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And at the End, You Shall Remain Alone · FiM Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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The Eternal Kingdom of Princess Evergreen
Princess Evergreen the Just and Perfect surveyed her domain, and found it to be just about perfect.

Her palace of fine oak timber sat nestled on a green hilltop. Before it, in all its splendor, the Royal Pine stood amidst verdant gardens ringing ponds with bridges, and round rows of roses, and –

– ash.

In the center of the rolling fields stood the town to which the princess would, on occasion, journey and mingle with the common-folk. They had skilled cooks there, and storytellers, and she'd spent many a fine evening curled up by the fire in the large hall, which –

– lay in ruins.

Hoofsteps crunched on marble gravel, as her self-appointed Royal Adviser approached. Although the princess found him a touch overbearing at times, he was a tried and trusted companion on her many adventures.

She didn't want him here today.

"Go away," she said. "Leave me alone."

He ignored her, as he often did, –

– clearing off a space on the ash-dusted ground next to her, where he sat in silence. She waited.

“You know, the first ponies that came here,” he said slowly, tasting the words as he said them, “thought this place was a paradise. Everything was so lush, and green. The waters were clear. Food was plentiful. Thought they had it all. And then one day, this big fire sweeps through the valley. Burns the whole darn thing down to the ground. Flowers. Trees. Buildings. Their homes, everything they knew, all gone.”

She saw him look up at her out of the corner of her eye, fishing for a response. She kept her sullen gaze fixed on the burnt-out shell of the tree in front of her.

He turned back to it. “The first ponies,” he continued, “nearly left. Thought they’d lost this place forever. Only that wasn’t how the land works, you see. That tree you’re staring at? Look closer.”

She followed his gaze to to the base of the trunk, where wildflowers had started to bloom red-and-blue against the grey soil.

“Those ponies soon realized that their valley was a paradise because of the fires that came through every couple of years. Without them, things would never get a chance to grow. To renew. Without the fires, everything just grew, and died. With them, things got a chance to live again."

She closed her eyes.

Princess Evergreen, alone, sniffled. “Not everything,” she said to the empty room. "Houses don’t grow back."

Her adviser, beside her, wrapped a wing around her –

– and pulled her into a gentle embrace, her head against his neck. “No they don’t, sweetheart," he said, voice low and warm. "No they don’t. But we're not going anywhere, and houses don't matter so much as people do."

She didn't respond.

“Either that, or I’m getting a little sentimental in my old age,” he said with a grin, and for a moment, she grinned too. But her gaze caught on the tree again, where her little house used to be, and to beyond, where the empty shell of their home stood. His gaze followed hers, and he smiled that warm smile of his, ruffling her mane.

“Take your time, sweetheart. It's alright. We'll be waiting by the cart when you're ready."

She stared at the tree. Closed her eyes. Opened them. Closed them.

In the background, she felt him release her, and heard broken branches break under hoof as he walked back to the –

– carriage that brought him here.

Princess Evergreen the Just and Righteous surveyed her kingdom, and knew that it could not last forever. She would have to let it go, eventually. There would be new lands to rule over.

But it was her choice. And for now, she'd stay, and gaze upon her gardens, and her towns. Just long enough to hold them in her mind, and save them, before she had to rebuild anew.

Just a little longer.
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#1 ·
· · >>Foehn
Well, this is topical.

This is a nice little vignette, giving us a slice of life - a kid looking out at where their house used to be, imagining her former imaginary kingdom, now reduced to little more than ash and ruin.

I thought this was okay, and I liked the imagery and message, but I have to admit, it didn't quite touch me emotionally.
#2 ·
· · >>Foehn
Not really my style atm, but I thought this was pretty good.

As TD said, the imagery and message are both nice. It's the emotional part that suffers. It kinda feels like something held the emotion back, like you weren't sure how much to strive for. Which is ok, because now you have something to practice with!

But as I said, I liked it regardless. It just isn't as strong as it could be.
#3 ·
· · >>Foehn
I loved your choice of format! Jumping between greenery and charred ashen scenery was an expert play. The jump between first and second paragraphs left me feeling exactly how I imagine you'd want me to. Once again, I'm reminded that one well-timed word can elevate a story.
#4 ·
· · >>Foehn
This is very, very ambitious with the jumping perspective and the imagery-heavy prose. And for the most part, I think the elements that you took a risk on really work out. The back and forth adds a sense of mystery to an otherwise simple scene.

My main issue with this one, is that I just didn't connect to it emotionally very much. I'm going to be blunt—this kind of feels like a "look at this sad pony and be sad" sort of deal. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that there's no contrast to the sadness. We never see any of our characters being happy (outside of a few-sentence-long imagination sequence), so there's less reason to care when they're not happy. The ending tries to frame this as bittersweet, but it's a hard sell considering that the first bits didn't quite land for me.

I'm kind of picking up that this might be a response to the Camp Fire, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. But then again, I think I have a pretty strong personal aversion to mixing real-world and ponies, so maybe I'm just being silly about it.

So, I think my final advice would be to try to find a way to make the reader a bit more invested in the main characters. Which is a very tall order for an all-OC cast in a minific, I know. But the piece really does rely on us making a personal connection to what's happening, so to make it work the way you want, you have to find a way over that hurdle.
#5 ·
· · >>Foehn
I'm not so quick to pick up on these kinds of things, but my read of it is that this is a parent explaining to his child how to deal with their home burning down, and she's intermittently seeing it through her imaginings of being a princess. It took me until pretty far in to determine that, so I spent a lot of the story being confused about the formatting.

The thing that still confuses me is that the italicized scenes start out being escapism, and there are abrupt changes back to the normal font. By the end, the escapism is mostly gone, and she's already incorporating the rationale into her fantasy world, except the font change still happens abruptly, getting cut off with a dash. It seems like maybe those two effects should go hand in hand?

I'm also having trouble buying into the dad's argument. Yes, there are benefits to fires, but he's trying to play it as a blessing that they happen, even when they threaten lives and homes? And that regularly? It doesn't seem like that'd be an advantageous place to live. I get that this may well be a reaction piece to the many fires this year, but it feels like an odd sentiment he's trying to juggle.

The child simply buys it, too, incorporating it into the fantasy without having an emotional journey about it. This kind of third-person princess persona of hers does have a change of heart, but a snap one.

You appear to have edited this partially in a word processing program and partially directly on the site, because of a difference in what the quotation marks look like.
#6 ·
I'm happy to finally have written something again, though I wish I'd done a better job. I think I got some good takeaways, though, which is always nice.

I'm glad you enjoyed it.

To be honest, it didn't touch me emotionally either, which I think Bach summed up well:

this kind of feels like a "look at this sad pony and be sad" sort of deal

I have a habit of falling back on these sort of stories in minific rounds, and I think I'll learn a lot more if I start moving beyond them. They really don't lend themselves to anything interesting.

Cheers for the helpful feedback in spite of how lacklustre the story was! I really appreciate the detail in these reviews - I knew the story was flat, but was having trouble spotting exactly why (other than the above). These really gave me something to work with.

You appear to have edited this partially in a word processing program and partially directly on the site, because of a difference in what the quotation marks look like.

Good catch.