• Published 15th Oct 2019
  • 5,205 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 12- Hot Cocoa and Chess

Rumble stared dumbfounded at the door to the private castle wing, silver tray and round lid balanced on a wing. Twilight had asked him to bring lunch up, but he had assumed that would involve the door opening at the very least. Instead, it looked like the solid wood had somehow melted and formed a foal-sized hole in the middle. He tried to follow the individual boards of wood from the top and realized they had somehow bent in impossible ways to bare a hole for him. Most likely it had something to do with the fact that the whole door was completely drenched in purple magic. He could even see through it. Cozy Glow herself stood on the other side, glaring slightly above the weird, melted part of the door, about where the handle would be. He found himself wondering what prevented Cozy from getting out the same way.

He knew it was safe. He saw unicorns use magic all the time, but still. A pegasus would never be entirely comfortable with the strange powers involved with magic; especially not when it involved walking through a door of melted wood. He carefully crept up to it and gingerly stepped through.

"AAH!" Cozy yelped and flew backwards, startling Rumble so much he almost backed out of the door again. In fact, part of the tray he was carrying fell into the interface between "door" and "weird-magic-hole-thingy" and got magicked in a way no food had ever been magicked before or since. Gathering his bearings, he stepped through again, still to visible shock on Cozy's face.

"You scared me! Haven't somepony told you to knock?" she growled, but she sounded more scared than angry.

"And how would I knock on that?" Rumble asked incredulously, gesturing with his hoof. "I'm not touching that door; who knows what it could do!"

"Yea, who knows what a door might do?" Cozy huffed.

Rumble tilted his head to the side. "Don't you see it? The strange hole in the door?"

Cozy gave him a deadpan stare. "I have looked at that door for days on end. I think I'd seen a hole in it if there was one."

"But that's how I came in," Rumble said. "Look." He beckoned Cozy closer and pushed his hoof through the hole. She stared, dumbfounded, and reached forward to touch his hoof. A slight "clonk" sounded when her hoof hit the blank space where the door ought to begin, sliding closer to his leg as if gliding on an invisible surface.

"Okay, that looks wrong," Rumble said.

"Quiet. I'm looking at somepony who's stuck his hoof through the door. You don't get to say what looks wrong here," Cozy said. She stared a few more moments at his leg, then shifted to look to the tray he was still holding on his wing. Immediately her mood brightened. "Golly! You brought food! What did you get me?"

"Since we met in Cloudsdale… I sorta talked a bit to my brother, and he said that if you want to make amends with a girl, you should bring a gift." He nodded to the tray with the silver lid.

Cozy looked at the tray with a confounded expression. "A gift? For me?"

"Of course it's for you," Rumble said. "Who else would it be for?"

"Well, let me see then," she said. "I usually eat in here," Cozy started towards the door where he and Twilight had talked. Rumble followed. Cozy sat down by the table and kept her eyes trained on his tray. It was a little weird… but then again, whole point of this was to make an impression, which he undoubtedly had managed, so there was that. But would she like it? He thought so of course, but he could never be sure.

"Well, here goes. I hope you like it," he said and put down the tray and lifted the round silver lid.

Asparagus. Crisp, green stalks with a generous helping of butter and grated parmesan cheese, together with finely chopped hazel-nuts roasted to the peak of brittleness without loosing any flavor. As a side dish, to really hammer his point home, he had baked ciabatta bread, roasted them in olive oil and garlic and topped with finely chopped tomatoes- bruschetta, one of his own favorite appetizers.

Cozy sat stunned in her chair, blinking in bewilderment. Her eyes flicks from the food up to him and back again.

"Are… you okay?" Rumble asked uncertainly.

She snapped out of whatever trance she had temporarily fallen into. "Yes, never better. It looks really good. Thanks," she said. Hesitating only a moment, she picked up one of the bruschettas. She stopped herself, looking at him. "Aren't you going to eat too?"

"I've had lunch already," Rumble answered. "I eat earlier, so I can cook for Princess Twilight. And you."

"Makes sense," Cozy said and took a bite.

Rumble felt a bit awkward. He wanted to talk, but he also didn't want to disturb her meal. "I'll just see if there is anything to read in here," he said, trying to dispel the pressing awkwardness.

Indeed. See if there was anything to read in this library belonging to a pony with an abnormal love of books… Cozy's expression told him that she too was aware that Rumble's attempt to not be awkward had, in fact, just made things worse. Thankfully he was allowed to turn his back on her so she didn't have to see him cringe. He picked up the closest book he could reach to hide his face in.

By random chance he ended up with a book on Equestrian flora and started skimming through it, mostly looking at the pictures and then reading on the ones that caught his eye.

"It was really good," Cozy said after a while. "Especially the tomato sandwiches."

"They are called bruschetta," Rumble said and put the book away. "They are not hard to make. You should try, if you want to make your own."

"I don't have anything to cook with up here," Cozy pointed out.

Rumble shrugged. "There is a fireplace. Maybe you can't cook, but you could make hot cocoa or s'mores, if you ever want something sweet." Rumble suspected she did. In her confinement, she likely did not get much of that.

"I'd really like that, if you could get me cocoa and milk," Cozy said. She studied him for a moment. "Do you play chess?"

Rumble had seen her cutie mark, so why had he not prepared for that question? "I know how the pieces moves…" he said. It even had the virtue of almost being true; he was sure to remember if it was the rook or the duke that could only move diagonally once he saw the board.

"Hmm…" Cozy got something cunning in her eyes. "How about I teach you how to play chess, and you make me hot cocoa?"

Rumble nodded. "Deal." This could only be good; if she invited him to play with her, then he must already be well on his way of earning her trust.

"Then let's play!" Cozy said. "I'll get the board!"

Rumble waited for her to return and considered if maybe he could find a book on chess in here and read up a little in the thirty seconds or so he had. He hated the idea of making a fool of himself, especially to Cozy. Alas, in the time he debated the pros and conns of finding a chess book, Cozy was already back, a red pouch in her mouth and the board balanced on top of her head. She pushed her dishes away and sat it down on the table. "White starts, so I'll be black. Let's see what you can do."

"Sure," Rumble said and began putting up his pieces. He started with the pawns. Then he could peek at how Cozy did her back row, just to be sure he got the order right.

"Okay then… prepare to lose," Rumble said with much more confidence than he felt and moved the third pawn from the right one space forward. He did not really have a plan for which one was the best, so he just picked one. It probably didn't matter that much. Cozy also moved a pawn, near her archmage.

He had almost never played Chess, but his brother had taught him one thing a long time ago. Pawns can protect each other well if they are arranged in a zig-zag pattern. It was the only plan he had, so he decided to go for that. Really, his best chance was to just stay alive and take whatever pieces he could from Cozy's side. He doubted he would actually win this.

He moved the pawn second from the right two spaces forward.

Cozy glared. "If you didn't wanna play with me you could just have said so," she huffed. That vein in her forehead was starting to appear.

"… what?" Rumble asked, dumbfounded. "But we are playing?"

Cozy deadpanned, then both laughed and facehoofed at the same time. "Oh, Golly! It's gonna take a while to teach you!" She did not sound irritated though. She almost sounded… genuinely happy.

"What? What did I do?" Rumble asked, panicking slightly. Had he somehow already made a fool of himself? "What!? Tell me!"

Cozy giggled cutely and pushed her archmage all the way to the edge of the board, next to the pawn he just moved. "Check mate."

Rumble stared at the board. He wanted to burrow into the ground and not come out for a few years. How... how? This was not the impression he wanted to make; he must look like a complete and utter blockhead.

Cozy giggled again. "The Fool's Mate is the fastest way possible to lose a game. You don't play a lot, do you?"

He was never going to live this down… never. He looked up despondently at her. "End me now... please."


Eyes narrowed, Sweetie Belle peeked up over the edge of a table, bringing her to eye level with her newest quandary. She poked the curious wooden statuette with a hoof. "Hmmmm…"

"It looks just like her cutie mark," Rarity said, eyeing it with just as much curiosity as Sweetie Belle.

"It's clearly important to her somehow," Twilight said. "I just wonder how exactly. And what it is. It can't be just a trinket, right? It's got to serve some purpose."

"No," Sweetie Belle said. That misconception was all too common, she had begun to learn in the last months as a cutie mark consultant. "Diamond Tiara's tiara is not special. It's just modeled after her mark. This could be the same. Maybe Cozy made this to commemorate getting her cutie mark. Many ponies do that."

"So this is just something she made?" Twilight asked. "I suppose that makes sense… her rook mark could symbolize her skill in manipulation."

"I've always assumed it did," Rarity said.

"Me too, until I found this," Twilight said. "Cozy had this when she was as young as nine."

"That's much earlier than most ponies get their marks." Sweetie Belle said. "If her mark was just manipulation, then it's strange she had it so early. Not impossible, but definitely uncommon."

"So, if you had to guess, sister dear, what do you think?" Rarity asked. "Do you think Cozy's cutie mark signify manipulating ponies, or is it something else?"

Sweetie Belle bit her lip. "I'm not sure, but I have actually read up on when ponies tends to get their marks. Twelve is the most common age, but cutie marks associated with bad things almost always comes later, since ponies don't get many… chances, I guess, to earn those marks. To get a mark for manipulation as early as nine would be really, really uncommon."

"So statistically speaking, her mark should mean something else?" Twilight said.

Sweetie Belle shrugged. "I think we need to have one question answered before we can guess that: What came first? This statue, or the mark? Did she make this to commemorate the mark, or did she make this, and get her mark for it? If she did, then her mark must have something to do with this thing specifically, or with similar objects."

"I can ask her for her cutie mark story," Twilight suggested, though she knew there was no chance of Cozy answering that question. "But in the meantime, there are some more things I wanted to ask you two…" Twilight levitated out two pieces of paper from her saddlebags. One was an official-looking document affixed with a wax sigil and the other was a torn piece of a notebook. Two words were written on them both: Cheerful Sun. "Rarity, you have an eye for detail. Do you think the same pony wrote both of these?"

Rarity hummed and magicked over a pair of red glasses, then folded the paper with Cheerful's control sample so both signatures could be placed just next to one another. "Well, thank you, Shadow Spade for teaching me your tricks," Rarity all but cooed. "No, this must be a forgery."

"How can you be so sure?" Twilight asked.

"See this," Rarity pointed out the "w". ”Whoever wrote on Cozy's application was trying to copy Cheerful, but they did too good. Look at those signatures, especially the 'W'."

Twilight looked closer. Now that Rarity pointed it out, the "W" Cheerful had written had clearly been made by lifting the pen and writing two V:s next to one another. When the pen was lifted, the last part of the V:s was a little faded towards the top. The signature on her application did not have that. Really, if one started to look at them, there were small details that differentiated them.

"And before you ask, dear, I am almost positive Cozy did not do that. First, her hoof writing was not nearly that good when she wrote reports to me in class. Second, the forgery was clearly done by magic. Nopony else can copy another that good unless they are a professional forger, and a professional would never make that mistake. And it didn't really need to stand up to scrutiny; nopony would suspect something like this and look."

"That makes sense," Twilight said tiredly.

"It does?" Sweetie Belle asked curiously. "Because I don't think any of that makes sense."

"No, but the conclusion matches something else I found," Twilight said. "Somepony went to great lengths to keep an eye on Cozy. I told you about the bank, right? How somepony had donated to the orphanage for her?"

"Yes?" Rarity said.

"Well, I went to talk with them after I left the orphanage, to see if they had any record of who made that transfer. Turns out ponies often transfer small amounts of bits to friends and neighbors, to help one another out. Apparently, to reduce administration, banks allow for anonymous donations if the transferred amount is less than a hundred bits."

"That's not very much…?" Rarity said.

"The clerk I talked to remembered the day I asked about without needing any record, because when they opened that morning, more than sixty ponies wanted to transfer ninety-nine bits each to the orphanage," Twilight said. "Somepony went to great lengths to help Cozy, and went just as far to stay anonymous."

"That's good," Sweetie Belle said. "Then she has a really generous friend somewhere."

"True," Rarity said. "Although something about this generosity does not sit quite right with me…"

"Same," Twilight said. "But that is a mystery for later; ultimately Cozy's future is more important than her past. So, to that end…" Twilight looked at Sweetie Belle. "…I hoped you would come visit her tomorrow."

"Sure!" Sweetie Belle said. "Tomorrow is sunday, so I'm free!"

Twilight nodded. "That's all I had. If you have nothing more, I think I am going to visit Starlight at my school. I think I need to straighten out an idea of hers that's… not gonna go well if she tries."

It was a good thing Rumble was not officially on apprentice duty for the weekend, so he could stay with Cozy for as long as he liked. Turns out that "as long as he liked" was enough time for him to get massacred two more times in chess by her. But at least he had avoided the worst blunders with some help, so they could have a real game at the end. After his third loss he left for a few minutes to bring a small cauldron, milk, and an assortment of exotic spices that Cozy did not know the name of. She had never been given such expensive things in the orphanage or the School of Friendship.

"I'll just be a moment," Rumble said and put everything down on the table. "I just need to get a few more things. Then we'll make some cocoa." He left again. Cozy took the opportunity to study the glass jars with the spices. They were not labeled, for some reason, but she suspected that any chef working in the most prestigious kitchen in Equestria must know what these were by just looking at them. One jar contained some strange, brown rolls of… really thick paper? She wanted to take one out and touch it, but she had a feeling she should not mess with the jars until Rumble was back. Another jar had a stack of large nuts of some sort. She did not know what kind.

Then finally, the last jar contained thin, long stalks. Black and glossy with a curved end, they certainly did not look appealing to eat. Was that licorice roots? It looked a little like licorice. But who would have licorice in their cocoa? Or anywhere near them, for that matter?

Rumble came back, preforming an intricate balancing act with more jars and cooking utensils. "Alright. Let's make you something sweet."

Cozy almost never cooked; her life in the orphanage and the Twilight's school had seen to it that she never really had to, but she thought she could make hot cocoa. Thought, until Rumble had brought three times as many ingredients as she had ever used. And none of them was cocoa. "You didn't bring any powder," she pointed out.

"We don't use powder," Rumble said. "There are only two cocoa farms in Equestria that have the honor of supplying the royal kitchen. Them, Chef Ramson, and me too, all agree that the whole beans preserve the flavor much better than powder." Rumble nudged a small bag filled with brown beans towards her.

"So what do I do with them?" Cozy ran her hoof through the small paper bag. It had an extremely rich smell.

"Crush them," Rumble said. "That's why I brought this," he indicated a mortar and pestle. "You won't need a lot of them though. They have a much stronger flavor than what you buy in stores."

"Alright then," Cozy said and poured a small heap of beans into the mortar and started working.

"I'll heat some milk," Rumble said and put the cauldron in the fireplace. He hung it from the bar where Cozy had hidden that one time. So that's what that's for… "This won't take long, so start thinking what more you want."

"I don't now what these things are,” Cozy admitted and indicated the other spices. She continued pounding the beans down to a soft powder. Her mouth salivated just from the scent. It was months since she had hot cocoa. Not since that time in Starlight Glimmer's office.

"Oh, sorry," Rumble said. "This is cinnamon," he pointed at the jar with the brown paper-like rolls. Now that he mentioned it, the color looked right for that, even if she had never seen it un-powdered before. "It's the inner bark of a tree," he explained. He indicated the nuts. "This is nutmeg. It has a sweet… kinda 'warm' taste. It's a bit hard to explain. And this, finally, is vanilla." He pointed at what Cozy thought was licorice.

"That's vanilla?" Cozy asked. She had always assumed vanilla was white, since the ice cream was white. Not the most scientific argument, perhaps, but it worked with every other ice cream. "I've never seen it before."

"The seeds are inside the stalk," Rumble explained. "They are what gives the taste."

"Oh," Cozy said. "Well, I want some of everything."

"Okay. That will be good," Rumble said. "That cocoa looks about ready, so you can start on the nutmeg and cinnamon. Just grate them a little bit-" Rumble hesitated, eyes dilating and his hoof covering his mouth momentarily. "Actually, I'll handle the nutmeg, it's a bit finicky…" Using a fire poker, Rumble scattered the burning wood and extinguished them with powerful wingbeats. Then he took out the warm milk and poured it into a pair of cups. While Cozy worked on the cinnamon rolls, Rumble quickly grated the nutmeg and gutted the vanilla stalk with a few practiced cuts. Then Cozy added everything to the waiting cups, together with some of sugar.

"Let it stand and mix a little bit first, before drinking," he said. Cozy did so. She rather enjoyed the pleasant scent of spices and sweets.

"Thanks," Cozy said and picked up her cup. She held it in both her hooves and blew a little to cool it. "For helping me make it. It was long since I had something like this."

"It's what friends do."

"Hmm…" Cozy said absently, staring into the embers of the fireplace as she drank her heavenly cocoa. It was richer than anything she had before. "It is really good! I get what you mean now, with nutmeg tasting warm."

"I'm glad you like it," Rumble said. They stat silent for a little while, drinking slowly.

"You know, you aren't all bad. I actually like spending time with you," Rumble said.

Cozy almost found herself blushing. Almost. "You too. It's better when other ponies are around." She took another sip.

"I'll come back next weekend. I'm going home to Ponyville to practice my flying with Thunderlane tomorrow. I'll be a Wonderbolt too, one day.”

Cozy nodded. "I suppose every pegasus wants that."

"But not you?" Rumble hazarded.

Cozy shook her head. "I'm too small, and I haven't even gone to flight school. It's too late for me; you must start training earlier. But that's fine. I want to be greater than that anyway! I'll be a princess still, you'll see!”

"Do you still want that?" Rumble said. "Even after Twilight freed you, you would try again? Do you… really think she will be merciful again if you fail."

"I won't fail again," Cozy snapped. "I can't be a pawn."

"Can you tell me why?" Rumble asked. "I mean, I want to be a wonderbolt because they are respected and liked by everypony. So that I can be an inspiration to young ponies too one day. But why do you want to be a princess so much?"

"I was born to be a leader," Cozy said. "It just feels… right, when ponies do what I say. It has always felt like that to me, even before I got my mark."

"Always?" Rumble asked.

"As long as I can remember," Cozy shrugged. "Being a princess… it's not a choice to me."

"That doesn't sound right," Rumble said. "Just trying to become a princess every day. Are you sure there isn't more to you than that?"

Cozy giggled into her cup of cocoa. "Golly… Not everything I do is to be a princess. That's silly. I don't play chess to be a princess; I do it because it's fun!"

"I used to think I must become a wonderbolt to be happy," Rumble said. "I still want to, but I know that I can be happy doing other things too. Like cooking. I don't think one should feel like they must do something with their life. Just do whatever makes you happy."

"Maybe for you," Cozy said. "But it won't work for me. I must be a princess!"

Rumble studied her. She suddenly felt a little bashful, being looked at like that by a colt. Then he sighed a little. Cozy did not like that he did. He did not get a say in what she did with her life. "At least be careful, so Twilight doesn't get mad. Okay?"

"Of course I'll be careful," Cozy said. "Truth be told... I don't really know how to do it yet. But I'll figure something out soon, I know it!"

Much to her annoyance, Rumble did not seem too sad that she did not know how to overthrow Twilight. "You know, perhaps if you were no trouble, I could ask her to let you out a little while? We could fly a little together, if you want?"

"Oh golly yes!" Cozy said quickly. It was definitely worth postponing her escape for a chance to fly free! Especially since she really did not have a plan anyway right now. "You think she will let you?"

Rumble smirked and got something sly in his eyes. "Well... it would take a filly who really could play her... who she could trust at least a little..."

Cozy grinned like a cat about to get cream. "I think I know just the filly!" she all but sing-songed.

"Sorry, but I need to go soon. My train for ponyville leaves in just an hour."

"Oh… right," Cozy said. She had preferred he stayed longer. He was really nice to talk to. "But you'll come back next weekend?"

"Sure," Rumble said. "I'll ask her then. If she's in a good mood..."

"She will be!"

Author's Note:

Since I can't really make a heartswarming special, hot cocoa will have to do. And as promised: here is your slice-of-life fluff.

I feel like I should ask my diligent readers something: first, are you ok with this chapter length? I don't want the story to become stagnant, but I also don't want to skimp on details or immersion. Let me know what you think.