• Published 29th Oct 2015
  • 2,142 Views, 82 Comments

Crystal Heart Solid: The Twin Crysis - MagnetBolt

What if: Instead of replacing Princess Cadance on her wedding day, Chrysalis goes after Shining Armor another way - by infiltrating the Royal Guard!

  • ...

Chapter Two - Mission Briefing

Every fall, as the recruits graduated from basic training, their fates were decided by a secretive council of elders, guided by magical artifacts and prophesy.

...Or at least that was the rumor.

The truth was somewhat less fantastic, but involved much more drinking, which suited the ponies in charge just fine.

“I’m telling you, she’s a menace!” General Iron Hoof said, pounding his hoof against the ancient table, nearly spilling his ale. The table wasn’t quite an artifact, but it had managed to survive generations of other earth ponies, many of them his ancestors, abusing it in similar ways.

Or not quite so similar, given the scandal with his grandfather. General Steel Shod and his secretary had found all sorts of creative uses for the table, which ended after he had forgotten to clear the schedule that day (his secretary had presumably been too busy serving his other needs to take care of his calendar) and several Centurions found him out of uniform, to put it politely. Ever since that incident, his family had taken a dim view of mares being in the Guard.

“I think she’s quite creative,” countered Dusk Flash. The magus shrugged, flipping through the recruit’s file with her orange magic. “Sleeping spells instead of stun bolts, a firm grip on illusion spells. She hasn’t exactly mastered the expected curriculum, but she does well enough within her own specialties.”

“So then you’d feel comfortable putting her in a front-line unit?” Wingwolf asked. He pointed at the file, wings fluttering with annoyance. “During the wilderness survival exercise, she systematically ambushed and captured all of the other trainees!”

“You have to admit it’s an achievement,” Dusk Flash said.

“Not when she was supposed to be working with them!” Wingwolf snorted. “Chrysalis has a pretty face, but she has no teamwork.”

“I think it says something about the other recruits that a single mare was able to disable all of them,” Dusk Flash retorted. “That kind of talent is useful for an independent operative like a battle magus or scout.”

“So let’s put her in a solo assignment and give her enough rope to hang herself,” Iron Hoof said. “I don’t want her to drag any of the more promising recruits down with her.”

“There is one available,” Dusk Flash said, with a certain amount of hesitancy. “It’s… not high profile to the general public, and not a critical position. But there is an issue.”

“What issue?” Wingwolf asked.

“The position was recently vacated after the last guard posted there took required leave for a mental breakdown,” Dusk Flash continued. “And we’d have to promote her. Assuming Princess Celestia allows it at all.”

“We’d have to do that for almost any unusual capacity,” Wingwolf noted. “What do we have that’s so bad it gave a stallion a nervous breakdown? Guarding some portal to Tartarus? Cursed artifact duty?”

“Worse,” Dusk Flash said, pushing a form across the table.

“Don’t tell me you want her guarding the Royal Cake Reserve!” Iron Hoof yelled. “Do you remember what happened last time we posted somepony new and the Princess decided to make a withdrawal? It nearly bankrupted the economy of Trottingham!”

“No, nothing so dramatic. Just a little escort mission.” Dusk Flash held the form up for him.

Iron Hoof looked at it and hissed. “That’s…”

“Quite bad, yes. Dangerous to life and limb, the constant threat of being humiliated, and having to deal with…” Dusk Flash shuddered. “...the shipping.”

“Draw up the transfer form,” Wingwolf said, his voice low. “And may Harmony have mercy on her soul.”

Chrysalis looked at the scroll in her magical grip, reading it over again. For some reason it stubbornly refused to change. It should have had her orders to report for guard duty in the castle, but instead...

“Stalliongrad?” Chrysalis asked. She only had a very vague idea of where it was. Far to the north, a lot of snow, frowning faces. Not the best place for changelings - even ones disguised as Royal Guards. To be fair, even the average pony only knew a few scraps about the place. It was far enough from central Equestria that only the tax offices of the Royal Revenue Service had any regular contact with it.

“You’ll be on VIP guard duty during a meeting between Yakyakistani officials and Equestrian diplomats,” Captain Wingwolf said, as he walked with her. He’d delivered the orders himself after verifying their contents and having a few stiff drinks. “The position does come with a promotion to Evocatus, with the pay bump retroactive to the beginning of the month.”

“Why is anyone even there?” Chrysalis frowned. She stopped for a moment to adjust her armor. It had already been customized quite a bit, but there was only so much they could do without forging something new entirely for her lanky frame. It almost made her wish she’d picked something less classically beautiful.

Almost. It was still useful for turning heads. She just needed to get through this assignment and get close to Shining Armor. Close enough to slip under the covers of his bunk~

“It’s an arms reduction treaty,” Wingwolf explained, waiting for her to adjust her harness. “It’s taken a long time to bring the Yaks to the table on this. The full details are for the diplomats, but what’s important is that we and the Yaks are going to be reducing the size of our navies, and possibly ending some trade restrictions.”

“That sounds good?” Chrysalis ventured.

“It breaks almost a century of silence to our attempts at diplomacy,” Wingwolf agreed. “The VIP you’re escorting is only scheduled to be there for the opening ceremony along with the Yakyakistani leadership delegation.”

“So we just… fly up there on an airship, do a little meet and greet, and turn around?” Chrysalis frowned. “That’s so inefficient.”

“That’s how diplomats live,” Wingwolf said. “We aren’t expecting any trouble. You’ll be the personal guard and escort for the VIP, but overall security operations are already being handled on-site.”

“What are my duties, then?” Chrysalis asked, putting the scroll away.

“For the most part, you’re going to provide close, visible protection to the VIP. If anything happens, you’re going to be responsible only for her, not any of the other diplomats.” Wingwolf stopped as they got to a security checkpoint, the two guards standing by saluting and letting them pass to the secure section of the Canterlot airship docks.

“So just stick close to the VIP and keep her out of trouble,” Chrysalis said, shrugging. “Not that hard. Who is my mysterious new superior, anyway?”

“You’ll meet her onboard the Defiant,” Wingwolf said. He stopped at a gangplank. “And this is as far as I go. I wish you luck, Evocatus Chrysalis.” He saluted. A moment later, Chrysalis returned the gesture.

“Thanks, sir. I’ll bring her back home safe.”

“I’m holding you to that.”

Chrysalis walked around the ship. She hadn’t seen many airships, even in her time in Canterlot. They were rare even in most of Equestria, and Changelings had never developed the technology at all. From what little she understood, it used a matrix of spells similar to the ones that kept the weather factories of Cloudsdale from falling through the clouds,

The whole ship was small compared to the whale-like behemoths in the other docks. It was perhaps the size of a house, streamlined and sleek. It almost looked like some kind of pleasure boat or yacht, but...

She stopped and ran a hoof along the hull. It looked like simple oak, but the surface felt more like wrought iron, cold and hard.

“Ironwood beams sandwiching a layer of Orichalum,” said a voice behind Chrysalis. She stopped and turned to look. An older stallion stood there, watching her. Her eyes flickered up and down his form for a moment. Salt and pepper mane, the gray from age and not something he was born with. From his build and the scars just hidden under his coat, he practically screamed ‘Royal Guard’ even without a uniform.

Maybe he was retired. Chrysalis didn’t see any weapons, or sense a threat. Just expectation and a little bit of curiosity.

“They have some Ironwood weapons in Canterlot,” Chrysalis said. “It’s made from a type of tree from the Everfree, right? It has to be worked under high pressure and temperature, but it doesn’t burn and it’s almost as strong as steel.”

“Almost, but a lot lighter,” the stallion agreed.

“Just the Ironwood would cost more than some of those ships out there. Even the military battleships.” Chrysalis looked out across the dock. “Quite an expensive little boat.”

“I’m Stone Soup, Captain of the Defiant, and the only crew this little boat needs.” He held out a hoof. Chrysalis looked at it for a moment, then shook.

“Evocatus Chrysalis. So what’s the Orichalum part?”

“Magical gold. Only Celestia knows how to make it.”

“It’s armored with gold?!” Chrysalis recoiled.

“Not as heavy as it sounds, and practically invulnerable. Absorbs magical energy and impacts. The only problem is how much it costs.” Stone Soup nodded for her to follow him, and Chrysalis walked down to the lower deck with him.

“I bet. You could buy a kingdom for how much this ship is worth.” Chrysalis was a little sick. Sure, Equestria was rich compared to the Hive, but this was insane. How could they justify this kind of expense? Actually, that was a good question. “How can they justify this kind of expense?”

“They really didn’t tell you anything, did they?” Stone Soup asked, shaking his head. “Figures. Royal Guard SOP, don’t tell nopony nothin’.” He stopped in front of a door. “This is your cabin. Across the hall is the VIP. I sleep up top, behind the bridge. I’m just gonna leave you two to get acquainted.”

“You said that in an ominous way.”

“Yes I did.”

“Why did you say that in an ominous way?!”

“He’s just worried that you’ll get scared off like my last bodyguard.”

Chrysalis turned, slowly, as if too sudden of a motion would alert the predator behind her. The door to the VIP cabin had cracked open, and Cadance stood behind her, smiling.

“I tried to set him up with Captain Soup, but they just kept denying that it was a perfect pairing.” Cadance sighed. “I just know he and Flash would have gotten along, but they were torn apart by duty and the pressures of society!” She swooned, raising a hoof to her forehead and leaning against the doorframe.

“I told you, I’m straight!” Captain Soup yelled from abovedecks.

“That’s just an excuse,” Cadance said, somewhere between teasing and a pout. “They’re in denial. Which only makes it so much cuter!” She leaned towards Chrysalis. “I’m pretty sure they still send letters to each other.”

“I can see why your last guard had a nervous breakdown,” Chrysalis muttered.

“Speaking of which,” Cadance said. “You’re not exactly the tall, dark stallion I ordered, but I suppose you’ll do.” She giggled. “I’m kidding! Your face was so- so-” She laughed.

“Promise me that you’re not going to try and set me up with a yak,” Chrysalis said, flatly.

“There aren’t any promises in love,” Cadance said, turning around. “Come on in. We need to get caught up!”

“...so I picked him up and threw him over the wall without even using magic, and he starts screaming before he even lands!” Chrysalis laughed, almost spilling the tea she was holding. “It was great. He didn’t complain about how hard it was to fly in armor after that.”

“That’s so awful,” Cadance said, trying to sound like she disapproved despite her smile. “The drill instructors are supposed to do that, not other recruits.”

“We were graded on our time as a team,” Chrysalis said. “From the time the first recruit set off until the moment the slowest crossed the finish line. It was his fault we had to run extra laps almost every day, and I was getting annoyed.”

“What about constructive criticism?” Cadance suggested.

“Too much effort,” Chrysalis said, dismissively. “I want to be judged on my own merits, not get held back by expectations on another pony.”

“I do understand that,” Cadance said, her smile fading. “Celestia has been the only Princess here for a thousand years. If I try and do anything that she wouldn’t, either ponies think I’m a poor substitute or…”

“Or they have nervous breakdowns?” Chrysalis grinned. She didn’t have fangs at the moment, but it was toothy enough even without them.

Cadance stuck out her tongue. “Or that. I’m the Princess of Love! More or less, anyway. I should be allowed to help ponies get together!”

“Maybe I should be asking your advice on how to get together with Shining Armor,” Chrysalis wiggled her eyebrows. “Assuming you don’t already have him paired up with some damsel in distress somewhere.”

“He’s almost as much of a black hole as you are,” Cadance said, shrugging. “Well, more like a brick wall. He’s a big, happy, stallion, and I don’t think he’s going to understand romance until he finds something he loves more than fried food, hoofball, and marching around in platemail. Maybe he’s changed now that he’s in the Guard. But you’d know about that more than I would, right?”

Chrysalis considered the question.

“I don’t really know for sure,” she started. “We were in different camps, so I didn’t get to train with him.” Which was an awful waste, really. It would have been so easy to manipulate her way into his bunk.

“I can see the look on your face,” Cadance teased. “You were thinking of playing around in the mud with him~”

“Princess,” Chrysalis coughed, trying to hide a blush. It was much more difficult to hide on a white coat than black chitin, especially while maintaining a disguise. “Basic training wasn’t just playing around in the mud. It was difficult.” Not for a changeling, of course, but it would have been difficult for a pony.

“So what kind of training does my new bodyguard have? Parade formations? Armor maintenance?”

“Well, we learned hoof-to-hoof combat…”

“Recruit! Did you just attempt to tear out your CQC partner’s throat with your teeth?” the drill instructor snapped.

“Well, um…” Chrysalis stammered. It hadn’t worked very well with flat pony teeth instead of fangs. She spat out the hair in her mouth and looked down at the pony she’d pounced on. After the mock combat had started she’d sort of blanked out for a moment and let her predatory nature take over.

“Ugh, it’s like a giant hickey!” the stallion complained, rubbing at his neck.

“Excellent work!” the drill instructor said. “That’s using your instincts!”

“That must have been hard for you,” Cadance said. Chrysalis raised an eyebrow. Cadance immediately started backpedaling on that. “I just mean you’re not the sort of mare- you’re not a big musclebound-” she groaned. “I’m going to stop before dig myself in so deep I hit Tartarus.”

“It wasn’t as hard as you might think,” Chrysalis said, amused by Cadance’s embarrassment. She was starting to feel more in control. “The worst part was the food.”

“Really? I didn’t think the Guard mess hall was that bad.”

“Oh, you’d be surprised at what you have to do to get by…”

Silver Shield shivered at morning roll call, feeling anemic and drained.

“Good morning~” Chrysalis said, as she trotted up to stand next to her. She looked far too rested and happy for such an early start.

“Mmph…” Silver Shield said. Sort of said. It wasn’t a word, but it did manage to convey all sorts of information.

“Didn’t sleep well?” Chrysalis asked. “Don’t tell me you’re having nightmares again.”

Silver Shield shuddered at that and nodded. Every night, the same dream. A wonderful date with her coltfriend, and then an awful, draining sensation like her dreams were being sucked right out of her. It was bad enough that she would have already dropped out of training if not for her bunkmate, Chrysalis, encouraging her to keep going.

“That’s too bad. I had a great night!” Chrysalis said. She licked her lips. “Delicious.”

“I’m just glad I get to have you as my personal guard,” Cadance said. She nibbled at a cucumber sandwich and looked up at Chrysalis. “I wanted to see how you were doing since we last met.”

“We barely even met before,” Chrysalis said.

“I know! Such a waste!” Cadance sighed. “It wasn’t like I could forget, though. I can’t feel you, and that’s just so strange…”

Chrysalis reached out with a hoof and gently prodded her shoulder. “You seem solid enough.”

“That’s not what I mean and you know it,” Cadance giggled. “I mean I can’t sense your emotions.” She saw the confusion on Chrysalis’ face and continued, completely mistaking the source of the Guard’s bewilderment. “I can usually feel the emotions of the ponies around me. Love, happiness, joy… and sometimes sadness, or anger, or hate.”

Cadance stuck out her tongue, disgusted. Chrysalis could sympathize. Negative emotions tasted terrible.

“I don’t feel anything from you, though,” Cadance continued. “It’s the strangest thing. You’re so mysterious! Did you have some kind of special training?”

“All kinds of special training,” Chrysalis said, amused. “I am a Guard, after all. We’re trained to resist interrogation. Even from a pretty pink pony Princess.”

“I meant before that.” Cadance tried to hide a blush. “Like when I saw you in the park that first time, I couldn’t read your emotions then. It was like, um…” She tried to think of a good metaphor for it. “It was like finding a quiet spot in a noisy room. It’s hard to block out the feelings I get from other ponies.”

She took off her crown, looking at the gems.

“Celestia made this herself to help me deal with it. It doesn’t block emotions entirely, but it makes things more bearable for a while. Otherwise I start to get an awful headache. Canterlot is just too full of ponies with too many dreams and feelings.”

“Do you ever turn it off?” Chrysalis asked.

“Sometimes. Especially at night when ponies are sleeping.” She paused. “Or at least sleeping together.” She giggled.

“Cute,” Chrysalis snorted.

“Anyway, the point is, I can’t just feel you out. I can’t cheat.” Cadance put her empty teacup down. “I want to get to know you the old fashioned way, and this is a great opportunity for it!”

“I’m not that easy to get to know.” Chrysalis finished her tea. “Thank you for the tea, Princess Cadance. I need to get my bunk settled before we set off.”

“I’ll let you escape this time.” Cadance stood, and Chrysalis stood with her. Learning proper social protocol had been the hardest part of her training. It wasn’t easy going from being nearly at the top to almost all the way at the bottom (according to the drill instructors, the pecking order went roughly like this - the recruits, the dirt on the instructor’s hooves, the drill instructor, and then Celestia herself, because they didn’t answer to anypony else.)

Chrysalis got to the door before Cadance spoke up again.

“It’ll be a long trip. I’ll get some answers out of you eventually.”

“You can try,” Chrysalis muttered.

“Three years of basic training to sit on a boat as far away from Canterlot as possible,” Chrysalis muttered, as she looked out over the railing. There was an ocean of trees below them, slowly changing from broad-leafed trees to the pines and firs of the north. They weren’t far enough north of Equestria proper to see snow, yet.

The prospect of that scared her, a little. Changelings usually didn’t do so well in the cold. They’d hold up well enough with a disguise, of course, but it was very unpleasant. Back at the hive, it had almost never gotten cold enough for still water to freeze. Until her training in Canterlot she’d never even seen snow.

She hadn’t expected it to be puffy and white and soft. Then again, it had been made by ponies. They loved fluffy things.

“You could also take it another way,” Stone Soup said. Chrysalis jumped a little in surprise, so absorbed in her own thoughts that she hadn’t even felt him coming. He leaned on the railing next to her. “They trust you enough to take care of a Princess on your own. That’s a pretty big responsibility.”

“I know,” Chrysalis frowned. “It just isn’t what I expected.” She should have been happy about it. That kind of trust was exactly what she wanted. The kind of thing an infiltrator would be willing to kill for.

“It’s a little too late to back out now, unless you know a spell that’ll let you sprout wings.” Stone Soup pulled a flask from his jacket, sipping from it. “Long way down and a long way that direction until we stop again.” He gestured towards the bow.

“You might be surprised!” Chrysalis smirked. “I know a lot of spells.” That was only partly a lie. As a royal changeling, she certainly had more tricks up her sleeves than most of her kind, but a real unicorn battle mage had much more versatility.

“I wouldn’t expect anything less from someone the Princess picked out herself,” Stone Soup agreed. He held up the flask. “Drink?”

“What?” Chrysalis blinked.

“Vodka. All they drink in Stalliongrad. Better to get used to the taste now so you don’t make a fool of yourself when you end up drinking with the locals.” He took another sip himself. “Made from potatoes, apparently. Tastes like Tartarus, but it does keep the cold away.”

“That’s not what I mean,” Chrysalis growled. “Cadance said she wasn’t expecting me. She didn’t pick me out.”

“I misspoke. Advanced age and all that.” He held out the flask again. Chrysalis took it angrily, sipping at it and almost spitting it right out. “Warned you about the taste. But what I meant was, it’s not normal for somepony fresh out of basic to get an assignment like this. Usually they stick them with experienced guards first, kind of make sure they get banged into shape before they can develop bad habits on duty.”

“I must have impressed them.” The second sip went down easier, now that she was expecting it. It did make her feel warm inside. Almost like love.

“I’ll say,” Stone Soup agreed. He took the flask back and put it away. “When I said the Princess picked you out, I meant Princess Celestia. Apparently she gave the approval for the transfer herself. You’ve got friends in high places.”

“That’s impossible,” Chrysalis snorted. “I never even met her. The closest I’ve come was saluting on graduation day, and I wasn’t even in the first row.”

“Well, she does work in mysterious ways,” Stone Soup shrugged. “You know, you might fit in pretty well in Stalliongrad. Been there a few times myself. They’ve all got that same kind of lean and hungry look you do.”

Chrysalis smiled at that. “You have no idea.”

A week. A week without touching the ground. Trapped in a small space with a Princess and an old codger that still managed to sneak up on her. Worst of all, she was starting to experience what cold weather could do to a frail pony body.

“ACHOO!” Chrysalis sneezed, snorting and wiping her nose. She looked up hatefully at the grey clouds overhead. The gray sea below. The flurries of snow falling between the two. She hated all of it quite a bit.

“Careful or you’re going to catch a cold,” Cadance said, as she stepped out on deck. Chrysalis glared at her. The princess didn’t seem even a little chilly, while Chrysalis was wrapped up in her thin blanket. The scratchy wool provided the same amount of protection against the cold as would some happy thoughts, and Chrysalis was fresh out of those.

“I’ve already got plenty of cold,” Chrysalis retorted. “I’m not trying to catch anything.”

“I mean you’ll get sick.” Cadance sat down next to her. “There’s not much to look at out here, you know. Besides you, anyway.”

“Isn’t that enough?” Chrysalis raised an eyebrow.

“Oh, definitely. You might be the most attractive mare for miles around.”

“I’d be flattered if we weren’t over open water.”

“You can be flattered anyway,” Cadance assured her. “But I did mean it when I said it was cold out here. Unicorns don’t handle the cold as well as a pegasus like me.” She blushed. “Um, former pegasus. You know what I meant.”

“Are you worried I’m going to be jealous of you because you’re an alicorn?” Chrysalis asked, faintly amused, as she felt a thin thread of worry from the princess. She looked at Cadance, turning her attention from the weather to the pink pony next to her. The princess looked almost ashamed.

“When I first came to Canterlot, my being an alicorn… it caused a lot of problems. The nobility all seemed convinced I was going to ruin the nation, everything I did ended up in the papers, and then there was Sunset Shimmer…”

“Who?” Chrysalis tilted her head.

“She was Celestia’s student. They had a falling out because she thought I was going to take her place. They got into an argument and she just vanished.” Cadance fidgeted on the seat, playing her her long mane for a moment. “Twilight and her family were the only ones who really treated me like a normal pony.”

“Luckily for you, I’ve been told repeatedly that I don’t show nearly enough respect or deference to my betters,” Chrysalis said, smiling. “And I won’t get jealous. Believe me.” She did, after all, have both wings and a horn in her natural form.

She sneezed, ruining the moment they were having. She was starting to hate the way that ponies managed to secrete slime from the least useful orifices for it.

“Well, you might get jealous after this,” Cadance said, spreading her wings. She wrapped one around the shivering pony next to her. “Pegasus down is waterproof, warm, and extremely comfortable.”

“It’s also usually difficult to get without a pegasus complaining about it,” Chrysalis noted. “They don’t seem to like being plucked.” She instinctively moved closer to the warmth. It was pretty comfortable. Ponies definitely made better pillows than any of the changelings at the hive. Maybe she could be a little jealous of Cadance’s wings after all.

“You’re so awful,” Cadance laughed.

Chrysalis snorted, half with laughter and half with phlegm, and they watched the sea for a while in silence.

“Anypony ever told you that you pace a lot?” Stone Soup asked, as he watched Chrysalis on what had to be her tenth lap of the night around the deck.

“I don’t like being confined,” Chrysalis said. “I’ve been stuck on this boat for days. Even in Canterlot I could get away for a while and go for a walk around the woods or the city streets. There’s not even anything to look at except for you and the Princess, and no offense, but you’re definitely the worse of those two options.”

“I’m surprised you’re not spending time in her cabin, then,” Stone Soup chuckled.

“She’ll probably start asking about my family again,” Chrysalis muttered. “I’m getting tired of telling her that I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Can’t blame her too much. She was an orphan, after all,” Stone Soup shrugged. He joined Chrysalis as she passed him, walking around the deck with her. She slowed a bit to let him keep pace more easily.

“What happened to your leg?” Chrysalis asked.

“Hm?” Stone Soup glanced at his left front leg. “Just because you’ve got those long noodles you call legs doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me for bein’ a little slow in my old age.”

“You’re limping,” Chrysalis said. “And trying to hide it. Badly.” Changelings had a natural eye for body language. Sometimes it was the only way to tell friend from foe.

“I wouldn’t be much of a soldier if I didn’t have a few scars for my troubles,” Stone Soup retorted. “Nothin’ much to tell, though.”

“Tell me,” Chrysalis pressed, feeling him trying to dodge the question. “What was it? Throwing yourself in front of a crossbow to save Celestia from an assassin? A wild timberwolf attack? Or maybe rescuing a foal from a burning building?”

“Pie,” Stone Soup said, flatly.

“I didn’t know pastries were so dangerous.”

“They are when they’re at the top of a long marble staircase because some idiot decided it was too much trouble to put it back on a damn table,” Stone Soup grumbled. “Wasn’t watching where I was going and I ended up with a compound fracture and covered in blueberry jam.”

“And they couldn’t fix that in the hospital?” Chrysalis frowned. She’d always assumed ponies had better medical technology than changelings. After all, they couldn’t just moult to make everything feel better.

“They probably could have until I found the idiot that left the pie on the stairs and punched him hard enough to make him spend a week in the trauma ward with me.” Stone Soup stopped to rub at his shoulder. “Never did quite heal right after that. Chipped somethin’ in my shoulder joint.”

“I bet you regret it.” Chrysalis stopped. He didn’t seem like he really wanted to keep up, and she would feel awkward trying to have a conversation if he was standing still.

“Don’t be silly. Some ponies deserve to be socked in the snout.” He grinned. “Last thing you want is to get old and full of regrets."

“I don't regret anything I've done,” Chrysalis said, turning away.

“Sometimes it's worse with the things you didn't do,” Stone Soup shrugged.

“Don't be silly,” Chrysalis shot back, over her shoulder. “I already know what I want, and I just have to wait for the right moment to get him- I mean, to get it.” She looked over the railing, her expression falling. “I think.”

Author's Note:


Anyway, some notes. Ironwood is a relatively rare material, if only because the places where it grows naturally tend to resist any sort of intrusion, and it has never been cultivated successfully. It's most often used in making polearms, as branches are easier to work than trying to make boards out of the trunk.

Orichalcum is an extremely rare material. Royal Guard armor is colored gold because it used to be made of the stuff, back when the force was small enough and they saw enough combat to make it worthwhile. These days, Royal Guard armor is mostly just gold-plated.

Orichalcum is all but indestructible by normal means, with the main weakness being that it needs to release the force and energy it absorbs, typically along the edges of plates made of it. This means that Orichalcum items need to be made in as few pieces as possible, because they'll literally tear themselves apart at the seams if they get hit too hard. The plates tend to be undamaged, though, so once you hose the blood off, hey can be reassembled with little difficulty.

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