• Published 4th Feb 2014
  • 4,754 Views, 100 Comments

Three Nights - Bradel



Beneath a moonless sky, a foal shivers, hungry and alone. In a snow-covered city, a young mare dreams of the things she left behind. On the coldest night of the year, Princess Cadance finds the family she thought that she had lost.

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appendix b – Cadance's Carol

Author's Note:

One of the things I regretted most with this story was that it never quite seemed like there was a good way to put the Hearth's Warming Carol into the text, beyond the little snip given in Chapter 3. The lyrics for the entire composition are given below, along with a link to a MIDI file that will give you the tune for a single verse. It's set to the tune of Jean de Brébeuf's "The Huron Carol", a traditional (though I suspect not very well known) piece of Christmas music.

I also took a stab at singing the thing myself, a cappella. It's not great, but it should hopefully give you a bit of a feel for how the carol was supposed to sound. Note that my rendition has a considerably slower tempo than the MIDI file.

Cadance’s Carol


Tonight we join and celebrate
A tale of long ago
When snow and ice encased the land
And not a thing would grow
Ere Luna and Celestia
And all we call Equestria

Refrain:
Gather round, tell the tale
Come, join and sing
Of the first Hearth's Warming Eve

The unicorns moved sun and moon
But winter's grip was strong
The pegasi, on clouds above
Could not correct the wrong
With failing crops and starving foals
No earth pony could ease the toll

Refrain

In conference met the pony tribes
But no consensus found
Recrimination ruled the day
And ran all hopes aground
With hate and anger set ablaze
The three tribes went their separate ways

Refrain

Each tribe set out to find new lands
Not bound by snow and ice
And when they did, they met again
For they had found it thrice
Then as their wrath they did reprise
The wind began to bite and freeze

Refrain

To save themselves from winter's cold
They hid within a cave
And one by one, each pony froze
All those by rage enslaved.
But from each tribe one clung to life
As one, they banished hate and strife

Refrain

Tonight we join and celebrate
An end to ice and snow
Three ponies of Equestria
They set their hearts aglow
The flames of friendship burning bright
Have banished endless winter's might

Refrain


MIDI tune: The Huron Carol

Bradel tries to sing it

Better yet, Lunae Lumen decides to sing it really well!

Comments ( 45 )

This is so cool! I love seeing supplemental stuff like this and the artwork. Nice!

Very nice story. It was emotional without being tactless, which you don't see too often around here. I loved the imagery and the way the scenes transitioned. I always like stories that try to explore Candance's character.

3903077
Yeah, Chapter 3 was almost ready to go—I just had to pull over the gDocs file and make sure the formatting was okay. I had to write the appendices on the spot, though. Wasn't quite ready for them to come out. I didn't want to string you guys along by making it look like I had more updates once I'd posted Chapter 3, though, so I was kind of anxious to get them up ASAP once Chapter 3 was incoming.

More replying!


3897926
The bit about the Gryphon is largely inspired by Ghost. I was writing that passage right after he showed us "The Nature of War" (from his Obiter Dicta collection). I'm really not that much of a world-building nerd, but I have this tendency (which I actually regret, at times) to take a perfectly good string of story and throw in a paragraph about Equestrian history, geography, or politics just because something has recently struck my fancy.

That's kind of how I wound up with "A Filly's Guide to Not Making Headlines", for that matter.


3898100
I hope it doesn't disappoint, now that it's done!


3898853
This one got a little chaotic in the writing, and wound up being a hard sell for readers because of it, I think. But I'm pretty happy with the work. I'll probably be doing a deconstruction blog sometime in the next few days to go over how it came together.

In any case, I hope you enjoy it!


3899451
At one point, I took to calling this a 12,000 word story with two prologues. That's very nearly what it is—and one of the reasons it wound up being something of a pain to untangle plot-wise, and to market site-wise. But you're not wrong, no.

Also, I think Celestia's probably next up on my plate (after I've gotten some more Bell, Book & Candle in the can). I've done pieces on the other three princesses now. It's probably about time I tackled Celestia.

Well, that was interesting.
I am left with two lingering... notions might be the best word I can come up with. Firstly, Larimar is an intriguing character. I can't help but wonder about his story. We get just a few glimpses, but it's more than enough to see the potential.

Secondly, the gray mate at the station... I was surprised Cadence didn't talk to her. I was expecting her to invite the gray mare to the castle, even. Then I saw the art in chapter four and it came as a total surprise to see who she was (I am sure it was obvious, I probably read over a clue). And I immediately was invested even more. I can't help but feel sorry for her and wonder... Was she waiting for the train to get on it (seems most likely) or for someone to get off it? What was she doing there in the first place?

Maybe she was just there to be the gray mare, a recurring theme.

3901145
Does inclement weather count as a good reason?

It doesn't with the US postal service, so I guess maybe Shining's just a putz. :fluttercry:


3901395
Well, now that it's done, I hope you enjoyed it!


3901688
One of the big challenges I had on this story, at least in chapters 2 and 3, was working within a timeframe. Not on the writing side of things—on the narrative side of things. In Chapter 3, everything has to happen according to something of a fixed timetable. Chapter 2 was easier, but I still needed to find a way to make Cadance seem to be there long enough to justify Twilight's parents having requested a foalsitter. And given how I wanted to portray Twilight, I wasn't going to have a lot of opportunities to have her and Cadance doing fun, time-wasting things together.

I wasn't super happy with using the book-reading timeskip, but it seemed to work. The rest of the one-location narrative stuff wasn't too hard, though; I just needed enough things to do so that I could keep it from getting boring or descending into extended stage directions:

Cadance stood up from the rug. She walked to one of the many piles of books in the room. She scanned their titles until she found one she wanted, and carefully restacked the books until she could get at it. Then, she took the book and returned to the rug with Twilight. She laid down on the rug and opened the book, motioning Twilight to come closer so they could read together.

Ugh...


3902927
After seeing all the awesome stuff 3896341 kicked out for the cover commission, I felt like it'd be a real shame not to share it with you guys. Yes, a lot of it is rough—they are sketches after all—but they've got a lot of personality to them, and I think they capture the mood for the final chapter well.

The song was basically me trying to block-break on a night where I didn't know what to do with Chapter 3. So I took a couple hours and tried to figure out just what a Hearth's Warming Carol could sound like. I'm pretty happy with the result. Or with the lyrics, anyway. Me singing it sounded fine when I was splicing it together at 4am the night after I recorded it, but I can hear a lot of bad notes in there now that I've got a bit more distance.


3903334
Very happy that you liked it!

3906449

It doesn't with the US postal service

Ha. Ha. Haaaa. Yeah, it's been a long time since the USPS has been that dedicated.They don't even bother to deliver here if we haven't cleared the walkway yet. That and they've been delivering later every day for years. Eventually they'll roll over past midnight and be early again.

Apparently that phrase is just an inscription on the James Farley Post Office in New York City of a translation from an ancient Greek work describing the Persian postal system, and has never officially been related to the USPS itself.

The song was basically me trying to block-break

You should totally make a full version with an impromptu choir and blizzard sounds. You can get some pretty convincing sound from multiple takes of yourself combined, and I might be convinced to add my voice to it too. Ooh.. that's an idea. Pre-reader choir!

3905896
3905019

Ahaha. I knew it would end up being taken literally.

3907530 So, what, you saw the description of a grey mare and decided it was/to draw Octavia? It is just a random grey mare in the story?

(Also, I am not sure how you can take a pretty clear picture of a known character figuratively :D)

3907683
Well... no. Kind of the opposite really.
I put Octavia in the cover image because I, uh.. felt like it, :unsuresweetie: and then Bradel wrote her into the story in a symbolic role which sailed right over the heads of the pre-readers, including me.

3907727

Symbolic as in the grey mare that sort of is a theme in the story or something else?

Multi-reply #3, everything that's not Octavia edition!


3903134
Thanks! The imagery, in particular, got some compliments from some unexpected quarters, which made me quite happy.

As for the emotional character, I appreciate the compliment. But I think 3907662 has an interesting point which I'm going to have to delve into more deeply. (Incidentally, S&S, I suspect you won't be seeing much of a comment reply here. I'm planning to do a deconstruction blog, and I thought that was some nice analysis. I think I'll save commenting on it until the blog)


3903661
Well, that was kind of the goal. :twilightblush: Though I'd been hoping to deliver it a month and a half ago for Christmas, when it might have been a bit more relevant. I'm happy I got it done while it's still cold most places, at least. Anyway, I'm glad you enjoyed it!


3903737
I certainly like it!


3903810
Cadance's lack of parents is actually semi-canon ("Twilight Sparkle and the Crystal Heart Spell"), though I have to admit the rest of the rampant orphaning was all me. Frankly, I want to know what happened before Cadance's earth pony parents found her, but that wasn't really where I wanted to go with a Hearth's Warming story.

...there really are an awful lot of missing parents in this, aren't there? It's like some sort of crazy Charles Dickens / Peter Pan crossover world.


3906393
That makes me happy to hear! :raritystarry:

I think. :unsuresweetie:

Thank you for providing the carol set to music, it really helped me visualize (er, audialize?) it. Not sure how unknown the tune really is, it was instantly familiar to me. Then again, I spent a large portion of my childhood in various church choirs, so I probably have a leg up on lesser known sacred music compared to some.

On a side note, listening to it finally brought a measure of peace to a day that was rather stressed by an update of another story that I read here this morning, so thanks for that as well.

BTW, I love you for making her come from Hollow Shades. That town needs more love.

Personally, I am thinking it's reminiscent of a small New England town, like Concord during the late 18th century, in aesthetics. Largely agrarian, and specializes in gourds. Pumpkins in particular. The name is reminiscent of Sleepy Hollow, and personal headcanon puts it as the origin of the modern headless horse legend, The most common telling nowadays is the legend of Sleepy Hollow Shades. This ties into why pumpkins are their most popular crop. :derpytongue2:

Okay, I'll stop now. :twilightsheepish:

Topic Reply #1!


3903728 , 3905019 , 3905896
Octavia... Well, let's just say that writing this story was a bit of a learning experience.

Like 3907727 said, Octavia was actually an outside addition—but she seemed to fit so well! I'd already decided that Cadance's parents were musically oriented when I'd written Ch.1 and Ch.2 (which were done before I contacted him), and I'd already established their coloring, and I knew what instruments they played[1], all that stuff. And then Nadnerb comes along and says, "I want to put Octavia in the picture" (well, sort of).

What a great opportunity for symbolism, I think! Here's a character who immediately calls back to both of Cadance's parents. And leaving her alone and sleeping in the train station, a place of transition? Wonderful! It's just screaming with meaning! It's a big hint for the fact that Cadance's parents are dead, and it helps give a physical representation to the guilt Cadance feels over those deaths!

The first draft of this story actually ended with Cadance and Shining going off alone in the train station, and Cadance noticing that "the gray mare" was gone. I loved this ending.

To a person, my pre-readers were like, "Uhh, was that the end?"

Symbolism should come with a big, "We're professionals, don't try this at home" sign. My pre-readers, who I love, are very clever people. 3896305 gets bored with mysteries because he figures out the plot like seven pages in. None of my pre-readers had any clue what I was doing. Given how good I know they are at picking up on things, that basically meant my attempt at symbolism was an abject failure. So in the second draft, I moved the ending around (that was always a problem with this piece; it took me a long time to figure out where it was supposed to be going), and I tried to make the connection between Octavia and Dulcinea a little more obvious.

But she was never going to have a real role in the story. In my mind, she was only there as a symbol. A symbol that, as it turns out, I did a very poor job with.

At the end of the day, though, I'm really happy that I did things the way I did—because I learned a lot about trying to do things like this in a story. I'd like to think that if I attempt it again, I might not make a total hash of it, since I have a bit better idea of how to translate things from my head to the page.


[1]3909013

Also, as an aside, I can say, having seen an orchestra in the flesh now, that Octavia does NOT play a cello. Not even close. That's a double bass, unquestionably.

D'oh. You're right. It totally is.

Doublebassiano sucks as a pony name, though.

3905019 , 3909013 , 3909020
Cinnabar and Larimar were fun, though L wound up with a bit different character than I'd originally intended.

And this may not be the last you see of them, given what Cadance was about to say before her train of thought got interrupted.

:trollestia:

Oh, also, if you haven't done so already, you might want to google larimar. The stuff looks pretty darn cool.

This was lovely. It's taken me a while to come around to Cadance, but Skywriter's stuff has helped, and this is another terrific Cadance fic. I might even write her into something of my own someday. :pinkiehappy:

3909223

I got the Octavia - Dulcinea connection immediately if that makes you feel any better about your symbolism skills. Great work Bradel, you had me tearing up at the end there.

Addendum: While I can't say you have the voice of an angel, you're decent and that's way better than I could do.

I really appreciate that certain social dynamics from Sombra's reign didn't just evaporate.

And finally getting back to comments over here, too!


3909294
Cadance can be a bit hard to use, I think, since she's fairly underdeveloped in canon, which means you need to treat her a bit like an OC, but one that people already have expectations about (though the Season 4 episode "Three's a Crowd" helped with that somewhat). That said, I think she's a lot of fun to write. The big danger I had to look out for was failing to make her active in the story—the structure of Chapter 3 grew almost directly from that consideration. Because of how she's been presented in canon, it's easy to let her be passive, and that just doesn't work well for protagonists.


3911078
I'm really happy that you enjoyed it! Hopefully the description makes a little more sense, in the end.


3918467
The loneliness aspect, particularly around the holidays, was really the hook that got me interested in doing this project. I wanted to try to tackle that and do something heartwarming with it. I wanted to do it for Christmas so it could be there for people who were having less-than-happy holidays, but the thing took so bloody long to finish... I'm going to try pushing it again when Christmas rolls around at the end of the year, see if I can get an EQD feature on it, and hopefully it'll be able to serve the role I intended for it then.

Oh, also, for the cellist stuff, please see this comment: 3909223


3923421
I'm glad the story had its intended effect! I think this may be the first time I've really set out to try to grab a few tears, and it's nice to know that it worked—and hopefully I managed to do it the right way, instead of slipping into manipulative emotional cliches.

Also, I'm glad you liked the song! (Now if I could just do a better job of it...)


3929085
I wasn't actually planning for that one, but it felt pretty natural when I wrote myself into it. I knew I wanted to do the orphanage bit early, but it took a little while to decide that Larimar was the one running it (instead of serving some other function in the story), and even longer to figure out how the whole piece would fit into the story. Doing the continuing social dynamics thing solved a lot of problems for me at once: it got me some characterization on both of my main OCs, it got me some setting work, it fit into the plot the way I wanted it to (i.e. why is this something that needs discussing instead of something that Cinnabar's already making happen without Cadance's involvement), and with any luck it kind of hit back to the whole isolation theme.

Wow, it almost sounds like I knew what I was doing there... Umm... Well, maybe subconsciously? I guess this is one of the advantages to letting ideas stew for a while before you write them up.

Anyway, if you like the continuing dynamics thing and you haven't already read it—which I'm guessing you may not have, since it's not on your favorites list—may I suggest Skywriter's "In the Bleak Midwinter", which is a bit more humorous in how it plays around with this sort of stuff, but which was absolutely an inspiration for some of what I did in Chapter 3. His OC Rose Quartz, in particular, is just wonderful.

One last thing.

3985789
Just so you know, I'm holding off responding until you've finished Chapter 3 because I don't want to prejudice your reading any (or at least any more than it's already been prejudiced). I'm... very interested to hear how well you think this works in the end. Or how badly you think it doesn't work.

I'm not quite sure on the secondary meaning for the well-cannoned colt thing, though. Guns?

4180184

Happy to help.

A passable way to spend the hour or two it takes to read, but the story never succeeded in drawing a different expression from this stony facade of mine. Unremarkably solid.

That was a perfect tale for my night's reading. The weather here just turned cold for the first time this season, and I'd so missed staying up late on cold, dark nights reading heart warming stories!

So yes, really enjoyed this one. It builds really slow, never quite pulling strong emotions in the first two chapters, but setting a really solid foundation for later. Then chapter three... and the hollowness... it's just so perfectly "winter" in how it's happy and sad and lonely and family and all those things mixed together... almost like a particularly difficult dish which can only be kept fresh for so long. :pinkiehappy:

Then there's what to do with all that food... and I saw it coming, but when it did, everything else had been set up so perfectly, the emotions built just to the tipping point, that it spilled over nicely, with that perfect smile-cry dichotomy of feeling rushing in. Absolutely beautifully done.

Throughout the whole thing, the characters were amazing, and your prose is just excellent. So many little details that made the setting and ponies viscerally real, yet never bogged it down. In fact, the only thing that stood out as even the slightest negative to me, was a bit of repetition, such as the railway agent being sent to the kitchen three times. Such a minor thing though, just ignore me on that!

But yes, great job, and thanks for sharing! :twilightsmile:

Hey, I just posted a review for this fic. In case you are interested, it can be found here.

Overall, I loved this story. Despite the holiday theme, it feels timeless, and deals with great themes. I love your use of Cadance, and I was sobbing by the end. Very powerful indeed.

5257431

Prior to Season 4, he and Cadance didn't interact a whole lot, and between "Three's a Crowd" and "Equestria Games" in Season 4, that just seemed to get reinforced. He has a role with Cadance and with the crystal ponies, but it's his own role and it doesn't particularly connect in with the bond between Twilight and Cadance.

That's exactly the problem, though, y'know? But thanks so much for the reply, and thank-you again for the little fix. Both of these things I appreciate enormously. Hopefully there will be time in December for me to read it again. This time I'll be able to feel good by the end, and will also be able to enjoy everything leading up to it, unburdened by the foreboding suspicion that it'll end how it did the first time.

I would hardly call my comment insightful, though. Spike is the only smegging character can I think about anymore. He's neglected, dismissed, or underutilized almost everywhere I look, and my instinct to that is to compensate for the bombardment of pony. I wish I had the luxury of putting so much thought into the rest of the mane six, but all they do is remind me that his relationships with them depend on his crush on Rarity or his connection to them through Twilight. That's what the show is to me nowadays: whether or not the outsider has a place among his friends.

5414967
Ack! Suddenly this story!
That's the second time you replied to me on a story from a while back. :derpytongue2:

I am indeed interested, however. I rather liked this story after all.:raritywink:

I will grant you cello sounds better though.:trollestia:

5414945

Awesome. Glad I could could help.

Also, it's cool to see you coming back to this, considering how much difficulty it caused you. I don't think I could be so strong. Well done!

5419190
Well, it was always meant to be a Christmas release. I kind of figured I'd wind up doing this around the first Christmas, regardless. It's one of the reasons I held off on getting an EQD post for the thing for ten months or so.

And yes, thank you for the help! :twilightsmile:

5426290

He always is, isn't he... Y'know, when he reaches seventeen or eighteen with those muscles that're building, Rarity won't be able to keep her hooves off him.

I don't know if you've seen this before, but:
fc00.deviantart.net/fs70/f/2014/011/e/f/rarity_knows_how_to_get_what_she_wants_by_thewholebeehive-d71q9eh.png

Also, thanks for commenting again. Yes, I'm very happy to see you liked it a lot more this time around, but I'd also forgotten to tag you in my author's note—which has now been fixed. Nobody else ever called me on the Spike issue (which is, itself, a little disheartening), and I really did forget about him entirely in the earlier version of this story. I think he only made it in two or three places here (I never did see a good way to work the Cadance v. Spike paralleling into the story), but at least he's there. Leaving him out was... pretty unconscionable. So again, thank you very much!

5426516 Thank-you for the credit, though I'm really just grateful you took my input into account. I did indeed notice he was only mentioned a limited number of times, and in a limited capacity, but that's all that was needed: enough to make it known that he hadn't been forgotten by Cadance or the others. Thanks again for the edits, and thanks once more for applying them before the ED feature! Condragonlations on that.

And yeah, I've totally seen that comic. It's completely and utterly ridiculous, though, and simply impossible to take seriously...Future Spike will still be a dragon, and therefore still won't need pants.

Hosen, I mean.

I've had this on my reading list for a while now.
I'm very, very glad I've finally gotten around to reading it.

This is beautiful work. Very well-written, an interesting insight on a pony we know little about and a truly heartwarming story.
I adored reading this. Thank you, Bradel, for the wonderful piece!

AIP§ :rainbowdetermined2:

5609712
I'm really glad you enjoyed it! This is still one of my favorite pieces I've written, and I think the EQD edits I made for this Christmas helped shore up some of the weaker points. A lot of my newer stuff has gone in a bit of a different direction, but I'm hoping the stuff I've got in my publication backlog right now will go back toward this sort of story.

Anyway, thank you for the wonderful comment. It was a really nice thing to see before heading to bed for the night.

5609756
It was my pleasure.

I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for more gems like these from you.
And if that's more of the kind of stuff you want to write, then you're certainly earned my following. :rainbowwild:

Sleep well!

AIP§ :rainbowdetermined2:

This was the 400th story I reviewed! I'm glad it happened to be a very good one.

You can find my review of this story here.

Thanks for writing it!

When I first read this story, a long time ago, I just had to go learn the Huron Carol and practice this song a bit. Now that I have a decent microphone, I thought I'd share.

7543563
Agh! This is amazing! I want to make sure to drop a comment responding to this ASAP in case I somehow manage to forget to mess with this more later---but thank you so much! This is absolutely the most wonderful thing that's happened today, and I love it.

7543563
Actually, I suppose I should ask before I go do anything...

Would you be comfortable with me tossing up a blog to let fans of the story listen to your rendition of the song? Also, how would you feel about me linking your version in the story appendix itself? It's certainly better than my version.

7544356

Yes, that's fine, on both counts. I'm glad you like it. :twilightsmile:

Handy link to the song on youtube (with the original English lyrics): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3D-m-PwKVsM

This is such an amazing story! I'm glad that I was able to listen to Scribbler Productions' audio drama of this story on my drive home for Christmas this year. I give it five stars! And by "five stars", of course I mean: five smiling Pinkies! Lol.

:pinkiehappy::pinkiehappy::pinkiehappy::pinkiehappy::pinkiehappy:

10602646
Very glad that you enjoyed it so much!

What an interesting tale!

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