“You will not call me Twilight. My name is Nihilus.”
"Go to your friends. Look them in the eyes, talk with them, laugh with them, and tell me if lifting a duster is more magical than what you feel, truly feel, in your heart. Friendship is a force, Twilight Sparkle.
“Love. Wonder. Happiness. Titan has none of these things. If you allow him to take ours, then you give up our only advantage. If we are going to win, it will be for our intangible virtues, not brute force. Magic, real magic, the kind that I use to raise the moon, cannot be fought.”
— Princess Luna (actually Celestia in disguise)
A fanfic written by AestheticB.Long ago, in the magical land of Equestria, there lived a powerful King and his dark Queen. Immortal and ignorant, their end came at the hooves of their daughters, Celestia and Luna, who sought to build a better future for ponykind.Now ponykind’s old gods have returned.Twilight Sparkle is trapped inside her own mind, slave to a cruel and impulsive consciousness built from everything she is not. Powerless and voiceless, she must find a way to stop the being that calls itself Nihilus from destroying everything she holds dear.Luna is tasked with assembling the remaining Elements of Harmony in hopes of freeing their leader. For if ponykind is to have any hope, it is in Twilight Sparkle. And if Twilight Sparkle is to have any hope, it is in her five friends.Facing her father in mortal combat, Celestia must do everything she can to ensure that ponykind has the tools to survive before she falls. With inevitable defeat bearing down upon her, she makes the first move in the oldest and deadliest game known to creation.The now completed story can be found hereNOTE: This was once named Ponies Make War but the author has since renamed it. You can read the reason why here
This fic provides examples of:
Abusive Parents: Does not even begin to describe Esteem's relationship with Rarity, let alone Titan and Terra's with Celestia and Luna.
Or Titan's with Terra, for that matter.
Abusive Precursors: To say Titan and Terra's initial reign over Equestria (in the backstory) was nightmarish would be a major understatement. Their current rule is even worse.
On the other hand, Titan's first wife Harmony (Terra's mother), did care about her subjects. Enough that Titan eventually killed her for ignoring her duties to protect them from Discord.
Action Mares: Rarity, Applejack, Rainbow Dash and Princess Luna most notably, although Pinkie and Fluttershy have their moments as well. Twilight too after her personalities merging back during her confrontation with Titan's Puppet avatar.
Twilight's mother Starlight counts as well — until the Mane Six meet up with the Loyalists, she and her husband are the only ones who really stand a chance against Esteem in a fight.
Achilles in His Tent: Following Nihilus' defeat and her promotion to Rebel Leader, Sparkle not only refuses to fight, but withdraws into herself, spending no time with anypony else that doesn't involve planning battles. When Titan accidentally re-fuses her personalities, she makes it clear that she's back in epic fashion.
Actual Pacifist: Sparkle is literally unable to bring herself to attack anything, even Puppets.
Agent Peacock: Esteem. He has long, curly red hair that is noted as looking "feminine," an eye for fashion he shares with his daughter, and a vain streak a mile wide. He's also the most terrifyingly efficient warrior working for Titan and thinks he looks pretty bathed in his enemies' blood.
A God Am I: Said by Luna, before her fight against Nihilus in Cloudsdale. (It's perfectly justified, what with her being a god.)
After the same fight, Nihilus wonders what defeating a god makes her.
And of course, there's Titan and Terra.
Ultimately subverted with Twilight Sparkle. After fully tapping into the power of the Elements of Harmony, she realizes that she's essentially become a god herself. The subversion comes from the fact that she's horrified by the idea, and decides that nopony should have that much power.
Double Subverted when Twilight is transformed into an alicorn by Harmony's magic and admits that by every definition of the word, she is a god now.
All Your Powers Combined: Each of the Mane Six has certain traits that make them a monster to face in battle. Twilight's trait? To use all her friends abilities at once.
Anguished Declaration of Love: Very strongly implied to have happened between Applejack and Rarity when they thought Titan's storm would wipe them out during the Battle of the Everfree. However, it's hard to say for sure, since the storm made it impossible to actually hear anything, which is rendered in the narrative as them having to lipread, which doesn't really confirm anything for the reader.
Also Rainbow Dash when she subjected to the Insanity, and is forced to watch as Wrong tries to help Nihilus kill her friends.
A flashback shows Titan seemingly subjecting Discord to this after he causes the death of Titan's son. As canon shows, he eventually escaped, with this story implying that Titan's original defeat by Celestia and Luna is what enabled it.
Terra is revealed to have started out as this after being subjected to the same spell.
"They never could run fast or far enough before I lost control."
Arch-Enemy: Sir Unimpressive and the Cadet are an interesting example, in that they only fight twice (and we only see the second fight), but they see each other as their greatest enemy. There's also an inverted example of Unknown Rival in play, as they apparently already have a prior history that Unimpressive was completely unaware of.
Titan and Discord were this back in the day which is why Twilight recruits Discord's help near the end.
As You Know: Used to show what's happened during the Time Skip, as the Cadet uses these exact words to start a briefing with Esteem. And the narration takes a moment to lampshade this trope, as it points out that yes, Esteem does already know all this.
Twilight, following her release from Nihilus' control.
The epilogue shows that Fluttershy is trying to help Terra become this, whether she wants to or not.
Awesomeness by Analysis: King Titan's battle style is to stall for a very long time, studying the opponent's technique - and then crushing the opposition in seconds once he's sure he has every eventuality planned for. He defeats the Princesses that way, and pulls it off on Twilight Sparkle too - but thankfully Twilight has an ace in the hole...
Flashbacks show that Twilight's ancestor Astor Coruscare and her lover Valiant were the most dangerous warriors in Titan's army short of the alicorns themselves.
Battle Cry: Rainbow Dash coins one for the pegasi:
Rainbow Dash: "Thunder and lightning!"
Troops: "Wings and steel!"
Battle in the Rain: A significant portion of the Battle of the Everfree, though the storm is pushed away by the pegasi well before the battle is over.
The storm gets moved to Canterlot, which just so happens to end up the site of the final duel between Titan and Twilight.
BFS: Equinox. Most unicorns have around 9 pieces to their blade. Sir Unimpressive is trained for ten years and has an amazing thirteen. Rarity and her father General Esteem (the most powerful mortal warrior on the planet) has fourteen. Astor Coruscare, the most powerful unicorn at her time, is implied to have twenty. Twilight Sparkle? Twenty Effing Seven.
It also has the added benefit of serving as a focus for the Elements of Harmony.
Pinkie Pie gets hit hard by this after she thinks that Wrong!Dash killed Fluttershy.
Twilight has to watch her Super-Powered Evil Side torture her friends and later comes to the realisation that Celestia was manipulating her.
Rainbow Dash gets Mind Raped into hurting her friends.
Applejack has healing Earth Pony magic. Awesome. She's traumatised by the amount of Body Horror she's had to heal. Not Awesome.
Fluttershy has lost her connection to the animals.
Carousel Boutique, Rarity's dream, is burned down.
Break Them by Talking: A unicorn's (or alicorn's) blade can be rendered unusable if the wielder loses conviction, so this trope turns the tide of battle several times:
Twilight shooting down Titan's authority, saying he has no right to make himself King of the World, before stating he never had a place in the world he created, which was why both his immortal family and all of ponykind defied him.
Sir Unimpressive did this to the Cadet by playing on his urge to be Esteem's favorite and bringing up Rarity.
Celestia managed to disarm Astor this way, when she tried to kill Luna.
Brick Joke: In the Mane Cast's first scene (before everything goes to hell), Rainbow Dash makes an Accidental Innuendo about Fluttershy's dancing. Much later, after breaking free from Nihilus' mind control to save Pinkie Pie, she makes another one about the latter situation.
Broken Ace: It's established right at the beginning of the story that Twilight is, in addition to being Celestia's prize student, the most powerful Unicorn alive (and by the end of the story is practically a god), but that just ends up making her a target for the villains, and later leads to her being appointed leader of the Loyalists. The stress of all this practically drives her insane and leads to the Broken Pedestal below.
Flashback shows that Twilight's ancestor, Astor Coruscare was also this. As a result for her Tykebomb upbringing, she was immensely powerful unicorn (who surpassed only by Twilight herself). Invented many war-magic, and brilliant (if ruthless) commander. But she's also very amoral, sociopathic mare who constantly seeking Celestia's approval.
Broken Pedestal: Twilight eventually realizes that Celestia was manipulating her for years, subtly training her to be warrior and Rebel Leader in case she was ever deposed. This shatters Twilight's image of Celestia, and she ends up hating her for it.
Rebuilt Pedestal: When Twilight realizes that it was Celestia, not Luna, who comforted her the night before the Final Battle, she realizes that Celestia really did love her despite the manipulations. This allows her to forgive her.
Brought Down to Normal: Happens to Celestia twice. First, she's completely stripped of her power at the beginning of the story, and only gets it back near the climax. Shortly thereafter, most of her magic is drained again, leaving her only slightly more powerful than the average pony. This wears off in time for the Final Battle.
Also happens to Empyrean, Terra and Titan, though only Terra lives longer than a few minutes afterwards.
Once Celestia is restored, Twilight rips into her, calling her out on her manipulations.
Cast from Hit Points: At one point, an alicorn throws a punch so hard that the bones in the leg they punch with completely disintegrate and have to be rebuilt using their omnipresent Healing Factor.
Chekhov's Gun: Dash fought the Insanity so much that she's able to subconsciously fight off any other attempts to control her mind, such as the siren during the Battle of the Everfree.
It's mentioned several times that the best way to defeat a bladecaster is to break their spirit, which makes them lose control of their blade. This is how Sir Unimpressive defeats the Cadet, Celestia disarms Astor, and how Twilight defeats Titan.
The Chosen One: Twilight was the culmination of a lineage created by Harmony to inherit her power and defeat Titan.
Climax Boss: Nihilus. She is the primary threat for roughly the first third of the story, and it is only after her defeat that Luna and the Mane Six can focus on taking the war to Titan.
Esteem and Terra both go down in major battles/turning points as well — the former marks the retaking of Canterlot, while the latter sets the stage for the Final Battle.
Co-Dragons: Nihilus and Esteem. After Nihilus' defeat, Esteem takes on full Dragon duties.
Terra has shades of The Dragon as well, though she doesn't do much for most of the story. Though following Esteem's death, she steps down into the role.
There's a literal example during the Battle of the Everfree, as Titan appoints command of his army to Exakktus the Black, the oldest and most powerful of all dragons. At least until Fluttershy talks him into switching sides.
Cosmic Chess Game: The eponymous Immortal Game referred to by Celestia and Titan at points in the story.
Titan tortures Sparkle for personal information he can use against Celestia.
Combat Pragmatist: When General Esteem fights Twilight Sparkle, he distracts her while an Avatar of Titan backstabs her, and then he gloats to her about how foolish of her it was to think that she could just face him in single combat and save the day.
The Corruption: Discord's MO back in the day — he'd turn ponies into mindless, hideous creatures called creechlings who the Royals wouldn't hesitate to Mercy Kill. And this ended up including Terra's brother/husband, the original Empyrean.
Crazy-Prepared: In the entirely possible event that Titan can withstand the Elements of Harmony, or that they don't all even live long enough to use them, Twilight has a backup plan. His name? Discord.
Cry for the Devil: Terra gets a flashback chapter that shows how she became the way she is: she had to Mercy Kill her brother/husband after Discord corrupted him, then Titan killed her mother for "betraying" him, forced her to be his new wife, and subjected her to the Insanity so that she'd become as brutal as him. It's kind of hard not to pity her after reading that.
Curb-Stomp Battle: God-mode Twilight Sparkle versus anypony who isn't Titan (the real Titan; the Puppet avatars don't count).
Nihilus' first fight with Luna, as the latter was severely weakened at the time.
Esteem vs anypony in a blade fight who isn't Rarity, Twilight's mother, or Twilight herself.
Terra delivers one to everypony during the second battle of Ponyville but they keep fighting, and eventually reignite the Elements of Harmony to even things out.
Cutting the Knot: When Twilight announces that they need to get inside the Citadel, Rainbow Dash asks if she's going to use a spell to open it up. Twilight responds by blasting a hole in the wall.
The Dead Have Names: Pinkie lists the names of all the ponies killed in Terra's attack on Ponyville when stating her reason for voting to kill her when she's imprisoned.
Death Faked for You: After Nihilus is defeated, the world at large thinks Twilight is dead. And while she's recuperating, Luna and the other Mane Cast members do nothing to counter those rumors, in order to keep her safe.
Death Glare: The Stare becomes this literally when Fluttershy uses it on Puppets — apparently, it works by bending a pony or animal's will, but since the Puppets don't have any will of their own, it burns through them instead.
Decapitation Presentation: During a series of flashbacks to the life of Astor Coruscare, her lover presents her with the head of one of the most powerful dragons to ever live, as part of her 'orders' — while proposing. Weird couple.
Discord does this with Empyrean's head at one point, in order to mock Titan.
Twilight does this with Titan's head to show that the war is over.
Despair Event Horizon: Twilight crosses it on the eve of the Final Battle, as she deduces that they don't have a chance of winning. Luna (actually Celestia in disguise) gives her hope with the speech that the page quote comes from.
Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: Part of Nihilus' flaws as a minion is that she's a complete inversion of Twilight — up to and including Twi's ability to focus on a goal, meaning she often gets distracted by new ways to torture her targets — giving them time to escape.
Divide and Conquer: This is how Titan was imprisoned in the first place. Terra had gotten angry when Titan ordered her to stop creating new creatures, resulting in a long war. At the end of it, Celestia and Luna lured the two of them into the same place, then let them fight it out. When it was over, they surprised Titan, paralyzing him long enough to construct a prison.
The Dog Bites Back: There's shades of this when Rainbow Dash breaks free of the Insanity and goes apeshit on Nihilus.
Drunken Master: Upon seeing that his arch-nemesis, the Cadet, is tearing through a crowd of innocent refugees and obviously needs to be confronted, the first thing Sir Unimpressive does is swig down the rest of his whiskey. Then he goes and kicks the Cadet's ass.
Dual Wielding: Twilight with both Equinox and Vorpal, after Rarity is nearly killed.
Earn Your Happy Ending: After suffering brainwashing, corruption, and multiple brushes with death, the heroes ultimately prevail, defeat Titan, and are able to rebuild.
Enemy Civil War: In the Back Story — during Titan and Terra's original reign, she eventually tried to usurp his position, and they fought for (possibly) decades, until Celestia and Luna got so tired of all the pointless death and destruction that they stabbed both of their parents in the back and sealed them away.
Equinoid Abomination: Discord's creechlings from the flashbacks definitely sound like they fit, going by the description.
Titan and Terra are more powerful versions of this, Titan especially. Their children also have shades of it by simple genetics, even though they are nicer; Twilight is starting to go down this road as well.
Even Evil Has Loved Ones: In his own sick, twisted way, Esteem actually seems to care about Rarity. Likewise, Terra seems to genuinely love Titan.
Terra (and Titan too, before he snapped) also loved Harmony (Terra's mother and Titan's first wife) and the original Empyrean (Terra's brother/first husband and Titan's son).
Evil Counterpart: Terra is this to Fluttershy, as revealed in her backstory. And Fluttershy's status as Terra's Good Counterpart is increased during the climax, when Fluttershy uses her powers as an Eraterus to become the new "Princess of the Forest", and takes up Terra's crown of thorns.
The Evils of Free Will: Titan ultimately decides that the main "problem" with ponies is their free will, which allows them to defy him, and resolves to remove it once he's crushed Twilight and the Loyalists.
Dash struggles with the Insanity, trying to resist it's control over her. It doesn't go well until Fluttershy uses The Stare, which weakens the Insanity enough for Dash to break free.
Twilight also fights Nihilus passively by providing her bad information and distractions whenever possible, but it isn't until her friends are all in a position to defeat her that she can resist long enough to provide them help in the form of the elements.
The Fighting Narcissist: General Esteem, widely recognized as the greatest bladecaster in the world — when Titan grants him a boon in exchange for his loyalty, he chooses eternal youth.
Final Battle: The Battle of the Everfree. Though the actual final duel between Twilight and Titan is fought in the ruins of Canterlot.
Gaia's Vengeance: Terra is an extremely twisted form of the "Mother Nature" archetype. Her role consists primarily of exterminating species so as to preserve Titan's "natural order".
Hannibal Lecture: Terra is very fond of these whether she's the captor or the captive.
Healing Factor: All Earth Ponies and Fluttershy seem to possess this in varying degrees, Applejack's in particular seems to be rather powerful.
This is also the reason Alicorns are so damn hard to kill. Their regenerative abilities are so strong, the only way to defeat one is to constantly barrage it with repeated damage (employing force that would kill lesser beings hundreds of times over) in an attempt to dry up their considerable magic stores.
Exakktus is talked into turning on Titan by Fluttershy.
Terra also eventually gives up on her hate, but only after Titan is defeated.
Hellish Pupils: Nihilus gets a glowing red iris around a slitted pupil where Esteem drove the sliver through her eye.
Heroic Sacrifice: Subverted. Twilight throws herself into Titan's free will-removing spell in order to disrupt it, fully expecting to die in the process. Instead, she absorbs the remnants of Harmony's power and is transformed into an alicorn.
Heroic Second Wind: During the battle of Canterlot castle, Twilight gets gutted by both Titan's avatar and Esteem, and it looks like it's all over. Then, Twilight uses the link between the bearers of the Elements to tap into Applejack's Healing Factor, and she gets back up.
During her final duel with Titan, he verbally dismantles every reason she has for fighting, which allows him to slowly overpower her. However, before he can kill her, she realizes hisFatal Flaw — despite all his talk of a "natural order" he has no place in it — and forces him to realize it as well, which breaks him completely. This allows her to strip his power and finally kill him.
He Who Fights Monsters: The reason for Sparkle's pacifism is that she's afraid that she'll start enjoying violence, and become no better than Nihilus. When her mind fuses back together, Twilight Sparkle realizes that was foolish — she is nothing like Nihilus, and will never let herself sink so low.
I Call It Vera: Unicorns and alicorns name their blades, usually reflecting the wielder's personality and/or talents. Notably, alicorn blades are usually named after astral phenomenons, and Princess Luna gets somewhat pissed when Twilight Sparkle calls her sword Equinox.
I Have No Father: After calling him out, Rarity effectively disowns Esteem, and shows no signs of having a problem with the possibility of having to kill him and is far from upset when Twilight does just that.
I'm a Humanitarian: Nihilus ate Celestia's ear, though aside from that there aren't any other signs of this trope being in play.
Not entirely true on the last part, as we never properly get to see if Esteem....'indulges' after a kill, and it never says if he DOESN'T partake of pony flesh.
Impossibly Cool Clothes: Depending on how you look at it, Twilight's "God Slayer" outfit might count, with her wearing a piece of the night sky on her body. (Then again, since it's designed to never come off, this might get a little awkward after the war).
Spike thinks it looks silly.
Becomes a moot point when the outfit is incinerated in the process of Twilight becoming an alicorn.
Internal Reveal: After Nihilus' defeat, Equestria at large believes Twilight to be dead, until she (and the rest of the Mane Six) hook up with the Loyalists.
Ironic Echo: "Titles are important," is practically Esteem's Catch Phrase. Twilight shoots this back at him during the Final Battle by pointing out that while he may be a General, she's a Master General. Similarly, he gives her a "The Reason You Suck" Speech when he thinks he's beat her, and later she gives a similar one to him right before killing him.
After being stripped of her power, Celestia refuses to answer to her mother's mocking nickname of "Sunshine". When Terra sees that Celestia has regained her power, she's so shocked she can only choke out her name, to which Celestia smugly replies, "Call me Sunshine".
When Terra is imprisoned by the Mane Six, she tells Fluttershy that she performs cruel acts because "It's what I do. It's who I am." When Fluttershy shows her an act of kindness anyway, she replies to Terra's inquiry as to why with the same line.
It Has Been an Honor: Just before the final charge in the Battle of the Everfree, Twilight says this to her friends. Well, in the roundabout, slightly messed up way that fits her new personality, anyway.
It's Personal: Naturally, Rarity's rivalry with her father Esteem. Though that ends up taking a backseat to Twilight's vendetta against him, the stallion who turned her into Nihilus.
Jerkass Gods: Titan and Terra don't really care much about for their subjects.
Karmic Death: Esteem, who forced the Sliver of Darkness through Twilight's eye as she begged for mercy, is killed by Twilight pushing a (very large) sliver of metal through his eye while his attempts at begging for mercy are cut off by Twilight forcing his mouth shut.
Kick the Dog: Esteem mocking Twilight's parents about how he turned her into Nihilus.
Knight Templar Parent: Esteem had already intended to bully Blueblood into being a figurehead ruler for Canterlot while Titan was away. He only thratened to cut out Blueblood's tongue when the idiot made lewd comments about Rarity.
He also physically and emotionally abused Rarity during childhood, and then tried to justify it by saying he was making her strong and "superior." The guy's a real piece of work.
Laser Blade: While unicorn bladecasters have to forge their blades, alicorns create theirs out of pure energy. Celestia wields a Flaming Sword, Luna's is made of cold moonlight, Terra's blade is green energy and Titan's edge is a dark void.
Last of His Kind: As it turns out, Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie are part of — and are possibly the last — of very rare, naturally evolved, pony subspecies that Titan ordered destroyed for not fitting in his design.
Last-Second Chance: After stripping Titan of his power, Twilight offers him a chance to live as a mortal, and maybe one day atone for all he's done. He opts for a suicidal final charge.
Last Stand: The Battle of the Everfree is an interesting play on this trope. By this point, Titan's lost all of his top lieutenants and his ability to create Puppets, and the Loyalists are assaulting his Citadel. However, he still controls the monsters of the forest, which all combined vastly outnumber the decimated Loyalists. On top of that, he's preparing to enact a spell that will strip the world of its free will, so Twilight and the others know that they have to finish the war with this last battle, or they lose everything. So really, in a way it's a Last Stand for both sides.
Legacy Character: Empyrean turns out to be one; he was modeled and named after Titan's first son, who was also Terra's brother/husband.
Les Collaborateurs: All the nobles and soldiers who side with the royal family after Titan takes over. Though it should be noted that aside from Esteem and the Cadet, who joined for power (and the former's respect in the Cadet's case), this is presented more realistically than most examples — many, like Captain Crunch, only sided with Titan out of fear and the belief that they had no other choice.
Little "No": A trademark of King Titan is coldly saying "No." as he No Sells everything the ponies throw at him, including the Elements of Harmony. This is satisfyingly turned on him when he realizes that Twilight Sparkle is overriding his spell.
Mama Bear/Papa Wolf: Don't mess with Twilight, or you'll have her parents coming after you. Especially her mother Starlight, who, before Rarity hooks up with the Loyalists, is the only pony able to match Esteem in a sword fight.
Master Bladecaster: Esteem. As he notes that Rarity is the strongest bladecaster he's ever met other than himself, Rarity may fit this trope as well.
Meaningful Name: Original Character Astor Coruscare's name can be roughly translated as 'Twilight Sparkle'. Fitting, considering the former was related to the latter.
Meaningful Rename: Titan was originally named Order, but changed it when he snapped from the fallout of his war with Discord, and went from a strict but well intentioned ruler to the monster we've seen in the rest of the story.
Mercy Kill: As flashbacks show, this is the only thing to be done for Discord's creechlings, since there's no way to return them to normal. Then Terra had to do this to her brother/husband.
Messianic Archetype: Due to being Celestia's prized student, Twilight has a reputation like this among the Loyalists, which causes their ranks to swell after the Internal Reveal that she's still alive. And after her He's Back moment, with the awakening of her true power, she really starts to live up to it.
Mind Hive: Celestia can split her mind into at least three separate consciousnesses, each able to concentrate on a different train of thought. Twilight also acquires this skill after being freed of Nihilus, and Terra implies Titan has the ability as well.
Mythology Gag: Out of the Mane Six, the first two to use another race's abilities are Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy, who use pegasus and earthpony magic respectively. This hearkens back to their original G4 designs which in turn were based off of two G1 characters. And as a cherry on top, immediately afterwards we get:
A lot, many of them meaningful. Rarity's Vorpal, Celestia's Zenith and Luna's Nadir, Unimpressive's Vindictive, Titan's Singularity, Terra's Exogenisis, Esteem's but initially Valiant'sCarsomyr, Astor Coruscare's Sangrophile and Twilight Sparkle'sEquinox.
No Sell: Applejack is able to do this due to a combination of her strength, her Healing Factor, and her armor (especially after Twilight enhances the latter).
And both Titan and Terra have a spell that neutralizes other ponies' magic including the Elements of Harmony.
Not What It Looks Like: After Applejack and Fluttershy end up sharing a bed for the night, Rainbow Dash walks in on them the following morning lying on top of each other. She quickly leaves the room, and Applejack just as quickly follows after to explain.
Only Mostly Dead: Rarity is fatally wounded by Titan during the Battle of the Everfree, but Twilight — newly transformed into an alicorn — is able to preserve her long enough to save her.
Orcus on His Throne: All of the royals. Empyrean stays in the palace, officially ruling in his father's name, but never fights the Loyalists himself until the Mane Six burst into his throne room and depower him (which is justified by him being young and having no knowledge of combat). Meanwhile, Titan and Terra are off "restoring order" to their creation and torturing Celestia, and don't fight the protagonists directly except at the very beginning of the story and during the climax, though Titan did intervene a few times via Puppet Avatars.
Paint It Black: Nihilus starts out looking exactly like Twilight, but eventually ends up looking like the picture above. In a faster example, when Rainbow Dash is subjected to the Insanity, it turns her fur black and her mane and tail white.
Ponies Are Bastards: Titan and Terra both firmly believe that Ponies are naturally vicious, violent creatures, and the paradise that Celestia created is a falsehood.
Physical God: All the royals, obviously. Also Twilight, once she fully taps into the power of the Elements of Harmony and obtains her friends' abilities. And then again when she gains Queen Harmony's power.
And then she drains Titan dry of power, effectively becoming twice as powerful as him. One troper on Space Battles did the math and her power would make SUPERMAN look like a weak child.
You probably wouldn't suspect sweet, timid, little Fluttershy of having the potential to become this. You would be wrong.
The Power of Hate: It's the only thing Terra was left with after being subjected to Titan's mind control spell. Now she hates everything - average ponies, Celestia and Luna, even Titan himself.
Psychic Link: It turns out that the Elements of Harmony grant one to their bearers, and the Mane Six end up using this to their advantage during battle.
Rage Against the Mentor: When they're reunited, Twilight really tears Celestia a new one, calling her out for all her manipulations. Celestia tries to mend things between them, but Twilight points out that the way she's doing it is just another manipulation.
"Ah know knights and generals. You're just a jackass."
Esteem himself gives one to Twilight when he thinks the villains have won, telling her that she was foolish to think she could win, and that all she'll be remembered for is failing. When Twilight kills him, she gives a similar speech about how all he'll be remembered for is his treachery.
Twilight gives one to Titan, of all ponies, breaking him just long enough to defeat him.
Rebel Leader: Twilight's parents seem to have been, if not the leaders of the Loyalists, then at least among them. Until the Mane Six hook up with them, and Twilight hesitantly accepts Luna's decision to appoint her General of the Armies of Equestria, which makes her leader of the Loyalists by default.
It turns out that Celestia was subtly training her for this position should the need ever arise, something Twilight resents her for, though she really gets into the role once her mind heals.
During the timeskip, it was thought that Luna was either unable or unwilling to save Twilight Sparkle when she put Nihilus down. The Loyalists consider a martyr up until the instant she walked into their headquarters.
Revenge by Proxy: Titan sends Terra to destroy Ponyville after the Loyalists retake Canterlot. As Luna puts it, it's not about winning, it's about punishment.
Rogue Protagonist: As suggested in the picture and mentioned in the picture's caption, Twilight Sparkle but only for about the first third of the story.
Rousing Speech: Twilight gives one to the Loyalists right before the Battle of the Everfree.
Royal Brat: Prince Empyrean, who — as Esteem is quick to point out — is just a petulant child who happens to have the power of a god.
She's Back: Rainbow Dash breaking free of the Insanity in order to save Pinkie, performing a Sonic Rainboom in the process that restores her normal coloration.
The personalities of Twilight and Sparkle being fused back together, and the true Twilight Sparkle emerging from it, proceeding to curbstomp all of Titan's forces arrayed against her.
Celestia regaining her powers, and taking the fight to her parents.
And then there's everyone when they manage to reignite the neutralized Elements of Harmony to use against Terra.
Shoo Out the Clowns: Well, Pinkie's still involved, so this trope isn't in full effect. However, the CMC are quickly removed from the story after a quick mention as they're shipped off to safety, thus allowing the story to focus on the more serious characters.
Spike also disappears pretty quickly. His absence is played for drama with Twilight, who has to work through her parental concern for him in addition to the rest of her issues, but he doesn't play much importance in the plot. Until, of course, he is found alive. And then becomes even more unimportant to the plot than before.
Shut Up, Hannibal!: During the second Battle of Ponyville, while Terra is beating the Mane Six and Luna into the ground, she's also ranting about how survival is all that matters, and doesn't understand why they're fighting her even though they have no chance to beat her. They shoot her down simply:
Terra: What could possibly be more important to you ponies than survival?
This is immediately followed by Terra stating that she's still more powerful than all of them and trying to finish them, only to be stopped by the previously-neutralized Elements of Harmony reigniting.
Terra: I have more power than all of you combined. Against me you have nothing. No weapons. No magic.
(Attempts to kill Twilight, but the Elements reignite, blocking and then immobilizing her)
Split Personality Merge: Titan's torture causes Sparkle to accept Twilight's offer of fusing back together, and the real Twilight Sparkle emerges as a result.
Squee: Rainbow Dash's internal reaction to Spitfire asking her to sign her goggles is Ohmygosh ohmygosh ohmygosh.
The Starscream: Nihilus only follows Titan's orders as an excuse to hunt down the Mane Six and get her hooves on the Elements so she can use them to overthrow him and place herself on the throne.
Straw Nihilist: Terra would appear to qualify, as she believes that the only purpose in life is to survive, and that any other goal is meaningless.
The Stoic: Twilight becomes this after her Split Personality Merge. From then on, the only times she shows emotion is around her parents, the other Mane Six, and occasionally Luna. She gets better after the Final Battle.
Stop, or I Shoot Myself!: When Nihilus captures the Element bearers and is trying to take the Elements from them, Rarity threatens to slit her own throat with a diamond (that she hid in her mane) if she doesn't release the others. Nihilus agrees, but the point ends up being moot anyway.
Storming the Castle: The Loyalists attacking Canterlot castle. By the time it's done, they've retaken the castle, Empyrean and Esteem are dead, Celestia's power has been restored, and Titan is pissed.
Time Skip: After Nihilus' defeat, the story skips ahead a month, and after a couple of chapters bringing various plot threads together, subtly skips ahead roughly two weeks for the Final Battle.
After the Final Battle, the story skips ahead a few more weeks to show how everyone's adjusted to the post-war world and are rebuilding. Then the last scene skips ahead an unspecified amount of time (at least long enough to rebuild Canterlot in full) to show Alicorn!Twilight's coronation.
Took a Level in Badass: Rarity is the most notable, though most of the mane cast take a few levels themselves.
According to the author, all of the Mane Six will take multiple levels in badass, yes even Fluttershy.
Especially Fluttershy, judging from her grand entrance at the climactic battle of Everfree. She rides into battle in the grandest badass form imaginable, using the largest, oldest, and most powerful dragon in Equestria as her personal steed, only for her to reveal herself as a Physical Goddess complete with gravity defying hair and a version of the Royal Canterlot Voice. Rarity pronounces her terrifying. Even Twilight is struck speechless.
Torture Technician: Terra seems to be this when she's not busy creating Puppets unfortunately for Celestia.
To the Pain: A subtle example, but Discord's threat to Titan during their confrontation qualifies:
"I'm going to make you feel, old friend. I'm going to make you feel everything."
Trash the Set: By the time the story's over, both Cloudsdale and Ponyville have been wrecked, a large portion of the Everfree forest has been burned down, and Canterlot is in ruins (with Canterlot Castle itself being completely obliterated).
However, the epilogue shows them rebuilding, with the final scene being set in a restored Canterlot.
Unfortunate Names: One of the Loyalist commanders is a Pegasus named Noble Steed. When he introduces himself, he comments that he doesn't know what he did to his parents when he was only a day old that they decided to punish him by giving him that name.
Ungrateful Bastard: When the Mane Six defeat and depower Terra, they vote to spare her life. She mocks them for it and calls them weak.
Unskilled, but Strong: During their final duel, Twilight deduces that Titan never bothered to learn how to fight beyond a basic level, since he's just so powerful he can normally just obliterate whatever's in his way.
Villainous Breakdown: Nihilus completely falls apart (not that she was all the stable to begin with) after Rainbow Dash breaks free of her control, and it's revealed she didn't manage to corrupt the Elements, as she thought she had. In the end, she's left a terrified wreck begging Twilight to spare her, which obviously doesn't happen.
Empyrean totally loses it when the Mane Six break through his defenses and enter the throne room and tries to incinerate them only for the Elements to neutralize his attack to depower him.
Titan completely loses it when Twilight manages to Breaking Lecture him; even after she takes away his power, he still tries to fight her, which gets him killed.
Villain Exit Stage Left: Esteem chooses to flee rather than fight Princess Luna (fitting, her being a Physical God and all). He also tries to escape when he realizes that Twilight is too powerful for him to defeat. Twilight intercepts and kills him.
Discord sticks around just long enough to temporarily reduce Titan's power — giving the heroes a chance to prepare for the Final Battle — and then flees. Luna implies that he left the planet altogether, presumably to return to his former career of tormenting starship captains.
Terra runs away from the newly repowered Princess Celestia.
Villainous Rescue: After Titan neutralizes the Elements of Harmony, he attempts to kill Twilight, only for Discord to show up and save her.
Villains Want Mercy: Both Nihilus and Esteem end up begging Twilight for mercy, and don't get it. In Esteem's case, it's really just implied, as Twilight is forcibly keeping his mouth closed.
"Centuries of boiling water for tea when I knew that I could boil the seas. Of lifting quills when I could lift mountains. Of breaking wax seals when I could break anything I please. My power is too much for this world. But it isn't too much for you, is it, Terra? Now I get to find out what I'm really capable of. No lives to save, no plans to make, nothing to hold me back. I am divinity unleashed."