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On The Wings of a Dream · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Show rules for this event
Being the Lesser Evil
Luna huddled under the bed, barely trembled, and peered into the dark. If she remained quiet, maybe the beast would not notice her. Or so she’d taken great pains to convince herself.

From the other room, a sweet melody sounded, all violins and cellos and harps and a great many more instruments that she should have learned the names of centuries ago, but she never took much of an interest, and time was fleeting, far more fleeting than she ever would have considered, and now…

Alone. For the first time ever, so alone. Perhaps it would stay that way.

Above her, soft crying sounded, and more than music carried in from down the hall. Voices, angry ones. Accusations flung like darts, and the instruments’ volume rose in response, drowning them out. But it couldn’t hold; the voices only dripped with more venom, taking center stage once again.

A screeching horn, a shrieking whistle, the orchestra and screaming battled for dominance until neither was discernible from the other. Yet quiet tears bored through it all, a whispered “stop!” seemingly coming from right next to Luna’s ear.

She crept forward, abandoning her concealment in fits and starts as she peered around the room, into every moonlight-mottled shadow twisting across the rug, into each corner where predatory jaws might lurk. Nothing revealed itself.

Finally, she relaxed her knotted shoulders and slowly stood. She might actually be able to do her job tonight, for the first time in… she didn’t know how long.

“Greetings, child,” she said as she turned around. The filly on the bed only gradually uncovered her ears and blinked, the remnants of her tears still splashing on the pillow. Another exchange of insults echoed down the hall.

“Wh-who are you?” the filly responded, all wide-eyed, in her attempt to rub the tear streaks away.

In years past, Luna would have known the child’s name. but it seemed that power would be denied her now. “That is not important,” Luna answered. Not yet, anyway. If this worked, she—

No. Her help must remain anonymous.

So Luna approached her and ran a hoof through the filly’s charcoal-black mane. “I sensed your distress. I wish to assist, if I may.”

But the filly only wrinkled her nose and stared up at Luna the way Luna used to stare up at Star Swirl when he’d ask her a question whose answer she couldn’t even begin to fathom. The voices raised once more, the music played louder.

“They think I can’t hear them if they turn the radio up,” she said. A strip of wallpaper peeled, a sheaf of staff paper slid off a music stand and scattered across the floor. And by the closet door, a cello gathered dust, almost as gray as the filly’s coat.

“I am sorry—what shall I call thee?”

“Octavia,” she mumbled back, and she staggered to the cello, her head shaking as if fighting off a feverish delirium. “If—if I can just practice, loud enough…”

She took bow in hoof, and the dust stirred in a miasma around her. “At five-thirty, they always play a waltz on the radio, right when—when everypony gets home from work, a-and—” She gulped, and she trained impossibly deep blue eyes on Luna. “I know them all by now. This one is Morning Papers.”

Her cello rang out, perfectly following the melody, but not mechanically. No, she made music, not just notes, beyond what a filly should be capable of. The yelling increased, the music intensified, not enough, not nearly enough to mask the voices, then she didn’t even try anymore, clasping her hooves to her ears and adding her own shriek to the din.

“Child,” Luna began. “Octavia. I am here to help thee.” She gathered up the filly in her hooves and held her as she trembled. “We will face this together. But the first thing thou must understand is—”

No. No! That accursed fire started up in Luna’s chest, and she was here. She was here!

Octavia peered up, her brow creased and her mouth hanging open. And a smirk carved itself across Luna’s lips. “The first thing to understand is that this is all your fault,” she said so softly, so glazed with a sugary sheen, but it still pierced the wall of music and shouting.

“You’ve let them down. If only you’d practiced more, maybe you would have returned their investment in you.”

Young eyes quivered. Her jaw clenched.

“Maybe you could have justified all the sacrifices they made for you.”

Tears ran into the spaces between the floorboards, leaving smears of gray behind.

“Maybe—” No! Luna tried to snap her saw-like teeth together, wrest her forelegs up, strangle the words from her throat before they could erupt, but in the end, she only watched, as useless as a corpse on the floor. “Maybe if you’d been a better daughter, they would love you.”

Octavia crumpled. Just an inconsolable heap against the wall.

What fun!

But as the room blurred and faded… who was that other filly watching from the hallway?

How many years now? Only a few, if Luna listened to the logical part of her mind, but it felt like decades. The only time she’d ever been blissfully alone in centuries, truly alone, but of course it couldn’t last.

She kept coming here, but she never ventured out from under the bed anymore. The same thing would certainly happen again, but at least Octavia didn’t cry much anymore. Not that her lack of tears made anything better.

Quite the opposite. So why continue torturing herself? Some manner of self-flagellation? Now that she thought about it, the idea had its appeal. Yes, she should return, every day, if possible.

What did it solve, though? Octavia would sit motionless on the bed, her cello propped against the wall and gathering an ever-increasing pile of dust and debris around it. She wouldn’t attempt to play it. Not after that night. Only the radio music played, waltz after waltz after waltz, what of it she could even hear over the shouting, and both would get continually more bombastic until she had to cover her own ears as tightly as Octavia did.

But as she spent more time here, Luna noticed more and more that other filly peering in from the hallway. She always seemed as if she wanted to say something, but if she tried, it didn’t make it over the cacophony.

“Are you okay?”

Who had spoken? Not Octavia’s voice, though Luna had only heard it once. The filly in the hall hadn’t moved her mouth. Very pale yellow coat, and a lightning shock of blue mane, brilliant magenta eyes, looking… at Luna?

“Are you okay?” The filly blinked and leaned forward as if to punctuate her words, but her mouth still hadn’t moved.

“Didst thou say that?” Luna asked, barely above a whisper.

“Yeah.” She must have anticipated that a verbal response wouldn’t have cleared things up; she nodded as well.

Curious, but stranger things had happened in this place. “I am not important.”

Just as Octavia had done years ago, this filly wrinkled her brow. “Who told you that?” When Luna didn’t answer, the filly said, “My name’s Vinyl Scratch.” Then she took one step into the room. “And I think you’re important.”

Wait, constructs of this place should remain oblivious to Luna’s presence. Was this not Octavia’s dream? Then perhaps Luna hadn’t ruined Octavia’s—

No, Octavia had interacted with her as well.

“I thank thee for thy concern,” Luna breathed.

Vinyl strode closer and bent down. “Why don’t you come out of there?”

“It would be better if I did not become involved.”

“C’mon,” Vinyl not-said, wearing a big-sister smile and reaching a hoof out. Only then did Luna glance down her own body. Did she appear a foal as well? No, full-size, but that didn’t guarantee what Vinyl would perceive.

Luna shook her head. “No. I-I have to stay here. I can only observe, or she might notice.”

Vinyl rolled her eyes up toward Octavia, unspoken questions dangling from her lips, but one did emerge: “Octavia?”


“Then who?”

Once again, Luna shook her head, and she fixed her gaze on a swirl of wood grain in front of her nose. “I am not important.”

Vinyl frowned, but she didn’t say anything further.

“Dost thou know her?” Luna asked as she finally raised her eyes, but Vinyl hadn’t looked away from Octavia.

A half-shrug met her. “Kinda, I guess. She’s in my class. Dunno why I keep ending up in here with her.” Then she poked a hoof above the mattress. “Octavia? You okay?”

Deep in Vinyl’s eyes, something shone—what did it remind Luna of? When had she seen it before?

The image nipped at the edges of her brain, but at the very least, Octavia must have finally acknowledged Vinyl. “Can you tell me what’s wrong?”

Another waltz sounded, but… sharp, grotesque. It tripped and tumbled over itself. And some rather choice insults invaded the house. Octavia didn’t reply.

“Here, why don’t you play your cello? You always come back from music class looking like you feel better.”

Only hind legs and that electric blue tail showed below the bed, but they leaned toward that grimy instrument. “C’mon. I’ll help you get it cleaned up, and maybe you can teach me how to play.”

The center of the bed creaked and groaned and sagged, and tears pooled underneath. Whatever Vinyl was trying to cajole Octavia into, it wasn’t working.

That… that look Vinyl had flashed like a beacon. She remembered! That farsighted hope, buried in a child’s eyes. Luna had constantly seen it after a storm, when the clouds broke right at the last vestiges of daylight, and the sun gleamed on the horizon. The sun.

The sun, that treacherous ball of naked flame, and those fools all latched onto it as if it granted them their hearts’ desires. A growl lurched up her throat, and Vinyl flinched from it, crouched down again—

“I have to go,” Luna spat.

“No, don’t—”

I have to go!” reverberated in a banshee wail.

Today, Vinyl crawled under the bed with Luna. “Are you trapped here like me?” Vinyl asked, her lips never forming a syllable of it.


Vinyl waved a hoof around the room. “I end up here every night. I see you all the time, too.”

“Oh. In a way, yes, but not as thou wouldst understand it. I am here because it remindeth me of what I have lost.”

With a well-hidden sigh, Vinyl rolled her eyes up at the mattress’s underside. “So you need help too?”

“I am not important.”

Another sigh. “Her I get. She always looked so happy when her mom or dad would walk her to school. I didn’t know about that—” she scowled toward the open door “—until lately.”

If Luna dared, she might have covered Vinyl’s ears to ward off the foul language biting into the hall’s stale air. “She stopped playing, I take it.”

A grim smile gave the story’s ending first. “On the first day of school, the teacher asked her to play something for us. So the next day, she brought her cello to class. Not my style, but I know good when I hear it. My mom’s a record producer, and…” The rest of it hung in the air with the motes of dust, dancing to whatever tune graced Vinyl’s memory. “She’s good. Good good.”

When her mom or dad would walk her to school…

“Her parents never both accompanied her?”

“No, but—well…” With a squint, Vinyl pursed her lips. “I heard her talking about her dad playing violin with her once.”

“I meant accompanied her to school.”

Vinyl’s eyes widened. “Oh. Yeah, once. They got into a fight outside.”

Unsurprising. “Why dost thou care so much?”

“I love music too.” Vinyl struggled to keep her lip from trembling, and the same far sight of hope returned to her eyes. Luna swallowed hard, but perhaps here, hidden away, she wouldn’t notice. “She did too, or used to. I don’t hear her play when I walk by her house anymore.”

For a few years now, unless Luna missed her guess. “I am sorry.”

Vinyl clambered out from under the bed and as before leaned over the mattress. “Hey. Would you play something for me? You did once. I really liked it.”

Only that infernal arguing and radio answered.

“Please? Nothing’s more important to me than music, so I’m not just trying to act interested. I don’t want you to lose that.”

The bed shook slightly, and Vinyl let out a sigh, ducked her head down again. “I don’t know why I’m bothering. This is all in my head, right?”

She… she deserved to know. “Dreams can overlap. I do not know what hath pulled thine and hers together, but… it happened.”

Vinyl’s face became even paler, and she gaped at Luna. “You mean this is real?

Try as she might, Luna couldn’t meet her gaze. The insipid, parasitic waltzes kept circling in her ears. “Yes, in the ways that matter.”

“And you?” Vinyl warbled, her voice becoming shrill. “Are you real too?”

“I-I have to go.”

“Why are you doing this to her!?”

Luna shook her head, hard, and withdrew into the shadows. “I am not important.”

“Will you play something for me?”

Vinyl had taken to ignoring Luna, and now both fillies remained on the bed, out of sight.

“I promise I’ll like it. I don’t think you could play anything I wouldn’t like.”

With the creak of springs, the lumps in the mattress shifted around. If Luna concentrated, she could hear a faint whimper. And then… humming?

“Hm hm hmmmmmmmmmm…” It rang out starkly, as a nightingale’s song carrying above the thunder. Luna even indulged in closing her eyes and listening to it. Vinyl Scratch had a very lovely voice.

“Do you know that one? I bet you do. ‘Vocalise,’ I think it’s called. I heard it once. I’m sorry, I don’t really know the technical names for anything. I just kinda picked it all up from hearing it.”

Luna peeked as one of the depressions in the mattress moved to the edge, and pale legs tottered over to the cello in the corner. Wrestled with it, tried to haul it free of the splintered boards and twisted wire and crumbled stone that confined it. When she finally possessed her prize, the side of it had caved in, and half the strings had frayed and snapped.

“I’m sorry. Again,” she said as she dragged it back over. She propped it against the bed, and without a bow, she resorted to plucking the remaining strings, but… the hollow sound reminded Luna of skulls scraping across an ossuary floor. “See? Some of it still works. I remember an old music teacher of mine saying you could improvise a jazz tune using only one note. So three strings—they can still be beautiful.”

Vinyl had composed variations on that theme every night for a week, but she never made any progress. Luna would merely listen until her throat and chest hurt an appropriate amount, which meant staying through dawn, when this world dissipated. No amount of pain could ever compensate for her crime, much less rebuild what had collapsed.

But instead of allowing Luna to be alone, Vinyl crouched down and glared at her.

“I don’t know what else to do,” Vinyl said. Luna fluffed her feathers and attempted to look away, but the filly’s spear-sharp stare pinned her in place. “I mean… what do you even want from me? I used to pop in here once a week, just long enough to peek in the door, but now I’m here all night, every night. I don’t know what it means!

Luna squeezed her eyes shut for a moment. If she answered, who else might commandeer her voice and make things worse?

“She doesn’t talk at school anymore, either. She used to love music, but now I can’t get her to do anything with it. If the teacher’s noticed, she’s just hoping it goes away on its own.”

Why would she trouble herself so for a classmate who was a mere acquaintance? Vinyl had no responsibility in this matter.

“How do I fix this? And why won’t you help? You just sit there all the time feeling sorry for yourself! It doesn’t make her the tiniest bit less miserable!” Vinyl shouted above the noise from down the hall. She practically had her nose pressed to Luna’s.

Luna opened her mouth. “It would be better if I stayed out of—”

“No!” Vinyl spat. “Do something! Why is it okay for you to watch this…” She waggled a hoof in the air as she fought against the word she couldn’t cough up.

A dreadful heat spread over Luna’s face, an army of ants clambering over each other’s bodies, higher and higher, until they surmounted the obstacle in their path and erupted onward.

Vinyl sucked in another breath. “This… broken—”

Because I am the one who broke her!

Wide, empty eyes glinted back at her, like a searchlight failing to find its quarry. Only a single weary word leaked out: “Why?”

“Because I wanted to help.” That answer wouldn’t do, but Luna had to shudder against its acerbic flavor first. “Because I found out the hard way that I am not somepony who can control her baser impulses.”

Luna glanced toward the closet door, behind the pile of rubble. “So I keep to the shadows, lest I turn a break into a shatter,” she finished.

But Vinyl had caught the hint of motion. “There?” she asked, pointing at the door. She rushed over, cleared the debris away, tugged on the knob, bucked it, flared her horn to throw the concrete at it, but it wouldn’t budge. It couldn’t.

“I am not important,” Luna muttered as she withdrew.

Vinyl already had the wreckage shoved free of the closet door before Luna appeared. A brilliant werelight shone from Vinyl’s horn, and she peered into the keyhole. Almost as an afterthought, she turned to face the bed, and she jumped at seeing Luna there.

“Help me get this open.”

“I cannot.”

Stomping over, Vinyl fixed her with a set jaw and an immolating gaze. “Don’t lie to me.”

Luna narrowed her eyes. Of all the insolent—“If I do anything but watch, she will take control.”

“Who? And so what?”

No, no, Luna could feel her mind circling the drain already. The filly meant well, but she had no idea what she dared to stir up. “Her… unbridled rage w-would…”

“Would what?” Vinyl yelled. “Break something?”

“Yes. I fear thou art taking it too lightly—”

“All I hear is you making excuses!” Vinyl’s chest heaved. “Make it break something useful!” she screamed, flinging a hoof at the closet.

Luna clenched her teeth. Teeth a little less rounded than they should be. Then she took a deep breath and focused. That door made of wood. Wood from trees, trees fueled by the light of the sun, the ball in the sky so revered by everypony, wielded by a usurper. What fools would buy that display, all flash and no substance, no peace and quietude. Bluster over contemplation, and if they could not be made to see reason—

She lurched out into the open, and she lashed out an untrained whip of energy, slashing through the walls and cracking the rafters overhead. Glass exploded outward, and she wrenched her head this way and that, the beam from her horn crushing whatever it encountered. Like a cobra in its death throes, her sinuous neck twisted and curled and inflicted her tantrum on anything living or dead, and then the door.

There it hung limply on its ruined hinges. Only darkness beyond, cool, sweet darkness. She gathered up what remained of her rage and vomited a guttural roar that obliterated anything left to obstruct her path to darkness.

As she breathlessly surveyed the smoking cinders, a pale smudge of ash, yellowish in color, separated from the mounds of detritus and dragged a crushed cello into the black portal.

Then the room folded in on itself, two, four, eight ways, through the other side, unfolded again.

Blackness. Calming blackness everywhere, and whatever this form was, Luna—it watched. In the center, a faint aura of moonlight bled into the oppressive dark, and in it sat the yellowish smudge. Vinyl. Was her name Vinyl?

Vinyl sat next to a gray filly, much younger than her, who was coloring a picture of two earth ponies watching a concert, separated by an aisle. Vinyl blinked at her, then smiled and leaned over. “Here,” she said, her lips not moving, as ever. She creased the paper over so the two sat next to each other. “Now they’re sitting together.”

The gray filly shook her head and smoothed the paper out, then continued to draw with her crayons.

Vinyl briefly frowned, but then she took a crayon of her own and drew smiles on the attentive listeners. “How about this? Even if they aren’t together, they’re still happy.”

Another head shake, and the filly scratched out the smiles.

She went back to her drawing, and as more of it took shape, the light spread up into the darkness, and something like a sepia-toned zoetrope projection displayed the filly on stage, playing her cello. Her expression soured, and she flipped to a clean sheet, broadly sketching out herself in front of a schoolhouse with two larger ponies. The flickering animation showed them yelling and pulling her this way and that, but she soon abandoned the drawing and crumpled it up.

Luna—its memory itched, and yes, yes, this pathetic filly, this Octavia. Nopony loved her, and…

And Vinyl put an arm around her shoulder. What had the zoetrope switched to? Octavia playing her cello in an empty classroom. Not quite empty. Some sort of instructor there, and they put away her sheet music. She walked out, and the lone pony waiting outside… hugged her?

Luna stared at the paper now, another picture forming, the same as before, but a different figure listening outside the classroom, tapping a hoof.

Her breathing quickened. Words, it—Luna needed words. She strained against her chest, the feeling of cross-crossed chains digging into her flesh, but she shoved a full breath into each word. “Fought… when… together…” she rasped as if a timberwolf barking.

Vinyl’s ears perked. She leaned over the drawings of the music lessons, pointing out the full-grown figures. “They were happy when they listened, weren’t they?”

Slowly, Octavia looked up and searched Vinyl’s eyes.

Then Vinyl tore the concert picture in two, down the aisle, adding the smiles back to the two audience members. When Octavia didn’t object, only peering closer, Vinyl tore the schoolhouse picture as well. And the split projection—no more shouting. Each parent bent down to hug her. They smiled, and they mouthed something.

“What did they say to you?” Vinyl asked.

Octavia didn’t answer. She just watched raptly, her mouth hanging open.

“They make each other angry, but you don’t. They love you. They love your playing.” Vinyl put the lesson pictures back on top, and she picked up the tattered cello she’d brought with her. “See?” she asked, drawing a hoof along the last intact string. It sang out, a lovely mellow tone, and the parents smiled, each in their own frame.

Octavia’s breath caught, and she reached out to touch the instrument. Gingerly at first, but then she took hold. A rich red maple stain, gleaming steel strings, ebony bow. She drew the bow over the first string, and the parent figures, they each went into the classroom, to their own Octavias, and hugged her tightly. Then they sat back to listen, and she played. She played in the room and at the concert and here, the tune, the vocalise Vinyl had hummed to her.

She played, and Luna wept.

When the piece had ended, Vinyl glanced over. She even approached and gave Luna a hug. “Thank you,” she said. “I wouldn’t have known how to help her without you.”

Yet another surge of sooty flame burgeoned in Luna’s chest, and she could scarcely choke off what it wanted to say. This contagion could not be allowed to continue. She would never intrude upon the dream realm again.

“Who are you?” Vinyl asked.

“I am not important,” Luna replied as she faded back to what must remain her home.
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#1 · 1
· · >>Pascoite
Genre: I am Important

Top tier writing, at least in my eyes. Often times, with an opening of a prompt, there are pieces that grow on you, that you feel for the characters and their inner fears. All three characters stand out. For the most part, this story gives you hope... nevermine the cliffhanger we know where it goes.

It's hard to nitpick this one since it is a good and solid piece. That- and I feel bad for critiquing it.

But, to be useful (if I'm not useful, then ignore this comment). A minor detail- a little bit of closure. True, it was solved that Vinyl's and Octavia's dreams merged and with the help of Luna being the facilitator (even if she did not intend it) provides a good ending, as a peek into her loneliness. However, it gives me a slight itch of- How? It is addressed that the dreams are merged. But how? Is it her fault and her lack of control of her powers or something a little more divine?

But, that's just me. It is hard to find dirt on something that is well-polished.
Thanks for writing!
#2 · 1
· · >>Pascoite
Bad stuff first, as usual: The mechanics of the shared dream are a bit too fuzzy-wuzzy for my tastes, especially when even that is called into question by Luna's "real in the ways that matter" line. Although I think I get why you did it, and it does help with the ethereal nature of the blending between reality and dreams, some kind of explanation would have put it on my good side. The vague blurring between two filly's dreams doesn't sit well with the clearer divides between ponies' dreams used in the show, and at least an explanation along the lines of "their mutual relationship was so strong that..." would've fit in with Vinyl's increasing concern. I appreciate ambiguity can help with setting an uncertain, even eerie tone, but it does come at the cost of stronger worldbuilding foundations. If nothing else, maybe this is a point to consider in future?

Usually, I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to subtlety and symbolism, though I really appreciated the picture symbolism at the end being used to encourage Octavia. But the prose is another matter, and I will admit I tripped up a couple of times here. The second scene, for instance, focuses more on Luna's reflections of her visits, but then suddenly the first dialogue starts up, and the rest of the scene is specifically about one particular visit. The transition is jarring, to say the least. On its own, not a huge problem, but with a story this vague and piece-by-piece, it doesn't smooth out the experience much. I think a stricter, tighter prose style or viewpoint, which was more focused per scene, would help solve that problem. For instance, devote one scene to Luna's reminiscence over the years, THEN cut to another scene BUT make clear this is about one particular dream she visited. Then scene plays out as before. Problem solved.

Another instance of unhelpful prose was the occasional way dialogue was handled. There was one point when three dialogue paragraphs were all Vinyl's, but the middle one was unmarked, and when Vinyl was specifically mentioned in the fourth one, it briefly tricked me into thinking Luna had spoken previously. Maybe you can appreciate it if I show it to you:

- Vinyl clambered out from under the bed and as before leaned over the mattress. “Hey. Would you play something for me? You did once. I really liked it.”

- Only that infernal arguing and radio answered.

- “Please? Nothing’s more important to me than music, so I’m not just trying to act interested. I don’t want you to lose that.”

- The bed shook slightly, and Vinyl let out a sigh, ducked her head down again. “I don’t know why I’m bothering. This is all in my head, right?”

I dunno. Seemed kind of clumsy here, and there were a couple other times where clearer dialogue markers would have made things less confusing and irritating than they should've been. Credit where it's due, though, the use of Luna's diction and Vinyl's outspoken attitude usually helped settle that.

Also, Luna's Royal Canterlot dialect seems inconsistent. A notable omission is the Royal We rather than "I". I'm nitpicking, though.

Also also, since when was Vinyl yellow, pale or otherwise? Perhaps I'm not experienced enough with hues, but that tripped me up, and not in a good way. I had to stop and go back, because it seemed like such a bizarre error.

But yeah, I'm really nitpicking. Honestly, I like this one a lot.

This fic I found rewarding to read. Early on, when Octavia was revealed to be the weeping foal, I paused and thought "Wait a moment, how can Luna possibly be here? She'd be Nightmare Moon's face in the sky at this point." And then the evil influence takes over, breaking Octavia. Without a single explicit word of confirmation, it was made clear. Well, I found the whole fic to be like that, neither talking down to the audience nor feeling like an unfair challenge. I say kudos, author. That's how implication-based storytelling should be done.

Also, I appreciated the slow reveal of the domestic dynamic Octavia finds herself in, and the dialogue between Vinyl and Luna, especially when Luna's bystander tendencies were challenged, kept me going, eager to see how this would develop. Vinyl herself is a particularly endearing character, whereas Luna's inner conflict was a nice dark touch with a hint of dramatic irony and even some tragedy in how her crueller tendencies caused the emotional breakdown she's ruefully watching. It's also a pretty grim but not hopeless backstory for the two foals' future musical talents, simple yet sweet. That ending is a good capper, and is as far as I'm concerned probably the most solid (or least problematic) ending of the writeoff thus far. No major complaints here.

Ultimately, my favourite read of the bunch. Well done, author, and hope you do well in the results.
#3 · 1
· · >>Pascoite >>Miller Minus
I really like the idea of how you've got Vinyl talking in the dream without speaking. It's a neat workaround her in-show depiction as a mute, and it just feels cozy and right in a dream context. I also like the puzzle-ish aspect of this story, and touches of mystery it builds up here and there.

In terms of the actual conflict and story, though, I'm afraid I might have had some difficulties. For instance, the pacing feels a tad lopsided to me. We get a very strong hook, that does a great job of immediately telling us everything we need to know within the first few hundred words (the NMM situation, Octavia's conflict with her parents, Vinyl's presence). But then, for three scenes it feels like we're not actually progressing the plot in a significant way. Yes, we've getting some additional context about Octavia's emotional state, but none of that information is transformative to the reader's understanding of the situation. We already knew Octavia was struggling with her parents falling out with each other, so extra details like how she acts in school just don't feel essential enough to put the brakes on everything for several hundred words, in my opinion.

So in the end, I think you might want to focus on to keeping the reader invested/interested with a stronger plot thread that's directly related to solving the main conflict. I think your backstory/development scenes would work great, as long as the reader still feels like they maintain the forward momentum of solving the conflict. As it is right now, the fact that we don't seem to be doing much for a number of scenes compound with Luna's relative passivity throughout the resolution of the issue, which can really sap the satisfaction away from the ending.
#4 · 2
· · >>Pascoite
What does the monster under the bed fear? The answer is, apparently, itself.

I really liked this story. This is a wonderful impression of Luna's time on the moon with only the dreamscape to be her friend, and it's an even more wonderful impression of Luna's state of mind during that time.

There are little bits that are a bit...lacking in detail, mostly the shared dream. Not that it mattered that much or is dwelled on for long, but just something I would've liked to hear Luna's internal thoughts clear up.

Octavia's plight is very believable and well represented here, and Vinyl's worry is likewise. The final scene with the pictures touched my heart and wrapped this all up in the perfect way. Luna, likewise, has a very strong and omnipresent personality and effect. It all came across great.

But the pacing.

But the pacing. It feels well-paced for about seventy-five percent, but that final twenty-five just flies by like a bullet train. Very lopsided and left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.

Other than that? Great work.
#5 · 2
· · >>Pascoite
First sentence, good hook. There's immediately some tension and mystery, so it'll keep a reader going to see what this is all about. Then there's a juxtaposition in the second paragraph of something very much not threatening, yet another source of tension gets attached to this new material.

The mystery gradually unfolds after that, and I like seeing the pieces come together. I'm going to go back to the review I wrote for "Conscience Does Make Cowards" in a minute, but first, I'll poke at the previous reviews on this story (once again, I cheated and read them before the story).

Herein lies a difficulty inherent in write-off feedback, so it's up to you how to weigh what different opinions you get. We have >>Bachiavellian saying the middle dragged and >>BaeroRemedy saying the middle was fine but the end was too fast. And they're both right, from their experience of reading it, but if you choose to make any revisions to address the pacing, which one do you listen to? Ideally, whichever one is going to represent the majority of readers, but good luck figuring out what that might be. In the immortal words of Fat Tony, "Listen to your heart."

I'm in the middle here, but closer to >>BaeroRemedy. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if I can pinpoint the moment you looked at the clock and saw the deadline looming.

Here, I'll bring back in that earlier review I talked about (>>Pascoite). In the scene where Vinyl decides she's just going to ignore Luna, you're settling into a static situation, and I'd said it's harder to keep that interesting. You might want to make this so it isn't static. While I can understand a situation where Vinyl would be motivated to ignore Luna, it'd be more dynamic if she didn't. She's already shown she can upbraid Luna where necessary, so start on that earlier. Instead of ignoring Luna, have her criticizing her already, maybe even picking up on that danger Luna doesn't hint at until a few scenes later, goading Luna to get a rise out of her but failing until the existing scene where it works. Hell, maybe it works once earlier as well, but not in a beneficial way.

Basically, I think it'd help if there was a mechanic for continuing to build tension through those scenes.

Then toward the end, it kind of flies by. We get this nice imagery of Vinyl helping a juvenile psyche of Octavia's to recover, but there are only a couple places where it has a concrete emotional effect on Luna. Vinyl catches on to all this rather quickly, and the pictures she's helping Octavia color go by fast enough that no one of them sinks in that much. For my money, that section could stand to be expanded.

Effective mystery, good descriptions and imagery, rushed ending that probably got constrained by time, and maybe draw the tension with Luna out more gradually. And man, just when I thought I'd make it through this one without spotting any editing mistakes, there's one right near the end.
#6 ·
I like this one a lot, it's one of my top 3. I didn't care too much about the overlapping dreams, because it just felt like the premise/setting of the story that I had to get on board with right away without questioning it too much. Which sounds like a negative, but I dunno, I can do that. Plus, subtly chalking it up to an emotional moment, Vinyl caring about Tavi's predicament enough to worry about her in her sleep, makes me feel all warm and stuff.

With regards to pacing, I'm with >>Bachiavellian. I think if you view the story through a plot progression lens, you can see how the middle of the story drags, like Bachi mentions. The middle is introducing new concepts, but these concepts are effects of the situation (not liking music as much, not talking at school), where the beginning of the story gave us the cause (parents fighting), so it doesn't feel new, and it comes off as a pacing issue. The story is structured in a way that feels as if we should be seeing the effects gradually, and slowly making our way to the reveal of the cause. But it's backwards.

I think I can see why this happened, though. The story kind of has a hidden cause to it. It's not just that parents are fighting and Octavia doesn't like it, it's the specific concert where things went wrong, and now picking up the cello gives her parental-separation PTSD. In a way, it's like an invisible twist, or rather, it's a reveal that doesn't do as much as the reveal at the beginning of the story did, so the reader doesn't react. Or at least I didn't.

I liked that new reveal, but when the middle of the story isn't leaving me wondering about anything that's going on, it's a mite unsatisfying.

Speaking of the ending, I am also with the others that mentioned it's fast. Definitely a rush-job, and it's most obvious when I try to read the last scene and catch which actions and dialogue belongs to which character. They're all 'she', one of them is even calling herself 'it', and the nice and cozy room we were in "folded" itself and became terribly abstract. It's a recipe for confusion.That, and I don't understand the significance of the door and the rubble. It seemed to only be thrown in as a physical barrier for Luna to overcome, without much other circumstance or reason behind it.

Another thing I think could make this story shine is to make Luna more important to it. I agree with the other readers pointing out her passivity in the last scene as an issue, but I would take it one step farther and ask why the story is framed the way it is at all. If you take out the dream, and Moon-mare, you could have all of this take place with Tavi and Vinyl at school, and the plot would remain largely intact. Luna doesn't appear to do anything, except to make amends for her mistake at the beginning of the story. That's nice, but Octavia's plot is much more interesting.

There are certainly ways to make Luna more important to the story, but at the moment she's on the sidelines, which is dangerous when she's the perspective character.

One last nitpick before I go:

the hollow sound reminded Luna of skulls scraping across an ossuary floor

That's a gruesome image that kind of betrayed the tone of your story.

Thanks for writing and best of luck tomorrow!
#7 · 2
· · >>BlueChameleonVI
Thanks all for the comments. What I said in my fake review (>>Pascoite) is what I plan to do with the story. I don't personally feel like the middle scenes need to be faster-paced, just that they maintain or even build tension. The last 2 scenes do need some expansion, and that actually is where I only had about an hour left before a self-imposed deadline (giving me a decent bedtime for going to work the next day, that is).

I'm surprised so many people (>>BlueChameleonVI, >>PinoyPony, though Pinoy was more focused on why it happend in this instance rather than the general concept) hit a speed bump over the idea of a shared dream, seeing as how the show itself has done that at least three times. I didn't think I needed to explain something that I'm borrowing from canon. I might toss in a sentence about it, but I don't think it's going to be a source of complaints.

>>BlueChameleonVI Yes, Vinyl is yellow. Look it up. Many of the seemingly white ponies are just pale shades of other colors. From the wiki:
While DJ Pon-3's coat appears white in Suited For Success due to the lighting of the scene, a layout artist on the show noted that the character model's coat color is actually a very pale yellow, specifically the 24-bit hex triplet #FEFDE7. This is more clearly seen in the episodes A Canterlot Wedding - Part 2 and Magical Mystery Cure.

It goes on to say her brushable toy is actually white, though.

Several people thought the dialogue attributions were unclear, and I struggled with that while writing it. Especially in the scene where Vinyl had all the dialogue for a long stretch because she was ignoring Luna, I didn't want to get stale with tagging all the dialogue with the same character. I figured the reader would catch on quickly that she was the only one speaking and that the "it" later on was Luna referring to Nightmare Moon even more disdainfully than before, and I tried to keep their voices different enough that tags wouldn't be necessary, but that'll all change anyway with how I plan to revise it.
#8 · 1
· · >>Pascoite

Firstly, if you describe someone as yellow, however pale, most people are going to imagine something closer to a Lemon Hearts or a Fluttershy than to a Vinyl Scratch because that, shockingly enough, is what "yellow" usually means. Especially when introduced description-first. "Off-white" at least might have been less confusing.

Secondly, the only unambiguous time I recall a shared dream being used was in "Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?" where it was specifically a conscious and deliberate intervention of Luna's, not something that just happened.
#9 · 1
· · >>BlueChameleonVI >>Haze
There were also shared dreams in "Bloom and Gloom" and "A Royal Problem," and maybe others I'm not thinking of. Luna did facilitate those, but it's not a far cry from being deliberate to inadvertent, or even something that can happen without her. I'm comfortable leaving it as a given.

And I did say Vinyl was very pale yellow. You'd rather I conform to fandom perception than be accurate?
#10 · 1
· · >>Pascoite

"it's not a far cry from being deliberate to inadvertent" Well, if you insist, but accidentally fusing dreams with only a hazy reason as to why was basically my criticism in the first place. Besides, you can't accuse your critics of not adhering to canon one minute, and then admit to deviating from canon the next.

As for the colour: That's a false dichotomy. For starters, fandom perception and accuracy are not automatically mutually exclusive. "FEFDE7", according to Vinyl's page on mlp.fandom.com, is "yellowish white". Emphasis on the noun "white" being dominant. Fandom perception would actually be more accurate here. And remember you're introducing us to Vinyl description-first, before we've even pinned down who we're talking about, so it might be in your favour to nod towards a more familiar understanding.

In any case, accuracy would be replacing "ponies" with "significantly anthropomorphized fictional analogues of Equus caballus". That doesn't mean it won't look weird if you put that in a fic. You are writing for a fandom perception when you're writing for a fan audience. At the very least, that's a factor to keep in mind.
#11 · 1
· · >>Pascoite
You'd rather I conform to fandom perception than be accurate?

you know Vinyl's a fan name for DJ Pon-3, right?
color IS perception, and perception is affected by surrounding colors. FEFDE7 in CMYK is only 9% yellow, which is perceived as white when the animation uses so many pastel colors, such as her blue hair. it's like calling Rarity a very pale cyan, it's very hard to perceive unless she's surrounded by brighter colors (in a recent episode where she's wearing gold armor, her grey is much more noticable)

that color range is more accurately a shade of white anyway, and those color names would be a better pick than starting with yellow and trying to desaturate it with adjectives.
#12 · 1
· · >>BlueChameleonVI >>Haze
accidentally fusing dreams with only a hazy reason as to why was basically my criticism in the first place

Precisely, and I don't agree with it, which is why I said I will do minimal revision to address that, if at all.

Besides, you can't accuse your critics of not adhering to canon one minute, and then admit to deviating from canon the next.

This is a false argument, and you know it. This is no more a deviation from canon than is inherent in writing fanfiction at all. You just don't want to outright contradict canon without giving an explanation why or labeling it AU. The shared dream extrapolates from canon and doesn't violate anything that's been done or said in the show. It's a pretty minor change at that.

And introducing you to Vinyl description-first is the entire point. Just by saying she's white or yellow or whatever didn't uniquely mean it was her. People might assume that due to her association with Octavia, but not until more description is given (which I didn't do, since I only ever referred to her as a very pale yellow filly or just a filly) or she's called out by name. If I'd said she was blue, it barely would have changed a thing. It would still be ambiguous who I was talking about, until I named her, at which point people might assume she's blue because she appears that way in the dream for some reason. In that case, she isn't blue, so I'd put in some explanation as to why she appeared that way. But she is yellow, so there's no reason to. Bottom line, I'm fine with people not knowing who it was until she got named anyway. If it's just an argument of personal preference, then... noted.

This is largely a semantic argument, and while I can't call you wrong for saying she's white, I don't think you can call me (or the show's layout designer) wrong for saying she's yellow, just like both names are applicable to her. 9% is a fairly significant percentage to say you can ignore it, and if I'm to believe the examples in that article, I can have up to 60% yellow and still call it white, which seems extreme. Anyway, I can't imagine this is really going to be the thing the decides for people whether they like the story or not.
#13 · 2

OK, chum. Just a friendly word of advice, chum: don't ever accuse other people of dishonesty, regardless of how weak you think their argument is. The kindest thing to be said about that accusation, especially to someone you don't know, is that it's extremely uncharitable behaviour on your part. I am not some internet troll out to annoy you.

"This is a false argument, and you know it." No, I don't "know" it. Shockingly enough, you don't have psychic powers. And I stand by what I said: Changing canonical rules is not what every fanfiction automatically does, and even if they did, there are such things as greater and lesser degrees of divergence. But you want to add on convenient rules, do whatever you like.

Just don't you dare accuse me of being dishonest when I was only trying to help. That's a shitty attitude to have, and I don't appreciate it in the slightest.
#14 · 1
yeah I think Flax is a really weird choice to include on there, because (1) most everyone associates it with golden hair, (2) the article for Flax itself is categorized under "shades of yellow" instead, so someone at wikipedia must be drunk.
and...... so what? so you're throwing the rest of the off-white colors out with the bathwater? I hope not.

This isn't about semantics, but trying to understand how people perceive vision. almost all readers will associate her with white, no matter how much you argue with them in the comments that you're technically correct. that 9% is significant or insignificant only depending on the context, just like my example with how Rarity (who's closer to pure white than Vinyl) can suddenly appear grey in a specific shot.

though as far as semantics goes, "very pale yellow" and "yellowish" are so vague that the reader will just think "yellow" and not know exactly how much to dilute it in their mind. and then may (or may not) get distracted wondering why Vinyl looks like Fluttershy. it's telling instead of showing. there's a lot of writing advice out there about avoiding the adverb "very", because of situations like this.

Anyway, I can't imagine this is really going to be the thing the decides for people whether they like the story or not.

It's weird reading that by someone who critiques, but I can't argue with that.