If you're going to give her a cockney accent and clip the "h" of the beginnings of words, why do you never do so with this one?
I just noticed the "now" and "then" scene headers as well. That's a pretty inelegant way of handling it.
>He was gone.//
This doesn't surprise her? She's delivering this line as if it's from a history textbook. Plus she's been recently injured. Her stamina's probably down. Through all this chase, she's not going to remark on being out of breath or having her injuries start to ache?
>close. I had managed to close//
I know they're meant in different senses, but this is still repetitive.
>quickly tracked the movement. He turned his head forward quickly//
And more repetition.
>who flew in circles high above, his head moving side to side as he tried to catch wind of where our stallion had gone. I stumbled to a halt, panting heavily as I rolled my aching left shoulder.//
You have two sentences in a row here that go "clause, participial element, as clause." It's a bit much when they're that complex yet identical.
>A decent number of trash bags was piled//
"Number" counts as plural here, but you're using a singular verb.
>I narrowed my eyes//
Steel Blade just did that about one screen ago. Surely you can be more creative than that.
>The pegasus guard//
One place these kinds of descriptive phrases really don't work is when you have a limited narration and are talking about a character the perspective character knows. You don't think about your own friends in your head with these kinds of phrases. And with the memories Nymph has, she's well acquainted with him. Heck, even without the memories, they've spent enough time together. Nymph isn't going to refer to him like that.
>I would have to figure out my limits before I accidentally brain somepony//
Inconsistent verb tense.
>I watched Steel Blade heft the sleeping thug//
He just hefted the pony three paragraphs ago.
>where I laid on her chest//>who still laid on her back//
Lay/lie confusion. They're tricky verbs to keep straight. You need "lay" here.
>I swung to and fro from where I hung around her neck as she went back to the boxes to retrieve her saddlebags.//
And "as" clauses in consecutive sentences, plus some inadvertent synchronization.
>the mer let the unicorn//
And you're overdoing the references in this scene. Referring to Overwatch as such is fine until Crystal learns her name, but there's no reason for him to keep calling Lily "the merpony."
>a not unreasonable reaction to Lilywater’s overly friendly personality//
This sounds less like Crystal saying it and more like the author saying it.
>we can start with a few basic questions to start//
They can start to start?
Think about what sound would actually be repeated.
>And how did you know I was a changeling?//
Why is she saying this out loud so Lily can hear? She doesn't know yet whether Crystal has told Lily, so why take the chance?
>I was curious about the presence of changelings in Canterlot, to say the least.//
How has he not been detecting them for years? Or maybe listening in on their telepathy?
>Long time infiltrators//
>unusual to send a changeling so young into the pony world, but to train a female in anything except love collecting or hive maintenance was highly unusual//
This is the kind of repetition that could be used for effect, but the trick is to make sure the reader knows it's there on purpose by using language like "more unusual still" for the second one.
Crystal seems to use direct address a bit more than what would feel natural. How much do you actually use it in real life? It can help differentiate dialogue when more than two people are talking, but a lot of the time here, it's just the two.
It's a little bizarre that you've now made two blatant references to the Overwatch game in a story that has nothing to do with it...
>ten minute naps//
ten-minute. Without the hyphen it means ten minute-long naps. Or ten tiny naps, I suppose.
>Despite having as much vision as a bat in broad daylight//
Depending on the kind of bat, many of them see about as well as a human or a rat. It's only a subset that have poor vision.
>My brow knit together into an expression of dazed confusion.//
Blunt with the emotions again, and this isn't how she'd perceive it anyway. She can't even see her own expression, but what clues you in that you're sad? The thoughts and sensations, or by realizing that you're frowning?
>shriek from the bathroom, and I chortled to myself as the noises coming from the bathroom//>back up onto her hooves and stomping back//
>A bright flower-print towel was thrown out, wrapping itself around her head and muzzle, and the door was slammed shut behind her.//
I don't get the advantage of passive voice here. The change of focus doesn't do anything, and it stalls out the feeling of action.
>just confused as to why you didn’t just//
That's a common word for authors to overuse, so it's worth scanning the whole story for it. You've got 20 of them in this chapter alone, which isn't awful, but make sure they're spread out, not occurring in clumps.
>half empty cereal box//
half-empty. I probably said a while ago that I'd stop marking these hyphens and forgot about it. Anyway, I hope you get the picture with these by now.
>I carefully coated the surface of my bowl of milk with cereal//
This is a bizarre phrasing. She's sticking a thin layer of cereal all over the thing? On the outside too?
>More a thousand years ago//
>quite young back then, but despite all odds, she grew into quite//>see what I mean when you see//
Y'know, this has been bugging me. Crystal is fairly vain. She's also helped Lily win a bunch of money at gambling. I'm really surprised Crystal doesn't demand something better than this.
>The streets were indeed to clear a bit.//
I have no idea what this is supposed to mean.
>There was still plenty of ponies still//
Subject/verb number mismatch and repetition.
>when I’m barely trying to keep up with the new developments in my life//
Why are you switching to present tense here?
You're using the verb form instead of the noun for some reason.
This may cut it as video game dialogue, but not in good writing. Show me what happens. By itself, this means nothing.
This is the exception. Two-word phrases starting in an -ly adverb don't take hyphens.
>The young donut shop owner had an expression somewhere between amazement and horror.//
So describe it and let me come to my own conclusion what it is.
>when the moon reaches its peak//
You seem to have trouble figuring out how to render these more unusual tenses, and you keep resorting to present.
>begin, lasting all the way until sunrise the next day when the real Summer Sun Celebration began//
>began to fill with partygoers//
And then in the very next sentence...
>still a bit surprising she still//
I don't know why you suddenly got a lot worse with this in this chapter.
>Lockpicking for Eggheads//
Book titles get underlined or (preferably) italicized.
>I trotted over to the dining table where Crystal rested, slumping back into a seat.//
Another danger of participles is misplaced or ambiguous modifiers. Participles like to describe the nearest prior noun or pronoun, so this tends to say Crystal slumped, though you probably meant Nymph. It's not clear.
>I considered the mess of locks spread out over the table, looking from the book still propped open to the full set of lockpicks lying across their sound-muffling velvet cloth.//
This one's not ambiguous, but it is misplaced. It sounds like the table is looking from the book.
>One is that you are a changeling that//
When you're talking about a sentient creature, you'll normally use "who" instead of "that."
Reverse the order of those.
>I think I heard a subtle click from inside//
Another lapse into present tense.
>before you start eating them!” I shouted, before//
Why is she inconsistent about the full-mouth-induced lisp?
>carnivorous teeth that Lily’s mouth had suddenly been filled with//
You already mentioned them a little bit ago, which both makes it not worth mentioning again, and takes away any justification for using "suddenly."
>we are going to cook our Tartarus-damned vegetables and meats before we put them in our mouths//
If that's what she wants, why does she put it back in the icebox instead of cooking it?
>confectionaries. Or rather, the partygoers in the streets ran out of cake before promptly baking up another flotilla of cakes to devour. It was apparently tradition to gorge on tasty confectioneries//
Pretty soon to use that unusual a word without going for a deliberate effect, but you spell it differently each time, too.
>with mom and dad//
Capitalize family relations when you effectively use them as names.
>looked up at the mare before me, still looking//
Repetition, and this is a word worth paying attention to, since many authors overuse it.
>hoping that neither of them would see me//
There are a certain class of verbs that don't really belong in this limited a narration, given that the narration effectively gives us the character's train of thought. They deal with thought and perception. Like it's not necessary to have the narrator say that Nymph saw something. She is the narrator, so if she didn't see it as well, the narrator can't takl about it. It's enough just to describe the item, and it's implied the character also sees it. Likewise, you don't have to tell me what the character knows, wants, wishes, hopes, etc., because the limited narrator can express the thought of it. Forcing that verb in there creates extra distance between the character and reader. For example, instead of saying a character wonders something, the limited narrator can just ask the appropriate question.
>“Because I’m trying to figure out how to act like a pony!” I hissed.//
This is a short enough quote that it's not a big deal, but if you want the reader to hear the speech in a certain way, it's best to do so before the quote. There are certain context clues, like italics or exclamation marks probably meaning shouting, but for the most part, a reader's going to hear dialogue in a normal voice when not given a reason to do otherwise. So when you make the reader change that after the fact, he either has to ignore it, accept it as a bland fact, or go back over the dialogue in the modified manner. None of those are ideal.
>nervous about what my officer thought about me being off duty during a guard shortage//
See, here's another spot where a narrative comment expressing the question about what her supervisor thinks would create far more of a personal voice than feeding the reader a ready-made conclusion about her feelings.
>few hooves as I carefully navigated my way around a few//
You're using this word a fair amount lately.
>noble cleared his throat into the microphone on the platform. A quick glance identified him as the noble//
That one too.
You already described the cake as spongy.
>And yet, something was wrong.//
There's no reason to have a comma there.
>I took another sip of my tea, and addressed my infiltrators.//
Or there. This one's just a compound verb, not multiple clauses.
>look of chagrin as she looked//
That's another word authors tend to overuse.
Cockney accents take off a leading "h," but a "th"? I've never heard of that. It's actually hard to say it that way, which is the exact opposite point of an elision.
>closer to me were paying closer//>around uncomfortably as her eyes darted around//
Why would she wear a heavy scarf in summer weather? It's odd that it's never come up.
Again, what sound would actually be repeated?
I have to say, I don't at all see the point in switching to Celestia's perspective for that scene. You already took me up to it in Nymph's perspective, and there was nothing important Celestia imparted for her scene. Basically I ask myself: if that had stayed with Nymph, would there be critical things I didn't understand about the story or plot elements that couldn't happen? And the answer to both of those is no. Maybe you're setting something up for later in the story, and I'd obviously have no way of knowing that now, but even so, everything is so mundane about it that I can't imagine something coming of it later on. If you do eventually take Celestia's perspective, it'd be easy to refer to this event, and the reader will remember she witnessed it. I can't think of any of her specific impressions here that would be necessary. And then you go right back to Nymph. I don't see the value in moving away from Nymph's perspective at all. An then that would free you from the expository information about Nymph's thoughts on the matter when you go back to her.
>If there was a time for comfort food, this was the time.//
To avoid the repetition, this is usually phrased as "this was it."
>Crystal had requested that she be hidden away//
Here's the reason for the scarf. This merits mentioning earlier, but as much as Crystal is admonishing her to fit in as much as possible, wearing a winter garment in the summer wouldn't do just that? I guess I'm also a little surprised Lily isn't wearing Crystal, since they never discussed a new arrangement there.
For all these quotes in italics, as long as the whole quote is italicized, so that italics are the "normal" font for it, it's fine to include the quotation marks in the italics.
>Are you in yet?//
This is that Miaisis (or however it's spelled), isn't it? Why does the scene marker not identify the perspective holder? Not that I think these scene headers are a good idea anyway, but this made me think you were continuing on in Nymph's point of view, and I spent a few paragraphs being confused.
>I peeked into the main lobby to found her//
Wrong verb form.
>piece of armor that had accumulated the most imperfections were//
Subject/verb number mismatch: piece... were.
>the perfect shine//
A little repetitive with the "mirror shine" in the previous sentence. Something like "getting them perfect" would work fine here.
>I wretched off the helmet//
Word choice. Maybe you were going for "wrenched"? Even so, that implies a twisting motion, which would be tough to accomplish with the horn going through the helmet.
>kept a few hair bands and ties nearby to keep//>right into a pressure point on my gut, knocking the breath right//
And once the action scene starts, you're very much in participle mode again. From this paragraph:>The door clicked shut behind me.//
to this one:>He wrapped his right foreleg around my fallen limb//
there are only 2 non-dialogue sentences that don't contain one. By my rough count, that's 14 of 16 sentences, and 14 of 18 if I even include the dialogue. That's very structurally repetitive, not only because you have so many, but because you consistently end sentences with them. You have 6 "as" clauses in this span as well, 2 of them in the same sentence, so more repetition, plus you're asking the reader to synchronize lots of things, some of which probably shouldn't be. I only chose that range because it's what fits on my screen. These issues continue on past here.
>a few fell to the ground//>I fell to my knees//
A little repetitive in consecutive sentences.
>I shouldn’t have tried to confront him, especially at a range where I fell squarely on the lower end of the bell curve.//
Does she realize he's a changeling? I'm curious as to whether she's actually as big as Overwatch, or if that's an illusion and she's her real size. Because at some point, it's not worth maintaining her secret if it'll get her killed, and if changing shape to something large actually makes her that big, why not shift to something like a minotaur or buffalo?
She'd been calling her "mum."
>I sighed as my eyes began to droop closed, snuggling into the cool, hard floor.//
Sounds like her eyes are snuggling into the floor.
So this is quite a good story, but it does suffer from some pervasive problems. I don't think that scene in Celestia's perspective was worth the shift from Nymph's, and there's a lot of word and structural repetition, which also causes synchronization issues with the participles. As numerous as these were, it's at least simple to describe them and sum them up, so they don't require any further discussion.
The other one was how you bluntly name emotions at times. To a degree, you can get away with some of this, since changeling perspectives are odd that way. They do
sense emotions as an innate thing, so they're not so much attuned to reading them through body language and facial expression, for instance. So it does make some sense to do this for Nymph's scenes. It doesn't for the non-changeling POV characters, but also consider that most readers aren't going to pick up on the subtleties of that very well. Plus an academic realization doesn't change a more gut reaction, so if someone actually realizes that it makes logical sense for a changeling to identify an emotion outright, that's still not going to make the narrative engaging.
Here's my advice to you on that front. When you have Nymph casting about and trying to detect emotion, naming it as a factual matter is fine, since you're not trying to get the reader to connect with the characters possessing those emotions, for the most part. But when Nymph has someone right there with her, try to give a bit more indirectly through these other means, since that'll bring the story to life with the reader more. It even makes a sort of sense that Nymph would start interpreting emotions these other ways once she's merged with Overwatch. Maybe she doesn't notice doing so, and maybe she struggles with it. That would be an interesting aspect to the story, but it might be too much effort at this point to work that in all the way through what you've already written.
It's a bit obtrusive how many references you make to the game Overwatch and Discworld (and not just by including similar books in your story), as they feel more like eye-winking inside jokes, but that's probably more just my taste. Along those lines, I'll also say I agree with the comment that said the story's tone has an odd shift, where it starts out quite serious and somewhat dark, then transitions into an almost slapstick feel once Lily gets introduced. At least it goes back to being more serious here, but you might consider melding them more thoroughly. I get that you're even trying for a Discworld feel to the entire story instead of making a few isolated references, but consider that Pratchett tends to keep up the comedy even through the serious parts, instead of spending long stretches that are mostly one or the other. It's both, the whole time. Not that you have to mimic Pratchett that closely just because you've borrowed some elements from him, but he's a good example of how to keep the story tonally consistent instead of oscillating between two tones. I'll leave those as suggestions, not requirements.
Once you're ready to resubmit, you can mark it as "back from Mars," since I'd only need to spot-check things. I'd like to see this go up on the blog.