Twilight had told Starlight to be prepared for a lot of unexpected things the first day back from summer break. You couldn’t expect the unexpected, after all, that was illogical. You instead had to be prepared for a number of things could go wrong, especially when you had a plan. Plans just meant that things could contradict them. At first, Starlight just shrugged off Twilight’s advice with a bit of casual dismissal. She chalked it up to just Twilight being overprepared as usual. But when something strange and unexpected happened the second she saw her schedule, Starlight wished she had attempted to prepare.
What she saw made her mind race with possibilities of what it might be. Not even her first day back in the office, and Starlight saw that she already had a meeting with a student scheduled. It was in the form of a note from Sunburst. Said student was Ocellus. The note mentioned that she was very insistent on speaking specifically to her. Whatever Ocellus wanted wasn’t something simple like changing her scheduled classes, since that was handled by Sunburst.
Ocellus’s insistence on Starlight specifically meant that it was a problem. But what sort of problem could somecreature have before school even started? Immediately, Starlight began to worry it was problems at home. That didn’t seem right for a changeling, however. They were all a very close community. She couldn’t feasibly see problems like that arising.
But then what could it be? Was she depressed? Oh Celestia, what if it was more than just that? What if she was suicidal? What if whatever Starlight said to her in this meeting would be her only chance to save her student’s life?!
Starlight took a deep breath and realized she was Twilighting. It likely wasn’t anything near as bad as she was working herself up to think it was. She just needed to calm down and wait for Ocellus to tell her what the matter was herself.
“Welcome back to school, Ocellus,” Starlight calmly said when the changeling finally came into her office and took a seat across from her. “I have to say, I was surprised to see that you requested a meeting with me the first day back from break. What seems to be the problem?” She did her best not to let her face betray her attempts to hide how worried she was.
Ocellus didn’t offer a response for the longest time. She was just looking at her legs. She looked deeply ashamed of something. Her face told Starlight that she was trying to muster up the nerve to say something to say what was on her mind, which didn’t do anything to ease Starlight’s worrying.
“Ocellus,” Starlight made sure her voice was as warm and comforting as possible, “I can see that something’s troubling you, a lot. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have come straight to me. I understand that this is because you trust me more than Vice Principal Sunburst, or even Counselor Trixie. I promise that I’ll do everything I can to help. But for me to do that, you need to tell me what the problem is.”
There was a bit more silence before Ocellus finally spoke in a low and quiet voice.
“Do you remember what my friends and I said we experienced when we first found the Tree of Harmony underneath of the school?” Ocellus asked. She didn’t look up at Starlight at all.
“About the projection of Twilight making you all face your greatest fears?” Starlight tried to recall, “And you all didn’t tell anycreature about it because Cozy Glow had convinced you not to?” That was all she said on that matter. Starlight knew well she was in a glass house in regards to that subject.
“Yes,” Ocellus slowly nodded her head, “My fear had me turn into Queen Chrysalis. At the time, we all thought it meant that I was ashamed of what I, of what all Changelings, used to be.”
“I remember,” Starlight recalled, “You all wrote a friendship paper on the subject.”
“I now know that was only half true. That’s only half of what it meant to me. The other half was something that went far deeper. My true greatest fear. Something I’ve always on some level known, but have always tried my hardest to push it down. Until this summer…” Ocellus looked to the side and pressed her forehooves hard into the chair.
“Two weeks ago, King Thorax called him into his throne room and spoke with me privately. He told me something I didn’t want to hear. He made it impossible for me to ignore my fear anymore and forced me to live with it.”
“And, what would that be?” Not even Starlight’s wildest imagination could fill in the blanks that her student was leaving with her speech. She was able to recognize this lead in as her trying to belay actually talking about something for as long as possible. Whatever this subject was, it was extremely hard for her to confront. Not knowing what this was made it harder and harder for Starlight to mask her fear for her Ocellus’s wellbeing.
“That I’m a Queen,” Ocellus squinted her eyes shut as soon as she said that and clenched her body as tightly as possible as if trying to retreat into a defense pose.
“A Queen?” This was nothing like what Starlight was picturing in her head would be Ocellus’s answer. On one level, she was relieved that her worst fears hadn’t come true. On another, she didn’t know what to make of this or why it was such a painful subject for Ocellus, which was arguably worse, “I’m afraid I don’t understand. Does that mean you’re Queen Chrysalis’s daughter?”
“No. I mean, yes, it’s almost certain that I am. But, that doesn’t make me special. Unreformed Changelings laid clutches of thirty to fifty eggs at a time. Queen Chrysalis was the primary breeder of the hive. There’s probably not a Changeling alive that isn’t related to her in some capacity.”
“Alright,” Starlight shoved the implications of that knowledge aside in her mind, “Then what does being a Queen mean?”
“I was born different from normal Changeling Drones,” Ocellus gulped, “I’m the flower that grows the tallest out of the whole garden. The flower that takes attention away from the rest. And I can’t help that, that’s just what I am.”
“You’re using analogies,” Starlight pointed out, “Ocellus, I get that you don’t want to acknowledge this directly. I really want to understand what this means and why it is a problem to you, but I can’t unless you’re direct with me.”
Ocellus took in a deep breath, “Much like how a pony can be born an Earth Pony, Pegasus, or Unicorn, a changeling can be hatched as a Drone, a Praetor, or a Queen. Queens and Praetors are rare. They can only be hatched from an egg laid by Queens. And even then, a Queen will only hatch in about one in fifty clutches. As a larva they’ll be indistinguishable from a Drone. But their traits will become more apparent as they grows older. Traits that make them stand out from Drones and be…” Ocellus bit her lower lip, “Superior to them.” Those words made her seem like she was going to puke.
“I think I understand now,” Starlight put her hoof to her chin, “But how are you and King Thorax so sure you’re a Queen then? Forgive me for saying this, but I haven’t noticed anything that abnormal about you. You seem like a normal, Drone, as you call them.”
“I’m nothing like a normal Drone!” Ocellus burst out, not out of offense, but in anguish and sorrow, “I’ve known this ever since The Reform! I’ve started noticing my Queen traits for years now but have been pushing them down!”
“Ocellus,” Starlight tried to interrupt Ocellus, but she had clearly opened a floodgate.
“I kept thinking to myself ‘Maybe it means nothing that I can make my own forms. Maybe all Drones can do that now that we’re reformed, and absolutely no one else has shown it.’ But I’m the only Drone I met who can! Drones are supposed to only be able to copy the appearance of other creatures they see! They can’t make up a creature in their head and transform into them! But I can!” To demonstrate her point, Ocellus envelopes herself in a blue flame and transforms into her pony form that she has used from time to time.
“This pony doesn’t exist!” Pony Ocellus cried, “You can’t find her anywhere in the world! I have zero reference for her except my imagination! My imagination that wondered what I would look like as a pony! A Drone shouldn’t be able to turn into her! But I can!”
“Ocellus, calm down,” Starlight spoke up more this time, in hopes of trying to calm her student. But her words were to no avail.
“Like a naive larva, I kept thinking the same thing about the fact that I can transform into non-sentient creatures, or creatures bigger than me. I should only be able to transform into sentient, average sized creatures like Ponies or Gryphons! But there’s literally nothing I can’t turn myself into!” Once again Ocellus’s body was enveloped in blue flames. When they dissipated, Pony Ocellus was replaced by a large Bugbear.
“I tried to just ignore this!” The Bugbear cried, “I tried to just push it out of my mind and ignore it! Then I hoped it would just go away eventually! But King Thorax had to just flat out tell me what I already knew! I always knew but I thought I could get away with never acknowledging it! The he took any hopes of me being wrong and squashed them!” Ocellus punctuated herself by banging the floor as hard as she could in rage.
That was when Starlight had decided this was getting out of hoof. She pushed herself up from her seat and enveloped Ocellus in a magical aura. She gripped the large Bugbear that was Ocellus as tightly as she could and pressed her to the ground. Not enough to hurt, but enough to restrain her from movement and force her to snap out of her rant.
“Ocellus,” Starlight said firmly, “That's quite enough! You are distressed, but that is no excuse to have you rampage through my office like this. Now, you will take a second to calm down, and we will talk about this like rational creatures, do you understand?”
Initially, Starlight worried that she might have been too harsh on Ocellus. She was in a highly emotional state, and couldn’t be fully blamed for her actions. She also worried that restraining her might make her feel worse about herself. Much to Starlight’s relief, Ocellus nodded and transformed herself back to normal. Starlight acknowledged her calming down by releasing her and sitting back down.
“Let me see if I understand this,” Starlight put her hooves on the table, “You are a Queen Changeling. You are a rarer type of Changeling who possesses natural abilities that far surpass the typical Drone Changeling. Is there more to this? Because if you’re just ashamed that you might be better than your peers, I of all creatures can tell you that is nothing to be ashamed of.”
“That’s not all,” Ocellus sighed, “Changeling Queens can control the minds of other creatures - something I have zero intention of ever doing. They are also literally biologically designed to rule other Changelings. When she fully matures, she will produce pheromones that allow her to dictate the will of The Hivemind. We don’t know if The Hivemind still exists though.”
“What do you mean?” Starlight raised an eyebrow, “What about the other reformed Queens?”
“There aren’t any,” Ocellus started to quiver, “In the past, Queen Chrysalis always screened for Queens among her broods. Whenever she identified one, she would probe her. If she demonstrated complete loyalty to her, Queen Chrysalis would allow her to be a General of her army, but forbid her from ever breeding.”
“And, if the Queen didn’t?” Starlight bit her hoof. She feared that she already knew the answer.
“If she even showed the slightest amount of desertion to Queen Chrysalis, the Queen would be culled immediately...” There was a heavy air of grimness to Ocellus’s words, “But after the failure of the Canterlot Invasion, Queen Chrysalis became really paranoid about her rule. She culled every Queen without exception, loyal General and newly identified larva alike. I’m part of Queen Chrysalis’s last clutch before she was dethroned. I’m the last Changeling Queen alive,” Admitting this seemed more painful to Ocellus than simply admitting she was a Queen.
“What about King Thorax?” Starlight asked, trying to prevent the morbid nature of Ocellus’s story get to her.
“King Thorax isn't a Queen. Queens can only be female. He and his brother, Pharynx, are both Praetors. They have enhanced transformation capabilities, but that is about it. Neither of them can release Queenly Pheromones. King Thorax has told me that I am almost certain to take over his position as ruler of the hive when I mature.”
“I’m starting to see now,” Starlight leaned forward slightly, “Not only did King Thorax’s talk with you finally make your greatest fears about yourself undeniable, but it comes with a lot of weight. You are the last of your kind. Queens could go extinct if you do not do anything.”
“And, the worst part about this is…” Ocellus gulped, “I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing.”
Starlight couldn’t maintain her composure at that statement. She flinched and blinked rapidly, “Excuse me?”
“I keep thinking about it, and, I don’t know if I want there to be anymore Queens. If there are no Queens, then Changelings will have one hundred percent moved past what they used to be. They will be ruled by a ruler of their choice, not a tyrant who is biologically designed to. There will be no chance for a tyrant to take over with absolute power, because none will be hatched.”
“But Changelings are reformed,” Starlight pointed out, “You all are nothing like what you used to be when Queen Chrysalis ruled.”
“We haven’t changed as much as you think,” Ocellus sighed, “We don’t steal love anymore because we don’t have a biological need to. We aren’t war driven anymore because we don’t have a power-hungry conqueror at the head of The Hivemind. But individuality is still a really new concept for us. Even among ourselves, we are finding it hard to find differences in each other at times,” Ocellus tapped the table nervously.
“When I was a larva, I remembering having a thought: There are no differences between any of the Queens. I couldn’t tell them apart by looking at them. I could tell who Queen Chrysalis was because she made herself stand out. But every Queen, even her, acted the same. The exact same,” Ocellus grimaced.
“I don’t remember much changing about me after The Reform. I was always like this. I was always shy and timid and interested in learning new things. I learned two facts; that all Queens are the same, and I haven’t changed at all. They're what makes being a Queen so repulsive, so frightening to me. Because I can only see two possibilities that come from this. And I’m not sure which one scares me more. The fact that I could grow up to be just like Queen Chrysalis…” Ocellus closed her eyes.
“…Or the possibility that at one point, she was just like me…”
Starlight had heard enough. She understood perfectly now. She understood Ocellus’s fears. She felt the cold inevitability of her perceived destiny, laying out paths that she desperately didn’t want.
“I see,” Starlight calmly got up from her seat and walked over to a cabinet. She pulled out last year’s yearbook and started to flip through the pages as she sat back down. Her horn lit up, and an image floated off of the page. It was a picture of Ocellus, “I want you to tell me who this is.”
“That’s…me…?” Ocellus looked genuinely confused.
“This is Ocellus the Changeling,” Starlight declared, “She is a Changeling Queen. She feels no different from every other Queen. She thinks that she is no different, and will be no different,” Starlight flipped through the year book some more, and found five more images. She used the same spell to life them off of the page and have them surrounded the image of Ocellus, “And who are these?”
“That’s, Yona, Sandbar, Gallus, Smolder, and Silverstream,” Ocellus still sounded confused, “They’re my friends.”
“How many Queens had these five in their life?” Starlight asked.
“None,” Ocellus had no idea where she was going with this, “That’s obvious. Why does that matter?”
“Why does that matter?” Starlight overplayed her shock. “Ocellus, I’m ashamed of you. You are a student at the School of Friendship. And on the fast track to becoming Valedictorian if I might add.”
“You should already know why this matters. You have what literally no other Queen in history has had. Friends. Friendship can change anycreature. Friendship can literally transform you into something better. You are not just what you were born as, Ocellus. You are who you chose to be, and what you want to be for the others around you.”
“So you’re saying that, my friends will stop me from becoming evil?” Ocellus asked.
“I’m not saying that,” Starlight shook her head. “I’m saying you have positive influences in your life. You have role models and creatures to fall on. You will be different from any other Queen because you have such great friends in your life. Every Queen was the same because they were raised the same. You aren’t growing up the same. You have an opportunity to using the Power of Friendship to make a difference.”
“I…I see,” Ocellus looked up and directly at Starlight.
“If you’re still scared about your power, then I can also offer to help you as your friend. I know a thing or two about ruling,” Starlight sheepishly smiled. “I know it’s scary. But you’re not alone Ocellus. You’re never alone. And that’s what makes you different, no, better, than any other Queen. Even Chrysalis.”
“Y-Yeah!” For the first time since this meeting began, Starlight saw Ocellus smile. “I never even thought of it like that. Thank you, Head Mare Starlight. I’m feeling a lot better now.”
“I’m glad.” Starlight folded her hooves and straightened her face, “Now, there is one thing I need to address. You’ve brought something really concerning to my attention. Whether or not you want Queens to go extinct, that is your decision. Nocreature can force you one way or the other. But, you will promise me that if you decide they should, you will not actively make it so.”
“Huh?” Ocellus blinked, then gasped and waved her hooves in front of her, “No-no-no-no-no! I didn’t mean it like that! I promise I’d never even consider that!”
“Good.” Starlight nodded. “I’m sorry, but I take the safety of my students very seriously. Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?”
“Not at the moment, but I think I’d like to schedule another talk like this with you, if that’s alright,” Ocellus asked.
“Of course. We can work out a date later. And my door will always been open to you if it’s an emergency.”
“Thank you.” Ocellus nodded her head and got up. She was nearly out the door when something crossed Starlight’s mind.
“Hey, Ocellus,” Starlight called out, causing her to stop in the doorway. “You said that Queen Chrysalis was culling all Queens. Does that mean…”
“If you hadn’t defeated her, I would be dead right now,” Ocellus shut the door behind her, not wanting to talk about that anymore.
Starlight sat silently for a second. Then she pulled out her schedule and checked her free time. She attempted to find a good time to travel to Canterlot and commit an act of heavy vandalism on a public statue.