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What does a pony pack when she goes into exile?
"I'm Amber Spice, and I was Royal Chef to his royal highness Lanthanum, King of Unicornia. Was.
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"Now I've somehow gotten myself banished from the land, perhaps forever. Now how did I manage that, you may ask? Let's look back and see. I can't exactly sleep, so this isn't a bad way to spend my last night here.

"Turns out a little bit of soul-crushing boredom, a tenacious and chaotically creative mind, and a tangent to launch off of form a dangerous recipe together.

"And the result tastes like heresy."

A My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Alternate Universe Fic, which can be found here.

The sequel, Desert Spice, is available here.


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Tastes Like Heresy provides examples of these tropes:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Pierce the Omnipotent. He's obnoxiously arrogant and has a long history of flirting aggressively with Amber.
  • Allergic to Routine: Amber's special talent is for finding "new and interesting things and ways to cook." At the start of the story, she's on the verge of despair because she's exhausted every variation on every approved recipe, and she can't stand the thought of repeating those recipes for the rest of her life.
    “I'm stuck making the same old, bland recipes year after year, and it's finally gotten to me.”
  • Alternate Universe Fic: In this universe, the events of the first Hearth's Warming didn't bring the three pony tribes together. The unicorns, pegasi, and earth ponies still fled their old countries to escape eternal winter, but they just reestablished their separate nations in the new homeland. This story is set 372 years after that. Also, per Word of God, the lack of Harmony means Celestia and Luna never became alicorns.
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  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The charges brought against Amber.
    "Amber Spice, you are charged with lesser heresy, attempted regicide, and failure to comply with Her Radiance's code of grooming for palace staff. How do you plead?"
    I was half surprised they didn't accuse me of being fat, too.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Amber's narration style. She keeps digressing from the story of how she was exiled to talk at length about other subjects, like how she met her best friend, how she earned her cutie mark, and so on.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: Amber is chubbier than the average unicorn. This proves no obstacle to earning at least two male admirers, and possible UST with Outta Stock.
  • Cute, but Cacophonic: Amber has a fluffy coat, so she's even cuter than the average pony. She also gets loud when she's very happy or very angry. It becomes a Running Gag that other ponies don ear protection before delivering good news to her, lest her cries of joy deafen them.
    "I swear, your parents must have made some unholy pact to get your lungs swapped with a pair from one of those demonic pegasi. My ears are still ringing!"
  • Deep-Fried Whatever: Amber introduces the joys of fried foods, especially doughnuts, to unicorn society.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: When Amber lists the items that aren't permitted in the Archives, number 7 is "dirt", number 12 is "dirt", and number 18 is "Did I mention dirt?"
  • Didn't Think This Through: Amber makes her culinary breakthrough by recreating historical recipes—without realizing that she's copying cuisine from the same "mud ponies" that she and every other unicorn despises. She only connects the dots after the Princess eats her food, and after she tells the Princess her sources.
  • Don't Think, Feel: Amber knows that when a flight of fancy strikes her, she should listen. It was how she originally got her cutie mark... but it's also what led to her exile.
    When you get inspired and a fey mood besets you, you don't think; you do. And do I did. I didn't care how expensive it would make the bread; I just knew it would be worth it.
  • The Exile: For her culinary crimes, Amber Spice is sentenced to be teleported into the Great Pegasopian Desert.
  • Fantastic Racism: There aren't any earth ponies or pegasi in Unicornia, and the unicorns have a bunch of nasty stereotypes about them. They see the earth ponies as pure Dumb Muscle, and too stubborn for their own good. And they see pegasi as sneaky, demonic cannibals... but also sexy in a taboo way (like a pony version of Vampires Are Sex Gods). It's implied pegasi and earth ponies also have their own stereotypes about unicorns and each other, but we don't get to see those.
  • Foreign Queasine: The Princess and the nobility are horrified that they've been eating (and praising!) an earth pony recipe. So horrified that a Vomit Chain Reaction ensues.
  • How We Got Here: The story opens with Amber packing for her impending exile. She pauses to reflect on how her choices led to that point, and that forms the bulk of the story.
  • Hypocrite: Amber and the other unicorns demonstrate this in their thoughts of other pony tribes. Apparently, when earth ponies are stubborn ("a skull as hard as the Earth's crust, and twice as thick"), it's a sign that they're bad and stupid—but when unicorns are stubborn ("unyielding as the mountain she stood on, and incorruptible as the metal of her namesake"), it's a good and noble thing.
  • Impossibly Cool Weapon: The Blade of the Banished, a multi-purpose wilderness survival tool given to unicorns immediately before their exile. It can be used as a knife, sickle, saw, or hammer. And it has absolutely no handle, ensuring that only someone with telekinesis could ever use it.
    Admittedly, the knife is one of the better redeeming bits of being banished from Unicornia.
  • Impressive Pyrotechnics: The first time Amber tries to fry food, she starts a grease fire, which she tries to extinguish with water—resulting in a massive fireball that gives her an Ash Face.
  • Insane Troll Logic: The Council of Graybeards denounces the earth pony outlook as "backwards thinking"... because the earth ponies dare to innovate, and think that it's possible to improve on the old ways.
  • Irony:
    • Amber's greatest strength—coming up with strange epiphanies, and following through them without over-thinking—earns her the position of royal chef. But it's also the direct cause of her exile as well.
    • Amber starts off the story as a patriot and firm believer in unicorn superiority. Her "heresy" is purely an accident. But she gets put on trial, to send a message that Heresy Will Not Be Tolerated—and the blatantly biased proceedings leave Amber angrier at the unicorn way of life and the current regime than she ever was before.
  • Kangaroo Court: Amber's put through a farce of a trial, where the deck is blatantly stacked against her: she has no defense attorney, she doesn't get to choose the witnesses in her defense, she isn't allowed to cross-examine the witnesses against her (even though the prosecutor gets to cross-examine her witnesses), and the prosecutor outright addresses the jury to tell them how to interpret the testimony. And one witness testifies for and against Amber. At the end, Amber realizes that this trial was never about honestly proving her guilt or innocence; everyone involved decided beforehand that she was guilty and set up the trial to make an example of her, in the name of reasserting orthodoxy.
  • Mistaken for Pregnant: Amber talks to a few pregnant mares, in hopes that their Wacky Cravings will inspire her to make some outside-the-box recipes. However...
    Trouble is, pregnant mares are hard to find in the palace, and it is not fun for anypony involved when you guess wrong and it turns out your mark was actually just fat.
  • Mythology Gag: Amber owns a wizard's hat with more than a passing resemblance to Trixie's cap from canon. And Amber mentions wearing that hat just to feel "great and powerful" every once in a while.
  • N-Word Privileges: Amber is a bit on the chubby side, and feels absolutely no shame mocking Magnum Cura for being bigger than her.
    Some would say I've got no right calling other ponies fat, being halfway there myself. I say it gives me every right.
  • Power Nullifier: A cone that fits over a unicorn's horn to prevent them from casting magic—called the "Cone of Shame".
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Near the end of her trial, Amber gets so upset at the blatant unfairness that she berates the entire court. Then she decides she's at the absolute rock bottom and can't possibly make her punishment worse, so she personally insults everypony who's ever wronged her, including the Princess.
  • Sarcasm Mode: Amber's default state. For example, in the first chapter, when her mom wonders what's upsetting her:
    “Hey hon, why the long face?” she asked.
    “Long f-f-face?! Oh no! I haven't morphed into a stallion, have I? This is so awkward!”
  • Serious Business:
  • Sequel Hook: The epilogue is a poem that introduces Amber's further adventures in the desert.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Show Within a Show: Amber debuts her honey-glazed doughnuts at the Unicornia Day play in the palace theater. The first act of the play is described in some detail.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Every conversation between Amber and her best friend Outta Stock.
  • Stealth Insult: At the trial, Pierce testifies on Amber's behalf. He argues that she isn't dangerous... by repeatedly calling her a weakling, both physically and magic-wise.
  • Stuff Blowing Up:
    It's the reason why there's a test kitchen in the first place, really. For some reason or another, my cooking experiments lead to more fires and explosions than half of the royal alchemy department's efforts put together.
  • A Tankard of Moose Urine: In a bit of self-deprecation, Amber's mom refers to the beer she brews as "tankards of mouse urine." Amber herself is a fan of "tear beer" which has salt added to it, and she can't understand why it isn't a bigger seller.
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry: "Now I've gone and made myself sad."
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Amber loves salt, and salty foods in general.
    Did I ever mention how much I love salt? [...] You can keep all the gemstones in this dang mountain. Just give me a mountain of salt to roll around in, and I'll be happy.
  • The Un-Reveal: The traditional Unicornia Day play (this AU's version of the Hearths Warming play) appears to be building up to the reveal of just how this AU diverged from canon. But Princess Topaz pauses the play to praise Amber for her doughnuts, Amber accidentally says something heretical, and everyone completely forgets the rest of the play. So the audience never finds out the point of divergence.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Amber has accidentally caused enough kitchen fires and explosions that the rest of the palace staff are completely used to them.
    Note: A grease fire & water explosion is still below the interestingness threshold at which anypony will bother to check if Amber Spice is okay.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Amber and Outta Stock.
    He and I are actually fairly close friends. I guess that's bound to happen when two ponies are doing their best to get under each other's skin, but what can you do?
  • Vomit Chain Reaction: Princess Topaz throws up in response to the Foreign Queasine reveal, then all the nobility follow suit, resulting in "a breathtaking display of synchronized purging".
    I don't know how long it'll take them to scrub all that vomit out of the theater, but I'm guessing something on the order of months.

Desert Spice provides examples of these tropes:

  • Accidental Misnaming:
    • The Tornado Trio mishear "unicorn" as "unique orn", so they call Amber "Miss Orn" until she corrects them.
    • Brother Cyrus and Brother Caspar, the keepers of the Tabernacle, mishear her name as "Ember Spires".
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: After a whole story solely from Amber's perspective, this story opens with a section from the new character, Horizon's, POV. It switches back to Amber quickly enough, and the story bounces back and forth between them. More viewpoint characters show up in later chapters.
  • Angrish:
    “Arghle… Fffygdjs… GRAAAH!”
    In my deep and broad experience with anger, I've found that it does some paradoxical things to your vocabulary. When you're in a bloody-minded rage, your vocabulary practically sublimates into a garbled haze of conceptual gas. Once your rage has crystallized into a proper seethe, though, it all comes back and then some.
  • Bag of Holding: Amber has saddlebags of holding, which is how she's able to bring so much on her trip to the desert.
  • Bedouin Rescue Service: The pegasus caravan serves this purpose, rescuing Amber when she collapses in the desert.
  • Cheerful Child: The pegasus foals Dust Devil, Dive Bomber, and Silver Lining, aka the Tornado Trio. They're energetic and cute enough that Amber can't stay mad at them, even after she catches them digging through her saddlebags.
  • Creepy Monotone: The medic Soothing Balm only ever speaks this way.
  • Culture Clash: The majority of the plot so far. Amber falls in with the pegasi; she doesn't know what to make of them, and vice versa. For example, the pegasus medics assume Amber can cloud-walk and wind up dropping her through a cloud.
  • Dissimile:
    The filly gives me a quick apologetic glance, then shoots the gray colt a look and goes behind my neck (ow) to comfort Dusty. It kinda reminds me of taking care of my little brother Sepia Tone after a bad day, except I'm standing next to myself comforting the colt in front of me who is also on my back… Actually, let's forget that analogy for now.
  • Foreign Queasine: This time, Amber gets to be on the receiving end. Twice, in the same meal.
    • Sampling pegasus food for the first time, Amber tops her pita with dates, feta cheese, and olives. “Blegh. That smelled a lot better than it tasted. Still, it's hardly the worst meal I've ever concocted.”
    • invoked Since unicorns don't use dairy in their cooking, Amber quite enjoys her first taste of camel milk—until she realizes she just consumed "lactation meant for some camel's child," and she's thoroughly disgusted. Learning the origin of feta cheese doesn't help.
  • God Is Evil: Aegis thinks so.
    "And do you really think Terra so cruel as to do any of the things you mentioned?" I coolly retort.
    "Terra is cruelty, Horizon. Just look around you," [Aegis] says as she whirls around. "Is this the kind of place a kind maker would send us to live? Among the coarse sands and cracked earth of the garden she forgot to water? Would a kind creator let her little ponies kill each other over a few clouds?"
  • Interfaith Smoothie: The worship of Terra in the caravan. The Tabernacle is modeled after the original Jewish Tabernacle, while the sacred Eternal Flame comes from Zoroastrianism. And they worship a female deity.
  • Irony:
    • Amber believes the pegasi regularly abduct ponies from other tribes to do unspeakable things to them. Much to Amber's surprise, on her first day in the caravan, a pegasus colt accuses her of abducting his sister.
    • In chapter 5, Horizon wakes up pretty quickly and refers to himself as "something of a morning pony". Later the same chapter, Amber wakes up much more slowly and tells herself "Morning ponies don't actually exist."
  • Legend Fades to Myth: Both the unicorns and the pegasi worship Terra, a creator deity, but their belief systems have evolved independently since the tribes split. Most notably, the unicorns believe that Terra's a unicorn, while the pegasi believe she's "a big pegasus with a magical wish-granting horn".
  • Malicious Misnaming: After Soothing Balm drops her through a cloud, Amber mentally refers to the pegasus as "Zooming Bomb", "Balmy the Butcher", and "Deadpan Murderdrop".
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Amber expected the pegasi to be vicious, and to have equally-vicious names. She's a bit surprised that they have names like Horizon and Silver Lining instead.
    Huh. Silver Lining sounds more like a unicorn name than what I was expecting. Then again, what kind of pegasus names was I expecting? Throat Ripper? Sky Raider? Slashy McBurnburn?
  • Not a Morning Person: Amber.
    I'm pretty sure morning ponies don't actually exist. Anypony who claims to be a morning pony is lying for the sole purpose of garnering more hatred for themselves, probably so they can use said hatred to fuel their evil dark magics.
  • Orphaned Punchline: Amber tells the story of how Terra tamed Cerberus. The readers just hear the very beginning and very end:
    "—And that's why, when you're guarding the gates of Tartarus, three heads are better than one."
  • Posthumous Character: Fairy Tails, a pegasus who was abducted by raiders a few months before Amber's arrival, and is presumed dead. She was Horizon's fiancée, and Dust Devil's and Aegis Shield's sister; all of them are still grieving in their own way.
  • Rage Breaking Point: Amber gets embarrassed several times during her tour of the caravan, and Horizon laughs at her misfortune. But Horizon pushes her too far when he laughs at her reaction to eating dairy—food is Serious Business for Amber, so wrecking her lunch is unforgivable. So she pelts him with pita toppings and launches into a "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
    "But no, you son of a horse, you had to cross the line. You had to go and ruin food for me."
  • Shaped Like Itself:
    So hot, and my head hurts like... something that really hurts.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Trainees for the caravan's defense are called "nuggets", as a nod to the Ace Combat series.
    • When Amber flips her lid at Horizon, an onlooker wonders if she's about to turn him into a newt.
  • Shrouded in Myth: The pegasi's collective knowledge of unicorns has gotten distorted and splintered after being passed down as oral history for a few centuries. So when the caravan meets Amber Spice, they debate whether she's a succubus, siren, djinn, vampire, "leprecorn", or space alien—and when she explains she's a unicorn, no one recognizes the term.
  • Suicide by Cop: Or rather Suicide By Unicorn. It's unclear if Horizon genuinely was trying to piss off Amber enough to make her kill him in a rage, but his friend Sweep comes to that conclusion. It's implied Horizon has tried this before.
    “So let me get this straight,” [Sweep] says. “You have this incredibly skittish mare who can at the very least move objects with her mind and considers that to be a basic flippin' skill and can perform only Terra knows what other feats of magic, and you make it your life's mission to cheese her off?! [...] Do you even have a sense of self-preservation anymore?”
    Is that… a tear in his eye?
    “I'd hoped we were past this, Rize…”
  • Thirsty Desert: The Great Pegasopian Desert, so far the only setting of this story. Fittingly, Amber collapses from dehydration before the story even begins.
  • Too Dumb to Live: For her trip to the desert, Amber packs cooking equipment and a bottle of mead, but doesn't think to bring water. Then when she collapses from heat exhaustion and a pegasus comes to rescue her, she insults him by assuming that he's there to ravish and/or eat her.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: In the first chapter, Horizon kills a pegasus bandit. He casually describes the encounter in just a few sentences—highlighting just how brutal life in the desert can be.
    A perfect collision: hoof spikes on my forelegs impale the hapless would-be thief, he screams and then gurgles his surprise at getting caught, gets shoved off of my spikes by my rear hooves, and plummets to take a very extended nap in the sand and sun. I shake a bit of bandit juice off of my spikes and flick them back up, another encounter resolved.
  • Unwanted False Faith: A downplayed example: when Amber accidentally snuffs out the Eternal Flame in the Tabernacle of Terra, she relights it with her magic. It's a minor, mundane example of what unicorn magic can do—but the priests of Terra, who've never met a unicorn before, think it's nothing short of a Miracle. Amber is weirded out by their reactions.
    “Ember Spires, truly you were sent to our caravan by Terra herself to share with us her loving warmth!”
    What.
    “Yes. Praise be to Terra, for sending one so infused with her holy light into our midst!” Brother Caspar chimes in.
    Whaaaaat.
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