Fanfic / MLP Collateral Damage
A My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
fanfic written by Jordan179
Takes place in June, YOH 1481 — about 19 years before the TV series begins. Falcon Punch, the father of Cheerilee and Berryshine, takes a challenging courier contract from the military to carry a geologist-prospector from Appleloosa and his unusual find to Canterlot. But when his mission runs afoul of a covert war being waged against Equestria by the Changelings of Queen Chrysalis, and an elite Changeling Infiltrator is sent against him, what will be the collateral damage?
Tropes in this work include:
- Antagonist in Mourning: Occurs twice — with the same antogonist, Princess Ceymi,
- When she finally has to capture her old Pony friend-with-benefits Thermal Soar — and again, much more severely, when Queen Chrysalis kills him instead of letting Ceymi drain him slowly over many years, an event that sends her into brief but definite Heroic B.S.O.D.. It's very obvious that Ceymi considered Thermal to be more than just "prey," no matter how often she insists to herself that she does.
- To a far lesser degree, when she kills Falcon Punch — she doesn't have any particularly tender feelings toward him, as opposed to her emotions toward Thermal, but she considers him a Worthy Foe and regrets having to kill him.
- Apologetic Attacker: Ceymi, twice, though she is far too pragmatic to do so before attacking.
- Firstly, to Thermal Soar, whom she very much never wanted to have to capture. She drugs him first and then Shifts to Tootsie Pop, letting him know that she had always been a Changeling and thus that Tootsie Pop was never captured by the Hive
"Changeling," she whispered, correcting him. "Princess Ceymi." In that voice was both sweetness and an ancient, ruthless lethality. "I wanted you to know, before the end. You were brave ... you deserved it." Then, regretfully. "You should have stayed away."
- Secondly, to Falcon Punch — she waits until after she's given him his death blow, then says the following to him as she holds him to take the mummy.
- The Bad Guy Wins: The only character to get what she wants is Chrysalis, who is demonstrably the evillest character in the story. Falcon Punch and Thermal Soar are killed, Ceymi and Strawberry are heartbroken, and Cheerilee and Berryshine have their childhoods blighted. What's worse, of all four adult main characters Chrysalis is the only one to survive to the time of Luna's Return — Ceymi gets killed by a manticore within a decade, and Strawberry is nowhere to be seen later on.
- Becoming the Mask: An occupational hazard of Changeling Infiltrators. A good Mask requires the creation of a strong sub-personality to handle routine reactions, to prevent the prey suspecting something's wrong; but a sub-personality which is too strong can begin to influence the attitudes of the main personality. Princess Ceymi's Heroic B.S.O.D. when Thermal Soar is killed right in front of her is due to Starry Eyes — one of her Masks — having fallen in love with him. Ceymi valued Thermal Soar as a good source of love in the nutritional sense, and enjoyed his company, but was taken by complete surprise when his death nearly sent her into a full Split-Mind (a changeling term for Dissasociative Personality Disorder) psychotic breakdown. Only her excellent Infiltrator skills allowed her to keep her sanity intact and reintegrate her mind.
- Big Bad: Queen Chrysalis, the leader of Hive Chrysalis, who sends Princess Ceymi to do her dirty work. And who does not love her Hive at all, but is instead using it as a stepping-stone to greater — and far darker — power.
- Bigger Bad: Nyarlathtotep, who is grooming Queen Chrysalis to become Nightmare Hunger.
- Big "NO!": When Ceymi suffers her Heroic B.S.O.D. and then goes in Heroic Safe Mode after Thermal Soar's murder, she travels several miles from the Hive to try to understand her own emotions by becoming Starry Eyes, the Mask which was in love with Thermal. This is her reaction:
Her eyes widened in stark horror, ears pinned fully back, head flung back and mouth opened to emit a loud, ragged cry, that might have been "No!" but bore only a vague resemblance to the coherent speech of anything sapient. Tears started, ran down her face. Still wailing in helpless denial, Starry Eyes sank to her knees, to her barrel, buried her head under her forehooves and broke down into helpess sobbing, unable to speak a single world. Thermal, was her only clear thought, Thermal ...
- Blood from the Mouth: Falcon Punch knows he has taken a mortal wound when he tries to speak and instead begins coughing up blood. One reason he's fairly sure he's doomed is that he is over a mile in the air, in a thunderstorm, over the Everfree Forest — and his killer is right in front of him with only a minor wound.
- Blue and Orange Morality: Ponies and Changelings, from each other's perspective. The character who comes closest to understanding both ways of thought is Princess Ceymi, who has become far more corrupted by Pony values than she wants to admit to herself.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Queen Chyrsalis inflicts this upon Thermal Soar, specifically to test the loyalty of Princess Ceymi and impress upon her the Queen's absolute power over life and death within the Hive. It is so terrible that it triggers Ceymi's Heroic B.S.O.D., largely because it coincides with Ceymi's Love Epiphany regarding Thermal Soar.
- Cry Upon Shoulder: Near the end of the story, Cheerilee does this to Big Mac. The signficance of this is it is the first time we see Cheerilee cry over her father's death in story, it also shows how much she trusts Big Mac that she is willing to display this emotion. They are both still children, 9 and 7 years old respectively.
- Curiosity Killed the Cast: The fate of Thermal Soar, because he kept going back to the vicinity of Hive Chrysalis, and eventually found a mummified Changeling nymph in the nearby desert. At that point, Princess Ceymi could no longer protect him from capture.
- Curious Qualms of Conscience: Ceymi feels bad about harming Ponies, especially ones she has seduced into love or friendship — a dead giveaway that the feelings are more mutual than Ceymi will admit even to herself.
- Death Is Dramatic: Both of the characters who die in this story have dramatic deaths from the POV of description. Justified because we see Falcon Punch die from his own viewpoint, and Thermal Soar die from the viewpoint of one who secretly loves him.
- Deuteragonists: Falcon Punch and Princess Ceymi, to one another. Just which of them is primary and which secondary protagonist is arguable — Ceymi kills Falcon early in the fourth chapter, about midway through the story, but Falcon (through his death) has a significant impact on the future of Ponyville — his death is the reason why Cheerilee became a teacher and Berryshine a drunkard, as is obvious by the story's end. On the other hand, if Ceymi hadn't succeeded, then Nictis, the hero of Phoenix_Dragon's Without A Hive and its sequel would never have been born and it's possible that Spark Wheel would never have had the confidence or impetus to revolutionize Equestrian aerospace technology by inventing the first practical heavier-than-air flying machine.
- Downer Ending: The only character to achieve her objectives is the villainous Queen Chrysalis. Sympathetic family pony Falcon Punch dies without even knowing why, leaving his wife Strawberry an emotional wreck sinking into alcoholism and their 9-year-old daughter Cheerilee forced to assume adult responsibilities far too young for her psychological health, while their 3-year-old daughter Berryshine is witnessing her mother's descent into drunkenness and will herself become an alcoholic. Meanwhile, Princess Ceymi sees her dear friend Thermal Soar horribly murdered by Queen Chrysalis: the sight drives her temporarily insane but achieves its intended result of cowing her to obedience to the evil Queen; Ceymi's Undying Loyalty to her Hive is such that she will never become a Defector from Decadence; she instead decides that her hope for a gentler way to deal with the prey were naive. The only good outcomes are that Cheerilee begins a lifelong friendship with Big Mac, and Ceymi gets to know some brief and limited happiness with the parents of Starry Eyes.
- Eaten Alive: Thermal Soar's fate inflicted by Queen Chrysalis by means of Changeling emotivory turned Up to Eleven.
- Emotion Eating: The fic goes into some detail about Changeling emotivory. As in canon, Changelings eat love and related emotions (friendship, lust etc.) There are essentially four levels of emotion eating, and a fifth which is essentially the third turned Up to Eleven.
- At the lowest level, the Changeling consumes such a small percentage of the emotion that the subject is unharmed and probably cannot realize that anything has happened. There are no visible effects, and this amount of love is easily regenerated.
- At a moderate level, the Changeling consumes a higher percentage of the emotion, leaving the subject exhausted. There are still no visible effects. Prolonged consumption at this level can cause cumulative damage.
- At a high level, possible only to relatively powerful Changelings, the Changeling consumes the majority of the emotion, producing an ionic discharge between Changeling and subject which renders it visible. This sort of draining is likely to cause emotional and even some physical damage.
- At a very high level, possible only to very powerful Changelings such as Ceymi, the Changeling consumes the entirety of the emotion very rapidly. This causes strong electric discharges and usually maims and kills the victim.
- At an extreme level, so far only attained by Queen Chrysalis, not only is all the emotion consumed but electrical discharges are sufficiently powerful to flash-bake the victim and cause internal steam explosions. This is utterly fatal to the victim.
- Dying Alone: The fate of Falcon Punch. Only his killer Princess Ceymi is there, and he actually dies in mid-fall, when she is far above him.
- The Dragon: Princess Ceymi, to Queen Chrysalis. Ceymi is by far the Hive's best Infiltrator, most lethal assassin and finest mind — save, perhaps, for Chrysalis herself.
- Forgone Conclusions: Several, especially if you've read Phoenix_Dragon's Without A Hive.
- Cheerilee will become a dedicated, determined educator, and her sister Berryshine will become a hopeless drunk.
- Ceymi will survive and one day give birth to Nictis, but she will also die defending her trainees from a manticore in the Everfree.
- Thermal Soar will not succeed in warning Equestria that the Buzzies are real.
- Family-Unfriendly Death: Both Falcon Punch, who is shot in the lungs and then plummets over a mile to the ground; and Thermal Soar, who has his life force explosively ripped from his body by Queen Chrysalis, die ugly deaths. It would have been worse had not the rain washed the blood from Falcon's corpse before Ceymi gotten to see it.
- Fragile Flower: Strawberry. She was raised by a loving family, got married to her One True Love at age 16, and ten years later has never had to rely on her own unsupported emotional strength. Very unfortunately for her family, as she utterly collapses when her husband Falcon dies.
- God Save Us from the Queen!: Queen Chrysalis, who nearly drives Princess Ceymi insane as part of her plan to "send a message" and completely subjugate her free will to the Queen's own.
- Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Strawberry shows this tendency even before Falcon's death, and afterward pretty much crawls into a bottle and lives in there. Her younger daughter Berryshine is too young (at age 3) to drink, but we know from plenty of fanon that she becomes one in time — probably because she's seen her mother drink so often.
- The Hero Dies: Falcon Punch, the more conventionally heroic of the two main characters, dies halfway through the tale. Princess Ceymi lives. Though not very happily.
- Heroic Safe Mode: Ceymi's Heroic B.S.O.D. is very brief when she sees Queen Chrysalis kill Thermal Soar; she almost immediately defaults to her normal Infiltrator behavior to avoid letting the Queen realize how truly horrified she is by this event. What Mask does she don? That of Princess Ceymi. In other words, she tricks Chrysalis by pretending to be herself in a more normal mood. Even more awesomely, this deception stands up to Queen Chrysalis's Mind Probe.
- Heroine of Another Story: When Princess Ceymi, as Starry Eyes, is visiting Hoofington near the end of the story, she runs into the (future) Great and Powerful Trixie being taken back home along with her two elder sisters Mixie and Pixie. Trixie will one day become the heroine of An Extended Performance and The Romance Of The Open Road. Right now, though, Trixie is under 1 year old — she's just a small foal.
- I'm An Equinitarian: Queen Chrysalis orders the following disposition of Thermal Soar's corpse.
"That is a bit dried out now, but there is still protein within. Render it for the broth — I do not waste what is of value to the Hive."
- Standard practice in the Hives; their own dead are treated the same way.
- Horrible anyway, because the Changelings are actually one of the lost Kinds of Ponies. This is indicative of how far their curse has degraded them.
- Intrigued By Equinity: Princess Ceymi, who has multiple Pony identities and in some of them has developed complex emotional relationships with other Ponies — as we see with her cat-and-mouse two-decade-long pursuit of Thermal Soar.
- Killed to Uphold the Masquerade: The reason why Chrysalis orders Ceymi to capture Thermal Soar, whom the Queen then chooses to kill and supposedly why Ceymi must kill Falcon Punch (though Ceymi considers both killings logically unnecessary and wasteful).
- Love Epiphany: Tragically, Princess Ceymi does not grasp that she actually loves Thermal Soar until she sees Queen Chrysalis kill him right in front of her.
- Master Actor: Ceymi's greatest talent is her ability to think like her Mask, thus making her disguises far more believable. She's so brilliant at this that she manages to fool Queen Chrysalis while the Queen is mind-probing her!
- Mind Control: Called "The Stare," it is the signature power of Changeling Royalty. Queen Chrysalis has this at very high power.
- Mind Probe: Queen Chrysalis can Stare with such intensity that she can read another Changeling Royal's mind.
- Mistress of Disguise: Ceymi is the greatest Infiltrator of her generation.
- My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Princess Ceymi's repeated explicit thoughts that Changelings are incapable of personal love, which usually follow right after her other actions and thoughts make it obvious that Ceymi herself is quite capable of and familiar with that emotion. Ceymi is wrong, but she must lie to herself because otherwise she would have been unable to emotionally-function as a loyal servant of Hive Chrysalis after Queen Chrysalis kills Thermal Soar.
- Noble Demon: Princess Ceymi. As in the original source from which she is taken, Without A Hive, she is ruthless and amoral by Pony standards, yet she has a definite code of honor and even a strange sympathy toward her Pony prey. She is pragmatic rather than sadistic, does not kill save when she considers it necessary, and is described in-story as the "noblest of Changelings."
- No One Could Survive That!: Subverted. Ceymi thinks this almost word-for-word regarding Falcon Punch after she shoots him in the lungs with a drugged crossbow bolt and lets his dying body fall over a mile through a thunderstorm into a monster-haunted forest. When she locates his crash site, he's dead.
- Nothing Personal: Said word-for-word by Ceymi to Falcon Punch after she has mortally wounded him.
"Sorry," she said in a strange buzzing voice. "Nothing personal. Orders ..."
- Out with a Bang: Sort of — Thermal Soar doesn't actually have any sex with Queen Chrysalis, but when she Stares him and commands "Love me," his physical reaction is a massive orgasm — just before she kills him through emotivory turned Up to Eleven.
- Parental Abandonment: Strawberry doesn't run away, but she does pretty much ignore her own children for a long while after Falcon's death. Cheerilee takes up the slack.
- Pragmatic Villainy: Princess Ceymi won't try to kill a Pony unless she deems it truly necessary, and if she does deem it truly necessary, she will do it efficiently and without giving the Pony a chance to fight back. She's not about gloating, she's about succeeding - which in the Magical Land of Large Ham Villains that is Equestria, makes her a supremely deadly assassin.
- Promotion to Parent: Happens to Cheerilee when Strawberry collapses under the strain of Falcon's death. At 9 she is much too young for this, but she takes it upon herself. And mostly succeeds. Poor little Cheerilee.
- Prospector: Thermal Soar at first seems to fully match the stereotype, but he differs from the normal such character in two crucial ways.
- He is actually a university-trained geologist, who went freelance largely because he's a merry non-conformist.
- He's the Love Interest of Princess Ceymi, who is The Dragon to Queen Chrysalis.
- Ray of Hope Ending: Queen Chrysalis has crushed the only real threat to her domination over her Hive (her daughter Princess Ceymi, who never even knew she was a threat) and is planning to Take Over the World, but she has not found Fluttershy, whom we know will develop into a major heroine rather than the Nightmare that Chrysalis wanted. Falcon isdead and Strawberry is going mad, and the filly Cheerilee must take care of her baby sister Berryshine. But Cheerilee has befriended Big Mac, so she is no longer completely alone. And though Ceymi has been badly-scarred by the murder of Thermal Soar, she has clearly not completely lost the ability to love, as she makes obvious by her sentiments toward her main Mask's family: this will give her the strength to train her future son Nictis well enough that he will be able to survive in Without A Hive. Also, one of the Ponies she encounters in Hoofington is the infant Trixie Lulamoon, who will also become a heroine.
- Recurring Dreams: After the murder of Thermal Soar by Queen Chrysalis, Princess Ceymi suffers recurring dreams of Thermal Soar. Some of them are conventionally horrific, but the ones which bother her the most are the ones in which he simply loves her, from which she wakes up crying because she knows this will never happen again.
- Rescue Romance: Big Mac starts his Toy Ship with Cheerilee when he finds the lost Berryshine in the Everfree, then leads both Cheerilee and Berryshine to safety at Sweet Apple Acres as night is falling.
- Shout-Out: Falcon Punch is a courier.
- Silly Changeling, Love is for Ponies: Princess Ceymi's conclusion is that everything bad in the story happened because she foolishly let herself care too much for a Pony; she never explicitly blames Queen Chrysalis for the multiple tragedies.
- Stallions Are The Expendable Gender: Both of the characters who die in this story are adult males. This is not because of any compunctions on the part of the characters who kill them, mind you — it's just that one was the primary target and the other the escort.
- Succubus in Love: Princess Ceymi, a creature who routinely seduces others to harvest love, feels genuine romantic love for Thermal Soar — and in a nonsexual sense, for the parents of Starry Eyes.
- There Are No Therapists: True for Princess Ceymi, as Changeling culture has no such institution, and what's more, she has been deliberately broken by Queen Chrysalis to make her more compliant to the Queen's will. There are therapists in Equestria, but for Ceymi to got to them would involve exposing her own nature, the existence of her Hive, and indeed the existence of her whole race to those she considers their potentially deadliest enemies.
- Undying Loyalty: Princess Ceymi, to some extent to Queen Chrysalis but even more to her Hive. She knows that the weaker Changelings depend upon her efforts to survive, and she will not fail them. She never seriously considers leaving for good, even though Queen Chrysalis horribly abuses her, nearly driving her mad. There is a reason she is called in-story the "noblest of the Changelings."
- War Is Hell: Even covert wars that only one side knows they are waging.