• Published 1st Aug 2021
  • 1,307 Views, 40 Comments

A Sweet and Seemly Thing - Freglz

An ancient enemy seeks redemption. Or so she claims.

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The Good in the Bad

There were conditions, naturally – restrictions on where she could go, what she could do. Cadance and the rest of her equine ilk were an inherently naïve species, but credit where credit was due, they weren’t completely ignorant, and the dampening ring around the queen’s jagged horn was proof enough.

But in blind pursuit of Harmony, the ponies revealed and remained their foolish selves. Magic alone could be a truly devastating weapon, control minds against their will, crush mountains into dust, cancel the sky and bring about night everlasting. Yet these powers paled in comparison to the elegance of a different sort, and every changeling knew it.

Any magician could cast a spell. Any warrior could swing a blade.

Very few could do what Chrysalis did best.

“…And that’s all there is for Petition Five-One-Zero,” Flurry announced, levitating the scroll in front of her over to a separate pile, while retrieving another from an opened box. “Petition Five-One-One…”

Patience had always been a virtue, and was frankly a necessity in her line of work, but it helped when she found time to unwind a little – loosen the strings that kept the mask in place. Despite herself, listening to the petty woes and complaints of the Empire’s subjects proved rather relaxing, mostly because Cadance had arbitrated them.

“What does this one say?” Chrysalis asked, her tone calm and composed. “Another couple in a loveless marriage?”

Flurry shook her head. “No, this one’s about… a mare whose advances… aren’t being returned.”

A case the throne room had likely heard several hundred times over. Why these hearings appealed so much to Equestrian royalty baffled her, especially if they never seemed to end. After all, it wasn’t the tedium of governance that drew her to the pursuit and preservation of power, but the thrill of the hunt, to outwit both prey and predator.

Chrysalis glanced across the room to a guard standing just outside the alcove in which she and Flurry were seated. She doubted it was routine to patrol the palace archives, and coincidentally keep watch over his superior’s daughter, but she took no offence; it meant she was dealing with actual opponents. That being said, if she were in their place, she’d have dealt with a threat like her in the most efficient manner possible: permanently.

Such was the weakness of a conscience.

“Remind me why you’ve been told to study all these… pleas from the lower caste.”

“Not lower,” Flurry replied, peering at Chrysalis with a worried look, “just different. And Mom, Dad and Sunburst say I need to study these in case I become the Princess of Love someday.”

“Doesn’t sound like they’ve given you much choice.”

There was a pause before her next response. “If not me, who else?”

Humble. Quite mature for someone her age. “Fair enough,” the queen admitted, gently nodding. “I see you’ve taken Twilight’s teachings to heart.”

“It isn’t that. More like… common sense, I guess. The kind of thing Auntie Applejack is all about.”

“I thought she represented honesty.”

“Well, yes, but she’s more than just her Element.” Flurry giggled – a quaint little sound – and turned on the bench to face Chrysalis more directly. “It’s good to help people, and I want to do that. If I’m in a position where I’m able, why shouldn’t I?”

Not only humble but compassionate too, although that much was evident when she spoke up for her in the throne room. “Very well. So, what does the transcript say?”

The filly returned to the scroll and squinted. Perhaps she’d need glasses in the future. “I’ve read about a lot of cases like this in the past. They all ended the same, and this doesn’t appear to be any different. Mom sympathised, but there was nothing she could do. She ruled that if the mare truly cared for the stallion, she’d respect his feelings and find a way to move on. Her judgement, and I quote, is that ‘love cannot be forced’.”

Chrysalis gently snorted.

Flurry looked up at her again, cocking her head. “What’s so funny?”

“What your mother said.” Chrysalis nodded to the parchment in Flurry’s magical grasp. “Of course love can be forced. And I’m surprised someone who claims to be attuned to affairs of the heart would say otherwise. As a matter of fact, there are three methods to gain your target’s affection without their knowledge, one of which your father already experienced.”

Flattening her ears and lowering her eyelids to half-mast, Flurry sighed. “When you controlled his mind at the wedding, I know.”

“Through a spell, yes.” The queen allowed a self-satisfied smirk creep its way across her muzzle at the memory, how fun it had been, how close she came to succeeding. “There are also potions that do the trick, though the effects can be rather… extreme, if they aren’t correctly brewed. But the most difficult, and consequently most satisfying and rewarding method of all, is to play the Game.”

Flurry blinked and arched her brow, and a genuine sense of curiosity radiated from her. “The Game?”

“Treat life as you would a grand match of chess, where everyone is a king, yet also a pawn to use and sacrifice, whatever it takes until you are the last piece standing.”

She winced and lowered her gaze, curiosity replaced with sombre realisation. “I… don’t know, Your Majesty. That sounds like a pretty callous worldview to me.”

“I never said it wasn’t, nor did I say you should adopt it.” Chrysalis leaned forward to regain her focus, draining the smugness from her voice and reining in the arrogance from her face. “My point, child, is that nothing is impossible to those with the will to see it through. Love is a wonderful, beautiful thing, but it can also be dangerous. And that’s a lesson I fear your mother never truly learned.”

Flurry looked up at her again. “What do you mean?”

“Tell me, do you honestly believe the answer that mare was given would satisfy everyone, if they stood where she did, longing for someone who might never love them back? Would they soldier on with heads held high, determined to put aside their emotions? Would they never think to question her decision? Or would they find the pain unbearable, devouring their resolve until desire and sorrow become poison in their veins?”

Shock and horror now stared back at Chrysalis – she had earned the filly’s undivided attention.

“Your mother is young. Inexperienced. She was sheltered as a child beneath Celestia’s wing, and now she lives in a palace of her own, with a dutiful husband and loving daughter, and dozens of servants and hundreds of guards waiting on her every whim.” The queen sat a little more upright and peered down at Flurry cheerlessly. “It’s easy to say what others should do, when you’ve lived a privileged life, but the world beyond these walls is rarely so simplistic. I’ve lived long enough to know.”

Flurry hesitated, searching for something in the queen’s eyes – perhaps a sense of security or assuredness – but eventually cleared her throat and let the scroll slide onto the table between them. An uneasy atmosphere surrounded her. “So… you’re saying Mom… should’ve forced the stallion to—”

“No, not at all.” Chrysalis sternly shook her head, and felt a quiet breath of relief from both Flurry and the guard outside crawl beneath her carapace. “Your mother’s decision was fair, but shortsighted, because it didn’t fix the problem, merely postponed it. If that nameless mare let her affection become obsession, if she hasn’t already, she could’ve taken matters into her own hooves and done something drastic, even criminal.”

“You really think so?”

She paused, staring off into a nonexistent horizon for a moment, then gently bobbed her head from side to side. “Maybe not. But it’s a possibility. One the Princess of Love shouldn’t ignore. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time repressing emotions led to dire consequences – something Starlight and Luna can attest to.”

Flurry glanced outside the alcove and shuffled in place. “I never thought about it like that before.”

“Nor would your family approve if you did. It’s a mindset they’re unaccustomed to, which is… good, in a way. But there’s a difference between wisdom and naïveté, and the wise ruler is prepared for anything.”

“Even if it means assuming the worst in people?”

Especially the worst.”

“Even you?”

Chrysalis opened her mouth to speak, but her voice caught somewhere deep in her throat, and she suddenly felt… a chill: the cold and uncomfortable twinge of a sharp object burrowing into her abdomen. She peered down for a brief moment to inspect it, but found nothing, just her chitinous skin, still flaking here and there from her time in the wilds.

Whatever it was, however she was supposed to react, she blinked her confusion away and forcibly recomposed herself with a nod. “Yes, even me. Though I’m… sure that should be obvious.”

The filly shrugged and, strangely, smiled. “You wouldn’t be giving me advice if you didn’t care.”

And now a completely different and far more familiar sensation pulsed through her, sending ripples of warmth into her barrel and along her spine. The frigid blade remained, but it was less painful, and quickly being overwhelmed by this newfound realisation: she at last had a hoof in the door.

“Would you like to know more?”