• Published 2nd Aug 2015
  • 2,844 Views, 369 Comments

The Teal Changeling - MrAlterad



Princess Chrysalis was born a queen, but she has much to learn about becoming one. The war between her hive and Princess Luna may provide the lesson, assuming what follows doesn't destroy her kind...

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24. Day of Celebration

As the battlefield was left behind, Momo couldn't deny it to herself, but she was kind of looking forward to returning to the carriage. She and Dud were flying back side-by-side, together. They didn’t have to go far to spot the lavish wagon, and as they did, Momo couldn’t help but catch Dud exhaling a breath of relief. There wasn’t a scratch on it.

After landing next to it, she spread her wings, letting out a pleasant sigh at the aches it brought. It was good to fly again. Dud looked over her as she stretched, taking in the slightly off-color of her wing feathers with a hint of wonder and concern. As far as the pony knew, that wasn’t how feathers normally healed. Perhaps it was because she was truly a changeling? Whatever the reason, Dud couldn’t deny that he liked the difference. To him, it was a clear mark of rarity.

The pleasure from stretching didn’t last. No longer in the warm, rainy-charred part of the forest, she was quickly feeling winter’s bite, making her shake off the rain water, before going inside the carriage. Dud eyed her for a moment longer, before mirroring her actions.

“So...” she began, making him pause from getting a meal together as he looked to her, “Still think we didn’t need you?” she asked with a sly grin, making him frown for a moment, before sighing.

“Did you know that nopony likes hearing ‘I told you so’?” he asked, making her chuckle. “How do your wings feel?” he added, making her blink.

“They ache. But it’s a good kind of ache. Like, the kind you feel from a nap after a gooood sparring session.” He gave her wings a considering look, which made her frown, “And we’re not covering them back up.”

“No argument,” he quickly assured, “Now, I can’t say anything about sparring,” he said, before smiling, “But I do know how it feels to finally stretch your wings.” She tilted her head at that.

“You mean back when you were a colt?” she asked, getting a short laugh from him.

“I mean when Lores and Darrin let me out of the hive to help Chrys. I didn't mind the scenery, but it was a little cramped.”

“O-Oh,” Momo replied, the pony’s former captivity making her smile melt.

“I’ll admit, when we left Dodge, I thought all the excitement was done with,” he added, pulling the mare from her thoughts. “Didn’t think I’d get to see a dragon!” he said excitedly, winning a conflicted look from her.

“That was Sledge,” she said flatly.

“And he lost,” he replied matter of factly. “Still, I guess it can’t be helped,” he said, giving her a sly grin, “Guess I really do have to stay with you guys.” That brought back her smile. “Wouldn’t want to miss the chance of seeing more dragons now, would I?” She gave him a short, playful laugh.

“Yeah, sure. That’s the reason,” she replied coyly, seeing his ears blush, before she started helping him get their victory meal ready.

~~~~~~~~~~

On snowy, rocky slopes, a cragadile-shaped Sledge waited, still curled into a ball, lost in thought. Being in Equestria for almost a month presented him plenty of time to learn several new forms to shift into. Thanks to that battle, he could add batponies to the list. It wouldn’t make for a convincing disguise, but that loud voice could certainly have its uses.

Cragadile, manticore, and boa lamia. Those were the stronger forms he gained during his venture into the Dark Forest. The dragon was an unexpected, and quite fortuitous encounter. A happenstance that occurred as he patrolled the trails between Canter Town and The Badlands, looking for Princess Chrysalis.

And yet, it wasn’t enough. For whatever reason, the Shadowbolts were looking after the Princess, and they proved to be just as dangerous as Mantis warned. Aegis continued to be more tenacious and durable than Sledge expected. And the female drone and yellow pony were beyond annoying. He was really looking forward to breaking them. Then there was the Princess herself. Her magic had grown stronger since their 'fight' back in the hive. It was loathsome. Even as a tough, fire-breathing, hard-headed razor-claw dragon, it wasn’t enough against them. And now that they knew he was around, a second attack as a dragon wouldn’t be as effective.

To the wayward guard, it was starting to become clear to him that brute strength wasn’t going to cut it. He needed something with more versatility. His eyes widened as he recalled the hunter. The snake was physically weaker than he, but more flexible, and the invisibility and poison certainly gave it an edge over him. An edge that meant nothing against a dragon’s impenetrable hide and noxious immunity.

Through each of their encounters, he’d never had the opportunity to learn a slithering lamia’s form. In the ferocity of their fights, it was beyond impossible to meet the eyes of a foe that was practically invisible. If only he had that form…

He needed to find the hunter, if he wanted to complete the task Mantis left him. Coming to this conclusion, Sledge noticed the sun setting. Feeling no eyes upon him, he shrugged off the pain of his loss, but not the indignation. It was time to keep moving forward.

~~~

Arrow Twine frowned as the cragadile finally stopped pretending to be a boulder. His eyes spotted it immediately upon reaching the area, and he had been playing the waiting game too, hidden in the clouds above.

A dragon disappears, and suddenly there’s a cragadile in the area? Arrow was no rare creatures expert, but he was quite certain that cragadiles were cold blooded, and slept through the winter, in the Everfree Forest. Finally, after hours of waiting, his suspicions were justified, his eyes widening as the cragadile was wreathed in amber fire, its form transforming into that of a buffalo. Arrow had to admit, he’d seen a lot of things over his career as a Shadowbolt. Seeing that was easily a first.

His eyes narrowed as Sledge started heading east. From the beginning, something had felt off about this whole assignment. The fact that Luna couldn’t see the dreams of Chrysalis and Momo had caused the initial spark. Chrys’s growth spurt only added fuel. A pony doesn’t grow as fast as she has since he first saw her. His companions may not have noticed the extra height, but it didn’t escape his eyes.

Now, things were starting to make a little more sense. But, it didn’t dispel his foreboding. The Badland Pegasi were shape-shifters. What they were naturally, he wasn’t sure. Maybe he was wrong with his assumption, and it was simply some form of dragon magic he had just witnessed. He knew with magic, nearly anything was possible, but shapeshifting was too far above his training to understand. Still, as a Shadowbolt, he could immediately picture how such a trait could be used covertly. Looks like he had some troubling insight to report to Luna, when he next slept…

~~~~~~~~~~

On top of a cliff of red stone, stood a black tree with amber leaves. Looking high over a field of flowers, a fierce wind blew from the tree, which descended downwards. Lightning split the sky as leaves fell, guided by the breeze with purpose.

Those leaves crashed against an opposing gust, a torrent that swept from a field covered in life. A gust that carried the petals of flowers, in all myriad of colors. The petals clashed back, their wind stronger, but numbers fewer.

Together both sides spun, swirling around in a vortex. In the center, a teal flower bloomed. In the sky, the light of the moon shined, breaking through the storm and winds. Lightning lit the clouds, and from the heavens a blue light speared down. It pierced through the wind, unabated, neither flower nor leaf crossing its path, as it sliced through the flower. Its stem was rent asunder, its petals scattering from the blow. And thunder crackled.

~~~

Amber woke with a start, heart aching, breathing heavy, her eyes wide.

“Highness?” Bastion asked with concern, getting a glance from the queen. It took her several moments to consider replying. After her breathing slowed, she rubbed her eyes, drying her cheeks as she composed herself.

“...It was that dream again,” she explained, getting a small nod from her guard as she looked to him. “Eight nights now, the same nightmare…” she added, wearing a troubled, tired look.

“Perhaps you are simply worried,” he assured, getting a doubtful look from her.

“I think it was said that my mother had troubling dreams, before the Violet Hive fell.”

“...You think it a premonition?” he asked, getting an uncertain look from her. “Is such a thing possible?” he added, a question that she gave some serious consideration. She then frowned, getting on her hooves. There was a matter she needed to get out of the way, before addressing this problem.

“Bastion, summon Lores. Have her meet me in the feeding chamber.”

“Understood,” he said flatly, passing her order along as she made her way through the hive, her steps heavy with foreboding.

~~~

On the edge of the sea stood a small village. The ponies that called it home always welcomed the glowing horizon in the dawn, and the fading light of day as the moon rose. Today, the sun was high, the villagers out in celebration. In the town’s center, gathered around a freshly constructed stage, stood Princess Luna.

She looked over the ponies, a tired, yet warm look in her eyes. Her audience was bundled up for the cold, as winter was now in full swing, and Hearth’s Warming was only days away. And with a level of practice polished through countless repetition, she gave a grand speech. One of the founding of Equestria, of how proud she was of her fellow ponies, and just how fortunate each and every one of them were.

She was showered with affection for her words and presence, filling her chest with warmth. Yet, through it all, she felt troubled. Her words felt hollow, and her smile was fabricated. Despite that, she felt herself growing stronger with their cheers.

Their affection given, she dismissed them back to their daily routines, and one by one, the ponies started to disperse. Luna watched them go, her chest feeling heavy. She lost herself in thought as she watched, wondering if this was all eventually worth it. If it would all come to success in the end.

She blinked, pulled from her thoughts as she noticed a lone stallion standing, looking to her. Unlike the others, her words hadn’t moved his heart. Not fully. He looked to her with worried eyes, getting a curious look from the princess.

“What is it, Low Tide?” she asked, “What troubles you?” The stallion hesitated, glancing to the side for a moment, before locking his eyes with hers.

“Where’s Shifty Shores?” he asked, getting a confused look from the alicorn. His question carried a level of clarity she hadn’t been expecting. Low looked confused for a moment as he elaborated: “He’s been missing, for months now. Nopony seems to remember him when I ask,” he pressed, sounding alarmed.

“Highness,” a deep, unseen voice spoke, “She’s here.” Luna glanced to the side for a moment, before looking into the stallion’s eyes. She frowned, before approaching him.

“Don’t worry Low, his disappearance hasn’t gone unnoticed. He’s simply gone to visit his family, in Canter Town.” Low looked into her eyes for a moment longer, before giving her a smile.

“Really? That’s good to hear,” he was genuinely happy, giving the princess a small bow. He started to turn away, and she mirrored his actions, but paused when he cleared his throat. “Have a happy Hearth’s Warming, Princess Luna, and thank you for gracing old Tampa Neigh with your presence.” The alicorn’s ears fell for a moment, giving the stallion a nod, before the world melted away.

~~~

Amber opened her eyes. Her body felt hot as wisps of orange magic floated around her, siphoned from the cocoons above. She took in a deep breath as the last traces of power were drawn into her. She eyed the ground, her company waiting patiently as the queen composed herself. She then looked to the pods. Even though the ponies within had no concept of time, they always seemed to know the seasons, and without fail, when Hearth’s Warming was.

“How was it, Your Highness?” Lores asked, giving the queen a small bow.

“Like being in another world,” Amber replied, her tone dower, getting a confused look from the others, before Amber regained her royal composure. “Equestria has a starting point, which the ponies will be celebrating in a few days. Because of this, their love is greater than normal,” she then adopted a considering look as she glanced to Lores, “We had such a thing, once upon a time, in the heart of spring.”

“Yes, I am aware,” Lores replied, before tilting her head, “Is that why you called me?” she asked, getting a nod.

“I’ve been seeing the same things in my dreams of late. Of the black tree, from the old tale.” She then nodded to Lores. “Recite it for me.”

“You wish to hear of such a fairy tale?” Mantis asked, getting an annoyed look from the queen as he entered the chamber, to Lores’s surprise. “Even if that story is between you and Lores, I find it troubling that you’ve forgotten it.”

“You know of it?” The queen asked, making him shake his head.

“Yes, I know of it, and that many an adventurous drone died fruitless deaths pursuing it. Beyond that, I lack details,” he explained, getting an appraising look from the queen for a moment, before looking back to Lores.

“I have not forgotten it, though I can’t claim to recall every detail,” Amber explained, giving him a cold look, “That’s why Lores is Lores, in much the same way you are Mantis,” she then waved a dismissive hoof at him, “Now Lores, recount the tale of the tree. Of the very first hive.” Lores didn’t hesitate, giving the queen a short nod as Mantis looked on curiously.

“Of course, Your Highness,” she replied, sitting down after taking several deep breaths, before placing a hoof over her heart.

“When our world was still being born, Chaos and Order always sought their ideal creation. They worked for one where only chaos or order ruled. Chaos ripped apart anything that had order, allowing things to just happen with no reasoning to it. Seeing this, Order would grab the broken pieces and would place them together such that no change happened, and order was absolute.

“But, they would both sometimes miss a piece, that would slip between them, where neither could see. Time passed, and these pieces collected to form our world. In its core, order was absolute. On its crust, chaos ruled. Together, they mixed, forming harmony. This is where we, and everyone and everything else was born.”

To Lores’ surprise, Amber cut her off. The queen had taken on the same posture as the drone, her eyes closed as the rest of the tale played out in her heart. She believed she’d forgotten it, but hearing it again woke the memory buried in her soul. She started to recount the rest. Lores was only a little put off by this.

“Our Mother, the mountain around us, was born where once Order sought to claim the sky. It pushed the rock up and up, raising our mother high, but the sky didn’t yield, for shaping the earth was Chaos's domain. Standing high, our mother could see greatly in all directions. In the distance, it could see places where other mountains grew. Yet despite seeing them, she felt sad, and alone.

“Then, one day, a piece of chaos came down, and created a daughter for the mountain, a daughter that would become the first Queen. However, she was born alone, without a heart. Because of this, she didn't understand the mountain's sadness. Still, the daughter wandered the mountain, learning how to move rocks, create caverns, and live as one with stone.

“However, one day, something strange was a found, a great gem, one that radiated with the power of chaos. The element of change. The Queen picked up this gem and infused a sculpture of stone with chaos, shaped in a way she wanted. From this, a son was born. This child would follow her, be with her, and protect her. The Mountain Mother was happy to see another one within her, but neither daughter nor grandson could understand her jubilation. Regardless, the two lived on, making a home in the mountain’s womb.

“Then, where crust and core mingled in the mountain’s heart, an odd balance of chaos and order came together and created something mountain and daughter and son had never seen before. Life. A tree grew in the dark, its bark blacker than night itself. A tree that became light in the pitch caverns. The living mother in the mountain. The gem of chaos bound the tree and the daughter, giving the queen true life, which she shared with the son. And from the tree, new life sprung. Leaves. Children."

Amber paused for a moment, her breath catching, eyes stinging. She took several deep breaths before continuing, ignoring the looks of her company.

“And then everything truly changed. From the union of tree and mountain and life, the Queen gained a heart. One filled with emotion. Suddenly, sadness, love, happiness, and all else made sense. The tree and mountain felt her love, and rejoiced in it. As the Queen and the Tree embraced the new feelings, they felt the heart spread to the children, and the feelings they felt were shared by all.

“From it, the Tree made sustenance for the now living children of the mountain. From the sustenance the children made life better for the Tree, and all were made happy. Nectar of Love flowed from the tree and Love of the Tree flowed from the Changelings. Such perfect harmony brought happiness to the Mother Mountain. The Queen raises her Hive and the hive comforts the Queen, and the Changeling life continues in prosperity and harmony."

Lores nodded to herself, wearing a small smile as she looked to the queen. She then adopted a look of confusion, as Amber continued on.

“Time passed, and to the Mother’s fear, Chaos came to seek out her daughters and sons. She spoke to her daughter, and the queen heard in her dreams. Visions that instilled fear, and purpose. So the Queen left Mother Mountain, leaving a new color in her stead, so the Queen could fight Chaos...” Silence fell over them as Amber slowly opened her eyes, getting concerned looks from Bastion and Lores.

“Highness?” Lores asked, getting an odd look from the queen, “I’ve never heard that last bit before.”

“It’s not your fault. That part was something the last royal guard of the violet hive told me. It’s an addition that was for my ears only,” she then waved a dismissive hoof, “Regardless, I had nearly forgotten it, until now.” She looked even more troubled than before. It was true. Her mother had a premonition, not unlike what she was seeing now.

“Did you hear what you needed to?” Lores asked, making the queen frown for a moment.

“Just what exactly was this dream that brought all this up?” Mantis inquired, his question hanging in the air as Amber considered the pods above her, and the dream she had.

“The Moon Princess is going to slay Chrysalis,” she said, without a hint of doubt, turning to Mantis with a cold look. “Mantis, I want our plans moved ahead of schedule. We’re mobilizing as soon as we can safely open the tunnels.” He blinked at this, before adopting a genuine smile.

“Understood, Your Highness, I’ll go get everything ready.” With that, he branched off, making Lores give the queen a conflicted look. Amber paid it no mind, closing her eyes as she reached out to the cocoons. She was going to need all the power she could get from them, for the coming battle.

~~~~~~~~

Chrysalis stood upon a rock, looking down a high hill. Her shadow faded as the sun set, bringing the quickly encompassing darkness of night as she took in her goal. Canter Town was in sight, just a few hours away.

Just how long has it been, since she stepped out of the hive into the rain? It was weeks, but it felt longer than that. She was taller now. Her perspective was broadened. And the final stretch was in sight, letting her take it in with her own eyes. Surprisingly, it looked a little different from what she’d seen in the ponies she’d fed from.

For one, it was bigger. Buildings closer to the mountain had a reddish look to them, for they were homes made of brick. The homes closer to the hilly land around the mountain were of wood, resembling those from Dodge. Lights from the town became more prominent in the fading daylight, making the town easy to spot at night. The lights in the dark made the young queen aware of another presence ahead of her.

Halfway up the mountain, was Luna’s castle, and the surrounding manors of wealthy ponies. Chrys couldn’t help but notice the moon rising as she took it in. The castle was nowhere near as large as the town below. It jutted out from the mountain, standing apart from the grey stone, yet blending in with the surrounding clouds. A cool breeze brushed past Chrys’s mane as she took it all in, all while a single, encompassing thought weighed over her: Their journey was almost over.

She then frowned as she realized a troublesome detail. At some point, she’d have to make her way back home. This thought was cut off as she became aware of a shadow towering behind her.

“Should we press through the night?” Aegis asked, making Chrys’s muscles ache as she turned to him, seeing the carriage left several paces behind, Momo and Dud sitting on top, looking to her.

“We’re almost there, so yes,” she replied, getting a nod from the guard, while the others shared a look.

“Actually, can we stop here?” Momo asked, making the young queen blink, looking to her clutchling. “Not for sparring, I think we can pass for tonight Chrys. It’s just, uhh…” Momo added sheepishly, before poking Dud. “Pass!” He seemed all too eager to accept the trade-off.

“Alright, what are you two up to?” Chrys asked, her gaze narrowing suspiciously.

“Your Highness,” Dud began, “Today is Hearth’s Warming. In my professional opinion, we should set up camp and celebrate.”

“What profession? Rare Creatures Expert?”

“Lifetime pony,” he replied with a sly grin.

“So, that’s today?” Chrys asked, getting a nod. She couldn't claim to be too surprised. Aegis had made good time of their trek across the countryside, and they hadn't been accosted since Sledge's attack. “Well, it’s a bit late for that now. Besides, it’s more of a pony thing,” she added as she glanced to the side, “There’s no reason for the rest of us to celebrate.”

“Well, in case you didn’t know, I happen to be a pony,” he said with a beaming grin, “And, it’s more than a pony thing,” he firmly pointed out. “It’s not just ponies that celebrate. Sure, we formed the holiday, but that doesn’t mean it’s exclusive,” he replied, flying around Chrys, landing next to her, before pointing to Canter Town. “Can’t you feel it? It’s everyone’s holiday.” Chrys looked over the town again. She couldn’t see anything, but she could feel a warm ambience floating over the town. It felt similar to what she felt in Dodge. Ambient love.

“You really think we should just set up camp when the town’s right there?” Chrys asked in an annoyed tone, “We can put off talking to Luna tomorrow, but we’re going to call it a night in Canter Town.” Sleeping in Dodge had proven a far more pleasant time than sleeping out in the snow, despite the comfort of the enchanted carriage.

“Come on Chrys,” Momo said in a pleading tone, “Please?” she asked, getting a surprised look from the queen, who glanced to the side.

“He wrapped you into this, didn’t he?”

“A little,” Momo quickly replied, giving Chrys a big grin, “But, I want to rest out here. At least, tonight. This is the last night of our journey. We should celebrate!”

“We’re not out of hot water yet,” Chrys said flatly, “What if Sledge tries to catch us off guard while we’re distracted?” she asked, getting a small chuckle from Dud.

“This close to Canter Town? That isn’t going to happen,” he assured.

“Why’s that? More Shadowbolts?”

“Yep! Oh, and Princess Luna is one short glide away,” he added, making Chrys eye the castle. She briefly humored the idea of having the princess meet them the rest of the way, after everything they’ve been through since leaving the hive. She didn’t humor it long, glancing to her clutchling and friend. She frowned as she considered the matter, the memory of being talked into sleeping in a lamia’s den coming to mind as she let out a sigh.

“I guess it can’t be helped. I wouldn’t want to distract Princess Luna from her celebrating, which she is likely enjoying, by darkening her doorstep. So, we’ll wait.”

“Okay!” Momo let out, giving Chrys a brief hug. The young queen glanced to the side, a little happy for the warmth. That didn’t stop her from frowning at them.

“I kind of get the feeling you two weren’t giving me a choice,” she said flatly, “You better not conspire against me again,” she added with a raised eyebrow, getting a low bow from the pegasus.

“Of course, Chrysalis,” he said with a smile, as Momo mirrored his bow. “Now, shall I get our Hearth’s Warming dinner going?” he asked with a big grin, making Chrys tilt her head.

“You make it sound like it’ll be different from the other dinners we’ve had,” she stated, getting a sly look from the pony.

“It will be, just wait and see~!”

“Fine, be that way,” she said, letting out a small sigh before giving him a hard look, “You better not disappoint me!”

“We won’t!” Momo added, before Dud went into the carriage. “Aegis, can you get a fire going?” The guardian glanced to Chrys for a moment, before nodding. “Thanks!” she added, before joining Dud.

“They seem quite happy,” Aegis observed, getting some wood strapped to the carriage ready for a campfire.

“Dud’s gone and poisoned her with this holiday nonsense,” Chrys replied, glancing back to Canter Town. Her ears perked. She could hear singing coming from the village.

“Are you going through with it?” Aegis asked, giving the young queen a hard look, which she took in with a glance.

“Probably. I’ll know for certain after talking to Luna,” she replied, before rolling her eyes, “Tomorrow.”

“Queen Amber would not approve.”

“And neither would Mantis,” Chrys replied, adopting a dirty grin at the thought of it, before washing off with an assuring look. “Amber will understand, after I explain everything to her.”

“Of this, you’re certain?” he asked, getting a firm nod from the young queen. “Very well then. It’s to your discretion. Though, I wish you’d share what it was you found with me.”

“...I will, eventually,” she replied.

“Are you two done with your important talk?” Dud asked from the carriage, “Cause if so, we’ve got some celebrating to do!”

“You think to tell me what to do?” Chrys asked with a raised eyebrow, getting a sheepish smile from the pony.

“Sorry Chrys, just a little excited.” He then blinked, “Hey, where’s the fire?” he asked, making the queen look to Aegis, who briefly cleared his throat. With a bit of changeling fire, the guardian got the wood burning.

“Dud, are there other days like Hearth’s Warming?” Momo asked, following behind him with all sorts of veggies for the stew to come.

“You mean other holidays?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, there’s the Summer Sun Celebration, Tom-Foolery Day, Hearts and Hooves day,” he then blinked at their flat looks, “You don’t know about that one?” he asked, getting negative shakes from his company. “Huh, well, I guess it is a much younger holiday than the other two.”

“Ponies sure have a lot of time to goof around,” Chrys said coolly, watching as the pot was placed over the fire, before the components for dinner were added. Something was immediately different about it. It smelled a lot sweeter than the salty stews she’d tried before. Already, Chrys’s mouth was watering in anticipation.

“Yeah, I guess we do,” Dud replied, not sounding all that bothered by the notion, “Don’t changelings have anything like that too? I know every drone has a birthday equivalent for earning their name, but what about the whole hive?” he asked. Momo shook her head, while Chrys adopted a considering look.

“I think we used to have one.” That got an intrigued look from Aegis and Momo.

“Did her highness mention something?” Aegis asked, getting a small nod from the young queen.

“Amber always seemed down on the same day of the year, in the spring. I asked her about it once, and she said it was once a day of celebration. A holiday like what ponies have. She didn’t tell me more about it,” Chrys admitted, looking a little put off, “Said I wasn’t ready for it.”

“When was that?” Momo asked, making the queen tilt her head.

“Last year.”

“Well, that’s certainly interesting,” Dud said, stirring the pot, “Gotta ask Lores about that, next time we see her.” Chrys frowned at that. Would there be a next time? A silence fell over them as the food cooked, but it didn’t last long.

“Okay Mr. Guide,” Momo said energetically, looking to Dud, “How do we celebrate a pony holiday?” He adopted a mischievous grin at that.

“Songs and stories and warm fuzzy feelings~!” he said in a little jingle, making Momo’s grin widen, while Chrys wore a look of disgust.

“No songs,” she said flatly. This was one thing she wasn’t going to budge on. Ever.

“Stories it is then!” he exclaimed, before leaning close to Aegis, “Let’s start with the nest of flaremanders a certain changeling led us to.”

“Y- You don’t need to share that story!” Chrys insisted, faintly blushing, getting a conflicted look from the guard as his eyes switched between the two.

“You heard Her Highness,” Aegis replied, ending the awkward pause that was him considering the notion, far longer than Chrys was comfortable with.

“Alright then, how about a Hearth’s Warming story instead?” Dud asked, getting a quick nod from Chrys, making the yellow stallion smile wide as he took to the air. And thus their night of celebration began. Bellies were filled with warm sweet-potato stew. Voices were loud with tales, pony and changeling in origin being traded. And though the young queen was putting on a stubborn front, she couldn’t hide her smile.

And it wasn’t long before their stories shifted to reflection, as they looked back on what they’d been through ever since Mantis returned to the hive, almost two months ago. Their battles in the torrential rain. The company they shared with a mother snake and her children. The trials through the mountain. The destruction of Thundercloud, and the recovery and direction they found in Dodge. It all felt like it had happened just yesterday, yet at the same time felt a lifetime away. They laughed at their blunders, and the close calls. Because after everything was said and done, they made it. Canter Town was singing, and their hearts were close enough to hear.

As the night wore on, stories faded, being replaced with pride and the crackling of fire as the holiday gradually came to a close. Yet, through all the celebration, mirth, and pride, Chrys constantly found herself giving quick glances to the mountain looming ahead of them, to the lights of the castle. Tomorrow, she would meet the Princess of the Moon. And Chrysalis, was ready.

Author's Note:

[insert picture of Momo and Dud rubbing their noses together]
~~~~~

The Badland Pegasi were shape-shifters. What they were naturally, he wasn’t sure.

Probably a liquid biomass that can not only shapeshift into creatures, but also objects. Having one of these shape-shifters as Chief of Security could prove quite amusing.
Also, has that crossover been made yet?
~~~~~

Voices were loud with tales, pony and changeling in origin being traded.

Tales such as A Hearth's Warming Tail. How the Fintch Stole the Holiday (Dud really liked that one). The Gift of the Unicorn. The Blue-Nosed Reindeer. And one changeling tale Momo loves: The Shell-Cracker and the Ant-King.
~~~~~

Tomorrow, she would meet the Princess of the Moon. And Chrysalis, was ready.

Can one truly be prepared for Luna?
~~~~~
Well, we're finally at the edge. I'd be lying if I said I haven't been looking forward to next chapter.
Hope you enjoyed this little wrapping of the things up before the big meeting between Chrys and Luna. Thanks as always for reading, and I'll see you all in chapter 25: Between the Princess and the Queen.

Also, wanna thank Seiya and Llyrisviel for their editing prowess. You guys are awesome! :twilightsmile: