• Published 2nd Aug 2015
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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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26. Changeling Developments

It wasn’t long after Chrys entered the throne room to talk to Luna, before Aegis was pacing. A fact that Momo and Dud shared a grin over, their eyes following the ‘buffalo’ on his nervous stride.

“Don’t worry Aegis,” Dud said, “Chrys will be just fine. In fact, she’s probably in the safest place in all of Equestria!” The protector gave the pony an annoyed look.

“Words aren’t going to make me less … concerned.”

“I can understand the feeling,” Ghost said flatly, getting mixed looks from the others. He was standing between Aegis and the far end of the hall, unmoving, and un-intimidated by Aegis’s size. “The meeting won’t take long. Princess Luna’s been exceptionally busy these days, and you know why.” He then nodded to himself. “You’ll see your Queen shortly enough.” Aegis looked like he wanted to comment on the accuracy concerning Chrys being ‘his’ queen.

“Yah think it’s goin’ smooth-like?” a haughty voice asked, drawing everyone's eyes to a familiar Shadowbolt, who landed in their midst.

“You’re … Murmur?” Momo asked, getting a nod from the mare.

“Right you are love! So, how’s it goin’?” the pegasus asked, glancing to the throne room.

“Pretty well,” Dud said confidently, getting an agreeing nod from Momo.

“Ahhh!” Aegis let out in an irritated huff, “How can you be so sure?” he asked, making his companions share a look.

“A good feeling!” they said in unison, getting an unamused look from the guard.

“Aho~? What’s this then?” Murmur asked, looking at Momo and Dud intently, “Talkin’ like that makes me wonder. You two an item now?” she asked with a playful grin, making the pair blink, caught unaware by the sudden question. “I think yah are!” she added in a victorious tone. “You two really cozied up after that fight in Dodge, didn’t yah?”

“Y- You saw that!?” Momo asked, her face flushing.

“‘Course we did! Woulda butt in too, but I thought it’d be rude to intrude~” Dud wore a troubled look at hearing that, making him glance to the side. He then noticed a maid cleaning up the shattered potion on the floor, prompting him to pounce at the opportunity to change topic.

“So Pestle, she’s an alchemist?” he asked, looking to Ghost.

“As a matter of—” Ghost began.

“Yah saw Pestle?” Murmur interrupted, getting an annoyed look from the spy. The mare then noticed the mess on the floor, which she unwittingly stepped in. “Caught yer eye, did she?” she asked, casually wiping her hoof off her uniform as she gave Dud a knowing look.

“Well, yes,” he replied flatly. Murmur’s playful look shifted to surprise.

“Wait, she did?” Momo asked in a guarded tone, making the sunny pegasus look at her, confused.

“Well yeah. If she’s an alchemist, maybe she can help?” he asked, making Momo tilt her head. Murmur eyed the sunny pegasus for a moment, before she glanced to the side, looking as if something fun had slipped from her grasp.

“Aye, she’s an alchemist,” Murmur replied. “Made a potion that helped me back after that fight in the forest. Really eased the pain and set things straight.” She then gave them a sly grin. “Bit shy, but she’s got quite a mouth if yah can win her over!”

“When she’s not half awake, that is,” Ghost interjected, getting a considering look from Dud.

“Hmmm. I wonder if she could mimic nectar?” he asked out loud, making Momo, Aegis, and even Ghost blink.

“Nectar? You mean, like, from plants?” Murmur asked, making Dud give a hesitant not.

“It’s a food the Badland Pegasi need,” he explained, “Having more of it would help make peace.” Momo was watching him intently as he explained, the idea rolling through her head, before giving him a big grin.

“Dud, that’s a great idea!” she exclaimed. “We should ask her!” Ghost raised an eyebrow at that.

“Tell me,” he began, “Mr. Gust—”

“I prefer Dud.”

“Mr. Dud, how did you come to aid the Queen?”

“It’s quite the story!” he replied excitedly, before his ears briefly fell, “Which I can’t entirely tell. The short, secret free version is that I was a prisoner, and we talked for a little bit. Chrys wanted to get away from Mantis, and she needed a guide to Equestria.” Dud then tilted his head, “I guess she trusted me more than any of Amber’s soldiers.”

“Dud, wait till she’s back,” Momo said, giving Ghost a hard look, which confused the sunny pegasus, “So, Murmur, where’s the other one?” Momo asked, turning the topic away from Ghost’s inquiries, “You know, the batpony?” She’d know his name if she looked into Murmur’s heart, but she wasn’t as open about doing that as her clutchling was.

“Oh, me better half? Whisper’s out an’ about, keepin’ an eye on the castle!” she happily replied. Momo nodded at that, confirming her suspicion.

“So, does it work the same for batponies then?” she asked, getting a confused look from the others, which made Momo blush, “I mean, to have a foal, do batponies also wish on a raincloud, like pegasi do? Or do they like, hang from the ceiling, or something?” the questions didn’t dissolve Murmur’s confusion.

Wishin’ on a raincloud?” she asked incredulously. Dud’s eyes widened, recalling an innocent explanation to a lamia’s children over a month ago. He then adopted a sheepish look.

“Yeah. That’s how pegasi do it,” Momo said sagely, as if she were a pony expert. “Is it different for batponies?”

“Love, yah got it all wrong,” Murmur replied, looking a little bewildered. She then took on a more playful look, “Yah see, how it goes is—”

“Princess Luna is right down the hall,” Ghost pointed out, giving Murmur a hard look. She answered with a pouty face.

“Yah don’t expect me to leave her in the dark about this, do yah!?” she asked, glancing between Momo and Dud. Said stallion was looking like he wanted to be somewhere else. Before Ghost could reply, the doors to the throne room opened, Chrysalis stepping out with a satisfied grin, almost as if somepony had told her that Mantis had met an unfortunate fate.

“W- Well, somepony looks happy~” Dud said, dragging everyone’s attention to the queen, instantly making her smile trade for a frown. She was also blushing. “Went well?”

“O- Of course!” she replied confidently, her steps slowing to a halt as she looked to Ghost.

“Then, are you ready to see your lodgings, Highness?” Ghost asked with a slight bow, making Chrys’s eye twitch.

“Please,” she replied coldly, “Now that I’ve talked to Luna, I do have some questions I need answered.”

“I understand,” he then glanced to the Shadowbolt, “Murmur, you’re in uniform. Get back to your rounds.” The Shadowbolt let out a sad sigh.

“We’ll talk later, Momo,” Murmur promised, getting an eager nod from the changeling. The Shadowbolt then gave Ghost a salute. “Understood, sir! Over and out!” with that, she took off- “Oh! I almost forgot!” she exclaimed, making Ghost raise an eyebrow. “Arrow Twine has returned to the nest. He regrets to report that he lost sight of the target, somewhere in the Everfree.” Ghost frowned at the news, a look that was mirrored by Aegis and Dud.

“Clearly the forest is too much, even for his eyes,” Ghost replied, before nodding to Murmur, whose ears briefly fell, before she left, leaving the group with Ghost and his two guards. He then gave Chrys a small bow. “My apologies for the delay, Your Highness. Right this way.” With that, Ghost moved off down the hall. Chrys watched him for a second, before nodding to the others, Aegis standing close to her as they followed him.

“I feel like I’m missing something here,” Dud said, glancing between Chrys and Ghost. Momo moved closer to Dud, who had tilted his head in thought. Before she could whisper an explanation, his eyes widened, “Oh. I think I get it.” Ghost raised an eyebrow at that, before glancing to the young queen.

“What did you wish to ask, Highness?” She simply shook her head.

“That can wait until we reach my room.”

“Of course.”

“Oh!” Dud let out in alarm, getting concerned glances from the others, “What’s gonna happen to our carriage?” he asked, getting a small sigh Aegis and Chrys.

“It’ll be pulled into a small bay for such carts,” Ghost explained in a neutral tone, getting a small smile from Dud. Silence fell over them after that. Which lasted a few minutes. A little too long for Momo’s liking.

“Sooo, what was she like?” Momo asked Chrys. Her curiosity was shortly mirrored by Aegis.

“Highness,” he began, “Is it true that she’s taller than Queen Amber?”

“Does she really glow like the light of the moon~?” Momo pressed, getting a bothered look from her clutchling. Ghost had the faintest hint of a grin on his lips.

“She’s shorter than you, Aegis,” Chrys assured, “But, she feels a lot taller.” She then looked at her clutchling with an incredulous look. “Glowing? Really? Glowing all the time like that is really annoying.”

“H- Hey! How am I supposed to know what annoys a Moon Princess?” Momo replied defensively.

“She does glow,” Dud asserted.

“Yeah, in your dreams,” Chrys replied. Though, she couldn’t completely deny it.

“...Did you reach the peace you came for?” Ghost asked.

“Yes,” Chrys replied resolutely, her eyes locked with his. “We just need to talk to Queen Amber, and deal with Mantis.” She watched Ghost closely as she said this, but there was no reaction to be seen.

“I see. The refugees of Thundercloud will be happy to have their families back.” There was something odd in the way he said that line. Almost as if he were referring to somepony in particular. “Though, it doesn't change the fact that Equestria’s oldest city was destroyed,” he replied, before stopping at a pair of doors. “We’re here,” he added, his guards taking up station at either side of it. “This is for you, Queen Chrysalis, the room on the opposite end is for the others.”

“Just one room is fine,” Chrys said curtly, getting a small nod from the changeling spy.

“Understood. One room is easier to protect.” The way he quickly agreed with her demand aggravated her. “Did you have any more questions?” he asked, getting a nod from Chrys. Private, changeling related questions.

“No point standing out here with them, show me my room.” Ghost nodded, opening the doors, making Chrys blink in surprise. It was a single room, about half the size of the throne room. It had a pair of royal couches, a large lavish bed, a set of crowded bookshelves, and tall windows that separated the room from a balcony that overlooked the mountain. Chrys looked to Ghost for a moment, before entering the room, taking in its grandeur. There was a lit fireplace, making the room pleasantly warm, and welcome.

“It’s soo big!” Momo let out, flying past Chrys, enjoying the spaciously high room.

“I can bring in some clouds,” Dud said with a considering look, “So we can sleep without being in the way,” he pointed out, getting a confused look from Momo as Aegis entered the room as well. After he entered, Ghost looked to his guards, giving them a salute, which they matched. Ghost then entered, the doors closing behind him.

“I can answer any questions you have, Queen Chrysalis.” He then walked to a wall with a large, almost Aegis-sized mirror on it. “However, if it’s a matter that requires discretion, I know of a better local,” he said, before pushing in a small circle on one of the mirror’s corners, causing the wall next to it to silently slide open, “If that’s what you wish.” Everyone looked at him, surprised by the reveal.

“Our room has a secret passage! That’s amazing!” Dud said, an excited shine in his eyes. Chrys had the opposite reaction.

“H- How is this room safe if there’s a secret way in!?” she asked, making Ghost tilt his head.

“It’s a secret to you four, myself, Princess Luna, and a choice number of castle staff. As long as it stays that way, it’s safe. However, if that’s not good enough for you, simply move one of those in front of it,” he said, pointing to a bookshelf. “I suspect Aegis is more than capable of moving it. However, anypony else doing so is sure to make sufficient noise to alarm your guard.”

“Where does it lead?” Dud asked curiously.

“Many places in the castle. It’s part of a network of tunnels. My chambers are a short walk away, and if we’re to spill secrets, it’s there we shall converse. Otherwise, I shall simply take my leave,” he divvied out, making Chrys give him a hard glare.

“Ghost, do you really think I’m gonna yield to you?” she asked incredulously, getting a confused look from the stallion.

“Ghost? I told you, my name is Olive.” Chrys eyed him for a moment longer, before glancing to Aegis.

Carry him,” she ordered, and Aegis nodded, stepping towards Ghost. The changeling didn’t even flinch as Aegis grabbed him in a hoof. He kept his neutral look, even as he was being smothered against furry buffalo chest.

“I disapprove of this, Your Highness,” Ghost replied, only making Chrys more irritated.

“If we leave, won’t they wonder where we are?” Momo asked, pointing towards the doors.

“They may wonder, but they won’t act on it unless they feel you’re lives are in danger.” Ghost explained, “They’re among the best Equestria has to offer, and they take pride in it.” Chrys considered him for a moment longer, before staring down the path.

“Aegis, let’s go.”

“Understood.” With those words, the buffalo carried Ghost into the passageway. It was barely big enough for him. Chrys and the others followed. Even while muffled against the guard’s chest, Ghost gave directions through the tunnels. They spent several minutes in the tunnels, which started to make Chrys feel nostalgic. If only there were glowshrooms here.

“This is it,” Ghost assured, indicating a lever next to a dead end. Chrys flipped it with her magic, opening the wall to reveal a small, barely lit room. It had a simple, but comfortable bed, a pair of armor racks, distinguished medals and certificates of success on the wall, and a collection of weapons resting in a barrel. Chrys eyed the door to the room, her magic sliding a board across its laches, barring it.

“This is your room?” she asked.

“That it is,” Ghost replied. With a burst of movement, Aegis let out a pained grunt, briefly toppling as Ghost escaped his grasp. Chrys adopted a guarded stance, Aegis immediately regaining his composure as Ghost backed away from him. “Let’s not leave the door open, Highness, voices carry in those tunnels,” he said, getting a small nod from Chrys. The rest of them walked into the room, Aegis now keeping himself between Ghost and Chrys, as the hidden door closed. Ghost was then wrapped in amber flame, revealing his true form. “I was surprised to hear of you coming to the castle, Princess Chrysalis.”

“That’s Queen—”

“No, it’s Princess. You are not my queen. You have done nothing to earn my loyalty. Honestly, you’re not even my princess. But, you deserve to be called that for making it to Princess Luna’s castle. So, why are you here?”

“H- Hey, I’m the one asking the questions here!” Chrys asserted, making the soldier raise an eyebrow.

“Then first let me say this: I am not your ally. You should not trust anything I say. I serve only one cause, and it is not under your crown.” Chrys felt hot, her heart pounding, a strong desire to throw him against the wall building in her. But, she kept herself from lunging at him.

“Do you want me to crush you?” she asked, getting an appraising look from the drone.

“You don’t have it in you. You would have done it earlier otherwise,” Chrys glared at him, her horn glowing as he was wrapped in teal magic.

“Chrys, he’s goading you,” Momo said, putting a calm hoof on her clutchling’s shoulder. Chrys blinked at those words, a certain fight between her and Mantis coming to mind, making her glance to the side.

“You’re right,” she replied, her magic dying with a flash. Said flash also happened to push Ghost into the wall.

“Hmph,” Ghost let out, dusting himself off, “It seems you carry some wisdom about you, Princess.”

“I’ve been through a lot these last few months,” she said dismissively, before giving him a flat look. “In order to make peace between Equestria and our Hive. What do you think of that?”

“I think it’s a good idea.” Chrys blinked. “Though, the odds of it happening are slim. We’ve already taken too much, and have nothing we can give without cutting off our wings.”

“We don’t need the ponies anymore,” she assured, getting a small nod from the soldier.

“Yes. I can see the possibility,” he replied, glancing to Dud, “Quite an odd pony you have there. He wants to use alchemy to mimic nectar. Wish I had thought of that.” Chrys blinked, before looking to Dud.

“Huh? Why?” she asked. After all, he knew about Hope. He gave her a sagely look.

“It’s nice to have more options.” He then considered the notion, “Though, she’s probably going to need some nectar to figure out how to copy it.” Ghost simply shook his head.

“It’ll be for naught. In two weeks, the rains will stop. One week later, Mantis, Queen Amber and the army will be leaving, following the tunnels Mantis constructed over the last three years to sneak past the blockade at Dodge. In roughly five weeks from today, the attack on Canter Town will commence.” He then looked to Chrys. “Mantis has no love for you. The fact that he sent Sledge is evidence enough to me that he disapproves of this. He will sabotage your peace. It doesn’t matter what you or Princess Luna wants, if he drives Queen Amber beyond reason.”

Chrys was barely paying attention to what he was saying. She was well aware of what Mantis wanted from all this. Take care of Luna, and herself, and ensure changeling dominance. As soon as the spy mentioned his name, a small amount of disinterest fell over her, making her eyes fall to the barreled weapons, pulling each out with a note of curiosity.

“Luna knows about Mantis,” Chrys pointed out, levitating a strangely curved trident, before putting it back, “She doesn’t know about the attack, or that we’re changelings. I’m going to tell her the latter.” Ghost considered this for a moment, his face as neutral as ever. Chrys then grabbed a spear with her magic, one that was completely wrapped in cloth. It was heavy. Too heavy for her to pick up. Just what was the point of a weapon that was too heavy to wield? She briefly blushed as she turned away from the pile of weapons, looking to Ghost. “You have a problem with that?” she asked in a threatening tone.

“Are you going to divulge my identity?”

“Why shouldn’t I?” she asked with a raised eyebrow, “You stole all this from the real Olive, after all.”

“There, you are wrong.” For the first time since seeing him, he looked mad.

“And how am I wrong!? You’re posing as a pony named Olive—”

“That is true. But, Olive was a simple earth pony, a gem miner from Iron Trot. I took his place and became one of the ‘survivors’ when the town fell.” Ghost then took a step towards Chrys, making Aegis shift more between them, “I then joined the Equestrian Militia. I worked. I sweated. I bled, to end up where I am now. I had to contend with ponies that were stronger and faster than I, pulling my weight through wit and determination alone. And after all of that, this, is where I stand.” He then let out a heated huff. “I didn’t steal this from anypony. I earned it. Any changeling can steal a pony’s identity, copy their life, fool their family and friends. The one that bears the title of Ghost goes a step beyond that. They don’t steal an identity. They forge one.” Chrys blinked at him, her eyes glancing to all the medals on the wall, the armor and the weapons. “Princess Luna trusts me. As does everypony in Equestria. That, is what it means to be Ghost. Nopony sees me for the spy I am. Their suspicion simply passes on through.”

“But, Princess Luna can look into ponies’ dreams,” Dud pointed out, “Not changelings.” Ghost nodded to this.

“I am aware. But, Princess Luna has had her hooves full in regards to dreams ever since towns started disappearing. Lots of missing family means lots of bad dreams. I also work long shifts. I’ve learned that ponies that get little sleep don’t have dreams substantial enough for Princess Luna to dive into.”

“...So, you worked your way here,” Chrys began, suspicion written on her face, “You have everypony’s trust. You’ve earned every ounce of praise you’ve been given. All just to throw it away, when the time comes to betray Luna?” she asked, giving Ghost a disgusted look, which Aegis mirrored.

“Exactly,” Ghost replied, without a hint of hesitation, “For our hive, I will show Mantis the way to Princess Luna’s chambers, if that’s what’s required of me.”

“You’re scum,” Chrys spat out, getting a nod from the drone.

“No argument,” he replied. “Go ahead, tell her about us changelings. It won’t change much. She already knows the ‘Badland Pegasi’ are shapeshifters.”

“What!? How?”

“Mr. Gust hinted as much the first time she talked to him,” he pointed out getting a sheepish laugh from the pegasus as Chrys glared at him. “Besides that, Arrow Twine followed Sledge after he attacked you. The fool didn’t realize this, and transformed in broad daylight,” he said simply. He then gave Chrys a hard look, “Are you going to blow my cover? You should know that if you do, it will ultimately lead to Princess Luna learning about the attack on Canter Town.”

“How?”

“Because she’s smart. I’ve been vocal about suggesting the fortifications of Dodge and massing our forces at the border. She’ll quickly figure out why should she learn I’m a spy.” Chrys frowned at that. Would it really be so bad to let Luna know about the attack?

Chrysalis then pictured the army she saw south of Dodge. If it fell on the hive’s soldiers, it’d be like a flyswatter catching a wingless bug. She couldn’t deny that she found Luna … appealing, but she wasn’t ready to trust her that deeply. The very last thing she wanted to be, is what Mantis always assumed of her. The weak color that would bring doom to the hive.

“Your secret’s safe, Ghost,” she said, begrudgingly. “But if Mantis or Sledge reach the castle without you warning me, it’s all off. Understood?”

“Clearly, Princess.”

“Good. Now lead us back to our rooms.” Ghost nodded, shifting back into his disguise.

“One last question, Princess,” he began, passing them as he reopened the secret door. “How highly do you value Queen Amber’s life?”

“She’s my top priority,” Chrys replied, without hesitation. Ghost paused, looking to her for a moment, before glancing to the side.

“Your life should be your own top priority.” His tone was neutral again, leaving Chrys wondering if he was disappointed, or warning her. “It’s back this way to your room.”

“Three lefts, one middle, and a right, then pull the chain,” Dud divvied out, getting a flat look from the soldier. “What? I thought it’d be a good idea to remember it.” Ghost was silent, continuing down the hall, the others following his steps. Several minutes later, they were back in Chrys’s room. After the secret door closed, Ghost looked to the others.

“If you have no more questions, then I shall take my leave.”

“W- Wait!” Momo said, “Dud and I want to talk to Pestle. Can we? As soon as she wakes up?” Ghost let out a short huff at that.

“Knowing her, she never went to bed. But, I don’t see why not,” he replied, getting a smile from Momo. “A messenger will come for you when she’s ready.” He then bowed to Chrysalis. “Princess. I sincerely hope you are not dooming Amber’s ambition.” Chrys had no reply to that, simply looking him in the eyes. He absently met her glare, before turning to leave. “If any of you need anything. Food. Books. A royal bath. Just ask the guards at the door and they’ll accommodate you. Please enjoy your stay in Princess Luna’s castle.”

“Sure, count on it!” Dud replied, which Momo mirrored, making Chrys roll her eyes at their enthusiasm. Ghost left immediately after that, prompting Chrys to turn to the others as the doors closed.

“We’re not here to relax, you know.”

“Don’t be like that, Chrys,” Momo replied, getting a bothered look from her clutchling. “He said a royal bath! When’s the last time we’ve any kind of bath?” The flooding Badlands immediately came to mind. “Besides, I don’t intend to goof around, you know,” she assured, getting a curious look from the young queen.

“That reminds me,” Chrys began, “What’s this about a pestle and making nectar?”

“Princess Luna’s Knight is an Alchemist,” Dud explained, filling her in on the entire idea...

“...And I was thinking,” Momo chipped in, “While you’re busy being friendly with Luna, Dud and I could help from that angle.” Momo then nodded sagely, “Now that we’re done traveling, I don’t intend to just sit on my flank doing nothing. Especially when my clutchling is busy in her own way.” Chrys smiled at that. The smile didn’t last long, making her give Momo a suspicious look.

“So, you get to spend more time together. Without me,” she pointed out, glancing between the two. She adopted a wicked grin when they both blushed.

“P- Pestle will be there too!” Dud was quick to point out.

“Ooh?” Chrys replied, “You’re looking forward to working with another smart pony?” she asked, taking a slow step towards the stallion.

“Yes,” he replied, getting a troubled look from Momo, “I mean-” he then frowned. “Chrys, are you picking on me?” he asked. He never got an answer.

“What do you mean ‘yes’?” Momo pressed, her tone carefree, but her smile hid a worried look. Yeah. Dud wasn't letting this snowball get any bigger.

“I’ll tell you, if you tell me why you kept smiling at Ghost,” he said with a raised eyebrow, making the mare blink.

“I, I was smiling at him?” she asked, before her face flushed.

“Indeed you were. I’m no changeling expert, but he looked particularly well toned,” he pointed out, making Momo’s blush deepen. “Soo, want to drop the matter?” he asked, getting a quick nod from her. They then smiled at each other, before they shared a little laugh.

“Who’s making the nectar?” Chrys asked, glancing towards the closed door, then the windows.

“Will I be able to see it happen?” Dud asked, his curiosity mirrored by Momo, who glanced to Chrys.

“What, neither of you know?” the young queen asked.

“I’ve never fed from a pony,” Momo pointed out, getting a sigh from Aegis.

“Dud,” Aegis began, “you’ll be in a sort of daze while either Momo or Her Highness extracts your love from you. They’ll then channel that love into a receptacle. When it’s over, you’ll be unaware that it even happened. At least, until we tell you.” Chrys nodded in agreement, before looking to her clutchling.

“Momo, you can do it,” she said curtly, calling back the blush Momo had just discarded.

“M- Me? But, what if I mess up? Or make a mess? Or screw up Dud somehow?”

“Momo. Just do it,” Chrys said, raising an eyebrow at her clutchling. “Honestly, you’re worried? You never hesitate when it comes to something new.”

“I- That is-” her face flushed further, making her glance towards the pony in the room, who was being quiet, for her sake. Chrys’s horn flickered, closing the curtains, before giving Momo a sly smile.

“Need some privacy?” she asked, getting an annoyed look from her clutchling.

“O- Okay. I think that’s enough from you!” she said, getting an evil chuckle from Chrys as Momo looked to Dud.

She hesitated for a moment longer, before looking into his heart, seeing his love for her. It was larger than she remembered, a fact that made her heart skip a beat. She stared for a second, unsure what to do. So, she simply did what felt right. Her instincts guided her, leading her along as she tugged on his love. She could hear her heart pounding. It felt sweet. As sweet as the nectar from Hope. After pulling a small amount, she led it out of his heart, becoming aware of the room again, and how close she was to his face. Between them, she saw a swirling mass of amber magic. Her gaze lingered on it for a moment. It wasn’t often she saw her own power at work. She found the sight enchanting.

Chrys then cleared her throat, snapping Momo out of her daze, seeing an empty vase in Chrys’s grasp. Momo syphoned the magic into it, which started to solidify into a thick golden goo. The small vase was half filled by the time the magic dissipated. She let out a deep breath, feeling slightly drained in some aspect she couldn’t quite grasp.

She found the entire experience very surprising. She thought she’d need to return to her changeling form to do it. She was kind of glad she didn’t have to. She’d gotten used to this pony form. It felt nice and warm, considering the cold days she’d been through. She then looked to Dud, who was in a slight daze. She waved a hoof in front of his eyes, making him blink, recognition returning to him. He then glanced between her and Chrys.

“When do we start?” he asked. He then frowned, before his eyes caught the vase, “Or did it already happen?”

“It happened,” Momo replied, her cheeks still a little rosy as she glanced into the vase. Dud looked into it, seeing the nectar inside, before adopting a contemplative look.

“It tastes the same as the ones back at the hive?” he asked, getting a nod from Momo. “Hmm. Would it be weird if I ate my own nectar?” The question hung in the air for a moment. An awkward moment. “Yeah. It’d probably be weird.” Chrys chuckled at that, giving the stallion a coy smile.

“So I guess you’ve officially graduated from being a dud,” Chrys said, giving the pony a condescending pat on the back. “Maybe someday you’ll be a normal pony.” He simply answered with a smile. “And Momo’s had her first real taste of pony love~,” she added, patting her clutchling in the same manner. Dud’s head then tilted, before his face flushed. Momo’s did too, making Chrys’s sadistic grin grow.

“Highness,” Aegis interrupted, getting a put off look from Chrys as they all looked to him.

“Can’t you see I’m in the middle of something?” she asked, getting a stoic look from him.

“Are we really going to leave Ghost alone?”

“Tch. Way to kill the mood,” she said flatly, kicking the carpet as Momo and Dud let out a sigh of relief. “I’m surprised that you’re the one asking that,” she added, raising an eyebrow at him. “He sounds a lot like you did when you joined our group.” She then gave him a focused look, “Aegis. Do you think he’s one of Mantis’s cronies?” The guard considered that for a moment, before shaking his head.

“If there’s one thing I know about the soldier, it’s that he’s fiercely loyal to Queen Amber. I don’t think he’d go along with Mantis’s wishes to harm you.”

“I’m with Aegis on this,” Momo added.

“Why?” Chrys asked.

“He seemed a little different whenever Queen Amber was brought up. And he kept referring to Mantis in the same tone he referred to you.” Chrys looked between Aegis and Momo for a moment, before letting out a bothered sigh.

“He’s trouble,” she said flatly, “Keep your eyes on him at all times,” she added, looking to Aegis, who nodded. Chrys then let out a long sigh. “Now that that hassle is out of the way, what now?” she asked. “I’m waiting for sundown, and you two are waiting for Luna’s Knight.”

“Weellll, we could get a bite,” Momo pitched, “Or take one of those baths!”

“I second the bath idea,” Dud replied, “Though, I guess I should point out that it might have been prudent to do the bath thing before talking to Princess Luna.”

“D- Don’t point stuff like that out now!” Chrys said, before raising her head, “Let’s get this out of the way.” With that, she turned to the guards outside, who led them off to do just that.

The bath proved to be far better than Chrys was ever willing to admit. Warm. Pleasant. Relaxing. It made aches she wasn’t even aware she had seem to melt away. She wouldn’t mind if this kind of pampering became a daily occurrence...

~~~~~~~~~~

Somewhere in the Everfree forest, Sledge was sharing similar sentiments. He lay in a dirty, bubbling pond. He lingered for a moment longer, enjoying the heat, which soothed the aches and bruises he’d gained in this dangerous forest. He then looked to a pile of oddly shaped broken rocks, before smiling to himself.

Stepping out of the pond, he walked around to a less bubbly corner of it, his form shifting from his natural state, to the most recent weapon added to his arsenal. The world changed color as he did. Well, to him at least. Everything was accented in tints of yellow and red, making everything look hot. Movement stood out with these strange eyes, making things in motion appear bright yellow, against the still dark reds.

Admittedly, the creature he was posing as looked completely ridiculous. Even with the jump to royal guard size, Sledge found it difficult to pull off ‘intimidating’ with it. So, he looked into the calmer waters of the pond, looking towards his reflection. Might as well practice more free-form shapeshifting and take care of that matter.

He frowned as he looked to his reflection. His reasoning told him that it was there, but with the strange way the eyes worked, he couldn’t see it in the shifting swirls of yellows and reds on the water’s surface. Sledge briefly considered trying to toy with how his eyes worked in this form, but discarded the idea. They were the best weapon this form had to offer, and he didn’t want to dull them, just so he could better make out his reflection. Also, staring into the water like this gave him an unsettling feeling. A dangerous, uneasy feeling.

This creature truly looked ridiculous.

Looking up, Sledge considered spending a bit more time in the hot water. He then discarded the notion. Perhaps there were more dangerous creatures still in the forest, waiting for him to discover. Thinking that, he glanced up, giving his webbed wings a flap, before breaking through the canopy. The sun was close to setting. Seeing this, he glanced north, to the imposing mountain in the sky, his eyes falling to the castle halfway up its peak...

~~~~~~~~~~

Chrys’s eyes were looking to the dark forest when a chill ran down her spine. Must be the mountain air. Shaking her head, she looked to the horizon, glowing orange with the radiance of sundown. She stood atop the tower that leaned away from the castle. The Observation Tower. Luna was at her side, taking in the view as well.

“It’s always different,” Luna assured, a smile on her face, “But, it’s always beautiful. Rain or shine. Storm, blizzard, or fog. Night and day. I’m ... really proud of this view,” she admitted. Chrys nodded in agreement. It was an amazing view of Equestria.

“Luna, there’s something important I want to tell you.”

“If it’s about the Badland Pegasi, then could you save it for tomorrow?” she asked politely, getting a troubled look from Chrys, “As much as I’d like to talk about it now, there’s matters I must attend to after raising the moon. I promise, I’ve cleared more time together for tomorrow,” she assured. Luna then adopted a focused look as the sun got closer to the horizon. “It’s time.” With that, she turned around, looking slightly past the mountain to the eastern horizon.

Her horn started to glow, and Chrys took a step back in surprise. The power radiating from her was incredible. Luna spread her wings, slowing rising in the air as the sun started to descend behind them. In the span of several seconds, the daylight quickly faded away, casting its hues through the sky. As it did, the light of the moon broke the eastern line, rising to brighten the growing night.

The entire process happened as quickly as Chrys had seen last night, outside of Canter Town, but with Princess Luna’s magic radiating at her side, it felt far more impactful. The rumors of her powers were true. And, it didn’t even look like raising the moon tired her!

As the moon broke contact with the horizon, Luna’s magic began to fade. She softly landed next to Chrys, giving her a small smile. “Satisfied?”

“Y- Yes. Thank you.”

“I trust you know the way back?” she asked, glancing past Chrys, looking to Aegis, who stood at the stairs leading back inside the castle. Aegis nodded. “Then, I look forward to talking to you tomorrow, Chrys.”

“Same,” the young queen replied, eyes following Luna as she flew off towards another part of the castle. As she watched the Moon Princess leave, a single thought ran through her mind. A troubling affirmation she hoped would be crushed today. That was not the case.

Luna. She must never meet Amber in combat. No amount of love the determined queen could store would be able to face the power of one that moved the heavens.

Right?

Author's Note:

Amber should try crashing a wedding. That'll give her the power she needs!
~~~~~

Sledge was sharing similar sentiments.

Oh go die in a fire already!
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Shipper on board! Make way for Tracer Murmur!
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Eyes the Momo and Dud 'love' scene suspicously.
Rated E for Everypony.
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Hope you enjoyed what this chapter had to offer. :twilightsmile:

Thanks for reading, and another big thank you to Seiya and Llyrisviel for editing!