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✧ Writing tomes in my wizard tower ✧ I illustrate all of my own cover art! ✧


Displaced from time and no longer the villainous Pony of Shadows, many in Modern Equestria know Stygian as a thrice renowned author. This, however, is a partial truth.

After a chance encounter with Stygian at a local antique shop, Sunburst comes to learn that his publications aren’t all that he expected. Feeling Stygian has not been truly represented by his books, Sunburst offers to aid in translating his revised autobiography — a task that just might liberate Stygian from an oppressive past and show him a kind future is possible.

However, the rewards of acceptance can only come at the risk of being known.

A story about stories, self-authorship, and the endurance of love.

Winner of the M/M Shipping Contest III!

CW: themes of historical homophobia, child abuse, unsettling imagery, and the depiction of a past suicide attempt and implied self-harm (as indicated by the suicide/self-harm tag), as well as a non-explicit scene of sexual intimacy

The use of Old Ponish in this story was aided by this lovely dictionary.

Cover art illustrated by me.

(As well as the bonus drawings featured at the end of chapter 10).

Chapters (10)
Comments ( 30 )

This is a very fun read so far, I very much like the exploration of Stygian past and how it explored. Looking forward to see the rest. Keep it up.

The story is progressing pretty naturally.

Sandbar brightened, pointing above Sunburst’s head. “It was actually that piece of paper you’ve got hanging on your wall.”

Absolutely love that little exchange. Warms the heart.

“It’s easy to be a champion over monsters,” he said. “But against our neighbors, we rarely become heroes.”

God damn that's a line.

Thank you so much. I'm glad to know it made its impact.

“She said that. ‘Do you feel safe tonight?’” Stygian continued to wear his shock openly. “I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that. I was safe, though. I know my home borders the Everfree, but the animals have never posed any danger.” He paused. “Then, she asked, ‘Can you name a reason to keep living?’ That struck me. Because, again, I’d never been asked. But also — because I had an answer.

Always love to see a competent Trixie.

I kinda suspected that scene was going to happen when Stygian's scar was off-handedly mentioned a few chapters ago, but not the context. That was a great scene.

And also they're adorable.

Oh, that was just so damn cute. Absolutely wonderful. Well done.

Well this was a very good read, top quality too. I really loved how you developed it and mix it in with some literature and history mingled with the Romance. Great work dude, keep it up.


Loved this story, the writing was immaculate as well.

oooooh its getting really riveting now! im doing excited wiggles i cant read fast enough!

i hhave goose bumps rn oh my luna

im actually crying rn its so beautiful and i see so much of myself in stygian and my boyfriend in sunburst

Thank you for your exceptionally sweet comments. I'm so happy to know this story really resonated with you!

This may be my favorite love story ever told in fanfic. If not, it's certainly the best I've read in quite a while. I can't recall a fic that has brought so many earnest tears to my face when the outcome was never in question. I want to rave about so much that I loved: the slow revealing of emotion, the dedication to language and translation - how one word can mean many things, the callback phrases used in contrasting situations, the racing interiority of Sunburst's thoughts, the well-paced struggle to reveal their true emotions. Not to mention an outstanding ship cameo in chapter 4!
Thank you, truly, for this well-crafted work. I treasure it and expect I will return for a re-read when I need another few happy cries.

I am overjoyed more than I could express to know how much this story moved you. This is an incredible compliment to receive and truly embodies what I hoped for those who read this story to feel as I was typing it all out!

I'm also grateful to know the little details I worked to weave into this story were appreciated. I absolutely love stories with recurring motifs and recontextualized passages and try to incorporate them into my own writing when I can.

Thank you so much.

The obsidian blade on display at the antique shop was inscribed with a familiar Old Ponish phrase: hlight foresetten plight.

love the Old Ponish analogue of Old English

If not for seizing his magical grip at the last moment, his favorite Ponyville antique shop would have gone up in flames.

given all the magical artifacts Equestria has lying around in antique shops i am surprised this doesn’t happen more often

It was perhaps the most entrancing vestige of the past he ever had the pleasure of gazing upon. The blade was jagged, three distinct angles bent in its body. Along its center, the Old Ponish declaration that loosely translated to, “Reward Prefers Risk!” was set in embellished blackletter typical of the era. Not a line of the engraving was out of place. Unlike the automation lent to modern Equestrian artisans, ancient smiths conducted this process by horn or hoof. This item resonated with love in its crafting. A swell lifted in Sunburst’s chest.

love this description! it would swell a lift in my chest as well

“Stygian! It’s good to see you again,” Sunburst said, because despite the strange circumstances, it was true. “I didn't know you were a fellow antiquer.”

ahaha, Sunburst still not making the connection that these items aren’t antiques to Stygian, very on-brand

The shopkeeper was dumbfounded. Her hoof fumbled to slide the wrapped blade once more in Sunburst's direction. “Sir, the transaction has been made. It is out of my hooves.”

oof, ponies really do live in a society

“It is I who will continue to thank you.” Stygian turned his gaze up at Sunburst. His expression wavered as a sigh wracked his small frame, affected as though by some deep malaise. “You have a good heart.”


Stygian remembered Sunburst was fluent.

augh love it

“It was… melodramatic. And somehow boring at the same time. Almost like a work of pulp fiction, though I thought it would be more of an autobiography. And believe me, I’m sure there are ponies out there who would eat it up. Trixie sure got a kick out of it.” Starlight affectionately rolled her eyes. “But, if I’m being honest, I felt let down. When I first learned about him, Stygian was somepony I resonated with. And despite having published no less than three books, I feel like I learned nothing about him! Nothing of substance, at least.”

great way to square Stygian being a bestselling author while also clearly keeping a lot of his past close to his dark and brooding chest

“My, aren’t we wistful?” Starlight giggled, noting the dreamy undercurrent of his words. She folded her hooves beneath her chin. “It was a really cool dagger wasn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Sunburst sighed with a faraway grin.

augh yeah, that touch of Stygian in how Sunburst describes things, it is so perfect

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Sunburst exclaimed. Then, he chuckled. “As though Trixie isn’t already doing her best to replace me on your side of things.”


She laughed in wry recognition, but Sunburst knew the resounding tenderness her sardonic remark belied. An easy smile rose to his face, captivated by the gleam in her violet eyes as she thought of her beloved. It was a gift to see Starlight smile.

aww i love them

When Sunburst learned of the sordid village Starlight built in the decades of separation between their shared foalhood and the present, a chasm of guilt burrowed through the center of his heart. He had paced through hours of mental wounding, finding it easy to blame himself for the vindictive ideology she constructed. All that time he spent toiling in his studies, only to flunk out while his dearest friend suffered. If he stayed, things would have been different. A part of him was convinced. If only Starlight had the steadiness of his companionship, he could have stood between her and her anger.

oof, the both of them are very good at blaming themselves! though in this case Starlight actually did the awful things she regrets, so i guess Sunburst is even better

As a colt, his mother used to say, “Starlight is going to make such a darling daughter-in-law one day.” Stellar Flare had a plan for everything, and at a point in Sunburst’s history, that included a series of scrolls on the occasion of her son’s wedding to his childhood friend.

oh that does definitely sound like Stellar Flare

They remarked on how adorable the both of them were together, and with each instance, Sunburst and Starlight went through the same tired motions of re-confirming to one another that their bond wasn’t destined for love in the amorous sense.

heteronormativity bleh

The Old Ponish word stalluvji — a term denoting a stallion who was a lover of stallions — was, in most historical texts, derogatory. It was synonymous with weakness, and (more cruelly) selfishness in spite of one’s duty to procreate.

conflicted between my love of linguistic worldbuilding and it hurting my heart to think of Equestria’s past as this way

Inne alt naertrin, del weorld ama prijen ouser luvji.

(In another age, the world will be kind to our love.)

so beautiful and true

In another age, the world will liberate our love. Sunburst knew viscerally the hooves that wrote that line.

If Stellar Flare ever hoped for Sunburst to envision a future plan involving marriage, he had only one. If Starlight and Trixie wedded, he’d like to give them a copy of that framed scroll as a gift.

augh that is so wonderful

…Star Swirl’s beatific voice washed over me. “I absolve you, Stygian. You have been foolish, but you are not beneath redemption. A villain no longer, I see you have apologized and atoned for your wrongdoings.”

oof this is the story equivalent of the chewiest scenery i’ve ever seen

Too often, this came from this misbelief that Old Ponish was a florid tongue, so its translation must be as well. In reality, it was beautiful in its brevity. Many Old Ponish words were exact conjunctions. Ponies of that era spoke and wrote in short sentences. There was a rawness, an honesty to the language that often made it difficult to translate to New Ponish, which was rife with synonyms and slang. Any formality in the speech of Stygian and the Pillars came from seeking an exactness in their New Ponish phrasing, unfamiliar as they were with colloquialisms. Sunburst gave them due credit for their ability to speak it with such ease.

loooooove this! it is such a great point, and so much nuance gets lost since we moderns associate archaic dialects with pomp and stodginess, robbing them of the full range of emotions and register that we reserve only for ourselves

The tip of Sunburst’s quill hovered below that last line, debating his signature (not merely because his name translated humorously to ‘Sunbreak’ in Old Ponish).

hehe that is quite humorous

Stygian’s home was an anachronistic paradox. Tucked on the border of Ponyville and the Everfree Forest, it had been designed to resemble a common thatched house of Old Equestria. However, the materials used to construct it were notably fresh. The mortar between the masonry was bright white, unblemished by lime and oyster shells as a truly ancient structure would have been. It brought to mind a foal wearing the clothes of his grandfather.

love this great touch of detail! even hewing as close to the old methods as possible, old materials exactly as they were would require rebuilding that old version of the industrial base from scratch

Then, the door parted, and Stygian was staring up at Sunburst. A smudge of flour crossed the bridge of his long, pointed snout.

augh too adorbs

“Pressed elderflower, lemon, rosemary, and honey. We drank it hot in the winter months to fend off congestion.” Stygian’s gaze flicked over his shoulder with a faint smile. “And cold in the summer as a treat.”

augh i want this! it sounds so much better than the sodas i have available here in the h*man world

Sunburst was struck. Such a mundane bit of knowledge, yet it unveiled a rich narrative. Nothing like this had appeared in Stygian’s book.

hehe love how this works as a meta line as well, in which case the canon show would be Stygian’s book

The obsidian dagger itself was on display above the fireplace. Its jagged blade pointed downward, held aloft above Stygian’s bent neck.

oof, symbolism!

“Indeed!” Sunburst raised his hoof. “The practice of bleaching flour came into effect about a hundred years ago as standards of culinary safety increased. Old Equestrian wheat and barley were far more fibrous, yet took greater effort to harvest and mill, and still do. Er — but you already know that of course.”

Sunburst’s tendency to infodump like a NERD really is helpful for diegetic exposition

Ponies of his era rarely denuded themselves fully unless they were in close company.

yeah that is interesting, isn’t it?

Sunburst had difficulty keeping still, and keeping quiet, as Stygian finished his cleaning and came to join him at the table. “I sold the story to another author. A ghostwriter, she was called, who allowed the work to still bear my name. It’s provided me with a humble, yet habitable, income.”

oof, bringing to mind the previously mentioned modern ponies’ assumptions of what ponies from Stygian’s day were like

“Thank you." Stygian delicately sipped from a spoon. “I've worked hard to find ways of joining simple elements to form a greater whole.”

just like the Pillars as a group really makes you think

“I don’t care for renown! My dreams of heroism have long passed,” Stygian insisted. “And no, I have no need for extravagant wealth. I merely want…” A shuddering sigh wracked him. “I merely want to exist. That bedamend book has allowed me to do so.”

oof, this is so much sadder than my assumption that Stygian wasn’t writing the books simply to be able to afford to live

He sniffed, reawakening. “Though, the way you describe the meaning of that invocation is not all that it suggests. It is less about the reward one attains at the end of a tribulation. The risk itself is the reward. The idea is that against any peril, you exhibit your fearlessness, your unwillingness to be compromised by cowardice. And you are rewarded through demonstrating your strength. That’s how my father spoke of it.”

ooh that is indeed a cultural difference that got me. i totally assumed it was how Sunburst described it!

Stygian’s eyes went wide. His chair scraped across the floor as he abruptly pushed it out from under him. He levitated his near-full bowl of stew to the fireplace and upended it.

oof that must be quite a nerve that was struck

Cultural divide be damned, Sunburst did what came natural to him. He drew close to Stygian and gave a soft, comforting pat to his shoulder. Stygian flinched, but accepted it. Sunburst felt the sharp scapula under his cloak and the light brush of Stygian’s horn against his sternum as his head hung below Sunburst’s chest. He smelled like the herbs from his cooking. He was warm and real.

aww that is nice!

The Shadow spoke to me with a voice like no other. I was drawn into its embrace like that of a lover.

that line definitely raised an eyebrow of mine when i first read it as well

Sandbar was as unguarded as ever as he began. “So, Gallus and I are coltfriends now — creaturefriends? Still figuring that part out. Anyway, I was wondering—”

yay GallBar’s in this! and yes, figuring that part out is always tricky

Sandbar shrugged. “I dunno. Just felt right. Starlight and Trixie are great and all, but it’s nice to have another stallion to talk to. Plus, I just felt like you’d get it, you know?” He paused, a rare cast of hesitancy in his demeanor. “I mean, have you ever had a relationship with a coltfriend that caused any friendship problems before?”

ahaha, love Sandbar’s gaydar

Yet a part of him wondered if Stellar Flare’s rigid plans and ordered aspirations ruined him for a life where he settled down for forever with a partner.

oof! character-based reasons to be never having a long-term relationship

After a brief pause, Sandbar offered him a congenial smile. “Well, I hope you do one day. I know it gets harder when you’re old.”

The hairs on Sunburst’s nape shot up. “I’m only thirty-two!”

“That’s still like…” Sandbar held up his hooves, counting one, then two, “a lot of years older than me!”

how dare you make Sunburst so relatable

Sunburst envisioned the stallion who wrote the passage hanging on his wall, how he might appear were he to step through time into the room at this moment. If only he could have witnessed the open expression of this young stallion’s love and known how right he was.

augh love it! and that stallion is totally gonna turn out to be Stygian isn’t it

I offer a sincere apology. I am shamed by the cowardice I showed the previous night and wish to atone. I hope I may be worthy of your forgiveness, should you grant it.

the florid Stygian-ness of all this does make me wonder again about the previous thing about Old Ponish tending to be translated more floridly than their originals

Sunburst paused here. He twined the quill feather around his beard. Deliberately, he included a word for ‘story’ that could translate variably. ‘Halla’ meant ‘narrative’ or ‘message.’ But Sunburst chose ‘southe’ — ‘truth.’

again, just love all these little decisions that come with translations popping up naturally in this story, it is so refreshing to see

“Perhaps… we could forgo the aid of a spell. It sounds like a bit of intriguing new magic, but I’d feel comforted to only preserve my words in writing.”


Stygian sighed. “I’m sorry. I struggled with this the first time around. When I lived, we were not thinking about whether those who would go on to live after us would take any interest in our personal lives. Writing about oneself was kept to the form of journaling. The information within was practical, offering wisdom on subjects of magic and monsters to the next age. That is why Star Swirl filled many such tomes.”

and again, the cultural drift in how biographies are self-conceived and told between ancient times and now is also a thing i think about and i love to see it here!

They imply ideas about your life. Though, not all of them are exactly favorable. Like how much I resent the suggestion that my mom's ‘overbearing personality’ had a negative effect on how I turned out.” He clicked his tongue.

oof and so true

With no gradual buildup, Stygian said, “My mother died as I was born.”

also oof. it would have been so much more common in the old days, of course Stygian would say it so matter-of-factly…

“That was the day I received my cutie mark.” Stygian swallowed. “And my name as well. As was tradition, then.”

oh wow! this being Stygian’s cutie mark story is just so Early Middle Ages in contrast with the idyllic, sanitized, modern Equestria i love it

Before they left, Sunburst caught Stygian pause. Hoof raised in a half-step, Stygian’s head turned to observe something behind Sunburst’s desk. His eyes moved laterally, reading with perfect fluency.

Sunburst willed him to say something, any remark on the scroll fragment, whether in solidarity — or derision. His heart squeezed. An answer would be enough.

Stygian didn’t offer one. He followed Sunburst toward the door. He was quiet.

now this is definitely coming up again!

Stygian took a step back, his short tail swishing to wrap over his flank. “I’d rather not. I know this is yet another subject of change in this time, but cutie marks were revealed with great discretion in my era.”

love this bit of worldbuilding, which i stick to as well! 

Sunburst did not expect a shy undressing from the stallion opposite him. Stygian’s horn glowed azure and the thin loop at his throat came unbound. He pulled the cloak over his head, ruffling his bobbed mane, and deposited it to the floor. Bathed in the pale moonlight, the revelation of his body was stark. His lowest ribs pressed tight under his hide, shadows pronounced beneath them. His flank was smooth, an unblemished gray coat — absent of a mark.

the contrast with most ponies being nude all the time and this carrying a very charged air of intimacy and trust is just great stuff

It was a frank contradiction, a blank flank on the body of a grown stallion. Like a foal wearing the clothes of his grandfather — the same image evoked by Stygian’s home.

nice callback

That gray coat was silver under the light of the moon. The Old Ponish word for ‘gray’ was synonymous with ‘venerable’ for the way one's mane frosted with age, but Sunburst always connected that dual translation to the precious metal.

love this

A fine, silvery line of bald flesh ran across Stygian’s throat. The mark was just below his jaw, a few inches in length, and imperceptible in most lighting. Sunburst imagined all the Pillars had scars from their questing. It wasn’t unusual for Stygian to bear some of his own.

this brings to mind Sunburst asking if Stygian ever stabbed any monsters with that blade…

“That you experienced something very unfair. But realistic for what you went through.” Sunburst met his eyes. “I’m not sure if you know this, but in the last century, ponies have extensively studied the mind and its connection to the body. There are accounts of this absent cutie mark phenomenon happening to other ponies. After a traumatic event, one’s marks might recede. As far as I read - and I read a lot on the subject - it isn’t permanent.”

love this bit of pony physiology

Unconcerned, Stygian unwrapped the vivid green hard candy and slipped it between his lips. An almost instantaneous paroxysm took hold of him. His lips pulled back to reveal clenched teeth, his eyes rolled upward, and it appeared, for a moment, that his soul had departed heavenward into Celestia’s divine firmament.

“Is it good?” Sunburst asked nervously.

Stygian spat the candy onto his hoof. “It bathed my tongue in acid!” he sputtered, and at Sunburst’s worried gawking, amended, “Figuratively! It’s like biting into a thousand lemons. I’ve never tasted anything so sour.” Stygian blinked, eyes watering. He chuffed out a laugh. “And I suppose it succeeded in banishing my detachment, along with a few taste buds.”

ahahaha the florid prose ending up being a description of someone eating one of those very modern super-sour candies, oh that is good

“I wouldn’t use that word to describe myself.” He kicked a hind hoof off the bench, dragging it back and forth along the floor. “My cutie mark unintentionally caused my dearest friend a lot of hurt. It’s not to blame, of course. I had no control over the moment it appeared. But sometimes, I feel more relaxed when it’s hidden, knowing it can't ever do any more accidental damage.”

augh yeah! Sunburst definitely stands out as a modern pony who is clothed all the time and this is a great explanation why

Stygian averted his gaze. “Just lost in thought.”

Sunburst showed a wry grin. “And the nature of your thoughts?”

When Stygian summoned the courage to look at him again, his wet eyes were wide and filled with fear, pupils dilated like the space between stars. He spoke his next words as though they foretold his ruination.

“You look good like this, too.”

auauaugh love it

Sunburst's following days of administrative work were not enough to quiet his mind. In the interim, it was easy to believe Stygian would never contact him again. Sunburst prodded him to reveal too much. That was grounds enough for Stygian to abandon this project. The punishing idea was a constant refrain, throbbing through Sunburst’s head like a migraine.

dangit Sunburst why must your anxiety be so relatable

Sunburst’s relieved sigh nearly blew the manuscript clean off his desk.

hehe i’d bet!

My father chose an ironic metaphor that day. Indeed, the metal wasn’t heated sufficiently and would not bend to the hammer that beat it. If he wished to inculcate a lesson about weakness, I took away a different message: steady warmth was required for something beautiful to be made.

that is indeed an ironic metaphor, love it. also this biography style feels very modern!

“Well…” Sunburst pressed his glasses up. “I know a few things about ancient smithing practices. That part about warming the metal is a true fact, and I thought it made for an interesting counter-metaphor!”

“Why would one be needed?” Stygian’s nose pointed toward the floor. “His example was clear. And true. Weakness is death.”

ah, that would explain why it felt so modern! and oof, Stygian’s internalization here is too real

Sunburst's ire for Anvilhorn grew each time he wrote his name. He never knew he could feel such present hatred for a pony who was dust in the ground.

too relatable as to be painful almost

Stygian tilted his head, expression softening. “Your understanding is truly boundless. But my anger unnerves me. It nearly destroyed me, and the ponies I care about. Feeling it has never felt safe.”

and oof, well-observed moment here

Sunburst shook his head. “I’m distractible. And sometimes, inconsiderate. If you told that to any of my other friends, they would laugh and laugh.”

It was difficult to meet Stygian’s eyes when he admitted, “You’re just easy to listen to.”

my heart

...We went through the motions of our engagement. Until we wedded, Turning and I were forbidden to be alone in one another's company. Our nights of reading together were gone. When we were in the same room, she was too miserable to speak, her mother always watching over her shoulder as she cooked meals for me. Turning could shear a rock into a gem with her magic. And she was using it to turn a spoon in a pot.

as awful as this is, there is the painful irony on top of it

…Leaving our village was perilous. The land was rife with Windigos and dangerous creatures. A trio of sirens was encroaching on neighboring towns. But news had reached us on many occasions of a burgeoning hero — a great wizard, who fought for what was right. I believed if Turning and I found him, he would shelter us. We both had much to offer in the ways of our knowledge. Our lives would be ours to own.

getting a bad feeling from the fact that i had never heard of Turning Page before this…

Stygian smiled, though it was forced. “Your observations are as keen as ever.” His eyes turned upward. “When my father gave it to me, he said, ‘Take this blade and use it to kill a monster. Do not come home unless you do.’”

this line will definitely come back later

“It’s easy to be a champion over monsters,” he said. “But against our neighbors, we rarely become heroes.”

i love this line

“I like to think she won.” Stygian's voice was faint, his muzzle pressed into Sunburst's neck. “I like to think her education didn’t change her. That her ambitious heart beat back against her tutors and she became a great wizard. Because — she was not so easily defeated. She was my friend and she couldn't be defeated!”

augh, my heart breaks for them both. i like to think this as well, but given how Stygian is phrasing it, he doesn’t think it’s very likely…

“I never imagined it would feel this good.”

and given everything about his upbringing and how he has been describing it, i imagine this to be the very first time he has allowed himself to grieve over any of it, augh

The sun is a star. Use your creativity here, Sunburst.)

ahaha a nightmare of a note to get

In Old Ponish, ‘hight’ was equivalent to New Ponish’s ‘warm’ or ‘hot.’ It could be situated in many contexts: temperature, tenderness, anger, liveliness — or the quality of being attractive.


When Star Swirl was presumed dead, he was everything and nothing. He was lionized and crassly joked about. His image was spoken to in hushed reverence and scribbled over with overlarge glasses and rude iconography. Time made him an object.

definitely have to square the depiction of Starswirl’s place in modern pony culture in the first season with the seventh season material!

But not a kind one. His star was not a sun. It was distant and searing, a pinprick in the vacuum of space.

Sunburst wrote that down.

ooh that is good! Sunburst is right to write that one down!

Sunburst was learned, but not wise. He was pedantic, but not austere. And he was vigorous only in his ability to speak for hours on subjects of his immense interest.

His coloration was vivid and lacked mystique. He was all soft edges under his hide. His beard never filled in past the end of his chin. How ironic to ever picture himself as an esteemed wizard.

augh poor Sunburst’s self-esteem! just want to give him a hug

You look good like this.’

Stygian had, after all, said this when his robe was removed.

hell yeah he did

“However…” Stygian’s jaw trembled, judging the direction of his words. “Star Swirl is not the only stallion who has been exceptionally kind to me.”

Sunburst’s heart was pumping as though having run for miles. He was sitting perfectly still.

i love this

Stygian cleared his throat. “Of course — there was Rockhoof, and he was like a brother. Patient and protective to all who knew him. Flash, too, was a true companion, always spirited for friendly competition, though much of it was expressed through jocular taunts. In any case,” he exclaimed, an octave above his usual dulcet tones, “if your curiosity has been satisfied, I really should put forth my best effort to finish reading these pages before the day comes to a close!” He chuckled, the untuned instrument of his laugh sounding as though it popped a string.

ahaha nice save!

He moved toward the door, but Starlight crossed his path. “Stygian, you should come with us! Maud and Mudbriar will be meeting us there, and I’m going with Trixie, so Sunburst can… he’ll need somepony to talk to!”

ahahaha! yeah, no more being the fifth wheel for Sunburst!

“I am glad to know the Autumn Equinox is still a celebrated event,” Stygian remarked. A tender sadness shaped his expression. “The Pillars and I used to join with the towns we helped as they ushered in the harvest season with food, music, and merriment. I assume that is all still done as well?”

aww love that there are things like this to bridge the centuries between their times

Stygian himself appeared as stiff as paper. Sunburst envisioned him joyous under the orange harvest moon, galloping across the crunching leaf-litter to point out a recognizable artifact among the antique tent. Breath billowing in the frigid air, eyes bright and curious, tasting fritters and pumpkin pie, a beating heart in the lush present.

such a romantic way of describing someone at a state fair, love it

“You kept me waiting for a full ten minutes!” Trixie, as ever, presented herself with no small amount of camp. She tossed a hoof over her forehead, wilting. “The Sad and Defeated Trixie is heartbroken. Surely by now the fair has closed down. And she wanted so badly to see it with her marefriend.”

this is a perfect Trixie thank you i love her and i love reading this paragraph

“Technically,” Mudbriar’s hoof lifted, “while we may not have met, we do know you.”

this is a perfect Mudbriar thank you i do not enjoy his presence

“Of course it’s all right.” Sunburst resumed trotting in step with Stygian. The hem of his cloak brushed Stygian’s fetlocks, but otherwise, the robe’s color and character complimented him. Sunburst said, “After all, it suits you.”

Stygian chuckled. “I am no wizard. But… thank you.” His steps became fluid, no longer stilted with chilled jitters. And for a discreet moment, Stygian’s snout inclined to touch the inside of the high collar, his chest rising and falling with a serene breath.

The warm center in Sunburst’s stomach grew.

augh i love it! i, too, feel the warm center in my stomach grow

Beside him, Stygian beamed. “I used one, once! During the Pillar’s rescue of a band of merchants enslaved by Diamond Dogs, I thought of employing a phoenix feather quill to covertly communicate help was on the way. The disappearing messages prevented the Dogs from knowing of our plan to liberate their captives.”

Sunburst’s eyes gleamed in the tent’s lantern light. “Stygian, you’re incredible! What an act of heroism!”

these two dorks really are perfect for each other

Stygian's head fell. “Why is it my story that is allowed to be known?”

oof, really feeling that survivor’s guilt. really great to have Turning Page’s story earlier to bring its weight to this moment as well

“Sleight of hoof.” Sunburst giggled. “I dabble in close up magic. Anyway, anything you wanted to buy? Whatever you want is on me.”

Stygian’s breath whistled in his throat, not quite a laugh or wheeze. “You continue to amaze me.” He rubbed the side of his neck, then pressed there too long, as though confirming a pulse. His ears were pulled back.

just the perfect way to bring that canon detail in! the way Stygian is so genuinely impressed by it even after everything he’s seen in his life is just so cute

Stygian’s head dipped low. He smiled, but the expression was different on him. His brows were upturned, as though bereaved. “Joy is what I missed the most. Not just in Limbo, but when I lived back then. It was a strange kind of missing, because I haven’t known it so purely until now.” He met Sunburst’s eyes, a twinkle in his own. “But in another age, the world will be kind in ways that surprise you.”

Sunburst sat up. “That’s…”

“What was that treat you suggested to me earlier? Funnel cake, was it?” Stygian pressed a hoof to his chin in thought. “I should try some before the night ends.”

“Oh! Of course!” Sunburst sputtered. He rose, leaves shedding from his tail.

this swerve keeps happening and i keep loving it somehow

“Wow.” Trixie’s voice carried under the singer’s vocals. “You must be some writer, Sunburst. ‘I’m grateful to know you?’ Yawn. Remind me to never hire you as my biographer.”

rude, Trixie! i thought it was good!

“Stygian says so many things to suggest that I'm the first stallion who’s been kind to him in the modern age. And I try to be, more than I’ve tried for anypony I’ve known.” His mournful gaze fell between the dark gaps in the crushed grass. “I'm trying to show him a kinder world is possible. The one he lived in was cruel to ponies like him. Far too cruel in ways that were both loud, and quiet.”

augh so true

“Well, I'm a performer; a public figure. And now, a counselor, guiding young minds from all corners of Equestria and beyond! Being silent, that doesn't just affect me anymore.” She pressed a hoof to her chest with a knowing smile. “When ponies know I'm a trans mare in a wonderfully happy relationship with my gorgeous marefriend, they feel less alone if they relate to me at all. But of course, I can't imagine a pony who wouldn't want to relate to The Great and Powerful Trixie.”

absolute perfection zero notes

The silent, curious eyes of Maud and Mudbriar were on him, lit from behind by the wavering fire. Yet to Sunburst, their fixed gazes were not unlike the punitive stare of his former principal, leaning over the desk to intone, “I’m sorry, but you’ve failed your final exams. It seems we’ve made a mistake in admitting you.” They were the darting glances from Starlight as he stepped off the train to Ponyville for the first time, primed to chase after novelty rather than allow her enough time in his presence to decide she did not forgive him his absence. They were his mother’s eyes, puffy and red when he visited home to console her in the days after Dad moved out, her words rife with disbelief that love could exist only to be ripped away.

oh this is so good, weaving together all the parts of Sunburst’s canon life like this! just wow, masterfully done

Sunburst crept to Starlight, who once again had Trixie’s drowsy head in her lap. He leaned to her ear and whispered under the bright vocals, “What were you and Stygian talking about?”

Her ear twitched. She tipped her head back. “Nosy Sunburst,” she giggled, and booped him.

“It isn’t my story to tell.”

love this response

His slender throat bobbed with a stiff swallow and when he spoke again, his gentle voice was breathy, “What made you think of it now?”

augh and of course the final one of these moments in the chapter would be the heartstoppingest of them all in buildup

“I…” He gulped. “I must've had translating on my mind, I guess! You know, since we were planning for our next meeting.” He inhaled, taking a step backward. “As always, send me a letter, when... when you’re ready.”

Stygian’s ears drooped like senescing leaves. He blinked, expression flattening. Behind his eyes, he woke up.

my ears would also droop like senescing leaves. so, so close!

“Goodnight, Sunburst,” was said like an elegy as the door closed.

beautifully put

It smelled like sugar and smoke and apple cider — and something warm he should've had a name for.


“I messed up, Starlight.”

i’d say! (but also, been there, oof. okay not quite bad as this in retrospect but still)

“I'm not going to tell you.” Starlight’s lips pulled back. She took a deep breath, and when she spoke again, it was in the old tones of her role as a counselor. “You know, he didn't even ask me to keep it a secret. Because he trusts you. You have to see that. He trusts you enough to believe you wouldn’t demand me, your best friend, to tell you what he said to me in confidence.”

Sunburst was chagrined by how right she was.

oof, Sunburst is just rappelling off the cliff here

When he took a sip, it still wasn’t enough. He’d tasted sweeter.


I always thought it was cruel to build a town around an anathema. If it was so despised, why did it occupy the heart of its world? Send the thing that is different and wrong away if it is so unfit to exist. At least then, it wouldn’t know how much it was hated.

with Stygian’s background and the society he grew up in and his experiences leading him to this, i see how it is all converging with the Pony of Shadows and wow, i am in awe of this story

When I pressed my ear to the stone over the well, I should have foreseen that the voice below would have been kinder than any of those above.

After all, I had known this darkness before.

just beautiful

Beneath his nose, it didn’t smell like anything at all.


P.P.S. I was the one who translated your journal.

hehe somehow just imagine Sunburst brandishing a gun here

It hurt to see him this way. The desk couldn’t have spanned more than a two foot divide between them but that distance was abysmal.

and everything in this scene makes that two feet feel like a chasm, augh

“I’m sure you recall I left little to the imagination in my book. The ghostwriter encouraged me to send all the material I could on the Pony of Shadows, as it was sure to captivate with its gloomy mystique.” His stare was vacant as he said this, lips twitching back in a weak sneer. His eyes flitted closed. “When ponies pick up that book, they will no doubt have all their cravings for the sinister sated.”

i can just taste the bitterness on my tongue i love it

“What else is there to say that I didn’t write? Once more, I opened a grave. I trespassed on the resting place of an ancient evil and the rest, you know. You were there. You saw the Shadow.”

augh, this connection as well! so good!

Indiscriminately, it appropriated the visage of an alicorn in its hasty assemblage, willing even to usurp a female likeness of sovereign power to assert its might.

author, i love you

In a sonorous voice Sunburst hadn’t heard since the antique shop, Stygian insisted, “An ill-fated desire. I was drawn into its thrall like an ill-fated desire. That is the truth of my words and she twisted them.”

ok, this reveal, i just love this reveal that those were not the words Stygian originally wrote. there are so many layers here, and if this is one of those things where two intentional lies somehow stack on top of each other to reveal a truth i am going to lose it

Trust, Sunburst!” Stygian grasped with upturned hooves. “The thing I invite despite its continued insistence on hurting me!”

i love this both on the level of it being melodramatic and on the level of it being, yeah, i can see why Stygian would think that given his whole life

“If anything, it's I who will inevitably let them down. When I was saved, Princess Twilight told me she wanted me to be Stygian again. I’m doubtful I can fulfill that request. Stygian is a rather difficult thing to be.” He looked down, past the floor, into the earth. “After all, his bones ought to have been laid to rest a millennium ago.”

and yes, though the children’s TV show ends Stygian’s story with that line, it would certainly not be so easy…

Stygian showed a weary smile. When he lifted his hoof from Sunburst’s, a faint gray stain was left on the cream coat of his sock.

It looked like soot.

augh, the charcoal…

Starlight gifted Sunburst with the weathered Dragon Pit box she produced during his first trip to Ponyville. It returned with him when he became a resident of the town. But it remained closed until now. Not even he and Starlight opened it again.

you really are mining that episode to the bedrock and i love it

Sunburst was the first to break it. “You know, I made a large version of this game, once. It was interactive; my friends and I played as the dragons. It was something special I did for Starlight, when she was trying to reconnect with me after I’d been a bad friend.” He rolled the die; it clattered on a measly one. Sunburst moved his piece. “I’m good at gestures. I’m not as good with words.”

absolutely love that this is what Sunburst took away from that event

Entering his scholastic Canterlot home, the first thing Sunburst noticed about the wizened stallion was that he was no longer angry. There was an amicable twinkle in his eyes and an avuncular jaunt in his step as he crossed the floor to welcome in Sunburst and entertain him in his study.

ooh, definitely a happier Starswirl than i expected, so i guess i am with Sunburst here

Only now did Star Swirl begin to sober. A glaze of recognition overcame his eyes and he sighed, true and deep. “Ah. That was when we all lived together, in Hollow Shades. Those were some of my happiest years. Until now that is. I no longer have to quantify happiness from scarcity. I’m rich with it today.”

Sunburst’s lips dropped into a condemning grimace. “If only we could all be so lucky.”

and there is something just so dang real about this. Starswirl being free to get old and rich and happy and pleasant, free to grow and learn and regret the wrongs that he had done, while Stygian still lives with his scars and misery from those wrongs

Star Swirl let out a rumbling cough, clearing his aged throat, but before he began, Sunburst raised his hoof. “Wait — may I record you? You know. For the book.”

Star Swirl blinked rapidly. “Ah, that is new magic isn’t it? Of course, by all means. I’m rather delighted to see it in action.”

the contrast with Stygian’s reaction is a great character note again for the ease that Starswirl lives in, but also makes me think of this being the climactic scene in a journalism movie

A light jingle sweetened the air. Star Swirl turned back to Sunburst, a glint playing in his eyes. “Besides, I don’t live in that world anymore. And an old stalluvji like me is just grateful to be in a future filled with so much… love.”

The following silence was loud. A continuous, shimmering hum from the recording spell attempted to fill it.

and oof… though now thinking back, this is the only way this conversation could have gone

Star Swirl’s laughter faded. He sighed, a pained rattle in his breath. “When you’re surrounded by hate, some of it slips into you, masquerading as pain. It becomes dirty and festering, until you forget that the ugly new hate you now possess was ever pain to begin with.”

as painful as it is for me to see Equestria’s past as homophobic as our own, truths so well-observed make it more than worth it

He continued. “With all that remains unfinished between us, I do not feel right seeing him until I know he is content. I don’t want the wounds of our history to reopen in my presence. I want to know he has somepony to love him.”

A brilliant conviction rose in Sunburst’s chest.

“He does.

augh what a beautiful end to this chapter!

Sunburst’s hoof slid across the worn wood table, taking Stygian’s own in his grasp. “That doesn’t change the fact that your trust was broken. Now I know just how badly.” He sucked in a shuddery breath. “Every time you took responsibility for your own happiness, you were hurt. That never should have happened.”

Stygian’s neck lolled, a tired smile rising on his face. “Not every time.”

the way each of their pasts informs this present, just a beauty to behold storytellingwise

The flickering candlelight in the windowsill washed Stygian’s coat, a cast of gold on silver. His slow breaths were audible in the peaceful quiet of his kitchen. A rustling whispered below as his bobbed tail swished in thought. Miniscule flexions of muscle shifted under his hide as his posture adjusted, the chair creaking with him. His eyes were wide and searching. Sunburst could not imagine the absence of his presence, not when it drew his every sense.

and this! augh i wish i could write like this!

Stygian paused, and said, “When I lit the fire last night, it was only to keep me warm.”

ah, the growth! the healing starting to begin! i love it

“I want it all, Stygian. Not just for the book. When I said your truth was valuable, I meant all of it.”

“Then, perhaps, this once — may I show you, rather than tell you?” He met Sunburst’s eyes, his ears low. “It will be easier on me that way.”

Sunburst nodded, but said, “Don’t show me this only if you think it might push me away. If this is a strategy – a test – I won’t take it as one. I’ll just be with you.”

Stygian smiled with a culpable squint. “Always clever.”

love this as well! calling back to Stygian’s self as a strategist, and Sunburst’s initial seeking of Stygian’s truth now heavier with meaning after all he’s learned and grown

“You told me not to come home unless I killed a monster.” The jagged dagger descended, poised above Anvilhorn’s sinewy throat, the heavy stallion struggling to rise.

“But home belongs to the worst monster I know.”


And he collapsed at his father’s hooves.

and augh. the what was foreshadowed well, and the how is just so poetic in its execution

Sunburst came to his side, a hoof on his shoulder to caution him back from the edge of the crater. “That’s an incredibly powerful healing spell,” he gasped. “No ordinary unicorn apothecary could perform it! Only an expert spellcaster.”

aaaaaa i love it! Stygian’s assumptions about what happened being upended in multiple ways, the open loop of Turning Page’s story being closed, augh this is so good!

“You were helped,” Sunburst concluded. “Even when you believed all you had left was the Shadow, somepony still loved you.”

so beautiful and perfect

Sunburst, his voice still bright with joy, nodded to Stygian’s reclaimed mark and said, “You look good like this.”

also so beautiful and perfect

In a flash of blue, he disappeared.

ahaha that really got me

“You can’t teleport!”

“I was trying to follow you!”

Their voices overlapped.

Each of them went rigid as nerves faded and comprehension returned. And they both erupted into laughter.

they are such disasters i love them

“You’re innocent, Sunburst.” Stygian looked over his shoulder. “If I could go back to the antique shop, I wouldn’t change anything. If you’re fearful you gave me something meant to be my end, you didn’t.” A true smile rose to his face. “Without you, I wouldn’t have been rewarded with this beginning.”

so beautiful and true

As it clattered faintly at the unseeable bottom, Sunburst said, “Let’s hope it doesn’t show up in another antique shop.”

“If it does,” Stygian said, turning from the dark pit to look up at him, “I won’t be there to find it.”

i imagine sunglasses falling from the sky and onto Stygian’s face right after he says this

They were linked by this gentle hold for a matter of minutes, before the separation began to feel like pain. Sunburst worked closer, pulling Stygian to himself. He stroked the small of his back until he stopped shaking.

Stygian’s muffled whisper rose from below Sunburst’s chin. “I’ve never slept beside…”

“I know,” Sunburst said, just as softly. “It’s easy. You just sleep. But you have somepony to hold you.”

i love

When he did, it was with his ear pressed to Sunburst’s chest, soothed into slumber by the beating of his heart.


Stygian smiled, a press of worry in his brows. “After the book. What happens, then?”

Sunburst blinked the final dregs of sleep from his eyes, present and conscious. “I keep loving you.”

Stygian met his gaze. “I keep loving you, too.”

hell yeah

It was different this time, a careful articulation as their lips drew together. Sunburst’s hoof slid to the base of Stygian’s neck above his shoulders, the bumps of his spine under his touch. Stygian reached for him too, a tentative, clumsy grasp for Sunburst’s body, gaining familiarity with the lean muscles of his shoulders, the soft sides of his belly. A faint note hummed in his throat as he trembled to explore the feeling of another stallion beneath his hooves, long-sought and unknown — until now.

augh you are good at this

Sunburst caressed his face, easing him to open his eyes, and Stygian caught his hoof, clutching it hard. He blinked, eyes running with tears, beholding a new and dazzling brightness, the rush of dawn rising to meet him.

Stygian felt sunlight for the first time.

just powerful, and lovely, and wow

From across the bookshop, Sunburst watched Stygian with a swell of loving admiration. Stygian signed the thousandth dedication page of Reward Prefers Risk with a plumy black quill and handed the copy back to a chartreuse-colored pegasus colt with a curly blond mane who clapped his hooves tight on the hard covers, pulling it to his chest.

love that the story Stygian writes is the same title as this very story

“I am, too. Guess I really took the title’s advice.” He laughed, Stygian along with him. “Because, I had to meet you. I just want to tell you — your book really inspired me. I like stallions, but my parents don’t know yet. I think they’ll accept me after a while, but I'm nervous to finally tell them.”

Stygian’s hoof reached to rest on the table. “You’re very brave to hold off until you feel safe. That takes so much courage.”

and augh, this is just so full circle in the most beautiful of ways

Sunburst squinted at the doubtlessly handsome gray blur in front of him. “That is not a question I can answer in confidence right now.”

ahahaha i love this

Stygian still teared up when he used the word husband to introduce Sunburst, a word he never imagined uttering with ownership.

so relatable damn

As Sunburst watched from across the room, he rubbed his beard, trying to tease out his stirring of recollection. Leaning to Maud, he asked, “Isn’t that your old rockology professor he’s with?”

Maud’s expression hadn’t budged an inch when she said, “This is the funniest moment of my life.”

oh this is just perfect. you do not miss with any single one of these characters

“Okay, my secret gifter is clearly Mudbriar,” Trixie said, indulgently holding up the opened box to reveal a chocolate frosted yule log, dusted with powdered sugar. “Very clever. You know, since it’s wood-themed.”


Stygian turned the cover, translating as he read, “My beloved, Turning Page. May these cantos sing for you where my voice cannot.” His hoof grasped his mouth.

“The author’s name is Lavender Belle,” Starlight explained in gentle tones. “We traced her family line. She would have been alive at the same time as Turning.”


“The hoofwriting is so similar to Lavender Belle’s,” she said. “I don’t know if it can be fully confirmed, but…”

so as i was reading this story, i wrote on Discord that, regarding the foreshadowing of Stygian being the one to have written those words,
it's foreshadowed so much i hope that's not what happens and the reveal kills me
and this? this is the reveal killing me. i literally do not know how you do it

He wondered how many hearts would go on to be touched by the words of long departed author, Stygian Flare.

augh the last name. also augh the metafiction

But my bones will rest easy one day. For in another age, they will rest beside yours.

and a wonderful way to end it, with the last words of the book-within-a-book being the last words of the book, Stygian speaking to Sunburst and through Sunburst to all the rest of us, all the layers wherein, wow

this was one of the best stories i have ever read on this site. i wish so very much that i could write like this. all i can say is thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for writing this


Thank you, Bike, from the bottom of my heart for these incredible comments! I had the biggest smile on my face reading through each one and know I’ll be back to read through them again from time to time when I need a boost of good feelings.

Also, these two in particular made me laugh out loud, thank you:

hehe somehow just imagine Sunburst brandishing a gun here

i imagine sunglasses falling from the sky and onto Stygian’s face right after he says this

In regard to the epilogue and tying together the refrain of the Old Ponish phrase in Sunburst’s office, I’m so glad to know how much it worked to bring you through the story and that its payoff was just as emotionally meaningful as I hoped it would be! (And it’s also very exciting to know this story was generating so much robust discussion among you and the other judges, haha).

As a “thank you” of sorts, I’ll offer a little bit of “behind the scenes” in my writing process in terms of how these narrative developments came to be:

The phrase “In another age, the world will liberate our love” took direct inspiration from the fragment of Sappho’s poetry that translates to: “I say, someone in another time will remember us.” This historical quote has reached across time to mean so many things to so many modern-day gay people and very much embodies the heart of how I rendered its analog in Reward Prefers Risk: if not now, then in the future, there will be a place for us. Gay love has always existed and will always exist. But, I know this needs no explanation from me.

I anticipated those who read this story might predict Stygian to have been the one who wrote that line (and recall considering it somewhere in development), but felt that was a little too on the nose, as lovely as it may have been. Instead, like its inspiration, the credit goes to the lesbians! Turning Page’s unknown fate sat at the center of Stygian’s guilt for all of his life because while he believed he was able to escape the systemic oppression of his hometown — she didn’t. But while things weren’t easy for her, they weren’t hopeless. She was still loved, and that was powerful. Once again, I know it needs no explanation from me for how this resonates within the story’s themes.

I could easily write thousands of words on this big heartfelt story that’s occupied so many of my thoughts and feelings and just hope I’ve expressed my gratitude enough! Seeing your response to it and those of the other judges has made all the work I put into it feel all the more worthwhile ♡

Hello! I'm one of the heads of the Old Ponish project. I had no idea this was getting used this way! This is wonderful! I'm sharing it with the group. Feel free to share any thoughts with me or on the Discord https://discord.com/invite/NxerkEy :twilightsmile:

Hello! Thank you so much for your incredible work in developing the Old Ponish Project dictionary! I'm so glad you found this story and am very appreciative you've shared it with the rest of the group. Discovering the Old Ponish Project as a resource was instrumental in bringing in a lot of life to this story and was incredibly comprehensive and easy to use.

As an example of how I worked with it: the longer passages of Old Ponish that appear in the letters Sunburst and Stygian write to one another were written first in English (or diegetically, New Ponish), and then retroactively "translated" to Old Ponish. (The process therein involved me using the PDF version of the dictionary and the search function to find the equivalent word I was looking for, haha). This allowed me to play around with how modern translation might come across differently based on the writer, with the Old Ponish passages being written rather objectively, and the New Ponish passages containing a unique sense of tone and voice.

There were also a few instances where I couldn't find an exact Old Ponish equivalent to an English word I wanted to use and was able to essentially "make up" an Old Ponish word using a similar root and an appropriate suffix or prefix -- which all credit goes to the incredible detail in the Old Ponish Project that I was able to do that! I also especially appreciated how many words had multiple meanings and connotations as any language does and had a great time playing with that in the context of the story.

I'm genuinely surprised that I haven't seen much Old Ponish used in other fics when the Old Ponish Project exists. I hope I contributed in my own way to inspiring other authors to incorporate it into their writing. I think so much can be done with it to add that extra bit of life to characters who are fluent in the language!

Alright, coming here from Miller's blog post and before even opening the first chapter you have two exceptional high points:
- Reward Prefers Risk is a fantastic title. Taking an old turn of phrase and turning it into something new and fresh is a huge win in my book.
- This line from the long description, "However, the rewards of acceptance can only come at the risk of being known." is equally exhilarating. Wraps up the need for connection and the fear of vulnerability in a much more poetic package than "The Hedgehog's Dilemma."

I'm legitimately stoked at how good these two things are by themselves. I'll chow down on the rest as soon as I can manage.

Finally getting around to reading this one and I must say as one of the fellow writers in the MxM contest that I am glad to have lost to such an earnest love story. I wish I was in a better state of mind reading this as my current, medicine-addled brain probably missed details here and there, but even in my haze I could tell the quality was off the charts for a fan fiction.

The characterization here is superb and found myself relating to both Sunburst and Stygian with their kindness and self-worth issues respectively. Bike mentioned how much you mined the source material for this one, and it was great to see what canon bits you were able to take and craft to give deeper meanings to. I love it when writers like you take characters I barely remember because I didn't care to remember it and give me a desire to go back and watch the show to see how you expanded what was presented in that two-part season finale. And the way these two slowly came together? So lovely. I love it when there is a spark of attraction that grows from places other than the physical, but that's my ace-ness showing. Coming together over healing and becoming a better you who feels worthy of love hits me right in the feels.

Thank you very much for sharing this story with us. It's worth every like, favorite, and watch. Speaking of, let me hit those buttons. I look forward to reading more from you when everything's not so fuzzy.

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