• Published 19th Sep 2015
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I, Chrysalis - Scarheart

Imprisoned, Queen Chrysalis writes the story of her life, her legacy. But not for those pathetic ponies! Gifted with a daughter, she cherishes what could be the last changeling she will ever interact with...

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Chapter XXII

Chrysalis had expected Taalia to attack. The ponies were in the open and those in the bowels of the shattered hive were out of their element. Changelings were excellent fighters in underground tunnels. They could fight in pitch darkness. The queen was worried. She now had in her possession the eggs and nymphs hidden by the changelings before Taalia and her Ravagers had slaughtered them. Her discoveries were in a magically induced state of hibernation, which made them all but undetectable to invaders.

There was a hidden compartment in the center of the room. It had been cleverly hidden. Chrysalis knew where to look, or had a general idea. She had known Queen Fern long enough to understand how the queen had thought. Never a friend, Chrysalis had thought her to be barely worth the crown and the burdens that came with it. But, she was a clever queen and had learned to be very resourceful in nonviolent ways. A peaceful hive and a quiet colony, Fern’s changelings had remained hidden from the Equestrians for hundreds of years. Now, in death did Celestia and Luna come to lament not knowing this society of strange, sapient beings.

The queen lifted some eggs with her magic and with great care placed them in a basket lined with straw. Ponies tried to talk to her, but she tuned them out, her focus upon her task. She would not let them touch the little ones nor the eggs. It was enough they had found means to carry the future of the hive out and on to safety. She would not allow them any closer than necessary and she hissed like an angry viper as a warning.

Luna and Celestia did not interfere. They watched her closely. Chrysalis felt their eyes never leaving her as she worked. The changeling could feel the fear of the ponies but the princesses were neutral. This was a touch unnerving to the queen. Celestia departed to ask questions while Luna remained, hidden in the shadows. Only the glow of her eyes could be seen in the natural green glow of the cavern fungus. Nervous guards filtered in and out of the brooding chamber, bringing more baskets lined with fresh straw. Chrysalis had asked for them.

Queen Fern had given her life and her changelings had sacrificed themselves to hide their most treasured possessions. They had poured as much magic as they could into the ward. The magic itself was enhanced pheromones, sprayed throughout the hive to mislead predators from the young. Although Chrysalis had thought her fellow queen to be weak, she did admire and respect what was done for the sake of the future. The hive had stood as one until the last, leaving behind hope in a sea of death.

“Why claim them as your own?” Luna asked as she watched the queen work.

Chrysalis was levitating the eggs and nuzzling them, a mysterious look of compassion on her muzzle. Each basket held three eggs. Seven baskets lay full. Then, she moved on to the nymphs. They were cocooned, much in the same manner changelings bound their victims. these were smaller and the green glow within was of a brighter color. For a long while Chrysalis did not answer, but did cast a lingering stoned face at Luna. Her lips then moved as she faltered.

“I made a promise,” Chrysalis then said as she resumed her work. Her horn glowed and she lifted one of the hibernating nymphs up for a closer look. She tilted the cocoon to one side then the other as she scrutinized it carefully. Her horn surged and the cocoon glowed with a flash before she set it into a basket. “I made a promise to Fern. I did not follow through on my promise. This is the only proper way to make amends. That is all you need to know.” A strand of her mane fell in front of her eyes. She blinked at it, then flipped it aside with a toss of her head.

“A noble thing to take in the helpless,” Luna pressed in a quiet voice.

Chrysalis picked up another nymph and set it in the same basket as the first. “Noble? Hardly. This was how I started my hive long ago. None of my changelings came from the same place. The first children in my hive were all from shattered hives and colonies.”

The alicorn blinked in the shadows, the glow of her eyes flickering as her eyelids opened and closed. It was quite dry and warm in the brooding chamber. She studied the architecture. Her eyes were accustomed for darkness and gloomy light. There were ventilation holes spaced evenly in the elongated room, one for each nest. Her sensitive nose picked up the faint whiff of outside air as it slowly drifted in through the vents. On the other side of the room were other vents for withdrawing stale air. It was a simple air filtration system. Luna suspected she understood the engineering behind the walls. She marveled at what changelings could do with such little materials beyond what they found on hoof. They worked with what they had.

She could sense the magic Chrysalis had spoke of. It took some effort to discover the lingering changeling magic. It was an alien thing to the immortal pony. This was strange and fascinating to Luna. Changelings were a very mysterious race indeed! Her hunger for knowledge was not quite as obsessive as Twilight Sparkle’s, but Luna had spent many a long night devouring a thousand years of history in her efforts to grasp the changes in Equestria over the centuries. The same dedication she had spent on learning how her little ponies had changed, shifted, and was eager to peer into the mystery that was around her.

“There is much to learn about your kind,” Luna offered with a voice as still as the grave. It was a whisper, a suggestion on the wind.

A charcoal black ear flicked at her. Chrysalis continued her tender work without pause. “There are some secrets I shall keep. Perhaps some mysteries should remain mysterious.” Her voice was equally reserved, sounding odd in her double voice. It gave her words a sinister quality in contrast to her serene features.

In the aftermath of such destruction, Luna understood Chrysalis had managed to find something to be happy about. There was a morbid attachment, as if she was looting from the dead their future. Chrysalis was empowering herself at the misfortune of others, some would say if they were witness to this moment. The arrogant queen was not so arrogant when it came to the helpless of her own species. Luna knew she was seeing a part of the queen few ponies would even believe she had.

“Perhaps,” she conceded to the changeling. Luna was a part of the shadow now, her eyes fading to darkness. “I will leave you to your privacy. I do not think I should be here while you do what you think is best. The guards will be outside the chamber. If you need anything, tell them.”

“And where are you going?” Chrysalis asked, looking up from her task. Luna was gone, leaving pitch blackness in her wake as she shadowed away. A slight chill filled the room, sending shivers down the changeling’s spine. “Luna?”

Her ears moved, seeking out any sound from the alicorn. There was nothing.

“Fine then,” the changeling huffed.

She went back to work. The false floor only held the eggs plus a paltry eleven nymphs and hatchlings. Chrysalis sat back and considered the small number. Too few for a hive numbering four hundred changelings. There should have been at least a hundred or more young ones, not including the eggs. It did not take much thought as to what fate had befallen the others. The queen felt a heaviness settle over her heart. She thought of Atalanta. Those thoughts then went to her own hive.

Did Queen Taalia leave them behind on purpose? Not likely, Chrysalis thought, but possible. That witch might not have been enraged at all. Or—a new possible scenario came to light—she ran out of time.

“Luck,” Chrysalis spat, finding a reason in her revelation to have the ponies once again meddlesome in changeling affairs. She did not care for the ponies and their ways, but in this instance, she found begrudging them a little less palpable. “Luck and circumstance.”

Chrysalis gathered up all the eggs and young with her magic, her horn aglow. She thought it would take more effort to lift so many different objects, but her flow of energy was stronger than she remembered. Her precision and control were still the same. Magical fatigue was not setting in. This was of great interest to the queen. Perhaps the ponies were on to something with the land they chose to make their home.

Her test done, Chrysalis set everything back down. After one more close inspection of the baskets and their precious contents, she went over to the main entrance to the chamber. There were a pair of earth pony guards, one on each side.

They noticed and looked at her with professional stoicism. “They are ready to be moved,” she told them. One nodded and trotted off to get help. She withdrew back into the chamber and began to circle her prize with nervous anticipation.

Why didn’t Taalia attack? If she had been aware of this hive’s discovery, then she would still have eyes on the grounds. Her theory of the ponies stumbling upon this place began to waver. She had yet to ask for details other than what had already been disseminated to her. What if it was something as simple as a thought from her enemy that all the young were taken and there were none left to take?

Chrysalis shivered. If this was true, then the fate of the others was indeed terrible. Queen Taalia had always enjoyed the taste of young changeling flesh.

Her ears picked up the sounds of heavily shod hooves echoing through the corridors of the hive. Several guards appeared through the entrance, eyeing Chrysalis first before their attention turned to the gathered baskets. Her thoughts flew to Atalanta for a moment, only to be pulled back by the slight smell of fear in the room. It came from more than one source.

“We were told you required assistance, ma’am,” the lead unicorn stallion growled in a gravelly voice. He was quite small for having such a deep and resonant voice. “Just tell my boys what you need and they’ll do it. Within reason, of course,” he added with a straight face.

Chrysalis did not bother to offer the smile she fought to keep down. Standing tall, as a ruling sovereign, she peered down upon the unflinching stallion. “You and your soldiers are to carry these baskets to the surface. They will be placed in a safe and secure location.” The queen tilted her head a touch to one side, her mane dipping. “Tell me, soldier. Do you have children?”

“Ma’am, I do.”

She nodded. “These are changeling eggs and foals, as you might see them. Handle them with the same care you would handle a newborn foal. I am charging you with a simple but vital task. I would do it myself, but I am still but one mare.” The smile she gave all of the guards was toothy and dangerous.

The sense of fear intensified.

The little stallion did not give off any fear. “Yes, ma’am.” He turned to his fellow guards. “All right, you flea-ridden meatbags! You had all better treat these little critters like they were your kid sisters. You got that?”

“Yes sergeant!” came the broken reply.

“Sergeant?” Chrysalis called out.

He turned his head to her. “Yes, ma’am?”

“You. I like you.”

“I’ve already got three wives, ma’am,” the sergeant said without batting an eye. “I reserve my fear for them and them alone.”

Chuckling, Chrysalis shook her head. “A smart stallion indeed!” Just as quickly as the smile appeared, it disappeared. Once again, the cold and unwavering visage of the Changeling Queen loomed large in the room. “Do be careful. Consider them my children. Each and everyone of them. Do I make myself understood?”

“Ma’am, we’re professionals. We’ll get the job done.” This stallion was a rock!

He would have made a fine changeling.

The guards began to pick up the baskets. Some grumbled, but not too loudly. One by one, they carried out Chrysalis’ prize. She watched over them, an immobile statue.

One pony stumbled, tripping over his own hooves. He had the basket handle in his mouth and he cried out, losing his grip. A green glow stopped the basket from striking the ground. He looked up and found Chrysalis staring down at him, her lip curled into a small snarl.

“Fool!” she hissed. “I will take this. Get your clumsy self out of my sight!”

The terrified soldier scrambled out of the chamber, letting out a whinny as he went. His fellow guards stared at his tucked tail, then made sure they had a much surer grip on their charges.

The sergeant cleared his throat. “Ma’am, I would appreciate it if you would refrain from terrorizing my privates.” His delivery was given in a deadpan.

“I only terrorized one private, in part,” she retorted and without missing a beat.

“Of course, ma’am. I will have to inform my commander of this incident.”

“Do your duty, sergeant,” Chrysalis said with a smirk. “I will do mine.”

He nodded and bent his head to his task. The sergeant growled underneath his breath, “If any more of you embarrass me like that, so help me…” Lifting his head, he said in a loud voice, “Be careful, Blessed Celestia!”

The train of guards filed out of the hive and into the light of the sun. Other guards were in the process of cleaning up the grounds. Celestia and Luna were beneath an open tent where a table had been set up. They were watching with curiosity as the guards filed out. Celestia had her head bent as she listened to a gibbering and familiar guard. When Chrysalis caught her eye, Celestia sighed and closed her eyes while shaking her head. Luna had her attention to the map on the table while sipping at a cup of tea.

Next to it was an air carriage. A pair of pegasi guards were hitched to it. The eggs and young were being loaded on board. Chrysalis was the last to place her basket inside. When she did so, she checked everything twice, her tail flicking. It was the only betrayal of her worried state of mind. When she was satisfied all was well, she stepped back and stared at the pegasi at the front of the carriage.

She was about to open her mouth and say something when Celestia interrupted her. “Might I have a word with you in private?” asked the Alicorn of the Sun. Without prompting, she turned and walked away. Chrysalis followed, buzzing her wings and giving a hard flick of her tail.

When they were some distance away from the guards at work, Celestia turned to Chrysalis. “I will not have you threatening my ponies.”

“He nearly dropped a basket with eggs in it,” Chrysalis defended with a haughty air. “How you suffer such fools is beyond me.”

“There is no excuse for—”

“Taalis is probably watching us and waiting,” Chrysalis snapped. “I have little time to suffer the actions of the incompetent! Blood has stained this ground already, in case you were not aware, Celestia! What you see here is but an example of the levels of violence Taalia and her minions are capable of! I should imagine the presence of you and your sister is all that is preventing an attack on us right now.”

Celestia, however, would have none of it. “I have granted you freedom from chains and inhibitors in hopes you would see I do not wish to be your enemy, Chrysalis. I did not grant you such freedom so you may minister a tongue lashing from a simple mistake!”

Chrysalis, however, was thinking on her own words. Her gaze bore into Celestia’s orbs and she found unfathomable depths within them. The two mares held the stare for a moment longer before Chrysalis turned her head sharply in the direction of the base camp.

“She wouldn’t,” she whispered.

Celestia blinked as a cloud of foreboding fell over the queen. “Chrysalis?”

Sometimes, Taalia used to tell me, in order to draw out your enemies, one must feint at a soft target. I remembered this as an army of changelings swarmed past our hidden position. Some of Taalia’s Ravagers had struck at one of the colonies of this hive, a permanent settlement where love was stored and processed. It had been deemed a vital target, but Taalia was interested in more than just securing reserves of love.

As we watched, I could feel her shivering with excitement. Her fanged maw opened with eager anticipation and she shared that elation with me. I could not feel the way she could, but I matched her smile.

I did not want another beating at the end of the day. I was tired of the beatings. I was tired of the constant attempts to break me. Sometimes, I felt I was broken. Stubborn resolve refused to leave me and I remained more or less true to what my almost forgotten mother had taught me.

I was given troops. They were slaves, like me. They were given as Taalia would not dare give me one of her precious Ravagers. No, I had the typical, run of the mill changeling, little more than cannon fodder in the eyes of my slavemaster queen. Her Ravagers would not have listened to me. To them, I was nothing more than a lovely snack.

Our job was to draw out what defenders there were in the main hive while the Ravagers went in behind and destroyed everything. We did what we were told and I lost many changelings in battle. Retreat was not an option. Taalia waited and waited. And waited. When she was sure the defenders were exhausted from fighting my pathetic little army, she struck.

From the youngest changeling to the queen herself, the hive was obliterated. Those young enough to be considered prizes were carried off, to be sold to other queens or worse. Those that did survive… their fates were already decided. My surviving fighters were devastated and horrified.

Taalia was a crafty mare. She loved slaughter and bathed in blood in the most literal sense of the phrase.

“Chrysalis,” she once told me in a rare moment of solace and reflection, “War. I do so love it. By the Dark Goddesses, so help me, I do love it so! If I can make the world suffer just a bit more than I have suffered, then I shall be a happy mare indeed!” This was told to me even as the air was filled with smoke. My nostrils were tainted with the unrelenting stench of burned bodies. My tongue could taste the boiled blood with every gasp I took through my mouth in an effort to stymie the smell.

She hummed for a while longer, even as she watched her Ravagers herd selected survivors spared for just a little longer. They would be the feast that night. Fear permeated the air, thick as dirty fog. They knew. That sickening feeling of knowing they were aware of the fate that awaited them made the decision for me. It was a decision I had been too afraid to act upon.

I was twenty-one years old.

It was time to escape from this living nightmare.

Author's Note:

Unedited for the annoyance of Grammar Nazis.