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Luckily, We Have an Expert · FiM Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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The Errant Title
Once upon a time, there was an Equestrian Knight in some distress. He had traveled to the very edges of the earth in pursuit of the legendary Arabesque of Annexation. The Knight had possessed every advantage at the start: reasonably well polished barding, a sword so well decorated that it surely must have been enchanted, a team of pack mules and one mulish jester, and a purse bulging with gold and jewels, thanks to the generosity of his noble parents and royal patronage.

But now the purse was barren, the pack mules had set off to find their own fortunes, the splendid arms and armor had been sold, and all the Knight had left to him was the Jester, who performed nightly with merry songs that earned a meager supper for himself and his master.

One fine evening, the glum and moonlight Knight sat at the inn table, brooding as the Jester approached with a quiet whistle, bearing a roast squash and some potatoes. "Ho, now, my liege, look not so glum! There's still aught to be said for singing for one's supper!"

The Knight sighed. "I thank you again, my loyal ass, and once more you have my gratitude. But I have yet again prayed all day at the temple for holy guidance, or at least sustenance to aid our quest, but the Divines remain silent. I am truly at a loss for how to proceed."

"Ah, master, your fortune may stretch further than you surmise. My cunning songs were meant not just for entertainment of the masses, but also as advertisements of our plight. See here, I bring you a guest who wishes a word with you..."

Up strode a curious mare with odd charms painted on her hide, like a hedge witch who crafted charms for commoners. "Sir Knight, word has reached me of one who sought the Arabesque of Annexation, and as it happens this artifact belonged to Maeriphas Cadno, my esteemed ancestor. If your desire to gain this object is matched by your courage, I can guide you to where the artifact lies, and there you may find your fortunes improved."

Swift preparations were made, and soon the three set out under moonlight towards a deep crypt, where the Arabesque was still clutched in the dry hooves of Maeriphas, guarded from plunder by a cunning curse that could only be subdued by one bold of heart.

Deep in fetid depths, past ancient stones and walls crusted with cobwebs and nitre, they stood at last before a dais on which lay a terrible corpse, the curious silver Arabesque clutched in its hooves. The Knight strode forward, refusing to quail at the eerie sight, uttered the charm the Witch had told him, and seized the delicate silver wire…

At his touch, the silver released a surge of shining magic, and the Knight's eyes rolled up in his skull as he collapsed upon the foul corpse.

"There, that will do it," said the Witch. "You are free of him, Jester."

The Jester shuddered and swayed as if freed of a terrible burden. "I could not in honor just leave him, as did the others," he said, "But nor could I stomach splitting meals with him while he refused to work or find any means of support for himself. Did he really think manna would fall from heaven to feed us during his holy quest?"

"I know not," said the Witch, "But I daresay one with your talents had better remain here than seek an arduous return to a kingdom filled with such numskulls. I can put your skills to better use and also pay you fair board and coin in exchange."

The Jester nodded, ears laid back as he looked down at his liege's slumbering form. "He's not in any pain?"

"No, he sleeps with enchanted dreams, which shall continue until the cursed artifact absorbs his life force, the same fate that befell my esteemed ancestor. It’s how she got left down here in the first place. I thought the device looked enough like an Arabesque to fool him into thinking it was his quest object, and that’s how it turned out."

The Jester nodded. "Very well, it's perhaps a more peaceful end than he deserves, but an end it is. Good night, Sir Knight, and very pleasant dreams to you."

Witch and Jester turned and slowly ascended from the crypt, leaving the Knight wandering in the labyrinths of his noble fantasies, divorced from all useful earthly concerns.
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#1 · 2
This one suffers from the same drawback as the previous one: it is ‘divorced’ from any sort of concept. I gather this is a sort of skit on Don Quixote, with many limits imposed by the reduced size format. But as it is, none of its characters has any poney specificity.

My other gripe would be that the story looks like an apologue, but I’m actually totally unable to guess its takeaway. What is it that you try to tell us? What's the point of the story? Why should I care after I've read the last line. All these question are left unanswered to me.
#2 · 2
I liked this one as it's quite well contained--it's a clear story, just a few characters and an ending that's not rushed. I suppose my critique of it would be that I didn't really care much for the protagonist--either as a hero or as a buffoon. I just didn't get to know him that well, so I didn't really relate to the Jester's impatience with him.

Overall the writing is quite pretty, though, and I especially enjoyed the final line.
#3 · 2
This story reads more like Poe than Cervantes. The key interest for me is the dark intent of the mulish jester, or perhaps the sunken ambition of the knight, for whom the former is a foil. I am left wondering if the jester regrets his betrayal, further exacerbated by the slow and eerie discharge of his master's execution (worse, I think, than if he had died on the spot).

I think there are parts of the introduction which come off as a bit wry (e.g. "...so well decorated that it must surely have been enchanted", "...pack mules and one mulish jester") and confuse the atmosphere of the story. I was anticipating something more comical.