• Member Since 2nd Jan, 2012
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Ardashir


T

This story is a sequel to My Little Balladeer


It was a few years ago that Twilight Sparkle and the Element Bearers sought for aid against a threat from beyond their world, and found it in the person of John the Balladeer. After the threat was defeated he was returned to his world, and Twilight has been searching for her human friend ever since.

Now with Princess Luna's aid she's found him in dreams. Dreams dark and terrible, and haunted by enemies both alien and frightfully familiar.

And this time she and John are alone.

MLP:FiM (c) Lauren Faust and Hasbro; John the Balladeer and associated beings (c) the estate of Manly Wade Wellman.

Chapters (21)
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Comments ( 124 )

Well, my curiosity has officially been whetted. Now I play the waiting game...

8759586
Thanks. It'll be a day or three right now; I want to stretch this out a bit.

An interesting beginning, and - now that I'm thinking of it - a very plausible route to bring John and the ponies back in touch; I'm eagerly awaiting what comes next!

I'm guessing each of the sorcerers who summoned Nightmare Moon are from real history? I recognize Bathory and Dee, but not the others?

8760421
Ed Kelly was Dee's assistant in Dee's attempts at conjuring angels. Hree's his entry on Wikipedia. In real life he was a fraud who conned Dee, at least IMHO, but in this world Dee actually worked a real summoning which scared the daylights out of Kelly!

'Loewe' is the legendary version of Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel, who supposedly the Golem of Prague (which is where Nightmare Moon was summoned too). I did wonder about the idea of the Nightmare Forces being something like demons or evil ghosts, and what use they could have made of the soulless and invulnerable body of the Golem, but I doubt I'll get to that story.

And as for the man with the cat-headed staff?

Thanks for commenting!

Because of his situation, it makes sense for that word to be there. Just don’t have the heroes say it, and I won’t hold it against you.

Huh. There's saving to be done on all sides, apparently.

8771575
There is indeed, and thanks for the new comment.

She leaned in close and Spike followed suit, her lovely flowery scent caressing him as she pressed close – and yelled into his ear in Luna’s Royal Canterlot Voice.

SPIKE THE DRAGON! AWAKE IMMEDIATELY!”

I like that there's some humor to keep the story from getting too grimdark.

... argh, I know you told me once upon a time, but I wish I'd listened when you told me where I could find these books. They sound like they'd be right up my alley.

8789052
Which books? If you mean the John the Balladeer ones then I'm afraid they went back out of print; interlibrary loan will be your best bet unless you want to spend a few hundred bucks for used copies of Who Fears The Devil?

Though if you have Kindle the last I looked you can get the collection there for about $5.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

8788907
Yeah, you need to put a few laughs in with even the darkest stories. People need to breathe in relief once in a while.

That and it makes the next scare have even more impact.

I kinda have been imagining this guy speaking in Stevie Ray Vaughn's voice.
I looked up Long Lost Friend, and wonder if anyone really did brew the beer recipe mentioned in it...

8793053
I'm not very familiar with Mr. Vaughn; and have to admit I really didn't think of any particular voice he'd be speaking in other than a soft, cultured, and creepy one.

I confused this for a few minutes with Trill Coster's sin-eating, where Evadare took her sins, and I wondered how the dream would go with Twilight accompanying John in Evadare's place.

Perhaps fortunately for all concerned, it was another of John's memories - but I don't remember whether this's from any of the stories in specific?

Oooh, I am getting some serious horror vibes now. And I love it.

8810181
In the hopes I don't blow anything this is from the 'sorta-canon' Silver John story Sin's Doorway. John was originally alone in that one.

And wow, someone else who has read 'Trill Coster's Burden'! I can say without blowing any of the plot that eventually (not anytime soon), Evadare and Reuben Manco will get more involved in the plot, and so will some of the monsters from Southern mountain folklore.

8810412
Thanks! I hope the payoff in a few days will be to your liking as well.

8811883 Ah yes - a quick Google tells me that's the one where the protagonist is unnamed and Wellman only said outside the story that he's John before he started carrying his guitar? I haven't read it; looking forward to what you do with the rest of the story, and also to seeing Evadare herself!

Oh my. Y'know, it's pretty damn ominous for the likes of Sombra and Tirek to be on that list like that.

8818770
They were on the same list back in the first of these stories, so they got mentioned here too.

And I have the idea that the Letters of Cold Fire (the book's 'real' name) may be kinda-sapient, or at least able to adapt itself to the person currently reading it so it can better tempt them.

8819905
Well, it did need to be killed/put to rest in order to stop it. Would make sense for it to be an intelligent artifact of evil.

“Yore Nightjesty...

I dunno why, but that just broke me. I had to stop and snicker at that.

Of course, then everything turned sideways and Twilight tried being the Princess of Friendship at Pure Evil with predictable results. Oh Twilight.

8819905
I've got this crazy idea on how one could try to kill that book with something far short of the Elements of Harmony-namely, a runescape shade burning ritual.

I dunno. a Focused Nightmare Moon against the Shonokin may be more than they can handle...

8831160
Twi is a good-hearted and trusting mare, but she has a tendency to get blindsided by truly and utterly malevolent beings.

8831532
It may be a few days before this continues, but wait and see what happens with NMM and the Shonokin.

8831202
Thanks for the suggestion. Unfortunately I have no idea what that ritual is.

Here comes the start of my belated commentary:

Canterlot spread out beneath her, a city of faience and ivory and gold, with most of the damage done by the usurper’s not brief enough reign already repaired.

This is one of the best establishing sentences I've ever read; and one of the best quick descriptions of Canterlot. You not only describe the city in terms of its colors and materials, but also as a place in which things actually happen (usurpers attack, causing damage which is now mostly repaired) rather than a timeless travelogue; hence making it feel more like a real place.

“Sorry! Sorry, everypony!” the purple Alicorn Minor raced through their midst, ears pinned and neck outstretched. She panted the words out, and they could smell the sweat from her hurried flight. “In! A hurry! Got to reach! The Princesses!”

I like this both as description of emotional affect by character and xenofiction. Her haste and concern are clear, and she is in part expressing them and having them understood by the guards in ways different from how it would be were the characters Humans rather than Ponies.

Likewise, the (literal) spear-carrier Guards characters are well-done -- you show something of their personalities in their brief appearances, and make the reader feel that Twilight Sparkle is moving through a real world which exists in its own right rather than merely being a backdrop for her adventures. This is especially important considering how much of this adventure will take place in an actual dream-world, albiet one based directly on John's real adventures.

Likewise, the difference in the reactions between the Guards in the outer parts of the palace and the servants who routinely deal with Celestia and Luna is well-conceived. Obviously, they would be less-awed by the sight of an Alicorn Minor.

That's a good point: if Saddle Arabia is an Arabian (and probably pagan-Arabian) analogue culture, then they would revere the Moon, and hence their art would be appropriate decor for Luna's office.

I love the way you have Luna slowly materialize out of starry darkness. That is perfect for the Moon Princess -- especially given her love of eerie melodrama.

I like the contrast between the young, impatient Twilight Sparkle and the ancient, immortal Luna, who is only in a hurry when she really wants to be.

“There is more than one human world, as there is more than one Equestria. Some wondrous as Paradise Valley, some terrible as what Tirek would have made of our land, some as mundane as our own. The one through that portal echoes ours, as ours may echo others.”

This is a good concept of resonant parallel worlds, including the idea that some worlds may be real in themselves and yet fictional in the opinion of other worlds. This justifies whatever crossovers one desires to write. Heinlein used the notion well in Number of the Beast; I wish he had lived long enough to make more extensive employment of it.

Luna looked up at one of the walls; Twilight followed her gaze to a painting hanging on the wall – an old, old painting of a white alicorn with dark red mane and tail and a quill-and-inkwell cutie mark.

Good use of the Fausticorn!

"'Twas why I took on the search for thy friend. There are many worlds, but only one Dream-realm.

This allows a mechanismfor such crossovers, and also partly explains why a real other world might figure in the fiction of another real other world. Its dream-imprint would spark the imaginations of artists, poets and writers.

Though I explicitly use the demonic-possession theory of how Princess Luna became Nightmare Moon, it makes less difference than one might think, because I also assume that Luna in jealousy and hatred invited the Night Shadow into herself in order to gain power over Celestia. This is why my Luna also feels extreme guilt and shame for the sins she committed as Nightmare Moon.

Vanilla canon supports the idea that Luna actually did something seriously wrong of her own free will, else why would she feel the need to atone for her prior actions -- as she very obviously does, in the Season One Premiere and in "Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep." Luna isn't stupid: if she had merely been manipulated like a puppet by some wholly external force, she would have felt bad that she had been used in this fashion to harm other Ponies, but she wouldn't so deeply blame herself.

Indeed, in my stories even when Luna is actively possessed by the Night Shadow, it is only able to retain full control of her when it allows her to give vent to her darker desires. When Luna actively resists the Night Shadow, their common body freezes indecisively, which is my explanation for why Twilight and her friends were able to defeat her. A notion which I originally got from Pinkie's comment in My Little Balladeer -- Luna actually didn't want to kill them, and was fighting the impulse, whether it came from her own dark side or from a Night Shadow, to do so.

There were humans, one named Dee who didst summon me, and another called Kelly, I think. More humans later as I sought to find something to use ‘gainst my sister – a deluded king, a cruel and arrogant noble-mare named Bathory who I remember with disfavor; frauds and fakes pretending to magic, and one with no need to pretend named Loewe. Old and bearded as Star Swirl and with a great giant made of earth, invincible and unstoppable, that I sought to use.” She shook herself. “At the end one more, a tall lean man in black with a hard face and a staff bearing a cat’s head. He wounded me and drove me back into my own realm.

Good references to John Dee and Ned Kelly, the bloody Countess Bathory, Rabbi Lowe of Prague (and his Golem), and Solomon Kane. Who, though, is the "deluded king?"

8854547
First of all, thanks for commenting here! I'm always glad to read what you have to say.

I like the contrast between the young, impatient Twilight Sparkle and the ancient, immortal Luna, who is only in a hurry when she really wants to be.

I figure Alicorn Twilight will be like that too in another few centuries.

“There is more than one human world, as there is more than one Equestria. Some wondrous as Paradise Valley, some terrible as what Tirek would have made of our land, some as mundane as our own. The one through that portal echoes ours, as ours may echo others.”

This is a good concept of resonant parallel worlds, including the idea that some worlds may be real in themselves and yet fictional in the opinion of other worlds. This justifies whatever crossovers one desires to write. Heinlein used the notion well in Number of the Beast; I wish he had lived long enough to make more extensive employment of it.

Hmm, I read part of NotB years ago but I missed or forgot that part. I was mostly just working off of the many fiction and nonfiction books (with the latter being the really weird ones) on parallel worlds.

"'Twas why I took on the search for thy friend. There are many worlds, but only one Dream-realm.

This allows a mechanism for such crossovers, and also partly explains why a real other world might figure in the fiction of another real other world. Its dream-imprint would spark the imaginations of artists, poets and writers.

Again, mostly going off of several books I've read that had/suggested that the Dream realm can brush up against most if not all words that have beings that can dream in them. I imagine this version of Luna has met other-dimensional beings before in Dream, though so many of them were dangerous and as such best kept far away from Equestria.

8854576
Though I explicitly use the demonic-possession theory of how Princess Luna became Nightmare Moon, it makes less difference than one might think, because I also assume that Luna in jealousy and hatred invited the Night Shadow into herself in order to gain power over Celestia. This is why my Luna also feels extreme guilt and shame for the sins she committed as Nightmare Moon.

Vanilla canon supports the idea that Luna actually did something seriously wrong of her own free will, else why would she feel the need to atone for her prior actions -- as she very obviously does, in the Season One Premiere and in "Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep." Luna isn't stupid: if she had merely been manipulated like a puppet by some wholly external force, she would have felt bad that she had been used in this fashion to harm other Ponies, but she wouldn't so deeply blame herself.

I agree, and sorry if I failed to get that across. Luna feels deeply ashamed of giving in to her envy and need for attention the way she did; whatever it was that turned her into Nightmare Moon, it only did so because she accepted what it offered. Se feels even more ashamed and grateful she was beaten when she thinks that if she did what seemed so logical at the time and create Eternal Night she would have killed all life on Equestria. Thus part of her reason for creating the Tantibus in the show: everypony else may have forgiven her, but she can't.

At the same time she wants to regard the Nightmare as something she could just cut away, and she's been pushing a lot of her anger and hubris 'into' the Tantibus. I think she's had more than one dream where she destroys the Nightmare and some where it consumed her entirely.

Indeed, in my stories even when Luna is actively possessed by the Night Shadow, it is only able to retain full control of her when it allows her to give vent to her darker desires. When Luna actively resists the Night Shadow, their common body freezes indecisively, which is my explanation for why Twilight and her friends were able to defeat her. A notion which I originally got from Pinkie's comment in My Little Balladeer -- Luna actually didn't want to kill them, and was fighting the impulse, whether it came from her own dark side or from a Night Shadow, to do so.

Yes, and thanks for letting me know I influenced your own work every slightly. Luna was fighting from inside; even when consumed by her own darkness her conscience wouldn't let her just destroy everyone who defied her.

There were humans, one named Dee who didst summon me, and another called Kelly, I think. More humans later as I sought to find something to use ‘gainst my sister – a deluded king, a cruel and arrogant noble-mare named Bathory who I remember with disfavor; frauds and fakes pretending to magic, and one with no need to pretend named Loewe. Old and bearded as Star Swirl and with a great giant made of earth, invincible and unstoppable, that I sought to use.” She shook herself. “At the end one more, a tall lean man in black with a hard face and a staff bearing a cat’s head. He wounded me and drove me back into my own realm.

Good references to John Dee and Ned Kelly, the bloody Countess Bathory, Rabbi Lowe of Prague (and his Golem), and Solomon Kane. Who, though, is the "deluded king?"

The latter would be Emperor Rudolf of the Holy Roman Empire, the supposed 'divine king' of the 16th century Rosicrucians. At least according to Frances Yates. In background he tried commanding the Nightmare on the grounds that he was the Emperor and she owed him submission. Nightmare Moon was not amused. He lived, but for a long time he wished he hadn't. Not that the Nightmare hurt him physically. She just played around in his dreams and mind to teach him some manners.

I also got the idea of all those people other than Kane being at Rudolf's court from a historical fantasy book I read years ago; I very much doubt some of them ever were there in real life. Bathory probably never visited Prague; and she might have been a little creepy even for Nightmare Moon. Hell, I think monsters like Chrysalis or Sombra would have found her revolting.

8854547
I also hope you will have something to say about the chapter where Twilight and Luna see John's Korea, as well as her introduction to the Red Lands here. According to what my editor has told me, it's something from the real world. Whatever that may mean with dreams, anyway. it's something seen in dreams and nightmares by a LOT of veterans who saw battle.

I like the glimpses of Mane Six dreams, especially

Rarity granting her dresses as gifts to all her friends, with a flickering image beside her, first of a handsome pony-prince, and then of an older and well-dressed Spike…

:rainbowlaugh: Rarity can't quite make up her mind!

and, aside from the Mane Six

Tirek roared laughter above her as she struggled to rise from the blasted earth. Her friends, Discord, even the Princesses, all lay about her. She’d tried everything, but none of it was any good. He’d consumed her magic along with everypony else’s and now he was going to take all the magic in Equestria, even the life that expressed that magic, until all was a dead wasteland of dry bones and withered dead trees on a plain of sterile white ash and only Tirek remained, bloated like a massive gorged spider forever and ever and –

It says a lot about Tirek that this is his fond hope! When I first read it, I thought it was someone else's fear.

“I have done exploring of my own, such as I have not done since long before my fall, and pushed my Dream-Map outwards in all directions."

The notion of such a map, and what it would contain, is fascinating.

She laid there on the floor, a pillow under her head. A silvery string or cord came from her body to her. She didn’t see where or how it connected, but when she tugged on it she felt it inside her, somehow.

The classic "silver cord" for astral travel.

"Do you see into everypony’s dreams? Err, you don’t watch them all, do you?” She blushed. “I’ve had some that…”

Luna silenced her with a hoof on her lips.

“I am no voyeur, Twilight,” she smiled. “I have seen much in dreams that I politely forget.”

This has occurred to me as well. Luna would have to be fairly professional about her attitude toward erotic dreams, or she would spend all her time embarrassing others and being embarrassed in return. I had her say something of the sort to Rarity in Post-Traumatic.

Likewise, all other sorts of vivid and extreme dreams. For instance, it would be very hard for a surrealist artist to impress her, unless he was something very special.

8859093
It says a lot about Tirek that this is his fond hope! When I first read it, I thought it was someone else's fear.

Given what we saw of him in the show, that feels like what he'd want. I imagine the dreams of the other villains would be equally grim.

And yeah, I can see the possibilities in Luna's dream map. I suppose that simply keeping up with the dreams of Equestria's ponies keeps her very busy, else she would have done even more exploring. She's also careful; she knows there are dangerous beings out there in the dream realm (she was one herself for centuries) and she does not want to lead any of them back to Equestria's corner of Dream.

:rainbowlaugh: Rarity can't quite make up her mind!

Or she has made up her mind on her fantasy of being swept off her hooves by a handsome prince, and is finally starting to see Spike as that prince.

This has occurred to me as well. Luna would have to be fairly professional about her attitude toward erotic dreams, or she would spend all her time embarrassing others and being embarrassed in return. I had her say something of the sort to Rarity in Post-Traumatic.

Likewise, all other sorts of vivid and extreme dreams. For instance, it would be very hard for a surrealist artist to impress her, unless he was something very special.

I strongly suspect Luna's pretty blase by now about what she sees in dreams. I imagine she found some horrid fantasies of revenge by, say, the CMC and other foals against Diamond Tiara until her redemption. And they'd be far from the worst. Twilight and other ponies might be shocked at what some of their friends have done in dreams without even being aware of it. I.e., 'bad men do what good men only dream of'. I imagine Luna has insight into pony and other sapient minds beyond that of almost any mundane psychiatrist.

And concerning erotic dreams, heh, yeah. If Luna were lustier she could have experienced some intense things in dreams she's seen.

8859093
By the way, what do you think of something another friend of mine told me, that Sunset Shimmer can count herself lucky the world mirror didn't send her to a world like Silver John's? I myself doubt she would have done at all well (o maybe done too well) as an apprentice to someone like Rowley Thorne or any of the evil sorcerers from Wellman's stories.

“The Red Lands?” Twilight raised her voice as she spoke. That nonstop rumbling was getting louder as they walked, even as the cold grew worse. “What are they?”

“They are a realm within Dream,” Luna answered her, her own voice rising. The rolling thunder was now loud enough to be painful, slamming into her body as well as her eardrums. “All those who remember great violence and death in their nightmares touch upon this place.”

I like this concept, of all severe wars being similar enough that their dream-projections are a class.

I was recently reading that the Tolkien Estate is coming out with J. R. R. Tolkien's Gondolin, which he actually first conceived and started writing around the time of the Battle of the Somme (1916) -- obviously, not when he was actually engaged, but during rest periods and his convalescence after being wounded. And what I find interesting about this is that the Fall of Gondolin as related in the Silmarillion includes some absolutely nightmarish battle-sequences, almost certainly inspired by Tolkien's military experience.

So Tolkien's dreams of Middle-Earth in part grew from his nightmares of the Great War.

Twilight Sparkle is no stranger to epic-scale violence, particularly after her battle with Tirek. But she is a stranger to really large-scale and protracted epic-scale violence, such as is offered both by real mass battles and even more so by their dream-echoes (which can be even worse than the reality, since they aren't as limited by logistics or morale).

And Twilight Sparkle looked down into Tartarus itself.

GREAT concluding line for the chapter.

8861791
Thanks for yet more comments! I always appreciate what you have to say.

I like this concept, of all severe wars being similar enough that their dream-projections are a class.

My editor told me about this, how apparently there is a commonality to the dreams many war veterans have: a desert of red sand and rust, filled with shattered vehicles and corpses.

I was recently reading that the Tolkien Estate is coming out with J. R. R. Tolkien's Gondolin, which he actually first conceived and started writing around the time of the Battle of the Somme (1916) -- obviously, not when he was actually engaged, but during rest periods and his convalescence after being wounded. And what I find interesting about this is that the Fall of Gondolin as related in the Silmarillion includes some absolutely nightmarish battle-sequences, almost certainly inspired by Tolkien's military experience.

So Tolkien's dreams of Middle-Earth in part grew from his nightmares of the Great War.

Yes; I remember a book some years ago that was part Tolkien biography and part description of the Battle of the Somme; we Americans tend to think of WW2 and Vietnam as being the 'worst ever', but the descriptions of what men saw in the Somme in 1916 (or Korea in 1950) are every bit as nightmarish. The Somme might have been worse if only because it was all so new then, the mechanization of war, and even more terrifying.

Twilight Sparkle is no stranger to epic-scale violence, particularly after her battle with Tirek. But she is a stranger to really large-scale and protracted epic-scale violence, such as is offered both by real mass battles and even more so by their dream-echoes (which can be even worse than the reality, since they aren't as limited by logistics or morale).

The sort of mass death Twi is about to see is probably beyond the imagining of any creature from Equestria, with the possible exceptions of the Princesses and Discord, and maybe some elder dragons like Torch who can remember when Erebor-scale city sackings were still possible for a dragon. And even the fighting that seems to have happened when the Princesses defeated Sombra, while terrible enough then and even more so to ponies who are fortunate enough to live in a prolonged peace, wasn't on this scale.

It being a dream will make it more nightmarish, but at the same time there will be a layer of unreality that will help protect her sanity.

And Twilight Sparkle looked down into Tartarus itself.

GREAT concluding line for the chapter.

Thanks, I'm glad that line impressed you. I got it partly from one uncle of mine who handled a landing ship on Omaha Beach on D-Day. He always said that the man who said war was hell must not have known any worse cuss words that that.

Chapter 2

This was a really awesome, epic and horrific dream-version of Chosin Reservoir. From what I've read, the real battle was every bit as nightmarish as well, in its own way. (And of course, even a really good written description, such as you've published here, can only convey a hint of the real horrors of such an event).

On the rocky ridge behind her were men that looked something like John as she remembered, but younger. Young as those human-shaped ponies from Canterlot High.

One of the dreadful things about war, in reality, is that it is mostly fought by extremely young men. Generally speaking, 17-22, with mid-twenties fairly old for frontline infantry and thirties worthy of being nicknamed "Grandpa" or something like that. Most men who die in battle haven't completed their first quarter-century of life.

It's sobering, in the MLP context, to be reminded that many of the Marines fighting at Chosin would have been no older than Flash Sentry. Some, even younger.

“John told me he’d seen war, but I, I thought it was like what I heard Shiny telling Mom and Dad about that one time with those raiding minotaurs, not like, like this.”

And to take the obvious examples when Twilight actually fought alongside her brother, the Changeling attack on Canterlot was mainly meant to take captives and on the Pony side physically expel invaders rather than kill (though some Changelings and Ponies doubtless did die in the fighting); and King Sombra never got to the point of being able to directly battle the Crystal City's defenders. Neither event was anywhere near as bloody.

Also I like how you have Twlilight's verbal hesitation indicate how her morale is being shaken by what she is seeing. Given that Twilight is characteristically courageous and cool in the face of danger, this speaks volumes about the horror of the situation.

Luna, of course, is a veteran both of war and of nightmares, so she is far less unnerved by it all.

“Foolish tactics,” Luna said, and Twilight almost jumped. The Night Princess stood right beside her, watching the battle with clinical detachment. “Those men were ill led to do that. Or desperate. Soldiers’ lives ought not to be thrown away so wastefully.”

This is perfect commentary on her part: it highlights her military professionalism and her fundamental equinity, at one and the same time.

Twilight couldn’t resist. As they passed someone who reminded her of Flash, a spreading crimson stain on his clothes, laying there helpless in snow and on stone, she went to lay down beside him and try and do something, anything.

For Twilight, of course, Flash Sentry is one of her main sentimental connections to humanity -- especially to male humanity.

Twilight being unable to clearly remember the rather dramatic ahd horrible things she saw in the scene emphasizes that she is in a dreamworld.

“Not in here!” Luna forced her horn down with her own. Twilight’s half-formed spell shivered and fell apart. “Magics are dangerous in this place! We stand on the threshold of thy friend’s mind, and carelessly employed magics used here can cause him damage.” She looked back at the ridge. “Or summon back the memories we saw. Would you put him through that again?”

This both follows the logic of dreamworlds and sets a key limitation on Twilight's actions in this and later parts of the story, rationally-explaining why she can't just Alicorn-Magic her way out of the perils she will later face. This is important when writing fantasy with a powerful mage protagonist.

Their forms blurred from one moment to the next. Not quite invisibility, but definitely some sort of distortion magic. It seemed to Twilight that they looked different, somehow, from the other humans she’d seen, whether John, Thorn, or through the portal. Their limbs moved as though boneless, or at least jointed differently. Like changelings to ponies.

And we meet the real Bad Guys -- not the dream-images of the long-gone Red Chinese soldiers, but the creatures who are manipulating John's dreams. Very creepy description, and they seem even more wrong when they open their mouths -- the opposite of what usually happens when someone brings in Humanoid Abominations.

I look at Luna's memory of having been Nightmare Moon as a persistent internal flaw which a sufficiently informed and vicious foe can exploit. It's a (psychic) Wound Which Will Not Heal, like Frodo's injury from the Morgul-blade and his missing finger, and can really only in the Shadow Wars Storyverse be cured if she discarnates and rejoins Gravity, the Concept of which she is an Avatar. I hint at this in Twelfth Equestriad Interview, where she still shudders at this memory, and her consortship with Twilight Sparkle is obviously one of the things that keeps her sane despite this horror.

Here, it's being used against her in your story.

8863872
Thanks. I'm glad you like my attempt at describing the Battle of Chosin; my father was a source for some of this, mostly from conversations he had with fellow ex-military who were there. They told him they saw Quad-.50's get overrun by Chinese wave assaults, among other horrors.

I also wanted to make it obvious that Luna would not react as badly as Twilight -- she's seen much more ferocious violence than her. Thank you for letting me know that I accomplished that. Also, Luna respected Twilight's warnings about how dangerous the warlocks from John's world could be (and she remembers Thorn almost setting Discord free), but I think that on some level she thought Twi was exaggerating. She knows better now, to her regret. It scared her that even a group of them could do that to her in someone's dream. Luna was outfought, briefly, on her own ground. That will rattle anyone.

And yes we've met the real villains here. Poor Twi's problems have just begun.

Twilight didn’t see it, but shefelttheir eyes on her. Muscles twitched under her coat like she was bitten by a fly.

Good xenofictional description, and something I usually forget. Creatures with thicker body hair than Humans tend to have ampler subcutaneous muscles to allow them to raise or lower their coats (we have them too, of course, to a lesser degree -- which is why we can experienced a similar sensation). But the Ponies would be able to use these muscles to shoo away insects -- I've seen my cats do this -- and you are here emphasizing that Twilight is reacting to the dream-invaders as if they were vermin; experiencing a visceral revulsion to their evil.

(this really belonged in my previous comment, but I just noticed it).

I like how quickly and decisively Celestia responds when she fears Luna and Twilight are in trouble.

Twilight’s legs twitched, her sides worked, as though she fled something in the dreams that held her. Sweat began to run down her flanks, turning thick and foamy. A long shallow gash opened in her side and blood began to run, thick and dark.

Upping the stakes, because it demonstrates that Twilight can be psychosomatically harmed by the dream-foe. Just how badly is not obvious, but at the least enough to draw blood, which has terrifying implications from the POV of Celestia and Luna.

“The dreams we found are dangerous ones. Violent, more so than I expected. It is the Red Lands.” Luna hesitated as though expecting horror from Celestia. The Sun Princess simply nodded once, her eyes hard.

Celestia affects a softer mien than Luna, but when push comes to shove, and a loved one is in peril, Celestia can be every bit as uncompromisingly-realistic as her sister. She would do Twilight Sparkle no favors by becoming being less than coldly rational at a moment like this.

“I understand,” Celestia said. When she’d finally caught up with Thorn, she’d cast him back between the worlds instead of blasting the warlock where he stood. She hadn’t dared to leave any trace of him in Equestria, anything that could be used as a link or portal by others like him.

Heh, that puts her relative mercy toward Thorn in a more utilitarian light. And Thorn was a necromancer -- merely destroying his body might not have been enough to keep Equestria safe from his spirit. After all, the threat from him had included the Sunny Town ghosts, so he clearly understood how to manipulate the world of the undead.

“Not alone,” the Sun Princess whinnied. “What if you took companions to keep you reminded of who you are? Those who saved you from the Nightmare once before?”

An excellent in-story reason to include the rest of the Mane Six, making perfect sense in the setting.

He was a ‘sniper’, like a Spellguard sharpshooter; holding back in hiding to pick off enemies at range without being spotted.

It makes perfect sense that the Equestrians would have such specialists. Too bad some weren't ready at the start of the Movie. Ah well, Derpy flinging herself to take a spell for Twilight Sparkle had to do.

Incidentally, I was really happy when I realized that was what had happened, because it fits my fanon that by that time Derpy Hooves is a trained Night Watch Courier and a member of Luna's Loyal Band. Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass indeed!


I will state here for the first but probably not the last time that the Shonokin insistence that everything that isn't Shonokin is a "beast," despite the obvious evidence of high intelligence and magical powers to the contrary, constitutes a serious cultural weakness. It leads them to underestimate their foe.

Of course, both the Nazis and the Communists -- the two great enemies of freedom in the 20th century, were inclined to underestimate their foes for not being ubermenschen or Marxists, respectively. And they were scarcely the first to engage in this sort of self-flattering delusion. So it's not at all unrealistic. And I'm pretty sure you got this from the original source, too.

The Cobra-La people from the 1980's G.I. Joe animated movie had a rather similar attitude (to the point of badly underestimating both the Joes and the fully-human members of Cobra, only really respecting Serpentor because he had been engineered to be one of them). Of course, both the Shonokin and the Cobra-La people were ultimately derived from Robert E. Howard's Serpent Men, so this isn't surprising.


And it's John to the rescue! Yay!

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Thanks for the latest response. I'm glad someone took notice of the way Twilight reacted to the Shonokin; I like the ponies, they're very much 'people' but they're still not 100% human. They won't react or even feel the same way about these things as we would.

I will state here for the first but probably not the last time that the Shonokin insistence that everything that isn't Shonokin is a "beast," despite the obvious evidence of high intelligence and magical powers to the contrary, constitutes a serious cultural weakness. It leads them to underestimate their foe.

Of course, both the Nazis and the Communists -- the two great enemies of freedom in the 20th century, were inclined to underestimate their foes for not being ubermenschen or Marxists, respectively. And they were scarcely the first to engage in this sort of self-flattering delusion. So it's not at all unrealistic. And I'm pretty sure you got this from the original source, too.

The Cobra-La people from the 1980's G.I. Joe animated movie had a rather similar attitude (to the point of badly underestimating both the Joes and the fully-human members of Cobra, only really respecting Serpentor because he had been engineered to be one of them). Of course, both the Shonokin and the Cobra-La people were ultimately derived from Robert E. Howard's Serpent Men, so this isn't surprising.

That's pretty much it in the original stories. The Shonokin regarded everything other than themselves as being a useful animal, at best, though it's hinted that they are a sort of human themselves (think as different as a Neanderthal might be from a Cro-Magnon). Certainly any of the sapients from Equestria would be utterly beyond the pale to them, annoying beasts fit only to be culled. They will be getting a nasty surprise when they meet more Equestrians.

And wow, someone else who remembers the GI Joe movie. There are times I wondered if I imagined it; it seemed like nobody had heard of it! Thanks for that.

Chapter 3:

Our Hero has stepped upon the stage! Yay! :yay:

We switch to John's 1P POV.

Smooth, natural exposition of John's backstory as it relates to his joining the Army and fighting in the actual Korean War; then seguing to his recent past and how he's begun to be troubled by recurring nightmares of the Battle of Chosin, to the point of it affecting his health and sanity. (Seriously, in Call of Cthulhu I'd handle this sort of thing having him save vs. SAN and lose 1 pt on a failed roll, with a critical failure also costing him a HP, no normal healing from the HP loss on a night he has such a nightmare -- this would eventually drive him mad or kill him or both -- it would be a slow and torturous way to die; exactly the sort of thing the Shonokin would enjoy inflicting on a foe).

John tells Evadare, and also his friend Reuben Manco, and -- being people with the sort of experiences they've had who have known John a while -- they believe him and start working on the problem of how to rid him of these dreams.

“’Let the sorcerer and his fellows gather in concert’,” I read the words, and felt myself getting colder as I did, “’and enter the dreams of their enemy, by the insignia and spells taught by a conjured angel to Dr. John Dee.

Sadly, I think we all know the identity of the "conjured angel."

Once there, let them remain hidden and use their collected will to alter the dream to their own desires. By so doing they may make an end of him, by either slaying him in body or reducing him to self-destruction."

Yep. Death, or madness followed by death. Slow and torturous.

"... there are rumors that Dee actually did once manage to summon an angel at the court of Emperor Rudolph. An angel in the shape of a great winged unicorn, black as night. ..."

Nightmare Moon.

So Reuben hypnotizes John and sends him to sleep to confront his enemies in dreams.

A tiny horse huddled between the rocks, about the size of a newborn foal, eyes tight and screaming. A little mare I’d known once for three days, purple as Spring lilacs with a pink-purple six-pointed star marking her flank and a spiral horn six-eight inches long a-rising from her forehead.

“Twilight Sparkle? Whatair are you a-doing here?”

... and we've caught up to the point at which we left Twilight Sparkle.

This chapter was well-done especially in terms of its major issue, which was pacing. There's a temptation to write what mostly has to be a flashback section too long, which is how I wound up expanding my "Tragickal History of Sunney Towne," which was originally meant to be just a chapter or two, into a whole sub-book of what's shaping up to be a long novel. Here, you've condensed the points of John's career most salient to the story and written the bridge of what's been going on with John in his world in the mean-time, without writing a whole book about it.

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With Dee and NMM: I do keep thinking I should write up the story of her little trip to 16th century Europe, though that would be more of a Bob Howard story/fanwork than a Wellman one. If only because I want to know how Nighty handled meeting people like Rabbi Loew and Countess Erszebet Bathory -- to say nothing of Kane himself.

And thanks for the kind words on my pacing of the flashback. Getting honest praise like this from someone who's written much, much more (and far better) than I have makes me feel like I have improved in my writing. Hopefully you continue to think so when my editor and I finally get this thing up and running again! The story's done, it's the editing that's the problem now.

Chapter 4:

Twilight being regressed to a Unicorn due to John's control over the dream and having never seen her as an Alicorn ... Clever and logical development, a drawback of being even in a friend's dream-realm if he's not aware of all your capabilities.


The "carnivore scat" of course is human. Possibly due to torn intestines, as well as the other possible way.


Time seemed odd here, the way it often did in dreams. On one level she felt that days or longer had passed, that her life in Equestria and her friends there were never anything but a false happy dream. That her world had never been anything but bone-chilling cold and a horrid reek that combined bad eggs and a smell like a griffon butcher shop. All screams and mud and snow and unseen tiny crossbow bolts hissing through the air, ‘bullets’ and ‘shrapnel’, that cut people down all around her without warning. She knew it to be false, but a part of her insisted that this was the truth. And as soon as she accepted it, the sooner she’d grow up.

In a way, this is just a dream-accelerated version of the way that frontline infantry really tend to feel after a while in combat, even a fairly short time by the standards of civilian life. Though it's probably hitting her faster because this is John's nightmare, and she's absorbing his feelings about it.


I like the idea of there being perytons in the MLP world -- all the more so because they were in the old AD&D Monster Manual as well. Both G1 and G4 MLP have been strongly influenced by D&D, in addition to Classical and Medieval mythology.


The Shonokin tendency to use despised human minions as cannon fodder would of course work well for a horror story or scenario, since it would provide "mooks" for the initial encounters and to avoid leaving too much evidence of High Weirdness for the authorities to discover -- an outer layer for the protagonists to have to penetrate to get at the Big Bad. I bet Wellman used it that that way in his story as well.

I like the hysterical refusal to admit to the deaths of their own kind, because it works well with their sin of Pride. It also makes them more emotionaly real and yet psychologically a bit unhuman. I'm sure from the way you referenced it that this too was part of Wellman's original story.


“Creatures,” she said, and we both grinned to hear the sudden angry splutter from the Shonokin we still couldn’t see. “I will have you know this. I am a Princess of Equestria; student of Celestia Solaria Invicta, Princess of the Sun; friend and ally of Luna Selena Nocturne, Princess of the Moon; sister-by-marriage to Mi Amore Cadenza, Princess of the Crystal Empire; and Bearer of one of the Elements of Harmony.” Twilight set her legs wide like she stood against something. “I am the one who defeated Nightmare Moon! Who rebound Discord, Lord of Chaos! Who found the Crystal Heart and dispelled the ghost of King Sombra after a thousand years of exile! Who cast down Tirek the Destroyer after he defeated Celestia and Luna and Cadence!” She took a deep breath, and I wondered myself that she’d nair told me any of this afore. “I declare here and now by Sun and Moon that this man, John the Balladeer of Earth, is under my protection! And I will NOT allow him to be slain or hurt! IS! THAT! CLEAR!”

I love this declaration. It is totally badass and made of awesome. And also completely true.

A shame the Shonokin blindness to the possibility of having equals among mortal beings keep them from really understanding it.

The airstrike is the perfect climax to the scene.


And then they're in the next nightmare ...


Perfect Spike-dream.

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The Shonokin tendency to use despised human minions as cannon fodder would of course work well for a horror story or scenario, since it would provide "mooks" for the initial encounters and to avoid leaving too much evidence of High Weirdness for the authorities to discover -- an outer layer for the protagonists to have to penetrate to get at the Big Bad. I bet Wellman used it that that way in his story as well.

Yes. Wellman mentioned it in some stories and showed it in at least one full-length novel, After Dark, which is where John met the Shonokin.

I like the hysterical refusal to admit to the deaths of their own kind, because it works well with their sin of Pride. It also makes them more emotionaly real and yet psychologically a bit unhuman. I'm sure from the way you referenced it that this too was part of Wellman's original story.

Yes again. The Shonokin have a overwhelming fear of death -- the deaths of their own people, that is, they have no problem with killing others. In Wellman's stories they refused to even admit that they could die, and would simply flee from the bodies of their own people and leave them to rot.

The airstrike happened in the original battle; it happened sooner here probably because the Shonokin hoped it would kill John and Twilight.

And thanks for the comment!

El-Ka-Bong! Well at least all the heroes are together. Now comes the counter attack. I'm very much enjoying this one. But yeah, the Shonokin really underestimated the princes of the night.

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Yeah, their disregard and contempt for everything and one that isn't them gets them in a lot of trouble in the original stories as well. You think they'd learn after a while to be a bit less contemptuous of their enemies.

And thanks for the comment.

Oh, this is fun. What was John supposed to think? He may well not be familiar with the Luna/Nightmare Moon split. but then Nightmare Moon was False Advertising. you can't really moon someone in a society that normally does not wear clothing, anyway.

equestria girls is more of a copy cat world than its own real one.
when john went to equestria their world had to copy him in a believable manner.
Since they lacked magic it had to be a book of fantasy.

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