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Has That Always Been There? · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
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My Castle is Your Castle
Twilight woke a few hours past dawn, like usual. The first item on her morning checklist was complete.

She stretched and writhed for a minute or two, her spine popping and her wings shuddering. She was still getting used to sleeping with wings. They weren't as awkward as she'd expected, but every now and then she'd roll over slightly too far and bolt awake as the ligaments twisted.

She didn't roll out of bed. That did not suit a princess. Instead she stepped carefully onto the floor, smoothed the bedsheets behind her with magic—that technically did not suit a princess either, but Twilight appreciated the routine—and walked over to her vanity cabinet.

Her hair hadn't yet changed to suit her new body, and was therefore just as much of a rat's nest as it had always was right after she awoke. She levitated her hairbrush and raised it to her head. The cliche was one hundred strokes, but Twilight found that to be overkill. Twenty strokes in front and twenty in back had always done the job.

She finshed all fourty strokes and replaced the hairbursh with a metal horn file. Unicorn horns didn't really need to be filed, but all three of the other princesses did it. She lifted the file and ran it down one side of her horn in one long scrape. She repeated the motion five times, rotating the file slightly to properly smooth every inch of the horn. She set the file down.

Now came the most tedious part of her routine. She extended her right wing until it stretched into view. At least she had magic to help things along. Her purple aura drfited through her plumage, stopping to nudge a feather back into place here or dust out a few grains of dirt there. In the first days after she ascended she'd broken an embarrassing and rather painful amount of feathers before finally swallowing her pride and asking Rainbow to show her how to do it. Over the last few months she'd found a comfortable rhythm that sped the process along without crippling her flight primaries.

Twilight appreciated comfortable rhythms.

With her personal grooming done, she headed out to greet the day. She descended the forty steps from her room in the eastern tower until she reached the third story landing. She passed three doors on the right and four on the left, then turned and walked down another fifteen stairs. The castle was much easier to navigate when you had a routine.

She stopped at one of the uniform doors and knocked. "Spike! Are you awake? We need to get ready for Cadance's visit!"

Several seconds passed without a sound.

She knocked again. "Spike?"

Another door opened further down the hallway, and Starlight Glimmer stepped out. She trotted down the hall, sleep still clouding her face. She yawned, then said, "Spike's already up. He said he was going to make breakfast today."

"Oh, good." Twilight stepped to the side to give Starlight room to pass. "I'm glad to see you awake as well. Cadance's delegation will be here in an hour or two."

After a second, Starlight groaned and pressed her face against a wall. "That's today?" She sighed. "You don't need me to do anything for that, right? Trixie and I have plans."

Twilight shook her head. "No, I've got it. I mean, if you want to meet them then you're welcome to join in, but there really isn't very much to do. I'll mostly just be showing the crystal ponies around Ponyville."

"They came all the way here from the Crystal Empire for a tour?" Starlight asked. "I thought this was a big diplomatic event."

Twilight started for the stairs again. Thirty-one steps to the second floor, past the grand hall, turn left, then straight forward until the kitchen.

"They came to visit Canterlot, actually. They're stopping here before heading back. I'm sure they'd be happy to see you again, now that you're on the growing list of ponies who've saved their kingdom from icy destruction."

Spike was indeed hard at work in the kitchen. Twilight and Starlight entered just in time to see him barely catch an airborn omelet before it hit the ground. Starlight chuckled, and the two of them headed for the table.

"You're a good cook, Spike, but you'd be even better if you didn't play hoofball with the food," Starlight said as she slid onto a chair.

Spike turned a mock glare on her. "How can it be hoofball?" He held up his free hand. "See any hooves?"

Twilight laughed and looked back the table, then froze.

"Um, Starlight?" she said, taking a few small steps toward the mare. "Would you mind moving over there?"

Spike glanced over and said, "Oh, yeah. That's where Twilight usually sits."

Starlight glanced down at her seat, then back at Twilight. "You have a spot? Just for you?" The corners of her mouth twitched upward.

Twilight shrugged. "I guess it's never come up before. Spike usually sits there" she said, gesturing across the table, "I always sit here, and you're usually still in bed."

Starlight slid off the chair and took a few steps back. "Sorry!" she said. "I didn't realize there was a seating plan. I usually just sit down wherever there's space." She glanced around the giant, royalty sized kitchen. "Lots of space."

Twilight nodded.

Lots of space.

She slid into her chair and lit her horn. A small stack of papers landed next to her on the table.

"Don't worry about it, Starlight. It's not a big deal or anything. I've just sort of…you know…gotten used to it."

She grabbed a piece of paper off the pile and squinted at it.

Delegation catering: Sugarcube Corner

No big surprise there. She started a mental list. Item one: visit the Cakes. She reached over and pulled the next envelope from the pile. Item two…

She soon fell into a comfortable rhythm that carried her through breakfast and across town. The rhythm carried her through a conversation with the Cakes about dietary concerns that really should have been dealt with earlier, and through a civil argument with Rarity about the minimum dress requirements that a delegation merited. As morning gave way to noon, Twilight stood in the entrance hall of the castle, took a final stock of the town, and confirmed for a third time that everything was in order.

She heard the clatter of synchronized hoofsteps on the street outside the castle and the indistinguishable murmuring of a crowd. She nodded to the two loaned Canterlot guards on either side of the castle's grand entrance, and with impressive timing they each swung their door open slowly, smoothly, and quietly.

Twilight got her first good look at the crystal pony delegates. They gathered in front of Cadance, all dressed in fine fashions that were only outdated by a few hundred years. Cadance stood at the back, and as the doors opened wide enough to reveal Twilight, she winked. Twilight decided to interpret that as a good sign.

Ponyville had definitely made an impact on these crystal ponies. Their eyes bulged and their mouths hung open as they stared up at the shimmering spire of the Friendship Castle.

Twilight stepped forward, drew in a breath, opened her mouth—

"The Heart's Reliquary?"

"I thought Sombra destroyed it."

"How did it get here?"

One of the crystal ponies—an old stallion—stepped away from the rest and pointed a hoof at Twilight.

"Isn't it obvious?" he shouted. "Equestria stole it!"

"Ahem," Cadance said, her voice teetering on the edge between regal and panicked. "Remember why we're here, everypony. To get to know modern Equestria and demonstrate our desire to cooperate and coexist with them."

The old stallion turned. "With all due respect, your highness, you have no idea what you're looking at." He turned again and squinted at Twilight. "But obviously she does!"

This was not what Twilight had expected. She stood in the doorway, her mouth still hanging open. She had to say something.

Cadance stood and started toward the old pony. "Chancellor Bullion! You are here as a delegate! A representative of the entire Crystal Empire. If you have a concern to raise, you will wait until tomorrow's summit and address Princess Twilight in an official capacity."

Twilight finally found her voice.

"Welcome to Ponyville," she announced, addressing the group as one. "Accusations of castle theft aside, I hope you all enjoy your stay. We have rooms prepared for each of you in the castle, and I've planned a quick tour around Ponyville."

"That's it?" the chancellor shouted. "What do you have to say for yourself?"

Cadance started to respond, but Twilight shot her a look.

"My apologies, Chancellor," Twilight said, "I understand that the Crystal Empire has many of its own concerns, especially given how far displaced in time you are. I'm not surprised you haven't heard of how my castle appeared."

"Appeared?" Chancellor Bullied said. "What do you mean 'appeared'?"

"Well, appeared isn't quite the right word," Twilight qualified. "It grew from a tree." She gestured at the giant roots stretching out around them. "There was a lot of ancient, friendship-based magic involved."

The group of crystal ponies started murmuring again.

Cadance walked up to Twilight and bowed. "We thank you for your hospitality, Princess."

Twilight bowed back. "Of course." She leaned closer and whispered in Cadance's ear, "Do you know what they're talking about?"

Cadance shook her head. "I've heard of the Heart's Reliquary. It was the Crystal Empire's old palace. Before Sombra." She glanced back at the delegation. "But they don't have any depictions of it, and I never heard of it looking like a tree before."

Twilight straightened. "I guess we can look forward to actually discussing something at the summit this time."

After the exciting yet barely political summit the previous year, Twilight had been happy to scale things down this year. Just a simple meeting with Cadance and her cabinet.

As the crystal ponies settled into the castle, Twilight and Cadance sat down in private to talk.

"Did he tell you anything?" Twilight asked.

Cadance sighed and sank back in her chair. "He doesn't really know that much. He was a colt when Sombra took over, but he insists that this castle looks exactly like the Heart's Reliquary, inside and out."

"I don't suppose that castle was also made with the power of friendship?"

"No, but…" Cadance bit her lip. "It was grown from a crystal tree."

Twilight's heart sank. "Wait, do you think that—"

"That's how crystal buildings are made. Kind of like how earth ponies grow giant fruit. They find the perfect little crystal and tend to it until it grows. Then it usually needs to be hollowed out by hoof. But the Heart's Reliquary was different."

"Different? Because it was grown from a tree?"

"A crystal tree," Cadance corrected. "When it grew, the interior was already perfect, and in the very centre… That's where the crystal heart was found. According to Bullion, when Sombra first attacked he couldn't breach the Reliquary. He besiged the empire for months without success. Then, right when things seemed to be going in the Crystal Empire's favour, the Reliquary disappeared, and the crystal heart was lost." Cadance shook her head sadly. "You know the story from there."

Twilight pursed her lips. "So Sombra found a way to…ungrow the castle? Make it tree-sized again?"

Cadance shrugged. "Nopony knows. But at the time, some crystal ponies thought that Equestria was to blame. After all, they had been under siege for months, and neither Celestia or Luna ever offered help until it was too late."

Twilight buried her head in her hooves. "And now the Reliquary's reappeared in the middle of Equestria." Her wince redoubled. "And I've been living in it."

Cadance walked over and layed a comforting fore leg on Twilight's shoulder. "Don't worry. Nopony blames you. Even Silver Bullion isn't really upset any more. We'll get this all straightened up tomorrow at the summit."

Twilight sighed. "Thanks, Cadance. Sometimes I wish the box had given me a normal house to live in instead of this giant rock." She kicked a hoof against the crystal floor. "But I'd still rather not have to move all my stuff again," she said, mustering a trickle of mirth.

Cadance frowned. "Sorry, but, uh…that was one thing Bullion and the others really did want."

"They want me to move out? I can't just—"

"No!" Cadance interrupted. "No, not move out. They just… This castle reminds the older ones of better days, and it would mean a lot to them if you could take away some of the…uh…modern touches."

"Like the portraits?" Twilight asked.

"And the non-crystal furniture, and the rugs… Everything that didn't come from the tree, really. Only in the public areas, of course. The entrance, the banquet hall… You know, the big, important rooms."

Twilight's mouth felt dry. "I guess we could do that."

"I know it's a lot to ask, but—"

Twilight stood and shook her head. "It's fine, Cadance. I'm just trying to get used to…" She looked around.

She didn't use this room very often. It was just a little office hidden behind winding hallways on the second floor. A small stack of books sat on the side table next to her. She'd been reading through them the week before. In the corner of the room, a miniature chair sat, perfectly proportioned for a tiny dragon.

"Twilight?" Cadance prompted.

Twilight blinked. "I'm trying to get used to the idea of the castle being that old," she finished weakly. "That's all."

Cadance smiled. "When you think about it, you've got the oldest castle of all of us. Canterlot Castle was built eight hundred years ago, and the new crystal palace around a thousand years ago, but this place? Apparently it was first grown almost two thousand years ago." She chuckled. "Crystal is durable stuff."

"Huh. Interesting."

It was interesting, but Twilight found her curiosity strangely blunted. She was probably just being defensive of her home. In a day or two, when the crystal ponies left and the castle was put back into order, she would definitely send for some books from the Crystal Empire about the Reliquary. Maybe even one of their historians.

But right now she had work to do.


The next day, Twilight sat and watched ten crystal ponies and their alicorn leader file inside. Her heart sank at their stern, somber expressions.

One of the castle's many empty rooms had been set up to host the summit. A large round table stood in the centre of the large room, a chair for every delegate, Twilight, and Cadance. Another smaller table was pushed against one wall, covered in Sugarcube Corner's best. If Twilight had known about her castle's past, she might have omitted that part of the preparations.

Cadance took her seat directly opposite Twilight, her delegates falling into place around her. The room was dead silent.

Twilight spoke. "Welcome to the second annual Ponyville summit. Despite the somewhat smaller gathering this year, I'm excited for another excellent meeting and look forward to developing the relationship between Equestria and the Crystal Empire further." She nodded to Cadance. "Of course, as our guests, you have the floor. Is there anything you feel must be discussed?"

Cadance closed her eyes and sighed. "Yes. I present the esteemed Chancellor Silver Bullion." She gestured at a familiar old stallion. "Chancellor?"

He rose to his hooves. His face was hard and serious, his eyes fiercly concentrated. "Thank you, Princess." He cleared his throat, then said, "I'm sure you recognize me from yesterday morning, Princess Twilight Sparkle. I beg that you forgive the rashness of my words."

Twilight nodded. "Of course. Continue."

"Her Highness Princess Cadance has explained to us the series of events that led to the reappearance of the Reliquary. I accept that it became your residence through no malice of your own." He raised an eyebrow at her. "Although, I am interested to hear why nopony thought to inform the Crystal Empire about the unexplained appearance of a crystal castle."

Twilight waited a moment. He cleared wanted an answer. She said, "It's appearance wasn't unexplained. We've seen the elements of harmony do equally impressive things in the past."

Bullion nodded. "I understand, of course. Mysterious magic artifacts powered by positive emotions. What more explanation could a pony need?"

"Mind your tone, please," Cadance said. "You are addressing a foreign sovereign."

"My apologizes, Your Highness. I am simply saying that there exists a similar artifact. One with a long cultural history."

Twilight winced. "The crystal heart."

"Yes," Bullion said. "I understand that you've sought answers about the nature of the elements of harmony. Did you never think to inquire about the crystal heart?" He waved a hoof. "But that's beside the point. Regardless of how it came to be in Ponyville, my fellow crystal ponies and I are overjoyed to see the Reliquary's beautiful spires once again." His face softened, and his eyes wandered to the high ceiling. "It is one of the few pieces of the past that I am glad to revisit."

Twilight smiled. He had certainly calmed down since she'd last seen him.

"I'm glad. I was worried that it would only bring up bad memories," Twilight said. "Spike and I did our best to restore it it to exactly how we found it."

Bullion bowed. "We noticed and appreciated the gesture, Princess." He looked over at his fellow crystal ponies and nodded. Turning back to Twilight, he said, "That brings me to the point I wanted to raise. While we don't hold you responsible for the castle's…relocation, now that you are aware of its true origin, you must agree that it belongs to the Crystal Empire."


It felt like a gong had gone off in Twilight's head. She scanned the faces around her, looking for an ally.

"Cadance," she said finally. "You told me that I didn't have to move! That you just—"

"Twilight…" Cadance's voice.

"—that I could stay. That we just needed to move some of the decorations…"

What were they going to do? Uproot the tree and haul it all the way back to the north? Did they know of a way to shrink it again? She'd just finished rebuilding the library, and she finally had room for all of her lab equipment from Canterlot…

"Princess, please, hear us out," Silver Bullion said. "You know that this castle doesn't belong to you."

Twilight stood up. She glared down at the chancellor. "Doesn't belong to me? Do you have any idea what I had to go through to get this castle? I've fought Nightmare Moon, Discord, Chrysalis, Sombra, and Tirek! I made friends, I grew wings. I moved away from everything I'd ever known to live in a library, and then that library was burned to the ground! I didn't ask for any of it! And now that I've finally settled into this ugly hunk of rock, now that I've layed out enough rugs that the crystal floors don't freeze my hooves in the morning, you show up and say that it's not even mine?"

"Twilight!" Cadance shouted.

Twilight blinked.

Bullion hunched in his chair, his eyes wide. The ponies seated around him were shivering. One mare hid her face behind her hooves.

Cadance jerked out of her chair. "We're taking a recess. We'll reconvene in twenty minutes." She glared at Twilight, then jerked her chin toward the door.

Twilight took a long look at the crystal ponies arrayed before her. A mix of anger, shame, and frustration swirled in her gut. Rather than stalk around them and feel their eyes watching her every step of the way, Twilight teleported.

She met Cadance in the hallway. The bare walls gleamed, and their hooves clacked loud and sharp against the floor as they started away from the meeting room.

"What was that?" Cadance demanded. "This is a summit, Twilight! You can't just throw a fit when somepony says something you don't like. You know that better than I do."

Twilight shivered. "I…this is my house. You can't just take away my house."

"You're a princess now, Twilight, and this is a lot more than a house." Cadance laid a wing over Twilight's back. "The relationship between Equestria and the Crystal Empire is much more important than an ugly hunk of rock, don't you agree?"

"Of course it is," Twilight whispered. "I just…I don't know. I was starting to like this place. Even if it is ugly."

Cadance sighed. "I know you can do this, Twilight." She looked over at the closed door. "We've got twenty minutes before we reconvene. Take a walk, clear your mind, and be ready to apologize when you get back." She lifted her wing and started back into the room. "I'll try to figure out what they really want."

Turn left, turn right, down fourteen steps, then right again.

Twilight stopped at the entrance to the library. She took a deep breath, the scent of paper and adhesive bringing her back to the old public library next to her house in Canterlot. When she'd first moved into the castle, the smell had driven her crazy. Apparently magic crystal didn't smell like anything. It had been like wandering through a sensory vacuum.

She traced a hoof along one shelf, reading the spines as she passed. This was one of the most recent additions. Self-help. She snorted. She'd only ordered those books at Rarity's insistence. Not for Rarity herself, of course, but Twilight had apparently been "stuck in her ways" and "refusing to accomodate" the "new genres". That said, they were borrowed more often than almost any other books in her collection.

There was a loud groan a few aisles over. Twilight recognized the voice.

"Starlight?" she called.

Another groan. "Not so loud," Starlight hissed.

Twilight rounded the shelves and found her student huddled on the ground, her back against a bookcase. She stared glassily at an open book in front of her. Twilight couldn't quite read the words, but it looked like a textbook.

"Are you all right?" Twilight asked.

"No," Starlight said. "I'm not." She winced and squinted at the page. "Can you read this? I think it says something about acid."

Twilight peered over Starlight's shoulder. A biochemistry textbook, open to a chapter on alcohol toxicity. She sniffed the air again.

"Have you been drinking?" she asked.

Starlight grimaced and said, "I told you. Trixie and I had plans."

Twilight couldn't help it. A smirk spread over her face. She turned away to hide it. "I don't think you're going to find much help in there." She wandered back over to the self-help aisle, and returned a minute later, a book floating next to her.

"Here. Forty Remedies for Daily Life. There's got to be a hangover cure in there somewhere."

She made a mental note to double-check the new shelf filing. A book of homeopathic remedies wasn't real science, but it still didn't belong in the self-help section.

"Mhm. Thanks Twilight." Starlight pawed at the book, struggling to turn the page. "Don't you have a thing right now?"

Twilight's grin fell away. "Recess," she replied.

"I thought recess was for foals," Starlight muttered, finally catching the edge of the page and flipping.

Twilight backed away. She had to start heading back, or she'd be late.

The gnawing pit of emotions still weighed on her, but helping Starlight had cheered her up a bit. To think that she of all ponies would be teaching somepony else about friendship. Heck, that she would be living with a pony who once tried to sabotage her friendships and nearly destroyed the entire world.

And now Starlight was one of her friends.

Hah. One of her friends. Princess of Friendship. Ridiculous. In some ways she still felt like the filly who had pushed everypony away so she could surround herself with more and more books. In other ways, those days seemed as though they had happened to somepony else entirely.

Part of that detachment was probably due to her wings. As awkward and unwieldy as her larger body and new appendages had been at first, she could barely remember what it was like to be a normal unicorn mare. Could barely even imagine it.

Left, up fourteen steps, left again, then right.

Why had she set up the summit on the third floor? There were just as many empty rooms on the first floor. In fact, she sometimes wondered why she ever used the stairs. With only three people living there, the vast majority of castle went unused. What could she use it for, though? Equestria already had a castle in Canterlot.

That said, the exercise was welcome. She liked to walk while thinking, and one lap of the castle was worth thousands of paced circles in her old home. Now that the castle was a bit more comfortable, now that she'd gotten used to it…

It was a good change.

Twilight stopped in the hallway and pressed a hoof against the door to the summit room. A quick peak inside told her that she was right on time.

She swallowed. The dread was still there. She didn't want to lose her home. Not again. But she was a princess now. Capable of magic she'd once only dreamed of performing. With every passing year she grew closer to Celestia, both professionally and personally, like she'd always wanted. Princesses had responsiblities.

She pushed the door open and strode through.

Her life had changed in so many ways.

What was one more?

Spike hefted a wooden box filled with comic books, and gems. "Where am I taking these again?"

Twilight turned, three rolled rugs and a portrait levitating around her. "Downstairs, Spike. Everything goes downstairs."

"I don't get it," Spike said, grunting as he adjusted his grip on the box. "Are we moving out of the castle?"

"Sort of," Twilight replied.

They took the stairs—all twenty of them—to the second floor.

The second half of the summit had more than made up for the first few minutes. The crystal ponies had left happy and friendly. But they'd be back.

Twilight led them to an empty wing of the castle and stopped. She gestured around them.

"Welcome to your new home."

Spike squinted at her. "Huh?"

Twilight walked slowly down the hall, past dozens of closed doors.

"The castle belongs to the Crystal Empire. It always has." She stopped at one door and pushed it open. A cavernous empty space greeted her. She shivered despite herself. "But this wing here? This belongs to us." She paused, then added, "And so does the library. And the throne room."

The floating rugs glided inside and spread themselves out on the floor. Twilight trotted into the centre of the room and took a look around. "I think this would make a good main sitting room, don't you?"

Spike dropped his box on the floor. "I kind of liked the old sitting room," he grumbled. "And what about the kitchen?"

Twilight twisted her mouth. "Hmm…I'll ask them. We can probably share it with the embassy."

Spike grabbed the box again and walked out of the room. "So I guess I should pick a room."

Twilight trailed after him. "Spike?"

He stopped in the hallway and spun around. "What?"

She gently lifted the box out of his grip and placed it on the floor.

"Listen… I know this all came out of nowhere for you—"

Spike snorted. "Twilight, what hasn't come out of nowhere since we moved to Ponyville?" He shrugged. "It's fine, I get it. This is their old castle and they really want it, so they can have it. Fine. I never even liked the castle."

Twilight leaned down a wrapped a wing around him. "I'm sorry, Spike. I know you've been through a lot because of me."

He fidgeted uncomfortably. "Pfft. S'not your fault. I'm a dragon living with ponies. Things would be weird anyway. I just wish… I don't know. Sometimes I wish we just had a bit of warning. Before things changed like this. Just yesterday I was cooking in the kitchen, and now I may never get to use it again." He cleared his throat. "It doesn't really matter. A kitchen's a kitchen. I'm sure we'll figure something out that's just as good. But I wish I'd known it was the last time I'd use it."

Twilight smiled and said, "You're a dragon. I'm an alicorn. We're both going to live for a long, long time, and things are going to change. Ponies are going to die, new ones are going to be born, and we'll get used to it." She chuckled. "Maybe one day we'll get bored of it. You know Celestia is always trying to find new ways to have fun."

He nodded, and she stepped back. He grabbed the box again and shuffled into one of the empty rooms. "You know," he said, "we're not doing this very efficiently."

Twilight glanced behind her. Three rugs and a picture. She looked at Spike's collection of comics and gems.

"Well, I know what we need," she said. "Spike, take a note." She paused and thought of the number of things they needed to move. "Better yet, make a list."

Because no matter how many houses they went through, how many wings she grew, how many villains they defeated, lists would always save the day.
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#1 · 1
The central idea here about the castle is genius. I'm less enthusiastic about some of its presentation. For starters, I felt like Twilight's comfort with routines was underutilized and dismissed too quickly at the end. The first scene was also way too long, at first I thought the entire story was going to be about Twilight's quiet, normal routine; you could illustrate her neurosis in fewer words.

I was surprised at how confrontational things got with Cadence, but that's probably okay as is, given the extraordinary circumstance. Some more interplay between these two, considering they’re old friends and yet now their loyalties are divided, would be nice.

Finally, the ending feels... unsatisfactory. Honestly I wish someone had brought up the point that maybe the castle only used to belong to the crystal empire. They lost it, maybe by bungling friendship or something. It reappeared in its own somewhere else; the torch was passed to Twilight. Obviously I'm getting a tad upset about this, so kudos to you for gaining my emotional investment. Twilight let the crystal ponies (and Cadence) get their way with almost no logical reasoning, and no investigation into the magical underpinnings of how they ended up where they are. That’s not the Twilight I know.
#2 · 2
I feel like you're trying to make a point here, and I wish it was coming through strongly enough for me to pick up on what it was, because it's probably really excellent.

There's a good chance I'm simply not reading deeply enough to figure you out, but I can't really say if it's true or not. But as it is, I feel like this whole 'rhythm' theme gets too many words for how it's used, and the checklists theme doesn't tie into it strongly enough to establish what it's there for.

The core of this story - the bit with the delegation - is pretty good. Twilight's motivations and the crystal ponies characters are all nicely portrayed and work well together. The bit where Twilight starts yelling and they cower in fear seemed a bit exaggerated - why do they find her so scary? But other than that, it all seemed to work. Unfortunately, because your themes aren't crystallizing for me, the bits with Starlight felt mostly like filler, with the one exception of the 'princess of friendship' piece, which ties into her having problems with change and the delegation.

Overall, this has some great bits. Unfortunately, it's not consistent enough to deliver a real impact at the ending, despite my feeling it should.
#3 · 1
Genre: Twilight's OCD: the sitcom: the story

Thoughts: I'll echo the others in saying that I missed the point of what happened here. There were fantastic character moments aplenty, and they might've been strong enough to carry the day on their own in a slice-of-life-y way, were it not for the presence of a clear external conflict whose resolution didn't seem strongly tied to what we otherwise saw of the characters. Sure, Twilight overcame her OCD and did the politically expedient thing, but nobody seems to really change in the process. Spike is cool with things regardless, Twilight is a little bit Sheldon Cooper but manages to rein it in as we know she will, and Starlight is... why is Starlight here? Don't get me wrong, I loves me some GlimGlam, but she seems mostly there to fill a pseudo-Leonard Hofsteader straight man role rather than to advance the plot or her own character.

What pains me in saying this is that I feel like all the pieces are here to tell a compelling story (and I'm 99% sure I know who wrote this), including humor, world building, and some great glimpses of who these characters are on the inside. I thought the opening was especially good, and I could read lots more of that. But as of right now, this doesn't gel at all for me into a plot arc, which it needs to do due to the external conflict.

Tier: Needs Work
#4 · 5
· · >>Zaid Val'Roa >>Morning Sun
I don't have a problem with breaching canon (the Castle of Friendship is demonstrably a branch of the Tree of Harmony), but it makes no sense that Twilight didn't show the delegation the throne room, which has her cutie mark emblazoned on a throne that is obviously a fixed part of the castle. That would have ended the argument immediately, I think. I was expecting that to be the conclusion of the story. The omission of the throne room is a glaring flaw in the story.

This story is, I think, intended to be about neurotic Twilight Sparkle learning to deal with change. Unfortunately, Twilight's characterization is not well-integrated with the storyline about the crystal ponies, because who Twilight is has no impact on the events that occur. It doesn't seem like she's given any choices to make. Wouldn't anypony react precisely as Twilight did, whether or not they were obsessive? Wouldn't Cadance force anypony to go along and accept the compromise? The nature of her character that you're so carefully illustrating doesn't influence the plot. This makes your tale feel like two unrelated stories.

Your characterization of Twilight is excellent, but I think you go too far. I'd recommend more subtlety in the early part of the story.

The ending didn't work for me because Twilight's character was overshadowed by the bizarre compromise you used to illustrate it. The way you described the compromise makes it seem tentative and very unlikely to work out. Consequently, your readers are going to be ruminating on the compromise when they should be focusing their attention on Twilight. I had to re-read the ending a couple of times before I was able to see the point you were trying to make.

The second interaction with Starlight Glimmer seems highly non sequitur, because Twilight doesn't open up about the conflict she's dealing with. You used Starlight as a way to springboard Twilight's internal thoughts, and that isn't a good use of a character. You should have had Twilight talk to Starlight as a friend, and confide in her about her conflicted feelings. This is another example of where the plot marches forward without any character involvement. A better idea would be for Twilight's dialogue with Starlight to lead her to an epiphany that allows her to make a difficult choice. Right now, Twilight doesn't make any choices, and she doesn't lean on her friends for support or advice either.

My remaining comments are minor.

How did Twilight know that 'Heart's Reliquary' meant her castle? That isn't what 'reliquary' means, and she had no cause to suspect the truth. I can't understand why she didn't ask for clarification.

The correct spelling is 'airborne' with an E, because the object is 'borne (carried) by the air'. That is, unless a pegasus is being born in the air during Extreme Pregnancy Challenge!!! :dashcool: (I'm pretty sure that's how Rainbow Dash was born, and the placenta made a nice parachute.)

You don't know what the word 'homeopathic' means. You meant to write 'herbal remedy' or 'home remedy'. Homeopathy is a science denialist viewpoint that claims smaller doses of a drug are stronger than larger doses, therefore no dose at all is the most powerful dose. Homeopaths put a tiny bit of chemical into a substance like water, then filter the water and distill it until it's 100% pure water. Then they sell it to ponies who are seriously ill, and then those ponies die. It's completely antithetical to everything Twilight believes, not to mention dangerously stupid. And they don't even add the chemical, they just tap the tip of a random flower or vine with no healing properties whatsoever against the surface of the liquid. This allows homeopaths to sell 100% pure water as a healing potion, which is as Flim and Flam as it possibly gets.
#5 · 3
Pony politics? This round is spoiling me.

As mentioned before, when we started following Twilight through her Bateman~esque morning ritual, I figured we would be in for some comfy Slice of Life about Twi's quirks. Then the Crystal Empire delegates came around and I thought we'd see her obsessive attention to detail and zealous attachment to order would play into the negotiations for the castle somehow, but that ended up not happening.

There were some nice moments here and there. I liked the bits with Starlight, though they don't have an impact on the story, I almost half-expected her and Trixie to crash the meeting and cause an incident.

Overall, this feels incomplete. Sorry.

I'm pretty sure that's how Rainbow Dash was born, and the placenta made a nice parachute.

Headcanon acquired.
#6 · 2
I think Twilight needs to take some lessons from Iron Will!

And Cadance needs to take some lessons in communicating.

I was really into this up until the end, and maybe that's because I need to learn the lesson being taught here, but Twilight is being a total pushover. What does she get out of the deal? Twilight letting foreign officials push her around like can't be good politics. Would her acquiescence not just embolden them to push for more from her? Especially because they now live with her! She's solved today's problem but created more in future.

It doesn't help that the summit's conclusion was glossed over. All that build up and you skip the grand finale?
#7 · 1
This story feels like it's trying to go in too many directions at once, and muddying the waters with too many things that distract from the plotline and ultimately go nowhere: Twilight's debilitating OCD which is the focus of the opening scenes, Starlight's night on the town...

And then there's the ending, which is frankly unsatisfying. The story begins with some diplomats arriving and sternly commanding Twilight to do something, and in the end, after some token resistance, she, uh... does just that. And the ending scene is basically just Twilight and Spike grousing over how inconvenient this new arrangement is - and nothing besides that. This might work as the start of a longer story, but not the end of one.
#8 · 2
· · >>Morning Sun
A damn weird story where a damn lot of damn things happen, and it ultimately resolves in a really damn unsatisfying way. Feels like the set-up to a sitcom where Twilight and Spike have to share an apartment with Ambassador Jerkbutt and Krystal Kramer shows up now and then to be kooky.

I really enjoyed the political nature of this story, but I found parts of its set-up to be seriously contrived. It's odd that the Empire are such assholes to Twilight when Twilight was partially responsible for saving them from King "NURRR CRYSTULZ" Sombra, and odder still that Twilight would flip her lid over having to give back the castle when she doesn't even seem all that attached to it (I know it's her home and all, but the narration emphasizes how tiny and out of place she feels inside of it; I don't get the impression that she's grown attached to it in the slightest).

Also, why aren't there any artistic depictions of the Reliquary? That seemed convenient. Nobody painted a picture of the Empire's Magic Friendship Castle before Sombra came along and tried to eat it? The heck, man?

Cadance is a bad friend who, at best, told a half-truth to Twilight regarding her living situation, and in the end, Twilight capitulates to the demands of foreign dignitaries and surrenders her seat of power on the grounds that one of their number visited when he was a little boy and swears up and down that it used to belong to the Empire. Thus, she and Spike and Starlight get shunted off into a corner of the house while the rest of it becomes a foreign embassy? I'm not feeling that in the slightest.

Lemme leave you with a suggestion here. Other reviewers have emphasized how pointless Starlight's inclusion in the story is. I agree; you need to do more to justify her presence besides using her drunkenness as a source of comic relief. How about this: Twilight has a conversation with drunk!Starlight while helping her nurse a hangover, and the resulting conversation does something to put the conflict into perspective for her. If it doesn't offer a resolution to the problem (and it shouldn't; that'd be hokey), then it should, at the very least, give Twilight an idea about what the proper course of action should be.

Overall, the quality of the prose, narration, and character work elevates a story that sits on some pretty rickety stilts, resulting in a final product that's... kinda middling. Not bad, but unremarkable. 8/10.
#9 · 1
· · >>Posh
Two small nitpicks : I think the implication is the Tree of Harmony itself was stolen (Though I agree with everything else, including the Cutie Marks, which kind of is a big deal never brought up here), and Twilight clearly knows homeopathy is bunk since she specifies 'It's not real science', though her reaction should probably be more visceral (And add in a comment about how she needs to create a pseudoscience section with clear labeling as to what pseudoscience is).

But I agree with much of everything else.

Anyhow, my thoughts:
1. Twilight is too OCD; so much so that I figured that was going to be what our story was about here at first, till the main conflict was introduced.
2. Twilight's rant is on point - but also should really emphasize more of the pain of losing her library Tree. She lost her home saving Equestria - including the crystal ponies - and they're asking her to lose it again, for reasons much less valid here. Doubly less valid given the throne room, and given her cutie mark is literally on the peak of the castle. One could easily argue that the palace was always meant for her.
3. Following on that, Cadance's reaction is too harsh and out of character for her.

Where I was expecting this to go after Cadance chewed her out was for the Crystal ponies to offer it to her as a gift, a 'Thank you for saving us from Sombra and all of Equestria and though it was ours we yield claim to it', which would probably have worked better.

She gets kicked out of her house so the Crystal Ponies can...yea, >>Posh outlines it. The ending is wholly unsatisfying here, and I'm not sold on this being a change for the better as everyone is trying to claim it is.

I kind of felt like this story is an allegory for the idea of reparations, in a way, or that's the vibe I got - we have characters whose near ancestors were wronged (Our chancellor is the closest to a 'survivor' we have, but even he was more suffering fallout than the direct robbery), and someone who has had indirect benefit from that even if she herself didn't do anything - but as the only one who can give anything back is being asked to do so.

But that's where it breaks down; in the real world one can make a credible argument that the same harms are still ongoing, and also that it is possible to try to make amends without literally kicking people out of house and home. Here, though - this feels more like asking Abraham Lincoln to give up the White House to freed slaves after winning the Civil War, except that would be more reasonable than the request at hoof here, since said freed slaves wouldn't have an entire empire to call home.

And yea. I think there's a good idea at core here, it just needs polish, as I seem to say a lot! Heh.
#10 · 4
· · >>Syeekoh >>Morning Sun
>>Morning Sun
And yea. I think there's a good idea at core here, it just needs polish, as I seem to say a lot! Heh.

Personally, I think the story's fine in English.

I'll let myself out.
#11 ·
· · >>Morning Sun
#12 · 2