Winds of Change

by Masterweaver


Chapter 16: Apologies and Acceptance

Cold around her legs--

Cold around her horn--

Cold around her neck--

Cold around her mind--

The blue one opened the door, stepping into the cell quietly. "So. You're awake then."

Chrysalis remained almost motionless. Only her eyes rolled up in a quiet glower.

"...You should know that you're not going to be officially punished. Everything you've done, as horrifying as it was, was within the law of the theatre of war." Luna folded her legs under her. "Your swarm is being recognized as a nomadic nation, with the hive being the governing structure. And you're still the leader, on paper anyway, you're just indisposed..."

The changeling queen scoffed. "Is that what you call your prisoners? Indisposed? Unbalanced?"

Luna didn't acknowledge the jab. "...the hive... it's amazing, actually. A whole mental network, with memories of those long dead and the feelings of all those alive. A direct line to your subjects, an instant one on one read of their thoughts, a shared problem-solving engine... This has always been a theoretical possibility in mental magic, but to see it so readily accessible and... deeply entrenched in a society... I find myself in awe."

Chrysalis smiled, finally raising her head. "As well you should be. It is the epoch of all civilization, and a testament to the true power of intelligent races. Even a beast as impressively talented as you pales before the hive's magnificence."

Luna sighed. "Why do you think of me like that?"

"Why would I not? You build your glowing cities and leave your people to wander through the world blind to each other, unknowing and uncaring of whatever paltry mockery of a soul their brethren have... to even touch another mind is considered dark magic." The changeling scoffed, flicking her hooves together. "A dance of friendships and foes, of truth and lies, of love and hate, and nopony knows what lies beneath the ever shifting masks. The game is fun, yes, but failure makes outcasts of even the kindest of ponies. You call us deceivers, but we are more truthful with each other than you have ever been!"

"I will not argue that point," Luna commented dryly. "Ignorance landed me on the moon for a thousand years. Still, the fact remains that to establish a connection is to invite alteration--"

"And alteration should be avoided? Feh. Even you beasts change over your life, without ever truly seeing each other, and there are cases where it could be useful." Chrysalis leaned forward, narrowing her eyes. "The monster of Manehattan? The barking mare of Ponyville? The souls cycled through your asylums, trapped by delusions which could be oh so easily removed? And that's not to mention the more mundane deviants, the depressed and the anxious, the suicidal and the schizophrenic, those ponies who intake congealed chemicals simply to participate in your precious society." She tilted her head, a sly smile forming. "Why, you of all ponies should see how we could help. Were you in the hive, Nightmare Moon might never have been born."

Luna narrowed her eyes. "But where does the problem end and the pony begin? You could destroy a soul with your tinkering and leave only a smiling puppet--"

"Alone. Alone it would be evil. Even with a small group, there would be risk that the code of ethics would break. But the hive, the hive is thousands strong! Every objection can be heard throughout the whole population, the will of Right is selected not by the one but by the whole. The hive keeps me Moral, the hive keeps me in the Right!"

Chrysalis sagged. "And now... now I am disconnected. Now I have no idea what right and wrong are anymore. No voice to tell me. No... now I am evil, for there is no way to see what is good." She shut her eyes and let her head rest on the ground. "Now I am a mindless beast."

The two monarchs sat silently in the cell.

"...We have declared a cease fire."

Chrysalis flicked an ear. "Does that matter?"

"No pony will be allowed to harm a changeling, and no changeling will be allowed to harm a pony. There is also a formal decloration of peace between our nations. You sign a paper and agree to a few rules and... I will reconnect you to your Hive."

That earned her a confused look from the prisoner. "What...? Why would you do such a thing?"

The blue alicorn stood, looking at the jail cell door.

"...Tell me, Chrysalis... How many ponies have willingly connected to the hive?"

"I...." The changeling queen tried to remember, but her reaching thoughts extended past her own recollections and into blankness. "I never chose to remember that. I do not know. I cannot know."

"Then let me tell you what the hive tells me. Throughout all the histories of your dead, not one pony chose to join. All were subjugated, all pulled in and locked away for their memories... except for me."

"You came in as a conquerer--!"

"I will not deny it. But to reign requires some understanding. Your hive... It is not good, as you think, but neither is it evil as I suspected. It simply is. Perhaps... perhaps allowing ponies to join if they wish would help us."

Chrysalis blinked, staring at the alicorn incredulously. "You... When I tried to force you to see reason you were too stubborn to even join, but now that you have torn me from the true way you have the gall to decide, all of the sudden, that we could possibly submit our hive to you beasts?!"

"A choice," Luna clarified. "No pony would rule the hive, no changeling would force them in. I am handling all your duties, but only as a regent. I make no declarations--save for the cease fire--and I will step down when the time comes."

"I suppose I have little choice," Chrysalis muttered dryly. "Peace at the terms of a beast... how could we have fallen this far?"

Luna rolled her eyes. "There is a saying about pride you might need to take to heart. But that can wait." She lit up her horn, opening the cell door and levitating a small stack of papers in, alongside a quill. "You'll want to read through before you sign, of course."

Chrysalis gave her a long, flat look.

"...Ah, yes, the restraining ring..." Luna chuckled awkwardly, letting her magic drift over the changeling's horn. "It goes without saying that if you try to use any magic against me I will put this back on."

"And yet you felt the need to say it."

"Mmm."

A few experimental flickers whispered across the crooked shaft before Chrysalis gave a satisfied nod. The stack of papers were wreathed in green and rose to a level where she could read it comfortably. Her eyes flicked left and right as she turned page after page....

"...the formation of a hive for refugee changelings?" Chrysalis gave Luna a glower. "The reparations I can understand, but you don't have a spare Queen to run a new Hive!"

Luna gave a cryptic little grin. "Oh.... we have our ways."

***

"Rainbow Dash, that's your cue!"

The blue pegasus blinked for a moment. Then she grinned, shooting off into the sky at high speeds. Within moments the magic in the Equestrian atmosphere had built up around a cone of fast moving air particles; soon enough it exploded from the pressure of a mach cone, spreading out in a radial glow of spectral energy.

"Best! Wedding! Ever!"

Rainbow giggled to herself as she flicked her wings, zooming downward for a landing. Some rainbow energy still trailed from her tail, leaving a path from the sky to the ground. She whisked quickly for the small changing room reserved for her, where Rarity was already waiting with a sly smile. "That eager to dress in style, are we?"

"Haha, Rares. Just get me suited up and ready to go, kay?"

The unicorn shook her head, slipping the garb over the pegasus with a small grin. "Very well, Rainbow." She pulled the hemskirt over the three candy wrappers on Dash's flank. "And... done! You two should be good to go!"

"Shh shh shh! It's a secret!" Rainbow's eyes darted left and right. "Don't want to start a panic or anything!"

"Oh, of course." Rarity rolled her eyes, holding out a hoof. "Shall we?"

"Sure, why not?" The pegasus gave her a broad grin, taking the proffered hoof as they stepped out into the gardens to join the wedding reception.

A small crowd of nobles had gathered around the courtyard, still glancing at some strangers and each other with nervous suspicion. The two newcomers gave them a look and skirted around the edge, avoiding the more hostile looking ponies until they found a cluster of familiar faces.

"...didn't make any mistake! Hello Rarity and Rainbow Dash." Pinkie waved at them briefly before turning back to Applejack. "I mean, we were the ones that didn't believe her about Cadance! We should be the ones saying sorry!"

"See, tha thing is we did make that mistake. It was a big mistake. It was tha worst thing we could have done, but Twilight thinks she made mistakes of her own." Applejack sighed. "And until she gets forgiven fer those, she's not going ta feel fully comfortable about how tha situation turned out."

"But-but-but she saved the day! She did the right thing and--Rainbow Dash, tell her! We were the big meanies here!"

"Yeah, AJ, I've gotta agree with Pinks." Rainbow shrugged. "Honestly, I don't see why Twilight would feel bad about this at all."

"If she was completely reasonable bout this you would be right, but apparently she--!" Applejack glanced around a bit before leaning in. "She tried to kill Cadance in those crystal caves. And right before that she had her first real fight with her brother--"

"But that was all because of Chrysalis!" Rainbow pointed out. "If she hadn't acted the way she had--"

"Rainbow, what Applejack is saying is that Twilgiht is too close to be objective." Rarity sighed. "We all know she was doing the right thing but she just can't see it--"

"Enough!"

The other four ponies turned to stare at the stern frown on Fluttershy's face.

"Mistakes were made, regrets exist. It doesn't matter who made what mistakes or who deserves forgiveness, what matters is how we move on. So here is what we are going to do: We will apologize to Twilight, and we will accept any apology she feels she needs to make. Are we clear?"

"...ysm'm..."

"Good! Now if you will excuse me, I think I need more punch." The yellow pegasus spun on one hoof and marched off to the buffet table, her hoofsteps as audible as a normal pony's.

Pinkie let out a low whistle. "And I haven't even spiked it yet..."

"Pinkimena Diane Pie!" Rarity looked at her, aghast.  "Were you seriously going to spike the punch at a royal wedding?"

"It's tradition!"

"No it isn't!"

"It's happened at every wedding I've ever been to! All fifteen of them!"

"How in the world did you get invited to fifteen weddings?!"

"Actually I was only invited to four."

"You crashed eleven weddings?!"

"I did no such thing! I just wandered in, there was no crashing involved!"

"Do these two always argue?" Lyra asked.

"Well, when it comes to parties they have two different when the hay did you get here?!" Rainbow Dash boggled at the grinning unicorn.

"Oh, you know, I was just around." She leaned in toward Dash. "Oh, by the way, I want Bonbon back before the night is out."

"Well, yeah, I mean I wouldn't just--"

"Rephrase. I want Bonbon in my bedroom before the night is out."

Dash blushed deeply. "Ah, um... she says she can, uh, arrange that. Can we, you know, talk about how this timeshare deal will work later though? I don't want to be unconscious in a cocoon for the next few weeks."

"Aren't you unconscious in a cocoon right now?"

"No, I'm semiconscious in a cocoon and fully conscious in a borrowed body. There's a difference--why are we even talking about this, we can't let anyone know about--" Rainbow waved vaguely. "Look, let's just--"

"Oh my gosh here they come!" Pinkie jumped up and started waving. "TWILIGHT! CADANCE! SHINING! SPIKE! WE'RE OVER HERE!"

"Pinkie, it's tradition for the wedding entourage to descend in a regal and orderly manner, they're not going to wave back aaaaaand they're waving back." Rarity facehooved. "Well, I guess some traditions die out after all."

"Rarity, you're not looking at the big picture here." Rainbow wrapped a foreleg around her shoulders. "The way I see it... this whole wedding is a reaffirmation of, you know, life. Change will happen. One day could be amazing, and the next you could..." she shrugged. "I dunno, find your whole life was a lie. But what happens doesn't matter. It's who it happens to. Who you're with. This wedding, it's a way to show these two will be with each other for the rest of their days, and a reminder to the rest of us that it's a good idea to, you know, hang out."

She paused and looked around. Fluttershy had returned from the punch bowl, smiling gently at her. Applejack was nodding along with her words. Pinkie had developed a large, teary grin. Even Rarity was listening to her words, a sympathetic smile on her face.

"...Uh, so yeah. That. I'm just being sappy cause it's a wedding, is all. Oh look, Cadance and Shining Armor are dancing!"

"Neat! I'm going to go check out that buffet table." Lyra trotted away. "See you all back in Ponyville!"