• Published 1st Aug 2021
  • 1,303 Views, 40 Comments

A Sweet and Seemly Thing - Freglz

An ancient enemy seeks redemption. Or so she claims.

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The Wolves Within

“Your mother is callous.”

Chrysalis paced back and forth in an agitated fashion. A trip to the royal gardens hadn’t cooled her temper at all, to a notable lack of surprise; she’d barely slept the previous night, and the guards who patrolled the palace and its grounds reeked of suspicion. Her suspicion. That insidious little mongrel who styled herself as the omniscient and absolute authority on the subject of love.

What did she know of its true power? Its inherent curse? How could someone who’d barely finished weaning their firstborn possibly fathom all its aspects, let alone what it meant to be a parent, moreso to a hundred thousand?

The complete and utter arrogance of it.

“It’s not like that,” Flurry said from her seat on the edge of the central fountain, watching the queen stomping up and down the patterned pavement, but unable to look her in the eye. The air surrounding her fizzled with apprehension. “She’s just trying to protect me.”

“From what?” Chrysalis demanded, rounding on her with a livid scowl. “What have I ever said or done to you that you’d call malicious? What possible threat have I posed?”

“I don’t know.”

“Then answer me, Flurry: why am I so dangerous just because I refuse to bow down, kiss her flank and lick her boots? Why can’t I have dignity in defeat?”

The young mare hesitated, ears low and brows upturned, but eventually mustered the courage to meet her gaze. “It’s not dignity you’re asking for if you keep provoking her.”

“But I haven’t. I’ve gone out of my way to stay out of her way, and even that isn’t enough. She said it herself: she won’t be satisfied until I stop… ‘manipulating’ you.”

She blinked with widening eyes and drew her head back somewhat. “Manipulate me? How? Why?

“My point exactly. There’s nothing left for me to fight for besides stubborn pride, and no good reason for me to trick you either.” Chrysalis glanced left and right, briefly inspecting the bushes and flowering hedges for sentries intent on sticking their noses where they didn’t belong. The guards here were less incompetent than their brethren from Canterlot – undoubtedly because of their captain’s experience. “Perhaps she is trying to protect you, but I'm not your enemy. You know that, don’t you?”

Again, Flurry was reluctant to answer, and her attention slipped to the empty space between them, muzzle twisting into an uneasy grimace. “I… know. And I don’t want to disagree with you, Chryssy… but I’m not sure what to say.” She brought a foreleg to her midsection and hugged it close, almost as if she had an upset stomach. “You have to remember that Mom's first impression of you involved getting kidnapped and replaced, and then waiting around in a cave while you and Dad, uh… or planned to…”

The sight of her in obvious distress was… troubling. Chrysalis would’ve normally relished the memory of what used to be her most brilliant and masterful scheme, and how close it came to fruition, but something felt wrong inside. Sickly. Rotten. Like rodents gnawing at her intestines.

“I can’t imagine what it’s like for her,” Flurry continued with a listless shrug, “but I’m certain it’s hard to move on from something like that. And since you won’t apologise, I think maybe she’s scared of you – scared you’ll do something like that again.”

As well she rightly should’ve been. “Scared enough to rob me of my one chance at redemption?”

“Not your only chance, no.” The filly fervently shook her head once more. “There’s always Twilight. She’d pick up the slack if Mom doesn’t, though I’m… sure she’d give her a stern talking-to about it.”

“You speak as if it’s already come to pass!” Chrysalis cried with more force, more anguish than she’d anticipated, and swung about to resume pacing back and forth. “And that’s all beside the point, isn’t it? Twilight taught you ponies to live your lives with compassion, and to forgive those who seek it. Here I am, and how am I welcomed? With derision, resentment, and callous disregard for my well-being.”

Flurry opened her mouth to counter, but appeared to lack the words for it and deflated with a quiet sigh through her nose; she wouldn’t agree, yet neither would she disagree. Perhaps the rift between mother and daughter had widened.

“For all the time I spent in exile… do you know what kept me going? Why I didn’t just find a cave or some hole in the ground and let the scavengers feast?”

Flurry bit and sucked on her bottom lip and lifted her gaze yet again, watching Chrysalis glower at her from the corner of an eye. Her resolve was strong, of that there was no doubt, but everyone, even heroes as virtuous as Twilight Sparkle herself, had a breaking point.

“Hatred.” Chrysalis ceased patrolling the brick path around the fountain and turned away, and suddenly found her breath ragged, her voice scratching at her throat with every syllable. “I… hated… your family. The fact they thwarted my every plan. Stole my children. Lived happy, contented lives in luxury… while I was left with nothing.” Her eyes began to sting – a sleepless night catching up with her – so she closed them. “That… was my existence… in a world that had no place for me. And I’d still be there… if it weren’t for the mare I hated most of all.”

“Auntie Starlight.”

Pressing her chitinous lips together and clenching her teeth, she slowly and begrudgingly nodded. “She told me… that she hoped I did what’s best for me. As if she hadn’t patronised me enough already. Exploited my loss for your family’s gain.”

A cold whisper raced up the queen’s spine as Flurry slid from her perch, the clop of hooves on stone. “I don’t think she meant to patronise you, Chryssy. And my family didn’t gain anyone. But your family… they lost you.”

“And why was that?!” Chrysalis snapped, whipping around and retreating… no, withdrawing a couple of steps. She blinked her eyes clear of some kind of fuzziness and stared hard at the young mare’s recoiling form. “Because I was the same mother they’d known all their lives?! Because I suddenly wasn’t good enough for them?! For anyone?!

Flurry shrunk into the fountain’s barrier, ears pinned rearward and wings ruffling at her sides. She wasn’t unlike a mouse who’d been cornered by a cat, wide-eyed and quivering, and it splashed water on the fire raging in the queen’s hearts.

Without their heated winds, Chrysalis found her legs weak, unsteady, and her barrel aching as if she’d been crushed between scorching hot boulders. “How could you possibly understand?” she muttered, shaking her head. “How could Cadance, or Twilight, or the Sisters? None of them have been robbed like I have. And nothing… nothing… can replace what they stole.”

The young mare noticed her abrupt and unusual lapse, and with a shimmer of empathy she willed herself forward again, despite the nervousness that clearly festered within her. “It doesn’t have to stay that way, Chryssy.”

There it was again, that little nickname of hers. The fact she’d barely noticed its use until now was a testament to how far the queen’s focus had slipped. She couldn’t allow that to happen, wouldn’t allow that to happen, and wouldn’t let herself contemplate why it might. “But I must play by your family’s rules for that to happen, mustn’t I?”

Flurry shut her mouth. They both knew that wasn’t entirely true – a request for a meeting would likely be granted – but there would be no reunion if Chrysalis refused to renounce her ways. And for all anyone knew, she would never be the changelings’ matriarch again.

“There is cruelty in your kindness.” Her upper lip twitched, partly from a sense of smug satisfaction, partly out of disdain, and yet both felt hollow somehow. “So I must wonder… how am I so different from those who were my enemies?”

Ears standing tall as she blinked with widening eyes, Flurry stared back at Chrysalis in a tangible mixture of confusion and shock. It tasted sour. Unpleasant. “You manipulated people.”

“To get what I wanted, yes,” Chrysalis agreed, forcing herself to ignore the tart flavour she normally craved. “But when your family gets what they want – the taming of Equestria’s last and greatest villain – it’s all for the greater good. Never mind I’m watched by armed guards, that I won’t be free until I change some fundamental part of myself, or that my children were taken in the hopes I’d follow in their stead.”

Once more, a closed mouth, and an aroma filled with trepidation.

“If there’s one thing your family has taught me, child, it’s that justice is a matter of perspective: something I already knew.” Chrysalis turned her nose up and looked down on Flurry. “From a generation that claims to be so enlightened as yours, I’d have expected more.”

“No.” The filly fumbled for a response, practically grasping at straws, and the sharp sting of terror was finally beginning to sink in. “You… you only cared about yourself. You hurt people.”

“I hurt those who posed a threat to my children, whether they knew it or not. I was callous to some, not heartless to all. Just like your mother.”

Tears formed in her eyes, glistened with betrayal. “Why are you saying this?”

“Because I want you to be better,” Chrysalis lied, and saying it aloud took more effort than she thought it would. “Better than either of us. Better than even Twilight herself. Because your family’s message of love and tolerance is too simple for its own good, and ignores the realities of the world they’ve spent so long trying to help. It’s a noble endeavour but flawed, and I’ve shown you how. They’ve never dealt with inequality, with corruption or sickness, or the root causes of how good people turn bad; their lives and status have protected them.”

One of the tears broke free, and then the other, and they both soaked a trail into Flurry’s cheeks.

It was a wretched sight, but the queen pressed on. “I can show these things to you,” she insisted, lowering her voice to almost a whisper’s pitch. “I can show you what they’re afraid to acknowledge. We can discover the answers, unshackled by their ideals, to make the world a better place. For everyone. And they would thank you for it.”

Flurry’s eyes briefly narrowed in a pained look, and then widened even further. “You want me to run away with you?”

“A young mare like you should discover yourself on your own terms. You can’t do that here, studying transcripts your parents hope you’ll reenact someday, where they’ll criticise you for every—”

Stop!” she screamed, so loud and distressed that it struck Chrysalis like a hoof to the abdomen. And then with stiff, shivering movements the filly curled into herself at the foot of the fountain. “No, I… I won’t…”

Chrysalis didn’t know what to do, much less what to say. For the first time in many years, she found herself completely stunned. And… distraught. Her mind cursed a lack of tact – signs she should’ve seen and compensated for – while her forelegs begged to grasp something and hold it close. Her body was uncomfortably rigid, and her hearts sank to a depth she’d never felt before.

She nearly missed the frantic rattle of metal as guards rushed into the central grove, their alarm and enmity as piercing as the spears they carried. “Your Highness!” one of their number cried before absorbing the situation, and then marched toward Chrysalis with hostile intent. “What did you do?”

“Nothing,” Flurry murmured, wiping her eyes with a wing and sniffling. “She… she didn’t do anything.”

“Then why are you crying?”

There was a lengthy pause, and then she shakily rose to all four hooves, careful to avoid the queen’s gaze as she faced the sentry. “I think we need to spend some time apart.”

“Wait,” Chrysalis mumbled without control, without purpose beyond the desperate and knowingly futile need to take back what she said, to mend the bond they had. “Wait, little dove, please, I-I-I’m—”

“Chryssy, don’t.” Flurry dismally shook her head a final time, and then let out a brokenhearted sigh as she walked for the guards and allowed them to escort her away. “I can’t… be around you. I’ve heard enough. Goodbye.”