• Published 5th Oct 2019
  • 8,551 Views, 906 Comments

Trouble in Tiatarta - RainbowDoubleDash

Queen Chrysalis accidentally Reformed, and now needs a vacation to sort things out. Ocellus and Smolder are summoned by the Cutie Map to solve a friendship problem. Surely these two things are unrelated. Surely.

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1. All I Ever Wanted

Far away from the comforts of civilization, Chrysalis, rightful Queen of the Changeling Swarm, stood before Grogar the Ram, Father of Monsters, deep in the subterranean lair that the ancient goat maintained. She locked her newly blue eyes with his ancient ones. Opened her elytra and spread her newly purple wings. She felt the orange mantle of fur at the base of her neck fluff up a little, and the slight cream-white fuzz that now covered her exoskeleton stood on end. All visible signs of her being afraid. But Tirek and Cozy Glow were watching from the door and snickering to themselves. She refused to be weak in front of them.

“A lot has happened to me since I Reformed. I need a vacation,” the accidentally Reformed changeling queen said in as strong and regal and proud a voice as she could manage.

“Fine. Whatever,” Grogar responded.

Chrysalis had opened her mouth to begin objecting to a denial, laying out her reasons, demand that Grogar indulge her royal right to go where she wanted. She found the words catching in her throat, and her head tilted to the side. “Really?”

Yes! Looking at you gives me a headache. I could use the break. Just don't do anything stupid to reveal us.”

Chrysalis shifted. “Well...good. I'll be back in a week or two.”

“Wait a minute!” Cozy Glow demanded, flitting in to Grogar's chambers, Tirek following after. “Mister Grogar, if Chrysalis is going on vacation, surely me and Tirek can too, right? We've been extra-special good, after all!”

“No,” Grogar said without hesitation. The old goat popped some of his neck joints.

“Well why not?” Tirek demanded, stomping his hooves and throwing his hands wide. “What has Chrysalis done?”

Grogar growled as he looked up to his other two minions. Eldritch light suffused him and yellow-black power bled off from the mighty Father of Monsters. “She was smart enough to be born a changeling!” He pointed a hoof at Tirek. “You're a red centaur three times the height of a pony and you,” he swung his hoof to Cozy, “have an unmistakable identifying tattoo on your flank!”

Chrysalis had to nod in agreement with Grogar, or at least the basic sentiment of the inherent superiority of the changeling race. “Whereas I can look like anyone.” Blue fire washed over her (she'd grown used to the color by now, even if she didn't like it), and subsequently there were two Cozy Glows in the room. With a saccharine smile she closed her hooves together beside her face. “Golly gee-whiz! It's almost like I'm a master of disguise! Yup-a-rooney!”

Cozy ground her teeth together. “I don't sound anything like that.”

Tirek crossed his arms, his glare if anything exceeding that of Cozy's, though he directed it at Grogar as Chrysalis changed back to her new natural form. “But you sent us to get the Bewitching Bell - ”

Grogar growled again. Tirek realized his mistake and quickly backed away. “And we failed! But I only mean, you didn't worry about us being seen then...”

“Because you were going to the middle of nowhere!” Grogar exclaimed. He pounded a hoof on the table before him, causing the crystal ball set into it to bounce. But then he took effort to calm down. “If you want to go camping in some forest somewhere, be my guest. But I will not have you exposing yourself, and thus all of us, to those worthless ponies!”

The fact that Cozy Glow took that insult in stride only fueled Chrysalis' belief that the little filly...wasn't. Cozy did screw up her face and grind her teeth even harder just as a petulant foal might, though. “But what about me?” she demanded as she landed on the table.

“You could go camping with me,” Tirek noted. Chrysalis flicked out her tongue and noted that he tasted pleased with the idea. “I actually know the perfect spot in my homeland, haven't been there in millennia but I doubt much has changed...”

Cozy started to grumble, but Grogar slammed his hoof on the table again and leaned in to glare at Cozy, muzzle inches from her own. “You are going camping with Tirek and you will like it.

“Y-yes, mighty Grogar!” Cozy stuttered, backing away with her tail between her legs.

Chrysalis glanced between the two other members of Grogar's little legion of doom, and chuckled, or started to. But unfortunately, she could taste Tirek's lingering disappointment from Grogar's demand he remain hidden, and Cozy Glow's dejection at being forced to accompany the centaur. Her ability to do so wasn't new, of course, but it had once been much easier to ignore when placed next to her bottomless hunger for love.

But this new body, this Reformed shape she had metamorphosized into, could create its own love. The hunger came only when she used too much magic, and it sorted itself out in relatively short order if allowed to do so. So without really meaning it or even wanting it, she'd become more attuned to the emotions around her.

It was vexing beyond belief, especially given how bad emotions like disappointment and dejection tasted.

“I'll bring you two back souvenirs,” she groused. She hissed a little below her breath as she could feel two sets of eyes turn on her (Grogar already returning his attentions to his crystal ball). “Your disappointment tastes like curdled milk! I don't want to go on vacation with that taste in my mouth or come back to it after it's done!” She looked away. “I hate you.”

The mood change from Tirek and Cozy was immediately palpable. The centaur scoffed as he turned around to prepare himself for his camping trip, while Cozy's wings buzzed and she drifted over to the changeling Queen, grinning and tasting of cotton candy dipped in vinegar - the taste of mocking affection. “Thank you sooo much, Chrysalis! I want a seashell and a starfish and a red bucket full of beach stones and - ”

“You'll get what I bring you!” Chrysalis interrupted before she turned around and stomped off...her millenium-and-change old, regal, incalculable intellect filing away Cozy Glow's requests and wondering what Tirek would like.

Hhhzzzkkk...” she hissed, making her way through the lair. That. That right there. The concern for them. That was why she needed a vacation. She needed a break from her friends - friends?! Chrysalis froze a moment. Where had that inane idea come from?! Just because the two had been helping her with her quite accidental but perhaps not entirely unwelcome after all transition into being a Reformed changeling, helped her realize that it wasn't all bad, they now assumed they could be her friends?! Tirek and Cozy had a long way to go before truly earning the right of friendship from the True Queen of the Changelings! Not like her most trusted and secret of confidants.

Chrysalis threw open the door to her chambers and locked her eyes on the image that greeted her, a pale, translucent shadow of Twilight Sparkle. “He said yes!” She exclaimed, closing the door behind her quickly. “And you doubted my abilities as a negotiator.”

The pale Twilight looked at her, then cast its eyes down in shame.

Exactly,” Chrysalis hissed, trotting up to the shadow and jabbing one hoof into its ephemeral chest. “But at least you can admit your mistakes. And at least you stick around.” She smiled, and jabbed the shadow again. “Heh. Stick. I'm brilliant, aren't I?”

The shadow seemed to frown up at her, then disappeared. Chrysalis was left looking only at a slightly purple-tinged piece of wood, the shadow's home. “Well, fine! Be that way! But you're not going anywhere far.” She hefted the wood and looked directly at it. “You're coming with me - you've earned that much - but spend the whole time in there! See if I care!”

Chrysalis set the piece of wood down, and turned away from it. “I could use some alone time. I don't need you or Tirek or Cozy or anycreature else! I used to, as prey or as servants, but now, with this new body, I don't need anyone. Now I can be all alone.”

Chrysalis shifted. She blew some of her newly voluminous hair from her eyes as she took in her chambers and reminded herself that the emptiness didn't bother her. “Alone...”

My Little Pony
My Little Pony
Ah, ah, ah, ah...
My Little Pony...
I used to wonder what friendship could be
My Little Pony...
Until you all shared its magic with me
Big adventure, tons of fun!
A beautiful heart, faithful and strong!
Sharing kindness - it's an easy feat!
And magic makes it all complete!
You have My Little Ponies...
Do you know you're all my very best friends?

“So you see class, that day the Cutie Mark Crusaders learned that even if you think you know what's best for two ponies, you shouldn't try and tamper with their lives without their knowledge.”

The ability of changelings to shapeshift was of course their greatest natural asset, but whatever force had created them had not left the default changeling body, or even the Reformed one, without natural advantages all of its own. Wings for flight, a horn for levitation and light (at least on many changelings, some lacked this appendage naturally), and a chitinous (and fuzzy) exoskeleton that was molted and renewed every year or so in adults, and more often in nymphs, that allowed them to shed any lingering external injuries. Not to mention being tasty to eat.

“Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo had meant well, but by trying to create love between Big MacIntosh and Cheerilee artificially, they only caused a lot of drama and unneeded pain.”

For Ocellus, though, she'd always thought of the big, compound eyes of a changeling as the greatest advantage. It wasn't just that she had a large range of vision; the compound eyes allowed her to actually focus on multiple things at once without losing clarity on anything else she was looking at. For example, unlike her friends, she didn't need to turn her head to pay attention both to the blackboard that Professor and Headmare Twilight was writing on in front of her, while also writing in her own notebook below her, and while looking to her right at Smolder.

“There's also another lesson here, and that's that magic is almost never the solution to a friendship problem. It's certainly no substitute for just talking to a creature.”

Smolder had the forward-focused eyes of a dragon, of course. She needed to turn her eyes or rotate her head to look at something. It meant that whenever her eyes would dart away from the blackboard and to Ocellus, stealing quick glances, Ocellus would notice. Then she'd open her mouth a little and inhale, or lick her lips, and the scent and taste of what Smolder was feeling would reach her

And that was a problem, because Ocellus found herself unable to parse, exactly, what it was that Smolder felt. Certainly the love of friendship was there, the sweet taste that had been so small in all her friends at first but which had grown in all of them and in Ocellus herself over the past year. But over the past several weeks that taste had grown more complex – and not in a completely good way. There was affection and desire, but also possessiveness. Ownership. The tang that Ocellus tasted when Smolder counted the bits she kept hidden, or ran her claws along things she owned. Greed. And mixed in with the sweetness of affection and the tang of greed was the bitterness of shame, a truly vile taste that meant that Ocellus had avoided nibbling on any of Smolder's emotions except when trying to figure them out, what they all meant when taken together.

“I do have to admit that that's a lesson that took me a while to learn myself. It's going to come up a lot in this class, actually! True friendship takes work, not spells or potions.”

There was no aggression, no hostile emotions directed towards Ocellus. Smolder still laughed at Ocellus' jokes, still enjoyed her company and wanted her around, was still as fiercely protective of her as she was all her friends. And it was all genuine, not put on - Ocellus would have tasted deception, but there was none. And yet, the greed and shame remained too, grew stronger daily. Ocellus had tried to figure out how to broach the subject, how to talk to Smolder about what she was feeling the same way Smolder helped her whenever her identity issues flared up. But how was she supposed to do that?

Her friends didn't exactly know that Ocellus occasionally nibbled on their emotions, fed herself. Sure, yes, a Reformed changeling didn't need to steal love anymore...but try explaining the concept of “enough food“ to a being that had grown up starving. Even King Thorax admitted to his fellow changelings that he couldn't stop himself from small bites here and there when among other creatures, that it should be minimized, that the next generation should learn not to do it, but he couldn't fault any bug for eating if they were hungry. Going hungry now that there was plenty of food just seemed intrinsically wrong, like some kind of vice. Willing starvation was the closest thing the old Hive under Chrysalis had to the concept of sin, and that wasn't going away any time soon, not while there were still bugs who remembered her rule.

But none of that helped with Ocellus' Smolder issue, an issue that quite suddenly had to wait as the spines running down Smolder's head and neck began to pulse with magenta light and even vibrate slightly - even as Ocellus' own elytra, the shell that covered her wings, began to do likewise in their own pink coloration.

Eep!” Ocellus cried out as she stood, turning to get more of her compound eyes to look at her back and ignoring the rest of the class and their reactions. She opened one elytron, then the other, but they didn't stop glowing or vibrating. It didn't hurt, but it felt bizarre. She saw that Smolder had likewise noticed the glow from her spines and was running her claws over them. Ocellus tasted confusion and concern, which rapidly expanded into fear when Smolder looked to Ocellus and saw her elytra.

Headmare Twilight had spun around, of course dropping her chalk at the sound of panicked students. “What's all the commotion...” she trailed off at the sight of the two students' spontaneously glowing body parts.

Ocellus turned to look at the alicorn head-on, which was polite even if not physiologically necessary for her. “H-Headmare Twilight? What's happening?”

“Yeah, what the heck is this?” Smolder demanded. “Why won't it stop?”

Ocellus had expected concern, or maybe curiosity from Headmare Twilight. Fear would have been troubling, but not surprising. Instead, Twilight Sparkle had an ear-to-ear grin, apparently doing her best impression of Professor Pinkie Pie. “You have a friendship problem!” She exclaimed, as her horn flashed and she teleported with a snap-pop to between the two of them, looking them over in detail. “Smolder, your spines are glowing just like when Spike's did! And Ocellus, looks like it's your elytra instead, that's fascinating!” Twilight spun around to look at the rest of the class. “Class dismissed! Or free period! Whichever! Ooh, I am just. So. Excited! Smolder, Ocellus, meet me at my castle after school! I've got preparations to make!”

With that, the Headmare disappeared in another flash-pop. The class stared at the empty spot where she had been in confusion. Twilight never ended class early. Still, a free period was a free period, so it was only a few moments before every creature began gathering up their books and pencils. No few glances were thrown the dragon and changeling's way as this happened.

“Wait, a friendship problem?” Smolder asked, scratching at her spines. They still glowed and vibrated. “Like those adventures that the cutie map sends Headmare Twilight and her friends on?”

“I guess so,” Ocellus said, pushing aside her concerns over Smolder's general emotions towards her, since right now all she tasted was confusion and concern. “But...we're only students! Why is the Cutie Map calling us? What kind of friendship problem could we solve?”

Gallus was one of her closest friends, and was also covered in very flammable feathers and fur rather than fireproof scales. So on an intellectual level, Smolder knew that it would be wrong to send a gout of flame his direction the way she would another dragon.

But he sure wasn't making it easy for her.

Ha!” He chuckled as the two flew towards the School of Friendship's dormitories after the last class of the day. He still hadn't let up about what her spines were up to, the glowing and vibrating that hadn't abated in the slightest. “Seriously, have you seen yourself in a mirror yet?”

“No,” Smolder said through grit teeth.

“You look ridiculous. How long is it gonna keep doing that? You could start a new fashion trend back in the Dragon Lands.”

Smolder couldn't stop herself from exhaling smoke, and didn't try anyway. Smoke was harmless enough. Gallus flew through the cloud and started coughing, waving his claws in front of his face. “Eugh! Okay, okay, sorry!”

Smolder grunted as the two landed on the dormitory's roof. “Look, it feels really weird, okay?” She asked. “And why'd it have to happen to me? I thought friendship problems were just something Twilight and the other Elements of Harmony dealt with. Plus you know that I'm gonna end up with a whole bunch of make-up work somehow.”

Gallus chuckled. “Counselor Starlight has gone on a couple of friendship problems, and you heard Headmare Twilight say that Spike has as well.” His eyes widened. “Wait, you don't think that it has something to do with messing with the Tree of Harmony, do you? Because then all of us...”

Smolder realized where Gallus was going, and let a genuine smile split her features as she leaned down to look the griffon over inquisitively. “I'll bet...those tufts of feathers,” she flicked a claw over the crest he had on his head. “And your wings. That'll be what starts going off. I'll start thinking up material for it.”

Gallus fluttered his wings and ran a claw through his crest. “Hardy-har-har. Thanks for the heads-up, I'll make sure to have counter-material.” He flicked the talons of one claw, letting them shine in the sunlight as the two headed for the door down into the dormitory. “Or maybe I'll take these to your pillow.”

Smolder snorted. “Dragons normally sleep in caves! What do I care about a pillow?”

Gallus grinned a truly wicked grin as he took to the air and flew ahead of Smolder, hovering in front of her for a moment. “It's yours,” he teased, then turned around and shot off down the stairs and into the halls.

Smolder was already after him without even thinking about it, wings beating furiously to catch up at the threat to her stuff. “Gallus I swear by the Dragon Lord if you wreck my pillow...!

The two creatures twisted and turned around the ponies that made up most of the School of Friendship, who were by now used to their antics. They knew how to bob, weave, or duck around the two rambunctious youths. Smolder paid them no mind, as Gallus was a faster flier than her so she needed all her focus on him and his little thieving claws. He had quickly reached her and Ocellus' dorm room door; it was locked, but he knew that it would be. He instead dove out a nearby open window, would go for the room's own window since Ocellus liked to leave it open...

She lost valuable time considering whether to chase the young griffin or enter her room. Concern for her stuff eventually won out over wanting to keep flying, so she landed in front of her door, unlocked it, opened it, and so was promptly hit in the face by a flying pillow. Hers, of course.

Gallus was already on the floor laughing. Smolder growled - though there was a lightness to it - then leapt for him. He wasn't quick enough this time, and so very quickly found himself with Smolder's claws grabbing his wrists and jaws going for his neck. But he rolled with it pretty well, hind legs kicking up and catching her in the ribs, launching her into the air. She powered her wings to stop her ascent early and come back down fast.

Smolder was glad that two of her friends were predators and so understood play-wrestling at an instinctive level, knew the tells for when she was genuinely angry and when she just wanted to knock something around and be knocked around in turn. The two of them might have continued for some time had a shadow not fallen over them from the door. A very big, very shaggy shadow. The two froze mid-grapple, turning with wide eyes to the door.

“Friends wrestling?” Yona asked, a huge grin on her face. “Yaks best at wrestling!”

“Oh no,” Gallus and Smolder said at the same time as Yona leaped at them. The yak was too big to avoid in the small confines of the dorm, and quite suddenly Smolder's world was nothing but a blanket of brown fur and crushing weight. Right. Two of her friends were predators who understood play-wrestling, and one was a yak, who understood all things smash.

As a dragon, Smolder didn't exactly need to breathe in the same way that other creatures did. That didn't mean that she liked being crushed. One claw was out from under Yona, and she was rapidly pounding it on the ground in submission, and she could hear the far more oxygen-dependent Gallus doing likewise. Yona got off her friends quickly enough, still grinning as she hopped up and down, shaking the floor. “Yona win like Yona win at everything!

Gallus and Smolder picked themselves up. “I win our jangle poker night, like, every time,” Gallus pointed out.

Yona stopped hopping, but not smiling. “Yona let friend Gallus win at that so friend Gallus feel better!” She said, without missing a beat. She leaned forwards and, with gentleness that belied her size, patted Gallus on the head. “Yona is very kind to friends like that.”

Gallus and Smolder exchanged glances, then burst out laughing, Yona not hesitating in joining in. All three knew that in reality, there was simply no way to beat a creature raised in Griffonstone at poker, not unless they somehow got themselves a ringer. As the laughter died down, Smolder went over to where her pillow had landed. The last few minutes had at least distracted her from her spines vibrating and glowing. She picked up the pillow and went over to her bunk, flopping down on it and holding the pillow to her chest. “Thanks for taking my mind off this,” she said as she jabbed a claw at her spines.

“Eh, what are friends for?” Gallus asked with a shrug. He tapped one claw to his beak. “Hey, speaking of, you know what just occurred to me? You and Ocellus will be going on a friendship mission.”

Smolder felt her brow raising. “Uh...yeah? And?”

Yona's grin became just as sly as Gallus' as the two looked sidelong at each other. She leaned towards Smolder. “Friends Smolder and Ocellus go on friendship mission. Alone.

Smolder's eyes had never opened as wide as they did just now at that revelation, and heat flushed though her whole body. “S-so?” She stuttered, and coughed, and tried to ignore the licks of flame and tiny wisps of smoke that came out of her mouth.

Gallus and Yona exchanged knowing glances. “Okay,” Gallus said, raising his claws in surrender. Yona copied the motion with her front hooves. “What do we know? I've never dated.”

“Yona taking time with Sandbar. Yak never rush true love!”

Gallus sputtered. “You've been on maybe three dates, how do you know if it's true love?”

“Yona don't know. That why Yona and Sandbar not rush.” Yona blushed. “But Yona really hope.”

“Oh, okay. That makes sense. Still, though, you're seeing what I'm seeing between our resident dragon and changeling, right?”

“Yona see everything! Yak eyesight is best! Yona see Smolder looking at Ocellus more than teachers.”

Smolder glanced between her two friends, although they were sorely tempting the limits of that word right now. “Guys,” she deadpanned. “I'm going to be busy with this friendship thing. I don't even know where I'm going or what I'll be doing, so even if I wanted Ocellus like that, there won't be enough time!”

“Uh-huh,” Gallus and Yona said at once. Gallus continued. “You know she's a changeling, right? Kind of an expert on emotions? If Yona and I can see it...”

Smolder turned away, growling into the pillow. “Dragons don't do love.”

“That's not what Professor Rarity said - ”

“Well, she's wrong! We barely do like. Even if I were to feel anything for some creature...” Smolder shook her head as she felt her chest tightening a little, and clutched her pillow harder, pulling it close, grabbing it, holding it, owning it. “...even if I felt something like that, all it would be is me wanting to own them. Possess them. Make them a part of my hoard. Make them mine.” She looked down at the pillow. “Ocellus deserves more than that. Every creature does.”

“Ocellus not thing to own,” Yona agreed. “But Smolder know that and want Ocellus anyway, yes?”

“No,” Smolder insisted.

“Yes,” Gallus countered. Smolder glared at him, but he just shrugged.

“Different creatures have different things that make creatures happy,” Yona explained. “Professor Pinkie Pie like parties and cupcakes. But sister Maud Pie like rocks. Express happiness in different ways. Why not other feelings?”

Fire blazed in Smolder's belly. “Because my version of those feelings has Ocellus stuck in a pile of coins and gems where she belongs!” She exploded. Then she realized what she'd said, and her claws shot to her mouth as Gallus and Yona stared. The silence lingered for a full ten seconds before Smolder's eyes narrowed and she lowered her claws. “And it's because I'm saying stuff like that, that I don't care what you guys think you're seeing with me and Ocellus. It's not real, it's just me being a greedy dragon.”

“Burying feelings is not best,” Yona said with certainty. “Smolder make things worse. Should at least talk to Ocellus since she probably know already.”

“No she doesn't, and she won't know because she can't know because there is nothing to know,” Smolder insisted. She threw her pillow back onto her bed before her claws started to tear into it. “It's something I have to work through on my own. I'm just acting like this because she lives in my d – because we share a dorm. So I'm just thinking of her as something else that's mine. But that's it.” She ran her claws over her spines. They still pulsed and vibrated. “Okay? I'll get over it.”

“Right...” Gallus droned, clearly not believing her. But he caught the message, and so stretched and fluttered his wings, brushing the thoughts aside. “Where are you two going, anyway?”

“I don't know yet. Have to go see Headmare Twilight at the castle. Hopefully whatever this friendship problem is, we can just get it over and done with and get back here.”

“I dunno,” Gallus said, as he stood up, Smolder and Yona following suit. They started filing out of the dorm room. “Honestly, it sounds like you could use a vacation...”

Author's Note:

I wanted to write a story for Halloween, but I couldn’t really think of anything scary. So instead, have a sequel to Queen Chrysalis Reforms (Accidentally) and a spiritual prequel to Midnight Rendezvous (that is, it's not continuous with it but can be thought of as inspired by what it took for Ocellus and Smolder to get to it). Two for the price of one!

Also this is based on a game of Tails of Equestria that I wanted to run at Bronycon, but didn’t get a chance to. Smolder, Ocellus, and to a lesser extent Chrysalis are playing the parts I had planned for the player characters.

Finally, much like last year’s Ocellus’ Ordinary Day, I’m writing this entire thing on my phone at work (aside from editing at home) since it’s finally gotten slow enough for me to do so again. This might lead to weird autocorrect issues, but it’s a fun way to pass the time. Since it's not a proper Halloween story I make no promises that it'll be done by then. But, on the other hand, since I'm working on it at work rather than at home it shouldn't interrupt my other writing.