The Triptych Continuum is a series of My Little Pony: Friendship Is MagicFan Fic stories and shorts taking place within the same setting, written by Estee.What partially distinguishes the group is that unlike several Alternate Universe Fics, this one visibly follows the continuity established by the first three seasons, having every single event seen on the show through that point actually happen. But at the same time, it occasionally tries to look somewhat deeper into the consequences of those events. There's some emphasis on worldbuilding the environment, the ways magic works (and doesn't) in Equestria, and how the characters have changed over time. There's also a degree of local vocabulary, hints at what appears to be an alternate history for the Princesses and, beginning with the main story, a full divergence into its own timeline.Triptych is the central work of the setting, starting three weeks after Twilight's transformation. It initially centers around her personal aftermath from the change while sending the Mane Cast on a new mission - one launched by Discord. Without being told what it is, where they're going, or anything about why.A Mark of Appeal is another story within the setting, focusing on Celestia and Luna. It deals with the ramifications of what happens when a pony possesses a cutie mark which she no longer wants, as the talent turns out to be actively detrimental to her — because it's gone fully out of that pony's control.The various other shorts can be found on the Author page, located here. A number of them are meant to expand on ideas presented in the main work and have been described by the author as "things which were going on in the background while you weren't looking."It's still Equestria, and it's not necessarily dark - but there are times when the shadows get a little deeper.This Link is the timeline of the series as it stands so far. It's an updated version of this outdated blog on the series connected story continuum.
Tropes generally present in the Triptych Continuum:
Adorkable: Twilight at times, especially when magic or research get involved. Her first reaction to Rarity's eye color being changed (along with everything else) in Orange Is The New Blue is to ask her if she's perceiving the world any differently, note how different eye hues receive light in different ways, and start planning out a comprehensive series of tests so they can mutually create a comparison chart. (Also counts as a Call Back to Chapter 11 in Triptych, where she launches a similar lecture as self-defense against inquiring bar patrons.)
Cast from Lifespan: Any pony is capable of putting the last of themselves into their magic, trading their existence for a closing surge of strength: this applies to all three categories of racial castings and talents. It's a very rare event and can generally only be done when the need is a true one — but it happens.
Deadpan Snarker: Twilight, generally when tired or especially upset. She's composed internal letters to Princess Celestia which will never see a scroll, attempted to mock-suffocate herself with a pillow rather than continue to deal with Rainbow Dash's insomnia, and offered to prove the reality of an approaching solar eclipse to a disbelieving griffon astronomy professor by having the Princesses send him to the Moon.
"Then all you have to do is look down. If you can see Ponyville, I win."
Can also apply to Luna, particularly when she's been irritated by somepony else's stupidity. A number of hers wind up being vocalized.
"Incidentally, if I couldenthrall ponies and make them do whatever I wished, a number of you would be asking much more intelligent questions..."
Devil's Advocate: A very few ponies believe that the Murdocks Press Corps is trying to act as this: loyal to the Diarchy, but purposely arguing against them just to provide another point of view while making them buckle down on their own efforts. The reality is that the Corps are the press voice for Equestria's version of the Loyal Opposition. Whatever the Princesses do is wrong — and those few events which can't be interpreted or misspun that way are simply ignored.
Diurnal Nocturnal Princesses: Partially averted. Luna and Celestia are described as being locked into night and day, but there's a degree of natural overlap to their normal waking hours and either one can freely operate during the other's time. However, they're both slightly weaker during those "wrong" hours, and too much time spent under the wrong celestial body serves as an escalating irritant: Luna becomes increasingly jittery, Celestia's teeth go on edge. When combined with the loss of sleep from a schedule flip, either sister operating in the wrong part of the day/night cycle for a week or more can become a bomb looking for a place to go off.
Environmental Symbolism: A mild case in the Solar and Lunar Courtyards, used by each of the Diarchy for their press conference areas. The Lunar is perpetually under an illusionary full moon during the night (the largest, closest one in Equestria's history) and, following the events of A Total Eclipse Of The Fun, a total solar eclipse during the day. (Prior to that, it was a daylight moon, an artifact from Discord's era which Celestia tried out every forty years or so, mostly from boredom.) The Solar Courtyard has perpetual dawnlight during all hours under Sun — but at night, it's a midnight sun: position-locked overhead, slightly grey. The temperature is forever off and the place just feels uncomfortable (and sometimes worse): resonance from a thousand years of regret.
Fantastic Drugs: So far, there's been two, both illegal. The plant-based Exam Crystal makes a pony more awake than they've ever been in their lives, but the duration is unreliable and there's a choice of two random afteraffects: either become about 30% more tired than you were before taking it, or pass out until every bit of rest missed has been made up for — even if that means days in a hospital bed. Users have their irises turn yellow until the Crystal wears off.
Chemical-herbal Booster Drugs are available for unicorns and pegasi, providing one of the only ways to increase field strength — temporarily: most mixes last about fifteen minutes. Boosts range from five to fifty percent of the user's original power, and the higher the percentage, the more strain the pony is putting on their body: post-dose death caused by the most potent mixes can and does occur. Most versions have visible side effects, no race can take a drug meant for another without getting sick, and no mixes are known which work for earth ponies.
Fantastic Measurement System: Two measure unicorn magical capability, with the Celestia Meter (Adjusted) for raw power and the Luna Meter (Adjusted) for manipulative ability. Basically, strength and dexterity for horns. Both range from 0 (nonexistent) to 10 (alicorn).
The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: There are hints of this in the Celestia/Luna relationship, with Celestia as the Beautiful Sister and Luna as the Smart Sister. Knowledge of tickling spots is highly prized.
He Who Must Not Be Seen: Murdocks, the leader of the press voice for the Loyal Opposition in Equestria. (It's generally recommended not to think too much about where being Loyally Opposed to the Princesses would put somepony's belief system.) He always sends representatives to speak for him in public and hides from all inquiries. Those outside the Corps are stuck with assumptions on how old he is, which pony race he belongs to (should he be a pony at all), or if 'he' is even the right pronoun. Celestia knows all three facts, but has never seen his face. Chapter 20 in Triptych pretty much directly states that his employees are under orders to never discuss anything about him: one reporter starts to freak out when the questions begin coming the other way.
Height Angst: Celestia hates how much bigger she is than most ponies. She was somewhat taller than average before her own ascension, and then found her height and mass gradually increasing over the next one hundred and forty years, with her begging for it to stop already all the while. Aside from any long conversation leading to neck strain in both parties, there are also multiple purely logistical concerns arising from an entire society built underscale, not to mention how hard it can be just to keep from looming. It's reached the point where she considered legally mandating that all buildings be designed to accommodate her. She hasn't actually done so, but she's considered it — several times.
Heroic Mime: Snowflake, usually. He's described as being rather intelligent and his thoughts are expressive, but with the exception of one short story, the only thing he's ever said on-camera are various intonations on "Yeah." (Ironically, the first full multi-word sentence out of his mouth is used to protest Fluttershy not having allowing him to speak with Caramel.)
Homosexual Reproduction: Made possible by a working known as The Most Special Spell. (A Mark Of Appeal reveals that castings are available free to married couples who request it from the government.) However, it only works on pony mares and the child will always be a filly: stallion partners are typically stuck with adoption or finding a surrogate, and any mare pairing wishing a colt in the family will generally have to adopt. Word Of Fanfic Author suggests that multiple centuries of this spell's use may have pushed Equestria to a mare majority.
Jerkass: Flitter, self-justified. She believes ponies blind themselves with complacency and sees it as her job to jolt them into seeing reality through making direct, rude, and what she sees as highly accurate commentary, cutting through the fog just long enough to give her target a chance at escaping the illusions. After all, dragonflies startle ponies...
Like Brother and Sister: The Spike/Twilight relationship: each regards the other as their sibling. Unfortunately for Spike, this includes Twilight's right to automatically dismiss many of his comments because they're coming from her little brother.
Logical Weakness: Unicorn horns typically can't be covered by anything more than the hair of a mane or the field can't be projected: devices called restraints can be placed over the horn to prevent all castings. (These are typically metal or heavy wood: it's noted that except for the weakest cases, covering a horn in mud or cloth just annoys the unicorn. And since horns are effectively unbreakable and don't conduct impact well, weak restraints are just rammed against something more solid until they're ruined.) Pegasi are unable to use their own magic if they're fully immobilized, and full-body restraints called freezers exist to hold criminal ones. The means of stopping an earth pony is currently unknown: Rainbow's theory is that their magic may require direct contact with the land.
Magic Misfire: Touching a unicorn's horn (generally meaning sharp, hard contact) while they are casting will result in backlash due to the magic field being disrupted and striking back against the caster. Depending on how much effort they're putting into their current spell, the effects can range from a blackout with a few sprains over their body (Stage 1), to severe injuries, up to and including broken bones (Stage 2), to instant death by implied grevious bodily harm (stage 3). (There's also a Stage 0, which applies to everyday manipulations and very minor spells: disrupting that usually just drops things on the floor.) These are general guidelines: the degree of backlash can also depend partially on the caster's total strength, with weaker ones experiencing milder effects. However, a Stage 3, which can only happen when a unicorn's horn is displaying a triple corona, will always be fatal.
Manestyle Malfunction: If Celestia or Luna become completely exhausted, their manes and tails will temporarily lose their inherent magic and collapse back into normal hair. (They can also trigger that degree of reversion deliberately by dampening a portion of their power, which requires considerable effort.) In Luna's case, that means light blue strands. With Celestia, the camera quickly points away, and the few ponies who have seen it in the current generation have been given a Death Glare which silently orders them to Never Speak Of This Again.
Nervous Wrecks: Unsurprisingly, the Flower Trio, who can always find a reason to freak out. It gets a bit worse in this continuity, as ponies can occasionally lapse into a strong herd mentality. The Trio has been known to go around Ponyville explaining to everypony else just why the population should be frightened — which can set those ponies off, who then go out and trigger still more ponies and before you know it, the entire town is approaching full-scale panic.
Polyamory: Said to be legal in Equestria, but every party involved in the relationship must consent to the inclusion of every other. Given that, the category of marriage is so rare as to barely exist.
Power Incontinence: Luna, as per usual when angry or especially emotional, generally manifesting as thunder, distant lightning strikes, and eyes fading to white, with occasional manifestations of ice on whatever she's touching. However, Celestia has also been seen to set off clouds during a moment of intense emotion and at one point during Triptych, the furious Princess radiated enough heat to degrade marble.
Power Source: Gems serve as one for Spike: the amount of flame he can generate is directly dependent on how many he's recently consumed. Different kinds of gems can also have other effects on his body: yellow diamonds are a coffee-level stimulant, while too many garnets leads to drowsiness, and a badly-prepared topaz fritter will make him molt.
Power Strain Blackout: Can happen to any unicorn who overexerts herself. Twilight had nine of them while in school. Rarity manages the feat in Chapter 5 of Triptych after going to the full triple corona.
Now applies to pegasi as well: If Rainbow Dash Can't Sleep shows a deliberate invocation of the issue — one intended as an insomnia cure.
Precursor Bearers: A Total Eclipse Of The Fun gradually reveals that Celestia and Luna were originally part of another sextet. Hints in the other stories seem to indicate Star Swirl was also a member of that group.
Properly Paranoid: All of Ponyville, every time the Crusaders are seen together. The trio doesn't understand why the adults would ever have that kind of reaction.
Required Secondary Powers: Said to be the case with many marks. Even something as mundane as the Cakes' enhanced ability to bake comes with little side benefits such as being able to gauge the exact degree of oven temperature just by letting the heat wash over them for a second. Battle marks are noted as including enhanced intuition and potential capacity for pulling an Indy Ploy. In general, the effects are minor and don't have a lot of overt magic attached - but magic is exactly what they are.
Schizo Tech: Partially averted: Word Of Fanfic Author is that Equestria is mostly around a magic-enhanced 1940s, with some gaps — particularly in communications — and a few spell-boosted exceptions. Many devices and conveniences are commonly available, although testing first-generation new products is a habit for the bold. Other things are more towards pure science: film works chemically. A few seem to have made a transition: invisible ink was originally the result of a spell (and one of Star Swirl's at that), but was eventually brought to the point of a chemical reaction — although the spell version still exists, with Luna launching a major casting of the Revealer aspect in Luna's Lottery Lunacy.
The Sleepless: Fluttershy comes close, averaging a little less than three hours per night. This may be an aspect of her talent: as she needs to take care of her nocturnals, she has to be fully awake and alert when they are. Or it could be something else.
Strawpony News Media: This is a universe where Gabby Gums would be a typical reporter and libel laws have not yet been drafted. The worst offenders are the news corps owned by the shadowy Murdocks, but all kinds of paparazzi become endemic to Ponyville after Twilight's coronation: being the only Princess who basically lives in the open among the general public makes her extra vulnerable.
The pro-diarchy press, as introduced in Naked Lunch, engage in a similar amount of fact-checking (that is to say, none).
Teleporter Accident: In this continuity, arrival from between pushes aside air, displaces moderate volumes of liquid (which is uncomfortable), and can break any exceptionally thin or fragile solid. Anything presenting more resistance than that will displace the arriving party in a random direction (although never down) until they find enough open room to appear in. And the further a pony goes to find that space, the faster the momentum of that displacement gets. It's called recoil, and it's the reason arrival points have to be kept clear. Only a desperate pony will try to teleport to a place she can't directly see or doesn't have memorized. If you're lucky, you just get jarred a bit. If you're not, ponies could die.
Even Princesses are vulnerable: in A Mark Of Appeal, Celestia and Luna choose the same arrival point in a train car, head for it at the same moment... and Luna winds up sliding down a wall while Celestia hits the ceiling, quickly followed by the floor.
Vegetarian Griffon/CarnivoreConfusion: Averted. Sapient meat-eaters remain exactly that — but the Treaty Of Menagerie restricts their diet, agreeing that none will take their meals from any who talk or think. (In Naked Lunch, a sarcastic Luna notes those states are often mutually exclusive.) One palace kitchen actually has a meat station, allowing visitors to be served proper meals, and The Red List tells those arrivals about the five — and then six — other places in Canterlot where they can find food — two of which are pet shops. The majority of what's used for meat comes from the non-sapient monster species: if it's trying to kill you and can't discuss the reason why, go right ahead and return the favor.
The referenced story notes that griffons are technically omnivores, but at least ninety percent of their diet is meat — and there's a cultural perception that voluntarily consuming too many plants lowers oneself to the status of prey. That rule is a little looser for those ponies of the Republic who think of themselves as griffons — but they can wind up being looked upon with pity or worse, and are reluctant to eat in public. More than a little of their cuisine is an elaborate game of Hide The Vegetables.
Abusive Parents: Chapter 8 strongly suggests this for Pinkie. Chapter 17 confirms it as both mental and physical.
And I Must Scream: A Flashback for Discord at the start of Chapter 10 has this happening to him during the period of calcification, apparently inflicted on him by something outside the prison. It puts him through agony which is described as "his entire existence spent as a single atom feeling the electrons being torn from their shells and waiting for the nucleus to shatter. An atom which cannot scream." And at that point in the past, this had happened at least several dozen times... and possibly more than a hundred.
The flashback also states that the calcification is perpetually trying to move deeper in, and it takes most of his remaining strength to prevent himself from becoming a perfect statue in a perfect garden, forever. Every time the violation occurs, he comes that much closer to losing the last of himself.
Artifact of Doom: The origin story of the Alicorn Amulet in Chapter 17 has this sort of tone to it, especially after the ending reveals it was created by Star Swirl.
Bizarre Pony Senses: Each major pony race has a sense for the detection of magic called feel, the quality of which varies by the individual (although some ponies can improve with practice). However, in reality, this actually works out to be three separate senses, as a pony can only pick up on the workings of their own race. Twilight's feel for unicorn magic is fairly acute, while Pinkie hardly ever registers even the strongest earth pony traces. The Princesses are presumed to possess all three versions. She also has all three — but only one at a time, and she doesn't know how to interpret some of the information, leading to a degree of synesthesia.
And then we find out that pegasus vision goes partway into both the infrared and electromagnetic: they can see heat and judge the level of ion charges in clouds. Some unexplained mechanism lets them view humidity as twinkles in the air.
Brown Note: Viewing her mark for the first time nearly has this effect on Twilight and later causes similar-if-lesser reactions for most (but not all) of the Mane Cast. Marks are not supposed to move.
Chekov's Gun: Discord granted Fluttershy the ability to remove any one thing of her choosing (potentially including a pony) as part of their mission — or rather, he'll know when she wants it done and make that thing go away accordingly. (This was the only thing the Bearers received for the mission at all.) It has yet to be fired.
Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Seems to be the case with essence harvesting, which can only be done with the dead or horribly weak. The latter then become the dead.
Dishing Out Dirt: Earth ponies can do this, but it's kept a secret from anyone not in the know. This basically means "Us and nopony else." Some of Applejack's words and thoughts in Chapters 6 & 15 suggest fillies and colts are taught at an early age that if they ever tell, they might be killed — or at least that it's happened to other ponies in the past.
Downer Ending: In-'verse, donkey literature. All of it. "It ain't a donkey story unless there's a pile of bodies in the middle of the last page an' every survivin' character is so depressed, they're fixin' t' join 'em."
Dream Sequence: Used as a Flashback device at various points, as characters visit recently-reminded relevant times in their past.
Energy Absorption: In Chapter 15, Rainbow reveals some pegasi can do this with the kinetic energy of wind if there's no time to counter with equal and opposite for gusts or unwind a tornado. She also makes a point of saying it's a dangerous tactic which is generally utilized by idiots who don't last long: the energy has to be used up quickly or redirected, or something bad happens. She knows the technique involved, but hasn't used it in front of the others. "It — kinda sucks." By contrast, lightning can't be absorbed, but a very small number of pegasi are capable of redirecting it. Rainbow isn't one of them.
Evil Is Petty: It doesn't come much pettier than Coordinator. He was the primary factor that soured Twilight on the very concept of friendship back during their school days because she spurned him, carefully arranging rumors which would drift into her ears concerning any ponies who might attempt to befriend her and actively using Blackmail on any who kept right on trying anyway, usually with evidence he'd created.
Green Hooves: An aspect of this is recognized as earth pony magic, here called the Cornucopia Effect. Basically, wherever earth ponies work the land, it will begin to respond, even if the environment says it shouldn't. With sufficient effort and pegasi occasionally lending a wing with climate control, any kind of crop can be raised in any soil, allowing a group of determined earth ponies to get an apple orchard going in the desert. Teams can work together to accelerate plant growth, and a few specialists can reverse it to raise bonsai. Better yet, get enough earth ponies together in an area and the soil fertility radius will slowly radiate out beyond their immediate territory, allowing even unicorns and pegasi to create gardens and raise small crops. However, if the earth ponies all leave, the Effect will gradually fade out. (It's been directly said that Ponyville would have two years before full reversion.) And without them, the other two major pony races are limited to what the land will provide on its own.
And as it turns out, that's just the surface.
Happily Adopted: Seems to be how Pinkie regards her situation with the Cakes. Also applies to Spike for Twilight's family, and there's a line in Chapter 21 indicating he has full Equestrian citizenship.
Heroic RROD: Rarity nearly puts herself through one when attempting to fish an object out of a river. In this setting, unicorn magic can't grab hold of things that are inside another object, and Twilight likens her feat of trying to separate the gem from that sheer volume of water to attempting to lift the entire river. Only Rarity's affinity with gemstones granted by her Cutie Mark apparently allows her to perform the feat.
Heroism Won't Pay the Bills: Applejack had to explain this to Celestia, who then created the Royal Vouchers, which recompense the Bearers for the revenue they lose and the expenses they incur when out saving the world. The vouchers aren't a blank check, but they come close.
Hidden Depths: Rarity stayed in touch with the Diamond Dogs near Ponyville and picked up quite a lot about their culture. It's part of an unwritten peace treaty between the town and the warren: she drops by every so often to help them find gems, and they don't do anything which would bring angry Princesses into the tunnels. (Of course, the Dogs don't get to keep all the gems Rarity finds...)
Horn Attack: Flebian Rams can flex their horns into different positions, curling them to batter or straightening them to puncture. The good news is that they're just magical animals and don't have the intelligence required for taking full advantage. But they're still dangerous.
How Do I Fly?: Three weeks hasn't been enough for Twilight to figure out how her wings are supposed to keep her up, let alone any other pegasus ability. It's embarrassing enough that she tries to hide it from the other Bearers. The secret comes out in Chapter 13, and Rainbow becomes her official flying teacher.
Karma Houdini: Averted for Trixie: she was captured shortly after leaving Ponyville following the Alicorn Amulet takeover. She's currently on probation, has to regularly check in with Guards, and that will go on for a long time.
Lampshade Hanging: Trust Discord to get one in: this is his description of the mission:
"You're going to go do something that I, with all my power, could seemingly accomplish all by myself with practically no effort on my part. But instead, I'm sending a bunch of considerably lesser strengths out there for reasons which I will not explain and allowing my quasi-omnipotent self to take a nap while everypony else deals with all the trouble." He glanced back at Celestia, adjusted the lampshade resting on his head. "That's about right, isn't it?"
The Nameless: Applies to her, to the point where she won't even take a temporary use name for the duration of a meeting. When challenged on how she thinks of herself, the response is "I." Given that some ponies seem to believe that the act of naming can confer a degree of destiny on the recipient, there's a good chance this is deliberate.
"No name!Names limit!Name not earned!Nevernamenow!"
The Nondescript: Quiet Presence. There are times when even the narrator struggles to make adjectives stick to him, and a large number of ponies seem to have trouble noticing when he's around or remembering what he looked like after he leaves the room. In reality, he's a small young adult unicorn stallion (somewhat shorter and thinner than Twilight, who's described as being slightly built for a mare), whose coat, mane, and eyes are slightly-differing shades of grey. According to the text, ponies can tell that his mark exists in the proper location, but it's just as grey as the rest of him and so far, nopony has been able to determine exactly what that mark is.
Painful Transformation: Experienced by her, constantly. Whatever went wrong in the ascension attempt resulted in perpetual cyclical shifting between the three main pony races, moving from pegasus to unicorn to earth pony to pegasus again, and so on through the cycle. Rarity believes the wing bones are breaking rather than simply being reabsorbed. Whether this is true is unknown, but she is in endless, unrelenting agony.
Paralysis by Analysis: Stated to be one of Twilight's problems in combat: there are times when she's so busy sorting through every spell she knows, she loses the opportunity she would need for casting any of them.
Parental Substitute/Honorary Uncle: Both Pinkie and Fluttershy seem to regard Doctor Gentle with degrees of this, with many of the others whom the obstetrician has delivered feeling the same way.
Power Incontinence: Her, big-time. The failure of The Great Work didn't turn her into an alicorn, but it left her with the raw power of one in each aspect — with no experience in directing or controlling it. When she gets scared, alicorn strength can lash out at the stimulus, and there's no telling what it might do.
Running Gag: Mention Star Swirl and suddenly everypony has narcolepsy. Apparently Twilight's delivered one hero-worshiping lecture too many.
Screw The Rules, I Have Connections And Blackmail Material! The only reason Coordinator got into Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns. His field strength is somewhere below average, and the field itself tends to wink out when he's under stress. He got through the majority of his exams through control of the teachers or getting other students to pass them for him. It's mentioned that entirely new fields of cheating were invented this way.
Secret Keepers: Following the events of Chapter 17, the entire Mane Cast is keeping one about the true nature of earth pony magic.
Shout-Out: Twilight is asked/made to attend and bless the birth of two foals. Both are then named in tribute to her: the pegasus filly Dawn Sky and a unicorn colt named Dusk. A few chapters later, we meet the latter's father — and find out the last name is Shine.
In Chapter 13, Rarity reveals that the Diamond Dogs call her the Tyrant of the Underdark. She thinks it's meant with respect.
Chapter 3 reports that Fluttershy's income includes a small stipend with associated tax break from the Weather Bureau which she's never quite explained. Word Of Fanfic Author says that in this continuity, the cottage is serving as a first-alert station, with Fluttershy sounding the alarm if she spots a major uncontrolled weather system emerging from her neighboring wild zone.
Steven Ulysses Perhero: Discussed. Some ponies believe the act of naming a foal can place some amount of destiny on the newborn, and Doctor Gentle has seen too many ponies with names just a little too well-suited to their jobs (himself included) to believe in mere and frequent coincidence any more. The two most major destiny moments are generally agreed on to be birth and the manifestation of the mark — but naming is close behind.
Teleportation Sickness: Applejack, who becomes nauseous every time she's taken along: longer trips leave her vomiting all over the arrival point. Spike seems to have more of a Teleportation Allergy: Twilight mentions that his scales don't react well with something in the between and unless she shields him first, he'll send up smoke plumes after exiting.
Town with a Dark Secret: Trotter's Falls is beginning to display elements of this, as an increasing number of ponies appear to have some awareness of the attempt to find a way of changing a normal pony into an alicorn, a process known as The Great Work.
Try to Fit That on a Business Card: The full title for the Mane Six is the Element-Bearers, Defenders Of Harmony, Exemplars Of The Six Pony Virtues, Saviors Of The Land. Twilight's full royal title is The Fair Princess Twilight Sparkle Of House Twinkle, Our Lady Of The Dusk And Dawn, Incarnate Of The Future, And Most Gracious Blessing Of Hope Upon The Land And Sky.
Unwanted False Faith: Chapter 14 sees Twilight being asked to bless a newborn foal, which makes her realize that some ponies will wind up treating her much like the Princesses: swearing on and by her, along with more than a few true prayers. She doesn't take it well.
Was Once A Normal Pony: There are hints scattered through this and the other stories that Celestia and Luna once qualified, and it also seems to apply with her. This also describes Twilight's attitude towards her transformation into an alicorn, which is rapidly becoming something she dearly wants to reverse.
"If I had wanted to, I could have pulled you to much more interesting places. This land has volcanoes, you know. The heat — nothing to me. I can have a meeting on top of lava if I want to. You? Well, I suspect Rainbow Dash Number Two would rather enjoy the soak under normal circumstances, but swimming through your ashes might put a certain taint — on the experience?"
Wrong Genre Savvy: Rainbow Dash is sorely disappointed each time the world doesn't behave like a Daring Do novel.
Tropes present in A Mark of Appeal:
A Date With Rosie Hooves: Never described, but more than implied to be one way in which the sisters are dealing with the aftereffects of being around Joyous. Celestia throws in teleport-based self-dunkings in a cold lake while Luna uses some of the benefits of being An Ice Person.
Aroused by Their Voice: Even when Joyous conceals herself in a manure-scented burlap sack, her voice is enticing enough to bypass the royal guards and drive Luna to distraction.
Awesome, but Impractical: The spell known as Kalziver's Severance, which temporarily blocks the link between the target pony's mark and their magic. For the duration of the spell, that pony's special talent is gone, making it one of the most effective ways of striking against those with battle marks. But it's incredibly difficult to learn and cast. It always requires the full triple corona, which means the pony working it risks death from backlash every time. The working is effectively magical blasphemy and as soon as it wears off, the caster is hit with a headache described as being "like a double-side migraine got together with the worst hangover of your life and they both took classes from the world's only three-hour brain freeze," making the spell into a last resort because after it ends, the caster won't be doing anything else. And if you have the raw strength of Celestia, it lasts for all of ninety-eight seconds. (Most other ponies can barely make it hold for twelve.)
Bi the Way: Confirmed for Luna, although she notes that she's very seldom attracted to mares and has been both celibate and dateless since the Return, with too many things happening to even consider a relationship. (In her own words, "Any attempt to reach out would not have been for attraction or connection, but latching onto a buoy to keep from drowning.")
Blessed with Suck: Joyous Release, like every other pony, has a cutie mark which comes attached with various magical effects that boost her special talent. The problem is, her cutie mark represents sex appeal, and she can't stop the magic associated with the mark. Anyone in her presence will quickly develop infatuation, followed by arousal, followed by that getting worse. If the talent encounters someone attracted to a different gender, it creates a near-instant If It's You, It's Okay. It even crosses species barriers. In total, it's almost impossible for Joyous to even share a room with someone for ten minutes without having them attempt seduction or worse, and the plot kicks off when she asks Luna to find a way of destroying her magic, mark, or both.
Brainwashed: It turns out the parents of Joyous Release have had their personalities all but consumed by their cutie marks...
Celibate Princess: Very much the case with Celestia, to the point where she says Joyous allows her to finally indulge in some fantasies without it being her fault. It's strongly suggested that she tries to discourage Luna from entering relationships along with keeping a very close eye on her sister's (lack of) sex life, and it's pretty much directly said that both siblings basically pleaded with Cadance not to go ahead with marrying Shining Armor.
Erotic Dream: Celestia has one at the start of Chapter 4, after Joyous has effectively gotten into her head. It quickly turns into more of a Dream Apocalypse, because the other idea on Celestia's mind is that of a mark going out of control... which isn't the best thing for the world when you're personally linked to Sun.
Expy: The doctors whom Celestia and Luna bring in as medical consultants are named Vanilla Bear and Chocolate Bear. Remind you of anyone?
I'm Having Sun/Moon Pains: Celestia has described the experience of handling Moon as being like shoving a spear of ice into her own heart. It's implied Luna goes through something similar if she has to manipulate Sun.
Interspecies Romance: Pony-griffon marriages are confirmed to exist, but are also said to be incredibly rare: most relationships come from dating during experimental phases, and likewise end there.
New Marks As History Insists: Suggested to be the case with some pony talents, with certain new ones only emerging when the time is right for them. (However, this may also just indicate that such talents aren't recognized until they reach the proper environment.) This has led to one fan theory suggesting Joyous' existence means Equestria has reached the point of creating brothels.
Oh Crap: Luna undergoes one of these after discovering that Joyous's parents have a similar affliction where their marks have overridden all other aspects of their personalities, and being forced to consider that Joyous's condition might possibly be contagious, and that Celestia, Luna, and Cadence have all been exposed to her.
The Power of Love: Cadance is the only pony on the planet who can directly manipulate love. This includes its creation and destruction. The effects are temporary, but all too real while they last. She is horrified by her own potential and feels that the Lie, that she can only rekindle forgotten or faded love, is the only way any relationship in Equestria can be trusted for as long as she lives.
Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Do not strongly suggest to Celestia that solving the problem may require Twilight to start studying mark magic, because apparently it's just a little bit of a bad subject. "It. Is. Not. Going. To. Happen!" (She apologies to Luna almost immediately, and it's suggested there's a number of bad memories backing the declaration. Bringing in Twilight is eventually added to a long list of last resorts. Through the current point in the story, it hasn't happened.)
Shockwave Stomp: Luna's throne is designed to amplify a stamp of the hoof to a tremor that forces everypony nearby to either sit down or fall over.
Surrounded by Idiots: Luna's opinion on the effects of holding her first-ever open Night Palace session, after all it leads to is a succession of citizens asking her to advise them on completely petty, pointless problems... right up until Joyous comes in.
Luna: They have a pair of foals. We can safely assume they have worked on a mix together at least once.
Vitriolic Best Buds: Philomena is explicitly described as "essentially Angel Bunny with wings, extra centuries of prodding experience, somewhat improved long-term planning skills, and a nastier sense of humor," but it's clear that Celestia gives as good as she gets. And both know the phoenix is irreplaceable.
Wham Episode: Chapter 7 ends with the realization that Joyous's parents are not neglectful, they are insane, the implication that whatever affected them is the same thing that's affecting her, and there's no guarantee that insanity isn't contagious...
Answer Cut: A Total Eclipse Of The Fun goes with this one:
Trial run... it still felt like unveiling a masterpiece before the official gallery opening. But really, what harm could it do? (scene change) The sisters looked over the wreckage in the Lunar Courtyard.
Also hits in Chapter 4 of the same story, when Luna asks what the problem would be with having Twilight Sparkle write the one-sheet educational briefing on eclipses for distribution to the general public. One location switch later, she gets her migraine-inducing answer. Which included quantum.
Badass Bureaucrat: Crossing Guard zigzags between this and Beleaguered Bureaucrat: he's competent and can get an impressive amount done under the right circumstances, but the Immigration Department is undersized, overworked, and short-funded. (Luna is working on resolving all three issues.) Being responsible for the majority of non-pony residents in Canterlot is a hard job, one which too often displays visible strain — but at the same time, being able to manage it at all shows just how tough he is. Still, when he gets tired, mistakes can be made...
Bad Liar: Caramel, as seen in The Hypocrisy of Tolerance. It's not that the lies themselves are bad. He just can't come up with new ones, and he's been using the same ones over and over for years.
Be Careful What You Wish For: At the press conference meant to explain the nature of eclipses to the populace through newspaper articles (which ultimately leads to the government still having to do its own one-sheet educational printing — just for starters), one reporter asks how ponies are supposed to get used to the idea, especially if this is going to be any kind of regular event. Luna then decides that from that point on, all daylight conferences in the Lunar Courtyard will be held under total solar eclipse, just to let that reporter get used to it.
Bilingual Bonus: The stallion in Blessing who begs Celestia to save his daughter is named Fajr. It's Arabic, indicating the morning prayers.
A mild version in Naked Lunch: two named Canterlot streets are Camargue Road and Przewalski Way — horse breeds. There's also a very obscure one deeper into the story, occurring when the formal name of the Griffon Republic is finally revealed. It's Protocera — and some human folklorists believe the Terran legends of griffons began when people completely misinterpreted the fossilized remains of the dinosaur species Protoceratops.
Lazy River reveals that the traditional earth pony period of mourning is called shiva, sharing its meaning with the original Hebrew.
In The Hypocrisy of Tolerance, Rarity and Fluttershy discuss the possibility of becoming nothing but the virtue of their Element. Luna assured Rarity that it can't happen... unless a Bearer believes it could. Or wants it to.
Cue the Rain: Rarity invokes this trope in Pony Up A Tree — deliberately. It's her final way of proving that Rainbow is lurking on a cloud overhead, because the weather coordinator can't resist a good feed line.
Determinator: Snowflake's mark and special talent, with the weight representing the burdens he has to shift. When he sets his mind to something, it's highly recommended to get out of the way.
Didn't See That Coming: Go ahead and demonstrate an eclipse in the Lunar Courtyard to a few ponies selected from both palace staffs, just to see how the public might take it. There's no way anypony would be freaked out by the sight of Luna performing a working which seems to be blocking out Sun... and cue riot. (To be fair, Luna asked for the demonstration as a means of finding out if any ponies would have bad reactions before the sisters brought the phenomenon to the general populace. It was better to discover the problem then and there — but neither anticipated the actual panic.)
An angry Celestia then fires those who started it, which leads into a second instance of this trope. And thus the world's most incompetent counterrevolutionary cell was formed. When she eventually discovers all the layers of what had happened, she treats the prior gap in her knowledge as a personal failing. Luna makes a point of saying Celestia isn't omniscient (even if the older sister sometimes briefly manages to make her fall for it) and that there was no way to see this coming, but Celestia keeps insisting that she should have seen more. There may be a bit of a Guilt Complex there.
Dirty Cop: Officer Cropski in One Tenth Bit abuses his authority to harass Rarity. By the end of the story, it's revealed that he's doing the store owner a favor through trying to embarrass her so badly that she'll never return. It also backfires, as Rarity's friends go a little higher up the ladder than his.
The Dreaded: The Cutie Mark Crusaders are this for most of Ponyville's population. Ponies keep away from them like they were juggling nitroglycerin, even when they aren't.
Princess Luna, on the other hand, terrifies just about everyone. Word of God states that the scariest line in Celestia's diplomatic arsenal is "Let me go see what my sister thinks".
Endangered Soufflé: The arc plot in Pinkie Pie Vs. The Soufflé, which has Pinkie attempting to bake her first successful baking of the stubborn dish for her master piece: the dish which will let her shed the "apprentice" from "baker" once and for all. It doesn't exactly go as first planned. Or second, third, fourth...
Fantastic Racism: Sonic Rainbigot introduces Canterlot Unicorns Need Equal Treatment, later described in Luna's Lottery Lunacy as "the largest, best-organized, well-funded, and most delusional group of self-promoting racists on the continent." (It's also noted that they were originally named Canterlot Unicorns Negating Traditional Swears, but for some reason, decided that name wasn't workingout.) Naked Lunch firmly establishes them as a unicorn superiority group which is forever trying to claim the victimization of a persecuted majority, and extends their racism to the other sentient species: they would love to see Equestria's borders closed (along with the expulsion of all non-ponies, citizens included), and a few members are so fanatical as to refuse usage of anything not created by unicorns. Which admittedly makes it hard to take pictures which might work in their favor: turns out cameras were invented by minotaurs.
Fantastic Slur: One of the worst things an earth pony or pegasus can say about a unicorn is to tell them they're "horning in": it's basically calling that pony a powermonger who doesn't care about Harmony, based in a time when some unicorns tried to use their magics to take over. In the modern day, some unicorns will toss the slur at other unicorns if they think the target pony is getting full of themselves — but if anypony else uses it, screams of racism just might follow.
Pegasi occasionally get hit with 'land swooper', a leftover from the era of sieges and raiding parties: it's calling that pony a thief or pirate. However, the term is also used as the name of a Las Pegasus sports team.
Fine... then I'll swear it on Luna's horn. Happy now?
Historical In-Joke: As revealed at the end of Luna's Lottery Lunacy, Celestia had to ban tulips at some point in the past millennium, apparently because a strong pony herd mentality turned a fad into an economic bubble burst. It's a reference to Tulip Mania.
In Chapter 4 for A Mark Of Appeal, Ambassador Torque Power of Mazien tries to fight his way to Joyous while carrying a bouquet of tulips (among many others), and one of Celestia's first reactions is that she has to get them out of sight before anypony else spots them, along with wondering where he got them because she thought she'd had all the suppliers closed down. Apparently Canterlot has an underground illegal flower trade.
"Get what? That you wind up with a mark because you do perfectly ordinary things you're already good at and love doing, instead of trying cool stuff which nopony's ever done before?" A long pause. "That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard!"
Insistent Terminology: If Celestia and Luna are sharing the morning meal together, the Solar Kitchen calls the result 'brinner'. The Lunar staff refers to that same meal as 'dinfast'. About two seconds after that, pots begin to fly.
Lethal Chef: Mr. Flankington. Aside from his infamous "Saddle Arabian delicacy," Cutie Mark Crusaders Alpha Pack Leader demonstrates how his test kitchen has the literal ingredients for a town-wide biohazard. Oddly, to date, he's been The Ghost of Ponyville: he's mentioned as being in the crowd in front of Sugarcube Corner during Orange Is The New Blue, but he's never been heard to speak, much less described.
Word Of FanFic Author is that he's meant to be a gentle tribute to Plankton, with his restaurant constantly losing money until tourist season hits and unsuspecting travelers who assume any eatery must be run by somepony with a cooking mark wander into exactly the right location for proving themselves horribly wrong. He truly doesn't mean any harm: he just can't get a recipe right to save his life and possesses a good amount of self-delusion regarding his efforts. The next one will surely work out...
If the food preparation phase counts, we can now add Celestia and Luna to the mix. In Princesses Can't Cook, the sisters attend their first culinary lesson. The results are edible: it was the creation stage which managed to blow up most of the kitchen. Twice.
A more minor version in 100% Move = 50% Fire, when Pinkie Pie sees Twilight's original kitchen.
[W]ell, I can see you're alive, but I'm not sure how ...
Lethal Joke Spell: So there's a spell. And all it does is change the color of anything available to a hue of the caster's choice. Harmless, right? Well, what if you took a few random spins of the color wheel on every visible dress in the Boutique and the effect never wore off? How about using it on food? Making ponies look Red and Black and Evil All Over? And that's just the beginning for the possibilities...
Like Brother and Sister: Snowflake and Fluttershy are explicitly described as "near-siblings" in The Hypocrisy of Tolerance. Triptych revealed that they had both been delivered by Doctor Gentle, and he recommended that they meet when Snowflake first moved to Ponyville. There's no romantic connection: they simply have a lot of things in common.
Logic Bomb: Luna launches one (referenced by name) in A Total Eclipse Of The Fun which nearly takes out an entire press conference. Upon being repeatedly challenged to prove that she's incapable of enthralling ponies, she agrees that the never-seen ability would in fact be a danger and refuses to release anyone from the gathering until they've proven they can't do it - through attempting (and failing) to use the spell on her. If it doesn't work, she'll simply tell the gathering "I am not enthralled' and let that pony leave.
"Of course — if you could enthrall me, that would be the very first thing you should make me say..."
Mercy Kill: Fluttershy, as part of her role as animal caretaker, over and over again, taking the burden on herself every time. Made all the worse by the fact that Ponyville's only licensed vet refuses to perform the act (supposedly in defense of her success-only reputation) and sends anything fatal or even somewhat risky to the cottage. Mentioned in Triptych with off-screen example and given extra detail in Five Hundred Little Murders, which was inducted into the Royal Canterlot Library.
The Moving Experience: Somewhat distorted in 100% Move = 50% Fire, which is set near the end of Season #1. The move is very real, but the purpose is to complete Twilight's transition into Ponyville by clearing out the last of her things from her rooms at the Canterlot Archives.
Not So Different: In Stupid Direction-Face, Rainbow Dash and Garble are strikingly similar to one another, both in attitude and accomplishments. Through the current point in the story, Rainbow appears blissfully unaware of any irony.
Origins Episode: Snowflake Shoe-Hare provides one for the title character, making his wings into the results of a birth defect injury. (In this continuity, nearly all pegasi foals have hard shells of translucent tissue called caps covering the wings at birth, protecting fragile bones from damage caused by the pressure of contractions. Snowflake was a capless birth who survived.) His unusual build is explained as a deliberate effort to substitute for missing wing surface area with raw power.
Also applies to Fluttershy across the story group: her feed costs are high, she has to purchase some rare substances for certain medicines, new medical reference texts come out every year... and some of her clients skip out on their bills in the certain knowledge that she won't take them to small claims court. She has the benefit of owning the cottage and surrounding land outright, but there's always property tax...
Pony Up A Tree: Rarity in the eponymous story. Ponies are among the worst climbers in the world and know it: unless you're a pegasus, being stuck in a tree too high up for a safe jump generally means being stuck there until somepony shows up to help. Triptych notes similar problems with falling into holes: if the width doesn't allow a chimney-climb, the pony is probably in trouble.
None of this stops two non-pegasi from climbing trees to keep away from Scootaloo in Scootalift. Admittedly, there was a pegasus there who could have provided a potential boost. Or as Snowflake notes, they might have just discovered a panic-induced talent for high-jumping. It's amazing what you can do when you're scared enough...
Triptych notes that the national disaster relief fund makes up eight percent of Equestria's budget "in a slow year." Just how much of that goes to Ponyville is perhaps best not thought about.
Furthermore, the town bankrupted the nation's fledgling insurance companies in fifteen moons.
Raised By Griffons: Naked Lunch reveals that griffons have a cultural imperative which dictates that to bring a child into the world is to take responsibility for raising it to adulthood — and if the parents die, someone else must take over. This belief extends to the children of enemies — and in the deep past, when the Republic and Equestria went to war, the griffons would scoop up the foals of the fallen and bring them to their new homes. Centuries later, this has led to Protocera possessing a significant pony population, nearly all descendants of those original children — and most of them were raised as and consider themselves to be griffons. Equestrian visitors to the Republic who think they've spotted another traveler on the street are often in for a major culture shock.
It's also worth noting that this applies to any intelligent species the griffons have ever fought. Which brings up the question of just what else holds Protoceran citizenship...
Shout-Out: In On The Application Of Time And Motion Efficiency Studies To Initial Relationship Formation, Flitter gives this little speech after deciding that Rarity being a whole seventeen moons older than her means the designer is effectively deceased:
"You've booked passage for a permanent vacation in the shadowlands! You've designed your own funeral shroud! You've closed the shop and had your dumb flunked vet friend teach her birds a dirge! You are an ex-pony!"
Son Of Sombra Scam: Twilight gets to read the Equestrian version of a 419 in Dear Friend, after Spike fires off a number of ersatz scrolls following the ingestion of "griffon-made canned lunch meat". The scroll in question comes from somepony asking for aid in recovering twenty million bits deposited in Ponyville, and is signed "Sucker Bet."
Speed Dating: Don't tell Twilight that you can typically decide if a chance meeting or date has the chance to become more within three minutes, or she just might decide to test the idea with a group of forty-four ponies while making you part of it, Rarity. Just... don't... too late...
Stuff Blowing Up: The reason why students from Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns are in the castle in Luna's Lottery Lunacy. The budget wasn't able to cover rebuilding that much of the school for the fourth time. That semester.
In 100% Move=50% Fire, Twilight says it's almost traditional to damage some part of the Canterlot Archives once you get into the better portions, which is why there's (still) no railing on the ramp leading up to her old residence.
Luna has made ice cream explode. She wasn't attacking it or experiencing any degree of Power Incontinence during an emotional moment: she was trying to create the dessert. Princesses Can't Cook showed her grumbling about the slow method of aeration, to the point where she decided the best way of shortcutting past it was to make the air already within move faster. As in 'internal storm system'. Complete with lightning. Boom. By contrast, Celestia took out the oven in a much more conventional way.
Super Speed: While not too overt in its manifestations, both Celestia and Luna seem to have reaction times well above that of the average pony, and Luna's land speed is far beyond typical.
Total Eclipse of the Plot: Drives A Total Eclipse Of The Fun, which is built around Celestia and Luna's plans to create an eclipse to celebrate the second anniversary of Luna's Return. (Despite the actual timing of events, the associated holiday is held three days after the Summer Sun Celebration, to give Luna her own time.) This has to be a deliberate, planned event: due to the normal cycle for Sun and Moon, the two celestial bodies are never in the sky at the same time unless the sisters carefully arrange it. Portions of the public don't take well to the proposed celebration, mostly because the Princesses are bringing back something from the age of Discord which blocks out the Sun.
Unwanted False Faith: The Princesses, full stop. A number of ponies (and not a small one) see them as entities not only to invoke in vows, but who can be actively prayed to — and they're not. Blessing shows Celestia desperately trying to explain her lack of divinity to a stallion truly in need of a miracle — an attempt which appears to have never worked.
On a lighter note, the Cutie Mark Crusaders' reign of terror has led to at least one shrine among Ponyville's realtors and moving supply salesponies.
You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Comes as a group effort towards Twilight from the other Bearers in 100% Move = 50% Fire after the real reason for her procrastination in completing the exit from her former Canterlot Archives apartment emerges. She's so afraid of saying or doing one wrong thing and losing everypony, she's been hanging onto a retreat point.
There's also a bit of it in Chapter 4 of Orange Is The New Blue, again directed towards Twilight, this time from Rarity: Twilight works out a possible emotional motive for the outbreak of color-change castings, immediately starts to second-guess herself because she feels she's no good at judging such things, and Rarity gently tells her how much she's changed since arriving in Ponyville, very nearly using the trope name in the process.