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Scramblers and Shadows


Politicians prey on the vulnerable, the disadvantaged and those with an infantile sense of pride in a romanticised national identity which was fabricated by a small to mid-sized advertising agency.


T
Source

Three years ago, ponies discovered Amaranth, a desert world of ancient, abandoned technology and countless mysteries. It has become the frontier for the unscrupulous, the adventurous and the dispossessed. Salvor airships ply the skies, pirates prey on the weak and idealists seek to unify the disparate.

Three months ago, Scootaloo left Equestria for Amaranth. She hasn't been heard from since.

Now Sweetie Belle searches for her lost friend, to find her, tell her the truth, and bring her home. But as she does so, she stumbles upon a great and terrible secret sought by a number of dangerous and powerful creatures. A secret that explains the shared history of Amaranth and Equestria and could spell the end of both worlds.


Primarily an adventure tale with aged-up Scootabelle shipping as a plot element.

Thanks to my pre-readers, Blue_Paladin42, jml123hi and Not A Hat.

Cover art used with the kind permission of Valhalla Studios. 'Cause airships.

Chapters (27)
Comments ( 132 )

I really need to be working, but this was short enough that I decided to dive in and read it while I had the chance. And I'm definitely liking it. I think the descriptions are a little richer than I usually like, but I'm still enjoying them a lot, especially when you tie in sound and aroma, which I notice happening a lot. The intro did a great job grabbing my attention, too. I really liked the flashback scene, and I'm interested to learn more about this new location you've come up with. I think the chapter dips into introspection a bit more than I'd like, but all around I found the whole thing very fun to read.

As a general note --

My pre-readers reminded me that some readers can't abide stories where the hero dies at the end. Since I don't consider it a big spoiler, and because the intro here is so ambiguous, I'm going to take a risk and tell you whether Sweetie Belle survives straight away. But I'm also going to cloak it in spoiler tags. Hopefully that'll keep everyone happy.

She totally survives! Wahey!

YES. It has arrvied. Eeeeeexcellent. Let the adventure begin!
Though, I am surprised to see that Sweetie is here for Scoots in the description. I thought her motivations were supposed to be a mystery at this point?


4025273
Aroma and sound descriptions actually make a whole lotta sense given that the characters are horses. More folks should use that.

4025418
:twilightsheepish:

You had me at aged up fillies and excuse for Scootabelle.

I loved it. Flowery language that never outstayed its welcome. Evocative locales. Clear emotional timbre. Keep it up.

Daemons in technology...

Was Tales of the Ketty Jay an influence?

4025273

Always nice when I can contribute to unproductivity.

Glad you like the description. This is much more lush prose than I habitually write, so it's good to hear I'm getting it right. (All those Sanderson links certainly helped!)

I think you're probably right about the introspection thing. I may be laying it on a bit thick here, and there's not much indication about the actiony stuff coming up.


4025439

Well, it's something anyone finishing the first chapter could work out, more-or-less, so it's not an integral twist. And mentioning it means I can hint at more important mysteries coming up.

4026558
Thank you! :twilightsmile:

4027298
I'm afraid not. I've never heard of Ketty Jay, though having done some research it sounds like a pretty cool series. I might check it out sometime.

The daemons were originally inspired by the Shadow Operators in M. John Harrison's Kefahuchi Tract trilogy (I'm taking a fair few setpieces from there, in fact), but they've changed a lot since. and bear almost no resmblance.

Aged up is sadface:applecry:, but I'll possibly enjoy it. Sounds fun, at least.

4,000 words and we already have the templates laid out for our main characters. Well done. This is how you write an introduction!

This is really catching me so far, I think I like it best of anything of yours I've read yet. I quite look forward to reading more.

You tease, you tease and I need more! :raritydespair:

I love this. The daemons and the whole world of Amaranth is the kind of highly imaginative thing I like to see in an adventure story. Plus the romance angle is well played. Can't wait to see what happens next.

4724565

Imaginative is what I aim for. Thank you!

Is this ambitious? Yes
Do I want you to succed with it? Double yes
I'm not one for romance, but I think it actually adds to the story in this case- a very rare thing

Wow, this is just fascinating. I'm loving the other world, the rich descriptions are great.

Only a couple chapters so far, but full of awesomeness. You very much have my attention.

4731738
4750527

Cheers!

Now all I have to do is keep it up for a couple dozen more chapters. :twilightoops:

This has been one of the best story openings I've seen in years. Reading with all haste.:twilightsheepish:

I greatly enjoyed what you have put together here. The imagination behind Amaranth is huge and I loved just about every part of the introductory chapters. Your writing is brilliant and really sealed the deal. Wonderfully well done! :twilightsmile:

Cold Light by Scramblers and Shadows
8.7 out of 10 - Definitely Looking Forward to More
- Brilliantly directed
- Great scene visuals & intro
- Well done dialogue & characterization
- Interesting narrative
Review by Amy Clockwork. Read the full review here.

4812332

Wow. That was one of the best reviews I've ever had. Not just because it was mostly praise -- the amount of detail is amaing, and even the criticisms are well-placed. Thank you.

I'll do my best to live up to your expectations. (No pressure, eh?)

Updaaaaate! Oh gosh I'm so excited.

dramatis personae in the notes

Do eet.

Yeah, Sweetie could definitely use a little assistance from Twilight, it's a shame that she is in no convenient position to request or receive said assistance.

The narrator seems to be getting snippy. Hm.. :trixieshiftleft:

Nice use of ansible as the name for the letter sending tech, I've never seen the Spike/Celestia connection described like that in a fic before and yet it's a perfect fit.

“I'll be working close to Ilmarinen for the next few months. And since I figure you might need saving, what's your terminal number?”
Gritstone told her.

And now I'm suddenly suspicious that someone has figured out how to turn the ansible connection into a tracking spell for the other side. Alternatively, stealing half of the connection from the communications office would be a good way to sabotage a ship depending on it.

5282716
If I were in that situation, I'd be snippy too.

(Honestly, If I were in a situation where the bus was late, I'd be snippy then too.)



5290157
Cheers!

And those ideas .... yeah, I definitely had some plans in mind and am definitely definitely not stealing them for later use. :trixieshiftright:

Plot's gotten interesting, and the world of Amaranth is such intriguing setting . . .definitely looking forward to more.

Ah, 'thagorizer,' my new favourite semi-official archeological term inspired by a syndicated comic strip. I have to keep a dictionary site up in another tab as I'm reading this, and I couldn't be happier.

6036205

Haha, good. Always glad when I can use ponyfic to enrich vocabularies.

A lot of surprises this chapter, all in all. I hadn't expected to find out that Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle were an item prior to her leaving for Amaranth, largely because I was anticipating the "will-they-or-won't-they" to be the more dominant plotline. Well, perhaps it still will to an extent, but it certainly wasn't something I had predicted.

I'm glad that we're getting more light shed on the world's past via the qilin, mainly because there is such a fascinating amount of detail and imagination that I've been enjoying for some time now. Obviously something cataclysmic happened to Amaranth's prior civilization to leave it in such a state, but I'm still trying to puzzle out what it was. My current guess is that that the object of the cult that Pancake and Flay seem to be a part of (I'm assuming it's a cult) has something to do with it - a good old fashioned eldritch horror, perhaps? One other thing: have you considered adding a glossary to this? I managed to remember most of the key terms, but it would be a fine aid to help recall some of the less-used vocabulary seeing that you've put so much work into the fictional world.

And lastly, I was definitely not expecting to see Scootaloo reappear so soon! I'm sure glad to see her though - can't wait to read what the reunion between her and Sweetie will be like next chapter.

Also, the aelewyrm hatchlings are very, very cute, in a very deadly sort of way. Here's hoping they turn up again as well.

Dat cliffhanger.

6054923

I'm so glad to hear that; part of the intention here is to steer clear or subvert the usual adventure and romance checkpoints while still keeping things interesting. Hopefully there are going to be many more surprises to come.

And its always fun to read speculation, even if I can't confirm or deny anything. (Except -- we're definitely going to see more of the hatchlings.)

As for a glossary ... that's a pretty good idea. I'll see what I can do.

Rannoch, huh? Someone here has played Mass Effect.

Ending on a bloody high note I see.

6341665

Oh, aye. It's a fun trick to pull, considering they're still in the middle of a crisis.

Dat Scootaloo tho'.

Very intriguing, those worms are quite fascinating. I can't wait to see how they'll tie into things. I wonder if Saffron's culture accidentally summoned the daemons...

Consider this a vote for more errata!

Such a thrilling chapter! full excitement and intrigue!
:derpytongue2:

Hallelujah! New chapter!

“I don't know who our employer is,” said Gregor. “Goes by the name S."

I remain intriqued by the prospect of finding out what this villainous scheme centers around, and who is behind it. "S," eh? Could be someone we already know, or someone new. I suppose we'll find out.

My current theory is that this pseudo-cult we occasionally cut to serves either the daemons or the force that drives the daemons, and wants them to destroy the world. Perhaps using the repository is the key to doing that?

Ah, conjecture.

“No, if you want to, go ahead. I know how much you like that pretty building stuff. I'll go and check out the cloud factories or something. It's cool.”
Sweetie Belle stared at her. “Alright,” she said softly. After a few moments of studying the creases in the bedsheets, she looked up to find Scootaloo looking out the window. “About last night …” she began.
“You were awesome. Hah, I mean, wow. Some of that stuff … I never thought you'd …” Scootaloo shook her head. “You know, everypony kept telling me how stands between friends are never good, but I loved it.”

Scootaloo... you're an idiot.

Pinion Beach was made of gears. The largest were metres across. Others like pebbles. All sizes in between, and those smaller still, until it was impossible to identify them. Grains of sand, perhaps. They were scattered without order. They came in all types, all manner of designs. Here,intact; there, fragmented. Some stainless, some scabbed with brown or green corrosion.

Now are these gears left by the precursor race of Amaranth, or ones built by recent settlers? I would guess the former, but I suppose we'll find out soon enough.

Since loving this story - please keep it coming!

This is a fantastic opening! There were a few things that could've been improven on, sure, and there's a paragraph that needs a space after a comma (I'd show you but I'm on my phone and thus can't copy-pastr), but when I get on my computer tomorrow to read more I'll help point out things where I can.

6598977
Cheers!

Ah, conjecture.

Answers should be coming up in the next couple of chapters. :ajsmug:


6606830
Thank you! I'm looking forward to it and I hope you enjoy the rest.

6607555 Found the comma that needs a space after it:

a blood red mane,a lapis lazuli hide

It was had

Don't you mean hard? Also, extra space there.

“Thank you, sir” said Sweetie Belle.

Missing a comma.

There's still numerous grammar and punctuation issues. When I catch up reading, I can offer editing services if you'd like.

6610152

Thanks. If you tell me about errors, I'll happily clean them up. But, truth be told, I don't really care about making this grammatically perfect.

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