• Published 14th Apr 2015
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Chrysalis Wins - Arkolo



Chrysalis's invasion is successful. The challenge of ruling begins...

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Ch.32 "Shady Business"

Chrysalis Wins

Ch.32 “Shady Business”

In some fancy smancy spa in Canterlot…


Shade never bothered to learn the location’s name. All he knew when he received the order to wash over seven hundred vanguard was that he would need a bath, soap, and lot’s of brushes and sponges. A spa has those right?

The spa ponies were gracious enough, once they got over their fear and disgust, and saw fit to designate one quarantined room as the changeling disinfectant chamber. Or so it came to be called after some obnoxious vanguard blabbed about the Badland parasites.

The changelings that came to be serviced by Shade had to walk through a plastic wrapped hallway as a result, not unjustified, but it led to many face hooves and exasperated sighs. Unfortunately Badlands parasites weren’t the only thing his vanguards saw fit to discuss, while they were scrubbed.

Much to Shade’s disappointment, a number of vanguards seemed to have lost all pretense of social etiquette after their successful invasion, and were openly rude to a number of ponies. Something they never would have done before when trying to earn love.

“And, and, you should have seen the stallion’s FACE! HA! Priceless, the mare I replaced must’ve been infected with a bad case of pitty the poor welp, because putting up with all that needy nonsense was horrible. Going back and telling him how things are was delicious. I mean, his love was good enough to live on, but now, I could just tell him he’s unneeded, and I gratefully dumped the sucker like the ball and chain he was. There are such better options now, Ha!”

A particularly mirthful vanguard splashed about the water of the shallow communal bath, while she related the tale of her recent escapade. A number of the other vanguards in the bath chuckled and hissed in joviality. Shade shook his head and rolled his eyes, as he grabbed a sponge with a hoof.

“Would you pass the soap Spike?”

A bucket of soapy water was kicked over towards Shade. It teetered and threatened to spill over as it slid over the slick floor that surrounded the bath area, but it remained upright with most of it’s contents contained. The little purple dragon sat on a short stool, with arm’s crossed defensively, and a face that expressed the displeasure of a thousand rotten birthdays all experienced within the last twenty four hours... or something like that.

Shade’s purple eyes traced up from the bucket to the place where the young dragon sat and huffed. A soft, sad frown graced over his muzzle, and added to the overall dreary look of his weary face. The pliable skin under his eyes had gotten baggy, and even though the sleep he received earlier that day did him some good, and he needed more.

“Thank you.”

He spoke in as kind a tone as he could manage. The little purple creature had been a mess since Chrysalis handed him over. Between the initial tears of fear, tantrums spurts of flame, and the angry gnashes and slashes. This quiet pouty resentful attitude had been the most manageable yet, though that was of little comfort. Shade felt he could comprehend bits of the young dragon’s plight. What with all the misplaced chaos that the invasion had caused, and the majorly overhauled lifestyle some ponies now had to deal with.

When the vanguard who boasted about her earlier venture was about to continue her tale, Shade attacked her with a sponge. He managed to close her jaw shut with an uppercut of suds and pliable dead sea creature. The interruption of her exploits did little to interrupt the group’s overall mood, and another vanguard quickly piped up, and little stride was lost in the conversation between the others.

“You think putting a needy stallion in his place was good! You don’t even know the half of it! How about me crackin’ the truth on two mares and a griffon! I even brought them all in one room, so I could show em’ the three different disguises I used on em’. It was three pretty wildly entertaining reactions. One of em’ just snorted all unsurprised like, and just said ‘knew you were cheatin’ on me anyway’, hehehe, then the other mare just broke down all over the place. She’d been so desperate for some kind of relationship, wanted help raisin’ her two foals see, and when I stumbled on her and made it so easy, she just clambered all over me. When I pulled the rug it was like watching fine china shatter into a thousand pieces, just beautiful.”

“And what about the griffon?”

Another vanguard chided in. All of the other vanguards were now enraptured by this bloke’s particular tale of betrayal.

“Oh her? She didn’t say anything…”

“What!”

“Ye, she just tried to kill me instead.”

“That’s not funny, that’s dangerous!”

“Eh, I thought it was funny, she didn’t have any talons in the first place HAHAHA! Just another desperate case that was easy to pick up. HAHAHA!”

The revelation of the griffon’s condition brought out a number of riotous laughs from the group. Many hooves splashed up and down in the shallow waters and some of it sailed rudely into Shade’s face. He had narrowed his eyes and clenched his jaws. A rather appalled snarl had started to cross over his muzzle.

Spike meanwhile had turned himself towards the wall, and put his head between his knees. The young dragon sniffled quietly, and went unnoticed by the changelings in the bath. None of the other vanguards took notice of the sour reaction two particular individuals had, and another one of them continued in the merry making.

“Ha, well now, I know the queen set the precedent of usurping relations, what with princess Cadenza and all that, and both of you shared fine examples of how our majesty’s triumphant invasion has allowed us to do what we please, instead of what we were obligated to do. But I think I have both of you beaten by a good deal…”

“Haha, really, I’m surprised, this oughta be good.”

“Ya, I guess my tale was on a smaller scale… What did you do?

“C’mon, how could you do worse?”

“I bet you’re just bluffing, no way you can one up Shod’s story.”

“Oh hoho, I’m not bluffing, but settle in, this is going to be a multi-layered meal of delicious debauchery.”

“NOT ANOTHER WORD!"

Every changeling in the room froze, and they took a moment to comprehend who had just shouted. All of their purplish and green hued eyes turned over towards the changeling who stood tall in the midst of them.

Shade was on all four of his hooves, and he glared at each of the other vanguards in the bath. He’s eyes were alight with bright lavender light, and his gaze caused each of the other changelings to shudder and cower before him. The oppressive mental power of the head vanguard was able to quash any utterances they may have come up with, and all of them were forced to give him their utmost attention. With a commanding voice he seethed out his words like fire.

“Should I bag all of you in cocoons and suck you for all you’re worth, just to cast you aside like fodder? That would be morbidly entertaining no?”

A deathly silence followed Shade’s words. Even the other rooms of the spa were quiet, and Shade knew the other rooms had occupants. His tone lowered in volume, but kept it’s lethal edge.

“I don’t know where to begin with how severely disappointed I am in each of you. All of you sit here and laugh about what would have been high crimes to the swarm, naught but a week ago. Did the spirit of your training manage to stick in your heads at all?”

“The training means nothing now…”

One of the vanguard manage to cough out a few words, much to the irate Shade’s displeasure. The head vanguard stared down the one who spoke, and amplified the mental pressure he could exercise over them. One by one, each of the present vanguards collapsed into the shallow water and clutched their skulls with their hooves and whimpered.

“On the contrary, your training matters more now than ever! For you dared to expose your true selves to those who trusted you, those who depended on you, and who in turn provided something precious and valuable. Yet you pathetic mongrels decided to squander it under something as weak as the pretense of entertainment!”

“But the queen…”

The defiant one remained defiant, and had not yet succumbed to Shade’s mental bearings.

“Do you think the queen would be pleased with what you have done? Do you really think she would be overjoyed at the misery you decided to cause, and love you chose to ruin? Do you think she’s done everything out of a simple vindictive nature? I’ll remind you in case you have forgotten.”

The defiant one finally dropped from his hooves and shivered violently. Shade in turn mentally berated them with the most disturbing imagery of the Badlands he could conjure. All the faces of the emaciated, the slain, and the decimated were pressed forward in the minds of each vanguard, and they cringed. This was accompanied with all the volatile emotions those deceased changelings suffered, which in turn emotionally ravaged the vanguards that cowered under their leader.

“It’s vanguards like yourselves that drove the swarm to utter desperate weakness, meanwhile all you can think about is your petty grievances against those you took love from.”

The small purple dragon had long since turned around to watch the whole endeavor, rather surprised and shocked with how his ‘handler’ had metaphorically flipped the table. Shade paused only briefly as he leered at each of the vanguards, all of whom wriggled in terrible distress.

“The queen took what action was necessary, and she does not plan for her vanguards to go about and destroying the resources we have at our hooves, whether they’re old or new. I’m stripping all of you of infiltrator status, you will no longer serve the queen as respected and talented changelings. If any of you want to do something besides dig with drones for the rest of your lives, you’ll meet me tomorrow night at the orchestral halls to restart your training. Now, all of you get out! It’s not possible to scrub all of your filth clean with soap…”

The mental hold Shade held over them was released, and the chastised vanguards didn’t wait to scurry out of the of bath house. At the lead of the retreat was the defiant one.

With a tired sigh Shade sat down the middle of bath, and allowed his head to droop lowly on his neck. His ears tucked back, and his wings hung loosely. Eventually he was able to muster the will to call in the next set of vanguards for their turn to get scrubbed.

It took a while, even after Shade released the mental call to the line. Half a dozen hesitant new vanguards trotted cautiously into the wash room, and stood at the edge of the bath. He lifted his head to look at the next set, and they seemed shaken, as they undoubtedly heard a good deal of what was said, and certainly felt the mental pressure even as they waited outside the room.

“I don’t want to hear anything from any of you. There will be no talking for this session, I’ll get you cleaned and you’ll leave, is that understood?”

Each of the new vanguards nodded in clear comprehension, and stood silent as they awaited further instruction. Shade turned to the small purple dragon who still sat on the short stool. He barely noted how the young reptilian’s eyes were wide and apprehensive.

“If you would be so kind Spike, would you grab a full set of new brushes and the tick-killer balms.”

Without a word the young dragon scooted off of his seat and went to fetch the materials from a nearby drawer. He was easily in Shade’s sight for the whole process. That tick killer-balm had been particularly effective in the removal of the Badland parasites, and Shade had been using it liberally. With a short turnoff his head, Shade faced the silent and watchful vanguard at the edge of the bath.

“Well, get in and get yourselves wet, I’m not doing everything for you.”

The six others quickly entered the frothy warm water, and got themselves rinsed. Spike approached Shade with a number of brushes and a tall bottle.

“Here you go.”

There was a notable lack of bitter resentfulness this time. It was replaced with a quiet respect.

“Thank you, you can sit at your stool again if you wish.”

Spike decided he would do so, and clambered back onto the short piece of furniture, and idly kicked his short legs back and forth. With materials in hoof, Shade went about cleaning the wet and silent vanguards in the bath.

Most of the changelings in Canterlot already looked notably better after a week. Access to all the love they needed did wonders for their health. The holes in legs had started to fill in, and manes had started to grow back in, but there were still plenty of deep divets, and patches of scraggly chitin. Many of those that did have hair grow back in had it grow in patchy, as parasites still worked to eat away at what they could. This time however, the changelings’ ability to heal out paced the damage the parasites were able to inflict. With a good cleaning, each of the changelings should be in wholesome shape within another week.

As he ran a brush riddled with cleansing oils over another changeling’s pot-marked chitin he idly thought about the state of the rest of the swarm. The drones and sentinels would need to be cleaned too, and he wondered if the queen had already tasked Colony and Vivisect with that. He smirked lightly, they wouldn’t have to do it personally like him, and he supposed his ‘punishment’ just got something necessary done anyway.

Thinking of Vivisect, he wanted to go have a chat with her, that moment up in the Crystal Empire was too good an opportunity to tease the head sentinel about. Her and all of her serious professionalism, it was something of a mask she always wore, even when she didn’t speak with the queen.

Yes, he mused to himself in his mind, he would have to pull out all the love drunk Manehattan bar jokes after their next councillorship meeting, whenever the queen saw fit to organize another one. So far it seemed, she had just been content to let Shade do clean up since Badlands fieldtrip. Well, besides the apparent fiasco that happened in Ponyville just recently, but back to Vivisect, he would need to come up with some fitting new nick name like… seductress of the crystal tyrant…

He couldn’t help but snort to himself, and imagine her all flustered and angry. This caused a few cautious glances from the vanguard in the bath, and they looked at each other and wondered if their leader had gone daft. He was obviously exhausted, and just shouted a whole lot. Now he chuckled at apparently nothing.

“Are you alright?”

It was Spike that inquired into Shade’s curious condition. The head vanguard shook his head to reorient his attention, and turned to the dragon on the stool. He continued to scrub another changeling while he replied to purple reptilian’s question.

“Oh, I’ll make do, orders are orders, and I can’t afford to disappoint the queen, not after I already disappointed her once.”

“I suppose I can understand that.”

“What were you up to before the whole invasion anyway? The queen seemed to recognize you for some reason, and I find that strange. Stranger than a dragon raised among ponies, which I’m sure you get questioned about all the time, but who were you associated with that grabbed her attention?”

“Well, uh, Twilight Sparkle is basically my sister. She’s the one who hatched me and I’ve been around her ever since.”

“That would make sense… So where did the queen find you before she brought you to the castle?”

“Donut Joe’s.”

“Ha, really?”

“You changelings are crawling everywhere, and I didn’t really feel safe taking the train out of here, I don’t know where to go anyway, you basically imprisoned every pony else I know…”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

Sure…”

“No really, I am. All the circumstances that led to the invasion in the first place were quite unfortunate.”

“Did you absolutely have to? Did you have to come in here and take over?”

“Look, Spike, I’m not going to pretend I agree with my queen’s every decision.”

“But you didn’t stop her, I’ve heard enough from several changelings all day. Most of you were hidden here anyway, but sneakily sucking away love wasn’t enough huh?”

“I will respect my queen, would you do any less if Celestia herself told you to do something?”

“Celestia would never tell me to beat up and imprison other ponies, or be needlessly cruel…”

“You know what, you’re right Spike, Celestia wouldn’t do that. All I will say is that desperation can make the most civil of ponies depreciate into unseemly behavior. And, Spike, my queen was quite desperate for some kind of relief from our lives in the Badlands.”

“Then why didn’t she just ask for help, I’m sure Celestia would have done something…”

Shade just sighed at the young dragons question, one that seemed to be common to any pony, or dragon in this case, that had some of the situation explained to them.

“Ultimately it wasn’t my decision to make. When your swarm or family I guess, decides to go ahead with something, even if you don’t agree, you try to help them through it, and make sure they don’t hurt themselves too badly. You don’t pick your family after all.”

Something of a cord seemed to be struck with the young dragon, and his fiery demeanor softened, if only slightly.

“Why would help some pony that last group of jerks, I don’t think I’ve ever met any pony as rotten as them. Even you freaked out at them.”

“Please don’t judge all changelings by them, I will admit I was a bit surprised how atrociously those vanguards conducted themselves. I don’t train them to be like that.”

“Then how are they supposed act?”

“…like ponies.”

“Huh?”

“Spike, our lives revolve around gathering love, for our sake we better be good at getting it. If we can’t get ponies to love us, whether by some face we borrowed or affection we actually earned, then we die. It’s that simple. We changelings need to be careful in maintaining and cultivating those emotions which are so necessary for us. We must act like the ponies that are deserving of love, or the health of the swarm suffers.”

“So why did those jerks crush those ponies’ lives?”

“Because some changelings are short-sighted, just like some ponies are. They foolishly believe they won’t have to earn pony affection anymore. What they fail to understand is just because we can feed more freely now, it doesn’t mean we can disrespect the source. Or we run the risk of poisoning the emotions in the land, and driving everything useful out through careless abuse.”

“Does Chrysalis understand that?”

“Yes she does, but that doesn’t mean every pony can roam free under her either, threats are still threats.”

“Is that what I am?”

“You know some ponies that are very dangerous Spike.”

“I suppose, I don’t usually think of it that way, It’s usually just Twilight and my friends, and the princesses… They’ve always done everything just to protect us; they wouldn’t mean harm to any pony that didn’t deserve it.”

“I’m afraid my queen has made it to their naughty list, so you see the dilemma? She decided we needed the love of Equestria faster than what could be politely explained and asked for, and that put us at odds. She couldn’t risk the princesses and elements being in charge while we took what we needed. Maybe I can show you what the Badlands were like one day, and help you understand why the swarm clamored to get out of there, then again, I hope you never see the Badlands. I don’t want to go back there…”

“That Badlands were that bad huh?”

“It was constant cycle of changeling lives being brutally cut short, yes it was that bad.”

“Hmm.”

“But as chaotic and messy as this invasion has turned out, I have hope that things will turn for the better overall. For one thing, this is the most civil conversation I’ve ever had with a dragon.”

“Tssh, it’s probably the only real conversation you’ve had with a dragon, the other one I’ve talked to tried to kill me...”

“Oh?”

“It was nothing, just some oversized brute I stumbled upon in the Everfree forest, glad I lost him, it was a good thing Twilight came…”

“You sound like you have seen quite a few sights for a tyke your size.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I’m impressed that’s all. Stumbling upon an older dragon in the Everfree, and coming out alive is something many changelings haven’t done.”

“Well, is there something else we can talk about? Every topic so far has just been so serious, and I’m tired.”

The little dragon gave a loud drawn out yawn. It was Infectious, and Shade found himself in the midst of a grand old yawn as well. That set a trend which caused the rest of the vanguards in the bath to also yawn. With a satisfying smack of his lips, Shade blinked his eyes a few times as well.

“Sure, we can talk about whatever you like, I think I’ll call it quits after this group.”

During the conversation, Shade had scrubbed down four of the six other changelings that occupied the bath, so he was almost done.

“So do you changelings eat anything besides love? I mean, I guess I saw lot’s of you guys in the donut shop, how does that work? Can changelings get fat?”

“oh ha-ha, funny guy aren’t you… well you see-“

Shade was interrupted as the doors to the bathing room burst open, and there, filling the door frame was a disgruntled changeling queen. She shivered violently, chattered her teeth, and one of her eyes twitched quite severely. It was a rather frightening state to see the queen in, and her ghastly scowl did little to make her approachable by way of conversation.

Her giant double iris eyes roamed over to the steamy pool of liquid in the middle of the room, and she started to move her legs. There were audible cracks every time she moved, as if something was being snapped, and bits of ice would spring off of her joints. Her mane and tail were frozen still, and didn’t sway at all as she moved.

The rest of the changelings, and dragon, remained deathly quiet as they watched Chrysalis make an awkward, stiff legged walk over to the edge of the bath. Part way there, her icy hooves made contact with the slick edge of the bath tiles, and she uncontrollably slipped forward.

None of the changelings knew how to react when they saw their queen face plant into the shallow warm water, and they simply remained still as they watched her thaw out slowly. Her rump was high in the air, and was kept high by the frozen tripod of her stiff neck and front legs. The only one that dared chuckle was the little dragon, and he did so discretely.

The process of the queen’s freedom was rather reminiscent of a dry noodle being cooked in hot water. Slowly the parts of her body that were immersed in the bath water would loosen, and allow more of her to sink into it’s shallow depths, until nothing but her horn and wings poked about the surface.

Then to the suspenseful vanguards’ nervous anticipation, their queen slowly raised her head until just her nostrils peaked above the surface of the water, an aggressive snort caused the water around her snout to ripple. A brief glint twinkled in her green irises as a mental message reached every changeling in the room.

News of this doesn’t leave the room

Most of the vanguards just gulped, and nodded slowly. So the thawed out Chrysalis stood up from the shallow water, and shook her body like a dog. Chitin was easy to dry off, but her mane and tail required the attention of towels, which she grabbed in magic and proceeded to rub herself down.

Shade had motioned to do the action himself, but a threatening glare from the queen stopped him dead in his tracks. Once Chrysalis was satisfactorily dry, she turned to her head vanguard and spoke with decent composure.

“I have a new task for you Shade.”

“Of course my queen, you have only to say it.”

“The element mares have escaped, I need them recaptured. Prioritize this over any of the rebels we were pursuing. One in particular, the rainbow pegasus, I forget her name, she has a powerful amulet that needs to be retrieved. Your work here will be postponed until further notice, you are to divert full attention to this matter.”

Off to the side where Chrysalis wasn’t paying attention Spike did a private fist pump, and mouthed YES! Shade immediately responded to his queen’s request.

“I’ll be right on it my queen, and um, what of the dragon you put in my custody?”

“Oh, where is he?”

“Right here.”

Spike quickly hid his enthusiasm for the news he just heard, and put on a rather convincing glum face as he waved a claw to indicate his location. Too bad poker faces don’t really work on changelings… Chrysalis frowned at the little dragon, which she could smell wreaked of jubilance.

“Hmm, don’t be too excited purple pest, your friends will be back under my hoof shortly.”

She turned back to Shade.

“I’ll put him with Vivisect, as Colony is still busy, and even with her damaged faculties I think she’ll be able to manage this.”

“Damaged faculties my queen? Did something happen to her?”

“Why yes, there was a scuffle when one of the alicorns was being relocated. She isn’t the Vivisect we remember anymore. Go, deliver the pest to her and you can see for yourself, she’s staying in a room close to the guard barracks. I am going to retire for the night… Report when you’ve accomplished something useful.”

“Then I will leave right away.”

Without further inhibition the head vanguard went about to follow his new orders. The vanguards currently in the bath got out and started to dry themselves. Shade grabbed Spike in his green magical aura, and left the bath house. He sent out a mental message to the rest of the vanguards who waited in line to get clean.

The wash is canceled for now, and won’t begin again until I have accomplished a separate mission. I’ll send news when I return.

The number of vanguards that were still in line was quite substantial, and this caused number of frustrated hisses and growls, as they figured all the time they had spent in line was wasted. The large group of upset changelings caused Spike to be a little nervous as he floated past them. A quick flash of mental intimidation broke up the crowd though, and they went there ways for the night.


---


At the barracks next to the royal castle


It was an easy matter to ask the attendant Sentinels where he could locate Vivisect, and he made it to the specified door quickly. He raised a hoof to knock, but stopped with hesitation.

This wasn’t the same Vivisect he knew anymore

An edge of fear and nervousness crept down his spine, and he chocked slightly. Briefly he considered just opening the door, throwing the dragon in, and closing it behind him without explanation, but he couldn’t bring himself to do that either.

“What are you waiting for?”

Spike stood there and helpfully tapped his foot in impatience. Shade still found himself seized up. Vivisect was the only other changeling besides the queen he knew that was over twenty, a rather unheard of thing, for sentinels especially. Despite her heavy mask of professionalism, there had been a deep sense of camaraderie there, simply for having survived so much together over the years... Shade knew twelve different head sentinels in the first two years he had been a councilor to Chrysalis, then Vivisect had taken the spot, but once she got it she stuck to it for decades. He couldn’t even recall how many head drones there had been, Colony had only taken her place last year.

“Well?”

Spike insisted, and Shade was eventually able to push himself out of his myriad of reservations. He tapped a hoof to the door, and waited.

“Yes, who’s there?”

It was definitely Vivisect’s scratchy voice, but the tone was radically different. It held none of the gruffness he was use to, or any of the curtness. Shade found himself with held breath, as he hesitated to raise his own voice. Spike took the initation since his changeling escort apparently had issues at the moment.

“Your queen decided you’re going to be my new foalsitter…”

“What?”

The door opened and a tall armored sentinel peered out with her bright orange eyes. She recognized one of the visitors as a changeling, and narrowed her eyes at the smaller creature which stood to the side.

“What is that?”

She pointed a large hoof at the short purple reptile, while she looked pointedly at the other changeling. Again, Spike beat Shade to the punch.

“This dragon is named Spike.”

The sentinel looked down to the body where the kiddish voice emanated from, and blinked her large orange eyes in confusion. So she just decided to ignore that and turned to the other changeling. Before she said anything she simply studied his face for a little bit, and recognized some of the emotions going on there.

“Did you know me before?”

“Huh, ya, we knew each other.”

“Why don’t you come in, and you can bring the… dragon?”

She had an eye brow cocked like she never heard the concept of dragon before, but she opened the door wide and offered them space to walk in. Spike obliged right away, and he yawned all the while. Shade let out a long sigh before he obliged Vivisect’s offer.

He trotted in after the large sentinel and she led them to a large wide couch. Shade noted the living quarters, and everything seemed fit for a commanding officer… Perhaps these were the quarters the belated captain Shining Armor had stayed.

A moment later Vivisect held out a hoof to offer Shade a spot on the couch, and he took the offered seat. The sentinel just looked at the little dragon with a suspicious eye before she tossed a few pillows at him.

“Is there anything I can get you, water perhaps? There’s all kinds of food that was left here as well.”

“I would appreciate a glass of water.”

“Just a moment.”

While Shade sat there he felt rather numb, and didn’t feel he could really process the situation just yet. Vivisect kindly offering him a drink? He couldn’t even grasp it. She was back shortly and levitated a clear glass over to him. He in turn grabbed it with his magic and started to take slow sips. He kept his eyes level and studied her meanwhile.

Everything was different down to the way she carried herself. No longer was there the same level of alertness, ears always perked in search of potential threats, body tense and ready to move, and eyes calculating and aware. No, she wasn’t like that at all anymore. She was far more relaxed and subdued, if only in a constantly perplexed and slightly nervous state.

“So how did we know each other?”

It was apparent this was a routine Vivisect had repeated many times recently, as she made herself comfortable, and settled down on the couch opposite of Shade. His brain lagged slightly, this calm nonchalance from the head sentinel was entirely disconcerting.

“We’ve know each other for over twenty years. More than twice as long as most changelings live. We’re both part of the queen’s council.”

“So are you Shade then?”

“Y-you know?”

“I’ve already met Colony and the queen. Colony said there was one other councilor.”

“Oh, ya that’s right. So do you know what happened, exactly?”

Vivisect crossed her hooves and sighed, she looked quite exhausted as well. The hour of the day was relatively late, and Shade found that he couldn’t really blame her for showing some weariness. Honestly he was surprised she hadn’t just growled and refused them entry, but that’s what the old Vivisect would have done…

“From what I was told I took a hit to the head by some… alicorn? Anyway, even though I’ve recovered physically, apparently my memories were lost with the healing process. Since then I can’t remember anyone I’ve met, or even what I’ve done with my life. And… I don’t really like what I’ve been hearing.”

“What do you mean?”

“The other changelings say, well, say I was some kind of great warrior, and they keep showing me how they can change their hooves into claws and keep asking me to do the same. But it, just, it bothers me. I don’t want to fight anything.”

Shade sat there in silence, if he thought he was shocked before, he found that he hit a new level of disbelief, and his jaw hung there stupidly. The expression on the head vanguard made Vivisect feel very uncomfortable, and she subtly put one of her hooves underneath Shade’s mouth, and helped his jaw to close.

Afterward she put her head down on the couch and covered her eyes with her hooves and made a depressed moan. Her wings tittered with the release of air.

“I don’t know what’s going on, I just don’t know. I’m surrounded by these expectations I don’t want to be a part of, but none of them will leave me be. Every other changeling that’s comes here comes expecting something more than just… me. I don’t know who I was, I don’t know who I am, I don’t know who’s a friend or enemy, I, I, I…”

At this point Vivisect’s voice cracked and she started to devolve into unintelligible blubbering. She withdrew further into her side of the couch, and lifted her thickly armored forelegs to shield her head. Shade’s jaw hung loose again, this was something he thought he would never see. It certainly was something he wouldn’t have seen if Vivisect was her old self.

Meanwhile Spike tapped his fingers together uncomfortably as he sat on one of the pillows the sentinel had given him earlier. He initially attempted to nap when Shade and Vivisect started their conversation, but the emotions that were now blurted into the room left that a little difficult to accomplish. Spike turned over and tried to use one of the other pillows to muffle out the situation. He had nothing to say.

Something clicked in Shade’s head, and he started to mentally kick himself in the flank. It hadn’t been that long since he had the opportunity to reach out and comfort some pony. So He reached over to the large sentinel and gently put a hoof on her shoulder. She shuddered at the touch, but didn’t recoil, so Shade started to rub back and forth slowly over the smooth patch of chitin he found, in an attempt to be soothing.

“There you go, just let it out. I’m not here to judge you. There’s no need to be afraid.”

That really opened up the water works, and Vivisect started to heave and sob uncontrollably. Shade just kept moving his hoof back and forth slowly, and he ran it up and down her neck as well as over her shoulders.

“I’m so sorry Vivi…”

It took a while before the large sentinel was able to calm herself down. She sniffled loudly, and wiped at her snout and eyes in an attempt to clean herself up a little. She was still too choked up to talk at the moment, and settled with staying still. Slowly but surely her ragged breaths started to slow down, and the intensity of her sniffles relaxed. Her eyes were still puffy around the edges, and some red had mixed in with the natural sprite orange.

Shade bit his lower lip, and struggled to hold back some of his own emotions. He could feel his throat tighten, but he needed to be here for her at the moment. She’s the one who had her world taken from her.

When her breathing returned to something normal he relinquished his hoof from her shoulders, and set it back down on his side of the couch. For a few moments there was no noise but their steady breaths.

Then to add to Shade list of surprises that day, he found himself tightly embraced by the large sentinel. She had sprung on him suddenly, and he didn’t have time to react. His legs were pinned to his sides and the breath was squeezed out of him. Vivisect buried her snout into his short stubbly mane and neck fin. He flinched at the wetness he felt, but she continued on oblivious to his squirmishness.

“T-thank you S-Shade.”

Despite the crush of her hug, the smaller vanguard managed to wheeze out a few words.

“Least I could do, for my friend.”

Vivisect loosened her hold a little, and allowed Shade to breathe easier, but she didn’t let him go yet. She still kept her snout nuzzled over the back of his neck. Even though he started to feel very awkward about his position, he just let it happen.

Thankfully the sentinel saw fit to lift her head away and loosen her hold even more. To Shade’s slight aggravation she still didn’t let go quite yet, as if she was afraid to release him. She looked into his purple eyes with her orange ones.

“Um, please drop by any time you feel like it. I think the other changelings don’t know what to do with me yet. So I’ll just be around… It’s nice to have some changeling that will listen for once.”

“Hey, after surviving past all kinds of monsters, plagues, and parasites. I’m sure this is something you’ll be able to move on from. You’re made of sterner stuff than you know Vivi.”

“You two gonna kiss already, JEEZ!”

Both of the changelings jumped when Spike shouted at them from his spot on the floor. Vivisect immediately dropped her hold over Shade, and withdrew her hooves to herself. The vanguard also rubbed his foreleg with a hoof and looked the other way. They noticed the little purple dragon who glared at them with his green eyes while he laid on his side, one ear on the floor, the other covered by a pillow.

“I suppose I should get going, the queen wouldn’t want me to delay my mission. I’ll make sure to drop by again when I can.”

He offered a weak smile to the large sentinel before he turned to the small reptile.

“And you behave yourself Spike, If Vivisect tells me you’ve been good I’ll see if can plunder the castle’s gem vault for you.”

“W-wha, really?”

Spike’s mouth already started to water at the idea. He had seen that vault once when he was young. That beautiful, forbidden vault of forbidden delicacies. Oh, how Spike now entertained some forbidden desires.

“Yes, but only if you don’t give her any trouble. Oh and Vivi, be careful, he can breathe fire.”

“What?”

“Ya, just have a bucket of water handy, unless you know any extinguishing spells, which I don’t think they teach sentinels…”

“What?

“Alright, I guess this is where I say till’ next time.”

The vanguard hopped off the couch and made his way towards the door. Vivisect stepped off the couch as well and called out to Shade before he was gone.

“Shade?”

“Yes?”

“Why do you call me Vivi?”

“Oh, that.”

“Y-yes, do you do that because… we were more than friends before?”

“Hahaha! No, honestly I do it because that’s something I wouldn’t have gotten away with before. Let’s just say I’m still wrapping my head around how ‘nice and polite’ you are now.”

“Was I that bad before?”

“Mmm, ya, about as approachable as a statue. An angry spiky statue.”

“O-oh, that would explain some things…”

“Don’t worry about it though, in a way, you can look at this as a fresh start. You may not remember who you were, but that doesn’t have to determine who you are from now on.”

“Well, again, thank you Shade.”

“Get some rest, you look tired.”

“I should say the same for you.”

“Ha, that’s too bad, cause I have too much to do. See you later.”

With that Shade left through the front door and took a few steps away from the barracks. He was distracted by a forceful yawn that made it’s way up and out of his jaws. When that rude muscle contraction completed it’s course, Shade ignited his horn and began to summon up the magic to craft a portal.

A green wreath of flames slowly wrapped around an invisible circle to form a whirly dark abyss.

“Let’s start with Ponyville and see what I can find there…”

His hoof was placed into the dimensional rift and carried the rest of his body along, and soon he was gone from Canterlot.


---


In the Royal bedroom


Chrysalis rolled around uncomfortably in her bed. Though her body was tired, her mind raced with unanswered questions.

“How can Celestia and Luna pretend they didn’t know about changelings! How could my stupid ancestors be the reason why they’re around! WHY!”

She considered just going back up to the well and searching for the answers, but she was tired, and she might miss some subtly important details.

Apparently Avalanche was completely clueless how important those two unicorns he saved would become. Also being saved from a city mashing dragon is something the two alicorns could just… forget? Chrysalis didn’t care how old they were, the well of memories recorded that experience well enough to make it scarring.

With another frustrated growl she twisted over in her bed, and carelessly flung several pillows across the room. Cursed Sombra and that dumb jovial attitude she had smitten him with. It only came across as condescending now, since he would hold on to the few things he could threaten her with. There would be no way to convince him to let her talk with Celestia again. She knew she wouldn’t give him any second chances.

An awful thought struck her, and she groaned dejectedly at the idea. There was one princess Sombra might let her talk to, if only to get a kick out of it…

Her green magical aura illuminated the dark bedroom as she opened the drawer of a large, decorative nightstand next to her bed. Out of the open drawer flew a piece of parchment that had several older notes scribbled on it.

Next she pulled over a quill in her magic and scribbled a short note onto the magical paper.

Is your offer to meet with Luna still open?

To her surprise a response came almost immediately. The writing was very jagged and messy, as if the writer couldn’t hold his implement straight.

Yes!

Author's Note:

Bleerrrhhggggg, i was going to include like another two sections but... nah, this is already the longest chapter i've published for this story, and proof reading starts to be a real pain past 4k words. And I already spent all day on this, so guys gotta wait for another update :derpytongue2:

K hope you enjoyed, and i guess some sketches as per what i've been doing a lot. I Think i've figured why i do it so much. It's great for helping against writers block, at least for me. Some times the words come first, sometimes the illustration, and i borrow inspiration from either source. Just keeps things fresh ya know.


Shade N Spike chattin' at the Fancy Smancy Spa (I'm tempted to make that it's actual name. Heck, you got ponies with the name of "Fancy Pants" after all)


Behold! Zee Royal pratfall


Couch therapy, er something

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