Dusk Shadow has a great responsibility placed in front of him. But he has his family and others to help him. And he'll need it.
Dusk Shadow, weeks after being caught by Twilight Sparkle, is summoned to the Palace with his parents. New opportunities and challenges await the clan, and overshadowing everything is the challenge of dealing with a certain villainous filly.
Canterlot dawned dark and grey and a misty fog hung over the usually lively city like a shroud.
The weather made a nice backdrop to the tension Princess Twilight Sparkle was feeling. Her usually vibrant personality was noticeably absent as she looked over the draft of the decree she had drafted by her unicorn assistant, the quiet and efficient Raven Inkwell.
Twilight looked up from her desk at Raven Inkwell, and noticed how nervous and apprehensive the body language of the young mare was.
“Your majesty”, Raven Inkwell uttered, paused and then added, “Is this the right course of action? Ponies will likely be afraid, and I confess to have doubts myself.”
Princess Twilight Sparkle sighed and facehoofed, but she knew Ms. Inkwell both meant well, and was correct. Even her best friends would question the practicality, or even the sanity, of this admittedly shaky plan of action.
“No, Inkwell”, Twilight Sparkle responded. “This may not be the wisest course of action, but after lying awake late into the night for a few weeks, I’ve decided it’s what should be done.”
“Now, please make sure to send my letter to Mayor Mare of Ponyville, and to clear the funding with our Farm And Housing Advisor”, Twilight added, before pausing and speaking again. “And when the expected guests arrive, have the Royal Guard direct them to my private study.”
“Yes, Your Majesty,'' Raven Inkwell replied before doing a slight curtsy and leaving before her frustration at having to deal with that one pain in the tail advisor became too obvious. Ms. Inkwell could still hear “You can’t cut back on bits! You will regret this!” in her dreams.
Princess Twilight Sparkle went to her study and laid out some cups of tea and snacks for the upcoming conversation. A simple spell allowed her to keep the tea hot and the sugar cookies fresh while she waited.
Twilight gathered up and reread the notes her intelligence agency was able to find out about a young pegasus colt named Dusk Shadow, and his two parents, a tiny light grey pegasus mare with an indigo mane and tail named Smoke Signal, and a tall, wiry dark blue pegasus stallion with a white mane with a black streak through it named Morse Code. Smoke Signal bore a smoke ring cutie mark, and her mate, Morse Code, had a telegraph pole cutie mark.
Princess Twilight Sparkle, two weeks previous, had met the interesting colt in the Royal Statue Garden after midnight. He seemed convinced that the hateful and villainous filly named Cozy Glow could be redeemed. Furthermore, Dusk Shadow, though only a year or so older than Cozy Glow herself, stated that he was meant to help with this path of redemption.
The picture of Dusk Shadow, with his ashy grey coat and navy blue mane, disappeared as Princess Twilight Sparkle closed the folder and put up the notes on the family as one of her Royal Guards opened her study door.
“Your majesty, your guests have arrived”, the guard stated. “They are outside in the hall. Do you want them to come in now, or wait momentarily?”
“Please, have them come right in,” Princess Twilight Sparkle replied as she put on a smile to disarm her guests with.
The Royal Guard stepped aside and motioned for a trio of pegasi to enter. Dusk Shadow, eyes wide and gazing with interest at the decor, was followed cautiously by his parents. Their ears wanted to lay back and their forced smiles looked more like grimaces.
“Come. Come. Have a seat. There are refreshments," Twilight Sparkle stated. “I’ve been looking forward to meeting you Ms. Signal and you Mr. Code”. “Your son is quite a colt.” Twilight added.
“Yes, he gives us quite a time keeping him occupied,” Morse Code added as he picked up a cookie and started nibbling on it. After a moment, Morse Code began “Your majesty, my wife and I apologize for our son’s behavior”.
“Oh, no need” Twilight replied with a small smile. “Your son is not in trouble. Curiosity and a drive to understand are things to admire,” Twilight added.
“Princess Twilight” Smoke Signal said, “If our son, Dusk Shadow, is not in trouble, then why were we asked to come here at our earliest convenience?” Smoke Signal asked with a touch of unease and irritation.
“I have an offer, and a request, if your family is willing to consider it” Twilight Sparkle announced with a warm smile directed at Dusk Shadow.
Dusk Shadow had been quiet and hoping to avoid much notice, but he was now fully the center of attention as both of his parents gazed down upon him as well.
“Miss Twilight, does this have to do with Cozy Glow?” Dusk Shadow asked.
“Indeed, Dusk Shadow. I have not been sleeping well these last few weeks as I keep turning over in my mind what happened with Cozy Glow” Princess Twilight Sparkle intoned, a slight frown crossing her features. “If your family accepts the responsibility I have planned for you three, then I will make an announcement later today about Cozy Glow being released from her stone prison.”
“Dusk Shadow, what exactly did you say to the Princess?” his parents uttered simultaneously.
“Please calm down” Twilight Sparkle said with a bit of force. “Dusk Shadow told me about his cutie mark, and his visit to a psychic. Your son believes one of his purposes is to help Ms. Glow, and hopefully understand her. I failed as the Princess of Friendship. Maybe we should give your son a chance.”
“Your majesty” Smoke Signal started to reply with a forehoof raised and then lowered as she trailed off.
“And please, just call me Twilight. I get enough formality from the nobles” Twilight added with another small smile.
“Miss Twilight” Smoke Signal started again, “you said you have a request/offer for us? Please elaborate.”
“I am approving the building of a new public library in Ponyville, and upon asking around I found out that you, Ms. Signal, have worked in the past at the Manehattan Public Library” Twilight announced as she looked at Smoke Signal steadily.
“And you, Morse Code, worked part-time as a newspaper editor in a few small towns when you were young” Princess Twilight Sparkle added as she turned to Mr. Code with the same steady expression. “I am offering you the job of Editor for The Ponyville Gazette, a new newspaper I’m founding.”
“I have sent a letter to Mayor Mare of Ponyville explaining all of this. She will find a home for you four and Dusk Shadow can choose to either join the fillies and colts in Ms. Cheerilee’s school or enroll into the School Of Friendship.” Twilight said.
“Four?” Morse Code asked.
“You will also be asked to house Ms. Cozy Glow under your roof during the duration we are attempting this plan.” Twilight replied.
“But why move to Ponyville?” Morse Code asked and then having a thoughtful expression cross his face.
“Three reasons” Twilight noted. “First, Canterlot is crowded and Cozy Glow would be under a microscope here. Nobles, royal guards, and myself would always be tempted to pry into every moment of her days.” “Second, Cozy Glow had some positive interactions with a trio of fillies around her and Dusk Shadows age which live in Ponyville.” “And third, my best friends live in Ponyville, and they can keep Cozy Glow in check without it needing to be front page news in the big cities.”
“Dusk Shadow,” Twilight intoned solemnly as she turned and smiled at the young, nervous colt. “Your job will be the most important of all. You will be spending time with Cozy Glow. I hope you can be a good influence on her. You are why I’m choosing to take this risk. Please succeed where I have failed. Please show her the magic of real friendship.”
“Could you give us a moment to discuss this?” asked Smoke Signal.
“Of course. Go and talk things over. Lunch is in a few hours. We’ll discuss this more as we eat. The palace maids will direct you to your rooms” Twilight Sparkle replied.
“Thank you, Miss Twilight” Smoke Signal stated. “It has been a pleasure meeting you” she added.
“Yes, lovely meeting you and we appreciate the offer you’re giving us” Morse Code replied.
“Ms. Twilight, thanks for believing in me” Dusk Shadow contributed, blushing lightly as he did so.
Princess Twilight Sparkle nodded and smiled at their responses, and watched as they turned and walked leisurely out of the study.
“The first steps have been taken.” Twilight softly said, almost in a whisper as she stood alone.
Dusk Shadow and his parents quickly followed the maid they had been directed to by an otherwise silent Royal Guard upon leaving the audience with Princess Twilight Sparkle. They each had the preceding meeting, and the opportunity given, in the forefront of their minds.
“This is your s-suite” the maid, still new to her job and somewhat nervous, stuttered. “You will be escorted to have lunch with her majesty in an hour and a half. If you need anything, please ring the enchanted bell upon your nightstand and a palace servant will come to assist you in any way we can.” she added.
“Thank you, that will be all for now, miss” Morse Code said.
Morse Code turned around as the maid closed the door to see his lovely wife, Smoke Signal inspecting their suite. Dusk Shadow had climbed atop the huge, soft bed in the side of the room.
“Mom, Dad” Dusk Shadow said after getting himself situated on the mattress, “I think we should accept Ms. Twilight’s offer.”
Smoke Signal and Morse Code shared a glance, as though reading each other's thoughts, and then they both sat on the bed bookending their son.
“Hon” Smoke Signal said, “We believe you when you told us what Miss Cleo said. But you do understand this isn’t a story in one of your junior detective novels.”
“I know that, mom!” Dusk Shadow exclaimed. “I’m not a clueless foal. This is a big responsibility, and while I can’t do it without you two, I think we can succeed. And I feel we must try.”
“I will admit I have missed the quiet of a library,” Smoke Signal replied while ruffling her son’s mane.
“That makes two of us on board”, Dusk Shadow said and giggled from his mother’s treatment.
“Son, you have spunk. I’ll give you that.” Morse Code said as he smiled at his family. Then he met his son’s eyes and added, “So you really believe your path is to help this filly named Cozy Glow?”
“Yes Dad, I feel it from the base of my wings to the marrow of my bones.” Dusk Shadow stated firmly. Dusk Shadow then hugged both his parents and said, “You can count on me. I will do my best.”
“Then I say we do this as well” Morse Code responded as he hugged his son.
“We’ll be moving to Ponyville.” Smoke Signal intoned with a bit of a hitch in her voice. “I gotta give the two stallions in my life some love,” she added as she pulled Dusk Shadow and Morse Code into a group hug.
The trio came together and statements of love echoed in the spacious suite as the family got ready for the lunch meeting with Princess Sparkle.
A short time later the young maid was trotting back to the room assigned to Dusk Shadow and his parents. As she approached the door, she heard some friendly chatter and it made her smile lightly as she knocked on the door before entering.
“Her Majesty requests you join her for Lunch,” the maid said.
“Will there be dessert?” Smoke Signal asked. “Germane Chocolate Cake, perhaps?” she further inquired.
“Miss Signal, our chefs will fix anything you request” their escort replied and then added “You are guests of Her majesty.”
“No need to treat us any differently from other ponies,” Morse Code said.
Dusk Shadow, just like much of the trip to the palace, was quiet. He was too preoccupied with thoughts of a certain pink coated villain with a blue mane and tail. Why him? He was just a colt. He didn’t have many friends, and yet he was expected to help Cozy Glow learn about making true friends?
Dusk Shadow signed and tried to put the doubts out of his mind for the time being.
“Let’s go,” Smoke Signal said cheerfully. “And Dusk, honey, please stop moping.”
“I’m not moping, mom. I’m just thinking.” Dusk Shadow replied.
“Please follow me”, the maid said and started out of the suite with the family following behind her.
The quartet was quiet as they trotted from hallway to hallway. A pair of Royal Guards came into view as they rounded a corner and finally reached their destination.
“Here we are” the young maid said, still a bit nervous. She then left to do some of her daily chores.
“I’ll let Her Majesty know you’ve arrived,” one of the guards said before quickly ducking inside.
The family stood close together as they prepared to tell Princess Twilight Sparkle their decision.
After a few moments the guard returned.
“The Princess will see you now” he said.
Dusk Shadow took the lead with his parents a few steps behind and flanking him. He briefly glanced at the finery around the compact dinner table, now freshly laden with a variety of dishes.
Dusk Shadow then took a moment to admire how regal Twilight looked with her crown and royal regalia. Enhanced by her mane and tail waving in a non-existent breeze.
“Hello again,” Twilight Sparkle said, “Please help yourself before we begin discussing the topic at hoof.”
“Thank you, Miss Twilight. This looks like a lovely meal.” Morse Code replied.
“Yes, and this is most generous of your time.” Smoke Signal added.
“I learned generosity from the best”, Princess Twilight Sparkle, briefly reminiscing about her friend, Rarity.
The conversation paused as the quartet finished getting their food. Once they were all comfortable, and the plates were loaded, the conversation started up again.
“Miss Twilight, my family and I have agreed on our decision.” Morse Code said. “We have agreed to take you up on your job offers in Ponyville.” he further added.
“And I will work with Ms. Cozy Glow” Dusk Shadow stated firmly, “It is a privilege to help you with this task, Miss Twilight” the colt added.
A big, bright smile broke out on Twilight’s face.
“That’s wonderful to hear. Would it be possible for you to start this evening?” Twilight Sparkle said.
“Yes, I think we can get a few things and be on the train to Ponyville this evening” Smoke Signal noted.
“And I will arrange plans with a mover this afternoon” Morse Code stated.
“Lovely, then this afternoon during daily court I will announce Cozy Glow is being released into a rehabilitation program.” Twilight Sparkle stated firmly then added, “I will not require your family to be present and I will attempt to keep your names out of the Canterlot papers.”
“Will you be alerting Ponyville of this plan of action?” Dusk Shadow asked.
“I have a meeting with my closest friends tonight in a local restaurant in Ponyville to give them the basics. And I will also drop by and inform Mayor Mare of Ponyville so that she can be prepared for the town’s reaction.” Twilight Sparkle replied.
“Now that is settled for the moment,” Twilight Sparkle said cheerily as she held up a glass of wine, “A toast to our success.”
“Here here” Morse Code and Smoke Signal replied.
“Yep!” Dusk Shadow exclaimed as he picked up his mug of apple juice, making sure to be included with the grown-ups.
With the toast complete, the quartet descended into a companionable silence as they finished their meals.
Many challenges awaited in the future, and any success would be earned. But for Dusk Shadow and his family, they’d face them together.
A grey, half-light filtered through the windows of the Royal Palace in Canterlot, distorting shadows and dulling the usually bright colors of the Throne Room and it’s typically garishly dressed inhabitants.
Princess Twilight Sparkle strode with purpose down the center aisle and climbed the steps to her throne without acknowledging the crowd of nobles, guards, various assistants, undersecretaries and gophers in the audience.
Twilight Sparkle set down with grace and then she nodded to her personal advisor, Raven Inkwell.
“Citizens of Equestria, Princess Twilight Sparkle will not be holding a normal open court session this afternoon. She has written letters and sent orders via your department offices when applicable”, Raven Inkwell told the gathering.
Mutterings and a few slight gasps broke out amongst the ponies who had planned on airing their issues to Her Majesty on this day.
“Citizens of Equestria,” Twilight Sparkle began, silencing the crowd. “Traditional Day Courts will resume in a few days. But I asked for your presence today as witnesses to a royal decree.”
“What I am about to tell you is being shared as we speak with the heads of every major newspaper in Equestria. They are being instructed to share just the facts of this decree, and to not use sensational scare tactics in their stories.” Twilight further added.
“What’s happening? Are we at war?” one worried mare asked.
“Did Princess Cadence run off with a pool boy?” a stallion blurted out.
“Listen citizens, and I will explain.” Princess Twilight Sparkle calmly stated, mostly silencing the mutters.
“Forgiveness and paths to redemption are two things our society is said to be built upon.” Twilight said. “From Princess Luna herself to Discord to my good friend, Starlight Glimmer. Each of them were given chances to redeem themselves.” she added.
“Therefore, I am giving Cozy Glow the same opportunity. I decree she shall be released and a family has been chosen to take her in. This family will be the executor of my will. There will be precautions taken and enchantments used to prevent Ms. Glow from fleeing justice. There will be experienced, intelligent folks around to help and advise this family and Ms. Glow in this endeavor.” Princess Twilight Sparkle said.
A rather pompous looking noble stallion stepped forward. “And which family has been chosen for this chance at honor and glory?” the stallion asked.
Princess Twilight Sparkle looked flatly at the stallion for a moment’s pause before replying.
“The family in question can choose to reveal their names to Equestria if they so choose. They have a challenge ahead, and I will not foist upon them the added distractions of media looking for a scoop, nobles looking to gain influence, or perhaps ponies just wanting to harm Ms. Cozy Glow.” Twilight answered.
“Cozy Glow attempted to conquer Equestria on two occasions. But she is just a pegasus filly. With watchful eyes, and proper guidance, she is no threat to our nation as a whole.” Twilight went on.
“Before I close this session of the Day Court, I ask that we all hope things work out in this plan. And with that, I adjourn this session. Remember, regular Day Court will resume in a few days.” Princess Twilight Sparkle spoke with finality.
As the assorted ponies streamed out of the Throne Room, Twilight Sparkle stepped down from her throne and approached Raven Inkwell.
“How do you feel that went, Ms. Inkwell?” Twilight asked.
Raven Inkwell took a moment to collect her thoughts, as her ears and tail twitched momentarily.
“Ms. Sparkle, I believe it may have been better to have a short Q & A, but otherwise you did well.” Raven Inkwell replied.
Princess Twilight Sparkle hummed noncommittally.
Raven Inkwell hurried to add to her thoughts.
“However, it was smart to send out those letters before the Day Court started. And as you requested, I have one of the assistant’s from the Royal Treasury escorting young Mr. Dusk Shadow and his parents as they take care of preparations to leave. Once the family is on the train to Ponyville, he shall return and let us know.” Ms. Inkwell stated.
“Delightful.” Princess Twilight Sparkle said and then smiled.
“Ms. Sparkle, will you be having Dinner here in the castle?” Ms. Inkwell ventured.
“No, Ms. Inkwell. I will be having a small meal at Sugarcube Corner in Ponyville with my five best friends. I will inform them of today’s happenings there. But first I will be having a brief meeting with Mayor Mare and get on the same page.” Princess Twilight Sparkle answered. “When will you be releasing Ms. Cozy Glow from the statue?” Raven Inkwell further inquired.
“Tomorrow. Give her hosts a night to get settled in before their world likely goes topsy-turvy.” Twilight responded.
“Now, Ms. Inkwell, please inform Spike I will be visiting Ponyville for a few hours and if any important messages come up to send them to me.” Princess Twilight Sparkle said authoritatively.
“Yes, Ms. Sparkle. I will go tell him right away. Good luck, and enjoy your visit.” Raven Inkwell said, before turning to trot out of the Throne Room.
Princess Twilight Sparkle took a moment to savor the quiet of solitude before charging up her horn and preparing a teleportation spell. One flash later and only memories, and perhaps a few persistent dust bunnies, remained.
Twilight Sparkle appeared in front of Ponyville City Hall and took a moment to reminisce upon all her time spent in the quaint, though anything but peaceful, town.
She waved and exchanged pleasantries with some passing locals before she trotted into the building, her hooves echoing slightly off the front steps.
The City Hall was quiet, except for the typing of a unicorn secretary outside Mayor Mare’s office.
Princess Twilight Sparkle walked up and cleared her throat to get the secretary’s attention.
“Oh, Your Majesty!” exclaimed the startled secretary. “The Mayor is expecting you.” the unicorn quickly added.
“Thank you miss, and please, just call me Ms. Sparkle.” Twilight replied and then she passed through the mayor’s door.
“Princess Sparkle, so nice to see you again.” Mayor Mare stated as she smiled fondly. “Your letter said you had something important to tell me?” the mayor added.
“Did you get the letter and funding about procuring a home in Ponyville for a family moving in?” Twilight asked.
“Yes, I did Princess Sparkle. There is a simple two story house a few streets away from here that should suffice. It has three bedrooms and two bathrooms.” Mayor Mare replied. “Now, what does a new family moving into Ponyville have to do with important news?” the mayor added as she gave a searching look to Twilight Sparkle.
Twilight Sparkle simply smiled back at Mayor Mare.
“Mayor, this family includes a librarian for our library we’re almost done rebuilding as well as the editor of Ponyville’s new newspaper. The librarian is a pegasus mare named Smoke Signal. Her husband, the future editor, is a pegasus stallion named Morse Code.” Twilight said and then added, “But those are carrots to the stick.”
Mayor Mare frowned.
“And what is the ‘stick’, Ms. Sparkle?” Mayor Mare said.
“The ‘stick’ is what their family is being tasked with, Mayor.” Twilight said simply. “I am going to release Cozy Glow. She will be assigned to live with this new family here in Ponyville. Precautions will be put in place to keep her from escaping. Furthermore, my best friends will be in Ponyville to keep an eye on her. But you are encouraged to write me and let me know of anything that happens involving the family or Ms. Glow.” Princess Twilight Sparkle said.
Mayor Mare looked at Twilight Sparkle with a deadpan stare.
“Well, I hope you and this family know what you all are doing.” Mayor Mare finally replied.
“That makes two of us,” Twilight replied. “Well, I’m going to let you get back to your administrative duties,” she added as she turned and prepared to leave.
“Please visit sometime, and take care.” Mayor Mare said as Princess Twilight Sparkle turned and started to leave.
After a few moments, Mayor Mare stood up from her desk and trotted over to a non-descript cabinet. She opened the middle drawer, and pulled out a bottle of locally made whiskey named Mare’s Mark. “Why is it always this town?” she said sighing as she poured a shot.
Upon opening the City Hall doors, Twilight Sparkle was beset upon by a pink ambush.
“Twilight! It’s so great to see you!” Pinkie Pie exclaimed with a smile as wide as Ghastly Gorge.
“Pinkie, you’re just the mare I was about to look for!” Twilight replied as they hugged. “Can you gather up the girls and meet me at Sugarcube Corner?” she asked.
“Absopositively!” Pinkie replied, beaming. “I’ll be there quicker than two shakes of Celestia’s heavenly flank!” Pinkie Pie added before she took off in a blur.
Twilight stood there for a moment with a dazed expression on her muzzle.
“Her what flank? You know what, never mind! That way lies madness.” Twilight Sparkle said to herself before she started trotting to Sugarcube Corner.
Twilight Sparkle arrived soon and chose a large table in the corner before she ordered coffee and a bowl of Sweet Apple Acres brand apple fritters as an appetizer for her and her friends.
Just as Mrs. Cake left to get her order, Pinkie Pie bursted through the front doors dragging the other four mares that made up their circle of best friends.
“We got here as fast as I could corral these lovely varmints!” Pinkie Pie exclaimed.
Twilight Sparkle stared at the big pink balloon Cowpony hat Pinkie was wearing, and then facehooved.
“Well, thank you, Pinkie.” Twilight finally said. “And girls, glad you could come at such non-existent notice.” Twilight added apologetically.
“Oh, don’t mention it, darling. We’re always happy to visit with you.” Rarity said.
Fluttershy just nodded as Rarity spoke and added her own smile at Twilight Sparkle.
“Ah reckon any chance to visit with y’all is a mite good one.” added Applejack.
“Yeah, now what is the big news? Are the rumors that Princess Cadance ran off with a pool boy true!?” Rainbow Dash exclaimed.
Twilight Sparkle rolled her eyes at her typically excited friend.
“Nothing like that, Rainbow Dash.” Twilight said.
“Girls,” Twilight Sparkle started, “there are two pieces of news. First is a family of three pegasi will be moving into Ponyville tonight. The parents will be filling up job openings in town. The more important part though involves their colt.”
“Is this the mysterious colt you found loitering in the Royal Garden?” Rarity asked.
“Yes, Rarity, it is the same colt,” Twilight replied before continuing, “this colt made a case for redeeming Cozy Glow. And we’re going to attempt to do just that. Cozy Glow will be staying with this family here in Ponyville.” Twilight finished and waited for an outburst.
“That big grumpy pants is coming back here?” Pinkie Pie asked as the color dimmed in her muzzle.
“Sugarcube, ah ain’t one to question your judgment normally, but ah reckon you need to explain this one.” Applejack stated.
Rarity opened her muzzle to speak, but stopped and just looked flummoxed over what to say.
“Hey, if she tries anything we can handle her!” boasted Rainbow Dash.
“I’d prefer it if she stayed in statue form, if that’s alright with you” Fluttershy chimed in.
“Girls, I feel this is the right decision.” Twilight said in response to her friends. “I will have enchantments and such preventing Cozy Glow from making a getaway. And you can easily keep one pegasus filly from doing too much.”
“The hope is that spending some time with a stable family unit, and around foals her age, will teach her the proper ways of friendship.” Twilight Sparkle said and then looked from Rarity and Applejack to Rainbow Dash. “Also, I’d like for her to spend some time with the Cutie Mark Crusaders and their friends.” she further added.
Twilight’s five best friends exchanged glances and nods, as if they were telepathically communicating. Finally, Applejack spoke.
“Sugarcube, I won’t sugarcoat this. Ah reckon we all have our concerns, but we’re with you one hundred percent on this.” Applejack stated.
The other four mares nodded in agreement as they smiled at Twilight.
“Thank you, girls!” Twilight Sparkle exclaimed happily, as her eyes misted up a bit. “This means a lot to me.” she then added.
“Think nothing of it, my dear Twilight. We’re always here to help a friend.” Rarity said.
“Now let’s eat before the Keebler Thieves steal our snacks!” Pinkie Pie yelled.
The other five looked at each other, and after a moment, facehooved.
The six friends then dove into the appetizers and began to chat about lighter topics. Laughter spilled out, almost like a wave, from Sugarcube Corner into the street outside.
A few hours later a tired, and very stuffed, Princess Twilight Sparkle returned to the palace and her bedchambers. While getting ready to sleep, she paused and looked out the window in the direction of the Royal Statue Garden. “Tomorrow will be tiring. I just know it.” Twilight muttered before climbing in bed and dozing off for the night.
Canterlot’s central hub of the train station hummed with activity. Ponies, Gryphons, Minotaurs, and even a few Diamond Dogs mingled and discussed the events of the day while keeping an eye on the wall ticker of arrival and departure times.
Kiosks sold snacks and keepsakes for travelers who needed a last-minute souvenir for their family to play with for a day and then forget about.
A brightly-colored neon green and canary yellow booth labeled “Tourist Information” passed out literature and gave new arrivals directions to Canterlot’s tourist traps.
In this barely controlled maelstrom, a navy blue and ash grey pegasus colt named Dusk Shadow and his parents awaited the arrival of the nightly train to Ponyville. A new start awaited the trio down the tracks.
“Hon, did you get everything squared away with that lovely Ms. Inkwell?” his mother, Smoke Signal, asked.
“Yes, sweetie. She helped me get in contact with a reliable moving company. They will be able to bring the rest of our stuff at the end of the week.” his father, Morse Code, replied.
“That is good news. At least the mayor of Ponyville was able to rustle up some basic furnishings for us at the last minute,” Smoke Signal said. Then she added, “Though I do not know why we were offered quills to go with our sofa.”
A passing Earth Pony stallion stopped and cleared his throat.
“Excuse me. I have been to Ponyville a few times on business, and just thought you may be interested to learn there is a shop named ‘Quills & Sofas’ in Ponyville. It seems to be a bit of a local mystery how such an odd combination store works, but it is Ponyville. Stranger things have been known to occur there.” the Earth Pony stated.
“Thank you,” Morse Code said to the fellow stallion.
“The 8:30 PM train to Ponyville is now boarding.” a voice over the station’s intercom announced.
“That’s our ride!”, Dusk Shadow yelled with excitement. He looked like a typical energetic colt in that moment and his parents exchanged a weary grin with each other.
“Well, it was nice meeting you, Sir. I hope you have a lovely evening.” Morse Code said to the stallion they had just met.
Smoke Signal was gathering up their tickets and small hoofbags. As well as keeping their colt from darting off ahead.
“Enjoy your time in Ponyville.” the unnamed stallion replied as Morse Code had begun trotting toward their train with his wife and colt.
“Tickets please”, an aged mare wearing a uniform of the Equestrian Union Train Company requested as the family reached the waiting train.
Steam was starting to billow out as the conductor’s warmed the engines.
“Here you go, miss.” Smoke Signal said and handed over three tickets.
“Thank you, ma’am.” the mare said. “The dining car will open up in a few minutes. Enjoy your trip.” the mare added.
The family of pegasi climbed up the train steps and quickly found their private room and placed their bags under the bunk beds the spartan room included.
“Mom and Dad,” Dusk Shadow started, getting their attention, “May I go to the dining cart and get a snack?” he asked.
“You may, but don’t be gone long, and do not go exploring other cars, son.” Morse Code said firmly as he hoofed over a few bits.
“Thanks, Dad!” Dusk Shadow said happily as he pranced through the door.
“And now we’re alone for the first time today.” Smoke Signal stated as she winked at her husband.
“Surely just a coincidence.” Morse Code grinned back before climbing into bed beside his lovely wife.
Meanwhile, the excited Dusk Shadow had literally bounced off the wall a time or two in his desire to see what desserts were available.
Dusk Shadow paused, images of sweets dancing in his head temporarily forgotten, as he observed a group of four ponies dressed like Gum Horseshoes in old detective comics his father showed him when has was just a little foal. Dusk Shadow remembered how it was discussing a “whodonedidit,” or however his father put it, with his mother when Dusk Shadow had gotten his cutie mark.
A pair of powder blue unicorns were pouring what appeared to be martinis from a pitcher for the quartet. The stallion had a martini glass for a cutie mark and the mare had an olive stuck with a toothpick as her cutie mark. The mare of the duo then noticed Dusk Shadow looking at them with a starstruck expression on his muzzle.
“Oh, hello there, young colt. Were you looking for the waiter or the food cart?” the unicorn mare asked kindly.
“Oh, excuse me miss!” Dusk Shadow blurted out. “I was thinking you and your company look like characters in an old detective story,” he added.
Both unicorns busted out laughing while an Earth Pony stallion with a slate grey mane, a red coat and a magnifying glass cutie mark snorted. The fourth pony, a black pegasus stallion with a bright white mane with grey highlights and a cutie mark of some kind of hat, just stared flatly at his compatriots.
“Well, funny you should mention that because we’re detectives going to investigate a murder.” the unicorn stallion said cheerfully.
“A murder!?” Dusk Shadow gasped and paled.
“Oh, don’t listen to that old fool.” the unicorn mare re-assured Dusk Shadow.
“What these two mean,” the pegasus said, breaking his silence, “is that we have been invited to a murder mystery weekend at the Filthy Rich estate. We have been given these outfits, and once we arrive we will be given characters to play over the weekend as we try to solve the crime.” he further explained.
“That is awesome!” Dusk Shadow yelled excitedly.
“Ah, the exuberance of the young.” the Earth Pony stallion said tiredly. “But where are our manners? I’m Red Herring.” he added.
“I’m Spade Archer.” the pegasus stallion stated. “And this troublesome twosome are Shaken Gallantry and Stirred Gallantry.” the pegasus continued.
“Oh, you know you love us.” Shaken Gallantry said cheekily. “If it wasn’t for us, you’d never find the Maltese Gryphon statuette.” he added.
“You told me you lost that to the Mare In The Lake!” Red Herring blurted out.
“Gentlecolts, that adventure is ancient history.” Stirred Gallanty said as she smiled at Dusk Shadow. “Surely, a handsome colt like yourself has a name.” she said.
“I’m Dusk Shadow.” he replied trying to appear confident, “and I will be a detective when I grow up.” Dusk Shadow boasted.
“A detective, hmm?” Spade Archer asked.
“Yes, it’s my destiny.” Dusk Shadow stated with conviction.
“Do you want some advice?” Red Herring asked.
“Yes, that would be great!” Dusk Shadow yelled.
“Find yourself an honest and reliable Mare Friday.” Shaken Gallantry immediately offered before he was kicked in the ribs by Stirred Gallantry.
“What Shaken meant is to find people you trust to tell it to you straight.” Stirred Gallantry said.
Red Herring snickered at the two unicorns exchange before he added his two bits.
“If all the evidence is pointing in one direction, then be cautious.” Red Herring said.
Finally Spade Archer leaned forward and stared directing into Dusk Shadow’s muzzle.
“Always trust your instincts. They will not steer you wrong.” Spade Archer said with finality. “Now, go grab some food and get back to your cabin.” he ordered.
“Thank you all. I won’t forget this. I’ll be a detective and I will even write y’all about my cases!” Dusk Shadow excitedly called out as he grabbed some cupcakes off a tray and headed back towards his room.
“Cute kid.” Spade Archer said after Dusk Shadow left the dining car.
“What are your instincts saying?” Stirred Gallantry asked.
“That he’s got some big things ahead of him.” Spade Archer replied thoughtfully.
The conversation soon settled down as the party sipped their margaritas as the Ponyville Express thundered into the night.
In a passenger cabin a few cars down, a family of pegasi finished off a tray of cupcakes and then they got into bed, the parents curling up on either side of their colt. Their sleep was uninterrupted as the train rolled on.
“I was doing better when I was locked in stone,” she grumbled to herself as she was drug along in the purple glow of Princess Twilight Sparkle’s magic.
“I can hear you, Cozy,” Twilight Sparkle deadpanned. “And you are not going back into the statue. This is happening whether you care for it or not.”
“Well golly, thanks for being such a symbol of friendship and good nature!” Cozy Glow retorted, the sarcasm so thick you could cut it with a lightsaber.
Cozy Glow, upon noticing her verbal jab had no effect, began to pout. She tried for the third time (once for every hour out of the statue so far) to remove the enchanted choker Princess Twilight Sparkle had levitated onto her as she was just getting her bearings upon being freed.
“Leave that alone.” Twilight Sparkle said.
“It’s uncomfortable!”, Cozy Glow whined in reply. “And I swear I’ll be a good filly and won’t escape and plot some horrible revenge.”
Twilight Sparkle stopped and just stared at Cozy Glow flatly.
“Well, it is kinda uncomfortable for real though, Ms. Sparkle”, Cozy Glow said.
“Perish the thought that one of the biggest villains in Equestrian history was somewhat uncomfortable,” Twilight snarked. “The enchantments will keep you from flying higher than mailbox level and they have a tracking spell that doubles as an alarm spell if you try to leave the area designated as your new home.” Twilight took a breath and then added, “In the event the alarm is tripped, I will immediately teleport you to me.”
“But I’ll barely be able to fly,” Cozy Glow muttered.
Twilight Sparkle looked at Cozy Glow with only a sliver of compassion. “If you prove that you have changed your ways, and you fit into Equestrian society, then I will remove the choker,” Twilight stated. Then Twilight Sparkle smiled, “But next is getting you to Ponyville and introducing you to those ponies you’ll be staying with.”
Twilight Sparkle mused, “You may even not despise them. They have a colt about your age. You two will be starting Ponyville school together tomorrow.”
“No, please. Not school. Hey, my old cell in Tartarus is empty. Let’s talk this out, Princess.” Cozy Glow said as she tried to wriggle out of Twilight’s magic.
“Stop embarrassing yourself, Cozy. You are not going to get out of my magic.” Twilight said, with a slight smirk on her muzzle, “but if you agree to walk with me calmly then I will release you.”
Cozy Glow tried a few more contortions before sighing heavily. “Fine, I’ll come along.” Cozy replied.
Cozy Glow was lowered to the ground, and the purple aura blinked out.
Twilight Sparkle took a few steps to be right beside Cozy Glow before saying “Let’s go, Cozy. We’re expected shortly in Ponyville.” Twilight Sparkle stated.
Cozy Glow took a deep breath, then she suddenly tried to fly away from Twilight, but she only made it a few inches before Twilight’s magic caught her.
“You can lead a filly to friendship, but you can’t make her listen.” Twilight sighed. “Enough of this, I’m teleporting us to the central square of Ponyville and hoofing you off to them.”
Before Cozy Glow could react, she and Twilight Sparkle disappeared in a blue flash.
Meanwhile in Ponyville, Dusk Shadow was running around the center of Ponyville, trying to burn off the results of an impromptu surprise party sprung on his family by a pink pony of perpetual motion. His parents were tired and lounging on a nearby bench.
Midway through a flying leap, a blue flash blinded Dusk Shadow and suddenly “OOMPH!” rang out and he was lying on the ground dazed.
“Did somebody get the number on that parasprite swarm that hit me?”, a young feminine voice croaked.
“Well, that could have went smoother.” Twilight Sparkle sighed, looking upon the collision of pegasus foals.
A cleared throat just behind Princess Twilight Sparkle made her turn around. Standing there, glancing between their son who was getting back on his hooves, and Twilight Sparkle herself were Morse Code and Smoke Signal, Dusk Shadow’s parents.
“Just the ponies I came to see,” Twilight said with false cheer, and undertones of relief. Twilight looked back to see that Cozy Glow was also back on her hooves and taking swings at the mysterious colt that ran into her.
“Cozy, quit it!” Twilight yelled. “It was an accident, and nobody was hurt.”
“So, this is the infamous Cozy Glow.” Smoke Signal said. “No, I’m the other future Empress of Friendship,” Cozy Glow snarkily replied.
“She certainly must be ambitious then. Will you introduce her to us?” Dusk Shadow stated, smiling cheekily.
“You!”, Cozy Glow hollered before trying to swing at his muzzle again.
Suddenly a purple aura enclosed both foals and put them right in front of Morse Code and Smoke Signal.
Morse Code looked at the pair of foals and groaned lightly. “What did I do to deserve this? Was I a paparazzi in a past life?’.
“If you were, then I must have been a Silverfish.” Smoke Signal chimed in.
“I highly doubt you two were either a muckraking tabloid reporter or an invertebrate.” Princess Twilight Sparkle deadpanned.
Twilight Sparkle then perked up a bit. “Now that we’re all here, introductions are in order.”
“Cozy Glow, this colt that you keep glaring at is Dusk Shadow. These two silver tongued ponies here are his parents, Morse Code and Smoke Signal.” Twilight Sparkle said before continuing “And this here is Cozy Glow.” Twilight gestured to the surly filly who was in a staring contest with her ashen grey coated counterpart, Dusk Shadow.
“It’s an...experience to meet you, Ms. Glow,” Smoke Signal said. Morse Code just slightly nodded.
Twilight Sparkle looked at the two foals for a moment before addressing Smoke Signal and Morse Code.
“I trust that your housing and furnishings are in order?” Twilight asked.
“Yes, and we were treated to a lively surprise party.” Morse Code replied.
“Good to see that Pinkie is on the ball as it were.” Twilight Sparkle noted. “Listen to me, Cozy,” Twilight Sparkle added firmly. “This is the family that is taking you in.”
Cozy Glow’s head whipped from Dusk Shadow so fast the friction created light and heat.
“What!?”, Cozy Glow was stunned and her jaw was hanging open.
“Close your muzzle before you swallow a bug.” Dusk Shadow said chuckling. “Twilight, have mercy. Surely having to deal with that colt is cruel and unusual!” Cozy Glow pouted.
Twilight Sparkle looked at the four and said, “Looks like you four have some matters to discuss. Perhaps you should head home and hash stuff out there. If you have any major issues, please write to me.” Twilight Sparkle paused and then added, “This is goodbye for now. I must be back to Canterlot momentarily. Good luck, and Cozy, give them a chance.”
Princess Twilight Sparkle then teleported back to Canterlot, leaving four ponies to awkwardly stare at each other.
After a few moments, Smoke Signal said “Let’s go home. I’ll fix us a light salad, and then we can settle in for a chat.”
“Sounds lovely, hon.” Morse Code replied. Morse Code then looked at the two foals. “Come along, you two. And Ms. Glow, the Princess told us about the enchantments you’re under, but we won’t keep you homebound. If you join after school activities, or you make friends, then you have our permission to hang around Ponyville, but be back before dinner.” he concluded.
Cozy Glow sighed and started following behind this irritating colt she just met. She would follow along for now, and wait and watch for her chance to escape.
“Equestria hasn’t seen the last of Cozy Glow,” she thought to herself.