Why Are You Here, Your Majesty?

by forbloodysummer

First published

Following her defeat, Chrysalis visits Celestia in her chambers for a long chat. For all their differences, they also find they have a lot in common, some of which puts Chrysalis’ recent actions in a new light.

Immortals are few and far between in Equestria, and they are all known to each other. Two of them are about to get to know each other a little better. Because one has just turned up uninvited in another’s private chambers. Maybe it’s time they had a chat?

This story contains enormous spoilers for season 6, and won’t make a great deal of sense if you haven’t seen that.

Proofread, edited and significantly improved by NaiadSagaIotaOar. Any remaining problems with the story are from where I didn't heed the advice given.

Where Else Would I Go, Your Royal Highness?

“Do you remember when we were younger, Luna, and I would sing you to sleep? How did that song go?”

Celestia kept her voice light and made sure to smile, but she felt her heart thumping away, with her stomach tied in knots, and she could only hope she sounded more convincing than she felt. She stood in her chambers beside the bed, where her book sat recently put aside. The afternoon sunlight streamed in through the windows, bathing the golden pillows in radiance. Across the room near the door, the indigo alicorn with the flowing starry mane and tail looked out of place in such a scene, and frowned at the question.

“This is a test, isn’t it?” the moon-bedecked and silver-shoed pony asked, her suddenly cunning expression looking alien on her face, “A probing trick question, to see if I’m who I seem to be.”

Celestia flared her nostrils unconsciously, planting her hooves wide. She held herself back from baring her teeth, but ground them instead. She might have known this day would come.

“Why have you taken my sister’s form?” she asked in a carefully controlled tone, drawing a steady breath.

“To get past the guards,” not-Luna replied without preamble, as if it were obvious. Which it was, all things considered. “I didn’t think they’d understand,” she said, rolling her eyes.

The nonchalance of the reply was infuriating, but also set some of Celestia’s worries at rest. She forced herself to be calmer, remembering the completely healthy and unsuspicious guard outside who had held the door for whoever looked like her sister to enter. As if there’s a long list of suspects.

“And Princess Luna is not only unharmed, but in fact completely unaware of this, I take it?”

Not-Luna declined to reply with words, only grinning malevolently. The expression did not suit her sister’s face, as if it were usually performed to display sharper teeth. However unsettling it was intended to be, though, the meaning behind it could only be a good one. Once again, Luna would get to sleep through a confrontation, blissfully unaware in her own chambers.

“Then why did you not revert to your true form upon reaching me?” Celestia asked, clenching her jaw. It had taken her a full ten minutes to wonder if something were different about her sister. She should have noticed the eyes straight away; she couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen Luna at this time of day without her looking exhausted, and yet the pony opposite Celestia looked perfectly well-rested. So many centuries of knowing her sister, and it still took her that long to tell the difference between the genuine article and an interloper in disguise. Maybe it was best Luna had a habit of sleeping through these things; it saved Celestia some embarrassment.

“I just wanted to enjoy the pleasant conversation while I could,” came the surprisingly gentle reply. “Even in someone else’s skin.” Not-Luna rubbed her chest with a forehoof, as if pained, and she looked towards the window, staring at nothing particular as she spoke.

Reluctant though she was to do it, Celestia made herself remember how she had felt when Tirek had trapped her, Luna and Cadence in a Tartarus cell. She had lost her magic, she had lost her kingdom, and she had lost all hope but one; her most faithful student. The rage and anguish she had felt knowing that her ponies were suffering, and the impotence of the certainty that she couldn’t help them. But at least she had had that one hope spurring her along, letting her focus on the belief that her powerlessness might only be temporary. And having her sister and her niece for company had provided some small comfort in such solemn and disheartening times. The ‘pony’ in front of her didn’t even have that.

“Why are you here, Your Majesty?” she asked quietly.

Not-Luna dropped her eyes to the floor and shook her head to herself, hesitating for a moment as if lost in thought. Then she lifted her eyes again, and Celestia received another smile in response, but this one was broken, wry, self-mocking, bitter and tragic, all rolled into one. She knew the sentiment was misaimed, but it cut her deeply to see that coming from somepony that looked so like her sister.

“Where else would I go, Your Royal Highness?”

A flash of emerald fire erupted from the floor carpet in a circle around the hooves of the ‘pony,’ and Celestia shut her eyes against the bright flames, although they were gone as quickly as they had appeared. So too was the image of her sister, and in its place stood Queen Chrysalis.

She looked only marginally worse for wear, with her chitin bearing scrapes here and there but no cracks, and her dress dirtier and a less lustrously shimmering green than usual. Her mane and tail were much the same, and although the dainty crown she always wore was nowhere to be seen, the massive, jagged horn jutting from her head might as well have been a crown in its own right. For a creature exiled from just about everywhere for the last few months, her posture almost held the confidence Celestia remembered, only a little stooped following her defeat, her spine a bit more bowed.

“And thank you,” Chrysalis continued, softly. “I am aware of the diplomatic headache that that honorific causes at the moment.”

Applying titles to a former ruler that have since been stripped, and after you’ve made peaceful overtures to her incoming replacement from a rival faction? For an outgoing ruler who was removed unanimously by her people the second they tasted freedom, at that? And when the first move of the new leader had been to end the unofficial state of war existing between their nation and your own? Yes, headache ought to cover it.

“I can’t promise I’ll use it publicly,” Celestia replied, pressing her lips together in a slight grimace and averting her gaze.

“That’s alright, I can’t really show my face in public right now.”

Not the biggest of handicaps for a changeling. But she could imagine how it would wound Chrysalis’ pride, she who had been known for strutting around with all eyes on her while explaining her dastardly plans. And perhaps a strong sense of identity, a love of who you were and how you appeared, was important for creatures who spent much of their time looking like others. To not have that might increase the risk of being lost in the mask you wore, Celestia supposed.

“But it strikes me as cruel to overlook a simple courtesy when in private,” she said, “given how much else you’ve lost recently.” Never before could she have imagined Chrysalis accepting sympathy, rather than raging at the very thought of it being directed her way. She felt an ache in her throat. Did Chrysalis’ vulnerability make her less dangerous, or more so?

“The accuracy of the title ‘Queen of the Changelings’ being debatable is only temporary,” Chrysalis said sardonically, although there was a grimness about her as she said it that didn’t bode well. Her voice then dropped, and the grief in it was unmistakeable. “The loss, sadly not.”

She really did love her former subjects, then? Or was she lamenting them, and the power that went with them, being taken away from her, like a child with a favourite toy? Chrysalis stared down at her hooves, and Celestia wet her lips, not wanting to compound the loss but also knowing she had to in order to get a better understanding of what ‘only temporary’ had meant.

“I extended Thorax the hoof of friendship,” she stated, “as their new leader.”

“Yes, I thought you might,” Chrysalis replied with a raised eyebrow. “But is he still a changeling? Are any of them?” She tilted her head to the side, leaning slightly forwards. “They can’t change form anymore, our defining attribute as a species. They don’t look anything like changelings, and they don’t prey on ponies’ love.”

Ah, so the argument is one of definitions? Such a magnificent creature, Celestia thought in spite of herself, brought down to nitpicking legal terminology in the effort to retain some semblance of her self-esteem. However saddening the thought, Chrysalis’ response hadn’t provided the clarity Celestia had hoped for, requiring her to be more direct.

“And you expect the confusion to be cleared up in time?”

Chrysalis stood still, a pensive gaze straight ahead of her focused on nothing in particular.

“Yes,” she said simply, in a voice devoid of emotion.

Still no further enlightened, Celestia could only think how ominous it sounded. Would Chrysalis really go as far as to seek revenge on her former subjects? She might try to depose or remove Thorax, but she had to know that the changelings, or whatever she might now call them, would never follow her again. Celestia weighed up whether or not she should alert Thorax to the threat, but she wouldn’t be able to do so discreetly at present, and so might as well hold off making a firm decision either way until her conversation with Chrysalis was concluded.

But pushing the subject only appeared to make Chrysalis defensive, and Celestia knew she’d draw out no further answers that way. She let it go for the time being, hoping it might come out in conversation if approached another way.

“Why did you come here, Chrysalis?” she asked, using the same tone she would to a friend, furrowing her eyebrows and leaning forward on her hooves, intrigued.

Rather than replying straight away, Chrysalis moved from her spot near the door for the first time since her arrival, trotting around the far side of the bed from Celestia and then sinking down onto it, completely uninvited. Rather than the languid sprawl Celestia half expected Chrysalis to adopt, she sat like a cat, on her hind legs with her forehooves resting between them. In that position, her slumped shoulders were more apparent, giving her a slightly more stooped overall aspect than Celestia might have pictured.

This left Celestia in a very peculiar situation. From guest to would-be assassin, somepony in Celestia’s room making herself at home on the bed unannounced was most certainly new, and she wasn’t immediately sure how to respond. The thought of diplomatic protocol reminded her of the ambassadorial party from Yakyakistan, and the image of them trying the same thing made her want to snicker and shudder at the same time, which had the unexpected benefit of countering her rising body heat and reduce the risk of becoming too flustered from not knowing what to do. As far as power plays went, this was a return to the Chrysalis of old.

That wasn’t how it came across, though. While there was no way Chrysalis could have missed the significance of her move, the look on her face was far from challenging. It might have been tempered with probably-feigned disinterest, but beneath that Celestia saw what she could only describe as longing. Wordlessly, she lowered herself onto the opposite side of the bed, mostly mirroring Chrysalis’ pose.

“Because being an immortal is lonely,” Chrysalis finally answered, not making eye contact, “and after so many centuries, one yearns for the occasional company of another one.” Her voice was monotone, and after speaking she finally lifted her eyes to meet Celestia’s, adding, “I would have thought you’d know that.”

I wonder how long changeling drones live. Pony lifespans felt like weeks next to Celestia’s own, and she thought it unlikely that changelings would naturally live longer than the average pony. A big part of Chrysalis’ life was presumably the same procession of grief Celestia herself could never escape. The only mercy to her when facing that particular price of immortality was that she didn’t have to do so alone.

“I have a sister,” she said, glowing at the very thought of how much better her infinite life was with Luna in it.

“Perhaps I should rephrase,” Chrysalis chuckled, although there wasn’t much humour in it. “Being an immortal is lonely,” she began again, this time with a curled lip, her tone becoming more acerbic as she went on, “doubly so, it turns out, when your family turns against you.”

“I have but one royal duty now: To destroy you!”

The memory was as clear as it ever had been, even a thousand years on, and the words seemed to reverberate through Celestia’s skull. That day would never fade, in her mind, and for all the healing she and Luna had done since their reconciliation, she remained haunted by it. If there were one lesson she had learned in her life, it was that a millennium was a long time, and certain feelings she’d held onto during that period were now so ingrained she’d never be free of them.

One of the funny quirks of love was its ability to make you feel guilty, even when you knew you’d done the right thing. That was for the best, Celestia thought, discouraging ponies from using the ‘I had no choice’ argument to blindly justify an action without thought for the consequences. And while she had spent very little time questioning the necessity of what she had done to Luna, she had never stopped paying for it.

Something else she’d picked up over her time as ruler was that if you forget the crime but remember the sentence, then you come to see yourself as the villain for passing it.

She had forgiven Luna and received the same in return, and rebuilt the bridges between them as quickly and closely as she realistically could. But for as long as she had been haunted by the guilt of having to punish her sister, she had also had to remember the pain of the betrayal that had made it necessary in the first place. The circumstances were far from identical, but maybe that pain was how Chrysalis was feeling.

Celestia had been too well-trained in courtroom etiquette to show her change of mood through her body language, but it took some self-control not to tug at her mane with a hoof, or pull her front legs more tightly against her.

“I have a sister,” she said again, with a whole new weight in her words.

At that, Chrysalis met Celestia’s eyes and held them. Anything Celestia might have interpreted from Chrysalis’ expression paled in comparison to the wealth of feeling and compassion that passed between them in that gaze. Hurt was undisguised, loss raw, loneliness unflinching, and Celestia felt she knew and understood Chrysalis better in that moment than she had another head of state for decades.

“I don’t,” Chrysalis replied quietly.

The Chain Of Command

“It always bugged me a little bit that you outrank me,” Celestia admitted, dipping her chin, as a blush crept across her cheeks.

Chrysalis, still sitting opposite on the bed, narrowed her eyes and gave Celestia a withering look.

Bugged you? Really?” she sneered. Celestia blushed further and bit her lip to keep her smile from breaking into laughter. Chrysalis’ eyes widened in exasperation before she turned away, despairing about how put upon she was.

“Anyway,” she continued, drawing herself up straighter and facing Celestia again, chin up and shoulders back, “of course I do. I’m higher up the chain of command.”

Celestia gave a quizzical look, having never heard of a royal hierarchy that linked ponies and changelings in any order, changelings on top or not. When she offered no further reply, Chrysalis grinned wickedly, pulling her black lips back to expose all the teeth she could.

“The only one that matters – the food chain,” she whispered, the last three words dripping with malice. Her eyes lit up, too, but it was so deliberate that Celestia didn’t take the taunting seriously.

“You can’t survive without the love ponies provide,” Celestia scoffed. “Are you really the superior species?”

“Sheep might say the same to wolves,” Chrysalis purred, leaning in towards Celestia, separating their muzzles by only a few hoofwidths. Had they been standing, she thought Chrysalis might be circling her by now. “Predator or parasite, we exist to devour you.”

Did you have to bring that up? We were doing so well. The conversation up to now, both the sombre bits and the light-hearted ones, had been unquestioningly the most pleasant interaction she had ever had with the changeling queen. Despite being worlds apart in nature, their commonalities meant they could relate to sides of each other that nopony else could, and their talk had been groundbreaking not only in the geopolitical sense. But so much of Chrysalis was alien, and separated from Celestia by shockingly different ways of thinking. And now the subject of changeling natural behaviour had arisen, Celestia would have to try reaching out to Chrysalis.

Not that she didn’t want to reach out and help guide Chrysalis to a better path, but Celestia could picture how it would be received, and the abrupt end it was likely to bring to their conversation.

“You don’t have to, you know,” she said, trying to balance the soothing tone of offering to help somepony with the sternness of cutting down their excuses for hurting others. “You may not want to hear it, but Thorax found another way.”

Chrysalis’ face tightened as she snorted derisively, after which she pursed her lips waiting for Celestia to finish.

“By sharing love, he offered the changelings a different life,” Celestia pressed on, “one you never gave them the chance to try.”

“Goodness, I wonder why that could have been,” Chrysalis smiled, with cart loads of insincerity. She then became more accusative, “How long would wolves survive as a species if they only ate other wolves?” After a moment, she calmed herself, and explained, “The physics of it don’t work. We feed on the love of others; love is consumed when it is given to us, used as a fuel source to give us energy. That love can’t then be passed on, because it’s been used up.”

“But each changeling can create love, within their heart,” Celestia replied at once, “just like ponies can.” She was careful the swift answer couldn’t be seen as a snap, as Chrysalis had made the effort to rein in her own temper in its early stages of flaring, and keeping her calm was more likely to lead to a positive outcome.

“For you it’s a feeling,” Chrysalis said, “for us it’s a resource.” She took on a lecturing tone that reminded Celestia of Twilight, “We can generate love, yes, but resources can’t be created out of nothing; the process requires something to fuel it. And no resource generation process in the world gets out more energy than you put in.

“With love as our only food source, changelings cannot create enough love to be self-sustaining. It’s just not possible. If it were, we’d have done it millennia ago.”

Could that be true? Would the magical land of Equestria truly be so horrible to a species? She might brush up on her education from time to time to remind herself of things she had learned and since forgotten, as well as to cover any new ground in pony world knowledge, but Twilight was far more the physics expert than she. It sounded believable, though, Chrysalis’ argument, although Celestia could only wish that it weren’t.

In that context, changeling feeding habits of infiltrating pony settlements and preying on their love, unseen, were more justified. Even Chrysalis trying to take over Equestria on two occasions made more sense. Dirty hooves, she remembered: that was what the Canterlot scholars had called the political theory behind whether or not a leader could take extreme actions, those normally considered immoral, in order to save their civilisations.

“What will happen to them?” she asked gravely, her voice thick with concern. She couldn’t meet Chrysalis’ eyes for long, and so her gaze wandered while her thoughts shuddered.

“The same thing that always happens,” Chrysalis said wearily. “They’ll feed each other until all their love is used up, and then they will all die.” Her eyes were dull, drained of all the fire they’d held when discussing the food chain, and her dejected sigh suggested she was already resigned to the loss. “After which, I, undisputed Queen of the Changelings by virtue of inarguably being the only one left in existence, will lay my eggs again, and start a new hive.”

How many times has all this happened before, to warrant the label of it always happening? Celestia had thought of her own life as an endless funeral, but her experiences paled next to those of Chrysalis. It was true that, barring other alicorns, everypony in Celestia’s life alive at the start of one century would be gone by the start of the next, replaced by their descendants. But to lose them all at once, and in such traumatic fashion...?

“Inevitably,” Chrysalis carried on in the same tired tone, “sooner or later one of them will think of sharing their love, and how much happier that would make everyone. No more needing to feed on ponies, no more hiding from them, or living in the dark and cold, no more constant hunger.” She smiled ruefully, as Celestia had seen mothers with grown children do when discussing how those children had misbehaved when young. “I’ve never managed to stop the others from joining in once one of them has tried it. All I can do is try to keep a tight enough hold on them that they never consider sharing love in the first place.

“That’s why individuals like Thorax are so dangerous to the hive as a whole,” she said wistfully, “and have to be dealt with so severely.”

That did stand to reason, if one member could so easily threaten all of them like that. And no explanation could be offered, for fear of other changelings getting the same idea. All that Chrysalis would be able to do would be to condemn them for some vague charge, like ‘treason against the hive,’ and exile them. And yet, while the facts might be accurate, something about that didn’t ring true to Celestia...

“I don’t buy it,” she said, making her voice hard for the first time since they’d sat down on the bed. “I was half asleep, upside down in a cocoon at the time, but I saw your face, Chrysalis.” Celestia felt the muscles in her forelegs clenching at the thought, squaring her shoulders. “You weren’t reluctantly punishing a child for the greater good, you were enjoying tormenting a traitor.”

Much to Celestia’s further chagrin, Chrysalis did not appear perturbed by this, instead flashing a humourless smile.

“Turns out I’m rather cruel,” she shrugged. “Who knew?”

Celestia gave a flat look, with only centuries of patience keeping her temper in check. There was a pounding in her ears, synchronised with the pulsing in her jugular. But she made sure there was no outward sign of her rage beyond the taut muscles, otherwise not moving.

“Yes, I enjoyed it,” Chrysalis said, making her confession with the same casual scorn with which she might have admitted eating the last slice of cake. “Yes, I am cruel, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have my reasons.”

Celestia raised an eyebrow, her eyes not leaving Chrysalis,’ straining not to glower at her while waiting for her attempt to justify her spite. This had better be good...

“Ponies, by their nature, thrive when empathetic and altruistic,” she began, a lot more serenely than Celestia had expected, “and so you, champion of those virtues, have become their ruler. I, with a different set of values, have become ruler of the changelings, because cruelty serves us best.”

Pleasant surprise at the calm delivery had quickly turned into seething. How could Chrysalis so coolly discuss being so vicious? How could she condone it? She didn’t even have Sombra’s decency to be indifferent to the suffering he caused, Chrysalis actively enjoyed it.

“What kind of twisted...?” Celestia spluttered, still pulling hard on her own internal reins to keep herself from boiling over. “Why would you possibly think that?” She swallowed, not noticing before how dry her throat had become from how heavily she had been breathing.

“Because preying on sapient creatures is hard,” Chrysalis snapped, “when you’re sapient yourself.”

Then she deflated, folding in on herself. Her chin dropped to her chest, and she did nothing to alter the way it made her mane fall across her eyes more than usual. If anything, Celestia was reminded of the way Fluttershy sometimes hid behind her hair. A lot of Celestia’s anger drained away quicker than she’d thought possible.

“We may not have evolved the sense of empathy that ponies have,” Chrysalis said in a voice so full of emotion it sounded like her throat might close up around the words, “but if you’re self-aware, then it’s easy enough to put yourself in another’s hooves. It’s all too easy to wonder what ponies are feeling, or how you’d feel to be treated the way you treat them. At which point,” she said helplessly, “you end up starving to death.” She dropped her voice, and added in a way that was both rational and bleak, “Cruelty, for us, is the most essential tool we have.”

They rely on malice to overcome an empathy they don’t naturally feel, but sometimes end up thinking about anyway? That sounded awfully like an insight into changelings being good natured deep down, and having to fight against that instinct to survive, Chrysalis included. And if that were truly the case, then there was hope.

“You don’t know that, not for sure,” Celestia breathed, leaning forward. She smiled encouragingly, raising hoof to her chest. “Ponies and changelings could coexist peacefully.”

“Do you think I haven’t tried that?” Chrysalis asked regretfully, rubbing a hoof down her face. “Every time I rebuild and repopulate the hive, I do something differently, convinced I’ll get it right eventually. At first, I tried every angle of having them share love.” She squeezed her eyes shut, looking pained. “They never lasted long.”

Celestia felt her hooves growing limp as the optimism leaked out of her, her posture sagging. There was a sour taste in her mouth, and her chin trembled as she looked down at her hooves.

“Whereas the crueller I go,” Chrysalis continued, her voice regaining confidence and clarity, but also some of her usual malevolence, “the better we do. I never intended to be a tyrant, but I can’t argue with the results. Or deny that it suits me,” she finished, with a wide-eyed, whispered dramatic flourish, sounding both self-praising and self-loathing at the same time.

“Is that why you rejected Starlight’s offer of friendship?” Celestia asked, remembering the vulnerability and uncertainty on Chrysalis’ face when Starlight stretched out her hoof. There’d been a split-second just before slapping the hoof away when Chrysalis’ eyes had narrowed, and the familiar proud and vengeful changeling queen had reasserted herself. Had she been considering making another attempt at running her hive on shared love, as she had in days of old?

Chrysalis’ expression hardened, her brows drawing down as she clenched her teeth, fixing Celestia with an intense stare. She said in a low voice, “How would you respond if someone handed your children a death sentence, and then offered to be your friend?”


Starlight hadn’t known of course. That was Celestia’s first thought. Followed by how little difference that would have made in that situation. The rage and grief of a mother made childless a thousand times over. How fortunate none had tried to stop her fleeing. She would have gone through them all.

“That doesn’t mean everything she said was wrong, though,” Celestia said, trying to salvage anything positive, “about you being able to be the leader your subjects deserve.” She felt a tightness in her chest, and her efforts to come across as open and embracing, rather than desperate, weren’t working. “You don’t have to rule through fear. They would obey you much more willingly if they loved you.”

“They can’t love me,” Chrysalis scoffed, “they’re changelings, and they eat love for breakfast. Having them love me would be taking food from the mouths of the starving.”

Celestia, who had been on the verge of wringing her hooves, stopped, frozen in place as she was hit by the full realisation of what it must mean to be a changeling.

It was the same thing. The bond that existed between her and her subjects, or her sister; the glue of happy feelings that held her entire society together, that was what changelings ate to survive. They couldn’t spare any of it to build similar bonds themselves. What wretched lives they must have to lead. Love was such an ingrained part of her kingdom that she could hardly fathom life without it, and as such all her preconceptions took it for granted. So her every thought on changelings had been inaccurate from the start, built around principles that simply didn’t exist for them.

“So I keep them in line the hard way,” Chrysalis said. There was a sadness to her, but her jaw was set. “Most are loyal, and dedicated, but it’s not love.”

She crossed her forelegs in front of her chest and sneered, sounding like iron made flesh. “That is not a luxury I can afford.”

Chrysalis took a single deep breath, held it for a moment, and then slowly let it out through her nose. She returned her front hooves to their former spot in between her rear ones as she sat, and gave a thin-lipped smile that could almost have been apologetic.

“And you saw how quickly they turned against me, after all the sacrifices I have made for them,” she concluded wryly, “so what they deserve is relative.”

Author's Notes:

The third and final chapter takes place immediately after this one, with it being written all as a single scene and only split into two at the last minute, so it might be best to read it immediately, if you have time now.

Any Day Worth Remembering

“And you saw how quickly they turned against me, after all the sacrifices I have made for them,” Chrysalis concluded wryly, “so what they deserve is relative.”

Celestia could feel the ground slipping away underneath her, almost overcome with the urge to grab hooffuls of her own mane, clinging onto anything she could. She needed time to adjust her thinking to the new knowledge about changeling natures, but she had none. Chrysalis might never be as receptive again; if there were anything Celestia could do, she had to do it right now.

“I will reach out to them,” she blurted, not knowing if she’d actually be able to do anything to help, but certain she had to try. “Offer the love they need, if they cannot sustain themselves on their own.”

And at that, Chrysalis froze. All traces of the haughty, scheming changeling queen vanished, replaced with a blank face and a mouth hanging open. Her wide eyes were locked on Celestia, unblinking. After a couple of seconds, Chrysalis recovered, but spoke haltingly as she leaned in.

“W-would you, would you really do that for them?” she asked in a breathy voice, edging closer on the bed to Celestia. Chrysalis covered her mouth with a hoof, and then spoke more quickly, disbelief in her tone giving way to wild hope. “Now they’re in their adult forms, they’ll only live about ten years, even with plenty of food, and they can’t reproduce,” she babbled. “So it would only need to be temporary.”

Then she caught herself again, holding her breath and giving Celestia an earnest look. Chrysalis’ face by that point had drawn to within hoofwidths of Celestia’s own. “And I would owe you the biggest favour in history, for not letting my children die.”

“Of course we would,” Celestia said without hesitation. She could already picture the strange looks she’d get, helping those who had so recently been enemies, but if Thorax and his people were in need of aid, Equestria would provide it. It would have been easier had they eaten pony food, but love was what they ate, so love they would have to have.

“I don’t have much to offer in return,” Chrysalis said softly, looking down at the bed and pulling back a little. “Not at the moment. Once I rebuild a new hive, then–”

“I can think of one thing,” Celestia interrupted gently. Revelation after revelation queued up in her head waiting to be processed, but the most recent one, that Chrysalis would put such stock in whoever might offer to help her children, might have put hope back on the table, and that couldn’t be left not acted upon.

Very slowly, Chrysalis straightened upright again. There was a tight look around her eyes that Celestia interpreted as sad, but also hard. There might have been shame in there, perhaps, or fear, she couldn’t quite tell.

“I will not lay down my life,” Chrysalis said. Celestia heard reluctance, but also unwavering resolve. “I am the mother of my race, and it will die without me. I cannot allow that to happen.” She paused to swallow. “Ten years of happiness are not worth infinities of extinction.” Celestia noticed guilt in Chrysalis’ expression, too, at the thought of those she would be abandoning. “If you want that, you’ll have to catch me first.”

Chrysalis leapt backwards off the bed, landing on her hooves and flaring her wings. A green glow immediately appeared around her horn. She looked like her heart wasn’t quite in it, but that she was determined to fight her way out anyway.

Celestia remained where she sat, trying not to show her alarm, but reasonably confident she could placate Chrysalis before the situation grew out of hand. Celestia could understand defensiveness and suspicion, but that had been quite a conclusion for Chrysalis to leap to. Celestia patiently watched Chrysalis, saying nothing, only wishing that she had some tea to sip while doing so.

“That wasn’t it,” she said calmly. And she understood Chrysalis’ decision, too. However hard it must have been to doom her own children, a leader had to put their subjects as a whole first. In this case, that meant Chrysalis’ unborn future changelings over Thorax’s extant ones, which was an unusual situation, but Celestia knew that any monarch worth their salt would have made the same decision.

Wincing, Chrysalis’ ears turned red as the green glow around her horn fizzled out.

“Then, what?” she asked sheepishly, shuffling her hooves before looking away.

Celestia gestured with her muzzle, pointing at the spot on the bed Chrysalis had been occupying, and smiling encouragingly. In as low-key a manner as she could, Chrysalis returned to her former spot, her face still flushed, rubbing the back of her neck before settling down.

“You will build a new hive, yes, once they’re gone?” said Celestia. She perked up where she sat as she asked, tapping a hoof to her lips while thinking.

“Yes,” Chrysalis answered, unsure of the purpose of the question. Her brow furrowed slightly, puzzled where Celestia might be leading the conversation to.

“And,” Celestia kept her tone neutral, “you will raise the next generation of changelings to be just as cruel as the last?” Her mouth had gone dry at the thought, but she made sure not to wrinkle her brow.

“Probably more so,” Chrysalis replied evenly. She showed no outward signs of what she was feeling, and her voice held neither sadness or pride. “I think it will give them the best odds of survival.”

And there’s a very good chance you’re right. Chrysalis absolutely believed so, that much was obvious. Celestia couldn’t trust her own opinions on the matter: when they weren’t influenced by what loving ponies would do in that situation, they were too wrapped up in what it would mean for Equestria.

That was a debate for another time. Celestia would have to set things up for now, and consider them as she went. There’d be plenty of opportunity to think it through from all angles once the initial arrangements were in place.

“Do you have to start now?” she asked, feeling her breath hitch. “Or can you leave some time before starting a new breeding cycle?”

Chrysalis arched an eyebrow, and Celestia realised that it might have been quite a personal question. It was a necessary one, however, that she couldn’t have moved forwards without asking. Chrysalis didn’t look indignant, though, more like mystified.

“...I can,” she said, sounding bemused.

Celestia bit her lip, noticing the sweat on her forelegs, and picking up on how acute her senses suddenly felt. She would not let her eyes flick to the exit. She would not! Instead she closed them and took a deep, steadying breath, then opened them again and fixed her gaze on Chrysalis.

Ok, moment of truth. Go for it.

“Then stay with me,” she said simply. She didn’t need to struggle for her voice to sound open, or fight down her nerves, that all happened by itself, and she found there was a clarity in the moment. “Take a century off to spend with me here, in the palace.” She smiled, feeling almost weightless, and arched an eyebrow of her own. “You said you wanted company.”

Chrysalis didn’t say anything or give much of an outward reaction, but she smiled and pursed her lips. There was a calculating look, a slight narrowing of her eyes, but the smile never faded. Celestia took that to be the best response she could have wished for, under the circumstances.

“You’re thinking you can win me over,” Chrysalis said shrewdly. It wasn’t a question.

Using subterfuge on a changeling is a bad idea, especially if I’m hoping to teach her openness and honesty.

“I think if you live among the sheep,” Celestia said with a playful grin, borrowing Chrysalis’ metaphor, “you might be more reluctant to go back to feeding on them.”

“Changelings have to eat,” Chrysalis reminded her, but at least sounded more amused than disparaging, as her lips pressed together into a fine line.

“But that food could be freely given, without you having to steal it,” Celestia implored, rushing, with a fluttering in her stomach.

“You would make us your pets, utterly dependent on you for love, and helpless should you withhold it.”

Was that how it looked from the other side? In a way it was nice to think that changelings had a deeper reason than mutual distrust for not simply asking ponies to love them. They were unwilling to put themselves in such a position of subservience. How could Celestia offer them some self-worth, making them slightly less co-dependent?

“If love is only a resource to you, then it would be no different to a basic bartering system,” she said, “exchanging food for whatever services you could provide.” And once she’d said it, Celestia realised she had no idea if changeling society had any form of currency, insectoid as it was. Then she remembered that Chrysalis had had no trouble fitting in amongst ponies as Cadence, and she and Shining Armor had always kept tight-lipped about exactly how long that had gone on for, so the idea would likely not be foreign to her after such immersion in pony society.

“But we would still be at your mercy,” Chrysalis said pointedly, rolling her eyes. “You’d be able to set whatever price you wanted, because we couldn’t survive refusing it.”

Hmmm. That was hard to argue with. Celestia looked off to one side, eyes lowering and darting around studying nothing as she tried to consider the problem. Ponies could grow their own food, but changelings could never hope to be so independent. Nothing they could offer ponies would ever be needed in the same way as love was for them, and so the imbalance couldn’t be countered.

“Then we will have a century to work out the details,” she smiled, straightening her spine from where she had hunched over in thought, and feeling the lightness in her chest as she pushed it out confidently. Given enough time, all problems could be solved. Time was something she had. Chrysalis too.

“But even if, after that, you leave and continue just as before,” she pressed on, “a hundred years without me having to worry about another changeling invasion will have been welcome.” There would be other threats, of course, but the changelings had presented a unique challenge since Equestria had become aware of their existence, requiring all manner of anti-deception spells. None of which had reliably worked, but they still had served some purpose, reassuring the populace.

They had not been cheap, though. Being able to do away with them would definitely be a boon.

“And you’d have me here, as your guest?” Chrysalis asked, narrowing her eyes and jutting her chin out sceptically, but it came across as good-natured. “Perhaps in some official function, an ambassador to a nation that no longer exists?”

“Something like that, if you’d like,” Celestia nodded, breathing easily. In the meantime, until such appointments were made, Chrysalis would probably need to remain as Celestia’s personal guest. Happily, the private guest rooms of the palace were every bit as lavish as the state rooms, so Chrysalis ought to have nothing to complain about.

Chrysalis chuckled and lifted a hoof to her mouth, trying to stifle her laughter, but not trying that hard, and looking around the room in mock-innocence at anything but Celestia.

Moving only her eyebrows, Celestia sent Chrysalis a ‘something funny?’ look.

“How would Princess Cadence take that, I wonder?” Chrysalis grinned. Her eyes twinkled mischievously, not taking the situation nearly seriously enough. But Celestia struggled to hold her decorum, too. To an immortal, any day worth remembering would ultimately end up being thought of fondly. And she’d been struck down in her own throne room!

“That was quite a while ago,” she said with a knowing look. “I doubt she was too happy to see you again, especially via abduction” – she frowned for a moment – “but you probably need not fear for your safety.” She tried to keep the rosiness from her face as she confided, “I happen to know that now the trauma of the incident has passed, the Princess of Love is quite proud of having a wedding nopony will ever forget.”

Was it the jaded indifference of immortal perspective to find herself smiling about the whole thing with the very creature who had done the striking? Or could it be the first sign of friendship?

“Then she’ll love Flurry Heart’s cute-ceañera,” Chrysalis cackled, and Celestia chortled despite herself. She probably ought to warn Cadence about that one...

“Since you mention love, and that occasion,” Chrysalis continued once they had both regained their composure, rubbing her sides, which ached from laughing too hard, “you know I’d need to eat while staying here.”

Celestia had already thought of that. She cleared her throat and looked uncomfortable, although probably not for the reasons Chrysalis might have guessed. This would need handling delicately.

“I don’t mean to rub your face in it,” she said, “but love is a luxury I can afford.” She made an effort not to shuffle her hooves in front of her. “And I have plenty of it to spare.”

Would the platonic love of a friend be enough to sustain Chrysalis? And how quickly could those feelings be developed? Celestia wasn’t sure how drained being fed on would leave her, but attempting to bring peace to relations with Chrysalis and the changelings would be worth substantial sacrifice.

“You would love me?” Chrysalis smirked.

Well somepony’s got to. And I don’t see any others lining up.

Chrysalis looked like she’d just been handed the keys to the kingdom. Nothing was impossible, Celestia reminded herself, so there was the tiniest chance that when future historians looked back on this moment, that was exactly what they would conclude to have transpired. “I, who, only a few minutes ago, you looked ready to strike down for tyranny?”

Maybe the answer was to look only at Chrysalis’ good traits. She was loyal to her race as a whole, if not individual members of it, or even individual generations of it, ensuring its survival at their expense if that was what it took. Kindness and generosity were present in her dedication, if not her manner. Honesty was out entirely, of course, but, between raw power matching Celestia’s own, bringing down Shining Armor’s shield, and that throne of hers, Chrysalis had proven herself with magic time and time again. And laughter? She had that down to a tee.

Outside of the Elemental virtues, Chrysalis had ambition, determination, and the toughness to weather the centuries on her own, at least until now. She was audacious enough to kidnap every important political figure in Equestria in one go. She even had a great singing voice.

And she was clever. Celestia had been devastated after the wedding to realise how harshly she’d treated Twilight, who had been right all along, of course, but she’d grudgingly had to respect Chrysalis’ masterful plan to drive a wedge between the six bearers of the Elements, manipulating people she’d never met before.

“I’ll try,” Celestia said levelly, biting the inside of her cheek. There was no denying the adventure Chrysalis always brought with her when she entered the picture, where at the time ponies, Celestia included, would only see danger. That kind of thrill ride only worked when mortal peril was present, which Chrysalis saw as something of a speciality.

“Maybe it’ll encourage you to start acting more lovably,” Celestia teased.

“And here we are with the pet thing again,” Chrysalis drawled, shaking her head indignantly before crossing her forehooves and looking away, scowling. All done in a way Celestia knew wasn’t really meant.

There was definitely a sense of fun about Chrysalis, a mischievousness and unpredictability that only came from somepony who wasn’t necessarily going to do the right thing.

“All I’m saying,” Celestia said lightly with a grin, “is that being difficult to love might not work in your favour.” She wanted to give Chrysalis a playful nudge, especially when facing the feigned indignation, but restrained herself. Soon, if all went well, they would actually have the kind of bond between them where such behaviour would be acceptable, even encouraged. But not yet. “You evolved yourself to be cruel, can you reverse it?”

The circumstances were unique, but ‘evolved’ was absolutely the word. Chrysalis had been shaped into something different by natural selection, her nature changed over time into whatever form gave her children the best chance of survival.

“That’s not a good idea,” Chrysalis said after a hard swallow, giving the answer Celestia had mostly expected to hear. “It’s taken me a long time to get to this state, backtracking would not serve the changelings well.”

I wonder what she used to be like, once upon a time. And how the Chrysalis from back then would think of her modern self being so reluctant to let go of malicious attributes she might once have found horrendous.

Clearly, Chrysalis was taking the consideration seriously. Her reply, as well as the tension in her shoulders, said that she knew what would be at stake, and would not risk it without very good reason. But it also suggested that Chrysalis at least thought such a change possible, rather than her being too locked into her ways to turn back.

And that’s it, then. That’s my mission. To prove to her how much she could stand to benefit, and find a way together for us to make it work. It would be in Chrysalis’ personal interest, with Celestia’s affection for her presumably growing with each step away from cruelty, and it would mean a more comfortable life for her people. But it did threaten their independence, and maybe in the end their survival, if no solution were found. One hundred years to find some compatibility, some way to coexist, with the terrifying changeling queen.

“If you see it that way, perhaps,” Celestia smiled serenely, feeling warmth radiating throughout her body. “But you could look at it as taking some time off from the endless cycle of death and rebirth, to enjoy the company of another immortal.” She struggled very hard not to reach out and touch Chrysalis, with how euphoric she was feeling. Her horn wasn’t glowing, but she wondered if she might all the same be subconsciously making the sun bounce up and down happily in the sky. “A holiday, if you will.”

Chrysalis gave her an appraising look, moving her head this way and that, studying closely with a piercing gaze as if the answers she sought could literally be seen in Celestia’s eyes. For a long time Chrysalis sat there opposite Celestia on the bed, biting her lip as she weighed the options.

And then, during a conversation in which Celestia had had to rethink her opinion on Chrysalis again and again, realising how wrong she’d been for years about various things, came her biggest surprise yet. Haltingly, nervously and with great uncertainty, Chrysalis leaned forwards, stretched out her forehooves and wrapped them around Celestia, enveloping her in a hug.

Celestia barely had the presence of mind to respond in kind, trying not to start shaking from the shock of it as her heart hammered away. Not letting go, Chrysalis rested her head on Celestia’s shoulder, thoughtfully on the opposite side to her flowing mane, and Celestia did the same, slowly closing her eyes.

“I’ll give it some thought,” Chrysalis said quietly in her ear.

Author's Notes:

Six months after I joined this site, and after writing 27,000 words, I can finally say I've written about actual ponies! One of them, at least, since Chrysalis doesn't really count. And Celestia can hardly be called 'little.'

Needless to say, I had a lot of fun adding words like 'everypony' to Word's dictionary. I am intending to write a blog post about this story soon with more detailed notes inside.

Also, everyone has their own headcanon on changeling society, I know. This is mine, and it may not be compatible with yours, sorry about that. If my own headcanon had been the same as how the show chose to show them in To Where And Back Again, the discussion in the second chapter here would have been a lot shorter.

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