Don’t skip out on today’s story.
Dragon Lord Ember Skips Work for an Hour
[Romance] [Slice of Life] • 3,060 words
The mighty Dragon Lord Ember slips away for an hour, to meet up with her secret mate.
Contains: two newly-installed world leaders who don’t really know what they’re doing, and some wistful escapist cuddling.
FROM THE CURATORS: If there’s anything this story shows, it’s the power of being able to rely on your friends — a lesson we ourselves took to heart. “I freely admit that I am going to be blind to this fic’s faults because Embrax is the universe’s best ship, so I’m trusting you guys to add the objectivity I lack,” Horizon said in his nomination. “But this was good even by Embrax standards. I clicked through as a guilty pleasure, only to find it far exceeding my expectations.” He wasn’t the only one. “I’ve never read any Embrax before, so this served as my introduction; I think I’m sold!” RBDash47 said. “The author does a great job convincing me that Ember and Thorax are a natural fit. We understand what exactly they see in each other and the challenges they face in their budding relationship.”
The strength of that shipping not only won it an Honorable Mention in CategoricalGrant’s Cuddlefic Contest, but also came in for repeated curator compliments. “What really sold me is how convincingly it gives us both sides of a romantic relationship even though we’re only in one character’s point of view throughout,” AugieDog said. “Even though we’re only getting Ember’s direct take on the situation, the author manages to show us Thorax’s view and what Ember means to him in an entirely indirect fashion.” Horizon had similar praise: “This really centers the contrast in character which makes the ship so dynamic — as well as the ways that the pair makes each other better. It’s rich in detail throughout, and every detail pulls together into a greater whole.”
But even more than the stellar interpersonal work, what we found exemplary was the thoughtful look inside both protagonists. “This is a really remarkable piece of character work,” Present Perfect said. “I don’t know that I’ve read any Ember-centric stories before now, and what the author does with her is exceptional.” Soge agreed: “I like the characterization work, where it takes Ember, and the subtle way it worldbuilds about her position in the world.” RBDash47 noted that as well: “For a bonus, we get a great exploration of how life for the dragons has changed since Ember took the throne. I love how the author found a way, via the pocketwatch, to make Ember’s small stature and relative delicateness an asset when it comes to ruling her people.” All in all, as Horizon said, “there’s so much more going on here than just the shipping.”
Read on for our author interview, in which The Cloptimist discusses daisy necklaces, stolen scenes, and life-saving songs.
Give us the standard biography.
I’m British, and I’m a lawyer, and a parent; I got into the show through my daughter, during the long S4/S5 hiatus, and we caught up just in time for “The Cutie Map”. I found Fimfiction about a year after that, but didn’t get around to actually writing anything until earlier this year.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
It’s a silly pun. I tend to have a pretty optimistic view on life, I write clop… pif paf pof, Cloptimist!
Who’s your favorite pony?
Applejack! Although in real life I’m probably more like Twilight and Pinkie, I strive to be more like AJ. Her sense of humour is the same as mine, and she’s such a good role model when she’s written well — and as someone from a rural background myself, it’s good to see a farmer character who loves the simple life but isn’t portrayed as “the stupid one”. I’m also very fond of Somnambula from the comics, as if Pinkie and Twilight somehow had a baby who was then raised by Luna; she steals practically every scene she’s involved in.
What’s your favorite episode?
“Amending Fences” still gives me chills — the moment when Twilight snaps back out of her flashback, with that stunned expression on her face, realising it’s her fault that Moondancer was so upset, is my favourite shot in the history of the show, just ahead of Luna’s dream from “Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep” and the ending of “The Cutie Mark Chronicles”. But there are so few episodes I don’t really care for. Maybe it’s because I came in later — and so my memories of the first four seasons aren’t tied in with being part of the fandom during that amazing Golden Age for art, PMVs, conventions and so on — but I still think the show is capable of being every bit as good as it was at the start. Seasons 5, 7 and 4 (in that order) are my favourites overall, for example, and I thought “Best Gift Ever” would be in my top ten episodes if it was, y’know, an episode!
What do you get from the show?
It just makes me so happy! As a parent with a young daughter, I like the lessons it imparts, both directly and also indirectly just by having so many strong female characters. As an adult, I like the well-drawn characters, the clever setting, the jokes, the acting, the sharp plotting, and just the overall sense of warmth and kindness that comes whenever I spend any amount of time in that world. As someone who sometimes struggles with depression, I remember being at my absolute lowest ebb and then seeing The Smile Song for the first time — I’m tearing up just now even writing about it! It was probably that more than anything else that made me realise I wanted to go and get some help, so without being overly melodramatic it’s possible ponies saved my life! It’s my favourite show, even now, and considering the whole brony thing completely passed me by during the supposed Golden Age (which, again, I wasn’t here for!), I was so unprepared for it to be good, never mind life-changing.
What do you want from life?
Happy children, and satisfied readers! And more prosaically, I’m really, really hoping Season 9 is a fitting send-off. I might not have been here as long as some of you, but that doesn’t mean I’m not as invested.
Why do you write?
Mostly, just because it’s a lot of fun! I like turning ideas into actual situations. I like to think my strength is writing good, well-motivated characters, and I enjoy “spending time with them” by thinking about how they’d react in a given situation. I also love the feedback.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Write! I had all these ideas buzzing around my head, and a lot more, but unless you actually get them down on paper (or, well, electrons), they’re no good to anyone else. As soon as I actually started typing words, it was like a light switched on.
I’d also say something about not being discouraged by downvotes, but I’m still working on that myself, so…
What — other than CategoricalGrant’s contest — inspired “Dragon Lord Ember Skips Work for an Hour”?
Of all things, a prompt thread in the Shipping group. I tend to write very quickly — this story didn’t take much more than an hour or so from start to finish, although I had a lot of the ideas floating around beforehand (wanting to write something about dragons, the idea of Ember having to modernise dragon society and using the concept of time management to put it into practice…). Someone posted a thread in the Shipping forum listing a bunch of unusual couples that would be fun to write stories about, and I immediately zeroed in on Ember and Thorax, because their canon relationship seemed to imply some promise there, and wrote this story right there and then.
It was only after I’d published it that I discovered it’s actually not that uncommon a ship! But I was able to use a lot of the ideas I already had in the service of this one story. It all seemed to fit together so well as I wrote.
Why did you decide to tell a romance story from the point of view of just one of the two characters involved?
Two reasons, really. First, I was more interested in the new dragon society than the new changeling society, mainly because we’ve already had a whole episode dedicated to the latter in “To Change a Changeling”. So many of the dragons we’ve seen in the show, or in the comics, have been just awful — I wanted to explore some more of how Ember, as a physically much smaller (and also female!) dragon, would go about actually ruling in that society, going from basically the runt princess to the supreme leader overnight. I didn’t feel it would have anywhere near as much impact to show Thorax sneaking out too.
The other reason was that, structurally, I liked the idea of it being a “surprise” that Bloodwing turned out to be Thorax; even if the story tags and cover art completely gave it away to readers, I still thought it made for a stronger story if that reveal wasn’t made in-story until halfway through.
(I did toy with the idea of putting in a cutaway scene where Ember, having had her own ‘vision’ of what the dragons are up to back in the cave right now, asks Thorax what he thinks the changelings are doing without him, and it would cut to them happily making necklaces out of daisies or playing party games or something, while Pharynx just facepalms in disgust, but I thought it would break the flow too much. I preferred us just following Ember for the night.)
Do you think your versions of Ember and Thorax will ever feel secure enough in their respective realms to be together openly?
I’d like to think so, though they both have different roads to travel in order to get there. Ember’s task is to make herself the most indispensable and also most feared Dragon Lord there has ever been, so when the news breaks that her mate is a changeling, nobody will challenge her. For Thorax, it’s about proving to the world that the changelings are no longer a threat to world peace, and reassuring the changelings they aren’t opening themselves up to potential colonisation. So, yes, I’d hope they get there one day.
Other than the subject matter, do you you approach writing Mature stories differently from writing All Ages or Teen-rated stories?
Not really, no — every one of my stories has a semi stream-of-consciousness moment where I want the reader to be swept along with the flow and caught up in the emotions the character is expressing (in this one it’s Ember’s little flight of fantasy into the future at the end, for instance). It’s just that the end result I’m aiming for, the feelings I’m hoping to provoke, are a bit different! But the approach, the process, the writing itself, that’s really the same.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I love Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark!