“I see you've made it at last,” sneered Queen Chrysalis, stalking out of the shadows of the cavern. “I can't begin to tell you how happy it makes me that you said 'yes' to my proposal.”
“Chrysalis...” growled Twilight through clenched teeth, “I don't know what you're planning or what your scheme is here, but we're not going to let you get away with it!”
“Ah, yes, you and your little friends.” Chrysalis peered through the strands of her hair at the five determined ponies surrounding the alicorn. “I suppose I'll have to do something about them before we get to the fun part, hmm?”
She gestured with one hoof, and Twilight fell back in shock as all of her friends burst into flames. She recoiled further, when she saw the fire was green and realized what was actually happening to them.
Chittering and laughing, the five changelings that had entered the cave with her jumped into the air and buzzed away down a tunnel.
Chrysalis let out a full-throated chuckle. “Remember when you tripped on that suspiciously well-placed branch and rolled down a hill into a bush? You found your friends when you came out of your side of the bush... but your friends found another Twilight on their side. Isn't shape-shifting wonderful?”
“If you hurt them–!”
“Now, why would I do something like that?” Chrysalis pouted. “It's a shame you waited so long to tell them where you were going and why, though. They don't even know you're here. On the plus side, changeling K85-348IL–sorry, I mean their dear, longtime friend Twilight Sparkle–is now treating them to quite a wonderful picnic. Your future, however, is going to be a lot less pleasant!”
Twilight sent a blast of magic towards the Queen, but she had already faded away, back into the shadows.
Twilight panted, stumbling forward through the green-tinged darkness of the tunnels.
She had made the mistake of playing Chrysalis's game and charging after her in pursuit, instead of retreating to the entrance of the cave. Now she was well and truly lost, and to make matters worse this wasn't merely a cave–it was a full-fledged changeling hive, and she was trapped in its depths. None of the drones had interfered yet, but it was only a matter of time until–
The beam of green magic came from her left side, and only her years of training let her get a shield up in time to deflect it. But that had only been a feint, and the real attack, a charging changeling Queen, came from her other side.
Dash's self-styled 'combat practice' hadn't been for nothing, though–despite how much it had resembled recreations of scenes from the pony-fu movies the pegasus likes so much. Twilight ducked, causing the large Queen to stumble over her and go sprawling across the cavern floor. She was quick with a shield as well, throwing it up in Twilight's direction even as she tumbled, but that hadn't been an attack spell the alicorn was casting.
With a flash, Twilight appeared above Chrysalis, and then let loose an enormous burst of magical power right into the surprised changeling's face, blasting her back across the floor in the direction she'd initially charged from.
“Not so smug now, are... you...” Twilight trailed off as she approached the Queen's prone body, the green flames that danced around it parting to reveal an unconscious changeling drone. “No–!”
She barely had time to protest before tendrils of green magic wrapped around her body, draining her strength and magic. With a fading cry she collapsed to the ground, and Chrysalis coalesced out of the darkness behind her.
“All done!” she said cheerfully, a large smile on her face. “Well, except for one... last... thing.”
Twilight hardly had the strength to watch out of the corner of one eye as Chrysalis's head descended, mouth grinning wider and opening to expose her fangs, and finally she turned away. She didn't want to be watching her murderer as the deed was done, anyway.
Unfortunately, there was nothing she could do about her other senses. She felt Chrysalis's breath, hot on her neck... felt the changeling's teeth on her throat... felt the jaws begin to tighten, fangs starting to pierce her veins...
Felt Chrysalis draw back, after putting hardly enough pressure on her neck to dimple the skin.
Confused, Twilight lay there, curling into a ball, trying to protect herself, as Chrysalis lay down next to her, leaning heavily against her body and starting to... groom her coat?
“I don't know how you ponies can live with all this fur,” chuckled Chrysalis, her hoofs working out the mud and other gunk that had adhered to Twilight's coat during the battle. “I'm not complaining about how soft and smooth it is, of course, but, well, give me good old chitin any day.”
Twilight lay there, submitting to the Queen's ministrations, mind racing as she tried puzzle out what was going on. Finally, on the basis that Chrysalis wasn't aggressive anymore, she decided to try and move away, only to be effortlessly scooped back into place by a holed hoof.
“Uh-uh, not done yet.”
A hoof gently teased Twilight's wing into stretching out, and she gasped as the Queen began to preen her feathers, nibbling along the length of each one and working the ones that had gotten bent during her tumble across the floor back into their proper places.
“W-what are you doing?” she asked timidly, then gasped again and felt her body involuntarily relax as a particularly damaged feather–one whose discomfort she hadn't noticed until it was gone–was carefully pulled out and discarded.
“I'm afraid you got a bit messy during the wedding ceremony just now,” said Chrysalis apologetically. “And I can't have my new wife go around looking disheveled, now can I?”
“Ah, I've been waiting for this day for so long.” Chrysalis paused her preening to look upward with far-off eyes. “Ever since I first saw you in Canterlot, while I was posing as Cadance, I've wanted you to be mine. No other pony there saw through my disguise, no one else was smart enough to figure it all out. That's why I abandoned my plan, and sent you down to Cadance to see what you would do. I mean, I could have just killed you on the spot!
“But you helped her escape those caves, you outwitted my bridesmaids, and you confronted me at the wedding. Even after finding out I was a Queen you didn't back down, defeating all those drones while trying to get to the Elements of Harmony. Impressive, even if they were under orders not to hurt you.
“And even after I captured you again, you still didn't give up, freeing Cadance and 'defeating' me. That was when I knew it was true love.”
Chrysalis giggled, resuming her preening of Twilight's wings. “I was impressed you knew about changeling courtship rituals. These last few years have been just... incredible. I kidnap your friend's sisters, you face me down in my castle and I act like your magic was able to hurt me so you can win... you lock me in the castle for 'a thousand years' as punishment, then pretend to fall for that silly trick with the book so I can 'escape'...”
“I didn't prete–!” Twilight's mind locked up, stuck between trying not to encourage Chrysalis and not wanting to admit she'd been fooled so easily.
“I'd heard stories and tales, but I never imagined I'd experience something so romantic until I met you. The constant battles, the fights for dominance, the carefully chosen verbal barbs hurled at each other every time we met... it was like a dream come true.
“I was looking forward to our next date so much, but then I thought, well, why wait? I knew there was only one pony who had a place in my heart. So I sent you that wedding proposal, and you accepted! Oh, I'm so happy!”
She let out a giddy giggle, nuzzling up against Twilight's head. Most of Twilight froze up at the sudden intimate contact with someone she thought of as her worst enemy, but part of her mind was still analyzing the situation and trying to figure things out.
Wedding proposal? What wedding proposal?! All she sent me was a letter challenging me to a final battle! It said–
My Dearest Twilight Sparkle,
Truly, I have enjoyed the time we have spent together. From the day we first met, I've been unable to think of anything but you...I can't get you out of my mind, I just want to wrap my hooves around you and squeeze, and never let go.
If you feel the same way I do, the way I know you do, then meet me at the location on the map I've sent with this letter. I hope to see you soon; I am eager to finish this and move on with our lives together.
Ooooohhhh. Oh sweet Celestia, none of that was sarcasm.
Twilight's train of thought was interrupted again as Chrysalis suddenly stood up.
“There we go, looking as beautiful as always!” The changeling smiled cheerfully. “I'd imagine you're pretty tired now, though. Come on, let's go to my–to our bedroom.”
At those words, Twilight's brain once again shorted out. The situation was made worse as Chrysalis turned and directed an expression at her that she'd never imagined she'd see from the changeling–one of worry and concern.
“Are you okay?” Chrysalis trotted over quickly, placing a hoof against the side of Twilight's head. “I didn't drain too much from you, did I? I knew I shouldn't take too much since you just became an alicorn, but I also knew that what would work for a normal pony wouldn't be enough so I tried for about halfway between the two, b-but if I really hurt you then–“
“N-no, I'm fine!” Twilight tried to stand up quickly, only to find herself wobbling. The spell actually had taken more out of her than she'd thought.
“I'm really sorry! Here, let me carry you.”
She tried to squirm as a green glow scooped her off the ground, but it was no use, and she was deposited on Chrysalis's back. Her green shell was surprisingly soft, like a rubber mat.
Chrysalis made her way through the tunnels, walking smoothly, hardly jostling Twilight at all. Embarrassed, she kept her head down, but lifted it when she noticed the hooves of other changelings as they passed by. Each changeling, she saw, was bowing their heads, and finally she tuned to Chrysalis.
“Why are all your changelings bowing?” she asked tremulously. “Do you always make them bow to you?”
Chrysalis chuckled, looking back at Twilight over her shoulder. “Of course not. For one thing, there is no need to make them bow when I can feel their respect and dedication to me through the hivemind. But they aren't bowing to me, they're bowing to you. After all, it's not every day they meet a new Queen.”
“A new–“ Twilight had to stick a hoof in her mouth to keep from screaming. As a form of distraction, she tried to list all the ways this was a complete and utter disaster. It was an odd way to calm herself down, but it worked.
Let's see, there's the hierarchy to think about first, she mused. If I'm still a member of the royalty of Equestria, but now I've become a Queen of the changelings, does that mean I outrank the other Princesses? Oh no, what if they think this is some kind of power grab, like when Luna tried to take over?! They might banish me to... to... well, Luna got banished to the moon, so I guess I would get banished to... friendship? How would that even work? I mean, I guess a literal interpretation of that would be to banish me to Ponyville, except that's not really a banishment and it's also the central seat of my power, so sending me there would be advantageous to me if anything, and–
Oh Celestia, I haven't even considered the political ramifications! If we really are married then that means our kingdoms have merged. It's been a while since I read up on the old feudal laws, but I think that means that Chrysalis's hive, being smaller, gets absorbed into Equestria, and–and now all the changelings are Equestrian citizens, and Chrysalis is a Princess as well, while still keeping her title and power over her lands, and-and-and...
And this is going to cause all kinds of trouble that I can't even imagine, she finished with a gulp.
“Here we are!” said Chrysalis happily, as they turned into a smaller tunnel and passed through an emerald-green curtain of silk. “Our little love nest.”
Twilight gulped again, and had to suppress a gag as well, but kept her head up, forcing herself to look around as they entered a twisted, depraved room that was–
Actually surprisingly normal. There was a bit of the usual green changeling slime around on the walls, and an overall theme that was a little too green in general for her tastes, but other than that... a bed, dressers and chests, various personal items and knick-knacks strewn about, bookshelves carved into the walls that were extremely well stocked, including a few books Twilight didn't even recognize that seemed to be changeling written–!
Twilight shook her head. She had other things to worry about, as Chrysalis lowered her back legs and let Twilight gently slide down onto her own hoofs.
“Are you alright now?” asked the Queen gently, and Twilight nodded, looking off to the side rather than meet the changeling's eyes. “Good. Give me a few minutes to put the hivemind into a resting state, and then we can go to bed.”
Chrysalis closed her eyes, horn glowing faintly. Thinking of the last words the Queen had said, Twilight considered trying to make a run for it while she was distracted, but gave the idea up after a bit of thought. A quick test had revealed the magic she currently had could only produce the faintest of glows from her horn; trying to escape through the hive's tunnels while relying on the low natural light they had would be a quick route to failure. And trying to do so while Chrysalis was in direct contact with the hivemind was probably an even worse idea. She'd have to wait for a better opportunity.
Looking around, she spotted what seemed to be a scrapbook sitting prominently on a table, and went over to have a look. Chrysalis hadn't specifically told her she could touch anything in the room, but, well, they were married now apparently, which meant it all belonged to Twilight as much as her.
On the cover was... her cutie mark. Twilight gulped again, for the third time in as many minutes, but opened the book with one hoof. She had to know.
The first page had a newspaper clipping. It was from the day of the wedding, about the defeat of the changeling Queen and the role Twilight herself had played in those events. Flipping through the book, Twilight found it mostly consisted of similar clippings, stories about Twilight and all the things she had accomplished–defeating Sombra, becoming a Princess–but most of all the ones about the various times Chrysalis and Twilight had clashed. Carefully, Twilight closed the book.
She didn't know how to react to this. Part of her wanted to shudder; this was like finding out you had a stalker, and they had been collecting pictures of you and keeping track of you without your knowledge. It made her feel creeped out, as though her privacy had been violated–despite everything in the book having coming from public publications.
On the other hoof... from everything Chrysalis had known, she had been in a fully reciprocated and completely normal–in her mind–relationship with Twilight. Keeping tabs on her, saving a record of her accomplishments, being proud of her... it was actually, almost, kind of, in a way... sweet.
And sad, Twilight realized. How lonely had Chrysalis been, separated from the one she loved, only able to keep track of her through stories in the newspaper? How excited had she been, every time she came up with some plan to bring them together, even if she knew it was only for the briefest of times?
Twilight did shudder now. Oh, Celestia help her, was she... was she actually feeling... empathy for Chrysalis?
“Are you ready for bed?” asked Chrysalis from behind her, making her jump.
“I, um, I, guess so?”
Chrysalis gave her a happy smile and moved around to the right side of the bed, while Twilight, eyes darting around nervously, seeking some way out, went to the left. Nothing presented itself, and she was forced to climb onto the bed–heart-shaped, of course–sliding on top of the silk sheets–green, of course. She turned around quickly once in place, facing away from where Chrysalis would be laying.
Twilight's breathing sped up as the large Queen climbed onto the bed, nearly causing her to roll back the other way. She cringed as Chrysalis snuggled against her back, spooning her from behind, but then relaxed, slightly, as the changeling seemed content to just lay there.
“Goodnight, my dear,” said Chrysalis softly, nearly whispering in Twilight's ear.
“Um, good... night?” replied Twilight. That was apparently enough, producing a happy sound from Chrysalis, and soon she seemed to be asleep. At the least she was dozing, breath even and steady, heart–hearts, actually, she has two like an alicorn, a detached part of Twilight noted–beating gently against Twilight's back.
For Twilight's part, there was no sleep coming. Far too much had happened in the last–had it even been an hour at this point? For having her entire world flipped upside down, more than an hour had to have passed. It felt like months, in any case.
Thoughts raced through her mind, chasing sleep off at every chance. Was Chrysalis serious about this? She sure seemed like it. Although there hadn't been much... physical contact, other than that nuzzle or two and the preening, and now spooning her in bed of course. Not that Twilight had been looking forward to consummating their relationship, although on the other hoof there was that morbid sense of curiosity she had sometimes–
One thought finally focused in her mind: escape. At the worst, should Chrysalis find Twilight had left her, and had in fact never loved her to begin with, things would go back to what Twilight had though of as normal. Actually, scratch that. At the worst, Chrysalis, brokenhearted, would seek vengeance, her determination and ruthlessness pushed beyond all previous bounds by the pain Twilight had caused her.
Between that and staying in bed with Chrysalis, Twilight decided to take her chances.
Carefully, she began to slide to the edge of the bed. Her magic was still weak, but Chrysalis had put the hivemind into a 'resting state', whatever that meant, and she should be able to sneak past them. Especially since they would just bow if they saw her.
She was almost off the bed when legs suddenly wrapped around her chest, crushing tight like steel bands and driving the air from her lungs. She struggled to breathe, but futilely, and finally gave up and slumped down to let the darkness take her.
When she did, she realized that most of the tightness in her chest had been caused by her panic, and the legs–holed legs, she noticed in the dim light–actually weren't even squeezing that much at all.
Chrysalis mumbled something sleepily, hugging Twilight even tighter and nestling her chin down on top of the alicorn's head, and Twilight puffed out her cheeks in annoyance and embarrassment as she realized she was being cuddled like a large stuffed animal.
Now she had no other options but to sleep, however unlikely that was. Despite everything, though, she began to doze off within a few minutes. There was something comforting about being held like this. And so, she finally gave in and let sleep claim her.