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Through Fire · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
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Tempest's Choice
He called me Tempest Shadow, ran his leathery paw across my cheek, and told me to get back in my cage.

He made his way back up the steps to his throne, arms folded at his sides like he was taking a morning jog. He swung his lanky, white, ape-like body around, plopped in his chair and sighed liked he’d landed in bed. He pressed his paw against his cheek and frowned upon me.

“Was I not clear?” he said.

I couldn’t answer—too busy wondering how long it would be before I saw the sun again. From behind his metal chair, a row of windows gave view to the churning storms outside.

“Answer when you’re spoken to, Tempest.”

I faltered where I stood. My mouth was agape, and I hadn’t the energy to close it.

“Th…that’s it?” I gasped.

“What’s it?”

“I’ve been in that cage for days… maybe even weeks, and when you finally take me out of there it’s… to give me a name?”

“It takes a while to come up with a good one. Cut me some slack.”

“But my horn! You said—” I stumbled forward. “You said you could…”

He held up a paw. “Also, you’ve only been in there four days. But it’s hard to keep track of time in that kind of darkness, so don’t sweat the error.” He made a shooing motion with his free paw. “Now then. Off you go.”

I stayed where I was. Against either wall, a set of identically burly guards stood still. Any of them could be the ones that threw me into the cage the first time, or dragged me into the throne room not five minutes ago. And a part of me worried they would get in trouble for not moving, for not corralling me back to the cage.

I swallowed. “Aren’t they going to…?”

“Nope,” he said, twirling his staff in his fingers. “You know where you’re staying now. They’re busy.”

The guards stayed still like statues.

“And… if I leave?” I asked.

He stopped twirling the staff and grinned with big teeth. “You’ll have to figure out how to survive the drop first. Besides,” he said, sitting forward. “I have spellstones littering every hall and room of this airship. One wrong move, one wrong word—” he tapped the side of his head “—and I’ll know. Hey, I’m thirsty, where’s my water?”

I took a step back and bumped into a bumbling servant wearing a black metal mask. He carried a silver platter carrying nothing but a great jug of water. The servant eyed me petulantly and carried on up the stairs.

The Storm King took a generous gulp of water straight from the jug and exhaled. “Sorry, I get thirsty when I talk too much. Where were we? Oh, right, you were buzzing off.”

My head dropped. I turned and left, my mouth still open.

“Toodles!” I heard behind me, and the door shut with a thud, leaving me alone in the corridor.

Every step had become a journey. Every small shift and groan in the airship’s flight threatened to knock me over, but I didn’t fall. I grit my teeth so hard I thought they might crack.

He was right. I knew the way back.

Down the skinny steel corridor—a right, a left, a right—through the square door to the chamber, down the short flight of stairs, under the buzzing red light on the wall and into the one-by-one little cage, where the gate shut behind me automatically, and the red light turned off.

In the darkness, I became dangerously unoccupied. I only had the thinking. Thinking, and nothing else. I tried keeping track of time. I counted the seconds up to two minutes, before I realized that would drive me insane. And when I fell asleep, I lost track anyways.

I pretended I had stopped time. The airship hung in the air, a bolt of lightning split the sky permanently in two. The Storm King sat frozen in his chair. As long as I breathed, I was the only one alive.

The only exercise I had was when I ate. At random times—or maybe I just couldn’t peg the intervals—a plate of food would warp into the chamber, and the cage would click open. The red light wouldn’t turn on, and if I hadn’t been paying attention to the flash of the spell, I had to search with my hooves to find it—quickly, but not so quickly that I knocked it over. As much as hard, chunky gruel could be knocked over. It tasted dry, like dirt, and just as bitter, but it kept me alive.

At least he wanted me alive.

I realized there must be guards watching me through those spellstones. Entertaining themselves with images in a control room somewhere on the airship while I felt around for my life. Slapping their knees. Pointing at me. Look at her go. If I ever got hold of them, they would never laugh again. And they’d certainly never point.

One day, or perhaps night, an hour into a frantic search, I heard a voice.

“It’s to your left.”

The red light buzzed on, I saw the plate and the food—I’d guessed right—and dove for it. I carried it back into my cage and shoveled it in my mouth. I tasted nothing. My taste buds had shut down a long time ago. When I finished, I remembered the voice.

A squat, gray hedgehog with a shorn white mohawk sat in front of the cage on a wooden stool he must have carried in himself. I eyed him carefully as the gate gradually shut behind me and clicked.

“Hi there,” he said. “Name’s Grubber. You must be Tempest Shadow.”

I shook my head. “No.”

Grubber winced. “Trust me. The sooner you take to that name the better.”

“It’s not my name.”

“None of us have our real name anymore. You think I was born Grubber?”

I took stock of this stocky creature. Even in the faint red light, his features stood out. His wide eyes took in everything. His carnivore teeth stuck out of his mouth. A shiny coat of drool covering his bottom lip.

“You… kinda look like a Grubber,” I said.

Grubber let out a single chuckle. “Alright, you caught me. No, he only changed yours. Your last one was kind of a mouthful. This one rolls off the tongue better.”

“But it’s not my name.”

“Let’s talk about something else.” He pulled out an orange, breathed on it and rubbed it against his chest. “I know you just ate, but, here.”

I shied away from the orange in his claws. A trick. It had to be.

“I shouldn’t be here,” I said.

Grubber sighed and took back the orange. He started to peel it. I looked at the ceiling to stop salivating. Chains and links hung from up there, swaying in unison at the sway of the ship. So much for stopping time.

“He said he would fix my horn,” I said. “That’s the only reason I boarded in the first place.” I huddled closer to myself. “He said he could make me whole again.”

“Maybe he can, maybe he can’t. Who’s to say?”

“Are you saying he’s not sure?”

He snorted. “Storms, no. I’m saying he lied.”


“It’s what he does, Tempest. He’s proud of it. Haven’t you heard him talking about the latest trick he pulled over someone on the morning announcements?”

I frowned, but I refused to turn my head. I could hear the orange skin peeling off the sweet, sugary orange inside, and that was enough torture on its own.

“Oh,” Grubber said. “You don’t get the PA system in here. Right. Forgot about the whole… no contact thing.”

“No contact?”

“Yeah. Drives you crazy faster.”

“You aren’t supposed to be in here,” I realized.

A pause. “Wow. You really are smart,” Grubber said. “But… you’re not quite there.”

“Then why are you here?”

“I’ve been ordered to come get you, Tempest. You have an appointment with the Storm King.”

My breath caught. I shuffled in the cage. My body shook.

“Yeah, that’s how everyone reacts. But don’t worry, we have another…”

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him lift his arm. Peering at an imaginary watch.

“…Thirty minutes? See, they never said when I’m supposed to come get you. So I came early to help you get some strength. Now will you please take the stupid orange?”

Still, I refused to look. I waited for the trick. Soon, he would strike a deal with me, in return for the orange. Maybe it was poison, pure and simple. Or maybe once I reached for it he would pull it away and laugh.

But the thought of facing the Storm King as weak as I was…

“Last chance, or I’m gonna eat it.”

Against my better judgment, I turned my head.

The orange was made of chocolate.

The throne room didn’t look any different. Still those same guards in rows along the walls, still that twisted metal throne, still that hunched white beast waiting to be entertained, and still those storms behind him.

Grubber plodded up the steps to the throne, twisted around and stood with his claws behind his back. Beside the Storm King, he winked at me.

The Storm King unfolded his arms and spread them wide. “Tempest, Baby, so lovely to see you. Enjoying your stay?”

My body ached. The phantom horn in my forehead pulsed in anger.

“I’ll cut to the point,” the Storm King said. “I’ve got a proposition for you. How would you like me to change your name again?”

I made to speak, but he waved my words away like dust off a table.

“I should be clear. I’m just going to add it.” He scooted forward in his seat and folded his paws like a tent. “How would you like to be Commander Tempest Shadow?”

As if on cue, a bolt of lightning tore through the sky outside, and a soft rumble shook the ship.

It probably was on cue.

“I’m sorry?” I said. Whimpered.

“Now, now, before you answer, listen to me. Ponies are simple, pathetic, pedestrian creatures. I know it, you know it, it’s a fact of life.” He raised one finger. “But that makes me pretty good at reading them. And I… well, Tempest, I see a smart, clever, driven pony when I see one. Trust me, I don’t make this offer lightly.”

I barely even gave it a thought. Absolutely not. The only reason I didn’t say that was because of what he might do if I refused.

I shook my head. I said, “I just want…”

The Storm King sneered. “Yeah, yeah, pwease, oh pwease Mistah Storm King, pwease give me my hown back. You know that gets old, right?”

I teetered in place. One more soft rumble of thunder, and I sat down, panting. Whatever extra energy that chocolate orange had given me, I had none left.

The Storm King kept pressing. “Why do you want your horn back so bad, anyways? You can still use magic.”

Only to hurt. Only to destroy. Which, I realized, was another reason he wanted me.

“I want all my magic,” I said. “I can’t live like this.”

“So vanity doesn’t play into it at all?”


The Storm King smirked. Even Grubber raised an eyebrow.

“Everyone looks at you funny, don’t they, Tempest? You’re a freak. You’re ugly. You want your horn back so you can be a pretty pony again.”

“I don’t care about that,” I muttered.

“Sure you don’t.” He leaned back in his chair. “And I’m sure you don’t care that the only way you’ll ever make a friend again is with a paper bag over your head.”

“I don’t give a damn about friends!” I slammed my hoof into the steel floor, and my broken horn crackled. It was too much. My leg shook in pain. My head pounded.

But the Storm King smiled. “Now you’re speaking my language.” His smile disappeared. “But fine. Fine!” he shouted. “If you don’t care about your looks, why don’t we talk about option number two. Ready?”

He clapped his paws together twice.

Nothing happened. Even the storm outside didn’t rumble or flash, as if watching.

“I said…” He raised his paws again. “Ready?” He clapped twice.

Still nothing. Grubber coughed into his fist.

The Storm King sighed. “Technology. Ya gotta love it.”

Flames spewed from the floor. I yelped and scrambled backwards at the sudden heat. I crawled straight into a guard behind me, banging my shoulder on his chestplate. He pushed me off him.

“There we go!” the Storm King celebrated.

A line of fire—no, at least three lines of fire—shot straight up from pipes in the floor, separating me from the throne. The flames licked the image of the Storm King, warping him in the heat. His grin could frighten ursas.

“You can either join me, help me conquer the land, and I’ll give you your horn back—oooorrrrrr, if you really can’t wait, you can jump through those flames, and I’ll give your horn back right now. If you really don’t care about looks… then it should be no problem.”

It took two tries to get to my hooves. Was it really that simple? I calculated. How quick could I jump? How long would I be in the flame? How much fur would I lose?

“That’s really all it takes?” I shouted over the billowing flames. “Get to the other side, and you’ll make me whole again?”

“Sweet, merciful Storms,” came his reply. “You’re actually considering the fire.” From between the flames, I saw him roll his eyes. “Yeah, yeah, I’ll give it back. You know… after you put yourself out.”

I swallowed. Dry and long. I took one cautious step towards the flame and extended a hoof, like a child inching towards a cold lake. Even from five feet away, my fur felt close to burning.

I heard two claps. The flames vanished in an instant. Overhead, I heard fans exhausting the smoke away. After a few seconds, they shut off, and the room became terribly quiet.

“What…?” I murmured.

“I don’t like to rush these things,” the Storm King said, reclining in his chair. “Besides, you’re conflicted. I get it. How ever will you choose? Commander Tempest, or Burn-Victim Tempest? Well, just say the word when you’re ready to choose and I’ll pencil you in. Okay?”

I found myself looking at Grubber. He stared at the floor, his eyes wider than ever. He shaped his mouth as if to whistle, but if he did, I didn’t hear it.

The Storm King leaned forward. “We’re done here, Tempest Shadow. Get back to your cage.”

In the vast chamber and that tiny cage, I thought of the flames. In my sleep, I dreamed of them. One small leap. One last piece of torture. And I could be whole again.

Time passed without me. Only counting the meals, of which I had four, I guessed that eight days had gone by. But I was never hungry.

Grubber started coming by. Regularly. Sometimes with a plate of carrots, celery, or crackers, and always with a kind of dessert. He tried to speak with me, but most days I didn’t answer. Just took his food and let him rant. Schedules. Grueling housework. Cleaning the Storm King’s Feet. The trials and tribulations of getting between the toes.

I only thought of the flames.

“You want my advice?” he said one day while I listened vaguely. “Don’t play his game.”

He’d brought in a long wooden stool this time, wide enough for him to recline on and drop milk chocolate balls into his mouth, as if receiving grapes from an imaginary servant.

“What game?” I asked.

“You know. The fire one.”

I shifted in the cage. “It’s my only choice.”

“See, I don’t think you know your choices. Not really.”

“Because he’s lying.”

“Because he’s lying.”

“So I should just join you?”

Grubber hoisted himself back up to sitting. He swirled the candies in his claw like a glass of wine, then handed me one. I took it without looking. Sweet. With hazelnut filling.

“Well,” he said, munching, “let’s be real here, Tempest. Option one is a lot less likely to be a lie.”

“But he’s evil.”

Grubber shrugged. “He’s a winner. It’s the smart choice, working from him. The dental’s not bad, either…”

“That’s why you joined him? Because you think he will win?”

“Oh, Storms yeah. Are you kidding? When he tore through my hometown and enslaved everyone, it was like seeing a flight of angels. You know, angels that like to burn and pillage stuff. But I knew whatever he wanted, he’d get it, so I signed right up.” He opened his mouth and threw a chocolate ball in the air. It bounced off his tooth and rolled onto the floor. He watched it go, sadly.

“I mean,” he continued, “I was rotting in a jail cell at the time, so it was an easy choice. But still.”

“How honorable.”

“Honor schmonor. If I had any honor, I’d be a goner by now. And just between you and me…”

I tilted my head. “What?”

“…The moment he comes across someone stronger than him, I will change sides like that,” he said, punctuating the last word with a snap of his claw.

I stammered. “Y-you… idiot.” I took hold of the bars. “You’ve just sealed your fate.”

“…What’s that now?”

“The spellstones! He can hear everything, see everything! And you…” I crumpled. “He’ll put you away. Or worse.”

“He probably would, if he heard what I just said,” Grubber mused. He tossed another treat into the air, and successfully caught it this time. “Lucky for me there’s no such thing as a spellstone.”

My hooves fell off the bars. “No…”

“‘Fraid so.”

“That was another lie.”

“I’ve said something that would get me in trouble in every room in this airship.”

“Why would he invent something so… contrived?”

“Because he’s got no real loyalty. So he craves it, and gets it however he can. Pulls tricks. Lies. Scares us.” He shrugged. “Not that it doesn’t work. Phew! Frightening guy, let me tell ya, but I guess you already knew that.”

The airship shook terribly. Grubber braced himself on the stool. I let myself be rocked. What was a few more bruises?

“Can I have the rest?” I asked Grubber.

“Of the chocolate?” He pulled it towards himself a little. “Why?”

“I’m going to be needing my strength.”

He paced up and down the steps to his throne in a strange, oblique circle. One hand folded behind his back. The other scratching his chin. His staff lay across the arms of the throne.

“Be right with you,” he said.

I stood shaking, several paces from where the fire would appear. I took deep breaths. Grubber told me they might help. He was wrong.

The strange little hedgehog watched the Storm King, then me, then him, back and forth. A worried look on his face. He shook his head at me. Don’t do it.

I shook my head back. I wanted to say Don’t worry, but I don’t think it came across, because he only worried harder.

“Okay,” the Storm King said, clapping his paws together. “I’ll deal with that later. Now, what did you decide?”

“I’m not sure,” I said.

His shoulders slumped. “Grubber told me you were ready.”

“I want to talk first.”

“Well, I’m busy—”

“What’s it like? Serving under you, Your Grace?”

He perked right up. “Well, well. Look who’s naming who now.”

“I just want to know what I’m getting into,” I said. “Should I pass your standards.”

With that, he was off. He described my roles in detail, but I only listened to the highlights. Heavy-lifting. Enforcement. And if I was good, some strategy. I pictured myself standing at a map the size of a table, pushing pawns around and conceiving plots and invasions. I could never do it, but I nodded along to his speech.

Eventually: “But that’s all high-level stuff, Tempest. You’ll get to know… more…” He smacked his lips.

I tensed.

“Ugh. Dry mouth. Hang on a sec. Water!”

Dropping my head low, I felt the vibrations in the steel floor. A soft, warning earthquake before the main event. I counted down from three.

“Move,” came a muffled voice from behind me.

I spun around, snatched the jug off the servant’s tray and poured the water over myself. My first shower in weeks. I tried to keep it out of my mouth, but some got in. Crisp. Cool. Electrifying.

I shook out my mane, rubbed the water all over my face, dropped the jug and clapped my hooves twice.

The flames burst on.

I ducked and ran. Five steps, four, three, two—it might not protect all of me, but it was something—one step more, and I leapt.

Two claps.

The flames vanished.

I shrieked in midair, and I realized I’d never planned for a landing. I stumbled across the floor, skidded and slipped, and banged my flank against the foot of the stairs.

I groaned, my energy gone. My head throbbed, my phantom horn shot pain from my forehead down my spine. My moaning was the only sound in the silence, until:


Up above, standing and towering over me, the Storm King held his hands together and put them by his side. He snatched his staff and came down, three giant steps at a time.

Behind him, Grubber pressed his claws together over his mouth. He looked away.

“I had you pegged for a clever one,” the towering king said. He sighed. “But I didn’t expect cheating.”

“What—?” I gasped, scurrying back. “No! You never said I couldn’t—”

“It was implied.” He frowned, shook his head, like a gardener lamenting the death of his favorite flower. “You’ve made a bad decision, sweetheart.”

“You never…”

“I hope you realize,” he said, silencing me with a finger, “options one and two are now off the table. If you ever want off this ship, your only choice is the fire.” He bent over, his paws folded behind his back, and sneered in my face. “And I will not be giving you your horn back.”

I swung a hoof. I hit him right in his jaw. It was soft, fleshy, and weak, but so was I. I practically pushed his head gently to the side.

The floor vibrated. Something, several somethings, approached.

The Storm King turned his head back to me, his smile as big as I’d ever seen.

“The bad decisions just keep on coming, huh?”

In the darkness, I thought of pain.

A swollen eye. A split lip. A series of invisible pains on one side of my stomach. I want to see the bruises, he ordered. But my fur was already the right color.

I stopped thinking of the flames, or dreaming about them. Instead, I dreamed of home—of blueberry pies on windowsills, of the stern lessons of adults, of my friends and I galloping, lying in meadows, and playing rough. The sounds of birds, running water. The word ‘ow’ pronounced with an extra syllable at the end.

In the distance, in every dream, storms swirled and flashed.

I hadn’t spoken to Grubber in days, but he still came by.

“It’s my fault,” he finally said. He left a slice of cake by the bars and sat down on his little stool.

I didn’t answer. I kept my eyes shut. Even the red light above the door was blinding.

“I told you not to play his game.” A pause. “I didn’t mean try to change the rules. I should’ve said.”

I peered over my shoulder at him. On his stool, his claws touching, pressing his palms together. Together, apart. Together, apart. What did he even want?

“Why are you still here?” I muttered.

He raised an eyebrow. “Because I can’t survive the fall?”

“No.” I groaned, turned over. “Why are you here, with me?”

Grubber sighed heartily. “You gonna eat that?” he said of the cake.

I shook my head.

He reached over and snatched it off the paper plate. He munched. He’d already finished his own.


I scoffed. “That’s it?”

“You may have noticed no-one else around here is super friendly. Or speaks at all. You’re the first.”

I turned away from him, hugged my shoulders. “That’s it.”

“Yeah. That’s it.”

“I’m ready.”

“Wha—?” he said with his mouth full. He swallowed. “What did you say?”

“Tell the Storm King I’m ready.”

“He said you can’t join us anymore.”

“I know.”

Creaking, unsturdy, and shaking, I pushed myself up to sitting. The pain screamed at me, but I could stand. I could walk. That was all I needed.

“Don’t play his game,” Grubber said.

I let out a small, desperate laugh.

“I don’t have a choice.”

Grubber supported me as I hobbled into the throne room, and in the moment he saw me, the Storm King clapped his hands. The flames burst upwards, inches away from his nose, and he grimaced from beyond the veil.

“Let’s get this over with,” he drawled.

Grubber let me go. He stepped back uneasily, lowered his gaze.

I took two steps forward. The heat painted me from top to bottom. Deep breaths. Just a little more pain. Then it’s over.

“Well?” the Storm King said. “It’s not getting any colder.”

“No,” I replied. I swallowed and breathed. “I refuse.”

The Storm King stepped into the fire. His staff, glowing behind him, divided the flames and pushed them back into the floor, where they swirled and spat in anger. He crossed the barrier and bent to my level.

“Maybe I wasn’t clear,” he hissed.

“If I walk through that fire,” I explained, “I would be maimed. I would become uglier than I already am. And I would struggle to serve as an enforcer if I became so damaged.”

His expression darkened and darkened, even darker than the chamber and the cage. He reached out and gripped my chin. “So I definitely wasn’t clear.”

“I have something you want,” I whispered.

His grip tightened. “You have nothing.”

“I have information,” I said. “Information that I shouldn’t have.”

His grip relaxed. He asked a threatening, angry question using only his face.

“One of your subordinates has been visiting prisoners. Confiding in them.”

“I only have one prisoner.”

“I know. And this subordinate told me, among other secrets, that the moment you come across someone stronger than yourself, he would switch sides. Like that,” I said, punctuating the last word with a spark from my horn.


I’d planned on holding the information back. But I couldn’t help peering behind me. I needed to see.

Grubber’s arms were by his side. He swayed like he’d just received all the pummeling I did. His face contained all the shock for what just happened, and all the terror for what was to come.

And that was enough.

“Well.” The Storm King let go of my chin, straightened up and ran his tongue across his jagged teeth. “Isn’t that interesting.”

“I-it’s not true, Boss!” Grubber gasped. “Boss, she’s lying! We can’t trust her!”

“Oh, Grubber.” He tsked. “If she’d said anyone else, I wouldn’t have believed her. But you…” he wagged a finger. “I’ve always had my suspicions about you.”

“Boss, I can explain!”

Grubber ran for the door. I heard the thud of a face hitting a chestplate. The grunt of a guard, and a fat, limp hedgehog sliding across the floor. I couldn’t watch. Or perhaps I just didn’t.

“Tempest,” he muttered. “Why?”

“Because she’s smart!” the Storm King celebrated, arms wide, grinning from ear to ear. He pointed his staff to a random guard. “Didn’t I tell you she was smart?” The guard looked left, right, and nodded.

“Oh-ho-ho-ho!” The storms outside boomed with joy. “I knew I found a good one!”

And I smiled. It was fake, something I’d been practicing for this exact moment. But as he towered over me, danced in celebration, and clasped me on the shoulders, my smile, gradually, became real.

I knew the way by heart, now. Down the skinny metal hallway—a right, a left, a right—through the square door to the dark chamber, down the short flight of stairs. I felt for the hidden switch under the stairs and flicked on the red light. It buzzed expectantly.

I walked up to the cage. I rested a hoof on the metal bar—from the outside this time—and scraped flecks of rust onto the floor.

The prisoner lay on his back, eyes closed. A bruised eyelid. A split lip. Holding his chest and squeezing it. I wondered what he dreamed in there.

“Hi, Grubber,” I said.

Grubber frowned. “What do you want now?”

“Was it true?”

He opened his eyes, and stared at the ceiling instead of me. “Was what true,” he grumbled.

“If he comes across someone stronger than him, you’ll switch sides. Is that true?”


I slammed my hoof on the cage, rattling him alert. He sat up and locked eyes with me.

“Just wait till I get my horn back.”

« Prev   4   Next »
#1 · 1
Ah, a good back stabbing. No, but seriously, this was a very well executed story. At first I was afraid this would ruin Tempest's character. I'm so glad to be wrong here. If anything, this story actually would strengthen her character. It explains why she became so rough and battle-worn. Honestly, I love the fact that you decided to build upon how Tempest fights "smarter, not harder" and only joined the Storm King just to get her horn back. I really can't see any flaws. So with that being said, I rate this "I love a good back-stabbing!"
#2 · 1
· · >>Chris
Very nice:

My only comments are little things about the beginning. I had a hard time getting situated as to where and when the story was taking place. The talk of thrones and staffs in the first dozen paragraphs made me think this was an AU where the Storm King had won, and this was him meeting with Tempest afterwards. When that turned out not to be the case, it kicked me out of the story and made me smash up the mental image I'd already been building.

So I'll suggest a little more establishing stuff at the top--she's not sure if the motion she feels is the airship heaving or her knees buckling, or maybe she can reflect that this is only the second time she's ever spoken to the Storm King. Something to clue in clueless readers like me.

#3 · 2
I'm going to agree with >>Baal Bunny, and more generally say that the setting never really feels like an (air)ship to me. I'd look to actual Age of Sails sailing for my cues on this one: everything should be cramped, uncomfortable (well, I guess you've got that already), bolted-down, damp, roiling, and just viscerally unpleasant, especially for someone who's never had to live on one. Right now, the "ship" feels way too large, airy, and stable to communicate that kind of claustrophobic-amidst-vastness feeling that would so greatly dovetail with the way you're describing the prison cell itself. The setting right now does a decent job reinforcing the themes of your story, but with a little more spit and polish, it could become vibrant and alive in its own right.

I really liked the way you seeded the backstabbing. You put all the pieces right in front of us, one after another, so that by the time she sold him out, I was perfectly prepared for it. Thank you for not trying to preserve a cheap shock; a great in-character moment is always stronger, as this story shows.

And more specifically, I really appreciated what it was that broke Tempest, in the end. Not the desire for her horn, not the pain, not even the social deprivation--no, it was the realisation that the closest thing she had to a friend on this ship was only helping her, feeding her, talking to her, because he was bored. That even "friends" are just being nice to you for their own selfish reasons. That quick slam from "That's it" to "I'm ready" is really the best part of this story, in retrospect.

Another very solid fic, top to bottom!
#4 · 1
I'm very close to liking this story, but that final gap that I can't close is kinda making me annoyed with it.

That's often a result of pacing--I like the beats just fine and all, and the first and second scenes establish where we're going to be this story quite well, but towards the end it's moving fast, and the dialogue is starting to take over from the prose entirely. Not that it's talking heads, though. You know what, I'd hazard a guess that you didn't feel like describing the same cage, the same throne room, and the same wall of fire over and over again, so the scenes just kinda faded to the background in those last few scenes. If I'm right, there are ways you can spruce them up each time. Have Tempest notice something she didn't notice before each time, change the formation of the guards, maybe just have them meet in a different room, I dunno. This can't be the only deathtrap.

Also, I think I had trouble reading this because the first person narration isn't quite there. It's fine, it's adequate, but have you really gotten into Tempest's head here? There's a lot of flavour in really good FP stories that's missing here, and it's a shame because Tempest is a great character to do first person in. A good way to add that flavour is to callback to her past a lot more. You have a great paragraph somewhere there about thinking of home instead of the flame? Stuff like that. If you can compare her hometown to where she finds herself now, you can help solve Chris's issue at the same time.

Again, beats are great. Wouldn't add or remove a scene for anything. Just spice them up. Have the readers saying "Holy shit" at the end of the story, instead of saying "Oh, okay. That's pretty cool."

You feel? You feel.

Thanks for writing!
#5 · 1
Okay, I haven’t yet read the other comments. Here’s some thoughts from an amateur:

What separates this story from the most is the development of Tempest, which seems to be the driving point of the story. Character development, yay! I think it was handled quite well, especially the way Tempest tried to "cheat" her way through the fire. I liked the imagery too (the image of the Storm King behind a wall of fire is burned in my mind — less is sometimes more).

But if there’s something I would've added, it would've been a few lines describing the throne room (just one or two should be enough). After the beginning I felt like I almost had a clearer picture of Tempest’s cage than the throne room... although that may have been just me.

Anyway, well done, this story is pretty darn good. Thank you for writing.
#6 · 1

Sorry, author, but I never saw the film. I don't know these characters, and I can't get invested in a story about people I don't know.
#7 · 2
Everybody knows objectively speaking, Tempest is #Second_Or_Third_BestGirl, so you've already won brownie points with me for writing about her. As our other reviewers noted, this story does an excellent job with character motivations and the way it plays out its conflict resolution. Nicely done!

Now, one of the things this story definitely struggles with is the hook. I'll be honest, the first hundred or so words aren't quite doing everything they need to do. We immediately get a cast and the pre-movie timeframe, but that can be a tough sell, considering that pretty much any story set concurrently or before an event explored by canon is automatically going to lose at least a degree of the reader's attention, since we assume we know how things are gonna play out. And, well, I don't think the Storm King and Gruber are exactly fan-favorites (unless I've just wildly misjudged the general reception to the movie), so that's another handicap you're dealing with right off the bat.

The first paragraph/sentence has this really high-level and passive-feeling tone, and I think actually voicing out the Storm King's words would have been a stronger choice. The second paragraph feels like a lot of words to just describe the Storm King's appearance and a relatively non-important action. And then, finally, despite needing to feel emotionally charged, the first conversation feels muted because of a bit of talking-heads syndrome. IMO, it could really use some kind of emotional description (the nauseating sway of the ship, the smell of the Storm King's breath) to break up the back and forth dialogue.

Honestly, when you've already read this much of a story while having trouble feeling an emotional connection with the characters, it's often really hard to claw your way back in. So the fact that I felt invested by the end of things is a huge credit to some of the stuff you're doing in the later scenes. But my overall payoff is still diminished by the fact that I just didn't really feel like I was in the flow of things from the start.

So, my advice would be to give us big and clear reason to care, ASAP. Other than that, I think this is really strong stuff, and I'm sorry to have to gone off on the opening for as long as I did. But I really do think that this is holding the story back, and with just a little tweaking, IMHO it can make the whole thing feel so much stronger.
#8 · 1
Bravo. The evolution of Fizzlebop Cumberbatch from meek prisoner to Commander Tempest like I've never seen it before. Which, full disclosure, I haven't ever read it before so you're the first but I'm still impressed regardless.

The paragraphs are short and punchy but I still feel the passage of time via Tempest's physical state. Loved seeing a clever side to her with the water trick and she got him monologuing to do it! I'm still geeking out about it! The budding friendship between her and Grubber being used as ammunition to fuel her ambitions works double duty to setup her intended backstab of the Storm King and also to show us that right now she really, actually doesn't care about silly things like friendship.

Gold star
#9 · 1
A great character study of both Grubber and Tempest. I think some of the rest of it suffers a bit for this--specifically some of the descriptions, the setting, the fluff around the edges so to speak--but that's honestly a pretty minor complaint. Grubber and Tempest are the stars of the show here, and you nailed them. The double mobius reach-around backstab is brilliant, and works really well within canon and on it's own.