Fan Fic: Petriculture

The Petriculture Cycle by Kwakerjak is a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfiction series that all starts with Twilight asking the question: "Just what IS 'rock farming', anyway?" Suffice to say, the answer turns out to be far more complicated than she could have imagined...

The series consists of the following five stories: Petriculture, Inscape, Avocation, Pi, and Pandelirium. (Also, as the premise of each successive story is more or less grounded in the surprise ending of the previous story, be extra careful of spoilers below!)

With the ending of Pandelirium, the author has declared the cycle complete.

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  • Absence of Evidence
  • Conveniently Unverifiable Cover Story: The driving plot point of Petriculture.
  • Doing Research: The whole story pretty much consists of this trope.
  • Fantastic Aesop: In certain contexts, friendship can literally be a form of magic.
  • Great Big Library of Everything: Subverted: Twilight assumes that the Royal Library will contain the answers she seeks, and she's completely flabbergasted when this turns out not to be the case.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Pinkie Pie.
  • Smarter Than She Looks: Pinkie Pie's intelligence is only hinted at in this story, but it becomes extremely prominent in Inscape.
  • Trigger Phrase: Combined with My Art, My Memory
  • Tulpa: Pinkie Pie used to be Twilight Sparkle's imaginary friend, Surprise.
    • The ending reveals that Discord was Celestia and Luna's imaginary friend as well.
  • Wham Line: One piece of narration prior to The Reveal turns a seemingly simple one-shot into the start of a bigger story:
    “I guess this goose chase wasn’t all that pointless after all,” Twilight concluded with a smile. Her issues thus resolved, she decided to open the scrapbook her parents had lovingly assembled for her.

    What she saw in there nearly caused her to drop the book on the floor.

  • Anti-Humor: The preferred form of humor among griffons, much to Pinkie Pie's consternation.
    "Why did the griffon cross the road? Because there was an annoying twit trying to have a stupid conversation with her on the sidewalk when she had better things to do."
  • Armor-Piercing Question: "What are you gonna do?"
  • Can't Stay Normal: Pinkie Pie.
  • The Coup: Subverted. Due to The Nightmare's corruption, Twilight wants Celestia's and Luna's thrones for herself. Due to her own bookishness and sense of order, Twilight doesn't try to take the throne by violence—instead she presents logical arguments for why the princesses should cede the throne. This is then double-subverted, when Pinkie uncovers that the Nightmare wants a violent coup—her real goal isn't power, but killing Celestia—and is manipulating Twilight to that end. Nothing comes of this manipulation, however, because Twi learns about it and immediately turns on the Nightmare. In the aftermath, Twilight is mortified at her actions and asks for forgiveness. Luna points out that she doesn't need to be forgiven, because she never broke any laws during her attempted power grab.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Implied to be the inevitable result of attempting to fight a mentally stable pony in their own head. Twilight Sparkle eventually demonstrates this on the Nightmare.
  • Face-Heel Turn: Twilight Sparkle.
  • Group Hug: Pinkie Pie manages to weaponize one when she loudly announces that it's the Nightmare's birthday. All of Twilight's memories of Pinkie come out from hiding to tackle her before hauling her off to a party.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Twilight Sparkle falls into this trap three times in the first chapter.
  • Idiosyncratic Chapter Titles: The chapters are all named after playground and parlor games.
  • Journey to the Center of the Mind: Pinkie enters Twilight's mind to formulate a battle plan against the Nightmare. It's laid out very similar to Canterlot, with various parts of the castle and city dedicated to imagination, dreams, memories, knowledge, etc.
  • Not Brainwashed: Twilight Sparkle.
  • Power Limiter: Pinkie Pie is voluntarily keeping most of her Imaginary Friend power sealed off to avoid hurting others by accident. Unless a Pinkie Promise is involved - in that case, the entire arsenal is at her disposal for the purpose of Keeping the Promise.
  • Punctuated Pounding: Twilight is not happy once she finds out Nightmare's plans. She mentions each of her friends; then, "As she rattled off each name, Twilight repeatedly slammed the Nightmare into the ground, a wall, or any other surface that looked solid enough to cause significant trauma. It was far more satisfying than making a checkmark on a scroll with a quill."
  • Puppet Princesses: Twilight offers to let Celestia and Luna remain on their thrones as figureheads while she pulls the strings.
  • Secret Test of Character: The Nightmare convinces her hosts to administer these as part of her corruption methodology.
  • Simple Country Lawyer: Parodied when Pinkie Pie interrogates the Nightmare in Twilight's mind.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Nightmare Moon is given another chance.
  • Title Drop: Mentioned by Pinkie Pie in the very last chapter.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Pinkie Pie, Twilight Sparkle, and the Nightmare are all capable of this to some degree.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Twilight really does believe that Equestria will be better off with her in charge.
    • The Extremist Was Right: By the end of Twilight's presentation, even Celestia and Luna agree with her points regarding the research itself and give Twilight the go-ahead to access them. The main issue is handing actual rule of Equestria to Twilight, to which Celestia notes Twilight would be ill-suited for because of all the politics involved.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The first half of Twilight's proposal basically amounts to a meticulously-researched one of these directed at the Princesses.

  • Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: Penumbra, without fail, quits or gets herself fired from every job that she can find.
  • An Entrepreneur Is You: Penumbra's final solution to steady employment is to just go into business for herself! As a cloud artisan she gets to both bring back an old tradition and not have ponies question her attitude at work.
  • Berserk Button: Scones are supposed to be PLAIN.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Subverted. Penumbra is unquestionably good at several the jobs she applies to, but ends up losing each one due to her own person being... less than unquestionable.
  • Did We Just Have Tea with Cthulhu?: Considering the plot of the Cycle at large, the story synopsis is essentially: Nightmare Moon goes job-hunting.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Take a guess.
  • I Read That As: Penumbra applies for a job as a barrister which turns out to be a position as a barista for Starbucks.
  • Morton's Fork: Penumbra being a thousand years old, she has no idea how modern workplace relations work. In the various jobs she tries, she is sent mixed signals of the highest degree, in one instance being fired for being too cold and "only doing her job" while in another quitting over sexual harassment.
  • Mundane Utility: Penumbra is a pseudo-alicorn super-pegasus with enhanced everything. What does she consider most useful? Her super preening oil! That she is actually a thousand years old just means she has planty of experience with preening feathers!
  • Noodle Incidents: Because Penumbra withholds details from her letters in an effort to put the most positive spin she can on her actions, many of the events described come off feeling like these.
  • Overcomplicated Menu Order: We have a "venti two-thirds decaf low-fat soy caramel macchiato with whipped cream, mocha sprinkles, and a sprig of hay. And a cranberry orange-peel scone."
  • Scrapbook Story: The story is told through a collection of letters written from Penumbra to Luna (whose responses are not included).
  • True Art: An In-Universe example, and Penumbra's reasons for selecting cloud sculpting and construction as her final job. She just got fed up with the mass-produced versions floating around everywhere.

  • Alternate Universe: While previous stories in the Cycle only explore the aspects and characters that the author introduces, π sets the series firmly in this category by introducing these aspects and characters into the canonical premise of Magic Duel.
  • Berserk Button: Trixie loathes circles.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Penumbra was very rude when she thought Twilight was leaving her friends. But, she wants Twilight to win the duel against Trixie, because she is also her friend.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Trixie, though she is shown to be wearing the Alicorn Amulet. She has leveled significantly for this story in particular.
  • Drama Queen: Rarity.
  • Hoist By Her Own Petard: Subverted when Trixie finds out Twilight's attempt to beat her with smoke and mirrors. YMMV as to whether it makes more sense for Trixie's familiarity with her own trade or her megalomania to win as in the original episode.
  • Karma Houdini: In the end Trixie escapes Ponyville without learning her lesson or being punished for her actions. Nevermind that her actions are perfectly defendable in court...
  • Least Rhymable Word: When asked about the difficulty of always speaking in rhyme, Zecora admits:
    It's somewhat difficult to talk about oranges
    When I can not work in a reference to door hinges.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Discussed and averted. Not only does Penumbra not put any stock in this trope, it turns out that it isn't even applicable. Alicorns aren't actually immortal; they just "don't leave until they're ready to go."
  • "World of Cardboard" Speech: Twilight inverts this to rationalize not using her god-like Alicorn powers to beat Trixie.


  • Absurdly High-Stakes Game: Discord has a chance to win unrestricted freedom, but only if he can make Penumbra laugh.
  • At Least I Know I'm Crazy: Discord considers this a point in his favor when comparing himself to Trixie.
  • Baleful Polymorph: Rarity's parents.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Trixie/Sombra is defeated but it required Discord Taking the Bullet for Celestia. At least it would be, if Discord didn't survive the attack.
  • The Bus Came Back: Trixie... and Sombra.
  • Cannot Tell a Joke: Discord is so accustomed to doing things that he finds amusing that his initial attempts to make someone else laugh end up failing abysmally.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Cadence assumes that Trixie vs. The Princesses and Elements of Harmony is going to be this. She's right... but for the wrong side.
  • Cutting the Knot: Discord tries making Penumbra laugh by simply Discording her... except it does jack all to her.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Trixie (and an Ursa Major) vs. Everypony. The author pointed out in a note that this is supposed to evoke a feeling of "Wait, this isn't reasonably possible..."
  • Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor: Discord, of course. Early on most of his jokes just consist of transforming somepony or something and then making a pun about it, and he gets confused when nopony else laughs.
  • Flowery Elizabethan English: Celestia and Luna, a thousand years ago, but not Discord.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Discord takes the bullet for Celestia. It's not clear as whether or not he knew the consequences when he did it. He survives, anyway.
  • Idiosyncratic Chapter Titles: Every chapter shares its title with a song by the Legendary Shack Shakers, and the whole story is named after one of their albums.
  • Indy Ploy: Celestia gets the sense that the order-obsessed Trixie is just making it up as she goes.
  • Insistent Terminology: "Don't call me 'Penny.'"
  • Irony: Despite abandoning the bet all together (thanks to Scootaloo), the antepenultimate chapter ends with Discord making Penumbra laugh.
    • Which is because of her learning that Discord actually thought she'd spend time with her once he took over the throne. Yes, as it turns out, Penumbra finds Irony funny.
  • It's Been Done: To Discord's dismay, several "ingenious" jokes of his were already done by Trixie and Twilight in "Pi".
  • Literally Shattered Lives: The ponies on the receiving end of Sombra's genocide.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Trixie.
  • Pun: After Slapstick, Discord tries jokes. Unfortunately, they're all crappy puns.
  • Premature Eulogy: Penumbra for Discord.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Or rather in an amulet.
  • Slapstick: Discord "reasons" that there's one thing that Penumbra must find hilarious: watching Discord hurt himself. Cue Banana Peel.
  • Sugar Apocalypse: Sombra's destruction of the Crystal Empire.
  • Taken for Granite: The Cutie Mark Crusaders.
  • Title Drop: Discord intends to name his kingdom "Pandelirium".
    • "And what, pray tell, does it mean?" "Who cares?"
  • Troll: Discord, of course.
  • Unusual Chapter Numbers / Back to Front: There are two storylines, one set at the present time (told in normal sequence) and a series of flashbacks to Discord's first reign of chaos (in reverse chronological order). The chapters are numbered in reverse as well.
  • Unwinnable by Design: The bet. Penumbra has the ability to not laugh if she doesn't want to. The idea was to force Discord to put himself in Penumbra's shoes, and hopefully this empathy would lead him to friendship. But then Scootaloo unwittingly spills the beans...
  • Weapon of Choice: Discord seems to favor eggnog.
  • Wham Line: At the end of chapter 4:
    Trixie: Perfect… silent… unmoving… crystalsssss……
  • Wimp Fight: When Discord and Pinkie finally face off, the first thing they do is engage in a comically ineffective slap-fight while calling each other names. Only after several minutes of that do they start the proper magic duel. Of course, both of them only did it because they thought it would be funny.
  • Your Worst Nightmare: Trixie, with Sombra's power, can do this. The repeated illusions have a draining effect on the Mane Six, but it only takes one to give Celestia a full, sobbing breakdown.
  • X-Ray Sparks: Discord, during his first defeat, when Celestia bucks a cloud at him.