Hey! It looks like you're new here. You might want to check out the introduction.

All the Time in the World · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
To Prepare A Paradise
Daybreak was a nightmare for the pony who calls himself Castellan Harrows.

The bed creaked underneath his weight when he sat himself up, watching as the sun crested the distant hills. Like always, he smiled at it through the grimace leaking between his teeth. Like always, his eyelids fluttered in protest. Like always, there was a stir in his back, one fixed with him giving it a light stretch. The sunlight between his windows merely cackled, and though he had half a mind to tell it off, there was nothing to be gained from screaming at the orange-colored sky, especially since his voice didn’t have the rich timbre as it had so effortlessly flaunted before. Casting his daily blasphemies into the wash basin, he freshened himself up and gathered his saddlebags before trotting downstairs, smiling when the savory aroma of pumpkin potage swirls into his snout. “Breakfast smells wonderful!”

“Markets just stocked up on peppercorn, so I’ve made it extra special today!” came her response, her voice sweet and delicate as always despite her age. At his silence, she poked her head out from the kitchen doorway and shot a citrine glare at the saddlebags around his waist, giving him an insistent wave of the ladle in her hoof. “I’m telling you, you really don’t want to miss out on this. I think this might be my best batch yet!”

“Don’t have much of a choice, unfortunately. Business as usual.”

A pout, before she slunk back into the kitchen. “You know, sometimes, I find myself wondering which one of us did you actually marry, Castellan.”

He chuckled. “You know how things are with her.” He tossed a stray glance at the rising sun as he put on his robe, wrinkling his snout when he noticed the disheveled pony scowling at him from the mirror. “Been a rough few days, hasn’t it?”

“I’m not even sure if it’s a few days anymore.”

“I wouldn’t blame you for not keeping track, Marigold.” He crept into the kitchen and snuck a kiss on his wife’s cheek, to which he was richly rewarded with a sunny giggle. “Tell the children I love them.”

“Love you too, Castellan. Give her hell.”

“Always do.”

Castellan was not prone to spite like his wife can be, though he had found himself tested on that front lately. Head held high as he stepped out the door, he carried himself down the weathered roads, taking care not to stumble into any mud puddles along the way. His heavy gaze breezed eastward, soaring above the thatched roofs before settling onto the derelict stone walls in the distance, still standing thanks in part to the blanket of scaffolds pitched up against it. Making his approach, he arrived at the gateway, the portcullis that once stood there now a twisted mess of splintered metal resting on the side of road, the salvageable sections of which are being cut out by the construction workers to be reused.

“Forepony!” he called out to one of them, receiving a jovial wave in return. “Have you did as I asked?”

“Yes, my Lord!”

“Excellent! How goes the reconstructions?”

“Swimmingly, my Lord! Just need some signatures from the royal office!”

“Will get to it in a bit!” he yelled back, saving only a gruff sigh for himself as he marched through the gateway. Misery, having been clinging onto his hooves throughout his short journey, now dragged his shoulders into the dirt, his eyes spiraled towards the towers of the royal palace. “If I’ll ever get to it at all.”

Just another day in Canterlot.

“Lord Harrows.” The mare-in-waiting, Coral Bell, was standing by the noticeably-empty throne when Castellan entered, her greeting accompanied by a light curtsy and a strained smile. “I trust your morning was... pleasant.”

“It almost was, in fact.” He glanced around. “Where is she?”

“In her study, as usual.” A pair of rusted sighs, almost simultaneously, before the two of them began striding down the hallways. “Honestly, do pardon me for saying this, my lord, but I’m at my wit’s end dealing with her. I’ve tried everything I could to get her out of there, Lord Harrows, everything!”

“I share your sentiments, I really do,” he confessed. “However, I implore you to just hold on a little longer, Ms. Bell. Curry your patience. You and I both knew this would happen.”

“She’s been in there for weeks, Lord Harrows! Months, probably!”

“Years, I’d reckon.” His subsequent laughter was as strangled as it was solitary. “Alright, I’ll have you know that it has only been a few days, Coral. I know one cannot fully tell in these troubling times nor would they bother to. Nonetheless, I seek to change that, sooner or later. When it comes, I may need your help to do so.”

“I’m but a mere servant, my Lord Steward.”

“I am nothing more than that as well, yet it is exactly that for which we are important, so please, Coral. Just a little longer.”

On that day, Castellan bore witness to a stare that made his shins quiver, second only to that of his wife’s. The ticking seconds of silence were quickly broken when she sighed, and though it may have sounded more like a snarl to his ears, it was one of surrender all the same. “I suppose you have some sort of a plan to handle her.”

“Nothing concrete, admittedly. I’ll be trying my best regardless.”

“Should you require me, you need only ask,” she grumbled, to which he managed an apologetic nod. “Good luck, my Lord Steward.”

The study was a short trot from the throne room. It was a place he frequented to in the past, when his spirits were brighter and the days were, to put it simply, a lot more consistent. Standing before the twin doors, Castellan tidied his robe and cleared his throat before giving them a thrifty knock.

Silence.

Castellan knocked again, firmer this time. “Your Highness, it’s me.”

Silence.

“Come in, Castellan.”

The world stopped. The doors parted. The Lord Steward cantered in, head low before the divine presence of the Princess Of The Sun. In the shrouding darkness of the royal study, he shuffled forward, letting his memory of the room guide him along the carpeted floor as he meandered his way towards the table. “Have you had a fine morning, Your Highness?” he asked.

“Mm.” The Princess raised her head from the sanctuary of her entwined hooves with a benevolent smile, her traitorous eyes sour and sagging. Strands of her pink mane fell before her eyes, to which she flicked them away with a huff. “You could call it that. Don’t really know what constitutes as a fine morning anymore, Castellan. Not in this day and age.” She reached out a hoof, absentmindedly leafing through one of the many bundles of parchment stacked on her desk before sliding them all towards him. “Looked through all of these last night. Signed them, though I’m sure you might want to review them with the ministers nonetheless.”

“As required by procedure,” he simply stated as he received the papers, his gaze still trained onto her. “Pardon me for saying this, Your Highness, but you’re looking rather pale today.”

Celestia laughed. “Worry only when I’m not, Castellan. You and I know that pale is my classical complexion.”

“Have you slept, Your Highness?”

“A little. Somewhere between…” she gazed at the pile of books spilling out from the darkest recesses of the study. “...volume six and volume eight of ’The Adept Magicks of Rushlight & Cliff. Hard to stay awake reading all that horrifyingly archaic prose.” A breathy sigh slipped between her gritted teeth as she stood up and drew the curtains open, wincing when the light of the sun flashed at her eyes. “What is it this time?”

Castellan could only frown. “Couple of things,” he began, rummaging through one of his saddlebags and pulling out an array of crumpling documents. “Territorial disputes up north. Two separate ones. First one, the ministers surmised it’s something to do with how the borders were drawn during the creation of the treaty, Your Highness. A treaty which you’ve bore witness to. It is on that notion that the ministers and I believe that it may be best that we can review this dispute when and only when Your Royal Highness is present at the day court—”

“The other one?”

T-The other one, we’re thinking it’s a misclaim, something that the ministers of the court can review among ourselves, so it’s nothing too urgent, but I thought it best to disclose it to you despite. The bigger issue I think lies with the former—”

“Just leave them both here, I’ll take a look at them.”

He stopped himself short, before clearing his throat. “Concerns of a food shortage from the west. Nothing too grave yet, though if the figures provided are to be believed, the region will be stricken with a famine in the coming months. The governors had unanimously signed a plea urging us to provide them with some aid, the amount of which we are still deliberating in the day court as we are… Your Highness?”

“Go on, I’m listening.”

Castellan frowned. “Your Highness, is everything alright?”

“I’m fine, I’m…” Celestia let loose a quivering sigh. The smile she wore when she turned to face him was one gasp away from shattering. “I’m fine, Castellan. Just a bit tired, maybe.”

The princess may be many things, but she was no liar. One might say she had never lied in the entirety of her life, and as the Lord Steward, Castellan can confidently attest to that, for he knew the princess more as a keeper of truths than a teller of lies. Right now, standing at the window and looking over the busy capital, one can say with utmost certainty that Princess Celestia was, among other things, tired. It was no mystery as to why she was so, yet it is for that very reason that the Lord Steward decided that enough was enough.

“Well then, I think that’s all for today, don’t you?” he spoke up with an abrupt intensity that caught the princess off guard. “Now then, if you may excuse me, Your Highness, I shall make my way to the courtyard—”

“But Castellan, you mentioned something about a possible famine—”

“Hmm? Oh yes, that! Ach, I knew I’ve forgotten something!” he let slip a chuckle, waving his hoof dismissively as he turned towards the door. “Oh well. Another day, I suppose!”

“Castellan! Castellan Harrows, come back here this instant!”

“I refuse to ruminate over making this nation’s most imperative decisions in this fetid slough that you’re wallowing in, Your Highness, so help me!”

The hallways boomed with the echo of his voice, the blistering energy of his youth returning if only for that moment. Princess Celestia was agape, and had it been the deed of anyone else, he would’ve followed suit. With a nicker, Castellan turned to canter down the hallways, though not before tossing one final glance over his shoulder at the bewildered visage of Her Royal Majesty.

“Well then, I’ll be expecting you in the courtyard, Your Highness. Now, if you’ll excuse me.”

In retrospect, it was ludicrous, if not inappropriate. It was an act ill-conceived, almost irrational. It was an act that no pony, let alone the Lord Steward of Canterlot himself, should be exhibiting. It was a blasphemy that transcended beyond those fragments he had cast into his wash basin, and were he a lesser pony, it would’ve been a blasphemy that would’ve cost him his life.

How outrageous it must be, for that to only be the first out of many.




“What is this?”

His silence was always disconcerting.

“Castellan, what is this?”

“What do you think it is, Your Highness?”

Princess Celestia chewed on her lip, her eyes stumbling back to the single oddity in the middle of the courtyard. Towering over them was a thick, metal pole, driven deep into the ground and standing proud amid neatly-trimmed shrubs and carefully-cultivated florets. She turned back to her Lord Steward, who only gestured her weary gaze back towards it.

“It’s a pole.”

“Insightful, Your Highness.”

“Seriously, Castellan, will you explain the meaning of this?” she raised her voice in a way she rarely does anymore. “I cannot for the life of me figure out why you would place something so unsightly in the middle of the palace courtyard.”

“Oh, nothing malicious, I can assure you.” Castella marched up to the pole and gave it a firm kick. “This right here is something I’ve prepared to help develop your concentration, Your Highness.” He raised a hoof before she could speak up. “Now, I know it may not seem for such, but trust me, it’ll make sense in a minute. Come here, if you will, Your Highness.”

Reluctantly, the princess cantered up to his side, perplexedly following his gaze towards the ground. She stared at the dirt for the longest time, and for a second, she squinted, hoping for whatever invisible mass Castellan was looking at to finally materialize and knock a bit of sense into what they were doing, albeit to no avail. “Well, Castellan?”

“The shadow, Your Highness,” he explained. “The shadow of the pole.”

A pair of blinks. “Oh… okay…” Another blink. “What of it?”

“You really have no idea, do you?” Gruffly, Castellan cantered away, leaving the princess alone in the shadow of the pole. “Now, in order to train your concentration, Your Highness, you are to move the very shadow you’re standing in.”

“Move it? Move it where?’

“Two rotations around the pole will suffice,” he stated. “Two rotations daily.”

“Two rotations—” those words swung like a sledgehammer, and from the shattered fragments of her revelation, Princess Celestia turned towards the sky. “You mean… the sun…”

A stern nod. “Both the sun and the moon, if you will,” he reiterated. “From this day forward, Your Highness, our scheduled discussions of the nation’s affairs shall take place here, in this very courtyard, and they shall be held only during our first rotation, the duration of which must coincide with the schedule set for the day. As for the second rotation, I trust that you know what to do.”

“You’re not telling me…” Princess Celestia bit her lip, before inhaling. “And if I refuse, Castellan?”

“If Your Highness should refuse, then we simply shall not have our discussions. All meetings and agendas set up for that day will be postponed, if not canceled. All proposed treaties and armistices ready for you to sign will be returned to the day court, if not to our aggressors unsigned. Whatever war and famine that breaks out will just be a problem for another day, unless of course, Your Highness refuses then, to which we can always delay it to the next, if not to the day after that. Simple.”

Castellan’s every silver word was laced with a resonant venom, slithering out between the crooked lips of his light smirk. The alicorn could hear it screeching, clawing at her every bone and nerve. Her jaws clenched. Her horn flickered. Her hooves sunk backwards into the ground. Her head flared with embers she thought she had long extinguished, and for a moment, they threatened to come out raging, only to be held back.

“Ridiculous,” she spat. “This is ridiculous.”

“I beg to differ, Your Highness.”

“You’re risking the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, Castellan!” she threw a hoof towards the pole. “All for some irrelevant mental exercise?!”

“I have only the best interests of those lives at heart, Your Highness,” he coldly responded. “And those lives currently hinge upon the aptitude and fortitude of their sovereign, the one they call their princess— you, Your Highness. You, who had protected the whole of Equestria from threats that we can scarcely imagine. You, who had been directing the populace to an era of stability that decades ago was considered unfathomable.”

“You speak as if I’m not doing so now. That the very discussions we’re having daily were never beneficial to the Equestrian populace in the first place.”

“The Princess Celestia I know and came to serve with unwavering loyalty will never, above all things, teeter the ethereal balance of night and day, Your Highness!”

Castellan was sure that he lost his voice there and then. It would’ve been his punishment, so to speak. A punishment for a crime he would deem necessary. The powers that be begged to differ, including that which stood before him dejectedly. In the face of his words, she averted his glare, a coarse grunt leaping from between the cracks of her grinding teeth. Her shimmering eyes turned to the clouds and the hidden stars between them, pleading to them silently before falling back to the earth.

“Fine,” she gasped in defeat. “Just… fine… do what you want…”

It was a response he wasn’t hoping for, but it will have to do for now. With that, Castellan swallowed the lump in his throat, before moving on.

“Now then, Your Highness. Let’s begin.”




The first few days were exhausting, for both Castellan and Princess Celestia. The former was not used to dictating the miscellany of decrees underneath the sweltering heat, and by the end of the day, he would always end up sweating through his robe and dragging himself home, by which his wife would then castigate him for the umpteenth time. For the latter, she found her task meandering and pointless, and found herself fortunate that their discussions served as a good enough distraction, even if they can be a bit frustrating.

The nights were perhaps more peaceful, though it infuriated Princess Celestia more than not that she had to sleep in the courtyard and nowhere else while her Lord Steward had the privilege of resting in his home. Her mare-in-waiting was her only company, standing with her in the courtyard with lantern in tow, at times an umbrella, and though Coral Bell proved a sympathetic and courteous friend, the princess remained agonizingly bitter throughout, the guilt gnawing at her gut every time her glance strayed towards the sky. Many times, she had called for Coral to provide her with some ancient tomes from her study for her perusal, though the mare had always refused. Some part of her was certain that Castellan had instructed her as such, but she thought it best not to bring it up, and she remained as such, following his accursed routine day after day, hour after debilitating hour.

Regardless, there can only be so much patience a princess could possibly muster.

“I’ve had enough, Castellan.”

Quiet and subdued it came on the nineteenth day, this whimper in the dust. Placing down his quill, Castellan Harrows softly stared at his princess standing before him, pale and thin with the markings of a fatalist running around the edges of her eyes. “Enough of?”

“Of this. Of all of this.”

A rumbling sigh. “Well, you know the consequences should you refuse, do you not?”

“Then I wish to abdicate,” she stated all too easily. “If my failure of this exercise of yours means that I’m not suitable to be ruler of Equestria, then for all of your sake, I’ll abdicate. If you or anyone else from the day court wants the throne, then feel free to debate upon it. I have no need nor desire to participate.”

“I think you misunderstand the purpose of this exercise, Your Highness,” he said, rubbing his eyes. “This was never about testing your aptitude to rule. This was about your concentration.”

There it was again. “You always say that.” Her voice was warped with fatigue and fury. “You just… you keep mentioning how it’s for concentration, but I just don’t see the point of it, Castellan! I’ve been deliberating and signing these documents! I’ve been doing all that while moving the damned shadow of this blasted pole!” Her hoof hurled towards the object in question. “I’ve been doing everything you told me to do, everything! What more do you wish of me?!”

“I wish for you to stop grieving.”

Beneath the upright shadow of the metal pole, the princess of sun stood and bore witness to those words. Before the sordid summer sun, with sweat running down her hooves and trapping themselves between the feathers of her wings, the ruler of Equestria stood. Before him, Princess Celestia stood, letting those words sink in, and they did more than just that.

They crumbled her.

Her knees fell first. Her fresh tears followed. Her wings unfurled, at first to shield the world from her unruly display, but they fell limp instead. Between her gritted teeth came an agonized groan, before her shivering lips finally could not hold back the crashing waves. Upon the ground, facade after silk facade torn away, she dug her hooves into the soil, clenched eyes bursting open in time to receive the fires raging out of her throat.

For the longest time in forever, Celestia could finally bring herself to scream.




“Why is she here?”

“Marigold.”


“No, seriously, Castellan, why did you bring her here?”

Hell hath no fury that matched the vociferous glare of Marigold Harrows, though Castellan had been through hell and back many times in preparation of that. Celestia was not too fortunate, sheepishly kicking at the dirt road from behind the stallion. At the entrance of the Harrows’ modest household, the three ponies stood there awkwardly in the middle of the night, the silence between them nerve-wracking, before Marigold let out a gruff snarl.

“Just come in before somepony sees the two of you.”

“Love you, Marigold,” Castellan responded with a smirk, to which his wife only gave a derisive snort.

To have the princess joining for dinner was a once-in-a-lifetime occasion. The children were beyond elated, of course, overwhelming Princess Celestia with every question they had prepared just for this very moment. Marigold might not seem pleased from a glance, but deep down, Castellan knew how delighted she was at this surprise. She will never admit it, of course; that really was part of her charm.

Celestia, of course, was as baffled as she was honored to grace her Lord Steward’s family with her presence, unprecedented as it may be. She chuckled at the children’s antics as she indulged in Marigold’s pumpkin potage, which was honestly some of the best food she ever had the privilege to eat outside the palace walls. Marigold herself was pleasant to talk to, even if she had been a terrifying presence guarding the doorway prior. As the night went on and the children retired to their bedrooms with their mother, however, Castellan remained at the front door, ready to escort her back to the palace.

“Your family’s wonderful,” she remarked.

“I’m pleased to hear you say that, Your Highness.” Castellan glanced back at his home. “They certainly are. The children can be a bit much at times, however. I’m just relieved Marigold’s helping me to keep them in check.”

Princess Celestia couldn’t help but laugh. “She’s a fine mare, Castellan. I trust you would do well to take care of her.”

“Without fail, Your Highness. Without fail.”

They trotted down the empty streets of Canterlot, basking in a tranquility that comes only at this late hour. The moon above them was full that night, shining brightly like the sun would in the daytime. Castellan’s glance rose to greet it as it peeked out from the clouds, his brows furrowing if only a little.

“There’s no need to prolong the nights anymore, Your Highness. It’s never going to bring her back, you know that.” He glanced down at the cobblestone pathway he was trotting on. “The balance of night and day is not to be trifled with. So many things could go wrong— too many things, in fact. What’s not to say that it was the cause of the wars and the famines, Your Highness? What’s not to say?”

Silence, before she sighed. “I just wanted to find a way to bring her back.”

“And even if you did, she’ll return to a world thrown in chaos and disarray.”

“But she’ll return. She’ll be there with me.”

“And what of us, your loyal subjects?” he questioned. “What of Coral Bell? What of Marigold, my children? What of me?” His hoof gestured at the township. “Do we have a place in your world. Your Highness? Do we deserve it?”

“But I can’t just sit here and do nothing! I can’t just…” she solemnly stared at the moon. “I can’t just leave her there, Castellan. She’s my sister. You’d do anything for Marigold, I’d do anything for her, it’s the same.”

“It’s not that simple, Your Highness. It really isn’t.”

“Then do I just wait here? Do I just… sit here and hope that one day, she’ll somehow just make her way back?”

“No.” There was a determination in his voice now. “You don’t do that. You’ll make the world we live in a better place. You rid this world of war and terror, of hunger and thirst. You will bring an era of prosperity unlike any other to this world, Your Highness. You will do that, you will prepare a paradise so that when she comes back — and she will come back — she will have a place here.”

The silence ran still, the fires of his words ran deep. Princess Celestia glanced at the ground, a narrow smile scratching at her cheeks. There was just one thing, though. One thing she just had to bring herself to correct. “Not a paradise, Castellan,” she muttered. “Not that.”

“Then what do you suggest?” he asked, smiling.

The answer was simple, clear as day and the night sky that laid before them.

“A home.”
« Prev   13   Next »
#1 · 3
· · >>Miller Minus
I like the story, but I have some issues with the way it is told.

Let's get past the obligatory bit: the writing has issues. I don't think English is your first language (there are problems with tense changing back and forth and word meanings), but some of the issues transcend the language. There are a lot of mixed metaphors and other semantic contradictions. Some of these are just feelings that don't fit, like, "his heavy gaze breezed eastward, soaring above the thatched roofs" in which a gaze is heavy, yet breezes and soars (not sure what a breezing gaze is but you get the idea), while others are more tangible, like the second paragraph that lugubriously paints the protagonist as miserable and then abruptly ends with him cheerfully declaring, "Breakfast smells wonderful!" These are minor examples but these kinds of contradictions continue throughout the text.

I was confused by the two rotations exercise, partly because the opening seemed to suggest Celestia wasn't raising the Sun properly (they talked about how they couldn't recall how many days had passed, whether it was days or months). What was meant by the rotations wasn't entirely clear to me, but I'm guessing you meant she's moving the Sun around in the sky in circles during the day ostensibly for practice but really to get her mind off of Luna. Either way, it isn't clear enough and it needs to be given the importance of the exercise to the story.

There's a fair mix of show and tell but some of the telliness needs to be removed and let the show do its work.

I think this story could benefit from a lot of trimming: try to say the same things in a more concise and orderly manner. I think some of the telliness and contradiction may be a byproduct of rambling through an idea over the course of a paragraph, and applying more organization with fewer words will help to fix the problems.
#2 · 2
· · >>Icenrose
A very interesting entry, this one. I'm always a fan of seeing "the dark 1,000 years" given some light.

I have to agree with >>Trick_Question that the use of the English language got a little out of hand here, but I don't think this is necessarily an ESL issue. To me, the narration comes off as if it's... trying too hard to use the English language to its fullest. Here's a specific sentence to show you what I mean:

Castellan’s every silver word was laced with a resonant venom, slithering out between the crooked lips of his light smirk.


This is a very purple way of writing, and it's frankly too many adjectives. When you describe things like this it brings a lot of attention away from the story and towards the narrator, like he's an attention hog bursting out from behind the curtains into the middle of the scene because he wants to tell this part of the story. And then the characters have to stand there for a second and let him finish.

Actually, that's not entirely the issue here. I'm noticing it when the prose isn't even that flowery:

“I wish for you to stop grieving.”

Beneath the upright shadow of the metal pole, the princess of sun stood and bore witness to those words. Before the sordid summer sun, with sweat running down her hooves and trapping themselves between the feathers of her wings, the ruler of Equestria stood. Before him, Princess Celestia stood, letting those words sink in, and they did more than just that.

They crumbled her.


What that bolded narration is doing is trying to add more drama to the scene. But it doesn't have to talk so much about the fact that words have been spoken or that our characters absorbed the words for a few moments. Take a line or two to give some body language, maybe a stutter or something, and then move on to the consequences of the words. Have Celestia and Castellan tell the story themselves, instead of having the narrator hogging the spotlight.

Moving right along: I did like the plot of the story and thought it worked well. I found Celestia's pole routine kind of confusing as well, but that's something that can be tightened up rather easily, perhaps with a more clear idea of what's actually happening to the day/night cycle during this exercise. But all-in-all this event was a very believable addition to Equestrian lore, so well done.

I want to talk about Castellan for a moment, though, because I wonder if you can't elevate the stakes for him somehow. He's sacrificing a lot here, but the only reason I see for that is a general, "I would prefer if dear ruler was feeling better," but surely lots of ponies do. It's not like he has any more of an investment than anyone else in Equestria, does he? But if he did have something tying him a little deeper to Celestia's recovery than everyone else, then their relationship, and the actions he took, would have been more believable and impactful.

Thanks for writing, Author! Best of luck in the shakedown.
#3 · 1
·
Right off the bat, I found myself scratching my head with this story, Writer. You switch between past and present tense in the very first sentence, a trend that continues throughout the rest of the story. It also took you six paragraphs to actually name Castellan’s wife after you introduce her.

However, what I found most distracting was the abruptly shifting and often contradictory emotional states of the characters in this story. Take, for example, your second paragraph.

The bed creaked underneath his weight when he sat himself up, watching as the sun crested the distant hills. Like always, he smiled at it through the grimace leaking between his teeth. Like always, his eyelids fluttered in protest. Like always, there was a stir in his back, one fixed with him giving it a light stretch. The sunlight between his windows merely cackled, and though he had half a mind to tell it off, there was nothing to be gained from screaming at the orange-colored sky, especially since his voice didn’t have the rich timbre as it had so effortlessly flaunted before. Casting his daily blasphemies into the wash basin, he freshened himself up and gathered his saddlebags before trotting downstairs, smiling when the savory aroma of pumpkin potage swirls into his snout. “Breakfast smells wonderful!”


Let’s address what you’re trying to convey here. Castellan is being portrayed as someone who hates getting up in the morning, perhaps has trouble sleeping, and generally has an antagonistic relationship with the sun. He’s getting up in his years, and as a curmudgeon is wont to do, he curses into his washbasin as he washes up. This is a reasonably good introduction to the character, if a bit verbose. However, bookending this section, he’s smiling. Smiling at the sun that represents all of his problems, and smiling at the smell of the breakfast we learn in the very next paragraph he has no time to eat (which also doesn’t make sense, because it’s clear a listless Celestia isn’t going anywhere for a good long while once we finally meet her). Why is he smiling? There’s no element of stubborn cheerfulness to his personality anywhere else in the story, so it’s inconsistent to have him vacillate between positive and negative mindsets multiple times in a single paragraph.

This inconsistency is at its worst in the first conversation between Castellan and Celestia. His emotions and actions are all over the map, shifting from his initial apprehension and concern for Celestia’s wellbeing to deference to near obsequiousness to irritation to indignation to oh-silly-me to outrage. I can almost see a throughline for all of these emotional states upon multiple re-readings of this section, but the first time through I was completely baffled.

As a side note, I’m not sure what you’re trying to say when Castellan wants Celestia to stop wallowing in “this fetid slough.” If he’s referring to the study, as written he’s just being a dick, since the room isn’t described as especially filthy - just a little dark, with some extra papers stacked on the desk and extra books stacked in the corner. If he’s referring to the lesser-used definition of slough, “a situation characterized by lack of activity or progress,” you might want to remove the word “fetid” as a descriptor, since that’s usually used in association with the swamp definition for the word. It’s what made me initially think the room was a proper pigsty, and left me wondering if I’d missed something.

Anyways, all that said, I like the core of this story. Like >>Miller Minus, I’m partial towards stories that try to shed some light on the years between Nightmare Moon’s banishment and her millennium-later return, and having a steward to the throne be the one to shake some sense into Celestia is a novel approach. Try to pick a particular tone and make the rest of the story consistent with it, and with some polish this could be a real gem.

Best of luck, Writer!