Retrospective: Cycle · 5:11pm
Mythical birds? Check. Teenage dragons being teenagers? Check. Epic griffon versus dragon war? Check. Dramatic entrance? Check. Totally unexpected culture and lore building? Check.
Think that’s it.
Let’s get this party started, shall we?
Welcome to the retrospective on my first non-Wavelengths FimFiction story.
As I got deeper and deeper into Wavelengths, I started to realize just how much untapped potential is in Philomena. All we know of the phoenixes comes from two episodes of MLP: “A Bird in the Hoof” where we get to see just how much of a troll Philomena really is and “Dragon Quest,” where we see phoenixes are hardly defenseless against a dragon raid.
But in these two episodes, we learn a lot about phoenixes. First of all, they’re highly intelligent. The level of pranking that Philomena does on Fluttershy and Twilight Sparkle shows she’s no mere “pet.” Now yes, a lot of that is yakky sax comedy, but you can still get a feel for just how smart that darn bird is. But even cooler, we get to see some of the phoenix’s abilities when the two parents defend their hatchlings against the dragon teenagers. We get to see something that seems almost like a teleport as well as the blinding radiance that’s quite effective at getting dragons to smash into trees.
What I came away with was a whole new view on phoenixes.
Philomena isn’t a pet.
She’s a companion. She’s a friend. And she was there for Celestia when the Princess of the Sun needed someone who was constant throughout her long life.
A lot of what I do when I write is instinctual. I’m very much a discovery writer. I knew for this story I wanted to start out with Philomena as we knew her: a prankster. And who better than to prank than another set of arrogant teenage dragons who think they’re the most powerful thing in the universe (you know, like most teenagers). But Asanda came out of nowhere. The Firespin came out of nowhere. Even the griffon and the dragon battle came out of nowhere. It just… happened.
Bah, I don’t understand it either.
But this was a very cool story to write for a ton of different reasons.
First of all, this is the first time you I’ve got to write in First Person Perspective. That’s actually my preferred method of writing if I can get away with it, but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to use it consistently throughout Wavelengths and I really wanted to have a consistent experience across the board. It allows for such a deeper level of connection with the main character.
Second of all, this is the first time I’ve done a story from a non-pony perspective. In fact, I’ve never even come across a story where Philomena was actually the primary perspective character (though maybe I just haven’t looked enough). Having a phoenix gave me a completely different set of rules to play with. For instance, phoenixes don’t say things. They sing. They occasionally chirp. But they also laugh and giggle and chuckle. When Ebon asked about changing Philomena’s “cackle” into something more bird-like, I responded with “A fire crackles, so a phoenix can cackle.”
Yes, I’m just that brilliant. You know you love it.
Most of a phoenix’s magic is based on—of course—fire. As I explored in Habits of the Equestrian Phoenix, this has some major pros and some major cons. First of all, they can control and manipulate fire, no matter the type, as long as their natural flame is active. If they are at the end of their Cycle, fire will usually just advance their Cycle. At any other time though, it gives the incredible abilities. They can funnel their fire to increase their speed, create an aura of flame around their bodies and even teleport. However, these have serious limitations. A phoenix’s fire won’t go out even if they use up all their natural magic. They’ll still be able to fly, but the fire will be “banked.” That means it becomes dark and dim like a dying ember. A phoenix can normally only teleport twice within a short time before needing at least several hours of rest.
No, the real con is the opposite of fire: water. A phoenix doused in water loses their magic temporarily. If they’re just soaked, a full minute passes before they’re able to reignite. However, if they end up in the water… well, you saw what nearly happened.
That’s one secret I’ve learned about magic systems: there always must be a balance.
Third, I finally got to write an action scene you got to see. I’ve actually already done several. Wavelength Theorems has several major battles, including intense military action, mercenary ambushes, single combats and attempted assassinations. The Complexities of Arcane Shielding is pretty much all combat as Sunset tries to learn how to use her magic for precision combat maneuvers. Sparks has an intense sequence with multiple flying opponents in a magical environment with an unknown enemy who has way too much power in her situation.
The problem is I can’t show those yet!
So instead, you got to see how a phoenix fights. And hell yes, it was fun to write. I hoped you folks could see it in your head as clearly as I did. Because it looked awesome. Really awesome.
I hoped you enjoyed the revelation and dramatic appearance of Celestia. Little Tinker was really happy with line “It wasn’t armor. It was regalia.” Now, I know birds should have incredibly keen eyesight, but we’ve got dragons roaring flame all over the place. Ash and soot are flying everywhere… and Philomena is trying to avoid getting filleted by a really ticked off dragoness. I hope you can forgive her for not noticing earlier.
Glorious Dawn went through a few versions too. Originally it’s was simply Dawn Light and was even Sunmother for a time. I hesitated about Glorious Dawn because I know of another place where that name is used… but in the end, decided it was the best route to go with.
Also? One of my favorite parts of this story is that I intentionally left it vague when it happened. Phoenixes don’t tell time the same way ponies do. Why would they? In fact, they have two measures of time: Cycles and solstices. A solstice is about six months of time. A Cycle I leave intentionally vague. That’s up for you to decide. But years don’t mean anything to them. So, this could have happened seven hundred years ago or it could have happened thirty years ago. The only thing we know is that Celestia does raise the moon.
Do I know when it happened? Well, you know me and dates (namely just how much I love to tease the lot of you), but since this has no bearing on upcoming material from me, I’ll tell you the truth.
Not entirely sure. It probably happened a while ago though. It definitely happened some time before the Sonic Rainboom however, so while the Wavelength Timeline may have callbacks to this story, it’s actually independent (and not in a “you don’t have to read” kind of way).
Now… here’s the real question… what was the “gift” Torch gave Celestia? If you figured it out, bet you weren’t expecting that in here, were you? There’s much more to that story, too, so no, I’m not telling.
And yes, if you’re wondering, the blue dragoness we see is Ember’s mother.
What you should be more concerned about was the backup plan Celestia had in place with Torch. That I will keep to myself. Eventually, I might tell that story. It’s… quite a bit darker than usual. You’ve seen only pieces of Celestia the Chessmaster. The Cloudsdale Report was the most you’ve seen of her. But there is far more depth to Celestia. Far more. And that’s something I’ll be exploring in future stories set in the Wavelengths Timeline, namely in a book set after Sparks called Legends of Equestria.
So, this is my first contest entry, my first non-Wavelengths story published and a few other firsts (including perspective! ). I hope you enjoyed the exploration into a whole new culture, no matter what your headcanon is on phoenixes.
I’ll admit. I have a soft-spot for the phoenix in mythology. I’ve always loved the symbolism of the phoenix, as have so many others. Pyrelight, the balefire phoenix in Fallout: Equestria, was a particular favorite of mine. One of my favorite scenes in the Harry Potter movies is where Dumbledore vanishes by clapping his hands above his head just as Fawkes flies above, causing them both to apparate in a flash of fire (and yes, I’m sure that’s where part of the teleport spell Philomena uses comes from, but if you’ll remember, she actually also uses it toward the end of Grading on a Bell Curve). Fun fact, I’ve restored my iPhone so many times I long ago decided to name it Phoenix, but in that case, I’m naming it after a starship in both one of my old science fiction novels I’m still puttering around with and after the Phoenix in Star Trek, the first warp-capable ship.
So yeah, I’m a fan of phoenixes. Phoenixes are freakin’ awesome. If you disagree, well, I’m okay with you being mistaken.
Let’s see… what else? You should definitely keep a close eye on SunLight Sliders this week, because very soon, we’re going to be finally wrapping up the storytelling on that. We’ve even introduced a special bonus round to help us finish out the ending! For some crazy reason, people wanted me to put in an encore performance. Don’t know why, but I finally bowed when my wife told me I should.
Protip: Listen to the wife.
I’ll be publishing the final version with an expanded first chapter sometime in April, so you can look forward to a nice and extra-shiny edition of SunLight Sliders then!
I’ve got an entry in FanOfMostEverything’s Imposing Sovereign contest coming up and it’s radically different than anything I’ve ever written. I’m actually intentionally trying a very different storytelling style in this short story, but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to pull it off or not. Fun fact: I wasn’t sure who the bad guy was going to be until literally the bad guy steps out from the shadows. Also, there’s a tiny connection between SunLight Sliders and this new story, currently called And a Sky Full of Stars. That’s due the 19th, so you’ll see it before then (or probably on that date).
Yeah, this might push back How Not To Use Your Royal Prerogative… again. But Prerogative is a pretty important story, being the final piece of the Origins Arc (Habits is a one-off, so while it is in that arc, it doesn’t really count). It also has a much larger cast than I usually work with, so I’m having to juggle a lot. We’ll see what happens.
In other news, I am very happy to report that A Study on Chaos Theory, the first novella in the Infatuations and Other Lies Arc, has been completed. This is another one of the stories where I had a general idea of what I wanted to make happen… and then Sunny and company pretty much said “Screw that! We’re going to do our own thing!” After the ending of it… Sunny may regret that decision.
But more on that another time.
I think that’s about it for today’s Retrospective! I really hope you enjoyed it and stick around for what’s to come!
Oh... and one more thing.
Truly, phoenixes are the Sunset Shimmers of the animal world.