Shining Armor couldn’t help but grumble slightly, the chains around his hooves chafing as they were. Note to self; invest in new dungeon equipment after this is done. The white stallion pulled his mind from his own thoughts to look around: the scene had changed little from how he remembered it five minutes ago. Changelings were still in the palace, still holding every single denizen of the Crystal Empire hostage, and Sombra was still his… unusually talkative self.
“I wanna see my lawyer!” The mentioned stallion shouted; shifting in his own spot next to Shining and the other crystal guards huddled up in a group on the floor. “You hear me dirt for brains?! Where’s my lawyer! I have been wrongfully imprisoned!”
The nearest Changeling couldn’t take Sombra’s outbursts and transformed into a slender looking light blue stallion. “Aaaahh! You shut up now! No lawyer! No anything! You prisoner! You no have rights!” Even transformed the Changeling’s voice was a shriveled and strained thing, high pitched and scratchy.
Sombra scoffed. “I beg to differ! As clearly stated in the United Species Alliance Jesaben Fortress Convention eighty-three: All prisoners of war are to be cared for and respected as any other living creature!”
The transformed Changeling spat. “HA! We no follow rules of your Alliance! We are hive! We have own rules!”
“One of them is apparently not using correct grammar.” Sombra stated mockingly.
The Changeling screeched at Sombra and reverted to normal, walking away and leaving the group. Sombra stuck his tongue out at the thing and turned away, just in time to see the nearby door open wide. Queen Carapace stepped through in a regal manner, snout up, eyes mostly closed, all the royal works. The Changeling walked about, checking up on the imprisonment of her defeated foes. She had just pasted Shining and Sombra’s group when the latter leaned next to Shining’s ear.
“So, you think she and Chrysalis are related? You know, like sisters or direct cousins or something?”
Shining looked over to the orange-mane Changeling. “I don’t know, maybe. It’s a possibility, considering she actually wants Chrysalis back. Though I can’t be certain.” Shining then realized who he was talking to and cocked an eyebrow at Sombra. “Wait… Why do you want to know?”
Sombra smiled innocently. “Oh, well, one of the guards wanted my help you see. He’s an writer and whatnot and he wanted to write a rather risqué story about Chrysalis and Carapace, but not if their related. You see Shining, there’s not as large a fanbase for that tunnel of love.”
Shining looked at Sombra with shock, then anger. “We are in a life or death situation and all you’re thinking about is writing a sexually explicit fanfiction?! This isn’t the time!”
It was Sombra’s turn to gasp and look on in shock. “Shining! It is always a good time to think about whom you can ship together explicitly! It’s like… it’s like a fundamental part of life! And if you don’t think that way, well… I just don’t know how you’re breathing right now.”
Shining face-hoofed hard, hoping any stupid he may have contracted was punched out. He shook his head and kept his face buried in his hooves. “You are… you’re just… ugh.”
“Well, somepony’s being very prudish today.” The black unicorn responded.
“Just please, stop.” Shining replied.
“Excuse me equine?”
Shining looked up to see Queen Carapace frowning at him, he promptly frowned back, not wanting to deal with her right now. “Yeah, well sorry if I seem rude, it’s just I have this policy about impolite to bug butts that attack my home.”
Carapace snorted. “Well, it is a rather annoying policy to take on, horn-head.”
Sombra made an O shape with his mouth. “Ooooooooo, sick counter burn!”
Shining ignored his compatriot and continued to stare at Carapace. “What do you want Carapace?”
The Changeling brought up her head regally and looked down on the stallions as if they were lowly peasants. “Simple, I want Chrysalis back. I remember already explaining that, are you ponies so stupid you can not recollect such things?”
“Well, he did get hit over the head with a chunk of rubble, so that probably didn’t help.” Sombra noticed the look Shining gave he and retracted a little. “What?”
The Prince Regent returned to Carapace. “That can’t be the only reason. Changeling Queens never give a damn what the others are doing. The only time you ever do anything together is when the Collective is attacked.”
Queen Carapace rolled her eyes; annoyed that Shining had answered his own question and not noticed it. “Yes, only if the Collective is attacked. It’s not like Chrysalis was a Changeling Queen who had detailed knowledge of the locations of Changeling Hives, or our battle strategy, or any defenses we may have, etc…” Sarcasm dripped in her voice like venom.
The answer hit Shining like a ton of bricks: Carapace wanted Chrysalis back because she was a security risk for the Changeling Collective! The stallion bit his lower lip. That most likely meant that Carapace would do whatever it took to get Chrysalis back. Shining was about to ask another question before he felt himself get tugged by magic.
“Now come along.” Carapace hissed. “I need evidence.” Shining tried to protest, but you can probably guess how that went.
The room Carapace literally dragged Shining to had once been an empty room for decoration storage. Now however it was the base for the Crystal Empire’s magical Flim Flam brothers’ communicator. Shining felt himself thrown to the floor; the stallion hit it with a loud ‘oomph’. Opening up his eyes and looking up, Shining was met with a familiar face: Princess Celestia of Equestria, his aunt-in-law, and formerly his boss.
The holographic Alicorn’s eye twitched only a hair, but other than that she made no facial expression besides her stern glare. Her eyes shifted from Shining to the Changeling, speaking volumes her mouth dare not say.
“Here he is!” Carapace started. “Just as I said. Now do you believe my claims Celestia?”
“Not once did I refute your claims.” The regal white mare shot back calmly. “In fact, I believe you were the only one who insisted you show me Shining Armor.” Celestia chuckled mockingly. “A little egotistical if I am any judge.”
Carapace growled and stomped her hoof to the ground. “How dare you insult me you pony pros-…!”
“And how dare you attack a land under my protection, Carapace.” Celestia stated calmly, with an almost nonexistent undertone of anger.
“If you don’t like it then return Chrysalis to me Celestia! You kidnapped her from her Hive and now plan to use her to gain an advantage on the Collective!”
“I am doing no such thing for no such reason.”
“Then where is she?!” Carapace asked, more like ordered really. Celestia looked away at that order, thinking very hard how to phrase her next words. Carapace was obviously not one for patience. “WHERE IS CHRYSALIS?!”
Lieutenant Indigo Breeze of the Canterlot Royal Guard moaned heavily as she opened her eyes and tried to pick herself up. “Ugh, well… I can still move and that’s… that’s a good sign.” Shaking off the last bits of groggy feeling from her head, Indigo looked around at the dank, dark cell she and her guards currently occupied.
It looked like she was the fourth one up; three others sat huddled in a corner or near a still unconscious friend. The cell they were in, despite the 'lovely' wall decorations of mold, seemed well kept, and there was enough room for all of them at least.
Indigo glanced around at her fallen friends, silently taking roll call. That’s when it hit her, “Wait, where’s Lady Chrysalis?!”
Cadence frowned at herself in the mirror, black wasn’t her color. Now that she thought about it: being a unicorn wasn’t really to her liking either. “Do I really have to be like this?” She asked Lightning Dust, as the now completely black pegasus walked over to look over the final preparations.
“I’m sorry, are you the professional mercenary here?” The pegasus snorted and picked something out of large box. It was pendant with a big blue gemstone in as the hanging feature. “Wear this, don’t take it off.” Lightning tossed the neck wear over to Cadence.
“And what is it?” Cadence asked.
“Basically it screws with your vocal cords.” Lightning explained. “Turns your voice deeply and masculine. It goes with the black disguise spell, this way Chrysalis can’t distinguish our voices and can’t recognize our faces from memory.”
“Huh, good plan.” Cadence admitted.
“You spent your money well Princess.” Lightning Dust responded. “So, how are we torturing this bug breath?”
“We aren’t.” Cadence replied.
“And why not?”
“Because I’m not her.” Cadence hissed.
“Really?” Lightning asked mockingly. “Well, let’s see. You're making dastardly plans, you kidnapped somepony, helped attack Royal Guards, are using deceit to your advantage, not only that but…”
Lightning Dust almost pissed herself when Cadence warped to her, eyes red with hatred and mane up in black, purple, and green magical ethereal flames. “I AM NOTHING LIKE THAT MONSTER! DO YOU HEAR ME?!”
Lightning cowered. “Y-Yes… yes! Just calm down dammit!”
The flames subsided and Cadence exhaled deeply. The mare wobbled a bit and placed her hoof on her head. “I’m… I’m sorry, that was…”
Lightning Dust put her hooves in the air. “Hey, I get it, you don’t like her. I think I wouldn’t either, if she locked me in a cave and tried to ruin my life. It’s ok, I get it.” The pegasus looked off to the side contemplatively. “We’ve all got that one pony…”
Cadence sighed. “Let’s just get this over with.”
Cadence applied the pendant and followed Lightning down a dimly lit hallway. After walking for what felt like five minutes, the pair arrived at an iron bolted door, only slightly rusted. Lightning motioned to Cadence and the Alicorn-disguised-as-a-unicorn of Love opened the door with magic and stepped through.
Inside was a medium sized room, devoid of furniture save for an iron post in the middle. Tied to the post was the mare Cadence so utterly despised: Chrysalis the Changeling Queen. The mare was blindfolded and bound at the legs and with her legs bent unceremoniously back to tie around the post. A magical inhibitor had been placed on her horn. She was completely helpless like this.
Lightning motioned to one of the four other mercenaries in the cell. The stallion nodded and walked up to Chrysalis, removing a large cloth that had been used to gag her mouth shut.
Free of all obstructions, Chrysalis breathed freely, gasping in large amounts of air. When she had had her fill, Chrysalis looked around despite still being blinded. “Who’s there? Why are you doing this? What do you want?!”
“We want…” Cadence began but stopped, startled by the deep baritone voice that came out. Shaking off the awkward feeling, Cadence continued. “We want answers.”
“To what?!” Chrysalis asked nervously.
“Tell us the location of the rebel base.” Lightning Dust interjected with her own now deep voice.
Lightning Dust looked down at a small stack of index cards, reading through them. “Dammit Swift Pace! You gave the wrong interrogation cards!” The mentioned stallion hurriedly ran up to his superior, checked the cards, and panicked. The two started whispering to each other. “How could you have messed up… they were right there! … I don’t care! … No, no, do not go and get new ones! … No! No, we’re winging this one.” Lightning turned back to the prisoner.
“Smooth.” Cadence mocked.
“Shut it.” Replied Lightning.
Cadence’s eyes rolled. “Anyway, tell us your plans Changeling!”
“W-What plans?” Chrysalis fearfully asked.
Cadence slammed her horn into the post and got extremely close to Chrysalis. “Your plans to conquer Equestria you bug breathed bitch!”
“Conquer Equest-…? I’m not planning to conquer Equestria!”
“OF COURSE YOU ARE!” Cadence spat. “Because that’s all Changelings do: is conquer and attack and ruin the lives of every other living being in the world!”
“But… But not me! I-I didn’t come here to conquer or ruin, I came here to be with the mare I love!”
“Changelings don’t love!” Cadence retorted. “They just…” Cadence fought back a tear. “They just take love! They take it and turn it perverse and heinous! Your species is a… a blight!”
"Damn, a little harsh don't ya think?" Lightning asked before being met with a dark gaze from Cadence, which shut her up.
Chrysalis didn’t respond and simply sat there, mostly likely holding back her own tears. Cadence huffed a little, her outburst having exhausted her somewhat. The mare inhaled deeply. “Well?!”
Chrysalis kept a cool demeanor as she spoke, not wanting to give her deep voiced captors (whoever they may be) any satisfaction. “Once again, I have no plans to conquer Equestria. If you believe you will torture me in order to get a false confession, well I’m afraid you’re out of luck. I just have to wait.”
“Until what?” Cadence asked involuntarily.
“Until I am found by Princess Celestia.”
“Fat chance of that happening.” Cadence replied, turning away from the Changeling and going for the door.
“WAIT!” Chrysalis shouted as Cadence opened the door. “I know I don’t deserve forgiveness for the crimes I’ve done, and I can understand how you feel. I know you’re doing this for revenge and I understand. But please, Maker please, don’t give in to this sick desire for revenge, it will only destroy you from the inside out!”
“I will take that under advisement once you’re in a ditch bug butt.” Cadence snarled darkly before exiting and slamming the door.
Lightning Dust looked at her fellow mercenaries and simply scoffed, getting a tranquilizer ready so they could move Chrysalis back to her cell.
Out in the still dimly lit hallway, Cadence huffed heavily, slammed against the wall with a loud bang, and grabbed her chest. “Damn… Damn Changeling.” She growled. “She’s getting me so stressed out that I’ve gotten chest pains.” The Alicorn shook it off as best she could before walking away, unaware at how close her mane and tail had come to becoming permanently ethereal and dark.
Headquarters of United Species Alliance Parliament
Septimus the Griffin sat in his chair apprehensively, not really liking the new pillow that had been bought for it. He was twiddling his claws about, making the tips of each one hit the knuckles of the other.
Quickly becoming bored with this, he turned his chair around to look out of the window; it was a beautiful sight to most. Septimus wasn't too partial to it, views of the ocean never really were to his liking. Still, watching the ocean waves hit the high fortress walls and then slink back into the water was comforting in some way.
The click indicating his front door was being opened involuntarily sent the Griffin swerving around to face the front of his desk and more importantly the door.
The barrier gave way and in stepped a large figure, one that Septimus noted might like the view of the ocean behind them a bit more. The creature had hooves, and a tail, though that was of the fishy variety. Septimus barely made any gesture when Grizzled Policy, the Diplomat of the Capricorns, stepped in (it was much too late for such things).
The goatfish yawned heavily. “What is it Septimus? I just had to moderate an enormous land rights dispute and I’m rather tired. I was actually off to bed when you summoned me.”
“They asked you to moderate?” Septimus questioned, raising a brow. “Who was it between?”
Grizzled scratched one of his fore-hooves. “It was between an independent Zebra nation and some Changelings, of all things. Zebra thought having me moderate would help them win.”
“Hell no, I don’t like Changelings, but the Zebra were clearly in Collective territory. I made ‘em pack up immediately.” The Capricorn snorted. “I am not having my people fight to protect a bunch stupid Zebra who didn’t check their boundary lines before staking claims.” The diplomat cracked his neck, sighing in relief from the release of some soreness. “So, why you’d call me here?”
Septimus inhaled deeply but let out only a slight sigh. “There’s been an… incident.”