Ch.11 “Changeling Empire”
“By the old gods! Stairs! Why did it have to be stairs!”
To get to the living floor of the crystal palace required ascension up a large winding staircase. Chrysalis had given more love energy than she realized, and didn’t have the energy to buzz her wings, much less fly. So she had started a long, slow, and painful climb up the stairs.
Meanwhile somewhere at an unknown, location, Sombra suddenly burst out laughing for a moment before stopping, a confused look on his face. “Huh, that was odd, and yet felt strangely cathartic.” With a shrug he continued.
By the time she realized she may not even have the energy to hoof it all the way up, the look back down was just as discouraging. Either way she felt like an equine that treaded into deep water.
The whole palace stood upon 4 large arches, each with a doorway, and a set of spiral stairs. It hadn’t looked that bad when she first walked in, but now…
“Curse you Sombra! Or whoever designed this horrid piece of architecture!”
She stopped her climb and laid across several steps, and panted. The queen double checked her thoughts, she really should have just stayed in one of the local houses. The crystal ponies wouldn’t deny her after, she was their savior. Atleast that’s what she would have them think. No, it was her own insistence that got her stuck here; she wanted a royal bed to sleep on. After she took Celestia’s bed, something common wouldn’t do... Confounded pride.
The queen moaned as she tried to summon the will to rise to her hooves again. The only thing remotely dignified about this situation was that no changeling or pony was here to see her.
The clop of hooves heralded another pony or changeling, that was about to see her.
Her eyes shot wide open, and the struggle to get to her hooves quickened, lest she be caught in such an undignified state. She barely managed to stand by the time the newcomer rounded up the next set of steps. It was Vivisect.
“My queen, we started looking for you. I had Sentinels ascend the other staircases and living quarters, but they had not found you.”
“I was just admiring what’s mine, Vivisect.”
To emphasize her point she ran a hoof over the transparent crystal wall. It took massive effort not to let her fatigue overwhelm her. The head sentinel blinked, and nodded slowly.
“There are a few sentinels stationed outside the resting quarters. Do you require any additional service my queen.”
Chrysalis brought the hoof that traced along the wall up to her chin, and she rested her head on it. She decided to concede, a little.
“Yes, give me some of your love reserves. What I saw Sombra give you should be enough to live on for weeks. I did just deplete myself after all.”
“I didn’t feed on any of that!”
Vivisect’s gaze shot to the ground, and she stomped a hoof violently. The large sentinel had flinched at the queen’s mere mention of Sombra. Chrysalis raised herself to her full imposing height, that fact she was a few steps up added to the effect. She glared down at her lead sentinel after the outburst.
“Don’t give me insolence Vivisect! Give me what I asked for and be off.”
The order was promptly followed. The sentinel exhaled, releasing a wave of transparent distortion which the queen was quick to inhale. Once it was complete Vivisect took a swift turn down the stairs, and was out of sight in a moment.
Chrysalis flexed her legs, and they felt considerably better, though far from 100%. She turned once more to ascend the stairs, but before she did so she looked back to where her sentinel had been. The queen’s head tilted, while she thought in hindsight. Vivisect never snapped around her before, the unflinching sentinel had flinched. Did Sombra really bother her that much? Chrysalis just chuckled.
It was not strange for vanguard infiltrators to get accustomed to the mannerism of ponies. The queen had dabbled in the work of infiltration herself a few times before the royal wedding, but she still was lacking in a variety of skills. For a warrior like Vivisect, who never had to bother with much outside of combat and guarding, ponies and their affections were something alien to her.
Large insect wings fluttered, with the queen didn’t bother to walk the rest of the way up the staircase, having had more than enough of the accursed things.When she entered the massive main hall she found a few sentinels posted at the entrance stood . Strangely there were also a few crystal ponies that were moving about, most of them just looked confused.
When the crystal equines saw Chrysalis enter the grand hall their eyes brightened. Most of them trotted forward and lowered themselves into a bow.
“Hail the queen who has saved us! We saw your victory from the balcony!”
“Yes, yes, now where is the bedchamber? Beating your old king and his crystal slobber was most exhausting. I assume you are all palace servants?”
Each of the ponies exchanged confused looks. One or two of them had cleaning supplies, and another was dressed like a butler, with a big moustache. Yet more dressed like maids, chefs, etc.
The butler stepped forward in an apologetic posture. His head lowered and one hoof was raised bottom up.
“I’m afraid none of us remember what we were doing here exactly. Most of us can only recall flashes of the cruelty Sombra inflicted upon us, which we would rather not remember.”
Chrysalis groaned and rubbed a hoof in circles on the side of her head.
“You look like a butler. Go stand by the door and tell anypony that comes by I am resting.”
“I suppose that would make sense. I will go do that, your highness.”
“Good, now for you other ponies, you two look like chefs, go find the kitchens and cook something, I don’t care what it is.”
The two chef looking ponies hesitated for a second, before they got up from their bow and trotted around the palace.
“You look like a maid, go clean something.”
The maid went and cleaned something.
“I can’t tell what you’re supposed to be, go find something productive to do.”
It was an old pale gray mare, with pale lavender mane and tail tied up in buns with short rope. She had a piece of parchment for a cutie mark.
“I don’t know what there is to do around here?!”
The older mare had a hint of panic in her voice, the assignment for the others seemed so easy. However, she couldn’t remember a thing, and she was old! Maybe it was because she was old, no all the other ponies had the same problem.
“Is there a library in this empire?”
The queen had a dry dull tone.
“Library? Hmm, library! Yes, atleast, I think there is.”
“Go there and read then, all this amnesia is bothersome, you can help the ponies remember themselves. Mark anything particularly useful that you find, and report it to one of the vanguard.”
“Um, vanguard your majesty?”
The giant changeling had to keep from smashing her still throbbing skull against the crystal walls Yes it was great to be in charge, but at the same time it was very annoying, especially when so many of her subjects had amnesia. The queen’s horn ignited and she shot out a brief mental command.
“I need one drone, one vanguard, and one sentinel.”
The command was heralded and within a minute three changelings buzzed into the hall. Each landed close by the queen and stood alert. Chrysalis pointed at the largest of the three, who had an extra large frill, and bulked up chitin.
“That one is a sentinel.”
Next she indicated a tall changeling, it was slightly taller than the average pony, and sported lots of a grey freckles. It's frill and wing décor were moderate, not quite as intimidating as the sentinel’s.
“That one is a vanguard.”
The last one she pointed at was the shortest, and slightly shorter than the average pony. It’s chitin was thin, and it’s frill and wings were small.
“And that is a drone.”
With the three specimens before her the old mare straightened her glasses. She looked at each of them with interest, the visual indicators made them distinguishable enough. The queen continued her instruction.
“Now all three of you, escort this mare… what was your name?”
“Amethyst Maresbury, if I remember correctly.”
“Very well, make sure Amethyst doesn’t hurt herself. Fetch things for her. And you, vanguard, have you learned to read?”
“Yes my queen.”
“Then help her scour books for information. Am I clearly understood by all of you?”
Chrysalis turned tail and went off in search of the rooms. Since none of the supposed servants knew their way around here anymore she would have to find it herself. She was tired of both being asked, and asking questions. Despite the love Vivisect had given her, she was still physically exhausted.
The first door she came across, which looked interesting enough to open, turned out to be a dining hall, resulting in a groan from the queen. Crystal table, crystal chairs, crystal plates, crystal-silver ware, little crystal chandeliers, crystal floor, ceiling, walls, windows, even the tablecloth was some kind of woven crystal! It actually hurt to look at so much reflective stone. She mentally noted to visit this empire rarely, unless she felt like shrinking the pupils of her eyes into oblivion.
The next somewhat interesting door was large and made out of black iron. It was the first non crystaly thing she had seen in the palace, besides members of her own swarm,so she couldn’t resist opening it. It may have been a better idea to keep it closed...
The door had 5 sets of locks, that were all on the outside, facing the hall, for some reason… She quickly undid the locks, and made a loud clang with each. Once the last one was done the door swung inward. It was dark on the other side of the door, and she narrowed her eyes to peer into the gloom.
Many sets of yellow eyes with red pupils peered back at her, there were loud barks and yips that came from the darkness, and whatever the multitude of eyes were attached to surged forward.
“What the… Gaw! Oomf!”
Half a dozen three-headed black bulldog monsters the size of bears bounded out of their cage with oversized floppy paws.The little horde quickly overwhelmed the surprised queen, and bowled her over. Chrysalis couldn’t distinguish what was going on as she was assaulted by 18 wet noses, and got licked by 18 slimy tongues. To stop the madness of puppy play the queen lit up the hall with green magic.
Each of the over sized canines was suspended in the air by Chrysalis’s telekinetic grip. Every inch of her shiny chitinous skin was covered in excessive amounts of puppy drool, as well as her mane, which was now drenched.. It was so bad, she had to move the sticky hair in her face to the side. The eyes behind the slimy mane were not amused.
“Grr… What does a shadow king have to do with such dogs!”
Some of the puppies whined as they were levitated back into their cage, room, thing, whatever. The giant changeling made sure to reattach the locks back quickly. The only consolation for that event was she now had a deplorable position to assign some changeling, or pony. Her saliva covered face managed to crack a grin at the thought of forcing somepony to be their caretaker. They could have fun being suffocated by that mess for all she cared. Maybe that’s what Sombra did with them… or maybe he planned to make somepony their chew toy when they were grown.
More tired than ever, Chrysalis wasn’t willing to check more than the next door.
“This room better have a bed in it!”
Behind the next crystal door was a bathroom. Not even a royal sized one.
She just wasn’t willing to fight anymore. So Chrysalis pulled the towels off their racks and threw them on the floor. She curled up on the carpet, with her makeshift towel comforters, and was about to pass out.
“MY QUEEN, URGENT, CANTERLOT!”
The mental signature of Colony basically screamed at her. The sudden mental flash caused Chrysalis to jump. Her rapid motion caused her to impale one of the cabinet doors with her horn. It was wooden, for some reason, and her chitinous horn dug right through it. It locked over one of her jagged curves.
She tried to yank it out with some frustration, but after two failed attempts she took the sensible approach, and blew it up. The bathroom was now covered in wooden chips and splinters.
“WHAT IS IT?!”
She had the mental courtesy to shout back.
Colony couldn’t get much more specific as the distance greatly weakened the details this kind of swarm communication could give. Chrysalis couldn’t physically respond now, even if she wanted to, her exhaustion was too great. The fight with Sombra had consumed almost every bit of energy she brought with her.
“Maintain control I’ll respond back soon…”
Was the final exchange between the two changelings. Colony would have to deal with whatever was going on in Canterlot, for at least a day. Then she could grace that city with her leadership, again.