by Minty Sundae

First published

A lonely stallion makes a friend.

A lonely stallion makes a friend.

This fic took third place in the Cozy Glow group's second contest. As such, this story probably contains Cozy Glow. Let me check the character tags to confirm that...

Prompt: In Equestria, no creature mourned Cozy’s death, except one.

Chapter 1

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Sometimes you live through history. You know those moments, the times you can look back years later and still recall where you were and what you were doing at the time. Princess Twilight’s coronation? I was hovering in the sky with hundreds of other pegasi. I was there, and proud of it. New princesses don’t come along often, and I always thought it would make a great story to tell my foals and grandfoals someday.

That’s the thing about living in the nation’s capital. History gets made here with regularity. Usually, it’s just some new law that gets made, or a couple of nobles get their knickers in a bunch over something the other said, and five hundred years later their families’ still ain’t forgotten it and still ain’t on speaking terms over it.

That’s the boring stuff. The stuff colts and fillies fall asleep listening to history teachers drone on about it. Let’s face it, that’s the bulk of history. The exciting stuff, well, that’s usually a lot less fun to live through.

Discord breaking free? I’ve been hypnotized into forgetting that one. I had a therapist I talked to about what happened that day. Now he sees his own therapist about it, and he didn’t even experience it for himself.

The battle for Canterlot? Which one? The changeling invasion? I was in my college dorm room when it happened. The campus went into lockdown, and then the changelings broke into campus and…

You know what, that’s a memory I really, really don’t want to remember. My therapist says I need to let that one go. I wish I could.

The Storm King? I was helping set up the Friendship Festival, same as lots of other ponies. I got marched in chains, same as everypony else.

The Legion of Doom? I got to see that one up close and personal, too. One minute I was trimming the hedge maze, the next I was ducking for cover as the castle exploded down the mountain. Thankfully, it was away from the gardens, so the debris all went off the cliff. It was bad, but it could’ve been much, much worse.

After that last one I seriously considered moving someplace safer. Like maybe an active volcano. But I’m from Canterlot, and it takes more than that to keep me down.

Or at least, it takes money to move away, and I make a fair number of bits working for the castle on the groundskeepsing crew. The money’s just too good and I’ve never found a better offer elsewhere. You can’t beat the dental plan or the retirement pension. It’s government work, so they can’t run off with the bits like some unscrupulous businessponies. And if they ever go bankrupt, well, then Equestria’s got worse problems then me not getting a paycheck.

Plus, how many ponies can say they see the princess on a daily basis? Sometimes she even talks to me! She’s the Princess of Friendship, after all. On the downside, it also means I’m often at ground zero when something goes wrong.

I cheered right along with everypony else when the Legion of Doom got what was coming to them. Ain’t nobody gonna argue that their defeat was a good thing, though I really wish the princesses had chosen some other form of punishment. I guess for Discord, it was some sort of convoluted revenge scheme, but for me?

I’m a groundskeeper at the castle. I’m a pegasus. Guess who’s job it is to clean all those statues? Of course, Chrysalis and Tirek were rather sizable individuals. Way bigger than a normal pony, and about the size of the bigger sculptures. It was like getting two new statues at once. Why couldn’t they have just shunted them to Tartarus again?

But it’s not my place to question the princesses, not even the retired ones. Even if it meant a little more work for me, it sure beat the alternative of living in an Equestria controlled by Chrysalis, Tirek, and Cozy Glow.

Life returned to normal. They started rebuilding the castle. Mondays still meant pruning the hedge maze. Wednesdays and Thursdays meant trimming all the trees, and Tuesdays and Fridays I had to wash all the dirt and bird shit off the statues. Including the new one.

The new statue attracted a lot of attention at first. Lots of ponies and creatures came to pay their disrespects to the trio of villains. Some graffitied it, others urinated on it (thanks for that, I’m the one who has to clean it up, assholes) and ever since ponies found out it was impervious to damage, they’ve been attacking it with sledgehammers, baseball bats, and any other blunt objects they come across. It doesn’t hurt the statue, yet it seems therapeutic for ponies anyway. It must be if they keep doing it. Whenever I saw it, I got the guards, but they did nothing. The statue is magically protected and impossible to damage specifically because angry ponies might try to break it and inadvertently commit murder in the process. So now I stand aside and let them take out their aggression.

When things finally started settling down and their statue wasn’t a big tourist attraction anymore, I came up with ways to make them a tourist attraction. When the Wonderbolts derby came to town, I decorated the statue accordingly. Chrysalis was sporting a Spitfire jersey, Tirek had on a Soarin’ t-shirt, and I dressed Cozy Glow in a rainbow wig to look like Rainbow Dash.

From then on, every Friday I decorated the trio in the theme of the biggest sporting event of the weekend. Chrysalis would always wear the home team colors of whatever Canterlot sports team was represented, while Tirek and Cozy Glow would don the away team’s gear. He looked embarrassed, and she looked scared, and I felt those would be the appropriate reactions for away team supporters. They’d appropriately be embarrassed by their team and scared that they were going to lose. Chrysalis, though, was snarling and lunging forward. The perfect defiant spirit of the home team, even if she was outnumbered in her statue two to one. If there were no major sporting events, I’d pick another event like a concert or the Grand Galloping Gala and dress them appropriately. For the latter, Tirek sported a tux while the ladies had the cheapest dresses I could find in the thrift store.

Most importantly, once ponies saw that somepony was going through the effort of making them show team spirit, they stopped defacing the statue. It’s sad that it took something like that to get ponies to care, but it is what it is. If it means not having to clean up piss and graffiti, I’m happy.

The first time it happened was on a Tuesday. I was running late that morning and when I finally got to the statue I found a changeling there. Not the old, holey kind, but one of the ‘changedlings’ that are colorful and look more like ponies. He was having a conversation with Chrysalis. It was one-sided, like somepony speaking his mind at the gravesite of a pony he’d missed having an important conversation with in life. I heard a few snippets of his chat and made a hasty retreat. Somepony once told me Chrysalis was the mother of all changelings. I don’t know if that’s true or not, and I don’t want to ask. But if it’s true it would be disrespectful to break in just to wipe bird doo and graffiti off.

That became a frequent occurrence over time, as more and more changelings took the time to pay their respects, or disrespects as the case might be, to Chrysalis. Some came to forgive her, others simply to make peace with her. Others came to spit on her, or to curse her for never letting go and joining them in reformation. With time it became easy to read the moods of her visitors. Those who seemed melancholy over the events of the past often found consolation in watching me clean her off. For those looking for closure, nothing sped the process up like seeing her being treated like any other statue in the garden. It really hammered in the ‘she’s never coming back’ message.

I gave the vindictive visitors a wide berth. I learned that lesson the hard way when I chastised a changeling for spraying her with graffiti. He didn’t let me explain that I was the one who had to clean up the mess, he just called me a ‘Chrysalis sympathizer’ and blasted me in the face with his spray paint. That required a trip to the hospital for me, and a trip to the dungeon for the changeling. After that I stopped getting involved, I just cleaned up the mess after the fact.

Tirek received a visitor exactly once. I still remember the day like it was yesterday. I was whistling a happy little tune when I turned the corner into the statue’s clearing because it was Friday and I had the next two days off. I stopped in my tracks when I saw Princess Twilight herself talking with a gargoyle in front of the statue. I turned right around and was walking off when the princess stopped me. She told me to pretend like they weren’t there and to clean the statue like normal.

That’s how I heard in advance what was happening. Come the next Tuesday, the statue was easier to clean. Scorpan had taken his brother home. They hadn’t released him. No, the princess had called in Discord and he’d split the statue in three. Chrysalis disappeared not long after that, relocated to the changeling hive lest they ever forget their origins.

That left the little filly. The only one who’d never received a solitary visitor in all the time they’d been sitting there. Unless one were to count the pigeons, in which case she had all the friends that could perch on her curls. If she had family, they weren’t acknowledging her existence. The popular rumor was that she was an orphan; and particularly nasty versions of the rumor suggested her parents had gotten in her way early on and she’d removed them personally. The only pony who knew for sure wouldn’t be telling anypony the answer any time soon. As for her friends, well, everypony knew that story. She didn’t have friends. Not anymore. She’d burned that bridge a long time previously.

Losing Tirek hadn’t been much of a blow, but without Chrysalis, the dynamic of the statue changed. No longer did it make sense to dress Cozy up in an opposing team’s jersey if there was no home team supporter to play off of. I tried to dress her up like a Canterlot cheerleader, but it just didn’t work with her frozen facial expression, not even when I tried hiding her face with pom-poms. I gave up and she became another neglected afterthought in the statue garden.

After a few weeks of keeping the much smaller statue clean I finally caught the princess alone. I made a strange request, but she saw the logic in it and approved it immediately. I asked to take possession of the statue. It would be one less thing to keep clean in the garden. I thought she’d deny it, thinking I was a weirdo or something, but if anything, she looked relieved to be rid of the public reminder of the events. Tirek and Chrysalis had been disposed of, and now she could wash her hooves of Cozy Glow too. She said that it would help Canterlot and Equestria finish the healing process.

That was how Cozy Glow came to live with me. Never again would I need to scrub her from head to flank, instead a simple dusting once a week sufficed. She made a great conversation piece. Rather she would’ve, if I ever had guests. But I kept to myself a lot and had never had all that many friends, not even in my school days. My classmates had mostly gotten married, while I stayed single. Alone.

Somewhere along the line I started talking to her. It beat talking to myself, even if it was pretty much the same thing. I’d tell her about my day. I’d tell her about what she was missing in the garden now that she wasn’t there anymore. Some ponies do that with their pets, but Cozy Glow was a better listener and never required feeding, walking, or litterbox changing. Come to think of it, she just happened to be the age of the daughter I never had. Conveniently, I’d acquired a daughter without ever needing to change a diaper or attend a parent-teacher conference. Win!

I decided to look up Cozy Glow’s birthday, but it wasn’t on file. They never did figure out who her parents were. I guess nopony wanted to take the blame for her actions. Cozy was a big question mark. No record of being born. No record of even having existed before entering the School of Friendship. It was obvious ‘Cozy Glow’ was an alias, a name she made up. You’d think the Royal Guards would figure that out, and maybe try to decipher her past.

That’ll never happen though. The Royal Guards are about as smart as bricks. With the frequency Equestria gets invaded, they don’t have all that much in the way of fighting skills, either. A lot of them are unicorns. It would be nice if they were competent. I’m a pegasus. What am I supposed to do to defend myself: ask the invader to stand still while I go fly off to get a cloud and zap him with lightning? That didn’t work with Discord.

I’m remembering what I don’t want to remember again. Mental note: see the hypnotist, it’s wearing off.

The one time I convinced a mare to come home with me, she took one look at the statue and noped right out of our date. Didn’t even give me a chance to explain. She just took one look at Cozy and turned tail. I suppose it’s weird to keep the petrified remains of one of the worst villains of all time in my living room, but it beat cleaning her every few days. She’s rock. She can’t hurt anybody ever again. Unless she falls on top of you, that would probably leave a mark.

Years passed in solitude. I worked. I spent more and more time alone in my apartment. Considering what I paid for the place, at least I got my money’s worth out of it. I spent a lot of time in it. I dated rarely, never married, and never had foals. My best friend in the world was petrified in my living room. The only pony who listened to me, assuming she could hear me in there. I often wondered that. Twilight had sworn that Cozy was still technically alive inside the statue, as Discord had been during his multiple confinements. It begged the question of just how aware of her surroundings she was. Could she hear me? It also brought up some rather disturbing questions of where life ended and where death truly began. I try not to think about philosophical questions like that. Way above my pay grade.

The better question was, if she could hear me, did she care? Was I annoying her? Or was I wasting my breath talking to a hunk of stone that couldn’t hear me at all? Discord had turned her to stone, and he’d be the one to ask. That, unfortunately, required seeking out Discord and then talking to him, two things I had zero interest in doing.

Since nopony else seemed interested in finding out who Cozy Glow really was, I took it upon myself to do so. I spent years searching through the archives in Canterlot and writing letters to the other towns throughout Equestria seeking information on births and missing ponies who fit Cozy’s description.

There was nothing. It was only when I’d exhausted all resources that I realized that perhaps the guards had also tried this at some point and come up as empty as I had. She existed. That meant she had to come from somewhere. She’d been born, like every other pony. She had a past. She had a history. The only conclusion I could draw was that Cozy had destroyed any evidence of her past. Or somepony else had erased her from existence. An accomplice? A puppetmaster? Shamed parents trying to absolve themselves of responsibility for their little monster? An entire town covering up her origins for fear of losing tourism bits?

I could throw wild conspiracy theories out all day, but I’ll never know. I had a feeling nopony ever would. Cozy had been effectively erased from Equestrian records prior to her entrance to the School of Friendship. After that, she made history in a way very few would wish to be remembered. Worst. Pony. Ever.

If Cozy Glow had no parents, I would be her father. My mind made up, I went to see the princess. Not like I normally did, chatting with her in the gardens, but as an official petitioner of the court.

“My therapist said she’s become a surrogate daughter to me, so I’d like to make that official. I’d like to adopt her.”

“Rather unusual, but not entirely unexpected. You know I can’t free her.”

“I wouldn’t ask you to, princess. She’s stone for a reason. But she has nopony. Maybe if somepony cares about her she’ll see the light someday. I don’t know if she can hear me or not, but if she can, I want her to know she isn’t alone.”

“I see. I need to think about this.”

I was dismissed and I feared the worst. For days I panicked, thinking the princess would consider me a security risk and remove me from my position. When her official response arrived by mail a week later I trembled as I opened it, thinking she was going to fire me. But she hadn’t. The letter contained all of the paperwork for Cozy Glow’s official adoption. All I had to do was sign them.

I mulled it over for a few days. I hadn’t expected the princess to take me seriously. The true weight of my actions came crashing down on me. If I went forth with it, my name would forever be tied to that of history’s greatest monster.

I eventually decided that it didn’t matter. I had no foals of my own. I wasn’t a hero or a celebrity. I was nothing more than a footnote in the game of life. I wasn’t leaving a legacy behind to be tarnished.

Just like that, I was a father. Responsible for the well-being of another pony. Not that there was anything to be responsible for. As long as she stayed encased in stone, all would be fine. Though it did make for some awkward conversations with Foal Welfare when they stopped by for monthly wellness checks. It became a running prank with their department to send new guys to see me on their first day. Judging by how few ever stopped by for a second visit, I guess it helped weed out the ones unfit for service. I wasn’t going to lie; I’d never given her so much as a morsel of food to eat or a drop of water. Not to drink anyway. I’d used enough water on her back when she was in the garden and needed to be cleaned every few days.

Years continued to pass by. She would’ve been a teenager. There would have been colts trying to woo her that I’d have to instill the fear of Celestia into. There would also have been puberty. So there’s that. I was thankful to miss those years. Especially with a filly like Cozy Glow, one who was a hoof full even before puberty kicked in.

Before I knew it, life had completely passed me by. I was an old stallion. It got harder and harder to maintain the palace grounds and eventually it came time to retire once and for all. Work was the only thing I had. Two things, really. Work, and Cozy.

On the day I retired, Princess Twilight asked me what I’d like. After more than five decades of loyal service, I was entitled to something nice. A gold watch, for example. It wasn’t what I wanted. What I most wanted, I knew was impossible. There was no way she would ever release Cozy Glow from her confinement. I hadn’t asked when I was younger and stronger, and I certainly wouldn’t now that I was a feeble old stallion. I had no delusions, Cozy Glow was dangerous and I wouldn’t have been able to contain her in my younger days, let alone in my old age.

“There’s nothing left for me in Equestria, princess. I have no family, and I was never all that good at making friends. My job was all I had left, but I’m too old to do it now. I have one final request. All I want is to join her. If she ever gets free, I’ll be there for her. Maybe she’ll listen to me. Maybe she’s been hearing me all these years. Maybe she cares. Maybe she doesn’t, and my end will come at her hooves. I don’t care at this point. So petrify me and put our statue in a forgotten corner of the castle. Indoors, so the pigeons can’t shi, er, poop on us.” My request must’ve seemed even odder then when I’d asked her to turn Cozy’s statue to my custody.

Princess Twilight sat there in silence for several minutes, carefully weighing her words. Probably trying to think up a way to talk me out of it. In the end, all she asked was a question. “You really care about Cozy Glow?”

I nodded.

“You may be the only pony in Equestria.” She sighed. “I will consider your request. If granted, your statue will reside in one of the dungeons. If she ever escapes, she won’t get far.”

So it came to be. I sat in the dungeon and wrapped my forelegs around the filly, pulling her statue tight against my barrel. Twilight aimed her horn at me, warning me that there was a chance that the spell might not be as permanent as the one that had been put on Cozy Glow, but that she’d studied the spell’s workings and was confident she had it right.

I felt my body petrifying and knew that was it for me. Unless all magic were to be sucked out of Equestria, like the filly I was clutching to my chest had wanted to do all those years ago, I was taking my last breath. It caught in my throat as that part of my body turned to stone. No regrets. That was my last thought as my brain joined the rest of my body in petrification, hugging Cozy Glow for all eternity.