• Published 12th Apr 2015
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What Didn't Happen: After - Zeg



A Princess and a Queen share the same one dream, but on nights separated by over six centuries worth of time. Is the dream a warning of what is yet to come?

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Planning for Tomorrow

What Didn't Happen: After

by Zeg

Chapter III – Planning for Tomorrow

The morning had come not long after Luna had left the archives, and shortly thereafter, a member of Canterlot’s day time guard had come to call upon Chrysalis. She was escorted through the quiet hallways to one of the more modestly sized rooms, well away from the central throne room. It was there, behind locked and guarded doors, that Chrysalis, Celestia, and Luna had spent well over an hour gathered around a table while discussing the visions and what should be done about them.

Luna furrowed her brow deeply, rubbing the tip of her hoof against the bridge of her muzzle just between her closed eyes. She sigh and her hoof slid down to land roughly on the table. “So, what we actually know is... basically nothing,” she grumbled with a frown.

“We know there is a threat,” Chrysalis said curtly. “Possibly to our entire existence.”

“Yes, but from where?” Luna asked, leaning in over the table toward Chrysalis. She only maintained her intense stare for a few seconds before leaning back in her chair and crossing her forelegs over her chest. “Our best guess is based on a vague vision of shadows and nothing more.” Luna’s patience had quickly worn thin as the meeting had carried on into the morning hours. The lack of any obvious solution was likely the core cause of her frustration, as well as lack of sleep playing at least a small part. She had always been the sister that preferred to act quickly rather than waste time.

There was a saying in Equestria, that the sister princesses of Canterlot were like night and day in every way. Celestia quietly sat across the table from Luna, and had been much less vocal than her younger sister throughout the meeting. She was the thinker, preferring to hear all the facts before making a decision. However, the meeting had been more about speculation than fact so far. “Is there any detail that you’ve yet to tell us?” Celestia asked.

“I’ve gone over it in detail three times already,” Chrysalis said. She leaned forward, resting her elbows on the table and rubbing her forehooves against her temples as she let out a low grumble. “I know I saw changelings, but there was still something very unfamiliar about them.” She rested her forelegs on the table as she looked up toward Celestia. “Unfortunately, that means I have no idea who it may be that is plotting against us.”

“And, Princess Twilight. You said she appeared older.”

“Taller than I remember her, at least,” Chrysalis said as she glanced off to the side of the room. That one particular detail was still a bit confusing. The time traveling princess had seemed noticeably taller in the dream, but then, all of the alicorns she knew were taller than anyone who wasn’t one.

“I wonder if that could mean anything,” Celestia said, echoing the same thought that had crossed Chrysalis’s mind.

Chrysalis glanced back to Celestia as she said, “I’d rather not simply wait around for the possibility that she may show up.”

“Hear, hear,” Luna quickly added as she tapped a hoof on the table top.

Chrysalis glanced to Luna out of the corner of her eye with a small smirk showing before turning her attention back to Celestia. “Her being in my vision doesn’t mean she’ll stop by to give us all the answers we need. You know that the visions are just a symbolic glimpse of possibilities.”

Celestia drew in a deep breath before letting it all go in a heavy sigh. “Then perhaps we should take this as a warning and prepare ourselves for the worst case.”

Luna quickly leaned forward at her side of the table, resting her elbows just on the table’s edge and resting her chin upon her folded forehooves. “But, one advantage we do have is that our unseen enemy is not aware that we know. If we suddenly heighten our defenses and the enemy notices, they will likely become much more cautious, and we lose our only advantage.”

Celestia perked an eyebrow at Luna. “I’m surprised you would consider playing a waiting game.”

“Perhaps your ways are... how do they phrase it again? Rubbing off on me, I think it is?” Luna flashed a playful grin at her sister. “I would prefer a much more direct action against our enemy, but that would require knowing who the enemy actually is, would it not?”

Celestia smiled. “A very good point.”

Chrysalis’s eyes glanced back and forth between the two sisters, finally coming to rest on Luna. “You’re hoping they reveal themselves by accident if we act like we don’t know.” When Luna looked her way displaying a mischievous smile, Chrysalis couldn’t help but smile herself. “Not a bad idea, but I think I would prefer to have something else prepared just in case,” she said as he stood from her chair and began to walk toward a nearby window.

“I take it that you have one of these ‘just in case’ plans of yours already in mind then?” Luna asked.

“You know I always have plans,” Chrysalis said quietly as she stopped at the window and cast a thoughtful glance outside. Her eyes looked upon the distant horizon, just beyond the small town of Ponyville. She turned to the side and glanced back to the two sisters. “One of our greatest defenses is currently resting in the Everfree Forest.”

The two sisters quickly glanced to each other before turning their attention back. “Would it be safe to take the Elements from the tree?” Celestia asked.

“The Elements have been with the tree for a few years now,” Chrysalis said as she glanced out the window once more. She tapped one of her forehooves just under her chin and squinted her eyes while she mulled over the idea. The tree’s health likely wouldn’t be the problem. “While I doubt it is anywhere near fully restored, it should manage on its own without them for a short while at least.”

“Sending an expedition to the forest to recover the Elements would not go unnoticed,” Luna noted.

“Then we don’t send one,” Chrysalis said casually as she trotted back over to the table. The two sisters watched her, both giving a curious glance as she stopped in front of the table to look up to them. “However, it has been quite a while since I’ve visited my friends in Ponyville. I was just thinking I should take a short vacation there to see them.”

Both sister’s seemed puzzled for short moment before realization dawned upon them. “I see,” Luna said as she nodded her head and looked to her sister. “Such a ruse just might work.”

Chrysalis took to slowly pacing about in a small circle in front of the table as she thought over her plan. “We will need their help,” she said. She stopped and looked up to the sisters. “I could recover the Elements on my own, but I can only hope to use them with the help of the other bearers.”

Celestia looked across the table to Luna. “This would be the best chance to get the word to them and retrieve the Elements without it appearing out of the ordinary.”

Luna silently agreed by nodding her head once.

“Well,” Chrysalis started as she turned away from the table and started trotting toward the door. “I should probably be going then. It sounds like I have vacation to plan.”

---

Chrysalis’s first stop once she had returned to Sanctuary had been the home office of the city’s guard force, the headquarters of the Sanctuary Sentinels. It would likely appear odd if the Changeling Queen of Sanctuary suddenly took an unannounced trip all alone to Ponyville. At the very least, she would need a bodyguard to keep up the appearance that her visit was simply something routine, and anything more would likely draw as much unwanted attention as traveling alone. She had requested to speak with an officer about acquiring a bodyguard for her trip, and had been quickly ushered into the office of one of the Sentinel’s lieutenants. To one who was unfamiliar with changelings, this lieutenant likely appeared nearly the same as any other, and may have appeared somewhat out of place sitting behind a desk in an office. However, such a sight was commonplace in Sanctuary.

Like the rest of the buildings found in the underground city, this one and nearly everything within it was constructed from crystal. Other than the lack of windows, the office could have easily been mistook as one plucked from the streets of the Crystal Empire, but all of the buildings in Sanctuary were of changeling construction. Changelings were adaptable creatures if nothing else, and the changelings of Sanctuary had quickly adopted not only the architecture of the equine culture around them, but many of the social practices as well. The restructuring of the hive’s soldier caste into a guard force with ranks befitting that of the Equestrian military had been one of the first tasks that Chrysalis had seen to, a gesture to help prove their solidarity with Equestria.

Chrysalis pondered over the last of a half dozen file folders that the lieutenant had given to her in answer to her request. As she finished skimming through the pages in the folder, she flipped the cover closed with her magic. She let the stack of folders fall onto the desk between her and the lieutenant with a loud flop. “I could have sworn that we had quite a few more guards than this,” she grumbled mostly to herself as she sat back in her chair and eyed the file cabinets off to the side of the room. She knew well that every guard within her Sentinels had a file tucked away within one of those drawers. She had overseen much of the initial registration of her Sentinels personally.

“Oh, of course, your Grace,” the lieutenant quickly said as he cast a quick, nervous glance at the cabinets. “I just thought to select the best for you to choose from.”

“I thought I said that I was looking for a bodyguard, not that I wanted one picked for me,” Chrysalis mumbled as her magic lifted one of the folders from the desk. She flipped it open to glance at the contents for but a few seconds before she let out a heavy sigh and dropped it back on the desk. “No, I don’t see the one I’m looking for here,” she said as she stood from her chair and made her way over to the filing cabinets. Her magic pulled one of the cabinet drawers out and began to quickly rifle through the folders contained within.

“Oh, you were looking for one in particular?” The lieutenant stood and cautiously approached from the other side of his desk, stopping opposite of the opened cabinet drawer from Chrysalis as he watched her quickly skim through the files.

“I am,” she said, punctuating her statement by closing the drawer. She wasted no time pulling the next one below it open and went to work rifling through the second set of folders. “A recent addition. I believe she’s been assigned to watch the halls outside my bedroom during the night. Seems to appear as a young pegasus mare more often than not.”

The lieutenant's ears laid back, and if he had at all attempted to hide the grimace on his face, he hadn’t done a very good job of it. “Oh, her....” There was a heavy layer of disdain noticeable on his words.

Chrysalis stopped, her magic holding the edge of a file while she slowly glanced up at the lieutenant. “Can I not have my pick for a bodyguard?” she asked as she perked a single eyebrow at him.

“O-of course you may, your Grace. I simply thought you would like one of our... more experienced soldiers. She is just a recruit.”

“I’m well aware of what she is, likely even more so than you,” Chrysalis said as she returned to filtering through the files. She finally stopped and pulled one of the files from the drawer, her magic opening it before her as she said, “Ah, here we are.” She absently pushed the file cabinet drawer closed with her magic and took a couple steps closer to the lieutenant as she looked over the contents. “The first who wasn’t born of the soldier caste to join the guard.”

The lieutenant cast his eyes off to the side. “Yes, which makes her—”

Chrysalis quickly folded the file folder closed and swatted it against the lieutenant’s chest, grabbing his full attention and causing him to flinch. She leaned her head forward until her horn was nearly touching his forehead, raising her brows high as she said, “It makes her interesting.”

The lieutenant cowered away slightly, his ears pressed back against his head and his eyes wide. “Very,” he said as he cautiously raised a hoof to hold the folder against his chest.

“I want her.” Chrysalis punctuated her demand by jabbing the tip of her hoof against the folder. “Be sure that she is prepared for the trip by tomorrow morning.”

The lieutenant quickly bowed his head as he stepped back toward his desk and said, “Yes, your Grace. It shall be done.”

A pleasant smile graced Chrysalis’s face, and then she turned to leave the office. “Interesting indeed,” she cheerfully commented to herself as she left.

---

Chrysalis laid mostly unmoving upon her seat, only slowly blinking every so often as she watched the scenery go by just outside the window. It was quiet within the private train car cabin, and had been so for most of the trip. The only sounds were the dull and distant droning of the train’s wheels rolling down the tracks and the occasional sound of hoofsteps when someone happened to walk past the other side of the closed cabin door.

Despite the silence, she wasn’t alone. Chrysalis momentarily broke her gaze away from the scenery, glancing out of the corner of her eye toward her quiet companion. Her bodyguard laid there in the seat across from her, facing toward the doorway. She still appeared as a golden furred pegasus, same as she had the day before. She was also still clad in the chitin-like scale armor, which couldn’t possibly be comfortable. Chrysalis had told her new companion that she should only wear the armor when she felt it was absolutely necessary. Evidently, that was ‘always’, as she had yet to see even a single strap loosened.

Her bodyguard had kept a rigid pose befitting that of a guard, staring at the closed cabin door during the entire trip as if expecting some sort of danger to burst through at any moment. Her ears twitched and followed the sounds of a muffled conversation coming from passengers as they walked through the hall just outside. As the sounds of their voices grew closer, Chrysalis noticed her bodyguard’s forehooves clenching the edge of her seat a bit tighter and then relaxing once again when the voices started to grow distant.

Chrysalis let out a light sigh as she laid her chin across her folded forelegs. “You should relax,” she lazily commented.

Her bodyguard quickly glanced her way, and the shocked look on her face made it seem like she had completely forgotten that there was someone else with her in the cabin. Her forehooves fidgeted, and her ears laid back as she said, “I’m sorry.” Despite the apology, there was no noticeable relaxing happening as her eyes soon drifted back toward watching the door.

Chrysalis shifted slightly to lie on her side. She stretched and snugged herself back against the seat cushions. It was amazing just how tired she felt from doing nothing more than lying on a bench. She let out a lazy yawn and then rested the side of her head on the cushion. She silently watched for a while longer as her faithful bodyguard continued to keep watch over the doorway, taking note of how she seemed to tense any time she heard signs of anyone else being remotely close. “Not used to being out in the open, are you?” she asked.

Her bodyguard quickly looked back once again, and then cast her eyes shamefully downward. “I guess I’m still getting used to it. You would think after three years I would have gotten over it.” She let go a weak-hearted laugh.

“I understand. Old habits do die hard. Of course, old habits are part of the reason why I chose you.” The soft smile that Chrysalis had been wearing up to that point diminished. “This assignment isn’t going to be a problem for you, is it?”

Somehow, her bodyguard found a way to sit up even more rigidly than she had been. “N-no, of course not.”

Chrysalis’s gentle smile returned. “Good. Then relax,” she said as she stretched out across the bench and let her eyes slowly blink closed. “If you keep fidgeting about then even I’ll start to feel nervous, and there is very little that can cause that.”

---

Taking the winding path down Canterlot Mountain and then crossing the plains surrounding Ponyville wasn’t exactly the most efficient route that Chrysalis had available to her. If she had so desired, she could have gotten access to a chariot. It was easily less than half the time spent to travel as the pegasus flies to the rural town, but chariots had a tendency to draw much more attention than trains. And besides, she had enjoyed the short nap that she got in before the train had rolled into the station.

She stepped off the train just ahead of her bodyguard, who was fumbling about behind her with a suitcase clamped under one wing and a wheeled travel bag that she was trying to drag off the final few steps. Somehow, the bag had managed to get itself wedged on something at the top. She got a firm grip with both her forehooves on the travel bag’s handle, and then stumbled backwards off the train a few steps after she gave the bag a quick tug to pull it loose. The suitcase slipped out from under her wing, flopping over and clattering to the ground.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to carry one of those?” Chrysalis asked. Her magic aura lit for just long enough to set the suitcase upright.

Her bodyguard quickly snagged the suitcase under her wing once again. “I can get these,” she quickly said as she fumbled with trying to collapse the handle on the travel bag.

“Suit yourself,” Chrysalis mumbled as she glanced down the platform. Quite a few passengers were still disembarking while others were making their way to the train for the afternoon trip to Canterlot. Some of the arrivals were meeting up with friends or relatives while those departing were saying their goodbyes. And not too far away, Chrysalis spotted a poofy-maned pink pony practically bouncing her way down the platform toward her.

“Heeeey, Chryssy!” Pinkie Pie called out. She pounced Chrysalis with a hug, and even though it wasn’t the first time she had experienced a Pinkie sized hug, the strength of it was still a bit surprising. It was nothing life threatening, but evidently her bodyguard didn’t realize this. Luckily, Chrysalis managed to very quickly wave her bodyguard off when she noticed that she had dropped the bags and reached for something concealed beneath one of her wings. Pinkie finally released the hug, taking a step back and putting on a bright smile as she said, “Long time no see.”

“Thanks for meeting us here on such short notice,” Chrysalis said, bowing her head slightly.

“No problemo! So, who’s your friend?” Pinkie asked as she turned her excited grin toward the other new arrival.

Chrysalis’s bodyguard noticeably flinched, and she seemed unsure how to respond as her eyes darted from the strange pony to Chrysalis and back.

“Well, go on. Introduce yourself,” Chrysalis said, waving her hoof.

She stood a bit taller and cleared her throat. “I’m Mystery, ma’am.”

Pinkie let out a short little chuckle-snort. “You’re funny. You can just call me Pinkie.” She then darted around to where the travel bag was lying on the platform and, in one fluid motion, ducked down and swept the bag up so it was balancing just on top of her head. “I’ll get this one!” she declared as she started to prance her way off the platform.

Mystery appeared shocked into silence as she watched Pinkie effortlessly balanced the baggage while cantering down the steps away from the train station. She didn’t stop gawking until Chrysalis walked by her to follow after Pinkie. With a quick shake of her head, Mystery broke her gaze away just long enough to collect the suitcase beneath a wing and then took off at a brisk pace to catch up.

---

As the trio had walked through the streets of Ponyville, Mystery had tried to keep her focus on her surroundings. Specifically, she had been discreetly making a mental note of all of the ponies that had passed them on the way to their destination. While none of them appeared particularly threatening, she knew as well as anyone that looks could be deceiving.

Unfortunately, there was a major distraction in the form of a strange pink pony prancing about just before them. This ‘Pinkie Pie’, supposedly one of the Element bearers, appeared nothing like what she had been expecting, and her behavior was beyond ridiculous. Not only had she just simply bounced up to them and practically tackle the Queen after they’d left the train, but she had the gall to actually address her Grace as ‘Chryssy’. Strangely enough, Chrysalis seemed unfazed by the nickname. Mystery wondered just how it was that such a strange mare could be such a close acquaintance.

“So!” Pinkie suddenly said as she spun about on her hooves to face Mystery. She continued to walk backwards as they continued down the street, still managing to balance the travel bag atop her springy mass of mane despite the sudden movement. “First time to Ponyville?”

Mystery’s stride stuttered a step. When she looked to her Queen for guidance, Chrysalis simply shifted her eyebrows, giving her a look that silently seemed to say that she need not ask permission to answer the question. “Uh, no... actually, I’ve been here before a few times.”

“R-really?” Pinkie asked as she rapidly blink-blinked. She began to tilt her head slightly as she took on a thoughtful gaze, but had to quickly canter a few steps to the side to balance herself and keep the luggage from toppling off. “You sure? I usually don’t forget these things.”

“Well, I didn’t look like this,” Mystery said as her eyes traveled downward a bit.

“Oh, right. You’re a changeling too! Duh, I should have know that.” Pinkie let out a quick giggle as she stuck out her tongue and tapped the tip of her forehoof against the side of her head. Mystery was sure she heard a hollow thunk when she did so. “So who were you back then? I betcha it’s somepony I know!”

“I was pretty generic, to be honest.” Mystery fully intended to leave her description at that. However, Pinkie remained focused on her, smiling happily as she expectantly waited for more. The extra attention was a bit unsettling, and after an awkward moment of being silently stared at by someone who was walking backwards with a large piece of luggage balanced on her head, Mystery finally admitted, “I used to pose as one of Celestia’s guards.”

Pinkie’s smile quickly dropped into a disappointed frown. “Shoot. Those are some of the only ponies that visit that I don’t get to know very well.” She sidestepped off the path, waiting for a couple seconds and focusing on keeping the luggage balanced, and then stepped back on the street to walk alongside Mystery. “They don’t really talk about themselves much and the armor makes it really hard to tell them apart.”

Mystery let out a heavy sigh, resigned to the fact that this mare was not going to leave her be. “That’s intentional. Celestia doesn’t want members of the guard to be easily identified. It keeps anyone from singling out a guard for doing their job.”

“You know quite a bit about the guard, don’tcha?”

“Well, I should. I was a member for over five years.” Mystery cringed slightly and quickly added, “Uh, well, not as me, I mean.” She chanced a glance to her other side toward her Queen. Chrysalis caught the glance out of the corner of her eye, and a sly smirk was her only response. It appeared Mystery wasn’t about to get an easy out from answering Pinkie’s barrage of questions.

“Wow.” Pinkie pranced a few steps forward and then stopped, focusing on her balancing act for a few seconds as she paused with only one forehoof and hind hoof touching the ground. “I can’t imagine not being me for even five minutes, but you were able to do it for five years? That’s amazing!” she said. She hopped slightly off the ground when her voice climbed, and landed deftly on the other two hooves.

Mystery’s ears laid back against her head, and her cringing deepened. “Glad you think so?”

Pinkie smiled brightly and then quickly cantered ahead a few steps. “Alright, here’s our stop,” she declared as she took one last hop up onto the front step of Sugarcube Corner. The travel bag teetered upon her head before tumbling forward and landing upright on the step in front of her. She pulled the shop’s door open and beckoned inside as she said, “After you!”

Mystery followed closely behind Chrysalis as they walked into the darkened shop. There wasn’t a single light lit in the place, and the blinds upon all of the windows had been drawn closed. When Pinkie stepped inside behind them and pulled the shop door closed, the only source of light was suddenly cut off, plunging their surroundings into darkness.

Mystery began to feel her heart beating a bit harder. Her wide eyes were struggling to adjust to the sudden darkness. Her ears swiveled about trying to pick out any sounds in the silence. The situation suddenly didn’t feel right at all.

“Rather dark, isn’t it?” Mystery actually flinched when her Queen’s voice rang out through the darkened shop from beside her.

“Hold on, I’ll get the lights,” Pinkie called out. There was the sound of the luggage being rolled to the side of the room and of Pinkie’s hoofsteps as she crossed the wooden floor. And then, there was the blinding light that followed the quiet click when Pinkie switched on the shop’s lights, forcing Mystery to squint her eyes closed for a second.

“Surprise!” A chorus of voices yelled out in the shop, causing Mystery to flinch at the sudden shout. The suitcase she had been carrying was quickly forgotten as she dropped it to the floor and flared her wings out at her sides. She ducked down slightly and reached across her chest and just under her left wing with her right forehoof, but she hesitated when she noticed the colorful decorations strung up about the room and the smiling faces of a group of mares greeting them.

“Well, I wasn’t expecting this,” Chrysalis said, sounding a bit surprised herself. She glanced about the decorated room and to each of her old friends with a happy smile on her face. That smile was quickly replaced with a disappointed scowl when she noticed Mystery once again reaching for her concealed weapon. She reached over with a forehoof and slowly pushed Mystery’s wing down, barely shaking her head and mouthing the words ‘stop it’. At this rate, it would be a miracle if they made it through the afternoon without someone getting stabbed.

Chrysalis stepped forward a few steps into the room, looking over the decorations hanging over head. “I only just sent the message last night.” She looked down toward Pinkie as she asked, “How did you get something like this setup in less than a day?”

Pinkie grinned widely. “Well, I did have to use some of my emergency party rations, but that’s what they’re there for!”

Rarity stepped forward from the rest of the group, giving Chrysalis a bright smile and an embrace which she gladly returned. “It’s so good to see you again,” Rarity said as she took a step back, leaving one hoof resting upon Chrysalis’s shoulder. “Tell us, how have things been for you in Sanctuary?”

“Very busy, but that’s hardly an excuse for us having been apart for so long, isn’t it?” Chrysalis glanced about the room at her friends, a weak smile on her muzzle as she said, “I should do better at making time for all of you.”

“We’re all just as guilty,” Rarity said, shaking her head and waving her forehoof. “I was thinking just the other day that I really should visit Sanctuary much more often than I do. You and your changelings have done such a marvelous job of creating such a beautiful crystal city.”

Applejack stepped up beside Chrysalis as she said, “Well, we’re all here together now.” She leaned in beside Chrysalis, laying one foreleg across her shoulders for a friendly hug. “That counts for somethin’, don’t it?”

“It does,” Chrysalis said with a slight nod of her head. “I only wish it were as simple as a casual visit.”

Pinkie had been busily cutting slices of cake and setting them upon a set of small serving plates laid out in a careful line across a table. Her muzzle scrunched to the side and she stuck her tongue out a bit as she carefully placed the final piece on the remaining empty plate. “There,” she said, taking a moment to admire her work before picking up one of the plates, balancing it easily upon her forehoof. “Your letter did say you had something you wanted to talk to us about,” she said as she turned and hopped a few paces toward Chrysalis. She stopped before her and offered up the slice of cake. “We’re all here and all ears, right girls?” she asked as she looked around her at the others.

“You bet!”

“Absolutely.”

“Of course!”

“Eyep!”

The chorus of replies was as varied as was the Queen’s friends, but all held the same meaning. They were there for her, ready to help her out in any way they could without her even having to ask. Though it had seemed like a rather odd gathering at first, Mystery found herself understanding at least a bit more why these mares were so important. She hadn’t noticed it until that moment. She could feel the bond between them just from simply standing in the same room as them. Sharing such a strong emotional bond was a rare thing, especially between a changeling and other beings.

Chrysalis quietly accepted the slice of cake with her magic. Silence settled upon the room for a moment as she seemed to mull something over, and then she looked up and asked, “Is this chocolate?”

Pinkie’s grin nearly spread from ear to ear as she rapidly nodded her head.

A happy smile slowly spread across Chrysalis’s muzzle. “Well, I think it can wait, at least until we all have a piece of this cake.”