• Published 24th Sep 2013
  • 17,973 Views, 1,911 Comments

An Affliction of the Heart: Volume Four - Anonymous Pegasus

A hybrid develops new powers, a dark queen escapes, while a pegasus and a changeling try to normalise their married life.

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Warden clenched his teeth, lifting his good hoof and pawing at the air for a moment as he hissed faintly.

“Still hurting?” Green Hoof asked with a deep frown, as she inspected the unripened aurora bulb in front of her.

“Yeah, stupid Gale making me do wing push-ups. I think he enjoys seeing me in pain. What do you call people who enjoy seeing other people in pain?” Warden asked with a grimace.

“Parents,” Green Hoof said dryly, testing the weight of the bulb with her hoof.

Green Hoof was an earth pony, and quite good at growing things; but she was nowhere near good enough to grow aurora without serious help. Green Hoof was a little larger than Warden, more strongly built, with a soft brown coat and flowing green mane and tail. Her cutie mark was a simple green shoot.

Warden was a pegasus, with a bad wing and severely bad hoof, causing him to be unable to fly and only able to walk with a limp. He was white from nose to rump, with a blue mane and tail and a cutie mark that was a trestle covered with vines. Strangely, for a pegasus, his special talent was growing plants.

“This stuff, aurora. It’s dangerous, yes?” Green Hoof asked bluntly.

“Quite dangerous,” Warden admitted with a frown. “Poisonous if eaten, explosive if prepared right. A powerful, addictive drug, and one of the best painkillers known to pony kind.”

“Right,” Green Hoof said brusquely. “But… are my family in any danger?”

“The explosion has a radius of about five metres for each fruit,” Warden said bluntly. “So unless you were holding it against them, I doubt it.”

Green Hoof snorted once, shaking her head. “I meant: will somepony attempt to kidnap them and use them as leverage to get me to give them aurora?”

Warden opened his mouth to respond, and then closed it, frowning deeply. “Well… I don’t think so,” he said, rubbing a hoof against his ear nervously. “I mean, sure, a few years ago it was a problem. But now? I’m the only grower of this stuff in the entire country. So there’s no one addicted to it to market it to. They’d have to establish an entirely new-”

Warden was brought up short by Green Hoof leaning in and kissing him full on the mouth.

Blinking rapidly, Warden paused and then lifted a hoof to gently push the earth pony away, brows furrowing. “What was that?”

Green Hoof frowned and looked, the faintest of pink tinges coming to her cheeks. “I… I couldn’t help myself. And I wanted to see… if you still felt like that about me.”

Warden gave a grimace, biting his bottom lip. “I’m not sure what to say…”

Green Hoof gave a long sigh and a nod. “You just did say all that you need to say… Kuno owns your heart.”

“She really does,” Warden admitted with a wry smile.

“But tell me…” Green Hoof trailed off, chewing her bottom lip. “If… if Kuno had never come back, do you think that we… that is to say, do you think that you would have… fallen in love me?”

Warden lowered his head slightly at that, and then shook his head slowly. “No, Green Hoof. I don’t think so. We’re just not… meant for each other. I’m damaged goods and I needed a changeling to put me back together. A normal mare would just be too much for me to handle.”

Green Hoof gave a slightly cold nod. “I… I understand. So… how do these pollinate?”

Warden pushed the front door of his cottage open with a shoulder, grimacing as his wing flopped down onto the ground listlessly.

Kuno, his wife, looked up from her magazine with a deep frown. “Did Gale Force push you too hard again?”

Kuno was a changeling, and even though her kind and ponies rarely mingled given their natural roles as predator and prey, they were quite in love with each other. Kuno was a little smaller than
Warden, and looked as all changelings did: covered in chitin, bug-like wings, oversized canines, frills instead of a mane, and her flesh, most often hidden underneath all her chitin, was a bright, vivid blue. The only article of clothing she wore was a red collar, well-worn with years of use, with a golden bell at her throat that jingled merrily and her name stitched into the side of the collar itself in gold lettering.

“I can’t even lift my wing,” Warden complained, literally picking the wing up with a hoof and folding it back in place. “I haven’t been this sore since our honeymoon.”

“You promised me whatever I wanted,” Kuno said with a soft giggle, motioning for him to come closer.

Warden stepped closer to his wife, sitting down beside her and wincing faintly as she lifted a hoof to rest on his bad wing, lightly massaging the top of it.

“Your father is kind of a douche,” Kuno admitted with a frown.

“I know, right?” Warden asked between clenched teeth, leaning sideways to rest his cheek on Kuno’s haunch.

Kuno ruffled his mane with a hoof, before curling down to kiss his nose delicately. “Given how far away Cloudsdale is, he must wake up at like, 4AM just to come down here to wake you up and torture you.”

“He enjoys my pain,” Warden grumbled, nuzzling his cheek against Kuno’s neck lightly, reaching a hoof around to stroke along her wings softly.

Kuno’s wings buzzed faintly and she gave a happy little croon. “Well, you’ve got an entire day to yourself before he comes back to torture you. So… how did it go with Green Hoof?”

Warden grimaced slightly.

“Did you two talk about… what’s-his-face?” Kuno queried.

“His name is Mint Green and he’s my illegitimate son,” Warden corrected, pursing his lips.

“Yeah, him, did you talk about him?” Kuno reiterated.

“Not really, no. She erm… kissed me and asked me if I would have fallen in love with her if you never came back,” Warden said with a strained smile.

Kuno’s eyes narrowed and she glowered.

“Kuno? Talk to me,” Warden said, slightly nervous.

“Warden, hun,” Kuno said, in her sweetest voice. “Where do we keep our sharpest knives?”

Warden’s ears splayed back, and he lifted a hoof placatingly. “Kuno, behave. You should know better than anyone just how much you own me.”

Kuno growled faintly, her eyes flashing with anger, before she took several long, deep breaths. “Fine. Fine. What did you tell her?”

“I lied,” Warden said with a long sigh, resting his chin on one of his wife’s legs. “I told her that no, we never had a ghost of a chance.”

“So… if I never came back…” Kuno began, staring down at him.

Warden nodded solemnly. “Especially as she was pregnant. I’m kind of easily manipulated like that.”

Kuno’s eyes flashed again, and she gave a low growl, wrapping her hooves around him and squeezing tightly. “Mine.”

“I know,” Warden wheezed, giving a smile and then leaning forwards to kiss her chin. “Now stop strangling me.”

“If she kisses you again, I want you to punch her in the throat,” Kuno said bluntly.

Warden gave a slow nod. “I shall try my very best to mortally wound her if she tries again.”

“Oh who am I kidding, of course you won’t,” Kuno said with a deep frown.

“You’re getting jealous again, hun,” Warden cautioned, nudging her lightly with his nose.

“It’s your fault!” Kuno huffed, nudging him firmly in response, before chewing harmlessly on his muzzle with her large canine fangs.

Warden gave a nod, batting at her bell lightly with a hoof. “Indeed. So, do you think that Swarm is having fun at school?”

“I hope so,” Kuno said, pausing in her chewing to frown deeply. “Kids can be such little pricks.”

“Hey, that’s not very nice,” Warden responded, frowning at his wife.

“Is it wrong?” Kuno challenged.

“Well… no, but still!” Warden said with a huff.

Kuno shook her head, and then went back to chewing on his muzzle.

“Fakeicorn!” one of the unicorns on the playground called, pointing a hoof accusingly.

Swarm shrunk backwards, her ears pinning against her skull. “W-what?”

“Fakeicorn!” the unicorn said smugly, striding forwards to stand in front of the young hybrid. “Look at you. You’ve got a horn and wings!”

Swarm lowered her head, trying to make herself look small. “W-well that’s how I was born.”

Fakeicorn!” the unicorn affirmed, stamping a hoof. “Only Princess Celestia, Princess Luna, Princess Cadance, and Princess Twilight Sparkle are alicorns! Are you a princess?”

Swarm shrank backwards further, stammering. “W-w-well I-I-I-”

Fakeicorn!” the unicorn said, stamping her hoof decidedly.

“B-but I-”

“Fakeicorn! Fakeicorn! Fakeicorn!” the unicorn taunted, dancing in place and drowning out Swarm’s protests.

“Hey, leave her alone,” a voice said, and someone stepped in between Swarm and the unicorn.

It was Wrought Iron, a young unicorn that Swarm had barely met. “She never said she was an alicorn!”

“But all alicorns are princesses,” the unicorn said, tossing her mane with a smirk. “So if she’s not a princess, she’s a fakeicorn!

“Fakeicorn, fakeicorn!” came the chant from the group of fillies that had gathered.

Swarm covered her face with her hooves and folded her wings tight to her sides.

Wrought Iron scowled. “That doesn’t even make sense!”

“It makes perfect sense!” the unicorn said, stamping her hoof obstinately and narrowing her eyes. “I bet neither of you can even use magic yet!” A pile of dirt lifted from the ground and floated in the air, held aloft by the soft golden glow of magic from the young unicorn.

Wrought Iron’s eyes narrowed, and he lowered his head, concentrating hard, his eyes screwing closed. His horn sparked with blue energy, fizzling faintly.

The female unicorn smirked and the clods of dirt shot through the air, splashing across Wrought Iron’s face.

Wrought Iron cried out in pain, falling backwards onto his rump, hooves lifting to paw at his face and eyes in distress, starting to cry.

Swarm’s eyes narrowed slowly, and she carefully rose to her hooves, moving to stand besides Wrought Iron, staring at the female unicorn filly with a deadpan stare.

The unicorn stared back, unperturbed. “What are you gonna do, huh? Fakeicorn useless fakeicorn!”

Swarm’s eyes narrowed further, watching calmly as the unicorn levitated another pile of dirt. Very deliberately, Swarm lifted a hoof, and then slammed it down on the ground in front of her. Her horn glowed a ghostly green, and a ring of green fire spread from the impact of her hoof, scorching the grass around her. The dirt levitating between the unicorn and the hybrid seemed to fizzle before dropping to the ground, inert.

The unicorn filly blinked several times, scrunching up her face to try and lift the dirt again.

Swarm tilted her head to the side curiously, watching the other filly intently. For the barest of moments, Swarm’s eyes flashed green. “Something the matter?”

“W-what did you do to my magic?!” the unicorn asked, her voice cracking. The crowd had started to withdraw, backing away in a large circle on some base instinct.

“I think I made it stop working,” Swarm said smugly, taking a step forwards.

The unicorn took a step backwards, prancing nervously. “Y-you’re not allowed to hurt me!”

“Not allowed?” Swarm asked sweetly, taking another step forwards, head turning to the side and an ear perking towards the unicorn attentively. “Whyever not?”

“M-miss Acumen says we’re not allowed to hurt each other!” the unicorn stammered, taking another step backwards, her rump pushing up against the cold steel of a playground swing.

Swarm pondered on that, looking thoughtful, lifting a hoof to scratch at her chin slowly. “I don’t think she ever told me that. And if she never told me, it must not be true,” she said, a slow grin spreading across her muzzle, completely devoid of warmth.

The unicorn turned to dodge to the left, only for a beam of vibrant green enemy to pulse from Swarm’s horn and catch her in the side, lifting her up and sending her spinning in an untidy tangle of limbs across the grass.

Bumping to a heavy stop with a faint groan, the unicorn stirred faintly, eyes opening and blinking hazily. A shadow fell over her, and she whimpered helplessly.

Swarm smiled wickedly down at the foal, leaning down to whisper into one of her ears, “If you don’t leave me alone then my mommy is going to kill you.”

And without another word, Swarm turned around, brushed an imaginary speck of dust off her wing and then strutted confidently back towards Wrought Iron.

The soft echo of water droplets splashing down into a pool of liquid were the only sounds in the quiet dungeon beneath the Canterlot Palace.

Upon the ‘rediscovery’ of the dungeon, whose magical crystals were a strong source of curiosity, it had been converted into a dungeon for the most ruthless of Equestria’s criminals. The crystals were a peculiar type, and actively drained magic from those who spent too long in their proximity. Any unicorn spending more than a few hours in the dungeon soon found their ability to catch magic completely drained.

This was the reason that Chrysalis had trapped Princess Cadance amongst the crystals. With no way to regenerate her magic, she was trapped.

It was perhaps ironic then, that the very method Chrysalis had used to keep Princess Cadance contained was now being used to keep her from escape.

Five long, long years. Five years of torturous hunger with no chance of escape.

The magic that Chrysalis had taken from Kuno didn’t work on Shining Armor. Or rather, it worked perfectly well but each time she wasted her energy on using it, it was removed somehow when Shining Armor was away from the dungeon.

Chrysalis gave a low purr, licking her lips and stroking a hoof idly down the length of Shining Armor’s mane, pressing close to him and wrapping her hooves about his form.

Shining Armor pushed his nose against her chest gently. “I should go… they’ll be looking for me soon.”

“Five more minutes?” Chrysalis asked, affecting a weary tone.

“Five more?” Shining Armor asked with a strained expression.

“Just five. Only five is all I need,” Chrysalis crooned, kissing the guard’s nose lovingly. “You don’t want me to starve do you? You love me, don’t you?”

Shining Armor stared up into Chrysalis’ eyes, and bit his bottom lip, before nodding slowly. “Yes. Yes I do, Chrysalis.”

“Good,” Chrysalis purred, rubbing her cheek amorously against his own. “I miss the warmth of your body when you are gone.”

“And I miss the… well…” Shining Armor trailed off, prodding at her chitin. “The feel of this. It’s all smooth and nice, like the inside of my armor.”

Chrysalis gave a slow smirk. “If you can convince the guards to let you ‘interrogate’ me for a while more, I’ll let you feel what it’s like under my armor…” she said with a suggestive purr.

Shining Armor gave a faint smile at that, and then shook his head. “You know I can’t. If I go back to Cadance smelling like you… then they’ll figure out what’s happening. They’ll think you’re just… using me as a way to escape.”

“Why do I need to escape?” Chrysalis asked, tugging the unicorn closer and gently nibbling at the crook of his neck. “I have everything I need in here. I gave up my crown, my army, my goals… but I got you.”

“You… did,” Shining Armor said with a faint frown, ears lowering. “But… what do we do when Cadance finds out? It’s only a matter of time…”

“We tell her the truth,” Chrysalis said with a low purr, laying a slew of kisses across his cheeks, kneading his sides lightly with her hooves. “We tell her that we’re in love. She’s the princess of love… surely she’ll understand.”

“I’m not so sure…” Shining Armor admitted, frowning to himself. “She’s been getting mighty suspicious of the amount of time we’re spending together… and it was only you putting that spell on me a few weeks back that lowered her suspicions enough to stop her bursting in here herself.”

“That is a problem,” Chrysalis said, scowling. “You’re just going to have to stallion up and break up with her.”

Shining Armor winced at that. “I want to… but I’m not there yet, Chrissy. She is a princess after all. Breaking up with her and going to you…? Ponies would get the wrong idea.”

“I don’t care, as long as I have you,” Chrysalis crooned lovingly, squeezing him tightly with her forehooves. “Call me ‘Chrissy’ again…”

“Chrissy,” Shining Armor said with a smile, burying his nose against her chest with a content sigh.

Chrysalis purred, resting her chin between his ears and squeezing him with her forehooves.

Chrysalis’ eyes snapped open and she stared at the crystal wall for several long moments as she felt a disturbance. It was magic. Not particularly powerful, but definitely changeling-flavoured. But something about it was different.

Eyes narrowing at the wall, Chrysalis lightly rubbed her fangs against Shining Armor’s ears. “Soon, lover. We will be together and free.”

“Together and free,” Shining Armor repeated softly, nosing against her chest.