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

Forbidden Knowledge · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Show rules for this event
Modern Farming Techniques of Earth Ponies
Sweat soaked through her coat and Applejack wobbled slightly. Her mouth relaxed into a carefree smile.

Before her was bushels of apples. Bushels upon bushels of apples piled from floor to ceiling and into every corner of the cellar. Tens of thousands, glistening and ripe like jewels in the dark. Rigorously divided into sections depending on quality and size. She could look in any direction and see the future of each apple, be it in baked, jam, cider, juice or as a whole eating apple.

She was done. The harvest was completed and stored away. At least for today. Tomorrow was tomorrow and would have it's own trials.

Except, of course, for that one thing she had to do at the end of today.

Applejack giggled softly with exhaustion as she closed the cellar door and bared it shut.

“Howdy,” introduced a pony behind her. She said it almost ironically. It was Carrot Top, she lived on a small acreage bordering on her farm. She was covered in a dry coat of dirt. “I managed to finish harvesting early so I came by to see if you needed a hoof?”

Applejack hardened her expression.

“Ah was just finishing up mah'self. Thank ya, fer yer concern.” Her eyes did not look thankful.

“You're welcome. Us farmers do have to stick together, right?”


A gentle autumn breeze dragged against Applejack's sweat soaked coat pulling away a gentle steam while from Carrot Top's coat it pulled nothing but dry dust.

The farmer's neighbor shuffled her hooves in uncertainty. “Well, that is all that I came for. I'll be going now.”

“I'll see ya around,” something about the way she said it suggested that she wasn't happy about that.

“Listen, I'm just trying to be neighborly!”

“Ah never said you wasn't.”

Carrot Top looked back as she left. Her eyes frightened and uncertain.

The farmers eyelids drooped low, her breathing became regular and deep. She slowly started to drift off to the left.

Applejack pumped into something soft, comfortable and familiar. She could feel the body of the mare next to her, the strategically placed saddle blanket hold her sweat at bay and she could smell the perfume.

The other mare leaned into her, holding her up and on the right path. While lighter and weaker she was fresh and vital.

A bottle of lemonade was held to her lips and poured onto her achingly dry tongue. Tart refreshment flowed down her throat forming an ache in her belly.

Almost imperceptibly the lightest of touches began to flit over her, picking away stray bits of leaves and other debris. This she indulged, it was sort of soothing but she would never be able to say so.

Applejack opened her eyes. The other mare smiled back.

Rarity would make some lucky colt a wonderful wife someday.

“I thought I saw Carrot Top crying.”

“She should really know better.”

“She just wants to help.”

“She just wants me to owe her a favor.”

“Darling! If she does you a favor first, then what's the problem?”

“Mah favors are worth more then hers.”

“Huh,” was the reply.

Time passed, Rarity dutifully supporting Applejack's weight and tending to her as best as she could.

“Ye don't have a piece of land you need mah a take care of fer ya... Ye might need a wagon pulled or maybe a bit of time but you don't need nuffin that would really cost me.”

The pale unicorn considered this for a time. “Just supposing I did have a field of trees that needed a good kicking, would you brush me off like you do Carrot Top?”

“I reckon that maybe I could help you out, in the hypothetical.” The orange earth pony raised an eyebrow, “But how much and when would depend on what you could do for me in return?”

Rarity flushed slightly. “I imagine I could find someway of reimbursing you for your services.”

“Oh, truly?”

“Truly and surely, I'm not a mare to let debt lay about unpaid.” Rarity opened her mouth, slightly in anticipation.

Applejack met Rarity's eyes and understood.

There was room there in that moment for a kiss. A powerful and bold kiss that would claim the designer for herself. It would be a whirlwind romance through the winter months. They would spend nights snuggling by the fire sipping on hot cider, whispering to each other and delving into each others eyes. They would be married in the spring in front of the entirety of the town. Applejack would wear a tux and Rarity... could she still wear white? The mayor would officiate the ceremony and the crowds would cheer. They'd have to get either her brother or one of her cousins to stud. Rarity would look so radiant with an Apple growing inside of her. They'd name the kid something fancy like Strudel. Their love, the heat and the passion, would forge a new and strong link in the unending chain of the Apple family. The farm would flourish under the keen business sense of the unicorn. Rarity would never quite fit into farm life though. She would struggle and give everything she had give. It would age her and sap away her vitality. Then she would find her equilibrium for a time but only after sacrificing her youth, beauty and her dreams. Eventually her life it's self be fed into the ever hungry maw of the farm.

She had spent a number of nights thinking about it.

Rarity's ear flicked impatiently as she waited for the kiss that make her a farmer's wife.

Applejack just laughed and kept walking.

Rarity left in an indignant huff.

The earth pony snuck a look back at her as she walked away.

Applejack at last arrived at the secret heart of Sweet Apple Acres.

Not the beating heart of course. The beating heart was the proud house and the living family within it on open display to all of Ponyville proper.

The secret heart was... well secret.

The sun had not yet reached the horizon and so she had a moment. She took this moment to try to practice for the hardest conversation she would ever have.

“Ya see Applebloom...” she took a breath and tried to focus. “Farming is pretty hard work.”

“I know that much,” dismissed an imaginary Applebloom that was a little older then she was now.

“No, that's not what ah mean. Ah mean... You know how just me and Big Mac handle the farm?”

“Yeah...” replied Applebloom as she started to understand something. “But that time Big Mac got hurt, you asked fer help and your friends showed up.”

“Yup. Five whole ponies. One of them being among the most ridiculously powerful unicorns in all of Equestria mind you. To do half of the job Big Mac does every year all on his own.”

“What... What exactly are ya trying to say?”

“Sweet Apple Acres is just over a hundred acres in size. It would take nearly twenty ponies to manage the whole thing using old fashioned earth pony methods.”

“So... how do we do it?”

“With twenty ponies and old fashioned earth pony methods. Ah just told you that.” Applejack took a moment to tease her imaginary little sister for some precious levity.

“But... Ah haven't seen that many ponies around.”

“Of course not.” The farmer glanced toward the sky. The sun was dipping below the horizon, the moon had not yet risen. It was dusk. The tiny slice of day when nopony was able to pay any attention to the little details. “Ah'll show ya. Watch this closely now.”

Applejack looked over the Apple family cemetery. Grave stones lay scattered about nearly randomly, some worn to illegibility and some fresh and new. At the center of it all was a tree. It wasn't an apple tree.

She wasn't a little filly anymore so it shouldn't frighten her anymore but it did. It always would.

Haralson was first. A second son and the first Apple to die upon the soil of Sweet Apple Acres. Tired he pulled his ethereal body free of his descendant's and made his way back to his grave. The lethal bite of a timberwolf upon the back of his neck a constant reminder of the method of his death.

Egremont and Jonared came next, side by side as they had been in life. Each had been taken by a hacking cough.

Pink Pearl who bled to death after stumbling over a plow two hundred years ago.

Jonagold who made it to the ripe old age of fifty before her heart gave out.

Gravenstein who a hundred and eighty years ago was the first Apple to harness the power of the dead and bring the farm into the age of modern agriculture. He died five years later when the primitive spell buffer gave way and his brain was cooked.

Antonovka who attempted to carry within her fourteen souls of the dead at once only to have her heart give out within the hour.

Cortland who tried to carry the souls through the winter. His rib cage had inexplicably been crushed in the night.

Idared and Ilstar were the last.

“Next time could you refrain from leering at that whore while I'm inside your head?”

“No, mom.”

“If you're going to be a degenerate filly-fooler you should just grab that mare.”

“No, dad.”

“Listen, she wants you to. It would at least put her to some proper and respectable use.”

“I know but no, dad.”

“I wish your brother Tart was still around. He was a much more dutiful child and could actually be relied on.”

“He was a fairy, mom.”

“You take that back!”

“If he hadn't of died he would have left and never come back!”

“You truly are a loathsome child.”

“You... try going with Mac next time. Or Ah... Ah... Ah'll make it so you have to do more then just see that 'whore!'”

Her father laughed and her mother scowled.

The moon rose and the spirits finished retreating to their graves.

Istar who died trying to wield the power of the dead while her body was compromised with her pregnancy with Applebloom. Her uterus was torn causing her to bleed out. Applebloom was forced into the world a month early. It was a miracle that the foal had been saved.

Idared died mysteriously in the night. The doctors said his body was just worn out. He had been thirty five at the time.

Bereft of the strength and vigor of nearly a dozen ponies Applejack had a sit down. She was just a normal pony now and would be until it was time for Winter-Wrap-Up day. It would be good to rest for the winter. But at the same time she felt so small and helpless as just herself.

Of course this would kill her someday. It would kill her brother and in time her little sister. It would kill whatever spouse she chose and certainly claim any children and grandchildren she would have.

There was a reason this kind of necromancy was outlawed by the Princess.

There was a reason that every large scale farm still relied on it.

She felt bad for sneering at Carrot Top for pretending to be a farmer. But she just couldn't help herself.

Big Mac pushed his nose into her shoulder. Of course he was there. Where else could he have been? He'd had to unload his own batch of souls. He was so quiet she hadn't even noticed him.

It was all for the family. Or was it for the farm? The farm was the family wasn't it? Was there a difference anymore? Could there be a family without the farm?

If the farm vanished wouldn't the pin that held them all together go along with it? Wouldn't they all just wander off on the breeze?

She just didn't know.

The brother and sister made their way to the house.

“Hey Mac? Do you think this is all worth it?”

He didn't answer.
« Prev   20   Next »
#1 · 2
· · >>Obscure
This was a strange and surprising start to my reading. It's definitely rough, but it feels Writeoff-rough, which is to say that the things which are good about it are more fundamental parts of the story, and the elements that read the worst are the ones most impacted by a compressed schedule, like the surface polish (typos and general prose roughness).

A couple of random impressions from my reading:

–You definitely need to work on AJ's accent and voicing. Here are three lines in a row in which she sounds more like a Bittish pirate, Twilight Sparkle, and Rarity than she does herself:
“Ye don't have a piece of land you need mah a take care of fer ya... Ye might need a wagon pulled or maybe a bit of time but you don't need nuffin that would really cost me.”

“I reckon that maybe I could help you out, in the hypothetical.” The orange earth pony raised an eyebrow, “But how much and when would depend on what you could do for me in return?”

“Oh, truly?”

–The long paragraph in the Rarijack section was the first thing to really positively catch my eye. It almost feels like it's from a different story — it's the only place where your paragraph is so lengthy, and it's got dreamy, florid writing at odds with the laconic prose of the rest. I do love the effect and I'd like to see more like it, but it also felt out of place.

–A few nitpicks on the first section, because first impressions are important:
Sweat soaked through her coat and Applejack wobbled slightly. Her mouth relaxed into a carefree smile.

Your opening line rang false to me on first read, because I couldn't mentally connect that sort of exhaustion with being "carefree". With the context of the rest of the story, this gets worse: given that during that first scene Applejack is carrying with her the spirits of her dead ancestors who killed several Apples through overwork, she seems anything but carefree.
“Howdy,” introduced a pony behind her. She said it almost ironically. It was Carrot Top, she lived on a small acreage bordering on her farm. She was covered in a dry coat of dirt. “I managed to finish harvesting early so I came by to see if you needed a hoof?”

There's a certain literary style I can't name that it looks like you're going for here (blunt punchy sentences, introducing a single concept each, in something of a haphazard observational order), and if this is a deliberate stylistic choice, good for you. ("Introduced" is just an error though; it can't be used as an intransitive verb.) If that wasn't your intention, be careful here: elements like the pronoun "she" in "she said it almost ironically" followed by "It was Carrot Top" (rather than using her name in the dialogue tag) come across as disjointed, and this section sticks out from the less stylized text of the rest of the piece.

–The conflict you introduce in the scene with Applebloom is really engaging, though it was disorienting to have that entire conversation be hypothetical, and doubly disorienting to shift from an imaginary conversation to her apparently real conversation with the dead spirits without a more explicit division. It might punch this up to show us the actual conversation?

– I like the way that that develops, and I think this closes strong for its length. Kudos for that.

Get working on editing this one! There's a lot of surface grit which will polish out very easily, but there's really strong potential here, possibly even Top Contender after some aggressive passes.

Tier: Almost There
#2 · 2
It's okay but there are some issues.

The strength of the Apple gibberish is decidedly lacking and after reading the Rarijack section there is a decided absence of romantic build up.

Applejack waxing on like a lovestruck filly was pretty cool though.
#3 · 2
I feel all the pieces to a great story are here, even if some are a little rough around the edges.

I wish there'd been a little more build up to the reveal of Applejack and Big Mac using Necromancy to help with farmwork, maybe a few hints here and there during the other segments.

Speaking of which, others have already mentioned there was some disconnect with the Rarity scene, I can't help but feel it's a little isolated, even though it's later linked through the dialogue of AJ's parents, same with Golden's scene.

Just a suggestion, but you could maybe try to have all the scenes connect through a central theme, rather than have all these apparently stand-alone scenes that only have a pay-off at the end.

Still, it was an interesting read, and I'd love to read it again once you polish it a bit more.
#4 · 1
You are really going at it with Applejack's accent. Honestly, it's a little off-putting.
This... took a turn.
I was a little lost with the exchange between Applejack and her parents' spirits. An additional read-through helped clear it up, though.
Like others before me, I enjoyed the scene between Applejack and Rarity, even the fact that she left Rarity hanging. I liked the thoughtfulness of that scene.
For while, I felt that Applejack was a bit out-of-character and acting overly cold. The ending helps explain it, though.
It's an interesting idea that poses interesting questions and dilemmas. It's a little rough, but it can easily be smoothed. In the end, I'd say I liked it.
#5 ·
· · >>Obscure
I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that all the stuff about Rarity was added in at the last minute to pad this up to 2000 words. Most of that section feels extremely unpolished (it took me quite a bit of rereading to figure out what half of the sentences were trying to say), and it seems like it has almost no connection to the rest of the story. I really think that you should either cut it entirely or find a way to better integrate it into the story.
The part with Carrot Top doesn't stick out as much, but it could use some work too.

Now the last scene, on the other hoof, has some nice ideas, and is really pretty good. It could use a bit of cleaning up too, though; mostly in the dialogue with the spirits. The bit about AJ apparently having a brother named Tart was especially confusing, because it's basically just a random twist that comes out of nowhere without any warning. I also got confused by a typo and the ordering of the paragraphs for a bit and thought that you were saying that Apple Bloom had a different mother than AJ.

Basically I think that the biggest problem with this story is that I keep being thrown out of it, mostly to try to figure out what you're trying to say. With some good editing, this could turn into a really great story.
#6 · 1
· · >>Obscure
First off, though it is well written, many of the issues I found have more to do with the story, and less with the actual writing. The main thing that struck me as peculiar from the very start is the way Applejack is portrayed. She seems very out of character and kinda lacks emotion. Because of this, she comes of as a bit cold, which makes the Rarijack scene all the more surprising.

On the subject of that scene, I'm afraid that I agree with many of the other reviewers on the fact that it's a bit out of place, like it was taken from another piece and placed here to boost the word count. Which is a shame, because I almost enjoyed that story more than the main plot, though they don't really connect. A recommendation for this, if it's absolutely vital that you keep the Rarijack scene, would be to add more connections to the main story, other than the bit about Carrot Top.

Another issue is that, though I did find the idea of utilizing necromancy on the farm, and the concept of this being something every farm in Equestria has been doing for what I assume to be several generations, I feel there was not enough buildup. I feel that Applejack possibly making comments or having thoughts earlier in the story that were indirectly related to the necromancy could have built up a sense of dread, which would definitely work for this style of story. However, the surprise ending did have its benefits as well, most of all the shock factor. Another thing about the conclusion was that it did seem a bit impractical, and, as I already mentioned, out of character for both Big Mac and AJ. What I mean by this is that their parents come to life every day to work on the farm, yet everyone is fine with allowing Apple Bloom to think her parents are gone forever, or at least let her think this until AJ decides it's time to tell her.

Finally, Applejack's dialogue is a bit difficult to understand, though I can not fault the author too much for this, as it is no easy feat to nail her accent in written form while both maintaining it's authenticity and keeping it easy for the reader as well.

So, in short, although it may seem like there was quite a bit of criticism, it was largely easy fixes and minor errors that are simply a side effect of writing with a time constraint such as the one in a writeoff. I applaud the effort you put into this, and overall it was an entertaining read.
#7 · 1
· · >>The_Letter_J >>Obscure
For me this like...well, the problem is that selling 'The Apples are Necromancers, and this is a Big Thing for Farmers' requires me to accept a lot of things I'm unlikely to accept. Also it makes Equestria way darker because...???

Like, the reason we have in-show usually is 'Earth Pony Magic'. And this is getting replaced with something dark because...why? That's the big problem here, it seems like there's an idea of 'Lets make the Apples necromancers!' without a real 'And here is why I want to do that'
#8 ·
· · >>Obscure
Okay, this was strange... I'm not really sure what I think of it.

On the one hand, it does go some way into explaining how a small family can handle an entire orchard. On the other... With the early deaths and the strain and whatnot, you'd think they'd have been more interested in the Super Speedy Cider Squeezy... Also, how the heck is Granny Smith still alive if this is how they do things?

Also... If those souls empower AJ enough to buck all those apple trees... And she carries them all season long... She must be a total push over in the winter months, no? Yet we see her and Rainbow Dash keeping up with each other in all seasons....

Unless... Is there a secret Pegasus cloud graveyard, where RD goes to perform dark necromantic rituals in order to handle the weather? O.o

Suddenly I'm imagining Paranoia: Equestria Version. Necromantic rituals are evil and banned and treason, and everyone knows this... And everyone uses them, but everyone believes they're the only ones, and so are desperate to keep it secret... ;>

Anyway, returning from that random tangent, this was still pretty good. I especially liked AJ's subtle snubbing of Carrot Top... Because she isn't making the kinda of sacrifices the Apple's are, she's not a real farmer...
#9 ·
>>Morning Sun
Personally, I think this story is more of a Lawful Good sort of necromancy, where everyone involved expects and is perfectly okay with it. It's not the sort of thing that you see very often, but it does pop up occasionally. It's more of a "call upon the ancestors for aid" sort of thing.

I realize that the fact that necromancy apparently has a tendency to drive it's users to early deaths does somewhat undermine my point though.
#10 · 1
It's a downer that both of my stories fell short.

There is a thing that happens when you have worked long and hard enough, where your brain starts pumping out endorphins like mad just to keep you on your feet. It is very giddy, wobbly and carefree.

The Rarity scene is essential to core theme of the story.
AJ having unnamed family members isn't a twist, so much as a thing you didn't know. To be a twist it has to change the nature of the story up to that point.

AJ being a jackass to Carrot Top is supposed to be odd.
Having a scene where Applebloom gets to learn that the dead are really gone for ever and Istar having died blaming Applebloom for her demise will always blame her for that until the end of time is an interesting scene to be sure. If I was going to expand this into a novel size story I might include a scene like that, but this is a short story and as such cannot contain scenes that have nothing to do with the central theme.

>>Morning Sun
Listen... I cannot write "And this was an allegory for industrialization of modern farms and the relationship between large family farms and small subsistence family farms" at the end. That would be stupid.
But... I could acknowledge that none of my readers are likely to have considered how exactly Industrialization of the agricultural sector has radically changed the shape of the entire world forever. I could inject a series of metaphors comparing Applejack to an engine throughout the fic as an attempt to hammer the concept into the readers head.

Granny Smith is over 300 years old. That means she would have been over 120 when Gravenstein started the whole thing.