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Adaptational Badass: Zecora, while filling The Mentor role similar to the canon, proves to be also really talented in actual ass-kicking when she saves Rainbow Dash from the Shadowbolts and faces Nightmare Moon one-on-one.
Adaptational Villainy: Nightmare Moon proves to be MUCH more of a threat in this story than in canon. By the end of her first appearance, she has already brainwashed Shining Armor and Ditzy Doo along with two other guards to be her minions, assaulted Rainbow Dash, and forced her to beg that she free Ditzy Doo and Shining Armor, only to laugh at her ruined pride. Later she battles the Mane Six, and nearly kills Rainbow Dash again. When Rainbow Dash survives, Nightmare Moon offers her a greater temptation than in canon. When Rainbow Dash refuses, Nightmare Moon forces her into a Sadistic Choice: she drops all of the Mane Cast to their deaths, so she can force Rainbow Dash to choose which ones to save.
Ain't Too Proud to Beg: While Rainbow Dash shows her Defiant to the End personality several times when she's personally threatened, she does humble herself when Nightmare Moon demands she beg for her friends' lives.
Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Celestia becomes one with the sun to prevent Nightmare Moon from severing her connection to it, and thus making the sun irretrievable. She loses her distinct identity in the process, and does not expect be able to come back. Fortunately, she's wrong about the last part. This explains the whole "where-is-Celestia-during-all-this" question that many fans have about the canon.
Ascended Extra: Ditzy Doo/Derpy Hooves plays a major role in the story. Zecora, while not an extra in the show, plays a much expanded role in this fic.
Beam-O-War: Twilight and Blackened Armor's magic duel climaxes with this, with Blackened Armor firing destructive energy and Twilight firing redeeming magic.
Because You Were Nice to Me: Fluttershy proves herself worthy of bearing the Element of Kindness by treating the gargoyles, who had sworn loyalty to Nightmare Moon a thousand years ago, with compassion rather than reviling them. So touched were they that they swore loyalty to her, rather than serve Nightmare Moon. This comes into play during the Final Battle, as they show up to help the Mane Six (and Zecora and Ditzy) against Nightmare Moon's Shadowbolt army.
Similarly, Rarity proved herself worthy of being the Element of Generosity when she gave the necklace she inherited from her grandmother to the Diamond Dogs as payment to let them pass. The Dogs are so stunned by such selflessness that they also show up during the Final Battle to help fight Nightmare Moon to repay the kindness.
Berserk Button: Twilight snaps when Blackened Armor breaks Rainbow's heart, and callously mocks her about it. So furious is Twilight that she frees herself and her companions from their magical prisons and fights and defeats Blackened Armor in a magical duel.
Beware the Nice Ones: When Fluttershy thinks Nightmare Moon killed Rainbow Dash, she flies into a rage and manages to strike the dark pony!
Brainwashed and Crazy: Shining Armor, Ditzy/Derpy, and the two pegasus guards are all corrupted to serve Nightmare Moon.
Break the Cutie: Twilight Sparkle after her disastrous entrance exam, to the point that she feels that her cutie mark represents her potential to harm other ponies, rather than her talent with magic. Rainbow and Applejack soon set her straight. Rainbow is broken more than once. First, after Nightmare Moon forces Rainbow Dash, reeling from the loss of Celestia, to publicly plead with her to not brainwash Shining Armor, Ditzy Doo, and two Pegasus royal guards, only to do so anyway and reveal that she only wanted to humiliate the proud Pegasus before Ponyville. The second break occurs when the corrupted Shining Armor reveals that he knew all about Rainbow Dash's crush on him, and that there was never any chance of him reciprocating his feelings, as she was little more than a child to him and because he was already spoken for.
Cool Big Sis: Ditzy Doo's relationship with Rainbow Dash, for the most part. In return, Dash acts like one toward Dinky.
Composite Character: Twilight's PTSD caused by the altered outcome of her entrance exam gave her some of Fluttershy's shyness.
Curb-Stomp Battle: Twilight's duel with Blackened Armor ends up being rather one-sided, in her favor.
Darker and Edgier: While this fic doesn't swerve into a DarkAlternate Universe fic, the general situation and trials of the Elements are much more serious. Ditzy Doo and Shining Armor are brainwashed into serving as Nightmare Moon's minions before their horrified loved ones, and Nightmare Moon is very explicit in her attempts to kill the Mane Cast. The trial of laughter involves the Mane Cast and Zecora falling victim to the Swamp of Despair, in which they are forced to relive their most painful memories, paralyzing them with sadness while they sink into the swamp. Only Pinkie Pie's reminder that sadness doesn't last forever and to find laughter in any situation saves them. In Rarity's trial, she gives up a precious gift from her grandmother to appease the Diamond Dogs. Applejack honestly admits fault after accidentally disrupting a school of seaponies' spawning journey, knowing that they were contemplating killing the transgressor. Fluttershy interrupts a pitched battle between the other ponies (and Zecora) and gargoyles to extend kindness to said gargoyles. Twilight Sparkle duels a corrupted Shining Armor. Rainbow Dash very nearly sacrifices her life to save the other ponies, and resists a temptation much more seductive then the one seen in the show.
Demoted to Extra: Spike only gets a brief mention as the dragon Twilight had to hatch for her entrance exam.
The Dragon: Blackened Armor (the brainwashed Shining Armor).
Easily Forgiven: Played straight with Celestia and most of Ponyville forgiving Princess Luna for her actions as Nightmare Moon. Averted with Rainbow Dash, who finds it difficult to overlook that just a few hours ago she tried to take away her mentor, tried to conquer Equestria, brainwashed her friends, tried kill her new friends, and tried to kill her. An encounter and a bonding moment with Luna during the celebratory party that followed Equestria's salvation leads to Rainbow letting go of her anger and forgiving her partially, but withholds complete forgiveness until Luna fully proves her redemption.
Fighting from the Inside: Ditzy manages to shake off Nightmare Moon's corrupting influence when presented with an image of her daughter, Dinky.
The Final Temptation: Like in the show, Nightmare Moon tempts Rainbow Dash. It is much darker, however, in this story. Rather than offer her the captaincy of the Shadowbolts, Nightmare Moon commiserates with her, pointing out that she too knows how it feels to have one's self and achievements overlooked in favor of another. She tries to plant seeds of doubt in Rainbow's mind about whether Celestia truly cared for her or even understood her, or whether she was just using Rainbow as a weapon. Nightmare Moon then offers all of Rainbow's goals and fondest desires to her, namely a spot on the Wonderbolts and Shining Armor's love. And not just that, but she offers to fulfill all of her friends' wishes as well if Rainbow would proclaim loyalty to her. Finally, she points out that with Celestia gone, she was the only one capable of controlling the sun and the moon, and was thus indispensable to Equestria. Despite heavy temptation and inner turmoil, Rainbow resists with a simple realization: Celestia loved her, and all Nightmare Moon cared about was her own self-gratification.
For Want of a Nail: While the whole story is this to a degree, it is most noticeable with Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash
In the show, Twilight Sparkle's disastrous entrance exam for Princess Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns is salvaged by the arrival of Princess Celestia herself. She restrains Twilight's rampant magic, and praises her for her raw abilities, offering to become her personal teacher. Twilight thus views the entrance exam fiasco positively in the canon, and in her dedication to living up to Princess Celestia's expectations (and due to her inherent introverted nature) eschews friends as something she doesn't have time for. But in Rainbooms and Royalty, Celestia is not in Canterlot, and the exam is much more traumatic. Without Celestia showing up to restrain her magic, Twilight's magic rages unchecked until she exhausts it all. While the damage is undone, the examiners only offer her entrance into the school because they feel she would be a danger to society if she was not rigorously instructed. This trauma ends up making Twilight as reclusive and introverted as she was at the beginning of the show, but rather than doing so out of a sense of aloofness and determination to prove herself worthy of Celestia's patronage, Twilight does so out of fear of harming others. While her characterization remains remarkably faithful to the show, there is this subtle difference.
Rainbow Dash, ironically, is not as altered as Twilight Sparkle by the change of events, but her Inferiority Superiority Complex is magnified by being Celestia's student. Not very studious, not from a prestigious family, and certainly not given to following the etiquette of high society, she constantly struggles to prove to Equestria and herself that she is worthy of being Celestia's student. She's also upset by the fact that her own achievements are marginalized by being recognized as "Celestia's student", rather than for her own accomplishments. Coupled with her inability to repeat the Sonic Rainboom despite Celestia's promise to help her in doing so, as well as her competitive nature, Dash often feels like she's incapable of winning, and she hates to lose. In fact what brings her to Ponyville is her running away from Canterlot when a dinner goes bad for Rainbow Dash, due to some cruel mares, and an argument with Celestia makes her feel like she can't get out of her shadow. Another difference is that when Rainbow and the Mane Cast (plus Zecora) head out to confront Nightmare Moon, Rainbow Dash is reluctant, like mainstream Twilight, to bring them with her. But whereas Twilight was reluctant because she had yet to realize the value of having friends, Rainbow is reluctant out of a desire to keep her new friends safe and a distorted sense of taking Nightmare Moon down being her personal responsibility.
Another important change is that Shining Armor is introduced much earlier in this universe than in the canon universe, as Rainbow Dash meets Shining in Canterlot as a filly, subsequently developing a crush on him. When Rainbow Dash runs off to Ponyville, Shining is dispatched to follow her, and thus he is made known to the rest of the characters.
Spike is not entrusted to Twilight's care, as she does not become Celestia's student, and is thus seen as a potential danger rather than a prodigy.
Zecora befriends the Mane Six much sooner than in canon.
Full Name Ultimatum: Ditzy calls Rainbow Dash by her full name (Rainbow Miriam Dash) whenever she's angry at her and wants her attention. Dash finds this annoying.
Gondor Calls for Aid: The Diamond Dogs, Seaponies and Gargoyles that the Mane 6 had befriended along the way show up to save the Mane 6 from an army of Shadowbolts, allowing the ponies to go after Nightmare Moon.
Heroic Sacrifice: Rainbow Dash very nearly performs this when she takes a magic blast from Nightmare Moon meant for the rest of the Mane Cast.
Hidden Depths: During their first meeting, Rainbow comes to realize that Rarity is not a fashion-obsessed social climber like many Canterlot ponies when she notices the amount of affection Rarity holds towards her sister Sweetie Belle.
Hopeless Suitor: Rainbow Dash has a crush on Shining Armor, but he sees her as a second little sister.
"I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Rainbow tries appeal to Ditzy Doo's and Shining Armor's true selves after they are corrupted by Nightmare Moon. It fails to work on Shining Armor, and it fails to work the first time on Ditzy. Rainbow only manages to get through to Ditzy when Zecora conjures an image of her daughter, Dinky, before her.
I Let You Win: During his duel with Twilight Sparkle, Blackened Armor, the corrupted Shining Armor, taunts her with the fact that he always won their childhood magic competitions. Twilight informs him that he had always won, and she was holding back even then.
Inferiority Superiority Complex: While Rainbow Dash is openly brash and boastful, her inability to perform the sonic rainboom and the pressures of living up to being Celestia's student makes her very insecure. Celestia's choice not to confide in Rainbow about Nightmare Moon's return strikes her to core, causing her to wonder (partly, at least) if she did something to make Celestia doubt her, vastly undermining her sense of self-worth and damaging their relationship.
Mind Rape: Not nearly as damaging and traumatic as in other fanfics, but Rainbow Dash experiences this when Nightmare Moon invades her mind to discover Celestia's whereabouts.
Mythology Gag: The bullies Rainbow Dash deals with in Canterlot are based on the G1 Princess Ponies.
And, of course, the Mane Cast and Zecora meet seaponies, a race present in G1 but not the current generation, G4.
The Needs of the Many: Celestia's rationalization for exiling Nightmare Moon to the moon, and, a thousand years later, sending Rainbow and her new friends to face the dark alicorn (Of course, there were more ulterior motives at work: Celestia couldn't bring herself to fight her sister, and risked Rainbow and the others in the hope that they would redeem her.). The redeemed Luna, when speaking with Rainbow, points out that Celestia, as princess, has to put Equestria before herself and even her loved ones, and that at times the few must be sacrificed for the benefit of the many, even if the few are her loved ones. Rainbow points out that during her adventure, she was able to save the day without sacrificing anypony. She concedes that at times making tough decisions according to this philosophy is necessary, but the philosophy risks becoming a end rather than a means to an end, that the more "few" you sacrifice, the less "many" you have left over (Rainbow, of course, states this less prosaically, and puts it more simply and bluntly, as suits her characterization).
Not So Different: Celestia, after an emotional argument with Rainbow Dash, upon which she learns that Rainbow chafes about being overshadowed by her, soberly reflects that Rainbow's hurt reminds her of another pony, long, long ago...
The Obi-Wan: Zecora, who guides the Mane Cast in retrieving the Elements and fighting Nightmare Moon.
Parental Substitute: Celestia and Ditzy are both motherly figures to Rainbow Dash. Celestia in particular is more of an adoptive mother to Dash than a mentor.
The Prankster: Rainbow Dash, Princess Celestia, Princess Luna. Pinkie as well, though we don't get to see it in this fic.
Precocious Crush: Rainbow Dash, being Celestia's personal student, meets, as a filly, Shining Armor when he starts his job as a royal guard, and begins to crush on him. Heavily.
Sadistic Choice: Nightmare Moon hurls Twilight, Fluttershy (whose wings are restrained), Pinkie Pie, Rarity, and Applejack to their deaths, challenging Rainbow to choose which ones to save, as even she is not fast enough to save all of them. Rainbow finally manages to achieve a sonic rainboom again and does in fact save all of them.
Ship Tease: Forced to recognize that her crush on Shining Armor will remain unrequited, Rainbow Dash can't help but notice how attractive Big Macintosh is. Applejack is quick to notice and tease her about it.
When Rainbow Dash manages to perform a Sonic Rainboom to save all of her friends from falling from their deaths, also awakening the Elements of Harmony, Zecora tells her to use them to light their darkest hour.
Take a Third Option: Rather than choosing which of her friends to save, Rainbow pulls off a sonic rainboom and saves all of them.
Taking the Bullet: Rainbow Dash knocks the rest of the Mane Cast out of the way of one of Nightmare Moon's magic blasts, taking it herself. She would have died, had Ditzy not caught her.
Tickle Torture: Rainbow Dash, after growing close to Princess Celestia, feels no compunctions in refraining from pranking her. Unfortunately, Rainbow Dash is extremely ticklish, leaving her helpless before Celestia's retaliatory tickles.
Undying Loyalty: Rainbow Dash shows precisely why she's the Element of Loyalty when she gives up her pride and begs Nightmare Moon to spare her friends, and later when she admits just how far she'd go for Celestia.
Rainbow Dash: Y-you know I would’ve said yes…you had to! I would’ve done anything for you… A-anything…
What the Hell, Hero?: Rainbow Dash is enraged when she discovers how Celestia manipulated her and her friends behind the scenes since their foalhood in her plan to redeem her sister. Interestingly, she's not upset about being used, she's upset that Celestia did not trust her enough to be forthright about her intentions, because she would have gladly aided Celestia. She's also incensed that Celestia was willing to risk her and her friends to redeem Luna, rather than confronting Luna herself, and, if necessary, fighting her. She says that she still loves Celestia, but she cannot forgive her yet. Fortunately, after both the princess and Rainbow have a chance to talk with other ponies, they reconcile quickly.
Bittersweet Ending: Trixie admits to being a Jerkass and apologizes to everyone, thus saving her and Rainbow Dash's friendship. However, she can't bring herself to stay in town, saying that she needs to leave and make her own friends, rather than leech off of Rainbow Dash's life anymore.
Chick Magnet: Big Macintosh is starting to come off as this — in addition to Rainbow Dash finding him attractive, Trixie does as well.
Composite Character: Trixie combines her personality from "Boast Busters" with Gilda's role in "Griffon the Brush-Off" as Rainbow Dash's abrasive friend.
Cruel to Be Kind: Trixie's advice to Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle about getting their Cutie Marks comes off as this.
Depraved Bisexual: Non-villainous, played for laughs version with Cloud Kicker, who provides a constant stream of flirtations and sexual innuendos and is openly admitted to sleep around constantly with mares and stallions alike. At one point, she even gets kicked out of Kitchen Patrol punishment detail because she keeps doing something obscene with the cucumbersnote implied to be carving the cucumbers into the semblance of stallion phalluses, with or without then using them as sex-toys afterwards.
That said, she seems to have more interest in mares than stallions; most of her "on-screen" flirtations are with other mares, and her flashbacks towards the end chapters of "May The Best Friends Win" tend to mention attractive mares she met around those times, with no references to stallions. In "Rainbow Triumphant", it turns out she's a Lady Killer In Love with Rainbow Dash, though forced to admit that theirs is a case of Incompatible Orientation; whether Cloud Kicker is bisexual or homosexual, Rainbow Dash is very much heterosexual and thusly completely oblivious to Cloud Kicker's feelings for her.
Don't You Dare Pity Me!: When Trixie gets upset over Rainbow Dash seemingly (from her point of view) leaving her behind for her other friends, and Twilight feels sorry for her, this is her reaction.
Engineered Public Confession: Twilight casts a spell that swaps one of her eyes with Rainbow Dash's, allowing her to see Twilight confront Trixie and Trixie admitting to everything she's done.
Female Gaze: When Rainbow Dash and Trixie come across Big Macintosh applebucking, they can't help but admire his…"work ethic". They don't even notice Applejack walking up to them until she starts talking.
For Want of a Nail: Rainbow is friends with Trixie because she lived in Canterlot as Princess Celestia's personal student, and saw a performance by Trixie with her friend Cloud Kicker. What started off as heckling escalates into Rainbow and Trixie trying to upstage each other, only to realize that by doing so, they were making the show more entertaining. Due to this, Rainbow and Trixie end up as friends, though Trixie's definition of "friend" is rather warped. And, as mentioned above, Trixie combines her canon personality with Gilda's role in "Griffon the Brush Off". However, unlike "Griffon the Brush Off", Rainbow offers her now ex-friend a Last-Second Chance. Why did Rainbow do this for Trixie and not for Gilda? In this universe, Twilight was able to intervene and convinced Rainbow to give Trixie a second chance, pointing out that, although not being a Jerkass like Trixie, she does understand what it is like to have no friends.
To be fair, Rainbow Dash does work hard. While an innately talented flyer, she worked hard to get as good as she is. Raindrops' problem with Dash is that her superior flying skills mean that she does not have to invest as much time and energy into her job, consequently causing her to treat the job frivolously (in Raindrops' opinion). Rainbow, on the other hand, sees Raindrops as being too obsessive about the job, considering that despite her laziness she never fails to get her tasks done efficiently.
Heel Realization: When Rainbow Dash calls out Trixie on her behavior, it forces her to face just how vile she's truly acted.
In Vino Veritas: As shown in Cloud Kicker's flashbacks, Trixie really opens up when drunk.
Last-Second Chance: Rainbow Dash tells Trixie she can either leave town, thus ending their friendship, or stay and try to make amends for her actions, giving them a chance to rebuild. She chooses the latter.
One Degree of Separation: Like the Mane Six, the event that gave Trixie her cutie mark was triggered by the Sonic Rainboom.
Poisonous Friend: Trixie to Rainbow Dash, due to her skewed worldview. As far as she's concerned, a friend is only good so far as helping you advance your own goals. So while she considers herself a friend to Dash because she wants the two of them to get to the top together, this drives her to try to split Dash away from the rest of her friends who are "holding her back".
Shout-Out: Of Rainbow's fellow weather mares, Cloud Kicker and Blossomforth are pretty much imported from their depictions in the Winningverse, while Raindrops matches her depiction from the Lunaverse.
Speaking of the Lunaverse, Trixie being from Neigh Orleans (and slipping back into the accent when drunk) is also incorporated from her portrayal there.
Cloudkicker's and Rainbow Dash's heckling routine is pure Statler and Waldorf, with several lines copied verbatim.
Dinky mentions that she got to name the protagonist of a comic about an "astronaut pony", and calls her Puppysmiles.
Slice of Life: This story deals with more "normal", everyday problems than Rainbooms and Royalty and Hot Heads, Cold Hearts and Nerves of Steel.
Achilles' Heel: The snow leopards' regenerative ability is located in their heads. By separating the heads from the bodies and keeping them separated, the heroes are able to beat them.
Adorkable: Rainbow Dash uses this specific term to describe the sight of Twilight sleeping cuddled up with a book, with another one tented on her stomach.
Adult Fear: Every foal in Ponyville goes missing in one night.
Aerith and Bob: When Pinkie mentions that her middle name is Diane, Twilight comments that that's not even a word.
Allohistorical Allusion: Cadance comments on how it's a shame that none of the Elements are tiaras (the Element of Magic is another necklace in this reality).
Shining Armor says they can't take the train all the way to the Crystal Empire because there's no train station in the middle of the frozen north. This lampshades how in canon, there really was a train station in the middle of nowhere for no apparent reason other than to make it easy for the Mane Six to get there.
A God Am I: Sombra's Start of Darkness was marked by a transition from a mere thirst for power to a god complex. And now he intends to use the life force of the kidnapped foals to transform himself into an alicorn.
All Love Is Unrequited: Despite having supposedly come to terms with Shining not returning her feelings, Rainbow Dash is still heartbroken when she finds out he's planning to propose to Cadance.
Ambiguously Evil: Zecora comes off this way at the end when she runs off with the Alicorn Amulet.
Amplifier Artifact: Turns out, the entire Crystal Empire was designed to be one for Sombra.
And Now You Must Marry Me: While Sombra lacked anywhere near enough power to force Celestia to marry him, he courted her (after his first wife died in an "accident") with the hope of becoming ruler of Equestria as her consort. Celestia saw right through Sombra and spurned him, which caused Sombra to switch to Luna, seducing her while also playing off her doubts and jealousy to try and turn her on Celestia. Eventually, Celestia realized this, leading to a duel wherein Sombra revealed his true nature, ending with Luna helping Celestia defeat and seal him.
Battle Cry: When the group is going to enter Sombra's palace, Applejack asks if anyone has anything to say for inspiration.
Zecora: There is a seapony battle cry of which I am aware. Cry halibut and let slip the cods of war!
beat of silence as everyone else stares
Zecora: …I said it was a battle cry. I never said it was good, by the by.
Belligerent Sexual Tension: Well, sexual might not be the right word given their ages, but Dinky and Zecora both deduce from the fact that Pip and Alula argue like an old married couple all the time that they like each other.
Berserk Button: Pinkie invokes this with Fluttershy during the fight in Sombra's castle, telling her to pretend the bushwoolies hurt a bunch of bunnies. It works.
Big Sister Instinct: Alula, being the oldest of the foals and raised as part of the militaristic Kicker clan, considers herself responsible for protecting Pipsqueak and Dinky.
Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: When Rainbow Dash is explaining what happened when she, Shining, and Cadance were separated from the group underground:
"We just talked about what was bothering us, we sorted it out, Shiny proposed to Cadance and then we banished an ancient evil that encouraged and fed on our anger and strife."
Breaking the Fellowship: Not broken, thankfully (at least not yet), but after seeing Shining Armor ignore her injury in favor of looking after the unharmed Cadance and, worse, trying to convince the group to avoid traveling (and putting off saving the foals) until Cadance's minor injuries heal, Dash begins to suspect that Shining is willing to put Cadance ahead of everypony. This coupled with Rainbow's bruised ego over everypony apparently treating her as a foal, her It's All My Fault syndrome after Dinky's kidnapping, and the tension between the rest of the group due to Cabin Fever, harmony is in increasingly short supply.
Reaches a head when they're hiking through a blizzard, as all their issues come to a head. Fortunately (sort of), things are defused when they trigger one of Sombra's border booby traps and have to focus on not getting killed. Then the ground under Shining, Cadance, and Rainbow collapses, sending them underground and separating them from the others.
It's implied and suspected by Fluttershy that some outside force may be ramping up tensions between members of the group when she hears several of her friends voice uncharacteristically unpleasant thoughts.
As it turns out, Fluttershy was right — Sombra was using some Windigos to affect the group. Fortunately, Rainbow Dash getting hurt by Sombra's booby trap causes her, Shining and Cadance to resolve their problems, which banishes the Windigos.
Cabin Fever: This begins to set in during the train ride, so Pinkie starts a "sleepover" with pillow fights and truth or dare.
Can't Kill You, Still Need You: Even though it's agreed by majority vote that they should return the stolen life force to the foals, even though this will kill the defeated Sombra, the heroes find that they can't do so without repairing the crystal array he used to leech the life force to begin with. The only one who knows how to do this is Sombra himself. See Heroic Sacrifice.
Chick Magnet: Shining Armor. Dash is still crushing on him, and the rest of the Mane Six (save Twilight) find him very attractive, with Pinkie being the most blatant about it.
Children Are Innocent: Dinky, Pip, and Alula discuss several things they've heard Cloud Kicker say, and completely misunderstand what they mean (thankfully).
Composite Character: It seems Sombra is incorporating elements from both his canon self and G1 villain Grogar.
Fastball Special: During the fight in Sombra's palace, a bushwoolie compacts a snow leopard and throws it at Rainbow Dash. She returns the favor by throwing the leopard back into a group of bushwoolies.
Later in the same fight, Pinkie gets Fluttershy to do this with her.
Female Gaze: Zecora has no problem letting Shining Armor take the lead — she appreciates the view.
Fire-Forged Friends: Rainbow Dash and Cloud Kicker first really became friends when defending Fluttershy from bullies at flight camp.
Forbidden Chekhov's Gun: Shining Armor warns everyone that the fuel crystals for their train explode if overpowered. The group later uses a bunch of them to blast an entrance into Sombra's palace.
Foreshadowing: Zecora gives Cadance and Shining Armor a bit of prophecy that seems to promise a future appearance by Discord in this series.
"When Night has been overthrown and Fear is passed, you shall know Chaos at last."
Freak Out: Shining Armor has a humorous one when he isn't able to open the safe containing the Elements of Harmony.
He has a much more serious one when he thinks Rainbow Dash isn't taking the search seriously, and later when he thinks she's trying to get rid of Cadance.
Genius Ditz: For all her randomness, Pinkie proves that growing up on a rock farm leads to vast knowledge of crystalline formations in rock and how to break them.
Green-Eyed Monster: Subverted. Rainbow Dash is upset about Shining Armor's relationship with Cadance, but isn't actively jealous. Heck, she actually likes Cadance, and can't bring herself to be mad at her.
Though she does seem to be a bit jealous of Cadance's close relationship with Twilight.
After they beat the Snow Leopards, Shining Armor says something that implies that he believes this about Rainbow Dash.
Sombra encouraged this attitude in Luna in order to try and turn her on Celestia. Even after his defeat, it stuck, leading to her fall.
Groin Attack: Celestia pulls this off during her flashback fight with Sombra. Rainbow Dash is impressed... and apparently she was taking notes, because she does the same during her own fight with him.
Heroic BSOD: Ditzy slips into one when she realizes Dinky's gone. Rainbow Dash is bordering on one as well.
Rarity and Applejack are hit pretty bad as well, but they and Dash pull themselves together when Celestia tasks them with finding the foals.
Heroic Sacrifice: Performed by Sombra of all ponies. After the Elements of Harmony depower him and restore him to his pre-Alicorn Amulet personality (selfish Jerkass, but not evil), Rainbow Dash convinces him to restore the stolen life force to the foals, leaving himself in stasis until such time as Celestia figures out how to save him.
He Who Fights Monsters: Rainbow Dash nearly becomes this when she uses the Alicorn Amulet against Sombra. Fortunately, Dinky talks her down.
Hoist by His Own Petard: Sombra gets hit with this during the climax: The Alicorn Amulet, which he made to increase his powers, interferes with his ritual transformation into an actual alicorn, keeping him from attaining godhood. And when he ditches it to try the ritual again, Rainbow Dash grabs it and starts kicking his flank.
Hollywood History: Celestia reveals that the Hearth's Warming Eve tale is this. The actual unification of the three pony tribes in Equestria, and its consolidation under a strong central government, took years.
Humiliation Conga: Rainbow Dash experiences this during the slumber party. First, embarrassing stories about her childhood are told; then, in rare fit of assertiveness, Fluttershy dares her to kiss Cloud Kicker when they return; and finally, after accidentally outing Twilight as a childhood bedwetter, she performs an embarrassing childhood dance. Since this all takes place in front of Shining Armor, her crush, it stops being funny when Cadance notices how hurt Dash looks, but she is interrupted before she can investigate.
It's All My Fault: Rainbow Dash's reaction to Dinky being taken. Applejack and Rarity feel likewise for losing their sisters.
Innocently Insensitive: Shining Armor expresses his intention to marry Cadance to Rainbow Dash. While he saw this as a sign of trust and faith in Rainbow, she was just starting to get over her crush on him. To say that it hurts her is an understatement.
Cadance, meanwhile, thanks Rainbow Dash for inadvertently helping her and Shining become so close when they were younger. As you can imagine, Rainbow is conflicted over that.
Let's Split Up, Gang: When the heroes get into Sombra's castle, the Mane Six go after Sombra himself with the Elements of Harmony, while Shining Armor, Cadance, and Zecora go in search of the Crystal Heart, which will purify his presence from the Crystal Empire and keep him from reforming after his defeat.
Manipulative Bastard: Sombra. Sombra, seeking to become ruler of Equestria, feeds Luna's jealousy and insecurities in order to seduce her. With horror, Rainbow Dash, who is witnessing this memory, realizes she is witnessing the birth, or at least nurturance, of Nightmare Moon.
Mama Bear: Both Ditzy and Cloud Kicker insistently try to join the expedition to the Crystal Empire to rescue the foals (the latter even breaks out her old Guard armor and wing blades), but Rainbow Dash convinces them to stay.
Applejack and Rarity make it clear what they'll do to the ones who took their sisters away. Likewise, Rainbow Dash is going to hurt whoever took Dinky.
Never Live It Down: In-Universe, Cadance never lets Shining Armor forget the night he accidentally walked into the mares' bathroom at the castle and was caught by Luna.
Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: A side effect of Sombra draining the foals' lifeforce is them aging up into adults, basically creating an army capable of fighting off his minions, already inside his castle.
Overnight Age-Up: All of the abducted foals get a dose of this as a side-effect of Sombra's ritual. It gets reversed when Sombra is convinced to return the stolen life force.
Parental Substitute: Dash's position as Dinky's godmother has tones of being like a second mother by this point.
The Peeping Tom: Pinkie tries to peek on Shining Armor when he's in the train shower. Rainbow Dash would have tried too if Pinkie hadn't ruined her alibi.
Plot Armor: After escaping and surviving various monsters, death traps, malevolent spirits and and a spell designed to drain power and facing the unicorn who cast it in alicorn form Shining Armor points out how lucky nopony was killed.
Potty Emergency: Rainbow Dash has never wet herself, but having a small bladder meant that she feels the call to nature more frequently, going as far to "go" in a potted plant during a state function.
Dinky while in the caves. Alula tells her to go behind a rock, which she does despite finding it gross.
Rewrite: Part way through the story, the author became dissatisfied with the Stalliongrad subplot, so wrote it out.
Rotating Arcs: The story spends a bit of time alternating between the Mane Six (and Shining Armor and Cadance) on their way to the Crystal Empire, and the trio of Pipsqueak, Alula, and Dinky (later joined by Zecora) in the caverns underneath Equestria, before they eventually meet up.
Royal Blood: The Crystal Empire is surrounded by a magic barrier that can only be bypassed by Sombra himself or one of his bloodline.
Sealed Evil in a Can: Sombra, of course, though he's out by the time the story starts. And back in at the end, though he's arguably not evil anymore by then.
When the Elements of Harmony and the Crystal Heart are used to destroy Sombra, the Windigos end up sealed in a crystal cage.
Seinfeldian Conversation: Pip tricks the two bushwoolie Mooks into having one (whether stew or quiche is better) in order to distract them long enough for the foals to escape.
In despair, Rainbow paraphrases, like a lot of things Bart Simpson's "I'm dumb as a post" speech.
And yet another from Pinkie, who thinks that pajama games are fun: "Does anypony have 7 1/2 cents?"
Earlier in that chapter, she does the "That's good/That's bad" bit from one of The Simpsons' Treehouse Of Horror episodes.
As part of an effort to obscure their movements so that Sombra doesn't know exactly where the Elements of Harmony are, the Guard use the names of other ponies when referring to them in correspondence. These code names happen to be the bearers of the corresponding Element in RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse.
The exchange between the bushwoolies while the foals escape is a shout out to The Lion King.
One of the bushwoolies references the second Ice Age film in chapter 11:
"Hey, we are not fat! It’s this fur, it makes us look...poofy."
During a battle with the bushwoolies, their reaction to getting lectured by Twilight is a cross between the Diamond Dogs facing Rarity's whini-complaining in "A Dog and Pony Show" and the Rat Creatures listening to Fone Bone read Moby-Dick.
Singing in the Shower: Shining Armor does this at one point on the train ride to the Crystal Empire. So bad is he that Rainbow, under the assumption that he is being attacked and horrifically injured, bursts in to rescue him.
Those Two Bad Guys: The bushwoolie pair the foals encounter first in the tunnels, then in the palace.
Took a Level in Jerkass: Shining Armor. Justified in that he's entrusted with a mission that involves leading the love of his life, Princess Cadance, into certain danger, but its no excuse for him exploding at Rainbow when she seems to not be taking the mission seriously. Or when he completely ignores Rainbow's injury to fuss over the completely unharmed Cadance (who herself is getting fed up with his overprotectiveness), or when he criticizes Rainbow for convincing Cadance and the rest of the group to travel to rescue the foals before Cadance can "heal".
Jerkass Realization: When Rainbow Dash is injured by Sombra's booby trap, he realizes how he's been acting and is ashamed of himself.
Token Trio: Dinky (unicorn), Pip (earth pony) and Alula (pegasus).
Trash Talk: Celestia, surprisingly, during the flashback to her duel with Sombra. Rainbow Dash is impressed.
We Need a Distraction: During the fight in Sombra's palace, Twilight asks Pinkie to distract his Mooks so that she and the others can figure out how to break down the barrier between them and Sombra's chamber. Pinkie accomplishes this by saying what a distraction she is and then leading the chasing Mooks all over the chamber. Then she "delegates" to Applejack by sticking her in a Pinkie Pie suit and having the Mooks chase her. (And no, AJ doesn't know how it happened either.)
What You Are in the Dark: When the group is attacked by one of Sombra's traps and Cadance is cornered, Rainbow Dash seriously considers letting her get killed by it... and is so horrified by the thought that she immediately dives in and saves her (at the cost of being injured herself).
World-Healing Wave: When the Elements of Harmony and the Crystal Heart are used together, Sombra is depowered, his taint is removed from the Crystal Empire, and his Windigos are sealed away.
Would Hurt a Child: Sombra kidnaps the foals of Ponyville and several other towns so he can feed off their life forces to become stronger.
The bushwoolies have no problem attacking and trying to eat the foals.
You Are in Command Now: Rainbow Dash tells Cloud Kicker she's leaving her in charge of Ponyville while she's gone... and then reluctantly admits that she doesn't really have any real authority.
It later turns out that the Mayor heard about this, though, so when Guard forces arrived to protect the town in case of another attack, Cloud Kicker ended up getting put in charge.
You Are Too Late: After Sombra uses his memories to explain his plan to Rainbow Dash, he reveals that he's already started the spell to drain the life force from the kidnapped foals.
Boring Invincible Hero: One of the themes addressed in the story. What's the point of a competition when everybody knows Rainbow Dash is going to win?
The Cameo: Lightning Dust and Gilda show up in a gym training for the competition, with Iron Will as their trainer.
Celestia shows up at the end of the story to comfort Rainbow Dash on deciding to Opt Out of the competition.
Can't Act Perverted Toward a Love Interest: Cloud Kicker teasingly suggests joining Rainbow in her bed at one point. Rainbow jokingly accepts, but does so in a deadpan and faux sincere manner in order to trick Kicker into thinking that Dash genuinely was taking her up on her offer. This causes Cloud Kicker to blush and stutter like a school filly.
Cassandra Truth: Rainbow Dash's foalhood bullies refuse to believe that "Rainbow Crash" ever really pulled off a Sonic Rainboom. She proves them wrong in the end.
Embarrassing Old Photo: Rainbow Dash's dad Cyclone shares a photo album of Dash's foalhood photos with her friends.
Foregone Victory: Rainbow Dash's skills are such that no other contestant has a chance at winning. And they realize it, which disheartens the other contestants nearly to the point of ruining the competition. This contrasts with the canon, in which Rainbow Dash had yet to demonstrate that she could genuinely pull off a sonic rainboom.
For Want of a Nail: Since Rainbow Dash managed to recreate the Sonic Rainboom much sooner than in canon, she has celebrity status in Cloudsdale, and doesn't have any confidence issues (initially). And she ultimately backs out of the competition in order to be true to the principles it was founded on.
Guilt Complex: Rainbow Dash's mother Firefly, herself a skilled flier, never made it the Wonderbolts because she chose to prioritize raising Rainbow Dash. Rainbow Dash learned about this at a young age from her father, who was unaware of the effect it had on her. Namely, part of Rainbow's motivation for joining the Wonderbolts is to atone for Firefly having to give up on her dream.
Heel Realization: For a certain value of heel; Rainbow does realize that she's let her ego get a bit out of control.
Humiliation Conga: The stallions who bullied Rainbow Dash as a filly, and who do it again when she shows up for the competition, ultimately get theirs at the end of the story: Dash not only does a Sonic Rainboom in front of them, but the shockwave knocks them into a cloud wall, where they get stuck face first. The others decide to leave them there, while Pinkie hangs a sign that says "Free Spanks" over their rumps.
Incompatible Orientation: Cloud Kicker is revealed to be genuinely in love with Rainbow Dash, but Rainbow Dash is heterosexual and assumes that Cloud Kicker's flirting is due entirely to her flirtatious and promiscuous nature.
Inferiority Superiority Complex: Cloud Kicker believes this is why Rainbow Dash tends to have such a big ego. She's correct, too. The mocking she received at the hooves of bullies in the past and the fact that nopony believed (at first) that she pulled off a sonic rainboom are something that is constantly on her mind and drives her to do so well during the competition.
It's All About Me: Rainbow briefly lets her new fame get to her, partly in attempt to bolster her Inferiority Superiority Complex. When she reencounters her old flight camp bullies, she once again suffers a crisis of confidence, and tries to compensate with obnoxious gloating.
Ladykiller in Love: Cloud Kicker confesses to Twilight that she actually is in love with Rainbow Dash. She's terrified that since she lacks a special connection to Dash like the rest of the Mane Six or Derpy, Dash will end up leaving her behind.
Mythology Gag: Rainbow Dash's mother is Firefly, the G1 pony Rainbow Dash's personality was based on.
When Celestia gives Dinky the gossamer wings spell so she can fly like her mother and Rainbow Dash for a day, Rarity later complains about not having a chance at them herself (as happened in canon).
Opt Out: Though it is one of the hardest things to do in her life, Rainbow Dash ultimately decides to not compete in the Best Young Fliers competition, realizing that while she'll win, the lack of competition will ruin the contest and make it a mockery of what its supposed to be: a venue for the best young fliers to show their skills. Its not supposed to be the Rainbow Dash show. The very competition and display of skill that inspired her to strive to be the best would be gone. Instead, she leads the other contestants in putting on a fantastic aerial show, and announces her intent to compete next year. While she'll undoubtably win, she will no longer be hyped as much as she previously was, and the other contestants will understand that this is a contest to display their abilities and retain their confidence. In private, after forfeiting the competition, Rainbow is stricken with guilt over the arrogance she had previously displayed, and the feeling that by forfeiting she is letting her friends and her parents down.
Potty Failure: Rainbow Dash's cloud was always damp when she was a foal. She's afraid that her father would tell her friends that it was due to her being a bedwetter. He doesn't, but somehow Pinkie Pie discerns her fear anyways. Dash vehemently insists that it was actually due to the cloud's humidity. Her friends don't believe her, which is ironic, as Word of God says that Rainbow was telling the truth.
She Is Not My Girlfriend: Rainbow Dash insists this about Cloud Kicker. It only encourages her friends to tease her more. Unlike many other cases of this trope, however, Rainbow genuinely does not have any romantic or sexual feelings toward Cloud Kicker, as Word of God and Dash's previous crush on Shining Armor say that Rainbow Dash is straight. Tragically, Cloud Kicker privately reveals to Twilight that she actually is in love with Rainbow Dash.
Cuteness Proximity: Cadance gets this by just being told about all the flower fillies that are going to be at her wedding.
Didn't Think This Through: Cadance has this reaction when Rainbow reminds her that she left the planning of the bachelorette party to her.
Rainbow Dash is on the other end of this trope when she realizes that her hastily talking Twilight into a sleepover at her parents' home means she's either going to be spending the night with a changeling spy, or with Twilight geeking out over having a sleepover.
For Want of a Nail: In yet more differences from canon, the wedding is not only happening after the Crystal Empire's return, but it also coincides with the Grand Galloping Gala, which the Mane Six haven't attended yet.
A smaller one in that Rainbow, being Celestia's student, became more interested in reading, specifically the Daring Do series, earlier than in the canon.
Hive Mind: Changelings have a limited version of this.
Jabba Table Manners: Applejack, Pinkie Pie, and surprisingly Twilight (though she claims it's only when she's really hungry and distracted).
OOC Is Serious Business: Invoked. Since Rainbow Dash has been told one of her friends is a changeling, she is looking for signs that they are acting out of the ordinary. Unfortunately, thanks to the stress of their respective roles in the wedding preparations, all of them are acting slightly out-of-character in one way or another. And then Rainbow's own "strange" behavior during her investigations is used as evidence that she is the changeling.
Paranoia Fuel: Upon discovering the changelings, Rainbow is afraid to trust any of the guards before she gets to meet with Celestia. The paranoia is amped up when Celestia reveals that one of her friends has been replaced by a changeling.invoked
Shout-Out: Zecora recites the Indigo Tribe oath in order to disperse the disguises of some changeling guards chasing her, thus proving to Rainbow Dash what's going on.
Slumber Party: Twilight and Rainbow Dash have one at Twilight's family home. Well, Twilight sees it as a Slumber Party, Rainbow uses it as a change to see if Twilight is actually a changeling.