this outburst and waved it off. "Pfft! Don't you start about them being 'hungry'! I get enough of that from those worthless statistics!" She placed the back of her hoof against her forehead dramatically. "None of that matters! What's important is how their Queen feels!"
"How thou fe-? It does matter, thou impertinent fool!" Luna declared indignantly, her Changeling counterpart's ignorance and arrogance pushing her to point of wanting to hold her down and berate her like an ill-mannered child. "Art thou blind to how thy people have little food, no money, barely any work-"
"I mean, it can't be a problem with me, I'm flawless! I-I'm warm, witty..." Whatever Luna said apparently rolled off Chrysalis' back and she continued to vainly describe herself and canter about the cloud. "Let's not forget devastatingly attractive..."
"Thy economy is backward and declining and thou art doing nothing about it!"
"... I'm also wonderfully sociable at parties."
"There's also the fact thy people have as much rights as a stray dog!"
By now, Chrysalis was sat down on a large clump of cloud and scratching the side of her head. "There's... there's something missing from my reign, girls. I know there is. Weevil, ugh, he was no help." Her face scrunched as tight as it could, the monarch feverishly racking her brain for a solution to her riddle. "What the hay am I missing!"
"THY GRASP ON REALITY!" Luna's voice reached 'royal Canterlot' level. This time, it rang so loud it practically shook the cloud they were all standing on and startled her royal peers. It would not be farfetched to think the whole country heard it. Luna herself immediately looked regretful and blushed, recoiling under her sister's reprimanding glare.
The elder of all three decided to take over from her sister before the latter said or did something she would regret.
"Chrysalis..." Celestia's voice did not waver from when she last spoke, but the Queen shut up and listened because of her glare. "What my sister said, however crudely spoken, was correct. You no longer feel the love of your subjects because they are all suffering. Think - hundreds of thousands of Changelings are coming here to start a new life. Don't you think things at home have to be that bad for that to happen?"
"It isn't my fault!" she replied quickly and shaking her head snootily.
Celestia's tone harshened and she moved in closer. "Last time I checked, you are the Queen. And as Queen, it is your responsibility to govern and look after your people."
"Am I hearing this? You're trying to lecture me on how to run my kingdom?"
"Well, I am older than you-"
"Yes... I am much older and experienced, so I think you have much to benefit from listening to me. You came here to talk with us, did you not?" In response, Chrysalis scoffed and was about to turn away, but Celestia, not going to put up with that, got up close in the surprised Changeling's face. "Then listen. You have all this power, something few creatures ever get a taste of, but you barely use it as it's meant to be used. What happens in your country does not go unseen by the rest of the world, dear Chrysalis. You no longer take initiative in dealing with your people's problems like the kings and queens before, and instead, sequester yourself within your palace. Why?"
"I don't have to explain myself to you!"
"You came to us, so answer my question!"
Although she did not show it, Chrysalis herself was not entirely sure how to answer that question. "Well... you know, it's..." She broke from Celestia's gaze and walked away from her, trying to formulate the best answer she could. "It's what I have Changelings like Weevil for! I have them around to make decisions so I don't have to!"
"Yes, but why?" Luna forced her way back into the conversation, instead of remaining in her sister's shadow in this sort of situation, again. "Why not make decisions thyself? What, dost thou really doubt thyself, Chrysalis?"
A pulse was visible in the Queen's huge, bug-like eyes. "D-Doubt? I'm the undisputed ruler of my people! It's my birthright, bestowed unto me by the gods themselves! I deserve it!"
"Oh, that's funny," Celestia said, though her seemingly carved in stone expression did not show it. "Luna and I had to earn our throne through defeating the god of chaos itself, while you were by chance born into the royal family. I don't see what you've ever done to prove you deserve to be queen or earn your people's love."
"I don't have to prove anything! And I'm sorry - earn?" She forced herself to laugh in the princess' face. "I'm the Queen; it's their duty to love me!"
For the first time that night, during their lengthy conversation, Celestia allowed herself to scowl straight at the insectoid pony. She did not respond first, like she was thinking something over carefully, but her chest rose and fell as she took in a full breath. "And you know... that's what you don't understand. In fact, I don't think it's something you're ever going to understand."
"And what's that?"
Slowly, the Queen's lip twitched. It curled upwards gradually to become a full smile, and then uproarious laughter.
"Hahahahahaha! You... you're serious, aren't you? Oh, this is price-"
"You take love, Chrysalis, like some big fat leach, but you don't feel it, do you!" The sun princess' smouldering voice showed all the pent-up anger she had masking in her counterpart's presence this entire time. "Love - and I mean genuine love - cannot be coerced from your people. Even if you could ever feel it, I doubt it would be possible now. I'm surprised I didn't put this all together long ago."
Both Chrysalis and Luna were stunned silent at the boldness of Celestia's words, and the changeling struggled to find a retort.
"That... that's ridiculous!"
"No, it isn't! Love is only a food for you, not something you're able to experience. You're only starting to figure it out now, and it's scaring you!"
Chrysalis could not explain to herself why, but a new feeling was growing inside of her. Fear. Fear of this princess who, in regal hierarchy, was her inferior. "It's... it's my nature." She pulled out the lamest excuse she could think of.
"Is that really the best you can come up with? Well, just to let you know, Chrysi, it's not natural, for your people are capable of it. We've seen it from all those Changelings who now live happy, free lives in our kingdom. They love their families, their friends and their beloveds, and surprise surprise, they haven't died from hunger. Your royal family, I must admit, did quite the job in making the populace think they needed to conquer love to survive when it's really for your own imperialistic benefit. Too bad they're waking up to the truth, hmm?" She cocked an eyebrow and looked over her shoulder at her sister. "You know... I don't think I've ever seen a Changeling smile before the one who now has a position in our cabinet, don't you say, Luna?"
The younger princess was so taken aback by Celestia's dressing down of their rival that suddenly being addressed by her took by her surprise. She muttered in agreement.
Although they were equal in height, Celestia seemed to be now towering over the recoiling Chrysalis, looking down upon and even intimidating her. What's more, any royal formality or protocol had disappeared from the scene, most notably when Celestia had the nerve to call her by her shortened nickname.
"You're cold. You're empty. And it's not because you were born that way." Her tone and attitude slowly turned soft, once more, like a faucet. "Very few creatures on this planet end up as cruel and twisted as you on their own. No. No, it was beaten out of you... wasn't it?"
Chrysalis had been rendered to a deer caught in headlights by Celestia's statements, but this last query was insulting enough to break her out of it. A fresh scowl pulling at the corners of her mouth that bared her fangs and her eyes moistening, the Queen of the Changelings started shaking violently on the spot.
"How... how... dare you even suggest my-"
"I know what kind of person your father was. I remember all the old rulers. He was a powerful king who ruled with an iron hoof... but he was also cruel." Her maternal, caring side was beginning to seep through; even as remarkable as it was she was showing a glimmer of it towards one of her greatest enemies. "It all goes back to childhood, doesn't it? It was all the years of cruelty and abuse Thorax inflicted on you, your siblings and your mother that destroyed your ability to feel towards others."
"DON'T YOU EVER SAY HIS NAME IN FRONT OF ME!"
"'No mare's land', remember? And I'm not done." Celestia delicately wiped Chrysalis' spittle from her cheek. "King Thorax tortured you, physically and emotionally, and for that, I feel sorry for you. He took an innocent child and made her into a monster to whom love and compassion are something alien." At last, realisation dawned upon the sun princesses and her eyes widened as she stared down her enemy. "... That's it. You weren't able to bear it."
"All those years ago on that day, Shining Armour and Cadence's blast of love was so powerful, so pure, and so genuine that you were unable to suck it up and instead, your favourite food was used to defeat you. And that day has haunted you ever since, hasn't it?"
Queen Chrysalis was at this point an inch from breaking point. She stood there, violently shaking like she was having convulsions; tears of fury pouring down the sides of her face; her lip twitching upwards towards her nose; her pupils shrinking down to microscopic size and her chest expanding and detracting at an alarming rate. Any more pressure and she would explode.
"It's what started your ineptitude, and your reliance on even more inept yes-men!" Celestia, in all her wisdom, should have known better than to keep at this, considering Chrysalis' clear frustration. But she was so caught up in her deductions and her own anger, both at Chrysalis and herself for not figuring it out already, that her judgement was somewhat clouded. "Your weakness had been exposed to all your subjects, and the more you've tried to deny it, the more they've stopped loving or even fearing you and instead, seeing you for what you are - just a big nothing!"
Luna gasped in horror, wide-eyed and mouth agape. Celestia's head snapped 90 degrees, though she made not a sound and only closed her eyes and frowned in discomfort. The only sound that could be heard on the cloud was Chrysalis' furious panting.
Blinking a couple of times, Celestia easily turned her head back to face Chrysalis, surprisingly, with a calm smirk on her face.
"Oh, and you hit like a girl."
She could take no more. Chrysalis let out a blood curdling scream and jumped the princess, tackling her to the ground. Celestia grunted and tried to throw her off, but Chrysalis continued to punch and kick her as hard as her anger allowed her. But this only lasted for about ten seconds before a blinding flash of cobalt blue sent the Queen hurling off Celestia and the cloud. Still flat on her back, Celestia looked up and saw Luna in mid-air, her eyes glowing white.
A blue streak passed over the princess and in the direction of Chrysalis. She got up onto her hooves in a panic.
Celestia looked over the cloud and saw in the distance two bright lights, one blue and one green. She immediately took off the cloud and chased after them.
The Alicorn and the Changeling tumbled through the biting winter night air in a tangle, each trying to gain the upper hoof over the other as they left a zigzag of blue and green light streaks in their path. They narrowly avoided crashing into the surrounding mountains, and in a few cases, ricocheted off them. Neither was prepared for an up-close fight with both brute force and magical might, but their burning anger gave them the will. Luna jabbed her hoof repeatedly into the Queen's chest, striking her in the ribs and stomach. Chrysalis responded in the best way she knew how, by grabbing Luna's mane with her teeth and pulling on it as hard she could. The princess yelled and wound a hoof back and rammed into Chrysalis' bulbous eye at an angle, with the point of her slipper going first.
Chrysalis released her hold on the princess' mane and let out a shriek of agony, flapping her holed hoof to her inflicted eye. "AAAAAAHHH! Stop! Please! You've split my eye! It's bleeding!"
This was enough to bring Luna back to earth and get her to let go. The Queen of the Changelings flew backwards, covering her inflicted area and wailing loudly in pain and seeing this instantly filled Luna with remorse.
"Oh my goodness, I'm sorry, I-"
A wicked laugh emanated from the Changeling and she removed her hood to reveal her eye was, in fact, not bleeding and the grin on her face. Roaring ferociously, she unleashed her monstrous fangs and launched at the princess' neck, but the latter managed to react in time and reached out her forelegs and caught the incoming foe.
Luna held her head back as much she could to avoid Chrysalis' snapping jaws. The fangs managed to scrap her fur and flesh, drawing thin lines of blood, very nearly taking off a chunk of her muzzle. Knowing she could not keep this up, the Princess of the night came with a new move and waiting until the Changeling Queen's horn was close enough, snapped her head forward. Her shorter blue horn scraped against the malformed spire, creating a safe distance from the fangs and generating bright blue and greens sparks of magical energy.
Caught in another stalemate, both mares channelled their magical energies towards their horns in an attempt to overpower the other. A ball of static blue and green energy formed between the horns and started to grow at an alarming rate, and the royals saw this and grimaced, knowing full well what was next to come, a deafening...
The two lights for Celestia, however, had suddenly disappeared with that blinding flash and left her with no way of tracking them. She kept on flying, searching high and low in hope of finding at least some trace of her sister, but found nothing. The more minutes passed, Celestia grew visibly worried. Her sister had foolishly taken on a magically powered Changeling who was bigger and, for all she knew, more powerful than her. She considered going to get the help of the Royal Guard, but the international incident it would inevitably cause as well as whether they would find them in time left the princess hovering in mid-air, pulling on her ears and biting her lip.
Then she heard something.
It came from nearby.
A small crater had formed within the earth near the Everfree Forest. In that crater, Queen Chrysalis laid pinned down on her back, bleeding green blood and covered in bruises all over her lean body. Princess Luna, also battered and bruised, was on top, pinning her down by pressing both hooves hard against her chest cavity and restricting her air circulation. Her eyes were again glowing white and she had the look of the utmost fury on her scathed face, enough to strike fear into the beaten Queen.
"G-Get off me! Ow! Stop it, you're hurting me! OW!" Chrysalis whined, cowering in the princess' hold, after unsuccessfully trying to pry the hooves from her.
"SILENCE!" Luna roared in her 'Royal Canterlot voice', pressing so hard on Chrysalis' chest the faint sound of cracking could be heard. "HOW DARE YOU LAY ONE OF YOUR FILTHY HOOVES AGAINST ME OR MY SISTER!"
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" Chrysalis' voice was now breaking. She squinted her eyes and buried her head. "Just please, let me go! You're hurting me! I'm bleeding!"
"LOOK AT ME!"
The Queen reluctantly did as she was told, and was practically reduced to a whimpering larva, a sight unthinkable to even her innermost circle. Any sense of regal superiority or power in her had vanished under the menacing deity pony.
Luna's voice unexpectedly lowered to a quieter but darker tone as she leaned forward. "You pathetic coward! I don't always agree with my sister, but Celestia hit the nail straight on the head with you! I've never in all my years seen such a worthless pile of... nothing! She's right, you're NOTHING!" She hissed viciously, her face getting progressively closer to Chrysalis' until their muzzles nearly touched.
These scathing comments, now from both sisters cut into the Queen like a knife; she wept fresh hot tears, but they were mostly from the pain.
"I'm immortal, do you understand that? I have done horrible things in my lifetime, your highness, and even Celestia has done things she has regretted. And I will have to life with all them forever. But you... you get to die. That's the worst part."
Chrysalis raised an eyebrow and looked up at the brooding princess, baffled by what she just said.
"You have tormented my kingdom and used and abused your own subjects to the point you're driving them from your lands. And soon you'll have a child, bully all the love and compassion out of her like your father did to you, and then you'll die, knowing everything will continue when you're gone. You'll be buried and be nothing more than a portrait in the palace, but at least you won't have to pay for all you've done."
The Queen bit on her bottom lip and tried to look away, only for Luna to press harder. To her personal shame, she found herself unable to keep back her wave of tears in her enemy's presence. She didn't want to listen to what she was saying, but she had no choice and worst of all, she saw all the bitter truth in her words.
"Well, you know what, Chrysalis? I wish you could go on living forever, as the unloved, unfeeling, empty monster, you are in the living nightmare you and your forefathers have created on this planet!" She lowered her voice to above that of a whisper and spoke into her ear, "I hope you live forever, you bitch."
Luna then took one of her hooves off Chrysalis' chest, who gasped for air, but the princess immediately shoved it hard against her head. The Queen shrieked at the intense pressure against her skull, and flailed her hooves to remove it but to no avail.
"Now, you are going to leave my kingdom and you're never going to return," she instructed calmly, but retaining that dark, threatening tone. "Do you understand me?"
"And what if I do?" Chrysalis spat defiantly, trying to gather whatever dignity she had left. She instantly regretted it when Luna turned up the pressure. If she exerted any more, the skull would start cracking open like a coconut.
"Simple. I'll find you and I will CRUSH-YOUR-SKULL!"
She finally released her, flying slightly into the air to give her space. The Changeling Queen broke out in coughs and wheezes and worked through the pain to pull herself to her hooves. Her messed up mane fell over her tear stained face in thick locks.
"Now get out."
"You... I can't, not in this weather!" Chrysalis spluttered, spitting some green blood on the snowy ground. "I'm injured. I can't fly all the way ba-"
"Work through the pain and cold! It's what all your subjects do. Now GO!"
Feeling the humiliation expanding inside of her like an inflating balloon, Chrysalis forced her insect-like wings to come to life once more. She glared through her locks up at Luna one last time before slowly flying into the sky and away from Equestria. The night princess watched her leave, not removing her sight until she could no longer see even her silhouette in the distance.
Silence returned. Princess Luna landed back on earth, hooves tucking into the snow and felt the breeze pick up. The cold of the winter night suddenly took effect on her, making her legs shiver and goose bumps to rise. What had happened between her, her sister and the Queen of the Changelings seemed to blank from her memory for the next few moments, replaced by the sudden sensation she felt of the low temperature.
It did not startle her. She took in a deep breath and said, "Hello, sister. How long hast thou been watching?" It dawned upon Luna that she previously abandoned her traditional manner of speaking during her furious denouncement of Chrysalis and, in her cooled temper, returned to her like a natural instinct.
"Long enough," Celestia said, landing gracefully on the snow behind Luna, similarly to how they met up the first time that night. "Are you alright?"
Luna turned around and walked past her elder sister, replying smoothly, "Of course we are."
The princess of the sun was not entirely convinced, given her sister's face and the injuries on her body.
"But you're injured."
"Minor scratches," she shrugged nonchalantly, brushing off her concern. "Do not worry about our guest, sister, we have politely sent her home." Her wings spread out again in preparation for flight and she looked over her shoulder. "Go to bed now, sister, whilst we complete our duties for the night... perhaps another night, thou can actually pay us a kind visit."
Celestia did not respond and instead watched her go, swooping up into the night sky and vanishing into the darkness. She stood there all alone on the spot, watching her breath condense before her. She felt something cold gently touch her forehead and stared up to see snowflakes delicately falling to earth from the gathering clouds. It brought a small smile, though not necessarily a cheerful one, to her lips.
"Good night, Luna."
Queen Chrysalis flew through the hostile Equestrian skies, bracing the cold and her injuries long enough until she reached the point where she could teleport out of the country. It took a lot longer for her to reach the Motherland in her current state and the weather, but she survived the journey.
Upon returning to the palace, all the best doctors were immediately summoned by Weevil to tend to the Queen's wounds. She did not tell any of them, save for Weevil (though even he did not get the full details) as to how she got hurt, just for them to shut up and fix her up, and they did. Chrysalis was wrapped up in many tight bandages with her open wounds disinfected and administered a number of drugs, mostly to deal with the pain. She was also given a bottle of vodka to help her sleep. The Queen then returned to her chambers and gave strict orders to Weevil to in turn instruct the palace staff not to disturb her.
Hours into the night, she did not sleep. She tossed and turned in her luxurious four-poster bed in her royal chambers, unable to get comfortable, even in her finest silk night gown. All the things the princesses said rang in her ears, no matter how much vodka she drank to drown it out. They called her unfeeling. A monster. A nothing. They had no idea what they were talking about.
Drinking one more short glass of vodka, the Queen got up from bed and grabbing a walking stick, made her way out of her chambers.
The palace was, by this time in the night, hauntingly silent. Even the light 'crunch' of the end of her walking stick was clear as a bell in the Queen's ears. She was struggling to maintain a steady balance, but thankfully, the drugs numbed the aches and pains in her body that would have otherwise left her bedridden.
She came upon an exceptionally large gallery on the other side of the palace. There were a few, but this one showcased statues, portraits and other historical objects centred on a particular topic: the rulers of the kingdom and her people.
The long, long line of succession traced back thousands of years, from dynasty to dynasty, from the one kingdom it was today to the disunited little kingdoms, duchies, and principalities that made up the land so long ago.
Chrysalis bore little feeling towards these past leaders. They were only paintings to her, paintings of relics whose deeds were but paragraphs in history books and scrolls. They, they were nothing.
She focused on the newest section of the gallery, the one dedicated to her royal house, or dynasty, the House of Roachanov. Her beautiful portrait hung up surrounded with its golden ornate frame at the far end of the line of Roachanov monarchs. She glanced over her portrait to the larger one next to it on the right.
The portrait of King Thorax the Terrible glared down malevolently at the dead ruler's daughter and successor. It were those dark holes, his eyes which the artist had done a remarkable job on that made Chrysalis feel like it was actually him, piercing into her very soul.
Queen Chrysalis returned the glare at the portrait, leaning against her stick to keep her fragile body standing. Him, he was a monster, not her. She was cruel, yes, but no monarch could hold a candle to this beast in terms of that word. There were still survivors from his rule that made up most of the senior population, as small as that was. They were the subjects who truly appreciated how privileged they were to have her as Queen. Her father was called 'Thorax the Terrible' with good reason.
Those damned peasants acted like they were the only ones who suffered. She suffered plenty in the house of her father. The princess was right, though. Of course she could neither understand nor feel love when it was denied to her at every opportunity. And after all those horrific years of her childhood, in death his shadow loomed over her. He was in her dreams, her spare thoughts, in the international criticisms against her rule. He would never leave.
She stood there for minutes, feeling the strain on her stick, glowering at the picture that brought back so many painful memories. The anger festered until she could bottle it in no longer.
A blast of green magic fired out of her horn like a gun at the portrait, but it bounced right off the surface and bounced off the walls until the energy dissipated. The portrayed remained unmarked.
Chrysalis, her anger now spent, turned around and exited the same way she came in, heading back to her chambers to brood some more.
Alone again in her chambers, Chrysalis tucked herself up to the chin in her cozy bed, having now resorted to drinking the whole bottle of vodka with the slightest hope it would knock her out. She figured her quick trip around the palace and the gallery would help wear her out, but it only made things worse. Now, she was kept wide awake by thoughts on both the princesses and her father.
Celestia claimed earlier that night that the love of her people could not be coerced and maybe she was right on at least that. But thinking back to her father, who was nothing short of ruthless and brutal to his subjects, and thus logically could not have been anymore beloved than she was, he is regarded to this day as one of the mightiest and most effective kings of his time, by scholars, other world leaders and arrogant youths alike.
What sense did that make? He was cruel, but he remains respected?! If that was the case, then was the love of a Changeling monarch's subjects really as vital as many historians claimed it to be?
She sat up right on her bed, her eyes coming to life and ignoring her 'bed mane' that detracted her regal, dignified appearance. With that one mental theory, things started falling into place in her head. Answers she had been searching for all day slowly crawled their way into her head, and they were good enough to force her to smile.
Chrysalis had the power and the authority, both by birthright. The people had no say in that matter and in reality, could do nothing about it, so if not for missing out on some nourishment, what did she really need their love for? She did not need it to stay in power; no one could take that from her. It was helpful to have their respect, but not an absolute necessity. All she really needed was their obedience and she definitely had that. Thorax, that was what he had and if not in life, in death he is looked upon with high regard.
The Queen began thinking herself a fool for having ever worried about all this. Thinking about her father was putting it all into perspective. She had control; she was practically a goddess and that was enough. She should have just listened to her trusted Weevil's council on the subjects' fickleness instead of seeking out the princess', only to receive insults and abuse in return. What they said may have been true. She was cold, empty and overly reliant on her advisers, but it never changed the fact that she was the Queen, the one in charge.
All she had to do was remind them all of that. She would finally shake her failures off and focus on the moment and get back to the forefront. What mattered was not her current unpopularity, but her glorious legacy that would be studied centuries in the future! Her authority would be reinforced, to find the country once more in her iron grip like in her early years. And she would start by shutting down the borders, complete with armed guards. Maybe even a wall? Yes, a wall, scaling hundreds of feet into the air, complete with barbed wire and guards who were armed to the teeth. It would be a testament to both her and her kingdom's might!
Chrysalis began feeling things she had not felt in years. Invigoration. Excitement. Pride. Hope for the future of her reign. Almost leaping out of her bed with seemingly limitless energy, she paced up and down the chambers, all the new possibilities buzzing through her head.
Bigger cities. Dissidents publicly executed. And larvae, yes, she needed plenty of them! Little Chrysalises buzzing around the palace whose love for her she could easily feed on! Her heirs, her descendants, her lineage, all of whom she could twist and mould to carry on her legacy! She would be immortal!
The Queen of the Changelings grinned and giggled madly like a little child, the 'little problems' of her subjects and the obnoxious and rude comments by those self-important princesses fading from her mind like one of her many headaches. She realised then that her peak was not reached; the glory years of the reign of Queen Chrysalis of the House of Roachanov were yet to pass.
When she finally calmed herself down, Chrysalis slid back into bed for the third time that night, falling asleep with, for the first time in years, a smile on her face.