As the sun hung in the sky and the warmth of the spring morning fell over the town, Twilight couldn’t help but note what a wonderful day it was. Inhaling deeply, she took in the scents that permeated the air before a gentle sigh passed her lips.
The last few days had almost become a routine of sorts for Twilight. Truthfully though, she liked things being of this nature; predictable, and as such, able to be planned and thus easily followed. Every day she would visit the hospital twice – once in the morning, and once in the evening – and, each time, she got to know more about Mystery. So far it had gone – at least as far as she was concerned – remarkably well.
As for today though? Today was different. For today was the day that Mystery was to be discharged from hospital, and all things going well, she would soon be on her way to Canterlot Castle to meet the Princesses personally.
The excitement filled Twilight, so much so in fact, that, much to Spike’s ire, she had been unable to sleep for most of the night. Learning from earlier in the week, Twilight had cast a few soundproofing spells onto their bedroom, primarily to allow the dragon his rest. Given that sleep was out of the question, she had instead gone over the vast amounts of notes generated over her time with Mystery. Curled up downstairs with a stack of books beside her, it had been a fantastic way to wait out the hours.
Indeed, truly nothing could dampen her mood today.
“Look, all I’m saying is that she could be one.”
Well, almost nothing.
“Rainbow Dash, for the last time, she ain’t a changeling.”
“C’mon, you gotta admit AJ that it totally fits!”
“I-Is she really a changeling?”
“No Fluttershy, she most certainly is not. Rainbow Dash has simply got a silly idea into her head that she refuses to let go. Isn’t that right, dear?”
“What? How is it silly? Why else would they have come to her if she wasn’t? I mean, hello, isn’t that why they all came to the wedding? Oh, wait, new idea, maybe she’s really that Queen, and they’re planning to invade by having us let our guards down then, bam, we’re all taken out!”
“Oh don’t be silly Dashie, Mystery isn’t the queen.”
“How would you know Pinkie? Actually, how would any of us know? This could all be some kind of, I don’t know, super changeling plot that-“
“Okay, enough!” Twilight quietly counted to five before noticing the others had also been brought to a standstill from her outburst. Exhaling to ease her growing agitation, she shifted on her hooves before looking around making sure no-one had overheard. Thankfully the way to Derpy’s house appeared to be largely absent of anyone else, the early hour evidently helping in that regard.
“Rainbow Dash.” Glancing upwards, Twilight fixed the cyan pegasus with a firm stare. It was one she used when a book was overdue, or Spike was trying to sneak snacks in before bed. It seemed, funnily enough, to also work rather admirably on a certain hot-headed mare; an observation that she made sure to make a mental note of for later. “Firstly, keep your voice down, no-one else is allowed to know about… them, being involved. Secondly, you know how Fluttershy is about that topic!”
The words brought a slight grimace to Rainbow Dash’s face, apparently realising her error far too late. An apologetic glance was given by her towards Fluttershy, the other pegasus trying to look unperturbed as she smiled back to her friend. It might have worked, if not for how her cream-coloured wings rustled constantly against her sides. Opening her mouth, Rainbow Dash was however cut off as Twilight verbally pressed onwards.
“Furthermore, Mystery is most definitely not one of… them.” Lowering her eyelids, Twilight noticed Rarity and Applejack nodding in agreement out the corner of her eye. “Also, Dinky really likes her, and Derpy seems fond of her as well. What do you think would happen if you blurted out what you just said in front of them? You can’t just say things like that!”
Again, Rainbow Dash tried to open her mouth only to shut it just as quickly when Twilight stomped a hoof into the grass.
“Look Rainbow, you, like everyone else, agreed to come along, and I appreciate you all doing so. I really do. But you… actually, make that everyone, need to be very mindful of how she reacts and her current situation. Mystery is… Well, as I said last night, she’s rather… nervous around ponies, especially unicorns. I’m not sure exactly why that is, and right now it doesn’t matter. All we need to know is that she’s just a very scared, and very lost girl, in, what it must seem to her at least, a strange world. That’s why I invited you all along, we don’t know when the Princesses will be ready for her to head to Canterlot, and, until then, she will need some friendly faces to be around her.”
With her venting done, Twilight exhaled again before flicking both ears. Noticing how Rainbow was looking suitably chastised – whether from Twilight’s words or on seeing Fluttershy’s unease, she wasn’t quite sure – Twilight instead offered a smile, gazing to each of those with her.
“On saying that, I can’t think of any other ponies better suited for that task either. Plus, with Dinky and Derpy I’m sure we’ll be able to make her feel welcome.” Gaining some smiles in return, Twilight resumed trotting, the others following her lead as they continued towards their destination. That is until a throat being cleared made her roll her eyes with a lopsided smile. “Oh, and of course you as well, Spike.”
“Okay, sure, she kinda looks a little scary, being how tall she is.” Spike’s voice piped up, Twilight turning her head to see the dragon seated on her back as he addressed the other mares. “Actually, come to think of it, I think she miiiiight even be taller than Princess Celestia.”
Rubbing under his chin, Spike shrugged before abandoning that train of thought.
“Eh, that doesn’t matter.” Waving his claws before him, Spike then folded his arms, nodding sagely once before continuing. “The point is she’s really nice when you get to know her.”
“Okay okay, I get it. So, if she isn’t a-“ Rainbow Dash paused as she cast a glance down at Fluttershy while clearing her throat. “If she is what you say she is, then why the hay are they so interested in her anyhow? What’s so special about her other than, y’know, the whole being from another planet thing? Which, I admit, does sound pretty awesome, but, just how the heck did she even get here in the first place?”
“That…” Twilight began to say before one of her ears folded down. “Is something I wish I knew, Dash.”
I’ve learned so much about her so far, but…even so, she continues to be, well, for lack of a better term, a mystery.
About to ponder further on the issue, Twilight found the silence that had fallen over the small group broken by none other than Rarity.
“Well, it seems we have some time on our hooves until we reach Derpy’s house.” Looking over at her friend, Twilight saw the unicorn return a smile her way. “And I for one would be most interested in hearing more on what you have discovered about our dear Mystery. That is, if you would be so kind, Twilight?”
That definitely caught Twilight be surprise, her ears slanting forward as she looked around at the others. “Really? I mean, I can if you want…”
Applejack was the first to speak up, a soft nudge given to Twilight’s side by the earth pony.
“Well shucks, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t also wanna hear more.” Pausing to consider for a second, Applejack clicked her tongue while looking about at the others with her. “I’m sure we’d all love to hear what you’ve gone and found out so far, Twi.”
A chorus of affirmatives – along with one soft groan – served to remove any lingering hesitation Twilight may have felt. Reaching behind her with her magic, the clasp on one of her saddlebags was unbuckled without having to break stride.
“Spike, can you hand me the notes I made this morning?” Peeking over her left shoulder, she watched as he foraged about in the opened bag before procuring the journal in question. Gently encasing it with her magical aura, she then guided it to hover before her face. “Thank you, now, what would you all like to know more about in particular? I have theories on multiple aspects of her life, hypotheses on her culture from listening to her music, analysis of her biology, and even-”
Cutting herself off mid-sentence, Twilight gazed around to find a bunch of bashful or confused expressions on her friend’s faces.
Taking in a deep breath, she instead gave a small dip of her head, inviting them to actually answer her question. Surprisingly, at least to Twilight, it was Fluttershy who responded first.
“U-Um, h-how do you know she isn’t a, well, a, um… changeling?”
At the question, several looks were quickly exchanged amongst the group. Two in particular, heavy in disapproval, were aimed up at Rainbow Dash who, in turn, winced before landing to walk beside the other pegasus.
Is she having the nightmares again? No, Princess Luna said she would watch over her. She’s just frightened, and I guess I can’t blame her.
Twilight couldn’t help but recall the events after the wedding, especially how everyone, initially at least, had coped after the ordeal. She herself had held a large amount of self-doubt, especially given how her friends, Spike, brother, and even her mentor had all turned their backs on her. Thankfully, that had been rectified while Cadence was getting ready for her wedding, several heartfelt apologies given her way that helped mend – but not fully bridge – the rift. It wasn’t until much later, and several trips to her parents, which had finally resulted in her getting over the event.
Still, it wasn’t until a few days after returning to Ponyville that they had noticed one of their group showing clear signs of fatigue. Fluttershy would look exhausted, but, being who she was, would try not to allow her problems to bother anyone else. Even the spa visits with Rarity had garnered no success, and, in fact, had led to the shy mare to start acting increasingly nervous around other ponies, even her friends.
Eventually they had all gathered at her cottage where, after each conveyed their concern, Fluttershy had admitted the horrible nightmares that had been plaguing her. They varied in theme it seemed, from changelings replacing everyone she loved, to herself waking up one day a changeling, having been none the wiser, and leading to her friends turning on her. Ultimately though, it seemed they were all changeling related in one way or another.
Thankfully, given some time, and a few sleepovers later, they had thought the fears had been put to rest. Now it seemed that recent events had caused a resurgence of sorts, thanks in no small part to a certain talks-before-she-thinks pegasus.
“I promise you Fluttershy, she isn’t one.” Twilight said, all eyes once more falling upon her. Seeing that Fluttershy wasn’t entirely convinced, she pressed on, making sure to smile to hopefully alleviate her friend’s fears. “I placed several wards around the room, ones that would only react to changeling magic. If any was found they would restrain it, and also, alert me when they were activated.”
Spying Derpy’s cottage ahead, Twilight slowed her pace before looking directly at Fluttershy.
“I won’t lie to you Fluttershy, or, any of you.” Taking a deep breath, Twilight flicked her tail at the other piece of news she would have to divulge. “There was changeling magic on her, very trace amounts. But it was on her, not in her. Her own magic, on the other hoof, is something I have never seen before. I even tried the same spell I used at Canterlot to dispel the disguises worn, but nothing happened. She isn’t a changeling, she’s… just a scared girl, lost in our world.”
Fluttershy – seeming to take a few seconds to consider the words – inhaled softly before offering an earnest expression towards Twilight.
“Thank you, Twilight. I… I believe you.”
Twilight found a smile crossing her muzzle at seeing Fluttershy looking at least a little relieved, a nod following the action towards her friend.
The information nonetheless seemed to silence the group, each continuing to walk in their own thoughts. Twilight, however, was very well aware – and feeling slightly guilty – that she had not been completely truthful in what she had just said.
The truth was there had been in fact four magical signatures found on, or within, Mystery, including the aforementioned changeling magic.
The previous day, and with a few detection spells applied – which, admittedly, was an awkward feat to do with Mystery’s aversion to magic – Twilight had discovered residual magical signatures on the girl. Some were easy to identify, such as that unicorn magic had been used to heal her in the past, and, if she was right, also inflict injury upon her. That last part had been difficult to accept, yet despite this, the proof had remained undeniable.
But, aside from that, there were also three other faint traces. One, she presumed was from the girl herself. It was weak, barely there in fact. Yet, to that end, and after discussing with Doctor Carehoof, both had thought of it more like a small ember. However, like Nurse Redheart had said on hearing about the news, an ember provided very little warmth or light, but, given a source of fuel, it was also able to flare into a brilliant flame.
It was that very discovery that had first prompted Twilight to presume that Mystery’s world was without a magical field. Or, alternatively, that it did have one in the past but, for whatever reason, had become rigid, unmalleable… stagnant. The idea had made Twilight quite disquieted at the very notion such a world could exist.
Well, that was the original thought at least; that was, until they discovered something else.
It really went without saying that whatever had brought Mystery into the world had been a powerful spell; that much was without question. For a spell to be potent enough to tear through dimensions, space, or even time… The sheer knowledge required, let alone the intricate crafting of the spell, it was as exciting as it was horrifying in its scope.
But, what they had discovered was that the spell was also rough, and dangerously unrefined.
With this in mind, Twilight had been surprised when she had picked up faint traces of… something, while crafting the wards for Mystery’s room. Only when she was drawing in magic to cast the spells did she discover the source. Sure, originally, she had thought it merely residual changeling magic. That was until she tried to draw it in and dissipate it back into the field. Despite all her efforts it had resisted the attempt, acting more like oil spreading on water, refusing to blend in and… if she were to be honest… it also felt, alien, wrong.
It was almost… primal. Eventually, with Doctor Carehoof’s help, they had studied it, pulled it apart and coerced it to meld into Equestria’s ambient magic. However, this discovery had proven one thing. There evidently was magic on Mystery’s world, yet it was untamed, and also extremely difficult to use.
After sending correspondence to the Princesses they had all come to a similar conclusion. While Mystery seemed, at least in theory, to be capable of wielding magic not unlike a pony, it seemed the magic of her world remained an untouched resource. Of course, the other possibility was that those of Mystery’s world were able to wield the magic, and she was one of the exceptions.
Regardless, Twilight had been content – and somewhat relieved – knowing that Mystery had the spark. Of course, that left the fourth signature she had found. It seemed, even if the magic was faint within the girl, not all of it was hers. There was another signature inside of her, one that proved most confusing. For now though, they had merely put it down to the fact that perhaps that was how Mystery’s kind was, as bizarre as that seemed.
This had all led to a hypothesis of sorts, one that even this morning, Twilight continued to ponder over. Given Mystery’s lack of obvious natural weaponry and overall seemingly frail build, it would make sense that they were a primarily magic-based race. This would support the remarkable second magic signature, using both to tap into the more stubborn ambient magic of their world.
It was a nice theory, but none of those who had put it forward, the doctors, the nurses, or even herself, had really been invested in the idea. The magic within her was almost… dormant, so, really, it left only a couple of options as Twilight saw it.
Either Mystery’s species were magic-based, and the girl was one without much ability – with the option of it being gender-based also put forward – or, that they didn’t use magic inherently, and they were more of a tool-based culture like Minotaurs and Diamond Dogs. With the evidence and behaviours observed so far, Twilight found herself leaning somewhat towards the second option.
With the sun on her back and the silence still prevalent over the group, Twilight’s mind continued turning over the facts in her head.
Her fear of magic could easily be construed as due to either abuse by magic, or not understanding it at all. The way she reacts supports either outcome, although when I find whoever would do such a thing to her…
Exhaling to calm herself, Twilight flicked an ear. She heard murmured voices discussing something behind her, but, hearing nothing that caught her attention, she retreated once more back into her mind.
Okay Twilight, you can’t do anything about that right now. Besides, the Princesses are personally dealing with that issue. So, it seems the most logical answer is that she doesn’t know how to use magic, and she, and her race by extension, are more tool-oriented because of this.
Thinking on this, Twilight found the pieces slowly falling into place. It was frustrating, only having part of the puzzle to play with and having to guess the blanks. The lack of reliable communication outside drawings and gestures understandably hampered her ability to get answers.
That… device she has. The one that plays music… When she actually let me examine it, I couldn’t detect any mana being drawn into it. That means it’s either powered by a crystal, one that is somehow self-sustaining, or the technology used is far, far beyond anything found here.
Twilight repressed a small shiver down her spine as she continued to trot along. She couldn’t deny how exciting the prospect was, the prospect that whatever world Mystery came from could hold such marvels, whichever theory turned out to be true.
Still, that does beg the question on how she got here in the first place. My theory fits perfectly… right up until that point. A spell was definitely used to bring her here, but… Hmm, maybe it’s some form of sexual dimorphism with the females being advanced scientifically to make up for the fact that the males are magic-users? Wait, what would the males even look like then? Would they even look anything like Mystery?
Pondering on that idea, she did find it held an appealing amount of merit to it. It would help explain Mystery’s physiology and, at the same time, explain how she got here. Of course, she would still require additional evidence to confirm her hypothesis, but, at least on the surface, it was looking quite convincing. But that was to be further studied another day.
Because, at that very moment, and unbeknownst to Twilight, Applejack was sharing a raised brow between herself, Rainbow Dash, and Rarity.
Looking over her shoulder at the sound of her name being spoken, Twilight gazed at Applejack, a small smile coming to her muzzle. “Yes, Applejack?”
Applejack in turn scrunched her nose for a second, her brows knitting as she seemed to think on just the right way to ask the question that plagued her. Apparently giving up on trying how to word it differently, the mare instead just outright voiced her concerns.
“Look, I don’t want ya take’n this the wrong way an’ all… But, you didn’t, well, y’know, blast Mystery in the face when you tried ta find out if she was a changeling. Did ya?”
“No!” Twilight blushed a little at the volume her denial reached before lowering her voice to acceptable levels. “N-No, I didn’t! I made sure to modify the spell somewhat first. See, initially it used my magic to effectively ‘brute force’ their illusion away; this was why they were so disoriented afterwards since their own magic was destabilised after the fact. With Mystery, I refined the spell to be more, wide-area, but in doing so it takes far longer to cast, but is far more subtle and less intrusive to-“
“Okay, okay. You could have just said you didn’t zap her in the face.”
Twilight frowned at Rainbow Dash who raised a brow, seemingly unaware of why she was on the receiving end of the look. Thankfully, before it could possibly – and highly likely – escalate any further, Twilight realised they had reached their destination, that being the white picket fence that ringed the cottage.
“Hey, I just thought of something,” Spike said, Twilight turning her head to regard her passenger with a raised brow.
“Oh? Something about Mystery?”
Shaking his head to her question, Spike chuckled softly. Rubbing at the spines on the back of his head, he then gestured towards the house with a claw. “No, weeell… not exactly. I was just thinking that since you were so excited about today you could barely sleep, I wonder how Dinky was?”
The group, stunned into silence by this revelation, gazed at one another silently; that is, until they all broke into soft giggles.
“Oh dear, I fear the poor thing had little sleep, if any.” Rarity’s comment was followed with a shaking of her head followed with a lopsided smile.
“Who? Dinky or Derpy?” Rainbow Dash added, a cheeky grin slipping over her muzzle. It was at this point, however, that the group’s attention was captured by a most peculiar sound. It was, Twilight deduced, almost like a muffled voice; an excited muffled voice at that. Rainbow Dash was the first to look down the path towards the cottage, the grin only growing in intensity. “Heh, well I think that answers that then. I think we’ve been spotted.”
Blinking, Twilight followed Rainbow Dash’s gaze, finding herself also looking in the direction of the house. It was then that she noticed – curiously enough – a flash of light-purple and blonde appear briefly in one of the windows. Flicking an ear on hearing the muffled noise again, she squinted and saw the movement more clearly this time, noticing it was a rather excited-looking filly gazing out the window back at them. Offering a wave towards Dinky, she was somewhat amused as a wave was returned in earnest before the filly ducked back out of eyesight.
“Well, I suppose there is nothing for it now is there?” Rarity smiled, moving to open the gate with a small application of magic. “After all, we simply cannot keep the little dear waiting to see her friend, now can we?”
“No, you’re absolutely right, Rarity.” Twilight smiled at her friend as she passed her, a nod also given prior to leading the way down the cobbled path. As the others followed her, she couldn’t help but think over what she had discovered in the first couple of days of learning about Mystery.
That’s right. Out of all of us, it’s Dinky who believed in Mystery the most, and as such, has created the greatest bond with her so far.
The thought filled her with a little warmth, knowing that from that, Mystery had begun to open up more around them all. Even the use of her magic, once something that would cause the bipedal girl such fear, now caused distress only if done without warning. Of course, the reason for her fear in the first place was not something Twilight was going to dwell on. Releasing the tension in her jaw to stop her teeth from grinding together, she instead sighed and smiled.
Today was a happy time after all, a day for Mystery to be discharged from hospital and get used to the town while waiting for an audience with the Princesses. The preparations, as far as she was aware at least, seemed to be going along smoothly, and hopefully they might be heading to Canterlot within a few days. Until that time, however, Twilight would endeavour to make Mystery feel welcome, and at the same time, try and learn more about the girl.
“Hey, uh Pinkie… Are you okay? You’ve been awfully quiet so far.”
Caught off guard by the question, Twilight flicked her ear at Rainbow’s words as the truth of them was rather surprising. Turning her head, she noticed everyone had also stopped to look at the mare in question. Uncharacteristically, Twilight realised, Pinkie Pie had in fact been oddly quiet. Well, for her that is.
“Huh? Oh, sorry! I mean I wasn’t that quiet was I?” Pinkie Pie asked, both her ears perking out of her mane. Gazing about at everyone who nodded in reply resulted in her rolling her blue eyes. Thankfully, at least to Twilight, a smile then split across her friend’s muzzle as she giggled. “Awww, you don’t all have to be worried about me, although that’s super-sweet of you! I’m just wondering how ~Ebony~ got on last night.”
“Huh, ain’t that the pony you’ve been visiting at the hospital?”
Twilight had to admit she was somewhat curious over the strange pegasus, ever since she had seen ~Ebony~ hobbling through Ponyville on that fateful day. Every time she had seen her at the hospital, that nagging feeling of knowing the mare would resurface. Try as she might, however, neither she, nor Spike, could ever place where they knew her from. Not to mention, she barely got anything more than a glimpse of her at the hospital whenever she visited Mystery, the mare surprisingly scarce, even in her room, despite the nasty-looking leg injury.
Her own confusion over why the mare seemed so familiar aside, Twilight couldn’t help but smile as an excited filly’s voice sounded out again from within the house. Flicking an ear, she then turned her attention back to her friends, watching as Pinkie Pie had just draped a foreleg over Applejack’s neck, much to the latter’s exasperation.
“Yep-er-oony! She’s the pegasus I told you all about, the one who was new in town and I didn’t know who she was, so I followed her and- Mmph?” Finding herself cut off by an orange hoof pushing to her mouth, Pinkie Pie blinked at the owner of the limb who held a bemused expression on her face.
“Alright sugarcube, we all know about how you met her.” Resting her hoof back onto the ground, Applejack then shook her head before smiling warmly. “But what we wanna know is how the poor thing is doing. Ya did mention she ain’t been very happy lately.”
“Oh, wasn’t she the one with the injured leg?” Fluttershy interjected, concern filtering in her voice. “I really hope she is okay.”
Flicking an ear again, Twilight approached the door to knock upon its surface a few times. It went without saying that their presence had been well and truly noted already, but it never hurt to be polite in announcing it formally. Of course, Twilight’s desire to get the hospital as soon as she could may have had some influence on the decision.
“See, I told you they’re here mom!”
“I know sweetie, I believed you. You know they won’t leave without you.”
A small giggle passed from her lips as she heard Dinky’s voice filter through the door, closely followed by the distinctly tired-sounding voice of Derpy. The chuckling sound from on her back signalled that Spike too had picked up on it. Her ear flicked again as Derpy called out that they were coming, a smile finding its way to her muzzle at the knowledge they would be underway again soon.
“-and then we played games all day. Some of them were Gummy’s favourites, but Nurse Redheart said he wasn’t allowed to come in! But that’s okay, because when I got home I made sure to play double as many games with him so he didn’t feel left out.”
Sighing a little, Twilight listened to Pinkie’s explanation, an amused smile passing between herself and Rarity. Meanwhile, Fluttershy was listening with rapt attention, whether out of politeness or genuine interest, Twilight had no idea. Applejack, being the primary one to have the tale told to, was a captive audience, much to her obvious desire to be anything but. Rainbow Dash, on the other hoof, was looking noticeably confused over some matter, something that it seemed she couldn’t help but interject over.
“Whoa, whoa. Are you saying you asked if she wanted to go outside and stretch her wings, and she said no?” Folding her forelegs over her chest, Rainbow Dash snorted in a derisive fashion. “I know her leg was injured, but she was cooped up for a week in there unable to fly. I went almost crazy after only a couple of days! There’s something not right about that pegasus…”
“Rainbow Dash, not all pegasi are like you, now are they, Fluttershy?” Rarity chimed in, gazing at the mare in question who fidgeted on being the new centre of attention. Seconds passed as her blue eyes gazed aside before she cleared her throat, the answer given in response barely spoken over that of a whisper.
“Oh… Um, well… I… I might have liked to have gone outside…”
“Ha! See! I told you something isn’t right about that pony. I mean, c’mon, why wouldn’t you want to go outside and get out of the stuffy hospital room?” Rainbow Dash, flush with her self-perceived victory then puffed up her chest.
Unable to help herself, Twilight peered up at the pegasus, one of her brows lifting as she regarded Rainbow Dash. “Gee Dash, I don’t know. Could it be because she has an injured leg, hence why she’s in hospital in the first place?”
“Oh… I forgot about that, sorry.” Fluttershy quickly apologised on being reminded, a smile given her way by several in the group.
“Ain’t nothin’ to apologise for Fluttershy.” A nod was given from Applejack as she spoke, a warm smile given back in return by the one she reassured.
“Yeah, well… Okay, maybe that makes sense.” Rainbow conceded before she once again rubbed under her muzzle. “I still say there’s something weird about this, ~Eb-a-nee~ though. She did stay in a room with Pinkie Pie for hours on end… Oh! Maybe she’s the-”
“Rainbow, yer like family to me. But I swear, if ya start up with that again I’ll buck some sense right into that thick skull o’yers.” Applejack’s words brought a quick stop to Rainbow’s mouth, the mare closing it quickly on apparently remembering what happened last time she went down that path. A sheepish smile instead slid over her face as she rubbed into her mane, trying, it seemed, to not look at the reprimanding glare Twilight was sending up her way.
“And I believe you owe Pinkie here an apology for that thoughtless remark,” Rarity added, a nod given in the direction of the one mentioned.
“Ooooh, Dashy is just goofing about, she doesn’t mean any of it, do you?” Gazing upwards, Pinkie Pie smiled brightly, the look answered when Rainbow Dash flew a little closer to the ground looking suitably chastised.
“No, but Rarity’s right, I shouldn’t have said it anyhow. Sorry Pinkie, I wo- Urk!” Whatever Rainbow Dash was expecting, having a pink missile leaping up to entangle her into a hug was definitely not one of them, especially when both ponies tumbled into the grass. Applejack, for her part was just looking relieved to no longer be leaned upon as she chuckled at the scene. “P-Pinkie… C-Can’t… breeeeath.”
Thankfully, at least for Rainbow Dash’s air passageway, Pinkie was distracted like everyone else by the sound of a door opening.
“Sorry to keep you waiting,” Derpy offered in way of apology as she exited her house, a yawn soon following that was unsuccessfully stifled behind a hoof. A smile then crept over her face as she gazed behind her, a rather excited looking Dinky bouncing out of the doorway immediately after. Offering a small nuzzle to her daughter, Derpy then closed the door before turning back to face the others, one of her ears slowly lowering as her wings drooped. “I forgot the time, and…”
Blinking, Twilight heard someone approach to stand beside her, gazing aside to meet the smiling visage of Rarity. The unicorn, sneaking a playful wink at Twilight, then raised a hoof to toy with her curls. “Nonsense, you didn’t keep us waiting at all. If anything it is we who must apologise for getting distracted.”
Following Rarity’s lead, Twilight nodded and smiled bashfully.
“Actually, that’s kind of my fault.” Sighing a little, Twilight then smiled and looked behind her at the others now waiting for them outside the fence. With Applejack holding the gate open, Twilight gazed at Rarity prior to smiling down at Dinky. “Well, now that we’re all here, shall we get going? We don’t want to keep Mystery waiting, now do we?”
Laughing softly, Derpy nuzzled at her daughter’s mane who returned the gesture by rubbing her nose under her mother’s chin. With one eye gazing at Twilight – and the other looking off into the clouds – Derpy ruffled her wings before a smile slid over her muzzle. “Oh, there’s been somepony who’s been waiting to go all morning.”
A frantic nod by Dinky followed her mother’s words much to Twilight’s amusement. Well, that is until a voice piped up from on her back.
“Tell me about it, Twilight was so excited she couldn’t even sleep.” Turning her head, Twilight gazed back at Spike, ignoring Rarity in the process who was trying hard not to show her own mirth at the comment.
“Spike!” Twilight huffed at her assistant who in reply raised both claws in a questioning fashion. Sighing, she instead looked at Derpy and Dinky, her ears lowering into her mane as she laughed nervously. “Haha, oh Spike, what a kidder.”
“What do you mean? You were up for like, five hours before the sun rose.” Again, Spike found himself on the receiving end of Twilight’s stern expression, and again he evidently was unaware as to why. “What?”
Thanks Spike, now everyone knows I was so nervous about today. Well, excited, but nervous.
“Really? You were excited too?”
Ignoring the muffled laughter coming near the gate, Twilight instead gazed down at the owner of the question only to see Dinky gazing up at her. Pausing for a moment, Twilight relented to offer a bashful nod only to then smile at the delight that spread across Dinky’s face, the filly’s tail wagging behind her. Bouncing in a small circle, Dinky then flustered a little before hiding against Derpy’s front leg, peeking up at the now bemused Twilight.
“She’s been eager to see her friend all day; it’s all she talks about recently.” Derpy explained, smiling down at her daughter before lowering her head and nuzzling the filly’s behind. Reassured, Dinky stepped forward again, nodding twice before pausing to look down at her front hooves. Scuffing them on the path, the filly then peeked up at Twilight, her ears slanting forward.
“Um, I-I was wondering if she could stay at our house while you wait for Princess Celestia and Princess Luna to…” Trailing off, Dinky shifted a little on her front hooves, her tail slowly moving behind her. Chewing on her lower lip, she gazed up at Rarity and then Twilight, her voice growing more confident before faltering. “While you wait for her to go to Canterlot… S-Since I won’t be able to come as well. I-I could show her around Ponyville too!”
A soft murmur of adoration came from Rarity on what she had just seen, a small smile followed by her lower lip being bitten stopping whatever she wished to say. Noticing Rarity was gazing at her with a small, lopsided smile, Twilight snorted from her nostrils in a soft, gentle exhale.
“I’m sorry Twilight, I told her that given how important Mystery was that it wasn’t-“ Derpy began to explain, misinterpreting Twilight’s reaction. Turning her attention down, the mare then looked about to soothe the now distraught looking Dinky as the filly pushed herself to Derpy’s foreleg. Finding herself aghast at how crushed Dinky looked, Twilight lowered her head to smile warmly.
“I will admit, Mystery is certainly very important, but…” Leaning forward, Twilight inched her head closer to Dinky, seeing the small unicorn peek at her curiously through her blonde mane. Reaching with a forehoof, Twilight then gently pushed the hoof against the now confused-looking Dinky’s nose. “So is having a certain special little filly around that she trusts, and who is a wonderful friend who seems to care very much about her.”
“W-Wait, does that mean she can?” Dinky asked, pulling away from her mother slightly as her tail began to wag once more. Seeing Dinky’s face light up caused Twilight to giggle prior to standing up straight. Shaking her head slowly, she felt her lips curl upwards even as she saw the confusion now slip over both the mother and daughter’s faces.
“Well, we have already arranged for her to stay at the library for now…” Tapping at her muzzle with a hoof, Twilight took on a thoughtful air before gazing back at her assistant. “What do you think Spike, do you think we can talk Captain Swift Dawn into allowing a sleep over for one night?”
Spike, picking up on her intent, folded his arms over his chest. Shifting where he sat, he then rubbed under his chin slowly, a small hum escaping from his mouth.
“Weeeell, you are Princess Celestia’s student, so, I mean, you might be able to talk him into it.” Spike finished with a grin tugging at his snout, a smile given in reply as Twilight winked.
“If it’s okay with Derpy, then I think we could handle having you stay overnight.” Directing the statement towards Dinky, Twilight found herself suppressing a giggle once more as the filly gasped loudly. Turning, Dinky gazed up at her mother who looked momentarily unsure before sighing softly.
“I… Well,” Derpy begun to speak before ruffling her wings against her sides. Lowering her head to nuzzle at her daughter’s mane, she then visibly relented, looking to Twilight before a tiny, uncertain smile slipped over her muzzle. “Only if I can stay as well.”
Thinking it over for a second, Twilight could clearly see the merits in the act. For one, she really wasn’t certain on just how Mystery would react once she was out of the hospital. The female was still very skittish around other ponies, that much had been clearly evident from what Swift Dawn and Bastion had told her.
They are saying she is at least going for walks now when accompanied by them. Still, Swift Dawn did also say she acts very hesitant going near ponies she doesn’t know, and outright avoids any unicorns.
Pushing aside her anger that welled up again from that thought, Twilight instead gazed back at her friends waiting by the gate before looking at Rarity. The mare raised an eyebrow, clearly waiting for Twilight’s answer, yet, it was abundantly clear that she already knew what said answer would be. It went without question that her friends, while wonderful ponies, would probably cause Mystery distress initially. Well, the clear exception to that was Applejack, but that was only due to them having already met.
To have Dinky also present would help immensely, not to mention that Derpy herself had, over the last few days, also warmed up to Mystery. It had not been an uncommon sight to see Derpy resting on the bed beside the girl, Mystery equally comfortable around the pegasus’s presence. With all that in mind, Twilight found it an easy decision to consent to the request.
And honestly, there was simply no way she could say no for a friend to be there to comfort a friend.
“Of course, I would be delighted to have you both stay the night, and I’m sure Mystery will as-“
“Woo! Sleepover at Twilight’s!”
Twilight winced as she was cut off, her ears flicking as she turned her head to see Pinkie Pie bouncing by the gate, Rainbow Dash meanwhile pushing a hoof to her own forehead. Applejack, chuckling a little, tipped her hat to Twilight, a grin given while Fluttershy bowed her head, seeming to appear quite unsure on how she felt on the matter.
“Yes, well, I guess it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have everyone around to help her adjust. After all, it could take two or three days until the Princesses have everything set up.” Twilight turned her head to gaze ahead, giggling at the sight of Dinky bouncing about her mother who, in turn, was trying to follow her with one eye, the other gazing aside. Turning to lead the four of them – plus her passenger – down the path, Twilight paused to gaze back at the jubilant-looking filly. “I’m sure she’ll be more than happy to have her friends be there too.”
“Well, I will have to think about what to wear for such an event,” Rarity said, her eyes going wide as she followed up with a gasp. “Why, what if Mystery is someone important from their world? She might even be royalty what with that most wonderful device and fabric she had.”
“Rarity… I don’t thi-“ Twilight tried to reassure her friend over the matter but it was too late. Rarity was now in full planning mode, and no-pony was safe.
“Yes, I simply must design a new outfit for this event. Oh, maybe something with a sleepwear theme to it, but with a little more…”
Twilight sighed good-naturedly as Rarity mulled over the possibilities; even the declaration from both Applejack and Rainbow Dash that it was a sleepover, and thus, sleepwear was probably all that was required, didn’t dissuade the fashionista from her train of thought. Rolling her eyes at Spike’s comment that anything Rarity wore would be ‘perfect’, Twilight took the lead, Applejack moving to keep pace with her while Rarity and Fluttershy fell behind, the latter being pulled somehow into whatever the former was planning.
“Soooo… What will ~Ebony~ wear then?”
The question caught Twilight completely off guard as she flicked an ear, blinking to see Pinkie Pie now trotting beside her. Confused, she looked to her left at Applejack who appeared just as puzzled as she did.
“Pinkie, why does that even matter?” Twilight questioned, blinking shortly after as she heard Dinky and Derpy ask the predictable question on who they were talking about. Hearing Spike explain, Twilight instead found herself stunned by what Pinkie said next.
“Well duh, you said that Mystery would be happy to have her friends be there too.” Pinkie, apparently oblivious to the confused reactions she was getting, continued on as she bounced a little with each step. “I mean, ~Ebony~ iiiis her friend, so it would be rude not to invite her. Unless you’ve already invited her and then it’s going to be a surprise, in which case that’s a super-awesome idea!”
Shaking her head, Twilight paused causing everyone else to stop with her, her eyes staring at Pinkie Pie who remained looking about as happy as ever.
“Pinkie, what are you talking about. What do you mean by ~Ebony~ being her friend?” Trying not to be too harsh in her question, Twilight tried to keep her voice level while struggling to comprehend what she had just heard. Pinkie Pie, meanwhile, just giggled before starting to walk again, forcing Twilight and the others to resume their own pace to keep up with her.
“Just that, silly!” Peeking back with her blue eyes, Pinkie Pie smiled at Twilight before stopping to waggle a hoof in the air. “I found out yesterday that she knew ~Ebony~ before she came to Ponyville, but didn’t want to approach her with the guards and you around. Which I can totally understand, because you’re really important, and the guards, while really extra-nice when they’re not being all grrr-“
Twilight, along with the others, could only blink again as Pinkie reared up on her hind legs to mimic a bear in accompanying the ‘grr’ noise. Lowering herself onto her front hooves again, and not skipping a beat, Pinkie continued.
“-look really imposing, which I guess is kinda their job! But, ~Ebony~ really missed her, so I talked to Swift Dawn and Pinkie Promised that she wouldn’t do anything to harm Mystery, because, why would she when she’s her friend? Oh! Plus, she said that Mystery’s name is Legend, or, that’s what she calls her which is a pretty name, but I kinda like Mystery better, because it sounds more like a surprise which-“
“Pinkie!” Twilight, unable to keep quiet anymore looked incredulously at her friend before opening her mouth to speak. Strangely, no sound came out aside from a soft squeak, the action repeated twice more until a hoof patted her gently at the base of her neck.
Following Applejack’s advice, Twilight took a deep breath before pushing her hoof out, trying to force the problems and panic away from herself.
It didn’t work.
“I thought I said that Mystery shouldn’t have any visitors other than those I had already said could!” Realising how harsh that sounded, Twilight rubbed at the base of her horn before setting the hoof back onto the ground. “I mean, given how easily frightened she is, it was the best decision to help her from feeling overwhelmed, or from scaring her accidentally. By keeping those she interacts with to a small amount, we help ease her from her fears and show we don’t mean her any harm.”
“Noooo, you said that Rainbow Dash and I couldn’t go see her until she was ready, and I didn’t!” Pinkie stated, a wide smile on her face. “I didn’t go see her, ~Ebony~ did, and Swift Dawn and Bastion were both okey-dokey with it too, they even let her shut the door when she went in!”
“They shut the door?! But that would mean they were on the outside, and then…” Finding her left eyelid having gained a sporadic twitch, Twilight struggled to keep her composure. The possibilities of disaster ran through her head even as Rarity approached to offer a soft tsk, her own dilemma put aside for now it seemed.
“Twilight, darling, while what dear Pinkie Pie did was a little… outside of what you wished, it technically wasn’t going against the rules you set.” Smiling, Rarity then moved a hoof to try and fix Twilight’s mane that was looking decidedly frizzier than it had a few moments ago. “Besides, if something had happened, surely Swift Dawn would have communicated such to you by now, would he not?”
Rarity’s right, if something had happened they would have done something immediately. Plus, if they allowed her in then they must be certain that she isn’t any threat. I did also place all those wards around, so if ~Ebony~ was a changeling, then she would have been revealed and incapacitated the second she walked in…
Finding the reasoning too sound to ignore, Twilight breathed in deeply before exhaling through her nostrils. A smile was then given to Rarity as she thanked her friend, then, gazing at Pinkie Pie, she felt both her ears flick. Before she could question further, however, Dinky’s voice piped up from behind her.
“Mystery has another friend? Can we meet them?”
“Mmhmm!” Nodding frantically, Pinkie Pie trotted past Twilight to talk to Dinky, seemingly unaware of the heart attack she had almost caused in the mare. “She does act all like a meanie-pants, but she really, really cares about Mystery, and she’s also really nice when you get to know her!”
“Wait, so I can understand why Pinkie Pie couldn’t go see her, and I know why Fluttershy and Rarity chose not to, but why the heck was I not-“ Rainbow Dash’s indignant comment was cut short by three pairs of eyes – four including Spike – glancing back at her, each with a lowered brow. Apparently replaying her earlier comments over in her head, she then cleared her throat, continuing instead to fly just above the group. “Oh, uh… Right. That. Yeeeeah…”
Sharing a concerned glance with Rarity and Applejack, Twilight moved again to lead the way, her desire to reach the hospital only growing in urgency. Evidently, it seemed her two friends also shared her unease over the matter. While none of them would doubt Pinkie Pie’s version of the events, there was still so much unknown about this, ~Ebony~. Yet, if it was in fact true, then that also meant the pegasus knew Mystery before anypony else had.
Maybe she knows more about her, or even how she got here?
Question after question pushed through Twilight’s mind as they closed the distance, tumbling over the facts she had just learned. Primarily, that the guards had allowed her in and even allowed her to close the door. Twilight knew for a fact that Swift Dawn wouldn’t do such without good reason, and with that, it added credence that ~Ebony~ really was as Pinkie claimed her to be. That meant that maybe she would unlock more of the secrets surrounding their visitor from another world, and, hopefully, ~Ebony~ may even have a way of communicating with her outside of pictures and gestures.
But, no matter how much she tried, Twilight couldn’t shake the feeling that something was… off about ~Ebony~, the name itself sounding both strange, yet, familiar the more she heard it. Ultimately though, with each step closer to their destination, Twilight was decided on one thing.
Even though ~Ebony~ didn’t seem to be a changeling due to being able to enter the room uneventfully, that didn’t mean she was not all she appeared to be. And, if her intent was ill, then who knew what nefarious intent she held for Mystery, or, even what she was up to at that very moment?
Chrysalis’s nose itched.
She wriggled it, she scrunched it, she even tried blowing out her nostrils, yet nothing she did alleviated the need to scratch. Normally, of course, one would simply use a hoof or magic to ease the sensation. Some might even have rubbed their muzzle against a coarse surface if the itching was aggravating enough. She, however, did not have such a luxury to do any of those.
“Are you alright there?”
Careful not to move her head to any large degree, Chrysalis looked towards the speaker, noting that the one responsible, Swift Dawn, had amusement tugging at the corner of his mouth. Suppressing the sigh she dearly wished to give, Chrysalis instead gave a bashful smile, one that was not entirely insincere.
“I’m fine, thank you.” Pausing for a moment, Chrysalis then flicked her ears while scrunching her nose again in an attempt to rid herself of the annoyance that plagued her. Suppressing the desire to scratch, she instead ruffled her wings before gazing to the side, a smile coming to her lips at what she saw. Looking back towards the Captain of the Guard, she swished her tail, her forelegs moving just enough to ease the building cramp. “My nose itched, that’s all.”
“You could always move, you know?” Swift Dawn suggested, the taller pegasus beside him – Bastion if Chrysalis remembered correctly – raising a brow before looking down at the other stallion. Noticing he was being gazed upon, Swift Dawn turned to look at the other guard, both his eyes widened slightly in silent question only to get an exasperated sigh in reply.
“I don’t want to wake her.” Chrysalis offered in response, the words spoken easily due to the truth within them. This seemed to satisfy both guards, each returning to their silent vigil as Chrysalis allowed a smile to slide over her lips.
It was true that she could move to scratch her nose, the very action one that required little effort and would have solved her issue immediately. Magic, of course, was another solution yet being disguised as a pegasus negated that path, at least with others present. To suddenly use magic, or revert to her true form to do so, well… that really wasn’t an option.
The reason she didn’t move, however, was due to the two hairless, soft-skinned arms gently holding about her neck. A glance to the side saw the owner of the arms, Legend, sleeping peacefully. The girl even smiling a little in her slumber.
You silly cry-baby.
Smiling at the sight, Chrysalis had then closed her eyes, simply enjoying the warmth that flowed into her. Even asleep it seemed that Legend held strong emotions for the changeling. Finding herself surprised yet again by the girl, Chrysalis couldn’t help but rest her chin gently on the arms, letting herself be held.
As she sat there, however, she couldn’t help but reflect on how well her plan seemed to be going.
Oh sure, her original plan that she had spent the first hour of the morning pondering over – that being to sneak Legend out and then journey to the make-shift hive – had been all but shattered once she was visited by the doctor. Having come into her room to check on her now non-existent injury, he had spilled the news while trying idle chit-chat that ‘Mystery’ was due to be released that day. That particular issue had been dealt with easily, a subtle spell cast and a few persuasive words had seen her released from his care with a full bill of health and no-one the wiser.
No, the information that the Bearers would be personally escorting Legend around while waiting for her to be summoned to Canterlot, well, that had dissolved any hopes Chrysalis had retained of her original plan working. Once the doctor had left, however, she had come up with a new idea. Granted, it was reckless, inane – and were she to be completely honest – absolutely idiotic. But, truthfully, it was no less stupid than enraging a chimera, sneaking into a hospital, or any of the other things she had done over the last week.
It really was something born from necessity more than anything else. Ultimately, she needed to stay close to Legend, hopefully getting incorporated into the group, and once a chance presented itself, lead herself and Legend away. If she were to be honest, however, Chrysalis held little hope of actually succeeding getting away unnoticed, especially with Twilight Sparkle present. That wasn’t even getting into the impossibility of it with Pinkie Pie being around, the mare’s intentions still confusing Chrysalis.
In the end though, for the first time she could only hope that her suspicions were correct on what was happening to her body; and, from that, that she would be powerful enough to break away with Legend in tow before the Princesses were alerted.
To say the whole thing was a gamble would be a mild understatement at best.
Surprisingly, however, once she had arrived at Legend’s room the guards had allowed her in with minimal effort on her part. Swift Dawn had questioned her on why she was there and had simply accepted her explanation – and truth – that she wanted to be there when Legend woke. If it hadn’t been for them moving to guard from inside the room after saying she could go in, she would have thought the whole thing a delusion on her part.
With one of the larger hurdles out of the way, Chrysalis had then gone to sit beside the bed, hoping that when the Bearers arrived, her closeness with Legend would be taken into account. Of course, no sooner had she sat down, than Legend had moved in her sleep. Thinking nothing of it, she had been about as surprised as the guards seemed to have been when the slumbering girl had ensnared her into a hug, reaching over the bed to hold Chrysalis as she slept.
This ultimately had all led back to her current predicament, that being resisting the urge to scratch her muzzle lest she wake Legend up.
Even now as she sat there, Chrysalis noted the guards watching on, the looks of suspicion they initially had worn now having been replaced with something else. Even if she couldn’t read their expressions as easily as she would have liked, she could still tell that both were more relaxed around her now, also tasting a small amount of happiness at the sight they saw. Thus, Chrysalis had remained in that position, allowing Legend to hold her even if she had to endure the bemused looks given her way by medical staff, and not to mention, the other patients that had trotted by and looked inside.
After all, her dignity was a small price to pay to allow her friend comfort.
“Captain Swift Dawn?”
The female voice sounding from out in the hallway caused Chrysalis to perk an ear, and, curiously enough, notice with interest the exchanged look between Swift Dawn and the other pegasus. Subtle as it was though, she didn’t miss the small amount of amusement that flashed over the captain’s face as his name was mentioned. It was then that a white mare gazed into the room, a mix of emotions – from anger, surprise, and finally curiousity – flowing over her face. Without missing a beat, the nurse – Nurse Redheart if Chrysalis recalled her name correctly – trotted inside, her tone growing colder as she gazed at Swift Dawn.
“Captain Swift Dawn, need I ask why you are inside the room, and why my patient…” Nurse Redheart drifted off, her gaze moving to fall over Chrysalis while her eyes briefly narrowed. Feeling her own ears flatten down into the thick curls of her mane, the disguised-changeling moved to hide further within Legend’s arms. Much to her surprise, the stare from the nurse was actually making her feel decidedly uncomfortable.
Trying to make herself look meek under the intensity off the frown levelled her way, Chrysalis wasn’t really sure on just how much was a genuine reaction to the nurse’s scrutiny, or how much was simply an act for appearance’s sake.
Okay… Just how can one pony, one nurse of all things, be so scary?
Finding herself wilting further into Legend’s arms under the disapproving gaze given her way, Chrysalis blinked as the girl began to stir. With her eyes going wide she moved on impulse, her muzzle gently rubbing to one of Legend’s forearms, which, in turn, caused the girl to smile and settle in her sleep. On seeing this, the nurse’s visage softened, the scorn replaced first with surprise, then followed closely with an earnest smile.
Well, at least I now understand how she got Pinkie Pie to listen to her…
“So, why does my patient have a visitor I was unaware of?” Apparently carrying on her earlier question with a lighter toned voice, Nurse Redheart raised a brow inquisitively to the guards. Thankful that the attention was now taken off her, Chrysalis gazed at Legend to see the content look on the girl’s face. Offering a small sigh, she then rested her chin again on the arms, allowing herself to be held while basking in the warm emotions flowing into her freely.
You’re just lucky you’re worth all this trouble. Well… That and you’re cute when you’re asleep. Maybe.
“We’re in here to keep an eye on the visitor.” Swift Dawn answered, his answer pulling Chrysalis’s attention in time to see him tilting his head in her direction. “As for who she is, Pinkie Pie brought her to visit Mystery last night.”
“Pinkie Pie did?” Nurse Redheart scuffed a hoof before fixing the guard with an astonished expression. “Captain Swift Dawn, you know she wasn’t allowed to visit until we were certain that-“
Stopped by a small smirk playing over the stallion’s face, Nurse Redheart lowered a brow as a sigh passed her lips. “Pinkie Pie never entered, did she?”
“No she didn’t, and given she was one of the only two that were specifically denied entry…” Swift Dawn trailed off before grinning at the far more exasperated sigh that escaped the nurse’s mouth.
“Captain, I never would have thought you much of a comedian.” Nurse Redheart, now significantly more relaxed in posture than she had been on entering, offered a lopsided smile to the guard. A glance was shared between the stallions before a small chuckle escaped Swift Dawn, his gilded hoof wagging a little in the air.
“Be glad that you haven’t met my sister then.”
Watching the exchange, Chrysalis felt the tension leave her body as the threat of being expelled from the room lessened with each passing second. As such, she allowed the nectar she had been priming to instead be gnawed upon by the ravenous hunger within her, aware – and increasingly irritated – by the enhanced sensation while she remained disguised. Not at all interested in the banter that had developed between the two, Chrysalis instead found herself only half paying attention while her mind turned over what she had just learned.
So… no-one knew that Pinkie Pie was going to get me in to see Legend? But, does that also mean the other Bearers don’t know? The guards are now inside… But then, why would they let me in if they knew? No… they can’t know, but it doesn’t mean she doesn’t… Ugh, that mare is impossible to figure out.
Further puzzled by Pinkie Pie’s motives – and just on how much the mare really knew – Chrysalis flicked an ear as Legend’s arms shifted slightly, moving herself to keep the girl in a comfortable position without conscious thought. It was then she finally noticed the others had stopped talking and were now looking at her. Several seconds passed and in that time, Nurse Redheart’s expression became almost wistful.
Chrysalis, however, had little tolerance for being stared at, especially after her stint as an exhibit in the idiotic brothers’ travelling freak show.
“Do I have something on my face?” Chrysalis enquired in a blunt fashion, something she regretted immediately after the fact. Granted, it was more that it revealed more of her true self than she wished to, but thankfully the emotion that flashed over her face was appropriate for the situation.
Appearing caught off guard by the tone given in her direction, the nurse raised a foreleg before smiling warmly.
“No, I… Well…” Trotting a little closer, Nurse Redheart gazed back at the guards before looking towards Chrysalis once again. “I’ve just never seen her like that with anypony.”
“What do you mean?” Chrysalis asked, and while somewhat curious if not still somewhat cautious, turned her head just enough to see Legend’s face. Seeing the girl’s relaxed expression – along with a hint of a smile – the changeling frowned thoughtfully before flicking an ear.
“That.” Nurse Redheart once more gained Chrysalis’s attention, a raised hoof directing towards the arms gently ensnaring the disguised changeling. Moving ever so slightly closer, almost as if the mare was scared she might ruin the moment, Nurse Redheart then cautiously stepped to the end of the bed. “She looks so relaxed…”
“Is that so?” Unsure on just how to react to that information, Chrysalis instead opted to flick an ear again. Granted, part of her held some pride at being able to do something the filly she had heard about couldn’t do; Legend was hers after all. Still, even as she looked back at the girl once more, she couldn’t help but feel warmth in her chest at the smile on Legend’s face.
“I’m sorry I doubted you initially.” Nurse Redheart apologised, once more capturing Chrysalis’s attention. Looking towards the one speaking, she was mildly surprised to see an apologetic expression on the mare’s face. “It’s hard to argue with the evidence, although, I never did catch your name.”
Did she really just change her mind about me that easily?
Smiling in reply, Chrysalis pushed aside the pessimism from showing on her face with practiced ease. Something about the whole situation, well, it just didn’t sit right with her. For one, the whole business with Pinkie Pie the previous night still confounded the changeling. The Bearer, despite acting the fool, clearly was far more perceptive than she let on. Whether she was truly fooled by Chrysalis’s act or not, she had still taken her and gained her entry to see Legend.
Yet as to the ‘why’ of why she did such a thing to a pony she barely knew? Well, that proved to be the most elusive of answers. Not to mention that it had all gone far too well after that point. Such as somehow finding out about Legend’s imminent release from hospital the morning before it happened, being let in by the guards without so much as a challenge, and then, finally, having the nurse accept the story just because Legend was hugging her in her sleep.
There were too many coincidences in Chrysalis’s mind; too much good fortune thrown her way.
Ultimately though, that really was the problem, and with it, the notion of it all being a trap about to close around her only increasing with each passing moment. Still, if nothing else, she was pragmatic enough to not look a gift pony in the mouth. Whatever their true intentions, be it that they knew what she was – or worse, what she was becoming – or that they were actually foolish enough to believe the whole thing, well… She would take advantage of it as long as she could.
Of course, there was also the possibility of a third option, one that she found herself beginning to consider the more she noticed Nurse Redheart’s expression. The warmth in the nurse’s eyes when she gazed at Legend holding Chrysalis, that was telling enough. Sensing the emotions also aided in proving the expression held no falsehood to it.
Huh, seems she does genuinely care about Legend’s wellbeing. Well, I guess I should know that from how she reacted that night, but still…
Caught off guard by this realisation, Chrysalis took a few seconds to find her voice. Once getting her mind back on track – and remembering she had a question to answer – she bowed her head as best she could with the arms about her neck.
“~Ebony.~” Giving her current disguise’s adopted name, she watched as Nurse Redheart smiled warmly, nodding her own head in return before trotting closer. Once a few steps away, the mare spoke in a lowered voice so as not to wake up her patient.
“~Ebony~? That’s a rather unique name.” Seating herself down, the nurse looked at Legend again, only to move a hoof so as to gently push the blankets back from where they had fallen off a shoulder. Content with her work, she then gazed back at Chrysalis, the smile never wavering from her face. “I haven’t seen her like this, not even with Dinky or Derpy.”
“What do you mean?” Chrysalis asked, unable to hide the curiosity that was piqued from the comment.
“This, with you.” A hoof was raised by Nurse Redheart that was then directed to the arms holding onto Chrysalis. “Normally she doesn’t like ponies to touch her, with only a hoofful of us even able to get close to her without her flinching, and fewer still she actually enjoys the company of. Yet, here she is clasping onto you and sleeping like a baby. How long have you known her for?”
“A few days.” Chrysalis stated, the truth being carefully obscured in the vagueness of the answer. Seeing the mare nod with a raised eyebrow, Chrysalis realised she had underestimated the pony. Even if the smile never left Nurse Redheart’s lips, it was evident that the mare would not be satisfied with what was given so far. Looking bashful, she instead flattened her ears to appear reluctant to talk further on the issue. With a soft sigh Chrysalis then followed up by swishing her tail over the floor, her eyes looking aside into the hospital room.
“We got separated in the forest though. Then, when I finally found her she was outside the woods and surrounded by so many ponies, all acting terrified of her.” Taking a deep breath, Chrysalis was surprised by the amount of guilt that welled up within her. “I wanted to come out, but then you took her away, and I thought she might get the help she needed… Then I was too ashamed to confront her, in case she thought I… I abandoned her.”
Nurse Redheart blinked before smiling, her eyes looking at her patient before fixing back onto Chrysalis. “Well, from what I can see, she seems to have forgiven you if that’s the case.”
Nodding in agreement as best she could, Chrysalis then moved her chin to rest back on the girl’s arms. Sure, it might have all been a bit of acting on her part, but, were she to be honest with herself, the truth of what she said was closer than she would ever admit. In any case, she needn’t have worried. As the delicious emotions flowed into her – not to mention the interaction with Legend last night – she felt the warmth bloom in her chest again.
Legend cared about her, for her, and it seemed it didn’t matter what form she took the outcome was the same.
“I guess so,” Chrysalis admitted with the smile given earnest in its nature. Past that point only small talk was exchanged, both not wishing to wake Legend from her slumber and, in all actuality, it was rather nice to just relax. Even the stiffness in her joints was no real issue compared to the meal she was receiving, and, just as importantly, the content smile on her friend’s face.
Through it all though, only she and the nurse seemed to be the ones chatting, the guards instead listening in and only sometimes contributing. Well, Captain Swift Dawn primarily, the other one, Bastion as she overheard his name being used, was not much for talking it seemed. Nonetheless, the questions asked were generally enquiring what she knew of Legend, which, as she answered truthfully, was very little.
That is, until the sound of voices approached from the hallway.
Chrysalis froze as one voice in particular caused icy terror to push through her bowels, her eyes going slightly wider as she gazed at the door frame.
Swift Dawn, evidently hearing the noises as well, tilted his head to gaze out the door way, a glance shared between himself and Bastion. “Well, it looks like they’re here.”
Nurse Redheart offered a nod at the observation, smiling as she moved towards the door.
“I’ll go meet them outside and explain the situation.” Clicking her tongue once, the nurse then frowned as a particular voice caught Chrysalis’s ear, one that made dread run its claws along her back. Nurse Redheart also seemed to hear it as she sighed in an exasperated fashion, trotting past the guards to exit the room. “And make sure that a certain pony doesn’t scare Mystery half to death.”
Watching the mare leave, Chrysalis shifted a little, somewhat self-conscious about how she was being held. On one hoof, it would prove that she knew ‘Mystery’ and with that, the logical outcome that she should accompany them. On the other hoof, however, it gave her very little room to escape if things went downhill. After all, she was about as far in enemy territory as a changeling could be. Well, short of being in the throne room with both of the ponies' Princesses present of course.
Well, this is it.
Rubbing her muzzle gently along one of Legend’s arms, she readied herself for the inevitable confrontation about to occur. The next few seconds would determine how everything would play out. Would her gambit work, or would it lead to her fighting for her very life, struggling against those that almost defeated a large portion of Queen Chrysalis’s army?
With the gravity of the situation weighing heavily upon her, Chrysalis mentally prepped herself for what she may have to do. Already she was considering to cast several spells she had seen Queen Chrysalis do – some of which she wasn’t even sure she even had the capacity for – to escape if it was as she suspected and the whole thing was just an elaborate trap.
Taking in a deep breath to steady herself, she waited, her ears flicking as the voices approached. Unexpectedly, as much as the tension in her body grew, it was also offset by the soft murmuring escaping from Legend’s lips. Granted, Chrysalis had absolutely no idea what the bipedal girl was saying in her sleep, but at the very least, it was a nice contrast to the tense atmosphere falling over the room.
As the voices got closer, she could make out a little of their conversation, a small part of her amused by the insistence from both the nurse, and Twilight Sparkle, that Pinkie Pie behave herself. It was of small comfort that at least she was not the only one that had difficulties with the mare. She also caught mention of Rainbow Dash, the Bearer of Loyalty, also being told the same. The grumpy response given in reply spoke volumes of the mare’s nature and current mood, something that Chrysalis filed away for later use.
It went without saying that any information, no matter how slight, could always prove invaluable if – or when – things took a turn for the worst.
“Good morning, Swift Dawn, Bastion. Nurse Redheart tells me Mystery has a visitor.”
Chrysalis watched as Twilight Sparkle entered, a polite nod given to the guards that each returned in kind. Yet, as she watched the purple unicorn enter, she didn’t miss the brief glance given her way, nor the suspicion that flashed across the mare’s eyes. Thankfully, however, Twilight’s face took on a look of surprise, her gaze seeming to be focused on the arms holding Chrysalis in place.
“Morning Twilight, and yes, as you can see, she does.” A smile played its way over Swift Dawn’s mouth as he indicated with his head towards where Chrysalis sat. This caused Twilight to look back towards him, a small frown given in the guard’s direction who, in reply, merely grinned.
“Yes, I see that. I really need to be more specific next time, don’t I? Honestly Swift Dawn, you’re just as bad as Aurora Blossom sometimes.” Twilight’s comment, delivered in a rather deadpan fashion, definitely caught Chrysalis’s attention. It went to solidify her theory that the other Bearers were unaware of Pinkie Pie letting her in to see Legend. What that information actually provided her was too soon to say, but it was an intriguing situation nonetheless and one she felt she could work to her benefit.
“Oh, now that’s just being harsh,” Swift Dawn retorted, a look towards Bastion disappointing him after finding no visible support from the other guard.
Sighing a little, Twilight smiled towards the small dragon, Spike, who rode on her back, the lizard shrugging in response before gazing directly at Chrysalis, making the changeling uncomfortable. Trying not to look suspect, she offered a shy smile in response, one that only served to make the dragon rub under his chin in thought. Looking confused at his antics, Twilight then gave him a small shake of her head, one that caused him to start a rebuttal only to instead fold his arms, a disgruntled look falling over his features.
What’s that all about?
Trying to keep the curiosity from her face, Chrysalis instead perked her ears as Twilight approached her, the mare offering a smile.
“So, you must be… ~Ebony~, is it?”
Nodding as best she could to the unicorn’s question, Chrysalis shifted a little, careful not to disrupt Legend’s hold too much.
“Yes, and… Well, I’m sorry for not admitting I knew her sooner, but…” Playing up the meekness, she was satisfied to see the suspicion within Twilight’s eyes dull, instead replaced with a more sincere smile as the mare shook her head slowly.
“No, it’s fine. But, well… It really is unexpected that she knows another pony to the level she seems to with you, especially given how she reacts to us in general.” Speaking quietly, Twilight gazed behind her, nodding towards Nurse Redheart who was now looking into the room. Of course, there were also the several other ponies peeking in as well, one of which Chrysalis knew was going to cause no end of headaches before the day was through.
“But, I would never have believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself.” Pausing, Twilight sat down, an action that allowed Spike to hop off her back. Chrysalis watched as he cast a glance back her way, his eyes looking inquisitive, almost as if he was trying to figure something out. Fortunately he quickly became distracted as a white unicorn trotted into the room, her purple mane thickly curled along with her tail.
The Bearer of Generosity? From what Pinkie Pie said, she should be as little threat as the Bearer of Kindness.
Immediately Chrysalis chastised herself, realising she had thought Pinkie Pie as inconsequential initially as well.
Stop being a pupa, Chrysalis. You can’t underestimate any of them.
Realising that Twilight had asked something of her, she flicked her ears while mentally slapping herself. She had to stay sharp, now was no time for her mind to wander.
“Sorry, I didn’t hear that.” Chrysalis whispered, an apologetic smile given in reply causing Twilight to blink before smiling, her head tilting as she gestured with a hoof.
“That’s okay, I was just saying how peaceful she looks, like she never wants to let you go.” Casting a quick glance at Legend, Twilight appeared almost wistful. The emotion was fleeting however as she seemed to collect her thoughts, a sigh escaping her lips before a headshake then followed. “So, ~Ebony~, may I ask a very important question?”
Flicking an ear again, Chrysalis unfortunately found herself distracted further when more ponies entered. Darting her eyes back towards Twilight, she nodded, knowing she would be unable to escape the scrutiny from those in the room. Still, as long as she played her cards right, there was little they should be able to trip her up on. She was a lifer, and, as such, she had more experience in keeping up a masquerade than most other changelings. Granted, it would be more difficult now that she had let her mask slip around Pinkie Pie, but still, there was nothing they could ask of her that she wouldn’t be able to-
“You’re right, we absolutely have to ask the most important question ever!” Both Chrysalis and Twilight seemed to freeze at the same time, yet this was all the opportunity the speaker needed to trot closer, stopping within almost touching distance to Chrysalis, just out of her sight. And while she couldn’t exactly see the owner, she could tell by the horrified expression on the others faces – Twilight and Nurse Redheart in particular – that it was not something they were expecting to happen.
“What clothes would you like to wear to a sleep over? I like pyjamas myself because they’re all nice and comfy, but I was thinking that maybe…”
Her guard dropped completely, Chrysalis could only blink slowly, with the processing of what she had just been asked causing her brain considerable discomfort. She had been expecting many things asked of her: leading questions, information on Legend, or even just details about herself. What she wore to sleep in, however? That was a question that could only have come from one mare.
As expected as she shifted just enough to look to her left, the owner of the voice, Pinkie Pie, stood smiling only to gasp at the sight that greeted her. Immediately, several hissed voices sounded from within the room, their intent clear. Pinkie Pie, gasping again but at a much reduced volume, pressed a hoof to her muzzle, her ears flattening into her mane before she gazed over towards a still aghast-looking Twilight, to the guards, and finally, to Chrysalis and Legend.
“Eep! Sorry! Nurse Redheart and Twilight both told me to whisper, but then I got so excited that I forgot, but eeee, look at you and Mystery together! I told Twilight that you’re bestest friends, but Dinky really wants to meet you too, so then you and her and Mystery can be bestest friends and that’d just be the bestest, most terrific thing ever!“
Chrysalis simply blinked as she tried to understand exactly what was going on, watching as Pinkie Pie smiled only to suddenly start sliding to the side. The reason, evidently, was a magenta glow that encased the pony’s tail, which dragged her across the floor. Raising an eyebrow, the changeling watched, morbidly curious, as the pony was tugged to the back of the room, her front hoof waving in Chrysalis’s direction all the while.
“Oh, and hi ~Ebony~, I’m glad you and Mystery are back together.”
Dumbstruck, Chrysalis raised a hoof to wave back before realising what she was doing. Setting the limb back down, she raised a brow again as Twilight Sparkle pushed a hoof to her forehead, the glow on her horn signifying her as the source of reining in the pink mare.
“Pinkie Pie,” Twilight started to say, one hoof resting to her muzzle as she paused to take in a deep breath. “What did Nurse Redheart and I just say to you before we came in?”
Tapping at her muzzle with a hoof, Pinkie Pie appeared contemplative before she smiled and waggled the limb in the air. Noticing how a few of the mares at the back of the room shook their heads, Chrysalis noted that this wasn’t by any means a one-off situation.
“To behave myself and not scare Mystery, buuuut I didn’t scare her, since she’s asleep silly, and ~Ebony~ is there with her, see?” Puffing her cheeks out, Pinkie Pie continued on, her voice carefully kept to a whisper. “I mean, I’m not silly Twilight, I totally don’t want to upset Mystery, and I wouldn’t! But deciding what ~Ebony~ wears when we have a sleepover is super important, because Mystery would obviously be sad if she wasn’t there as well, right?”
Twilight seemed to digest this information before exchanging glances with several members of her group, the nurse included. After a few seconds, the unicorn glanced back towards Legend and then back to Pinkie Pie before releasing a long sigh.
“Okay, Pinkie, I didn’t mean to insinuate you would try to scare her and I know you wouldn’t. But please, just stay over there for now; we don’t want her to get scared when she wakes up because there are too many unfamiliar ponies close by her, right?”
“Okey-Dokey.” Seemingly brushing off the earlier incident, Pinkie smiled at Twilight’s words before moving to seat herself near the cyan pegasus. It was at that point Chrysalis became aware of several gazes given her way of varying emotions. The Bearer of Generosity, Rarity, was looking somewhat delighted in the scene, an emotion shared it seemed by the Bearer of Honesty, Applejack.
It was not forgotten, however, that the earth pony was one of those responsible for terrifying Legend initially. Resisting the urge to frown, Chrysalis instead noted that the cream pegasus, Fluttershy, was trying to hide – unsuccessfully she might add – behind a few of the other mares. Yet it was Rainbow Dash’s expression that was the most confusing. A glare was being levelled at her, animosity flowing from the mare as apprehension filled Chrysalis.
What made it most confusing is that none of the others were reacting in even a remotely similar fashion. Oh, there was still suspicion lingering, but she could tell that by their body language and expressions easily enough. No, this was something else and it sent a small shiver down Chrysalis’s back.
Does she know?
A quick analysis of Pinkie Pie showed that the mare, as usual, was simply happy and content with the situation she was in. While that didn’t eliminate the possibility that she had shared what she possibly knew with the others, it did make it more unlikely. In fact, other than the dragon, the rest were looking remarkably relaxed. Well, that is aside from the grey pegasus with an extreme case of crossed eyes and the filly that was responsible for the whole mess.
The filly, Dinky, was pressing close to her mother, but Chrysalis could tell from what she had learnt in her time at the hospital, and from the little unicorn’s body language, that she wished to be close to Legend. Even though it was beneath her, and served no real practical purpose, Chrysalis couldn’t help but feel a little smug as she rested her chin on the arms that held her, able to see the filly’s eyes go wide before fidgeting further.
Content in her self-perceived victory, Chrysalis perked her ears to listen in on the others conversing amongst themselves in hushed whispers. Several comments were undeniably directed towards her, but strangely, most of what was being said was instead related to Legend herself. Yet it was Rainbow Dash that caught Chrysalis’s attention the most. As the others almost seemed to forget about her presence in the room, she could observe quietly as the others exchanged comments.
“I’m just saying that it’s not cool that I’m not allowed to see this alien, yet some pony from who-knows-where is allowed to get cuddled by her.”
“Oh, oh, I wasn’t allowed to come in either!”
“Yeah, that too. Pinkie and I weren’t allowed to visit, but she’s all buddy-buddy with her.”
“Look, it’s not like I said she could come in, plus she has a name you know.”
“Rainbow Dash, after all the fuss this mornin’ do ya really blame Twi’?”
“Oh c’mon, that was like, one thing!”
Chrysalis blinked as she witnessed nearly the entire group pause to stare at Rainbow Dash, the mare rubbing into her mane under their scrutiny.
“Okay, okay. All I’m saying is that, who knows where this ~Ebony~ comes from, or how she knows-”
“You do realise I can hear you, right?” Chrysalis quietly stated, interrupting Rainbow Dash. Seeing the sheepish looks given in her direction, the changeling sighed before rolling her eyes, looking aside as she then relaxed her head down onto Legend’s arms again. Despite the annoyance directed towards herself at acting so rashly, she knew she had to cut off that train of thought before it took root. If they got onto the subject and delved deeper, more questions would appear. The more questions that they asked, the more likely it was they would find an inconsistency with one of her answers.
The chance of course was small, but it wasn’t something she wished to risk in any case.
“Sorry, I mean… Argh.” Throwing her hooves into the air, Rainbow Dash grunted before folding her forelegs over her chest. “Y’know what, I’m just going to keep my mouth shut.”
“O-Oh, I don’t think you need to do that. I-I’m sure she knows you didn’t mean it, right?”
Chrysalis blinked as she looked towards the source of the soft voice, noticing it to be Fluttershy, the pegasus smiling up at Rainbow Dash before looking in her direction.
I really couldn’t give two bits what she thinks of me.
“No it’s okay…” Pushing her own thoughts on the matter aside, Chrysalis instead smiled in reply only to rustle her wings as a young voice sounded from beside her.
“S-So you’re Mystery’s friend too?” Looking to the side, she noticed Dinky was now standing there, her tail swishing behind her in an almost wag of sorts. Every few times it would pause before starting back up, seemingly reflecting the filly’s mood.
By the All-Mother, how do they keep sneaking up in my blind spot?!
Pushing the agitation down from being caught off-guard twice now, Chrysalis shifted so she could look more easily at the little unicorn. The concept of being friends with any potential source of food was still a rather awkward concept for Chrysalis to grasp, yet she couldn’t deny that is exactly what Legend had become to her.
“Yes, but I call her Legend.” Chrysalis stated, then, amusingly, watched the filly’s eyes go wide. As she watched the filly’s tail started wagging earnestly, she also caught out the corner of her eye one of the ponies start to step forward.
“Is that her real name?” The excitement in the filly’s voice was, strangely enough, oddly endearing as Chrysalis smiled in a genuine fashion. Even as Derpy approached, Dinky was creeping a little closer, her young eyes peeking up at wonder at the arms holding Chrysalis gently.
“Not as far as I can tell.” Chrysalis stated, a wry grin coming to her muzzle as she shifted her tail slowly along the floor. Moving her head enough to glance at Legend’s face, she then looked back down at Dinky, a hoof lifting off the ground enough to waggle slightly. “It’s just what I called her.”
“O-Oh.” Looking to think on those words, Dinky was soon joined by Derpy, the pegasus sliding a wing gently over her daughter’s back.
“Sweetie, come on, you know what Twilight and Nurse Redheart said, we should give her some space when she wakes up with everypony here.” Derpy’s words caused the filly to look slightly downcast before being guided to where the others stood. “I’m sure when she wakes up, she’ll be happy to see you.”
Following her mother, Dinky paused to look back, Derpy looking surprised as her wing gently lifted, watching as her daughter smiled towards Chrysalis. “U-Um, my name is Dinky, and she’s my friend too. I’m glad she has more friends though, and that you make her smile.”
Exhaling softly from her nostrils in amusement, Chrysalis found a small grin passing over her muzzle. She couldn’t deny the feeling twisting inside of her, a strange but not uncommon emotion for a changeling to feel. She just never thought it would be caused by a young filly, especially not while she was in a remarkably dangerous situation.
Bravo, Chrysalis. Jealous because a filly spent more time with Legend than you? What next, being angry at the bed sheets or her pillow because they’re closer?
Chrysalis knew she wasn’t about to win any awards for her altruistic behaviour, but she also knew that as a whole, changelings simply didn’t like sharing. When almost everything you gain is to be given away to thousands of sisters and your mother, well, anything you get to keep of your own becomes that much more special.
Still, she did find herself giving the pillow a bit of an eye before relaxing once more, simply content to listen to the conversations going on. Granted everyone was keeping their voices down, but she knew it was a matter of time before Legend woke. Flicking an ear, she actually found herself quite bemused on how heavy a sleeper the girl was.
Looking to the source of the voice, Chrysalis noticed Twilight approaching, the mare walking to within a few steps from her before coming to a stop. Seeming about to say something more, the unicorn looked to collect her thoughts before offering a warm smile towards her.
“Well, it’s evident that Mystery, or Legend… I believe that’s what you called her?” Twilight paused as Chrysalis offered a nod, the unicorn’s horn glowing as a notebook was removed from a saddlebag only to be scribbled into frantically. “Well, it’s clear that she is relaxed around you, much like Dinky and Derpy.”
“So, given what Pinkie Pie said earlier, would you wish to join us for a sleepover while we wait for the summons to Canterlot?” Closing the book, Twilight then returned it to her saddlebag, the straps tightened without the mare even glancing back. “I think it will make things go much more smoothly if you’re there, that is, if you can of course? I mean, I’ve never seen you in Ponyville before, so I don’t know if you need to head back to where-“
“It’s fine, I’ll go where she goes.” Chrysalis stated, cutting Twilight off before ruffling her wings. Moving a little, she heard Legend mumble something again, her head turning to look at the girl before gazing back at the Bearer of Magic. “Don’t worry about me, I can’t really go back home anyhow given last time I saw my mom, we…. Well, let’s just say we didn’t see eye to eye on some things.”
Nodding slightly, Twilight looked concerned for a moment before a smile broke out over her muzzle. “Well, okay, but I’m sure your mother will allow you back home. Although, if you don’t mind me asking, where exactly do you come from? I’ve never heard a name like yours before. If I were to guess, I would say maybe from near the Griffon Empire? But I didn’t know there were any pony settlements there, that is unless you live in the empire itself?”
Chitin-rust she would be curious wouldn’t she.
Finding that everyone was now looking at her, Chrysalis realised that she wouldn’t be able to lie, not entirely anyhow. She was already wary of Pinkie Pie’s intuition, but given Twilight Sparkle was the one asking the question, she knew she had to play this very carefully. That wasn’t even getting into on any of the other ponies in the room, not to mention the dragon, who, at that moment, was also looking at her in an inquisitive fashion.
With nothing really else for it, she took a deep breath only to pause as Legend started to stir. Much to her chagrin though, the girl didn’t wake which would have been an excellent distraction at that very moment.
“No, I…” Shaking her head a little, Chrysalis offered a grin and spread one wing to direct the limb towards the occupant of the bed. “It’s not my name, it’s the name she calls me.”
Unsure on just what would follow, Chrysalis was expecting the shock that came to Twilight’s face. Yet, the fact it then turned into a thoughtful expression, that was somewhat of a surprise. More so was how the mare then looked as if she had found the missing piece to a puzzle, the hoof that had been rubbing under her muzzle settling back onto the floor.
“Well that explains that then, I thought it sounded familiar but I couldn’t quite place it.” Offering a smile, Twilight then tilted her head. “So you named each other because you couldn’t understand each other, or do you… Wait, you couldn’t possibly have a way to actually communicate with one another outside the obvious use of diagrams and pictures? Perhaps through interpretation of her language, or shared-“
“Twilight, dear, maybe you should let ~Ebony~ actually answer.”
“Oh… Um, sorry. I guess I did get carried away.” Twilight admitted, having been gently chastised by Rarity’s interruption.
Blinking, Chrysalis wasn’t expecting to see the hunger within Twilight’s eyes, the hunger for knowledge. She had been expecting further questioning, but thankfully, the mare had just provided her an opportunity to divert the conversation. One that she wasn’t about to let slip through her hooves.
“Yes, I named her Legend, and in exchange she called me ~Ebony~. I guess we did it to make it easier to communicate with each other.” Chrysalis inwardly cringed, knowing that her story, while partially true, wasn’t exactly fool-proof. Still, given on her recent interactions with Legend, she knew the likelihood of the girl using the name while talking with her was high enough that it was a calculated risk. “But, no… we can’t really understand each other. All I know is that she’s easily scared, likes apples, and…”
Finding a smile coming to her face, Chrysalis gazed over at Legend before chuckling softly.
“And that she’s a cry-baby and gets herself into really stupid situations, but… But that she’s more compassionate than anyone I have ever met.” Flicking her ears, Chrysalis then folded her wings tight to her side, glancing at Twilight and catching the mare off guard with how intense her stare was. “And, that I will never let her get hurt again, no matter what.”
With one hoof raised in surprise, Twilight blinked, a shocked look falling over her face. Setting the limb back down to gaze back at her friends, the mare then looked forward once more. “No-one is going to hurt her, I mean, we just want to understand what’s going on and help her.”
“Ain’t no-one here want to hurt her none, y’all can be sure of that.”
Chrysalis resisted the urge once more to glare at the hat wearing pony, instead offering a small nod as she looked aside.
Yeah, easy for you to say after you and your idiot pony friends terrified her. Then again, I just watched… Didn’t I?
“I can assure you that Twilight here, along with everypony else, wish no ill on the poor dear.” Chrysalis looked towards Rarity, surprised by the earnest smile on the mare’s face accompanying the calmly spoken words.
“Hee, don’t be so silly ~Ebony~, we all want to see Mystery smile and be happy.” Pinkie Pie added, her ears perking before she tilted her head slightly. “That’s why we want you to come with us, so you and Dinky, and everypony else can make her feel welcome.”
Shifting where she sat, Chrysalis was a little surprised by how welcoming they were. She didn’t doubt that they held Legend’s wellbeing in mind, she had already seen that in their expressions, and in the actions over the last few days. Even if she wasn’t privy to their emotions, the evidence was overwhelming. What she couldn’t dismiss, however, was the possibility this was all still a trap to snare her.
Ultimately though, whether it was benign or not, she had to get Legend away before they got summoned. If they succeeded in getting her to Canterlot and with the Princesses, well, it would be all but impossible to get her away, or to accompany her without great risk. Not to mention, and more importantly, any chance of saving her sisters would vanish completely.
“Well, I think we’ve established that no-one is going to hurt my patient.” Nurse Redheart’s voice caused all present, Chrysalis included – and still wondering how the pony could be so intimidating – to nod in agreement. Seemingly satisfied with the response she received, the nurse then smiled and glanced at the clock on the wall. “Now, if you all can behave yourselves, I think I will go see what is keeping Doctor Carehoof and look at getting her out of here and stretching her legs.”
With that, and after a pointed look at Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash, both mares wilting slightly under the scrutiny, Nurse Redheart trotted out of the room, a nod given to the guards as she passed them both.
“I’m sorry, I… You could have come to us though, we would have been happy to help. I know you were injured from what I hear, but, we were only just down the hallway most of the time.” Twilight offered, Chrysalis looking at the unicorn as a smile was given her way. After a few more comments of support were given from the other Bearers, Chrysalis sighed and shook her head. Yet, before she could answer, she was surprised when someone else did. More so, in fact by whom that someone was.
“Weeeeell, you are kinda sorta the Princess’s student so you’re like, super important, and then there were two big scary guards.” Pinkie Pie spoke up, stopping to wave towards Swift Dawn and Bastion. “No offense you two, but you both are pretty big and imposing!”
“Uh, Pinkie. That’s kinda their job.” Rainbow Dash interjected, a hoof gesturing to the two stallions as Swift Dawn appeared amused by the whole thing.
“No offense taken, and Rainbow Dash is right,” Swift Dawn said, a small chuckle escaping after. Looking to Bastion, the Captain of the Royal Guard grinned, a wing reaching across the gap to gently tap on the larger stallion’s breast plate. “Hear that, you’re imposing.”
“My day is now complete.” Bastion offered in reply, Swift Dawn rolling his eyes before returning to standing at attention.
“What Pinkie said.” Chrysalis offered a nod towards the pink mare, getting a bright smile in return. Turning her attention back to Twilight, she then sighed a little. “It wasn’t exactly like I could just wander up to you and say I knew her, you wouldn’t-“
About to say that none of them would have believed her without proof, Chrysalis was cut off as Legend began to stir.
Oh, now you wake.
Feeling the arms pull away from around her neck, Chrysalis shifted a little, now able to work the cramp out of her legs. Looking up, she noted that the Bearer of Kindness was trying to hide behind the Bearer of Honesty, an act that caused the earth pony to look amused at her friend.
As silence filled the room at the expectant awakening of the girl, instead they were disappointed when Legend rolled onto her back, the sheets tugged closer to her body as she returned to slumber.
As the tension bled out of several of the ponies, Rarity was the first to speak, a hoof moved to tease her mane.
“Well, since we must wait for the good doctor before anything may proceed, and given I feel a little parched, I think I might go and get a drink from downstairs.”
“Wait, I can go get it Rarity.” Spike spoke up, Chrysalis watching as Twilight rolled her eyes with a lopsided smile on her muzzle. Curious as for the reaction, Chrysalis instead found the answer when Rarity leaned down, a hoof moving to rub over Spike’s head spines.
“Oh, would you do that for my little Spikey-Wikey? That is most gentlecoltly of you.”
Watching as Spike almost melted to Rarity’s words, Chrysalis fought to roll her own eyes. The amount of happiness rolling off the dragon was almost nauseating as he nodded frantically and struck his chest gently with a fist.
“Leave it to me, I’ll be right back!”
With that Spike departed from the room, running as fast as his legs could take him. So fast, in fact, that he missed Rarity laughing softly, her head tilting as she sighed good naturedly.
“Oh dear, I didn’t even get a chance to tell him what I wanted. Oh well, I’m sure whatever he brings back will be fine.”
Ignoring the amusement rippling through the ponies, Chrysalis took the chance to stretch her hind legs. Spreading her wings as well, she lamented on how stiff all her limbs felt. Working the stiffness out of each leg, she then sat herself back down, gazing over towards both mother and daughter. Not surprisingly, while Derpy was joining in the conversation that was developing, Dinky was looking over at Legend.
Noticing how forlorn the filly looked, Chrysalis briefly considered simply enjoying the fact that Legend was hers and that the silly unicorn that caused it all was left out. Yet, whenever she tried to enjoy the moment, she felt something niggling within. She remembered seeing Dinky screaming, the fear of death clear on the filly’s face as the chimera chased her. She remembered her own indecision on helping, and, even before she could act, Legend moving to save the filly.
She also remembered a small pegasus, lying broken at the bottom of a gully, the look of hope on her face only to-
That’s not my life, it never was. But… Argh, you’re getting soft Chrysalis.
Grumbling under her breath, Chrysalis then sighed and forced a smile on her face, a wing moving to flap and gain Dinky’s attention.
“Thanks for being there for her.” The words, while not entirely sincere, did have some truth to them. She was thankful that the filly had kept Legend company where she had not, and, more importantly, had made the girl happy. Granted, that was now her duty alone, but she wasn’t going to be ungrateful for what the mother and daughter had done for Legend thus far.
Smiling widely, Dinky’s tail wagged behind her, looking up at her mother who smiled back down, a nuzzle given that was eagerly returned. Before anything more could come out of what she had said though, the sound of voices in the hallway caused everyone to go silent, their ears perking almost simultaneously.
“-seems fine, her wounds are all fully healed aside from the shoulder, and that too will be able to mend easily enough if she takes care of it.”
Hearing a male voice, Chrysalis flicked an ear as Nurse Redheart returned, two doctors also following her into the room.
“I must concur with Doctor Flint, after replacing her bandages last night, I would be…” Pausing, the doctor blinked at the amount of ponies in the room. Glancing at Chrysalis next, his brow raised before he cleared his throat, looking at Twilight and then at Nurse Redheart. “In any case, if you say she is good to go nurse, I will support your decision. She is your patient, after all.”
Offering a smile to his words, Nurse Redheart then nodded, glancing at the others before fixing her gaze on Twilight. “Well, I think that settles it. Once she wakes you should be fine to give her a tour of Ponyville, but please, if anything happens you are to contact me immediately, understood?”
Nodding in reply, a little too earnestly if Chrysalis was any judge, Twilight then smiled as she trotted to stand by her friends, offering a nervous giggle before speaking. “Of course, we won’t do anything too major until she-“
A female voice abruptly cut everyone off, each freezing in place. Well, all except for Fluttershy, who issued a strangled squeak and backed against the wall. With Rarity and Applejack attempting to calm her down, Chrysalis turned to the source of the voice, a smile coming to her face as she saw Legend on the bed, her eyes now open.
As the girl shifted, she moved her weight onto one arm, propping herself up to look past the foot of her bed and, inadvertently, seeming to spy the gathering of ponies that stood across the room. Several seconds passed, no-one moving, as she turned her gaze over each in turn. For reasons that Chrysalis couldn’t fathom, Rarity appeared to be gazing back at her in an almost studious fashion, one that caused Legend some distress.
As the girl held the sheets up to partially hide behind, Rarity quickly had an apologetic expression replace the previous, not that Legend seemed to notice as she was now looking at Pinkie Pie. Unsurprisingly, Chrysalis watched as the pony almost seemed to be vibrating with excitement, bouncing on the spot.
“Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, she’s awake and she’s looking at me, and this is so super-exciting. Hi Mystery!”
“Pinkie, please settle down, we don’t want to frighten her. She doesn’t know half of you yet!” Twilight, admirably, attempted to calm the Bearer of Laughter down, yet, from previous experience, Chrysalis knew it was a wasted gesture.
Noticing that Legend seemed fixated on Pinkie, and the clearly confused look falling over the girl’s face, Chrysalis took matters into her own hooves. Coughing gently, she was rewarded by Legend looking to the side and finally noticing her. Sighing dramatically, Chrysalis then rolled her eyes, communicating her own thoughts on what was going on.
The girl, on seeing this, started to smile before giggling, her posture relaxing some as the other ponies began to sigh a little, each clearly relieved. Chrysalis, however, knew that the hard part was far from over. Now that she had established herself as essential to being with Legend, she would then need to somehow break free from the others and get herself, and the girl, to the hive.
In all honesty, the fact that the ponies evidently did care for Legend was becoming something of a curse for the changeling. It meant they would be far more alert to anything out of the ordinary, and worse, would make escaping with her all the harder. If the task wasn’t hard enough to begin with, the true scope of what she was trying to achieve was now open before her.
Six Bearers, two guards – one being the Captain of the Royal Guard himself – and that’s not even getting into a filly who is almost infatuated with Legend. Yeah, this is clearly going to go well.
Yet, before she could even try and contemplate on how she would achieve the seemingly impossible task, she was distracted as Twilight trotted forward. With her horn glowing, Chrysalis watched as Twilight levitated a bundle of clothing that she hadn’t noticed resting on the side table until now. Curiously, she saw the items be moved to hover before Legend’s face, the girl looking slightly perplexed before they were gently placed upon the sheets.
“Ah, Twi, I don’t think she knows what you’re want’n her to do.” Applejack offered, Twilight rolling her eyes before she smiled back at her friends.
“I know she doesn’t, but I made some diagrams earlier to explain what-“
Twilight never got to finish what she was about to say, as at that moment, Spike’s voice filtered in from the hallway, his claws pounding on the floor giving away his hurried pace.
“Twilight! L-Letter… F-From the…” Entering the room, Spike held a scroll tightly in a fist, his laboured breathing showing he had probably run the entire way back upstairs. Taking a deep breath, he held the paper in the air, presenting it to pony in question. “P-Princesses. Do you think that they could possibly…?”
Chitin-rust, no… Not now!
Pulling her wings in closer, Chrysalis felt her world come crashing down around her. If it was what she believed it to be, then her worst fears were about to come true. She watched, in morbid curiosity, as Twilight levitated the scroll over to herself, breaking the seal to unfurl it and then read aloud its contents.
“My most faithful student, I am happy to inform you that the arrangements have gone better than we dared hope. To that end, both Luna and I are happy to formally invite both yourself and our visitor, Mystery, to come see us as soon as possible. I must apologise for the short notice, but both Luna and I felt that the due to the current circumstances surrounding her and of those that have interest in her, we feel she will be safest here, in the castle with us.”
Chrysalis felt the walls close in on her as she listened, her plans slipping through her hooves ever increasingly with each word spoken.
They know about me… Not just suspect, but know.
“I also must ask that your friends accompany you on this journey, as the Elements of Harmony might be required. Their expenses will be paid for of course, and I must apologise again for hindering them, and yourself, with this task. I have already arranged for the train departing from Ponyville this afternoon to be informed of your arrival. All you must do is talk to the receptionist and she will provide you with boarding tickets for the journey.
If, for any reason you are unable to make it today, please inform me and we shall arrange for tomorrow. I am sorry for the urgency of the endeavour, but you must understand the reasoning behind it. I wish I hadn’t needed to place this burden on you, but never forget of how proud of you I am my dear Twilight, and I look forward to seeing you, Spike, and your friends, again.
P.S: Spike, I have already informed the chef to make those cupcakes you mentioned previously, and please, do keep my student out of trouble. Wait, hey!”
The last part, joined with a sniggering from Spike, was Twilight looking indignant towards the dragon. The others, on the other hoof, were looking surprised by the contents of the letter. Some, like Pinkie Pie, were evidently rather excited by this prospect, already talking about a sleepover at the castle. Others, like Applejack, were looking more cautious over the whole thing, mentioning that she had lots to do on the farm.
“So, do we go today or not?” Twilight asked, gazing about at the others while Nurse Redheart and the Doctors looked on. A consensus was then reached, the Bearers all deciding that given it came from Princess Celestia herself, there really was nothing to be decided. Even Fluttershy quietly offered her acceptance to go. Rarity and Rainbow Dash, however, seemed far keener on the prospect of a formal invite from the Princess herself, and a chance to see the Wonderbolts, respectively.
Dinky, however, was looking noticeably crestfallen over the whole thing.
“Can… Can we go too mom?” The question, spoken softly by the filly was met with a torn look on her mother’s face. Derpy, after sighing softly, rubbed her muzzle along her daughter’s mane.
“I’m sorry sweetie, but you have school, and I can’t just leave my job. Who will deliver the mail if I don’t?” Derpy’s words didn’t seem to appease the filly entirely, Dinky looking towards Legend before pushing her face against her mother’s wing.
“But she’s my friend too…”
Twilight, evidently hearing the exchange, shared a look with her friends, Rarity in particular who offered a soft murmur at what she was witnessing. Nodding to whatever was mentioned, the mare moved over to the mother and daughter, bending down to get at eyelevel with Dinky.
“I know you want to go Dinky, but Derpy’s right.” Offering a smile, Twilight then reached with a hoof to gently tap the filly on the nose. “How about, after we get the tickets sorted, you can show her around Ponyville while the others get ready? We’ll have some free time until the train arrives, and packing won’t take very long for Spike and I anyhow.”
“That’s if Twilight doesn’t try to pack the library with her again.” Spike added only for Twilight to fix him with an exasperated expression.
“Spike, I only did that once, and I wasn’t trying to pack the library, I was only trying to test the applications of a distortion spell on a bag to try and test the limits of what could be seen as endless storage. It worked too!”
Waving a claw in Twilight’s direction, the dragon rolled his eyes. “Oh sure, it worked until the bag exploded and I had to then help pick up all the books.”
Looking somewhat sheepish, Twilight rubbed into her mane while averting her gaze. “W-Well, yes, but that was because I hadn’t reinforced the durability spells enough, but it was working fine until that point.”
The random side-track aside, the filly seemed appeased to some degree, a smile crossing her muzzle. Gazing up at her mother – presumably for permission – got a small nod in return from the mare, a smile crossing Derpy’s muzzle as she moved a wing to hug her daughter closer to her.
“Okay!” Dinky exclaimed, appearing far happier with this arrangement. Chrysalis, however, was soon finding herself being looked upon by Twilight as she cleared her throat.
“So, will you be joining us as well, ~Ebony~?” The question posed by Twilight was then followed by a confused look falling over her face. “Oh, sorry, I never actually asked what your real name is.”
“~Ebony~ is fine, it’s what Legend calls me and that’s good enough for me.” Chrysalis responded, forcing a smile onto her face that she in no way felt. Noticing that the answer wasn’t quite what Twilight was hoping for, Chrysalis instead pressed on, in no way about to reveal the name gifted to her by a queen she no longer had any faith in. “But yes, I’ll go where ever she goes, I won’t leave her alone again.”
Nodding, yet obviously not entirely convinced, Twilight appeared to unexpectedly drop the subject. Smiling, she then moved to unclasp one of her saddlebags again with a small application of magic. Removing a folded piece of paper, Twilight then trotted over to Legend, unfolding what turned out to be a large sheet with various pictures drawn upon it, each connected by an arrow. Flicking an ear, Chrysalis heard the others talking over the matter but, truthfully, she barely noticed what they were saying.
She however did see that Legend evidently understood what was being asked of her by the diagram, if that is, her body language and reaction were anything to go off by. Chrysalis on the other hoof knew exactly what they were planning; she had seen the train drawn on the paper and also the picture of two alicorns standing. It was a diagram explaining to Legend what they intended to do, and thusly, it was a diagram explaining where they were to go.
Even as the girl nodded, and Twilight shot Pinkie Pie a deadpan look for some reason that eluded Chrysalis, the others began talking animatedly between themselves in the background. Talks of how exciting it would be, talks of the high fashion in Canterlot, and talks of what the Princesses could possibly want with the Elements of Harmony was discussed.
Chrysalis, however, knew, at least for her, that it was all over.
She knew that she could – nay, that she should – escape and that it would be an easy enough task. She could slip away and with a couple of disguise changes vanish forever from Ponyville. The problem was, without Legend, the whole thing was meaningless. She could, of course, try to escape with the girl, but that lowered her chance of success to almost nothing, and that was being generous.
No, if she didn’t bring Legend to the hive, if the hive even still existed, then her hatch-mate, and all the others were doomed. When the eggs hatched, there would be nothing more for them; no nectar would be enough to sustain the hive. Even before that fact, they were barely treading water, and it was only time before that too would start to fail as fatigue took hold and mistakes were made. Much, she admitted, like the one that had gotten her into this whole mess in the first place.
Yet, no matter how much she considered an idea, it was always doomed to failure. She didn’t even know the limits of her changing physiology, so that also threw a spanner into the works. For all she knew, she could try to do something and simply fail. She wasn’t even sure what her real body looked like anymore, that prospect being a scary one in and of itself.
In fact, so engrossed in her thoughts was she, that she only realised that Legend had gotten out of bed when she heard the girl speak. Flicking an ear, she noticed that the curtain had also been drawn around the bed, presumably to offer Legend some privacy. For what reason, Chrysalis couldn’t really say, watching on somewhat perplexed as the girl started tugging on a small article of clothing up her legs.
Good going Chrysalis, not paying attention again. Well, at least I’m still with her, that’s something at least.
Shrugging, she decided that the girl must be somewhat shy about putting on clothing. It wasn’t really unheard of, given that plenty of ponies and griffons were a little iffy about the whole thing. Then there were the minotaurs who, from the majority of the admittedly very few that Chrysalis had ever encountered, seemed to enjoy parading around with the minimal of clothing present, some even making do with just a tie, or a hat, Chrysalis didn’t see the big deal over clothing herself, only having worn it as Rosebloom or when disguised only when the time called for it.
Thankful however for the distraction, Chrysalis mulled over that possibility, one eyebrow raised as she looked over Legend’s mostly bare form.
Huh, so that’s what she looks like out of her clothing or without a sheet. Almost hairless, but about what I expected. She does look a little malnourished though yet… Wait… Why is she looking at me like that?
Noticing one of the girl’s eyelids beginning to twitch, Chrysalis found herself growing further confused by the roiling emotions present within Legend. Her mind, still torn over the more pressing issue plaguing her, was slow to piece the information provided into the most obvious outcome. That was why the next thing Chrysalis knew, she was being propelled along the floor having been forcefully removed from within the curtain.
Coming to rest after sliding a fair distance, Chrysalis found that her bruised posterior was secondary to the shock she felt. Blinking, she peeked behind her at where she had come from before noticing the amused looks given by several of the ponies watching. Well, granted there was a couple of sympathetic looks, but those were few and far between.
Flicking an ear at the sound of Legend saying her ‘name’ with something preceding it, Chrysalis grumbled quietly, assuming by the guilt emanating from within the curtain – not to mention the tone it was spoken in – that it was an apology of sorts.
Choosing to ignore the laughter coming from Rainbow Dash over her situation, Chrysalis instead got to her hooves, barely noticing that Twilight was hastily scribbling into her notebook again. Hearing something about ‘modesty’ and ‘re-evaluate muscle strength’ mentioned by the doctors, the changeling instead rolled her eyes and sat herself down, waiting for Legend to finish getting changed.
After several more seconds, and some strange utterances from Legend, the curtain was pulled away to reveal the now-clothed girl. With the unveiling, a gasp sounded from Rarity, the mare smiling widely before turning to look at the other ponies with her.
“Oh it fits her just perfectly! Why, this is giving me an absolutely inspired idea for other creations for our Mystery to wear. Just think, if she does return home… Oh my, my fashion might catch on in a whole new world entirely!”
Chrysalis watched as Legend fidgeted with the black skirt she wore, clearly uncomfortable with the attention focused upon her. Interestingly, Chrysalis also noted the equine word for ‘Mystery’ tailored into the fabric, a brow raised partially at that addition. The sleeveless purple top was, she guessed, a good fit for the girl, her eye also catching the glint of metal from the bracelets worn on each wrist.
It does kind of suit her I suppose.
Sighing softly, Chrysalis was a little bemused by how bashful Legend looked under the attention given her way, her own ears flicking as she listened half-heartedly to the conversations going on.
Truthfully though, her mind was preoccupied on other things. Primarily, on just how to get Legend out of Ponyville with her. She knew that, were they to get onto the train and thus confined that it would be the end of any chance she had. To that end, it was clear that the only opportunity that Chrysalis had was before that point. In theory, that meant that after they had gotten the tickets, she would possibly have a brief window while waiting for the train to arrive.
Of course, even on coming to that conclusion, that didn’t help in her actually getting away from the Bearers and the guards. Still, it was something at least, and that was something she could work with, no matter how faint the chance. To give up now would be to condemn the others to a slow death of starvation, and, having almost experienced that herself, Chrysalis was in no way keen to let her sisters go through the same fate.
Eventually, however, the conversations ebbed away only for Twilight to signal it was time for them to go. Watching Nurse Redheart and Legend share a hug caused Chrysalis to raise a brow, especially when Legend looked surprised when the nurse waved at her.
Seeing that the girl was looking a little unsure on realising that the nurse was staying behind, Chrysalis sighed and trotted over, moving her nose to push against Legend’s fingers softly. Raising a brow again in a questioning gesture, she was rewarded with warm emotions flowing into her as the girl nodded, smiling and waving towards the doctors and Nurse Redheart as they departed the room.
Slightly amused on seeing how the strangely intimidating nurse could be so open and warm when Legend was involved, Chrysalis moved to follow the girl on the way out, keeping close as they exited into the hallway. As she expected, the guards fell into step behind them, causing Legend to utter something in an almost sardonically toned fashion. Looking up at the girl in confusion, she was met with green eyes gazing back down, the girl shaking her head soon after as her dark mane swished about with the movement.
I wonder if she’s as sick of the guards as I am…
Figuring it was thusly unimportant, she made sure to match Legend’s slower pace, watching meanwhile as the Bearers led the way with Derpy and Dinky just behind them. All the while, Dinky kept peeking back at Legend as she walked, the girl in turn looking down to offer a small smile to the filly which was returned. Nonetheless, Chrysalis couldn’t help but feel slightly agitated by the way patients and medical staff alike were clearly avoiding their procession, their eyes casting fearful looks towards Legend as they did so.
Well, not entirely she noted, as a few were giving Derpy a rather large berth as well, the mare clearly oblivious as her attention was on her daughter. This, however, did seem to rankle some of the Bearers, Rarity in particular scowled at a few ponies who hastily apologised.
“Now honestly, do they not know it is rude to stare?” Huffing softly, Rarity tossed her mane, Applejack moving to adjust her hat with one hoof in-between steps.
“I don’t like it none either Rare, but ya know they’re all just frightened. Those pesky rumours have spread like wildfire ‘round the town despite everythin’ we’ve all been saying.”
“But she’s not mean, and she’s nice and friendly.” Dinky commented in reply to Applejack’s comment, her words soft and carrying a confused tone to them. “W-Why would they think she’s going to hurt them?”
“Because they fear what they don’t know.”
The others peeked back briefly at Chrysalis’s comment, her ears flicking as she frowned towards a doctor. One that – intriguingly enough - had moved into a side room, pretending to read a clipboard and check on a patient if the mumbled comments he was giving were anything to go by. It would have worked too, were the clipboard not held upside down and the room containing nothing but empty beds.
Most annoying of all, however, was the earthy taste filling Chrysalis’s mouth. Resisting the urge to drag her teeth over her tongue, she could feel it saturated in the very air. Most, much to her ire, originating from the tall female beside her and caused by the situation she was in. Gazing up at, she saw the fear in Legend’s eyes; saw the way her fingers fidgeted. The fact she was also walking closer beside her wasn’t lost on Chrysalis either.
Thankfully though, they eventually walked down a smooth slope, Twilight having opted to take the wheelchair access it seemed. This proved to be a wise idea, as it brought them closer to the exit on reaching the bottom. Yet, still, in the waiting area they were immediately set upon by several sets of eyes, all fearful to some extent. Some were wary; some were trying to look anywhere but at Legend, but some… Some that angered Chrysalis, were looking at the girl as if she were a monster about to tear into them at a moment’s notice.
Before Chrysalis could say something, however, Twilight spoke up, the mare smiling at those gathered.
“Please everypony, I know she looks different, and I know there are rumours going around, but she is really no more dissimilar than from you or me. If you just take the time to look at her, I mean really look at her, you’ll see she’s more scared of you than you are of her. She’s just lost, and Princess Celestia and Princess Luna are going to help her get back home. So please, treat her just like any other guest in Ponyville.” Having said her piece and unexpectedly actually managing to ease the tension within the room, Twilight nodded over towards a unicorn behind the receptionist desk. With the mare waving back, Twilight then led the way to the entrance, a pink aura surrounding it before opening the portal.
Following the others out, Chrysalis moved with Legend, the girl however pausing at the threshold. Shifting on her feet, Legend slowly took in a deep breath, her hands curling into fists as she steeled herself. As the others waited outside, Chrysalis felt a small amount of respect fill her for her friend, knowing the turmoil that churned within her at that moment.
Oh sure, snatch a filly from an angry chimera, but the thought of stepping out into a town full of idiotic ponies? Actually, yeah, I would take the chimera too.
Watching Legend close her eyes, Chrysalis smiled nonetheless as the girl took a step out of the hospital, opening her eyes as she gazed about the town with clear wonder on her face. Still, the anxiety soon returned to Legend’s features as she became the subject of fearful gazes from the ponies and donkeys that were going about their business. Yet, even as the mud-like taste filled her mouth again, Chrysalis noticed Dinky look over her shoulder, her ears flattening as she saw how uneasy Legend looked.
Trotting back the pair, the filly pushed her head to Legend’s shin, the girl blinking to peek down at Dinky in surprise. Seeing she had been noticed, Dinky smiled upwards warmly, her tail wagging once as Legend returned the expression, the girl’s eyes half closing before resuming walking to close the distance with the others.
Hmmph, I could have done that.
Hiding her frown behind a near-lifetime of practise, Chrysalis again felt foolish for allowing herself to be jealous of a filly. Still, she did notice that despite Dinky’s efforts, the inhabitants of the town were quickly undermining the reassurance the filly had given.
Gritting her teeth, Chrysalis was forced to watch as Legend started to look down at the ground in front of them, clearly trying to avoid the gazes – both fearful and accusing – in her direction. Flicking her ears, knowing she could do little for Legend right then, she instead stuck beside the girl, making sure she remained a close presence. Yet, all the while they were walking, she was also making sure to commit to memory every alley, every empty street, and every possible hiding spot.
Any information, any advantage would highly likely be the difference were she to try and run, or worse, fight.
She knew that if or when the time came, for when an opportunity presented itself, she would have to take it no matter what. That left little time for any plan, and as such, she would have to rely on any bit of information she could gather. Unfortunately, no matter how much she tried to delude herself, Chrysalis knew that such a thing had about as high a chance of happening as if Queen Chrysalis would swoop down right then and there to break into a jig for their amusement.
Sure it was possible to happen, but there was a world of difference between something being possible and something being probable.
“Eeeee, don’t eat me!”
Chrysalis blinked twice, her ears flicking as she was pulled from her thoughts by the sight of a pink mare running away, screaming at the top of her lungs. Blinking again, she recalled it was the same mare who had taken off screaming when Legend had been initially captured, one of her ears lowering to the side as she scrunched up her nose.
However, before she could make a comment – and one that was definitely going to be derogatory in nature towards the mare – she was beaten to the punch by one of the others.
“Y’all think that Lily would get tired of runnin’ like that all the time.” Applejack said, one of her eyebrows rising while she watched the blonde tail disappear down a side street. Once the mare had vanished, she rolled her eyes before pushing the brim of her hat up. “I thought you told her Twi that Legend was gonna be out an’ about today?”
“I did!” Twilight replied, a snort escaping the mare’s nostrils before she resumed trotting. “I told everyone in the meeting yesterday, but well… You all know that Lily’s a little…”
Clearly trying to be diplomatic in what she was trying to say, Twilight sighed as Rainbow Dash made a looping gesture beside her head with a hoof. Choosing to ignore what her friend was doing, Twilight instead led the group towards the train station.
“Now Rainbow Dash, you know that ain’t nice.” Applejack said, yet even Chrysalis could tell that the earth pony was finding it hard to argue against it.
However, as they got closer and closer to their destination, Chrysalis couldn’t help but feel the sinking feeling within her grow. She knew that ultimately, the only real chance she would have to succeed would have to be trying to make a break for it with Legend. She also knew that even with her enhanced abilities, that for her to get herself out if it came to a fight, let alone taking Legend with her, well… She couldn’t even delude herself with the possibility anymore.
Chrysalis in truth had no real idea on just what capabilities the mares with her had. She of course knew to some degree what Twilight was capable of, given her time as Rosebloom. While she hadn’t really interacted with the mare, she had seen enough of her around the castle and had heard of her antics enough to gain a fair idea. Plus, she had first-hoof knowledge from at the wedding.
But, she had no real way of knowing what the others could do. Pinkie Pie was for all accounts and purposes a complete enigma. Chrysalis still wasn’t convinced that the mare didn’t know what she really was and was, in effect, acting ignorant for some reason. The others, however, well… All she knew was what most other ponies knew about them, but she had the benefit of seeing them in action.
They act like idiots, but… Even Fluttershy evaded capture for as long as the others did. She acts meek, but what is her true strength?
Of course, ultimately it all mattered little. For one other fact had come to Chrysalis’s attention, one that rankled her, and, for some reason, made her feel a little queasy the more she thought about it. And that was the simple truth that she had no idea if Legend would actually leave the others to follow her in the first place.
Frustratingly, it seemed that the girl had become attached to the filly, Derpy, and quite possibly even Twilight as well. A week ago, she knew that Legend would – and had – followed her no matter what. But now? Now she wasn’t even sure if she still would. She knew that Legend cared about her, but she wasn’t sure to what extent that actually stretched.
Was she even the most important among them to Legend anymore? It was petty, especially considering her circumstance, but for some reason it mattered a great deal to the changeling. It was a strange concept, but no matter what she couldn’t push the feeling aside. It was foolish for her to act in such a way, but…
Chitin-rust, why does this even matter? Why does it matter if she follows me willingly or not?
Moving closer to Legend, she was surprised when Derpy looked back at her, the mare’s wings ruffling to her side. Walking a little slower, the pegasus dropped back to get closer to both Legend and Chrysalis, Dinky following suite.
“Is something the matter?” Offering a smile with her words, Derpy clearly seemed to be showing concern due to Chrysalis’s body language. Chiding herself, Chrysalis noted that Dinky was also looking at her
“D-Do you want to come with her when I show her about Ponyville? You’re her friend too, so…” Dinky shyly offered, trailing off as her mother tugged her close with a wing. As she was nuzzled affectionately above her horn, the filly giggled softly before peeking back at Chrysalis again. “So you both should come together!”
Shaking her head, Chrysalis tugged her wings in closer, pressing a little to Legend’s leg as they walked.
“I… No, I’m fine...” Noticing the concerned looks exchanged between the two, Chrysalis was about to further decline offer until a thought struck her.
Pausing for a second, Chrysalis realised that what she was asked might be exactly what she was looking for. If the others were going to get ready before the train ride, then that would leave less guarding Legend at the time. Or, if things went truly her way, then only a hoofful might remain. And, while it would still be incredibly risky to attempt anything, at least it would be less than impossible if most – if not all – of the Bearers were not present.
Maybe, just maybe, she would be able to deal with the situation and overpower them if she only had a mother, her daughter, and two guards to factor into the equation. Of course one was the Captain of the Royal Guard, and the other looked like he could stop a tornado in its tracks just by simply standing, but…
And what if Legend doesn’t follow me, what then? Will I actually force her… Could I force her?
Exhaling at the obvious problem that now plagued her, the changeling was surprised to feel fingers slide into her mane, the curls being teased as the digits moved. Realising it was Legend trying to comfort her, Chrysalis allowed herself the luxury of a small smile, her eyes closing to enjoy the taste of the girl’s compassion.
No, she’s mine.
Emboldened by the show of affection, she followed the others as they made their way to the train station. Ignoring their conversation for the most part, she joined the others up on the boarding platform, careful to match Legend’s pace as the girl walked a little more slowly. This somewhat confused Chrysalis as the girl had walked faster when they were in the forest, but for now she simply put it down to the current location.
Once they were all grouped again, and the heavy sounds of metal-clad hooves signalled the guards had also stopped, Twilight smiled with the excitement clear on her face.
“Alright, so we’ll get the tickets, and then decide what we’ll do from there, sound good to everypony?” Looking about, a series of nods and affirmatives – both eager and reluctant – answered Twilight’s question. Applejack, however, moved to adjust the Stetson worn, her green eyes darting first to Legend and then to Dinky.
“Actually, y’all don’t mind if I stay out here an’ enjoy the sunshine fer a bit, it’s a lovely day an’ I’d hate ta waste it since we’ll all be on a train fer most of the day.”
Twilight looked to consider this for a second before nodding, smiling as she gestured with a hoof absently. “Oh, of course! Don’t worry, I’ll get your ticket Applejack it’ll be no problem at all.”
“Psh, that just means I get the window seat.” Rainbow Dash added with a grin, her forelegs folding over her chest in a smug manner.
“Ah, Dash… Y’know they’re all window seats. Right?” Applejack countered, her eyebrow raised as the pegasus in question snorted, the grin growing further along her muzzle.
“Well yeah, but I’m going to get the most awesome one.”
Is it too late for me to reconsider if they’re actually idiots or not?
Watching as Applejack sighed at her friend’s rebuttal, Chrysalis instead clicked her tongue, looking up at Legend who looked rather confused about the whole thing.
“I’ll stay out here with Legend, so she doesn’t feel uncomfortable in the small space.” Chrysalis said, Twilight again looking thoughtful before sharing a glance with Applejack. The exchange, while curious, didn’t seem overly suspect in its nature as the mare soon smiled and nodded.
“Alright, that makes sense. Okay, I’ll get your ticket as well ~Ebony~.” Pausing for a second, Twilight then flicked an ear, looking around to see if anyone else was going to wait outside. The guards when looked upon simply nodding in response that seemed to answer Twilight’s unasked question. A glance was then given to Dinky and Derpy, the former of which gazed up at her mother while a small pout came to her face.
“Okay, you can stay out here with your friend sweetie. But will you be okay when I go get you some juice from inside?” Even as her daughter gave a small sound of approval, Derpy looked somewhat reluctant to leave her daughter alone. Granted, after what happened in the forest, Chrysalis really couldn’t say she blamed the mother. Gazing at Applejack, the mare smiled reassuringly to the pegasus, seeming to alleviate the uncertainty on Derpy’s face.
But, Chrysalis was finding herself less interested in what the ponies were doing and instead on something she saw across the platform. For opposite where they stood was a train. A train, that given the steam and smoke starting to issue from the chimney at the front, looked like it was about to depart.
Unable to believe her luck, she watched as the others trotted inside thus leaving a scant few on the platform with her and Legend.
“Last call for Baltimare!”
You’ve got to be kidding me.
Flicking her ears, Chrysalis gazed at the stallion standing before the train, the cap and vest identifying him as perhaps the porter or maybe even the conductor. In the end it didn’t really matter though. Through the All-Mother herself, or through sheer good luck, the train was going in the exact direction she required, back to the town that the whole series of events had started in.
Glancing over her shoulder, she saw the others had already headed inside and in turn, left her alone with Legend aside from three ponies and a filly. Granted, two of those were definite threats to her plan, while one was a bearer and thus an unknown threat, but one was merely a filly. Plus, as she noticed, Dinky was currently conversing with Applejack while the two guards watched on, no-one really paying any attention her way.
It’s now or never.
Realising her window of opportunity was at best a hoofful of seconds, Chrysalis needed to get Legend and herself onto that train as soon as she could. Gazing up at Legend, she saw the girl’s attention was on the other four, watching them quietly from where she stood. Dipping into her nectar, she risked casting a subtle spell, one that would divert attention away from herself and Legend. It was neither strong, nor fool proof, but she hoped it would buy her the precious few seconds needed.
How do I get her to follow me without having the others notice wha-
Struck by inspiration, she moved her head to gently bite down on Legend’s skirt, remembering when she had done a similar thing after their escape from Flim and Flam. In response the girl looked down, her eyes looking confused down at her before Chrysalis indicated with her head for them to go to towards the train. Trotting across the platform, she was rewarded with the sound of Legend quickly following behind causing her to release a breath she never remembered holding.
As she approached the green-haired stallion, she saw him eye Legend with no small amount of surprise, his hat almost falling off as he took a step backwards. Before he could speak, however, Chrysalis dug into her nectar. Now was not the time for subtlety, and although it went against her usual practices, she knew she needed to get on that train before they were noticed missing. All it would take is someone actively searching for them for the spell to be rendered all but useless.
“You don’t need any tickets today, do you? You’re going to let Legend and I on.” With a powerful compulsion spell linked into her words, she watched as the stallion struggled briefly against the hidden command as his eyes glowed green for but an instant. Moving his hoof in an almost mechanical fashion, he gestured then for them to enter, Chrysalis quickly moving into the carriage while she sensed Legend was close behind.
“Enjoy your trip, miss.”
Hearing the comment from behind signifying that the spell had fully taken root, Chrysalis repressed a smirk at her own ingenuity. Leading the way further into the cabin she heard the whistle sound, and, with it, the rocking motion signalling the train was about to get underway. It seemed, against all the odds, she was about to do the impossible.
She had managed, with a stroke of incredible luck, to slip not only herself, but also Legend out from under the Bearers noses. Not only that, but she was on her way back to the hive, all without having to fight and with no-one the wi-
“S-Should we be on this train?”
Trying to hide how much the question had startled her, Chrysalis looked behind her to see a confused, yet inquisitive-looking Dinky.
Oh, of course it was too easy. Silly me.
Noticing that only the filly had followed them, she let go of the spell she had been about to release, one that would probably have caused significant harm to the little unicorn. Although she knew Dinky posed no real threat, she still desired not to be followed, especially if someone had seen the filly board the train as well.
“You shouldn’t be on the train, now quick, before it leaves.” Waving her hoof for emphasis, she found her balance almost thrown off as the train lurched, starting to move down the rails.
Realising that there was nothing for it now, Chrysalis released a sigh as the filly started to look distraught, obviously now noticing the train was moving, and thus, there was no way to disembark. It was unfortunate that one of them had followed, but given it was only the filly it would be easy enough to give her the slip once they reached Baltimare.
Gazing back at Legend, she saw her friend had moved to sit at a window seat, her eyes moving from looking outside to gazing back at both herself and Dinky.
I can’t believe that worked. I mean, other than the whole unwanted tagalong and all.
Relief filled Chrysalis as the tension began to bleed out of her body, the fact they were underway, that they had evaded the others; it was all just such a huge weight off her shoulders. Now all she had to do was get to Baltimare and somehow sneak Legend to the hive. Comparing that task to what she had just been through, well, unless there were any more unforeseen issues it was going to be relatively easy all things considered.
Of course, as the fates would have it, it was at that point that the cabin doors opened to reveal a rather irritated-looking Applejack. The mare’s nostrils flaring as she first looked at the upset-looking Dinky, then at the confused-looking Legend. Finally the eyes settled back onto Chrysalis, the mare’s brows lowering as she took a step forward.
“Just what’n the hay do you think yer doin’?”
Now knowing that she hadn’t gotten away quite as cleanly as she thought, Chrysalis caught movement outside the window, craning her neck to see the others running along the platform. Ignoring the range of expressions – from confusion, anger, and anguish – she noted that two were absent from the impromptu sprint, two very distinctive armour-clad stallions. Realising through a quick series of deductions that could only mean they were on the train with her, Chrysalis inwardly groaned at this revelation.
Tasting the anger directed her way from the Stetson wearing pony, Chrysalis glanced back at Legend for a moment prior to flicking an ear at the sound of metallic hoofsteps. Looking towards the clearly infuriated Applejack, Chrysalis realised that her trials were far from over. While in no way was the situation as dire as it was moments ago, she still knew the whole thing was far from perfect.
At the sight of Swift Dawn standing in the cabin doorway, one eyebrow raised in silent question, Chrysalis summed her thoughts up in the only way she knew how.