• Member Since 22nd Jan, 2013
  • offline last seen Oct 20th, 2022


Ceci n'est pas un cheval.


Hearth's Warming Eve is supposed to be a happy event—Cadance knows this, but all she ever feels is lonely. Now, with Shining Armor gone and a freak snowstorm battering her kingdom, it's up to Cadance to salvage the holiday and teach her crystal ponies to care for one another.

A story about finding your family, on the coldest night of the year.
— Featured on Equestria Daily

Chapters (5)
Comments ( 99 )

Author's Notes

Well, this one took a little longer than I'd planned. Perhaps you won't be surprised to know that, given the title, this is a three-chapter story. The last chapter will be coming a little later, likely tomorrow, after I've had some time to give it a last read-through or two. I'll have more to say about the craft side of this story once the whole thing has been published for you all to see.

Many thanks go to my pre-reading team of GhostOfHeraclitus, PoweredByTea, and "Nettle", ably assisted in this case by Special Guest Pre-Reader Skywriter, who knows a little something about Cadance. The cover art was drawn by Nadnerb, who also assisted with pre-reading. Oh, yeah, and Horizon checked some stuff for me, too.

Hey! It's out! :pinkiehappy: Well done you.

Four things, then. Walking, hunger, crying, and apple. Apple was definitely the best of those four.

I still lack the words to describe how adorable I find that. :twilightsmile:

‘BEE-KEPING’ (tomorrow).

:rainbowlaugh: Now that I want to see. The only question is who gets to say NOT THE BEES!

Cadance blinked, trying to clear her head. She looked down at Smarty Pants again—Twilight’s raggedy little doll with the button eyes and the mane made out of two-colored yarn—and couldn’t hold back an involuntary shiver. Twilight had said she wasn’t any good at magic. If that was what “not good at magic” looked like… Suddenly, the prospect of studying at Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns seemed a great deal more daunting.

Oh, yes. Poor Twilight. She's really not that good at magic, oh no, just the one spell, really, the one that makes her TWILIGHT THE MIND TAKER! SHE RULES THE MINDS OF ALL! ALL SHALL LOVE HER AND DESPAIR! :pinkiecrazy:

This has been fun. I've never been quite so involved in the release of one of these things. I can't really not upvote it, having read it quite a few times by now, but I'm afraid I'll have precious little to say about it here, given that I've expressed my opinions on it many times already.

Congratulations on finally getting it out here though. I look forward to seeing what other people have to say about it. :twilightsmile:

Of course ghost can still pick out all his favorite bits. He's too good at that.

Now that I've finally seen the story in full context, you made absolutely the right choice. The description makes Chapter 1 less about the mystery of identity (which doesn't offer as much reason to click through to chapter 2) and more about mystery of its relevance to your theme and premise (which does). The description and picture, I should add, are marvelous; spiking them to add suspense to the first chapter would have been a loss.

And now I get the best of both worlds — I both got an early preview of this excellent tale, AND I get to read the rest of it fresh. Onward! :pinkiehappy:

Edit: Grats on the featurebox!

You, how dare you. You have used my one true weakness against me in attempt to get me to favorite your new story. CURSE MY EXCESSIVE LOVE OF WELL WRITTEN CADANCE STORIES!

Oh look, Bradel wrote a story and it's awesome. How utterly predictable.:derpytongue2:

A letter...
Why do I get the feeling it's not a happy letter.:ajsleepy:

Maybe it's leftover feels from Moments.:derpytongue2:


Not so sure about the despair part. At least in my case.:derpytongue2:

I like it so far. Looking forward to the next chapter.

Ah, good old mind control magic. And here I thought it was her trying to imitate Cadance.

Hollow Shades? And Cadance? That catches my attention.

Marching into her room, a veritable fortress of books and pillows, Twilight settled herself at a desk alongside a threadbare gray doll with button eyes. “You don’t have to be in school to have homework, silly.”

Oh Twilight. :twilightblush:

I love that bit about a gryphon that loved Equestrian made woodblock printing being the trigger behind the reestablishment of diplomatic relations. Neat little detail.

And I’m a princess too, right? So does that mean I get my own guards? Those thoughts were terribly distracting, and she wished they’d just go away. Can… can I have him, maybe?

Down, girl! :rainbowlaugh:

3896325 I can't help but imagine that Shining will be the one who gets some bee-time.

You have my attention

This is unfortunately the case, yes, and I really am sorry to all you guys for doing that... but I really couldn't come up with a decent long description that didn't primarily deal with Chapter 3 (which will be coming out pretty shortly, I just want to make sure it's well-polished).

I've felt like a bit of a heel all day for leading folks on with the long description, especially now that it's in the feature box. But don't worry, I'll be finishing this story for you long before it leaves.

Oh, hey, a story by you. I may as well take this chance to foray myself into your writing.

3898606 You probably could've gotten away with it by calling chapter 1&2 the prologue. Either way this story is good. Oh, also I hope "Aunt Celly" makes up for isolating Cadence on hearths warming eve. It'd be interesting to see someone take a shot at defining the beginning of their relationship.

Well, this looks promising. I'm on the edge of my chair to know why Shining Armor isn't with his wife on Hearth's Warming Eve.
He'd better have a good reason. :duck:
Don't make me wait too long!

This story has peaked my curiosity... I want more :twilightsmile:

Comment posted by statoose deleted Feb 5th, 2014

This is very interesting so far! I smiled at the last line.

(Other comment deleted due to duplicate. Somehow.)

Absolutely loving this! It shows a writer's ability that he can keep me so entertained with such a simple scene for that many words. Wonderful dialogue, and great hints at Cadance's more recent life.

I have a few minutes. Time to respond to comments!

Can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to publishing Chapter 3. I'd have done it by now, but this is only my second feature box story, so I asked for advice on release speed, and I'm trying to follow the advice I got from people who have more experience with this sort of thing.

But Chapter 3 is the good bit. I think everyone agrees on that. This is all just appetizer. I'm very pleased that this seems to be working out well, and very happy with the decision not to spike 3896341 's wonderful art or the descriptions. Thank you very much for your input on that!

HaHA! My dastardly plan has worked, then!

And looking at your favorites and follows, I think I might have a recommendation for you. I'm guessing you haven't seen Skywriter's Cadance of Cloudsdale stories yet. He has a bit of a different take on the character, but if you like well-written Cadance, you should definitely be reading more Skywriter.

Fricking "Moments". I finally found the time to read the additional chapters last night. That story was amazing—or at least it was to me. If you check out my userpage, I wound up adding it to my five favorite stories. That thing hit me harder than any story since "Heretical Fictions". I'm still in awe of it.

Anyway, yes, I do my best to be predictable. :twilightsmile:

That was a fun one to throw at my pre-readers. I think everybody was expecting her to turn Cadance into a cactus. When she used the Want It, Need It spell instead, I got some interesting gDocs comments:

PoweredByTea: Oh. Oh dear.
GhostOfHeraclitus: It's worse than a cactus. Much, much worse.
GhostOfHeraclitus: Also: "Oh, I am rubbish at spells. Hopeless. The only one I can do lets me WARP THE MINDS OF ALL! FEAR ME FOR I AM TWILIGHT THE MIND-TAKER!

Come to think of it, I've never written anything from the perspective of a cactus. That might be kind of fun, actually, in small doses.

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

Well what a wonderfull- EVEN MORE CHAPTERS! AAAAHH! :yay:

Edit: Well, appendixes then. Chapter three uploaded before the rest, so that's my excitement. Since I've already made a silly fool of myself, I'm just gonna say this is a wonderfully heartwarming story, enough that I'm warming up some stomach-warming hot chocolate right now.

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.

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.

Oh god the amount of heartwarming in this Hearthswarming story is amazing.

I felt kind of bad for Octavia, should have invited her back to the Castle.
Great story though.

So Cadance was yet another orphaned pony. :scootangel:

So many abandoned foals!

Sheesh, these ponies are terrible parents! :twilightoops:

Either that or they die alot... Hoof and mouth outbreak? Equine encephalitis virus epidemic? :trollestia:

More replying!

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.

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

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!

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.

3903728 Octavia? When was she even mentioned in this story? :rainbowhuh:

EDIT: Nevermind! I see it now. She wasn't even an important character and probably woke up sooner or later to find somewhere warm to stay,

Tears were shed...not even manly ones. I cried.

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:

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

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.


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.

Very happy that you liked it!


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!


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

So, I was right to trust my instinct and withhold judgement when just the prologues were up. And, truth be told, I think you could do without them. The separation seems to be dictated more by the chosen title than the structure of the story. Since you already have flashbacks and conversations about the past, the salient points could easily sit in this chapter.

I recall you were concerned about the time skips in this chapter. You needn't be. Everything here flows as it should -- I didn't feel any bumpiness when you were zooming out the narrative. I barely noticed it happening.

However -- and this is my biggest problem with the story, the thing that's holding it back from brilliance -- the emotional tenor is bumpy. Lemme see if I can elucidate that a bit.

You have three emotional foci here: The orphanage, Cinnabar, and Shining&Twilight. Cinnabar was far and away my favourite. The first and last are edging on candycane levels of twee, but manage between them to be something greater. Having all three together is excellent, but the transitions between them are jolting. A good chunk of this is Cadance's reactions -- before there's any sort of conclusion (even an anticlimactic one) in the sub-arc, she runs off to the next one. If nothing else, this is really quite rude and makes her feel unsympathetic and pretty self-centred[1]. But I think it also cleaves the sub-arcs apart, preventing them for cross-fertilising (it would have been lovely to have Candance take Cinnabar racing outside with her at the end to introduce Shining and Twilight).

I think I get what you're trying to do here. There is that nagging ennui when you're waiting for someone that makes everything unsatisfactory. But Candance's erratic behaviour makes what should be a meandering melancholy into a series of juddering swerves.

Now, all that aside, this is a lovely story. And I really did enjoy it. But it really could be better.

[1] Though I do like self-centred characters; Rares is still best pone, after all. Perhaps its because noone else calls her out on it, or because its never really touched upon, or it feels OOC for Cadance (as far as she has a defined character, anyway), but it isn't doing much for me here.

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)

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.


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!

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)

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!

I certainly like it!

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.

That makes me happy to hear! :raritystarry:

I think. :unsuresweetie:

I really wonder why you spent so much time mentioning the grey cellist. In a story like this, a red herring is needlessly distracting, I kept thinking Octavia (presumably) was going to have some kind of role, even if a minor one, and it kept niggling at my mind and distracting me from what was actually going on with each mention. 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. :derpytongue2:

I am guessing that was Rarity at the end, with the CMC, and then the Apples. Though I suppose the actual identities are irrelevant. :twilightblush:

I find that I really wish you had elaborated on the Clover the Clever bit. It seemed relevant somehow, but, without knowing what happened, I don't know why.

Other than that though, this was quite lovely. Orphanages are always a bit tricky, since it can dip into glurge very easily, but I think the orphanage scene came off rather well. and Cinnabar was great.

I knew that letter was going to be sad though. :fluttershbad:

Ahh, well there's the context for the first two chapters.

That was excellent. Cinnabar and Larimar are a great couple of characters, and such interesting development on how Sombra ran his empire.

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.

The first one and the third one in particular are great, and I think they should be finished. :twilightsmile:

Actually, I think that first one would look better as the title image. :ajsmug:

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.


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.


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:

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