• 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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Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

“Good morning, Discord.”

It had been a day after the incident, but surprisingly, nothing really happened except for that one fateful morning. For the rest of that day, everypony else just went back to their rooms, pondering all that had just happened. Trying to take it in. Wondering how it could’ve been avoided, why they didn’t notice it sooner. But most of all, grieving. Nopony knew what would happen next. For all they knew, she could have been lost forever, despite being an Element of Harmony and all. None of this ever should’ve happened, especially so soon after Tirek’s attack. I didn’t know what this new enemy had up her sleeve, but I forced myself to continue doing what I would’ve done had she really been the pony she claimed to be.

Just as if she were the real thing, I sat beside her, stayed by her side. This time, however, I was doing it not out of concern for her safety, but rather so that she didn’t end up hurting anypony that she hadn’t already. She had stayed unconscious for the rest of the day, still not even moving a muscle.

And, quite honestly, I had to try with all my restraint not to just take advantage of the opportunity and kill her then. All it would take were a few little blasts, a small amount of effort, and all the misery we had to face would be over. But I had to tell myself that, in reality, it wouldn’t solve anything. It’d be far more useful to have her as a captive so that that way, we could actually get information out of her about how to solve the real problem. It wouldn’t be easy, from what little I knew about her, but I was happy to concede to at least throwing a few punches against her to get her to cough up the information.

Now, I know being reformed means not going around hitting mares. But I know for sure that I would be completely justified in this case, wouldn’t I? Even though I’d never actually heard her speak or do anything outside of her little character act, I barely even considered her a mare anymore. She was the one who smashed my newborn dream to pieces right in front of my face only months after I truly realized it. She was already far, far worse than Tirek.

To me, at least, she was the devil incarnate. And, more likely than not, imagining what was likely unfolding far beyond my vision, I’m sure Fluttershy would have agreed.

I looked at the figure on the couch beside my own, now fully awake and aware of the world. What I immediately noticed was that she’d been sly enough to change her appearance yet again before I woke up. If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear that Fluttershy was right there on that couch, and not on some desolate, mysterious location that likely not even Celestia knew about. Worst of all, I wanted to believe the illusion. I wanted it to actually be Fluttershy, for things to have been completely safe, completely normal.

You never thought you’d hear me say I’d like things to be normal, huh? Well, I guess that just goes to show how desperate I am right now. I can’t even think of any jokes to crack to try to hide the pain! Chaos spirits aren’t supposed to be depressed, darn it! How should I have any idea of what to do?!

“Oh, I’m sorry,” ‘Fluttershy’ whispered yet again. “Are you even awake? I might not have been loud enough the first time I tried to get you up.”

As sacrilegious as this seemed to me, right now I really just wanted to punch this imposter, even if she did look like my friend. But now, I knew that what I had to do would be the hardest part of this whole ordeal.

Until the rest of the ponies came down, I had to act like nothing had happened. For the moment, I had to forget I ever heard the name ‘Chrysalis.’ I had to pretend that she really was Fluttershy, that she’d never blown her cover, for long enough to distract her. Once Twilight had told me what had happened, I could never imagine her as just being ‘Fluttershy’ ever again. But for everypony’s sake, I loaded my head with a single sentence, hoping that it would override all other thoughts.

This is Fluttershy. This is Fluttershy. This is Fluttershy…

“Good morning, Fluttershy,” I replied. “I’m glad you’re back. From unconsciousness, I mean. For a moment there, everypony thought they’d lost you.”

The best lies carry an element of truth…

“Oh, don’t worry, I’m fine now,” the impostor replied. “At least, until something like this happens again, that is.”

“You probably ought to stay on the couch just in case. We sure wouldn’t want a scare like that again.”

“Okay. I’m glad all of you care this much about me.” I could see her blushing at my words in the adorable little way the real Fluttershy would, but then again, she could probably do that on command, now, couldn’t she? In any case, it was now time to test just how gullible she really was. If this actually worked, there’d be no way she could get away and cause any trouble to Equestria again!

“Oh, Fluttershy, I’ve been doing some reading about the role exercise plays in curing illnesses. There’s this nice stretch that’s supposed to work marvelously. You just spread your body out on a flat surface and tie your limbs back to something. It’s vital that you not move your legs for it to work, so the ropes help you resist the temptation to do so.”

Swing and a miss! From the look she gave me, I could tell that she saw right through my act. As if I needed to be reminded of just how much this ‘Chrysalis’ figure could outwit me. No need to rub it in, lady!

“You’re right about the exercise thing,” she answered, “Maybe we could go for a walk or something. I heard about something in the Everfree Forest that could help.”

Of course, anypony with any sense would’ve been suspicious of this offer had they known of her true identity. I’m still well-acquainted enough with the villain code to know that, to her sort of devious figure, there is no true difference between ‘help’ and ‘amplify my magical levels to an insanely disastrous intensity.’ Besides, Twilight had already checked the Everfree, and if there was nothing she was willing to try there, then surely this item would be too dangerous for an intense rule-follower like her to try.

Unfortunately, while I was weighing my options, I let my guard down and the next thing I knew, ‘Fluttershy’ had grasped my claw and was pulling me toward the surrounding woodlands, cantering faster than I’d ever seen her before.

“I never knew you’d gotten over your fear of going in there alone,” I stated as she continued to drag me closer to the area. In this case, I figured that playing the suspicious card would be justified, seeing that her eagerness would have seemed off-character even had it been the real Fluttershy.

“Well, this time I have you here to protect me, so I’m not scared at all,” the mare beside me responded eagerly. “Nopony would dare go against you, and I can handle the animals. As long as we’re together, we’ll be safe. And besides, once I manage to find what I’m looking for, I can get back to work, and then you won’t have to be burdened so much. You’d like that, wouldn’t you? You can just relax and know that you’d never have to worry about me again.”

“Taking on your duties isn’t that bad. I mean, I’d like to see you cured and all, but…”

“But what?” I could sense a tinge of bitterness that wasn’t there before, and I couldn’t help but notice the distinctive glare on the normally timid pegasus’s face.

“You aren’t trying to give me the Stare, are you?” I chuckled nervously. “I thought you trusted me more than that!”

‘Fluttershy’ blinked in shock for a few seconds in an attempt to process just what she had almost done. She began to turn her head about nervously, and while some would see it as her worrying about how I would react, somehow I had a feeling that it was more than that. She feared that she had just done the one thing that would unravel her entire act.

But it wasn’t time for the big reveal yet. Twilight had ordered me to go along with whatever ‘Fluttershy’ did today in order to lull her into a sense of security while she contacted Princess Celestia. Until Celestia herself made her presence known, I couldn’t get in the way, no matter how much I wanted to.

“I—I do trust you more than that,” she confessed. For a moment, she had the same hushed tone that I’d heard thousands of times, but she switched back to that stern, harsh, unbelievably strange voice only a few seconds later.

“What were you about to tell me?”

I gave a quick, thoughtful sigh and answered in the most sensitive way I could:

“Fluttershy, what is wrong with you?! If somepony like Twilight told you that there were no remedies in the Everfree Forest, then there must be a reason she hid this one from you. It must be dangerous. And as much as it’s not like me to say this, I don’t want to lose you to something as stupid as an untested cure!”

“It’s not untested,” she muttered. “It’s worked countless times throughout history, and I’m willing to become its next successful user. It’s more than just a cure, Discord. It’s something that could change Equestria forever. For the better. I’m not going to let anypony feel like they need to protect me anymore. I want to be the one in control.”

“But doesn’t that come at a cost? Surely it can’t be that easy.”

“You’re right,” she continued. “It isn’t that easy, but I’ll make it as simple as possible for all of you. There’s no risk that isn’t worth taking as long as it keeps me from being this weak shell of myself that I am now.”

All of a sudden, she finally stopped pulling me once we’d reached a hut deep within the forest. She gazed at the small, simple residence with yet another look I was familiar with: hungriness at the prospect of obtaining power. It was the sort of face I never would have expected to see on Fluttershy of all ponies, but I had to keep remembering that this wasn’t truly her. The real Fluttershy would never think of going to these lengths, whatever impact this mysterious object could have on Equestria. As an Element of Harmony, she was perfectly content with her position in reality. Other than overcoming illness, she never would have wanted anything more.

But, within my years both of committing villainous acts and observing them being committed, I’ve learned that the true trait of a villain is to transcend these rungs on the ladder of life, to break the lower ones so that nopony else could ever ascend to their level. At that moment, I could almost imagine Chrysalis banging on that ladder as Fluttershy struggled to climb in a weak attempt to stop her, a delicate floor holding up the entire structure.

Images flashed by. Glass broke. Fluttershy began to descend to a level so low that not only could she no longer be seen, but nopony even noticed she was gone. As if things weren’t already bad enough as is, a single sentence caught my immediate suspicion.

“Don’t come in here.”

I looked back to the false Fluttershy, still with that same odd glance towards the hut. The moment she noticed me, she quickly corrected herself.

“I meant to say that Zecora might end up being intimidated by your presence, as she isn’t used to you being reformed and all. You should probably wait here and stand guard in case any timberwolves or anything else tries to attack.”

It was a small detail, one that I would have missed had I not known about the charade, but as I was left alone and surrounded by rings of foliage, I realized that Fluttershy had just told me to harm an animal if it got in the way of her mission. Now, looking back on the whole situation, I couldn’t help but wonder how I’d been tricked in the first place. It was at that moment that Fluttershy’s foalnapping had stopped being shocking. By now, with all the clues gathered, it was nothing short of obvious.

As I absentmindedly watched for any beasts roaming about, that order remained on my mind. Even if it was something as violent and ruthless as a timberwolf, the real Fluttershy certainly would’ve been able to reason with it, and Chrysalis knew that. After all, if she’d been playing her role for this long, she clearly knew how to perform the Stare. There wouldn’t have been much of a point to outright killing it, then.

Fear was never something that I truly comprehended, being an immortal and all. It was always strange to me how ponies could be scared by something as frivolous as being stranded in a different environment from their usual surroundings. But I couldn’t deny that I was starting to feel it now, even though I knew I could’ve taken down most simple nuisances here. Minutes passed idly by, and my worst suspicions were confirmed. I continued to wait, wondering why my emotions were reacting in such an uncharacteristic way until a thought finally hit my mind.

If she would be willing to kill a simple forest predator for getting in her way, then what would stop her from harming somepony closer to her own kind? What if the real reason she didn’t want me to come in there was because—

Before I allowed my mind to fully process the situation, I rushed towards the hut like the impulsive figure most would likely see me as. However, when I approached the door, I decided to go for a subtler approach as to not stir up suspicion, quietly opening it to what was most definitely the most shocking sight of the day.

While I’d never expected somepony like Twilight’s description of Chrysalis to simply reason with the potion master who dwelt here, the sight of Fluttershy having the zebra brutally pinned to the ground with a livid look on her face wasn’t something I anticipated either. Most would choose to go for the subtle and much more pervasive approach. Surely Zecora wouldn’t just hand over the remedy now that she’d basically scared her to death, as the whole ‘scaring into submission’ technique is very overrated and rarely works in real life (or at least on the physical level). However, I could only watch in genuine horror as the scene continued to unfold.

“Don’t make me have to ask again,” ‘Fluttershy’ growled in Zecora’s face. “You know what I want from you, and if you simply give me the artifact, I’ll let you go free and we can forget any of this ever happened.”

“You know how dangerous that item can be!” her victim replied, still attempting to resist with the same look of shock on her face that I’d had once I discovered her true nature. “The unicorn that had it last only barely escaped free!”

“Please, you still rhyme even when you’re in mortal danger?!” the changeling queen scoffed. “Give me a break! And while you’re at it, the Alicorn Amulet would be nice as well.”

“There’s somepony at the door, thank Celestia!” Zecora yelled, having noticed my presence with a sigh of relief. “Grab that potion over there for the fate of Equestria!”

While ‘Fluttershy’ was too occupied with trying to beat the information out of a completely innocent healer zebra, I sneaked in and grabbed the aforementioned elixir, quickly shoving it over to Zecora. Taking advantage of her pinned position, she took the opportunity to force the potion straight into the pegasus’s mouth, causing her attacker to go limp and to fade back into unconsciousness.

“Is everything all right in here?” I questioned, already dreading what the answer would be. “What was she looking for that you were so against giving to her?”

“I know for a fact that Fluttershy is ill,” Zecora replied, “but allowing it to obtain it would not have been Twilight’s will. It is the only item that could cure her malady, but using it would have caused much agony.” Seeing that ‘Fluttershy’ was no longer a threat, she took out a box that she had carefully hidden and opened it to reveal an ominous-looking red-and-black talisman.

“It doesn’t look familiar at all to me,” I admitted. “She basically dragged me straight here just as I was about to restrain her. It’s a long story, but you see—“

“Threats most unlike her character did she bring,” she agreed, “could she possibly be a changeling?” I merely nodded in response.

“So you do know about them, I presume? Twilight told me that she’d been replaced by one called Chrysalis for quite some time.”

“Then the issue is much more than I could glean, for she is not just any changeling, but their queen. I’m rather glad, then, that you did come, for this amulet would cause all of Equestria to succumb. For if on someone so minor it had such a reaction, if it would have corrupted her…I can only imagine.”

“How did she even know about this artifact in the first place?”

“It took place about a year ago, I presume, when Ponyville almost reached its doom. This amulet attracts those with a desire for revenge, but on her own, its last victim was not much to contend. At first, she seemed like one wanting nothing but torment, but she suffered from nothing more than inner resent. In her heart, there was at least a small amount of honor, but that was replaced with a desire to conquer. She had been shown up by Twilight once before, but an amulet of this power made her a spirit of war.”

“What happened to its last wearer after that?”

“We got lucky that time, as jealousy is an easy emotion to bend. Once a better solution is offered, any threat will soon end. Now, the young mare is fine, no more envy in her mind, but the situation would have been much more dire if to greater standards did she aspire. She wished to beat an opponent, nothing more, but had she hungered for power, Equestria would have been rocked to its core.”

The events immediately following that incident were surprisingly uneventful now that Chrysalis was once again unconscious. As I carried her back home, I decided not to take any more chances, as I knew that as soon as she awoke yet again, she would try to obtain the amulet, and I suspected that this time, she would choose not to bring me along. I had a feeling that, in that brief instant before she weakened, she could see me impeding her efforts. I had broken the act only hours after she had done the same. Once she got enough strength back in her, I knew that she wouldn’t target her wrath at merely Zecora anymore. Now that she knew I was aware of her secret, she would consider me an enemy to be eliminated as well.

Night descended upon us once again, but this time was different from the other two that had preceded it. There was now a barrier between us, ties keeping her tethered to the couch in case she tried to escape again. Looking at them now, I could no longer continue to believe that everything was as it was before.

While I saw the events unfold yesterday and thought I understood them pretty well, today was when it truly sunk in. Denying the fact, keeping up an act just as she had, changed nothing about the situation. No matter how hard I tried, I knew that even if I could turn back time, my façade would unravel just as quickly as it had in that Everfree hut, if not even sooner. It wasn’t because I lacked the deception that the changelings were trained in. Being unreformed and untamed for thousands of years, I know that that part of me will never truly fade away. But somehow, when somepony else is the one to initiate the illusion, I don’t quite respond as well.

I’ve always been used to conning others, and never thought of how I would respond to the prospect of being conned myself. Looking back, I believe that is my true blind spot: I never thought the Elements of Harmony would end up defeating me, after all. I’m a chaos spirit, and yet I bask in the status quo to the point of never even thinking about what others could do to me to change that. It was something that had taken millennia for me to discover about myself, and yet Chrysalis here had taken notice of it in what? Barely a year?

I sigh to myself in annoyance as I, for once in my life, await Celestia’s judgment. There I go again, hoping for the status quo, hoping that things can be resolved in the blink of an eye. If there’s one thing I’ve taken from this, it’s that even my own character is a contradiction. A hidden contradiction that, for a mind as trained as Chrysalis’s, is all too visible.

You’re nothing less than the devil incarnate, even within that angelic face of yours, I repeat to myself as my eyes slowly shut, taking refuge in the one place she can’t infiltrate. And soon, everypony's finally going to see the truth behind your lies.

You’re a true devil, Chrysalis.