Midnight in the Garden of Misfit Foals

by StubobNumbers

Chapter One

It was a quiet night in the Royal Canterlot Statue Garden. Or, it would have been except for the flapping of wings as a young pegasus colt attempted to slip over the garden's walls. It was shortly past Midnight, but the colt was not tired. And with the brilliant moonlight and stars in Luna's canvas, he didn't need to carry along a hooflight or a candle.

The colt, named Dusk Shadow, was driven to violate who knows how many rules and laws by being in the royal property unattended and long after it was closed for the day. His hooves landed softly on a cobblestone path leading deeper into the garden. Lovely flowers of many colors surrounded him, but he had no mind for them. His purpose was to reach the recent addition to the Statue Garden.

The few lamps in the area glimmered softly, barely showing his navy blue mane. His coat was the ashy grey of old cinders, such as those you sweep out of a fireplace. His cutie mark was a white puzzle piece. Dusk Shadow, from the earliest days he could remember, was ravenously inquisitive.

"Why?" was his common refrain to many things. As soon as he could read he had enjoyed the entire Hardy Colts series. He was given puzzle books for his birthdays and Hearth's Warming Eve. He would sip on a mug of hot cocoa and diligently find the answers.

His parents were not aware he could sneak out, but they would understand why once they found out he had come here. His hoofsteps softly echoed until he came to a stop in front of the statue of The Mean Three. Chysalis, defiant to the last, hissing much like Captain Ahoof in Moby Dick. Tirek, cowering like a sinner in front of an angry God. And finally, drawing Shadow's eyes, was a terrified stone pegasus filly. Cozy Glow. The most hated foal in Equestria. Dusk Shadow sat on his rump and stared at her. Visualizing what she must have looked like in life.

A softly cleared throat made Dusk Shadows ears lay back.

"I believe visiting hours ended several hours ago. So, who may I ask is in my garden in the middle of the night?" Princess Twilight Sparkle asked as she looked down with a neutral expression.

"Dusk Shadow, miss" the colt replied evenly.

"And why are you here, Dusk Shadow?" she asked while ignoring the lack of an honorific.

"I don't understand her", Dusk Shadow stated softly. “She is a puzzle with missing pieces”, Dusk Shadow added.

"Do you mean Cozy Glow?" Twilight Sparkle asked as she looked from this mysterious pegasus colt to the visage he was staring at. Twilight Sparkle had seen many things in her time, but this colt looked as lost as anypony she had come across.

"Things are supposed to make sense!" he suddenly exclaimed. "My parents told me about what she did, and yet never why she did them". Dusk Shadow looked at his hoofs miserably.

"She rejected the magic of friendship and the power of Harmony", Twilight Sparkle responded evenly, still taken aback by the conviction in the colt’s words.

“Miss Sparkle”, Dusk Shadow said as he turned to look her in the eyes, "My teacher taught me about cause and effect when I was little". "My parents like to state that things happen for a reason, but what is the reason?" "What was she like?" "How was she raised?"

"We don't really know. She just appeared at the School Of Friendship in Ponyville one day". "I try not to think about why and what could have been done differently" Twilight Sparkle replied.

"That's not good enough" Dusk Shadow muttered while giving out an irritated snort.

"Not good enough? Ms. Glow tried to remove all the magic from Equestria, and then tried to destroy my friends and I and conquer us once she was released from Tartarus" Twilight Sparkle said, a bit heatedly.

"And just saying what she did is not good enough!" Dusk Shadow stated as he looked determidly at the Princess of Equestria.

“Ms. Sparkle”, Dusk Shadow said as he walked right up to Cozy Glow and propped his forehooves on the base of the statue. "I will find out who she really was". "Ms. Sparkle, my mum told me I have a purpose. To find what is hidden and bring it into the light". "I ask that you allow me this, and assist in any way you can with records". "I will find something. I must.”

"You sound determined. And why are you so motivated about her specifically?" Ms. Sparkle inquired. She felt there must be something other than idle curiosity and a cutie mark behind this colts determination.

"A few years ago,'' Dusk Shadow started in a nostalgic tone, “there was a carnival in Appaloosa, as my family was passing through. It had all the normal stuff, including enough cotton candy to make my Dad's yellow coat turn green".

“While I was there I ran across an earth pony mare calling herself "Miss Cleo" and saying she was a fortune-teller". "I had just finished 'The Hardy Colts And The Case Of The Mystical Mare'" and I was so excited I galloped right over to her tent”.

"How much for a hoof-reading?" I asked Miss Cleo.

"For a handsome young colt like yourself, I'll do you one better”. “Four bits, and I'll use the crystal ball instead", Miss Cleo responded.

I paid, and we entered her tent of many colors.

"Young sir, what troubles your mind?" Miss Cleo asked, the crystal ball shining in her hooves as she set it on the table. She lit a few candles stating “Helps add to the mood”.

“Miss Cleo, it’s my cutie mark. Puzzles, Mysteries, what will I be doing with that?"

“Ah, an age old question, young sir” Miss Cleo stated as she looked at Dusk Shadow, considering. Then, "Let's see what the forces Miss Cleo calls upon have to say!" she burst out, while throwing her hooves up theatrically.

"I see a dashing stallion in a detective's garb. There is something not adding up, and he can't place his hoof on it". “He sits at his kitchen table, files in one hoof, and a shot of Firewhisky in the other”.

As Miss Cleo was saying this, Dusk Shadow could only see swirling colored mist inside what he had originally presumed was a simple stage prop.

"Oh,'' Miss Cleo exclaimed. “This is unexpected” and Miss Cleo looked up at Dusk Shadow again and quickly back to the crystal ball.

"What 'oh'?" Dusk said, suddenly very uneasy by the turn this lark had taken.

"There is a challenge set before you. Someone will need you to help them. This will not be easy. But you must not shirk this responsibility. `` “The happiness of multiple ponies, including yourself, rely on your succeeding” Miss Cleo said with a grave tone.

"Who? What responsibility?" , Dusk Shadow implored.

"It will become clear to you in time, young Sir. But know that this path is yours to begin. Now go, enjoy the rest of the carnival. And good luck", Miss Cleo said. Dusk Shadow barely heard her as he scampered into the sunlit midway.

"I spent the rest of that day as a normal colt would. Frolicking with the other rambunctious youth" Dusk stated, eyes staring at the stars, but not focused on anything. "That night on the train home I told my mother about Miss Cleo and what she said, but they couldn't shed any more light on the issue".

"I was sitting there across from them when a passing waiter asked my parents if they would like the day's paper". "I caught a fleeting glimpse of a filly on the cover and a headline and I don't know what came over me, but I grabbed the paper from the waiter's hooves". "The story", Dusk Shadow nodded towards the three, "was about Cozy Glow and the School Of Friendship".

"She is the path set in front of me. She is the challenge at my hooves" Dusk Shadow stated with finality.

"Challenge? To do what?" the Princess asked in near disbelief. But before she could say more, he continued.

"Ms. Sparkle, I don't believe, I can't believe that some ponies are just bad.” And that some ponies can never be redeemed, he stated, just above a whisper.

"Redemption? You believe she can be redeemed?"

"Yes. Please, give her a chance".

Princess Twilight Sparkle looked at Dusk Shadow with a flat expression. Noncommittally, "I will consider what you have said. But now, let's get you home".

Dusk Shadow nodded and settled in beside the princess as they exited the garden.

The distant hoofsteps faded, and the garden was quiet once more.