• Member Since 2nd May, 2013
  • offline last seen Last Monday

AShadowOfCygnus


'I am made from the dust of the stars, and the oceans flow in my veins: here I hide in the heart of the city, like a stranger coming out of the rain.'

T
Source

War changed, and so did she.

Now, in the forgotten eastern reaches, where the empty forests fall to meet the glassy sea, the both of them learn to live with it.


With great and particular thanks to my pre-readers this go 'round, for getting through the longest story I've posted to date: Admiral Biscuit, Sunicathorsis, and my darling Dark River.

Chapters (4)
Comments ( 30 )

Oh, wow. Now this is a strong opening chapter!

Beautiful writing, comfy almost slice-of-life stuff, but with constant presence of something big and bad we don't understand yet. Ominous and definitely attention-grabbing!

"Greater Fae," huh? Well, you've hinted at so much in such ways that I'm actually kind of scared to find out what real teeth her phobias have...

Oh dear. Something went badly wrong with this Equestria, to put it mildly.

Dusk and the Six... Twilight and a new set of Bearers, or something else entirely? Mysterious, and intriguing. Plus the hints about the filly... Can't wait for the next chapter!

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Welcome, and thanks for the kind comments and watch both! Glad you're enjoying the story so far.

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Heh! Well, that's just in reference to the Timberwolves they chopped up for the fire back in the day. For now.

Celefin #6 · Jun 4th, 2021 · · · I. ·

Okay, I'm in. Great beginning!

Curiouser and curiouser.

A truly fascinating world you're weaving here! Relative peace with allusions to something ominous lurking just under the surface. I get the feeling that I'll need to reread this once it's done to see what I missed...

So many hints here and there; I feel like I could write half a novel just speculating what's going on. I'm eagerly looking forwards to the next chapter!

Her Mother, who sleeps so soundly behind the little door against which I lie slumped and sobbing.

That nickname all of a sudden seems rather apt...

There's alot left unsaid here, and it's really intriguing.

:moustache:...A Small Critique...:moustache:

I find as I am reading that my attention drags. Like...their is a heft to some of the paragraphs.

I think if you broke those paragraphs - a mite. Perhaps a variety in your sentence games would help with the drag? I mean this is more in your large ones ala , , ,?

Otherwise I wish their was just a bit more environmental story telling? Or is it mood? Embedding and burrowing in...something that deepily entrenchs into you?

On the flipside. Im not sure how to end this. I wish the premise was a...little more apparent and weird. Which to be honest I think of 90% of what I read. In truth its why I write...either way...

If what I say is unclear or you desire a elaboration I can do so.

Thank you

:eeyup:

Well! That was an unexpected three months. Back to business now, though.

Oh, now that's a new development for sure!

At this rate I'm worried I'll be left with way more questions than answers once the last chapter drops. So many hints and glimpses of events, and so little time left to find out more... But then again, that's half of the fun, isn't it.

Some very interesting revelations and implications regarding Princess and the Egg, especially considering the end of the previous chapter. Have to wonder why the narrator was chosen (?) to raise/guard them, especially considering her apparent dislike towards them (or at least some of them?) and that it appears Luna and Cadence are still alive. Wonder what the remaining alicorns are up to...

Hope that's friendly face at the end. Seems like a former fellow soldier? Hard not to worry about what might go wrong...

I can't wait for the next chapter!

This has to be the most confusing reading experience I’ve ever had on Fimfiction. The atmosphere’s amazing and the universe seems interesting, but I just don’t really know what exactly was going on here. Maybe a second read some day would clear things up for me.

Hrm. You're good at writing mystery and obscuring the obvious behind local's presumption - things that are generally known to the character, and which don't need further elaboration, but which remain unknown to readers because we haven't the same experiences. This feels related to the Equestria we know, but I can't tell how. Some portions seems to suggest a distant past, while others a horrible future. But it's all so wrapped up in half-reveals that I can't make full sense of the pieces you scattered all over.

Less fae-foreshadowing this, but still steeped in potential dangers. Is this the last, best hope for Princess Leiaponykind? Hrm.

So much for answering questions; if anything, I feel I have even more questions than before.

It's a truly fascinating world that's been woven; it's a shame that we may not see more. I'm kind of hoping for a sequel, but at the same time, I wouldn't be surprised if this is the last we hear from our protagonists.

I think one thing I've really enjoyed about this is that every time I go to type anything here I look back and find something new that just hints at something more. It makes writing comments oh so frustrating, but at the same time it's strangely fascinating.

Thanks for writing this story! I really enjoyed reading it.

And a bit of a random question - the song in Chapter II. Should it be sung to a particular tune? Is it based on something, or did you write it yourself?

I guess I might as well put my probably-flawed understanding here, to see how much I may have missed.


I'm guessing the Tetrad are the four alicorns, with Dusk = Twilight, Dawn = Cadence (?), Dark = Luna, and Day/She/Her = Celestia? And I think the Starcrossed Dyad are Celesia/Luna specifically? And I have to guess Dream = Flurry, but Luna might fit that better, in which case I don't know who Dark would be.

There was (is) a war going on, and our protagonist had come home on two weeks' leave. Things don't seem to be going particularly well on the home front, both among the Equestrian population and for our protagonist. Our protagonist is called away, cutting her leave short, and 5 days later, the Tree of Harmony explodes in a manner reminiscent of a nuclear blast, obliterating it, the Everfree, and Ponyville. Twilight and the Six (not sure who the sixth is; presumably five are the other 5 Elements of Harmony. Spike/Starlight would be my first guesses) are killed in the blast, along with our protagonist's family. Twilight had been conducting some research on behalf of Celestia at the time, but the result here was wholly unexpected for all parties.

At some point, our protagonist meets with Celestia, and they discuss what happened in Ponyville, as well as Celestia's overall role in Equestria (hinted to be trying to guide ponykind to something better, but perhaps in a way that's too... detached? Not confident I fully understood that conversation). Later, the protagonist tries to kill Celestia, only to be saddled with the filly/Princess and the Egg, during which Celestia departed this world through the Pyre. Seems Celestia gave one last set of orders to our protagonist as well?

I think Princess and the Egg are hinted to be products of Mirror Pool-derived research, with the end result being that Princess is either Celestia's "child", or she is Celestia (that and/or Princess/the Egg are different aspects of Celestia?).

I'm not quite sure what role the Pyre(s?) plays here. Seems to be implied to be similar to (?) a funeral pyre, perhaps for alicorns to move on to the next stage of their life (?), but then there's the mention of another Pyre, so I'm a bit lost. The mention of "a second blast" is a bit confusing as well, since the only blast I can think of that's worthy of being a "first" one is the one from the Tree of Harmony, and I haven't picked up on any connection between that and Celestia's Pyre yet. I'm also not sure if there's a connection between Princess/the Egg and the Pyre; was it just a decision for Celestia to depart at that time and leave ponykind (and her child (?)) in their own hooves, or was the Pyre involved in the creation of Princess/the Egg?

In any case, since then our protagonist and Princess appear to have been on the lam, picking secluded spots to hide away in and moving on when needed or when they think the time is right. Life is surprisingly... peaceful?... when they do manage to find a place to settle down at, if one ignores the battery of defenses that our protagonist appears to have set up.

The war hasn't gone any better in the meantime, and it seems the remaining forces (and Luna/Flurry?) are searching for Princess/the protagonist. Our protagonist is not at all eager to comply, though, and will continue wandering with Princess for the foreseeable future.

I suppose my biggest remaining questions are at this point (or at least as far as I can think of at the moment):

  • What is the Egg's purpose? It's hinted that it's an "echo" of Celestia, though I'm not sure exactly what that means.
  • Was the Egg left behind?
  • Why did Celestia leave? A choice to let ponies grow without her influence and possible mistakes? Penance ("Redeem one, redeem us both")?
  • Why the protagonist? Seems there might be something a bit different about her, since she saw what happened at Ponyville. Was she chosen because of that, because of her conversation with Celestia, both, neither, or for something else?
  • Who are the belligerents in the war? Feel like I should have figured this out, but can't seem to pin anything down after a few skims. Seems the Griffons, ponies, and seaponies are allied, and the changelings are either feral or allied with the Crystal Empire? And the enemies are either sea-based or are coming from a land over the sea?
  • Why continue hiding away? It's hinted that it's until Princess grows and can bear the weight of her history (?). Is this Celestia's request, or our protagonist's choice?

Almost certainly missed things, but it's going to take me at least another age and a half to go over everything.

Thanks again for the story!

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Going to try to consolidate my thoughts here so I don't end up writing another 40K in the comments (heh). I may resort to quoting parts of the story at points, but only because they're the more satisfying answers, not because I enjoy being difficult.

First things first, I'm seriously, truly glad y'all did enjoy it. I know it's open-ended, but I was striving for oblique, not opaque; seems like I hit close to the mark, based on how y'all are responding. Also kind of a dig at this variety of nonlinear storytelling, I guess--who but someone with intense trauma would be stuck reliving the worst parts of their past to the extent the Major does? And why would she want to dig into it any more than just the blunt, intrusive imagery said trauma is already forcing on her?

Impressed and pleased that there wasn't more backlash towards the ending, though; I came back after the first twenty-four hours expecting to be soundly lashed for Not Letting Them Be Happy.

Anyway, in no particular order:

  • Maybe a second read some day would clear things up for me.

    Genuinely, I think this'll address a lot of the questions that people have--or at least give more concrete hints. Even the flashbacks aren't always linear.

  • Is [the song at the end of Chapter II] based on something, or did you write it yourself?

    Nope! That is whole-grain, own-brand Cygnus. As to what it is--well, consider the content, and the Major's issues with certain kinds of statuary. And epitaphs.

  • Less fae-foreshadowing this, but still steeped in potential dangers.

    I can honestly say that it was entirely deliberate and absolutely not a red herring. :raritywink:

  • I guess I might as well put my probably-flawed understanding here, to see how much I may have missed.

    You're very very very close. Of the characters, I'll say that--as in most of what I write here--the only canon characters I use tend to be those who showed up pre-Season 3.

  • Why did Celestia leave?

    Ooh. Well:
    'You want us to be like you'
    'She [Twilight] was the closest you ever came, and she could have set you free.'
    'I’m writhing in front of the Pyre, feeling the vestiges of Her burn their way into my mind, my horn [...] One spark, one torch, reflected a thousand-thousand times across all of Equestria—a bequest.'
    'After She walked into the Pyre—well, maybe their work was done.'

  • Was the Egg left behind?

    Consider the recurring phoenix motif. I've actually added a line here that did not make it out of my last draft and onto FiMFic. Sincere apologies for that--I had to double-check after reading your comment. It's one of the memories that flare during her psychotic break at the end.

  • Why the protagonist?

    You're nine-tenths of the way there already. :twilightsmile: But since you asked:
    "At some point, our protagonist meets with Celestia, and [...] tries to kill Celestia"
    "Redeem one, redeem us both"
    "I’m holding the thing—the excuse—in my forehooves, knowing the favour She thinks she’s done me"

  • Who are the belligerents in the war?

    Consider what the Major's shown to be afraid of. Unfortunately, it's probably closer to "extinction" than "war", even if that's the word they and the Morale Office would rather you used.

  • Why continue hiding away? It's hinted that it's until Princess grows and can bear the weight of her history (?)

    That was The Plan, yes. Every one of the major (heh) players has changed The Plan in the interim, however, and none of them with the best of intentions. Consider what the Major really, truly thinks of the kid.

Hope that helps! I'm happy to (non-)answer anything else y'all came across. Thank you all again for sticking through to the end. :heart:

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Well, I only just finished chapter two, so no, that clears up nothing. :rainbowlaugh:

I've got so much to go first. Had to ignore all the spoilers.

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Oh jeez. :twilightoops: Alright, please forget I said anything, and hope you (continue?) to enjoy the ride from here.

11005628

Nope! That is whole-grain, own-brand Cygnus.

Nice job with the lyrics! Think it'd be interesting put to song.

You're very very very close.

Well that's quite the pleasant surprise :raritystarry:

Of the characters, I'll say that--as in most of what I write here--the only canon characters I use tend to be those who showed up pre-Season 3.

Hrm. Well that puts the kibosh on Flurry as Dream then. Haven't the faintest idea who the alternative might be, though I wouldn't put it past myself to miss someone obvious.

'I’m writhing in front of the Pyre, feeling the vestiges of Her burn their way into my mind, my horn [...] One spark, one torch, reflected a thousand-thousand times across all of Equestria—a bequest.'

Another example of what makes commenting on this story so hard. I'm pretty sure I read over that passage at least a half-dozen times, but for some reason I just missed the importance of that bit.

Also saw the following passage:

The worst days, when we were just starting out, and the magic was still bright-white fire in everyone’s heads and any sharp noise or surprise was a crystal spike to the eye-socket, I’d just scream.

So now I'm guessing our protagonist managed to convince Celestia to change her approach, from more direct interventions to something more passive? Did Celestia... distribute?... herself among the populace? Or part(s) or herself? Planted a seed, then stepped back to watch how it may grow?

Also saw this:

letting that one fall would give us away to anyone with even a hint of the Gift about them.

I'm guessing the Gift might be something unrelated to whatever Celestia did? Something related to the Changeling transformation, perhaps? Or did Celestia not distribute her essence/gift/magic to everyone?

Consider the recurring phoenix motif. I've actually added a line here that did not make it out of my last draft and onto FiMFic. Sincere apologies for that--I had to double-check after reading your comment. It's one of the memories that flare during her psychotic break at the end.

This was very poorly worded on my part, and I apologize for that. I think it might have been based on a misread of the ending as well. I originally thought that our protagonist and Princess might have left the house anyways after the corporal was killed, and the potentiality burning at the Major's back as they were leaving was the Egg, left behind in the house. On a second read I think they're staying (telling Princess to unpack, "taking down the wards" refers to making an opening to enter again, as opposed to tearing them all down), and the Egg just remains where it is along with the Major and Princess.

That being said, given your hints I'm more inclined to think of the Egg as another aspect of Celestia, saved for Princess so she can be "reborn" (or at least for Princess to learn her true (?) background/history/powers/etc. when the time is right.

"I’m holding the thing—the excuse—in my forehooves, knowing the favour She thinks she’s done me"

Another chance to raise her daughter? I originally considered that, but thought that surely there were plenty of ponies who lost family as a result of Celestia's doings, whether intentional or not, so I figured there must have been some other distinguishing factor(s)

Consider what the Major's shown to be afraid of. Unfortunately, it's probably closer to "extinction" than "war", even if that's the word they and the Morale Office would rather you used.

I'm not very certain about this bit. The only thing that seemed remotely plausible was Changelings, since it's hinted that they fought against the Guard at one point, and because it's hinted that ponies can be converted/transformed to Changelings, but I thought they lost their direction after Chrysalis presumably died. Granted, it's said that ferals weren't much threat to outlying townships; no mention about major metropolitan areas... Something akin to a zombie apocalypse, in a way?

Consider what the Major really, truly thinks of the kid.

Aaaand my weakest skill when it comes to analysis :raritydespair:.

Best I can guess is that the Major really cares for Princess - if not as a replacement for Marigold (which IIRC there's some thoughts which briefly mix the two), then as a daughter (based on the reaction to the snake, as well as her reaction to the corporal's accusation that our protagonist was keeping Celestia to herself, as well as her reaction to "Hon?"

And given this, perhaps the corporal isn't entirely off - maybe the Major wants to hide Celestia away not to keep a goddess to herself, but to protect her daughter from the world. Still leaves open the question of when - if ever - Princess will be ready to learn the bigger truth. Does make me curious what other plans were made/changed, though. Maybe the others weren't expecting battles to go so poorly? Beyond that, I'm not sure...

Thanks for taking the time to indulge my questions!

Oh, damn...

I have a theory on why things seem so crap in this world.

Step 1: Changelings.
Step 2: Add mirror pool.
Step 3: Apocalyptic profit.

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And somehow it's been nearly two weeks. Lost Time, thy name is 2021.

Nice job with the lyrics!

Thank you! If you'd like more in a similar vein, there are a couple of chapters in Dreams and Dementations that you might get a kick out of. Probably more poetry than song, though.

That being said, given your hints I'm more inclined to think of the Egg as [...]

:raritywink:

Another chance to raise her daughter? I originally considered that, but thought that surely there were plenty of ponies who lost family as a result of Celestia's doings, whether intentional or not, so I figured there must have been some other distinguishing factor(s)

This one I feel a lot more comfortable expanding on. Yes, absolutely. The distinguishing factor in this case was Celestia's belief that 1) the Major would share her belief that taking care of the reincarnation would "redeem" her following the assassination attempt, and 2) the Major would project her feelings for her daughter onto the reincarnation, ensuring loyal and dedicated guardianship.

As the Major later proves, Celestia's two most significant failings in a situation like this are 1) looking at the big picture and expecting everyone else to do the same, and 2) expecting her hand-reared ponies to always behave with the common good in mind.

[Belligerents]

This is a hard one to discuss without adding Too Much Detail, so I'll try to limit myself to saying that it's a 1) metaphysical and 2) existential threat, above and beyond anything that the Changelings could manage. That being said, though--for the purposes of the story, it's enough that there is an Enemy, that Equestria is Losing, and Losing badly enough that killing a god to Uplift the rest of Equestria was deemed the only way for even a fraction of the population to survive.

Maybe the others weren't expecting battles to go so poorly?

Nobody ever does, in war. :pinkiehappy: Especially those who spent a millennium or five Not Losing.

Thanks for taking the time to indulge my questions!

Not even remotely indulging! Discussion like this is fun and meaningful exploration of the story for me as well as my readers -- I can see what worked and what didn't in the writing, and get fresh perspective on the themes that I'm exploring in the work itself. Everybody wins! :twilightsmile:

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Not quite! But at least equally pervasive; see my response to Oberth below.

More in the PM I'm sending your way here in a tic.

The little threads that are wound all through bring this world to life, and make me want to keep reading more.

Getting close now to the end. I've got questions, and I'm hoping I like the answers.

The ending left me wanting so much more - a perfect ending.

Hmm, definitely going to let things sink in a bit before commenting more.

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And now it's my turn to drop the ball :pinkiecrazy:

If you'd like more in a similar vein, there are a couple of chapters in Dreams and Dementations that you might get a kick out of. Probably more poetry than song, though.

I'll definitely take a look. Thanks for the recommendation!

This one I feel a lot more comfortable expanding on. Yes, absolutely.

Ah, I think I understand Celestia's perspective now. Guess she's a bit too optimistic, though :derpytongue2:

that Equestria is Losing, and Losing badly enough that killing a god to Uplift the rest of Equestria was deemed the only way for even a fraction of the population to survive.

Oh.

Oh.

Well I madly misread that. I hadn't associated the Pyre with the battles going on at all; I thought it had more to do with Major's conversation. Pretty disappointed that I missed that.

That certainly seems to explain the second Pyre, at least.

Thanks once again!

The settings were good and the moods and emotions very well conveyed, but I wish I could comprehend the story. I can be pretty dense, but it feels like the first and last chapters are missing, or like I walked into a movie 45 minutes in, after the characters, world, and plot were already introduced. As it was, the unexplained references and omitted details felt like deliberate obstacles to me, as if I was given a fraction of the pieces and expected to divine and make the rest myself to get the whole thing. I was very curious about what had happened, what was happening, and where it would all go, but this story feels like a very small slice of a very big picture, and I'm afraid that I got far more clarity in the comments than from the story itself.

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