• Published 12th Dec 2023
  • 2,866 Views, 100 Comments

Gamophobia - RunicTreetops



Chrysalis is supposed to thrive at weddings. Today, she ran from the most important one of her life: hers.

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The Hive

Anon stares blankly through a window as his body rocks with the movement of the train. Most of the trains in Equestria are smooth rides, and although this is the newest line connected to Ponyville, it wasn’t given quite as much care.

The skies are still overcast, and rain pours over the landscape. Even out here, miles and miles from town, the effects of Cloudsdale’s blunder are evident.

Anon sighs, subconsciously tightening his grip on the letter in his hand. It’s not unlikely that this trip, let alone that letter, will get him into some major trouble. He’s acting out of line. He’s going somewhere he knows he shouldn’t. And yet, he cannot stop himself.

The environment outside of the train car suddenly changes as that thought drifts through Anon’s mind. The verdant, rolling fields of Equestria suddenly dip away in favor of a dust-filled pit. Well-cared-for plants do their utmost to break through a landscape that clearly lacked greenery for quite some time. Occasionally, a small, colorful figure can be seen tending to them or flying across the basin.

And there, looming ahead of the train, is the changeling hive.

Anon takes another glance at the letter in his hand, the name it’s addressed to very clearly not his own. As the train eventually begins to slow down, he tucks said letter into his jacket’s inner pocket.

He steps off of the train, noticing that the rain doesn’t quite reach the hive. He looks through the large entrance into the changelings’ equivalent of a castle. While more grand than any of the other strange holes dotting the massive structure, it isn’t exactly inviting. A makeshift sign and some wooden trim line the entrance in an effort to make it stand out better, obviously made with unskilled hooves for a building not designed with such an entrance in mind.

It’s a clear reminder that post-Chrysalis changeling society is still young.

Other than Anon, only a small handful of passengers step off of the train, all of them changelings. As he slowly makes his way towards the entrance, he begins to garner the attention of nearly every single changeling he walks by. Their expressions range from confusion to fear to quiet fury.

With shaky arms and a resolute sigh, Anon straightens out his jacket and enters the mildly intimidating hive.

It’s clear immediately upon entering just how easy it is to get lost. While it is open to the public nowadays, it doesn’t exactly attract a lot of visitors. The occasional researcher, diplomat, or particularly curious tourist will pass through, but these are few and far between. Even putting aside what might remain of the bad blood between the hive and Equestria, there just isn’t a lot to do at the hive.

Anon wanders around the maze-like structure for the better part of an hour. On multiple occasions he attempts to approach a local to ask for directions, but most scurry away before he can reach them, and those that don’t give him only the vaguest hints of help (if they grace him with a response at all).

Despite that, Anon eventually manages to stumble his way to the apex of the hive. While the throne room isn’t up there anymore, it is where he was told he would be able to find his quarry. With a deep breath, Anon gently presses his hand against the strange, chitinous door that opens to a large, open-air balcony.

There are a number of changelings out here, each buzzing about with their own objectives in mind. Thanks to their ability to fly, this balcony sees a lot of traffic from both the inside and outside of the hive. While most use it as little more than an entrance, others have gathered for various other activities and purposes. One group looks to be running an experiment involving a magnifying glass and an unidentifiable goop-like substance. Another group looks to be meditating in the outdoor air.

And there, speaking to a group of three other changelings, is the unmistakable form of Thorax, king of the changelings.

Anon looks on for a moment, silently watching as the anxious king happily chats with his subjects. A few other changelings pass by, all giving Anon a wide berth. It doesn’t take long for Thorax to notice Anon’s presence, which causes him to visibly recoil.

Anon smiles and gives him a wave of acknowledgement. Thorax leans down and quietly says something to the three other changelings before excusing himself and awkwardly shuffling to where Anon stands.

“H-hello, Anon.”

“Hey, King Thorax.”

“J-just ‘Thorax’ is fine,” he says before anxiously clearing his throat. “What are you doing here? I-if I may ask.”

“Well, I was…” Anon glances around at the many changelings passing by them before leaning closer to Thorax and whispering quietly. “I was hoping we could talk about Chrysalis.”

Thorax suddenly stands straighter and laughs anxiously, his eyes darting back and forth all the while.

“Y-yes, I guess that makes sense. Not sure why else you’d be here, after all!”

“Is… that okay with you?”

Thorax remains silent for a moment before he begins gently pushing Anon back into the hive.

“Let’s go somewhere a bit more private, shall we?”

The next thing Anon knows, he has been guided through countless winding halls and oddly shaped corridors. Eventually, Thorax leads him into a small, unassuming room with next to no furniture aside from a small table.

“Sorry about that,” Thorax mumbles as he rubs one of his forelegs anxiously. “We, uh… try not to discuss Chrysalis out in the open anymore. Outside of support groups, that is.”

“Too many bad memories?”

“Yeah. Among other things.” He nervously clears his throat. “To be honest, I’m a bit surprised that you’re here. I… I don’t want to call it ‘audacity’ since that sort of implies you’re not welcome here, but you aren’t exactly…”

“...Welcome here?”

I don’t have a problem with you being here, I swear! I’m just not sure if the same is true for the rest of the hive.”

“You sure do seem anxious right now, though.”

“For your sake more than anything.” Thorax sighs. “If you haven’t picked up on it yet, everyone in the hive knows who you are. Specifically, they know you as ‘the guy that brought Chrysalis back.’”

“H-hey! I know I’m the one supporting her, but she broke out of that statue all on her own!”

“We know that, but as far as my subjects are concerned, Princess Twilight would have turned her right back if it weren’t for you. Hence why they blame you regardless”

“That’s…” Anon sighs. “Pretty accurate, yeah.”

“Anyway, what’s going on? I know I’m still new to all of this, but even I can reason that you’re probably not just here for a friendly visit.”

“No, no I’m not.” Anon folds his arms over his chest and leans against a nearby wall. “What was up with those letters you were sending her?”

“My… letters?”

Anon reaches into his jacket and retrieves the folded-up letter he brought with him.

“It arrived at my house a couple of days ago. I saw the last one you sent her, too. It just seems a bit odd to me that the king of a society that won’t even discuss Chrysalis openly would be asking her for advice.”

To Anon’s surprise, Thorax seems to steel himself. He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. After a moment, said eyes are filled with a newfound clarity. His expression is serious and resolute.

“She has wisdom that I lack. That we all lack.” Thorax motions to the room around him. “She wasn’t a good leader. You’ll never catch me saying that she was. Heck, I resent her just as much as my subjects do. But regardless of how much I hate her, I can’t deny the fact that she was the hive’s only leader up until a few years ago. She’s the only creature alive that knows how to run things behind the scenes, and whether I like it or not, I need some of that knowledge. I need her insight.”

Anon narrows his eyes.

“But you ruled for some time before this. What changed?”

“...N-nothing.”

“Really? There wasn’t any inciting incident that made you reach out to her? You just decided one day to contact the mare that caused you so much grief?”

Thorax lightly stomps on the floor. It isn’t loud, but it is commanding.

“Even if there were, it wouldn’t be any of your business.” Thorax’s typical anxious voice has disappeared entirely. “Besides, it’s not like I’m actually doing everything she tells me. She’s just another voice for me to consider.”

“...Fine.” Anon hesitates for a moment before speaking again. “Then do you mind telling me why you thought she would respond?”

Thorax shakes his head.

“I didn’t think she would respond. I thought my letter would be lost, or at least thrown away or something. I was baffled when she actually wrote back.” His eyes shift away from Anon. “Her words were about as venomous as I expected, though.”

“Really? It didn’t seem that way to me a few weeks ago.”

“She’s been getting more cordial lately.” Thorax hesitates before letting out a whisper so quiet Anon can barely make it out. “As I hoped.”

“...”

“...Er, Anon?”

“Hm?”

“Why are you asking me these things? Couldn’t you just ask her? She’s your marefriend, isn’t she?”

Anon glares at Thorax, who recoils slightly. He wasn’t expecting that type of response from the man he only knows as “the guy Chrysalis is feeding off of.” He remains silent for a long, awkward moment.

“She’s missing right now.”

“Missing? What, did she run away or something?”

“From our wedding, yeah.”

“She ran from her own wedding?!” Anon winces, which Thorax notices. “O-oh. I’m so sorry.”

Anon gives him a dismissive wave.

“Anyway, I’ve had a lot on my mind lately. Sorry for throwing this on you, I just… don’t know a lot of creatures that I can really talk to about this.” He lets out an incredulous laugh. “Most ponies I’ve spoken to were happy to hear that she’s gone.”

Thorax stands perfectly still, carefully considering Anon’s words before finally figuring out what he wants to say. When he does respond, his words are slow and deliberate.

“Don’t tell the other changelings this, but I did have another reason for writing to her.” Thorax takes a deep breath, hesitant to reveal something he’s been keeping close to his chest. “I wanted to know if she’d changed.”

“I thought you hated her.”

“I, er, sort of still do. It’s not easy to just forget about everything she did, you know?” Thorax sheepishly rubs his foreleg again. “Still, I’ve been trying to take everything Princess Twilight and Spike taught me to heart. If living with you really has changed her like Twilight said, then I want to be able to forgive her. The hive as a whole probably won’t, but… if I’m gonna be the type of king that rules with compassion, I can’t make a habit out of keeping grudges.”

Anon blinks, his eyes a bit more alert than they were before.

“That’s… insightful of you, Thorax. Heh.” Anon smiles and looks to the floor. “You’re giving her a lot more credit than most.”

“For what it’s worth, my faith wasn’t misplaced.” Anon looks back up in surprise as Thorax continues. “Yeah, she was rude at first, but as we kept writing, she started getting more… well, I don’t want to say ‘kind,’ but perhaps ‘cordial’ would work? She’s still her old, haughty self, but she doesn’t talk down about me or the rest of the hive anymore. That’s definitely a first for her.”

Anon’s incredulous smile slowly morphs into a genuine one.

“I’m glad someone else has finally noticed.”

“In a weird way, it almost feels like she’s more supportive of the hive now than she did when she was queen.” Thorax laughs. “I guess you really are a good influence on her, huh?”

Anon freezes.

“Er, Anon?”

A pregnant pause fills the space as Anon’s breathing grows just a bit heavier.

“...”

“Are you okay?”

A million thoughts swim through Anon’s mind. His conversation with Twilight replays in his head over and over again, his conflicting feelings about how Chrysalis has changed overtaking all other forms of rational thought. There are so many things he wants to say, but it would be more than insensitive to say them to Thorax, of all creatures.

“So, you like her now?” Anon’s voice is a mumble, completely lacking any sort of confidence.

“W-well, I do more than I did before.”

“It’s like she’s hardly even Chrysalis anymore,” he says, his eyes once again finding their way to the floor.

“Isn’t that a good thing? The old Chrysalis was a monster.”

“...And what right do I have to kill that monster?”

“What?”

“If all I’ve done is change her, can I really say that I love her? I didn’t love her, I loved… whatever it is that I created.”

Thorax doesn’t respond. He wasn’t expecting the conversation to go this direction, and he isn’t exactly experienced in this sort of thing. Besides, he barely even knows Anon. To say that things got awkward fast would be an understatement.

“Sorry,” Anon says quietly as he begins to turn around. “I shouldn’t be dumping this on you. I’m gonna go back home now. I don't think the hive really wants Chrysalis’s ‘savior’ around for much longer.”

Just before Anon can reach the door, he feels a hoof on his shoulder. Thorax awkwardly clears his throat.

“I’m not going to pretend to understand what your relationship is like, but I do know that she loves you, too.”

“Hm?”

“Even setting aside the fact that she’s a light changeling now, she made that clear in our letters.”

“She did?”

“Well, not directly. I have to read between the lines a lot when she’s involved. But… I can tell.”

“Peh. Judging by our conversation after she ran away, I’d say she’s having second thoughts about that.” Anon sighs. “And I’m not sure I want to keep controlling her like that, either.”

Anon begins to open the door, and Thorax raises his voice just a smidge.

“Chrysalis is her own changeling, you know.” Anon stops. “Take it from me. Changelings can change… but they have to do so willingly. If she’s changing because of her feelings for you, then it’s on purpose. Besides, I’d be willing to bet you’ve changed, too.”

“I’m not–”

“There’s nothing wrong with supporting someone you love.” Anon finally turns around, quietly locking eyes with the changeling king. “You rely on each other. You drive each other to do better. That’s what a couple is supposed to do.” Thorax smiles. “That’s not control. That’s support.” Thorax looks past Anon and through the open door, his smile widening as he sees a few changelings happily conversing as they trot down the hall. “It’s what’s keeping the hive going.”

“...Thanks, Thorax.”

Without another word, Anon departs.