• Published 22nd Feb 2019
  • 989 Views, 37 Comments

Daring Do: The Opera - AlexTFish

Diamond Tiara is excited to have a starring role in Autumn Blaze's new opera. She knows the Opera House isn't haunted, but if it were, she'd be ready to give any Opera Spirit a stern talking-to.

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Act V: The Curtain Rises

Sweetie Belle peered cautiously out from backstage. She gulped and quickly ducked back to where her friends were waiting, her cat ears wobbling. “The place is packed! I haven’t seen so many ponies in one building since… since the royal wedding! And…” Sweetie frowned. “A lot of them are dressed up as Daring Do characters themselves.”

Autumn Blaze commented wryly, “Yeah, Daring Do fans can get quite obsessive sometimes, it turns out.”

Diamond Tiara stood up straight, the rainbow wig cascading down to the fake wings on her flanks. “Don’t worry. We’ll be fine. We all know our lines” – she glanced at Scootaloo, who nodded nervously – “so there’s nothing to worry about.” Why did it feel like she was trying to convince herself of that?

Sweetie Belle looked closely at her. “But you are still worried about something.” Again with the infuriating perceptiveness, Diamond Tiara thought. Sweetie continued, “Are you feeling nervous about all the ponies watching?”

“No, it’s not that. I like being the centre of attention, remember?” She cracked a brief smile, but then grew preoccupied again. “No, it’s… Something’s not right. I don’t know what. I should be feeling excited, or nervous about the performance, but… you’re right, I am worried, about something, but I don’t know what or why.”

Chestnut Magnifico laid a comforting wing across Diamond Tiara’s back. “I wouldn’t stress yourself about it. You’re going to be great and they’ll love us.”

“Thanks,” Diamond Tiara said with a small smile.

“Places, everypony!” Autumn Blaze hissed. The musicians started playing the overture, and the show began.

The Crusaders trotted off stage and gave each other a hoof bump. “Great job, guys!” Scootaloo murmured. “They seem to be loving it!”

Apple Bloom caught Diamond Tiara’s eye. “Now it’s your big wedding scene. Go for it!”

Diamond Tiara took a deep breath, and pranced onto the stage, her rainbow wig and ornate white dress flowing behind her. Looking out at the audience, she put on a besotted expression and chanted, “Where is my beloved Sphinx / She who is the most awesome one of all?”

The scene progressed just as in the rehearsals. Diamond Tiara as Rainbow Dash was hoofcuffed to Bon Bon playing the evil Sphinx, and led into the ancient temple where the wedding would take place. But Diamond Tiara couldn’t shake the growing feeling that something was wrong.

Chestnut stood at the back of the stage watching the wedding. At the appropriate time, when the spotlight focused on her she sang out Daring Do’s solo in captivating tones:

“Now the hour has come, now the moment is here:
Rainbow Dash will be wed to a creature of fear!
All the love in this room, but none of it meant for me…
They think this is right, but it’s horribly wrong – she’s evil, but none of them see!”

Diamond Tiara glanced at the audience. The ponies were watching Chestnut, spellbound, eyes wide, hanging on her every word.

“This should be a moment of love
But it’s twisted to fit with her evil design.
The villain arises, she’s claiming her power,
A shiver runs down your spine…”

Suddenly everything fell into place for Diamond Tiara. The dilated eyes of the audience, the sinister actions of the Opera Spirit, Chestnut’s obsession with making the show a huge success: it all made sense.

Diamond Tiara looked at Chestnut’s victorious smile, and broke from the script.

She shook her hoof free from the Sphinx’s grasp. Charging at Chestnut Magnifico, she yelled, “Changeling!”

In Box 4, a pegasus wearing thick-rimmed glasses and a shawl frowned and leaned forward. “Changelings? Seriously? They definitely weren't in any of my books!”

Chestnut’s eyes turned to Diamond Tiara in amused defiance. A sickly green telekinetic aura took hold of Diamond Tiara, freezing her in place. “Really? You challenge me now?”

A flash of green fire whirled around Chestnut, and when it retreated, a tall black insectoid form stood in her place, staring imperiously at the younger pony. Diamond Tiara recoiled involuntarily, dimly aware of gasps from the audience.

The changeling stamped a hoof and a trapdoor opened in the stage. She flared her wings as her horn glowed and dragged Diamond Tiara after her down into darkness.

In the massed ponies watching from the stalls, a white unicorn raised her eyebrows. “I must say, our dear thespians have laid on some excellent special effects, haven’t they?”

A cyan pegasus nodded. “That was a pretty convincing costume. I’ll have to ask Scoots who made it.” Scowling, she added, “I definitely want to talk to whoever decided I should be mind-controlled into getting married to a Sphinx. That was not awesome.”

“Oh, pish, darling. It makes for a dramatic story, and that’s the main thing. Hush, look, those adorable cats are coming on again!”

Diamond Tiara squinted, peering through the gloom. Dust motes filled the air, catching beams of light dimly filtering down from the stage above. What is this? Some kind of secret storeroom under the stage? She was still unable to move, suspended in the green field wielded by the creature who she had called Chestnut. Who now stood in front of her, smirking. Who she now realised was none other than...

"Chrysalis," she breathed. "You’re Queen Chrysalis."

Green light flared from a decayed-looking horn. “Very good,” murmured the Changeling Queen, grinning maliciously. “I’ve been impressed by you, Diamond Tiara.”

They stared at each other for a moment, glaring across the dark chamber, the filly and the shapeshifter. Then Chrysalis suddenly smiled brightly and spoke in Chestnut’s voice. "Well? Did you figure out why I’m here putting on a Daring Do play?"

Diamond Tiara gulped, then met Chrysalis’s eyes in defiance. "You just wanted to fill this theatre with as many ponies as possible, so you could feed on their love. Everything was in the service of that. Everything you did as Chestnut Magnifico... and as the Opera Spirit."

Chrysalis released her magical grip on Diamond Tiara, who fell to the dusty floor. Strutting towards her, Chrysalis proclaimed smugly, "Exactly. Fans really, really love their fandoms, especially Daring Do fans. At least as much as subjects love their princesses! Even more! And did you see how filled with Daring Do fans and opera fans this theatre is?" She cackled and declared, "The fandom of the opera is here!"

She likes to talk, it seems, Diamond Tiara thought desperately. Well, if I keep her talking I might be able to think of a plan… “So you calculated all the Spirit’s actions just to bring more audience in?”

“Of course,” the changeling gloated. “A good ghost story always gets ponies gossiping.”

“So that letter to the journalist, telling him not to write the article, was just... reverse psychology.”

"I know his kind. I played him like a fiddle. The outrage in his article merely made it certain the news about our show would spread far and wide."

’Our show’, Diamond Tiara noted. Interesting. “And when you destroyed the Crusaders’ costumes... You knew they’d make new ones, and do a better job second time?”

Chrysalis rolled her eyes. “Detestably predictable, those three. The Spirit needed to cause some damage to get the rumours spreading, and their flawed cat suits were a perfect candidate.”

“You were trying to cause the least damage possible?” Diamond Tiara said with a slight smile.

Chrysalis hissed. “All in the service of bringing together all these fans. I need to feed on their love for Daring Do!”

“Why? What’s your goal in all of this?”

Chrysalis span and levelled her face with Diamond Tiara’s. She said venomously, “Revenge! I need to gain enough power to defeat Twilight Sparkle and Starlight Glimmer!”

She stamped her chitinous hoof on the floorboards and paced around. “They took my hive from me. Drove me from my home! Corrupted all my changelings! Left me with nothing! And I need power to make them regret it…”

Then suddenly Chrysalis rounded on Diamond Tiara again and her voice shifted. In much silkier tones she said, "But I’m led to believe that you, Diamond Tiara, will understand the desire for power. You used to be rather skilled in pursuing it yourself, or so I heard?"

"I still am," Diamond Tiara replied fiercely. "The only difference is that I have friends now and I care about what they think."

Chrysalis gave a smile, baring her fangs. “Now I’m told that you used to be beautifully unencumbered by those goody-goody morals. What changed, I wonder? And what could bring you back to the more practical side?”

You really are trying to convert me. Well now… “You’re right,” Diamond Tiara said simply. “I have seen it both ways. I used to have no use for friends except what I could get from them. And you know what? I discovered it’s more fulfilling to work together with other ponies. To accomplish something together that’s greater than I could have done on my own.” Stepping towards Chrysalis, she continued, “Haven’t you seen that with this play? You couldn’t put on a play like this by yourself without anypony else.”

“Pah! If I’d been in charge of this play, it would have been far better!”

Diamond Tiara raised an eyebrow. “Really? You can write songs and play the harpsichord now?”

“I can get other ponies to do that for me,” Chrysalis growled.

“Exactly. We all bring something different to the group. You can manipulate and plan. Autumn Blaze can write and direct. Octavia and Lyra play music, the Crusaders make props…”

“Enough!” Chrysalis lunged forward aggressively.

Diamond Tiara stood her ground. “But you do plan well. And I think you take pride in a job well done, a well-prepared plot, a perfectly executed plan, don’t you?”

“What’s your point?” Chrysalis said, her voice low and menacing.

Diamond Tiara took a deep breath. “I think you enjoyed working to make the play as successful as it can be. As Chestnut Magnifico, and as the Opera Spirit. You took pride in doing it as well as you could. So… Keep doing that.”

Chrysalis looked at her suspiciously. “You want me to… keep on manipulating and pretending?”

Diamond Tiara shrugged. “If you like. Make the play as awesome as you can. But... Don’t drain the audience. Let them go and recommend the show and write rave reviews of it so we get even more ponies tomorrow night.”

Chrysalis was still looking quizzical. “You discovered there’s a changeling on your cast, and your response is to ask her to stay?”

“You did your job very well, even if nopony asked you to,” Diamond Tiara responded with a smile. “I think you like being in the limelight, don’t you? You love being the star of the show. So do I! This opera is a great way for us both to enjoy everypony’s attention on us. And you’re not just an excellent actor, you’re very good at marketing too. Every troupe needs somepony who knows how to handle the press.”

“But I feed on love! How can you want me on your team when I’ll drain the love from anyone who offers it?”

This is it. “Because I believe you can share love.” Diamond Tiara’s heart was in her mouth. “You respect Autumn Blaze for creating this opera. You said you respect me too. It’s just a small step beyond that to sharing friendship.”

Her tone carefully casual, she continued, “I enjoyed being friends with you, when you were Chestnut Magnifico. And I think you might have sometimes enjoyed it too. I’d like to be able to consider you a friend, and I’m sure the others would as well. Doesn’t that sound more interesting than spending more years on your own?”

The changeling’s face was still sceptical. “Even if I were to go along with your proposal, what happens after the opera finishes?”

Diamond Tiara felt her heart leap. Could this be working? “That’s… really up to you. When you stop letting revenge define you, you get to choose your own path. If you enjoyed trying to make this opera a huge success, you could do more acting for a while, and then choose something else to do.” As Chrysalis contemplated, a thought occurred to Diamond Tiara. “Um… you’d need to release the real Chestnut Magnifico, though. She is still okay, right?”

Chrysalis waved a hoof dismissively. “She’s unhurt. She’s stored in a globule in the Opera House rafters. She won’t remember anything.”

Diamond Tiara nodded. “So… What do you say? Do you want to see if we can make the show even bigger? Get a full house by the final performance? Together?”

A pregnant pause ensued. Diamond Tiara tried not to let her face show how nervous she was. At last, Chrysalis said, “...I’m not going to turn pink and yellow like those traitors from my hive.”

“Somehow I don’t think you will,” Diamond Tiara reassured her. “Though even if you did, how would the rest of us know?”

“Ha!” The laugh escaped Chrysalis’s mouth before she could stop it.

Then she frowned. “Suppose I were to agree to your scenario. What happens tonight? We were halfway through one of the key scenes.”

“...If we want to fill the opera house by the end of the week, we need to get back up there and continue with the performance,” Diamond Tiara decided.

Chrysalis commented drily, “But you may have rather derailed it by attacking me in the middle of the wedding.”

Diamond Tiara winced. “Yes, that… might be a problem… And you revealed yourself on stage, and I know I heard the audience gasp.” She thought fast. “Okay. We haven’t been down here for very long though. It sounds like they’ve been carrying on up there without us. So we go back up and you… pretend the script called for Daring Do to be replaced by a changeling. We’ll have to make it up as we go along.”

“That’ll never work,” said Chrysalis incredulously.

Diamond Tiara raised an eyebrow. “I think you could pull it off. It’s the same as when you’ve replaced somepony and one of their friends says something you weren’t expecting. You’ve been preparing for this with every form you’ve taken your whole life!”

A crooked smile appeared on Chrysalis’s toothy face. “Fine. But if anypony realises what really happened, I get to eat them.”

“What? No!”

“Ah well, it was worth a try,” Chrysalis said with a wink. Green fire pulsed around her once more and then Chestnut’s form stood before Diamond Tiara, still wearing her Daring Do costume.

A magic field seized her, and Diamond Tiara felt herself lifted up once more towards the trapdoor through which they’d fallen. As they neared it, she heard what she recognised as the last couple of lines of the Cutie Mark Crusaders’ comic-relief song that was meant to come after the dramatic rescue. She caught Chestnut’s – Chrysalis’s – eye, and they nodded. They waited for the applause to finish, and then burst up and back onto the stage.

Autumn Blaze had been watching in horror as her carefully scripted opera fell apart. She didn’t know what a changeling was, but she inferred that it was something bad; and apparently one of them had replaced her lead actress and kidnapped her secondary lead?

She had been pleased with the tenacity the rest of her cast had shown – Sweetie Belle had proclaimed “The show must go on!” – so they were valiantly improvising, but there was only so much they could do without two key roles. Autumn Blaze was just trying to come up with any way they could do the finale without Daring Do or Rainbow Dash, when…

“Come back here, you vile fiend!”

Diamond Tiara and Chestnut burst out of the trapdoor they’d vanished into a few minutes earlier. Chestnut was running away and Diamond Tiara was chasing her, and all the while both of them singing recitative at each other that Autumn Blaze definitely hadn’t written:

“How dare you take the form of Daring Do!”

“You meddler! Now I must dispose of you!”

But as they ran past the wings, Diamond Tiara slowed down long enough to give a big wink towards Autumn Blaze.

The Crusaders, still on stage, looked shocked at the sudden chase scene happening around them. Apple Bloom stood up with a determined expression and sang, “Come, my friends! We must trap this impostor!”

The cats stuck out one leg each in exaggerated fashion. To Autumn Blaze’s surprise, Chestnut ran right over them. Tumbling flank over mane she was enveloped in a burst of green flames, so that it was the tall changeling who stood up to hiss at them.

Diamond Tiara stared as Chrysalis revealed herself, to appreciative gasps from the audience once more. But she also noticed that Chrysalis had stood up right underneath the wire that the dramatic rescue had been meant to use, except that that part of the script had been rather circumvented. Is she suggesting…? She caught Chrysalis’s eyes, and received a smirk and a raised eyebrow – a mannerism that she recognised from when she’d known her as Chestnut – but Chrysalis didn’t move.

So Diamond Tiara climbed the stairs at stage right and put on her best Rainbow Dash cocky smile. “All right, changeling, this is the end of the line!” She reared up, pressing her flank against the upper end of the wire, where it clicked into the fake wing. Just like they’d practised. “For justice and friendship!” she cried, and leapt off the stairs.

The harness caught her weight and she zoomed through the air. She experienced the same rush as when she’d practised this manoeuvre in rehearsals, but heightened severalfold: by the hundreds of ponies watching, by the way they were way off script and improvising desperately, by the way her co-star was one of the most wanted villains in Equestria…

She just had time to hear the cheers from the crowd before she barrelled into Chrysalis and knocked her offstage.

Diamond Tiara grinned in relief, and then couldn’t help herself: she burst out laughing, though she was at least able to keep it quiet enough to not be heard from the stalls. “That was fantastic!” she squealed at Chrysalis. “Great plan!”

The Changeling Queen stood up and smirked again. “You were right. It is just the same skills I’ve been practising since I was a grub.”

Autumn Blaze stepped up hesitantly. “Um… Hi,” she said, at a loss for words for once.

Chrysalis rolled her eyes and shifted back to Chestnut’s form. “Hi, Director, yes, I’ve been a changeling all this time, no, I’m not going to sabotage the show,” she rattled off.

It was entertainingly unfamiliar to see Autumn Blaze not know what to say. She opened and closed her mouth a couple of times. “…Right! How wonderfully dramatic! And, uh, well done Diamond Tiara. So… I guess we can move on to the finale?”

“That’s what I was thinking,” said Diamond Tiara, at the same time as Chrysalis said “Of course.”

The two actresses smiled at each other and stepped back onto the stage.

“Rainbow Dash!” Chrysalis exclaimed as Daring Do, squaring to face the audience. “Thank you for defeating the changeling that had taken my form!”

“I’m your biggest fan – of course I had to save you!” Diamond Tiara replied confidently. It was a slight variation on a line from the script, and it allowed the rest of the cast to pick up with the script for the finale.

All through the final scene Diamond Tiara kept forgetting the pony who looked like Chestnut was actually a shapeshifting impostor, then suddenly remembering with a start. Her mind was in turmoil. Is she just playing along? Is she really reformed? Is it... Did I do that? Did I really just... persuade a love-eating villain to abandon her plans to take over Equestria? Diamond Tiara frowned. I know my talent is meant to be getting others to do what I want, but...

It was only as the company launched into the closing song, and Diamond Tiara caught Chrysalis smiling at her, that the realisation came to her. No, I didn't. Not really. She did most of the work herself. When she joined the troupe, decided to work alongside us for a common goal, she was setting herself on the route to redemption... even if she didn't know it. She glanced over at Chrysalis, who was belting out the triumphant final chorus, and smiled to herself. I really do hope I get to spend more time with her. She's fun.

The music and words for the finale were one of the best parts of Autumn Blaze’s scriptwriting, and Diamond Tiara was gratified but not surprised to see the closing line get a huge round of applause.

As they prepared for the curtain call, Diamond Tiara nudged Chrysalis and whispered, “Take your true form.”

Chrysalis looked at her quizzically. “You’re sure?”

“No,” Diamond Tiara murmured. “But... my instinct says to do it.”

Chrysalis gave her the warmest smile Diamond Tiara had ever seen on Chestnut’s face. “Your instinct has been good so far tonight.”

Diamond Tiara stepped forward and took her bow, her spirits soaring as the audience cheered for her. And then Chrysalis stepped forward wearing Chestnut’s form, bowed, and then shifted to her true form and bowed once again, insectoid wings flaring up behind her.

The cheers and stomps for the evening’s star were deafening. Diamond Tiara, though, was most delighted to notice that Chrysalis’s wings had taken on a crystalline, reflective sheen.

Not pink and yellow, indeed. But a step in the right direction.

Author's Note:

My full Bingo Contest prompt card:

Many thanks to Shrink Laureate for running the contest. The idea of a whole-plot-reference to Phantom of the Opera, with Diamond Tiara as the young starlet and Chrysalis as the Phantom, would never have occurred to me in a million years if it hadn't been for this prompt.

I hope you enjoyed the fic!

Comments ( 21 )

This is great... at first when Chrysalis appeared, it felt a little out of left-field, and then I saw where you were going with it, and it works. And I love the pun... Fandom of the opera... , that's almost a Feghoot, but it nicely captures the whole point of the story. Nice use of all the prompts on your card, nothing felt skimped on or handwaved at. Good job!

Wonderful ending! But that pun. That caused some actual physical damage.

Agreed on the pun. Wonderfully horrible. The story itself is just wonderful. A delightful read; thank you for it and best of luck in the contest.

With a bit more polish, this could easily be an actual episode. Well done.

Well this was great fun, and surprisingly heartwarming! I liked it a lot, and hope you continue to write.

I lost it at "fandom of the opera!"

Author Interviewer

I'm floored. My hunch was right, but it turned out to still be something I never expected! And wonderful character work, all around.

"The fandom of the opera is here!"

It turns out you were the real monster all along. :V

10/10 on that pun execution. But everything else was indeed a delight. Love the characters, and how well you utilized the whole of the prompt!

I mean, who doesn't love musical theater?!

Okay, Chrissi makes SO much sense now. Pretending to be a mare pretending to be Daring Do...it's positively Shakespearean! And explains why a famous actor is in Ponyville. And why she hated the mention of Twilight. I was wondering what I was missing.

Chrysalis was still looking quizzical. “You discovered there’s a changeling on your cast, and your response is to ask her to stay?”

Opera. Everyone is crazy. I'm loving where this is going...

“That’ll never work,” said Chrysalis incredulously.

I've seen weirder...

Chrysalis released her magical grip on Diamond Tiara, who fell to the dusty floor. Strutting towards her, Chrysalis proclaimed smugly, "Exactly. Fans really, really love their fandoms, especially Daring Do fans. At least as much as subjects love their princesses! Even more! And did you see how filled with Daring Do fans and opera fans this theatre is?" She cackled and declared, "The fandom of the opera is here!"

*groans* You know there's a feghoot contest now right?

Thanks very much for the comments! That was the whole reason I split this fic into chapters, to give people the opportunity to voice their thoughts before the big reveal, exactly the way you and Present Perfect did - so thank you so much!

I'm delighted you picked up on the way that Chryssie-as-Chestnut was irritated at the mention of Twilight. That was one of the subtle early clues I was wondering if anyone would notice. "Positively Shakespearean" is another fantastic description I'm going to be treasuring :pinkiehappy:

As for the feghoot contest, sadly this fic predates it by a couple of months. (I'm sortof arrogantly wondering if I helped prompt it.) I am definitely keen to write something for that contest though, given the, hmm, "positive" reaction to this chapter's pun in this comments section and elsewhere! :pinkiecrazy::trixieshiftright:

This was good! I admit the Chrysalis reveal in this last chapter was losing me, but then I saw where you were going with it. Overall, I really liked how you portrayed the characters, especially Diamond Tiara and Autumn Blaze.

Could see this as an ep for MLP:FIM. Neat.

This was delightful. A little rough in places and Autumn Blaze doesn't sound quite right in places to me, but I loved the non-stop action and feel of a real episode.

THis was a nice story and I certainly did not expect Chrysalis to appear.

You got THIS ... from THAT prompt ...
... HOW?

Flabbergasted is too small a term for how shocked I was to finish reading this awesome story, and see what prompted it. Truly astounding.

Eee! That's so kind of you to say! Thank you :twilightsmile:

And if you haven't seen it, I do actually answer that question somewhat in the interview with the Royal Canterlot Library about this fic, where I talk through the various steps along the route to this idea.
Thanks for commenting! (And thanks to all the other commenters who I neglected to thank individually :ajsleepy:)

That interview is what pointed me to this story, and I'm glad for it.

Leonard Alfred Schneider (October 13, 1925 – August 3, 1966),
better known by his stage name Lenny Bruce, was an American stand-up comedian, social critic, and satirist. He was renowned for his open, freestyle, and critical form of comedy which integrated satire, politics, religion, sex, and vulgarity.

That was quite good!! I enjoyed it and I’m glad I read:twilightsmile:

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