• Published 5th Mar 2014
  • 4,699 Views, 49 Comments

The Boy Who Cried Wolf - Inquisitor M



Everyone knows the old fable, but deep in the past, in the lands beyond the fledgeling Equestria, one pony took a very special interest in its origin. Now that she tracked it to its source, she has a plan, and all she needs is wit and word.

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The Boy Who Cried Wolf


From the simplest ‘I love you’ to sprawling epics of courage and wit, words have power. Everybody knows it, but not everybody understands it. Oral history is common to virtually every race that can speak, but a few go beyond that, seeking to wield power over not just hearts and minds, but past and future as well. They are bards and poets, great writers, historians, leaders for both good and ill, but this story is about a pony for whom shaman was both a name and a calling.

Long ago, the founding of Equestria gave rise to a great exodus—a new beginning in a new land. Those who refused this siren song no longer outnumbered the other denizens of the old lands, and shrinking communities grew hardened against harsh conditions and incessant danger. Our shaman, however, eschewed the relative safety of such communities to scour the old lands for words of power. She followed the trail of a new, and very particular, story to the small village of Dockley, which is where our tale begins.

***

The shaman’s heavy hoof-falls are the muffled thud of thick leather soles on old timber. It is her cloak, fashioned from a bear’s pelt, more than her unexpected arrival that draws stares from the crowd, and casual conversation gives way to silence as the room waits for her to speak. Perhaps the stomp of her fur boots is for effect, but maybe it is simply to shake out snow.

“I am a shaman,” she announces, as if by rote. “I have come in search of stories and a warm fire, if such be free to share.”

As was tradition, the village hall kept a roaring hearth by which the villagers could rest their weary hearts and hooves of an evening. Few villages would turn away a stranger without cause, but this stranger was stranger than most.

“An ill evenin’ t’be wanderin’ these hills alone. What’s your name, shaman?” From behind his simple bar, the hearth-master hisses that last word like an accusation.

The shaman throws back her bear’s-head cowl. “I have none save what I am, good sir.” She produces a wistful smile for a foal suckling at her mother’s teat by the fire and breathes in the sweet aroma of burning acacia. The meagre fumes mingle with the sweaty musk of a dozen other warm ponies in the stone and timber room that yearns to house twice that number. Most are in small groups, but an old stallion hunches over the bar—alone, save for the hearth-master. “I mean to pay for a tankard of your finest and spin you a yarn, hoping the favour is returned in kind. I have travelled far and seek nought but a dry roof and willing ears.”

“I wanna hear a story!” a filly cries from the far corner. Her father’s faint scowl holds firm against the little one’s eagerness, but in the silence, his wife nods slowly to him before nodding in turn to the hearth-master. “Yes! Story time!” The filly jumps into her father’s lap and he holds her tightly as a tankard is slapped onto the bar. The room relaxes into scuffling and muttering.

Three stallions shift to make space around a table, dragging in an extra chair for their guest. One of these three hasn’t taken his eyes off her since she entered the room, and she produces a coy grin for the young pony daunted by neither her unusual appearance, nor her unusual appearance.

Before taking her seat, the shaman approaches the bar, drawing a pouch from beneath her furs and spilling a little of its powdery contents into the tankard awaiting her. The old stallion watches closely, and she flashes him a less suggestive grin.

“A little something to soothe tired legs,” she says. “Would you care to partake? The forest is bountiful, and I have much to spare.” The hearth-master sneers and turns away, but the old stallion narrows his eyes and nods. The shaman sips the top inch from her tankard before shoving it towards him and waiting.

The old pony sniffs it briefly and takes a tentative sip. “Get her another,” he says, licking his lips before taking a second, longer swig. “This one’s mine.”

A ripple of mirth from the room, and the hearth-master’s resistance melts; he pours another drink with a smile on his lips and vim in his bearing. “You’ll drink on the house if you’ll part with that little bag, lass. Anythin’ that makes this ol’ horse smile is worth its weight in gold t’me.”

She adds a touch of the mix to her new tankard, pulls the drawstring closed with her teeth, then tosses the pouch onto the bar. “Not for the little ones,” she warns with a wink. Taking a sip, she moves to the offered table and whips off her cloak with a flourish, draping it over the back of her chair. Its silky lining shimmers slightly in the firelight and draws, once again, the eyes of her audience.

“Quite something, wouldn’t you say?” The shaman strokes the lining once before sliding into her seat and casting her eyes at the squirming little filly who bade her speak. “A feat of crafting I witnessed with these very two eyes,” she says, turning her attention back to the stallion whose mind she seemed to occupy. A story requires the attention of but one to succeed, and this stage was set perfectly.

“Since I have promised a story, I would tell you of when and where such skills arose:

“Countless seasons before you or I came to be, there were two brothers. Among ponies, this in itself is nothing, but that is only because ponies know so little about griffons.

“Griffons do not become with child as pony mothers do—they do not come from other griffons—this you must understand. Griffon hatches beside egret, seemingly at the whims of the very clouds themselves, often growing up isolated and without guidance. That is why you know them as brutal hunters who steal your livestock and defend their territory without mercy, but these creatures are the exceptions. Like ponies, they seek their own kin for companionship and other advantages. Their bonds are like that of mother and child, and though it may seem heartless to you or me, they can form new bonds with ease to quell the loss of another. Such is the life of those born into solitude.

“It is, then, with this in mind that I tell you again that countless seasons before you or I came to be, there were two brothers—hatched in the same nest, for the first time in history and possibly the last. The brothers grew, living and hunting as one soul, oblivious to the strangeness of their being until they chanced upon their kin. Only then did something else become known: griffons can fly, but the brothers could not.”

One of the stallions slumps back in his chair. “Bah. What has this to do with wearing a dead bear?”

“Hold your tongue, Barrel Hitch,” his opposite says, waving his brash friend off with a hoof.

“So say I, Backswing,” the mother of the suckling foal adds. “Griffons plague our land. We would be wise to know more.”

The shaman takes a long draught of her beverage, savouring the hint of anise on her tongue and the soothing glow spreading through her blood. She leans back in her chair as the disgruntled stallion folds his legs across his chest, his face a brooding sneer.

“Though they had wings,” the shaman continues, “they were forever denied the greatest advantage of their kin and grew resentful. When they turned their backs on their newfound comrades, it was thought to be in shame, but the brothers returned a decade later, bringing steel sharper than any talon, and coats of scales hardy enough to turn aside spear and claw alike.”

The shaman’s voice lowers to a conspiratorial whisper. “But their martial prowess was ne’er in doubt. The slight they harboured lived only in their own hearts, and their kin spurned them for their arrogance. A single griffon saw the wisdom in their craft and beseeched them to apprentice her, but the brothers refused, so incensed were they by their reception. They disappeared once more, and none expected to see them again. And perhaps none would have, had Princess Jubilee not expanded her borders into griffon territory.”

“I’ve never heard of Princess Jubilee,” Barrel Hitch says, turning away to stare into the fire. “And I’d know. To know their history is to know how to hate those wretched unicorns all the more.”

The shaman bites her tongue. “We ponies pride ourselves on oral tradition, but we are mere children compared to griffons. We inherit from father to son, but not so for them. Thusly, they either do it better or lose their culture to the oblivion of death—only the unicorn libraries hold them at a disadvantage. Now…” She levels a gaze back on her audience of one. “Shall I?”

The stallion nods, of course.

“The griffons called out to defend their land against the unicorns, their most implacable foe. Though the pegasi were a more formidable army, the unicorn paladins, blessed by the princess herself and each clad in a coat of plates, were nigh unstoppable. One morn, after a week of harassment, the paladins readied to march into Bittain, leaving their entrenched camp well-prepared to fend against the air, but not the very earth itself.

“The two brothers came upon the camp like nothing ever beheld by pony eyes. Fangs of steel breached barricades with ease and smashed anything that stood in the brothers’ path. When the paladins returned, their camp lay in ruin, and the griffons’ armour bristled with more arrows than a porcupine has quills. Yet for all their strength and resilience, one griffon lay dying, an arrow lodged in his throat.

“I have since come to understand that unicorn history records they felled no pony not raising arms against them, intent only on smashing the unicorns’ camp—honourable warriors above reproach and worthy of their respect. But this is not the story that matters; it is not the story that leads to this.”

The shaman drapes one leg of her bearskin cloak over her shoulder. “No. Griffons tell of one brother carrying the other home, broken of spirit. Their glorious victory earned him the eyes of many potential new allies and suitors, but he would not let go of his brother and died of his sorrow—a tragedy understood by even the basest animal, but unknown to all but the worldliest griffons.”

“Which still tells us nothing of dead bears,” Barrel Hitch chides.

“Patience,” the shaman replies. “Before his death, he bequeathed his craft to another, that one griffon who beseeched their tutelage. It took years, they say, to teach the art, but one day the apprentice finished a blade so perfect that its mere existence cut the ties binding the surviving brother to the waking world. Seeing his legacy realised, he lay down to sleep and slipped quietly away to rejoin his brother thereafter.

“Where ponies tell stories of love eternal, the griffons tell the story of a bond so pure that even death could not break it. The brothers’ legacy is treated with no lesser reverence, for to take up the art is to dedicate one’s life to every aspect of it: as his blade is tempered in the heat of a forge, so must his heart be tempered by devotion and tested in the heat of battle.

“Such a griffon I have met: Vendel. Once, a bear riddled with plague came unto him, and he granted it a clean death, claiming its hide as payment. With tools crafted by his own claws and sanctified in pure mountain springs, he made this cloak and gifted it unto me as a reminder that the spirit of nature is not idealistic, merely pragmatic.” The shaman turns to the entranced little filly and grins as she ends her story. “This inner weave, like silk, lines their armour to avert scale from feather. Seems they are less fearsome to look upon when balding.”

The shaman always found such light-hearted distractions a necessary flourish to her darker tales, and duly, her wider audience chuckles and chortles—no doubt conjuring images of plucked griffons. She notes, of course, that Barrel Hitch is less enamoured, but as they say, the show must go on.

“So,” she begins anew, leaning forward and resting her muzzle on a hoof. “Would you tell me a story now, sir?” She gazes lazily at the stallion opposite her. Barely more than half her age and stranded amongst a dwindling population, he is hopeful enough to dream but not yet experienced enough to keep the warmth from his face. Once her audience, he is now the stage upon which her plot unfolds. “Mayhap you should begin with your name?”

It is with sudden dread that he realises she speaks only to him. He stiffens, his eyes widening. “Carpenter—I mean Chisel! Chisel. I-I’m a carpenter. I, er... I don’t know many stories.”

“Belay your frets; I seek not to be entertained. In truth, there is but a single story I desire. Twice have I heard it uttered of an evening, and twice have I been guided here. I speak of The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”

The mood of the room plummets. The eyes of older ponies dart from one to another as the silence deepens; there can be no doubt that this is the place.

“Oh. Aye,” Chisel says, oblivious to the unease. “I know it well enough, I think.”

The shaman shoves her remaining beverage across the table, some of its contents sloshing out and running along a deep groove. “Drink! Relax. Words have power, Chisel. Let your spirit guide you to it.”

The liquid reaches the end of the table, the hollow noise loud against the floor as the room holds its breath. Drip. Drip. Drip.]

Draining the last of the tankard, he stares into the empty vessel as he begins. “Well, ahh. Long ago there were a colt born to a family of herders. A lazy child, he was—no respect for his elders. One eve, after neighbours spoke of wolves in the dark, he grew bored of his night’s watch and wished to spite his pa for burdening him so. He awaited the dousing of candles—and an hour besides—before screaming, ‘Wolf! Wolf!’

“Moments later, father, mother, and elder brother barrelled forth from their home, waving cudgel and flame to ward off the loathsome predators, but they found only the boy, revelling in his mirth at the sight of them.

“‘Wretched boy!’ yelled his pa. ‘For that, you’ll keep watch on the morrow, too!’ And so next day, he stood his vigil under the auspices of the sun, ever yawning and cursing his fate.

“So profound were his boredom and so spiteful ’is nature that he thought to repay his drudgerous chore by repeating the prank. ‘Wolf! Wolf!’ cried he, ’cept now he stood among the hills where sheep grazed, and folk from all ’round came running. Shamed before the villagers, his pa raged while the boy writhed and cackled with glee.

“So it were no surprise that he should be sent to bed without supper and find himself back in the fields the next morn. His pa bemoaned being stuck with such an ’orrid child to any who would listen, and when the cry of ‘Wolf! Wolf!’ came again from the field, the villagers would have none of it. ‘We’ll hear your lies no more’ they said, and left the boy to his lonely punishment.

“But as the sun sank below the ’orizon, the boy had yet to be seen. Worried as only a mother could be, his ma set out with something to fill his belly, but all she found were a missing sheep and a bloodstain on the ground. The wolves had come, and the boy’s fate were sealed by the lies of his own making, and he were never seen again.”

Grinning pridefully, Chisel’s gaze finally rises to meet the shaman’s as he lets out a nervous sigh. Stroking the fur that still adorns her shoulder, she looks to the hearth-master and taps the empty table before her. She smiles sweetly before returning her attention to the stallion.

“My compliments, dear Chisel; a fine job, indeed. I see the formerly missing part writ large upon my mind’s eye—that trust begets belief, and it is distrust, rather than a simple lie, that robs the boy’s words of their power.”

It is as if the room itself breathes a sigh of relief, so strongly does the mood of the audience change.

“However,” she begins anew, the atmosphere tightening again like a bowstring. “What grain of truth summons such a story from this place? The recitations I heard before this night tell me much that has gone unsaid.”

Little does the boy know that his moment in the spotlight is gone, and another player takes center stage.

“That degenerate jackal would be my uncle—” Barrel Hitch spits the word out as if it sullies his tongue “—if fate had not dealt him what he deserved.”

The hearth-master places another tankard on the table and wipes off the spillage dutifully, but his hard stare reflects the darkening mood of all.

“This surprises me nought. Dear Chisel, do you believe this story to be true?” The shaman speaks to the hopeful but uncertain colt, but her eyes dwell on the surlier stallion.

“I, uhh… ’ave faith in the words, shaman.”

She smiles and graces him with her attention. “When first I heard the story of the brothers, it was said that the surviving brother was found to have no impediment to flight, instead grounding himself in secret and out of devotion to his sibling. A heartwarming twist, it’s true, but a falsehood nonetheless. Such untruth is not so much a lie as an embellishment—a message crafted in words. Your story’s moral is worthy, no doubt, but perhaps it has been… sharpened, to yield extra clout?”

“Speak plain and true!” Barrel Hitch roars, pounding a hoof on the table. “Hide not behind wit and rhyme, shaman—your tone is unwelcome here.”

Your tone is unwelcome,” says the foal’s mother, cradling her sleeping babe. “Answer her question; we fear not the truth.”

I’d answer—a-as sure as summer follows spring,” says Chisel with an uncertain quaver, “but I’ve no answer to give save my ignorance.”

The shaman smiles. Even as some eyes avoid her, the die is cast and the end comes none too soon.

“Would you hear, then, the story as I have heard it, Chisel?” The stallion nods, but his consent is of little concern. “Imagine, if you will, that the pony in your tale is neither lazy nor malign—instead, a downtrodden boy guilty of nothing more than simply being unloved.”

Barrel Hitch snorts and turns away, but our shaman’s voice soars, slipping into a forceful rhythm. “His cries for attention fall onto deaf ears, and soon his whole mind becomes swollen with fears. In the spirit of cruelty, malice, and spite, he is left quite alone to guard all through the night. As shadows grow deeper, a howling he hears; grim images forming that move him to tears. If worst comes to worst, who would care for his plight? Would anyone come to bring safety and light? He cried… WolfWolf…”

Her final words a dying whimper, even the little filly sits bewitched and still in the shaman’s lyrical spell. Chisel’s jaw works itself to no avail while the hearth-master gives her a knowing glare.

Barrel Hitch, naturally, shows no such regard. “Pah! The mewling sentiments of simpering mares mean nothing to one such as I.”

Our shaman returns the hearth-master’s stare for but a moment. “Of that, I have no doubt,” she says. “But ask yourself, Chisel, if my words seem misplaced, or whether in rhyme I have spoken in haste. Could it be that our pony is punished by day, to watch over flock while his family play? What would happen, you think, if a pony so placed, were away from his flock by a monster now chased? What else could he do and what more could he say, save turn on his fetlocks and run right away, crying... Griffon! Griffon!

Chisel’s jaw flaps open, but Barrel Hitch does nothing more than wave her off with his back turned.

“The villagers did come running,” she says quietly to Chisel. “But it was the father that did not believe—the father that beat him out of shame.”

For a moment, the shaman stares blankly past Chisel to the fire. Another moment and her vacant eyes harden, joined by a sneer on her lips as she bursts into a pounding verse.

“Now scalded, our boy can but quiver and quake; another day guarding alone he must take. When griffons return, a dark promise he’ll keep, and all he can do is fall over and weep. He dared not to holler, a fuss he won’t make, lest the wrath of his father he surely would wake. In spite of the danger, the price was too steep; alone and afraid, his despair he would reap. He pleaded, ‘Make it swift.’

“But the boy’s life, the griffons never did claim; instead they just ogled, confused at his pain. The likes of this young one, they never had seen; they knew not one like him that ever had been. While all of his body was regular brown, his legs harboured stripes that went all the way—”

“How dare you!” bellows the old pony at the bar. Spritely for his age, he storms toward the table, and the younger ponies, even Barrel Hitch, slope away. The shaman slides from her own chair, circling the table to keep it between them. “How dare you befoul our home with such lies!”

And now, the curtain falls.

Old Rope,” the shaman says with a sneer. “Long have I awaited this day.”

“Still your tongue, you cacophonous witch. I am head of this village and I will not be challenged by your like. Who are you to speak ill of the dead? Of my son.”

Our shaman’s sneer becomes a vehement growl. “Speak ill? Are you mad?

“The only thing ill is your pestilent mind; though your head has two eyes you are woefully blind. The stories I hear all around me are fake; the truth, to these young folk, full seen I will make. Four walls and a roof and a hearth are not home; without your acceptance, these hills he did roam. Taken by griffons who welcomed him in, he learned all the songs and was known as their kin. He lived.”

Lies!” The old horse’s face turns crimson with rage. “Two sons, I have left and I will hear no more of this! Quilton, Backswing, remove this detestable wretch from my presence.”

A scraping of chairs heralds movement, but it halts when the shaman bellows, “Would you lay hooves upon me as you did so many times to your own son? Vendel!”

More gasps fill the room as the door swings wide and a figure steps through, clad in a suit of cascading scales. Lacquered in all the colours of a sunset and bound together with matching cords, the armour is not the only thing holding attention; his steel fang is sheathed to one side, and a claw gently caresses its pommel as this monster, this griffon, raises himself to his hind legs and kicks the door closed.

“Stay your hooves, ponies,” he commands, and the ponies obey. “And be quick, shaman. I tire of this place.”

“The game is done, honoured friend.” The shaman stares at Old Rope. “Just a pathetic stallion ill-tempered to stand the reminder of his dishonour.”

The stallion opens his mouth to riposte, but our shaman shoves the table hard, catching the base of his throat with its edge. He collapses, gasping, but the sound of Vendel’s fang sliding free from its sheath dissuades any hooves from action.

“I hate you,” she growls, “without reservation or doubt, just as you hated your half-breed son—a portrait of your poisonous soul. No pony worthy of being called father could love so little that their son trusted not that his father would come. He was the gentlest, most thoughtful pony I have ever known. He had a voice like an angel and a nature to match. He was a miracle, and I am his widow.

“Yet I am no griffon, and his loss I will feel until I join him thereafter. Nor am I such a gentle flower as he, and I will rest easier knowing that you, too, will share my pain until the grave.”

The old horse’s eyes widen, but he is unable to form more than a gargling choke.

“You are poisoned. How better to slip you a tonic than to distract you with bounty far sweeter?”

Old Rope’s gaze darts to his drink, his eyes watering as he looks back to the shaman now towering over him.

“It will not be quick; I have no mercy left for you. When you die, ponies will remember not the proud head of the village, but a vicious, sickly old goat not even fit to fertilise crops. And while your body rots from the inside, I will speak your tale from east to west so that all may curse your name as I do. When you finally perish, your name will live on as the vilest of ponies ever to breathe, so long as my story is remembered.

“This was his last gift unto me: your name.”

***

As she promised, the old horse withered and wilted as our shaman roamed the land spreading her tale. While it could be said that his eventual death was on her hooves, her words of poison were only half a truth. His name in tatters, his past the subject of gossip for a hundred miles, it was hopelessness, bitterness, rage, and hate that poisoned him, as he had poisoned the minds of those around him—father to sons.

He died alone, cursed and shunned, because words… words have power. Everybody knows it, but not everybody understands it.

THE END

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Comments ( 49 )

So glad:

To see this in final form!

Mike

4038314

What he said. I know I told you this when you were still working on it, but this is my favorite of your stories to date--good show!

4038314 4039744 Now I just have to get it noticed...

Holy shit. That was intense. You may not put out much here but everything you do is pure gold.

4046038 Focus, discipline, a good diet, and regular exercise. None of these sound remotely like me, so it's a mystery how I do it.

(Thank you!)

P.S. Let's hope Seattle's Angels or The Royal Canterlot Library agree, yes?

4046566
They bloody well should. Keep up the good work! :twilightsmile:

It builds up too slowly and unevenly for my tastes, but I have to admit, once you finally hit the twist, this thing ignites. There are some nice touches along the way, too, like the blade so perfect it cut the master smith from the world, and the stealth poetry. (It seems a little odd against canon, given that it felt awfully Zebraic and that seems like cross-cultural contamination, but you've got a good touch with the cadence of the lines.)

I'm awfully curious, given that this is a story about brightly colored pastel ponies, and explicitly about the power of words: how come you chose the word "boy" in the title (and the story itself) rather than "colt"? Similarly, what was behind your decision to label the main character a shaman (a profession associated with spirit work and healing) rather than, say, a bard, which historically has referred (though not exclusively) to an itinerant poet, and thus would be more likely to wander from town to town trading tales? I understand that the herbal work is key to the plot, but shaman doesn't fit that bill for me either, unless you're using it in a different way than the Earth term and didn't sufficiently exposit the change in context.

4077300 The reasoning isn't explicitly necessary for the story, but you'd be right if you'd assumed that I had made a very conscious choice about wording.

For starters, I have never felt bound by the 'must have pony words' mantra that seems to underlie much of the pony world—I even had to resist some comments regarding it during editing and make the choice to stick to the plan. The main six (and CMCs, if I recall correctly) use 'girls' all the time, but it's really Applejack that sealed it for me right back in episode three when she said 'Ain't that just like a boy'. These words are common parlance in Equestria, so, people's expectations aside, I felt no need to either avoid 'boy' of actively use 'colt'.

Secondly, I really wanted the fable around which this story revolves to be ripped straight out of Aesop's classic so that it was as relevant to the real world as the pony one. Perhaps that's a little arrogant or grandiose of me, but I've never been shy about aiming high when it comes to these things.

Lastly: The boy's father can't bring himself to think of his half-breed son as a pony, so he was never called colt, only boy. When the story surfaces to distract from the truth of what happened, the name just sort of stuck. It would have made more sense to change it, of course, but people harbouring that much shame and bigotry don't tend to think with that much clarity. So in this case, it takes on the role of being a sort of slur: 'You're not a real pony'. Like so much of the fine details, the hints are there for those who take an interest. In the same way, the shaman says 'father to son' when taking about passing down stories, where the average reader would expect 'mother to daughter' in Equestria; at the end of the story, any reader has a chance of spotting the repetition from earlier and realising exactly how meticulously planned the whole thing was.

It doesn't really matter how many of these little details you pick up, they're just there for those that enjoy deconstruction. I like a story that is as interesting to re-read knowing the twist as it is first time around. Whether I have achieved that is not for me to say, but it is certainly a hope of mine.

Similarly, the shaman is exactly that: she isn't a wordsmith by trade, but the wife of one, and has a grudge the size of a small ocean, so her naming convention is not connected to her actions here. In fact, there is only one direct inference to her actual profession: "[Vendel] made this cloak and gifted it unto me as a reminder that the spirit of nature is not idealistic, merely pragmatic." Her shamanism comes from griffon culture, but again, none of that is directly necessary for the surface-level story, it's just a background framework that a reader can guess at if they want to. Having come from many years of tabletop roleplaying, this kind of background-construction is pretty much normal: only 10% of what you write will ever get noticed by the players. Specifically, I used a lot of my familiarity with Werewolf: The Apocalypse and Legend of the Five Rings to build my concept of shamanism, where all physical matter has some kind of spirit associated with it and the material and spirit worlds cross over in many ways.

I hope that answers your questions, and thank you for reading!

-Scott

Fantastic art. Now, is it all flash and no sizzle?

No. No, this is beyond utterly fantastic. Wow.

Never, ever, have I come across such a well written story that only works so well because it's a pony story. The rich history, the cutlures, the rhyming, you use it all as threads in a vast tapestry that hangs on a final twist, the loop that holds it aloft, bunting for all to see and proclaim what a fine weave it is.

Goddamn, now you have me all poetic just from being in contact with the damned thing.

Usually stories here are excellent, but if you humanized it you could sell it off as a book and call it a day; they share the show's characters, true, or the world, but they're fairly universal in application.

I suppose, off the top of my head, the other contender would be Contraptionology. That's it.

Utterly gobsmackingly good.

Sorry, I tried to send this message over 12 hours ago, but your story was the last thing that loaded before my ISP decided to leave me in the lurch.

4080627 Well, I won't pretend I haven't had a healthy dose of praise for my works, but this is positively gushing and I confess it has me a little off-kilter. Thank you :)

Wow

Just......wow

An interesting item, you have done. Not in the nature of the words, for while they are transitory, they hold to themselves. No, it is but what you paint with the meaning. And in the end, you leave naught with but a candle. A light, never flickering in the gale. It stands strong in the dark, unbent to wind or wick upon which it draws sustenance and life. Yet, the sorrow, does the guide the wick here, of something else to weave. And in that moment, that togetherness in binding, is guidance found for the threads ending, and those bound to the flame.

Tsk, the ponies simply weren't very good at propaganda.

See, a skilled politician would claim that this was an attack by griffon sympathizers who made up the entire story to kill off the clan head whose son they had already murdered years ago.

Even if that story that griffons spontaneously emerge from egrets' nests IS the truth, it sounds false to any who do not know the facts and are only familiar with birth. Such a truth is very simple to bury and replace with something more palatable to the public.

(evil smirk) A lie that feeds popular sentiment is, after all, often much more potent than the truth.

Congratulations! You're on Equestria Daily! :D And this story is amazing!

Very well crafted work. I enjoyed the cadence of the language and the way the tales played themselves out as much for their audience as us readers. You did a nice job of keeping a clear and focussed intent to the text, and it swept me right along through it. Beautiful, layered character work as well. It was a pleasure to read.

O.o Wow.
Beautifully well written and a nice twist on a classic tale.

4102018 Thank you! ...but is it elitist that getting on EqD is no longer any kind of achievement?

4102262 You know, I never really thought about it, but the way the story is framed—that of narrator and audience—probably contributed to how (relatively) easy it was to script first time through. Movements of Fire and Shadow was very intuitive, Bitter-Sweetie was a long haul of editing, but this is probably the first that feels like a healthy mix of the two. I'd certainly have to say that it's the one I'm most proud of after the fact.


4104044

O.o Wow.

There seems to be a lot of that going around. Thank you :)

*clap clap*

It is a shame that this story does not have more views or likes.

Great job. You know how to write.

Yay! 100th follower

4104468

getting on EqD is no longer any kind of achievement

It is if it gets past me. Don't sell yourself (or anyone else who gets on the blog) short.

4107573 Thank you. Turns out practice and study helps after all! Honestly though, I've found that editing for others was the single biggest boon to my own writing ability. Now I just need to learn how to write more popular stories...

4108595 To be clear—more for passers by than for you—I'm not arbitrarily knocking the blog. People's goals and values shift constantly, and having passed three stories in a row without strikes, two of which I didn't even get external editing on, leads me to a place where meeting those criteria isn't a healthy challenge anymore—it's a baseline. I'm not fond of false modesty, so when I put in the proper time and effort I expect to get past the pre-readers. I'd be disappointed not to, and I don't think it's unreasonable to hold myself to such a standard, but that doesn't diminish the value of others holding the same standard up as a goal to strive for.

To me, excellence means never being completely satisfied that you're good enough.


-Scott

I think this is yours:
i.imgur.com/6MrWqNZ.png

As is this:
img.pandawhale.com/75575-emporers-new-groove-upvote-gif-4g2k.gif

(And, just a thought: you might consider adding the OC character tag)

4109283

I think you do make popular stories. I have no idea why someone with your talent is not constantly on the feature bar.

I mean you make great stories. Cause stuff like this should be featured.

4077493
Quite a good read. This one felt very fleshed out.
And as you said, you tried to build out the backstory and world more than the average reader would/could notice.

That had a nice effect, but my problem with such stories is that I'm often left not knowing whether I'm reading into it correctly, or whether I'm just reading into things that aren't there.
I mean, I got the "Father to Son" thing. I really did think it was a bit weird that it was said like that, until I reached the end and saw how it fit in with part of the ending theme.

On the other hand, in your comments here, you said that the word "shaman" came from the griffon culture. I would have expected it to come from more the zebra culture. In fact, I kind of felt like the shaman could have been a zebra. Especially with lines like -
"One of these three hasn’t taken his eyes off her since she entered the room, and she produces a coy grin for the young pony daunted by neither her unusual appearance, nor her unusual appearance."
However, she later says that "We ponies pride ourselves on oral tradition," and considering that several members of this town are racist/xenophobic, it might be a bit strange for them to hear a zebra say "we ponies." But considering her husband, I could certainly see her saying something like that.
So in that point I'm not sure if I'm just seeing things that aren't there or not.

P.S. - I'm not sure if I know how to work spoiler tags correctly.
Edit - Yay, it worked!

P.P.S. - I re-read the poisoning scene, and didn't see the hints I would have expected to see. I mean, she clearly drank the top of the glass that she gave him before she gave it to him. I mean, the end of the story did say that - her real poison was words and his ruined reputation, but wouldn't there still be questions as to how she did it? And she payed for her drinks with the same powder she supposedly used to poison Old Rope. Wouldn't the barkeep panic and throw it out now? And she put some of the powder in her new drink. And she gave some to good 'ol Chisel. That would cause A LOT of confusion. Unless I'm misreading this and she's just claiming to have put ANOTHER strange substance into Old Rope's drink.

4110999 All perfectly valid points. MY official answer? Who knows?

But seriously, the world is full of scandals and revelations that explode beyond all reasonable proportions. People, on the whole, aren't well known for examining the facts of the case and making a rational judgement. Perhaps other ponies just needed the excuse to rally against the old git, or perhaps the truth opened a can of worms that no single detail could stop—it's all around you every day.

Perhaps you think I'm cynical in that, but I just think of it as being wise to the ways of the world.

P.S. It says pony in the blurb. It says pony in the opening. She refers to herself as a pony. She's a pony. Plus, who is to say that Zebras didn't get shamanism from the griffons too? After all, we only have one example of a zebra in the show, and we have no idea if she's even remotely normal for her race. Maybe she is an oddity among zebras—and outcast, even—and that's why she's near Ponyville. I prefer blowing those assumptions wide open to pandering to them unnecessarily, but I do appreciate that it will put the odd reader off.

4115541
Okay, I get your POV here.

Though with Zecora having a black voice actress, being all Shaman-like, and having African-inspired masks in her home, it's hard not to make the connection between Zecora's homeland and Africa. You're right in that it isn't explicitly stated, but at that point you really have to not read at all into implications or anything that isn't explicitly stated.
So you do seem a little strange still, to me. You like developing the plot/world far beyond what the reader sees, but also say "who knows?" when it comes to wondering what implications can be drawn or looking into other mysteries? Also, you like blowing apart assumptions about things that aren't explicitly stated.

Ah well. I'll just take the story for what it is, then. It was a good one. IMO, it especially did a terrific job of delivering that final theme powerfully. It really demonstrated its point so that that final paragraph had impact.

4115814 Heh. Read A Certain Point of View: Chaos and Disharmony and you'll have an idea of how my mind works!

My goal is rarely to state what is, but to invite people to think outside the box. More often than not, my stories push this agenda. I never believed that Luna's 'batponies' were anything more than halloween costumes, either—decidedly against a landslide of popular opinion. There are plenty of similar assumptions based on the show that I find laughable, especially where the princesses are concerned. It's not so much a choice as the natural instincts of a sceptic.

I really do appreciate the thought you've put into this :)

(and yes, I am strange in so very many ways...)

P.S. The 'who knows' thing is closely tied to Death of the Author. There are lots of things I fleshed out in my head so that thay all pointed, however vaguely, at the same world. There are plenty of other things that there is simply no intent for. I appreciate that you've said that you don't like everything about that method, but as a writer I write the sort of things that I would want to read, and having some of both is very much part of that.

Loved it, but one tiny issue:

What’s your name, shaman.”

Needs a question mark.

4165785 I can't help but laugh at how one of the few lines not tweaked in some way through the long revision process somehow escaped every pair of eyes that went over it until now.

Weird.

4167049 Isn't that just how life works sometimes, though?

4117445 Just saying, the creators of the show themselves think of the bat ponies as another species. It's not just popular opinion that makes everyone think that.

4194247 Not sure where that came from, but...

It was popular opinion long before the creators commented on it. Plus, I don't really care what the creators say, I still think it's an incredibly dull interpretation. Wheeling out one more 'special' thing where special things are common as muck holds no value to me. The idea that it was an an illusion for the event actually says something about characters—it actually adds context. That is interesting to me.

4195458 I'm aware, but at this point it may as well be canon. I'm not going to hold your opinion against you or anything, but one should have all the information and I wanted to make sure you did.

Impressive, worth the time to read

Cool Story, M.

Minimally, an interesting story worth rereading.

Actually though, deep, dense and dark and all rightfully so.

An interesting take on the classic. I do love the traditional, "Grimm's" style fairy tales though, with morals, and you did a good job of making this one even a bit deeper with the twists.

I do feel the framed nature of the story kept me out of full immersion though. The happenings in the inn kept feeling like "interruptions" and the number of characters around the fire was a bit hard to track given the short length, and how fast various attitudes kept shifting.

That said, still found it an enjoyable and thought-provoking read!

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

Whoa.

Damn, son, that was fantastic.

I listened to Dr. Wolf's reading, and he did a great job with it. This is precisely the kind of hard-hitting story I come here to find.

Keep up the good work!

This story reminds me of another variation on the old tale of 'the boy who cried wolf'. It was a horror story, about an old woman who comes to a town and goes to the inn and starts telling her story. As it turns out, the people of that town were all werewolf hunters, and the old woman was a werewolf den mother who had come to the town to seek revenge for her slain children. I can't recall the entire thing, but it culminated with her having poisoned all the people in the inn, infecting them with lycanthropy, and taking charge of them as replacements for her brood.

I'm curious if you've heard that version. If you have, then that would explain the inspiration for certain parts of this story.

6660298 Nope. Never heard of that. Whether original or not, I invented all of this without any external inspiration. It's one of the things that makes me so proud of this one.

6660814
Well, you know what they say about "nothing new under the sun" and all that. I'm certain that I've done the same thing without even knowing it. Anyway, I really did enjoy this story. There aren't enough well written stories on this site that try to take risks, and introduce new settings and characters. I'm surprised more people haven't read this.

6664105 Well then, you'll probably enjoy Pride and Every Mare Needs her Stallion for the same reasons.

And thank you :)

Holly Molly!

That twist!

And the change in perspective being capable of changing the lesson behind the tail.

So awesome!

Marvelous.

Loved it, no other way to describe how much I liked it, I love what you did here.

6660814 If I may ask, how did you conceive this story in that case. You just woke up one day and thought " hey, what if the tail about a boy crying wolf wasn't all that it's cracked to be" and so then you were inspired to showcase it in a much darker perspective?

I'm curious to know about your writing process.:twilightsheepish:

~Leonzilla

6929922 Well, it won't really tell you anything about my writing process, but the 'spark' behind it is that I see the world in this negatively polarised light all the time. The truth is that I can't not – although I think like it would be more honest to say that I feel like the majority sees the world like that and I'm seeing the real version, but I assume a lot of people feel like that about each other :)

Ultimately, this story is a result of spending years learning about human cognitive development and realising that virtually all behavioural traits come from our childhood environment. So, I thought about The Boy Who Cried Wolf and asked myself why the boy would lie as he does in the story, and I imagined the boy returning a matured man and addressing the sins of the past, but I'm sure you can appreciate how much this 'rushes' the result inherently based on who would recognise him. Sure, I could work around that, but the effort and detail needed to do that didn't seem appropriate to the directness I thought I'd need to pull this off. If someone else was going to take the protagonist's role, then I figured a spouse was the obvious choice, since using a son or daughter might stretch the timeline too much. I could have used a close friend, but it just lacked the punch I was looking for: I really wanted to convey a sense of hatred over the lie that had been spread.

Beyond that, I'd been thinking about how cool a samurai-esque griffon would be for a long time, so I combined that with that spiritual side I like from both Legend of the Five Rings and Werewolf: The Apocalypse and pieced together a society that could have embraced and inspired our titular boy. Finally, it is an unfortunate fact that stress levels directly correlate with a multitude of things that cause an early death – childhood stress triply so. Cortisol is bad for longevity, so having him die as the trigger for events seemed a fairly natural way to arrange things.

At that point I started writing and all the other details fell into place along the way.

I suppose a TL;DR might be 'because I'm cynical and I see the world this way'. That wouldn't be wrong, exactly, but it wouldn't be right, either. I've been considering writing a long blogpost on anhedonia for a while now, to better explain how I see the world. You might find that interesting if I get the the point where I feel like I can do such a post justice.

6931049 sorry I took this long to reply.

the 'spark' behind it is that I see the world in this negatively polarised light all the time.

I know what you are talking about, you are talking about looking at the flip side of things, seeing the good on the bad and seeing the bad on the good.

It reminds me of Flip Turner from yugioh zexal episode 5, flipping out. You might be interested in watching that and the sixth episode for the conclusion as they explore this topic with Flip.

Here is an extract from the wiki:

In the dub, Flip believes that there's a "flip-side" to everything, and that things can be defined by their opposites. Something that seems harmless can actually be quite lethal. This philosophy is embodied by his fondness for Flip Effect Monsters, along with the physically weak "Baby Tiragon".

I think it's egocentric,and a good example of self-bias to assume that ones perspective is the only correct or acceptable way to look at the world; a lot more can be learned from viewing the world in different perspectives than ones own, no individual perspective is infallible; but there is also some various advantages with many of them.

Ultimately, this story is a result of spending years learning about human cognitive development and realising that virtually all behavioural traits come from our childhood environment

About that, have you ever heard of the debate of nature vs nurture?

It has always been a huge topic in the field of psychology. The previous consensus aligned with what you describe. However a huge Twin study on the subject found pretty conclusive data indicating that genes seem to have a much bigger role in determining behavioural traits than it was previously thought.

The nature vs nurture twin case study analysed data of a wide range of characteristics of all sorts on twin siblings(that share identical genes at the time they are born) from both twins that were raised together and raised apart, often without even knowing the existence of the other. The goal was to figure out just how much our characteristics behaviouraland other wise were determined by our environment and how much if any by our genes.

Turns out more often than not the individuals shared approximately 60% of characteristics. A shocking revelation for what was previously believed to be completely determined by the environment individuals grow up at. The actually amount of matches varied from case to case and since that's the overall amount of the traits measured there is still being some discrepancies on which traits should shouldn't be accounted for in deciding the real average of matches, if it's 60/30, or 50/50 . But after the overwhelming data presented there was no denying that genes had some significant role in determining our behaviour.

It's all quite fascinating and people are still elaborating about the implications of this discovery.

If you as me, I came to terms with this ambiguous truth by accounting that one key aspect of people is determined by birth that being our inherent ability to perceive the world in other words our perspective on how we look at things is different from person to person from the moment we are born and that directly influences our behaviour of how we end up responding to the world we see in return. Our ability to perceive can and will still change and develop as we mature; but much of the way we physicaly mature is also determined by genes and so we tend to have only so much influence on how much we change. Now this isn't necessarily to mean that people can't change, or that there is a limit to how much we can change, it just means that people traits don't tend to change that much from what our genes leaned us to be.

That's how I explain and interpret the Twin study.

hope this was of your interest,

Finally, it is an unfortunate fact that stress levels directly correlate with a multitude of things that cause an early death – childhood stress triply so.

I think you mean trauma. If you switch the words "stress" for "trauma" then I agree with you completely.

In addition stress can indeed tamper with development and inhibit growth, so I can see how it would stand to reason that it might decrease overall age.

I suppose a TL;DR might be 'because I'm cynical and I see the world this way'.

I have no idea what this means.

I've been considering writing a long blogpost on anhedonia for a while now,

You know... Excessive use of electronic devices like a computer or a game console can mess up with a person's ability to produce dopamines and other brain chemicals much like stimulant drugs.

If this is your case, you should probably practice abstinence for a while if just to re-sensitize yourself to stimulation. It might be healthy, I myself occasionally take a break from the internet for some time for this propose, sometimes it's just a day off, once I spended over six months without touching the computer. (although that one wasn't entirely by choice to be fair):derpytongue2:

You might find that interesting if I get the the point where I feel like I can do such a post justice.

Yes, no doubt I would, but I think those kinds of posts should be written mostly for yourself than anyone else.

~Leonzilla

Cool! Dr Wolf read this! :D

Hello. Just letting you know that after many months of persistent procrastinating, I've managed to get around to reviewing this story for the Goodfic Bin and have accepted it. Details are here, ribbon is here:

s13.postimg.org/5a2dthj87/Giz_Vyc0.png

Congrats.

So, finally got around to this one. I enjoyed it at least as much as your other works. Marvelous ending and a good twist on the titular narrative.

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