• 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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25. Between the Princess and the Queen

The carriage lurched to a stop, making Chrys’s ear perk up. Glancing out one of the windows, she confirmed her assumption, so she took a deep breath, and stepped outside. Before the lavish cart, stood Luna’s castle. With the wagon's door facing away from it, Chrys found herself staring out at the Equestrian vista upon exiting.

To the left, hugging the sides of the mountain, was a line of wealthy looking estates. Homes that Chrys felt wouldn’t be too out of place, compared to her carriage. Looking to the right, far, far below, she could see Canter Town. It made her heart skip a beat. The last time she was this high, was in Thundercloud. South, far beyond the town, she could see a large dark forest, seemingly untouched by winter. The heavy greens stood out from the white, snow painted lands, making the young Queen’s gaze linger as she took it in.

Moving to the front, her eyes rose to the castle. A structure of white stone that stood taller than any other building the changeling had seen, it gave off a sense of pride that even she could appreciate. The castle had two spires. One that popped out of the mountain, as if half the castle was embedded inside the pillar to the heavens. The other was perched out over the far side, almost standing free of the castle, presenting a wide view of the lands around to anypony perched on top.

Chrys then looked to what was immediately ahead of her. The holiday adorned iron gates were open, with a pair of silver armored guards to each side standing quietly, their eyes looking off, as if there was nothing around worth their attention. Taking all this in, Chrys came to Aegis’s side as he freed himself from the carriage.

If the long climb up the mountain drained him, he hid it terribly well. She’d thought they’d have been here sooner. Indeed, reaching Canter Town took only an hour since setting out at dawn, but the climb had proven time consuming. It was now past midday. She heard Dud and Momo landing a pace behind her as she looked into the courtyard.

Was she supposed to simply walk inside?

She didn’t ask the question out loud, choosing to put it into action instead; she moved forward. The guards continued looking on quietly as she and the others entered the castle grounds unimpeded. As with everywhere else, the grounds were blanketed with a small layer of snow. There were buried bushes and small mounds of hidden life: the castle garden. The garden was also home to statues. Well crafted figures, that brought to mind what the young Queen saw back in the broken mountain. Only, instead of changelings, these were of ponies.

Well, mostly. There was a regally dressed minotaur that was posed heroically, as well as a stuffy looking griffin that was looking down on the garden around. There was even a tribal looking zebra, holding a sharp looking spear. While interesting, they didn’t draw her attention much. Her eyes were on the castle looming before her-

Her steps faltered when her eyes fell on a strange statue. It had a long, serpentine body, with a scaly tail, a feathery middle and a furry top. Each limb, including its two horns and wings, seemed to come from completely different creatures. A statue that seemed more like an expression of art than some tribute to history. The oddity was posed as if it were singing. For some reason, Chrys felt uneasy staring at it. It felt like it was staring right back at her.

“Highness?” Aegis asked, the first words spoken since they began their climb.

“It’s nothing,” she said, pulling her eyes from the statue, pushing the odd moment out of her mind as she continued on. She took notice of another set of guards standing at the main door of the castle, which towered over them. This time, it was a trio. The soldier in the center was shorter than the others, but he wore golden armor, and carried an aura of command about him.

Chrys couldn’t help but note that she was the same height as he, a fact that wouldn’t have held true a week ago. Even she was surprised by her growth. Her hunger had lessened as well over the last few days, reaching something closer to what a normal pony would eat. Chrys was quite happy for her height. No changeling would ever confuse her for a hatchling ever again. The weakening hunger left her with the impression that the spurt was winding down. Still, she was really hoping that she’d end up being a little taller than Momo when it ended.

Queenly growth-spurts aside, she climbed the stairs, eyes forward. She was here, and she was ready-

Out of habit, or perhaps as a display of dominance, she locked eyes with the distinguished guard in center, finding not a pony standing there, but a changeling in disguise. Chrys paused, her determination tripping over confusion. Aegis noticed the drone as well, stepping closer to Chrys as her mind began to race. A changeling, here? It didn’t take long, only a moment, for it to click. Ghost. The title given to the most covertly capable changeling. A soldier, spy, that Mantis called on for details about Princess Luna. A changeling that had infiltrated the very home of the Princess. A spy whom Chrys had completely forgotten about, with everything that’d happened since escaping Mantis. A changeling Darrin had suggested she find.

“Greetings, Queen Chrysalis,” Ghost said in a neutral tone, giving a small bow, which his pony subordinates immediately mirrored. “My name is Olive, captain of the Royal Guard, Princess Luna’s personal soldiers. I’m here for any questions you seek answered before your audience with Her Highness, and to guide you through the castle.” Chrys's eyes narrowed at him. Was he one of Mantis’s lackeys? Did he share the same sentiments? Was he a threat to everything Chrys wanted? Was he a threat to her? She found herself unable to keep the questions to herself, voicing the one that would raise the least suspicion.

“Tell me, Olive, will we be safe here?” she asked in a wary tone, getting a small nod from him.

“I shall personally see to it,” he replied. There was no emotion to his reply, only cold words.

“Fine. I have no other questions for you. I want to speak to Princess Luna. Immediately.”

“Understood, Highness.” With that, the other guards opened the large door, and Ghost started inside. Chrys watched him for a moment, before glancing to Aegis. She was safe with him close. Well, safe from Ghost that is. With that in mind, she followed Luna's 'royal guard', the others a pace behind her.

Coming in from a snow bleached mountain, she didn’t find the interior of the castle any less bright. It was almost amusing, how different it was from the dark halls and tunnels she grew up in. At least, she would have found it amusing, if it weren’t for the spy and what he represented. Captain of the Royal Guard. That meant that Luna trusted him. He was in the perfect position to undermine Equestria. But, that very same position also meant he could easily undermine what Chrysalis had in mind.

What was she supposed to do about him? Expose him to Luna? Convince him that Mantis was the threat to the hive, and not her? Work him on to her side? Could she even trust him if she managed that? If he could fool the ruler of Equestria, then couldn’t he do the same to her? These questions hounded her, a solution to deal with Ghost avoiding her grasp. It was starting to aggravate her. Thankfully, an odd distraction stumbled into them.

The sound of glass breaking made everyone stop, looking to Dud. A pegasus wearing a long white coat had stumbled into the sunny stallion, dropping a bottle filled with a purple liquid. The mare had a very tired look to her, with deep shadows under her eyes as she looked at the mess in confusion.

“Oh horsefeathers,” she mumbled, before becoming aware of the others. Her face deepened in shade as she took a hesitant step back, “We have visitors?” she asked. Chrys could swear she heard Ghost let out a sigh.

“Pestle, go to bed,” Ghost said sternly, getting a frown from the mare, whom Dud was giving an appraising look.

“You go to tired, because I’m not bed,” Pestle replied, making Dud smile. The confused mare then blinked, “Wait, oh…” she let out, noticing the mess again. “S- Sorry.” She let out a long yawn. “Welcome to Luna’s castle,” she mumbled, looking over Chrys and the others, before lifting with a weak flap, and hovered off, leaving the mess behind.

“That was…?” Dud asked curiously, getting a bothered look from the captain.

“Lady Pestle The Flask, Princess Luna’s knight. There will be a more ... proper, introduction later,” he said dismissively, before indicating a long hallway ahead of them, with another set of decorated doors at the end. “Her embarrassing display aside, this here is where the others shall wait,” he said, looking to Chrys, catching her by surprise. “I shall escort you to the door, but everypony, and buffalo, must wait here.”

“Unacceptable,” Aegis said sternly, getting a neutral, yet commanding look from the guard.

“Aegis was it?” he asked with a raised eyebrow, “This is the Princess’s wish. She wants to speak with Chrysalis alone.” The young Queen considered that for a moment, before looking to Aegis.

“Don’t worry. I can go the rest of the way myself,” she said sternly, making the guard give her a troubled look.

“You’re not to face danger alone,” he said adamantly, making Ghost let out a mock cough.

“Danger you say?” he asked, “If you cannot trust Luna’s protectors, then how can we expect you to trust Her Highness?” His question made Chrys blink, before giving him a hard glare. She looked from him to the door on the far wall, considering it all for a moment.

They’d have a brief window together, Ghost and her, alone. Would he gain anything by attacking her? He’d most likely lose his cover if he did, and Aegis would stop him before he really accomplished anything against her. Thinking this, Chrys looked to her guardian.

“Aegis, I haven’t forgotten what you said. Don’t worry.”

“You’re sure?” he asked, getting a nod from her.

“I need to take a leap of faith,” she replied, glancing to Dud, who gave her an assuring grin, “I’ll be fine.”

“I … understand, Your Highness,” Aegis replied, looking uncomfortable with leaving her alone, but giving her a respectful nod.

“Well, Olive, lead the way,” she said. He gave her a small bow, before heading down the hall. His back was exposed to her. A fact that wasn’t lost on the young Queen. She followed, her eyes locked on him. They walked past murals on the walls. Windows of stained glass. The floor was soft and carpeted. All of this registered in the back of her mind. Not a word was exchanged between them as they walked.

In unison, they stopped at the door. Chrys felt a chill run down her spine as he glanced over his shoulder towards her. He was radiating a sense of caution.

“We will talk later,” he whispered, so quietly that she almost missed it. He then turned towards her, the danger he instilled vanishing as he adorned his neutral mask. “Queen Chrysalis, I present you to the Princess of Equestria, Luna,” he said, bowing towards the door, motioning a hoof towards it. Chrys eyed it expectantly for a moment, thinking it would open itself for her. It quickly became clear to her that it wasn’t going to do so, looking to Ghost with an annoyed expression.

“You expect me to open it?” she asked, getting a small nod from him.

“That is what Princess Luna wished. I was simply to walk you down the path. It’s up to you to open the door, and manage the consequences for it.” Chrys blinked at him, his words conjuring up a great weight on her shoulders. However, compared to everything that had come before, it might as well be a feather. If Princess Luna wanted her to jump through this trivial hoop, then fine, she’d humor the Princess. If only because she must. Besides, it wasn’t like she was going to let herself be stopped by a closed door. Horn glowing, she swung the doors wide, stepping into the throne room in the same action.

It somehow proved to be even more spectacular than the rest of the castle. The red carpet lined forward. The walls to either side had colorful tapestries draped over tall windows. The ceiling was arched, painted with a mural of the heavens, with the sun and moon radiating beams of light to either end. The corners of the room were accented with a golden hue. All of it together drew a line towards the throne, leaving no doubt to where one’s attention was directed.

There she sat, on her silver throne. A matching tiara, shoes and necklace was all she wore, and it accented her dark blue coat and flowing starlit mane perfectly. She was a head taller than the average pony, but to Chrys’s surprise, still shorter than Amber or one of the hive’s royal guards. Luna was composed, dignified, proud and regal. She looked at Chrys coolly, her eyes judging, instilling in Chrys a feeling of lacking, yet at the same time, a sense of welcome.

First with Canter Town and now its Princess, Chrys couldn’t deny that you haven’t truly seen something until you’ve seen it with your own eyes. No dream could do the Moon Princess justice. She radiated a presence about her that kept Chrys from advancing. It wasn’t one of power or domination, like Mantis had called upon months ago. It was an aura of experience, understanding, compassion, and a sense of good will. Benevolence.

Chrys was snapped out of her awe at the sound of the doors closing behind her. She had a strong urge to look back, but she didn’t indulge it. Doing such a thing was a show of weakness. Thinking that, she continued forward, her steps muffled by the carpet. As she made her approach, she kept her eyes on Luna, and she on hers.

Halfway through the room, she found her gaze start edging in on Luna’s heart. Chrys hesitated, but only for a moment. She wanted the ability to shapeshift into an alicorn, and she was curious to what she’d find in the royal’s heart. So she took a dive, and peered inside. And what a dive it was, for within Luna’s heart housed a kingdom. Ponies of all kinds. Animals. Griffins. Zebra. Even a dragon or two. Luna’s heart was populated beyond anything Chrys ever considered possible. There were those she loved beyond count. Many were dark, departed from their mortal coils, yet in her heart they persisted. It was almost too much for the young Queen. She had to close her eyes, before her mind ended up getting lost in the countless faces, names, and identities.

She blinked, her breathing heavy as she realized she was looking at the carpet. How long she’d been standing there, she couldn’t honestly say. She found herself unable to look up. She thought she was ready to deal with this. Ready to talk to Princess Luna. She certainly did a good job convincing herself of that. But now it was beyond clear to Chrysalis.

This mare before her was not a normal pony. The idea of her being able to move the sun and moon suddenly became a frighteningly real possibility to her. Honestly, at this point, the fact that Luna was an alicorn seemed almost an afterthought. Just what was Chrysalis, compared to that?

An image of Amber came to mind, a warm smile on her lips.

Chrysalis looked up. The gap between her and Luna didn't matter. She still had to do what she must, to protect those she loved. She blinked again, her determination being traded in for confusion. The Princess was eyeing her with a concerned look. Chrys’s confusion turned to annoyance. Honestly, crossing a room shouldn’t be this hard!

She continued her march, and nothing else impeded her. She stopped at the stairs to the raised platform the throne rested on. Then, she bowed. Nopony told her to do it. She hadn’t seen another pony bow to Luna. Yet, it felt right, like it was what was supposed to happen in this situation. Luna bowed in response, and in unison, the two raised their heads. Luna’s horn glowed, and a small, lavish cushion was placed several paces from her throne. In the same motion, a small tray on a well crafted wooden cart wheeled out from behind the throne. A steaming teapot and two cups rested on it.

“Well met, Princess Chrysalis,” Luna began, her voice soft and warm. “Or, is it Queen now?” she asked, a hint of intrigue in her voice as she presented the seat, which Chrys coolly accepted.

“Yes, it’s Queen Chrysalis,” she replied, keeping a confident tone as she looked to the ruler of ponies. “Thank you for the audience, Princess Luna. There’s a great deal for us to discuss.”

“Indeed there is, but before that, may I ask how you became a Queen?” she inquired, making Chrys blink. Of all the questions she’d conjured up in preparation for this meeting, that wasn’t among them.

“I am Queen, for I was born to be one,” she replied resolutely, getting a considering look from the alicorn.

“Anypony can be born with a title, but, nopony is born a ruler. It’s something you grow into.”

“Well, I was born to be one,” Chrys replied sternly, giving Luna a small frown. “Whether I wanted to or not.”

“Oh? And you’d rather not?” Luna asked, making the young Queen falter.

“That’s not what I meant.”

“As I’ve come to see it, there’s nothing wrong with not wanting it. Being a Queen can be harder than being a Princess. And neither is a task just anypony can take up.” Chrys tilted her head at that. There was a difference?

“What do you mean?”

“A Princess guides. A Queen rules." Chrys was left with the impression that Luna was quoting somepony. "As a Princess, I look over all of ponydom, helping when the need calls for it. But, for the most part, Equestria runs itself. I just offer a guiding hoof. However, a Queen holds absolute authority. Any blunder of hers trickles down to the kingdom, and the source of the blunder is always found at the top.” Luna then nodded to herself, “It’s easier to gain contempt and mistrust, as a Queen.” Chrys’s brow furrowed at that, Mantis’s contempt for Amber immediately came to mind, souring the young Queen’s mood. “However, as a Queen, it is also easy to gain love and respect,” Chrys blinked at that.

“So wait, are you saying it’s better to be a Princess, than a Queen?” Chrys asked with a raised eyebrow, making Luna shake her head.

“Better or worse is a matter of circumstance and opinion. As a Queen, there’s no filter between your actions, and how they move the hearts of your ponies. I’m simply saying that I can see it being harder than being a Princess. Though, in all honesty, I can’t say for certain, as Equestria’s never had a Queen.” Luna then glanced to the paned windows, “To be frank, Princess or Queen, both are rather difficult stations to take up.”

“I, I can agree to that,” Chrys replied, her chest aching at what happened to Momo at Thundercloud. What happened to Dud in the mountain. What Mantis tried to do with her clutchings back at the hive. What happened to Bulwark… And that was just the weight of four lives under her crown. The young Queen found herself picturing what Amber must have gone through over the centuries of her reign. The famines, pain, and desperation that led to this moment. Chrys then took in Luna, imagining what the Princess must have gone through. Such as the loss of four towns…

“Let’s change the subject,” Luna added, getting a flat look from Chrys as the Princess’s horn glowed. “Tea?” she asked, indicating the pot as she started filling one of the cups. It had a sweet, apple-like smell to it. Chrys politely declined. The changeling then realized that nothing she came to voice had been spoken yet. “Did you enjoy your trek through Equestria?” the Princess asked, getting a flustered look from Chrys.

“Yes. I mean, no.” Chrys then shook her head, “It was peaceful, mostly, but cold.”

“I suppose winter isn’t necessary in The Badlands. But in Equestria, winter is an important part of life’s cycle,” Luna explained. Chrys considered it for a moment, before giving the alicorn a bothered look.

“Why did you even ask? You had your Shadowbolts watching me the whole time after all,” she pointed out, making Luna tilt her head.

“Just idle curiosity. They may have watched you, but that doesn’t make me omniscient. As the Princess of Equestria, I am your hostess during your stay in our lands. Is it not fair to know if I am doing a good job?” she asked, her voice carrying a tone of feigned hurt.

“Yes, I guess,” Chrys replied, before her eyes narrowed at her. “Princess Luna, just what’s the point of these questions?” she asked, “I came here to talk to you about peace, and yet you keep throwing all these- these- small trivialities at me!”

“Well, it is just small talk. Something to break the ice,” Luna replied casually.

Small talk!? Small talk is about the weather or how the tea was or-” Chrys caught herself from making a hive related comment. “Th- This is not small talk.”

“Oh?” the Princess replied, tilting her head, “I find this quite common when talking to individuals of importance. Would you expect small talk between two leaders to be anything but normal?”

“There you go again! Stop with those pointless questions!”

“You really think they’re pointless?” she asked, taking a sip of her tea. Chrys could catch a grin being hidden behind that sip!

“S- Stop doing that,” Chrys insisted, ears falling as she came to realize the truth in Luna’s smile. Chrys had absolutely no control over the conversation.

“Very well,” Luna replied, placing her cup down, making Chrys blink in surprise. “Since small talk is over, let’s move on to the matter at hoof.” Chrys eyed her for a moment in disbelief. Is she toying with me? Whatever, just keep moving forward!

“Y- Yes, well,” Chrys replied, quickly regaining her composure, “I wish for peace between my people and Equestria.” The Princess nodded in agreement.

“As would I,” she replied, a determined light shining in her eyes, “Such a thing would be … difficult, as long as you hold the ponies of Thundercloud in your custody.”

“Yes, of course,” Chrys replied, letting out a sigh of relief now that the conversation was on the topics she had prepared herself for. “I can return them to you, and I can also compensate for what’s happened to Thundercloud.” Luna raised an eyebrow.

“And just how would a young Queen without a kingdom of her own manage that?” Chrys was caught off guard by Luna’s assumption. It was a fair one to make, considering the circumstances, but she hadn’t expected the Princess to brazenly point it out. It kind of annoyed her.

“I can convince the Queen in charge of the Badland Pegasi, Queen Amber, to go along with it.” Luna’s eyes shifted at hearing Amber’s name, a note of curiosity in her gaze.

“Amber you say… Ah yes, and you need my help because of Mantis. Your father.” Chrys frowned at Luna, her composure tossed aside as she rose to her hooves, stepping closer to the Princess.

“Never call him that again!” she demanded. Her eyes then widened at her own outburst. Luna was taken aback. “I, I’m sorry. I- That is- There, there is no love between us,” Chrys assured, slowing sitting back down, face blushing slightly.

“Clearly,” Luna replied, her ears falling briefly. “He was the one that sent the dragon to hunt you?”

“Yes, that’s right,” Chrys replied, finally regaining her composure. “He wants war. It’s one reason he attacked Thundercloud. And, he’s managed to keep my hooves tied in preventing it.” Until now that is. She then smiled. All he had now to threaten her was Darrin, and she trusted that her clutchling was capable of keeping out of Mantis’s fangs.

“So, I help you lock up Mantis, and everything is settled?” Luna asked skeptically, getting a nod from Chrys.

“With Mantis out of the way, everything else will be easy.”

“Then, unlike Mantis, you have a good relationship with your mother,” Luna said flatly, getting a surprised look from Chrys. “A Queen mothers a Princess, who grows to be Queen. Am I wrong?”

“No. We’re very close.” There was no shame in her heart for admitting that to the Princess.

“Very well then,” Luna replied, adopting a considering look, “I’ll take your request under consideration,” she added, making Chrys blink.

Under consideration?” she asked flatly, “Didn’t you want peace!?”

“Yes. I also want answers,” Luna replied, giving the young Queen a stern look. “Ever since Thundercloud was attacked, all I’ve had are questions. Some of them, I gained answers to. But, I want to hear what you have to offer.” Chrys faltered at Luna’s revelation.

She had answers? What secrets did she know? Was it a bluff? Chrys could only ponder as the Princess continued. “Chrysalis, you and your nation are wrapped in a web of secrets. Am I to trust my resources to you to tackle a warmonger simply on faith, when you offer nothing to build a bond of trust?”

“H- Hey, what of me!?” Chrys replied defensively, “I’ve taken my own leap of faith coming into this room alone, with you!”

“Was it really a leap?” Luna asked asked with a skeptical look, “I’ve known where you’ve been ever since you were carried to Dodge. My word has protected you in more ways than you realize. I invited you here alone so you could speak openly without fearing unwelcome ears. I have given you my show of trust, yet it’s you who is offering nothing in return, other than your word.” She said it all calmly, but Chrys couldn’t help but feel guilty all the same. “You asked why I showered you with pointless questions. It was because I wanted to learn more of you. After all, second hoof accounts from an, eccentric, pegasus can only convey so much.” Chrys looked at her for a moment in disbelief. She then shifted uncomfortably on the cushion as she glanced to the side.

“...What did you learn?” she asked hesitantly.

“That you’re impatient.” Chrys winced at that, “Paranoid. Inexperienced. And unrefined,” she divvied out, raising an eyebrow as Chrys frowned at that floor. “But, you’re also brave. Determined. Loyal. Curious. And I suspect, compromising.” Well, now Chrys was blushing.

“You got all of that from ‘simple small talk’?” she asked, getting a nod from the Princess.

“I see in your eyes somepony that wants to protect what they love. We can be driven to actions we wouldn’t want to take protect such things. Would there be any other reason for you to leave home and seek my audience?” Chrys frowned at that.

“I was forced to leave, because of Mantis. I simply worked with it to help my moth- my kingdom.”

“Ahh, and you’re resourceful,” Luna added with a grin. “Surely you’ve learned more of me from this exchange too, have you not?” Chrys nodded. Though, if she were being frank with the Princess, she learned most of the important things about Luna when she looked into her eyes. “So, back to the matter at hoof,” she said, looking at Chrys expectantly.

The young Queen hesitated, glancing to the side. She had prepared herself to tell Luna about changelings, but with Ghost being added to the mix, she found herself unable to speak it. Not without dealing with the drone first. But, she couldn’t just walk away from this without giving the Princess something in return. The Shadowbolts played their part in the fight with Sledge, and Luna made their time in Dodge easier, a fact that made Momo’s recovery run smoother. Chrys couldn’t stand the idea of leaving her first encounter with Luna without giving the Princess something to form some mutual trust over. But, what could she give?

Everything Luna didn’t know about the Badland Pegasi could be explained with the changeling revelation. Explaining Hope meant little without revealing the changeling secret. Giving away the attack on Canter Town wasn’t an option. She had some trust for the Princess, but not nearly enough for that. Was there really nothing she could give her?

Luna looked over the pondering Queen, a hint of disappointment in her eyes. “I understand if you’re not ready,” she said, her words instilling a feeling of shame and failure in Chrys. “This is, after all, our first meeting. One I admit I wasn’t entirely prepared for, as I was expecting your arrival tomorrow.” She then adopted a considering look, “Forming alliances and agreements takes some time, and you haven’t had a moment to rest from your journey,” she added, giving Chrys an assuring smile. Chrys found no strength from it, not for Luna’s effort. “Olive can show you to your rooms. You are of course free to leave the castle at any time.”

“I … I get the feeling that this meeting is over,” Chrys said, her chest hurting at the growing pit in her heart.

“Only if you allow it to be,” the Princess replied. Chrys looked to her, mouth hanging open, words hanging on her lips. We’re changelings. We need love to live. We don’t need ponies anymore. It’ll all be okay. We don’t need to fight! But, in her mind’s eye, Mantis’s shadow loomed over her, a shadow named Ghost.

“...I need time to think. I’ll have a reply for you tomorrow,” Chrys choked out, her head low as she turned around.

“I look forward to it,” Luna replied, a weak smile on her lips as the young Queen started back across the room.

Her first meeting with the Princess, one where she was going to leave a good impression, and gain a powerful ally to aid her in peace, ended with nothing more than disappointment, and it was all because of Mantis’s machinations. Even if it was something the cursed drone hadn’t intended, Ghost’s presence had stayed her hoof. She’d lost. Even this far away from home, was she not allowed freedom from his malice? It was at that moment, when Chrys realized how daunting a task it was that loomed before her. Mantis had spearheaded the destruction of four Equestrian towns. A simple alliance and apology wasn’t going to undo that damage-

Chrys blinked, eyes widening as she stopped, her journey ending halfway between the Princess, and the exit. She turned back to Luna, a fire lit in her eyes. She did have something to give.

“Princess Luna, it was the Badland Pegasi that destroyed Tampa Neigh, Iron Trot, and Neighgarou,” she said resolutely. She didn’t find surprise in Luna’s eyes, only sadness.

“I see..." Luna replied, glancing to the side, "I knew that was the case. Still, I wish you hadn’t admitted to it,” she said, her ears falling, “How can I convince my subjects of peace when they learn the truth?” she asked. Chrys simply took a step forward.

“They’re all still alive!” the young Queen added. Well, all but a certain stallion. That caught Princess Luna by surprise.

“You- You mean to tell me that the ponies of those towns, families and friends, still live?” she asked, raising from her throne, a cautious, yet hopeful note in her voice.

“Yes. We have them. They’re safe,” Chrys assured, “We needed them to gather food, but on the way here, I found a better way. When everything’s settled down and we have peace, we’ll be able to return them.” This was it. This was the answer she found, filling the young Queen’s eyes the flame of purpose. That fire briefly sputtered. Luna was holding a hoof over her mouth, her eyes were wet.

“They’re alive…” the Princess repeated, giving the young Queen a teary, bright smile. A smile Luna hadn’t had a chance to indulge in since Tampa Neigh fell into the sea. A smile that signified a great weight on her shoulders being lifted.

After several seconds, she wiped her eyes, before regaining her composure. “My, My apologies, Chrysalis, that was news I wasn’t expecting.” She took several deep breaths, before considering the Queen. “So, it was a matter of food. I’m sure you had your reasons for why you did it, which I’d like to hear.” She then shook her head, “But not right now,” as she said that, something about her seemed to change. Chrys couldn’t pin down what, but for some reason, the Princess now felt more like a regular pony than some powerful leader. She then motioned to the tea, walking away from her throne, levitating its cushion, as well as the one Chrys used to her side. “We still have some time. Tell me, good Queen, would you indulge me with more small talk?” she asked, a small smile on her face, getting a confused look from Chrys.

“Why? Didn’t you get what you wanted?” Luna chuckled at that.

“Yes. More than I ever hoped. But, I was the one asking all the questions. Surely you have some of your own? Or, would you rather keep things at hoof's length between us?” Chrys was not expecting to hear that, nor the brief glimmer of love that came from it. The Princess walked up to her, placing both cushions on the carpet, before sitting down before Chrys. The young Queen frowned at her.

“How am I supposed to refuse after you go and sit in front of me like this?” she asked, trying to hide her flustered state with annoyance.

“It shouldn’t be too hard for a Queen such as yourself to refuse,” Luna replied, giving her a sly smile.

“Hmph. I suppose it would be rude to just leave you alone like this, since you clearly want my attention,” Chrys then cleared her throat, “Very well, Princess Luna—”

“Just Luna is fine,” the Princess said with a disarming smile, making Chrys blush.

“Wh- Whatever. Luna, since you want me to stay, I’ll indulge you. But, just this once!” Luna chuckled at that.

“I consider myself quite fortunate for it,” she replied. Chrys hesitated, before resuming her seat. This time, she didn’t refuse the tea. It was quite good. Easily the best she’d tasted.

“What kind of tea is this?” Chrys asked, getting a small laugh from the Princess, which made Chrys blush, “What’s so funny!?”

“Nothing, it’s nothing,” Luna assured, getting a bothered look from the young Queen, “It’s Honeycrisp leaf. It’s rare to have this time of year.”

“It’s really good,” Chrys replied. Her eyes then widened as she took another sip. It dawned on her just how small her small talk question was. Come on Chrys, you can do better than that! “You said that you guide Equestria. So, there’s nopony in charge?” Luna nodded at that. “How does Equestria even function?” she asked incredulously, getting a considering look from Luna.

“Ponies seek out a life of happiness in the system I’ve provided. If you want to make a lot of bits making clothes, then you can. If you want to make a name for yourself as a painter, you can. Ponies work for money and power, or fame and renown, or simply for prosperity itself.” Luna then nodded to herself, “Those that work for power create an infrastructure for those that follow them to pursue. They ultimately become the nobility, ponies that hold great wealth and sway in Equestria. Their power creates a platform for those seeking fame. Become the greatest at what you do, and the nobility with take notice of you, and shower you with attention. But, all of this cannot stand without the efforts of those that seek prosperity. The hard worker that sweats everyday with a smile on their lips, proud to provide, not just for themselves, but their friends and family and community. Together, these three different faces of Equestria work together. It’s something of a balancing act, keeping it all working in harmony. That, is what I do. In a sense, my job is to be Equestria’s wealthiest, most famous, most prosperous figure. I use the funds gathered from my rule and wisdom to balance the economy. I use my influence and smile to keep the greed of the nobility in check, and I stand as a goal for those seeking fame to reach. Become the best at what you dream of, and you shall catch Princess Luna’s eye. Through it all, I give my ponies the right of free will, to do what they wish, in the manner they wish. I enable my subjects to reach out for their hopes, and dreams. That, is how I guide Equestria.”

“...That sounds like a lot of work,” Chrys admitted, trying to picture such a thing, which made Luna chuckle.

“I've found ways of making it easier. Such as surrounding myself with capable ponies who have Equestria’s interests at heart.”

“Wouldn’t it all fall apart if something happened to you?”

“No, not immediately,” Luna said, taking a small sip from her tea. “It should hold without me for a few years. Plenty of time for a replacement to stand up and take up the weight.”

“That’s not a very convincing assumption.”

“Well, I would like to assume that I have at least another five centuries of guiding this land left in me,” Luna replied with a knowing smile, getting a confused look from Chrys.

“And what do you base that on?”

“A good feeling,” Luna replied, getting a flat look from Chrys. “What?”

“Sounds like wishful thinking to me. Being an optimist like that is gonna bite you in the flank, you know.”

“Oh? Speaking from experience?” Luna asked in a teasing tone, making Chrys shake her head fervently.

“N- No, that’s just how life is!” she replied defensively.

“Yes, I suppose there are times when life can be cruel,” Luna replied, before giving Chrys a very sweet smile, “And sometimes, you find out that a large number of ponies you once thought dead, are still alive.” Chrys found herself blushing again. This title-less Luna was proving to be harder to manage for the young Queen.

“I- I guess you have a point,” Chrys replied, before burying her nose into her tea, downing the rest of it in quick succession. She then flinched at the sound of a loud bell ringing, making Luna glance over to one of the walls. A well cared for grandfather clock was the source of the sound, a device Chrys had never seen before, and it’s ringing brought on a sigh from the Princess.

“It seems we’re out of time,” Luna said, looking a little disappointed to call it early as she put her tea down. Still, she kept wearing her bright smile. “But, I think we can agree that this was a very productive encounter, no?” Luna asked, getting an agreeing nod from Chrys. “Well, shall we continue this tomorrow? Along with more serious matters?”

“Yes, I’d like that,” Chrys quickly replied, before blinking, “Since it’s necessary,” she added, adopting a mock hard look, which Luna countered with a grin.

“Of course. Thank you, for trusting me with your secret. I do hope you’ll enjoy your stay in Equestria as we smooth things out with your people.” Luna then rose to her hooves, which Chrys quickly mirrored. They then bowed to each other. “Till next time, Queen Chrysalis.” Chrys frowned at that, glancing to the side for a moment.

“Chrys is fine. If you want me calling you Luna, then you can call me Chrys.” She then raised a hoof, “Only when we’re alone!” she quickly added, getting an understanding nod from the Princess.

“I’ll leave you to your companions. I’m sure there’s much you wish to tell them,” Luna replied, getting a nod from the young Queen. She then turned around, looking to the large double doors, before continuing on her way. Luna couldn’t see it, but Chrys was wearing a very accomplished grin.

She did it! She gave Luna hope. And not just that, there was something else she was taking from this meeting. Though, what that was, Chrys hadn’t realized yet. It wasn’t part of the plan, but Chrys was glad it came about. Now, the door to peace was open. As she was about to leave the throne room, a curiosity came to mind. A small thing, a question she’d nearly forgotten, that had ultimately led her here, to this moment of triumph. Before opening the doors, she turned to the Princess.

“Luna, is it true that you can move the sun and moon?” she inquired, making the Princess tilt her head.

“Would you care to watch my magic at work, at sundown?” she asked, catching the young Queen by surprise.

“I- Yes, please.”

“Be close, and I’ll send for you.”

“Right. I’m not heading out. Not today. Thank you, Luna.”

“Thank you, Chrysalis, for this opportunity.” With that, the young Queen left the throne room. Her steps were filled with energy, and there was a proud, happy smile on her face.

Author's Note:

Oh hey Luna! I've missed writing you~!
I'm personally tickled by the act of skipping Canter Town all together. The town will be visited(probably), but this was more important than describing a town they were gonna just pass through. :ajsmug:
Oh look, another changeling. I didn't forget about Ghost. Did you? I can't blame you, since his only mention was 20 chapters ago. :twilightsheepish:
With Ghost, Pestle and Luna now in the foray, all the major players of this story are on the stage.
This chapter marks the end of the 'Reach Cantertown' segment of the story. Most of the remainder of the story will be taking place around Luna's castle. Lots of things I've been looking forward to for a long time are about to go down. I am excited!
I truly hope this chapter turned out to be everything you hoped it to be. Thanks for reading, and I'll see you in chapter 26!

Big thanks to Llyrisviel for editing!