Today’s story is a blast from the past.
The Quiescence of the Crystal Empire
[Sad] • 2,569 words
Before Twilight and her friends saved the Crystal Empire, its ruler had to watch it die. Long before she meets Shining Armor and Twilight, Cadence walks through her home for the last time.
FROM THE CURATORS: Whether written eight seasons in, or in the early days of the show, one thing doesn’t change about fanfiction — it shines brightest when exploring past the edges of what “My Little Pony” has shown us. And even when canon later invalidates a story’s approach, it can be enjoyable on its own merits. “This is a fascinating ‘What If’ of Crystal Empire history that was actually written prior to season 3 airing, let alone Cadence’s backstory showing up in the first official novel,” Present Perfect said in his nomination. “No Sombra exists to oppose her, only ennui and faithlessness in the face of encroaching winter.”
Unsurprisingly, much of our discussion was about the unique ways this fic engaged us with the benefit of several years’ hindsight. “It’s always fascinating to see what we come up with in a near-vacuum,” FanOfMostEverything said. “Part of the fun of reading this was picking out the grains of canon around which formed this gorgeous pearl of speculation. It also takes how some of the fandom saw Cadence just after the wedding, the Princess Who Doesn’t Do Anything, and turns scorn towards Hasbro’s marketing department into a compelling slow tragedy.” AugieDog agreed, both in the fascination value and in the story’s added depth. “I really like the idea of a ‘preemptive AU’ — you know it’s not gonna be right, but you’ve got an idea you wanna get out there, so you just leap ahead and do it,” he said. “Still, it’s the atmosphere here that struck me — empty, cracking, snow-bound ruins with this one living figure wandering through them.”
Even without the nostalgia, though, we found plenty to compliment. “It’s a chilling tragedy shot through with quietly powerful lines like ‘She didn’t remember what taurine meant’,” Present Perfect said, while FanOfMostEverything added: “The pacing is incredible, allowing us to appreciate all that has been lost, both in terms of the Empire and of Cadence’s innocence, without crossing the line into maudlin territory.” Soge summed it up: “It has a consistently melancholic tone, which really helps sell the depths of Cadence’s tragedy here. In a sense, it reminds me of a more personal ‘Lost Cities‘, and that is high praise.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Aldrigold discusses adventure ponies, playground explorations, and fun pants.