• Published 19th Nov 2023
  • 284 Views, 35 Comments

Chrysalis and the Crystal Cave - Brickhammer

Chrysalis is alone during a storm, and after a series of mishaps makes the only rational decision, which is to enter a nearby cave for shelter. She gets a lot more than she bargained for.

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Chapter 1 - The Storm

Alone … Chrysalis was … alone.

Chrysalis was resting at an old abandoned camp site, though calling it a “camp site” was generous. In truth, it was more like a set of tents and a dirt mound with space for a campfire in the center. There weren’t even any log benches to give you a reprieve from resting on the ground. Chrysalis was standing next to the fire pit, eyeballing the flickering flames and reflecting on everything that had led to this moment.

Three weeks ago she had made the mistake of thinking she could be a leader again. She had used dark magic to give life to new creations that would obey her without question. At least, they were supposed to. Sure, they resembled her greatest enemies, but they were hers, they should’ve been obedient. Unfortunately, they thought they knew better, they were rebellious, and they betrayed Chrysalis all over again. Further investigation revealed they had almost succeeded in their mission regardless of their betrayal, but that strange tree … ruined them.

Now she was alone, again.

She was losing her mind in a forest, again.

“What do you make of this, Lt. Sparkle?” asked Chrysalis.

The lifeless lavender log was unresponsive. Perhaps a few weeks ago it would’ve been able to reply, when it was a fully formed being resembling a dark mirror version of Twilight Sparkle, but now…not so much.

“I understand, you’re correct once again, I made a tactical error. Your advice is invaluable as always, Lieutenant,” said Chrysalis.

Chrysalis was sitting near a fire, holding her trusted purple advisor close. The other remaining sticks that had once been the mean six were used to fuel the fire, as a sort of … funeral for them. Still, Chrysalis held on to the lavender remains, she couldn’t let go of her most successful creation, her most talented prodigy. So, she managed to delude herself into believing this lavender stick was her loyal underling. It was something, at least, and Chrysalis was willing to believe her own lies if it meant she wasn’t alone.

Besides, if you fall for your own lies, isn't that just a sign of what an expert deceiver you are? Chrysalis though so.

She was disheveled and broken, she needed somepony to blame for everything she’d been through.

“I’ve been dethroned, I’ve had my own hive turn on me, and I’ve been humiliated in front of my subjects at the height of my power, twice.” Said Chrysalis, huffing with anger

“I’ve been set back time and time again, and after everything I’d done for my people, they cast me out, they threw out their own queen!” Said Chrysalis, with visible anger rising to the surface from deep within her.

“When my changelings and I were sent flying from Canterlot all across Equestria, I persevered, and though we failed to conquer Canterlot, we were together. The changelings, all of us, didn’t give up. I formed search parties that worked to bring every last member of the hive back together, no matter how long it took. Together, nearly every single member of the hive was brought back home. Sure, plenty of them were love-starved, but they were alive, and that's what mattered. We regrouped, planning our next big move for years," pondered Chrysalis aloud.

"Together we managed to kidnap and replace every major figure in pony society, we had practically won! Under my leadership, the hive had reached its apex. Then, what did they do to thank me for leading them to the victory we were working towards for so long, the victory that we had spent years planning, the victory we had finally achieved? They turned on me the very INSTANT that it became convenient to abandon me, the very instant that they were offered an easier path!” screamed Chrysalis.

Starlight Glimmer, she’s the one responsible for all of this, she’s the reason I’m like this, the reason I’ve been left in a forest to go mad, she’s the reason I’ve been separated from my hive! When I find Starlight, I’ll show her true fury! She’ll beg for mercy, and she’ll beg for her friends, like that traitor Thorax!” Chrysalis softly yelled to herself, angrily stomping the ground as she spoke.

“But help will never come, her friends will never appear to save her. Yes, that dreadful Starlight Glimmer … she's going to get everything she deserves,” said Chrysalis with a sinister grin.

“Once I take my revenge on Starlight Glimmer, I’ll cast down that traitorous false king, Thorax, and lock him away in the darkest dungeons of the hive as an example, that’ll show them what happens to those who betray me!” -Chrysalis raised her hoof and slammed it through a nearby tree in an excited rage - “After that, the hive will demand that I rule them again, not that I’ll give them a choice,” said Chrysalis

"No, no, that's too good for Thorax! I'll have that traitor executed, and every changeling will have to WATCH! They can watch their beloved leader get the fate he deserves, and they'll never try to backstab me like that again!" yelled Chrysalis.

“But first, I must formulate a proper revenge plan, a plan that’ll really shock the poor foals I’ll be unleashing it upon. Lt. Sparkle, any input you’d like to provide on the plan? Any at all?

“I suppose not, then. Well, I’ll just have to workshop my revenge plan alone then, I don’t require your aid, I don’t need help from anypony,” said Chrysalis.

"Ugh, am I going native? I'm even saying things like anypony," she considered.

Chrysalis felt a sharp twang, as though something had gone missing inside of her. “It seems my hunger is growing, I need to find a source of love to drain, soon,” said Chrysalis, suddenly shifting priorities.

Chrysalis’s love reserves were running low, dangerously low. She could tell it was starting to get dire. Not surprising in a forest where most creatures capable of love actively chose to avoid doing so, but that knowledge did little to sate her hunger. To remedy this, Chrysalis began to trek through the Everfree Forest, searching for any source of love she could find.

Chrysalis was visibly distressed, she was moving at a speed akin to a starving predator. It felt like the forest was intentionally throwing obstacles in her way, vines, critters, gaps. Chrysalis refused to slow down for any of these distractions, slicing through vines with a magical blade protruding from her now glowing horn, easily evading the critters that wanted to nip at her hooves. She effortlessly flew over gaps in the ground she encountered, silently laughing at every river and ravine that thought it could challenge the mighty changeling queen.

Eventually, Chrysalis managed to pick up a trail, the scent of love in the air. She quickly followed the trail straight to the source. She hopped and skipped over more and more obstacles, with the most irritating by far being the briars all over the ground. Thankfully, she had wings to deal with problems ground-bound creatures found impossible to solve. After far more galloping than Chrysalis would’ve preferred, she managed to get a look at the source of the love. It was a young pony couple enjoying a camping trip together.

The pair consisted of a dark yellow pegasus stallion and a brown, fluffy unicorn mare. Their love was young, fresh, and to Chrysalis, delicious.

"Finally, a proper meal. The Everfree has been content to starve me for the past few weeks, maybe now it's trying to apologize?" considered Chrysalis. "Well in that case, apology accepted! This is an excellent gift, forest! Although it still doesn't make up for otherwise being an awful excuse for a home, filled with monsters and other constant perils."

She hid away in the nearby bushes, feeding off of the love the couple was giving off. It tasted like sweet nectar, and with how new the couple’s love is, the love had a fresh texture. "I love it when it's fresh. There's nothing wrong with the timeless joy shared between long-time lovers, of course, but young love is like a carefully crafted dessert to us emotivores. I suppose that would make long-lasting love somewhat similar to a healthy five-star meal, prepared by a master chef who's made the same dish countless times and become a master at it. Yet still, there's a desire to shake things up, add a few new spices, learn from new cultures, and there's still so much mystery to it, even after decades of trying and failing to fully grasp its true nature. Young love, in comparison … how would the pink one put it? Young love is like a birthday cake explosion in your mouth for a changeling. It's reminiscent of the very first time you ever had your parents tell you that today is dedicated to celebrating you, and how special you are, and how it's time for you to have your very first dose of sugary sweets. The best part? It tastes like that first time you ever had a sweet treat every, single, time," mused Chrysalis, getting lost in the love-feeding experience.

The couple started saying all sorts of lovey-dovey stuff to each other as Chrysalis watched. "C'mon, babe, why are you always so scared of the dark? There's nothing to be afraid of. I mean seriously, what are the odds a monster is gonna pop out?" asked the brown unicorn mare.

"Pretty high in the E-E-Everfree. Y'know I can't believe I love you so much that I let you talk me into coming here! Ponies go missing in these woods all the time, Cocoa. We should REALLY get out of here by tomorrow, by the absolutely latest. Besides, can you blame me for being a little nervous?" said the dark yellow pegasus stallion to his marefriend, apparently referred to as Cocoa.

Chrysalis could feel something about to happen, she always enjoyed these moments. Perhaps ponies were irritating pests, but even pests can be adorable under the right circumstances. That goes double when the pests are serving you the emotional equivalent of chocolate on a silver platter, after you've been trying to survive in the wilderness for months.

Cocoa got even closer to her coltfriend, leaning into his wings. "Awww ... you're cute when you're scared, babe, has anypony told ya that?" said Cocoa, inching to within a hair's breadth from her now-flustered coltfriend. "What's the matter, Huff, need me to cuddle up with you so you don't feel so scared?"

At this point, the stallion now known as Huff had cheeks redder than freshly-grown tomato. Obviously, he obliged and put his wings around her, in a warm and fuzzy display of shared affection. They closed their eyes, completely at peace.

A few more minutes of feeding off their love, and Chrysalis had her fill. That should be enough to last at least a month on its own, assuming she doesn't have to expend too much energy. Now came her favorite part, showing the ponies who's boss. Chrysalis thought of what transformation she'd use. "A manticore, or a cragadile, maybe even a wendigo? No, all of that would be too much. I can't waste too much energy, I just replenished my love reserves. Hmm ... think ... think … "

"That's it, a young hydra will do! Won't waste too much energy, but it's still suitably terrifying," Chrysalis thought, going over how this would work in her mind before executing her comical plan.

Chrysalis rapidly transformed, enveloping herself in a glowing green flame. Within a moment, she emerged as a completely different creature, a young hydra about the size of a small tree, but no less terrifying than its older counterpart. She popped out of the bush she was hiding in, and let out a magnificent roar that shook not just the trees, but the ground itself.

The young couple immediately perked up at this, turned around, and witnessed the three-headed terror before them.

The pegasus, Huff, was the first to speak. Ponies were rather predictable, so Chrysalis assumed the next word to leave his mouth would be something along the line of "RUN!"

And right she was. The couple immediately made their escape from their small camp site, leaving everything they brought with them behind for Chrysalis to "repurpose" later. With the hapless pony couple having made it out of her line of sight, she transformed back into her true form. "Well that was effective. Good thing that didn't take much longer, maintaining transformations with multiple heads can be exhausting ... and very disorienting," remarked Chrysalis, proud of her successful scare.

“Hah, Ponies running in terror! Excellent! I badly needed that,” said Chrysalis. Displaying a rare example of a happy expression, Chrysalis smiled on the way back to the abandoned camp site.

Now back at the camp site, Chrysalis began to think things were looking up. Of course, nothing good that happens to Chrysalis lasts very long. She had learned that cosmic truth somewhere around the time her initial attempts at peace with the pony tribes. They were separated back then, Chrysalis always found that odd. Even back then, it seemed obvious that ponies should stick together, they were all a herd species, and in all practical terms there wasn't much reason for the hostilities, aside from, perhaps, political and land reasons. That was likely the explanation, but maybe it ran deeper than that? Chrysalis decided to stop considering this, ponies were simple-minded fools, and that was that, no need to look any deeper into why that's the case.

Chrysalis would never know why ponies were so prone to infighting, but she learned to be grateful for it. How else would she have her fun, deceiving them, spreading rumors, and convincing them that it's their idea to do what she told them to do.

She finally had some time to relax. She hated relaxing though, she need to be doing something at all times, that was her philosophy. She considered sleep a necessary evil, but resented it for several reasons. The chief among these being the dreams she had. Every single time she went to sleep for the past few months, she replayed that moment, when her own hive betrayed her. How could she let this happen? Should she have disciplined them more, threatened them so they'd stay loyal, or perhaps some other approach? There were thousands of possibilities on how she could've gotten out of the situation victorious, or at least not in as terrible of a situation as she was now. Every night, she considered one of those possibilities in the form of a dream, but somehow the dream would always end with it not working, or getting replaced with what really happened.

Chrysalis couldn't be certain why her dreams were so odd. She was under the impression they were usually meant to be peaceful. At least, she hoped dreams were peaceful, since she's responsible for wrapping up thousands of ponies in cocoons and leaving them helpless to do anything besides dream. Maybe this was some form of punishment for all those ponies she'd trapped? No, that's ridiculous, ponies don't matter, or at least most of them don't.

She wanted to be rid of the past so badly. Once she knew what she should've done back then, how she could've avoided all this, she wanted to move on to planning out the future. After all, the past is over and done with, and her real priority should be planning her revenge, not moping around over her past failures.

Chrysalis had a hypothesis of sorts about her dream problem. She had heard rumors in her day that Princess Luna could alter dreams somehow, a rather unique form of magic. The first time she heard that, she dismissed it as utter hogwash. She thought it was a ridiculous rumor indeed, dream-walking magic? Oh please! Then again, ponies aren't the best at outright lying, so she didn't completely dismiss the notion. Now though? She was almost certain the rumors were true. Chrysalis could nearly guarantee now that Luna, that repugnant moon witch, is forcing her to relive the same scenario in her dreams over and over again, all so that she can never focus on forming a proper revenge plot! It's genius, really, or it would be, if Chrysalis hadn't already uncovered Luna's plan. Now that she knew, she would simply do her best to ignore the dreams ... even if deep down she wanted to explore the possibilities they offered.

Chrysalis continued to think, but she was resting inside a tent, and tomorrow would surely bring her the vengeance she sought. If not tomorrow, it would be the next day, and if not that day then the next day after that, and so on. This was the only way she could rationalize resting when she should be planning, but she had to remind herself, vengeance takes time, and it wouldn't be fair to her or her enemies to give them a shoddy, half put-together revenge she thought up during a deranged stupor. So, she allowed herself to rest, because vengeance takes time, and a queen deserves rest, doesn't she?

It began to rain.

It had scarcely been an hour, and Chrysalis had truly hoped beyond that for once she'd be wrong, but no, the cosmic truth that nothing good ever that happens to her ever lasts once again proved itself, this time in spectacular fashion.

Chrysalis was in a panic, she had nowhere to go. The few tents at the campsite wouldn’t provide enough shelter, and there was an even bigger problem.

Then ... thunder rang out.

She was running out of time. Though, she stopped for a moment to think. Can you imagine it, an immortal changeling queen being done in by a perfectly ordinary storm. Well, this storm wasn't quite ordinary, it wasn't created by pegasi, no, this was a creation of the Everfree Forest itself. She should've expected this, considering the forest's most infamous property is its inexplicable ability to generate weather without the aid of pegasi.

It was too late to worry about it now, though. All that mattered was finding some sort of shelter.

She rushed outside, looking for anything nearby. The slight dripping sound of rain was quickly replaced with the white noise of a torrential downpour. Chrysalis wasn't able to locate much besides tree cover, which wasn't ideal considering the lightning problem. Just before she could think of anywhere else to go, she felt that uncomfortable sensation, water on her chitin.

"Ugh ... guess I'm already drenched at this point, can't get much worse. Oh, and would you look at that!" exclaimed Chrysalis, as she watched the water ruin her perfectly good campfire. "You can't be serious, now the rain has decided to ruin the makeshift funeral for my fallen creations? At least the fire already got to them, but I wish it would have lasted longer, at least."

With nothing else to do, Chrysalis took one last look at the abandoned campsite, and glanced at the sticks that had once been the Mean 6, now piles of ash. Though they had failed their mission, Chrysalis decided it was only proper to give them a final salute. She then bid them farewell, and raced off into the forest to find a reprieve from the storm.

fifteen minutes of gallivanting and she was no closer to anything that even so much as resembled a safe haven from the storm.

That was when things got worse, much worse. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted a group of ponies wearing armor that was all too recognizable. Five of them, all pegasi, Bright yellow armor in the middle of the forest made them stick out like a soar hoof, and their standardized white and gray coats made it all the more obvious who those "mystery" ponies were. Equestrian soldiers, specifically part of the solar section of the equestrian military. Chrysalis knew they meant business, after all, why else would they be in the Everfree? Well, it could also be the fault of a certain chaos spirit getting up to his old tricks again, but one can explain just about every strange circumstance they encounter by simply assuming that it's somehow Discord's fault, and that's just a bad habit to get into.

She was in her true form, and there wasn't much cover besides trees. Chrysalis, being one of the few equine creatures blessed with an unnatural height that allowed her to tower over lesser creatures, was just reminded why said blessing can also be a curse. She instantly stood out among the trees with her black chitin and her easily recognizable silhouette, and even less stealthy was her unique twisted horn. Most days, Chrysalis appreciated that even though she was a changeling, her true form was still striking, elegant, recognizable, awe-inspiring and so much more. This, however, was not one of those days.

All that being said, the leader of the soldier ponies instantly recognized her based on her dark outline alone, even in spite of the heavy rain, now accompanied by even heavier fog, obscuring their vision. The captain called out to Chrysalis "I-It's her! I found her, the one we were looking for! Ready yourselves ponies, s-she's extremely dangerous!"

One of the younger soldiers added, "Heh, and you were even willing to bet me that the changeling sightings were just hearsay. Looks like I win, and YOU get to be the one handling latrine duty for the next couple weeks. Consider it payback for all the ear damage your yelling has caused us," said the young soldier rather casually despite the situation.

"Cork it, newbie! In case it isn't obvious, this is the one and only ... Queen Chrysalis." He said in a mocking tone.

"She's currently the last loose end for Equestria. Worse, she's the mastermind behind every single family, friend, lover, or otherwise that's been "disappeared" by changelings for the past thousand years or so." said the captain, with renewed confidence as he adapted a battle-ready stance. The other soldiers followed suit, spears and shields at the ready.

Chrysalis finally stepped out of the shadows, and got a proper look at the captain. He's clearly old, his coat is bright white, the standard color for a member of the solar branch. His mane was the usual blue for solar guards, but it was darker, an indication of his age. He had striking green eyes, eyes which were currently giving Chrysalis an impressive death stare.

"So, I suppose there's no way I can convince you this is all a misunderstanding?" asked Chrysalis.

The captain replied with a strange venom to his words, "No tricks, changeling. My name is Captain Shattershield, leader of this fine squadron, and servant of Equestria. You can do this the easy way, and surrender immediately, so you can enjoy the rest of your immortality in a dungeon. Or, you can do this the hard way, and we have to use force, and maybe if you're too rowdy we'll finally get to be the ones to put an end to your ugly mug. I won't lie, I'm hoping you choose the hard way, but unfortunately that choice is up to you."

"It would be unbecoming of a queen to go in chains, so I'll be choosing the hard way, thanks. But just so we're clear, little ponies, this scuffle will only be "hard" for you, not me."

She readied herself, and ignited her horn. She was waiting for the pegasi squad to make their first move. They were in a battle formation with spears and shields in every direction, perfectly covering each other. "Aim pointy sticks in every direction" has been a solid battle strategy since the dawn of time, sometimes it's just hard to improve on perfection.

Chrysalis flashed back, thinking of the name Shattershield. This was a long-time captain indeed. He was one of the guards during the wedding incident. He had been a Lieutenant then. With Shining Armor incapacitated, he must've taken charge. Chrysalis was impressed, and a little annoyed that a pony that had bested some of her top warriors decided to show up and be a thorn in her side all over again.

"You, Shattershield. I think I recognize you, you were on the guard detail meant to protect me, yes?" asked Chrysalis.

Captain Shattershield flinched. "Y-yes, but I was there to protect Princess Cadance, not some lousy imposter. My work there was the reason I was promoted to Captain. Now, are you going to attack us, or are we both going to wait in attack formation forever here?"

"That answers that. Now then, if you insist on wasting my time by fighting a battle you can't win, we can get this over with," said Chrysalis, not taking the soldiers seriously.

The rain still didn't let up, and the thunder intensified. In sync with the thunder strike, Chrysalis teleported to a random side, and fired a beam of sickening dark magic from her horn directly at the cocky young soldier that was so self-assured just moments earlier. The beam was all too quick, assaulting the young soldier before they even had a chance to react. It was a terrible sight, sending the soldier out of formation and knocking them directly into a tree with a painful thud. The soldier was already unconscious, seconds into the battle.

The other soldiers were well-trained, and shifted positions to cover as many angles as possible. They remained calm and collected, at least on the outside. Still, they couldn't help but notice the festering wound on their comrade's wing. Beams of concentrated dark magic like that could last for months without expertly handled healing magic, though they could rest assured that a pony on the royal payroll would be provided the best care bits could buy, assuming they managed to emerge victorious. Chrysalis could taste it, now, there was resolve in the air, they knew they had to defeat her, or else they would all suffer the same fate as their unfortunate friend.

Chrysalis used the rain to her advantage, staying just out of sight. Normally the pegasi would be the best choice for dealing with a weather problem like this, but Everfree's weather was untamable. Chrysalis would turn this fog into her ally, rather than a hindrance.

Chrysalis called out from the fog as she teleported around, "You've trained well, against any other foe, you'd appear to be stoic, unshaken. But me? I can taste your fear, it's running off of you like a waterfall. I almost pity you."

Chrysalis surrounded herself in an aura of sickly green dark magic, and charged straight towards the four soldiers. Something wasn't right, though. Chrysalis noticed they no longer smelled like body odor and sweat, the normal scent for fear, but it was too late to stop her charge now, it was all or nothing at this point.

Just before she made impact with them, potentially dealing with them all at once, they all turned to face her, and created a gust of wind with the combined force of four angry pegasi. Chrysalis was launched by this vicious gust away from them and directly into a pile of bushes, getting covered in twigs and briars.

"Perhaps I underestimated you soldiers," she remarked.

"Last chance, Chrysalis, give up now, or this will start to get messy" said Captain Shattershield.

The soldiers moved in closer to where she landed, but Chrysalis was already upright again.

Only then, Chrysalis noticed that she had landed directly next to a river. In seconds, a terrible beast arose from the river, a lizard-like beast with a rough body made of stone, known to most as a cragadile.

"Oh joy, another problem, just what I needed, and this time it's one of the Everfree's horrific monsters" said Chrysalis with an eye roll.

The cragadile lunged at her immediately, while the soldiers blocked her escape further inland. Chrysalis couldn't fly well, not with the rain still pouring. She also couldn't keep backing up, she'd just get skewered by spears. She had to think, and fast.

Chrysalis had a burst of inspiration, and surrounded her form with dark-green flames. She shifted into a previous form, that of the young hydra she used to frighten the young couple earlier that day. Now, she was twice as tall as the cragadile, and it was three heads versus 5. Chrysalis liked those odds.

The cragadile was shocked at first, but kept trying to gnaw at Hydra Chrysalis's ankles and drag her under. At the same time, Chrysalis avoided the soldiers' attempts to poke her with such a major size difference, it couldn't quite move her, but she did screech out in pain.

With a horrible screech emanating from three heads at once with a backdrop of rain and thunder, the cragadile released the scent Chrysalis was so used to by now, the characteristic body odor smell of fear. She was starting to get sick of how atrocious all these frightened creatures were starting to smell, but it was a small price to pay to live another day. The intimidated cragadile retreated back into the water in the face of the larger predator, leaving Chrysalis alone with the soldiers, her intended adversaries.

Shattershield yelled at Chrysalis, "Just because you look like a hydra now doesn't mean you're as strong as one. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. Time to humble this so-called queen, c'mon soldiers!"

Chrysalis immediately realized her error, but before she could change forms, she was once again hit with a gust of wind, this time with one of the soldiers' spears added to the mix in order to pierce her hide at high velocity. She couldn't transform in time, and she began to topple over. At the same time, the spear launched by the gust took her left head clean off. Fortunately she had two heads left, and two heads against four was still better odds than before.

Her clumsy hydra form tilted further and further back until she could do nothing but watch as she tumbled backwards into the river with all the grace of a tower undergoing demolition. She managed to place her right head below her back, cushioning her fall at the cost of destroying another perfectly good head, leaving only the middle head remaining.

To avoid risking herself any further, she was able to transform back into her true form shortly after hitting the ground. Thanks to being made of chitin, her true form was mostly unscathed, and the spear that had hit her other form was now inside the left side of her torso, just under her left wing. Chrysalis was accustomed to this sort of thing, and grasped the spear with her telekinesis. With a quick yank, she dislodged the spear from her side, much to the horror and shock of the soldiers.

She then telekinetically chucked the spear back towards the soldiers, purposely hitting next to them instead of on them.

"Look, ponies, I'm feeling generous, and I'm a very busy changeling these days. Run off now, and we can call this a draw, even if I've obviously outdone you in every regard."

Thunder cracked down, nearly hitting the river Chrysalis was standing in. She checked around, and she hadn't been zapped, so she assumed it was fine. More concerningly, the cragadile that had been lurking in the river was now gone, likely having run off once the fighting intensified.

"Wait," Chrysalis realized. "That wasn't thunder. That was ... "

She could make it out more clearly now, or as clear as she could with the neverending sound of rain.

"You hear that too?" said Shattershield.

It was a roar, the kind of roar that told everyone else that you were at the top of the food chain, and to get out of your way or face the consequences. That kind of roar could only belong to one creature in the Everfree Forest, its simultaneously gentle and predatory, beautiful and terrifying, mish mash of all your worst nightmares. It was a manticore, and it was MAD.

That sort of roar was only released by a truly angry manticore. That particular roar, if Chrysalis had memorized it correctly as part of her shapeshifter training, meant that the manticore was very, very hungry. Consider she and the soldiers are made out of food in a manticore's eyes, this was less than ideal.

It was time to use that planning brain of hers, but Chrysalis struggled to think of anything this time. "Sure, the soldiers are likely to run, I can count on that, but what if the manticore decides changeling is its preferred snack? I can't afford to waste any more of my love reserves after that idiotic stunt with the young hydra transformation. C'mon Chrysalis, think!" thought Chrysalis, racking her mind for a solution.

"Wait, the soldiers are going to try and run, and then they can lose the manticore in the fog, assuming they can carry their unconscious comrade. That's actually not a bad plan, I think I'll copy it. Hah, I suppose the changeling philosophy of "copy if it if it works" really does apply to everything," realized Chrysalis.

So the plan was settled, if the ponies were going to run and try to shake the manticore, so would she. It's not like any of them could fly out of here anyways with the endless deluge from the clouds going on at the moment. And even if it wasn't raining, manticores have wings, much to the dismay of all creatures who have found themselves the target of a manticore attack and mistakenly believed that the power of flight would be enough to escape the beast.

Chrysalis fired a dark magic beam at the manticore to draw it attention as she galloped past it, summoning all her strength. It reeled back for a moment, inspected its now-wounded side, it had been infected with dark magic, and that kind of magic would can leave behind a wound for months without proper magical treatment. Unfortunately for the manticore, it didn't have access to modern medicine, but it did have access to chasing down the changeling that had given it this excruciatingly painful wound.

Chrysalis glanced back, the manticore was in hot pursuit, and Chrysalis knew it would take everything she had to slip away from such a massive monster. She galloped and galloped, racing through the forest as her heart pounded. In that same glance, Chrysalis also noticed that the soldiers had picked up their one unconscious soldier, and they were getting out of there with their tails tucked behind their flanks.

"Serves them right, thinking they could mess with the queen of the changelings and get away unscathed," thought Chrysalis. She would've loved to gloat more, but the manticore breathing down her neck was a more pressing matter.

She came across a series of vines, and slashed them to ribbons with her twisted horn, then continued her gallop, searching every direction for shelter, somewhere the manticore couldn't reach her. The rain then truly fell in full force, and combined with the fog, visibility was at an all-time low. Suddenly, she lost track of the manticore. Chrysalis listened and tried to determine where it went, but couldn't figure out where it had suddenly gone. While trying to determine where the manticore went ... it leapt out at Chrysalis! Out from the fog it ripped directly into her wings, brutally tearing through her wing membrane.

Chrysalis could barely contain the urge to scream out in pain, but she forced the urge down and used her negative emotions to fuel her horn, igniting it. From her ignited horn, Chrysalis unleashed a blast of pure magical hatred at the manticore, nailing it squarely in its own wings, and forcing it to back off. She had no time to admire the pain she had caused it, so she made a break for it further into the forest.

“I have to reach shelter soon, then I’ll be able to heal my wings, c'mon Chrysalis, you won’t be done in by some random grab bag of animals with a face only a mother could love,” thought Chrysalis, reassuring herself.

The rain was pouring, and the fog was getting worse and worse. It was like the forest itself was against her, but Chrysalis refused to give up that easily. She could handle a little fog, she just had to keep going.

The manticore, with renewed confidence, managed to catch up to her. She summoned a magical shield with her usual green aura to block the manticore's advance, but trying to cast a shield spell while running and unable to see behind her left it flimsy and badly positioned. Breaking through the shield with ease, the manticore stung her with its massive scorpion tail, injecting its toxin right into Chrysalis’s veins. Once it finished its injection into her left back leg, the manticore retracted its tail, leaving Chrysalis with a gaping wound in that leg.

"Ugh ... I.." Chrysalis could feel nothing but pain, as her acidic blood leaked out from her previous wounds more and more the faster she ran. "I have to keep reminding myself, that love blast I took back at the hive took nearly everything I had, now I can barely even handle a few soldier ponies and a cragadile, much less an apex predator," thought Chrysalis.

Still she managed to muster up enough strength to fire another dark magic beam from her horn, sending the manticore packing. Now, the beast had three major wounds, each of which could take weeks, or even a month or two to heal. Chrysalis took solace in the fact that thanks to her mastery of dark magic, the manticore would be dealing with the injuries she gave it for far longer than she would have to suffer from the injuries it inflicted upon her.

She continued to gallop away, running for her life in spite of the manticore toxin running through her veins. Eventually, she reached something that could be used as a shelter, a cave entrance too small for the manticore to fit through. Right on time, too, as another burst of thunder rung out across the forest, and the roaring manticore could be heard alongside it.

“Finally! I can deal with this toxin and my torn wings later, all that matters now is survival. I’ve no choice but to enter that ominous cave, then,” said Chrysalis, with a nervous tone.

Chrysalis peaks over the entrance, with the manticore's enraged stomping not far behind her. Unfortunately, the cave entrance is a deep hole that seems to go further down than Chrysalis can see, she considers her options. "There’s nothing nearby, and tree cover won’t save me, my only option here is to take a leap of faith. But, my wings are torn, can I even survive that fall? The rain from this storm drained down there as well. It's too slippery for me to climb down across the walls, what to do, what to do?" Chrysalis pondered these things for a few moments, wishing she had more time to decide.

But then she heard the manticore about to catch up, alongside the routine sounds of thunder and rain. "I've only really got one choice, huh?" thought Chrysalis.

She jumped, taking the ultimate leap of faith. She had the utmost confidence she would survive. She was Queen Chrysalis, how could she not? Besides it would be a nice break from getting rained on.

Just as Chrysalis fell down the seemingly bottomless pit, the manticore reached its claw into the cave and slammed her against the cave’s inner wall, cracking her horn. Out of time and out of options, Chrysalis bit down on the manticore’s claw, causing it to let out an ear-piercing shriek of pain. More importantly, it let go of its grasp on Chrysalis.

Chrysalis felt like she was going to fall endlessly. Then, everything went dark.

Author's Note:

Enjoy the ride, this is my first story here so I'll be learning as I go. I've been wanting to make something like this for a long time, so I hope you enjoy this as much as I enjoy making it!