• Published 15th Oct 2019
  • 5,220 Views, 250 Comments

Castling Cozy Glow - Silvermyr



Castling is a special move in chess where a player’s rook ends up just next to the king. Thanks to a friend’s kindness, a calculating young filly would end up closer to her princess than she ever thought. But can a filly like Cozy Glow be changed?

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Chapter 11- A Checkered Past

Cozy had been quiet the rest of the day when they returned from the derby, but Twilight really did not expect anything else. She was a prideful pony, and winning her over was going to take more than just a Wonderbolt derby. But it was still a start, and Twilight did consider their outing a success, all things considered. She had gotten Cozy to accept an offer from her and talk a little bit with her. And most importantly, she had seen Cozy smile for the first time.

It was a small step, but it was still leaps and bounds ahead of where she had been just a day ago. Therefore, she felt happier than she had in a long time when she woke up the next morning. Stretching her wings, she went out in the corridor.

Clonk!

Twilight nearly jumped out of her skin at the unexpected sound. It came from inside Cozy's room, like she had thrown a book against a glass pane or something, but Twilight could not feel her tampering with the shield on the balcony door. What was she up to?

She was just about to knock on the door and see if everything was alright when the door opened of its own and Cozy rushed out. She came to a screeching halt just in front of Twilight, as if she briefly had to ask herself if running from the sound was better or worse than being near Twilight.

"Cozy? What was that?" Twilight asked.

"I dunno," Cozy said. "I was just sleeping, and then it was like somepony was trying to break into my window." She shifted nervously on her hooves. Twilight had a feeling there was more to her frightened reaction than that, but she also knew Cozy would not say anything else to her.

"I suppose I'll go see what that was then," Twilight said and went into Cozy's room. Everything looked normal, so she pulled away the curtains.

On the balcony stood a disoriented, cloud-gray and wall-eyed pegasus with a hoof to her forehead. Mail laid scattered around her, and a few more spilled from her mailbag as she swayed precariously close to the balcony edge on unsteady hooves. Twilight opened the balcony.

"Good morning," she said and steadied the poor mailpony.

"Oh, good morning Twilight! How can I help you?" Derpy said. "No, wait! I had something for you…" she dug around in her mailbags, scattering a few more envelopes to the wind. "Uhm… somewhere here… Ah! Here it is!" She proudly presented a small envelope with a purple wax sigil depicting a shield with a six pointed star on it. The symbol of her school.

Twilight smiled in excitement. This had to be Starlight's reply to where Cozy Glow lived before she enrolled in the friendship school. "Thank you. I have been waiting for this."

"The Equestrian Royal mail: we go where ponies go," Derpy said with a wing-salute. "Got to fly! Lots of mail to track down and deliver!" She turned and leaped from the balcony. Her hind hoof caught on the railing, leading her to fall nearly half the length of the tower before she got her flying under control.

"Just the mailpony," Twilight said to Cozy.

Cozy grumbled something about being woken up before she went back in her room and slammed the door shut in Twilight's face. For once, Twilight was not disheartened by that, but went into her own room to read the letter.

Twilight

Sorry for taking this long to respond, but the new semester have brought with it more work than I could ever have seen coming! You school is one of the most sought after in Equestria now, both among ponies and others. I have been thinking about some sort of quota to handle the balance between ponies and non-pony students for next year, to make sure we get a fair balance of all cultures. I will keep you posted on that.

I found Cozy's application. It was signed by a certain Cheerful Sun, who allegedly runs the Spring Shower orphanage in Cloudsdale. While I have not really confirmed it, it would seem Cozy lived there prior to coming to the school.

I took the liberty of looking up the orphanage, and it seems to be well maintained. Most ponies from there have ended up just fine. Just as we can see with Cozy, many ponies there are very early in finding their cutie marks which, as you know, tends to be a sign of a good home.

Your Faithful Student
Starlight Glimmer

Twilight read it through once more. "So an orphaned foal bent on world domination with a mysterious past, is it?" she said to herself. This was stranger, if probably better, than she had expected. She had feared Cozy had come from an abusive household or something, but this, at least on the surface, seemed a little bit better. Orphanages in Equestria were subject to harsh scrutiny, and generally well maintained. And if Starlight thought it was a good place, then it likely was. Starlight would have been thorough in her research. Still, in light of this new information, it seemed Twilight had to visit Cloudsdale again for the second day in a row. After breakfast, of course. After some consideration, she decided to wait for Cozy to get up for real. While it was a long shot, she felt like she should try to talk to her a little bit now that she seemed to have thawed.

An hour or so later, Twilight heard Cozy leave her room. She waited five more minutes or so in her study as to not seem desperate. Then she left her room and found Cozy in the common room.

"I thought you might want to make a request for breakfast?" Twilight said. "Since you always rise after me and just get what I have-"

"I don't care," Cozy said and got up to leave.

"Right…" Twilight said. "I'll be out for a while today."

"What about my lunch?" Cozy asked.

Twilight balked just a little. She had not really expected Cozy to answer, not to mention ask for anything. "Uh… I thought I'd get it up with the breakfast as usual, so you can eat whenever you like."

"I had kinda hoped you could let Rumble in with lunch later," Cozy said. She tried to look unperturbed, but Twilight saw her eyes dart to the sides and her jaw clench. "So I can eat fresh food for once."

"Are… you sure?" Twilight asked. "Did you make up with him?"

Cozy nodded.

"That makes me happy, Cozy," Twilight said. She ignored the fact that Cozy looked like she had just bitten a lemon. "I'll make sure he gets in to you. You two enjoy yourselves now."

"Just leave me in peace," Cozy snapped and left the room with a huff.

Twilight felt happy. Cozy was still difficult at best, but once she had tasted the fruits of real friendship, she would come around. While it was not her favorite tactic for solving problems, Twilight had learnt that sometimes the best thing she could do was to do nothing. Watching from the background and arrange as many meetings with Sweetie Belle and Rumble as possible would chip away the misunderstandings about friendship that still haunted Cozy Glow. Once that misunderstanding was gone, Twilight would be ready to teach Cozy what real friendship was. She did not know when that would happen, but it didn't matter. When the time came and Cozy was ready, Twilight would know. She was the Princess of Friendship after all. She would know.

She left Cozy in peace and went down to order breakfast for the both of them and lunch for her. Then she would be off to Cloudsdale again.


Cloudsdale was an old city- the oldest in Equestria, actually. After the three tribes had migrated to the Equestrian heartlands after the great blizzard, the Earth Ponies kept living on isolated farms and would not found any real cities for a long time yet. The unicorns were the least numerous tribe, and they built themselves a new city for their Princess: Canterlot. The pegasi, however, could simply move their old cloud homes into Equestria. As such, not even the pegasi themselves know exactly how old Cloudsdale really was. Some say it is as old as ponykind itself.

Being so ancient, it has been altered and expanded many times. However, the basic layered structure remained. The northern side of Cloudsdale housed the most luxurious and important buildings. The weather factory, the Circus Altus, the Mayor's office and the cloud temples of old were all located there. Around those quarters ran a ring with more wealthy homes and businesses that then dwindled in beauty, prestige and cost the further away from the north one got. Any property or business could be given a rough assessment on wealth or status just based on its position in the city.

Twilight, therefore, was saddened to learn that the Spring Shower Orphanage was located to the southwest, rather far from the splendor that Cloudsdale was known for. Of course, she was not surprised. The royal grant for the orphanages would secure a decent living for the unfortunate foals who lived there, but even the Princess's coffers weren't bottomless. There would be no indulgence for the foals or their caretaker.

Still, even if the building did not look luxurious by any means, it was definitely well maintained and had a cozy feel to it. There were colorful flowers around the entrance and it occupied its own spot at the end of the street, giving it a little more space than the surrounding buildings. Twilight could hear the voices of many foals from the other side of a cloud fence. Her last embers of worry that this might be the root of Cozy's problems were put to rest as she heard it. This place did not sound bad at all.

Twilight stepped inside to the happy tinkle of a small bell. Though the reception was deserted, there was a small stack of folders on a table. Consider Adoption! was written on the front, with a smiling foal holding up her forelegs for a hug underneath the text. She magicked one up and started skimming through it.

"Hello? How can I help you?"

Twilight put the folder away and looked up. A sun-yellow pegasus mare with sky-blue mane had appeared. She looked a little tired, but happy nonetheless. "Are you perchance looking for adoption council?"

"Sadly not, no," Twilight said. "I was hoping to talk to Cheerful Sun. I understand she is the principal here?"

"That I am," the yellow pony said. "Wait… You're Princess Twilight Sparkle! You-" Her expressions fell. She seemed to shrink back and she felled her ears. "I… I suppose I shouldn't have gotten my hopes up. Follow me, please. We can talk in my office."

Twilight was a little perplexed about her sudden crestfallen look, but decided to follow. They went through a door and down a corridor before arriving at a small office with a window facing the backyard. Twilight could see between five and ten foals playing around, all of them pegasi but none old enough to fly yet. Still, in keeping with their natural instincts, the swing set seemed to be the most popular place on the yard. Twilight couldn't help but to smile when she saw them.

"I know it's not much, but I've really given them everything I can. I was a good caretaker for them, really I was," Cheerful said sadly. Twilight looked over to her. She sat behind a desk, a neat stack of papers next to a vase of flowers the only things on it.

"You seem upset?" Twilight said uncertainly. It almost looked like Cheerful Sun might start crying, even if Twilight could not understand why.

Cheerful swallowed a few times to regain her composure. "I understand you must do it, but… but I never thought Cozy could do all that. I had no idea she was so… so twisted. I know you can't let an orphanage that fosters such a pony remain open, but… please, you have to believe me: I've always put the foals' best first!"

"You misunderstand," Twilight hurried to say once she understood why Cheerful had seemed so distraught when she came. "I'm not here to shut down your orphanage! I just wanted to talk to somepony who might shed some light on who Cozy-" Twilight nearly said "is", but realized that Cheerful still thought she was trapped. "Who Cozy was. To make sure it never happens again."

"Oh! I'm sorry, Princess, I thought… Please forgive a foolish mare; of course your benevolence would not punish these foals for what their classmate did," Cheerful said, continually bowing down to Twilight.

"Please, that's enough," she said, blushing. "Just tell me what you know of Cozy. Everything you know."

"Right… of course," Cheerful bit her lip slightly. "She was… not a bad foal, exactly. She was never involved in fights, never called ponies names or things like that, but… I still never felt entirely right with her. She had an uncanny ability to get ponies to work with her.Or maybe 'for her' might be more to the truth?"

"How do you mean?" Twilight asked.

"Well, it happens that the darlings scuffle with one another… somepony steals another pony's ribbons, someone takes a toy or the like. Sometimes when I confronted those fights, the culprit said that Cozy asked them to do it."

"And you think they were telling the truth?" Twilight asked.

"It happened too many times and with too many foals for them all to single out Cozy at random," Cheerful said. "I talked to Cozy too, of course, but she would only cry and say the other foals were unkind to her and tried to set her up. To be honest, I never knew what to make of it at the time. After all, Cozy did not gain anything from another filly having her teddy bear dirtied, or something. But knowing what I know now… I guess it makes sense for her to manipulate other ponies to do her dirty work just because she could."

Twilight stopped herself from objecting, even if it felt wrong to hear somepony say that about a foal. "Is that all you remember about her?" Twilight asked. "Did she have any friends among the other foals?"

Cheerful shrugged uncertainly. "I'm not sure… I guess I don't know if everypony was her friend, or nopony was. She was almsot never alone. She played with other ponies all the time… but it felt like none of them really was her friend for real somehow? I wish I could show you; as Princess of Friendship you must know better what to make of it than a common pony like me."

Twilight sighed internally. "Proceed, please."

"Sorry," Cheerful said quickly. "Uh… what's more… oh! She was smart for her age. Really curious. A few times a year I try to save up enough money to take the little sweethearts someplace nice. We have visited the Weather Factory, the great Circus… even Canterlot once. Cozy was always the most active on those trips. Asked a lot of questions, stopped to read every sign and looked at every window."

"Do you know anything about her schooling?" Twilight asked.

"We send our foals to school and flight school, of course," Cheerful said. "Thats another strange thing; despite being the age for school, she arrived here with the entire coursework for the basic education already completed, three years before most ponies should have. She has never attended flight school though, which is rare for her age. I enrolled her for this year, but…" Cheerful looked meaningfully at Twilight.

"Back up a little," Twilight said. "When did Cozy get here? Who are her real parents? How old is- was she even, exactly?" Twilight suddenly felt bad for not knowing the last question.

"She came alone, about four years ago," Cheerful said. "She just showed up one morning by the door with a letter and said this was her home now."

"Nopony was with her? At all?" Twilight asked.

Cheerful shook her head. "The letter said that her name was Cozy Glow and asked I provided a loving home for her. It… also said a large sum of bits had been transferred to the orphanage's bank account, and that it should be used to take good care of her. I checked with the bank, and it was true. But I swear I haven't used a single bit of it. I moved all that money to an account for Cozy personally. I thought she could have it when she came of age, but I suppose she won't be needing it anymore."

"That's noble of you," Twilight said. "And… trust me, you never know if she will need that money one day. Anyway, this letter, was it not signed?"

"No," Cheerful said. "I still have it, in case somepony who adopted Cozy wanted it. I can show it if you like."

"I'd like that very much," Twilight said.

Cheerful stood up and opened a filing cabinet. She flipped around for a little while before withdrawing a folder with Cozy Glow's photograph on. She passed her a letter. Twilight leaned forward to read. The penmanship was elegant cursive, but it had a little bit of the sloppiness that came from writing with hooves. Not a unicorn then…

Cloudsdale, Stratocumulus District, Fluffy Cloud Street fifteen.
Spring Shower Orphanage,
Cheerful Sun

The holder of this letter is named Cozy Glow, nine years of age, and she needs a place to live. I know you have an opening in your orphanage, and so you will accept her being placed with you. I sincerely hope you and the rest of the foals will provide a loving, secure environment for Cozy and that she can grow and develop in accordance with her talents and cutie mark. She has completed her basic level education (her result is registered in the Cloudsdale Town Hall, if you have any doubts).

Upon receiving this letter, you will find that a substantial amount of bits have been transferred to your orphanage's account. This money is at your disposal to use as you see fit. However, I humbly request they are spent to make Cozy's situation as pleasant as it can be.

Just as Cheerful had said, there was no signature.

"I checked her school result," Cheerful said. "She has not been to any school in Equestria, but she has taken the final exam of the basic education. She scored in the ninety-fifth percentile. My guess is she's been home-schooled, and remarkably well too."

"She was nine when you received this… So she is thirteen now then?" Twilight asked.

"I guess," Cheerful said. "Since the letter doesn't say, we used to celebrate her birthday the day she came here, but I don't know her real birthday."

Twilight nodded and pushed the letter back to Cheerful. "And why did she leave?"

Cheerful suddenly looked a little worried. "She escaped. One night she just vanished. I started looking, of course, but I never found her. I was on my way to the police when I saw somepony with a newspaper, and on the front page was the class photo for your school. You can't imagine how surprised I was when I saw her there."

"I never heard of anypony looking for her," Twilight said. "If you knew where she was, why didn't you collect her?"

Cheerful swallowed. "I… figured she'd do better where she was," she said meekly. "So I never asked the police to search, and told the other foals she had found someplace else to live."

Twilight furrowed her brow. "All my students must have a legal guardian and a home for to go back to after they graduate. You should have told the police."

"Many ponies would give up their right hind leg to give their foals a chance like hers, Princess," Cheerful said. "If Cozy somehow had gotten that chance, I would not take it from her by trying to get her back here. She was better off at your school, and as headmistress of an orphanage my duty is to the wellbeing of my foals first. If you want to punish me, go ahead, but I stand for what I did. And I planned on coming to her graduation ceremony to hear what she wanted to do next. In my eyes, she still has a home here, no matter what she has done. But I'd never stop her from getting a chance like that."

Twilight sighed, then smiled a little. "I suppose I can't fault you for wanting the best for your little ones… I guess you did right, all things considered."

"I don't think I'll ever understand it," Cheerful admitted. "How she got into your school I mean. I didn't even know she had sent an application.”

"Wait a moment!" Twilight exclaimed. She had just remembered what Starlight had written. "Her application! You signed it!"

Cheerful looked at once confused and a little insulted. "I did no such thing, Princess. You have my word on that."

"But… in our archives her application was signed by you," Twilight said.

"Then that must be a fake signature," Cheerful said decisively. "And no, I can't think it was Cozy who did that. Her hoof writing was never that good… and frankly, I refuse to believe she would do that, even if you may call me naïve."

"Do you mind writing a sample for me?" Twilight asked. "I'd like to compare them."

"Right, of course," Cheerful said and picked up a pen.

"What a mysterious foal…" Twilight said to herself. "Orphaned, runaway, prisoner of Tartarus… and one of the most feared ponies in the modern age, all before she knows how to fly for real. I wish I knew more about her past."

"Sorry I can't be of more help. She refused to tell me anything about where she was before she came to me," Cheerful said. "But… you'll tell her she still has a home here, right?"

"Sure," Twilight said absently.

Cheerful dropped her pen and stared in shock at Twilight. "You've released her, haven't you?"

Twilight froze up. She had been so deep in thought about everything she had learned that she let her guard down for just a moment. And it had cost her dearly! She focused on Cheerful and lifted her wings ever so slightly. She had slowly learnt that the visage of her lifted wings, larger than any pegasus's, and her slender horn sparked instant respect in anypony she met. Being an alicorn had some more subtle perks than omnipotent magic. "Yes, I have. She deserved better than I gave her. I realize that now."

Cheerful looked happy for the first time Twilight met her. "Don't worry, Princess, your secret is safe with me. I meant what I said about wanting my little ones to have good lives, despite beginning with nothing. Cozy is no exception. So you take good care of her, okay?"

"I promise I will," Twilight said.

Tiny tears shimmered in Cheerful's eyes. "You truly are a wonderful pony. To take pity on your enemy like this…" She dried her eyes, but the smile stayed in place.

"I'm glad I came here," Twilight said in turn. "I still don't know her past, but now I know she did have kind ponies around her for some of her youth. You're doing a lot of good. Never forget that."

"You too, Princess," Cheerful said. "Oh, I just remembered! I have something for you."

"You do? What?" Twilight asked.

"The day before Cozy escaped was one time she allegedly tried to frame another pony, so I confiscated something from her. The only thing she brought with her to the orphanage. I meant to give it back the next morning, but then she was gone."

Cheerful leaned down and unlocked a small compartment on her desk. She pulled out a strange, yet very familiar object. It was cylindric and made of a red type of wood. This was the rook depicted on Cozy's cutie mark. Only it was about as large as Twilight's hoof, much too big to be a chess piece.

"I don't really know what this is," Cheerful said. "But it's obviously important to her, given her cutie mark. Perhaps you could give it back to her?"

"I'd be happy to," Twilight said and lifted the strange object in her hoof. She knew some objects made for earth ponies or pegasi did not respond well to magic. It was lighter than she imagined, and not quite so perfect as she thought. It was a little scratched at some places, and it was not perfectly round either, almost like whoever had made it had not been perfectly experienced yet.

Nonetheless, it did not possess any powerful magic from what Twilight could feel. Whatever it was, it couldn't be anything dangerous. "I'll make sure she gets it."

"Good, and you tell her that she will always have a home here, if she wants it," Cheerful said. "With your majesty's permission, of course," she hurried to add.

Twilight nodded. "I won't pretend to know her as well as I'd like, but I think she'll appreciate hearing that. Even if she'll have to remain with me for now. She is still dangerous, and I can't take any risks.”

Cheerful looked cloven at that. "I understand." she sighed. She had probably hoped Cozy would be allowed to come back to her. "But you take care of her."

"I will."

They rose from their chairs. Twilight knew what to do. This chess piece, or whatever it was, was linked to Cozy's cutie mark, and her cutie mark was linked to her past. She needed to contact somepony who really understood this sort of thing. Coincidentally, one of Cozy's friends happened to be very good with cutie marks.

Author's Note:

I know this chapter is a bit different from the others, so let me alleviate some fears here:

One of the reasons I love Cozy Glow as a character (and King Sombra, for that matter) is because the show does not explain anything about their backstories. I like that, because that gives me, as a writer, much more freedom when I write.

I wanted to leave a larger mystery here. I do not plan on addressing Cozy's earlier background in this story, but I have an idea for a sequel that I have been tossing around in the back of my head where it will be relevant, so I wanted to leave this here for a logical connection.

This is not meant to be a mystery novel, and the next time I promise I will get back to the slice-of-life fluff that I suspect you are here for. I had planned on putting it in the end of this chapter, but then I saw how long it was and... yeah, not happening.

I hope you don't hate this chapter too much; I promise some things here will be important later on.