The last thing they remembered was panic.
Tirek, the once powerful towering centaur closed his eyes to shield himself from the spell that fired towards them. Having been resorted to his weakest form, it was a given he wouldn’t have been able to do much against it. Cozy Glow, the youngest of their group, succumbed quickly to fear as the spell rapidly worked up her small body, her expression wide with panic. Chrysalis, arguably the most strong-willed of the three, quickly recognized what was happening, but rather than cower in fear or panic, put up one last fight and lunged against her attackers before all three were sealed to their fate in their stone prison, together.
How they were defeated, and how they would remain.
Petrified in stone on top of their pedestal, the team of three stood before the monarchy of Equestria, plus the Lord of Chaos himself, the one who not only brought them together in the first place but also helped carry out their punishment.
The resentment of taking the fall for his doing would have carried on into their stone sentence, if only they were conscious enough.
Nobody tells you what being turned into stone will do to you. Despite being petrified to be completely immobilized, the spell worked in a way they were still somewhat conscious of the rest of the world around them, limited as it was. They were conscious that time was passing by, just couldn’t keep track of how long.
The days seemed to drag on without anything to help them keep track. Within time, it felt like they would be in their stone coma forever, slipping in and out of consciousness at any given moment..
Truly, a punishment worse than death.
And that’s how the team of villains remained for years to come.
Until the stone chips began to break off.
In the quiet dark of night, the pieces of concrete covering their bodies peeled off, bit by bit, until finally they were freed and let to fall on the grass below with dull thuds.
In the middle of the field only lit by moonlight, the unconscious bodies of Tirek, Chrysalis and Cozy Glow laid beside their pedestal, unprotected and unguarded side by side.
The youngest of the three was the first to move. The filly’s shoulders started to shiver from the night breeze, reacting for the first time in who knew how long. Cozy Glow shuffled within her sleep until at last she opened her eyes, her mind foggy as she brought up a hoof. Blinking a few more times, her eyes widen looking down at her limb.
Her eyes turn on the two laying beside her, looking back and forward between the two at their seemingly lifeless bodies.
A strange feeling of dread filled her as she crawled herself towards the Changeling Queen, her unmoving body giving the appearance she was-
Oh, good, she was breathing.
The pony unconsciously gave a sigh of relief when she noticed Chrysalis’s midsection gently rise and fall. With the same worry she turned to the remaining member, nudging his shoulder.
“Tirek? Guys? Come on, wake up.” She put in her still weakened energy into shaking him. He was taking longer to react. The last time she saw them, they were completely helpless in their defeat. She remembered being scared, as a child would, but at least she was able to be beside her only two allies. Powerless, but at least she wasn’t alone. So what gave them the right to leave her now?
In a tantrum-like frustration, Cozy Glow gave another rough nudge on his shoulders “Wake up!”
A groan responded to her. The centaur blinked for a few seconds before adjusting his sights on the widened sad eyes of the filly in front of his face.
Definitely not the first thing he wanted to see once freed.
“Get off!” Tirek muttered, pushing her away with his hand. Cozy fell back in front of the Changeling as the latter groaned as she awoke.
The two older beings rose from the ground, moaning as their bodies stretched for the first time in ages. Chrysalis hissed at the ground once she realized she could feel again, immediately taking a defensive position as she looked around for any search of her enemies, the lingering anger before her imprisonment still surging through her.
“Where are they?!”
“Where is who?”
The small voice got her attention and looked down, reminded instantly of who she was imprisoned with. “Who else? Those infuriating, pretentious, self-important princesses! They’re around here, somewhere, I know it!”
“But we’re free!”
“Exactly! So unless one of you did something to aid escaping our imprisonment, this has to be their doing!”
“Well, I don’t see them around, so what does that make you?”
A loud, irritated groan got their attention. “Not five minutes out of that statue and I already want to go back if it means not having to hear the two of you yap at each other.”
Both mares glared back at the centaur. “Oh like you’re any better,” Cozy remarked. “If you’re so smart, then how are we out?”
Tirek crossed his scrawny arms and raised an eyebrow at their pedestal. “If I had to guess, I’d say our sentence somehow wore off.”
At the word ‘sentence’, Chrysalis looked around the area.
“Our sentence?” Cozy repeated, a mild hint of fear in her voice. “H-How long were we..”
“The Canterlot gardens,” Chrysalis claimed. “So this.. this is where they placed us. This is where they had us as a reminder of their victory?!” Her voice dripped with venom. “Putting us up like a monument for them to mock?!”
“How long were we in there!?”
Tirek looked around the area. It was awfully quiet.
“Whatever the time, I’m not wasting this opportunity.”
“The spell that kept us in there must have had a time limit. If that is the case, someone must be keeping track of it, meaning it won’t be long before someone comes here looking for their precious statue.”
The two mares looked at each other before Cozy spoke up. “I’m not taking any chances, either.” As soon as she did, she took to the air and began flapping her wings, not a second later to fall right back down with an aching on her back. “Ah-! Wing cramp!”
Tirek rolled his eyes and began to walk off. “You two be my guests and be sitting ducks, I have no intention of staying here for any royal visits.”
Chrysalis hesitated for a moment, then went to follow him. As much as she wanted to take it out on any princess that would come, she knew they weren't in the best condition. Speaking of condition...
“H-Hey!” A small hoof reached out to her from the ground. “My wings are cramped from being in stone. I-I can’t fly!”
Chrysalis raised her eyebrow at her. “And?”
“..Carry me?” Her eyes widen in their typical cutesy matter.
“What do I look like? You still have legs.”
Cozy huffed as she walked away, getting to her hooves and trotting behind them, not before looking back one last time at the castle behind the garden hedges.
Successfully putting enough distance from Canterlot and themselves, the trio of freed villains decide to finally take a rest in the woods that separated Canterlot and Ponyville, setting up a small camp area without many words exchanged between them.
It was still dark out, and the woods did nothing to hide it. The campfire illuminated the three sitting figures from the front side, leaving long dark shadows behind them. No words were said. And no one wanted to even mention why they were still in each other’s presence.
The soft crackling of the fire was the only sound echoing around them. Cozy Glow turned her eyes away from it and towards the two figures beside her. Tirek averted his stare down. Even she thought it was odd to see him so quiet..
Chrysalis was a little more expressive. She too was quiet, but the tension on her stare was much louder than any words she could mutter. Cozy watched as the queen glared into the fire. For a second she bared her fangs in a growl until she finally broke the silence around them and brashly stood up, bringing down a holed hoof down hard into a piece of firewood with a furious yell, snapping the log in two.
Cozy, and even Tirek, jolted back at the sudden action, the latter narrowing his eyes in annoyance.
“Oh, what is it now?”
“What does it look like?!” Chrysalis retorted, turning back to them. “My detestable enemies are still roaming around out there while I’m here wasting my time! Someone, is going to pay for encasing me in stone for all this time!”
“Speaking of..” Cozy intervened, now cautious to not cause her to snap again. “Are any of you curious as to how long we were in stone?”
“You seem to be very interested in that particular detail,” Tirek finally spoke.
“Well, aren't you?”
Tirek gave a tired, aged grim chuckle. “It’s not like I haven’t had my own share of being imprisoned for so long.”
“But you were imprisoned for a thousan..” Cozy trailed off, her eyes widening at the implication. “We’ve been in stone for a thousand years?!”
“What?!” Chrysalis hissed, turning her attention back to them after destroying another log.
“I wouldn’t put it past those princesses to have gone ahead and kept us like so for that long,” he continued, hissing at the mention of the monarchy. “They seem to just love that number for sentencing their notorious villains.”
“Nightmare Moon..” Cozy added weakly, still processing the number of years.
“Discord,” Tirek rolled his eyes at the memory of him.
“The princesses tried to lock me in a facility for that number of years as well,” Chrysalis hissed, staring down at the ground. “That was, of course, until I outsmarted that prissy Twilight Sparkle into giving me a book so I could escape.” She reminisced at the memory of her escape plan, how easily she managed to fool all five of her friends. And the dragon, too. “A book. Her face was absolutely priceless.”
The moment didn’t last long as they returned to the topic all at once.
“Has it.. really been that long?” Cozy asked again.
“I’m not sure,” Tirek responded. “I haven’t seen a significant change ever since we’ve been freed.”
“That’s because we haven’t gone out to see what has changed,” Cozy argued. “Did any of you notice the castle before we left the gardens?” At receiving no replies from them, she continued. “It looked.. bigger. More new and taller.”
Chrysalis scoffed. “Of course they would just rebuild it after sealing us away. And we did such a good job at decorating it, too.”
“The point being,” the filly continued. “I would have expected something bigger if a thousand years have really passed, don’t you think?”
Chrysalis raised an eyebrow. “What are you getting at?”
“That I don’t think so much time has passed like he wants to believe.” Cozy splayed a hoof towards the centaur. “Even if they might or not have noticed we escaped, we still have enough time to think of another plan to try again!”
The campfire area went silent, once again the crackling of the wood being the only sound accompanying them before Tirek spoke up.
“You can’t possibly be serious.”
“Why not?” Cozy asked. “It won’t be the same as last time. This time we can learn from our mistakes. And with me taking charge this time-“
“What makes you think we’ll just let you be in charge?!” Chrysalis hissed at her, pointing a hoof at her.
“Because last time I let both of you do most of the planning and look where that got us!”
“If I recall correctly, the pact was that whatever we did, we did together. And even with that, one of you still managed to screw up and let them win!”
“Maybe if one of us, wasn’t so stubborn-!”
“Oh, I’m sorry, but who was the one that the moment she had chaos magic in her possession, was ready to turn on her own so-called allies?!”
“That didn’t count!” Cozy retorted back, her voice showing hints of breaking. “My mind was overtaken with chaos magic, I-I couldn’t control it!”
“Oh, sure.” Chrysalis’s lips curled into a cruel smile. “You just don’t want to admit what you really are. You’re an impulsive, easily swayed brat with the comprehension of power of a mere grub!”
“Y-Yeah, well! At least I wasn’t so deep set on seeking revenge on just one pony alone that instead of just destroying them, you wanted to have fun with them instead!”
“Would the both of you just give it a rest already?!”
The raspy, harsh voice of their third ally miraculously made it past their own loud rants.
“You can both go back and forward all week if you must to convince the other who’s to blame, but the main point still stands that we lost.”
That seemed to have calmed the two. Cozy Glow sat back down on her stump. Chrysalis returned her tensed glare at the ground.
“Then?” Cozy spoke again. “What is the plan?”
“Plan for what?
“To pick up where we left off. Or what, just because more time has passed, you don’t want to get revenge on the ponies?”
Tirek raised a brow at her. Even after spending weeks together plotting their take over, he still found it puzzling how someone so small could speak so casually about basically overthrowing her own race. “If you want go ahead with another attempt for take over, and most likely fail again, then by all means, I won’t stop you.”
Cozy’s expression dropped. “W.. What?”
Chrysalis eyed the pony then back at him, equally if not more intrigued. “You’re not suggesting..”
Tirek finally looked at them both in the eyes. His time in silence while the other two shared verbal blows at each other was spent pondering with himself, and now it was time to share it, whether they liked it or not.
“That time in stone, however long it was, it gives a lot of time to one’s self. It traps one in their own mind, thoughts, memories, foggy as they might be. But there was one thought that always circled back to me.”
Cozy tilted her head. “What?”
“That this, all this, the planning and plotting. It was getting tiring.”
Cozy’s eyes budged slightly as Chrysalis’s face contorted to a scowl.
“What are you saying?” the mare jeered, almost taunting, daring him to repeat himself.
“Yeah,” Cozy continued. “We failed once and-“
“You failed once, Cozy,” Tirek cut her off. “Twice, thanks to my help the first time. As for me…”
“No.. don’t tell me.. You’re actually giving up?”
The centaur took a moment to answer, crossing his scrawny arms across his chest. “Like I said, I wasn't going to waste this opportunity.”
“Opportunity for what?! To do nothing?”
“See it this way, Cozy. The first time I was ever imprisoned was a thousand years ago, locked in Tartarus with nothing to do except bide my time for an opportunity to escape. The princesses had every intention to leave me there because that’s exactly where they put me again after my escape.”
“After you came in, my second escape was thanks to Grogar— Oh, pardon; Discord — to be used as his pawns.”
“But we defeated him. We stole his magic.”
“And how did that end?”
Cozy struggled for an answer for a bit before growling in a tantrum-like frustration, getting up on all four on her stump. “Oh, big deal! Just because you were defeated a third time, you choose now to give up?! On everything you worked for?!”
“Because while we were used ‘as pawns’ for that turncoat, I, at least, had a bit of freedom to enjoy.”
“You call that mucky cave we called a refuge freedom?”
“It was absolutely horrible. We were confined in it for far too long thanks to that ‘Grogar’ persona… but at the very least, I wasn’t in a cage or confined to one spot alone. And it was a million times better than being in stone.”
Cozy touched her chin with her hoof. “Well, yes, Tartarus sucked to be left there for weeks. At least in Grogar’s lair, we could go out whenever we wanted. Discord would leave us there for days at a time.”
“Augh! I’m so sick of hearing the name of that disappointment of a Chaos Lord!” Chrysalis growled, turning her stare back to Tirek. “Unbelievable. All that big talk about aiming to gain every last bit of magic and power, to take back what was yours, was all just talk, wasn’t it?”
Their eyes met in a stare down when he didn’t respond. Cozy Glow looked back and forward from the two, preparing herself for another clash of egos between them. Surprising for her, Chrysalis was the first to break it.
“Fine!” she hissed sharply, getting up from her seat. “If both of you want to choose to take the coward’s way out and give up, go right ahead, but I don’t need either of you!” Her emphasis was accompanied by a hard stomp on the ground before she turned her back on them to leave.
“Wait!” Cozy called out to her. “Where are you going?!”
“You two might have abandoned your plans, but I don’t care how much time passes, I still know my goal. I would have never been imprisoned in stone to begin with had that.. sow Starlight not turned my loyal kingdom against me! The first step I need is regaining control of my Hive.. and once I do, I’ll do what I should have done long ago, and destroy that Starlight Glimmer once and for all!”
Chrysalis buzzed her wings to take off until Tirek’s voice snapped through her.
“Have you even considered if this Starlight is still alive?”
Chrysalis stops at the thought, lowering her eyes at the ground before snapping herself out of it with a scowl and taking off to the sky, no consideration for her two ex-allies that she left behind. Her already dark figure disappeared into the night sky as silence returned to the campfire.
After a time of silence, Tirek turned to the filly. “Aren’t you going to go with her?”
The demeanor on the pony seemed to have changed drastically. “.. Why?”
“You were so eager on continuing your plans, and it’s clear that's also her intent.” He scoffed, turning his head and closing his eyes.
“I.. I was..”
“Don’t tell me. Now because there’s no one to help you, you won’t do it?”
Cozy lowered her head, her tone going soft. “It just.. it wouldn’t be as fun on my own..”
“Fun? You think all this as fun?”
“I mean, don’t get me wrong, nothing was better than seeing those princesses tremble and quiver before us, and blowing up that castle into oblivion was amazing!” her smile slowly dropped. “But if I could do it all again..”
Tirek studied the sudden change in mood in her expression. “You really are a child.”
Cozy rolled her eyes at him, only half humored he chose now to acknowledge that little fact about her.
They turned away in silence. An owl sounded off in the distance. Or it could have been a crow. It wasn’t like they cared. After a bit longer, Cozy got off of her sitting stump and turned to walk into the woods.
Tirek considered simply letting her go, but a nagging feeling tugged at him to speak after that thought, before she disappeared.
“And where are you going now?”
“If Chrysalis went off to see her Hive.. there’s some place I want to see too.”
Tirek weakly raised an eyebrow. “What?”
“..Why don’t you come with me?