• Published 12th Oct 2012
  • 3,465 Views, 141 Comments

The Unlikeliest of Places - Desideratium



Chrysalis finds herself powerless. All she needs is a little kindness.

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Freshening Up

Jab after jab of pain dug into the crown of Chrysalis’s head.

She wasn’t sure if the spa ponies were trying to comb her mane, or tear her scalp off.

Either way, it seemed to be a losing battle.

It was a struggle even to get Aloe and Lotus to approach within throwing distance of the Changeling queen, let alone to coax them into coming into contact with her hair. And honestly, Chrysalis couldn’t blame them. Despite Cadance’s best efforts, she was still utterly filthy. The twins had dry heaved the first, second, and third time they encountered a maggot in the labyrinthine turquoise entanglement of Chrysalis’s mane, but by the fourth and fifth, they managed to keep it together. Mostly. Aloe and Lotus were, however hard it was to believe, professionals. After fighting down their initial revulsion, they dove in like it was simply another job.

Chrysalis watched disappointedly as a lock of her hair fell to the floor in front of her eyes. She felt a sharp pain in the roots where the hair had been seconds previous. She stirred restlessly under the ridiculous smock they were making her wear, and the movement was accompanied by more pain. Aloe―or Lotus, Chrysalis never figured out which was which―tutted impatiently.

“If you’d kindly not move about so much, we could . . .” She fell silent, evidently remembering who she was addressing. “Erm. Sorry, ah, your Majesty. It’s no trouble.”

Chrysalis put on her best menacing face―she’d been practicing in the full-length mirror placed in front of her. “That’s right. I will do as a please, you worm.” Her snarl still needed work.

“Oh please,” Cadance said from across the room. “Quit taking yourself so seriously, Chrysy. It’s just a manecut.” She rolled her eyes and flipped the page of her magazine, clicking her tongue. Chrysalis glared at her. Her tongue snaked out between her teeth, hissing. In the mirror, she saw Aloe and Lotus glance at each other nervously. She hissed louder.

The ordeal went on. The comb strokes became gradually less and less painful. Chrysalis’s reflection became less bedraggled, her mane slowly being restored to its magnificent smoothness. Granted, it was months overgrown, but the improvement was marked. Grudgingly, Chrysalis appreciated the change.

Her gratitude wavered, however, when the twins brandished silver scissors at her hair. Aloe and Lotus shared a grim look, then dove in.

Tufts of hair drifted to the floor in throngs. Some landed on Chrysalis’s nose, itching infuriatingly. And since her hooves were bound by the smock, she couldn’t reach the interfering strands to alleviate the discomfort. She noticed, ill-temperedly, that Cadance was watching amusedly over the top of her magazine. Electing to ignore her, Chrysalis watched her reflection. Even in this short amount of time, she saw a remarkable difference.

Chrysalis looked . . . royal, again. No, more than that. Her mane, normally so stringy and greasy, had a smoothness and sheen to it that she had never seen before on her own body. Her turquoise mane, usually faded to a dull blue-green, shone in its natural vibrant color, a color that she hadn’t seen in decades. Nopony had ever styled it.

“Princess Mi Amore Cadenza―” Lotus―or Aloe―called.

“Cadance, please,” Cadance corrected her.

“Yes, erm, Cadance. What do you think?”

Cadance stood, trotting over to Chrysalis’s hair-matted prison. She regarded the Changeling closely, circling around her maddeningly. She put her face close to Chrysalis’s, grinning as she pressed her cheek to hers. Chrysalis tried to recoil in revulsion, but both her smock and the infuriating princess’s stranglehold held her captive. “She looks great! Have you ever thought about highlights, Chryssy?”

“No.”

“I think you’d look good with pink, personally.”

“You are pink, you imbecile. Of course you’d say that.”

“Not like this,” Cadance said, gesturing to herself grandly. “Like a hot pink. Kind of a punk look, you know?”

“Punk?”

“You know, like with lots of leather and spikes . . .”

“I know what it means. I’ll have you know I’m trying my absolute hardest to resist the temptation to eat you.”

Aloe and Lotus took three synchronized steps backward. Cadance just laughed, that infuriating upbeat titter that energized the room. Chrysalis hungrily absorbed some of the energy emanating from the princess, then felt disgusted at herself when she realized what she was doing.

“Ah, your Majesty,” one of the spa ponies said. Both Cadance and Chrysalis turned. Aloe/Lotus glanced at Chrysalis in fright then continued to address Cadance. “Would you like the sauna heated, or would you prefer the mud bath first? Or the hooficure?”

“Hmm, let’s do the hooficure. I wouldn’t mind having a session, myself.” Cadance lifted a hoof, turning it to inspect it from all angles. “Could I add myself to the tab?”

“Nonsense, princess! We do not charge royalty for our services!”

“Well, I’m going to pay for it anyway. Lead the way, please.”

Aloe/Lotus opened her mouth to protest, then clamped it shut. Lotus/Aloe disappeared into the other room, glancing uncomfortably behind her as she went. “Right this way, please.”

Chrysalis hated the hooficure. She begrudgingly sat through the sauna. She tolerated the mud bath. She ate the cucumber slices.

By the time she was lying facedown on the massage table, a burly stallion pummelling her back like a jackhammer, every muscle in Chrysalis’s body was completely at ease. And she didn’t actually hate it, she was surprised to realize. She actually felt . . . relaxed. Until . . .

“I-it’s no-o-o-o-t to-o-o-o la-a-ate fo-o-or tho-o-ose hi-i-i-i-ighli-i-i-i-ights,” Cadance said, her voice coming out vibrato thanks to her masseuse.

Chrysalis clenched her teeth. She didn’t respond, mostly for fear of what her voice would sound like. Instead, she pressed her face more firmly into the pillow and sank into the rhythm of her massage. Cadance may have said more, but it was muffled by the pillow covering her ears, and by the vibration. Chrysalis faded in and out of consciousness, despite the number that was being done to her back.

Chrysalis was beset by a plethora of half-dreams; based loosely off reality, but just off enough to make her wonder. The spa ponies drifted about listlessly, floating just a little bit off the ground and tittering gleefully. Cadance’s voice was in her ear, saying words that didn’t quite sound like words. The not-words were nice. Chrysalis liked the feeling of abandon, where nothing needed to make sense.

Moments later, a particularly deep shove at the base of her neck by her masseuse threw her back to reality. Chrysalis peeked over the pillow. Cadance was facedown on the bed adjacent. Not whispering in Chrysalis’s ear. Her customary grumpiness reasserted, Chrysalis pressed her face down again and allowed her massage to beat away any of the happy feelings she may have entertained.

Later, Chrysalis waited restlessly behind Cadance as the princess counted out the bits required for their excursion. Her muscles felt like jelly, but she tried her utmost to hide her shakiness.

Aloe and Lotus were all smiles, but never took their eyes off Chrysalis. Unexpectedly, Chrysalis found herself a little hurt by their mistrust. It was an odd feeling―Chrysalis couldn’t recall the last time she’d been offended. Annoyed, angry, devastated. Those were all emotions she was intimately familiar with. Offended? She thought that no being was capable of getting under her skin like that.

Chrysalis stamped out the feeling, replacing it with haughtiness. So what if these two insignificant sycophants don’t like me? I haven’t given them any reason to. She turned her head, trying to find anything but the spa ponies to look at. She settled on an exotic potted plant near the door. At least it didn’t look at her funny.

Cadance finished the transaction and turned to Chrysalis, all smiles. “All done! Ready to go?”

Chrysalis regarded her disinterestedly.

“That’s the spirit! Now could you put on that disguise again?”

Chrysalis wordlessly, reluctantly, complied, her menacing frame shrinking down to the not-so-menacing form of Prism Brush. Almost imperceptibly, the spa ponies relaxed a little. Not willing to leave without a parting jab, Chrysalis turned to look directly at them and transformed only her face, the unicorn’s innocent mask twisting into a sharp-toothed snarl.

That was the final straw for Aloe (or Lotus). Gasping, she tumbled to the floor in a dead faint. The other one let out a small shriek and cowered behind the front desk.

Cadance, hearing the disturbance, turned to look. Chrysalis had turned her face back to Prism Brush’s and was smiling innocently. Cadance, regarding the terror before her, gave Chrysalis an exasperated look. “Chrysalis . . .”

“What?”

Cadance appeared to be forcing down a smile. “I admit, that’s a little funny. But you can’t just go around scaring folks half to death because you feel like it.”

“Why not?”

Cadance thought for a moment. “It’s just . . . not nice.” She magicked open the door and waited for Chrysalis to pass.

Chrysalis snorted. She declined Cadance’s invitation, opening the other door and walking through it instead. Childish, perhaps, but Chrysalis wasn’t giving Cadance the satisfaction. “And I care why? You of all ponies should know that causing pain is a fundamental part of Changeling society. Millions of years of evolution have just made us better at it than you.”

Cadance allowed the door to swing shut behind her. She sighed. “I can dream, right?”

“Spare me your fantasies. Dreams are nothing more than illusions. Your mind playing tricks on you.”

Cadance smirked. “I can’t take you seriously when you’re in that form.” She playfully patted Chrysalis’s head. Since they were in public, Chrysalis refrained from biting her hoof off. “Such hateful things coming from such a pretty little unicorn,” she crooned.

“I’ll show you hateful,” Chrysalis muttered.

Cadance laughed gleefully and turned in a circle. “Okay, what do you want to do next?”

“What?”

“I mean, we went for makeovers. That’s the perfect kickoff for a girl’s day out, right? What next? Coffee? Shopping? More makeovers?” She threw a hoof around Chrysalis’s shoulders and winked conspiratorially. “Girl stuff?”

“Does your entire worldview come from a gossip magazine?”

“I didn’t get out much when I was young.”

“I never would have guessed.”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“I don’t plan to.”

“Alright, have it your way. I’ll decide.” Cadance set off at a brisk trot. Chrysalis, as if on a leash, begrudgingly followed. She didn’t have to. She could have slipped away, transforming into somepony else and disappearing into the shadows. But something almost magnetic drew her to Cadance. Something deep, instinctive. And, if nothing else, Chrysalis had learned to trust her instincts. For now.

Chrysalis kept her head down, glancing to the left and right every now and then to assess potential threats. Cadance walked half a pace in front of her, humming. Every now and then, she would drop a cheery comment to some passerby and Chrysalis would try to stay as small as possible.

Cadance led Chrysalis to a large circular building with a spired roof. The whole construct resembled a tall, ornate carousel. Chrysalis’s stride faltered when she looked up at the white and purple structure. “What is this?”

“Carousel Boutique!” Cadance announced, gesturing with a wide sweep. “I thought you might like something to wear for special occasions.”

Carousel Boutique. Go figure. Chrysalis mustered up as much incredulity as Prism Brush’s face was capable of displaying. She feared it wasn’t nearly enough to be taken seriously. “Really?”

“Really really. C’mon, let’s go.” Cadance took Chrysalis by the hoof and pulled her inside. Chrysalis kept her eyes firmly affixed on the ground, until a voice forced her gaze up.

“Oh! Your Majesty!” gushed a white unicorn with a purple mane. “I hadn’t expected guests of this . . .” She tittered. “Magnificence today! What can I do for you!”

“Hi Rarity,” Cadance said, smiling uncomfortably at the enthusiastic welcome. “My friend here was just looking to look through some of your items. Mind if we look around?”

“Oh, but of course! Would you care to peruse our spring lineup?”

“That’s alright, we’ll just . . . wander. Thanks for letting me borrow Opal yesterday, by the way. The house was getting a little lonely with Shining being gone and all.”

“You’re most welcome!” Rarity’s attention turned to Chrysalis, disguised as Prism Brush. Her enthusiastic smile faded slightly, deescalating to a polite simper. “Ah, I’m sorry, but I don’t think we’ve met before,”

Oh, but we have, Chrysalis thought. If only you knew . . .

“This is, erm . . .” Cadance started.

“Prism Brush,” Chrysalis supplied, her voice coming out as Prism Brush’s flowery titter. “I’m visiting from Manehattan.”

“Oh!” Rarity’s eyes widened. “I absolutely adore Manehattan! Tell me, do you know a stallion named Fancy Pants?”

Chrysalis glanced at Cadance, who shrugged. “I’m . . . sorry, I don’t think I do.”

“Ah, what a shame. Anyhoo, feel free to browse!” Rarity flashed another winning smile and retreated to another wing of the store, humming to herself. Chrysalis watched her go. It had been a long time since she’d crossed paths with that infuriating fashionista. The rage she’d expected to feel when confronted by an old foe was notably absent―instead she only felt a mild apprehension.

Cadance lead Chrysalis by the hoof through the shop. Chrysalis eyed each passing dress uneasily. The entire boutique was covered in an overwhelming amount of clothing and, as someone who did not customarily wear clothing, Chrysalis felt rather unwelcome. She wondered apprehensively what Cadance planned on roping her into buying.

“So what are you interested in?” Cadance asked. She levitated a pair of sun dresses off their racks. One was powder blue, the other a sunny yellow.

“Not those. Too . . . pastel. Hem line too low.” Chrysalis looked the dresses up and down, speaking her mind absentmindedly. “Too much frill.”

Cadance raised an eyebrow. “I didn’t know you had any fashion sense, Chrysy.”

Chrysalis threw a glance over her shoulder, making sure Rarity wasn’t nearby. The fashionista was at the other end of the shop, busy outfitting a mannequin with some ridiculous cloud of a gown. She looked to be out of earshot. “Don’t call me that,” she muttered threateningly.

Cadance followed her gaze, then smiled sheepishly. “Sorry . . . Prism.” She placed the dresses back on the rack and leaned in for a whisper. “That is your name, right?” Chrysalis nodded. “Should we keep looking?”

“If you insist.” Chrysalis said with casual disinterest. Though in spite of herself, she was genuinely curious as to what else they might find.

Cadance offered ensemble after ensemble, picking clothes off the racks at random and offering them to Chrysalis. Chrysalis declined each one, partially because of her love of being difficult, but partially because nothing really caught her eye. The pair worked their way through the boutique; Cadance’s enthusiasm had proven to be utterly limitless, so her Changeling companion’s uncooperative nature did little to dim it. Chrysalis, against her much better judgment, grew invested in the venture.

“What about this?” Cadance held aloft a pale denim jacket.

“No.”

“What about this?”

“No,” Chrysalis repeated to a decent-looking lime skirt. “Too . . . disagreeable.”

“Disagreeable?” Cadance said, looking from the skirt to Chrysalis. “What does that mean?” She held it up to Chrysalis’s body, visualizing what it might look like on her.

“It doesn’t match this body. What’s not to understand?” Chrysalis shrugged and turned away, working her way down a line of hats.

“Doesn’t match?”

Chrysalis sighed impatiently. “Yes. Doesn’t match. That is not something that Prism Brush would wear.”

“How do you know?”

“Because I know Prism Brush. Do you think that we simply pick a face out of a crowd to transform into? Changelings actually do the homework. The good ones do, at least.”

“Then I guess we’ve been going about this wrong. What would Prism wear?”

Chrysalis’s gaze fell on a wide-brimmed hat, made of what looked like straw, and with an enormous flower sitting atop it. It wasn’t necessarily Chrysalis’s style, but Prism Brush’s eye was drawn to it. “Something like that,” she said, nodding to it.

“Really? Then let’s try it on!”

As Chrysalis opened her mouth to protest, Cadance snatched up the hat and popped it onto Chrysalis’s head. The hat sank down below her eyes. Chrysalis pushed it up to reveal the dirty look she was giving Cadance. Cadance grabbed her shoulders and spun her around to face a full-length mirror on the wall.

The reflection of Prism Brush met Chrysalis’s eyes with an unimpressed glare. Then Chrysalis saw the hat. Prism’s neatly-curled mane, framed by the straw-yellow of the hat, then accentuated by the vibrant pink carnation.

Chrysalis, even in her thoroughly unimpressed state, was able to draw a conclusion:

She looked adorable.