The white light slowly faded, and the ponies' eyes readjusted.
The chamber itself couldn't have been more silent.
Princess Celestia's chamber was filled with smoke (fog?). Nopony was coughing. The Elements had never done this before. They heard the chaos of the battle outside, but it seemed subdued, like the idea of war had been suppressed to a dull roar.
"All ponies present and accounted for?" Twilight Sparkle called to her herd.
"Still in one piece," said Pinkie Diane.
"That never stops being a rush," Rainbow Dash said.
"Still kickin' darlin'," said AJ.
"Still two of us in here and nopony stoned," Flutters said.
"My my Twilight dear, the Elements do as good a job at tail repair as ever," Rarity said.
Twilight looked to see her tail, cut off during her duel with her brother, now whole. Twilight politely chose not to inform Rarity that she had considered that a badge of love.
"But Rarity, I thought your Element only healed you."
"Yes dear, but I thought that you needed it more than myself...I admit this is the first time I was able to direct Generosity's power as such. Speaking of which it seems we've all had some healing done."
"We're all fixed-up? Yeah, tooth back where it belongs!" Rainbow Dash grinned, now with a full set of teeth.
"Ah think ya lost a couple wrinkles too Rarity."
"I had wrinkle?!"
"Ah think they were all from stress."
"...I'll remember that for the future, thank you very much." She gave Applejack a polite nuzzle. "But I wasn't thinking of myself...I suppose that's the point."
"Here Twiley!" Shining announced, breaking out of his 'I just saw my baby sister save the world' stupor.
Crying tears of joy she hugged her big brother, as they both tried to hug the life of out each other, finally able to let their emotions out. Twilight Sparkle called out at the top of her lungs, "I MISSED YOU SOOO MUCH BBBFF!"
"I MISSED YOU TOO!"
"SO DID I MY LOVE!" Cadence hugged the stallion too, nuzzling him and feeling his neck and mane. "Welcome home my knight in shining armor!" Cadence said without a trace of irony or sarcasm.
"It's wonderful to feel the real Cadence again." Shining Armor smiled.
Now with the tension passed, Cadence began to weep her own tears of happiness.
"There there dear, save those tears for the alter!" Rarity said patting the goddess on the back.
Shining nodded, nuzzling her. "Yeah, we've still got a real, hopefully non-crazy wedding to attend."
(Friend's Notes (Noon): Remember what you said about saying things like that?)
Dang it! …And just let me say: I'm glad to have three weird voices in my head back too, I missed you.
(Friend's Notes (Dusk): We missed you too, Shining.)
Group mental hug?
(Friend's Notes (Dusk): Group mental hug!)
"...Why did you say that last part like you weren't getting your hopes up?" Rainbow asked.
"My life is weird," Shining admitted. "Hopefully it'll take awhile until I attract something more weird. We already made sure our honeymoon isn't on an ancient buffalo burial ground."
Cadence kissed him. "Don't worry about the future, let's just enjoy the present!"
"Yeah, good idea."
The fog began to clear.
"Oh right, her," Rarity said coldly.
"Okay, who bets lawn jockey, and who bets lunar feature?" Rainbow Dash called out quick.
Deep breathing was heard from within the fog, and heavy hoofsteps caught everypony's attention.
"You're kidding right?" Fluttercruel got a word in edgewise, "Doesn't she know when to quit?"
"Hey Rarity, you want the honor of punching out whatever's left of 'er?" RD asked casually.
"Given the circumstances I'd accept darling, but Sweetie Belle might not understand," Rarity said gracefully.
"If you don't mind, I'd like dibs," Shining said.
"Because she's made your family's lives Tartarus?" RD asked.
"No...well, yes...but also, Captain of the Guard, capturing her is kinda my job."
"Maybe the Elements turned her into an Earth Pony?" Fluttershy guessed.
"What's wrong with being an Earth Pony?" Pinkie Pie asked.
The black carapace of the changeling queen dragged itself out of the vanishing fog. Her breathing was ragged, her movements sluggish, she looked up at the ponies, huge cracks appeared along her neck as she did so that began to spread along all of her body. For a moment nopony said anything.
Then the chrysalis broke apart. The ponies were transfixed in a horrid fascination as they could only watch.
Black armor cracked and fell like ice shavings, then broke off in larger chunks like a collapsing castle, a beast tearing itself free of its prison.
It stomped its hooves, shattering the carapace, then slipped out of its legs like they were horseshoes. It spread out its wings, breaking away the carapace on its back, and its old dragonfly wings fell to the floor discarded and shattered. It twisted its body about, shaking free the pieces of its outer shell. Finally, only the carapace of its face remained, which its green telekinesis magic pulled away free with a dramatic flourish, it turned it around to look at its own face, and with relish, crushed it into dust. Green eyes regarded the ponies and then, she burst out laughing.
That laugh was so wrong coming from that face knowing who was behind it.
Nopony's mind was able to fully grasp what they saw, it made no sense, it was like Discord himself had zipped open his head and shown them the contents.
She trotted to a window and regarded herself. "At last, I am free of that disgusting body!" She did a small twirl. She laughed in joy. She did a little dance. "I've dreamed of this day since I was small." She stood on her rear legs and spread her feathered wings, still laughing. "For the first time in so long, I'm me!" She landed with the thundering force of earth pony strength, smiling.
Her cutie mark resembled a flowing ink drawing, like a zebra's cutie mark. It was either a dragon swallowing a circle, or the dragon wing was actually the spiral of a maelstrom with jaws at the center.
She breathed in deep, enjoying the taste of air, and slowly exhaled.
"Against all odds," she hugged herself with her wings, "I BEAT YOU fate! How does it feel to have your own rules turned on you you big bully?! WE DID IT MAUA!" She flapped her wings and kicked her legs about happily. "I'm not that big ugly witch Pandora's Frakenpony experiment anymore! I'm natural! I'm free! I'm free!" She shed a tear of joy.
She looked at Cadence and saw the absolute look of confusion on her face that was then mirrored on her own.
She inoffensively trotted toward Princess Cadence, who backed away from the living breathing WRONG before her, Shining Armor and Twilight Sparkle stepped forward protectively.
A single gentle feather on the tip of her wing stretched out and gently brushed Cadence's face.
"You really don't remember anything from before you were last born do you?" She asked, tilting her head like a foal. "Dying by somber hooves? Little winged crystal princess? I bet auntie Celestia and Luna would care to know." There was no sinisterness in her voice. Then an annoyed look appeared on her face. "Excuse me," she said angrily. "We have rats."
Without fully turning around, she shot out her other wing, flinging one of her feathers faster than a crossbow bolt, it pierced the window leaving a tiny hole.
"Sorry about that, but this is my depute performance, and I'm not about to share the stage with scum!"
'Mother of Me, things have just turned very bad!'
"Father. What happened? I don't get it."
'Get the buck out of there!'
'I said move your keister! NOW!'
In the space between blinks, the quill tip of a feather pierced the chest of the shadowless pink filly, she gasped out, and rolled off the spot she was watching the throne room from, and hit the ground with a thud. Stone began to spread from the point of infection.
'Cousin! Restore her and get her back to home base!'
"Why should I?" Asked Umbra Breeze, suddenly sitting in front of the filly, entertained to be watching her struggle, "I think this is quite a beautiful tragedy I see before me. A real shoot the shaggy diamond dog story. Transcendentally anti-climatic too. Not to mention the heartbreak of a mother never knowing her child's fate."
"If I had a heart, I think I'd hate you," she gasped out emotionlessly.
Umbra Breeze shrugged. "Don't particularly care."
'Get that quill out and heal my daughter. Right now. Or you can kiss my butt, and your investment goodbye!'
"Maybe all I need is Alula's help, I can do the rest without you now cousin."
'Ha ha. If you could have done it on your own you would have. I'm the only way you have around your promise. Now hurry up before my filly's a paper weight or deal's off!'
Umbra Breeze growled, and pulled out the quill (tasting absolutely petrifying to him) and spat it out. The stone stopped spreading and slowly began to recede. He picked up the filly and put her on his back before both vanished in a swirl of darkness.
'It was a mistake to send you out in your pupa stage. We won't make that mistake again my baby girl. Next time, you'll bring disaster to everything.'
"Sweetie Belle?!" Silver Spoon gasped.
Sweetie had stumbled from stabbing pain in her chest that had come and gone in a flash. "I'm...I'm okay. I think."
"B-but, how in the hay can there be two of them?!" Applejack managed to gasp out.
The wrongness before them was Princess Cadence in every detail, except for the dragon swirl jaws instead of a crystal heart for a cutie mark. Her eyes were still green, but now were equine. The wrong Cadence slipped on the black and sapphire crown and regalia of the changelings.
"AJ I don't know how the Elements missed but she's just playing dress-up again!" Rainbow Dash stated the obvious.
"T-That ain't what my eyes are tellin' me. This ain't no shape shiftin' or illusion! That's the real her now!"
"BUT THAT'S IMPOSSIBLE!" Rarity gasped.
The wrong Cadence shrugged. "'Possible' and 'impossible' are words that exist only to convince yourself that you understand the world Rarity."
"WHY WOULD THE ELEMENTS OF HARMONY GIVE YOU CADENCE'S FACE?!" Rarity snapped at the witch.
"Because it's my face too."
"It's can't be," Fluttershy whispered. "You're were a Nightmare, the Elements completed your Alicorn-you."
"Close, but you miss the target…But how wouldn't you? You're missing the key to all of this: at the end of a very important battle in the spirit world, before your reality existed, the Concept of Music and Harmony Cadenza: lost her Light of Existence, and she was given a poor farce of one as a replacement. And the light meanwhile formed a new shadow around itself. I could stay here for fifty hour explaining the details (I don't have anything better to do), but basically without a light of existence you have no existence. This nonsense to you all?"
"Not all of us," muttered Shining, remembering the fight with the Blank Wolf and what he'd seen.
"But when Cadenza's individual pieces were reborn...the 'only live once' rule was broken. Maybe because a quantum double of our spirit who had been remade so much she had become her own soul already had a mark here…but whatever the cause, the two halves were born into this world. Ironically, the light's first birth wasn't as an Alicorn, but that's a somber story for another time. Everypony driven insane by confusion yet? Sorry. I hate sounding like Discord. I promise I'm almost done." What shocked the ponies was how...sincere she sounded. She looked at the other pink Alicorn in the room. "To sum it up Cadence: You're a piece of me. My twin sister born at the dawn of time."
Cadence whimpered and felt herself grow faint.
Then Pinkie Pie spoke like a ball of lightning shattering the night, "Right: Cadence's heart was born without the rest of her, and the rest was you. In other words, you're Cadence without her heart!"
Shining Armor and Twilight hugged the music Alicorn. "I know how you feel," Shining whispered sympathetically, remembering the shocking reveal of his own existence.
"I should've known you'd be able to put it simply, lone survivor," the wrongness Cadence said in almost in kinship.
"Well, our storyline has gotten super-ultra-mega-confusing, so we outta go for the concise answers."
"How's this for concise? What's before you is what I wanted all along."
"Horseapples! I call horseapples! There's NO WAY you had all this planned!" Rainbow Dash snapped. "You have to be making this up! All the pain and misery we've gone through! All the cracked bones and bruises?! We screwed up your schemes a million times."
"Six or nine times, tops, your previous incarnation had much better manners Rainbow Dash. I had to remake my plan several times." The thing with Cadence's face clapped her hooves in a shockingly genuine manner. "Credit where it's due, you're true survivors. I like my efforts to be appreciated, and I have nothing else to do now, so I'll tell you: I had no idea this would work. This was my final last resort. Tell me Applejack, didn't you wonder why I never killed you?"
Applejack's jaw dropped.
"Or why I didn't simply kill you Cadence?"
Cadence's heart skipped a beat.
"Cadence, I originally planned to crush your spirit so utterly that I could then assimilate you back into me without the risk of your personality overtaking me. We'd have been one again. But that stupid blue-brained stallion ruined it! Now we can never be together!" The ponies were shocked at the hurt in her voice. "Now that I'm complete without you, there's no chance of that happening."
"Now, if the invasion had failed, I planned to replace you completely, and suggesting to Auntie Luna and Celestia to hoof off responsibilities to 'Cadence' piece by piece over the centuries. Our cousin ruined that too."
"The real purpose of the rune, as Twilight surmised, wasn't to harvest all the love of Equestria and give it to everyling equally, it was to transfer it to me in a safe and absorbable manner, which would trigger my Alicornification. But you put an end to that. A joke since I realized there was somepony more worthy already.
"Sweetie Belle...at first, I sought her only because of her song's love, then I sensed what she was, I thought she could be a replacement for Cadence, but...I...she must have had SOME KIND of spell over me, for I found myself unable to part with her company or see her harmed. Then I realized if anything happened to me, she could become an Alicorn in my place. She'd succeed where I'd failed. She'd be GREATER than I could ever be. Just as I was greater than Cocoon. It was her idea that after the rune was activated she could personally give BACK love to the husks as a changeling princess, to make them able to feel love again with her new magic…what a brilliant little mind: ponies would return her love in turn, she'd a savior! She'd become more powerful than I could ever hope to be." Was...was that, pride in her voice?
"The rules of nature DICTATED that I serve her as her stepping stone to glory! But then you kidnapped and brainwashed her!" The wrongness Cadence startled, and the queen's tone for a moment was actually pleading, begging. "Rarity, please don't tell Sweetie Belle this? She...she doesn't need to know any of this, she...she can't know."
Rarity responded civil. "I shall never speak a word of it to her, meanwhile, you'll face justice for the evil you've done!"
"One pony's justice is another pony's evil, don't be naive."
Shining narrowed his eyes. "Well according to Equestrian law, you're a war criminal...a kidnapper...an attempted murderer...I think it's easier to list the laws you haven't broken. So yeah, by Equestrian law you're pretty dang evil."
"Well by Changeling law I am the law!" What disturbed the ponies wasn't the statement itself, but how...shallow the pride in that statement seemed. "Moving on, I tried to absorb the power of the Elements from the regalia directly, but that...didn't work. They seemed powerless and empty without you.
"Another plan was consuming the essence of the six of you after your spirits were broken and using the Elements on myself with the expressed intent to make me ascend, but I'd need more than a few days to do that apparently. And I worried all six of you inside me could erase my personality.
"I also planned wear the physical Elements, under a mundane disguise, and use them as a medium to assimilate the the rainbow of light when you summoned it on your own, but after chatting with you I learned you didn't know how to repeat that trick.
"The idea of being simply struck by the power that reduced Nightmare Moon to a filly and turned ugly Discord into an ugly statue wasn't appealing… and that was very painful. I think you vaporized about half my soul.
"I actually preferred my plan for when one or more of you went Nightmare five hoofsteps from me then chose to kill me or worse and absorb you to being blasted by that light show!"
'See dear? That's why I told you not to try it.'
They all felt sick. "How can you expect to eat a Nightmare?!"
"You expect me to tell you all my bloody tricks? If one of you went Nightmare right after I tell you, that would then be a suicidal move on my part wouldn't it? That plan meant if it failed I'd have the satisfaction of knowing the fire I lit would consume Canterlot instead."
Rainbow couldn't believe this. "You were rearing up for one big final fight, then we like 'forget that' and just wasted you with the Elements! You freaked!"
"I was gambling with death! If I just sat there and said 'blast me' you wouldn't have. You keep forgetting, I am an actress! That was my final performance as the character 'Queen Chrysalis.' " She then shouted at the ceiling, happily and eagerly. "Did you see, Mama-Kipepeo? It was the performance, of a lifetime!"
"Oh come on! Your stooge Trap Spider bungled putting in a trap in the Elements box! Me spotting the box? And the ambush? Come on! You'd have been relying on blind luck!" Rainbow Dash roared.
"Changeling strategy: make it look like you're relying on blind luck when you've really rigged the Tartarus out of the game. Don't you think it's odd I had my changeling fly without cover in the open air with the box in plain view when they could have just as easily hidden the Elements in a barrel or baked them in bread and smuggled them out while the box was a decoy?
"I couldn't rely on telling my changelings to hold back if Applejack's truth vision got a hold of them, so I had to tell the bottom barrel grunts they were being assigned because I had gotten that desperate and we didn't have the numbers to spare, which wasn't TECHNICALLY a lie.
"As for the IOU, that was a bit of legal fiction, I told Trap Spider to write it, just in case Applejack's truth vision could work on words. If I made a trap that you were guaranteed to all function through, you'd suspect something, if I made a trap that was deadly, there was a chance one of you could be rendered useless. And Sweetie would be sad. So I took a third option."
Chrysalis continued, "And with ALL OF THAT: I still had no idea if I'd get my wanted result. At least I'd have been a pretty statue, oh am I kidding? It'd be ugly. I don't need to pretend anymore that body was somehow beautiful!"
"Sweetie Belle didn't think you were ugly," Rarity said almost tenderly.
"...And that's what makes her a saint. If you had brought Sweetie Belle with you…I'd have made sure she was the one to consume me. The difference between a filly and a mare is blood, and I'd at least see her grow up. A new goddess either way."
"You'd have turned my little sister into a killer?"
"Even I'm not that persuasive. Absorb my spirit. My gift to her. She could have ended this war. Which would you prefer? Her becoming a deity for the changelings with absolute authority over the hive and the ability to stop this war instantly or retain her 'innocence'?"
Rarity found herself unable to speak for a few moments. Thinking of all the ponies fighting out there against other ponies, and her little sister able to tell them to just stop fighting. The witch ending herself to make Sweetie a tribe's new spiritual leader? Rarity had been the one prepared to kill. Now the fashionista felt her brain's gears going in conflicting directions.
"You said so yourself, you have what you wanted. Please, just tell your changelings to STOP."
"I'd rather not spend the rest of my new eternal life in a dungeon, thank you."
Then came the sudden look of happiness on the wrong Cadence's face.
"Heheh, this plan was so far down the list and it was so much more likely I was going to be 'purified' into dust that I didn't think of what I'd do next! Heheh!"
"Peacefully surrender for those who think there's a jewel of equinity in that ocean of black tar where your soul should be?" Rarity asked.
The wrong Cadence blinked at her. The look on her face seemed like her mind didn't know how to express the emotion Rarity's statement invoked. "Why should I surrender my freedom after finally earning it?"
Twilight couldn't take seeing all these things being spoken by the face of her foalsitter, AGAIN. "How can you say you earned this?! We destroyed all your plans! You're LUCKY!"
"Really? So I'm lucky? Would you call me that if I was a 'hero?'"
"No, you'd call me 'determined' or 'like Daring Doo' or 'resourceful' or half a dozen other things, but not LUCKY. When a 'hero' has to claw their way out of the pit a 'villain' threw them down, they're praised. They persevered in the face of all odds. The harder they're thrown down the louder they're cheered for. But the 'villain'? No, she's 'lucky', she's 'getting by the skin of her teeth' or 'she's stupid.' Nopony cares about how she keeps going despite the snags she hits! They only care about the snags!
"If I were the 'hero' you'd say that I'm determined and resourceful! That I hung it all on the line to succeed! Not that I was lucky and reckless! The 'villain' is expected to start with the flawless plan that works from start to finish, villains act, heroes react and ADAPT. Well why can't 'heroes' act and the 'villain' react and ADAPT! I adapted! It wasn't luck! It was SKILL! It was DETERMINATION! It was never giving up no matter what! The same qualities you PRAISE when a HERO does them! Well guess what, little ponies? WHO'S THE ALICORN RIGHT NOW?!"
The new Alicorn's voice echoed off the walls.
"...You know darling?" Rarity said icily. "Since I can remember, I've wanted to be recognized as part of Equestria's elite. My accent, poise, grace, etiquette, are all self taught! My parents are the most tacky ponies in the history of Equestria! My beauty? Rock solid EFFORT on the part of a unexceptional looking middle class mare! Without the effort I put into my beauty each day, I'm the most plain looking filly of us six! My connections? Clients? Reputation? Favors? Contracts? Commissions? Earned piece by piece the hard way! Uphill against the wind! I took my opportunities where I could!
"But I learned that without my friends that being in the elite was empty! And the love of sharing beauty always remained with me! Now that you've become an Alicorn Chrysalis, you've admitted yourself you never thought what you'd do AFTERWARDS! And from where I stand, you don't have a single real friend to share this with! Even the Changelings only love the mask you wear, don't they? They don't know the devil that's been hiding right under their noses. No wonder you wanted to twist poor Sweetie Belle into something like you! Your loneliness must be unbearable Chrysalis!"
Rarity braced herself, and was actually confused when her face wasn't smashed into the floor as Chrysalis' retort.
"I was a chrysalis! I am Queen Cadenza! Don't presume our different burdens make you better than me. I didn't work so hard to be free of that ugly wretched changeling body to be lectured by you."
Ya know? All those times calling her 'Queen Ugly?' Suddenly I feel really really hollow. Remind me to talk to Scootaloo about avoiding name calling, even if it's the bad guys.
"How can you call your own people ugly?" Rarity asked, pushing aside that she had thought the same thing.
Chrysalis narrowed her eyes, and spoke calmly, almost like a teacher. "Changelings are weaker than Earth Ponies, slower than Pegasi, less magical than unicorns, need other sapient creatures' emotions to live and their only talent is hiding behind other ponies' faces. That they hadn't died out is nonsense and madness." She looked ill at her own words. "And they're disgusting ugly BUGS! And yet, even as vile as they are, they helped me be free. They were never 'my people.' I have no people! I've always been alone!"
"That's a lie!" AJ declared, "It's such a big lie the truth is screaming ta get out! Ya didn't realize ya were happy until ya threw it all away!"
Pinkie Pie grabbed AJ, and the farmer was confused as she was suddenly on the opposite side of the changeling queen's field of vision. Pinkie Pie was confused when the place AJ previously stood was not a smoking hole. Instead, the queen turned to look at Applejack with a...strangely somber expression.
"Throwing it away would mean that I got nothing in return. I traded my people for my freedom. Simple as that."
"Can't you come up with an answer that ISN'T selfish?" Rarity hissed.
"I am selfish, why change? Everypony responds emotionally, then we reason out a justification that makes it sound like we used logic to come to that choice because it makes it feel better about ourselves to say we are a intelligent, rational, reasonable, morally-upright pony who makes good decisions. I just accept the reality that it's all a facade."
AJ blinked in confusion as she listened.
Twilight narrowed her eyes. "That's why you were like a Nightmare without being one, isn't it? A Nightmare is born when one part of somepony devours their whole, but you were already a Nightmare at heart! Your selfishness was all there ever was in yous!"
"That's not true!"
Shining had to put up a shield to block a powerful beam to protect his sister, none came. Pinkie Pie more than any of them was looking at this confused.
"So what's next! You reward all your changelings for their loyalty by stabbing them in the back?!" Rainbow Dash accused.
"Shame on you! Shame! To dare think a grand performer would ever stoop to such a cliche!... I haven't thought about it. Sweetie Belle wanted after I made her the princess of changelings that she'd make their base forms more beautiful...maybe I'll honor her request. Yes, she'll love it! After all, I am a goddess, I have the power!"
"Enough!" Cadence said, "You think because you have power that makes you a true goddess?!"
"What else would you describe it as?"
Something inside Cadence burned. "That's a five year old's definition of a god! An old stallion with magic powers? An invisible pony in the sky? That's how foals think of gods! A god doesn't make laws. doesn't oversee, isn't a king, isn't a machine! A god is a pillar that the house of creation stands on! They ARE a law of reality! As inseparable from them as you are from your own consciousness! Their mind is their concept, their concept is their mind! And you're born with a responsibility! Your definition is from somepony who never tried to understand!"
"...Some part of you finally awoke, didn't it?" Cadenza whispered in awe, approval?
Cadence blinked in alarm, looked back over her memory of the last minute, and trotted back, it wasn't this mirror image of herself she was scared of right now. She looked at Twilight and Shining Armor, both looked at her in concern and worry. "I...I don't know where THAT came from!"
Cadenza sighed. "And that is why I'm better than you."
-An instant later-
Queen Cadenza panted, as the combined distortion shot and laser from the Sparkle Siblings hit her barrier and sending her skidding back several yards.
"Now who's the violent ones?"
"You are not better than Cadence, you bucking sociopath!"
"A potty mouth? From you Twilight? I know Cadence raised you better than that young pony."
"Twiley, she's right, my little sister shouldn't cuss," Shining stated. "You are not better than Cadence, you bucking sociopath!"
"I accept what I am! I don't hide from what I am! I know what I am! She talks about responsibility but she's scared of becoming an adult! Hypocrite! You know why I made you a puppet instead of my devoted minion? Because your voice is so annoying!"
"Why thank you. I try my best."
"Ugh, what do you see in him?!"
"He can be a smartflank, but he's my smartflank," Cadence retorted. "And I'm glad I have him back," she said, smiling to Shining.
Cadenza shrugged. "You can have him. Have Canterlot. Have Equestria. I'll be going now, I hear the Southern Islands are nice this time of year. Maybe I'll take up acting again. Enjoy fighting the ugly-bugs, be all bad-flank and everything on 'em. I'll send Sweetie Belle a postcard. I'm sure the swarm will accept her as princess." Queen Cadenza found herself in a force field bubble.
"You're not going anywhere," Shining Armor said. "You've still got an extremely long list of atrocities to face up to."
"I wasn't asking permission," Shining Armor's shield shattered as Cadenza touched her horn to it, the unicorn gasped at the pain of the feedback from his horn. "If Cadence can power up your shield magic, what made you think I can't undo it?!"
"But you said Luna couldn't break the one around Canterlot that quick!" Pinkie called. "I call cheating!"
"Yes, but I also said already I'd be forcing Shining to use every ounce of his mana to maintain it to the point he would fall over dead and he's still weak from my feeding, and Cadence just did a good job of showing me a way around it. Thank you, 'sister.' And in case you didn't notice, I AM NOT LUNA!"
Rainbow Dash shouted. "PINKIE PIE! While she's monologuing! FIRE YOUR ANTI-MARY-SUE BAZOOKA!"
"Sorry Dashie, she doesn't count as a Mary-Sue."
Rainbow Dash's jaw fell from her face. "WHAT?! Why?! Because we're not blabbing about how great she is? That's stupid!"
"Uh, no, Mary Sues aren't just everypony praising them forever or not."
"Because something about this seems off...I don't feel like this went the way she wanted after all…"
The Queen turned only to find Applejack now stood in her path.
"Ya were right before Cadzena, every system does have a little fiction at its base...but an experience of mine made meh realize not all lies are bad. Sayin' all of somethin' is bad? That's the lie that'll lead tah well, bein' like you. There are lotsa lies that need tossin' out and quick. But that doesn't mean every lie needs to be destroyed right here right now. So long as the truth comes out some day when it'll help instead of just hurt. Because a cruel truth can be as bad as a cruel lie."
"HA! You think I can't smell your emotions from here Applejack? You HATE saying those words! You despise them from the bottom of your soul! You HATE living in a world where you have to play nice and not wipe away every falsehood! You WANT a world where ponies have to GET USED TO not being able to lie, instead of the other way around."
"...Ah'd be lyin' if Ah said there wasn't a part of me that felt that in a big way." Applejack heard her friends gasp. "But Ah chose to be better than just what Ah want!"
"You think your eyes of truth are going to crush me now? I am a part of truth now!"
"Ah don't need to! Ya don't need to look into Truth, when Truth can look into you! Ah may not know the first thing about Alicorn magic, but Ah've seen the Elements work enough ta know what Ah see! Ya say the Elements fixed ya so ya weren't half-baked? Tell me darlin', what so harmonious about a Alicorn who can't feel a thing for the ponies who love'er more than they love breathin'?!"
-Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin: Meeting of Destiny-
Everypony gasped. So did the new Alicorn.
Her hoof moved to her chest, a tightness was there that wasn't before her transformation. One that she had attributed to her new body...but now had begun to take hold. "...What..."
"How does yer victory feel now when ya really think about it and can't lie to yerself?" AJ didn't let her eyes leaves Cadenza's.
Cadenza staggered back, looking around. Her eyes fell on Cadence...and the bad feeling got worse when she saw the look in her eyes. The same with Shining Armor. With everypony in the room. Hate was something she could have dealt with, she was used to being hated. This was...something else.
"Ya can't enjoy it, can ya? Yah got a little voice in the back of yer head nagging yah again and she ain't gonna ever let up. Yer words have been shallow ever since you became like this, but in the opposite way it used to be. It ain't your compassion that's shallow now, it's yer lack of it. The words yah've been sayin'? Your mind believes 'em but your heart doesn't."
"What...what did you do to me?!"
"Ah didn't do anythin', turnin' inta an Alicorn was yer idea."
She staggered to a window and looked out on the chaos below...at the subjects she said she didn't care for...and couldn't help feeling the tightness worsen the more she tried to convince herself how ugly they were. How much pain she'd put them through. And she couldn't help feeling...bad. When she thought of how all this wasn't for them, but for herself.
"Why do I feel bad?! This can't be right, am I mad? I won the day, so I should be happy I say!"
The Queen held her head like it was splitting in two.
"It's called a conscience, Cadenza. Looks like it comes free with every Alicornification."
"That's impossible! I killed my conscience! It was useless nonsense!"
"Looks like it's risen from the dead. Ah just unplugged the hole! Bad luck tryin' ta seal it back up!"
My Pinkie Sense is going wonky! This just keep getting crazier and crazier, hopefully this means we can avoid a stupid big fight after all. I wanna go back to silly misunderstandings that could get lots of ponies hurt but end up only get us covered in frosting and we all laugh about later! I'm sick of all this stupid fighting!
Oh! Erm, uh, I'll admit, for a little bit, I couldn't stop myself from thinking how, she reminded me of a scared and cornered animal. I wondered, what this what Fluttercruel felt when she realized she had a heart?
And I suppose in some ways…she's like me. Where I was so obsessed with the kind side of nature I couldn't bear the cruel side of it...she was so obsessed with the cruel side, she'd made herself overlook the kind side.
I felt like shouting 'Way to go AJ!' to my favorite rival for getting another hit in where we couldn't. I'll confess, I couldn't stop the feeling of satisfaction I felt when I saw miss high and mighty 'everypony is a jerk deep down' suddenly be on the receiving end of her 'hittin' em where it hurts' warfare.
Sweetie Belle, is this the Chryssy you hoped existed? Or is this the Chryssy she only showed to you, that she didn't let out for anypony else? Except for whoever Maua is, or maybe was. Maybe she was Chrysalis' little sister? Is that what Chrysalis saw in you Sweetie? A blind mare could tell from how she keeps mentioning her, she was somepony beloved by this sick mare.
I never thought I'd say it, but I wish you were here. I think out of all of us, you're the one who could take advantage of this.
After seein' what she just did to Shinin's shield, Ah'd rather not have my friends mix it up with another Alicorn. This one not crazy or fightin' to lose. But what Ah saw in 'er, and told 'er Ah saw, it was the honest truth alright, it had been buildin' up since Ah laid eyes on the new 'er, and now that Ah'd pointed it out ta her, she couldn't ignore it.
I wanted to see her stopped...If she wanted to turn around, at least for me, I'd give her a second chance, but it'd take a long time for me to forgive her...
She'd broken my mother's legs, violated my mind, and put my friends through a living Tartarus. She'd attacked my home town...
And that was what made Chrysalis was more terrifying in that moment than she'd ever been or would be...because, for one moment, I'd swear to Celestia...it was like I was looking at my foalsitter, realizing she had become a monster.
I fought an imagination monster, and I didn't know what to think about this witch, I still don't. All I knew was this horror, this nightmare, this witch, she just claimed that she was part of Cadence, my Cadence, and if how Pinkie Pie summed it up was right, then I knew my Cadence would never do anything like this. My duty was to protect those I loved, and she had done nothing but hurt them with a smile on her face. I'm sorry, I think even now, all I could think of was her victims. Then came the bad joke that put all of Gag's to shame. I knew this monster's first victim who she destroyed the heart of, was right in front me.
But I honestly had more ponies to feel pity and worry about. Ponies she hurt. Like Cadence and my mom...please...I know you guys can't directly interfere, but can you at least...
(Friend's notes (Noon): She's gotten medical attention, Shinings, the Changelings never touched her.)
(Noon's Notes: Wow...That...wasn't what I expected.)
(Dusk's Notes: That's the biggest irony of them all. Those that seek Godhood without knowing what it truly means. Those like Chrysalis...they only see the vague outline, not the complete whole. They see power, and that's it...And Chrysalis is now seeing the price of divinity. Discord is the only God with no compassion for life at all, and even he had an innate capacity for it he buried over the eons...Even the End of All Things includes an End of All Suffering...How did you all get way down there? Oh...I don't think I've ever seen so many soap boxes.)
She's had my face before, but now it's more than that. Just looking at her, being near her, hearing everything she said, I felt something rising up inside me, something forgotten, something hidden, something that was me, and yet I feared it wasn't the me who had made friends with Twilight and had fallen in love with Shining. There were a million and one mysteries I was at the center of. WHY COULDN'T THEY ALL JUST GO AWAY?! I just want to live my life! I want to marry Shining Armor! I want to see our children fly in the skies over Canterlot! I want to be the 'Alicorn of the people' that Auntie has wanted me to be too! Please...no more monsters and villains. Can you tell me at least if this will be the last one?
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): I'm sorry Cadence, you are a light in the darkness, and things that hide in the dark, hate the light more than anything. Because, you give ponies hope, and that's sometime tyrants who feed on somber fears can never be allow to exist. Because you're the proof they can be beaten!)
These emotions...they're familiar...like pain but I'm not hurt! Maua! Why have I been thinking more and more about you?! Why? Please! Tell me! I can't stand this anymore!
...Why...Why aren't you answering?!
No...I refuse. I will not allow this. I won't let her. No I say! No! No! No!
"I will not submit myself to Pandora or fate's will! I'll overcome all reversals she throws at me!"
"Who says this is a reversal?" Applejack asks. "Ya got what ya wanted. Ya said ya didn't plan anythin' past this. So how can fate be throwin' a reversal at ya when yah got what ya truly wanted? Maybe ya got a bonus instead."
"Chrysalis...Cadenza...whatever you're calling yourself," Fluttershy spoke. "Please...you've got a heart now...you got what you wanted...please...if you care about the Changelings at all, end this fight now so nobody more gets hurt…I'm Kindness, I can tell your heart WANTS to be kind for them...They don't have a love supply anymore, the longer they fight, the more love they burn...the fighting isn't going to stop any time soon...please, if they matter to you...tell them to stop...I promise…as Princess Gaia, I'll tell all my followers to be kind to them, I SWEAR IT...just please stop this before its too late."
All of them, speaking to me, not even looking ready to fight now, all their faces, so unsure, so desperate for...for...for what? Me to pay for what I've done? No, that would make sense...what do they want? Could they...could they really want...
I look out the balcony at the fighting...at my changelings. At Hercules fighting with every ounce of strength he has with his hidden ace. Burning their life up. And for what? For me?...All for me...It all slips right into place! That's it! That actually makes sense!
-Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin: Thirst For Blood-
"FATE WON'T TURN ME INTO SOMETHING I'M NOT! YOU THINK I'M STUPID? YOU THINK I DON'T SENSE LUNA MINUTES FROM ARRIVAL? THE ONLY REASON YOU'VE BEEN SO CHATTY, AND NOT TRIED TO FIGHT WITH TYPICAL PONY ARROGANCE, IS BECAUSE YOU WANT TO KEEP ME TALKING LONG ENOUGH FOR HER TO ARRIVE AND CRUSH ME AND THE CHANGELINGS FOR YOU! YOU THINK I HAVE NO MEANS OF DEFENDING MYSELF OR THEM NOW? YOU THINK ME THE WEAKLING LUNA AFTER HER PURGING!? I WON'T FALL FOR YOUR PERFORMANCE! MAUA! TOGETHER WE'LL HARVEST YOU, AND THE RUIN FROM THE BATTLE BETWEEN THE HUNGER AND THE MOON TAROTS WILL LEAVE PONIES BEGGING MY CHANGELINGS TO RESTORE ORDER! THEIR DREAMS WILL BE REALIZED!"
Isn't that right Maua?! Maua?! Where are you?! Say something!
"...Then for their sake, I hope it's not too late to stop you," The yellow witch whispered.
No I don't look in the orange witch's eyes! No more of her half truths! That's what they are! Honesty can't lie so she tells twisted truths!
I didn't do anything wrong! That's right, I'm still giving the Changelings their kingdom, what does it matter if I got a little something out of it, right?! Isn't that right, Maua?! Answer me! Please!
"I'm sorry Sweetie Belle."
So am I. All for the swarm!
"BEHOLD THE POWER OF THE HUNGER TAROT!"
The ponies prepared for the unwanted fight to keep the witch down until Luna arrived to even the odds. Green lightning crackled from Cadenza in every direction at once, along the floor, through the air, strangling and invading the six friends. They fell in a heap writhing, screaming in pain as they felt their emotions being torn out of them.
"You first," the witch hissed, her eyes narrowed on Twilight Sparkle, the purple pony's screams rising louder than the others as the witch's magic dug deeper into her soul. "This is the Hunger Tarot. This is where you all lose."
Cadence gasped, watching the torment in horror. "No...stop it!" she begged, but didn't know what to do as panic clutched her her heart. Her mind just drew blanks as the fear became unbearable. This thing couldn't be her!
"...They were right when they said I hadn't thought what's next…this seems like a good start you backstabbers! Hahaha! How's that sound Maua?! What do you think?!...Answer me please!"
Tears began running down her face. Chrysalis...was she really this strong? Had...had that nightmarish vision come true?
Chrysalis smirked as pulled their emotions into her, all of them, not just love.
"Don't worry, you'll wake up, feeling love and devotion to Queen Sweet B-"
And then was sent flying through Celestia's throne by a Distortion Shot right in the head.
Cadence gasped as the spell was broken and the six friends' emotions settled back into their hearts. She turned and looked to see Shining Armor glaring in Chrysalis' direction with a dead serious look.
"Get. Away. From. My. Sister."
A gravity buster bombarded the stunned queen full force followed by a massive shield sphere plummeting down on her, smashing the new Alicorn into a crater that used to be Celestia's throne.
In that instant, Shining's stone cold determination was over and the caring brother rushed to his sister's side.
Cadence was stunned. After all the witch had done to him. After seeing Celestia beaten and the purpose of the Elements twisted. The heroes left writhing on the floor. Shining...had stepped forward to protect his little sister when his Goddess had not...and she suddenly felt very foolish.
'...Shining...how could I be such a coward? How could I let a silly vision stand between me and protecting my friends?'
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Fear can be a mind destroyer or the greatest teacher and motivator somepony could ask for...the key is to rule it and don't let it rule you.)
Cadence saw Shining's face. The fear in it. 'That's how...you are scared...but you used it as a drive...as if I needed another reminder of why I love you.'
The group gasped, looking over to the crater where the Princess of the Day's throne used to sit. The Queen rose out of the crater, the damage she'd sustained rapidly mending.
"That hurt quite a bit!" With a twist of her telekinesis, she popped her neck back into place. Cadence couldn't tell if it'd been broken by the direct hit to the head from the Distortion Shot or not.
Fear gripped Cadence's heart once again as she looked into the eyes of her 'twin sister'. Something had well and truly snapped in those eyes. '...No! I'm not letting that awful future come to pass! But...how can I stop it? What can I do...if I kill her...if I can...the Changelings will seek revenge...but if I don't stop her...'
Her nightmarish vision returned full force...Then she watched Shining prepare to defend them all…uncertainly vanish and fear was put in its place.
'No...I'll fight...but what can I do to stop a war?...Wait...Moth said...THAT'S IT!'
"Shining…watch Twilight and her friends...when they recover, get them down to the battle below, they'll be needed there," she whispered as Chrysalis continued to regenerate and prepare her counterattack if Shining did.
"Trust me, remember the village? Both times? The Wolf. Please trust me, this might be the true way I can help."
Shining was hesitant, but nodded. "You've trusted me, I trust you, don't be crazy."
Cadence smirked. "Crazy's always worked for you, didn't it?"
Cadence flew full force at Cadenza, dodging counter beams as quickly as she could and tackled the Queen out onto the balcony overlooking the battle and through the stone railing. The two Alicorns parted and stared each other down as they fell. Both managed to right themselves as they fell using their wings and landing all fours. This got the attention of everypony.
I shall admit, getting my big chair rebuilt in record time was an amusing story unto itself, I should thank Shining Armor for the distraction, when you're old as I am, you need the little things to keep you going.
"I'm gonna Rainboom that witch so fast that she won't have time to think!" Rainbow Dash swore as she got up. Shining Armor was besides himself at the speed the Elements recovered.
"Easy there partner, no solo gigs," Applejack said, no longer needing to grab Rainbow's tail to get her to listen to reason.
"All the same dear, we can't simply let her face that witch alone," Rarity said.
"I'd say the more the merrier, but this is no party," Pinkie Pie said pulling out a weapons' rack.
"We can't let her cause anymore damage," Fluttershy sighed, sounding heart broken as she looked over the items on the rack.
"No one agrees with you more than me girls," Twilight said, "BBBFF how could you let Cadence go alone?!"
"She asked me to trust her, and to look after you."
"Since when do you listen to her orders when they go against what you think is best?" Pinkie Pie said pulling out a script she flip through. "You've never let her pulling rank work before!"
"I couldn't leave you all alone! And besides, Cadence is actually pretty bad flank when she's serious!"
"Granted." Twilight Sparkle said, "But girls, I think we need to ask a very important question: why didn't Chrysalis try to feed on BBBFF and Cadence?"
"Queen Chrysalis!" Cadence shouted using the Royal Canterlot voice.
'She must be more worried about her friends attacking her than my changelings attacking me.' Queen Cadenza thought. 'Right Maua?...Maua, where are you?!'
"I challenge you for the throne of Queen of All Changelings!"
This caused everypony to stop fighting, and stare at the green eyed Alicorn, her jaws hanging open.
The green eyed Alicorn blinked like a camera shutter at her reflection, then burst out laughing.
"So it's come to THAT NOW?! This is rich! You think the changelings would have any stability if that's all there was to it?! Moron! It's not just one-on-one combat, stupid! Even if you could! At least half The Swarm has to approve of you killing me! And you have to be clearly related somehow to the current Queen!" Queen Cadenza laughed harder.
Cadence didn't flinch. "Well, Chrysalis-"
"I'm not Chrysalis anymore! I'm CADENZA NOW!"
Cadence smirked. "Well then, CADENZA, as in Mi Amore Cadenza, my FULL NAME. Look at yourself and look at me. Everypony and everyling look!"
Cadenza's eyes widened for a moment as all eyes fell on them. She had flashbacks to the original battle between herself and Cocoon so long ago. 'Did...did I fall for the same trap?'
The ponies were disturbed by the wrongness they saw before them. The Changelings were stunned to realize the being before them was in fact their Queen. The sight of their Queen's green eyes and royal jewelry jolted the thought of it being a simple transformation from their mind.
"It's like you said, we're twin sisters Cadenza!" Cadence yelled, causing shock to ripple through the group on both sides. "I may not be your blood, but you and I are two halves of the same whole! I'm the light, you're the shadow! We can't BE more related than that!"
Cadenza opened her mouth to speak. She thought about shape-shifting back to that...ugly...disgusting body. But she'd die before that. "Fine! I admit it! We're two halves of a whole, you and me are related, but what does THAT matter? You still need to get half the Changelings on your side!"
Cadence cleared her throat, preparing to be the diplomat. "Alright, then, let me ask this, are you going to stop this war?"
Cadence narrowed her eyes. "Even though your people have lost their batteries and my aunt is on the verge of arriving in Canterlot AS WE SPEAK? Meaning every minute they fight is another minute of their candle they burn away?"
"They'll die for the Swarm!"
Cadence looked to the changelings. "Yes, you'll die for the swarm, I respect that, but what if you didn't have to?" she asked. "Moth, please reveal yourself, now. NO ONE attack her."
The second Bon Bon that'd been aiding her sister in cooking galloped forwards and shed her disguise to reveal her true form, earning gasps on each side. "This is Moth, she's a Changeling who's been living IN PEACE with Equestria for several years, SHARING love with ponies and is well fed, content, and very sane."
"Haha! Do you think that one criminal Changeling changes-"
"She's not the only one!" yelled another voice.
Three guards that had been fighting on the pony's side stepped forwards and shed disguises in a burst of orange flames revealing Changelings in royal guard armor. "We're just like her."
Weaver forced her bandaged body fully to her hooves as she prepared to state what she and her siblings had spent years preparing. "We've spent every moment since we were fifteen living peacefully among ponies. We haven't stolen love in years. Check the records. You won't find one 'mystery sickness,' pony suddenly becoming an emotionless husk, or missing pony report where we've been stationed. We're living proof Changelings don't need to steal love!"
The three bowed to Cadence as Moth almost fainted from shock.
Cadence looked up at the window she and Cadenza had just plummeted out of. "PRINCESS GAIA!" called the Alicorn of Harmony in the Royal Canterlot Voice, using Fluttershy's more official sounding name.
The shy Pegasus poked her head out of a window. "Um...yes..."
"SHE HEARD YOU!" called Rainbow Dash as several ponies in the crowd bowed to Fluttershy, making her blush.
A pegasus guard in the crowd, however, looked upon the little cream colored dot like she was an angel and did the blushing himself.
Twilight promptly cast the Royal Canterlot Voice spell on the pegasus.
"Would you say there's a sizable population of Changelings presently in Equestria living in peace and harmony like these four? Who don't seek to harm or have harmed any Equestrians which is the very reason you did not see them as a threat when you touched their hearts?"
"UM...AH! MY VOICE IS SO BIG!...UM...YES, THERE ARE A GOOD NUMBER OF THEM! EEP!"
"And how many of them had any form of psychosis that caused them to be good to ponies? Any mental damage that, as per your spell, would have been sucked into you as Nightmare Whisper?"
"Applejack, Element of Honesty whose eyes can pierce all lies. And who as the Changelings saw, is such a poor liar even their brainwashing could not make her do such. Was there any deceit in Gaia's words?"
"No! She was tellin' the truth! Ah swear tah Celestia she is!"
That sent ripples through the Changeling Swarm.
"Ponies would never accept that!" Cadenza argued, becoming more unhinged as the moments passed. "They'd despise those Changelings if they knew they were there!"
"I knew you'd argue that lie, sister," Cadence stated, turning to the group. "Who here has been aware that Moth was a Changeling?"
A sizable number of hooves were raised.
"Of those, who thought less of her for that fact?"
All but one of the hooves went down. Lyra looked around, and slowly lowered hers.
"And we knew the triplets were Changelings!" shouted a voice Cadence knew. "They're good guards! We're proud to have served with them!"
"Thank you, Thunderchild," said Cadence. She then blinked. "Thunderchild?!"
The Pegasus gave a salute.
"Wait, what?!" asked Shining Armor, poking his head out the window, shouting at the top of his lungs, "Thunderchild? Guys! You're okay!"
"Captain?" asked Garnet, shouting as loud as she could, "You're free!" Misfit erupted in cheers at the reappearance of their squad leader and friend despite their bandaged state.
"We were afraid we'd end up fighting you sir!" called Gag, wing still taped up.
"Believe me, I was scared of that too!...Okay, I was scared you were dead, but also if you weren't that would happen...Good to see you!"
"Thankfully we just ended up helping fight a bunch of big bugs!" Gag said. One of the triplets elbowed him. "Ow! Oops...forgot that's racist. Sorry."
Shining blinked. "Wait...Digger Wasp and Kabuto...That was you guys!"
Cadence cleared her throat as Misfit gave a proud smirk. "I'm glad you're safe too, but now's not the time for a group hug," Cadence said sadly. But gave a smile to her friends before turning back to the crowd. "And who here has a friend or loved one who is another species than they are? Who's species was once a threat to Equestria? That includes Deer."
Nearly everypony raised their hooves.
"Who here thinks any less of them for that species? Answer your Princess truthfully!"
While one or two hooves remained up, most went down.
"As you can see, species matters very little in Equestria."
"Now...here is my argument and my bid for Changeling Queen. Applejack, I order you to look me in the eyes the entire time."
"Uh...kinda a long way away ye-AH!"
Applejack was suddenly teleported with Twilight, but needed to be materialized a few feet off the ground for her own safety, the brief fall being less dangerous than materializing within the two armies or within sucking range of Cadenza. A family member was there to catch her.
"Ellis! Good tah see yer okay!"
"Applejack, sorry to interrupt your reunion, but can you please look in my eyes?"
"Oh! Right!" Applejack did so.
"Am I now incapable of lying?"
"Yes yer majesty!"
"If I defeat Chrysalis, I'll do all within my power to see any Changeling under my rule is treated with mercy. I will not promise we won't have to face the consequences for our actions, but I will promise I will do everything within my power to ensure we are well fed and live in harmony with Equestria. No more needing to hide your faces. No more hiding from the sun. No more war. No more violence. Only peace and harmony. The moment I become Queen, I will end this conflict and begin working towards a state of peace, love, and harmony between us and Equestria and the world. Furthermore, think, little Changelings. Stolen love? It's finite, we are aware of this. Shared love? Moth has been sustained by the same family's love for years without any decrease in the amount she's getting. In fact, she gets MORE than she'd get if she stole it."
The triplets nodded, confirming the same was true of them too.
Cadence did not break eye contact with Applejack. "That is what we may ALL have. War replaced by peace. Stealing replaced by GIVING. Famine and hunger replaced by fullness and contentedness. We will not be treated as lesser than ponies, we will be treated as equals who can freely share in, as your very queen put it, the abundance of love that is present throughout Equestria."
"So, Changelings. What do you think? Why take what can be GIVEN? Why conquer what can be shared? Why hurt when you can live in peace? Why be monsters when you can be equals? Yes, there will be consequences for our actions here, but there will also be MERCY, and I will fight my own Aunts if it means protecting you! I ask you, why go through all this trouble to get something ponies FREELY OFFER US?!
"And one last thing. Changelings does your law say that the previous Changeling Queen must DIE for the crown to be passed?"
"…It's…It's never been brought up. No queen has ever chosen to spare her defeated rival…" Said Locust.
"...Then my last promise in this bid is that I will do my best not to kill Queen Chrysalis but defeat her. And if, at some point down the line I feel she can maintain a peaceful relationship with Equestria, I will return her crown to her-"
"Now that last part is impossible," Locust said.
"In fact, if she will surrender this very moment and agree to a peace treaty, this fight doesn't even need to happen."
"NEVER! I won't be a slave! I worked too hard for this day to give it up!" Cadenza roared in rage, forcing Cadence to dodge a furious charge. "You think I'm stupid? I won't be a prisoner! I won't be a slave! I will be free! You bully! I've spent my entire life fighting according to survival of the fittest, the rules of nature, you are a pampered flower! I won't be a slave! No matter how many thorns the rose has its bloom is still eaten! Goodbye Princess Cadence."
The green eyed Alicorn bored a spell beam right at the other pink Alicorn, who countered with a beam of her own, neither overcoming the other. The queen kicked a rock at Cadence's face, breaking Cadence's concentrations, and causing the beam to dissolve, but in the last moment the Alicorn produced a base shield spell that delayed the beam for the moment the Alicorn needed to avoid the attack.
"I have more experience fighting, I am willing to do what it takes to win, I am not held back by scruples, you couldn't have chosen a worse option little Princess! Right Maua?! Answer me!"
Rarity tapped Shining Armor on the shoulder, "Dear I think it's best if you drop that shield."
She pointed with her horn and Shining Armor looked...to see the familiar outline of Princess Luna and the night guard, all of them carrying bundles, all flying towards the city.
"I hope that isn't Chrysalis' second army in disguise. Assuming she wasn't bluffing!" Fluttercruel said.
Twilight and Applejack on the ground were completely focused on the fight. And didn't see the Alicorn and her army outside, as was pretty much everypony else.
"Desperate times for desperate measures dears!" Rarity magically picked up a jewels and threw it at the farmer, which hit just hard enough for,
"Fluttershy! Tell her!" Rarity said.
"APPLEJACK! PRINCESS LUNA IS HERE! IS IT HER?"
AJ turned alarmed and looked...again along with everypony else. "It's her alright! All of them are who they look like!"
Twilight Sparkle brightened. "It's okay Cadence! You delayed her long enough! Now we can-"
"NO! I can beat her! I have to! It's the only way to keep this from turning into a bloodbath! I promised Moth I'd look out for her people! And this is how I'm going to!"
Cadenza picked up fragments of rubble she threw at the other Alicorn like bullets. But Cadence proved to be faster than she looked and dodged the attacks.
"That was a dumb move! After I break and assimilate you, I'll be on equal footing with Luna! You just threw away your survival and that of your kingdom!"
A pair of edged green crystals appeared around Cadence that came together trying to behead her like a guillotine.
"Not if I can help-"
"TWILIGHT! I swear! If you attack her, I'll attack you too!"
"...Cadence..." The unicorn whimpered.
"Believe in me! So the Changelings can too! How am I supposed to earn their trust if I take the easy way out?!"
This caused a number of Changelings to gasp in surprise.
"..." Twilight summoned a pair of scrolls, and wrote down a message on each, and they vanished into green flame.
Princess Luna received a twice sent dragon mail a few seconds later.
Another appeared to Shining Armor, with the simple instructions to drop the shield. He did so.
Many of the changelings felt despair. All their preparations having been destroyed, they stood naked before the night.
Many others prayed that Cadence would keep her word.
"What...what did we miss?" Wheezed Silver Tongue, one of his legs limp, one eye closed, and his body covered in cuts and bruises. He was helping Twinkleshine walk forward, her eyes were closed, and her horn looked burned out.
The two dragged themselves into the throne room. Twinkleshine nearly tripped. She gritted her teeth.
Rarity gasped. "Oh my, thank Celestia you made it!"
"Huh? Rarity? That you? There are less explosions than I expected to hear," Twinkleshine replied, turning her head this way and that.
"No sign of Chrysalis. None of you look enslaved but I can tell some of you are missing. Where's The Princess?" Silver asked.
"Cadence isn't here?" Twinkleshine asked worried.
Rainbow Dash said, "Twilight and AJ are just down there helping Cadence make the changelings see Chrysalis bamboozled them, oh and Chrysalis made herself into a double of Cadence for reals now. Princess Luna is here...but Cadence is challenging Chrysalis, to end this coup here and now with a coup of her own."
"Darling my word..." Rarity whispered looking at Twinkleshine's closed eyes and nuzzling her.
"Don't worry about me, we won. I just...just got a little carried away with my magic. I'll be fine, promise."
"Uh, dear...you're talking to a pillar."
"...Oh...don't worry. I should be fine."
"There's some good news, Twinkleshine," said Shining Armor, looking to the Hoof Maiden. "Thunderchild and the others are safe. They're the ones who took out Digger and Kabuto."
Twinkleshine gasped. "They are?! Where?!"
"Right down there."
"Down where!? I can't see! Literally! WAIT! SHINING?! That you?!"
"Yes it's him Twinkleshine," Silver Tongue said. "Hello Captain Shining Armor, retiree Silver Tongue at your service."
"Nice to meet you."
"He doesn't look under mind control anymore Twinkleshine."
"Oh thank Celestia! Happy to know you're okay Shining." She nuzzled Rainbow Dash.
Rarity politely redirected her to the right pony, he politely accepted the hoof maiden's nuzzle.
"Oh! Minny! Moon Dancer! Lemon Hearts! Are they alright?!"
"They're fine. From the looks of it they, Trixie, and Misfit took out Hercules together…" Shining said, taking a look at the grouping and amount of battle wounds, as well as the restrained and defeated Changeling General (logically being well guarded), unable to keep a bit of pride out of his tone at the mention of his squad and his friends. "Lemon Heart's giant Lemon seems pretty blasted up though."
"Awesome!" Twinkleshine cheered, then said lowly, "Wish I could see them."
"I could describe them in Sparkle family detail if that helps."
"Maybe. The gang is almost back together...I just wish we could be together again already though," the Hoof Maiden said with a small frown.
Shining Armor said, "Don't worry, we can have our group hug once the fighting's done."