• Published 7th Oct 2020
  • 2,967 Views, 192 Comments

The Once and the Future Princess - Silvermyr



Cozy Glow was a Princess, and she has vowed to become one again. Flurry Heart is and alicorn and destined to become a Princess one day. Can they help one another grow, or are there some gaps that not even the magic of friendship can bridge?

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Chapter 12- Introspection

The thrill of mischief was wonderful. It made her heart beat faster, her stomach tingle and her legs shake just a tiny bit as she prepared to, for once, do something she knew she was not supposed to. And when she was done, it was... unlike anything else. When she knew she had gotten away with doing something bad, it was all she could do not to burst out laughing.

Now, however, it was easy not to laugh. Twilight sounded really cross with her. She couldn't even remember last time Twilight was legitimately angry with her. Her confidence disappeared in the blink of an eye and she felled her ears submissively.

"Flurry Heart, what are you doing in Cozy's room?" Twilight asked again, her voice level and decisive.

"I… I wanted to see if I could find out what she was interested in," Flurry admitted. She risked a glance up at Twilight's face.

She glared, and her mouth was set in a hard line.

"And did you think it was a friendly thing to sneak into her room uninvited to find out what that might be?"

No, it didn't sound friendly at all. This whole thing suddenly sounded like a very poor idea. She shook her head. "No, auntie."

Twilight nodded. "Do you know what you have to do now?"

"Apologize," Flurry squirmed under Twilight's glare. "To Cozy, right?"

"Uh… Princes, I don't think that's a good idea," Rumble said. Both Flurry and Twilight turned to him. He seemed, if possible, even more uncomfortable than Flurry, shifting on his hooves and looking every which way except for at Twilight. "She's not gonna like this."

"Then you should have thought about it before you decided to sneak into her room," Twilight huffed. "And you will never be friends with her by keeping secrets."

Rumble looked like he had just bitten a lemon. He carefully raised a hoof in the air, the way Flurry did in school to get the teacher's attention. "Yes, Rumble?" Twilight asked.

"Please don't be mad," he said.

"I won't be mad," Twilight said, even if her voice was still stern. "But that doesn't mean I have to like or agree with whatever you say."

Flurry could hear Rumble swallow. "Princess… I think that if Cozy kind of…learns that Flurry went into her room… then she's sort of not going to let your niece be her friend… basically ever…" he said. "You know Cozy is pretty slow to forgive, right?"

"Don't I know it," Twilight sighed. "But I also know she is just like that. She is slow, but not incapable. And I will not see this friendship built on secrets. Come with me, both of you."

Flurry and Rumble fell in behind Twilight as she guided them back to the library. Flurry felt like she was going to be sick. This wasn't supposed to happen! She had just wanted to find a way to get closer to Cozy, to finally get through to her and show her that she just wanted to be a friend! She had even pulled out a feather! It hurt to do that.

But all Cozy would see was a sneaky little filly who wanted to go behind her back! This wasn't… fair! It was just one mistake! This… this stupid little thing couldn't set her and Cozy's fragile relationship back like that!

But when the door to the library opened, and Cozy looked at her, eyes slightly narrowed, Flurry felt like somepony had sucker-punched her. Because this little thing could and would do exactly that.

"Flurry and Rumble have something they'd like to say to you Cozy," Twilight said.

"Golly… what?" Cozy asked. Her expression was hostile… but also worried. She kept glancing at Rumble.

Flurry swallowed. "Well I… wanted to find some way for you to like me more," she said. "So I… I thought that maybe I could look in your room to see if I could get some clues…"

Cozy's glare intensified. Flurry met her eyes… and when she did, Cozy's facade seemed to collapse. For the first time, Flurry could feel everything Cozy had tried to hide from her. This was the clearest she had ever felt another pony. Flurry stared, stunned. Cozy's feelings were…

A mess.

That was the best description.

A maze of interlocked emotions that interlaced into a massive network without a clear beginning or end, too large for her to dissect at a glance. Flurry had never felt something remotely like this before. If most other ponies showed her their emotions through a window, then somehow Cozy's mind now laid open like a kaleidoscope.

Anger, uncertainty, spite, jealousy, vanity… all her negative emotions were connecting to such a degree that Flurry could not begin to say where one emotion ended and another began. They were feeding from one another. Her anger fueled her paranoia which fed her anxiety, which made her even angrier! So much negativity, so much darkness…

And inside her swirling cage of emotions, the beating heart of her feelings was surprisingly gentle… it was not a bad emotion, but it was very strong. And it lent its power to all her worst sides.

She couldn't recognize that emotion. It was wild, but also soothing. Meek, but also bold. Gentle, but also forceful. It felt a bit like friendship, but even that was a poor word to describe it. This felt… deeper, somehow. It reminded her of her parents a little bit, but that wasn't right either.

Cozy looked away, down at the table. The bangs hid her eyes.

Flurry jerked back as if waking up from a nightmare. Cozy had shielded herself again, hiding her feelings, but it was too late. Flurry had seen it.

Cozy was under extreme emotional stress somehow. Flurry had never felt anything half as complex in one pony before. Just sensing the emotional turmoil was enough to make Flurry dizzy.

"I was right," Cozy said. One did not need Flurry's mental perception to hear the undercurrent of rage in her voice. "You were not my friend. And you never wanted to be either."

"That's not true!" Flurry said, though she took a few steps back from the furious pegasus filly. "I did this because I wanted to be your friend! Honest!"

"Hah!" Cozy laughed, but it was a madmare's hateful bark. "That's exactly what the old me would have said! I know of your tricks, you orange lover! I know them all like the back of my hoof!"

"Cozy, it's not like that," Rumble said with a placating gesture. "She's honest, she really is! I promise-"

"NO!" Cozy snarled and jumped from her stool. Despite being so small, her presence seemed to fill the entire room. Even the two alicorns found themselves backing off as she advanced. Only Rumble stood firm, though his ears were cast down and his posture slouched. A clear sign of submission. "NO, YOU LISTEN! I'VE HAD IT WITH YOU BEING HER LAPDOG! I THINK IT'S TIME YOU CAME CLEAN! ARE YOU FRIENDS WITH HER, OR ME?!"

"Cozy, be reasonable-" Twilight said.

"I AM!" she screamed. "IT'S TIME YOU ALL SHOWED YOUR TRUE COLORS!"

"You know what," Rumble snapped back. "If that's how you're gonna treat me and my friend, then I think I'll just stick with her." Rumble backed away and put a wing over Flurry's back. "'Cause I'm not gonna be friends with a bully!"

Cozy's entire face seemed to redden, and her face contorted into a downright demonic visage. Flurry had never believed a pony could make such a face. Veins appeared on her forehead, she was frothing at the mouth, the eyes had contracted to pinpricks and seemed to bulge unnaturally.

And yet when she spoke, her voice was calm, and all the more unsettling for it.

"Oh, golly gosh… this seems like a friendship problem, right, teacher?" she asked Twilight, who looked like she was on the verge of tears. "So, since I'm so good at them, how about we try my solution. You get to pick one of us to be your student. Flurry or me."

"N-no, Cozy… don't do this to yourself," Twilight whispered. It was nothing short of a plea. "I won't choose… you both are too important-"

"YOU THREE ARE ALL CONSPIRING AGAINST ME, AREN'T YOU?! WELL I'M NOT GOING TO JUST STAND THERE AND TAKE IT! I AM COZY GLOW!"

Silence reigned in the room. Rumble stood with extended wings and his head bent forward next to Flurry, almost like he was ready to fight with Cozy. Twilight just stared pleadingly from one foal to the other, tiny tears dropping from her eyes.

And Cozy… just stood and heaved in rage.

But something about her seemed to change. The emotions around her seemed to cool. Instead of the blazing rage, Flurry felt like the anger condensed, crystalized into a sharp, pointed emotion. It was kin to anger, but not… quite the same. It felt even worse somehow. It was controlled, directed. It was anger mixed with sheer, deliberate malevolence. It was the first time Flurry could remember seeing a pony wanting, deliberately, to hurt another pony. But right now, that was exactly what Cozy wanted.

She started advancing on them, and even the alicorns, who never had to fear another living creature, found themselves making way for her. When Cozy passed Flurry, their eyes met briefly. And Cozy cast Flurry Heart a glare so filled with hatred she stumbled in nausea.

Then she was gone.


Cozy made it back to her room, feeling like both her head and heart was going to burst. The moment she was inside the familiar safety of her room, she clutched both sides of her head with a pitiful sound. There were so many things she wanted to say she didn't know where to begin. The fury seemed to make the words congest in her throat, rendering her mute.

But she wanted to say to Rumble that she was sorry. And then she wanted Twilight to just pick her as her student.

She wanted to go back in time. Back to when it was only herself, Twilight with her friendship lessons, Rumble with his cooking and kindness, Sweetie Belle with her smiles and silliness… It was so strange, looking back on those days. It was just a week or so ago, but so much had changed so fast. And Cozy Glow had been left behind.

Just like when her parents left her at an orphanage.

Just like when the princesses and Discord decided to cage her in darkness.

Was it just her fate? Whenever she was about to win, whenever things were starting to look up for her, they would come crashing down? Just one week ago, she had a home again. Her first real home since she left the orphanage in Cloudsdale. One week ago she had a caretaker who she could respect, if not... love. One week ago she could pursue her special talent for making artifacts in a serious manner. She had even found a colt who made her feel…

Light, happy. Good. He made her feel like she could be a good pony.

She had everything going well for the first time in her life. Then Flurry came. In one fell swoop, that one pony had cracked the foundation to all her happiness and sent her falling down to obscurity again.

Her anger began to subside, being replaced by a maelstrom of sadness.

This… wasn't fair. Hadn't she suffered enough pain and disappointment in her life already?

Was this her destiny? What if she was not meant for greatness after all? What if all she was meant to be was just… a pony, a background character to legends like Flurry and Twilight? The only thing she accomplished in her life were a couple of foals, and they would be the only ponies to remember her when she was gone… and in a hundred years or so, Cozy Glow would just be a footnote in history, as one of three who failed to take over Canterlot.

No... that mustn't be true. If there was one thing that had let her persevere against all odds, it was that she believed in her own destiny. Her marvelous destiny was, and always had been, her guiding star, the one thing she looked up to and took solace in. She knew she was meant for something great. She had always known that, somehow.

She could not lose that too. She had to hold on to the belief that she was meant for something more than just mediocrity.

But if she was, then she could not fail here. She had… to do something, anything to save herself from losing that. But what could one little pegasus pony do when all of her friends had just been conspiring against her this whole time?

Even… Rumble, too. When the chips were down, he had picked Flurry over her. He had even hugged her with his wing, like he wanted to protect her. Protect her from Cozy. Protect her from an enemy.

She felt like somepony had plunged a knife through her heart, just thinking about it. The image of him, wing over Flurry and leaned forward to launch at her was seared into her retinas. She couldn't get rid of it! Wherever she looked Rumble glared back, furious. She hiccuped a few times, feeling tears run down her cheeks. With shaking hooves, she pulled up a corner of her carpet and dabbed her eyes and muzzle.

She wanted to sit like that, and just cry for a while. She was a filly in distress; crying was a natural response. But she could not afford it now.

She hadn't lost everything yet. Twilight had not kicked her out yet, had she? No. There was still time. She pushed her sadness back and gathered up just a little bit of confidence. She even managed a threadbare, wavering smile to herself. She had done the impossible before, hadn't she? She just had to do it again.

She had to convince Twilight and Rumble to choose her over Flurry. She wiped a few more tears away and took a deep, shaky breath.

Her eyes fell on her workplace. On something that should not be there. Anger began to simmer again as she went up to it and picked up the intrusive feather in her mouth. She spat it away and it landed on the floor. Good. She did not want it anywhere near her precious artifacts.

She went over to it and sat down. Then she fixed it with a glare, as if she could intimidate the feather into leaving her life, and take the pony it came from with it.

"Dumb feather…"

Looking back to her now feather-free workspace, she realized she still had the quill for Rumble to make. She still needed a better feather though.

Or did she really? He still glared at her from the shadows, and his face told her with any and all clarity that he did not want anything to do with anything she had made. He had made his choice. Flurry was his friend, and Cozy was not.

The knife in her heart twisted. She winced, feeling an almost physical pain from the realization.

Rumble was already lost to her.

And Twilight was soon to follow.

No.

No, she wasn't.

She was meant for greatness, meant to be a princess, adored and loved by all. Each and every pony in the whole wide world was going to see her and when they did, they would wish to be her, Cozy had decided.

And to make sure that happened… She had to do something about Twilight. Save what could be saved. Cozy began to pace around her bedroom, looking absentmindedly on different things, but not seeing them, as different ideas and scenarios played in her head.

How do you convince a naïve, slightly awkward prodigy of magic that her perfect little niece was, in fact, a poor student?

You couldn't. Twilight was not going to pick Cozy after her outburst earlier. There was no way.

There was no fair way.

But… really, since when had Cozy let herself be constrained by what was fair and not? In fact, why did this have to be Twilight's choice in the first place? Why not simply force Twilight into doing it?

Cozy yelped and jumped back. Suddenly she stood face to face with a mirror. The other filly was cute and lovable, with a salmon coat and sky-blue curly mane done up with cream ribbons. Rust red, smiling eyes, and a demented smirk splitting her mouth open. Her twisted, evil smirk quickly melted into an expression filled with shock and fear.

No, nononoNO! NO! NO! She was… not that pony anymore! She had changed! She was better now! Twilight, Sweetie Belle and Rumble, they had saved her!

But… Rumble was gone. And Twilight was leaving. Only Sweetie Belle was left, and she was not here.

But she was still a good filly! Right? She just… she wanted things to be like they had before Flurry came! She didn't want to hurt anypony; she had learned not to do that!

The rictus grin returned to the filly in the mirror. She could almost hear herself whisper in that poison-laced voice.

"Oh golly you, for sure you just wanted to give Flurry a big, warm hug just before, riiiight?"

Cozy held her breath as a sudden realization hit her like a huge boulder. She had wanted to hurt. She had wanted to jump on Flurry and beat her with her bare hooves.

With a squeak in fear, she jumped back, away from the mirror and huddled up in the middle of her room. She turned around so she didn't see the mirror image. She didn't dare to look again.

"Cozy? Are you in there?"

Twilight's voice was soothing and caring. Enough so that Cozy wasn't even spooked by it, even in her unraveling state. She nodded for an answer, before remembering Twilight couldn't see her through the closed door. "I'm here!" Cozy's voice was shriller than she thought.

"Cozy, please don't do this to yourself!" Twilight called. She sounded desperate now. "You have come so far! You have such talent! Don't waste it all on hatred! You are better than that, Cozy! I know you are!"

No. Up until just a few days ago she had been better than that, but not anymore. She could have been. If her friends had been by her side and helped her, then she could have been. But she had been left behind, again. Betrayed. And the mirror didn't lie. It had shown what truly dwelled inside her heart.

"You don't think that!" Cozy shouted back at Twilight. "All you want is that I should be friends with your niece! That's all you want me to be! A friend to that orange lover! You never thought I was anypony special, did you?! You just thought I could be a good friend to good little Flurry Heart!"

"It's not like that at all, Cozy! You are special to me! You are my star student! You are already the pride of my life! Because I did so many bad things with you, but you are still doing so well! You are even accepting me, even if you hated me before!"

Cozy was crying again. She knew she was special. She knew how hard she had worked to be a good student.

Hearing Twilight say something like that should have been an important moment. A moment of pride, a moment to remember forever. Nopony had ever said something like that to the real her. "I am proud of you, Cozy," or "I'm happy to have you as a student."

But this was all a ploy, just a trick to get Cozy to do what Twilight wanted. She didn't mean any of it. It was almost like Twilight was trying to torture her by taking such a special moment and squandering it like this.

Because Cozy wanted those words to be real! She wanted Twilight's approval! She wanted the praise! She wanted somepony to just say she had done good!

She… couldn't ruin this, could she? She couldn't go back to her old self anymore, could she? She had changed under Twilight's tutelage and Rumble's kindness. She didn't want to hurt them.

But they were hurting her by choosing Flurry…

Betray her friends, or betray herself. It was a choice no pony could make.

She wanted to scream. She did not know what else to do. She was at a loss, faced with an impossible choice. Out of sheer desperation she fixed the alicorn feather with a truly hateful glare before picking it up. She could almost feel the magic inside it.

Refined.

Galvanized.

A tiny mote of the strongest, purest and most powerful magic there was in the world. The magic of an alicorn.

And through the haze of her overloaded brain, an idea came to her.

She took it over to her workbench, and she started making something.

A quill. Same simple runes like the ones she had already made. But this one would be different. Before, she had infused her artifacts with her passion for creation, and her love for the colt who was sitting next to her.

She could not even hear Twilight anymore. Maybe she had just left too, like everypony else? There was no warmth, no love, no sweetness for her to draw upon now. Now she called upon other forces. The only one sitting next to her now was her own twisted mirror image. Cozy Glow poured all the rage, all the fear, all the delirium she felt into her artifact.

She did not know exactly what it would do to the quill, but this would not be a good thing. It would be an artifact created in immense sorrow, fueled by her stress and nurtured by her hatred. She did not want this to be an artifact that helped other ponies… this was going to be an instrument of pain, one way or another.

An evil artifact… it was her one hope for scaring Twilight into submission. A desperate gambit made by a desperate pony who saw all she desired being snatched away. Or maybe she wouldn't complete it. Maybe she would find herself before it came to that.

She didn't know what she was going to do. She felt so very lost.

She smiled through her tears. Sobs and laughter fought in her throat. The sound that made it over her lips sounded almost insane, even to her own ears.


Cozy swept past them, out of the room, and Rumble glared after her. He was her friend, but he had his limits, and Cozy had passed it.

Oh, sure, he understood where she was coming from. He too would be angry if somepony he hated had been sneaking about in his room. But he was not going to let her dictate who he could be friends with. No chance. He may not be a friendship student, but he still knew she was wrong.

He wasn't the one at fault this time. He was sure of it.

But that didn't make it any more fun to see Cozy storm off. Once her frenzy spell wore off, she was not going to be happy about this.

He should probably be there to talk to her then. When she was afraid or angry, she was at her most dangerous and her most crafty. He had seen that when she tried to escape from Twilight that one time. It would be better for everypony involved if somepony could help her pick up the pieces, once she had calmed down.

But… would she then relent? Ask for forgiveness? Sadly, Rumble doubted that. And if Cozy stood by her demand that he and Twilight choose between her and Flurry, then what? Would she ask the same the next time he wanted to make a friend? It wasn't impossible with her.

He could not live his life like that, bent to Cozy's every whim.

"Poor Cozy," Flurry said, ears drooping.

"No," Rumble corrected. "Poor you. This wasn't your fault. It was hers." No matter what happened to Cozy, Flurry should not have to think she deserved this. She didn't. Rumble knew she had tried hard, extending hoof after hoof to Cozy, only to be batted away every time.

"But she isn't herself," Flurry argued. "She is… confused. She has so many feelings she doesn't know what to do with them."

"Did… you at least learn something more about Cozy then?" Twilight sighed forlornly. She sat down on her haunches. "I will… talk to her. I'll make her reconsider somehow," Twilight said. Though she sounded tired and disappointed, there was no mistaking her resolve.

"It won't be easy, you know," Rumble said carefully. It wasn't his place to speak back to an alicorn, but… Twilight had to know.

"I know. But I have to. It's what I must do as a Princess, but more importantly because Cozy is my student, and my… friend. I have to get through to her. And I will."

"Good luck," Flurry said and put a small hoof on top of one of Twilight's. "I'll try to help too. If I could just understand her…"

Twilight smiled weakly and put Flurry's hoof between two of hers. "Thanks. I suppose we'll just cut our lesson short today then."

Rumble guessed that meant he was supposed to leave, so he stood back up and plodded to the door. Flurry followed, and Twilight didn't protest.

They left the private wing together in silence. He realized Cozy would probably explode again if she saw them like this.

"Twilight asked if you learnt something from her" Rumble broke the silence. "I guess she meant your mind reading ability. So… did you? 'Cause I think Twilight's gonna need all the help she can get."

"It's not mind reading," Flurry said, though she hesitated conspicuously after. "Or… well, I did see something bigger than ever before just now… like… much bigger. A whole web of what she felt and… stuff. But I don't even know where to start with it."

"Do you want to go flying a little?" Rumble proposed. "Always helps me think stuff through."

"Sure…" Flurry said, though she sounded a bit absent. She followed him, slowly, looking at the ground with a frown on her face.

He wanted to help. But how do you help with something you have never seen, and something you cannot quite imagine what it even looks like? What did Flurry "see"? An image? Or was it just something she herself felt somehow, and then she visualized it?

They came out of the castle and Rumble took wing, hovering a little bit over the ground. Flurry just stood still, lost in her own world. He didn't want to interrupt, but he couldn't just leave her standing there on the garden path, could he?

He nudged her, carefully. She jumped back with a surprised expression.

"Oh, sorry," she mumbled and flew up after him.

"I've never seen you this… concentrated before," Rumble remarked, hoping it was not rude.

"I've never had to do something like this either," Flurry said.

"Can you… describe it to me?" Rumble asked. "My brother always walks me through anything he wants to show me. He says it helps him understand it better too if he has to explain it."

"But I can't explain it," Flurry said with an annoyed huff. "It's just… everything! One pony shouldn't have that many emotions! She should explode!"

"Well… she basically did," Rumble reminded.

"Uh… yeah, I suppose," Flurry said dejectedly.

They fell into a rhythm of flying around the spires of the castle. Gentle spiralling turns, upwards and downwards in a comfy mix. It was perfect for that mindless type of flight where one just wanted to move the wings a little while focusing on something else.

"Just try to explain, please," Rumble begged. "She's my friend. I want to help if I can. Just… start telling me what you… uh, saw. Just with one line, don't go into any details. Just tell me."

"Well… her feelings then," Flurry said. "I saw what she felt in a moment, and how her feelings connected to each other."

"Okay, feelings, gotcha," Rumble said, even though he still had no idea what that meant in practice. "And what were some feelings you saw?"

"A lot of bad stuff," Flurry said. "Like… she is angry, and sad, and really anxious about something, and I think she felt like she wasn't good enough too, and then she is jealous and… everything was jumbled together in a huge tangle, feeding off one another!"

Rumble nodded. While he could not imagine how that actually looked, he felt like it made some sense. "Yeah… Remember how I told you Cozy might be jealous of you? First because you were a princess, like she wanted, and then because she thought you were trying to steal my friendship away. Then the anxiety could be because she thinks it is already happening."

"I guess that makes sense," Flurry said. "But there was something else too. In the middle of everything… like, snared by all her bad feelings, there was another emotion too. I think she wanted to hide that the most, behind all the bad. But everything came from there! It was like... the middle of everything!"

"What emotion was that?" Rumble asked, intrigued. With Cozy, there was more often than not another layer to her thoughts, another dimension to her plans. Perhaps she really was so stuck in her old ways that her mind had adopted a similar approach. Layers of feelings, where you only saw what she wanted to show, whereas she kept the bigger picture a secret? It certainly sounded like Cozy, sad though it was to admit.

Was she really still so paranoid that she kept her true feelings such a closely guarded secret, even to her closest friends?

Flurry shook her head. "That's the thing… I couldn't tell. I haven't felt anything like that before. It didn't feel like… anything I've ever felt! But it wasn't bad, is the thing! It was a good emotion, only she surrounded it with so much bad. It kinda reminded me of friendship. And of my parents."

"Hmm…" Rumble rubbed his chin. "So a good emotion that she hides under a lot of bad stuff then? And friendship… but it isn't friendship? But what emotion can't you recognize? Everypony must have felt everything at some point, haven't they?"

"That's what I thought too!"

They flew on in silence.

What emotion could one not recognize? What good emotions could Cozy have felt that Flurry had not? There were probably plenty of bad emotions, given that she had tried to conquer the world, but what good?

"Do you think we should ask Twilight?" Rumble suggested, finally. "She knows another side of Cozy than you and me… maybe she has some idea? And if this strange emotion is like friendship, then maybe she could tell us what it means?"

"I guess…" Flurry said. "My mom always says Twilight will know what to… what… to…do…"

Flurry halted her flight and hovered in midair. Rumble had to turn around, lest he'd leave her behind.

She looked… strangely tense. Her eyes were wide open and locked on something very far away, and she had a hoof over her mouth. Her faraway stare flicked to him, then towards the castle… more precisely a certain balcony, to a certain room.

"Rumble… I think I get it," she said. He could almost feel the weight of her words like a physical impact. "I'm so stupid! Come on, I know what we need to do!"