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And at the End, You Shall Remain Alone · FiM Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
Show rules for this event
Blooming, and Wilting
“You’re doing it wrong.”

Tempest’s eyes darted up from the stubborn weed in her future garden, and they met big, golden ones. A young earth pony mare was standing at the edge of Tempest’s garden, leaning against the wooden fence with a friendly grin on her face.

“Wuhrt—” said Tempest, before she realized there were still leaves and stems in her mouth. She spat. “What do you mean?”

The girl hopped over and made her way next to her.

“You see,” she said as she nosed around the base of another large weed. “You’ve got to get a hold of them as close to the roots as you can.” She seized the offending shoot between her molars and continued speaking out the other side of her mouth. “Then, y’can achually git a grip on ‘em!”

With a flick of her lithe neck, the whole stalk came out, dirt-clumped roots and all.

“If you leave the roots, they’ll grow back.” said the mare, spitting out the tangled mass.

“I see,” said Tempest. She looked back at the shredded mess of vegetation behind her. “I’ll have to go back and dig up the ones I missed.”

Even though she hadn’t done anything wrong, the mare looked apologetic. She offered another smile.

“I can help if you want; I’m not doing anything much today. And it looks like you’ve got a lot of space left to clear.”

Tempest's tongue suddenly felt thick and clumsy. Part of her wanted to say no. She almost said no.

“Sure,” was what she said. “I have shovels, in the back.”

“Great!” said the mare. The sun made her auburn coat shine as she trotted over. “My name’s Willowbark, by the way. What’s yours?”

“Fizzlepop,” said Tempest.

When the spring breeze tickled the tree branches, and the birds were singing, Willowbark was there.

“Hey, Fizzlepop! What are you planting?”

Tempest Shadow carefully put down the packet of seeds before speaking. “Tomatoes, here. And zucchinis, there.”

“Need help with seeding the rows?”

Tempest’s heart raced.

“Sure,” she said.

When the still, constricting heat of summer beckoned ponies to the shade of tall, quiet trees, Willowbark was there.

“Hi, again, Fizzlepop. What are you reading?” said WIllowbark.

“Hello, Willow. It’s a novel. About a family, and their life.”

Willowbark paid rapt attention, and Tempest continued.

“It’s about losing relationships, and finding new ones. The father gets remarried, and the kids get new step-siblings all of a sudden. It’s really good, and it’s sad too.”

“Wow.” Willowbark’s eyes shone. “Let me know when you’re done! I might have to borrow it.”

“Sure,” said Tempest, smiling.

Tempest looked into the mirror, and she didn’t like what she saw.

She saw a mare who looked older than her years, with ever-present bags under haggard eyes.

A scar, dark and swollen with age, cutting a scowling face in half.

A jagged stump of a broken horn.

Tempest opened a small purse, full of gifts that she had originally intended to pay for, until Rarity had enthusiastically pushed them into her hooves for free.

It was difficult, putting on the eyeliner with a trembling hoof. Almost as difficult as applying an even layer of foundation in the earth pony way, with the brush held in a stand in front of the mirror.

It took her a long time to make the scar less angry, and to make her wrinkles fade.

But when she was done, Fizzlepop looked into the mirror and finally—finally!—a familiar face looked back at her.

“Hi, Fizzlepop!” Willowbark called out from where the road came next to Fizzlepop’s fence.

Fizzlepop's heart thundered.

“Hello, Willowbark.”

When Willow finally got a good look at Fizzlepop, a beaming smile split her face.

“Wow, you look beautiful!”

The foundation would hide her blush, Fizzlepop hoped.

“What’s the special occasion?” asked Willow.

“Nothing… I just wanted to look pretty, I guess.”

“I completely understand!” Willowbark said. “I feel like that all the time, and my husband thinks I’m nuts! Sometimes a mare just wants to love herself right?”

Fizzlepop’s world broke. But Willow didn’t notice.

“Oh! Speaking of, I don’t think you’ve met Mumbles yet! How about I bring him over sometime for some of that tea you had me try the other day?”

“... Sure,” said Tempest.

Tempest couldn’t bring herself to say another word, until Willow was gone. Then Tempest went into her tiny bathroom and washed Fizzlepop’s makeup off of her face.

It was already running from the tears, anyway.
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#1 · 2
· · >>Bachiavellian

This was sweet, and it did everything just right to punch the audience in the gut, down to the name change in the crucial moment, and then the reversion back.

Well done in telling a full story in 750 words; a lot of entries don't manage that, but this manages a full arc.

At the end, I felt bad for her, and the final few lines were exactly what it needed to be.

I also have to say I liked the way you read the prompt, as that was a fun way to use it.
#2 · 2
· · >>Bachiavellian
This is well written, and there's not much more to say. You've done an impressive job fitting a full arc into 750 words, and giving it space to breath. You've clearly put a fair amount of thought into the piece, and it shows.

The ending didn't belabor the point, and it didn't need to - nice, short, and sweet.
#3 · 1
· · >>Bachiavellian
On the nitpicky side:

That comma shouldn't be there in the title. Even the dreaded "Oxford comma" only becomes an issue when a list has more than two items...

In a larger sense, though, I found this one to be both too short and too long. I needed a little more verbiage to see things blooming in Tempest's mind, and with the story covering at least three months, I found it hard to believe that Willow never in all that time mentions her husband. Still, it may be because my heart is nothing but a shriveled and ashy chunk of charcoal... :)

#4 · 3
· · >>Bachiavellian
Plot twist: Mumbles is Willow's dog. She joked about him being her husband to fuck with tempest.

Or they're swingers, and willow is testing the waters.

(I'm on mobile right now; I'll type up a better review when I can. Just wanted to post that before I forgot it)
#5 · 1
· · >>Bachiavellian
Hm. Lots of stories this round with some pretty easy editing problems.

You have some unnecessarily repetitive language early on, like two close mentions of her "garden."

I like the idea here. Maybe I'm just becoming more of a hopeless shipper than I used to be. But there are some things this story desperately needs.

For one, how does Tempest not know Willowbark is married? This is someone she must have talked to lots of times. By the way, I do like the occasional meetings you show, that seem to progress by seasons. But I have to imagine they've had a lot more meetings than that. Two or three banal interactions aren't going to be the basis for Tempest deciding she's fallen in love, after all. Yet in these conversations, Mumbles has never come up? They always talk at Tempest's place and never Willowbark's? That's supremely convenient.

The other is more or less something I just mentioned, but that we need a lot more to conclude Tempest is really in love. They've talked about nothing, really. It wasn't Tempest noticing that Willowbark took an interest in something important to her, or that they unexpectedly found a shared interest, or that they had some really noteworthy experience one time that really resonated with Tempest. It's a few conversations about things Tempest isn't portrayed as being particularly into, and then bam, she's in love. It takes some more care to build that up in a plausible way. One thing you absolutely did right: show specific interactions instead of relying on vague summaries. But show how, at the time, they had a strong effect on Tempest. Show that Willowbark is (unintentionally) endearing herself to Tempest. Show that there's a nice, balanced give and take to their relationship.

So, nice setup, I'm surprised I like Willowbark as much as I do, considering how little I know about her, I genuinely feel bad for Tempest, and this needs some more context to sell the ship.
#6 ·
· · >>Pascoite >>TitaniumDragon
... Is it time to do retros already?

Retrospective: Blooming, and Wilting (Or, Tempest is Super-Bae)

So attempt number two at a Tempest Shadow-centric minific, and it looks like I did somewhat better. Go me!

Yeah, so I'm just gonna go ahead and promote Tempest to honorary alicorn, because I'm starting to obsess over her while I'm brainstorming for ideas as much as I do over the Princesses. Like I said last time (>>Bachiavellian), Tempest is basically an excuse to write Season-One-Luna stories again, which is just fantastic. She's got the exact same shtick (used to be badass villain; now is sad-ish and freshly-reformed) with some extra edge sprinkled in (muh horn!). And on top of it all, the "real name" thing's more darling three paragraphs of Rarity-dialogue! What's not to love?

Anyways, regarding what's probably the one of the more obvious shortfalls of this story:

I found it hard to believe that Willow never in all that time mentions her husband.

For one, how does Tempest not know Willowbark is married? This is someone she must have talked to lots of times.

... Yeah, this was silly of me. Like a bad stage magician desperately trying to hide his soaking sleeves after his disappearing-a-glass-of-water trick catastrophically failed, I was just kinda hoping people wouldn't notice.

It was a bit of a balancing act, having to let Tempest get invested in Willowbark enough for the ending to hit, while also being blindsided by some kind of revelation that Willowbark would never be interested in her. All I could think of was either making her married or a homophobe, the latter of which I dismissed for obvious reasons. I mean, in hindsight, maybe just giving her a boyfriend would have sufficed, while not making Tempest's ignorance too unbelievable.

Happy ya'll liked it! Yeah, when I originally outlined it, I was actually pretty scared that it wouldn't fit in a minific, and I did the thing I usually hate reading, which is chopping up a minific's wordcount into a lot of tiny scenes. But it looks like it paid off in helping it feel more complete than my usual stuff!

>>Baal Bunny
Don't laugh at me, but I actually included that comma because I thought a little pause might make the title feel a bit.... more meaningful? Deeper? Don't ask me to explain what possessed me to think so. :P

Thank you for your review!

Okay, now I need somebody to write a story about a couple casually inviting Tempest over for a three way, before ending up with waaaaay more melodrama than they bargained for. I mean, have you seen "Open Up Your Eyes"? This chick's got a lot of unresolved stuff going on.

Yeah, I definitely didn't give this the editing pass that it deserved. It's what I get for writing literally all of my minifics at the last possible hour before I pass out.

Regarding Tempest being in love, I was kind of hoping that the little things (like her heart racing, or her smiling) would kind of telegraph the fact that she's developing affections. But I can see what you're saying, with how these need to have a more meaningful foundation for the romance to really feel genuine. Thank you very much for your thoughts!

Congrats, as always, to our medalists (especially to CiG, for sneaking all his entries into the Top 5).

See you guys next time!
#7 ·
· · >>TitaniumDragon >>Bachiavellian
I did catch the little reactions Tempest had. It's not that you didn't portray her as acing like someone in love. It's that her responses are disconnected from any specific stimuli. When Tempest's heart races, what specifically about Willowbark prompted that response? To a degree, some of that can be physical attraction, but a lot of it needs to be genuinely liking the person and finding them compatible, Sp look for ways to work in things like that. A particular expression Willowbark has on her face that reminds Tempest of the time they did such and such, and she looked so adorable when she did this thing, etc. Then the relationship is based on shared experiences rather than vague heart racing.
#8 ·
· · >>Bachiavellian
One thing worth considering is to compress the time frame here; you have her know her for quite a while - months - which makes us feel like there needs to be more development there in terms of her personality, as well as making it feel like more of a stretch that she doesn't know that the person is married.

But Tempest is not really used to dealing with normal people emotions and being a normal person; if it was just knowing her for a few days, and getting totally caught up in the idea of like, actually liking someone for the first time, I don't know if you need to include a huge amount of depth for the attraction. People are sometimes attracted to other people just because they're friendly and pretty and nice to them; that sort of superficial attraction is common, and is especially likely for someone who is more inexperienced. So if she only sort of knew Willowbark for a shorter period of time and had built up this big thing for her in her head, that would be entirely believable to me, and would also explain how she doesn't know that Willow is married as she doesn't actually know Willow that well yet. It would allow you to preserve your "magic trick" of making us feel bad for Tempest and having the rug yanked out from underneath her, while reducing the fridge logic.
#9 ·
Yeah, I do agree—I definitely kind of just said that Tempest was in love, without giving her a reason to be in love. Which is pretty inexcusable the more I think about it, considering that the perspective is 3rd person limited and not omniscient. Hindsight, 20/20.

That's part of what I was debating, actually. I wanted the disappointment enough to leave Tempest in tears (basically just for that last line), but I didn't think I had the wordcount to describe any altered or abnormal state of mind that Tempest might be in. So I did take a shortcut and just stretched out the time period. But I can see why that didn't work for a lot of people.