• Member Since 12th Dec, 2011
  • offline last seen March 5th

Impossible Numbers

"Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old Time is still a-flying, And this same flower that smiles today, Tomorrow will be dying."


Prince Hisan, now pharaoh, is plagued by a mysterious affliction that torments him nightly. Ever hopeful, Somnambula ventures forth to seek the help of Princess Luna, for she is now a shining light in dark places. But lights CAN be extinguished…

Chapters (1)
Comments ( 17 )

I liked reading this one. The story made sense, and it was compelling throughout.

It was an interesting choice to couch this in the tone of a legend. That is a tricky trope to work with for a variety of reasons. It invites melodrama (which is always problematic) and makes “show, don’t tell” extremely difficult. It runs the risk of sounding pedantic or pretentious, but you seem to have dodged those issues. It makes many of the most effective characterizing devices—such as free indirect discourse, casual dialogue and any sort of stylistic subtleties—effectively impossible to use. In general, it is not a style that invites good storytelling.
Indeed, this is not exactly a very emotional piece in terms of execution. A reader will understand what the characters are thinking and feeling, but they will probably not feel all that dramatically invested.

Nonetheless, the story worked, and the style fit. In fact, aside from the chess and ponies, this would fit in nicely as a piece of folklore, so writing it as such makes sense. I might even go so far as to say that this piece would probably feel rather unnatural in regular prose.

Overall, you did a good job.


Thank you for the comment! In truth, this isn't the first time I've attempted a kind of myth/legend telling in pony fics (The King and the Changeling was an obvious precursor), so I've had a little practice.

Overall, though, the idea to write the story as a legend was inspired by Somnambula's debut episode itself, wherein the old villager told her story, and the style caught my attention (as did the legend).

Admittedly, it is by its nature not the most emotionally intense of styles, as you point out, which limits what it can do (the bit where she loses hope, and is taunted by the Sphinx, in the middle of the fic was specifically an attempt to see if I could get around that limit). And I suspect that I relied a bit too much on direct speech near the finish, which is a tad uncharacteristic of the rest of the fic's style.

I will defend the chess thing, though. It's a common enough element, and not just in Greek mythology but in others too, to challenge gods and other supernatural entities for the right to claim this and that, to the point where it has its own TVTropes entry as "Chess with Death". I modified it somewhat to better fit in with Somnambula's Egyptian-esque origins, and it tied in quite neatly with the running conceit of intellectual challenges and contests with puzzle-loving entities like the Sphinx and Princess Luna. This fic was principally based on ancient mythology, after all. And chess is such a widely recognized game of strategy that it seemed unremarkable to co-opt it here.

I'm glad you seem to have enjoyed the story either way, and thanks again for leaving such a thorough comment. :twilightsmile:

No problem. I didn’t actually mean the chess thing as a critique, and the story element of making deals over games fits very well. Honestly, I meant the use of chess in particular, but that might just have been an aluminum-Christmas-trees moment. Thank you for the quick response.

Enjoyably mythic... though the truth behind Hisan's demon felt a bit out of joint with the rest of the story. The ancient legend briefly became a medical drama, and rather dragged me out of the story for a time. Aside from that, wonderful work.


I'm still in two minds about that part, to be honest. On the one hand, it's based on a real phenomenon and fits alongside the general "sleep" theme I'd obtained by learning what Somnambula's name meant. It also seemed more retroactively tragic to have the problem turn out to be harmless, considering the trials she went through to solve it.

On the other hand, I had a really hard time phrasing the explanation so Luna sounded more like an expert mage and less like Doctor Horse. I'm not entirely convinced I got it right, and your response suggests I didn't either. Besides, it might have fit the tone better to just have the demon be a demon.

I'm at least glad it seems to hang together so well, especially given Luna's involvement as an outsider.

EDIT: I've tried tidying it up a bit. Hopefully, that section reads a little more organically now.

Definitely reads smoother. And I do like the problem ultimately being mundane. The story hints at it throughout; an actual demon avoiding everyone's notice wouldn't hold up as well.


Marvellous! Thank you for letting me know, and for raising the point to begin with. You've been very helpful! :scootangel:

Love the quest narrative in this one, as well as how Luna and the role of the Sphinx are woven in. It's got a solid fairy-tale feel.

I was fairly certain it was going to be sleep paralysis. Especially after Princess Luna said there was nothing she could do.

Very nice story. Nice enough that it certainly deserves more views.


As mentioned above, it was inspired by her very debut, wherein the old pony told her legend to Rainbow and the crowd. I swear I had his voice in my head the whole time I was writing this.


Thank you kindly for saying as much. Eventually, I will submit this to Equestria Daily, so hopefully it will enjoy a second wind in the not too distant future. (Although what counts for "not too distant" is another matter...).

Incidentally, I'm intrigued you guessed it was sleep paralysis so soon, but then there were clues as early as the first few paragraphs, so it's not surprising, per se. It just interests me to see how quickly some people grasp the answer to a mystery before others.

This has been an interesting story, something inbetween the narrative of an old fairy tale in how simple and poetic it was in some parts, but it also retained many emotional and heartwrenching scenes that kept the story’s atmosphere. So much in fact that shivers were running down my spine while reading this.

The demon itself was not that much of a mystery for me, as I have had a roommate that suffered from similar affliction. Early mornings with her were real fun... Still, this didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the story.

Thank you for this awesome read!


In hindsight, I am so glad this didn't have the "Mystery" tag added. A surprising number of people have told me how easy it is to figure out Prince Hisan's problem. My main defence is that I added it less for the mystery element and more because I realized what Somnambula's name meant, and from there found a whole theme of "sleep" and "dreams" to use in a Somnambula-based story. Hence the idea to pit her against Luna too.

Pleased to know you enjoyed this so much. Someday, I hope to get it onto Equestria Daily, but for now it's enough to see people's appreciation of it here. :twilightsmile:

I’d say that this issue is quite very well known, though it’s still better than if insomnia was supposed to be the demon. Still, Hisan’s problem served only as a catalyst to Somnambula’s journey, so I think it doesn’t really matter what it was in the first place.

Good luck with the EQD!

I love this story's style. I can see this being told to fillies and colts as a legend of some sort.


Thanks! One of the days, I'm gonna have to try something like this for the other Pillars, because it's a fairy-tale style I'm interested in developing. At the very least, I'm glad to have gotten this one out; it was inspired by the old pony telling Somnambula's legend in "Daring Done?"

Good read! It was an interesting twist to have this not so much about any sort of "demon" as a re-unification of the Sphinx and Princess Luna. And it was nice for the Sphinx to get redeemed anyway.


:scootangel: Thanks! The idea I had for the Sphinx started with the observation that, in real-world mythology, the Egyptian type (royal guardian of tombs) is different from the Greek type (riddle-posing monster that needs defeating). Especially when it exists in a world like Equestria's, where that's a pretty important distinction.

Funny thing was that Luna got involved mostly because of Somnambula (her name derives from somnambulism, which means "sleep-walking"). It was a theme I wanted to develop. But then the connection to the Sphinx ended up as one of those lightning-strike ideas where it suddenly all clicked into place while I was planning and writing it.

Anyway, enough of my rambling. I'm glad you enjoyed this one, and thank you for the nice comment. :twilightsmile:

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