A Recursive Fanfiction of Chengar Qordath's The Life and Times of a Winning Pony My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic, Tales From the Phoenix Empire explores an alternate timeline where Celestia accidentally and fatally cripples her vizier Sunbeam Sparkle nine hundred years before the show, and the only way to fix it is for Celestia to give her immortality and her dominion over the Sun to Sunbeam, thereby cementing Sunbeam as the new alicorn ruler of Equestria.
There are two main stories in this setting: Rise of the Phoenix Empress, chronicling the events leading to Sunbeam's ascension, and Tales From the Phoenix Empire proper, set during the time of the show's first season. Tales From the Phoenix Empire is currently leading up to the Empire's version of Nightmare Moon's return.
Tropes in this work include:
- Ancient Conspiracy: The Circle, founded by Celestia not long after she abdicated, led by Cadance in the Present, and Twilight Velvet is a member. According to Cadance, when she tries to recruit Rainbow Dash, the Circle's purpose is to "keep Sunbeam honest." That is, to keep her from Jumping Off the Slippery Slope and becoming the tyrant many feared she would after her Ascension. And thanks to some magical Brain Uploading, is actually STILL being led by Celestia in the present.
- Badass Teacher: Rarity as the Sapphire Guardian, the Phoenix Empire's version of Mare-Do-Well.
- Big Brother Is Watching: The Ministry Of Heart, led by Lyra's father. Doubles as The Men in Black.
- Brain Uploading: Sort of. Celestia somehow transferred her spirit into the Tree Of Harmony around the time her body died. This allows her to be the true leader of the Circle even though on paper it's currently Cadance.
- Classified Information: Whatever the hell Lyra was doing in the Everfree, or at Cloudsdale and Appleoosa, before she was assigned to Aedile Pinkie Pie's assassination. To the extent that, when Strumming asks her about it on behalf of her uncle, Lyra's father, who is the Minister Of Heart himself, Lyra says that, if the Minister Of Heart doesn't know about whatever their intelligence says she was doing, then the orders must have come from the Empress herself, which would mean that both Strumming and Minister Heartstrings are overstepping and risking getting into scaldingly hot water with Sunbeam by prying into "a top-secret matter of Imperial security" which is blatantly relevant to Nightmare Moon's return and Sunbeam's attempts to locate and recruit this universe's versions of the Mane 6.
- For Want of a Nail: An unusually harsh training session between Sunbeam and her daughter Midnight makes Celestia hastily jump to the conclusion that Sunbeam was either actively abusing Midnight, or starting down that road. As a result, Celestia attacks Sunbeam, crippling her. Later, Sunbeam reveals to Celestia that she is Secretly Dying of her wounds, and Celestia realizes the only way to save her is for her to Ascend and become an Alicorn. Sunbeam expects to replace Luna, but Celestia double-crosses that idea and instead has Sunbeam replace HER instead. Introducing... the Phoenix Empress!
- Gratuitous Latin: Apparently, Old Unicornian is known to us as Latin, and was the spoken language back when Nightmare Moon was banished, hence her gratuitous use of it when she possesses Just Cause after he is cornered by Strumming and Lyra.
- Married to the Job: Lyra Heartstrings, to the point where she now answers directly to Empress Sunbeam and doesn't have much of a social life, which worries her father and cousin to the point where, after she joins the Phoenix Cult, they investigate her and are blocked by the Classified Information above.
- Meaningful Name: The Ministry Of Heart, a sort of Family Business in that the headship is passed down through House HEARTstrings. The incumbent Minister in the Present is revealed by Strumming Heartstrings to be her cousin Lyra's father.
- My Country, Right or Wrong: Rarity has sold out to Sunbeam in exchange for a special license that eliminates any trouble she'd have with the usual law enforcement.
- Not Quite Dead: Turns out Celestia is still alive, having transferred her spirit into the Tree Of Harmony the day she supposedly died. Cadance was the only one we know to have known this in the present until she revealed it to Rainbow Dash in Chapter 16 of Tales.
- Oh, Crap!: Cadance when Sunbeam reveals that she knows about the Circle, and that Cadance herself is the current leader (see Not Quite Dead above), hence why she's being given the title of "aedile" and relocated up north to settle a dispute that will conveniently last just long enough for whatever Sunbeam has planned for Nightmare Moon's return to bear fruit.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: Due to Cadance's affiliation with the Circle, and knowing that despite her loyalty to the Empress, she would be operating to further the Circle's ends when it came to Nightmare Moon's return, Empress Sunbream names her the Administrator of the Frozen North, placing her in charge of a precarious situation with a disgruntled caribou population, charging her with watching and waiting for the reemergence of the Crystal Empire, and making her directly responsible for Argentium the Runescaled's oversight. Unfortunately, this backfires, as Argentium has been working with Celestia as well. While Cadance is out of the way in the short term, she is far from unable to influence matters.