by Goldfinch142

Chapter 1: Forever and Always

Cozy Glow shook her head and tried to blink away the dots in her vision from the blindingly bright magical blast. As her vision cleared, she realized she was standing in the School of Friendship’s courtyard by the front doors. Small orbs of magic danced in the air around her before speeding away like tiny comets, no doubt to reunite with their original owners. The students were scattered around chattering incessantly, and after a moment she spotted that stupid group of study-buddies halfway across the yard with Starlight Glimmer. Cozy gritted her teeth at the sight of Starlight levitating the yak and bit back a screech of frustration.

Magic was back. All her plans were ruined.

And it was all their fault. If those idiots had just stayed out of it—

No. Cozy took a deep breath and dampened her seething rage enough to think rationally. As much as she wanted to run over to the study-buddies and scream about how they ruined everything, she knew that wouldn’t get her anywhere. If anything, it would just alert everypony to her presence. She had to leave before anyone noticed she was there. Backing into the shadows of the school doors, she slowly fluttered up and tested the handle. Unlocked. Cozy smiled. Perfect.

The pegasus filly silently eased the door open before slipping inside and shutting it just as carefully behind her. Casting a glance around the empty foyer, she decided that no one else was there and immediately flew as fast as she could toward Twilight Sparkle’s office. She burst through the door, eyes sweeping over the wooden shelves lining the walls until they landed on her backup plan.

Clockwork’s Hourglass. Princess Celestia had donated it to the school a few months ago, followed by an admittedly pretty interesting lesson about it in the ancient artifacts section of Twilight’s class. A powerful relic once belonging to an ancient mage, the small golden hourglass hung on a thin chain and had the ability to travel through time, but only by a week in each direction. The instant Cozy saw it, she knew it would make the perfect safety net in case things went wrong. Not because of its inherent power, but because of what she believed it could do if paired with Starlight’s modified time travel spell.

Starlight’s spell—which had apparently been given to Twilight for safekeeping, according to the end of Twilight and Starlight’s story about it—was absolutely groundbreaking for the concept of time travel, being able to move through time by years rather than days. More importantly, the physical scroll of the spell was infused with Starlight’s magic to act as a catalyst, keeping it that powerful even when it wasn’t Starlight activating the spell.

To put it lightly, Cozy knew a thing or two about magical artifacts and how they interact with other magics. Based on her guess of how the magic of Clockwork’s Hourglass worked, it would react with nearby powerful time magic, combining the magics with an amplifying effect. Together with Clockwork’s Hourglass to activate the spell, since Cozy wasn’t a unicorn, she could use it to go back in time to before she even introduced herself to the Cutie Mark Crusaders and try again. Test different tactics to successfully erase all of Equestria’s magic without anyone interfering and ruining everything like this time. She would go back over and over if she had to.

Cozy smirked and gently slipped the chain around her neck before turning and rummaging through the huge top drawer of Twilight’s desk. She had seen Twilight put the spell back in the drawer after her and Starlight’s story, but it seemed like all the paper Twilight had ever used was in that specific drawer and she had to dump out nearly three-quarters of the contents before finding the half-ripped scroll, taped back together on the back.

Cozy looked up sharply at the distant sound of the front doors of the school banging open.

“Cozy Glow! Where are you!?” shouted an angry voice. Twilight. Cozy heard the Princess directing her friends to make a sweep of the whole school—it wouldn’t be long before they checked Twilight’s office. Cozy had to act.

Hurriedly skimming over the spell, Cozy placed it on the desk in front of her and held Clockwork’s Hourglass over the scroll. She turned it, once, twice, three times, with each successive turn making a clicking sound. The hourglass and scroll both began to glow as the sound of turning gears filled the air.

The office door flew open and smacked the wall behind it, making Cozy jump. “Ha! Found ya!” Applejack announced triumphantly. She paused, looking up over Cozy’s head. “Huh…”

Cozy followed the earth pony’s gaze to find an ethereal white bell shape taking form above her, covered in shifting stars and circular patterns. She grinned and grabbed the scroll, ignoring Applejack’s frantic call to Twilight and co. to hurry it up, and rose toward the bell’s opening.

“No!” Applejack twirled a lasso and swung it at her, but Cozy put on a burst of speed and just barely managed to avoid it. She shot into the bell at the same instant Twilight teleported herself and the rest of her ridiculous friends to the scene.

Cozy was beginning to think she’d miscalculated. Badly.

Okay, Cozy. Let’s assess the situation.

To start, she wasn’t in Ponyville anymore. She was almost certain she was in Canterlot, but…there were other creatures everywhere. Griffons, dragons, hippogriffs, zebras, and more. Never in her life had she seen this kind of sheer diversity anywhere in Equestria, much less the capital.

Not to mention the slightly different layout and new buildings. And the remodeled castle rising above the whole city. A white statue of Twilight and her friends sat in the middle of the main square, which definitely wasn’t there before. As Cozy watched, groups of ponies and other various creatures—tourists, maybe?—paraded past the statue, taking picture after picture. Plenty others wore an earpiece of some sort, with some talking into them as they walked.

It was becoming painfully clear that whatever time Cozy was in wasn’t her destination. Not even close. It looked like she’d actually jumped forward in time rather than back, and probably by way too much. Maybe she turned the hourglass the wrong way?

Well. No matter. She could just use the spell again and get when she needed to go. Laying out the spell on the ground, she reached up to the hourglass still hanging from her neck to twist it the other way.

It didn’t move.

“Huh?” Cozy frowned and looked closer. Where all the sand had been at the bottom of the hourglass before, it was now at the top and slowly trickling down. If she had to guess, it was likely a cooldown timer to use it again. She groaned in irritation. It looked like she would have to wait a while to go back. With how slowly it was going, it could be several hours or even a day. Rolling her eyes, she stowed away the scroll and idly sauntered down the street toward the castle. Might as well make the most of her time there and look around.

An hour of aimless wandering around Canterlot later, Cozy found herself at the (apparently public now?) entrance of Canterlot Gardens just outside the castle.

She shrugged. “Eh, why not.”

As she flew through the garden, her eyes swept over dozens of statues placed all around the area. Red flags waved overhead from the hedge surrounding a huge labyrinth off to the side. Some trees and bushes were placed artfully in the grass around the path. It was completely empty except for her.

The whole place had a deep-rooted silence to it, broken only by the faint sounds of hustle and bustle from the city. Almost like the garden wanted to be left to itself and forgotten.

The quiet and stillness only grew deeper as she approached the back corner of the garden, deep under the shadows of the willowy trees that guarded it.

Cozy came to sudden stop in front of the final statue. She stared at it for a long time.

To most ponies, there would be nothing special about it. It was white, like all the others, and made of what looked like the same type of stone. Unlike the others, which all had some level of upkeep, this statue was decrepit and dirty and had scraggly weeds creeping up the base as it hid away in its lonely dark corner. Also unlike the others, which generally only had one subject, this one had three.

The first was that changeling, Queen Chrysalis, who refused to reform when given the chance. Her face was frozen in an ugly snarl as she seemingly tried to leap at her adversary.

The second was Tirek, her pen pal. How he got out of Tartarus, Cozy didn’t know, but with his figure flinching back and face turned away as it was, he looked almost…afraid.

The third, dwarfed by the other two and almost unnoticeable, was a small pegasus filly.

With curly hair.

And a rook cutie mark.

And an expression of sheer horror on the face clutched in her forelegs.

The filly may have been made of chipped, grimy stone, but Cozy knew her own face when she saw it.

She slowly lowered herself to the ground and sat down, staring into her own dead white eyes.

She had…lost.

There was no way for her to win. Not even with time travel.

Not even with Tirek and Queen Chrysalis’s help.

And not even with all the best laid plans in the world.

Cozy was acutely aware of her own quickening breaths as the world came crashing down around her. The stale garden air was suffocating her. Mocking her.

This—this couldn’t be happening. Her destiny couldn’t be crumbling away in some empty corner of a garden for all eternity. It had to be wrong. She could fix it.

Yeah. She could fix it.

I-I can fix it.

She grabbed Clockwork’s Hourglass and twisted as hard as she could. But with most of the sand still at the top, it didn’t budge. She snarled at the traitorous object and struggled with it for a moment more before bitterly giving up. Dropping the hourglass back against her chest, she turned her ire to that stupid, stupid statue.

Resolutely ignoring her wet eyes, she glared at her stone self. “How dare you lose!? How dare you!? You can’t fail! You can’t be forgotten! You can’t! You can’t! You ca—"

“Cozy Glow?”

Cozy froze mid-scream. It sounded older, and a little more tired, but…she knew that voice.

She slowly turned to face Twilight Sparkle.

The purple alicorn gazed down at Cozy in confusion. At least twice as tall as she was before, Princess Twilight truly towered. Her mane flowed in time to a wind Cozy couldn’t feel. Adorned with a silver tiara and matching peytral, she looked more powerful and regal than Cozy had ever seen her. Deep violet eyes flicked between Cozy and the statue before falling on Clockwork’s Hourglass. “Ah,” she said softly. “I see.”

Cozy remained silent, subtly wiping away the wetness and keeping a wary eye on Princess Twilight. Instead of smiting her where she stood, the Princess just sat down next to Cozy like nothing was out of the ordinary.

“What brings you here, Cozy?”

Cozy said nothing.

Princess Twilight continued anyway. “I enjoy walking through Canterlot Gardens. It’s very relaxing. Especially on days as nice as this one.”

Cozy said nothing.

“It’s not my favorite garden, though.”

Cozy turned her head slightly.

“My favorite garden is in Ponyville. I think you should see it.”

Cozy turned her head back.

“No, really. It’s beautiful. Spike and I visit every week.”

“What do you want?” Cozy muttered.

“I want you to see the garden.”

“If I come to see the garden, will you let me leave?”

Princess Twilight inclined her head. “Yes.”

“Then let’s get going.”

The Princess smiled and teleported them away.

Ponyville looked even more different than Canterlot did.

The buildings were still largely wooden, but some were brick or even stone. The public structures like Town Hall were bigger now, or a different design, or both. Many of the roads and walkways were actually paved and some of the layouts were different, though that crystal tree-castle was still there, sticking out like a sore thumb as usual. From Cozy’s spot at the edge of Ponyville Park, what she could see of the School of Friendship also appeared to be virtually unchanged. All kinds of people, ponies or not, strolled around, many of whom were wearing those same earpieces. A few waved at Princess Twilight, who waved back at each one.

“This way.” Princess Twilight’s voice snapped Cozy out of her thoughts. A purple hoof pointed to the entrance of a large garden in the distance, beyond the gazebo and trees and benches, sitting right in the middle of the park as a centerpiece. It was laid out as a perfect square and surrounded by a wrought iron fence with floral, leaf, and swirl patterns flowing across the posts. As they approached, Cozy could start to make out the letters atop the entrance arch.

Harmony Memorial Garden.

The first thing Cozy noticed after passing under the arch was the flowers. Sure, she had seen some through the arch on the walk up, but they were everywhere. Covering the ground except for a winding path and some small patches of unbelievably green grass, climbing up the legs of a bench, in pots hanging from supports. Some ferns and herbs were sprinkled in among the flowers as well. The selection of flowers was enormous, but only a few stood out to Cozy as ones she recognized.

The flower she saw most often were tiny pale blue forget-me-nots, sprawled in patches around the path and extending beyond Cozy’s line of sight. Pansies and lilies of every color imaginable, along with gardenias and yellow and white roses, speckled the sea of blooms that filled the air with a pleasant floral scent. A soft breeze waved the taller flowers back and forth, bringing fresh air along with it. Chirping and chattering of hidden animals broke the gentle quiet, as did voices and laughter further down the path.

As much as Cozy hated to admit it, it was…nice.

Cozy looked back at Princess Twilight, who had stopped at the entrance and was standing perfectly still with her eyes closed and wearing that same almost cryptic smile. “Princess Twilight?” she called cautiously.

Princess Twilight opened her eyes. “My apologies. I got caught up in my thoughts for a moment there.” She finally moved into the garden. Cozy landed and allowed her to catch up, and together they walked side by side down the curving path.

Almost immediately after turning the first corner, the true nature of the garden made itself apparent.

Cozy stood paralyzed before Fluttershy’s grave. Her cutie mark—three butterflies—was etched into the top of the headstone. Below that was a short epitaph in neat letters.

Here lies Fluttershy, Element of Kindness. A loving daughter, wife, and mother.

On a pedestal off to the side of the immaculate grave was a large golden plaque, buffed to a mirror shine, detailing Fluttershy’s life accomplishments. On the other side was a small statue of a familiar bunny—Angel Bunny, Cozy realized. Even more flowers surrounded the grave, pressed flush to the sides and back of the headstone and coating the ground in front of it.

Cozy really should have expected this. Knew she should have. Logically speaking, if she was that far forward in time, of course Princess Twilight’s friends would be dead. Not everyone got to be a special snowflake immortal alicorn.

So why did she feel like this?

A pair of young griffons came up behind them. Cozy shuffled back to let them pass through, but they stopped and started to read the plaque after nodding to Princess Twilight. The Princess smiled back and leaned down to speak to Cozy. “Shall we move on?”

As they continued walking, passing others admiring the flowers or chatting to each other, Cozy glanced back at the griffons, who were now excitedly telling each other about Fluttershy’s impressive deeds. And she wasn’t entirely sure, but just for a second, she thought she saw the faint, shadowy figure of Discord standing in front of the grave. Shaking her head, she turned back and finally worked up the nerve to speak. “They’re dead.”

Princess Twilight nodded. “In body, yes. It’s been about three hundred years since their time.”


The flowers around them began to change. Some were the same, like the forget-me-nots, yellow and pink roses, and zinnias, but some of the types of flowers seen in Fluttershy’s section disappeared and new ones took their place—daffodils, chrysanthemums, hydrangeas, and even some blossoming apple trees.

A couple minutes later they came across the second grave. Applejack’s. It was adorned similarly to Fluttershy’s, though with a bronze plaque and dog statue. Cozy felt a twinge of unease as she skimmed through the plaque. She had faced down Applejack personally less than two hours ago, at least from her perspective. To stand before her grave so soon after was jarring.

But here, too, people sat on the benches together. Talking, or joking, or just being. A couple were earth ponies wearing hats similar to Applejack’s. Descendants? With how extensive the Apple Family was, Cozy wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest to see an endless supply of future Apples running around.

And so it went, all the way around the spiraling path. Rarity and her orchids, beautiful and resilient; Rainbow Dash and her sunflowers, bold and tall; Pinkie Pie and her daisies, bright and cheerful. Every section contained more people spending time in the bright garden, telling stories and laughing among the ever-present forget-me-nots.

At last, they arrived at the center of the garden, where a clearing opened up. A huge stone fountain containing a statue of each of Princess Twilight’s friends sat in the grass, streams of water pouring out of the gems of each of their Element of Harmony necklaces. The bottom of the basin was covered in bits. More iron benches surrounded the fountain in a loose circle.

Princess Twilight summoned a few bits and dropped them in the fountain. “For those in need,” she clarified at Cozy’s curious look. “I donate every time I come. Spike, too.” She led them over to one of the benches. “Did you enjoy the garden, Cozy?”

Cozy chose not to answer. “Why did you bring me here?”

“Because I wanted you to see the garden.”

“What’s the real reason?”

“Why do you think that’s not the real reason?”

“Golly, Princess, you must think I’m the dumbest pony alive,” Cozy grumbled. “We both know you didn’t just want me to look at some flowers.”

Princess Twilight turned and looked Cozy straight in the face. “You’re right, Cozy. I didn’t. I wanted you to see the magic here. And my friends.”

“Your friends are dead.”

“They’re not.”

Cozy raised an eyebrow. “What? But you said earlier that they were.”

“I said they were dead in body. In spirit, they’re all very much alive and well.” Princess Twilight swept a hoof across the clearing. “Did you notice something about this place?”


“It fosters friendship. And remembrance. Even so long after their deaths, my friends are spreading lessons and knowledge about the magic of friendship. Just look around. They’re legends, and legends never die.” Her eyes closed. “Yes, they’re physically gone. But you can see that they’re still here in all the most important ways.”

“But—” Cozy didn’t understand. “They’re dead! You’re the Princess of Friendship without friends!”

Princess Twilight shook her head. “I have lots of friends. These five were my first Council of Friendship, and they will forever hold a special place in my heart, but now I have a new one with new friends. That’s part of what friendship is, Cozy. You make new friends while still celebrating and never forgetting the old. The Harmony Memorial Garden is my way of remembering the five very special ponies who taught me what it means to be a friend.”

Cozy tensed slightly when the Princess’ horn lit up, but all it did was levitate a bundle of forget-me-nots over and form them into a flower crown that was placed on Cozy’s head.

“Cozy.” Princess Twilight looked more serious now. “You saw where your path leads you. Is that really what you want?”

Cozy thought about a dirty, weed-ridden statue slowly crumbling to dust in the shadows. She thought about the horror (and regret?) on her stone face. She thought about the world moving on without her, uncaring, until it was like she had never existed at all.

“I just wanted everything to be fair,” Cozy said in a small voice. “Magic made things unfair.”

Princess Twilight looked at her for a long moment. “The different species have different kinds of magic, yes. But the most fundamental, the most powerful kind? It’s friendship. It’s something everyone, no matter how great or small, is capable of. Including you.”

Cozy focused on the rippling water of the fountain. It was easier than looking at Princess Twilight.

After a few long minutes, the alicorn spoke again. “Friendship makes us strong. But only together, and only when it’s genuine. That’s how you make your mark on the world.”

Cozy thought about the lovingly kept gravesites of Princess Twilight’s friends. She thought about flowers and plaques and statues in a bright garden. She thought about the people in the garden learning about the Bearers, sharing their stories, and carrying on their ideals.

“I don’t know how,” she said quietly.

“That’s alright. Because I know exactly how to teach you.” Princess Twilight stood up and offered Cozy a hoof and a friendly smile. “To start, you’ll need a friend. How about me?”

Cozy hesitantly returned the smile and took the hoof. “Okay.” She allowed Pri—Twilight to pull her into a brief hug.

“I suppose we should be getting back,” Twilight said after letting go. “Unless you’re going back to your own time?”

Now that Cozy thought about it, there really wasn’t much left for her back in the past. A school of people who probably hate her, a pair of villains leading her to a lonely stone fate, and not a friend in the world. She shook her head. “No. I think I want to stay here.”

Twilight smiled again. “I’m glad.” With that, another burst of magenta whisked them away.

Cozy found herself back in Canterlot Gardens, staring once more at that horrible statue in the shade. She hated looking at it. Even so, she met the stone eyes of her counterpart and silently vowed to never be like her ever again.

Twilight’s sigh drew Cozy’s gaze, and Cozy was surprised to find her new friend looking so…sad.

“I failed them,” Twilight said softly. “I tried. I tried so hard. But I couldn’t get through to them.” She abruptly looked at Cozy. “But I won’t fail you. And that’s a promise.”

Cozy smiled weakly. “A Pinkie Promise?”

Twilight chuckled and nodded, eyes shining with determination. “A Pinkie Promise.”

Twilight led them out of the gardens and into the castle. When they arrived at the throne room, she turned to Cozy. “Ah, Cozy. Would you mind letting me have Clockwork’s Hourglass for safekeeping, if you’re not going to be using it again?”

Oh. Right. Cozy had completely forgotten about it. “Sure.” She lifted it from around her neck and handed it over, also pulling out Starlight’s scroll as she did so. “I also used this.”

Twilight looked surprised as she read over the scroll. “Starlight’s modified spell? Activated with Clockwork’s Hourglass?” Her eyes lit up. “Oh, I never would have thought to combine them! This could be revolutionary in time travel! Imagine the implications!” The huge alicorn danced in place excitedly until she apparently remembered Cozy’s presence and awkwardly cleared her throat. “…But, uh, I can worry about that later.”

Cozy giggled a bit. Even after all these years, Twilight hadn’t completely changed.

“Anyway,” Twilight said quickly, obviously trying to change the subject, “I don’t have a personal student at the moment. If you want to…”

Cozy smiled and nodded. “Yeah. I think I’d like that.”

“Then it’s official!”

Cozy followed Twilight further into the castle and idly listened as she started talking about drafting up some friendship lessons and setting up a bedroom.

Maybe the stone version of herself was doomed to the shadows to be forgotten, but as Cozy reached up to feel the forget-me-not crown on her head, she couldn’t help but think her own future was starting to look pretty bright.

Return to Story Description


Login with