• Published 14th Feb 2020
  • 3,687 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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---FOLLOWING A BRIEF WALK---

Chrysalis was indeed up, awake and waiting to greet Richard the instant he set foot back through the front door. She was also, indeed, just a touch anxious.

“Where were you?!” She yelled, magically hoiking him off his feet and yanking him through the air to leave him hovering in front of her. He lifted up the shopping bag and gave it a shake, unruffled at being magically manhandled so.

“Shopping,” he said, then adding: “Your majesty.”

“I’ve had about enough of your attitude, Richard! It’s time you - are those cupcakes?”

The bag had shifted position enough for them to have caught her eye.

“It is two cupakes,” Richard confirmed.

Two suggested the possibility of them being for sharing, which Chrysalis wasn’t thrilled about. Her eyes narrowed at him.

“Are they both for me?” She asked. He nodded.

“They are both for you, yes.”

Richard didn’t have that much of a sweet tooth. By contrast he knew that Chrysalis did. He also knew she liked going in for seconds. Hence two cupcakes. There was method involved, here.

Her anxiety ebbing away and her irritation mollified, Chrysalis set Richard back down on his feet.

“I was worried about you - ah - worried that you might have been captured and then given up my location under interrogation, and that any moment I might have found myself surrounded!” She said, waving around a hoof demonstratively.

A legitimate source of worry!

“Your majesty, at least do me the credit of believing I’d take your secrets to my grave,” Richard said, clutching a hand to his chest, wounded.

Not...wholly accurate what he’d said, given his conversation in the woods...but close enough for his standards. What Chrysalis didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him. Yet.

“Hmm. Partway to the grave, maybe. I don’t believe you have sufficient spine to last the whole way,” Chrysalis said, tapping a hoof against her chin and favouring him with a smirk as he continued to look wounded.

Not...entirely true what she’d said, given she did believe he had sufficient spine...but it wouldn’t do to let him know she thought that. It’d just go straight to his head.

“Is this because I didn’t get three cupcakes?”

“...be quiet, Richard. Give them to me.”

He did so. Chrysalis immediately devoured the first one while holding the other nearby, on standby.

“Permission to put the rest of the food away?” He asked.

“Ghranthed,” Chrysalis said around the first cupcake and, with a brief bow, Richard went off to do just that. Chrysalis, a moment later, followed. He’d probably need supervising. Or at least he’d need his mistakes pointed out to him, when he made them.

Aggravatingly, even though she was watching him closely, he was slow in making the mistakes he was supposed to be making, so pointing them out wasn’t something that happened. Instead she just watched him in silence. Thinking.

Thinking about several things. All very important. None of them involving Richard in any great detail, though often tangentially. Watching what he was doing right then specifically - putting away food - did bring one thought to the forefront, however.

Starlight wasn’t the only one low-key amazed by Richard’s apparent ability to wander around without attracting undue attention. Chrysalis had always just taken it for granted that he could go and do whatever she needed him to do, wherever she needed him to do it, but now, watching him deal with the food, the ever-burning question of ‘how’ got more and more insistent.

After all, when she reconnoitered she at least had a disguise (a perfect one, always). What did Richard have? Nothing! Not unless you included monstrous height, a weird loping gait and a general eye-catching bearing, none of which were good things.

As much as she hated having to lower herself to ask, her curiosity was simply too great.

“Richard, how do you get in and out of that town so easily?” She asked, breaking the silence.

What with ponies being - without exception - spineless, nattering cretins, it was surprising that it hadn’t become more of an issue yet. Or an issue at all, really. Richard did not pause in what he was doing and said:

“I go in, I get what I want, I go out.”

A frustrating non-answer.

“But how?” Chrysalis pressed.

He did stop for this one, turning about and smiling at her.

“Charm” he said.

She glared. How did he do it? How?!

By all accounts it doesn’t make sense.

Chrysalis advanced on him, maintaining eye-contact, eating the other cupcake in the most intimidating manner possible. Richard just maintained his smile until she was right up in his face, and then kept on maintaining it anyway.

“Fine,” she hissed. “Keep your secrets. Doesn’t matter to me anyway.”

“Not a secret, your majesty.”

It doesn’t matter! I’m going to go and do something important! This ruin still has secrets yet to uncover, I’m sure of it.”

“As you say, your majesty,” Richard said, sighing to himself and finishing up, waiting and listening for her to start shouting for him again.

It did not take long, and it came just as he was stirring his freshly-brewed mug of tea.

Richard!

He sighed, though quietly, and let the teaspoon drop into the mug. If you said or heard a word often enough it started to get washed out, becoming more of a sound instead of something that carried meaning. He wondered what would happen if the word that got washed out was your name. Would you stop existing?

Probably not.

“Coming, your majesty,” he called back, hustling up.

Or down, in the event, for Chrysalis had gone down, going through one of the many doors that led to the expansive and ever-so-slightly creepy basement. There was a lot of junk in the basement. Much of it had been there at the start, and a lot of it was junk that Richard had put down there in the course of his tidying.

He found Chrysalis standing by one-such piece of junk. She looked absoultely delighted with herself. The junk looked like something that really shouldn’t have been left in a basement.

The thing screamed Magical Object of Great Power. All unfeasibly large, multi-faceted gemstones and coiled gold. It was almost as tall as Chrysalis, Richard saw. He felt like he was wasting a fortune just by standing near it.

“What is it?” He asked.

“I found it!” Chrysalis said, which was in no-way an answer to this question. Richard rolled with it.

“In the basement, your majesty?”

Only here in this technicolour wonderland, Richard reflected, would you find this sort of thing in a basement. And only here would it look like that.

“It’s a catacomb!” She said, knowing full well that it was not. Richard knew this too, but saw no reason to contradict her. If that’s what she was going with, he was happy to play along.

“What does it do?” He asked instead, as a followup to his last and as a variation to his other question.

Quite uncharacteristically for Chrysalis - and a good sign of just how excited she was by her discovery - she did actually explain what the thing was and what her plan was involving it, launching forth with gusto, though Richard rapidly lost the thread.

Love. Magic. Absorbing love. Gaining magic. Power overwhelming. Revenge. Eternal rule. Domination. More magic, more love. Something something. The other. Enemies laid low. Humiliation doled out every which way. Victory. More revenge. It all kind of blended together for him.

He saw non-specific magical laserbeams in his future.

And where she was actually getting any of this from was anyone’s guess. Could everyone around here just identify any old bit of magical brickabrack by sight alone? Or was there a handbook he hadn’t seen? Just seemed unlikely, but who was he to say so? He wasn’t even from round here.

“-and I’ll be unstoppable! Unstoppable I say!” Chrysalis said, capping her spiel off with a laugh that served as a fine conclusion. One of the things Richard would admit to liking about her was her theatrical flair. That she wasn’t even trying helped. It just came naturally to her.

“I do love how there’s always some magical item lying around somewhere that’s just perfect for whatever scheme is being cooked up,” Richard said.

Chrysalis, who’d struck a mighty pose with one hoof raised, head held high, could practically feel her face drop on hearing this. He had a gift for really taking the drama out of things.

“Be quiet, Richard. Just move it for me,” she said, pointing to the thing.

He looked at it, then at the flight of stairs he’d be lugging it up.

“To the main hall?” He asked.

“Yes. Quickly!”

“Righto, your majesty. Lift with your legs, that’s what mother always said. Or was it the back? I did hear it was the strongest muscle in the body...

Much heaving, grunting and hauling followed. Richard used every part of his body to lift, not just his legs or his back. Chrysalis supervised. Or criticised. How you’d define it would depend on where you were standing.

“There is something uniquely pleasing in watching you move heavy objects…” She noted once he’d managed to get it up to the top of the stairs and he’d paused to take a breath and mop his brow.

“Had to be good at something, your majesty,” he panted before resuming the hauling.

He got it to the hall in good time. Not no time, but good time. And once there, it just became a question of fine adjustments.

“A little to the left,” Chrysalis said.

It went a little to the left.

“A touch to the right,” she said.

It went a touch to the right.

“You’re not - hoo - not just messing me around are you, your majesty?” Richard asked, doubled-over, hands on his knees.

“That’d you even suggest such a thing, Richard! Like I wouldn’t have anything better to do,” she said, having to look away to hide the enormous grin on her face. Naturally, this hid nothing, not from Richard’s keen eyes.

“Of course. It’s good here though, I take it?” He asked.

She made a show of looking over the placement of the object but, as she didn’t actually care, it really didn’t matter. She was just making him stew some more.

“Yes,” she said, eventually. “It’ll do.”

“Wonderful. Just need some water…” Richard said, stumbling off.

He didn’t ask for permission for that one - idiot - but Chrysalis didn’t see the use in reprimanding him, instead dancing a tiny dance of pure joy around the artifact, the key to victory! Whatever it actually was. She was fairly certain she knew. Certainly odds over fifty, maybe close to seventy. Pretty solid.

Richard returned in short order looking much refreshed.

“I’m not going to have to do anything magic-related, am I?” He asked.

Magic was in no way his area of expertise. Not even close. Chrysalis rolled her eyes.

“No, Richard, you’ll just stand in the corner while I do the hard work. As always,” she sighed, shooing him away.

“I thought as much, your majesty. This corner?” He asked, pointing to the nearest one while moving towards it.

“Yes yes,” Chrysalis said, waving a hoof at him, her focus on the artifact.

All corners were much of a muchness when it came to keeping useless, lumbering aliens out of harm’s way. Or just the way, generally speaking. Harm wasn’t a concern. But the corner was quite safe all the same.

“Now, to begin…”

No sense in wasting time, after all! Things had to progress. Horn igniting, she probed towards the thing, feeling the magical presence of it sitting there, reaching out for tentatively, gently but insistently.

And then catching it! Aha! Just as she’d thought! As if she could have been wrong!

Truly an object of great, miscellaneous power! Just waiting for a mind and talent as great as hers, to have its potential unlocked, put to use!

The weft and warp of magic itself bent, like casting a stone upon a taut sheet of cloth!

Impressive stuff. Kind of concerning that the thing had just been left lying around under a dust sheet in a basement. But hardly surprising, given the way things usually went. A wonder the world hadn’t ended accidentally by someone tripping over the wrong thing just left in a hedge, really.

And of course assuming that what Chrysalis had said should be happening was, in fact, happening and it wasn’t just a case of a localised magical ruckus the effects of which did not extend beyond the room. Which was also eminently possible.

Magic. Always a roll of the dice.

Still, at least Chrysalis seemed to be enjoying herself.

“Yes! Yes! Ahahaha! All too easy!” She cackled as an unearthly, sourceless gale began whipping through the hall alongside a very energetic lightshow.

On the face of it, from the outside, Richard could imagine that this would all look pretty bad. Noted villain, another magical trinket, lots of rushing wind, some of those nondescript magical laserbeams, possibility of something awful happening. But he knew it was all mouth and no trousers.

He was firm in the belief that the universe itself would not allow anything truly serious to happen. There’d be a hitch, for there was always a hitch, and the plan would derail. Or, rather, divert, and events would end up in a better place by accident. Lessons would be learnt, life would improve. His faith that this would happen was absolute.

Back home this faith had been misplaced. Here? Perhaps a little on the optimistic side, but certainly not too unbelievable. There would be something soon enough, he was sure. Magical backlash, maybe? Or the sudden arrival of some hero or other to put a stop to things? There were lots of options. Richard was keeping his eyes peeled.

Just not in the right direction.

Above him, the aged, decrepit ceiling was cracking. Or cracking more. Much of Chrysalis’s chosen hideout was cracked and crumbling, despite Richard’s valiant efforts at maintenance, and it just-so happened that the corner he’d chosen to stand in was one of the more crack-riddle parts. And the cracks did not appreciate all this brouhaha.

Not that Richard noticed. He was just watching Chrysalis, happy she was enjoying herself, idly waiting for the universe to nudge the rudder, as it were.

The cracks worsened. A chunk fell.

And down Richard went, poleaxed.

The piece of ceiling that hit him on the head didn’t make much of a noise on impact, he himself was silent and the noise of him collapsing was swallowed up in the general din and tumult filling the room, but the movement did catch Chrysalis’s eye.

She looked over, just for a second. Saw Richard laid out in a heap. Lazy as well as stupid, she thought. But then the thought blossomed more fully. Why would he be on the floor like that? Surrounded by bits of the ceiling? Bits of the ceiling that had clearly fallen from-

“Richard!”

Author's Note:

Oh no! Surely not!

Don't think too deeply on the nature of the artifact. It exists to serve a purpose, and it has served this purpose. My purpose.