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On the Verge · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
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Not To Touch The Sun
The last step in a process that had taken ten years was complete. Twilight activated the magnetic force field, and then cast the teleportation spell, bounded by the field, that would transport all matter out of the field, creating a perfect vacuum. She glanced over the readouts on the computational array one final time. Everything looked perfect.

She hit the switch.

Within the force field, the glow of teleportation magic, funneled through the array, lit the room briefly. And then it was done, and a small chunk of pure iron floated in the center of the magnetic force field, surrounded by vacuum on all sides. Tiny flares of light danced around the edge of the chunk, as individual atoms of air that she’d missed struck the iron and flared into non-existence.

Antimatter. Inverted matter. Impossible to create through magic, due to the extreme levels of disharmony a form of matter that was antithetical to natural matter in every way created. Discord would have been able to, at his full power, but if Discord had been at his full power Twilight wouldn’t have needed to spend ten years building an array powered by geothermal energy to transform matter into energy and a pattern, flip the pattern, and output it as antimatter.

“Yes! Yes!” She reared excitedly, hooves pawing at the air in delight. “It’s done! We’re ready!”

No one answered her. That would never stop hurting.

“Okay.” She’d always talked to herself in the past, when working, but had usually been able to convince herself she was really talking to Spike… back before the sun blew up. “Time to go get Discord.”

Discord had arranged the rocks around his cottage to look like flowerbeds. Small amounts of chaos magic had shaped them. Twilight knew he wasn’t strong enough anymore for a sustained effort.

“Twilight! Why, what brings you to my humble abode?” He turned and called into the house. “Fluttershy, be a dear and put on some tea?”

Twilight winced. “No need for tea, Discord. It’s done! We’re ready!”

“Oh, but you must sit and have some tea. It’s a new blend!”

Reluctantly, she entered the cottage, prancing lightly on the tips of her hooves as if somehow going light-hoofed could save her from the horror. It didn’t. A pony skeleton with what Twilight hoped was a pink wig and not a magically-preserved scalp from a long-dead body entered the room, holding a teakettle in her mouth. Its mouth. It was a skeleton, it had no gender. It wasn’t the pony it pretended to be.

“Sit down, sit down, Twilight! Over here, my dear.” This was to the skeleton, who obediently trotted to Discord. Discord set out three teacups with very tiny bits of ground crystal at the bottom, in a fine powder, and then took the teakettle from the skeleton’s mouth. If anything this was worse; with a teakettle in its mouth, the skeleton hadn’t looked like it was grinning.

He poured hot water into each of the cups. The skeleton sat down in front of the third teacup. “I think you’ll enjoy today’s blend, Twilight. Drink up!”

Twilight swirled her cup with her magic, watching the tiny crystals, heavier than water, get picked up by the swirl and the motion briefly before settling to the bottom again. She didn’t know whether Discord was insane, or pretending desperately; did he know his fantasy world was a fantasy? Did he know that that was Fluttershy’s skeleton, not the mare herself, and he was just so broken by loneliness and the end of chaos and the loss of everyone else that he pretended, to give himself comfort? Or had he lost it, and he thought that was really Fluttershy?

He claimed that that was Fluttershy and that crystals in hot water were tea. If he knew that that wasn’t true, he wasn’t admitting it, so Twilight had taken to humoring him. She pretended to drink the tea, protecting her lips from any accidental splash from hot water by magic. “The antimatter is ready, Discord. It’s time. We can do this!”

Discord raised an eyebrow. “Oh? Sounds very exciting. Care to fill me in?”

Wait. Had she never explained to him what she was doing? Or had his broken mind lost it? Or was he screwing around with her for amusement? Over the centuries, Twilight had come to truly care for Discord, but she couldn’t lie to herself; if she’d been given a choice of who to spend eternity with on a barren world, he would not have been in her top ten.

“I… thought I explained this to you.”

“Perhaps you explained to me, but dear Fluttershy here hasn’t heard the details. So spill! What are you planning?”

“Okay.” Twilight set the “tea” down, got up and paced. “So the issue is, first of all, recreating Starlight and Starswirl’s time travel spell, since Starlight’s version of the scroll was destroyed and… and the archives at Canterlot didn’t survive the… accident.” Starswirl had provided so many of his old spells to the library at the palace. But they hadn’t been there when Twilight had needed them. The explosion hadn’t just vaporized almost every pony on this side of the planet when it happened, it had blown Canterlot, the entire city, off the Canterhorn and flung it down into rubble at the base of the mountain. Paper had ignited from the heat and burned to ash in moments. Nothing had been left. If Twilight hadn’t been with Discord and her friends at the Palace of Friendship—

--It didn’t matter any more. It wasn’t going to stay true. She was going to fix it. Finally, after three hundred years.

“So I did that. But the problem is, the power needed to go back far enough to stop Flurry from trying to raise the sun; well, the power requirements are outrageous. You’d have been able to fuel the spell all by yourself once, but, uh, with the reduction in chaos—”

“No need to dance around it, Twilight.” Discord’s tone was sober. “I’m well aware I’m only a fraction of the draconequus I once was.” He sighed. “And if I still had all my power, the jokes I could have made with that!”

“And I thought maybe Flurry – well, you know, Ashen Heart now – could help me power the spell, but I can’t find her, so…” Twilight shrugged.

She’d tried. She’d tried so hard, and she’d thought she’d succeeded in hiding it from the younger alicorn – but she hadn’t been able to stop hating Flurry Heart. She’d told Flurry not to try to touch the sun. The youngest alicorn had had the rawest, most uncontrollable power any pony had seen in any caster ever, and Twilight had thought that Flurry’s true nature as an alicorn might have been Destruction. But Flurry had wanted to help out. Celestia and Luna had retired, but they’d still been bound to raising the sun and moon. Flurry had thought she could take over for the two of them.

She’d changed her name to Ashen Heart, after. After her father, Twilight’s brother, had died trying to hold back the sun from destroying the Crystal Empire, and failing. After Princess Celestia had dropped dead of a heart attack the moment the sun exploded, and every other living creature on this side of the planet, even the dragons, had been vaporized. Except for Twilight, her friends, and Discord, because Discord had shielded the Palace of Friendship, but either hadn’t thought to or hadn’t been able to extend his protection to any more of the planet.

Spike had been visiting Dragon Lord Ember as the official Equestrian ambassador to the dragon lands. Dragon bones hadn’t turned to ash in the heat. Twilight had brought him back here, to bury him in Ponyville.

And then the radiation had killed almost everyone on the other side of the planet. And then the food had run out, slowly, over years, because what remained of the sun was tiny and weak. She and Discord and Ashen Heart had used their magic as much as possible to save as many as they could, to keep ponies and other surviving creatures alive as long as possible.

Her friends had died of old age. She didn’t know what had happened to Ashen Heart. It had taken the rest of the planet another two generations after her friends’ death before she and Discord were the only ones left.

But it wasn’t going to stay that way. She was going to fix it.

“So the second part was, finding a source of power. And, well, we can’t use solar!” She laughed shrilly. “And not enough magic in the thaumosphere, but! Antimatter is pure disharmony! So, I thought to myself, you should be able to take the energy from an antimatter explosion and convert it to magic, and then power the spell with it!”

“But you know that you can’t change the past,” Discord said softly. “You can create an alternate universe. That’s it. You come back here when the spell rebounds, but if you’re using my power to run it then you’re tethered to me, and I wouldn’t have changed universes. So you come back here too. There’ll be another Equestria where it never happened, but it won’t be this one.”

“That was the third thing I worked out! I knew my computer protocol was going to take a long time to analyze my template down to the quark level and reverse it. Antimatter takes a long time to make when you have to use science to do it. So while it was running, I went looking, and I found this!” She held up the Clock of Tempus Fugit.

“Nice clock. Do you need to wind it?”

“It’s a magical artifact, Discord. See, the issue when you go back in time is that you can’t change your own past because if you changed the past, then you wouldn’t be able to go back in time and change the past, so the universe splits to avoid paradox and there you get an alternate universe.” She put the clock down on the tea tray. “So the way to avoid that is split yourself from causality and be outside your own timeflow when you do it, except no one can get anything done if they’re not in a timeflow! Tempus Fugit was a legendary time mage who supposedly solved the problem, with this clock, which keeps a personal timeflow going so you can do things in time but not be bound to time, if that makes any sense, not that I guess it would matter to you if it didn’t!”

“Hmm,” Discord said, running his talons through his goatee. “It might work. I suppose it’s worth a try!”

“Right! I mean, what do we have to lose?”

Whatever force kept them both immortal – and made it so they didn’t need to eat – was slowly running out. On a world with a small sun that barely warmed it, that didn’t rotate around the planet anymore, where all life had died but two sapient beings (maybe three if Ashen Heart was still around somewhere), there was very little chaos, and even less friendship and harmony. Twilight wasn’t entirely sure she had more power than her original unicorn strength. Sooner or later all the energy would run out and she and Discord would probably die. The only way they were going to survive was if they did what Twilight had been desperately trying to do anyway, and find a way to go back in time and save the world.

They lived a short walking distance apart from each other, because Discord complained endlessly if he had to walk any great distances. Twilight thought his immortality might be wearing off first… or maybe whatever magical property of his body allowed him to be so asymmetrical without painful difficulties. He insisted on bringing “Fluttershy”, which Twilight found extremely creepy, but she’d spent twenty-odd years trying to convince him that Fluttershy was dead, and he had just pretended he couldn’t hear her every time she’d said something about it. Who knew, maybe he literally couldn’t hear her; maybe his comforting madness was blocking it out for him.

“You can’t release that in here, Twilight.” Discord was looking at the antimatter cube with an expression of – hunger? Longing? “It’ll blow your entire lab to bits.”

“I… assumed I wouldn’t need the lab after I’m done?”

Discord chortled. “How did Miss Checklist to Check Off The Checklists come to this? You always need to prepare for failure. What happens if this doesn’t work? How are you going to try again without your lab?”

Twilight had assumed that wouldn’t be an issue because if this didn’t work, she would give up living, in despair. Her friends would have already been dead by this time, but Spike would be alive, Celestia and Luna and Cadance, and her friends might have had descendants, great-great-grandfoals for her to watch over, and she might have made new friends as time went on. She couldn’t live like this. She couldn’t bear the loneliness. Discord’s presence had kept her from trying to do herself in so far, but if this failed…

But she couldn’t admit that to Discord. “You have a point,” she said. “But how am I going to transport a magnetic force field? If I use my magic to carry it, I might misalign the equipment and then it’ll go boom unexpectedly.”

“Fluttershy, dearest, can you lie down for a bit? Thank you, that’s very helpful.” The skeleton lay down on its side, in a position where gravity would only knock a few of the bones down because the rest were already resting on the dirt, and then it de-animated with a small clatter, the bones of the wing and the two left legs falling to the ground. Discord took a deep breath, then two, and then snapped his fingers.

Her entire apparatus for maintaining the magnetic bottle vanished. “You teleport the whole thing at the same time, of course.”

Twilight released a breath she hadn’t been aware she was holding. “I guess that would do it. Are you okay?”

“A bit of a strain on the old chaos generator, that’s all,” he said, though he was breathing hard. It had obviously taken a lot out of him. Twilight noted that he was plainly aware enough of Fluttershy’s status that he’d withdrawn his magic from her skeleton before trying. “Let’s go see where I put it, shall we?”

“You don’t know?”

“It’s hardly chaos if I know exactly everything about it,” he said. “And the precision required to make sure all the pieces stayed together in the same orientation means I needed to randomize the destination by a good bit.”

“A good bit” turned out to be an understatement. Twilight actually had to cast a scrying spell for it, and then it took them what had once been a full day’s travel to get there.

It was in the land of eternal sun. Twilight had stopped trying to move the sun and moon after everything alive had died, and she and Discord lived in the zone that was Twilight’s namesake, where the sun hung at perpetual sunset and the moon was visible in the sky. The sun being so small and weak after its explosion, the places where it was perpetually 4 pm, or even noon, were brutally hot but not hot enough to melt rock or metal, and both Twilight and Discord had sufficient magic to handle being there for several hours, though she wouldn’t want to try to sleep there.

Sensibly, Discord had left “Fluttershy” behind. “The poor dear aches so badly nowadays, I’m not going to ask her to make such a long trip.” He fluffed her mane, revealing to Twilight’s horror that yes, that was Fluttershy’s actual scalp glued to her skull, not a wig. “You get some rest, Fluttershy. Have a good nap. I’ll tell you all about it when I get back.” He gently kissed the skeleton where its cheek would have been, and stood up. “Well? Let’s go!”

So now here they were, in heat as brutal as the Saddle Arabian desert during midday in summer, and just as dry. With no movement of the sun or moon to generate tides in the air, and no pegasi, there was no distribution of water around the planet; things evaporated, took forever to drift toward the colder side, and then dumped into rain on their own as soon as they hit the chill of the twilight band. So Twilight and Discord always had plenty of water and in fact a lot of the land around their home had flooded, but here in perpetual 2 o’clock, there was none. Twilight checked her equipment. It was in perfect condition, no disruption from Discord’s teleport.

A good distance away from the antimatter, she drew her spell circle, digging it hard into the packed dry ground so that the wind from the explosion wouldn’t interfere with it. Discord watched with interest, but didn’t help. It was bad enough that she had to build it to be capable of being powered from chaos magic; making it so it couldn’t be disrupted by chaos while it was being created was beyond her skill, so she’d told him to stay out of it.

The spell circle was in the lee of a large rock, embedded deep in the dirt and high enough to be dangerous to an earth pony or unicorn who fell off of it, not that there were any such ponies around to fall off anything. Discord curled up on the top of the rock, where the energy from the explosion would be able to reach him, while the spell circle would be largely protected. She hoped. Antimatter was powerful stuff. “Are you ready, Discord?”

“Ready as anything. Dear Fluttershy will be so happy if we succeed at this! You know, she’s been very depressed since all the animals died. She gardens with rocks, but it’s just not the same.”

Twilight bit her lip to keep from saying anything.

“All right,” she finally said when she was calm enough not to snipe at him. “Let’s do this.”

With her magic, she reached out to the switch. It was far enough away that the explosion shouldn’t tear her apart, but close enough that she could still reach it. She knelt in the center of the spell circle, and turned the antimatter containment field off.


The world lit up. She activated the spell circle and glanced up at Discord. He was standing on top of the rock, arms spread, glowing, laughing. “Oh my! What a rush! I almost feel like myself again!”

“Discord, focus! Charge up the spell—”

Everything went white, and by the time she said the word “—circle,” she was in the Crystal Palace. Hopefully three centuries ago. She’d worked really, really hard to make sure the circle would bring her in on the right date.

The clock of Tempus Fugit, on a lanyard around her neck, was ticking hard enough that she could feel it against her throat and the part of her chest that it touched.

After all of that preparation – spending a decade creating the antimatter, three years searching for the clock, seven years of planning the spell and making sure every contingency was taken care of – it was almost anticlimax. She found Flurry, 11 years old, on the balcony, preparing to try to set the sun.

Twilight’s own magic clamped down on her niece’s horn. Maybe a little more roughly than was absolutely necessary. “Flurry, no! Don’t touch the sun!”

Flurry turned around, her face formed into an angry pout… which faded into bewilderment. “Aunt… Twilight?”

She supposed she looked different. No food for over a century had made her skeletally thin, and two hundred years of growing, a thing alicorns apparently never stopped doing unless they were starving, had made her Luna’s height. In the broken future with no life and the magic running out, her long mane hung normally, straight as ever, and she usually pinned it with a mane tie because that was easier than taking the time to cut it. But here, with the air rich with mana, her mane had lifted of its own accord, broken the mane tie, and spread out behind her like a cloud of the purple and pink of a sky just after sunset. “Listen to me, Flurry Heart. I’m from the future. Do not ever touch the sun. In my future, when you tried to raise it just now, it exploded, and annihilated almost all life on Equestria. Including your parents and both of the other princesses.”

Flurry’s eyes went wide. “What? Why?

“Your magic is destruction. There’s more chaos in it than harmony. Go to Discord and ask him to train you, tell him I came from the future and said so. He’ll understand.”

“I don’t understand. I’m chaos? But how--?”

“I don’t know. No one knows anything about born-alicorns and the princesses who might have known something about different kinds of alicorns died as soon as you touched the sun with your magic. Don’t ever do that. No matter how safe you think it is, no matter how sure. The sun is made of boiling, controlled chaos and your magic disrupts that control. Don’t ever assume you can do it safely.” She pulled Flurry close to her with her magic and glared into her eyes. “Do you promise?

“Yes! Yes, I promise!”

“Swear it. Swear you will never touch the sun.”

“On the lives of my mom and dad, I’ll never touch the sun! I swear!”

Twilight released her. “Good. Because that’s exactly what you lost, when you did. Shining’s shield wasn’t powerful enough to protect the Crystal Empire or even the three of you when the sun exploded, and you weren’t harmed but they were vaporized.”

Flurry’s eyes had filled with tears. Good. “I promise! I promise I’ll never touch the sun!”

“Good,” Twilight said again. “See that you—”

The rebound took her. “—don’t,” she said to a spell circle drawn in dry, cracked dirt.

Slowly she looked up, with dawning horror. No life anywhere, aside from Discord curled on top of the rock. The sun in the sky, tiny and small. The air, hot and dry. “It didn’t work,” she whispered.

And then stomped her hooves, as hard as she could, all over the circle. “WHY! Why didn’t it work? I was so careful! I factored everything! Why didn’t it… why didn’t it work…” Twilight collapsed on the ground and began to sob. “I’m sorry… I’m so sorry… I failed…”

“Oh, but now I know what you’ve been doing wrong,” Discord said, his paw unexpectedly on her mane, stroking it.

She looked up. She hadn’t seen Discord move, hadn’t heard him approach her. “What—what do you mean? What I have been doing wrong?” Maybe she was reading too much into it, but that was the tense you’d use to describe an ongoing or series of actions, not a thing you did once.

“This is the third time you’ve failed, Twilight.” His voice was soft, not sarcastic or cruel. More matter-of-fact and serious than she was used to hearing from Discord. But his words made no more sense than if he’d been trying to rile her up.

Twilight sat up. “What are you talking about? I’ve never tried this before!”

He sighed. “You give up in despair, every time. Well. Both times, I suppose, it’s happened only twice before this time. You assume that you thought of everything and nothing could have gone wrong and then when it goes wrong and you come back here, you try to die. I’ve had to wipe your memory of it, twice.”

She… hadn’t told Discord that if this failed she would want to die. She had carefully hidden that from him, in fact. Twilight went cold. “You – how?”

Discord raised his eyebrow. “Really, Twilight. Casting a memory spell isn’t that challenging. I had the strength for it the last two times. Might not this time, though, and you’re close. You’re so close.”

Twilight brought her hooves up and stared at them. “What did I do, then? Did I do this? The exact same thing I just did?”

“Oh, no no no. You learn from your mistakes. Subconsciously, I assume. I notice you never put any effort into searching for Ashen Heart, even though you ostensibly believed her to be alive.”

… Why hadn’t she searched for her? Yes, she blamed Ashen Heart for destroying the world, but the younger alicorn was still her niece and the only other living creature on this planet besides herself and Discord. Why would she have allowed her to wander alone, and never even try to find her? “What do you mean?” she asked weakly, beginning to fear she knew.

“The first time you tried it, Ashen Heart was the power source. This was shortly after Rarity died.” Rarity had been the last of her friends to go. She’d struggled up until the end to find beauty in this blasted world. Most of the gems in Discord’s garden, Rarity had given him. “You spent most of our friends’ lifetimes researching the spell, trying to recreate it, and you thought you had it. But Ashen Heart burnt herself out, pouring out all her magic into the spell, and died of it… and you still came back here, and her sacrifice had been for nothing. You created an alternate universe, but you were still bound to the timeflow of the one casting the spell. So you came back to this timeline when you were done. Our timeline still existed.”

She was… starting to remember that now. Remember the horror and the surprising grief she’d felt when she’d come back and found Ashen Heart slumped over dead, Discord trying to revive her. “What… happened then?”

“Well, then you moped around for a decade or two. I thought you’d snap out of it and start trying to figure out what you did wrong and try it again, but you didn’t. When I caught you trying to strangle yourself, I erased your memories, so you didn’t know you’d tried and failed… and that did the trick. You started working on the spell again. I would need to power it, of course, so you worked with me to refactor it to utilize chaos magic, and you figured out the issue with the paradox, so you tried to put a clause in that would separate you from causality. But it didn’t work, because your mind is bound to time and you have a very hard time imagining how to exist without it.

“I didn’t want to risk you losing your progress. I waited decades for you to get off your tushie and try again, as my own magic started to run out and I got weaker. I spent a lot of that magic trying to demonstrate the existence of multiple time dimensions, and how causality actually works behind the scenes, and you listened but you didn’t do much. Finally you told me it was hopeless and you wanted me to kill you, so I erased your memories again.

“But you kept everything I taught you about time, and you incorporated it into the spell. Your spell was perfect, by the way. There was just one tiny problem.”


“The clock.” Discord poked it. “You did all the work to unbind yourself from the timeflow so that you could alter our timeline without paradox and then you brought with you an artifact that binds to timeflow, and you never separated it from our timeline… and you probably couldn’t, not without breaking it. You can’t go back in time to change the thing that is the reason you went back in time and expect to get a result unless you’re bringing the spell with you, like Glim-glam did, but she was only going back ten years or so; you can’t do that, you don’t have enough magic to carry the spell with you if you’re going to go back 300 years. Or, unless you completely sever yourself from the time dimension and exist outside causality.”

“But…” Her eyes filled with tears again. “Then it’s impossible! Ponies can’t do anything without a timeflow; I wouldn’t even be conscious! I wouldn’t be able to take any actions if I was outside time—”

“I know,” Discord said gently. He took her chin and lifted it, his golden mismatched eyes looking down into hers through the blur of her tears. “But I can.”

“You – you can?” She stared at him, and then got to her hooves. “Why didn’t you say so before? Now we’ve wasted the antimatter, and the equipment was blown up so I can’t even make more, and—”

Discord put a finger on her lips. “Hush. You can rebuild the equipment, you can make more antimatter, and the reason I didn’t tell you is the same reason you thought it best to have me power the thing. You can’t use the energy of a matter-antimatter explosion and fuel the circle, and if I’m fueling the circle I can’t send myself. Glimmy pulled that off because she was tying it to the Map of Harmony, and again, short temporal distance, but there’s no more Map of Harmony and you and I are the only large concentrations of magic on the planet.”

“So – then we can’t do it!”

This time Discord’s sigh was exasperated. “No, Twilight. We just haven’t figured out how yet. I can think of three possible theoretical ways to do it, and I’m sure if you put your mind to it and get over your disappointment that this didn’t work, you could as well.”

“Discord – my energy’s running out as well,” Twilight admitted. “I get my fuel from a concept just like you do, and there’s no more friendship and harmony on this world anymore than there is chaos. I don’t know if I have another decade before my magic’s so low, I can’t compensate for the lack of food, and I starve to death.”

Discord took her hoof in his paw and lifted it. “But you’re wrong. I’m your friend. I may still be the spirit of disharmony, but if you and I work together, that’s harmony.” He smiled at her. “Listen, we would be the most powerful magic users out there even if the timeline changed and the princesses were still alive. I’m thousands of years old and you’ve read every book on magic in existence.”

“That’s not that many; only the ones in the palace survived…”

“Ah, you read most of the others before the accident. But listen. We can’t afford distractions, we can’t afford to mope and give in to despair. You’re right that we’re running out of time and this might be our last shot. So don’t make me wipe your memory. You have to be here and present and focused.”

“And… and you do too,” Twilight whispered. “No more… uh…”

“No more Fluttershy.” He nodded, a hangdog expression on his face. “I know. I – I don’t know how I’ll manage without her, but I have to let her go, if – if there’s any chance of bringing back the world she loved. It’s… it’s what she would w-want—” Now his eyes were filled with tears, and his voice was cracking.

The despair Twilight had been feeling when she returned was giving way slowly. She wasn’t sure that what she felt was hope, exactly… more like wishfulness, that could maybe turn into hope. “All right. All right. This time we’ll do this together, and when we have the fuel ready and the means to charge the circle, I’ll charge it and we’ll send you.”

He nodded. “And it’ll work this time.”

“It has to,” Twilight said.
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#1 · 1
· · >>alarajrogers
Very nice:

There are a few more commas than there ought to be in the opening paragraphs, but that all settles down once we get to Discord's house. Time travel stories always leave me scratching my head, so I'm still not quite sure what'll happen to Twilight once they figure out how to cast this spell. Maybe have them address that at the end? Other than that, though, like I said: very nice.

#2 ·
· · >>alarajrogers
The biggest problem here far and away is that the story is mostly telly exposition, and it's super-detailed, massively complicated, long-winded tell.

If I were writing this, I'd start by showing the disaster. Or, if you want to start in the wastes, have a flashback to the disaster very early on. Don't tell us what happened, show us. This is especially relevant when what you have to show is incredibly theatrical! Who wouldn't want to write word-porn about Amblegeddon? Who wouldn't want to show us the Mane 6 surviving and coping, or Fluttershy's funeral? If you're pressed for time or space, keep in mind it doesn't take many words to do this, but even a few words with some questions unanswered is better than telling us rote. This is a wasted opportunity, and without it the story languishes in exposition.

Same thing for Discord telling Twilight what happened. Please don't give us paragraphs of Discord telling us the technical details of the past. Do a flashback. Show us.

It was a skeleton, it had no gender.

Show canon disagrees.

One huge unspoken issue here is that even if they save the world, Discord will lose his mind yet again when Fluttershy grows old and dies in sixty years. He'll probably try to go back in time yet again to be with her, and what effect will that have? Her mortality and its effect on him needs to be addressed or at least lampshaded, because anything they do here is at best a very short-term fix for his loss. There's no way he wouldn't be aware that all he's doing with centuries of effort is potentially buying another small dose of his drug.

The ending is a little weak. Part of the reason for this is that your explanation for what Twilight needs to do differently is not as cohesive as it needs to be.

You tell us that Twilight's despair is lifting, but I'm not seeing it with show, nor does it seem believable. The story at that point is terribly bleak, and Discord is starting to cry. Convince me better.
#3 · 3
· · >>alarajrogers
I agree with TQ that this entry is bogged down with tell-y exposition, and the issue manages to span the entire story--mostly it's exposition for what has happened, until the end of the story when it becomes exposition for what will happen in the sequel. Also, since what has happened is really, really horrible (everybody died), the emotions you're trying to evoke come off as heavy-handed. I'm being told that it's sad, instead if experiencing it through the characters.

I don't think you need to restructure the story or add scenes, necessarily. You can definitely keep this all as is, but ease up on the expositing and focus instead on dropping clues in the dialogue, and the characters act. By the time we get to using the spell, discord and twilight could have dropped enough clues for us to know what's going on, *and* we'll get more of a chance to see them interact with each other. As it is, the dialogue gets bogged down a lot, especially in the tea scene, and it gives the image of two characters taking 30-second breaks between replying to each other.

By the way, I'm a little confused by the "we need to carefully move the rig" problem. It felt invented, and I'm pretty sure no reader would have called that up as an issue if Twilight had simply warped the machinery outside. Going to find it after discord snaps it away felt a little like filler.

Also, like BB, I was not able to follow the time travel stuff, but then, I never am. I just kind of smile and nod when I read time travel stories. :)

Here is the thing, though, I love the big ideas with harmony, disharmony, and magic fueled by concepts. I think that stuff is the strongest part of the story. If the time travel stuff was clearer (maybe have twilight think up a metaphor to explain it to discord?), and the Interactions between the characters more compelling, you would have a serious winner on your hands.

Thanks for writing. Good luck!
#4 · 1
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic

Thoughts: I was frustrated towards the beginning of this, as it seems to wander for a while before setting its hook and showing us the state of the world. It also seemed to invoke a few naked-ish plot devices—particularly the clock—which might generally be easier to buy if introduced with a more action-oriented approach rather than just telling us about it through narration.

But, with all that said, I felt like this built into a journey that I was pleased to find myself getting emotionally invested in. I liked the back-and-forth uncertainty about which of Twi or Discord was more affected by their grim circumstances. There was a satisfying bit of an adventure/traveling feel when they had to go find where Discord sent the thing. I even very much liked Discord’s reveal at the end about the past experiments, as well as the decision to cut the story before their “final” try. In other words, this story is rather a bit of a grower, but it gets there.

Apart from just generally punching up the beginning and giving us more clarity about the state of the world sooner, the only real thing I would ask for here is to better address the question of what the audience should be feeling for much of the first half. What I mean is that my horror-radar (“hordar?”) keeps pinging me that it’s detecting trace elements of horror (or at least darkness/despair type feelings) in Twilight’s outlook on the world, but it never coalesces into a very strong feeling. By the end, that matters less, because the story has found its feet as something that isn’t quite horror (though is still rife with darkness). But earlier on, I feel like its emotional messaging is a lot less clear.

Nevertheless, this is pretty effective. I do think some revision would help it, but it packs enough punch that I don’t have a problem high-tiering it as-is.

Tier: Strong
#5 · 3
· · >>alarajrogers
I feel like I've done a lot of authors a disservice this round by just saying "I don't know what else to add here." Per usual, I haven't really had the time or energy for a lot of in-depth reviewing, and by the time I get around to doing just that, other people have generally said everything I want to say.

I guess, for this one... I don't know. I agree that you'll want to seed hints about the twist throughout the story. Maybe have little things stand out to Twilight as uncannily familiar? Give her intense emotional reactions to stuff without really knowing why?

Seeing Flurry, for instance. As far as Twilight knows, Ashen Heart is still alive out there, but she hasn't seen her in centuries. Naturally, she'd be emotional, right (that's something that goes, surprisingly, unstated in that scene, by the way: Twilight doesn't seem to have any emotional reaction to Flurry being alive and eleven years old, even when she probably... should)?

Suppose she's confronted with a feeling that she didn't expect, though. Grief. Or guilt. Or something she has no explanation for. Something she has to rationalize away.

I applaud your attempt at giving me a twist at the end of the story. You really did catch me by surprise with the reveal. But I think you did your job too well. A good mystery like this, the breadcrumbs should be obvious on a re-read.

I don't see no breadcrumbs. Maybe Twilight ate them all. Give her a break; she's been hungry.
#6 · 2
>>Baal Bunny
>>Miller Minus

Wow, second place! And I believe this is the first entry I've managed to ever get into a Writeoff! (I don't do well with short writing deadlines, as anyone who follows my stuff on fimfiction could probably guess.)

Thanks all for their comments. What I take away from this is:
- more showing, less telling (which expands the size, but that's ok now that the Writeoff is over)
- better explanation of the time travel and what the results will be
- more hints that this is not Twilight's first time trying this. (Her unconcern with the location of Ashen Heart was supposed to be a clue, but I can see that by itself, that's not enough.)

This worked out very well and I'm very pleased with the results of this Writeoff (for me... little disappointed in the drama that blew up around some other entries.) I will definitely try to do this again sometime.