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Fanfic / My Little Balladeer

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A My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic/Manly Wade Wellman Crossover fanfiction in which Wellman's most famous character is summoned to Equestria to fight against Rowley Thorne, a human wizard from John's world. Thorne has been brought to Equestria by an old enemy of the Mane Six and Celestia, who seeks his aid in freeing himself from imprisonment. When the first attempt almost works, the Mane Six decide to summon some help in dealing with their strange enemy and end up with... a hillbilly with a silver-strung guitar? The story is notable for its excellent use of canon characters and well-crafted world-building regarding both continuities.


Written by Ardashir in 2012, it can be found here.

Tropes appearing here include:

  • Agent Scully: Twilight Sparkle, both towards diabolism and Necromancy. Somewhat Justified, in that both are very rare forms of magic in Equestria.
  • A God Am I: Thorne's ultimate plan is to use the power of the Letters of Cold Fire to transform himself into a Nightmare Alicorn stallion and become the tyrant of as much of Equestria as he can hold against Discord, with the hope of ruling the whole world. Thorne temporarily achieves the first part of this goal.
  • Appropriate Animal Attire: John is a bit mystified by the ponies' attitudes towards clothing, especially when Rarity steps behind a screen to take off her fluffy nightgown.
    John: I wondered me why she felt the need to have privacy to undress but not to walk around naked as the day she’d been born...
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  • Bald of Evil: Thorne is unnaturally bald; he's so completely hairless that he doesn't even have eyebrows or eyelashes.
  • Beware the Nice Ones:
    • Twilight Sparkle, when she thinks that Thorne's attack has killed Rarity. You get to see why she is known as one of the strongest mages in Equestria. This is even more badass when one considers that this is pre-Alicorn Twilight!
    • Princess Celestia, when Thorne tries to presume on her good nature after he has attacked Equestria and murdered ponies. Do not hurt her little ponies! And do not assume that an ancient Alicorn ruling Princess is foolish or weak!
    • In the larger sense, the Equestrians in general. Yes, they are cute, loveable little ponies. But they are also the survivors of repeated attacks by demons, monsters and mad deities, and they are ''not'' easy prey for evil.
  • Black Magic: Rowley's spells all inflict harm on someone, even those which help someone else. Consequently, they are useless from the point of view of Twilight Sparkle, and indeed most Equestrian mages.
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  • Big Bad: Rowley Thorne, an Evil Sorcerer who has been brought to Equestria by Discord.
  • Bigger Bad: Discord, the mad Reality Warper who brought Thorne to Equestria.
  • Blasphemous Boast: On his first night in Ponyville, Thorne responds to an angry challenge by Rainbow Dash by transforming into a 'Nightstallion' much like Nightmare Moon. It's all an illusion. THIS time.
  • Body Horror: Thorne transforms Spike and the Cutie Mark Crusaders into tortured, mind-controlled monsters modeled vaguely on the Sunny Towners, in the hopes of demoralizing the heroes by forcing them to kill them. Would Hurt a Child, indeed!
  • Break the Cuties: Attempted by Thorne against both Spike and the Cutie Mark Crusaders, by turning them into monsters and the Mane Six, by forcing them to kill their loved ones.
  • Break Them by Talking: Thorne does this on his first night in Ponyville, promising to reveal 'great hidden truths' to an audience of bored and curious ponies. And he does, by airing everypony's dirty secrets in very cruel fashion, climaxing with revealing that as a filly Applejack once asked Nightmare Moon to end the suffering of her grandfather. This causes a temporary Heroic BSoD in poor AJ.
  • But Now I Must Go: Shortly after Thorne is defeated, the magic that brought John to Equestria in the first place kicks in again and pulls him back to Earth.
  • Clingy MacGuffin: Thorne's 'gift' to Twilight Sparkle, the Letters of Cold Fire, proves very difficult to get rid of. Not even Princess Celestia can rid her of it. Thankfully John knows precisely how to rid her of it. That's when Thorne decides to stop playing games.
  • The Cloudcuckoolander Was Right: Why yes, Lyra, humans are real. And you get to meet two of them. Too bad you've been enthralled by the evil one of the pair.
  • Cold Iron: Zecora's staff is made of cold-worked iron and ash wood, which gives it some extra oomph against Thorne's minions.
  • Continuity Nod: To many SilverJohn stories, and several other stories by Manly Wade Wellman.
  • Cute Ghost Filly: Ruby. John is simultaneously impressed by how sweet and how utterly uncanny she is.
  • Deal with the Devil: How most of Thorne's magic works.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Thorne's problem in dealing with many of the other characters, including John himself, Twilight Sparkle, and Princess Celestia.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Thorne.
  • Fantastic Arousal: John accidentally does this to Fluttershy, based on her reaction (partial wing extension, coupled with embarassment) when he scratches her ear. It's not entirely obvious whether this was actually sexual or simply too affectionate for their degree of intimacy as friends (she says that one wouldn't do it to another pony "unless they know you very well.") John apologizes, and Fluttershy doesn't seem too upset.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Thorne. And Discord. Thorne presents himself politely enough, but it soon becomes obvious that he enjoys degrading and dominating others.
  • Folk Music: John's main musical genre. His normal profession is wandering the back country, looking for folk songs to record and preserve.
  • For the Evulz: Thorne claims to want wealth and renown, but (as Twilight Sparkle points out), he could have gotten these things in fair trade for his knowledge and skills. When Twilight wonders why Thorne would do terrible things instead of treating ponies kindly, the more worldly-wise Applejack points out that some beings are just plain evil, saying "For some skunks, it’s just plain fun ta get what they want by hurtin’ somepony else."”
  • Food Porn: Happens more than once, given John's first-person POV reactions to Earth Pony cooking.
    • John really loves the meal the Apples feed him on his arrival. This despite the fact that, they being Ponies, their cuisine is of course purely vegetarian, and being Apples almost entirely made of various apple-based products. But then, Sweet Apple Acres in-canon produces the best apples in all of Equestria.
    • John also loves the food from Sugar Cube Corner.
  • Ghostly Goals: Two examples:
    • Most of the inhabitants of Sunny Town want to be resurrected, even if this means subjecting innocents to a living death. Failing that, they want to force others to "join their herd" by draining their lives, trapping them in the same fate. They do not grasp that there is no good way they can simply get their lives back.
    • In contrast, their kin Ruby, whose murder by the Sunny Towners when they were still alive was what originally induced her friend Luna, (who had just become Nightmare Moon to kill and curse them, wants her relatives to accept their fates and pass on to the next world. She could pass on whenever she wished, but prefers to have her horrible murder re-enacted nightly to abandoning her friends. Too Good for This Sinful Earth applies literally in Ruby's case!
  • Good Cannot Comprehend Evil: Both played straight and subverted.
    • Played straight when Twilight Sparkle wonders why Thorne chooses to use his powers for evil when with those powers he could get anything he wanted in trade for his services. Justified in that Twilight is a member of both a species less aggressive than humans and an aristocatic scholar exemplifying the virtues of a culture which emphasizes the value of friendship and mutual toleration.
    • Hilariously Subverted when Thorne tries to trick Time Abyss Physical Goddess Princess Celestia into believing that she can trust him, under a combination of this theory and his belief that Good Is Dumb. Celestia lets him reel out enough verbal rope to hang himself, then telekinetically slaps him around before casting him out into the void between worlds.
  • Good Is Dumb: Thorne seems to believe this, which is a serious error to make when your enemies include a very heroic and cunning human bard and two of the canonically-nicest and smartest ponies in Equestria, namely Twilight Sparkle and Princess Celestia.
  • Good Hurts Evil: Celestia's light, to the inhabitants of Sunny Town.
  • Heroic BSoD: Happens twice, almost happens another time.
    • Applejack, when Thorne reveals to all of Ponyville that as a filly she wished upon Nightmare Moon for her terminally-ill grandfather's death
    • Spike breaks down into helpless sobbing when he thinks Rarity is dead.
    • Applejack and Rarity are clearly close to suicide when they believe they will have to kill a transformed Spike and the Cutie Mark Crusaders, including their little sisters Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle. They just mean to get Thorne first.
  • Hostage for MacGuffin: Thorne kidnaps Spike and the Cutie Mark Crusaders and threatens to give them to the Sunny Towners unless the heroes give him the Letters of Cold Fire.
  • I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: This is how Thorne controls Lyra after she stops serving him willingly. He holds her best friend Bon Bon captive and threatens to kill her.
  • Just in Time: Twice, both times starring Princess Celestia as rescuer.
    • Princess Celestia bursts into the Golden Oak Library just in time to stop a mind-controlled Twilight Sparkle from speaking literally the last two syllables of the spell that would release Discord back into Equestria. As it is, Discord nearly does break loose.
    • At the climax, Thorne has been defeated but the heroes are weakened, wounded and surrounded by the Sunny Towners, who blame said heroes for detroying what they believed to be their chance at Resurrection. Princess Celestia comes in and uses The Power of the Sun to force them back into the ground in a combination of Weakened by the Light, Holy Burns Evil and Turn Undead.
  • Killed Off for Real: 2 Guardsponies (including Captain Bastion) and 3 Ponyville citizens die in the attack of the Timber Wolves, orchestrated by Thorne. Several more Guardsponies die distracting Thorne so the Mane Six can reach Sunny Town.
  • Language Barrier: One of John's initial problems is that he can't speak Equestrian, nor can the Equestrians speak English.
  • Little Miss Badass: Apple Bloom, who in the very first chapter helps John fight off an undead horror. But then she comes from Ponyville's main Badass Family.
  • Living Lie Detector: Two in-story.
    • Between being the bearer of the Element of Honesty and her strong common sense, Applejack can usually figure out whether you are telling the truth or lying. Even if you're not a pony.
    • Between his own strong common sense and mystical awareness, John is also quite good at figuring this out. This is one of the ways in which he and Applejack are Not So Different.
  • The Lost Woods: The Everfree Forest. Between the usual monsters and the Sunny Town undead, it's not a place even John cares to wander through — especially at night.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: One of the reasons Thorne is so dangerous is that he knows kinds of magic rare in Equestria. One of the reasons why John's help is so important is that John knows how to counter Thorne's spells.
  • Magic Music:
    • How the Mane Six summon John to Equestria, through what is heavily implied to be the My Little Pony musical theme.
    • As a bard, most of John's magic also works this way.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: Thorne, to the point of underestimating those who aren't. This is a serious error when your enemies include a highly-competent rustic human bard and a whole Badass Family of rustic ponies (the Apples).
  • Mistaken for Spies: Rainbow Dash's first opinion of John. This is a Continuity Nod to her first opinion of Twilight Sparkle in the series opener "Mare in the Moon". Justified, in that John is of the same species as Thorne.
  • Morality Chain: When she was still alive, Ruby was this for Princess Luna over a thousand years ago, helping to keep her from becoming Nightmare Moon by showing her that there were ponies who loved and appreciated her and her night. Unfortunately for everyone, Ruby's fellow townsfolk murdered her, both dooming themselves and serving as a trigger for Luna's Start of Darkness.
  • Must Be Invited: Used and discussed.
    • When Thorne first shows up on Twilight's doorstep, he pointedly asks if "I and all I bring with me" may enter. Twilight says yes. John later explains to her that this probably gave Thorne power (or perhaps just more power) to do evil things to her. Twilight is skeptical, as the entire concept of evil asking permission is foreign to Equestrian magic.
    • Later, Ruby needs permission to enter Zecora's house because of the ward John put up.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The Letters of Cold Fire contains a spell to summon Discord from his imprisonment. The names it invokes include Melkor (J. R. R. Tolkien's God of Evil, aka "Morgoth"); Arioch (one of Michael Moorcock's greater Chaos Lords); Grogar (the demonic ruler of Tambelon in the G1 My Little Pony series); Iblis (Muslim name for the Devil); Jadis (the White Witch from C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia); Leviathan (both a Biblical beast and the Big Bad of Clive Barker's Hellraiser series; Sombra (the Shadow Unicorn King who oppressed the Crystal Empire in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic's Season 3 Opener; Tirek (the demon-centaur from the first My Little Pony movie); and Tash (the God of Evil from C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia). You just know that a spell invoking beings like that isn't going to be about pulling flowers out of a top hat.
  • Narnia Time: Thorne taunts John with this possibility, saying that even if the Equestrians do manage to send John home again, there's no guarantee they'll return him to the correct time. John worries over this, and can't imagine how he'll cope if he arrives home after everyone he loves is dead and gone. When he does get home, he's only been gone a week.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: Thorne and Discord are each planning to betray the other once the Princesses have been defeated. What's more, they both know that the other knows it too. This bothers neither of them: it's just the way things are between an Evil Sorcerer and his insane chaotic patron.
  • Not So Different: John (a heroic, honorable, intelligent well-educated rural human) and the Apples (who are heroic, honorable, intelligent well-educated rural ponies) find they have a lot in common, and become friends. To a lesser extent, this is true in general of John and the Mane Six though he and Rainbow Dash rub each other the wrong way: they come to see each other as good people, despite their species differences.
  • Not Quite Dead: Rarity, when she is caught by Thorne's death spell. Everyone thinks she was killed, which pushes Twilight's Berserk Button and Spike into a short Heroic BSoD. Fortunately, she is protected either by her Element, or by John's Protective Charm.
  • Outside-Context Problem: Thorne is this for the story. His powers are alien to the usual kind of magic practiced in Equestria. His goals are all too familiar, though.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Spike is grabbed by the jaws of a Timber Wolf (a huge mass of wood animated by a wolf-like spirit) and receives only minor wounds. He then sets it alight by breathing fire down its throat. But then, he is a literal Dragon, complete with armor and breath weapon.
  • Power Copying: One of Twilight Sparkle's most useful canon abilities in this story, given how often she finds herself aided by or opposing human magic.
  • Protective Charm:
    • John knows a lot of these, which is good because they come in very handy given all the magic and supernatural minions Thorne throws at John and the Mane Six.
    • Twilight Sparkle, as in canon, is also no slouch at this class of magics.
  • Recursive Fanfiction: The characters from the fangame Story of the Blanks play a major role in the plot.
  • Revenant Zombie: The inhabitants of Sunny Town.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can:
    • Discord, the story implicitly taking place between the Season Two Opener and "Keep Calm And Flutter On"
    • The Letters of Cold Fire while it is sealed in the enchanted safe. Though even this is not enough to overcome the book's Clingy MacGuffin nature, which means the entire safe moves around if the book feels it is in the wrong place.
  • Sergeant Rock: Captain Bastion. Though he has commissioned rank, he's obviously a tough veteran who has worked his way up through the ranks. This makes his death in Thorne's first attack all the more shocking.
  • Shout-Out: At one point Twilight sees Pinkie Pie talking to a brown stallion with an hourglass cutie mark. He asks if she's sure they don't need his help, only for Pinkie to respond that no, they're okay, and besides this is a different crossover entirely.
  • Staking the Loved One: What the Mane Six believe they have to do after Thorne transforms Spike and the Cutie Mark Crusaders into hideous insane monsters.
  • Starfish Language: Ponies speak by a far more complex version of equine vocalizations and body language. Human voice boxes and bodies are ill-equipped to produce such noises and motions. The same is true for any Ponies trying to speak any human languages. This is one reason Twilight Sparkle needs the translation spell to communicate with John.
  • Summon Everyman Hero: How John gets to Equestria. The Mane 6 performed a summoning ritual with the Elements of Harmony, and he's what turned up. Admittedly he strains the "everyman" part a bit, since he has previous experience fighting dark magic, but on the other hand he's pretty folksy and sees himself as a musician first and foremost.
  • Take a Third Option: So, Mane Six, will you kill the horribly transformed Spike and the Cutie Mark Crusaders, or simply let them kill you? Fortunately, Twilight realizes she can transform them back.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: The Letters of Cold Fire, the book cursed to damn the soul of the mage who reads it and force that mage to release Discord. Of course, Thorne hands it to Twilight Sparkle.
  • Tragic Monsters: Thorne turns Spike and the Cutie Mark Crusaders into hideous mind-controlled monsters, essentially just to torture both them and the Mane Six.
  • Translation Spell: Twilight Sparkle casts one on John to enable him and the ponies to speak to each other.
  • Trapped in Another World: John's situation in Equestria. The Mane Six summoned him, but have no idea how to get him back.
    • Also happens to John and the Mane Six when Thorne reclaims the Letters of Cold Fire and turns the Everfree into some hellish otherworldly place. It's so terrifying that even the Everfree dragons abandon their hoards and flee in blind panic.
  • Turn Undead: John's music can do this to the Sunny Town revenants. The actual physical Elements when borne by the Elements of Harmony can do this as well. However, if they've just been used and therefore weakened...
  • Villainous Breakdown: Thorne begins to break down once his illusions are broken and he realizes Twilight intends to use the Elements to destroy the Letters of Cold Fire in addition to blasting him with the Elements. After his godhood (and most of his power) is taken from him, he goes berserk and tries to beat Twilight to death with a rock.
    'Thorne: You took literal godhood away from me! Godhood! You and these wretched animals! Do you know what I’ll do to you?
    • For a certain definition of 'villain', this also happens to Lyra during the 'Battle of Ponyville' when a furious Twilight almost kills her after Lyra seems to kill Rarity and DOES kill Captain Bastion. The poor mare is horrified to realize just how much damage she's unwillingly done.
  • Walking Wasteland: The Sunny Town revenants do this to any living things they touch. This is their main attack against ponies, or for that matter any life forms.
  • Wandering Minstrel: John. Of the "magic-using bard" variety.
  • White Magic: Most of John's spells do not harm others, though there are a few exceptions.
  • Who's Laughing Now?: Lyra's general demeanor. At first it's just smugness at finally being proven right about humans existing after being laughed at and looked down on for it, but then Thorn begins teaching her dark magic.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Three times in the story, all involving Thorne and twice the denizens of Sunny Town.
    • Thorne and the Sunny Town undead, as in their original appearance are only too willing to kill Apple Bloom and make her one of them. John shows up just in time to save her.
    • Later, Thorne threatens to give Spike and the Cutie Mark Crusaders to the Sunny Towners unless the heroes hand over his spellbook.
    • Finally and most horrifically, Thorne actually transforms Spike and the Cutie Mark Crusaders into tortured, mind-controlled monsters, in the hope that the Mane Six will kill them, in the process shattering the heroes' morale. This plan almost works.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Poor Lyra thinks she's in a Science Fiction story about First Contact with friendly aliens. She's instead in a Cosmic Horror story about an alien Evil Sorceror who wants to open Sealed Evil in a Can and rule the world.


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