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Ot · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
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The Circle and the Cross
This isn’t a story of distant shores. It isn’t a story of far-flung lands, nor of exotic locales. This isn’t a story of the places that lie at the edge of the map. It’s not even a story about coming home, and leaving those faraway lands behind.

This is a story about a circle and a cross.

I suppose I should start with the trip, though. After all, that’s why you all thought I wanted to talk to you, is it not?

Was it only five days ago that the Friendship Map called me? Forgive me, it seems so much longer. Well, I know you were all nearly as surprised as I was. None of us had ever received a solo assignment, after all; the Map does seem to have a thing for pairs. And yet, I alone was called. It was strange, too, because nopony lives in the Saltmyre. Nobody has lived in the Saltmyre for hundreds of years. Why would the Map make such an irregular call to such an irregular place?

Regardless, I packed a few necessities and set off. It’s the better part of a day’s journey by train to the city of Caracows in the south, that great bovine settlement. From there one travels into the Forbidden Jungle, a dense, trackless maze of roots and undergrowth just waiting to turn one’s hoof, a place full of awkward streams and rivers without a bridge to be found, until one comes to a place where the water pools instead of runs. This is the Saltmyre. It’s a fearsome land, boggy and utterly unpleasant to traverse for ponies—or any creature with fur or a mane, I suppose—and filled with mud-water sinkholes that can drown the unwary, biting flies to harry those without cow-thick hides, and even worse dangers less often spoken of. The water is brackish and salty; some have speculated that the bog is connected to the ocean some eighty miles away by a network of underground caverns, and the strange ebb and flow of water does suggest that there are larger forces at work than mere evaporation. As I traveled, the water would sometimes seem to recede into the ground and leave the thick mud and algae floats to steam in the sun, only to bubble up from the ground itself a quarter-hour later, rising feet in mere minutes. Though the land there undulates gently, one is well advised to stay to the highest ground one can find, lest the rising waters engulf them in a valley turned lake.

But that’s not what I called you all here to talk about. As I said, this isn’t a story of distant shores.

After sleeping on the train, I left Caracows as soon as I arrived; though it’s by all accounts a lovely city, I had a task. Whatever the Map wanted, I intended to see to it as quickly as possible; the unusual nature of the whole thing had me quite on edge. My journey through the jungle, through the swamp, was far from uneventful, but I doubt you’ll be surprised to hear that I persevered. A lady may not enjoy such travails, but that doesn’t mean she lacks the resourcefulness to deal with them, now does it?

It was late afternoon, edging quickly towards evening, when I came to the ruins of an ancient step pyramid. Though small, as I understand such things go—perhaps 120 feet to a side—it no doubt once towered above its surroundings. Yet now it had seemingly collapsed in on itself, topping out at an uneven plateau barely higher than the scraggly trees which surrounded it. If I was at all uncertain that this was where I was supposed to come, an insistent tug from my cutie mark erased those doubts. Though I still couldn’t fathom the reason, this was where the map had called me.

“Hello?” I called uncertainly. I made my way closer to the broad central stairs which had once led to an entrance, now climbing only to rubble. “Is anypony here?”

There was no answer. For a moment I hesitated, but I set out to circle the ruin. And as I rounded the first corner, I found my doubts assuaged, for there on a flat segment of stone was a small campsite.

It was but a single tent, a jarring, plasticy red, with a few half-full saddlebags set out around it and the remains of a campfire before it. It was clear this belonged to a single pony, perhaps two at most—no great expedition here. For a moment I feared that I had been brought here to rescue a careless explorer from some horrible monster or another, but even as the worry crossed my mind, I heard a scrabbling from the rubble above me.

“What’s there?” called a high-pitched male voice. “Off with you, off I say! Stay away from the supplies!” A great ruckus of clanging and squawking arose, and I put my ears back at the noise. A moment later, I was greeted by a frankly ridiculous sight: A middle-aged unicorn heaved himself into view, levitating a pair of cooking pots he was banging together, puffing on a whistle he held between his teeth. The pith helmet and droopy moustache he wore only made him look more absurd, under the circumstances. When he saw me, he let the whistle fall, his cheeks still red from blowing.

“Who the deuce are you?” he asked.

I extended a hoof. “I am Rarity,” I said. “Pleasure to meet you, Mr.…?”

Well, to skip ahead a bit, he turned out to be a Mr. Forbidden Troves, but he rather sensibly prefered to go by “Forbes.” And once we got past the whole bit where we were meeting in the middle of nowhere, for no obvious reason, he turned out to be a very agreeable fellow. I helped him prepare for nightfall, and told him the broad strokes of who I was and why I’d come, as he set about fixing us a meal and listened.

“So,” I ventured, as we sat around his campfire (now lit, though more for light than warmth) as the sun vanished from sight, “You’re not in danger? Hurt? Feeling unusually annoyed with anypony?”

Forbes shrugged. “Well, I’m in the middle of the Saltmyre, so it would be a lie to say I’m not in any danger.” He took up the small pan he’d placed over the fire in his magic and, after looking at the contents for a moment, stirred them up and placed it back over the heat. “But don’t be fooled by appearances. This isn’t the first exploration I’ve made, and fate be good, it won’t be the last. I don’t know why this magical map of yours would think to send you all the way out here to me. Certainly not to solve a friendship problem, I’d think.” To make his point, he gestured around us at the utter lack of fellow equines.

“Hmm. Well, whatever it is, I’m certain I’m in the right place. Perhaps if I wait around a bit, it will become obvious what I’m here to do. Would you mind if I stuck around a bit?”

“Not at all, my dear! While I do enjoy a bit of solitude every now and then, sharing your company sounds positively delightful,” He took the pan off again, and this time deemed the cooking finished. Taking his second pan, he scooped half of the contents into it and offered me the makeshift bowl. “Lucky for us that I always bring a second pan for banging on, eh? No better way to scare of a curious predator. Sadly, I can’t say the same about spoons.” He levitated the cooking spoon over to me. “Don’t worry yourself, though! This won’t be the first time I’ve had to eat bean soup with a fork.”

I chuckled, and we both dug in. The food was dreadful, you won’t be surprised to know, in that way that only dry goods stored in damp places can be. But, such is the life of an explorer, I suppose.

“So, what are you looking for, out here?” I asked him. “Whatever it is, I’d be happy to help while I wait.”

He scratched his moustache. “Well, have you ever heard of Daring Do?”

With a knowing grin, I allowed that I had.

“Right. Well, I don’t do that.” He harrumphed testily. “My job is to seek out ancient places, and then not completely destroy them. In fact, I’m a linguist by trade.” And he began telling me all about his chosen profession, which largely seemed to involve him finding dangerous things, leaving them alone, and then going home and documenting them so that a full research team can be subsequently sent to catalogue everything and collect any bits for which a museum would be a more suitable residence. Rather less action-packed than what our friend Daring does, but it sounded quite satisfying in its own way.

As regarded his current activities, he told me he’d identified the ruins we were camped at as the center of an ancient town, the smaller buildings of which had long since sunk into the swamp, but had learned little else so far. The pyramid was largely hollow before it collapsed, and appeared to have seen heavy traffic in its day—no tomb this, apparently—but he’d uncovered precious little else. He wasn’t even sure who had lived here.

“Most likely ponies of some sort,” he told me. “If you examine the stairs closely, you can see wear consistent with hooves and dragged objects—probably logs for fires. I’ll know more if I can find and access an uncollapsed room or two; surely there will be signs there that point to the native inhabitants.”

I nodded sagely, as if I had any idea what such ‘signs’ might be. “Then I shall be happy to help you look for those rooms,” I told him.

“Wonderful! Then the search resumes on the morrow!”

The second day brought trouble, though I didn’t realize it at first.

After breakfast, I offered to try my gem-finding spell. I reasoned that whoever had once lived here must have kept some valuables, and finding them would give us a place to start looking. Forbes was skeptical; finding treasure we couldn’t access was rather less useful to him than finding barren rooms we could. But he allowed that it certainly wouldn’t hurt to try, and so he resumed his own investigation as I attempted my divination.

So I cast the spell, and immediately felt the familiar tug of nearby gems. I carefully picked my way over the “top” of the pyramid, now a great pile of stone blocks, many of them larger than a pony. Forbes had assured me that the larger stones were well-settled, and that I needn’t worry overmuch about the heavier pieces giving way beneath (or worse, above) me. But it was still treacherous, uneven ground to tread, with fissures and miniature ravines one could descend down into if one dared. I concentrated until I could identify the locus—three gems, large ones, about twenty feet below me. I thought about calling out to Forbes, but he was out of sight, poking about in another portion of the rubble. And as I hadn’t actually found anything yet, I decided it would be best to work on my own.

I worked my way to the base of a fissure that was nearly above the gems. A little squirming and some rather unladylike effort later, I had found and enlarged a gap down into the rubble to the point where I could crawl down a bit farther. And there I found a roof.

It was clear that the stone I’d made it to was uncollapsed; though I had only exposed a few square feet, I could see the arch it formed, and it… well, I don’t know how to say it except that I knew it was unbroken. And the gems were close, now; less than ten feet beneath me, I was sure. I was certain there was a room under me, if only I could get to it.

Forbes once again crossed my mind, but after what he’d told me the night before, I was sure he’d merely document this discovery and leave it to a future research team to drill their way in. And… well, now that I was out there, I was curious as well. I wanted to know what was there, even if it wasn’t my expedition?

Also, the three gems felt very large. Not that I had any intention of taking them, but they certainly had my curiosity piqued. So I gritted my teeth, used a little bit of magic, and… well, and broke through.

A little too forcefully, in retrospect, though luckily the fall left me with nothing more than a few scrapes and a nasty but surviveable wound to my pride.

Now at last I called out, and though it took a few moments, Forbes did hear me screaming and came to my aid. As he rushed to tie off a rope ladder up above, I lit my horn and looked around.

The room I was in was not large, perhaps only the size of a small apartment, though the ceiling was at least fifteen feet tall. The area behind me had partially collapsed long ago, blocking off any doorways that might have once been there, and the rest of the room was largely empty, though there were a great number of symbols carved into the walls on either side of me. But in front of me was a great statue which rose from floor to ceiling, and it took my breath away.

It was a snake, from the waist down. Above that, it was a unicorn, though one rather unlike the unicorns of Equestria. The artists who had carved it so long ago had been meticulous in their attention to detail, and had chiseled out individual scales over the length of its body, all the way to the tips of its hooves. Not a speck of hair was to be seen, with even the mane replaced by something finlike extending from the back of the head and neck. The horn on its head was short like a unicorn’s, but thinner and curved forward, as if pointing ahead. Its mouth was closed, but two serpent-like fangs extended from the sides of its snout.

But what most drew my attention were the three sapphires, cut to the shape of snake-slit eyes, which were placed in a rough triangle in the space between mouth and horn. Their arrangement was not symmetric, but I was certain that this was no mistake on the artist’s part. Seeing this… unsettled me, to say the least.

“A lamia,” breathed Forbes, as he followed my eyes from the gap I’d made above. He threw down the ladder and hastily clambered to my side. “Do you have any idea what we’ve found?”

I nodded. “I’ve heard of them. Ponies say they’re extinct.”

He nodded excitedly. “They are, they are! This would make the ruins at least 500 years old!”

I nodded again. “That’s when Celestia banished them, yes.”

“Exactly! According to legend, the lamia, though omnivores, preferred a rather… macabre diet.” He pursed his lips. “For a time, the occasional disappearance of ponies was put down to rogue actors or other bad apples—some sort of ‘not all lamias’ movement, I gather—” he chuckled, but his eyes remained full of wonder at the magnitude of our discovery, “but when Celestia discovered that the High Prophetess herself was among those who indulged in one of their most traditional dishes, she ordered the entire colony to leave Equestria forever. It’s believed they fled to the badlands, but no lamia has been seen since.”

He rattled on about the race for some time, but I couldn’t look away from those sapphire eyes. It was just a statue, I told myself, but it filled me with dread.

My appetite for adventure thoroughly quashed, I climbed up the rope ladder. I told Forbes that it only made sense for one of us to stay outside the room, so that if there was a collapse then I could dig him out, but I don’t think I need have bothered justifying myself. He was barely paying attention to me.

I found a spot in the shade near the hole I’d made, and spent the rest of the day trying not to think of those eyes.

Around noon, Forbes came up, looking pale. I asked him what he’d found, but he just stared at me strangely.

“I wonder,” he finally said. We returned to the campsite together, and ate a spare lunch, before he returned to the hole and I to my waiting. In that time we didn’t say another word to each other, our minds each filled by what we’d seen.

He didn’t come out again until it was nearly dark. I had poked my head in from time to time to make sure he was all right, and each time I found him squinting at the walls, or fiddling with debris from the collapsed half of the room. Still, I was on the verge of calling to him when he clambered up the ladder.

“It’s late,” I said, rather unnecessarily.

“Er, yes.” Forbes had turned around as soon as he’d clambered out, and was examining the hole from which he’d come. “Ah, tell me again how you found this spot?”

“The room? I told you, I know a gem-finding spell, and the statue’s—”

“No, no. I mean, how did you find the entrance to this room?”

Though a bit embarrassed, I admitted that I’d taken more of a “Daring Do” approach to entry than a “Forbidden Troves” one. I thought he might be angry, but he only chewed his lip.

“And you are the same Rarity from the—that is, the same one who associates with Princess Twilight Sparkle?”

Again, I allowed as I was, and again, he seemed to think on this some time.

“I see,” he finally said, and with that, he turned away from the hole and trotted towards camp.

It was a silent, awkward dinner.

I awoke to the sound of clanking and muffled cursing. I blinked heavily; it was still dark. I opened the tent, which Forbes had graciously insisted I take on the first night. “Even this far from civilization, it wouldn’t be proper for a lady and a gentleman to act so familiar,” he had proclaimed. “In any case, the weather’s so fine, I rather fancy a few nights under the starlight.” I can’t imagine he still felt that way the next morning after the biting flies had had their way with him, but perhaps the remaining smoke from our fire kept the worst of them away.

But I digress. I emerged to find him trying to pack up his pans as quietly as he could. Which is to say, not very.

“Forbes, what are you doing?” I groggily asked, lighting up my horn enough to see. “It’s not even morning.” Then, as he flinched from his nearly-full saddlebags with a mix of fear and shame, my sleep-starved brain caught up. “You’re leaving. Without me.” When he didn’t speak, I felt the need to fill the silence, but could think of nothing to say but to repeat myself. “You’re planning to leave me here alone.”

For a moment, I thought he’d run. But to my surprise, he dropped the saddlebags and stood up straighter. “You’re right, I was going to.”

I studied him. “Forbes… what did you find in that room?”

His posture stayed rigid, but I could see him chewing his moustache. “I’ll show you,” he finally said. “I don’t think running would have worked, anyway. And perhaps you can tell me I’m wrong.” He wrenched his body as if it cost him some great effort to look away from me, and started up towards the hole I’d cut. Under his breath, I heard him whisper, “Please tell me I’m wrong,” as if it were a prayer.

We climbed the rubble, then descended the ladder in silence. Though the room was truly no darker now than it had been at noon, being lit by our horns, the blackness felt more pervasive this time. And again, the three gems stared down at me.

Forbes coughed, and directed my attention to the walls. “I’m sure you already know this, but it is rumored that the High Prophetess of the lamias could see the future.”

I nodded. “Many pony prophecies are said to have come from the lamia, yes.”

“I believe this was the High Prophetess’s chamber. Or at least, a High Prophetess’s chamber. And I believe there is prophecy written here.”

He walked close to the wall, and I could see a number of symbols carved into it. “This isn’t writing, per se,” he explained, as I examined the shapes without comprehension. “It’s a kind of symbology—no syntax, and highly susceptible to interpretation even to one who knows the meanings beforehand. Still, there are a few things I’ve been able to suss out.”

He gestured towards a segment of wall. I looked at the shapes: a prism, a triangle, a line, another prism, and an equilateral triangle with a line extending straight down from its top point down through its bottom base.

“I have no idea what I’m looking at,” I admitted.

“Neither would I have, if I hadn’t seen a similar set of shapes in a scroll full of Unicornian mysticism. The symbology is different, but the beats are the same.” He narrowed the light of his horn down to a pinpoint, and illuminated the first prism. “The Crystal Empire,” he said. The light moved to the triangle. “A unicorn,” he continued, moving along the line. “An interregnum. The Crystal Empire. An alicorn.” He let his light expand again. “This is the prophecy of the banishment, return, and defeat of Sombra.”

I pursed my lips. “It seems awfully vague.” I gestured at the unicorn and alicorn symbols. “It doesn’t actually say he’ll be defeated, does it? He could just as well have become an alicorn, like our own Twilight Sparkle did.”

“Indeed,” Forbes muttered, and the word seemed dark to me. “I doubt I’d have known what this meant if I didn’t already know the prophecy and its symbologic beats from another source. Which leads me to believe that any new prophecies that might be found here will prove untranslatable. Without already knowing what they mean, it’s impossible to say what they predict. At least, not without the benefit of hindsight.”

“So you’ve found nothing new?”

“How did you come here to the Saltmyre, again?”

The change of subject jarred me, but I let it pass. “The Friendship Map called me… three days ago? Yes, three. I took a train to Caracows, then hoofed it the rest of the way.”

His ears drooped. “Yes. Well… yes.” He walked to another spot on the wall, near to the collapsed part of the room. “All I’ve been able to identify are a few other prophecies like that of the Crystal Empire, where I already know more or less what I’m looking for. Like this one.” It seemed as if part of the wall had been damaged, but what remained in the line he indicated was a crescent moon, a very familiar starburst, and then the crescent moon in front of and surrounded by the sun. I had eyes only for the starburst, however.

“That’s Twilight’s cutie mark!” I exclaimed.

“And, not coincidentally, the symbol for the exercise of the Elements of Harmony,” Forbes told me. “These are the last symbols of the Nightmare Moon prophecy. The moon alone, the Elements of Harmony, and the sun and moon united.”

“You mean, this is a prophecy about us?” I was stunned.

Forbes laughed bitterly. “Indeed it is. More so than you know.” He faced me full on, then, and I saw that his eyes were wide, their pupils pinpricks despite the darkness. “Because there’s more here than just the last three symbols.” He turned, and with his magic, picked up a few hoof-sized pieces of rubble. “Not all of it, but enough." He took the pieces, and started fitting them together, speaking as he did so.

“Many of the symbols used on these walls are alien to me, but the signs denoting the tribes are the common ones used by the ancient Unicornians. An angle pointing upward for the earth pony—head raised high, hooves planted firmly on the ground. An arrow pointing upward for the pegasi—the earth pony symbol,with a line added to turn it into a representation of upward movement. A triangle for the unicorns—the earth pony symbol again, this time with a line added to denote the shape of the horn. And the alicorn symbol; a combination of all the elements into a triangle-arrow denoting the union of the three tribes. When I came upon this prophecy as the pony scrolls tell it, it was written as two angles, two arrows, and two triangles. Two ponies of each tribe would combine to fulfil the prophecy.” With a flourish, he levitated up the pieces of stone he’d put together, practically shoving them into my face:

One angle. One arrow. One triangle.

And with them, a circle and a cross.

“...What does this mean?” I asked him, as calmly as I could.

“It means that, according to this prophecy, two of the ponies who were to banish Nightmare Moon wouldn’t be ponies at all.” He pointed to one end of the scrabbled-together rock. “The sixth symbol is gone, but the circle and the cross are clearly two creatures who aren’t of the three tribes.”

“Oh! W-well… I suppose it must be in error, then!” I tittered nervously, but the sound seemed to die as soon as it left my lips. “Or, or perhaps the circle and cross mean something else entirely. I mean, you don’t think that just because some ancient rock wall says… says…”

“No,” he whispered. “No, not just because the prophecy says…” He gulped down a breath. “Even if I was certain the prophecy was true, interpretation is such a finicky business. How could I be so bold as to declare I’ve read it right, when I can barely decipher even those predictions I already know?”

“…Well then,” I finally said. “I’m glad we could—”

“You’re not a pony, are you?” he whispered.

Again I tried to laugh, but this time the sound never made it past my throat. “Can’t you tell by looking at me?”

“Appearances can be altered.”

“You’re not suggesting I’m a… a changeling, are you?”

“No, not a changeling.” His voice had grown so hoarse, so quiet, I could hardly hear it despite the silence all around.

“A changeling might be able to travel from Caracows to here in a single day, it’s true—unlike, say, a wingless unicorn. And a changeling might not be bothered by the blasted flies that fill this swamp. Rarity, how is it that I’m covered hoof to horn with welts from spending a single day sleeping outside, but you don’t have a single mark on you from your trek to this pyramid?”

“Perhaps I know a spell to keep the bugs at bay.”

“Of course, a spell you kept active all day. And then the next day, you were already fresh enough to move all those heavy stones, to make a path down to the roof of this cavern.”

“Any unicorn can pick up objects.”

“But not any unicorn could have cut a hole in this roof. That’s a rather specialized spell, isn’t it? And even allowing that you know it, I don’t think there are a dozen unicorns in Equestria powerful enough to move so much stone in the scant few minutes you were out of my sight.”

This time, I didn’t answer.

“But there is a race that was fabled to be magical rockworkers par excellence. A race whose physiology was well-designed for turning and shifting heavy objects. A race with thick enough scales to repel any bug. A race that could travel from Caracows to here without bothering to pack any supplies. Rarity, tell me: there is not one pony in a hundred who’s so much as heard of a lamia. How is it you know so much of the lore about them?”

“Please don’t ask me that. Perhaps it could still be coincidence?” With my eyes, I plead for him to let it be so.

“Then why are that statue’s eyes a perfect match for your cutie mark?” he asked me. When I blanched, he nodded grimly. “I didn’t notice at first, but when I came out of the tunnel for lunch yesterday, I couldn’t help but see that the shape, the color, the arrangement… they’re identical.”

“Forbes,” I said, my own voice now as soft as his. “Please… please, don’t.”

“The circle and the cross. I didn’t know what either of them represented at first. I’m still not sure about the circle, but I have a guess about the cross. What could that shape denote? Perhaps a horn, two outstretched hooves, and a long, trailing tale.” He was weeping now, but he pressed on. “Rarity, if you’re going to… just, please…” He swallowed, and stared into my eyes. “At least let me die knowing the truth. Tell me, Rarity: are you a lamia?”

“And naturally, when he asked me like that, there was only one thing I could say.”

I light up my horn, and Spike and the girls all shield their eyes. Illusion magic is always a bit flashy when it dissipates. And a moment later, there I am before them.


I swish my tail nervously, looking at my friends through three eyes for the first time. None of them are jumping up to attack me, or are asking where the real Rarity is. So far, so good.

Everyone’s jaws are hanging loose, though. Best go on.

“So I—oh, I guess I should say something about Forbes, shouldn’t I? Well, once I’d convinced him that I wasn’t going to eat him, we had a lovely little chat, straightened a few things out, and he agreed not to say anything about this until I’d had a chance to talk to you. Actually, he was prepared to take my secret to his grave, gentlecolt that he is, but I told him that wouldn’t be necessary. After all, the Map sent me to the Saltmyre for a reason, and now I know what that reason is: I’ve been keeping a secret from all of you. And after all we’ve been through together, it’s time for us to put secrets aside.” I wink two of my eyes at Twilight, hoping to snap her out of her reverie. “Incidentally, darling, I’m counting on you to smooth this over with Celestia, in case she’s still holding some frankly justifiable but nonetheless outdated grudges because of my ancestors.”

It works. “I’m sure Celestia will—” Twilight automatically begins, before her brain slams back into the “lamia” wall. “But, wait! How did you—”

And that starts everypony off.

“What did—”

“Who are—”

“Does Sweetie Belle—”

“Do you—”

“How can we—”

“Now, now, friends,” I say, as gently as I can. “I know you must all have a hundred questions, and I can think of no better way to spend the day than answering them and getting this all out in the open. But first, I have a question of my own.” I look at my friends, gaze traveling slowly from one to another, with what I hope is a reassuring smile; the fangs make it difficult, but if Spike can make pointy teeth look charming, so can I.

“You see, Forbes and I never did figure out what that circle meant. And there’s one more symbol that we couldn’t find the piece for at all. Perhaps it’s another angle, arrow, or triangle, but something tells me that it’s not.” I spread my hooves in invitation. “So, as long as we’re coming clean: would anyone else like to take off their mask?” I keep grinning, but my nervously swishing tail continues to betray me.

For a long moment, we look at each other in silence.

And then, to my joy, I’m blinded by a flash of light.
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#1 · 1
· · >>Chris
Oh, this was a lot of fun. Brilliant use of Rarity's narrative voice to cover up just how much she was glossing over. I honestly don't have a lot to say that isn't summed up by the spoiler, but this was still a subtle delight to read.
#2 ·
This is just a delightful read. Suspenseful and wholesome in equal measures, with a masterful use of narrative perspective to divert the readers attention.

It feels like I'd be spoiling the read for others if I said much more, but I will say that this on both first and second reading is one of my favourites, and that you're tying with Kill The Bugs for best interpretation of the prompt.
#3 ·
· · >>Comma Typer >>Chris
Overall, quite enjoyable:

My only problem was identifying the narrator at the beginning. I was going back and forth between Discord and Luna before Rarity actually identified herself, and that's doesn't happen for nearly a thousand words. So for those of us who need more clues, I'd suggest giving us those clues earlier on. Other than that, though, very nice.

#4 · 1
· · >>Chris
This isn’t a story of distant shores.

And the award for "Most meta first sentence" goes to... (Seriously, though, I'm better than 70% sure I know who wrote this just from the opening few paragraphs, what with how they're booping the prompt around like that)

Anyway! I think the thing I like best about this story is how I've read it a bunch of times before, but from a different perspective. There are a lot of horror stories that would write this from Forbes's PoV, where he's an explorer who encounters a mysterious stranger while out in the middle of nowhere, then slowly discovers more and more disconcerting things about her until he pieces together that she's something that's liable to eat him. It's even got the attempted flight and final confrontation of the truth! This story goes in a rather different direction from there, of course, but my point is that by telling it from her perspective instead of his, it feels fresh. On the other hand, the biggest weakness here is how I've read this story a bunch of times before. I can't help feeling that this is another "X is a changeling" fic in a clever disguise.

Nice work!
#5 ·
· · >>Chris
In which Ot is interpreted as glyphs.

To be honest, I've somewhat spoiled myself on who the P.O.V. belongs to before reading it so I did not experience any problem interpreting who it was. Yet, I have to agree with Baal Bunny (>>Baal Bunny) that the P.O.V. did not have many clues for the reveal of who it belongs to, especially with the reveal being as deep into the story as it is.

Beyond that, you painted her P.O.V. very well—it's not exaggerated but seems fancy enough to fit her syntax without making her pompous. On top of that, the feeling of dread that you also have with her and the lamia illustration (with using her cutie mark as a way to distract the reader from the full reveal until it's all revealed) is quite palpable, and that you have her as a somewhat unreliable narrator is quite a nice twist (not to mention the bigger one of her being a lamia).

I don't have much else to say. This is a very neat piece you got here! Strong in the middle of the pack, a great case to be in the top three.
#6 ·
· · >>Chris
It took me about a half dozen paragraphs before I realized who our narrator was, but as soon as I did, I had a really good time with the first person monologue-y style you went with the narration. You do a great job of adding a lot of commentary and thoughts that feel very much in-character for Rarity while giving the piece a nice spoken-word kind of feeling.

This kind of narration does have its drawbacks though, and I'm afraid that there were definitely moments when you put out a lot of information all at once in big descriptive paragraphs that made me have to put in a bit of extra effort to digest. I'm not claiming to have the best attention span, but a lot of my gauge on how much I think I enjoyed a story is how much I am able to forget that I'm reading a story. Having a lot of information dropped down on me at once can take me out of the flow and distract me from the emotions that you're trying to convey.

Another thing I want to note is more of a personal taste sort of thing, so feel free not to pay it much attention. But I do just want to say that this is kind of basically a "main character is a changeling" story, and I make no secret that this genre isn't my cup of joe. I got on the pony train right after season 2 wrapped up, and Fimfiction and EQD was absolutely saturated with these kinds of stories.

In regards to how this particular entry handles its reveal, I think I'd like a lot more explanation of how the whole thing works logistically. You touch on Sweetie Belle being a interesting topic, but the fact that the story never really addresses the intriguing questions raised by the reveal kind of made me feel unfulfilled.

So in the end, I think that I'd personally like to see a lot of expansion on this concept in order to differentiate it from changeling stories and to give some satisfying explanation for the logistical questions that come up. That might not be the direction you want to take this story, though, so feel free to just chalk me down as someone who's not part of your intended audience type.

Thanks for entering!
#7 ·
· · >>Chris
The only thing I think I can really add that hasn't been covered is: My money is on Pinkie Pie, but strong 2nd place odds on Fluttershy, both due to their seemingly uncanny kinship with Discord and being at odds with their species' usual affects.

Thanks for entering, and getting my brain juices going on who the real spy is after all.
#8 · 1
The Circle and the Cross Retrospective

Hey, so, I've been meaning to do this for almost a week, but despite the Coronavirus closing everything, I've been kept really busy with my work. Turns out that when you're a teacher and your school's not set up for e-learning, a sudden shift to "actually, why don't you all go figure out how to teach your classes online now, kay?" comes with some hiccups. Who knew?

Anyway, this story! I actually started with a completely different idea for this event, but after I wrote 3000-odd words of it and slept on it, I realized it was a wandering, pointless thing, and started over. My second idea I got about 1200 words into before I came to the sad conclusion that I had kind of a fun gimmick, but not actually a story. So I trashed that, too.

This was attempt number three.

As I said in my dummy review, I felt like the biggest weakness here was that it was a x-is-a-changeling fic, at its core: Rarity isn't a pony, reveals she isn't a pony, her friends are some degree of welcoming/understanding, the end. The fact that there's a 5000-word bait-and-switch at the start, where it looks like the mystery is something else entirely, doesn't really change that fact, IMO. Still, lots of people like those stories, even if they have been done to death! Maybe that's something. I dunno, I'm honestly still deciding how I feel about this fic. If nothing else, it was fun to write Rarity this way (even if I didn't nail her voice everywhere), and to see how much I could cover up with her narrative style.

On to specific replies:


Thank you! Nice to hear that landed.

>>Baal Bunny

I had the idea when I was writing this story that the protagonist's identity could be a sort of "opening mystery" to get the reader drawn in. With the benefit of hindsight, I'm not seeing a lot of value to that, though, so... yeah, you're right. I'll make it clear earlier if I put this on FiMFic, or if nothing else, use the story's description to give the reader that much.


ur dum :P

>>Comma Typer

Glad you liked it! Very glad you and others didn't think the distractions were too cheap; I was worried about that, but it sounds like I hit a reasonably good balance.


See, these were the kind of concerns I was expecting more of in the reviews. I agree that the core of this fic isn't particularly original, but the big problem I'm beating my head against is that the things you're suggesting to build out (how this works logically, family relations, etc.) lean into the least original parts of the story! So I'm worried that following those threads just makes this more of an x-is-a-changeling fic, if you get me. I dunno, I'm still thinking about it. Glad you mostly liked the narration though, and if I find a way to beat this into shape, I'll definitely be cognizant of the blocks of description!


If you really want to know who: the rest are all ponies. The flash is Twilight casting a disintegration spell on the evil monster, and the fic ends with Rarity's death, the last thing she ever sees a flash of light from Twilight's horn.

Okay, that's probably not it. Glad I could get your juices flowing, though, and thanks for the comments!