Ch.22 “Tricks up my Sleeve”
Morning came too soon. The sun teased the edge of the horizon with it’s predawn light, which let the queen know it was time to get up.
Buried in her usual cluster of pillows, Chrysalis made an irritated and grumbly scene as she rose from the bed. She kicked off a number of the plush pillows, and stretched out. He long wings buzzed, they were now round, as they had healed from their torn and gnawed appearance. Clean living space, and access to all the love she needed did a fine job of shaping her form.
She fluttered off the bed and through the castle, until she reached her usual spot at the Solar Tower. She cast a spell which she was now used to, and the blaze of the sun broke the horizon to begin another day.
Harlequin eyes roamed over the Equestrian landscape, and the same sight that bothered her last night was still there this morning. What appeared to be a large upside down fishbowl sat over the little town of Ponyville. The royal changeling cocked one of her eyebrows, she could have sworn she had a vanguard or two stationed there, and she wondered why no changeling had notified her yet.
She had vanguard stationed in nearly every city throughout Equestria, and other places beyond. Information was typically filtered through Shade first, as he was the head of that division of the swarm. Then important matters could be passed along to herself.
A hoof was brought to her temple, and she slowly rubbed it. Was Shade too busy to pay attention because of his punishment? There was a long annoyed exhale from her large lungs, and a mental message flashed out towards Shade.
“Any news I should be aware of this morning?”
The message didn’t have to go that far, and she could feel it reach the intended recipient. The response that came back was sluggish, and showed a poor level of alertness.
“Huh? hu… um… clean, all clean, but more clea… -SNORE-”
Her skull rattled slightly from the end of the response. Chrysalis could almost feel the snore from the vanguard, and it made her snout itch. The hoof that rubbed her temple went to her muzzle, and rubbed that instead. Sometimes sensations could be passed along with the mental messages, and this was something the queen did not care for at the moment.
The force she sent that message with should shock him to a better sense of alertness, in fact it was probably forceful enough that nearby changelings would have noticed it.
There was a loud shout of surprise somewhere in Canterlot. Though it was distant from the castle, and barely enough for Chrysalis to notice it, but notice it she did. The reaction brought a slight smile to the queen’s otherwise foggy morning expression, and she lowered her hoof from her muzzle back to the balcony floor.
“Yes! My queen, you have need of something? I’m sorry, but what was it you said earlier?”
Shade’s tone had shifted back to his alert and focused manner, though Chrysalis could tell he was under a great deal of stress to maintain wakefulness.
“You have permission to sleep Shade, though if you can’t clean every vanguard here within a week, I will give you an extension. I need my head vanguard to be alert, and able to maintain his station…”
“Forgive me, I should have asked.”
“Now, my earlier inquiry was if any vanguard had something of interest to report, particularly the vanguard stationed in Ponyville.”
There was quiet in the mental sphere of things for a moment, as Shade busily reached out to other vanguards for information. Even though Chrysalis could mentally communicate with the swarm, as a royal changeling, it was more efficient to use her divisional leaders, who could reach further with more clarity.
Chrysalis crossed her front hooves over the edge of the railing, as she leaned forward and gazed out over Equestria. She could see the distant and miraculous city of Cloudsdale, as it floated in it’s heavenly glory, with rainbows that poured off of it in falls. There were also ranges of green pastures and fields, many of which were tilled for the farms that fed Equestria. The Whitetail Woods and Everfree Forest spread out like a dark green sea of vegetation into the horizon.
The royal changeling inhaled a deep breath of the crisp mountain air. This certainly was a beautiful land to conquer. Naturally more lush than the dry Zebra Lands to the south, and definitely more peaceful than the rancorous nations on the eastern continents.
Of course the ponies wouldn’t make the job easy, settling any territory for open changeling habitation hadn’t been done before with any extended success, especially on this scale. The scope of the challenge in front of the queen was massive, and it only invigorated her.
She had accomplished a few things she already thought she couldn’t do. To defeat the immortal Princess Celestia… something that changelings of the past wouldn’t have thought possible, the princess was somepony leaders of other nations hadn’t dared to challenge. Her mull of thoughts stopped when Shade finally answered her with something sensible.
“Three of our vanguards are trapped in Ponyville my queen. There was quite a scene they witnessed.”
“Well, what has happened.”
“Apparently some crazy show unicorn has appeared in town. Her magic has proved much stronger than anypony can handle. Just the other day she threw out… Twilight Sparkle? Wait a moment queen, I need to confirm something.”
Twilight! So that’s where Sombra released them… But why so close? Surely he knows I can just capture them again. This matter was of slight befuddlement to Chrysalis, what did the Crystal King have planned? If he planned to discredit her to other ponies, then she could see an opportunity here. Perhaps she could save the town from this “crazy show pony” and earn their favor like she had the Crystal Empire.
Her fanged mouth cracked into a grin, no pony would prove as difficult to defeat as Celestia or Sombra. Whoever this “show pony” was would just be another road bump.
“My queen, all of the element bearers are in Ponyville. It was indeed Twilight Sparkle that was thrown out towards the Everfree Forest yesterday, the other element bearers are trapped inside that magical barrier.”
Chrysalis hummed over how to approach the situation. She could of course just show up with her army, and blast that shield apart. It appeared to be smaller and weaker than the shield Shining armor had conjured. This would likely terrify the ponies within Ponyville though, and she had a few options, she could try something more subtle.
“What do you want to do my queen?”
Shade’s request interrupted the plans that developed in her mind. She shook her head slightly so she could refocus.
“You Shade, will find a place to sleep. I will handle this, but send a few of your vanguards over to me first.”
“Right away my queen.”
With that Chrysalis jumped over the edge of the balcony and took flight over the city. She left a slight trail of green magic in the air, and her horn glowed. The double iris eyes on her face flashed green, and sent out a signal to nearby changelings.
Within moments the buzz of changeling wings approached the queen. Dozens of drones and sentinels climbed the sky in her direction. As the royal changeling waited, several vanguards eventually joined the group, and there were over a hundred of them that hovered in the misty morning fog.
Chrysalis looked over the small part of the swarm that had gathered there. A few rubbed their eyes and yawned, but most were alert, and waited for her next orders with a degree of anticipation. Another flash of magic addressed them mentally.
“Today, we take over Ponyville. All of you know to follow my orders strictly, I want to treat this matter with some delicacy. We will land near the Everfree Forest, and continue from there.”
There was a general hiss of acknowledgement that went through the crowd, and the queen turned to leave. She was well fed at the moment, almost as good as when she first fought Sombra. All the changelings that now followed her were better fed than any group than any she had led before. She could feel the strength that permeated from them.
Holes had almost closed in their legs, and many had developed short manes along their neck fins. The sentinels’ manes varied from yellow, orange, and red colors, while the vanguard varied between purple and green. The drones had various shades of blue amongst their short sprouts of hair. Such were the effects of being in a city with more resources than they ever had access to.
The queen opened a fiery green portal directly above the gathering, and she indicated towards it with a hoof. A noisy buzz of wings approached the portal, and things got quieter as changelings disappeared into it’s abyssal center.
Chrysalis looked down towards the Everfree Forest, she already had a spot in mind that she wanted to exit at. It would be well out of the sight of any ponies that roamed in Ponyville, and would be more discrete than just flying over there.
Once the last changeling of the group entered the portal, she turned towards it herself, and entered. The fiery rift closed as she also disappeared.
A lone timber wolf pawed at the entrance of a rabbit den. It had just chased the small furry creature in there, and now clawed at the entrance with great frustration. The prey’s small size was the very reason the large dominant predator had lost its quarry.
When the timber wolf realized it wouldn’t get through the den anytime soon, it decided to sit there and wait patiently. The magical wooden creature could outlast the rabbit, and when it’s prey was desperate for food or water, the wolf would catch the rabbit then.
At least that was the predator’s plan until a burst of fiery green energy erupted in the middle of the forest. Nearby birds scattered and flew away. A myriad of rodents, and other critters ran in every direction, as they fled from the frightful flash.
The lone wolf also sprang up in surprise, but didn’t flee immediately, it instead growled at the interruption to its hunt. The anger the wolf displayed was quickly forgotten as dozens of changelings poured out from the portal.
As the swarm flew out and filled the immediate area, the wolf knew it didn’t want to be around anymore, numbers were clearly not in it’s favor. Even as the wooden predator turned to run a Sentinel crashed into it, which caused the wolf to promptly explode into hundreds of pieces.
The sentinel stood tall over the remains, and peered around the rest of the forest with his red-rimmed eyes. Once he was satisfied that the immediate area was clear, he signaled that it was so with a click of his tongue.
A confident smile crossed his muzzle, perhaps he could impress the queen on this particular venture, and secure the position of head sentinel for himself. Carve glanced back at the dimensional rift.
When the queen came through, the portal closed, and most of the changelings turned to face her, while the sentinels of the group attentively watched the forest for any signs of danger.
Chrysalis fluttered her wings and spoke to the group mentally. She looked towards Ponyville at the same time, and could see it faintly through the space in between the trees.
“Drones you will burrow underneath the town and wait to emerge at my signal, Sentinels you will follow them, and so will the vanguard. I will approach the town in disguise and discern the situation.”
Green fire circled about Chrysalis’s form, and she shifted into a giant chocolate colored unicorn with blonde mane. The guise of Enigma Maze stood amongst the hundred or so changelings. With a stomp of her hoof the orders were immediately followed.
The drones flashed green magic about their hooves, which prepared them to burrow rapidly through the earth. Dirt started to fly every direction as tunnels were quickly made. Sentinels and vanguard hopped in once the tunnels were deep enough.
The forest grove was now empty, except for Chrysalis. She walked out of the forest and towards the small town. The enormous magical barrier covered the town proper, but left most of the countryside free. With another smaller portal she covered the ground between the edge of the forest and the barrier outside of town in a moment.
Now directly outside of the barrier she looked up through its transparent surface. There were dark storm clouds that swirled ominously, and stayed contained within the magical barrier. She put a hoof down near the edge, and started to swipe away the dirt. In a few moments she created a small hole that went underneath the enormous fishbowl and lifted her hoof on the other side.
She pulled it back and laughed. The surface of the giant dome was reflective like glass, and she shook her head. What a sloppy method of containment… It would be fun to put this unicorn in her place. Even as she brought herself to an upright position she could sense her changelings as they burrowed underneath the town, this barrier would give them no resistance when it was time to emerge.
The disguised queen stood to her full height, and rolled her neck about to crack it a few times. She stretched out her legs, and then lazily tapped on the clear wall in front of her.
There was a ripple of transparent energy as her hoof tapped the surface, and the waves expanded until she could see them no more. Chrysalis hummed to herself, this was interesting. It appeared all one needed to do was tap the barrier to set off some kind of alarm.
Chrysalis blinked the hazel eyes of her disguise, and waited patiently for a reaction. If this barrier did have an alarm she should see who guarded this place shortly…
As it would be, the response came, but not quickly. By the time a wheel-less chariot ground it’s way towards the barrier, the queen already tapped one hoof impatiently. She raised an eyebrow at the sight that now greeted her on the other side of the barrier.
A blue unicorn mare sat on a finely sculpted chariot of wood, which had no wheels… It was dragged by two smaller unicorn colts, who suffered from great strain as they pulled the terribly inefficient contraption. A red magical aura lifted a whip and cracked it viciously over the heads of the two servant ponies, and the block of wood was dragged slightly faster.
The disguised changeling raised a hoof to her mouth, and snorted. It was quite an amusing sight, and she may have indulged in a good bout of laughter, but she had business to do here. In the battle between the irritation of being dragged down here, and amusement at the pitiable scene, irritation won.
She lowered her hoof, and stared at this blue unicorn with a contemptuous frown. Even though the malevolent blue unicorn sat on the elevated surface of a chariot, the disguise of Enigma Maze could still look down on her.
The purple eyes of the chariot master widened a little when she saw who it was that tapped on the barrier. This mysterious newcomer had a green question mark for a cutie mark… That was not nearly as surprising as her size though. The show unicorn had never seen a pony of that size before, except for Celestia, maybe...
With a glaze of red magic, the whip was set on a holster in the chariot and the sky colored unicorn jumped off the obnoxiously built contraption. Her purple eyes flared red and so did the dark amulet she wore about her neck, a mask of irritation decorated her face.
“You dare to set off The Great and Powerful Trixie’s alarm! Such actions are worthy of punishment. Tell Trixie your name trespasser.”
A loud snort came from the disguised changeling queen, the absurdity off this unicorn was almost too much. She referred to herself in third pony? Did she think she was royalty?
“You have attracted the attention of the crown… Trixie. What makes you think you can simply take ownership of this town?”
“The crown? You are not the princess! Trixie will do what pleases here, and making these ponies pay for their previous disrespect pleases her. Making you pay for your disturbance will please Trixie as well. You still haven’t told Trixie your name, you tall gangly pony. She will know so she can mock you properly, before Trixie turns you into something more unsightly than you already are.”
“Enigma Maze, I am a personal assistant to the queen, which you are foolishly disregarding. Now will you lift your barrier, or are you going to make me break it.”
“Break it? HA! Trixie also knows there is no queen in Equestria, she will enjoy your punishment most thoroughly.”
With that the gigantic fishbowl popped, and disappeared like soapy bubble. The chocolate colored unicorn ignited her horn in a wreath of green energies, and she stomped forward. Trixie’s eyes and horn flashed crimson and she stepped forward to meet the challenger halfway.
A hungry smirk danced on Trixie’s lips, while Enigma had a superior and condescending frown.
The two young unicorn colts attached to Trixie’s chariot looked at each other, then at the two bristled unicorn mares. The tall yellow gangly one spoke in a dorky voice, and raised both eyebrows in fear.
“This isn’t going to end pretty Snips.”
The short grey one commented with the voice of a dweeb, and his four knees shook nervously
“Snails we need to get out of here.”