The Order of the Stick: Utterly Dwarfed
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    Default Celestia's Finest: Hail to the Queen

    Sniper finds himself, once more, in dream land. Though this time, his guide is different. Rem is bigger here, massive and shrouded in shadow. She swallows up the sky and her tendrils dig into the earth. But her face is still the same. She leads him down a passage, doors branching off every which way, each one labeled with a name, and reads off the engravings as she goes.

    "And there's the one for Red Tape," she says, "Don't worry, I'm sure we'll find...Ah! Here we are." She steps lightly over to a door made of black chitin with a sign that reads, "Keep out, Luna!" on it.

    "Well!" Rem says, "I'm not Luna and neither are you! I'll wait outside. You go right on in and call me if you need me."

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    Ettin in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Hail to the Queen

    "Right." Sniper rubbed at his chin. Under his breath, he added: "Because she obviously only wants one specific dreamwalker to stay away."

    Still, there wasn't any backing out now. The stakes were high enough that they needed every possible advantage and that meant understanding Chrysalis. As much as Chrysalis could be understood, anyway.

    Upon approaching the door, he paused to turn back to his guide.

    "Rem, thank you again."

    Then he resumed his farward stride. After knocking at the door, because it waa only polite, Sniper pushed it open and then stepped inside to whatever lay in store for him.

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    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Hail to the Queen

    "Not a problem!" Rem says.

    At his knock, the door swings open and he steps into an alien palace. Strange shapes and swirling architecture take the place of the traditional pony styles. Mosaics and tapestries adorn the floor and walls, a fountain trickles away in one corner, but in place of a throne, a reclining couch sits on a raised dais. On it sits Chrysalis, a grin on her face as she surveys the scene.

    As Sniper steps into the scene, ponies fade in. Twilight Sparkle scrubs the floor with her hooves and a sponge. A random mare Sniper doesn't know feed Chrysalis grapes. Celestia, Luna, and Cadence, trapped and frozen in crystal, make a very nice trophy over by the firepit. A few strong stallions fan the queen with palm leaves. And her changelings are everywhere.

    Her eyes fall on Sniper. "Ah, Sniper. Perfect." She leans forward and grabs a military uniform with a changeling insignia on it. "Put this on," she says.

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Hail to the Queen

    Sniper took his time as he approached the dias. Take in everything, miss nothing, and get a feel for the overall situation. That was the order of the day. He carefully packed his emotions away in the back of his mind and left just enough slack to experience their influence. He couldn't afford a repeat Pins and Needles performance.

    A thought came to mind. The Changelings had a psychic link. Was it possible for them all to share dreamspace or were all the Changelings mental projections? Rem could tell him later. For now, there were more immediate concerns.

    "You once said that I wasn't an infiltrator, but a soldier." Sniper said. "That hasn't changed since your escape so I won't lead you on. I'm not a projection of your mind, Chrysalis. I'm the real Sniper Scope, and I can't wear your uniform. But I am relieved to see you're alright. I was concerned when I learned how you escaped."

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    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Hail to the Queen

    Chrysalis' smile fades and turns into a snarl. She springs from her throne and a suit of ornate armor materializes on her form. "Luna! I should have known. Thought that my defenses would hold you up longer! Show yourself!" Her horn lights up. "I'll fight you here and now!"

    There is no response. Chrysalis' rage mounts.

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    Ettin in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Hail to the Queen

    Sniper raised an eyebrow at Chrysalis' display. He noted it as interesting even as he moved to pacify the Changeling Queen.

    "Princess Luna can't answer you because she isn't here." Sniper explained. "And I came here independently of her power and I came alone. There are other ways of walking the realm of dreams if you have the right mentor. I wanted to talk to you as a friend, Chrysalis. That's all."

    He raised his hooves slowly to show he wasn't a threat.

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    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Hail to the Queen

    Chrysalis' attention slowly turns from the shadows and back to Sniper. Her eyes are narrow and suspicious. "Other ways? I know of no such thing," she says. She steps down off the dais and stalks toward Sniper. "Tell me about these other ways."

    The changelings in the room have stopped whatever they were doing and are also staring at him. He recognizes Pins and Needles among the crowd of faces.

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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Hail to the Queen

    A quick, visual sweep of the Changeling crowd brought his attention back to Chrysalis. A familiar feeling, suppressed as it was, swept through the back of his mind. He'd blindly waded into matters that were more complex than expected. In over his head and fighting impossible odds. It was a familiar place for him.

    "I have no magical understanding so I can't give you particulars on the technique. One of our new allies showed it to me. From what I understand, there are threads that connect us-- bonds of companionship. I was able to visit you in the realm of dreams by following those threads. It's a more limited technique than that of Princess Luna's magic, but I felt it worth the effort of using."

    "I give you my word that the Princesses are not here, nor are they observing us." Sniper said.

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    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Hail to the Queen

    Chrysalis' eyes remain narrow, but she retreats to her throne-couch and re-seats herself. "Very well," she says with a snort, "You have gained my attention. I would hope that you don't intend to waste it."

    The other changelings crowd in close.

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Hail to the Queen

    The corner of his mouth dipped a few millimeters.

    It was time to change assumptions and axioms, adapt and evolve. They were several contingencies removed from his initial expectations. The situation had to rerail soon or else he might end up doing more harm than good. Shift the viewpoint. Don't try to talk with Chrysalis the Changeling. Deal with Chrysalis the Queen.

    "I would never intentionally waste your time. I respect you too much to do so." Sniper said as he held his ground against the Changelings. "There are few venues that would allow me to tell you how awestruck I was with your escape from Equestria. Hiding your true motivations behind a false temptation..."

    Sniper allowed himself a thin, genuine smile. "... It was genius. Thank you for teaching me that technique. I wanted to express that properly."

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Hail to the Queen

    Chrysalis settles down a little, coming a down from her high alert and relaxing. "It was nothing," she says, "But you're welcome to study what lessons you can." The changelings around her cackle.

    She pauses. With a sly tone, she says, "I would like to speak to Sniper Scope. Alone."

    The changelings' laughter stops. One raises a hoof. "But...my Queen!"

    "Do not question me," she says coldly, "And get out." The changelings rise as one and make themselves scarce. Chrysalis watches them go and sighs. She lays back on her couch. "Let's skip the flattery, Sniper. I can see through it. What do you want?"

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Hail to the Queen

    "It's not entirely flattery. When I learned of your initial deception, my instant reaction was to pound the table in excitement while exclaiming: 'She flat out played us!' I had to explain myself on that one."

    Sniper took a single step forward and then held his position.

    "Officially, I'm testing to see if we could talk through dreams-- there may be times when we don't want information passing through an intermediary. And to see if there is any other information you wish be passed onto us.

    "Unofficially, I'm here to check on a friend. While I don't doubt your prowess, it was my anger that poisoned you. That makes me somewhat responsible. I'd also like to set up an agreement so that we could keep in contact without stepping on each other's dreams. We can meet like this until our Wasteland allies decide to part company with us. I can't dreamwalk without them. No magic and all."

    He paused and then decided to add: "Despite everything, it is good to see you again, Chrysalis."

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Hail to the Queen

    Chrysalis studies him, open suspicion on her face. "You're happy," she says, "To see me." Her horn glows and Sniper feels himself lifted through the air and pulled close. Her eyes bore into his, searching him for any signs of deception. "...Fine then." She lets him drop.

    "Well," she says, a too-sweet smile suddenly on her face, "I suppose we should sit down, have tea, chat about the weather, and all that other inane foalishness that friends do when they reunite. How have you been, Sniper?"

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    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Hail to the Queen

    The immediate honest answer was 'fighting off a flashback'. This was a dream, he knew that. But knowledge alone couldn't prevent an imaginary Chrysalis and fantasy Rarity from fusing together and throttling him. He was back on the ground before the vision was brought under control. Once he finished straightening himself, Sniper pressed a hoof to his throat to check for further magical containment. There was none. Relief.

    "Outside of a damaged wing, which should heal up in a few days, I'm doing well. There's very little about which to complain." He said. "Aside from moving up in the world, which was quite the accomplishment, how are you doing?"
    Last edited by D.KnightSpider; 2018-06-12 at 11:44 AM.

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    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Hail to the Queen

    Chrysalis scoffs. "What a ridiculous question. How am I doing? I would think the answer is obvious. Every day is some new crisis and all this...technology is driving me up a wall. I can't get good information from the CPI's networks because the hackers are horrible infiltrators and the infiltrators don't know the first thing about computers. My guards are the worst collection of bumbling idiots I've seen in a long time and wouldn't know the first thing about changeling strategy if I wasn't here to teach them. I'm swimming in all of their problems, trying to get this grand scheme of mine to work."

    Her mouth twists into a smile. "In other words, I love it. I'm doing things again, Sniper. Real things. And I have resources, a plan! Everything is perfect."

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    Ettin in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Hail to the Queen

    "Well, they say that if you find a job you love, you'll never work another day in your life. That definitely seems to be true for you." It was a simple observation, but one he felt was fitting. He nodded politely. "You found a place that works for you. Congrats."

    Was it the fact that she was needed or just the general fact of being back in the game that had her so chipper? He couldn't quite tell and he knew that danger of making assumptions. He also couldn't forget with whom he was dealing.

    "It's a lot of moving pieces-- especially if every Changeling shares Pins and Needles' peculiarities-- but you seem to have a handle on them."

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Hail to the Queen

    She chuckles. She really is in a good mood, so it seems. "A queen must also be a mother to her subjects sometimes. That has not changed, no matter how many years it's been."

    Chrysalis eyes him cannily. "Most of them. There are a few pieces left on the board that I'd like to be sure about," she says, "You're worried about the aftermath, aren't you? You and that insufferable Rainbow Dash would get along well. You're both loyal to a fault. She just couples it with her overbearing ego."

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Hail to the Queen

    Sniper shrugged. "The Commander and I have exchanged words three times. The first of which she tried to kill me and the second she tried to smash my face in. We're both alive at this point so that counts for something I suppose."

    That was another relationship that he'd bucked up, but now wasn't the time for such thoughts. He forced them down. No distractions.

    "Ponies worry when the status quo is threatened. You're impending the status quo so we worry. I'm concerned, yes, about what comes next. When the dust settles from taking down Polaris, I would prefer you not be the next target."

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    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Hail to the Queen

    Chrysalis looks away. "The...the first time hardly counts," she says with a wry chuckle.

    She leans her head back and stares at the ceiling. There's a skylight above her, which shows four, bright stars slowly turning around each other. "When this is all over," she says, "I intend to be gone. I intend to go someplace where nopony from Equestria will ever find me. I'll never need to look up and fear the sun and moon again. Maybe I'll hide under the earth. Maybe I'll find some other world. But you won't see me ever again."

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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Hail to the Queen

    An escape or a self-imposed exile?

    "It's a marginally better alternative to getting shot in a war." The observation was frank. "I don't know what the limits to dreams are, or if I'll have the ability, but I'd be willing to find you again in that future. Maybe conjure up another game of Parasprite or something. You'd be good at Codewords."

    There were so many avenues to pursue and he didn't have time to think about them. He had to trust his gut and hope for the best.

    "Is that why you're working with them?" Sniper nodded at the skylight. "You fear Equestrians?"

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Hail to the Queen

    Chrysalis snorts. "You're the only pony that's willingly sat down to play boardgames with me. If you can find me again, why not?"

    She glares up at the sky. "Was working with them, yes. Then I discovered the truth and now, for the time being, old enemies are allies and allies enemies. The world doesn't make much sense anymore, but I am determined to come out on top."

    There is a pause. A cold wind blows through the room. Her grip tightens on the arms of her couch. She glares up at the stars and bares her teeth at them. "And when I do, I will settle in a place where I cannot see the sky."

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Hail to the Queen

    Sniper moved forward to close the distance between himself and Chrysalis, although he left the Changeling Queen her personal space.

    "We both want Polaris and Hyper Threat to pay for what they've done and the life they've taken from you. Where I'm permitted and able, I'll help you with that goal. Their threat has to be removed."

    There were so many questions raised by her comments. But he couldn't press for too many details without alienating Chrysalis. Besides, he was here for a friend, but answers

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Hail to the Queen

    Chrysalis chuckles darkly. "Pay? You use such tame terms, Sniper Scope." She looks back down and her eyes lock with his. There is madness there and in her smile. She slowly rises from her couch, stalking towards him. "Remove the threat? Please. I have a much better plan."

    And then, she begins to sing.

    "I've been exiled." She takes one step forward. "Persecuted!" And another, head low and horn menacing him a little. In front of the throne, green mist flows upwards and forms a mirror of sorts. "Left alone with no defense! And when I think of what that BRUTE did!" The mirror flashes to show Hyper Thought's face, leering down at them. Chrysalis snarls. "I get a little tense!"

    She draws herself up and smiles. "Ah, but I dream a dream so pretty, that I don't feel so depressed. And it soothes my inner kitty and helps me get some rest." One forehoof grabs Sniper and wraps around his shoulders, pulling him close. "The sound of that doctor's dying gasp, Andromeda squealing in my grasp! The stars themselves give a mournful cry! That's my lullaby!"

    She looks down at Sniper and smirks. "Now the past I've tried forgetting. And my foes I could forgive. Trouble is, I know it's petty!" Her grip tightens and he feels his back pop. "But I hate to let them live!"

    She loosens her grip and pats him on the head. "So I found myself some ponies who'll chase them up a tree. And the battle might be bloody, but... that kind of works for me."

    The throne room is gone. One moment it's there and the next they are standing on the top of a mountain, looking down with the mirror beside them. "A symphony," Chrysalis continues, "Of angry growls." A swarm of changelings erupts from the shadows, battlecries on their lips. "A counterpoint of painful howls." Down below, screams of terror and fear fill the air. Chrysalis leans over the edge, eyes drinking it in and mouth spread into a crazed grin. "A symphony of death, oh my! See, that's my lullaby!"

    She releases Sniper and stalks towards the mirror. With false affection, she places a hoof on it. "Sleep, my little termite. I mean, doctor nonpareil. One day coming very soon, you will see your queen!"

    The mountain around her cracks and rises, carrying her up into the air. "The pounding of the drums of war! The thrill of gunfire's mighty roar! The joy of vengeance, justifiiiiied!" She rears onto her hind legs. "I can hear them cheering, My Queen, oh so sly! Payback time is nearing. Then our flag will fly, against a blood-red sky!"

    The stars appear above her once more, but brighter. They grow and grow until the heavens can no longer support them and they fall screaming from their perches. The sharp rocks below leap up to greet them, graceful horns, wings, and legs shattering and turning into bloody patches of ruined flesh. Chrysalis laughs. "Oh that's. My. Luuullabyyyyy!" She falls backwards, giggling and laughing. The room returns to as it was.

    She rises with a small smirk. "That's how I would put it."

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    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Hail to the Queen

    His tactical mind spun as the entire production was absorbed, catalogued and committed to memory. But occupied as his mind was he couldn't fully shutter his emotional spectrum. He stumbled backwards, giving ground and revealing his rattled state.collecting himself took a moment.

    The Four Stars... had those been? He tried to work through what what he'd witnessed and apply some discernment to it. Was this an act? Something real? As with all things Chrysalis he couldn't tell.

    "I'll, er, give you points for the production. That was very... moving." Deep breath. Steady the nerves. "Although I have to point out that a laser through the skull is much cleaner. Less collateral damage. But I get the feeling that's not one of your primary concerns."

    He looked about the dream.

    "So many Royals are concerned about these forces. Polaris. The Four Stars. Hard to believe it could get this bad."

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Hail to the Queen

    Chrysalis' smile is downright bloodthirsty. "What's the fun in that?" she says, "It's over too soon, which is far more than dear, old Hyper Thought deserves. I want to see him squirm." She giggles. "I'm going to tear him apart, piece by piece. I'll even record his screams and go to sleep listening to them every. Single. Night."

    She rolls her eyes at his second statement. "Please. I'm sure if you can find this 'Polaris', the Elements of Harmony can blast him away. This is hardly the end of the world."

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Hail to the Queen

    Because that worked so well the last time they tried it.

    "I've been told that the world ends at least once a week." Sniper said as he scratched a thought on his chin. "I guess after a while it becomes routine."

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Hail to the Queen

    "Hm," Chrysalis mutters in agreement, "For the longest time, I was listed as a B-class threat because, although I'm clever beyond the dreams of the average pony, I did not possess the power to destroy the world." She shrugs. "But why would I even want that? I live here too."

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Hail to the Queen

    Once again, Sniper shrugged.

    "You might be able to boil it all down to envy. It tends to blind creatures to the consequences of their actions. Some ponies might be able to resist its pull as long as they have a sense of consequence. But remove the consequence and they may act on it; a lot of ponies act in self-destructive ways because they're convinced they can beat the odds. I've yet to see one do it."

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Hail to the Queen

    Chrysalis glowers. "I would," she says, "Take offence to that little comment. But." She slowly grinds the next words out between clenched teeth. "I can't deny that it is true."

    She calms a little, though her attitude is now a little frosty. "Well, friend, you've checked on me. I'm fine. So now with the pleasantries out of the way, will the EDF be joining me in my attack?"

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    Default Re: Celestia's Finest: Hail to the Queen

    Sniper's gaze fell on the back of his left foreleg. He shuddered ever so slightly before shaking off the feeling and returning his attention to Chrysalis.

    "A decision hasn't come down from the Higher-Ups yet. Wire's death-trap missiles did a very good job of stealing every pony's focus. I'm guessing we'll receive more instructions tomorrow. Until we hear back, I can't say one way or the other."

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