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Counterfeit · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
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Pumpkin Talk
Several years after their retirement from the throne of Equestria, Celestia and Luna settled down in a small cottage off one of the byways of Ponyville, which ran from the Grove of Remembrance all the way down to the stationery store on the east end of town. During their stay at Silver Shoals, they had begun to feel the itch of their capacious imaginations, which were once so devoted to heroic scenes and high ceremony, but which had become idle, like two empty skiffs on a great incandescent sea. They therefore decided to take up writing; and to that end, had removed themselves from the backdrop of fiery sunsets to the wooded hill with its small-paned paper shop, where every envelope, steno pad, and erasable ink pen bore the intoxicating whiff of new adventure.

Their successor, Twilight Sparkle, had heard news of the move and of the chosen occupation of her old mentors, but had been forced by exigency of duty to regard it all with bemusement only; until one day, when she found herself out and about her former residence, and, contemplating a set of salt and pepper shakers over lunch, she recalled with delight that the princesses were in town, and set aside the hour to pay them a visit.

She passed through the market and filled a basket with the best turnips she could find; then she made her way toward that part of town where she had heard the grand old monarchs had made camp. The place was a little hut, some sixty feet away from the road, at the end of a dirt pathway. There were no other houses for a five-minute walk; and the cottage figured more accurately a trapper’s shack than the forever home of two seasoned politicians.

Inside, there appeared to be a state of shamble. There were cooking pots left on the stove, and mattresses stacked nearly to the ceiling in the living room where the princesses, Twilight presumed, would sleep. There was a small table by the backdoor covered in pamphlets with scratched writing, and a mess of cups, fabric, and paintbrushes, so wrenched from use that they suggested either very long nights or a shadowy acquaintance with some former artisans. The room stunk of old tomatoes. The door by the kitchen was left open, and a breeze blew in; Twilight spied the princesses out in the yard, and went hurriedly to meet them, for fear that a rat or a racoon might jump out at her at any moment.

Celestia and Luna were standing at opposite ends of a fenced-in plot, clad in burlap capes that went to their waists, and were shouting commands at one another. They did not notice Twilight come into the yard; but when the latter, at a judicious moment, cleared her throat to gain their attention, they broke off and hailed her heartily, with big and bucky smiles.

“Well-met, Twilight Sparkle!” cried Luna. “We welcome you to the Grove of Remembrance.”

“It is good to see you again, Faithful One,” said Celestia. “I sensed your coming in a dream.”

“You sensed no such thing, Sister,” snapped Luna. “You are thinking again of the one they call Cheese Sandwich.”

“Speech attempt with twenty-five percent chance of failure—I did not hear you,” replied Celesita.



The princesses stopped and jotted something on two parchment sheets which each had placed before them on the ground, then returned to their guest.

“We are roleplaying in real time, Twilight Sparkle,” Luna said eagerly. “It is a most serious work.”

“Listen to the song of the wren,” said Celestia, above the sound of one warbling in a nearby hemlock. “For as surely as its chatter cuts through the needles, so does the Wind of Destiny bear daggers for royalty.”

“Oh, that is a good line!” said Luna.

“I have discovered that it is good to talk to pumpkins,” Celestia replied, “to improve speech. Unlike ponies, they do not tire of you.”

“Ahem,” Twilight interrupted once more. “I’m glad that I’ve found you both. Though, please forgive me for saying so, but I thought you both would be in a better state of affairs. Why are you out here, yelling over the treetops? Why do you live in a cottage which is too small for you, and why are you going around talking to pumpkins? Have you run out of money? Look, I brought turnips for you.”

She set the basket on the ground and gave it a knock with her hoof, causing a gourd to roll onto the grass.

“For turnip and carrot soup. You do remember how to make that, don’t you? Ah, forgive me again. It just distresses me to see how you are living, and I can’t help myself.”

“Do not feel bad for us, Twilight Sparkle,” said Luna. “We are writers now.”

“It would be far worse indeed,” Celestia interposed, “to linger in Silver Shoals, whose sands are like the count of faces come and gone, and whose ducks flurry above head like forgotten beliefs.”

“I must join you in the pumpkin patch one night, Sister,” remarked Luna. “Do not forget to take me along.”

“Of course I feel bad for you!” Twilight broke in. “You have lived extraordinary lives. Your stained windows towered above the mountains. A rill ran from your throne room and down to a valley of cataracts. You have seen more of Equestria in a day than some of the folk here might see in a lifetime, and they, I should think, would like to hear your stories. I want nothing more than for you to be writers, of course. But here—”



They stopped again and made some more notes with little pencils that they maneuvered with their teeth, before Luna spit hers out and said, “Apologies for interrupting—I thought that my sister Celestia had stopped paying attention.”

“One must be prepared for anything,” the latter said gravely, though not without a note of victorious pride.

Twilight groaned. “But here you are, in the mud, looking for ways to annoy each other, it seems to me, striking out on a life that would be less noteworthy, less noble, less sanitary, even, than that of any one of those same ponies that might admire and emulate you. I’m very busy, but if you are willing to clean up, on my advice, I will block out the time to help you. We will make soup, and catch up.”

She picked up her turnips and motioned for Celestia and Luna to follow her into the house. “And you can no longer say,” she added, as a final argument, “that I don’t have the experience to understand your decisions. Come, come.”

She trotted a few paces down the hill, determined to listen for obedience, and not to look for it; when she heard a great cry from behind her, “ARROW!” accompanied by a scurry of birds rising up out of the dark wood. Twilight broke her pact, and whipped back in disbelief at the princesses, who watched her from the crest.

Excuse me?” said Twilight; she began to heave, and sputtered, “I… You… Did you just ‘arrow’ me?”

“I tried to warn you,” Celestia replied in a low voice. “But I’m afraid it is for your own good.”

“I can’t believe this!” said Twilight, at a loss. “After everything we’ve been through!”

“Believe it,” said Luna. “And It has cost you twenty hit points. You are lucky the shot didn’t roll higher. Hopefully you have learned that must never turn your back on a rogue princess.”

“Is this what being a writer means to you?” Twilight sneered. She dropped the turnip basket and clutched at her chest, watching as her assailants made further changes on their score sheets.

“Take it back!” she cried.

“Take what back, Twilight Sparkle?” Luna replied coldly.

“Your arrow. If you value our relationship, you’ll do it.”

Celestia and Luna laughed.

“What’s done is done, Dearest One,” said Celestia. “You may as well ask me to change the course of the sun.”

“I can sell you a magic potion, if you like,” said Luna.

“You’re missing the point,” said Twilight, sitting back on the grass. “I would never shoot you with an arrow, Luna, even an imaginary one. Let me ask you—because now I want to know—what were you thinking when you fired it?”

“I was thinking of your welfare,” Luna replied without a pause. “I saw that you were becoming distracted in your role by your preoccupation with our cottage.”

Twilight was thoughtful for a moment; but before she could reply, Celestia asked, “What do you think it would mean to be the ultimate princess? Have you reflected on that question lately?”

“I haven’t really thought about it in those terms,” Twilight replied. “I admit that my schedule is enough that I am not the ‘ultimate’ anything. Most of the time I feel like I am hanging on by the bit, in fact. I imagine she would be a great time manager.”

“Time is the enemy,” bellowed Celestia, eyeing the younger like a soft vegetable. “Time is what brought us from Canterlot to Silver Shoals. Then we asked ourselves, once when we were wasting in some lanai, what it would be to live and breathe the spirit of magnificence, to aspire toward creativity, magnanimity, and radiance in all affairs, a life for which the marble spire we once reigned from is merely the innuendo?”

“So we found this hut,” said Luna, “and started painting our faces. We would live like princesses all the time, and not just during commencement speeches. And to prove to ourselves that our found nobility was something eternal, really within ourselves and not attached to calcareous traditions, we would find a way to do it all in modest surroundings.”

“No rampart shall block our way,” said Celestia.

“No dragon shall be too fearsome, to stay the winning of our prize,” said Luna.

Then Celestia concluded, raising her old hoof, and saying, “Arrow.”

Twilight smiled. “Shield.”

She pulled Celestia into an embrace and closed her eyes. She heard Luna scribble something, then spit; Twilight hugged tighter and let go.

“Though, for my part,” she said with a little sigh, “I think I will stick to worldly deeds to find my happiness. Not all of us are cut out for the demands of a being an adventurer-writer, you know.”

“It’s much easier than the alternative, by my reckoning,” said Luna. “Imagine if we had to go out into Equestria to find reasons to use our magic for hours every day. Why, we would burn forests down to ashes. All of the swamps would be overrun by multi-colored frogs, which used to be mushrooms. Not a troll nor sandworm would be left standing. No one would be safe from our attacks, for want of combat experience.”

“It is a dangerous life, being a princess,” said Twilight.

They talked for a little while longer as the trees began to billow from afternoon gales. Carts had started to pass on the road, and Twilight began to think again of her evening flight and of her intention of visiting a few other points of interest during her short time in Ponyville. At length, however, the conversation ran on, and she relinquished her nostalgic impulses to tarry in the company of her delicate-hearted heroes. As she turned to go, finally, at the end of day, Celestia stopped her.

“Do you still plan on helping us clean the kitchen?” she asked.

As the sunlight faded, it had begun to get cold out. Twilight could feel a shiver in her legs, and answered, “Next time. Next time I see you we will clean up the kitchen. And we will go on another adventure together. Oh, and I almost forgot. Take these.”

Twilight grabbed the turnip basket that had been left sitting on the lawn.

“Consider these ‘love tokens’, a symbol of my sincere gratitude and affection for you. They have a special enchantment that will remind us of one another whenever we go to have them.”

She handed one over; Celestia held it up, glared at it, and said, “Twilight, sometimes a turnip is just a turnip.”
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#1 · 1
· · >>Heavy_Mole
This one is big on using its language, turns of phrase, and eloquent descriptions, and I’m all for that.

There’s a couple ideas a play here, that I can see. First is the interesting perspective that apparently all three see (or can be made to see) the role of ‘princess’ as being at least partly that of adventurer… or at least requiring adventure, and the observation that ‘exerting themselves as they feel they could would destroy the world’ is a keen one. Second is that the managerial rule—that is, the ruler aspect of rule—crushed their lives and sense of expression. Against this, a bit kept pinging at the back of my mind: “A hole appeared in the Korean DMZ, that’ll get your attention. A PR crisis will demand your attention. …In [three hundred some] days, we will leave this office [of the White House]. In those days, we have the opportunity to effect more change than possibly the rest of our lives. What do you really want to do with them?” …which takes a very different perspective on the role and motivations of a ruler (or at least governor). However, one’s tenure in the West Wing is far more fleeting than the centuries or millennia of the princesses.

This one was really clever. I’m just a bit torn on its message.
#2 · 1
· · >>Heavy_Mole
First surface impressions: the prose feels a little spotty at times. There are long sentences that meander on, making them (and consequently the ideas they're meant to convey) feel unfocused, dulling their impact.

Digging into theme, or more exactly the idea of how theme is conveyed, I think this story suffers a lot from being so dialogue-heavy. Bring a single scene without much action and mostly just characters talking to each other makes it difficult to show what the themes or ideas of this story are supposed to be without resorting to the characters just saying them more or less outright, and coming across as either too on-the-nose or too fourth wall breaking.

As it is, I'm left without a strong sense of what the theme is supposed to be, exactly. I get a sense that the story is exploring boredom in conflict with the potential for great power, and the need for an outlet lest the old saying about idle hands (hooves?) being the devil's tools be validated. But I'm not sure what the more significant conclusion or takeaway (if any) is supposed to be from that.
#3 ·
This story wobbles a little bit. It begins with "writing", then transitions to "role playing", then changes tone, and becomes about Twilight's missed time with the princesses. It is a stew or gumbo, comprising several things, but more on the side of indecisiveness than roundness.
#4 ·
This is actually a bit of a shaggy dog story about why (I think) people become writers, and what the "life" is like.

Luna's remarks about burning down the forest were meant to be a punchline, or rather, a perfectly logical justification (in her mind) for her bizarre lifestyle. I didn't intend them to be taken so literally. Since the subject matter is LARPing, I also thought it transposed amusingly to real-life--imagine one of your role-playing friends actually holding back an enormous amount of power, proportionate to their level of investment in their hobby.

When I was younger, life seemed to be filled with promise. I could be whatever I wanted, could set my sights on anything, and other people could, too. The "middle"--without getting too melodramatic--is not quite like that! You've got where you're going, as it were, and 'potential' is sort of a silly question. This is where Celestia and Luna, in my process of writing this, wound up. If existence is too "wide" for us, then surely the essence is just as "deep", and it all becomes a little like role playing.