• Published 30th Nov 2015
  • 1,911 Views, 78 Comments

Analemma - Miller Minus



Once every month, a mare appears on a remote beach, far from her home. She plays, she reads, she sleeps, and she wastes precious, precious time.

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8 – Introduction

Good news! I didn’t die. Which meant it was back to plan A! This was my last chance, and I didn’t muck around with last chances.

When I heard the familiar booming sound of Ol' Sunny warping in, I stood up nice and tall. I waited to hear the blue mare’s voice to come and ruin everything again, but when it didn’t, the show began.

I coughed. I hacked. I spit feathers. I didn’t even know I could do that. I made my whole tree shake just with my old, shambling lungs. After about two whole minutes of my best performance ever, I slumped down on the floor and waited for phase two of the plan: her phase. Pretty soon, she’d be up here searching for me. She’d be finding me. She’d be helping me.

That was, of course, assuming she had even noticed me. After two more whole minutes of waiting, I grumbled and peeked out the window to find her right where she warped in, not budged an inch.

I scowled. I huffed. I prepared for round two, and just as quickly as I readied my next cough, I just sort of let it go.

She was different today. She looked, well, dreadful. It looked like she hadn’t recovered from the little spat with her sister, and instead, just got worse. Her movements had gotten slower. Her head had gotten lower. And her eyes were welling up with tears that I could tell she would let go at any second.

When the tears came out, she raised her head and heaved out a breath, gazing at the exact spot she and her sister had sat last month. She wobbled out to it and sat down, half looking like she was returning to the scene of a crime, the other half looking like she was ready to bawl. She threw her foreleg over her eyes and wheezed. It was way more pitiful than whatever the heck I thought I was doing.

And my heart just absolutely collapsed watching her. Who did I think I was? Coughing and sputtering just for a speck of attention from the girl who clearly had other crap to deal with. She was crying, but I was the sook. I was dying just as normal as anyone else like me and I couldn’t take it. I had to have my problems sorted out for me.

I wanted to go out and see her. I didn’t know half of what was wrong, but things couldn’t be that bad. She just needed someone to remind her.

I raised a leg over the window and tried to pull myself up, but I couldn’t hack it. I grunted and hoisted myself again, but my old bones just melted against the windowsill. I planted my forehead against the wood and sighed.

Everything went quiet around me. There were no more waves crashing. The branches snapping behind me faded away. The seagulls, well, I think they shut up once and for all. There was just that barely crying mare, alone with her thoughts, alone with her life.

Wait, what was that about branches snapping?

I turned around and my heart stopped. Not actually, but it might as well have. Just outside the hole that Sunny so lovingly put in my wall, crouched along one of the branches, was an orange, furry little monster. It was frozen stiff, staring directly at me with red, glowing eyes. It looked like a ferocious statue, if statues were capable of licking their lips. I forced out a painful gulp as the monster skulked its way towards the hole.

That right there? That was my end. I had no strength to move. I had no armor against razor-sharp teeth. I was a delicious, free platter of meat. I had just accepted my death, sure, but I knew it wasn’t supposed to be like that.

The monster placed a paw on my floor and hopped inside. And within a few moments, I was being eaten.



















Oh, come on, not actually! How could I be saying this stuff? No, I was saved in the end. It was her, actually—not that she knew anything about it. All she had to do was utter a tiny little sentence between her staggered, pathetic inhales, and send me my signal.

“Oh… Why am I even here.”

The monster and I sneered. I gave it a cheeky wave, and it pounced.

Suddenly spry and fit, I vaulted the window and fell face first on the branch below. The monster smashed its filthy nose against the wood, and I made a little cheer in my head. I pulled myself along the branch, keeping upright by wrapping my legs around it. The bark scratched my body up something fierce, but the pain sort of went away when I felt the shaking of something much larger than me landing behind me.

The branch bowed as I got further out. I looked back and saw the monster salivating and keeping its balance infuriatingly well. It crept up on me, waiting for me to figure out I had nowhere to go. It was just a matter of time, after all, right?

Wrong!

I sat at the edge of the branch, snuck a glance down and saw the sobbing mess below me. My getaway tugboat. Her horn was glowing. Her spell was humming. And soon, she’d be gone. I looked back at the monster, gave it a wink, and fell backwards. It jumped after me, and I laughed in its face the whole way down.

I fell on her head, and I up and died on her face.
















Seriously this time.

***

Feathermint shuffled down the castle’s largest hallway having finished her latest thankless job. Dragging her hooves across the dusty carpet, she sidestepped here and there to avoid the patches of moonlight streaming through the windows. Her eyes were focused on a tired, old scrap of paper in her hoof, flittering slightly against the hallway’s stagnant air.

The two armored guards on either side of the castle’s largest doorway heard her hoofsteps echo between the stone walls, but tried their best to ignore them. They glued their eyes to the wall opposite them and propped their chins high, as they were instructed to do at all times the day before, and as they were determined to do whenever anyone was watching them.

Feathermint stopped in front of the closed door and brought the paper closer in. She forced out a long, laborious sigh. The orange guard on her left made an effort to clear his throat, and Feathermint tilted her head without averting her stare.

“Hi,” she muttered. “How ya holdin’ up?”

The guardsponies looked at each other, then down both directions of the hall, then back at the mare.

“Maids usually address guards like that in this castle?” the orange guard asked, eyeing the maid up and down. He nodded to his green partner to see if he knew her, but only got a head-shake back.

“No, but… you’re not guards.” Feathermint replied, finally taking her eyes off the page. “You new here?”

“Yes and no,” the green stallion on the right said with a tired smile. “Can we help you, young lady? The Princess is sleeping presently.”

The orange stallion shook his head. “Clem, you and I both know she’s not in there.”

“Not one for illusions, are you, Steady?” Clem shot back.

“Not one for lies.”

“Hey,” Feathermint interjected, waving the paper between the guards. “Speaking of lies. I dooooon’t want you to read this thing I found in the room down the hall.”

She extended the paper to Clem and gave him a cheeky wink. He winced and took the page in his magic. Clearing his throat for no reason, he withdrew a pair of reading glasses from his armor and placed them gently over his nose, causing his partner to snort.

Feathermint gasped at the green pony in the glasses. “Hey, I know you two. The suitors, right?”

“Used to be,” Steady answered. “The Princess isn’t really in the mood right now, though. And with the council disbanding and half the royal guard walking out on this place over the course of the week, the castle needed some subs.”

“Tough luck, eh?” the maid agreed, dusting the ground with her hoof. “It’s been a… weird week.”

“It’s been a weird year,” Steady grumbled. “Why are you working so late?”

“Oh, I’m just the only pony around here willing to clear out the, um… newly vacant... room. Don’t really know why. Nopony’ll ever use it again.”

“Makes sense.”

“Wouldn’t be right, right?”

“Wait, so you found that note in…” Steady paused when Feathermint lifted her eyebrows and nodded her head. “Whoa, Clem, what does it say?”

“Uhh… I really don’t think we should be reading this.”

“Says the guy who’s already finished. Read it.”

“Alright, alright.”

Clem cleared his throat twice.

Luna,

I am saddened that I was unable to say goodbye to you more personally, but I also understand your decision. Farewells are tough. You two probably know that better than me. Just know that I have cherished every moment with you and your sister, and that I am proud in advance for what you two will accomplish. I only have one piece of advice left that I selfishly hope you’ll carry with you forever.

Make sure your big sister doesn’t suck the fun out of everything when I’m gone.

Love always,
Grandma Ph—

A bomb went off in the bedchamber. Or if it didn't, something had done an awfully good impression. The door rattled against the frame and a cloud of dust puffed out from underneath.

The three ponies’ hearts jumped into their throats.

“What was that?!” Feathermint cried.

“Princess?!” the stallions shouted. They tackled either side of the door open and stumbled inside, where they discovered a confusing scene.

Princess Celestia was indeed in the room, perfectly intact, standing at the end of her untidy bed, and bathing in the moon’s stale glow. Her mouth and eyes were wide with shock as she stared fixed at the ceiling. A few hairs from her mane were stuck to her face just beneath her eyes. On her nose was a pile of gray ashes, and on the floor was a scattering of the rest. It was as if she had just avoided an assassination by incinerating her attacker where they stood.

But the strangest addition to the room of all was the orange fox under the bedside table, shaking like a cat pulled from an ice bath. When it saw the ponies looking at it in surprise, it darted underneath the bed and threw its paws over its head—its tail quivering underneath the hanging sheets.

“Are you… alright?” Clem managed to ask.

The Princess gradually turned her head to acknowledge the three ponies in the room, and the shock evaporated from her face. She let her head lower, and the remaining ash fell onto the floor. “I will be.”

She bent down to the floor, wiped the tears from her eyes and whispered, “Come out, little one. I know you’re in there.”

The three distressed ponies looked at their princess with breaking hearts. They weren't sure when or how it had started, but it was clear that their leader was showing signs of senility.

That was, until the ash answered.

It started with a spark. Then, it gathered itself together and glowed a faint orange and red. A flame ignited in the pile’s center and pushed the moonlight out of the room. Princess Celestia gestured for her ponies to come closer, but they shook their heads and stepped back instead.

Feathermint wrapped her foreleg around Steady’s. Clem stepped to the side and dragged the fox out from under the bed by its tail with his magic, not taking his eyes off the flame.

Steady gulped and raised a hoof to step forward, but didn’t. “Princess, st-ah… step away f-from—”

“It’s fine,” she assured. “Just watch.”

The fire swirled in place, gathering the rest of the ashes into its flame and rising into the air. Celestia shielded her eyes, and the other three ponies did the same. The fire spun faster and faster and hissed in excitement, before vanishing outward in a flash of light.

The three ponies gasped, and the fox – hovering in the air by its tail – yiped. The four of them kept their eyes shut tight until they heard their princess faintly gasp.

The heat had gone, but the fire was still there. Hovering in the center of the room was an exotic bird as colorful as the flame that birthed it. It spread its wings wide, cawed tremendously, and grew a satisfied grin. Its wings flapped with powerful force, sending sparks and fire downward, yet somehow setting nothing ablaze.

The three attendants and the fox gawked, and while no-one was watching, Celestia’s smile returned.

“That wasn’t so bad, was it?” she said. She could have been addressing anyone in the room, but the bird accepted it anyways, nodding its head in agreement.

Her movements slow, the princess crouched down and approached the red animal, making sure it was watching her the whole time. When she was close enough to touch it, she bowed her head and lifted her hoof.

“Princess!” Clem protested, but she didn’t respond.

The bird perched itself on her leg and cawed again. It stretched its wings out and awkwardly wrapped them around the princess’s head, nuzzling its cheek against hers.

“Aww...,” Feathermint cooed.

Celestia giggled and whispered something to her new friend. When it let go, she wiped what was left of the tears from her face and let out a final sniff. “Would you like to be outside?” she asked the bird. “It’s a beautiful night.” Her horn brightened, and the window next to the bed unlatched.

The cold December air filtered into the room, and the fox whimpered.

The bird’s eyes flashed. Without warning, it zoomed towards the attendants and stopped right in front of the animal, sending several sparks into its cringing face. It waited for the fox to open its eyes and then blew its tongue in its face. The fox yelped and wrenched itself out of Clem’s magic, landing harshly on the floor and sprinting into the hallway.

"Wait! Come back!" Clem called after, and exited in a hurry.

The bird cackled and spun into a double barrel roll, before shooting out the window like a firework with wings.

Celestia galloped after it. She turned back to the attendants and did a poor job of suppressing the grin spreading across her face. "Come see," she implored.

"I'm good here," Steady said flatly.

Celestia turned back to the window and opened it up enough to poke her head outside. A swift breeze swirled around the room and swept up a scrap of old paper off the floor. It danced behind Steady, between him and Feathermint, then finally floated in front of the castlemaid's face. She snatched out of the air, brought it in and examined it one last time, then let go of the stallion and trotted to her princess's side.

“...Princess Celestia?” she uttered.

“Yes, Feathermint?”

“Who’s… Philomena?”

The Princess's smile faded. She closed her eyes and her head dropped low. She breathed one long breath—five seconds in and five seconds out. “I’m not sure,” she responded, raising her head and reclaiming her smile. “We’ve only just met.”

And she laughed—not very hard, but longer than anyone in the room expected.

Comments ( 62 )

Don't forget your black highlighter!

welp. Did not expect that. Well played good sir/madam.

And that was very unexpected, in a great way. For fanfic, it's always more satisfying when you tap into the resources already present. This was a good example. Thank you for the read.

12 likes? This story need more attention!
Very good story with happy end!

6692351
6692469
6693871
6698829

Thanks for reading, everyone!

Definitely a good story! Faintly confused at the ending - was Philomena always a bird, or did she get transfigured at the end?

6704326

Don't forget your black highlighter!

It's what happened at the end of S1E22. Thanks for reading! :twistnerd:

6704738

I got that part, I was more wondering if she was always a phoenix, because perspective-wise she seems to be implying she's a pony up till that point

6706422 At what point did she imply that?

6706606

It could just be audience assumption. All the bits about houses, I suppose!

6706767 Hmmmmm. See, I was definitely going for audience assumption there, but I want to make sure I'm not being misleading. I think I'll have a read through before I submit this to EQD to make sure none of that is going on. Thanks or your help!

Hi there mr. Author. Miller minus, are you perhaps an Australian? Mayyyybe English? And Chapter seven, those two ponies Househead and Greenchart sure do *sound* the mysterious sort.

So
Very
Unidentifiably
Mysterious
And
Courtly



<(0)>

So how long have you been holding this stretch of words in? Just how long?

6736298 I'm Canadian, actually. Almost the other side of the world :raritywink: Where are you from?

Let's see... I started this story back in the end of September so I'd say I had the idea for about two months. I, um.... I think that's what you were asking.

Thanks for reading!

6736326

Is that what you TH1NK!?

And I jumped over to your other story. A nice dragon you found there. I've always been secretly partial to this sort. Guilty pleasures, non?

[youtube=http://m.youtube.com/watch?list=PLDFE370B41E29ACB8&v=Gwe0UmYwKiw]

Holla holla get dolla. Green back presidents specifically.

6736376 Oh wow, that's an old one....

Welp, she'll turn up again in some of my upcoming stories, so I hope you'll stick around. :moustache:

Heh. Well played.

I just realised I accidentally fave'd this story without a comment.

This certainly was a fun read. As 6690477 mentioned earlier, this kind of story seems to have a distinctive set of characteristics and I twigged onto the fact that all was not as it initially seemed. However, the ending still took me by surprise; I thought the narrator was a griffon until the denouement at the end.

My only (very minor) gripe was that the ending felt a bit narrator fiat ass-pull. The narrator's... err... narration was sufficiently vague enough to introduce ambiguity, but it felt too ambiguous. I never got the feeling I could reread the story with the ending in mind and see things, words, actions,.. in a different light. It is all broad, general brush-strokes.

That being said, I really enjoyed this story!
:twilightsmile:

6770880 That's an excellent point! I guess bird metaphors can only go so far. :derpytongue2:

Cheers!

Excellent story. Has a good vibe, keeps the identity of the narrator a mystery quite well (though it may have been just me), and there's some cryptic stuff going on, which is always nice. Good job! :duck:

I'd discuss my questions here, but I'd rather not spoil for anyone else. :raritywink:

6706606 6706767
It's definitely the bits about houses, because that makes no sense at all given the narrator is a phoenix. In multiple chapters it's very clear about referring to the structure as a "house", and in chapter 5 it mentions "The rain blew in from the open window" and identifies the structure as being constructed out of boards. I suppose hypothetically it could be a birdhouse, but that implies it was actively constructed by a pony for Philomena's sake, which raises its own set of unanswered questions.

Things like the size comparison in chapter 1 are clever misdirections in hindsight, but the house just feels like a lie. If you're still editing this that's the one part that needs to be addressed.

That said, the narration here is unique and the story's accumulated mysteries are engaging. Thank you for a good read. :twilightsmile:

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

AW SNAP

I didn't figure it out until halfway through the chapter, but that was an excellent read. :D

6792846

i.imgur.com/FJM2IcY.gif

Yes, it is a house. I think I just need to point out a little more that it's a bit big for her. That's just a chapter one thing, and chapter one is malleable as hell.

Once I get the time, that'll be the first thing I do. Thanks for the insight, Horizon. :moustache:

6803636

Thanks for stopping by, sir! And I'm super grateful for your pointing out of my typos (though one was on purpose!)

:heart:

Comment posted by Miller Minus deleted Jan 6th, 2016

6803636

reactiongifs.com/r/agtmbomg.gif

>Me when I opened my notifications.

Thanks for the watch!

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

6805078
Typos? I see no typos! :V

On her nose was a pile of gray ashes, and on the floor was a scattering of the rest.

When I read that, I laughed like a maniac for a good five minutes.

Well, that certainly was a confusing read. I'm not altogether sure what to make of it. I mean, I get what happens in it and who it involves, but I honestly don't have the slightest idea how to feel about it.

6824048 Thanks for reading anyhow :twilightsmile:

Whaaaaaaaat it's an origin story for Philomena?? Ha! Didn't see that one coming at all. I thoroughly enjoyed this Miller. I'm a sucker for Celestia anyway but I liked your portrayal of her here. You gave her a mystique while still making her relatable, showing a princess who wants to do the right thing but like so many of us finds she mucks it up.

Reading through the comments, I want to say that I had no issue with Philomena's house. I thought it was clear from the outset it was a regular sized tree house, and while I wasn't sure what creature the narrator was, by about halfway through I was confidant it was a smaller animal. Celestia never hears her making noise and even walks right into the tree house without noticing her.

Anyhoo, good work Miller!

6847763 Oh, careful! Please use a spoiler tag when you talk about that stuff :twilightsheepish: people might scroll down too early.

I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I'm super excited by your comment because I actually just fixed the houses problem, and it sounds like it worked! The issue before I think was that I accidentally referred to the tree house as a house at first, only to later on mention it was in a tree. *facepalm*

6847893
Oops! Fixed. ^.^
Ah good to hear! I think the mention of wombats also helped, oddly enough, because it made me think of the narrator being a bat, which is small. Weird eh?

Hello!

Grand Moff Pony here on behalf of the group You Might Like This. I wanted to let you know that your story was featured in one of our monthly recommendation posts.

Thank you for sharing your story with the community, and have a great day! :twilightsmile:

-GMP

Oh my, that has to be the best twist I have seen in ages. I knew something was coming, but the way you handled that reveal was masterful, particularly how it ties up all manners of loose ends and strange things in the narration. Thank you very much for writing this fic!

Just one question: Why is Philomena afraid/worried about dying? I'd expect that to be pretty normal for a phoenix. I'd understand if it was her first time, but she also has this weird obsession with mortality and "wasting time" (a recurring theme of the fic) that makes this reasoning kinda hard for me to believe.

6868867 Thank you very much for reading! And thanks for the watch! :pinkiegasp:

Just one answer: It's a bit of misdirection here, but everything she says has a reason, even in Backlash. Like you said, it's her first time, which is why she's both afraid of it and able to joke about it. The reason she was upset with the time-wasting is because, basically, dying to a phoenix is like going through a terrible, months-long flu that leaves them too weak to do anything but look after themselves. So while she's busy wishing she could be flying back home, she's having to watch PC frolic about without a care in the world, and not doing anything productive. She's just as immortal as Philomena, but she gets to "skip the whole process".

#50thcomment

6869297 Yeah, that makes sense – and really adds another dimension to the whole thing. It is great to see how thought went into integrating the plot threads.

Dangit, I ruined it for myself. I ruined it for myself the moment I didn't understand the ending. I thought the narrator pegasus/other flying creature was incinerated and turned into a phoenix. Then, I thought it would be a great idea to read the comment section, and now I just feel dumb. How did I miss it so bad?

I've got more salt in me that Gandhi's Salt March right now. Great story by the way. Why am I so mad about this? Uhh. I should've chosen a reading time less close to sleep so that I can actively read and enjoy this piece of art. I should get some sleep right now. It also might have helped to have remembered this was a mystery story.

I haven't read the story yet, but already I can tell that you're obsessed with the number eight. Well, I'm obsessed with fourteen. :moustache:

Love that explanation of teleportation magic you gave in the RCL interview.

Ooh, that was clever! And satisfying, also. The narrative voice was really impressive, too, though one tiny point: I've never heard an Aussie use the phrase "well silly", and I used to watch a lot of Australian soaps. It comes across as British English to me. As for the reveal itself, I suspected "phoenix" after a few chapters, when Philomena's cough was getting worse -- maybe because "A Bird in the Hoof" is, unfashionably, a favourite episode of mine, so I remember its details. That didn't affect my enjoyment of the story -- it just meant I wasn't surprised by the final chapter. Also, I actually knew what "analemma" meant, so that was another clue! :rainbowwild:

My next story isn't going to have such a spoiler-ific twist. I'm seeing black bars when I close my eyes...

6885335

Thanks for the read and the comment! Also for that point you made: Research can only take you so far, huh? I should have spent a year down under before writing this.

6884602

Me too, omg.

6884569

14, huh? Can't say I rel8.

The best part about the whole theme is that Analemma is 8 letters and it's also my eighth story. Because I didn't realize those until after it was posted.

Well, congrats on the sudden attention. I certainly didn't expect that to happen when I read it a few weeks ago. Personally, I still have no strong feelings about it. It seems like one of those things that are artsy for artsiness' sake. There's nothing bad about it, but I honestly don't think it's outstanding enough to deserve being singled out like that, either.

6885763

Thanks... for reading... anyhow? :twilightsheepish:

6885795
:derpytongue2: Yeah, you too.

Damn, but you're a clever one.

Hey there! GMP here, on behalf of the Everfree Northwest Fanfic Team. I wanted to let you know that your story was featured in our latest Fanfic Spotlight post!

You can check it out here.

Congratulations, and thank you for sharing such a wonderful story with the community. Well done!

Cheers! :twilightsmile:
GMP

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