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Ambitions of a Queen (Open; see OOC thread to sign up)


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((OOC: This is the first thread in The Fall of Roam storyline. If you have a character who you would like to include in this thread, please sign up in the OOC thread here first. ;).))

Failure was humiliating; repeated failure was maddening. There were only so many times a changeling could have her plans, her hopes for her and her subjects, dashed so absolutely by inutile vermin and still keep her head held high and her eyes looking forward. Every plan that ended in failure sliced layers off of not only her pride, but her confidence and her reputation. She was far from deaf to the murmurs in the darker corners of her kingdom. In time, even her most loyal subjects might lose patience with her. Shouldn't they though? A leader's job was to produce results. Every time they failed, every time subjects ended up felled or captured as a result of one of her plans, every time they were forced to return to their wasteland with their hunger for love unsatisfied, every time the burden of it all was all on her back.

No, things were not easy for a queen who was a failure. The shadow of dread cast by the thwarted Nightmare Night invasion plan was hard to escape. The changelings of the kingdom looked toward Chrysalis' keep with expectations now. Weeks of bleak and bitter reflection had followed for the queen. Oh how she hated them, those ponies! Like miserable cockroaches, they always found a way to survive. Even without their elements, even without their leaders, they had still found a way. Chrysalis had been unable to secure even one miserable little pony town. Was she a fool to be ambitious, to try and change things for once? Was the place of her kind in this world to just miserably subside on hapless forest creatures, never knowing how it feels to truly be satisfied? It couldn't be. Action was needed. She had been defeated, but only when she gave up would she have truly failed irrevocably.

Her subjects were restless. If left to just sit and lick their wounds, the bitter sentiments stirring in the hive would just start to boil over. No, as queen, Chrysalis needed to do her part to set morale right. That's why, after only a few dark weeks, Chrysalis emerged from her doldrums with all of her usual vigor, her eyes set on the future. A new plan was needed, a plan that would not fail. Chrysalis needed to pick a target that could be overwhelmed effectively and without drawing the immediate gaze of Celestia and those loyal to her. If they could secure any pony settlement of size, they could feast on the love of the inhabitants. Then, with the power they had acquired, overpowering even Canterlot might be feasible this time. After consulting some of the books in her library and a map of Equestria, a new plan started to piece together in the queen's head. Once she had it all sorted out, she sent for her lieutenants. She was positive that this plan, her most fool-proof yet, would be just the thing to restore all flagging spirits.

"I must start this meeting off with an apology," Chrysalis spoke in a low voice as she stepped toward the front of a hall in her castle, full of many of her most loyal followers. She had issued a general summons across her kingdom that morning. What she had to relate to them she felt could wait no longer. "More than once now, have I failed you all. It is difficult for all of us to look back at the recent Ponyville invasion and not feel an overwhelming disgust...yet, I urge you, my subjects, to dwell not on the failures of the past any longer. We changelings, we need to look now toward the future. We must look not at why we have failed, but how we can succeed!"

"Canterlot and Ponyville both were precarious targets, sitting squarely under Celestia's nose. Surprise is a powerful tool, but it alone is not something that can win the day for us. You see, my subjects, our truest problem is that we are simply not strong enough. All these years we have grown weak and complacent, wasting away in these remote lands surviving off creatures pathetic and meek. We deserve better...! We deserve the rich and abundant resources of Equestria, but, can we truly make them ours as we are now? What can a pack of frail and starving dogs do but get batted easily away by their stout and vigorous would be prey time and time again?" the queen continued, getting increasingly more intense. "If we are ever to set hoof into Equestria's heartland again, we must first feast. If we can make ourselves stronger, even the best defenses of Celestia and her princesses will crumble."

"And so I have come to announce a new plan we shall now work toward making a reality, a plan by which we can acquire enough love to make ourselves unstoppable!" Chrysalis started loudly, just as a large banner at the back of the hall was unfurled. It was a map of Equestria. Circled on it was a single Equestrian city, far, far to the southeast of the changeling kingdom, further east in fact than any other city on the map. "For our next plan, we will lay hold to the city of Roam. It is a large city, but a remote one, separated from the Celestia and the cities of the heartland by the high Eponnine Mountains. It is on the very opposite end of the continent from our homeland, making it a target few would expect. Moreover, the city is of curious design; made as it is of bridges, islands and canals, it should be easy for us to block off and control the population there." A deep smirk got very readily deeper then until the queen gave a soft giggle. "But most importantly of all, Roam is famed by the ponies as the 'City of Romance'. Young lovers swarm to the city in droves to vacation. There is more saturated love in this one pony city than possibly any other. If we can secure it, it will be the springboard we need to, in time, make all of Equestria fall at our hooves!" She concluded, flying upward a little and giving an intense laugh.

Her speech concluded, Chrysalis smirked and looked out upon her minions. Many seemed worked up, happier than they had been since before the recent invasion. She looked a them expectantly, wondering if any might be bold enough to step forward and speak their mind.

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Of course he had come! His people were starving! And his queen seemed to be suffering the pains of defeat! His wings hummed as Chitin zipped through the air to the meeting, securing himself a spot. It was a dyed in the wool truth that Chitin's loyalty was to his queen, and he gazed up at her with adoring and respect filled eyes as she gave a (unnecessary) apology. Chitin felt that they had failed HER! Not she them! Why she did her very best at every turn and had taken on Celestia on their behalf! And now? NOW!?

She had concocted a most brilliant of plans! The City of Love itself! Roam! They'd feast on love, and passion, and it would make them strong, stronger than the Sisters, stronger than the element wielders! They would rise from the ashes of their prior defeats and hail victorious!

"ALL HAIL CHRYSALIS!" Chitin called out, the moment she awaited word, flying up to be closer to her eye level "Your majesty has hatched a most brilliant scheme and I will do everything in my power to see it come to fruitation!"

He felt it, in his heart of hearts he felt it, and he loved her, and he loved his queen, perhaps that love was strong enough for her to feel? He could only hope so..He'd go to Tartarus and back for the hive, it was his home, his family..his everything.

"Celestia will not stand a chance ! She might have a princess of love, but can she truly match the love of an entire city? I doubt it!"

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"Maybe Ah -should- go with 'em to the hive... That mighta just been the most dangerous idea Ah've ever had." Thought the young changeling as she trotted through the hive. This place was terrible! A sense of intense bleakness hanging over the landscape. The land these creatures lived in could barely be considered livable, there was barely any vegetation around and most of these changeling's diets was very different and difficult for Aria (now going by her original name, Aurelia) to get used to due to being raised on an entirely vegetarian diet.

After the Queen's previous invasion attempt on Nightmare Night, Aria had found herself being flung from the town with the hive. Because of her sympathy for a certain injure changeling lounge singer and being raised by a pair of doctor ponies she found herself healing several changeling and having to keep her true identity a secret from everyone. Now This charade had to be maintained for even longer as in the spur of the moment she had decided to stay with them and investigate what these creatures were like when they weren't threatening Equestria. Lucky for her it seemed Luxuria was willing to let her stay with her ... and even sing with her on stage once in a while.

Now she was in the crowds with thousands upon thousands of drones and normal changelings who had to listen to their Queen's speech in regards to another invasion. While she had never been to roam, she still didn't want it to fall into the queen's hooves... and oddly enough she had another thought; she worried about the various drones who were still not fully recovered from the previous attack. Would they be forced to fight even when not at their best?

Since one changeling was willing to step up and voice his approval of the Queen's plan she figured she may as well step up too and voice some "legitimate issues". The mare took a deep breath and stepped out of the crowd trying to stay brave before the statuesque queen and spoke,"U-uh... your highness. I am Aurelia of the medical division and uh I think I should tell you that many of our troops are still reeling form our previous attack on Ponyville." The purple maned changeling gulped a moment,"Perhaps we should hold off on this next attack until the ponies' 'hearts n' hooves day'? Surely then the city will be ripe with love and out troops will be fully healed?" She hoped that with the obvious link to love and the holiday and how enticing it would be for the changelings to attack, the princesses might send extra security...

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As one of many loyal minions summoned by Queen Chrysalis, Snively was there to listen in to on the next scheme of his mistress. An unfortunate participant to the recent Ponyville invasion, the meek drone wasn’t so sure in his heart that it was a good idea to try conquering those fleabags yet another time. Especially if that meant Snively ending up grievously injured. But maybe the potential for failure wouldn’t matter as much if the little weasel found an excuse to not be in Roam itself for the hard work.

For the time being, Snively played his role as the extra-loyal servant of Chrysalis the Stout-Hearted, standing at attention by the Queen’s side while keeping a close eye on the lower-ranked drones. For his part, the bureaucrat didn’t care much for Chitin’s sickening kiss-up routine. What was that changeling doing kissing up to Chrysalis anyway when he was assigned to undercover duty in Canterlot? Something smelled rotten to Snively, and he kept glaring at Chitin as the other servant finished his accolades.

Aurelia spoke up next, airing a concern or two about the plan conjured by the greatest of all strategic masterminds. Snively learned the hard way never to openly question his Queen’s judgement, and it appeared that this lowly drone would learn this lesson soon enough. Furthermore, Aurelia spoke out of turn, as she did not operate her department. “Only the head of medical department has the authority to declare whenever our injured are fit for duty again,” Snively nasally chastised the medic; “A single medic lacks enough perspective to make that judgement.” If anything else, Aurelia needed a swift reminder of who really was Her Majesty’s top servant.....

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Lulavi swayed her way into the hive, buzzing her wings slightly in excitement as swarms of changelings gathered in assembly. Since Canterlot’s failed invasion she had stayed clear of her home, restoring her wounded ego and nursing her poor, bruised face by sucking every last drop of love out of any poor sap that fell for her charms. She had missed the Ponyville invasion, something she had heard about through the network of nomadic changelings who were spread throughout Equestria. That was all well and good though – she had still been steaming over the fact that her face had almost been permanently injured and didn’t feel the need to risk her beauty too soon after her humiliation. Despite that, once she had heard of yet another failure amongst her kin she had slowly made her way back to the hive: she could sense that something big was happening, and there was a thirst for thrill building within her. Not to mention it had been much too long since she had last gazed upon her Queen’s disgustingly perfect visage. Chrysalis was a true beauty, the only creature that Lulavi would rate above herself in terms of looks.

Oh, and her speeches! With every word Queen Chrysalis spoke, energy crackled around the hive. Roam – the city of love! What a deliciously wicked scheme. Devastate a city far out of Celestia’s watching eyes, rake the love from the unsuspecting, idiot ponies and bask in the power! Yes, yes, yes! What a plan! Lulavi could already taste it, and she felt her wings buzzing a little more fiercely.

Unfortunately, a string of idiots crushed the preciously wicked glow that her beloved Queen had given her. Firstly, a little green fool started hollering like some thuggish buffoon, daring to make an oaf of himself directly after their Queen’s speech. Lulavi rolled her pink eyes, letting out a very audible huff. And next? Some feeble little rat dared to question the plan. And for such soft reasons! Ugh, she sounded more like a rotten pony than a changeling. True, Lulavi herself had avoided the hive because of a bruised face, but her face was a different issue from normal injuries. She would risk her health and her life more easily than she’d risk her beauty after all. But seriously…hold off on an invasion plan because some wimps couldn’t stand up and fight? Did the pony-rat not see the swarm of able changelings gathered in the hive?

So Lulavi chimed in after the snivelling, nasally weasel of an authority figure. One of the higher ups – so what. He was hideous to look upon and listen to, and as such he would never garner Lula’s full respect. Ugliness was worthless to her.

“He’s right,” she purred nonetheless, “Besides, in order to strike Roam we still have a long way to travel with such a large force. And we must travel discretely so as not to give ourselves away. Would you put off our advances for the sake of a few soldiers when there are so many more ready and able bodies here that could easily form a huge army? Such a sweet thing, such a soft thing – such useless qualities during war. If we followed your plan we might even miss your precious Hearts and Hooves Day.”

Normally, charm was Lulavi’s game. But this changeling was so weak-hearted it ticked her off. She had to say something. Afterwards she let her gaze fall upon Queen Chrysalis: whether Lula’s little piece had made her Wickedness angry, or she approved, or she simply observed without reaction did not matter. Every one of the Queen’s expressions was lovely to behold, and Lulavi was determined to see them all.

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Sachadara was a loyal changeling. It was a hard life, being as ugly and deformed as she. It wasn't as if her personality grew on others or she attracted others with fine humor or even the slightest hint of care for the well being of others. Being unrepentant about who you were had many drawbacks. Being better than others had almost as many, especially in a society that advocated such slavish obedience to your superiors when that seemed to be decided by the size of your horn and your grace. Luckily, the Queen recognized in Sachadara those qualities which were muted by the race as a while. Where others were blunt she was fine, others unavoidable se evasive. She could sew nightmares with all the dexterity of a ballerina while the drones bled and failed for the glory of the Queen as befit their name. She was happy to have a Queen who knew greatness when she saw it and rewarded it as well as she had rewarded Sachadara.

But that didn't make her flawless. Her invasion of Canterlot and attack on Ponyville were completely foolish and idiotic, glory hunts where her people needed to feed. Changelings could work their way through societies and bring them down so subtly and suddenly as to utterly eliminate any possibility of resistance, but giant snatch and grab attacks would always fail. Changelings were a glass hammer when used ineffectively when they could instead be fine surgical tools, cutting away piece by piece the sickness Equestrians called love and friendship until nothing remained of them but hollowness and despair. Instead, the Queen went ambitious, and the Queen failed ambitiously. Ponies were stronger and on the whole more durable, smarter, faster, versatile, and had an incredible array of magic both obtuse and acute. You could never defeat an Equestrian by engaging them in a struggle they could understand and come to terms with.

So Sachadara, seated not far from the Queen as befit her stature as head of Research and Development, listened to the speech with a curious mixture. She was bored as it had little to do with her work, another grand plan that would be unique in how it benefitted everling but her. She was curious as to how Chrysalis would see it done, and excited once she realized that Roam was the perfect target. Not just for the hove, but for her! So many chemicals were hers to play with, concoctions divine and demonic in equal measure bubbling away under her senseless snout in a dark cavern. Why should it all go to waste when with such ease she could test it out on a city? Let the city crumble and weep for the poor creatures within as Equestrians turned to rust and despair underneath the now-mocking archways of the city of love. Let them become the factories they were, pumping out love or fear in primal ferocity and in eternal fashions until the Queen could consider her job done. Personally, Sachadara would prefer to retreat and leave a husk of a rotting city behind her, a permanent scar across Equestrian that served as a reminder that the sword of damocles swung above them by the very thinnest of strings and their survival was entirely out of their hooves. Of course, national domination could be fun as well- hunting down refugees opened up avenues of fear as well, after all.

As she ruminated on the many avenues of research laid out in front of her, several changelings opened up. The first was one of an untold number of drones, but at least he seemed to have some energy. Drones always had their uses, either as superb soldiers, fodder, or test subjects. She often preferred the second two classes as they lessened the food quandy for her Queen and allowed more focus to be placed on her research, but the first class wasn't objectionable to her. Then a purple maned Changeling spoke. Aurelia of the medical division? That name did not ring a bell. Sachadara had an intimate knowledge of the Royal Healthwing and their subordinate branches in the Medical Division Combat Sectors. After all, sick and injured changelings were some of the best assistants and if anything went wrong, who cared? The accent was strange as well. Something to look into, especially if a changeling spoke so publicly about being passive. Buzzing little bees buzz buzz buzz.

Then there was Snively. If he wasn't such a useful toy for the Queen, then Sachadara would snatch him up for her own uses. He was a pointless suck up who existed only to do menial tasks. He didn't need his sapience or free will to do any of that and if anything were to happen to those things, Sachadara knew she would get a blizzard of praise for every snowflake of discontent. Finally, there was the comical figure of Lulavi. Her beauty was ugly on a changeling, a certain vain sensibility permeating her being that was unappealing and unattractive. Her physical form was displeasingly perfect and sublime. Very annoying. Worst of all, she spoke with a certain disregard for the idiotic medic when her own hypocrisy was on full display; she was one of many changelings that took an unusually long time to work their way back to the Hive. It wasn't uncommon for a changeling to roam about Equestria, partaking in some fruits both forbidden and otherwise, but Sachadara disliked hypocrisy above all other things.

Sachadara opened up a dark green vial- the purified fear of a minotaur she had captured- and allowed a few drops to percolate on her tongue before bottling it back up. Ahh, generations of spirit silencing guilt and horror. Why hadn't she captured a minotaur before? Such primal beasts. On topic.

"Lulavi, dear, do not be so unkind to our little medic drone. She is simply a little one and cannot grasp adult topics- nor can she heal her wounds by taking more than a year to find her way back home. Remind me to never use you as a guide if I need to get to Canterlot...or home," Sachadara laughed or did her best impression of it, the sounds more akin to gasps of air. She shrugged, pieces of chitin hanging limply off of her exposed shoulder blades.

"In any case, how many drones we haul with us is relatively pointless compared to how we attack. Tell me, Queen of Queens, does the city rely on its own waterworks to provide fresh water...?" Sachadara asked, her pregnant pause an advertisement for her research and development.

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"ALL HAIL CHRYSALIS! Your majesty has hatched a most brilliant scheme and I will do everything in my power to see it come to fruitation! Celestia will not stand a chance ! She might have a princess of love, but can she truly match the love of an entire city? I doubt it!"

Chrysalis smiled. The fervent support of her very most loyal subjects like Chitin truly was an infectious thing. It did her well to hear such word shouted out with such wide eyes enthusiasm. It was for her truest supporters like Chitin, who's faith in her was unlimited, that Chrysalis would not allow herself to fail again.

Of course, she hardly expected every changeling to immediately cast their lot with her newest plot. They'd be fools to do so now, when already they had been failed twice now. Dissent was expected and--at least to an extent--encouraged. There were always concerns that could be addressed. So when what followed Chitin's words of fervent acceptance were words expressing doubts, Chrysalis was hardly so surprised.

"U-uh... your highness. I am Aurelia of the medical division and uh I think I should tell you that many of our troops are still reeling form our previous attack on Ponyville. Perhaps we should hold off on this next attack until the ponies' 'hearts n' hooves day'? Surely then the city will be ripe with love and out troops will be fully healed?"

The queen's eyes narrowed upon the barely familiar changeling who had spoken out. She only recalled seeing this changeling once before, the night of their failure. She had been in the thick of it, caring for the wounded in the immediate aftermath. Chrysalis supposed it made some sense. This no one changeling medic had found herself stained to her limits trying to save the fleeting lives of her friends and comrades in the wake of Chrysalis' blunder. Why wouldn't such a changeling suddenly have more interest in the plans that were made. It made sense from the perspective of a medic to use due caution. All that said, it was hardly a lowly medic's place to decide such things.

“Only the head of medical department has the authority to declare whenever our injured are fit for duty again, A single medic lacks enough perspective to make that judgement.”

“He’s right, Besides, in order to strike Roam we still have a long way to travel with such a large force. And we must travel discretely so as not to give ourselves away. Would you put off our advances for the sake of a few soldiers when there are so many more ready and able bodies here that could easily form a huge army? Such a sweet thing, such a soft thing – such useless qualities during war. If we followed your plan we might even miss your precious Hearts and Hooves Day.”

The awkward screech of Snively sounded about when Chrysalis figured it would. She could usually predict the sycophantic bureaucrat well. About fifteen seconds after she had had a thought, Snively would have voiced it in the least tactful, most direct way possible. What was more interesting was to see Lulavi back up the sniveling fool with hard reasons as to why the call wasn't the right one to make. She was just an average grunt in most ways, but much like Chitin, she was one who had a charming level of reverence for her queen. A little more ambition and she'd be quick on her way to being one of Chrysalis' favorites... especially if she had smart things to say like this.

"Lulavi, dear, do not be so unkind to our little medic drone. She is simply a little one and cannot grasp adult topics- nor can she heal her wounds by taking more than a year to find her way back home. Remind me to never use you as a guide if I need to get to Canterlot...or home, In any case, how many drones we haul with us is relatively pointless compared to how we attack. Tell me, Queen of Queens, does the city rely on its own waterworks to provide fresh water...?"

Lulavi was answered in turn by Sachadara, one of the most unusual and eminent figures within the hive. Utterly unpredictable and bizarrely twisted, the queen truly had no clue what to make of this changeling. She spoke spitefully to Lulavi. Jealousy perhaps? It would only follow that the more comely of the hive like Lulavi and Luxuria would be a source of envy and ire for the disfigured and deformed Sachadara. If so, it was strangely endearing, though the queen would not be quick to admit it. Sachadara, as she was, was probably the only changeling Chrysalis had ever met who inspired some manner of fear in her, as irrational as it was. Though Chrysalis knew that crushing her weak and frail form should she turn traitor would be a simple task, it remained that there was just something unnerving about her presence. She tended to keep her eyes wider open when she was around.

"The city, which is built on a natural estuary, has the water for all of its canals fed naturally to it by a single river," Chrysalis answered the question with a nod, already knowing instinctively how the gears were turning in her demented subject's disfigured head. "It's certainly an exploitable thing for your brand of evil."

She didn't say any more than that. She just smiled and watched her minions murmur with excitement. If they had direct questions of her, she'd be happy to answer them. Beyond that, who was she to get in the way of the sniping and squabbling. It was the strongest, smartest and most careful that rose to the top (save in Snively's case) and so it would always be. She was most eager to see her changelings get along.

Luxuria stood in the audience hall near Aurelia. She had to admit that she was impressed with the Queen's plan. In her journeys away from the hive, she had visited Roam. It was a city with a unique culture to it. Its art, its music, its food, its fashion, it was all first rate. If ever there was a city to make theirs, this had to be it, love to harvest aside. It was exciting, exciting enough to make the lounge singer forget about her near death experience in Ponyville. She had clashed head to head with the pony leader and still had the painful scars to prove it and yet she was willing to put some stock in the things the queen was saying. She wanted it all too much. The excitement, the allure of such a plan it was enough to get her all excited despite herself. Part of her would always resent Chrysalis for the power she possessed, but that didn't mean she wouldn't play along when it looked worth it to her.

The entertainer was surprised to see Aurelia speak up when she did. Aurelia was full of surprises though. Her and Luxuria had met that night and hadn't exactly started on the best of terms. Their relationship had started with her calling the young changeling a prideless, fangless "rank disgrace"--and it's not like it was unjustified. The changeling Aurelia was and remained even now a pony loving traitor. It was Aurelia then, however, that saved Luxuria's life when Celestia's magic sent her flying and left her smashed and bleeding, barely alive. It was a surprising, perhaps stupid but definitely selfless act for one to so graciously save the life of her enemy. It was amusing and it brought with it a certain level of gratitude. Just so see what might happen, Luxuria decided to corroborate Aurelia's identity to the others when they cast their suspicions on her.

One thing had lead to another, and Aurelia ended up returning to the kingdom with them. Surprisingly, the traitor continued to stick around. Luxuria wasn't sure why. Perhaps she was acting as a spy. Perhaps she was just curious about the heritage she had long abandoned. Luxuria didn't care to take a guess. She just knew that it continued to amuse her. She was happy to let the unusual deceiver live with her and arranged it so even at times show off her amazing voice at the lounge. The reception was generally positive, even if Luxuria herself would of course always be the patrons' favorite. Whatever the case, Luxuria had come to favor the changeling and was nothing if curious to see how it all unfolded.

"Don't mind them, my adorable little pet, they're just bitter individuals, easily blinded by their foolish loyalties," Luxuria said just above a whisper to Aurelia after Snively, Lulavi and Sachadara had said their respective pieces. "The queen and her plans are far from fallible, as we're all painfully aware. We certainly could do with a little caution, but unfortunately we changelings are nothing if not rash." She giggled and spoke just slightly louder. "Personally, I think you're Hearts and Hooves Day idea is downright romantic. Truly that's a detail that only the most twisted of changeling could conceive of."

"Speaking of twisted, 'little one', Sachadara, really? Is that something for such a pathetically small and shriveled creature to say?" the singer playfully started, walking up toward the deformed changeling. Most in the hive avoided the genuinely creepy Sachadara, but Luxuria wasn't afraid of her. She hid behind her mind games and scare tactics, but truly she was just a weak, sad little creature. Maybe it would mean a horrifying end someday, but Luxuria had better things to do to than let herself be intimidated by a common freak.

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As large as the Grand Chamber in the Center of the Hive was, there was hardly enough floor space for the entire changeling swarm. Since none would dare miss such an address from their Queen, workers, drones, and soldiers were pressed shoulder to shoulder and piled up against the walls. Some of the more energetic were hovering close to the ceiling, and thus were privileged with an excellent view of the proceedings.

Kahz was one of these. The small, high-spirited changeling knew and was known by most present; his small and bent frame made as distinctive an appearance as Sachadara's. However, while she got along by doubling down on the impressions she created by using her appearance and intelligence to thoroughly creep out her fellow changelings (an impressive accomplishment, he had to admit), Kahz actually took the trouble to cultivate a pleasing demeanor and a knack for understanding others. This, of course, meant that others were constantly trying to take advantage of him, easily persuading him to do unpleasant or dangerous tasks. Often, they were quite surprised, even overwhelmed, by the eagerness with which the little changeling attacked each assignment. He didn't resent them for it; he figured that the additions to his body of knowledge and social network within the hive to be fair payment enough.

He remained near the ceiling, hanging off one of the protrusions as he rested his wings, observing with interest all the goings-on below. Many here admired Chrysalis for her beauty, or her cleverness. For Kahz, the most impressive thing about her was the effect she had on everyone else. Just 10 minutes ago, the chamber had been filled with the rustling of the dejected and the resentful. The foul scent of despair, even, could be detected among the crowds. But now? Their Queen's words and her passion had lit a fire inside them all, which blazed with courage and hope for victory at last. She may have failed in her plans before, but to take such stuff and make what she had of it would be forever her untarnished legacy.As for the plan itself, Kahz spent some time thinking through it, while others spoke whatever was on their minds. It wasn't a bad plan, though perhaps a trifle obvious. After all, if one had insufficient resources, the next logical step was to secure them, at the lowest possible cost and risk. Roam was, in fact, the ideal target for harvesting love, though the logistics of the plan seemed a trifle vague to him.

At last, he spoke up. "I can speak for myself, and for others, when I say that there are many in reserve who would be eager to finally get a chance to participate in such a plan." He was eager, almost painfully so; most who knew him knew that he longed to prove himself before the Queen and the Hive, and this invasion represented the best opportunity he had to do so. "Although to give due credit to the Medic, Hearts and Hooves day will factor greatly into our plan. For one, the crowds of ponies will provide excellent cover for the bulk of our forces when we travel down there; and for another, that will be the best harvest day, for sure."

Kahz spoke rapidly, his tongue flapping, if possible, even faster than his wings could buzz "On the other hand, if we're to take full advantage of the situation, we need to have the ground prepped before then. The remoteness might work against us then; it's not an easy city to sneak up on totally undetected, especially if we have to travel far, and if too many disguised ponies turn up at once, it may arouse suspicion as well. Numbers, then, probably won't be an issue, since a smaller task force has to be sent ahead, and we'll probably have to suborn the locals somehow in our preparations. Do we have any reports on what we can use for leverage?"It was a good thing that he wasn't subject to stage fright, otherwise he might have become quite nervous at the sight of thousands suddenly looking up to find the source of the strident, rapid voice. He looked directly at his Queen, his bright grey eyes shining with curiosity.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Luxaria had always struck Sachadara as a luxury that the Hive could ill afford at best, or a distraction that needed to be culled at its worst. Entertainer? Bahh. She was a husey and a fool, a liar incarnate who had none of the more noble qualities of her kind. Sachadara should know as she possesed none herself! But at least her deficiencies had been sharpened into tiny knives while all Luxaria did was prosper on the work of others. Such a fool, her beauty masking her innate worthlessness. of course, it wasn't entirely her fault. She was merely the byproduct of a Hive that festered in its defeat and sought out immediate satisfaction instead of long term gain. Against such banality and pathetic goals, what was Luxaria to do? She lacked the strength of character and conviction to evolve beyond it and so she ****ed herself to a lifetime of mediocrity, no better than the drones who fawned over her.

Oh well. The Hive would evolve one day and failures discarded. She had a whole company of drones at her command and failed to do anything beyond hurt a few ponies and get pulverized by a trapped pony. How embarassing! How shameful! She was no closer to victory than Sachadara was, and Sachadara had worked alone. What a failure on every level conceivable, fit for only the Genetic Pit and as a lesson. Sacahdara could only wonder how she would fall beneath the thousand cuts of her most acute mental blade until she resembled nothing more than an empty-headed zombie of her former self. What could be learned, however? Nothing. And if Sachadara could not learn from her destruction than what benefit did she have? None. Such a pathetic creature. Even her smothering would prove fruitless. Well, maybe it would mean something to someling else. She shared kind words with the strange changeling. And for Sachadara, that was not enough justification for a future experiment on the both of them.

But for now, all she could do was smile and giggle at Luxaria's insult.

"I do not mean to offend, but I've been working to help the Hive. Shouldn't you be in Canterlot, entertaining your many stallion suitors?" She lavished each word with a sweet venom, her words cutting and poisonous in their friendliness. No matter her answer, she had bigger things to concern herself than with a changeling worthy of the pyre and little else.

The Queen was thinking along similar lines that Sachadara was, telling her what she needed to know regarding the waterworks. Excellence. That is basically all she needed to know in order for her quickly formulating plan to work. If she could poison the water supply in a specific manner, then on the day of the attack ot wouldn't matter if they were overt or covert, she could bring the city to its knees long enough for the rest of the force to turn the city inside out. Kahz joined in all excited, a pleasant addition to the conversation. He spoke favorably of the Hearts and Hooves day plan which was a non-issue for Sachadara all things considered. As long as she could get into the city with a small crew and with her supplies beforehoof, everything else didn't matter.

"Well, my Queen, no matter date you decide to attack, I can assure you that if you give me ten Changelings and control over the plan and the supplies needed, I will have the city ripe for your taking, my Queen. Just a little bit of fear, a little bit of horror, a lot of control, and when the attack happens I can have the city beg for you."

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They were like cattle, the whole lot of them. Sheep being led to slaughter, fish in a griffon net, shore birds beset by kelpies. A hive driven only by quixotic ambition and blind loyalty was no hive at all, only a hollow shell of an empire propped up with empty promises and false hope. Where there was once subtle subterfuge and grand strategy there was now only brutish posturing and impotent grandstanding. Oh how the mighty had fallen.

Arete stifled a yawn as the changelings around her carried on. To her credit, Chrysalis had lost neither her pride in her work nor her flair for the dramatic. It was all at once comfortingly familiar and exasperatingly infuriating. Presentation, of course, still failed to absolve her of the hubris that had done her in so many times before.

They were the usual suspects. The lounge singer, the young jingoist, the self-serving sycophants that called themselves lieutenants and infiltrators. They endlessly bickered among themselves, jockeying for the favor of their queen. Oh Chrysalis, why ever did you give this band of misfits and miscreants the time of day? Had you really come to rely on yes-ponies, tail chasers, and flank kissers to get your fill of love? However did ANYTHING get done around here?

As the old crone finished her pitch to the queen, Arete let out a soft, exasperated sigh. She could have been in Stalliongrad, wining and dining a lonely Ostrov watch commander in opulence and comfort, working her agents into places where they could keep an eye on things. Instead, she had received orders from Master to return to the blasted hellhole that Chrysalis called her hive. Perhaps she had spoiled herself a little too much and this was her penance? Arete had long ago learned not to question her Master. Besides, Chrysalis’ new project promised Arete plenty of new contacts, fresh agents, fresh love, and perhaps a bit of adventure to boot, even if Chrysalis herself didn’t know it yet.

So Arete waited patiently until such time that Chrysalis had finished her spiel. It wouldn't do for her to be interrupted in her very important intel meeting with the queen...

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“Only the head of medical department has the authority to declare whenever our injured are fit for duty again,” Snively nasally chastised the medic; “A single medic lacks enough perspective to make that judgement.”

“He’s right,” she purred nonetheless, “Besides, in order to strike Roam we still have a long way to travel with such a large force. And we must travel discretely so as not to give ourselves away. Would you put off our advances for the sake of a few soldiers when there are so many more ready and able bodies here that could easily form a huge army? Such a sweet thing, such a soft thing – such useless qualities during war. If we followed your plan we might even miss your precious Hearts and Hooves Day.”

The first thing she heard was that nasally whine of Snively, one of those changelings she'd healed during the previous invasion's aftermath. It seemed her attempt to stall a bit wasn't going to work. Snively was right, she really didn't have any official rank in the hive beyond what she said she was when she decided to try and help the injured; that of a simple medic. All she could do it seemed for now was hope that the city would somehow be able to repel the invading changeling forces that were sure to be coming. On the other hole ridden hoof, she also began to feel rather bad for these creatures if they did fail because of their queen's ambitions. If they lost another battle than even more of these creatures would be hurt and during her time here, Aria had begun to find that the changelings were hardly all bad, Luxuria herself turned out to be quite kind... if a bit flirty. Just as she was about to step down and head back into the assembled crowds she was approached by the very changeling she was thinking of a moment ago.

"Don't mind them, my adorable little pet, they're just bitter individuals, easily blinded by their foolish loyalties, The queen and her plans are far from fallible, as we're all painfully aware. We certainly could do with a little caution, but unfortunately we changelings are nothing if not rash." She giggled and spoke just slightly louder. "Personally, I think you're Hearts and Hooves Day idea is downright romantic. Truly that's a detail that only the most twisted of changeling could conceive of."

Aria blushed a bit at being called adorable by her fellow singer,"No kiddin'... I guess I'll have to get ready for a whole lot more patients later." she said with a bit of a chuckle. While Luxuria actually voiced support for her idea she couldnt help but smile a bit. She was sure Luxuria didn't know her reasoning for suggesting hearts n' hooves day, but it was nice to see she had support from a friend. Still standing beside Luxuria she mouthed out the word, "Thanks."

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It seemed as if Figment had a bad habit of being late when it counted lately... He'd missed the start of the attack on Ponyville, and now he was possibly missing part of what had sounded like an important meeting with the Queen herself..! The agent spent most of his time away from home spying and manipulating and such, so it had felt nice to be back...even if the hive lacked a lot of the things that had admittedly grown on him about pony settlements. However, it was refreshing to be around others of his own kind, and being able to be himself again. Too refreshing, maybe; it had distracted him a bit... There was no use dwelling on it though, and he kept zipping as quick as he could manage towards the meeting.

His ragged ears perked up, as he caught the sound of Queen Chrysalis' voice in the distance--it seemed like she'd just started, luckily for him. Though...her apology surprised him so much he nearly crashed into a wall. He mentally scolded himself afterwards; of course, along with being intelligent, powerful and confident, their Queen could also be humble for them all when appropriate. In his...probably unreasonably idealist mind, he believed she cared about each and every drone, no matter how lowly their position. It was nice to hear such a kindness come from her personally. He couldn't afford to be a moment more late for her! He sped up until he finally found the source of her and some others' voices and landing.

Though...he hesitated. Maybe if he just slinked in with the others quietly, no one would notice. He saw Snively was there, though. While Figment found the little toady to be extremely irritating, he had to admit that he had a very keen eye for the slightest incompetence in others. Probably too keen... It was no matter, though. He wasn't going to miss this. As naturally as he could manage, he joined the other drones, sitting down on his haunches, glancing around briefly to the others. He spotted several familiar faces, mostly ones he at least had no unpleasant memories of, other than Snively. Except Sachadara... He'd never felt so uneasy around another changeling. It made sense for her to be here; she might not have looked very impressive, but he'd noticed how that power she'd made for herself was not something to be trifled with. It seemed almost too powerful. At least she was on their side...

He then turned his full attention to the Queen, listening intently, raising an eyebrow and nodding faintly in a thoughtful manner. Roam really was an ideal target. And though the medic's words were largely inappropriately softhearted, the Hearts and Hooves idea was intriguing... However, the other changelings present merely used her comments as an excuse to begin sniping and bickering at one another. Figment frowned a bit--how could they act so...unprofessional? In front of the Queen as well. Though, she didn't seem to mind... He wasn't about to get involved, though, even if Snively berated or goaded him.

Instead, the agent retreated into his head, raising a hoof to his chin and furrowing his brow in concentration, taking into account everything that'd bee said regarding plans. Stealth and an subterfuge and general subtlety were his areas of expertise, not invading or attacking. Personally, he would have taken a less blunt approach to Roam, but he didn't feel it was his place to say so, since the Queen seemed bent on attacking it in some manner. But...no! He had to say something. He couldn't just take up space. Even if she didn't agree, he wanted to at least show that he had plenty of cleverness.

Doing his best not to let his internal sheepishness show, he spoke up at Chrysalis. "Chrysalis, your majesty; I'll admit, assaulting and attacking aren't my specialty, but...maybe you'll find something useful in my perspective anyhow.", he began, fortunately not stuttering or squirming or anything. "...I'd bet we could take Roam with minimal conflict, if you wanted. We could plant agents all over the city as Hearts and Hooves tourists without raising suspicion, if they invent a unique disguise. And then, maybe...kidnap and replace a few officials or powerful ponies. Poison and replace the guard too.", he said, casting a glance at their homely little poison expert briefly. "Provided no one slips up, we could own and run that city without anyone realizing it and use the lovesick ponies there easily. Of course...you could also spring a trap and attack after, if you'd rather... Er, it's all up to you, of course..!" It wasn't nearly as glorious as a full-on attack...and a lot more slow and methodical--meticulous, even. But that was just the way Figment's mind worked. He hoped the Queen would at least not get annoyed with him for it.

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Snively wasn’t sure what to think of all these miscellaneous drones coming up to offer Queen Chrysalis advice. On one hoof, letting them have their say and increase their favor with Her Most Splendid Majesty meant less favor coming in Snively’s way. One of them might even be angling to cast the bureaucrat off his high perch, and he’d be cast down to survive on scraps with bigger and tougher changelings. On the other hoof, telling Chrysalis that she needed to rely on expert opinion entailed opening the door for that cursed Bianca to make and move, and Snively would never let that fiend win any more points with their ruler ever again. Thus, the lesser of two evils it was.

Out of all the assembled “advisors”, Snively felt that Sachadara would be the least likely to stab him in the back. The height-challenged didn’t like her in the least; even thinking about her experiments of dread made Snively almost want to throw up. Thing was, everyone else thought the same way about the cruel weaver of nightmares. Should something horrible happen to Queen Chrysalis, Sach would likely be one of the first to be cast out of the Hive. But by all indications, that cruel minion didn’t care. All Sach wanted to do was make her captives suffer; she clearly lacked any interest in anything else beyond her provincial realm, which suited the paranoid Snively quite fine.

Time to play a game of queenmaker. “I believe Sachadara has the most sound plan,” the nasally-voiced bureaucrat advised his master with the utmost smug confidence; “Not only that, but she has proven herself in the past as a capable infiltrator, and a subjugator of the willpower of those fleabags. It would be a wise idea to let our distinguished Hero of the Hive assume operational command, on your behalf, over the forces you assign to the conquest of Roam.” That'd take Bianca out of the picture most splendidly!

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"I do not mean to offend, but I've been working to help the Hive. Shouldn't you be in Canterlot, entertaining your many stallion suitors?"

Luxuria just sighed at the retort and shook her head. "It doesn't do you well to try and get cute with me, Sachadara, not when you're so ugly," she said dismissively. "It's pretty clear that only take so much pride in the fear you can inflict in others because it's all that face of yours is good for."

The singer smiled and gave a small laugh. Flirting with danger maybe, but hey, she always had been something of an incorrigible flirt. "Personally, I don't see any shame in the fact that I could likely get a good number of ponies to give me their love without changing a single thing," she added, flipping back her long, bright pink mane with pride.

At the expression of thanks that soon came from Aria, Luxuria just smiled and laughed a small laugh. She was very curious how the cute little medic would play into things. It would be a fun thing to observe at the very least.

The discussion of the plan grew as opinions were given by four of the queen's loyal minions. Kahz, a young and very eager though undersized changeling, further stated how the pony celebration of Hearts and Hooves might play into their plan. He went on to point out how the remote nature of the city would make it hard for them to make their approach. Sachadara then asserted that she be given the reigns of the operation and that she might then be able to produce results with just ten changelings through her regular use of fear. Following this, the crafty Figment spoke of planting agents quietly. Snively rounded things out by throwing his lot in with Sachadara, asserting she was the right one to lead the infiltration.

Chrysalis listened closely and processed it all before decided to speak once more. "All of your words hold a certain wisdom," she said steadily. "I, however, believe success for us in this plan rests in taking a slow and deliberate approach. We embraced shock and fear in our attempt to capture Ponyville and it was not enough to win us the day," the queen assessed. "I have very high faith in you abilities, Sachadara, but I like what I am hearing in the words of the others. As it is, we want to take this city not just to have it, but to claim from it as much love as we possibly can. Proceeding immediately to terror may in turn squander some of the resources we could have otherwise claimed."

The queen nodded before continuing. "I believe you are on exactly the right track, Figment. Your thoughts mirror my own for the most part. Conflict should be minimal in the initial stages. We can make use of things like this pony celebration to infiltrate quietly without them taking notice. it is better that in the initial steps of this invasion we take the city without the city even realizing it has been taken. We make it ours subtlety, piece by piece, leeching strength from it all along the way. Then, when we are ready, when we are strong, we shall pounce. We will reveal ourselves and conquer the city outright. The invasion will have left us stronger rather than depleted of our energy and spirits, and thus able to keep the city ours even after the news has reached Greater Equestria."

She looked at Kahz then and gave a nod. "But this one here does bring up a fair point. Roam is far from the kingdom, and it will be difficult to move en masse without attracting undue attention. That is exactly it though. We will need to move in in waves, little by little. We cannot move an army of changelings across the entire continent without notice. Coming in small groups, a few in the time, I believe we shall be able to build up a web of control that will help us to ultimately help us take the city painlessly. We just need patience and coordination."

The queen's eyes finally landed on Snively. "As for your suggestion, my most unpleasantly pitched servant, I do not believe I said I intended to delegate leadership of this operation to any assembled here. I welcome the input of you all, my subjects, but the plan we enact to take this city will be my own. I intend to personally be involved in the infiltration of the city." The queen cackled with delight. "It is, after all, important that I am able to start amassing love immediately. By the time the city has fallen, I will need power enough to deflect with ease the efforts of even the ponies best champions!"

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"My Queen!" finally spoke Chrysalis' Lieutenant, Bianca. She stood with a couple of her soldiers, making her what to where she could better be heard without shouting. Just wan't proper to shout at one so glorious as the Queen.

"If I may, exploiting the city's water lines may not be enough. With this being the second fairly successful attack on a Equestrian settlement, the REA will likely revisit their defensive doctrine and put more time into counterinsurgency developments. How to look at weaknesses as a changeling would, how to avoid exploitation, how to spot a changeling, et cetera..." She revisited some of the earlier plans and tried to put her two-bits into it for the Queen. "Moving through the river would be a death sentence, if that's what was being suggested. We'd be spotted in a moment, even with proper disguises. Who enters a city by the river? If it was meant to poison the water supply, absolutely not! Security will only increase in the city, not because of fear of attack, but to control the ponies within! If they're fed by one water source, and it's contaminated, soon ponies will start doing whatever they can to hoard supplies, which could lead to looting, theft, mass hysteria. While amusing, it will certainly gain a heavy-handed response from the government. Soldiers, checkpoints, curfews, as well as decontamination teams along the river contracted by the government." She took some thought into another plan she heard... Something about replacing leaders. "Replacing leadership won't do much good, either. Most subordinates would notice a change, especially if these ponies are responsible for daily decisions. Replacing high profile leaders would be inadvisable" she hinted with a wink.

"I speak on the side of caution, your highness. If we're to move on the city, it should be done in a way that leaves little to no mark until we have an established hold. Save the large invasion for until we discover a critical vulnerability, or make one ourselves. In my opinion, exploiting their border guard would be best. Replace them ourselves in the worst case, or simply monitor the changing of shifts and move in small teams during that window. Smaller force, smaller hoofprint."

A long-winded opinion, but she was a gifted tactician and invader in her own right, so she hoped her opinion carried some weight with the monarch.

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All Sachadara could do was sigh at the lack of awareness and understanding her fellow changelings had. She supposed that wasn't their fault. They were all cut out of an inferior cloth when it came to devising plans. Even Chrysalis, to a certain extent. They all suffered from an acute lack of foresight and creative thinking, probably owed to a lifetime subsisting on others. They never has to think or feel for themselves and it showed in their general ignorance. She expected it out of a few of the drones but she expected better out of Chrysalis and Bianca, who were both geniuses in their respective fields of eladership and tactics. But Sacahadara also figured that a part of the problem lay with herself. She refused to detail her plan as there were average drones and underlings populating the area and it made no sense for her to do so in front of the common riff raff. They could take their places and know what they need to know when the time was right, and you never knew if there were turncoats around. The others were inflicted with the terrible disease of trust, an Equestrian illness she despised. But oh well. For the Hive and all that drivel.

"Many great points have been raised, My Queen, but I do not believe the implication of my, err, arrangement has been fully understood," Sachadara began, nodding gently- wait, not a nod. Just a head movement she couldn't control. She got that agreeable disaster under control.

"When we choose to attack does not impact the nature of my plan, nor what route the army wishes to take to Roam impact it. Figment and Bianca both have able plans for what day to strike and how to strike when the time comes. Bianca's plan for the border guard is especially impressive. None of that will matter, as we have been proven incapable of dealing with these so-called 'flukes'. We may pride ourselves on nearly taking Canterlot, but we didn't. We may pride ourselves on capturing their heroines and almost completely overtaking Ponyville, but we did not. Our plans have everything- surprise, movement, proper tactics and strategy. What they lack is an overwhelming psychological advantage. Time and time again, the average equine has proven incredibly resilient and capable of defending itself from us. Their Guard, their Army, their standing forces have done little to stop us.

It is the strength of their character and willingness to resist which defeats us. We could replace their whole leadership and achieve complete tactical and strategic surprise with our entire army, but if we were unable to take a little nothing town like Ponyville despite our commitment of forces, excuse me if I doubt our ability to take Roam...if they have the will to resist us fierce enough, anyway. So how we eventually strike, with what, when and from what avenue- Bianca especially has wondrous plans for that, and several others have valid points as well. But none of them would be able to lead us to victory because we are too weak to achieve it unless the ponies are broken psychologically as the attack begins.

In order to do this, little needs to be done that would not be done anyway. A few changelings and my chemicals. Take the positions of those involved in supervisory positions of the waterworks. Over time, distribute the chemical. What follows is not a long, stinging illness or a sense of dread that overtakes the city. Ponies aren't going mad or going to the hospital. Investigations aren't being launched. Security is not being increased. Nothing happens except the chemical gets distributed far and wide in the city. We bide our time.

When the attack commences, then we activate the chemical. In a span of moments, we can take away their will to fight. Within minutes, we can take away whatever we want from them and leave them what we wish them to have. The overwhelming vast majority of ponies will not be capable of putting up any resistance and will be much easier to take from the city. Those that can will be so wildly outnumbered that we can neutralize them, and they will not be able to call on any sort of reinforcements from the citizenry let alone any security or military force present...since by and large, they'll either be in our hooves or being wallowing in the remains of their mind.

There are other positive side effects of this plan. This enhances whatever plan you have for getting changelings into the city during the attack, as the overwhelmed security services will be shattered before any contact is even made. Because of the timing and our own precision strikes, we can silence the city before it can send out a distress call. If a small detour group could convince travelers of some small scale disaster that closed the roads, we could in theory take whatever we wanted. In the worst case, we would still have many hours after the attack where Equestria at large would be ignorant of events.

It also provides a cover. If we do it perfectly, maybe Equestria does not believe it is a changeling attack- at least for a while. After all, almost the whole city loses its mind. Those few that say there were changelings involved will be outgunned by many who will claim many wild fears and maybe a few of our own left behind to sow discontent regarding the response to the crisis. Some strange illness from the sea perhaps, or maybe a disease brought by a Crystal Empire visitor. If we have stragglers, confusing the response to the crisis will enable them to link up with the main force.

As for the chemical itself...yes, ir will provoke fear, but this is a controlled reaction. Once we have them back in the Hive, we can tinker with them all to get the best possible percentage of love drained out of them before they are breathing husks of creatures. The important thing is that by doing this, we take away the greatest weapon Equestria has against us: Courage."

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Almost right after Snively lended his support to Sachadara, he came to regret that decision. Queen Chrysalis expressed more interest in what Figment and that other drone Kahz had to suggest, ensuring they’d earn more favor with the Hive’s ruler. And when the all-powerful changeling ruler spoke to Snively, his eyes widened with bafflement instead of fear as she calmly explained her intention to oversee this next invasion herself. Snively did not wish to think treasonous thoughts, but the fact that the last two major invasions she personally led failed suggested that just maybe, Chrysalis was the common denominator between them.

But the height-challenged administrator would never dare tell that to his master’s face. On the other hoof, the Queen’s absence granted a potential opportunity to Snively; one he blatantly cast aside last time. “I’m 100 percent certain you will lead our forces to victory, O’ Greatest of All Conquerors,” Snively bootlicked; “And as always, your humble servant will ensure your Hive runs smoothly in your absence.” It would take an order from Chrysalis herself, or the lure of a very spectacular reward, to get the cowardly drone to ever return to the field.

Snively had no time to pat himself on the back before his most hated of enemies took the center stage. Bianca, Her Majesty’s so-called lieutenant, started spouting all sorts of nonsense about what it’d take to conquer Roam. Unfortunately, there was not much Snively could do to counter Bianca at the moment, but at least Sacha held herself well enough. Snively still wished however that Chrysalis didn't invite the entire Hive to this strategy session; something bad would probably come of it, the paranoid drone thought.

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One of the good things about such large, public meetings in the Hive is that it gave Kahz a sort of bird's-eye view of the changelings who would likely be involved and responsible for the proposed invasion. That was also, however, one of the bad things about it; he felt that he could have an interesting and useful conversation with any of the ones who spoke up, but being here meant addressing them all at once, and Kahz didn't fancy the chances of a demagogue in the presence of the Queen.

Still, if there was anything to be learned from what he saw, it was that the risks of communication were far outweighed by the harms of being misunderstood; Bianca had been pretty close to completely shutting down Sachadara, and it had only been a sudden explanation that had saved a potentially valuable contribution.
And, since Queen Chrysalis had actually acknowledged his contribution, the stunted changeling felt confident enough to forge ahead. "If I may say so, your Majesty, I'm quite glad to know you'll be at the helm, and hearing the wealth of suggestions inspires confidence in the plan. But, to respond to Sachadara's point, I don't think our previous strategic error was so much a mis-estimation of psychology, as much as it was the elemental mistake of putting all our eggs in one basket. We focus so much on crafting a brilliant Plan A, that comparatively little time is spent on a workable Plan B.

"I mean, take the chemical plan. It's elegant, brilliant, and would make a decisive victory, but its not failproof. I can think of two things off the top of my head that might derail it. First, I happen to know that ponies in Roam drink more fruit juice and wine than water, which has to have some effect on the effectiveness of whatever chemical cocktail you have in mind. Second, Psychology in the mass is a different beast from Psychology in the individual. If you shouted at one pony with a megaphone, he would at least sit up and take notice, but I actually stood in the middle of a public park and ranted into a megaphone during one of my recon missions, and the crowd actually ignored me! Even if you've found out what all individual ponies will do given certain controlled circumstances, its not a predictor of how they will act together. The last thing I want to do is be asked to face down a mob of pacifists that start fighting.

"Now, that doesn't mean this plan shouldn't be done, but some steps should be taken in case things don't turn out as predicted, and its a safe bet that they probably won't. My suggestion would be to, at the point of invasion, only send out half our deployed forces to attack. If they're demoralized that much, we won't need our full contingent; if they have courage left, however, the disguised half can take a prominent role in 'driving them off.' That would give us an even more solid presence in the city, enable us to maintain a love-harvesting operation, and make us heroes to the rest of Equestria, setting us up for further infiltration. Multiple paths to victory!"

He halted, holed hooves raised in excitement. It occurred to him suddenly that most present probably wouldn't have expected so much from what looked to be a common grunt, or something with even less status. He'd certainly made a spectacle of himself, buzzing around the roof as his thoughts poured out of his mouth like a high-pressure faucet leak. Clearing his throat, Kahz settled down into a more settled pose. "Just a suggestion." He added more quietly.
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