• Published 19th Nov 2023
  • 300 Views, 37 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 2 - The Cobweb Cove

Chrysalis awoke to a strange sensation.

"Am I alive ... or did the fall do me in for good?" she wondered. " Chrysalis felt a slight headache coming on. "Is this some sort of afterlife, the end for a once fearsome monarch ... or ... ?" she further inquired about her situation, barely awake.

She took a chance, and opened her eyes. All she could make out was a long tunnel leading into darkness.

This probably wasn't the afterlife, the walls were dark gray, she could at least make out that much.

"I'm beginning to think I survived that fall after all. Hah! Why did I ever doubt myself? I've survived the Badlands for centuries, I can handle anything," she reassured herself.

Chrysalis took a moment to get her bearings, then placed a hoof upon the gray mass that surrounded her. It felt rough to the touch, and structurally sturdy once she gave it a quick tap. That confirmed her suspicions for her.

She was sure of it now, she had survived, she had made it through yet another harrowing misadventure while just barely making it. She thought she would be used to the pain associated with this sort of thing by now, but after going through so many disastrous experiences over the years one-after-another, the repetition started to help less and less.

"I've survived another brush with death it seems ... almost assuredly so I can suffer through more of them," she thought, rather pessimistically.

She wasn't alone this time, though. Her frown lessened slightly knowing that from now on, she would never be alone, not as long as her loyal Lieutenant remained by her side. Fortunately, there wasn't much Chrysalis needed to worry about in that department, the options for a non-sentient stick betraying her or making a getaway weren't exactly numerous.

One thing was obvious to her now. This shadowy gray abyss was none other than the inside of the cave.

"It's so empty. Honestly, I'm starting to get second thoughts about that leap of faith I took, maybe I would've had better odds with the manticore. Oh well, not much that can be done at this point, it's far too late to turn back now," she mused.

Upon further inspection, Chrysalis reasoned that the cave entrance she fell from had already collapsed behind her, leaving the hole she entered the cave from blocked by chunks of rubble. Chrysalis reasoned that the manticore must've flown into a rage and smashed the cave entrance in a blind rage once its prey evaded it. Regardless of why the rubble was in her way, simply being there meant she wouldn't be able to leave just as soon as her torn wings were healed, contrary to her original plan. Now, with her way inside obstructed, the only path out was forward.

“Excellent choice, Lieutenant, I’ll defer to your wisdom here,” replied Chrysalis.

Chrysalis made the only logical decision after surviving a fall of unknown height and performed a quick survey of her situation, beginning with her own form.

For starters, her wings were ripped, torn during the manticore’s assault. Chrysalis made a mental note to remember that she wouldn’t be able to fly until the torn wings issue was resolved.

"Come to think of it, how exactly am I going to fix my wings in a place like this? It's not like there's any kind of doctor here. Guess that's a question for later then," she supposed.

After all, a changeling’s ability to transform was directly tied to their original form. Without functional wings, a changeling couldn’t transform into a creature with the ability to fly. It would be more accurate to say she could still transform into a pegasus, for example, but her wings in that form would be torn as well, reflecting the injured state of her true wings. Chrysalis, for all her power, was no exception to the basic laws of changeling biology.

As for her horn, she could already feel something was wrong when she tried to perform a spell to test her capabilities, and after inspecting the damage by using a reflective mineral she found nearby, Chrysalis realized that the horn issue was far more severe than she had initially realized. Her horn was cracked, a consequence of the manticore having slammed her against the cave’s inner wall before she fell.

“Ugh ... as if this wretched day couldn’t get worse. The world has seen fit to put another roadblock in my path, but no matter, I’ll persevere! Do you hear me, what powers may be? I will carry on, I won't give up no matter what obstacles you place in my path!” Yelled Chrysalis, as though the concept of fate could somehow hear her frustrated declaration. The odds of this actually being the case were slim, but Chrysalis wanted to take her anger out on said concept, just on the off chance it was controlled by a being she could frighten into submission.

It wasn’t as tragic as it could’ve been for the changeling queen. After all, her horn was intact, it was merely cracked. That was little comfort for Chrysalis though, as she knew what a cracked horn meant. With a cracked horn, Chrysalis would face constant resistance when attempting to use her own magic. It would be like trying to do construction work with a combination of sickness and broken limbs. It simply wasn’t practical, and for the time being, Chrysalis wouldn’t be able to do much with her magic other than the most basic telekinesis, a skill so deeply ingrained in her mind and so instinctual that it wouldn’t strain her horn, even in its current state.

Chrysalis wondered for a moment what remedy there might be for a cracked horn? She had never needed to learn healing magic, as her chitin and her defensive spells was almost always sufficient to protect her. Even when they weren't, changeling healers were quick to give her all the aid they could offer. She lacked anatomical expertise in this case. Simply put, Chrysalis finally settled on the idea that she would have to use trial and error to fix her horn. She had little choice in the matter, since without a properly functioning horn she had no easy way to escape this horrid cave, her new stony prison.

Chrysalis continued to inspect her condition, determining that her chitinous form had protected her from the worst of the damage and none of her other major body parts or organs had suffered heavy damage. Additionally, and much more positively, Chrysalis was still filled with love from her earlier excursion, so she could survive without worrying over hunger for the next few weeks at minimum.

Chrysalis counted herself lucky that her chitin was hardy enough to protect her from the worst of the fall. She only had a minor headache, and she could live with that when she reminded herself of the many far greater pains she had endured throughout her eternal life.

"A minor headache, truly? That's nothing, I've survived the full force of magical beams conjured by ancient alicorns before, what hope does gravity have to put an end to me?" she asked rhetorically.

"Actually, when I put it like that, my royal chitin must be unfathomably durable for it to continually impress me like this time and time and again. If I were made of a squishier material, like ponies are, I likely would've been turned into a ... what's the word for that pony dish again?" Chrysalis searched her scattered brain for a moment. "Ah yes, pancakes, I would've been turned into one of those," she pondered.

“Perhaps I should be grateful the powers that be didn’t see fit to torture me further, allowing my other limbs and love reserves to remain relatively close to peak condition. Although I dare not speak too soon,” said Chrysalis, with a cynical tone, expecting fate was waiting for the right time to make her life even worse.

“Oh right, my forms,” remembered Chrysalis, mentally facehoofing for so foolishly forgetting to check what she was capable of in that department. Up to this point, she had simply assumed her ability to transform was unaffected by her run-in with the manticore without bothering to check if that was actually the case.

First, Chrysalis allowed herself to relax, a key aspect of the transformation process. Then, she attempted to alter her body into that of her most recent form. Chrysalis easily managed to transmute herself in a wash of green flames from an imposing insectoid queen to a humble beige green mare with a penchant for photography and journalism, and a cutie mark resembling ladybugs. She called this form “Shutterbug,” a form she was quite proud of. It was an expertly crafted identity, built from scratch as she worked her way up the ranks of the Canterlot Historical Society and gained their trust, all so that her web of lies would be built on a solid foundation of truth. A foundation in truth was fundamental to any lie, otherwise it would fall apart under the slightest scrutiny. It's the first rule one has to learn in the art of deception, a rule Chrysalis learned the hard way centuries ago when her barebones lies fell apart at the seams the moment ponies got a bit curious. Thanks to her diligence, anypony that looked into Shutterbug's past would find all the credentials she claimed to have were genuine. Chrysalis then bathed in the dark green flames once more, and returned to her true, imposing figure.

“At least that form still works. Good, I've been enjoying that one as of late anyways,” remarked Chrysalis, happy that at least one of her forms still functioned properly, especially this personal favorite of hers.

Unfortunately, while her form outwardly appeared to have a functional horn to others, she still lacked the ability to cast spells while transformed like this. Additionally, her changeling biology meant that her horn was still cracked in this form, but she quickly concealed it with beige green cloth she had on her in case of what a certain pony might call a "fashion emergency."

Chrysalis then attempted to do the same, but this time transformed herself into a lowly spider. This ... did not work, which perplexed her. Perhaps the cracked horn left as a parting gift from that disgusting manticore was interfering with her ability to transform. Chrysalis then repeatedly attempted to transform into all manner of other creatures she had once taken the forms of before, but to no avail. Chrysalis decided to give up on transforming for now, and work with the assumption that she only had one form, the unicorn mare known as Shutterbug, and plan around the fact that she would only have access to that form exclusively for the time being.

“Ugh, I can’t even transform properly. This is ridiculous, I’m the queen of a species entirely known for their ability to transform! What’s wrong with me, is this some cruel joke the world is playing at my expense?” said Chrysalis, demanding to know if some higher power had brought this miserable fate upon her.

She was filled with rage at the thought of being unable to utilize more than one form. Back when she was in charge of all changelings, she would’ve written off an adult changeling that could only manage a single form as a weakling who could only serve the hive as a menial servant. She certainly wouldn’t trust such a weak changeling to survive on their own in the wilderness. And yet, here she was, and she had no choice but to try to survive in this harsh new environment without the support of a hive behind her. Somehow, she’d have to make do with just one form.

As the reality of this problem set in for her, she flew into a fit of pure anger. She wanted to yell, to scream. Chrysalis instinctively tried to summon a blast of pure malice with her horn so she could take her anger out on the cave itself. Yet this only caused her a brief headache and dizziness, as her cracked horn resisted the attempts to cast a spell by the very creature it was part of.

Chrysalis forced herself to calm down after a while. Then, she decided to inspect her saddlebags, starting with the one containing her Lieutenant. She was worried the poor thing would be in pieces, but she had to know.

“Well, this is quite the predicament we find ourselves in. What are your thoughts on the matter, Lt. Sparkle?” Asked Chrysalis, as she surveyed the saddlebag she was storing her so-called Lieutenant inside. Thankfully, her right-hoof mare was more intact than Chrysalis at this point, easing Chrysalis's fears.

The personified purple stick that Chrysalis dubbed “Lt. Sparkle” didn't reply back, for several reasons. For starters, it physically couldn't due to its lack of sentience and vocal cords, facts which would be immediately obvious to the average Joe. Secondly, the Lieutenant simply didn't feel like speaking to its superior, Sparkle was in a bit of a bad mood. However, what Chrysalis believed that it advised her to do was this, “We should make our way forward, my liege. It’s the only proper course of action given the situation. I know it's tempting to try to leave the same way we came, but as that irritant of a manticore diced up your wing membranes, you'll need to find a way to remedy that problem before we have any hope of making it back up. In the meantime, our top priority should be restoring the function of your wings, and once that objective is complete, we'll move on to returning your cracked horn to its former wicked splendor, allowing you to clear away the rubble that's giving us so much trouble in your current state.”

Chrysalis took this advice, prioritizing things accordingly. She then noticed something dreadful had occurred in the same saddlebag as her Lieutenant.

"No, my favorite camera!" Chrysalis couldn't be bothered to yell anymore, so she settled for a slightly louder, angrier version of her regular speaking voice. "It must've softened the blow, keeping my Lieutenant intact at the expense of its structural integrity. It's useless now, but at least it kept the Lieutenant safe," grumbled Chrysalis.

She had spent time earnestly working in Canterlot to purchase that camera in a legitimate manner when she could've just stolen it any time she wanted to, and she was rather proud of that fact. Seeing the camera she had worked so hard to obtain broken to bits filled her with bubbling rage, but she had to swallow her anger for now, there was more to attend to.

"Fortunately, I've got a backup camera," she stated, investigating the other saddlebag. "Aha, it seems it avoided the brunt of the damage. With my horn out of commission for the time being, I bet I could use the camera flash as a makeshift light source. It's not great, but it's usable, and that's what matters here," said Chrysalis.

Finally satisfied with the survey of her current state, Chrysalis decided to press forward through the cavernous abyss.

And so, Chrysalis marched onward through the long tunnel. It didn’t seem to twist or bend at any point, it was merely a long, boring, straight line. Chrysalis began to tire of this, desperate for an end to the drab misery of wandering in a straight line for hours. Then, she hit a dead end. Stone debris blocked her path and there was no way forward without a lot of manual labor to clear the rubble.

At this point, Chrysalis merely took the rubble’s existence as a fun challenge, an amusing distraction from her troubles. Mere rubble in the way of the queen of all changelings? Hah, the thought of such a thing even being an obstacle for her failed to register in her mind. So, she began using minor telekinesis to dig, get to work on the process, which took hours upon hours.

“Was this what would do her in?” she worried.

No, even with the pain she felt in her horn, she had to break through this ridiculous rubble or she would be trapped for all eternity, and the stubborn queen refused to let her tale end in such a mundane manner, trapped in a random cave. She was furious at the world for daring to think it could stop her so easily. All of this and more was true, Chrysalis assured herself. Even though she became exhausted as time went on, she never once even thought about giving up, she didn’t know the meaning of that term.

Piles upon piles of rubble were left behind in her wake as she telekinetically flung the debris backwards, just a small amount at a time.

Just as she had reached her wits’ end after trotting across the tunnel and telekinetically flinging away debris for what felt like millennia, Chrysalis finally reached a more open section of the cave. She had never felt more relieved and proud at accomplishing a task in her entire existence. This was her achievement, and it was hers alone, with no hive to back her up. Well, perhaps it was up there in terms of accomplishments. She wouldn't personally rank moving several tons of rubble without stopping above the pride she felt the first time she outsmarted the ruler of Equestria, or nearly conquering Equestria.

The opening Chrysalis reached by the end was massive, Chrysalis was awestruck by how long the empty darkness stretched on for in every direction. She could hear the screeching sound of bats echo from all sides, as well as the sickening crawling noise of bugs from every angle. Further, the cave smelled abysmal. To the average pony, a place like this would’ve been a living nightmare. To Chrysalis, it reminded her of home, especially the pod storage areas, and the infamously pungent “goo” smell that permeated from them.

Despite being faced with endless walls of grey and unending darkness, Chrysalis never allowed herself to be scared. Chrysalis assured herself that she wasn’t in danger, she was the danger, and any creature that tried to test the validity of that idea for themselves would have it quickly and painfully proven to them by Chrysalis that she was right to consider herself the greater threat.

Now, Chrysalis had a real choice to make in regards to the direction she’d head. At least, she had a choice in the same sense that one wandering into unknown darkness has a choice in which area of overwhelming shadow they’d like to forever lose themselves in. She of course decided that right is always right, and with nothing left for her to lose, what could really go wrong? So, she followed the right wall, deciding to stay as close to it as possible so that she could always use it as a reference point should she need to retrace her hoofsteps. All throughout this process, she used her camera flash to orient herself, being careful not to let it run out of juice. The camera automatically recharged itself after a while, but it didn't have much juice. It was her cheap backup camera, after all, she didn't ever expect she'd be in a situation where she would need it to navigate an underground abyss.

As she trekked across the cave, she noticed something peculiar about this one in particular that really made it stand out. There were glowing crystals of all shapes, colors, and sizes protruding from nearly every surface. Chrysalis silently thanked the crystals for providing some small light in this otherwise incredibly dark cave, and made a mental note to investigate them later.

"I wonder, could they be related to the crystals that the Crystal Empire is so famous for? Likely not, I'm certain those would be exclusive to the northern region if they named their entire empire after them," reasoned Chrysalis.

After a few more hours of wandering, Chrysalis passed under a large crystal archway and found something incredible.

She considered doing a little jig on the spot out of sheer happiness. This find was clearly the stars' doing, they were finally throwing her a bone after kicking her while she was down for so long.

From the looks of it, it was an abandoned home carved into the wall. The home was rounded near the ceiling, but the walls and flooring were perfectly flat once they met, closer to the floor. There was an aura of coziness to the home, despite its clearly ruined state. It had an empty fireplace with no way to release the flames. Chrysalis assumed it must've been powered by magical flame. Some of the furniture and decorations still lingered.

Calling it a “home” in its current state may have been too generous. It was three rooms in total, all of which shared a theme of dark green coloring wherever coloration was present. The first of these rooms was a living room and kitchen mixed together, covered from top to bottom in cobwebs. There was a single couch, though only half of it remained, and a torn rug as well as a shattered table that used to be made of glass. There in the kitchen side were counter tops in shockingly good condition, Chrysalis wondered how such a thing was even possible. Still, she knew not to look a gift pony in the mouth. There was also, shockingly, a modern day kitchen with a sink, food cabinet, and other amenities. The kitchen was miraculously still mostly intact even if many of the food cabinet’s shelves were in need of repair.

Next, there was a bedroom. The dusty queen-sized bed with wavy dark green bed sheets was perfect. It was still in usable condition, and the irony of her finding a mattress of the queen-sized variety wasn't lost on her. The only other noteworthy aspects of the bedroom were a nightstand with an old but still working lantern on top and a storage chest that could slide out from under the bed.

Finally, what Chrysalis discovered in the third and final room was the most exciting of all. That incredible room was dedicated entirely to one thing, the practice of alchemy.

“Lieutenant, are you seeing what I’m seeing? Yes, it seems to be an alchemy lab, complete with an alchemy table and shelves built into the walls filled with varying ingredients. Do you understand how perfect this is for us?” asked Chrysalis.

“This couldn’t possibly be more perfect for me, I've always been a savant when it comes to the alchemical arts. Finally, our luck is turning around!” Just you wait, Lieutenant, soon I’ll show you alchemical concoctions you’ve never seen!” proclaimed Chrysalis.

Luckily for Chrysalis, alchemy was one of the lesser known extensions of magic which she had considered worth her time to study and practice. Though, she thought of it as an entertaining hobby rather than a serious pursuit at the time. Still, her rudimentary knowledge of alchemy and the tools and resources this room provided meant she had a fighting chance at surviving her time in this cave, and that was more than enough to make the normally stoic queen joyously leap into the air! Upon further inspection, many of the instruments in the room were still entirely usable, and only a rare few were broken beyond repair. Less fortunately, the stock of alchemical ingredients was lacking, and many of the resources within were less than useful for her current situation. Regardless, Chrysalis was excited beyond measure to stumble upon such a fortunate find, and she intended to make full use of this gift.

Considering how well-kept the home was, Chrysalis wondered if perhaps the home still had an owner. Of course, she was willing to parley or even do battle with the owner for access to this shelter, so she figured that she’d deal with that problem if and when it presented itself. For now, she would rest in her new glorious home, a miniature hive with a population of one. Well, a population of many if you count all the spiders that had made it into their personal nest.

Naturally, as this home was going to be her base of operations for the foreseeable future, she had to decide on a name for such a place. After much deliberation with Lt. Sparkle, Chrysalis eventually decided on “Cobweb Cove” as the name of her new abode. She named it based on it being covered in cobwebs, as well as being a hidden cove away from the main cave’s ever-present darkness.

With a name for her new home chosen, Chrysalis drifted to sleep. For the first time in months, she went to sleep confident in the knowledge that she would be ready for whatever challenges the next day posed.

Author's Note:

Alchemy will be relatively important later, just need to work out the issues involved with writing a unique alchemy system first. Also, thanks to everyone who's liked, commented, or otherwise given this story a chance, your feedback is very much appreciated!