A Recursive Fanfiction of Chengar Qordath's The Life and Times of a Winning Pony My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic, The Lunar Rebellion follows the exploits of Shadow Kicker, the Famous Ancestor of the original story's protagonist.
One hundred years after Nightmare Moon's banishment and defeat, Shadow Kicker is one of the five Ephors of Pegasopolis, and is fiercely loyal to her home and culture. However, when Pegasopolis rises in revolt against Celestia under the flag in Nightmare Moon, she finds herself torn between her loyalty to her home and heritage and her loyalty to her ruler.
The story is complete with multiple sequels.
Lunar Rebellion: The Golden Path: When Queen Celestia has to temporarily leave Equestria on business, she needs someone to look over the kingdom in her absence. Much to everyone's surprise, she chooses the ambitious Sunbeam Sparkle to serve as her regent rather than the steadfast and loyal Shadow Kicker.
However, Sunbeam has little time to ponder why her monarch chose her. The Golden Path of Freeport, a corrupt regime ruled by false gods, sees Celestia's absence as an opportunity. Now Sunbeam must face a foe that claims to be every bit Celestia's equal, and with no divine powers of her own...
Midnight's Shadow: Equestria is a nation on the edge of disaster after the devastation caused by the Lunar Rebellion. Beset on all sides by nefarious enemies, vicious foreign invaders, insane Lunar cultists, malicious fey, and diabolical conspirators all threaten Equestrias borders and stability. Midnight Sparkle, daughter of Archmagus Sunbeam Sparkle and herself a newly minted Magus of Equestria, soon finds herself embroiled in the chaos surrounding her homeland. But what hope does a single unicorn have against so many overwhelming threats?
Tropes in The Lunar Rebellion include:
- A Day in the Limelight: Interlude 5. Due to the fact that covering a war requires multiple differing perspectives, this chapter uses Radiant Day's memoirs instead for his point of view in the Battle of Avalon Vale.
- Aborted Arc:
- The exact reason as to how the clippings are happening and spiking in the former half of Rising Shadows was never followed up upon. Tensions and culture clash between the unicorns and pegasi resulted in the murder of one of the investigators via falling through the clouds. The narrative was shifted to Celestia being removed from the post of Commander, the Ephorate declaring war on Celestia and the Kickers leaving in protest without any resolution to that plot point.
- Due to Bright Charger intending to unleash vengeance on Canterlot for their supposed murder of Lance Charger, there was no follow-up as to who exactly sent the assassin that derailed the talks in the first place. On top of that, the exact circumstances of Lance Charger's death remains unknown, like whether or not the tanglehoof in her stomach came from Shadow's weapon or another source all together.
- Adult Fear:
- Throughout the war, the population often worries whether their relatives have survived fighting on the frontlines. It is even worse if your family is fragmented and is chose opposite sides in the civil war, desperately hoping that they would not run into each other and survive.
- This is also what drove Shadow Kicker and Sunbeam Sparkle when their daughters get taken prisoner by the enemy or kidnapped for a sacrificial ritual respectively.
- Bittersweet Ending: Despite the positivity surrounding the Foregone Conclusion, several supporting characters are Killed Off for Real with Equestria's military in shambles and according to a footnote from Cloud Kicker, the country even plunged into an economic slump after the war.
- Bling of War: The unicorn nobles, to a ridiculous degree. At one point, Shadow half-jokingly wonders if they plan to achieve victory by blinding the enemy with the light reflecting off of their adornments.
- Blood Magic: Practiced by the lunar cultists. Among other things, they can use pony sacrifices to turn a normal pony into Nightmare Moon's Avatar.
- Challenging the Chief: juris ungula. When this is invoked, all nearby combatants not involved in the duel must stop fighting to supervise and prevent outside interference. Meanwhile, the combatants of the duel are to state their respective terms should they win or lose. Often then not, this was exploited by both sides to stop the fighting and take the enemy commander prisoner.
- Cheaters Never Prosper: One of the running themes of the story. Throughout the story, it's been shown time and time again that any attempt to go against one's morals, principles and ideals for the sake of a quick, underhanded victory often backfires with the worst consequences possible. Getting the aid of Lunar cultists? Watch your entire cause undergo Motive Decay and become hypocritical. Attack the enemy commander in a truce zone? Watch the enemy commander Come Back Strong and became the key to defeating you while your own cause loses creditability. Kill your own officer just to take his spot in a duel against your hated enemy, thinking that being an alicorn means that you will win? Your hated enemy that Came Back Strong proceeds to kick your ass. Launch a sneak attack on another front while a duel is happening on the other side? Your entire plan goes haywire on first contact, turn the entire endeavour into a "Shaggy Dog" Story as you receive news of your partners' failure on the other side and will not be able to follow up on your attack as originally planned after the battle is over. Sneak your best chance of victory in the enemy capital, killing widows and kidnapping foals to decapitate the enemy commander in one stroke? Watch it backfire and lose all chances of winning the war. Attempt to flood the enemy capital to force an easy win by drowning the entire city? Well, let's just say all the heat that was originally there has to go somewhere...
- Cruel Mercy: This is why Sunbeam opposed Dusk Charger being executed at the end of the war. Letting him live while seeing the clans of Pegasopolis — clans around whose membership he had built his whole identity and which had been a central part of Pegasopolian culture since before Luna and Celestia were born — dismantled and broken up by wartime reforms, with the knowledge that it was his actions that led to this, was in her mind a far worse fate than any physical torture she could devise. Dusk himself agreed.
- Death by Irony: Early in The Lunar Rebellion, the rebels create a constant rainstorm over Canterlot in an attempt to flood the city and force its surrender, using up most clouds in the local countryside. This diversion of clouds has the effect of causing a great deal of drought in the surrounding land. At the end of the war, the loyalists, after adding to this a bit with some increased sunshine and draining of the remaining water, turn this against the rebels. A massive fire spell later, the entire rebel army is immolated in a tinderbox of its own devising.
- Death of a Thousand Cuts: Invoked. The Order of Sol Invictus deliberately employs this technique to confront dangerous foes. In Interlude 5, this is used to capture Rightly Doo.
- Dramatic Irony:
- In a last-ditch attempt to keep Shadow from defecting to Celestia's cause, Cyclone says that if she does, the Kickers will forever be remembered as "blackguards and betrayers, lead into infamy by a madmare". In the Winningverse's present, as established well before this story was posted, the Kickers are remembered as the only clan that remained loyal during the Rebellion, and Shadow is one of Equestria's greatest heroes.
- One of Shadow's worries is that with Equestria plunged into Civil War, outside forces will not resist invading the country. A footnote from Cloud Kicker reveals that the Ephorate's hanging of the Archduke plunged the griffons into a civil war of their own, preventing outside interference from them. The enemy armies that do manage to attack Equestria were subjected to instances of Enemy Mine between the loyalists and the rebels, resulting in crushing defeats.
- Droit du Seigneur: Jus primae noctis, the right for nobles to take the virginity of any of their subjects, is mentioned, although its noted that theres no proof that it was ever a real thing beyond anti-nobility propaganda and exaggerated rumors of real events.
- Easy Logistics: Defied with extreme prejudice. One of the biggest stand-outs in this story is how logistics and supplies are treated as seriously as winning decisive battles and taking out enemy commanders. The fact that the rebels treat their best Ephor at handling logistics like a secondary asset combined with the lack of proper support and supervision to focus on fighting glorious battles was one of the biggest factors of them losing due to him consorting with lunar cultists out of desperation, kick-starting their downfall.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Pegasopolis is mostly based on ancient Sparta (the Ephorate, the Gerousia, a legendary lawgiver named Lyequinegus, disdain for money, etc.) and ancient Rome (clans led by a paterfamilias, adoption, damnatio memoriae, etc.), though the hetairoi were an ancient Macedonian unit.
- Fate Worse than Death: The pegasi consider being Clipped — that is, having their wings severed — to be this, to the point that most would prefer suicide than having to live wingless. Surrendering to the enemy is considered a close second, especially among their high command.
- Flowery Elizabethan English: At the time of the Lunar Rebellion, nine hundred years before the show's events, all ponies are depicted as speaking like this as an extension of Luna canonically speaking the same way after her return from exile in "Luna Eclipsed". Unlike a lot of the times it's used in fanworks, the grammar and spelling are actually correct — the author even distinguishes between the use of "you" in formal settings versus the familiar or intimate "thou".
- Footnote Fever: The Lunar Rebellion is presented as the most recent edition of Shadow Kickers in-universe memoirs as edited by Cloud Kicker, and is liberally interspersed with Clouds running commentary as she alternatively provides useful exposition or her own opinions of the various goings-on.
- Foregone Conclusion: As a prequel to The Life and Times of a Winning Pony, and moreover as an in-universe memoir by Shadow Kicker, it is clear from the first chapter that Shadow and Midnight will survive the war, that the Kickers will remain loyal to the crown, that the royalists will defeat the rebels, and that the clans of Pegasopolis (except the Kickers) will be disbanded. The story is about how those things happened, and the tension comes from not knowing the fates of other characters.
- Gray-and-Grey Morality: Both sides of the conflict have reasons to fight, and neither are exactly guilt free. It shifts more towards Black-and-White Morality by the third act, as Nightmare Moon and her followers take control of the rebel side using blood magic and pony sacrifice.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Early in the Siege of Canterlot, the rebels construct a permanent rainstorm over the city in an attempt to flood it. In so doing, they starve the surrounding countryside of rain and create a massive drought. This comes back to bite them at the end of the war, when the dryness of the battlefield allows the royalists to use a massive fire spell to burn the entire rebel army alive.
- Honor Before Reason: This appears to be something of a recurring flaw for the pegasi, who value their martial and ethical honor so highly that they will always choose what they perceive as the more honorable path in a given matter, even if their other, less honorable options were objectively smarter, less costly or otherwise more expedient. Its mentioned at one point that their tradition of never surrendering their city to outsiders and fighting to the last has resulted in a long history of needless last stands that got a lot of ponies killed for the sake of pride. The refusal to surrender by Steel Striker and Rightly Doo and the subsequent result in the battles after the Siege of Canterlot demonstrates just how bad this mentality is.
- Human Sacrifice: In the epilogue of Rising Shadows, Archmagi Copper Spark and Piercing Cry are sacrificed by the lunar cultists to power the spell that turned Bright Charger into the Avatar of Nightmare Moon.
- Hypocrite: One of the main points of the rebels' cause is mortal ponies should rule themselves instead of bowing to immortal absolute rulers... and then they name Nightmare Moon their Commander, ally with her cultists and fight their entire rebellion under her flag. This is less the case at the beginning, when the flag is just a convenient symbol and no one expects Nightmare Moon to actually return or even still be alive, but it fully crosses into this trope when the rebels openly ally themselves with Lunar cultists and Bright Charger becomes the Avatar of Nightmare Moon and leader of the rebel armies. This is something recognized and remarked upon even by some characters on the rebel side.Dusk Charger: We no longer fight for our traditional freedoms. Instead 'tis a question of which queen we shall bow to when the war is done.
- I'm a Humanitarian: Turns out that, 900 years before the show, griffons partook of pony meat when they took them prisoner. Too bad this seals an Archduke's fate when Shadow finds out.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: When Shadow arrives in the ritual chamber during the battle in Canterlot, she finds several warlocks impaled on massive spikes of ice around the ritual circle as a result of Midnight losing control of her magic in a moment of panic.
- Irony: The rebels' attempt to flood Canterlot at the beginning of the story ends up biting them in a case of situational irony. At the end of the war, the drought caused by their using up the surrounding clouds for the flood allows the loyalists to destroy their entire army with a massive fire spell. What was meant as a way to force the war to end early with as few casualties on their side as possible ends up being key to the rebels' final, crushing defeat.
- La Résistance:
- Multiple small ones formed by Solar loyalists spring in earth pony territory controlled by the rebels, with their scattered and decentralized nature (as well as their ability to go to ground amongst the civilians whenever Pegasopolian troops come around) making it very difficult for the elite pegasus army to fight the otherwise inexperienced and poorly supplied earth pony militias.
- A larger resistance is led by the unicorn magus Mossy Banks, who gathered a large number of loyalist earth ponies in his home in Froggy Bottom Bog and started striking rebel patrols and supply trains, keeping attacks at bay with a combination of ambushes, hostile terrain and using his magic to turn the very bog and its animals against invaders. Its mentioned that in modern times, Mossy Banks has become something of a folk legend.
- Last Stand: The pegasi have a tradition of engaging any invader to the last rather than ever surrendering their city to outside forces. In a footnote, Cloud Kicker notes that this has historically resulted in a great deal of ponies dying needlessly over matters of pride, and that as a survivor of a near last stand herself she sees little appeal in the concept. A short while later in the story proper, Shadow concedes that its easy to speak of dying gloriously when youre not the one whos actually going to have to die.
- After the Siege of Canterlot is broken, Steel Striker and his army choose to fight and die at the Maresidian Fields, caught between two royalist armies, knowing that the cause they fought for is already lost and preferring a honorable death to a humiliating peace through surrender. Steel even briefly wonders if there will be any stories about the last stand of the last ponies not to answer to immortal rulers. They don't get the chance. The royalists, taking advantage of a drought, burn the entire rebel army alive with a tremendous fire spell.
- At the final battle of Cloudsdale, Rightly Doo is still too hung up on honor to see that he is outmatched in every aspect and, without support from the earth ponies, Cloudsdale will fall from the lack of food in the coming winter unless they resort to banditry even if they win. He resorts to a surprise attack in the night on the loyalists camp to re-enact what the loyalists succeeded in the Battle of Avalon Vale. In an ironic and tragic twist, Shadow knew that he would do such a tactic. The loyalists proceeded to pretend that they were sleeping while wearing their war gear, hoping that their display of readiness would show the rebels how hopeless their cause is and force a withdrawal or even a surrender. Righty Doo still ordered the attack even when he saw that it has been discovered, resulting in the decimation of his army which allowed the loyalists to march onto Cloudsdale without any resistance.
- Lighter and Softer: The side story The Great Snowball War is a story involving Midnight participating in a snowball fight with foals and going overboard to win, eventually involving the other significant players from the Lunar Rebellion including Princess Celestia herself. It's a rather lighthearted slice of life story that shows a glimpse of what old Equestria is like without war and politics looming over.
- The Mole:
- In Rising Shadows, the first major rebel victory is revealed to have been due to warlocks among the loyalists forces allying with the rebels and feeding them info on the loyalists' troop movements.
- In Ascendant Shadows, the Unicornian noble Pure Line is revealed to have sworn allegiance to the Avatar in secret in order to allow rebel forces a way into Canterlot.
- Motive Decay: The rebels. They start out championing democracy, self-rule, and freedom from tyranny, and make sure to fight and campaign with honor. Eventually, they start to tend more towards championing pegasus rule and freedom from non-pegasus tyranny, while using increasingly dubious tactics to promote their cause. Ultimately, they become nothing more than a front for lunar cultists seeking to bring back Nightmare Moon.
- Not Quite the Right Thing: One of the first moves of the Ephorate during the rebellion is to assist the earth pony populist movement in overthrowing the upper class elite and forgiving the debt of working farmers, which Celestia had previously refused to do. Shortly thereafter, we see exactly why she thought it was a bad idea: unable to collect on the money owed to them, the banks of Manehattan almost immediately go bankrupt, torpedoing the earth pony economy. The new earth pony government, meanwhile, proves to be as uneducated, stubborn, and shortsighted as they are idealistic, and have absolutely no idea how to handle the situation.
- Old Master: Played straight by characters like Grandmaster Crossguard and Steel Striker, who are noted to have been skilled warriors in their youth, but are now well past their physical prime. Played with more interestingly by Shadow Kicker; although she's still far from old, she is implied to be in her mid-forties or so. Despite being extremely experienced, skilled, and battle-hardened, it's noted more than once that she's not quite as fast, durable, or strong as she used to be. When forced into a direct confrontation with the extraordinarily gifted and physically in-her-prime Lance Charger, she needs to use every dirty trick in the book to keep up.
- Praetorian Guard: The hetairoi, a unit of elite pegasus warriors chosen to serve as the bodyguard of the Commander of Pegasopolis, as well as serving combat roles in situations too important or specialized for the common troops.
- Principles Zealot:
- Fair Deal, the provisional chancellor of the aforementioned Earth Pony populist movement, who refuses to compromise with the magnates in any way, even if its the only way to get the funds to finance the revolution hes fighting, or to prevent a civil war among the Earth Ponies. This gets him and his lot killed when pre-Avatar Bright Charger authorizes Swift Blade to do whatever is necessary to get what the Lunars need from him.Fair Deal: Neigh, I say. I am not backing up, not one step, ever.
- The pegasi, especially the Ephorate, fall under this with them constantly choosing Honour Before Reason and engaging in pointless last stands that only serve to increase the body count even when common sense says otherwise for sake of glory and honor.
- Fair Deal, the provisional chancellor of the aforementioned Earth Pony populist movement, who refuses to compromise with the magnates in any way, even if its the only way to get the funds to finance the revolution hes fighting, or to prevent a civil war among the Earth Ponies. This gets him and his lot killed when pre-Avatar Bright Charger authorizes Swift Blade to do whatever is necessary to get what the Lunars need from him.
- Proud Warrior Race: The pegasi, to even greater degrees than what was shown in canon. Their entire culture is dedicated to supporting their army in some form or another, their system of morals was clearly created to apply to war and the battlefield first and foremost, and theyre obsessed with personal honor. Deconstructed throughout the story as their indifference towards Swift Blade over logistics led to them losing while clearly fighting with no hope of victory only serves to increase the body count.
- Rape, Pillage, and Burn:
If I take the city by storm, half of it will burn to the ground, and a year later most of the surviving mares shall have new pegasus foals.
- Griffon reivers menace Equestrias shores early in the story, attacking coastal settlements, sacking them and kidnapping their inhabitants, whom they either enslave or eat.
- The Avatar uses the possibility of this as a threat to try to force Shadow to convince Celestia to surrender Canterlot, claiming that itd be impossible to control victory-drunk soldiers seeking retribution for a long, hard siege and the deaths of close companions.
- Red Herring:
- In the first few chapters, Sunbeams and Shadows constant clashes, together with the initial focus on the politics of the three Equestrian governments and Sunbeams less than stellar reputation and methods, make it seem as though Sunbeam will be the chief antagonist to Shadow with her attempts to force her authority over Pegasopolis, but this fades out around the end of the first act, when Pegasopolis goes into open revolt and Sunbeam and Shadow end up as allies (if reluctant ones).
- Throughout Rising Shadows, its hinted that the pony who would become the Avatar of Nightmare Moon is Lance Charger. Nope! She dies by accidentally swallowing some tanglehoof, and Bright Charger becomes the Avatar instead.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: How Shadow and Sunbeam work together...at first.
- The Order: (Knightly) Order of Sol Invictus, the military branch of the Cult of Sol Invictus. It is comprised of the cult members that wish to serve Celestia military-wise and become the ideal Knight in Shining Armor for Equestria.
- Understatement: Shadows summation of Gales impression of Dusk Charger.Gale turned to her new foster brother, a displeased frown on her face. First and foremost, I think I will need to beat the foolhardiness out of him. He is an artless churl with the fighting skills of a goat and the manners of a timberwolf. Of all Bright Chargers many foals, he is clearly the runt of the litter, and unworthy of being fostered to our clan. In all my many years, Ive not seen a more clod-brained canker blossom that claimed to be a warrior of Pegasopolis. He is so dull of wit that to call him an arse-breathed mewling miscreant would be a compliment. The best use I could imagine for him is to toss him to the ground, so that he might at least be of use as a tail-leasing profligate.
I began to suspect that my daughter was not overly fond of Dusk Charger.
- Unperson: Damnatio memoriae, a posthumous punishment in Pegasopolis during the era of the Lunar Rebellion. A pegasus who has particularly shamed their clan is completely expunged from their clan's records after death.
- Upper-Class Twit: The Canterlot nobility in general, being as a whole a bunch of foppish, self-centered and superficial aristocrats who contribute absolutely nothing of value to society, but most centrally Duke Polaris, especially once hes given command of the loyalist armed forces and keeps treating war preparations and tactics as another political game, discarding valuable wartime allies and hurting the war effort to gain personal glory and advantages in Canterlots internal politics. This is somewhat mitigated in Polaris' case, as although he is factually unqualified for leading armed forces, he is aware of this and makes a point of surrounding himself with advisers who are, allowing him to command his forces with a surpassing degree of competency.
- War Is Glorious: The pegasi firmly believe in this, due to their overall upbringing.
- War Is Hell: The fic's protagonists firmly believe in this over the course of the story, with many of the Character Deaths being quite gruesome with little dramatics and fanfare. Even Dusk Charger's actions in the climax of the Siege of Canterlot is due a firm belief that it would end the war quicker, regardless of the actual victor.
- Wham Episode:
- The twelfth chapter and the epilogue of Rising Shadows: Shadow Kicker is by all appearances dead, and Bright Charger has become the Avatar of Nightmare Moon.
- Ascendant Shadows 5 reveals the truth of Midnight Sparkle with her actually being Sunbeam's adopted child and was originally born to be a vessel for Nightmare Moon in an earlier attempt to bring Nightmare Moon back by Lunar cultists.
- Wham Line:
- In The Manehattan Crisis I chapter:Swift Blade: Tis simple, Skilled. We are to launch a coup gainst Chancellor Fair Deal.
- In the epilogue of Rising Shadows:"Yes," the alicorn Bright Charger answered me with, a cold smile upon her face. "But so much more as well. I am Equestria's salvation from the evils of the Sun Tyrant. I am freedom. I am a goddess's will made flesh. I am Luna reborn, her avatar on this world!"
- At the end of the prologue of Ascending Shadows:Bright Charger/The Avatar: How can it be that Shadow Kicker lives?!
- In The Manehattan Crisis I chapter:
- What Happened to the Mouse?: A notable number of the supporting cast's fate is left unknown as the epilogue only covers the fates of Shadow Kicker, Gale Kicker, Sunbeam Sparkle, Midnight Sparkle, Stalwart Kicker, Dawn Charger, Dusk Charger and Celestia after the war. Justified as the In-Universe source material only consisted of memoirs from Shadow Kicker, Dusk Charger, Radiant Day and Swift Blade and other miscellaneous information.
- Written by the Winners: The Ephors, and Swift Blade and Bright Charger in particular, are of the belief that Celestia rewrote much Equestrias official history to make herself look better. They make it clear that they believe the tale of Nightmare Moon to be a smear campaign created by Celestia after unjustly overthrowing her sister to make herself sole ruler of Equestria, and further justify their alliance with warlocks and lunar cultists by the reasoning that assigning such titles is simply a way for Celestia to discredit political opponents. Subverted in the end, as this is all portrayed as being completely incorrect — Nightmare Moon is still a Mad God, the warlocks are genuinely horrible people, and this belief in general seems to be more than anything a way for the Ephorate to retroactively justify their rebellion against Celestia — and not all ephors buy much into this line of reasoning, for that matter.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Most characters act like theyre in a fairly realistic military low fantasy story with Gray-and-Grey Morality. Theyre not exactly wrong, especially in the early part of the story, but this is still part of the Black-and-White Morality high fantasy setting of My Little Pony, and discrepancies show, especially in how a lot of ponies assume that Nightmare Moons rebellion was just a dynastic power struggle, and Celestia killed Luna and covered it up. The Wrong Genre Savvyness start to show more as the story goes on and the Gray and Grey start to markedly lighten and darken.