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Divide and Conquer · FiM Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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Division Bell
“Sunset Shimmer, my faithful student.” I smile from my throne at the unicorn before me. I know it’s perfect, porcelain-doll smooth and serene from centuries of practice at wearing the mask. My face underneath it feels wan and stretched.

“You sent for me, Princess Luna?” She bows, as always. When she looks up, I see her suppress a yawn, eyes shot with red from the early hour.

“Yes, I wished for you to be here to witness this.” The clock next to my throne, built to the highest precision by the artificers of Canterlot, ticks relentlessly. The tiny sound fills the otherwise empty silence with something small, marching, bumping, spiking, hammering, driving, thin, hollow, meandering in circles, spiraling, eternally the same in every pulse, inexorable and inescapable and only just barely, barely noticeable, like the most subtle itch in the back of one’s mind.

Finally, the second hand reaches the appointed position and the moment has come. The little bell chimes, a golden ting drowning out the ticks before it fades into a lingering tail that slides down until it finally vanishes, swallowed by time.

“Raising the sun, Princess?” Sunset asks, looking confused. “I’ve already seen–”

“No.” I shake my head. “Really watch.

She obliges, with silent curiosity in her eyes.

A hazy glow builds in my horn. I feel the familiar dual connection, one part to something filled with cold silver serenity, and another to something with the warmth of soothing bathwater and fiery with liquid gold.

The moon drifts down smoothly below the western horizon, pale light fading out while gold light rises and waxes from the opposite direction.

Sunset’s eyes narrow in concentration, watching carefully for anything special.

In a moment, it’s over, and my horn’s glow fades.

She looks confused.

“I’m sorry, Princess. What was I supposed to be watching for?” Contrition momentarily clouds her face. “I tried, really, but I think I missed it.”

“No.” I smile, subtly but genuinely this time, shaking my head slightly. “You saw just what you needed to.”

“I…” She looks at me strangely. “Alright. If you think so.”

“I do.” I nod. “That’s all, Sunset. You may go.”

She nods, and turns to leave.

What she will do from here, I don’t know.

But I know that she knows.

I know she’s been in the restricted archives. Sunset is a clever mare, and she’s long since circumvented the security, spending late nights secretly nestled in one hidden corner, reading the old texts with enthralled fascination.

She, alone now among living ponies, knows all about Nightmare Moon. She knows who I was… who I am… and she knows of the sister I banished to the sun that fateful night, so long ago, when I refused to yield the skies and then prevailed in the battle of wills and magic that followed.

But does she know, I wonder, about the dissonance between desire and reality? Has she been able to imagine it?

She knows the facts, but the facts are not the feeling. The facts can tell her only that after the first year of night, the crisis of looming famine inevitably reared up when grain reserves dwindled and plants couldn’t grow by moonlight alone.

They can’t convey the feeling of a fever dream within my grasp shattering under the sledgehammer weight of reality.

Does she understand what it’s like to have the pride of triumph snap under the wrenching need to do what’s right as a ruler?

Has she tried to imagine what it feels like to bring back what you fought to banish? Does she empathize with the despair of losing the unending night, seeing it divided by the day? Seeing the eternal glory that was to be my prize cut short, over and over again, every dawn?

Does she see the monster of the facts, or does she see the pony who feels the pain of conceding her dream, watching it die every daybreak for a thousand years?

I wanted her to see me raise the sun today, because I wished for her to witness the last time I do it.

Tomorrow, at dawn on the longest day of the thousandth year, the planets finally align to aid my sister’s escape. When she returns, I don’t know what Sunset will do. Will she side with the facts, and help Celestia fight me? Or will she understand the feeling, and reconcile us at last?

Whatever she chooses… I’m going to let it happen.

I’m ready.

I’m already conquered anyway.
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#1 ·
I said I would enter this contest and finally I was unable to wrench out any workable idea that would fit this prompt. Oh, don’t get me wrong: not because this is a pony round; I would've been unable to write anything even for an OF round.

Nevertheless, this is the kind of story I could’ve written, had I been more inspired. I like it very much. TBH, I had thought about writing something connected to Nightmare Moon. I didn't do it because writing princesses is about the only kind of FiM fic I could sew together lately, and that has been a spate of rather distressing experiences.

I won’t get involved in the slate phase, so my opinion counts for little, but I enjoyed reading this one. Thanks for writing.
#2 · 2
· · >>KwirkyJ
I really like this one. I feel sorry for Luna. It's clear the thousand year wait has ravaged her anger and left her full of guilt. She's ready to throw in the towel. I hope in this alternate reality she's able to get what she wants.
#3 ·
There’s a lot going on here. The atmosphere is the strongest point IMO. Especially in the first half, the quiet sense that something is off—that what should be beautiful and wholesome is instead just tedious—really comes through.

Something about the second half isn’t quite landing right for me, though. The atmosphere from the first half is still there, but I don’t know that it fits as well, thematically. The bloodlessness of the first half implicitly sets up the story’s conflict, but in the second half, that same bloodlessness feels like it’s lowering the stakes. Since we’re so deep in Luna’s head, and all she can feel is futility, it means that the glory of the past and the hope for the future both come through pretty quietly.

Overall this is good, I don’t start poking at stuff like this until a lot of other things are going right.
#4 ·
I really like this concept of Luna actually winning as Nightmare Moon, but having to face the consequences of an eternal night. It's an idea I've seen done many times, but this is the first one in a while that I think really captures the despair Luna would feel. The fact that she knows her pupil may turn against her makes the agony just that much more palpable. It basically becomes a reverse imprisonment, despite the ostensible win; I almost wouldn't be surprised if Celestia came back as Daybreaker after all these years, imprisoned herself by hatred. Just a really solid idea executed well in a short-span.
#5 ·
Seconding >>pigeonsmall

The concept and tone here works, but the execution feels a bit heavy-handed and not fully thought-out. It is unclear how correct is Luna's assessment of Sunset; it is unclear that Luna's imagined scenario [they fight] is in fact the only, or even a probable, outcome. Perhaps the above indicate the dissociation brought on by guilt and the anxiety of Celestia's return, but the story doesn't seem to explore that at all.

Instead of 'obliges', I am convinced the verb should have been 'obeys'.

I do not grasp the significance of the title.
#6 ·
I haven't much to add, but I appreciate the storytelling details in this exploration of an alternate universe; thanks for writing it, author.