Chrysalis walked through the palace garden, her cloak flowing behind her in the evening breeze. The dark cloth had been a gift. "For the winter months." Luna had said. Chrysalis found a better use for it was to obscure her form. She could sense the fear and hatred in the gazes of every pony who saw her. The cloak helped mitigate that to a degree.
Not that it protected her from the watchful gaze of Canterlot's royal guard, who she knew even now were watching her. She was free to wander Canterlot, but that didn't mean Canterlot had accepted her.
Chrysalis turned around a hedge, entering the statuary section of the garden, home of symbols of Celestia's many triumphs and regrets, and her gift to Chrysalis as well.
"Unveil it." Chrysalis demanded as she approached the palace servants by the newest statue, still covered in a tarp so that its appearance would be a surprise. The servants started at her approach, one literally jumping at her command, but they obeyed pulling down the tarp to reveal the statue underneath. Chrysalis stared at it in awe.
An almost perfect replica of Pharynx in purest white marble, standing proud and at attention over the gardens around him, flanked by his smaller, original self, his unique dorsal crest and all. A simple engraving adorned the base of the statue; In Loving Memory.
Chrysalis felt her legs grow weak as she approached the statue, tears welling up in her eyes as looked it over. It was exquisite. She'd never seen such attention to detail in a statue before. Her mind was so distracted she almost missed the sound of the princesses landing behind her. Almost. She gave them her usual greeting as they approached her, a frown.
"Do you not like it?" Celestia asked, looking between Chrysalis and the statue. "I understand if it's too soon to be presented something like-"
"No. No it's... It's perfected. Thank you." Chrysalis replied, shaking her head. "I just... Why?"
"Why are you giving me gifts? I've done nothing but make you miserable with all my strength. If I had my way you'd both be serving me. This whole land would be serving me. How can you just..." Chrysalis gestured at the statue in frustration. "How can you just give me things like this?!"
"Perhaps because my sister and I recognize you need it." Luna interjected, narrowing her eyes slightly. "Perhaps if you accepted there are more point of views than your own, you'd see that we want to help you."
Chrysalis gritted her teeth. Of the two, Luna was the one she had more frustrations with since she arrived, and in the moment all of those pent up grievances came to the surface.
"I've been meaning to ask Princess Luna. Since you've been so kind as to watch my dreams since I arrived, how long were you aware of them?"
Luna glanced at Celestia briefly before replying. "I'm... Not certain I understand what you mean."
"How long did you know I was in Equestria Luna?! Did you know before my sons came seeking you for advice?" Chrysalis practically growled as she stepped forward, only avoiding advancing further due to her presence as a guest. ...Well that and the fact that Celestia was right there and she knew the royal guard was likely close at hoof. Being aggressive would not end well for her.
Luna let Chrysalis' question hang in the air for a moment, contemplating if she should reply. "...Yes. I was aware."
Celestia's eyes widened at this response, but Chrysalis seized the moment first.
"And you did nothing? My son would be alive if circumstances had been different and you did nothing?"
Luna stomped the ground, looking sternly in Chrysalis' eyes. "And what would have happened to you if I, for example, stormed your cave in the Everfree with a squadron of the royal guard? I am not omniscient Chrysalis, if I was then you never would have invaded Canterlot in the first place! I did what I believed was best and kept your location a secret!"
Chrysalis stepped forward without pause now, stomping up to Luna. "And this is better than the alternative? I would rather be-"
Chrysalis never got to finish her sentence as Luna suddenly struck her with her forehoof, knocking the changeling to the ground.
"What you would rather be is irrelevant, Chrysalis! This is the path that unfolded, and nothing can change that now."
"That's enough from both of you!" Celestia stepped in between her sister and the collapsed changeling. A single look at her sister's face made Luna step back. She was definitely upset. "Chrysalis come with me, I'm taking you to your quarters."
Chrysalis spat onto a decorative dish once she arrived in her room, her bright green blood and a fang landed on it. She groaned and looked at herself in the mirror, opening her mouth anxiously. Luna's blow had caused her to bite into the roof of her own mouth, she was bleeding badly around the missing fang. ...It would heal, and the fang would grow back. She'd had worse.
"So what did that accomplish?"
Chrysalis looked at Celestia's reflection in the mirror. The elder princess was staring at her disapprovingly.
"What did what accomplish?" Chrysalis asked, looking back at her mouth as if nothing was wrong.
"Intentionally antagonizing my sister. Don't think I didn't notice that."
Chrysalis paused. She was off her game in that case. "Perhaps I simply do blame her for my son's death."
Celestia raised an eyebrow. "We both know that's not true. You blame yourself, and trying to get my sister to injure you isn't going to fix that."
Chrysalis growled lightly. She hated it when Celestia was right. It was much too often. "And what would you know of what I'm going through, Princess?"
Chrysalis turned, expecting Celestia to still be at the other side of the room. However, in the moment it took for her to turn around Celestia had crossed the room and now was right in Chrysalis' face. There was a quiet anger in Celestia's eyes that the changeling queen had never seen before. It terrified her.
"I know exactly what you're going through. And I had to deal with it for much longer than I suspect you even will live."
There was a brief pause as Celestia stared Chrysalis down.
"I'll send someone with something for the pain. I suspect you'll be able to deal with the wound yourself considering how casually you're treating it?"
"Y-Yes Princess Celestia."
Chrysalis awoke the next day with a groan. That pain reliever was not as good as she had expected, likely due to being designed for ponies, and not changeling queens. She looked at her covers, which were stained with a small pool of her blood. She almost felt bad for whoever had to clean these. Almost.
Heading out of her room, (and slipping her cloak on for good measure) Chrysalis began walking the corridors of the castle. She was up much earlier than she would normally be. Losing blood was a surprisingly effective way to get a good night's rest. She was in no hurry to test it again though.
Chrysalis sniffed at the air. There was a strange, sweet scent wafting from the main dining hall. Chrysalis felt her stomach rumble. Love was unlikely to be on the menu, but she supposed she could settle on lesser food if she was fortunate enough to be up in time for the royal breakfast.
Upon reaching the main dining room, Chrysalis poked her head inside. Celestia was placing a stack of fruit-topped floury discs in front of Luna, who looked absolutely exhausted. Right, Luna works all night. Chrysalis sometimes forgot that Luna's travels in the Dream Realm were not restful. Celestia glanced upwards, and motioned for Chrysalis to come to the table.
"See Luna, I told you my pancakes would eventually lure Chrysalis down." Celestia said teasingly.
"I find it much more likely she's up early due to sleeping off her wounds." Luna replied, sounding as tired as she looked.
"Pancakes?" Chrysalis asked curiously as she walked up and sat down. "...Wait, you can cook?"
"Bake, technically." Celestia replied, placing a fresh plate before Chrysalis. "It's a way to show I care."
"...Okay, but why?"
"Because I do. It's not that complicated."
"Yes, but that doesn't explain _why._ You have royal cooks."
Celestia rolled her eyes before serving herself. After it was clear she wasn't getting an answer, Chrysalis turned her attention to her "pancakes." They were carefully stacked, and decorated with fruit slices in the shape of a face. Chrysalis found this mockery of predator and prey relations unnerving. As she began to cautiously attempt to mimic the use of knife and fork that Celestia and Luna were using, she failed to notice Celestia's magical aura around her plate as the solar princess gently nudged the plate.
"AH! IT LIVES! KILL IT! KILL IT!"
Celestia and Luna exchanged amused glances, attempting to avoid bursting into laughter as the proud changeling queen began stabbing her breakfast.
Celestia sighed as the last of the day's petitioners filed out. Today was one of those days, where everything seemed to be collaborating to make things difficult. At least what was next on the agenda would make up for that somewhat.
Twilight Sparkle walked past the guards outside the throne room door and bowed.
"It's good to see you Princess Celestia."
"And you, Princess Twilight." Celestia said, bowing her own head in solidarity. "If you'd wait one moment, there's one more who needs to be here for our meeting."
On cue, one of the guards just outside removed his helmet, tossing it aside and entering the throne room. In a burst of green fire he was replaced with Chrysalis. Celestia rolled her eyes at the dramatic entrance.
"How long were you standing out there?"
"Half a shift."
"And the original guard?"
"Was out sick." Chrysalis paused, glancing at Twilight. "Good afternoon, Sparkle." She said flatly, not sounding the least bit sincere.
"And you, Chrysalis." Twilight returned the sentiment in kind.
There was a brief pause.
"So why am I here, Princess?" Chrysalis asked glancing back towards Celestia.
To her credit, the princess of the sun was doing a grand job not breaking into a massive grin.
"Well, as at least one of you is aware," she began, gesturing toward Twilight. "The Grand Galloping Gala is coming up soon, and I've decided to send out invitations with a plus-one allowance again. One of them went to King Thorax as a sign of our continued good will to the changelings."
Celestia paused. As she did so, she was amused to see the slow dawning of realization spread over Twilight's and Chrysalis' faces in near parallels. Oh she did so love moments like these from time to time, especially around the Gala.
"And I was quite surprised to receive a message this morning telling me that his plus-one was someone already present in the palace!"
Chrysalis resisted the urge to hiss, or to spit bile, or to transform into something dangerous and go on a spree of violence. Instead she just scowled.
"You planned this." She managed after a moment. "You know I can't say no _now_, not in front of witnesses."
Celestia didn't reply, just smirking at Chrysalis before returning her gaze to Twilight>
"Twilight, I imagine Chrysalis will find difficulty in preparing for the Grand Galloping Gala herself, so I was hoping you could return to Ponyville with her? I can send a small group of guards if you feel it's necessary."
"No!" Twilight started accidentally shouting, before catching herself. "I-I mean, no, I believe Starlight and I can handle it if Chrysalis decides to get up to anything, which I'm sure she won't."
Chrysalis glared down at Twilight. Even as a princess, Celestia's student was still a little kiss-up.
"Good!" Celestia clapped her hooves together. "Then you should prepare to head back as soon as possible. I just have a few things to give to Chrysalis in private before you leave."
"Yes Princess Celestia." Twilight said, bowing again before leaving the room.
Chrysalis waited for Twilight to leave before letting an annoyed hiss. She was committed to this now. Curse Celestia's tricks.
"Come now, Chrysalis." Celestia teased, "It's not a bad thing to be invited to a party, is it? Besides, it's not just his plus-one that he sent you. First, there's this..."
Celestia hovered over a small envelope. Chrysalis rolled her eyes. Inside was an appraisal for what few treasures were found within the hive. ...That was a lot of zeroes.
"Thorax said it was only fair you be allowed to use the Changeling treasury while you're in Equestria." Celestia explained before standing and motioning for Chrysalis to follow. She didn't leave the changeling far.
Behind Celestia's throne was a polished black stone necklace, similar to the much more splendid ones Celestia and Luna wore. Emblazoned upon it was a design of a shattered heart, in a brilliant emerald green. It was no doubt this was meant for her. Chrysalis walked up, picking the necklace up with her magic and carefully putting it on.
"This material..." She commented, rubbing a hoof along the necklace's edge. "Is this?"
"Yes. The message stated it was carved from the largest remaining piece of your throne they could find. While not as potent as the full thing, I will admit sitting with it behind my throne all day has left me feeling quite drained."
Chrysalis could feel tears welling up in her eyes. Of the two gifts, this was clearly the one more valuable, at least to her.
"I was not crying!" Chrysalis insisted as she sat down in the train beside Twilight.
"Sure you weren't. You just got something in your eyes immediately after receiving a heartfelt gift from your estranged son. Which you're still wearing." Twilight replied, rolling her eyes.
"It is suiting regalia for my new home." Chrysalis said with a slight huff. "Besides, changelings don't do heartfelt anything."
"I said changelings don't."
Twilight winced at that. Despite Celestia's assurances that Chrysalis has changed, it was hard to imagine she didn't mean that, and it was in reference to her own son. Definitely not a cool mom.
Chrysalis rolled her eyes and glanced out the window as the train started to roll out of the station. Before long they'd be in Ponyville; and she'd be stuck in that insignificant husk of a town until she was ready for the night of the Grand Galloping Gala, which was an event she had not even wanted to attend. What a mess.
...Well perhaps she could find some way to get into mischief in the mean time. That would at least make it an amusing visit.
"Twilight? Dear? When you said you had a challenge for me I didn't think you meant Queen Chrysalis." Rarity said as she pulled Twilight aside.
"Ex-Queen." Twilight reminded.
Chrysalis snorted in irritation. No sooner had the train dropped them off than Twilight dragged her across town to this boutique. She barely had had time to create a disguise, which she had to drop now that she was here.
"If you cannot make a gown for the Gala for me, there is still plenty of time for me to look for something in my size somewhere else." Chrysalis growled, "It's not like I care to look my best."
"What?!" Rarity exclaimed, suddenly jumping to attention. "I didn't say I couldn't manage it! It's just..." She sighed and put her work glasses on, looking Chrysalis up and down. "Well, I may have a few ideas. Would you like to come with me so I can take your measurements?"
"One moment." Chrysalis said, before removing her necklace and turning to Twilight. "Would you mind putting this somewhere safe? It's not exactly something I can just walk around with all the time given its nature."
Twilight nodded. "Right. I'll be back before you're done."
Chrysalis carefully placed the necklace on Twilight who headed out the door and flew off. Chrysalis watched her leave before turning back to Rarity.
"Very well. Shall we?"
"What in Equestria was that for?!" Rarity yelped as she rubbed her horn, which Chrysalis had just struck. They were upstairs, in the middle of measurements.
"You were attempting to _strangle_ me," Chrysalis accused, gesturing at the tape measure that was now hanging loosely around her neck. "And it was a poor attempt as well."
"That's because I wasn't strangling you, I was taking your collar measurement!"
Rarity rubbed her forehead with a hoof. "May I take your collar measurement again?"
Chrysalis felt very awkward as Rarity continued the measurements. Not just because of her own outburst, but because this was the first time she'd ever had her measurements taken while in her true form. There wasn't exactly much need for extravagant dress in a hive whose only nobility other than yourself was your offspring.
"Is there any particular style that is traditional to changeling royalty?" Rarity asked, while measuring Chrysalis' foreleg.
"N- Wait." Chrysalis paused, trying to remember the vague details from her youth. It had been a long time since there'd been any rulers other herself among the changelings. "Yes, I believe there is, though it's hardly a standard from changeling to changeling. The idea would be to bring attention to what makes a royal changeling unique. For example, my horn and the carapace on my stomach."
Rarity paused her measurements, looking at Chrysalis thoughtfully.
"I'm thinking silk then." Was all she said before continuing to take measurements.
Days would pass before Chrysalis' Gala dress was completed, so Chrysalis knew she was going to be "introduced" to the rest of Twilight's friends. The Princess of Friendship's dedication to spreading her craft proceeded her. First on the list though, was to get herself a temporary room.
In the castle.
Where Starlight lives.
"I am not staying at that unsightly palace." Chrysalis said, walking alongside Twilight, in disguise as an earth pony stallion. He wasn't a pony from town, but Chrysalis couldn't actually remember his name, so she was glad nopony seemed to recognize him.
"And where are you going to stay instead? The forest again?" Twilight asked sarcastically.
"That wasn't my first idea, but I would not be surprised if it was still unoccupied."
Twilight stopped, turning to give Chrysalis an incredulous look.
"It's cozier than it sounds."
"I'm sure it is. You're still staying at the castle."
"You do realize Starlight Glimmer, who I have sworn vengeance upon, lives in your castle, right?"
"How are you still planning to do anything with that? Aren't you supposed to be working alongside Equestria now?"
"My vengeance knows no allegiance, except to myself." Chrysalis replied, puffing out her disguised chest. Upon noticing the look Twilight was giving her, she added, "But I will postpone my vengeance for the time being."
"Good because we're here."
Chrysalis blinked and looked up. She was right at the entrance to the castle... tree... thing. The Castle of Harmony or something, she hadn't been paying attention.
As soon as Twilight opened the door a pair of manacles suddenly latched themselves to Chrysalis' forelegs. She looked down and snorted in amusement before dropping her disguise. Her now strangely shaped legs easily slipped free.
Chrysalis looked back down. There were now two pairs of manacles, one pair attached to her forelegs, the other to her hind legs. She was no longer amused. She opened her mouth to call out an oath-
"Starlight Glimmer! Take these manacles off Chrysalis right now!"
Chrysalis was not expecting Twilight Sparkle to defend her. Her mouth hung open for a moment before she caught herself and closed it.
"What did Star Swirled say you learned when we reunited him with the Princesses?"
Twilight rolls her eyes. "That's a trick question, he said he learned the value of friendship and trust from me."
There was a brief pause.
"Well, okay you aren't a changeling pretending to be Twilight."
"How would there even be a changeling-"
Chrysalis started laughing. "S-She thinks I... Oh my that is amusing." She leaned in to Twilight. "Changeling queens only need to be fertilized once Twilight Sparkle."
"I did not need to know that!" Twilight felt the need to boil her ears or something after that.
"I'll just... Come to the map room, I need to check if you're brainwashed."
Chrysalis rolled her eyes and followed Twilight as the alicorn walked ahead, leading her to the inner sanctum of the crystal tree castle... thing. This was still very very strange.
Starlight was currently using the Cutie Map as a table, a series of books were scattered about it, currently reading a particularly old one titled Changelings and You. Chrysalis gave Twilight a sideways glance as she noted the title and gathered the subject matter based on Starlight's paranoia. The alicorn could only shrug sheepishly in response.
"Alright, notable signs of Changeling mind control include headaches, green discoloration to the eyes, lethargy, irritability and stiffness of the wings and-" Starlight's face reddened slightly, "Oh well that one probably doesn't apply to you." She added hastily closing the book and walking over to Twilight to look her over.
Chrysalis quickly grabbed the book with her magic and began skimming through it. "What is this tripe? None of these methods to avoid capture would even work, at least not as more than a speed bump. And unless you think changelings are everywhere how would you know when to put up these defenses?" She paused and paced around reading, until she reached a "diagram" that displayed a changeling with parts labeled biologically. "I'm not a biology expert but I'm fairly certain I have a stomach... since I can see mine!" She tossed the book across the map-table, before slamming her forehooves on the edge of the map itself. "This is pointless! Un-"
Chrysalis' words caught in her throat. To her side a semi-transparent reformed changeling suddenly appeared, his actions mirroring her own, even shouting across the table. Or, at least he appeared to be shouting, for no sound came out. After a few wordless "sentences" the spectral changeling turned and started to walk from the map, fading from view as it moved away.
"Ph-Pharynx?" Chrysalis stuttered in shock, stumbling towards where he'd been. She looked around, trying to figure out where the image came from. "Was... Was he here? Why? What was that? A spirit? A memory?" She felt disoriented, and was hardly conscious of what she was asking.
Starlight and Twilight exchanged worried looks.
"Alright. I believe she's not up to something now. I'll get rid of the chains."