How Chrysalis Got Her Groove Back VII

Oct 17th, 2016
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  1. >"Come along, Princess. We wouldn't want you getting lost now."
  2. >Twilight Sparkle, for the first time in a long while, was beside herself
  3. >All around her, she could see Changelings walking this way and that
  4. >They were of all sizes and shapes
  5. >Some were carrying tools, others were carrying rocks and debris, and still others were carrying things whose purpose she couldn't begin to guess at
  6. >The hallway that she was being led through--with a pair of guards standing at her back and another pair flanking her--was unlike any she had ever seen
  7. >From walls to ceiling, the hallway was covered in this strange, glowing substance
  8. >It seemed to be alive, pulsing and moving on its own power
  9. >Every few moments, a hole would open up in this substance, and a Changeling would walk through as if they knew it was going to open where it did
  10. >Twilight, nearly shaking, looked up at the ceiling
  11. >She could see what looked like ventilation shafts
  12. >As with the substance lining the stone walls, these shafts--which had a veiny quality about them-- flexed and moved
  13. >Every few feet there would be a hole in them that appeared to be pony--or, in this case, Changeling--sized
  14. >They'd pulse, open and closing as if connected to... something
  15. >Never before had she seen anything like this
  16. >The only thing that came close were some horror stories that she and her brother had read when she was smaller
  17. >It, this, felt surreal, almost unnatural
  18. >If it weren't for the fact that she could see the stone floor beneath her hooves, the princess would have sworn that she was standing in the belly of some massive beast
  19. >And. She. Loved. It!
  20. "What in Equestria is that substance?" she asked breathlessly, desperately wishing for a quill and some parchment
  21. >"We call it 'Ling Gum, your highness," one of the Changelings flanking her said. "When they've eaten enough love, our worker lings naturally produce it to help support--"
  23. "Why does it move like that? It is a living organism?"
  24. >"Well, it--"
  25. "If you can create a substance like this, why did you even have to dig into this rock? Actually, how did you even dig into this rock in the first place? Did you use tools, or maybe some kind of magic? Perhaps your species has the natural ability to dig?"
  26. >The guard standing next to her took a step back
  27. >"I--"
  28. >Twilight, her eyes glazed over slightly, followed after the ling
  29. "And what about those things hanging from the ceiling? Are they some sort of ventilation system? They really look like it. It makes sense since you'd need to be careful about oxygen down here and--OHH! I bet that you use them to transport both air and LOVE throughout the hive! What a neat little--"
  30. >The Changeling continued to retreat--nearly knocking into his fellow lings in his haste to escape-- as the princess continued to make her way toward him
  31. >She was talking faster and faster and faster as she grew more and more and more excited
  32. >Every ling in the hall could taste this excitement; taste Twilight's curiosity and joy and desperation
  33. >It was potent; overpowering even
  34. >This mare wanted to learn everything that she could
  35. >She wanted that more than anything
  37. >The guard let out a quiet yelp as his backside bumped into the wall
  38. >He quickly looked back at the wall, then at the princess, who was, by then, uncomfortably close to him
  39. "--If that was true, then you'd have to have some sort of appendage to control the flow of this material, just like a spider making its web. But do all of you have it though? Or maybe just a subspecies of--"
  40. >Before Twilight could continue her train of thought--which would have ended up in a place where no one but her wanted to go--she felt a hand on her wither
  41. >She stopped her word-vomiting to look up
  42. >King Anonymous was standing right beside her with a bemused smile on his face and a strange twinkle in his eye
  44. >"I can see why you're so feared, princess," he said, giving her wither a pat. "If Celestia were to drop you off in the middle of enemy territory they'd surrender within the day after you were through with them."
  45. >Twilight blinked, looking over at the guard--who was covering against the wall--, then at the king
  46. >It took a few moments, but eventually realization of what she was doing came over her
  47. "Oh, I'm sorry!" she said, taking a step away from the terrified ling, her face becoming flush. "I didn't mean-- I mean, I was just--"
  48. >"Easy there, your highness," the king said evenly. "We know that you're just excited to learn all that you can. There's no harm done."
  49. "I, um, I..."
  50. >Twilight rambled for a few more seconds before she slowly closed her mouth, as red as a fire truck
  51. >Taking a deep breath, looked back over at the guard
  52. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to scare you," she said sincerely
  53. >The guard, composing himself a little, nodded
  54. >"Of course, your highness. All is forgiven," he replied
  55. >A few of the passing Changelings chuckled, further embarrassing the Princess of Friendship
  56. >Keeping his hand on the alicorn's wither, Anonymous began to lead her down the hall
  57. >Twilight sunk into herself, feeling, for all the world, like a naughty student that was being led to the principal's office
  58. >What had she been thinking, acting like that?
  59. >A princess was supposed to be calm and reserved
  60. >She wasn't supposed to act like some filly that couldn't stop herself from touching everything in a store!
  61. >Ears flat against her skull, Twilight looked up at the king
  62. "I... I apologize, your highness. It's just that I'm--"
  63. >"As I said before, there is nothing to be worried about," Anonymous said with a small smile
  65. "No, I didn't conduct myself like a princess should in front of a stallion, and--"
  66. >"I will not listen to you apologize for being excited about learning, Twilight Sparkle," the king said, shaking his head. "Something like that should not be punished but nurtured."
  67. >He gave her wither another squeeze
  68. >"So, we shall take you to a place where you can learn all that you wish and more."
  69. "REAL--"
  70. >Catching herself, Twilight coughed into a hoof
  71. "Really? And where would that be?"
  72. >Anonymous's smile widened and sharpened, until it looked more like a grin than anything
  73. >"Where all young minds are molded, my dear princess."
  75. ~-~-~-~-~-~
  77. >"Where's all your chitin?"
  78. >"Yeah! And what's all that weird, fuzzy stuff all over you?"
  79. >"How come your horn's all weird looking?"
  80. >"Why don't you gots holes in your legs like we do?"
  81. >"Where are your teethers? Did they not grow in yet?"
  82. >Twilight didn't know what to expect with Changeling children
  83. >Until a few hours ago, she didn't even think that Changelings HAD children!
  84. >She thought that Chrysalis just created them using some sort of dark magic, or maybe sucked so much life out of a pony that she just transformed them into her evil minions
  85. >But, it seemed, that wasn't the case
  86. >The regular, common lings were born just like anypony else
  87. >Sure, they might have come from eggs that had been soaked with concentrated love for an undetermined amount of time, but they were still born
  88. >They were still born and, oddly enough, they were adorable
  89. >About three dozen very young lings stood around her
  90. >They were tiny things--barely the size of a foal or filly-- with this not-quite chitin on their bodies
  91. >Upon close inspection, their chitin was spotted and it hugged their entire tiny bodies oddly
  92. >As she looked at it, Twilight was reminded of a pony wearing a hoodie, which only made the lings even more adorable
  94. >Behind them stood a guard and three caretakers, all of whom were watching her very, VERY carefully
  95. >Another caretaker stood beside her, smiling patiently as the purple princess nervously looked around
  96. "W-Well, you see, I'm a pony--" she began
  97. >"What's a pony?" one of the little lings asked
  98. >Twilight perked up
  99. "A pony is a hooved, vegetarian animal, otherwise known as Equus Adorablusus," the princess automatically said. "There's four subspecies of the pony. The earth pony, otherwise known as the Equus Terria. The pegasus, or the Equus Skretea. The unicorn, also known as Equus unus. And the alicorn, known universally as the Equus unus avium."
  100. >"Ohhh," every one of the little lings said, bobbing their heads as if they understood
  101. >"How come you's ponies got so many ponies?" one of the ling's asked
  102. >"Why are there so many different types of ponies," one of the caretakers corrected
  103. >The baby ling nodded
  104. >"Yeah! What he said!"
  105. >"Where's her thorax?"
  106. >"What's that on her butt?"
  107. >"How come she looks so chubby?"
  108. >"She smells funny!"
  109. >Twilight's smile cracked a bit as she took a step backward
  110. >She was never very good with kids
  111. >Not the babies; she loved to play with her niece and the Cake's kids, and most certainly not children around Applebloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo's age
  112. >They were fine
  113. >She could handle them with no sweat
  114. >But these kids, these lings standing around her with their big eyes and their itty-bitty wings, were in that in-between age
  115. >Not quite young enough to be adorable little babies, but not old enough to be cognitive children
  116. >You couldn't reason with kids like these
  117. >You couldn't explain yourself or do things that would quiet down a baby
  118. >They were animals man
  119. >ANIMALS
  120. >Twilight gulped, looking at the caretaker next to her
  122. >The caretaker, with a smirk, stepped in front of the princess
  123. >"Now, now, quiet down everyling," he said, raising a hoof into the air. "I know you want to ask the princess questions but that's going to have to wait for another day."
  124. >The children looked at each other, some of them awing
  125. >"How come?" one of them asked
  126. >The caretaker's smile widened
  127. >"Well, you see children, the princess here wants to learn about our people, and since we're learning ling culture, anatomy, and history this week the king thought that it would be a good idea for her to come down here and listen along with all of you."
  128. >Twilight's eyes widened
  129. >Culture? History? ANATOMY?!
  130. "Excuse me...?"
  131. >"You may call me Thirteen-seven-eighty, your highness," the caretaker said with a bow
  132. >Twilight nodded
  133. "Thirteen-seven-eighty, forgive me, but doesn't that seem like a little... much? These are just KIDS after all."
  134. >The caretaker's smile grew until it looked ready to fall from his face
  135. >"It might seem like that to a non-ling, your majesty, but I can assure you that these children will be able to do it," he said, his chest puffing out ever so slightly. "I do not mean to brag, but we lings have some of the best schooling in the world."
  136. >Twilight could feel herself salivating
  137. "Really...?"
  138. >"Yes. We Changeling's pride ourselves in collecting and distributing knowledge. In fact, our hive has some of the largest collection of--"
  139. >Suddenly, a bell rang out, cutting off the caretaker
  140. >The baby Changelings perked up, smiles exploding onto their faces
  141. >"Daddy!"
  142. >"It's storytime!"
  143. >"We get to see daddy now!"
  145. >The little lings began bouncing up and down
  146. >Those that were sitting quickly rose, their wings buzzing
  147. >Smiles were on every one of their faces
  148. >Twilight could see the excitement in their faces; it was so thick in the air that she could nearly TASTE it
  149. >She looked around at the children, before looking over at the caretaker
  150. >He was staring at the far corner of the nursery, the edges of his mouth turned upward
  151. >"Hmm, I didn't expect him to finish up with the tenth group so nearly," he muttered before looking at the princess. "Forgive us your highness, but it seems like it's storytime for the little ones."
  152. >Twilight blinked as the other caretakers herded the children together
  153. "Storytime?"
  154. >"Once a week, the king likes to come down to the nursery to read to the younger lings," the caretaker explained
  155. >Twilight perked up yet again
  156. "Oh? Would it be alright if I came along?" she asked
  157. >The caretaker gave her an odd look
  158. >"I don't see anything wrong with it," he said carefully, an eyebrow raised. "But wouldn't you rather have one of us teach you a little bit about ling culture while the children are busy?
  159. "No, no, no. I don't want to get ahead of the rest of class," Twilight insisted, completely serious. "And besides, it's been awhile since I've have somepony read me a story."
  160. >The caretaker gave her another odd look but said nothing, merely shaking his head as he made his way over to the eagerly awaiting kids
  161. >Twilight watched him go, trying to keep the excitement from her face
  162. >She was, hopefully, about to experience Changeling literature
  163. >Sure, it might have been for children--though, with what these kids were supposingly learning, a children's book might be completely different from what she knew--but it was a Changeling book all the same
  164. >What kind of stories did Changeling children read?
  165. >How heavy was the subject matter?
  167. >What did their written language look like?
  168. >What did a Changeling book even look like?
  169. >Was it made out of parchment or did they use some other material?
  170. >What did they use blind the pages together
  171. >What kind of ink did they use?
  172. >Did they even use ink?
  173. >Twilight had absolutely no idea
  174. >But she couldn't wait to find out
  175. >The Changeling nursery was massive
  176. >It wasn't so much a room as it was a cave the size of a town hewn into the rock
  177. >This was the place where a ling spent the beginning of his life
  178. >He was born here
  179. >He grew here
  180. >He slept, ate, made friends, and matured in this nursery until he was old enough to contribute to the hive
  181. >Everywhere children, of all ages, could be seen running around learning and playing, all under the watchful eye of a legion of caretakers
  182. >The Changelings were careful to show Twilight as little of the nursery as possible, but what little she saw fascinated her
  183. >She wanted to explore more
  184. >She wanted to go into the strange buildings off into the distance
  185. >She wanted to go over to that small hill with all of those odd symbols carved into it
  186. >What was that over there?
  187. >Was that an arena over there?
  188. >Why the hay did this nursery have a giant lake in the middle of it?
  189. >What kind of plants were those?
  190. >Why were they glowing?
  191. >What did they taste like?
  192. >Could you even eat them? If not, then what were they used for?
  193. >More than once the guards had to nearly drag Twilight back to the group after something caught her eye
  194. "Ohh! What's that?!"
  195. >"That's a Urgial tree, your highness. We use it as a light source to help us navigate this darkness."
  197. "And that? What are those plants?"
  198. >"They are the Tereia, Yuria, and the Burtia respectively. They're types of plants that grow very well in this type of climate."
  199. "Do they have a purpose?"
  200. >"Other than their aesthetic value? Not very much. We have the children plant and maintain these flowers to help them learn about both responsibility and botany."
  201. >One of the young Changelings was tugging on Twilight's tail
  202. >She could also feel another trying to touch her wings
  203. >For some reason, one of them was rubbing himself against her leg like a cat
  204. >But she didn't care
  205. >She was LEARNING!
  207. "What ab--"
  208. >One of the caretakers, who was beginning to look a little ragged, cut her off
  209. >"Excuse me, your highness, but it seems like we're here."
  210. >He then pointed a ways down the path
  211. >Twilight followed his hoof toward a well-lit, strange building
  212. >Unlike most of the other builds, which appeared to be made at least partially out of that moving, glowing green substance, this structure was made completely out of stone
  213. >It was also a good deal bigger than most of the other builds; two or three times in fact
  214. >It's roof was made from tiles of some sort of mildly luminescent clay, which glowed eerily in the darkness, and the front door was made out of some kind of strange, grainy wood
  215. >All over the building were runes the likes of which she had never seen before, which also glowed in the darkness
  216. >Twilight wanted to stop and inspect this strange building from a distance, but the children weren't having any of it
  217. >"Come on, come on!"
  218. >"I wanna go to storytime!"
  219. >"Daddy's there! I wanna go and see daddy!"
  220. >All around her, the little lings chirped and buzzed and squirmed in excitement
  222. >Two of them began tugging Twilight by her front legs
  223. >A small group of them began pushing her from the back, forcing her to move faster
  224. >"Come on! Daddy's gonna read us a story!"
  225. >"Yeah! You'll like it a lot, princess-lady. Daddy reads the best stories!
  226. >"Why you gotta move so slow, princess-lady?"
  227. "Wow! Easy there kids. EASY!"
  228. >Twilight tried to resist, but the surprisingly strong children would not be denied, pushing her along toward the building
  229. >"Younglings! You all stop that right now!" one of the caretakers barked
  230. >But the kids--as excited as they were-- paid him no mind, dragging Twilight along as they rushed forward as quickly as their little hooves could take them
  231. >Twilight, quickly realizing that struggling wouldn't help her in anyway, allowed the mob to lead her toward the house
  232. >Only stopping to wipe their hooves off at the front door, the little lings threw open the door and pushed the alicorn inside, with the guards and the caretakers bringing up the rear
  233. >"Daddy, daddy!"
  234. >"We're here, daddy!"
  235. >"Storytime! Storytime!"
  236. >Twilight blinked as a warm, glowing light invaded her vision
  237. >This wasn't the pale, almost cold, green glow of the various plants outside
  238. >She knew this glow; had grown up with it all of her life
  239. >This light was from candles; dozens of them
  240. >Maybe even hundreds
  241. >The princess looked around at the single, big room that she had just walked into
  242. >Book shelves filled with books of all sizes lined every wall
  243. >The floor, oddly enough, was made of well-worn wood
  244. >There were weaved basket containers sitting in various parts of the room
  245. >A hundred and a half candles, seated on small golden plates, floated into the air by means which she could not discern
  246. >In the middle of the room sat a large, comfortable-looking plush chair and a small stone table
  247. >Sitting in this chair, with a quilted blanket wrapped around his shoulder and fuzzy slippers on his feet, was King Anonymous himself
  249. >The king was taking a sip from a small, orient glass as they came in
  250. >Though they must have been twenty feet away, Twilight could see the delight come to his face when he finally noticed them
  251. >"Aw, there you are! I was wondering when you'd all come," he chirped
  252. >"DADDY!" the little lings roared
  253. >Letting go of the frazzled princess, the young Changelings raced toward the king, who quickly set his glass down and spread his arms out wide
  254. >"Are you alright, your highness?"
  255. >Running a hoof through her mane, and shaking her head to get the ringing out of her ears, she looked over to the group of guards and caretakers trotting into the building
  256. >"I'm terribly sorry about this, your majesty," a caretaker said, bowing his head. "The children always get excited when the king comes and--"
  257. "It's fine, it's fine," Twilight assured
  258. >Ruffling her feathers, she looked back over toward the king
  259. >The children seemed to have climbed all over the sofa and onto the laughing king himself
  260. >She could see little lings clinging to his arms, hugging his legs, sitting in his lap smiling, perching on his shoulders and nuzzling his cheek
  261. >There was even one particularly brave youngling sitting on top of his head
  262. >"Daddy, daddy!"
  263. >"We missed you, daddy!"
  264. >"I wanna hear a story daddy!"
  265. >"Can I have some love, daddy?"
  266. >"I love you, daddy!"
  267. >The king took all of this FAR better than she would have
  268. >He tickled and petted and nuzzled and kissed every ling that he could get his hands on
  269. >He asked them how they were, what they were doing in school, if they were being good
  270. >No Changeling was left untouched, or unloved, or unspoken to
  271. "...Did you say that the king always comes down here once a week to read to the kids?" Twilight asked, not taking her eyes off the scene in front of her
  272. >Another one of the caretakers nodded
  273. >"That's correct. Sometimes, the king is too busy with his duties, but generally he always tries to come down here once a week to spend time with the younglings."
  275. "May I ask how many "younglings" there are in the hive?"
  276. >The three caretakers exchanged glances before one of them nodded
  277. >"Of course you may. At this moment, there are about fifteen hundred younglings in the nursery."
  278. >The king was tossing one of the smaller baby lings into the air and catching him, much to that ling's enjoyment
  279. >"Hehe, Higher daddy. Higher!"
  280. >A small smile worked its way onto Twilight's face
  281. >Once again she was reminded of her father
  282. >She remembers all the years of bobo's, all of the hugs and the bedtime stories
  283. >She remembered that sparkle in her dad's eyes as he took care of her and her big brother
  284. >And, as she watched him, Twilight could see that very same sparkle in the king's eyes
  285. >"Ah, there you are, Princess!"
  286. >King Anonymous looked over at her, his smile somehow widening
  287. >"I hope that the nursery was to your liking."
  288. >With a gentle nudge from one of the soldiers, Twilight slowly made her way forward
  289. "It's incredible," she admitted. "Unlike anything that I've ever seen."
  290. >One of the little lings kissed the king's cheek
  291. >Immediately, he wrapped an arm around the little one and kissed them back
  292. >"Fantastic. For a moment I was afraid that you'd be a little sore from me leaving you like that."
  293. >He gestured to the children still crawling all over him
  294. >"I would have showed you around myself but the kids always get a little grouchy when they don't get their storytime."
  295. "Of course not," the princess said with a shake of the head. "I completely understand."
  296. >She smiled
  297. "I can't imagine how hard it is being the father of this many Changelings..."
  298. >The king shrugged, scooping a trio of little ones up in his arms and giving them all kisses
  300. >"Oh, it's not all that bad. I little time management goes a long way. You should see my wife though. Whenever she's down here she won't stop until she'd babied every one of these little tikes; no matter how long that particular course of action takes."
  301. >The young lings giggled, which quickly turned into chirps, their eyes dancing in amusement, excitement, and delight
  302. >It took everything Twilight had not to place a hoof against her chest
  303. >"Alright, little ones. As much as I enjoy being a living swing set I'm sure that all of you want to be getting to story time, hmm?" the king asked, picking the little ling from the top of his head and setting him down on his lap
  304. >"Alright, daddy!" the little lings said, hopping from his lap
  305. >All of them scurried toward the containers, popping off the tops and revealing plush blankets
  306. >The blankets were passed out amongst the lings before they scurried over and sat down in front of the king, so that the tallest were sitting in the back and the shortest were sitting in the front
  307. >"Very good," Anonymous chirped, looking back at Twilight. "Now, princess, since you're a guest why don't you pick out one of my friends?"
  308. >Twilight looked around the room at the endless supply of books
  309. "Friends...?" she murmured, almost to herself
  310. >The king laughed
  311. >"As a child I was very lonely. So men like Steinbeck, Twain, Hemingway, and even the somber Poe kept me company," he said, looking around at the books with warmth. "It was very lucky that our friendship survived my sudden moving. I do not know what I would have done if they would have been lost to me..."
  312. >While Twilight may not have known any of the authors that the king mentioned, she nonetheless made her way over to a bookshelf, practically drooling
  313. >The books on the shelves were in every condition
  314. >Some of them were pristine, with golden-lettered titles
  315. >Others looked so torn and weathered that she doubted they'd be able hold up if she pulled them from their home
  317. >She could smell old paper and ink and the glue that bounded the books together
  318. >It was the trademark of old, personal library's
  319. >A smile came to her face as she stopped in front of a shelf
  320. >King Anonymous could no doubt have a few Changelings rewrite every single one of these books if he so wished
  321. >He could have them placed in the finest leather-bound pages that money could buy
  322. >He could even have them titled and accented with the finest gold and jewels
  323. >But, being lover of books herself, Twilight knew why so many of these books looked so worn, so dirty, so used
  324. >He had collected each and every one of these himself
  325. >For years, maybe even his whole life, he had gotten this book and that, pouring through them over and over and over again until their pages were yellow and the ink on the pages was so faded that you had to squint to see them
  326. >No doubt many of these books had stains of some sort in them
  327. >The king may have written along the empty spaces of the pages
  328. >Twilight touched the spine of one of the books, feeling a familiarity welling in her stomach
  329. >She grabbed the book, feeling its weight, smelling its ink and paper and dust, before turning to look at the cover
  330. >She couldn't read the words, but that still didn't stop her from smiling as she turned around
  331. "Will this one be alright?" she asked, showing the king the book.
  332. >Anonymous smiled
  333. >"A Painted House, eh? It's been a very long time since I've read that one."
  334. >Without saying a word, he extended a hand
  335. >Without saying a word, Twilight walked over and hoofed him the novel before sitting with the group of lings
  336. >One of them hoofed her a blanket, which she gladly took and wrapped it around herself
  337. "Thank you very much," she said politely
  338. >"A Painted House, by John Grisham," Anonymous began, looking at the cover. "Alrighty, we'll read a few chapters today. Since it's a short book, and since it's the princess's request, I'll be sure to--"
  339. >"My king! My king! The queen's coming! THE QUEEN'S COMING!"
  341. >Everyone in the room turned just as a Changeling soldier burst into the room, wide-eyed and sweaty
  342. >"She'll be here at any moment!"
  343. >In an instant, Twilight's heart leapt to her throat
  344. >Bad things would happen if the queen saw her out of her cell, especially like this
  345. >It was too soon; they still had so much to do
  346. >This could ruin everything
  347. >If she were able, Twilight would have cast an invisibility spell on herself, but her horn was just as dead as ever
  348. >She was helpless, trapped in this room without any good way of escaping
  349. >Though she didn't realize it, she began to hyperventilate
  350. >Her head snapped back toward the king, who was looking calmly at the Changeling, the book still in his hands
  351. >The soldier quickly looked behind him, his eyes widening even further
  352. >Twilight's ears perked up as the sound of hoofsteps echoed in the now silent room
  353. >Heavy, regal hoofsteps
  354. >Clearing his throat again, King Anonymous looked back down at his book
  355. >"Children. If you'd please make the princess disappear I'd very much appreciate it.
  356. >As Twilight tried to process what he had just said, the kids grinned
  357. >"YEAH!" they cried
  358. >Before the alicorn could so much as blink the little lings swarmed her
  359. "URGH!"
  360. >She kicked and flailed--not hard though; she didn't want to HURT the kids or anything-- but it was so use
  361. >Soon, she was covered in blankets and baby ling bodies completely
  362. "What are you doing?!" she whisper-shouted. "Get off of me so I can--"
  363. >"Good afternoon, my love. Hello my children."
  364. >"Momma!" thirty something younglings chirped
  365. >Twilight froze, her mouth snapping shut
  366. >"Oh, good afternoon, my queen," the king said smoothly. "What brings you all the way out here?"
  367. >Though she couldn't see ANYTHING, Twilight could hear heavy hoofsteps as someone made their way across the room
  368. >"I simply wished to check up on you. I felt a disturbance in the emotions of the hive an hour ago, so I've been investigating into what it was that caused it."
  370. >Twilight held very, VERY still as the hoofsteps passed her
  371. >"Oh? Have you found anything unusual?" Anonymous asked, sounding concerned
  372. >"No, as far as I can tell everything seems fine," Chrysalis replied, stopping next to Twilight's head. "I've had our soldiers scouring the hive, and a group of our personal guard watching over the princess--"
  373. >Twilight gulped, closing her eyes tightly
  374. >She needed to stay calm
  375. >If she panicked the queen would know that she was here
  376. >She needed to stay calm
  377. >STAY. CALM.
  378. >"--If there IS anything wrong then we shall find it," Chrysalis continued confidently
  379. >Twilight could hear the king rise from his sofa
  380. >"Well, it's very nice of you to come and check up on us," he said, making his way toward Chrysalis
  381. >The floor creaked, which was followed by a happy sigh
  382. >"So you're reading the children a story I take it?" Chrysalis asked, so quietly that Twilight had to strain to hear
  383. >"Yes ma'am. I was about to start with this group," Anonymous answered. "Would you like to stay and listen for a bit? We're reading a new book. Something that I haven't read in a long while."
  384. >"Would that I could, my love," the Changeling Queen murmured. "But, unfortunately, there's much to be done."
  385. >"I understand, hon," the king said. "Maybe next time?"
  386. >"Next time," the queen promised
  387. >For the next few seconds after that there was silence, before the wooden floor creaked again
  388. >"Goodbye, my children. I'm sorry that I cannot stay longer."
  389. >"It's alright, mommy!" the little lings chirped
  390. >Twilight was about to breath a sigh of relief when the hoofsteps stopped
  391. >"...Children, might I ask what you're sitting on?"
  392. >Twilight twitched, breath catching in her throat
  393. >She could feel panic beginning to grow in her stomach
  395. >She fought desperately to beat it down
  396. >This was it
  397. >This was the end
  398. >Chrysalis was going to find her
  399. >She was going to find her a tear her to pieces
  400. >Closing her eyes, Twilight waited for the queen to start pulling the blankets and baby Changelings off of her
  401. >The hoofsteps came closer, making the alicorn tense
  402. >"We made a hill mommy!" one of the young lings said
  403. >"Yeah! A snuggle hill!" another chirped
  404. >The hoofsteps stopped
  405. >"A hill?" Chrysalis asked
  406. >One of the lings bounced on top of her, forcing Twilight to hold back a grunt
  407. >"Yep! We wanted to be nice and cuddly while we listened to daddy."
  408. >The room was silent for several seconds
  409. >During that time Twilight didn't move, breath, and did her best not to think
  410. >Finally, after what seemed like a eternity, the queen chuckled
  411. >"You are very, very silly children," she mused, making her way toward the exit
  412. >"Bye mommy!" the little lings chirped
  413. >"Goodbye little ones. I will do my best to come down and see you when I'm able. Be good for the king now."
  414. >"We will, mommy!"
  415. >It wasn't until Twilight heard the door close did she let out a sigh of relief
  416. "Oh thank Celestia..."
  417. >The children quickly climbed off of her, pulling away their blankets as they want
  418. >Eventually, Twilight was free to look around
  419. >The kids were all smiles, sitting around her wrapped in their blankets as if nothing had happened
  420. >Behind her, the caretakers and the soldiers looked like they were going to drop
  421. >King Anonymous was still smiling, though she couldn't help but notice that a bead of sweat was making its way down his forehead
  422. >Seeing her gaze on him, he quickly wiped the sweat away with the back of his hand and flashed her a cheery-- if weak-- grin
  424. >"Wew, that was something huh?" he asked, quickly opening the book up and clearing his throat before anyone could say anything. "Now, where were we? Ah yes, the beginning. Chapter one: The hill people and the Mexicans arrived on the same day. It was a Wednesday, early in September 1952. The Cardinals were five games behind the Dodgers with three weeks to go, and the season looked hopeless. The cotton, however, was waist-high to my father--"
  426. Pitiful rulers of Equestria. I, Chrysalis, First of my Name, Ruler of All that I Survey, Mighty Head of the Ling Hordes...
  428. >Celestia read the letter slowly, carefully
  429. "My, my, she DOES have quite a few titles, does she not?" she mused aloud
  430. >Luna, who was calmly sipping a cup of tea not two feet from her, snorted
  431. >"Our titles are no less numerous than hers, sister," she pointed out dryly. "Though we do not flaunt them in such a manner."
  432. >The Princess of the Sun shrugged
  433. "She wishes to intimidate and awe us, sister. It only makes sense that she would list all of them."
  434. >Celestia continued to read
  435. "Every single one of them it seems... No wonder there's so many pages..."
  436. >Luna frowned
  437. >"I'm I correct in guessing that she wishes to parley with us?"
  438. >Carefully setting one of the many pages down, Celestia began to read the next one
  439. "She wants to speak terms with us in Changeling lands. She wants the two of us and Cadence to come," she said
  440. >Not for the first time, a lingering worry came to the Princess of the Sun, but she was quick to beat it down
  441. >Twilight would be fine
  442. >They ALL would be fine
  443. >King Anonymous would keep his word and protect them and they would do their best to show the Changeling Queen the light of friendship
  444. >There was no need to worry
  445. >No need at all
  446. "Luna, could you please call for the generals? I wish to speak with them upon this matter."
  447. >"Our generals? I thought we were to simply parley with the queen," Luna asked, eyebrow raised
  448. >Smiling, Celestia set the rest of the letter down onto the table
  450. "We are, but that does not mean we need to come to her with our tails tucked between our legs."
  451. >That got a smile out of Luna
  452. >"Very well, sister. I shall go and speak to them post-haste."
  453. >Celestia nodded as her little sister rose from her seat
  454. "Thank you very much, Luna. While you do that I'll get into contact with Cadence and Shining."
  455. >As her sister left the room, Celestia let out a quiet sigh, looking toward her balcony
  456. "...I do hope that you know what you're doing, Anonymous king," she whispered.
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