“Okay, is everyone here?” asked Twilight eagerly, looking around her throne room.
Her friends, from their own seats around the map, gave various hoof gestures, grunts, and cheerful greetings to indicate their presence. Even Spike, from his seat next to her, took a moment away from reading his comic book to idly wave some claws at her.
“Good! So, I've been thinking over our activities for today, and I thought... that we could spend all day with you showing me how much you love me!”
Groans came from her friends, and Twilight's face fell. “Don't you love me?” she asked, disappointed.
“Oh, Twilight, of course we do!” said Fluttershy, going so far as to get up from her seat and give Twilight a hug with one wing.
“Aww, thank you, Fluttershy,” said Twilight, wrapping a wing around her in return. “But then why don't any of you want to demonstrate it?”
“Um...” Fluttershy had tried to move away from the hug, but Twilight's wing held her firmly in place. With a resigned sigh, she sat down on the floor next to Twilight's throne.
“We don't mind, darling, it's just, well...” Rarity looked upwards, waving a hoof in circles in the air as she tried to think of a tactful way to express her feelings.
Rainbow Dash, of course, had no such hesitations. “It seems like that's all we've done lately!” she cried out indignantly. “I mean, it's not a bad thing, but it got boring after like the zillionth time!”
“Yes, thank you, Rainbow Dash,” said Rarity dryly.
“She's tellin' the truth, Twi,” said Applejack. “Y'all have been a tad needy lately.”
“My hooves are all out of hugs!” cried Pinkie Pie, twisting her body back and forth and making her forelegs flop bonelessly in every direction. “And they had a lot of hugs in them!”
“Oh... I see.” Twilight's ears folded back against her head and she slumped down. Taking advantage of the sudden slackness, Fluttershy escaped and ran back to the safety of her own seat. “I-If that's the way you all feel, then I won't bother you anymore. You can go do whatever other things you had planned, and I'll stay here... alone... unloved...”
More groans came from the assembled ponies.
“Aw geeze, look at her,” complained Rainbow Dash. “Like a puppy that kicked another puppy, and that puppy turned out to be its best friend.”
“I've never seen her look so sad...” said Fluttershy in a trembling voice.
“Except when she did this yesterday. And the day before that, and before that...” pointed out Applejack, then sighed. “Though she does look more down in the dumps than an apple tree in a pear orchard.”
“The poor dear,” said Rarity, a pout on her face. “I suppose... if she's that bad off...”
“It's okay Twilight, my hooves just grew a million more hugs!” cried out Pinkie Pie, leaning forward on the table with her forelegs outstretched and lower lip trembling.
“You really mean it?” asked Twilight, and all her friends voiced their agreement, perking her back up. “Oh, thank you all so much! You have know idea what it means to me to know I'm so loved...”
“Alright, that's enough,” said Twilight, pushing open the throne room door and walking in.
Her friends sat stunned, unable to do anything but gape at the second Twilight who had suddenly entered. The first Twilight, though, looked even worse off–she was on the verge of pure panic as the second Twilight made her way around the table, frozen in place, her body trembling slightly.
“I...I...” The first Twilight jumped out of her throne, bowing down low to the ground. “My Queen, I'm sorry–“
“It's okay, K85-348IL,” said Twilight gently, giving her copy a pat on the head. “You did good. Thanks for taking care of everything here for me.”
“It was my honor, your majesty.” Bowing again, the changeling dropped his disguise and moved backwards, to sit behind the throne.
Sitting down, Twilight looked around the table, smiling widely. “Hello, girls! It's great to see you all again–“
“Hold it right there, Queen Doppelpopolis!” cried Pinkie. “We're not falling for your tricks this time, no matter how clever they might be!”
“Ignoring Pinkie's opinion of your plan, how exactly did y'all expect to fool us by just walking in here all out in the open like this?” asked Applejack, eyes narrowed. “I can see the changeling standing behind you!” K85-348IL smiled and waved.
“What? Oh, no, this is really me right now–“ Twilight tried to say.
“Please,” sneered Rarity. “We just heard him call you his Queen, too! Really, are you even trying anymore?”
“It's about time you changelings came back!” cried Rainbow Dash enthusiastically. Flexing her wings, she slammed her hooves onto the table and looked around. “Alright, where's the rest of them? I hope you brought a few dozen again, I want a real rematch!”
“Um, please, d-don't attack us,” said Fluttershy meekly. “I don't want to have to hurt any more changelings. Or have them hurt us.”
“Please, girls, it's really me!” pleaded Twilight, starting to get desperate. “Look, I have my own magic!”
She lit up her horn, magenta light radiating over the map.
“As far as we know, changelings can make their magic any color they want,” said Rarity, a suspicious frown on her face.
“No, the visible wavelength of a magical aura is an intrinsic part of the being,” replied Twilight. “You can't change it anymore than you can change the natural color of your mane, or your coat. For ponies, its color also tends to reflect the special talent of that pony. That's why Princess Celestia's is the color of sunlight, Princess Luna's is the color of the night sky, and so on.
“Changeling magic, though, is always green. That's because, obviously, they all share the same 'special talent', i.e. impersonating ponies and feeding on love, not to mention they're all part of a single hivemind. The green color most likely comes from the green of their slime and... various other secretions. Although, if you wanted to be negative, you could say that they steal love because they have none themselves, and the green represents their envy of others' love.”
Twilight wound to a halt, beaming proudly at her friends. “So you see, my having a non-green magical aura makes it a logical impossibility that I'm a changeling in disguise.”
“Okay,” said Rainbow Dash after a moment, “Now I think that might actually be Twilight. She's the only one who's that much of an egghead.”
“I'm not sure...” Pinkie was rubbing her chin suspiciously. “She seems to know an awful lot about changelings for not being one.”
“And that changeling called her his Queen. I find it hard to just ignore that,” pointed out Rarity.
“Well, you see...” Twilight cleared her throat nervously. “The thing is... not only am I a Princess, I'm also a Queen of the changelings now.”
“Really?” said Applejack finally, breaking the long, disbelieving silence. “That's the best y'all could come up with?”
“Um, I'm not saying I think you're lying, o-or anything like that,” said Fluttershy, “But that sounds kind of, um, far-fetched?”
“No, come on you guys, this is totally believable and not a trick at all,” sneered Rainbow Dash. “Go on, 'Twilight', tell us how you became a Queen of the changelings.”
“The easy way,” said Chrysalis, taking that as her cue to enter the room. She strutted slowly around the table, clearly enjoying the glares, looks of fear, and stunned faces she saw. Finally reaching Twilight's throne, she climbed partially up onto it, so she could squeeze the Princess into an embrace. “She married one.”
“Aheh.” Twilight grinned nervously, looking around as all of her friend's mouths slowly fell open at the same time and they took in deep breaths. “I can explain–“
Discord sighed, lowering his reading glasses and looking off into the distance.
“You know,” he said crossly, “If they're just going to create all this chaos themselves, I don't know why they even bother keeping me around.”
He went back to his book, taking a bite out of the next page.
“So, let me make sure I've got this right,” said Applejack caustically, quite a bit later. “This whole time, Chrysalis and you have been in love?”
“Well–“ Twilight started to say.
“And all these messes that have happened–her invading your brother's weddin', kidnappin' my sister and her friends, you lockin' her in a castle and then lettin' her escape, and so on–all that has just been you two makin' googly eyes at each other?”
“It's more complicated than that–“ she tried again.
“And at no point durin' any of that did you feel like sayin' to us, 'oh, don't worry y'all, this isn't actually a life-and-death situation, it's just a date'?”
“We were just–“
“Really now, Applejack, where is your sense of the romantic?” interrupted Rarity. “I can't say being courted in such a manner would exactly be my cup of tea, but surely you can see how it would utterly ruin the whole thing if she were to tell anyone what was really going on.”
“No, I just see how my little sister was kidnapped and I spent a whole lot of my time fighting for what I thought was my life, not Twilight's love life!” shot back Applejack. “And considering that your sister was kidnapped too, I'd think you'd be agreen' with me.”
“You just don't have any romance in your soul,” sniffed Rarity. “While I may not be terribly pleased about what they did, I do at least understand that it was for a good cause.”
“You're just all giddy because it was a royal wedding,” said Rainbow Dash, rolling her eyes, but then she grinned. “You know, I don't care much for all that mushy stuff, but fight-dating sounds awesome. You think any ponies would want to try it?”
“So you two are really fine with what happened?” Applejack turned to Pinkie Pie. “How about you?”
“I don't know...” said Pinkie, eyes narrowed. “There's something about this situation that I don't trust...”
Applejack sighed. “That's because you're squinting suspiciously at everything.”
She smacked Pinkie on the back of the head, and after blinking a few times the pink pony looked around with wide eyes.
“Ooh, you were right!” she chirped happily. “Everything looks a lot better now!”
“So what do you think about all this, then? About them lyin' to us all this time?”
“Well... I guess I don't like that they lied,” mused Pinkie, “But they weren't really lying, they were just keeping a secret! And breaking a promise to keep a secret is even worse when it's a sexy love secret!”
“Hmm...” That at least seemed to give Applejack something to think about. She turned to the empty throne. “Fluttershy?”
“Um, is Chrysalis still here?” came the response from behind the chair.
“I am,” said the Queen curiously, and there was a squeak.
“Well I'm very happy for both of you please don't eat me or my love.”
“Fluttershy, Chrysalis isn't going to do that to you. She's nice–“ Twilight took a moment to recalibrate that sentence, “She wouldn't do that to my friends.”
There was no response from the chair, and with a sigh Twilight turned back to Applejack.
“I'm sorry about what happened, Applejack,” she said quietly. “I never meant to hurt any of you. Can't you give Chrysalis a chance?”
“Twilight... I'd like to, for you, but I don't know if I can trust her.”
“Oh.” Twilight looked down for a moment, then raised her head again. “Applejack, I promise, this is real. This truly isn't some kind of trick. She isn't going to attack Canterlot, or try to replace ponies, or–“
“No, no, not that,” said Applejack, shaking her head. “Twilight, y'all helped reform Luna, Discord, Trixie, Sunset Shimmer, Starlight Glimmer–probably a whole bunch more I'm forgettin'. Shoot, for that matter, y'all became a Princess because of how good you are at makin' friends. If you say she ain't planning anything, I believe you.”
Applejack stared pensively at the Queen for a moment, then said, “Chrysalis, when you were pretendin' to be Cadance, I gave you one of my apple fritters, and you said it was good. Then you threw away the entire bag I gave you!”
She put her hooves up on the table, leaning forward with a glare. “Why would you ever do something like that?”
Chrysalis gave the farm pony a considering look. “Do you really want to know?” she asked finally.
“Fine.” Chrysalis leaned forward as well, locking gazes with Applejack. “I... don't like apples. At all. In fact, I prefer peaches.”
Had any of the ponies in the room dared breathe, they would have gasped with horror. They all froze, aside from Fluttershy, who moved just enough to peek out from behind her chair in terrified fascination, unable to look away from the oncoming trainwreck. Tension crackled in the air, creating an almost palpable aura as the earth pony and the changeling faced off. Twilight gulped; who should she protect when the two inevitably came to blows? Applejack was one of her close friends, had been for years, but Chrysalis was... well, she was Chrysalis, and she was her... friend, and Twilight didn't want her to get hurt either.
“Chrysalis,” Applejack finally said in a low voice, causing everypony in the room to jump, “I don't like you. I don't know if I ever will. Lying and tricking ponies is what you're about, and that's the opposite of what I'm about.”
She snorted, then leaned back in her seat. “But y'all aren't afraid to be honest when you need to be, and you were just now. I can respect that, I suppose.”
The sighs of relief formed a brief gust as everypony in the room breathed out simultaneously.
“Thank you, Applejack,” said Twilight, sincerely touched. “This means a lot to me.”
“Well, shoot, Twilight, I know that,” replied Applejack, holding a hoof to her chest. “I've seen what close friends you've become with Sunset Shimmer, and she did darn near the same thing Chrysalis did. And if you tell me Chrysalis is more than just a friend to you, why, the least I can do is give her a chance.”
“I'm glad,” Twilight said happily, and then smiled around at her other friends. “And the same goes for all of you. Thank you for being so welcoming to my wife, despite the... initial impression she made on you all.”
Murmurs of agreement came from around the room, and then Chrysalis shifted slightly, standing up a bit more to attention.
“I suppose I should thank you all as well,” she said, with the slightest bit of a shuffle of her hooves. “I will admit, I was a bit nervous about how well you would take the news when you found out the truth. I was well aware of how badly that could turn out, and how that would hurt Twilight. But, I know Twilight. She is my love, the pony that means the most to me in the world, and I knew her friends would understand. So, thank you.”
More murmurs came from the ponies around the table, along with a typically over-the-top “We love you Queeny! Well, not as much as Twilight does but you know what I mean!” from Pinkie Pie.
“It's nice to see you're all as energetic, friendly and entertaining as ever,” continued Chrysalis. Her face changed, growing a sly, mischievous grin that, had Twilight been in a better position to see it, would have warned her of what was about to happen.
“Especially the yellow one. Fluttershy, isn't it?” Another squeak from behind the empty chair confirmed the identity of the pony, and Chrysalis's grin widened slightly. “Come on out, dear, let me see you face-to-face. I promise I'm not as scary as you think.”
Hesitantly, Fluttershy began to edge around the throne. Twilight, hearing a buzz come from beside her chair, turned and saw that Chrysalis was gone.
“Chrysalis, no–!“ she tried to protest, realizing what the changeling was up to, but it was too late.
Fluttershy, already suspicious and fearful, retreated back behind her chair as soon as she saw that Chrysalis had disappeared. When she did, she found the changeling Queen crouched down next to her, right in her face with all her fangs exposed in a wide grin.
“Poor little Fluttershy! She's so lucky to have Discord as a friend! Now she has someone to protect her whenever ponies bully or tease her!” cried Discord mockingly, making his Discord and Fluttershy action figures dance with each other.
“BAH!” he threw the Fluttershy figure out the window, ignoring it when it smashed through the window on the other side of his house and bounced off the back of his head. “That mare doesn't need any protecting. She's got a right hook Celestia envies.”
“My nobes urrts oh much!” wailed Chrysalis, tears in her eyes.
“Now, now, it's not that bad,” said Fluttershy gently, holding an icepack to the Queen's muzzle.
“Id's beeding, I knob id!”
“You're a big, tough Queen, Chrysalis,” chided Fluttershy. “It would take more than a little punch from me to give you a bloody nose. Um...”
The yellow pegasus shuffled her hooves, fluttering her wings in consternation. “I'm really sorry about hitting you. You just surprised me, is all–“
“No, Fluttershy, don't apologize to her,” said Twilight crossly. “She was trying to be mean to you, and got what she deserved.”
“Tiwiiight...” moaned Chrysalis miserably.
“That's not fair, Twilight!” said Fluttershy firmly. “She was just playing a little joke, and I overreacted.”
“Yeah, Chrysalis, you learn pretty fast not to scare Fluttershy,” said Rainbow Dash, sniggering. “She actually did give me a bloody nose once, back in flight camp. Ruined a great Nightmare Night mask, too.”
“I had a black eye for a week after she first came to Ponyville!” cried Pinkie Pie happily. “Never threw a surprise party for her again!”
“You're going to be just fine,” said Fluttershy, removing the icepack and inspecting Chrysalis's muzzle. “It's a little bit swollen, but that should go down soon. And I am sorry about what happened.”
“O-okay,” sniffed Chrysalis. “I'm sorry, too.”
She turned wide, wet eyes on Twilight, who shifted nervously. “W-what?”
“My nose hurts. Will you kiss it?”
“But that would make it feel better,” pleaded Chrysalis. “Pleeeeease?”
“Oh, for the love of–“ Twilight tried to object, but she made the mistake of looking into Chrysalis's begging eyes.
“Fine,” she sighed. Leaning forward, she planted a quick peck on the end of Chrysalis's snout. “There. Better?”
“Worlds,” said Chrysalis, pulling Twilight into a hug and squeezing her tightly.
“Okay, okay,” said Twilight, embarrassed, as her friends giggled–or made gagging noises, if they were certain blue pegasi. “Can we get back on track now?”
There was a brief flurry of activity, as medical supplies were packed up, Fluttershy took her seat, and Twilight and Chrysalis went back to the Princess's throne.
“My nose still hurts,” whined Chrysalis, leaning up against the arm of Twilight's chair.
“Oh, hush, you big baby,” said Twilight, pulling her in to give her neck a quick nuzzle before turning back to the table.
“Before we were... interrupted...” Chrysalis and Fluttershy both averted their eyes, fidgeting nervously, as Twilight spoke, “I was actually about to apologize again. To you, Spike.”
“Hmm? For what?” The young dragon looked up from his comic book.
“For letting a changeling replace me. For leaving you all alone here with someone who turned out to be a complete stranger. I should have at least told you what was going on, not let you just find out all of a sudden that you've spent the last couple of days with a disguised changeling. I'm sorry.”
“Oh, don't worry about it,” said Spike, turning back to his comic. “I knew the whole time.”
“WHAT?!” The clamor that arose from the six ponies made him wince.
“Twilight,” he said once things quieted down, rolling his eyes, “You constantly make checklists, you keep to a strict schedule every day, and you reorganize your library on a whim, for fun. And you do all that using systems so complicated even I can't follow them, and I've been your assistant my entire life. Did you really think someone could just come in here and pretend to be you?”
“Ah...” Twilight blushed as Chrysalis, and several of the ponies around the table, sniggered at her. “I-It's not that bad!”
“Really?” asked Spike. “Because the night the other you came back, I found her in the library, practically crying. She was trying to find that textbook you wrote on organizational techniques, so she could get at least some idea of how to make checklists and schedules like you. Except she couldn't find the book, because of how you reorganized the library last time.”
“It's a simple system!” protested Twilight. “It's arranged alphabetically by the genus of the author, then by species, then race, and finally chronologically by publication date. All K85 would have had to do is find the pony section, go through it to the alicorn subsection, and then find the books from a few years ago. It was right there!”
“Uh-huh.” Spike's reaction made his opinion abundantly clear. “So, I realized she was a changeling disguised as you, and bravely demanded to know what was going on–“
“He screamed and ran. I found him under your bed, and he was crying,” K85-348IL whispered from behind Twilight.
“–and he explained everything. So, we've just been hanging out since then.”
“You didn't think about, I don't know, maybe telling us about the changeling pretending to be Twilight?!” demanded Rainbow Dash.
“Well, no. He said the marriage was supposed to be a secret for a while, and that Twilight and Chrysalis would tell you when it was time.”
Twilight smiled softly at her assistant. While that innocence could have backfired if she actually had been ponynapped by Chrysalis, it was sweet that he'd kept the secret for her.
“Well, I really should have at least sent you a letter,” she said. “I hope you didn't mind having to spend time with him .”
“What, are you kidding? K85 is awesome.” Spike held up a fist, not looking back, and K85 gave it a bump with his hoof. “He likes comics almost as much as I do, plus he can turn into all the characters from them! He does a wicked Mane-iac. Even got the voice right, after I gave him some tips.”
“Really?” said Chrysalis suddenly, arching an eyebrow at the changeling. “Dropping your disguise for other forms when you're out in the field? And doing so for entertainment? I don't recall hearing about that in your nightly reports to the hivemind.”
“Um...” the changeling shrank back under his Queen's glare. “Practice taking forms using my imagination as the base?” he suggested hopefully. “A necessary tactic to scavenge food supplies after my initial disguise was discovered?”
“We'll talk more about this later,” said Chrysalis tightly, and the changeling hung his head.
“Um, Chrysalis?” The Queen blink in surprise as a claw tapped on her foreleg, and she looked down at Spike. “K85 isn't in trouble for what he did, is he? We were just having some fun.”
“W-well, Spike, you see, there are rules changelings have to follow. They keep us safe, and he broke them.”
“But you don't need those rules anymore, do you?” pleaded Spike. “I mean, if... if we're a family now, you don't need to hide, so all those rules are pointless.”
“It's not quite that simple...”
In desperation, the Queen looked over at Twilight, who just shrugged and gave a meaningful nod towards K85-348IL. Chrysalis look horrified, shaking her head violently and mouthing "Nooooo". Twilight's lips tightened and she gave a firmer nod, and with a sigh Chrysalis let her head drop.
“Okay, Spike, I won't punish him,” she said, voice sounding like she was going to be sick, as she patted the small dragon on top of the head. “But we are still going to have a talk later. He did break the rules.”
“That's fair, I guess,” said Spike, downhearted. Then he perked up. “Can we go read comics together?”
“Yes, yes, very well.”
Spike trotted out of the room, followed by a scurrying changeling hunched down under the glare of his Queen.
“Thank you, Chrysalis,” sang Twilight, all saccharine sweetness.
“You're going to make my changelings weak, you know that?” she grumbled back. “They're all going to become soft and undisciplined, and we won't even be able to take over a Diamond Dog cave.”
“Mwa hahaha!” cackled Twilight, rubbing her hooves together, “Soon my plan will be complete, and the changelings will be at my mercy!”
“They already are, dear,” replied Chrysalis, planting a kiss on Twilight's cheek that turned her face beet-red.
“Ahem. I-in any case...” Twilight looked down at her hooves on the table, avoiding her friend's eyes. “The last thing I needed to tell you was that you're all invited. To our wedding.”
“A wedding?!” cried Pinkie Pie, shooting up straight in her seat. “That means parties, right?!”
“Oh, how exciting!” said Fluttershy happily.
“Do I get to do another rainboom during the ceremony? Please tell me I do!” cried Rainbow Dash.
“Well, ah, I suppose,” said Twilight unenthusiastically.
“Ain't you two already married, though?” asked Applejack, raising an eyebrow.
“We are, it's just, my parents...”
“They want to celebrate how in love we are, so they're throwing us a big wedding in Canterlot to show everybody!” cried Chrysalis, wrapping her hooves around Twilight. “Oh, I'm still excited!”
“I'm, uh also–“
Twilight stopped, blinking several times quickly. Everything seemed to have gone white... no, there were two little blue dots that–
“Wedding?” rasped Rarity, a quarter inch away from Twilight's face, and the purple pony recoiled.
“You two are having a wedding? In Canterlot?” said Rarity hoarsely, hooves on the back of Twilight's chair to either side of her head, leaning forward again.
“Yes, we are–oh.” The bit finally dropped for Twilight. “Rarity, ah, would you like to make our dresses?”
“Why Twilight, I thought you'd never ask.” Rarity pulled back, placing a pair of glasses on her face and leafing through the pile of folders held in her hooves. “Now, I have a matching pair of gowns drawn up for you two that are simply radiant...”
“What...” Twilight took the folder Rarity passed to her. Opening it, she found a set of dress designs for herself that... actually looked quite beautiful. She tried to take a peek at the sheets a wide-eyed Chrysalis was looking through, but Rarity pushed her back.
“Uh-uh, Twilight. You'll see her's at the wedding.”
“Rarity, I don't know how you put these together so fast...” Twilight noticed the label on the folder, which read 'Twilight + Queen Chrysalis'. “Rarity, did you have these drawn up in advance?!”
“Of course, darling. I've sketched wedding dress designs for all my friends.”
“But... these are specifically made for Chrysalis and I. You said it's a matched set. You saw this coming?”
“Well, you are royalty now. It was important that I be prepared for your inevitable marriage to other royalty.” Rarity sighed. “Nothing against you two, but I do wish you had married King Sombra instead, or maybe Princess Celestia. Those dresses were just to die for.”
“I have changes,” declared Chrysalis loudly, slapping her folder down on the table, and Rarity sighed again.
“Yes, dear, I remember the last time I made a dress for you. Just... just try to remember that I've designed your dress as part of a set? No dramatic, sweeping changes, please?”
“Now, don't be that way. I can make any trouble I cause worth your while, seeing as you're being so kind as to do this for my love and I.” Chrysalis cocked an eyebrow upward. “I've heard you had some trouble with that Prince Blueblood pony?”
“Ugh, yes,” groaned Rarity, grimacing and looking away.
“Would you like me to have him killed?”
“Chrysalis!” cried Twilight.
“I... have to agree with Twilight, darling,” said Rarity nervously. “That's not something I'd wish on anyone.”
“Hmm. What if he were replaced by a pony that looked just like him, but was polite, courteous and respectful? And, perhaps, quite interested in pursuing a relationship with you?”
“Rarity, are you seriously considering this?” demanded Twilight.
“Oh, no, no, of course not Twilight, no,” said Rarity, laughing shrilly and gathering together her folders.
"We'll talk later", she mouthed to Chrysalis, moving back to her seat.
“Well, that was everything I had to tell all of you,” said Twilight, looking around the table. “I know this was a lot to take in with no warning, and you'll probably want to go and take some time to process all of it. So, unless anyone else has some business...”
“OOH OOH OOH!” cried Pinkie Pie, leaning forward and waving her hoof. “Strippers!”
“I mean bachelorette parties! And I need to know what kind of strippers you want for them.”
“How does that work?” asked Chrysalis, face puzzled. “I mean, we're all naked right now, aren't we? What's the point?”
“Trust me, Queeny. There's naked, and then there's naked.” Pinkie gave the two a leer that made even Chrysalis blush. “Plus, the point isn't that they aren't wearing clothes, it's how they take them off.”
“You'll understand when you see it,” said Pinkie, nodding confidently. “Now, mares or stallions?”
“I'm, uh, good with both, I guess?” said Chrysalis hesitantly.
“Okay, not unexpected. Twilight?”
“I... Pinkie, not... everyone's here...” Pinkie just looked back at her, face expectant and cheerful, and finally Twilight said in a barely audible voice, “Mares and stallions too, please.”
“Right-o! These are going to be the two best bachelorette parties I've ever thrown, I promise!”
“You're throwing two separate parties?” asked Twilight “You really don't have to–“
“Of course I do, Twilight! I mean, you can't be at each other's bachelorette parties. That would just be weird.”
“I'm looking forward to it,” said Chrysalis, sniffing. “Hopefully this party will be better than that childish mess you tried to force me to participate in last time.”
“Don't you worry about a thing!” replied Pinkie happily. “You're going to love it.”
“Pinkie... you seem awfully happy to be throwing Chrysalis a party,” said Twilight, frowning. “I would have thought you'd have more reservations after last time. I mean, she hated that party you tried to throw for her at my brother's wedding, and she just insulted it again.”
“Well duh, Twilight, of course she hated it,” said Pinkie, rolling her eyes. “That was a party for Cadance, not Chrysalis. Why would she like a party that I'd custom planned for somepony else? I mean, if I'd known she was a changeling Queen in disguise, I would have done things completely different.”
“Like... like letting us all know, right?” asked Twilight
“And ruin the party?!” gasped Pinkie in horror.
“But–okay, good point, I guess? You can go start planning things if you–“ Pinkie was already gone. “Okay, good.”
She looked around at the rest of her friends. “Unless anypony else has something they need to bring up, I'll let you all go.”
“I should really go get started on those dresses,” said Rarity, getting to her hooves. “I'm sure we'll need time for last minute fittings and alterations.”
“And I should go check on my bird friends. I assume you want them to sing at the wedding?” asked Fluttershy.
“That sounds wonderful,” said Twilight, smiling.
“Don't bring that terrible one again,” warned Chrysalis. “I thought my ears were going to bleed.”
“Oh, don't worry, he's gotten much better,” said Fluttershy, beaming, as she trotted out.
“Time for me to start working on some apple fritters,” said Applejack. “And... I'll tell the Cakes to make some peach cobbler. I ain't doing it myself; no non-apple fruits are goin' to touch these hooves. They're unclean, I tell you.”
“I'll go practice my Sonic Rainboom... I guess.” Standing up, Rainbow Dash slowly made her way out of the room.
“Did she seem alright to you?” asked Twilight to Chrysalis.
“Not as loud as usual, that's for sure.”
“Hey Dash, wait up!” called Twilight, trotting out the throne room door, Chrysalis following close behind her.
“Hmm? What's up, Twilight?” asked Dash, as the Princess caught up to her.
“That's what I was going to ask you,” she replied. “You seem down.”
“It's just, well...” Rainbow Dash let out a long, melodramatic sigh. “I was so excited when I saw Chrysalis was back, you know? I mean, that fight with the changelings was one of the most awesome things I've ever done! I dream about it still sometimes! But now... well, she's our friend. They're our friends. I'll never get to fight them again.”
“Is that all?” asked Chrysalis. She looked over at Twilight, smiling and giving her a wink. “Well, how would you like another fight with some of our changelings?”
“Really? You mean it?!” cried Rainbow Dash.
“Of course. You're one of Twilight's friends. Making you happy will make her happy, yes?”
“Yes, Chrysalis,” said Twilight, touched. “I may not approve of Dash's idea of fun, but thank you for doing this for her.”
“It's nothing, my love.”
“Alright, this is awesome! When are we going to have the fight?” asked Rainbow Dash, now trotting along excitedly.
Chrysalis chuckled deeply. “Now, now. You're fighting changelings. And this isn't Canterlot, where we had to stop you from getting to the elements. No, now you're fighting on our terms. And that means never knowing when we'll strike or where we'll come from.”
“W-what?” Rainbow Dash suddenly seemed much less enthusiastic about the possibility of fighting changelings.
“Oh yes, our changelings could come at you from anywhere, at anytime. Why, they could even be outside that door right now.”
Rainbow Dash, having just pulled open the entrance to Twilight's castle, stumbled back, but the opening was devoid of changelings. Chrysalis chuckled again.
“Not this time, I guess. But maybe when you get back to your house. Or when you're sleeping. Or the next time you go shopping.” Chrysalis, grinning, bent down right into the drooping-eared pony's face. “Because that's how changelings work. You never know when we'll strike, or where, or who'll we'll be when we do. We could be anypony you see every day; your closest friend, your worst enemy, an acquaintance you pass on the street, your coworkers... or all of those ponies at once.”
Chrysalis straightened back up, still grinning down at the quaking pegasus. “But the one thing you do know is, when we do attack, you'll never see it coming.”
“I'm, uh, having second thoughts–“ Rainbow Dash started to say, and Chrysalis closed the door in her face.
“Chrysalis, I really don't want you doing anything you were just talking about,” warned Twilight, scowling.
“That pony is insolent,” huffed Chrysalis. “She seems to think our changelings are some kind of... of punching bags, for her amusement. I shall correct her misconceptions.”
“I don't want you hurting her!”
“But you're fine with her hurting our changelings?” questioned the Queen, and Twilight looked away, abashed. Chrysalis chuckled. “Don't worry, she won't be harmed. I'll let her stew for a few days, jumping at shadows. Then I will have a talk with her, during which I'm sure she will beg me to call off the attack, and I'll agree as long as she apologizes.”
“Okay, that sounds better–“
“And then the next day, that's when our changelings attack!” Chrysalis's laughter echoed up and down the halls of Twilight's castle, long and loud.
Twilight showed Chrysalis around the castle, finding the Queen's enthusiasm about her home infectious and flattering. Those feelings were tested in the bedroom, especially when Chrysalis described the bed as 'small and cozy', and alluded to how much she was looking forward to 'using it'. But any awkwardness she felt over that melted away when they peeked in on Spike and K85-348IL reading comics together in his room, laughing and chatting happily with each other.
The most humorous part of the tour to Twilight, at first, was how excited Chrysalis became when they reached the basement. She watched, bemused, as the Queen paced around the various rooms with her horn glowing.
“What are you doing, exactly?” she asked finally.
Chrysalis looked over at Twilight momentarily, smiling, before turning back to her work. “Measuring the dimensions of the basement, and sending them back to the hivemind. The engineers need to know what they have to work with, for the entrance to the new hive.”
“N-new hive?” squeaked Twilight.
“Of course. If we're going to live here, we'll need to construct a new hive for our children.” She looked back again, her smile wider this time. “We can build ourselves a new love nest, as well. Something deep and secluded, for when we want to get away from it all.”
Starting to hyperventilate, Twilight once again took refuge in considering the political and legal ramifications of the situation.
Well, the roots of the palace go down quite far and wide, so all of that land is technically mine already. And if the hive does start to spread out under the town I can always claim eminent domain. It's not like anypony actually builds anything under the town anyway, aside from Pinkie and her secret party cave. Do any zoning laws apply to underground structures in Ponyville? What would a changeling hive be zoned as, anyway? The majority of it is residential, I suppose, but there are commercial and industrial aspects to the hives as well...
She spent the next several minutes happily daydreaming about construction permits and other paperwork that needed to be filled out as Chrysalis circled the basement.
They finally ended up on the balcony, looking out over Ponyville as the sun slowly set behind the town. Chrysalis leaned on the railing, peering intently at the buildings spread out before her. Finally, she leaned back onto her haunches with a sigh.
“Your kingdom is so beautiful,” she said softly.
Twilight looked over at her. Now was the perfect moment to tell Chrysalis what was really going on. She was calm and relaxed, contemplative, almost, and if there was ever a chance to discuss things reasonably with her this was it.
“Our kingdom,” she said instead, and both she and Chrysalis blinked in surprise. But there were no feelings of panic in her chest, no imaginings of what horrors Chrysalis might bring down upon Ponyville, no foreseen disasters. Instead, she simply felt a strange confidence and comfort in knowing that the Queen would be by her side in this castle. So she said it again. “You mean our kingdom, Chrysalis.”
Chrysalis's only response was a wide, happy grin, and Twilight smiled back.
“Oh, no, let's not invite Discord to the wedding! It's not like he's one of our friends! Besides, he'd just turn the brides into geese or something.”
Discord paused in his rant. “Well, I would, but it's still insulting.”