• 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.71 "Power Ball"

Author's Note:

Hey readers, long time no see. If you would like to know why it took so long for this chapter to come out, I posted a blog ( BLOG LINK ). Without further delay, enjoy!

Chrysalis Wins

Ch.71 “Power Ball”

--- Yakyakistan

(( Optional atmospheric music ))

Gradually consciousness returned to Monarch, however along with consciousness came crushing pain. Every ligament and joint of her battered body cried in complaint. When she drew a deep breath her raw throat made her cough and sputter. She took several long moments to calm her breathing and once she settled down into a shallow rhythm she finally opened one eye.

The other half of her face had something covering it and she didn’t have the will to reach a hoof up to investigate. Any attempt to mildly flex her limbs was met with a sharp spike of displeasure. So she settled for leering around with her one functioning eye.

Several layers of blankets were upon her body covering her up to the neck. With a little rotation of her head she felt several straw-stuffed pillows supporting her cranium. There was a dull red-orange glow to it all, and she intuitively found her gaze being drawn to the source.

A fire illuminated the spacious wooden abode, next to the fire was a centauroid figure who was occupied tending a bubbling cauldron. Small sparkling lights caused Monarch’s eye to veer from the centaur to a nearby table. Upon the table was her ornamental necklace, which was in abysmal condition. Far more concerning however, was the small pile of white stones next to the broken regalia. Each of the small pebbles glowed with untapped power, plucked from their secure hiding place around her neck.

She held her breath as her brain tried to understand how she ended up here. Shouldn’t she have died out in the snow drift? Why was she in this warm room being covered up and tended to?

The lack of her shallow breathing caused the ears of the centaur to flick about. Without turning away from the cauldron his high voice carried across the room.

“So you’ve finally woken up? Or died, but considering your progress over the last few days I find that unlikely.”

He dipped a ladle into the cauldron and stirred it about before he raised it and emptied the contents into a smaller bowl. He repeated the action several times until satisfied with the gathered quantity.

Monarch’s eye left the table and closely followed the centaur as he turned about and approached her. She took note of his slow and feeble steps, clearly appearing to be a creature who had known far better days. When the centaur reached her bedside his pale crimson face came into view. Monarch discerned his features to have a simian similarity to far eastern centaurs she once knew.

She said nothing as the steaming bowl was set down on a stand and a spoon was pulled out from her caretaker’s thick cloak. He waved it in front of her face to grab her attention.

“For the last few days I’ve been using a straw to nourish you. Your throat is probably quite sore, so I’ve prepared a solution to soothe it and make it easier for you to speak.”

Reflexively, Monarch made a swallowing motion to confirm her throat was indeed quite soar. However that wasn’t what burned at the forefront of her mind, she inhaled deeply before trying to speak. Her first attempt didn’t even result in coherent words but came out as a strained gurgling sound. In frustration she began to struggle to get off of her back, despite the agonizing resistance from her body.

“Give that a rest! You’ll worsen your injuries if you keep doing that!”

The centaur put down the spoon and tried to push her back down into a resting position. She pressed through his attempt to make her relax and flopped onto her side. The blankets fell away to reveal the rest of her body. Covered from head to hoof in bandages, she looked nothing like her normally regal self. Her one uncovered eye glared at her apparent saviour only for it to fail as she started coughing after another vain attempt to speak. She continued to struggle to try and get some kind of word out, her body trembled after she managed to force her question out.

“Why?”

She whispered out as if she was a ghost, the air passing through her throat like sandpaper. Her tone was entirely accusatory. The centaur however, wasn’t impressed with the deadly scowl directed at him, instead seeming rather annoyed as he picked up the blankets and threw them back on the enormous changeling.

“Why what? You are clearly in a state unfit for lengthy discussion. Lie back down!”

Monarch uncooperatively tucked her legs beneath herself and rolled onto her belly, causing the blankets to fall to the floor again.

“Why am I alive!”

“Because I got some yaks to drag you out of the crater you made. Now, LAY DOWN!”

He shouted as forcefully as his withered voice could manage and pointed angrily at the pillows. She ignored him and pressed on, forcing herself into an upright sitting position. The pain of the effort nearly caused her to collapse but her resolve forced her through the brunt of it. Her broken voice growled at the little centaur infront of her.

“I was going to die, I was supposed to die.”

He gave her an incredulous look for a moment before returning to a scowl. He pointed to the door and spoke coldly.

“You will answer my questions to my satisfaction first, then you can go throw yourself off a cliff for all I care, but not a moment before.”

Monarch turned her head towards the indicated door as her breathing became more labored. Her attention became entirely fixated on her next action. One of her bandaged legs reached out until her hoof connected with the wooden floor.

Her diminutive caretaker growled at this action and tried to correct her stubborn behavior by attempting to lift her hoof back onto the bed. He couldn’t budge the massive limb, especially when she applied weight to it. Quickly, she followed up and soon she was upright with all hooves on the floor, though she trembled fiercely. The centaur continued to try and force her back down, pressing futilely against her chest.

“You will lay back down this instant! Or I’ll call the yaks and they’ll force you down!”

He howled up at her, but her eye was fixated on the door and she stumbled forward ignoring him. The small centaur jumped out of the way to avoid being trampled. Before she made it to the door he angrily grabbed one of the changeling’s hind legs to at least try and slow her down.

At this point the bandages on Monarch’s body began to turn red as her movements reopened wounds. Blood oozed and dripped through the most saturated of her coverings. The centaur trying to restrain her loudly voiced his complaint once his hands became slick.

“You idiot! You’re just making this process more difficult!”

When she reached the door she raised a hoof to push it open but the door proved resistant. The centaur dangling on her leg snorted at her effort.

“It’s locked, and no, I’m not opening it for you. I told you the conditi-”

Monarch reared back raising both of her fore hooves and bashed the door. The entire frame shook at the strike from the enormous changeling, even in this weak condition the residual might of Imperial blood still flowed in her veins.

“I will have my release!”

She roared at the obstacle and struck it a second time, successfully shattering the lock and causing the heavy door to break off its hinges. Immediately a blast of cold mountain air swept through the room, causing both Monarch and the centaur to shiver.

“You damn fool! Even if you get out of here, with your injuries you’d never make it out of the village!”

His cries fell on deaf ears and he was forced to let go of her leg when she tripped towards the open door, not that he could get a good grip on her anyway. The changeling’s body had become drenched all over with reckless bleeding. There was so much of it on the floor the centaur kept his distance so he would not slip. Monarch paid no attention to the condemnation of her action, she was going to throw herself back into the blizzard to die and nothing was going to stop her.

Then she fainted.

The uniquely large changeling collapsed into a puddle of her own blood, unconscious before she even hit the floor.

The centaur sighed dismissively as he carefully walked around his stubborn patient’s body, wiping the blood on his hands onto her mane, before casually trotting out the door to the village.

--- A few days later, Yakyakistan


Monarch returned to consciousness once more, however this time there were notable differences. She felt much weaker and could barely open her eye or shift her head. There was also a weight pressing her down. A cursory glance revealed a covering of blankets again, but there was a new addition of several ropes that wrapped around her, all tied to some bulky looking stones. She stared at it all passively, too weak to care about any of it at this point. Then she felt a sharp flick on her snout.

“I saw that eye open, I know you’re awake.”

The centaur loomed over her, scowling while she stared blankly, drooling a bit. He flicked her snout with a finger again.

“Speak, I’ve been applying the salve I prepared earlier. Your throat should be healed enough for you to speak.”

Monarch closed her eye and turned her head away, the droop of defeat falling across her features. For taking extra time she felt a pinch on one of her long ears as it was lifted to the centaur’s mouth.

“I know you’re not deaf either. Now here’s the deal, this whole thing can go over smoothly and we’ll both get what we want, or I’ll-”

“What, torture me? HA!”

The laugh caused her to wince, she wasn’t quite prepared to vocalize that forcefully. Her caretaker / interrogator merely frowned, dropping her ear as well. He rounded about and strolled over to a nearby table. Upon the table were several books, inkpots, and feathered quills. Most notable was Monarch’s damaged necklace and her pearlescent stones.

The centaur began to open and flip through the books, picking up a quill and inking it before writing on a blank page. His dark eyes flicked between another book with writing already on it and the page he was filling out. Monarch could only guess what kind of journalistic activity it was. He spoke up without looking away from his work.

“If we’re going to start this conversation, how about you tell me why you fell out of the sky. Your appearance did a good job of spooking the locals. It took a lot of coaxing and promises on my part to even get them to drag you here.”

“I was taken by surprise and lost a fight.”

The quill continually scratched at parchment while the two of them exchanged. The centaur sneered at the lackluster answer.

“I could have guessed that. I’m looking for the who, where, when and why. In short, what is going on in Equestria.”

“If all you want is the common news you can go down there yourself. Why bother keeping me alive for such trivialities?”

At this point Monarch noticed a slight yellow glint from something hanging around the centaur’s neck, though it was mostly hidden in folds of his cloak. Something about it sparked familiarity. Meanwhile the centaur smirked at her response.

“Given your entrance to these mountains, I’d say you shouldn’t be one to judge. Not all of us wish to rush unprepared into highly volatile situations.”

“You’re not wrong.”

“I rarely am.”

There was a few moments of quiet while the centaur focused a little more diligently on what he was writing. When he turned a page Monarch softly made an inquiry.

“What is it that you have hanging around your neck?”

The quill stopped.

“I am the one asking questions here, not you, changeling.”

Monarch’s brow perked, the derogatory tone with which he referred to her species implied a history, causing her curiosity to grow further.

“How about an exchange then. I’ll tell you what the stones from my regalia do if you show me your ornament.”

The centaur gave her a critical look before turning his attention to the white stones on the table. He picked one up and twirled it between his fingers, examining it. He then turned about, making sure the door was closed and that they were thoroughly alone. Then he whispered to her.

“Do you still plan on killing yourself once I release you?”

“When I am able, yes.”

“Very well.”

He pulled out a golden amulet, holding it aloft briefly so that she could look. Once she had a clear look he quickly put it away.

“You’ve seen my bauble, now tell me what these stones do.”

“Of course, Lord Tirek.”

His dark eyes widened slightly as she spoke his name. He dropped the stone he was holding.

“Only a select few would even recognize the amulet! Who are you, and where do your loyalties lie?”

His small withered fists clenched and his breathing picked up pace. Monarch passively looked towards the fireplace.

“Calm yourself, I have no allies.”

“Well then, who are you?”

“I am Monarch, feel free to spread my name. If any of my enemies want to finish me off they are welcome to.”

Tirek’s posture relaxed a little and he shook his head in incredulity. He resumed his written work while speaking.

“Now that I’ve revealed far more than I wanted to, are you at least a creature of your word? What am I saying, you’re a changeling...”

Monarch snorted at the condescending remark, rather amused by it.

“My fate is sealed, I have no reason to lie. The stones you pried from my regalia are Heart-Vaults.”

“Heart Vaults?”

“They store vast amounts of transferable power.”

Tirek’s eyes widened for a different reason as his expression became intrigued.

“I’ve been trying to figure them out the whole time. I can tell they obviously have magical properties, but I’ve been unable to…”

“Devour the magic within them.”

“I take it you know of my history in Equestria.”

“My kind have kept thorough records, or rather we did.”

“Fascinating I’m sure, but tell me why I can’t access these Heart Vaults.”

He picked up one of the white stones and gave it a sniff, then tapped it down on the table several times. Monarch’s eye continued to watch the dancing flames in the fireplace as she answered.

“They are pure, condensed and petrified emotion. It only becomes usable magic once metabolized by a changeling.”

Tirek sneered at that information, though his curiosity wasn’t fully sated and asked further.

“What a convenient design for your kind. How much power can one of these give you?”

The centaur tallied up the stones on the table, counting twelve. Monarch’s eye veered away from the fire towards the table as she calculated a reply.

“Hmm, with temperate usage I could maintain the form of a dragon a hundred times my size for weeks. If I wanted to use it all in one explosive go I could demolish a mountain.”

An extremely skeptical look came across Tirek’s face, he dropped his written work and crossed his arms.

“Really? I’ve never heard of changelings possessing such power. Also, if you really had that kind of might how did you become ash-blasted fodder upon these slopes?”

“I’m not sure. An old traitor has come across some augmentation I did not anticipate.”

Tirek snorted derisively at that, uncrossing his arms and picking up the quill.

“What value can I draw from your judgement then? If you are unable to competently handle your foes and are blind to everything but your suicidal self loathing. You are unworthy of your power.”

Monarch looked directly into Tirek’s eyes. His gaze was full of judgement and disgust, his mouth slightly agape in a snarl and his quill froze in its place. The wasted changeling held unwavering eye contact as she spoke deliberately.

“You sound just like Hubris.”

“Is that an accusation or a reference to an individual? Whichever, the point stands. You’re a creature of pathetic resolve.”

“Hubris is dead.”

“Then he was obviously a failure.”

“I killed him.”

Tirek broke the eye contact first and resumed writing into the blank book. However, his sneer of disgust had transformed to a neutral line across his mouth. After another moment it crawled into a small smile.

“A master of subtle threats, aren’t you.”

“Why thank you, it was my job for centuries.”

The centaur’s smile grew a little wider, he looked up briefly to see Monarch observing the fire again.

“You know, maybe I could convince the yaks to throw you off a cliff early. If you’re unable carry yourself in the near future.”

“I’d appreciate that, quite thoughtful of you.”

At this point Tirek relaxed the tense and judgemental posture he had been holding onto and his tone became a little more genuine.

“Now tell me about this Hubris, his ideas. Obviously there’s a vengeful history between you two, but that’s not what I’m interested in.”

The changeling leaned her head back into the pillows of her bed and took a deep breath. Her one functioning eye closed as she began to recall.

“To explain his thoughts would necessitate some understanding between the different Changeling classifications.”

“Time is a cheap commodity this evening, Changeling.”

Monarch extended her snake-like tongue to lick about her dry lips whilst coughing to clear her throat. Tirek noticed the signs of discomfort and set his quill down. He went over to another smaller table and retrieved a bowl. Soon he was at her bedside prompting her muzzle with a spoon. Obediently she opened her mouth and he slathered a pudding-like substance inside. It sent a cold chill throughout her oral cavity, but did wonders to assuage the dryness.

“Thank you.”

“I didn’t do it for you, I want the information.”

“Naturally…”

The Changeling opened her good eye and saw Tirek was already back at his work table, scribbling away. Her thoughts were roughly organized, but she figured to ramble on anyway.

“Every Changeling is born into a strict natural hierarchy. By and large my kind accepts this with only a few notable exceptions. Commons are at the bottom, Royals above them, and Imperials. Imperials being the most developed specimens my kind has yet produced.”

“Royals, Imperials, Commons? What’s the difference.”

“There’s a number of visual cues, but the easiest distinction is the size. Commons being the smallest, Imperials being the largest.”

Tirek paused for a moment and scratched his chin in thought. He briefly glanced at the overgrown changeling while dipping his quill in an inkpot. The blank book was turned to a fresh page as he commented on the information.

“I’m guessing you’re royalty then, assuming my rusty memory serves me right.”

“I am the only Imperial Changeling alive.”

“Hmm, something to do with your deceased associate I imagine.”

“Hubris was of the royal build. He was an exemplar of loyalty to our Secret Empire until he became convinced he knew better than his superiors. As only hindsight can show, my perception was inaccurate and I failed to understand how my subjects were handling their sacrifices. The burden required to maintain the empire had grown exceedingly high. It was too late when I recognized the resentment and bitterness fueling Hubris and his followers.”

“Did he know better then?”

“Around a quarter of the empire sided with his notions. Not that it did him any good in the end. There is no empire anymore. Hubris fell with his goal unfulfilled.”

“What was his goal?”

“Control.”

The scratch of quill on parchment slowed to a crawl and Tirek looked towards the fireplace as well. The tongues of flame whipped and weaved about in the unpredictable way they always did, following a course that instinct and nature had determined for them.

“What caused him to fail this objective.”

Monarch was quiet for several moments as she recalled the details of a particular night.

“I caught him secretly trying to make concessions and compromises with Changelings loyal to me. Apparently he had second thoughts after witnessing the devastating costs of the internal war he started.”

Tirek scoffed derisively at her answer, his writing actually picking up pace as he listened. Ink bled furiously over paper as he pronounced judgement.

“Just another pathetic mongrel afraid of the truth. Even if he beat you he wouldn’t have remained in power for long. I have no doubt he well deserves the maggots that call his corpse home.”

The bed-bound changeling raised an eyebrow at that. Monarch’s voice had gradually become smoother and less scratchy as their conversation had advanced. The centaur’s mixture had proven to be an effective remedy.

“Tell me then, Tirek. What makes you so different? Was your intent not similar when you first ventured to Equestria? What is the truth Hubris missed which you have not?”

The writing at the table stopped and the sound of a book snapping shut echoed across the room. The centaur's hooves clopped quietly across the wooden floor until he positioned himself between the fire and Monarch’s gaze. When the changeling looked up she saw his face cast in shadow, his yellow pupils contrasting sharply with the darkness around them. The light of the fire outlined his figure with a hellish hue.

“The truth… The truth is nearly every creature that flies, crawls, or slithers about on its belly doesn’t want to acknowledge it. They would rather drone on in compliant ignorance, instinctual indulgence, or tell themselves pretty lies about justice and purpose.”

Tirek crossed his arms behind his back and turned towards the door. The door which recently had its lock replaced.

“The truth is painful. The truth is offensive. The truth is indifferent to your acceptance. It is inevitable and eternal.”

The golden amulet around Tirek’s neck was drawn out of his cloak, held aloft by his dull crimson hands. Within the metallic surface was a reflection of his grim scowl. Monarch remained silent through his tirade, letting the moment of silence go undisturbed.

“This is the truth. The only thing that will ever matter is power.”’

Quietly the amulet was tucked away, its golden shine hidden from view.

“The Hubris you spoke of lost sight of this, whether through doubt, fear, or temptation it is the same. He allowed himself to become blinded to the truth. So when he exposed his weakness you reminded him of the one universal law, power.”

Monarch scrunched her muzzle in bemusement.

“There was far more nuance that went into that decision. Besides, do you really believe there is only one universal law?”

The centaur sighed as he turned back to the changeling, his arms spread wide in a placating gesture.

“What I am saying, Monarch, is that nuance doesn’t matter. Neither does it matter how many laws the universe can be divided into. It is all subsumed by the same concept. Everything is enforced by power. Distinguish between cruel tyrants and benevolent kings all you want, it doesn’t change their methods or their fate. They will both decay and their histories will eventually be forgotten. Everything loved or hated will be crushed by the indifference of oblivion and entropy.”

The bedridden changeling blinked her eye and tilted her head. That was the first time he addressed her by name. Her voice returned to near normality at this point.

“If all you see is nihilism what goal can possibly satisfy you?”

Tirek smiled knowingly at her question.

“Nothing less than omnipotence, when all power and my will have become same I will be satisfied. No other course of action holds any meaning to me.”

Several moments passed while they said nothing to each other. Eventually the centaur turned about and meandered over to a small bed on the other side of the room. He took a minute to rifle through his own blanket and settle himself down into a comfortable position. He flipped the hood of his cloak over his eyes, so that it blocked the firelight. The changeling leaned back until she faced the ceiling. Her voice hummed across the room in gentle ambience.

“You haven’t told this to anyone else, have you.”

For a moment Tirek didn’t respond to her statement, but eventually he growled out from under his hood.

“I haven’t told anyone anything meaningful in over a millenia, Changeling.”

Monarch raised a suspicious eyebrow.

“I’m sensing that’s not the entire reason.”

An irritated snort echoed across the room.

“You still plan on jumping off a cliff, don’t you?”






---The Isle of Draconequi

(( Optional atmospheric music ))

The loud blare of an operatic voice caused Chrysalis and Specter to jump from where they were sleeping. The changelings groaned as they put their hooves over their ears. As the loud and overbearing melody continued to shake the air they gradually adapted to it. Chrysalis began crawling over to the window to look for the perpetrator. One quick glance towards the sea answered that query immediately.

Riding along the waves and bellowing at the top of his lungs was Silver. The means of his mobility was holding onto several harnessed dolphins. The critters merrily jumped up and down through the water as they chittered along with his song. Chrysalis shook her head, annoyed at the endless eccentricities on this island. She turned from the window and towards the door of the cozy office. Specter was still rubbing his eyes as she passed by him. The Queen grumbled under her breath as her mind started formulating objectives for the day.

Lazy hooves guided the slumped and mentally preoccupied Chrysalis as she opened the door. This state weariness rapidly changed when she saw what was on the other side.

Nearly every draconequus on this psychedelic island appeared to have camped as close to the office as they could manage. When the door opened hundreds of eyes immediately turned to her. There was a collective blink, then thousands of mismatched limbs carried overly enthusiastic draconequi towards the changeling.

Chrysalis yelped squeakily as she rushed to close the door only for her to fail to slam it completely shut, resulting in several draconequi becoming trapped in the door frame. Shouts from the crowd thundered through the cracks.

“We love visitors!”

“Come play beach ball!”

“I made a statue out of toothpicks for you!”

“Can I dye your hair?”

“Can I touch you wings?”

Chrysalis had her back pressed to the door and her hooves dug deep into the carpet. Before she asked for help Specter was already at her side and ruthlessly shoved the various chimeric limbs back out. After half a minute of fighting with the door they managed to securely close it.

Faces immediately began to peer through the windows prompting Specter to pull the curtains down with magic. Finally having a moment of peace the two changelings sat down with relief, so Specter calmly addressed the primary issue.

“I’m afraid we will not be able to walk around casually if we want to get anywhere. Also, speaking from past experience, disguises don’t work very well at fooling even the basic draconequi.”

Chrysalis put her hooves on her temples and grit her teeth.

“We need to recruit Mop and Authority to our cause. What other chance do we have against Discord? Besides, how did you navigate around this island in the first place?”

Specter stood up then walked towards the fireplace and began tapping a hoof on the carpet as he explained.

“There’s a tunnel network near the volcano, which should allow us to access just about anywhere on the island.”

“Excellent, so do you know where Mop is located?” Since Authority made it clear she won’t talk for the next few days.”

Specter’s wings briefly fluttered uncomfortably, indicating there was something amiss.

“Unfortunately, the tunnels aren’t static and it will take some time to find the correct path. That is, once we are able to reach them, depending on how long it takes to navigate the crowd.”

Chrysalis hovered to the window and peeked through the curtains, only to immediately shut it when she was met by dozens of chimera faces pressing against it. The loud blare of Silver’s opera voice was still prevalent over the bustling crowd piled around Authority’s office. The Changeling Queen counseled with Specter.

“These creatures are highly impulsive, can we not take advantage of that?”

“Perhaps, If we could make something else the target of their impulsivity.”

A woosh came from the fire place and both changelings turned apprehensively towards it. A moment later a pink creature’s head popped down from the chimney. To both changelings’ displeasure, it was the one that led the welcome song last night and possessed an obnoxiously poofy heart-shaped mane.

“Oh, hey guys! It’s good to see you survived the night with Authority. How ya doin’!”

She slithered the rest of the way out and quickly wiped off the soot she’d accumulated on her person. Chrysalis noticed a stack of logs beside the fireplace and immediately began to throw them in the flames. They stacked up until the chimney was thoroughly blocked. Still unsure she rounded on the smaller draconequus.

“Are any others following you?”

The question came out as a mean hiss, from which the pink and purple draconequus recoiled.

“Sheesh, I was just asking how you were doing. You’re not gonna eat me are you?”

Chrysalis licked her lips.

“I’m considering it.”

To the side Specter snorted in amusement.

“Heh, Shellish raised you even more feral than I thought.”

Chrysalis stopped baring her fangs and felt oddly self conscious. Her intimidating posturing did not usually elicit humor. Then again she’d never had a Changeling King commenting on her casual behavior. She straightened her posture and retracted her wings to a less aggressive display. When the Queen subdued her immediate threat the little draconequus began to relax and spoke with only a little trembling.

“To answer your question, no, nobody is following me. I’m the only one clever and bold enough to find sneaky holes into Authority’s office.”

Chrysalis looked at her with a little more scrutiny, the image of an exploding washing machine came to mind.

“Bold… right.”

Specter lifted a hoof forward with his ears perked attentively.

“Would you know how to reach Mop?”

The pink and purple chimera sprung up excitedly.

“You betcha! I can show you how to sneak right into his lab! He freaks out really good if you pop up unannounced. Is that what you guys were planning to do?”

She rubbed her paws together deviously. Chrysalis quickly bit that attitude in the nub.

“We want his help to stop Discord. So no, we don’t want to freak him out.”

“Aw.”

Specter looked past the disappointed draconequus to the door. His expression turned thoughtful as he made an offer to her..

“Chrysalis and I could use your assi-”

Queen Chrysalis.”

The Changeling Queen interjected in the middle of Specter’s words. He raised an eyebrow at her, his intended thoughts forgotten as he addressed the interruption. The little draconequus uncomfortably scrapped a hoof on the floor as she watched the two exchange a look.

Chrysalis’s expression changed from indignant to self conscious again. She had long been referred to by her title and corrected him out of habit. His expression showed he wasn’t amused by this act.

“We are both of Royal class, Chrysalis. We don’t need to refer to each other by title. Let alone, it doesn’t permit you to be rude to possible allies. Perhaps Shellish’s tutelage was much closer to neglect. You told me you have been a ‘Queen’ for 30 years. I see now I incorrectly assumed what that experience meant.”

There was a few moments of silence as Chrysalis struggled through various emotions in a loop. Her tone came out somewhere between frustration and sadness.

“We can go over your incorrect assumptions and my rudeness later. Despite my faults I do care for my swarm.”

She turned to the short draconequus, her focus sharpening. An idea popped into her head.

“Draconequus, if you’re inclined, we could use you.”

“The name is Love! What can I do ya for?”

Chrysalis worked hard to not roll her eyes, then again she shouldn’t be surprised such a caricature had a name like that. She raised her head as she addressed both Love and Specter.

“So you see the plan is-”



---A few minutes later



Outside Authority’s office hundreds of common draconequi lounged about, twiddling their thumbs, if they had them, or thumb wrestled a neighbor. Some of them even formed rings of audiences with onlookers making bets. The leisure was interrupted when the door to Authority’s office opened again. Love’s small frame occupied the doorway.

“They escaped that way!”

She pointed towards the part of the island furthest from the volcano. The crowd scrambled madly towards indicated direction, hooping and hollering as they went.

“I love visitors!”

“Why are they so shy?”

“Sign my tail!”

Love giggled when the beach was vacated, the trick was all too easy. Small voices whispered into her ear.

“Are they all gone?”

“Yes, but I think you two should stay hidden till we make it to the tunnels. That’ll keep you both safe from random encounters.”

Two little bugs became visible for a brief moment, holding tightly onto one of Love’s ears.

“Hold on tight, it’ll be bumpy for a minute!”

“Wait my grip!”

The pink bundled of nonsense jumped into the air and fluttered along merrily while the two shrunken Changelings squealed in the breeze.



---A few minutes later



The three of them found an entrance to the volcano tunnel system. Specter and Chrysalis had since returned to their normal size with a side effect of being thoroughly wind swept.

“Here we are!”

Love’s peppiness hadn’t subsided for even a minute. Meanwhile Chrysalis tried untangling her mess of a mane and Specter scratched furiously at his ears. When the changelings adjusted enough to proceed Love led the way in.

“I’m sure we’ll find it in a jiffy!”

Chrysalis and Specter trotted along through the entrance, which quickly winded into a vast cavern on the inside.

The Changeling Queen gasped at the display in front of her. There was a narrow pathway carved out of the rock and dirt, but otherwise every wall of the cavern was riddled with holes. Small sparks of energy crackled like lightning between them and exuded an unnatural magical presence.

Specter looked about about with a comfortable familiarity. He started tapping one hoof up and down in a rhythmic gesture, counting something. A few seconds later the entire cavern vibrated and all the holes in the walls and ceiling lit up. The auras surrounding each different tunnel glowed a unique color. Raw magic flooded between them all and nearly as quickly as it appeared, the energy dissipated. Going back to small sparks of light. Specter turned to Love.

“Now, what’s the signature to Mop’s lab?”

“It's the purest white one.”

“Thank you Love, now let’s head a little further in, I know an optimal spot to keep a lookout.”

The Changeling King led the way with Love and Chrysalis following close behind. There were a few moments of quiet while he kept his attention focused on the flashing tunnels. Chrysalis turned to the chimera walking beside her. Some questions about Authority’s event came to mind and this draconequus probably had some answers.

“So tell me, what is Authority’s ball like?”

Love looked confused until she figured Chrysalis was just asking an inoffensive question.

“What would you like to know? The dress, the food, the locale?”

The Changeling Queen glanced at the preoccupied Specter then back to the draconequus.

“As much as you’d like to share.”

“Well, it's the exact same thing every five years. Authority doesn’t really tolerate any deviations to schedule or behavior during the event. She’s really strict when it comes to organization.”

“I would agree, given what I’ve seen of her so far.”

Love nodded her head sagely.

“It begins with greeting and seating while she plays her piano. If the chatter is too loud it's punished, if someone shows up not dressed properly they are punished, if they were invited and don’t show up they’re-”

“Punished.”

“Hey, you’re getting the picture!”

“And then?”

“Oh, then there’s the first dance. That is you and the partner you came with. Then there’s a 15 minute break for snacks!”

Chrysalis eyed Specter for a moment then resumed listening to the draconequus’s chatter. Love didn’t seem to notice as she looked around at all the pretty lights.

“The second dance is the only part of the event that’s a little free form. She lets us swap partners. After the last dance is done she gives her prepared speech. Usually telling us that she’ll civilize us booger-eating-morons some day. That typically takes an hour or two or three or four or fi-”

“Sounds absolutely thrilling.”

Chrysalis spoke, her deadpan delivery laid on especially thick, as if she wanted to physically convey her dislike of the coming event.

Specter stopped and took a seat while still observing the walls around them.

“This is the long part so get comfortable.”

Chrysalis was going to remark on Specter’s suggestion when she felt a powerful tug on her mind. It was something from Shellish!

“Getting a message from home base, I’ll be busy for a while.”

The Changeling Queen mentioned before her eyes glowed from the magic of long distance telepathy.

Love shrugged her slender shoulders and scooted over to the Changeling King for company. There were small fissures to either side of the path, so when Love sat she did so at the edge of the trail and dangled her legs in empty air. She idly began to swing them.

“So, you mentioned something about being here before? When did you last swing by? Cause I don’t remember seeing you last time.”

Specter kept his eyes on the cycling tunnels because each time they did a cycle the colors swapped.

“I was here around 100 years ago and I believe I stayed for close to a decade or so.”

“Wow, that was before my time then. Why did ya come here in the first place? I know that we tend to be too much for most visitors.”

Love fidgeted a bit with her mane. Specter’s vision became slightly down cast and his ears went flat. It took effort for him to keep his voice level.

“I was hiding. I counted on your ‘eccentricities’ to be a deterrent and in the end my purpose was served.”

“Hiding? Who were ya playing hide and seek with?”

“I was dodging the after effects of a civil war. In short my kind decimated each other, those of us that remain aren’t on the friendliest of terms.”

Love covered her mouth in surprise, her eyes went wide and watery with sympathy. A moment later she reached out in consolation, both of her paws squeezed reassuringly on his hoof.

“I’m so sorry! That’s horrible, I didn’t mean to-”

Specter hushed her with his spare hoof.

“I know you didn’t mean anything by it.”

Love sniffed and wiped away a few spare tears. She looked over at Chrysalis with a new light. The Changeling Queen was deeply preoccupied with her mental magic, and appeared deaf to anything around her. As Love calmed herself she asked Specter.

“If you don’t mind me asking, how are you two involved exactly?”

The Changeling King looked at Chrysalis before his attention went back to monitoring the tunnels.

“I met her a few weeks ago. To put it roughly, I think her life has suffered a greatly from my people destroying each other. She seems to be the result of a bad case of isolation and minimal tutelage.”

Love grimaced while she put the picture together.

“So she’s not of any relation to you?”

“No, but when the number of Royal Changelings left is in the single digits... I’ll work with what I can.”

They both sat quietly and observed the magic cycling through the tunnels. Eventually one tunnel lit up a brilliant white, Love jumped up in recognition

“That’s the one!”

With no hesitation Specter dove for the tunnel, towing behind Chrysalis with his magic while Love followed with a somersault dive bomb, cheering with her usual enthusiasm.

“WEE!”



---On the other side



“OW!”

Chrysalis was rudely brought back into focus. Her surroundings had become cramped, dark and warm. In the dim light she discovered she was on Specter’s back, and after some shuffling she felt Love on top of them both. The draconequus giggled as she fumbled about in the dark.

“There should be a latch right around- HA! Got it.”

The chimera hit some kind of a lock and a crack of light illuminated the confined space. It turned out they were in a storage cabinet, cushioned amongst spray bottles, sponges and rags. All of them leaned forward to peer out the door.

Said music however, was loudly and promptly interrupted when Chrysalis, Love, and Specter fell out of their cabinet, just as Mop finished completing a row. An awkward pause ensued while the tall draconequus processed the invasion of his private space. He raised a paw to point at them.

“UNCLEAN!”

Magic flashed and the three of them were encased in clear plastic bubbles. Mop walked over to them, pulling off his goggles with a glare. After a moment of study he recognized them.

“Chrysalis? Specter? Why the unorthodox entrance?”

Then he spotted Love and his suspicion dropped.

“Oh, I see.”

He turned back to the Changelings.

“If you wanted to visit I would’ve preferred you knocked on the front door. I don’t recommend listening to my neighbors.”

He gave Love the stink eye, who responded with a sheepish grin. Meanwhile Chrysalis started to walk around in her bubble after assessing that she wasn’t the subject of Mop’s displeasure.

“Do we have to stay in these things?”

“Just one moment.”

Mop lit a match and tossed it into the cabinet they fell from, turning the whole thing into a roaring fire. Next he pulled out an extinguisher to dowse the mess. To finish up he vacuumed the remains.

Mop turned the vacuum towards the changelings, popping the bubbles and sucking every loose particle off of them.

Chrysalis shivered at the experience, feeling as though 1000 parasprites just nibbled all over her body. When she looked to the side Specter and Love looked similarly uncomfortable. Mop of course was oblivious to the discomfort as he put on a warm smile and happily asked.

“So what would you like to talk about?”

Specter found his voice first.

“We wanted to ask for you thoughts on Discord.”

Mop dropped his warm smile and veered towards the desks, his paws began to compulsively organize things for the sake of it. His chattery replay was very distracted.

“Honestly, if you’ve met him then you probably know more than me. My memory only goes back so far, then it stops…”

Specter trotted closer to Mop and continued to question, meanwhile Chrysalis and Love started to shuffle about. Specter was slightly flustered as he questioned Mop..

“But he’s the one who trapped all of you here, you don’t remember him doing it?”

“Nope.”

“Aren’t you one of the draconequi of greater influence on this island?”

“If you count being the greatest custodian on the island, then sure.”

Mop’s tone became more terse and his organizing slowed. Before Specter could press for more Mop preemptively spoke.

“I can’t help you with Discord, Specter. I’m sorry, but I don’t think I can even make myself do it if I wanted to. Despite what Authority may say, I’m guessing you gave her the same question, she won’t leave this island either. Every time either of us have tried it's not so much our magic failing, but a crippling anxiety that stops us. It's only gotten worse over the centuries too. In a way that barrier has become a symbol of our control as much as our imprisonment. Both of us have become too scared to possibly lose what little control we have. Things...things are different outside.”

Specter’s mouth was open, but he was at a loss for words. Before the silence lasted too long the sound of shattered glass pierced the air.

“Oops, did I do that?”

Mop swiveled towards the sound and was graced with the sight of Chrysalis hovering over a table of fragile instruments. The floor had a shattered test tube on it so he jumped over with his vacuum ready.

“No problem, I’ll get that.”

As he was cleaning that up, the crashing cacophony of the table being up ended screeched through the lab. Thousands of meticulously organized objects broke apart across the tile.

“Woopsy, I think I caused a little mayhem!”

The large grey draconequus looked up to see the Changeling Queen staring right at him. Her expression was anything but innocent. Something caused his eye to twitch fiercely and he growled.

“That’s an ugly, ugly word.”

“And it’s who you are.”

Mop flipped his vacuum towards the little disaster Chrysalis had made and caused it to quickly vanish.

“Making a mess is the last thing I want to do.”

“You have only forgotten your old desires. I saw you make a mess so big it was incomprehensible.”

Chrysalis had started opening nearby cabinets and flinging things randomly across the laboratory.

“Hey! Stop breaking my stuff!”

“Stop being so accommodating!”

Love and Specter watched the exchange with much confusion and interest. Love didn’t really get why Chrysalis was doing it, but that didn’t stop her from wanting to participate. So she became the second critter to stir up a little mayhem and giggled like a gremlin as she engaged.

Mop was reduced to sputtering as he tried to run around and catch everything before it hit the floor. Soon he was juggling a mountain of lab equipment. Specter stood still in hesitation, not knowing whether to scold Chrysalis or assist. Mop quickly passed his limits and started dropping things.

“Why?! Why are you doing this?”

“I need you to change back. I need you to get over Discord’s curse! You won’t be able to help yourself or us till then.”

Chrysalis broke a soap bottle under Mop’s feet and caused his next step to make him slide wildly.

Realization dawned over Specter and he moved to contribute to the efforts. His wings carried him over to a large clear tank, inside of which was a transparent gelatinous mass. He pushed it over causing the tank to shatter and the green goo to splatter over a wide area.

Specter was about to move on when he noticed the goo started to move too. It coagulated into a large lump and formed a wide mouth which it smiled with. The goo appeared to be attracted to shiny objects which it flowed over to. Each time it soaked something up it shimmered and grew larger. Specter just shrugged his shoulders and moved towards the next untouched area.

Soon the laboratory was a total wreck and Mop was losing his mind. When the floor became coated with a living green slime his eyes bulged cartoonishly.

“You let out the Smooze!”

By this point, Chrysalis and Love had taken to chanting on top of all the chaos.

“Mayhem, Mayhem, Mayhem!”

Something in the grey draconequus snapped and his paws balled into fists, making the knuckles crack. The changelings and Love became enveloped in a brown-grey aura.

“I am not Mayham!”

The three offenders were ejected out of the front door, which slammed thunderously after them.

“Rascally kids.”

The lab had essentially been turned upside down, but there was something in particular that seemed off. His eyes were drawn towards his tiger arm. There were a few streaks of something orange in it. So he pulled out a cloth to wipe away whatever it was. It didn’t come off. He scrubbed more vigorously and it still didn’t come off…

---outside



“So, now that that’s all settled, would you two like to join me and the gang for lunch?”

Love asked, chipper as ever. All three of them were shaking off sand from the sandbar they landed in.

“Thanks for your help so far Love, but I’d like to go somewhere quiet for a little while.”

Specter began a slow walk towards the volcano. An entry tunnel was nearby and he was heading right for it. Love turned to Chrysalis and made an inquisitive look, the Queen got up and trotted towards the tunnel as well.

“I share similar sentiments. Maybe later.”

“Okay, I’ll hold you to that!”

Love bounced off into the jungle as Chrysalis entered into the labyrinthine cavern. Specter was a short way ahead of her and she followed. The cavern surged through another magical cycle and the Changeling King took the opportunity to hop down a bright blue portal. Chrysalis jumped in afterward assuming Specter knew where he was going.

They emerged on the high end of a cliff. After a moment of looking about and feeling the wind blow through her mane Chrysalis saw they were on the ledge near the very top of the island’s volcano.

Suddenly the sun went down from its high noon position and the moon replaced it. The island was blanked in the darkness of midnight. It was an unsubtle reminder that Discord still controlled the heavens.

Specter strolled over to the edge of the ledge, settling down and letting his fore hooves hang over the cliff. The Queen assumed a similar position and they both laid there in silence save for the breeze and a gentle thrumm from the volcano’s core.

“That was some clever work back there.”

Chrysalis turned towards Specter’s voice to see him just looking at the moon. He continued.

“I saw a sliver of color in Mop’s grey.”

“We should just call him Mayham from now on, assuming he’ll let us near him again.”

Chrysalis let her gaze drift down to the sea and eyed the moon’s reflection upon the waves. For sometime they just sat there absorbing the atmosphere around them. Without a rabid crowd clambering nearby or an immediate objective they could simply enjoy the moment. Chrysalis could actually appreciate the intrinsic beauty of the island for once. Even the prismatic barrier of clouds surrounding them were mesmerizing.

Eventually her eyes began to tire of observing the surroundings and her gaze shifted to the company she kept. She hadn’t taken time to really study her fellow Royal’s features yet. There was always something else to focus on, but now…

The breeze picked up and tusselled through Specter’s violet mane also making his chipped ears waver. The black and white band around his neck was weathered along the edges, appearing old, but also showing signs of maintenance along the stitching. It wrapped all the way around, barely meeting with the blood red shell on his back.

The general condition of his chitin was excellent, all the markers of health and fitness were there. His overall complexion was darker than hers and much closer to Crone’s. Eventually her gaze meandered up to his face, that’s when she noticed he was looking right back at her. He said nothing.

She looked back down to the ornament on his neck. Curiosity caused the corner of her mouth to twitch and she reached out a hoof to tap the object.

“So tell me Specter. What was your part in this ‘War in the Dark’ I’ve heard mentioned since you and the other royals decided to appear?”

Specter turned away and started to rub his hooves together and his expression turned contemplative.

“I was Chief Agent, serving the Secret Empire directly under Monarch. A crude similarity might be how you employ your Head Vanguard.”

Chrysalis’s curiosity deepened as she shifted a few puzzle pieces in her mind. So it appeared even the changeling royalty branched out into specializations. With the wildly varied body types between individuals like Armor and More she supposed it made sense. She thought about where she fit in while Specter continued.

“Old Empress Monarch was quite the changeling to serve under. She was exceptionally talented and could always bring the big picture to life. It was an honor to play a critical role in her covert campaigns to secretly protect and stabilize nations around the world.”

“You speak rather highly for the one that inspired so much ire from every other royal in Discord’s arena.”

“Thus the emphasis on the ‘was’.”

“What happened?”

“The war, the war which brought our kind to the brink of extinction that it is now. The events that triggered it are still clear as day to me.”

Chrysalis remained quiet, simply soaking in the information.

“The royal-class changeling Hubris had been planning a coup for some time. I suspect it was well before he retired. I still don’t have an exact idea, even though I was the one to replace him as Chief Agent.”

Specter chewed on the inside of his cheek.

“By the time I discovered his trail and figured out how deep his treacherous plans went, he had prepared a trap for me. I was rendered ineffective and helpless to prevent the single most devastating attack to our Empire.”

Specter looked towards Chrysalis and saw he had her rapt attention.

“In case you haven’t pieced it together, Monarch is a different class of changeling than us. From the likes of Avalanche and Crafty of old their kind were eventually classified as Imperials. Most of the greatest achievements of changeling kind were accomplished under their guidance and strength.”

The moon swapped with the sun in a flash, lightning up the island and causing both changelings to squint their eyes in adjustment. Specter continued.

“When I read through Hubris’s notes he spoke with much disgust towards the Empire’s attitudes. He saw our respect and praise for the contributions and direction of the Imperials as debased idol worship. His brother, Utilitarian, died while serving in one of Monarch’s guardian campaigns. Apparently this made him reflect on all the service he had rendered. So he considered himself and all changelings under the Imperial rule to be disposable tools. Existing merely to be sacrificed for their superior’s will and pleasure.”

Specter appeared disgusted with the words as he uttered them. His wings had unfurled and buzzed irritably through parts of the oration.

“The fruition of his plans resulted in all changelings of Imperial blood being slain in one fell swoop. An ancient artifact blasted them all into incurable, icy statues. All save for Monarch, who by chance happened to be elsewhere.”

Chrysalis’s mind wandered. Thinking back to Shellish and how the common changelings took her life in their anger. That generation had since passed and none of her current subjects had shown any rebellious inclinations towards her. Did any of them plot against her? Specter continued his narrative.

“She was never the same since that day, and I mean more than just in the official capacities. You see, I… I had taken Monarch’s younger sister, Clarity, as my companion. Thus unifying our private swarms into one. To Monarch, I became ‘the little brother she never had’.”

Specter chuckled in melancholy at old memories.

“Naturally I was dragged into every family event the Imperials hosted. Initially Monarch and Clarity were compelling me to do it, but over time I grew quite fond of the Imperial family. I got to know each of them personally.”

Specter stopped when he noticed Chrysalis acting a little distracted. She crossed and uncrossed her forelegs a few times while darting her eyes about. Occasionally throwing an odd look his way, as if he had something weird on his face.

“Do you have something you’d like to say Chrysalis?”

She turned to him while getting her movement under control.

“I don’t want to derail your tale, it's just an unimportant little personal curiosity. Please continue what you were going to say.”

Specter raised an eyebrow, did this brash Queen unironically use the word ‘please’? His intrigue wouldn’t let this pass.

“It’s quite alright. Go ahead and ask, I can assure you I can have very tight lips if that concerns you.”

“No really, just forget it. What happened next?”

“You’re being a good tease.”

“Fine, I um… are you into tall mares?”

Specter blinked, his entire train of thought suddenly derailed by the rather odd question. After a moment of putting the dots together in his head he grinned.

“You mean in reference to my companion Clarity?”

“Well, if her stature is anything like Monarch’s.”

“Clarity was actually a little shorter than you. She and Monarch were half-sisters you see. Same father but different mothers. Even though Clarity was born a typical Royal she was raised with the Imperials. It was considered shameful, but Monarch grew attached to her and kept her around. By the time I became Chief Investigator I think Monarch had actually moved to playing matchmaker. She claimed she picked an assistant for me with the right amount of merit and compatibility.”

With her curiosity satisfied and some, Chrysalis wanted to put things back on track.

“So at what point did Monarch become your enemy?”

Specter coughed to clear his throat and picked up where he left off.

“I came back to the capital shortly after the Imperials were wiped out. Even though I was too late to stop Hubris’s plan I could at least tell Monarch who was responsible. I also had compiled a list of Hubris’s supporters and sympathizers. For a host of different reasons the Empire quickly split in two. There were those loyal to the traditional Imperial order with Monarch as our last figure head, and those trying to reforge changeling kind to what they considered suitable and just. Led by Hubris and his brother Nihilis.”

Chrysalis thought of the other two royals that were in Discord’s arena.

“Which side of the fence were Armor and More?”

“They were both loyal to Monarch and quite crucial to the war efforts. Armor had replaced Nihilis when he retired from the office of Chief Guardian. More was the Chief Steward of Imperial Resources, the position Utilitarian held before he died.”

“What could Monarch have done to earn the hatred of her chief supporters?”

Specter became distant in his expression, Chrysalis couldn’t pinpoint any particular feeling coming from him. His words came out slower and more deliberate.

“As the war progressed and the bodies continued to pile up Monarch became a loose cannon. The discipline she had conducted so many previous campaigns with steadily fell apart under the strain of her responsibilities and the death of her family. In her efforts to destroy the opposition she caused more than a little collateral damage…”

Specter lowered his head and rested it on top of his hooves.

“Many of her loyal followers thought she was going insane. Armor, More and I remained stoic to the accusations, we knew such thoughts were mostly spoken in fear. Also, Monarch had become far more dependent on our help than ever before and we knew we had to stay, if only out of loyalty.”

Specter let some frustration show as his jaw went stiff and his muscles tensed.

“At one point the war had even turned in our favor and victory looked weeks away. Then that night happened.”

“What night?”

“Our companions, Clarity, Allure, and Ambition all snuck out in the dark. This is also where my knowledge falls apart. Even to this day, I don’t know why they did it, Clarity never told me. All I know is that Monarch was at the scene and one way or another Hubris along with the companions of the chief officers were dead.”

There was a resolved acceptance in his voice, since he had processed the event emotionally some time ago.

“I couldn’t stick by Monarch’s side after that. I presume neither could Armor or More. We left Monarch to finish the war with Nihilis by herself. As much as I didn’t want to believe it, I think Monarch had finally snapped. So things became as they are. From what I’ve gathered Monarch eventually defeated Nihilis, but every Royal changeling on either side of the conflict ended up dead.”

Specter looked up at Chrysalis who held a reserved expression.

“I couldn’t actually confirm who had survived until you appeared, and with some help from Discord’s theatrics.”

Chrysalis looked up as the sky switched again, this time it was a warm sunset verging on twilight.

“Well, one less now. Monarch has finally met her end.”

“Actually, that’s the first thing I want to investigate after Discord is handled. I still find it difficult to believe that’s the case. Besides, where was Shellish the whole time during your invasion of Canterlot? Did Shellish go off her rocker and tell you to do it?”

Chrysalis laughed awkwardly.

“About that… Shellish was dead, as in she was a pile of bones dead. I have no idea what happened, it's been a rather ghostly experience. Everything seems to indicate it is her though. The touch of her mind is as distinct as I can remember.”

Specter shook his head in incredulity.

“That leaves me with far more questions than answers.”

Suddenly the blast of a saxophone erupted behind them and caused both changelings to jump to their hooves in surprise. Chrysalis rounded about to see Love playing away with the instrument. She was about to growl but was distracted when Specter started laughing.

“Hey guys! It’s later! So would ya like to join me for dinner? It’s a small group I promise!”

Love had lowered the saxophone and greeted them with pleading eyes. The changelings shared a brief glance. Specter nodded positively while Chrysalis looked ready to respond in the negative. Specter however, managed to beat her to the punch.

“It’d be a pleasure to join you, especially after the help you gave us earlier.”

“Yay! Come on let’s go. The food should be just about done.”

Love jumped off the cliff and started playing her saxophone again as she glided down the volcano. The changelings followed suit, one slightly more reluctant than the other.



--- In a small neck of the jungle



Love led them to a private alcove where there was a pretty little waterfall. The entire location was tightly packed among the trees. Occupying most of the small space was a table, a small fire and some other individuals.

When Chrysalis landed she counted three additional draconequi. What appeared at first glance to be a couple and their kid. She recognized the blue-white one from the ‘Welcome Night’. Said blue-white draconequus hopped up when she saw the new group arrive, she addressed Love with boisterousness.

“Wow Love, I can’t believe you actually got them to come!”

“Come on Rebel, did you really have so little faith in me?”

The draconequi shared a hug then turned to the guests proper. ‘Rebel’ pulled back her violet glasses to reveal bright green-yellow eyes and spread her arms wide in welcome.

“Hey peeps! Glad you decided to come! I’m Rebel!”

She extended a slender minotaur paw towards the changelings for a shake, which the pair obliged. Rebel then pointed to the other adult draconequus, who hung lazily in a hammock lightly snoozing.

“That’s my hubwub over there, Rouser.”

Rouser nodded towards the changelings, one of his eyes opened and he muttered something like ‘sup’ before he closed it again. Rebel looked about for the last member of the party, scanning the small area until she looked under the table. She started grabbing under there with her parrot talons and seized something. A moment later she pulled up a small creature by its tail. Said creature wriggled like a fish pulled out of water, well it had a fishtail, but the rest of it was made up of various bits of puppies, kittens and mice.

“This is our rugrat, Riot.”

Riot stopped struggling when his little eyes spotted the changelings. His expression became awed and he clapped his little paws together excitedly. Rebel smiled approvingly and set Riot on the ground. The childish chimera giggled and cooed as it slowly fumbled along on the ground towards the visitors.

“So that’s the crew, from what I hear you two have already been hanging with Love for the last while, no introductions needed there.”

“Yep yep, Now let’s get you two seated and comfortable.”

Love got behind the changelings and pushed them towards the table where a pair of lawn chairs awaited them. Chrysalis got in her chair, finding it comfortable enough and mentally preparing herself for more zany behavior. The whole of draconequus kind could be labeled with such an adjective. Though she did give Rouser a second look, as it was notably strange that he was the only chimera not to shower her or Specter with a high degree of interest and attention.
Chrysalis reflected some more while Love went over to tend something by the fire and Rebel organized the table settings.

The Changeling Queen was apparently very young for her kind, but in her short few decades she had roamed over much of what the world had to offer. From the sands of Saddle Arabia to the great gulfs of Germane and most recently the colorful vibrant Equestria. Her kind had interwoven itself through many cultures far and wide yet here, on this island exploding with magical potential, the occupants were more or less prisoners.

Chrysalis felt a tug on her foreleg. She looked down to see the childish Riot clasping onto her as if she was another tree to climb. However, he couldn’t get a solid hold on her smooth chitin, so he kept sliding back down after scaling a few inches. She was going to shake the little critter off, but out of the corner of her eye she noticed Specter watching. That irritating self consciousness popped up again and she rethought her approach to this little scenario.

The miniature draconequus was scooped up a moment later and placed on the changeling queen’s lap. Her dark hoof began to pet Riot along the head as if she was stroking a cat, well, the creature was at least one quarter cat, Riot began to purr. In her peripherals she noticed some signs of surprise from the other changeling. She kept her eyes fixated towards Rebel as she let a little smirk show. The blue-white Chimera heard the purring and looked up. She threw a big smile towards Chrysalis.

“He really likes you, wanna keep him?”

“Hehe, that is funny, but I’m afraid I have to decline. I already have a full plate when it comes to people I have to look after.”

“Shucks, I bet. Things must be pretty bad out there for you guys to want to come here.”

Chrysalis bit the inside of her cheek to keep herself from making a snarky retort along the lines of ‘Really? Want isn’t the word I would choose…’ rather she used the opportunity to feed her curiosity.

“I’ve been meaning to ask, how have you and your kind dealt with being trapped here? I can’t imagine being cooped up does the draconequus soul much good.”

Chrysalis eyed Specter out of the corner of her eye, was he deliberately messing with her head? Why had she felt the need to be more… amiable. Rebel put her paws on her hips and looked out to the barrier clouds dreamily.

“Oh, I think every draconequus on this island has desperately wanted to leave at one point or another.”

Rouser half opened one of his eyes, the line of questioning actually capturing a faint level of interest, his voice was very subdued when he followed up Rebel’s comment.

“It’s not really a matter of wanting to or not. It’s been the way its been for generations and will probably stay that way. Even if by some miracle Discord is defeated who’s to say it’ll change our predicament. Titles and status easily flow from one megalomaniac to another.”

Love threw some thoughts into the mix as well.

“Hey, Chryssie and Specs did something I’d never seen before! They got some color to pop up on Mop-er-Mayham! Like not from a can of paint or anything, like maybe that old curse can actually be undone!”

Rebel and Rouser gave surprised looks at Love then both turned to the changelings. Rebel threw both of her paws to her cheeks and gasped.

“No way! You guys are actually undoing Discord’s curse?”

Rouser opened both of his eyes and leaned up from his hammock.

“Do you even know what you’re doing? It could make things worse!”

Specter finally brought his voice into the conversation.

“Things are already getting worse. Among our narrow number of options this is the best chance we have to improve the situation.”

Chrysalis inserted some more clarification before the conversation could spiral further into confusion and arguments.

“I have witnessed what Anarchy and Mayham were like before they became Authority and Mop. They were both good friends with changelings and ponies alike. My old mentor, Shellish, showed me earlier today, er, yesterday? Whatever.”

Chrysalis played with a lock of her mane in thought. Did the rapid sky cycles mess with the schedule of Authority’s formal dance? Love had finished her preparations over by the fire and strolled over to the table with a big platter. It was loaded with fruit on shish kabob, prevalently passion fruit.

“Eat up everyone!”

Everyone obliged and grabbed a stick. For a second they all quietly nibbled on the treat. Chrysalis finished the last bit of conversation.

“More or less I don’t think Anarchy and Mayham were out to put anyone else down, intentionally at least. Plus, if I get them changed back they should have quite the bone to pick with Discord. A recipe that should work to our favor.”

Rouser gave her a skeptical look.

“I hope you’re right.”

Rebel elbowed Rouser.

“I’ll take a ray of sunshine where I can!”

Love hopped up and stood tall in her chair.

“Oh I just can’t wait to be free! Things to see, places to go, people to meet!”

A loud crashing sounded from amongst the trees in their surroundings. All of them looked in the direction the sound came from, getting ready to dart at a moments notice. The crashing stopped and a giant head popped out from between the branches, it was Silver. He smiled smugly at the lot of them.

“What an adorable little party. Here, let me add to it.”

He pulled out a giant nap sack and emptied the contents onto the group, burying them in a shower of clothing. Chrysalis quickly pulled her way out and looked at what was thrown on them. It was formal attire of many varieties. The rest of the little group had popped their heads above the mound and took a look at it. Love looked up at Silver in a confused appreciation.

“Why thank you. I was having trouble deciding what to wear to Authority’s ball!”

Silver chuckled at that.

“No need to thank me. This just looks like a good place to hide the prize of a scavenger hunt.”

He planted a large mirror on the edge of the clearing.

“I stole all of the clothes everyone else was going to wear. I give it maybe an hour til they find this spot. Tootalou.”

Silver withdrew into the mess of trees, the sound of his crashing quickly becoming distant. However, the sound of a clock ticking emanated from the planted mirror, increasing the ambient urgency of the situation with every tick. They all sprang into action.

Chrysalis rifled quickly through the pile, pulling out things she would consider wearing. After hastily picking up three items she looked over to what Specter was handling. He currently held two peachy suits and some kind of cowl-robe combo. They looked a little too tacky for her tastes. Chrysalis voiced her opinion dryly.

“We should pick something matching. Your choices so far look obnoxious.”

Specter stopped rifling through the pile and leveled a look at her.

“I’m sorry? I don’t recall us ever being arranged together, in fact…”

Specter leapt on top of the pile and slipped on a bright pink suit, while transforming into a tall chiseled draconequus.

“Hey Love.”

The short, pink chimera looked up to Specter and when she saw him dressed and poised with the air of a debonair she turned bashful. Rubbing her hooves together she responded coyly.

“Ya?”

“Have you been snatched up yet? I imagine you’ve had a number of inquirers for this coming dance.”

“Not yet. Though there is a rapturous something something nearby making me think about it.”

Chrysalis scoffed at the exchange between the two. Did he just really? Did he really just do that to her, the Queen? Her wings immediately sprang from her shell to buzz fiercely. A growl started in the base of her throat, the only other royalty on the island was going to reject her?! He was going to leave her to fend for herself with a horde of grabby maniacs!

Even if she outright rejected the situation she would be violating Authority’s terms, causing whatever sanity-forsaken consequences. All because she said his taste in attire was awful?!

Before her growl left her mouth she felt something tussel her mane. Her wings froze at the contact and she looked up. Specter was back in his changeling form and no longer wore the pink suit. When she saw he had her full attention he removed his hoof from her mane.

“Calm down Chrysalis, I am just making a point. I’m not one of your subordinates to just order around.”

“W-wait so you’re-”

“Yes, I still plan on attending the dance with you. Just keep in mind you’re working with an ally, not a minion. Maintaining a level of pleasantry will be important if you want me around.”

Chrysalis studied him for a few moments until she eventually let out a sigh and turned back to the pile of clothing. While rifling for a few more choices she replied without looking at him.

“Forgive me, I’ve not had peers to practice with.”

Specter grimaced, thinking of the conversation they had earlier. Chrysalis was never brought up in the refinements of Imperial culture. However, there was still time and opportunity for change.

“That’s something I can help you with. If you’re willing to adapt.”

Chrysalis sighed in mild exasperation.

“One thing at a time. Now, what do you think of this dress?”

She picked out a red dress with cross hatched sleeves and held it against the length of her body. Specter eyed it critically against her figure.

“You have rather bold taste.”

They went through a few more options and looked for corresponding outfits for Specter. The ticking mirror had steadily gotten very loud. More worrying were the other noises closing in from multiple sides of the jungle. The scavenger parties must be closing in.

They quickly settled on their choice and fled the scene. Waving a quick goodbye to their hosts.

“See you at the ball!”

Love shouted after them. Chrysalis and Specter nodded as they disappeared in the direction of the volcano.




--- The night of the ball




A long line of Chimera were roughly organized outside of a silver marble mansion. Authority’s place for hosting the event was near her chrome office tower, however this building was on a hilltop amidst the jungle instead of the beach.

Hidden in a patch of bushes on the estate were Chrysalis and Specter, both of whom cautiously eyed the crowd from a distance. They both wore their formal attire, a matching rose-red dress and suit respectively.

“Are you sure you don’t want to get in line now? Authori-Anarchy might scout for late comers, delaying our mission further.”

Specter’s violet eyes flashed about the different parts of the estate. Chrysalis stayed reserved.

“We could just as easily be delayed if we get mobbed by an overly excited crowd. Besides, even if a greyed Anarchy comes after us we could still get a chance to talk.”

Specter eyed the entrance of the mansion and spotted a familiar face.

“Well, it seems Mayham is the greeter at the door. He’s covered himself up quite a bit too. Do you think he has changed even more?”

Chrysalis looked towards the main doors with keen eyes. Head and shoulders above all the guests was the greeter, covered mostly head to tail in one article of clothing or another. A wide brimmed top hat covered most of his head while overly large chrome shades covered most of his face. A long scarf wrapped around his lengthy neck all the way to his jawline. A formal suit and white gloves covered his body and a long striped sock encapsulated his tail.

“Unless he’s suddenly decided to start a new fashion trend, I’d say it’s a safe bet it’s still affecting him.”

The pair watched as the light around the horizon flickered and the setting sun threatened to revert back to midday. However there was a burst of grey magic and the sun was roughly shoved below the horizon, plummeting the heavens into the early night it was supposed to be. Specter made an uneasy chuckle at the prominent display. Turning to Chrysalis he asked.

“Still feeling bold?”

Chrysalis subconsciously raised a hoof to her horn, ghostly pains from the past echoed and vivid memories flashed from fairly recent experiences. Her muzzle twisted unpleasantly.

“It doesn’t change what must be done.”

At last the crowd had fizzled down to the last few couples, so the changelings exited their hiding spot and trotted towards the door. The greeter noticed them and straightened his posture. Even though his eyes were covered by shades Chrysalis could smell a mixture of judgement and apprehension, yet he was able to greet them levelly.

“Chrysalis, Specter, so nice to see you again. This way.”

He gestured towards the large double doors, ushering them inside.

“Thank you, Ham.”

Chrysalis made sure to emphasize as she passed by, making the tall draconequus shudder as he closed the door behind them.

“Enjoy the dance and be careful.”

The warning was not delivered softly. Now inside, Chrysalis was greeted to a beautiful, spacious foyeur. Large canvas paintings with luxurious frames adorned every wall, a stunning chandelier glittered with the light of 1000 reflective glass crystals, and intricately patterned carpet lay beneath their hooves.

A smaller red carpet formed a temporary trail before them. The other guests ahead of them could be seen following it and snaking their way down into another hall. Chrysalis and Specter followed along and were led to the back of the mansion, which opened up into a giant roofless basilica. The event would be hosted under starlight and supplemented by a few lanterns which rested above the pillars of the basilica.

The gentle cords of a grand piano echoed across the air, emanating from a large central gazebo. Chrysalis spotted her primary target of the evening at the bench of the large instrument. Authority played with her eyes closed and swayed her body in a controlled rhythm, she wore the same suit Chrysalis had first seen her in. The Changeling Queen strolled straight for her, passing the tables occupied by guests and food. When she was about halfway to the gazebo a flash of grey magic snapped her up mid-trot.

Chrysalis found herself whiplashed right next to Authority’s piano bench. The draconequus didn’t miss a note as she cooly addressed the changeling. Though the tall snaky creature also swung her face right into Chrysalis’s scrunching against the bewildered changeling.

“I want to make something clear Chrysalis. Just so you know, Mop already informed me of your miscreant behavior in his laboratory. If you dare to replicate any of that hooliganism at this event you will find yourself spending the evening under the sea locked in an iron box. No loud noises, no messes, understand?”

The changeling gulped before she replied.

“I promise not to be noisy or messy, Anarchy.”

The last word made Authority flinch. She looked down directly into Chrysalis’s green eyes with her silver ones.

“That’s an ugly, ugly word.”

Her intimidating gaze cowed the changeling, whose face fell into doubt. After a moment Authority pointed an amphibious finger towards a particular table in the basilica.

“You’re assigned table #69, go seat yourself. The event begins in five minutes.”

Chrysalis didn’t need to be told twice as she walked as speedily towards the table as her dress permitted. Upon approaching the table she saw Specter already seated there, across from him was Love and a… green blob with a bowtie and tophat. The blob was also smiling.

Specter saw her approach and pulled a chair out with his magic. She quickly took the seat and let out a heavy sigh. Specter gave her a friendly grin as he said,

“It’s good to see you survived Anarchy’s little pep talk. I was going to start making bets with Love over here.”

Chrysalis’s muzzle slanted as she looked disapprovingly between the two of them.

“Thanks for the vote of confidence. But yes, plans will have to change tonight. We’ll have to come up with a different approach to trigger some sense of Anarchy out of Authority.”

Love waved down Chrysalis to beg a question,

“Hey, Chryssie, before you get deep into something all sneaky and stuff I wanna ask. Would ya mind if I call first dibs on Specs for the second dance?”

Chrysalis looked over to Specter, who shrugged his shoulders. Her eyes roamed across the basilica and she spotted Mop near the exit. An idea began to formulate in her mind and she idly replied.

“He’s all yours for the second dance.”

Love clapped her paws exclaiming a small ‘yay’ before turning to the green blob next to her.

“You wouldn’t mind that would you Smoozy?”

The blob was currently attempting to eat some of the shiny beads woven into the table cloth. Love apparently read some answer that changelings couldn’t pick up on.

“Smoozy is cool with it.”

The piano stopped playing and a single loud bell tone rang across the basilica. Authority had risen from her bench and strode over to a small podium. Her voice echoed across the gathered crowd.

“Astoundingly, all guests made it here and on time for this most proper occasion. I must say you have learned well my fellow draconequi. As per tradition we shall now start the first formal dance.”

Authority’s rat tail cracked like a whip and there was a rumble throughout the basilica and things began to dramatically shift. The marble structure ascended away from the mansion and floated along until it quickly climbed hundreds of lengths into the air and over the sea.

Eventually things plateaued when they finally reached the peak of the island’s volcano. The flying basilica then started a slow rotation around the island. At this height they could easily see over the top of the barrier of rainbow storm clouds. The roaming prismatic billows below and the blanket of stars above combined for a breathtaking sight.

As if on a silent cue the crowd of draconequi all rose from their seats and made their way to the dance floor.

Love hopped up from her seat and dragged the green blob with her. Specter and Chrysalis joined the crowd, though there was some trepidation in Chrysalis’s steps. She hadn’t given much thought to this part of the plan, it had seemed so unimportant compared to everything else. Worse still, there had been no time in her past to learn anything like ballroom dancing.

(( Optional atmospheric music ))

When the music from Authority’s piano started again the fear of making a fool of herself quickly rose up in her line of priorities. She also became acutely aware of how many draconequi threw glances her way, curious or judging it didn’t matter which they did, if she made a mistake they’d all see it. Chrysalis turned to Specter for assurance.

“I must confess I lack experience in this area. Do you know how to…”

“I’ve been to many dances before, just follow my lead and you’ll be fine.”

They turned towards each other, Specter held out a hoof and she took it. He then guided her other hoof over his shoulder before seizing her waist.

“It’ll be easy, just look me in the eye and ignore the others.”

Chrysalis did as instructed and tried to put all her focus onto her partner.

“Step back with your left, now right, and swing.”

He prompted her along gently and she followed a little shakily at first.

“Forward left, now right, Swing.”

They looped about in a rotisserie motion. After three or four more rotations she felt she was getting a grasp of the basic motions.

“See, you’re doing just fine.”

Specter’s warm grin did a great deal to calm her down and put her at ease. After a few more rotations she was feeling up for something more adventurous.

“So, what else can you show me?”

She threw on a bold smile and put more effort into their swings. Specter’s smile grew to match her ambitious energy. Without a word he flung her outward on their next swing, carefully keeping a hold of her wrist with his, then with a flourish he spun her about like a spinning top, finishing the action by twirling her into a close embrace. With their faces closer together he gave her an obvious wink, then spun her back into their starting position. The series of swift actions caused her heart to quicken and she let out a rather girly giggle.

“Ooo, is that all?”

“I think we’re just getting started.”

Specter surprised her next by popping out his wings and pulling her into the air. Both changelings’ wings hummed at different pitches as they continued their swing dance above the other guests in attendance. Most of the draconequi were definitely watching them now, but Chrysalis couldn’t bring herself to care about it.

The Changeling Queen was thoroughly enjoying the sky dance led by the changeling King. The spinning, whirling, and twirling made her blood tingle with a rush of excitement.

Many of the attendees nervously glanced over to Authority to see if she noticed, but by all appearances she looked far too preoccupied with the enchanting piece she was playing. A few of the bold draconequi decided to follow the example the changelings had set. So those with the ability to fly took their dance above the floor.

Time seemed to slow as Chrysalis lost herself to the moment. Whether it was the way the stars twinkled or how the torches glowed and illuminated the marvelous basilica, she couldn’t tell. For now she was carefree and that’s all that mattered, it was wonderful.

The music below reached a stirring crescendo and the entire area was bathed in the magic of whimsey and sparkles. After the song reached its peak it sharply dropped off and was over. The ring of the alarm bell brought the activity in the basilica to a halt.

Chrysalis grunted in disappointment as Specter stopped and led her back down to the floor. Authority was back at her podium announcing.

“All of you have 15 minutes to refresh yourselves and do some mild mingling. After that we shall commence with the second dance and finish with my speech of critique.”

She waved dismissively at the crowd to go about her instruction. Upon returning to her piano she began a new more subdued melody. Chrysalis turned to Specter while straightening her mane with a hoof, her blood still pumping quickly.

“That was a good time, thank you.”

“I’m glad you enjoyed it.”

“Well, I suppose I should go back to furthering our actual goal this evening. Have fun with Love.”

“Be careful and the second thing shouldn’t be a problem.”

They parted ways and Chrysalis trotted towards the far end of the basilica. As she made her way along the other draconequi politely parted for her. Many of them dropped comments and compliments as she passed by.

“That was some neat dancing!”

“I can’t believe Authority didn’t punish you two.”

“Nice dress.”

“Hey! That’s my dress!”

Chrysalis scooted along faster after the last comment. She soon reached the back and found the draconequus she was looking for.

“Hey Ham, can I have a moment?”

“Please, it’s Mop, what do you need?”

As the changeling approached and interacted with the large achromatic being all the smaller draconequi backed off, giving them a healthy amount of space.

“I would like you to be my second dance.”

She could see Mop’s eyebrows rise behind his glasses. He looked about before turning his suspicious voice on her.

“Are you trying to pull another trick? Because if you do something to offend Authority I won’t defend you from the consequences.”

“Don’t be so worried Ham, I just need a dance partner.”

His muzzle scrunched awkwardly and he looked about once more, the resolve in his voice was rather weak.

“Are you sure there’s no one else you’d rather ask?”

Chrysalis responded with her best imploring tone.

“I don’t know any of the others as well as you Ham. Would you do this for me?”

She held a hoof out, silently proffering him to take it. Mop scratched along his jawline, ruffling up his sideburns before he conceded and took her hoof with his gloved paw.

“Alright, but I’m not doing any of that dancing in the air.”

“That’s fine, thank you for helping me Mayham.”

Chrysalis couldn’t help but let a small devious smile show as they made their way back to the dance floor. The draconequus had slowly been reacting less and less adversely to the call of his original name each time she said it. Hopefully with another push or two, she’d finally make some progress. Once they arrived at the open platform they were given a wide berth by the other draconequi, all responding nervously to Mop’s presence upon the dance floor. It was almost as if they expected to be scolded over something.

Authority in particular eyed them, her lids drooping low in scrutiny. Mop saw his sister’s stern gaze and silently gestured a placation, which caused her glare to soften, but not take her eyes off of them. She stood up and announced the last dance in her usual manner, causing the crowd to gather and ready themselves for the activity.

Chrysalis turned to her partner and observed the comical difference in size and shape between them. She reared up on her hind legs and reach out a hoof towards Mop’s shoulder, yet she was still a bit too short and ended up leaning against his long midsection. He looked down on her and bent his serpentine body to try and adjust for her. They fumbled about for a bit, trying to find a comfortable position between a mismatch of limbs and bodies, which consistently proved either too small or big for the other. Eventually Chrysalis broke up the effort and made a little space between the two of them. Mop chuckled when they stopped trying.

“You asked for this, sorry its not working very smoothly.”

Chrysalis just stretched for a minute, an undeterred smile stuck on her muzzle. Her demeanor appeared unphased, in fact she moved on as if it was all planned.

“Oh it's not a problem, in fact forgive me for being so silly. I’m a changeling after all and I can make some adjustments…”

She finished up her stretching by loosening a shoulder, then she was enveloped in the green flames of transformation. A moment later she appeared much taller and serpentine. Her straight teal mane became frizzled and pink, her dark grey chitin morphed into a lime green and purple. Her tail became long an hairless like a rat. Each of her limbs also took on the form of various beasts.

Standing besides Mop was a perfect replication of the colorful Anarchy. Unfortunately the dress Chrysalis was wearing couldn’t effectively accommodate the new form, it had effectively torn in half down the middle and hung off one of her shoulders like a scraggly cape. She ignored this as she tried flexing each of the new limbs.

“This should be a more compatible form, yes?”

Mop just gawked at the display. He had never seen his sister depicted in such a way… had he? Authority’s reaction over in the gazebo was to immediately stop her piano piece with a loud crash of notes. Her eyes were wide as dinner plates and one of them began to twitch madly. Chrysalis saw the crazy look from Authority and called out sheepishly.

“I’m not making a mess or being noisy!”

She crossed her fingers behind her back and cringed, preparing to be thrown under the sea and locked in a box.

Thankfully, her plea of obedience worked, that or Authority was too stunned to think clearly, and the moment of punishment never came. Rather she felt a poke in her side. She looked over to see Mop holding out a paw. Chrysalis nervously glanced over at Authority as she accepted the paw. The crazed look was still there, but the paws at the piano had also resumed playing, albeit the melody was radically different and faster paced.

The crowd picked up warmly to the new tune and shook their bodies about energetically trying to keep up with the racing notes.

(( Optional atmospheric music ))

Chrysalis decided to play along with the joviality and rather than take the formal poise of the last dance, she simply locked opposite elbows with Mop and got him to start skipping in circles with her.

The pace of the piano picked up even more. So much so that smoke and light started to pour from the overtaxed instrument until it was fuming from the gazebo like a busy chimney. At this point the crowd actually slowed down and began to back to the edges of the basilica. The lights flashing from the draconequus playing the piano kept getting brighter and more frequent as the smoke flushed out with more volume while the decibels continued to increase.

Chrysalis could hear Love laughing hysterically on the other side of the dance floor, even over the fervor blasting from the gazebo. The changeling supposed she must find something particularly amusing about the way Authority was currently acting.

All joviality stopped however when the first burst of flames licked out from the gazebo. The burst of heat made the dance floor become vacant as the participants took cover behind tables or pillars. The song became an indistinguishable blurr of sound as none of the notes were individually decipherable anymore. Thankfully it stopped after a particularly loud bang!

Hundreds of eyes peeked over tables and pillars when the quiet had finally come through. Chrysalis changed back to her normal self and was among the cautiously curious individuals looking to see what had become of Authority.

A strong breeze came by and cleared most of the smoke away, revealing an ash blasted chimera with her rump on the floor. Shards of the piano lay all about the gazebo, coloring the interior black with its smoldering remains. Authority continued to sit there in a state of shock.

A number of curious draconequi meandered closer to the site of wreckage with morbid fascination. In all their years they’d never seen something that out of control from the strictest draconequus on the isle, and none of them dared to voice it. Well, except one. It was Love of course.

“That was awesome! You totally wrecked tha-”

“SILENCE!”

Authority turned around and was on her hooves in a flash. A manic rage caused her eyes to bulge, much to the terror of all the smaller draconequi. However, Chrysalis noted there was color in her left eye, a vibrant swirl of blue and green.

“ALL OF YOU ARE OFFICIALLY UNINVITED!”

Pink tinted grey magic flashed around everyone present except Mop and Authority and in the next moment they all vanished. Reappearing again on the beach a few body lengths from shore. The result being they were all dropped in the water and their fancy ballroom attire was immediately drenched.

Funny enough, the crowd didn’t seem to mind, in fact there was a roar of laughter when they all realized they were simply back at the beach. Chrysalis was still unsure of the situation and raised her voice to the crowd.

“You aren’t mad at me?”

The Changeling immediately thought she made a mistake when the attention of all the draconequi splashing in the water was suddenly drawn to her. Then she heard Love’s voice nearby, the peachy pink draconequus swam over to her with Specter treading just behind.

“Are you kidding? You just got us out of having to listen to a critique speech in first time since like, FOREVER!”

The crowd around them applauded and hollered in consensus. They all swarmed towards the changeling who made herself the highlight of the night.

“Hip hip for the Changeling Queen!”

“Gimme a hoorah and booyah!”

“Thank you! Thank you very much!”

Chrysalis squealed as she felt dozens of paws all push underneath her and lift her above the water. They gently bounced her above them in joyful play, making it one of the more unusual rides she had experienced. She continued to surf along the crowd of chimera as they carried her onto land.

The changeling Queen couldn’t help but think, even amongst this storm of praise, about how Crone was doing back in the Crystal Empire. They had not parted on the best of terms. Hopefully Shellish helped her cope with things on the other side.

(( Optional atmospheric music ))

And thank you for reading! Next chapter will feature Crone, then Sombra and More plus some memories.

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Comments ( 3 )

Yay! It's nice to have you back! This chapter was very interesting. I like the little history talk about Monarch and the Imperial type changelings by Specter. How are you feeling after everything that happened to you the last few months? Did you see the update I did on the Shadow Hive group?

This was amazing. I loved the pictures they made this large chapter much easier to follow. You're amazing! Keep up the good work!

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