Dsarker - Words.

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Dsarker - Words.

Post  Dsarker on Tue Jun 04, 2013 5:11 pm

Okay. To start off with, here's a fic that I wrote recently.

http://www.fimfiction.net/story/107552/words



Prince Blueblood stands silently, watching the endless horde of the griffons come over the hills in the distance. They were still too far off to be counted - though even if they were closer, there would be little point. Around him, the other soldiers are checking their weapons, stretching, or letting off curses under their breath. One mare tells a crude joke while a stallion laughs too much. The typical behaviour of ponies facing almost-certain death. Prince Blueblood had been through enough to ignore it for now.

Along the line, a courier flies. The pegasus, her armour as polished as if it were a parade despite the weeks of fighting, calls out “Make ready to receive a charge!”

“Make ready,” Prince Blueblood repeats, though they were disciplined enough that it was unnecessary. The prince knows he should say something to the ponies beside him. Tell them how proud he was of them. It is his duty, and he has always strived to do his duty.

But he had never been able to express himself properly. That had always defeated him.

---

“It’s good to meet you,” said Celestia warmly to the earth pony noble mare, who repeated the sentiment, the two women exchanging meaningless pleasantries.

Prince Blueblood sat still and silent next to his aunt, uncomfortable in his stiff formal clothes, and afraid to move lest he give in to foalish fidgeting. He didn’t want to look at the grey filly sitting across from him, her mane arranged in a perfect maiden’s ponytail. His betrothed, Octavia Melody, Celestia had told him.

She smiled at him, her hooves clutching the delicate violin on her lap. Celestia had presented the gift, saying it was from him.

As if he knew how to choose gifts.

Celestia turned to him, and in a tone of voice that brooked no argument, said “You should take Octavia for a walk in the garden,” and her mother agreed. Their words flew over him like a pegasus. He rose up, slow and clumsy, and Octavia glided to her hooves like something out of a dream.

They walked through the garden together, remaining carefully in view of the two families in the meeting room. Blueblood had never seen one of the famous Earth Pony gardens before. The place seemed impossibly beautiful, like something out of a storyteller’s tale. The filly beside him spoke in a soft voice, words he did not really hear.

He could not possibly marry somepony like this, somepony from this place. How would she be able to live in his home, in the stony city of Canterlot? Impossible.

“Are you displeased with me, Prince Blueblood?”

He blinked across at her, before guessing that he had been thinking aloud. Words. They had always been his enemy. Now she was looking at him uncertainly, and biting her lip. How could he be displeased with her? It was she who should be disgusted to be marrying him.

He could never make himself say all that, and after a moment, just settled for “No.”

Mindless dastard, defeated by mere words.

But she seemed satisfied, and they walked on through the garden while his aunt and her mother smiled at them from the house.

---

The griffons are now visible. They are still too far off to be distinguished from each other, but they can be seen rather than being obscured by the dust cloud. Prince Blueblood remembers the past fights with the griffons, and their weapons, double-headed war axes. The ponies who had died on their cruel edges numbered too many already.

Prince Blueblood grips the warhammer by his side. The familiar feel of its haft reassures him. It has been his companion for many battles against the griffons. It has claimed the lives of many a griffon before. While he holds it, the griffons will not pass.


---

The wedding was a short ceremony. There was some fanfare, but not too much. There never was much music played anymore, and the few celebrations were dulled. But not even the marriage of a minor prince could go unnoticed. So there was a celebration, of sorts.

There was no music. But there were all the traditional things at a wedding. A flower filly. A bridesmaid. A best stallion. There were guests, of course. Octavia’s mother and family, and Princess Cadence. Prince Blueblood waited at the end of the hall, the guests turned to face him. The doors opened, and he turned, looking as Octavia came in in her dress. She was just as stunning as she had been when they first met. She smiled at him, looking radiant.

As she finally reached where he was, he wanted to speak to her. He didn’t know what it was he wanted to say, but he felt something was necessary. As he stared, not speaking, she whispered to him, her voice worried. “Are you happy, Prince Blueblood?”

He didn’t know how he could answer her. How could he not be happy to be marrying her? He did not deserve her - not in the least! By all rights, she should be unhappy to be marrying him, not the other way around.

But the words refused to come, and he was forced to settle for a mere nod.

---

Prince Blueblood looks upon the griffons. They are closer now, and he spots one whom he remembers. Larger than the others, and with eyes of deadly cunning. One more foe for him to kill. One more enemy’s skull to crush. He takes his warhammer from his side. The battle is about to start. The killing, and the dying, it is just a few moments away.

---

The hospital was quiet, at least in this area. Prince Blueblood waited, worried for his wife. It had been some time since she had gone in, through the single door from this grey waiting room to the hospital proper.

At the last he stood up, ready to go in and find his wife. He had just made his mind up to do so when the door swung open, and out came Octavia, smiling, followed by a nurse, also smiling. They came over to him, Octavia hugging him tight as she reached him.

“Oh, Blueblood, my love. I’m pregnant,” she said, her voice radiating happiness. He stood there, stunned. Pregnant? What should he say? Should he speak at all?

“That’s right, your Highness. She’s pregnant, with a colt,” said the nurse. Blueblood was still reeling mentally, shocked - but delighted. He opened his mouth to say something, but no words came out.

Octavia looked up into his eyes, a tiny hint of unhappiness clouding her joy. “Are... Are you unhappy, my love?” she asked.

Prince Blueblood tried to think of something, some way to prove to her that he wasn’t. Words, something to tell her that he was happy, ecstatic. But nothing came.

He finally shook his head, raging against his failure, against his weakness when it mattered.

She sighed relievedly, as if that were enough, and then kissed him with a smile.

---

The griffons charge, shouting war cries, huge axes waving overhead. The sun glitters on the curves and edges of their hideous armour.

Prince Blueblood raises his right forehoof, brandishing his warhammer, and calls out to the ponies again. “Ready!” They brace themselves around him, shields coming together and spears sliding through. Of course they know what to do, really. He was there to remind them of their duty, to stand with them, to inspire them with his presence. That, at least, was something he could always do, even when everything else defeated him.

He reaches back to touch the violin tucked at his side. He remembers back for one moment, lets the memories touch him again for one moment.

Only a single, final moment.

---

The doors slammed open as Prince Blueblood came in, smelling of dirt and death. His armour was tarnished, the stain of griffon blood on it. He dropped his warhammer, the head causing a clunk as it hit the polished floorboards. His armoured horse-shoes dug scratches in the wood. The servants bowed, erratically, before scurrying off.

He stumbled through to the inner room, breathing hard, and saw Octavia, looking paler than she usually did, lying down on the bed, a silk-wrapped bundle beside her. At his entrance, she looked up at him, and smiled.

“Oh, my sweet prince, you’re home,” she said, happily. “Would you like to see your son?”

Prince Blueblood hesitated, realising that he’d walked into his house in full armour. He thought to apologise, but the words would not come... and she did not seem insulted. So, after a short time, he bowed to his knees, and looked closely at the infant held in Octavia’s forelegs.

He felt he should say something. Congratulate her, perhaps, or praise the newborn foal. But he could not make himself say the words, and he merely looked on.

“Are you happy, my love?” she asked, with a hint of anxiety in her voice.

He cursed himself, silently, for his failing. Words, once more triumphing over him. “Yes,” was all he could say.

She smiled, as if that was all that she needed.

---

The horde of griffons smash into the line, sending bodies and limbs flying. A great cry, of pain, and anger, and fear rises from the pony line. Blueblood swings his warhammer, crushing a griffin’s skull. The line falters, and the griffons start to push through. The ponies are packed so tight that even the dead remain standing.

A pony shouts “Celestia!” and the call is repeated, ponies crying out the name of the princess as if it could give them strength. Slowly, the line starts to stabilise, ponies’ hooves digging into the ground. Blueblood chants with the ponies, swinging his hammer like one of the pegasus sky forge trip-hammers.

An axe cuts into Prince Blueblood’s side, and another glances off his helmet. Blood obscures his face for a second before he casts off his helmet. He barely feels the wounds, merely irritated at their impeding of his movements. Pain of the body has always been something he could ignore.

Somewhere ahead of him, a light gleams.

---

The snow chilled to the marrow as he scooped it up, but Prince Blueblood ignored it, continuing to shovel the bowl full. When he finished, he stood up, and carried it back inside.

Octavia lay completely still, not even speaking, on the bed. Her black mane outlined her pallid face. The room was empty apart from her, and grey with winter’s chill. A small fire crackled in the fireplace, to the other side of her sick-bed. The foals had been sent away, under Cadence’s care while their mother struggled for life.

Slowly he approached the bed, and knelt down. He took a cloth, and dipped it in the snow before putting it on Octavia’s forehead. The fever was burning through her like the flames of a furnace. She was white as a sheet, as though the furnace was turning her to ash.

The medicine had run out, and there was no more to be had. And there was no time for a mage to leave the Wall for a single mare, even her. Blueblood knew this, and understood it even as he raged against it. The mages were bound by duty even as he was.

Octavia slowly opened her eyes, and smiled weakly at him. “So cool,” she murmured, and sighed at the cool touch of the cloth. “You were always so good to me.”

“You should rest,” Blueblood muttered. Things unspoken rose within him, things he had wanted to tell her from the day he had met her. But he could not say them, could not find the words to express them to her.

Words had always defeated him.

---

“Attack!”

The call echoes down the line, and Blueblood repeats them, leading his group forward. To either side, the ponies advance, swords and spears flashing like lightning from above. Somewhere to the right, the zebras are advancing too. The sound of hooves at speed comes from behind as the reserves advance.

Blueblood only looks at what is in front of him. A horde of foul griffons, a shifting and tossing mass of winged forms and foreign weapons and armour. He pushes forward again and again, striking with all his strength. Griffons fall beneath his blows. Axes hack at his sides and blood runs down his forelegs, turning his hoof slick where it grips the warhammer, but he feels no pain.

She is there, just ahead of him, just past the Griffon line. Her grey face is as perfect as the day they first met, as the day they walked through her mother’s garden. Her mane catches the sun, and she shines like a blessing from heaven.

Oh, how she shines.

---

Her hoof touched his, holding the cloth against her burning cheek. “I’m so sorry,” she said, softly, weakly.

He didn’t understand. Why should she be sorry? He should be the one to apologise for what he had done, for leaving her in this lonely house, in this harsh life. He should be the one to beg forgiveness.

“I’m so very sorry,” she said again. She slowly lifted her hoof and touched his face. “I saw you as a foal, and... and I loved you. So I went to live among the ponies so I could find you and marry you.”

He still didn’t comprehend what she meant, what she was saying. “What?” he finally said.

“A changeling should never love a pony. It cannot end well, but... I could not deny my feelings.” She was crying now, tears running down her cheeks. Blueblood felt he should say something, do something, to stop it. But all he could do was hold the cloth and wipe them away.

“I will pray,” she whispered. “I will pray to whatever gods there are, that I may return to you, to find you when your time ends. I will pray, my prince.”

Blueblood sat silent, wordless, wiping his wife’s face... and waiting for her to die.

---

Axes cut at him, spilling more blood. He feels nothing.

She is there, just ahead, smiling, her hooves outstretched.

Blueblood takes another step, howling wordlessly, and his warhammer crushes another armoured head. The griffon's glowing eyes wink out and it falls. He takes another step, and its armour crumples under his hoof.

She is there, waiting.

He takes another step, and darkness closes around him, his vision narrowing to a shadowy tunnel. He can still see her, a light in the midst of gathering shadow, but the pain reaches him now, breaking through the fury of battle, and with it comes the weakness of impending death. He raises his warhammer once more, struggling with the weight that was once nothing, and takes a final step. Almost there.

He topples forward, the darkness rushing to claim him.

Her hooves catch him, soft and cool as spring flowers, and bear him away from that place.




So. Looking back on writing that.

A) I really like using the present tense for the action scenes, as well as keeping them short and quick. Draws the reader in. I think I might use this trick again in another fic.
B) It's another short-paced story. I'm not sure if this is a crutch - if it's short, I don't have to explain everything. For example - why is Celestia arranging a marriage between Blueblood and Octavia? Just because Octavia is the foal of nobility? Why are the griffins fighting the ponies and the zebras? Hang on, Octavia's a changeling? etc etc.
C) This woolen jumper I'm wearing is kind of itchy.
D) Octavia and Blueblood? Again? And it all ends unhappily? *yawn* BORING, I've done that before. Is this sufficiently 'original' or am I beating a dead pony here?
E) I wrote this in a very short time-span. I think this is the main problem I have with writing long stories. The newest parts of this story - the pregnancy and the marriage scenes, plus their combat scenes - seem to show the traces of a later addition. Is this just me?
F) The romance - I'm not the most knowledgeable on social interactions. Did this sound or feel 'real'?
G) Ponies use weapons really awkwardly. It looks like they're mostly relying on defensive formations - spears held crooked in the elbow of a foreleg? I still don't really see how they'd use anything like that other than in a sort-of phalanx.
H) Leitmotifs. Here and in Not Worth A Bit specifically, it seems like the repetition of the 'The words failed him' or whatever in here, and the 'not worth a bit' in Not Worth A Bit is a bit over the top. Is this your experience? Is it actually keeping the theme, or just there to make sure you don't forget with the rest of the story not being good enough for that?

I think that's enough. What do you people think? Is the story good, readable, or laughable? What parts felt tight, and which parts just fall apart under examination? Is there anything you'd change, even if out of pure personal taste?

Please tell me, it's the only way I'll learn.

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