• Member Since 12th Dec, 2011
  • offline last seen Dec 7th, 2021

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."


Before the final battle of the Siren War, the Pillars and Stygian take a moment to get ready, get what fun they can, and if possible, actually get along.

Now with audio reading! Generously provided by Quinch of the Golden Oaks Memorial Library.

Chapters (7)
Comments ( 21 )

Just so people are aware: I originally had the text in a large block, but that was a bit much, so I've cut it down into more reasonably sized chapters. Little else has changed in the text itself.

This is wonderful. The dialogue is well done and the pillars all feel very much in-character. I especially love your Rockhoof and Meadowbrook. The way that song magic is described and the feeling that Stygian experiences when he dances with Meadowbrook is really well done. You nearly get the pillars to the same conclusion that Twilight and Rainbow get to in Rainbow Rocks, and then you yank it away and it's great.

Placing the reader with Stygian was a great idea––the frustration he feels at not being able to voice his thoughts really comes through and it sheds a lot of light on his later actions.

All in all this was a very satisfying read. You deserve more attention.


Thank you for the comment! :scootangel: It's very kind of you to say so.

I've written about some of the Pillars before, but I wouldn't mind coming back again to tackle them. This fic was an attempt both to get an idea for each one individually (especially Meadowbrook, yes, who turned out to be a blast once I figured out how to depict her) and to imagine how they'd actually work together, when they're being heroic as well as when they're relaxing.

That said, considering there are already seven characters to examine, I found Stygian surprisingly quite enjoyable to write. Telling the story from his POV made sense, because he's got the best of both perspectives: he's an admirer and sometimes feels like part of the group, yet he's also a resenter who notices (and sometimes exaggerates) their flaws. There are plenty of angles to choose from after that.

Also, yes, the Rainbow Rocks nod was a bit of dark irony I couldn't resist. The way Star Swirl was depicted in Shadow Play got me wondering how his mindset might have developed, and if it might even have been changed by the siren encounter (for the worse). Always room for ideas and development when you start thinking along those lines.

Thanks again for the comment. It's much appreciated. :twilightsmile:

Fantastically done all around. It's fascinating to contrast this with the comics of Stygian gathering the team. You paint a far darker picture wleven without the details. The toll this war has taken is clear to see even without going over past failures. And the way Star Swirl ruins pretty much everything he touches without even realizing it is perfect. Thank you for a great read.


Although I'm aware of some of the stories, I have to confess I don't read the pony comics, like Legends of Magic. This is chiefly improvised from the show, so I'm guessing it's OK if I don't use the AU tag? I'm kinda open to persuasion there.

Pleased to see you enjoyed the story, including Star Swirl. After Shadow Play, I generally assume he's a great but somewhat misguided hero, the sort to invent a mind-blowing new spell and then assume it'll solve all problems.

And of course, a hearty thanks for the comment, FanOfMostEverything! :scootangel:

Hm, on reflection, I think I'll remove the "Comedy" tag. The story contains jokes, sure, but in hindsight the comedy isn't as prominent as the other two genres.

I think my favorite part about this is Starswirl...and my least favorite part about this is also Starswirl.

I know he's become something of the fandom's chew toy after Shadow Play aired and made him out to be a huge dick, but I kinda wish more people were willing to show more sides to him (and there are more sides). That's why I appreciated you giving us a bit more depth in the first and final chapters, especially when he lets his guard down around Stygian a little bit and reminds us that for all his arrogance and experience, he's an old dude who's probably seen and gone through a lot of shit, and that has affected him. I also really like your idea of Adagio being an old apprentice of his and being the trigger for his cynicism.

Of course, he became particularly easy to hate towards the end of the story (and by extension, most of the rest of the Pillars became kind of easy to dislike towards the end, though not nearly as much as Starswirl), and that grated on my nerves a lot. Frankly, I really wanted someone to just straight up call him out on his shit and pound it through his head.

Another thing that grates on my nerves is that a lot of Stygian work (including the actual comics) make him out to be some kind of poor pitiful messianic archetype who's constantly kicked around by the others (especially Starswirl) despite his brains and talent and arguably make him kind of a borderline Gary Stu. Showing us the story from Stygian's perspective does shine a big light on how much his jealousy and dented pride and resentment contributed to his turning into the Pony of Shadows was a great move on your part, since it does show us that his transformation, while understandable, was still a reflection of his own flaws and choices (and the final chapter hinting at his Start of Darkness was one of the best parts of the story). However, it kind of feels like it wasn't enough. I don't know what more you could've done to pull Stygian away from the Gary-Stu kicked dog archetype, though.

Overall, I did like this story. Stellar dialogue, writing, and description, and everyone seemed very well in character (I especially want to praise you for your portrayal of Mistmane: she doesn't get a lot from other writers, artists, or even the actual show writers). I just kind of think you went a bit overboard on Starswirl's jerkass side.


I definitely get where you're coming from with Star Swirl, and while I do prefer to go with his "too arrogant for his own good" angle, I will try and tone it down in future appearances (should there be any). If I had to speculate, part of the interest in his arrogant side is probably because, prior to that two-parter, he tended to be played up more as a sort of great mentor, so it's not only different, but gives his character a notable flaw to deal with and play off the other ponies. It's also an interesting angle because of the fact that, despite being so great, he seemed to struggle with the concept of friendship and friendship-based magic. But that shouldn't be the only angle, so I see where you're coming from there, no worries.

The Stygian critique I found more surprising. I mean, I get why it's excessive to make him look like a Gary Stu type, but prior to now I didn't think it applied to him. He's smart, sure, but his whole Pony of Shadows thing put him in more Tragic Hero territory for me: someone who could have been a great pony, but who let his emotions and pride get the best of him. Maybe it's just me, but I don't think he's a Gary Stu. I think that part's fine the way it is.

That said, you make a good case for depicting him from different angles. It's like you said with Star Swirl: does he always have to be this particular incarnation? I put in a few titbits here and there to suggest Stygian was a bit of a shut-in (shades of Twilight pre-friendship epiphany), but now you mention it, a lot more could be done with that idea. And also more specifically how he gets along with some of the other Pillars, one-on-one.

So while I won't say I agree 100% with what you wrote, I am intrigued by it and will take it into account. It's always good to think about familiar characters from new angles, so if nothing else, thanks for steering me in new directions! Hopefully, I'll be able to incorporate those ideas into another fic in the not-too-distant future.

Thanks again! :scootangel:

I appreciate your reply and where you're coming from. Upon second thought, I may have been projecting my own issues with Stygian's portrayal in the Legends of Magic comics a bit (you mentioned in another comic that you didn't read them).

Your portrayal works better in that it proves to us that Stygian isn't perfect. He grows bitter, he holds grudges and lets them fester, he thinks a bit too highly of his own worth and a bit too little of how the others feel about him. In short, he holds the negative feelings inside himself and lets them rot.

And as for Starswirl, I'm not saying that showing his arrogance was a bad idea, not at all: it is part of his character, and his downfall. It just became extremely overbearing in the middle part.

I did like this story, be assured of that. I really wish people would do more with the Pillars.

I find it interesting how you identify Mistmane as being younger than the other two mares. I've always thought she was one of the oldest of the group: she carries herself with a maturity and wisdom that usually comes with age.


I thought it might add a drop of bitter irony to her character, that the youngest of the female Pillars looks like the oldest. Give her more conventionally attractive ponies, like Somnambula and Mage Meadowbrook, for company, and that's bound to sting the Pillar of Beauty a little. I thought it gave her an interesting, melancholy angle, given her main action was to sacrifice her own beauty for someone else.

I see what you mean regarding the maturity and wisdom aspect. Perhaps I could explain that as the result of coming from a different cultural background, one that puts an emphasis on valuing age and experienced elders (shades of Confuscius's Taoism there), so after she physically aged, she sort of became the mask? I have to admit I'm speculating, of course. It didn't occur to me at the time.

That said, I don't know if it's been officially claimed what their relative ages are? I could have easily missed an official confirmation.

Your portrayal of the Pillars is a little different from the show and from other fanfics I've read, but I think it works when you consider that they're younger and haven't gone through the betrayal and then skipped more than a millennium. Meadowbrook and Rockhoof are the most different - Meadowbrook is a lot more boisterous (love how you remembered that she would be physically strong) and Rockhoof is more arrogant. And Stygian is already feeling resentment toward the Pillars, especially Star Swirl, but the readers can definitely sympathize with him. I didn't predict the twist with Adagio being not just a unicorn, but Star Swirl's former pupil. This paints Star Swirl in a worse light than in canon, because he made the exact same mistake twice.


I like to think Star Swirl's problem was more a lack of balance between extremes than repeating the same mistake. In Adagio's case, he was too open and trusting, but let that sting him too much, whereas with Stygian - and the other Pillars - his problem is not showing enough trust in them and their abilities, hence his domineering attitude.

Have to admit I go a bit back-and-forth on how to portray these guys (doesn't help they're not very fleshed-out compared with some characters), so some of this is just testing the waters on my part. My personal favourite to write was Meadowbrook, as you can probably guess, :scootangel: but I was also pleasantly surprised by how much Stygian seemed to click so neatly into place, and I'd love to develop Mistmane more, as I kept coming up with ideas for her while I was writing.

Thanks for the comment, though. It was useful feedback, and always good to read. :twilightsmile:

Star Swirl still banished his former friend/student instead of trying to reach out to her and see if she could be reformed, just like he did with Stygian. That's what I meant by repeating the same mistake.

Yeah, there's definitely room for different characterizations of the Pillars, especially since the comics present very different versions of Star Swirl and Somnambula than the show does.

Starswirl needs to learn how to listen to others. He's to full of himself which is hardly surprising.

I wasn't expecting Hollow shades to be Stygian's home town.

Starswirl really seems incapable of nuance everyone powerfull other than him will turn out to be a threat to Equestria because one of his students did.

I’ve had this in my read later for ages, and I finally read the first chapter on my lunch break today. This feels very... official, though I’m not sure if that’s the right word. It’s very well written, aesthetically formatted, the story is very interesting and the characterization feels very faithful to the canonical personalities, I can see this being an IDW comic sort of thing.

TL;DR you’ve done a very good job!


Interesting you should mention the IDW comics: I don't read them myself, and most of my intel there comes second-hand via the fandom website (mlp.fandom.com), but I do sometimes use what I find as inspiration (for instance, I quite like the sound of Rockhoof's tale there more than I like the one shown in "Campfire Tales"; just seems more inspirational to me).

A lovely comment to receive. I'm glad you like the story so far, and I hope you enjoy the rest too. :scootangel:

Shoot, I hadn’t meant to leave my first comment on the last chapter, that looks mighty confusing.

Anyway, I’ve finished it, and I want more! Obviously it won’t happen, but the sentiment is there regardless.

My first comment was more of a review than my usual gush of compliments, but I can’t currently find the words for said compliments.

I think the objectively best chapter, and my favorite chapter, was the dancing one. All of the characters just oozed so much personality how you wrote them, it was amazing.

Hope we can get more stories like this

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