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And at the End, You Shall Remain Alone · FiM Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
Diamond Ponies Aren't Forever
The fire kept the Canterlot winter away as Lapis Lazuli lay by the fireplace and stared into the flames. Individual tongues of fire appeared and disappeared, and much more quickly than the colored leaves had done months ago. Glancing out the window, he saw the barren tree in the front yard swaying in the wind and snow.

Shivering, he tucked his legs and tail closer. Hoofsteps prompted him to look over his shoulder. “I made us hot cocoa,” said Fluorite as she approached.

Lapis eagerly accepted the mug from Fluorite’s outstretched hoof. “Thanks, love.” He sipped and swallowed, and felt momentarily warm.

Fluorite lay down next to him and leaned against his neck, then sighed contentedly. “What a year,” she said, reminiscing.

Lapis’s ears fell as he stared back at the fire. “Yeah.”

He felt Fluorite raise her head. “I meant for us.” Lapis Lazuli cast a sidelong glance at the gemstone in the middle of her necklace--his namesake. He caught himself starting to smile, but allowed the feeble feeling to fade. “You remember our first trip to Canterlot, don’t you? For the Summer Sun Celebration?”

“How could I forget?” he answered. And he hadn’t. The planning, the secrecy, the jeweler’s shop, the bended knee and passionate embrace; he got off the train with his marefriend, but embarked with his fiancée.

“But the Empire...” he said, continuing the thought his memories had begun.

"I know." She paused. "But there’ll be another Summer Sun Celebration next year. They’re making it an annual event. It'll be more special for us,” she said. He turned to face her, and saw the fire reflected in her crystal eyes--dancing patterns of white and yellow.

Almost before he could react, she leaned in and gave him a brief kiss. She then drew back and licked her lips. “Mmm. Cocoa kiss.”

Lapis chuckled and licked his own lips before lowering his head to his mug. He raised his head prematurely when he heard a knock at the door. He and Fluorite exchanged glances. “Who could that be?”

He rose and went to the front door. A quick peek through the peephole revealed a tall white unicorn wearing a winter coat. He opened the door, inviting in the winter wind, but standing between the stranger and the warmth. “Hello?”

“You don’t know me,” the mare began, “but all the inns and the trains out of town are booked. I’ve no place to stay the night, and no relatives to board with. Would you--take me in for the night?”

Lapis contemplated for several seconds. “Y-yes. Of course.” He stepped aside and gestured with his hoof, ushering her inside. “Come join us by the fire,” he invited.

Fluorite’s eyes met them as they entered the living room. “Who's this?”

“Fluorite, this is--” he paused awkwardly, suddenly realizing he hadn't asked the mare’s name.

“M-my name is G-golden Ray,” she answered, shivering. Lapis hadn’t noticed her shivering a moment ago.

“She’s our guest,” he added.

Fluorite perked up at that last word, then stood up and began walking towards the kitchen. “Make yourself at home. I’ll bring you some cocoa.”

As Fluorite left the room, Lapis and Golden entered. Lapis watched Golden’s gaze jump from one decoration to the next. Yet she seemed drawn to the decorations opposite the Hearth’s Warming dolls on the mantle: a crystal and a pair of candles. “What is the meaning behind the candles and the crystal?”

Lapis sighed as he joined her by the mantle. “My fiancée and I are crystal ponies.” Golden nodded. “If we had been there during the coup…” he shook his head. “The candles--are for our vigil.”

Golden slowly took a step back. She closed her eyes and bowed her head, wiping her eyes with the sleeve of her coat. “A vigil through--the night...” She turned her head to face him. “Forgive my deception. I knew you were crystal ponies, and I decided to visit for the holiday. I know you've lost everything. Instead, you have given something special to me.” She lit her horn and unbuttoned her coat as she stepped sideways towards him. “Thank you.”

Lapis’s confusion grew when he felt something like a foreleg on his back, only softer. He looked back to see a large white wing holding him in the mare’s embrace. In shock, his head spun to face the mare. The alicorn raised a single feather to her lips. “Shh,” she whispered. Though tears were in her eyes, a smile was on her face.
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#1 · 1
· · >>007Ben >>007Ben
This is a nice little holiday vignette, and not about the usual not!Christmas, either.

It's pretty light, but there's some nice implications there, and I caught on pretty early that this was set after the fall of the Crystal Empire, which lent the whole thing a bit of extra weight.

Celestia's appearance at the end was nice, and while this all feels a little bit like a bit of fluff, it is the sort of holiday story that I can appreciate for what it is, and I liked the positive spin on the prompt.
#2 · 2
· · >>007Ben >>007Ben
I'm always partial to well-written fluff, and this is a sweet little piece. I like how well-crafted the atmosphere was that a vague mention

“But the Empire...” he said, continuing the thought his memories had begun.


is enough to nail-down the time period without any further window dressing.

It's not entirely clear why Celestia initially disguises herself - to avoid being seen on the streets? To avoid frightening the couple? - and that drew me out of the story, briefly. But that's a small gripe. On the whole, I quite enjoyed it.
#3 · 1
· · >>Baal Bunny >>007Ben >>007Ben
I can't really say why, but I really liked how this one read in the opening. I usually don't like muiltiple OCs in minifics, because it's often too demanding to establish more than one blank slate within the short confines of the format. But I didn't encounter that here, mostly because I think you do a great job of giving us a sense of Lapis and Fluorite's relationship ASAP.

But, I do feel like the word limit shows itself in other ways, here. For instance, most of the first half feels breezy and light, save for the occasional line or two that feels clearly there to frame the time/setting of the story. But once our mystery mare shows up (with half the word count remaining), things immediately feel much tighter. The sensation of railroading gets even worse once the remaining word count is halved again, right when you reach the last 3 paragraphs.

This makes your reveal feel really oddly paced—the story starts rushing just when it introduces its mystery, and then it gets even more frantic as the twist comes around. As a result, odd things happen, like how the mystery mare gives the couple a fake name, only to admit she is lying after speaking another two or three sentences.

So, yeah, the word count is killing you, here. And while I like what you did when you had the space to do what you wanted to do, I'm just not as pleased by the whole product. Part of (and some would argue, most of) the minfic contest is managing your word count, so I would suggest looking out for this, next time.
#4 · 1
· · >>007Ben >>007Ben
I'll agree:

Pretty much with >>Bachiavellian here--having Celestia appear in disguise and then almost immediately reveal herself was a little whiplashy. But you've got some solid bones here, author, to expand the story so it's long enough to post on FimFiction. I'll definitely look forward to seeing its final form there!

Mike
#5 · 1
· · >>007Ben >>007Ben
Why are you using Steven Universe characters?

I would suspect you of being the same author as "For Mother" due to the same fascination with participles.

My first reaction is that there's a lot of language that doesn't really need to be there. For example, it takes the story a long time to get going. The anecdote about them getting engaged doesn't carry much weight, since you don't have time to give much detail about it. You tried—you didn't just say "they got engaged"—so you're on the right track there, but it needs more, if you want to expand it, or it could stand to have that trimmed. Just having them as a happy couple would be enough. How important is the engagement to the actual story's plot? It's not really relevant to their attitude toward the Crystal Empire.

This is also a story trope we've seen lots of times before: the vagrant who, when invited in, turns out to be someone important. What's Celestia's aim here, though? If she reveals who she is, nobody's going to turn her away, so why's she trying for stealth? I don't get what she's about. It's like she's the Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol, ready to spring her good favor on a randomly selected citizen, possibly even that she's targeted this particular household. Yet she wants to remain secret, and... well, there's yet another level I don't understand. She lets Lapis know who she is, and it wasn't an inadvertent reveal, but she doesn't want him to tell Fluorite.

I wish I knew what game she was playing. The only part of this story that's unique is the vigil they keep for the Empire. I think your best move would be to play that up as the story's centerpiece. Explore it, show what it means to this couple, what it means to Celestia. Draw a parallel with Celestia's own sense of loss, whether or not this takes place after Luna's return. This is interesting now, and it could be a really memorable story with the right focus.
#6 ·
·
The streams shall run in gladness
The lakes shall shine and burn.
All sorrow fail and sadness
At the Mountain-King's return.


Thank you all for your reviews! This idea actually came to me a while back when I was more active in Writeoff. Almost everything about how I thought that story would go changed dramatically since then, but the core idea--crystal ponies isolated from the Crystal Empire when it was banished--remained. To this end, I was influenced by the company of dwarves in The Hobbit, a group in exile from their home. Yet it wasn't until recently that I discovered a song that fit. The songs I'd already heard had too much agency to fit with this particular story. The one I found speaks more of a longing to be home than a drive to recapture it. This was the song that played as I wrote my story:

The King Beneath the Mountains by Clamavi De Profundis

(P.S. It's also a fan-made song using a poem by Tolkien that the movies didn't use.)

>>TitaniumDragon >>Foehn

Thanks! Glad you enjoyed.

>>Bachiavellian >>Baal Bunny >>Pascoite

Thanks for the feedback. Definitely a lot to think about.

Two major things I want to improve:

having Celestia appear in disguise and then almost immediately reveal herself


and

What's Celestia's aim here, though?


Firstly, Celestia is canonically a terrible actress, and her act crumbles rather quickly. This was deliberate. There's some light foreshadowing in there

“M-my name is G-golden Ray,” she answered, shivering. Lapis hadn’t noticed her shivering a moment ago.


(heck, even her fake name itself--a golden ray of sunlight) but i guess not enough.

Secondly, this is set after 1) the Empire's banishment and 2) Luna's banishment.

“A vigil through--the night...”


Again, too subtle. Also, the aucience didn't know this was Celestia yet (though suspicions may have been there), and could have overlooked day/night clues which would have stood out like a sore hoof had Celestia's identity been revealed by this point.

I said two, but now you're here. So let's do three.

Individual tongues of fire appeared and disappeared, and much more quickly than the colored leaves had done months ago. ...

He sipped and swallowed, and felt momentarily warm. ...


He caught himself starting to smile, but allowed the feeble feeling to fade.


Somewhere along the line, I forgot that I was going to try and incorporate a theme. Actually, it seems to be about the middle of the story when the couple gets their visitor that the theme gets shoved to the back burner. Nobody even commented on the theme, instead wondering why the first half was so long. For those keeping score, that's Subtlety: 3, Author: 0. I'm not sure whether to abandon the theme entirely or rework it and bring it into the forefront.

But yeah. Definitely gonna send this over to FimFiction before too long. I've got some cut content sitting just below the body of the fic in the word doc, and I've got a pretty good idea for another scene that will go at the end, plus some general polishing of the ending half/third of the fic. Once again, thanks to all; Happy Hearth's Warming and a Happy New Year!
#7 · 2
·
>>TitaniumDragon
>>Foehn
>>Bachiavellian
>>Baal Bunny
>>Pascoite

FimFic version is up.