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How Chrysalis Got Her Groove Back III

Oct 5th, 2016
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  1. >Many times in his life Twenty-four-nineteen had felt the horrible, numbing feeling of fear in his gut
  2. >On his first love extracting assignment he had been discovered by a group of angry gryphons
  3. >They had chased him for a day and a half before he had managed to lose them by hiding in an old, rusted sewer pipe whose stench still gave him nightmares
  4. >Another time he had been in the middle of an infiltration assignment in Saddle Arabia, and had almost been discovered by a pair of Janissaries
  5. >He had managed to escape discovery by the skin of his teeth
  6. >His partner, a ling who he had hatched with, hadn't been so lucky
  7. >He hadn't been able to extract the ling's body, but for over two nights he had heard his screams
  8. >Twenty-four-nineteen was a veteran in the art of espionage and subterfuge
  9. >He was the survivor of dozens of missions, with little to no harm to his person
  10. >Fear should have been nothing to him
  11. >He should have been numb to it; resistant to its power
  12. >But, as he, two other of his brothers, and his king made their way through the streets of Canterlot, he couldn't help but feel that familiar twinge of fear, anxiety, and worry, just as sharply as he could during his first operation
  13. >On paper, there was nothing to worry about
  14. >The Equestrians had agreed to meet with their king in an out-of-the-way hotel on the southern side of the city
  15. >They had agreed to see him, and the return letter that they had sent had no threats or warnings, hidden or otherwise
  16. >The Equestrians also weren't known to invite or parley with an opposing party only to jail or execute them on sight
  17. >But Twenty-four-nineteen remembered what had happened at the invasion
  18. >He had been there
  19. >He had watched the city being swallowed up by green flame
  20. >He had watched as buildings were destroyed and monuments were desecrated
  21. >He was there when the shield of love had exploded from the castle and had sent the entirety of the Southernmost Hive flying
  22.  
  23. >His chitin had been broken into a million pieces when they had landed in the Badlands, and it had only been through sheer lucky that he still drew breath on this earth
  24. >What had happened that day was still-- after all of these years-- fresh in his mind, and he didn't doubt that it was still fresh in the minds of the Equestrians as well
  25. >Changelings were the boogeyman of the world; creatures to be feared, hated, and even exterminate
  26. >One did not willingly converse with a Changeling, nor should they be near one in any circumstance
  27. >They would coltnap you
  28. >They would take you to their hive
  29. >They would drain you of your love until you were nothing but an empty husk
  30. >You couldn't trust these monsters, these demons incarnate
  31. >Here, in the heart of Equestria, where signs of the invasion could, even now, be seen, these sentiments, thoughts, and ideas were held with a particularly zealous and unyielding fervor
  32. >Each of the Changelings knew this and knew it well
  33. >They were unwanted, unwelcomed, hated
  34. >One could nearly taste it in the air
  35. >They all might have been disguised, and they might have been keeping a low profile-- all except their king, who was looking around like a child in the toy section-- but even still each of the lings couldn't help but feel like someone had them in their sights
  36. >"You know, I can see why they call Canterlot a grand city," King Anonymous mused as they ducked and weaved through the crowd. "It has a certain... air about it, and its people seem to carry themselves in a certain way. I don't know why, but I find it oddly... refreshing in a way..."
  37. >A chubby noblemare, talking to an overly skinny stallion, didn't watch where she was going and nearly ran into the king
  38. >Eight-forty-one quickly moved in front of their king and gently, but very firmly, pushed the mare out of the way
  39.  
  40. >She--caught off guard-- stumbled, nearly falling on her face
  41. >Somehow though, she managed to regain her balance, and with a snarl, she spun around to say something
  42. >Whatever she meant to say died in her throat as Eight-forty-one--a larger than average ling-- gave her a glare that could have froze fire
  43. >Without a word, she quickly scurried away with the stallion in tow, leaving them free to continue their journey unabated
  44. >The king, as swept up in sightseeing as he was, didn't even notice the little exchange
  45. >"I suppose a city built upon a mountaintop would have to have a grandeur about it though. What other reason would drive these ponies build their capital in such an inaccessible place if not to inspire envy and awe?"
  46. "Canterlot was built a little after the unification of the three pony tribes as a place where unicorn, pegasus, and earth pony could come together," Twenty-four-nineteen muttered, keeping close to his king. "At least, that's what the Equestrians say..."
  47. >"Aw, so we've come to a holy city of sorts," Anonymous mused, lightly stepping around a group of tourists. "Interesting. Hopefully we don't see some of the more negative things that seem to infest such places."
  48. >"I don't like this, my lord," Ten-ten-eleven muttered, looking nervously at the rooftops. "We SHOULD have asked the Equestrians to have this meeting in a more... neutral place."
  49. >The king smiled, reaching over and placing his hand on the small of the ling's back
  50. >Ten-ten-eleven tensed for a moment before relaxing
  51. >"There's no need to be worried, my little ling," Anonymous said, a little TOO loudly for his guards' liking
  52. "I beg your pardon, my lord, but there is PLENTY for us to be worried about," Twenty-four-nineteen grumbled irritably. "We are in the heart of enemy territory, the area hasn't been properly explored, we don't have an escape plan if things go sour, we don't know what the Equestrian's intentions are, we--"
  53.  
  54. >Amusement began to flow from the king as he reached down and placed his free hand on the top of Twenty-four-nineteen's head
  55. >The ling shivered
  56. >He could feel the love pouring from their king, the affection, the joy
  57. >These emotions washed over him, filling his very being to the core
  58. >Bit by bit, he could feel the fear in his stomach begin to slowly recede
  59. >His muscles slowly began to relax, and his breathing began to slow
  60. >His father was here, and he wasn't going to let anything happen to them
  61. >"Twenty, my dear boy. Be not the Greeks, who saw the worst in all but their own kind," King Anonymous said, drumming his fingers against the top of the ling's head. "Look to your fellow creature and believe the best in him. Believe that he wishes to clasp your hoof in brotherhood."
  62. "If we dropped our glamors right now we'd all be torn to pieces," Twenty-four-nineteen dryly replied
  63. >Anonymous gave his head a fatherly pat
  64. >"Which is one of the many reasons WHY I'm here to speak to their highnesses, my little ling."
  65. >The rest of the trip to the meeting place was uneventful, if a little tense
  66. >No pony tried to attack or stop their little group, none of the lings made their true natures known, no one even gave the king so much as a second glance
  67. >The guard did seem to be out in force today though, which put each of the Changelings on edge
  68. >The Princesses knew that they were coming
  69. >They no doubt had someone watching every road to the hotel
  70. >Somepony had probably already taken notice of their little group and were watching them closely
  71. >For creatures who had lived so much of this lives in the shadows, this was torture
  72. >They shouldn't be this out in the open
  73. >They should have argued for a better location to hold this meeting
  74. >They had to leave, to run, to get away from this place and these ponies that hated them so
  75. >But, no matter how much their instincts were telling them to scatter, to disappear, to retreat, the lings ignored these urges
  76.  
  77. >This trip was to help their queen, and possibly begin to build the fountains of pony/Changeling relations
  78. >They couldn't weaver
  79. >They had to stay strong
  80. >For their hive, for their queen, for their king, who was treating this very delicate, dangerous operation as if it were nothing but a Sunday stroll in the park
  81. Eventually, they all found themselves in front of the hotel where the meeting was to take place
  82. >The building was a little thing
  83. >It was only two stories at most, and maybe just a bit larger than an average-sized home
  84. >It looked well cared for though
  85. >The hotel's walls looked freshly painted, and the windows looked like they were regularly cleaned and maintained
  86. >Still, Ten-ten-eleven found himself frowning
  87. >"My lord, I know that you requested that this meeting be done in a inconspicuous location, but did they really need to have it done here?"
  88. >"Some of the most important meetings have been in places like hotels," the king wisely replied. "We should consider ourselves lucky that they were nice enough to pick such a nice one. Some aren't so lucky"
  89. "So what is the plan, my lord?" Twenty-four-nineteen asked, eyeing the building
  90. >The king took a deep breath, placing his hands on his hips
  91. >"I believe that I'll do the one thing that they'll least expect."
  92. "And what is that, your highness?"
  93. >"I'm going to go through the front door, ask the no doubt lovely receptionist where this room 26 is, I'll go there, and I'll knock on the door until it opens."
  94. >The king smiled
  95. >"A rather dastardly plan, if I do say so myself."
  96. >Though none of the lings looked all too thrilled about his plan, they held their tongues
  97. >"Do you wish for all of us to accompany you, my king?" Ten-ten-eleven asked
  98. >Anonymous instantly shook his head
  99. >"No, just Twenty-four-nineteen will do," he said confidently. "We wouldn't want the princesses to think that we were coming in force now would we?"
  100.  
  101. >He turned around to look at his little lings
  102. >"Eight-forty-one, Ten-ten-eleven, I have a mission of the utmost importance for the two of you while Twenty-four-nineteen and I speak to the alicorns."
  103. >The Changelings went to attention, their hooves snapping together and their backs straightening
  104. >"Your will is our command, your grace," Ten-ten-eleven said, smartly saluted
  105. >King Anonymous's smile widened
  106. >"Excellent!" he chirped, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a small bag of bits.
  107. >He tossed them to Eight-forty-one, who snatched them out of the air without thought
  108. >"I need the two of you to go walk around a bit and pick up something for mom. Something nice but not too nice. You know how fussy she gets when she thinks that I spent too much time trying to buy something for her."
  109. >"Sir yes sir!" both the lings said with nods
  110. >"And, if you have enough bits left over, you can go ahead and get yourselves something nice too," Anonymous added
  111. >That got a pair of smiles from the Changelings, who quickly saluted again before scurrying off down the street
  112. >Both the king and Twenty-four-nineteen watched as the disguised lings disappeared into the crowd
  113. >When they were gone, Anonymous crouched down and placed his hands on Twenty's withers
  114. >"Now, how are we going to act when we get in there?" he asked
  115. "We be respectful, only lie if it's needed, and try not to make any jokes about ponies and sugarcubes," Twenty answered, straight-faced
  116. >The King of the Changelings smiled, patting the ling on the cheek
  117. >"Very good. And when we get back home what do we tell momma?"
  118. "That we were in Labyrinthia touring their famous dairy farms."
  119. >"And why were we touring their dairy farms?"
  120. "Because minotaurs make the best cheeses in the world, and you always wanted to try smelly, runny cheese that seems to stay with you all day."
  121. >Pride tickled Twenty-four-nineteen's senses as King Anonymous gave his cheek another pat
  122.  
  123. >"Very good. Now lets go, we wouldn't want to keep their highnesses waiting do we?"
  124.  
  125. ~-`-`-`-`-`-`-~
  126.  
  127. >In room twenty-six in the hotel 'Grassroots', not a sound could be heard except for some quiet shuffling and the occasional turning of a page
  128. >Earlier that day, the room had been stripped bare, and the furniture had been replaced with five chairs and a big, round, freshly-waxed oaken table
  129. >Though the table and the chairs took up half the room, only one of room twenty-six's occupants were anywhere near them
  130. >Princess Luna sat in the corner of the room, her eyes closed and the tip of her horn glowing
  131. >Princess Cadence was busying herself checking, rechecking, and checking again all of the spells that she and her fellow alicorns had placed around the room
  132. >Princess Twilight was next to the door, a stack of books sitting next to her and her muzzle buried in a thick, leather bound medical book as she did her to absorb all of the facts about Changelings that they had managed to collect over the years, little though there was
  133. >The only one who was seated at the table, and the only one that looked anywhere near calm, was Princess Celestia
  134. >The white alicorn had her eyes closed
  135. >She was bent slightly forward, her elbows resting on the table
  136. >Next to her was a glass of water, along with a series of documents and papers that she had thought would be advantageous to bring to this meeting
  137. >It had taken a herculean effort to set this meeting up
  138. >The alicorns had to leap through numerous hoops, spend an outrageous amount of bits, and keep the build up of guards around the city as discrete as possible so no one asked any questions
  139. >The entire city had been--and still was for that matter-- searched for Changelings
  140. >The Wonderbolts and regiments from Las Pegasus and Dodge City had been called in and were now stationed in the caverns under the city and waiting to receive orders
  141.  
  142. >Shining Armor--who had wanted to be at the meeting, only to be rebuffed by all four princesses-- was waiting to place a shield around the city if needed
  143. >The hotel, a small, family-friendly business that just so happened to be owned by a retired royal guard, had been a whole other headache to get ready
  144. >Every single square inch of it, from the ceiling to the foundation, had spell after spell placed on it
  145. >Spells to reinforce, spells to protect, spells to keep unwanted eyes and ears from seeing or hearing anything that shouldn't be seen or heard, along with a dozen other spells thrown in for good measure
  146. >Since they had sent their reply, and this "King" of the Changelings had accepted their proposal to meet in Canterlot, not a single one of the princesses had had a good night's sleep
  147. >They were exhausted, nervous, even at wits end
  148. >But all of that hard work, those sleepless nights, had paid off
  149. >The entire hotel was filled to bursting with guards, and the hotel itself may as well have been a fortress
  150. >No matter who--or WHAT-- this King was they were ready for him
  151. >"The watchmen just saw two figures entering the building," Luna said, her voice cutting through the silence
  152. >The other princesses stopped what they were doing to look over at her
  153. >Luna's eyes darted to and fro underneath her eyelids
  154. >"They said that one's a disguised Changeling and the other is..."
  155. >Her muzzle scrunched up
  156. >The tip of her horn glowed a little brighter
  157. >"The reports are... mixed. Some say a diamond dog, others say an extremely thin minotaur, while others insist that it is a mixture between the two."
  158. >With a flash of her horn and a pop, the books around Twilight disappeared
  159. >Cadence rolled her withers, looking toward the door with a mixture of dread and curiosity
  160. >Celestia, with sigh, slowly opened her eyes
  161. "Luna, tell the guards to be on alert. While I don't expect this king to try anything I would still like to trot on the side of caution."
  162.  
  163. >Luna nodded as Twilight and Cadence made their way over to the table
  164. >Twilight, of course, sat to her mentor's right, while Cadence sat with her back to the wall, where she could easily see both the door and the room's one window
  165. >After giving her orders via magic, Luna opened her eyes and stood up
  166. >"There. We are as ready as we will ever be for this "king"," she proclaimed, making her way over to the table. "Hopefully."
  167. >"I wonder what this king is going to be like," Twilight mused, her tail swishing in excitement
  168. >Luna snorted
  169. >"I imagine him to be just like that cowardly queen. A sly, foul, deceitful, power-hungry little devil."
  170. "Now, now Luna, lets not judge him before we even lay eyes on him," Celestia chided, reaching over and fixing her ex-student's frazzled mane as best as she could with a hoof. "After all, he agreed to meet us in Canterlot. That must count for something."
  171. >"That's why I don't like this, auntie," Cadence murmured quietly. "Why on earth would he agree to come to the capital?"
  172. >"Aye, it DOES seem rather odd," Luna agreed with a nod. "One would think that this stallion would have wanted us to meet in a more... neutral location."
  173. >"Maybe he just wants to show us that he doesn't mean any harm?" Twilight offered
  174. >Luna opened her mouth to comment when the tip of her horn once again glowed
  175. >"They're coming up to our floor," she said, closing her eyes. "They'll be here in a matter of moments."
  176. >The Princesses shifted in their seats
  177. >Cadence ruffled her feathers, Luna narrowed her eyes, Twilight looked at her old teacher as if seeking assurance or some sort of guidance
  178. >Celestia herself just continued to stare at the door, the picture of tranquility
  179. >The seconds began to drag by
  180. >Each mare in the room could almost hear the creaking and groaning of the hotel's old, wooden floors as the king and his retainer grew ever closer
  181.  
  182. >A tension began to grow in the room
  183. >The alicorns found themselves warily eyeing the window, as if expecting an attack
  184. >Offensive and defensive spells came to their minds, and both Luna and Cadence began to let magic flow through their horns in preparation for an attack
  185. >When there was finally a knock at the door, Twilight yelped, and nearly fell out of her seat
  186. >Celestia, as quick as a flash, extended a wing
  187. >She caught her old student and gently set her back into her chair
  188. >The other princesses snickered as the tension instantly drained from the room
  189. "You may come in!" Celestia called
  190. >There was silence from the other end of the door for a few moments
  191. >A red-faced and thoroughly embarrassed Twilight stuck her tongue at Cadence, who returned the abuse with her own waggling tongue, her expression playful
  192. "Children, please," Celestia murmured, not able to keep the amusement from her voice or the smirk from her face
  193. >The doorknob was slowly turned and the door itself was pushed open
  194. >"Good lord, I am not a man for stairs. I can't imagine why the Mayans were so taken with the things..."
  195. >"We only went up one flight of stairs, my lord."
  196. >"...I will not retract my statement, Twenty."
  197. >The door creaked open, revealing King Anonymous, the First of his Name, Lord of None that We Know of, King of the Changelings
  198. >The king, in his lordly wisdom, had decided to dress casually, forgoing his crown and other royal finery
  199. >A burnt orange shirt covered his upper body, while a pair of well made brown pants covered his lower
  200. >A messenger bag of middling size was slung on his shoulder, just as simple and plain as the rest of his clothing
  201. >"I will never understand why the Equestrians insist on such confining corridors," the creature before them muttered
  202. >He was massive, the princesses noted instantly
  203. >He had to duck his head and twist his odd, long, thin body to the side to get through the door and into the room
  204.  
  205. >He easily stood taller than both Celestia and Luna, and twice as tall as a normal unicorn
  206. >But despite his size, he didn't seem particularly threatening
  207. >It was like they were looking at a big, friendly bear, or perhaps an elderly, kind-hearted old dragon
  208. >Twilight, as she looked at him, was reminded of her own father
  209. >His was an honestly, bright, kind face; something that none of the princesses had been expecting
  210. >"Good morning!" the supposed king chirped, causing each mare to jump in their seats. "Or is it good afternoon? I can never tell this time of day..."
  211. >In three strides, he stood at the table
  212. >Behind him a Changeling warily followed, staring at each of the alicorns carefully
  213. >Remembering her manners, Celestia's horn glowed, pulling the chair out for the giant of a stallion
  214. >"Oh lord bless you," the king said, carefully sitting down in the far too small chair
  215. >With another spell, Celestia floated over a glass of water and sat it in front of him
  216. >Before he could reach for the glass, the Changeling standing next to him snatched it off the table
  217. >The ling's horn glowed, his deep green aura encasing the glass
  218. >Cadence tensed, but Celestia raised a hoof
  219. >After a few moments, the Changeling nodded his head
  220. >"The water appears to be free of any toxins or poisons. You may drink it, my lord," the ling said, setting the glass back down
  221. >Luna's eyes widened, and she was about to protest, but the king was too fast for her
  222. >"What did I say about giving your fellow creature a measure of trust, Twenty?" he asked, slowly reaching over and grabbing the glass
  223. >Each alicorn watched as his fingers, thinner and longer than a minotaur's, closed around the glass before he picked it up and drained the glasses contents in two gulps
  224. >"It is my duty to protect you from any danger, my lord," the Changeling said smoothly. "It does not matter if I trust the Equestrians or not, I have to check for poisons when you're given food or water."
  225.  
  226. >The king 'humphed'
  227. >"A very likely story, my little ling."
  228. >"It is not a story, my lord. It's the truth."
  229. >"You just didn't want to rile up the Equestrians?"
  230. >"Why would I do something like that, my lord?"
  231. >"That is an excellent question, my boy, which is why--"
  232. >The princesses looked at each other as this giant stallion and this Changeling had their back and forth
  233. >From the looks on their faces, one could clearly tell that not a single one of them knew what to make of the situation
  234. >Here they were readying themselves for a dangerous being of unknown power, but instead they got... this
  235. >Whatever this was
  236. "You must be King Anonymous I presume?" Celestia politely interrupted
  237. >Both the king and the Changeling turned toward her
  238. >"Um? Oh yes."
  239. >Clearing his throat, the giant stallion stood up to his full, very impressive, height
  240. >"I am King Anonymous, the First of my Name," he said, bowing. "It is very much a pleasure to meet all of you."
  241. >With his head still down, he gestured to the Changeling beside him
  242. >"This is Twenty-four-nineteen, one of my personal guards. He is also very happy to meet the four of you."
  243. >Though the expression on his face was contrary to the king's statement, the guard inclined his head
  244. >Celestia, Twilight, Cadence, and even Luna inclined their heads in return
  245. >"It is our honor to meet you, King Anonymous," Luna gruffly, though cordially, said as Anonymous sat back down. "It is nice to finally have a face to match the letter that you sent."
  246. >The smile that came to the big stallion's face seemed to light up the room
  247. >"It's also very nice to finally see you all in person. I must say that the tabloids do none of you justice."
  248. >"That's because they always take pictures of us from the bushes..." Cadence muttered, only to be quickly elbowed by Luna
  249. "Yes, well, pleasantries aside, I believe that we should get down to business," Celestia said, her tone business-like. "The four of us have some questions--"
  250.  
  251. >"And concerns," Cadence quickly added, only to be elbowed again for her troubles
  252. "--And concerns about what you are proposing, your highness."
  253. >"Please, please, I am royalty in nothing but name," Anonymous said with a wave of the hand. "Just Anonymous or Anon will be more than fine."
  254. "We have some concerns, Anonymous," the Princess of the Sun corrected, a small smile coming to her face
  255. >The king said nothing for a minute or two, staring at each of the princesses with a thoughtful expression
  256. >"Concerns and questions? Yes, I can understand why you'd have such fancies," he said, leaning back into the chair
  257. "We do not wish to seem rude," Celestia quickly assured. "But as your guard said, whether or not we trust you is immaterial. We have ponies to protect, and your subjects and ours have a... strained relationship."
  258. >To the surprise of every pony in attendance, Anonymous laughed
  259. >"My dear, our peoples relationships are not strained," he said. "When something is strained it is still together. The edges might be tearing and the fabric may be on its last leg, but there is some sort of camaraderie, or familiarity, or even understanding."
  260. >He sighed
  261. >"Our peoples have no relationship, no homeostasis, nothing."
  262. >Luna frowned
  263. >"Those mon-- your people attacked ours without provocation, they steal our little ponies and take them to Faust knows where, and they replace them with one of their own so that they can suck the love out of everypony that knew and loved that mare or stallion."
  264. >Ignoring Celestia's glare and Twilight's disapproving look, she leaned forward
  265. >"Forgive me for being blunt, Lord Anonymous, but there is a VERY good reason why Changelings are treated as they are."
  266. >The king and his guard exchanged glances
  267. >"Oh my," the king murmured, sounding amused oddly enough. "I had expected a duel but it seems that I had brought the wrong tools for combat."
  268.  
  269. >"Perhaps it is the combatant, my lord," Twenty said, staring hard at the princess of the night."
  270. >"Perhaps," the king allowed, stroking his stubble
  271. >He cleared his throat
  272. >"But, even so, let us see if I can perform a proper riposte."
  273. >He looked over at Princess Twilight
  274. >"Princess Twilight Sparkle, may this lowly king ask you a question?"
  275. >The purple princess perked up
  276. >"Of course," she instantly replied with a nod of her head
  277. >The king nodded in return, leaning forward
  278. >"Have you ever felt hungry? Not the hunger where you hadn't eaten that morning and lunch was right around the corner."
  279. >The smile on the king's face vanished and his expression grew sad and even a bit grim
  280. >"I speak of the hunger that is painful; the hunger that forces the body to eat itself."
  281. >The princesses stiffened, their eyes widening
  282. >The king paid them no mind, continuing
  283. >"Have you ever felt that gnawing pain, Princess Twilight? Have you ever felt so weak that your legs feel like lead weight and the act of breathing is a harrowing experience? Have you ever felt your belly become swollen? Have you ever looked at a rock or some other inedible object and found yourself salivating?"
  284. >Anonymous's green eyes seemed to bore into Twilight
  285. >"Have you ever prayed to the god of bread, Princess? Have you ever thought of betraying your entire family just to stop that horrible ache in your belly?"
  286. >It took a few tries, but Twilight eventually managed to find her voice
  287. >"N-No sir, I haven't," she said, her voice meek
  288. >"Well, neither have I," King Anonymous admitted casually, leaning back into his chair
  289. >Each of the princesses let out a puff of air
  290. >Luna looked particularly annoyed with the big stallion, who couldn't help but crack a small smile
  291. >"Though my wife says nothing upon the matter no matter how much I press her, I believe that she--unlike the two of us, who have been blessed in that regard-- in fact, does know the feeling, as do the rest of my little lings."
  292.  
  293. >Not turning his attention from the princesses, he reached over and placed a hand on his guard's head
  294. >The ling tensed for a moment before a small, almost pleased sigh escaped him
  295. >"Hunger cannot excuse evil deeds, nor should it, but it can certainly make them understandable, your highnesses. At least that's what this lowly king thinks."
  296. >The king looked over at Cadence
  297. >"I know you have every right to hate and distrust our people. I also cannot fault you in thinking that this is a trap and the olive branch that I wish to extent is poison oak. You all have suffered because of the actions of my wife and my little lings; no power that I have can change that fact. The only thing that I can do is ask for forgiveness, or at least a chance to prove that my people are not the monsters that the world thinks they are."
  298. >Anonymous bowed his head
  299. >"If you wish to ask your questions, you may ask them. If you wish to see if I am bewitched or not who I seem, then you may do so. I have nothing to hide from those that I might call comrades."
  300. >With that, Anonymous went silent, waiting for one of the princesses to say something
  301. >He heard someone getting out of their seat and making their way over to him
  302. >He kept his head down as they neared, his gaze glued to the table
  303. >"Anonymous?"
  304. >Looking up, he saw Princess Mi Amore Cadenza standing next to him
  305. >There was a puzzled look on the alicorn's face, as if she didn't quite know what to make of him
  306. >"I would like to cast a spell on you. If that's alright of course," she asked politely
  307. >Twenty-four-nineteen opened his mouth to protest, but the king raised a hand to silence him
  308. >"You may," he answered
  309. >The Princess of Love took another step toward him
  310. >"Thank you," she simply said as the tip of her horn glowed
  311. >In an instant, her magic began to pour into the giant of a king
  312. >He twitched, but otherwise held still as Cadence's eyes closed
  313.  
  314. >From the tips of his toes to the top of his head the magic could be felt, poking, prodding, searching
  315. >It was an odd experience, an unnatural one, so much so that the king found himself squirming in his seat
  316. >Twenty looked ready to charge the alicorn, but held both himself and his tongue in check
  317. >He had to have faith in his king
  318. >He had to-- though common sense was telling him to do otherwise-- trust these ponies
  319. >Finally, after about a minute of this, Cadence's eyes opened
  320. >"His mind is his own," she said, more to herself than anyone else
  321. >Anonymous cracked a smile
  322. >"I should very much hope so," he told her. "Lord know what someone else would do with the thing."
  323. >Chairs creaked and hooves tapped against the tables as the four most powerful ponies in the land looked at each other
  324. >Twilight and Celestia were smiling, Luna, though still frowning, didn't look outright aggressive as she had before
  325. >Even Cadence, who had been the most resistant and fearful of this meeting, found herself a little more at ease
  326. "Time and again a stallion is always the one brave enough and humble enough to beg for peace," Celestia murmured, shaking her head
  327. >Her smile widened just a hair
  328. "My lord, you are correct when you say that our people's history had not been the most pleasant or the most friendly. I can say, without a shred of doubt, that many of my little ponies see Changelings as evil, vile monsters that only wish to destroy and take. Such a stigma, in the capital especially, will be very difficult to break. "
  329. >"But," Anonymous said hopefully
  330. "But... that does not mean that we cannot try."
  331. >Celestia's smile grew, and in turn the other alicorn's smiled
  332. >"It'll take some time, but I'm sure that ponies and Changelings can live together in harmony!" Twilight chirped
  333. >"If your... wife truly wishes for peace then I'm also willing to give her the benefit of the doubt," Cadence said
  334.  
  335. >"Your bravery is noted, Changeling king," Luna said with a nod of the head. "Though I am curious, how would you suppose that we begin to go about creating this peace?
  336. >The king released the breath that he didn't know he was holding
  337. >He had done it; he had gotten the princesses to listen
  338. >Somehow, someway, he had gotten his foot in the door
  339. >The smile came back to his face in full force
  340. >Now it was time for the hard part
  341. >"Well, you see, I have a plan," he said eagerly, resting his elbows on the table and leaning forward. "I find it a very lovely plan myself. Slightly complicated, and few bits might seem out of place, but all-in-all it is a lovely, lovely plan. Now, before I can explain it to the four of you I need to set the scene and provide a little background. If you need any snacks or drinks I'd go and get them, because we're going to be here for a while. No? Alright then. You see, my wife hasn't been herself lately. More down in the dumps as it were..."
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