/mlp/ Fanfic Reviews

Prey and a Lamb

FimFiction Link - Short ID: 395988/prey-and-a-lamb

Published: Jul '18Mar '22

Review in No. 39115885
Prey and a lamb opens up with the presumably titular lamb sitting in a cell is pony alcatraz. A prison one step below tartarus. Where he has rotted there for over 57 years.
He has sat in solitary confinement with nothing to entertain himself but his memories where we get some insight into the world, the roots of the protagonist's anti pony prejudice and some groundwork for why he is in the prison.
The main character is analytical, stubborn, a little arrogant, and very bitter.
His thoughts about his difficult but arguably idyllic life preceding the a rebellion of which him and his little serf family of his mother and brother in their struggling farm.
The important things we learn is that communist terrorists called "the resistance" show up and start causing trouble in the name of defeating the uncaring sun tyrant.
Equestria's response is light and largely makes things worse as from Gossamers perspective the border guard's attempts to establish order are stymied by accidentally getting civvies involved and the guerilla terror tactics are catching them flat hooved.
That he's insecure about how big he is and that his mother believes she's responsible for his smol stature
We also learn about how close Gossamer's family ties are. Boy i sure hope nothing bad happens to them.
The conflict suddenly changes when one Fire strike enters stage left but before we can figure out what that entails the plot comes knocking in the form of the jackboots in golden armor, the "Solar Guard" and captain valor. The 57 year internment rears its head as nobody seems to recognize him or the threat he poses.
We get wheeled into a room with a massive unicorn stallion, captain valor, and his unicorn guard. He removes Gossamers name and refers to him as inmate 452. They have the following lovely interaction.
>Captain Valor seemed to grow bored of their staring contest as he couldn't get the sheep to be the first to break. He snorted and stomped forwards again, "Inmate 452, do you know why you're here?" The captain asked.

>"Because you need something from me of course. The only question is, what?" He answered smugly.

>"Let's get something straight gutter trash, I don't need anything from you, I only want, and what I want, I will take! Got that?" Valor growled.

>The sheep pretended to be offended, although in reality it was all just a mask to hide the shrewd calculations going on inside his head, "Ah, I see, a unicorn supremacist. I guess it comes naturally, what with being one of her guards."
Clearly his people skills leave something to be desired.
With that lovely interaction we learn that either the documents about 452 got misfiled or they strained credulity enough for that to be assumed. 452 disrespects the princess and is beaten in case we the audience don't have enough clues to figure out that valor is a capital A asshole.
Review in No. 39118330
Chapter two follows directly up, we get to see Firestrike has decided to try and move all the civvies out of the area so he can really stick it to "the resistance"
Apparently he didnt put much thought into questions like, "Who will tend to their farms, who will help them cross the mountains, what about the elderly? what will they do once they get there." all completely irrelevant. The villagers of donkeys and sheep refuse, and as such they are abandoned. A week later, the resistance shows up and burns everything down.
Gossamer's mother gets brought low by smoke inhalation, and theres nothing anyone can do.
The two lamb brothers in their grief and the older ones anger are approached by a resistance griffon who gaslights the elder one into blaming the razing of his village on Celestia, this works, and despite Goss's best efforts they both get pressed into service.
Here they get new names, "breaker" and "prey" theyre seperated from eachother and prey gets fucking wrecked. Repeatedly beaten lashed, and humilated. The first day has him being strangled by Torment, an aptly named griffon leader who really likes inflicting it. After these trials, goss and fleece, or prey and breaker meet up, and breaker has completely drunk the kool aid, his broken horns giving him his name after getting beaten with a spear and then breaking it. Gossamer tries to convince him to leave and instead he all but disowns his brother for his percieved weakness.
Now Goss, or prey as it were, is effectively alone with a group that has very little care for him outside of the funny noises he makes when hes tortured.
In the modern era, we get dragged over to a police station under a metaphorical cover of darkness as the regular guard is kicked out so he can... read reports about mind magic. Theres some bandying about that gets thrown as we learn that these solar guard really dont consider 452 a threat, and are completely unaware of how his abilities work when they decide to undo his cuffs at his request. The only reason why there was any consideration against removing his cuffs was because Captain valor felt that those cuffs were meant to be a lesson to not be bad.
So out of their depth with 452 they mistake his relatively innocent ewelike appearance and despite his insistence insist that he is not a ram, much to his chagrin.
452 has quite the understandable chip on his shoulder and while he's fairly analytical he is quick to let minor insults get to him and despite there not being much benefit he cant help himself but to alienate the guards hes trying to dupe with witty barbs and insults at pretty much every oppurtunity. The lack of self awareness is amusing to watch play out.
Review in No. 39122246
In the intervening time we get more background on Prey, a week into working for the resistance breaker gets dead. Prey falls for the very thing he criticizes his brother for and blames the border guard for breakers death. Something to consider is that breaker at this time is 7 years old and prey himself is 6.
Depressed and without much purpose the cruel autistic zebra voodoo witch takes prey under his wing and he gets to learn how to make poisons and over a 3 year time skip he learns to do the magic system unique to this setting. Rune magic.
The whole thing boils down to this.
Rune magic is done by wringing yourself into drawing symbols to do increasingly complex effects.
Putting your "all" into drawing said runes. Combining multiple runes gets you increasingly complicated effects and it takes hours to do it. The example on the flashback has him creating a Rune that if something living walks over it all of their bones shatter. Many a terrorism is accomplished.
In the present, captain valor pushes, indistinguishable from actual child, prisoner 452 to do increasingly unlikely investigative efforts. His underlings are less hardasses and prey gets to taste sugar for the first time, which pisses him off since he didn't get the opportunity to take sweets for granted.
As far as the investigation goes, the suspect is a unicorn after books labeled L-O and is using the flashy break ins as a cover. But prey deduced that there are far more break ins then we know because they just teleport in and quietly take it. The flashy breakins are on leylines which means no teleporting.
We get to see the manupulation of prey and his interrogations where we get to walk through his logic traps that give him the data he needs which is cool, and it tells us everything we need to know about what the unicorn theives are after.
The last thing we see is that he's secretly carving runes into the underside of the table where he has largely been locked.
Review in No. 39126109
Prey and a Lamb Arc 1 is roughly 74k word long horror fic starring the Titular Prey, a 66 year old lamb who has spent the last 57 years and some change in Equestria's second most secure prison, the island Dreverton.
Prey as a child had his life taken away from him by a band of terrorists thay called themselves "The resistance" and a combination of brutality and incompetence on the part of equestria left him with his home burned down and working for them.
In the present, a giant asshole named Captain Valor of an OC guard force called the solar guard has hit a wall in his investigations from a string of burglaries where the ponies who had been stolen from barely understood what had happened, this is despite their homes being broken into, and millions of bits worth of artifacts being destroyed. Clearly mind Magic is at work and they need an expert on the topic.
Prey is several generations older than any lamb has a right to be, and his diminutive childlike stature has the solar guard certain that his documents were misfiled in some way, there's obviously no way for a lamb to be that old at all let alone one with the appearance of a child. Not that that actually helps him all that much, as valor has no problem with beating said child because he's a criminal and they found him in dreverton.
Prey/Gossamer/prisoner 452: there are three defining traits above all others when it comes to Prey, he is smart, cowardly and he is bitter. Before the resistance he was the brains of a small struggling farm where he would largely be in charge of bookkeeping. It was his fear that got him Shanghaid into the resistance and after losing his entire family it was bitterness at the border guard and the fear of death that made him disassociate and create the Prey persona from Gossamer. In the present his wit has not been dulled, but there are multiple times where he simply cannot help himself and jabs and barbs at the solar guard whenever he can. Naturally this gives him savage beatings, and it should surprise nobody that Prey is giving less than his full cooperation.
Captain Valor: Captain valor is so far up on his high horse that it's hard for him to see anything passed his nose
He is right, and he is just, and he is so confident about it that when a, at least from his perspective, literal child criticizes him, his work, or his beloved princess he has to hand out savage beatings. He gets an F in friendship, no the F stands for failure, not friendship. That said, his instincts are on point, unlike the rest of his guards, he never sees Prey as anything less then a criminal, and he acts accordingly. And while the self righteousness is what motivates him rather then any particular intent, he does an excellent job in foiling Preys escape attempts on nothing more than instinct, which is a great lead in for one of the themes.
Review in No. 39126123
The solar guard: the rest of the solar guard is far more affable, not that Prey appreciates it, but they do an excellent job counterbalancing what would otherwise be a deranged lunatic that was their superior.
The theives: we don't see much of them until the very end, but the breadcrumbs on what they're after and their techniques are interesting if nothing else.
As for criticism, it's a dry read. There's a lot of information, a lot of faffing about. It's just competent enough for me to keep reading, and it actually comes across that the boredom/growing tension is done intentionally, as it makes the reader feel like the characters feel. But seeing as that's a relatively negative experience, I have to leave the quality of that as your mileage may vary.
The core themes are that shit just isn't particularly fair. Prey loses his mother through no fault of his own; by smoke inhalation of all things, his brother gets them roped up against her murderers and then barely a week goes by before he's gone too, and he has to be the camps punching bag and whipping post for years as he's regularly tortured and starved. Then after decades of isolation, long passed his natural lifespan, he's pressed into service by the group he spent all that time stewing his hatred for. And even with that, his plans for escape aren't foiled by some masterful battle of wits, but by prejudice, bullheadedness and dumb luck nearly everything he tried to do to set up his escape fails.
The climax the theives doesn't even have him "win" not really, the mental fight scene, which was super creative and really gave some sense of catharsis, realistically wouldn't matter, as the mental battle only starts when the guard is a minute or so out from recapturing him and taking the mind mage into custody. The "good guys" win, but Prey is not one of the good guys and the book ends when the thief goes down, and we have to read the sequel to find out what happens to Prey.
Overall this first book is technically competent with a relatively engaging plot, but it's length shows and it's a very dry read. The catharsis is limited as well since the protagonist we are rooting for never really wins. As a standalone story its a 6/10 for me, avoid if you don't have much in the way of patience.
As we will soon find out though, this is merely an extended prologue for the real story coming in arc 2
Review in No. 39137407
Act 1 of prey and a lamb is a 163k word story directly following the events of Act 0.
After the climactic battle between night watcher and prey, prey spends the next 6 weeks in jail while his runes he left behind do their work clearing the memories of the solar guard.
While languishing, Prey is approached in a dream where a mysterious force asks him what he wants, and what he would give. He tells it loyalty.
Two days later we find out that Luna is back from her thousand year sabbatical and wants to give people of all stripes the opportunity to redeem themselves. So she trawled prisons across equestria looking for candidates.
Unfortunately one such candidate was Prey. And prey is quite perturbed by the idea of an alicorn snooping through his thoughts. Before prey can really.get a word in edgewise he is conscripted into the newly restored night guard, alongside a pegasus named Crimson tracer.
They are also given a set of indestructible bracelets that we know at the very least can track your location. The thought of removing his own legs crosses prey's mind but he decides he can't make do with 2 legs, and since he gets two gold bracelets, he's just well and truly fucked.
Fortunately, the adjustment period for Luna coming back into power is still well in affect so everyone involved barely understands what's going on and what anyone really is expected to do.
Prey and Crimson work under one Sargent Dusky Gloom as they found a section of the night guard called the investigation, secrecy, [something with an n] department, or ISND. Begrudgingly, and not without lots and lots of sass, Prey is to help the ISND get setup, and we get to follow his adjustment to the guard life, where simple things like having a blanket and being paid, and being fed regularly shock him.
What doesn't shock him is that ponies are racist, even in the royal guard, and the royal guard take every opportunity to try and fuck over the night guard because thestrals are scary bat ponies with pointy teeth and spooky eyes. The fact that prey "admits" to being a 14 year old lamb with the appearance of a little girl, whose name is "prey" does little to change this.
Preys goal, at least as far as anything goes is to make sure he is seen as valuable so he doesn't get sent to dreverton, at least in the moment, and to learn about his manacles to eventually get them off and escape.
The ISND are given 3 initial cases, there has been a kidnapping in canterlot, but the mother doesn't know anything, and doesn't even recognize that she even had a son. Mind magic is afoot.
For some.reason all across equestria there's a bunch of riots that come out of nowhere. And finally there's drugs under canterlot.
Prey almost immediately proves usefulness by manipulating ponies I to giving up what they know.
Review in No. 39137477
Prey has to play a relatively dangerous balancing act between preparing himself for potential conflicts and and making himself useful without giving away his abilities.
He is so good at extracting information because he can read the surface thoughts of everyone around him. It is a major help in manipulating ponies into his own ends, his cynicism on the other hand serves as largely a detriment to his continued freedom as it put his superior officer on edge. If he played the nice little lamb, he might have been able to play it off, but instead he takes almost every opportunity to antagonize Gloom and Crimson. Most of which, at least at the start, gets played off as what surely must be Child behavior, but as the squad gets to know each other, preys cynicism regularly bites him on the ass. That said, he's useful, and because of critical understaffing not much thought is put into it as the ISND is put through their paces constantly working.
Prey; little has changed from act 0. But we get to see first hand how frequently he mocks and derides every part of pony culture. Reading between the lines, it paints Prey as incredibly envious of how awesome being a pony is. How soft even the guard is compared to how the resistance was.
He's paranoid, and he's incredibly diligent, constantly working on his runic arrays as works, since without them he's helpless and prey despises being helpless.
Lemon Pink:Night watchers true identity, and is barely more than a drone after getting mindraped by the hungry thing in prey's psyche. Almost entirely dependent on prey and is actually the kidnapper who used it to try and regain preys attention. Serves as a slave for prey while he's working.
Crimson Trace: the other half of the conscripts for the ISND, Crimson is a red pegasus who unlike most other ponies, prey can't read the thoughts of. Crimson himself is an exile from his clan. The only clan to tell Luna to fuck herself when she told the thestral clans that she wanted them back. Something happened to his father, and he wants vengeance but was waylaid by Luna herself. Still, he yearns for it. Otherwise he's just a socially awkward honor loving pegasus. His bluntness and lack of tact comes across as cute rather than malicious which is a good contrast to prey.
Sargent Dusky Gloom: the leader of the ISND, he is a longsuffering friendly sort that is way over his head in dealing with the two ex-cons he's in charge of. More than just his normal duties, gloom is responsible for the adjusting of his charges to integrate into pony society. Unfortunately, he is a thestral and barely understands it himself, moreover, he's more concerned about not disappointing Luna by failing in his main duties and is stretched too thin to see the wool being pulled over his eyes.
Review in No. 39137525
Characters continued:
The royal guard: a bit of a boys club. Tight knit, proud, and rowdy they contrast well against the far more reserved night guard. As a whole they do not have the fondest opinions of the night guard, bat pony prejudice making them go malicious compliance at every opportunity.
The Night guard: understaffed, overworked, and unappreciated. The Night guard are only there out of loyalty to Luna herself and are majority comprised of thestrals with their freaky eyes, fangs and membranous wings, the non-thestrals were drafted from the day guard to help get them settled in. An arrangement that nobody likes

Overall I really enjoy the prose, it flows from one end to the other with ease and it's detailed enough to paint the picture without actually dragging on in unnecessary details. The mind reading makes for a lot of fun to read moments that really paint a vivid picture of prey. Very little time is spent reminiscing on the past and there are some strong emotional moments as prey wrestles with his Gossamer identity while his two comrades in arms regularly stick their hooves in their mouths. The main cast comes across as competent, with people acting appropriately to the edge lord prey as he unwittingly antagonizes gloom and Crimson. Their adjustment is interesting, and the cases themselves while a minor part of the narrative are fun to read like a procedural.
The pacing overall is methodical, but it doesn't feel slow. The events here take place over about a week as they do guard stuff and also investigate their cases.
I rate an 8/10 and while the prequel gives some good context, ultimately arc 1 is where most people should start if they're looking to enjoy this.
Review in No. 39393642
The fallout from act 2 barely has room to dry when prey stumbles into a lead about the salt dealers, and at the same time Dragonshy happens.
Additionally we get introduced to new nightguard recruits that arent "thestrals". On their rounds to assure canterlot that all the smoke is going to be fine and is being taken care of the ISND stumbles right into a grisly quadruple murder.
Thanks to preys plans with Lemon Pink to infiltrate the criminal underworld, for selfish reasons, we know these ponies are connected to the salt trade and prey manages to connect them so they're all on the same page.
It's here where a deep part of Gloom and Preys dynamic really starts to shine through. Gloom trusts Luna to a fault. Luna put Prey on the ISND. Gloom also sees Prey as a child, granted he appears to be one and claimed as such. Gloom is absolutely mortified at the violent deaths of the four salt dealers. Prey, given that he's a Not!Vietcong veteran barely bats an eye at it. Being ripped apart and then left for rats is far from the worst thing Prey has had to witness or even take part in.
This puts a serious wedge in Prey and glooms relationship because Prey just wants to focus on the job and not have ponies bother him, whereas Gloom, the Sergeant sees a child exposed to the horror of violence and not only is he not apparently affected by it, the very first thing the fluffy childlike eweish ram does is stick his hoof in the pool of blood to see how old it is. There's a great big intervention and all sorts of crap associated.
More broadly, this harrowing experience unnerves them enough that, aside from Prey they have a hard time sleeping and their duty suffers a bit as a result. This is right after the previous case and they had their mandated day of rest interrupted with more work thanks to Dragonshy. Between the start of the last arc and the end of this one is close to four days, and the ISND suffer.
Gloom is notably irritable throughout and uses the nightguards reputation for being nightmare moons monsters and being personally terrifying to the average pony to expedite much of the investigation.
"Why don't we skip the past where you deny that you know what's going on and I'll skip the part where I prove that you do." The implied threat there is pretty stark. One big criticism I have is that the night guard is never really called on it. Their browbeating and bullying works every time it's tried. And ponies here are too much cowards to actually respond.
Anyways after a clever plan that puts civilians at risk is quickly implemented, at the protest of the royal guard, and results in another murder they track the ringleader down to one of two lumber yards. They're forced to go both ways and they're so strapped for marepower that six guards including Prey are all that go to investigate.
Review in No. 39393654
Act 3 continued
It goes bad, and Prey is given multiple chances to do the right thing and fails each time. The threat of Luna being the only thing keeping him from cutting and running right then.
He leaves the rest of the ISND to die.
After that we get a confrontation with the sadistic antagonist of the arc, and a demonstration of Preys ability to, as he puts it, consume minds.
It's a cool ability but the drawbacks are serious. He takes someone's mind and brings it into his own. Killing himself and the target in the process and what's left behind is an amalgamation of the two. But it's not preys first rodeo and he can destroy or suppress the foreign memories he doesn't need to retain most of his sense of self.
Later, we get the major turning point in the series for Prey when and explosion blows him completely out of a 4 story building and would have certainly killed him. Instead Crimson Trace is alive and rescues him at the last moment.
Prey fundamentally can't understand why.
He left him behind to die twice and still, Crimson saved him. And because Crimson is a duty obsessed autist like the rest of the thestrals, despite being a pegasus himself, treats it like its no big deal and chalks up prey leaving them.behind to a child getting scared and losing their nerve.
The fic ends there with the Lumber yard in flames and no suspect to interrogate. The ringleader is just dead. At preys hoof, bit nobody but prey knows that.
Overall its a weaker transitional part