Chrysalis's Tale - A Journey's End
Myth felt like her heart was trying to leap out of her chest with how hard it pounded. She could hear each beat even over howl of the wind through the mountains.
The sound of a rock rolling down the mountainside echoed far too loudly. Myth froze. It was only after she was sure no rockslide was going to draw even more attention to her that she looked down at the hoof that had betrayed her.
And as she stared at her right foreleg, there was something that felt wrong about it, as if it were the wrong colour or too long. But it was reddish-orange, just like the rest of her, and it was the same length as her left foreleg. Certainly it was just as pony as the rest of her too. The feeling never went away though, no matter how long she stared.
A strange sense of vertigo assaulted Myth, and she slammed her leg back down to steady herself.
She remembered. She remembered where she was. High up in the mountains with the winds whirling randomly, she was in sylph territory.
Breath held, Myth stepped forward as silently as possible. Her coat blended in with the rock well enough, but her sky blue mane and tail were as conspicuous as a kelpie among ponies. She whispered her silent thanks that her tail was cut short and that her mane was tied up over her left ear, rather than flowing in the wind.
From boulder to boulder, Myth travelled in quick spurts. Behind each, she peeked her head out just enough to look around, although the sickening feeling in her stomach reminded her how hopeless the act was. Sylphs were small, almost invisible in the air. They were one of the smallest faeries, just slightly bigger than their breezie cousins.
Unlike breezies though, sylphs were native to the faerie world, and it showed. Mischievous, vengeful, territorial – sylphs were as dangerous as any other faerie, maybe more so. The wind at their command could cut as easily as any blade, and it would throw a unicorn filly off a mountain even easier. The fall would be so long; Myth would have time to think over just how everything had gone so wrong before she splattered onto the ground.
No, don’t think like that, Myth told herself. Everything would be okay if she travelled carefully. It would all be okay. She repeated that thought to herself over and over again until she mustered up the courage to peek her head out from her hiding spot again.
Left, right, up, and forward, Myth checked every direction for an ambush. It was slow going, but safe. And she had no choice but to press forward. Back down the path…
Myth shook her head as hard as she could. Her forehooves clasped at the teal pendant hanging from the choker about her neck. It was her responsibility to get herself to safety now. It was her mission. It was the wrong time to worry about anyone else.
Quietly, Myth scrambled out of hiding and trotted toward a crevice in the mountainside. A small part of her had hoped it was a secret passage through the mountain or to a safe house, but the opening only went a few hooves back before tapering off to an end.
Still, it offered refuge for the moment. In the shadows, Myth was nearly invisible. This would probably be the best place to rest she would find. Yet…
Myth glanced toward the setting sun. When it went down, travelling through the mountain would become suicidal. But staying here for an entire night might tempt fate as much or more.
Can I make it all the way today?
As she was debating with herself, Myth’s uncovered right ear shot up, rigid. An eerie, otherworldly giggling took the choice away from her.
Her response was instant. Myth held her breath and sunk in on herself, wiggling further backward into the darkness.
“Oh, chapaillíní beag,” the voice called out with a carefree, singsong tone in a language not quite Myth’s own. It was close, but the dialect was too foreign for her to understand.
Even so, the message was clear.
Narrow as her field of view was, all Myth could do was wait and watch. Using magic would attract attention. If the light of her horn did not give her away, the flux in the magical field would.
One second passed, then two, then three. Myth clutched at her pendant again, desperately hoping she could somehow call for help through it.
But if there’s a sylph here, then that means–
No, Myth refused to even put that thought into words. She was alone today, but she would not be tomorrow. She refused to believe otherwise.
The seconds passed, and the voice kept calling out words Myth only half understood, occasionally giggling or whistling instead. But every once in a while, she would pick out a word or two. The sylph was looking for her, as in Myth specifically.
It was inevitable what happened. A pony had to have air.
Myth slowly let out her breath.
There was a moment where the wind was the only sound.
“Oh, there you are.”
Myth’s eyes shot open. She understood those four simple words. They meant, “Run!”.
Rocks scattered about as Myth scrambled out of the crevice. She cursed how well she had wedged herself in it.
The mountains were alive with noise as Myth galloped blindly forward. Her hooves pounded against the craggy path faster than was safe.
But before she had a chance to fall herself, she was swept up in a gale.
There was an endless moment where Myth felt her hooves lifting off the ground. Her hooves flailed desperately for something to latch onto, but they found no refuge.
For an instant, she saw a small little equine not even a hoof tall fluttering on tiny, butterfly-like wings nearby.
A jolt of rage shot through Myth. The sylph was just there, floating, watching her die.
Myth’s magic coursed through her. It rotated her enough to put the sylph back in her line-of-sight. She picked up a small rock and flung it with all her might at the sylph.
The rock whizzed by. The air pressure of its passage moved the sylph aside unharmed, although Myth’s aim was off to begin with.
The sylph giggled mockingly, while Myth could feel a sense of weightlessness overtaking her.
And then gravity took hold of her, and Myth plunged downward.
Unable to bear watching her approaching doom, Myth tracked the sylph and fired a few pebbles that had been trapped in the frog of her hoof. Her shots went wide and wider as she felt tears enter her eyes.
Myth flung her last pebble, which barely moved away from her, her magic fading and her will lost. But suddenly up above, a firestorm of green and hate descended upon the sylph, who barely had time to react before being set aflame.
A split second later, Myth felt the horrible sensation of hope. The familiar buzzing of wings came closer, but their source was too far away to catch up.
Myth closed her eyes and let her magic rub the tears from her face. If she was going to die like this, she wanted to at least look happy for the rescue attempt.
But hooves wrapped around her and gently petted her neck. The intense but brief pain she expected never came. Instead, Myth heard the sweetest voice singing her favourite lullaby.
“Oh hush thee my dove, oh hush thee my sweet love…”
Just as the moon hung over Canterlot, Caelan watched over her dear little Myth with a frown. The wind and thunderstorm had nearly drowned out her voice as she sang, but between the lullaby and her affectionate petting, Myth had settled down. Whatever nightmare had haunted her was gone.
“Just one night,” Caelan whispered to herself. Just one night she wished Myth could sleep peacefully, if not with sweet dreams, then at least with no dreams at all. Foals were never supposed to have to deal with the terrors Myth had lived through; why could her dreams not be a safe haven from reality?
Sighing, Caelan leaned up against the side of the large, brown box currently serving as their shelter, gently stroking a hoof through Myth’s mane. Whatever the box was made of was sturdy enough to keep the wind out, but neither she nor Myth were spared the occasional drop of rain on the back, the leg, or worst of all, the nose.
It kept her awake, though. Caelan had volunteered herself for first watch tonight. Although she could admit to herself that they probably could go without a watch. Equus in general seemed…peaceful. From what the two of them had seen, at least so far as Equestria went, it was safe to rest easy. A world away, far removed from faeries of any kind but Caelan herself, and they were finally safe at last, if homeless.
Still, it was far better to be safe than sorry. It was always better to be safe than sorry. That was why Caelan almost never shifted from pony form, or at least one of the reasons why.
Caelan stole a guilty glance toward Myth as she reflected on their journey. Their combined magical talents were enough to hide the damage done to her from a casual inspection, but no more. Anyone who looked too closely would notice her gait was wrong, and her ear never moved in sync with the other.
Never again, Caelan thought to herself. Everything was going to work out. Tomorrow was going to be perfect. After stealing to survive all through spring and half of summer, they would finally have a place to call home, a place they would be sheltered and protected. Neither of them would have to worry about going hungry or being eaten ever again.
So long as we don’t slip up…
It was only once Myth started trembling in her sleep again that Caelan realised she was staring off into space, brooding, instead of comforting her pony.
With a deep breath, Caelan resumed her petting.
“We’ll be fine,” Caelan said with a heavy accent. She knew she had no hope of eliminating it – much less Myth’s – anytime soon. A Trottingham accent, however, they could both hope to fake. It was still foreign to Canterlot, yes, but it was locally foreign, foreign to the same world.
With nothing better to do with her time, Caelan decided to get some last minute practice in.
“My name is Caelan. Yes, I know it’s a strange name. We just moved here from Trottingham.”
Myth was lucky enough that her nickname was Equestrian enough to go by. Caelan, however, was about as close to her real name as she could get without risking appearing too foreign.
“For all that it’s as close as the sky to the ground,” Caelan grumbled. Caelan was a fine enough name, she could admit, but it was not hers.
Catching herself, Caelan switched back to her mangled Equestrian. “Yes, it is fierce weather we’re – no, that doesn’t sound right. Ponies here would say something more to the tune of… There was some saying, wasn’t there?”
Caelan pounded a free hoof to the ground in frustration. “Urgh! I ken the words. They’d leap right forth from my mouth were I not such an eejit.”
Myth groaned in her sleep, and Caelan quickly cut herself off. No, upon closer inspection, Myth groaned as she woke up. Even so, it was mere seconds before her groans switched to contented purrs and she nuzzled up against the warm body next to her. Caelan kept herself from complaining when Myth’s horn poked her in her side.
“Is it my turn to stand watch already?” Myth asked, or at least that was what Caelan assumed she asked. It was rather hard to tell through the yawn that accompanied it.
Before Caelan could reply, a drop of water fell just shy of Myth’s nose, resulting in the cutest little squeak any filly could deliver.
Caelan giggled despite herself.
“No. I’m sorry for waking you.”
“S’all right,” Myth mumbled sleepily. “Hungry?”
Caelan shook her head, then said, “I’ll last till breakfast,” when it became clear Myth had no intention of opening her eyes. “How about you?” Caelan paused to curse her past self silently. “The storm isn’t bothering you, is it?”
There was a pregnant silence broken only by the rain. Even without saying anything, Caelan knew Myth was about to lie to her.
“I’m alright,” Myth said quietly.
Caelan let her hoof come to a rest at the base of Myth’s neck. “Mythica…”
There was another pause as Myth, as small as she was, seemed to shrink into herself even further.
“My ear tingles a little.”
Ignoring the obvious diversion, Caelan asked, “You stupid bairn. What about your leg? We still have a wee bit of that balm left. I’ll get–”
Caelan tried to get up, but her leg was held in Myth’s one good foreleg. She glanced down and found her eyes unable to look away from Myth’s. She watched a sad smile find its way onto her darling little Myth’s face, who shook her head ever so slightly.
“Save it,” Myth said.
The words unspoken were, “In case we need it.” There was no knowing if their grand plan for tomorrow would actually work, or if it would blow up in their faces like everything else.
And of course it would be all Caelan’s fault if it did – again. Myth always wanted to pull her own weight, but when it came down to it, Caelan was the one responsible for both of them. Myth was her responsibility, not the other way around. And Myth was always the one who ended up suffering for her mistakes.
But this time would be different. Caelan had done her research. She had stolen books – which she could admittedly barely read – to learn exactly what they would need to know; she had drilled every last scrap of knowledge into Myth’s head; she had faith in Myth’s ability to pass the required tests, just as she knew knew she would as well. They would prove themselves among the best and the brightest, and in doing so secure themselves a place in Equestria.
Or at least that was the plan if everything went well. Caelan could do without sleep, or with less of it, at least. But as much as she hated to admit it, Myth would need to be at her best.
A white coated filly’s head popped out of a box deep within a Canterlot alley despite Myth’s continued protests. Her teal mane clung to her head as she looked around for their meagre pile of possessions kept beneath a much smaller box. That box levitated just high enough for a copper tin to float out toward Caelan suspended in her green magic.
“I said I’m fine,” Myth protested weakly.
The cap of the tin unscrewed and came apart from the tin regardless. Caelan frowned into the container, but her magic scooped out what little medicine was left. She held out a hoof, the demand clear.
Myth looked from the hoof, to Caelan, to the medicine floating nearby, and finally back to the hoof again. Her muzzle dropped the slightest bit, and Caelan saw something like shame settle onto her face.
But shame or no, Myth held out her right foreleg, or rather what was left of it. She let the glamour hiding the damage fade, which left a stump gnawed off just above the knee resting on Caelan’s hoof.
“Don’t be,” Caelan said, her magic going to work, carefully spreading the medicine over the end of Myth’s leg. “You want us to succeed tomorrow, right?”
Myth mutely nodded her head.
“Then it’s important that you sleep well and don’t wake up in pain. Okay?”
“That didn’t sound okay.”
Myth pressed her lips together and looked down at the ground.
Frowning, Caelan placed a hoof below Myth’s muzzle. With a bit of coaxing, Myth looked up again, and Caelan put on a smile.
Unable to resist, Myth smiled back. “Okay.”
After a quick nod, Caelan asked, “How does that feel?”
Myth’s smile slowly faded away at the question. “A little numb. It’s working.”
“Great! Then let’s get you back to sleep. We’ve got a long day ahead of us.”
Seeing as how further argument was moot – the damage had been done – Myth settled back down comfortably onto her barrel. Her right foreleg she left extended and out of the way.
Soon after Myth closed her eyes, Caelan asked, “Do you want me to sing you a lullaby?”
Myth shook her head almost imperceptibly.
“Alright.” Caelan leaned down to plant a kiss on Myth’s forehead. “Goodnight, my sweet little pony.”
Obviously already succumbing to the temptation of sleep, Myth mumbled, “Night, Chrysalis.”
Caelan held back her sigh until Myth’s breathing again held the easy cadence of sleep. Myth knew better than to use that name in Equestria. It was too obviously not a pony name, and anyone with any knowledge of faeries would know it was a changeling name.
But then no one was around to overhear her. Who would come outside in a storm into an alley just to eavesdrop on two homeless foals?
For now at least, Caelan would let it slide. It was the last night either of them could safely use the name, after all. Starting tomorrow, Chrysalis would be a name lost to the past.
Caelan stood in front of what she hoped would become her home. Myth was at her side, leaning on her for support while they took the sight in. Slung across her back were their tattered saddlebags that had a glamour cast on them to look presentable. Contained within one bag were the various tools and treasures the pair had collected over their journey, and within the other rested the travel diary of then Princess Ocellus.
“Are you ready, Myth?” Caelan asked. She carefully watched family after family enter the building just in front of her. Just like it was at home, ponies in Equestria came in all shapes and colours.
That said, there seemed to be a much greater variety of what the ponies of Equestria called ‘cutie marks’, and every adult had one, instead of just most of them. Roughly half of the foals had one already too, unfortunately.
Caelan spared a quick glance back at her own blank flank, and Myth’s soon after. Hopefully neither would be a problem.
“I hope so,” Myth slowly said in Equestrian, curbing her accent as best as she could. “I can manage the questions, I think. I won’t let you down.”
This is more for you, you eejit, Caelan thought to herself, words she would never say aloud. She gave Myth an affectionate pat on the head, then said, “Alright, let’s go.”
Together, always together, Caelan and Myth took their first step forward. Unseen beneath the glamour placed upon her horn and leg, Myth used her telekinesis to provide support in place of her missing limb, giving the appearance of a natural gait.
The pair received a number of strange looks after entering the doors, but no one blocked their progress.
Over and over, Caelan repeated to herself, It’s fine. They’re just curious because we’re alone.
“Over there,” Myth said, gesturing with her fake leg toward a sign that Caelan was reasonably sure said ‘check-in’. There was a line of ponies with their foals in front of it, at least. It seemed like the right place to be.
Minutes passed in a mixture of boredom and anticipation as Caelan and Myth waited for their turn. The unicorn colt in in front of them nervously tried to strike up a conversation, but they had barely gotten past introductions before they descended into nerves and awkwardness.
Even so, Caelan remembered the colt’s name as she had been raised to do. Sometimes knowing something as simple as a name could save a life. It worked in Ævintýri; it would work here too.
“Shining Armor,” Caelan silently mouthed. Beside her, she could see Myth doing the same.
“Next,” the stallion behind the check-in table called out. As he did so, Shining Armor and his family – a mare, a stallion, and a bundle of blankets Caelan assumed was a newborn foal – moved out of the way. Caelan made note of the family structure as well, just in case, with the guess that the newborn was a filly, based on colour choice for the blanket.
I really hope I didn’t mix up Equestria’s culture on colour…
“Next,” the check-in stallion called again, this time a little louder. Judging by his gaze, Caelan and Myth were outside his field of vision.
Caelan shared a brief look with Myth, then stepped forward and hunched down. With more than a little awkwardness, Myth scrambled atop Caelan’s back.
Grunting, Caelan stood up, carrying Myth upward and bringing her muzzle just barely above the tabletop.
“Excuse me,” Myth said.
A second passed. Caelan could feel Myth trembling atop her, withering under the check-in stallion’s no doubt scrutinising gaze, combing over every little detail of Myth’s appearance, looking for the slightest bit wrong or out of place. She wished Myth all the luck and support in the world, for all the good that would do.
“Um… Myth and Caelan, please. That is, we’re checking in.”
“Where are your parents?” the check-in stallion asked.
“Family emergency,” Myth recited their well-practised lie. “Mother didn’t want us to miss this opportunity though, so here we are.”
They knew that was not quite proper Equestrian. Caelan had pointed it out to Myth earlier, but Myth had countered that it was colloquial. It sounded more natural to Equestrian ears, or at least she thought so.
Only because she knew no one could see, Caelan bit her lip in anticipation. This was only the first of the many places their plan could go wrong, if perhaps the least likely.
Canterlot is safe, Caelan explained her own logic to herself. Equestria is safe. Equus is…mostly safe. Caretakers, real or not, can get away with this.
Finally, the check-in stallion said, “Make sure your parents know that we can schedule around emergencies in the future, alright?”
Caelan let out the breath she had been holding. Above her, Myth did not mirror her actions, for which Caelan made a note to reward Myth later.
“Alright,” Myth echoed.
“I’ll need to see your birth certificate” – Caelan saw the stallion lean over the table just enough to see her – “s though. Did your mother happen to leave them with you?”
Praying that her gulp went unheard and unseen, Caelan opened her saddlebags and levitated her and Myth’s birth certificates into the stallion’s waiting hooves.
This was a critical point, or perhaps even the critical point. Caelan and Myth had spent a fortune of ill-gotten bits on these forgeries. If they were exposed, they would be facing far worse than not having a home. The stallion they had bought the forgeries from had made that quite clear.
Caelan looked up. Myth’s expression was perfect, just the right balance of eagerness, boredom, and the certain fear of losing her balance and falling onto her face.
Yes, success or failure hereafter, Caelan would have to do something special for her. Their bits were running dangerously low, but maybe they could spare some for…
Chocolate, was it?
Caelan shook the thought from her head. It was a concern for later.
“Alright, everything looks to be in order.”
Myth was clearly suppressing the urge to dance in joy, based on how her hooves were twitching. No less guilty herself, Caelan bit down on her urge to let out her excitement very vocally, partially because this could merely be a trap to lull them into a false sense of security.
Not that Caelan would worry Myth with such concerns. She had enough to worry about as it was.
“Here are your registrations,” the check-in stallion said, returning the fake birth certificates along with two additional pieces of paper.
“Thank you,” Myth said, hopping off of Caelan at the same time. While she certainly appreciated having the load taken off of her back, Caelan suspected that Myth had done that just a bit too fast. The queen would have noticed something wrong for sure. Chrome would have too.
A tiny shudder passed through Caelan that she did her best to suppress. It was a very real possibility that either she or Myth, or both, would be in the presence of the goddess Bel or Cerridwen at some point. It would take everything they had to fool a goddess.
No, the princess Celestia, Caelan corrected herself. Calling Princess Celestia ‘Bel’ would be a sure way to expose herself. For some reason though, neither she nor Myth had heard so much as a whisper of Cerridwen or the name she went by on Equus. Another matter to take the greatest of care on.
Once Caelan and Myth were out of the way, the latter whispered, “Do you know where we’re going?”
“Yeah, just through there.” Caelan extended a hoof to the doorway she had seen the families in front of them disappear into after checking in.
And indeed, after walking through the doorway, there were a series of signs which directed applicants to an appropriate room, along with an extra set instructions that sent parents off into a waiting room.
“What do our registrations say?” Caelan asked.
“Um…” Myth read over one of the two pieces of paper she had received, then gave it to Caelan. “This one is yours.”
Caelan scanned over what was, in fact, her registration. Her name was on it, at least. All of it was so amazingly neat and organised as Equestrian script always was, far better than anything ever produced in Ævintýri. In the top-right corner was ‘2E’. From memory, Caelan knew exactly which room the signs were directing her toward.
“This way,” Caelan said, taking the first step to the 2E room.
“I’m in ‘1A’.”
“Oh.” That’s…okay, I guess. “I’ll see you soon then,” Caelan said, turning around to face Myth, “if that’s o…kay?”
All but frozen in place, Myth nodded, even something so simple coming out rigid.
“It’s okay,” Caelan cooed. She met Myth in a gentle embrace, being careful not to aggravate Myth’s right foreleg. “It’ll just be for a couple hours. You’re a big filly now, and Equestrians won’t hurt you” – probably – “if anything goes wrong.”
The sound of hoofsteps echoed through the hall. Caelan looked up, quickly deciding to just ignore the distinct strange looks the parents and foal who had just entered were giving her and Myth. Just to be on the safe side, she also rotated Myth a bit to keep them out of sight. There was no sense in letting Myth worry about being overseen further.
The foal and parents continued on their way, rather pointedly ignoring Caelan and Myth, not that Caelan was complaining.
“If you’re scared, we can leave.” Caelan ran her hoof through Myth’s mane. “What do you want to do?”
Caelan did not cringe at the horrendously gross sniffing sound Myth made.
Before Caelan could say anything else, Myth said, “I’m okay.”
Myth nodded, silently breaking away from Caelan.
“I’m okay. I can do this.”
Just for a moment, the old fire Myth used to have in her eyes came back, the unyielding courage that let her kick the queen in the cannon for punishing Caelan.
A smile crept onto Caelan’s face.
“Alright.” Seeing no one around them, Caelan slipped back into their native tongue. “I wish the best of luck to you, whatever may come, wherever your life may take you.”
Myth was about to respond, but the sound of hoofsteps came again. Rather than betraying their origin, she simply smiled in return. Turning in place, she marched somewhat stiffly toward her destination.
Once Myth was successfully – if perhaps not necessarily safely – inside and once Caelan was sure Myth was not going to come running back to leap, crying, into her hooves, Caelan turned toward her own destination. The door was left open for her, and as soon as she walked in, a mare immediately, for all intents and purposes, accosted her and deposited her in a chair at a desk surrounded by a couple dozen other foals.
I hope they were gentler with Myth, Caelan idly thought to herself.
With nothing better to do, Caelan picked up one of the two erasable quill things that were left on her desk.
Pen…cils, I think they were called.
An absurdly long time passed in stifling silence. Under the guise of investigating the extremely interesting grain of the wood her pencil was made of, Caelan made a quick sweep of the classroom. The one – frankly rude – mare in the room remained waiting just inside the doorway with a clipboard for the moment.
As for the foals in the room, they looked much like a selection of garden variety ponies, and their emotions felt much the same upon further investigation. Although there was one filly that had an absurd amount of confidence and enthusiasm coursing through her, singling her out among the crowd.
As usual, Caelan took the time to memorise the filly’s appearance. Her magic was a bright blue. Her mane was a brilliant yellow with wide streaks of crimson running through it. And her coat…
Amber. Just like Nasonov. Caelan sighed to herself. It was pathetic, but she could admit she was feeling homesick. I wonder if I’ll ever see her or Chrome again.
Oh well. Caelan pushed the melancholic thoughts from her mind and finished observing the amber filly. She was a unicorn obviously. Her eyes were hidden at the moment, but her cutie mark was on full display. It was a sun blazing brightly, half red and half yellow like the rest of her.
Her task finished, Caelan resumed observing the other foals in the room, but none of them stuck out as readily. Still, she spent the time given to her memorising faces and colours.
Caelan was only about halfway done when what was apparently the last foal entered the room. After the colt was seated, the mare positioned herself behind the larger desk at the front of the room and shut the door. From beneath the desk, she retrieved a stack of papers and let them fall on top of the desk with an ominous thud.
“Welcome,” the mare began, “to Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns. I’m going to pass out the written portion of your entrance examination in a few moments. Under no circumstances are you to open them before instructed to do so.”