• 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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---SHOULDN'T SOMEONE BE WATCHING RICHARD?---

Author's Note:

Blah blah blaaaaah.

A little while later, Starlight tracked Richard down again, finding him sitting on a bench fairly close to the centre of town, people watching. Or pony watching, rather.

Alarmingly she’d actually managed to walk past him a few times without noticing him initially, which - given how much he stuck out once she did notice - was kind of unnerving. Suddenly his joke about being able to get into places by simply walking in and then walking back out again didn’t seem that much of a joke.

“There you are,” she said, strolling up.

Richard took a brief moment to finish appreciating the distant sight of a happy pony couple out for a stroll before smiling down at Starlight.

“Hello again Starlight. Quite the day this, isn’t it?” He said.

“It’s something,” she said, hopping up to sit down next to him, which perplexed him a little. He twisted in place to peer down at her.

“Surely there are more pressing matters than sitting next to me?” He asked.

“The others are searching, we’ve sent word to the princesses. I thought it’d be a good idea to find you,” Starlight said. Richard’s brow furrowed, though he kept on smiling all the same. An expression of bemusement more than anything.

“Whyever so?”

“In case Chrysalis came back to get you.”

Made pretty good sense to her. Clearly there had to be something going on with the pair of them (whatever that something might be), and just because Chrysalis had left without Richard didn’t mean she wouldn’t change her mind about it and come back without warning to grab him. She was nothing if not whimsical. So why not stake him out, just in case? They’d be kicking themselves if they missed it!

So Starlight was on Richard duty, for now.

Richard’s smile lessened a little and he untwisted so he was facing ahead again, back to watching life go by.

“Heh, I wouldn’t worry. Not much immediate risk of that,” he said.

Sounded like the sort of statement worth investigating to Starlight. On the one hoof the sort of thing that might give some insight into Chrysalis’s present state of mind, therefore something of tangible use in the circumstances. On the other, clearly something eating at Richard, whom Starlight had a bizarre sort of fondness for.

Also basic decency demanded that such an obvious sore spot be at least approached to see if any assistance or soothing could be rendered. Another being was in clear emotional distress!

Well, assumed emotional distress. There was the possibility of distress. Kind of hard to tell with Richard. But still! She scooched a little along the bench to bring herself closer to Richard and placed a comforting, platonic hoof onto his leg. Physical contact was often important. Apparently.

“What happened?” She asked.

Richard politely and gently removed her hoof from his leg but drew no further comment to it.

“We were having quite a nice day together, I thought. I’d done a little shopping, she’d done a little planning, we were having a little cuddle - ah, ignore that last part if possible, please,” he said, grimacing at having let such a personal detail slip. Starlight gave him a playful bump with her side, friendly-like.

“Too late, I’m picturing it,” she said.

“Oh dear.”

There followed the rolling of eyes from Starlight.

“Don’t worry, I won’t tell her. You do know she and I don’t talk, Richard, right?”

“Yes well, still, I have to be sure of these things. Anyway. It was nice is what I was driving at, nice and pleasant. And then of course I did my best to gently broach the subject of that princess meeting - feeling she’d find out one way or another, sooner or later - and clearly I did a poor job as her majesty...did not react well,” Richard said, the look on his face suggesting that his choice of words had something of a sour flavour.

“I’m assuming some things happened before the hole in the wall,” Starlight said.

Most things - even things involving Chrysalis - had some buildup before holes started appearing in walls. The possibility existed that a situation could go from ‘calm’ to ‘hole in the wall’ without any intervening action, but those would probably be outliers and black swans.

Starlight was angling towards finding out what their argument had been about, basically, as clearly they had had an argument and clearly it had ended with, well, a hole in the wall and an escape. So finding out about it seemed a good idea.

“I’d rather not get into the exact details if it’s all the same to you, Starlight,” Richard said.

“Would be kind of helpful to know. I don’t want to pry but if we have an idea of what happened we might have a better idea of what she’s thinking, where she went and what she might be doing. As much as anypony can be said to know any of those things with her…” Starlight said, descending into muttering at the end.

Richard could see the line of thought in this. It made a kind of sense he could respect. He sighed, but it was more just an especially tired breath outward than what anyone else might think of as a sigh.

“There’s not a lot to say. I may have been thumped against a wall a few times, she may have said a few things she - that I hope she just said in the heat of the moment, the details aren’t vital. She got upset. That’s the main thing. She is upset,” Richard said, as close to firmly as he could manage, even stepping up to making a demonstrative chopping gesture with his hand.

And though he said that the details weren’t vital there was one detail in what he’d said that Starlight couldn’t help but pick up on.

“Thumped against a wall?” She asked. Richard wafted this aside.

“Only lightly,” he said.

“You probably shouldn’t make excuses for that sort of behaviour.”

He thought about that, and thought about arguing about that, but then thought better of it.

“...probably not. But I am. I wonder what that says about me,” he said.

“Hmm,” Starlight went, letting him draw his own conclusions and also leaving an opening for a response. Possibly a mistake, in hindsight, as after a second or two of quiet reflection Richard let rip with:

“I mean, if I glowed brightly and changed colour I’d be a bit upset too. Doubly so if the way I took in nourishment was changed in the process. That’s going to be some adjustment period. Particularly with it following on the trot from, well, a few of her plans being non-starters. I think she needs a holiday.”

“...right,” Starlight said, looking at him sideways. Chrysalis likely needed (and maybe deserved) many things, a holiday was not foremost amongst them, as far as Starlight was aware.

And then Richard did himself one better:

“What I’m trying to articulate - poorly, heh - is that, a lot of what she used to define herself has been whipped away, just like that. She was in charge and she had these needs and the needs of her subjects to consider, and had her ways of attempting to fulfil all these, and this was the shape she bent herself around for however long, and now all that is turned on its head, everything she spent her life doing doesn’t need doing anymore. Where does that leave her? Tough to admit you’re obsolete, even if you’ve been handed a perfectly valid and altogether more pleasant alternative. Feels like you’ve wasted your time. And, if for example, it turns out this was something she could have done years ago and either chose not to or simply didn’t know about or think about, well…”

A hefty chunk of talking and no mistake, but then there was a lot to consider, Richard felt. As with many things in life: multilayered and interlinked, multiple factors to take into account, conclusions fuzzy and unclear. Starlight wasn’t so sure, but could at least see where he was coming from. Mostly. Kind of. A little bit.

“I think you’re making excuses for her. Again,” she said.

A definite sigh from Richard that time, and a marked slump in the shoulders.

“I am,” he said, then leaning in towards Starlight so he could say the rest while lowering his voice: “I’m going to let you in on a secret here, Starlight, but I think I might have a bit of a soft spot for her majesty and a habit of giving her a certain amount of leeway.”

“News to me,” Starlight said with all the shock, surprise and expressiveness of a paving slab, which did at least manage to make Richard chuckle.

“How are the others taking to it, to ask? The other Changelings and the, ah, change, I mean,” he asked, in a desperate and transparent attempt to change the subject or at least steer it away from himself while making it look as though he was keeping it vaguely on-topic.

Starlight shrugged. It wasn’t her area of expertise, but she knew a little.

“Pretty comfortably. Still getting used to it here and there but more or less happy.”

To all appearances, at least. Certainly none of them had blown holes through any walls or anything even remotely similar. Quite alarming how comfortably they were rolling with it, honestly, but then again they did have each other to help, while Chrysalis did not. Maybe, maybe.

Richard nodded, satisfied.

“Well that’s something. Rather surprised their new head chap or one of his agents hasn’t showed up yet. You’d think this would catch their attention. Their queen - er, former queen, but don’t tell her I called her that - popping up and all,” he said.

Richard was vaguely aware that the Changelings - or at least, the former members of Chrysalis’s hive - had a new fellow in charge. Some insect-sounding name that had since slipped his mind. Chrysalis had mentioned it once or twice (usually in a scream, usually with the word ‘betrayers’ involved somewhere) but that was about the extent of his knowledge on the subject.

“Twilight sent him a letter but I don’t think he’s got back to her yet,” Starlight said.

“Ah, probably busy,” he said.

Important people were often busy, in Richard’s experience. Lot of balls in the air, lot of spinning plates, that sort of thing. He’d probably appear in due time, probably just in time to arrive when all the other princesses (however many there were - twenty, maybe? More?) did, making the whole situation a lot more…

...interesting.

So there was that to look forward to, Richard thought. A bridge to cross when they came to it.

And while Richard was dwelling on this, Starlight looked him over.

“Don’t suppose you could just tell me where it was you and her were before? When she was hiding out in the woods? Wherever you were going back to when I met you the first time?” She asked, jolting him back into the conversation proper.

“Tell you? Ah, no, sorry, probably not. Secret lairs and all that. Would breach some servant-queen bond of trust,” he said. Starlight grunted.

“No, didn’t think so, would be way too easy. Urgh.”

“Sorry.”

“I’m not going to say I understand because I don’t, and it’s just going to make it harder for everypony involved but fine I guess…”

There followed some light sulking.

“I imagine your friends will do just fine in locating her, they seem the competent sort,” Richard said.

“Your confidence buoys me,” Starlight said through gritted teeth, and the conversation hit a lull. The pair of them sat in quiet and watched the world go by for a bit. Oddly, sitting next to Richard seemed to somehow bring Starlight into whatever bubble of obscurity he dragged around with him, as no-one seemed to look at either of them twice.

It was quite eerie, in all honesty.

At length, Richard sighed again and piped up:
“I definitely misspoke, in retrospect. I feel I may have slipped. There is a particular way of talking to Chrysalis - er, her majesty - that may have eluded me, briefly. I think I made the mistake of attempting to paint everyone involved as friends, or at least well-disposed to one another.”

“That’s not...wholly wrong…” Starlight said slowly, feeling it out in her own head.

Ideally all of this - whatever ‘this’ was - would end with everyone on happier, friendlier terms and the world a generally calmer, more understanding, more pleasant place. Wasn’t that always the ideal, really?

“That’s what I thought, hence why I said it. But that is, sadly, not how she thinks. Or not how she wants to think. She seems to view friendship as some distinct, corrosive force and influence. Which I find baffling, personally, but then I think it’s just one of the things around here that work differently.”

“Friendship is magic,” Starlight said, in the manner of one stating a fact. Because she was, as far as she was concerned.

“So I’ve heard, yes. I’ll have to take your word for it. Where I’m from it’s more of an intangible concept,” Richard said with a nod.

Starlight wrinkled her muzzle at him.

“That’s pretty far-fetched.”

“It is, isn’t it? Princess Twilight said as much when I told her, too. Have I mentioned lately that I’m an alien? Not from round here?”

“Might have come up,” Starlight said, suppressing a smirk.

“Thought so. Just checking.”

Another lapse into quiet, more pony-watching. With the day drawing in there weren’t many locals around and those that were were those just finishing things up. Stalls were starting to close, those going past were going past on their ways home.

“Can I ask you something in confidence?” Richard asked, again being the one to get things going again.

“You can tell or ask me anything you want, Richard. Whatever it is if you only want it between us it’ll only be between us,” Starlight said with genuine warmth and honest sincerity.

(Ponies were good at those things, Richard had observed.)

“Very kind of you. I’ll try to be direct as this is something that has been nagging on me - heh, bugging me, you might say - since her majesty sort of brought it up but, ah, how does one get, ah, more Changelings? If you catch my meaning.”

She did, even if it did take a second to sink in.

“Uh - oh, oh right. Oh wow. Um, you’re asking because…?”

“It’s...germane. And I am curious,” Richard said.

“Well - and I’m not an expert or anything - but I think they hatch from eggs?” Starlight said slowly, carefully, thinking back to what she’s seen and what she knew. Neither was a lot. It was honestly not something she’d given a lot of thought to before this point.

“They come from eggs?” Richard repeated.

“Yes. Probably,” Starlight said. She’d certainly seen eggs that one time. Or at least thought she had, things had been somewhat tense in the hive back then. But she was semi-confident that she was providing someway accurate information here.

Richard thought about this.

“Who lays all these eggs?” He asked.

“Well…” Starlight trailed off without finishing and gave him a significant look, one that let him figure out the answer on his own. The answer was someone he knew and who he was rather fond of. When Richard realised this his eyes widened a little bit.

“Oh, really?”

“We assume so. It’s not something there’s been a lot written about,” Starlight said.

A moment of silent reflection. Richard furrowed his brow.

“Does that mean they were all related to her? The ones who, ah, ran away? Or she ran away from, rather,” he asked.

“I wouldn’t think about it too hard,” Starlight said, reassuringly, doing her best not to think about it herself.

“Can’t really help myself now, unfortunately. Does rather add another level to it, don’t you think? Must feel as though her whole family abandoned her. Her children, no less!”

“Or she abandoned them.”

Richard thought about it that way for a second.

“Well, that’s perspective for you,” he said.

More silent reflection, then:

“So who’s the-”

Starlight cut Richard off here.

“You know, maybe these are the questions you should be saving for when Chrysalis is back, hmm?” She said, sweetly. Richard got the point and decided to let the matter rest, even if the prospect of directly asking Chrysalis such a question did not appeal, even if she hadn’t been upset.

Then again, he imagined it was one of those things that’d likely make her blush, which was a sight he had come to quietly, secretly appreciate those rare times it happened. So maybe...

Evening definitely starting to draw in by now, sun starting to dip. Noticing this brought something to Starlight’s attention:

“That house you were staying in fell down,” she said.

“I believe so, certainly rings a bell,” Richard said, getting another eye roll for his troubles, but Starlight pressed on:

“What I mean is do you have anywhere to go? For the night? You have kind of this creepy talent for always being able to get and be what and where you need but just thought I’d ask.”

In all the excitement this issue honestly hadn’t crossed Richard’s mind. Nothing immediately suggested itself to him. If he had to admit it to himself, he’d rather let the comforting pleasantness of sharing the dinky little house with her majesty get to his head, and much as she felt she’d gone soft, he rather worried he had a little, too.

Got comfortable, just a smidgen. Hadn’t seemed so bad at the time.

“Oh I’m sure I’ll be fine,” he said. Starlight wasn’t so sure, and frowned.

“Could probably stay in the palace for a night or two. There’s tonnes of rooms, place is basically empty,” she said. Always seemed like a waste to her.

“The palace, you say?” Richard asked.

Starlight gestured to the looming, impossible-to-miss, gaudy bulk of the palace.

“The palace,” she said.

“Very nice of you, Starlight. Suppose that’d be keeping me close too, eh? In case her majesty just-so happened to swoop back to try and snatch me up?”

Starlight held her hooves up.

“You got me. But no seriously I just didn’t really like the idea of you sleeping in a ditch or something,” she said.

“Sure there’s some very nice ditches around here but, ah, I gratefully accept this kind offer. Would be silly not to. And I’ve always rather fancied spending a night in a palace anyway. Well, one that wasn’t a ruin. Ah, not that I’ve stayed in any ruins, just to say,” Richard said, eyes widening a little along with his smile. Starlight’s own eyes narrowed.

“Hmm.”

Richard stood up, gesturing in the direction of the palace.

“The evening draws in, lead on Starlight I say, yes? No sense sitting around in the dark, eh? Best get inside. Maybe we can play a round of something? There must be a deck of cards in there somewhere,” he said with a forced breeziness.

Her narrowed eyes stayed on him a little longer then she hopped off the bench, shaking her head to herself as she started off on her way, he falling into step beside her.

“I hope she’s alright,” he said as the bench receded into the distance behind them and the palace grew before them, then adding: “I quite miss her, you know.”

Starlight goggled up at him.

“She’s been gone for barely two hours!”

She wasn’t exactly sure if that was accurate, but it certainly didn’t feel like it had been very long. And it hadn’t been very long at all, really. It had all happened rather quickly.

“Has she? Feels longer. Likely the worry. I just want her to be happy, really.”

Starlight’s face softened, just a bit, eyes getting a touch less narrow.

“I know,” she said, the two of them now arriving at the frankly rather too-large front doors.

“Which I know she dislikes. The word, I mean. But there are those times when she is happy and hasn’t consciously noticed she’s happy and those times, well, I’d say she was beautiful when she’s happy. But, uh, don’t tell her I said that,” Richard said, feeling that the stress of the day really must have been getting to him at this point to explain so many slip-ups.

Starlight just shook her head and ushered him inside.

“You’re the weirdest alien I’ve met, Richard. Now, when you say ‘ruins’...”