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Rot · FiM Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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Iron Hearted
The fallen ironheart tree—dragged into the little clearing next to Zecora’s hut—stank of mold and mildew. It was about thirty feet long and as wider than Tempest's barrel.

From the moment Tempest stepped outside, the wet, earthy smell of it crawled up her nostrils and smeared itself into the pores of her skin. It was the kind of stink that would stick to her coat for days. But she told herself not to care.

Smell is only a sensation,” she told herself. It’s only a feeling. And I’m in control of my feelings.

Tempest picked up one of Zecora’s gardening tools in her teeth: a small spade-like instrument with a pointed end. With it, she attacked the outside of the log.

The rotted wood was soft, and yielded quickly to the edged tip of the tool, all the way down to the handle. But there was a surprising, almost wet kind of firmness to the substance of the wood that clamped down on the spade and made it very difficult to leverage.

Almost like how a knife sunk to the hilt in flesh would feel.

No. Tempest violently shook her head from side to side to get the intrusive thought out of it. No, that’s not what I do anymore.

When her head wasn’t stinging from dizziness anymore, she pulled the spade out of the log and tried a different approach.

Taking the edge of the spade, she scraped along the surface of the bark. With only a little resistance, the soft wood sloughed away, leaving behind a small divot in the surface of the log. The sick, wet smell—which Tempest had only just started to adjust to—redoubled, making her eyes blink and her throat constrict.

It’s nothing. You need to work.

Digging away the spongy rot was slow, discouraging work. Her jaw quickly grew sore and stiff from holding and digging with the spade. Meanwhile, the reeking stench worked its way deeper and deeper into Tempest. It permeated her lungs, it got into her mouth, and it formed a greasy film on her eyes that she had to constantly blink and rub away.

Almost half an hour later, her spade finally struck something other than the soft, wet filth—a core within the wood hard as steel.

When Tempest peeled away the rot, the pale well-grained wood underneath shone in stark contrast to the decaying brown outer layers.

But she had cleared only one little patch of it, smaller than her hoof’s circumference. Exhausted she set her spade down, and looked.

One little hoof-sized spot was done, and the remaining thirty-odd feet of stinking, putrid rot remained.

She breathed the stench. Tasted it. Sweated it. It was a part of her now, and it was never, ever, ever going to wash away, no matter how what she did or how she tried to make amends with all the awful things that she had done to—

No, no, no. Tempest squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head so hard that her ears rang with pain. No, no, no!

Then there was a hoof on her shoulder. The sudden contact made her gasp and spin, jumping to her feet, knees crouched forward and ready to strike.

Zecora didn’t recoil from Tempest. She only smiled.

“You’ve been hard at work, I see,” she said, “cleaning up this dirty tree.”

Tempest felt the tension go out of her legs, almost involuntarily. Her breathing slowed back to normal—she hadn’t even realized it was elevated.

“It’s… slow work,” Tempest said. She cast a glance at the little spec of progress. “It’s hard work, too.”

Zecora, still smiling, only raised an eyebrow. She had a way of knowing when Tempest was holding something back.

Tempest sighed. She screwed her eyes shut again.

“I thought about it again,” she said. And after a moment she clarified. “About killing.”

Now that it was out, the other parts came easily.

“I can’t stop thinking about it. Can’t stop... comparing it to everything.”

The warmth in Zecora’s eyes never faded. She gestured at the log of ironheart wood.

“The outside only hides the true strength of the heart. To let it shine, you must remove the sick parts.” She nodded, slowly. “The process is hard; this much is true. But it’s a little better when a friend is with you.”

Reaching into her saddlebag, Zecora retrieved another spade, and smiled at Tempest from around its handle.

Tempest looked at the little patch of bright, freed heartwood, and she smiled too.
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#1 · 5
· · >>alarajrogers >>Bachiavellian
This has a very compact, elegant arc that concludes itself, yet also feels like it could tie into something bigger.

There were a very few technical faults:
Accidental quotation: only a sensation,”
Wanting a comma after 'pale': the pale well-grained wood
Period to comma: she clarified. “About

A few adjustments I might make:
and smeared itself over the pores
there was a surprising, thick firmness to the substance
one of Zecora’s gardening tools in her teeth: a small spade-like instrument with a pointed end. <<< I would name the instrument.

I bring these up as nit-picks because it's otherwise so well crafted. The sensation of the decaying wood and actually working with it really clicked for me (perhaps because I have done similar work before?), Tempest's triggers and denials are reasonably paced, and the turn with Zecora's arrival cements the arc.

As an existential threat to this, however, is this Tempest also "Fizzlepop Berrytwist" or whatever from The Movie, and, if so, what evidence do you have of her being a killer?
#2 · 1
· · >>Bachiavellian
>>Tempest picked up one of Zecora’s gardening tools in her teeth
>>jumping to her feet
Is it horse or man? Make up your mind.
#3 · 2
· · >>KwirkyJ
She blew up an airship with people aboard who couldn't fly. The fact that they'd all escaped was a thing she did not know at the time. If Tempest Shadow isn't a killer, it's because her would-be victims have always had absurd luck.
#4 · 2
· · >>Bachiavellian
I don't really have much to say about this one. It fulfills the prompt, it's tight, and while it doesn't directly explain what Tempest is doing cutting rot off a dead tree, we can draw our own conclusions, particularly since Zecora is present.

I like the notion that Tempest is haunted by the thoughts of who she's killed. She was always the darkest of the reformable villains, I think. Nightmare Moon plainly had a plan for keeping the world alive after she drove off the sun, judging from the Starlight screws with time episode, Discord has had many opportunities to kill and always chooses to disable in a ridiculous (or psychologically damaging, pre-reform) way instead; Starlight meant well and Sunset just needed to be shown what she'd become. I mean, maybe the Pony of Shadows was as bad, but the truth is that was Stygian possessed by an outside force. Tempest did everything she did in her right mind.
#5 ·
Hm. Okay, I went back and reviewed the movie. Never do this. Nothing in The Movie makes any sense. Things are actually left rather ambiguous – Tempest starts zapping things with her still on the deck, it cuts to her blowing up stuff attached to the ship (masts, cargo, &c), then cuts to the water where more parts fall amid the fireworks (notably the wheel), and then it's done with that scene; the crew later just shows up with no explanation how they got there, and they only state that their ship was "sunk" by "that crazy unicorn".

I can accept the interpretation that Tempest attempted to destroy the airship with all hands, but it's a stretch. I can accept that she took the crew prisoner instead, but then their undetected escape is a stretch.

"Wait – you said 'people'!"
"'People' is fine, it's 'human' we can't say."
"You just said 'human'!"
"Oh, no! Wait, so did you!"
"Oh, no!"
"Let's just back away and pretend this conversation never happened."
#6 · 2
· · >>Bachiavellian
Genre: Iron Maiden

Thoughts: So, this was pretty great.

From time to time I bump into the cottage industry of Badass Tempest works that have carved out a niche in ponyfic. It seems like she’s easy to portray in a similar hard-edged way as Limestone, except that Tempest and Limestone are almost opposites. Tempest is sometimes more like a weapon than a pony, and perhaps shows her character best through the way she tries to hold herself apart from her surroundings. Conversely, I tend to see Limestone as being more vulnerable than her stony exterior would suggest, and I feel like she comes across best when showing how she tries—and fails—to fit with her surroundings.

I take you through that seemingly random digression into headcanon because I enjoy how this flips the usual script that I’ve seen with Tempest. Here she’s not strictly trying to “fit in,” except inasmuch as she seems to want to be a good-faith participant in whatever rehabilitation program Zecora has offered her. It’s a great and logical pairing that I wish we could’ve seen in the show. And here, both characters present themselves, their viewpoints, and their motivations, very clearly. It adds up to a story that completely works on a character level. The quality of descriptions is excellent, too; it’s vividly stanky, which seems rather the point.

I feel like I could keep going, but I might as well cut to the chase and save both of us some time. :-p

Tier: Top Contender
#7 · 2
Another really late retro. Don't turn out the lights yet, I'm still here!

Retro: Iron Hearted

So after seeing Tempest and Zecora standing next to each other in the finale, I just absolutely had to write about the two of them together. Seriously, they fit together so well I'm almost kicking myself for not coming up with it sooner.

I ended up focusing the story mostly on Tempest, because I have an awful track record with trying to write Zecora's dialogue, and coming straight off the heels of the poetry round, I absolutely did not have it in me to write a bunch of couplets. But, hey, nobody complained about her dialogue this time around, so I guess it was passable!

And yeah, this story continues my trend of transplanting S1 Luna tropes onto Tempest. Because it's perfect, and Tempest is perfect, and I have a clinical need to write about sad angsty horses.


Can you believe that I actually do still try to edit my minifics? I don't blame you; I wouldn't believe it either, considering how absolutely fucking riddled with errors these things still turn out to be even after I read them aloud to myself before submitting. Blugh! :P

<<< I would name the instrument.

I would too, if I wasn't just completely pulling a wood-scraping tool out of my ass. I'm sure a word for this kind of tool exists, but damn if I know what it is.

Happy you liked the imagery! As someone who's probably touched a log about five times in my life, I'm glad that I could come up with something that wasn't completely ridiculous.

Thanks for your comment!

I just keep using human words with ponies. It's a bad habit of mine. I recall catching some flak for using "girl" to describe a filly once, even though that's been done on the show. It might just be that I have a high tolerance for this sort of thing. :P Thanks for leaving your thoughts!

I'm glad you liked the concept! Yeah, I'm just kind of in love with the idea of Tempest right now, enough to make me almost forgive the movie for how aggressively sub-par it was. She's just super interesting to me.

Thank you for your comment!

I'm glad you liked it! I really had a brain-click moment when I saw Tempest and Zecora together in the finale, and I realized that their characters really both complement each other super well, since they're both outsiders with a very unique approach to viewing their surroundings. I had a lot of fun playing around with those ideas here, and I won't be surprised if I end up writing about this pair again. :P

Thank you for your review!