• Published 29th Sep 2019
  • 1,569 Views, 51 Comments

A Filly Lost For One Thousand Years - dicerollball



Cozy Glow had decided to run away to the far off arctic lands that housed the Crystal Empire. Doing this was a dire mistake that'd last for thousands of years.

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Chapter 4: You Found Yourself Lost

"Consider yourself lucky." King Sombra’s deep voice boomed into Cozy’s now sensitive ears as he walked by. The first thing she noticed as he passed was how huge the stallion was. He easily towered over her and definitely looked to be much taller and stronger then her uncle Rubinstein could ever dream to be. His curled horn glistened with a shade of red that transformed his grey colors into a more burning steel-like meld. It was like he cooked it over some coals, adjusted it, and refused to dump it into the cold waters to cool the fiery crimson colors as he should. He only gave her a tired glance in response to her stare before making his way over to a large intricate desk with an item in his magical hold... What was that? It looked blue... and it was shaped like a cone...

Cozy Glow couldn't make it out. She was too exhausted and sore to even care. Still, even then, she tried to stand. With one look around the room she found herself in a study of some sort. The once possibly shining walls were now a dull black with jagged crystals peeking from the corners. There was a large wooden desk made of dark oak and ivory stone that the king preoccupied himself at with books, parchments, and ink. Shoved against the walls sat looming bookshelves surrounding them with promise of knowledge and secrets. Strangely some had locks over certain novels and some had images sprawled onto them that warned of dire consequences and unnatural sorcery. This was no normal study...

"A majority of the crystal ponies of the empire are earth." The king continued as he examined the blue thing that hovered beside him, "However a rare few are born pegasi or unicorn. Crystal unicorns are known to be powerful and especially strong with the crystal heart's help... Pegasi meanwhile? They're just a nuisance. Neither will do as slaves."
He turned to the little pegasus, "They will escape if they had the chance. Or at least try to. I can not allow this. So I'm afraid to say... This problem needed to be dealt with."

The young filly glimpsed up and narrowed her eyes. It was then that she realized what the tyrant was holding. Floating just besides him in his dark magical grasp was a once sparkling blue unicorn horn that looked to have been snapped right off of its owner’s head. Cozy Glow let out a yelp and stumbled back in shock. Is this why he brought her here? Because she was a pegasus? Was he going to clip her wings???

"Oh don't worry little one. I do not plan to do to you what I've done to them. After all... young ones like yourself can still be influenced." He placed the horn onto a desk nearby, "you call yourself Cozy Glow, correct?”

“I-“ The young filly hoarsely coughed into her hooves before giving a small fearful nod.

“Can’t talk? No surprise. You have been in the dark with your fears for around two or three days,” He simply shrugged nonchalantly, “Anypony would lose their strength after an experience such as that. Though after seeing what you were about to do, it was deserved.”

Cozy stiffened as she stared wide-eyed at the dark king. Days??? She’s been in that nightmare for days?! The filly couldn’t even properly process the idea. She felt her heart race as her panic settled in. She could be home reading a book but instead she was here... as a prisoner. The filly was about to fall into hysteria when the sound of shuffling paper caught her attention and snapped out of her stunned state. Sombra was flipping through a book of magical spells and curses with a calculative gaze on each page.

“Hm. I need you to do something for me.” He produced a familiar silver key from seemingly out of nowhere. Cozy easily recognized it as the one she used to unlock the chains the crystal prisoners were in. She tilted her head towards the king with a concerned look before his horn bubbled up with black and purple dark magic. The king placed a curse on the key and Cozy watched in surprise as the once gleaming item became a darker shade of what it once was. Once he was done he carelessly tossed it to the filly’s feet.

“Take it.” He demanded before walking by the young pegasus, “And bring the prisoner in!”

Cozy quietly picked up the key in her hooves and looked up in shock as the study doors opened to reveal two corrupted crystal guards and one chained prisoner. The familiar stallion gasped in surprise, “You- I know you...”

The pink filly perked up in realization and recognized the guard she previously saved alongside with the green foal, she went to say something but instead croaked out another cough. Cozy wasn’t sure if she should be relieved or frightened. At least she knew he was on her side... but why did Sombra bring him here?

Off to the side without a care the dark king resumed his search through the many unknown articles for information. Yet he still sneered, “Unlock his chains, filly.”

Cozy Glow and the imprisoned guard blinked at this, “What?” They both gawked though the poor filly’s voice was more quieter and strained.

King Sombra lowered his book, “Are you deaf? Unlock his chains.” He angrily growled as he threateningly flared his dark magic towards the young foal.

The pegasus yelped and quickly went to unlock the guards chains. The moment she inserted the key into the lock however she immediately felt this dread that wasn't there before. She went to turn but soon found the mechanisms locked in place. An alarm blared out from the dark metal wrapped around the guard's neck as it began to flash with black and white lights. This made King Sombra perk and ignite his curled horn.
Cozy tried to pull away but instead felt something sharp dig into her hooves. Luckily it wasn’t enough to break the skin but enough to scare her into staying absolutely still in fear that the crystals now forming along her foreleg would cut right through her. She anxiously watched as tendrils of black stone wrapped around her poor hoof.

The guard was not happy, “What are you doing to her, scum??”

The king didn’t even seem to notice the stallion, “This spell I’ve formulated not only alerts me of rebels like yourself but I could also trap just about anypony from any distance. I can hear and sense whenever something of importance is being tampered with by some pony other than myself.” He went over and used his magic on the key in Cozy’s hooves. The tendrils finally receded to allow the frightened filly to stumble away.
King Sombra then casually took the key and unlocked the guard’s chains himself. No alarm rang out and the guard was now free with no issue.

The moment the soldier was let out his first instinct was to get in between King Sombra and Cozy Glow. He huffed and chuffed his hoof against the ground beneath him, “You foul monster! How dare you not only imprison stallions and mares of the Crystal Empire but young foals as well?? Whatever punishment you deserve will be beyond the gates of Tartarus itself!”

“Oh such strong words for a pony whose life could end in this very room if I wished. The filly has done more damage by herself than you did with an army. Do you think your words hold any value to me at all?” The King took several steps towards the guard.

“Stay back you fiend!” The soldier protectively held a hoof over the pegasus, “You won’t get away with this if I can help it!”

“Oh but I already have~” Dark magic abruptly wrapped around the guard’s neck and pulled him close. Cozy could only watch in stunned shock as King Sombra firmly placed one of his helmets over the crystal stallion’s head.

Underneath the helmet the guard began to experience his worst fears. He tried to struggle but it wasn't long before he was succumbed to the darkness that took over. The evil magic hidden underneath wrapped around his despair and eagerly took hold. He went from a contesting foe to the king’s loyal servant in mere moments. Even then Sombra could care less as he nonchalantly dumped the crystal guard in front of Cozy.

The tyrant huffed and turned away once again, “Try to take off the helmet.” He ordered as he skimmed through another journal of some sort.

Cozy gulped and quietly flapped her tired wings behind her. Her ruffled and messy feathers tried to adjust after days of not being used to fly. She slowly and carefully hovered up to the corrupted soldier’s side while trying to catch herself each time she nearly fell. With a wince she reached over to try and pull the helmet right off. She huffed and puffed but no matter what she did she couldn’t even get the darn thing to budge! Not even a bit! Maybe she was just really hungry and tired...
The filly gave up and allowed herself to fall back onto the floor with a tired breath. She couldn't focus, not with her stomach aching or her head spinning. It was too much at once.

"Hm." The king grunted and decided to just bring another guard to try and take off the prisoner's helmet. The corrupted soldier, stronger than Cozy, tried to pull it off like ordered. In the end however it stayed stuck in place. King Sombra meanwhile just had to go up to the soldier and pluck it up with his familiar dark magic.
The controlled guard blinked in surprise when the helmet was taken off. He shook his head and was just about to say something when the dark tyrant roughly placed it back down.
"Good. It works."
Without another word, he easily sent the guard away with a simple gesture of his hoof.

"What... What did you do..?" Cozy managed to ask as she pulled herself back up.

"Made sure that another rebellion like that wouldn't happen again." He then turned his head towards the filly, "Now as for you..."
Cozy didn't even get a chance to react before a blast of dark magic filled her vision. She let out a loud yelp and instantly assumed the worst. He was going to kill her! He was going to turn her to crystal! He was going to mind control her! Or maybe he was going to make her go through every one of her worst fears all over again!
Instead, she was surprised to find something clasp around her hooves. Confused, the filly looked down to see black bonds made of dark obsidian wrapped around her forelegs. A crimson jewel crackling with dark magic was studded on each shackle. She raised a hoof and was surprised to find just how light they were compared to the ones the prisoners must've carried around their necks. They weren't exactly connected to each leg either as chains, they were just like bracelets except made entirely of black metal that was impossible to take off.
She gave the king a questionable glance.

"You are to remain in the castle. If you leave I will be alerted the moment you try. Servants!" King Sombra called towards the door, "Take this one to the servant quarters and provide her what she needs for her duties as an empire slave!"

Three new crystal ponies appeared from the study's doorway. One was an arctic blue mare with a dull mulberry colored mane. Another was more peach-colored but just as deflated as the other. The last was a red stallion with orange locks. Cozy Glow was surprised to find the same ebony-colored hooflets wrapped around the other's legs as well. It was only then did King Sombra's words seem to sink in.
"S-Servant?? Slave??"

The tyrant glared down at the pink pegasus, "Join the others and leave me to my studies. If you do not oblige then I have many punishments in mind for a troublemaking foal like yourself." He huffed before turning back to his desk.

The three ponies were just about to lead her away when the king spoke again, "Hold on. I need at least one servant. You." He pointed a hoof towards the stallion, "Stay."

The red stallion stiffened at this but gave a brisk nod. The other two meanwhile were hesitant to leave their friend behind.

Cozy would stare at the unfortunate servant with uncertainty before one of the mares gently wrapped a hoof around her, "Come with me little one." The peach-colored mare hurriedly whispered. The small filly would give Sombra and the maroon-colored colt one last glance before she followed after the two crystal servants that guided her out of the study and into the winding corridors of the crystal spire. Cozy was very confused by this turn of events. She had been in the dungeon for days in a fake realm where she was being purged for wanting to become Empress of Equestria. Now she found herself here helping the tyrant with some strange experiment and trailing after two ponies she barely knew leading her through what looked to be the crystal castle itself. She couldn’t help but glance out the nearest window where she found the city itself now filled to the brim with bleak and ominous jagged rocks. Once sparkling, beautiful homes were now torn through into ashen rubble, the shimmering pathways were now a dull comparison to how Cozy first saw them, and lining the streets all linked together were crystal prisoners wrapped in metal chain. With Sombra's mind-controlled guard they were all escorted throughout the empire to do the self-proclaimed king's bidding.
The gaping filly would've sat there longer if it weren't for the two crystal mares catching her attention and a guard glaring at her with his forever narrowed luminous green eye-slots of his helmet. She stepped away from the window but paused to get a better look at this guard's pelt. A familiar dull violet was visible under all that armor. Blue-ish, in a way, especially now that he was all grey and worn. No... It couldn't be him, right?
"Uncle Rubin?" Cozy quietly murmured in hopes to get some sort of reaction.
She didn't. The guard continued to stare.

"Come with us." The blue mare insisted, "It's not smart to stay in one place for too long. Especially not in these halls."

Cozy hesitated before joining the servants once again. Their hooves echoed throughout the pristine building as they passed guard after guard. The pink filly attempted to try and see if she could recognize any of them under all that armor. She couldn't, really. It was hard to tell who they once were. Their dull colored pelts were all looking like a similar shade of grey, their faces were completely covered by the awkward-looking helmets, and their manes were replaced by a fraudulent version of black fiber with purple streaks. The only visible difference were their size and shape. She could tell who was a mare and who was a stallion but for the life of her she could not recognize the once joyous citizens of the empire she first saw on her tour with Frosty Quartz. They had all been reduced to soldiers. They no longer had a face or name, just forced loyalty under the word of their new king. Cozy shivered at this but couldn't help but feel intrigued. How was Sombra able to manage such a feet? Where in Equestria did he produce such armor and helm for his new army of crystal ponies? Did he make them all himself? If then... how did he get the power to do so?

"We're nearly there." The peach-colored mare assured as she interrupted Cozy's train of thought, "Don't worry. You'll be able to rest soon."

The pink pegasus didn't realize how exhausted she was until mentioned. Her stomach ached in response and her hooves were beginning to wear her down. She felt this heaviness in her eyes, a scratchiness in her throat, and a weight across her back. Getting to a place of rest would be nice but a part of her didn't want to fall asleep just yet. She had missed several days of her life, she couldn't waste another second! Cozy wanted to do something about all this. Sitting idly by did not feel like an option as this king ruled over her family with an iron hoof. Anger bubbled up inside at the mere thought of what the tyrant had done but despite all this rebellious resentment she felt her hooves still followed after the wary servants. The guards nearby were carefully scrutinizing them and in all honesty Cozy didn't really trust her already spent energy on trying to figure out a way out now. She needed to see everything but first, admittedly, the filly needed rest. Perhaps she'll play this game for a bit longer. Perhaps she'll follow King Sombra's demands and play along all sweet and obedient until it was her time. Several days have already passed, what's a few more?
Still, even with that all in mind she just couldn't wait to bear witness to his eventual defeat.

After some time through winding hallways and climbing staircases the tired filly was relieved to find that they finally made it to the servants quarters of the castle. The door, though guarded by two ponies, was small and insignificant. There was nothing very special of it except for a small plaque labeling the quarters as such. She gave the label a small glare before one of the mares gently nudged her into the small room behind it.
There was actually two sections of this place that Cozy came to realize. The first section was a kitchen-like area full of shelves and tables that all lacked chairs. Most of the shelves looked bare and the kitchen seemed rather bland but it was a clear place for them to cook and eat their own meals with ingredients the king would often provide. Those ingredients being plain roots, berries, wheat, and whatever else anypony could scrape up around here. She saw two other servants sitting at a table with hooflets just like hers on their front hooves. They both looked up in surprise and stared wide-eyed at the filly by the entrance.
One servant was a plum-colored mare with tired blue eyes and messy striped hair.
The other however..? He was a sad looking periwinkle stallion with a tan, dirty-blonde mane. His cutiemark represented a recognizable cerulean tower. Even without his shimmering gleam Cozy was still able to recognize the familiar colt.
"Uncle Check??" She gasped with a croaked voice.

"Cozy Glow?" His yellow eyes repeatedly blinked towards the little pink pegasus, "What... What're you doing here?"

"Visiting..." The filly murmured.

"You recognize her, Check Mate?" The pink mare at his table asked.

Uncle Check nodded, "Yes, she's my niece. Half-niece, actually... but still my niece. Are you alright Cozy? How long have you been here?"

"She's exhausted." The blue mare explained, "We should get her to a bed."

The pegasus quickly shook her head, "Thirsty..." Cozy Glow coughed, "Hungry..." She wanted nothing more but to eat and drink first before being sent off to rest at least. In fact if she didn't eat something soon she feared she might not even be able to get up afterwards. The filly didn't want to risk sleep while still in this staggering state.

"Ah Celestia and Luna she's pale as ice..! Amethyst, get her some soup." Check Mate urged the mare besides him before going over to his niece to carefully pluck her up off the ground, "Don't worry Cozy. We'll get you fed."

Cozy Glow was more than relieved to find herself at one of the tables with a mug of water and a bowl of soup in her hooves. She didn't care what it was made of, the filly eagerly dug in. It wasn't the best. In fact it was rather bland, but anything was better than nothing. She slurped it all right up in one sitting.

"I guess we should get introductions out of the way real quick." The peach-colored mare tiredly hummed as she took a seat across from Check Mate and Cozy, "I'm Amberlocks."

"Saphire Gem." The blue mare sighed as she sat besides the newly introduced.

"And Amethyst Shard. King Sombra wanted servants to cook for him and keep everything clean and tidy so... we live in the castle with him." The plum mare explained, "Not like we have a choice..."

"It's better than the mines." Check Mate added in, "Or being forced to be a soldier. Though that's not the main reason why I'm here. After all, King Sombra mostly uses us for his magical experiments and doesn't even provide us with what we need. It's not easy being a servant... but I still went through a lot of hoops to convince that tyrant to make me one."

Cozy lowered her bowl back onto the table, "Why a servant?"

"Well one, we have a bit more mobility than most." Check Mate pressed a hoof against his bare neck, "And two, we at least have some privacy. There are no guards in the servant quarters themselves but we must be cautious. If King Sombra suspects anything of us he might just send guards in here anyways to eavesdrop. This is the only place we can talk for now about him and the castle with no repercussions."

The pink pegasus raised a brow, "The castle..?" King Sombra she could understand but the castle itself? What's wrong with talking about that?

"He wants to figure out where King Sombra hid the crystal heart. He thinks it might be in the castle somewhere." Saphire piped in, "But instead Check Mate's quick thinking got us these!" She held up a hoof to show off the black hooflet still clamped around her foreleg.

"Seeing some servants and prisoners unhappy, Check Mate attempted to steal away some crystal ponies to get them out of the castle," Amethyst told the young filly, "But King Sombra caught him and made a new security measure to make sure servants can't leave."

"And ever since I've had to work harder to get on his good side again... but I'm starting to think this is a lost cause." Check Mate bowed his head in defeat, "The location of the crystal heart is impossible to find. I've looked everywhere. I haven't gotten any closer to where the king could've hidden it."

"What if he hid it outside of the empire?" Cozy Glow inquired before she took a long sip from her watermug.

"No, it's definitely here." Check Mate assured, "He needs the heart to keep the storms back. If it weren't here the empire would be completely covered in a snowy blizzard right about now. It might be a threat to him but he can't risk getting rid of it if he wants this kingdom for himself. At least not yet."

"Should we really be telling a little filly all this..?" Amberlocks questioned with concern, "What if she blabbers on to the king?"

"She won't." Check Mate huffed, "She's family."

"I'm a bit surprised though," Amethyst looked down at Cozy with wide eyes, "We haven't gotten a young filly servant until now. And she's a pegasus too! I thought King Sombra didn't-"

Cozy's uncle was quick to place a hoof over Amethyst's mouth, "Um. Maybe we shouldn't tell her that."

The filly's somber voice interrupted, "It's okay Uncle Check, I already know..." Cozy's ears lowered, "I saw a unicorn's horn at his desk. I know what he does to the pegasi and unicorn of the empire..."

The room went silent after that. The crystal mares were now looking at one another with disturbed glances. Check Mate meanwhile had stiffened and now looked down at his niece with stunned worry. She was too young to be going through something like this... None of the crystal foals should be going through something like this. It made him feel even more distraught than he was previously at even the thought of all those children in chains or worst. His dismay weighed down on him and for this his pelt went noticeably grayer. Too much death and loss for just one week. It shocked him that the tyrant would so blatantly show it off, especially to a pink filly like Cozy.
Check Mate let out a breath and got up on his hooves, "I'll make us some dinner."

The tension in the room still hung in the air even as the group ate what little food they had. Cozy was given more soup, some bread, berries, and a couple biscuits with hay stashed in between them. They all knew she needed as much as possible, especially after she told the others with a hoarse voice that she had been kept in the dungeon for days. Even with all this food however she felt nowhere near full. This wouldn't be much of a problem really if only the sudden "meal" hadn't caused a new pain in her body which she desperately tried to adjust to. Her saving grace really was the water she was given. Every sip she took was like heaven as the cold water seeped through her dry throat and soothed the unpleasant sore pang in her stomach. She eagerly gulped down as much as she could only to find her mug empty the moment she tilted the contents into her mouth. It wasn't smart to drink or eat fast but Cozy Glow couldn't help it. She needed it!
In the end, Check Mate finally broke the quiet that had resounded around the room, "How're you feeling?"

"Better..." Cozy sighed as she lowered her empty mug.

"You still seem very tired." Amberlocks noted, "You should get some rest. When you wake I can help comb through your mane and get you all cleaned up."

The pink pegasus seemed to perk at this, "W-Why? What do I look like?" Cozy was more focused on food and water that she hadn't even thought to check her appearance.

"Like a mess." Saphire bluntly declared, "Being in the dungeon didn't do you any good, kid."

Amethyst glared at the other crystal mare, "Saphire!"

"Saying it like how it is."

Cozy abruptly got up from the table and went over to a large plate sitting on a drying rack nearby, "Oh gee..."
Her reflection was nothing but monstrous. Her mane was a tangled mess, her feathers were all dirtied and ruffled, and her pelt had splotches of black from all the dust and grime that collected during her time in that disgusting cell. Her ribbons stayed somewhat intact but they were a bit disheveled and torn. She'd have to get new ones at some point... If she ever could.
"W-Where's the nearest bath??" The filly quickly turned back to the other servants.

Checkmate gestured to a door across from the entrance, "There's a washroom over there to the side but Cozy you should really get some sleep first before-"

Cozy was already gone. The crystal ponies would all gawk in surprise as they watched her take flight and disappear into the other section of the servant quarters. Despite her exhaustion she refused to look like how she did any longer. She stumbled through the doorway to find a small hallway of some sort. There she found an open archway that lead to a narrow, cramped room fulls of beds and bunks while to the left of her was a door labeled WC on its plaque. She didn't hesitate to dash on in and slam the door shut behind her.

The four crystal ponies at the table all looked to one another with concern before Check Mate excused himself, "I'll go check on her." He then made his way into the hallway that separated the kitchen and the living quarters before gently tapping at the washroom door, "Cozy..? Are you okay in there?"

A small whimper could be heard on the other side as the filly splashed some water on herself, "No. I'm not okay..!"

Check Mate sighed, "If it's your appearance, don't worry. Amberlocks has a comb lying around, the others haves brushes, and I'm sure Amethyst knows a thing or two about fur care."

"It's not just my fur... It's everything. I ran away, Uncle Check. I ran away from my mother because I thought I could find a better place for myself. Instead I found all this. I found friends and family only for them to be taken away from me. I found something amazing... but it hurts. It hurts so much that I found this. I found Frosty, Uncle Rubin, and Slipper. Now they're all gone, when will you be gone too?" A loud sniffle could be heard on the other side as Cozy cried. Everything hurt. It hurt so much. The things her nightmares have said? They all hurt. She didn't like it... She didn't like this feeling she felt. Why couldn't she stop it? Why couldn't she help them?

Her uncle silently sat on the other side of the door for a few moments before letting out a sigh, "Cozy... I know what you're feeling right now. Whatever I say might not help... but I can promise you it won't be like this forever. Things can change. Everything here can change. We'll see everypony again, I'm certain. We're working hard to find our friends and family again. If we do this right... we'll see them, okay? And things will get better. Just breath. Take a moment if you need to. I'll get your bed ready."
He sat there for a few seconds but got no response from the filly. All he heard was another splash of water as the filly attempted to clean herself up. So, he stepped away and entered the living quarters.

Again, the room was narrow and cramped. Beds were shoved up against the walls and stacked upon one another. Some were bare of quilts or cushions while few others had what they needed. There were seven occupied beds with Cozy's now being the eighth. Dug into one wall was a closet full of cloth and towels which the stallion rummaged through with his tired and worn blue-ish hooves. The sad excuses of sheets were crummy blankets at best. Some were riddled with holes and others were starting to fall apart. Check Mate made sure however to get the most comfortable sheet and the most softest pillow he could find to place on an empty bed now for Cozy Glow.
As he was smoothing out the quilt he didn't realize Cozy discreetly sneaking out from the washcloset with a towel wrapped around her mane. She felt much cleaner now but there was still something she needed to do... Her scarlet eyes stared at Check Mate in consideration before she gingerly made her way back into the kitchen area where she met the other three mares who were hushedly whispering to one another. Even without King Sombra there was still a sense of fear coursing throughout the room.

"Um... Amberlocks?" Cozy slowly made her way to the peach-colored crystal pony, "Do you have a comb..?"

When Check Mate was done he trotted back out into the hallway. There he saw the washcloset door now open. He raised a brow and peeked inside. No pony was in there. Not even the little pegasus from before. He looked around in a state of worried confusion before a voice caught his attention. The stallion made his way into the kitchen where he surprisingly heard a giggle from one of the crystal mares.

"I don't think curls like that really fit you, Saphire." Amethyst smiled.

"Now you tell me..."

Check Mate entered the kitchen only to pause. He saw a relaxed Cozy Glow sitting with her back turned towards Amberlocks who happily combed through the filly's tangles. Behind Amberlocks was a grouchy Saphire who was currently attempting to braid the other's mane. Then there was Amethyst who was now turning Saphire's once straight hairstyle into a lustrous curly version that looked very similar to Cozy's. They were chattering and for once, enjoying themselves. In fact, a familiar glow was starting to glimmer along their pelts.

"I don't think it looks that bad." Amberlocks chuckled.

"Maybe you could make it curl more at the bottom?" Cozy suggested with a small smile.

"And maybe we should make it not as puffy..." Saphire grumbled as she quickly brushed through her mane with her hooves, making it all straight once again, "Only a filly like you could make it look so cute."

"Aww golly..! Thank you Saphire!" The pegasus tee-heed into her pink hooves.

Check Mate grinned a little as he made his way over to the three, "Glad to see you're making friends at least."

"Want to join us~?" Amethyst smirked.

"Uh-"

"Come on Check Mate! You look like you could use some mane care too!" Amberlocks chirped.

"I don't think-" Check Mate began before Saphire and Amethyst abruptly pulled the periwinkle stallion into their little gathering. It looked like he was struggling but there was a clear smile on his face and a lack of fighting back. They took out a brush and joyfully combed through his mane and tail as he let out a surprised laugh.
"Nooo..! Hah. What're you two doing?"

"Maybe we should give him curls." Amethyst suggested.

Saphire tapped her chin in thought, "Hmm... Is his mane long enough for a braid?"

"I can spare a ribbon if you need one!" Cozy called.

"Girls!" Check Mate again tried to get away in vain, "At least ask me what I want!"

The group would laugh and quip as they tended to one another's manes. Cozy was glad to have helped settle the tension they all had previously felt and was now able to relax against Amberlocks as she finished up the final touches for the filly's once frazzled mane. There was this new joyous calm within the kitchen and the sunlight filtering through the window nearby only made the room feel more welcoming. This place could almost make them forget. It could make them forget everything that was happening on the outside... and it almost did.
They were all just chatting in this tranquil rest when suddenly the door to the corridors of the castle opened.
Cozy was curled up against the peach-colored mare at this time. She had started to drift away into sleep, something she desperately needed, when a loud thud had caught her attention. The pegasus regarded the new arrival with one of her red-ish eyes peeked open to stare at the guard now at their kitchen's doorway. The room went silent and their sparkly pelts began to dull once again.
A familiar servant, clearly injured, had quietly limped into the kitchen. The moment he entered the room fully... he collapsed.
A gasp rippled throughout the group.

"Varado!" Amethyst dropped her brush and hurriedly made her way to the red stallion on the floor.

"You." The guard suddenly pointed towards the plum-colored mare as she approached the fallen servant, "Come with me."

The mare hesitated, "B-But..."

"It's okay Amethyst, we'll help him." Check Mate assured as he got up and made his way over to the exhausted stallion, "Just go."

Amethyst stared with wide blue eyes...

"Slave!" The guard angrily slammed a hoof against the crystal floor.

"Eep!" The pink mare yelped and hurriedly nodded. She joined the corrupted guard's side but gave one last glance towards Varado. Worry crossed her expression before she quickly trailed after the now leaving soldier.

After the doors closed behind her Check Mate let out an exhausted grunt, "Ah what did he ask of you..?" He muttered towards the unconscious stallion.

Cozy recognized the stallion. It was the same one she saw at King Sombra's study before the door closed behind her and the other two mares. She quietly looked over and thought she could spot something along Varado's hoofs, just around his hooflets. Were those... bruises?
Amberlocks pulled herself up and took Cozy into one of her hooves, "Come Cozy, let's get you to bed..."

"But... Mmh..." Cozy was too tired to respond. Instead she just wrapped her hooves around the mare's neck.

Using her other three legs, Amberlocks quietly took the filly into the living quarters while Saphire and Check Mate tried to figure out what to do with Varado. She spotted the newly made bed and went to tuck the pink pegasus underneath the cushy-looking sheets.
"There..." She sighed, "Get some rest. You really need it. I'm surprised, actually, that you were able to stand, fly, and talk for as long as you did. Heh. There's some real strength in you kid, you know that? Don't lose it."

Cozy replied with a sad smile, "I'll try not to... thanks..."
She wanted to say more. There was a lot on her mind and a lot she wanted to discuss. There were concerns and worries that she had to voice but instead she found herself drifting off into the welcoming darkness and coziness of sleep. Despite being in bed about to pass out, Cozy still didn't want to rest. A fear burned through her that if she slept she'll revisit everything again where her nightmares would take over and her new friends will learn to hate her. That wasn't the only thing to be scared of though. There was also this anxious thought in the back of her head that crept up on her as well. She feared that even without the nightmares she might wake up tomorrow and suddenly find nopony there. She might find everypony from the servants quarters gone and might never be able to see them again. Whatever happened to Varado could very likely happen to the others... It was too much to think about that she knew she had to try her best to push it all away. She didn't want to feel this. She didn't want to go through it.
Maybe that Frosty from her nightmares had the right idea. He could do anything without care and concern in the way. If only maybe, just maybe, she could do something like that too...
Her mind wanted to elaborate on such a thought but by then Cozy was already beginning to fall asleep. The last thing she remembered was Amberlocks humming a calming tune and the blurry images of Check Mate just behind her helping Saphire carry Varado to one of the beds.
Cozy so desperately wanted to do or learn more but for now she allowed herself to rest.
Hopefully when she wakes she'll have better luck than she did today at figuring out what comes next and how to free herself from this unjust enslavement.

Author's Note:

"This update is probably going to take a while"

Hah well- I guess not lol.
Listen. I know big moments of this story and what happens at the ending but by golly I don't know what happens in between it all.
This whole servant thing I literally just winged it but it actually gives me a lot of ideas that could segway into the next chapter. We'll probably be seeing Cozy's dad again in the future btw and I'm thinking of making a name and design for the messenger pony too.
Also ever wondered where all the crystal unicorn and pegasi went? No? Well now you do.

It's a miracle King Sombra is sparing Cozy but again, she's young and can be influenced.
Definitely have some plans for that~!

Thanks for reading~ :ajsmug: