Shining Armor sat hunched over on the Palace throne, a less that thrilled look on his face. He hated this part of his job as Prince Regent, but he was usually able to persevere through it. Today however, it was getting rather annoying. The white stallion’s mind wandered to his faraway wife. Cadence was still in Canterlot, doing whatever it was she was doing. She was technically supposed to have returned a week ago, but she sent him a letter stating that there was still business to be done in Canterlot. Shining wished she was with him in the Empire, for more than one reason. The stallion let out an involuntary sigh.
“Am I boring you Prince Regent Armor?”
Shining’s mind snapped back to the throne room and he looked down on the Crystal Pony nobles staring up at him. The Prince shook his head a little to wave off any remaining daydream. “What? No, no… Sorry, I was simply thinking about something. Please, continue.”
The noble Valued Traditions gave the stallion a look. “I have a feeling you’re not paying attention sir.”
“I’m fine.” Shining replied. “Continue.”
Valued gave her Prince one more critical look, then finally returned to her notes. “Very well, back to the matter at hoof. The streets in the city’s middle district have become…”
The nobles gathered recoiled in shock as a wall exploded and from the smoke and rubble flew a fully armored Sombra. The dark stallion glided through the air and slammed into the opposite side, colliding with the crystal barrier and sliding down in a slow, comical way.
“What in the blazes?!” Valued Tradition screamed as she pressed her body to the floor in fear.
Sombra grunted in pain and shook away the stars in his eyes. Wiping a speck of blood from his mouth, the unicorn got up and smiled confidently. “HA! Is that all you got?! I’ve faced fillies with a better kick!”
As if on cue, Luna stepped out of the smoke, armored up as well. “Ha! I’m just getting started knave!” Luna’s eyes lit up and the Alicorn shot bolts of magic at the unicorn, who promptly countered with a shield.
Sombra broke the shield once Luna’s barrage was done and charged the mare, ramming into her and sending them both tumbling out the hole they came from.
Valued Traditions and all the other nobles lay pressed to the ground, eyes wide and mouths agape. Valued gathered the courage to stand and once she was on all fours again she turned to Shining. “What-What just happened?!”
Shining, who’s expression had not changed at all during the recent exchange, looked at the noble. “You mean that little scene? Sombra made an off comment about something or another and Luna’s trying to prove him wrong… they’ve been at it for a day or two.” All the nobles still found themselves gapping at their Prince. Shining simply smirked and leaned forward in his throne, his mood suddenly elated. “So… shall we get back to our politics?”
Canterlot, Diplomatic Wing of the Castle
A fully armored Grizzled Policy grumbled slightly as he marched down the hall to the meeting room, the words being spoken to him processing as mere noise. Finally, the Capricorn could not take it anymore. He turned to his unwanted follower and snarled. “Princess Cadence, for the last time, I don’t care! Take your sob story else where!”
Cadence stopped dead in her tracks to avoid a collision with the large goatfish she had been following. The Alicorn gave the Capricorn a stern look. “Sob story? It isn’t a sob story! Chrysalis has changed; she’s not the same monster that tried to ruin my wedding! Why won’t you believe me?”
“Because I know Changelings.” The Capricorn retorted. “I know for a fact all they care about is furthering their own sadistic goals and causing the other species trouble. I can say with certainty that Chrysalis is planning something and nothing you say will change my mind.”
Once again Cadence took on a stern look and glared down the much bigger creature in front of her. “I won’t back down, Chrysalis has changed, and you’re being a fool.”
Grizzled snorted. “We’ll see about that. The meeting will decide if Chrysalis has changed. And I assure you, by the end of it, nobody will believe that bug’s changed at all.” Grizzled nodded defiantly and marched off to the meeting room.
Cadence watched the Capricorn leave with an almost sadistic enjoyment. Capricorns were thick headed and had major anger problems, no matter what anybody said. Get them angry enough and they’ll go off, it’s also the best way to make them not agree with you, yelling only making them shut down and cling to their own beliefs. Cadence smiled triumphantly, enjoying her little victory in the fight against Chrysalis.
Cadence looked down to see Shape Shift next to her, his board tucked in his fanged mouth. The pink mare smiled at the Changeling and patted him on the head. “Now we go to the meeting and continue to subtly influence the diplomats to reject Chrysalis. It’ll be easy.”
SO YOU SAY, Shape Shift had a not so confident look on his face as he wrote his message.
Cadence chuckled a little. “It’ll be alright Shape Shift. Today Chrysalis is brought down!”
AND WHAT ABOUT ME?
Cadence’s eyes widened as she read the board. She had not thought about what happens to Shape Shift after Chrysalis shown as to still be her evil self. Unsure how to answer the extremely relevant question, Cadence simply laughed cheerfully and smiled at the Changeling again. “Don’t worry about it, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. Now, let’s get cleaned up. I need to look presentable for the meeting right?”
Shape Shift nodded happily and the two started down the nearest hallway, hoping to make to Cadence’s room and back before the meeting started.
Canterlot Castle Diplomatic Meeting Room
The meeting room of Canterlot Castle was a rotundas, as perfectly circular as was possible and containing a large domed ceiling and very large, high reaching windows that always kept the room brightly lit during the day. In the center was a large round marble table. It was remarkably plain and unadorned, considering it was in a royal castle.
Celestia had been waiting in the room since sunrise, preparing and readying herself for the meeting. Wiggling a little in the cushion that acted as her seat, the Alicorn sighed deeply. “How am I to prepare for this? This is not some political debate that I can throw facts at and easily convince my opponents of the fault of their plans. This is a debate that will be supported with hatred so deep it’s practically inbred into the veins.”
“You do what you can with what you have, and pray it is enough.”
Celestia turned to see the Griffin Ambassador entering the room, his female bodyguard in toe. Celestia bowed her head respectfully. “Septimus, hello. You’re early.”
“Hardly,” The Griffin replied. “I believe I am right on time, the others appear to be late.”
Checking the clock, Celestia was alarmed to discover that it was in fact time for the meeting to commence. Did I truly lose track of time that much?
“I believe so.” Septimus replied, reading the Alicorn’s thoughts. “I do pray you are ready to defend yourself and your companion. Speaking of which, I hope she is not going to attend.”
Celestia nodded. “Yes, we decided against it. Chrysalis is currently in my room, probably having lunch.”
“Good.” Septimus remarked. “While having her here would be a great boon for your side, I believe too much bad blood exists to take such risks. Hopefully, will reach a part of the debate where the others will allow her to speak, no creature should be unable to defend herself against accusations such as the ones being thrown about.”
“We can only hope.” Celestia replied gloomily, not really convinced the others will allow such a thing.
“Ambassador, the others are here.” The female Griffin bodyguard stated, seeing the doors open and the delegates walk in.
“So does Hell break loose and the dogs of war set free.” Septimus remarked, chuckling slightly to himself.
Siasa, Onyx, and Grizzled Policy bowed respectfully to the other Ambassadors, who promptly did the same. Making sure all delegates and their escorts where in the room, Septimus motioned at the door guards. Nodding, the multiracial guard force assembled closed the large double doors to the room and locked them tight. Once all knew Ambassadors were sure they were locked in they took their seats. Their seating orders matched a pentagon: Celestia sat at the top point; Septimus and Siasa took the top right and left spots respectively, and Onyx and Grizzled Policy took the bottom left and right, respectively.
“So,” Septimus (the moderator of this meeting) said. “Now we can begin. Time for the first order of business.” The Griffin turned to Grizzled Policy, an unsaid order being passed between them. “Grizzled.” Septimus said plainly.
The Capricorn looked at Septimus and snorted. “No.”
Septimus gave a glare. “There are no buts in this, do it or leave.”
The Capricorn rolled his eyes. Reaching into his armor he pulled out an axe and tossed it onto the table. “All of it.” Septimus growled. Rolling his eyes again, Grizzled reached in once more to pull out a crossbow, three spears, four swords, a mace, several combat knives, a great sword, five javelins, a hammer, and finally half a dozen magically created grenades.
“There, happy?” The Capricorn asked in a hostile manner.
“Yes, once you remove all of it.” Septimus responded.
The Capricorn sighed heavily and removed his armored chest piece to reveal an entire belt of explosives strapped to his chest. Onyx and Siasa backed away in horror and fear; Septimus and Celestia were unaffected. Unstrapping the belt of explosives from his chest and throwing on the pile the Capricorn snorted in a way that told the others he had no more. Grizzled promptly put his chest plate back on.
“W-Why?” Siasa asked, her grey zebra eyes darting back and forth over all the weapons.
“Ha, I’m never getting caught with my guard down at a political meeting.” Was the Capricorn’s response; he grumbled a little as he watched some unicorn guards and their magic take his weapons away.
“Alright, now the meeting can actually begin.” Celestia said. The Alicorn breathed out slightly, looked at the other diplomats, and smiled. “So from what I’ve been hearing you have grievances against my choice of mate?”
Grizzled slammed a hoof down on the table. “You’re damn right we do! You are intimately involved with a Changeling, A CHANGELING! Do I even need to remind you of the threats to security this is?”
“I am well aware of the threats.” Celestia countered darkly. “And I have taken all precautions to ensure my safety as well as the safety of my country.”
“But have you?” Onyx interjected, shifting a little in his cushion. “Changelings very deceptive, good at making mazes out of situations. Not implausible she tricking you.”
“I am quite sure I would know if Chrysalis was tricking me.” Celestia responded.
“She did before.” Siasa added coldly. Celestia’s head turned quick to look at the zebra, a little shock in her face. Needless to say, the Alicorn had not expected Siasa to say anything that would harm her cause.
“That is a fine point.” Septimus remarked. “As Cadence she was able to trick all but your personal student, Twilight Sparkle. She able to do this and wasn’t even targeting you, so how can you expect to keep aware when she is after you directly?”
“I…” Celestia stammered, thinking of a way to counter. “I… checked. Yes! I made sure to make the proper inspections for mind altering magic.”
The other diplomats exchanged glances. Celestia could tell by the look in Septimus’ eye that he had a question that could break the Alicorn’s defense. The Griffin nodded ever so slightly, confirming he would give her time to gather her thoughts. Unfortunately, Ambassador Onyx thought of the same question. “And how you know Changeling has not affected mind? Did you do a test yourself? If so, results skewed.”
Celestia held back a smirk. “I had Luna scan me for hostile, mind altering magic.” Onyx opened his mouth to speak, but Celestia cut him off. “The thorough kind, the kind that hurts.” This shut the Ambassador up.
“There is more than one kind of mind altering magic.” Siasa interjected. “Some are not truly spells, but small bits of magical suggestion that slowly twist one’s thought processes over time. Do you spend a lot of time with Chrysalis?”
“We… We share a room,” Celestia admitted. “And a bed.” The other diplomats muttered to themselves.
“Surely this is no shock to anyone?” Septimus asked. “My wife and I slept in the same bed when we lived together before getting married. As shocking as it may seem, couples usually sleep together.”
“Don’t treat us like fools Septimus!” Grizzled Policy shouted, growling.
The Griffin stared indifferently at the angry Capricorn. “I did no such thing my friend,” He answered in an innocent tone. “I am simply explaining a cultural norm, surely there is no harm in that?” The Capricorn’s response was a grunt.
“Remember you cannot take sides in this conflict Ambassador.” Siasa reminded the Griffin. “You are our moderator, you must have a clear head.”
Septimus sniffed, looking at the zebra plainly, not rising to her bait. “I am quite neutral in this my dear Ambassador. In fact, I may have the clearest mind here. That is for another time however.”
Celestia interrupted the exchange. “Still, these rumors of Chrysalis planning to take over Equestria again are foolish. Do I need to remind any of you the current situation of her hive?”
Onyx shook his head. “No. Scouts get good information. Still, called the Changeling Collective for reason. More Queens, more hives. She help them, they help her. Equestria great prize for Collective, even more so if they can subdue it quietly, avoid panic.”
Septimus nodded. “Yes, they could definitely drain a lot of love from Equestria over many generations if the ponies were unaware of the 'change' in government. But honestly, how long do you think that’ll last?”
“Long enough, considering Changeling abilities.” Siasa countered. “Do I have to mention East Reach to anyone?”
“That was a special case.” Septimus replied.
“It is still proof!”
“Perhaps, or it can prove that Eastern Kingdom Diamond Dogs are not the brightest bulbs in the bunch.”
“Me second Septimus’ claim.” Onyx interjected with glee at the prospect of the humiliation of his barbaric brethren.
“Enough!” Grizzled growled. “On to the next order of business against Chrysalis.”
“Subtle as always, eh Grizzled?” Septimus chuckled.
“What do you mean I can’t go in?!”
“You heard me ma’am, no entrance.”
Cadence gritted her teeth at the Griffin guard in front of her. She had gotten all gussied up for the meeting and to watch as the other diplomats destroyed any hope for Chrysalis’s innocence. On her arrival to the meeting room, however, things had not gone as plans. “I must get in there to help with the debating!”
“Sorry Princess, only diplomats and their escorts may be inside the meeting room.”
“I am Princess of the Crystal Empire, and I demand entrance!”
The Griffin made a grunting sound before shaking his head. “No. The Empire is an offshoot of Equestria. As such, Celestia is your country’s representative in this matter.” He dipped his head down and snarled at the Princess. “So please, Princess, leave.”
Cadence looked around, gauging her chances. The meeting room guard force was multiracial: Griffins held the door while zebras and ponies were off to the side (readying to pounce on any potential attackers). Out of the way, Cadence could see Diamond Dog guards with huge crossbows for fire support. Outside, there were most likely tons of Griffin and Pegasus guards with Diamond Dog crossbowman ready for support. Getting in would take an army, unless you were already invited.
The knowledge that she was not invited clear in her mind, Cadence smiled happily regardless. “I see. And who ordered such a thing?”
“Ambassador Septimus, moderator of the meeting. He said something about not wanting outside influences affecting the debating.”
Of course, who else? Cadence kept up her smile before bowing respectfully. “Very well, I’ll leave then. I guess I can only hope that justice prevails in this matter.” With that said, the pink Alicorn turned and left. She hoped the seeds she had planted earlier would be enough to see Chrysalis crash and burn.
Canterlot Castle Meeting Room, Three Hours into Discussion
Celestia bit her lower lip. “Will nothing convince you?”
The Capricorn Grizzled Policy snorted. “No. You are making a mistake, allowing this Changeling menace to skulk about your home. I will not let you put so many at risk because you to have a good time under the sheets!”
“How dare you!” Celestia shot back. “I love Chrysalis! She isn’t just some sex toy I pull out whenever I’m feeling frisky!”
“But do you truly love her?” Siasa questioned. “Or is this her doing? Is she manipulating you into love? Or maybe it is just you, and your blind desire for companionship is shielding you from her true self.”
Celestia looked around the room. “What? Do you believe I can’t manage my personal feelings without it clouding my judgment?”
“You are usually very distant Celestia.” Siasa replied. “You keep your feelings locked up for the most part. Such a course is not good for emotional health. It might make you… desperate.”
Celestia gritted her teeth calmly, trying hard not to break her composure. “Are you saying I’m with Chrysalis because I’m desperate for attention?”
Siasa nodded. “I believe that may be more of a half truth. You’re usually alone, separate from the rest of the world thanks to your immortality. As such, when you finally find a spark of emotional, you cling to it with all you have and never let go. We’ve seen it in the past.”
“When?” Celestia insisted.
“Your own sister for one.” Siasa retorted. “She attempted to shroud the world in darkness, eternal night. She was threat to all, and the longer she lived the darker things would get. You had her beaten, but instead of ending her and ensuring that she could never threaten anyone every again, you sealed her away; in a prison she could escape given time. Your emotions blinded you and potentially doomed the world to a future of eternal night, a future only narrowly avoided by highly favorable convenience…”
“And six little ponies with fancy, magical jewelry…” Siasa shot a glare at Septimus, who had interrupted her. The Griffin blink blinked at the zebra. “What? Only giving a little insight for those that don’t know.”
“Well stop it.” Siasa replied angrily. “Though it pains us Celestia…”
“All of us except Grizzled.” Septimus added.
Siasa shot looks around, confirming she could continue. “Though it pains us, we must ask that you relinquish Chrysalis into the United Species Alliance for crimes against sapient species everywhere.”
“NEVER!” Celestia shouted.
“You can’t stop it.” Grizzled shot back. “A message must be sent to the Changelings, a message that shows we will not take their aggression lightly! Chrysalis will be tried, sentenced, and executed!”
“WHAT?!” Celestia and Septimus both said at once, jumping out of their seats and slamming their hooves/claws on the table.
“You heard me.”
Septimus recomposed himself quickly. “Grizzled, you honestly cannot be thinking of doing this. Executing Chrysalis? She’d become a martyr to the Changelings, if not cause outright war with both sides. It would be a foolish endeavor. I am all for justice, but…”
“ALL THEY WANT IS REVENGE!!!”
All the diplomats turned to Celestia, her royal composure gone and the beginning of angered tears in her eyes. “THEY DON’T GIVE A DAMN IF CHRYSALIS IS INNOCENT! ALL THEY WANT IS THEIR OWN PITIFUL REVENGE!!!” The Alicorn slumped down into her cushion, breathing in heavily and calming herself. “Have we really come so far as sapient species, only to not be able to throw off the most worthless of causes?”
“I’d hardly call revenge worthless.” Septimus replied kindly. “After all, what is a country’s justice system but society getting revenge on those who broke its ways?”
Celestia closed her eyes and sighed. “I know that… in great detail actually.”
“Good.” Grizzled Policy responded. “Then give us the Changeling bitch and let’s be done with this.”
“Grizzled.” Septimus interjected. “Chrysalis hasn’t even given her own testimony. I think we can at least have her defend herself, it is a fundamental right of all sapient species.”
The Capricorn growled. “She’s not sapient, she’s just a bug that learned a few coherent sentences. My parrot can do the same thing. Besides, if we listen to her we could easily be hypnotized or something.”
Septimus bit his lower lip, knowing Grizzled had a point. “But still, with the proper protective magic…”
“No.” The Capricorn interrupted. “It’s over. Changelings have left more destruction behind them then all the other races combined times three. Dragons are more peaceful. She is under arrest.”
The Alicorn took a deep breath. “I’m not giving her up.”
“What?” Grizzled asked in an angered tone (though that was an understatement).
Celestia, in response, opened her eyes and glared at the Capricorn blankly. “You heard me.”
Septimus sighed as he watched the slow sunset. “That was certainly an interesting meeting.” He turned to look at Celestia, her horn glowing as she lower the Sun. “So, trade sanctions and promises of inaction? Not bad… considering.”
“They won’t take her from me.” Celestia remarked coldly. “I won’t let them.”
Septimus put a claw on the Alicorn’s shoulder. “Give it time, I don’t think their heads where truly in the game. A darkness moves against your lover, Celestia, and it has tendrils of control everywhere.”
The Solar Alicorn turned to the Griffin Ambassador. “What does that mean? Septimus, do you have something to tell me?”
“I don’t really think it’s my place to say.” The Griffin responded. “Such things should be sorted out by the players on the board, not the spectators in the stand.”
“What is it Septimus?” Celestia asked again, sternly.
The Griffin grunted. “Put simply, yet metaphorically? Medicine can heal, assist, and improve wounds, but it’s up to us and us alone to heal the cuts and bruises we’ve suffered. Some neglect the healing and let things fester, and that is what threatens your Changeling companion.”
Celestia sighed, knowing she wouldn’t get much more out of the Griffin (they were an annoyingly stoic race sometimes). “Alright, fine. Thank you for moderating the meeting.”
Septimus nodded. “It was a pleasure, even if it didn’t end how each of us wanted.” The Ambassador began walking away from Celestia, towards his awaiting guards at the Castle’s front gate. He suddenly turned his head and looked at the Alicorn mare. “As discussed in private, trade between us will not cease and you can count on the Griffins to come in and save your pony butts should you be wrong.”
“I couldn’t ask for anymore.” Celestia replied smiling. The Griffin smiled back and waved, walking off. Celestia returned the wave happily to her old friend.
So distracted was the mare that she did not see Cadence watching from one of the Castle balconies. The Alicorn of Love had a glare of pure anger and she was biting her lower lip so hard that blood flowed freely, staining her muzzle and the ground below.