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Through Fire · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
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Where There's Smoke

“Nineteen, ma’am.”

“And what’s yer mark in?” drawled Mama Bear. The earth pony’s country accent was thick and foreign to Drizzles, and it took him a long moment to decipher it.

“Cloud gathering, ma’am.” he managed to stammer out, just as the mare across the desk started to give him a funny look. “In Flight School, I placed ninety-eighth percentile for Arid-Condition Moisture-Gathering.”

“Drop the ma’am, partner. Makin’ me feel older than I am.” Mama Bear rolled her eyes. “What’s a fella with your ACMG scores doing in my office, then? Seems to me that you’re on-track for a heckuva career in weather production.”

“W-well, to be honest, I don’t think I can play the corporate game.” Drizzles swallowed down the lump in his throat. “And I’ve always kind of wanted to work for a small-town department. I want to work with honest ponies, you know?”

Mama Bear laughed. For a moment, Drizzles was hurt, but then she waved her hoof in an apology.

“I’m sorry, partner, didn’t mean to offend you,” she said, her eyes sparkling. “It’s just... I didn’t expect nopony like you when I read the name ‘Persistent Rainfall.’ That a Stalliongrad name?”

“Yes, ma’am. My parents are from up north.” He adjusted himself in his seat. “But my friends all call me ‘Drizzles.’ My uncle came up with it. It’s a better translation, supposedly.”

Mama Bear fixed him with a warm smile. “Well, Drizzles, have you ever lived in a small town?”

“No, I haven’t.”

“Then let me give you some of the small-town honesty you came here for.” Mama’s posture sombered a little. “Small towns don’t have a lot of bits laying around. Myself included, we’ve got four full-timers on payroll, and we’ve got about two dozen reservists, mostly in the local weather team. Everypony else are volunteers.

“The truth is, you can make half again as many bits if you took your skills to Cloudsdale or Manehattan. And they probably won’t work you as hard as we will. You still up for the job?”

“Yes,” said Drizzles, without hesitation. “I’m not getting in this for the money.”

Mama Bear’s eyes narrowed, slightly. “Then, can you start today? We’ve got a spare bunk in the back of the station, if you don’t have a place in town yet.”

It was a test, Drizzles knew.

“Yes, I can.”

“Then the job’s yours, if you want it,” said Mama Bear standing up and offering her hoof to shake.

“Just like that?” said Drizzles as he took Mama’s hoof.

“Just like that, partner.” As she smiled, the spaces around her eyes wrinkled. “Welcome to the Ponyville Fire Department, Persistent Rainfall.”

Drizzle’s first fire was a kitchen fire. Up until then, it had been a few months of mostly getting pet cats off of roofs and cleaning up fallen trees.

It was a slow day at the station, and the six of them were in the little mess hall that doubled as a lounge, playing cards.

“Smoke!” came a shrill voice, as the door slammed open.

Drizzles jumped in surprise, banging a hoof on a leg of the flimsy table. Stacks of pretzels that they had been using as chips toppled and scattered.

“Smoke, west of Town Hall, near the lake!” said the pegasus that Drizzles only then recognized as their spotter for the day. A volunteer from the weather team, named Dew-Mist or something like that.

The spotter had to catch her breath. “I think it’s Blooming’s house! Or maybe the Sprouts’.”

All at once, the room was in motion.

Hotshot and Backburn, the two huge earth pony twins who pulled the 500-gallon engine, were out through the door before it had stopped swinging from Dew-Mist’s entrance.Their linepony, Sprinkler, wasn’t too far behind, her magic scooping up five sets of helmets and coats from the rack as she ran.

Mama Bear seemed the calmest. She dropped her cards in a motion that looked as natural as breathing and approached the spotter.

“Thank you, Dewdrop,” she said, putting a hoof on the flighty pegasus’s shoulder. “I’ll tell the boys to start taking the engine towards the west bank. But you’re gonna have to get a pinpoint on that smoke. Find us along the way, and let us know exactly whose house it is.”

“Got it, Station Chief!” Dewdrop was out the door.

“Drizzles!” said Mama Bear, snapping him out of his trance. She was already starting to move, too. “To the garage, like you’re alive.”

When they got there, Hotshot and Backburn were already in their firejackets and helmets, and they were hooking themselves up to the engine. As soon as she saw them, Sprinkler floated the last two sets of gear to Drizzles and Mama and began dressing them quickly.

Drizzles instinctively tried to help, but Sprinkler huffed in frustration.

“You’re squirming, again, rook,” she said, eyebrows furiously furrowed. “I can do it faster than you—just go limp!”

“I’m sorry!” he squeaked, just as rubberized fire-resistant straps went around his forelegs and chin and waist. Even though he was actually about a year older than her, he happily deferred to her expertise.

Mama Bear had been talking to Hotshot and Backburn the entire time while Sprinkler geared her up, telling them what she had told Dewdrops.

As soon as Drizzles’ wings were through their jacket-holes, the engine was in motion, sirens blaring. Sprinkler had a unicorn’s stamina, so she rode up top while Mama ran alongside them.

They had done some practice runs at full-trot, and Drizzles knew in his head that he was supposed to follow at fifty feet up, and call out any obstacles he saw. But today, with the adrenaline in his throat and the wind in his eyes, it was all he could do to keep up with the twins’ pace.

Just as they cut through the traffic at Town Square, Dewdrop swept down from the sky and landed in the engine next to Sprinkler.

“It’s Blooming’s house, for sure! Red Morning and Updraft confirmed for me.”

“Heard!” said Sprinkler, Hotshot, and Backburn in chorus.

“Call in whoever’s on reserve today.” said Mama Bear. “Pull a stormbank from cloudpen, just in case. I want it over Blooming’s house inside the next fifteen minutes.”

“Yes,” said Dewdrops, and she was gone again.

Two or three heart-pounding minutes later, the fire was in sight. Tongues of fire were licking up one wall of the house, and the windows were shattering in the heat. As they approached the burning building, the acrid smoke singed the insides of Drizzles’ nose. He tried breathing through his mouth, but began coughing instead.

“Shallow breaths, rook,” said Hotshot. “Through your nose, and don’t breathe it all the way in.”

Outside the house, there was a mare and her daughter, watching the fire with a fearful disbelief in their eyes. Drizzles recognized the little filly from his trips to the market—she was always begging her mother to buy her daisies for breakfast.

Mama went straight up to the mare as the twins unhitched themselves and began working the engine’s pump. Sprinkler held the hoses (or “pipes”, as she called them), and pointed them to the center of the fire.

“Blooming, is there anypony still inside?” said Mama.

“No,” said the mare. “No, I don’t think so.”

“Do you know how it started?”

“I think Cheerilee was trying to make me breakfast while I was asleep. She was crying, and when I came downstairs the stove was smoking and the drapes were on fire, too. I couldn’t put it out, so I took her and ran.”

“You did the right thing,” said Mama. She turned back to her team.

“No need to go in, so let’s play it gentle. Sprinkler, we’re gonna contain until they bring in the stormbank. Drizzles, see if you can put together a suppressive shower while we wait.”

Drizzles nodded and flung himself skyward, where somehow the heat and the smoke were even worse. He gave the fire a wide berth, and began flying a lazy fifty-foot circle above it.

Gathering moisture from the air was something that always came naturally to him. As a colt, he’d whip up a fog in his bedroom while playing out the dramatic scenes with his cowboy action figures. It was as easy as blinking, usually.

Today, the airid thermal updraft from the fire had wicked away all of the moisture in the air, and Drizzles was fighting to put together scraps.

By his second lap, he only had a wispy little thing in his hooves the size of a watermelon. His firejacket was heavy as lead, and he was still hacking out his throat from the smoke. Each time he coughed he jostled his precious cargo, and lost a few more strands of moisture.

It wasn’t until his eighth time around that he had something big enough to start a rainshower with. He followed protocol for a suppressive downpour, and spread out the cloudstuff in an area large enough to cover not only the burning house, but the neighboring houses and fields as well. He kicked it to get it going, and finally a gentle rainstorm began that would protect everything else in the area from the fire.

Just as he glided down to land, panting and coughing, he heard Mama Bear’s voice call out.

“Stormbank’s here, folks!”

Exhausted, Drizzles fell into the grass on his back, as a team of four or five pegasi above him pulled in a dark cumulonimbus cloud and parked it above Drizzle’s set-up of cirrus.

All five pegasi kicked it, and thunder growled from within the cloud as it released its payload: a downpour hard enough to instantly soak Drizzles to the bone, despite his rubberized jacket.

Combined with Sprinkler’s coordinated linework, the fire was down to embers less than three minutes later. The wall was damaged, but the house was standing.

Drizzles only distantly felt relief as he fought to catch his breath, head still spinning from exertion.

The twins and Mama Bear were already entering the house to carry out follow-up actions, when Sprinkler knelt down next to Drizzles in the grass.

“Nice work, Drizzles.”

“I didn’t—” He paused to pant and cough. “I didn’t do that much.”

“Sure you did,” said Sprinkler. “We usually need three or four pegasi to set up a covering shower from scratch in the time that you did.”

“B-but, the stormbank…”

“Got here in less than a third of the time it usually does,” explained Sprinkler. “Blooming lives right next to the lake, which is where the cloud corral is parked. Ponyville covers a big amount of area. Sometimes, it can be almost an hour before we get a stormcloud, and only if there is one in reserve.”

“Okay…” said Drizzles. He was too tired to dredge together any kind of emotional response.

Sprinkler chuckled at him and pulled out a little plastic bag with a glowing gem in it.

“When the docs get here, get yourself checked out for smoke inhalation. Next time, don’t fly so close when you’re doing your loops.”

She held out the bag with the gem to Drizzles. He shot her a questioning look.

“It’s a sapphire with a wind charm on it. Open the bag around your muzzle, and breathe. It’ll help with the smoke in your lungs until the docs get here.”

“Thank you,” said Drizzles, taking it from her.

“You should ask Mama to give you one, too. Every good firepony carries at least one of these on them.” Sprinkler smiled sweetly at him. “You did good today, rook. Really.”

“.... Thank you.”

The first time Drizzles lost against a fire, was about a year after he and Sprinkler were married.

It was one of their nights on-call, when a volunteer literally bucked down the door to their cottage and yelled loud enough to instantly wake them both.

“Fire! Down south! We think it’s the apple fields!”

“Darn it!” Drizzles cursed out loud, as he tried to untangle himself from Sprinkler and their sheets in almost total darkness. “Darn it, darn it!”

By the time they reached the station, Mama Bear and the twins were already geared up. The look on Mama’s face was somber.

“It’s a big one,” she said. “Volunteers say that we’re at almost an acre ablaze, with at least fifteen hundred feet of uncontained border.”

“Holy smokes,” said Sprinkler, as she pulled jackets over herself and Drizzles.

“I’ve told Minty to wake up the whole weather team,” said Mama. “But they don’t have any stormbanks after last week’s thundershower. It’s going to take them some time to funnel up the water from the lake and bring it over to the fire.”

As she talked, Sprinkler flicked on the siren, and the twins began to pull the engine out onto the road, their pace measured in the pitch-blackness. Hotshot and Backburn both carried a lantern around their necks, and so did Drizzles as he flew in formation above them.

But the path to the Apple Farm was an unfamiliar one, and their lanterns only illuminated a frustratingly short distance ahead of them. Every time a wheel got caught in some unseen root or ditch in the dirt road, Drizzles cursed himself as he landed to help Mama and the twins push the engine back out.

When they were in the middle of the thickest, darkest part of the woods, a pegasus volunteer landed next to them.

“It got to the farmhouse!” he said, fear in his voice. “They might still be inside!”

In the light of his lantern, Drizzles saw Mama Bear’s composure sag.

“Drizzles,” she said. “Leave your lantern with Sprinkler. I want you to go ahead of us and set up some kind of precipitation. I don’t know the situation, so I’ll let you judge what kind of coverage we’re going to need.”

As Mama turned to the volunteer, Drizzles waited, just in case there was any information he had to hear.

“Do you know how quickly the Weather Team can get a cumulus there?” asked Mama Bear.

“The captain said forty-five minutes.”

“We’ll be on-site at the farmhouse in twenty. As of now, the fire in the fields is second-priority.” She turned to Drizzles. “Go!”

Drizzles nodded, as Sprinkler’s magic took the lantern from between his teeth.

He launched straight up to clear the trees first, and then he saw the dull glow of the fire, a thousand or two yards away.

Swooping down, in the darkness, he had to circle the blaze almost an entire turn before he finally made out the shape of the farmhouse, on fire.

The fire in the apple orchards didn’t seem to be endangering anything else, right now. The next farm over had a river between them, which’ll buy some time. Drizzles decided that he didn’t have to spare orchard fire any effort for now, and chose instead to put together the heaviest downpour he could on the farmhouse.

The huge thermals from the blaze were wide enough to block off any attempt at a full loop, so he back-tracked a semi-circle above the farmhouse six or seven times, gathering moisture.

When he had a sizable cloud he dragged it into place, and slammed both forehooves down on it. A decent downpour fell on the burning building, and the air around him snapped with vaporized humidity.

As he glided down to assess, another volunteer flew up to him.

“Are you with the FD?” she asked.

“Yes!” he said, hovering to match her altitude.

“We’ve found them! They were in the brook, next to the farmhouse, but we took them to the road.”

“Them?” he asked. “The Apples?”

“Yes, the Apples.”

“How many?” he asked. But his voice was lost to the wind and the crackle of the fire.

The volunteer’s face twisted in confusion.

“How many family members did you find? Did you find them all?”

“Six,” she said. “We found six of them, and they’re by the western road, now.”

Drizzles only knew the Apples as distant acquaintances, and he added up the faces that he knew.

“Thank Celestia,” he said, finally. “I think that’s all of them, thank Celestia.”

For a moment, Drizzles thought as quickly as he could.

“Go find the Engine,” he said to the volunteer. “It’s on the road in Whitetail; you should see their lanterns. Tell them that there’s nopony in the farmhouse, and I can have it contained until the stormcloud gets here. They should go contain the blaze in the fields.”

“Yes, sir!” the volunteer saluted before zipping away.

From there, it was a straightforward task to keep his cloud above the farmhouse in-place and stocked up with moisture. By the time the weather team arrived with a little stormcloud a bit more than half an hour later, Drizzle’s wings were sore, and he collapsed on the grass.

He watched as the fire quickly went out, under the full-blown downpour. The farmhouse was still structurally sound, he noted with a swell of pride.

Just as he lay his head down to rest, a pegasus stallion landed next to him in a hurry.

“Where’s the engine? We need to get some lanterns down to the west road, right now!”

“What’s wrong, partner?” said Drizzles. The inside of his head was fogged from exertion, and it didn’t make sense to him that this volunteer was so riled up.

“The ambulance can’t make it up the road without light. They need a lantern!”

Instantly, the fog in his head was blasted away by a pang of adrenaline.

“Ambulance?! What do you mean?”

“The family’s in bad shape, sir! Smoke inhalation. I think the husband and wife got the worst of it. Their oldest said that they had to go back into the house for their baby and their mother.”

Oh, no. Oh, Celestia, no⁠—I should have⁠—

Drizzles pawed at his jacket for the wind gem he kept in his pocket. When he found it, he launched himself into the air. But his wings burned at the sockets and refused to flap, and he fell face-first into the dirt only a few feet away.

The volunteer panicked and tried to pull Drizzles back to his feet. Drizzles ignored the assistance, and instead pushed the plastic bag in his hooves into the other pony’s.

“Wind gem; it’ll help with breathing. Put the bag around their face.”

The pegasus stallion still looked confused, but he nodded and took off.

Drizzles watched him go, and when he was out of sight, he closed his eyes and tried to squeeze them tight enough to force away the thoughts in his head.

His body was exhausted and spent, and he passed out, asleep, minutes later.

He only found out in the morning that Mac and Buttercup didn’t make it through the night.

Drizzles’ last fire was about six years after he had retired from the Department.

He and Sprinkler decided it would be for the best, for one of them not to have to be on-call when they started having foals. Now with Sprinker’s first baby on the way, Mama Bear set Sprinkler up with a job in the new communications room, coordinating the messages that the volunteers sent each other with the dragonfire that Spike donated to the Department. The twins ran their engine with two new lineponies: pegasi who both used to be in the reserves.

Drizzles himself finally got that job at weather production, for the extra bits it’ll bring in for the new foals. It was a desk job, mostly, and it was so easy that sometimes he felt guilty for the paychecks he got. He almost never met anypony from outside the office, and he certainly never came home smelling of smoke or sore down to his hooves.

One day he was making small talk in the office, when suddenly it felt like his very soul was torn out from his chest.

He fell on the floor, whimpering in pain, as the mare he was talking to did the same. When he rolled his sick, tired eyes to her, his heart dropped into his belly when he saw that her cutie mark was gone.

For hours, they stayed like that, confused and barely able to do anything but breathe.

But the feeling suddenly passed, and then Drizzles was on his hooves again, adrenaline pounding and his cutie mark back on his flank.

He broke a window, leaping out of his office’s third floor.

When he got to the fire station, he found Sprinkler and almost tackled her in a hug. The two stayed like that for a minute, before Sprinkler firmly pushed him away.

“Whatever did that, they say it’s called a ‘Tirek’,” she said, showing him some of the mail she received. “There was some kind of magical confrontation between it and the Princess, and from what I can tell, nopony is hurt, thank Celestia. But now there’s a bunch of little fires across town. The biggest ones are near the square—Mama Bear and the boys are already headed there. I know you’re not on with the department anymore—”

“But they could use the help,” Drizzles finished her sentence. “I’ll go. Stay safe, love.”

“I will!” she said, as she wrapped a fire jacket and a helmet around him. It was a familiar, much-missed sensation.

Drizzles launched himself straight up as soon as he was clear of the building, and headed to the biggest fire he could see. There was so much smoke in the air that he could barely recognize the town below him.

It took him seven minutes to put together a drenchworthy cloud—three minutes longer than he would have if he wasn’t so rusty. But the motions and the actions came back to him as he worked, and by the time he kicked the cloud to start off the downpour, it was like he never quit.

When he landed to assess, only then did he realize what building he had just put out. There were blasted scraps of pages on the ground, their ink running and soaking in the rain that Drizzles had started.

Across from where he stood, Princess Twilight sat on the ground near the ruined library, clutching two or three intact books to her chest. She was pointed away from him, her body shaking gently at periodic intervals.

As he approached her, he realized she was crying.

Drizzles sat down next to her and put a wing over her shoulder.

Princess Twilight jumped at first, and then gently pushed his wing aside and she tried to wipe away her tears.

“After all that happened today,” she said, “I know that one little library isn’t exactly a big deal. It’s all just stuff, but…. But…”

Sobs overtook her words again, and Drizzles nodded.

“I know, partner. I know how it is,” he said.

Twilight’s sobs broke into a fit of coughing, and Drizzles saw how pale her face looked.

He reached into his shirt pocket, and pulled out the wind gem that he never stopped carrying with him.

“Here,” he said. “Breathe slowly. This’ll help clear your lungs.”

Twilight took the little bag, and breathed into it, and cried into it, and slowly she calmed down. Finally, she looked up into his eyes for the first time.

“You’re Persistent Rainfall, right? The firepony?”

“My friends call me Drizzles. And it’s former firepony.”

Twilight nodded, slumped forwards. Drizzles put his wing around her again, and this time she didn’t recoil.

“Do you ever feel like you could have messed up really badly, Drizzles?” she asked. She didn’t seem like a Princess at that moment. Just a tired girl.

“Yes,” he said. “I have. But I reckon that you didn’t mess up, today.”

“Why do you say that?” asked Twilight. “How can you be sure?”

“Well, would you have done anything differently?”

Twilight blinked in confusion. “Huh?”

“I mean, if you had the chance to redo this whole thing, what would you have done different?”

“Nothing, I guess.”

“Yep,” said Drizzles. “Whenever I think about the jobs I messed up, there’s always something I wish I had done differently. If you realize that you wouldn’t have done anything differently, that’s when you know that it was a win.”

“Okay,” said Twilight.

Her horn lit up, and the books in her grasp teleported away. To somewhere safe, Drizzles assumed.

“Thank you for putting this out,” she said, motioning to the ruined treehouse. “I’ll be back tomorrow to go through it again. And I’ll probably cry again.”

“I reckon that’ll be just fine, sugarcube,” said a new voice, from behind them.

Drizzles turned around.

Applejack was so much taller and so much older than when he last saw her. In Drizzles’ memory, she had always been a frightened little girl who had just lost her mother.

She wore a gentle, bright smile on her face that broke into pieces when she began to cough from the smoke. Applejack took her father’s hat off her head and fanned it across her face.

Twilight offer Applejack the gem, and quickly explained it to her as Drizzles watched.

The young mare, who looked so much like her mother, took the little bag in her hooves and breathed into it, slowly.

“Thanks, sugarcube,” she said. She offered the bag back to Drizzles. “Is this yours, Mr. Drizzles?”

It took him a moment to recover from the surprise that she remembered his name, but he shook his head.

“Keep it,” he said. “I want you to keep it.”

Just as her head tilted in confusion, Drizzles cut her off before she could speak.

“I’ve gotta go find my Engine. Stay safe, now.”

He launched before they could reply, and flew up and up until he could see all of Ponyville below him.

« Prev   2   Next »
#1 · 2
· · >>Bachiavellian
This is a really solid entry. I don't know if the firefighting stuff is realistic, but it feels realistic to someone who doesn't know any better. The drama is ever-present without being over-the-top. And most importantly, it felt satisfying, both in its conclusion, and in the waypoints along the way as you resolve the various sub-tensions. In other words: good job!

Anyway, I have one semi-major suggestion and several minor ones. To start with the little ones: first, this is another story where the editing gets worse as it goes along, (missing words, tense mix-ups, close repetition, especially of the word "fire," etc.); since it's still pretty solid even at its "worst" (I only point it out at all because there's a noticeable transition), I'm assuming that's a ran-out-of-time problem, and that I don't need to give you any advice on cleaning up technical stuff. Second, I think Mama Bear's accent is a mistake, for the reason that it immediately causes me to place this story in Appleloosa (or "the West," generally), and there's nothing to correct me until the very last line of the first scene; I'd either give her no accent/and accent that won't mislead readers, or place the story in Ponyville earlier. Third, I feel like the last line is kind of weak; I love the last scene, but I'd think a little bit about the actual last words the reader takes in, and how to make them reinforce the themes of the story more strongly.

The slightly-less-minor suggestion is to add one more scene between Drizzles' first fire and his first loss. I don't think an additional scene is necessary for your major themes, but it would really help one aspect of the story: his and Sprinkler's marriage. I'd like an extra scene between "he's the incompetent rookie" and "now they're married" to help set up that romance. The extra chapter wouldn't have to be about that romance, any more than any of the other chapters are--it wouldn't even need to be "they're dating now, btw" (though it could be). But just giving us a chance to see the two of them interacting in a more friendly way during another fire would make that progression feel more natural, IMO.

Again, though, these are relatively minor suggestions, and the last point in particular verges on telling you how you "should" write your story. Excellent work; this is one I really enjoyed reading!
#2 · 1
· · >>Bachiavellian
Overall, I think it is a great story. However, I do agree with Chris about adding an extra scene in-between Drizzles first fire and first loss. It's pretty jarring. But everything else? I thought you handled pretty well. Honestly, I wasn't aware of when the story took place, but that happened to help the twist. I hope to see another story like this.
#3 · 1
· · >>Bachiavellian
I'm going to preface all of my comments with the fact that I don't know that much about writing as of yet. Neither have I looked through others' reviews of these stories. With that in mind:

This was astonishingly well put together. The backstory was well woven in, the dialogue flowed nicely, the descriptions and the characters' actions were thought-out to the detail (especially the details — the story was just rich with those, like Drizzles upending the table they were playing at, and not remembering the spotter's name). Almost everything the reader learns about the characters is shown, and its shown well… makes me wish the story was longer, where the characters themselves were described a little more thoroughly (I'm particularly curious about where Mama Bear got her name from).

I really can't think of anything to improve. Maybe if you made the message in the end tie somehow to the beginning, or hint at it? I don't know, maybe you already did, and I just was too dense to see it — there was so much showing done I might've glossed over it.

All in all, a fantastic story. Thank you for writing.
#4 · 2
· · >>Bachiavellian
A really solid piece about an original character, which is something that's hard as hell to do. But you manage to create and develop not only your protagonist well, but the Ponyville fire brigade in general. Particularly Mama Bear, who really steals the show.

Three points of criticism. The first is minor: the timeframe for this story. It's vaguely illustrated how much time passes from Drizzles (sidebar: would "Drizzle," singular, be a better nickname for him? Sounds more natural) moving to Ponyville, and the end of the story, and our only concrete point of reference for the passage of time is how much time passed in between each episode of his life.

I dunno, I found the timeframe hard to follow on my initial read. Like I said, it's a minor incident.

The second involves his marriage to Sprinkler. Outside of their first scene together, where they have a short exchange and a hint of chemistry, we really don't get to see what they're like as a couple, beyond a hug and some expository dialogue. I'd like to see more interplay between them, and more of that initial chemistry in their interactions.

Finally, the ending. It's a little awkward that the story wraps up on Drizzle comforting Twilight, only for Applejack to come in and steal the spotlight. I feel like it'd be make more narrative sense, be more cohesive, to replace Twilight with Applejack altogether. The story implies that Drizzle still feels the impact of the Apple parents' deaths, all these years later, and that he considers it a personal failure. Giving that exchange about failure and regret to Applejack, rather than Twilight, would help sell that point, a point which is currently a bit thinly developed.

I don't have much else to say. On the whole, very enjoyable. Nicely structured, good prose. Pretty stuff. However, you wrote "Drizzle's" instead of "Drizzles'" at one point, which means I'm knocking your score down to 8/10.
#5 · 1
· · >>Baal Bunny >>Bachiavellian
I had trouble getting into this one, unfortunately. As much as I'm a fan of these understated, invisible prose, well-dialogued stories (which is what will carry you high on my ballot, Author), I think our choice of main character is very suspect.

I want to urge caution when you bring in your own "fringe" character like this, because it's very easy to forget that his story needs to be more interesting than those of the canon characters. Here, I felt the only reason I wanted to stick with Drizzles and not the others was that I had seen their stories already. But I couldn't say his was more interesting, and in fact, it seems to only be tangentially related to the canon. I was hoping for something more intertwined, you know?

Let me try to break it down. With a character like this, I can see an interesting story materializing out any combination of three methods.

The first would be to show how Drizzles affected the canon. You tease that a little bit, with Drizzles' interactions with the apples, but he's still quite uninvolved. He's there, but he doesn't affect much. Why are we following this firefigher, and not the others? What interesting angle can he bring to the loss of AJ's parents? As it is, he and AJ have nothing really connecting their stories, which should happen if you want this character to feel like part of the canon.

The second way is to show how the canon affects Drizzles. This, I think is your stronger connection, because clearly he wanted to help, but couldn't. Yet I never felt like we dug deep into that, especially with the last scene shifting the attention over to canon again. He feels awful momentarily for the suffering parents, but once they were out of the building wasn't their care completely out of his scope of work? What does he have to feel guilty about? There may have been room to expand there, but then there's a timeskip.

The last option would be to make his own story, the one that's got nothing to do with the canon, more exciting. His development as a firefighter, his relationship with his colleagues, his marriage, etc. But we kinda... skip most of that. Hell, why is he even there? The story begins with his strange decision to choose a tougher life than he needs to, and I was expecting there to be more built on top of that. I mean, it's right there at the beginning, and he seems so secretive about why he's making this decision. But I never understood why. Again, room to expand.

That's really the crux of it. There's a lot to like about this story, and others have touched on that, but the fringe character angle didn't super work for me, and I hope I was able to explain why.

Thanks for writing!
#6 · 2
· · >>Bachiavellian
It's pretty rare to see a story carried this well almost exclusively by original characters. The tie-in to the Apples feels natural and not at all like we're resting on canon sadness for OC character growth, which deserves a completely unironic round of applause. Less robust of an interaction with Twilight at the end, and I agree with Pohs Posh that shifting that over to AJ would be more thematically fitting; doubly so because I can't quite imagine Twilight sitting on her haunches, destroyed home or no, while a non-trivial percent of Ponyville is burning around her. A bunch of little fires can turn into a bunch of big fires awful fast.

Learned that from experience. Had to hide from a helicopter once. Real scary night.

But, still. Pretty fantastic over all.
#7 · 2
· · >>Bachiavellian
While >>Miller Minus is being:

A bit harsh on this story FOR SOME UNFATHOMABLE REASON, I'll agree with a couple of his points. The question of why Drizzles is in Ponyville remains a mystery, and I'd personally like some resolution to it. And while I love filly Cheerilee letting us know when the story's taking place, I'd like that information sooner, author. So let me suggest starting the story a scene earlier as Drizzles is flying into Ponyville. He could compare/contrast his first impression of the place to Stallionigrad or Cloudsdale or wherever he's just come from, then he could meet Bright Mac and Pear Butter in some way that further reinforces his decision that Ponyville is the place for him: friendly folks, lovely countryside, et cetera, et cetera. This'll strengthen his reason for wanting to be here, will tell us where we are time-wise right at the top, and will give him a connection to the Apples early on to make that middle scene even more devastating.

#8 ·
· · >>Bachiavellian
Okay, so a lot of our reviewers how strong the OCs come across, and I think I have to echo that sentiment. Overall, I think I really like the idea of this story, to kind of showcase this relatively low-key SoL that also has a dramatic twist to it.

Unfortunately, I can kinda feel the execution fall apart towards the end. The last scene is, well, playing pretty fast and loose with tying up as many loose ends as it can. Applejack's appearance is kind of sudden, and Drizzle's little pep-talk to Twi also feels a little... unwarranted? In contrast to how the first scenes handle their character work, this feels ham-fisted in comparison.

You're definitely not hitting the word cap, so I'm going to assume that you might have hit the time limit. As it is right now, it's a little abrupt-feeling, and it doesn't quite develop it's payoff to the fullest extent. Which is a shame; I'd really like to see what this piece can do if it had the space to breathe.
#9 · 1
· · >>Baal Bunny
Congrats to Baal, georg, and Miller on their medals! Craaaazy close round this time around; I think this is the first time I've seen top-slate votes go down this far. What I'm saying is, this was a really competitive round, which was really cool to see!

Retrospective: Where There's Smoke

Okay, so I kind of gave up on this story twice.

The very first idea I had was do to a piece about how firefighting works in Equestria, but I honestly thought that was kind of boring, and I ditched it pretty early in my brainstorming process. For most of Friday and Saturday, I was playing with the idea of writing a rom-com shipping story, where somepony is trying to date a Wonderbolt, but has to get through Spitfire first. I'm a genius, aren't I?

Well, that idea went absolutely nowhere, so on Sunday I ressurected the firefighter idea (thanos_back_to_me.jpg) and tried to hammer it out. I got the idea of this firefighter who would help put out fires in each of the Mane 6's houses over the span of the show, and I wrote the first scene with that in mind.

And then I was stuck for about an hour, trying to figure out how to order the Mane 6's scenes, and how the logistics of firefighting in the MLP universe would work. Eventually, I got frustrated, told the Discord chat that I gave up, and started playing video games for a couple of hours.

And then, since my muse is a bitch, I got some ideas about 9PM. So of course I had to sit down and slam them all out, before passing out around 3AM with a 9AM meeting the next day. Unsurprisingly, the last scene (which I wrote in a questionable state of wakefulness) made me cringe and pull on my hair when I read it the next morning.

But honestly, I like this idea. I got some great advice from ya'll, and I'm seriously considering expanding/publishing it. Thanks!

Yeah, so this story went from having about 7-9 planned scenes to the 4 that you see now. Totally agree that we should have had at least one or two between the first fire and the Apple fire.

As for Mama's accent, I kind of like the unexpected reveal of Ponyville, but I'm gonna lose that element anyway if/when I publish to Fimfic, so I guess it's one of those things that's gotta go. To expand a bit more on the idea, I kinda wanted to base it a bit on my own real life experience of moving to the South, having absolutely no idea what anyone was saying for a year or two, and then eventually starting to sound like them. So, I've tried to make Drizzles sound more and more "country" throughout the story. I thought it was a neat idea at the time, but in retrospect I guess it'd be hard for the readers to notice, let alone care.

Thank you for your thoughts!

Regarding the need for another couple of scenes, I agree too! Having more scenes before the Apple fire would probably also give me more chances to clue the reader in on the time period, considering that the only one so far is that one-word reference to filly Cherilee. Happy you enjoyed it, and thanks for leaving a comment!

>>Anonymous Potato
Thank you for your kind words! Yeah, to be honest, I did totally kind of do a bad job of working with any of the themes of this story, especially with how I kinda flubbed the ending. So I totally agree with you that the message needs a bit of work to really come out. You're not being dense⁠⁠—⁠I was being lazy. :P

As for Mama Bear's name, the IRL explanation is that when I was outlining the characters, my stand-in name for the station chief (who's main qualities I knew was going to be female, older, protective, and southern) was "Mama Bear" in my notes. And then, honestly, I just couldn't think of a better name, so I stuck with it, even though it's a bit un-Equestrian and more than a little bit on-the-nose.

The in-universe explanation is that her parents were zookeepers, or something. :P

Thank you for your review!

Particularly Mama Bear, who really steals the show.

Originally, each character of the fire department was going to get their own little "showcase" scene. Mama's was the first two, then the each of the twins would get their own, then Sprinkler, then a character that I cut (who would be handling communications/dragonfire, a role I eventually repurposed for Sprinkler), and then Drizzles would get a chance to shine. This was going to line up with the original idea of putting out a fire at each of the Mane 6's houses, ending with Twilight's treehouse after Tirek. So, basically, Mama Bear was the only one who got the spotlight, because I apparently can't plan stories on the fly. :P

Yeah, that last scene is just a total flipping mess. That's where I know I'm going to have to do the most work, if I want to publish this. I'll probably axe like 70-80% of it, honestly.

And also, I originally wrote "Drizzle's" like every time, and it looks like I only caught about half of them. Blugh!

Appreciate you leaving your thoughts!

>>Miller Minus
Right, I totally get what you're saying about how this story doesn't really go anywhere. I guess that's what I get when I change the point of the story like three times in the middle of writing. And yeah, I kind of completely forgot to mention anything at all about why Drizzles decided to go to Ponyville in the first place. Blughhhhhhhhh; that was sloppy of me.

I think I was kind of going for your option 2 here in my original idea of this story, and then it started kind of morphing into option 3 while I was writing. Which, of course, wasn't really helped by the fact that I ended up axing 3 or 4 scenes that were meant to develop the other fire department members other than Mama. Blughhhhhhh!

Thank you so much for your thoughts; I always appreciate your criticism!

Yes, that last scene was just a mess. I was really just trying to tie a pretty little bow on as many of the lingering plot points as I could before I passed out. There was literally a moment, when I chose to re-introduce AJ, that I said out loud "Because it's fucking thematic or something!", in frustration at myself. It's just.... not a shining example of cohesive storytelling.

Happy you seemed to like it, though! And you're going to need to tell me this helicopter story someday. (If you're up for it, of course).

>>Baal Bunny
Miller is being harsh for COMPLETELY FATHOMABLE REASONS, MY STORY IS KIND OF A SLOPPY MESS. But really, I appreciate your thoughts! I kind of like the thought of having a scene where Drizzles gets to interact with Ponyville people in a non-firefighter context, so thank you for that suggestion!

You're a thot.

Okay, so that's all folks! I'll see you guys for the next round, and maybe a few of ya'll sooner, at BC. Take care!
#10 · 2
· · >>Bachiavellian
Oh damn, I really like this.

It really feels like we're following Drizzles through his life here, nervous Rookie to weary veteran. Not the most content heavy entry I've ever seen--very much vignettes in the life kind of feel--but very solid.

That little bit of interaction with Applejack at the end was fantastic.
#11 · 2
· · >>Bachiavellian

I made that:

"Unfathomable" comment because I was absolutely and totally convinced that this was Miller's story. But then I was similarly convinced that "Golden Alicorn" was Chris's entry. I'm always so sure of everything... :)

#12 ·
Thank you for leaving your thoughts!! I'm happy you liked it, even though we might have to disagree with how good the ending was. :P

>>Baal Bunny
Ah, I getcha! Yeah, I know what you mean; I stopped submitting guessing slates because no matter how sure I am of who wrote something, I'm always wrong every time.