• Published 10th Jul 2013
  • 2,167 Views, 27 Comments

Desperate Times - Xepher

Celestia must deal with sick and dying changelings showing up in Canterlot and writes for help.

  • ...

Original Version

Desperate Times
By Xepher

"Three more?" Princess Celestia said, sighing. "That makes what... twelve this week?"

"Thirteen actually." Captain Armor corrected. "We haven't seen this many changlings in the city since the invasion."

"Are we any closer to figuring out what they're up to?"

"Not really. Most of the ones we caught couldn't even keep their disguises intact for more than a few minutes, so they didn't get far inside the gates. The only ones further into the city were all found near some of the entrances to the underground ruins."

"You think they perhaps stashed weapons or something down there during the invasion?"

"Again, I'm not sure your highness. We're trying to interrogate them still."

"No results?"

"It's not that they're resisting, well, not exactly. Several of them passed out not long after we caught them. The rest are somewhat responsive, but everything they say seems incoherent and disjointed. It's like they're dehydrated, or sick. If they were ponies, I'd say a couple were even verging on death. Water doesn't seem to help, nor does any food we've offered. I even had Cadance visit one and try offering love."

Celestia was surprised (and impressed) by that last part. "I know that must've been hard on you Shining."

"Never mind me your Highness, the point is that it didn't work, even though Cadance is the only pony I know that could even begin to offer that much love to a changling. Now I don't know what to do, and I don't like prisoners dying in my cells."

"Nor do I Captain, nor do I. Please, continue to do what you can, and I trust you to let me know if anything changes. In the meantime, I'll do what I can as well."

"Yes Ma'am!" Shining saluted and left the throne room.

After her guard captain left, and no one else was in the throne room to see, Princess Celestia slumped down on her throne and became just Celestia; a pony with a definite problem on her mind.

On the one hoof, the changlings were technically enemies of Canterlot. But they'd been roundly beaten during the invasion attempt, and posed no real threat (as far as her intel from the Badlands informed her.) As such, she felt sorry for them. She never liked to see anypony suffer, "enemy" or otherwise. These captured changlings sounded as though they were about to die, and she had to do something about that. She grabbed a scroll and quill.

"Dear Queen Chrysallis..." She began, hoping the changling usurper would be willing to hear her out.


As Princess of the Sun, Celestia's sleep schedule ran like clockwork. While most ponies woke either to an alarm, or to the rays of sunlight coming through a window, she instead always woke shortly before dawn, right on time, due to her instinctual connection with the heavens. As such, even after living for millenia, waking up due to an external influence of any kind was a VERY disconcerting feeling. When that external influence was alarm bells sounding in the castle, it was that much worse.

Thankfully, by the time she made it to the throne room to find out what was happening, the alarm was already passed. The guard on duty informed her it was just a lone changling that had come flying directly at the castle, but it had been taken captive by the guards on one of the parapets.

As the guard finished speaking, Shining Armor burst into the room.

"Princess," he began, panting with exertion. "We've got her!"

"The changling that flew in?"

"Not just any changling your highness, it's Queen Chrysallis herself!"

"Ah, she must've received my letter."

Shining was speechless, jaw hanging open as his mind processed that last sentence.

"Yes," Celestia said, answering the unasked question, "I wrote to her, asking for help with the sick captives we have. Of course I wasn't expecting her to come crashing in on us in the middle of the night without even responding first. Still though, please, escort her here immediately."

Captain Armor managed to close his gaping jaw and salute. "Yes Ma'am!" His was not to question the Princess.


Minutes later, Chryssalis was "escorted" into the throne room. "Carried" would perhaps have been a better term though. The Queen of All Changlings did not look well. Of course, to a normal pony, a changling looked pretty tattered and ragged in the best of circumstances, but the queen now looked far worse. One wing looked completely broken. Her normally shiny chitin was flaking and dull. Even the holes in her hooves seemed to be oozing something of a dark, sickly green.

As the guards supporting her reached the base of the throne, Chrysallis slumped to the floor, bowing to Celestia. "Please, your... Highnessss", she hissed, not liking the feel of the word in her mouth. "I must beg you to help us."

Shining, standing to the side of the room, was once again flabbergasted. He was starting to think he'd had one too many corndogs last night, and this must all be some inverted nightmare.

"Of course I'll help," Celestia began, "That's what I offered in the letter. I had no idea you were... ill... as well though."

"Letter?" Chrysallis said, halfway to herself.

"Yes, I assumed you were here about the sick changlings we have captured."

Chrysallis began to chuckle. She'd spent three days struggling across the wastes of the Badlands and the dangers of the Everfree to come beg for help with the blight and it was only these desperate times that let her even consider this. Only the few changlings that had yet to become sick had been able to go ahead of her. She'd also spent most of that time mentally preparing her to do the most difficult thing ever required of her; to beg help from that perfect goody goody sun princess that had so soundly trounced her and her army. And when she finally gets there, half dead, and finally utters those most horrid of words... the perfect pretty princess had already OFFERED help. She just missed it because she was busy fighting off manticores in the wastes instead of checking the post box at #3, The Hollowed Out Volcano.

The laughter scaled appropriately to "Maniacal", but just as the guards were starting to get nervous and draw their weapons, it ended in a fit of coughing and hacking, bringing the queen back onto her knees.

"Care to explain?" Celestia asked.

"Very well," Chrysallis said, sighing dejectedly. "You're going to love this..."


"So here's the deal," Shining Armor began, "The Princess has ordered us to go into the ruined vaults beneath the city. Apparently the changlings left something down there during the invasion, and it's the only thing that's able to cure this disease they've all come down with."

"Sir, with all due respect, why in Celestia's Name would we want to help heal changlings?"

"Sargent," Shining yelled, stepping nose to nose with the disgruntled guardspony, "You are in the Royal Guard. Her Royal Highness, Princess Celestia of the Sun, Ruler of Equestia has ORDERED us to do this. It doesn't matter what we want or don't want in the matter, is that understood."

"Yes sir!" The guard said, saluting hard enough that his hoof put a slight dent in his helmet.

"That goes for the rest of you as well. We may not like it, but the Princess knows best. If any of you EVER doubt that, I do not want to see your faces in this castle ever again. Understood?"

"Sir, yes sir!" The guards answered in unison, saluting. (One a little more carefully this time.)


It took the guards only to late afternoon to find the relic. Of course, a two foot high crystal spire, glowing with blue inner magic shows up pretty easily in dark tunnels made mostly of brown and dusty stone. As such it was mostly just a matter of getting enough hooves on (or under) the ground, rather than an heroic effort by the Royal Guard. Still though, Shining was proud of his troops efficiency as he brought the relic to the throne room.

Celestia had asked for a table to be put in the middle of the room, and Shining put the spire in the center of it. Chrysallis was slumped on a couch nearby, but stirred as she felt the energy from the artifact.

Celestia stepped down from the throne, setting aside a book she'd been reading. "Good work, Captain. You found it much quicker than I was expecting." She lied, but she knew Shining's pride in his forces drove him to always do his best, and in turn, motivated all of them to do their best as well. It was a small thing, but ponies needed to feel good about even the little things sometimes, especially when they probably weren't too happy with the reasons for them.

"Ah, yes, this is it." Chrysallis said, stumbling somewhat awkwardly off the couch and over to the table.

"Now that we've found it, perhaps you might explain what it does?" Princess Celestia didn't think this was any trick -- the changling queen was far too sickly for this to be a ruse -- but she had also been quite cautious. She'd had several of the top magical professors from the university look over the object after it was found (and before it was brought to the throne room) and all had declared it safe. Still though, just because they could vouch that it had no weaponizable magic doesn't mean they could figure out what it actually does.

"Yes, I suppose I must," Chrysallis said, "or you're not going to left me have it, are you?"

"Chrysallis," Celestia pleased, "Do believe me. I wish you no further harm. I wish you had recieved my letter and read it yourself so you'd have more reason to trust my intentions, but suffice to say, I don't want to see anypony... or any changling... suffer needlessly. The ones we captured are sick and dying, and I'd be trying to help them even if you hadn't come here. So please, tell us, will this artifact do that?"

Chrysallis sighed. She hated giving away changling secrets, but what good are secrets to a dead hive? "As you know, we feed on love, as you do on food. Without it, we get weak and die."

"Yes, but Cadance tried giving love to some of the captured changlings and it didn't help."

"That's because we're not starving, we're sick. Our hive was infected with Blight. While we naturally heal (with enough love to feed on) this medicine spire speeds the process, and can cure other illnesses as well as injuries. To work though, it needs..." Chrysallis gritted her teeth. She HATED admitting weaknesses to these... wimpy, pretty ponies.

"What does it need?" Shining asked, butting into the conversation.

"It needs laughter, okay? We eat love, but for medicine we need laughter."

Shining snickered, as the very idea itself was laughable. This was just another corndog fantasy and he was still home in bed. Either that, or the absolute dumbest takeover attempt the changlings had ever concocted. He couldn't help it, he burst out with a hearty, and very unprofessional guffaw.

The spire's glow shifted from blue to blue-green, before emitting a spark that leaped to the tip of Chrysallis' horn. As it did so, it zigged and zagged down her body, suffusing into the more obviously injured areas. Her bent wing straightened out and some of the more ragged tears began to close themselves up. Likewise, the oozing on her hooves dried up.

Shining looked confused. "Wait, did I do that?"

Celestia just smiled and nodded.. Looking at Chyrsallis, she saw her flexing her previously injured wing, and most miraculous of all, caught a tiny smile on her face as well, before it collapsed back to its standard scowl. Now THAT was something to be happy about, and The Sun Princess let out the brightest, most sincere and joyous laugh.


"I don't know how to thank you Celestia..." Chrysallis said. "I feel completely healthy again."

"I would do the same for anypony... any being that I can help, I try to."

"But what about the rest of my hive. The laughter of you and your guard cured me, but my entire hive is sick. Where can we possibly find enough laughter to cure them all in time?" Chrysallis asked, genuinely concerned for her underlings.

The princess thought of her students and friends in Ponyville for the first time in what felt like weeks. Smiling, she grabbed a quill, scroll, and the special balloon stamps she'd gotten as a gift. "I think I know just the pony."

Author's Note:

This chapter contains the original text, exactly as submitted and judged in the Iron Author contest, and was written entirely within two hours. It is, therefore, full of typos and other mistakes.

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Comments ( 18 )


Thanks! I've always felt the key themes in Pony was redemption. Every enemy is just a misunderstood friend. I'm just really glad something I had to smash out in two hours can at all reflect that ideal. :twilightsmile:


Indeed. Someday I want to write a fic with a fully reformed, loving Chrysalis and her hive. My only problem would be power escalation on that scale removing all narrative conflict. I mean, is there anything you couldn't accomplish with an entire changeling hive AND the power of friendship on the same side of a fight? :trollestia:


Thanks, I really appreciate the comments. I know I need to reign in my interjections (parentheticals, em-dash interruptions, ellipses, etc.) but I think part of my problem is that my mind actually thinks in that sort of nested, multi-threaded fashion. I blame Terry Pratchett and his infamous footnotes. :derpytongue2:

As for the present/past tense... I think you're talking about a piece of Chrysallis' internal monologue. If so, then I definitely struggled with how to phrase that there, as it sounds wrong for a character to "think" in past tense, even though it's not quoted dialogue, yet the change in verb tense doesn't scan quite right either. (If it's somewhere else you're talking about, then it's just me derping it up.)

But yeah, definitely a lot of things I can work on as I write longer (and less rushed) stories in the future. This one is probably just going to stay as is though, if I try to stare at it any longer my head is likely to implode.

In the future I recommend only posting the revised version. The reason is that some people might not want to view both but want to favorite it but not have it permanently on their favorites unread list. They could click the button to mark as read or load the page but some people with find that annoying.


I'll keep that in mind next time. Generally speaking, I'd much rather not show off my grammatical and spelling failures. :twilightblush: It just felt essential to the spirit of the contest in this one case. Rest assured I won't be making a habit of it though. :scootangel:


True, for a contest entry it is cool.

This was such an enjoyable story to read and listen to. Perfect ending.

2950638 Heh, the saucer and alien logos are a nice touch. Reminds me of this one I saw years ago.

Anyway, glad you enjoyed the story, and thanks for the favorite on it.

I'm glad I found this again.

2974311 Glad you liked it, and (as I've said elsewhere) thanks again for all the compliments and advice you offered at Everfree. It was quite nifty to just shooting the breeze with you and Piquo at the con. I'm working on two new stories now, but it's odd getting to actually THINK before typing. :-P

Also, yeah, we made a group for all the entrants... there were about 20+ at Everfree... yet only 4 are in the group. If you come across more, tell them to submit their tales.

Two hours. Goodness, but some people can write in this English stuff!

3336750 Yeah, they can. I just didn't realize I was one of them. I hadn't written a proper story in several years when I went to Everfree in July, and I'd never written pony. But, open contest, I figured it'd be good exercise at the very least. Still kind of surprised I placed. Though, not as surprised as I am right now that Three Wishes (my first "real" pony story) is currently #2 in the feature box and has been there most of the day. I have no words, so I'll let Pinkie demonstrate my emotional gamut for the day.

3336984 I'm glad to hear the humor worked like I expected. It's always difficult to thread in certain types of jokes without giving away too much, or having them feel out of place to readers that' don't get it.

As for "more." Yeah, I've got a back-burner set of ideas I want to explore from this story in sequel form. I'm not promising anything, but it's definitely in my thoughts to try and revisit this version of Equestria at some point.

3413839>>3336984 I have to admit that the joke there was borrowed from Top Gear. There's an episode that I cannot currently find, where Richard Hammond is describing a super car, saying it looks like it belongs to someone whose address is "Number 3, the hollowed-out volcano."

Anyway, glad you liked the story!


I've always felt the key themes in Pony was redemption. Every enemy is just a misunderstood friend.


I'm completely sick of movies/cartoons where the protagonists execute the villains with smiles on their "heroic" faces (worst example: Kung Fu Panda.). I almost always feel bad for villains, especially when we learn their back-stories.

(hm... I hope Sombra will not turn out to be dead, or I'll be very angry :flutterrage:)

Not bad for a quickly written contest piece. Loved the ending.

4674527 Thanks... I feel really lucky that this particular idea came to me so quickly during the contest. I don't think I've ever written something so short before, but this one "fit."

Good idea, and quite well written. Makes one wonder what other emotion-powered devices they have.

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