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Fanfic / The Moonstone Cup

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The Moonstone Cup is a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic by Cyanide.

Twilight is invited to Canterlot to compete with some of the greatest magicians in the world for the Moonstone Cup, a prestigious award for the most powerful and skillful magicians, unicorn and otherwise. Can she win? What sort of competition will she face?

As this fic centres on a tournament, many of the tropes will inherently spoil, regardless of Spoiler tags. Be careful in there. The story was written between March and July 2012 and takes place prior to any events from Season 3.

The Moonstone Cup contains Examples of:

  • Anti-Magic: Zlatan's specialty of magic, as Twilight finds out in research, is manipulating the physical world in order to make magic impossible in the area his opponents are standing in. She then uses it right back and does it again later.
  • The Archmage: The Moonstone Cup is ultimately intended to determine who exactly can rightfully claim to be the greatest living mage, and most of its contestants have strong claims to this title. Most notable is Amarok, who won all nine times that he participated, is a master of every known form of magic, and appears to be fully up to date will all magical developments every time he turns up.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: The awards banquet and the build-up to it, where the winners of the Cup are recognized and awarded their medals, culminating in the Cup itself being manifested out of thin air for the winner.
  • Body Horror:
    • Twilight uses one of Zlatan's spells against him, leaving him covered in jagged scales, with gnarled claws, stained brown teeth, and limp, skeletal wings hanging uselessly at his sides. Fortunately, the spell is reversible and Zlatan is honourable, and accepts that he is unable to continue the duel... instead of accepting Hadalsnan al-Dhib's offer of a win via disqualification because "That looks horrible. I could see clear to claim that as injury fault."
    • Najstariot's battle with Nightmare Moon left her horribly scared. Her hide is a patchwork of broken scales, burn marks and scars, parts of which are haphazardly covered by gems or plates of metal fused into her skin. Her left wing is crippled, its elbow fused into an ugly mass of bone and her wings covered in scar tissue; it's immobilized, and its tip has been digging into her side for so long that it's physically grown into it, fusing with her body in a clump of malformed scales. The left side of her head is simply a shapeless mass of scars and scales, her eye simply gone.
  • Breather Level: invoked Twilight thinks that the dispelling part of the preliminary competition is this, due to finding the process of removing an enchantment to be very simple. All other contestants, however, struggle significantly with this task, and the ease with which Twilight does it scares the crap out of Najstariot.
  • Canis Major: Amarok leads a clan of giant wolves of the north who fought against the earth ponies when they tried to colonise their land.
  • Colony Drop: This is one of the possible futures that Twilight sees after Draining the huge mass of clouds she's standing on. The colony in this case is Najstariot's corpse. A dragon the size of a small mountain falling on Canterlot is BAD.
  • Culture Clash: One of Twilight's earlier opponents is a griffin who turns out to specialize in necromancy. Said griffin raises several pony skeletons and uses them to fight, infuriating Twilight who beats her soundly. After the match, the griffin expresses puzzlement that Twilight was so upset and explains, to Twilight's shock, that using the pony skeletons was a compliment since necromancers only use the deceased they feel are strong as warriors.
  • Dishing Out Dirt: The ghuls are traditional masters of earth magic. When demonstrated in combat by the geomancer Shanhaz, this consists chiefly of spells stored inside gems alongside earth manipulation such as creating localized earthquakes or living hands of stone.
  • Don't Think, Feel: In the finals, Twilight has to deal with the Phlebotinum Overload by relying on her instinctive use of magic when she's no longer able to think coherently. This is how she's always used telekinesis. "Forget the spells, Twilight! We never needed them!"
  • Down to the Last Play: In the finals, Amarok and Twilight end up collapsing at the same time, too battered and drained to continue fighting, but Twilight has just enough magic left to throw some dirt at Amarok's face, winning the match.
  • Dying Race: The ghuls have been steadily dying out for a long time — fewer and fewer children are born to them each year, their magic is fading, and many of their survivors have become the savage diamond dogs. Their king expects that after a couple centuries only the diamond dogs will be left, and eventually not even them. This has been ongoing for a long time and nobody has ever figured out a way to stop this, so they've mostly become resigned to their fate and hope to leave some kind of legacy to be remembered by.
    The wizened old ghul deflated, the fierce gleam in his eyes fading. "No. Proud, not strong. Blood runs thin. Fewer pups every year. Earth no longer answers my people, just few sorcerers left. Some already lost, become..." He paused, grimacing. "Become animals. Stealing, eating filth, digging in dirt for gems that not speak. Call themselves diamond dogs." He sighed, slumping back down in his seat. He faced the fire, looking away from the two ponies. "Maybe two, maybe three hundred years, no ghuls left. Not much longer, no diamond dogs left. Young prince, last leader of our people."
  • Elemental Embodiment: During the preliminary matches, Twilight passes the summoning challenge by building a body out of plants and using it summons a plant elemental. Not much detail is given about it except that it speaks Sumerian.
  • Eloquent in My Native Tongue: Hadalsnan al-Dhi'b, the king of the ghuls, speaks in stilted Equestrian due to having learned the language later in life, and states that he's making sure that his son is learning it more fluently.
  • Energy Absorption: Twilight is introduced to the ability to drain power from your opponent to fuel your own spells during her first one-on-one duel, and uses it a few times thereafter. A major feature of this is that, until the energy is spent, the wizard develops an "overlay" of the mind it came from.
    • She bases her strategy against Zlatan on this to overcome and use herself his dimension-manipulating magic.
    • Later, she has to use this to stand a chance against her final opponent, Amarok, though this leads to... problems at first. In the later parts of the story she starts applying the concept to non-living energy sources.
  • Ethnicity Monarch: All major species are united into cohesive nations with a single leader. Examples named in the story include Luna and Celestia the pony princess, and formerly pony empresses; Najstariot the dragon queen; Hadalsnan al-Dhi'b, the king of the ghuls; and Amarok, the ruler of the giant wolves of the north.
  • Flatline: Twilight in the hospital; the monitor went straight from healthy to flatline. Twilight had unintentionally Drained it. The flatline was for the machine, not her.
  • Forced Transformation: A few times, although not into anything as simple as a newt.
    • Semifinals. Twilight turns her opponent Zlatan into a Body Horror who is unable to continue.
    • Finals. Amarok turns Twilight's wings into slabs of iron. She forces them back into normal enchanted wings.
  • Graceful Loser: Amarok is a master of magic and has won the Moonstone Cup all nine times that he's participated, never losing to or drawing with anyone. When Twilight eventually beats him, he accepts his defeat with good humor and, at the awards ceremony, accepts his second place medal by stating that it was about time that someone bested him.
  • In Medias Res: The Action Prologue starts with a huge dragon facing down a unicorn who bursts into flame with no help from the dragon. Cut to a few days earlier...
  • Journey to the Center of the Mind: Twilight experiences something like this when the energy she got from the other Elements threatens to kill her. Meeting and talking it out with mental manifestations of her friends helps her figure out how to use the energy and beat Amarok.
  • Little Miss Badass: Twilight is the first ever junior participant to win the main Moonstone Cup — historically, the title almost always goes to contestants in the Elderly or Sage categories.
  • Loophole Abuse: Used to justify Twilight's preparations for the fight against Amarok. The justifier? Twilight's wing spell, which was never dispelled after the qualifying round. It lasts until the Man on Fire moment after the entire tournament is over.
  • Mind Hive: When a mage uses Energy Absorption to gain extra power, a limited copy of the source's thoughts is planted into their own mind as long as the energy is present. When Twilight's friends offer to be drained before the finals to give her an edge against Amarok, she ends up with the voices of all six of them in her head for most of the match.
  • Necromancer: Griffins will, if they feel you're a great opponent, call upon YOUR dead ancestors to help defeat you. It's a sign of great respect among griffins.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Najstariot has this reaction when Twilight simply breezes through the dispelling portion of the preliminaries.
    • Twilight herself has a small one when she first attempts to drain Zlatan and underestimates the effect of his magic on her.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: The last time Luna favoured a pony, Najstariot was horribly mutilated during the Nightmare Moon incident. She hasn't forgotten, and she sure as hell hasn't forgiven.
  • Our Ghouls Are Different: Ghuls are a canine species who live deep underground and have a strong affinity for earth magic. They're a Dying Race, as fewer and fewer are born each year and many have descended into savagery, becoming the show's diamond dogs.
  • Phlebotinum Overload: Twilight nearly experiences this against Amarok when the energy she took from the other Elements of Harmony threaten to destabilize and kill her. She's able to talk it out within herself and figure out how to use it properly.
  • Physical God: There's a small number of very ancient, very powerful beings who rule over nations of regular mortals and view themselves as deities with little hyperbole. In addition to Celestia and Luna, these include their "cousin" Najstariot, the dragon queen, and the huge wolf Amarok, who rules over lesser wolves and commands the magic and spirits of the cold north.
  • Rent-a-Zilla: In her true from, Najstariot is enormous, far larger than even the regular gargantuan dragons. She's in the same overall size range as Canterlot city, and Twilight has a difficult time accepting that something so big can be a living creature.
    There, before her on the cloud bank, stood Najstariot in all her millenias-old glory. The ancient dragon queen was enormous; not enormous in the way some of the other dragons Twilight had met were enormous, but enormous in the way a mountain or a city was. A single talon on the impossibly huge creature's front claw was larger than Twilight's library. Something deep inside Twilight insisted that what she was seeing was landscape and could not possibly be alive.
  • The Rival: Trixie is this to Twilight during the junior's portion of the tournament. Naturally, Trixie doesn't consider Twilight in her league.
  • Savage Wolves: The far north is home to sapient wolves; when earth ponies tried to settle their lands, the wolves wiped them out and ate them, leading to a long period of war between the wolves and the ponies. Their leader, Amarok, is a huge, immortal member of their kind, and one of the most powerful magicians to ever live. When facing Twilight in their match, he casually states that perhaps the time has come for him to taste pony meat again. However, he also has aspects of the Noble Wolf, as he's ultimately a very graceful loser.
  • Second Place Is for Winners: Twilight figures that she won't win the Moonstone Cup, given that no one has ever won from her age division. Trixie berates her for such a defeatist attitude despite the fact that it was her strategy too, as one of the entrants was an undefeated wolf god who considers himself a peer to Celestia and Luna — whom Twilight narrowly defeats in the final.
  • Shock and Awe: When attacked by Najstariot, Twilight fights back by blasting her with lightning. It's... effective. Once Twilight is talked down, her foe is more than happy to return the favour.
  • Superpower Meltdown: Twilight faces off against Najstariot and remembers the Drain spell mentioned under Energy Absorption. She doesn't turn it on her foe but on the HUGE pile of energy nearby. When she focuses back on things, Celestia is begging for Twilight to relent.
  • Time Abyss: Amarok the giant wolf is incredibly old — the oldest records describing him go back to the ponies' prehistoric period, making him comfortably older than Celestia and Luna and probably the oldest living being in the world.
  • Tournament Arc: The story mostly centers around a prestigious international tournament for mages where contestants from all over the world gather to trade spells and decide which of them is the best magic-user around.
  • Voluntary Transformation: Najstariot the dragon queen spends most of the fic in pony form until the end, both to maneuver around Canterlot and to hide the mass of wounds on her normal, gargantuan form.
  • Winged Unicorn: One of the MANY rumours about Twilight spread amongst the competitors is that she's an alicorn. Twilight then fulfills it, although not as an alicorn.
  • Wreathed in Flames: Twilight Sparkle when facing off against Najstariot. The flames intense enough to finally dispel/destroy the wings she'd been using since the qualifying rounds and she was still airborne anyway.