• Published 6th Aug 2019
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Cozy - ferret



Once upon a time, ponies locked a little filly in Tartarus and forgot about her. This is not that story.

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Rescue from Tartarus

“Time to go see how well she’s doing,” Twilight Sparkle said with some satisfaction, trotting cheerfully up the steps and back through the grand front doors of her School of Friendship. Twilight’s magic was restored, and her spirits too. Cozy Glow’s plot had been foiled, and it was sure to be a bright new chapter in Equestrian history now, at least until the next world threatening villain.

Twilight found Starlight Glimmer sitting at her desk. The purple haired lavender unicorn’s horn was still splinted, and it looked like she still had a monster headache from the strain that came with being immersed in an incredibly concentrated amount of Equestria’s magic. Twilight waited for the student Starlight was speaking with to hurry out, then walked in unannounced, saying, “Starlight, good to see you’re up again! How are you doing?”

“Pretty good, all things considered,” Starlight said with a weary smile, “I’m out of the hospital, at least. I suppose you came to check on me, once you heard the news?”

“Are you sure you’re going to be alright coming back to work?” Twilight asked worriedly, looking at the uneven fur growing in where Starlight had even attained the impossible: thaumatic burns.

“May as well be here, as in a hospital bed,” Starlight said wryly, “I haven’t been doing much though. I can’t exactly horn paperwork at the moment, and well, my helper kind of...”

Wincing, Twilight said, “You had no way to know Cozy would be so evil. She had us all fooled. Remember she was my assistant too.”

“Heh, yeah, it’s a good thing she was evil,” Starlight said with a chuckle, “Otherwise we might’ve made her ruler of Equestria, since we thought she was such a good friend.”

“I wish I could understand what went wrong with that filly,” Twilight said, shaking her head sadly, “I suppose we’ll never know.”

“What? Why?” Starlight asked, tilting her head at the princess’s words in confusion. “Aren’t they questioning her, or something?”

“As if we could believe anything she said now,” Twilight offered wryly.

With a grimace, Starlight admitted, “Good point.”


She slept, she woke, it didn’t seem to matter around here. There was no day or night, just an unending gloom filled with the unhappy growls of the worst monsters in Equestria. They would have filled her with fear, just like any weak little filly her age, but she was a monster too now, so she didn’t care about some dumb scary noises.

Her roommate and soon to be best friend absolutely hated her. It was wonderful looking into his dark eyes and knowing that she was going to defeat him with something as simple as friendship. It was inevitable, really. He was powerless to attack her, she could talk to him all she wanted, and as the best student of Twilight Sparkle’s School of Friendship, Cozy Glow had learned exactly what to say to take power over him. Her improvised pebble sculpture of him was sure to work this time.

Sometimes she made noises too, like any other monster in Tartarus. She just ignored them at first, but once she awoke scared in the dark, and her rage boiled over as those stupid creatures with their stupid noises had actually almost gotten to her. “Shut up!” she shouted through the bars of her cage, as loud as she could. It didn’t matter. There was nopony to stop her, or hear her. “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!!”

“They won’t listen to you, you know,” her roommate said in dread amusement. He was evil, but at least he wasn’t bad as these stupid ponies. At least his advice had almost actually worked.

She still didn’t show weakness though. “I know,” the salmon pink, blue haired filly said acidly to the thankfully not growly neighbor of hers, “I just wanted to let them know they’re not the only monsters here.”

“Ooh, very impressive,” he said, as Cozy inwardly felt the warm glow of triumph. She was getting to him! Finally.

“Just glad there’s another monster here with me,” Cozy said coyly to the withered centaur, “So we can be the best of friends.”

A silence, and Tirek replied, “You are so pitiful, Cozy Glow.”

She screamed at him then and yelled at him and no matter what she said, he just laughed and laughed.

So Cozy shouldn’t have been upset when they came to take Tirek away. All Tirek said was “Oh great, what now,” all calmly and cooly, but something in Cozy just snapped as the guards started to lift his cage and carry it away.

“Where do you think you are taking him?” Cozy demanded from within her cage, “He’s mine! Come back, you stupid ponies! I demand you stop and bring him back right now! He’s my only—!”

Her voice caught in her throat and terror rose up in Cozy Glow as something happened to her that she could never allow, and it just hit her and she couldn’t speak or she’d feel it.

“Don’t let the terrible monsters scare you now, little filly,” Tirek called back as his cage was trucked down the stairs and away from her. His words felt like they punched her in the gut, and she just curled up in a little ball in her cage, shivering, staring forward desperately, trying not to let it happen, biting her lip so hard she started tasting blood. That made Cozy remember, and that made her angry, and that was okay.

“Shut up...” she growled quietly in the dim gloom, all alone.


Starlight healed slowly but surely, and Pinkie Pie had another excuse for a horn-themed party when Doctor Mending gave Starlight the green light to use her magic again. The school year ended, and a bunch of youthful creatures from beyond Equestria all graduated with flying colors, never to be mentioned again. And Starlight was hanging out by Twilight’s pool again, chillaxing like a pro in the summer heat.

“We can talk while we’re chillaxing, right?” Starlight said around her enormous sunglasses.

“Yeah, a little,” Rainbow Dash said, adjusting the sun reflector on her chest, “Short and sweet.”

Rarity had tilted down the brim of her giant hat, to appreciate the sun without it glaring in her eyes. Applejack was off fetching some more chilled drinks. Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie were playing very gently in the pool. And Spike was chillaxing on Twilight’s belly, while the princess vaguely hugged behind him and let the dragonling relax against her fur and soak in the sun.

“Equestria’s a pretty nice place,” Starlight said wryly, “When it’s not getting attacked, that is.”

“Tuesday’s tomorrow,” Rainbow Dash replied vaguely waving a foreleg, “Nothing to worry about today.”

“Huh, Cozy Glow did go completely insane on a Tuesday,” Starlight said in an intrigued tone, “Weird.”

“Less worrying, more chillaxing,” Rainbow Dash advised.

“Heh, I’m just glad I’m here,” Starlight murmured happily, “I’d hate to be Cozy Glow right now, wherever she is.”

“You said it,” Rainbow agreed smugly.

“Say, I’ve been meaning to ask,” Starlight remarked, “Does anypony know what they ended up doing with Cozy Glow?”

“Oh, she’s banished to Tartarus,” Twilight replied easily, “We put her in a cage right next to Tirek.”

The ensuing silence seemed disquieted by Starlight Glimmer’s expression falling to shock, and then pure, unadultrated horror, violating the chillax code by bolting straight up in her lawnchair and shouting at Twilight at the top of her lungs,

“Are you insane?!”


Cozy Glow was so hungry she was chewing on the bars, not that she cared, because they brought her food every day, and today she just threw it at them, like an idiot, and even the guards ran away as she screamed at them. It made her feel powerful, secure, grownup, and... hungry. Cozy had to find a way to refuse to eat that wouldn’t mean she actually had to refuse to eat. Then she’d show them.

The gates of Tartarus... opened, then, and Cozy scrambled over to that side of her cage. There was daylight streaming in this time, so she knew it was at least daytime, if she escaped. The three headed dog wasn’t the only level of security in this place though. And try as she might, Cozy could not squeeze her fat little butt between these jagged, magic dead bars. She supposed she could go without food long enough to fit through. Yeah, they’d never see that coming.

Something fluttered in her chest, as she stared at the door longing to escape, but the door closed with a thud of finality, the light was cut off, and Cozy never looked away when it did. If she looked away, she’d have to admit she didn’t want to be here. If she cried, she’d have to admit that... bad things were bad. And there was no leaving Tartarus, so Cozy was going to be here forever and ever, and would never see anything else ever ag—she refused to have that thought. She wouldn’t let these stupid ponies break her. Oh they’d love to see her whining and crying, just like... wait a sec.

There were hoofsteps coming up the stairwell to her prison area, but Cozy was so very alone, that the only reason anypony ever came up here was to try to feed her. She knew the guards wouldn’t be here to feed her. She just threw away her food, just a little while ago. It hadn’t been that long, had it?

An aquamarine light illuminated the unicorn who ascended the stairs, a mare Cozy Glow recognized instantly, one who she’d been working on all year before this. It was Starlight Glimmer who approached, as she and Cozy Glow appraised each other between the bars of the cage.


Princess Celestia was surprised to see her morning entourage enveloped in a giant aura of turquoise magic and roughly shoved aside en-masse. The sounds of “Nononono” in the passage beyond gave the princess some idea what was going on, and she glanced at the calendar on the wall of the throne room. Yep, it was Tuesday.

“Princess Celestia, I’m so sorry, she wouldn’t listen to reason I tried to explain to her,” Twilight Sparkle said in one breath as she swooped up behind a viciously angry looking unicorn whom Celestia vaguely knew as Twilight’s new protege, but hadn’t had much chance for direct interaction. The last time she had, Princess Celestia had ended up stripped of her powers and thrust into her sister’s role for a day.

Starlight Glimmer did not look like she was back to 100%. Her horn was sparking dangerously as she stomped up the long path to the throne, while pinning Princess Celestia’s petitioners against the wall. Considering there were several dozen petitioners, Princess Celestia was rather glad that Starlight Glimmer was not back to 100%, but it was very clear that she was agitated enough to push her magic to its limit.

“There is no reason in all of Equestria!” Starlight shouted after Twilight, “There is no sense, no sensibility, no chance of survival. We’re as doomed as Platinum. There is no single redeeming quality to...”

Starlight seemed to notice that she’d reached the foot of the throne then, and actually looked somewhat intimidated as she faced the princess. Yes, Princess Celestia could eventually envelop the entire castle in everlasting flames that would consume all unlucky enough to be caught within, but she’d barely get a spark off if this unicorn chose to take Celestia out with a precisely aimed magic bolt through the heart. Celestia had no doubt that Starlight was capable of such a feat. It was... thrilling...

“Is something the matter, my little pony?” Princess Celestia asked innocently, as Starlight released the entire line of petitioners to fall to the ground with a collective “Oof!”

“Yes, something is the matter,” Starlight said anxiously and furiously, “Something is very much the matter. Twilight Sparkle was just telling me yesterday that you may have by royal decree completely doomed all of Equestria to annihilation, but I wasn’t sure if she misspoke while she tried to get me to stop the entire train ride here. Could you just clarify for one second what has been done with the filly known as Cozy Glow?

Okay, that was unexpected. “Cozy hurt you worse than anypony else,” Celestia said in surprise, “And you’re upset that my sister and I decided to send her to Tartarus?”

“I don’t care if she killed me!” the little unicorn shouted up at the princess, “You sent her to Tartarus. Her. After what she did. You imprisoned her in Tartarus right next to Tirek.”

“She tried to destroy the magic of Equestria,” Celestia countered in bewilderment, “How could you be defending this villain?”

“Okay... okay... okay.” Starlight smacked her horn with a hoof to see if it would stop sparking. “But you put her next to Tirek.”

“It seemed a fitting punishment,” Princess Luna offered, “Tirek was the one who led her to almost destroy Equestria after all.”

“And you want her to interact with him more??” Starlight declared in absolute frustration.

“Starlight, nopony has ever... I mean, Tartarus is a high security facility,” Princess Celestia said diplomatically, “Just what do you think Cozy Glow is going to do from in there?”

“Okay, let me just pose a hypothetical situation,” Starlight said testily, “Two ponies who are masters of deception manage somehow to escape from Tartarus. One of whom is a... whatever Tirek is.”

“He’s a centaur,” Twilight offered.

“Tirek and Cozy escape from Tartarus,” Starlight continued, “And now thanks to Cozy Glow, we can’t find oh... I dunno... Pinkie Pie, because Cozy took care of her somehow. Tirek is free. Equestria is doomed.”

“That seems highly unlikely,” Princess Luna protested, as the other petitioners continued to cower at the border of the room before the lavender unicorn’s fury.

“Now let me describe a second scenario,” Starlight said calmly with a wavering voice, “Cozy Glow is locked up in the Ponyville Penitentiary. Tirek is in Tartarus. They cannot work together. They cannot plan together. Tirek breaks free, he’s defeated. Cozy breaks free, she’s defeated. Equestria is saved.”

“We’re not going to let somepony out of Tartarus who almost destroyed all magic in Equestria,” Princess Celestia said in mild irritation.

“Why not?” Starlight begged, “She’s a pegasus! She doesn’t even have magic! Tartarus is for threats who can’t be contained in any other dungeon. It stops Cozy’s magic, which she does not have. Without magic, Tartarus is no better a prison for ponies than any other. Do you think the Amulet of Aurora is just lying around in a cell in the Ponyville Pentientiary? But no, you had to put her in Tartarus, right next to the one pony—the one creature, who gave Cozy the power to destroy the world just by talking to her, and now he can talk to her all the fluffing time!”

...

“We believe we... may have been in... error after all,” Princess Luna said, blushing red.

Princess Celestia just hung her head, saying, “Oh dear.”

“Are you seriously proposing putting her in the Ponyville Penitentiary?” Twilight asked skeptically, “You know that place doesn’t even have overnight facilities?”

“Oh, no actually,” Starlight said with hopeful surprise, “I have an even better idea.”

“One would hope so,” Luna grumbled under her breath.


“Well,” Starlight said to the caged filly with a nervously relieved smile, “At least you’re still here. That’s a good sign.”

“What are you doing here?” Cozy demanded furiously, “Come to gloat? You gonna try to reform me, just like they did when you used to hurt ponies?”

“...hoo boy,” Starlight said, shaking her head, “Yeah I didn’t think this would be easy.” She looked at Cozy again, saying, “Okay, no. I am not here to gloat, and I’m not here to reform you.”

“Did they decide to put you in a cell next to me?” Cozy asked in heartfelt, sorrowful hope, “Because you were so bad, and I could really use a new neighbor!”

“No they... they did not come to lock me in Tartarus,” Starlight said curtly, “I’m reformed, and a hero on top of that, and the amount of stupidity it would take for me to royally screw that up is pretty ridiculous.”

“Sounds like it’s very likely, then!” Cozy replied in shocked worry, “You ponies are so very stupid after all!”

Starlight just looked at Cozy in... pity.

“Don’t pity me!!” Cozy raged, trying to stomp Starlight’s stupid eyes out, but she ran hard into the cage on the way.

As Cozy stumbled back holding her head and hissing in pain, Starlight took a step back herself, even though Cozy totally wouldn’t have really done something bad to Starlight like that. She just really wanted to.

Then... Starlight said, “You’re right. Ponies are stupid.”

Cozy stopped growling at her through the cage bars and looked at the unicorn suspiciously, as Starlight continued, glaring off to the side herself, saying, “We ponies are all a bunch of stupid pea-brained morons with blinders on, who can’t even see how badly we screwed up. If you were empress it’d probably be an improvement over the leadership we have today and you’re a bucking monster.”

Cozy didn’t... understand. Starlight thought it was bad that Cozy was a monster, didn’t she? That’s why she was scared of Cozy... wasn’t she? “...thank you?” Cozy replied very uncertainly, “Why are you admitting it? Are you trying to... butter me up or something?”

“No, I’m just ranting,” Starlight said, kicking at the stone floor. “I am genuinely infuriated by this turn of events. But I don’t care how stupid we ponies have been. I’m gonna set this right one way or the other. I can’t believe I’m the one who has to do this, when you almost broke my bucking horn throwing me in that vortex of doom.”

“To be fair, I did not know it would break your horn,” Cozy Glow said warily.

“And when it sucked me into that hole, along with the rest of Equestria’s magic,” Starlight countered, “Do you know what would have happened to me?”

“Uh... mmmaybe?” Cozy smiled sheepishly.

Starlight stared at her in astonishment.

“How else was I supposed to get to be Empress of Friendship, with princesses using their magic to defeat me?!” Cozy shouted in frustration, “I don’t have to know every little detail of everything I did to win! And I should have won!”

“Oh, no it’s just... I’ve been reading some books that... sorry, Cozy, you’re right,” Starlight said, blinking herself out of astonishment, “You uh... did what you had to do, and I guess I was just an unimportant casualty. Doesn’t... matter if I’m in eternal torment, as long as you get what you want, right?”

Now it was Cozy’s turn to blink. She squinted at Starlight though and sneered, “Oh I get it. You’re trying to make me feel bad. Well I’m glad I almost eternal tormented you or whatever. And I’d do it again, just to see the look on your face when you thought I was your friend.”

“You’re a pretty clever filly, Cozy Glow,” Starlight granted her, “But I’m clever enough to know: if you really wanted to do that to me, you wouldn’t be telling me about it. Honestly, it doesn’t take a genius to figure that out.”

Wait, but... no! Cozy was going to do that to Starlight! So why did she tell her, then? It was because Starlight Glimmer wasn’t scared. Cozy had to tell her, because otherwise Cozy Glow was just some weak little helpless victim in a cage who couldn’t hurt anypony, so Starlight could say whatever she wanted, and pretend to be cleverer.

“Didn’t you say you were a pea-brained moron?” Cozy shot back.

Starlight couldn’t hold back a surprised laugh at that, which made Cozy’s ears dip. She wasn’t supposed to laugh!

“Okay, touche,” the unicorn said casually.

“Why are you here?” Cozy repeated testily, “And what did you do with my best friend Tirek?”

“Tirek is not your friend,” Starlight replied assertively, “And I think I’ll be able to prove it to you someday. But for now, what I’m here to do is rectify the royal messup that Princess Celestia caused by thinking with her butt. You should never have been locked up in here, Cozy Glow. It was a huge mistake. And I’m gonna get you outta here.”

Cozy stared at Starlight in utter befuddlement. Then the filly took an uneasy look around Starlight Glimmer at the several ponies who were gathered behind her. “Uhm... I know you’re a pea-brained moron,” Cozy said tentatively, “But... you are aware the guards are right behind you, aren’t you?”

“Yup!” Starlight said happily, “They’re here to help!”

“...what”

“First, we’re going to get your cage out of the unescapable zone,” Starlight explained, “Then we’re going to remove you from the enervation exclusion. Then, we’re going to put your cage on the unlockable podium. Don’t worry Cerebrus has already been ehm... mollified. We’re going to make sure he knows your scent is not on his list of prisoners. And finally...”

With a bright smile, Starlight levitated before Cozy a slim looking leash and...

“No,” Cozy said, staring at it, “I’m staying here. Go away.”

“You don’t exactly have a choice, filly,” Starlight said irritably, waving for demonstration the collar and—

“I am not wearing that!” Cozy shouted, “No, never, not ever ever!”

“It’s literally the least restraint I can offer,” Starlight said flatly, “I think you’ll manage.”

Of course she did. And Cozy tried to be brave, and not let it get to her. They really did do all that stuff with the cage and the zones, and the hope of freedom and revenge was rising in her, but then Cozy just lost it, becoming a total shrieking mess as Starlight opened the collar and levitated it toward Cozy’s neck. She couldn’t do it! She bit at the collar, and backed up to the corner of her cage and she screamed and she sobbed and it locked around her neck, and she was hitting the bars trying to escape, and her head just smacked against them, and she was dizzy so she fell down and... she sank in a defeated heap because it was too late. The collar was around her neck.

Cozy saw an opportunity when the cage was finally unlocked. That horrible pony had that leash in her magic, but she couldn’t stop Cozy from coming closer to her, so as soon as the door opened, Cozy leaped forward and smacked Starlight Glimmer right in the horn. As Starlight went down like a sack of bricks, Cozy was already flying for the... place she could hide... somewhere, when magic grabbed her leash. Of course it did. It always did. It dragged her right out of the air, the magic of one of the guards, while the other grabbed her wriggling form and latched a cuff on one hoof, and then another. She shrieked in surprise as something gripped Cozy’s wings, then her feathers jerked strangely, then... felt oddly lighter.

They released Cozy Glow then, except for the leash of course. And Cozy tried to escape, and she didn’t know why they bothered chaining the forelegs of a pegasus, until she flew up into the air, her wings instantly struggled harder and harder and she could barely get an inch off the ground. “Wh–what did you do to my wings??” she demanded, looking at them and... they were... cut in half. Her wings were cut in half.

“What I was hoping to avoid,” Starlight said, having crawled back to her hooves, “Is bar cuffs and clipped wings.”

“I–I c-can’t fly,” Cozy said in paralytic shock.

“Nope, sorry,” Starlight said, massaging her own forehead, “You’ll have to wait a few months for new pinions to grow, but hopefully by then you’ll be a little less uggh... violent.”

Oh, oh it was just the feathers. Cozy stretched out a wing to look, and everything was fine except the bottom half of her flight feathers and the ends of some of her secondaries. Cozy didn’t recall when her last molting was. It could be months before she got new pinions, depending on how long she had been in Tartarus.

“So it’s... temporary, right?” Cozy asked skeptically.

“Wh—of course it’s temporary!” Starlight blurted out in outrage, “What did you think we were going to cripple you?”

Cozy rolled her eyes, saying, “Well, compared to forever in Tartarus, that wouldn’t be...”

...

Cozy wasn’t breathing fast because Starlight had just grabbed her leash in her magic. No. She was just breathing fast because she had to escape and she couldn’t she tried to fly and fell over and her legs were locked together and she couldn’t walk or fly and just crawled away to the edge of her leash trying not to sob and hating it.

“Oh... oh Celestia, you have a problem with leashes,” Starlight declared in exasperation.

“N-no I don’t...” Cozy said tremulously, glaring at Starlight as far away from her as the leash would allow.

“Well, you can’t run away, or fly away now,” Starlight said, “So I guess you don’t need the leash anymore—”

“Please take it off,” Cozy interrupted.

Starlight looked at her thoughtfully.

“Please,” Cozy repeated despondently. She didn’t know what to do, now that it was back. She thought she escaped. She’d fixed everything. There were no more leashes. And now... there was.

Cozy Glow did not know how to feel, when Starlight Glimmer’s magic enveloped her neck, and her heart started racing again as the unlatched collar floated away from it. Cozy just... felt... like she was falling, even though she was already laying on the ground.

“You good?” Starlight asked, pulling the leash and collar to herself. Frozen, Cozy stared at it floating there.

“Ugggh,” Starlight groaned, and her horn flared, then the leash just... burned away right there in front of her. She watched the dust falling from Starlight’s destructive magic as it flickered out. Cozy was... free. Of course the gates out of Tartarus hadn’t opened yet, and Cozy couldn’t really move her forelegs much, or fly. But she was free.

“Okay, no more leash,” Starlight declared, snapping the filly out of her daze, “Are you ready to come with me, now? I don’t want to wait around in this awful place forever.”

Cozy followed Starlight with difficulty, and the bigger mare waited for her to hobble along, but it was still humiliating beyond measure. Cozy was going to find out which of the guards cut her wings, and then cut his wings off permanently. But for now all she could do was hobble along, and bide her time, and... the doors to Tartarus were opening. How many times had she had to watch them open from such a great distance away in that horrible cage, and now they were opening right in front of her. How was this even possible? What was going on here?

The sunlight was blinding and gentle. Cozy squinted into it as they departed from Tartarus’s perpetual gloom. Cozy had never seen anything so beautiful as the wide blue sky that opened up as they left that dreary crag. She hated it, because it was making her feel feelings she didn’t want to have. She didn’t want to have any feelings at all. So instead, she said to Starlight sweetly, “Oh, thank you so very much for freeing me. Why, I feel like a better behaved little filly already! So why don’t we take these silly cuffs off of me, so that we can both walk tog—”

“You’re not going to escape,” Starlight cut her off, “And there’s no reason to pretend to act sweet and adorable. You already showed me what you’re really like.”

“That is not what I’m really like!” Cozy shouted in outrage, “I am cute and lovable!”

Starlight looked at her skeptically, and Cozy blushed, composing herself, and saying sweetly, “Why would you ever think I was a bad little pony, Starlight Glimmer?” But fluttering her eyes just made Starlight shudder, and look away, while still keeping Cozy locked in chains, and keeping her from hobbling off the mountain path among the sharp crags. “You freed me, didn’t you?” Cozy said testily, “So why won’t you even tell me where you’re taking me?”

“Because I don’t want any nosy fillies having another fit over nothing!” Starlight shot back in aggravation.

“Ohh, are you starting to get mad?” Cozy asked slyly.

Starlight just ignored her, and kept herding Cozy along. Cozy blushed hotly, because this pony would not be allowed to ignore her! Absolutely not! Cozy adopted a smile, and tried to giggle innocently as she approached the older mare, butting right up against her all affectionately, and then sank her teeth into Starlight Glimmer’s leg.

Starlight jerked in place, dragging Cozy with her by her teeth trying to pull her leg away, but Cozy refused to let go. “Holy bucking Tartarus, let go you—!” Starlight’s horn was ablaze, but Cozy didn’t find herself summarily smacked away. And...

Cozy was starting to feel really uncomfortable. Why was Starlight Glimmer just laying there, letting her bite her leg? Cozy bit harder, making Starlight whimper in pain from where she’d fallen to her side alongside the filly, but Starlight stared daggers at Cozy and said tensely,

“I’m—sorry, but biting me won’t make me submit to your will.”

Cozy wasn’t trying to—okay so maybe she was! But only because Starlight should submit to her will. Spitting out Starlight’s thigh in disgust, Cozy demanded in utmost exasperation, “What will, then?!”

“Being a better pony than me,” Starlight said without hesitation.

That threw Cozy for a few seconds, because how was she supposed to... and then she realized Starlight was just being stupid again. “I’m a better pony than you’ll ever be,” Cozy said smugly to the infuriating unicorn.

“Didn’t you say ponies were pea-brained morons?” Starlight asked in amusement.

“Yeah, well I’m not, because I’m better!” Cozy declared, tail sinking as she realized Starlight got her again.

Starlight’s only response though was to look dully at the teeth marks in her thigh, then just resume walking, slowly enough for Cozy Glow to hobble after her. A while passed, and Cozy stated, “You’re bleeding, you know.”

“I didn’t bring any bandages with me,” Starlight replied irritably, “I’ll fix it later. But for now, we have a balloon to catch.”

It took forever, with her legs shackled, but Cozy Glow was glad Starlight didn’t try picking her up or anything. Cozy didn’t want that nasty pony’s stupid teeth anywhere near her scruff, and she’d sooner be dead than ride on anypony’s back. She didn’t have to though, because Starlight let her walk slowly along, until they reached an open area amid these lonely crags, and there was a bright pink balloon waiting for them, along with its bright pink balloonist.

“How are you just breaking me out of Tartarus?” Cozy asked in confusion and disbelief as they approached the balloon out of here, “Did Princess Celestia tell you to bring me to her?”

“No, I was the one who told Princess Celestia to bring you to me, actually,” Starlight said amusedly, “We’re not even going to Canterlot anyway.”

“Then where are we going?!” Cozy declared in frustration.

“You won’t like it,” Starlight said with flat ears, “But it’s a lot better than Tartarus, that much I can tell you.”


“...Tirek has been moved.”

(Several weeks prior)

“Oh, thank goodness Twilight!” Starlight Glimmer said as Twilight Sparkle made her way into her guidance counselor office. “How is Cozy doing?”

The lilac princess didn’t look entirely well, when she said, “Apparently Cozy stopped eating... again. Which apparently is a regular thing for her.”

“Yeah, when you imprison a pony for a long time, they just... give up,” Starlight said, her ears wilting at some extremely unfortunate memories.

“No, I mean she’s attacking the guards by throwing her food at them,” Twilight countered.

“Really?” Starlight asked in surprise, “Wow, she’s still going, huh?”

“That filly is an infinite wellspring of anger,” Twilight replied uneasily, “I don’t know how you think you’re going to get through to her.”

“Anything burns forever if you keep shovelling coal into it,” Starlight said with a shrug, “I’m sure she’ll simmer down once she’s in a better environment.”

“How’s that going, by the way?” Twilight asked, with maybe a vague cautious interest.

“Slowly,” Starlight groaned, “You’re right in one thing. Equestria is not prepared for a pony like Cozy Glow.”

“So what do you—?” Twilight started, but Starlight interrupted, saying happily,

“So that’s why we’re training for it! It’s hard to prepare for a pony who’s more disturbed than any other pony I’ve ever met, including myself, but I’m gonna pull every trick up my horn to get ponies ready for her.”


Somewhere in a dimly lit room with featureless walls, an illusiory Cozy Glow stalked towards a stallion cowering in the corner, who was shrieking, “No! Stay back!”

“Your mother never loved you!” the evil Cozy Glow accused in dark triumph.

“My mother was a saahaahaaint!” the stallion sobbed.


(Still several weeks prior)

“I just wish I could get her out of there right now,” Starlight sighed as she and Twilight Sparkle now walked together through the sun shaded stalls of Ponyville’s open air market, “But as much as I hate to say it, a few more weeks in Tartarus isn’t going to make her any worse than she already is.”

“Starlight... why are you doing this?” Twilight asked uneasily, “I’ve never seen you this driven before.”

“What are you talking about?” Starlight asked in confusion, “You were there when I founded an entire village just to keep ponies from having cutie marks.”

“Well yes, but now you’re—”

“After refusing to make any friends for a decade, because I thought Sunburst abandoned me,” Starlight continued.

“I’m sure plenty of ponies would reach the same con—” Twilight started to contest, but Starlight continued,

“Giving me plenty of time to teach myself magic, without any formal education.”

“Okay yes, that was rather driven of—” Twilight admitted.

“Then there was the time I accidentally accidentally hexed the princesses of the sun and moon, so I could solve their friendship problem,” Starlight cut in.

“That was a good thing though! You—”

“And the time I got a little carried away and enchanted all your friends to be my obedient servants... yeah I was really working my magic hard back then.”

“What are you—”

“Oh, have you seen my kite collection? I have showed it to you haven’t I—”

Several times,” Twilight groaned. “Okay, so you’re a very... driven pony. Fine. But why are you doing this all for her? She pitched you into a vortex of magical annihilation!”

“To be fair, her plans would have been ruined if she let me go free,” Starlight said swirling her hoof in demonstration of a vortex of magical annihilation, “But yeah that was a pretty rotten thing to do.”

“Then why are you so bent on helping her?!” Twilight declared in exasperation.

Starlight’s silence was telling. Of what it told, Twilight was not sure she wanted to know.

“Why aren’t you so bent on helping her?” Starlight asked uneasily, “You helped me turn a new leaf, after all I did. You could have punished me, and instead you just let me be your friend. You accepted Nightmare Moon after she—oh, actually wasn’t she separate from Princess Luna?”

“...yes,” Twilight said cautiously, “We saved Princess Luna by destroying the Nightmare.”

“What about the Pony of Shadows, Stygian right?” Starlight asked.

“No, Stygian was only in the clutches of the Pony of Shadows,” Twilight replied, “He gave into temptation and fear, but Stygian was always a good pony underneath, with only the best of intentions.”

“And the actual Pony of Shadows, you...” Starlight Glimmer trailed off, wincing in a way that somehow, Twilight Sparkle felt that she ought to be doing, too.

“...banished it to the Nameless Void,” Twilight concluded for her, “But to be fair, it was either that, or let it corrupt the world and throw it forever in shadow.”

“Actually, was the Pony of Shadows kind of like Nightmare Moon?” Starlight mused, “You know, possessing other ponies, bringing about eternal darkness, being evil, getting banished?”

“I see your point,” Twilight admitted, “But I don’t really see your point here.”

“And Sombra—” Starlight started, but Twilight cut in saying angrily,

“He was already dead. It doesn’t count as killing somepony if he is already dead!”

Blinking at Twilight in shock, Starlight offered, “...Discord?”

“Look, I’m not a very... forgiving pony, it’s true,” Twilight said with difficulty, her ears going back at admitting it, “I was... wrong about Discord, and it was right to try and reform him.

“And I already admitted this several times so he doesn’t need to manifest himself to rub it in again!” Twilight shouted into the air as Discord popped out of one of a nearby stall’s cuckoo clocks, immediately frowning and grumbling.

“Oh.”

“You’re.”

“No.”

“Fun.”

Wait, had it always been four in the afternoon?

“I think I understand...” Starlight said sympathetically, “You even had a hard time with Trixie, no offense. I just didn’t realize that I was an... exception.”

Sitting on her haunches, Twilight stared forward for a second, before asking, “When I... attacked you in the past, what if you couldn’t fight me to a standstill? What if I had defeated you?”

Starlight Glimmer really didn’t want to answer that question.

“It seemed perfectly sensible at the time,” Twilight said looking up to meet Starlight with forlorn violet eyes, “You’re threatening Equestria. Stop you, and no more threat to Equestria. You wouldn’t listen and... I almost failed you too.”

Standing, Twilight faced her friend and explained, “Starlight, when you forced me to confront your past, you saved me from... from defeating somepony who only wanted a friend. And I just can’t believe that Cozy Glow wants anything like that at all. She’s evil, Starlight! I know it! And... I’ve been wrong before. So that’s why I’m not fighting you on this. But I don’t think there is anything redeeming about that filly. She tried to do something unspeakably awful, and showed no remorse for it whatsoever!”

“Neither did I,” Starlight replied quietly.

“What? Yes you—” Twilight started, as Starlight clarified,

“You’re right. If you had defeated me I’d be the same... hateful, angry pony I came to be. I wasn’t remorseful. I thought you stole my village away from me. I thought you made them hate me forever. You took away everything I had worked so hard for, you told me what I was doing was wrong, and I had... no remorse, whatsover. If you had defeated me, would you have... just asked me about my foalhood, or would I be in a cage in Tartarus, too?”

Twilight couldn’t answer her.

“Your students defeated Cozy Glow,” Starlight explained solemnly, “But that was us they were saving. They returned our magic, and saved us from a grave danger. But they never saved Cozy Glow, and I think she really needs it. In all of Equestria today, I can’t think of anypony who needs to be saved more than Cozy Glow.

“Saved from what though?” Twilight mused, hating feeling like she was fighting in her blind spot.

“From herself, of course!” Starlight said brightly, “So here’s how we’re going to do it...”


The balloon ride was... not fun for Cozy Glow. They’d taken her here in a cage, but now she was in an even worse cage, a cage that had no bars, yet nothing but destruction if she passed the edge. It wasn’t a crackling force field. It wasn’t a wall of thorns. It was a... wicker basket, that Cozy Glow could easily have climbed out of, and fallen to her death, since they cut her feathers in half.

Cozy didn’t like heights anymore.

“Look, I’m sitting on the edge of the basket,” Starlight said, waving a hoof at how she was leaning against the basket’s thick side. “I’m telling you it’s more relaxing over here.”

“I’m fine.” Cozy declared through her teeth, sitting very stiffly on her haunches right at the absolute center of the balloon basket, where the pink pony piloting it had to step around her to operate the bellows.

Cozy Glow wasn’t fine, and it was all Starlight’s fault for letting them clip her wings, and the balloon pony wouldn’t stop stepping on Cozy’s tail, until Cozy blew up at her, and then the balloon pony treated Cozy like she was a hot coal, even though all Cozy was doing was glare at her.

The balloon ride ended, and Cozy almost fell over trying to get out of the balloon with her forelegs still cuffed. Her wrists were getting rubbed raw under the things, and she wanted this to be over with already, so she could get these manacles off, and start figuring out how to destroy Starlight Glimmer. Cozy Glow could not tolerate that pony, and her smug confidence that she could fix Cozy Glow and make her stop hating everything and everypony. Starlight Glimmer had to be stopped.

As Starlight stepped out the door in the balloon basket, Cozy climbed to her hooves after totally not falling over, looked around, and exclaimed in confusion, “Ponyville? Why are we in Ponyville?

It was uncanny how nothing had changed, even though Cozy had been alone in that dungeon forever and ever and ever. Same straw roofs. Same placid smiles. Same tasty flowers on bushes or in planters. Why would Starlight bring her here?

“Because for one thing, you announced your evil to half the town’s student population,” Starlight said practically, “So I wouldn’t be trying to butter up anypony around here if I were you, since they know what an eeeevil little filly you are.”

The way Starlight said ‘evil’ made Cozy angry. A lot of things did. “Why do you think I’m eeeevul?” Cozy mimicked mockingly, “Because you secretly think I’m good on the inside?”

“No, because ponies are stupid,” Starlight said matter-of-factly, “We’ve been over this. Ponies are stupid, so they’re going to see you as evil even when you’re not. So you might be evil. But to them, you’re eeeevil.”

Cozy, once again, had no idea how to react to that.

“Anyway, come on, walk this way,” Starlight said, sauntering off the balloon podium.

“I can’t,” Cozy grumbled after the older pony, “My hooves are chained together.” She followed along though. Because Starlight was right, and Cozy hated her for it. All those ponies staring at her, oh what they would do if they ever got their hooves on her. That awful unicorn mare was the only protection Cozy had in this town anymore, and Starlight Glimmer knew it.

Cozy had no choice but to cluster close to Starlight Glimmer and depend on her for protection, because everything was working out exactly as Starlight had planned. Well, Cozy was going to ruin those plans, one way or another. She just needed the right opportunity. So focused Cozy Glow was on that, she didn’t even remember to bite Starlight Glimmer through the bandages the unicorn had wrapped her leg in on the balloon.

The pony traffic around them thinned as they approached the edge of town, and it still took a stupidly long amount of time compared to if she could have flown, but Cozy Glow and Starlight started to pass by golden wheat farms, and rolling hills covered in luscious, sweet...

Cozy Glow sniffed the soft grasses on the side of the road, then just stopped, and started eating. It wasn’t even hunger. It was just a foregone conclusion. Her existence was eating grass, and there was no choice but to do it immediately. Starlight stopped, and walked back to Cozy, and Cozy Glow blushed, trying to bite off as big of a mouthful as she could before the older pony dragged her away to continue walking.

Starlight... didn’t. She just stood there like an idiot. Cozy glanced at her, then went back to eating. Glanced at her, went back to eating. Then Cozy just... ignored her and ate for a while. The grass tasted so good. Cozy hadn’t eaten all day, or... or maybe the day before? She couldn’t remember. But she needed this grass inside her. It wasn’t the stupid tasteless gruel they gave her in Tartarus, it was beautiful, fresh, tender living blades. Little by little, an aching void in Cozy Glow started to fill, and Starlight just stood there and... let Cozy graze, like a goat. No reprimand, no ridicule. Just what was this pony’s problem? Cozy had never—

She stopped eating when something wet started to hit the grass. “Stop staring!” Cozy growled, hobbling past Starlight Glimmer, and trying to discreetly wipe off her eyes with a hoof.

Starlight didn’t say a word about it, just, “Take a left here,” and on they went.

They travelled to a forest amid the fields, looking more like a windbreak than anything. There was a building there, big, white painted and rectangular. It looked kind of like a hospital? There was a big walled garden in the back though. Nestled up in the trees, it was... an incongruous place to put a building. Unless of course that building was a prison...

“And here I thought I was escaping from Tartarus,” Cozy sneered bitterly to the pony taking her to this fate, “But you just wanna lock me up somewhere else!”

Starlight inhaled, then exhaled.

“Yes, actually,” Starlight said, looking back to Cozy with a totally fake smile. “You’re a dangerous little monster of a filly, who might find a way to destroy Equestria if we just let you run away,” said the smiling Starlight, “So you’re not getting free just yet. You’ll like it here much better though, even if you don’t think so right now.”

“And why wouldn’t I think so right now?” Cozy asked suspiciously, not liking that smile at all.

Starlight Glimmer swung a hoof to point to the freshly painted sign mounted in the building’s front lawn, that said, “Ponyville Asylum for Troubled Ponies.”

“...I want to go back to Tartarus,” Cozy Glow said evenly.

“Too late!” Starlight declared happily, trotting up to the filly as Cozy took a step back shouting,

“No!”

Starlight’s horn lit up, but only to block Cozy’s escape with a force field as Starlight snaked her long neck down and scruffed her.

“Noooo!” Cozy howled in despair, as Starlight carried the foal, prancing the rest of the way into the building.

Author's Note:

Here we go again.