Old soldiers never die, they just feature in today’s story.
This Isn’t War
[Alternate Universe] [Slice of Life] • 1,548 words
Rainbow Dash was the Iron Wing. She was a war hero, the Slayer of Shadows, the Liberator of the Crystal Empire, the Wrath of Celestia. And depending on who you ask, she still is.
But the war is over. There’s little need for a pony like her in peacetime. So she keeps telling herself that she needs to adjust, that she needs to find a new role to fill in the world that she saved. But Equestria seems content to let her remain what she has become, even though they have no need of a warrior.
“This isn’t how it’s supposed to be”, is something she keeps telling herself. But every time she says it, the only thing she can reply is, “so what should it be?”
One whole year after the close of the war, and Rainbow Dash still doesn’t have the answer.
FROM THE CURATORS: When the Season 5 finale offered us glimpses of its broken Equestrias, it spurred quite a bit of compelling writing from the fandom — including this fic. “This is a short, punchy piece about the Rainbow Dash from the King Sombra timeline dealing with life after the war’s over,” Present Perfect said in his nomination, and we found a lot to appreciate in its short length. “I very much liked the voice here, both the way that echoes of the Rainbow Dash we know keep bubbling up throughout and the way that she’s such an unreliable narrator,” AugieDog said. “It gave me the impression of a character trying to express her feelings without really knowing how to do it.”
Another element singled out for praise was its treatment of its core concept. “It’s a war story which is respectful of its topic,” Chris said, “which neither glorifies brutality nor sinks to edgy posturing nor resorts to cheap melodrama to try and hammer home the psychological toll.” Other curators agreed. “I’m not really qualified to evaluate this piece in terms of what war veterans have to deal with, but as a somber look at post-war trauma and readjustment to civilian life, it’s believable and powerful,” Present Perfect said. And Chris seconded the story’s believability: “I know two friends, at least, for whom Dash’s financial arc is basically accurate.”
Interestingly, while we found this an effective tale, we disagreed on what part of the story contributed most to its strength. “I was entirely sold on this story for most of its (short) length, but I don’t care for the ending,” Chris said, and Horizon disagreed: “I thought that the ending was the best part of this, grounding the story firmly in the Rainbow Dash we know to emphasize the contrast in her character.” And while AugieDog found the ending a matter of interpretation, he ultimately praised it: “The more upbeat interpretation of the ending — which I’ll take every time, thank you very much — gives her a full character arc and sends her sailing on into a brighter future.”
Read on for our author interview, in which KingMoriarty discusses societal breadcrumbs, dragon dismemberment, and pre-holiday hydration.