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The Twilight Zone · FiM Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
Show rules for this event
The Passing of the Burning Brand
How much time can one have to save the world? How long is enough? And what can one do when it’s been far too long, and there is no more to save?

Come to me. Come to the lake. I see it, a deep mirror pool in a remote valley, mountains flanking it like ancient white-haired sentinels. There, she beckons to me, calling again and again, and I feel the urge in my tired old heart, to soar somewhere again with a purpose, to have something to fight for, something to defend, something other than just drawing breath in order to draw another. Come to me. Come now. And the voice is so clear, close and real that I wake up.

I lie there listening to the throb of my old, old heart and hear the breath whistling in and out of me, and they are loud noises, but they do not drown out the dream. Over the workings of my body, I still hear the call. It was more than a dream. She does want me to go. I rise slowly, and do not bother to step into my four golden shoes, nor shrug my way into the confining peytral of gold. Naked I rise and fly, and as I reach my zenith, I toss my head, and with the power of persistent millennia flaming in my horn, I pull a flickering old orb of flame up into the sky with me to light the way. Someday I shall just let the thing rest. Someday, someday. It will rest when I do.

I need no map to find the lake; the mountains are burned into my memory and the call is still clear. I land by the lake and the breeze of my wings ripples the waters. And amid the ripples, under the surface, stirs a flash of silver, then a pretty creature with a flat face arises, and her arm with a five-fingered hand reaches out to me.

Where will it go? I ask. Will it do any good there?

It will be many things to many people, she says. Sunk in stone, it will test a king. In his hands, it will build a realm that shall never die as long as heart beats and tongue tells the tale. And when he has done, I shall take it back to give another, just as I do now.

Then do that quickly, I say, and bow my head and close my eyes.

The hand reaches out and closes around the base of my horn, and pulls down hard, and there is a crack of the loudest sound I shall ever hear as my skull is both cloven in twain and relieved of a mighty burden. At that moment, I am free, and I remember running lightly over golden fields as I did in my youth, as the darkness rises about me to take everything away, and my last sight is of the point of my horn, borne in that alien hand, sinking into the deep dark waters.

She was an ancient ruler who used an ancient tool to do well by her people. Now she has laid herself down along with her weapon, and the torch has been passed. And the one who takes up that fiery brand, wherever it may go, will also have lives to save, kingdoms to build, setbacks to suffer… But all of this lies somewhere in the future and yet also the past, in that fifth dimension, beyond that known to mare or to man–deep in the furthest reaches of the Twilight Zone.
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#1 · 4
· · >>GroaningGreyAgony
I believe you've got something like 150 words left, and I think it would have been well spent on Celestia's exhaustion and/or lingering on the moment of decision. I like the concept, though, the use of language is good, and the Rod Serling narration is well done.
#2 · 2
· · >>Morning Sun >>GroaningGreyAgony
A nice, solid Twilight Zone episode in Equestria. (Man, people are good at coming up with these! I'm kind of embarrassed that my own ideas weren't nearly so original.) It does a lot with not very many words. Gotta say this one is currently near the top of my personal list. It's not as creepy as some of them, but it is very well written and it stands very well as a complete story.
#3 · 2
· · >>SPark >>GroaningGreyAgony
Which one is this based on? Assuming it is.

Anyhow, storywise, okay, Celestia has Excalibur of a sort. Fun idea. But melancholy and...eh. Not to my tastes; not through any failures in writing, I suppose, but because I am in search of happy endings tonight, and well, I cannot help but wonder 'For what of Luna?' since there is more than one alicorn and it would appear Celestia dies in the last few paragraphs.

Then again I'm all around 'bleh' about the 'Tired of life' trope because there is so much wonder in reality the idea Sun or Moonhorse just wants to croak anytime short of a billion years or so doesn't really gel with me.
#4 · 2
>>Morning Sun I actually feel like the author meant it to have been a few billion years or so, and just didn't make that clear enough. I had to re-read the beginning a second time, and it made a ton more sense once I went "Oooooooh, this is basically after the end of the world and the sun is probably a red giant and everything's long since over with. Got it!" and suddenly it was a much better story.

And no, it's not an imitation of any single episode I'm aware of, just it has that "this could be an episode" feel to it.
#5 · 2
· · >>GroaningGreyAgony
I don't think any of the questions you ask in the opening are answered in the rest of the story. What's that opening even there for, actually?

This seems like a 'wouldn't it be neat?' story, the sort where the author thinks up something that's kinda cool and writes the entire story around it. In the end, that's what it leaves me with; a feeling of 'that's kinda cool' and nothing more. Which is a bit of a shame, because you're drawing on some of the best mythology in the world with the Lady of the Lake and the Once and Future King.
#6 · 2
· · >>GroaningGreyAgony
A fascinating concept, but as !Hat noted, the beginning and end feel detached from one another. I get a sense that you didn’t quite end up where you thought you would at the start. I enjoyed the journey, but I agree that spending some more time on it would be advisable. Give us a chance to appreciate just how much both Celestia and Equestria have both aged.
#7 · 2
· · >>GroaningGreyAgony
So yeah, ironically I think this story is actually hurt by the adherence to Twilight Zone style structure. There is a very specific tone and structure to that thing, particularly in this day and age. While your opening and closing get the tone (in my secondhand knowledge, at least), I don't think the story itself quite captures it. I mean, it is a bit weird and goofy, but I don't think the diction actually lends itself.

Speaking of diction, you have a lot of what I would consider generally dense sentences. I love dense sentences. I really do! But yeah. Like, sentence 2 I think would be better off split and I believe there are others like that.

Also amused that another prompt seems to have, at least, in part inspired this (though this isn't a criticism! Just brought a smile to my face).

Beyond that, I am a little confused about the timeframe here as well. The opening crawl suggests this is way in the future, but we're not really given much accurate feedback in this regard. I think it is somewhat important to know, as it does create varying reactions depending on who/what is alive.
#8 · 1
· · >>GroaningGreyAgony
This is another beautiful story, with an evocative atmosphere and plenty of great bits of prose:

I pull a flickering old orb of flame up into the sky with me to light the way. Someday I shall just let the thing rest. Someday, someday. It will rest when I do.

I agree with the others, though, that the setting is maddeningly unclear. Is this all happening after the end of the world? Is Equestria depopulated? Or is Equestria fine, and Celestia's simply tired after millennia so she sneaks out from the palace to end it all? All we have is the cryptic clue that "it's been far too long, and there is no more to save," but this doesn't really explain anything.
#9 · 2
· · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Princess Celestia and her Adventures in Arthurian Legend?

Actually works very well, provided one can recognize what the hell is going on with the watery bint lobbing scimitars at kings in other dimensions. I don't care for the framing device, though. The source material would use those opening/closing monologues to set up and wrap up the story, and to bridge the audience both into and back out of the 'Zone. Here, you only have one vague passage at the start, and a pseudo-Serling paragraph at the end. Doesn't feel like I'm being organically led in and out of a realm of the mind where eyeballs float in the spinny black void.

Beautiful prose, though.
#10 · 1
· · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Beautifully written, and a wonderful premise as well. The framing at the start and end feel totally disjunct though. Yes, I understand it's to set it up like a TZ episode, but it doesn't work, and asks questions that are still unanswered.

Beyond that, a little clearer glimpse into the setting, and especially the timeframe, would be good. My "impression" is it's a far future thing, but yet she still has her shoes and peytral? Seems odd if there's "nothing more to save."
#11 · 1
This works better if it's the far future as others have speculated, but yea, that definitely did not come through to me on my reading. If this is a case of 'The world is gone save Celestia', then her wanting to pass on Excalibur makes far more sense, if she is going onto her form of Avalon.
#12 · 3
>>Jordanis, >>SPark, >>Morning Sun, >>Not_A_Hat, >>FanOfMostEverything, >>AndrewRogue, >>JudgeDeadd, >>Posh, >>Xepher

The Passing of the Burning Brand: Retrospective

Twilight’s Safe Zone having reached the point of completion in my mind, I found that I might just have time for a quick second fic. So I told myself “Just let yourself go. You can make it a silly crackfic. Write as if it doesn’t matter and see what comes out.”

So I tried that for a bit and it didn’t seem to be going anywhere. I then reread my prompt list for inspiration:

It Wasn’t a Dream. She Really Is Calling Me to Go to the Lake.
Your horn is really excalibur. I need it back.

(Whoever wrote that prompt, can you tell me what you had in mind for it? I am curious. And well spotted, >>AndrewRogue!)

So all this pretty writing came out instead. For some silly reason,* my fic came out initially at 600 words and I got fixated on keeping it at that number. As >>Jordanis first stated, I should have put the spare words to use.

Consensus is that I didn’t make it clear enough that this is far future Equestria, in a “Dying Earth” situation, and there is no one left by now for Celestia to protect. I will make this clear in the Fimfic version. I intend to strip the first half of the Serling narration and the Twilight Zone specific references, but keep the afterword.

Again, thanks to all for the criticism and praise!

* We were discussing word limits in chat:

Cassius - 02/12/2017
Write a mini that is exactly 400 words

Groaning Grey Agony - 02/12/2017
Nothing shall come of nothing. Speak again.

Ponyess - 02/12/2017
Nothing shall come from anything and everything

AndrewRogue - 02/12/2017
400 is ultra tight and I respect it.