The Three Sisters: Like Fudge

This story is a sequel to The Three Sisters: Extended Family

A story of The Three Sisters Universe

Families are like fudge — mostly sweet with a few nuts. ~ Unknown Author
Chrysalis' daughters are serving their community service in Ponyville. Nothing can go wrong. Right?
Unless they all have their own agenda, and surprises keep piling up, complicating matters further. But anything to broker peace between the Changeling Nation and Equestria... right?

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16. Like Reading a Book

Rarity tried to keep her composure while watching a neighboring table of changelings down boiling-hot tea in one gulp, smacking their lips placidly as their chitin glowed red and steam emanated from their nostrils. She had, however, stopped educating the changelings on tea etiquette for now, and was content to try and ignore the undoubtedly painful experience while simply nursing and sipping her tea.

Across from her, Chrysalis sighed and pushed away her empty cup. She had done much better than that morning, enjoying the complex flavors of her tea before finishing it still a bit too quickly for Rarity, but well within reasonable cooling time.

"Purity," Chrysalis growled. "We've been in town for five hours now. You've visited changeling dwellings, art houses and the market..."

"Yes," Rarity agreed. "And wouldn't you say this crystal silk is absolutely divine?" She giggled, lifting it for Chrysalis and Cera to appreciate. "Imagine the designs I can create with it!"

"Well, yes," Chrysalis growled. "I'm sure you can create very nice dresses with it... since you'll be nothing but a designer!" She slammed her hoof down on the table, drawing the attention of a few changelings until the guards around them glared them away.

"Why, what do you mean, darling?"

"I mean that we've been wasting our time in the city doing nothing, nothing while all the other Queens are busy learning the important things!"

"Well, while I wouldn't consider myself an expert—"

"That's good," Chrysalis interrupted, eyes narrowing. "Because you are the exact opposite!"

"...I wouldn't say that we have learned nothing at all," Rarity continued, undeterred. "There is much to learn from what we've been doing today, sister."

"Ha!" Chrysalis growled. "Such as what? What teas they serve?"

Rarity smiled. "In part, yes," she said before taking another sip.

"What about military might?" Chrysalis whispered a bit harshly. "We have no idea how strong this kingdom is!"

"Well, the Queen did say that it would put a Hive roughly half the size of yours on equal terms with yours, right? Therefore the military might of this kingdom is about half of yours." Rarity took a bite of a little cookie that was next to the exquisitely decorated cup, humming appreciatively at the vanilla taste of it. "Plus, I'm sure that while Queen Phoenutria will have plenty to say about it, it's the least important of the things we have to learn about."

"Oh, and what else is left?" Chrysalis asked. "And don't give me that look, I know exactly the information we need to find out, I just want to know if you actually have any clue at all."

"Cera dear," Rarity spoke up. "Please read the list I dictated to you to my sister."

Cera shifted, wincing slightly under Chrysalis' glare. "Um, yes, your highness... you wanted to find out about:  Boutiques, SPAs, Spy Networks, Chic restaurants,  Boutiques, Natural Resources, Tea Houses, Art Houses, Boutiques an—"

"You listed 'Boutiques' three times?" Chrysalis hissed.

Cera cringed. "Um... six times total, your highness."

"At least you listed some important ones that the other, more experienced than you, Queens are researching!" Chrysalis snapped.

Rarity smiled. "You think they also looked at the SPAs and Boutiques and Bathhouses?"

Chrysalis bowed her head and grumbled something that Rarity pretended not to hear. "What natural resources? Or are we going to let Dacus tell us that? I guess their Spy Network is not important either?" Chrysalis muttered sarcastically. "Sure, we'll just ask Dermestid what she saw. I'm sure she'll tell us aaall about it." She growled and stuffed several cookies into her mouth, chewing them down angrily.

"Don't be silly dear," Rarity admonished Chrysalis and levitated a napkin to clean Chrysalis' lips. "I already figured all of that out."

It took a moment for the words to process.

"You what."

Rarity smiled. "If you want to start with the military might of this Hive, besides the statement of the Queen, you simply have to look around, dear sister. The buildings are in good state, the streets clean, the changelings comfortable and safe... unlike ponies, changelings are always aware of empathic discontent... if there were serious issues with the military the other changelings would be much more guarded... a little like in our own Hive. This reflects a society that is secure in the knowledge that their military is united, up to the task and efficient."

"You're joking," Chrysalis said after a moment of staring. "You have to be joking, how in the name of the Hive could you have figured all of that out?"

Rarity beamed. "I thought you would never ask!" She motioned with her hoof to the market. "While we were shopping, I observed that they had several pieces of furniture made of pine, and they even have a booming carpentry market, which suggests that they have woods nearby, possibly even over the Hive itself, another indicator was that most of the fruits they offered were berries of some sort, a bit expensive which suggests harvesting in the woods rather than planting them themselves. The regular mushrooms were available in larger amounts and much cheaper so the access to water and and fertile earth for underground planting speaks of large caverns full of underworld produce," she explained.

Chrysalis blinked.

"I also noticed several smaller areas that sold more of the usual pony-fare, from coffee to muffins to decorations, such as drapes from Bitaly, crystal snacks that I've seen before in the Crystal Empire, silks and jewelry from Canterlot, two crates of Sweet Apple Acres Cider in Ponyville, cloud scents from Cloudsdale, plenty of cherries from Dodge Junction and I daresay, if my memory serves me correctly some cheese provided by the Buffalo near Appleloosa, not to mention the more exotic products from Ammassalik and other griffon territories," Rarity glanced at Cera. "My guess from that is that the spy network is strongest in Bitaly, the Crystal Empire, Ponyville, Cloudsdale, Dodge Junction, Appleloosa and Ammassalik, am I correct?"

"I-I—" Cera slid back her seat and stood up, glancing a bit wildly at both Queens. "Look at the time! I-I think I should go, it's about time for me to rep-um to retire for the day since... break and... secrets and sensitive information. Um. Excuse me." And with that, Cera turned around and quickly left them alone.

Chrysalis shook her head in amazement. "How did you even... I mean, it makes sense but..."

Rarity smirked, finishing her tea and standing up. "My beloved sister, I'm a businesspony," she grinned. "And a designer! My talent is to find hidden gems, metaphorically and literally. Did you really think I wouldn't notice these things?"

 

 

Queen Apocrita had set up the royal table once more, brimming with foods from all hives. Unlike the previous time, the foods had been left in the center of the banquet table for all of them to pick whatever they chose.

She watched in amusement as all the Queens stuffed their plates with several dishes from the other Hives as well as their own, Phoenutria imitating Dermestid's technique while cracking one of the eggs. She chuckled and looked down the table at the rest of the Queens.

"I hope all of you had a nice, educational day in my Hive," she said once all present had filled their plates.

There were murmurs of consent from the others and she nodded. "Please tell me where you went."

Queen Phoenutria, spoke first, "I studied your military might, Queen Apocrita, from your training grounds to talking with some of the forwards scouts."

"I hope my troops were what you expected them to be?"

The muscular queen nodded, grinning. "They were."

"And Queen Dermestid?"  

Looking up from her meal, the Queen in question smiled. "Why, I interviewed those that are closest to my own interests of course!"

Queen Apocrita smiled pleasantly. "I hope the Spy Network was to your liking?"

"A most intriguing group,"  the lanky Queen answered. "I was unable to glean much information out of my visit, with it being out of bounds, but they seem very capable."

"And Queen Dacus?" Queen Apocrita asked. "Tell us about your area of interest."

Queen Dacus grinned. "A kingdom is nothing without the natural resources to sustain it."

Apocrita nodded. "And were the lands of my Hive sufficient?"

"Oh, they were," Queen Dacus said immediately. "There is so much to say about your underground farms and the lands above the hive!"

Queen Apocrita nodded with her perennial smile steady in her face. "This is very good, I am glad you all found out as much information as you wanted about my Hive," she said, returning to her meal.

The others waited for a moment, unsure of what to say. Finally, Phoenutria spoke up. "Excuse me, Queen Apocrita, but aren't you going to ask Queen Chrysalis and Queen Purity what they found out?"

Queen Apocrita shrugged and grinned. "There is no point dear, they figured out my trade routes, military status, main spy hubs and most of the natural resources over tea."

 

 

It was several hours after dinner, and most of the guests were asleep when two shadows met.

"This is not possible, we can't allow Chrysalis' Hive to grow even more!" one hissed. "She could take us down if she takes this Hive!"

The other shadow seemed more calm as it leaned forward. "I believe she intends for her sister to have this Hive."

"Purity can't control a Hive," the other retorted. "She's... she's too nice. Too naive and generous. Chrysalis clearly wants to use her if she wins the Hive. She'll simply be a puppet ruler, while Chrysalis reigns from the shadows."

"To think that Chrysalis would figure all of that information out from the city alone..." the other shadow agreed. "She's a dangerous enemy."

"We must act... but how?"

They both settled into silence as their thoughts spun plans upon plans.

Until finally...

"I think I have an idea, but we need to trick the others as well. I know you don't want Chrysalis to have this Hive, but Queen Apocrita and Que—"

"Yes. I know. We'll make sure they have no idea," the other shadow said. "What's your plan?"

And as the two shadows conspired, a third shadow listened unnoticed.

 

 

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