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On The Wings of a Dream · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
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The Scootaloo Switcheroo
Midday. Rainbow Dash woke up, which wasn’t surprising. She held the Cloudsdale record for longest sleep-in without getting fired.

But she woke up to a heatwave.

The familiar white of her bedroom blazed, hurting her eyes. While she struggled against a cosy promise of more sleep time, she sat up. Sheets stuck to her before sliding off. Her windows shimmered and blurred so much she tried blinking it out of her sleepy eyes before she realized it wasn’t her.

Heatwave? In the middle of winter?

Well, sure they didn’t get snow every day, but the “sunspot” days were just for contrast, or to warm a really heart-warming scene. Anyway, they weren’t scheduled for this week… were they?

Groaning, she flapped off the bed, sagged beneath her wings, and picked up the almanac on her bedside table. Sleep hit her eyes hard, though. She could barely read, and didn’t understand the few words she did: “contor”, “win sheer”, “poresssure”…

Her ear twitched. Someone shouted her name outside her window.

She looked out. There was Ponyville all right, under perfect blue skies. A perfect green country day. No snow: they did sweep it away sometimes, for special occasions.


There! Right below her window, where her cloud mansion cast a shadow over the hill bearing her mailbox, on a scooter revving to go and with a helmet blue as Rainbow’s coat, smiled the bright, sunshine face of–

“SCOOTALOO!?” Rainbow leaned out.

Scootaloo held up the scooter. “Mountain day! You ready to try out that new trick?”

Oh yeah, now Rainbow remembered. She glanced up at the midday sun.

Huh. That was Scootaloo, sure enough. Winter heatwave or not, the little tearaway would try anyway. Mountains, midday… the trick! They were gonna do the trick! This she understood!

“Ha! I was ready before you suggested it,” called down Rainbow.

“YEAH! You are beyond awesome, Rainbow Dash!”

And then it seemed like no time at all, and they were on an island peak, amid a sea of clouds like hot snow trying to reassure her this was still winter. Just winter at a temperature she liked. Overhead shone the perfect sun.

“All right, Squirt!” she bellowed. “You up for this?”

“All the way up, and all the way down!” yelled the bundle in her grip. Scootaloo adjusted her goggles. Of course, Rainbow was too cool to need goggles this high up.

To her surprise, she saw the goggles fall away. They’d been thrown. They vanished into the clouds.

“Scootaloo?” she said.

“It’s OK. I’m ready to push myself all the way.”

Rainbow remembered her own foolish youth, going without goggles this high in the stratosphere, stung by a thousand slicing winds.

“You’re sure?

Under Rainbow’s grip, Scootaloo tensed what little muscle she had, ice-hard. “110%, Rainbow Dash. You’ll see. I’m no ‘Squirt’ anymore.”

“Er… OK. You asked for it.”

Scootaloo probably knew her own strength best. Or at least her own mind, and they did say “mind over matter.”

“All right!” Rainbow lazily adjusted her wings to a lower angle, ready to drop. “Operation: Avalanche Arrowhead! Five, four–”

Scootaloo snickered like a foal who knew what she was getting for Hearth’s Warming.

“Two, one, BLAST-OFF!”

The air around Rainbow flapped and slashed under her suddenly motor-strength wings. A solid wall propelled her down, punched her through the field of gravity. The air screamed around her, the cloudscape inched upwards and then sped up and threatened to slam into them with its sheer plains, and then…


All wheels of the scooter hit the slope, engine roaring, wheels squealing on the ice. Rainbow felt the swerve. The aftershock tried to wrestle Scootaloo out of her grip.

Then Scootaloo began flapping too, a tiny breeze in Rainbow’s face. No way that weak little propulsion would make much difference under this momentum–

It did.

Rainbow snapped back into place before she even realized they’d slalomed too smoothly down the mountain. Scootaloo giggled and flapped harder, correcting jolts even Rainbow had to muscle through between the howling air resistance and the eddies sucking at her ears.

“Wow,” Rainbow murmured under the screaming sky. “You’re… good.”

“I have the world’s best teacher!” shouted Scootaloo. “WOOHOO! LOOK AT THE SKY!”

Rainbow had neglected goggles more for show than anything. Through tears stinging her eyes, she squinted up.

There was a dark star. As it grew, the dark star spiked. Those might have been wings, but those might have been legs, and that spike might… definitely was a horn.

The flapping form of an alicorn. Dark as a vampire, armour like the shadow of a sapphire, eyes focused as arrows…

“Luna?” said Rainbow.

Blue magic swept over her vision: a telekinetic spell. Rainbow’s wings slowed. Their fall slowed. The two pegasi were yards away from the sea of cloud, and then Rainbow spotted a rocky outcrop.

Luna wanted them to stop? Well, OK.

“NO, DON’T STOP!” shouted Scootaloo.

Rainbow thrust her wings in reverse, trying to slow down without breaking bones. The outcrop rose before her like a claw. Luna landed at the tip, waiting patiently for them to crash into her.

“NOO!” Scootaloo’s screaming became hysterical. A tiny hoof whacked Rainbow in the face.

“Scootaloo, are you nuts?” Quickly adjusting, Rainbow added, “I need to focus! Stop squirming!”

The rush became a slide became a skid that was still too fast. Luna lowered her horn, aimed between Rainbow’s eyes, then lowered…


Empty air.

Cloud below.

No weight between Rainbow’s legs. Scootaloo!

Rainbow flapped to a halt. She spun round in time to see Scootaloo levitating under Luna’s spell; the princess regarded the struggles coldly.

“Princess Luna!” Rainbow even forgot to bow, flapping back. “What the hay?”

“Apologies for the interruption, my loyal friend,” said Luna. She glared at Scootaloo. “But I have grim business here.”

“Put her down! She doesn’t like it!”

“Things are not as they seem, Rainbow Dash. You have woken up to a stranger.”

“I SAID put her DOWN!” Big sister instinct backed off long enough for Rainbow to realize who she was shouting at. “Princess? Please? Before Scootaloo gets hurt?”

A frozen pause followed. Only Scootaloo struggled.

Luna lowered her to the icy ground. “This is not Scootaloo.”

And her horn fired.

“NO!” Rainbow threw herself into a dive before she saw Scootaloo’s body slump under the arrow.

Then she saw its face. Its open eye.

Yet where the other eye should have been, half of the foal’s face had shattered like a mere glass casing. Shards fell off around the impaling arrow. Scootaloo’s insides looked like compacted snow.

From the far mountain peaks, Luna’s voice echoed: “The real Scootaloo has been replaced by an imposter. I need your help to rescue her.”

The heat, once summer bliss, now roasted with hell. Rainbow’s mind writhed under it.

“What?” And only when she spoke did she hear, feel, realize how weak she was.

“Where is she?” repeated Rainbow Dash.

Sitting up at the dining room table, Princess Luna sipped her aero-cappuccino with the solemnity of a priest conducting a ritual. Beyond the window, Ponyville bustled with ponies in snow boots, bobble-hats, and scarves.

On the table itself, the prone body of the fake Scootaloo: Rainbow looked past it to Luna, forced herself to. That body was right under her nose, and she sweated trying not to look down at the blue arrow sticking out of the face, or especially at the gaping half that still looked like Scootaloo.

“Let me gather my strength first,” said Luna. “It has not been an easy journey.”

“I’ll show you strength-gathering! Just point me where she is! I don’t care what’s between me and her!”

“Patience. We will leave soon. But you must understand what you’re up against.”

Cracking under temptation, Rainbow glanced down at the broken, white face. “What is that, anyway?”

“Pure perfection, solid and compact as glacial snow.” Luna sipped again.

“Enough riddles. What is it really?

Barely a small pause on Luna’s part: small, but Rainbow could sense a feather in a whirlwind.

“A creature from my domain,” said Luna. “Created from Scootaloo’s hopes and fears like so many others. It has grown powerful enough to break through the divide between fantasy and reality.”

“The Tantabus?”

Luna shook her head. “If only it were that simple, I would not burden you–”

“Oh, princess, don’t start that again. You’re all right! You want something done, I’m right here.” As an afterthought, she added, “And my friends could do some damage too.”

Luna offered a gentle smile. “From the loyal pegasus, I would expect no less.”

Outside, the sun descended. Part of Rainbow wondered if it was supposed to be late afternoon already, but then she’d been distracted, dragging the fake Scootaloo and guiding Luna down the mountain.

“How did this happen?” said Rainbow.

Grimacing, Luna took another sip. The cappuccino had been a little past its best-by-date, by about a month or two. Rainbow never threw stuff out. Once she’d bought it, she’d stomach anything.

Memory flashed the last few minutes warningly at Rainbow. “You said Scootaloo created it?”

“Indeed. From her hopes and fears.”

Scootaloo created a… what, a dream monster?”

Luna’s mouth twitched. “Yes and no.”

“That’s not an answer!” When Rainbow landed opposite Luna, her hooves thumped the table, her chair rocked under the shock, and Luna looked up sharply. “What hopes and fears, anyway? She hasn’t got–”

Honesty kicked loyalty in the shins.

“But she’s past all that,” Rainbow insisted.

“Oh?” Luna’s eyebrow rose like a stop sign.

Which Rainbow slammed against. “Well, she… she… she’s got the best ‘big sister’ in the world.”

The stop sign remained.

“And she’s cool!” added Rainbow hastily. “Maybe not when she hits a haystack or doesn’t quite pull off a trick, but… Hold on, I’ll try again. Look, she knows I got her back. She can’t fly well like I can… or at all… S-so what? She knows I don’t care. We’ve gotten over that.”

Luna broke off to take a sip.

“And even if I said she had any fears, which I don’t, why her? What’s so special about Scootaloo? Lots of foals have that sort of thing. They don’t have this.” Rainbow pointed at the body.

“Lots of foals? Including you?” said Luna.


It fought against every self-respecting “cool” instinct in her battle-hardened heart, but eventually Rainbow’s answer managed to wrestle its way up her throat to force her struggling lips to say, through gritted teeth: “Yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyeeeeeeaaaaaah but-I-grew-out-of-it-fast-so-it-doesn’t-count-anyway!”

Luna levitated the mug into the sink. It rolled off the pile and crashed on the floor.

“Oh.” She blushed. “Apologies.”

Another flash fixed the cup and put it on the sideboard. Amongst the piles of plates.

“I wash up in my own time,” said Rainbow hastily, glancing around. This mansion’s room suggested a Colosseum refitted for a celebrity cooking show, albeit a celebrity with no cleaning skills.

“Appears convincing…” murmured Luna.

“Er, thanks? I made it myself.”

“Did you? Now, my impatient friend, it is time we rescued young Scootaloo from her prison.”

“About time!” Rainbow cracked her forelimbs like knuckles. “Point me there and get out of my way.”

“Know this: Scootaloo fell prey to her emotions. She would not need our help otherwise. But this will be more than a test of physical strength. Your heart must be strong too. Whatever you find, you must remain unbreakable.”

Rainbow waved her off. “Look who you’re talking to. Let’s go already!”

After a minute of defiant flapping, she added, “How do we get there, exactly?”

“The same way we reach all dreams.”

“Some magic night spell you use to dream-hop? A dimension-warping lightspeed blast? I’m game for that last one!”

“No.” Luna gestured to the door. “Sleep.”

“Oh… Yeah, um, that’d work too.”

It took Rainbow ages, though. She’d worked herself up to jitters. Fine for bed-tossing, not for sleeping.

She wasn’t scared. Absolutely not. Scootaloo was as good as rescued, fear-eating dream monster or not. When Rainbow came calling, no problems were left standing.

Except trying to sleep during a heatwave. Orange sunset: exactly the colour that always kept her awake.

Rainbow blinked. First time, she saw the Wonderbolts poster on her bedroom wall. Felt the bed pressing against her side. Then, again the second time.

Third time, she stood up.

Surrounded by darkness. No stars twinkled, no moon, no sun. There were mountains of jet. Fields of black grass. Forests of shadow.

And a million changelings, caught by surprise.

Of course. This was her dream. She’d dreamed of the changeling army every night. After all, it was one of her favourites; in Ponyville, days went by without so much as one butt kicked.

So this was where that faking freak had stuffed Scootaloo? Inside her, Rainbow Dash’s, dreamworld?

Instinct and habit tightened Rainbow’s muscles. Their fury overwhelmed even her own straining wings.

Rainbow had just enough civilized intelligence to shout, “Hey! Bugs-for-brains! Where are you keeping Scootaloo!?”

The frowns did not abate. Two million wings buzzed into life. Millions of motorbike-like muscles chainsawed the air with a noise like scraped rust.

“I don’t ask twice!” Rainbow crouched.

A million changelings… pounced.

Rainbow shot forwards.

Any other dream, she’d take her sweet time punching their lights out, one-by-one.

Changeling faces blurred around her, too fast to keep track. Her strikes rebounded her into more faces, sent jolts down her legs, hitting more changelings, throwing her limbs round so she could seize that rebound for more swipes. Her leg cracked, but she hardly felt it.

“Get!” Smack! “Out!” Smack! “Of!” Smack! “My!” Smack! “WAY!”

Still more poured in. Still more. Their numbers mocked her. She struck back, harder and harder, faster and faster. Rainbow shot up from the swarming scrum…


…looked up.

Luna hovered overhead. A crescent moon hung behind her.

Her forelimbs reached up, plucked the crescent out of the sky. The golden scythe… slashed.

Down below, the buzzing stopped. All changelings froze, staring up at her. But Rainbow swore the blade had passed right through.

A million changelings evaporated.

At least, the top halves did. The bottom halves fell over, then evaporated.

Luna swung the crescent back into place. The sky engulfed it.

I should’ve done that,” said Rainbow. She didn’t even realize how childish that sounded until too late.

“This is only our reception. We cannot find Scootaloo in your dreams. Come.”

Falling from her combat high to a sudden cooling shame, Rainbow didn’t argue. She shadowed Luna, who turned and flew right towards the mountains.

She hadn’t thought. Sheer Rainbow Dash spirit had taken over: the joy, the angry, twisted joy of seeing Scootaloo’s kidnappers get what was coming to them.

“The dream world you are about to see,” said Luna, “is an intermediary. We must pass through it to find Scootaloo and revive her spirit.”

“Got it,” said Rainbow, to show the professionalism she hadn’t shown a moment ago.

“But once we leave your dream, we will be unprotected. The creature that replaced Scootaloo has left barriers in place. No matter how harsh or cold things become, you must never stop until you have broken through.”

“Broken through? Princess?” Rainbow looked at the dark land below. “Where is she?”

“In the middle of a blizzard. The colder the air, the harsher the wind, the closer you will be. Follow my lead. Never succumb to fear or pain. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” said Rainbow. Another act committed without a moment’s thought.

Luna seemed to be steeling herself, withers taut and legs braced as though against an invisible blizzard already arriving.

Then her horn slashed.

It tore the dream’s black sky like canvas. Rips spread and peeled back the dream, shredding it and shedding it, leaving them in a real snowscape. Mountains, forests, fields: all there. All covered in white.

Doorways to other dreams lined an invisible corridor through it all. As they passed between them, Rainbow saw all the dream doors were frozen shut, blue under the glassy ice smothering them.

Already, Rainbow’s body lost its warmth. Muscle memories of the changeling fight, and her boiling emotions: all thinned and vanished.

Up ahead, a swirling surge of clouds drew closer. It was a grey cliff. Winds tugged at Rainbow’s feathers.

“In that!?” Rainbow shouted; the storm’s low roar rose to a cold scream.

Luna tucked her head and legs in tighter, using her horn to spear her way through.

“I’ll take that as a yes.”

Snowflakes fluttered past, sticking to Rainbow’s eyes. She squinted. The world turned greyer and greyer. Then with a sudden wall of noise that was loud enough to push, she went in.

Rainbow flew on and on, gritting her teeth which froze and stung her gums. All was grey; she slammed her eyes shut, trusting her pegasus senses to steer her through knives of currents, keeping her on course. Ice clawed at her coat.

No! No popping of her eardrums would stop her. No vicious turbulence. No wall of outraged noise storming her ears until she had to close them like bomb shelter doors. Nothing.

Although… her skin felt scoured to the flesh. More and more, she curled up or retreated mentally from her outer shell, but there was nothing she could do for her wings, which flexed and burned with pain. They weren’t supposed to do that. She didn’t want them to!

If she could just snatch a breath… Shooting to the surface to breathe would only take a minute. Even her insides ached under the wind clawing its way in; there was no way to close her nostrils.

She stopped feeling her legs. Then her face faded. The storm left nothing but a warm core, and even gouged that, via the breach in her lungs. Every breath killed her, bit by bit. Only her wings burned in defiance, flapping less because she wanted to fly and more through sheer mechanical repetition. She couldn’t keep flying. Yet she couldn’t stop.

Anything civilized and rational vanished against the storm. Her mind broke down to the rawest impulse, a rod in the storm, but a rod buckling and bending, reaching its breaking point.

A few more flaps and she’d die. Nothing could survive this cold, which was no longer a mere state of the world, but a world itself. Not even time and space survived in it.

She didn’t know who she was, where she was going, why she was doing it. Just that she must.

And then… then…

She bro
ke through. She was Rainbow Dash. Breaking through the dream. To the other side. To find Scootaloo.

Up ahead, she heard Luna’s wings. “We’re here. Brace yourself.”

Her flapping faded into the distance.

Exhaustion seeped over Rainbow as a damp force she couldn’t resist. Her side met a gigantic crystal, unyielding and unforgiving, with edges that cut her settling legs.

Slowly, the ache and the pain and the intrusive exhaustion burning away in anger, Rainbow Dash’s inner fires returned to keep her alive…


“Jingle bells, Twilight smells, Pinkie laid an egg!” sang Rainbow.

“Apple Bloom, Fell off her broom, With Sweetie Belle the witch!” sang Scootaloo, wearing goggles.

From the mountaintop, they looked down on the frozen sea of clouds, and then looked up at the midwinter’s night.

As loudly as they dared, they sang the chorus together: “OH! Windigo! In the snow! Don’t you spoil our fun! We’ll warm our hearths! We’ll wear our scarves! Sing hymns to EVERY-ONE!

Then they cocked their ears.

Far below, triumphant crashes announced the awesome avalanches they’d just set off. Both pegasi laughed.

“I told you we could do it!” Rainbow rolled between fits. “Twilight was right! Loudest voices in PONYVILLE!”

“YEAH! I bet she heard us from HERE!” Scootaloo coughed and thumped herself until she stopped.

Of course, Rainbow wasn’t totally reckless. The mountains were miles from Ponyville, or any settlement for that matter. Yet she hoped Twilight couldn’t hear them. She’d already endured enough lectures on why supersonic speeds and snow-mares didn’t mix.

“Hey, look at this slope,” said Scootaloo, leaning over the peak; Rainbow panicked and drew her back a bit, both hooves over her chest like seatbelts. “Betcha we could use this as a killer ramp for a scooter trick.”

“A flying scooter trick,” corrected Rainbow. “Instead of falling at the end, we could shoot up and hit the moon.” Or until Scootaloo complained of chills. High-altitude temperatures were harsh.

Scootaloo’s ears drooped briefly before shooting up again. “Yeah! If you gave me a boost, I bet we could make a mile.”

“What, straight up?”

“Straight up, straight ahead, whatever!”

Rainbow thought it over long enough to cringe. The thought of all that air below Scootaloo, a pegasus whose flying skills were on par with an electric fan’s… One slip-up…

“I like the way you think, Squirt,” Rainbow said. To show willing, she ruffled Scootaloo’s mane until the foal fought back. “You sure we’re not really related?”

“Ha! Don’t worry. I could do this jump by myself.”

Rainbow laughed this off.

“I mean it!”

Rainbow’s laughter ducked down to a humble titter. “Yeah, right.”

“No, really! One day, I’ll get up here by myself to start the trick. I wouldn’t need you helping me. But you can watch, I mean. I want you to watch.”

“Heh, OK Squirt.” It was a good line. It suggested agreement without technically making any.

“I will!” squeaked Scootaloo, turning around. For a moment, the fire that kept Rainbow Dash going twenty-four-seven burned in her eyes instead.

Then Rainbow finally noticed something: “Your eyes are puffy. Those goggles fit?”

Scootaloo’s hooves lifted them, twitched with the sudden cold, and rubbed her swollen eyes. “It’s nothing. Just… hay fever.”

“In the middle of winter?” Rainbow leaned closer. “You sleeping all right? Only last time your eyes were puffed up–”

“No! I learned my lesson!” Scootaloo batted her hoof away. “I never have bad dreams anymore. I remembered what you said. Honest.”

“Well… OK.” Rainbow rubbed her mouth thoughtfully. “You know there’s no shame in having bad–”

“I know!”

Scootaloo’s little wings hummed with effort. Her gaze swept across the clouds. It didn’t take a Luna to see her dreams, of flying with proper pegasus wings over the whiteness.

Rainbow clamped her own mouth shut. The question lurked in her head.

Perhaps she should tell Twilight about this kind of thing? Scootaloo’s weirdness was… getting weirder, especially in the run-up to Hearth’s Warming. When the Fires of Friendship had to be relit, and presents given, and time spent with family so that arguments could be refined, well, emotions were Twilight’s thing, really. All Rainbow could think up was… um…

“Hey,” she said. “Wanna try flying over the mountains? If we sing as we go, I bet we’ll set off dozens of avalanches.”

Scootaloo hopped up, nodding.

Rainbow supported Scootaloo single-hoofedly, of course. Yet when they flew over, Scootaloo’s tiny wings didn’t beat as strongly as usual. She barely sang, too. And from the sound of it, below the clouds, they only set off a couple of avalanches at most.


The fire’s heat became too unbearable; Rainbow’s mind finally woke up.

It felt like she was lying on a metal hull. Hooves scraped over solid flatness as she stood up. She flexed a few stiff limbs, feeling the cuts. Then she opened her eyes.

Her bedroom, yes. But unless she’d ordered extra-frozen clouds to replace the usual soft-cumulus design…

She went to the window.

Whiteness above. Here, the sky was pure white. Not bright, though. Neither was it tinged with the usual cloudy grey that only pegasus eyes could recognize. It looked more like a canvas before a painter had gotten a brush to it.

Blueness below.

In the distance, a shadow landed in the middle of a huddle of rooftops, roughly where Ponyville should be.

No noise. Anywhere. Not even the constant, distant murmur of a living town.

Rainbow shot outside at once, towards the rooftops. All blue. No exceptions.

She stared even before she landed. “Uh?”

This was Ponyville. The architecture looked right. The streets and stables were in the right places. She recognized the ponies. Even the air pressure felt normal. Ish… She folded her wings, massaging some feeling into them. Or trying to: neither the wings nor the legs moved the way she wanted. It was like she’d strapped them to puppet strings, and each string kept pulling her limbs at random.

This was Ponyville. Last time she’d checked, though, Ponyville wasn’t completely iced over.

Jagged, faceted ice encased everything like blue glass, cold to the touch. She even slid around a little where she was standing, though she wasn’t daring to move. The substance kept her off the earth and grass, a glass case against diamond-coveting thieves. It thickened so much around the timber cottages that she expected them to collapse under the weight.

Ponies were frozen, many in mid-gallop, some in mid-rear. Some screamed eternally out of windows. All were captured insects in cold amber.

“Scootaloo?” she said, or tried to. Her lips and tongue stretched over the words numbly, turning them into: “Sthckoo-da-woo?”

Silver light washed over her as Luna approached. “One moment. The storm has left its mark.”

Magic tingled. Warmth came back to Rainbow. She tried to speak again. “What kind of nightmare is she having?”

Luna’s furious gaze swept over the nearby ponies.

A hint? Yet what was so offensive about frozen ponies? Frightening, worrying, and shocking, yes. But Luna looked as though she’d been personally insulted by them.

“Let’s not stick around,” said Rainbow, hoping Luna would get that hint. “I’ll check Scootaloo’s house.”


“Rainbow Dash?” said Scootaloo.

“Haha! Whoa! Don’t move around so much! I’m tickliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii-I’m trying to steer here, OK?”

“Oh, sorry.”

On Rainbow’s saddle, Scootaloo settled down again. Rainbow heard her gasping at the gusts in their wake. The clouds far below always tempted Scootaloo to fidget, but who could blame her? Below the clouds: winter storms. Whereas up here: tranquil blue.

It was one of their regular flights. Sooner or later, Scootaloo insisted on flying. It was her pegasus right, apparently. And Rainbow fancied the occasional flap, so why not?

“What’s up, Squirt?”

Surprisingly, Scootaloo didn’t answer right away.


“Sorry, Rainbow Dash.”

“You OK?”

“Yeah! I just wanted… You ever heard of something called Fumble Winter?”

“Fimbulwinter,” Rainbow corrected.

Scootaloo groaned in disappointment.

“I’ve heard of it,” Rainbow said, playing dumb. “What is it?”

Scootaloo breathed deeply, the usual response before trying to wow her “big sister” with something she’d learned. “Well… I found out about it once.”


“It’s like… just before the end of the world, there’s supposed to be this ultimate winter, right? Like eternal night, but waaaay colder.”

“Uh huh?” Rainbow already knew the story. “Wait. The end of the world? That’s kinda gloomy for you.”

“Oh, you know.” Scootaloo sounded too flippantly cool to Rainbow’s ears. “It’s like… In Fimbulwinter, all the pegasi who ever lived come back to life, and they train in the cold, and they turn into like super-pegasi so that, when the end of the world comes, they can fight off the Monster and save Luna?”

The Monster. Oh, Rainbow had heard of that one. Some guff about a giant moon-eating wolf, or something. She’d never believed that part, though she’d remembered it and used it in various scare stories.

“Well, what if you don’t come back?”

Rainbow looked down at her shadow on the cloud field below. The only shadow.

“You serious? Scootaloo, you know it’s just a story, right?”

“Yeah, yeah, sure.” But Scootaloo didn’t sound convinced. If anything, she sounded preoccupied. “I just wondered… Can non-flying pegasi come back?”

Rainbow chuckled. That little worrywart!

“Why not?” she said. “One: it’s a story. Two: pegasi is pegasi. I told you before flying’s just a perk. An awesome perk, but still. You stick with me, Squirt, and we’ve got more than enough pegas-awesomeness between us to beat Cloudsdale combined. Relax. Take in the sights.”

Endless cumulus. They descended; this close, Rainbow could hear the blizzard howling below the surface. Boy, they were pulling out all the stops for this Hearth’s Warming.

“So these super-pegasi are, like, the perfect pegasus ponies, right?”

“Scoots, seriously. Chill. You’re better than perfect, ‘kay?”

Finally, Rainbow sank into the whiteness. Oddly, she forgot everything else that day, including the tricks they’d pulled off, but that conversation stuck. It was like she sensed something bigger lurking below the surface.


It didn’t take long: Rainbow had flown to Scootaloo’s house hundreds of times before. The cottage always struck her as noticeably small by Ponyville standards, nothing like Rainbow’s cloud mansion. But then, Scootaloo needed earth pony floors.

Uncomfortably, noises came from within. Raised voices.

A whip cracked.

“Work, you lazy foal!” shouted a voice like tundra nails. “Work! You think Luna wants your weakling hide? I said WORK!”

The whip cracked again.

Rainbow burst through the front door, along the hallway, into the bedroom she knew from memory…

What stood there looked like snow compacted into a changeling shape. At first glance.

Then Rainbow blinked. The blank “changeling eyes” were just like eyes on a marble statue. Skin smoother than opal. Almost a perfect, platonic form of sheer pegasus-ness.

“Do you want Luna to perish in Fimbulwinter? Then be a real pegasus! Fierce! Loyal! Strong!”

There was no doubt that this statuesque creature could fly. Even standing still, it was graceful flight incarnate, like a photograph of an albatross mid-dive. The model of a dream.

Outside, something crackled. Through the window, Rainbow swore she saw the ice thicken. Briefly, the howl of a hurricane rose and fell.

“Do it perfectly or not at all! DO IT!”

The creature cracked its whip.

In the bedroom, Scootaloo whimpered.

Gone were the bed, the wardrobe, all furniture. The entire bedroom was a gymnasium, stuffed with all manner of torture devices for the health-obsessed.

There! Scootaloo: tethered to a bar on one wall. Trying to hover. Flapping her wings as hard as she could. She could barely raise hooves off the ground. Her face creased with effort.

Growling, the creature raised the whip–

Rainbow moved.

The tug caught the creature off-guard. It looked at its immobile whip. Then it looked back, at Rainbow Dash holding the other end.

Another mere tug, and Rainbow threw it out of the creature’s grip. She crouched, ready to pounce. Even shouting threats was beyond her now. She was already mentally pummelling that… creature to dust.

Rainbow Dash!” It was Scootaloo. Eyes glistening with hope.

The creature stepped between them. “What do you think you’re doing?”

Rainbow aimed a punch–

Which hit empty air.

By the time Rainbow stopped stumbling and spun around, the creature phased back into shape. It moved like lightning.

“Rainbow!” yelled Scootaloo in a flurry of limbs. “It’s not what you think!”

I don’t care!” Rainbow braced for punch number two. “We’re outta here, and no walking snow-mare’s gonna STOP US!

She swung, missed, then immediately spun around for punch three, which met the creature’s blocking forelimbs like a sword sticking into a shield. Through the push and pull on both sides, Rainbow felt a strength even an earth pony would fear.

Well, that just meant new tactics.

“Scootaloo, hop on while it’s distracted!” Rainbow splayed her wings.

Eventually, she peered past to Scootaloo’s hunched form. “What’s wrong?”

Scootaloo peered at her own bruised forelimbs, at her chipped hooves, doing nothing.

Scootaloo!” Rainbow and creature broke off, circling each other on foot, their wings curled like scimitars.

The creature growled. “She’s paying off a debt. Don’t interfere.”

“Likely story.” Rainbow lunged, jabbing furiously.

Then Scootaloo, mane an utter mess of spikes, hopped forwards, tightening the tether. Her grip around Rainbow’s leg cut deep; both Rainbow and creature stopped.

Scootaloo spoke as though in a frenzy. “Rainbow Dash, please believe me, I tried so hard, I just wanted to be awesome like you, but I know better now, honest, I really did listen to you!”

“Let go, Scootaloo! Before that thing gets a second wind.”

“But I can’t go!”

Rainbow began flapping her wings.

The creature snorted. “You should listen to the child instead of listening to your muscles. We might be matched in skill, but I’ll never allow a cheat to get away. You certainly won’t stop me.”

Yelling, Rainbow lunged forwards before realizing too late; Scootaloo’s grip and tether threw them both onto the floorboards. Rainbow’s wayward wing smacked a cycling machine.

Scootaloo sniffed. “I’m sorry, Rainbow Dash.”

Grunting under the smack’s aftereffects, Rainbow eased onto all fours. That storm had drained her worse than she’d thought…

“Sorry?” She frowned, concentrating through her throbbing concussion. “For what?”

A scroll unfurled before her, dangled by the creature. Under its flexible feathers, the word “CONTRACT” stood out.

“For this,” it snapped. “A contract eight years in the making.”

Suddenly, Scootaloo let go. That was worse than the tight grip; the grip had possessed certainty behind it.

“You think you’re saving her from a monster?” continued the creature. “This is all her fault! One winter’s eve, eight years ago, this flightless fool looked upon you with envy and admiration. Her desire burned so bright in the mortal world that it was a shooting star in the darkness. From Luna’s stars, I came to investigate. We met in her dream that very night.”

“Horse apples!” Rainbow scooped up Scootaloo in one leg, but there was nowhere to go. The creature moved as it spoke, blocking the door. And she’d seen how fast it could move.

“She asked me for a wish. She wanted to be a perfect pegasus, there and then. No waiting until Fimbulwinter, even when I explained what that meant. Such a bargain meant she’d be excluded from glorious revival. Forever dead, come the end of the world.”

Rainbow stopped circling. “What’re you talking about?”

The words had to be wrested out of Scootaloo’s mouth. “No… I mean, I wanted to… Back then… I was really, really young, OK? I so wanted… Only…”

“Only I refused!” snapped the creature. “Much too young. Ah, but her birthday was on that day, so I waited until she had aged out of foalhood and crossed over into marehood. Ten nights ago.”

Rainbow glanced at the window. If she had enough speed, a head-start, or something heavy…

“Yet she signed the contract, then not a week later tried to renounce it! NO ONE BREAKS A CONTRACT WITH ME! YOU WILL BE THE PERFECT PEGASUS, OR DIE TRYING!”

Howls rose and fell. Cold air spilled in. Most of the room iced over even as the two pegasi watched. The creature roared, raised its suddenly icicle-spiked whip…

Rainbow lashed out. At the cycling machine.

Shock crumpled her knees like hell, but the machine jumped up and crashed over the window. Or rather, over the startled creature.

It had shot over to block what should have been Rainbow making a break for it. Instead, it groaned under several kilos of exercising goodness.

Rainbow hugged Scootaloo tight and burst through the bedroom door instead, shattering its frozen hinges, snapping the tether clean off through sheer speed.

Rainbow’s reflection shimmered over the frozen streets and frozen ponies. Scootaloo struggled in her grip. The cold once more sliced its way through feathers and coat, Rainbow ploughed through air that thickened against her, under a sky too blank, with no idea what she was doing beyond getting away…

Black shapes erupted around her.

A million changelings buzzed into existence.

Rainbow almost dropped Scootaloo, she stopped so fast. They were the same changelings, all right. Only…

Where she’d hit them, chunks of layered black skin had broken off. Underneath, the same compacted whiteness shone.

Overhead, the crescent moon faded in, glowing silver. Luna streaked round from behind it, then levitated it, poised, a spitting image of the Grim Reaper.

All sides waited.

Rainbow tightened her grip on Scootaloo. “She’s coming with me!”

From Ponyville below, the whip-wielding creature shot up, right in front of Luna. It even hovered with angelic perfection and graceful sweeps of its wings.

“Cold Standard,” snapped Princess Luna. “I order you to cease this attack.”

“Your Highness.” Cold Standard bowed, but the whip remained raised to strike. “The contract must be honoured.”

“Silence! Look what your misguided anger has brought upon Ponyville! It was only my magic that kept it from spreading to the rest of Equestria. Don’t test me further.

As Rainbow rapidly turned, trying to keep all the changelings in front of her at once, she saw the edges of the world blur. Clouds faded in, swirling around them all.

From Rainbow’s warm, tight embrace, Scootaloo shifted weakly. Too weak for a foal.

“Let’s just go!” hissed Rainbow. “Scootaloo’s hurt.”

“By her own foolishness!” Luna rounded on them. “Her own self-hatred and despair! She had every opportunity to revoke the wish beforehand. I advised her in her dreams. Surely her foalhood nightmares had taught her the folly of obsession and cowardice. Dreams hold power! Enough to shape life and death, be they pursued even unto the end of the world.”

Now the clouds encircled the world, rising, blotting out the blank sky, towering over even those changelings who hovered highest. Overhead, the world reduced to a circle.

Luna cast an imperious glower at Scootaloo, as if the foal had insulted her.

Cold bit into Rainbow’s lips. Numbly, she managed to ask, “Luna… What are you saying?”

A howl echoed over the silence. Not the howl of a common wind, whistling or rushing, but the howl of the sky on the brink of death, echoing through layers of the mind, rattling the heart to its very core. It screamed of blood, ripped with ghostly teeth, and demanded fear from the very bone.

A million changelings turned to face the horizon. They shed their black skins like powder. An army of perfect whiteness surrounded Rainbow.

From the advancing cloud, eyes shone. They were two suns, almost at opposite ends of the world.

“Hati! You awoke too early!” shouted Luna. “Neither of us is ready for our final battle! Back, Monster! Back to your lair!”

Another howl rattled the ice humming like glass under the strain. Cliffs of clouds closed in, swallowing the million-strong army as they charged in. Luna shot up to the sky.

Scootaloo whimpered in the centre of it all.

Then she took a deep breath.

“All right,” she sighed. When Rainbow looked down, Scootaloo tried to look up at her. The corner of one eye glistened.

By now, a funnel enclosed the two pegasi. Rainbow landed hard on the last remaining circle of ice.

“What?” she said.

Scootaloo broke away, yet forced herself to stand before her, ready to take any punishment.

“I tried to stop it, honest I did!” Scootaloo sniffed. Already, her voice sounded crushed in her throat. “I asked Cold Standard to save you! I knew I shouldn’t have, but you were like my big sister, and I begged her not to freeze you. So I said, ‘No! I’ll make a new promise! I’ll stay here instead! I’ll train here!’ And she said, ‘Forever?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, forever, I don’t care if I miss the end of the world thing!’ I just wanted to save you. That was all!”

“You did what?” said Rainbow.

Scootaloo braced herself, just like that one night, when she’d finally admitted under the moonlight, with tears in her eyes, that she’d always wanted Rainbow Dash for a sister.

Finally, she said, “This isn’t a dream. It’s the real Ponyville. That place where you played with the fake me…” She swallowed. “That was a dream just for you. I… I thought you might like somewhere warm and sunny all day, and you’d get to sleep all you wanted, and you’d have the perfect little sister! She’d do anything you wanted, and she’d never screw up, and she’d be awesome just like you.”

What!? Why!?

From the encroaching cloud, Luna landed hard behind Scootaloo, who winced and shut her eyes.

“So she could remain here to face her penalty,” bellowed Luna. “It was my intention to tell you the truth, Rainbow Dash, but before I left, Scootaloo pleaded with me personally. Out of respect for her wishes, I refrained. So she could tell you on her own terms.”

“I’m sorry, Rainbow Dash! I’m sorry!” Even through tight eyelids, the tears streamed down Scootaloo’s face.

“But…” Rainbow stared. “No…”

No… Scootaloo didn’t do this. Scootaloo scooted around and talked about how she hated lovey-dovey stories about “finding yourself”. Scootaloo, who knew she always had Rainbow’s back…

“I don’t understand,” said Rainbow, with the creeping dread that she did. “You wanted me trapped in a dream? Forever? With a fake?

“I have my own opinion of her conduct.” Luna’s crescent-scythe materialized, ready to swing. “But that is irrelevant. Now you know the truth, Rainbow Dash. Now you understand. You and she are in the centre of it all. It is time for you to show inner strength.”

Another howl thirsted for battle. The clouds closed in. Luna vanished, scythe slashing.

Pure greyness engulfed all. Even Scootaloo began to fade, thinning to an outline, overtaken by a wall of cloud. Beyond them, the howls and the battle cries dimly broke through.

Just as the last wisps of Scootaloo faded, Rainbow reached forwards and grabbed the first leg she touched. Yanking the rest of Scootaloo closer, despite her yelp of shock, she sat down, trying to ignore the cold creeping further and further over her rump…

“What,” said Rainbow Dash, “the hay. Makes you think. I wanna be trapped. In a dream. With a fake!?

“So you’d have what you wanted!” shouted Scootaloo, eyes clenched shut in absolute dread.



Yet the more Scootaloo struggled to break free, the tighter Rainbow held on. More howls broke through. She thought she felt the slashes of invisible claws, rending her skin bit by bit…

“You stuck me in a dream with a fake!” Rainbow shouted over the wind. “What’s wrong with you!?”

“See!? You’d be better off with a better little sister than me!”

“Scared to tell me the truth?”

“NO!” The shout exploded with desperation.

“Yeah, you were! Don’t lie to me! Sisters don’t lie to each other!”

More and more, the invisible claws hacked away, making Rainbow shudder with each strike. The world beyond her and Scootaloo was pure noise. It didn’t exist: only their little corner of burning ice and struggling limbs.

Then Scootaloo collapsed onto the ice, all fight crumbling away. “I was stupid, OK!? I know better now! I know it’s OK not to fly, even if–”

“Even if Rainbow’s little sister should fly?” said Rainbow. Scootaloo-level thinking crept up on her, faster even than the cold freezing her muscles.

Both of them stopped struggling and huddled together. The cold was almost an icicle in Rainbow’s heart.

Despite her lips feeling like glass, Rainbow managed to crack a smile. “You bonehead. I don’t want a ‘perfect’ Scootaloo. I want the Scootaloo.”

“You’re just saying that! Don’t get sappy! It’s not awesome–”

“Please. I’m awesome enough to get away with sappy. So what if you aren’t a perfect pegasus like me?”

“But-but you said we had enough awesomeness between us. Between us. As in, not me on my own.”

Around them, the greyness retreated. Frozen ponies emerged like icebergs in fog. The ice began to drip and thin.

“Not cool,” muttered Rainbow.

“I’m sorry.”

“We’re sisters, aren’t we?” said Rainbow. She thought about Applejack and Rarity. “It happens. Apparently, a lot.”

“But you should have a better little sister.”

Rainbow shrugged to indicate that “should” was a word for less awesome ponies to fuss over.

“I’m sorr–”

“Stop saying that!” Rainbow crushed her head between her hooves as though trying to squeeze the sudden rage out of herself. More calmly, and with the crackle of thawing ice nearby, she said, “Look, rain or shine… uh…” How would AJ have put it? “…sisters love each other, right?”

Scootaloo flinched. “You said…”


“You know. The l-word.”

“What? Love?” Even Rainbow had to admit it was foreign as muck in her mouth.

“Don’t say it!”

“You’re afraid of the word ‘love’?”

“Stop saying it! It’s… eugh!”

“Love, love, love, love, love. Lovey-dovey wuv-wuv.”

A titter escaped from Scootaloo. An embarrassed-beyond-belief titter, but a titter nonetheless. Overhead, the clouds parted enough to reveal starlight. Around them, thawing ponies shuffled and shifted as the ice retreated. Fresh panic seized Scootaloo, who seized Rainbow’s legs.

Rainbow freed one long enough to seize her in turn.

“They’re gonna be so mad at me,” said Scootaloo in fascinated horror. “So mad… Luna was using her Royal Canterlot Voice, she was so mad.”

Quickly, Rainbow shushed her own simmering anger on the matter. Unexpectedly, she felt Scootaloo push away, bracing herself, but now facing the nearest ponies as they defrosted.

And Rainbow understood.

A final howl died. Rainbow’s forelimb wrapped around Scootaloo and stayed there.

“It’s OK,” said Scootaloo, barely controlling her voice. “I’ll take my punishment. On my own. I swear.”

“Sorry, Squirt. You don’t get an option here. Sisters stick together.”

Scootaloo tried to round on her: tricky under the strong grip. “Why? Because they have to? You can’t still like me!”

“That’s horse apples. I just said the l-word.” Rainbow shuddered. “Don’t make me say it again.”

“But look what I did!”

What Rainbow saw was the last remnants of the grey cloud thin and vanish. On the horizon, normal, familiar hills and mountains returned. There was no ice in town, but many moonlit buildings dripped and shone with damp. She wasn’t sure how to begin explaining any of this. Just sure that she had no choice.

“Yeah,” she said, trying another tactic, “but every foal had fears and hopes. Even me.”

“Yeah, but you joined the Wonderbolts. You had fans! You said you were my age, and you had fans! You were going in the Wonderbolts no matter what. Everyone knew it.”

Rainbow checked. The nearest ponies still looked preoccupied with their wet coats…

She leaned down and whispered, “I had fans. You know what I wanted, though? Friends.

Because the instant she stopped impressing ponies was the instant she found herself on her own. Cool as she was, even the teachers thought she’d been an arrogant little snot. But Rainbow suppressed the memories and the words she wanted to say. This wasn’t about her.

“But–” said Scootaloo.

If only Twilight had done this, Rainbow thought, she’d know what to say. “I know already! You’re sorry. You messed up. Big time. It doesn’t matter.”

“So if I blew up Equestria or something, that wouldn’t matter?” snapped Scootaloo.

Then Rainbow looked into her eyes. Scootaloo quivered like a cornered animal where she stood, stand defiant thought she did against the wakening Ponyville.

Rainbow stared out at the sea of faces, the march of hooves, the puzzled whispers coming towards them. She stepped into place beside Scootaloo, trying to pick her words with care.

“All right. If you’re as bad as that,” said Rainbow Dash, “then how’s this: I will personally never rest until I’ve turned you into the least bad pony ever.”

Scootaloo’s whole body focused on the ponies closing in.

So Rainbow held on tight. In the bleakest storm, she thought, never let go. Otherwise, what was the point of holding on? Anyone could hold on when it was bright and sunny.

“And I will not rest until I’ve made you so good, even the princesses would bow to you. How’s that contract? Deal?”

They met gazes. It became an impromptu staring contest.

When it came, Scootaloo’s voice was a timid sunbeam through the clouds. “D…Deal.”

Rainbow looked away first, giving Scootaloo the win.

Both pegasi faced the moonlit crowds. Briefly, Rainbow swore Luna peered through that very moon, nodding once, as though from one sister to another.
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#1 · 1
As usual, my disclaimer applies here too. Right, that's the last time I'm saying it, because I'm starting to sound like a broken record.

Bad stuff first: The twists in the last quarter feel a bit excessive after a while. I got the whole point of Scootaloo shoving Rainbow into a dream to survive the Ponyville apocalypse, and how Scootaloo's antics brought the white creatures and the Monster into the mix, but the contract thing confuses me. It says Scootaloo made a bargain when she was younger, only she didn't. Then she made a bargain when she was older. Following so far. But at times, especially with Scootaloo saying she changed her mind, it seems like the opposite is the case and the creature is just forcing it on her. I'm not sure if the creature or Scootaloo is the instigator, and it made it really hard to keep track of the details around that point. I can't help but feel that simplifying it would have helped, because if we're trying to piece a complicated story together, we're too busy for the emotional beats to land.

In that vein, I don't think the whole Monster thing is really necessary. It's cool and all, but the focus of the fic is totally on Scootaloo's insecurities and Rainbow's quest to snap her out of it. There's already a helluva lot of stuff going on, especially after a pretty thin and rushed changeling battle early on. I don't think we need a big old battle at the end too, especially when it happens mostly off-screen. The cold storm is antagonist enough at the finish.

While I'm at it, and as much as I like the back-and-forth between Scootaloo and Rainbow Dash at the end, I think it could do with some trimming. At one point, it stops to talk about Rainbow as a foal, and I still don't understand what that has to do with anything. Does it show Rainbow's not so different from Scootaloo? If so, it doesn't fully work, because Scootaloo had at least two friends as a foal and none of them seem to call her out as arrogant or snotty. Making the talk too long also kind of defuses the tension when the fight around them just sort of goes away. It was good, but anti-climactic. Maybe something more urgent is needed, like the fighting actually puts them at risk, to keep the tension going strong before the end.

And a minor point this: Luna comes across as a bit too judgemental, and I found it annoying. Yes, Scootaloo (somehow) almost caused the end of the world, but given Luna's whole history, you'd think she'd be a bit more sympathetic than this. I don't know, it just rubbed me the wrong way how she kept reacting like Scootaloo "had personally insulted her" over and over. At least tone the phrasing down or something, otherwise it makes it harder to appreciate her point.

The pacing is a little on the hectic side, especially just before the big final talk between Rainbow and Scootaloo.

That said, I honestly like this one a lot. I particularly like Rainbow Dash's characterization, especially the way her hot-headedness zigzags between being laughably impatient and being heartwarmingly protective. My favourite scene is the blizzard she fights through. The writing does a great job of selling just how big an ordeal it is on Rainbow, not just physically but to the point her mind starts losing it too (though you could've done more with that and left some lasting damage, because she seems mostly fine once she gets into Ponyville). Also, the scenes between her and Scootaloo are lovely. When there's so much adventuring and horror going on, these homey little scenes make the relationship feel more approachable, humane (so to speak), and sweet.

And damn this fic doesn't hang about. The beginning does a great job of teasing little clues that something is not right (or not so little, if Rainbow can explain away tons of snow just vanishing overnight! Um...) and the reveal of the fake Scootaloo was horrifying and chilling in just the right way. Not only does the horror work in its own right, but it makes the quest for the real Scootaloo all the more uncertain. I loved that kind of dread.

Overall, I'd say a definite good'un. It's rough in places, I won't lie, but I had a great time reading it, so kudos, author! I hope this review can help you improve it after the contest and turn it into something great.
#2 · 1
· · >>BlueChameleonVI
Again, in my review before this one, judging dreamlike quality is a toughie.

For me, this one is more clear with imagery with the right balance of dialogue. It traps the reader in the mess Scoots had caused. Plus, I do agree with BCIV that Luna using her crescent Moon like a scythe paints an epic picture in mind, making this stand out as an iconic piece. I have a weakness for bada** Luna.

My problem is (not nessecarily a problem with the piece) is that it switches off from a dreamlike quality, bridging from Rainbow's to Scootaloo's. However, this has a reality effect with it? Thimbulwinter? End of the world? Sorry, I'm lazy when it comes to implications and logic. I was confused whether this was all present in a dream (because Luna was there) or a reality (and now Scootaloo fits under the category of reformed villain loosely)

But other than that, this has the best of both worlds from two of the others- Illusion and Dream, having Luna and the dreamlike quality of it, whilst having the angst and warm and fuzzies of Scootaloo and Rainbow's relationship

And just like that, finished off with a great piece for the end of this round of reviews!
Thank you for writing! Good luck!
#3 ·
· · >>BlueChameleonVI
Okay, so. I have a disclaimer too. Author, be warned: I didn't like this story. I think it's important we get that out of the way.


Let me start with the opening. I think you've put it in the middle of your story, and we only seem to get to it after two false openings.

When I first read this story, I thought you put your opening in the second paragraph. Rainbow Dash woke up in a heatwave. The joke that comes before this is a little rote, and it's not at all what the story is about. The heatwave is what it's about, right? Well, no, that gets blown off, and RD goes to play with Scootaloo in the mountains. Okay…

And then when the conflict is getting going, we flip back to Five Days Earlier. I'm not a fan of this writing tool, and this time is no exception, but when I read this part, I thought, Here's the actual opening! We have our two characters having a lovely conversation, we have Scootaloo's inner conflict being introduced, and we now have a much better idea of what is to come. Okay.

And then we get the Three Days Earlier part, and here, in the middle of the story, is where Fimbulvinter gets introduced. This event frames the entire story, and should really be up front if you want it to be in there, because finding it in the middle was pretty blindsiding. I would recommend combining the Five Days and Three Days Earlier scenes, and move them to the beginning. That way what needs to be introduced gets introduced, and we'll be a lot better prepared for what's to come.

Now, the characterization of Rainbow Dash really threw me. I get that Rainbow has a tendency to be lazy, and to think she's very awesome, and at times to be very awesome, but she does have an off-switch. When there is a real, dire conflict, she gets serious. She gets worried.

For example, in the first scene, she shows a flippant disregard for Scootaloo's safety with the goggles being thrown away, and in the later scene where Scootaloo introduces the trick, her fears of Scootaloo getting hurt just vanish for no reason. She does get better as the story goes on, but the second scene…

In the second scene, Luna and Rainbow Dash show a terrible lack of agency. Neither of them is in a hurry to save Scootaloo, despite one of them knowing that she's being mentally tortured. And speaking of Luna, I wished she hadn't been so obtuse about what's going on. Luna is certainly unclear when it comes to her own problems, but when it's other ponies' problems, and especially in the dreamworld, she's usually a clear-instructions kind of girl, I find. And she is not a throw the dead body on the table while we talk about it kind of girl.

On top of this, all three main characters in this story drop the ball seriously hard, in their own ways, in order to facilitate the conflict. Well, maybe not so much Rainbow Dash. I'm actually on board with her when she starts yelling at Scootaloo for what she did. I mean, I know that children do stupid things, but that crosses the line for me. I can't believe she would just toss Rainbow Dash into purgatory, and also destroy Equestria. She does have other friends.

But there is an argument that Scootaloo isn't responsible for any of this. Okay, well, you know who is? Princess Luna. I don't have a great grasp on the Fimbulwinter plot, but from what I understand, she has absolutely no right to be mad at anyone in this story. She knew about this contract for years, Fimbulwinter is directly related to her, she knows the antagonist personally and can order her around, the dreamworld is her responsibility, but it's the child who's been irresponsible? And where were you when RD was breaking Scootaloo out of her prison, Luna?

The ending, I think, is also a bit of a misstep. It seems like it's going for a "you're perfect the way you are," kind of ending, but then RD has to start a new contract with Scootaloo to "make her better," which seems like the wrong lesson. I'm all for subversion, but you can't just choose the opposite ending when you've been building up to the first one. What's to stop Scootaloo from spiralling again if Dash is encouraging her to be unsatisfied with who she is?

I do have something nice to say to you, Author. I have a lot of nice things to say, actually, and I'm not just making them up. Honest.

You have an incredible imagination. I wish I could dream up plots like this. I wish I could describe scenes and characters like you can. I like a lot of your comedy—taken on its own—too. You have great one-liners. You should be proud of all this.

Seriously, you're a fuckin' badass.

But is it at all possible to rein it in? Can the narrator try less hard to impress the reader with purple prose? Maybe save the jokes for less tense moments so they don't have to compete with the tension?

This next paragraph is gonna be about what I like, personally. Take that how you will.

But my recommendation to you, Author, is to not worry so much about what's cool. Luna's scythe, the changeling battle side-quest, the gorgeous scene descriptions, the bombastic plot—for me, it all gets in the way of the enjoyment. And there is a core plot here that I can really get behind. I love these two characters, and Scootaloo thinking she needs to be better in order to "qualify" as Dash's sister is perfectly heartbreaking. But if you ask me, the plot didn't need to be obtuse, it didn't need Luna to be so entwined therein, and it didn't need Equestria to be in danger. I just wanna know that Scootaloo will be okay. That she'll escape her bad dream. That her relationship with Dash won't be destroyed by this one little insecurity.

That story is in there, underneath it all, and it can really, really shine.

Thank you for writing, Author. Best of luck to you.
#4 · 1
· · >>BlueChameleonVI
The structure of this story is very confusing. It feels choppy, disjointed and pieced together from beginning to end and it thoroughly ruined the experience for me.

There were moments that shone through, though. The climax is probably the best part of the story, if I'm honest. Based on the title alone, I was assuming that Rainbow was going to take Scootaloo's punishment for her, It would've been poetic, self-sacrificing, and a little heart wrenching when the dust settled and Scootaloo was left alone without RD.

Looking back at the very beginning, it's quite obvious it's a dream now that I know that little fact. You can't read in dreams, so that's a nice little nod to that fact at the start. Clever and subtle, I liked it.

What I didn't like is the lack of a true ending. Yes, the story ended, but that didn't mean there was an ending. You cut the story off right in the middle of the climax, and that hurt. When the ice melted, when the wolf was defeated in the town saved, Scootaloo could've had a quieter moment with her big sister. Things could've been said that took more time.

There's potential here, a lot of it. It hits a lot of notes that I like in stories, but they all just feel off-key. You just need a little more tuning, a little more practice on the basics.

Take your time, don't force all of that cool imagery into the story. Let it tell itself, just listen to the story and what it demands, then comply humbly.

You got this.
#5 · 3
· · >>BlueChameleonVI
Out of all the stories this round, I think this one has the most potential for improvement if it just had a second pair of eyes on it. It's brimming with energy and ideas and motion, but it does have trouble with executing on its ambitious goals.

In theory, I think I'd like what you're going for, in regards to the structure of the story with the flashbacks. But as they are right now, they tend to defuse tension, rather than building it up, as they should be. I think a lot of this has to do with where they're located. It almost feels like just before we actually learn something important about what's going on in present day, we're thrown back into the past. The fact that a lot of the lore-dumping in these flashback scenes doesn't seem immediately related to the conflict at hand really exacerbates this problem for a reader's first impression of the story.

Another thing I'd like to note from my own reading experience was that I found a lot of the dialogue exhausting to read. The voicing does feel strongly in-character, but you have to take into account how much emotional energy it actually takes to read emotionally charged dialogue and take it seriously. Just as a quick exercise, try glancing over every sentence of dialogue and seeing how many of them are all-capped, or end in exclamation points or question marks. When everything is depicted as ultra-high-energy like this, you're really risking washing out your reader's emotional taste buds with oversaturation.

In the end, I think you just need to pay a little more attention to how your readers are probably feeling at any given point of the story. Be aware of when you're beginning to tire them out, and try to avoid frustrating them with sudden shifts in tension and mood. Thank you for entering!
#6 ·
· · >>BlueChameleonVI
I'm not an author, so I don't have much in terms of a commentary. All I can really say is, creative lines like these:

“Oh?” Luna’s eyebrow rose like a stop sign.


The stop sign remained.

Usually make for a more interesting read, than just flat-out telling what's going on, IMO. Thank you for writing.
#7 · 1
· · >>BlueChameleonVI
I don't have a ton to say about this one. The writing was good, it kept me interested. It just confused the hell out of me, and depending on how I interpret what happened, Luna becomes more and more of an asshole.

So the nice, fun world at the beginning was a dream Scootaloo had created for Dash to live in, but this actual end-of-world stuff and the slave master and the changeling-like creatures weren't just a nightmare? That'd be the easier scenario to swallow, but you seemed to be saying that was actually happening. And Luna's only reason to be angry is over Dash being trapped in a dream? Plus she knew about it long ago, didn't do much to prevent it, and let Scootaloo convince her to keep it all secret? That's... a lot to buy. A lot.

The way the story was told out of order isn't inherently a problem, but there are usually more elegant ways to indicate when each scene is happening instead of outright saying so in headers like you did. But doing so takes word count, and you were right at the limit.

There's a mixed bag of that. It's not that conversations tended to drag for me, but neither did they feel whittled down to the most important parts. So you had word count devoted to dialogue that maybe would have done better elsewhere? As it is, the story doesn't quite feel like it fits in 8000 words either. There's a lot of world-building hinted at that I just have to accept based on a few details around the edges. And they're rather vital parts of the story, too.

I think that's my total reaction to the story. There's so much crammed into it amid all the dialogue that I'm only getting the bare bones of it all. We're mixing present day and past, perfect dream and nightmarish dream (or not-dream?), Rainbow Dash's childhood somehow getting embroiled. It's a lot to keep straight, and this could easily be twice as long before it felt like a comfortable depth. And then the end just kinds of defuses everything without much going on?

The characterization is fine. I had no problems with that, and the premise is interesting. Well, I did have the same issue as the other Scootaloo/Dash stories in that some of the language usage doesn't really suit your choice of perspective character. It's just on the hectic and disorganized side, and it's probably too much story for this word count. Sorry I don't have too much helpful to say.

Oh, and the hook? You start out just saying things are pretty normal, and it's several paragraphs before we learn otherwise. The imagery is nice enough to have some enticement, but it's not a strong opening.
#8 · 2
>>Miller Minus
>>Anonymous Potato

Ah well. I had come back with the hope that I'd improved and trained up my writing skills in the interrim, and had acquired the right mindset needed to participate. Clearly not, if this is the result.

Still, what is, is. I have taken many of these criticisms and used them to revise the story for FIMFiction.net. So for that useful information, for those of you who left it, I say thank you for commenting. Constructive criticism is always what I want and need to seek out in order to improve.

And congratulations to the medal winners. Overall, I was very satisfied with all the stories I read this round. Well done!