Driving rain beat mercilessly on the black armored carapace of one Chrysalis, Queen of the Changelings. She spat and swore as her waterlogged mane dripped over her eyes, weighing her head more heavily than any crown, chitinous or otherwise. Damned cursed ponies and their suspicions and their rainstorms. Damned mountain and its treacherous, rain-slicked rocks. Damned lightning, blinding her and booming thunder right in her thrice damned ears!
She wasn’t bitter.
Not at all.
Such was the lot of her kind, after all, to be feared and reviled by those lesser beings. Those wretched fools that couldn’t just lie down and be good little food sources like they were supposed to!
No, she wasn’t bitter.
She was, however, somewhat annoyed.
Okay, so she was bitter. But she had a right to be, damnit! That was the fifth town she’d been run out of this month.
Stupid gluten allergies.
You’d think her highly evolved and hyperadaptive digestive tract could handle a simple bread roll but nooooooo.
Stupid ponies and their hospitals and their trained medical staff. Why couldn’t they just do what changelings do and roll over and die when they get sick?
Okay, so maybe that was a little hypocritical. She didn’t plan to die from just a little cold. Or starvation. Or lightn-
She scrambled as a tree exploded not twenty feet from her.
So maybe lightning. Still.
She needed a cave. Some place warm and dry, with a merry fire and maybe a couple of unicorns in cocoons, complete with a bendy straw and tiny umbrella. Hells, at this point she’d settle for just the umbrella.
Or the cave.
Speaking of which, it seemed fortune finally decided to smile on her, as a narrow cleft in the rock seemed to beckon to her with it’s inky black gaze. Nothing ominous about that! She raced for the entrance, praying to her late mother that it was devoid of bears. Or dragons. Wouldn’t that just be the icing on the proverbial cake?
She ducked into the opening, bigger than it looked from the outside. Then again, when you’re using a mountain for scale it can be a tad hard to judge. She didn’t trip on any skulls, so she took that as a good sign.
Grouchily, she stumbled deeper into the cave, drying herself off with a flash of green fire. At least her magic was useful for something! It certainly wasn’t keeping her fed. With a huff she plopped down on a chunk of granite. It was hard. Why couldn’t they have soft rocks? She curled up into a shivering ball, thinking back fondly to her old castle in the badlands and her favorite sandstone pillow.
Chrysalis’ head shot up at the sound, ears perked for signs of danger. A clop of hoof on stone made her duck behind her new favorite rock. She concentrated, willing herself into the form of a small filly. Yeah, big eyes, messy mane, tiny wings, perfect.
“Don’t bother,” a low, rumbling voice cut through the rhythmic splattering of the rain and echoed around the cave. “I can smell your magic.”
Chrysalis swore, scowling as she stepped out from behind the rock. She started as she beheld the long snout, golden scales, and glowing eyes of a dragon. “Shit.”
The dragon huffed, pulling back her head. She- and it was definitely a she- glared down at the Queen of all Changelings. “Strong language for such a little filly.”
“What?” Chrysalis snapped, then glanced down, realizing she was still disguised as a foal. “Oh.” A flash of magic and she was back to her full, glorious height.
About the size of the dragon’s snout.
Chrysalis just loved the the thought of being bite sized.
She glared at her newfound roommate expectantly. “Well?”
The dragon blinked, surprised. “You’re not going to bow?”
Chrysalis spluttered, staggered by the gall, the hubris, the utter absurdity. “Me, bow? Do you have any idea who I am!? I am Queen Chrysalis, Mother of the Changelings and Mistress of the Badlands! I do not bow!”
The dragon drew back, inhaling with enough force to ruffle Chrysalis’ mane. A low growl filled the cave as the Queen of the Changelings stood stock still.
She was about to die.
And there was so much revenge she hadn’t gotten yet.
Oh well, at least it would be quick and violent. One always has to look on the bright side, you know. She closed her eyes, waiting for the inevitable blast to signify her end. Would it be fire? Acid? Lightning? Maybe a shockwave of pure, agonizing sound. There were so many possibilities! Dragons truly were fascinating creatures.
Chrysalis cracked an eye, fairly certain that at least one of them was confused. “Um, aren’t you supposed to say that after you eat me?”
The dragon eyed her with a look of disgust. “What kind of savage do you think I am?”
Chrysalis stared back flatly. “A dragon.”
“Dragons,” the apparently-not-dragon said, raising a foreleg, “do not have hooves.”
Chrysalis eyed the newfound appendage suspiciously. Indeed, the pointy bit at the end was a bit closer to a pony’s hoof than a dragon’s claw. But it was still more than sharp enough to carry out the same function. “Well, excuse me for not looking at your feet, whoever you are! I was a bit distracted by the imminent death and the rows of sharp teeth!”
The dragon-like-creature-who-was-apparently-not-a-dragon tossed her head arrogantly, a risky proposition when one’s head was nearly the height of the ceiling. “You would have noticed if you’d bowed.”
Chrysalis glared at her. She rolled her shoulders in a vague approximation of a shrug. Chrysalis scowled. “Fine then, if you’re not a dragon what are you?”
The thing-Chrysalis-decided-to-call-a-giant-iguana-until-she-got-a-straight-answer shrugged. “You may call me Adagio Dazzle, I suppose. Or Mistress, Queen, Goddess, Your Grace…”
Adagio huffed. “Fine. Chryssie.”
Chrysalis glared. “That’s not my name.”
“But it’s cuter than Chrysalis, isn’t it?”
Chrysalis’ glare was as much of an answer as she was going to get. Unfortunately, she couldn’t overcome her curiosity enough to leave the annoying creature. “What’s delicious?”
“Your dislike,” Adagio hummed appreciatively. “It’s not an emotion I get enough of recently.
Chrysalis scoffed. “That’s hard to believe.”
“Isn’t it?” Adagio asked. “I go out of my way to act as cruel and hostile as possible, and these stupid ponies won’t stop worshipping me.”
Chrysalis felt her hatred for the giant iguana deepening. “You’re an emotovore.”
Adagio flashed her a toothy grin. “Just so.”
“As am I.” Chrysalis scowled. “You like dislike?”
“Anger, hate, despair,” Adagio hummed contentedly. “Ennui is a personal favorite.”
Chrysalis laughed harshly. “You lucky troll! Some of us have real problems! You think that’s bad, just try feeding on love when you look like a cross between Nightmare Moon and Discord’s wet dream!”
The rumbling sound Adagio made could best be described as some cross between a giggle and a chuckle. “If I could feed on love I’d be as fat as my sister!”
“And if I could consume hate and fear I’d have the strongest brood of any queen mother,” Chrysalis spat angrily. She stomped a hoof, hard enough to shatter the shale beneath her. “It’s so unfair!”
Adagio growled deep in her throat. “It is, isn’t it? Somewhere, some god is laughing at us.”
“Probably a pony god,” Chrysalis grumbled. “Those blasted appetizers get all the luck.”
“Just so,” Adagio scowled, rubbing a pale white scar across her otherwise flawless chest. “I’ve never found an artifact that turns my enemies to stone. I used to have one that hypnotized people when I sang, but they had one that was even better.”
“I used to have a big rock that devoured any magic except my own for a hundred miles, but they stole it when my people decided to lead a coup against me.” Chrysalis sighed.
Adagio looked at her sympathetically. “You too? My sisters abandoned me as soon as our gems were shattered.” She raised her hoof in invisible air quotes. “The power of-”
“Friendship,” they said together, and spat.
“Bullshit power,” Adagio griped. “We were friends. There were just more of them.”
“I was a mother,” Chrysalis huffed. “But friendship is more important than family, apparently.”
“Ugggh,” they groaned in unison.
“So what brings you to my cave?” Adagio asked after another boom of thunder.
“Ponies,” Chrysalis spat. “What else?”
Chrysalis sighed. “I was running for mayor of a small town. Got sick of being found out by jealous lovers and poorly timed obituaries, so I thought I’d run for public office. Raise healthcare, lower taxes, build an animal shelter. Collect their love until my term is up and leave my successor to deal with the budgeting issues…”
“And?” Adagio pressed.
Chrysalis glowered. “Gluten allergy.”
“Ah,” Adagio nodded knowingly.
“You?” Chrysalis asked, more out of curiosity than any real desire to be polite.
Adagio sighed. “You’d think razing a town and slaughtering every firstborn stallion in a ten mile radius would create some negativity.”
Chrysalis found herself leaning in despite her best intentions. “Did it not?”
“No,” Adagio scowled. “No, it did not.”
Chrysalis blinked. “How?”
“The idiots decided I was some sort of avenging deity and erected a statue to me.”
Adagio grimaced. “That’s not even the worst part. They made a holiday of it, call it Slaughter Day. Every year they host a hoofball tournament and sacrifice the winning team in my honor.”
Chrysalis shook her head. “How long?”
“Going on twelve years now.” Adagio sighed. “You know the worst part?”
Chrysalis glowered at her. “No, but you’re going to make me guess, aren’t you?”
Adagio rolled her eyes. “Not now, spoilsport. The worst part is, I can’t stand hoofball.”
Chrysalis’ lips twitched, and she found herself laughing despite herself. She scowled. “Stop that.”
“What?” Adagio asked. Her tone was innocent, but Chrysalis saw the mischievous glint in her eye.
The changeling narrowed her eyes. “That. Stop that. You’re not cute, you’re terrifying.”
Adagio grinned, flashing her teeth mere feet from Chrysalis’ face. “And you’re downright adorable, however intimidating you try to be.” She reached out and booped her on the nose.
Chrysalis hissed, backpedaling away from the invasive hoof. “You dare!”
“Of course!” Adagio laughed. “You’re the first creature I’ve met in a long while who had the brains to fear me.” She leaned in, her breath stirring Chrysalis’ hair. “And I think those little fangs of yours are just precious.”
Chrysalis growled, raising her hoof to swat at the much larger iguana-thing, but paused, her ears warming as a soft blush failed to color her chitin. “You… you think so? I do try so hard to maintain them…”
Giggling, Adagio nodded, prodding her chest, sending her stumbling to her flank. “Of course I do, Chryssie. I think I might want to keep you around for a while.”
Chrysalis pushed herself to her feet, prepared to retort, when she noticed something- or rather, a lack of something. She tilted her head, glaring at Adagio with wonder. “You really do…”
“Hm?” Adagio questioned, tilting her own head curiously.
Chrysalis eyed the bigger creature suspiciously, then poked herself in the chest. No injuries. She tapped her head as well. She didn’t think she was going crazy. So…
Why wasn’t she hungry?
Could this giant, annoying thing really be providing her with enough positive emotion, enough love to…
She eyed her cavemate. Adagio seemed just a little brighter herself, didn’t she? She’d said that most creatures didn’t give her what she needed, just blind love and affection. Maybe…
Chrysalis scowled. “I think I hate you.”
Adagio grinned savagely. “Oh Chryssie, that’s exactly what I was hoping you’d say.”