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Glim Glam's Neverending Shim Sham - Better Late Than Never Edition
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Gentlemen, behold!

I have returned, and assuming that interest in these threads continues, I will henceforth be resuming my review series, though I am altering my approach slightly. I will explain below.

>What the hell is this?!?
These threads first began as a mostly humorous response to a certain obnoxious British poster who shall remain nameless. Way back in the bygone days of 2018, this individual attempted to shill a fanfiction he'd written by starting not one but two threads about it. The response to his opus was almost universally negative, and unfortunately he was not the sort of person who handled criticism well. The resultant shitflinging war would become known in the annals of /mlpol/ history as Glimmergate II.

This unnamed individual's intense autism eventually became so repellent that I took it upon myself to go through his work line by line and tell him, quite explicitly, everything that was wrong with it. This turned out to be a much larger project than I'd envisioned, and it ultimately took several months to complete. Due to the author's fixation with Starlight Glimmer, which formed the center of the controversy, I adopted Glim Glam as a moniker.

I started the project under the assumption that it was just a bit of funposting that would run its course and then end. As far as literary criticism went, I was mostly just blowing smoke out of my ass and having a giggle; I assumed that sooner or later the drama would die down and my tripfagging would get annoying. As such, the original plan was to finish what I had to say about Silver Star Apple and the Search for More Money, Love, The Meaning of Life, and Magical Cards, and then let "Glim Glam" drift quietly off into the sunset as long as I'm spilling my guts here I might as well come clean: I was also the guy who was tripfagging as King Battlebrit.

However, for whatever reason, people formed an impression that I actually had some idea of what the fuck I was talking about when it came to books, and so I received several requests from various Anons to review more fimfiction stories. After doing a couple of these, I realized I enjoyed reviewing stories, and also that as a writer I was learning a surprising amount from these authors mistakes, and thus Glim Glam's Infinite Ham-Slam was born.

My previous reviews are listed below, in reverse chronological order:

Neo-Equestrian Obstetrics
by Kassaz
>>>/mlpol/348497 →

I.D.: That Indestructible Something
by Chatoyance
>>>/mlpol/342944 →

Our Girl Scootaloo
By Cozy Mark IV
>>>/mlpol/331344 →

Rainmetall (included in the Our Girl Scootaloo thread, post # indicates start point)
By /mlpol/'s very own Mexican Anon
>>>/mlpol/338993 →

The Best Night Ever
By Capn_Chryssalid
>>>/mlpol/327793 →

Fallout: Equestria
By kkat
>>>/mlpol/284789 →

The Sun & The Rose
By soulpillar
>>>/mlpol/269307 →

Friendship is Optimal (included in the Past Sins thread, post # indicates start point)
By Iceman
>>>/mlpol/266598 →

Past Sins
By Pen Stroke
>>>/mlpol/248482 →

Would it Matter if I Was?
By GaPJaxie
>>>/mlpol/202151 →

The Original Silver Star Threads:
(these threads are pretty chaotic and I don't begin "reviewing" until midway through, but they're an entertaining read if you have the patience to comb through them)
>>>/mlpol/165646 →
>>>/mlpol/166716 →

>No, seriously, what the hell is this?!?
To my eternal surprise, these threads have not only continued to generate interest here, but I've also had a couple of odd people from outside the site wander in and ask me to review things. A couple of anons have said that my comments on a few stories might be of value to the MLP fan community at large, and have suggested that I reformat them to make them a little more...palatable.

Again, when I first began this project, I assumed these were mostly just shitposts being written on a site that few people bothered to visit, and as such I had no compunctions about peppering them with vulgarity and slurs because really, if you can't use the internet to anonymously hurl epithets at a complete stranger, then what is it even for?. With a couple of exceptions, most of the stories I've reviewed are well-known, well-loved stories written by horse-famous authors. As such, I feel like I've mostly been punching up, and I make absolutely no apology for any comments I've made about how god-awful most of this dreck actually is when you examine it closely.

However, in a slightly broader scope, asking someone from the more genteel quarters of the fandom to comb through page after page of me calling Pen Stroke a faggot may be a rather tall order, particularly if they are unfamiliar with the way imageboards work. So, I have decided to make the following changes to my approach:

1. These threads will still be done in the same read-and-react format to which you are all accustomed, and in general not much is going to change. However, I am going to make a conscious effort to make my commentary a smad less obscene no promises, but I do intend to try, and I am also going to try to get through individual stories more quickly (especially the long ones).

2. I will also be hosting an off-site blog (currently in development, link will be posted when it's ready) containing truncated reviews of select stories, reformatted to be more accessible to the broader MLP fandom and fanfiction community. Reviews posted to this blog will be formatted like normal articles, and will be a summation of my thoughts on the fics being discussed, rather than a long, meandering read-through, and will contain 20% fewer gay jokes and ethnic slurs. Updates will be posted as the project progresses.

Now then, with all of that out of the way...

Current Story:

by getmeouttahere


requested by that anon who keeps bugging me about it
66 replies and 67 files omitted.
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Thank you, I'm happy you're enjoying it. I've neglected this thread for a couple of weeks to work on some writing projects, but will probably be getting back to it in a few days.

>The Rise of Darth Vulcan by RHJunior
I remember this request, or at least I do now that you've reminded me what it was called. I was trying to recall everything that I'd been asked to do and I remember there was one somebody had requested that had something like "Darth Vader" in the title. Is this it?

Anyway, I expect to have Exchange wrapped up in relatively short order since it's been a pretty quick read thus far. Someone has been bugging me to do Project Horizons pretty consistently for a really long time now, and while I don't think I'm going to do the whole thing, I feel like I should probably do at least some of it, so that will probably be next. After that, the Darth Vulcan thing looks like it would be a pretty good choice, so I can go ahead and put that on the list. I think at some point I'd like to take a look at some of the Conversion Bureau stuff as well.
Yes, that is the one. It can't be found on fimfiction since RHJunior was, and I might assume is to this day, a peculiar figure. Him being an avowed Christian fundamentalist and young Earth creationist, and often expressing his views in the comments, led to some conflict with the users and staff of fimfiction and eventually he deleted his account and moved to AO3 instead. This was many years ago and my memory is a bit fuzzy but I think that's how it went.

I recall you agreed to check out Project Horizons in previous threads so I'm not surprised it takes priority, and I have only a surface-level familiarity with the Conversion Bureau (mainly that its seems to be the essence of skub put into writing) so that'd be interesting. Though I'd be lying if I claimed that I was not excited over that you're seriously considering my request.

Whoops, I kind of forgot about this. Anyway, continuing from where we left off.

You may remember that Twilight and Rarity were in the palace having a conversation. Twilight shows Rarity an outfit she saved:

>A deep purple robe, covered with perfectly accurate constellations, floats in the air along with its matching starry headpiece.
The text doesn't clarify the significance of this, but we are meant to assume it is the stupid-looking Gala dress that Rarity made according to Twilight's specifications back in some long-forgotten episode. Normally, I would object to the author's referencing some obscure detail from the show and relying on the reader's presumed knowledge to explain why this thing is important. However, in this case, it basically works, because it's made clear through context:

>The unicorn’s nervous smile immediately fades as a look of horror washes over her face. “No... no, it can’t be... I thought that abomination was destroyed!”
>“Nope~!” Twilight chirps. “It was still in my closet where I left it!” Her smile fades and she adopts a menacing grin. “There’s a banquet for the nobility in a few days. Everypony who’s anypony in Canterlot is going to be there. I might just wear this little number to it... and if I do I’ll be sure to let everypony know that it’s a Rarity original~”
>The unicorn gasps and wobbles on her hooves as if on the verge of fainting. “You... you fiend! How could you?!”
>Twilight places the disastrous dress aside and smiles cheerfully as a few more giggles escape her mouth. “Though, as long as you don’t fail me, you have nothing to worry about. Bring me my Anon and you have my word that this dress’ll never see the light of day again. Simple, right?”
Even if the reader has never seen the episode being referenced or has simply forgotten it since it happened forever ago, they could still figure out what's going on here. At some point in the past, for some reason, Rarity created an apparently ugly-looking dress for Twilight. Twilight still has it. She intends to use it to gain leverage over Rarity by threatening to wear it at an official function and brag about how Rarity made it for her. Even if the reader doesn't catch the reference, they can still figure out what's going on.

Anyway, the more salient point here is that Twilight is getting worse. Her obsession with Anon has consumed her to the point where she no longer has any moral qualms about bullying her friends into doing what she wants, so long as it serves this goal.

>Rarity dramatically hangs her head in defeat. “Yes... you’ve made yourself very clear, Princess. I, Rarity, shall do as you request.”
It's also clear that power has gone to her head. She now makes her friends bow to her and refer to her as "Princess."

Anyway, Rarity agrees to do as she asks, and then she mumbles to herself about how much she wants Anon's human penis in her horsegina, and then she goes to sleep. End of scene.

Page break. We rejoin Anon and Celestia in yet another awkward moment. They are now in the bedroom, trying to decide who is going to sleep where. He complains that he will have to sleep in his clothes because Twilight nuked his house and he lost everything, but Celestia tells him to look in the drawer. He discovers that, once again, the Horse Princess has seen to his every need: he now has a full wardrobe tailored to his individual preferences.

>Your heart nearly stops. All those conversations you had about climbing, all those little questions she asked... not only did she listen to every word, she remembered them almost perfectly...
Celestia's single-mindedness when it comes to Anon is annoyingly similar to Twilight's. Their current predicament is mostly the direct result of a series of blunders she made. She seriously underestimated the depth of Twilight's obsession, and made a grave miscalculation in not only abdicating the throne, but ceding it to Twi. However, she was attentive enough to remember that Anon liked mountain climbing and...presumably bought him some clothes that would be suitable to such a purpose.

>You close your eyes, but your smile doesn’t fade. You’re no magic expert, but it doesn’t take one to see that there’s no way this silly horse, who can’t even muster the magical energy to pull up her own sheets or lift a fork at the dinner table, can stand against Twilight as she is now, or probably even as she was before. Your rational mind tries to tell you those words were merely meant to comfort you, like a parent telling their child everything’s going to be fine as the house burns around them.
Case in point. The Geas is now almost completely spent; by Anon's calculation it will be gone by tomorrow. Also, despite still having her wings at least I believe she does; I took a rather long hiatus from this and I might need to skim the previous chapters to remember all the details Celestia is basically just a regular unicorn now.

Anyway, Anon isn't sure whether Celestia's confidence is just bravado or if she actually has something up her sleeve maybe I should just give up on the whole idiom thing, but he decides to trust her. They have another borderline-sexual-but-not-actually-sexual cuddling moment, and they go to sleep.

The chapter ends here.

10 - Purple Wings

>By morning, the rolling ocean below you has been replaced by the vast plains and deserts of Latigo.
Well, that was quick. I was rather expecting at least a chapter or two of Odysseus-like trials and setbacks before they actually get where they're going. Maybe a few stops on some islands inhabited by weird and dangerous creatures. But whatever.

>“It feels weird to see it from the air like this,” you say as you take another sip.
>Celestia nods. “Yes, and much has changed since I was last here. Without ponies to temper it, nature now runs free. What were once lush forests are now rolling deserts, and what were once barren wastelands now teem with life.”
I'm not actually sure that's how nature works. But whatever.

Anyway, the author takes the opportunity to feed us a bit of deep lore. The continent they are now flying over, Latigo, was apparently the home of the three pony tribes prior to the unification see S1 episode whatever for details. Their ultimate destination, an island called Equus which I believe is at the center of an inland sea somewhere in Latigo I might have to skim previous chapters to verify this as well, is believed to be the source of all life in the world.

>“Well, if they wanna know what happened so bad, why not just ask somepony who was there?” Pinkie asks with a giggle. She gives Celestia a big smile, only to find a gentle one returned back to her.
>“I’ve learned many things over my long lifetime, Pinkie Pie, but perhaps the most important is that we should live in the present. The past is the past, and the future is unwritten. Lessons can be learned from yesterday, and elaborate plans made for tomorrow, but only through actions taken in the present do we forge who we are.”
I'm actually a little unclear on the significance of this. Pinkie seems to be implying that Celestia lived through some of these events, but it seems as if most of them ought logically to predate her. Celestia is old, but she hasn't been around forever. I don't remember if there is any canon time frame given for the Hearth's Warming unification event, but it feels like it ought to be older than 1000 years in the past.

Events like all life emerging from a wellspring in the center of the known world definitely feels like "dawn of time" territory, not "1000 years ago" territory. To put things in perspective, a 1000 year old person living in our time would have been born during the High Middle Ages. Old enough to have seen some shit, certainly, but relatively young in the grand scheme of things. To put this in perspective, the High Middle Ages was the apex of European Christian civilization, but a person living in that period would have needed to be 1000 years old in order to have actually met Christ. A person living in Christ's time would have needed to be about that old in order to have seen the Bronze Age and met their legendary pervert. And so on.

Granted, we don't know exactly how old Equestria is supposed to be; they could be a relatively young civilization for all we know. However, if you're trying to create a deep-lore mythology for a fictional universe, it's worth considering that time can go back a long, long way. Our world's recorded history goes back about 10,000 years I think, so basically the lifespan of ten Princess Celestias, and that's just the stuff we know about. The age of Earth itself is something like 5 billion years; you'd have to go through about five million Princess Celestias in order to see that far back. Just food for thought.

Anyway, there's some more banter here, and it seems like the author's implication is that Celestia and Luna did physically witness the events he's talking about. Maybe getmeouttahere is a Young Earth Creationist; who knows? In any case, Celestia informs us that in the present era, Latigo is inhabited by all sorts of dangerous and unpleasant creatures, including dragons, minotaurs, and something called "murderhounds" all I can say here is that they better not turn out to be as big a letdown as the Hellhounds in FoE were.

In any event, the conversation now returns to more practical matters. They are still being pursued by Twilight, and AJ confirms that Twilight is unlikely to just give up something which, I will again point out, Celestia ought to have known, since she has known Twilight far longer than AJ has, and is arguably closer to her.

>“Ah understand what you’re lookin’ ta accomplish here,” she says, turning to Celestia. “Ya want ta get some magical rock thing that’ll bring your power back. But what ah want ta know is... what are ya plannin’ on doin’ afterwards? Ah hate ta be the bearer of bad news, but ya unleashed a monster on us and ah need ta know if you intend ta do anything about it.”
This seems like a valid point. I will also once again state that this mess has been almost entirely Celestia's fault, yet she has thus far exhibited a rather cavalier attitude about all of the mayhem she's caused. I assume that this was at least partly intentional on the author's part and done for the sake of humor, but still. You'd think a 1000 year old horse princess would have a better sense of responsibility.

Anyway, while they're talking about all of this, Apple Bloom suddenly observes that they are being pursued by a fleet of airships, which appear to be gaining on them.

>“Speak of the devil and he shall appear, as they say,” Celestia grumbles, rolling her eyes at the sight.
Who says that? Would that really be a saying here? Is there some kind of horse-devil I don't know about? Is said Devil only 1000 years old too? I will seriously never tire of going through fanfiction and nitpicking stupid little details like this :DDDDDD

The ships are being commanded by none other than Rarity, and she and AJ are understandably surprised to run into each other. Rarity appears on deck via some sort of magical projection system and demands their surrender.

>You feel the temperature around you drop by several degrees. Holy. Shit. The way she said it and the look on her face... this is a side of Celestia you haven’t ever seen before, aside from little glimpses of it back when she was a Princess.
I can't help but feel that, if she'd taken this attitude with Twilight a bit earlier, many of their present troubles could have been avoided.

Anyway, Celestia uses Intimidate on Rarity, and it's super effective. Rarity blusters, and tells them to prepare for combat.

>W-W-Well, then! I suppose it’s settled! I don’t know what you intend to do when it’s thirteen against one
I'm pretty sure Fluttershy wrote an erotic fanfic that began with this premise.

Anyway, they stand around on deck for awhile arguing about what to do (presumably their ship is still moving and the fleet hasn't quite gotten within firing range yet, so this seems cricket). The situation seems hopeless and blah blah blah. Then, Big Mac announces that he and Apple Bloom have come up with a convenient bit of plot armor secret weapon.

>Apple Bloom bounds up the stairs from below deck with a strange metal rod in her mouth, which sort of looks like a cross between something you’d see hanging in an auto repair garage and some weird D&D scepter.
I'm pretty sure Fluttershy wrote a fanfic about this, too.

ANYWAY, the long story short is that Big Mac's giant rod is some kind of magical tuning device that fucks with the timing of magical engines. Since Rarity's ships are already overclocking their engines in order to catch up to them, then all they have to do is fire this device at each ship and its engine will instantly kerplode. The catch is that you have to get close in order to use it, and getting this close to any of the pursuing ships would bring them within cannon range of all of them. Welp, it looks like the situation is once again hopeless. Too bad they don't have some kind of flying horse on board. Oh, wait, they actually do have one of those.

So, Anon hops on Celestia's back and the two of them take off. Meanwhile, Ponk manages to down one of the ships using the cannon she brought.

Page break. We switch to Rarity's perspective. Despite having no prior military experience, she seems oddly comfortable with commanding an airship battle, and likens it to dressmaking:

>Rarity smiles. As an artist who has created countless incredible dresses in the midst of the storm of chaos that is her little sister Sweetie Belle, a frenzied battlefield like this is nothing. She can see the design in her mind; all that’s left is to realize it.
I feel like I should raise some sort of objection to this, but honestly? Fuck it. It's an MLP story, and it's not like we haven't witnessed far more ridiculous events in stories that pretend to be far more serious than this one is. I'm going to allow it.

Page break. We now get the perspective of Big Mac and AJ on the bridge.

>“Ah dunno if you realized this, but these controls ain’t exactly designed for hooves!” he yells back, banking the ship hard to avoid yet another volley. “If you think you can do better, she’s all yours!”
This seems like a bit of a design flaw on Mac's part. I get that the ship was custom-built for Anon, but you'd think there would be a second set of controls designed for horses, just in case.

Anyway, blah blah blah, airship fight. This bit is split into several short sections divided by page breaks, with the perspective switching back and forth. Perfect for an action sequence like this, but again, we see that the overall second-person perspective was a bit of a regrettable choice in a story where the view needs to change so often. The tl;dr of it is that they are hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned, and Rarity prematurely declares victory. And then, suddenly, there's Anon, really showing everyone what a man armed with a convenient piece of plot armor and riding a flying horse is capable of. Rarity spits out her victory champagne on cue.

>The unicorn rears back in shock. “Celestia and Anonymous are WHAT?!”
Having sex in midair, when they're supposed to be taking down airships with their plot-armor cannon. Oh wait, never mind; I'm looking at Fluttershy's fanfic again.

>The distinct lack of the sound of cannon fire on the wind causes two orange ears to perk up and two emerald eyes to glance back to discover that the enemy fleet, or what’s left of it, has gone oddly silent.
This sentence is bad and you should feel bad.

>The Dawn Star begins to turn away, much more slowly this time due to the damage it sustained, and once again locks its course on Equus Island in the distance. An orange flare rockets into the sky and ignites above it, bathing everything nearby in a soft light.
This, however, is a nice visual.

Anyway, tl;dr Rarity has to choose between shutting down her engines and allowing her quarry to escape, or having her engines destroyed and also allowing her quarry to escape. She wisely chooses the former. Meanwhile, her quarry escapes.

Anon and Celestia return to the Dawn Star. The ship has sustained minor damage to its turning system, but is otherwise fine. Rarity, meanwhile, has lost seven of her original thirteen ships, and will be unable to move for at least a day (if I understood things correctly). So, it seems they are now once again on course for Spider Skull Island, or wherever they're trying to go...

...or at least it seems that way, until the perspective changes again, and we see Rarity firing off some kind of projectile spell she has for some reason. At least this author has the sense to distribute his plot armor evenly between heroes and villains. Some kind of magic beam fires off, and hits the Dawn Star as it's making its escape. It damages a number of vital systems, and the ship begins to go down. Big Mac is not sure whether they can make it to the island just on momentum. Meanwhile, it is now past noon, and the last of the geas bands are fading from Anon's wrists.

Awesome to hear that we managed to successfully mindbreak you into reading (some) of Project Horizons. I forget the particulars of the thread, but did you consider checking out some of the other 'big five' (the most acclaimed and 'biggest' fics in the FO:E subfandom), or did you settle solely on PH?
>I forget the particulars of the thread, but did you consider checking out some of the other 'big five' (the most acclaimed and 'biggest' fics in the FO:E subfandom), or did you settle solely on PH?
I forget the titles of the other big ones, but I've been to a couple of FoE panels at conventions since doing the review of the original fic and I'll admit I'm a little curious. I might want to at least take a look at them. I find subfandoms like FoE and FiO and so forth interesting mostly because the original works were so poorly done, yet they managed to spawn these massive cult followings. I'm curious to see how some of the derivative works compare to the originals.
Definitely an interesting endeavor to give a sense of completeness to this whole critical saga. For reference/ reminder, the 'big five' (those stories successful enough to gain large enough acclaim, or considered to be 'as good as' the original by fans within the subfandom) include the original and are as follows:

>Fallout: Equestria
>Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons
>Fallout Equestria: Pink Eyes
>Fallout Equestria: Heroes
>Fallout Equestria: Murky Number Seven

All of these are available on Fimfiction obviously.
Alright, I'm back.

So anyway, the ship's a goin' down due to Rarity's wacky shenanigans. Fortunately, they can see the island of Equus on the horizon, and Big Mac thinks there's a slim chance they might be able to stay airborne long enough to reach it. The geas is now completely expended, so it's pretty much do or die time.

>The entire island is essentially a giant volcano that descends straight into the sea.
A volcano would ascend upward from the sea, not descend into it. Actually, it's a stationary land mass, it wouldn't technically be capable of doing either. I get what the author is trying to say here, but the wording is awkward. Should probably say "the island is a giant volcano that rises from the sea" or something to that effect.

Anyway, this seems like kind of an interesting location. The island is, as stated above, a giant volcano. The sides are just barren rock, but the crater of the volcano is teeming with life. Presumably this is the place that is supposed to be the wellspring of all life in Equestria.

There are some other practical concerns here. The outer slope of the volcano is steep rock that can't be scaled, and there's no way to get in from the bottom, and yada yada yada. Right now, their main focus is reaching the island before the ship kerplodes.

But oh noes! Suddenly Twilight Sparkle appears.

Now that the geas is kaput, Twilight is of course free to whisk Anon back to her dungeon of despair and have her randy way with him. Apple Bloom, the child character who is only tagging along for the sake of adventure, naturally has only a vague understanding of what the quest is actually about. So, she inadvertently says the quiet part out loud:

>Apple Bloom scratches her mane. “Huh. I don’t get it. I mean, I’m pretty sure Anon loves Celestia, but ya say he’s marryin’ you? Weird.”

This, of course, sets off Twilight's autism. She falls into the "crazy old-maid Sporkle" loop, with the twitching eyes and the unkempt mane and all that.

>Celestia closes her eyes and shakes her head. “Twilight Sparkle... it pains me to see you like this. I truly thought you were prepared, but it seems my lessons were deficient, and my judgment poor. You were not yet ready for the burden of true power or leadership, my little pony, though admittedly one rarely is.” She opens her eyes again and you see only sadness reflected in them. “I’m afraid, once this is all over, that I’ll have to take back the crown until such time as you can prove you are truly worthy of it.”
Reminder that literally every misfortune suffered by these characters thus far is due to a single yuge mistake made by Celestia. If I have any major criticisms of this story, it's that almost the entire plot stems from Celestia holding a gigantic idiot ball.

>Twilight laughs. She laughs so hard that tears spill forth from her eyes, which she wipes away with a hoof. “T-Take back the crown! That’s rich! Look at you! I mean, really, look at you! You’re POWERLESS! I can feel it! Can you even lift a teacup now, or even one of your own feathers?” She shakes her head, a few giggles still escaping her lips. “You say it pains you to see me like this?! For me to see my former teacher, the pony I looked up to above all else, in such a pathetic state, pains ME!”
I will also say, however, that I really like Twilight as the villain. In one of the previous writing threads, I gave a fairly detailed breakdown of how to characterize the M6 [ >>>/mlpol/358191 → ]. The idea is that each character's personality stems from a relatively simple core concept, and that personality gives rise to sets of positive and negative traits that can be used to place the character in different story roles. With Twilight, you have a nerdy, smart girl who is studious and detail oriented, but also prone to obsession and overreaction. In this case, the author has chosen to play up her obsessive single-mindedness and turn her into the story's villain. Granted, I haven't read a ton of these fanfictions and for all I know this has been done to death, but for my part I think it's a pretty original use of the character.

Twilight makes a good sympathetic villain. She does what a villain is supposed to do: she creates havoc and stress for the other characters, and takes morally reprehensible actions that make the reader root against her. However, her reasons for doing what she does are both understandable and in line with her canon characterization. The reader can sympathize with her while still hating her guts, and even fans of the character, who otherwise might not like seeing their favorite pony in the role of a villain, can appreciate that her actions seem like things she would actually do.

This is a character who does not handle stress well, being stressed from multiple sources. On the one hand or hoof; fucking idioms, she has a nerdy crush on Anon, which her natural autism has transformed into an all-consuming obsession. At the same time, she has had god-powers basically dumped into her lap reeeee idioms, along with the responsibility of running the entire kingdom. She tends to freak out in situations like this. Her mentor Celestia, whom she respects and is constantly trying to impress, is the one who dumped all of this responsibility on her. On some level, Twilight probably understands that Celly did this for purely selfish reasons: she wanted to abdicate her responsibility and live a carefree life, so she dumped it all on Twi. Twi simultaneously resents Celestia for doing this, while also wanting to impress her by rising to the challenge and doing a good job. Meanwhile, the love story is complicated by Celestia also being her chief romantic rival. So, Twilight is an emotional cauldron right now. While the reader may not approve of the various insane and morally questionable actions she takes, he can at least understand why she is doing these things, and sympathize with her on some level.
>Murky Number Seven
That one stands out for some reason, I think I remember hearing something about it. I might take a look at that one after PH.
Misery porn that ratchets up the grim edgy nature of the setting and one of its locations to a degree that is comical nonsense, maybe that's why.
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>She shakes her head, her perfectly coiffed purple pony princess mane remaining pristine as it flows in the wind and her crown glimmering.
This imagery contrasts with what the author gives us a few lines earlier, with her hair popping out of place as she becomes visibly stressed.

Anyway, I don't entirely grasp the details here, but it seems like once again Twilight is unable to abscond with our hero as she wishes, due to some kind of magical technicality. The barrier surrounding the island, which prevents alicorns from entering I think, means that her powers won't work. They conveniently managed to cross this barrier while the two characters were exchanging barbs, so Twilight is forced to make an exit.

Meanwhile, the ship has finally run out of spunk. It soft-crashes into the water, and Anon is able to maneuver it to the island. As I recall it had several gigantic holes punched into it and it seems like it shouldn't be seaworthy, but we'll put a pin in that for now. At any rate, since the danger seems to have temporarily passed and they still have the challenge of the island ahead of them, they sensibly decide to take a lunch break. The chapter ends here.


11 - Guidance

As the chapter opens, Anon is suddenly underwater for some reason. The author keeps us presumably deliberately confused for awhile. Celestia pulls Anon out of the water, some mild playful hijinks ensue, and we learn that they have somehow found their way to a swamp at the "southwestern edge of the Cradle."

Suddenly, a wild Luna appears, signaling that they are in a dream. She helpfully explains that, even though her alicorniness prevents her from traveling to the island in person, she can still enter their dreams and give them advice.

>Ah, now you remember why Luna scares the shit out of you. She can tap into and manipulate your dreams anytime she wants, regardless of distance. Your body shudders involuntarily at the thought of Twilight having that ability... it’d be an unending rape-tastic nightmare for sure...
I believe this was the plot for a Nightmare on Elm Street/My Little Pony crossover that Hasbro sensibly shelved. Either that or it's the premise for another one of Fluttershy's fanfics.

>“Information, huh? I guess that’s good, but if I remember all the adventure stories I read as a kid, I’m pretty sure our spiritual guide is supposed to give us some kind of artifact to help us on our quest at this point. Maybe an amulet that repels nerdy purple alicorns or something?”
I'd have to go back and line up events to make sure, but I feel like this story uses the classic "Hero's Journey" outline as its model.

>You turn and wink at Celestia, coaxing a slight smile from her.
Does she wink back? What happens in dreamland stays in dreamland, after all.

So anyway, Luna leads Anon and Celestia around the side of the dream-island to show them a lake where they can hide their boat, and tells them there's some kind of side-gate or something that's protected by magic, which they can use to enter the caldera of the volcano. She gives them some quick instructions on how to get there.

Next, Celestia and Luna have a brief conversation. It seems that Luna is still a bit miffed about Celestia abdicating the throne and dumping crazy old maid Sporkle on her to deal with. They go back and forth for awhile in that old-timey language they use with each other.

>“We understand the need to seek for joy to ease the burden,” Luna says softly. “But such joy must only be found in certain places, and in moderation; a lesson we learned well after tasting the fury of the Elements at thine own hooves. So do not entertain the fantasy, for one single moment, that we do not understand what thy true intentions were, or the emotions swirling in thy breast. They spill forth even now from the very name he calls thee, Celosia!”
The implication here is that Luna understands perfectly well that Celestia's abdication was motivated by selfish desire, presumably the specific desire for Anon's mighty member. She calls her out for this of course, but also noteworthy is that she calls her by the name "Celosia." On the next line, Anon repeats this in his mind to confirm that it was not a typo. Presumably there is some significance to this name that will be revealed later. Either that or being on the moon for 1000 years will cause a pony to forget her sister's name.

Anyway, after this the dream ends, and Anon and Celestia both wake up on the ship's deck. Turns out they nodded off for about half an hour at the controls. The others, who were watching them sleep apparently, tease them for a bit. Then, they all head off to eat lunch.

Page break. Perspective switches again, and we see Twilight returning to her flagship, which I guess is now traveling with the fleet of airships that Anon et al shot down earlier. There is a bit of physical comedy as Twilight, who still hasn't quite learned how to fly, fucks up her landing and crashes on the deck in front of her entourage. Also, Rainbow Dash is there.

>Twilight sighs and facehoofs.
I really, really hate the word "facehoof," but I've come to grudgingly accept that authors in this fandom will probably never stop using it.

Anyway, Twilight has a security meeting scheduled, but she has to take care of something first, so Dash goes on ahead of her. Rarity is there, crying and being dramatic because she failed to capture Anon, so now Twilight is going to wear that ugly dress she threatened to wear.

Since Twi is still absent, they take the opportunity to discuss how crazy she's recently become. The general consensus seems to be that, while they are still basically willing to help Twilight bag Anon, it's beginning to look like a fool's errand. It's increasingly clear to everyone except Twilight that Anon is not just playing hard to get, but is genuinely rebuffing her affections. Dash, however, seems to think he can still be won over by force.
Anyway, Twilight shows up while they're talking about her. She assures them that everything is still within her control, that she in her infinite autism has planned for every contingency so far, and her quest to gain ownership of Anon's ding-dong is proceeding on time and under budget. She also assures Rarity that she understands she did her best, and that the dress in question has been destroyed.

She now lays out the next phase of her plan. The barrier around the island blocks alicorns from entering, which means she won't be able to go there herself. However, it does not block ordinary ponies, so she plans to send an army in to bring Anon back the old-fashioned way.

>The butter yellow pegasus trembles a bit for emphasis.
This is an example of something I've noticed this author doing quite often. I've been letting him get away with it partly because he's doing a much better job of entertaining me than our previous authors have, and partly because I just recently discovered that this is even a problem. Someone brought it to my attention when reading one of my stories, and now it's something I look for when reading other people's work.

Basically, the issue is that this author tends to refer to his characters by description rather than by name: the "butter-yellow pegasus" (Fluttershy) or the "pristine white unicorn" (Rarity), etc. If the character is just being introduced and we don't know their name yet, this is fine. It's also fine if you're trying to work in a description of the character's appearance without breaking the flow of your narration. However, once you've established who the character is and what they look like, there is no need to keep referring to your characters this way; in fact it can get obnoxious and confusing if you do. In this case, it's been well established that Fluttershy is a butter-yellow pegasus, so there is no need to refer to her as such every few lines.

Again, I've been letting this slide because it's a rule I've only recently discovered, that I've also been called out on myself, so I feel a bit awkward chastising someone else for it. However, I have noticed that this author does it quite often, and it's probably worth calling attention to at this point. Disclaimer: as I've said numerous times before, while I do consider my talents to be above-average for most of fimfiction, I am by no means an expert on writing, nor do I claim to be. Part of the reason I enjoy doing these analyses is that I learn stuff too.

For further reading on this subject:

Anywho, Twilight continues expositing the details of her nefarious scheme to jump Anon's bones. It seems she's thought of just about everything. Celestia's being reduced to ordinary unicorn status means that she's no longer a threat, and even though they are searching for a stone that will restore her alicorn powers, she won't be able to use it until she is beyond the barrier of the island. Thus, all that Twilight really has to do is surround the island with whatever ships she has left and send in a pegasus squad to retrieve her errant fuccboi.

So, all that's left for her to do is to dispatch her army. She puts Rainbow Dash in charge of this. Also, she gives her a magical anklet that glows brighter the closer she gets to Anon. It also improves her speed. There is apparently a side effect, but Dash leaves before Twi can tell her what it is. Presumably this will remain a mystery until it becomes plot-relevant. Also, as an added enticement, Twi promises to get Dash an all-access backstage pass at the next Wonderbolts show if she succeeds in her mission.

There is a bit more comedy, and then the chapter ends. I've still got about 2000 characters left, but this is probably a good stopping point for today. I'll do some more of this later tonight.

12 - The Altar

We rejoin Anon and Co. at the cove that Luna showed them in dreamland. It appears that the airship still functions as a watership for some reason, and they were able to find the place okay. Celestia is in the process of...doing something. Trying to work some kind of juju magic to get the gate open I guess. There's some rather overstated hammy emotional interaction between her and Anon, and yada yada yada she speaks the incantation to open the gate.

>“Cotton candy.” She speaks the words slowly and deliberately, as if reciting an incantation. This must be the ‘keyword’ Luna mentioned... wait, what?
>“Really?” you stammer. “THAT’S the keyword?!”
>“It was his favorite,” she says with a sad smile before stepping away.
Celestia seems to have more of a past than we've been led to believe. The author tastefully drops this subtle hint, and then moves on with the story.

Anyway, the "gate" turns out to be some kind of magical geyser that lifts them up, carries them over the lip of the volcano, and drops them down into the caldera. After getting their bearings, they decide that Anon and Celestia will go off to look for the Sorcerer's Stone (or whatever), while the rest of them stay here and work on fixing the ship.

The geography here is a little confusing. If I'm understanding it correctly, the magic geyser dropped them into a jungle that used to be a wetland, but the wetland dried up, and also there's a lake here, which is where the airship was set down...whatever. They use the airship's lifeboat to cross to the jungle (they all go together, because I guess Big Mac needs to chop down some trees in order to fix the airship).

So now, they go trudging through the jungle. There is some mild joking around, and we get a bit more explanation about how exactly these Orbs of Ascension are obtained. Basically, the seeker has to go to an altar and meditate, and some sort of magical hoopajoo jimjams the hoosafudge, and whimmy wham wham wozzle an orb appears, which only the person who summoned it can touch (these are all highly technical terms, btw). However, before it can be used, the seeker must carry it through thirteen separate magical gates, which charge it up with whatever magical jizzjams are needed to turn it into an Orb of Ascension.

It's probably easier if I let Celestia's fat ass explain it:

>“Yes,” Celestia continues with a tired sigh. “But even so, it is necessary to visit them all in order to fully empower the Orb. Each gate marks the wellhead of one of the world’s thirteen magical leylines, and as such, when the stone passes underneath the gate, it becomes empowered by the leyline’s magic. That all thirteen lines originate from Equus Island is what produces its powerful magical field, and also what makes the island, quite literally, the center of our world and the very source of magic itself.”

As an added bonus, we get some unsolicited headcanon about Princess Cadance:

>“Well,” Celestia replies, “you may not know this, but she was born a pegasus. Her family, seeking to increase their station, paid an adventurer a handsome sum to retrieve an Orb for their daughter, but he failed to visit more than half the gates before returning, resulting in Cadance becoming a lowborn alicorn. Lowborns were much more common in the past, but ponies eventually realized that the risk involved was not worth the reward they obtained. Truly completing an Orb of Ascension is incredibly difficult and exceedingly rare, so you can imagine my surprise when Anon stumbled into my throne room one day with a fully empowered Orb in his hands.”

Okey-dokey. Anyway, they eventually come to a grove of trees that look suitable for chopping. Anon and Celestia continue off into the jungle, while the rest of them commence to lumberjacking. Apparently Anon and Celly need to get to the altar before sunset; I'm not sure why this is or if it was mentioned somewhere earlier. I'm assuming it has something to do with the way the magic works. In any case, Anon is cautiously optimistic that they will have enough time to maneuver:

>She’s absolutely right. You got extremely lucky when the pursuing airship fleet decided to discharge their engines. It’s bought you the several days you’ll need to retrieve the Orb, but if you squander this opportunity you’ll no doubt be contending with the Royal Guard in addition to the Trials of Equus, and your odds of getting through this with your purity intact will plummet even further.
The implication here seems to be that Anon has once again underestimated Twilight's autismo resourcefulness, and assumes that they will have a few days head start before they need to worry about pursuers. We, however, know from the last scene that this will not be the case.

Anyway, Anon and Celly have another borderline-flirty moment, and then Celestia suggests that he ride her, which is actually quite practical, since they have a lot of ground to cover and she can fly. However, for some reason, she doesn't fly, she just walks. She still has her wings, right?

In any case it doesn't matter, because all of a sudden Rainbow Dash out of nowhere. Apparently, thanks to her new bracelet, she is now so fast that she managed to outrun the rest of the squadron she was leading.

>“Oh. Well, yeah, there’s that too, but I was thinking more along the lines of if Skittles and Squiggletail are here, it means Butter Squeak won’t be far behind. Out of the goon squad trio she was the most annoying by far.” You rub your eyes and address the speedy pegasus. “The answer to your question is no, by the way. What the hell is wrong with you?”
Yeah, the "lavender unicorn" business in this story is pretty severe. Anon references three separate characters in this paragraph alone, without using a single one of their names. If I were giving this author formal notes, this is probably the first thing I'd call attention to. The nicknames are funny, but it makes the text a little hard to follow at times.
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>I really, really hate the word "facehoof," but I've come to grudgingly accept that authors in this fandom will probably never stop using it.

Nothing this down so I can add it to the list of autistic fandomisms I am putting into my story to make you suffer. I hope you like ponies saying 'buck' instead of 'fuck' as well.
Noting*, whoops.

>Great... looks like Twilight made Speedysnooze an artifact that lets her tap into the Speed Force. You lean down and whisper into Sun Horse’s ear, “Uh... what the heck do we do now?”

Anyway, there's some back and forth between the three of them. To her credit, Rainbow Dash does not seem overtly hostile to either Anon or Celestia; she's clearly just doing this to help Twilight. However, her competitive nature combined with her whole "loyalty" thing means that she's likely to be stubborn. She tries to convince Anon to come along willingly, which he refuses.

They attempt some subtle trickery to try to outwit and outrun her, but in both instances they fail. Eventually...Rainbow Dash ends up challenging Celestia to fisticuffs. Hoofsticuffs. Whatever. fucking idioms.

And then...this happens. It's probably easier if I just dump the text in verbatim:

>The pegasus does a few circles in the air before landing on a patch of barren earth. She puffs up her chest, takes in a deep breath, and begins to speak:

>Chapter XIV, Scene VIII

>Int. Treebrary Foyer

>The sun is setting outside the small town of Ponyville as another day comes to a close. TWILIGHT SPARKLE, a unicorn, trots around the dwelling to begin lighting the candles for the evening. The door opens and ANONYMOUS, a human and TWILIGHT’s lover, enters.

>TWILIGHT: “Oh, Anon, you’re back! How was work?”

>ANONYMOUS: “Fine, but it was hard to focus today because I couldn’t get your delicious plot out of my thoughts. Have I ever told you that it’s ten times more luscious and toned than Applejack’s?”

>TWI: *giggles* “Yes, all the time!”

>TWILIGHT moves to light another candle but ANONYMOUS quickly picks her up and holds her in his strong human arms.

>TWI: “W-What are you doing, Anon?”

>ANON: “You’re so cute, Twilight... even cuter than your friend Fluttershy. And you’re beautiful too, like Rarity, but way better and less bitchy. I... I want you now.”

>TWI: “Oh, Anon!”


>Rainbow sits there, completely mortified at what just came out of her mouth. You’re in about the same state, entirely unsure what to make of it.

So...uh...yeah. It appears that this is the "side effect" that was mentioned earlier. Apparently, there is an entire subgenre of human-on-pony romance fiction out there presumably 90% of which has been written by Fluttershy, and Rainbow Dash's bracelet makes her...compulsively read it out loud. Or compose it on the spot. Or...something. Yeah, this is a pretty weird twist.

>ANONYMOUS carries TWILIGHT to her bedroom and places her upon her super cool looking star patterned sheets.

>TWI: “Anon, what are we going to do on the bed?”

>ANON: “We shall make love, Twilight. In the missionary position, as is the human tradition.”

What, no *POMF*? Fucking amateur hour. Tell Fluttershy and/or Buttersqueak that I want my money back.

Anywho, Rainbow Dash is now...apparently catatonic with embarrassment...and then...her squadron shows up...and...they decide to...take her back to the ship so the doctor can examine her. Yeah. Pretty weird twist, but it seems that once again the day is saved, thanks to Fluttershy's cringy fanfiction or whatever. I guess.

>You’ve experienced a lot of crazy shit in your time here, but this particular encounter has left you absolutely speechless.
Yeah, that about sums it up.

Sooo...since it seems that Rainbow Dash has been defeated for the time being, Anon and Sunbutt continue along their merry way.

>You begin walking in the direction of the altar once more, side by side. Instead of the pensive silence from before, Celestia hums a gentle tune which eventually starts to raise your spirits.
I'm still not quite sure why they're walking instead of flying. My understanding is that Celestia lost her alicorn powers but still technically has her wings. In fact, I'm certain of it, because her wings were specifically mentioned earlier in the chapter. Why not just fly to the altar? This seems like kind of a logic issue.

>A chuckle escapes you as the image of Rainbow explaining this episode to a therapist pony enters your mind. Celestia takes notice and nudges you with a wing.
Yeah, I suspect that we'll all have something to talk about with our therapists by the time this adventure is over. Also: the text just explicitly mentioned that she has wings. Why are they not flying right now?

Anyway, page break. It looks like they made it to the altar by sundown. The magical hoopajoo fires up, and Anon gets his stone. Looks like all they have to do now is pass through the seventeen gates of Koonga-Del-Rey, or whatever the flying fuck.

Since it is now past sundown, they decide to make camp for the night. They whip up some stew and have a casual dinner. When they finish, Celestia seems to be in a pensive mood. When Anon prods her about it, she decides that now is as good a time as any to lay her entire tragic backstory on him.

Unfortunately, we only get the short version. I'll do my best to sum up what the author gives us:

A long time ago, Celestia used to be an Earth Pony named Celosia. She appears to have lived on this island with her two friends. She refers to these friends as "brother" and "sister," though they don't seem to be related by blood. "Sister" is strongly implied to be Luna, but the identity of "Brother" remains unclear.

Something happened. It's not clear what, but it seems to have resulted in Celosia gaining an ascension orb, which she used to become an alicorn. Whatever happened, it caused a seismic shift that resulted in the formation of the present world. It also seems that "Brother" died somehow, and that Celestia's actions are to blame.

I'm not quite sure where the author is planning to go with all of this. I assume we'll get more information later on, but the problem here is that now the main character has information that we don't, and it affects his relationship with Celestia. Oh, also: once Celestia finishes spilling her guts, they kiss. So I guess they're more than friends now.

13 - Road of Trials - I

This chapter begins a three-part series, with each chapter comprising a single day. It sounds like running around to all thirteen of the gates they need to visit is a task that will take three days.

>It’s not the rays of dawn that awaken you as they have so many times in the past due to your habit of forgetting to close your blinds, but that’s not too surprising.
This sentence is bad and you should feel bad.

So anyway, in a shocking plot twist, it seems that Anon has abruptly changed his horsefucking stance from anti to pro. Celestia's tragic backstory seems to have been the cool island song that finally melted his icy heart, and they appear to be boyfriend and girlfriend now. Anyway, they wake up together, and spend a bit of time cuddling and kissing and whatnot.

>In several minutes you’ve packed up camp and are on your way toward the first of Equus Island’s thirteen Wayshrine Gates, munching on some energy bars while you walk.
Wait, where did he get energy bars? Did they hit up an equine 7-11 before their airship crashed?

Also, I still don't understand why they don't just fly to the gates and save a massive amount of time. This is actually a pretty significant plot hole: time is of the essence here, since Twilight clearly intends to take Anon back to Equestria by force, and Celestia doesn't have the power to protect him. They need to get this orb thing taken care of as soon as possible. I can understand the author wanting to make them walk in order to draw the adventure out, but there needs to be some plausible in-world reason for it. If Anon just hopped on Celestia's back and she flew them around to the thirteen gates, they could probably get this whole three-day challenge banged out before lunchtime.

We've already seen Rainbow Dash and her underlings flying around, so we know that there is nothing in the caldera limiting pegasus flight. We know that Celestia still has a pair of wings, and I don't recall hearing anything about them no longer being functional. Anon has ridden on Celestia's back before, both on the ground and in the air, so there is an established precedent. As a matter of fact, they just did this a couple of chapters ago, during the airship fight, and I don't remember anything about Celestia being injured or rendered flightless since then. There is no logical reason why they shouldn't be able to just fly to the thirteen gates, and every logical reason why they would want to. Unless someone can point out some glaringly obvious thing that I missed, I have little choice but to call shenanigans here.

Anyway, whatever. They make it to the first arch without incident. Apparently, each one of these things is a magic gateway that teleports to a pocket dimension, where a trial will need to be completed. The first of these trials is called "The Subterranean Waterfall."

As the name would suggest, they are transported into a cave containing a waterfall. Their task is apparently to climb up the wet cliffside without slipping and falling off into a bottomless abyss. As one might expect, this is much more challenging if you happen to be a horse. Fortunately, Anon has already been through all of these challenge-areas once before. In this case, he had the foresight to drive some rock-climbing anchors into the walls before he left, and to bring along a harness to hoist Celestia up as they go.

>The sight of the sunlight dancing upon the falling droplets of water is mesmerizing. It’s almost like someone’s pouring a bunch of diamonds into the chasm below. You look up to the top of the falls; your ultimate destination.
>“I’m guessing we can’t fly up, huh?”
Seriously, it's bothersome that this author seems to remember only intermittently that one of his characters can fly.

Anyway, as they climb, Anon thinks back to their conversation the previous night, and the author sketches in some more substantial details of Celestia's backstory:

Celestia, as we learned earlier, used to be called Celosia. She was an earth pony, who had the ability to make flowers grow wherever she walked. Incidentally, this name scheme is actually rather clever: "Celosia" is a type of flowering plant, so the name simultaneously corresponds to her abilities and bears a phonetic similarity to the name she ends up with when she ascends. Anyway, it seems that when she was younger, the three pony castes still existed as they do presently, though there was much more strife between them. They seemed to have stronger versions of the powers that they currently possess: the unicorns controlled the rising and setting of the sun, the pegasi controlled the weather, and the earth ponies had the power to make plants grow.

>The legends of the Cradle were older than time itself. It was a place held in both fear and reverence, built and blessed by our progenitors. Many times throughout history had the tribes sought to uncover the fabled great magic hidden there, but despite sending numerous expeditions, which often clashed against one another, the great magic was never found. All three tribes had given up searching before I was even born, determined that the rumored magic was nothing more than myth and devoting their resources to other pursuits.
I had thought that Celestia grew up in this caldera, but it seems I got that detail wrong. I think the idea is that this volcano-island is actually at the center of an inland sea contained within another island. I'm not 100% clear on whether that island or the volcano-island is called Equus; it's a point the author has been a little murky on. I think Equus is the surrounding island, and the volcano is called The Cradle. In any event, it seems that Celestia and the ponies of her era lived on the regular island, while the volcano island was some kind of sacred magic place.

Incidentally, the timeline here corresponds with the time period of the founding myth given in the show: Chancellor Puddinghead and the Windigoes and all that.
"Buck" in place of "fuck" doesn't bother me too much, oddly enough. I think I've used it myself a couple of times. Just steer clear of "squee" and we shouldn't have any problems.

Anyway, Celosia, being the most powerful flower-grower in all of earth-pony-land, is selected by Chancellor Puddinghead to journey to The Cradle and bring back the magic of something-or-other. So, she crosses over to the volcano and wanders around for a few weeks, until eventually she meets someone. The flashback ends here.

As an aside, I like the way this backstory is being fed to us in small, digestible chunks, rather than in giant infodumps as we've seen in previous stories. I wish more authors understood how to do this.

Anywho, the daydream ends, and we learn that Anon and Celestia were able to climb up the waterfall without incident. That's 1/13 trials complete.

>Together, you step outside the cave and into the warm sun, and in an instant you find yourselves back on Equus, just beyond the first gate.
Reee, now it's sounding like the volcano is called Equus after all. In that case, I have no idea what the surrounding island is called, or if there even is a surrounding island. Oh, whatever; I guess the geography isn't that important.

There is a page break, and they arrive at the next arch. Once again, the author seems to have a selective memory about Celestia's having wings, because apparently this trial involves crossing an ocean, and Celestia suggests that they fly over it.

Anyway, whatever. The next trial is "The Great Ocean and Horseshoe Island."

This trial turns out to be kind of a nothingburger. There's a huge ocean, and an island, and that's about it. Since they flew over the ocean, the "trial" mostly involves walking across the island until they come to a rune that takes them back. Anon even remarks on this, and Celestia explains that the location of each trial passes through one of the leylines of the world, and their goal is just to gather the magic of the leyline. Well, whatever; that's 2/13 down.

Next up: "Desert Ruins."

This one is a little more interesting. They arrive in a vast desert populated by giant Tremors-esque carnivorous sandworms. However, there's a twist: instead of sensing vibrations in the ground, they detect shadows, which means that flying is out. I feel like there's a little bit of a logic hole here, since even if they walk they are still casting shadows, but whatever; we'll put a pin in that for now. They can't fly because sand-worms, and they can't wait for nightfall because crazy old maid Sporkle is still after Anon's junk.

So, they have to go trudging across the hot, sandy desert. Trudge trudge trudge. Unfortunately, the sandworms start chasing them, so they have to trudge a little faster. Trudgetrudgetrudge. A short but decently-executed chase scene follows, Celestia defeats the sandworms by kicking over a pillar at just the right moment, they find the rune, and the trial is complete.

Next up: "Terror Caves."

This place is a network of caves populated by diamond dogs. They skulk about for a bit, trying to avoid the dogs. Skulk skulk skulk. Meanwhile, Anon starts daydreaming again and we are fed another piece of backstory from the previous evening:

>A twist of fate crashed into me in the form of a dark sapphire blue pegasus with the rather funny name of Gloomy Plume.
If I'm following this correctly, I'm assuming that this is the pony who eventually becomes Luna.

Anywho, Gloomy Plume turns out to be a pegasus deserter who ran away from her tribe because she wasn't interested in war or politics, she just wanted to study the stars. It seems that her wings were stronger than those of the average pegasus, and because of that Commander Hurricane drafted her into the army. She didn't like it there, so she ran away to The Cradle, or Equus Island, or whatever it's called exactly. She and Celosia become friends, and hang out on the island together. Celosia nicknames her "Lulu."

Meanwhile, back in the present, the diamond dogs have found them.

>With a sickening crack, Celestia bucks the sentry unconscious. She even put a damn dent in his stupid looking helmet... you make a mental note never to startle her from behind.
So I guess surprise buttsex is out of the question? I suddenly have conflicted feelings about traveling to Equestria.

Anyway, good news is that they've found the exit rune. Bad news is that it's in the middle of the diamond dogs' mess hall. For some reason the rune doesn't seem to affect the dogs, not sure what's up with that, but we'll put a pin in that for now. The leader of the pack steps up, and for a moment it looks like a boss fight. Then, suddenly:

>‘Leader’ perks his ears up. “Scratchings? Oh... oh no...”
>The scratching gets even louder, a nearby wall collapses, and giant fucking spiders begin streaming into the room.
Why would these dogs choose to live here?

So yeah, the room suddenly fills up with giant-ass spiders. While the spiders attack the diamond dogs, Celestia and Anon hop onto the rune and make their escape.

>Yeah, turns out the Terror Caves were aptly named after all.
>Fucking spiders...
Seriously, their realtor must have been laughing all the way to the bank.

Next up: "Forgotten Outpost."

This trial is in some kind of limbo dimension, where stone ruins float around in a black void filled with lightning. They have to make their way from stone to stone, dodging the lightning and so forth and so on. Anon wonders who built this weird-ass place and why, and Celestia explains that the "progenitors," some mysterious race that existed before ponies arrived on the scene, had built most of these places. Presumably the gates and the leylines and all of that were constructed by them as well.

Originally these floating islands were blocked off by a series of puzzle-locks, each more challenging than the last, which made this trial a bit of a doozie for Celestia and Luna when they came through here. However, when Anon was here, he didn't realize they were puzzles, so he just took them apart with his Leatherman tool. So, they breeze through this area in fairly short order.
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When they emerge from the gate they see that the stars are out, so they decide to call it quits for the evening. That's 5/13 trials complete; not bad for day one, even if most of the trials were pretty straightforward. They make camp, have dinner, and hunker down for a night of passionate, rugged horse sex. End chapter.

14 - Road of Trials II

>The journey to each Wayshrine is becoming longer and longer as each subsequent gate is further away than the last.
Again, is there any particular reason they're walking to these shrines instead of flying to them?

>She lands a safe distance from the sixth shrine and you prepare to dismount, only to be stopped by a raised wing.
Huh. You know, it's starting to look like maybe they have been flying this entire time. This is a detail the author should probably have made a little clearer; most of the time the text doesn't specify.

Anyway, the next place is called: "Forsaken Shoals."

>Small, wispy white clouds are scattered across the bright blue sky, still tinged with the lingering colors of dawn. A peninsula linked to the mainland rests across the ocean waters far in the distance. But easily the most striking aspect of the scenery is the constantly shifting sandbar, visible just below the water’s surface, which connects your beach with the far peninsula. The shifting currents constantly distort it, creating a silver road through the water that dances like the aurora of the northern skies...
In general the prose in this story is so-so; it's not great, but it's probably good enough for fanfiction, and nowhere near as bad as some of the other stories we've read. However, I will note that descriptions of natural areas is one of this author's strong suits.

Anyway, this lagoon is inhabited by giant crabs, which apparently gave Anon some trouble the last time he was here. However, once again, Celestia's flight ability downgrades this trial to a mere errand. Nothing much happens here, mostly it's just Anon and Celestia having another cute and comfy moment together.

Next: "Labyrinthine Woods."

As the name would suggest, these woods are quite labyrinthine. Anon and Celly wander around for awhile, occasionally getting manhandled by rape-vines. The subject of the mysterious "brother" pony comes up during conversation, which segues into yet another flashback.

It's probably easiest to just pull the description of this guy directly from the text:

>He was an older unicorn stallion, obviously entering his twilight years, though with a certain stubbornness that indicated he was only as old as he felt. His brown, somewhat faded coat, black mane and tail with streaks of grey, and almost comically bushy eyebrows presented an odd dichotomy between a venerated elder and somepony you weren’t certain you should trust, and his odd cutie mark of a four leaf clover drawn upon the pages of a spellbook did little to reflect upon the nature of his character. He appeared out of the blue one day as we were walking toward the caldera’s southern edge, and he seemed almost as surprised to find us as we were to find him.

Anyway, this guy's name is Clover, and we soon learn that he is the very same Clover who was portrayed by Twilight in the Hearth's Warming Eve play about the founding of Equestria (S2 episode whatever). It seems that he was cast out by Princess Platinum for being a peace-mongering hippie who kept trying to bring the three pony tribes together. So, he came to this island to live in peace and tranquility and stuff. He met up with a couple of bozos named Celosia and Lulu, and the rest is history. The three of them became friends, and as soon as their friendship reached the "is magic" stage, a magical column of fire appeared and created the altar that we visited in Chapter 12.

Anyway, the flashback ends. Celestia comes across some old carvings that Clover made, which help them find their way through the woods. They reach the return rune without incident, and then it's on to the next place.

And the next place is: "Bloodfeast Slaughterfields Retirement Community."

We've heard this place referenced several times throughout the text. Basically, this is a nursing home retirement community for minotaurs, which for some reason also contains one of the leylines that control the world's flow of magic. As you might expect from this description, this segment is pretty much pure comic relief. Anon poses as an orderly, hides Celestia somehow (the text is not 100% clear on how they do this exactly, but I think it involves her hiding inside a cart he wheels around), and tries to make his way through to the exit rune. Along the way, he gets stopped by an old lady minotaur who attempts to seduce him. Apparently, this lady was the reason this particular trial was so traumatizing for Anon the last time around. Celestia comes to his rescue, and together they make their escape.

Next place: "Road of Fire."

Once again, we'll just go with the description the author provides:

>This place is a vision of hell. The radiating heat of the lava pouring down the side of the distant volcano is debilitating, robbing you of your strength. Each step must be careful and measured in order to ensure that your next footfall will be on ancient igneous rock instead of 1000 degree black lava. The earth rumbles and a nearby vent erupts, spewing deep red magma and superheated rock behind you. It’s impossible to predict where the next one will be, and honestly it feels like it’s up to pure random chance whether you’ll live through this or not...

As they cross this fiery hellscape, Anon recaps his time spent in Equestria. He recalls initially befriending Pinkie Pie and Twilight, and how Twilight's advances slowly went from being cute to completely out of control. He laments not nipping it in the bud, but also suspects they might have ended up at the same point either way due to her severe autism. Then, a fiery vent explodes, and Celestia injures her wing protecting him.
I kinda have drifted off in terms of care for this story. Kinda similar to how I drifted off when it came to that "Sun and the Rose" story. This is fine btw, not every story needs to appeal to me nor do I need to deny that it didn't captivate me. But on that subject those two stories are kinda similar in that our mc is a male human that ends up, despite swearing they aren't into hoers from the beginning, dating Celestia. You know which story I'm talking about right? The one with the knight coming to Equestria and stuff.

What do you think so far? Could you compare them with each other? You seem to be more positive towards this story for longer than that one iirc, which I really might not. I think you, as you have tendency to in these review series to like the story at the beginning but later think it's trash. I think that Sun and rose thingie was one of them. Correct me if I'm wrong. It's all a blur. I'm curious on what you think about the pair in comparison to each other.
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Despite Celestia's injury, they make it out of the lake of fire more or less intact. Anon bandages up Celestia's wing because he apparently has a first-aid kit on him somewhere, and then they proceed onward to: "Progenitor Graveyard."

This place is the exact opposite of the last place: an arctic ice field somewhere in the frozen north, or south, or wherever. It sounds like they have about 100 miles of tundra they need to traverse, but fortunately Celestia's injury doesn't stop her from galloping across it. As they go, Anon begins to daydream again, and we get the next chunk of Celestia's tragic backstory:

When we last left Celosia, Lulu and Clover, they had just somehow friendship-magicked an altar into existence. The altar grants each of them a magical stone, but they aren't quite sure how to activate the magic.

At this point, Celosia is forced to confess that the whole reason she came to this island was to find this powerful magic and bring it back to the earth pony tribe, so they could use it to subjugate the unicorns and pegasi. However, she explains that she no longer wishes to do this, because friendship is magic and so forth. After discussing the matter for awhile, they conclude that since they've gotten to be such good friends, and since none of them were ever all that enthused about helping their respective tribes win the war in the first place, they should activate the magic stones and then use the power to become all-powerful demigods who rule the world with an iron hoof unite the three pony tribes.

Over a period of two and a half years, through extensive trial and error, they cross through the thirteen gates and charge up their orbs. Even still, they can't quite figure out how to get the dang things to actually work. However, when Lulu willingly gives her orb to Clover, something happens that solves the puzzle for them, although we are going to have to wait a bit for the specifics because it trails off here.

Anyway, back in the present, they arrive within sight of the exit rune. However, Celestia seems to have overextended herself, and collapses. Anon makes a fuss, but she seems to be more or less okay. He helps her to the rune, and then they are back on Equus Island again. They have dinner, Anon fusses over her some more, and they go to sleep. End chapter.

13 - Road of Trials - III

>Again, you’ve packed up camp and are off at dawn. You can’t fly to the next gates now, so the travel time between each one will be longer than usual.
Yeah, it looks like they actually were flying between these gates. I guess that explains how they were able to do 10/13 in two days. However, the author really should have made it a bit clearer. In the earlier chapters, it was stated that Anon was riding on Celestia's back, but whether they were flying or riding was left ambiguous. Either that or my reading comprehension sucks; sometimes it's a tossup. However, I don't think I'm wrong here.

Anyway, they make it to the next gate, step through, and find themselves in: "Estrus Valley."

Here is the author's description:

>A great, verdant valley appears before your eyes. Grassy inclines turn to steep, rocky mountains on each side. A calm river weaves its way along the single, well-worn road, providing plenty of pure water to drink. The sun is warm, but not overly hot. In essence, it’s perfectly relaxing.
Sounds tranquil. I wonder what horrible and presumably erotic surprises are lurking just around the corner?

>Yeah, good old changelings. They sure love their... well, their love, and they’ll go to any lengths to get it.
Ohhhhh, okay. I see where this is going.

Before I get too deep into this one, I should probably clear up another minor mistake I made earlier. I was initially under the impression that the gateways led into pocket dimensions that existed solely for the purpose of the trials. This is actually not accurate; the gates do indeed teleport to other places, but they are real places that exist in the same world as Equestria and the island of Equus. The point of the gateways is that they lead to places where these "leylines" cross, which enables someone holding one of the stones to charge it up with magic and shit. The author actually cleared this up pretty early on, I just haven't mentioned it.

Anyway, this particular leyline runs through a valley that connects two pony cities. In the middle of this valley is a Changeling hive. The Changelings strategically placed their hive in this valley because any pony traveling between the two cities would not be able to avoid it, thus they could ambush wayward ponies and feed on their love. However, the advent of air travel (which I'm assuming means balloons and/or zeppelins and/or airships for non-pegasi) rendered this strategy obsolete. So, in the CURRENT YEAR, the only ponies who enter this hive are the ones who are specifically looking for what the Changelings have to offer. If you take my meaning.

So, Anon shows up at this hive because he literally has to pass through it to magic up his stone. Immediately upon entering, he is propositioned by 200 clones of Bon Bon. Celestia predictably cockblocks him, which may or may not be what he actually wanted, since it seems that his attitudes on horse poon have changed since the last time he was here. However, she is now acting a little strange:

>So, on a related note, when would you like to consummate our relationship? Because I’d really like to do that soon.

> So you’ll find the time to face the Trials of Equus, and run from being forcibly wed to a demonstrably crazy pony, but you won’t find the time to rut me? Am I that ugly to you?

>“What? What the hell’s gotten into you?!”
>“Nothing! That’s the problem!”

Couple of things. For one, I actually thought they had consummated. It wasn't stated, but was heavily implied. Two, there are a couple of possibilities here: either she's a changeling, or she's in heat. I guess we'll find out which it is momentarily.
> But on that subject those two stories are kinda similar in that our mc is a male human that ends up, despite swearing they aren't into hoers from the beginning, dating Celestia.
>What do you think so far? Could you compare them with each other?
The similarities between this one and Sun & Rose had occurred to me as well, I was thinking of doing a comparison a little later on. I can go over it a little bit here.

It's been a long time since I did S&R. I do remember thinking it had some potential, but the idea wasn't quite there yet, and the execution was poor enough that I just couldn't give it a solid thumbs-up. I think I did that one right after either Past Sins or Friendship is Optimal, and I liked it better than either one of those, but at the same time they aren't high bars to pass.

Here is what I think this current story has going for it.

Part of it is just purely subjective taste: this is a lighthearted action-adventure tale that is also half a romantic comedy and at least 30% shitpost, and that just happens to be one kind of thing that I enjoy. This author makes his share of mistakes, and I might be going a bit easier on him than I have on others simply because I enjoy what he's writing about (I probably did a bit of that with The Best Night Ever as well). At the same time though, this story also has some objective good points that it deserves credit for.

For the most part, I find this to be a well-plotted story. The beginning is admittedly a bit slow, but as soon as the adventure kicks off, I find that the pacing is pretty solid, events happen about when they are supposed to happen, there aren't any weird digressions or extraneous meandering unnecessary subplots like we saw in some of those 100k+ word monstrosities that we read. Some of the humor is a little cringe, but it's cringe at a level I find acceptable for a story that is fundamentally about a man fucking a cartoon horse. This guy clearly either spent some time learning to properly plot a novel, or else he has a significantly above-average instinct for how it ought to be done.

As I said, his actual writing is kind of meh. His prose I can take or leave: he can be really eloquent when describing the outdoors or nature, but most of the time this story reads like a slightly-above-average greentext. This doesn't really count against it, though. Ideally you want to be both, but if you have to pick one, it's better to be good at building a story and bad at writing than the other way around unless you just want to write technical manuals or something like Iceman. This guy is a pretty good storyteller and a passable writer, which by the standards of what I've read on fimfiction so far pretty much makes him Shakespeare.

By contrast, Sun & Rose started out with some good ideas, but wasn't really able to develop any of them well. The premise I thought was interesting and could have made a really good story: Celestia wanders through the EqG portal into medieval England and becomes human, gets bonked on the head and loses her memory, then ends up getting married to some guy from that time period. Then, she regains her memory and goes back to Equestria, and her husband follows her in, but has to contend with the fact that his waifu is now a horse for crying out loud. It could have been a very enjoyable romance/adventure story, but...it just wasn't.

The main character, as I recall, was sort of a mishmash of a lot of half-formed ideas. He had kind of a complicated backstory that wasn't fully explained; his mother was a peasant and his father was a nobleman, somehow they wound up married despite that being pretty unlikely back then, and their lowborn-bastard son became a high ranking knight somehow, despite that being even less likely...I remember being confused by a lot of it. Also, the guy was meant to be kind of a sad, tragic figure, but again, the author didn't develop him all that well, so he came across as kind of unintentionally comical at best and a boring drip at worst. The author didn't really put enough thought into why this guy was so sad and traumatized, he just sort of assumed that anyone from this time period would naturally be this way, because life in the middle ages was rough compared to today. His background was a little too generalized to make him sympathetic, and he didn't have any other noteworthy characteristics, so mostly I just found him dull.

As I recall, the characterization of Celestia was decent, and I found her generally likable. There were also a couple of other characters in the story who could have been interesting but were severely underutilized: I think the main character had a female pony friend that could have played a bigger role, and the villain, Chucky Larms, despite having literally the worst pony name I've ever heard, actually had a lot of potential that was never realized. Plus, the story veered off in some pretty weird and stupid directions OMG RATS!!!1!.

On the technical side, the writing was just god-awful. The guy misspelled common words and fucked up really basic grammatical shit like all the time. On top of that, he tried way too hard to gussy up his prose. The effect was like spray-painting a turd with gold paint and then decorating it with glitter. The writing style just screams "babby's first writing project," but he tries to cover it up with badly-written purple prose, which just makes it scream even louder, in excruciating pain no less. I could forgive a lot of it if the story itself was better, but...it just had too many problems. If he spent a little time learning and practicing and then did a rewrite of the same idea, it might turn out much better, but as it is it's pretty disappointing.

Exchange is technically better written and better plotted, and it doesn't try to take itself anywhere near as seriously as Sun & Rose did. All in all it's a much more enjoyable read.
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GG, could I tempt you with a short 6k words story to review? Dw, I know no means no. Probably...^^ I really like this story: https://www.fimfiction.net/story/432814/mine-is-dorkier-than-yours
>Flutters eyelashs hard -- I'm about to take off
Interesting take. Hehe, I knew you'd mention the rats.

I have something more to say but I'm soul-searching for the truth of me. ^^
Estrus valley is a psychologocal challenge for every mare. The milk carton, still attached to her horn, is funneling sexy Anon thoughts into her brain.
I feel a bit bad. Felt like I just waltz in here telling you to drop your current review for my story. Sorry about that. Just see it as an addition to your list of thing to review would you.^^
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No trouble. Can't say I'll get to it soon as I need to finish this one up first and I've been neglecting the project of late, but I can certainly have a look at it in the semi-near future.
Take your time, Glim. I'm just happy that you're doing it at all, even if it means I have to revisit this disgusting shithole occasionally for updates.

Thanks again for the review, based horsefucker literati.
Glim Glam.png
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Alright, it's a new year. I should probably get back to this and try to finish it up before 2024 becomes 2025.

>Thanks again for the review, based horsefucker literati.
No probbum fren, glad you're enjoying it.

If this is an original drawing, I love it.

Anyway, when we last left our intrepid heroes, they were being accosted by the amorous changelings of Estrus Valley. Out of nowhere, Celestia starts complaining that Anon hasn't fucked her yet. This appears to be the result of a pollen native to Estrus Valley that causes mares to...well...enter estrus. After escaping the changeling horde, they have yet another discussion about the present state of their relationship, which ends with Anon promising to give her a long, deep dicking as soon as this whole wacky adventure wraps itself up.

>You think you hear a squee from her, though it may just be the sound and sensation of warping as she steps upon the exit as the words leave your mouth.
I really, really hate the word "squee," but I've come to grudgingly accept that authors in this fandom will probably never stop using it.

There is a page break, and the scene transitions rather jarringly into an unknown cave filled with magical crystals. Anon and Celestia have yet another discussion about how much better things were in the good old days before Twilight went crazy. Then, a bunch of ghosts come out of the crystals and start swirling around going wooOoOOoOoOOOoOoOOoOOooOOoooO.

We have now arrived at Trial 12/13: The Dark Star.

Celestia provides a bit of context for what's going on here:

>Celestia’s expression turns somber as she trots to your side. “Not everything the progenitors created had a benevolent purpose. We came to call this the Dark Star. From what we understand, it was created as a great magical weapon, but even the progenitors themselves feared its power, so they sealed it here, in this cavern far below the earth. I suspect they either couldn’t destroy it themselves, or they wanted to keep it as a reminder of their past mistakes. Regardless, it resonates with a type of dark magic that neither Luna nor myself were able to control, and it’s my sincere hope that it remains entombed here until the end of time.”
The "progenitors" have come up before; they appear to be some sort of ancient race that ruled the world prior to the ponies' coming. Sort of the Etruscans to the Ponies' Rome.

>There was a powerful unicorn sorcerer who long ago managed to separate a fragment from the Star and use it for his own ends, but it eventually consumed him. Luna and I retrieved the fragment and sealed it within Canterlot’s Forbidden Archives, since we had no way of returning it here, as you’d imagine.
Not sure if this is foreshadowing something, or if it's just an interesting tidbit of lore about the setting, but either way it's worth making a note of. This crystal-thing is an ancient, extremely dangerous magical weapon that not even the Princesses can control, and a fragment of it exists in the archives in Canterlot, where crazy Old Maid Sparkle now resides.

Anyway, they keep on crossing bridges while avoiding the ghosts that keep darting around. The ghosts appear to cause minor injury if they touch you. Then, for some unexplained reason, the Dark Star seems to react to their presence, and begins pulsating. After a time, it becomes apparent that it is growing, and if Celestia and Anon don't make it out soon, it will likely consume them. To make matters worse, the crystals that light the cavern are beginning to fade out.


Well, as luck would have it, our heroes are protected by plot armor and can't die, so yada yada yada they make it to the exit rune and escape. However, they did not emerge unscathed: both of them were stung multiple times by venomous ghosts. Celestia seems to have gotten the worst of it. After some brief discussion, they decide that they are still capable of making it to the final trial, and the scene ends in a page break.


>During your walk here, the two of you talked about many different things. Yourselves, your pasts, your future together... and even a little about Twilight.
This is hardly noteworthy; these characters have spent the entire story talking about little else besides these subjects. Also, it's generally bad form to gloss over events with "along the way, they did ______ and talked about __________ and ___________ and __________." If their actions or conversations during that time block are important, then it's better that we witness all of it in real time, rather than hear about it after the fact. If it's unimportant, it doesn't bear mentioning at all; better to just cut to the next scene and let the reader imagine the in-between events.

>But now, there are no more words left to share. You know what needs to be done and how to go about it. All that’s left is the doing, so it’s without a single word between you that you step through the gate together without fear.
Presumably these lines were inserted to give this moment a bit of dramatic emphasis, seeing as how this is the last trial and all. However, there's nothing going on right now that's dramatic enough to justify it. Also, if we're being brutally honest, even the fact that this is the last trial isn't really that significant; these trials have been pretty uneventful for the most part. More errands than trials, really. Let's just move on to the next place already.

>You emerge in a pine forest. A cool evening breeze rustles the branches of the surrounding trees, and already the nocturnal insects and animals are beginning their familiar songs. You look to the sky through the branches overhead and breathe out a relieved sigh. It’s cloudless, with no storms lingering as far as you can see. You’ll desperately need the light of the moon and stars to guide your path, so hopefully Luna’s in a creative mood tonight.
There we go.

Up next, we have Trial 13/13: The Nameless Mountain.

>A mountain lingers in the distance.
Is it nameless? I'll bet it's nameless.

Anywho, it looks like the last thing they need to do is climb a mountain. The magic stone is nearly all charged up, and they're basically on the home stretch. They make it about halfway up the mountain and stop to rest, and the author segues (rather awkwardly) into another bit of Celestia's tragic backstory:

As I'm sure nearly anyone even remotely familiar with the lore of the MLP universe could have surmised, the key to unlocking the awesome power of the Ascension Orbs turns out to be...friendship. Yes, I know; quite shocking. Celosia, whatever Luna's name was back then (the text calls her Gloomy but I believe that was just a nickname), and Clover the Clever all swap orbs, and the act of freely giving the magic away instead of hanging on to it allows them all to...receive each others orbs, which they are then free to hang on to and/or use selfishly. Maybe the Progenitors didn't quite think this thing all the way through, but what the hay.

So anywho, Clover goes ahead and swallows his orb, and he ascends. Or, rather, he explodes and dies. Or, rather, he decides to meet himself in the middle, and half-ascends, half-dies. And so, yada yada yada, in a shocking twist, Clover the Clever consumes the alicorn orb and becomes...Discord.

The text, unfortunately, glosses over quite a bit of potentially interesting stuff here. Whatever is left of Clover the Clever somehow fuses with a bunch of lower spirits, and becomes an evil chimera bent on causing chaos and destruction. Celosia and Gloomy, by some unspecified method, somehow determine that swallowing the Orb while still on the island is what caused Clover to meet his ignoble end. So, they leave the island and swallow their own respective orbs, and presumably morphed into the lovable alicorn rascals we all know and love. However, they didn't quite know how to handle their new magic, whereas Clover had been a professional wizard or something, so they are no match for Discord. Yada yada yada, they fight and stuff.

This situation persists for 500 years, and then yada yada yada, the good guys prevailed. Discord was turned to stone, and Equestria (or whatever it was called back then) was saved. However, as soon as the war was over, the three pony tribes all went back to squabbling over mundane bullshit, so yada yada yada the alicorns rose up to rule them all and impose order, all the while retaining the slim hope that one day they could retire and pass this task on to somepony else. Somepony purple, perhaps, and mentally unstable, with no government experience.

Once the italicized flashback concludes, there is a page break, and we rejoin Celestia and Anon in the present day. While the flashback was playing, they appear to have made it to the top o' the mountain unscathed.

>You turn to help your alicorn the rest of the way, and the two of you collapse in the soft mountain snow, breathless, in pain, but euphoric at your triumph.
Would you say that...in this moment...they are...euphoric?

Anyway, at the top of the mountain, they flop down in the snow to rest and ruminate on their reason for being here. Celestia has a few thoughts about what the Progenitors' intentions might have been:

>I think... I think I understand the nature of my mistake,” she says as she catches her breath. “The Trials of Equus... they’re not meant as a test to prove one worthy.

>They’re meant to prepare one for their ascension. The perspective granted from the hardships, and the bonds of friendship formed between two or more who could overcome them... these things can’t be taught from another’s words, or learned from a book.
An interesting theory, but there are some holes. For one, the "hardships" they've encountered so far have been rather mundane. As I said earlier, these "trials" are really more like a series of errands. Second, the first time Anon did these trials, he was alone, yet the Orb of Ascension he brought home with him worked just fine.

>They have to be personally experienced, and that’s why I was such a fool to give Twilight the Orb. She, who never set a hoof here, and never learned of the true depth of the bonds she holds with her friends... she lacks the perspective needed to truly guide the power she holds. Hence all this foolishness.
Yeah, either that or she's just crazy. Either way, nearly anyone could have easily surmised that giving Twilight an Orb of Ascension without bothering to tell her what it is or what it does, and then abdicating the throne and leaving her in charge of the entire kingdom, was probably a bad idea. As with loneliness and cheeseburgers, horniness and autism are a dangerous mix, and adding phenomenal cosmic power to the equation probably isn't going to improve things.

>And the key lesson from the way the Orbs are unsealed... the most important from all of this, and the one I learned at the cost of almost everything, is that this burden cannot be borne alone. And yet that’s what she’s doing.
I don't mean to be a nagging Nelly here, Sunbutt, but again: this all seems like stuff the all-knowing alicorn Princess ought to have known and understood from the get-go, and thus would have instinctively avoided.

>She will never have the relationship with Luna that I have. She will never have the relationship with you that I have. She will lose her friends to Eternity, and she will be alone, just as she is now.
Well now you're just being a bitch.
>If this is an original drawing, I love it.
I found it in Yandex. I thought you would appreciate it.
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>Mistakes cannot be undone, but they can be corrected, and they can be prevented. And I will NOT allow this tragedy to unfold before my eyes. Not again. Never again.
I will once again protest that this particular mistake on Celestia's part could have been easily foreseen and easily prevented.

Anyway, Anon and Celestia have yet another tender moment at the top of the mountain, and then the scene ends. Thus concludes the somewhat anticlimactic Road of Trials arc.

>The Orb shines and hums with energy as you step back upon the soil of Equus Island.
I'm still a little confused on the geography of this place, but I can't tell if it's a failing on the author's part or mine. Best I can figure, the volcano they were just on was an island, located in the center of a lake, which is itself contained within a larger island, which is off the coast of the mainland, which is where they're originally from. However, I'm still not 100% certain I have that down. As with Fallout: Equestria, this story could have benefitted greatly from the inclusion of a map.

Anyway, with their task complete, there is nothing else to do except return to the ship and hope that Big Mac and the gang were able to get it up and running again.

>Walking is about all you can do with the pain in your shoulder and the utter exhaustion from the last day slowing you down, and the alicorn by your side can’t run, fly, or do magic. But even so, you feel like you’ve just won... well, everything. You survived the Trials of Equus not once, but twice! And you’re one of only two who can ever make that claim.
This feels like a good time to comment that I found the "Trials of Equus" to be one of the weaker points of this story so far. What should have been a significant, or at the very least entertaining, series of events was mostly a tedious grind. The sequence wasn't necessarily bad, it was just not especially compelling or interesting.

The only significant happenings in this portion of the story were that

1) Celestia and Anon's relationship finally advanced from the "awkwardly flirty just-friends" stage to the "awkwardly flirty now-we're-together" stage, and

2) We got a significant portion of Celestia's backstory filled in, as well as some details about the setting.

While these are both essential developments and the author handles them decently enough, they occur within a main story arc that could have been made far more interesting.

Any decently written story will have multiple developments taking place on different levels at the same time. Often, the "main" storyline, ie the superficial events that are driving the plot of the story, is far less important than the more subtle developments taking place in the background. In other words, the action of the story is just being used as a catalyst to help drive character arcs along.

For instance, in Spy x Family just tossing out the last anime I watched as a convenient example, the "main" story is a spy thriller about covert agents working in the shadows to prevent and/or cause an international war. However, the real story is about these awkward, dysfunctional people, who are top-notch in their respective professions but utterly clueless about everything else, awkwardly forming bonds with each other and learning to become a family. The top-layer spy story creates the situations that drive the subtler, more nuanced family story along.

In order for this to work, however, both stories need to be compelling and engage the audience; you can't neglect the top-layer story just because it's the cosmetic layer. Even if the main focus of Spy x Family is on building emotional ties between the central characters, the viewer should still care whether or not Operation STRIX is a success. The author's goal is to make his audience care about all facets of his characters lives, which includes both their mundane goals and their higher objectives.

In this case, the Road of Trials is the top-layer story taking place on the main stage, while the real story is what's going on between Anon and Celestia along the way. Not only does their romantic relationship progress, but we also delve a little deeper into Celestia's past, which in turn serves to flesh out her character and give us a better understanding of who she is.

The problem here, though, is twofold:

1) While the Anon x Celestia storyline makes some progress during this arc, it continues to advance at the same slow, meandering pace we've grown accustomed to. Up until now, their whole relationship has been a series of cutesy bonding events and funny moments, and their interactions on the Road of Trials was mostly just more of the same. Sure, they've now acknowledged their feelings for each other and they've swapped spit a couple of times, but beyond that nothing has really changed, and their feelings for each other haven't been put to any kind of serious test.

2) The Road of Trials itself was just...dull. There were no serious challenges to speak of, and most of the difficulties they did encounter were easily dealt with. The whole thing had the vibe of some tedious video game quest, where the object is to go from place to place retrieving tokens until you have some arbitrary number of them.

The end result was a tedious and repetitive top-layer story driving a few developments in a romantic story which is honestly starting to plod. The most interesting bits in this arc were the flashbacks to Celestia's past.

This story has maintained a pretty lazy pace so far, which I haven't complained about because it's mostly worked up until now. For the early portion, the slow pace combined with the silly antics and cute moments gave the story a nice, comfy vibe, and it was fun to read. However, by this point, the action really ought to be picking up a lot more than it has.
>Be Twilight Sparkle.
>Two humans have arrived in Equestria recently: GlimGlam and Sven.
>GG became a chad adventurer and a savior of Equestria multiple times.
>Meanwhile, Sven is a wizard.
>But lately...
>You enter Sven's home and find him there.
"Sven, aah, you gotta help me. GG has been creepin' on me. Ahh, woe with me. I'm not intrested in in musky, hard, throbbing human dick. SAve me!" Twilight says.
>Sven nods sagely and dusted the Cheeto-dust onto his sweater which is fuzzy but underneath is shaved clean off.
"I know you have been friends for ever and you came to Equestira together so... help plz."
>"Yes, you're right. I should definteyly talk to... *Ugh* Fucking cheetos, no. Don't worry milady, I'll use a speel called geas which banishes GG from your sight but only if
you next to me at all times, physically and emotionally."
"Uhm... Yyyy?"
>"Wats wit all these fookin qurstions, now take my dick it's for ur own protection."

Nice to see u back review again GG. Will read ur new posts later when I have more time.^^

>It’s a great accomplishment, to be sure, but something even better came from this. You found your special somepony, just like Pinkie always wanted. She probably has the party already planned and a cake in the oven, just waiting for your return.
See, this right here is exactly what I was talking about. Right now, we should all be feeling much higher levels of elation, both at Anon's literal accomplishments (ie completing the Road of Trials), as well as his intangible accomplishments (ie finally admitting to himself that he has a normal, healthy appetite for pony poon).

Anyway, just when it was beginning to look like nothing else was going to happen in this story, something else happens. Out of the jungle, or the deciduous forest, or the coniferous forest, or whatever the biome on this island and/or volcano is exactly, steps Fluttershy, a pair of bloodthirsty monster hounds in tow.

Anon uses Threaten, but it isn't very effective:

>“We don’t have time for your games, Fluttershy,” you tell her in a threatening tone. “Go walk your dogs somewhere else.”
>You attempt to take a step forward, but Celestia’s good wing unfurls to stop you.
>“Don’t. Those are murderhounds. They’re extremely dangerous and will attack in response to any perceived act of aggression. I don’t know how she’s tamed them, but we need to be cautious here...”
So far, in making her plans, Celestia has underestimated Twilight's autism, Rainbow Dash's speed, and now Fluttershy's ability to tame animals. Have I mentioned that she kind of sucks at her job in this story?

>Fluttershy rubs one hound’s chin with her hoof. “Awwwww, that’s not true. I know their species has a bad reputation, but it’s not like they murder things all the time.
Despite being only 13% of the dog population...

>The butter yellow pegasus steps away from the hounds and her eyes capture your own, suddenly sending a cold pang of fear through your heart.
I've mentioned that it's considered bad form to use descriptions of characters in place of names once the character's name is known (Lavender Unicorn Syndrome). Well, what's even worse is to constantly recycle the same descriptions. With the help of our old friend Ctrl-F, we see that the exact phrase "butter yellow pegasus" has occurred three times in this story up until now in conjunction with Fluttershy, and occurs a grand total of six times in the text overall. That's five times too many.

>“And… and I know that even a sometimes grumpy human can learn to show love if love is shown to him in return. Anon… you keep running away from poor Twilight, even though she only wants to love you, and that’s not very nice. I know you’re scared... getting married is a big step after all, but it’ll be okay, because I’m here to take you home to her. There’s no need to be afraid…”
On the other hand, I will say that I am still greatly enjoying this author's characterizations of the mane six. Yandere Fluttershy is something I don't see nearly enough of, and I find it hilarious how badly she wants to watch her friend get railed by a human.


Anyway, the scene ends in a rather humorous anti-climax. Celestia is able to use her plant-growing powers you may or may not remember that Celestia used to be Celosia, an earth-pony with exceptional power over plants, and since she was stripped of her alicorn status her abilities have reverted back to what they were before to subdue the dogs, and once her attack dogs are neutralized, Fluttershy becomes predictably tame.

There is a bit of back and forth, and then Fluttershy hands hoofs, mouths, whatever; reee idioms over a letter that she was instructed to deliver to Anon.

The short version of the story is that the murderhounds were a subterfuge; Fluttershy's real objective was to place this letter into Anon's hands. The "letter" turns out to be a teleportation spell, which activates once Anon opens it. Unfortunately, Celestia does not realize this until it's too late. Anon's last thought before teleporting is that he needs to use his last bit of strength to give the alicorn orb to Celestia; however, the text is ambiguous about whether or not he succeeds.

Anon suddenly finds himself in a conference room, presumably in the Palace at Canterlot. Twilight and Luna are both there.

>The midnight blue alicorn
I almost wish I hadn't discovered that "lavender unicorn syndrome" is considered a faux-pas; now that I've seen it, I can't unsee it. Anyway, if there's one bad writing habit this author needs to seriously keep an eye on, and I shall therefore have to keep drilling him on, it's this one.

Anyway, the crux of the biscuit here is that Anon seems to have been betrayed by Luna:

>“If our assistance is no longer required, we shall take our leave. While we’ve been whiling away our time out here, there have been many matters which require our personal attention.”
>“Oh, of course,” the purple alicorn replies. “Thanks again for your help. I really do appreciate it...” She giggles. “...Sister.”
It's been my suspicion for some time now that Luna has her own objectives, and that she would eventually turn out to be an unreliable ally. This prediction seems to have come true. However, it is yet unclear whether or not she is on Twilight's side, either.

> the purple alicorn replies
reeeeeeeeee cannot unsee. I may need to start keeping a tally of these; this occurs frequently enough to be considered a major problem.

>And with that, the Princess of the Night vanishes in a flash of magic.
This one, however, I would argue is not a violation of the LUS rule. "Princess of the Night" is technically Luna's title, and can work in lieu of a proper name.

If Queen Elizabeth were a character in your story, you could call her The Queen, Elizabeth, or Queen Elizabeth pretty much interchangeably, without it being a LUS issue. However, if there is more than one Queen in your story, this could potentially get confusing, so you should take care not to overuse it.
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>“Welcome to the Concordia, Anon!” Twilight chirps.
Oh, it looks like I stand corrected. It appears that Anon was transported back to Twilight's airship, not the Palace itself. That probably bodes a little better for his chances of escape.

>You tune her out and focus on the weight in your right hand. Carefully, so she won’t notice, you shift your thumb aside ever-so-slightly to reveal the Orb of Ascension in your palm. Fuck! You weren’t able to pass it to Celestia before you were taken...!
Well, I guess that answers that. It looks like Anon will have to rely on his own talents if he wants to get himself out of this jam. Incidentally, this is how it ought to be anyway; since the Road of Trials was kind of a non-starter, Anon is going to need to undergo some sort of actual challenge if he wants to earn his happy ending. A few posts ago I was grousing that Anon and Celestia's relationship hasn't undergone any serious stress tests yet; conveniently enough, this satisfies that requirement.

If Exchange were a good-era Disney film, this would be the part of the story where the evil Vizier gets hold of the magic lamp, kidnaps the Princess, and temporarily defeats the hero, casting him out into the wilderness. Stripped of whatever power he's obtained up to that point, the hero must now fight his way back into the castle, defeat the Vizier, get his woman back, and restore balance to the Force.

With this story, the specifics are a little different, but the basic idea remains the same. Anon has somewhat easily completed the rather superficial challenge of the Road of Trials, retrieved the magic orb he needs to defeat the villain, and has seemingly won the day. However, at the zenith of his power, he is unexpectedly knocked back to square one. Though he's obtained the Ascension Orb, it's useless to him: he needs to give it to Celestia. However, Twilight has managed to finally outwit them both. She captures Anon, and with both the Geas and Celestia's alicorn powers out of the picture, he can no longer rely on Celestia to protect him. Now he's going to need to draw on his own strength.

One of the things I like about this story, and to some extent MLP fanfiction in general, is that it will often disrupt conventional gender roles in imaginative ways, while still avoiding all the woke-feminist nonsense you get in a lot of modern media. The conventional format for Anon's current predicament is what I described above: the villain thrashes the hero and kidnaps the princess, and the now-powerless hero has to fight his way back into the castle to rescue her. The villain's designs on the princess are usually rapacious to some degree, and the princess herself is mostly a passive figure who serves no purpose other than to be rescued.

However, here the situation is a bit different. Our villain is a female, whose rapacious designs are focused on the male hero instead of the female love interest. The hero himself is relatively powerless: he's just an ordinary non-magical human, living in a world of magic. His love interest is basically the closest thing this setting has to a living god, yet she exhibits extremely poor judgement and pushes her powers onto her student, who then goes on to misuse those powers and become the villain.

For most of the story, the hero is protected by his love interest's powers, in the form of both the Geas and her alicorn magic. However, the villain destroys both protections, and Celestia is reduced to an ordinary earth pony whose only power is making plants grow. Despite this, between her general knowledge and the airship she provided earlier in the story, Anon is still fairly reliant on her.

During the Road of Trials arc, their relationship becomes less one-sided and more interdependent. Both of them have done these trials before, and both find that they are easier the second time around because they have each other. Trials which were difficult for Anon are made easier by Celestia's ability to fly, trials which were difficult for Celestia are made easier by Anon's opposable thumbs, and so on (in retrospect this was probably the author's point; however, I still contend that the RoT arc was rather dull and could stand to be zazzed up a bit).

However, now that Anon has been kidnapped by Twilight, neither one of them has access to the abilities of the other. Anon can no longer rely on either Celestia or their network of friends, and will need to fend off the advances of a lusty alicorn using only his wits and ingenuity. Meanwhile, Celestia has no chance of beating Twilight until Anon can give her the Ascension Orb, so she is pretty much in the same position, albeit with fewer lusty alicorns to fend off.

One of the feminists I remember from the Gamergate era, Anita Sarkeesian, incidentally, whatever happened to her? you don't hear her name very often these days liked to complain about the "damsel" trope: the powerless female Princess character gets into trouble, and it's up to the male hero to rescue her. The knee-jerk feminist response to this is usually the Kathleen Kennedy approach: sideline or eliminate the male hero, and shift focus to some woke girlboss character's asinine struggle for self-empowerment.

This story, however, eschews both and goes for gender parity rather than any particular form of chauvinism. Celestia and Anon both have their respective strengths and weaknesses, and they both need each other to some extent. Their romantic relationship develops as a direct consequence of their working together to solve a common problem. The same dynamic extends to the rest of the cast: Anon's friends are all people (ponies, whatever) who are affected by the same problem (Twilight's insanity) and are working towards the same goal (restoration of Celestia's rule). This story reinforces MLP's central themes of friendship and cooperation, and does so without needing to force ideological abstractions on the audience.

Anyway, back to the story. Anon tries to hide the Orb from Twilight, but she notices what he's doing and takes it away from him. As soon as the orb leaves his grasp, the magic in it fades away and it turns into an ordinary stone. Twilight clarifies that this is due to its becoming "dormant"; presumably it would activate again if Anon were to take it back.

Unfortunately, though, we don't get an opportunity to confirm this, because Twilight immediately smashes the stone into dust.

>You feel something inside yourself... something indescribable, and you turn your gaze to the purple pony princess...
Yeah, this is getting a bit ridiculous. We already know she's purple, we already know she's a pony, and we already know she's a princess. Just call her Twilight ffs.

Anywho, watching the grape-colored purple alicorn four-legged winged and horned autismo ruler of Equestria stomp his hard-earned magical spheroid object into dust sends Anon into a rage. He manages to summon enough strength to break Twilight's magical grip on his body, and stomps forward, intending to choke the living bejeezus out of her.

The miniature equus ferus caballus whose primary coat color is represented in HTML notation as #c79dd7, or 7, 27, 0, 16 in CMYK if you are working in print media, is clearly taken off guard by the behavior of the green-shaded upright-walking hominid whose facial marking bears a striking resemblance to an interrogation point. She panics, casts another spell, and said green faced individual awakens an instant later in an unknown location, with some kind of purple band on his wrist. He can muster no more strength, and a moment later sleep overtakes him.

The chapter ends here, and that is probably a good stopping point for today. I will resume this tomorrow.
>However, here the situation is a bit different. Our villain is a female, whose rapacious designs are focused on the male hero instead of the female love interest.
Yh, I thought of saying that but you beat me to it. I happened to remember the beginning of this story lately, where Twi talks about how she saw her relationship with Anon: She envisoned herself as the heroine who saves teh stallion or something like that. It seems bit RGRE, which I didn't relfect on in the begning because I hadn't been reading it lately like I have now.
In my own opinion RGRE https://www.fimfiction.net/blog/841406/rgre-primer is a pretty neat head-canon idea for how Equestria works, but I probably just htink it is humors as well.

16 - Nightmare

So when Anon comes to, he's in a strange bed in a strange room, wearing strange pajamas. There is a storm outside. All of the minor injuries he incurred during the Road of Trials have mysteriously healed. Rather than elation, Anon feels a sense of loss, as though everything he struggled for over the last several chapters has been erased along with the orb itself. The purple bands on his wrists turn out, unsurprisingly, to be a Geas created by Twilight. I'm sure we'll be given the details of how exactly it works momentarily.

As would be appropriate for someone in his situation, Anon immediately begins sobbing, howling with range, thrashing about; all that good stuff. The commotion causes a guard stationed outside to come in and inquire about the ruckus.

The guard is far more intimidated by Anon than he is intimidating, and when Anon realizes this, he starts laughing, which only serves to further unnerve the guard. He sends the guard out to fetch him a glass of water, and when he returns, orders him to stay so they can talk.

The guard gets him his water and puts the lights on, and Anon gets a closer look at his quarters. By all appearances, he is back at the Palace in Canterlot. The guard, meanwhile, pulls up a chair and introduces himself as Empyrean Blaze, or Pyre for short.

The power dynamic between the two of them is interesting. From the guard's deferential behavior, it's clear he has little knowledge about what is actually going on, or the actual relationship between Twilight and Anon. He addresses Anon as "Prince," and seems to view his own role as servile. He is a guard who has been given the honor of serving a member of the Royal Family; the fact that Anon is basically a prisoner here seems to be lost on him.

Anywho, Anon questions the guard, and learns that he is indeed at Canterlot Castle. The room he is in is some kind of guest suite reserved for visiting royalty; it seems Twilight has decided to hold off on consummating their "relationship" for now. The date is January 4 (apparently Equestria uses the same calendar we do), and Anon has been asleep for the last 36 hours. Most importantly, he learns that he is not yet married to Twilight.

At this point, the guard suddenly remembers that he was supposed to inform Twilight the moment Anon woke up, so he runs off to go do this. A short time later, a portal opens and Twilight teleports into the room.

Curiously, now that she has finally cornered her prey, Twilight's behavior is noticeably less rapey than one might expect:

>The small alicorn flaps her wings once and lands on the far edge of the bed, then takes several hoofsteps toward you. You scoot away until your back touches the headboard and you have nowhere else to go, but to your surprise she stops short and curls up atop the sheets several feet away, her wings folded neatly against her sides.
>“How are you feeling, Anon?”
>She almost whispers it, and you immediately notice there’s something different about her voice. It’s like she’s hesitant, or slightly nervous. She’s having a hard time looking directly at you, her eyes darting away to the floor or the far wall...
Most likely, this change in behavior is rooted in the fact that Anon was able to break free of her spell and overpower her in the last chapter. It's also probable that, now that the hunt is over, she has had some time to reflect on what she's actually done, and now feels a little guilty about it.

When Anon was out of her reach, Twilight could focus all of her energy on pursuing him, and questions like "why is this guy so determined to run away from me in the first place?" could be pushed aside. Now that he's finally "hers", she's probably had some time to reflect on the questionable morality of what she's doing. Wanting something and actually getting it can be two very different things.


Anyway, the Twilight we see here is quite different from the Twilight we've seen up until now. While she is still clearly determined to force Anon to marry her, she also seems to realize on some level that she can't force him to actually love her.

>She looks genuinely on the verge of crying, and it’s got you completely taken aback. This isn’t Rarity you’re dealing with; despite how powerful she is, you don’t think Twilight is truly capable of faking something like this. What the fuck has her so upset? You’re really curious now, but you can’t be complacent here, so you remain guarded.
This paragraph seems to confirm my hypothesis, but is unfortunately rather badly written. For one thing, the phrase "it's got you taken aback" is...just dreadful. Second, while I understand the comparison the author was trying to make, it was a mistake to bring up Rarity here. This scene isn't about Rarity and she isn't in it; dropping her name just pulls the reader's attention away from Twilight's emotional state, which is the real focus. The overall point the author is trying to make is that Twilight's tears seem to be genuine and not an act; it would be far better to just come right out and say this, instead of going out of the way to draw an unnecessary comparison to someone who is, in this story at least, just a minor ancillary character.

Anyway, the basic gist of all this is that Anon is free, but not really. He can come and go as he pleases within the castle and the city, but there are also restrictions preventing him from going too far abroad, or from missing their wedding. The Geas, as he expected, is also designed to repel Celestia, so he is obviously not allowed to see her. Also, there's the rather annoying fact that his non-consensual waifu has the ability to teleport, and probably knows where he is at all times, so he has essentially no privacy.

All in all, his situation is probably less nightmarish than what he was expecting, but at the same time is far from ideal.
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>Then, she exhales deeply, and you feel the heat of her breath travel across your nose and mouth. Unlike before, when she would do this to you back in the Treebrary so long ago, you now know what this gesture means. You immediately hold your breath and turn away from her, and a bit of that lost anger returns as your fists begin to clench.
This odd little detail relates to something that came up earlier, but I don't think I mentioned. In an earlier scene, Celestia does this little breath thing with Anon and explains that, among ponies, exhaling and inhaling each other's breath is considered a gesture of intimacy. I don't know enough about it to confirm, but I suspect that this is one of those little "real horse facts" that creeps into MLP fanfics from time to time. In any event, it's an established thing in this particular setting.

Most likely, back when he first came to Equestria prior to the story's beginning, Twilight tried this breathing thing on Anon when they were studying together. He probably inhaled her breath without realizing he was sending her a strong signal of romantic interest. This miscommunication likely contributed to the elaborate fantasy about him that she's built up in her mind.

>“Once...” She sniffles. “Once we’re married, and we have our honeymoon, I know you’ll love me. You won’t even think to look at anypony else. We’ll be perfect together; a Princess and her Prince, and Equestria will enter a golden age...”
>She wipes her face with a hoof before flaring her wings with anger. “Don’t you understand?! This is why you were brought here! You were meant for me! Because of you, I gained this power, and I gained the throne, and all that’s left is for us to stop pretending and be together! I’ve seen it! It’s our destiny, fated by the stars and the very fabric of the world’s magic itself!!”
Once again, I'll say that the characterization in this story is excellent, and more than makes up for any deficiencies it might have in other areas.

Twilight's actions in this story can all be traced to the obsessiveness and social ineptitude that is central to her character concept in the original source material. This story was written (I think) around S3 era, so her canon character would still have been in its pre-Princess-of-Friendship, spergy-unicorn-librarian phase. Her behavior is spot-on for that, and the author does a fantastic job of taking that basic character concept and expanding on it to create this unique, sympathetic portrayal of her.

Considering how introverted and awkward she is, she's probably even worse at romance than she is at making friends. She is extremely intelligent, but most of her knowledge is limited to magic and other academic subjects. Basic social graces are often beyond her; she would likely have a great deal of trouble interpreting the complex thoughts and emotions of others based on subtle clues.

In this case, she's built up an elaborate fantasy about Anon based on some misinterpreted social cues and her own sexual attraction to him. She's convinced herself that this fantasy is a reality, or at least is something she can make into reality: she and Anon are destined for each other, Anon was brought to Equestria by some unseen force like Fate in order to fulfill this destiny, and thus any action she takes towards bringing this destiny about is inherently justified, even things like stripping Celestia of her alicorn powers and using her clout as Princess to hold Anon against his will. It's twisted, but if you spend a few minutes trying to think like Twilight, it's easy to see how she reached this conclusion.

Moreover, she is now so emotionally invested in the fantasy that, from her perspective, it basically must come true. This isn't just a question of her liking someone and hoping that he likes her back; this is a matter of true love and fate. What's happening to her at present is basically a type of cognitive dissonance: she's smart enough to realize that Anon doesn't love her and probably never will. She also suspects, or maybe even knows, that he is now in love with Celestia. However, while she knows this on an intellectual level, emotionally she can't handle it, so she's pushed it as far into the back of her mind as it will go.

At this point she has effectively lost the battle for Anon's affections; even if Celestia were out of the picture, Anon still wouldn't want to marry her. But, instead of accepting it, she has doubled down on her efforts to bring the fantasy to reality through sheer force of will. When Anon was running away and she was chasing him, she could lose herself completely in an elaborate fantasy about what their future relationship would be like. However, now that she's finally caught him, she has to deal with the reality that he does not love her back, and no amount of magic or clever maneuvering on her part will change that.

If Jay Gatsby were an extremely horny cartoon pony princess, he would understand exactly how Twilight feels. For most of the story so far, Twilight has been staring at the flashing green light across the bay, dreaming about what her life will be like when she finally reaches it. However, now that she finally has, she has to face the fact that it's nothing like what she wanted, and it probably never will be. Yet she's so invested in it that, if the fantasy dies, she'll have nothing left, so she has no choice but to press onward in the vain hope that she can somehow will her dream into reality.

Again, this is an absolutely wonderful characterization of Twilight, and moreover she is perfect for the villain role in this story. She does awful things, and you want to see her appropriately thwarted, but at the same time you can see things from her perspective and feel genuinely sorry for her. In a setting like MLP, where invariably every villain gets a redemption except for literal children of course, it's important to have a sympathetic villain who actually deserves to be redeemed.
Good takes on Twilight's character thus far. I'm interested to see your reaction as the plot moves forward.

Anyway, Twilight informs Anon that the wedding will take place on the morrow; she has it timed so that their kiss will coincide with the raising of the sun which in all fairness probably doesn't require much timing; she now controls the sun and can raise it whenever she wants, and at this point it's safe to assume she would be loony enough to make it rise at an inappropriate time just for dramatic effect. In practical terms, I'm assuming this means he has whatever remains of the current day + the following day + the following night until maybe an hour or two before sunrise to enjoy what remains of his bachelorhood. So basically, the wedding will occur at sunrise on January 6, if I'm following the chronology here.

At this point, Twiggles regains her composure and goes full yandere:

>She turns back, and her tearful eyes have been replaced by an icy stare that sends a chill down your spine.
>“But let me make one thing clear, Anon. She’s not going to save you. I’ve accounted for all the variables and every possibility. You’re mine now... my very special somehuman. I love you, and I want you to be happy, and the sooner you come to accept that, the sooner you will be...”
>Swishing her tail to accentuate her point, she steps through the portal and vanishes.
The same obsessive, autismo behavior that makes Twilight endearing when she's being a cute, spergy librarian, or sympathetic when she's hopelessly obsessed with an unrealistic and unrequited romantic fantasy, can in equal measure turn her into a creepy psychopath. When she sets her mind on something she wants, she's not going to give up until she gets it. She's smart enough to devise a near-perfect plan, and if she's obsessed enough to set values and morality aside, resistance is pretty much futile. The cute librarian, the pitiful awkward romantic, and the obsessive conniving lunatic are all facets of the same personality. Again, the characterization of her in this story is, in my opinion, superb.

At this point, Twilight teleports out of the room and Anon is left with his thoughts.

>You stumble back over to the bed and crawl beneath the sheets. There’s no way in hell you’re gonna go through with this wedding. Something has to be done. Anything! But what...? You’re practically powerless here, and the Geas means that Twilight’s absolutely right: Celestia can’t save you this time.
In other words, pretty much what I said a couple of posts ago: Anon is now disconnected from all systems of support he's previously been able to rely on, and will need to draw on his own strength to obtain the future he wants. I'm not sure if we're actually going to see it or not, but Celestia on her end is likely going through something similar. My prediction is that they will both take action in their own way, and meet in the middle somewhere.

Anyway, despite having slept for the last 36 hours, Anon is nevertheless overcome by weariness, and crawls back into bed.

There is a page break, and we rejoin Anon in what is clearly a dream sequence. He is enjoying an idyllic afternoon with Celestia in the castle courtyard, eating apples and engaging in scandalous amounts of consensual hoof-holding. Then, he is suddenly sucked into a void and hears Twilight's psychotic voice admonishing him for neglecting his wife.

Fortunately, he doesn't have to endure this for very long; the void is ripped apart, and he hears Luna's voice informing him that he is in a nightmare, and she is ending it. A moment later, the Moon Princess herself stands before him.

Anon is predictably angry; Luna appears to have been complicit in Twilight's scheme, and thus betrayed him.

>“‘And’? ‘AND’?! Do you have any fucking clue what you’ve done?!” You rise and stand face-to-face with the dark alicorn, but she doesn’t flinch when confronted by your anger. “You begged me, BEGGED ME to bring your sister back by getting her an Orb! You even helped us reach the island! And then you betrayed us at the very last second! What was the fucking point of all this?!”
Anon's level of anger in this situation is appropriate; however, this sort of casual vulgarity reads badly and is generally considered bad form. Unless profanity is part of a character's ordinary speaking style (Littlepip, for instance), it usually comes across as gratuitous and crude to be fair, just about every author does this from time to time, but nevertheless it's worth pointing out. Also, "the dark alicorn" is yet another Lavender Unicorn Syndrome issue, so I'm afraid that's a paddlin'.

Anyway, Anon and Luna yak back and forth for a bit. Anon is understandably upset about being betrayed, since he was under the impression that Luna was his ally. Luna replies that she is neither his ally nor his enemy; her goal is to give Celestia her power back and restore the status quo. She does not particularly care what happens after that and is not really concerned about the whole "Twilight wants to rape Anon" situation. Anon protests that Twilight destroying the orb ensured that Celestia's power would not be restored, but Luna explains that Celestia actually had her own orb the entire time.

Initially this seems a bit contrived, but it makes sense when you think about it. It's been established that the altar or the Wayshrine or whatever it's called will grant an orb to whoever passes through it, and anyone who passes through all of the Trials will automatically have their orb charged up. So whatever; it checks out I guess. Celestia has an orb of her own, and can still ascend. But, you say, isn't it true that the magic can only be released when the orb is freely given away? The answer to this, of course, is yes; however, this is simple enough to deal with. All Celestia has to do is give her orb to Anon, and have Anon pass it back to her, and the whole autistic plan can proceed on schedule. Again, it feels contrived and unnecessarily complicated but...I can't find any serious flaws here, so what the hay; it checks out.

Anyway, the gist of this conversation is that Luna really doesn't give a flying fuck if Twilight wants to rape Anon, or if Celestia wants to have consensual sex with Anon, or about any other teenage shenanigans going on in Equestria. Her concern is maintaining the proper balance of power and assuring that Harmony remains intact. She ominously informs Anon that there is some kind of grave threat to the world looming on the horizon, and that she needs all hands hooves, whatever; reee idioms and so forth on deck.

The present situation, in which Twilight is focusing 110% of her attention on getting laid and Celestia just wants to retire and goof off, is unacceptable. So, Luna has decided to be the adult in the room. She agreed to help Anon restore Celestia's power, because Celestia's power will be needed in order to deal with whatever the threat is. She agreed to help Twilight bag Anon for more or less the same reason: so she will stop focusing her attention on chasing her reluctant man-whore around the world and help out in whatever way she can.

It's probably worth reading it in her own words:

>“Understand that we had no choice. Something has changed within the last several days and a great threat to this world is looming just beyond the horizon. We can sense it on the wind, and had we allowed you to remain with Sister, it would’ve forced a clash between herself and Twilight at a time when Equestria cannot afford it. We implored Twilight to return to Canterlot, but she refused to do so without you. We did what was necessary as a result.”
>“This petty squabble between them became a great problem which could no longer be overlooked when Sister’s power was lost. Now, more than ever, she is needed to help guide this world, until such time as Twilight Sparkle becomes truly worthy of the position she has come to inherit. We know, and she knows, all too well, that the responsibility is more than one pony alone can bear. This foalish fantasy of abandoning her duty to live in the past has resulted in an imbalance that is damaging to the order we’ve strived so long to build and maintain, and it cannot be permitted to continue. We are sorry, but this is the truth.”

In other words, Luna's role in the story turns out to be more or less what I was expecting. She's not on anybody's side here; she has her own goals, and will help or hinder anyone she likes on the basis of whether or not it advances those goals. Pretty standard unreliable ally character; no huge surprises, but always a good choice.

Anywho, Luna calmly explains what's going to happen next. Anon will marry Twilight and become her personal royal dildo, which will hopefully have a calming enough effect on her libido that she can carry out her newfound Princess duties. Celestia will give her magic orb to Anon so Anon can give it back to her, and then she will choke it down, regain her alicorn powers, and go back to being a dildoless Sun Princess. Yada yada yada, Harmony is restored and Anon and Celestia's feelings don't matter. Logical, if not especially satisfying except for Twilight, I guess, since she at least gets a dildo.

The dream ends here, and so does the chapter. Incidentally, the comments section for this chapter is pretty amusing; lots of autists wanting to disembowel Twilight and Luna in various nasty ways.

Oh, one more thing I forgot to mention: before Anon went to sleep, he noticed that there was a thunderstorm going on outside the window, but it was snowing rather than raining, which struck him as odd. I'm not sure whether this is meant to be some sort of magical tomfoolery on Twilight's part, or if it's related to that "evil on the horizon" that Luna mentioned, but it's probably worth noting either way.

17 - Preparations

Anon awakens the following morning in the same room, feeling lower than a bow-legged caterpillar. He wants to be optimistic, maybe even reason some way out of his predicament, but no matter how he looks at the situation, it feels hopeless. However, he's never been one to mope around, so he puts on the ridiculous outfit that Rarity designed for him in his own words, even Liberace would be spinning in his grave at the sight of it and heads out to explore the town. Pyre, the guardspony from a couple of scenes ago, is still standing guard outside, so Anon enlists him as a guide. To his credit, Pyre seems like a fairly nice guy.

There is a page break, and we join the two of them a short time later, wandering around town.

>Aside from some snacks, you haven’t bought anything from the various shops you’ve dabbled around in, despite the pegasus’ constant reminders that anything you want would be covered by the Treasury. A nice perk, sure, but you don’t think your average Equestrian taxpayer would take kindly to a freaky alien monkey buying random shit on their dime, ‘prince’ or not.
I'm curious if any American politicians have ever read this story, and if so, how it feels to be told, in so many words, that they have less professional integrity than Twilight Sparkle's royal dildo.

Anywho, Anon quickly grows bored with the city, and wanders back to the castle. He and Pyre sit down in the garden to eat some apples they bought, when Pyre suddenly feels a call of nature. Though he is reluctant to leave his post, Anon assures him that he will be in no serious danger if left alone in the garden for a few minutes. Pyre runs off to take an enormous shit, and Anon is temporarily free.

If he were ever going to attempt an escape, now would be the time to do it; however, Anon quickly realizes that so long as he has the Geas bands on his wrists, he won't get far. He sits down and continues to mope, when suddenly, a nearby statue starts talking to him.

>The creature’s pose is as equally as ridiculous as its general shape.
This sentence is bad and you should feel bad.

Anyway, tl;dr the statue is Discord.


>The voice scoffs. “Puh-lease! Don’t tell me you’ve never laid eyes on my magnificently chaotic visage before! Our mutual acquaintances Cotton Candy Head and Moody Featherduster plastered their throne room with stained glass artwork of all my greatest hits, for crying out loud!”
On the one hand, this is pretty on-model for Discord and I can easily hear this line being read in his voice. On the other hand, these wacky nicknames for every single character are getting to be a bit much, especially in conjunction with all the LUS stuff.

Anyway, yeah, whatever; yada yada yada, the talking statue turns out to be Discord, otherwise known as the ascended form of Clover the Clever. And as it turns out, he has some interesting and rather helpful ideas.

Apparently, though he is imprisoned in stone and unable to take action in the world, he can still astral project himself around and watch things unfold. As it turns out, he's been watching Anon's antics and appreciates his propensity for causing chaos. As such, he decides to give him a little advice:

>A Geas is a difficult spell, not only to cast, but to maintain. You’re like a little flea attached to our dear Twilight Sparkle, constantly sucking out a bit of her magic in order to feed the curse. If too little magic is siphoned, the spell fails and the Geas breaks, and if too much magic is siphoned, well... *POP* goes the weasel, as they say!
>As I was saying, the flow of the magic is constant, and we all know constants are boring. Our studious little OCD alicorn will be sure to strictly regulate it down to the tiniest degree, as is her nature. But what if I were to tell you that you had the ability to... liven things up a bit? And maybe take more of her magic than she’s willing to give?
In short, Discord points out to Anon that the very thing that's keeping him under Twilight's thumb reee idioms could potentially turn out to be his greatest weapon.

>“Yes, yes, of course you will if you allow the extra magic to remain within your body. But, if you were to redirect it somewhere else for a while, it could end up being a particularly perplexing problem for our purple pony princess!”
The exact phrase "purple pony princess" appears a grand total of nine times in this text.

Anyway, Anon now has a possible chance of escape. If he can force Twilight into funneling more magic into the spell than it can hold, and then redirect it elsewhere so it doesn't make his body explode, he might just be able to wriggle his way out of this shotgun wedding.

Appropriately, having delivered his message, Discord now announces that he has used up what little power he has available and can no longer communicate; Anon is on his own from here. He then reverts back to silent stone, leaving Anon to ponder his words. Anon has been given a weapon and a pep talk, but he will still need to extricate himself from this situation using his own strength, without any divine assistance.

Since Pyre is still in the bathroom, Anon decides to ditch his escort and head for the castle library. The scene ends in a page break.

The perspective once again becomes suddenly omniscient, and we see Rarity, Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy preparing for the wedding. Rarity is making some last-minute alterations to Rainbow's dress, and Rainbow is fidgeting and complaining about how long it's taking.

There are, of course, several more LUS violations in this scene. The "butter-yellow pegasus" once again rears her adorably ugly head; we also have the "unicorn seamstress" and the "blue pegasus" making appearances. At one point, the "unicorn seamstress" morphs into the "frazzled-looking unicorn," which may or may not be her final form. As an aside, I discovered that the author sometimes hyphenates "butter-yellow" and sometimes he doesn't, so my earlier count of six instances was not accurate. Searching for both hyphenated and unhyphenated instances, some variant of the phrase "butter yellow pegasus" appears a whopping eleven times total throughout the entire text. So, uh, you know; something to keep an eye on.

Anywho, not much happens in this scene, but it helps to move events along somewhat. Rarity needs to fit Anon for his suit, and sends Rainbow off to fetch him. In her absence, Rarity and Fluttershy discuss the upcoming wedding, as well as "Mistress Notfluutershai's" latest work of erotic friend fiction, which rumor has it is about to go to the presses. There is also some speculation about whether or not Applejack and Pinkie Pie, currently in the metaphorical doghouse among their friends for having chosen the wrong side in the Anon v. Twilight squabble, will have the stones to show up at the wedding.

Another page break, and we're back with Anon. It looks like Pyre managed to find him again, though he's in kind of a pissy mood about being abandoned. The two of them are in the library; Anon is leafing through books on magic, trying to follow up on the clue Discord gave him. He seems to find something, and then announces that he is ready to leave. He orders Pyre to put all of the books he took back on their shelves, while he goes back to his room.

Unfortunately, he manages to get himself lost in the library on the way. After wandering around for a bit, he accidentally stumbles upon an imposing-looking door that is sealed with some kind of magical barrier. The door leads to the Forbidden Archives.

His curiosity piqued, Anon tries to enter the room, but finds himself repelled by the barrier. He then turns to go, but to his surprise finds that his Geas bands are glowing, and the barrier suddenly opens up to let him pass. This initially puzzles him, but then he remembers something that Twilight said earlier:

>”From a magical standpoint, you and Celestia are the same pony because you now share her magic. And likewise, anypony I cast a Geas on will share my magical hoofprint too...”
Anon realizes that Twilight has inadvertently given him an advantage, and decides to pursue it.

Anyway, Anon goes into the Forbidden Archives, and is temporarily discouraged when he finds yet another gigantic room filled with old books, and no clue as to what exactly he's looking for. Then, he notices a book lying on a reading table in the center of the room, picks it up, and to his great fortune discovers that it's exactly what he needs. The text doesn't elaborate on how or why exactly, but we are told that it will be of great help to him. He pockets the book and leaves the archives.

This is another event that feels contrived, but upon closer scrutiny is probably okay. What Anon needs is most likely a book related to Geas magic. Since Twilight would have been researching this very topic just a short time ago, it stands to reason that whatever she was last reading might be useful to him as well. We already know that Twilight has access to the Forbidden Archives, since that is the only reason that Anon was able to enter. Apart from the two current Princesses, I'm assuming very few ponies would have the ability or the inclination to enter this room, with Luna being the only other party actually likely to do so. Since it's been established that Luna is indifferent to the marriage issue, we can assume that Twilight would not see her as a threat to her plans. She also knows that Anon is uninterested in books and magic, so she is probably not that worried about him coming in here either; she may have even forgotten that the Geas would allow him to enter.

Given Twilight's interest in books and magic, it also stands to reason that, upon her ascension to Princesshood, gaining access to these archives is something she would have seen as a major perk. She probably comes in here to read forbidden shit all the time, even books that have nothing to do with banging Anon. Due to the fact that she is comfortable here, and likely considers it a secure enough place that she doesn't need to cover her tracks, it's actually quite plausible that the last thing she read would still be sitting out in plain sight. So, as far as I'm concerned, this latest development checks out. Note: it's also possible that this is another "variable" she took into account, and she left this book out as a trap to ensnare him, and whatever magic he discovers in this book will just end up making his situation even worse. The scenario is worth considering, but my suspicion is this won't be the case.

Anyway, Anon leaves the Archives, and is found by Pyre a short time later. At this point he returns to his room for a nap, and the chapter ends.

18 - A Promise

We jump forward a bit, and it is now time for the wedding. Anon is making some last-minute adjustments to his wardrobe as he heads to an outdoor plaza for the execution ceremony. His "best stallion" is mentioned as walking alongside him, although this pony's identity is not specified. Until I read otherwise, I am going to assume the role will be played by Pyre, because that's the only available choice that makes sense.

>The sun has not yet risen, just like she said it wouldn’t when you spoke the night before last. The horizon is alight with the warm oranges, yellows, and soft blues of the twilight before dawn, and countless stars can still be seen in the vast sky overhead. Though the moon is absent, there’s more than enough light to see courtesy of the many magical lampposts scattered throughout the plaza, which have the additional benefit of keeping the cold night air at bay.
Say what you like about getmeouttahere's overall prose style, but the man knows how to conjure up a comfy visual.

Anyway, the ceremony proceeds. Twilight's bridesmares, "Squiggle Tail," "Butter Squeak" and "Speedy Snooze," make their way to the front, followed by the flower fillies, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo (I guess they're not important enough to get silly nicknames). Apple Bloom is conspicuously absent for obvious reasons.

The scene actually maintains a pretty good balance. Even though this is basically the world's most expensive and elaborate shotgun wedding, as well as the ending of Anon's life as a free man, the mood is not especially sinister, and we get a little bit of everyone's perspective on the event.

The three "bridesmares" are each here to support their friend in their own way: Rarity is fussy and seems to be obsessing over aesthetic details, Rainbow Dash is completely out of her element but is doing her best to grin and bear it for Twilight's sake, and Fluttershy is just happy that her smutty fanfic finally came true. The two fillies, much like Apple Bloom earlier when she snuck onto the airship, are just lost in the joyful obliviousness of childhood. They likely have no idea what's actually going on here, but are thrilled they get to be part of a wedding.

Twilight herself is on cloud nine, and once again the author manages to evoke quite a bit of reader sympathy for her. For all her fucked-up insanity, this is probably the happiest moment of her life, and even Anon feels a little bad that she's given him basically no choice but to ruin it for her. This isn't Queen Chrysalis cackling maniacally as her evil scheme to entrap Shining Armor reaches it's zenith; this is just an autistic, extremely delusional mare enjoying the realization of her dorkiest fantasy. The beauty and innocence of the moment is exactly what makes this whole scene so tragic: everyone (aside from Anon, of course) has their own reason to be happy here, and yet the circumstances are so irreparably fucked up that there is just no possible way for it not to end in disaster.

Anywho, because of all this, Anon has decided to give Twilight one last chance to do the right thing let him go willingly, before he goes ahead and does whatever he is planning to do.
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So anyway, it's time for the vows. Twilight's are, of course, beyond autistic. The author's characterization is once again spot-on: she walks a razor's edge between endearingly spergy and dangerously delusional. Anon's, however, are a little more to the point:

>You look the beaming alicorn princess in the eyes, a sad smile on your face, and tell her, “Twilight... I can’t give you something I no longer own.”
>You hear hushed murmurs from the crowd as Twilight’s ears fold back and she hiccups.
“N-No, Anon. Don’t do this. Please don’t do this.”
>“I can’t marry you,” you continue. “And I can’t love you the way you want me to. I can’t give you my heart, because I’ve already given it to someone else; someone very special to me...”
To his eternal credit, he let her down as gently as he possibly could.

Unfortunately, Twilight's response is predictable. Her yandere side goes into full-blown overdrive:

>“Not. Another. Word. NOT ANOTHER WORD! I gave you a chance... I gave you a chance to love me, but you still keep throwing it away like I’m nothing! Why?! I’ve already surpassed her! I’ve already defeated her! What does she have that I don’t?! What makes her so bucking special?!”
>“I’ve... I’ve changed my mind. I’ll never remove that Geas! She doesn’t deserve you... she never deserved you... but she kept trying to take you from me. Why...? Why would she do that when she knew that you were mine?! Mine! My very special somehuman!!”
>“I tried. I gave you a chance to drop your inhibitions and come to me willingly, but I guess that’s too much for you, isn’t it? But it doesn’t matter, destiny won’t be denied, and don’t worry... you will realize your love for me. You will WANT me. You will NEED me...”

At this point, she finally crosses the last line of decency and attempts to cast a mind-control spell on him. Anon decides that he's had enough of these motherfuckin' snakes on this motherfuckin' plane. It's go time. He reaches into his front pocket and grabs his little surprise.

Here's the short version:

From his research, Anon learned that magic can be stored in gems. Fortunately for him, Rarity puts copious amounts of gems on just about everything she touches, so the outfit she gave him yesterday to walk around in provided more than enough. He also learned a technique that allows him to sap magic out of the Geas bands and into his own body, which he can then channel directly into the gems in his pocketses. Twilight is now in a bit of a pickle: she can either allow the Geas to keep drawing magic out of her until she is completely drained of power, or she can break it, freeing Anon in the process.

Twilight, however, is undeterred. She refuses help, and for the time being allows the Geas to keep sapping her magic. She orders the guards to restrain Anon, but it seems Anon planned for this as well. He tosses one of the magic-charged gems at the approaching guards, and it explodes, sending the guards and some of the congregation flying.

>That appears to be the last straw for most of the congregation, as screams of panic ring out and most of the attendees start stampeding toward the exits. Some guards begin helping the panicked ponies with their evacuation, while the ones closest to you attempt to regroup but can’t find the courage to approach.
At this point, I'm beginning to wonder how much the background ponies understand about what's actually going on here. Getting invited to a royal wedding, only to have it end with the groom lobbing magical grenades at you...that would certainly be a story to tell the grandfoals one day.

Anyway, chaos ensues, much to the delight of Discord's disembodied spirit I would imagine. Unfortunately, Anon isn't quite out of the woods yet:

>That appears to be the last straw for most of the congregation, as screams of panic ring out and most of the attendees start stampeding toward the exits. Some guards begin helping the panicked ponies with their evacuation, while the ones closest to you attempt to regroup but can’t find the courage to approach.
Just out of curiosity, is the cyan pegasus related to the blue pegasus? What about the sky blue pegasus? I imagine she's distinct from the butter yellow pegasus, but as far as the butter-yellow pegasus is concerned...okay, I'll stop now. I won't, actually.

At this point, Anon decides it's time to play his trump card. He grabs Sweetie Belle, who seems to mostly be enjoying the excitement, and reaches into his pocket for a little surprise.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCZx5-b9tlE okay, I'll stop now. I won't, actually.

>“NOBODY FUCKIN’ MOVE!!” you scream at the top of your lungs.
>The various ponies stop in their tracks, all eyes on you.
>“If you make even one move to stop me or get in my way, I swear I’ll read some excerpts from Twilight’s diary to this little filly!!”
Honestly, given the circumstances, I feel like Rarity's diary would have been a funnier choice. Although I think the implication is that Twilight's diary is probably raunchier, and thus unsuitable for a young foal. Though if he wanted to go that route, Fluttershy's fanfiction would have also worked.

For the moment, it seems that Anon has finally gained the upper hand. However, Twilight seems eerily calm about all of this, and it is at this point that she reveals the fatal flaw in Anon's little ol' scheme...

>“Your plan was very cute... and very imaginative. I never thought you’d come up with something like this... I never even thought of it myself!”
>“But Anon... I’m an alicorn. And I’m the Element of Magic. It’s like you’re trying to drain the ocean into a series of buckets. Theoretically, it’s possible... but do you have enough to complete the task?”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lXdyD2Yzls okay, I'll stop now. I won't, actually.
As some music bass dude said "Repetition legitimizes." Taste and execution of the piece is up to both the author and audience. You've been consistently hitting your stride well.
Thanks for doing these fun reviews.
You're right that LUS is happening too much though.
Shit, I think I actually quoted the wrong bit here:

>That appears to be the last straw for most of the congregation, as screams of panic ring out and most of the attendees start stampeding toward the exits. Some guards begin helping the panicked ponies with their evacuation, while the ones closest to you attempt to regroup but can’t find the courage to approach.
Just out of curiosity, is the cyan pegasus related to the blue pegasus? What about the sky blue pegasus? I imagine she's distinct from the butter yellow pegasus, but as far as the butter-yellow pegasus is concerned...

The portion I meant to quote was:
>Rainbow and the rest of the bridesmares are noticeably pissed at you for some reason or another. The cyan pegasus crouches and begins what she intended to be a flying charge, but her wing-restraining dress screws up her trajectory. You easily sidestep the failed leap, giving you the valuable time you need to move on to the next phase of your escape.

Hopefully the commentary makes a little more sense now.

thx, as ever I am glad people are following along and enjoying.

So anyway, it seems as if Anon's victory may be short-lived. He only has enough gems to siphon magic for another 20 minutes or so, and since Twilight's powerlevel is over 9000, whatever he siphons off won't make any serious difference. He's basically trying to overload the city power grid by charging his phone. Plus, he still has to physically escape the city.

>“I don’t even have to do anything. You can try to run. You can even try to find more gems. But it’ll only be delaying the inevitable. The moment you stop the transfer, I’ll regain my power and break your will. I’ve had enough, Anon. The time for these games is over. You can’t stop destiny... you can’t deny it. The stars brought us together, the weaving of the world’s magic led us to one another... and it will happen, whether you like it or not...”

It also does not look as though Luna will be much help:

>You turn and accidentally meet Luna’s gaze as she sits alone, curled up upon one of the pews. Shit... you completely forgot about her. She hasn’t even made a move against you, but her expression says it all:
>’Either stop this foolishness, or we will stop it for you.’

So, in short, Anon now finds himself in a regular ol' dilly of a pickle. I have a suspicion about which direction the author is going to take this, but I'm not going to voice it for now; I'm just going to keep reading and see if I'm right.

Incidentally, Anon is still holding Sweetie Belle:

>“Anon...?” The filly in your arms looks up at you with concern. “Why are you so sad? Is it because you’re marrying the Princess even though you really don’t love her?”
Yes, yes, a child's perception; out of of the mouths of babes; all that good stuff. In any event, he might as well just go ahead and read her some of Twilight's autistic and probably revolting diary entries; he has literally no reason not to go for broke at this point.

However, it looks as though he may be too late:

>“It’s okay!” she giggles. “The Princess’ diary can’t be any more boring than the one Rarity hides in her dresser underneath her special back massager. It’s almost all about how much she likes wieners, what she wants to do to wieners, who has the best wiener, the wieners she wants to see the most...”

Anyway, the silly banter here goes back and forth for awhile. It's worth reading, but probably not worth summarizing. Eventually, the comic moment ends and Anon gets serious again. He waxes sentimental for a few paragraphs, watching the early morning stars.

>That the twilight won’t last forever, and the sun will rise again.
This right here, kids, is called a metaphor. It's a legit literary thing, look it up.

Anyway, here's the short version: with timing so implausibly perfect even Michael Bay would call bullshit on this scene, the cavalry suddenly arrives. The airship, presumably fixed by Big Mac, makes a dramatic landing and out step Big Mac and Apple Bloom, Pinkie Pie, Applejack, and Celestia. Celestia is all bandaged up from her Road-of-Trials-injuries, but still manages to look regal. She appears to be under strain due to the effects of the Geas; you may or may not remember that it was designed to repel her.

Twilight orders them apprehended, but the guards are understandably hesitant to obey. Even without her powers, Celestia is still Celestia: she was Princess for 1000 years, Twilight has been Princess for like three weeks. Plus, at this point it has to be obvious to just about everypony that she's completely off her nut.

There's a bit of a fight scene here, but the details aren't that important. Twilight's sidekicks attack, and are subdued by Anon's sidekicks. Meanwhile, Luna and Celestia face off, and seem to be having some kind of behind-the-scenes discussion. Anon puts Sweetie Belle down, and she and Scootaloo have a little crusader-reunion with Apple Bloom. Anon's situation with Twilight is about the same: he continues to siphon her power, but time is running out and there is still no clear path to victory. The chapter ends here.

19 - Epiphany

The author makes a weird stylistic choice here, and I'm not entirely certain I approve. I had assumed the fight scene was basically over, and the last item on the agenda would be Anon figuring out a way to finally break the Geas. However, it seems the author wants to draw things out a bit more. Just over half of this chapter is devoted to a detailed breakdown of the confrontation, divided into microscenes based on who is involved. Perspective appears to once again shift to omniscient. I'll go through them one at a time. Section labeling is the same as the author's.

Applejack and Rarity

This microscene mostly just rehashes a dynamic that comes up a lot in the show. AJ and Rarity, friends yet total opposites, misunderstand each other and butt heads. They are both loyal to Twilight in their own way, but they have radically different natures and thus interpret the situation differently. Rarity is upset with Applejack for having no sense of propriety and crashing Twilight's wedding. She is a natural romantic and takes Twilight's side in the conflict because true love and so forth. She considers AJ's siding with Anon to be a betrayal of her friendship to Twilight.

AJ, the pragmatist, sees it differently. She can clearly see that Twilight's autismo obsession with Anon's dick has caused her to completely lose her mind, and as her friend, it's AJ's responsibility to put an end to all this foolishness.

However, they find common ground when AJ explains that Anon and Celestia are now officially an item. At this point, Rarity drops all hostility and demands that AJ fill her in on the gossip.

The Crusaders
Nothing particularly noteworthy here; just the CMC being the CMC. They discuss the situation and decide to try and earn cutie marks as "love reuniters," by getting Anon and Celestia together. This may or may not be plot relevant, since I'm assuming they know nothing about the Geas.
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Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash

Once again, the author sticks with tried and true dynamics. Rainbow Dash, what with her whole "loyalty" thing, is exasperated that Pinkie would betray her friends and interfere with Twilight's love quest. Pinkie, meanwhile, shows once again that she is far more reasonable and perceptive than she appears. Initially, she was willing to help Twilight bag Anon, but as it became more and more apparent that Anon was genuinely not interested, she realized that helping Twilight would actually be hurting her in the long run. Moreover, when it became clear that Anon and Celestia were falling for each other, she realized that the best possible outcome would be for Twilight to give up on Anon and let him go.

She also apparently has some zany scheme in mind, as she grabs Rainbow at the end of the scene and runs off into the castle with her.

Celestia and Luna

While all of this wackiness is going on, the current Princess and the former Princess talk shop. Luna explains to Celestia that she has sensed some kind of mysterious dark force moving on the horizon, and she needs her to stop goofing off and start being a Princess again already. Celestia explains that, while she did not sense anything due to her diminished power, she did notice the Dark Star was acting a bit funny back when they were doing the Road of Trials, so she figures Luna is probably right about the whole approaching doom thing.

Luna tells Celestia to give her the orb she still has, so that she can give it back to her, so that she can swallow it and become an alicorn again. Since the end result of this would be exactly the same as if she gave it to Anon and he gave it back to her, which is what they were going to do anyway, this makes perfect sense. However, for some ridiculous reason that would only make sense to a woman, Celestia refuses. She wants Anon to give her the orb, not Luna, and she's not going to let something as trivial as the potential annihilation of Equestria interfere with the progression of her lovey-dovey storybook romance. Luna is appropriately disgusted by this display of complete and utter retardation, and vanishes in a huff.

Big Mac and Fluttershy

This scene is cute, but there's not a ton of substance or plot-relevance here, so I'm going to move through it quickly. It's revealed at this point that Fluttershy has had a crush on Big Mac for some time now, and a large batch of her erotic friend-fiction was inspired by him to some degree. She keeps trying to meekly push her way past him, and he keeps telling her no, and she's getting more and more flustered. Eventually, she tries being "assertive," which backfires as you might expect. However, it causes Big Mac whose initials I literally just now realized are "BM," which the schoolboy in me finds hilarious to finally make eye contact with her. Fluttershy uses Stare, and it's super effective. However, before she can get far, Apple Bloom unexpectedly clocks her over the back of the head with a chair.

Anon and Twilight

And now, finally, we have reached the crux of the biscuit. I'm anxious to see if this author is going to do what I suspect he's going to do, or if he will choke and miss the mark, and become a faggot just like all the rest. So far he's got a pretty hetero track record; I'd hate to see him blow it in the final quarter.

>Your mind is blank... you can’t think of anything that would help short of Twilight releasing the Geas willingly. But she’d never do that... the advantage she gains from it is way too massive for anyone in her position to realistically relinquish. But there has to be—
He's nipping at the edges, but can he seal the deal?

Anyway, Anon is just standing there siphoning magic, because that's pretty much all he can do. As he siphons, he watches everything going on around him and ponders his predicament.

>It doesn’t make sense. You know Cel wouldn’t be here if she didn’t have some sort of plan for dealing with Twilight. She has to have one, but the real question is: what’s your role in it? What are you supposed to do? Is there some sort of signal you’ve missed?
This is a crucial moment, not just for Anon, but for the story as a whole, as well as the author's sexual orientation.

Here's the deal: Anon has to solve this problem on his own. Up until now, he's relied heavily on Celestia and his friends, and that's fine because yada yada yada friendship is magic and all that. And as I mentioned earlier, the interdependence between the two of them does make the romance more interesting. During the early part of the story, Anon mostly relied on Celestia to bail him out of minor jams, and that was fine. The Road of Trials was a dual effort that they both contributed to and both benefitted from, and that was also appropriate. However, the Geas, as well as Twilight's obsession with Anon which is what the Geas symbolizes, is specifically Anon's problem, and Anon has to be the one to resolve it.

Earlier, when Anon met Discord in the Garden, there was a moment when I worried that the author was going to fuck this up. If Discord had somehow broken free of his prison, and used his all-powerful chaos magic to help Anon out of his jam, that would have completely ruined the story. However, he didn't; he gave Anon some helpful advice, but did not involve himself any further, so the author passed the test. The gods can give the hero a weapon to use, but the hero has to fight the battle himself.

Moreover, given what we know about the Geas and the particular trick Anon is using to fight it, there is literally only one action he can take here that will bring about a satisfying victory and make sense within the technical rules the author has established. If you can guess what it is, you win a cookie.

If the author does this right, he will earn himself a harem of comely mares. However, if he fucks this up, he shall be cast into the pit of Sodom for all eternity.
> However, for some ridiculous reason that would only make sense to a woman, Celestia refuses. She wants Anon to give her the orb, not Luna, and she's not going to let something as trivial as the potential annihilation of Equestria interfere with the progression of her lovey-dovey storybook romance. Luna is appropriately disgusted by this display of complete and utter retardation, and vanishes in a huff.
When I started reading your summary, I thought that Celestia was going to give the orb to Luna, Luba was going to say “ha! I tricked you! You and anon are fucked now!” Go back to her Plan A of forcing Anon to be married, and then either absorb the power herself, give it to twilight, or hold it “for safe keeping” until “things can be restored.”

I know many people in the fandom assume that this season 3 era Luna must be trustworthy because her design is pretty and she was cute in that one episode, and just conveniently forget that canonically, Luna tried to overthrow Celestia twice, but every single thing I have read about the Luna of this text screams that she is a Machiavellian figure who is for all purposes a villain. There is nothing about her that is trustworthy, and Celestia made the right call.

>for sone reason that makes sense only to a woman
That reason is that women have the ability to ignore how hot a woman is, and accurately judge the character of another woman.

Beyond that, I think we can be 90% sure that Celestia giving Anon the orb won’t be a simple hand over and hand back, but has some other effect that Celestia knows about but the reader doesn’t.
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Anyway, as if Anon didn't have enough on his plate, he now seems to be succumbing to something called "magic fatigue." Basically, even though he's only using his body as a conduit between himself and the gems, it's still putting a lot of strain on him. If he keeps this up much longer, there is a chance his body will give out.

However, it seems he's not quite at that point yet. He tries to reason things out with Twilight, pleading with her to just give up and release him voluntarily. Their conversation is briefly interrupted when the CMC try to clobber Twilight with a chair, but unfortunately the effort is thwarted.

And then...and then......and then.........


Alright, well, here's the deal. The good news is, the author doesn't go full-blown sperm-on-his-chin gay. However............his heterosexuality does not completely survive this battle. He comes out of it sort of bi-curious. At this point, I've come to grudgingly accept that bi-curious is about the best I can expect from FimFiction.

Here is what happens:

Anon and Twilight are facing off. Anon is sucking magic out of Twilight almost as hard as the author no doubt wishes he could suck an eggroll out of some gay pirate's pantaloons, but it's still not enough. He's running out of gems, and he's almost unconscious from magic fatigue. Twilight is now prematurely crowing about her victory, so we know that something is about to happen, but what could that something be?

Well, as it turns out, that something is Celestia. In spite of how horribly injured and magically deficient she still is, she begins approaching Twilight and Anon, Geas be damned. Twilight is all liek "oh noes u cant do that Pirncis Celeosi u will dieey" and Prancs Ceelests is all liek "no Twowilites i am do this thing" and twoiwlight is all liek "noooooooo" and purnses celery is all liek "yeeeeeeeess" and then cerlestria gits 2 clos 2 twoielight an then she dies and twolot is all liek "noooooooooooooooooooooo rPanaces Eleeceststia y u no stop dieing" an pramracesie cemelestiea am liek "twoiloit it is bcuz true luv," the end t. getmeouttahere. Translation for non-autists: Princess Celestia deliberately gets too close to the Geas, knowing that it will probably kill her, and sacrifices herself for Anon. Too late, Twilight Sparkle learns the meaning of true love, and realizes that her own selfish desire for Anon pales in comparison. She releases Anon from the Geas, understanding, finally, that her defeat is absolute, and Anon will never ravage her plot the way he does in Fluttershy's fanfiction.

And just so you don't die wondering, Celestia is fine; turns out Twilight shut the Geas off in time. Anon and Celestia now proceed to make out in front of God and everypony, and everypony cheers (except of course for Twilight, who is sobbing and rending her wedding dress, and Mistress Notfluutershai, who is busy penning her next opus with one hoof).

To the author's credit, this is actually close to what I was expecting, but unfortunately he sort of got it backwards.

Here is what I think should have happened:

Anon and Twilight are facing off. Anon is gobbling magic harder than the author would no doubt like to gobble down on Raoul the Cabana Boy, but it's still not enough. He's running out of gems, and he's almost unconscious from magic fatigue. Twilight is now prematurely crowing about her victory, so we know that something is about to happen, but what could that something be?

Meanwhile, Celestia is struggling back to her hooves. I'm not sure what knocked her down exactly; maybe Apple Bloom hit her with a chair. Point is, she struggles to her hooves and begins to stumble towards them. Anon realizes what she is going to do, and he knows that he can't let her do it.

It is at this point that Anon remembers something Discord told him:

>You can’t always think of things in absolutes, my dear boy. What you believe to be a boon could turn into a burden. And what you believe to be misfortune can open doors you never even imagined!
Think outside the box. Turn a setback into a victory. Anon now knows what he can do to defeat Twilight. He's not looking forward to it, but he knows how to do it.

Anon continues to siphon magic, but stops feeding it into the gems. Twilight is magically gifted enough to immediately sense what he's doing and understand what it means. She is all liek "nooooo annon what r u doing" and Anon is all liek "wat does it look liek im doing u dum pruprle hoers i am defeating u" and towoilight is all liek "nooo u cant do dat u will kerplode" and annon is aall liek "i would rather kerplode than marry u" and toilete sporkel is all liek "but y anon" and anaon is all liek "it is bcuz true luv + also u suk & r crazy."

Twilight realizes that Anon is serious; he would actually rather kerplode himself than marry her. She also realizes that the tables have been quite effectively turned: if she doesn't nix the Geas, Anon is going to kill himself in a very messy and unpleasant way. However, if she does nix it, it means she gives up her control over him. Her flawless victory has now turned into a complete and utter defeat.

Moreover, she realizes that Anon would not only rather kerplode himself than marry her, the deeper point is that he would rather kerplode than be without Celestia. She now understands that she has completely lost the battle for Anons heart and/or no-no-bits. She has the option to either kill him out of spite, or to prove that she loves him enough to set him free. She chooses the latter.

The Geas is gone, Twilight has relinquished her claim, and Anon and Celestia are now free to make out in front of God and everypony. The music swells, and everypony cheers, except for Twilight who is weeping and rending her wedding dress, and Mistress Notfluutershai, who is already writing her newest smutty fanfic. Curtain closes.
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lmao I'm Canadian now

Now, here's why this version of events is better than what the author did:

1. It's a Xanatos Gambit
A Xanatos Gambit is a plan in which all foreseeable outcomes result in victory for the creator of the plan. It not only hands Anon a flawless victory, but allows him to completely and utterly turn the tables on Twilight, who up until now has always had the upper hand reee idioms. It takes Twilight's "you will be assimilated into my vagina; resistance is futile" advantage and turns it into a completely hopeless position for her. She only has two options: kill Anon or let him go. Either way, she's been denied her prize.

2. It fulfills the "Anon must solve this problem himself" requirement
As I've said before, Twilight's fixation on Anon is Anon's problem, and Anon must be the one to solve it using his own resources. While Celestia and Twilight are technically rivals, the primary conflict here is not between them, it's between Anon and Twilight. Celestia defeating Twilight on Anon's behalf might technically solve Anon's problem, but it doesn't resolve anything and thus is not satisfying.

3. It validates Anon and Celestia's love for each other
Around the time of the Road of Trials arc, I mentioned that the love plot was beginning to feel stagnant and lose momentum, the reason being that Anon and Celestia's feelings for each other have not been put to any serious test. Well, this right here serves as exactly the sort of test they need. Anon and Twilight both have choices to make here that will define their respective character arcs. I'll get to Twilight's in just a second, but for Anon, the choice is essentially whether to give up his life or give up his love for Celestia.

The ideal outcome for Anon is a world where Twilight is either vanquished or gives up, and Anon is free to be with Celestia as he desires. However, it's clear at this point in the story that this outcome is impossible. Twilight can't be defeated by any means currently at Anon's disposal, and she is clearly determined to win him, even if it means mind-controlling him into being her love slave. She has backed him into a corner in which he has no choice but to submit and do as she pleases. However, he still has the option to simply end his own life.

If Anon truly loves Celestia, then there is no acceptable outcome other than the one where they end up together. If this outcome is not possible, then the only acceptable outcome is death. If he chooses to surrender to Twilight and marry her against his will, it proves that his love for Celestia was not genuine, and thus he does not deserve either Celestia or his role as the romantic hero. His punishment is to be metaphorically cast into Hades or Purgatory; he survives, but essentially spends the remainder of his days in a state of living death. This is punishment not only for his cowardice, but for failing to live up to the ideals he professed. However, if he chooses death, he has proven his worthiness, and at that point he can't possibly lose. Either he triumphs and wins his love, or he dies a hero's death. The beauty here is that the story doesn't necessarily have to end in tragedy; Anon doesn't need to actually die, he just needs to prove that he's willing to.

The author seems to have kind-of realized this, but again, he got it backwards. He had Celestia perform the act of self-sacrifice instead of Anon. This would have worked fine if Celestia were the main protagonist in this conflict, but she isn't, so her willingness to die doesn't carry the same meaning. This just comes across as Celestia helping Anon out of yet another jam; Anon still hasn't grown, and nothing is ultimately resolved, even though the outcome technically ends the conflict.

4. It proves that Twilight deserves redemption
Let's now look at the situation from Twilight's perspective. Twilight has a choice to make here too; in fact, her situation is actually a mirror of Anon's. She has the power to bend Anon to her will by force, but she can't force him to actually love her. The outcome she desires is one in which she and Anon are together, which can only come about through mutual choice. If she forces Anon to marry her against his will, or worse, makes him her slave using mind control, she technically wins, but she'll never be happy with her victory. She ends up in Hades/Purgatory as well if she makes this choice. However, if she lets him go, she still loses him, so that's not ideal either.

Unlike Anon, there are no potential happy endings for Twilight, at least not in this matter. Twilight is just one of those unfortunates who bears a cursed fate: she is condemned to love someone who will never love her back. However, she still has a choice to make that will test the strength of that love and prove her worthiness.

When Anon chooses to die rather than give up Celestia, he's proven that his love for her is true. At this point, there is nothing Twilight can do to break them apart or to compel Anon; she's already lost this fight. However, she can choose to either set Anon free, or allow him to kill himself. If she lets him die, she gains the petty satisfaction of knowing that even if she can't have Anon, at least Celestia won't be able to have him either. However, this will prove that possessing Anon is more important to her than Anon himself; in other words, her love isn't real love; it's just petty, selfish desire. She gets cast into Hades for this: she doesn't get Anon, and she also has to live with the guilt of his death. But, if she sacrifices her own happiness to let Anon have the life he wants, she's proven that her love was real, and thus she deserves another chance at happiness.

For these reasons, the only satisfying conclusion to this arc is one in which Anon calls Twilight's bluff and threatens to kill himself if she doesn't let him go.
I don't really believe in this kinda of love. Care for others (love) is different for me than sex. I can love a man but don't wanna have sex with him. So I have found myself disagreeing with the idea of mixing the two.

This is part why I don't really get a good grasp of Celestia's and Anon's love for each other. Feels more like they declare their love for each other than I feel it confirmed, then again I haven't read the actual story. Generally, I don't know who Anon and Celestia even are in this story so that can be on me though.
>So I have found myself disagreeing with the idea of mixing the two.
Actually that's fine. ^^
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Alrighty, I'm back.

So, it looks like the author basically fucked up the ending to the story's main arc, but since we've still got another 7 chapters + an epilogue, I'm assuming there's still more to it. Let's see how the rest of it goes.

Anyway, when we last left our intrepid heroes, Twilight had just been completely and utterly cucked by her former mentor. As Anon and Celestia tongue-wrestle on the altar, Twilight's friends including AJ attempt to console her. Twilight, for her part, continues to cry and bemoan that her meticulous plan has failed. Eventually, her butthurt reaches critical mass, and she flies off in a huff to some unknown location, leaving everypony behind.

Celestia, for her part, leaves us with this lesson on how to be a smug alicorn cunt:

>“Let her be, my little ponies. I believe what she’s learned here will eventually lead her back to all of us, and back to your friendship. All she needs is time.”
Step one: start a fire
Step two: dump gas on it
Step three: extinguish it somehow
Step four: act like the whole thing was just an elaborate friendship lesson, while still refusing to accept any responsibility for starting the original fire.

Anyway, Anon turns his attention to the recently-restored airship:

>She still looks pretty roughed up, but you can’t help but chuckle at the fact that you’ve never been so happy to see a piece of machinery again in all your life.
This sentence is bad and you should feel bad.

Anyway, since Celestanon is now a legit ship and Twilight's permavirgin status has been confirmed, there is no further need for the schism in the M6 to continue. The friends (minus Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash, who are still off somewhere doing something) all patch things up with each other. While this is going on, Celestia reveals to Anon that she managed to smuggle the ascension-thingie into the palace by hiding it in her tail. There might be a minor logic issue here: the Orb is a magical object, and I'm pretty sure Twilight can detect those. Also, it stands to reason Twilight would have anticipated Celestia would try to bring it with her. However, you could probably argue that Twilight was too preoccupied with the fight scene to be worrying about this, so she didn't notice. Either way, it's not a yuge deal.

ANYWAY, Anon and Celestia perform the perfunctory exchange of the orb that was outlined earlier, Celestia regains her power, and all is right with the world...is what I was expecting to happen. Instead, the author throws us the first legit curveball he's thrown in some time. Celestia gives the orb to Anon as expected, but when Anon attempts to give it back, she refuses. She explains that her power will eventually come back in a few centuries, and she doesn't feel any compelling need to rush things. The orb she just handed over idoms was intended for him alone.

The reasoning behind this is actually somewhat mundane: the author is just using a plot contrivance to solve a sticky little problem that was baked into his premise. Celestia is immortal, while Anon is not. So, a romance between them is problematic, since they will only get to spend a few decades together before Anon joins the choir invisible. If Anon consumes the orb, however, it will grant him immortality, thus allowing him to service Celestia's poon from now until the end of time.

As an aside, this same issue came up in the other Human x Celestia story we read, The Sun and the Rose. While in general I feel like Exchange is the better-executed story, I will note that I actually liked soulpillar's handling of this issue better than getmeouttahere's. In Sun & Rose, Celestia was a serial monogamist, who would periodically fall in love and marry, only to have her husband eventually run out his natural lifespan and die. It's less satisfying for readers who might want a happy storybook ending, but it's a more mature and realistic treatment of the issue. It emphasizes the importance of living in the moment and appreciating the things you have while you have them, and also shows that eternal life comes at a cost.

Anyway, the question of whether or not Anon even accepts the offer is left somewhat ambiguous. When he takes the orb, he feels an immense power flowing into his body. However, it's not clear if this is the result of the orb formally bestowing it's ascension power onto him, or if it's just something that happens whenever you touch one of these things, due to its being a supercharged magical artifact. I guess we will have to wait and see how this whole thing plays out.

In any event, Anon puts the orb in his pocket for safekeeping, and that's basically the end of the chapter.

20 - The Storm

The opening scene of this chapter is basically a coda to the previous scene, where all the friends were making out up. Applejack and Fluttershy apologize to each other, and the CMC apologize to Fluttershy for going all Steve Austin on her with a chair. Rarity and Fluttershy lament their role in fueling Twilight's hopeless fantasy about Anon, and resolve to make it up to her. The scene ends in a page break.

>You watch the three mares and three fillies head toward one of the still intact but abandoned buffet tables as you toss the last of the cauliflower from your plate into your mouth and grab Cel’s empty plate from where she set it aside.
Eew, cauliflower. Also, this long sentence needs to be broken up.

Anyway, Celestia fills Anon in on the details of their escape from the island, which it turns out wasn't all that eventful to begin with. Meanwhile, everyone decides that it would be a shame to waste the catered buffet that Twilight went to all the trouble of ordering, so they all sit down and stuff their boop-snoots with macaroni salad and whatever. Presumably the rest of the wedding guests are still milling around. Anon and Fluttershy make amends, and everything is just hunky-dory. Then, Anon suddenly notices something strange in the distance.
This post is good and you should feel good.^^
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It turns out that the thing in the distance is that ominous storm that's been ominously brewing in the ominous distance for the better part of three ominous chapters now. The perspective has once again jarringly shifted to third person. We join Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie in one of Canterlot Castle's many kitchens, where, for some reason, they are baking a cake. Suddenly, there is a flash of lightning at the window, which Dash notes as abnormally powerful. They take off at a gallop.

Page break. Still in third person, we join Princess Luna in the castle library. She goes into the Forbidden Archives, which it turns out has a hidden chamber underneath it. She opens the secret passage and enters the Even More Forbidden Archives, only to discover that her worst fears have been realized: Twilight appears to have absconded with some kind of super-sekrit magical tome that was being stored down there. She then teleports upstairs to her quarters.

>Two armored bat ponies rush into the room from the nearby door. “Your Highness!”
I'm a little confused by the sudden mention of bat ponies. I'm assuming the implication is that Luna has her own personal guard, and they're bat ponies because she's the night princess and so forth. However, it's odd that we haven't seen any of them or heard anything about them before now.

Anyway, she orders her guards to prepare for an attack on the city.

>She dearly wishes she’s merely overreacting.
This sentence is bad and you should feel bad.

Page break. We are once again back to second-person narration. Anon et al have also noticed the magical storm brewing, and they realize that Twilight is down there and might be in serious danger. So, they all board the airship and fly out to look for her.

The storm forces Anon to fly somewhat low, dangerously close to the city itself. Celestia thinks she knows where Twilight went, and directs him to the center of the vortex, which turns out to be that creepy Sex Thunderdome that Twilight was constructing.

The author's description of this thing will suffice:

>The last time you saw the building it was still under construction, but now it seems to be complete and even more imposing. The most striking feature is the great windowless dome, built from what appear to be precisely cut interlocking dark gray stones. It almost reminds you of some of the larger closed-roof sports stadiums back on Earth, but that’s where the similarities end. Large, oddly angled support structures are joined to the dome on each side, one of which is an extremely long corridor that gives the entire building an almost bird-like profile when viewed from the air. Strange teal lights can be seen shining from the windows of these support pieces, which causes a warning siren to go off in your head. There’s something oddly familiar about the whole thing that you can’t really place your finger on...

They find Twilight easily enough: she is standing on top of the dome at the absolute center, casting some sort of spell. She still seems to be in an agitated state, but when Anon calls out to her she brightens up, and starts babbling about how "the shard" was right. It's not yet clear exactly what's going on, but it seems that this storm is the by-product of Twilight casting some sort of elaborate spell. The Sex Thunderdome seems to be a part of that spell, and I'd wager dollars to ponuts that the malfunctioning magical crystal thingy that Anon and Celestia encountered during the Road of Trials is mixed up in all of this somehow too.

>All eyes move to the white alicorn. Her expression is a mixture of fear, sadness and remorse... and you can even see the hint of tears beginning to pool in the corner of her eyes. She steps away from the rail and lowers her head, her voice little more than a whisper.
>“...I’ve truly failed you in every respect, haven’t I?”
Congratulations on being the last horse to finally cross the finish line, Sunbutt. Finally, an appropriate idiom.

Anyway, while it's not yet clear what Twilight is up to, it's obvious she's activated some sort of high-level magic that has the potential to wreak serious havoc. It's also obvious that recent events have unraveled her already fragile sanity even further.

Twilight promises Anon that, even though he is fond of the airship Celestia built him, she has built him an even better and presumably rapier one. The Sex Thunderdome begins to rumble and levitate into the air. At this point, escape seems the most prudent course of action. Since they probably can't outrun Twilight's new and improved Rape Hovercraft, Anon decides to risk ascending above the clouds.

>“There’s no longer any doubt in my mind. It’s based around Progenitor technology and magic. I’d recognize those runes anywhere, and when she mentioned a ‘shard’ she more or less confirmed it. We don’t stand a chance as we are now, and I fear for the city’s safety...”
Celestia confirms that Twilight is messing with ancient, powerful magic that predates Equestria.

>Without thinking, your hand wanders to touch the pocket of your jacket, the great magic held within warming your fingertips.
>“Cel... what if I...?”
>Her sudden, adamant refusal takes you by surprise, and you turn to face her to find an odd look of fear in her expression.
>“Anon... that gift is infinitely precious. Don’t forget what was involved in claiming it. Don’t be so hasty to throw it away. There are still options... and there is still hope. Please, you must promise me...”
This seems to imply that Anon hasn't activated the immortality orb yet, however I'm not clear on what exactly he was about to use it for here.

Anyway, the chapter ends here.
Huh, I thought the story concluded: Okay. More is usually... more.

But we shall see.
<“...I’ve truly failed you in every respect, haven’t I?”
"I have failed you, Anakin. I have failed you."
"I should have known the jedi were plotting to take over!"
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21 - Harbinger

>After taking care of things on the flight deck, you bound up the stairwell to take your place at the ship’s alternative controls with Celestia not far behind.
I'm not entirely sure I understand why he's using the alternative controls instead of the regular controls.

Anyway, it looks like they've ascended into the clouds. Other than the occasional lightning flash, the storm doesn't seem to be affecting them much. As they ascend, they all speculate about what exactly Twilight built and what exactly she intends to do with it.

As luck would have it, Anon still has Twilight's diary that he got from...actually, I forget the specifics of how he wound up with it. He tells Celestia that he found it in the Forbidden Archives, and that sounds about right, so I guess we'll go with that. In any event, though, it sheds some light on the issue:

>May 22nd, 2132
>Spike caught me practicing my winking in front of my bedroom mirror today. It was so embarrassing I almost teleported away, but I think I managed to give him a decent enough excuse as to what I was doing! Hopefully he’ll believe I was checking for tangles in my tail. I need to be more careful about this type of thing in the future as I continue to practice. It makes me feel a bit uncomfortable, but Rarity says if I really want to attract my stallion I need to—

Oh, wait, sorry, wrong passage. Try this one:

>October 16th, 2132
>I knew I was missing something! By chance, I came across the faint signature of a strange warding spell within the Forbidden Archives while I was searching for more research materials. After a quick thaumotological reverse-engineering I was able to unlock the ward, which revealed a column with a stairwell leading to yet another chamber!
>What I found inside was absolutely amazing! Magical artifacts of all kinds, some seemingly erased from history, but vague mentions of which can still be found in several texts! As you can imagine, I was nearly beside myself! There wasn’t enough time to investigate everything, though I definitely will in the near future, but the thing that most caught my attention was a strange object ensconced in yet another protective ward. It appears to be a fragment of a much larger crystalline structure, but it’s unlike any crystal I’ve ever seen or read about before, both in appearance and with regards to its magical resonance. To put it bluntly, the magic it radiates is both vast and of a type I can’t identify! It’s not the magic of ponies, of the other races, of Discord, or even of the same type of dark magic I’ve encountered several times in the past. It’s completely new, completely unknown, and completely captivating.
>This will undoubtedly be the first object I study. Revelations discovered from a new type of magic could lead to a way to overcome traditional magical barriers such as Celestia’s Geas.

So, to summarize: Twilight stumbled across the extra-forbidden part of the forbidden archives, found a shard of the Dark Star that's what the crystal thingy from the Road of Trials was called, and began to investigate it.

The shard turns out to be something like a magical database, which reveals its knowledge to the user through visions. The short version is that Twilight learns about all sorts of extremely overpowered magic, the sort of magic that someone as autistic as she is should probably not have access to. She also learns that the shard can show her various possible futures, along with the steps she would need to take in order to ensure that a given future will occur.

>Despite how disparate the visions are, they all have a common thread near the end: In order to ultimately consummate our relationship, I build an Arcane Resonance Chamber on a scale never before seen by ponykind. This appears to be a critical step in order to have Anon overcome the last of his inhibitions and fall for me completely after we’re married.
Presumably the Resonance Chamber is the Sex Thunderdome. It's exact purpose is not yet known, but the pieces are coming together.

>There’s no longer any doubt. Regardless of what Celestia does, regardless of how much he tries to deny it... he’ll come to love me, and we’ll be together, me and my very special somehuman. Maybe then this odd emptiness I’ve felt ever since he arrived will finally be filled...
inb4 she decides to just get a cat or something.

Anyway, Celestia mentions an old sorcerer with whom she and Luna fought at some point. The guy's name is Balios, and apparently his behavior and plans from back then are quite similar to Twilight's now. There is a heavy implication that the shard has a will and goals of its own, and manipulates its users into doing its bidding by offering them apparent solutions to their personal problems.

While they are discussing all of this, Anon suddenly checks the ship's instruments and realizes that the storm outside has been steadily draining the magic in the ship's engines. At this point, though, they are basically committed to the course: either they make it out of the clouds, or the engines fail. I'm not entirely sure what happens when they do; logically, one would assume the ship would plummet and crash, but it sounds like they just lose forward momentum and become stuck in the air, like a conventional sailing ship being stuck in the doldrums.

Anyway, tl;dr they make it out of the clouds and head back towards Canterlot Castle.

>Just as the mountain comes into view across the bow, the nearby multichromatic pegasus coughs and flares her wings.
I'm no longer calling much attention to these, but I'm still keeping track of them, and this one is particularly egregious. Unless there is a canon pegasus whose mane, tail, coat and eyes are all the same color, "multichromatic pegasus" could technically describe any pegasus in the entire MLP universe. Even though this is obviously referring to Rainbow Dash, this is not just a LUS issue, this is just bad description in general. Protip: don't do shit like this.
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Anyway, they decide to send the multichromatic winged-horse creature consisting of four legs, a mane, a tail, wings and presumably genitals who is known to travel at above-average speed aka Rainbow Dash ahead to the castle with a message for Luna. However, before they can do so, Twilight's Rape Hovercraft emerges from the clouds with an ominous boom. Again, the author's description of this thing is probably sufficient:

> It’s easily ten times the size of the Dawn Star, constructed entirely from stone and awash in ancient magic. What was once the ‘dome’ of the structure on the ground is now revealed to be a perfect sphere located at the very center, slowly rotating and shining with arcane runes. The odd, angular buildings married to each side have unfolded as if they were webbed wings, with dark tendrils of storm cloud still clinging to their evenly spread digits. What was once thought to be a long entry hallway or promenade is now a combination bow / bridge, its slanted windows arrayed like menacing fangs. When taken together, the overall profile of the ship resembles that of a great tail-less dragon, and you can’t help but stand in awe at the sight.
tl;dr, Twilight has a big-ass magical airship now.

Twilight appears on the bridge or the deck or whatever this thing has exactly, and calls out to them. She tells Anon that this ship is called the Harbinger, and she's giving it to him as a wedding gift. At this point, Twilight is now so insane that it might actually make more sense for them to just carve a likeness of Anon out of mashed potatoes, give it to her, and tell her that the two of them are happily married now.

Anyway, Celestia informs Twilight that seriously, bitch, it's time to chill the fuck out. Also, she explains that the shard is evil, and that it tricked her into building some kind of unholy abomination that will probably destroy the world or something. Predictably, Twilight is not buying any of it.

>“BECAUSE YOU WERE AFRAID!!” the little alicorn shouts back, her Canterlot Voice rising above the volume of the swirling wind. “You were afraid of it! You were afraid of the secrets it held! But I’m not! With science, we can understand anything! If we’re willing to learn, and study, and experiment, there’s no limit to what we can accomplish! There’s no mystery that will remain unsolved! THAT’S WHAT YOU TAUGHT ME!”
Just trust the science, bro.

Anyway, Twilight and Celestia go back and forth for a bit, and then Anon starts making fun of Twilight's airship. He's clearly stalling or trying to distract her, and presumably has something up his sleeve.

>You hold your hands up. “Yeah, sorry, no deal. You’re a good salesmare, but I think I’ll keep the one I’ve got. Besides, it kind of has sentimental value to me, you know? And that’s something you just can’t compete with, even if your model has like a billion more cup holders than mine.”
>Pinkie and Dash snap out of their respective trances to stifle a giggle, and Twilight looks to each of them for a moment with curiosity.
>“Oh, you’re making a joke!” The purple alicorn rears up and clops her hooves together. “Ha ha, funny! But seriously, Anon, that’s enough. I’m done playing games.”
Protip: if you're going to make a joke, just make a joke. If it's funny, the reader will laugh. Adding extra text to clarify that it's a joke just kills the timing and makes the whole passage awkward and cringey.

Anyway, it turns out that Anon's efforts were wasted. While he was talking, he was slowly revving the engines, intending to throw it in reverse and then attempt a fast getaway. However, as soon as he punches the gas or whatever it has, he discovers that Twilight has their ship trapped in some kind of magical stasis field. Dang, I guess that plan's out.

>“Any time now, Dash!”
>In desperation, you call out to the pegasus in hopes of getting her to fly off and contact Luna like you had originally planned before Autismo showed up with her stupid doomsday ship thing. You can see the light bulb go off over her head before she turns and zooms from the deck, only to immediately smack against an invisible wall like a bird flying headfirst into a sliding glass door. She slides down and flops to the deck with a thump, completely dazed, and Pinkie hops over to tend to her.
Welp, I guess that plan's out now too. So, the question remains: how are Anon & Co. going to dig themselves out of this particular jam?

Well, if you've been following this story up until now, you may have noticed certain recurring patterns, one of which is that the author is not shy about using improbably-timed advantageous coincidences. At just the right moment, Luna suddenly shows up with Equestria's entire battleship armada the same armada that was chasing them earlier. Well, folks, it looks like we have an airship fight on our hands......if by airship fight you mean a tedious chiding lecture from Luna.

Twilight and Luna both project images of themselves onto the deck of Anon's ship. Luna is hopping mad, and she wants answers, goddammit. Answers to questions. Questions that she has.

The tl;dr is that Luna now knows about Twilight's theft of the Dark Star shard, which we actually already know because we saw her in the library earlier. As soon as she discovered it was gone, she took the entire Equestrian air force and/or navy out after Twilight, and just happened to catch up to her at a dramatic moment in the scene. She lectures Twilight about the dangers of using nefarious dark magic as an expedient to getting herself laid, and then orders her to stand down. Twilight of course refuses, Luna tells her she will regret the course she has chosen, and the projections disappear.

Now we get an airship fight.
>Now we get an airship fight.
>airship fight
You got to tell me which one you like the most, this one or the one I wrote in my collab with Norway.
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Twilight has momentarily turned her attention away from Anon to focus on dealing with Luna and the imperial armada. Instead of taking the opportunity to escape, Anon & Co. sit down on the deck of their own ship to watch the battle.

>“You’re absolutely right. I wouldn’t call Twilight’s creation a ship. It’s more like a Progenitor spellbook in the form of a building. The runes which cover it are proof enough... it has no need for engines or stabilizers; they’d simply be redundant. The series of spells inscribed across its surface are more than enough...”
This observation made by Celestia seems like it might be significant later.

Anyway, that's about it for this chapter.

22 - Concordia

We once again shift into third person perspective, and join Luna on the bridge of the Concordia (which is the name of the Equestrian flagship, not sure if I mentioned that detail or not).

>By its outward appearance, it’s easy to mistaken the ship for merely being one of the world’s largest luxury superliners.
I'm assuming this is just a typo, but still: this sentence is bad and you should feel bad.

Anyway, the text spends a bit of time describing the Concordia. Basically, this thing is an enormous airborne luxury yacht that also functions as a battleship. This ship is what the Equestrian government brings out when they want to impress foreign heads of state and/or blow them to bits. Think the Titanic but with frickin' laser beams, and also it can fly.

>A single torpedo hit is a guaranteed kill against a standard airship, and all ten find their mark on the Harbinger, painting the sky with a display of light so grand that for an instant some of the ponies still in Canterlot’s streets mistaken it for the risen sun.
This sentence has the same error in it, "mistaken" instead of "mistake."

Also, is it still pre-dawn? I haven't really brought it up, but the text keeps explicitly mentioning that it's close to sunrise, but the sun has not yet risen. Moreover, it's been that way since the wedding scene. I understand that sunrise works a little differently in this setting, but still, it's an odd detail to keep bringing up. Logically, enough time has passed that it ought to at least be early morning by now, so the only explanation is that Twilight, who as far as I can tell has inherited Celestia's sun-rising duties, is explicitly refusing to raise the sun.

The only thing I can think of is that Twilight wanted her wedding timed so that the kiss would occur at the precise moment the sun came up. Being the eternal autist that she is, and seeing as how she obviously still hasn't given up on marrying Anon, I could plausibly see her refusing to raise the sun until she gets to kiss Anon. However, I'm not sure if that's what's actually happening here or not. As I said, it's a strange detail to keep bringing up, so I can't imagine the author would continuously reinforce it like this if it weren't important.

Anyway, yeah; airship fight. Luna fires an immense volley at the Harbinger, and unsurprisingly it emerges unscathed. Twilight's projection appears on the bridge to gloat, but Luna is unperturbed. It seems that she was expecting this, and merely fired the initial volley to test the enemy ship's defenses.

Twilight's projection disappears, the scene ends in a page break, and the perspective returns to Anon.

>As always, Celestia is by your side, her magenta eyes following the action intently.
The author does quite a bit of this sort of thing as well. It isn't exactly LUS, but it's LUS-adjacent. It's already well-established what color Celestia's eyes are, and it's not an important enough detail to justify how often it's mentioned. In just the last scene we heard about Luna's "cyan" eyes, and Applejack's green ones came up a few times in the previous chapter.

Anyway, Luna's ships group into some kind of battle formation, and Twilight's vessel begins to advance. Anon observes that the vessel is extremely slow-moving, and Celestia explains that this is due to bad design on Twilight's part. Apparently, she didn't consider how much power would be required to move something this large and heavy. However, we soon learn that she built in a workaround: the ship has a short-range teleportation ability.

There is a page break, and we're back to Luna. I'm getting the impression that these perspective changes are going to be frequent in this chapter, and it's probably unnecessary to keep explicitly mentioning when they occur, so from here on out I'm just going to outline the broad strokes of what's going on, and will zero in on details where necessary.

Twilight teleports into the clouds, and utilizes some sort of magical weapon that drains the engines of Luna's fleet. Luna somehow disperses the clouds (the details are a little unclear here), and reveals the Harbinger's location. The Harbinger responds by firing frickin' laser beams and taking out like eight of Luna's ships in one fell swoop.

Luna, however, is still unperturbed, and clearly has something up her...hoof-sleeve reee idioms, etc. Twilight's image once again appears on the bridge of the Concordia; it seems she can't resist gloating and bragging about how bad-ass her ship is. Luna, proving herself adept at 12D chess, seems to have anticipated this. Through a somewhat unsubtle line of questioning, she manages to trick Twilight into explaining exactly how her ship works, and then immediately uses this information to disable it.

As it turns out, the Concordia has some kind of boss-level weapon installed that, when activated by an alicorn, amplifies its magic to some ridiculous degree. After getting Twilight to conveniently tell her exactly where to strike, Luna fires this weapon. It blasts through the Harbinger's defenses, and deals serious damage to the central sphere, where the magic-resonance-whatever-the-fuck thing that Twilight was autistically babbling about is located. She blasts it again, and it now looks like one more hit will finish the battle.
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Twilight manages to teleport the ship away before Luna can deal the final blow, but things are still not looking good. The ship has been dealt critical levels of damage, and will break apart within the next half hour. Twilight can't manage to teleport it far enough away to escape, and it isn't strong enough to either fight or to withstand another attack, so all she can really do here is keep dodging until the ship breaks apart. It appears she's been bested.

She is understandably upset that her latest seemingly-flawless plan to seduce Anon using a gigantic magical battleship has gone awry, and decides to sulk and mope about it for awhile. Sulk sulk sulk, mope mope mope. She eventually sulks and mopes her way into the Magical Arcana Resonance Whatever the Fuck Hoopajigger, and sees the Dark Star crystal, which apparently powers this behemoth, sitting on the pedestal at the center. She decides to lose herself in her weird fantasies one last time, and asks the crystal to once again show her a future where she ends up with Anon.

The crystal decides to do her one better: it shows her that future, along with yet another zany scheme she can use to try and bring it about. Even though she has had basically zero positive results doing anything this crystal has told her to do, she realizes she has very little to lose. So, like Charlie Brown charging the football or me reviewing Fallout: Equestria, she decides to try her luck just one more time.

Meanwhile, with the threat of the Harbinger more or less neutralized, Luna can shift her focus. She uses magic to break up the clouds, which serves the dual purpose of clearing the storm and decreasing the number of places where Twilight can hide. However, she is caught off guard when Twilight decides to suddenly teleport her ship directly in front of the Concordia.

Twilight fires her lazars at the Concordia, but her attack is easily repelled by Luna's shields. However, this was only a feint. When Luna begins charging her LOIC to finish the Harbinger for good, Twilight suddenly unleashes a new attack. A bunch of ghosts suddenly come flying out of the hole that Luna blasted into the Harbinger's dome, and hurl themselves at the Concordia. Luna is unable to do anything about it as she is concentrating on chargin' her lazorz.

One of the ghosts flies into the bridge and passes through Luna's chest. The diligent reader might recall that this same thing happened to Celestia and Anon during the Dark Star episode of the Road of Trials. A moment of intense pain causes Luna to lose control of her spell, and the super-charged blast of magic she was building backfires into her own ship.

Luna appears to lose consciousness; meanwhile, the Concordia is almost ripped in half by the intense magic blast. The ammunition stores explode, which causes additional damage. The Concordia is now basically toast, and to make matters worse, it's about to crash into the city of Canterlot.

Anon knows he needs to do something, but what? Oh right, he's still got an ascension orb in his pocket. I'm still not 100% clear on what he can do with it other than give it to Celestia, but I guess we'll find out momentarily.

>The alicorn’s gaze meets yours, and what you find within her beautiful magenta eyes nearly causes your heart to quake.
Yes, this sentence is ridiculous for several reasons and we would all be right to chuckle at it. However, that's not why I highlighted it. I just remembered that, per my previous comment [ >>366650 ], Celestia should technically still have an empty milk carton impaled on her horn. So yeah, enjoy that visual.

>The conflict within her expression is so deep it leaves you breathless.
This sentence is pretty awful too.

>At the same time, she pleads with you to both give her the Orb so that she can save her sister, and to never give her the Orb because she fears, from the depths of her heart, all that will come after.
Yes, I think we've all found ourselves in similar orb-related quandaries from time to time. Also, what is she afraid of exactly?

I'm assuming the issue is that if she uses this orb to get her powers back so she can save Luna, Anon won't be able to use it to become immortal, and thus Celestia will outlive him. I can understand why this might give her pause, but at the same time, it's not like this is the last one of these things in the entire world. If they really needed another orb, all they would have to do is go back to the Altar and do the Road of Trials again. It might be a giant pain in the ass, but it's certainly possible; both of them have been through the Trials twice ffs.

>Her indecision travels between you and roots your feet in place; your legs now unable to move even if you wanted them to.
Great googly moogly, this has to be the longest string of absolutely god-awful sentences I've yet encountered in this text. Getmeouttahere, I still basically like you, but if you don't get a handle on this shit pretty damn quick I'm going to have to start hucking peanut shells at you.

Anyway, whatever; Anon takes out the orb and gives it to Celestia, and for some reason this is presented as a momentous, difficult event for both of them. The scene ends on sort of an ambiguous cliffhanger. Meanwhile, Luna regains consciousness and realizes her ship's a' goin' down.

>The pain she feels is very nostalgic, but she ignores it for now, opting instead to reach a hoof out to the nearby intercom, which surprisingly still works.
Sweet sassy molassey, if sentences were icicles being jammed directly into my eyeballs, this one would be...well, pretty much that. Seriously, getmeouttahere, you were warned. *hucks peanut shell*

ANYWAY, whatever. Luna, realizing that her goose is pretty much cooked, orders her crew to evacuate the ship, and begins casting a spell. Whatever she is doing, it seems to be sucking huge quantities of magic out of her. Eventually, she fires it off, and the entire Concordia disappears.

The chapter ends here.
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I feel like this story makes more sense if some relationships are changed:
Luna: The mother.
Celestia: Her eldest daughter.
Twilight: Her youngest daughter.
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>The Mother
<Ackqually she's the whipping boi
I'd argue Luna as is fits. She's unappreciated, so takes it upon herself to go fix it herself. Just like when she turned to Nightmare Moon.
Luna is the overworked, underpaid and underappreciated work horse who has to make ends meet.
Celestia dumps everything on moon hores to go fuck around.
Moon hoers is a very unhappy moon hoeres, also has to deal with another jackass superior who just causes more shit to pile up.
Then premonitions of dooooom.
Moonbutt is 10000% done with everyone. She's the only one actively trying to unfuck dooooom and she'll stomp over and on anybody not helping.
Maximize firepower and HOERS power to defeat the big bad.
But everyone is still fucking around, sharting in her Equestrian Walmart. But now she also has a hernia from trying to lift her whole team.
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Yes, that's what I meant. Her kids starts shit and she wipes their bottoms. Ugh, what's wrong with me?

Didn't say it didn't make sense just that she's probably the most likable of the cast right now.
Well, I didn't mean Luna's character didn't make sense. The other two, specifically Celestia is up in the air, imo.
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>You look the beaming alicorn princess in the eyes, a sad smile on your face, and tell her, “Twilight... I can’t give you something I no longer own.”
>You hear hushed murmurs from the crowd as Twilight’s ears fold back and she hiccups.
>“I can’t marry you,” you continue. “And I can’t love you the way you want me to. I can’t give you my heart, because I’ve already given it to someone else; someone very special to me...”
I hate this. I hate this so much. Part of that is because it implies that Anon has to be with someone because being single is bad, which is a toxic mindset that causes so many men to be with people they absolutely should not be. But I hate it more so because it completely dodges the real issue, and much worse, is exactly what you should not say to someone as obsessive as Twilight in this moment. Anon doesn't want to be with Twilight because he doesn't love her, and because her actions in pursuing him show that she is batshit insane and not girlfriend material. Anon wouldn't want to be with Twilight regardless of whether Celestia were there or not. The lesson Twilight needs to learn is that 1. when someone doesn't reciprocate your affection, leave them be, and 2. Her behavior has been absolutely far beyond the pale of acceptibility. Instead, Anon is telling her that she might have won - and may still win - but for her former mentor betraying her and taking her man. This gives Twilight - who is dangerously abusive of power, obsessive, and irrational - a villain to focus her obsession over. This is actively putting Celestia in danger and avoiding addressing the actual issues.

>Twilight is all liek "oh noes u cant do that Pirncis Celeosi u will dieey" and Prancs Ceelests is all liek "no Twowilites i am do this thing" and twoiwlight is all liek "noooooooo" and purnses celery is all liek "yeeeeeeeess" and then cerlestria gits 2 clos 2 twoielight an then she dies and twolot is all liek "noooooooooooooooooooooo rPanaces Eleeceststia y u no stop dieing" an pramracesie cemelestiea am liek "twoiloit it is bcuz true luv," the end t. getmeouttahere.
This too, is terrible. This gambit, for Anon's victory, 100% relies on the villain of the story suddenly having a heart and wanting to do good towards the mare that Anon has just told her betrayed her relationship with her, and is the sole individual responsible for Twilight not getting everything she ever wanted. If Twilight just let Celestia die, then Twilight would win. Anon would be hers, hers alone, and he would come to love her. Anon has given her no reason to think he wouldn't love her, only that Celestia has outplayed her. There is nothing within the narrative itself that supports that Twilight would - or at least, that she should - chose her perfidious former mentor over the man of her dreams.

>I'm a little confused by the sudden mention of bat ponies. I'm assuming the implication is that Luna has her own personal guard, and they're bat ponies because she's the night princess and so forth. However, it's odd that we haven't seen any of them or heard anything about them before now.
This is perhaps the most accurate summation of bat ponies in the show I have ever read

>Celestia informs Twilight that seriously, bitch, it's time to chill the fuck out. Also, she explains that the shard is evil, and that it tricked her into building some kind of unholy abomination that will probably destroy the world or something.
Celestia has absolutely no credibility here. She has completely abrogated any of her responsibilities in teaching Twilight by cuckholding her, and even as she stands there and lectures Twilight on why she should give up and let her keep Anon, she's standing with Anon next to her side.

>At the same time, she pleads with you to both give her the Orb so that she can save her sister, and to never give her the Orb because she fears, from the depths of her heart, all that will come after.
This is pretty much the moment that it truly struck me how absolutely reprehensible Celestia's actions have been through out this story. Celestia has a duty to her nation to protect its people. She has a duty to, if she is going to step down or take a smaller role, ensure that her successor is up to the task. And she has a duty to her own student, who looks up to her as an almost mother figure. And what has she done? She's neglected the nation by leaving it in the hooves of somepony who is clearly not fit for the role. But far more than that, she's actively carried on a competition against her own student, her own daughter figure, over who gets fucked by a specific man. She's trying to cuck Twilight, and in the process, she's endangered all of Equestria. It's not just that Celestia could do something and has until this moment chosen to eschew the power that would allow her to do something, she's actively created a problem. She's done this in placing Twilight in that position, and more so by gleefully participating in a love triangle with her own damn surrogate daughter.

>The Harbinger responds by firing frickin' laser beams and taking out like eight of Luna's ships in one fell swoop.
Luna, however, is still unperturbed
Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but it looks like the story is saying that Twilight just killed likely a hundred or more Equestrian soldiers - her own soldiers that she is supposed to be leader over - and no one, not Celestia, not Luna, and obviously not Twilight, cares. I know the logical response is to say that the narrative focuses on the main characters, these ponies don't exactly "exist" for narrative purposes, don't think about them... But then why does the story later go on to state that Luna gave the order to evacuate the ship, if we are not supposed to think about these ships as being full of ponies whose lives matter?
>But far more than that, she's actively carried on a competition against her own student, her own daughter figure, over who gets fucked by a specific man.
Yh, that's what I think had me lose interest in this story in the past. I just couldn't root for our heroes. I feel like when that happens it's hard for me to muster up motivation to follow it. Can't put a finger on why at the moment but I have experienced this with stories before.
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Twilight's entire turn here at the end is one-winged angel, like she's come into a last, monstrous form that threatens the hero. I can't imagine how she could be redeemed now, except maybe to excuse the effect of the Dark Star shard as being like mind control. This whole turn shows how Celestia's gambit earlier was a false conclusion, because it failed to address the real issue. Something that fake-out resolution got right, however, is that Twilight needs to be the one to stop Twilight. Twilight needs to learn that her obligations towards others are more important than this obsessive pursuit of myopic self interest. She needs to be the one to put an end to her own madness, and I'm not sure how she's going to do it here.

Celestia does seem to be learning that she needs to stop thinking about her pussy for two minutes and start thinking about her ponies. It's a start, but I very seriously doubt that she will take responsibility in proportion to the harm she has caused.

The character who I have the least faith in coming to recognize her responsibility in this right now is Luna. Luna represents the opposite end of the spectrum from Twilight and Celestia. Whereas Celestia and Twilight gleefully harm or allow harm to come to others whom they owe obligations to as their masters, mentors, students, or alleged romantic partners, in pursuit of a self interested pursuit of dick, Luna completely eschews any concept of humanity in service to some "rational" understanding of duty.

Luna wants everyone who isn't her to sacrifice in the name of some greater good. She wants Anon to just agree to be a slave and suffer the injustice of being forced to a marriage he doesn't want. He wants Celestia to give up on her chance of immortality with her love. And she doesn't bat an eye when eight of the ships she came in with are destroyed because they didn't have the sheilds she did. These are all just sacrifices to the greater good. These are all just little injustices to be suffered (by others) as means to an end. Luna damn near recreates that philosophical thought experiment of "if we put a little girl in a box and tortured her, but it made everyone else happy, would that be justified?" which she answers with an emphatic "yes."

The thing is, Anon and Celestia are expected to sacrifice themselves for the greater good precisely because they are considered to be reasonable. They could be persuaded, while Twilight cannot. So Luna throws in her lot with Twilight, and Twilight gets everything she wants while no one else can. And by siding with irrational evil, Luna is actually directly aiding the great evil she says she is trying to stop. Luna fears the Dark Star shard, or at least, what it will create. Yet by aiding Twilight, she's aiding this Dark Star shard, because Twilight is in the thralls of the shard.

Luna's proposal to Anon is so lacking in any concern for justice or humanity that of course Anon would revolt from it. Anyone would. And so he does, and Luna's plans fail. Even if he had done what he asked and married Twilight, Twilight intended to unleash the Harbinger after marriage, and thus Luna's plans would have failed to prevent it anyways. If Luna had any concern for Anon or Celestia's interests, or in stopping the obvious injustices committed by Twilight rather than just condoning or even approving of all of it, she could have actually solved the problem before it went this far.

Luna actually created the problem, or at least
a, trying to force others to make sacrifices and let evil prevail in small instances instead of perhaps showing a little bit of humanity and standing up for what is right, allows a much greater evil into the world. There's also
That might be true. I will be honest that I haven't paid much attention to Luna in this story.
I didn't want to spoil anything.
Don't click the spoiler until the very very end of the review and story.
Luna is a Warhammer 40k farseer. Backstabs and betrayal and ineptitude at solving what is seen besides being a cunt. By having some moral fiber and priority directed backbone she could have stopped this madness from the start and throughout. Instead she made everything worse. Which means she fulfilled the vision of the ensuring shit hit the fan.
Celestia is cray cray. Sure seems like the most sane of the crazy house, but she's fucking bonkers. Not a tiny amount, but the full circus act. The set up is she is totally ignorant of what others actually want. She gets to fuck around, most of the time finding out is long and far enough away to not matter to her. It's played out fully till the enhanced romantic cucking of Twilight. A full royal reaming.
Twilight Sparkle is a psychotic mess. Her friends feed her delusions. Her mentor fucked around and is now finding out why mental health matters. Authority figures keep feeding the fucked fire. Her love interest ticks off every box for garbage bin romance smut.
Anon trying to wrangle the crazy house to sanity is a losing proposition. The adage of not sticking one's dick in crazy does apply. But psycho yandere kink master baiter will go through as many hoops as needed. The question is should Anon go into a loveless relationship to unfuckup Twilight, Celestia and Luna? Anon has no friends, no support network, no family, nothing but crazies and himself but I repeat myself.
Well no, because deep analysis of trope fueled romance is a nightnare.

As a non-thinky romance schlock it's better than most. Also has ponies so already we are almost topshelf. If how characters were the story would have to change a bit to accommodate that. Which is a lot more effort for this than the intent. Besides needing to use names of characters more.
It has grammar, pony, Anon and the story actually finished.
Reees Internally.jpg
I see my editing notes remained...

I will not be spoiled
Oh rad, looks like there was some discussion while I was away. Several points have been made that I'd like to respond to, however I have limited time tonight and I'd like to get through a bit more of the story first. I'll try to respond to some of the discussion points tomorrow sometime.


23 - Ascension

So, it looks like Anon didn't end up giving the orb to Celestia after all. In yet another conveniently timed coincidence, Luna seems to have pulled off her teleportation stunt at the last second before Anon handed the orb off.

>There’s a crackle of energy followed by a short burst of light. A rift opens nearby and to everyone’s amazement, out tumbles the Princess of the Night. She crashes into the deck and somersaults forward a few times before coming to a stop near your feet, her limbs splayed in all directions, mane and tail matted and wild as if she just rolled out of bed after getting only an hour of sleep. The rest of the ponies are frozen in place at the sight, save for Celestia who quickly trots over to stand at your side.

The short version of this is that Luna managed to teleport the Concordia out of the path of the city. However, it reappears just above the Dawn Star, so Anon has to quickly pull the ship back to avoid being hit by it. However, in the end it all works out: Anon gets his ship out of the way, and the wreckage of the Concordia crashes harmlessly into a nearby open field. Oh, also, it appears that expending so much magic temporarily drained Luna of her alicorn powers, so she is basically Woona now.

Celestia and Luna take this opportunity to get their feelings out in the open, and come to an understanding. Luna, of course, resents Celestia for blowing off her various responsibilities and dumping everything on her shoulders reee idioms? I'm actually not 100% sure if horses have shoulders or not, and I'm fairly certain I've referred to horse shoulders in my own writing so...idk, like half a 'ree' here. However, she also understands how Celestia feels, since they both had to assume this massive responsibility before either of them really had a chance to live their own lives. Celestia, for her part, acknowledges that it was selfish of her to just fuck off and leave Luna to run the kingdom alone, while also leaving her to deal with Twilight's crazy ass.

As has been pointed out, Celestia's actions didn't just affect Luna; she also treated Twilight quite poorly, and on top of that her actions had a significant macro effect on the entire realm of Equestria. As such, I would say she still has a long road to redemption ahead of her. However, this is at least a start.

Anyway, Celestia is sad that her vacation was cut short, and that she won't be able to spend the rest of eternity slowly revolving on Anon's dick like she was the lamb meat at a kebob restaurant. However, she understands that she has responsibilities, and that she needs to once again become the Sun Princess. She turns to Anon and delivers the following schmaltzy speech:

>“I know I told you this would be your choice, and I know I told you I would respect your decision. But Anon, I truly felt that given enough time to reflect, and given that I could properly express my love for you, you would eventually choose to join me. You likely don’t understand the fear I hold for the day you’ll be taken from me by time. There are many tragedies I’ve borne, but this... I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to recover...”
How will she ever recover?

Anyway, Anon responds with a schmaltzy speech of his own:

>“A wise mare once told me that since the past is the past and the future is unwritten, we should learn to focus on the present. You just said you enjoyed every minute of our time together, and I feel the same way. If that time really is limited, then let’s put fear aside and make the most of it. Remember our promise?”

It goes back and forth in this fashion for a few more lines, but the gist of it is that Anon has decided to give the orb to Celestia, and Celestia is going to accept it and become an alicorn again.

>“You told me to treasure this, and I do. But I treasure you more, and that’s why I offer it to you willingly. A treasure for a treasure... a decent exchange, don’t you think?”
Seriously though, I want to give the author some mild kudos here. The concept of exchange has factored into this story multiple times in many different ways. "Exchange" is both the title of the work and its most significant recurring theme. Whatever flaws this story might have, it's by a wide margin the most well-constructed thing I've reviewed so far.

Anyway, whatever; Celestia chokes down the orb. However, to everyone's surprise...nothing seems to happen at first.

>Celestia doesn’t answer. Instead, she curls up on the deck, her back presented to you and a pleading look in her eyes. You immediately recognize what she wants, and even though you don’t understand why, her expression compels you to go along with her request.
Seriously? Right now, in front of God and everypony?

>Once again, you walk over and straddle that broad white back and she rises to her hooves. You can feel her muscles move and stretch as she tests them and adjusts herself to your weight before trotting over to the ship’s rail where the Harbinger is looming far in the distance.
Oh, I get it. She wants Anon to ride her bareback, but in a normal G-rated kind of way.

>“Cast your fear aside and lean on me, Anon. I’m here with you, now and forever.”
Uh, as much as I hate to be that guy......for reasons we literally just discussed, only half of this statement is technically true.

ANYWAY, this goes on for a bit longer than it needs to, but the short version is that Anon climbs on Celestia's back, and they take off. As soon as she's airborne, the orb's magic kicks in, and Celestia does a full-blown magical girl transformation sequence.

I think I'm beginning to understand why the author dragged out the pre-dawn thing for so long:

>Her magic moves through you and into the distance.
>You can feel it now. The sun pulses with light and life. It mirrors her heartbeat, which in turn mirrors your own.
>She reaches out, and you feel it.
>Your own arm reaches too, imitating her magic, even if you’re not sure if you can grasp it.
>She takes hold of the great star, and through her you can feel its weight in your palm.
>With a grand beat of her wings, she soars into the sky, straight upward, and pulls.
>You feel the weight in your hand shift, and you pull as well.
>You want to help, even if you’re not sure you can.
>With one hand on her mane, and the other thrust downwards toward the horizon, you struggle against the unseen force as she climbs higher and higher.
inb4 they accidentally uproot the Tree of Harmony.

>And then it shifts...
>And the sun begins to rise.
oh wait, never mind.

Anyway, here's what I think the author was going for: Twilight had this whole perfect wedding planned out, where she would kiss Anon and raise the sun at that precise moment, and it would symbolize the dawn of their new love, and Twilight's new reign over Equestria, and the new shipping of Twilanon, and so forth and so on. However, her plans got completely dicked up by Anon & Co's actions. Since she's a complete autismo and can't just let it go, she's been deliberately holding off on raising the sun so that she can capture Anon, "marry" him, and raise the sun during the kiss like she originally planned, even if that means holding off on raising the sun for hours.

However, once Celestia consumes the orb and regains her powers, her first act is to raise the sun, signifying the end of Twilight's reign and the restoration of her own.

The symbolism here is pretty straightforward. Twilight is deliberately fucking with the natural order of things by extending the dawn and refusing to raise the sun until she gets what she wants, signifying that she puts her own selfish desires above her responsibilities as Sun Princess. Though Celestia is guilty of doing the exact same thing, and arguably to a much more serious degree, she has nonetheless repented of her faggotry and chosen to return to her post and set things right. She takes control of the sun back from Twilight and raises it to its proper position, signifying the return of the proper order.

It's basically well executed, though I have a couple of minor gripes. First is that, as I was complaining before, the author doesn't really make it clear whether or not Twilight is explicitly refusing to raise the sun, or if it just isn't quite time for it to rise yet. Second is that the symbolism is not entirely appropriate given these character's actions. Most of the havoc wreaked by Twilight was just a byproduct of Celestia's self-centered and childish behavior; she didn't ask to be the Sun Princess, Celestia just sort of dumped it on her so she could run off with Anon. On the one hand it's nice that Celestia has finally decided to put things right, but on the other hand it doesn't feel like she's entirely learned her lesson yet, so it's a little difficult to cheer her on.

>Through this great magic, you feel as if every pony in Equestria is watching the sky.
>They were waiting for this. They were yearning for the sun.
Yeah, no shit. I imagine most of the country has been freaking the fuck out because it's probably almost noon by now and the sun still isn't up yet. Plus, you have to assume the average pony in Manehattan or Fillydelphia or wherever would have absolutely zero context for understanding any of what's been going on.

Anyway, yeah; it just sort of goes on like this for awhile. Anon seems to be experiencing a telepathic connection to Celestia that allows him to feel her emotions. I'm not sure if this is a permanent thing, or just an effect of using the orb that will wear off once she's fully transformed. In any case, while Celestia still laments that she can't just abdicate and just ride Anon's cock all day long, she understands and accepts that she has responsibilities and she needs to stop running away from them.

>Your hand reaches out to pet the side of her neck and she laughs.
>“It was a beautiful dream while it lasted. Selfish, immature, unrealistic... but beautiful nonetheless.”
That probably sums it up adequately enough.

Aaaaand...that's the end of the chapter.

24 - Sunlight

Wow, we are just blazing through these chapters at warp speed; this is almost the end of the book. Even with the frequent, long hiatuses I've been taking, it still hasn't taken that much time to get through this.

Anywho, I think we're in third-person perspective again. The scene opens on the deck of the Dawn Star, where all of the main characters except for Anon and Celestia sit watching Celestia's transformation sequence. I'm starting to lose track of just who this group includes, but I'm pretty sure we've at least got AJ, the CMC, Pinkie, Rarity, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, Big Mac, and I think Luna.

>Apple Bloom in particular fights to suppress the feeling of awe that causes her usually talkative mouth to be at a loss for words.
This sentence is bad and you should feel bad.

Anyway, Apple Bloom remarks that she's gotten so used to interacting with Celestia like a normal pony, she's almost forgotten that she used to be a Princess. Luna finds this amusing, and tells her that Princesses are just ordinary ponies like anypony else; they just live for thousands of years and can manipulate heavenly bodies with their mind powers. There's a bit more banter, and then the conversation turns towards the task at hand, which is...uh, actually, I'm starting to lose track of just wtf that is, too. I think it's got something to do with getting Twilight some Midol.

After swearing them all to secrecy, Luna decides to fill them all in on the business with the Dark Star and the Crystal and what have you. The scene fades out and ends in a page break.
>Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but it looks like the story is saying that Twilight just killed likely a hundred or more Equestrian soldiers - her own soldiers that she is supposed to be leader over - and no one, not Celestia, not Luna, and obviously not Twilight, cares. I know the logical response is to say that the narrative focuses on the main characters, these ponies don't exactly "exist" for narrative purposes, don't think about them... But then why does the story later go on to state that Luna gave the order to evacuate the ship, if we are not supposed to think about these ships as being full of ponies whose lives matter?
This is actually a misunderstanding due to an omission on my part. What specifically happens is that Twilight's ship fires on the Equestrian fleet and irreparably damages eight ships so that they can't stay in the air. Luna's heretofore unmentioned army of batponies is a pretty well-oiled machine, and they are able to safely navigate the damaged ships to a nearby field and set them down before they crash and burn. Nobody dies to my knowledge, the ships are just put out of commission.

>Celestia and Luna

What I find interesting about Celestia and Luna in this story is that they're portrayed as common ponies who more or less had the rule of Equestria thrust on them, rather than immortal gods who just had it to begin with. Celestia in particular, in the early episodes of the show, is portrayed as sort of an all-knowing, all-powerful maternal presence that all the ponies look to for wisdom and guidance. What this author has tried to do here is humanize poninize, whatever her and show her as more of a normal mare, who has her own feelings and desires apart from being a Princess.

Her actions in the story are pretty irresponsible, and while a lot of it is presented in sort of a humorous context, she's still difficult to like for that reason. However, the other side of it is that, again, she had all of this responsibility sort of thrust upon her at a young age, and she never really got the chance to have her own life. You can't entirely blame her for wanting to experience that, even if only for a brief time. It doesn't excuse everything she does, in particular her poor treatment of Twilight, but her motivations are well thought out and make sense, and because of that she's sympathetic to a degree.

Luna in this is also interesting. She actually reminds me a little of a friend I had in high school. His mother had some kind of degenerative disease that meant she could only work part time, while the dad had basically split on them. His brother was in juvie or something, and his sister was like 12 and couldn't really do much to help the family, so my friend wound up having to work a lot and do a lot of things to help out. He was kind of a dour, serious person to begin with, and having all that responsibility thrust on him turned him into a cranky old man in a young man's body. He was an admirable guy in many ways, but the other side of him was that he could also be sort of a killjoy.

Luna seems to be in a similar position. She and her sister well, friend technically since in this story they're not biological sisters both had a ton of responsibility dumped on their backs at an age when you're supposed to be able to just goof off and have fun. Moreover, Celestia is the eldest, and if anything ought to be the more responsible of the two. In Luna's view, for Celestia to just abandon her post to fulfil some completely selfish and childish wish, while also leaving Luna behind to clean up the mess, is just about the worst thing she could possibly do.

At the same time, though, Luna probably wishes she could do something similar. On some level she likely resents anyone who is able to just cast off their cares and enjoy themselves, let alone her older sister, who is supposed to be the responsible one. So to compensate, she's developed this cold, emotionless robot persona that we've seen throughout much of the story. With Luna it's all work and no play. This leads to some of the things that this anon [ >>370997 ] is getting at:

>Luna wants everyone who isn't her to sacrifice in the name of some greater good. She wants Anon to just agree to be a slave and suffer the injustice of being forced to a marriage he doesn't want. He wants Celestia to give up on her chance of immortality with her love.
Basically, Luna's personality is the counterweight to Celestia's. Celestia adapted to her role as Princess by becoming this warmhearted, nurturing mother figure, while Luna became all-business-all-the-time. At its extreme, Celestia's personality causes her to just retire on a whim to go chase her idea of true love, while Luna's personality at its extreme causes her to become this ruthless, emotionless ice queen.

The key here is that they both fucked up in their own way. Celestia's fuckup is fairly obvious, while Luna's is a little more subtle. If Luna had been thinking purely rationally, she would have just teamed up with the others and helped to thwart Twilight's plan, since that would have been the most painless and expedient end to the problem. However, it wasn't enough for her to just fix Equestria; she wanted to fix Equestria and ruin Celestia's fun.

As an aside, this actually puts kind of an interesting spin on the whole Nightmare Moon thing. I'm a little curious about the origins of that conflict in this universe.

At any rate, I actually find this to be a much more mature and thought-out attempt at exploring the resentment/rivalry dynamic between Celestia and Luna than what the canon writers actually attempted in the later seasons of the show. In the show, it was just a couple of moments where the two Princesses got into minor arguments over silly things and then later made up. Here, the author attempts to give them a plausible backstory and extrapolate a serious conflict from that.
I think you made good points and your post made me realize who much I relate to Luna.

Tho, I still feel negatively towards this story. I think it stem from certain observations but before that: I agree that Celestia's motivation makes sense but I disagree with her methods, or they make her less likable in my eyes.

Here are these reasons that I have:
1. Celestia can date someone while still being Princess.
2. She can also take a vacation (only lift the sun in the morning or something).
3. She could talk to Twi about her behavior towards Anon.
3b. While she is at it, she can tell her that she's interested in him as well.

I mean this story have had a running gag about how rapey Twi is in her autism but at the same time, I guess this reflects poorly one me but I don't care, I feel she has the right idea. It's stupid that everything is sexual harassment in today's society, especially in a promicious one. I see a phat ass mamacita and if I'm going to court her I need to lie and say, "Oh, I love you for personality, miss cheeks."

Therefore I respect Twi, she got balls, and she's genuine and just gives Anon the straightforward confession. Compare that to Celestia, what does she do, well she pretends that she's some sort of neutral party and move Twi out of the way while ensuring her closeness with Anon. I see her as a schemer, who hides her true motives.

I'm also not a fan of Anon's character. I feel like he is a none-character. Maybe a bit harsh, maybe I haven't followed him enough. The idea that he is the woman in this drama is something that's been growing on me. Stuff just happen to him and he just reacts to it. Both Cel and Twi seem to love him more as an object than from anything else that I can tell. I feel like he has no agency. Like I don't believe he'd get out of bed in the morning even if he had a team of cheerleaders motivating him, he was tied to a rope that was also tied to four workhorses, and his bed was a giant bar of soap.

Does anybody believe that he actually did the trials of w/e in the first place like it was said in the first chapter. I doubt it hard, I also wonder how that scene came to be now in retrospect.
He went to Celestia for help with Twi, I assume because she's the ruler of Equestria or because he knows of their relationship, and instead of solving it, she sends him on a crazy, and deadly errand? Celestia, just fix it.

Anyway, those are just my thoughts. I'll admit that I haven't followed this super hard so I might missed stuff in my assessment.
To be fair I do like the story.
Anon could have made a business of collecting Alicorn orbs with a simple invention. The foal-in-a-sack-inator. The amount of orbs collected per run increases.
Or Celestia could have a conga line of guards going through it, engineering a walking simulator solution. To stockpile enough alicorn orbs to alicornify all of Equestria becoming the world super super power.
It would jar with the story and themes though.
>I'm also not a fan of Anon's character. I feel like he is a none-character.
Unfortunately this tends to be a problem with Anon stories in general. The whole point of Anon is that he's meant to be a generic self-insert for the average 4channer, which means that by design he won't have much in the way of character growth or development. The issue is similar to what you get with male protagonists in Japanese dating sims, where the male lead is usually just a generic, average high school student with no distinguishing characteristics other than being "basically a nice guy." This approach helps with immersion as it allows the reader to self-insert, but it also means that the other characters have to be dynamic and interesting enough to carry the entire story on their own.

One of this story's weak points is that Anon and Celestia, who form the center of the romance plot, are not entirely likable or sympathetic characters. Most of the conflict in the story is the direct consequence of Celestia's irresponsible behavior, so the reader can be forgiven for not wanting to root for her. Anon, as I explained, is intended to be a (You) character, so there's not a whole lot for him to do besides be the spindle that the rest of the story revolves around.

>The idea that he is the woman in this drama is something that's been growing on me. Stuff just happen to him and he just reacts to it. Both Cel and Twi seem to love him more as an object than from anything else that I can tell. I feel like he has no agency.
This is a valid point. Part of it relates to what I explained above, that due to the format of the story Anon can't really be much more than a center of gravity for the story to turn on. The other part of it is what I was getting at earlier, about Anon needing to assume more of a hero role in the story and sort some of these problems out on his own. In particular, what I went over here [ >>370594 >>370595 ] is relevant. The conflict between Anon and Twilight is arguably more engaging than the developing relationship between Anon and Celestia, and the fact that it has such an unsatisfying resolution contributes to making the overall story unsatisfying. It was supposed to be Anon's problem to solve, but Celestia solved it for him, so Anon, as the hero, comes across as effeminate and passive.

>Anon could have made a business of collecting Alicorn orbs with a simple invention. The foal-in-a-sack-inator. The amount of orbs collected per run increases.
>Or Celestia could have a conga line of guards going through it, engineering a walking simulator solution. To stockpile enough alicorn orbs to alicornify all of Equestria becoming the world super super power.
This is another area where the author made some mistakes, this time more technical. The way the orbs are created and operate creates some logic holes that dampen some of the story's dramatic punch. Essentially, any non-alicorn can undertake these trials any number of times, and anyone who completes them walks away with a fully-charged alicorn orb. The "trials" simply require the aspirant to physically pass through the leylines or gates or whatever while carrying the orb; as long as you do all 13 of them you walk away with an ascension orb.

There seems to be a one-orb limit per person per journey, but if I'm understanding it correctly you can undertake the journey as many times as you want. This creates all sorts of weird little hypothetical scenarios a person could potentially use to game the system, such as what you suggested: bringing some foals along in a sack to carry extra orbs, or just having a bunch of guards go through in a line. You could theoretically have an entire closet full of these things; in fact, in principle, anypony in Equestria (or 'anycreature' in the world for that matter, since if Anon can do the trials it's obviously not just limited to ponies) could become a literal living god just by going through this process.

The obvious solution would be to attach some reasonable conditions, like one orb per person, per lifetime. However, this creates a major continuity error: both Anon and Celestia need to be able to undergo the trials more than once, or else huge chunks of the plot won't work. Unfortunately, it's a rather sticky situation and I don't have a readily available solution to it; it's just something the author should have put a bit more thought into before he started writing.

Meanwhile, Anon and Celestia are flying towards the Harbinger, which is also surrounded by those black, stinging ghost things.

>“This happened once before with Balios. He was compelled to build a powerful arcane resonance chamber by the Shard. Once it was activated and charged with sufficient magic, the spirits began to appear. We managed to put a stop to his plans before things got any worse, but based on the sorcerer’s notes we later retrieved, the true purpose of the chamber was to summon the Dark Star itself to Equestria. He was attempting to use the resonance chamber as an anchor for the same type of Progenitor gateway spell that was cast upon the Wayshrines of the Trials. Though the amount of magical energy required to establish such a gateway is immense, the appearance of the spirits here is a sign that it’s near completion and beginning to open...”
Something has been bugging me for awhile now, and this seems like as good a place as any to mention it.

We've been hearing quite a bit about this Balios guy lately, yet we still don't know anything about who he is, where he came from, what the nature of Celestia and Luna's conflict with him was, or anything else really. There is zero mention of him in the text prior to Chapter 21. However, the author is attempting to draw this major parallel between Balios, this mysterious character who just appeared out of nowhere, and Twilight, the principal antagonist we've been dealing with since the beginning.

This is very bad form, and it surprises me because for the most part this author has been pretty good about not veering off into weird tangents or dropping extraneous characters into the story, like we saw in several other stories we've looked at. However, now we've suddenly got this Balios guy. The issue here is similar to what we saw in FoE, when that Autumn Leaf guy suddenly shows up, and the author tries to fast-track him into being a major antagonist.

Most of what we know about Celestia and Luna's past has focused on one specific time period, when they were friends with Clover the Clever and were going through the Road of Trials. The fight with Balios, as far as I can tell, came much later, but it doesn't seem like the time period in which the fight occurred is that important. We already know that Clover's ascension somehow went awry and he was transformed into Discord, and that this was the result of their dicking around with the ascension orbs. From what I can tell, the orbs and the Dark Star are all Progenitor magic, so would it have been that difficult to just merge Balios into Clover/Discord's character? It's odd for the author to gracelessly wedge a new character into the story at the last minute just to fill some perfunctory role in the world's backstory, when he already has a character that could just as easily fill that role.

Anyway, whatever. Celestia had a fight with a guy named Balios a long-ass time ago, and he was using the same kind of dark crystal magic that Twilight is using currently. The crystal apparently tricked Balios into building something that would bring some horrible nightmare entity into the world, and now it seems to be leading Twilight down the same path.

The two of them head towards the Harbinger. The ghosts see them coming and start charging them all at once. However, now that Celestia has her sun powers back, she is able to vaporize them all with a single horn blast.

>You briefly consider cutting back on your teasing of her in the future, but your memory kindly reminds you that avatar of righteous fury or not, she’s still your Cel. No matter how much power she wields, she’s still sometimes silly, she still can’t resist an unguarded cupcake, and she still does in fact have a sense of humor, and a good one at that.
Not only that, but she still has a milk carton on her horn.

Anyway, Celestia fires up that same overpowered beam spell that Luna used earlier (minus the added firepower of the airship), and fires it at the Harbinger. However, the Harbinger has its shields back up, so the beam deflects. It looks like they will need to find a way through the barrier.

Unfortunately for them, the Harbinger suddenly teleports itself in front of the Dawn Star and begins charging its death-cannons. Celestia quickly chain-teleports back to the ship and throws up a shield.

This alarms her:

>“Yes, something is wrong,” Celestia replies as she rests on her haunches and shakes the dizziness from casting so many powerful spells in rapid succession away. “That attack was far, far more vicious than anything I’d expect from Twilight. Even given all that’s happened I can’t imagine she’d try to directly harm her friends in such a way, no matter how far this obsession has taken her. I fear that the Dark Star’s influence is beginning to flow through the gate... she’s in danger, and we must act quickly!”
If I'm understanding this correctly, whatever dark spirit lives in the crystal is beginning to take over Twilight's mind and/or body. Most likely it is feeding off of her already-critical levels of autismo insanity + horniness + intense butthurt over her former sensei stealing her husbando this part is still 100% Celestia's fault btw.

This actually relates to something another anon alluded to:

>Twilight's entire turn here at the end is one-winged angel, like she's come into a last, monstrous form that threatens the hero. I can't imagine how she could be redeemed now, except maybe to excuse the effect of the Dark Star shard as being like mind control.
Unfortunately, this seems to be the direction things are going at present.

>A polite cough from Rarity interrupts the alicorn sisters’ conversation. Both turn their attention toward the fashionista and the rest of the ponies do the same.
LUS again. Not only is Rarity's being a fashionista a well-established fact, but it's not even remotely relevant to anything that's going on in this scene. Also, the entire second sentence is awkwardly written. Try this:
>Everyone turns their attention to her.

Anyway, Rarity suggests that they use gems to amplify the Princesses' magic in lieu of the airship. Luna initially shoots this down, as the OP spell they are trying to cast would require far stronger gems than anything they have on hand. Also, they would already need to be infused with high-level magic.

Well, in yet another improbable coincidence, Anon reminds them that they do, in fact, have several such gems: the gems he was using earlier to sap Twilight's magic are both high-quality and infused with high-level magic. Moreover, they have 25 of these, and only 7 are required to fire off a blast equal in magnitude to what the ship could produce. So, they can afford to hit the Harbinger at least three times, with two blasts being sufficient to disable it.

Anyway, the conversation goes on for a long, long while; honestly large chunks of this section could probably be cut. The basic gist of it is that they are planning to use the gems to amplify the magic somehow, when Twilight suddenly shows up again. She mocks them briefly, and then begins firing torpedoes at them. The torpedoes track the movement of the ship, and are designed to sap the remaining power from the engines, which you may or may not remember are only functioning at 50% power now. Twilight's target is now the Dawn Star itself, because apparently the Dark Star told her that if she destroys that ship, it will somehow convince Anon that he actually does want to sex her vagina.

Meanwhile, Luna apologizes to Anon for her earlier indifference to his situation:

> “We... we dearly apologize for what has happened in regards to our behavior. Our focus was on the safety and stability of Equestria, but that does not excuse what we’ve done. Truly, t’was no way for us to treat one who will become our future brother-in-law, and we shall need to make it up to the both of thee later.”
So, it looks like Luna is fully on their side now.

>The fashionista steps back, her nervousness visible in the motion.
This sentence is bad and you should feel bad.

>A blue hoof reaches out and taps your tuxedo jacket.
>“Try not to ruin this, as we are certain it will be needed again in time, Brother.”
Oh yeah, I forgot that Anon is still wearing his tuxedo from the wedding. In my defense, it's not quite as memorable a detail as the milk carton on Celestia's horn.

Anyway, the plan now is to something something whatever with the gems. For some reason they need Rarity's help, and Rainbow Dash takes off while carrying her. Rarity seems to be no less confused than I am about whatever they are planning to do, which doesn't exactly bode well. Meanwhile, Celestia flies off to go deal with the torpedoes I guess. I have to be honest, I'm beginning to lose track of exactly wtf is going on in this scene.

So...Big Mac and Anon argue for awhile about how much power the engines can take, or lose, or be charged to, or something. Then, Big Mac runs off to futz with the engines, and Anon goes back to dealing with the controls. Pinkie offers him some words of encouragement, which seem to buoy his spirits somewhat.

>Come to think of it... she’s right. With the other ponies gone, you’re down to the original crew you had when this crazy journey first started. Well, that plus an extra filly or two, but who’s counting, right?
Yeah, I have to be honest here as well: I have also lost track of where everyone is in physical space. I think Celestia is off blasting torpedoes, Rarity and Dash are off doing...something...Fluttershy is...somewhere....Luna is doing something with the gems I think, and the CMC I think are just standing around with Anon and Pinkie at the controls. I think. Fuck, this is getting a little confusing.

Anyway, Anon takes a moment to wax nostalgic about all of his fond memories of his time aboard this ship. Seems like kind of an inappropriate thing to be doing in the middle of a battle, but whatevs. The implication here seems to be that the ship is about to be destroyed.

>You look over to Celestia. She pants for breath during a lull between casting spells and your eyes meet hers.
Oh, wait. It seems I got it slightly wrong: Celestia is not flying around blasting torpedoes, she's just blasting at them while standing on the deck.

Protip: if you've got a lot of characters in a scene, try to keep their positions relatively simple, otherwise it starts to get confusing.

>You pick up the hyperactive Element of Laughter from where she’s leaning against your console and gently place her next to Applejack, who’s waiting near the entrance to the bridge. The farmpony shares an exasperated but sympathetic smile with you before you make your way back to Cel at the flight controls.
Case in point: between the LUS names the author keeps using and the fact that there are like 20 goddamn characters in this scene to keep track of, the author should really be trying to keep unnecessary position changes to a minimum. Also, this scene goes on way too long and contains a lot of extraneous banter and gags that, while amusing, just add to the confusion. If I were editing this, I'd probably suggest that this section be pared down considerably or rewritten.

Anyway, Big Mac overclocks the engines, but the ship holds together. They evade the torpedoes, and then the Harbinger appears in front of them and starts firing ghosts again. Anon decides it's now or never, and he yells for Celestia to do her whatever the fuck thing with the magic and gems. They take their shot, but tl;dr Twilight teleports away in time and they miss. The chapter ends here.

25 - White Wings

>The Princess of the Night paces about the deck of the ERA Salt Lick, formerly unit B-2 of the Concordia’s ill-fated escort fleet, and one of the two ships of said fleet still airborne. Under her orders, it hovers at a standstill a respectable distance away from the action unfolding in the vast skies above Canterlot Fields. The captain of the vessel nervously waits beside the Princess as he watches the battle between the Dawn Star and Harbinger unfold along with her.
Wait, why is Luna on this other ship all of a sudden? I thought she was helping to set up the gems so they could do that blast or whatever. See, this is exactly what I was just talking about: if my attention were not being constantly yanked around every which way by Fluttershy running off to cower in the cargo hold, or Rainbow Dash flying off with Rarity, or the CMC bouncing around while occasionally making pointless interjections like "wow" or "that's cool", or Pinkie and AJ playing musical chairs on deck and making small talk, important details like this would be much easier to keep track of.

Anyway, whatever; Luna's on some other ship now, I guess. Also, for some reason, Fluttershy is with her.

>“Nay,” she replies, not even bothering to turn to face him. “And also, effective immediately, this ship’s name is now the Nightshade. We shall need to have a talk with the pony responsible for naming these vessels during commissioning. Based on the examples seen so far, we are not impressed.”
Just what this story needed: more names for things.

ANYWAY, Flutters and Luna yak back and forth a bit. It seems that Luna is aware of "Mistress Notfluutershai's" real identity, which causes the margarine-yellow airborne miniature horse to have one of her trademark conniption fits. The rest of this is basically just the last scene of the previous chapter, except seen from Luna's point of view: Celestia fires on the ship, it teleports out of the way before the blast hits. Also, I forgot to mention this, but the errant blast hits Canterlot Castle and destroys Luna's observatory, much to her dismay.

There is a page break, and we return to Anon. He and Celestia are discussing their next move. Then, Luna's projection shows up and bitches them out about destroying her favorite observatory.

>“Hey! Is this thing on?!” A ghostly Rainbow Dash appears as well, twirling in the air with confidence. “Hey Anon, hey Princess! We made it and the SS Awesomeness is ready to go!”
>“That’s not the ship’s name...” you hear a voice mumble from somewhere behind her.
I guess that's what Dash and Rarity were up to in the previous chapter, I'm not sure if that was actually clarified or not. The last chapter was pretty much all over the place, and I had trouble keeping track of a lot of the details.

So, it looks like the plan is for Luna and (for some reason) Fluttershy to take command of one of the two remaining airships from Luna's fleet, while RD and Rarity take the other. I'm still not sure what exactly Anon has in mind, but I'm sure we'll find out shortly.

>“You ready?”
>She smiles softly. “Whether it be climbing a waterfall, or galloping across an endless snowfield, or flying through the sky, I trust and treasure you without hesitation and without fear. That, in itself, is a part of the joy I feel when we ride together, be it you upon my back or with the both of us here.”
A simple 'yes' would have sufficed, woman.

Anyway, Anon and Celestia have a tender moment, and then Anon orders Big Mac to fire up the engines and away they go. The Harbinger teleports in, and after some brief maneuvering Anon gets the ship in position and they fire as before. The Harbinger once again manages to teleport away before being hit, and this time Luna's airship is in the path of the beam.

However, it seems that this is all part of Anon's 10,000D chess game. Luna uses one of the leftover gems 25/7=3, with a remainder of 4; math is fun to catch the beam. When the Harbinger reappears, Luna destroys its shield by redirecting the spell.

The crowd on the deck of the Dawn Star even now, I don't think I 100% remember who exactly this includes erupts into a cheer, but this is premature as they still need to hit the Harbinger one more time. Twilight's voice crackles over the intercom, or whatever they have:

>“S-So... that was your plan...
>To redirect the attack using s-spare gems...
>Very clever, Anon. I should’ve... expected as much from you.
>But I know how many... you used to drain my magic at the wedding...
>And it won’t work... a second time...”
Never underestimate an autist's ability to count things.

Anyway, they pull the exact same stunt again, but this time Twilight is wise to their shenanigans and reacts accordingly. She teleports, Celestia fires, she teleports before it hits, Luna catches the beam, fires it at the place where Twilight reappears, but Twilight teleports again before it can hit. Before she does, however, she fires on Luna's ship and disables it. However, since this is their last shot anyway this hardly matters.

And in any case, Anon is now playing 10,000,000D chess. The beam rips through the place where Twilight teleported away the second time, but this time it goes hurtling toward the other ship, where Rarity is waiting with another gem. However, Rarity does not seem to have understood Anon's convoluted plan a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly sympathize, and she begins to pout and fret while the beam bears down on her. In the end, however, she manages to catch the beam with the gem.

Unfortunately, though, this is about as far as her luck goes. When Twilight's ship rematerializes in front of her, she immediately loses her shit again and the blast goes flying off in some random direction. Twilight, meanwhile, manages to blast the helium frame of her ship, and now Rarity is out of the game.

And so ends Anon's career as a 10,000,000,000D chessmaster, it would seem.

...or perhaps not.

Twilight predictably begins to crow her victory, but it seems that all along, Anon was actually playing chess in a number of dimensions that not even Twilight's autistic ass can count to. Here is a quick rundown:

The blast spell requires 7 gemstones to amplify it to the level it needs to be at in order to effectively damage the Harbinger. Anon has 25 gemstones. 25/7 is 3. This means he has 4 left over to redirect the spell. Twilight, being an autist, is fully aware of the exact number of gems that the Anon has in its pocketses. However, in this case, Anon managed to use her autism against her.

Since they have two ships to use for the redirect spells and only four gems, one would logically expect Anon to give two gems each to Rarity and Luna. Twilight, for whom logic is basically a religion, made this assumption without even considering any alternatives. However, essentially on a whim, Anon decided to keep one gem for himself, giving two to Luna and one to Rarity.

Now, with their last laser blast flying off into the wild blue yonder, Anon cranks the engines up as high as they will go and begins pursuit. He somehow manages to get the engines up to 130% power, and is able to dodge whatever crazy bullshit Twilight fires at him. Meanwhile, he orders everyone except Celestia to head for the lifeboat. I'm not sure what a lifeboat on an airship would be exactly; I'm assuming it's just a smaller airship.

Anyway, he is able to intercept the laser beam, which for some reason travels slower than the ship, and at this point Celestia uses the last remaining gem to capture it. She immediately redirects it at the Harbinger, which is directly behind them now, and it hits the magical dome thing dead on. And just like that, Twilight has been hoisted by her own petard with some generous assistance from the author's bullshit physics, of course.

Given the author's propensity for perfectly-timed coincidences, the airship's engines hold together until the blast hits the Harbinger, and not a second longer. With some kind of explosion or something imminent, the lifeboat now detaches, carrying AJ and Pinkie Pie and Big Mac and Scootaloo and Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle and Chef and Ms. Crabtree and the 1991 Denver Broncos away to safety. Also, if anyone is interested, it seems the lifeboat is some sort of glider.

Anyway, Anon climbs on Celestia's back, and the two of them fly away just in time to see their favorite airship crash and kerplode into the fields below. The moment is bittersweet for Anon, because Celestia and emotions and so forth, but at least they destroyed the Harbinger...right?

>Well, it’s still in a million pieces, but those pieces stubbornly refuse to fall. Instead, they slowly orbit around a small sphere of darkness that ominously hovers in the section of sky where it was torn apart. It’s like looking at a galaxy with stone fragments in place of stars and a massive, visible black hole forming its center. The shrieking pony spirits circle around it, their attention focused on nothing else.
Well, fuck.

So, just when everyone thought this ridiculously convoluted boss battle was finally over, Twilight's autism rears its ugly head yet again. The structural resonance magical hoopajigger thingy that opens a portal to the evil dimension of the Dark Star, which Celestia had assumed would be destroyed along with the Harbinger, is still going. It seems that Twilight is now keeping it alive by channeling her own personal magic into it. Or, it's feeding off of her; I'm not sure which. Actually, it looks like she might be unconscious or something.

At any rate, here's the short version: the Dark Star, which as it turns out was underneath Equus Island the entire time, was actually the source of the repulsion spell that prevents alicorns from setting foot on the island. As such, with a portal to the Dark Star now opened, Celestia can't get near enough for them to rescue Twilight. It feels like Twilight shouldn't logically be able to get close to it either, but we'll put a pin in that for now. I'm assuming it has something to do with her personal magic being used as a power source, but who knows.

Anon tells Celestia that he will go get her, since the spell won't affect him. There is some perfunctory back and forth, where Celestia is all like 'noooo aAnon u cant go iz too dnagerous' and Anon is all liek 'no prncess cleest i must go bcuz reasons.' And then, Anon jumps off, and uses the floating stones orbiting the crystal-portal-thing as stepping stones until he reaches Twilight.

Anyway, he picks up the near-unconscious Twilight and gets her away from the thing. Twilight, meanwhile, explains that she has been feeding her personal magic into the ship, and that is how she managed to do all those teleportation moves. She also apologizes, but seeing as how she's in a near-comatose state from having her magic drained, it's hard to gage how sincere she actually is.

With Twilight unconscious, the crystal is no longer able to draw power from her (I think), and the whole thing begins to lose altitude. Anon, in keeping with the rest of his behavior throughout this story, just assumes that Celestia will probably catch him when he falls, so he decides to just stay where he is.

At this point, he notices the crystal that was sitting next to Twilight. He is compelled to pick it up, and it immediately begins feeding him visions. It shows him a path home, back to Earth and his family and whatnot, but he manages to fend off the last temptation of the Broodwich, because:

A) he's been dealing with this thing long enough to know that everything it tells you is bullshit, and
B) he's now hopelessly addicted to horse poon, and has no desire to go home and see his family anymore.

So, he chucks the fragment through the portal, thus sealing it away in the Dark Star's cavern. The portal closes, the last pieces of the ship begin to fall, and Celestia swoops in to catch Anon and Twiggles.

26 - Reunion

The battle is over. On the ground, royal guards are busy cleaning up the debris from the airships and assessing damage to fields and so forth. Anon has some minor wounds and is being treated in a private medical tent.

Twilight is in the same tent, still unconscious. Celestia and Anon are in there yakking about Doritos™ brand corn chips, when she comes to and immediately starts apologizing:

>“You were right... you were right about everything all along... and I was too stupid to see it. I thought that maybe I’d found something, or learned something that you hadn’t... and I wanted to prove to you that... that... I could be an amazing princess just like you, just as much as I wanted to prove it to myself!”
"So, uh, yeah, remember that time I blew up Equestria's entire navy and tried to commit regicide against two Princesses because I was neurotic from not getting laid? Yeah, sorry about that; that whole thing was my bad."

However, she's not quite done yet:

>“But I was wrong about that, too. I... I thought I knew what love was. I read so much about it... talked to ponies about it... asked my parents and brother about it... but I never understood it until I saw the two of you at the wedding. When... when you fought through the pain of the Geas to reach him, even when you knew it would be impossible... I... I knew, right then, that I’d never have him. And it hurt so much, Princess... it hurt so much, and I didn’t know what to do!”
As I've said in other reviews, problems in stories tend to cascade and cause additional problems. In this case, the problem I mentioned during the wedding scene (Celestia attempts to sacrifice herself to stop Twilight when it ought to be Anon doing it) cascades downward and causes Twilight to learn the wrong lesson.

If the author had handled this segment correctly, here is how it would have gone:
>Twilight has Anon backed into a corner, where he either marries her or she enslaves him
>either way he has to marry her, either way he loses Celestia
>his only choice is submission or death
>Anon chooses death
>Twilight says "no stop doing that u wil die"
>Anon says "duh bitch that's the point"
>Anon has now turned the tables on Twilight and backed her into a corner
>either she lets him go or he dies
>either way she loses him
>if she kills him, she at least has the satisfaction of knowing that Celestia doesn't get to be with him either
>if she lets him go, she at gets the satisfaction knowing that Anon will be happy, even if it means sacrificing her own happiness and surrendering to her rival
>since this isn't a Greek tragedy, she makes the right choice and lets him go
>lesson learned: loving someone often means putting their happiness above your own

However, since the author fucked up bigly at a crucial juncture, here is how things actually turned out:
>Twilight has Anon backed into a corner, where he either marries her or she enslaves him
>either way he has to marry her, either way he loses Celestia
>he has no agency, he is just a helpless toy being fought over by two horny lunatics
>Celestia chooses to intervene by placing herself in mortal danger
>Twilight says "no stop doing that prnses u wil die"
>Celestia says "Toilght it is bcuz luv"
>Twilight now has a choice, but is not backed into a corner
>she can either kill her rival and take Anon as her prize, or back off and let Celestia have him
>Celestia fucked her over pretty royally, so she actually has very little incentive to do the first thing
>but since this isn't a grimdark fic she chooses the second thing and lets Celestia have Anon
>lesson learned: the green monkey dick belongs to whichever mare is more fanatically devoted to it

Anyway, whatever; Twilight apologizes and Celestia forgives her, because this is Equestria and that's just how things work around here. It seems like Celestia ought to have a few things to apologize for herself, but she unsurprisingly elects to just gloss over all of it:

>“Twilight... there’s no undoing it. The past is the past, and you must live with the consequences of the choices you’ve made, which is a lesson that I must remind myself of day after day. I understand that it was the Shard’s influence that directed you to do some of these things, but that does not absolve you of the responsibility. You’ve made many mistakes, and hurt many others as you’ve followed this path, and this is, and will remain, the truth.”
"So, uh, yeah, remember that time I shoved an ascension orb down your throat and then just bailed on the whole kingdom? Yeah, me neither."

Anyway, to cut a long story short, they decide to just blame the whole thing on the Dark Star and sweep the rest of it under the rug, so all's relatively well that ends relatively well, I guess. Also, Celestia informs Twilight that, although she is still technically an all-powerful alicorn, she used up most of her magic during the airship fight and is now demoted back to regular unicorn status, although it seems she gets to keep her wings. Her magic will eventually replenish itself, but it will take hundreds of years.

>“But... but... m-my... my magic is everything! It’s who I am! It’s my special talent! What... what am I going to do without it?! I... I can’t function without it! I’ve never eaten with my hooves, or written with my mouth, or—”
Wait a minute; scratch that. It actually looks like she's now at a level below where she was previously. If I'm reading this correctly, she now has no magic at all, and is basically just a mudpony with wings and a horn.

Naturally, she starts hyperventilating about all of this, because Twilight is basically an overachieving Asian girl, and nothing terrifies an overachieving Asian girl more than the prospect of being average. Eventually, Celestia decides she's heard enough and tells her to stfu.
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>“But I’ve lost everything! I’ve lost Anon! I’ve lost my friends! I’ve lost my magic! And I’ve lost you, Teacher! How am I supposed to go on like this?! It... it would be better if I just...”
>You cover your ears as Celestia unexpectedly uses the Canterlot Voice. Poor Twilight cowers under the sheets, wide-eyed and trembling, as if she’d never heard her raise her voice in such a way before.
>“You do many ponies a great disservice to say such a thing. Do you honestly believe that you’re the first to ever experience such hardship? Do you believe you’re the first to ever feel hopeless and abandoned? Do you believe you’re the first to ever wish that tomorrow’s sunrise would never come?!”
Yeah, you just keep on being a cunt there, Sunbutt. You're clearly 100% blameless in all of this.

Seriously though, to her credit, Celestia does eventually get around to making a real apology:

>“Twilight... this is all my fault. I was so selfish. I so much wanted to escape the burdens I bear, that I thrust you into not only a role I knew you weren’t prepared for, but into Eternity itself, without fully explaining what it meant and what the consequences would be. Even if I knew that it was what you thought you wanted, we should’ve discussed it together, and if you still felt that way, I should’ve stayed with you to guide you through it. I’m... I’m so sorry, my student... what I’ve done is inexcusable. I’ve failed you in nearly every way imaginable. I’ll fully understand if you don’t want to be my student any longer, and I can in no way blame you if that’s what you choose, or even if you wish to hate me for what I’ve done, but I sincerely hope that—”
>“I forgive you, Celestia.”
Welp, I guess that's that then.

>Twilight smiles. “I forgive you. Even if it wasn’t done for the right reasons, you... you let me live my dream, at least for a little while. You say I don’t understand what it means, and that’s probably true, but I’ve thought about it a lot and... and it’s what I want. I still want to be like you, and it’s not your fault that I botched it all up...”
Also worth noting is that Twilight and Celestia's teacher/student relationship hasn't actually been dealt with all that much in this story. This is another one of those situations I've pointed out before, where the author assumes he can take a shortcut and just rely on the reader's familiarity with the source material to fill in some gaps.

The main issue here is that the conflict the author established for the story wasn't between Celestia and Twilight, it was between Anon and Twilight. The conflict being presented here, ie Twilight wanting to impress or even outshine a pony she had looked up to as a mentor before being betrayed by her, could have worked well as a subplot. However, it only makes sense if you already know these characters and their background. If your knowledge of these two characters came solely from this text, this whole thing between Celestia and Twilight right now would feel a little tacked-on.

Anyway, they keep on yakking. Twilight is now confused by something else Celestia said: that she would understand if Twilight no longer wanted to be her student. However, since she no longer has magic, Twilight is no longer qualified to be her student anyway, right?

>Celestia shakes her head. “One of the many mistakes I’ve made was focusing your studies on only magic. There’s still so much I can teach you... so much I want to teach you. I want you to become the best pony you can possibly be. Trust me, should you so choose, there are many more lessons that await you. I can teach you to speak to the earth. I can teach you how to properly use those wings of yours, and... when I believe you’re prepared, I have a special assignment reserved for you at some point in the future.”
"So uh, yeah, you remember how I used to be teaching you advanced spells about, like, using the Elements of Harmony and moving the sun and moon, and shit like that? Uh yeah, that's all over now. Your new curriculum will consist of gardening classes and basic flight. Oh, and if you do a good job with that stuff, I've got a 'special' class that I can enroll you in later."

Lol. The only thing the overachieving Asian schoolgirl fears more than the prospect of being average: the prospect of being handed a consolation prize because your teacher feels sorry for you.

Anyway, whatevsky. Celestia is back on the throne, Twilight has her participation trophy, the status quo has been restored, and all is right with the world. The only loose end that still needs tying up is Twilight's fractured relationship with her friends.

Right on cue, the five of them enter the medical tent. Twilight is all liek "me sry," her friends are all liek "das ok we frgiv u." Then, they all have a tearful reunion, Pinkie Pie doles out cupcakes, and everyone hugs. Celestia stands at the edge of the scene, watching their friendshippy antics with a warm smile. Anon comes up and scritches her ears seductively, and the scene fades out.

There is a page break, and the scene fades in on Luna, who is not having anywhere near as much fun. She is going over all of the expense reports for all of the damages caused by this ridiculous debacle.

>Still, she nods with a satisfied smile at the night sky and the newly risen moon. Her mane and tail, restored to their former cosmic glory now that her magic has recovered, are nearly indistinguishable now from the sky itself as she trots back toward the field camp and the light of the great bonfire burning there.
Uh, I have a question. Luna depleted her magic enough to revert back to her pre-ascension form, as did Celestia when Twilight blasted her. Twilight has also depleted her alicorn magic and is now basically a magical cripple. It has been established that it takes hundreds of years for an alicorn to get back to full power once this stage of magic-depletion has been reached. Why was Luna able to recover in only a few hours?
371080 371094

Anyway, poor, grumpy, long-suffering ol' Luna is seated at her desk in a makeshift tent-office, doing all of the Princess work that the other two Princesses are too busy apologizing to each other to help out with. Then, suddenly, Pinkie Pie.

Pinkie invites Luna to attend the bonfire party that everyone else is enjoying while she sits in her tent doing all of their work for them. Luna, however, seems cheered by her presence, and says she'll be there. As Pinkie is on her way out, she calls her back and offers this cryptic remark:

>“There will come a time, not now, but in the future, when the six of thee shall stand before the Grand Gate together. When that time comes, please remember that if thou needst guidance, thou need only dream, and we will be there.”
I can't quite tell what the author is getting at here, but it sounds like he's setting up a potential sequel. Maybe all six of them are going to end up becoming alicorns? Now there's a scary thought.

Anyway, Luna decides to lighten up and have some fun for a change; the kingdom can probably survive without her managing things for a few hours. Actually, from what I've seen it probably can't, but at this point I wouldn't blame her if she gave exactly zero fucks about it. So, she heads out to the party. Everyone is romping around the bonfire and having a gay ol' time, and Luna stands off to the side, watching them for a bit. Suddenly she hears a strange voice, and turns to see an astral-projected miniature Discord floating in the air near her shoulder.

For a moment she is concerned that he might have escaped, but he assures her that he is still safely entombed in stone back in the garden. They yak for a bit, and it is gradually revealed that Discord was the one who originally summoned Anon into Equestria:

>“I must say, though... I never expected Cotton Candy Head would end up falling head over hooves with that odd creature I pulled across dimensions during my last little romp across Equestria. Well, I guess the two of you always struck me as oddballs when it came to dating, but it certainly was a delightful little cream filling to round out this chaos-filled cake!”
As an aside, this is a perfect example of why you shouldn't use ambiguous descriptions or nicknames in place of your characters' proper names. "Cotton Candy Head" would suggest that he is talking about Pinkie Pie, but from context he seems to mean Celestia. However, it's been implied (though not explicitly stated) that Pinkie also likes Anon, so...this could be interpreted a number of different ways. What makes this even more confusing is that "Cotton Candy Head" might actually be a proper name in this setting, like Jim or Joe. Also, you could probably argue that just about any of these characters have manes that resemble cotton candy, so......yeah. Protip: there's nothing wrong with giving your characters nicknames or getting a little shitposty and silly with your writing (when appropriate), but you still want to avoid unnecessary ambiguity; make sure we know who you're talking about. If there's even the slightest doubt, it's better to just use the character's name.

Anyway, for a guy who is supposedly trapped in stone, Discord seems to have a surprising amount of autonomy. Being able to astral-project around the world in order to observe it, but not interact with it, seems reasonable enough, but bringing someone from another dimension to Equestria seems like a pretty high-level trick that a person whose magic is sealed ought not to be able to perform. This actually brings us to yet another bit of ambiguity:

>that odd creature I pulled across dimensions during my last little romp across Equestria
What I think this means is that the last time Discord was free, which for this story's timeline would be the S2 premiere, Discord managed to either pull Anon directly into Equestria, or at least set in motion some kind of spell that would accomplish that, before the M6 turned him back into stone.

This probably makes sense enough, but again: the author is relying heavily on the reader being familiar with events that took place outside the story he's telling. If you treat this story purely as its own self-contained universe, this explanation doesn't work, because to my recollection the text has never alluded to Discord ever getting free. From what the author has told us, we know that Discord was originally a pony named Clover, who used to be friends with Celosia and Lulu, but was transformed by an Ascension Orb into a twisted god of chaos. There was a fight, and his two former friends/siblings, now called Celestia and Luna, trapped him in stone. Thus, unless the reader fills in the blanks with S2-era lore, the natural assumption would be that Discord somehow managed to bring Anon into Equestria while he was imprisoned in stone with his magic sealed. This sounds like something he should not logically be able to do.

Remember: even though fanfiction is technically a derivative of a preexisting work, it's still a good idea to treat your story as its own self-contained, self-supporting universe. If an event that took place in S2 is an important part of your storyline, the essential details need to be in your story somewhere.

Anyway, while it's not entirely clear what Discord hoped to achieve by dragging some random dipshit into Equestria, it's a satisfactory enough explanation of Anon's origins. Discord is the God of Chaos, and he just does shit like this; far be it from me to imply that "for the lulz" isn't a perfectly valid justification for nearly any act.

Aaaaand...that's really about it. Luna is irritated by the havoc Discord has caused, but she seems accustomed to his antics. He jokingly asks her if she would like him to pick her up a green fuccboi of her own the next time he escapes. She says thanks but no thanks, and he makes his exit.

End of chapter, and end of story. All we have left is a brief epilogue, which I will cover in the next post.
>it sounds like he's setting up a potential sequel. Maybe all six of them are going to end up becoming alicorns? Now there's a scary thought.
Sounds like a valid theory that could have happened in official media.(I think, at least, as this is a sort of alternate timeline to the ending of S3) And the author may have wanted to make a sequel based on that idea.


So, it's now four years later, and it looks like Anon has risen to become Fuhrer, enslaver of all Equestria:

>The sounds of your boots on the metal walkway are unmistakable in and of themselves, but the additional sound of worried trotting that echoes just behind them leaves little doubt in the minds of the ponies working in the berths as to who just arrived. The newer workers set down their tools in preparation to bow, but their older coworkers just shake their heads, instead waving to you. You smile and wave back, knowing most of them by name at this point.

Wait, scratch that; it looks like Anon is just a regular old run-of-the-mill Prince. It appears that Pyre, the pegasus guard who was in charge of watching him when he was at the Castle briefly, is now the captain of his personal guard. Anon is making some last-minute inspections of his new airship, the Dawn Star III (Dawn Star II was apparently destroyed in an airship race with Big Mac).

He takes the controls and the ship departs. The scene ends in a page break.

Anon flies to the south of Equestria and waits, passing the time by reading a Daring Do novel. A short time later Twilight appears; they seem to be on good terms now. They yak back and forth a bit and get caught up. It seems that Twilight has been guiding her friends through the Trials of Equus; they all have Ascension Orbs now. This appears to be what Luna was alluding to in the previous chapter. However, so far none of them have made the decision to actually ascend; the whole thing seems to have been sort of an elaborate team-building exercise.

>“I’m happy for you, Twilight. I really am. And I guess you must be relieved to finally have your full magic back after everything that’s happened. I can’t imagine the feeling, but it must be something else.”
Also, for Twilight, the excursion had a practical purpose: she now has her full-blown alicorn magic back.

>Strangely, her ears fold back and she steps away from you, her eyes cast downward.
>“Actually, I... that’s... that’s one of the reasons I’m here. I haven’t restored my magic. I... I don’t think I ever really intended to from the start.”
Whoops, looks like I spoke too soon.

>Her horn glows with an unsteady aura. Over the years, she’s regained the use of a bit of her magic, but when you last saw her she could do no more than simple telekinesis to lift very small objects.
Okay, here we go. It seems that meditating upon her experiences as an insane, horny dictator has humbled her a bit. I guess she's content with being a magic retard now, like Rarity.

Anyway, the long and short of it is that all six of them underwent the trials, but after everything that happened, they're a little cautious about actually ascending to godhood, which is probably just as well. The canon version of Equestria has enough damned alicorns running around; no sense filling this one up with them, too. Twilight still has her Orb, and since she's decided not to use it, she offers it to Anon. Sort of a "sorry I almost brainwashed you and imprisoned you in my rape dungeon" day gift. Thoughtful of her, really.

So now, as the end result of a rather complicated chain of events, Anon once again has the option to become immortal. Anon sits back and contemplates eternity as he waits for Celestia's fat ass to arrive.

Page break. Celestia arrives, and the two of them have their date. They fly to a secluded place in the mountains, and Anon goes for a horsie-ride the regular kind, not the wakka-chicka wokka-chicka kind. As they are riding around having a beautiful romantic moment together, Anon makes the decision to swallow the alicorn orb. He becomes the Highlander, and together they ride off, towards a bright and eternal future of debauched horsefuckery.

Roll closing credits:


The story technically ends here, but it looks like the author added some supplemental bonus chapters. There is a five-part story called A Day in Winter, followed by another five-part series of one-off vignettes. I might check these out at some point, but I have a feeling they're just going to be short little slice-of-life type things that won't require much analysis. If there is anything worth commenting on, I will come back and add it to this thread. For our purposes, though, this feels like a pretty good stopping point.

I will be back shortly with some final thoughts on this piece.
I feel like Celestia apoligizing to Twi here indicates that either the author realized or knew that Celestia could have, mitigated some of the issues that occurred if she'd only talked to Twi about this.

While that is good, I think that if you deliberately have Celestia not talk to Twi about this, you should present a reason for why, at least implied.

If the reasoning for why Celestia didn't talk to Twilight about this was because she actually saw her as a rival and potential threat for Anon's no-nos, then I feel like a lot of my issues would be fixed.

But now it just feels like, she didn't do it either cause... idk at all actually, or that she was jealous but she later never reveal that in her apology.
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Final Thoughts

When gaging the overall quality of a story, I try to take several things into account: what was the author trying to accomplish, how well did he accomplish it, how well-executed is the story on a technical level? How well was it plotted? How well-rendered are the characters? Do we like the characters we're supposed to like? Do we hate the characters we're supposed to hate? Does it make sense, is it too long, is it too short? Does the author tend to veer off into unnecessary tangents and sideplots? Is the dialog natural? And so forth and so on. I use these metrics to assess the quality of the work on an objective level. I also try to take the author's skill level into account. In the case of immensely famous, popular stories, I will try to also assess the objective quality of the work relative to its popularity.

In addition to all of this, there is also a subjective dimension: how much did I, personally, enjoy reading the story? While I try not to let my personal tastes color my reviews too much, sometimes it's unavoidable. A person is naturally going to be more forgiving of a story's faults if it's at least entertaining to them, and far less forgiving if it isn't. However, you can still objectively assess the quality of something even if it isn't quite to your tastes. Stories about monster battles and flying skateboard races, for instance, are not really my personal cup of tea, but there is still a right way and a wrong way to go about writing one.

With all of that in mind, I think I can honestly say that Exchange is by a wide margin the best of the stories that I've reviewed so far. On an objective level, it has quite a bit going for it: it's well-plotted and reasonably well-paced. There are a few parts that drag, but for the most part the story moves at a reasonable clip. There aren't any deviations, unnecessary side-plots, unnecessary scenes, or extraneous characters like we've seen in most of the other stories we've looked at.

In terms of the author's skill level, I would say that getmeouttahere is a good greentext writer and a passable fiction writer, but also a talented storyteller. His actual prose is nothing to write home about: many passages in this story are awkwardly worded relative to its length, this one might actually contain the most instances of "this sentence is bad and you should feel bad" of all my reviews so far, the use of second-person narration was a bad idea, some of his dialogue is a little cringe though the cringe level is probably acceptable by brony standards, and the "romantic moments" tend to be overly sappy. However, these deficiencies in execution are counterbalanced by a considerably greater skill level in terms of design.

As far as planning a story goes, ie building a plot, determining which events should happen and when, which characters should be in the story, what should be left out, and so on, this guy is a grand master compared to some of the others we've looked at. Pen Stroke, for instance, probably writes better prose than this guy; however, Past Sins was about 50,000 words longer than it needed to be, and in terms of plot and pacing it was all over the fucking place. This work is leaner and far better constructed. I'm not sure if getmeouttahere accomplished this through planning or if he just happens to have a knack for it, but either way, it's a good skill to have and it earns him a lot of points in my book. I've said before that writing (ie mechanics, execution) and storytelling (ie, building a complete, satisfying, moving story) are two different skills, and if you're going to develop only one of them, storytelling is the better skill to have.

In terms of what the author set out to accomplish, I don't think he was particularly trying to make great art; he set out to make a fun, shitposty Anon story, and in that regard he delivered. This is a lighthearted action-adventure-fantasy-romance story, where a reader (and possibly author) self-insert character gets isekaied into Equestria because reasons, and ends up banging his waifu. It does not take itself especially seriously, nor should it have. Nevertheless, the author still managed to build a solid, believable world and populate it with convincing characters. In fact, he manages to do a far better job in this regard than other authors we've read who were attempting far more ambitious and serious projects.

For instance, one thing I think this author did exceptionally well, that I haven't gone into too deeply yet, is worldbuilding. Imo this story is a good example of what good fanfiction can do: it takes the existing canon and expands on its lore in a way that is both believable and consistent with the established universe. This author doesn't get super-elaborate with his mythology: most of what's in here is just built on top of lore that was already in the show. There isn't a massive bestiary of new creatures or detailed maps of far off continents (other than Equus island, I guess). However, what he comes up with is clever, interesting, and most importantly feels genuine. Combining the characters of Clover the Clever and Discord, and giving he, Celestia and Luna a prior relationship and a backstory that tied into the silly adventure story he was telling, I thought was a neat idea. I also liked his take on the origins of Equestria, as well as the pre-history period that is hinted at but not explained in detail, with the Progenitors and all that. If they wanted to, other authors could potentially take this lore and expand upon it in works of their own, and that's really the whole point of writing fanfiction: taking a fictional universe that already exists, and building on it in ways that inspire other people to do the same.
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The other area in which I felt this author was particularly strong was characterization. I've already gone over this pretty extensively so I won't dwell on it too much here, but the concept is much the same as what I was saying about worldbuilding: it takes the simple portrayals of these characters that exist already, and expands them into more complete personalities. One of the story's deficient points, which I and others have mentioned, is that Celestia behaves very irresponsibly in this story, and it's difficult to root for her. While this is a valid criticism, I will also say that, while I didn't always like Celestia in this story, I did like the author's interpretation of the character.

The all-powerful, wise and knowing Sun Princess suddenly deciding to abandon her duties and run off to pursue her crush seems like an implausible portrayal of Celestia's character. However, as her backstory is revealed, we see another dimension of her character, and it starts to make sense. Celestia began life as an ordinary pony, who out of a desire to bring peace between the warring pony tribes acquired god powers and took on the rule of Equestria. She takes her responsibilities seriously, and yet there's a whole side of her life that she never really got to explore. When Anon comes along and stirs a quivering in her nethers, she finally gives in to a childish, romantic impulse. It doesn't necessarily mean that her actions in the story are all justified or that the reader should agree with her choices, but it does humanize poninize, whatever her and make her sympathetic.

The same is true for the other characters; most of them, anyway. Twilight and Luna were both very well-rendered, and as far as side characters went, I enjoyed Fluttershy as the erotic fanfiction author and Pinkie Pie as the matchmaker with ADD. However, considering the wide palette of characters the author chose to include in the story, many of them were underutilized to the point where I question the decision to include them at all. Bringing AJ, Big Mac and Apple Bloom on board the Dawn Star was a good choice, as otherwise the story would have been too centered on Anon and Celestia. However, once these three were brought in, they didn't really do very much. Big Mac had a minor role as the airship's mechanic, but Apple Bloom did very little beyond occasionally making jokes or observations to lighten the mood. Applejack, as is unfortunately often the case, was basically relegated to a background pony role. And once the other M6 characters were on board the ship as well, it began to feel like there were far too many actors onstage.

With all that said, there are still some major issues I had with this story. The most prominent is the issue with the wedding scene, where Celestia offered her life in sacrifice rather than Anon. I've already gone over this in detail and I don't feel like typing it all out again, but I would like to stress that this greatly detracted from the quality of an otherwise solid story.

Some of my other gripes include:

This character came out of absolutely nowhere, and the minor role he played in the world's backstory could just as easily have been played by Discord/Clover the Clever. Balios did not need to exist.

>The Orbs
This is one area where the author needed to think things through a lot better than he did. The way things are set up, anyone willing to brave the Road of Trials can acquire one of these things and ascend to godhood, multiple times over if they so desire, without needing any other qualifications. Not only does this seem illogical, it actually detracts from the significance of alicornhood and immortality.

Case in point: Celestia is immortal, yet loves Anon, who is mortal. It is possible for Anon to use his orb to become immortal, yet at a crucial junction in the story he has to decide if he should give it away to Celestia in order to save the world. This ought to be a momentous choice for him, and the author tries to make it into one, but the reader understands that technically there's nothing at stake, so it becomes rather stupid. If Anon decides later that he still wants to be immortal, all he has to do is just go through the dumb Trials again.

Ditto for Twilight, actually: she chooses to give her orb to Anon rather than use it herself. Ideally, this should be a deeply symbolic gesture: she is choosing to atone for trying to separate Anon and Celestia by giving him the means to be with her forever. In doing so, she gives up her own chance at regaining her powers, indicating that she has finally learned the lesson about selfless love that she would have learned earlier, if the author hadn't fucked that part up as well. However, as it stands, this gesture has absolutely no punch. She's not really giving up anything; just like Anon or literally anyone else, if she ever decides she wants another Ascension Orb, she can just go get one, or have one of her friends give her theirs, or whatever.

>the Road of Trials
I've gone over this pretty extensively too; this whole part of the story just plain lacked zazz.

Anyway...I think that's about all I've got for this. If I think of anything else I'll come back and add it, but for now I think this covers everything I wanted to cover. Getmeouttahere: congratulations. You are the closest thing to a heterosexual author ever to have graced the pages of Glim Glam's Eternal Zazzmatazzmic Jim Jam, and for that, I salute you. Very nice work.

And that's all for now, kids. As ever, I will probably take a few weeks to decompress and work on some other oddball projects I have going, and then we will be back. Up next: something short that Sven wanted me to review; I will have to go back and see what it was exactly. Then, after that, join us for:

FoE: Project Horizons

Until next time.
Well done on finishing another one fren. Ur inspiring. ^^
Are you going to make a post here mentioning when you start the next story? Or will we have to comb through the catalogue to find the new thread?
A mostly non-homo fanfic author in GlimGlam's review?!
My how times are a changing.
Thanks for reviewing it's always a blast reading along and more importantly your reviews and quips.
Thanks frens, happy you enjoyed it.

Each review is generally done as its own separate thread, but I can make a post here when the new one is up.

when i firt saw that pic i thought it was ANON in DEEP TISSUE MASSAGE before using his arm and getting it muscular inside Celestia... LOL