• Published 18th Jun 2018
  • 361 Views, 11 Comments

Faint Glimmer - SoloBrony



The final sidestory to The Queen and I. Are you sure you want to read this?

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Respect...

Everypony in this hive is crazy!

I was still fuming as I made my way out of the antechamber, muttering to myself and gesturing at no one in particular.

She couldn't have at least said, 'Oh, by the way, Twilight, I'm going to kill one of my subjects to assert my authority and make it look like you approve of my actions, but don't worry about it, he'll get better'?! I thought I was going to have a heart attack (even though I am in excellent cardiac health and that makes no sense from a medical standpoint)! Small miracle Sessar and his family aren't up here screaming about—

I paused in my mental rant when I heard approaching voices echoing through the halls.

"And that's when she brought you back."

"Wow. Sounds like I, ah, missed the best part."

"Hah! You know, it's rude to sneak a dirt-nap in while the queen is giving a speech, Sess! Bet you're being summoned to come apologize."

"Yeah, yeah."

Two changelings rounded the corner, chatting amicably. While all of the changelings had donned a uniform, bald appearance for the ceremony, they now had hair out and proud, matching their eyes. The one on the left had a distracting neon-green short cut that seemed perpetually in his face, but I fixated on the blue-eyed, blue-mohawked (can that be a word?) changeling on the right.

That's Sessar! Why would he be back up here?! WHY ARE THEY SO JOVIAL ABOUT HIM DYING?! WHY IS EVERYONE HERE (INCLUDING CELESTIA!) SO INSANE RIGHT NOW?!

The two of them glanced in my direction and caught me gawking, and I quickly straightened myself out and cleared my throat as regally as possible. They both paused and gave short, courteous bows, as Sessar greeted me.

"Ah, Princess Twilight. It's good to see you. What did you think of the queen's speech?"

My jaw clenched itself open and shut several times as I struggled to figure out how to handle this like a proper diplomat, rather than simply bursting into flame and venting my fury on all in my path. I finally managed to carve something resembling a smile and wrench out a vague response.

"I'm still figuring out how to feel about it."

The two changelings rose, and Sessar's green-eyed companion elbowed him in the ribs with a smirk.

"You musta spoiled it for her by gettin' whupped so easy, Sess!"

Sessar frowned at his companion and gestured towards me as he spoke.

"Lellan, she's clearly upset. Now's not the time for jests."

He turned back towards me, taking a few steps, and his gaze softened as he spoke further.

"Princess, please feel free to speak frankly with us. Nothing you say need leave this chamber, but we so rarely hear an Equestrian perspective here, and it is vital that we understand our new allies if we're to have mutual respect and cooperation. I ask you honestly... what did you think?"

I was taken aback by his attitude, but I collected myself quickly. I dropped my fake smile, and took a long, deep breath, letting it out in a long sigh while I collected my thoughts.

"I'm upset. I don't even know if I'm being entirely fair, but... in Equestria, we would never have done something like that. Hurting one of our own subjects, issuing ultimatums, it all came off as a horrible thing to do, terrorizing her own subjects. Cecily – er, Queen Chrysalis – and I are friends, but I've never seen her act that way before, and I just don't know how to mesh it with the protective mare I met. I don't even know how you can stand to be here after what she did – I'd expect you, or your family, or someling to be outraged!"

It's strange to be complimenting Queen Chrysalis on being too kind and gentle for something, but HERE WE ARE!

Both of the changelings were silent. Lellan seemed worried, looking between us, but Sessar merely seemed contemplative. He rubbed at his chin with a hoof, and then spoke, his voice surprisingly delicate.

"Princess, would you care to hear my thoughts?"

I nodded eagerly, hopeful to gain some insight into this whole mess. Sessar set his hoof down and drew a sharp breath before speaking.

"The queen gave me the chance to correct my mistake. She reversed the damage I had inadvertently caused, and she did so in a way that gave confidence to all of us in her abilities. I would gladly have given my life to bring that closure to my fellows – that she found a way to spare me without cheapening the message was a testament to her wisdom and compassion for us."

I chewed over my lip, and considered debating him, but decided against it.

"Thank you for sharing your perspective, Keko-Sessar."

He smiled at me and bowed courteously again.

"My pleasure, princess. And thank you for yours."

The two changelings continued on their progress up the Spire, while I just stood there, dumbfounded.

How could he feel it was appropriate for her to use him as an example, to hurt him... just for speaking his mind about her health?! It's like everyling is brainwashed! There's nothing fair about that!

As I continued descending the Spire, I felt an anxiety growing that Equestria and Hive Chrysalis could never truly culturally integrate.

Are the differences between us too vast? Is the hive too sick for harmony to really take root here? Friendship and harmony are universal... right?

I had just worked myself into an existential lather, passing by countless rooms and changelings. All voices were turned to the topic of the speech, though I only caught bits and pieces of conversations. It was only when I heard a mare crying I stopped, and found myself inching closer to a door despite the impropriety of it. I heard two voices – one faint and tinged by the watery timbre of weeping, and the other clear and strong.

"Do you really mean that?"

"Absolutely. Sweetie, we've been living here for a while, now. I understand what it's like – what she was trying to do. Most ponies probably wouldn't be able to relate, but you didn't marry me for narrowmindedness."

"Thank you..."

I heard some shuffling on the other side, and kept mentally berating myself for eavesdropping while being unable to tear myself away.

That voice... is that Stargazer? Our ambassador to the changelings? Explains why she's in the Spire, but why is she crying?

"Oh, sweetie. Were you really that worried I would take it badly?"

"Yes! But that's not all. Just... what she did there brought up so many bad memories. Of what things were like before, the way previous queens dealt with dissent, the problems that permeate this place... I've been in Equestria so long I'd put it out of my mind. Those old wounds don't heal easily, and I just don't... I didn't want you to see any of that."

I heard sniffling and rustling for a while before Stargazer spoke up again.

"I'm so sorry my home is so screwed-up."

"Oh, sweetie! Don't talk like that. I'm happy that we're here – you remember why we chose to leave Equestria, don't you? Camaraderie. That simple sense of respect between people, everyone doing their part... it just wasn't there in Canterlot. I may get my share of strange looks and shy changelings, but I was shocked that not a single 'ling has had even a single cross word to say about my teaching positions at the academy or university."

"Of course they wouldn't! You do a great job – and besides, that was the queen's territory, appointing you. Everyling knows she has good judgement, and besides, why would anyling bother you for doing your part in the hive?"

"But do you think a changeling wouldn't get a hard time if they went around foals in Equestria?"

"I... guess they would, yeah."

"That respect Chrysalis was talking about... that's what I've been missing. My colleagues at the university here take my work seriously – they take pride in working with me! You've got nothing to apologize for or feel ashamed of, Starry. I've been happy here."

"Heh... it figures. I think that speech was for the benefit of the Equestrians in the audience. Everyling knows that stuff by heart already."

"Well it worked! I sure am glad she took the time to spell out her meaning, if only for our sakes."

The two went silent for a short while, and I almost broke away from the door when I heard Stargazer speak up again, voice still soft.

"I still can't believe Chrysalis sprang a surprise like that in front of her entourage."

"You think their surprise was genuine? I figured it was all staged."

"No way. Infiltrators are trained to spot that stuff. I guess that's why she did it that way; we could all see their reactions were genuine, but none of them stopped her. That made a big statement. She really is in charge."

"Yeah... I love and respect the princesses, but I don't think they'd know how to run this place."

"Were you surprised when she brought Sessar back?"

"Not really. I mean, we know what she's all about. She's an Equestrian at heart, at least as much as anypony."

"I... for a second, I didn't think so. I thought..."

"You thought she was turning into her mom?"

I heard a choked sob, and backed away from the door. I put some distance between myself and the corridor, and found myself standing in a hallway, gazing out at the clusters from a huge window. I stood there for a few minutes, just thinking things over.

There's so much pain, here. I wonder how much more is waiting to be unearthed, with all the secret-keeping that goes on in this place. But, there's also a lot of beauty here – not the type I'm used to looking for, but a kind of harmony all its own. At least... she's trying. She's trying, and she understands this place better than I do.

I took a bracing breath, and leapt out of the window, spreading my wings. I began ascending the Spire quickly.

My friend needs me.

It didn't take me long to reach the top. I perched in a window near Cecily's office and spotted Iqqel speaking with some of the Caste representatives. I waited patiently, and it wasn't long before she spotted me and flew over.

"You need something?"

Her brusque tone made me wince, but I knew her irritation was justified.

"I-I... wanted to apologize to Cecily for my outburst."

Iqqel just buzzed in place for a second, like a stuck machine. Her purple eyes bore into me until she finally blinked and adjusted her glasses, seeming flustered.

"Oh. Well. I believe she's free. Go ahead."

Iqqel made a slightly-faster-than-necessary retreat to her other duties, and I sighed as I crossed to Cecily's office doorway.

I wish that hadn't surprised her so much... it's not that strange that I'd want to apologize for something, is it?

I was still mentally evaluating whether I had been arrogant in the hive when I entered the office. I saw Cecily embracing Sessar, who seemed a bit unsure what to do with himself.

"I'm so, so sorry. I never wanted to hurt you. You know that, right?"

Sessar's knit brows and forced smile told me he had no idea how to handle this situation.

"I, er, certainly, my queen. Really, really, no apology is necessary. I am thankful that you gave me the chance to—"

"An apology is necessary! You're not expendable. None of you are expendable. Please don't ever think of yourself that way, please don't think I think of you that way. I know you understand why I did it, but... please, if just for my sake, understand that I didn't want to hurt you."

I just stood there awkwardly, glancing around the office like I was afraid someone would judge me.

Dangit, I don't want to eavesdrop again, but I'm not sure if I should interrupt!

"My queen, my only regret in your actions is that they brought you such distress. I am a soldier. Facing some temporary fear is the least of my concerns in service to the hive."

Starting to see why he's regarded so highly as a soldier. Talk about unwavering focus on commitment.

The entire spectacle was just making me feel worse about my own position in things, and I finally stepped forward and cleared my throat. Cecily's ears shot up and she released Sessar immediately, blushing furiously.

"Oh! Er, who's there? Iqqel—no, not Iqqel..."

I smiled uneasily at Sessar, who seemed relieved to have been released, and looked back to Cecily before speaking. Her eyes searched the area around me, like she was trying to pick me out in a dark room.

"It's me—er, that is, it's Twilight."

"Oh."

Cecily's ears drooped, and she curled back a little. I strode forward and gently placed a hoof on her shoulder.

"Cecily, I came to apologize. My reaction was..."

Misguided? No... rude? No...

I found myself at a loss for words for a moment. I glanced at Sessar, and he just shrugged helplessly. I took a deep breath.

"... wrong, I guess. You had just gone through a really difficult, painful... thing, doing your best for your people, and I should have trusted you and been more respectful. I'm sorry."

Cecily looked up in response, her face twisted in pain and confusion. She seemed to be trying to make eye contact just a little left of my face.

"No! I mean, I understood your reaction, it made sense. I'm still not sure what I did was right, I just, I thought... it seemed like the best... I don't know."

"Cecily, at the very least, your speech helped me to recognize something I hadn't before. I see a beauty here that I wouldn't have, otherwise. And... yeah, okay, the bit with Sessar freaked me out a lot. But I understand that there's still a lot of... pain here. There are wounds that run deep, and they don't heal in a day. A lot is changing, and you had to make sure everyling knew what was going to stay the same, give them a point of their culture to focus on preserving. It's not how I would have handled it, but that's why I'm not in charge here. Cecily, whatever you need to do, I'm going to be here for you. I needed to make sure you still knew that."

I found myself tearing up at the end of my little speech despite myself. Cecily pulled me into a hug, and we just stayed that way for a few seconds before Sessar's voice reached us.

"Pain, huh. That's a good way to put it. You really had a change of heart, huh, Princess?"

I gently broke from Cecily and nodded to him.

"Yeah... Astra set me straight, heh."

Cecily perked up at that.

"Astra's been a godsend at the academy. She really does understand our culture so easily. I'm glad we had her to represent us to you."

I immediately flushed and looked around a bit nervously.

"Oh, er, she didn't... she wasn't really aware I was listening. I just caught the conversation while passing by."

Sessar made an appreciative sturgeon expression and nodded.

"Covert intel-gathering to assess the situation and make your next move. You ponies keep impressing me."

Both Cecily and I looked at him (or approximately in his direction) with mystified expressions. He glanced around nervously and smiled unconvincingly.

"Oh, er... I think I'll leave you two be, your majesties."

As he beat a hasty retreat, Cecily and I shared a discreet chuckle at his expense. Cecily sighed as she leaned back on her couch.

"He's always been a bit stiff around authority figures. But, Twilight, thank you for coming back up here to tell me that. It means a lot."

"I wouldn't be much of a Princess of Friendship if I didn't. I guess it was always easy for me to just think of the hive as... sick, I guess. Needing to be cured by Equestria. I mean, I wanted to understand your culture and customs, but in the back of my mind—"

"We were always the ones who invaded Canterlot, terrified everypony, and nearly cost you everything."

I nodded, then realized the gesture was pointless and sighed.

"Yeah. I'm sorry. I kept thinking that just couldn't happen in a society that understood harmony, which was what led to the whole friendship duplicate thing. Things are a lot more complicated than that."

Cecily nodded, frowning.

"I was always a bit of a misfit around here as a nymph. I related to Equestrian culture much more deeply, and some of that persists even now. I want to lead my people to a better future, but sometimes I feel almost as lost as you. I finally had to accept that, if I'm going to continue being queen... I need to be able to speak in terms my people understand. Even as I try to bring change, I need to speak to the concerns that exist in the moment. My subjects need to know I respect them."

Respect... in the end, I guess that was what the whole speech was about. Commanding respect from her subjects, assuring them of respect in turn... so everyling can live in harmony.

"And if we're going to move forward as shared cultures and kingdoms, we need to respect each other, too. I guess that's why I'm here right now; I want you to know that I respect you, even when I disagree with you or I'm upset. Ponies should know about all of the things worth admiring here in the hive."

Cecily nodded, and for a few moments we shared a simple, companionable silence. Then I realized I had screwed up something very important.

"Cecily, that concert you're planning. Would it be alright to have a Wonderbolt opening act?"