• Published 14th Feb 2020
  • 3,695 Views, 494 Comments

What have I done to deserve this? - Cackling Moron



Every obstacle in the path of a Queen is the fault of some nefarious other party, and no fault of her own.

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---WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES (EXCEPT QUEENS, WHO OTHERS MAKE MISTAKES AT)---

Author's Note:

Ooh, it's a big 'un! And it's probably pretty incoherent but it was fun to write, which is the main thing, really, isn't it? At the end of the day?

Chrysalis was, as she often was, waiting for Richard to come back and met him immediately the other side of the door. From the way she was already staring at the point his face would be when it opened, he had to guess she’d been standing in that exact position entirely so her glaring face would be the first thing he saw on his return.

He wondered, briefly, how long she’d been standing like that for.

“You’re late,” she said.

“For which I can only apologise, your majesty, I was-”

“It doesn’t matter why you were late, Richard, it just matters that you are! Did you at least manage to get everything I asked for?” She asked, eyes flicking down to the bags. Richard entered the house more properly, shut the door behind him, and set the bags down.

“I believe so,” he said.

Chrysalis set to rummaging immediately, magically pulling things out for scrutiny, starting with the baklava because it happened to be at the top of the first bag, or at least happened to be the first thing she chanced upon - whichever answer was most pleasing.

“Why was this at the top?” She asked, brandishing the baklava.

“Your instructions gave me the impression that you wanted quick and easy access, your majesty,” Richard said.

Chrysalis - cheeks bulging from having already had about half the box of baklava crammed into them - glared at Richard a little more (just so he could appreciate what thin ice he was on) and then looked over the other supplies she’d pulled out of the bags. The pens, the string, the handy-dandy ultra-portable super-foldable flipchart, etcetera.

“Thish schall be schuffshient fhor my purposhesh,” she said around a mouthful of syrupped pastry, swallowing and adding: “Go Richard, shoo! Out of my way. You’re a distraction, go upstairs.”

“As you wish.”

And so he did that, while Chrysalis took over the bottom part of the dinky little house to serve as her planning lair. As was his custom, Richard did not mind this. He felt he could use the time to work on his memoirs, which he hadn’t started or even thought about starting until she’d sent him upstairs.

Not for widespread consumption his memoirs, obviously, were they ever to exist. Likely wouldn’t be of great interest to most, and those parts that a few maybe would be interested in he probably still couldn’t talk about, for various reasons.

So kind of a non-starter, really, but still amusing to lie on the bed and think about. He later moved onto imagining himself being invited onto Desert Islands Discs, and not for the first time, this serving as an even better way of making the minutes fly past.

Eventually the sounds from below - for Chrysalis did not plan quietly, there was rather a lot of talking to herself and occasional blurts of borderline-maniacal laughter, as might well be expected - ceased, and the house went quiet.

This Richard noticed, as he was in the habit of noticing such things, and his ears pricked to evaluate the silence, for silence came in several varieties and all had to be approached and handled differently.

Identifying what sort this was he gave it a few more minutes and then rose from the bed and, with delicacy, moved back downstairs.

“Your majesty?” He asked cautiously as he tip-toed on his way, keeping his eyes peeled.

The place had previously been tidy. It was now very much not, but that was okay - clearly Chrysalis had been seized by a fierce energy, and this Richard could appreciate. Discarded pens lay hither and yon, whether just having been left to roll there or exhausted who could say?

And then there was the flipchart, standing amidst it all.

At the top of the thing was written ‘Me’ with the rest divided into two sections: pros and cons.

The pros side was rather crowded.

She’d clearly started out writing quite large with well-defined bullet points (such as ‘Fiendishly intelligent’ and ‘Possessed of supernatural grace and elegance’ and ‘Exquisite sense of style and timing’ and so on), but as the side had filled up she’d got smaller and smaller until she’d run out of space, whereupon her excess pros had to be squeezed in wherever she could manage, between lines and in the corners and up and down the sides. There was no room left anywhere for any more at all.

The cons side was, by comparison, rather light. It had two points.

The first point was:

“Too modest.”

The second point - written later judging by how small it was and with the evident dryness of the pen used, the whole thing having the whiff of an afterthought - was:

“Only one (idiot) minion.”

“Nice to know she’s thinking of me,” Richard said, smiling, and then his eyes fell on the queen herself - her majesty being sprawled languidly and luxuriously across the length of the sofa, having clearly decided to have a little nap. She was on her front with one hind leg hanging off the side and trailing on the floor, her chin resting on one arm with her other leg sticking out over the other end, jutting into the air.

She was also drooling, but just a tiny bit. And, well, that happened to the best of us so it was hardly fair calling attention to it, Richard felt, moving in to kneel down and give her a gentle shake by the shoulder.

“Your majesty,” he said softly.

Chrysalis awoke with a snort. This didn’t help the drool.

“Hnrh? Wha? I’m awake, I was awake, who dares - ! Oh, Richard, it’s you. Hello,” she said, what had been a snarl-in-the-making melting instead into a still-snoozy smile. Richard smiled back.

“Hello your majesty,” he said.

Her smile widened, her eyes closed.

“I do like hearing that…” She sighed, rolling onto her back and spreading her forelegs apart. “Come closer, I want you closer.”

“As you wish.”

Richard lent in a little more and the instant he was within reach Chrysalis grabbed him, wrapped her legs about his head and squashed him in against her. He’d rather seen this coming, but the suddenness of it did take him off guard a bit.

“Mine, my minion. Mine.” she said, happily, then asking: “Where were you?”

Odd question, all things considered, but then she was still clearly only half-awake.

“Upstairs, your majesty. You sent me out of the way?” Richard prompted, his voice muffled by all the her pressed against his face. Out of the corner of his eye he could see her own eyes opening again, just a little.

“Out of the wa-? Oh yes, yes, I remember now. The plan - the plan!”

Releasing his head she wiggled, struggled to right herself, flailed and then with Richard’s assistance managed to gracefully and elegantly dismount the sofa, whereupon she moved over to the flipchart, Richard in tow.

“A vital first step in planning is being aware of what is available, and since I am what is available, it’s important to take stock, have it all laid out. You learn these things when you’re the queen,” she said, invigorated now and fully-awake.

If nothing else could be said for Chrysalis you could always say that she could turn on a sixpence with next to no effort at all - one moment happily snuggling and dozing, two seconds later upright, sharp and extolling her planning abilities with barely any time wasted. Nought to sixty in fucking nothing at all.

Richard rather liked it about her, honestly.

“Are you paying attention, Richard, or are you just standing there gawking at me? Chrysalis asked. Richard gave a small bow.

“Apologies, your majesty. I was struck briefly by your grace, elegance and exquisite sense of style, as happens to me from time to time,” he said.

Chrysalis might have gained just the merest hint of colour in her cheeks at that. But if anyone had asked her about it she would have told them - rightly! - that it was just a trick of the light.

“W-well pay attention, I’m trying to explain what I’ve done here to you. Explaining things is also an important step!”

“As you say. You have my full and undivided attention.”

“Good! Now, as you can see here, this is a list of my many virtues or my ‘pros’. I had to whittle the list down a bit so I focused on the more important ones,” she said, gesturing to the pros side with a hoof.

“It did seem a bit light,” Richard said.

“If I was doing a full and comprehensive list of my strengths I’d still be writing them down - there isn’t enough ink in the world! So I had to focus, and so this is what we have. This is what I have to work with,” Chrysalis said.

“I see,” Richard said.

Chrysalis then gestured to the other side.

“Now over here we have those things I have to work against. These two cons are the two weaknesses and obstacles I must overcome,” she said.

“Seems sensible.”

“The first is simple enough, I just have to stop this needless modesty!” She stood perfectly still and silent for a moment. Then she smiled. “Done! Good. The second is going to be trickier, even for me. Can’t conjure minions out of thin air - and trying to use logs is simply non-viable, clearly a faulty option in the first place. No winging it, it requires a proper, planned-out solution!”

“Have you considered sticking a couple of those pieces of paper with a telephone number written on little tear-off tabs on the bottom to a few local lampposts?” Richard suggested. It had always struck him as a wonderfully novel idea, though he couldn’t personally vouch for its effectiveness. Had to be worth something if people apparently kept doing it, surely?

Chrysalis ignored his idea with a breeziness that came naturally with her unusually good mood.

“No no no, I’m going to start a new hive! A better one!” She said. Richard raised both eyebrows in salute to her ambitious approach.

“That does sound tricky.”

“Actually it’ll be super easy, barely an inconvenience.”

“Oh really?”

“Really. Simply a matter of breaking it down into stages! Location! Propagation! Construction! Couldn’t be easier,” Chrysalis said, wafting aside her troubles with a wave of her hoof. Simplicity was mostly a question of attitude at the end of the day, probably.

And while breaking things down into manageable steps was always a good idea, Richard couldn’t help but feel there were some key details that might prove tricky when it came to creating a new hive. Or, rather, when it came to populating a new hive.

“How does one get more Changelings, anyway? Does it require two Changeling grown-ups who love one another very much?” He asked, scratching his chin and gazing thoughtfully into middle distance.

Given many of the biologically questionable ways in which Changelings apparently functioned (where did all that extra mass go-stroke-come-from when she changed shape, anyway? Parts unknown?) this seemed far too pedestrian an explanation. At the most, the only thing Richard would commit to expecting about Changeling reproduction was that slime was probably involved in the process, somewhere.

He was not wrong. Oh, he was not wrong.

“It is not a part of the plan that you will have to worry about, Richard,” Chrysalis said, reaching up and patting him on the head then freezing when the possibility that she might have to worry about it crossed her mind.

Would that work? Could that work? She could probably make it work, if she had to. With him. If it came to that. Which it probably wouldn’t. Would it have to come to that?

Hopefully not. Hopefully…

Certainly not something she had the time to dwell on right that second anyway. Maybe later when she was on her own and things were quieter she could think about it, work something out. Later in bed, maybe. Though she might have to think about it at length. But later, alone. Not right then.

Right then was the time to feel satisfied with all the hard work she’d done. Taking a step or two away from the flipchart she faced it and gave a contented sigh, Richard standing beside her.

“This is good, this is good. What’ll be the first step in the right direction. A plan!” She said.

“Very impressive, your majesty,” he said, not really seeing whatever she was seeing but entirely confident she knew what she was doing.

“I am, yes. Now take me back to the sofa, Richard - you interrupted my post-planning rest period.”

“As you wish,” he said, bending down and scooping her up without warning. This made her squeak in alarm and cling to him reflexively, continuing to cling even after he’d walked the barely-a-few-feet back to the sofa and sat down on it, her resting now on his lap.

“...you picked me up without permission,” she said, eventually.

“Ah, sorry. You did say to take you back to the sofa, your majesty,” Richard said.

“...I did...but you shouldn’t assume. I’ll let you off for it this time but in future I shall give you a signal first.”

“Sensible.”

“I am, yes. Now hold still, I need to get comfortable.”

Chrysalis then spent a happy minute or three furiously wiggling about on Richard’s lap in an effort to find the perfect position to curl up in. At length she found an adequate one and settled into it, happily.

And in this position they sat quietly for a little while, Chrysalis edging towards dozing off again, Richard thinking. He’d have preferred not to be thinking - he’d have preferred just to have occasionally glanced down at her cute, squishy, snoozy face - but sometimes thoughts were unavoidable.

There was still the maybe-delicate-maybe-not-no-way-of-knowing-until-broached subject of the meeting going on wherein which Chrysalis’s future might be a topic of discussion. It wasn’t the sort of thing Richard felt could be left to fester or be ignored and put off.

She was going to find out sooner or later after all, and it would probably be better she found out sooner via him than later, when someone official showed up to start walking her through some sort of, say, friendship plan they’d cooked up for her.

Best to get it out the way, gently.

“Oh yes your majesty, there was something I meant to tell you,” Richard said.

“Hmm?” She hummed snoozily, not moving otherwise and not looking at him - only barely listening.

“While I was out I just-so happened to bump into Starlight Glimmer again, and she and I had a brief chat. That’s not what I meant to tell you, that’s just the preamble.”

Her previously cheerful, energised mood dried up rather as a puddle does on a particularly sunny day. Her eyes opened, and her face lost most traces of that cute squishiness. This would be another of those ‘turning on a sixpence’ moments.

“You were speaking with Starlight Glimmer? Alone? Again?” She asked.

“Yes well I just bumped into her, you know. Small world and all that. Hardly alone anyway, just in the street. But as I was saying, we just had a little natter me and her, and it kind of wandered onto that meeting that Princess Twilight is having that I mentioned. If you recall?”

“Where are you going with this, Richard,” Chrysalis said, more as a demand or ultimatum than as a question. Her tone was a warning one. Richard swallowed lightly and plunged onward.

“I’m told that the meeting is, in fact, something of a princess get-together - I don’t know how many princesses this place has, I assume lots - where they all sit and chat with tea and cake, which is fine. I only mention it because there is the possibility that, you know, at this little gathering, your presence here and what the future might hold for you might come up and - and...that sort of...thing…”

Words began to fail Richard at this point in the sentence because Chrysalis’s eyes started burning a hole in him.

“So what you are telling me, Richard, is that right now, somewhere, a cadre of my enemies are happily discussing myself and my life and what is going to happen to me as you might discuss what to do with the remains of dinner, and are doing so over tea and cakes while I’m sat here, with you, looking at a flipchart?” She asked. Her voice was disarmingly steady.

Richard started to get the impression he might have made a mistake in starting this line of conversation.

“I don’t know for certain, it’s just the impression I got was that it was a possibility, your majesty. I can’t imagine it’s anything to worry about,” he said.

Not anything to-!” She hissed, scrambling off of his lap and back onto the floor again, the better to face him square-on. “These are not ou- my friends! A queen does not have friends! She has servants and she has enemies! These are my enemies! The only reason they are still alive at all is that it is presently in my best interests to allow it!”

“Of course, but you’re getting back on your feet, aren’t you? With the planning?” Richard asked, nodding towards the flipchart.

“Yes but - this - ! This is not - !”

Chrysalis was sputtering, because she was finding it hard to articulate what she was feeling.

Feeling anything in the first place (other than malice and ravenous hunger) remained highly disorientating, but attempting to convey why writing some things down on a piece of paper was not in any way adequate planning when being done in a house owned by your enemies where they knew you were and was little more than a glorified, cushy cell (because clearly that’s what this was, now she thought about it) was something she couldn’t quite wrap her head around.

It was too obvious! Where was she meant to start?

“Whatever it is they’re discussing, assuming they’re even discussing anything, assuming you even come up at all, I’m sure they have our - your, sorry - best interests at heart, your majesty,” Richard said, attempting to sound soothing. It did not work. Chrysalis was not soothed.

Was he joking?

She blinked at him, waiting for the punchline. But there was no punchline.

Richard didn’t know what to say when she just kept gaping at him, and Chrysalis’s mind was racing too much for her to say anything. Why hadn’t she considered this before now? Why hadn’t she already taken it into account?! That her enemies would already be scheming?!

They’d probably insist on helping her in coming to terms with what had happened to her and how she had to be now and there’d be advice and support and they’d want to be friends and the whole thing just sounded like a nightmare.

And that’s what was being discussed about her, without her, right now. Right that second! Richard had confirmed it! That’s exactly what he’d said, he’d confirmed it.

The possibility always existed, of course, that her enemies, minds infinitely inferior to hers, regarding her success with envious eyes, were out there slowly and surely drawing their plans against her. Indeed, this wasn’t so much a possibility as a fact - her enemies were out there all the time, always drawing plans against her. That was just what being a queen was.

Usually though it didn’t matter because she was a dozen steps ahead of the game, having already won that game and moved onto playing a different game entirely. Usually it didn’t matter because she was on top of things, sharp, in control.

And while she remained sharp, Chrysalis could admit that things lately had perhaps slipped just ever-so-slightly out of her control, through no fault of her own. So now those myriad, inferior enemies would be closing the gap on her. Soon, they might start coming close to winning not through sheer, dumb, blind luck but just because she’d started lagging!

Because she had started lagging, she realised with a thrill of horror! She had! Through no fault of her own, obviously, but still, that didn’t change the reality of the situation.

Hadn’t she lost everything? Had it snatched away? Been undermined? Betrayed? Yes! Yes she had!

And it was still happening! If anything it was getting worse!

Her ungrateful, treacherous underlings all turning on her had been one thing, that had been bad. They’d been weak and Starlight Glimmer had been a malign, foul force working against her. That happened sometimes. The hive collapsing had been bad, sure, but you could always just build another one, it wasn’t hard.

These are trifles. Annoying, but not insurmountable.

What had happened to her though was orders of magnitude worse! An assault on her very being! Look at what had happened to her! She hadn’t drained an emotion in days! She hadn’t needed to! Hadn’t even wanted to! Horrifying! What had they done to her?!

What had Richard done to her?

There was an idea. What had he done to her?

It was his fault, after all. She’d said as much, hadn’t she? More than once, and to his face. And she’d been right. It was his fault! If it wasn’t for him she’d have been fine. She would be fine! She’d probably have won by now! Bounced right back and carried on to complete domination! He’d ruined it all! It was all him!

And look at him! Sitting there like everything was perfectly okay. Like he was totally comfortable with everything that had happened to her. Like he’d wanted it to happen to her! With that dumb, worried, concerned look on his face! As if he cared! Like she bought that! She was onto him now! Now she got it! Now she could see!

It was him! Him!

“NO!” She shrieked, so suddenly, so loudly and so violently that she managed to blow out every window on the ground floor of the dinky little house and rattle the ones upstairs.

Richard, wincing, had to clap his hands over his ears and still had them there when, a second later, Chrysalis came barreling into him, heaved him to his feet and bore him bodily into the nearest wall, where she pinned him, reared up on her hind legs, forehooves (somehow) gripping him by the collar.

For a rather svelte bug-horse thing with a (subjectively) cute squishy face she was alarmingly strong, even leaving aside the magic. Quite scarily strong, in fact - a hideous strength entirely out of proportion to her size. Richard sometimes forgot this.

“I am not a PROBLEM THAT NEEDS SOLVING! I am A QUEEN!”

Richard felt it was probably a bad sign that she’d picked the same words he had worried she’d pick. Suggested she was going in exactly the direction he’d hoped she wouldn’t.

“Your maj-” he started.

Chrysalis thumped him against the wall, which was one way of cutting him off.

Don’t ‘your majesty’ me! I’m onto you, Richard! It was you all along, wasn’t it?! This was your plan! From the beginning! This was all your fault! All of it! From the start! I can see it now! One set-back would have been bad enough, but a whole string of them?! With you there with me the whole time?! What do I even really know about you, RICHARD?! Nothing! Trying so hard to be a good minion! Too hard! I was desperate! I’d lost everything! I foolishly took whatever help I could get. Wasn’t it convenient you appeared when you did? WASN’T IT?!” She snarled, her face so close to his they were basically nose-to-nose.

“I would nev-”

Another thump, this one a touch harder just to get the point across. The various frames of generic art hung on the walls all jumped in sympathy. One fell off, smashing on the floor.

SILENCE, RICHARD! I should have known from the start! I should have seen it! You exploited my brief window of weakness! You picked your moment well, catching me at my lowest! My most vulnerable! That was your plan! That’s what you all wanted! They sent you to do it! A little scheme you all cooked up together! You were in with them from the beginning! Their tool! THEIR CATSPAW!”

Her train of thought was thoroughly out of control at this point, screaming along the tracks, downhill, shedding components at a rate of knots, violently detonating cattle on its cowcatcher and venting steam from a number of alarming ruptures, whistling all the while.

So to speak.

Certainly Richard, who rather prided himself on his ability to understand where Chrysalis was usually coming from, for once found himself utterly at a loss. She seemed to be changing her theory of who was to blame and why from sentence to sentence. From the start to the end of a sentence, indeed.

He found himself starting to get a touch worried. Really worried.

“Chrys-”

Thump. Somewhere a vase fell over.

NO! I’m not listening to another word! Look where it got me! Writing on a flipchart and thinking it was a good use of my time! Eating food! NAPPING! This is all your fault, Richard! You did this to me, Richard! Look at me! Look at what you did to me! This is what you wanted all along, isn’t it?! That’s why they put you up to it! To soften me! To - to hobble me! To stop me being a threat! And - and that’s why you - why you found me when you did! And stayed with me! A-and looked after me! To make me think I wanted you to stay! That I need you to stay! That-”

The out-of-control downhill train of thought derailed completely, and whatever was happening in her head ceased being easily translatable into words. It was just a mass of incomprehensible feelings now, too much to be contained in just her brain and so instead spilling out to fill her others organs, causing them all to twist as she glared helplessly at Richard, who this time decided to keep his mouth shut.

The moment drew on. Chrysalis sniffed.

Why?” She asked in an alarmingly small voice.

This, combined with the borderline-pleading look in her eyes, gave Richard pause, and he thought desperately about what he could say that might best mend the situation. He honestly had no idea. He couldn’t even begin to imagine what might be going on inside her head.

He swallowed.

“If you’d prefer I go, your majesty, I can go. I’m sure you don’t need me,” he said.

Chrysalis’s glaring changed almost immediately to a look of bewilderment. Hurt, even!

“Don’t - don’t say that…”

Richard swallowed again, and though he didn’t really want to continue, he did anyway, because he felt he had to. He’d started, would be worse not to finish.

“If you think it’s best. If I’m holding you back or tripping you up. Whatever you think is best. I don’t want to get in the way of you doing what you want to do. Whatever makes you happy, your maj-”

“Don’t! That’s not - it’s too late anyway! And it’s not about happiness. It was never about happiness! It was about doing what I knew I had to do! I don’t do happiness! I didn’t do happiness…” she trailed off, there, and seemed a little distant for a moment. But then she snapped back. “Not until this happened! And it has happened. It’s happened. It’s done.”

She released her grip on his collar and dropped back onto all fours, stepping away from him.

“I’m sure Princess Twilight can work something out. Get you back the way you were,” Richard said.

Chrysalis was going to snap at him for that one - dense idiot - but as she worked up the bile to do so it all just slipped away. What was the point? Instead she just sighed, and seemed to shrink just the tiniest little bit.

“There’s no cure for this, I know there’s no cure for this. I knew from the start, when I first saw myself after it had happened. It’s not something that can be cured. It’s a change, not an affliction, something that has to be understood. But I don’t want to! I shouldn’t have to! I knew who I was! I had a drive! I had the hunger, I knew what to do! Nothing was ever enough, that was how it worked! It kept me going! There was a hole inside me that swallowed everything up, no matter what I did. It hurt, but I understood it! Now that’s gone! And everything I used to do is gone and everything is new and I don’t know what I want now! The hole is gone! It filled in! I’m full of things I don’t understand! They weren’t there before. None of it makes sense. I understood myself before! I went one way! Forward! Now I feel like I’m being pulled apart in every direction but forward! Now what?!”

Richard didn’t have an answer to this, and more’s the point he imagined (rightly) that Chrysalis didn’t want anyone else’s answers to this. She wanted to make her own answer. Not find her own answer, make her own answer. Because that was what she did, or what she was supposed to do, or what she thought she was supposed to do.

She stood up a touch straighter.

“I can start again. If I start again maybe it’ll make sense. I’ll go and I’ll start again,” she said.

Richard made to move - he wasn’t even sure what he’d been planning on doing, honestly - but Chrysalis’s hoof whipped up and stopped him in his tracks.

“No, no. Stay. Stay right there. Don’t move. Don’t say anything. Just stay right there,” she said. He did as he was told. Her hoof remained raised a second or so longer just to make sure he got the point and then dropped again. She sighed.

“This has gone on long enough,” she said. “I have to start again. Start again, keep going. It’s who I am, it’s what I do. No matter what has happened or will happen to me, it’s who I am. I have to start again. And I have to do it alone. Without you.”

This made sense to her, then, at that moment. Right then it was the correct choice. It was horrible and it hurt in a way she’d never encountered before, but it made sense, she told herself.

She also told herself that it was the only option, that it was what had to happen, and any notions to the contrary were just the result of how mixed up and ruined things had been lately. Those worries - and that nagging, gnawing desire not to do what she was planning to do - would pass.

And things would get back to normal, how they were meant to be. And she’d know what to do, and who she was. Back to being the queen the way she was meant to be the queen. The way things had been before everything had gone wrong.

A simple and direct way of dealing with the stress of not knowing which way to go is to go backwards and brick up the way behind you so you don’t have to worry about it anymore. While retreading old ground might get a little monotonous, it at least avoids the possibility of making a mistake, which is terrifying. You’ll know which way you’re going, because you’ve gone that way before.

Not that Chrysalis was scared of that. Or that she was going backwards. Or doing anything that was in any way negative, poorly thought out or in any way less than the optimal option. A queen wouldn’t do that kind of thing. And she was a queen.

She was The Queen.

So that settled that. Sniffling again and swallowing she stood up straight, resolute, and looked Richard in the eye - Richard who was still standing perfectly still, not saying anything.

“Richard,” Chrysalis said. “You were the worst thing that could have happened to me, happening at the worst time.”

He didn’t say anything to that, either, as hard as it was for him not to. He did look away from her though, down at his feet, over at a wall. Anywhere really, just as long as it wasn’t at her.

And now it was time to leave.

The dinky little house had been set up to (somehow, it wasn’t worth getting into how) block teleporting, as Chrysalis had guessed and previously tested in a moment of idle speculation, but probably not explosions, she thought. Thought rightly, in fact. This was an oversight that the wall of the house suffered for, by having a very large hole blown through it by Chrysalis.

There was a door, but apparently she hadn’t been in the mood to open it.

Coughing and wafting aside dust Richard squinted and caught what might have been a flash and what could have been the briefest glimpse of something small and bird-like flapping away at speed, but then nothing, and she was gone.

Outside, some distant ponies looked alarmed, but that was about it.

As the dust settled Richard wandered up to the massive hole in the side of the tiny house and stood, scanning the sky. Then the ground. Then the sky again, just in case he’d maybe missed her somewhere. Still nothing. She was gone.

Richard sighed. He would have sunk down and just started sitting on the floor with his hands in his lap and probably never stood up again - he really, really wanted to - but sheer force of will kept him standing. It was the done thing to keep standing.

Important to keep going.

“That...probably could have gone better,” he said to himself, sadly. Then he looked to the hole. Some of the exposed, splintered wood was smouldering. Likely a bad sign, but that was magic for you. “This’ll need fixing, too.”

And though Richard knew that he knew a guy who knew a guy who could do walls, for some reason he just couldn’t muster the energy to do anything about it right that second. Right that second he preferred to do and think of absolutely nothing at all.

So he just stayed standing there, scanning the sky. Just in case.