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Through Fire · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Show rules for this event
The Golden Alicorn of the Sun
The ship was gold.

The ship was also fire, and ice, and love, and friendship, and courage, and a thousand other things, but although they could not come up with a name they could agree on, gold was obvious. The giant spaceship rising into the sky above Equestria on a pillar of flame and smoke was hope given physical form, a desperate gamble, a second fling of the cosmic dice with the forlorn wish of all involved that the sacrifice of their beloved Princess of the Sun would not demand a similar sacrifice for her return.

If she could be returned.

Although the golden ship was fire as it ascended, the metal walls inside were slick with ice, and liquids colder than pony imagination coursed through metal arteries and veins. Bundled in their insulated suits, ponies and yaks and griffons and all other races hunched over their machines and gauges, watching for the slightest imperfections. In the very core of the golden vessel, floating in a pool of liquid air, the Princess of the Moon held the shadow of her domain across the surface of glistening gold. She was the first to call for the ship to be constructed, first to reach out to all of the races of Equestria with her desperate plea, and first to board, lowering her body into the liquid pool with her eyes closed and her heart open to all who trusted her moon’s protection on their dangerous journey.

Where they were going, even that promise would not be enough.

On the bridge, brother and sister sat together in silence, one to raise his magical shield around the ship when they approached their destination, and one to bend over her intricate calculations, measuring and estimating, because locating their elusive destination made finding a needle in a haystack a near certainty by comparison.

Below them, as the glitter of gold vanished into the darkness of space, the Princess of Love continued to watch with her foal under one wing. If this gamble failed, she would lose both friends and family, but she refused to shed a tear, for true love was a beacon, and if her family and friends survived their mission, she would be the light they would follow to return. With or without the only mare she dared think of as mother.

Onward the golden vessel flew, growing closer to the sun’s warming rays while the crew of mismatched creatures drew together over their practiced tasks. Changelings chittered as their crystalline forms of ice began to shimmer with heat, scuttling around the workponies who brought new cooling devices into action. Yaks bulking in their insulated suits shoved against massive valves to let liquid air circulate through the mechanical veins of the ship, blast into vapor against the sun-warmed hull, and crush back into liquid again.

And still the sun grew closer, until even the crew in the interior spaces could feel the warmth against the walls, and the howling of the fire outside filtered around the constant rumble of the pumps that kept them all alive. There had been enemies among their numbers at one time, changeling queen and broken-horned unicorn, flamboyant performer and fanatic equalist, even diminutive young pegasus and failed unicorn student. There were no enemies now, or at least until their mission was complete.

The roar of vaporizing gas was deafening, muted only slightly as a shield formed around the ship. Powerful enough to cover a city, it was a trivial thing to the power of the sun, but sufficient for the bubbling of the golden hull to cease.

And still the frail golden vessel descended.

Vast tongues of fire arced away from the sun’s surface, each of them powerful enough to not only wipe out the ship with only a tiny fraction of their power, but their homeworld also. At the helm, a pegasus with unsurpassed skills drove the ship between those deadly jets of plasma and death. This was not the time for flamboyant maneuvers, because a single crash would destroy them all. Habits drilled into her head by her fellow Wonderbolts ruled the maze of death, allowing them to draw even closer to their unseen destination.

And then…

The gods of the sky are jealous of their powers. Chaos had offered his assistance in their mission by removing himself to a place far away, but even his absence did not prevent misfortune. A failed sensor, a moment of distraction, the overconfidence of a plan going as it should. The tip of a tongue of fire licked against the ship, piercing the shield of love and shadow as if it were tissue paper. The golden skin of the ship did not simply melt, it turned to vapor in a long stripe, exposing the ice inside and sending creatures tumbling out into the burning void as the frozen atmosphere vented.

The disaster happened too fast for anypony to stop, but the falling crew were grabbed by both unicorn spells and the stabbing tentacles of the changeling queen, who ripped her protective suit to ribbons in order to snag the screaming crewmembers before they too exploded into molten vapor. The entire ship shuddered with the impact, the cries of the injured, and the terrible rending of the vessel’s golden skin.

Without hesitation, the remaining crew flung themselves into action while the engines spluttered and died. Spare panels of gold were flung into place, welded and strapped by changeling and unicorn magic to protect the vulnerable guts of the beautiful machine while the scorched and burnt crew were stuffed into pods filled with changeling goo. Even the queen, shedding burnt chitin and frostbitten flesh in equal chunks, was forced into a hibernation pod of her own, and the prince of yaks stood guard over the entrance to make sure she remained.

Their lives were safe, but only for the moment. For flesh and hide would take far longer to heal than the skin of the ship, which was rapidly buttressed and braced against a second blow. Ponies skidding in the puddles of melting ice worked hard as they could to make the engine work again, heaving open crates of spare parts and cutting away damaged equipment. At the head of them all, a pony most known for growing apples brought her mismatched team together, focusing their efforts where they would do the most good and praying that their efforts would not be in vain.

The ship fell deeper into the fire. Down and down, through the streamers of lashing plasma and into the embrace of the sun.

With splutters and pops of thrust, the golden ship sluggishly dodged its way through the swirling maelstrom. Where chance had scored a bubbling scar against its fragile hide, chance now cradled the vessel in good fortune, although the pilot would be first to take credit for her intent use of every spark and pop from the wavering engines. The power came back in fits and starts until the roar of power once again pressed the crew against the decks, and a ragged cheer swept through the ship. Battered but not beaten, with crew still patching the bubbling gash in the hull and one frantic seamstress patching the lifesaving suits of the injured crew, the ship resumed its descent.

Through some fluke, there was an upwelling from the sun’s burning core that made a temporary sanctuary of their course, hotter than ever before but at least without the lash of energetic plasma arcs. They had barely begun to descend into the hellish heat when another cry rang out from the isolated and filtered observer station, barely loud enough to be heard.

It was her.

Buoyed up on the upwelling of solar plasma, the Princess of the Sun floated limply in the embrace of her beloved celestial body. It was too early for celebration, because the ship still needed to descend even closer to the heat that threatened to turn them all into a simple puff of vapor, and even if they were able to reach her, it was possible that the tragic sacrifice that Celestia had offered to re-ignite her failing sun had been fatal.

Every member of the crew bent to their tasks with renewed vigor, trying not to think of the unthinkable. The support members of the ship groaned with stress while the engines howled. The theoretical limits of the vessel had been surpassed some time ago, and the only thing holding it together was the dogged determination of the crew and a complete disregard for the laws of physics. Every so carefully, the ship maneuvered closer and closer to the limp form. The motions they could see might have just been from the flow of plasma keeping her suspended, or they could be a spark of life. Further down they descended until the pilot could go no deeper into the hungry fire because of the certainly of their destruction. Engines howled at the end of their power gages, the golden skin of the ship was shimmering and vaporizing at a dangerous rate, and even another few lengths into the plasma upwelling would have been fatal.


Even this eventuality had been planned for. Moving at a near blur, the mission specialist unlocked the grapple, flipping switches and moving knobs faster than any mortal pony had a right to, and the gripping metal claw descended from the belly of the ship. Moving more carefully now, she took out her lucky bit and inserted it into the slot of the controls. There could be only one attempt at this prize, and the claw descended into the swirling plasma below with inevitable steadiness.

Enchanted steel links from the depths of Tartarus glowed white-hot, but refused to bend or warp as the mare manipulated the joystick, dropping the claw closer to their target, then with infinite delicacy, she touched the red button.

And the claw closed.

Every member of the crew held their breath as the chain clattered up, wound back into the belly of the ship far slower than any of their nerves could stand. And at the end of that chain hung their goal, an alicorn so radiant with light that it was impossible to see just how well the claw was holding her until it finished its ascent, and the golden doors swung closed.

A joyous cry came from the medical pony peering through the window into the insulated chamber, a declaration that the Princess of the Sun survived, although too weak to move and far too hot to approach.

Only then did the crew let out a brief cheer.

But their mission was not over. The sun is a greedy creature, and was not about to give up ownership of its prize so easily. The engines of the unnamed ship howled as loud as they could, with the throttle controls pressed against the stops so hard they bent. Despite every effort, the ship remained firmly in place while the golden hull continued to ablate in a haze of vaporized metal.

Then the Alicorn of Friendship lifted her head from the calculations that had guided their path to this point. There could be no greater friendship than coming together with others who shared your goals, no matter how different they were, no matter the risk.

And that friendship… became magic.

Great golden wings spread from the ship, vast expanses of shimmering feathers that caught the solar wind and swept them up. No mere slog to escape the sun’s immense gravity ensued, but the soaring of joy and the power of harmony.

There may have also been a Solar Rainboom. Although the pilot took credit.

On a trail of molten gold and rainbow light, the unnamed ship soared into the frozen void between worlds, following a beacon of love to guide them all home.

In the years to come, many histories of this event were written, most reflecting favorably on the writer’s viewpoint. In some, the pilot of the great ship was a griffon, or the operator of the crane a yak. Still, they all reflected the great joy celebrated by all of the races of Equestria for the return of their beloved Celestia, and the reuniting of the Royal Sisters. Again.

And although the great ship launched without a name, every creature within, even the fierce changeling queen from her cocoon, agreed on a name by the time the battered and ragged craft returned from its one and only flight. Even today, the glittering vessel sits upon a place of honor, in a Canterlot park where every visitor of whatever Equestrian race or beyond knows its story. Families gather to reminisce as older members tell the tales of their own ancestors, driven by love and friendship and family to do what no creature thought possible. They take photographs and touch the golden skin of the ship, worn to paper-thin in places and with the warped patches still visible, but they all eventually gather at the plaque by the crumpled tail where the ship landed after its epic journey.

Here we give thanks to those brave heroes
who challenged the impossible to bring back
our Sun and Moon

On this day, we dedicate this memorial to their memory
so that all of the world knows what can be accomplished
with true friendship

The Prometheus

« Prev   8   Next »
#1 ·
· · >>georg
"The Fire Bringer". Geez, that was a trip. It was an amazing story. The tone was great. I felt nervous as the story progressed, fearing the worst. The subtle hints was nice as well, giving it a more "mythic" feel. Even when everyone came together to save Celestia and put aside there differences (for the time being), it showed how grave the situation was.
#2 ·
· · >>georg
Very nice:

Usually, I'd object when a story has no dialogue, but the storyteller's voice is so clear here, it's essentially a monologue, a character giving us a word picture of this semi-mythical event. I love the "golden age of science-fiction" echoes everywhere--from Jules Verne and H. G. Wells to Ray Bradbury and Cordwainer Smith to Larry Niven and David Brin--but it's still completely and totally a Pony story.

The only suggestion I could make would be maybe half a sentence or so somewhere to describe how the sun happened to go out in the first place--was it a fiend or an accident or an asteroid or a mystery? Just a mention is all.
#3 ·
· · >>georg
Okay, I happened to glance at the other reviews, whoops. What I was going to say would’ve for the most part just echoed their comments, so nothing of value was lost.

I still wanted to say that I loved the way everything was described, and the little details that kept the story interesting (Princess Celestia getting rescued via interstellar claw-game really sold it for me). That and the tension, the adversity: the way the crew had to overcome the obstacles on their way was well handled, and really made for an immersive narrative.

Thank you. I think I might have actually learned something from reading this. (Now watch me forget it in ten seconds flat)
#4 · 1
· · >>georg
This story is based on Ray Bradbury’s The Golden Apples of the Sun.Text for comparison.

The author has kept Bradbury’s central conceit (a spacecraft on a mission to retrieve something from the sun) and dressed it in MLP characters and concepts. The combination works here, and the author’s style, while more reportorial than Bradbury’s, does a fair job of evoking a sense of wonder and adventure. This is a safe upper-slater.
#5 ·
· · >>Miller Minus >>georg
So, this may just be a Chris-getting-hung-up-on-something-stupid thing, and if it is feel free to disregard... but what's the significance of the name Prometheus? I mean, yes, you and I know who he was and what he did, but that's not a myth I can readily reconcile with Equestrian mythos, and if the myth doesn't exist in Equestria, then... why is that a name they abruptly all agree on? I'm finding the name leans too heavily on human/real-world background for me to make sense of it in an Equestrian context.

As a more general criticism, I don't think your "everyone working together" conceit translated well to all of the crew. Why is Chrysalis suddenly risking her life to save Celestia? Apparently the sun's already been restarted and, as far as the Changeling Queen should be concerned, everything's hunky-dory. I agree with the commenters above that the ponification of the story's themes works nicely on a setting level, but it's confusing me on a character level for some (okay, really one) of the characters involved.

But past that? There's a lovely grandiosity to the prose that doesn't feel pompous or overstuffed, considering the situation. I love the few bits of dry levity you work in via RD, and how they offer a little relief from the story's consistent tension. And I thought it was clever how you managed to make Cadence both the pining woman at home, and an integral member of the team, at the same time. This is one where there may have been a few bits that pulled me out of the story, but when I was in it, I was fully immersed. Thanks for that!
#6 ·
· · >>georg
I have never read the original Bradbury story, so I'm judging this as its own beast, strictly as a work of ponyfic.

And it's... alright?

That's super backhanded, I know. Let me clarify: I think the prose is stellar. The science fiction concepts, I don't know that I can give you much credit for, because I don't know how much of this comes from Bradbury and how much is your own invention. But I think they're extremely well integrated into your story, and it's a credit to how you wrote it that the themes from the show, and the characters and their personalities, show through even when you're only implying them. I like that narration and action drive the story, rather than dialogue. Uh. I like the... spaceship?

...The premise wears a little thin at some places. It's glossed over how so many characters, even villains, put aside their differences and united to save Cellybelly. And while the theme and character of MLP are carried over pretty well, a lot of the series' personality is lost in the effort to unite it with Bradbury's style.

Except when the big crane dips into the sun... to grab Celestia... like a claw machine...

...that was a little jarring to see. unexpectedly cartoony in a story that's been dark science fiction up until that point.

Look, I don't know. 8/10. My tendies are ready, excuse me.
#7 ·
· · >>georg
So, hi, nice to meet you... I'll be your dissenting opinion for this round.

I am apparently the only one who found the prose overly purple. There's a lot of tangling sentences and overly verbose ways of describing things, such as which character is which (a pony most known for growing apples?), what's happening to them on their journey—hell, even the ship itself is overly showy for no apparent reason. Whose idea was it to make it gold? The Author's.

Meanwhile, as Posh mentioned, everybody's motives, and everybody's additional stories that we haven't seen, get glossed over. And as Chris mentioned, the "everybody working together" theme is meant to be taken at face-value, but all that lead up? All that working past differences and banding together to rescue Tia? That's what I wanna see.

And for the record, the final word of the story was as much a non-sequitur for me as it was for >>Chris.

Now don't get me wrong, I like pretty prose a lot. If I had the choice between an understated slice of life story with interesting, challenging prose, and an epic fantasy told in plain English, I'd choose the former every time. But that extra flavour has to serve a purpose. Evoke emotions, lend voice to a character who talks like that, or something. But the only purpose I can gather here is that an author wanted to show off...

And I've made that complaint before, and I'll use the same disclaimer I did last time: I'm just calling its like I sees its. I'm not making any guesses towards your intention. I just found it to be a lot, and "self-indulgent" was the feeling I came away with.

But it sounds like it's just me, so. I dunno. Thanks for writing anyhow. Best of luck!
#8 · 2
· · >>georg
We do not get enough sci-fi around the Writeoffs, so bless your soul for entering one! As a whole, I think this story does a great job of establishing the height of its stakes, which is absolutely essential to pull off these kind of "man vs nature" set-ups.

Now, let's talk about the prose. When you're doing this kind of super-high-level, dialogue-free, telly-by-design narrative style it's a risk. I know you're doing it to evoke classic sci-fi, but this style has fallen out of vogue for a reason. Before I go on, I should note that personally for me, it worked. I got into the flow of how I should be processing the information relatively quickly, and it made for an overall enjoyable reading experience. But take a different reader, or, hell, even the same reader in a different mood, and your results can vary drastically. In other words, I can't help but think that this is a pretty uncontrolled way of presenting your story. You're leaving a lot to the reader to do the heavy lifting, and that's what I mean by this style being a risk. An example of what I'm talking about would be that last scene; it can come across as really flat and cheesy if the reader didn't happen to be 100% on-board with everything else in the story.

As for the story itself, I went and read the Bradburry original after finishing this, and I have to say that I liked the fact that you took your own liberties with the ship design, the way you highlighted the stakes, and the overall themes. Crossovers should never be carbon-copies with ponies pasted on top, so kudos for pulling things in a new direction.

Overall, I had fun with this as a whole, and I was more willing to gloss over things like Chrysalis's motivations than some of our other reviewers were. But, I still do think that the concerns expressed by them are still valid, because as I said, you are shouldering a lot of the responsibility of processing the story to the downstream (reader) side of the equation. This is going to be a bit of a gamble—but for me, it certainly paid off!
#9 · 3
Ok, I’m taking credit. the Golden Alicorn of the Sun is mine. Give me your hearts, ripped raw from your chests and marinated in a bed of pure sea salt. I’ve probably thought about writing a story like this ever since I read Ray Bradbury’s The Golden Apples of the Sun back way long ago. I re-read it recently, and I have to admit, I wanted to ‘fix’ some of what I now see as problems. (much like I suppose some people want to fix Rembrandts and such, but meh) So the writeoff popped up with this prompt and that little devil that all of us have in the back of our minds gave me a poke and said, “Put up or shut up.”

The Golden Apples of the Sun is from "The Song of Wandering Aengus" by W.B. Yates in 1899
Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

No, I’m not quite sure what he meant either. I guess I don’t have the heart of a poet. (although I do have an empty jar on my desk in case I find one)

Anyway, the Bradbury story has a ship travel to the sun to collect a dipper full of the sun’s surface to bring back to Earth. I want you to think about that for a moment. If you said, “Yeah that sounds reasonable” that noise you hear is your high school science teacher beating his head against the wall and wishing he had become a beautician.

Thankfully, this is a My Little Pony round.

So what better way to pay homage to that great mind than to send Twilight and all of her friends to the sun to rescue Princess Celestia, who is stranded there after making a Heroic Sacrifice to re-ignite the sun (Think of the 2007 film Sunshine only… No, on second thought, never think of that horrible abomination of physics again. What’s worse, it doesn’t even make most top ten worst science films lists. Ick.

Really, every time I think I’m a lousy writer, I go watch something that the film industry pumped fifty million dollars or so into, and I feel so much better. Hm. I wonder if they’ve thought of a plot for My Little Pony - The Sequel

(Replies to the wonderful people who commented once I get back from my trip today)
#10 ·
· · >>georg

Proper sci-fi? In my ponies? It's more likely than you think. :y

I grew up on Clarke and Asimov and Bradbury, and this is so much my jam it almost hurts. The nostalgia is real. It really reads like old school sci-fi too, all clinical and descriptive yet capturing the sense of hope and human pony triumph that so much of that era of the genre embodies.

This likely isn't a story for everyone, but you really hit the niche you were going for. And on a personal note, it was just really nice to read something like this again.
#11 ·
· · >>Pascoite
>>Baal Bunny
>>Anonymous Potato
>>Anonymous Potato
>>Miller Minus

Meridian: Myself, also. I believe I had read nearly every book in the grade school library by the time I hit high school. My first reaction to getting there was to go into the library and wallow. My basement is also full of grand books, of Asimov to Zelany, Galaxy magazines, periodicals that I subscribed to and ones I picked up at garage sales by the box that pre-date me. Think I’ll write a Bradbury Martian story next. (or the Atomic Ernie with his cousins Beta and Alpha Ray series that I've never been able to find again)

Bach: The style may have gone out of date, but I date from the time of that style. :) I think other than style, the only thing I brought along was the title and the spaceship. The original story is waaaay dialogue heavy, and when I re-read it, the words kept bashing me out of my warm bubble. (hence my decision to do this one totally sans dialogue.) I was really wanting to sneak something in about Chrysalis being determined to defeat Celestia (her eternal nemesis) and therefore was determined to bring her back just for that, but I didn’t find a good spot to stick that square peg, so I left it hanging.

Miller: Ahem. Gold is an excellent conductor of heat, which they’re going to need. Perfectly good reason right there, let alone the literary scheming I had planned.

You didn’t know Prometheus was the mortal who stole fire from the gods in Greek mythology? I blame the decline in the US educational system ever since they removed the Latin requirements. Darned kids nowdays.

Posh: To be honest, I used more of Bradbury’s flavor than contents. The idea had been simmering in the back of my head for about ten years, during which I never went back and re-read the story. I read it again before I started writing, and was frankly amazed at how I had to shift gears to make sense of it (which is why I went no-dialogue, as above). And you have to admit, Pinkie using the claw machine was perfect characterization. :)

Chris: Thanks! I really should have put Golden Harvest in there somewhere, I suppose. And I didn’t feel the need to explain why Prometheus was a pony idea too, because a whole giant walloping load of pony history gets cribbed straight from Greek and Romans anyway. I was more worried that people would not twig to the sun having gone out and Celestia traveling there to reignite the pilot light.

Groaning: Yep, and thanks for the link. (the copy I found online stunk. I had to go downstairs and find one of my paper copies in my book collection.)

Potato: Thanks, I try to be educational in everything I do. (Even the naughty bits)

Baal Bunny: Yep, the cosmic waterheater going out and Celestia going to relight the pilot light was something I was a little worried that people would not catch, but I couldn’t find a smooth way to slip that in other than by hints and tips through the text.

Terrus: Bringing the tension up like that was intentional. I needed a crescendo where Good triumphs over Overwhelming Odds and… I didn’t know what I was going to do when I got there. I *did* know I wasn’t going to kill off a character just to kill one like Bradbury did (Hey, I’m Georg, but not Georg RR Martin) so I used it to let Chrysalis have her Shining Moment of Awesome So This Is Why We Brought Her Along. Thankfully, not having an ending planned worked out just fine because I hit that spot and wings popped out, just like it was planned, like playing pool and seeing a ball you didn’t aim at drop into a pocket. I’ll take it! Then the very tail followed so naturally I just kept writing until I smacked into the end… and totally forgot I wanted to use Prometheus there darnit. Yeah, had to do some last-bit editing to move it around, but I’m happy.

(Sorry for taking so long to get my responses here. I blame real world stuff.)
#12 · 1
· · >>georg
I blame the decline in the US educational system ever since they removed the Latin requirements.

Miller is Canadian.
#13 · 1
>>Pascoite Same thing, more frost, fewer bikinis. Still no Latin. (And he's still awesome)

Si hoc signum legere potes, operis boni in rebus Latinus alacribus et fructuosis potiri potes!