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Just Like Old Times · FiM Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
One Last Rodeo
“I’m gettin’ too old fer this,” Applejack muttered, picking herself off the forest floor. She felt around for her hat, unable to find it until she looked up and saw a pink hoof offering it to her.

“You say that every time we wanna do something fun,” Pinkie said, Applejack snatching the hat from her and putting it firmly on her greying mane.

“That’s because it’s true,” Applejack said. “I shouldn’t be out in the dang Everfree.”

“If you really thought that, you wouldn’t have left,” Fluttershy whispered. Applejack looked back at her, laying on a travois and shivering under the blanket they’d given her. She’d never have been able to walk there on her own.

“Just rest, Fluttershy,” Rarity said, brushing the pegasus’ thinning mane and adjusting her pillow. “We’re almost at the castle.”

Fluttershy nodded and settled down again, quickly passing out again.

“Do we have a plan for what we’re gonna do when we get there?” Applejack asked.

“Whatever we need to,” Rarity said.

“I’m sure Twilight will listen when she sees all of us there,” Pinkie assured them, smiling weakly. Applejack couldn’t help but glance up at the sky, filled with auroras and caught between day and night, just like it had been for too long, now.

“It’s the good old days all over again, isn’t it?”

“Ain’t much good, just old,” Applejack muttered, looking down and using her hat to block out the unnatural sight, focusing on the dark castle ahead.

“Twilight, git out here, we ain’t all immortal an I don’t have time t’ run around lookin’ fer ya!” Applejack yelled, her voice echoing from the ancient stone walls with a fair approximation of the volume of the Royal Canterlot Voice.

“Go away, Applejack.” The voice came from everywhere at once.

“We came out here because we’re worried for you,” Rarity said, her horn projecting a beam of light as she searched the dark corners for their friend. “Where are you? We just want to talk, darling.”

“I brought cupcakes!” Pinkie Pie added, pulling a box from her saddlebags, not quite up to producing something from nowhere today.

“I told you to go away!” In a flash of magenta fire, Twilight teleported in front of them, fuming with anger. The years had been kinder to her than the others, leaving her taller and stronger instead of crumpled and weak. Even Rarity couldn’t hide all the wrinkles she’d accumulated, no matter how many spa treatments she got and how much makeup she used.

“If you really want us to go, we will,” Applejack said. “But we gotta set things right, Twi.”

“You can’t make things right,” Twilight spat.

“We made a stop before we came here,” Applejack said, tugging on the strap of her saddlebags and making a mess of it, the side spilling open. Gold and gems tumbled out onto the cracked marble floor, Twilight recognizing them in an instant.

“The Elements of Harmony?” She asked. “Why? Were you going to try and blast me with friendship and rainb-” the word caught in her throat, and she looked away.

“I know you miss her,” Rarity said, stepping closer. “We all do.”

Rarity’s blue aura surrounded the lone tiara among the jewelry scattered on the ground, settling it on Twilight’s head. She gave the others their elements, adjusting Applejack’s when she put it on crookedly.

“We weren’t going to use them against you,” Pinkie said. “We brought them to help you remember all the things we did together.”

She hugged Twilight, waving for the others to join in. Applejack and Rarity helped the sleeping Fluttershy into the group hug.

Twilight sniffled, tears leaking from her eyes when her friends embraced her. A spark ran through them, and all five of them felt something, a presence that hadn’t been there before.

“I’d never leave you guys hanging.”

Twilight gasped and opened her eyes in surprise, and the warmth vanished, the spell broken. Loyalty clattered to the ground, the red gem still faintly glowing.

The noise startled Fluttershy awake.

“What happened?” She asked, looking around. “I was having a nice dream. Dash was there, and we were all having a nice picnic in the sun.”

“We can still have the picnic,” Rarity said, running her hoof through Fluttershy’s mane. “Pinkie brought cupcakes, and Twilight can take care of the rest.”

Twilight smiled crookedly and wiped her eyes, nodding. Her horn lit up, and the sun rose over the horizon.
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#1 ·
On the one hand, Twilight’s friends all going out to see her after Rainbow Dash dies isn’t a bad idea.

On the other hand, I think this story needs to explain why Twilight is out in the Castle of the Two Pony Sisters. Is she trying to research a spell? Is she really just hiding away from the world? It doesn’t feel clear why she can’t just lock herself up in her castle. And the ending is a bit schmaltzy – it just kind of resolves itself, rather than feeling like it has the emotional impact it should have, and with a bit of deus ex machina as well (well, magic from the Elements, anyway). I’m not sure if the magical element really helped this story, or reduced its emotional impact.
#2 · 1
For all that the ideas here didn't feel particularly new -- for example, of course it's Rainbow Dash who dies first of the Mane Six, and of course the big problem is caused by the angst of the immortal alicorn as her friends pass on -- I feel like this was elevated by its execution. The framing of that core idea felt fresh, the exposition is worked in naturally, and this ends very strong, all of which are major points in its favor.

Most of my problems stem from the wordcount limit (for which I blame the format more than your writing choices). There are a lot of questions you just didn't have room to effectively answer that nagged as me as I read: where are Celestia and Luna? What was the root of the split with the Mane Six? Why is Twilight in the Castle of the Two Sisters rather than in her crystal friendship palace (or what happened to Ponyville that it's now in the Everfree, but its inhabitants are still mostly alive)?

I do feel like the transition after the (good) line about friendship and rainbows is rough -- that it sort of skips past the whole Twilight-defiant thing and most of her emotional arc, straight to the climax where she's willing to talk. But a small quibble in a very strong entry.

Tier: Top Contender
#3 ·
I'm a bit conflicted with this one. You probably expected the comment I'm gonna make, but I'll do it anyway. Beaten to death subject. There, it's done.
However, while the story is far from being original, either in its content or in its execution, the fact remains that you managed to convey enough emotions to make me care at least a bit.

I'm not sure why, but I'll try to point out what could make this story standing out from all the others of the same kind.

At first, I was expecting an immortality angst fic, something like "oh noes, my friends will die or are dead and not me, so sad *cry*" but not really. Twilight is sad because of Rainbow Dash's death, but we don't waste time on her grieving. The fact that the story is about the cure for purple Princess' sadness and not the poison is a noticeable plus. The second fact that the cure is friendship is a big bonus.

Regarding that, I think that this next sentence should NOT have been written differently
the sky, filled with auroras and caught between day and night, just like it had been for too long, now.

This is great because not having a defined length of time avoids to have a gothic Twilight, who spent years hidden in her castle (or allows to have just that if that's the sort of things you like)

You also managed to keep some time for each character. Granted, you don't do anything new with them, simply making them acting how we expect them to, but not having anything OoC is something worth to mention.

My main problem is with the POV from which this story is told. I got the feeling that the beginning is from AJ's POV, but you don't really do anything with it, especially in the second part where I got the impression it's an external POV we're dealing with.

One tiny suggestion. I think it would be better is the sentence I quoted earlier should be placed earlier.
Applejack couldn’t help but glance up at the sky, filled with auroras and caught between day and night, just like it had been for too long, now.

Since your last sentence ("and the sun rose over the horizon") is a major callback to the first one, having both of them at the beginning and at the ending respectively would emphasize and strengthen the symbolism of Twi's mournig with the sun rising/not rising.
#4 ·
Genre: Fallen Twilight Redemption Committee

Thoughts: I hate saying this--honestly I know it's not the most useful criticism--but I feel like I've read this story before. Like, the unabridged version of it. Possibly by Trick Question, and in another Writeoff. And then maybe a few times beyond that. tl;dr, the concept has been done. And again, that's not useful to say in itself. I guess the point is, though, that when a story treads familiar ground, it needs to hit hard and rack up some style points to compensate for not having as much wow-factor in the concept itself.

There was one thing in here that really stood out for me: Immobile Fluttershy. For some reason that interpretation of the character's waning days really struck a chord with me. She's presented in a way that's almost cute but also very sad. What a great little touch.

Beyond that, though... the prose was generally clean, but I didn't feel that there was enough space or detail to fully establish the depth of Twilight's pain. As it is, I can empathize with her pain, but I feel like I'm mostly just being told she has pain. More length is almost certainly the answer, though; these are good bones to build on.

Tier: Keep Developing
#5 ·
· · >>Xepher
I don't know if it's systemic or just an issue when you end dialogue in a question mark, but you're capitalizing some dialogue tags that follow.

Well, another immortality angst story. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, and it's not your fault.

And the big problem here is that everything's so vague. Something happened to Dash, and something about it really got to Twilight, and they're all going to do something about it, and just because they finally confronted her, Twilight immediately changes her mind without putting up much of a fight. If I don't understand what happened or why it's such a big deal to Twilight (especially since it's not nearly as big a deal to everyone else), then I lack the emotional context to understand why I should be as upset as Twilight. And that's the goal: you want the reader to identify with her, feel bad for her, and imagine feeling just as bad in the same situation.

Yes, there's the default sadness that comes from the death of a friend, but every story that writes about the subject gets that same amount. You have to reach for more than that, personalize the scenario so it's powerful and unique to your story. It's just really underdeveloped, and I'm trying to find what it is that horizon sees as top contender material, but I'm not coming up with anything. It's your standard "Twilight's sad because one of her friends died" story, and skipping the critical part of the emotional arc isn't a minor quibble. Now, standard isn't bad, and neither is this story. You have a higher level of competition here than you would on, say, FiMFiction, so what might be serviceable over there is probably going to sit mid-tier or lower here. And for me, it's just lost in the group of other stories in this write-off that don't do anything different with a well-used premise.
#6 ·
A little confusing, visually: I thought AJ was on the travois at first.

“I brought cupcakes!” Pinkie Pie added, pulling a box from her saddlebags...
That's the saddest line I've read in an entire contest full of aging, grey-maned ponies.

Overall though, I'm with >>Pascoite on this. The vagueness really becomes a problem. So much is implied, rather than shown. That'd be fine, if the implications weren't themselves far more interesting than the story itself. Something epic and tragic happened to Dash, but all we get in this story is a group hug. It's sweet, and does well enough, but as a reader I'm left much more interested in what happened before this than what's happening now.