What have I done to deserve this?

by Cackling Moron

First published

Every obstacle in the path of a Queen is the fault of some nefarious other party, and no fault of her own.

Having recovered from the lowly sabotage that had seen her briefly bedridden, The Queen and her thoroughly useless human servant can now proceed with vengeance, domination, victory and all other things that come naturally to her.

Events conspire to make this difficult.


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There sat the chunk of rubble. Perfectly innocuous. No-one would look twice.

The fools!

No mere chunk of rubble this, no, this chunk of rubble was The Queen in disguise!

And also present, finally having wandered into the danger zone, was her target: Richard.

Standing there, drinking his tea. Like an imbecile.

He’d been getting far too familiar lately, taking advantage of the lapses in concentration the strained situation she was in had been throwing up. Lapses that might have been mistaken - by the idiotic and presumptuous! - as warmth or kindness. Shows what he knew!

He was due a timely reminder of his place in this arrangement, and the element of surprise was key in this. Would put the fear back into him! Keep him on his guard and twitchy, as he should be. Not comfortable and relaxed around her! Who did he think he was?

Just had to wait for him to turn his back…

Patience was a key virtue of a Queen, after all. A Changeling Queen doubly so. All about waiting for that single, exquisite moment when just one strike was all it would take…


And when he turned, she pounced, shedding her disguise and lunging silently from hiding, streaking across the room, barrelling towards him! Flawless!

At the very last possible moment Richard took a single, smart step to the side and all at once the spot where he’d been standing - the spot she had aimed at and launched herself towards so perfectly - was nothing but empty air.

“What?!” She shrieked, sailing past and hitting the floor, tumbling over once or twice before arresting her momentum and digging her hooves in, turning sharply in place so she was facing him.

Not by actually turning around (like a prole) it must be said, but rather by individually turning and flipping every body part so she just-so happened to be facing the opposite direction to the one she had been a second before.

Times like this it paid to have joints that played by no-one’s rules but their own.

“How did you know?” She asked, advancing on Richard who slurped some tea.

“I always know,” he said.

How?!” She asked with force, craning up so her face was in his. Richard didn’t seem especially concerned, though he did find it harder to drink tea now.

“Because I know where things are, and where they aren’t,” he said.

“That doesn’t-!”

‘-make sense’ would have been the rest of that sentence only, much to her frustration, she realised partway through that it actually did. She had indeed managed to make herself the most perfect, flawless piece of rubble that could be conceived of, so that couldn’t be faulted, but she had then decided to be rubble in one of the rooms that Richard had cleared of rubble.

Cur. That wasn’t playing by the rules.

“We are going to try that again, and this time you shall do as you are supposed to do and not move!” She said, poking him in the chest.

“As you wish,” he said, setting his mug to one side.

“Turn around!” Chrysalis shouted and he did so, standing with his hands on his hips, waiting.

She did consider turning back into the rubble for the full effect but then reasoned this was just a waste of time and so without further ado just pounced, knocked him over and pinned him down flat on his back where he lay, obligingly, smiling up at her as though this was perfectly ordinary.

For him, at this point, it kind of was.

“It is important you remember who is in charge,” Chrysalis said, standing over him.

“It would be difficult for me to forget, your majesty.”

That! That kind of thing! That kind of light, breezy comeback! There wasn’t any fear in it!

She supposed she could always just out-and-out command him to stop being so casual, but that solution lacked elegance in her mind. Too blunt, too straightforward. Not becoming a Queen, certainly not. So no, not that.

Best to just keep on with the things the way they were, she reckoned. Even someone as dense as Richard would have to get the point eventually. The true nature of their relationship was plain as day!

And why was he frowning at her like that?

“When was the last time you slept, your majesty?” He asked, the sickly tang of concern accompanying his words.

The impudence!

“That is no business of yours! A Queen sleeps when she wishes, and does not sleep when it suits her not to sleep!” Chrysalis all-but spat.

“My mistake,” he said, though still plainly just a tiny bit concerned.

She leaned in closer, to make sure he was paying attention.

“The instant I am restored to my rightful position and have reliable servants and a proper food supply and no further need of you, you shall be disposed of Richard. I hope you understand that.”

“Was never under any illusions, your majesty.”

Chrysalis had expected at least a flicker of something close to worry at that - her leaving his life! He should have been in pieces! - but Richard remained just as cheerful as he always did. It was enough to even unsettle a Queen. And by unsettle we of course mean annoy enough to momentarily baffle.

“Good,” she said, unable to come up with anything better.

She then stopped standing over him, feeling that it was the right time to do so.

“Did you get the camera?” She asked, moving on with business, walking off as Richard hauled himself back up to standing, dusting himself down.

“Yes. Complete with that neat little neck-holder thing you guys apparently need. Question: Why were cameras designed like this when-” he said, Chrysalis cutting him off.

“No questions!”

He gave a small bow.

“As you wish. It’s by the front doors. With film.”

He wasn’t lying, either, once she went there, there it was.

How Richard got the things he did was something of a mystery to Chrysalis what with him being a freakish alien and all, but it wasn’t the interesting sort of mystery a Queen might actually bother to solve. It was one of those tedious mysteries for lesser beings.

All that mattered was that he did what she told him to do, and he did, so that was that.

“Gratifying to see you can handle simple tasks,” she said, not looking back to Richard who had, as he usually did, followed behind her.

And in flash Chrysalis was gone, replaced instead with an utterly convincing unicorn who took the camera and set it about her neck, adjusting it just-so.

Richard always wondered where the extra mass went when she got smaller like that, but this was another of those things that Chrysalis didn’t see much point in explaining to him.

Once she was ready she trotted up to the big front doors, paused, then turned around again.

“I won’t be coming back, Richard. Success is assured, so once I’m gone I shall be off and onto better things. I won’t be coming back!” She said. Paid to repeat herself for Richard. He was a dense creature, after all.

“As you say, your majesty.”

Why wasn’t he begging her to stay?! Or for her to take him with her?!

What was wrong with him?!

“I mean it, Richard! This is the last time you’ll ever lay eyes on The Queen! S-so if there’s anything you feel like saying, n-now’s the time to say it!” She said, standing up straight, glaring as best as a pony face would allow.

He gave a bow. Deeper than usual.

“It was a privilege failing to live up to your standards, your majesty. I’d wish you luck, but I’m fully aware you don’t need luck,” he said.

Her eye twitched. For some reason.


“Yes! No! I don’t! Goodbye, servant - I’m off to make some better ones!

She slammed the door behind her.

Richard pottered off to tidy up something.


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“Richard! Richard I need you!”

Richard emerged from around a corner, fresh something trivial and inconsequential, removing his apron even as he moved to meet her halfway as Chrysalis came stumbling back in.

“Back so soon? Did you win, your majesty?” He asked, casting the apron aside.

“Be quiet, Richard!” She snapped, leaping up and lurching forward with a final buzz to fly the remaining distance between them, colliding with him full-force, wrapping around him and bearing him with a thud to the ground, where he landed flat. Again.

Take that as a no…” Richard mumbled, but Chrysalis, curling into him, elected to ignore this.

“Think nice thoughts about me,” she said instead, eyes closed.

“I always think nice thoughts about you, your majesty.”

“Well think nicer ones!”

Richard didn’t say anything to this, but a moment or so later that ever-simmering, sickly affection did start bubbling over enough for Chrysalis to be able to get at it, and get at it she did, with much gusto, the Changeling equivalent of upending the glass down your throat.

“Perhaps you should slow down there, your majesty,” Richard said, feeling a touch-lightheaded all of a sudden but not so lightheaded that he forgot what effect overindulging on human emotion (read: his) could have on a Changeling (read: her). He had seen it before, after all.

Chrysalis paused only long enough to snap:

I know what I’m doing!

Before promptly getting back to it.

She did know she was doing, too, and what she was doing was deliberately overdoing it. Once it became clear that this was her intention Richard drew no further comment to it, content instead to think nice thoughts about her while dealing with that unusual (though not unduly unpleasant) sensation of getting his emotions sucked out of him.

Apparently - so he’d heard - for the locals the experience could sometimes be quite unhealthy. Somehow, perhaps on account of being a freakish alien, he had thus-far managed to avoid any particularly serious side-effects of the process. Certainly, Chrysalis had sated herself on his ‘nice thoughts’ multiple times and he’d come out none-the-worse for wear beyond a slight giddyness.

Strange. But just one of those things. Again, likely just because he was a freakish alien. He did not work the way the locals worked. That was his excuse at least.

Worse things had happened.

Drinking deeply as she was, it did not take Chrysalis an especially long time to reach her fill and then intentionally go just that little bit over and then just a smidge beyond that. Once there, she stopped and was comfortable to just continue resting sprawled on top of Richard.

She had that dazed, happy smile on her face that she sometimes got after overindulging herself, tongue poking out a little between her teeth, eyes lidded. Seemed as good a time to probe as any.

“Want to talk about what happened, your majesty?” Richard asked.

And she did open her mouth to do so, but then even through the fluffiness she realised what it was she was about to do and stopped, mouth snapping back shut again immediately, jaw setting.

Pushing up and away from him - though not dismounting from the position she’d taken atop him - she glared down, eyes boring into him even if she was dangerously close to seeing double right at that moment.

“Nothing went wrong! I just decided that my revenge should be even more crushing! So I withdrew in good order so I could plan accordingly,” she said, answering accusations no-one had actually made.

“Sensible move,” Richard said, nodding, getting a hoof waved under his nose a moment later for his troubles.

“I do not need your approval, Richard! While you were learning how to spell your name, I was being trained to conquer empires!” She said, throwing her head back at the last part, gesticulating wildly, briefly getting distracted by being confused over how you did spell Richard before reminding herself it didn’t matter and she didn’t care.

“That’s very impressive, your majesty. Might I ask who trained you?” Richard asked, tucking his hands in beneath his head, just to get more comfy. Chrysalis glared down at him some more.

“I trained myself,” she hissed, swaying, blowing some mane out of her face but achieving nothing in the way of change. “Did you know I once managed to single-hoofedly capture every princess in Equestria? Me! All on my own! Every last one of them!”

He had indeed heard her mention this before. Several times. He had a feeling that she might have been glossing over some of the details but he’d never seen any reason to bring up how, at the time, she’d had hordes of minions at her beck and call who might have maybe helped a little with this particular caper. Not cricket kicking a Queen while she was down.

“How’d you manage that again? You never did actually tell me,” he asked instead, which was close to but not exactly the same thing. It gave her latitude to toot her own horn. Latitude Chrysalis chose to snub. She lurched over and fell forward so her nose squashed against his.

“I do not need to waste my time filling you in on the details! It is enough that you know it happened, Richard! I did it! Me! The Queen! Your Queen!”

“Fair enough, your majesty.”

This answer satisfied her, and so with some effort (and Richard’s assistance, not his help, these things were different) she managed to get back up to a halfway sitting position again, everything still a little vague and fluffy.

Then, as those in Chrysalis’s conditions were sometimes known to experience, her mood took a sudden dip into the maudlin.

“I had a throne, once,” she said, sadly, staring at a very old chair that just-so happened to be in her eyeline.

“You’ve said, your majesty,” Richard said.

“A mighty throne! A fearsome artefact of terrible, awesome power!” She said, managing to raise both hooves up in the air before having to bring them both down again to keep from overbalancing.

It had been spiky, too! Couldn’t ever forget the spikes. The spikes were important.

“So I heard,” Richard said.

“At the very top of the hive! A commanding position, suited to my station!”

“Must have been quite something.”

“It was…”

And here she tailed off, a distant look in her eyes, and Richard knew that he shouldn’t really say anything. He gave her some time and some quiet

Then it was right back to bombastic anger once more. So service as usual, really.

“And then it was stolen from me!” She snarled, face twisting, horn glowing briefly as she swiped the offending, irritating chair out of sight. It broke somewhere further away and Richard made a mental note to tidy it up when he had time.

Chrysalis continued:

“Stolen from me by the crafty, scheming, conniving, underhoofed pony Starlight Glimmer who duped and misled my former subjects, now all ‘reformed’ - traitors! Traitors all!”

“I do find the use of the word ‘reformed’ oddly sinister, I must admit,” Richard said.

Being human, he found the choice unsettlingly euphemistic. Like what you’d find stamped on the records of someone who’d had an icepick tapped into their brain. He knew it wasn’t like that, it was just where his mind went. Cultural thing.

Oddly too this was one area where he and Chrysalis actually overlapped, or at least slightly overlapped. Like two speeding trains overlap before whipping past one another. Neither of them liked the word that much, albeit for different reasons.

“The pathetic doublespeak of cowards, to hide their true intentions! To see the world infected by their disease of friendship!” Chrysalis bellowed, wings flaring and very nearly toppling over backwards, being steadied by Richard.

This seemed a bit much to Richard, really, this outburst, but then he was (again) human and was still a little confused by how they did things on this side.

“And calling friendship a disease is just odd. Like it was a discrete thing and not a, you know, social outgrowth or something. You people really do things very strangely over here.”

Chrysalis considered yelling at him for being an idiot but then, looking at his dumb face, she realised he was an idiot, and yelling would just be a waste of time. So instead she lay back down on top of him again, getting comfy.

“Be quiet, Richard,” she said, spotting a stray dribble of that weird affection of his that had escaped her notice up until now and had somehow ended up on his cheek. She licked it up and then closed her eyes, settling in. Richard screwed his face up. The tongue thing was something he never really got used to.

“As you wish,” he said.

She cracked one eye at him.

“As you wish what?

“As you wish, your majesty.”


She then yawned. Too much of Richard’s maybe-good-maybe-bad affection often had the effect of making her sleepy once the fluffiness had really settled in. Being full and fed helped too, obviously.

And warm...

“Take me to bed, Richard,” she said, making no moves to assist in this.

“I’m going to have to carry you for that,” Richard pointed out.

She yawned again, longer this time.

“You have my permission…” she mumbled, dozy smile widening as she felt herself being picked up. Good help wasn’t that hard to find, she supposed...


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Despite the camping trip being over, Starlight was back out in the woods.

She was only out again because she had - foolishly - misplaced the hat that Applejack had so thoughtfully lent her for the trip. Or she thought she had, at least, and was now casting about for it. Applejack had said not to worry but Starlight was, and this way at least she could say she tried.

So far no luck on the hat front.

What she did find though, wandering through the trees, was something she had never seen before. Something tall and weird. With a shopping bag.

It came lumbering up out of nowhere and, on seeing her, double-took and came to an abrupt halt.

The two of them stared at one another. Very, very slowly Richard - for it was and could only be Richard - raised a hand and waved. Starlight, equally slowly, waved back. Richard then lumbered in her direction.

“The day to be in the woods, it seems,” he said, by way of hello.

Starlight decided to be a little more practical:

“What are you?”

A fair question, albeit a little direct. Not that Richard seemed to mind.

“I’m human. Not from around here. Really not from around here, I mean. Other dimension or something unlikely-sounding like that. Long way from home, me.”

Normally this wasn’t something you heard said in such a blase fashion.

“Oh. How did you get here?”

“The usual way,” Richard said.

Couldn’t really argue with that, and before she could formulate any followup questions (there were a few she could think were worth asking) he’d extended a hand in her direction.

“Richard,” he said as she awkwardly kind of just inserted a hoof into his hand they had a brief shake.

“Starlight Glimmer,” Starlight said, and Richard frowned to himself in the way one does when trying to remember something. A second later he nodded, having got it.

“Ah. I’ve heard about you,” he said.

Not what she’d expected.

“You have?” She asked.

“Yep. You’re the one who helped pull that hippy-dippy hoodoo on the hive, right? Brought the whole place down? Sent Chrysalis away swearing revenge? I heard about you.”

“Oh, that. Heh. Yeah, that was me. Well, kind of, a little bit. Wasn’t all me. How, uh, how’d you hear about it?”

Him not being from around here and all.

“Chrysalis told me,” Richard said. That made sense.

“Right, right, Chrysalis- wait!”

Her horn immediately lit up, but not faster than Richard flipping a ten pence piece into the air, just to her left.

“Catch,” he said.

And in the time it took for Starlight’s eyes to flick from him to the coin and back again he’d bent down, reached out and put a hand around her horn, a thumb on the tip. And like that, the magic just went flumf. Poof. Doused.

Something of another surprise for Starlight.


“Yeah, don’t ask me,” Richard said.

She tried to pull back from his grip but he was having none of it and she wasn’t going anywhere.

“How does that even work?!” She asked, frustrated, magic sparking and failing to catch. Richard shrugged.

“No idea.”

“How did you know it would work?”

“Because it works on Chrysalis. But don’t tell her I told you. She’ll yell at me.”

He’d only ever done it once. Chrysalis had bitten him.

Again Starlight tried to escape but Richard’s reach was long and his grip secure.

“Let go of that!”

“I’d love to, trust me, but if I did you’d probably just flash away to go get your friends or pick me up and carry me about and, frankly, neither option works out great for me,” Richard said.

He had her number on that one, those had been her two top options.

“Okay…” She said, thinking on her hooves. “If I promise not to do either of those things, will you let go? It feels weird.”

“Will you do something else to my disadvantage?”

“I promise not to do anything other than talk,” Starlight said.

“Fine by me,” Richard said, and almost at once he let go, shaking out his hand. As it had with Chrysalis, while a neat trick it kind of left his whole arm tingling. At least she hadn’t bitten him. She was, instead, just looking at him oddly.

“You’re very trusting.”

“I like to take people at their word. I also have more coins,” he said, patting his pocket.

“Don’t think I’d fall for that twice.”

“I’d aim for your nose this time.”

That got a chuckle out of her at least. Didn’t do a whole lot to puncture the blanket of awkwardness that had settled across both of them.

“So…” she said, to get the ball rolling.

“So…” said Richard. “Take it there isn’t a whole lot of love lost between you and The Quee- Chrysalis, then?”

Starlight raised an eyebrow at him briefly before answering. Quite the odd slip, she felt.

“Well, her and just about everypony, really. Few reasons. But, uh, she might maybe have a thing against me personally,” she said, scratching the back of her neck.

This was putting it lightly.

“For the hive thing?” Richard asked, unnecessarily.

“For the hive thing, yeah,” Starlight said, nodding.

“She has mentioned it once or twice.”

Again, this was putting it lightly.

“And you’re her…?” Starlight asked, leaving a nice big gap for Richard to fill as he saw fit.

“Gopher. Dogsbody. Assistant. She’d say servant but, well, she would. Suppose it wouldn’t be wholly inaccurate.”

This begged a pretty obvious question, at least in Starlight’s mind:


Richard shrugged, again, emphatically this time. It wasn’t something he’d given a particular level of thought to. He’d just done it, and was still doing it. Didn’t seem much reason to dwell on the whys of how he’d got into it. Some things just were.

“She had openings available. Looked like she needed company too, I suppose” he said.

“I offered her a chance for something like that - well, not the servant thing, but company I mean - and she just...ran away. To plot revenge. And I kind of know how that goes. Not the healthiest of things...” Starlight said, remembering that moment and all and everything about it, wincing.

Speaking from experience here was Starlight as well, at least regards revenge plotting. Richard himself had never sworn revenge against anyone but could imagine how it might put a kink in a healthy and relaxed lifestyle.

“Yes well, that likely wasn’t one of her finer moments. But that’s life, isn’t it? And I know a lot of people like to cut their losses at a second chance, but I figured that if I’m around I might as well offer a few more. No skin off my back,” he said.

“Think that’ll work?” Starlight asked, delicately, touch hopefully. Richard went through a brief face journey as he considered the answer. A multifaceted issue. This, by contrast to his own service, was something he had actually thought about at some length.

Had to think about something while cleaning up.

“I like to think so. Am I right? Who knows. She puts a lot of effort into being out-and-out evil but I think it’s misplaced energy, really. I think she just knows how to do one thing, and doesn’t want to be seen as having just wasted her life by admitting she was perhaps ever wrong. Or maybe I’m the one who’s wrong and she’ll gut me like a rainbow trout one of these days. She always says she will. Never has so far, though.”

Personally he wasn’t even sure how the mechanics of it would work. The horn, he supposed. Kind of difficult though. Mean, she could do it, but it’d be messy. Like trying to open a carton of apple juice with a knitting needle.

Perhaps he’d given this one more thought than it warranted...

“That does sound like her. Why don’t you just...leave?” Starlight asked. Starting for no apparent reason was one thing, to continue in the face of threats of disembowelment was quite another. To her surprise Richard didn’t even have to think about that one, he answered immediately:

“Oh, I couldn’t leave her all on her own. She says she doesn’t need me, but I think if I left she’d end up talking to herself. Or to bits of wood or something. I couldn’t really forgive myself. And - don’t tell her this part either - she’s got kind of a cute, squishy face. Gets me every time.”

Whatever train of thought Starlight had been happily tending promptly derailed. All passengers died. The wreckage caught fire. It was a disaster, speaking in terms of trains of thought.

“...cute...squishy...face…?” She about managed. Richard looked a little embarrassed for having let that one slip, but it was too late for regrets. And he hadn’t been lying, importantly.

“I’m a man of particular tastes,” he said.

“...so I see.”

Both parties here took a moment to reassess where they stood relative to one another, both figuratively and literally. Richard then continued:

“We all have our vices. Anyway, I should probably be getting back. If she wakes up and I’m not there she gets anxious. But don’t tell her I said that.”

“So she’s, ah, hiding out in the forest somewhere, then?” Starlight asked, going for casual but coming across about as subtle as a brick through a window. Richard wagged a finger at her.

“Ahbaba, no hints, sorry. This conversation was hint enough. Probably catch it in the neck when she finds out, but oh well. Just maybe be a little extra-watchful for a bit. But don’t come looking, please. She’s very fragile. Uh-”

“Don’t tell her you said that?” Starlight asked, flat. Richard smiled obligingly.

“If you’d be so kind. Now I really must dash. Got to get this food put away,” he said.

Starlight eyed the bag he was carrying. It was bright orange, wrinkled and very, very beaten up. It looked like he’d fixed it up a fair few times. Had a faded name written in white on it she didn’t recognise. Alien artifacts...

“How do you shop without anypony asking questions?” She asked.

That one was easy.

“If you act like you’re where you’re supposed to be doing what you’re supposed to be doing, you can get away with just about anything,” he said with a wink.

Starlight found this a very hard line to swallow, but he was the freakish alien with the shopping, so maybe he was onto something?

And by the time she’d thought about it he’d already shambled off deeper into the woods.

“Wait,” she called out, trotting up.


She floated over the ten pence piece he’d flicked at her which she’d then picked up and carried over.

“You forgot your coin,” she said.

“Heh, you keep that. Nowhere accepts it around here anyway. Consider it a souvenir of an odd conversation. Have fun now, Starlight. Be seeing you,” Richard said, waving the coin back to her and following it up with a rather unusual o-over-the-eye-then-down hand gesture.

And with that he disappeared into the trees, leaving Starlight on her own again. She looked around. No sign of any hats. Likely a write-off, that one. She’d get Applejack another one to say sorry. In the meantime, other issues.

“...should probably mention this to somepony…” she mumbled to herself.


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Chrysalis was indeed up, awake and waiting to greet Richard the instant he set foot back through the front door. She was also, indeed, just a touch anxious.

“Where were you?!” She yelled, magically hoiking him off his feet and yanking him through the air to leave him hovering in front of her. He lifted up the shopping bag and gave it a shake, unruffled at being magically manhandled so.

“Shopping,” he said, then adding: “Your majesty.”

“I’ve had about enough of your attitude, Richard! It’s time you - are those cupcakes?”

The bag had shifted position enough for them to have caught her eye.

“It is two cupakes,” Richard confirmed.

Two suggested the possibility of them being for sharing, which Chrysalis wasn’t thrilled about. Her eyes narrowed at him.

“Are they both for me?” She asked. He nodded.

“They are both for you, yes.”

Richard didn’t have that much of a sweet tooth. By contrast he knew that Chrysalis did. He also knew she liked going in for seconds. Hence two cupcakes. There was method involved, here.

Her anxiety ebbing away and her irritation mollified, Chrysalis set Richard back down on his feet.

“I was worried about you - ah - worried that you might have been captured and then given up my location under interrogation, and that any moment I might have found myself surrounded!” She said, waving around a hoof demonstratively.

A legitimate source of worry!

“Your majesty, at least do me the credit of believing I’d take your secrets to my grave,” Richard said, clutching a hand to his chest, wounded.

Not...wholly accurate what he’d said, given his conversation in the woods...but close enough for his standards. What Chrysalis didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him. Yet.

“Hmm. Partway to the grave, maybe. I don’t believe you have sufficient spine to last the whole way,” Chrysalis said, tapping a hoof against her chin and favouring him with a smirk as he continued to look wounded.

Not...entirely true what she’d said, given she did believe he had sufficient spine...but it wouldn’t do to let him know she thought that. It’d just go straight to his head.

“Is this because I didn’t get three cupcakes?”

“...be quiet, Richard. Give them to me.”

He did so. Chrysalis immediately devoured the first one while holding the other nearby, on standby.

“Permission to put the rest of the food away?” He asked.

“Ghranthed,” Chrysalis said around the first cupcake and, with a brief bow, Richard went off to do just that. Chrysalis, a moment later, followed. He’d probably need supervising. Or at least he’d need his mistakes pointed out to him, when he made them.

Aggravatingly, even though she was watching him closely, he was slow in making the mistakes he was supposed to be making, so pointing them out wasn’t something that happened. Instead she just watched him in silence. Thinking.

Thinking about several things. All very important. None of them involving Richard in any great detail, though often tangentially. Watching what he was doing right then specifically - putting away food - did bring one thought to the forefront, however.

Starlight wasn’t the only one low-key amazed by Richard’s apparent ability to wander around without attracting undue attention. Chrysalis had always just taken it for granted that he could go and do whatever she needed him to do, wherever she needed him to do it, but now, watching him deal with the food, the ever-burning question of ‘how’ got more and more insistent.

After all, when she reconnoitered she at least had a disguise (a perfect one, always). What did Richard have? Nothing! Not unless you included monstrous height, a weird loping gait and a general eye-catching bearing, none of which were good things.

As much as she hated having to lower herself to ask, her curiosity was simply too great.

“Richard, how do you get in and out of that town so easily?” She asked, breaking the silence.

What with ponies being - without exception - spineless, nattering cretins, it was surprising that it hadn’t become more of an issue yet. Or an issue at all, really. Richard did not pause in what he was doing and said:

“I go in, I get what I want, I go out.”

A frustrating non-answer.

“But how?” Chrysalis pressed.

He did stop for this one, turning about and smiling at her.

“Charm” he said.

She glared. How did he do it? How?!

By all accounts it doesn’t make sense.

Chrysalis advanced on him, maintaining eye-contact, eating the other cupcake in the most intimidating manner possible. Richard just maintained his smile until she was right up in his face, and then kept on maintaining it anyway.

“Fine,” she hissed. “Keep your secrets. Doesn’t matter to me anyway.”

“Not a secret, your majesty.”

It doesn’t matter! I’m going to go and do something important! This ruin still has secrets yet to uncover, I’m sure of it.”

“As you say, your majesty,” Richard said, sighing to himself and finishing up, waiting and listening for her to start shouting for him again.

It did not take long, and it came just as he was stirring his freshly-brewed mug of tea.


He sighed, though quietly, and let the teaspoon drop into the mug. If you said or heard a word often enough it started to get washed out, becoming more of a sound instead of something that carried meaning. He wondered what would happen if the word that got washed out was your name. Would you stop existing?

Probably not.

“Coming, your majesty,” he called back, hustling up.

Or down, in the event, for Chrysalis had gone down, going through one of the many doors that led to the expansive and ever-so-slightly creepy basement. There was a lot of junk in the basement. Much of it had been there at the start, and a lot of it was junk that Richard had put down there in the course of his tidying.

He found Chrysalis standing by one-such piece of junk. She looked absoultely delighted with herself. The junk looked like something that really shouldn’t have been left in a basement.

The thing screamed Magical Object of Great Power. All unfeasibly large, multi-faceted gemstones and coiled gold. It was almost as tall as Chrysalis, Richard saw. He felt like he was wasting a fortune just by standing near it.

“What is it?” He asked.

“I found it!” Chrysalis said, which was in no-way an answer to this question. Richard rolled with it.

“In the basement, your majesty?”

Only here in this technicolour wonderland, Richard reflected, would you find this sort of thing in a basement. And only here would it look like that.

“It’s a catacomb!” She said, knowing full well that it was not. Richard knew this too, but saw no reason to contradict her. If that’s what she was going with, he was happy to play along.

“What does it do?” He asked instead, as a followup to his last and as a variation to his other question.

Quite uncharacteristically for Chrysalis - and a good sign of just how excited she was by her discovery - she did actually explain what the thing was and what her plan was involving it, launching forth with gusto, though Richard rapidly lost the thread.

Love. Magic. Absorbing love. Gaining magic. Power overwhelming. Revenge. Eternal rule. Domination. More magic, more love. Something something. The other. Enemies laid low. Humiliation doled out every which way. Victory. More revenge. It all kind of blended together for him.

He saw non-specific magical laserbeams in his future.

And where she was actually getting any of this from was anyone’s guess. Could everyone around here just identify any old bit of magical brickabrack by sight alone? Or was there a handbook he hadn’t seen? Just seemed unlikely, but who was he to say so? He wasn’t even from round here.

“-and I’ll be unstoppable! Unstoppable I say!” Chrysalis said, capping her spiel off with a laugh that served as a fine conclusion. One of the things Richard would admit to liking about her was her theatrical flair. That she wasn’t even trying helped. It just came naturally to her.

“I do love how there’s always some magical item lying around somewhere that’s just perfect for whatever scheme is being cooked up,” Richard said.

Chrysalis, who’d struck a mighty pose with one hoof raised, head held high, could practically feel her face drop on hearing this. He had a gift for really taking the drama out of things.

“Be quiet, Richard. Just move it for me,” she said, pointing to the thing.

He looked at it, then at the flight of stairs he’d be lugging it up.

“To the main hall?” He asked.

“Yes. Quickly!”

“Righto, your majesty. Lift with your legs, that’s what mother always said. Or was it the back? I did hear it was the strongest muscle in the body...

Much heaving, grunting and hauling followed. Richard used every part of his body to lift, not just his legs or his back. Chrysalis supervised. Or criticised. How you’d define it would depend on where you were standing.

“There is something uniquely pleasing in watching you move heavy objects…” She noted once he’d managed to get it up to the top of the stairs and he’d paused to take a breath and mop his brow.

“Had to be good at something, your majesty,” he panted before resuming the hauling.

He got it to the hall in good time. Not no time, but good time. And once there, it just became a question of fine adjustments.

“A little to the left,” Chrysalis said.

It went a little to the left.

“A touch to the right,” she said.

It went a touch to the right.

“You’re not - hoo - not just messing me around are you, your majesty?” Richard asked, doubled-over, hands on his knees.

“That’d you even suggest such a thing, Richard! Like I wouldn’t have anything better to do,” she said, having to look away to hide the enormous grin on her face. Naturally, this hid nothing, not from Richard’s keen eyes.

“Of course. It’s good here though, I take it?” He asked.

She made a show of looking over the placement of the object but, as she didn’t actually care, it really didn’t matter. She was just making him stew some more.

“Yes,” she said, eventually. “It’ll do.”

“Wonderful. Just need some water…” Richard said, stumbling off.

He didn’t ask for permission for that one - idiot - but Chrysalis didn’t see the use in reprimanding him, instead dancing a tiny dance of pure joy around the artifact, the key to victory! Whatever it actually was. She was fairly certain she knew. Certainly odds over fifty, maybe close to seventy. Pretty solid.

Richard returned in short order looking much refreshed.

“I’m not going to have to do anything magic-related, am I?” He asked.

Magic was in no way his area of expertise. Not even close. Chrysalis rolled her eyes.

“No, Richard, you’ll just stand in the corner while I do the hard work. As always,” she sighed, shooing him away.

“I thought as much, your majesty. This corner?” He asked, pointing to the nearest one while moving towards it.

“Yes yes,” Chrysalis said, waving a hoof at him, her focus on the artifact.

All corners were much of a muchness when it came to keeping useless, lumbering aliens out of harm’s way. Or just the way, generally speaking. Harm wasn’t a concern. But the corner was quite safe all the same.

“Now, to begin…”

No sense in wasting time, after all! Things had to progress. Horn igniting, she probed towards the thing, feeling the magical presence of it sitting there, reaching out for tentatively, gently but insistently.

And then catching it! Aha! Just as she’d thought! As if she could have been wrong!

Truly an object of great, miscellaneous power! Just waiting for a mind and talent as great as hers, to have its potential unlocked, put to use!

The weft and warp of magic itself bent, like casting a stone upon a taut sheet of cloth!

Impressive stuff. Kind of concerning that the thing had just been left lying around under a dust sheet in a basement. But hardly surprising, given the way things usually went. A wonder the world hadn’t ended accidentally by someone tripping over the wrong thing just left in a hedge, really.

And of course assuming that what Chrysalis had said should be happening was, in fact, happening and it wasn’t just a case of a localised magical ruckus the effects of which did not extend beyond the room. Which was also eminently possible.

Magic. Always a roll of the dice.

Still, at least Chrysalis seemed to be enjoying herself.

“Yes! Yes! Ahahaha! All too easy!” She cackled as an unearthly, sourceless gale began whipping through the hall alongside a very energetic lightshow.

On the face of it, from the outside, Richard could imagine that this would all look pretty bad. Noted villain, another magical trinket, lots of rushing wind, some of those nondescript magical laserbeams, possibility of something awful happening. But he knew it was all mouth and no trousers.

He was firm in the belief that the universe itself would not allow anything truly serious to happen. There’d be a hitch, for there was always a hitch, and the plan would derail. Or, rather, divert, and events would end up in a better place by accident. Lessons would be learnt, life would improve. His faith that this would happen was absolute.

Back home this faith had been misplaced. Here? Perhaps a little on the optimistic side, but certainly not too unbelievable. There would be something soon enough, he was sure. Magical backlash, maybe? Or the sudden arrival of some hero or other to put a stop to things? There were lots of options. Richard was keeping his eyes peeled.

Just not in the right direction.

Above him, the aged, decrepit ceiling was cracking. Or cracking more. Much of Chrysalis’s chosen hideout was cracked and crumbling, despite Richard’s valiant efforts at maintenance, and it just-so happened that the corner he’d chosen to stand in was one of the more crack-riddle parts. And the cracks did not appreciate all this brouhaha.

Not that Richard noticed. He was just watching Chrysalis, happy she was enjoying herself, idly waiting for the universe to nudge the rudder, as it were.

The cracks worsened. A chunk fell.

And down Richard went, poleaxed.

The piece of ceiling that hit him on the head didn’t make much of a noise on impact, he himself was silent and the noise of him collapsing was swallowed up in the general din and tumult filling the room, but the movement did catch Chrysalis’s eye.

She looked over, just for a second. Saw Richard laid out in a heap. Lazy as well as stupid, she thought. But then the thought blossomed more fully. Why would he be on the floor like that? Surrounded by bits of the ceiling? Bits of the ceiling that had clearly fallen from-



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Instantly and without thinking twice she dropped everything and all-but flung herself over at him, half-leaping, half-flying. He was completely unresponsive, just laid out and limp, eyes closed. There was also blood. Bad sign.

“No! No no nononono!” She said, afraid to touch him lest he get hurt more but equally afraid not to touch him and in so doing let something else bad happen. Panicking, to put it another way.

“How could you get standing in a corner wrong?! You were meant to be safe in the corner! That’s why I made you stand there!” She shouted into his face, utterly at a loss for what else she could do. Normally, her shouting in faces got results, now it wasn’t and she hated it on a new and exotic level.

She felt very strange, but distantly, and it wasn’t as pressing of a concern as the wellbeing of Richard, who still wasn’t moving despite the top-notch and regal quality of her shouting.

“Wake up! Move! S-stop just - stop just lying there!”

Lacking better options, Chrysalis had fallen onto the old standby of yelling while shaking the target of your yelling by the shoulders. Results were unedifying. He remained limp, and continued to bleed.

First aid for freakish aliens wasn’t something she’d picked up over the years. Not that she likely would have anyway - she was typically more in the business of inflicting harm than remedying it. Kind of felt like a mistake, now. But too late. Far too late.

That strange feeling was a lot more prominent, now, and seemed to be building to something but, again, she was too distracted to really notice, or even to notice the odd amount of light that was filling the room all of a sudden. All she could see was the weird alien who, unlike usual, was not smiling at her. Like an idiot.

Wake up…

With a snort and a jerk Richard snapped awake, though for a second or two it was obvious he hadn’t the faintest idea where he was or what was going on. Then something a little like lucidity came back to him and he squinted around, that damn fool smile coming back at once once he laid his eyes on Chrysalis.

“Oh, hello there,” he said, baffled and bewildered by why he seemed to be on the floor but happy that the first thing he could see was her.

The sense of relief that flooded Chrysalis was so overwhelming and so profound she was legitimately lost for words, giving Richard even more time to smile and squint happily at her.

His squint then became a frown. The questioning kind. If you’d put an ear to his skull, you’d likely have heard the wheels grinding (and also got blood on your ear).

“Your majesty, you’re all...sparkly…” He said.

Chrysalis blinked at him. He was delirious! Was he delirious? Seemed an odd thing to be delirious about. Or maybe it wasn’t. She had no frame of reference!


Very weakly he raised a hand and pointed more-or-less in her direction.

“Or, like, shiny and...fancy colour…s’nice...” He said, arm dropping back down again.

With him awake and speaking, some of the heart-constricting panic had left her, albeit not completely. Enough though for some actual awareness to come back to her. Awareness of that very unusual feeling filling her, of the absence of that gnawing, constant hunger. Awareness of how her...legs and hooves weren’t...the right...colour.

“Oh no,” she said, looking down at herself with increasing, frantic urgency. “Oh no! No! Richard! Oh! How could you do this to me?!”

Richard cocked his head, dazed and confused, then winced and put a hand up to his hand, pulling his fingers back bloody. He was still a touch too out of it to really have any solid opinions on this, though. Maybe his head had always been like that, he thought. That made sense, he thought.

“Did I get some blood on you?” He asked, again looking at Chrysalis, missing the obvious. Which was pretty impressive given what the obvious was. Chrysalis was at this moment running her mane through her hooves and staring at it frank, appalled disbelief.

“No! Worse! So much worse! You’ve - oh how could this happen?!”

He didn’t like seeing her so distressed, even if she was all pretty and shiny now. He wondered what might be the problem. Her hair looked fine. A little different to how it normally did, sure, but-

“Wait...doesn’t going all fancy and shiny mean that…”

Dots laboriously connected in his head. They likely would have connected faster had that head not been bleeding and recently taken a whack from some masonry. They did connect though, and the way his face lit up made it pretty obvious that this had happened.

Chrysalis was horrified.

“Don’t read into it! Stop reading into it, Richard! It d-doesn’t mean anything! It - it - oh don’t ever scare me like that again!” She wailed, caving and just wrapping around him, digging her face into the crook of his neck.

“Makes me quite fuzzy inside knowing that you think nice thoughts about me, too, your majesty,” Richard said, smile now just plain dopey, the knock to the head making the decision to put his arms around her seem like a really good one.

Amazingly, it actually was. Chrysalis’s didn’t object or scold or bite him or anything! She just screamed frustratedly into his neck but that was it. Pretty mild all things considered.

And so they cuddled. Or he cuddled her, at least, while she buried herself as deeply into him as she possibly could, utterly unable to comprehend the bevy of things she was experiencing and so mostly just clinging on to the very tangible fact that he was mostly unharmed and that this was a Good Thing.

“As enjoyable as this is I probably should see a doctor. I did lose consciousness for a minute there and I am bleeding from the head,” Richard said, having by now scraped together enough of his wits to realise the gravity of this. Chrysalis pulled away from him and did actually pout - in moments of weakness Queens were allowed to bend their own rules.

“...you’re ruining the moment, Richard,” she said.

“Sorry, your majesty.”

She had to admit he had a point, however. There was a good deal of blood all down his face at this point. A striking look for him, yes, but probably not in any way that was good. It also meant that he was hurt, and much as she knew him being mostly unharmed was a Good Thing, she also knew that him being hurt was a Bad Thing.

“...you should though. Go. Go now. Quickly,” she said, wriggling out from his arms, stepping up and backing away.

“Oh don’t worry about me, your majesty, I’m made of tough-”

He cut off with a yelp as he was magically yanked to his feet and given a shove in the direction of the doors, stumbling forward a few steps.

“Stop talking! Go go! Go quickly!”

“Right, uh, as you say your majesty. Whoo, little unsteady there a second,” he said, swaying, making an effort not to overbalance. Maybe a bad sign, or maybe just having been made to get up too quick. Hard to say.

He tried a smile, but Chrysalis just stared him down until he, sheepishly, continued on toward the door, Chrysalis’s eyes burning a hole in his back before her attention slid over to the item he’d pulled up from the basement.

And there the mighty artifact still sat. Inert now that she’d stopped manipulating it, but no-doubt ready to be used again at a moment’s notice. Really, what had happened changed nothing. Didn’t it? Revenge still had to be doled out. World still had to be taken over. Enemies crushed, dominion exerted. Nothing had really changed. Nothing important, at least.

It was just...

Her mind just wasn’t in the right place anymore. That was all. How could it be? Look at what he’d done to her! It was distracting! She wasn’t even a tiny bit peckish, either! How was she truly supposed to draw upon that previously inexhaustible well of malice without even a tiny bit of that ever-present, nagging hunger?

He’d taken it from her! Now what did she have?

Some sort of unnatural, warm, fuzzy glow? The kind that just seemed to fill every spare inch of her and made holding onto those normal, comforting thoughts of vengeance and malice basically impossible?

How could he have done this to her?!

...and it just didn’t seem right sending him off on his own when he was hurt. He could get lost, after all, then she’d only have to go and find him later. Just more work for her in the long run.

Chewing on her lip Chrysalis reached a snap decision.


Richard waited, door ajar, and Chrysalis buzzed over.


“Bend down,” she said, and he did, and once he did and his head was in easier reach some strange, mad, inexplicable force burning in her belly motivated her to plant a very quick peck on his cheek. It was so fast he almost missed it. Chrysalis was, obviously, mortified and had no way to explain any of it.

“I’ll never forgive you for this,” she said, not looking him in the eye, her face luminescent.

Richard was pretty luminescent himself.

“Wouldn’t ever expect you to,” he said, raising a hand to the kissed cheek.

When you wouldn’t move…

“What?” Richard asked, not having caught that. In response she moved in for another lightning-quick peck to the other cheek. Again, she had no idea why she did it. She just did. Something had compelled her to. Something she didn’t understand didn’t really want to understand, but which was undeniably there all the same.

Today was rubbish.

With supreme effort and poise befitting a Queen she managed then to finally pull herself together and draw herself up. After all, someone had to be in charge and, as always, that someone had to be her.

“Stop dawdling, let’s go,” she said. He blinked at her.

“You’re coming?”

Another flash, and where a now-shiny Chrysalis had been standing was instead a unicorn. Different one than last time. Paid to cycle disguises.

“Of course I’m coming! You can barely be trusted on your own without a head wound! Now come on! Out! Let’s go!”

She physically shoved him through the door and into the woods beyond, using her head to push him along until he got the message enough to start walking at an acceptable pace. She cantered along beside him in furious silence, the two of them heading towards town.

And as angry as Chrysalis was with him - and she was so, so angry. Furious. Outraged! How could he have done this to her?! - she couldn’t help but keep looking up sideways at him, concerned. He did keep swaying. Or was that just his gait? She couldn’t be sure.

“Are you okay? Are you lightheaded? Dizzy? How many hooves am I holding up?” She asked in a rush.

“Yes, no, no and one,” Richard said.

That all checked out. Still she fretted, moving back behind him to shove him along some more.

“Hurry up!”


View Online

Once actually in the town, cunningly-disguised Chrysalis stuck to Richard like glue.

While she (with her cunning disguise, natural grace and effortless ability to slip into and out of anywhere she might want to) knew she wouldn’t attract undue attention, she was certain Richard would and that at any moment a mob of ponies would be descended to do something shortsighted and stupid to him, something she’d have to save him from.

He seemed utterly oblivious to this danger though and just kept walking briskly, clearly knowing where it was he was going.

To Chrysalis’s astonishment he got no more than one or two slightly puzzled looks, to which he always responded with a friendly wave, this apparently doing much to mollify whatever surprise might have been felt on seeing a big, bloodied, freakish alien just striding through town. As long as he was polite and well-meaning it seemed they were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

What was wrong with these creatures?! And why hadn’t she been able to conquer them yet if they were this dimwitted?! Gah!

Did at least show that he hadn’t been lying to her about the ease with which he could move about. Not that this made her feel any better.

A few turns later and the hospital loomed. The two of them entered, Chrysalis somehow managing to press herself more and more into him with every step taken.

“When we get back you’re going to pay for putting me through this…” She muttered up at him as they approached the hat-wearing pony (presumably some form of nurse) sitting behind the reception desk. Richard decided not to reply. Not the time.

That, and he’d have to clarify whether she meant being put through worrying about him (embarrassing for her to admit) or being put through going all shiny (also embarrassing). No need to do her like that. Not yet at least. Not the time.

“Hello,” he said to the nurse pony, who was doing some paperwork.

She looked up from the desk at where a face should have been and indeed would have been had Richard been a pony. As he wasn’t, she had to crane her neck a bit, at which point she saw his face and the blood on his face. Her eyes widened.

“Oh my, what-”

“No questions!” Pony-Chrysalis shouted, ramming a hoof in the nurse’s direction before pointing it up at Richard. “Just fix him!”


For one thing, the nurse was quite taken aback by this mare’s sudden, loud rudeness. For another, she kind of needed more to go on than that.

Memories of ‘please treat our staff with respect or we will set the police on you’ signs dancing through his head, Richard leaned on the desk to draw the pony’s attention back to him. This worked. He gave her his best ‘Silly me!’ sort of smile and rolled his eyes at his own misfortune.

“Was doing some DIY and a bit of the house fell on my head. Don’t I look the fool, eh? But yes, accident. Bit of a mess. Looks worse than it is.”

This seemed a story the nurse behind the desk had run into before, who visibly relaxed.

“Ah, another one of those,” she said, now on familiar ground.

“Season for it?” Richard asked, quirking a blood-crusted eyebrow.

“Like you wouldn’t believe. We’ll have you fixed up in no time. Take a seat, somepony will be with you in just a second.”

Nodding a thank you Richard moved into the waiting area, there to take a seat among a handful of ponies who all appeared to be sporting similar minor injures to himself. Clearly was the season for it. Chrysalis took the seat next to his though took it so closely she might as well have been in his seat. She also eyed everyone suspiciously. This was hostile territory, after all.

“How do you do that?” She asked him quietly once it was apparent or at least unlikely that anything bad was going to happen. She asked while also wrapping herself around his arm, in case he had any funny ideas.

“Do what?”

Chrysalis nodded towards the nurse at the desk, who’d gone back to filling in endless forms.

“You got what you wanted to happen without any fuss!” Chrysalis said. Richard shrugged.

“Charm,” he said.

She butted him with her head and growled.

“That wasn’t an answer last time and it’s not an answer this time!”

He would have found this kind of thing endearing even if she hadn’t been pony-shaped at the time, but since she was it really added a little extra something and just pushed her into outright adorable territory, at least as far as Richard was concerned. He’d fully admit to bias, though.

He gave her question a little more thought.

“Being friendly and having a sense of humour can often yield surprising results,” he said, once the thoughts had run their course. Chrysalis just growled again, this time in disgust more than irritation.

“Ugh, you sound like one of them. Are you sure you’re actually not from here?” She asked.

“Pretty sure. Anyway, aren’t you supposed to be all friendly now, now that, you know…?”

Her eyes widened and she immediately released his arm, scooting as far away as her seat would allow.

“No! It doesn’t work like that! I don’t think,” she said, experiencing a sudden and dizzying stab of doubt. Most unusual for her, but then what wasn’t right then?

She honestly had no idea, either. She hoped it didn’t work like that. If she was going to have to deal with this every day from now on - all this feeling oddly warm and fuzzy and getting a lurch right in her gut anytime she looked at Richard and he looked back - she didn’t know what she was going to do.

Maybe she was dying…

...probably not. None of the traitors did. Urgh. How was she meant to conquer the world in this condition?

Without really thinking about it she scooted back towards Richard and wrapped around his arm again.

“You will pay for this, Richard,” she said, just so he knew she wasn’t messing around.

“Deservedly so, your majesty,” he said.

“I’m so angry with you,” she then said, which was just a bald-faced lie. She wanted to be angry with him and knew she should be as it was the correct thing to be, she just couldn’t manage it. It wouldn’t come. Normally it came so easily! Normally it was more a case of reining the anger in so she could think clearly! Now there wasn’t any to be found!

Lots of other, lesser feelings, but no anger. Not real anger at anyrate. Nothing she could use.

What had he done to her?!

“The doctor will see you now,” the nurse said pleasantly, appearing apparently out of thin air, leading to Richard realising that the waiting area had emptied of all the ponies who’d been there before him and that it was, indeed, his turn.

The nurse led the way, and Richard was duly taken to a room with a doctor in it. Chrysalis was his shadow. In the room, apart from the doctor, was one of those padded not-a-bed things that you sometimes found in GP’s offices. It was scaled for ponies, sadly.

Richard perched as best he could while Chrysalis hopped up to sit right beside him, earning herself a bemused look from the doctor before they transferred their attention to the actual patient.

“Another home improvement related injury?” The doctor asked. She didn’t even have to check first, she just knew by sight alone. Or in this case believed the line by sight alone. Richard shrugged apologetically.

“Sorry to say.”

The doctor’s face hardened and she raised a hoof of rage against the heavens.

“It’s the silent killer! When will ponies learn! Or whatever you are,” she said, adding the last part on further consideration.


The doctor nodded and hovered her clipboard over.

“I’ll note that down. Is that two o’s after the h?”

“It’s a ‘u’,” Richard said, getting a look from the doctor just to check he wasn’t pulling her leg. He wasn’t.

“Really? How perverse. Okay, let’s have a look at you...”

An examination followed. Not the most in-depth, but still fairly thorough. Lights were shone, heads looked at, wounds cleaned and dealt with, all that sort of thing. Chrysalis had to move a couple of times during this but always came right back beside Richard.

Overall, the impression was that there were not any immediate concerns, which could only be taken as a good sign. Richard was quite smug about this.

“Did say it wasn’t as bad as it looked,” he said as he got an incongruously long roll of bandages wrapped around his head. Chrysalis just looked sour.

“He’s not permanently damaged, is he?” She asked the doctor, not-at-all trusting their abilities.

“Just a scratch. Impressive scratch, but just a scratch. That said though…” the doctor said, finishing up with the bandaging before turning and quickly knocking about in a cupboard for something brightly coloured in a phial and handing it over to Richard.

“Drink this, should take the edge off the worst of things. Though if you do feel dizzy or anything like that you come straight back, understand?”

“Aye aye, doctor. This won’t kill me because I’m a freakish alien, will it?”

Good question.

“...we’ll find out?”

“Alright. Bottoms up,” Richard said gamely and before Chrysalis could intervene he’d gone right ahead. His cavalier attitude towards his own wellbeing froze her rigid.

Glug glug.

A pause.

Nothing bad happened.

“Marvellous, still alive. And my headache feels better already!” Richard said, beaming, handing the phial back. Him being so breezy snapped Chrysalis back to her wits.

“Don’t do things like that! What if it had killed you?! What would I do then?!” She said loudly, standing up on her hind legs the better to get the loudness right into his ear. Richard winced.

“Oops, sorry. I’ll think next time,” he said. Chrysalis was shaking him by the shoulders again.

“Next time I’ll think for you!

“Your friend has a point,” the doctor said and Chrysalis rounded on her immediately, basically snarling:

“I am not his friend!”

Kind of soured the mood in the room, that one.

“More like a minder, really. How am I paying for this, by the way? Or am I? Can never remember my NI number, sorry,” Richard said, keeping things moving. Chrysalis and the doctor were equally nonplussed by this, though Chrysalis was the first one to pipe up about it.

“Stop making references only you understand,” she hissed.

“I thought that was rather a good one your maj- um, non-friend.”

Good save. Both of them froze with rictus grins to see what reaction this near-slip would get them. All it got them was an odder look from the doctor.

“I’ll, uh, I’ll be back in a second. Paperwork,” she said, beating a hasty retreat. Chrysalis waited until the sound of hoofsteps had quieted fully before jabbing Richard with her horn in the side. Gently, mind.

“You nearly gave us away!”

“Force of habit! I doubt she would have thought about it too much anyway. Could just be a pet name! Heh, kind of is…”


Again, trying to be angry, again failing. All she could really feel when she looked at him was aggravating, overwhelming relief that he was apparently none the worse for wear. She just kept remembering the sight of him laid out, limp. The image was frozen in her mind and any time she seriously attempted to muster up some proper, regal fury the picture intruded and made it all melt away.

The feeling that had struck her on seeing him like. It had come from nowhere! And had completely taken her off-guard! And now he was talking and smiling again and anytime she felt like scolding him all she could dredge up was that feeling of being afraid he’d gone away for good.

Richard! Her Richard! Her prized, loyal, doting idiot. Her freakish and freakishly devoted alien servant! Good help was hard to find and he was...pretty good!

She had to be dying, there was no way feeling this way could be normal.

Sighing and groaning somehow at the same time she thunked against his arm, repeating this until he got the message through his freakish, alien skull and raised the arm in question and she could thunk properly and more finally into his side.

“Everything was going perfectly! Then you ruined it all,” she said, dolefully, pulling down his raised arm over her. She’d stopped questioning why she was doing these things she was doing. They just came to her now, sad reminders of the horrible fate that had befallen her.

“You still have that magical wotsit don’t you, your majesty?” He asked her, utterly failing to grasp how far things had moved on from that, which was why she was the one in charge and he did what he was told. She sighed again, more forcefully, so he got the message.

“That’s done. Need a new plan now.”

“Did it not work?” He asked, continuing to be dense. Chrysalis gritted her teeth.

It’s done, Richard. I need to find something new.”

“I am sure you already have something in mind, your majesty,” he said with a level of confidence that actually made her sort of fuzzy. Irritating. She looked up at him but made sure it was an angry look.

“When we get back you are going to make pancakes and you are going to keep making pancakes until I tell you to stop making pancakes. Then I will decide what I should do next. This has ruined all my plans, it’s thrown everything out. I hope you’re happy,” she said.

“Should we leave now, quietly?” He asked, not addressing any of that. Chrysalis shook her head.

“The doctor has to make doubly sure there isn’t any lasting damage! No repeat visits. Then we’ll leave,” she said. She’d already thought it through and while leaving now while no-one was watching would have been the smart call it was not the medically sound call. Unfortunately. He truly was the millstone around her neck.

Richard nodded at her wise chain of reasoning.

“Cunning, your majesty.”

Chrysalis’s ears then pricked up at the sound of approaching hooves.

“That’s two ponies,” she said, eyes narrowing.

“The nurse?” Richard suggested.

“No…” She said, gripping onto him.

It was neither the doctor nor the nurse, it was two others.

Starlight Richard recognised, the other, purple, bewinged one he didn’t, though something about her did kind of ring a bell. Like someone he’d seen or heard of more than once without really registering why they were important. Starlight just looked a little sheepish and worried, while the other one looked actively excited.

Both these expressions changed a second after they entered the room and saw that Richard was not alone.

“Oh, uh, hi,” Starlight said.

“Hello again,” Richard said cheerfully enough, waving with the hand not attached to the arm draped over pony-Chrysalis. The bewinged mystery pony waved back silently, still plainly excited though also plainly a little confounded to see that Richard wasn’t on his own.

Chrysalis the pony was looking daggers at the two new arrivals and breathing very hard and very heavily through her nose. It was alarming enough to draw Richard’s attention back down to her.

“Are you okay?” He asked.

“What. Do. You. Mean. Hello. Again?”

Oops. In retrospect Richard could see the issue here.

He genuinely hadn’t thought about that. He blamed the head wound.

“I’ll, uh - must have slipped my mind,” he said, yelping when she reached up and pulled him down by the collar, the better to hiss into his face:

You and I are going to have a very long and involved conversation about operational security later, RICHARD!

“We, uh, we didn’t know you’d have company,” Starlight said from the side, reminding Chrysalis that they themselves still had company. She didn’t let go of Richard’s collar though, nor did she spare the intruders any more than a sideways, angry glance.

“I made a friend,” Richard said, his nose squashed against faux-pony muzzle. Chrysalis snarled, so Richard amended: “I mean, I met a kindly stranger who can take me or leave me?”

You’re going to wish that chunk of ceiling had killed you..


View Online

The mood in the room was mildly tense.

Chrysalis, still a pony, had curled up behind Richard, using his body to block her from the other two, content to sulk and be the elephant (or Changeling Queen) in the room. This left Richard to do the talking, something he didn’t especially mind.

“Must say you got here quickly. Did the doctor tell you?” Richard asked. Starlight cocked her head, confused, eyebrow raised.

“What? That you were here? The doctor we passed on the way in? How would she move that fast? We just heard that the freakish alien who sometimes comes into town to buy eggs had shown up covered in blood and heading for the hospital. So we came here. Not that hard.”

When she put it like that Richard could admit his own line of reasoning - something involving lots of breathless running about - did seem like more effort than was strictly required.

“That does make more sense, “he said.

“I was concerned, thought something bad might have happened. Twilight came because, well, why did you come, Twilight?” Starlight asked the purple bewinged one who had been hopping from hoof to hoof like she needed to use the loo.

“Alien! I mean, hail traveller! I mean, ahem, hello. Welcome. I am Twilight Sparkle, Princess of Friendship, and I bid thee, uh...welcome…to...this land!”

Repeating ‘welcome’ had kind of tripped her up there, alongside her evident and overflowing excitement. But she meant well, and now Richard remembered why she seemed so familiar. He’d heard of her, too. Chrysalis had been less than complimentary.

It was also kind of odd, given her obvious delight, that Twilight hadn’t acted to try and meet him before this moment, what with Richard’s comings and goings about town not exactly being a secret.

In all honesty, she’d just never been placed to see him and no-one had ever thought to mention it to her. This was the first she’d ever heard about it. Once again, Richard’s unerring ability to slip about just beneath notice, despite how ridiculously unlikely it should have been.

“And what a welcome, how lovely. I take it you might have some questions?” He asked.

“Oh, maybe just a few…” Twilight said with a grin, taking in a breath that looked like it might precede a hefty list only to be immediately deflated by Starlight poking her in the side and giving her a stern shake of the head.

“Not even one?” Twilight asked, clearly Jonesing.

“Just one,” Starlight said. Twilight grumbled and magically hovered something small from somewhere that likely didn’t warrant much close examination.

“Who is this?” She asked, holding forth the ten pence that Richard had let Starlight keep, face-side towards him. He saw the queen. A nice simple answer, then.

“That’d be the queen,” he said.

“That so? Thing for Queens, huh? That humans in general or just you?” Starlight asked, smirking.

There were several implications to this. Some of them Richard could cop to. Some he most certainly could not. Ooh ER, as it were. He made a face that he hoped expressed his conflict on the issue.

“Um. Well. No. Not really. Not...like that…” He said.

On hearing this topic of conversation Chrysalis’s attention had been roused, her head raising and peering out from around Richard, trying to see what it was that might have prompted this topic of conversation.

“You have another Queen? Not that I care. But there’s another Queen? Where?” She asked sharply. Richard looked down at her.

“Back home. Don’t worry about it, kindly stranger,” he said.

His commitment to the bit was endearing, in a boneheaded sort of a way, but still ultimately pointless given the situation.

“They already know, Richard! You can stop pretending!”

“Don’t worry about it, your majesty,” he corrected without missing a beat.

For whatever reason, hearing him say it then, with them there, made her blush furiously and so she instantly went back to hiding with a furious squeak. Likely came out cuter than she might have liked.

It feels weird you saying it when they’re here…

“Do you know?” Richard asked the visitors, who exchanged a look.

“That that’s Chrysalis? Uh, we kind of worked it out. Didn’t know coming here! Thought it was just you. But, uh, yeah. Kind of worked it out.”

What with him having already mentioned hanging out with her, him now being here with somepony neither of them recognised who just-so happened to be acting kind of like how Chrysalis would act. Little hints here and there. Real subtle stuff.

“I’d have thought you’d be more worked up,” Richard said.

Famous, world-threatening villain and all that. Albeit fallen on hard times, but still - that might have just made her more desperate and dangerous! The two visitors remained fairly relaxed looking, however.

“Would it help if I told you I’m screaming on the inside?” Starlight offered. Richard eyed her closely, looking for signs of internal screaming. He didn’t stop any. Certainly not any of the Core Five Signs of Internal Screaming.

“Are you?” He asked.

“Not really, no,” Starlight was forced to admit.

Growling, pony-Chrysalis hopped down to floor-level.

“You should be screaming! Inside and outside! You should be cowering in fear! The only reason - the only reason! - I haven’t easily slipped from your clutches, the only reason I’m still in this vile town and the only reason that this vile town remains standing at all is because my injured servant requires my presence! Did you know that, just now, he drank a potion without knowing what the effects might have been? Who knows what he might do if I left him on his own!”

“You did?” Starlight asked Richard, parts doubtful and amazed.

“The doctor said I should,” Richard said. Seemed simple enough to him. Not for nothing did those fine professionals go to expensive schools for x many years, after all.

“You have an unusual attitude towards authority,” she said, eyes flicking briefly to Chrysalis. She would have said ‘unhealthy’ but felt that might have been unduly harsh, though perhaps not entirely inaccurate.

“I am both trusting and optimistic,” Richard said, cheerful as anything. He was well-aware this sort of thing wouldn’t have got him very far back home, but here it seemed to be working so far. Certainly, he was having fun and loving life.

“And then you ran into Chrysalis. Lucky, that, with your fondness for Queens,” Starlight said and Richard couldn’t help but smile warmly at the back of Chrysalis’s head, safe in the knowledge that she couldn’t see him doing it.

“Hah. You joke but I do actually consider myself quite lucky.”

“Enough!” Chrysalis shouted, stomping once before at last dropping her disguise with a flash, not because the pony form made blushing more obvious but just because there wasn’t any point in dragging out the charade any further. She still had her dignity, damnit.

And so Chrysalis was back, back to being the second-tallest in the room and back in all her ponty, hole-riddled glory.

Which wasn’t right, surely.

“I thought you were all...colourful now?” Richard asked, puzzled. The mere mention set her growling again.

“Unhappily…” She said, fangs bared.

“So why-” Richard started, but given that Chrysalis knew where it was going she answered quicker than he could ask.

“Because I am choosing to look like this! To look as I should!

“Ah, I see your majesty.”

Richard supposed she could do that. Nothing stopping her, right?

Starlight was frowning.

“Wait, colourful? You mean, like refor-”

She got that far before Chrysalis, mistress of interruptions, stormed over and shoved a hoof under her nose, shouting:

Do not even think about finishing that sentence, STARLIGHT GLIMMER! What happened was an accident! It means nothing! Nothing at all! It changes nothing! I will still have my revenge! Just - it just might take a tiny bit longer to arrive, that’s all! It is inevitable!

“So it did happen?” Starlight asked, unmoved by volume or the hoof squashing her nose.

‘It’. That ‘it’.

Chrysalis shifted awkwardly, taking some steps back.

“...yes. But it means nothing! An accident! A blip!”

“Did he get hurt and you maybe realise that you actually cared about something other than yourself?” Starlight asked, pressing. Sharp girl. She didn’t even need the full rundown to put it together. Neither did Twilight, really. Both of them marched in mental lockstep.

Both looked pretty happy about it, too, which just made Chrysalis’s even less happy.

“There is nothing to analyse here! None of it means anything! Stop it! You’re only making it worse for yourself, Starlight Glimmer! You - you - you shall rue the day that you...that you…”

She couldn’t finish the threat. She couldn’t finish the threat!

“Richard?” Chrysalis asked plaintively, not needing to add anything else for him to reach out and pull her into his arms, something she did not fight.

“Shh, it’s okay your majesty, come here,” he said, hauling her onto his lap.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with meeeeeee!” She wailed as he continued to coo and quietly hum something to her, holding her tight. At some point during that her Classic Chrysalis disguise dropped, Starlight and Twilight getting their first look at how she actually looked now.

All in all it was kind of a weird experience for the two of them.

“This isn’t something I saw coming,” Starlight said to Twilight out of the corner of her mouth.

“The alien part or the Chrysalis crying into the alien’s shirt part?” Twilight asked, out of the corner of her own mouth (hard to ask out of the corner of someone else’s).

“Both parts, really,” Starlight admitted. Even having met Richard once it was still a bit unusual.

“It is kind of a surprise,” Twilight said.

They were then quiet a moment. Chrysalis continued to bawl in a thoroughly dignified, Queen-like manner, curled up in Richard’s arms. For his part, Richard had taken to rocking her gently. It remained a very odd thing to see.

“I don’t know what we should do next,” Starlight said.

She really didn’t.

“Give them some space?” Twilight suggested.

The suggestion was considered by Starlight, briefly.

“Hmm. That is still Chrysalis,” she pointed out, in the sense that turning their back on her seemed unwise.

“And he is a cool alien,” Twilight pointed out, in the sense that letting him slip away seemed like wasting a golden opportunity.

They pondered this thorny issue.

“Okay. How about we step out of the room for a minute and let them hug it out,” Starlight said, reasoning that being in floods of tears would make it hard to Chrysalis to do much and since they’d be leaving the pair in a windowless room with one door, escape was at best unlikely. Unless Chrysalis teleported.

So maybe keep the door ajar, too.

“Works for me. Then we can see where we go from here once they’re done. Can I see that coin again?” Twilight asked, duly receiving. Where it had gone to prior to this handover (hoofover) was a mystery.

“Maybe one of us should go and get the others?” Starlight asked. It struck her as the prudent thing to do. Maybe a mob, too? Some guards? Every other princess? Just to be sure?

“In a second,” Twilight said, squinting at the coin. “Look at that crown-to-head ratio!” She said in a way that made it impossible to discern whether she meant it was big, small, good or bad but that whichever way it cut she was delighted by it.

All things considered, Starlight would admit that things, odd as they were, were still better than sitting behind a desk waiting for the day to end.

Still pretty damn odd though.


View Online

It took quite a little while for the sounds of sniffling and soothing humming to wind down in the room. Eventually there came through the cracked doorway a muffled:

“Keep holding me, Richard. No, don’t. Put me down.”

Followed by:

“As you wish, your majesty.”

Those ponies waiting outside - the important ones, having had time to come dashing over - listened to this in the awkward way anyone overhearing something they’d rather not might. They were here in case of ruckus, not to hear...that sort of thing. Felt intrusive. Like pressing their faces against a bedroom window.

They waited, shifting nervously about in the corridor.

Next came the sound of exertion, then frustration, further exertion and a hiss of what was undeniably irritation. The door to the room opened fully. Tension mounted.

Chrysalis then emerged looking haughty, unhappy and maybe just a touch red about the eyes. Richard was standing beside her looking much more cheerful by comparison. And alarmingly tall for those present who hadn’t seen him before.

“You are preventing me from teleporting,” Chrysalis said coldly and addressing Starlight directly, though it was in fact her and Twilight who were preventing her from just zapping away.

Because they could apparently do that if they wanted to. Who knew?

“We need to talk,” Twilight said, using the authoritative tone and taking an equally-authoritative step forward.

“No we do not.”

“We kind of do. You’ve reformed, it’s a bit of a big deal,” Starlight said, playing second-fiddle here for fairly obvious reasons. Not that it made Chrysalis any happier. It made her unhappier. Quelle surprise.

“I have not reformed! Don’t even utter that word in my presence! That you’d dare suggest I could be anything like those traitors who abandoned me - Richard stand closer to me, here. Better - anything like those traitors who turned their back on their Queen! The impudence!”

There was theatrical outrage and there was laying it on a bit thick, and Chrysalis was presently dancing right on the knife-edge. Not that she realised. Everyone else there did, though. But you didn’t get to be Queen by seeing the world the way commoners did.

Richard, for his part, was wondering whether reforming was really just a one-off event and not a continuous process, but he felt that posing this question might disrupt the flow of events and so was happier just to let them carry on and remain quiet. Like a cork in a stream.

“It’s a good thing that’s happened!” Starlight said, doubling down. Chrysalis just goggled at her as though she’d lost what little mind she might have started with, waving a hoof to indicate the sparkly-shiny nightmare she had become.

“This? This is a good thing?! This has ruined everything!”

“How?” Twilight asked.

Seemed a valid question. To them, at least. To one of those there not so much.

Chrysalis groaned. She couldn’t believe that she was having to explain this at all (it should have been obvious) but having to explain it to these damned blasted ponies in particular was really just pushing it too far. Or almost too far.

At the least it presented an excellent excuse to rant. Not that she ever needed much.

“I had plans! So many plans! And the will to execute them! The loathing and the hatred to see them through to their proper conclusion, to see all my enemies - all of you! - cast down, ground into the dirt! To see myself restored to my proper, exalted, deserved position of domination over all things! It was going to be glorious!”

She then pointed accusingly at Richard, who was trying to work out the functional difference between hatred and loathing. He imagined it was to do with intensity of feeling.

“Now all I want to do is have him take me home, make me dinner, bring me that dinner in bed and then hold me while I lay my head on his chest and listen to the reassuring sound of his heartbeat, reminding me that he’s still there and will always be there for me like he said he will be! That’s not normal!” Chrysalis shouted, sounding borderline frantic as well as very upset.

“That doesn’t sound like the worst thing?” Twilight ventured. Not that she had a lot of experience but it didn’t sound like the most horrendous way of spending an evening. Kind of sounded a bit nice if she was being honest.

Chrysalis begged to differ. Loudly.

“It’s awful! It’s distracting! And it’s not my fault!

That part was important to make clear.

“What do you want for dinner, your majesty?” Richard asked quietly, leaning in.

“Not now, Richard!” Chrysalis hissed back while turning just the slight bit pink about the muzzle before adding, in sotto voce: “I’ll decide on the way back.”

“I could pick something up while we’re in town. Or we could eat out if you’d prefer?” He continued, still quietly.

Briefly, Chrysalis was struck dumb by pleasant images of the two of them sat across some candle-lit table enjoying a meal, with the whole bed-chest-heartbeat setup happening after. She had to shake her head to clear this, feeling herself get dangerously close to smiling as stupidly as Richard always did whenever he was looking at her.

“Stop distracting me! I’ll decide later!”

“As you wish.”

With that dealt with Chrysalis returned her attention to hated Starlight and despised Twilight only to find them - and the others - all smirking at her. Even the shy one was smirking behind her hair! This made her flinch.

“You see? You see how distracting it is?!” She said, again waving in Richard’s direction.

“Have you even looked at yourself yet? Since it, you know, happened?” Starlight asked.

“I do not need to!” Chrysalis sputtered, sparkly wings fluttering in agitation.

“Maybe you should.”

Chrysalis would have kept arguing the point that she didn’t need to (she didn’t) but she had to admit to mild, morbid curiosity. It had been nagging at her ever since it had happened, but now having it pointed out like this had really brought it forward.

And, really, what else did she have to do right then? Other than escape violently with Richard in tow? She was just waiting for her moment for that, so why not?

She turned her attention to Rarity.

“You. Give me your mirror,” she said.

Rarity blinked, surprised to have been addressed so suddenly and so rudely!

“Why do you assume I have a mirror?” She asked.

“Because I know you have one!”

Chrysalis had Rarity in a box on that one and, after a pause, Rarity reached somewhere that was somehow out of view and produced a small hand mirror (hoof mirror?) and passed it over.

“...still crass to assume…” She mumbled sourly, but Chrysalis, having got what she’d wanted, wasn’t listening, instead hovering the mirror in front of her and looking at herself properly for the first time.

To her absolute and all-consuming disgust she saw that what she most looked like now - or the closest point of comparison that leapt immediately to mind - was some horrendous, semi-insectile knock-off of Celestia. Better than Celestia, obviously, but still foul.

Ugh. How could he have done this to her?

“How humiliating,” she said, tongue sticking out as - with yet another flash - she brought back the classic look, then tossing the mirror at Richard who fumbled briefly before catching it. He then quickly went over to hand it back to Rarity before resuming his position beside Chrysalis.

“Really thought it would have made her nicer…” Fluttershy whispered to Rainbow, who nodded in stern agreement. Chrysalis’s ears were attuned to critical comments though, so no whisper could ever have hoped to be soft enough to escape her attention.

“It doesn’t work like that!” She snapped.

“Doesn’t it?” Applejack asked. She too had reckoned on Chrysalis being at least a little bit nicer once she’d been told what had happened.

“No! Chrysalis cried in exasperation, having now decided beyond a doubt that it did not work like that. And of course she was right about this.

Why was this so difficult for everyone except her!

Richard got it. Or liked to think he did, and he felt he was reasonably well-placed to judge being as how he’d hung around with Chrysalis a fair amount both pre-and-post ‘reformation’. And maybe played a part in it, too. Just a small one.

He’d happily admit he didn’t know the first thing about what the change actually involved or actually did or actually meant in practical terms beyond a different colour palette, but he was at least glad that it hadn’t fundamentally changed who she was. She remained very much herself.

Taken the edge off her searing hatred, maybe, but not got rid of it completely. Just softened it, and her in general. Still the same, just happier, apparently, albeit not entirely sure of this yet.

No bad thing in his book. If it had somehow turned her into someone else completely he would have been supremely uncomfortable. After all, the - ahem - ‘affection’ he had developed for her was on account of who she was, not who she might be following a magical transformation. For Richard was a man of particular tastes.

But that was all a given.

“What do you want to do now, your majesty?” Richard asked. Despite the classic look, the returning pink was obvious.

I told you that feels odd when they’re all watching. I don’t know, Richard! I need - I need space! I need time to think,” she said, eyes screwed shut, one hoof rubbing her temple. “Are you recovered enough to carry me past these vile creatures and take me back home?”

There was an understandable ripple at this, but Rainbow was the only one to actually say ‘Hey!’. Background noise though.

“I imagine I could try, your majesty, but I feel I wouldn’t get very far. They’d likely all go for the knees,” Richard said.

“We would,” Starlight said. The others nodded. It was just obvious.

“Your high centre of gravity is one of your very many flaws, Richard,” Chrysalis sighed.

“I can only apologise.”

“You’re lucky that I value your loyalty,” Chrysalis said, sighing again more deeply this time and leaning into his side without really noticing she was doing it. Richard noticed though, and his smile got wider.

Chrysalis was thinking furiously about how best to turn this situation to her advantage.

Initial thoughts? Violence, obviously, but she discounted that quickly. The cowards had her outnumbered and, more’s the point, Richard was right there, and he was a vulnerability. He’d probably trip her over by accident or something, or get hurt again. Both would be bad. Particularly him getting hurt. Because that would mean he’d need fixing again, and that was just tiresome.

Nothing at all to do with the chunk of ice that seemed to appear in the pit of her stomach anytime she got that image of him all laid out. That was just coincidence.

So no, not that. Not yet at least. Which meant she had to find some other way of coming out on top, some other way of steering things in the proper direction (hers). But what?

And then it clicked. Then all was clear!

She was thinking about it as though this was somehow her problem that she needed to solve, and while it was a problem affecting her (an important problem) it was not a problem she had had any involvement in causing. So therefore it wasn’t her fault. Therefore it was someone else’s fault, and it was up to them to deal with it.

So obvious!

“Yes. Yes! That’s it! This is your fault!” She said with mounting delight and outrage.

At first Twilight thought that Chrysalis was directing this at Starlight, but she wasn’t, she was directing it at Twilight. Realising this, Twilight blinked.

“What? I mean - what?” She asked.

‘Play along’ Richard mouthed. Starlight got it, or at least enough of it to agree with Richard, nudging Twilight and giving her a significant look. Then Twilight twigged it, too.

“Oh - oh! Oh yes. All my fault! Uh, what’s all my fault?”

“This! All of this! What’s happened to me! If you’d just done what you were all meant to do and failed and lost then I would have won and everything would be as it should! This all started back at that wedding! I should have been ruling everything by now! Instead, this, all this!”

“That was, ah, very thoughtless of me?” Twilight said, unsure. She needn’t have worried. No matter what she would have said Chrysalis would have carried on going.

“It was! Now it is time to take responsibility for your actions! I will expect hospitality for myself and my servant while you are working to undo the harm you have inflicted on me! You will work on an antidote or cure for this - this - this PHASE!”

The sheer impossibility of this request left Twilight flummoxed.

“I, uh, I’m not sure it works that way,” She said, delicately. Chrysalis leaned in, the better to hiss menacingly:

“You will make it work that way!

“...I’ll see what I can do,” Twilight said.

“And, if you find the time, I’m sure I can answer all of those questions you had lined up,” Richard said, something which immediately rekindled Twilight’s enthusiasm - she’d almost forgotten about that!

“Oh! Yes! Please! Yes please!”

Richard smiled warmly at her and nodded, satisfied.

“Assuming that is okay by you?” He asked Chrysalis, who huffed, a little annoyed he’d swooped in at the end and punctured the weight and drama of her fantastic, cunning solution. That, and she wasn’t super-keen on the idea of Richard hanging around with vile Twilight. She’d probably…

...be around him.

But expressing this might suggest that she cared. Would send the wrong message.

“As long as it doesn’t affect her efforts at finding an antidote or cure and your duties to me you can do what you like, Richard…” She said.

“Wonderful, your majesty,” he said without thinking and Chrysalis sulked pinkly.

“So you’ll be...staying...here?” Twilight asked, delicately, just trying to clarify.

“For now! And as a guest! A royal guest, as befits my standing. Staying here - at your expense! - while you work to undo the damage you have caused to myself, my person and my servant.

“But I didn’t-” Twilight started to protest, as Chrysalis knew she would.

“It was in the course of acting against your malicious actions that my servant was injured, therefore you are ultimately to blame! But we are past that, we have moved on. We know where we stand. For now we just need to settle details. Such as where I will be staying,” Chrysalis said.

“You can stay in the castle, if you’d like,” Twilight said with a brightness that masked how ridiculous the idea actually sounded to her. Chrysalis scoffed and rolled her eyes.

Your castle? I think not! No, we shall take a separate residence. I imagine there must be something in this benighted town that would suffice for the brief period this unfortunate episode will take up. I am not fussy.”

This was a lie, but she didn’t think it was.

“Um. Okay. I think - I think we can find somewhere,” Twilight said, grinning nervously and looking to the others who all looked at her as though she’d lost her fucking mind. Except Starlight. Starlight actually looked pretty happy that things were working out so well. Her and Richard both.

Chrysalis nodded.

That she would be in anything smaller than whatever Twilight (or anyone, really, but Twilight was the one with the castle here) was living in was galling, yes, but bearable for one with such infinite grace and patience as her Queenly self.

She could always get Richard to attach a long pole to whatever house she ended up in so that it was at least technically taller than Twilight’s castle. Petty and nitpicky, yes, but desperate times called for such things.

A really, really long pole.

“Well there’s no sense in standing here wasting time! On, on! Find me a house, Twilight Sparkle! Then, once I am comfortably waiting in that house, find a way to cure this horrible affliction I have fallen victim to owing to the circumstances your selfishness has put me in!

“...Okay,” said Twilight, giving up being confused and just decided to go with it. On balance, this was probably the best way things could have gone, really. There hadn’t been any magical laserbeams and the building was still standing - a solid foundation as far as she was concerned. You could build on that!

Twilight trotted off with a nose-in-the-air Chrysalis following. Richard dawdled, as did the others. They looked a little thunderstruck. They’d all come expecting the magical laserbeams! Instead they’d got...whatever that had been!

“What just happened?” Rainbow asked, baffled, breaking the silence.

“A third option,” said Richard, clearing up absolutely nothing. Rainbow’s bafflement only increased.

She hadn’t known about any options, all she’d seen was Chrysalis - who was reformed now, but still apparently a little eccentric and loud - somehow talk herself into a free house. And Twilight being okay with that?

Presumably it was a friendship thing. But still. Very odd.

“Third? What were the other two?” She asked, scratching her head.

“Fighting or running away. This at least feels like a step in the right direction. But I could be wrong. Maybe this will turn out to be a horrible decision. Still, gives me a good chance to take her out to dinner. I think she’d like that,” Richard said.

He turned toward Starlight, her being his main point of contact and the only other person present he was more than passingly familiar with. Or familiar with at all, really.

“Where is good for a meal out around here?” He asked. This was not her area of expertise, unfortunately.

“There’s a couple places. I don’t really know, honestly, don’t eat out that much. They’re all pretty good though. Sorry,” she said, unhappy not to have been able to give him a more useful answer. Richard didn’t mind.

“No, that’s good information, thank you. Be nice to not be the one cooking for a night. Nice to splash out a little, too,” he said.

This reminded Starlight of something that had been bugging her about Richard, and now seemed the perfect time to bring it up.

“How do you pay for anything anyway? The shopping and now this dinner?” She asked.

His alien currency wouldn’t get him very far, after all, and one would think that an alien having something to give him a steady source of income would have caused some comment from somewhere along the line. She was quite curious.

“With money,” Richard said and Starlight gritted her teeth. Ask a stupid question and ask it to a smartarse, too, this is where you end up.

“How do you have money?” She asked, hoping this was direct enough. Richard opened his mouth to answer but then:

“RICHARD! COME HERE! HURRY UP!” Came the shout of Chrysalis and so Richard immediately started moving, pausing only to tap his nose and give Starlight a wink.

“The usual way,” he said, departing.

Starlight stared after him, mouth agape, frustration written across her face.

“Um, who was that?” Fluttershy asked.

What are you?!” Rainbow yelled, hooves to her mouth.


View Online

Chrysalis, glowering, stomped about the living room of the house that Twilight had managed to rustle up. Richard watched her stomp. He was not glowering.

“What a hovel. Look at these curtains. Look at them!” She said, disgusted by the utterly inoffensive curtains.

Richard was looking at them and saw that they weren’t that bad, really. Certainly better than the curtains he was used to usually seeing, which tended to have more holes in them - but that was what hiding out in a ruin in the woods led to, really - lacklustre curtains.

Among other things.

He was seeing them without a Queen’s eyes, however, so of course he’d see nothing wrong with the curtains. Chrysalis though could see things others couldn’t! Could see the meaning behind things others wouldn’t think twice about!

Plainly, providing this twee, cosy, comfy house with the ‘nice’ curtains and the ‘complimentary furniture’ was part of some calculated insult. It had to be. What else could it be? Chrysalis just hadn’t settled on what kind of insult it was meant to be yet. But once she did! Oh! She’d be furious!

That could wait though. She’d had a long day, and her cunning ruse had bought some time to reflect. And to sit. So she sat. At least the sofa that had come with the house wasn’t awful. It was acceptable.

“Should I start moving things from your secret lair, your majesty?” Richard asked, standing beside her, hands behind his back. She’d sort of hoped he would have sat as well, but if he couldn’t take a hint that was his fault.

And besides, his question raised a troubling implication as far as she was concerned!

“No! We’re not staying here, Richard! This is temporary,” she said.

“Ah. Shall we be slipping away the moment they drop their guard, then?”

The thought had crossed her mind - more than once, at that - but that was not the plan. Or at least it wasn’t part of the plan yet, partly because the plan was still in its formative stages. Right now the plan largely involved taking some time to reflect while so close to her hated enemies that she was in their blind spot (cunning!).

She disliked being prodded or rushed on these things.

“No! Stop skipping ahead! You’re not the one in charge here, Richard, I am!” She said, pointing accusingly at him. He gave a slight, deferential incline of his head.

“Of course,” he said.

“And stop looming over me like that, sit down!”

She’d changed her mind on him not taking the hint. She now cared that he wasn’t, so was having to take steps.

“As you wish.”

He did so and much grumbling from Chrysalis followed as she complained about how his sitting disrupted her previously comfortable position and she shifted and rolled and scooched to get into another one with him there.

In the end what turned out to be the best comfortable position was her sprawled across as much of the sofa as possible, her head in his lap. It was a good position to glare at him from, she reasoned.

“Better,” she said.

“So I take it I should not ask about the plan, but instead follow your directions as-and-when you give them, your majesty?” he asked.

“Exactly, yes, well done, good boy,” she said, reaching up to give him a pat on the cheek. Annoyingly, he did not take this condescending gesture in the condescending spirit it had been intended. He really couldn’t do anything right.

“In which case I shall, as ever, await your command. In the meantime I shall also do my best to make this temporary hovel as close to home as I can. Unfortunately, having given the house the once-over, it seems that it only has one bed in it at present,” he said.

They’d only been in the place five minutes, when had he had the chance to even look?

Also what?! One bed?!

“What?!” Chrysalis spluttered. Always one for a good splutter, Chrysalis. Having fangs’ll do that, even if they were a tiny bit blunter now than they had been before.

Cheeky, sneaky Twilight! This was going on the list of reasons for revenge! Somewhere near the top, too! What twisted, friendship-based game was she playing here? That had to have been deliberate!

“Yes, your majesty. Now while I do have connections that can furnish us with another, that won’t be for a day or two. Until then I will, of course, take the sofa,” he said, giving the arm of the sofa a pat in case she’d forgotten what it was.

“Oh no, oh no you don’t!”

This was now one of those rare occasions when Richard was caught off-guard.

“I’m sorry?” He asked, blinking, looking down at Chrysalis’s face glaring up at him from his lap (it was, as mentioned, a good position for glaring).

“I’m not letting you out of my sight for a moment longer than I have to! Not in your condition!”

Richard was in perfectly hale and hearty condition, something both of them were well-aware of.

On their way out from the hospital - after Chrysalis had shouted at him to hurry up - they had bumped into the doctor and, while clearly a little surprised at finding a Changeling Queen and the Princess of Friendship present, she had continued perfectly professionally and assured Richard and Chrysalis both that he was the very picture of health, barring the bandages around his head, and that he would be totally fine.

So they both knew that the condition he was in was the condition of being totally unharmed.

For her own reasons however Chrysalis was electing to ignore this. When you’re able to see only what you want to see, it’s remarkably easy to live in a problem-free world.

“So I’ll be sleeping…?” Richard asked, genuinely unsure.

“In the bed!” Chrysalis snapped. Was he trying to be dense? This was poor even for him!

He wasn’t trying to be dense, what he was trying to do was avoiding making assumptions. Difficult, as her answer here seemed to present an issue to Richard.

“But then where will yo-” He started.

Apparently she needed to spell it out.

“Also in the bed, Richard!”

The light broke.

“Oh. Oh!”

She could see that he was trying not to grin and she could also feel her face heating up. Likely unrelated.

Don’t overthink it. In fact, don’t think at all! It means nothing! It’s just about keeping you close - c-close so that you can’t get yourself and me into any more trouble! You’ve done quite enough damage already!” She said.

“Quite so, your majesty. Apologies.”

“I don’t need your apologies, Richard, I just need you - need you - need you to be more careful!

“Of course.”

“And hold me again!”

“As you wish.”

She wiggled up and across and onto his lap and into his arms, there to curl up. She didn’t bother to question why she’d wanted to do this (as she’d been wanting to for a little while), she doubted the answer would have been of any use to her. Likely the horrible result of the horrible fate that had befallen her. Best just not to think about it. Best to just settle in and get comfortable.

There were other, bigger issues.

And they could all wait. Chrysalis would get to them in due course. Now was for the time for wholly justified self-pity. A weakness and an indulgence in everyone else, entirely warranted in her situation.

“You can lose it all so quickly...no matter how brilliantly you plan, no matter how exquisitely cunning you are…events always somehow conspire to turn everything against you...” she said sadly, tucking her head in under Richard’s chin, taking care not to impale him through the skull. That would have messed up her hair.

Richard - well aware of a Queen’s need to sometimes wallow in just how unfair life could be - kept quiet and just gave her a reassuring squeeze. This was exactly what Chrysalis had hoped he would do, and she continued, this time louder:

“And now this! This final humiliation! Transformed into this ridiculous parody of my former, glorious self!”

She held up a hoof. No holes, delicately coloured, kind of just-a-tiny-bit shiny, just catching a tiny bit of the light if she turned it a little bit.

“How disgusting,” she said, pulling the hoof back into herself so she wouldn’t have to look at it anymore.

All of which was to say nothing, of course, of being forced to come out of hiding owing to the sheer incompetence of her sole remaining minion, and now being forced to cunningly exploit the foolish softness of her idiot enemies when she should instead have been grinding them to a fine paste while laughing. Now the grinding would have to wait, oh, months at least. Things would take that long to get back on track at a minimum.

And until then she’d probably have to stay here. In this horrendous house with its single bed and reasonably comfortable sofa. With him.

“It’s all your fault of course, Richard,” she said, summing up her thoughts on the matter.

“Of course, your majesty. And while I know I’ll never be able to make up for it, I shall still do my best to try.”

“You better,” Chrysalis grumbled.

“For a start, what about dinner?”

He was still thinking this was a good idea, and from the way he saw Chrysalis’s ears prick up he felt he might have been on the right track.

“Dinner?” She asked.

“Yes. With dessert. Felt we could at least make the most of where we find ourselves, so enquired about some local spots. I made sure that the dessert selection was good,” he said.

For all his faults he did sometimes do the occasional thing right…

“Would we have to leave the house?” She asked, one hoof now rubbing over the other.

“We might, your majesty,” Richard said.

She considered this, she considered the options available.

Go in disguise. Seemed the most direct and sensible approach. Just pretend to be some other, random unicorn just having a meal with some freakish alien. Given Richard’s track record they likely wouldn’t even attract that much attention, however bizzare that might be.

But something about the idea didn’t appeal. Why should she have to pretend to be some random pony just to have a nice meal with her minion? That wasn’t right! She was a Queen, damnit! She was The Queen! Disguises were for her cunning, perfect plans, not for dinner! Not for sitting across the table from Richard, having him smile across at her, and then…


No! She should go as herself! Her glorious, proper self. Not the...embarrassing self she had become, but her proper self. The intimidating, striking self she was supposed to be!

But then they would attract attention. Probably the running and screaming kind, and that would just be tiresome. Twilight - being an incompetent and muddle-headed non-entity - likely would have failed to explain the situation (and how it was all her fault) to the local plebs so they’d react with shortsighted stupidity. And that would ruin dinner.

And that would be bad.

No, no, none of these options appealed. Staying in seemed best.

“I want to stay here…” Chrysalis said at length, snuggling into him some more.

“I thought you might. That is why I asked whether I would be able to order a meal and then take it back here. They were puzzled but amenable. They provided me a menu,” he said, pulling the menu out of his pocket. Seriously, where did he find the time? “If you would like me to do that?”

Again Chrysalis considered. It did mean letting him out of her sight, but it would also mean a good dessert selection without having to leave the house herself. Pros and cons, a fine balancing act.

Maybe they’d have ice cream on that menu. Richard had never been able to bring any back without it melting before (being slow as well as stupid) but now it might work. And he could feed it to her with a spoon and…

...oh this was awful. Awful!

“W-would - would you?” She asked.

Chrysalis hadn’t really made a habit of eating food-food before Richard, what with not really needing to. This was another of those things he’d ruined for her, what with his constant willingness to provide whatever outlandish meal she felt like demanding at whatever moment she felt like demanding it.

Initially she’d done this just to get him out of the way, but after a while it had become a, well, a habit. Now she actually rather liked eating and (worse) liked the tangible surge of happiness he got out of looking after her in the process. It was a vicious circle! Damn him!

For his part, Richard had always quietly wondered to himself why, if their diet consisted of stolen emotions which always took on a strange, vaguely-gaseous form, Changelings even had mouths with teeth. He imagined there was probably a reason. Some evolutionary holdover? Otherwise why would they?

Just another of those things. Probably not worth worrying about.

“I can do that. Would you like that now, or later?”

Chrysalis didn’t have to think about this one. Her legs wrapped around him.

“Later. Stay.”

He stayed. Chrysalis closed her eyes.

It was unnerving not being hungry. She’d always been hungry, and now it was just gone. Made everything different and new and confusing. Like waking up one day to find that someone had just made gravity ninety percent of what it was meant to be. Everything you assumed should be one way was now slightly another, but life still just seemed to be going on.

She wasn’t scared or worried or unsettled or anything like that. That would have been unbecoming of a Queen. She was just…

...not wholly sure what she was meant to do next.

And that was in itself kind of scary and worrying and unsettling.

She didn’t like it. Not one bit.

“Richard?” She asked, quietly. That was a hint that this was something sensitive. Chrysalis was never quiet for no reason. A Queen - by dint of her rank and station! - was allowed to be loud.

“Yes, your majesty?” Richard replied, equally quietly.

Some seconds passed.

“You’re not - you won’t…” More seconds. “You won’t leave me because I - because this happened to me, will you?” She asked.

She knew she didn’t have to ask. The answer was obvious. There could only be one answer. And she knew what that was! There was no reason to ask!

But she’d asked anyway.

“Of course not, your majesty,” Richard said without missing a beat. Chrysalis chewed her lip. It wasn’t quite the same with her fangs not being as pointy anymore. Nothing was quite the same anymore...

“B-because I know this was all your fault so really you can’t leave me, but since I’m not the Queen I was I - I - “

Chrysalis didn’t know how to finish that one and Richard, realising this, gave her another reassuring squeeze. Being unable to finish a threat had been bad, being unable to finish something introspective and clearly sore was probably worse. No need to let her drag it out, he felt.

Besides, she didn’t need to. Not in his opinion.

“You shall always and forever remain my Queen, and nothing will ever change that. I’ll be with you until you have no further need of me, and not a moment less,” he said.

“Millstone around my neck?” She asked, with far more tenderness than she’d intended and than you might expect in a sentence like that. Richard smiled down at her.


More quiet after this, but nicer quiet. The warm and comfy kind of the sort you’d expect to encounter between two people who know that they don’t need to say anything right then, and who are happy.

Chrysalis did pipe up again eventually, though:


“Yes, your majesty?”

“If you ever mention these moments of weakness I will kill you on the spot. Understand?”

“Of course, your majesty. I already took that as a given,” Richard said in a way that made it utterly impossible to tell if he was making fun of her or not. This once, she decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was being completely serious.

“Good…” she said. Then: “Was there ice cream on that menu?”

“Why don’t we have a look?”

And they did.

There was.


View Online

Richard was aware of a particular pressure, a particular weight. But seeing as how he had only woken up mere seconds beforehand he could not make head nor tails of what this might signify. His brain, wanting him to keep sleeping, told him not to worry about it.

And so he didn’t.

But his eyes had been late in receiving these instructions and had already started opening. Blurry though the results were, that the weight was Chrysalis was obvious, which immediately put paid to any plans Richard might have had about going back to sleep.

She was lying flat on top of him, chin on his chest, peering at him intently.

“Good morning, your majesty,” Richard said, struggling not to yawn, and for a few seconds she did not reply.

“I learned something while you were asleep, Richard,” she said once those few seconds had elapsed, not moving a muscle.

“That so?”

He hoped it wasn’t that he snored.

“Yes. You are just as gormless looking asleep as you are awake,” she said, rising to sitting but not shifting from atop him, flicking her head to try and get some of her hair (or whatever it was) out of her face. Her hair (or whatever it was) refused so she pretty quickly gave up.

Richard was happy to hear it wasn’t snoring.

“I always suspected as much, hard for me to confirm though. Were you watching me sleep then, your majesty?” He asked.

Chrysalis bristled at the very suggestion. As though she’d lower herself to something so vulgar.

“No, Richard, of course not. I just happened to look at you while you were sleeping,” she said.

Technically true. The detail that this period of looking had lasted some time was irrelevant. Spending more time was just the difference between a perfunctory look and a good, proper look, that was all.

And it wasn’t even her fault anyway. The only other things to look at it in the room were the underwhelming furniture, the tacky curtains and a mirror, none of which appealed to Chrysalis. Richard might have been a bizarre looking, inscrutable alien but that at least made him interesting to look at.

That, and while she was keeping an eye on him the odds of him doing something stupid which might impact her were reduced. So it was just sensible, really.

What with Chrysalis now sitting upright it was a lot easier for Richard to look at her, too, and he was. He still hadn’t fully woken up so still wasn’t fully aware that what he was doing was actually just staring, but even if he had been aware it would have been tricky to stop. He found the sight of her both pleasant and reassuring. Always had.

And yes, the way she looked had changed considerably - completely, in fact, really - thanks to recent events, but the way she looked at him had not. And that was all that ultimately mattered to Richard once all was said and done.

“Why are you staring at me, Richard?” Chrysalis asked, feeling very put on the spot and flustered by his silent, sleepy attention. That finally got him to snap out of it and he blinked, shaking his head.

“Terribly sorry, your majesty. Miles away. Have I ever mentioned that you have a striking and regal bearing? And very lovely eyes.”

This did not help the flustery-ness.

“Go and make me breakfast, Richard,” Chrysalis said, now hiding behind her misbehaving hair and all-but shoving Richard out of the bed.

“As you wish, your majesty,” he said, getting dressed and going off to do just that.

That got him out of the way for a bit and gave Chrysalis the peace and quiet she so richly deserved, tucked up snug in bed once more. She remained in bed once breakfast was finished, it being brought up to her on a tray. As well it should have been!

Richard had just finished taking the top off her egg (she could do it, but he was fractionally better at it - a queen recognised valuable skills and made use of them) when there was a knock at the door downstairs.

Chrysalis retreated further beneath the covers. The only other living creature on the planet she could just-about tolerate was already in the room with her, after all, so it couldn’t be anyone she wanted to see.

“I am not here,” she said, just her eyes and the top of her head appearing over the duvet. He nodded knowingly and went down to see who it might be at this time of day.

As it happened, it was Twilight.

“Good morning, princess. To what do I owe the pleasure?” Richard asked, giving a small bow. Not so small it might be seen as discourteous, but not so big that were Chrysalis watching she might get the wrong idea.

Chrysalis wasn’t watching right that moment, just to say, though on hearing the word ‘princess’ drifting up to her room she did scramble madly out of the bed to go and covertly eavesdrop from the top of the stairs, making sure to keep out of sight around a corner.

“Just Twilight’s fine, really,” Twilight said.

“Okay then Just Twilight, to what do I owe the pleasure?” Richard asked, earning himself a very flat look indeed. Richard however spent his time hanging around with and doing the bidding of Queen Chrysalis, so had developed an immunity to flat looks.

“Thought I’d come around to see how you were settling in, you know,” Twilight said. Which was true. Not the whole story, but largely true. It was certainly her primary motivation for the visit.

“Oh settling in just wonderfully, thank you, we’re both very grateful. Or I am, at least,” Richard said, confident enough to speak for himself but not so much for Chrysalis. Chrysalis, listening in, was glad he’d clarified. She was most certainly not grateful for anything that had happened to her recently.

Twilight nodded, happy with the answer.

“That’s good. Do you need food? The house was unoccupied before and I don’t think it actually has any in it,” Twilight said. Finding somewhere to stick the two of them had been something of a rush job - lucky there’d been somewhere so convenient in the first place! It had only been late the previous night when Twilight had sat bolt upright and remembered that one of the things she hadn’t covered was food.

She hated missing things like that out.

“It didn’t, but I sorted that out.” Richard said.

“...how?” Twilight asked, deathly curious. Richard just smiled, shrugged.

“Methods,” he said.

“...right. Well is there anything else you need, or…?” Twilight ventured, leaving a deliberate gap to be filled with whatever might have been required. As it happens, nothing was.

“No, no, quite alright. There is only one bed but I was going to see about rectifying that. But then I was told not to, so everything is perfectly fine, thank you for asking,” Richard said.

Given the baffling nature of Richard and Chrysalis’s relationship - especially given as Twilight had only found out about it comparatively recently, before being expected to house the two of them for reasons that still largely eluded her but seemed to primarily involved being told she had to by a known villainous type - it had been unclear whether one bed would have been construed as a slight, or two beds seen equally insulting.

In the event the (mysteriously fully-furnished) house they’d been put into had only had the one bed to start with, so Twilight had just taken a roll of the dice and left it as it was. And so it was. Turned out nice again.

“It’s okay. And, um, how is…?” Twilight asked, again leaving a gap, this time glancing upstairs. Chrysalis was still hiding behind a corner though, so all Twilight saw was stairs and stairs told her nothing. Richard got the point anyway.

“Her majesty?”

“Yes, her. Is she okay?”

For a given value of okay, considering who it was Twilight was talking about.

“Her majesty is also perfectly fine, but presently not in,” Richard said.

“She’s...not...in…?” Twilight asked with mounting horror, desperately running through the various safeguards that had been set up around the place to stop that from happening. She then saw Richard tap his nose and ever-so-slightly tilt his head in the direction of upstairs. Then she got it.

“Oh, oh! She’s not in. Right. Okay, that’s alright. Sure she’ll come back, heh. Well that’s good, I’m glad.”

Chrysalis, upstairs, rolled her eyes. She could see - or rather hear - that it was blatantly the case that Twilight had come over to both spy and to pry, hiding her intentions behind seemingly innocent questions and light-hearted banter. Asking if they needed anything indeed, how transparent!

She’d have gone down and given the vile princess a piece of her mind but, frankly, she couldn’t bring herself to face anyone today, and Richard seemed to be doing an adequate job of holding Twilight at bay anyway, and it was his job to do the things Chrysalis didn’t want to, so that was good then.

He’d get to live to see tomorrow. Helped that he knew how to boil an egg.

“Uh, there was something else I kind of wanted to ask you about,” Twilight said, rubbing a hoof against a leg, now a touch nervous, feeling she might now be pushing her luck with this one. Richard raised an eyebrow but remained game.

“Oh? Fire away,” he said.

Twilight took her leg-rubbing hoof and coughed into it.

“Just maybe possibly wondering if it would be okay if you had the time sometime to answer a few of those questions I had? About you and where you came from? And maybe how you got here? And human dietary requirements? And how human emotions are compatible with - well, I have a list.”

She produced the list and hovered it up sheepishly. Curiosity had been burning a hole in her ever since Starlight had prevented her from questioning him the first time. An alien! A whole alien! It begged questions and every question it begged sprouted off into other questions!

For example, where did he get his shoes from? Had he brought those with him?

The mind reeled!

Richard looked at the hovering list and blinked.

“Is that a list of questions about what sort of questions it will be acceptable to ask me?” He asked. Twilight blinked too.

She hadn’t thought about it that way, and how redundant it had been to produce it. At the time - about three in the morning after worrying about the ‘lack of food issue’ - it had made perfect sense to her to make a list of pre-questions to see what questions would be acceptable later.

“Kind of?” She asked, tentatively. Richard chuckled.

“That’s charming. Well fret not, there shall be no question about myself, my kind - for want of a better word - or my point of origin that I will not be willing to answer for you. I shall be the openest of open books. I imagine I’d even be free for you later today, possibly as early as a little after lunch?”

Richard was nothing if not helpful while also continuing to be incredibly vague and imprecise. Still, Twilight hadn’t been expecting such a positive answer. She’d expected to be told he’d have to run it past Chrysalis first or just a flat-out no linking to being told to wait.

“Today?” She asked.

“Is today not good for you?” Richard asked. He imagined the life of a princess was a busy one. And it was, but only sometimes, and now was not one of those times. Twilight scrambled to straighten this out:

“No! I mean yes! I mean, today will work. Anytime! Just come to the castle! It’s the, um, well, it’s the castle. That thing there.”

She pointed over her shoulder and Richard unnecessarily leaned to the side to get a proper look. The thing was hard to miss. It had been hard to miss ever since he’d first stepped foot in town. It had that Eiffel Tower-esque quality of somehow always managing to be in the background and always managing to be visible from every window.

He imagined that was one of the reasons why Chrysalis had had him draw all the curtains almost the moment they’d got inside. That and all the ‘prying eyes’ she was so vocal in her dislike of.

“I think I can remember that,” Richard said, stopping leaning. “And I shall see you later, in which case, to bore you rigid with trivia about my home.’

“Oh, I won’t be bored. I want to know everything. Ev-er-re-thing,” Twilight said, dead seriously.

That was some pronunciation she had there, but Richard did appreciate her obvious passion and enthusiasm. He smiled and gave her a nod.

“Then that is what you’ll get. Thank you for coming to see how we were settling in prin- Just Twilight, and thank you again for putting us up in the first place. Damn decent of you”

Twilight went the mild pink of someone catching a compliment unprepared.

“Didn’t seem like I had a lot of choice at the time. And, you know, better than fighting,” she said, as though none of this was that big of a deal.

“It was,” Richard said.

Difficult but not impossible to build friendship on a foundation of laser-beam based violence, at least in Twilight’s experience. Richard’s, too. Sometimes you didn’t really have any other available options, true, but if you did then it seemed wiser to go for them.

“Well I won’t keep you. You have a great day and, uh, see you later then?” Twilight said.

“Quite so,” Richard said, nodding, smiling, and Twilight smiled too as she turned and trotted off again.

Richard stood in the doorway watching her go, breathing in the pleasant air of a new day. In all his time on this side of things he hadn’t once had a lacklustre morning, he noted, though he supposed that might be more to do with his unrelentingly positive attitude. But who could say?

The floorboards creaked and he glanced to his side.

“Surprisingly down-to-earth for royalty, wouldn’t you say your majesty?” He asked, seeing that Chrysalis was now standing next to him, glaring at him. She didn’t immediately say anything.

“Richard. Shut the door,” she said.

He did, which left the two of them now standing in the cool darkness of the house they’d been put into, curtains still drawn. Chrysalis had her default expression on, which is to say she was glaring at him.

“Why are you conspiring with my enemies?” She asked.

“Enemies, your majesty?” Richard asked, but then he got it. “Oh, the princess. I just felt it best to placate her, you know. Best to keep things calm.”

Richard always liked to keep things calm, starting with himself and just letting the excess bleed into the world around. Like he was some sort of wound into a dimension that hadn’t ever experienced a crease or a ruffle.

Chrysalis would not have survived long in such a hypothetical dimension.

“Placation is one thing! Why did you agree to this questioning?” She asked. Richard blinked, perplexed.

“It was part of the arrangement, I thought? With this house and such? Good to get it out of the way, I felt. And I did say I would, if I could,” he said. It hadn’t been that long ago but there was always the possibility that he was misremembering things. He didn’t think he was though. And he wasn’t.

It wasn’t mandatory, going off and answering a few questions, it was just the polite thing to do. Which as far as Richard was concerned more-or-less made it mandatory. Certainly, the possibility of not going having said he would hadn’t crossed his mind even for a moment.

“It’s not as simple as that! Sit!” Chrysalis snapped, pointing to the sofa. Richard, as was custom, did as she told him.

Richard was now sitting. Chrysalis was now pacing.

“Clearly she’s lying. Questions about humans indeed, who cares about humans? I have one! They’re big and just about adequate at following instructions - what else would anyone need to know? It’s a trap! A ruse! A way of getting at me somehow, I know it is,” Chrysalis said, more to herself than to Richard, though he still tutted and sucked his teeth on hearing her say this.

“Oh I wouldn’t think so, your majesty. These pony types don’t seem the ruse-y sort,” he said.

Admittedly he only knew a few of them and even then only in passing, but still. What he’d seen of them didn’t suggest any particular pre-disposition towards ruses. Unless he was the victim of one that just hadn’t paid off yet, which he was willing to concede was a possibility. If so, fair play to them he said.

Chrysalis stopped pacing and glowered at him.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about, Richard! These ponies are insidious! They’ll try and befriend you! Be nice to you!”

They were sly like that. All ‘Hello!’ and ‘Hi!’ as an opener, only later to selfishly spoil your well-crafted plans and rudely stop you from exerting dominance over the world at large, monsters. Not even the basic decency to lose in the face of a superior plan. Richard took her advice on board with a nod.

“I’ll be on the lookout for that. They won’t catch me with my trousers down, you have my word,” he said.

“The trousers stay on, Richard!” Chrysalis said sternly, warningly, hoof raised and pointing. Richard, in a rare twist, was taken aback.

“It’s just an expression, your majesty, I didn’t-”

“On!” Chrysalis hissed, eyes narrowed, jabbing her hoof his way.

Richard considered this.

“As you wish,” he said.

With that sorted Chrysalis resumed pacing, considering what other risks Richard might encounter if she let him leave the house. When it came to a creature as dense as him the possibilities of harm were daunting.

He’d managed to demonstrate that even standing in a corner could be dangerous for him!

And that Twilight Sparkle wasn’t one to be trusted either. That dopey expression, embarrassingly blunt and nub-like horn, puny wings and general air of incompetence hid a fiendish, scheming mind.

Not as fiendish or scheming as Chrysalis’s mind, obviously, and a mind that only ever enjoyed success on account of pure luck or cheating, but still. It made her more of a threat than she might first appear. Especially if left alone with Richard, a man who, as mentioned, couldn’t even be trusted to stand around doing nothing without getting himself hurt.

Twilight would probably...touch him. On the leg, say. Or look at him for an extended period of time, possibly while also smiling. None of these thoughts made Chrysalis particularly happy. Made her rather unhappy, in fact, so she stopped thinking about them or what this unhappiness might have implied. Likely not worth it.

“She’s a tricky one. Sneaky, underhoofed! And not in the good way, not in a laudable way - in the wrong way! Her sneakiness is clumsy and inelegant, entirely accidental. An insult to those of us who actually put the effort in!”

There was an art to being properly sneaky, a skill to the proper exercise of cunning. To craft elaborate, hidden plans that slid up behind the scenes to snatch what you wanted from those who had it without them ever being aware until the last, vital moments when you could appear just to appreciate the look of horror and crushed hope on their faces. It was a whole thing!

Twilight just trailed ad-hoc destruction in her wake, ruining well-laid plans without even the decency of looking like it was difficult. Her and her damn friends. Like they’d been put on the planet specifically to make Chrysalis’s life difficult. Even their magical doppelgangers had been unbearable. It just wasn’t fair.

They never did what they were actually supposed to! Which was fail miserably!

The whole world was like that, Chrysalis reflected. There was no justice. If there was she’d have been in charge years ago. Since she hadn’t been - and still wasn’t - clearly something was wrong. Not fair at all, not one bit.

“I think she’s being pretty honest about the questions though, your majesty. She just seems curious. Rather charming, in its way,” Richard said, which Chrysalis did not really appreciate.

“I don’t trust her with what’s mine! She could do something nefarious to you,” she said.

“That shouldn’t be too much of a blow if that did happen, I’d expect, your majesty. I am disposable after all,” he said. It was something she’d mentioned to him on more than one occasion and was apparently one of those things that was fine for her to say but not for him as she rounded on him at once.

“You are not disposable! Well, you are, but only when I say you are! Which isn’t now. Right now you’re vaguely important and mine. And you’re helplessly vulnerable on account of being so painfully mundane! Anything with even the tiniest bit of magic could do whatever it liked to you!”

Debatable, though given how easily she had telekinetically moved him around in the past (and likely would again in the future) Richard supposed she might have a point - not a whole lot he could do about it! But there was at least one thing he knew of that could help avoid it being a problem.

“If she tries anything magical I’ll just do the old ‘holding the horn’ trick. Works a treat on unicorns, I’ve discovered,” he said, pantomiming grasping the rigid shaft and thumbing the sensitive tip. So to speak.

Chrysalis was not especially thrilled to have this trick brought up in conversation, seeing as she had been the first victim of it. She was also not thrilled by his borderline-obscene hand gesture.

“...do not ever do that again, Richard.”

He looked at this hand, blushed, and promptly sat on both of them.

“Sorry, your majesty.”

The conversation sputtered to an awkward halt. Chrysalis didn’t know how to fully express what it was she was feeling at Richard, and Richard was waiting for his turn to speak again. So they just stayed quiet, Richard still sitting, Chrysalis not pacing but instead just standing, looking at him dolefully. She wasn’t even glaring anymore. It was rather dour.

Richard eventually broke first.

“I assume you don’t need me today, your majesty?” He asked, gently. That stiffened her, got her back on track. That had been his intention.

“I don’t ever need you, Richard. I just occasionally have things that you are better suited to doing and which it would be unsuitable to do myself. A queen delegates,” she said, hoof to her chest.

“Ah, I see. Well in which case are there any of those things that I am better suited to doing going on today?” He asked.

Her hoof remained on her chest but her face dropped.


That one caught her by surprise. It was true that she didn’t, but just because something was true didn’t mean she had to say it, or let Richard know. It had just slipped out! Now it looked like she didn’t have a good reason to want to keep him nearby. Or rather it left her with only one obvious reason, so it was to this reason that she now went.

Bounding across to Richard, Chrysalis bounded right up onto his lap with such speed he was entirely taken off-guard. That he was still sat on his hands didn’t help. He found himself quite pinned, his head wrapped about in her legs and pressed tight against her chest.

“It’s just that you’re still delicate! I don’t want you getting hurt again,” she said, eyes widening on realising that she couldn’t leave the sentence there and rushing in to clarify: “Because if you do then we’d have to stay here even longer - this has already delayed my plans far too much!”

“Quite so, for which I can only apologise,” he said, face squashed.

“You will make it up to me, Richard. Every single day we spend together you’ll make it up to me! And later I shall also have my revenge on you,” she said, managing somehow to make this sound bizarrely affectionate. Or at least to Richard’s eyes. His smile was the dopey kind he so-favoured in her presence.

“Of course. I deserve as much,” he said.

“You do.”

Here the conversation did not sputter to a halt again but instead came to a natural, comfortable conclusion bereft of any of the awkwardness of before. What followed was the quiet that came from two individuals entirely understanding what it was the other had said and what they had meant in saying it, and who were comfortable together.

Richard even wiggled his hands out from beneath him so he could put his arms around Chrysalis, and Chrysalis let him do it, too. Even if she was temporarily having to stay in this dingy, underwhelming little house she could at least be happy knowing that she’d always have Richard’s arms to retreat to, should she so desire.

Nice to have at least one thing she could rely on. Even if it was an idiot.

“You’ll come back quickly, won’t you? Once you’ve finished?” She asked.

“Of course your majesty. And I’m not going yet anyway, we still have the morning,” he pointed out. Chrysalis tightened her grip on him.

“Good. Don’t let go,” she said.

And so he didn’t.


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Chrysalis was all on her own, and this was fine.

Richard had gone off to answer damn Twilight’s damn questions, leaving with assurances he’d be back as quickly as possible, saying he was sure Chrysalis would appreciate some time on her own anyway, that she’d barely even notice he was gone.

She had agreed to all of that, basically shoving him out of the door - deciding that if he was going to go and do this (and she could grudgingly see the logic in keeping Twilight placated, annoyingly) he should just get it over with and stop making such a fuss.

So out he’d gone, Chrysalis slamming the door behind him.

And now everything was very, very quiet.

A lot of Changelings might have felt horribly, horribly isolated on their own. Theirs was a communal type of living, after all, barring the occasional infiltrator sent out solo - but those were exceptional individuals and were sent with a purpose. They had an objective to keep them going and knew that, once it was completed, they would be back in the comfortable, crowded, chitinous bosom of the hive and their compatriots.

Your common-or-garden Changeling left to their own devices, all on their lonesome, was liable to start to feel a bit twitchy pretty quickly. Start to feel that yawning silence closing in around them, start to feel so crushingly, crushingly lonely.

Lucky, then, that Chrysalis was most certainly not a common-or-garden Changeling. She was a queen. She was The Queen!

She was fine on her own.

Really, now that she thought about it - as she wandered about the poky little house she was more-or-less imprisoned in for the foreseeable future thanks to Richard’s terrible injury, glaring at the fixtures and fittings - the more she realised she had always and would always be alone, in a manner of speaking. She was simply above and beyond those around her, always had been. Operating on a higher level. Separate! Superior.

So, really, if she thought about it this being alone was no different to how she’d always been. No matter how different it might feel, it actually wasn’t, really. So she was fine.

Besides, what did being alone matter to her? If she had wanted to she could have conquered the world by herself. Would have taken a while on her own, but she could have done it. The point was she didn’t have to - she shouldn’t have to! She was a queen! Queens had people around to do things for them, that was how it worked!

And that was how, until recently, it had been working!

She’d had a hive! A huge and imposing hive! The sort of thing that loomed and towered! It had a throne at the top! She’d had teeming hordes of minions! Disposable ones - the best kind! She’d had everything going for her! Everything she deserved!

More than that she’d had drive.

And now everything had been taken away. Like having her guts ripped out.

(Though Chrysalis was quietly confident she could actually survive having her guts ripped out, should it ever come to that - it’d be sore but she could probably walk it off.)

Losing one thing or two things she could have taken in stride, could have adapted around, could have worked with, easily. Lose the hive? Fine. Lose the minions? Whatever. Lose the throne? Eh. All at once though? Everything? And when she’d been so close, too! Where was she meant to start on putting it back together?

She was just so…


Appropriate then that her aimless wanderings about the house had taken her back up to the bedroom. And there was that mirror, and in that mirror was her. Or what she’d ended up as.

Chrysalis still wasn’t exactly happy with that. She’d been bloody gorgeous before, back when she’d looked like what she was meant to look like. The hungry and feral image of beauty, bordering on the absolutely perfect - holes and proper fangs and jagged edges and ragged wings. Gorgeous!

All gone, now.

Could bring it back with a little effort - and she did so, sometimes - but that was just a disguise, not her actual self, not anymore. It wasn’t the same. Like everything else she’d had, that was gone too. Somehow it hurt more, it being more personal she supposed. Everything else she’d lost had just been things (fancy throne, disposable minions, etcetera), while this was her! She’d been changed!

She hadn’t asked for this!

Richard’s fault, damn him! Why did he have to be so, so...and why did he have to...why did she have to...when he was hurt...why…

The painfully vivid memory of what he’d looked like all laid out with eyes closed and blood trickling down his face came snapping back to her mind and she felt deep in her (obviously non-vital) guts a very unfamiliar, unpleasant lurch. She had no idea what it meant but she did not like it one bit, not at all.

“He’s fine though. He’s okay. Was probably just putting it on in the first place anyway, just to annoy me,” she told her reflection, doing her best to banish the image, face set and glaring.

He hadn’t been, she knew. She wouldn’t say it out loud but she did know. He’d actually been hurt and while he was indeed fine now - idiot - he could just as easily not have been, and that…

...didn’t like it one bit, no.

Her reflection didn’t seem to have an opinion. It just stood there, being reflective, looking all pastel and shiny and bleurgh. Chrysalis glared at it some more and then turned sideways-on for a more comprehensive look at herself.

She supposed it wasn’t awful in the strictest sense of the word.

The colours were adequate, if a touch garish. The shininess wasn’t too distracting if the lighting was good (which is to say, bad - the current level of dimness with the curtains drawn seemed about perfect). The lack of holes would probably take some getting used to, but it wasn’t inherently a bad thing, she might be of a mind to admit, possibly.

Had it happened to anyone else then it would be awful, it would look appalling! It had happened to others, in fact: all those traitors, those turncoats. On all of those others - the traitors and the turncoats - it looked appalling. On her? Tolerable, barely. Just barely.

But then she could make anything work, so that wasn’t saying a whole lot.

So no. Not awful.

The problem remained though that looking like this wasn’t the actual real issue. Chrysalis could (and did) look like literally anything and remain her sublime self. The real issue was the other changes. The intangible, internal ones. The vague and fuzzy and fluffy ones.

The sort of changes that, were they to happen to anyone other than a queen, might lead to the worry that some fundamental part of themselves had been irrevocably altered in some way, changing who they were on a quite deep level, hollowing out who they had once been and undermining everything they might once have stood and strived for.

Not a worry that Chrysalis had, obviously. Not even for a moment. Not at all.

She realised that she’d ended up, quite without meaning to, just staring blankly at her own reflected face. It was eerie. Still recognisably her, but uncomfortably different. And a stark reminder that something inside had changed, too.

“What’s happened to you?” She asked herself quietly.

Further thought on the subject was interrupted by the sound of the door opening and Richard returning, a blessed distraction - but did he have to be so noisy?

Chrysalis was on him almost the moment he crossed the threshold, magically hoiking him off his feet and yanking him across the room. Shutting the door, too, of course - she wasn’t born in a barn (the smart money was on it being a swamp, where doors are treated with the proper level of respect).

“I missed you too, your majesty,” Richard said, as sanguine as he always was about being magically manhandled.

Chrysalis ignored this, too busy holding him in place as she hovered and examined him, taking his head in her hooves and turning it this way and that way.

“What did she do to you? Was it magic? Was it friendship? Was it both at the same time?” She asked, peering intently, looking for signs of foul play. Richard frowned, perplexed.

“Aren’t they very closely related here?” He asked.

Not that Richard was an expert. Not in magic, at least. A minor understanding of friendship and a greater understanding of a few other things, sure, but not magic.

“Quiet, Richard, I’m looking you over!” Chrysalis snapped, having now moved onto poking various parts of him in her continuing search for malfeasance.

Richard went quiet.

Eventually Chrysalis ran out of parts of him to prod and set him back down again, landing herself, wings folding away smartly. She tried not to think again about how they weren’t delightfully ragged and torn anymore. It just wasn’t fair.

There didn’t appear to be any external signs of anything concerning with her minion, but when you were dealing with a pony as twisted and spiteful as Princess Twilight, you couldn’t ever be too careful. The only one worse was Starlight Glimmer.

Urgh. Even the mere thought of her made Chrysalis shudder. Best to think of something else.

“What happened?” She asked Richard.

“Nothing especially exciting. She just asked questions and I answered them. Nothing about you, your majesty, I hasten to add - just questions about human things. Where we’re from, what we’re like, how I actually got here, that sort of thing. Nothing important,” he said with a shrug.

Chrysalis had never asked him those sorts of questions. That she could (or should) had never crossed her mind. It didn’t cross her mind then, either. She was too busy trying to imagine how asking pointless questions could be a cover for something else, something dastardly.

It’d be the perfect way of getting to her! Manipulating or somehow sabotaging her idiot servant. Filling his head with lies, maybe? Or feigning interest in his stupid origins to curry favour! Yes! That one!

It was befriending! It had to be!

Damn ponies, always with the friendship, like it was somehow the answer to everything and not a malign blight. Chrysalis had never had a friend in her life and look how well things had turned out for her! Well, at least until everyone else had ruined it for her, but that was hardly her fault, was it?

Richard took advantage of Chrysalis staring angrily and silently into space to produce a bag that he’d secreted about his person.

“I brought you this, your majesty,” he said. This brought her back to the moment and her eyes snapped to the bag. She sniffed, but learnt nothing other than there was something sweet inside, which only raised further questions.

“What is it?” She asked.

“Baklava,” Richard said.

Again, this didn’t really help her much.


Richard hefted the bag with pride, holding it aloft.

“Yes, I was surprised to find it myself, too. More surprised it didn’t have some sort of horse-punny name, honestly, but I suppose ‘baklava’ doesn’t give them a lot to work with,” he said.

“...give me the bag, Richard.”

“As you wish.”

He did so. Chrysalis found the contents mysterious but ultimately to her liking, retreating to the sofa, curling up and devouring them in short order. Richard joined her not longer after she’d sat down, at her insistence.

Well, he assumed it was at her insistence - her mouth had been full so she’d been a bit muffled, but her pointing angrily at him then at the sofa and back again a few times had seemed like a big enough hint, and that she’d then promptly started using him as a cushion looked to indicate he’d read the room correctly.

So there he sat, Chrysalis pressed into him as she furiously finished off the baklava and then peered into the bag to see if she’d missed any. She had not, and sighed sadly letting the now-empty bag drop to the floor.

Eating food. Richard was a terrible influence.

In (comparatively) happier times this was usually when she would have told Richard to think happy thoughts and spent a pleasant few minutes skimming his sickly affection off the top, taking it direct. That didn’t work anymore. Or maybe it did, but she didn’t need to do it that way anymore.

Now what happened instead was this weird, oozy, back-and-forth sort of arrangement where she could still feel his unnatural, alien feelings wafting out of him but could also feel her own superior, Changeling feelings kind of…


It was deeply unsettling. But also lovely. But also horrible.

Being aware of her own feelings in the first place would be bad enough, but this as well?!

Twilight Sparkle had better come up with a cure for this horrid condition right quick, that was all Chrysalis had to say on the matter. Especially seeing as how it was her fault, in a roundabout but definite sort of a way.

But until she did, well, Chrysalis was just going to have to put up with this sort of thing in her usual stoic, refined, regal manner.

Which might have looked like humming in quiet contentment while settling deeper and more comfortably into Richard and getting him to put his arms around her again, but it wasn’t that! It just looked like that. It was in reality stoic and regal poise!

Quite different.

Ruined, of course, when Richard started speaking for no reason:

“They have a friendship school here, I hear, your majesty. Teaches, well, friendship, of all things, which I must admit is a very novel concept. Do wonder if they teach it alongside literacy and numeracy and such or if-”

“Be quiet, Richard.”

“As you wish.”

He went quiet, though on the inside he decided that the students likely had a proper grounding in the more mundane aspect of education before starting on friendship and that, given friendship was something of a tangible force in these parts, the whole setup probably wasn’t as ridiculous as it might have initially sounded to him, a human.

They sat comfortably for a minute or two before Chrysalis, unprompted, rolled over onto her front and wriggled up Richard until they were face-to-face, whereupon she stared at him but didn’t actually say anything.

“...something the matter, your majesty?” Richard asked, mildly concerned and having expected her to say something after the first few seconds. Chrysalis kept on staring.

She was thinking.

There’d been something she had wanted to say, she was sure of it, and she’d wanted to be looking at Richard when she said it, she was sure of that, too. But now that she was it had slipped her mind completely. Just something about his blank, doe-eyed and just plain fond expression that had stopped her brain dead in its tracks.

So she was trying to get her train of thought going again, with limited initial success.

And all the while there was still that mingling, that back and forth. Her thoughts would have been hard enough to get in order without all of that weird, alien affection just flowing out and over, distracting her, mixing up with whatever it was was flowing out of her and meeting in the middle and creating...something…

The gnawing, ever-present, driving hunger that had been with her since she could remember was gone, replaced with a sickly, aggravating, all-filling warmth that ebbed and flowed with Richard’s disgusting proximity but never seemed to truly leave and so never left a void the sucking emptiness of which she could use to power herself onward to greater heights.

How could she be expected to work in these conditions?!

Eating love was fine - had been fine! That had been easy. She’d been doing that for years, never thought twice about it. Why would she? It had just been food! It was just food! That’s all emotions were! And the point was to eat them, consume them! Not this...whatever it was! It wasn’t natural!

As uncomfortably pleasant as it might have been to experience, and as satisfying as it might have been, and as...happy as it might have made her feel…if that’s what it actually was. Was that what it was?

Happiness usually came at the express of another, didn’t it? No-one won unless someone else lost, and how could she be happy unless someone else was miserable? Happiness was gained by taking! So what was this?

Chrysalis just gave up on thinking for now. Probably not important anyway, not at the moment. She’d think about it more later.

For now she just flopped back down onto him, curling into the crook of his neck and doing her best not to stab him through the head with her horn. That would have made a dreadful mess and, with him being dead, she’d have to be the one to clean herself up. No good at all.

“I miss the castle,” she said with a sigh, then she drooped and curled furtherm adding. “I miss my hive…”

‘The castle’ in this case being the ruin they’d been squatting in, obviously, but a queen does not squat in a ruin or anywhere else, so to her it had always been ‘the castle’ (her castle, specifically). But that’s by the by.

The hive was rather more obvious, though whether she was referring to the structure or the structure and everything and everyone that had been in it was less clear. Richard knew it didn’t really matter which - she was just sad, and that was all that mattered to him. He did not like it, not one bit.

“We could go back, your majesty? If you’d like.”

“No, no, we’re being watched and I don’t have the energy to fight my way through all of them. And keep you safe at the same time. They’d probably go after you first, you being my glaring weakness.”

He was kind of an easy target, Richard would be the first to admit. They’d for the legs, like he said the other day - it was just obvious. And of course Chrysalis had no proof of being watched but then again she didn’t need proof to know she was right.

(She was also actually, actually right, so there was that, too.)

“I could smuggle you out? Dead of night, maybe? I can be very subtle when I need to be,” Richard suggested. He was being perfectly sincere, too - if she wanted him to do that, he would. She knew this, just a fact.

Chrysalis considered his offer for a moment but then shook her head. As attractive as the prospect was of being smuggled out in the dead of night by Richard - cradled in his arms, perhaps? - she couldn’t see it working out well. They’d be waiting for something like that, she knew.

A queen’s paranoia was on a deeper level than the paranoia of lesser beings. It had greater nuance and richness and was, of course, entirely rational as opposed to the irrational sort of everyone else.

When others thought they - they! - were out to get them, those others were idiots. When a queen thought they - they! - were out to get them, she was just being practical and realistic.

Because they were out to get her.

“No, no…” she said, sadly.

It would be more sensible to bide their time, pick their moment.

No, wait.

Bide her time, pick her moment.

That was better.

“Have you decided what the first step of your next scheme is, your majesty?” Richard asked. He knew how much she liked her scheming, after all, so thought that maybe steering the subject in that direction might buoy her spirits a little.

Chrysalis just sighed again.

“No I have not. I am still thinking. This is very delicate, Richard. You’ve put me in a very difficult situation. I’m amidst bitter enemies, everything is now at least twice as hard - maybe even three times. I need to collect myself first,” she said.

Which was a cause for concern. Really she shouldn’t have to collect herself at all, she should have been ready to go. She should already have been going, in fact. But she wasn’t, and that she wasn’t made her deeply uncomfortable.

She was still the same on the inside, she told herself, more or less. And in her head she could still clearly see what it was she had to do and why she had to do it - exert dominance over everyone and everything around her because that was just the way things had to be. It was just coming up with the exact details of the how that was proving tricky.

Richard took her answer on board and nodded, his fingers trailing down her back and making her shudder. She probably should have told him not to do that, but she didn’t.

“Sounds like a good idea, your majesty. I imagine that’ll mean we’ll be here for a little while yet, then? Might be worth me acquiring some gainful employment in town, if that’s the case. To keep you in the manner to which you have become accustomed,” he said.

His inexplicable connections could only carry them so far, after all, and a key component of knowing a guy who knows a guy is that you don’t rely on those guys who know guys that much. It’s not a sustainable model in the long term.

Chrysalis blinked at him.

“You want to get a job here? In this town? With these ponies? Here?” She asked.

“Well, ‘want’ is a strong word. I just imagined it would be a sensible thing to do,” Richard said.

Chrysalis was so overwhelmed with the issues with this idea that she struggled to know which one to start with. In the end she went with:

“But - but you’d leave me on my own all day!”

Richard did consider pointing out that, back when they’d still been squatting in that ruin, she had often left him on his own for considerable periods of time, but he imagined that different rules applied to queens than to himself. He imagined correctly.

“That would be a drawback, yes. Perhaps part-time, then?”

Chrysalis did not answer. Her mind was now racing, train of thought thoroughly back on the tracks, albeit fresh ones so to speak. A job? A job?! Richard already had a job! The job of doing what she wanted him to do, when she wanted him to do it. He didn’t have space for anything else!

And besides, getting a ‘job’ reeked of settling down, settling in. They weren’t living here! With these ponies! They were here temporarily! They were being put up in this tiny house entirely thanks to Richard’s clumsiness followed by Chrysalis’s cunning. They were here for however long it would take for Twilight Sparkle to come up with some solution or cure to this horrific ‘reformed’ issue and then they would make their escape - that was it!

That’s what it had always been!

What was wrong with her?! Wandering around, wallowing in confused self-pity, eating food (delicious though it might have been), gorging on weird alien fondness and not actually doing anything! Unacceptable! Behaviour unbecoming of a queen! The slippery slope into the mire of complacency!


She sat up straight on Richard’s lap and grabbed him by the collar, hauling him up so he was sitting too, his nose squashed against her muzzle.

“We are not settling down here, Richard. We are not going to live in this pathetic house in this pathetic town with these pathetic creatures and live a pathetic, quiet life together. We are not living together at all, RICHARD! You are my SERVANT and I am a QUEEN! Starting tomorrow we are going to get things back to the way they were - the way they should be! I am going to go to Twilight Sparkle, I am going to get the cure for my condition and then we are going to go back to the castle and get back to the serious business of conquering this world horizon to horizon, starting with me gorging myself stupid on your strange, alien feelings the way a Changeling is supposed to, NOT LIKE THIS! Do you understand?”

Richard was entirely unfazed on having this rather loud speech delivered point-blank into his face.

“Yes, your majesty. Though I believe the princess is busy tomorrow. Out of town, as I recall. Some sort of meeting, she told me,” he said.

Chrysalis ground her teeth.

“Then we shall march over at the earliest available opportunity and demand she fix me. Is that better?”

Richard knew a trick question when he heard one.

“I wouldn’t know, your majesty, I’m just the minion,” he said.

“Yes you are, good boy,” Chrysalis said, letting go of his collar and letting him flump back onto the sofa, flumping down on top of him again a moment later.

She’d got her point across, after all, so no need to sit around being uncomfortable.


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After another night in the same bed - so she could keep an eye on him! To keep him out of trouble! The sort of trouble that had got her into this mess to start with! - Richard was turfed out by Chrysalis and sent off with specific instructions for what he should do.

Given that this was typically how most days with her went for Richard (barring the bed-sharing, which was new, he’d admit) this was totally fine.

Chrysalis herself stayed in bed, obviously. Rest was important for queens, and the bed was quite comfortable she might admit. And besides she couldn’t get started on what she had in mind until Richard had completed his assigned tasks anyway, so there was no point in leaving the bed.

So that was where she was, while Richard was dressed and out the house and into the pleasant morning sunshine, strolling briskly along and waving polite to any who crossed his path, most of whom were alarmed by his height and by his briskness but mollified by his friendly politeness.

Today was going to be a day of planning, Chrysalis had said to him. Given that Twilight wasn’t around to browbeat it made sense to use the time for something else, something useful! Planning! A day for getting all her ducks in a row, collecting herself. Drawing up a mind map or two.

Chrysalis was very good at planning. She was very good at most things she might turn her considerable talents to, obviously, but she had spent a good chunk of her life planning (occasionally also scheming and plotting, which were basically just more advanced forms of planning available only to experts like her) and so knew how good she was at it.

So what Richard was getting was the requisite materials for her to do it all properly. She had compiled the list herself and it included such useful planning supplies as flipcharts, pencils, a large corkboard, drawing pins, brightly coloured paper, string, scissors and also more baklava (‘planning requires energy’ had been her internal justification, somehow ignoring that this was not how she got her energy).

As luck would have it, Richard somehow knew where to get all of this and so it was the work of a sliver of a morning to go from here to there and back again and acquire all that she’d asked for - he was nothing not ruthlessly efficient when it came to purchasing baklava and string.

And it was while he was laden with bags and working his way back that he bumped into what was rapidly becoming for him a familiar face.

“Hello there, Starlight! Fancy seeing you here,” he said, beaming as he saw her approaching.

“I live here,” she pointed out.

“Yes, but still! Small world, eh? How are you today?” He asked.

“I’m alright, just going to the school,” she said. She was indeed just going to the school, albeit taking her time in doing it. She had learnt by now that no-one really noticed if she was a tiny bit late.

Starlight then eyed the many bags Richard was carrying.

“That’s a lot of stuff,” she said. Richard glanced down at the bags himself and gave them all a demonstrative heft.

“Oh, this? Just some supplies. For the queen,” he said.

“Like what?” Starlight asked, wondering if she should be worried or not.

“String, pens, flipcharts, that sort of thing. I imagine queens must get through a lot of this in their queenly business,” Richard said.

Starlight had no frame of reference for this, and couldn’t tell whether Richard was just being jokey or not. She realised, belatedly, that she could never tell this with him, even with what limited interaction she’d had with him. A hard man to read in many ways, though easy in others.

A mysterious alien and no mistake.

“Uh, I guess?” She said, going for the kind of smile you get when you share a joke with someone. Richard went for this too, so that seemed to work.

A close call, conversationally speaking. Could have been awkward.

“Is she...okay?” Starlight asked, tentatively.

She asked because she was actually, genuinely concerned, albeit for two different reasons.

On the one hand (or hoof) she really did hope that Chrysalis was okay in the broadest, most general sense. That she was happy, well-rested, in a position to perhaps consider her choices and come to some conclusions that worked out well both for herself and for everyone else.

And on the other hoof (or hand) Starlight was also concerned that if the aforementioned wasn’t the case, that Chrysalis at least wasn’t presently frothing at the mouth in a frenzy for vengeance on everyone and everything that had ever wronged her or been perceived to have wronged her.

The former was because Starlight just felt that it would be best, the latter was because that would be the worst.

“She is - or was, it might have changed - snoozing. Very cute when she snoozes. Her ears sometimes twitch, which I think must mean she’s dreaming. Uh, please don’t tell her I said that. But yes, there seems to be something of a return to the spring in her step, I think. Today she is going to make plans, she tells me,” Richard said.

“Should I tell her you told me that she’s planning on planning?” Starlight asked, this time wryly. Starlight had a variety of ways of asking questions.

Richard inclined his head a little and then - as the conversation seemed to be one that was keeping going - set his bags down and massaged his hands where the handles had started cutting in. All that string was weighty, it turned out, though maybe it was the baklava that had really tipped it over the edge - like the bottle of sherry that breaks the axle.

“If it pleases you. She’d probably be too furious on talking to you to notice me having let that particular detail slip. I get the impression she’s not the biggest fan of you, you know,” he said. Starlight grimaced.

“Yeah…” she said, then to steer the subject back again asked: “Did she say what she was planning?”

“Not specifically, no,” Richard said.

“Revenge?” Starlight probed.

Richard couldn’t deny this and so nodded, shrugged.

“Probably in there somewhere. It did get mentioned once or twice,” he said cheerfully.

Having a little personal experience with revenge, Starlight was less upbeat. Convention held (and practical observation seemed to confirm) that it very rarely had a positive outcome for anyone involved, and generally just seemed to serve to make the world a worse place.

Unless the revenge involved making a point of living a virtuous life in defiance of one’s enemies, she assumed. But that wasn’t an option most seemed to go for, for whatever reason. Too much work, maybe? Or just lacking in the thrill.

Certainly she couldn’t picture Chrysalis going for that one...

“And you’re...okay with revenge?” She asked.

“Personally? No, not really. I’m not a fan myself. Not something I’ve ever been seen to indulge in. Never really had much opportunity, of course, but still.”

Richard’s lifestyle did not lend itself to an abundance of revenge. Or at least there was no evidence and no witnesses to suggest that it lent itself to an abundance of revenge, and he himself would certainly never openly comment on it one way or another, beyond benign denial (as seen above) and careful phrasing.

Starlight, confident that Richard was definitely joking this time, kept things going:

“And what’s your plan?” She asked.

“I don’t have plans, really, I just do what I’m told,” Richard said, this being a useless non-answer that Stralight couldn’t work with. Gritting her teeth a little she pressed on to try and better articulate what she was driving at:

“I mean, what do you hope happens? Ideally? What do you wan- what would you prefer to happen now that Chrysalis is here? And reformed?”

Quick thinking with Starlight’s choice of words, there, and cunning too. Less so on the mention of ‘reformed’, however - Richard still find the subject a little dicey. He did get where she was coming from this time, mind.

“Nothing too spectacular. Just hope everyone can learn to get along comfortably and happily. Hope Chrysalis finds a way of adapting to her changed circumstances one way or another, finds an outlet for her boundless energy and finds continued use for me. Very low-key, I’m afraid,” he said.

Given Chrysalis’s previous occupation and previous behaviour this seemed like something of a step-down to Starlight, thought she supposed there were ways it didn’t necessarily have to be. There was one outstanding issue for her though:

“What if she wants to, you know, continue being evil?” She asked.

Loaded choice of words, Richard felt.

“Oh, well, these things are relative, aren’t they?” He asked in response.

After all, weren’t good and evil just names that signified our appetites and aversions? Things that, in different tempers, customs and doctrines, were different? And, following a similar but not strictly related line, wasn’t it the case that often someone’s conscience and judgement were the same thing and that, as with judgement, so also conscience could also be erroneous?

Starlight had been (and was) thinking in more practical terms:

“Trying to take over the world is relative?” She asked, head cocked.

To say nothing of kidnapping someone and sticking them in a cave, pretending to be them, exerting magical mental domination over your victim’s spouse-to-be, having hordes of your minions come flooding in to cause all manner of fright and mayhem, more kidnap…

The list went on.

Richard actually thought about this for a split second and took that long to realise he wasn’t the one best-placed to argue the issues, so he just waved a hand.

“I’m not really into details. I’m sure you could find someone far better to argue the toss on these things with, I’m far too dense. The point is that I am sticking with her majesty whatever she might choose to do, because I said I would.”

“And because you want to? Stick with her, I mean. Even if you hadn’t said you would?” Starlight asked.

Richard opened his mouth to speak but then caught just the whiff of insinuation that Starlight had laced into what she’d said, at which point he went just the teeniest, tiniest bit pink about the cheeks.

“Well, yes. Lucky how that works out, really,” he said with a restrained smile.

Starlight looked him over.

“Can I ask you a blunt question?” She asked.

“By all means,” he said and Starlight chewed her lip, wondering if there was any way to be less blunt before deciding to just throw caution to the window and lay it out plain:

“Are you in love with Chrysalis?”

Seemed a pretty obvious question, given what had happened and all. Also very much a ‘Is Kelly your wife or your dog’ kind of situation that was in desperate need of clarification as far as Starlight was concerned.

He’d said she looked cute while she was sleeping. That wasn’t the sort of thing you could just let slide on by without picking up on.

Richard however had not expected this question at all and promptly choked, reduced to pounding his chest and wheezing, doubled-over. This drew some alarmed attention from those passing by.

“Ooh, hah -” he said, followed by some more coughing and fist hammering. “Oh my. That was blunt! I - she and I - love is a very strong word, you see, and - well - I can’t speak for her, and - you see - the nature of our relationship is, ah - I’m just a servant, really, it’s not - hmm…”

Richard stopped speaking when he realised he was just making a mess. Taking a breath he straightened out his trousers and allowed himself a moment or two to collect his thoughts and get them in a proper order. Starlight stood and waited.

“The queen - Chrysalis, her majesty - has a powerful sense of self that I find rather, ah, affecting. Arresting? She knows who she is, what she wants, that sort of thing. Someone who expects the world to mould to them, and doesn’t go the other way. It’s very unlike me, but it intrigues me. Even if recent, well, events let’s say might have knocked her for six I still think that same energy she’s always had is still in there. A lot about her might have changed here and there, but she hasn’t changed, she’s still her, still got that motivation. Just now it’s a question of that motivation trying to find something to apply itself to, since she’s in something of a rough patch and lacking a lot of her former resources, as it were. Maybe it can apply itself to something a little less, you know, unfriendly. Ideally I’d like that, as I said before, speaking selfishly. I think it might work out well for her too, possibly? We live in hope,” Richard said.

Quite the mouthful, he felt, and likely not anything approaching a proper answer.

Then he shrugged.

“Or so I like to think. Who knows? Maybe she’s just forever maniacal and will revert back to her old, domineering ways once she’s got through this rough patch of cuddliness. Maybe that’s just who she is. Maybe that’s the way she’s meant to be and I am indeed selfish for wanting otherwise. Whatever works for her, really. I imagine I’ll remain rather fond of her either way. Certainly I’ll stick by her, as I said,” he said.

“You’re, uh, quite easygoing about these things, aren’t you?” Starlight asked, one eyebrow raised.

“Prefer to think of it as flexibility. I take things as they come,” Richard said.

“Still didn’t really answer the question,” Starlight pointed out. He smiled - no pulling the wool over this pony’s eyes, apparently.

“No, I suppose it didn’t, for which I can only apologise,” he said.

It was still probably about as good as she was going to get, Starlight realised, at least for now, and pushing the question further would be an uphill struggle. It would do for now.

“Sorry to throw so many questions at you, it’s just, well, I do wonder and worry about her - and you - and it’s kind of relevant. Twilight is meeting with the other princesses today,” she said.

“So she said. Well, she said she had a meeting, was light on the details. Sounds important,” Richard said. Starlight waved a hoof semi-dismissively.

“Eh, probably not that important. From what I heard they mainly drink tea and eat cake at these things. But it seems pretty safe to bet that they’ll bring up what happened to Chrysalis and how she’s here right now and they’ll probably decide on doing something about it.”

Kind of had to, really. A sad drawback of being in charge of things was often being expected to make decisions. One of the many reasons why Richard personally avoided it if he could help it.

“That would make sense. How very ominous,” Richard said, frowning.

“Doubt it’ll be anything bad. But it’ll be something, and Chrysalis just doesn’t strike me as the sort to sit back and let something happen to her. You know?” Starlight said.

“And you’re worried that she may overreact if she gets the impression that she’s being treated as a problem to be solved?” Richard asked.

“I didn’t say that...but yes. Even you have to admit that that could happen,” Starlight said.

Richard gave this some thought, running through a couple of test scenarios in his head. Her behaviour had been very restrained lately, he knew, but he also knew that everyone had limits.

“...it’s a possibility,” he said. Starlight nodded seriously.

“Like I said though it won’t be anything bad. Probably just be a visit, maybe. A conversation, maybe, ideally. But maybe, uh, just...suggest the possibility of them deciding to come here to Chrysalis? So it doesn’t come as a surprise if they do show up to talk to her?” She said and Richard nodded too, seeing wisdom in this.

“The other princesses: do they make a habit of travelling with guards?” He then asked, apparently out of nowhere. Starlight blinked.

“On occasion,” she said, as after all they had been known to, from time to time.

Richard considered this and ran through another test scenario where Chrysalis opened the window of their dinky little bedroom in the dinky little house they’d been graciously put up in only to find herself confronted with however many other princesses Equestria had (Richard wasn’t entirely sure on the numbers) and a few score guards standing around.

He couldn’t see that ending well. Even as an unlikely worst-case he didn’t like it.

“This is all rather too serious for me,” he said, sadly, shoulders slumping.

“Hey, look, we’re all friends here - or would like to be - so don’t worry. Whatever gets decided on will probably work out fine, everything’s probably going to go fine. Just, you know, mention it to her and take things slow,” Starlight said in tones of warm reassurance. Certainly, Richard felt his spirit buoyed immediately, smiling again and stooping to pick up his bags.

“Sage advice. You’re very good at this sort of thing. You should be a guidance counselor or something, you know,” he said.

Starlight gave him a flat look but, as always, Richard remained utterly immune.

“You don’t say,” she said.

“I do! But anyway, yes, as pleasant as this little chat was I really must be getting on - her majesty’s probably up and awake now and wondering where I am. Wouldn’t do to keep her waiting. I’ll, uh, I’ll mention the possibility of...possibilities to her, gently, and see how things go. You have a lovely day now, Starlight,” Richard said, giving a bob of the body to say goodbye as his hands were too full to wave.

“You too,” Starlight said, waving, because she wasn’t holding bags and so she could.

And they went their separate ways.


View Online

Luna was speaking. Or rather, Luna was wrapping up:

“...and so with an adjustment made to the path of the comet - again we thank Twilight for her calculations.”

A nod to Twilight here, who nodded back, glowing mildly from the acknowledgement.

“With a minor adjustment collision was averted and all life saved.”

Her piece spoken Luna lent back and took a sip of calming, delicious, well-deserved tea while the others present - Twilight, Celestia and Cadence - applauded politely. Saving all life seemed worthy of a small round of polite applause.

“Beautifully handled! That’ll be another one for the secret files, I think,” Celestia said, levitating a quill and making a note on the pad on the table beside her.

Not a lot of drama involved in magically nudging a comet, and not a lot of benefit in letting it be widely known. The sort of thing that would just make most ponies unhappy. Maybe in a few years, maybe quietly. Presently there were other issues. With the note made Celestia set the quill down and swivelled in Twilight’s direction.

“Now. Chrysalis,” she said. Luna and Cadence also swivelled a bit the better to look at Twilight for this part. Twilight suddenly felt very put on the spot.

“Ah, heh, yes. Thought that might come up,” she said, smiling nervously and shifting. The luxurious, comfortable seat suddenly didn’t feel quite as luxurious or comfortable as it had at the start of the meeting.

“We hear you captured her?” Luna asked.

“We don’t really have her captured per se, it’s more that she’s...a guest…?”

“A guest?” Cadence asked. They’d all had their own level of experience with Chrysalis but hers had perhaps been a tad more personal than most. Certainly, it had felt pretty personal at the time.

“Uh, yeah... It was a little unusual but that’s how it worked out,” Twilight said.

“Luna and I did receive your summary, but if you wouldn’t mind going through it with the three of us? Just so we can hear it from you directly - words on a page are always so dry, I find!” Celestia said, brandishing the summary (which had been nearby) briefly, for demonstrative effect.

Twilight did not mind, so she did, briefly summing up brief events and touching on all the salient points: Queen Chrysalis, previously in the wind, now located and her location known. Also now reformed, somehow. Also now in company of strange (though polite) alien, both of whom were presently in a house in Ponyville.

That was kind of about it, barring some of the fiddlier details. It didn’t take long to sum up.

“-we’re also keeping an eye on the house, obviously to see if anypony comes out who didn’t go in. Or anything, really. Changelings, you know. And you can’t teleport in or out of it either. Just in case,” Twilight said, concluding.

“Wise,” Celestia said, nodding, obtaining more cake.

“A cell may have been wiser…” Luna said, though quietly, earning a semi-sharp look from Celestia and a non-committal tilt of the head from Cadence. For her part, Twilight could understand this response.

It was a notion she had gone through herself. She could see the appeal. Chrysalis, even as she was, even without the element of surprise, wasn’t exactly less-than-dangerous and wasn’t exactly what anyone would call predictable, and on the face of it just letting her potter around a house (even an observed house) seemed kind of mad.

But the situation wasn’t quite as simple as all that, Twilight felt.

“The idea - the hope, my hope - is that friendlier, gentler treatment may yield a positive outcome, which is better in the long run. For her and for everypony else,” she said.

“I can see the logic in that. I still hope the house is sturdy,” Luna said.

“What is a ‘Richard’?” Celestia asked, lifting up a page of the report and squinting down.

This side-tangent caused Twilight’s eyes to light up. No prickly questions of what was the right and what was the wrong thing to do, there! Just an alien! That she’d talked to!

“I’m still not completely sure yet. But he wears trousers. It’s all in this report I made!” She said.

The report was produced and presented to the group. It was a hefty document indeed. Alarmingly hefty given that she’d only talked to the man for a day, and not even a whole day either. Also hefty enough to raise questions about where exactly Twilight had been hiding it up to that point.

Probably best not to ask.

“Hmm,” Luna hummed, taking and flipping through the report, mostly out of politeness, quickly becoming alarmed at the depths to which the text plunged. Comprehensive would be the word.

He did indeed apparently wear trousers, this Richard, this Luna could confirm. She could also confirm that that was only the start of it. It went so much deeper. Apparently he even wore things under the trousers, on occasion. The mind reeled.

“What’s the nature of Chrysalis’s relationship with Richard?” Celestia asked while Luna continued to flip through the report with increasing, albeit low-level alarm as Twilight’s thoroughness and quick work.

“Healthy?” Cadence asked from the sidelines. Kind of caught Twilight off-guard, honestly, but then again holding grudges was quite antithetical to love, so maybe it shouldn’t have come as that much of a surprise she seemed to be expressing sincere concern. Very sincere pony, was Cadence.

“Um, yes?” Twilight ventured.

“I meant more in the sense of what function is he serving. Why does she need the Richard?” Celestia said, though by what details there had been in Twilight’s written summary it rather sounded like everyone needed a bit of the Richard in their lives. Needed Richard to just slide on in there. So to speak.


“Oh! Right! Minion. Kind of,” Twilight said.

“Kind of?” Celestia asked, eyebrow raised, honing in on the ambiguity.

Twilight shrugged helplessly. It was kind of a difficult dynamic to explain. Seeing it in action helped, but only a bit. Richard and Chrysalis were, well, something, certainly. That you could say with confidence. They were certainly something.

“Well that’s what he said he was, said he was just her servant, but we’re not too sure. He clearly had something to do with Chrysalis becoming reformed and we think we know what, but neither of them are...open about it, so we’re not sure, like I say. But they’re clearly both very important to one another.”

“Must be, if he was involved in her reforming,” Cadence said, the unspoken implication that it would take something special to have got through to Chrysalis, of all people, someone who’d been able to stand defiant in the face of her whole hive going against her and not budge an inch at the time.

“Yeah…” Twilight said, scratching her head.

“You sound unsure,” Luna said.

Another helpless shrug. She really wasn’t a fan of being on the spot for this long, especially when she really didn’t have a firm grasp on the subject at hoof.

“They just kind of showed up the other day, an alien with a head wound and the now-reformed fugitive Changeling queen demanding things. It’s too early to be sure of anything…” She mumbled.

“With that being said, what do you believe the next steps should be?” Celestia asked.

More on the spot! It just got worse!

“Me?” Twilight squeaked.

“Of course. We all have our own ideas I’m sure, but you are the one who has dealt with her directly, you know the most about it. So what do you think?”

Twilight had lots of thoughts, all the time, about all sorts of things. Sometimes too many to know what to do with or which ones were even worth the time. This was certainly something she’d given a fair amount of thought to in what little time she’d had available to do it in.

“She’s been through a big change, bigger than the other Changelings, probably,” Twilight said slowly, still thinking as she spoke. “She was the queen, she had the hive looking up to her, she was in charge. And now she doesn’t anymore and, well, she isn’t anymore. On top of everything else, on top of all the other...stuff…”

‘Stuff’ said while Twilight gestured vaguely to herself, as a way of indicating ‘Radical magical physiological, psychological change’. The others got what she was driving at.

Twilight continued:

“So I’m not even going to pretend to know what the best thing to do is, but it seems at least like one of the better things to do is just be slow, gentle, understanding and give the pair of them some space, at least to start with. Maybe later once she’s more settled we can see what else can be done and needs to be done, but for now, gentle. That’s what I think.”

A lot of this friendship business was intuition and gut-feeling anyway, Twilight had come to understand, despite her fierce desire to have it all written down and quantified.

“And you believe that she will not do anything rash?” Luna asked, one of those things that had been lurking on all their minds, and not without good reason.

“Like blow a hole through a wall?” Celestia said, getting odd looks for her trouble. “What? It’s just an example. That would be a rash thing to do.”

She wasn’t wrong. That would be rash. Twilight sighed, wrung out by now.

“I don’t know, honestly. She’s, uh...emotionally fluid might be the polite way of putting it. Right now she’s a guest but she has it in her head that I’m the one under obligation to put her up because it’s my fault what happened to her? And so I have to ‘fix her’? And she also seems to think Richard still needs time to recuperate after his injury when he, uh, doesn’t. I think she knows both of those aren’t really true or possible, but...well, we’re all playing along, and so far it seems to be doing fine. As long as nothing happens to upset her equilibrium I think she’ll be fine,” she said.

“And what might do that? ‘Upset her equilibrium’?” Luna asked. Again with the questions.

“I, uh, I don’t know…”

Emotional fluidity kind of meant that just about anything could do it, and just as easily might mean nothing could. They would have to play it by ear, step by step, day at a time. Hard work, yes, but hopefully worth it in the end when everyone came out the other end happier, healthier and generally just more comfortable.

Celestia picked up on the waves of discomfort radiating off of Twilight and saw how they were now reaching a peak, feeling that they’d arrived at a comfortable conclusion she said:

“We shall trust to your judgement in this, and allow you to take things at whatever pace you feel is best, Twilight. As and when you decide that sufficient progress has been made we can then come in, if you feel it wouldn’t be harmful. We will likely have to speak to Chrysalis at some point, however.”

“Of course,” Twilight said. Understandable.

“Have you contacted Thorax at all?” Cadence asked.

Seemed like a good idea, really, all things considered. He might have some input, some feelings, some opinions.

“I sent him a letter but, uh, he hasn’t got back to me yet,” Twilight said.

“One imagines he must be busy,” said Luna.

“Ah, I know how that is. We’re all busy. Lots of very important things, all the time! Barely any time to think. More tea?” Celestia asked, hovering the teapot about the group in a manner specifically designed to puncture the mood. Luna narrowed her eyes. She didn’t appreciate bathos.

“You did that on purpose,” she said.

“It’s like you know me,” Celestia said sweetly as she topped up Luna’s cup.

A lull followed where further tea and cake was consumed, all present needing a moment of calm and reflection. Once the calm had been reasonably absorbed, Luna levitated over one of her notes.

“There was something else. A relatively petty matter but still one I feel we should at least consider briefly, before we adjourn. It has been brought to my attention that a small but steady number of questionable expense claims have been arriving at the palace.”

“Oh?” Celestia asked. News to her, but then so many of those things tended to slip her by. Luna nodded.

“Take this one, for example. It is barely two hours old, for the purchase of a kilogram of baklava in Ponyville. And see here, ‘Care of Her Majesty’. And that is merely one example, and merely the latest. These have been appearing with some regularity for a good few months now,” she said.

Celestia sat up straighter and leaned over towards Luna, trying to catch sight of the slip of paper.

“They sell baklava by the kilogram in Ponyville?” She asked before realising she might have been being too obvious and sitting back again, clearing her throat and stroking her chin. “I mean, how strange, hmm. What could it mean, hmm...”

Luna’s eyes were narrow again, but only for her sister. When she looked at the other two her expression was softer.

“I assume that neither of you know any more about this than my sister or myself?” She asked. Both Cadence and Twilight shook their heads. Luna sighed.

“Some chancer, then. Irritating. I will have it looked into,” she said.

And there things kind of just tailed off for the day, descending into talk about nothing much of note, occasional scraps of laughter and even more cake.

Such moments were important.


View Online

Chrysalis was, as she often was, waiting for Richard to come back and met him immediately the other side of the door. From the way she was already staring at the point his face would be when it opened, he had to guess she’d been standing in that exact position entirely so her glaring face would be the first thing he saw on his return.

He wondered, briefly, how long she’d been standing like that for.

“You’re late,” she said.

“For which I can only apologise, your majesty, I was-”

“It doesn’t matter why you were late, Richard, it just matters that you are! Did you at least manage to get everything I asked for?” She asked, eyes flicking down to the bags. Richard entered the house more properly, shut the door behind him, and set the bags down.

“I believe so,” he said.

Chrysalis set to rummaging immediately, magically pulling things out for scrutiny, starting with the baklava because it happened to be at the top of the first bag, or at least happened to be the first thing she chanced upon - whichever answer was most pleasing.

“Why was this at the top?” She asked, brandishing the baklava.

“Your instructions gave me the impression that you wanted quick and easy access, your majesty,” Richard said.

Chrysalis - cheeks bulging from having already had about half the box of baklava crammed into them - glared at Richard a little more (just so he could appreciate what thin ice he was on) and then looked over the other supplies she’d pulled out of the bags. The pens, the string, the handy-dandy ultra-portable super-foldable flipchart, etcetera.

“Thish schall be schuffshient fhor my purposhesh,” she said around a mouthful of syrupped pastry, swallowing and adding: “Go Richard, shoo! Out of my way. You’re a distraction, go upstairs.”

“As you wish.”

And so he did that, while Chrysalis took over the bottom part of the dinky little house to serve as her planning lair. As was his custom, Richard did not mind this. He felt he could use the time to work on his memoirs, which he hadn’t started or even thought about starting until she’d sent him upstairs.

Not for widespread consumption his memoirs, obviously, were they ever to exist. Likely wouldn’t be of great interest to most, and those parts that a few maybe would be interested in he probably still couldn’t talk about, for various reasons.

So kind of a non-starter, really, but still amusing to lie on the bed and think about. He later moved onto imagining himself being invited onto Desert Islands Discs, and not for the first time, this serving as an even better way of making the minutes fly past.

Eventually the sounds from below - for Chrysalis did not plan quietly, there was rather a lot of talking to herself and occasional blurts of borderline-maniacal laughter, as might well be expected - ceased, and the house went quiet.

This Richard noticed, as he was in the habit of noticing such things, and his ears pricked to evaluate the silence, for silence came in several varieties and all had to be approached and handled differently.

Identifying what sort this was he gave it a few more minutes and then rose from the bed and, with delicacy, moved back downstairs.

“Your majesty?” He asked cautiously as he tip-toed on his way, keeping his eyes peeled.

The place had previously been tidy. It was now very much not, but that was okay - clearly Chrysalis had been seized by a fierce energy, and this Richard could appreciate. Discarded pens lay hither and yon, whether just having been left to roll there or exhausted who could say?

And then there was the flipchart, standing amidst it all.

At the top of the thing was written ‘Me’ with the rest divided into two sections: pros and cons.

The pros side was rather crowded.

She’d clearly started out writing quite large with well-defined bullet points (such as ‘Fiendishly intelligent’ and ‘Possessed of supernatural grace and elegance’ and ‘Exquisite sense of style and timing’ and so on), but as the side had filled up she’d got smaller and smaller until she’d run out of space, whereupon her excess pros had to be squeezed in wherever she could manage, between lines and in the corners and up and down the sides. There was no room left anywhere for any more at all.

The cons side was, by comparison, rather light. It had two points.

The first point was:

“Too modest.”

The second point - written later judging by how small it was and with the evident dryness of the pen used, the whole thing having the whiff of an afterthought - was:

“Only one (idiot) minion.”

“Nice to know she’s thinking of me,” Richard said, smiling, and then his eyes fell on the queen herself - her majesty being sprawled languidly and luxuriously across the length of the sofa, having clearly decided to have a little nap. She was on her front with one hind leg hanging off the side and trailing on the floor, her chin resting on one arm with her other leg sticking out over the other end, jutting into the air.

She was also drooling, but just a tiny bit. And, well, that happened to the best of us so it was hardly fair calling attention to it, Richard felt, moving in to kneel down and give her a gentle shake by the shoulder.

“Your majesty,” he said softly.

Chrysalis awoke with a snort. This didn’t help the drool.

“Hnrh? Wha? I’m awake, I was awake, who dares - ! Oh, Richard, it’s you. Hello,” she said, what had been a snarl-in-the-making melting instead into a still-snoozy smile. Richard smiled back.

“Hello your majesty,” he said.

Her smile widened, her eyes closed.

“I do like hearing that…” She sighed, rolling onto her back and spreading her forelegs apart. “Come closer, I want you closer.”

“As you wish.”

Richard lent in a little more and the instant he was within reach Chrysalis grabbed him, wrapped her legs about his head and squashed him in against her. He’d rather seen this coming, but the suddenness of it did take him off guard a bit.

“Mine, my minion. Mine.” she said, happily, then asking: “Where were you?”

Odd question, all things considered, but then she was still clearly only half-awake.

“Upstairs, your majesty. You sent me out of the way?” Richard prompted, his voice muffled by all the her pressed against his face. Out of the corner of his eye he could see her own eyes opening again, just a little.

“Out of the wa-? Oh yes, yes, I remember now. The plan - the plan!”

Releasing his head she wiggled, struggled to right herself, flailed and then with Richard’s assistance managed to gracefully and elegantly dismount the sofa, whereupon she moved over to the flipchart, Richard in tow.

“A vital first step in planning is being aware of what is available, and since I am what is available, it’s important to take stock, have it all laid out. You learn these things when you’re the queen,” she said, invigorated now and fully-awake.

If nothing else could be said for Chrysalis you could always say that she could turn on a sixpence with next to no effort at all - one moment happily snuggling and dozing, two seconds later upright, sharp and extolling her planning abilities with barely any time wasted. Nought to sixty in fucking nothing at all.

Richard rather liked it about her, honestly.

“Are you paying attention, Richard, or are you just standing there gawking at me? Chrysalis asked. Richard gave a small bow.

“Apologies, your majesty. I was struck briefly by your grace, elegance and exquisite sense of style, as happens to me from time to time,” he said.

Chrysalis might have gained just the merest hint of colour in her cheeks at that. But if anyone had asked her about it she would have told them - rightly! - that it was just a trick of the light.

“W-well pay attention, I’m trying to explain what I’ve done here to you. Explaining things is also an important step!”

“As you say. You have my full and undivided attention.”

“Good! Now, as you can see here, this is a list of my many virtues or my ‘pros’. I had to whittle the list down a bit so I focused on the more important ones,” she said, gesturing to the pros side with a hoof.

“It did seem a bit light,” Richard said.

“If I was doing a full and comprehensive list of my strengths I’d still be writing them down - there isn’t enough ink in the world! So I had to focus, and so this is what we have. This is what I have to work with,” Chrysalis said.

“I see,” Richard said.

Chrysalis then gestured to the other side.

“Now over here we have those things I have to work against. These two cons are the two weaknesses and obstacles I must overcome,” she said.

“Seems sensible.”

“The first is simple enough, I just have to stop this needless modesty!” She stood perfectly still and silent for a moment. Then she smiled. “Done! Good. The second is going to be trickier, even for me. Can’t conjure minions out of thin air - and trying to use logs is simply non-viable, clearly a faulty option in the first place. No winging it, it requires a proper, planned-out solution!”

“Have you considered sticking a couple of those pieces of paper with a telephone number written on little tear-off tabs on the bottom to a few local lampposts?” Richard suggested. It had always struck him as a wonderfully novel idea, though he couldn’t personally vouch for its effectiveness. Had to be worth something if people apparently kept doing it, surely?

Chrysalis ignored his idea with a breeziness that came naturally with her unusually good mood.

“No no no, I’m going to start a new hive! A better one!” She said. Richard raised both eyebrows in salute to her ambitious approach.

“That does sound tricky.”

“Actually it’ll be super easy, barely an inconvenience.”

“Oh really?”

“Really. Simply a matter of breaking it down into stages! Location! Propagation! Construction! Couldn’t be easier,” Chrysalis said, wafting aside her troubles with a wave of her hoof. Simplicity was mostly a question of attitude at the end of the day, probably.

And while breaking things down into manageable steps was always a good idea, Richard couldn’t help but feel there were some key details that might prove tricky when it came to creating a new hive. Or, rather, when it came to populating a new hive.

“How does one get more Changelings, anyway? Does it require two Changeling grown-ups who love one another very much?” He asked, scratching his chin and gazing thoughtfully into middle distance.

Given many of the biologically questionable ways in which Changelings apparently functioned (where did all that extra mass go-stroke-come-from when she changed shape, anyway? Parts unknown?) this seemed far too pedestrian an explanation. At the most, the only thing Richard would commit to expecting about Changeling reproduction was that slime was probably involved in the process, somewhere.

He was not wrong. Oh, he was not wrong.

“It is not a part of the plan that you will have to worry about, Richard,” Chrysalis said, reaching up and patting him on the head then freezing when the possibility that she might have to worry about it crossed her mind.

Would that work? Could that work? She could probably make it work, if she had to. With him. If it came to that. Which it probably wouldn’t. Would it have to come to that?

Hopefully not. Hopefully…

Certainly not something she had the time to dwell on right that second anyway. Maybe later when she was on her own and things were quieter she could think about it, work something out. Later in bed, maybe. Though she might have to think about it at length. But later, alone. Not right then.

Right then was the time to feel satisfied with all the hard work she’d done. Taking a step or two away from the flipchart she faced it and gave a contented sigh, Richard standing beside her.

“This is good, this is good. What’ll be the first step in the right direction. A plan!” She said.

“Very impressive, your majesty,” he said, not really seeing whatever she was seeing but entirely confident she knew what she was doing.

“I am, yes. Now take me back to the sofa, Richard - you interrupted my post-planning rest period.”

“As you wish,” he said, bending down and scooping her up without warning. This made her squeak in alarm and cling to him reflexively, continuing to cling even after he’d walked the barely-a-few-feet back to the sofa and sat down on it, her resting now on his lap.

“...you picked me up without permission,” she said, eventually.

“Ah, sorry. You did say to take you back to the sofa, your majesty,” Richard said.

“...I did...but you shouldn’t assume. I’ll let you off for it this time but in future I shall give you a signal first.”


“I am, yes. Now hold still, I need to get comfortable.”

Chrysalis then spent a happy minute or three furiously wiggling about on Richard’s lap in an effort to find the perfect position to curl up in. At length she found an adequate one and settled into it, happily.

And in this position they sat quietly for a little while, Chrysalis edging towards dozing off again, Richard thinking. He’d have preferred not to be thinking - he’d have preferred just to have occasionally glanced down at her cute, squishy, snoozy face - but sometimes thoughts were unavoidable.

There was still the maybe-delicate-maybe-not-no-way-of-knowing-until-broached subject of the meeting going on wherein which Chrysalis’s future might be a topic of discussion. It wasn’t the sort of thing Richard felt could be left to fester or be ignored and put off.

She was going to find out sooner or later after all, and it would probably be better she found out sooner via him than later, when someone official showed up to start walking her through some sort of, say, friendship plan they’d cooked up for her.

Best to get it out the way, gently.

“Oh yes your majesty, there was something I meant to tell you,” Richard said.

“Hmm?” She hummed snoozily, not moving otherwise and not looking at him - only barely listening.

“While I was out I just-so happened to bump into Starlight Glimmer again, and she and I had a brief chat. That’s not what I meant to tell you, that’s just the preamble.”

Her previously cheerful, energised mood dried up rather as a puddle does on a particularly sunny day. Her eyes opened, and her face lost most traces of that cute squishiness. This would be another of those ‘turning on a sixpence’ moments.

“You were speaking with Starlight Glimmer? Alone? Again?” She asked.

“Yes well I just bumped into her, you know. Small world and all that. Hardly alone anyway, just in the street. But as I was saying, we just had a little natter me and her, and it kind of wandered onto that meeting that Princess Twilight is having that I mentioned. If you recall?”

“Where are you going with this, Richard,” Chrysalis said, more as a demand or ultimatum than as a question. Her tone was a warning one. Richard swallowed lightly and plunged onward.

“I’m told that the meeting is, in fact, something of a princess get-together - I don’t know how many princesses this place has, I assume lots - where they all sit and chat with tea and cake, which is fine. I only mention it because there is the possibility that, you know, at this little gathering, your presence here and what the future might hold for you might come up and - and...that sort of...thing…”

Words began to fail Richard at this point in the sentence because Chrysalis’s eyes started burning a hole in him.

“So what you are telling me, Richard, is that right now, somewhere, a cadre of my enemies are happily discussing myself and my life and what is going to happen to me as you might discuss what to do with the remains of dinner, and are doing so over tea and cakes while I’m sat here, with you, looking at a flipchart?” She asked. Her voice was disarmingly steady.

Richard started to get the impression he might have made a mistake in starting this line of conversation.

“I don’t know for certain, it’s just the impression I got was that it was a possibility, your majesty. I can’t imagine it’s anything to worry about,” he said.

Not anything to-!” She hissed, scrambling off of his lap and back onto the floor again, the better to face him square-on. “These are not ou- my friends! A queen does not have friends! She has servants and she has enemies! These are my enemies! The only reason they are still alive at all is that it is presently in my best interests to allow it!”

“Of course, but you’re getting back on your feet, aren’t you? With the planning?” Richard asked, nodding towards the flipchart.

“Yes but - this - ! This is not - !”

Chrysalis was sputtering, because she was finding it hard to articulate what she was feeling.

Feeling anything in the first place (other than malice and ravenous hunger) remained highly disorientating, but attempting to convey why writing some things down on a piece of paper was not in any way adequate planning when being done in a house owned by your enemies where they knew you were and was little more than a glorified, cushy cell (because clearly that’s what this was, now she thought about it) was something she couldn’t quite wrap her head around.

It was too obvious! Where was she meant to start?

“Whatever it is they’re discussing, assuming they’re even discussing anything, assuming you even come up at all, I’m sure they have our - your, sorry - best interests at heart, your majesty,” Richard said, attempting to sound soothing. It did not work. Chrysalis was not soothed.

Was he joking?

She blinked at him, waiting for the punchline. But there was no punchline.

Richard didn’t know what to say when she just kept gaping at him, and Chrysalis’s mind was racing too much for her to say anything. Why hadn’t she considered this before now? Why hadn’t she already taken it into account?! That her enemies would already be scheming?!

They’d probably insist on helping her in coming to terms with what had happened to her and how she had to be now and there’d be advice and support and they’d want to be friends and the whole thing just sounded like a nightmare.

And that’s what was being discussed about her, without her, right now. Right that second! Richard had confirmed it! That’s exactly what he’d said, he’d confirmed it.

The possibility always existed, of course, that her enemies, minds infinitely inferior to hers, regarding her success with envious eyes, were out there slowly and surely drawing their plans against her. Indeed, this wasn’t so much a possibility as a fact - her enemies were out there all the time, always drawing plans against her. That was just what being a queen was.

Usually though it didn’t matter because she was a dozen steps ahead of the game, having already won that game and moved onto playing a different game entirely. Usually it didn’t matter because she was on top of things, sharp, in control.

And while she remained sharp, Chrysalis could admit that things lately had perhaps slipped just ever-so-slightly out of her control, through no fault of her own. So now those myriad, inferior enemies would be closing the gap on her. Soon, they might start coming close to winning not through sheer, dumb, blind luck but just because she’d started lagging!

Because she had started lagging, she realised with a thrill of horror! She had! Through no fault of her own, obviously, but still, that didn’t change the reality of the situation.

Hadn’t she lost everything? Had it snatched away? Been undermined? Betrayed? Yes! Yes she had!

And it was still happening! If anything it was getting worse!

Her ungrateful, treacherous underlings all turning on her had been one thing, that had been bad. They’d been weak and Starlight Glimmer had been a malign, foul force working against her. That happened sometimes. The hive collapsing had been bad, sure, but you could always just build another one, it wasn’t hard.

These are trifles. Annoying, but not insurmountable.

What had happened to her though was orders of magnitude worse! An assault on her very being! Look at what had happened to her! She hadn’t drained an emotion in days! She hadn’t needed to! Hadn’t even wanted to! Horrifying! What had they done to her?!

What had Richard done to her?

There was an idea. What had he done to her?

It was his fault, after all. She’d said as much, hadn’t she? More than once, and to his face. And she’d been right. It was his fault! If it wasn’t for him she’d have been fine. She would be fine! She’d probably have won by now! Bounced right back and carried on to complete domination! He’d ruined it all! It was all him!

And look at him! Sitting there like everything was perfectly okay. Like he was totally comfortable with everything that had happened to her. Like he’d wanted it to happen to her! With that dumb, worried, concerned look on his face! As if he cared! Like she bought that! She was onto him now! Now she got it! Now she could see!

It was him! Him!

“NO!” She shrieked, so suddenly, so loudly and so violently that she managed to blow out every window on the ground floor of the dinky little house and rattle the ones upstairs.

Richard, wincing, had to clap his hands over his ears and still had them there when, a second later, Chrysalis came barreling into him, heaved him to his feet and bore him bodily into the nearest wall, where she pinned him, reared up on her hind legs, forehooves (somehow) gripping him by the collar.

For a rather svelte bug-horse thing with a (subjectively) cute squishy face she was alarmingly strong, even leaving aside the magic. Quite scarily strong, in fact - a hideous strength entirely out of proportion to her size. Richard sometimes forgot this.


Richard felt it was probably a bad sign that she’d picked the same words he had worried she’d pick. Suggested she was going in exactly the direction he’d hoped she wouldn’t.

“Your maj-” he started.

Chrysalis thumped him against the wall, which was one way of cutting him off.

Don’t ‘your majesty’ me! I’m onto you, Richard! It was you all along, wasn’t it?! This was your plan! From the beginning! This was all your fault! All of it! From the start! I can see it now! One set-back would have been bad enough, but a whole string of them?! With you there with me the whole time?! What do I even really know about you, RICHARD?! Nothing! Trying so hard to be a good minion! Too hard! I was desperate! I’d lost everything! I foolishly took whatever help I could get. Wasn’t it convenient you appeared when you did? WASN’T IT?!” She snarled, her face so close to his they were basically nose-to-nose.

“I would nev-”

Another thump, this one a touch harder just to get the point across. The various frames of generic art hung on the walls all jumped in sympathy. One fell off, smashing on the floor.

SILENCE, RICHARD! I should have known from the start! I should have seen it! You exploited my brief window of weakness! You picked your moment well, catching me at my lowest! My most vulnerable! That was your plan! That’s what you all wanted! They sent you to do it! A little scheme you all cooked up together! You were in with them from the beginning! Their tool! THEIR CATSPAW!”

Her train of thought was thoroughly out of control at this point, screaming along the tracks, downhill, shedding components at a rate of knots, violently detonating cattle on its cowcatcher and venting steam from a number of alarming ruptures, whistling all the while.

So to speak.

Certainly Richard, who rather prided himself on his ability to understand where Chrysalis was usually coming from, for once found himself utterly at a loss. She seemed to be changing her theory of who was to blame and why from sentence to sentence. From the start to the end of a sentence, indeed.

He found himself starting to get a touch worried. Really worried.


Thump. Somewhere a vase fell over.

NO! I’m not listening to another word! Look where it got me! Writing on a flipchart and thinking it was a good use of my time! Eating food! NAPPING! This is all your fault, Richard! You did this to me, Richard! Look at me! Look at what you did to me! This is what you wanted all along, isn’t it?! That’s why they put you up to it! To soften me! To - to hobble me! To stop me being a threat! And - and that’s why you - why you found me when you did! And stayed with me! A-and looked after me! To make me think I wanted you to stay! That I need you to stay! That-”

The out-of-control downhill train of thought derailed completely, and whatever was happening in her head ceased being easily translatable into words. It was just a mass of incomprehensible feelings now, too much to be contained in just her brain and so instead spilling out to fill her others organs, causing them all to twist as she glared helplessly at Richard, who this time decided to keep his mouth shut.

The moment drew on. Chrysalis sniffed.

Why?” She asked in an alarmingly small voice.

This, combined with the borderline-pleading look in her eyes, gave Richard pause, and he thought desperately about what he could say that might best mend the situation. He honestly had no idea. He couldn’t even begin to imagine what might be going on inside her head.

He swallowed.

“If you’d prefer I go, your majesty, I can go. I’m sure you don’t need me,” he said.

Chrysalis’s glaring changed almost immediately to a look of bewilderment. Hurt, even!

“Don’t - don’t say that…”

Richard swallowed again, and though he didn’t really want to continue, he did anyway, because he felt he had to. He’d started, would be worse not to finish.

“If you think it’s best. If I’m holding you back or tripping you up. Whatever you think is best. I don’t want to get in the way of you doing what you want to do. Whatever makes you happy, your maj-”

“Don’t! That’s not - it’s too late anyway! And it’s not about happiness. It was never about happiness! It was about doing what I knew I had to do! I don’t do happiness! I didn’t do happiness…” she trailed off, there, and seemed a little distant for a moment. But then she snapped back. “Not until this happened! And it has happened. It’s happened. It’s done.”

She released her grip on his collar and dropped back onto all fours, stepping away from him.

“I’m sure Princess Twilight can work something out. Get you back the way you were,” Richard said.

Chrysalis was going to snap at him for that one - dense idiot - but as she worked up the bile to do so it all just slipped away. What was the point? Instead she just sighed, and seemed to shrink just the tiniest little bit.

“There’s no cure for this, I know there’s no cure for this. I knew from the start, when I first saw myself after it had happened. It’s not something that can be cured. It’s a change, not an affliction, something that has to be understood. But I don’t want to! I shouldn’t have to! I knew who I was! I had a drive! I had the hunger, I knew what to do! Nothing was ever enough, that was how it worked! It kept me going! There was a hole inside me that swallowed everything up, no matter what I did. It hurt, but I understood it! Now that’s gone! And everything I used to do is gone and everything is new and I don’t know what I want now! The hole is gone! It filled in! I’m full of things I don’t understand! They weren’t there before. None of it makes sense. I understood myself before! I went one way! Forward! Now I feel like I’m being pulled apart in every direction but forward! Now what?!”

Richard didn’t have an answer to this, and more’s the point he imagined (rightly) that Chrysalis didn’t want anyone else’s answers to this. She wanted to make her own answer. Not find her own answer, make her own answer. Because that was what she did, or what she was supposed to do, or what she thought she was supposed to do.

She stood up a touch straighter.

“I can start again. If I start again maybe it’ll make sense. I’ll go and I’ll start again,” she said.

Richard made to move - he wasn’t even sure what he’d been planning on doing, honestly - but Chrysalis’s hoof whipped up and stopped him in his tracks.

“No, no. Stay. Stay right there. Don’t move. Don’t say anything. Just stay right there,” she said. He did as he was told. Her hoof remained raised a second or so longer just to make sure he got the point and then dropped again. She sighed.

“This has gone on long enough,” she said. “I have to start again. Start again, keep going. It’s who I am, it’s what I do. No matter what has happened or will happen to me, it’s who I am. I have to start again. And I have to do it alone. Without you.”

This made sense to her, then, at that moment. Right then it was the correct choice. It was horrible and it hurt in a way she’d never encountered before, but it made sense, she told herself.

She also told herself that it was the only option, that it was what had to happen, and any notions to the contrary were just the result of how mixed up and ruined things had been lately. Those worries - and that nagging, gnawing desire not to do what she was planning to do - would pass.

And things would get back to normal, how they were meant to be. And she’d know what to do, and who she was. Back to being the queen the way she was meant to be the queen. The way things had been before everything had gone wrong.

A simple and direct way of dealing with the stress of not knowing which way to go is to go backwards and brick up the way behind you so you don’t have to worry about it anymore. While retreading old ground might get a little monotonous, it at least avoids the possibility of making a mistake, which is terrifying. You’ll know which way you’re going, because you’ve gone that way before.

Not that Chrysalis was scared of that. Or that she was going backwards. Or doing anything that was in any way negative, poorly thought out or in any way less than the optimal option. A queen wouldn’t do that kind of thing. And she was a queen.

She was The Queen.

So that settled that. Sniffling again and swallowing she stood up straight, resolute, and looked Richard in the eye - Richard who was still standing perfectly still, not saying anything.

“Richard,” Chrysalis said. “You were the worst thing that could have happened to me, happening at the worst time.”

He didn’t say anything to that, either, as hard as it was for him not to. He did look away from her though, down at his feet, over at a wall. Anywhere really, just as long as it wasn’t at her.

And now it was time to leave.

The dinky little house had been set up to (somehow, it wasn’t worth getting into how) block teleporting, as Chrysalis had guessed and previously tested in a moment of idle speculation, but probably not explosions, she thought. Thought rightly, in fact. This was an oversight that the wall of the house suffered for, by having a very large hole blown through it by Chrysalis.

There was a door, but apparently she hadn’t been in the mood to open it.

Coughing and wafting aside dust Richard squinted and caught what might have been a flash and what could have been the briefest glimpse of something small and bird-like flapping away at speed, but then nothing, and she was gone.

Outside, some distant ponies looked alarmed, but that was about it.

As the dust settled Richard wandered up to the massive hole in the side of the tiny house and stood, scanning the sky. Then the ground. Then the sky again, just in case he’d maybe missed her somewhere. Still nothing. She was gone.

Richard sighed. He would have sunk down and just started sitting on the floor with his hands in his lap and probably never stood up again - he really, really wanted to - but sheer force of will kept him standing. It was the done thing to keep standing.

Important to keep going.

“That...probably could have gone better,” he said to himself, sadly. Then he looked to the hole. Some of the exposed, splintered wood was smouldering. Likely a bad sign, but that was magic for you. “This’ll need fixing, too.”

And though Richard knew that he knew a guy who knew a guy who could do walls, for some reason he just couldn’t muster the energy to do anything about it right that second. Right that second he preferred to do and think of absolutely nothing at all.

So he just stayed standing there, scanning the sky. Just in case.


View Online

Panting, Starlight came hurtling through the hole in the wall and to a breathless, skidding halt in the middle of the dinky little house’s lounge-area, looking about wildly.

“What? What happened?” She asked, taking in the ridiculous level of mess strewn about the room (scattered scraps of balled-up paper, discarded pens, what appeared to be a tipped-over flipchart, etcetera) and then spotting Richard sitting on the sofa, legs crossed, holding a cup of tea. He was staring into space, and it was a second or so before he even seemed to notice Starlight had appeared.

“Oh hello Starlight. Small world. Again,” he said, raising his teacup in greeting.

Starlight just goggled at him.


This was about as far as she got in asking him what had happened before she was cut off by the house giving a loud, low creak and an alarming crack spidering its way across the ceiling, trickling plaster down over both of them. Fortunately, the house remained standing.

Richard sipped his tea.

“It sounds worse than it is, I’m sure.”

“You need to get out!” Starlight hissed, afraid to speak too loudly lest she startle the house.

Another creak, this one closer to a groan. Richard glanced up.

“You’re probably right,” he said.

Standing, he made his way slowly and calmly out the way Starlight had came, her practically hopping behind him in an effort to get him to speed up.

She would have done something magical to get him out faster, but was worried that the sudden snap-pow-vacuum of a teleport or the general magical wibbliness of a levitation might be the nudge the house needed to finally give up completely, so didn’t, instead just trying to get him to hurry up by thinking fast thoughts, to little obvious effect.

It took seconds for Richard to exit, but it felt considerably longer to Starlight, bringing up the rear as she was.

No sooner had Richard taken two steps out of the hole and out from the house then the building gave a final, especially distressed noise of architectural anguish and collapsed in on itself rather sadly, blasting out a great exhalation of dust past Richard who stood, cup in hand, frowning.

Once the dust started settling he turned in place and turned his frown upon the wreckage.

“That’s a shame. I rather liked that house.”

He then took another sip of his tea, grimaced, and poured the rest away.

“Debris in my tea. Not my cup of tea. Hah.”

Starlight had gone back to goggling at him. She’d avoided the worst of the dust on account of magic, and so was stood in a perfect circle of clean ground without a speck on her. More importantly though this allowed her to ask loud questions without choking.

“What happened?! Where’s Chrysalis?!” She asked (without choking).

For the tiniest moment of time - rather like a single frame, if life were divided up into frames - Richard looked like he winced. But it could just as easily have been Starlight’s imagination. Or the dust. Or anything, really.

“Oh, her majesty is taking some time to herself,” he said.

Starlight blinked at him, waiting for more. As was often the case with Richard there was no more.

“...what?!” Starlight sputtered.

“Sorry. Not a helpful answer, was it? She’s gone, she’s left,” Richard said, gesturing vaguely off into the distance with his non-mug holding hand. This led to a bit more blinking from Starlight as she tried to parse the sentence for hidden meaning.

In the event there wasn’t any, it was pretty cut-and-cry.

“She escaped? Why didn’t she take you?” She asked.

Another flash of a maybe-wince.

“Well, do you remember earlier when we were speaking how we said there might be a concern that she could overreact?” Richard asked.

“Yes,” Starlight said. She did remember. Remembering things that happened earlier in the day was one of her many skills.

“I broached the subject of her future being discussed and she might have reacted...strongly. Probably did a poor job of explaining it, honestly,” Richard said. Starlight busted out another flat look for him but, again, it didn’t really register.

“So she’s escaped,” she said. Richard waggled a ‘maybe-maybe’ hand and said:

“‘Escaped’ is a loaded term, really.”

Growling in frustration Starlight flopped onto her haunches and put her face in her hooves. This was another fine mess and no mistake. She might start to think she’d done something in a past life to be this unlucky but probably didn’t have to go that far back. Not that thinking such thoughts was healthy, of course.

“Surprised that one of you lot wasn’t keeping an eye on the house,” Richard said, doing his best to make an indelicate subject come across as delicate as possible. Starlight’s face did not leave her hooves.

“We were!” She said loudly, though muffledly.

“Oh, you were? Surprised one you lot didn’t show up sooner, in which case. She did break the windows, it was rather loud,” Richard said. In his experience having windows explode was usually a warning sign and a good time to start taking action. Starlight made a wordless - though entirely understandable - annoyed noise.

“We were taking it in shifts, and nature called, and it was only a minute or two, I didn’t think…!” She then said, not seeing the point in finishing the sentence.

Somewhere in there lurked an explanation. Whether it was adequate or not was likely open to some debate and personal opinion. Richard, for his part, could certainly see how things might have worked out the way they did, having heard that. He nodded to himself as he ran it through his head.

“So Chrysalis managed to, entirely by chance, decide to do what she did the one point in the day when eyes were turned away for the briefest of windows. What deeply unfortunate and coincidental timing. Life, eh? Funny how these things go,” he said.

Starlight lowered a hoof enough to open one eye and peer at him, seeing then - for the first time in this conversation - just how powerfully miserable Richard looked. Perfectly normal and composed looking by most people’s standards (for an alien) but Starlight had enough of a read on him by now to pick up on the fact he clearly wasn’t at his best. Subtle, but it was there.

Had she been anyone else, she would have missed it.

“You’re very - are you okay, Richard?” She asked, both hooves dropping now.

“You know me, Starlight, I’m always okay,” he said, smiling.

“I really don’t know you. At all.”

That she had picked up on his misery was more informed guesswork and lucky timing than anything else.

“Well, then let me tell you that I am always okay.”

The rest of the gang showed up at this point, the ponies that had been present when the whole deal with the dinky house had been hashed out in the first place, the ones that Richard had learnt were something of a group of local celebrities.

Or world-saving heroes? He couldn’t remember. Certainly, they seemed a pleasant enough lot to him either way.

Flapping and galloping they all somehow managed to arrive more-or-less at the same time, all looking very concerned and determined. The rainbow-haired one opened her mouth to speak first - presumably to ask just what was going down - but the pink one beat her to it:

“We came fast as the structure of the narrative would allow!” She said with fierce energy, her face set. No-one felt it wise to comment on this (that way madness and existential crisis lay) and instead attention fell to Starlight, being the one already on the scene.

“What happened?” Asked the one with the nice hat and pleasant accent, also looking very serious and set. Professionals, plainly.

The situation did not take long for Starlight to sum up, and just as quickly as they’d arrived the gang split off their separate ways, to search, and also to try and get word back to Twilight and the other princesses as fast as possible. Richard was very impressed by their can-do attitude and rapid response. It was like they’d done this sort of thing before!

He was also on his Tod, standing by the wreckage holding his mug, at something of a loose end. The quiet times in his life recently were typically the small moments between doing things Chrysalis told him to do. Without that he wasn’t wholly sure what to do with himself. He looked into his empty mug. It was still empty.

“The bug-horse has bolted, I’m afraid, but by all means lock the stable door,” he said to himself. “Not sure what I mean by that,” he added.

He then wandered off to find somewhere quiet to sit.


View Online

A little while later, Starlight tracked Richard down again, finding him sitting on a bench fairly close to the centre of town, people watching. Or pony watching, rather.

Alarmingly she’d actually managed to walk past him a few times without noticing him initially, which - given how much he stuck out once she did notice - was kind of unnerving. Suddenly his joke about being able to get into places by simply walking in and then walking back out again didn’t seem that much of a joke.

“There you are,” she said, strolling up.

Richard took a brief moment to finish appreciating the distant sight of a happy pony couple out for a stroll before smiling down at Starlight.

“Hello again Starlight. Quite the day this, isn’t it?” He said.

“It’s something,” she said, hopping up to sit down next to him, which perplexed him a little. He twisted in place to peer down at her.

“Surely there are more pressing matters than sitting next to me?” He asked.

“The others are searching, we’ve sent word to the princesses. I thought it’d be a good idea to find you,” Starlight said. Richard’s brow furrowed, though he kept on smiling all the same. An expression of bemusement more than anything.

“Whyever so?”

“In case Chrysalis came back to get you.”

Made pretty good sense to her. Clearly there had to be something going on with the pair of them (whatever that something might be), and just because Chrysalis had left without Richard didn’t mean she wouldn’t change her mind about it and come back without warning to grab him. She was nothing if not whimsical. So why not stake him out, just in case? They’d be kicking themselves if they missed it!

So Starlight was on Richard duty, for now.

Richard’s smile lessened a little and he untwisted so he was facing ahead again, back to watching life go by.

“Heh, I wouldn’t worry. Not much immediate risk of that,” he said.

Sounded like the sort of statement worth investigating to Starlight. On the one hoof the sort of thing that might give some insight into Chrysalis’s present state of mind, therefore something of tangible use in the circumstances. On the other, clearly something eating at Richard, whom Starlight had a bizarre sort of fondness for.

Also basic decency demanded that such an obvious sore spot be at least approached to see if any assistance or soothing could be rendered. Another being was in clear emotional distress!

Well, assumed emotional distress. There was the possibility of distress. Kind of hard to tell with Richard. But still! She scooched a little along the bench to bring herself closer to Richard and placed a comforting, platonic hoof onto his leg. Physical contact was often important. Apparently.

“What happened?” She asked.

Richard politely and gently removed her hoof from his leg but drew no further comment to it.

“We were having quite a nice day together, I thought. I’d done a little shopping, she’d done a little planning, we were having a little cuddle - ah, ignore that last part if possible, please,” he said, grimacing at having let such a personal detail slip. Starlight gave him a playful bump with her side, friendly-like.

“Too late, I’m picturing it,” she said.

“Oh dear.”

There followed the rolling of eyes from Starlight.

“Don’t worry, I won’t tell her. You do know she and I don’t talk, Richard, right?”

“Yes well, still, I have to be sure of these things. Anyway. It was nice is what I was driving at, nice and pleasant. And then of course I did my best to gently broach the subject of that princess meeting - feeling she’d find out one way or another, sooner or later - and clearly I did a poor job as her majesty...did not react well,” Richard said, the look on his face suggesting that his choice of words had something of a sour flavour.

“I’m assuming some things happened before the hole in the wall,” Starlight said.

Most things - even things involving Chrysalis - had some buildup before holes started appearing in walls. The possibility existed that a situation could go from ‘calm’ to ‘hole in the wall’ without any intervening action, but those would probably be outliers and black swans.

Starlight was angling towards finding out what their argument had been about, basically, as clearly they had had an argument and clearly it had ended with, well, a hole in the wall and an escape. So finding out about it seemed a good idea.

“I’d rather not get into the exact details if it’s all the same to you, Starlight,” Richard said.

“Would be kind of helpful to know. I don’t want to pry but if we have an idea of what happened we might have a better idea of what she’s thinking, where she went and what she might be doing. As much as anypony can be said to know any of those things with her…” Starlight said, descending into muttering at the end.

Richard could see the line of thought in this. It made a kind of sense he could respect. He sighed, but it was more just an especially tired breath outward than what anyone else might think of as a sigh.

“There’s not a lot to say. I may have been thumped against a wall a few times, she may have said a few things she - that I hope she just said in the heat of the moment, the details aren’t vital. She got upset. That’s the main thing. She is upset,” Richard said, as close to firmly as he could manage, even stepping up to making a demonstrative chopping gesture with his hand.

And though he said that the details weren’t vital there was one detail in what he’d said that Starlight couldn’t help but pick up on.

“Thumped against a wall?” She asked. Richard wafted this aside.

“Only lightly,” he said.

“You probably shouldn’t make excuses for that sort of behaviour.”

He thought about that, and thought about arguing about that, but then thought better of it.

“...probably not. But I am. I wonder what that says about me,” he said.

“Hmm,” Starlight went, letting him draw his own conclusions and also leaving an opening for a response. Possibly a mistake, in hindsight, as after a second or two of quiet reflection Richard let rip with:

“I mean, if I glowed brightly and changed colour I’d be a bit upset too. Doubly so if the way I took in nourishment was changed in the process. That’s going to be some adjustment period. Particularly with it following on the trot from, well, a few of her plans being non-starters. I think she needs a holiday.”

“...right,” Starlight said, looking at him sideways. Chrysalis likely needed (and maybe deserved) many things, a holiday was not foremost amongst them, as far as Starlight was aware.

And then Richard did himself one better:

“What I’m trying to articulate - poorly, heh - is that, a lot of what she used to define herself has been whipped away, just like that. She was in charge and she had these needs and the needs of her subjects to consider, and had her ways of attempting to fulfil all these, and this was the shape she bent herself around for however long, and now all that is turned on its head, everything she spent her life doing doesn’t need doing anymore. Where does that leave her? Tough to admit you’re obsolete, even if you’ve been handed a perfectly valid and altogether more pleasant alternative. Feels like you’ve wasted your time. And, if for example, it turns out this was something she could have done years ago and either chose not to or simply didn’t know about or think about, well…”

A hefty chunk of talking and no mistake, but then there was a lot to consider, Richard felt. As with many things in life: multilayered and interlinked, multiple factors to take into account, conclusions fuzzy and unclear. Starlight wasn’t so sure, but could at least see where he was coming from. Mostly. Kind of. A little bit.

“I think you’re making excuses for her. Again,” she said.

A definite sigh from Richard that time, and a marked slump in the shoulders.

“I am,” he said, then leaning in towards Starlight so he could say the rest while lowering his voice: “I’m going to let you in on a secret here, Starlight, but I think I might have a bit of a soft spot for her majesty and a habit of giving her a certain amount of leeway.”

“News to me,” Starlight said with all the shock, surprise and expressiveness of a paving slab, which did at least manage to make Richard chuckle.

“How are the others taking to it, to ask? The other Changelings and the, ah, change, I mean,” he asked, in a desperate and transparent attempt to change the subject or at least steer it away from himself while making it look as though he was keeping it vaguely on-topic.

Starlight shrugged. It wasn’t her area of expertise, but she knew a little.

“Pretty comfortably. Still getting used to it here and there but more or less happy.”

To all appearances, at least. Certainly none of them had blown holes through any walls or anything even remotely similar. Quite alarming how comfortably they were rolling with it, honestly, but then again they did have each other to help, while Chrysalis did not. Maybe, maybe.

Richard nodded, satisfied.

“Well that’s something. Rather surprised their new head chap or one of his agents hasn’t showed up yet. You’d think this would catch their attention. Their queen - er, former queen, but don’t tell her I called her that - popping up and all,” he said.

Richard was vaguely aware that the Changelings - or at least, the former members of Chrysalis’s hive - had a new fellow in charge. Some insect-sounding name that had since slipped his mind. Chrysalis had mentioned it once or twice (usually in a scream, usually with the word ‘betrayers’ involved somewhere) but that was about the extent of his knowledge on the subject.

“Twilight sent him a letter but I don’t think he’s got back to her yet,” Starlight said.

“Ah, probably busy,” he said.

Important people were often busy, in Richard’s experience. Lot of balls in the air, lot of spinning plates, that sort of thing. He’d probably appear in due time, probably just in time to arrive when all the other princesses (however many there were - twenty, maybe? More?) did, making the whole situation a lot more…


So there was that to look forward to, Richard thought. A bridge to cross when they came to it.

And while Richard was dwelling on this, Starlight looked him over.

“Don’t suppose you could just tell me where it was you and her were before? When she was hiding out in the woods? Wherever you were going back to when I met you the first time?” She asked, jolting him back into the conversation proper.

“Tell you? Ah, no, sorry, probably not. Secret lairs and all that. Would breach some servant-queen bond of trust,” he said. Starlight grunted.

“No, didn’t think so, would be way too easy. Urgh.”


“I’m not going to say I understand because I don’t, and it’s just going to make it harder for everypony involved but fine I guess…”

There followed some light sulking.

“I imagine your friends will do just fine in locating her, they seem the competent sort,” Richard said.

“Your confidence buoys me,” Starlight said through gritted teeth, and the conversation hit a lull. The pair of them sat in quiet and watched the world go by for a bit. Oddly, sitting next to Richard seemed to somehow bring Starlight into whatever bubble of obscurity he dragged around with him, as no-one seemed to look at either of them twice.

It was quite eerie, in all honesty.

At length, Richard sighed again and piped up:
“I definitely misspoke, in retrospect. I feel I may have slipped. There is a particular way of talking to Chrysalis - er, her majesty - that may have eluded me, briefly. I think I made the mistake of attempting to paint everyone involved as friends, or at least well-disposed to one another.”

“That’s not...wholly wrong…” Starlight said slowly, feeling it out in her own head.

Ideally all of this - whatever ‘this’ was - would end with everyone on happier, friendlier terms and the world a generally calmer, more understanding, more pleasant place. Wasn’t that always the ideal, really?

“That’s what I thought, hence why I said it. But that is, sadly, not how she thinks. Or not how she wants to think. She seems to view friendship as some distinct, corrosive force and influence. Which I find baffling, personally, but then I think it’s just one of the things around here that work differently.”

“Friendship is magic,” Starlight said, in the manner of one stating a fact. Because she was, as far as she was concerned.

“So I’ve heard, yes. I’ll have to take your word for it. Where I’m from it’s more of an intangible concept,” Richard said with a nod.

Starlight wrinkled her muzzle at him.

“That’s pretty far-fetched.”

“It is, isn’t it? Princess Twilight said as much when I told her, too. Have I mentioned lately that I’m an alien? Not from round here?”

“Might have come up,” Starlight said, suppressing a smirk.

“Thought so. Just checking.”

Another lapse into quiet, more pony-watching. With the day drawing in there weren’t many locals around and those that were were those just finishing things up. Stalls were starting to close, those going past were going past on their ways home.

“Can I ask you something in confidence?” Richard asked, again being the one to get things going again.

“You can tell or ask me anything you want, Richard. Whatever it is if you only want it between us it’ll only be between us,” Starlight said with genuine warmth and honest sincerity.

(Ponies were good at those things, Richard had observed.)

“Very kind of you. I’ll try to be direct as this is something that has been nagging on me - heh, bugging me, you might say - since her majesty sort of brought it up but, ah, how does one get, ah, more Changelings? If you catch my meaning.”

She did, even if it did take a second to sink in.

“Uh - oh, oh right. Oh wow. Um, you’re asking because…?”

“It’s...germane. And I am curious,” Richard said.

“Well - and I’m not an expert or anything - but I think they hatch from eggs?” Starlight said slowly, carefully, thinking back to what she’s seen and what she knew. Neither was a lot. It was honestly not something she’d given a lot of thought to before this point.

“They come from eggs?” Richard repeated.

“Yes. Probably,” Starlight said. She’d certainly seen eggs that one time. Or at least thought she had, things had been somewhat tense in the hive back then. But she was semi-confident that she was providing someway accurate information here.

Richard thought about this.

“Who lays all these eggs?” He asked.

“Well…” Starlight trailed off without finishing and gave him a significant look, one that let him figure out the answer on his own. The answer was someone he knew and who he was rather fond of. When Richard realised this his eyes widened a little bit.

“Oh, really?”

“We assume so. It’s not something there’s been a lot written about,” Starlight said.

A moment of silent reflection. Richard furrowed his brow.

“Does that mean they were all related to her? The ones who, ah, ran away? Or she ran away from, rather,” he asked.

“I wouldn’t think about it too hard,” Starlight said, reassuringly, doing her best not to think about it herself.

“Can’t really help myself now, unfortunately. Does rather add another level to it, don’t you think? Must feel as though her whole family abandoned her. Her children, no less!”

“Or she abandoned them.”

Richard thought about it that way for a second.

“Well, that’s perspective for you,” he said.

More silent reflection, then:

“So who’s the-”

Starlight cut Richard off here.

“You know, maybe these are the questions you should be saving for when Chrysalis is back, hmm?” She said, sweetly. Richard got the point and decided to let the matter rest, even if the prospect of directly asking Chrysalis such a question did not appeal, even if she hadn’t been upset.

Then again, he imagined it was one of those things that’d likely make her blush, which was a sight he had come to quietly, secretly appreciate those rare times it happened. So maybe...

Evening definitely starting to draw in by now, sun starting to dip. Noticing this brought something to Starlight’s attention:

“That house you were staying in fell down,” she said.

“I believe so, certainly rings a bell,” Richard said, getting another eye roll for his troubles, but Starlight pressed on:

“What I mean is do you have anywhere to go? For the night? You have kind of this creepy talent for always being able to get and be what and where you need but just thought I’d ask.”

In all the excitement this issue honestly hadn’t crossed Richard’s mind. Nothing immediately suggested itself to him. If he had to admit it to himself, he’d rather let the comforting pleasantness of sharing the dinky little house with her majesty get to his head, and much as she felt she’d gone soft, he rather worried he had a little, too.

Got comfortable, just a smidgen. Hadn’t seemed so bad at the time.

“Oh I’m sure I’ll be fine,” he said. Starlight wasn’t so sure, and frowned.

“Could probably stay in the palace for a night or two. There’s tonnes of rooms, place is basically empty,” she said. Always seemed like a waste to her.

“The palace, you say?” Richard asked.

Starlight gestured to the looming, impossible-to-miss, gaudy bulk of the palace.

“The palace,” she said.

“Very nice of you, Starlight. Suppose that’d be keeping me close too, eh? In case her majesty just-so happened to swoop back to try and snatch me up?”

Starlight held her hooves up.

“You got me. But no seriously I just didn’t really like the idea of you sleeping in a ditch or something,” she said.

“Sure there’s some very nice ditches around here but, ah, I gratefully accept this kind offer. Would be silly not to. And I’ve always rather fancied spending a night in a palace anyway. Well, one that wasn’t a ruin. Ah, not that I’ve stayed in any ruins, just to say,” Richard said, eyes widening a little along with his smile. Starlight’s own eyes narrowed.


Richard stood up, gesturing in the direction of the palace.

“The evening draws in, lead on Starlight I say, yes? No sense sitting around in the dark, eh? Best get inside. Maybe we can play a round of something? There must be a deck of cards in there somewhere,” he said with a forced breeziness.

Her narrowed eyes stayed on him a little longer then she hopped off the bench, shaking her head to herself as she started off on her way, he falling into step beside her.

“I hope she’s alright,” he said as the bench receded into the distance behind them and the palace grew before them, then adding: “I quite miss her, you know.”

Starlight goggled up at him.

“She’s been gone for barely two hours!”

She wasn’t exactly sure if that was accurate, but it certainly didn’t feel like it had been very long. And it hadn’t been very long at all, really. It had all happened rather quickly.

“Has she? Feels longer. Likely the worry. I just want her to be happy, really.”

Starlight’s face softened, just a bit, eyes getting a touch less narrow.

“I know,” she said, the two of them now arriving at the frankly rather too-large front doors.

“Which I know she dislikes. The word, I mean. But there are those times when she is happy and hasn’t consciously noticed she’s happy and those times, well, I’d say she was beautiful when she’s happy. But, uh, don’t tell her I said that,” Richard said, feeling that the stress of the day really must have been getting to him at this point to explain so many slip-ups.

Starlight just shook her head and ushered him inside.

“You’re the weirdest alien I’ve met, Richard. Now, when you say ‘ruins’...”


View Online

With a pow and a boom and a rattle what had been a lovingly-swept floor became a lovingly-swept floor scattered with bits of what had been a wall. It’d need sweeping again.

Chrysalis laughed uproariously. She laughed at just how easy and how fun it was to magically blast holes in walls. She laughed at how stupid Richard had been to waste all that time sweeping the floors when it was much easier to cover them in rubble. She laughed because, while striding around and blasting holes in things, it was expected that she should laugh.

This she understood, this made sense.

And given the way things had gone lately having something that made sense was enormously reassuring.

Her whole life - a not inconsiderable period of time - she’d had clarity of purpose, drive, vision, ambition! She’d known where she was going, what to do to get there! It had all been so obvious - so obvious she’d never even thought twice about any of it, never even had to. Being her had come as easily to her as breathing or excreting a thick, resin-like mucus on command.

Now everything she wanted to do - knew she had to, because it was who and what she was - came with a background hum of what she had come to learn was doubt and concern, two feelings that until not that long ago had been foreign to her, bordering on alien.

Indeed, ‘feelings’ plural had been alien! She’d just had one feeling before and it had barely qualified for the name! Now she had lots!

Lots and lots, all vying with each other and tripping her over and confusing her, swilling about inside her head and sometimes in her gut and sometimes in some other places she wasn’t so sure about, all pulling her in all sorts of directions, all leaving her thoroughly unlike the her she was used to.

It was a nightmare!

But she knew all this, she’d been over this. This had been stewing away inside her head for days, now, only now properly reaching boiling point in light of…

...in light of recent...

She didn’t even know anymore!

With a sound that stood halfway between a snarl and a growl she blew some more holes in some more walls, making more mess. The more mess she made the more she had to not try and think about Richard, being as he’d be the one to (eventually) have to clean it all up again, and the way she tried not to think about it was to blow more holes in more walls. This did not work out very well as could well be expected.

Thankfully for Chrysalis, the cycle was broken as her angry wandering brought her upon something that caught her full attention: the mysterious magical item she’d been planning on using for mysterious magical purposes.

It was exactly where it had been when they’d left it. Not surprising, it didn’t have any reason to have gone anywhere and no-one knew to come by and move it. But seeing it there still caught Chrysalis off-guard - she’d quite forgotten about it.

There it sat. Inscrutable. Mysterious. Magical. Chrysalis was so stunned to see it there - and so stunned that she had, as said, somehow forgotten about it entirely - that she could only stand and gawp for a moment.

Then the moment passed, and Chrysalis grinned. This was providence at work, this was! This was life giving her a sign about what she should do, a suggestion on where she should go next, a chance to recapture that spark that she’d lost. This was an opportunity to prove that she still had it, falling right into her hooves.

She could feel it!

All those clouds of doubt that had gathered parted, and all was clear again. It was wonderful.

She’d show them! She still had it! Nothing had changed - nothing! She was as vile and evil as she’d always been! Just because she was a shade or two lighter now and maybe a bit twinkly and sparkly around the extremities didn’t mean she’d gone soft, no! She’d show them!

Chrysalis was back to laughing again, this time the booming laughter of one who has wonderfully evil schemes coming together, one who is imagining ultimate and unavoidable victory. The sort of laugh that could, if you were stood in the right place (on a rocky outcrop, say) cause lightning to flash behind you.

Since she was inside this did not happen, but the laughter was still booming and impressive (obviously).

“They’ll rue the day they ever stood against me! Rue it! And they’ll especially rue having somehow succeeded in standing against me! They’ll curse whatever good luck allowed them to beat me! Whatever twist of fortune caused me to lose! Oh, I’ll see to that! They’ll see! They’ll see and they’ll rue!” Chrysalis said once she felt she’d laughed enough, circling the hall and the mysterious magical object as she spoke, head held high and hoof occasionally raised before her in triumph.

Her circuit of the hall then brought her to a particular spot and her hooves bumped some particular rubble, and on looking down her eyes found something in that particular spot. A bloodstain. A small bloodstain agreeably, but a bloodstain all the same, and one that brought a fresh and unhappy memory into sharp relief for her.

“Oh Richard!” She cried, flinging herself down atop the bloodstain. “Why did you have to stand there? Why did you have to let yourself get hurt like that? You poor, stupid idiot, why? How could you do that to me? What if you’d left me?!” She wailed.

In her mind she was picturing over and again that memory of how that chunk of roof had hit him in the head, and that moment when she’d turned to see him laid out and bleeding. Every time she ran through it again - ran through those few seconds - she felt the same horrific lurch down deep in one of those places she wasn’t sure about. Over and over again the same lurch.

She’d hated seeing him hurt, hated it. In a way she’d never hated anything else. It was a different, novel type of hate, one which, at the time, she hadn’t known how to handle and even now still had trouble with. It made more sense to her now, though she had no real idea how or why.

Normally, she hated things because they were obstacles to be destroyed. That made sense. Things stood between her and what she deserved (which was basically whatever she wanted at the time) and because they were standing between her and whatever she deserved she hated them and wanted them gone. That made sense. That was simple.

That time though, when he’d been there on the floor, she’d hated it because she’d been about to lose something. Not for the first time, no, not really, but still. She’d looked and seen him and felt the looming sense that something important might have been about to be taken away from her. Because of something she’d done.

And for that tiniest, tiniest of moments she’d been absolutely terrified. Frozen solid with dread.

Because Richard might have gone from her life, and that idea was horrible. Because he wasn’t a thing she could put back together again or replaced or an item she could take from someone else or anything like that. He was unique and he was hers and if he left that was it.

And that mattered!

And now she’d realised this, she couldn’t ignore it!

The more she tried to force it down the harder it kept bobbing up, like trying to force a bucket underwater the wrong way up. She could almost feel it physically welling up inside her, she didn’t know what to do, and when she stopped trying to force it down - mostly out of sheer emotional exhaustion - the feeling flooded out to fill her.

He mattered to her!

To her mingled horror and delight the idea actually made her feel surprisingly good inside. Warm. Fluffy. He mattered to her! He was somewhere out there right now, hers, and mattering to her. And probably thinking of her, too.

She smiled to herself dumbly, lost for a moment, but then remembered how he was all on his own right now, surrounded by her enemies. And that was because of her!

And she’d yelled at him! Maybe lightly brushed him up against a wall once or twice! Thought he’d somehow been in cahoots with her enemies! How could she have thought that, that was impossible. He’d never do that to her, never. Not ever. She knew that. How could she have suspected him! He was blameless! Devoted! Loyal! Far too stupid!

But mainly devoted and loyal. He’d stuck with her from the very moment they’d met, and she knew he always would no matter what.

That was why she l-

Why she lo-

Why she loved him!

Even though she hadn’t said it out loud Chrysalis still slammed her hooves over her mouth, her eyes wide with the fear that someone might somehow have heard that.

Obviously no-one had - no-one could have, she was entirely alone - but that the thought had slipped out quite so easily was still frightening indeed to her. Worse, it hadn’t felt wrong. It had slipped out and slotted into place quite naturally, quite comfortably. Now it was just there, in her head, impossible to dig out, shining out to her.

No sense in trying to argue with herself.

And just like when she’d given up on trying to deny that he was important to her, giving up on denying that she loved him filled her with the most overwhelming sense of contentment. Normally she’d have hated it, loathed it, but now she realised it was normal, it was fine, it was good!

She did love him! She did!

It wasn’t something he’d done to her, either, like she’d thought and said at first, no. Or, rather, it wasn’t some trick he’d pulled on her, it had just happened! It had happened as a result of him just being him with her. Because that was what it did! It was so obvious to her now she had to laugh - though it came out as more of a giddy giggle than her booming laughs of before and had her pressing a hoof to her mouth again in embarrassment.

Again she felt deep, gnawing regret at how she’d yelled at him so, brushed him up against that wall like that, stormed off and left him - told him he was the worst thing to have happened to her!

That last part was especially painful to think about. How could she have said that to Richard? Her Richard? How could she have said something so obviously untrue, so hurtful? When she loved him, how could she have said that?

She must not have said it. She must have just imagined saying it.

Yes. That made sense. She’d imagined that part.

But the yelling definitely happened, and that was still bad. And so had the storming off and leaving him, which she was now definitely regretting. He should be here with her! In their lair! Helping her plot her - their - revenge!

She shouldn’t have been angry at him! Any mistakes he’d made had just been the result of his being stupid, not out of malice! They’d been the result of being too dense to realise he was being manipulated by those foul ponies. It hadn’t been his fault at all, poor Richard. It had been their fault, all their fault.

She should have been - and was - angry at everyone else. After all, this latest episode wasn’t the only thing that was their fault. Their malfeasance reached back further, was the guiding, malign hoof behind everything bad that had happened of late.

Really, it was their fault Richard had been hurt in the first place. It was their fault Chrysalis had been pushed to such extremes as to start digging up mysterious magical artifacts, after all. If they’d just done what they’d all supposed to have done and lost in the first place then she wouldn’t have had to do what she’d done and Richard wouldn’t have had to stand there and he wouldn’t have been hurt.

It was their fault, their fault!

And now she was going to pay them back, oh yes. This had been one step too far. Foil her plans, destroy her hive, take away her minions, but going after the freakish, idiot alien she loved? Not again. The line must be drawn here! This far, no further! She was going to make them pay for what they’d done!

Extending her magical concentration towards the mysterious magical artifact she began feeling about it, sensing its hard and its soft spots, carefully thinking about how best to use its mysterious, vaguely-defined magical abilities to exact her revenge.

Nothing too spectacular - this just about making a statement as much as it was about vengeance, showing the world she was still who she was and that she was not to be taken lightly, as well as to make them rue, of course.

An explosion?

Yes, an explosion. An explosion would be good. A nice big one, a really big one. The kind that’d alter the local geography, make them have to update all the maps. She could do that. It would be the work of a moment, barely take any effort at all! The artifact would do most of the work for her anyway! That was it’s job.

She assumed. It was hard to tell, what with it being so mysterious.

Why not point that explosion towards Ponyville, while you’re at it? So spoke a tiny voice in her head, coiled at the back of her brain in some dark, forgotten corner.

This seemed like an excellent idea, a perfect blend of spiteful and gleefully destructive. A good concentration of her enemies lived in Ponyville, after all, and she had been forced to live there for a few horrible, horrible days and she’d hated every second of it (or at least every second not spent with Richard) - destroying it was both practical and poetical.

There were no downsides! None!

So why was it she again felt the tug of doubt? The little hitch that told her to reconsider? Was she missing something? Overlooked some key detail? What?

Don’t listen to the doubts! This was the little voice again piping up.

It was difficult though, the sense of doubt was pervasive. She was increasingly certain that there was something obvious she hadn’t considered.

They want you to doubt! Doubts are weaknesses your enemies will exploit! Moments of hesitation that leave you vulnerable! Your plan is perfect! You are perfect! Go! Go now! Do it now! Show them they haven’t changed you! Make them regret ever making you not win! Do it now!

The little voice had uncoiled from its forgotten corner and slithered right to the front of her thoughts, then, drowning out the doubts and anything else that might have slowed her down. And it was right. It was right!

As much as the new, fuzzy, fluffy, warm feelings were undeniably pleasant they had a time and a place, and that was not now and it was not here. Now was time for ruthlessness, for decisive action. Once she’d wiped Ponyville out of existence (or at least a good chunk of it) then she could push the voice back into that corner and focus on grappling with the fluffy fuzzy again.

Later, later.

For now, she poured her concentration and her magical energies into the mysterious object, getting it going in a vaguely-defined but clearly increasingly dangerous way. Ethereal wind blew, bits of it started to glow, tiny little arcs of lighting crackled and gradually started to get less tiny.

Yes. Yes this was perfect. This was exactly what she needed to do.

“This is for us, Richard! For us! For our life together! And for our revenge!”