• Member Since 22nd Jan, 2013
  • offline last seen Oct 20th, 2022


Ceci n'est pas un cheval.


Roseluck’s husband Ember receives a gift on their anniversary: a rose taken from the Everfree Forest. When Roseluck grows ill and the rose begins to change color, Ember struggles to understand.

— Featured by Equestria Daily
— With a dramatic reading by Neighrator Pony

Chapters (2)
Comments ( 52 )

It's too early in the morning for the sadz. I'm guessing you submitted this around seven hours ago?

Nah, only an hour. Unfortunately, I'm going to be running errands all day, traveling this evening, and then unavailable for most of the weekend. So it had to go up now, or... later than I'd like.

Way to ruin everyone's morning, Bradel.

Normally I stay away from those tags like they are made of bees and on fire. And the fire is also made of bees. But it is Bradel.

Now, what I'm about to say will spoil the story, so unless you've read it go away and read it. It's worth your time. No. Really. Go away.



How much of what happens is real, and how much is in Ember's head? Isn't it striking that Rose collapsed and nothing was made of this extraordinary circumstance? Lilly didn't do anything? Ember didn't react? How much of the illness was real? Was it illness at all? Why should Roseluck 'be careful.' Careful of what? Of accidents?

Or how he feels relief that the doctor is worried, too? Why relief? Why is he so dettached with flashes of incoherent anger? What is the first person narration not telling us? And what is it telling us that simply isn't so?

After all: Everypony lies. Right?

4750288 I only guessed because my story I submitted five hours ago still hasn't gone through. Grumble. They're probably like "Dear Celestia, not another Super Trampoline story!" And now they've probably spent hours arguing over who has to read it. Or not. Anyway, I'll stop hijacking this comments section and be on my merry way. Have fun shopping! :pinkiehappy:

It is nice to see that tragedy tag get a classically-appropriate usage.


Normally I stay away from those tags like they are made of bees and on fire. And the fire is also made of bees.

I am fond of this turn of phrase!

Aagh! Really? I'm sorry to hear that! I hope they get to yours soon (and now I feel a little bad about how fast mine went through, even if it did take an hour).

Honestly? I've been looking forward to getting to toss this tag on a story almost since I joined the site. Just had to find one that'd work. Figuring out how to put together something that deserves it turns out to not be terribly easy.

4750471 Obs finally approved it about twenty minutes ago, so it's all good now. Have a great day!


"That turn of phrase" is part of what convinced me to read something with tags that I normally avoid with great fervor. I glanced at this and was prepared to ignore it before Ghost signal-boosted and reminded me that "written by Bradel" is a good reason to take a risk on a story I wouldn't otherwise read.

I saw the tags, I saw the cover art.

So yeah, does what it says on the tin. It was definitely well written, though I can't say "enjoyable" as it is a tragedy. I will say, I was not expecting a twist quite so dark at the end. I knew it'd end badly, but I didn't see it coming that way.

4750322 I also have to agree with GoH about how the unreliable narrator leads to some interesting interpretations. To me the big one though, is the ending line from Cadance, about the rose representing love in a pony's heart. Then there's Rose's previous comment about it being tied to its owner (who is Ember, not Roseluck... she gave it to him.) Putting those together, I think the rose changes color due to his loss of love/trust for Roseluck, not her sickness. It first changes color the moment he gets jealous hearing her talk about another stallion. It goes black when he's ready to kill her.

Anyway, great job on cramming that much detail into such a short piece. I love multiple layers to things, even if it is sad.

Spoiler-text and author interpretation to follow! Screw you, my death of the author blog!

That twist was really the thing that got me excited to write this story. The author's note at the end of the second chapter lists the prompt this is (somewhat) based on. There was an additional part of that prompt, a bonus suggestion that the story should be titled "The Rose of Hatred", but I didn't much like that. What I did like was the fact that there were a couple interesting interpretations for the rose, in the prompt. One of them felt fairly obvious, and fell into a bit of a Dorian Gray trope (which Ghost commented on, during pre-reading). The other was more interesting to me, and I thought it could be fun to play the obvious symbology off against the less obvious symbology.

I'd also read Archonix's "Of the Valley" in the last couple months, which also plays around with flowers. That's an interesting read in its own right, and you can probably find a few seeds of this story in it. More flowers, more not-entirely-opaque narration, more exploration of mortality.

4750602 I definitely got the Dorian Gray vibe, but figured it couldn't be that simple. After all, the narrator himself was basically seeing it that way. :derpytongue2:

As to the "Death of the Author": I think there's a difference between post-hoc discussion of the writing/thought/creative process (as your reply was) and an author saying "No, you're wrong, this is how you're supposed to interpret it."

That said, now I just read your linked blog. (Great one, btw.) I've heard the term (DOTA) and idea before of course, usually in connection with those boring college classes where you spend six months trying to understand what {famous author} meant by understanding his personal life, clothing choices, deodorant brand, etc. But I'd forgotten about the more practical application. That is, the one you summed up rather succinctly, that everything important to the story must be understandable from only what is actually in the story. Allusions and everything else must remain optional bonuses. Otherwise you've failed as an author (or are being a pretentious snit about it.)

I was running critique workshops at Everfree, and I wish I'd remembered it then. Instead, I kept dancing around the concept with my attempts at explanation. Oh well, now I've got a much more concrete hold on it for next time.

For lack of more insightful commentary: wow, this was really good. I've been a little less into sad/dark fics lately, in part because it can be hard to get through the bleakness even when they're good, but this one I couldn't stop reading.
I guess I've a small criticism, though it may reflect my ignorance more than anything else: can you really have fresh hay?

A brief but incredibly executed story from beginning to end. Powerful and seamless. Well done, and thank you for it, even if I feel terrible for just about everyone involved.

I started wondering, midway through Chapter 1, whether Roseluck was a changeling, her illness tied to Ember's faltering love. I don't know whether you intended that as a headfake, but it was a pretty effective one.

I figured out the nature of the rose as soon as he mentioned it in the hospital scene, which speaks well of your foreshadowing. I probably should have figured it out when he decided to visit her in the hospital only after work, which in hindsight was a massive clue.

Also, wow, was Ember ever a jerk.

Well-constructed. Good to see you writing again! :twilightsmile:


can you really have fresh hay?

Yes, actually. When you see big bundles of yellow dried hay in fields, you are only seeing the dried outer portion, which is exposed to sunlight. They are rolled like that to keep the majority of it fresh, and wet. Dried hay really isn't very good for the animals that eat it.

I promise I will read this later, but I just don't think I CAN right now...:fluttershyouch:

Reassuring to know that the only line that really took me out of the story only did so through my own ignorance. I sort of assumed hay was dry by definition, but in spite of this fandom and even riding real horses there's pretty much a limitless supply of things I don't know about horses and agriculture.
This'll be comment #17 and everyone's been good about spoilers so far, which doesn't seem typical for comment sections around here. I don't know why that is, but I like it.

Huh :applejackunsure:

Well, that was certainly an interesting first foray into your body of work. I like how the prose is rather barren and only got meatier at the important bits. The twist was nicely handled as well – I was trying to come up with an explanation of how exactly is the rose connected to Roseluck, but during the hospital scene it became obvious that she's not really the one tied to it, something that should've been clear from the third paragraph. On a second read, all the pieces neatly fall into their place. But well, everything's easy when you know how, right?

I also wonder how the chapter titles connect with story itself: is the thorn the little lies and omissions Ember was not willing to deal with?

It's also somewhat amusing how FiMFiction's traditional misuse of the tragedy tag played into the twist – I was just expecting a bad ending, but got a proper tragedy of the classic sort. :derpytongue2:

Nicely executed, all in all. :raritywink:

Well, that was dark.

I wasn't sure on whose end the rose was working at first, but it became obvious by chapter two.

I liked it.

I'm with Ghost; everyone is acting really strangely and the narrative reads like there are great big "unreliable narrator" holes in it, which is cool; but if that was your intent, I as an audience member kind of wanted the curtain to be drawn back a little more by the end. Why does everyone, both in and out of the universe, keep not specifying the nature of Rose's ailment? The climax could have used some stronger ties to the theme as well. Ember appears to be a little bit insane, by the end of things, but I'm not convinced that euthanasia--however grossly ill-advised due to mental deficiency--is the terminal point of a "lack of love" as presented in your ultimate theme.

All this is taking the story at face value. If there's another layer where Ember has been slowly poisoning her all along or something then I'm not seeing it presented quite clearly enough.

After reading "Of the Valley", I was a little bit confused by your link. I realized I misread what you wrote. I thought you wrote morality, not mortality.


Well, I enjoyed it anyway. :twilightsmile:

It is weird. One of the stranger parts is that he actually seems to be concerned with her well being until the very end. It's not clear if he/she affected the rose or it affected them. The outcome would lead me to think that perhaps no one really understands what the plant does/doesn't do.

I have to wonder if he quit loving her or she him or something. It's almost as if they thought different things about what the rose's change of color meant. That bit about how "everybody lies" seems odd and makes you wonder whether he thought that before, or if she drove him away from her somehow by refusing to admit that she was talking about other stallions. The fact that she does so and yet doesn't want to tell him is a little peculiar in that regard.

Very strange, and pretty sad, as a story.

I think the illness is fictional. He feels trapped where he is, and so he starts dreaming—based on an inopportune cough—of an illness that would be a clean end to it all. And so all the scenarios where he thinks she's ill, are actually all in his head. That's why it was so fuzzy. It's a fictional disease within out fictional context. She only ill once in the story: just at the end where reality dovetailed with fantasy and this coincidence precipitated his violent break.

I don't think he was poisoning her, that's an interpretation too far, though there's a case to be made for an interpretation where it is domestic abuse and Rose isn't actually ill at all. That's actually the most chilling interpretation, I think. It would explain why the doctor says rose has to be 'careful.' Because she had an 'accident?' Though you'd think that a clever doctor type would be able to put two and two together and have someone watching the abusive bastard.

Emotional boomarang. Very good work.

Wow, the feels....:fluttercry: This reminds me of Silent Hill 2, I won't say why because I don't wanna spoil it for those of you who haven't played it, but if you have, you'll know.

Off at a convention, and with a stack of work to do, so not able to respond to comments as much as I'd like, but I do want to hit one.

The chapter titles are less intentionally meaningful and more... well... me playing around with literary references, like I often like to do with titles of things. In particular, the titles form a section from Anne Brontë's poem, "The Narrow Way".

Then don't. Seriously. Stories are supposed to be fun, and even though this one is dark, I hope people don't come away from it feeling genuinely bad. Personally, I don't think it should have quite that effect. Ghost made a pretty good case for its readability in the comments on his blog, if you're curious.

You can always come back to it, if you feel like you're in a better place for reading it. But it's not going to be hitting the feature box or anything, so it's not like it matters when you read it. I'd rather have my friends be happy, instead of having them worried about feeling bad after reading my stories.



This'll be comment #17 and everyone's been good about spoilers so far, which doesn't seem typical for comment sections around here. I don't know why that is, but I like it.

Speaking of which, yeah, thank you everybody! It's really nice when readers are good about things like that. I think some of it may just be that, at least in my opinion, most of you guys are very nice, and really great—somehow I seem to have fallen in with a good crowd early on—but yes, it's much appreciated when everybody's good about this.

I really REALLY want to thumbs down this one, but it deserves an up, well written, with a visceral feel. The twist wasn't the one I was expecting.
The irony of Rose setting off the chain of events is staggering. She really should have known better.

I thought this was very well done. Dark, sure, but well done. The tension was strong, and the emotion very real. I found myself confused and angry at Ember for seemingly contradictory behavior. He gets a phone call about his wife getting sick and there being blood, and he spends time cleaning up a mess rather than rushing right home? And then later, he chooses to go to work instead of visiting her at the hospital? These aren't the actions of a frightened, loving husband. Of course, they make much more sense by the end.

Speaking of which, the killing scene was very difficult to read, and I admit that I only skimmed through it. But I think the surprise and shock of it worked. You barely realize that the rose is tied to him, not Rose, before he commits the unspeakable act. It's a very well orchestrated "gasp!" moment for the reader.

I initially thought the rose represented his sanity, since that's what we begin to see go, especially during the killing scene with the 'tick tick'. But apparently it's tied to the love in his heart? This makes sense too, given the very beginning where he begins to resent not just her comments about other stallions, but the fact she keeps secrets from him. There's also his contradictory actions I mentioned above, which seemed to belie him being a loving husband. But I think the 'no love' thread is a tad too subtle here. It gets overridden by his apparent lack of sanity, and it never would have occurred to me but for the line at the end. Though perhaps you were trying to get both these messages across. He's mentally unstable, but it reaches the point it does and causes Rose harm because he slowly began to lose his love for her. I just think it would help the idea to see more of her lying or keeping secrets from him. The only incidents we get to witness are at the beginning, how she hides her sickness from him, and presumably the nature of the rose. When trying to reason out why he lost the love in his heart, there's not much to go on. I get the sense that this has been a journey for him, but that I've only witnessed the very end of it...or missed most of the middle, since I think at the beginning we see the rose change color for the first time. Perhaps you meant it as a quick journey, or maybe it was his sensitive sanity that sped it along so quickly? I don't know. I would've liked to have seen more of it, though. But this is a minor nitpick.

But anyway, this is literally the 3rd story in a row I've read today that had a big, sudden twist like this at the end of it. It made me sick for a few moments, but that simply means the story did its job.

Well done!

The thing I liked most about the story, now that I've had a chance to think it over, was the misdirection. There were two layers of it, and the last one was only revealed in the final line.

Nicely done (for sufficiently :raritycry: values of "nicely").

Positively epic. Even if I hadn't loved it for what it is, I'd have loved it for this alone:

They wanted to throw me in jail, but Ponyville doesn’t have a jail.

Fries my rice every time someone has a ponyville pony call the police or someone gets thrown in jail. Do these people even watch the show?

Anyway. Brilliant work. Love it, love it, love it.


Author Interviewer

Okay, I forgive you, this came out great. :D

Hey, would you be up for taking a second look at this? Pasco had some issues when I submitted to EQD about there not being enough in the text to lead the reader toward a clear conclusion. I've written a new scene that I think makes it pretty definitive (unless I'm still being way too subtle), and since you liked how this originally turned out, I thought you might be a good person to ask to look at a new version. Most of the people I usually ask to read things try to avoid darkfics like the plague.

The scene is just sitting on my hard drive, not currently in the story. If you're interested, reply here or PM or Skype me and I can get things in a format you can read. Then, if I've made some improvement to comprehensibility, I'll go back and ask Pasco. I kind of want to wait to give it to him until I've gotten another pair of eyes on it first, though, to tell me whether I'm actually doing something worthwhile or whether I'm needlessly embellishing and thus weakening a perfectly good story.

Author Interviewer

aaaaaaa ;_;

If it's just the scene, sure. I think I remember this one well enough. It's about time you did something with it! >:B

Such a powerful piece, I especially love the little tic Ember gets whenever the word lying is said/thought. It all feels very real and painful at the same time, which is exactly what makes it a good tragedy.

Hmm...perhaps this deserving of another category along with tragedy? Or did you want it to be a suprise? A genuine question, no spoilers intended.

I'm actually not really sure what tag you're suggesting. Dark, maybe? Though the old site FAQ described Dark as more of a good vs. evil thing, though that never completely made sense to me. Or Sad? The story did originally have a [Sad] tag, until the new search features came through which put a premium on minimal tagging. But, at least in my opinion, this story is most classically a fit for the [Tragedy] tag, since it's fundamentally about a character who's undone by his own faults.

I don't know, does that make sense? I'm curious what you were thinking. Though I did kind of want the ending to be a surprise, yes.

. Dark isn't good vs. evil, it's the unsettling. Of course, dark used as a category is very difficult to define. Nowadays, the fimfiction community has taken the dark category as the horrific, that which invokes terror. Basically, when something is unnervingly scary. Like replacing everything in your room with an exact copy. That sort of stuff. Scary sorta stuff. For example, despite the ticking in your story and some other writing elements, you would never expect ember to kill his own wife at the end. He seemed so sane, so innocent and loving of his wife. But then, you had him suffocate her to death. Having the audience suprised and unsettled. Uncomfortable. That's why it's dark. And that's why it's brilliant. However, depending on how you view it, the tragedy category could be used in the same context. It is a tragedy. But I believe it has some dark elements aswell.

Other interpretation: Zecora really is an evil enchantress and the rose actually sucks out Roseluck's life, and lied to her to kill yet another pony she hates...

Because zebra's also lie.

Hey, makes sense!

Or maybe, the story never happened at all, and it's all a lie. Like the cake.

Anyway, hospitals don't tell you everything is fine when your family member is dying. That's a BIG HUGE TITANIC no-no. Working in a hospital as I do, I know this for a fact. Them's grounds for a lawsuit!

You monster. You horrible, disgusting, magnificent monster. I'm aware I'm a few months late and all, but I only now got to reading this, and since none of the other comments mentioned this I felt the need to point out what I thought was going on. And also because damn, man, that tag isn't there just for show.

Rose was pregnant, and lost the foal the day of the "spat".

The next section details the thought process a bit. Apologies for all the black.

Her illness, when the story started, was the first sign of this, and the hospital visits probably were there to confirm it. A month later, they have their spat. Ember comes home during the day, still upset about the hay. Rose mentions "it" will be ten months away, and how it will be nice it will be coming within a week of their anniversary. The pregnancy time for horses just happens to be eleven months. We don't know what exactly is going on, but Ember presumably kicks Rose, evidenced by the voice coming from behind, under him; the yelling and the metallic smell of blood. His reaction to the splatter of tomato borscht could be similar to him seeing the blood on their bathroom floor. But of course, to Ember this is all just a dream...

When Lily calls, it's clear Rose has been hurt bad. Rose might have been trying to clean the blood up, what with the blood in the sink. The next morning, when Ember is waiting for the doctor, he remarks how Rose seems to look smaller than she did before. At this point in her pregnancy, she wouldn't be showing that much at all, I don't think, but even a small change might have been noticeable by someone who lived with her. Especially if sudden. It is unclear whether or not Rose went to the hospital after the call from Lily, or if the foal, erm, got out in their bathroom, which Rose had been cleaning up. Either way, it seems the foal was gone the night after.

Tachycardia, increased heart rate, and syncope, fainting, could be related to the emotional distress something like losing your baby (and being attacked by your husband) would cause to her. Well, mainly loss of consciousness, but this is just coming off of some googling so take that with some salt. When the hospital called Ember, they insisted his wife was fine, but that he should speak with the doctor, presumably about the baby he seemed to not know about. When Ember finally showed up at the hospital, Rose wanted to tell him about the baby, and was surprised when he seemingly knew about it already.

And the magic rose... If we assume it reflected the love of the owner, and that black roses mean hatred and death... Yeah.

Ember killed his baby, killed his wife, and he never even seemed to realize what was going on.

THIS is unreliable narrator done well. THIS is tragedy done right. Those are two of my favourite things. I adore you for what you did here. I hate you for what you did here. Well done. Fuck you.

edit: Oh, also, did you happen to add that scene you mentioned to Present Perfect some weeks ago? If so, might I ask what the change was? Would be interesting to know if that was why folks didn't mention this possibility before.

5487014 Well done, thanks for pointing that! I'll just add that tachycardia and syncope were presumably related to blood loss.

Ah, yes, that would do that. Thanks.

Yeah, the changes here were a couple small spot edits and the entire dream scene. I kind of hate to admit it, but I'd originally written this much more loosely, and never really left many hints for a clear interpretation. I was focusing on just the narrative core, but not putting a lot of motivation or explanation behind it. I thought this worked pretty well at the time, and it had a pretty fun effect of causing most of the people who read it to develop their own theories about what happened.

When I sent it to EQD, though, my pre-reader said he wanted a clearer thread leaning toward explaining what happened—not, I should say, out of a dislike of ambiguity, but because he felt that me not being careful had actually laid the groundwork for a series of conflicting interpretations, none of which really satisfied because there was always some niggling leftover detail left unexplained. I let the story sit for a while and finally got back to it last month. I used what I thought were the most compelling ideas I'd seen readers come up with, and I tried to figure out how I could re-shade the story a bit to slip in a clearer interpretation. Which, honestly, wasn't easy. I liked the original progression of scenes a lot. That's one of the big reasons the new scene wound up being a dream sequence instead of a real scene from the story, because it let me place it inside the one transition I felt could best handle the change. It also made it possible to stay far enough back from the narrative that I wasn't forcing the domestic abuse interpretation on the reader, which was necessary to preserve the ending beat. I wanted readers to be able to buy the ending, but I didn't want them to expect it. The dream sequence basically let me layer two scenes in the same place and give all the detail I needed, without necessarily spoiling the game.

All in all, I'm really pleased with how it came out. This was my first time trying to tackle a story like this—a heavier subject, an unreliable narrator, and a much stronger focus on tone than most of my other stories. I think the EQD pre-reader was absolutely right about this; my original notion to leave this at surface-level detail was interesting for me, because it let me see how readers would interpret it, but I think it wasn't as good a story until I wrote the new scene.

As for your interpretation? I'm still a bit in the mindset of "I should let people read it and come to their own conclusions." Part of that is me thinking the story should stand on its own without authorial input. Part of that is me having had to get inside Ember's head to do the unreliable narration, and him not having a clear interpretation of what happened. Part of that is probably a bit of me just not wanting to face up to what I wrote. So I don't want to say yes or no to your ideas. I will say that almost everything you picked up on is something I put in there intentionally, though. I think there's only really one point I put in there that you didn't already discuss, and that point may be textual enough that it's not something that needs saying. But I suppose I ought to. Ember is afraid Rose is cheating on him with the doctor. She thinks he's handsome. She's been spending a lot of time with him. And the end of the story involves Ember having to ask the doctor to take her away, and having to deal with her in the doctor's space instead of in his own space. None of which says anything about whether there's anything between Rose and the doctor—because the only bit that really matters here is what's going on in Ember's head.

In any case, thanks for your wonderful comment, and I'm glad I could put together a story you liked (even if you do kind of hate me for writing it). :ajsmug:

Ah, yes, I was a bit worried that might have been the scene that was added. That would explain why it wasn't speculated about in the earlier comments. Thank you for sharing, it is interesting to hear how stories get shaped like that, at least to me. Might have to see if I can't find the earlier version with the wayback machine or something to spot the differences.

At least I would say you succeeded in not giving the ending away before its time, I was as shocked as Rose was when Ember grabbed the pillow. I hadn't suspected him of being an unreliable narrator, and on a surface-level his narration made sense, until the end when the rose was explained. I knew it was going to be a tragedy, but I completely bought the rose being tied to Rose's life and thought that was the, well, tragedy. Only the second read through made me stop and pay attention to Rose appearing smaller and after that all the other clues you had left, which lead to the horrible realization of what might have happened.

I absolutely agree that a story should be strong enough to stand on its own without the author having to explain it, and I would stay this story does. You mentioning the jealousy angle, though, made me realize that I didn't really wonder what caused Ember to do what he did as much as I wanted to know what had actually happened to Rose. I think part of it was already being attached to Rose before reading the story, and part of it is you making Ember's "descent" into madness, if not relatable, then understandable. Jealousy, the lies. It wasn't expected, but it did make sense at the end of the story. As an aside, I hadn't even considered the possibility of there having been something between the doctor and Rose myself, what with the possibility of there being a foal and all, but of course, as you say, the truth of the matter is irrelevant.

I think one mark of a good tragedy, or a story in general, is how it sticks with you after you've read it. For what it's worth (not very much), this one stuck with me for pretty much the rest of the day so far. Thank you for taking the time to reply and pull back the curtain a bit. A story should stand on its own, but it certainly doesn't mean I don't appreciate hearing the author's input. Even if they are a horrible, horrible author for making their readers feel bad.

No wayback machine needed!

You can find the original version of this (and a coupe other stories that got later revision) on my "Original Versions" collection.

I think this would have been a lot stronger if the pace was slowed down. The story really feels like it's rushed, and as a result I had trouble trying to absorb it.

This was plugged back when. It's been on my "read later" since.

I'm sorry.

What is it with you and bees?

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