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

Nightmare After Nightmare Night · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
A Daughter of Forest Green
[Cover image: In a pool of moonlight, Fluttershy in her batwing flutterbat Nightmare Night costume and a very tall unicorn pony in a completely concealing timber wolf costume look up at the Nightmare Night statue.]

-1-


Ever since we'd given back the Elements of Harmony to the Tree of Harmony, the Everfree Forest had become an ever more hospitable place. I would never have thought to walk there on my own before; there were so many monsters! It was lovely how once a pony, or a forest, got over their anger they became a much nicer pony, or forest.

I sang as I trotted between the trees on an animal path through the underbrush. It smelled like autumn, which was why I had my woven collecting baskets on. I looked for mints and mushrooms and mares-tail fern. Nightmare Night was a couple days away. I wanted to brew a calming tea for Harry the Bear and to bake mint cookies for our lay-in. Chocolate mint ones.

Trunks soared above, and while most of the rustling canopy looked green, occasional yellow and red leaves see-sawed lazily down and through rays of dust-speckled sunlight. I aimed for the piles of leaves and smiled as they crunched. The dark between the trees didn't look so much ominous these days, as infinitely wise and protective.

I liked the wild places. Of course I did. The tweeting of birds, the buzz of insects, the banter of chattering rabbits—it made me feel surrounded by friends. The wild was rarely neat, though. I slowed, approaching scattered sticks, broken branches, and lichen encrusted logs. It looked like somepony had kicked apart a beaver dam, but I didn't smell or hear a stream nearby.

I smiled. I was in no hurry to return. I'd left Angel Bunny watching the other animals at the cottage. He'd take care of anything.

"Probably," I said, as I fluttered around, clearing the path for the next pony or deer that followed me. It took just a few minutes to make a nice neat pyramidal stack of broken branches, sticks, and random-length logs. I remembered that Princess Celestia had decreed nopony would collect fallen wood from the Everfree anymore, so I'd made it look artistic in case it would lay there until industrious little termites reduced it to dust.

I shrugged back under my basket saddlebags, proud of myself, when I heard the clatter of wood rolling down. I sighed. I wasn't an engineer like Applejack, but when I turned to look at my work, I realized that proper engineering wasn't my problem.

"Oh dear."

I'd piled the wood amongst the shaded underbrush. You couldn't miss the yellowish-green aura that fizzed around the pile as logs and sticks levitated every which way into the air. The assemblage built itself between me and my path back to the cottage. I stood frozen not so much because of fear, but because a new breathy sound joined those of the forest.

"Po...nies..."

It didn't take but half a minute for the small timber wolf to finish reassembling itself. I did step back slowly, shivering slightly. That distinctive compost-and-halitosis scent that I remembered from my last encounter with the creatures drifted on the breeze. Oddly, the birds and crickets continued their songs as if I'd only encountered a deer instead.

"Ponies. Always ponies," the timber wolf said.

"I-I didn't know timber wolves could talk."

A couple sticks with leaves floating above the dog face swiveled in my direction like ears. Green glowing fog coalesced suddenly into eyes in a snouted face as the creature turned its gaze on me. I eeped and I fluttered back a pony-length.

She said (her voice was definitely that of a mare, or rather a... that of a word I knew applied to female dogs), "There are a lot of things ponies—" she made the word sound like a curse "—don't know about the daughters of Forest Green."

She blinked at me, then shook herself like a dog, and stared.

She was fascinated. Like I was. Like when I'd first met Spike, who was smaller than a regular dragon and didn't look scary. This timber wolf, a bit smaller than Harry, didn't look that scary.

It occurred to me that the timber wolf had just realized it had spoken to a pony and for the first time the pony had understood.

Shock.

It felt shock.

I said, "I can speak to woodland creatures. My name is Fluttershy. What's yours?"

The timber wolf's brain had stopped working for a minute, but eventually she pointed to her nose. A log with a single oval leaf. She said, "Laurel. Ponies have names?"

"We do—"

Laurel crouched suddenly and started growling.

I fluttered back reflexively, then reminded myself I could fly upward away from any lunge. I was a strong flier now. And, in any case, Laurel's change didn't so much frighten me as anger me. As I could with my animal friends, I sensed her feelings. Confusion swirled together with fear.

I said, "Well, I'm sorry if you feel that way. Maybe I won't pile up scattered logs next time I encounter them."

"You put me back together?"

"I guess I did. Some thank you!"

The timber wolf sat. "Why would you do that? Something big struck me, broke me apart. Then I saw you."

"Do I look big enough to do that?"

"No. And Forest Green would say give thanks where it is due."

I smiled. "A wise wolf, then. You are very welcome."

"I don't know how long I lay there. Ponies are dangerous, wily. Everywolf says to avoid you. I'm not supposed to be this close to the Edge..." The green miasma contained in its wolf-log body swirled rapidly as if it were breathing faster.

It clicked in my head: She was a young timber wolf, a foal—or rather a pup.

"You monsters collect our bones and burn them!"

"We do not." Remembering Princess Celestia's edict, I added silently, Not anymore.

"I have seen plenty of nurseries." A sphere of green pulsing energy seemed to look me in the eye. "Plenty of scattered deadwood in each one. The alphas say ponies always steal from the wood in the nurseries, but I saw none of that. But then, here you are, a pony, in the forest, moving wood around."

"I piled your... your b-bones up. I wasn't taking them." I looked away. "Ponies are learning to be more friendly."

"I want to believe that, but here I am talking with a monster. The kindly wolf-witches of the Auroral Forests condensed us from the spirit of the forest, and, in their honor, we protect those forests. Then ponies came from the Foam Sea and razed them to plant their fields and orchards, then to dig out the minerals underneath and to use the forest's bones to build their cities. Forests ran from the Blue Sea to the Foam Sea and up to the Crystal mountains. Since the evil pony queen defeated Princess Forest Green and took her away, we've lived where we could, but ponies covet empty land, not forest. Friendly ponies that would understand us and recognize our need would be a dream fulfilled. I'd have a hard time convincing the alphas, though."

"I am so sorry to hear that, but now I know you have elders and history. It must all be a big misunderstanding. Ponies are becoming friends with creatures all over the world. Perhaps we could become friends, too, and be less monstrous?"

"I am— This is all very confusing. I can't just believe what you say even if I wanted to."

The expanse of the forest that loomed around us amplified her sadness, and it radiated into me, causing me to feel cold. The crackle of autumn leaves at my hooves seemed instead of a cheery harbinger of the season, a disconsolate reminder of the terrible history Laurel implied. I looked at Laurel. She was bigger than Big Mac and smaller than Princess Celestia.

And then I got an idea.

- 2 -


The sign read,

Sorry. No commissions until after Nightmare Night.

I knocked anyway.

Rarity opened the door on the Carousel Boutique about a minute later, her pumpkin-orange pince nez on her nose, a pin cushion stuck with a dozen flag pins floating beside her neck. "I'm sorry," she started, then said, "Oh, Fluttershy, dear. Do come in. I could use a helping hoof."

I ducked my head and followed her, determined not to let her distract me from my mission. It took only an hour of draping cloth over ponyquins, helping cut patterns, and tack stitching a ball gown that I finally got to say, "I need some help designing a Nightmare Night costume."

She had red-, blue-, and green-headed pins in her lips, and a operated the pedal of her sewing machine with an almost musical staccato rhythm as she sewed a complex variation of a cross-stitch.

I didn't think she heard me at first, then she spat the needles and flicked up the tension switch. Opalescence merrowled, dodging the projectiles under a red fainting couch. Blue eyes regarded me, practically sparkling.

"Darling? You're joining our yearly get-together?"

"I wasn't planning to."

"But—"

"I met a new friend, but she's a little bit shy—"

"Why doesn't that surprise me?"

I covered my mouth to stifle a giggle. "Not quite like me. She's rather, um, tall. Store-bought costumes wouldn't fit her."

"How tall is 'um-tall?'"

Almost Princess Celestia's height, but as wide as Harry the Bear."

"My, my. What kind of costume did you have in mind?

"A timber wolf costume. Something concealing, to cover her muzzle to tail. I have her measurements and a basic sketch." I passed her a penciled paper with my wing. "I'll sew it. I just need a pattern."

"Nonsense. For you, I can fit it in. Can she—?"

"Laurel."

"Can Laurel come in for a fitting?"

"No." I passed a hoof over the other while averting my gaze. "I can do any last minute adjustments. Thank you so much!"

- 3 -


Regardless of how I tried to explain it to the mallard duck commune, Fairly Ferret, and the mouse tribe who had been staying over at my cottage, they vacated when Laurel showed up. Laurel assured me that she could smell ponies and would make sure nopony would see her. Despite her similarity to Harry in size, she had to disarticulate her shoulder to fit through the door, not that many of the pieces actually touched. I imagined the smile on Twilight's face as she would spend an entire day trying to figure out the magic that levitated Laurel's "bones."

I quickly opened all the window shutters. "I'm sorry," I told her.

She examined beams in the walls and how the lathe fit together. She nodded and said, "No, I like fresh air."

Angel Bunny made a rude noise and tapped a back foot, from behind me.

She pointed a paw of sticks at the ceiling. "How does the rain get in to clean your lair?"

"It doesn't."

"No wonder it smells so strongly of pony. What's that?" She pointed at the table, then looked at the turned, varnished legs and pushed around a chair with a wicker seat.

I explained it was a place to have dinner, or for a tea party. Then I had to explain the meaning of the word eat.

"We don't 'eat.' If you have to grow things to take them apart to eat, every single day forever, some of the weird things you ponies do, like farming, starts to make sense."

"But you have teeth." I grinned to show her mine.

"These?" She tapped the pegs in her mouth. "To pick things up. To defend myself." She leaned down and looked at my midsection. "If I understand this right, if I were to eat something, it would just fall out of my chest. But I guess you are a bit more solid and could hold this food thing. Now that you mention it, I've seen forest creatures eating, but I didn't know it was significant of anything other than being randomly destructive. So interesting. Not sure what to make of all the deadwood hanging around inside a living tree like yours, though."

"Not all dead wood is timber wolf bones?"

"No. Only the right green timber felled by wind or lightning can be gathered in a nursery."

"What's in my house came from tree grown for the purpose."

"And none of it rotting. All of it shaped regularly and preserved as if in ice. The brown colors are warming, but it does feel somewhat spooky to look at it, unmoving, static, yet beautiful."

"Would you rather we worked in my backyard?"

"No. I want to learn everything I can about you creatures, and nowolf has seen any of this."

"Will they smell pony on you?"

She sat at the end of the table, moving a chair aside, studying the china tea cup and saucer there. "They will, but I will deal with that when I must. This must work like the crook of a tree to capture water. Am I right?"

Nightmare Night was this evening, and though Laurel had arrived at noon, it took hours before our mutual excitement ebbed and we got to work fitting the costume. It was after sundown by the time I started laying out the fabric on Laurel's back. Fortunately, everypony knew it wasn't worth asking for candy at Fluttershy's Cottage. I did have a tendency to shout from behind my door saying that scary ponies weren't welcome.

I was left to concentrate.

I'm not going to say I like Nightmare Night. The whole concept seems rather the opposite of friendly, but thanks to my friends and their challenge last year, I can now understand how dressing up and pretending to be some creature could be fun.

As a vampire bat pony, I'd become momentarily strong and in control. I could make others react just by acting myself. I had seen with my own eyes that others found it fun when I'd scared them, but despite protests to the contrary, I know they didn't like it when I scared them and they thought they faced a real danger. Twilight had spoken a few days later that she was glad she hadn't tried to protect herself with magic in the underground horror house I had concocted, when Harry the Bear rushed them. That could have turned out really bad.

I just didn't like seeing somepony scared, especially if I scared them. It felt...

Unkind.

But it represented an opportunity, and I explained all this to Laurel as I adjusted a few seams and encased the timber wolf's bones in a skin of fabric. Rarity had outdone herself. Because of the difference in proportions between a pony and a wolf, the stomach area sagged and the tail and neck were too tight, and I had to improvise the straps that would have held the wolf paws to a large pony's hooves. But the concept was more of a pony skeleton cloak with wood bones then a perfect timber wolf costume, but that made it better. Who would think a real timber wolf lurked inside an absurd timber wolf costume?

Rarity had peppered me with questions about my friend. I think it made her happy when I let her put a pouch for a long unicorn horn; she became convinced my friend was Princess Celestia no matter how many times I said no. With a stick in the pouch—which Laurel had no trouble propping on her head—I could see how it could appear that the costume did conceal an alicorn.

I chuckled, imagining Princess Celestia's smile if she ever learned the truth. Assuming my idea worked out.

I looked at the result. Laurel's glowing orb eyes were visible through the thin mesh eye holes. I smiled, then let it fade as I blinked at what I had done to her. I had a twinge of claustrophobia. "Does it feel alright to you?"

"I don't feel the fabric at all."

"I mean, you've never worn clothing. Is it restrictive?"

Laurel moved her arms and legs. Her up-curved tail fought with the down-curved fabric sewn for a pony, "but I can deal with that," she said.

When I donned my flutterbat costume and shut the lights in the cottage, it was half-way to midnight. It was then that I noticed the green glow that faintly lit the outside of the costume.

Of course she didn't feel the costume. She didn't feel it any more than I felt my own skin!

- 4 -


We had just walked past Sugar Cube Corner when our first group of colts and fillies came laughing up to us: a scare crow, a Princess Luna, a Tow-mas the Tank Engine, and a colt-clown. His parents had used every color of grease paint on him that existed in the rainbow, so it took the red nose to help me realize he was a clown and not a rainbow.

"I vant to dwink your juice!" I said, fluttering my bat wings and grinning so my paraffin fangs displayed.

They looked up at Laurel who seemed unable to figure out what to make of the foals, tilting her head. I nodded at her.

She lifted her head an howled.

The foals screamed, "Ahhhh!" One fell over in surprise.

Every pony in earshot, costumed or not, froze and stared. The fur on my spine rose. Of course the howl was authentic. But nopony spooked or ran. And after a moment, with many ponies looking toward the faux horn (that frankly wasn't exactly straight) and the green glow surrounding Laurel, the audience began to clap their hooves or stomp applause. The foals began giggling and laughing, then streaked off toward their next destination. I heard, "Nightmare Night! What a fright...!"

Nopony approached, though. I smiled. The horn was a great idea, as was the fragrant garlic garlands I'd strung around her neck to confuse her scent. I imagined I would have no end of ponies asking me tomorrow if Princess Celestia enjoyed her outing.

"Is all this normal?" Laurel asked quietly.

I was having trouble getting across the concept of pretend. "Just this one day a year."

"Acting like you think a creature that you fear would seems a bit deranged."

I chuckled. "I kind of agree. I usually stay home, and it used to feel too real to me. But it is a way ponies have fun together and make friends in the community. We cooperate."

"And give candy? Is 'candy' a better food because it is given?"

"Foals whose parents limit how much of it they can eat might surely think so."

"I don't understand taste, so I guess I can't see how one food would be more desirable than another."

"And I can't understand how projecting your spirit out from your body is how you see, rather than with light." Apparently, I hadn't even needed the mesh eye-holes in the costume, but the weird green light shining out from them did add to the costume's verisimilitude.

"Much to learn for the both of us. All you ponies seem socially at the same level. Are there alpha wolves? Omegas? Other than the little ponies following the big ponies, I don't see any structure."

"There's structure. Everypony is convinced you are a princess in disguise."

"Right. I knew you had princesses."

"Some friends are more pushy than others. And we have a mayor, and..."

I looked up and saw a little black storm cloud scudding much too low in the sky. I saw a bit of sky blue and a flash of rainbow hair. I fixed my stare upward, but the cloud inched forward, daring me.

I fluttered up to meet it. "I wouldn't do it, Dashie."

"Aw, Fluttershy. You're no fun." She scooted the cloud to my right.

I blocked her again. "Do you really want to shock—"

"—the princess? Now that you put it that way..." Big grin. "Yes."

I blocked her again.

"No. I guess if you're going to be a pain about it. See ya!"

"Better not!" I shouted at her retreating cloud.

Rainbow Dash waved with the back of her hoof. I noted she wore the Shadowbolts costume I had helped her make a few years back as I floated down, watching her circle around Town Hall, then swoop out of sight.

Laurel said, "So you are one of the alpha ponies?"

"No, not at all. But I always protect my friends."

"Am I your friend?"

"Yes." I thought of Discord and smiled. "I like interesting friends, I guess. And you are very interesting."

"I like you, too. Seeing you dressed as a monster makes you seem oddly less monstrous. I never thought I could have an creature other than a timber wolf as a friend, let alone a pony, but it doesn't feel so strange, suddenly."

"Baby steps, or puppy steps for you."

"Puppy steps? Ah, just leaving the nursery ground. I see." When the timber wolf chuckled, it sounded like a musician playing random keys on a marimba. "I was wondering, could I try asking for 'candy' like the pony 'pups'?"

"Foals."

"Foals," she pronounced, though really she made no sound and only I heard her.

I looked at Sugar Cube corner and smiled. I got her a basket. She walked over to the entrance of the store. Tapped on the door with a paw, and sat. When the door opened, she lowered the basket before the Cakes. I supplied the "Nightmare Night! What a Fright!" part because other than howling, Laurel could speak only to me. The Mrs. Cake made a big fuss as if she were facing a precious little foal, not a Princess Celestia in disguise—or a timber wolf in disguise. Other ponies gathered around, but not too close because the garlic could only mask so much "authentic costume odor," and they cheered like if it were a foal's first Nightmare Night performance.

As it essentially was.

Laurel got a haul commensurate with her size of chocolate bars, peppermint sticks, wrapped caramel apples, and an assortment of the Cake's special-edition Nightmare toffee.

She spent the next hour giving most of it away, imitating the Cakes and getting foals to pronounce for her the "secret words." She couldn't speak, and I translated everything for her, but she was picking up phrases and pointing out words she had learned.

I began to think my plan to teach timber wolves that they could possibly coexist with ponies might actually work.

- 5 -


Past midnight, the foals had all gone to bed for the night. The fillies and colts attended late night parties. We watched from the orchard while ponies had fun at the Apple Family Haunted Corn Maze. Applejack had dealt with timber wolves too many times to risk her noticing Laurel wasn't just pretending to be one.

The last place I took Laurel was the statue of Nightmare Moon that some unknown pony had built outside of Ponyville after the events of the 1000th Sun Celebration. Zecora with the help of Mayor Mare had turned it into an instant tradition that first Nightmare Night following it, bringing in scores of tourists each year just for the town's celebrations. Having actually had the real Mare in the Moon visit gave our town a certain je ne sais quoi. The wind had picked up and turned cool. It blew into our faces as we approached.

I said, "And this is what we do with the last bit of our candy."

In the moonlight, Nightmare Moon, obviously horn-carved from granite by a pony who had seen the real item, reared mutely, pedaling her spike shod hooves at the sky. The stone had been filed so the fur looked plush, the flared alicorn wings looked feathered, and polished so the black armor gleamed with reflected blue light.

Laurel had to look up.

"That's actually pretty scary. If you had asked me what a pony looked like before I met you, what I would have described would have looked a bit like that. If somepony could kick me apart never to reassemble, I'd think that monster might just be able to."

"She was very real," I said, looking up into the stone eyes. I shivered and looked quickly back at Laurel.

I could almost believe the glow in any timber wolf's eyes would be kinder. I'd seen Nightmare Moon rage on the elevated stage in Town Hall, and later in the Castle of the Royal Pony Sisters.

"Nopony is perfect," I continued. "Not everypony is nice. When Princess Luna felt unloved by the ponies who adored her sister's day—" I digressed to explain the two princesses' magic talents. "She became angry and disconsolate and tried to remake the world by force into one that who hoped would love her. The ruined castle in the middle of the Everfree forest was destroyed in their epic battle."

The timber wolf made a half-howling awed sound. "I've seen those ruins."

"But Princess Luna was wrong. Me and my friends helped her break out of an evil that she let take her over. My friend Twilight Sparkle, especially, taught her how to be friends even with ponies that don't understand you or find what you do simply uninteresting. Princess Luna now understands how she had let her focus on bad things in her life make her miserable. She's now a very serious pony who keeps her sister—who sometimes likes pranks and can get too sentimental—on track, in ensuring Equestria's safety."

"So your rulers are princesses? Not queens?"

"If you mean, benevolent, yes, they're benevolent princesses."

"Queens are always bad," Laurel insisted. I remembered she thought a pony queen had defeated her Princess Forest Green.

"So... just add your left over candy to the pile here."

Laurel eyed the statue's face. "Does she come alive and eat it?"

"Oh, Celestia, no! It's a ritual to give some of what you got back to show you are thankful to have received."

"Well, I'm thankful to have received so much from you, Fluttershy."

I blushed.

The wolf tilted her head, having seen my cheeks redden. She asked, "What just happened?"

I looked down and pushed some of the lollypops off the top of the pile with a hoof. "Ponies do that when embarrassed. It means you are too kind, by which I mean you aren't really too kind, but that I have to work to allow myself to accept what I've earned unexpectedly. Oh, dandelion fuzz, I'm not sure if that explains it. But what you said was very nice."

Laurel dumped some toffee and the remaining chocolate bars on the heap. "So your skin changes color and shape, and you make mouth noises to communicate. Nowolf knew this."

"Well, then tonight was worth it."

I heard the sound of flapping wings and the drop of hooves on the path behind us. A pony in an low angry voice said, "Princess Luna, stay behind me!"

I turned as did Laurel behind me. In a pool of moonlight, not ten pony-lengths beyond me stood pale yellow pegasus. She wore no costume, but had instead applied hair dye. Since I knew of the immigrant from Trottingham, I saw that she had dyed her black mane and tail to turn herself into a harlequin. Half her mane was blonde, and she'd combed it over her eyes. Streaks of blonde lined the tail thrashing behind her. Opposite legs were black and a black rectangle went from the midsection of her barrel across her saddle area. I could see the rainbow hearts of her cutie mark. Clearly upset, I saw she wore brass horseshoes that flashed as she reared for a moment.

"What are you?" she demanded.

Though I could not see her eyes, I could read her intensity. She was not pretending. When Laurel did not answer—and she couldn't if she had wanted to, and was too stunned to realize she was under attack by a pony to do so anyway—the menacing harlequin stalked closer.

Behind, a tall figure separated from the gloom of the trees that lined the path to the statue. The first thing I realized was it was a two-legged creature. And it was tall. Beside the statue on the pedestal, it would have been barely shorter. But that didn't hide the stilts the pony in the costume used to continue to rear and be able to walk.

It was the ghost of Hearthswarming Eve future from that famous book. Like Laurel's costume, it had been designed to hide the owners occupant. When she brushed back the overhanging hood to reveal her black crown and long spiral horn, it became obvious why her height and that of the statue were so similar.

Laurel growled. "The Mare in the Moon!"

"No, she isn't," I said.

Princess Luna looked at the two of us, first at Laurel, then me, then Laurel. She said, "Indeed. You are no pony. What are you?"

Of course, the only pony in Ponyville that Laurel's costume would not fool into thinking it housed Princess Celestia was Princess Luna who would certainly know better.

Spurred by the princess' question and Laurel's growl, the black and blonde harlequin mare lunged.

"Stay!" I shouted at Laurel, stifling a reciprocal response into little more of a jerk. I launched myself in the mare's flight path toward Laurel's head. Since the pegasus was spinning midair to deliver a buck on contact, I did the same.

The bang as our hooves met reverberated off the surrounding trunks. The shock almost knocked me from the air, and I felt the kick in every joint. My teeth even knocked together. But I beat the air with my wings and kept aloft. I had to.

As we whirled to face one another, I screamed, "Nopony hurts my friends! Nopony!"

Our wings beat at one another (woof, woof, woof), pinions hitting pinions, as we hovered upright in place not a pony-length from Laurel. I could see her clenched pearly teeth. Our fore-hooves all but touched, and her brass ones looked way harder than my wooden ones.

And yes, I could smell Laurel very well. The wind blew from our backs. Garlic could not mask this.

"Laurel is a timber wolf and she is my friend."

Princess Luna's voice crackled with authority as she said, "Stand down, my knight."

The harlequin mare shot the princess a glance of pure anger. I could tell this because the motion was so clipped, so sudden, her overhanging bangs didn't follow her head's motion and I glimpsed a flash of deep blue. She faced me, beating the air for a count of three flaps and backed off.

As she landed, she said in a low, deadly serious voice, "I would protect Luna with my life."

That didn't sound professional, like something a royal guard would say, but I did not doubt she meant it. When her glance showed that Princess Luna had discarded her costume with her magic and approached, she backed slowly. A fast swipe with her hoof pushed her bangs aside, revealing those azure blue eyes. Interestingly, they stayed unblinkingly on mine as if I really were a worse threat to the princess than a timber wolf would have been.

I didn't like staring into other pony's eyes anyway. I bowed. "Princess Luna."

"Fluttershy," Luna said in return. "Please, don't."

Beside me, Laurel had mirrored my bow. And held it as I held it, until, after a count of five, I stood and she did, too.

Laurel said, "So this is a pony princess. No mistaking an alpha pony. The both of them."

Luna stood shoulder to shoulder with the harlequin who would protect her. She looked down at her companion as her companion kept watch on me. Luna sighed. She nudged the mare hard enough that she tumbled over.

"Whoa!" the harlequin cried, obviously immediately wanting to right herself, but Luna continued.

"There is a point where one can be too earnest."

"Are you sure?"

"If Fluttershy says Laurel is a friend, Laurel is a friend."

The mare stood again, shoulder to shoulder with the princess.

Luna said, "You must forgive my friend. Her special talent is protecting ponies."

"I don't think so—"

Luna rolled her eyes, somehow making it look stately. "This little pony almost managed to throw Lord Tirek off of Canterlot Mountain when he came to steal alicorn magic. She's pretty talented."

When Laurel nudged me with a paw, I said, "I have to translate."

Laurel bowed again, this time toward Luna's companion. "Any pony who would battle the Killer of Forests is a friend of the Daughters of Forest Green. Did ponies ultimate defeat the demon that attacked our forests?"

I answered. "It was my friends and I, with the help of the Tree of Harmony who stopped Lord Tirek and sent him away to where he will never hurt Equestria, or the Everfree Forest ever again."

"I have much to tell our pack."

Luna said, "Laurel, please reveal yourself."

I helped Laura out of her costume. By now, the commotion and noise we'd made had attracted a small but growing audience of ponies. Some pony said, "That's an impressive costume," as the last bit of fabric fell aside and Laurel stretched her previously cramped tail. I wasn't entirely sure if that was a joke.

"Laurel, as a Daughter of Princess Forest Green, is it true that you wish to become a friend of the ponies of Equestria?"

As I translated, Laurel looked from Princess Luna to her companion, to the gathering ponies, to me. She said, "All I can say is that I want to become a friend of Fluttershy. I have learned much this night. As I told this pony, if we could become friends and understand one another, it would be a dream come true."

"Indeed it would be. My sister told me this day would come. Please return to your forest unimpeded and return, if you may, with news or questions."

"I shall."

"Fluttershy?"

"Yes?"

"It seems unremarkable to thank a pony for being who they are by nature, but I must anyway. Thank you."

I answered, "You are very welcome."

As I walked with Laurel past the statue, because my cottage and the Everfree forest had been behind us, I glanced back. I saw Luna's companion look up at Luna, who watched us retreat, and suddenly grin with what I could only describe as pride. Without warning, she nudged Luna, staggering her. Luna flared her wings and nudged back, but the mare braced herself and then nudged back once more. Both ponies started laughing.

So Luna had a friend.

I looked at Laura who imitated a pony smile with her pegged-tooth mouth, looking down at me. I could almost say her eyes smiled. Of course I could feel the smile without her saying a word.

I, too, had a friend.








« Prev   10   Next »
#1 · 1
· · >>AndrewRogue >>scifipony
I love the title:

And the idea behind this story. My only suggestion for something to look at during a rewrite would be the characters' voices. Laurel's supposed to be a pup, but she doesn't often talk or act like one. We get a little of it in the scene where she's in Fluttershy's cottage for the first time, but maybe have glimpses of her puppiness come through more often: she's trying to act all grown up, but sometimes, excitement at what she's seeing breaks through. Fluttershy, too, seems a little harsh here and there: when she first senses Laurel's "confusion swirled together with fear", she reacts kind of angrily: "Maybe I won't pile up scattered logs next time I encounter them," she says, and " Some thank you!"

I also might recommend making Luna's guard/friend at the end a batpony since the Nightmare Night episode is the only time we've ever actually seen them, but even if you keep her as a pegasus, you could at least have Luna introduce her to Fluttershy after their little scuffle. But this is fun stuff here.

Mike
#2 · 2
· · >>scifipony
A cute story that plays with some interesting ideas and explores a mythology that hasn't been (at least in what I've read) been explored a lot. I think the concept is solid, it's just in the execution where it ends up stumbling a bit. Realistically, I think there are three key issues that need to be addressed to really help this story shine:

1. Voicing. As >>Baal Bunny says, the voicing feels a bit off to me. Fluttershy reads as way more technically analytic and detail oriented than I feel is right, while Laurel actually ends up reading as rather... urbane? Like I realize technically her voice is being filtered through Fluttershy (which raises some real questions about how Fluttershy's ability actually works when you have like, the puppy/foal confusion - I've always kinda assumed her speaking trick is more just intuitive understanding than word level magical translation but YMMV there), but she is incredibly stiff and formal and has a shockingly strong vocabulary. Like, it actually makes me have trouble believing that Timberwolves don't have like... cities and tech.

Tangentially, your writing style is fairly clipped which can be a bit exhausting. Like take this paragraph:

I sang as I trotted between the trees on an animal path through the underbrush. It smelled like autumn, which was why I had my woven collecting baskets on. I looked for mints and mushrooms and mares-tail fern. Nightmare Night was a couple days away. I wanted to brew a calming tea for Harry the Bear and to bake mint cookies for our lay-in. Chocolate mint ones.


Like, pretty pure subject verb, subject verb, subject verb, subject verb writing that gets real repetitive real fast since each period creates a hard stop in your thinking. Something like (and I apologize this is gonna be mediocre because I'm cracking it out super fast - please do not use it)...

I sang as I trotted along the animal path, the scent of autumn following me from within the baskets I had filled half-full with mint, mushroom, and mares-tail fern. Nightmare Night was only a few days away, so I needed the ingredients to make a calming tea for Harry - plus a batch of chocolate mint cookies for our lay-in.


But you see what I mean? It reads a bit smoother to use slightly more complicated sentences. And there's a lot of places where you tend to fall into this pattern. Watch out for it. Its fine on occasion, but unless there is a specific narrative affect you're going for, try to avoid it.

2. Expositing. We learn a lot about Timber Wolves. Mostly by Laurel giving us a fairly comprehensive lesson on them. Fluttershy also updates on episodes we may have missed. Exposition has its place. Do not trust people who say you should -never- exposit. They will betray you. But you should make sure your expositing helps reinforce your writing. Need to do a quick immerse into a fantasy world? Get some facts out there real fast. Need a quick intro to a character, you can say they are the blacksmith, etc.

Here though, your story is literally about two cultures meetings and coming to understand each other. To have Laurel basically just infodump on Fluttershy is... a real loss. And a lot of their interactions are kinda just... that. They don't really get to know each other as people, instead focusing on facts that are spoken in fairly straightforward ways rather than serving as launching points for them to actually bond with each. Basically, let them talk and trust people to get it.

3. Stakes/Conflict. So this, I think, is the biggest issue. Basically, there are no real stakes to this story and no real conflict exists until the very end of the story. Like, Fluttershy and Laurel agree to hang out pretty fast. Neither is obviously willing to harm the other. If Laurel is discovered, realistically, she gets out fine because Ponyville isn't exactly brimming with ponies who are going to fight with a Timberwolf. And neither Fluttershy or Laurel will really lose anything anyway - we just return to the status quo. In fact, even failure is potentially net positive because the interactions with Fluttershy are good right off the bat.

It was pointed out to me that this story has a lot in common with The Times are a Changeling. Which is true. But it is important to note that, throughout that story, there are real costs. Thorax is being actively pursued by the Crystal Empire's guards. He WANTS to make friends and not return to the hive. Spike is potentially betraying his friends to an enemy. Etc. There are costs to failure. Those don't really exist here.

The same goes for conflict. Fluttershy and Laurel fall out of opposition very fast and the costume solution is had instantly and never really at rist until the very end. I mean, low-conflict stuff is fine, but I'm sort of left with the feeling of "why do ponies have such a bad relationship with TWolves if this is how it's gonna be?"

Also, speaking of conflict, once we get to it... it is actually kinda diluted by the guard/Luna relationship. It eats up a lot of words but doesn't really have any bearing on the story. Especially with shorts it is important to make sure you remain focused on your core ideas. Adding a guard who seems to be crushing on/in love with/in relationship with Luna does not really parallel anything going well enough to be worthwhile, and in absence of that just distracts by making me wonder "Who is she and what is up with that?" If I were to take a wild guess, I'd say you were setting this story in a shared universe with something else you've done. Which is fine, but you should keep those references as just cute side things and not call quite so much attention to them. Because seriously, I should not spend your climax thinking about things unrelated to the rest of the story.

Anyhow, all that said, you've got a cool core here and I think you've got a pretty solid framework that just needs some polishing. Something worth considering if you wanted to take a bigger overhaul of the story would be to introduce Fluttershy to timberwolf culture rather than Laurel to pony culture so that she can serve as a better spokesperson for them. After all, this is a neat setup for the wolves but we get to see very little of it! That said, that's just another take on the idea - yours is perfectly solid too.

Thanks for writing!
#3 ·
· · >>scifipony
Those two handsome... handsome people above me have given you great reviews, and I agree with everything that they've said. But I don't want to beat you over the head with things that have already been said, so I'll stick with what I think was my biggest hang-up with the story, and the part that needs the most attending to, which is Laurel herself.

It's tough to write a story about a character who grew up in a different culture, but the payoff is oh so interesting and oh so worth it when it's done right. And I think that a pitfall this story has fallen into is that Laurel here has been designed as a representation of her culture first, and a character second. To some this may seem like a good idea, since the culture conflicts within these types of stories are kind of the point, but a cultural representative is a very academic thing, see, and she often comes off like a textbook or as the physical embodiment of a dissertation on Timberwolves. And that can get very dry, very fast.

Characters are defined by their upbringings—by their friends and their parents or lack thereof—the things they've experienced, and the ideals that have been passed down to them. They aren't defined so much by their centuries-old history, or by their physiology, which are two aspects that you dive very deep into here (academically so).

But I couldn't tell you anything about what Laurel the Timberwolf experienced growing up, what her ideals are, or anything like that. She only talks about those two parts—the history and the physiology—of being a timberwolf, but that doesn't give me a great inkling on her actual culture. What is she herself like?

Put simply: A timberwolf would be molded by timberwolf culture, and the best way I'm going to understand that molding process is to see the finished product.

As an example: A great way to make us more interested is to show what conflict she herself has had with other timberwolves. Maybe, for example, she's a rulebreaker, and timberwolves are surprisingly very strict when it comes to rules (curfews, routines, etc.), and it pisses her the hell off. Boom, suddenly we know something about Laurel and her culture all in one quick paragraph or sentence of dialogue. These types of things can take your story very far, and can make us readers fall head over heels for your character.

But yes, the voices need tightening, the conflict doesn't come until the end, and you need to stop referencing old episodes so much. But! I will say that I've read a couple of these timberwolves-meet-ponies-and-must-get-along stories, but I feel this one has the most potential of what I've seen. This idea can definitely be turned into something that fimfiction will widely enjoy.

Thanks for writing, and best of luck with your whole thing, girl!
#4 · 1
· · >>scifipony
I can tell that you've spent a lot of time thinking about the worldbuilding elements, here. The little touches like Laurel's costume becoming a part of her were neat and clearly had a lot of thought put into them.

Personally, though, what made it difficult for me to enjoy the story as a whole was how the dialogue between Fluttershy and Laurel was constructed. Some of our other reviewers noted how the voices feel a little off point, and I find myself mostly agreeing with that sentiment. But what I think is a larger issue is the bulk of the actual sentences being exchanged between Flutts and Laurel are simple questions and factual responses. There's nothing really driving the conversations forward, outside of a vague mutual curiosity. As a result, I think it makes the objective/point/meaning of each exchange feel a little too obvious.

My biggest suggestion would be to give Laurel a concrete reason for interacting with pony culture and Fluttershy. Maybe instead of Laurel, have another timberwolf be mistaken for wood and taken by somepony, so Laurel goes looking for them. My point is, Laurel needs a good reason to want to have a meaningful discourse with ponies, since timberwolves in this world view ponies as monsters. Right now it just feels like Flutts and Laurel are interacting for the sake of interaction, which isn't quite good enough to serve as the vehicle for the world-building and character-building here.
#5 ·
·
>>Baal Bunny
>>AndrewRogue
>>Miller Minus
>>Bachiavellian
>>Posh
Thank you everypony for your critiques. All contain good points that I will contemplate thoroughly. None of them surprise me, but by the same token I should have internalized them by now. It's a gift to see them all written down.

Please allow me to address this one comment:
I also might recommend making Luna's guard/friend at the end a batpony since the Nightmare Night episode is the only time we've ever actually seen them, but even if you keep her as a pegasus, you could at least have Luna introduce her to Fluttershy after their little scuffle.

<embarrassed> You bring up a great point, one that I dinged fellow author Posh upon in this contest, so I'll mea culpa right now. I was attached to the idea that this entry in this contest had to stay in the canon of my published stories and, in service of that, you got to see me tie my prose into a pretzel to prevent having to name her. I'm calling bullshit on myself. No story or idea an author creates in any shape or form is immutable reality. In service of the story that I published here, I should have chosen an ersatz name to improve the story and I apologize for that. Later, nothing would have stopped me from publishing the the revised version with my character's real name, so why did I care so much that I broke the story here? This is a question I really need to think about, especially since I asked Posh to do the same.

You are probably curious about whose name I'm protecting...

This prompt made me think of an idea I had had long ago that I had recently thought might make a great ending to another story written from "Luna's guard/friend" point of view. I'd started that story but stalled out. This pegasus is the protagonist of Knight of Equestria: Certainty and I have completed four other stories from her POV awaiting publication due to minor rewrites. I could not reveal her name was Flopsy Mopsy (aka Songbird Serenade) because it could potentially have revealed my name in this contest.