Changeling Courtship Rituals

by Codex Ex Equus


Chapter Seven: The Wedding... and the Truth

“Is my headdress on straight? It isn't on straight, is it? Why isn't it straight?! Why aren't you fixing it?!

“I can't fix it... because you won't... stand still!” panted Rarity, trying to catch Chrysalis as the changeling galloped around the dressing room in a panic, gown trailing behind her. Desperately, Rarity tried to use her magic to slow Chrysalis by grabbing her tail.

The only effect this had was to cause Chrysalis to drag Rarity behind her, right up until the Queen made a sharp turn and started running in the opposite direction. Rarity was flung across the room, her magical grip slipping off, and she landed in a pile of ponikins up against one wall.

“Oof!” Rarity managed to dig her way out, upside down, only to be met with the disapproving glare of the Queen as she loomed above.

“While I appreciate your gift of these dresses, I wish you would take my concerns a little more seriously,” said Chrysalis snidely, looking down her nose at Rarity. “I'm trying to make sure all your hard work looks good, but you seem to just be napping in a pile of... some kind of pony-shaped pillows?”

“If you would just hold still for three seconds–“ Rarity started to snarl, then stopped and took a deep breath. Element of generosity, element of generosity, she reminded herself silently.

“I'm trying to help you, dear,” she said, standing up and patting her mane back into place with practiced ease, “But I can't do that if you keep running all over the room.”

“But–but–but–“

“Hold still.

Finally managing to get her hooves on the Queen, Rarity held her in place and inspected the headdress resting on top of her head. Despite having just finished galloping laps around the room, and the fact that she was now prancing in place, Chrysalis's headdress was still tightly fastened to her head, its gauze flowing down and twisting through her hair.

“It looks just fine,” said Rarity confidently.

“You're sure? I thought it looked crooked,” said Chrysalis, worry audible in her voice.

“Chrysalis, that thing is pinned to your head so securely you could get flung from the castle–again–and it would stay on. A theory I am sorely tempted to test,” huffed Rarity. “Stop worrying.”

“Okay, okay, I-I'll try,” replied Chrysalis meekly, the sound of her hooves still tapping on the floor under her dress giving lie to that statement. “I just want it to look right. I want everything to look right. This day has to be perfect.”

“I don't know what you're so worried about,” said Rarity, spotting a gem on the gown that had come loose during the Queen's jog. Retrieving a needle and thread, she worked on repairing it as she talked. “I mean, you're already married to Twilight. This is just a ceremony for show, a celebration so all of us can be a part of your happiness.”

“Yes, but... but...” The pace of her prancing picked up, and Rarity put a hoof on Chrysalis's back, more to hold her in place so she could do her work than to comfort her.

“I just need everything to go right today,” said Chrysalis finally. “It's... it's important. You said it's a ceremony, a way for all of you to join in, but that means if something goes wrong, it will happen in front of all you. In front of all of Twilight's friends and family. If something happens, if the wedding gets ruined, she might call the whole marriage off. She might leave me, and... and I don't know what I would do then.”

“Chrysalis...” Rarity smiled at the changeling, her heart melting at such a romantic display. “Twilight would never do that. I see the way she looks at you when you're together; you drive her absolutely crazy.”

“You really think so?” sniffed Chrysalis, turning a pleading look on the fashion pony.

“Definitely. Why, even if she wasn't in love with you anymore, I doubt she would ever even admit it. Not now that she's married to you. The poor dear doesn't have the heart to do something as cruel as that.”

“It wouldn't matter if she stopped loving me,” declared Chrysalis, raising her head high. “I would make her love me again, no matter what it would take. I would bring out all my armies to raze any foe separating us, I would tear down any barrier keeping us apart with my own fangs, I would storm Tartarus itself, just to get her back.”

“That's, ah, the spirit,” said Rarity with a small cough, snipping off the last thread and moving to put her tools away. “Now, while we're on the subject of love, I was wondering if there might be any updates to that little matter we discussed...”

“Why, it turns out Prince Blueblood may have a long-lost twin brother,” said Chrysalis, an innocent smile on her face. “His name might be, let's say, Prince Greenblood?”

“Hmm, not as catchy as Blueblood, but I can work with it,” said Rarity, grinning.


Deep breaths, deep breaths, DEEP BREATHS.

“Twilight, would you please hold still?” asked Sassy Saddles desperately. “I'm trying to straighten your headdress, and I can't do it with you panting like this.”

“What are you... talking about?” gasped Twilight, a strained smile on her face. “I'm just... breathing like... I always do–“

“You're panicking,” said Night Light, smiling and putting a hoof on her shoulder. “Which is a perfectly normal reaction to have when you're about to get married.”

“But she's already married, isn't she?” asked Sassy, as she used a rag to wipe more sweat off Twilight's brow.

“Well, yes, but this is different. It's a large ceremony, with all of her friends and family present, not to mention her mentor, her mentor's sister, all of the elite of Canterlot, what seems to be a good portion of her wife's hive...”

All of them staring at me, watching as I marry Chrysalis. And if I do anything wrong, if I really do freak out and lose it and let Chrysalis know how I really feel, it will happen in front of basically everybody we know, not to mention all of Canterlot and her hive, and all of Equestria by the next day, and if I thought she was going to react badly before it's nothing compared to what will happen if I humiliate her today in front of the entire world...

Now she was really panting, on the verge of hyperventilating, until her father put his hoof under her chin and gently moved her head to face him.

“I know it's not going to help, but I'm still going to tell you there's nothing to be worried about,” he said, smiling. “You do love her, don't you?”

“I... yes, I do,” she replied. It was disturbing how much easier speaking that untruth had become over time.

“Then don't worry. Everything will work out fine in the end, you'll see.” He chuckled. “You know, I had cold hooves myself. I actually climbed out a window just before the ceremony and almost ran away!”

“You did?!” gasped Twilight. She was so shocked she froze, staring at him, and Sassy Saddles took the opportunity to start adjusting her headdress again. “I never heard anything like that! What happened?”

Night Light smiled, caught up in the hazy nostalgia of a happy memory. “As I galloped around the church, I caught a glimpse of your mother through a window. She looked so beautiful in her dress... it reminded me of all the reasons why I'd proposed to her in first place. So I turned around and went right back to my own dressing room."

Twilight just gaped at him, and he laughed. "You know, they say seeing the bride in her dress before the wedding is bad luck, but it's brought me nothing but good luck. Because it stopped me from making the biggest mistake of my life, and helped me stop my son from almost doing the same... and now my daughter, too."

That finally put an expression on Twilight's face that wasn't surprise or terror, and she giggled. "Shining tried to run out on Cadance?!" she said, trying to smother her laughter with a hoof.

"Technically, he didn't just try," said Night Light with a wink. "I saw the signs beforehoof, and I was waiting outside his window when he climbed down."

"Oh, I am going to hold that over his head forever! He'll have to do what I say, or I'll go straight to Cadance!"

"You could do that," said her father, nodding, "Of course, then he could go to Chrysalis and tell her how panicked you were getting before your wedding."

"You wouldn't!"

"If it takes a little mutually assured destruction to keep my children in line, I'll have to make that sacrifice," Night Light said, sighing dramatically.

"Fine," Twilight growled out between clenched teeth.

Night Light chuckled, then gave Twilight a pat on the shoulder. "Felling better now?" he asked.

"Dad, listen..." began Twilight hesitantly.

I don't love her! part of her mind screamed. This was all a huge misunderstanding and I made a mistake in not telling Chrysalis that in the first place! But I went along with it because I was afraid, and now I'm stuck choosing between breaking the heart of someone I really care about and going through with a loveless marriage! Which has benefits politically and honestly the idea has been starting to grow on me, but I feel like it's all out of my control and everything just keeps getting worse and worse and... and I just want my Mom and my Dad to please make it all go away!

For a moment, those desperate words danced on the tip of her tongue, until finally she swallowed them.

What had happened was her mess to clean up, or live with, and as a Princess it was her responsibility to do so herself. Besides, it had been a long time since she'd gone crying to her parents to fix all her problems. Almost as long ago, she realized, as it had been since the day the Princess had taken her under her wing.

Instead, she just said, "Thank you, Dad. For everything," and pulled him into a hug with one foreleg.

"That's my little Princess," he said, the old pet name–now literally true–making her giggle. "Now, are you ready to get married?"

"I..." Twilight took a deep breath. "You know what? I think I am."


Those words were still in her head, mocking her, as she waited for the ceremony to begin. She was fully dressed, waiting outside the hall, while Chrysalis stood inside at the altar and the guests finished filtering in. Her panic hadn't returned to its previous level, but there was still a pit of nerves tying itself into knots in her stomach.

"I see you're nice and calm," said a voice in the doorway, and Twilight turned in surprise to find Shining Armor with a smile on his face.

"Shiney!" she cried happily, trotting over as best she could in the gown.

"Just came by to say good luck, and make sure you weren't trying to fly out a window like Dad said you were."

"I haven't even tried to climb out the window yet," she replied, sticking out her tongue. "I heard you made it out though."

"So Dad did tell you, huh?" he said, grimacing. "Fine. Truce, then?"

"Truce." Twilight shuffled her hooves nervously. "So, is Cadance still...?"

"Still stuck in the Crystal Empire," said Shining with a sigh. "She said she'd kill to be here right now, but, well..."

"Running an empire is busy work, I know," said Twilight, nodding sadly. "Still, I wish she could be here. I mean, wedding, Princess of Love, all that."

"Don't worry about it, I'm sure she has something huge planned for you two," said Shining Armor with a grin, then turned as the sounds of an organ warming up began to vibrate throughout the building. "Whoops, I better get to my seat. Good luck, Twilight. I mean, not that you need or anything, you're already married, but still."

The next few minutes seemed to last forever, and then, far too soon, her father came to get her and they were standing in front of the large doors leading into the wedding hall. The organ started playing the wedding march, and, taking her hoof in one of his, her father pushed the doors open with his magic and began to lead her down the aisle. Twilight made it one step and then halted, as she caught sight of Chrysalis standing at the altar.

Chrysalis's dress resembled the one Twilight herself wore. Both were of white silk, ruffled at the neckline, flowing up and over their tails to cascade down in waves to a short train ragged with holes, much like a changeling's mane and tail. Gems woven into the fabric of the gowns crisscrossed their bodies, in alternating green and magenta hues.

But that was where the similarities ended. Chrysalis's headdress was a gorgeous silver crown that fit to the shape of her head, curling around her horn and winding halfway up it. The headdress was held on by thin chains of silver, which disappeared in a complex net that wove its way through the mass of curled braids that her mane had become. Streamers of gauze, colored the purple and magenta of the stripes in Twilight's hair, were also woven throughout her mane.  

Twilight's headdress, on the other hoof, was a series of emeralds laid across her forehead, dangling from golden chains much the same as Chrysalis's silver ones. An offshoot of the chain spiraled up her horn, where another emerald hung from its tip. The rest ran back over the top of her mane, holding it down flat against her skull and then encasing the long, thick braid her mane had been woven into before also ending in emeralds. And, much like her wife, streamers of gauze had been braided into her mane, though hers were the color of Chrysalis's hair.

And her wings...

Twilight's wings were decorated in a fairly simple style, with strips of green silk threaded between her feathers holding on a gilded runner of lace along the leading edges.

But on Chrysalis's back were large pieces of some iridescent material that shimmered like her gossamer wings. Through some trick, possibly Chrysalis slightly fanning her own wings as they lay down across her back, the faux wings were constantly flowing through the air. Twilight couldn't even tell which were her wings and which were part of the dress.

As Twilight entered the room, a shaft of light–from a sun perhaps a little too perfectly positioned–came in through the hall windows and centered right on Chrysalis. Between the light glinting off her headdress and the light refracting through her wings, she lit up like the most splendid Hearths Warming tree Twilight had ever seen.

After a long moment, Night Light leaned over.

"You may want to close your mouth, dear," he said, then gave her hoof a gentle tug. "And I believe we're supposed to be walking down the aisle."

With only a slight stumble, Twilight managed to start moving again, albeit in a daze as she was unable to take her eyes off Chrysalis. She climbed the steps to the altar, a tremble in her hooves, and Chrysalis finally looked over as Twilight came to a shaky halt next to her.

"Chrysalis..." breathed Twilight, as the changeling looked down at her from half-lowered, slowly blinking eyes, a serene smile on her face. "You... your dress..."

"You look beautiful too, my love," said Chrysalis, her smile widening.

"Are you two ready for us to began?" asked Luna, and Twilight turned, blinking in surprise. She hadn't even noticed Luna and Celestia standing before them at the altar.

"Of course," said Chrysalis with a small bow of her head.

"Y-yes," Twilight managed to stammer out.

"Very well," said Celestia, giving them a beaming smile, and then raising her head to include everyone in the hall in its glow. "Dearly beloved..."

It was, Twilight heard later, a very beautiful ceremony. The tales of it that were carried out to the city and beyond went a long way towards accelerating the ponies acceptance of the changelings. Celestia's praise of Chrysalis's willingness to merge her kingdom with Equestria, even as a minor partner, certainly made an impact. So too did Luna's monologue on the power of love to light up even the darkest of hearts, a message that, given her history, was lost on no one. While neither point was exactly true, Twilight decided it was best overall to just let that slide.

But then, she never heard either speech completely, only in fragments and through second-hand retellings in newspapers. She spent the whole ceremony completely captivated by Chrysalis, unable to tear her eyes away from the changeling, Celestia and Luna's voices just a dull hum in the background. The only thing that finally caught her attention was hearing her own name.

"And do you, Princess Twilight Sparkle, take Queen Chrysalis Bladequeen to be your lawfully wedded wife, for as long as you both may walk this world?" asked Celestia, gazing solemnly at Twilight.

"I do," answered Twilight without hesitation, hardly aware she was even doing so.

"Then, if there are any who would oppose this union, let them speak now or forever hold their peace."

Twilight's eyes widened, and she turned slightly, to get a better look at the crowd.

Her side of the aisle consisted mostly of friends and family, of course. This also now included K85-348IL, who had attached himself somewhat permanently to Spike. Sunset Shimmer and Starlight Glimmer were there also–though the Sirens were not, a fact for which Twilight was grateful. She had decided not to bring them up, and Sunset hadn't mentioned them either. Moondancer, Minuette and Lyra had come to wish her luck as well, Minuette and Lyra even despite their experiences at Chrysalis's last wedding. Twilight made a note in her mind to have Chrysalis apologize for that at the reception.

A good deal of her 'guests', though, were Canterlot elite. She hadn't particularly wanted to invite them, but as a Princess there were certain social responsibilities she had to fulfill. Considering how Chrysalis had treated them while imitating Cadance, snubbing them now would start things off on quite the wrong hoof, especially with the changeling having become their newest Princess.

So they had been invited as well, despite the fact that very few of them were actually happy for her or would truly congratulate her on the wedding. If anything, most of the nobles viewed the wedding as a loss on their part, since it meant she was now unavailable to marry them or one of their relatives. And on top of that, there was now another Princess, who was also a changeling, over them in the hierarchy of Equestria. So it was from this quarter that Twilight had expected to hear objections.

Instead, while there was a bit of muttering that manifested itself as a low murmur, no one actually said anything out loud. Twilight turned back to the altar, somewhat surprised by the nobles' reactions. Perhaps they didn't disapprove of the marriage as much as she'd believed, or perhaps Celestia and Luna's speeches had swayed some of their thoughts.

Or perhaps it had to do with the fact that Chrysalis's side of the aisle was packed tight with changelings, all of them radiating a very definite sense of approval with the ceremony.

"Very well. Then by my power, I hereby pronounce you wives," said Celestia, a warm smile blossoming on her face. "You may now kiss."

Kiss?! thought Twilight frantically. I completely forgot we have to–

Chrysalis wrapped a gentle hoof around her neck and bent down, and Twilight's mind suddenly stopped as Chrysalis kissed her. Her lips shouldn't be so soft, was the last thought she had before they all faded away. Not with all that chitin...

This wasn't the simple peck on the lips the changeling had given her when they first came to Canterlot. Chrysalis's mouth pressed firmly against Twilight's, slightly open, needy and wanting. Not greedy, though; what little kissing back Twilight did, Chrysalis took and returned happily. Twilight couldn't help herself; her eyes fell closed, her wings fluttered by themselves, and she just let herself go with the moment.

After a time, Chrysalis finally pulled back. Twilight stood in place, swaying slightly, looking up into Chrysalis's eyes as the changeling gazed back. And, for an endless moment, that was all that mattered.

She didn't notice the wedding guests cheering and stomping their hooves, didn't hear Rainbow Dash's Sonic Rainboom going off overhead, didn't see the Wonderbolts who had been pacing Dash turn into changelings and tackle her.

For just that moment, her entire world consisted of Chrysalis.


Twilight was doing her best to remember that moment later that night.

The reception had gone just fine. There had been cake and congratulations and a lot of dancing. She'd been surprised to find that Chrysalis was an even worse dancer than she herself was. Not in Twilight's 'nearby ponies fear for their safety' way, but in a 'stand in place swaying slightly with a look of almost utter terror on your face and claim that's dancing' way. So Twilight had been the one to take control, leading the stiff-legged Queen around the dance floor during their obligatory slow dance. It had been nice, in a way; the Queen was usually so demanding that taking charge in something was a welcome change of pace. And the almost desperate way Chrysalis had thanked her afterwards had brought a pleased blush to the pony's face.

There had also been a cake, a typically Pinkie cake that looked as though it shouldn't physically be capable of supporting its own weight. In similar Pinkie fashion, the wedding figures on top had originally been of a somewhat more... explicit nature than good taste would allow. Luckily Twilight had seen the cake while the reception was still being set up, and that little incident had been prevented before it could start.

Most of the ponies she had talked to at the reception had faded from her memory quickly, being little more than introductions and congratulations. The one meeting that had stuck out had been the Princesses.

"You look like me at the Gala," said a voice behind Twilight, causing her to spin around in surprise.

"Princess Celestia!" she cried, starting to get up from her seat in the center of the reception hall so she could bow, only to stopped by a shake of the monarch's head and a gentle smile.

"You need to learn that you don't have to bow to me anymore, Princess," Celestia chided, giving her a quick nuzzle and taking a seat in a nearby chair. "Besides, this is your day. If I'm coming to congratulate you on having a wonderful wife and give you heartfelt wishes for many happy years to come, I'm the one who should be bowing."

"Oh. T-Thank you, Princess," said Twilight nervously.

"You are welcome of course, my faithful student." Celestia quirked an eyebrow upwards. "Though I'll admit, I also came to see what was able to tear Luna away from my side during one of the social events she hates so much."

Twilight followed Celestia's gaze, to the spot a few tables away where Luna and Chrysalis were chatting.

"It's good to see Luna find someone she can really call a friend," said Celestia wistfully. "Most still find her frightening, and her somewhat brusque nature intimidates even those who know she has left the Nightmare behind."

"They do seem to enjoy each other's company," said Twilight. Her eyes went wide as she saw Chrysalis, who had been talking animatedly, suddenly began making motions as though she were throttling a pony. Luna's reaction, however, was to laugh gaily and nod. "Although I can't imagine what they're talking about."

"Perhaps about how being feared doesn't mean one can't be loved," said Celestia softly, watching them. "Or, on the other hoof, about how one doesn't need to fear being loved for being oneself."

She had said no more, and at some point had slipped away.

Twilight began to feel the first tinkling of nerves when she saw the chariot Chrysalis had arranged to take them back to the castle. But the ride itself had been innocent enough; Chrysalis had simply curled herself around Twilight on the lavish seat cushion, silent aside from the occasional humming.

When the chariot had dropped them off and the pegasi were winging their way back to Canterlot, the two 'newlyweds' slowly climbed the stairs to the castle doors. At that point, Chrysalis had stopped Twilight, refusing to let her enter unless she would let the changeling carry her inside. Twilight had balked, knowing full well what that tradition was a precursor to, but Chrysalis had refused to back down and the pony had eventually surrendered.

Sitting snugly on Chrysalis's admittedly comfortable back, Twilight's suspicions had been confirmed when the changeling hadn't let her off once crossing the threshold of the castle and instead had started climbing stairs, heading determinedly for the bedroom.

Twilight hadn't gone into full-on panic mode, though. She'd dealt with this the first night they'd slept in the same bed, she'd actually thought she'd have had to deal with it far sooner, and there was even a bit of something that was almost anticipation, a curiosity about what kind of lover Chrysalis would be.

But the nerves were still there, because the key word was lover. She didn't love Chrysalis. Respected her, liked her, enjoyed spending time with her, admired her even–but not loved. She'd only known her, the real her, for a short time, despite the years that had passed since their first meeting. And even then, there was still too much 'Evil Queen Chrysalis' to her at times. Twilight could put up with that, she could tolerate it even. Especially when the Queen cared enough to listen to what she said and agree to the compromises she suggested. But there were still times when she didn't trust Chrysalis, still didn't quite believe all of this was true... times when she couldn't forget the Chrysalis she had known for so long.

Twilight frowned slightly when she saw the doors to her bedroom past Chrysalis's neck. Why were they closed? She only really closed them when she was sleeping, there was no reason why they should be closed now–and then Chrysalis pushed the doors open with one hoof and Twilight saw why.

The magical crystals that lit the rooms of her castle had been turned off here, to allow candles to light the room. Dozens of candles filled the chamber, on every available piece of furniture, all of them black with brightly burning green flames. And scattered about the floor and covering the bed were lavender petals, forming a trail that Chrysalis slowly carried her across.

How did she know my favorite flower? thought Twilight numbly, then had to resist an urge to smack herself in the face. Of course Chrysalis knew, she probably knew more about Twilight than Twilight did herself. She did have an army of shape-shifting spies at her beck and call. Guiltily, Twilight realized she didn't know Chrysalis's favorite flower, or if she even liked flowers.

"You wait right here," purred Chrysalis, depositing Twilight into a pile of petals on the bed and giving her a kiss on the forehead. "I'm going to go change into something more... appropriate."

She paused on her way to the powder room, looking back at Twilight with smoldering half-lidded eyes. "You can change out of your dress too if you want. But it might be more fun if I have to rip it off." And with that she was gone.

Twilight took off the dress with little internal debate, mostly because she did a good job at not letting the pro-keeping-the-dress-on side speak up, and focused instead on how Rarity would feel if Twilight let one of her dresses get ruined.

Chrysalis returned much sooner than Twilight had expected, and she had to bite her lip to keep her mouth from falling open as the changeling sauntered her way across the bedroom. By 'something more appropriate', she had apparently meant something that was all black lace and garters, with a fuzzy saddle that fit across her back. Twilight, having been in the back room of Carousel Boutique more than once, recognized that style of design; apparently the wedding gowns hadn't been the only gift Rarity had to give.

Twilight lay still on the bed, quivering slightly, as Chrysalis walked up and slid next to her. For a moment, the truth hovered on the tip of her tongue. But then Chrysalis's lips met hers, and Twilight let her eyes slip closed.

The changeling didn't linger on her lips for long. She moved up, kissing along Twilight's muzzle, on each of her closed eyes, letting her lips brush softly against the alicorn's horn. One of Chrysalis's hooves came up, caressing Twilight's ear, and she raised her head to lean into it. When she did, Chrysalis moved down, planting kisses all along her exposed neck, making her let out a small moan.

Kisses along Twilight's neck eventually turned into a trail of kisses that led down her barrel to her belly, and then slowly started moving even further down. Twilight began to pant, her wings stretching out beneath her. Chrysalis ran her hooves over the wings, pressing the feathers down into the bed, creating a delightful tension as their shafts pulled against the skin of the wings.

Chrysalis paused her kisses just below Twilight's stomach, then moved back up, following her earlier path of kisses in reverse, and Twilight groaned in frustration. That turned into a moan as Chrysalis let her sharp teeth scrape against Twilight's neck while kissing, and then she took advantage of that moan to press her lips over Twilight's and slip her tongue into the pony's mouth.

Twilight's eyes popped open in shock. She had kept them closed the entire time, forgetting who it was bringing her all this pleasure, just letting herself get lost in the moment. But Chrysalis's tongue slithering against hers broke that illusion; the changeling's tongue was long and thin, slightly rounded, not wide and flat like a pony's. And, of course, it was forked, the whip-like ends flickering around and tickling her tongue.

Feeling that alien organ in her mouth shocked her back to reality, and when she looked up all she saw was Queen Chrysalis–the dreaded Queen Chrysalis, her worst enemy–kissing her deeply. The image only lasted a moment before her memories reasserted themselves, but it was enough to make Twilight cringe back and let out a whimper.

And that moment was enough to make Chrysalis open her own eyes, see the distress on her love's face, and break off the kiss, pulling back.

"Twilight?" she asked softly, laying a gentle hoof on the pony's shoulder, "Is something wrong?"

Twilight looked up at her, lips quivering.

She was no stranger to sex–there were other things the post-grads at Celestia's school did to blow off steam besides drinking, and of course there had been that one spa trip with Rarity where things had maybe gotten a bit out of control, though in a good way–but all of that was different. They had just been flings, done for fun, done for relaxation, done for friendship.

Chrysalis loved her, though. And she didn't love Chrysalis. To make love to Chrysalis like this would be unfair to her, would be a betrayal of her love, would almost be cheating on her in a way. It would be the culmination of all the lies Twilight had told, the final ultimate lie everything she'd done had been leading up to... and she couldn't do it.

That realization was the last straw. All the deceit, all the tension, all the sheer stress of the last few weeks broke free at once. Instead of answering, Twilight burst into tears, turning away and burying her face in a pillow as she sobbed.

Chrysalis's jaw fell open in shocked dismay, her eyes darting back and forth as she sought some reason for this display. Finding none, she simply moved forward to embrace Twilight, holding her in place with one hoof when she tried to squirm away. Her other hoof stroked Twilight's mane as she buried her face in it, making soft, soothing sounds.

Twilight had a good, long cry, soaking the pillow with her tears. Chrysalis stayed right behind her, hooves wrapped around her body, squeezing her tighter every time it seemed like her sobbing was ramping back up. Ironically, each display of care and affection only made her want to cry more.

Finally, Twilight's weeping tapered off, ending with a last few hiccups. She turned slowly, to look at the changeling who was still holding her in her hooves..

"Chrysalis..." she said slowly. "I... I have to tell you something..."

"Go ahead," said Chrysalis, an encouraging smile on her face. "You can tell me anything. You know that."

Looking at that smile made her heart feel like it was being squeezed in a vice, but Twilight took a deep breath. She'd already hurt Chrysalis by letting things go this far; even if it hurt now, hurt them both, it was better than letting it linger.

"Chrysalis... I don't love you."

It was as bad as she'd expected. Chrysalis's face went ashen, her eyes widening with a look of desperation and horror in them. She pushed herself backwards on the bed, shaking her head unsteadily in denial.

  "No... no, Twilight, please," she pleaded. "Whatever I did, whatever happened, I'm sorry. W-was I pushing things too fast? I just thought you'd be more comfortable in your own castle, I thought you'd feel it was more private than the hive... we don't have to make love, we can just cuddle, o-or talk, or go to sleep–"

"Chrysalis... Chrysalis, no." Twilight took another deep breath. "I never loved you."

The changeling pushed herself up, face drawn and haggered, her breath coming in harsh, ragged gasps. She tried to back away, but her trembling legs collapsed as soon as she put weight on them and she fell down onto the edge of the bed. Her head dropped, as though her neck were unable to hold its weight up, and her face disappeared from Twilight's sight as her hair fell to mask it.

"I don't understand," she said finally, her voice a miserable whimper, her body shuddering.

"That day, in the hive, when you explained to me what changeling courtship rituals were, when you told me how we were married... that was the first time I'd ever heard any of that."

A strangled gasp came from behind the curtain of hair, but Twilight forced herself to continue.

"I was terrified of you, Chrysalis. When you... when you married me, I thought you were really going to kill me. I thought you were going to kill me, and take my place, and hurt everyone I knew and loved. From the moment we first met, everything you did, everything you said... I thought you meant it all. I thought you hated me, and that you really wanted to hurt me.  

"And... I hated you. I thought you were a monster. Everything I said to you, every insult, every bit of hate I spewed back at you... I meant it all. I wanted you gone from Equestria, gone from my life. If I'd ever managed to turn the Elements of Harmony on you, I would have gladly turned you to stone, or locked you in the ice of the frozen North, or whatever the Elements would have done to defeat you... and I would have been glad."

With each statement Twilight made, with each admission of what her true feelings towards Chrysalis had been, the changeling flinched as though she were being struck. It hurt to watch that, oh it hurt so much, but Twilight forced herself to continue. Chrysalis deserved the truth, not a sham of a marriage, no matter how much it hurt her. And Twilight forced herself to watch Chrysalis's pain; that was her punishment.

"But Chrysalis... these last few week with you have been amazing. I got to know you, the real you, more than I ever thought I would. And I came to realize that while I might consider a lot of what you do to be wrong and, well, 'evil', there's so much more to you. That was always too simple of a way to think of you, to think of anyone. You're just... different. In a lot of ways, I like that difference. You're so much more straightforward.

"And... and I like you, Chrysalis. I like spending time with you, I like being around you. You're fun, you're always excited about everything, and, well, you know me. You know what to do to make me laugh, how to cheer me up, how to just let me be when I want some quiet time. And I know you really care for me, and I appreciate that.

"I don't love you, though. You're my friend, a really good friend, and I hope we can stay friends after this... but that's all we can be. Just friends."

Soft weeping came from under Chrysalis's mane as Twilight spoke, but it trailed off as she went on, and when Twilight finished speaking all she could hear were fast, shallow breaths from the Queen. For several moments there was silence, neither pony nor changeling moving or speaking.

"I... was a fool, wasn't I?" said Chrysalis finally, voice soft and hoarse. "All this time... I could barely feed off you, and I thought you were purposely holding your love back. To make me earn it, to make me prove myself worthy. That is what a changeling would do. But the love was never there to begin with, was it?"

"No..." said Twilight, shaking her head sadly. "That's not how love works with ponies. We can't deny our love to another, can't keep it in. When it's there, it all comes out at once."

Chrysalis' head drooped down further. A few more ragged breaths came through her mane, billowing it out slightly, and then she pushed herself back with her hooves, sliding off the bed. Her legs wobbled as she stood, but they held her up, and she turned away, face still hidden.

"Chrysalis..." said Twilight plaintively from the bed, "Chrysalis, I'm so sorry."

"No, Twilight, it's okay. You don't have to apologize. In fact, I should be thanking you."

"Thanking me?" repeated Twilight, puzzled. "For what?"

Chrysalis's horn lit up, small fires crackling along the lingerie on her body, and then she pulled the whole thing off and let the smoldering mess fall to the floor by her hooves.

"Tell me, Twilight Sparkle," she said, talking animatedly once more, voice pitching upwards in a kind of vicious amusement that made Twilight's eyes widen. "You've clearly spent some time studying me and my kind since being so horribly forced to marry me. So, tell me... what is it we changelings desire most?"

"Well," replied Twilight nervously, "Love, of course, and domination. And–" She stopped, the last word catching in her throat.

"And conquest," finished Chrysalis with a hiss, head turning to meet Twilight's gaze at last, and green fire blazed in her eyes.

"Chrysalis, no, wait–"

"Sssshhh." Chrysalis hushed her, moving around to the front of the bed. For a moment, she just looked back at Twilight, her eyes narrowed, her face tightly drawn.

"I was prepared to give it all up for you," she finally said softly. "I knew you wouldn't let me just do as I pleased and enslave all your ponies. I looked forward to it, even; there was no one else I thought worthy of disagreement with me, no one else who would be able to stand up to me, no one else I wouldn't mind losing to. For you, I would have even been willing to resort to diplomacy and negotiation to expand my power.

"And that's why I'm thanking you now. For giving me this last chance at conquest. The greatest conquest of my entire life." She lifted a hoof, pointing it straight at Twilight. "You!"

"You don't have to–" Twilight paused, blinking. "Me?" she squeaked.

Chrysalis slid sideways a few feet, stopping on Twilight's side of the foot of the bed and peering back down at her. "You stole my heart, Twilight. And now... I shall steal yours."

She began to move forward, each step lithe and carefully placed, like she was stalking some prey.

"I am going to make you love me, the way I love you. You won't be able to sleep at night, because I will be all you can think of. And you won't be able to think, because I won't be with you. Every last thought you have will be consumed by your desire for me. You'll want me, need me, ache for me every second we're apart. I'll be your worst addiction, your greatest craving." She stopped next to Twilight, looming over the trembling pony, peering at her with half-lidded eyes. "And then, my dear Twilight, when you can't stand it anymore, when you come crawling back to me on your belly, pleading, begging me to take you back... I'll look down at you, and do you know what I'll say?"

Twilight, dazed, was barely even to shake her head. When she did, Chrysalis suddenly darted forward, so fast Twilight didn't even have time to flinch.

"I'll say 'yes'," crooned the changeling, her muzzle nearly inside Twilight's ear. "And we will spend our days together in bliss."

She moved up, her fangs giving the edge of Twilight's ear a sharp nip that produced a sound halfway between a gasp and a whimper from the pony, and then drew away, heading for the door to the bedchamber.

"So prepare yourself, Twilight Sparkle!" Chrysalis called back, standing in the open doorway. "For I am going to woo you as no pony has ever been wooed before!" With that, she was gone, the door slamming shut behind her.

"I don't..." Twilight tried to say, several minutes later, then trailed off.

"You can't just..." Another attempt to talk faded into oblivion.

Finally, it dawned on Twilight that Chrysalis had been gone for quite some time. She considered several options for what to do next, then, finally... just gave up, and let herself flop over on the bed.

She took in a deep breath and let out a sigh, then gave a curious sniff. Lavender was the predominant smell, of course, but under it was something else, something bitter–the smell of Chrysalis. And while it was bitter, it wasn't a bad scent; it reminded her of black licorice.

Maybe... she thought, words hesitant even in her own mind, maybe it wouldn't be that bad.

Despite herself, Twilight couldn't help smiling.

To Be Continued...