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Forbidden Knowledge · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
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The Trolls
A deep, arrhythmic rumble echoed from the south, imperceptible at first, but rapidly drawing closer. The citizens of Ponyville looked toward the sound and saw three imposing figures emerge from the edge of the Everfree Forest. Each of them stood larger than the cottages that made up the town, dragging along enormous spiked clubs that carved out their path behind them. Sporting rotund bellies, mangled yellow teeth, and skin a putrid shade of green, the mere sight of them was enough to inspire a sense of queasiness.

The first of the creatures had a large, potato-shaped nose positioned directly above his sneer, with beady eyes that seemed to criticize anything unfortunate enough to be in his line of sight. The second wore a hat of what resembled numerous burlap sacks haphazardly stitched together as well as an airy countenance. The third creature leading the way—the largest of them all—had an unruly, reddish-brown beard that, at its longest, reached down to the bellybutton peeking out from underneath his grubby shirt.

The ponies could only quake in stunned silence as the monsters entered their town and gazed out upon them. The bearded creature raised his free fist high into the air, eclipsing the sun and casting a malevolent shadow over them.

He cleared his throat into his fist.

“Ahem, salutations, all,” he said. “I am Trenton, the Indomitable Conqueror. These are my associates: Travis, Strong-As-A-Mountain—”

“Pleased to make your acquaintance,” the hat-wearing creature said with a bow.

“—And Tristan, He-Who-Crushes-Things.”

“Charmed,” the potato-nosed one grunted with a disinterested wave.

“—And we are the Trolls,” Trenton, the Indomitable Conqueror concluded. “We have come to conquer this land and plunder all of its resources.”

“Yes!” Travis cut in. “And if any among you dares to stand in our way, we will… we will—pardon me, gents,” he said, quickly turning to the others, “I always forget. Do we quash rebellions, or do we… squash rebellions?”

“We quash them,” Tristan answered.

“Ah, yes, thank you.” He turned back to the wide-eyed ponies. “We will quash any forms of rebellion… by squashing them.”

“We are prepared to accept your complete and utter surrender,” Trenton continued. “You have until… oh, what say you, fellows?”

Tristan merely shrugged his broad shoulders while Travis rubbed his chin in thought.

“Hmm, mid-morning tomorrow?” he suggested.

“Ah, yes, perfect,” Trenton agreed. “Just after morning tea.” He turned to address the ponies once more. “You have until mid-morning tomorrow to surrender, or we will begin our conquest of this land.”

Satisfied that their message had been received, the Trolls gave a nod and lumbered back towards the direction they came, once more dragging their fearsome clubs behind them. As the sound of their heavy footsteps receded into the distance, a single voice managed to shatter the silence in the crowd.

“…Somepony alert the Princess.”

The Trolls looked down at the small assembly of ponies before them, seven in all. Judging by the general mood in the air, they were not there to discuss surrender. Travis, Strong-As-A-Mountain tilted his head in confusion.

“Now I believe we made it expressly clear how we would respond to opposition,” he said thoughtfully.

“Indeed,” Tristan agreed.

Twilight Sparkle stepped forward. “We will not stand by and let you threaten our home,” she said. “We’ve faced much worse than the likes of you.” Applejack, Rainbow Dash, and Pinkie Pie joined her side.

Starlight Glimmer chewed her lip as the two groups stared at each other, eyes narrowed. “I’m not sure this is a good idea…” she muttered. Rarity and Fluttershy walked over to her.

“Twilight said she didn’t want you putting yourself in harm’s way,” Rarity said. “Just stick with us, darling. Those four tend to do most of the work in these situations, anyway.” Fluttershy nodded in agreement, but Starlight still could not shake her nerves.

Rainbow Dash shot into the air, meeting the Trolls at eye-level. “Are we gonna do this the easy way, or the hard way?”

Trenton merely kept his arms folded over his chest, waiting to see what the ponies would do next. A flare surrounded Twilight’s horn as she readied herself to cast a spell.

“Oh-ho-ho-ho!” Travis chortled. “They’re going to fight us with magic!

“How quaint,” Tristan said, nearly cracking a grin.

“Now, now, fellows,” Trenton said, speaking up at last. “Let us give them a sporting chance.” He raised an eyebrow to the ponies in challenge. “Your move, ladies.”

Rainbow Dash needed no more invitation than that. She zoomed through the air to find a good angle of attack before dive-bombing Tristan, He-Who-Crushes-Things. Meanwhile, Applejack and Pinkie each raced toward Travis—Applejack with a lasso in her teeth and Pinkie with her party cannon. Twilight took to the air and arched her back, preparing to fire a magical energy blast at Trenton, the Indomitable Conqueror.

Starlight’s spirits sank like a lead weight at the display.

Rainbow Dash harmlessly deflected off of Tristan’s sturdy body, flying back around to try again from another angle, like a particularly persistent gnat. Travis absentmindedly picked at his teeth while Applejack bucked at his ankles with all of her might and Pinkie fired confetti from her cannon and assaulted him with cake. But it was her mentor’s efforts that were the most disheartening.

Twilight’s initial energy blast left only the smallest scorch mark on Trenton’s face, and her subsequent blasts were proving just as ineffective as he calmly scratched at the exposed portion of his belly. He licked his thumb and snuffed out an errant flame that had caught in his beard.

Travis pulled his finger out of his gaping mouth long enough to impatiently ask, “How much longer are we to indulge these ponies?”

Tristan huffed in agreement, slowly waving an arm as if to shoo Rainbow Dash away.

“Fine, fine,” Trenton relented, spreading his arms wide. The other Trolls mirrored the gesture and together they all let loose a thunderous clap. The concussive shockwave knocked Rainbow Dash and Twilight out of the air and rattled the bones of Applejack and Pinkie. The shock was enough to knock Rarity, Fluttershy, and Starlight off-balance, even from the sidelines.

The ponies slowly pushed themselves back onto their hooves as a deep shadow fell over them. Trenton, the Indomitable Conqueror casually shouldered his massive club.

“You have until mid-morning tomorrow to surrender,” he reminded them with a smile.

“…Just after morning tea.”

Rainbow Dash slammed her hoof against the Map.

“I say we quit messing around!” she said, gritting her teeth. “Let’s break out the Rainbow Power and blast ‘em back to wherever they came from!”

Low murmurs passed through the others. Nopony else seemed to match her enthusiasm.

Starlight’s eyes once more jumped to Twilight, but she still had not moved a muscle since sitting down on her throne. She was too absorbed in her own thoughts.

“They’re almost impervious to magic,” Twilight said distantly. All eyes fell on her, waiting for her to continue, but she simply shook her head. “I think what we need is a different tactic.”

“Like what?” Applejack asked.

Twilight had been replaying past encounters in her head: her initial battle with Tirek; the Tantabus of Luna’s nightmares; her time-loop confrontation with Starlight. Force and aggression had never been the solution. In fact, they usually made the situation worse.

“I might have an idea,” Twilight said with a smile. “Actually, I might have two. Rarity, Fluttershy,” she said, looking between them, “I’d like you two to go talk with the Trolls in the morning. Maybe you can convince them to reconsider attacking Equestria.”

Their eyes widened in shock as they visibly froze.

“…You really think we can do it?” Fluttershy asked in disbelief.

“Well, I think you two have a better chance than the rest of us would…” Twilight said, scratching the back of her head. Applejack and Pinkie shifted awkwardly, while Rainbow Dash crossed her forelimbs and frowned.

Rarity and Fluttershy met each other’s gaze, engaging in a silent exchange. Their nerves and fears slowly dissipated until they shared a nod.

“Very well, Twilight,” Rarity said. “We shall set out in the morning.”

Twilight gave them an appreciative smile, but Starlight was still stuck on another detail.

“Didn’t you say you have another idea?” she asked.

“Why, yes, I did, Starlight,” Twilight said, giving her a nod. She looked back across the Map. “Pinkie, do you think you could reach out to some friends of ours?”

Pinkie Pie could only tilt her head with curiosity.

Starlight looked up the length of train tracks, along with Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Twilight and Pinkie. The morning train was due to arrive any minute, but the wait was starting to get to her. She pulled Twilight aside to have a private word with her.

“What is it, Starlight?” Twilight asked.

“I-I was just wondering why you didn’t have me go with Rarity and Fluttershy,” Starlight explained. The question had been nagging her since the two groups split up that morning. “I mean, wouldn’t that make more sense?”

Twilight bit her lip, averting her eyes. Apparently it had been a question she was hoping to avoid.

“I’m just being cautious,” she finally said. “I know Rarity and Fluttershy will be able to handle themselves, regardless of what happens. I don’t want to put you in danger, though, especially if their meeting doesn’t go well.”

Starlight limply opened her mouth to speak, but swallowed the words back down. Her eyes fell to the ground as the silence thickened between them.

Twilight quickly shook her head and smiled to her. “Besides, this gives me the opportunity to introduce you to a few new friends. We could even consider this your next lesson in friendship!”

Starlight was about to ask how simply meeting some of her friends could be a friendship lesson, but the sound of a chugging locomotive drew everypony’s attention. The train slowed to a stop in front of them with a burst of steam and the doors of the passenger car opened.

Starlight’s jaw dropped.

Rarity levitated a picnic basket in her magical aura as she and Fluttershy made her way back through the Forest. Keeping her eyes trained forward, she mulled over the importance of their mission, but between her charm and Fluttershy’s poise, she had faith that they could do it.

She turned to face Fluttershy, offering her a smile. Fluttershy gave her a bashful smile in return.

They entered the clearing the Trolls had staked as their own to find them seated near a colossal copper teapot next to what must have once been a large fire pit, judging by the scorched, blackened ground.

“Yoo-hoo!” Rarity called with a wave, hoping to start the encounter on a friendly note.

“Good morning,” Fluttershy said.

The Trolls looked up and hurriedly fumbled to stand up, a task made daunting by their immense bulks. Once finally upright, Tristan, He-Who-Crushes-Things glowered over at Travis and elbowed him. Travis flinched in surprise, but got the message. He quickly swiped his burlap hat off of his head.

“Good morning, ladies,” they recited together.

Rarity and Fluttershy smiled to each other. This might just work, after all.

“We were hoping to have a word with you,” Rarity said brightly. “May we join you for tea?”

“By all means,” Trenton, the Indomitable Conqueror answered. He and the other Trolls fell back onto their haunches, shaking the ground as they did. Travis replaced his patchwork hat as Rarity and Fluttershy made their way over. “Your timing is impeccable—the tea has just finished steeping.”

“I simply must apologize for our friends’ behavior yesterday,” Rarity began. She levitated a picnic blanket and two teacups out of her basket, set them between the two parties, and took a seat next to Fluttershy. “I’m hoping we can all have a fresh start today.”

Tristan set out three well-used teacups, each large enough for a pony to bathe in, while Trenton reached over and grabbed the copper handle. His flesh sizzled against the hot metal, but he seemed unbothered as he hefted it off the ground.

“Let us not spoil morning tea by dredging up the past. This is a new beginning.” With remarkable precision, he gave the teapot the slightest tilt and managed to fill both of the ponies’ teacups without spilling a drop. “Enjoy,” he said, flashing a yellow, uneven smile.

Rarity and Fluttershy waited for the Trolls to fill theirs before they all raised their cups.

“Cheers,” Tristan said, more out of obligation than true interest. The Trolls all extended their pinkies and took a sip.

Rarity and Fluttershy each delicately sipped their tea. Troll tea was surprisingly robust and aromatic, yet it also possessed its own vibrancy that seemed to radiate through them and invigorate them.

An excellent morning tea, indeed.

Travis, Strong-As-A-Mountain reached over and ripped a tree straight out of the ground, roots and all. He dangled a branch over his cup, causing honey to ooze out of a beehive and into his tea.

“Oh-ho-ho-ho,” he chuckled. “Where are my manners?” He waved the tree over Fluttershy’s cup. “Honey?”

Fluttershy recoiled as she watched bees angrily attack Travis’s hand, though he paid them no mind. An Equestrian spear would be lucky to leave a scratch against his resilient flesh. Her eyes flickered up to the Troll’s, still awaiting an answer.

“Um, no, thank you,” she squeaked.

Travis shrugged and slammed the tree back into the ground where he got it.

“Now, then,” Trenton said, “I assume you are here to discuss the ponies’ surrender?”

Rarity choked mid-sip, but not being one to waste good tea, dutifully gulped it down. She turned to Fluttershy with a silent, panicked cry for help on her face.

“Well, actually,” Fluttershy said, receding into her mane, “we were hoping you might… reconsider… attacking Equestria?”

Trenton stared at her for a moment, soaking in her words.

“Ahahaha, hahaha, ahaha!” His laugh was a jolly, hearty sound that shook the ground almost as much as it did his belly. “Ahahahaha—no.”

“But-but…” Fluttershy whimpered, until Rarity cleared her throat. It would be best not to press the issue, lest they spoil his good mood. They were being such gracious hosts, after all.

They needed a different approach.

“Care to enlighten me,” Rarity said, trying to sound casual, “what would happen if the ponies didn’t surrender? Hypothetically, of course.”

Trenton, the Indomitable Conqueror ran his fingers through his tangle of beard. “We would travel the land, plundering all of your gold and jewels—”

“—Pillaging all of your food,” Travis cut in.

“And crushing things,” Tristan finished.

Rarity gulped. “I-I see. And what would our surrender entail, exactly?”

Trenton rubbed his hand together and stretched. “We would travel the land, accepting your tributes of gold and jewels—”

“—Feasting on all of your offerings of food,” Travis interrupted.

“And crushing things,” Tristan said.

“Though, not as much crushing,” Trenton amended.

Rarity and Fluttershy exchanged panicked looks. Neither outcome exactly qualified as desirable. They looked back up as the Trolls shifted around, rising to their feet.

“Well,” Travis said, stretching, “that concludes morning tea. Unless you surrender now, we will begin laying waste to everything you know and love. Oh-ho-ho-ho…”

Trenton joined in with another hearty laugh, and even Tristan gave a snort of amusement.

Fluttershy’s lip quivered as tears pooled in her eyes. “But…”

“Oh, no, my dear,” Trenton quickly said. “You misunderstand. That was just a bit of troll humor. Admittedly, it is not for everyone.”

Fluttershy slowly regained control of her breathing, but the horror refused to leave her eyes.

“Although the question does remain,” Trenton said, growing serious. “Are you going to surrender?”

Rarity looked back and forth frantically. “Oh, um, w-well, I—”

Stop!” a voice rang out.

They all swiveled to see five approaching ponies, with a determined Twilight Sparkle in the lead.

“Ahh,” Trenton said as he and the other Trolls lumbered forward to meet them. “It is a pleasure to see you all again. What brings you here?”

“Trolls,” Twilight said, “I’d like to introduce you to… our friends.”

The rest of the ponies stepped aside to reveal three regal-looking yaks.

“Trolls!” Prince Rutherford yelled. “Greetings, Trolls!”

Trenton raised a bushy eyebrow. “What is the meaning of this?”

“Yaks come to help pony friends,” Prince Rutherford explained. “Yaks challenge Trolls… to SMASHING CONTEST!

“Ahahahaha!” Trenton laughed into the skies.

“We tower over you, yaks,” he said, leaning over them to emphasize the point. “Do you truly believe you can defeat us in a smashing contest?”

The Prince refused to be intimidated. “Yaks win; Trolls leave Equestria!”

“And what do we get if we win?”

The portion of Prince Rutherford’s face that could be seen descended into a bitter scowl.

“…Yaks forfeit Yakyakistan.”

The ponies all gasped in shock. The Prince had kept that particular detail from them up until then, but the lack of reaction from his entourage made it clear that this had been the plan all along.

Any chance to talk the Prince out of it was lost when Trenton turned to the other Trolls. “Hmm, what do you think, fellows?”

Travis was stroking his chin in thought. “It is an interesting proposition…”

“I concur,” Tristan said.

“Very well, old sport,” Trenton said, turning back to Prince Rutherford. “You have yourself a wager.”

Pinkie Pie, dressed in a grey knit cap and matching sweatshirt, was zipping between the yaks, massaging their shoulders, and sharing words of encouragement.

“Now you go out there and do what yaks do best!” Pinkie said. “Don’t think about how the fates of two whole nations are on the line.” She tittered nervously. “N-no biggie.”

The yaks remained completely focused and straight-faced, with no sign of cracking beneath the pressure they were under. Or perhaps they had simply dozed off while standing up. It could be difficult to tell with their bangs constantly in the way.

Regardless, Twilight took her place between the Trolls and the yaks.

“Alright, everyone,” she announced, “it’s time to begin! Now, according to my official Smashing Contest Rulebook”—Rainbow Dash struck her own forehead—“neither team may use any outside objects, relying only on their strength and smashing techniques. Do both teams agree to these terms?”

“Yaks accept!” Prince Rutherford shouted.

“Very well,” Trenton said. The Trolls simultaneously dropped their clubs, shaking the ground on impact. “We accept.”

“Then the best of three events wins.” Twilight turned to her friends. “Rainbow Dash, as Ponyville’s resident demolition-mare and the previous record-holder for ‘Most Stuff Broken in Under a Minute’, I would like you to officiate.”

“Oh, how do I always get dragged into these things?” she muttered as she drifted over. She donned her coach’s cap and whistle, and took the official rulebook from Twilight. Her eyes lazily skimmed over the pages, mumbling as she went. Having acquired a sufficient grasp of the rules, she slammed the book shut and turned to the competitors.

“Alright!” she said as she shot into the air. “The first event is Boulder Smashing.” She held a hoof out to indicate a large pile of boulders, similar to the one Pinkie had once fashioned into a rock slide. “The first team to smash ten of those boulders wins, and a boulder is only considered smashed if each piece is smaller than one-quarter of its original size, so don’t hold back! Got it?”

The competitors all gave an affirmative grunt.

“On your marks, get set—” she let out a shrill whistle.

The yaks and the Trolls raced for the boulders as the ponies let out cheers. The unwieldy gait of the Trolls made them slower to reach the boulders, and the yaks took full advantage of their head start.

“Go, yaks, go!” Starlight joined in. She still had difficulty wrapping her mind around the fact that her mentor and friends were also friends with yaks, but here they were, placing their all of faith in them. And if they all believed in the yaks, then she did, too.

At least she did until she saw how they were doing.

The yaks roared as they collided headfirst with boulders, shattered them with their hooves, and stomped them to pieces. Despite their valiant performance, however, they could not outpace the Trolls’ massive fists. Tristan, He-Who-Crushes-Things thoroughly illustrated how he had earned his title. The Trolls were smashing in a frenzy to make up for lost time, even resorting to breaking the boulders against each other like some sort of brutal pillow-fight.

The yaks had just started their eighth boulder when Trenton ground their last boulder to dust beneath his foot.

Rainbow Dash looked down gravely, holding out a hoof. “The winners of the first event are… the Trolls.”

Prince Rutherford bellowed in frustration, smashing the remnants of a boulder to bits. Trenton, the Indomitable Conqueror stepped over to him with a smug grin.

“It is not too late to forfeit now, old sport,” he said, shaking boulder dust loose from his beard. “There is no shame in admitting defeat.”

The Prince ground his teeth. “Yaks only getting started!” He yelled so fervently that his bangs parted, revealing the fire in his piercing, olive-green eyes.

Applejack unloaded a few apple brown bettys from her cart and passed them out to the yaks.

“Eat up, fellas,” she said, though they were already noisily munching down on them. “You’ll need yer strength for the next event.”

“Mm-hmm,” Prince Rutherford grunted before burying his face in another betty.

Applejack took a look around. Rainbow Dash was pacing around as she poured over the rulebook; Pinkie Pie was giving pom-poms to Rarity and Fluttershy, despite their reluctance to accept them; and Twilight and Starlight were talking off to the side. From what Applejack could gather, Twilight was still telling her about how they had become friends with the yaks in the first place.

The Trolls were in their own little corner of the meadow, grumbling and scowling and growing impatient as they awaited the next event. Applejack shook her head. An idea had invaded her mind, one that she definitely could not indulge. She let out a sigh as it continued to nag at her.

She wheeled her cart over to the Trolls.

The Trolls stumbled trying to push themselves up until Applejack held up a hoof.

“Don’t get up on my account,” she said. “I’m just here to drop these off.” She unhitched herself from the cart and started walking off.

“Wait!” Travis called.

Applejack froze, but peeked back over her shoulder.

“…What is this for?” he asked.

“I reckon ya’ll ain’t had anythin’ since yer mornin’ tea, is all,” she explained. “Sorry there ain’t exactly enough to go around.” With that, she continued walking.

“Uh—uh…” Travis, Strong-As-A-Mountain watched her leave before turning to the cart. He managed to grab a few bettys before the other Trolls swiped the cart away. The bettys looked like odd brown birthmarks against their chubby green fingers, but they did their best to eat them.

Applejack sighed and lifted her head up to the sight of her friends staring at her in disbelief.

“…What?” she asked.

“Applejack…” Starlight said softly.

“That was… incredible, darling!” Rarity exclaimed. Everypony rushed past Starlight to give Applejack a hug.

“C’mon, now,” Applejack said. “Ain’t no need to make a fuss.” She turned to Rainbow Dash. “You gonna announce the next event anytime soon?”

“Yeah, yeah,” she said, rolling her eyes. “I was just about to, until all that happened.” She disconnected from the hug and took flight.

Starlight continued to stare at Applejack as everypony else went back to their own affairs.

“Why did you do that?” Starlight asked. “Why did you help them?”

Applejack shrugged. “Just seemed like the right thing to do.”

Before Starlight could ask her to elaborate, Rainbow Dash’s voice cut through the field.

“It’s time for the next event!” She looked down to Twilight, who began casting the spell. Two thick, semi-transparent walls appeared to grow out of the ground, taller than even the Trolls themselves. The competitors approached their walls and gazed at their distorted, multifaceted reflections. “This is enchanted crystal,” Rainbow Dash explained. “The same stuff the Crystal Castle is made of. Each team needs to smash a hole in their wall big enough to fit through. The first team to make it to the other side of their wall wins.”

The yaks and the Trolls nodded.

“On your marks, get set—” her whistle blared out another screech.

Travis, Strong-As-A-Mountain punched the wall, making it rattle, but barely left a mark. Tristan roughly shoved him aside and raised his fist to attack the wall, only to be interrupted by Travis pushing him back. He managed to get a few more punches in before Tristan tackled him. Trenton bumped them both out of the way with his belly and crashed his head against the crystal, resulting in the first major crack in their wall.

Starlight turned her attention to the yaks. The three stood side-by-side, savagely striking and tackling the crystal wall. Cracks were spreading and overlapping with each other. The yaks were making steady progress, while the Trolls continued arguing and bashing each other as much as they were bashing their wall.

Prince Rutherford let loose a guttural yell and drove his hoof through the weakened crystal. He and the others began chipping away at the edge of the hole, slowly widening it.

Trenton slammed a fist down on Travis’s head, making the latter Troll stagger away. He brought both of his fists together and struck the wall with all of his might. The loud crunch resounded through the field as a deep crack traveled the entire length of the wall.

Yaks!” Prince Rutherford gasped between breaths. “On three!” The yaks all backed up and lowered their heads.

Tristan leaned back and kicked the wall, embedding his foot in the crystal. Travis, having recovered from his daze, ripped him away and began punching the upper-portion of their wall with reckless abandon, exacerbating the crack. Trenton muscled his way to the front, drew his arm back, and took aim at the middle of the wall.

“…THREE!” Prince Rutherford bellowed.

The yaks charged at the wall and smashed through, sending bits of crystal cascading through the air and scattering light in every direction. They gave their heads a vigorous shake and looked over at the Trolls.

Trenton’s fist had broken through, but all three of the Trolls remained on the opposite side of the wall.

“The yaks win the second event!” Rainbow Dash cheered.

Pinkie jumped up from behind the Prince and gave him a hug as the rest of the ponies came to celebrate their victory.

Starlight looked over at the Trolls. Trenton, the Indomitable Conqueror was struggling to free his fist from the crystal, but his fellow Trolls did not seem inclined to help him. Each of them was glaring and growling at the others.

She turned to join her friends in congratulating the yaks on their victory as Applejack’s words echoed in the back of her mind.

The Trolls refused to look at each other. The atmosphere between them was so tense that the ponies were glad they had given up their clubs before the contest began.

Fluttershy shook her head in disapproval, drawing the attention of Rarity and Starlight.

“I can’t stand seeing them this way,” she lamented, turning to Rarity. “Do you remember how they were this morning?”

“I certainly do,” she said. “This competition has really brought out the worst in them.”

Fluttershy rose to her hooves. “I’m going to go talk to them.”

Starlight looked back and forth between her and the Trolls. “Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

“Absolutely,” she answered with a serene smile. “They just need help expressing their feelings. That’s all.”

“That’s not exactly what I—”

But Fluttershy was already making her over to the disgruntled Trolls. When they noticed her presence, they slowly pushed themselves onto their feet, though they continued to avoid eye-contact with each other.

“Salutations, my dear,” Trenton said. “What brings you here?”

“You three have been treating each other very poorly,” Fluttershy said. “You all need to apologize to each other.”

Tristan, He-Who-Crushes-Things scoffed at the thought, earning a glare from Travis.

“Do you see what I have to deal with?” he asked, incredulous. “These two are impossible.”

Trenton shook his head, as if he could not believe what he had just heard. “Am I expected to settle every dispute that arises between you two? Your constant bickering is more than I can take!”

“How else am I supposed to respond when he smashes a boulder against my head?!

“Stop!” Fluttershy flew between the two arguing Trolls, even getting Tristan’s attention. She looked between the two of them to make sure they were listening.

“…Do you remember what you said this morning?” she asked Trenton.

He looked down, ashamed. “…‘This is a new beginning’.”

Fluttershy nodded. “Can’t we make this a new beginning, too?”

“I will apologize if he does.” Travis said, eyes darting to Tristan.

Tristan huffed, but met the looks of Fluttershy and the other Trolls. He dragged a finger across his lumpy potato-nose.

“My… sincerest apologies.”

“That is all I wanted to hear,” Travis said, softening. “And I am sorry for making a mountain out of a molehill.”

Trenton stepped up to his fellow Trolls. “I am sorry to you both. I should be a more responsible leader.”

“See?” Fluttershy said. “Isn’t this better than fighting with each other?” She smiled as they all nodded in agreement. “Now I want you to promise not to hit each other in the next event.”

The Trolls exchanged awkward glances.

“I solemnly swear.” All eyes fell on Tristan, but he only waited for their response. They flashed him two stained smiles, cementing the promise.

“Good luck in the next event, you three,” Fluttershy said, flying off.

“Farewell, my dear,” Trenton called.

Fluttershy landed beside Rarity and Starlight, smiling at the results of her work.

“Isn’t that nice?” she asked.

“I’m quite proud of you, Fluttershy,” Rarity agreed.

Starlight stared at them in stunned silence.

“Was that—” Starlight swallowed and tried again. “Was that the right thing to do?”

“We’ll have to wait and see,” Fluttershy said distantly, but a gentle smile graced her lips.

Rainbow Dash zipped into the sky. “Alright! It’s time for the last event!” The Trolls, yaks, and ponies rushed over before she continued. “These are cinderblocks,” she said, gesturing towards the two piles behind her. “A whole lot of ‘em. Whichever team smashes the most in one minute wins. The only other rule is that a cinderblock has to be removed from the pile before you’re allowed to smash it. Any questions?”

Starlight gulped down her nerves as the competitors readied themselves. This event would determine the future of not one, but two nations. Her heart thundered in her chest as Rainbow Dash lifted her whistle.

“On your marks, get set—” she blew the whistle.

The Trolls all rushed for their pile, grabbing individual cinderblocks and tossing them to the ground, stomping on them as required. The yaks, meanwhile, employed a different strategy: Prince Rutherford had climbed to the top of their pile and began throwing cinderblocks to his fellow delegates as quickly as he could. They proceeded to smash them by whatever means necessary—crushing, punching, biting, and tackling.

Rainbow Dash kept her eyes trained on the stopwatch in her hoof. It sounded like a mess down at ground-level, between the smashing of cinderblocks and the cheering of ponies, but she would not let herself get distracted. The fate of Equestria and Yakyakistan would be decided in five… four… three… two…

She blew into the whistle, and all other sound came to a screeching halt.

Everyone shifted nervously as Rainbow Dash and Twilight began the official count. The process was simple enough: count the cinderblocks that remained in each pile to know how many had been smashed. Rainbow Dash nodded to Twilight after conferring with her and flew back into the sky.

“The final score for the Trolls is… one-hundred, seventy-two. And the final score for the yaks is one-hundred… sixty-one.”

The ponies went limp in horror.

“The yaks… lost,” Rainbow Dash finished.

Noooo…!” Prince Rutherford bellowed. “Me failed Equestria! Me failed pony friends!

“Chin up, old sport,” Trenton said as he and the other Trolls wandered over. “That was some of the finest smashing I have ever witnessed.”

“Hear, hear,” Tristan agreed.

“And you say it was your friends that inspired such a smashing display of smashing?” Travis asked.

Prince Rutherford nodded. “Yaks do anything for friends.”

“Uh-huh,” his fellow delegates agreed.

Trenton pondered this for a moment, stroking at his beard. “Well, this contest has taken up most of the day. I suppose we shall begin our conquest tomorrow—”

“You’re not still going to conquer our homes, are you?” Starlight Glimmer demanded. “After everything that’s happened?”

A hush fell over the field as her words hung in the air.

“Starlight…” Twilight said cautiously.

Starlight bit her lip, but continued. “I’ve seen a lot of things today—some things I’m still trying to understand. But today has taught me that friends bring out the best in each other… and that friends give each other the best they have to offer.” She turned to the yaks, who were willing to risk everything they had for their friends.

“I’ve seen for myself how powerful and important friendship is,” Starlight continued. “It’s taught me how much more fulfilling life can be. One of the first things I learned is that embracing and celebrating our differences is what makes friendship so rich. And when I look at all of us here…”—her gaze swept over the collection of ponies, yaks, and Trolls—“I can’t imagine seeing a more different group of individuals.”

She took a careful step forward. “I guess what I’m saying is… I’d like for all of us to be friends.”

All eyes were on Trenton, the Indomitable Conqueror. He was considering not only her words, but everything that had happened throughout the day.

“I think…” he said slowly, “we can make this a new beginning.”

The ponies and yaks burst into smiling and cheers.

“Ahahahaha!” Trenton’s laugh echoed throughout the field. “Truth be told, conquering lands has become quite unfulfilling.”

“You think so, too?” Travis asked. “It certainly had its charm when we first started, but it no longer inspires me like it used to.”

Tristan shrugged and gave a nod.

“Well,” Pinkie Pie piped up, “if you’ve lost sight of your passion, I know three little fillies who can help you rediscov—blehm!

“Heh-heh-heh…” Applejack chuckled awkwardly, her hoof securely stuffed into Pinkie’s mouth. “…You were sayin’?”

“I suppose if I were to pursue other interests,” Trenton mused, “I have always wanted to engage in bird-watching.”

“Oh,” Fluttershy said. “I simply love bird-watching. I’d be happy to help you get started.”

“And I wish to try my hand at ice-skating,” Travis admitted. “It looks like so much fun!”

Pinkie spat Applejack’s hoof out of her mouth. “My sister Maud and I love ice-skating!”

Starlight turned to Tristan. “What about you?”

Tristan glanced up. “I write jingles.”

“Uh, well—” she looked around awkwardly. “I’m sure there’s someone out there who could help you with that, too.”

“Yaks love jingles!” Prince Rutherford exclaimed. “Me be honored to write jingles together!”

Rarity took a step forward. “And perhaps you Trolls could share with us the wonders of your tea preparation.”

“And troll humor,” Tristan said flatly.

“Oh… uh, sure,” Rarity said, avoiding eye-contact. “I suppose you could—” She caught sight of his crooked almost-grin. “…That was more troll humor, wasn’t it?”

Pinkie and Travis joined in jovial laughter, and even though Rarity was shaking her head, she could not shake off her smile.

“Perhaps we could share the secrets of our tea,” Trenton finally said. “After all, friends give each other the best they have to offer, yes?”

Starlight Glimmer smiled as warmth flooded her cheeks.

“Ponies and yaks and Trolls friends!” Prince Rutherford decreed. “Friends for a thousand moons!

A cheer rang out as they all celebrated their newly-formed friendship. Starlight looked around and caught a glimpse of Twilight with a proud smile on her face.

It seems they found a magic even Trolls were not impervious to.

“You wanted to see me, Twilight?” Starlight asked, peeking into the throne room.

“Yes,” she said. “Please come in.”

Her hooves clicked and echoed as she entered the room. “Did I do something wrong…?” she asked nervously.

“No!” Twilight waved her hooves. “Not at all. You were amazing today. I think…” Her gaze drifted down before she met her eyes again. “I think I’m the one who’s done something wrong.”

Starlight tilted her head. “What do you mean?”

“I’ve been thinking about this a lot—ever since you became my pupil,” Twilight explained. “I’ve never really told anypony this. I had trouble admitting it to myself for a while, if I’m being honest…” Twilight took in a deep breath, and deliberately pushed it out. “I always loved being Princess Celestia’s student. But as much as I admired and appreciated her, there was also a part of me that was always… afraid of her.”


Twilight nodded slowly. “I was afraid to question her or the assignments she gave me or… anything, really. And when you were wondering why I didn’t have you go with Fluttershy and Rarity, I had to face the fact that I was putting you in the exact same situation.” Twilight gave her a distant smile. “I’m glad you’re braver than I was.”

Starlight did not know what to do or say or think.

“I’ve been trying to coddle you ever since you became my pupil—planning out every detail of every lesson, trying to keep you away from danger—when I know you’re capable of so much more than that. I still have a lot to learn about being your mentor, but one thing’s for sure: I never want you to feel afraid or stifled. I want you to know that, before you and I are pupil and mentor, you and I are friends.”

Starlight tried to stop her lip from quivering. She tried to stop the blurriness from filling her vision. She tried to stop the shivers from shaking her body. One thing she never wanted to stop, though, was the hug that her dear friend Twilight was giving her.
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#1 · 1
I didn't know you could leave comments in the stories here.

Oh, well.

This story really grew on me. While the beggining wasn't particularly catching for me, I found myself tangled with the narrative and wanted to keep reading.

You managed to write a really nice tale in the spirit of the show, with a nice overall lesson and heartwarming conclusion.

Could be an episode/10
#2 · 2
The troll characters:

Are very Equestrian, and the basic set-up works quite well. But the point-of-view is all over the place, and that's always a problem for me when I'm reading. In the scene in the map room after the first attempt at fighting the trolls, we jump from a sort of external POV to Starlight's, then to Twilight's, then back to Starlight's again. The tea party scene's even rougher: we go from Rarity to Tristan to Fluttershy, then back to Rarity, then to Trenton, then back to Rarity once more before the external POV takes over again, then to Prince Rutherford for one paragraph, then out to the external just before the scene ends.

I find that this kind of thing makes it really hard for me to fully enter a story. I want to be anchored, want to see and hear and smell what's going on through a single set of senses. External or omniscient POVs can be done in written fiction, but they're really hard 'cause they tend to dissolve into head-hopping, and that's what's going on here. Personally, I need a unified story to have a unified POV: after that tea party scene, I felt bounced around like a tennis ball.

Maybe focus the whole thing through Starlight? It'd take some rethinking, but that'd be my suggestion.

#3 ·
This is a difficult story to Critique. I can say that it is good but I can't define where it is laking.

The emulation of show style is nearly perfect. But in your pursuit of it have you lost your own voice?
#4 · 1
· · >>horizon
I liked this one. Silly throughout, yet keeping enough seriousness to care. Writing was solid, save baal's comments above. My only main concern is how easily the trolls were just like "meh, I guess we don't need to pillage and burn everything." If there were more examples of them seeing the ponies working together, or even of the yaks doing so, I'd believe it more.
#5 ·
I thought the trolls were charming in a way. And okay, they kind of remind me of internet trolls. You know, the jolly sort all out to drive someone to madness, but with a 'pip pip cheerio old bean' attitude about it.

There was a lot of humor in this too. Fun humor. My one suggestion to change, after Rainbow announces the yaks lost? Have more reaction from the ponies. Twilight's warning 'Starlight...' seems kind of...left-fieldy? Because to me it didn't seem like she was going into screw-up territory at all, but rather 'Welp, fuckit, everything else failed' - so some revision there one way or another would be good.

Maybe have the M6 prepping Rainbow Power or something. Or sending a CELESTIA LUNA HEEEELP flare up. I dunno!
#6 ·
This one is just all-around solid, both in the tier sense and in the traditional sense, and I'll have to echo the "could definitely be an episode" comments above. It's currently second on my slate, but with that said, I do have some misgivings about it, so I'll speak up in hopes it helps your editing.

(Also, I'm curious how this came from the "Forbidden Knowledge" prompt, because this is the first story this round I'm having trouble making that connection.)

The downside of having such an episode-authentic story is that, just like in the episodes, Starlight Glimmer is something of a seventh wheel. She spends a lot of time doing nothing -- and this appears to be an intentional choice, because your epilogue hangs on it -- and then suddenly becomes the superstar who saves the day. While I can't deny that this is how she's been treated for most of the season, I don't think we need to feel constrained by the failings of the show when writing fanfic, and her complete woobishness made her time in the spotlight feel contrived to me. (Honestly, I'd probably feel that way even if I didn't consider her a hollow knock-off of Sunset Shimmer. She just needs more agency here.)

The other thing that leapt out at me is that this really needs to decide whether the Mane Six are actively working to sabotage the trolls or not. You build up to Applejack's food-cart decision like she's doing it on an impulse, and then the instant it's done, everypony swoops in and congratulates her like she pulled off the hardest part of their master plan. (Starlight questions her, only to directly be proven wrong when AJ's gift gets the trolls fighting: this is the sort of thing I'm talking about with her woobishness, where she apparently exists in the scene only to be the out-of-the-loop one.) Then again with Fluttershy. Given that their actions mess up the trolls like a laser-guided friendship-lesson missile, it certainly seems like this is coordinated -- and yet we see none of that coordination, and the actions are painted as individual whims that just happen to work out. I think it could be much stronger if you didn't try to have your cake and eat it too: either have the trolls' dissent be organic, to prove a point about friendship's strengths, or else go whole hog into the sabotage angle, making the sowing and repairing of dissent an example of applied friendshipology.

Agreed with >>Corejo that the sudden reversal at the climax felt unearned.

That said, the trolls are really vivid characters here, and the use of the yaks was fun. This is sitting right at the TC border, held back by the flaws above.

Tier: Strong
#7 ·
Was expecting a Homestuck crossover, not exactly disappointed that it wasn't.

Of all the stories I've read so far for the write-off, I think this one best recaptures the tone and spirit of the show it's based off on. It is written with the intention to feel like an actual episode of My Little Pony, which I think the style and characterization largely succeeds, but encounters problems with pacing and construction of its scenes, and how those scenes logically transition from one another. I feel that this is primarily due to the author feeling rushed by time constraints, and thus the build up to the resolution and the resolution itself feel transparently railroaded into the story. However, also problematic is the back and forth shifting of narrative focus between the characters which often hinders the reader's ability to focus on the larger picture and takes away from the action that is supposed to be shown. Imagine that your narrative is a camera and you want to put the most important focus on the thoughts and ideas the reader is supposed to take away from the idea.

For example, the first competition runs two paragraphs, and has an important beat to it: the trolls begin hitting each other with rocks in order to win. I did not know that moment had an impact because the narrative didn't put any focus to its significance until it was referenced later by the trolls as a reason for their in-fighting. Ideally, when making a scene like that, you'd want to give those characters some reactions, some dialogue, and perhaps even a moment of contrast with the yaks in order to establish that this is causing some issues within the troll camp. It doesn't have to be a huge thing that plays all its cards at once, but the current progression of the scenes seems to be going from barely any issue with one another, to complete and utter resentment of one another. This is particularly grating because we have such a strong voice for the trolls as a unit (with their eloquence, patience, and politeness), it seems strange that they would break down so quickly, almost as if we're dealing with different trolls for the second act.

Additionally, the sub-plot with the mane6 and by extension Starlight Glimmer, are confusing how they work into story itself and seem tacked on to force the story towards its ultimate conclusion. After they show up in the initial confrontation, they spend most of their time twiddling their thumbs while the yaks and trolls go at it, not really accomplishing much, so when they end up being the focus of some scenes in the middle-point, it feels a bit out of place. Starlight Glimmer in this story feels particularly extraneous, which is unfortunate given that her relationship with Twilight becomes the focus of the story's resolution—a move I found fairly unconvincing and unnecessary given the premise of the story. Twilight certainly could give some sort of friendship lecture to Starlight Glimmer with a mild compliment to her for saying something, but Starlight Glimmer isn't the hero of this story and she's not pulling out the major victories, so it's really strange to have her be the focus of the ending as if she were the protagonist or something. If you want to make her the protagonist, then the narrative should be focused into third-person limited through her perspective for the entirety of the story instead of this undefined omniscient narrative we have currently.

The trolls' characterization is very suited and natural to the setting, and I often found myself amused by their antics and contrast between extreme politeness and hyper-violence. While I do adore the characterizations of the trolls, perhaps it would be wise to give the individual trolls more characteristics that make them stand out from one another? I enjoyed their dialogue, but I felt that the characters could all be the same troll, or rather, were the same troll three times. Adding some additional layers to the trolls I feel this would be particularly a good move on your part because it would make them seem less homogeneous a group and more prone to fighting among themselves than the yaks.

Overall, I liked this story. The trolls are truly the story's biggest strength, however, and its composition needs some heavy re-working in order to keep a natural, smooth progression of ideas without forcing or being too transparent with plot-points. Stream-lining this story in order to have the same punchy style as the show would definitely be in your favor. With some good restructuring and cleaning up, this has the potential to be a killer story.

Things to Consider:
-Maintaining focus on important details, focusing the camera closer to the characters in the narrative
-Reworking the perspective
-Giving Starlight Glimmer things to do, or at least, thoughts to have
-Giving more individual characterization to each troll
-Cutting extraneous interactions with the mane6 or more clearly communicate their overall game plan
-Focusing on one macro idea or moral instead of trying to juggle multiple subplots / have subplots be complementary
-More things for the mane 6 to do

Number 1 my second slate, congratulations.
#8 · 2
The Trolls

Okay, catching up on reviews from my prelim slate, we have another comedy! These aren’t very common in the Writeoff, and they’re difficult to craft in such short times, so comedies usually get the benefit of the doubt from me when judging.

(Incidentally, I had this one in second-place on my prelim slate. So, author, you’re doing something right.)

Pretty much straight off the bat we realize that this is a ‘subversion of expectations’ type comedy. Three horrid trolls emerge from the Everfree, then promptly introduce themselves as refined, distinguished gentlementrolls who are interested in a nice, civilized conquest.

Subverted expectations. Remember that for later.

It’s clear from the start that Starlight Glimmer is going to have some role in this story, though for the majority it seems she’s just a powerless observer, first of the Elements, then of the Yaks. Throughout the story we get a few hints as to how this is going to end (notably Fluttershy’s peacemaking efforts with the trolls), and then sure enough at the end Starlight gives a nice little speech about the value of friendship, and the trolls suddenly agree not to conquer Equestria.

I… I don’t know about that. I like stories where friendship manages to overcome odds and obstacles and lead to some sort of revival or happy resolution. And almost every story written by humans uses love in the same vein. But I enjoy those stories because friendship earns its victory. It’s not a speech about friendship that changes evil hearts, it’s the demonstration of friendship.

We get that – with Fluttershy and Applejack. Halfway through the story. But in the end it’s Starlight’s speech that somehow sways the trolls, even though Starlight herself has been something of a non-entity to this point.

And let’s go back for a moment to those subverted expectations. We got some dramatic ones very early, when the trolls turned out to be rather refined. We got the Yaks, showing up to help Equestria. But then nothing else. In fact, there isn’t any real comedy after that point – it’s just a regular show-style episode, which makes me wonder if I was wrong to consider it a comedy at all.

But if not a comedy, what? Aesop fable? Moral lesson? Slice-of-Life? I’m not certain.

Finally, a few technical points.

A few times, author, you lean on extremely visual techniques to drive home a point. For example, you end the section with the Yak’s first defeat on this rather dramatic note:

The Prince ground his teeth. “Yaks only getting started!” He yelled so fervently that his bangs parted, revealing the fire in his piercing, olive-green eyes.

And that would be awesome and striking… in an animated or drawn setting, like a comic book. In text, it looks like you’re just trying to describe to us how awesome this scene would be if it were actually animated. It’s especially problematic in comedies, but some jokes just don’t work in written form. We see this in bad stories about Pinkie Pie all the time, in which the author attempts to describe one of her visual gags from the show. It always falls flat, because there are some things visual mediums do better than text. Visual gags (or, in this case, the Yak’s bangs dramatically parting, revealing his fiery eyes) fall into that category.

Finally, and almost incidentally, a bit of telly language slips through. This line stuck in my craw when I was reading it:

“And crushing things,” Tristan said.

“Though, not as much crushing,” Trenton amended.

Rarity and Fluttershy exchanged panicked looks. Neither outcome exactly qualified as desirable.

I get it, the “Neither outcome exactly qualified as desirable” is just a cutesy little authorial aside. But really, no shit? Come on, give your readers some credit.

Anyway, like I said, there’s a lot of good stuff here, and with a little revision the rougher parts can be smoothed over. That still leaves the problem of Starlight Glimmer’s central role in solving this problem through a rather easy bit of exposition, but I think a few little twists throughout might fix that as well.
#9 ·
Last review on my slate!

Well, you've certainly managed to really capture the feel of an episode. The pacing, structure, and characters all really feel true to the show, as does the moral. I have to mention how easy it was to get into the groove with this one--nothing really distracted me or bothered me. It was a smooth read from start to finish.

The comedy was a little bit hit-or-miss for me, though. A couple of the jokes made me chuckle, but there were also some moments that felt like it was going through the motions of telling a joke. Honestly, though, I'm no expert at writing comedy, so I'm not entirely sure what made them work or fail. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that something a lot of the flat jokes had in common is predictability. For instance, the trolls' response to Fluts and Rares asking them for peace feels a bit cliche, with the whole abruptly cutting off laughter to deliver a deadpan line. On the other hand, the jingle-writing joke landed a chuckle from me. It really comes out of left field, but it appropriately plays off Prince Rutherford's intensity of character.

In the end, I'm pretty sure this piece did everything it set out to do, which was to leave me mildly amused. In that regard, it's a really strong entry. It might need a little bit of polish to make it really stand out, but for now it's going to be comfortably slotted in the upper half of my slate.