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Alone Together · FiM Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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Silent Gestures
The only sound in the room was the rhythmic ticking of the clock. It echoed through the rows and rows of shelves, muted only by the reams of paper bound in the thousands of forgotten tomes that filled the library. Under watch of the moon’s silver eye, cast from a high window, nothing moved. Nothing stirred.

Except in a single corner where a lone alicorn sat with a single candle. Her table was packed high with scrolls and her eyes drooped for want of sleep.

Twilight had opted for the library rather than her royal chambers because of the familiarity, having spent many hours there while a student at Celestia’s school. The books had been the subject of countless hours of studying but tonight they lacked the comfort they once held. Their watchful gaze deafening in its silence.

Again Twilight shook her head in an attempt to blink away the sleep and focused on the scroll before her.

To Her Majesty Princess Twilight Sparkle,
From Ambassador Steady Hoof,

The Gryphons have again rejected your proposal for bilateral support in these trying times. They declare your overtures an insult to their people after the years of relations with Princess Celestia who…

The words dragged on but Twilight’s mind knew what her eyes lost in blurring lines. Why does their pride always get in the way? Celestia successfully negotiated with them so why can’t I?

She turned to the blank page before her. ‘To High Chancellor Bronzequill, How’s it going?’ She stared at the words, lingering on the absurdity of it, then smacked her head down on the desk.

“Uugh!” she groaned, wadding up the parchment with her magic but refusing to move from her position of surrender.

After all these years you’d think a filly would learn how to talk to officials properly.

It was probably the lack of sleep. For weeks now she had been attempting to provide relief for areas affected by severe crop blights. Hosting three committee meetings a day between four governments across two continents had begun to take its toll. Even lifting her pen had begun to seem a chore.

Would the world really end if I just took one night off? Probably, knowing my luck.

Even so it was tempting. She hadn’t even found time to talk with Spike, the last of her close friends still in Canterlot during the crisis. He had been tasked with organizing relief to the Zebrican nations from their own dwindling supply and had scarcely left the lower trade quarter.

She missed her friends, hated how duty drove them apart, but had long since resigned herself to the eventuality. It was a point of pride, but still…

With another sigh she slowly lifted her head, blinking with blearily determined eyes at the task before her, when something caught her attention.

Her nose twitched. Inhaling deeply she found her senses assaulted by a bitter yet creamy aroma.

Instantly she was reminded of days long ago spent pouring over books in the library, her library. She could see the grain of the shelves, smell the musty tomes new and old, hear the rustle of Owlicious’ feathers as he stood at his perch. Memories so sharp that for a moment she was lost in them. Hours, weeks, years in the old library flashed before her half lidded eyes.

She shifted her gaze from the piled scrolls to find...

Coffee. Caramel’s special blend. Hazelnut cream with two sugars. Sitting next to four neat stacks of parchment and a copy of Abacus Abstract’s Almanac of Gryphon Teachings and Traditions.

She blinked at the new additions dumbly, trying to force her sleep-addled brain to explain the sudden apparitions. Teleportation? Summoning? Flutterponies? Her mind cast about for any possible explanation but before she could even properly formulate a hypothesis she caught a hint of movement out of the corner of her eye. The tip of a purple tail disappearing around one of the towering bookcases.

She felt a slow smile spread across her face as she chided herself silently. Occolt’s Razor, silly filly.

She took a sip and felt warmth spreading down to the tips of her hooves, a slight hum in her mind that buzzed along pleasantly.

Once again alone, but not so lonely, she opened Abstract’s Almanac to chapter three and began reading. A soft tune bubbled forth unbidden from her lips, lending a comforting beat to the quiet library.

“Each one of us has something special,
That makes us different,
That makes us rare…”
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#1 · 1
Look at the bright side, Twiggles. At least there's no Equestrian UN.

I like the spirit of this story. It follows the theme of Twilight trying to fill Celestia's horseshoes and not quite getting the hang of diplomacy. Nevertheless, I wish there would've been a bigger resolution, for Twilight to arrive at a bigger epiphany than just appealing to the Gryphon ways.

It was nice for Spike to make some time to give Twi a hand, though.

So... Nice, but I can't say much more than that.
#2 ·
In which Twilight Sparkle is stressed doing armchair coffeehouse diplomacy.

The quotation at the end baffles me. The message of Twilight diving into griffon culture and traditions is nice, but it comes off as a surprise, a left-fielder, if I may. Perhaps it is merely because it is not formatted like the rest of the dialogue here, though.

Other than that, it is a nice and warming story, but it feels like more could have been done with it. Maybe something subtle is what you were going for, and if that's the case, that is fine. However, with all the set-up and the somewhat ominous backdrop we have (crop blights and Spike being the last friend in Canterlot, to name just two), having it end with Twilight read up a book on griffon culture and traditions to understand them more... is sensible and realistic, yes, but it just doesn't have that *oomph* that the set-up has prepared for. I guess that, ultimately, the set-up was too much for an otherwise benign and non-threatening ending.

Overall, an unassumingly warm story with a shadow that's too big preceding it. Expecting this to be within the middle three of the pack.
#3 ·
Nice prose to open, though tending slightly toward the purple at first.

Wow, and after that, I just read. In total, a really nice slice of life. I had to blink a couple times, as the style almost feels like something I would write, so take that for better or worse, author.

The distinction came with the coffee. I certainly prefer tea to burned beans. :-)

So yeah, no grand leaps of fiction here, but for what it set out to do (and by it's title, I'm pretty certain of what that is) this accomplished it rather well: A warm scene with a pony we love.

Now if only I had a fireplace and some tea...

(Also, if CoffeeMinion is in this one, and this isn't it, then someone's got the wrong name.)
#4 ·
Silent Gestures
Out of all 9 stories, this one has the prose I found most fun to read. They make the most out of the limited amount of words and give a fullness to the story.
The thought that Spike knows Twilight well enough to know that she needs a friend but can't be distracted by a friend right now, so he gives her exactly what she needs for her problem gives me a warm and fuzzy emotional response.

I don't think the ending quote hits the mark it was aiming for. It's about individuality, but specifically having differences between people. That partially relates to the Spike knowing Twilight side because that aspect is about Twilight's individual character shining through, but without Spike acting as a foil it doesn't connect to highlighting the differences. As for the Griffin side of the story, there's contrast between how people act but it's mostly on a cultural level, rather than an individual level.

There are a few points in the story where my brain wants to jump down a rabbit hole of the lore presented by this story's attention to detail, namely my brain wants to know more about the conflict with the Griffin kingdom and the trade deal Spike is working on. The story shouldn't follow these trains of thoughts, but they're so specific that some readers might get hung up on them.
On second thought, there is some possibility that you could expand the Griffin conflict and have a slightly more complex resolution than Twilight just not understanding how Griffin culture works.
#5 · 1
Genre: The Happening

Thoughts: I give this credit for building. This methodically builds an image of a Twilight in the midst of great challenges. It also builds a picture of what she needs, and builds toward the question of whether she'll get it.

In contrast however, I found the resolution to be a bit abrupt, and in some ways sidestepping rather than addressing what had been built up before it. Spike is the main thing that jumps out at me; the story mines some d'awws out of him dropping by to help Twilight, but this seems to contradict what it set up about him being off facilitating other parts of Twilight's plan. There's also the question of the Griffon communications Twilight is working on, which suddenly don't seem to matter to the plot as much once Twilight gets her coffee. In that sense, it doesn't stick the landing for me.

With that said, though, this delivers a good tableau of Twilight struggling to fully occupy and excel at her duties. There's groundwork laid here for seeing Twilight continue to develop and overcome the challenges before her. What would help me feel that more viscerally would be to see Spike's encouragement manifest as material change in Twilight's ability to get things done, rather than just a lifting of her spirits. Maybe that's less realistic, but I feel it might be more satisfying.

Tier: Keep Developing