Hey! It looks like you're new here. You might want to check out the introduction.

Unstable Relationships · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Show rules for this event
The Word
The night Twilight Sparkle became an alicorn, she experienced a strange dream that haunted her waking thoughts for the next two hundred years.

Over those two hundred years, she attempted to speak about this dream exactly once, the morning after it happened. She was helping to clean one of Canterlot Castle’s many ballrooms after the all-night shindig Pinkie had thrown her to celebrate her alicornification.

Pinkie was there too, obstinately sweeping her single little broom along the colossal length of the ballroom. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth...

“I had a strange dream last night,” Twilight said out loud. She thought she had meant to think it, but it made no difference now.

Pinkie looked up. “What was it?”

Twilight shrugged. Unconsciously, the small army of brooms she was magically controlling shrugged as well. The sight was fantastic--thirty brooms leaping up like synchronized dancers.

“I don’t know,” Twilight said.

But Twilight knew.

The problem was, she couldn’t quite put the dream into words. Not that the dream wasn’t vivid. On the contrary. It felt more real than reality. To dwell on it meant inviting unease. She didn’t want to feel uneasy. She had enough on her plate right now, anyway.

Pinkie went back to sweeping. “Well, if you think of it, I’d be happy to tell me.”

“I will. Thanks.”

They went back to sweeping.

Pinkie Pie died eighty two years later in her sleep. She never got to hear what Twilight’s dream was about.

One hundred and twenty one years after Pinkie’s death--two hundred and three after the dream itself--Twilight had another opportunity to talk about the dream.

This time, she was alone with Princess Cadance in a drafty, lonely tower of the crystal palace. Flurry Heart was having a difficult time handling the anniversary of her father’s death. Predictably, she lashed out, injured a few servants, and damaged an important ballroom in the castle meant to house priceless works of art.

Twilight and Cadance were strategizing ways to get to Flurry without causing her to freak out and destroy any more art. They had tea in self-warming cups, which they clung to for dear life.

“What if we sang her a song?” Twilight asked. “That used to work when she was younger.”

Cadance shook her head. “Songs are out. She likes that new punk rock. They don’t sing. Just scream.”

Twilight furrowed her brow. “Unsettling.”

“You’re telling me.”

“Maybe we could sedate her?” Cadance gave her a sour look. “Right, right, that’s a disaster waiting to happen.”

“No, wait. You might be onto something there.”

“Wait, we can’t actually drug her. Can we?”

“Not like, tranquilizer darts and blowguns. But there are other means...” Cadance looked down at her hooves in thought. The plush, self-warming cushion hummed ever so faintly, doing nothing to ward off the chill. “What do teenagers like doing more than anything else?”

“Homework? Making out?”

“Breaking rules.”

“Oh!” Twilight shifted on her own useless self-warming cushion. “I don’t get it.”

“I’ve caught her breaking into the kitchen wine cellar on more than one occasion. We could arrange for a bottle to go missing.”

Twilight nodded slowly, digesting the plan fully. “She’d see right through it.”

“But would she care?”

Another long pause for thought. “...No, I don’t think she would.”

Cadance clapped her hooves together. “Then it’s settled. We should steal a bottle for ourselves while we’re at it. We deserve it.”

“You deserve it,” Twilight said. “You’re handling this incredibly well.”

“I suppose. Emotional maturity doesn’t make the anniversary hurt less.” She raised her hoof, like she was pointing to something. Then she set it back down. “Promise you won’t think I’m crazy?”

“I know for a fact you’re crazy.”

A smile chipped away at her frozen features. “You’re such a brat.”

“Flurry Heart learned from the best.”

“Seriously, though. Promise me you won’t tell anyone else.”

“Okay, promise.”

Cadance sucked in a deep breath of air. “Sometimes when I’m alone, I think I can see him.”

Twilight frowned.

“I know. It’s insane. It’s not a longing, though. I know I’m not insane. It feels strange. Like it’s not him, but I’m absolutely sure it is him. Or he’s grown into something else, and he doesn’t even recognize me, but I can still recognize him. I don’t know what to say exactly.”

Twilight’s thoughts turned to her dream just then, now fermented in her mind for two long centuries.

“Do you still see your friends like that?” Cadance asked.

“No,” Twilight admitted. “But I did have this one dream. I kinda felt the way you’re feeling now.”

Cadance looked up suddenly, a spark of hope dancing in her frostbitten eyes. “You did? You felt someone too?”

Twilight nodded. “But in my dream, it wasn’t Shining.”

“Who was it, then?” Cadance’s tone, though quiet, verged on desperation. “Who?”

Twilight could only shrug. “It wasn’t Shining.”

Outside, the wind whipped against the crystal palace, sounding a wail deeper and colder than the frozen earth.

Four hundred years later, and quite unexpectedly, Twilight had the dream again.

She leapt out of bed and scrambled to the corner of her bedroom. Her fur was caked in sweat. She bit her bottom lip until it bruised trying not to scream. Her ears peeled flat against her head, sensing danger.

Her husband, a kind and gentle earth pony stallion whose name she’d forget in three millenia, rolled over at the disturbance. His head poked out from beneath the covers.

“Twilight, dear,” he mumbled, still clasped in a haze of sleep, “what on earth are you doing?”

Twilight saw his face in the dim light and let out a bone-chilling scream.

His face was on fire. Dozens of eyes shifted in a lattice framework. His eyes--his main set of eyes--were pure blue, all iris, glowing slightly, perceiving all, cutting right through her. His ears flared into dozens of glowing appendages signing dead languages.

Her dream had breached the veil and for a horrifying moment warped reality.

It was fifteen hundred years since her first encounter with the dream. Equestria had changed again. A perpetual heat wave dominated Canterlot. The architecture shifted to a more open, Marediteranean concept. Lots of arches and columns and windowless holes shaped like windows. Bathhouses soared in popularity.

Twilight was nervous.

Important ambassadors from Omnia (formerly Saddle Arabia) were set to arrive in just a few minutes’ time. This would mark Equestria’s first diplomatic meeting with the Omnians since they had assumed control of the region.

Tensions were high. The guard reserves had been activated and dispersed throughout the city. No one knew how, but in the last five years the Omnia clan had gone from a clan of noponies and outcasts preaching a strange new eastern religion on the outskirts of Saddle Arabia’s backwater country, to being the lone ruling power in the area. No single clan had ruled that part of the world since... well, ever.

The rumor was, the head of the Omnia clan fasted for forty days and forty nights outside the Saddle Arabian royal manor, meditating in absolute silence. On the dawn of the fortieth day, the matriarch of the clan rose to her hooves, shouted to the sky, “It is done!” and walked inside the castle.

Everyone in the castle had mysteriously died. All at once. Without explanation.

Twilight took this claim with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, she was very glad to note that when the Omnians arrived in Canterlot, they did not begin any fasted meditations in front of the castle.

The hour of their meeting arrived. Twilight, Luna, and Celestia all waited to receive their new guests in the largest and most impressive banquet hall.

When the Omnia clan entered, trumpets sounded. Two unassuming ponies garbed in very assuming silks and gold chains appeared at the head of an entourage that numbered no less than four hundred.

No sooner had they entered than the matriarch, the one who had meditated their enemies to death, paused. The entourage, not expecting to stop, bumped into itself like a slinky. Trumpets bleated and petered out.

That left Twilight ant the princesses stewing in awkward silence with a sizable gap between the two ruling parties.

“What’s going on?” Luna whispered.

“I don’t know,” Celestia replied.

Twilight decided to take the initiative. “Grand Omnians of the East, well met! I am Princess Twilight Sparkle, co-ruler of the kingdom of Equestria. We are most honored to receive you. In the name of the Sun, Moon, and of Friendship, we would like to--”

The matriarch raised a hoof and pointed directly at Twilight Sparkle. Twilight shut her mouth immediately.

The matriarch let out an awful, sickening screech. Like a demon leaving her body. The entourage flew into a panic, spreading out in all directions.

“Put the guard on alert,” Celestia said softly to Luna. “Don armor and fly to the castle walls. Prepare for a siege. Do it now.”

Luna evaporated into shadow. Twilight felt a cold sweat break out on the back of her neck. “Did I say something wrong?” she mumbled to Celestia.

Before Celstia could reply, the matriarch let out a long string of husky, rasping syllables. A trembling interpreter stepped out of the panicked crowd and proclaimed in a high, wavering voice, “Behold, I am Omnia, All and One. One with Sand and Sky. I see You, Twilight Sparkle. You are possessed.”

“Um,” Twilight replied. “I’m sorry. I don’t really feel possessed right now.”

The matriarch spoke again.

“You are a fool,” the interpreter said. “You do not know what you are. You are like a shimmering wave of heat rising from the desert, thinking itself an oasis.”

“If I said anything to offend you, then I would like to sincerely apologize--”

“Silence!” the matriarch cracked. “You, Twilight Sparkle. You, born of pony, now made Other.”


“Twilight Sparkle, born of pony, now Seraphim.”

Celestia let out a sound Twilight had never heard her make before. It was an honest to goodness whinney. Fear. Rage. Primal thoughtless emotion.

Celestia’s horn lit up. A bolt of light as pure as the sun flew across the space between them and struck the matriarch squarely in the heart. She was dead before she hit the floor.

“Guards!” she roared. “To arms!”

At her command, dozens of guards spilled into the room, brandishing spears and mouth-swords. Celestia summoned another bolt of light and loosed it on the interpreter, who collapsed, sucking air through a hole in his chest. Celestia, along with her guard, charged into the unarmed entourage. Screams filled the air.

Twilight was paralyzed, rooted to the spot. The tidal wave of armored guards broke around her, then reformed.

“Did I do something wrong?” she whimpered.

Whatever survivors of the entourage managed to escape the castle ran into Luna, who guarded the wall with six hundred of Equestria’s finest mages and archers. There were no survivors. When the noise of battle and the moans of the dying had ceased, the guard loaded the bodies into wagons and dumped them off the edge of the city.

The city was abuzz. “Assassination,” they whispered. “The Omnians tried to kill the princesses.”

Twilight took a much-needed bath while she waited for Celestia to finish her duties with the guard.

When Celestia finally returned that evening, the two walked without a word to the top of the tallest tower in the center of the castle grounds. This was where Twilight liked to study as a foal. Back then the nights had been cool and still and filled with stars. Now the evenings were dusted a fine, gritty orange, and a western wind constantly buffeted the stone fortress, eroding the work of so many artisans one atom at a time.

Twilight’s first question was, “How many did we lose?”

Celestia seemed taken aback by the question. “Twenty. A few of the entourage were armed and fought back.”

Twilight nodded. “How many of theirs?”

Six hundred and twenty two. Counting the matriarch.”

Twilight’s head spun. Ponyville’s population had never in its nearly two millennia history broken six hundred. “The east hasn’t been united like this before. Not ever. Once word gets out--”

“The local clans will resume their territorial disputes. It will be as it has been since the dawn of time. Ponies live. Ponies die. The east fights.”

“Why?” she asked. She tried to come up with a better question, but nothing better came to mind. “You killed her in cold blood.”

“It was not a murder, Twilight. It was an execution.” Celestia sat down on the sun-warmed stone. Her eyes wandered vacantly over Canterlot, its orange sun-drenched pillars and ancient walls. “There are secrets this world is not ready to know. Secrets mortal ponies should not have access to. By uttering that word, the matriarch convicted herself of a crime so terrible she could not afford to be left alive. By saying the word she surrendered her life, and the lives of her entourage.”

“Seraphim,” Twilight said. “That’s what she said.”


Twilight indignantly spat out, “Well, should you kill me for saying it, too?”

Celestia let out a long, slow sigh. “Have you ever seen something you recognize, but don’t recognize at the same time?”

Twilight went silent. Her face, still a mask of indignance and anger, froze in place.

“Have you ever had a dream that shook you to your core, even though you knew it wasn’t real?”

Chills peeled down Twilight’s body. “Once. A long time ago.”

“It is the fate of alicorns to see such things. We are the intermediary between the unknowable divine and the mortal realm. We are tasked with balancing these things without succumbing to the madness inherent on either side. To mortals, real life makes perfect sense. To those who exist beyond, our realm is nothing more than an illusion.”

“But, you killed them.”

“Yes. Because mortals can’t know of the other realm. Not entirely. It can be hinted at, glimpsed through mirrors, tangentially perceived. But it can never be fully taken in.”


Celestia straightened up suddenly. “Because if they knew what lies beyond before they are ready to cross over from the mortal plain, the knowledge they would gain would be enough to destroy the very fabric of the universe.”

“I don’t believe you,” Twilight said. “All those ponies are dead and you still haven’t given me a good reason why. I think you’re a murderer.”

Celestia stood up. The sun shone through her mane in a golden lattice. “How about I show you? Would that make you believe? Would you like to meet your guardian angel?”

They reconvened in a dark chamber in the deepest pits of the Canterlot catacombs. These dark hallways had been collapsed and redug a hundred times before. These downward-angled tunnels were fresh. Not more than a few years old. The lack of familiarity made Twilight dizzy.

Inside the chamber, Celestia sat on a cushy pillow. Another had been set out for Twilight across from her. Between them was a small fire, over which brewed a single pot of tea. Two polished stone cups sat on one side of the fire.

As Twilight took a seat, Celestia took the tea kettle off the fire and poured its contents into the cups. “Drink,” she instructed. “It will taste horrible. But drink it all.”

Twilight did as she was told, gagging at the first sniff, barely managing to choke the whole cup down. The heat scalded her through, and the taste lingered heavily on the roof of her mouth.

“What now?” Twilight asked.

“Get comfy,” Celestia said, and closed her eyes.

Twilight followed her lead. At first she saw nothing. Then, as her eyes adjusted to the dark, she saw the faint outline of the fire playing through her eyelids. How fragile skin was. How thin.

She sat stone still for several minutes. Nothing happened. She opened her eyes to ask Celestia another question, and the sight that greeted her stole the breath from her lungs.

Celestia’s face was on fire. Dozens of eyes shifted in a lattice framework. His eyes--his main set of eyes--were pure blue, all iris, glowing slightly, perceiving all, cutting right through her. His ears flared into dozens of glowing appendages signing dead languages.

A scream rose in Twilight’s throat. It came out as a wheeze. She blinked hard, but the image did not fade. No, much worse--as she tried to blink it away the frozen face imprinted itself into the back of her eyelids. Everywhere she looked, she saw it.

She felt like she was falling. Then the face spoke, and she smacked facefirst into the bottom of everything.

“Hello,” the thing said in a raspy, ageless voice.

Twilight couldn’t find the words to respond.

“You seek answers. Yet, to know would only bring more destruction, more suffering. So do not ask these questions. Are you so naive as to think they would not taint what knowledge they found on the other side?”

To that, Twilight could only bite her lip. The answer stewed in her mouth, bitter like bile.

“You and your kind have taken many lives to preserve the secret. I thank you.”

“Why?” Twilight stammered. Chills swept up and down her legs. Bugs crawled across her skin in a lattice pattern. “Why did they die?”

“They died because you are cursed,” the face replied. “You are cursed to exist in one world while seeing into the other. This glimpse alone has gifted you with eternal life. This is your burden to carry, not theirs. They knew, so they had to die. Lest they all become immortals.”

“No... no, they shouldn’t have to die.”

“And yet, they have.”

“What are you?”

I am the truth, the guiding light. I am mercy and justice and passion and hatred. I am everything you do not understand that fills you with life from your first breath to your last. I am everything. I am the inevitable. I am death. I am life.”

“You’re a monster.”

The face shifted. Wings appeared, two, then four, then six. Eight in total, wrapping around, tumbling out, feathers aglow with liquid fire. It spoke in a voice devoid of ego, devoid of self, of life as she knew it, “You are but a figment of my imagination!”

Twilight vomited in her lap. The fire flickered. Her eyes snapped shut.

She saw nothing.

She and Celestia did not speak of their evening in the catacombs for another three thousand, one hundred, and twenty six years. The heat wave of that era had come and come. A more temperate and perpetual fall lingered over the land now. Fogs descended in an afternoon and lasted for ten years. Ponies lived and died in single century-long storms. When the sun peeked through the clouds, religions sprouted up and birthrates spiked.

Twilight sat in the throne room, cool marble tinted green and gold by the stained glass lining the walls. Court had just ended, but she was not quite ready to leave yet.

Her court transcriber, a lanky pegasus named Verisimilitude, noisily disassembled her typewriter next to Twilight. She was a friendly mare. Unafraid of authority. Bold. Content with her life.

“Princess?” she said. “You seemed distant today. Everything alright?”

Twilight turned. For a moment, she saw a face, golden light in a lattice shape. But it was just the windows, it was always the windows, she really needed to commision some other artwork for those blasted windows.

“I’m fine,” she said, and she meant it.

Verisimilitude nodded and continued putting away her instrument. Twilight bit her lip and glanced towards the windows again, suddenly unsure of her answer. Had she meant it?


“Yes, princess?”

“What do you dream of?”

The mare scrunched up her nose in thought. “I dunno. Food. Colts. Typewriters. Why do you ask?”

Say it. Say it. Twilight looked into the mare’s eyes and saw herself reflected in many different lights. She was her. A shining, golden lattice made of ponies. Company in the darkness.

Twilight opened her mouth.

“No reason. Forget I said anything.”

Verisimilitude shrugged and went on disassembling her typewriter, happy as ever.
« Prev   1   Next »
#1 ·
· · >>thebandbrony
The imagery here:

Is gorgeous and other than a few typos--"The heat wave of that era had come and come", for instance, I'm thinking should be "come and gone"--the writing is smooth and lovely. But the story as presented doesn't quite come together for me.

We've got this Realm Beyond What Mortals Ponies Can Know, not quite a realm of Lovecraftian madness but something apparently similar. And I say "apparently" because by the end of the story, I still don't really have a feeling for it. When Celestia becomes the Seraphim in the second-to-last scene--and it seemed odd that the pronouns shift to "he" at that point when describing the creature: I wanted something more ineffable at that point like maybe "we" since Twilight's now caught up within them--we get the Seraphim telling us who he is and what he does, but Twilight, our trusted POV character, screams that it's all a lie. And then the last scene, which starts with the promise of a talk between Celestia and Twilight three thousand, one hundred, and twenty six years later, a talk that I hoped would bring at least a hint of resolution to the conflict, doesn't actually give us that talk!

The italics represent my frustration.

I like that the Seraphim aren't apparently Lovecraftian monsters whom the alicorns are blocking from entering the Mortal Realm 'cause that's been done to death. But in the end, I don't have even an inkling as to what the relationship between the Seraphim and the alicorns actually is. Leaving us with the Seraphim last shouted line before Twilight vomits isn't enough for me: I need the promised talk between Twilight and Celestia all those thousands of years later--not to spell the whole thing out but to show me how Twilight has processed the "figment of my imagination" thing. Has she accepted it? Rejected it? I don't really get a sense of that from the final scene as it now exists.

And why all the talk of heat waves and ten-year fogs and century-long storms? Why did the pegasi lose the ability to control the weather?

The story's very much worth a rewrite, I'd say, when there isn't a contest deadline bearing down.

#2 ·
· · >>thebandbrony
Wow. Just, wow. Teetering the line between horror and... I guess regular unknowable existential terror? Two lines I'd like to call out as being especially awesome:

Luna evaporated into shadow.

I'm a sucker for cool, non-standard magic Luna stuff, so little things like this always catch my eye and earn some bonus points.

The lack of familiarity made Twilight dizzy.

This really speaks to the same-ness of immortality, that just something being unfamiliar can cause an uncomfortable physical sensation. It's a little thing that does a great job selling the passage of time from the beginning of the story to now.

Speaking of passage of time, I am really curious about the odd weather phenomena that come and go through the centuries. Something akin to natural Milankovitch cycles, perhaps? Given the manual nature of weather management, the climate details really stand out, even with all the other strangeness shining through.

I usually describe and think of Alicorns as more akin to Greek gods—strong but very fallible—so seeing them painted as intermediaries between the mortal world and something more traditionally Biblical is a really cool change of pace. All the writing details are sufficiently terrifying without being horrifying, if that makes sense? The Seraphic imagery is terrifying in its alienness, but not necessarily horrifying in the "genre" sense of the word, I suppose.

Really solid stuff here. Would love to see more. Definitely top 3 pick ;)
#3 ·
>>Baal Bunny
Thank you both for your kind and helpful critiques! This is definitely getting a rewrite. Baal, I apologize sincerely for causing you so much frustration. I didn't realize that even though the deadline said the 17th, it was in the very early morning of the 17th, so I freaked out and wrote the whole thing in one go and straight up forgot to resolve that massive plot point. Lmao.

As for the weather, I'm not really sure what that represents. In the moment I thought it would be interesting to portray the passage of time as a changing of the seasons. I like the vibe it establishes but I'm still unsure whether it actually serves the story or not. Hopefully the rewriting process will reveal something.

Thank you both, again :)
#4 ·
I actually like the fact that Twilight and Celestia don't talk about it further. I mean they should. But for me, as the reader, I like to guess about what these seraphim are. (I also notice that seraphim have become a fucking meme. I don't know why but whatever.) It's kinda lovecrafty but not. Is it benevolent? Ordering death prevent catastrophe in the mortal realm? But I'm not exactly sure why the Alicorns need to be a part of this loop. What exactly do alicorns need to balance? How did the Omnian's gain the knowledge Alicorns are tasked to keep secret?

Is this like a face melting holy grail type thing, or being unclean and stepping into a holy temple, dropping you dead in an instant? Or I guess in this case going mad.

The "You're just a figment of my imagination" line is very chilling. I could technically understand the need to slaughter a cult that is on the cusp of dropping some literal world ending knowledge, but for some reason that one quote is worse than the slaughter. It feels incredibly malevolent even though you describe the seraphim as having said it without ego. It's just telling the truth no matter how much that truth may hurt the one hearing it. It couldn't have been said out of love. The neutrality of it is what makes it so confusing and off putting. It's like knowing the difference between being cared for out of compassion vs being "maintained".
Not necessarily horror but it certainly does not generate happy feelings... But anyway great story!