Another calm, quiet night. As I sit here, sipping my chamomile tea alone, I find myself reflecting upon meaningful events within my life, as I so often do. A candle casts a warm, orange glow, creating fuzzy shadows and a sense of calm throughout my private study. The soft light is comforting, revealing spines of books aligned neatly upon shelves of maple, resting and just waiting to be caressed with a gentle hoof, one searching for knowledge. But I digress- my thoughts are far from books, this night. I shan't waste any more time idling about, for time is precious, and doubly so after sunset. That being said, I find that I am quite content.

Having Luna here to assist me and rule over the darkness certainly affords me a much-needed break each day, and I begin to wonder how I ever managed for so long on my own. The stress of recent events is beginning to weigh heavily upon my mind, but duty calls, as it always does, and so the chance to relax a little is precious. Perhaps I should indeed just take it slow and bide my time… after all, with the palace secure, and the ponies of Canterlot safe under the watch of my sister, I see no reason not to take a little time for myself.

Again I bring the cup to my lips, and close my eyes as the feeling of warmth brings me comfort.

Another wild, noisy night. As I sit here, gnawing mindlessly on a chunk of bloody meat, I can't believe my mind is racing and obsessing over such unneeded and frivolous stupidity. A birthing pod pulses before me, suspended by black tendrils from the ceiling and floor as it pulses with an aquamarine glow from within. The harsh, bioluminescent glow is maddening to those unused to it; its brilliant and intense light illuminating everything within range, hard and jagged shadows of utter darkness nipping at the edges of its territory. Even my eyes take some time to adjust once these things start pulsing, and I've been down here, watching them for centuries. But I don't care. Let them shine, let them burn the retinas of the simple-minded fools sitting all around me. I care only for my meal at the moment, and nursing these feelings of absolute rage.

I'll admit- even with these drones on all sides, I feel alone, and as though I am responsible for nearly everything that goes on in this damnable hive. Everything that has happened in these past few weeks boils down to being my fault, and now, because of my failures, both my brood and I are left with absolutely nothing to do. All the time in the world is at the tips of my hooves, provided I can keep my charges from going hungry. That, I'll admit, is quite a large concern. Perhaps I should pick up the pace, and stop lazing about and stewing in rage. I'm totally alone in my responsibility to this swarm, and I see no reason not to stand up and start planning anew. Maybe it'll even help me calm down.

Again, I sink my fangs into the foreign gore clutched in my hoof, and a trail of blood dribbles down my chin, splashing idly to the floor below as the lingering rivulet incites me to shiver.

Slowly, I rise, taking time to stretch before the tea rises with me, ensconced in a gentle golden glow. It is but one more sip before the cup is drained, and lightly placed upon my bedside table. It has been quite a while since I have felt quite so pleased, finally alone, without even a guard hovering over me. While I appreciate the sentiment and consideration for my safety, sometimes, I suppose I would prefer to be left to my thoughts. Talented though they may be, my staff has an irksome habit of getting a bit too close, at times. Everypony needs some time alone. Even a princess.

Aimlessly I walk, allowing my eyes to wander around the room that has been mine for over a millennium. The constancy is quite nice, and I consider this study be a haven of sorts, with the attached bedroom being another. However, security is not what I desire most- I think what I could do with at the moment is a beautiful view, something to inspire whatever other contemplations I may subject myself to this night. Through the bedchambers I go, the silken sheets tickling against my legs as they blow in the breeze from the open portals beyond which lies my destination. The sensation is chilling, and it makes me feel alive.

A series of harsh clacks ring out as my protected hooves touch down upon marble instead of plush carpet, and the whistling night air momentarily deafens me. From this balcony I can see all of Canterlot, and all of the wonderful ponies below, bustling about even so far into the night. Luna would certainly be pleased, if she was looking. I cannot help but smile a bit at the thought while I watch a flash of color rising as a firework rockets into the air before exploding into a blossom of light. Apparently, a party is going on somewhere far below, and it fills my heart with joy to see my citizens able to celebrate again after the recent events of which I'm trying not to think.

A curtain of pale green passes by my eyes as I shake my head and part of my mane obscures my vision. I need to redirect my thoughts, lest they begin to become unpleasant.

Quickly, I stand up, casting aside my food with a careless blast of emerald energy. The leaking mess splats somewhere against the cavernous walls, but I don't care nearly enough to give it my attention as a pack of changelings leap after the free meal. Every single day I've been surrounded by them, feeling more and more pissed off and fed up with every subsequent night. While I appreciate the presence of my brood and their primitive attempts to keep me warm, I think I need something different tonight. As useless and dense as they normally are when it comes to protecting me without constant guidance, it's easy enough to get them to scatter and give me space. A rattling hiss escapes me as I flare my iridescent wings, watching with satisfaction as those closest back away quickly. Out of fear or respect, I don't know. I also don't care. Everyone needs some time alone. Even a queen.

With purpose I walk, quickly trotting through this vast chamber that I've called 'home' for not even a week. Though I normally love a change of pace and a new environment, finding and fighting off the original inhabitants of this cave was enough of a struggle to make me despise it. I need something familiar, something that won't distract me while I keep my mind focused on what to do next. Across the rocky, uneven ground I walk, my hooves descending into a pit of warm, green slime as I approach the mouth of the cave. The sensation is sickening and makes the tips of my legs go numb, but I'm used to it.

The sticky squelches of my hooves in the ooze cease as I step out onto a field of a more solid green, the lush grass silencing my movements as I approach the edge of the cliff before me. From this ledge, I can see all of what the ignorant, 'more civilized' inhabitants of this land call the Badlands, and the lifeless, charred earth far below. Not a single living creature appears to be out tonight, and the only sound comes from the bubbling of steaming geysers that pockmark the rough and untilled soil of the otherwise bare and ashy ground. The sounds give me little reassurance, and serve as little more than white noise, which is exactly what I came here for. My mind continues to linger upon the topic that it just won't let go of, and I plan to embrace that inclination fully.

A curtain of pale green passes by my eyes as I nod my head and part of my mane obscures my vision. I need to keep these unsavory thoughts focused, lest I lose sight of what's really important.

A smile creeps across my face as more fireworks go up, and I am reminded of the most recent Grand Galloping Gala. The event had been just as dull as I expected, but many fond and unexpected memories had still been made that night, particularly of Twilight and her friends. Twilight Sparkle, my most faithful student. If anything could drag my mind from that which I do not wish to think about, it would have to be her. Her smile, her bookishness, her wonderful laugh- the intertwining memories of her time both under my wing and our scattered encounters thereafter lifts my spirits, and I feel as though my mood is rising again with the multicolored missiles leaving the ground before me. A shower of blue sparks cascades through the air, and my eyes follow the fizzling lights as the rich, deep colors remind me of another mare close to me.

Luna, my dearest sister. Oh, how I long for the days when we could play in the grass, gossiping and frolicking without a care in the world. My fillyhood… another subject that brings me joy, and one upon which I can willingly dwell. Growing up as royalty was never all smiles, and the harsh forest of Everfree was hardly the safest place to raise two foals. Despite that, Luna and I were generally happy, and I love her more than words could ever say. It is a shame that she is busy tonight, otherwise I would go and seek her embrace.

As quickly as my spirits lifted, back to the streets below they fall, trailing the dazzling embers of the discarded fireworks as they slowly descend. Twilight and Luna… both were present and very close to me during the wedding and the following reception. I had hoped not to think of such things tonight, but it seems that such a turn of events was inevitable. Naturally, upon triggering those painful memories, my mind drifts to her, the one who managed to best me, and I realize that I do not even know her name.

My flank contacts the cool stone lightly as I begin to think, all attention directed to this 'changeling queen.' There must be more beneath the surface. Nopony can be so selfish and brash without a reason.

A scowl works its way across my features as I stare into the steam, and I am reminded of those smoky pits in which I was birthed. I never knew my parents, not really. I was just another- until I became more. All of this, my brood, my empire, is both my responsibility, and my victory. I have no one upon which to rely, and yet everyone here relies upon me, as they have for centuries now. My heart is hard, and just maybe, I don't even have one. That's a lie, as much as I'd like to believe it's true. Without a heart, I wouldn't be feeling so much rage. I almost want to stop thinking, go back to chewing on bones and scraps of meat to satiate this lingering hunger, but simple food isn't enough anymore. It has been too long since I have been able to truly feed, and gather the love that I need to maintain myself.

Three weeks we've been wandering, draining our power from wild animals and any ponies stupid enough to wander out here. It really hasn't been easy going, but we'll make it. We always have, under my watch. Ever since I wrested control and struck down the other queen- perhaps my mother, I don't know, nor do I care- the swarm has been spreading, consuming all in our path. Only recently have we reached capacity and been forced to expand to Equestria, where everything was going well until I made a mistake. I underestimated these stupid ponies, and now, my brood is paying for it. As much as I don't like it sometimes, many, maybe even the majority, are my children, and it's my responsibility to provide for them.

Of course, that's a little hard to do, because of my mistake at that stupid, colorful little wedding. Oh, how I hate them. I hate them all, with their disgusting friendliness and naiveté. And just as my anger intensifies, an unsurprising sight breaks my thoughts. An explosion of light in the distant sky- just over that forsaken town, no less. Canterlot, they called it. And with thoughts of Canterlot come thoughts of that useless, ridiculous alicorn. Princess Celestia. Not even a queen. Given how no one around this country will shut up about her, of course I know her name.

My flank contacts the cool stone with a harsh thud as I begin to think, all attention directed to this 'Princess of the Sun'. There must be something I'm missing. No one stays in power that long unless they're competent, or extremely manipulative.

What is she? Who is she? Why did my niece even know of her? I must assume that the queen bragged about her grand plans while that poor pony was trapped in the crystal caves, as I had never even heard of these foreign 'changelings'. They seem to be almost insect-like in nature, with their queen being the most interesting and frightening of all. I could taste her motivation and drive, though she seemed hungry only for power. That is no way to rule, and is a sure road to defeat. I cannot fathom how long she has been queen, but if I had to guess, I would bet that power changes hooves regularly within her group.

Of course, this is all conjecture, but I cannot help but believe it to be true. Strangely, I wish to know more about her… though perhaps it really is not so strange. Know your enemy, they say. But is she my enemy? Does she have to be? Where are these thoughts of pity and diplomacy coming from, and why can I not pry my mind from her situation?

I quickly turn my back upon the festivities and reenter the bedchambers, before removing my garments and hopping upon my lavish bed. I need to know more, and I feel that the opportunity is coming. A foul intention is lingering in the winds, and I know it will not be long before I see her again. I pray that we can talk, and that I can perhaps come to understand what it is that I am dealing with in her. Nopony is without a story, although I know already that there is much between us that is very, very different. It may be too much to hope for that we can come to an understanding.

As I close my eyes and try to shut out the sounds of celebration, my thoughts continue to linger upon her twisted form. Who are you, really? What is it that you truly want?

Where did she come from? Why is she so loved? Why can't I be appreciated in the same way, despite the fact that I obviously do a better job taking care of my subjects than she does her own? I have to assume that she's a tyrant and a pushover, given how she didn't even catch on to my presence until it was too late. I'll admit that she put up one heck of a fight, and that I barely managed to edge her out with stolen power, but… still. She seemed far too complacent to make the tough decisions, and way too focused on love and kindness, especially for her family. I bet she wouldn't even touch her sister if the mare was guilty of murder, assuming she has one. Stupid, corrupt, pampered equine.

Of course, this is all just baseless assumptions, but I can't help but think they're right. I don't care about her at all, and I don't want to know what her deal is. I just want her off the throne, and feeding my brood with her seemingly endless love. She is an enemy, and no different than any other. Although, I'm going to have to be much more careful this time. I won't have nearly as good of a couple to drain as the last one, and I know that she can overpower me in a direct fight without that resource. That leaves me with few options, if any.

I slowly turn away from the distant celebration with a snarl, wishing to put the sight of that city out of mind. As I walk back into the cave, my changelings click excitedly and then silence themselves immediately upon seeing my face. Maybe they do care about me. As much as I hate to admit it, I do care about them, in a way. Unlike that alicorn, who probably just wants to sit around all day and lord over her spotless city while I rot away in some stinking cave. Our reckoning will be soon, Princess Celestia. I'll find a way to take you down and out, for good this time. I settle in back atop my pile of bones, surrounded on all sides by nameless subjects seeking to please me. Just another, typical night.

As I close my eyes and try to shut out the sounds of the chittering fangs around me, my thoughts continue to linger upon her elegant and well-kempt form. Can I do anything but hate you? How and why do you even have the throne?

As I lie here, pondering and unable to sleep, I can only be sure of one thing- the two of us, no matter what remains unknown, are incredibly different. There is no way that she could understand me, or that I could understand her. Too much stands in the way, both personally, and with my subjects. All that I truly want at the end of each day is to care and provide for them as best I can, and perhaps receive a little appreciation in return. After all, each and every one of us is really just trying to survive in this unstable and frightening world.

Unlike her… I care for my subjects before myself. The thought of her methods unnerves me, and I have no idea how she rose to or maintained power, given what little I have seen. Fortunately, I think that tonight I can sleep well, knowing that I am nothing like her at all. That is, assuming I can get to sleep to begin with. But something is gnawing at the edge of my mind, an uncertain feeling that I just cannot quite place. Something about this does not feel right… what could it be?

To you, wherever you may be, despite what I feel and despite how much I pity you- goodnight. May we meet again soon. And this time… I hope that things go differently…

Author's Note: I'm not even going to comment on the intention here, other than to say SURPRISE! ANOTHER STORY I DIDN'T PLAN ON! The idea for this came out of nowhere, and I knew immediately that I had to write it. Neon Labyrinth (note the slight name change) chapter 2 is up next, unless another one of these surprises happens. See you then!