• Published 11th May 2014
  • 2,245 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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Nopony You Can Save (That Can't Be Saved)

Once again, I stood watch beside the couch, despite knowing that Princess Celestia was scheduled to arrive in mere minutes. The scene hadn’t changed much within the past few days, with much of the same furnishings still intact, but the emotional detachment between its occupant and myself had undergone an irreversible transformation. Two days ago, slight suspicions arose. Yesterday, I had to try with every fiber of my being to pretend things would ever be what they were before. Now, the restraint was complete in more ways than one, and no matter how hard she could have tried, she could no longer approach me, or anypony else, for that matter. It only took a few days for her to be seen as a major and looming threat, but once it did, that image could not be so easily changed.

Change, as always, is the key word here. No matter what species of being she is now, it is not something that Fluttershy can experience now without complete opposition. And, as it turns out, it was that very weakness that kept me from realizing what she was in the first place.

In a way, neither of us can adapt to change. Another similarity between us, I guess. I admit it only begrudgingly, wanting to further myself from this monstrous mare as much as possible.

When you see the peaceful-looking yellow pegasus unconscious on the sofa, it’s hard to imagine her in the place she was yesterday, in a mad rush for an arcane artifact of unbelievable power. And indeed, I would have to agree; Fluttershy would never have done such a thing.

But, from the minute she pulled that stunt yesterday, she wasn’t Fluttershy anymore. The secret that she’d worked so hard to keep just ripped away as her instincts presented her with an opportunity that nopony with her ambitions could refuse. She’d left it so that yet another pony in town—or, to be more accurate, another zebra—knew that the real Fluttershy was gone.

The strangest part of the whole situation is that, at the crack of dawn on this fateful day of judgment—Applejack’s brother, Big Macintosh, appeared. I’d personally never seen him and didn’t recognize him when he came to the door, but when I found out who he was, the reasons for him coming seemed logical enough. After all, Applejack had been staying at Fluttershy’s house for days for no reason apparent to him, so I assumed he’d come in telling Applejack to get a move on with her work, a metaphorical whip-cracking, if you will. When she tried to explain the inexplicable situation to her brother, nopony expected him to buy it. We all thought he was going to write it off as some sort of excuse or, worse yet, think we all were delusional. (Well, I’ll admit to being a bit delusional, but that really should explain itself.)

But no, he just had to respond in the one way nopony expected.

“I know.”

“Wait, wait, wait,” Rainbow Dash interrupted. “Let me get this straight: we’re telling you this whole crazy story about Fluttershy getting abducted by changelings, how the one we thought was her the whole time is their queen, she tried to steal the Alicorn Amulet yesterday, for Celestia’s sake, and your only response is ‘I know?!’”

“Well, I didn’t know about the amulet part,” Big Mac admitted earnestly. “But I’m glad nopony else was able to get to it. It’s still a mite too sensitive for me to think about what that thing can do to ponies, though.”

“He was under its control, too?” I wondered. “I wouldn’t think it’d have any effect on earth ponies.”

“Nah, it was just his marefriend that got involved,” Applejack scoffed. “He couldn’t bear to see his crush goin’ all wild and crazy on the town, turnin’ into a tyrant, all that.” Turning to her brother, she continued, “And I’ve seen how you get about those magic shows, Big Mac. You’re supposed to look at the tricks, not the pretty mare doing them. Frankly, it couldn’t be more obvious.”

“Anyway, now’s not exactly the best time to talk about that, knowing that we might have a nationwide crisis on our hooves,” Big Mac said bluntly. “There are many more important matters at stake than who I might or might not have a crush on. Though I will say, my being without a special somepony at the moment does actually play a large role in how I ended up discovering the truth about Fluttershy.”

He turned to his sister, already sweating from the confession he was about to make. I could tell from my own years as a villain that this was the face of somepony who had already threatened to reveal the underlying deception of it all, but was kept from doing so by outside sources. Oftentimes, small players like him weren’t even a real concern to us; I at least preferred blackmail solely as a means of getting a rise out of the victim. Spreading the truth to a few other minor parties wasn’t too much of a problem, especially when that reality seemed so far outside what was accepted as the norm. Even somepony from a family as known for honesty as the Apples could be trapped within a power play like this, spending nights wracked with guilt over not being able to even imply something was amiss, while we just stood back knowing that even if a minor slip were to be made, nothing would become of it.

“Do you remember that one night, Applejack, when the Pony Tones decided to set me up on a date at the burger joint?”

“I hadn’t really thought about it until recently, actually. You did kind of slip it under the rug, from what I remember. You went straight to your room afterwards, and it wasn’t even that late. You never said anything about it since.”

“Well, that’s because I saw something there that I really, really shouldn’t have seen. Even as the brother of an Element Bearer, I like to keep myself out of this sort of drama as much as possible. I won’t pretend I’m some sort of action hero who’s cut out for this thing. As such, I didn’t really suspect all that much about Fluttershy at first; after all, I was more focused on the moment, of keeping up my day-to-day business and not really worryin’ about the state of Equestria. And the changeling queen did keep up a pretty good act up until then, a lot better than what you guys filled me in on with the Cadance incident.

“But basically, a lot of my friends, especially my bandmates on the Pony Tones, would always try to set me up with her, and I never understood one lick about it. Maybe it was because we were both quiet or enjoyed nature or some other odd thing, but they’d always go about teasing us about it—that is, when they weren’t whispering about the same sorts of things with Cheerilee. I thought it was mighty awkward at first, the idea of going out with my little sis’s friend, but I figured if they were going to keep heckling me about it, I might as well give it a fighting chance. So the Pony Tones set up a time and location and all that, figured it shouldn’t be too formal with it being a first date, and it was set.

“The night wasn’t so strange at first. We were just eating and making casual conversation, not really bringing up anything about romance. I got the feeling that Fluttershy wasn’t looking at it from a serious angle either; she was just trying something out like I was. Then stuff happened and—“

He cut himself off, blushing.

“What kind of stuff?” Applejack prompted. “We need to know everything. It’s not like we’re gonna use it for gossip or anything, so stop bein’ so darn embarrassed.”

“Well, you know, a b-blue pony showed up at the register, nothin’ really that special—“

“Was it that blue pony?”

“Okay, fine, yes, I like Trixie and no, it wasn’t her. But she looked like her, I swear. Same coat color and stuff. When you love somepony like that, you don’t really pay attention and basically think anypony with a slight resemblance looks like your crush. Or at least, so I’ve heard. Anyway, Fluttershy noticed me looking at the mare and whispered into my ear, ‘I know you don’t like me. Not like you like her.’

“Understandably, I was spooked as can be. I tried to get myself out of it, tried to change the subject, but she just said the same thing again. When I asked her how she knew, her eyes glowed for a second and she just said she had ‘ways.’ After that, I just started getting tired and everything felt like a blur for a while. All I knew was that she wasn’t acting like herself, but I just assumed this was one of my unicorn bandmates’ idea of a joke, that they’d put some sort of sleep spell on me. But then I saw this…vision.”

“What sort of vision was it?” Twilight asked for the first time in the entire conversation. She had been listening intently, trying to take the whole issue in as usual. “You could’ve had a spell put on you, but not any that a regular unicorn would be able to do.
Making somepony with no previous magical abilities have any sort of out-of-body experience, even a simple dream, is far beyond what most can do. Even I’ve only done it a few times when the situation absolutely required it.”

“Far beyond what most ponies can do,” Big Mac corrected. “But that Fluttershy was no pony. Anyway, when I finally got my bearings and came out of my daze, it felt like I was in another world, like I was in both that place and still at the burger restaurant. I can only imagine how it must’ve looked to the other ponies. What’s weird is that somehow I wasn’t the only thing that was transported there; the rest of the environment looked just like it was before I woke up, except outside the window, instead of the shops that were usually there, I could see this castle and tower, huge enough that you couldn’t see anything else beyond. It looked familiar for some inescapable reason, but then I recognized it from when I’d helped Apple Bloom study once; it was in her history textbook. It was from the Crystal Empire, I think, but I’m not entirely sure—“

As if she knew that this was the absolute most inconvenient time to appear, fluttering sounds could be heard from outside, too loud to be from a pegasus’s comparatively small wings. After Big Mac’s revelation, I thought there was no way my jaw could drop any lower than it already had that day, but as I saw the figure from outside the window, I had the slightest suspicion that nothing would go according to plan today. It was, in fact, an alicorn, which I had to give the Canterlot authorities credit for; at least they put in the effort for the mission. But alas, it wasn’t enough: apparently despite the fact that they lived on completely opposite ends of Equestria and looked absolutely nothing alike, it was easy enough to confuse the name “Celestia” for “Cadance.”

“I can’t believe this,” Twilight muttered. “This has got to be the only time in my life I’m not completely overjoyed to see her. She is the absolute last pony in Equestria who should be tangled up in this! And they took her out of what was probably something very important, left Shining Armor, somepony who knows as little about being royalty as I did when I first started out, to rule a kingdom for Celestia knows how long, for this?! Out of all the ponies they could’ve picked—“

“Pardon my intrusion,” I interrupted, “but even if she isn’t quite as powerful as Celestia, can’t Cadance help us just as much? It is, after all, still reporting the issue to an authority, or at least somepony who technically, albeit slightly, supersedes you.”

“Except Cadance’s major magical capability happens to be in the very thing that’s guaranteed to give Chrysalis more power!” she retorted, pointing at the false yellow pegasus. “If she wakes up and sees Cadance, it might be enough for her to regain her full magic and we’ll have plenty more issues on our hooves! Plus, well…”

“Well?”

“Chrysalis kidnapped Cadance the first time she invaded,” Big Mac added. “Now, I may not know as much about it as the other ponies here who were actually there, and I certainly don’t know the princess well by any means, but I’ve been around ponies long enough to know that she could still be scarred by something like this. Sending somepony to face the one who hurt them most—it’s not something very many ponies can do. I know I couldn’t.”

As we were planning our course of attack for how we would deal with the unexpected guest, we could all hear a knock at the door. However little we may have distracted her by showing her we were clearly busy, it wasn’t quite enough to break Cadance’s motivation to know what was going on here. And indeed, she had every right to find out, knowing not how grave the actual issue was or how it would affect her.

“Okay, let’s just act natural and try to get out of this as easily as possible,” Applejack suggested. “Just don’t let Cadance and Chrysalis get too close to each other, blindfold the enemy if you need to. Most important of all, make it seem like just a regular issue and don’t bring up the changelings, just talk about it in general terms about somepony attacking or something.”

However hesitantly the act actually occurred, however much we dreaded the moment, we knew that we had to eventually let the princess in before she began to suspect something—that is, if she didn’t already. Twilight did her usual cutesy song and dance with her sister-in-law, trying her hardest not to show that her spirit wasn’t really in it. Big Macintosh retreated to the kitchen, knowing that his presence as a pony outside the usual group would make him rather suspicious. While Cadance was distracted, I found a small sleep mask to place over Chrysalis’s eyes to make it look as though she wasn’t a changeling that we were doing everything to restrain to a certain area.

“Out of curiosity, Cadance,” Twilight said with that certain trembling she got in her voice when her nerves were at their limits, “what brings you to Ponyville today?”

“Celestia sent me over here,” Cadance replied. “She thought I’d be more suited for this work than she would.”

“But why did Celestia send you here?”

“Because you sent her here, Twilight? She said something was wrong that I needed to help with.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, it was a total false alarm,” Twilight chuckled, trying her best to appear ditzy despite the fact that literally nopony thought that about her. “I kind of overreacted again. You know how often that happens to me.”

“So Queen Chrysalis hasn’t infiltrated Ponyville after all?” the princess questioned, narrowing her eyes in confusion. “Seriously, how would you even think that if it weren’t true, if you didn’t see it for yourself?”

Utter silence ensued, which in retrospect was probably the worst thing we could’ve done to keep up the act. No, scratch that, probably the worst thing we did in that moment came when Rainbow Dash whispered the least subtle, most suspicious thing to say in that situation.

“Celestia darnit, she knows!”

“Of course I know,” Cadance answered in embarrassment. “Seeing as my husband is captain of the royal guard, do you really think I’d be foolish enough to go into a situation that would require battle without briefing of some sort?”

“Then, if that’s the case, why did you even decide to come here?” her sister-in-law asked. “You know how dangerous it is for you to be around Chrysalis. You know how that affects your magic, and after what she did to you, I wouldn’t blame you if you never wanted to see her again.”

“It’s because…oh, I don’t know how to explain it without revealing how weird and convoluted the Crystal Empire royal line is right now. No explanation would probably be anywhere near good enough, for all I know. But what I can say is that somehow…I need to see her again. If she becomes a threat, it’s my responsibility to handle, a responsibility that I wasn’t able to fulfill when Chrysalis invaded last. One that Celestia knew I needed a second chance to accomplish.”

“And what might that be?” Twilight asked. “Look, I know you might feel guilty about your wedding causing the first attack, but if it’d been somepony else, the results would’ve been the same. There still would’ve been a changeling invasion regardless of whether they would strike at a wedding or some sort of royal summit or whatever.”

“Except it had to be then. Not just because I’m the Princess of Love but also because, well…changelings find it easier to impersonate somepony if they already know them somehow. It can take several years, or even just a glance. But even if Chrysalis wasn’t able to do a perfect imitation of me, it’s certainly a better one than if she would’ve chosen somepony else. I had a feeling about why that was, and after the wedding, I researched everything I could on changelings to try to disprove it. Unfortunately, my theory proved to be true. While most of the changelings are self-sufficient and only need love-induced nourishment to survive…Chrysalis is different. She needs a host, a vessel to possess, so to speak, and the particular one she’s chosen this time around is of Crystal bloodlines.”

“How could that even be possible? I mean, I’ve heard of certain creatures gaining immortality through those sorts of spells, but I didn’t think it could actually be anything but a theory. Besides, the Crystal Empire had to have been long gone when Chrysalis last manifested into another body. The hosts don’t gain the same sort of immortality as the parasites do, so when they die, the beings have to seek out another. There’s no way even a changeling queen could make a regular pony live a thousand years.”

“Except for one thing, Twilight,” Cadance replied. “Somehow, for reasons that remain hidden to history itself, the royal line managed to escape their disappearing empire. Currently, I am the sole survivor of that line, but there was another: Crystal Princess Amore. My older sister, who never even got the chance to learn of her potential.

“While most of Equestria knew nothing of the truth behind Nightmare Moon’s defeat, the select few who did believed in a curse—that whenever two royal sisters of any descent are born, one is destined to fall into evil. I am not entirely sure if that is true, but that’s what happened to Amore. We were both taken in by Princess Celestia from a young age, but Amore began to feel that ponies were plotting against her, that I was the only one she could trust. She was scared, but that soon turned into resent as she began to believe that Celestia had the worst of intentions with us. One night, she couldn’t take it anymore and ran off from the castle, never to be seen again. Several years later, I found out that Chrysalis’s spirit had found her when she was off her guard and just like Nightmare Moon—“

“They became one and the same,” Twilight murmured in disbelief. “I never even knew you had a sister.”

“Amore disappeared long before I met you. Something tells me that if she would’ve had you for a friend, fate might’ve been different. But this is precisely why we can’t take chances with trying to kill Chrysalis. For all we know, she could die in both body and soul, stringing along the innocent pony within her.”

“So how are we supposed to save Fluttershy, then?” Rainbow Dash questioned.

“I haven’t quite figured that out yet,” Cadance admitted, “but I have an idea on how to begin. It might be a dead end, but it’s worth trying.”

“I’ll do it then,” Twilight replied, stepping in closer to Chrysalis’s sleeping form and preparing her horn for whatever might come next.

“Actually, it’s not really something that your magic has control over. I know this is going to sound weird, but…this is something that Discord has to handle.”

“Me?” I questioned in shock.

“Him?” Twilight asked, just as stunned.

“Well, from what Celestia has told me, Discord has the ability to bring out a pony’s opposite from inside with a touch. She believes that, if he can use this magic on Chrysalis, she’d be willing to tell us the information we need without realizing we’re not on her side. Then, when it comes time to defeat her and try to pull Amore out, he can reverse the magic and turn her back to the way she was before.”

It wasn’t so much that I had anything against this plan as it was—oh, who am I kidding? I hated the very sound of it. Yes, this magic was once my signature attack to the point where Equestrian scientists were so kind as to name any sort of reversal magic “discording,” but somehow, I didn’t get the feeling it would be quite so fun or so successful if I used it for good. I hadn’t even thought about trying it yet after being reformed; somehow, I’d just gotten tired of it after centuries. But, being one of only two occasions I’ve ever been recruited as a hero, and considering how terribly I screwed up the last one, the satisfaction I got from having another chance was simply too much.

So I smirked at Twilight, teasingly shoved her away from where she was still standing beside the couch, and hesitantly poked Chrysalis to start the process. That was basically all that happened for a few moments, and needless to say, I was impatient enough to wonder if it was doing anything. Just as I was about to completely give up, however, her former disguise as Fluttershy disappeared and, strangely enough, she shrunk.

“That…is not supposed to happen,” I muttered to myself in probably the biggest understatement of the day. “At least, I don’t think it is.”

Thankfully, I hadn’t messed up too much and the tiny figure still resembled a changeling—if, that is, changelings were about the size and shape of Breezies. We’d barely had a moment to regain our composure before the weird green-and-black microbe started talking.

“Presenting Pretty Cutie Breezie Chryssie, your ultimate guide to all things magical questing! I greatly love to help my fellow Equestrian denizens and—“

“Can this thing please shut up?” Rainbow Dash sighed.

“I can sense that you need help, so I will kindly ignore your inquiry and choose not to shut up.”

“Are we going to need to put up with you for however long it takes us to find Fluttershy? Because you’re already trying my patience.”

We is not a matter. My new draconequus friend has already requested to accompany me to the mirage world alone, and as his magical helper, I have dutifully accepted.”

“I said absolutely nothing about that!” I protested. “What in Equestria is a mirage realm, anyway?”

“It is like a dream world, but it is not a dream world! It is something you will not understand until you see it with your own eyes. And I am the only one who can take you there. But there is one consolation to the matter.”

I silently hoped it meant something along the lines of “Pretty Cutie Breezie Chryssie” being nowhere near as insufferable along the journey.

“Since we’re friends now, you can just call me ‘Zizi!’”

At that, I placed my lion paw into my face and muttered under my breath just low enough for Zizi not to hear.

“Oh Celestia, no.”

Comments ( 9 )

Wow damn it took you more than year to update, I completly forgot what this was about gonna need to reread it

Welp discord shall be like and chrissy is navi

Zizi! :rainbowkiss: But seriously, thanks for the update. I'm excited that the story is picking back up :yay:

I don't exactly understand... can you explain a bit? Fluttershy was possesed by QC who is like a demon lich or something that possesed Princess Amore sister of Cadance???

6033586

uptade

How do you "uptade"?

6037660
Writing at near night hours, thats how you do this

6033956

Never played the game, but know enough of it that someone would make that reference eventually. :twilightsmile:

6035719

Sorry I haven't been on to answer, but...it's pretty convoluted actually. Fluttershy was more of a straight kidnapping and replacing, which is something any changeling is able to do. She isn't possessed, but that doesn't mean she isn't untouched by changeling spells. On the other hand, Chrysalis is the only one capable of possession, and she did do that to Amore. "Chrysalis" is like the soul of the changeling being we know, while "Amore" is more of a bodily vessel that gets no real say in the matter. While she did want to help the changelings willingly, she didn't want to go to evil levels before Chrysalis took over.

A lot more of this will be explained later, but Amore carries love magic with her like her sister and is therefore likely the host that has matched the most to Chrysalis's basic energy source. The problem with using Amore is that, while she's pretty weak-willed and easy to control on most circumstances, if Chrysalis pushes one of the few buttons she has, she will break free for just long enough to weaken her. Cadance is a huge one, which could explain anywhere from why Chrysalis wasn't as good at disguising herself during the wedding to why she was so easily defeated. If the mission would've just been to use Canterlot as a love source, Amore could've been very easily controlled, but as the only real pony that was with her through everything, bringing Cadance in made it nearly impossible to rein her in.

As soon as Chrysalis realized how much power she was receiving from Amore and how she had a sister who'd been studying the same sort of magic for a longer amount of time (considering that Amore ran away young and all), she's had her sight set on Cadance. If the changelings won, she would end up coming out of Amore, leaving her to die, and possessing Cadance instead. As for what would've happened then, well...let's just say that Cadance!Chrysalis would be cataclysmic.

Sorry for the long explanation. :twilightsmile:

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