• Member Since 28th Aug, 2011
  • offline last seen 16 hours ago

Cold in Gardez

Stories about ponies are stories about people.


Twilight Sparkle is returning to the Crystal Empire for the one-year anniversary of Sombra's defeat. The whole kingdom is preparing to celebrate.

But four crystal ponies are preparing a different celebration. The pieces are moving, and their plot is almost complete – Lord Sombra's last, most faithful servants will have their revenge. Twilight Sparkle and all her filthy kin will die.

Now, in the final hours of their plan, something has gone terribly wrong. One of the four is a traitor. Everything is in jeopardy. And once again, the fate of an empire will be decided at the Gate of Heavenly Peace.

Chapters (1)
Comments ( 36 )

Can't wait to read this! More Cold words!!! :pinkiehappy:

This was a really good story, I didn´t see coming who the traitor was it was really intersting and i enjoyed reading it.

Thank you for writing and sharing thi story.

Saludos desde México

You have four heralds to King Sombra, I have the great grandson of Princess Luna/Nightmare Moon, to try and kill Twilight. 😄

Anyway, cool story. 😊

A very good story.
Possibly Inspired by The Black Hand that liked Franz Ferdinand and started WW1?

Wow. I'm not usually one for intrigue but I couldn't put this down. The betrayal and reaction was written so well!

There used to be less negative connotation to the word "awful". It meant only that something was almost overwhelmingly moving, touching, emotionally significant, etc. without judgment of good, bad, or anything in between.

This story was a spark of that old meaning: it is awe-inspiring. What a delightful and painful glance into the pathos around Sombra!

Thank you for posting it, Cold. It is excellent. And as sometimes happens, this tale has pulled a sonnet (below) from the heart of my Muse.

Light and laughter,

The ancient words lay still upon my tongue
Unspoken but still heard within my heart
I fell to whence I'd come: the bottom rung
As ending came to what I'd thought to start

His promise shattered by one angry mare
Whose heart I once imagined I knew well
Her final smile still lingers, wan and fair
My soul was not prepared to hear her knell

Her spirit called to mine, both bright and fierce
And though our love seemed strange, it burned so bright!
We worked in secret, hoping still to pierce
The shell that caste had placed around our light

I made my choice, and intertwined our fates
And now my own death on the morn awaits

The story of some ponies who just couldn't let go of the past, even when the past has let go of them.

I loved the glimpses of the revolution led by Sombra, long ago. I wonder if he had good intentions at first, or whether he was always using the ponies like these four. A great read, whatever the answer.

I liked everything about this, from a believable rise of Sombra as Unicorn Stalin to to the villainous invocation of the power of friendship to the heat wrenching betrayal at the end. And how even the true believers from the original revolution were conflicted and tormented by the after effects of Sombras mind magic. And how you have such a wonderfully evocative cult vibe to Sombra and Apartheid one to the old Crystal Empire.

So yeah, overall a really good piece from the villains perspective.

Wow. That was powerful, very well-written. I could understand everything, empathize with everyone, even as I knew I disagreed with them. The ability to bring empathy between two sides, even as each holds their own position, is truly amazing and powerful.

She peered up at the crystal spires of the palace in the distance. “I wish my memory was so strong. Sometimes, I… sometimes it all seems like a dream, everything from before. Do you ever feel that way?”

He swallowed. “No.”

“Hm.” She looked down at her shoes. “Perhaps it’s just me, then.”

The tragedy of it all hangs heavy off of that little exchange and missed opportunity.

Good story!

It takes some chutzpah to put the mare into the title of the story like that.

I'm still absorbing this. Let me think about it. Is it strange that I wanted to see more of the rise of your Sombrists?

Ha! *The Sombrists*. It's a sort of pun.

God, I'm so dumb, I had to go to sleep and dream to get it. I mean, I had one of those dream epiphanies where I realized that I hadn't paid rent on my apartment in months - no! Years! It's only when I wake and remember that I bought a place and have mortgage payments, not rent, that the urgency fades.

In my defense, as long as it's been since I paid rent, it's been even longer since I watched that Kurosawa movie.

The best thing would be if they swapped the poison back again, but it turns out alicorns are actually immune to it... because how the hell would Sombra have known what could kill and alicorn in the first place? That's the problem with making assumptions based on zero evidence. :trollestia:

This does still leave one question: from whom did Sombra learn Dark Magic? And how did he become so powerful with it?

The comics gave us the Umbrum... which were laughably lame... but at least there was a complete 'origin'. In this instance, we still have that open question. It really does invite the notion of an imprisoned Puppetmaster moving pieces around, granting them a fragment of his power... which is where Tirac would have fit perfectly.

Didn't read it yet, but this is one of those stories that instantly made me think of a premise after reading the description. In this case, what if Sombra was not a completely mindless beast bent on evil like in the show and actually had a small trace of love in his heart for a secret family? Like, Sombra actually had a crystal mare he loved and kept in his personal quarters that succumb to Stockholm syndrome and eventually loved him back, and who also ended up birthing him three foals. Then, after his defeat, the mother and children went into quasi-hiding, knowing that revealing the truth would mean being ostracized or worse.
I figure such a family might hold a grudge against Twilight, Cadance, and Shining Armor enough to want to kill them.

I enjoyed this. I loved the tragedy of the characters' inability to move from their clouded 1000 year old past (still near-present for them) into a future where things really are better than ever for everyone around them, and they simply can't see it. They'd been mired in hate and action and reaction and struggle and fear for so long that they just couldn't let go and believe that something could possibly be better than what they'd fought so hard for.

And wow, that title really became foreboding. Twilight could easily have ended up walking through that gate of heavenly peace at the end instead of just stepping up to it...

I did feel a couple of breaks in this, the biggest being the reveal of the 'traitor' and their admission. It felt more explained than realized at a critical moment, which (for me) let off a lot of tension that I felt could have been increased and carried to the end. Having a little more reveal of the relationship between the two would also have enhanced that (again, for me). Doesn't change my opinion of the story, though. Excellent work, as always.

It was a shame. It's obvious each of them had falsified, altered memories of what actually happened, probably implanted by Sombra. Or more possibly a set of condictioned criteria that allowed them to create their own narrative as to past events, which is why their memories are so hazy.

We know Sombra was no revolutionary, no leader. He was a sneaking usurper, created by the Umbra as a foal, an empty vessel to store their power, with implanted drives of his own to seek them out once he was grown enough to support it.

And no such rigid, stratified class system existed. Princess Amore was prectically the pre-incarnation of Cadence, and would never have allowed it, and there is no indication of stratification in the culture or architecture we've seen as canon. After all, for the Crystal ponies, it's only been a few years, the old hatreds would still exist under the surface. Not to mention the cruelty and dispair such a class system would be poison to the Crystal Heart, rendering it unable to power a lightbulb, let alone a city shield. And no city shield means no Crystal Empire. Even as an AU it falls of it's own lack of internal consistency.

So, either the story is made of plot holes, or their memories were faked to make them a dead mans switch.

g1g5 #18 · Apr 18th, 2018 · · 1 ·

I am a regular visitor to China due to business interests, and my family originates from there (most of my mother’s side of my extended family still reside in the PRC, in fact). I find an interesting that the attitude of the conspirators in this story very closely resembles the attitude of many of the older Chinese population towards Mao Zedong, a sense of great awe and loyalty accompanied nevertheless by a sense of both dissonance and unease.

They cannot mentally associate their respect (justifiable or not) Chairman Mao as a great unifier and “liberator” with the many atrocities have been perpetrated by him, or in his name. Many simply don’t try. It doesn’t help that decades of propaganda and indoctrination has trained the population to disregard any negative impressions of the Chairman, yet many of these horrors are so obvious and widespread that subconsciously everyone knows them to be true.

I am sure everyone already knows this, but “Gate of Heavenly Peace” literally translates to Tiananmen in Chinese. This gate guards the Forbidden Palace, and is the site of several major historical events. Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of Communist China there in 1949. More recently the nascent 89 democracy movement was crushed by the PLA in the gate square. Perhaps it can be said that in this universe Sombra won?


You're actually the first person to spot the 天安門 reference, as far as I'm aware, though others have mentioned the references to revolutionary-era China.

This was very powerful. You managed to show so many types of alienation in such a short story. The contrast between their passion and discipline and their waning significance is haunting.

"Are we supposed to just back to sleep?"
"Are we supposed to just go back to sleep?"?

I quite enjoyed this, but I'm unfortunately not thinking of much commentary.

Oooh, this was really good. All four characters felt so real, I could sympathize with them despite not agreeing. And I did not expect the traitor :O

Exquisite. Don't know why I waited so long to read this. An excellently paced, multilayered tragedy with fantastic characters and fascinating questions about what of their past was real. Thank you for it.

Oof. Thinking those were false memories planted by Sombra. If they were real, it seems like there'd be more than just the handful of assassins coming out of a caste system that brutal.

What an amazingly well structured story and well constructed characters! Have you considered rewriting this at novel length?

That had some nice twists to it, and a fresh and interesting premise. I'm glad I picked up this story.

Though, have you considered adding the crystal pony character tag too? It's fairly underused, is perfect for this story, and would help people looking for good crystal pony stories find this.


I didn't even know that tag existed.

It does! I guess it's that rare...

There are so many interesting things in this story. The characters, their interactions, the political things... Great! And although the traitor was the one who made the most sense, I had no idea who it was, and suspected Lazulite.

The Tiananmen reference and the other references to China also reminded me that I have almost no idea about post-WW2 history and history of the far east, because the only thing school taught me about that was a short segment about the Korean War. I should probably read a book...

Sombra and his would be avengers are certainly somewhat Maoist.

I'd 100% consider picking up a hardcover collection of your more sinister stories like this, "The Carnivore's Prayer", and "The Glass Blower".

Very glad I read this. Such great character work.

Goodness, I love your narration. It’s so fluid, smooth and descriptive. Your prose is impeccable.

Fabulous work, Cold. Into ’Best of Long Shots’ this goes!

Really inspirational work, bravo!

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