• Published 11th May 2014
  • 2,246 Views, 47 Comments

What Comes Before a Butterfly - Quillamore



After receiving her Rainbow Power abilities, Fluttershy falls incredibly ill. Discord, going out of his way to help, notices that she has physically changed in strange ways. Little did he know that Tirek wasn't his only problem...

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Villains Reforming Villains

A butterfly lies in a hidden cage
Wandering along an unseen stage
Unknown to any time or era
Located in the realm of chimera
Not a chimera in its usual role
But a chimera of mind, a chimera of soul
Yet deception does not last for long
And in order to be faithful, in order to be strong
To defeat one thought vanquished long ago
Our heroes, minus one, must look beyond the rainbow.

****

Peace can be as deceptive as any war when its cornerstone is based on giving those who care most the blissful ignorance that they so seek. After all, when the last world-shattering invasion happened only weeks ago, nopony would have possibly expected another threat to occur simply because they basked in their victory. There is no risk simply because they wished to believe that there wasn’t one. They were certainly aware that another evil would regenerate eventually, as is the nature of the world. However, they never would have thought it would have happened so soon.

That victory, looking back on it, was likely the worst thing to have happened to them. It lulled them into a sense of security that knew no bounds. Other than the fact that a giant castle appeared out of the blue like a phoenix rising from that ruined library, nothing had changed. They could just go back to their normal lives.

However, their rude awakening began to come when everypony discovered that, only a week after the attack, Fluttershy had clearly suffered the consequences.

It started out just like any other sort of illness; though it was a bit odd that she never really seemed to have a runny nose or anything of the sort, I could tell that her entire body was growing weaker by the hour. It came completely out of nowhere; one day, she was fine, and the next, she fainted while caring for the animals. She used to be able to go at her job for an entire day, from Celestia’s sunrise to Luna’s dusk, but the amount of time she was able to spend with them grew shorter and shorter until I had to do her tasks for her.

Yes, I know that a chaos spirit trying to work with animals, especially ones with such an attitude towards me as Angel, seems rather far-fetched. But that wasn’t the most unbelievable part about the whole deal; it was rather that I didn’t do it out of force or for the sheer reason that I care about Fluttershy.

For once, I felt guilty. I couldn’t help but feel that at least a small part of this had been my fault, and I couldn’t help but hate the whisperings in my heart for making me feel this way. It was true that I had changed—if what Tirek had said about me would’ve been right, a creature like me wouldn’t be capable of showing such emotion, and especially towards a mere pony. It’s something that I had trouble comprehending at times, myself. But somehow…I began to notice that there was something about Fluttershy that made me feel satisfied with being reformed. Not just satisfied, but fulfilled. And of course, with all that Rainbow Power mush about “spreading your spirit throughout all of Equestria!” that had just taken place, I somehow decided that I wanted to return the favor. Not that I really know why or anything, seeing as I had nowhere near the talent she did with the furry creatures, but it made me feel useful regardless. Of course, I felt the need to help Fluttershy herself as well by tending to her needs, helping out around the house, or at least, most of those things.

I really don’t want to tell the story about why embodiments of chaos always order takeout, as it really isn’t that funny. If my dear house mate thought it was, then she had no idea of the scope of other things I’ve done throughout the centuries! Compared to those, it was only a drop in the pond!

So anyway, things always catching fire when I so much as lift a claw to cook. How utterly boring! Let’s just pretend I never mentioned that and get to the point, shall we?

When Fluttershy’s ailment snowballed into something that lasted not just for a week, but almost an entire month, I became convinced that something terrible had happened during the battle, and that was when it hit me like something you would more likely than not punch me for referencing: something was most definitely not right about that box. Sure, it had saved all of Equestria, but there had to be more to it than what it had seemed to do at first glance. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have inflicted illness onto one of its own bearers! I’d managed to hide it from Twilight and the rest of Fluttershy’s friends somehow, but no longer. Surely they had to be suffering from the same Rainbow Power curse, considering the fact that they too had opened it? But what came next was something that not even I could have predicted.

Twilight, Applejack, all the rest were in absolutely perfect condition as I saw them cantering across the city. At the moment, I had only been watching them from afar, not even telling them then what had happened, and when I saw this strange sight, I almost never told the truth to begin with. Fate itself was playing tricks on me, and I quickly grew enraged. Why did they get to continue on with their lives while Fluttershy withered away? The concept itself made my draconequus blood boil.

Somehow, though, after a while of trying to reason with myself, telling myself that a good friend doesn’t keep important things like this hidden, I ended up deciding to tell them. Needless to say, their reactions were much more passionate than I had expected.

I couldn’t help but laugh about Rainbow Dash’s, though. She automatically jumped to the conclusion that all along, the magical power lying within the chest had been remnants of an ancient and unbelievably powerful magician, and that if you were to disturb his spirit, you would gain powers beyond your wildest dreams that would simultaneously eat your body away until you reached a slow and painful death. After all that had happened, she claimed, the magic would go back into the chest once more, ready to tempt another victim when crisis struck and there was no other way of saving Equestria.

Twilight quickly dismissed the theory, telling Rainbow Dash that life does not, in fact, work like a Daring Do book. When Rainbow retorted that the events in the books were in fact real, the noble princess shoved the issue aside and insisted that such a theory was preposterous, using the wonderful logic that if there really was a ghost haunting the chest, surely Celestia would not have them give up the Elements of Harmony and left them to face such a threat. And, as Pinkie usefully pointed out to support Twilight’s argument, if there really was a tomb in that area, then there surely would have been booby traps, and since there were no booby traps, then clearly the box was safe.

Regardless of the petty arguments that ensued after the discovery, everypony tried their very best to uncover just why Fluttershy had been the only one negatively affected by what may or may not have been a result of the new abilities they had gained. It had taken its toll on Twilight especially, who did everything in her power to solve the mystery. She had gone back to the Castle of the Two Sisters despite having never found a book specifically addressing Rainbow Power there and scanned through the tomes for days, even though she had a stinging feeling that her efforts would likely be in vain. Afterwards, she went to every doctor in the area and even a zebra healer in the forest, figuring that they would know of any strange magical illnesses that might exist. Finally, after having even consulted Celestia herself about the matter, she angrily acquiesced to the strange occurrence and asked if she and her friends could stay at Fluttershy’s house to monitor her condition, to which I eagerly agreed by adding several new rooms to the cottage with a snap of my claws.

Why, you may ask? Because I could, and not because I’m what some ponies may call a “Gary Stu.” Accuse me of being one and I’ll gladly make each of your hooves grow horns and a mane. Though I may be reformed, you would have walked right into that one, and I would therefore be completely justified in doing that to you.

Anyway, it had been several days since Twilight and her friends had begun staying with Fluttershy and me over at the cottage when I ended up finding the answer late at night. My ill friend had gained a slight bit of mobility that day, giving me at least a sliver of hope that, as Twilight would put it, “everything would certainly be fine.” However, as the evening went on, she ended up fainting on the couch after the seven of us had all had a delightfully amicable discussion that betrayed the situation we were currently facing. Her head faced the back of the sofa, and I decided to let her stay there, pulling up the other couch directly beside her so that I would be alerted to anything strange that might happen throughout the course of the night. I’d never thought that only a few years after having faced her, corrupted her in battle, I would be the one protecting her. But you never know how much a short amount of time can change everything.

That very fact became even more relevant when I noticed a strange light blocking my sleep. Groaning in annoyance, my initial reaction was not to wake up at all, having exerted myself incredibly on a day full of friendly bonding. However, something within me told me to blink, and when I saw the strange vision, I was glad that I didn’t just let it pass. What resulted was something so mind-bogglingly odd that not even my own twisted mind couldn’t have imagined it, so incomprehensible that it drove perfect little Twilight, who also happened to notice it in the night, to completely down an entire bottle of hard cider which she not-so-kindly asked me to summon for her.

When I looked back to the couch, I quickly noticed that the light I had been seeing was a strange sort of green flame that by some loophole of physics did not burn the fabric at all. However, it did manage to completely cover Fluttershy, who still had not moved a single millimeter. Out of a curious sort of concern, I tentatively poked it with my paw, only to find that, while it did not burn sofas, it did manage to burn fur. Taking all of these details into account, I did what any mature chaos entity would do.

I ran screaming across the room in hopes of waking the (now fiery and not so yellow) pegasus, but to no avail. My mind began to toggle through various options of what could have gone wrong before coming to the realization that I could have said something in my sleep that would have caused this to happen. After all, I’m the only one who could even think of creating something as nonsensical as that picky little flame that only burnt through certain objects! And it was green, at that! It was nopony’s fault but my own, I suppose.

In defeat, I trudged up the stairs to what was now Twilight’s room, banging on the door in a manner so furious that it would have woken anypony up. She initially sighed in annoyance, as what would be expectable for somepony who’s just been woken up in the wee hours of the evening by somepony they found to be especially annoying, but once I frantically explained matters to her, she uttered to me in the most sincere and lilting voice:

“Go to bed, Discord! Fluttershy did not just spontaneously combust!”

“But I didn’t see Princess Luna sneaking up on me while I watched it!” I answered back, making sure to use the most utterly ear-shattering, whiniest voice I had available. (Sometimes, when I have nothing better to do, I do so enjoy practicing it.)

“Fine, I’ll get your stupid fire extinguisher,” Twilight groaned as she went down the stairs.

“That’s not my stupid fire extinguisher,” I shot back. “It’s Fluttershy’s stupid fire extinguisher, which she clearly uses for stupid fire emergencies when somepony is obviously being too stupid.”

“The sooner you quit being such a smarty-mule about everything, the sooner I can get back to bed. So please shut it while I solve your frivolous proble—“

She then trailed off, having realized several minutes too late that I was, in fact, telling the truth.

“You do remember what Princess Celestia says?” I gloated back to her. “’You should take your friends’ worries seriously.’ And right now, I haven’t been seeing somepony who does…”

Twilight shoved off my remark with a particularly loud groan and went off to the kitchen to fetch the extinguisher when I noticed that somehow, Fluttershy just stopped spontaneously combusting. So now that fire makes absolutely less sense, and yet I was too relieved to even complain about it. What I saw next, on the other hand, made me even more delighted.

While I do concede that Fluttershy was incredibly adorable before, she had blossomed into an even more enchanting figure. The first thing that I noticed was that she had a horn, and while I would’ve thought that she would remain her current color upon ascension into alicorndom, her fur was now an even more attractive shade of black and her mane a shadowy green. Her color scheme had improved vastly, in my opinion. And her appendages were now covered in holes. How wonderfully chaotic!

I gazed upon the utterly alluring sight for several minutes, losing myself in what an ethereal princess of chaos she had become. I now knew that I had not been the cause of the occurrence. But whoever did it, in my current state of mind, had made me the most grateful being in Equestria. I was undeserving of such a gift, but somehow it came.

She was just perfect now.

When Twilight came back into the room, she swore she could hear me muttering, “You’re my ethereal princess of chaos~,” complete with the little swiggle at the end. I immediately told her that I said no such thing, only to be answered by a quick bonk to the top of my head.

“What…just…happened?!” she immediately retorted at me. “One moment, I see my dear friend covered in fire that doesn’t even burn the darn couch, I go to get the fire extinguisher, and the next thing I notice, the fire just up and vanishes and you’re making googly eyes at Celestia-forsaken Chrysalis!”

“Oh, but you’re wrong,” I replied. “I know not of a Chrysalis, but I do know that this is most certainly not her. This is Fluttershy, who’s just become an alicorn princess.”

“Oh, for the love of—can’t you even tell an alicorn from a changeling?! Do you want me to use the stupid fire extinguisher on you?! You’re being a complete idiot!”

Rather than deciding to be condescending about how friends ought not to call friends idiots, I instead added fuel to the stupid fire by very intelligently repeating…

“Change-ling?”

In hindsight, I should’ve seen that groan coming.

“Well,” I defended, “I’ve been trapped in stone for a thousand years. How should I know whatever the heck that word means?! I’m no different from Luna, except I at least knew what the word ‘fun’ meant.”

“Here’s a quick lesson,” she muttered in intense annoyance. She then gestured her hoof towards herself and continued, “I am an alicorn.” She moved it back to the figure whom I insisted was Fluttershy and added, “That is a changeling.”

Before I could say anything further, she just facehooved at me, shaking her head for several minutes, and, as previously mentioned, goaded me for a bottle of hard cider.

As she walked away, wishing to escape the strange incident, she sighed, “Let’s just hope this is all one really weird dream…”

****

The next morning, Twilight refused to acknowledge what had happened and went through the daily motions of life, or at least as far as you could get on those by breakfast, when Pinkie Pie and Applejack walked down the stairs and also noticed the still-unconscious figure on the sofa.

“Morning, Discord!” Pinkie happily chirped at me. “Morning, Chrysalis!”

“Why, a very good morning to you as wel—“

To my incredible dismay, I found my polite greeting most impolitely interrupted by Applejack, who had suddenly noticed the strangeness of what Pinkie had just said.

“What in Celestia’s name are you blathering about, Pinkie?” she questioned. “Why in the name of Equestria would Chrysalis be here?”

“Oh, I think I finally understand now!” I yelled. “Clearly, ‘Chrysalis’ is your cutesy little nickname for Fluttershy, isn’t it! You know, because butterflies come out of a chrysalis and…”

I then trailed off as soon as I saw Applejack’s hoof hit her face.

“Let me see the couch,” she muttered. After kindly scooting out of her way to show her the figure lying there, she immediately trotted out of the room mumbling, “Twilight needs to see this, Twilight needs to see this, Twilight really, really needs to see this…”

After having gathered Twilight, Rainbow Dash, and Rarity from wherever they were in the house, she immediately returned, trying her best to explain the situation to the others.

“Actually, I saw it happen last night, I think,” Twilight answered. “But the whole incident wasn’t making any sense, so I just asked Discord to summon up a bottle of hard cider, because it was clearly just one of those ‘I really need a drink’ moments.”

“Let me get this straight: that was your response?!” Rainbow retorted. “You were about to just shrug off your friend being replaced by a changeling?! By the queen of the changelings?!”

“Well, she wasn’t acting any different! Last time, she acted nothing like Cadance, so it wouldn’t make any sense for her to be able to do a complete Fluttershy impression!”

“I guess we’ve advanced our magical levels since then, so I suppose she’s improved hers,” Rarity reasoned. “If that makes any sense, that is.”

“It’s not making a lick of sense to me,” I confessed. “All I’m getting out of this entire situation is that apparently Fluttershy technically outranks you now, Twilight. I didn’t even know you could earn the title of queen in Equestria!”

In response, Twilight sighed as she had throughout most of last evening, but I could tell that it wasn’t one of annoyance as was usual. For some reason or another, she pitied me.

“What you’re about to hear isn’t going to be good,” she finally whispered. “It isn’t going to be good for any of us, but thankfully, earning the rainbow magic has weakened the dark magic that she would normally have. Otherwise, things would be a lot harder for all of us. She isn’t a threat for now, but if we take too long…we could have another catastrophe on our hooves.

“To make a long story short, that isn’t the Fluttershy you think you know. I should have seen the green flames as a sign from the beginning, but it’s too late for regrets. My point is that there are magical beings out there called changelings, and while you don’t know about them…we had trouble with them shortly after we defeated you. They take ponies and put them in remote locations so that they can take their place, and when their disguise comes off, they emit that same sort of green flame we saw last night. With unicorns, it’s a lot easier to detect them, since their auras don’t match the ones that the real unicorns have, but I suppose that with pegasi, it’d be a lot harder to notice stuff like that. Also, I’ve noticed that you’ve been starting to feel attracted to Fluttershy, am I correct?”

I was too shocked to even blush. To have been outconned by some creature that I didn’t even know existed was just too much, even without having lost a dear friend in the process. Before that…I’d always thought I was the master of deception and confusion.

That figure I found enchanting last night was starting to grow less and less attractive.

“Well, that’s an effect of changeling magic, too. They feed off of love, so for all we know, she could have influenced you so that your feelings for Fluttershy grew and so she could get more powerful. All this time, she’s used you like the parasite she is. She’s no better than Tirek in my eyes. I’m sorry, but…you’ve been betrayed again.”

Thoughts began to whirl through my head, but somehow one began to overshadow them all. At that point, I could care less about being humiliated. There was only one thing that truly mattered now.”

“Where do you think Fluttershy is?”

“What haunts me even more is the fact that the real Fluttershy might never have been the one to reform you in the first place. She might have been gone even since then. Who knows how long this has been going on? For all you know, you might’ve been reformed by somepony who never wanted to reform herself, somepony even worse than you.”

Then, all of a sudden, she began to tear up, barely able to speak.

“As for your question, Discord…I-I don’t know. I just don’t know.”