The Writing on the Wall is a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic by Horse Voice. Daring Do is asked to help in the excavation of the most ancient tomb known to ponykind - thousands of years older than the oldest known masonry, with incredible craft and skill going into the construction of the impressive edifice. Ancient text in a number of languages, all of them long since lost, is carved into every surface in one of the rooms of the structure nearest to the surface, likely some kind of curse meant to warn away would-be looters. Workers work to breach the walls below, to find the secrets of this ancient place, but perhaps they should have heeded the writing on the wall.The story can be found here. It's also available in the print-on-demand anthology Nightmare Nights.
TropesDue to the nature of this story, even the names of many of the tropes involved in the story constitute major spoilers, and large sections of the text would need to be spoiled. As a result, do not open the below folder until you have read the entire story unless you want to be spoiled.
This work provides examples of:
- Adventurer Archaeologist: Daring Do and Dark Horizon are both these. Daring Do is specifically an Indiana Jones expy.
- After the End: Humanity is long gone, but their nuclear waste remains.
- Ancient Tomb: One of these figures heavily into the story. It's the oldest building discovered by ponies, so it definitely fits the "ancient" part. The "tomb" part, however, not so much...
- Artistic License – Nuclear Physics: Even after some 70,000 years, the radiation from the nuclear waste could kill within hours of exposure. The most energetic (and thus most deadly) isotopes should have decayed away by that point, though longer-lived isotopes would still be hanging around.
- Body Horror: The death of Dark Horizon due to the Curse. Death by radiation poisoning is very, very ugly.
- Curse: The eponymous undeciphered writing on the wall is believed to be one of these, but it isn't a curse — it's a warning.
- Cassandra Truth: The writing on the wall.
- Chekhov's Gun: The writing on the wall and the sick workers.
- Doing In the Wizard: The tomb isn't cursed, just like every other ancient archaeological site. Except it is cursed, just not magically, and it isn't a tomb.
- Downer Ending: Everyone that visited the site may be dead already from the radiation sickness. One of the last lines of the story is Daring Do coughing blood.
- Earth All Along: Modern humanity existed tens of thousands of years earlier, and created this "tomb" to store radioactive waste, and tried to warn future adventurers away.
- The Ending Changes Everything: It is only in the final scene, when the eponymous writing on the wall is fully deciphered, that the true nature of the threat is revealed. The building is revealed to be not a tomb, but a nuclear waste storage facility built by humans. Daring Do and the sick workers are suffering not from any sort of pathogenic illness, but from radiation sickness.
- Entertainingly Wrong: Daring Do's speculation about the writing on the wall, and everyone about the structure. Her invocation of Ozymandias and the Curse of Tutankhamen may also be a hint that some human literature has survived even 70,000 years into the future.
- Expy: Daring Do is an Indiana Jones expy, and all the characters are vaguely reminiscent of those from the Indiana Jones movies.
- Foe Romance Subtext: Daring Do and her rival Dark Horizon.
- Foreshadowing: The description of the tomb and its contents give away the ending, but only to those with a great interest in a very specific subject matter.
- Genre Shift: From an adventure story to a horror story. A science fiction horror story.
- Historical In-Joke: For something which hasn't even happened yet. The structure in the story is a nuclear waste storage facility which hasn't even been built yet in real life.
- History Repeats: There's a series of markings in the wall, each older than the last, each bearing the same warning. At the end, as everyone in the expedition's dying, they manage to add the message one last time in the wall in contemporary language, hoping next time whoever discovers the building will actually heed it.
- Hold Your Hippogriffs: As is standard for pony stories, it ponifies some words, such as somepony and anypony. Averted at the end, when they write a new warning on the wall in every language they know, as those who came before them did, warning off future would-be archaeologists and tomb robbers, specifying that no one must enter the place.
- Humanity's Wake: The tomb wasn't built by ponies, but by humans. And it isn't a tomb, but a nuclear waste storage facility.
- Humans Through Alien Eyes: The humans counted on this trope and described radiation in very simplistic terms so that a more primitive civilization could understand the danger. Too bad they didn't bother to decipher the warnings before breaching the place.
- Kill 'em All: Speculated on by the characters. Being ignorant of the nature of radiation, they are left uncertain if they are all going to die from their exposure. Several of the workers, as well as Daring Do herself, are clearly suffering from severe radiation sickness. Taking into account that the drums of waste have almost certainly burst and flooded the cavern, it is likely that everyone standing near the cave's mouth for any length of time is going to get cancer very soon. The doctor who examined her friend's corpse will probably be dead in under a month.
- Neglectful Precursors: Averted. Humanity built the place to be intimidating and left warnings to leave the place undisturbed, stating exactly what the danger was, in the simplest terms possible, and exactly why it was dangerous. Too bad the ponies can't read English, and decide that all the impressive architecture is meant to scare people away from robbing a tomb.
- Oh, Crap!: The archaeologists when they learn what exactly the translated message means.
- Outside-Context Problem: Ahuizotl isn't the real danger — radioactivity from the building's content is.
- Plot Twist: As might be expected from a story about an adventurer archaeologist, their nemesis shows up halfway through and captures them. The one at the end is far darker.
- Portent of Doom: Daring Do speculates that the writing on the wall is your garden-variety scare-em-away-from-the-treasure Portent of Doom, which can do no worse than spook superstitious potential tomb raiders. She's right that it is a portent of doom, but wrong about its purpose. It's actually an entirely serious warning intended to dissuade people from going near the building's highly dangerous content.
- Precursors: Humanity.
- Reality Ensues: What might happen when an adventurer archaeologist stumbles onto the ruins of an advanced civilization.
- The Reveal: The building is not a tomb. It's a nuclear waste storage facility. The writing on the wall isn't meant to just be scary to potential raiders- it is a deadly serious warning about what will happen to them.
- Revised Ending: A fanfic by another author reveals The Writing On The Wall to be a Daring Do Dark Fic Twilight wrote for fun.
- Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: When Ahuizotl and his minions see what the "curse" does to people, they pack up and run for it.
- Schmuck Bait: Zig-zagged. The entire structure is obvious schmuck bait, with warnings written in dozens of languages and large, metallic spikes set up around it in the desert to keep away intruders. Such is standard fare for an ancient tomb trying to dissuade tomb robbers, though, and going to such incredible lengths might mean the place won't be despoiled. Too bad it isn't a tomb. One of the concerns about the construction of the facility in the present is exactly this - making it large, imposing, and intimidating might just lead curious people to look inside.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: How radiation is described in the warning.
"'This is the tomb of the great and terrible So-and-So! Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair! Whosoever steals the treasure will face the gods' curse, and the sky will fall on their heads, et cetera'."
- Daring Do shouts out to the supposed Curse of Tutankhamen and the poem "Ozymandias":
- The whole story is a shout out to an unbuilt nuclear waste storage facility, as given away by the eventual translation of the writing on the wall, which is taken from the suggested warning for the site.This is not a place of honor. No great deed is commemorated here. Nothing of value is here.
- Subverted Trope: Of adventurer archaeologist stories.
- Title Drop: Daring Do, while speculating on what the undeciphered writing meant:"Well," Daring said, "looking scary is the first line of defense for a lot of old tombs. Obviously, anyone with wings gets over the thorns easily. So, either there were no intelligent species with wings back then or that's why those thorns are there." On a sudden impulse, she screwed up her courage and decided to try something she'd never done before: needling the professor. "Y'know, with that in mind, if this place is anything like others I've seen, I can pretty much tell you what the writing on the wall says."
- Twist Ending: It isn't a tomb, it is a nuclear waste storage facility.
- Wham Line: The translation of the message."You should not have come here. This is not a place of honor. No great deed is commemorated here. Nothing of value is here. What is here is dangerous and repulsive. We considered ourselves a powerful culture. We harnessed the hidden fire, and used it for our own purposes. Then we saw the fire could burn within living things, unnoticed until it destroyed them. And we were afraid. We built great tombs to hold the fire for one hundred thousand years, after which it would no longer kill. If this place is opened, the fire will not be isolated from the world, and we will have failed to protect you. Leave this place and never come back."
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Everyone about the ancient tomb and the titular writing on the wall. They think that they're still in an Adventurer Archaeologist story with a fantasy bent, so the tomb is full of treasure and archaological goodies and the writing is empty threats intended to scare away superstitious would-be tomb raiders. It's actually a sci-fi horror story, the building is a containment facility for something very dangerous, and the writing on the wall is an accurate and deadly serious warning to anyone who would attempt to get in.