Epilogue: Love, and the Joy it Holds
Two Days Later
“Scion and Kaz’tik,” I said to the two Royals before me. “I charge the pair of you with leading those of our brood who have chosen to remain in Equestria. You are to ensure their comfort and well-being, and to see that changeling integration into Equestrian society proceeds smoothly. Do you accept this charge?”
“Yes, my Queen…” The pair said, bowing low.
“I’ve already made arrangements with Princess Twilight,” I continued. “She has granted her blessing for the construction of a hive cluster, just outside Ponyville. In return, the remaining brood is to grant what aid it can in the reconstruction of Ponyville. Each changeling is to earn their place in society. Your duty is to manage these efforts, and deal with any difficulties faced by our brood.”
I glanced behind me; about half of the new brood had volunteered to return with me to Earth, and were waiting patiently in the center of town, ready to proceed through the relocated portal at a moment’s notice. Liz, Shift, Echo and Trixie were standing directly behind me, each loaded with dusty old saddlebags. Shining, Twilight and Dash were standing some ways down the street.
I addressed Scion and Kaz’tik again. “Know that, when the portal closes, I will not be able to aid you any further for the next two and a half years. I will return at my next opportunity, though I am unsure whether I will be staying for that next cycle or simply visiting. Whatever the case, you two are responsible for ensuring a peaceful, prosperous future for our kind, here in Equestria.” I leaned towards them, my voice softening. “This is a heavy, heavy burden. If you have any doubts…”
The pair shook their heads firmly. “None, my Queen,” Scion said.
“Nor I,” Kaz’tik said, his head held high.
I smiled and straightened myself. “Then it is decided; Lords Scion and Kaz’tik shall lead our people here in Equestria for the foreseeable future.”
The pair sprung to a salute; the Equestrian swarm behind them began cheering, wings buzzing happily. “For the Swarm!” Scion cried happily.
“For Equestria!” Kaz’tik yelled in reply.
Casting formality aside, I leaned down and hugged the pair. “I have faith in you two…” I said.
The pair hugged me back. “We’ll miss you, mother…” Kaz’tik said.
“More than anything…” Scion replied.
“I’ll miss all of you…” I said; tears were welling in my eyes, but I held them back.
We broke the hug and parted. Scion and Kaz’tik turned to their swarm. “Let us rebuild!” Scion cried. She pointed to a portion of the Equestrian Swarm. “Aid those on the edge of the Everfree who are harvesting lumber!”
Kaz’tik gestured to the rest. “Assist in cleaning the debris from the buildings still standing!”
The swarm buzzed in affirmation, and took off to perform their respective tasks. Scion and Kaz’tik flew out to oversee the efforts, pausing to turn and give me one last wave of farewell.
I smiled and waved back, managing to hold back the tears in my eyes. “Stay safe…” I said.
Liz walked up beside me and nuzzled my neck. “They’ll be fine…”
I nodded. “Yeah.” I turned and approached the Earth Swarm, who were unloading crates from a number of carts. Most crates had some of the eggs I’d laid over the past couple days—I was leaving most of them in Equestria to be incubated—while some had a great deal of gems, courtesy of a few of Varn’s friends—their way of saying that their peace with the ponies extended to us as well.
I was more interested in examining the cart closest to the portal, though. It hurt to approach, but I wanted to be sure it would be ready to be carried through. Sighing heavily, I stood at the side of the cart and beheld the simple casket upon it. It wasn’t the prettiest, but it would do until we could get home and make proper arrangements. It seemed sturdy enough, but I’d asked Twilight to do what she could in making sure it wouldn’t be damaged as it went through the portal. A faint purple glow surrounding it told me she’d delivered.
I laid a hoof on the casket lid, this time not bothering to hold back the tears. “We’re going home, baby…” I whispered.
I looked to the side and saw Dash, Shining and Twilight approaching, trying to look as tactful and respectful as possible. “So, you’re… heading back?” Dash asked; the healing spells seemed to have worked wonders on her, seeing how she’d essentially been ‘broken’ by the end of the battle.
They did more for her than they could for--
I immediately stamped that thought down, doused it in gasoline and flicked a lit match on it.
“Yeah…” I said. “I’ve… I can’t leave my family behind… My human life is the reason we stand here as… friends… And I don’t want to leave any of it in the dust.”
“Did I hear right that you… remain a changeling, when you come out the other side?” Shining asked, jerking his head towards the portal.
I nodded. “Changelings are master shapeshifters; as such, we tend to be more resistant to forced transformations, where they either don’t work or fade quicker. That’s why I was… well, fully ‘committed’ just a day in.”
“And that’s why Digit was still a changeling when she came--” Liz began, but quickly stopped talking, casting a shocked, apologetic glance up at me.
I nuzzled her head. “Don’t worry about it.”
Shining stepped forward. “So what’s your brood gonna do? In terms of… secrecy?”
“I’m thinking we lay low from the public eye for a while,” I replied. “When we get a decent place to hole up, I’ll get in contact with the US Government, and we’ll see if we can arrange a civilized integration into human society.”
“Metaphorical fingers crossed, things don’t blow up…” Liz said.
“But if things work out, we can work on getting my brood everything we need to become citizens,” I said. “IDs, social security numbers, things like that…”
Twilight’s gaze drifted over to Trixie. “You’re going back too, Trixie?”
Trixie nodded. “Same story as Chrys, I… I don’t want to leave my family… And I promised that I’d come back, soon as I could. Not sure what I’ll do there, though; I’ll probably use some of these gems to get my own place, near home.”
“You might still be able to be a track star,” I joked, though with a hint of optimism.
Trixie chuckled. “...But then, I think… Next time the portal opens, I’ll come back here… Maybe my family will join me. Either way...” She reached into her bag and withdrew a familiar hat and cape. “I think I’ll give showbiz another go,” she finished with a wry smile.
I turned back to Shining and Twilight. “Now, my people staying here are gonna work to earn their place in your society. These are not just my people—they’re my children.” I learned towards them, my tone becoming more serious. “I have your word, you will protect and aid them, just as they would protect and aid you?”
Twilight stood tall and nodded. “You have my word, as Princess, Queen Chrysalis.”
“And mine as well,” Shining said, bowing low.
I smiled gratefully at them. “Lords Scion and Kaz’tik are the ones leading the brood here; just call on them if you need anything from the swarm.”
“You’re coming back, right?” Shining asked.
I raised an eyebrow at him and smirked. “Grown fond of me, Shining Armor?”
Shining sputtered, caught off guard. “I-- what?”
“I’ll have you know…” I said, nose pointed high; I pulled Liz closer with a foreleg. “That I am spoken for. Hmph!” I dropped the ploy and gave him a good hearted smile, which he returned. “Yeah, I’m coming back, next cycle. Not just because I’ll wanna see how our brood’s doing here, of course.”
Shining held out a hoof. “Then… until we meet again.”
I smiled and bumped his hoof. “...D’aww, c’mere.” I suddenly reached out and pulled him into a tight hug; he initially squirmed uncomfortably, but then returned the hug.
“...All of ya,” I said, glancing around. “Come on.” My horn lit up, and I pulled Twilight, Dash, Liz, Trixie, Shift and Echo in for one big group hug.
After a moment, the nine of us parted--
“Bye, Chrys!” Pinkie chirped, still hugging me tight. “And don’t worry! I’ll make the big “Changelings Make Peace With Ponies” party one of the best I could ever throw!”
“I have no doubts, Pinkie,” I replied.
The hug lasted until a good five seconds after it started feeling a tad weird, then Pinkie bounced off happily; it wasn’t surprising that such good cheer could survive even the darkest times.
“Alright…” I said, turning back towards my group. “We’ve probably… another half hour, I think, before the portal closes, let’s start bringing things over.” The brood buzzed in acknowledgement, began hefting crates and carried them through the portal.
Trixie gave Twilight, Dash and Shining one final hug before heading towards the portal.
With a low sigh, I slowly approached the cart bearing Digit’s casket. I lifted it gently in my magic, and delicately moved it towards the portal; Shift and Echo nodded at me, then headed through to take the casket on the other side.
“I’ve made sure it’ll come out the other side in one piece,” Twilight said delicately.
I nodded. “Thank you… truly.”
As I gently fed the casket through the portal, feeling Shift and Echo take it on the other side, I found my gaze drifting towards the world around me.
I’d labored over the past week to return to this world, to protect it… I didn’t want to leave.
This world had known pain—and I, once, had been known to harm it myself… I wanted to stay, to help mend it, to stay in the world I and my brood had fought to save…
I felt a wing drape over my back; I turned to see Liz, a look of sympathy in her eyes.
Behind her, I could see the Equestrian Swarm cleaning up several demolished buildings; two Drones—Zeta and Carapace—had run up to an earth pony, who had been struggling to lift a heavy beam on his back, by himself, and were helping him lift it up. The pony gave them each a look of surprise, then an appreciative smile, and the trio carried the beam out of the ruin.
I found myself smiling at the display; such a simple act, and I knew… this world would heal. And my people would aid in mending it, any way they could.
And this didn’t have to be goodbye.
The last of the Earth Swarm had passed through the portal, now; it was just Liz and I. I gave her a nod, and the two of us began approaching the portal. I gave Dash, Shining and Twilight one last nod of farewell, then looked at Liz.
In her eyes, I could see everything that made being with her… well, worth it. Worth any struggles, any arguments, any time she’d roll over in her sleep and inadvertently hog the blankets.
I could see every ounce of warmth, compassion and adoration that I felt for her. There was never any one particular aspect that most drew me to her—I’d assume it’s the same for anyone who had found ‘the one’.
Nothing could describe it… But I never felt the need to justify it.
She didn’t care if I was human or changeling. She didn’t care just how many children I’d have in a week. She didn’t care that a life we’d share would be as far from a normal life as one could get.
And I didn’t care what I did, so long as Liz was there by my side.
I kissed her.
We stepped through.