It's probably no secret that Fiddlesticks, despite only having had two very short, non-speaking background appearances in the series, is one of my favorite ponies ever, so it was with quite some anticipation that I read The Magician and the Fiddler, a piece of fanfic written by The Fool. Unfortunately, it didn't quite live up to my expectations.
As the title suggests, the story centers around Fiddlesticks and the Great and Powerful Trixie; following a chance meeting after one of Trixie's performances in Fillydelphia, the two decide to team up, but naturally, things don't go so well for them.
The story fairly neatly separates into three distinct parts. The first deals with the circumstances under which Fiddlesticks and Trixie meet, how they hook up, and how they perform together. It could've led to a lovely romance story, with a number of different scenarios: Fiddlesticks and Trixie just hooking up after Fiddlesticks professes to be a fan, Fiddlesticks and Trixie performing together successfully and becoming popular, Fiddlesticks and Trixie failing and growing closer as they try to get to terms with the hand that fate dealt them. But none of this happens.
The first part ends when their first (and last) shared performance goes spectacularly, horribly wrong, leaving Trixie dead after an out-of-control illusion spell burns her alive. A heartbroken Fiddlesticks decides to seek out a medium that Trixie mentioned having an appointment with, in order to summon Trixie's spirit and speak with her a final time. This could've led to a bittersweet romance story, one where Fiddlesticks is forced to deal with these tragic events and cope with the loss of something she barely had time to appreciate; it could've been a story portraying an inner journey following the séance, perhaps mirrored by an outer journey. But unfortunately, none of that happens, either.
Instead, the medium turns out to be Pinkie Pie, and she's every bit as inane and random as she's usually displayed. From her, a bewildered Fiddlesticks learns that Trixie, rather than having been killed by out-of-control magic, has been taken into hell as a result of a pact she failed to uphold; and upon hearing this, Fiddlesticks decides to venture into hell to rescue Trixie, as she has fallen madly in love with the magician.
Why? It's not clear, actually. There is clearly some chemistry between the two earlier in the story, but love, especially undying, death-defying love, takes time to develop, and there is no explanation for why Fiddlesticks should be harboring these feelings for Trixie. This is actually lampshaded in the story itself:
Looking back to her fiddle and stretching the second string taut, she threaded the tip through the tuning peg, wound up the excess, and asked herself why she was about to march into the depths of Tartarus for a mare she'd known for less than a week.
But despite the lack of a good answer to this question, Fiddlesticks is unfazed in her determination to brave hell, and so the second part ends. Fiddlesticks then makes her way into the underworld, which could still have made for an interesting adventuring story; even though it likely would not have been my mug of cider, it could've still been good.
But even that doesn't happen. Hell appears to be little more than a cavern with lava rivers and sulfurous air, and encountering pretty much no opposition or obstacles after managing to evade Cerberus at the entrance, Fiddlesticks finds Trixie, who is unharmed, unguarded, unhurt and apparently still in full control of her magic. After almost starting to make out, the two of them escape, with Cerberus offering a convenient ride.
Outside, they're greeted by the demons and their prince, who explains that a threat Fiddlesticks made earlier allowed him to escape the realm he was bound to (hence, presumably, the lack of opposition in hell and the more than unexpected help from Cerberus), and who now threatens to wreak havoc across Equestria. Fiddlesticks challenges him to a fiddling contest, and after they determine that there are no impartial judges, they let Cerberus decide, who sides with Fiddlesticks, because — well, actually, it's not clear why. But the demon prince is banished again, Trixie has gotten out of hell, and she and Fiddlesticks share their story with an unbelieving audience, presumably the Mane Six.
Finally, Fiddlesticks and Trixie find themselves in their bedroom above the inn, and they slip into bed together to finally share their love, with what will surely follow being left to the reader's imagination.
All in all, it's not a bad story, but it's not a good story, either. I felt that it had many chances to be good, yet it didn't seize any of them; rather, it wavered back and forth, never quite sure what kind of story it wanted to be. And while the writing was initially good and drew you in, the author seemed to lose interest more and more as the story went on: the writing got flatter, the prose less evocative, and the more I read on, the less I found myself relating to the characters, the situations they found themselves in, and the events they were facing.
It did start out well, mind you, but the story took a definite turn for the worse and started going downhill after Trixie died. There were parts I liked later on, such as Fiddlestick's brief visit to Sweet Apple Acres, and the very end of the story, with Fiddlesticks and Trixie going to bed with each other; but the séance with Pinkie Pie and the surrounding events were marred by Pinkie's randomness, the trip to hell was bland, the "demon prince tricked me into releasing him" bit trite, and the ultimate resolution forced and unmotivated.
And what's worst, while there is an overarching theme of love, the deep bond that is supposedly shared by Fiddlesticks and Trixie is never given any room to develop. As already noted above, there is chemistry between them in the beginning, but after Trixie dies, Fiddlesticks – whose overwhelming guilt and sorrow are not described nearly as convincingly as I would've hoped, BTW – just suddenly appears to have fallen deeply in love with the magician for absolutely no apparent reason. As such, the love story fails to convince, too.
In the end, I'm left with the feeling that this story is one of squandered opportunities. It could've been good in many different ways, but as it stands, it's merely a meandering mixture of romance and adventure that fails to be good at either of these. I heartily recommend reading the first part, up to the fatal magic show, but after that? You may prefer to write your own conclusion, on paper or just in your head.