Canterlot dawned dark and grey and a misty fog hung over the usually lively city like a shroud.
The weather made a nice backdrop to the tension Princess Twilight Sparkle was feeling. Her usually vibrant personality was noticeably absent as she looked over the draft of the decree she had drafted by her unicorn assistant, the quiet and efficient Raven Inkwell.
Twilight looked up from her desk at Raven Inkwell, and noticed how nervous and apprehensive the body language of the young mare was.
“Your majesty”, Raven Inkwell uttered, paused and then added, “Is this the right course of action? Ponies will likely be afraid, and I confess to have doubts myself.”
Princess Twilight Sparkle sighed and facehoofed, but she knew Ms. Inkwell both meant well, and was correct. Even her best friends would question the practicality, or even the sanity, of this admittedly shaky plan of action.
“No, Inkwell”, Twilight Sparkle responded. “This may not be the wisest course of action, but after lying awake late into the night for a few weeks, I’ve decided it’s what should be done.”
“Now, please make sure to send my letter to Mayor Mare of Ponyville, and to clear the funding with our Farm And Housing Advisor”, Twilight added, before pausing and speaking again. “And when the expected guests arrive, have the Royal Guard direct them to my private study.”
“Yes, Your Majesty,'' Raven Inkwell replied before doing a slight curtsy and leaving before her frustration at having to deal with that one pain in the tail advisor became too obvious. Ms. Inkwell could still hear “You can’t cut back on bits! You will regret this!” in her dreams.
Princess Twilight Sparkle went to her study and laid out some cups of tea and snacks for the upcoming conversation. A simple spell allowed her to keep the tea hot and the sugar cookies fresh while she waited.
Twilight gathered up and reread the notes her intelligence agency was able to find out about a young pegasus colt named Dusk Shadow, and his two parents, a tiny light grey pegasus mare with an indigo mane and tail named Smoke Signal, and a tall, wiry dark blue pegasus stallion with a white mane with a black streak through it named Morse Code. Smoke Signal bore a smoke ring cutie mark, and her mate, Morse Code, had a telegraph pole cutie mark.
Princess Twilight Sparkle, two weeks previous, had met the interesting colt in the Royal Statue Garden after midnight. He seemed convinced that the hateful and villainous filly named Cozy Glow could be redeemed. Furthermore, Dusk Shadow, though only a year or so older than Cozy Glow herself, stated that he was meant to help with this path of redemption.
The picture of Dusk Shadow, with his ashy grey coat and navy blue mane, disappeared as Princess Twilight Sparkle closed the folder and put up the notes on the family as one of her Royal Guards opened her study door.
“Your majesty, your guests have arrived”, the guard stated. “They are outside in the hall. Do you want them to come in now, or wait momentarily?”
“Please, have them come right in,” Princess Twilight Sparkle replied as she put on a smile to disarm her guests with.
The Royal Guard stepped aside and motioned for a trio of pegasi to enter. Dusk Shadow, eyes wide and gazing with interest at the decor, was followed cautiously by his parents. Their ears wanted to lay back and their forced smiles looked more like grimaces.
“Come. Come. Have a seat. There are refreshments," Twilight Sparkle stated. “I’ve been looking forward to meeting you Ms. Signal and you Mr. Code”. “Your son is quite a colt.” Twilight added.
“Yes, he gives us quite a time keeping him occupied,” Morse Code added as he picked up a cookie and started nibbling on it. After a moment, Morse Code began “Your majesty, my wife and I apologize for our son’s behavior”.
“Oh, no need” Twilight replied with a small smile. “Your son is not in trouble. Curiosity and a drive to understand are things to admire,” Twilight added.
“Princess Twilight” Smoke Signal said, “If our son, Dusk Shadow, is not in trouble, then why were we asked to come here at our earliest convenience?” Smoke Signal asked with a touch of unease and irritation.
“I have an offer, and a request, if your family is willing to consider it” Twilight Sparkle announced with a warm smile directed at Dusk Shadow.
Dusk Shadow had been quiet and hoping to avoid much notice, but he was now fully the center of attention as both of his parents gazed down upon him as well.
“Miss Twilight, does this have to do with Cozy Glow?” Dusk Shadow asked.
“Indeed, Dusk Shadow. I have not been sleeping well these last few weeks as I keep turning over in my mind what happened with Cozy Glow” Princess Twilight Sparkle intoned, a slight frown crossing her features. “If your family accepts the responsibility I have planned for you three, then I will make an announcement later today about Cozy Glow being released from her stone prison.”
“Dusk Shadow, what exactly did you say to the Princess?” his parents uttered simultaneously.
“Please calm down” Twilight Sparkle said with a bit of force. “Dusk Shadow told me about his cutie mark, and his visit to a psychic. Your son believes one of his purposes is to help Ms. Glow, and hopefully understand her. I failed as the Princess of Friendship. Maybe we should give your son a chance.”
“Your majesty” Smoke Signal started to reply with a forehoof raised and then lowered as she trailed off.
“And please, just call me Twilight. I get enough formality from the nobles” Twilight added with another small smile.
“Miss Twilight” Smoke Signal started again, “you said you have a request/offer for us? Please elaborate.”
“I am approving the building of a new public library in Ponyville, and upon asking around I found out that you, Ms. Signal, have worked in the past at the Manehattan Public Library” Twilight announced as she looked at Smoke Signal steadily.
“And you, Morse Code, worked part-time as a newspaper editor in a few small towns when you were young” Princess Twilight Sparkle added as she turned to Mr. Code with the same steady expression. “I am offering you the job of Editor for The Ponyville Gazette, a new newspaper I’m founding.”
“I have sent a letter to Mayor Mare of Ponyville explaining all of this. She will find a home for you four and Dusk Shadow can choose to either join the fillies and colts in Ms. Cheerilee’s school or enroll into the School Of Friendship.” Twilight said.
“Four?” Morse Code asked.
“You will also be asked to house Ms. Cozy Glow under your roof during the duration we are attempting this plan.” Twilight replied.
“But why move to Ponyville?” Morse Code asked and then having a thoughtful expression cross his face.
“Three reasons” Twilight noted. “First, Canterlot is crowded and Cozy Glow would be under a microscope here. Nobles, royal guards, and myself would always be tempted to pry into every moment of her days.” “Second, Cozy Glow had some positive interactions with a trio of fillies around her and Dusk Shadows age which live in Ponyville.” “And third, my best friends live in Ponyville, and they can keep Cozy Glow in check without it needing to be front page news in the big cities.”
“Dusk Shadow,” Twilight intoned solemnly as she turned and smiled at the young, nervous colt. “Your job will be the most important of all. You will be spending time with Cozy Glow. I hope you can be a good influence on her. You are why I’m choosing to take this risk. Please succeed where I have failed. Please show her the magic of real friendship.”
“Could you give us a moment to discuss this?” asked Smoke Signal.
“Of course. Go and talk things over. Lunch is in a few hours. We’ll discuss this more as we eat.
The palace maids will direct you to your rooms” Twilight Sparkle replied.
“Thank you, Miss Twilight” Smoke Signal stated. “It has been a pleasure meeting you” she added.
“Yes, lovely meeting you and we appreciate the offer you’re giving us” Morse Code replied.
“Ms. Twilight, thanks for believing in me” Dusk Shadow contributed, blushing lightly as he did so.
Princess Twilight Sparkle nodded and smiled at their responses, and watched as they turned and walked leisurely out of the study.
“The first steps have been taken.” Twilight softly said, almost in a whisper as she stood alone.
Dusk Shadow and his parents quickly followed the maid they had been directed to by an otherwise silent Royal Guard upon leaving the audience with Princess Twilight Sparkle. They each had the preceding meeting, and the opportunity given, in the forefront of their minds.
“This is your s-suite” the maid, still new to her job and somewhat nervous, stuttered. “You will be escorted to have lunch with her majesty in an hour and a half. If you need anything, please ring the enchanted bell upon your nightstand and a palace servant will come to assist you in any way we can.” she added.
“Thank you, that will be all for now, miss” Morse Code said.
Morse Code turned around as the maid closed the door to see his lovely wife, Smoke Signal inspecting their suite. Dusk Shadow had climbed atop the huge, soft bed in the side of the room.
“Mom, Dad” Dusk Shadow said after getting himself situated on the mattress, “I think we should accept Ms. Twilight’s offer.”
Smoke Signal and Morse Code shared a glance, as though reading each other's thoughts, and then they both sat on the bed bookending their son.
“Hon” Smoke Signal said, “We believe you when you told us what Miss Cleo said. But you do understand this isn’t a story in one of your junior detective novels.”
“I know that, mom!” Dusk Shadow exclaimed. “I’m not a clueless foal. This is a big responsibility, and while I can’t do it without you two, I think we can succeed. And I feel we must try.”
“I will admit I have missed the quiet of a library,” Smoke Signal replied while ruffling her son’s mane.
“That makes two of us on board”, Dusk Shadow said and giggled from his mother’s treatment.
“Son, you have spunk. I’ll give you that.” Morse Code said as he smiled at his family. Then he met his son’s eyes and added, “So you really believe your path is to help this filly named Cozy Glow?”
“Yes Dad, I feel it from the base of my wings to the marrow of my bones.” Dusk Shadow stated firmly. Dusk Shadow then hugged both his parents and said, “You can count on me. I will do my best.”
“Then I say we do this as well” Morse Code responded as he hugged his son.
“We’ll be moving to Ponyville.” Smoke Signal intoned with a bit of a hitch in her voice. “I gotta give the two stallions in my life some love,” she added as she pulled Dusk Shadow and Morse Code into a group hug.
The trio came together and statements of love echoed in the spacious suite as the family got ready for the lunch meeting with Princess Sparkle.
A short time later the young maid was trotting back to the room assigned to Dusk Shadow and his parents. As she approached the door, she heard some friendly chatter and it made her smile lightly as she knocked on the door before entering.
“Her Majesty requests you join her for Lunch,” the maid said.
“Will there be dessert?” Smoke Signal asked. “Germane Chocolate Cake, perhaps?” she further inquired.
“Miss Signal, our chefs will fix anything you request” their escort replied and then added “You are guests of Her majesty.”
“No need to treat us any differently from other ponies,” Morse Code said.
Dusk Shadow, just like much of the trip to the palace, was quiet. He was too preoccupied with thoughts of a certain pink coated villain with a blue mane and tail. Why him? He was just a colt. He didn’t have many friends, and yet he was expected to help Cozy Glow learn about making true friends?
Dusk Shadow signed and tried to put the doubts out of his mind for the time being.
“Let’s go,” Smoke Signal said cheerfully. “And Dusk, honey, please stop moping.”
“I’m not moping, mom. I’m just thinking.” Dusk Shadow replied.
“Please follow me”, the maid said and started out of the suite with the family following behind her.
The quartet was quiet as they trotted from hallway to hallway. A pair of Royal Guards came into view as they rounded a corner and finally reached their destination.
“Here we are” the young maid said, still a bit nervous. She then left to do some of her daily chores.
“I’ll let Her Majesty know you’ve arrived,” one of the guards said before quickly ducking inside.
The family stood close together as they prepared to tell Princess Twilight Sparkle their decision.
After a few moments the guard returned.
“The Princess will see you now” he said.
Dusk Shadow took the lead with his parents a few steps behind and flanking him. He briefly glanced at the finery around the compact dinner table, now freshly laden with a variety of dishes.
Dusk Shadow then took a moment to admire how regal Twilight looked with her crown and royal regalia. Enhanced by her mane and tail waving in a non-existent breeze.
“Hello again,” Twilight Sparkle said, “Please help yourself before we begin discussing the topic at hoof.”
“Thank you, Miss Twilight. This looks like a lovely meal.” Morse Code replied.
“Yes, and this is most generous of your time.” Smoke Signal added.
“I learned generosity from the best”, Princess Twilight Sparkle, briefly reminiscing about her friend, Rarity.
The conversation paused as the quartet finished getting their food. Once they were all comfortable, and the plates were loaded, the conversation started up again.
“Miss Twilight, my family and I have agreed on our decision.” Morse Code said. “We have agreed to take you up on your job offers in Ponyville.” he further added.
“And I will work with Ms. Cozy Glow” Dusk Shadow stated firmly, “It is a privilege to help you with this task, Miss Twilight” the colt added.
A big, bright smile broke out on Twilight’s face.
“That’s wonderful to hear. Would it be possible for you to start this evening?” Twilight Sparkle said.
“Yes, I think we can get a few things and be on the train to Ponyville this evening” Smoke Signal noted.
“And I will arrange plans with a mover this afternoon” Morse Code stated.
“Lovely, then this afternoon during daily court I will announce Cozy Glow is being released into a rehabilitation program.” Twilight Sparkle stated firmly then added, “I will not require your family to be present and I will attempt to keep your names out of the Canterlot papers.”
“Will you be alerting Ponyville of this plan of action?” Dusk Shadow asked.
“I have a meeting with my closest friends tonight in a local restaurant in Ponyville to give them the basics. And I will also drop by and inform Mayor Mare of Ponyville so that she can be prepared for the town’s reaction.” Twilight Sparkle replied.
“Now that is settled for the moment,” Twilight Sparkle said cheerily as she held up a glass of wine, “A toast to our success.”
“Here here” Morse Code and Smoke Signal replied.
“Yep!” Dusk Shadow exclaimed as he picked up his mug of apple juice, making sure to be included with the grown-ups.
With the toast complete, the quartet descended into a companionable silence as they finished their meals.
Many challenges awaited in the future, and any success would be earned. But for Dusk Shadow and his family, they’d face them together.