Flitter isn't a very nice pony. She doesn't hate anypony: hatred is just too much effort. Hate is supposed to be love with its back turned, which is just one of the many stupid things ponies just keep on saying because they're blind to the realities of their world. It's Flitter's self-assigned job to make ponies see how things truly are, and the best way to do that is by being something much less than nice. That her duties keep her from making friends, get her kicked out of multiple settled zones, and turn her into a pariah whose only true companion may be her cat? (Incidentally, she adopted a cat because pure carnivores shake ponies up.) None of that matters, because somepony has to wake ponies up and force them to see a world where most of the Bearers are quite frankly idiots, Sun and Moon don't work properly (on their own), and kindness — not to mention Kindness — is a sign of weakness. Kindness is the art of curling up into a ball and begging the world not to hurt you, and that makes the Element of Kindness into the weakest pony in the world. So when Flitter's cat becomes sick, she does everything she can to avoid seeking help at the cottage, because she's not going to deal with that weakness unless it's absolutely necessary.
And when she's forced to visit the cottage in the end, 'weak' turns out to be exactly the wrong word.
The Continuum's inductee into the Royal Canterlot Library: a look at Ponyville through somewhat different eyes, an examination of the true duties involved in animal caretaking, and the price of being the one who has to show the way.
Read it here.
Tropes found in this story include:
- 100% Adoration Rating: As Ponyville's licensed vet, Sweetbark is constantly trying for this through posting a 100% success record with all the animals she treats — but it's artificial, because her means of guaranteeing her own results is through sending any case that's even remotely risky to the cottage, forcing every potential failure and death onto Fluttershy. While this arguably allows Fluttershy to maintain her practice with a formal vet in the settled zone, it's also turned Sweetbark into one of the Continuum's resident Hate Sinks.
- Alpha Bitch: Flitter, with deliberate intent.
- A Million Is a Statistic: Averted for Fluttershy, and not in a positive way: remembering (and reciting) all the names isn't emotionally healthy.
- Book-Ends: Towards the start of the story, Flitter spends some time thinking about each of the Bearers and the specific reasons she doesn't like them: Twilight uses her magic for things Flitter considers trivial, Rainbow's an egotist, Applejack's honesty isn't brutal enough, Rarity's entire profession (and therefore existence) is pointless, Fluttershy is weak and the closest thing to a pony Flitter could potentially be bothered to hate, and Pinkie — actually gets off easy, because Flitter considers Pinkie to be a rather effective jolter. At the end, all of this is quickly recapped, with a change: Flitter now actually hates Fluttershy for being strong.
- Brutal Honesty: Part of what Flitter sees as her signature style.
- Call-Back: When considering asking Rarity for help, Flitter remembers being less than polite to her during their three-minute date.
- The Cameo: The doctor who was unable to figure out Spike was a dragon appears in Sweetbark's veterinary office, substituting for her while she's out of town. His medical diploma is heavily implied to be from a less than credible school, and a casual line suggests he's been prescribing himself a few drugs for recreational use. Sweetbark only has him holding down the office because she knows any real problems will go to Fluttershy, and he says nopony brings him pony patients any more: his parents are sending him a stipend of two thousand bits a month to keep him afloat.
- The Dead Have Names: And Fluttershy remembers every single one of them, reciting all five hundred as she stands over the graves behind the cottage.
- Death by Newbery Medal: Invoked and averted. As noted by one reviewer, as soon as you see Carnie, you know she's starred in her last fanfic — but at the same time, Flitter deliberately doesn't learn from the experience, because to fully recognize those lessons would destroy her.
- Doom Magnet: Flitter acknowledges having the Bearers in Ponyville leads to constant town reconstruction. However, nearly all of that impacts the ground structures, so it's not really her problem.
- Downer Ending: Rather than force her to spend her last days under Sun in pain, Flitter allows Fluttershy to euthanize Carnie — the five hundredth animal Fluttershy's had to send into the shadowlands since coming to ground. (Word Of Fanfic Author says this includes the incurably wounded she's found in the fringe and wild zone.) Sweetbark isn't going to start seeing potentially fatal cases any time soon or possibly ever, which means the emotional burden on Fluttershy will just continue to build. Flitter eventually adopts a new kitten, naming him Killer in what's implied to be a reminder to Fluttershy about what she did — but her attitude towards Fluttershy only changes in one way, with the animal caretaker becoming the first pony Flitter truly hates. And the reason for that hatred? She's realized Fluttershy is stronger than she is.
- A discussion in the story's Comments section brought up the possibility that Fluttershy, in her way, jolted Flitter without having to use cruel words, demonstrating that Flitter's chosen methods aren't necessary — something Flitter truly can't accept because to do so would break her entire worldview.
- Due to the Dead: Fluttershy buries Carnie (because Flitter feels she'll have to leave Ponyville eventually and when she does, her home will eventually dissipate, making cloud burial impossible), says a few words over the grave, then recites the full list of names for all those for whom she's shown the way while Flitter watches from the air, concealed behind a cloud.
- Everyone Has Standards: Flitter initially finds Fluttershy's keeping count of the dead to be sick, charging her on instinct (and going into the wall after Fluttershy dodges) and spending some time seeing Fluttershy as a sociopath looking for her nice round number, as that count is at four hundred and ninety-nine when Carnie is first brought to the cottage.
- Failure Montage: A quick one, played for drama. After fleeing from the cottage, Flitter heads into Canterlot so she can consult a real vet and get the true diagnosis. Three confirm diabetes and the last tries to sell her a false cure.
- Five Stages of Grief: Flitter cascades around most of the list. Whether she ever reaches acceptance is debatable.
- Forced to Watch: Self-inflicted and averted. Flitter wants to punish herself for having Carnie euthanized through watching it happen, but Fluttershy refuses to allow it, saying it'll be what Flitter remembers.
- Foreshadowing: This one took a while to manifest as such: when thinking about Applejack, Flitter decides that she should personally be holding that Element, because Brutal Honesty should count. And when we finally get our first glimpses of Zephyra Hurricane, the original Bearer, it turns out it did...
- This line appears towards the start of the story: " Flitter disliked just about everypony in the world, everything under Sun and Moon, the Princesses who made those last two work at all, and an universe which required them to do the job because the stupid orbs wouldn't operate on their own." And when we reach A Mark Of Appeal, we learn Sun and Moon can't work without operators.
- Hates Everyone Equally: Flitter's basic approach to life, with a side dose of Alpha Bitch — all of which she sees as her duty, truly believing that ponies are too complacent and comfortable in their existence and need to be jolted into perceiving reality. She's rude, insulting, cruel, and one of the nastiest ponies anypony's ever met — all in the name of making those around her see that the world is fundamentally stupid and they need to be stronger in order to deal with it. (It's also how she justifies her mark: dragonflies come out of nowhere and startle ponies.) As far as Flitter's concerned, taking Equestria's collective blinders off is her life's work, and she fully dedicates herself to that goal. The fact that her labors have effectively gotten her kicked out of multiple settled zones (or at least reached the point where nopony will sell her anything other than moving supplies) hasn't slowed her down in the slightest.
- Hidden Depths: Flitter can catch, gut & fillet, then cook fish — a rare skill set for a pony, but helpful when trying to deal with feeding a carnivore pet and the high cost of meat.
- Hope Spot: In desperation over her inability to make Carnie eat, Flitter asks Rarity for help in the hopes that their mutual ownership of cats will let the unicorn look past what Flitter had once said about her. Rarity immediately agrees to do what she can, and is able to use her field to both get Carnie's mouth open and, with a throat message, force the cat to swallow — which is immediately followed by vomiting.
- Hypocrite: Flitter is... well, basically she's a gigantic hypocrite. She feels farming is pointless because food can be collected from the wild zones, but she doesn't do that herself. And weather control just makes ponies too comfortable — but she's part of Ponyville's weather team. She thinks the Bearers are a bunch of idiots who do nothing useful, but she depended on them to save Equestria from Nightmare Moon, Discord, Queen Chrysalis and Sombra. She mocks Kindness as the most pathetic of Elements, but she depends on Kindness to get somepony to help Carnie. And, most tellingly, she scorns Fluttershy for being weak, but when she learns firsthand the true, quiet strength that the pegasus bears, that's just one more excuse to sincerely hate Fluttershy.
- It's All About Me: Flitter's problem in a nutshell is that she thinks her opinion is the only truly matters and that she is the indisputable authority on... well, everything that really matters. This is particularly highlit by her not caring about the fact other ponies get their homes destroyed by various Ponyville disasters because she lives in a cloud-house and so it never even reaches her, and the fact she uses Fluttershy's euthanizing Carnie as one reason to to justify hating the poor Bearer of Kindness.
- Jerkass: Flitter is the unrivaled queen of jerks in Ponyville, and actively exults in her role as such.
- Kindhearted Cat Lover: Well, when it comes to Flitter, cat lover, yes: kindhearted, no. It's noted that carnivore pets tend to disturb some ponies (along with being expensive — in Equestria, meat isn't cheap) and so cat ownership is seen as unusual. note Flitter sees cat ownership as the only interesting thing about Rarity, considering that some ponies must be turning away from the Boutique when they see what's resting in the window, and also briefly considered that based on choice of animal companion, Pinkie just might be the most interesting pony in the history of ever — until she got a look at Gummy's total lack of teeth.
- Mercy Kill: The hellish, unavoidable part of Fluttershy's duty as animal caretaker, with the emotional implications and toll explored.
- Misplaced Retribution: Invoked. Flitter briefly (and mistakenly) considers that Fluttershy might be looking to euthanize Carnie as revenge for Flitter's opinions and actions concerning the animal caretaker, including only pretending to cheer following the water transfer operation.
- Mundane Utility: Part of Flitter's problem with both Twilight and Fluttershy is that their magic only seems to be used this way. For the former, Flitter sees the spells being researched as trivial and feels power is meant to be used, noting that Twilight's basically carrying the world's largest sledgehammer and using it to gently tap books back into their exact places on the library shelves. With Fluttershy, while still feeling the caretaker has a stupid talent for a pegasus, Flitter perceives its potential: a pony who can make carnivores do what she wants could shake up the entire continent just by walking around with some of her bigger friends at her side — but Fluttershy keeps them at the cottage because she doesn't want to scare anypony.
- There's also the fact that the cloudwalking spell serves pegasi who want to keep groundbound pets without having to abandon their sky homes. Ponies exist who can cast a permanent version, but there are very few of those unicorns around at any time, and they charge accordingly for their services. note Flitter pays to have the working cast for both Carnie and Killer (along with going through some very unnerving training to keep the recipients away from the edge of clouds), and Sick Little Ponies later states that Rainbow's had Tank enchanted.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: When Fluttershy shouts at the cottage residents, ordering them to leave Flitter alone after the failed attempt to charge the caretaker (with those animals already closing in), you know things have become very serious indeed."She — can be — angry!" Fluttershy declared. "She has every right! This is the time for anger! So let her be angry!"
- Replacement Goldfish: Attempted, then averted, hard. The day after Carnie's death, Flitter goes to the cottage and demands Fluttershy provide her with a cat. It doesn't work."...right now... all you'll see — is her. Whoever you take... won't be her... and you'll hate what should have been a friend for that. The pain... won't go away. Not completely, not ever. But when you don't think of her every hour... when you can look at somepony out with their friend and not hate them for having one... when it's just an ache... come to me. And then I'll introduce you to a friend who needs you. Or... a friend you need. But... this isn't the time, Flitter..."
- Schizo Tech: As also seen in A Mark Of Appeal, the local ponies are somewhat behind their general level of 1940s advancement when it comes to some medical issues. In this case, they've identified diabetes as a specific disease and can diagnose it from the symptoms, but nopony's worked out insulin as a palliative, much less figured out how to produce it — something which happened in the 1920s on Earth. As such, feline diabetes is a death sentence.
- Serial Killer: Invoked, Downplayed and Zigzagged. Fluttershy has no compulsion to kill and only does so because bringing an end to the pain of her animal friends is part of her duties — but every death takes its price, and it may be notable that she quietly gives her current total when Flitter demands to know how many friends she's murdered."I keep count... because it feels like every time takes something away from me, and I don't know how much I have to give any more... I remember their names because..."The tears were falling faster, the fabric of the couch becoming waterstained — no, old stains taking on still more salt."...when my part in the cycle ends... when I go to the shadowlands... somepony will ask me why. On every single name. And I'll have to remember every last one, explain why it was the only option left. And then maybe I'll see them... and if they don't hate me... as much I hate mys —"
- Shown Their Work: Those familiar with the symptoms from diabetes onset may be able to diagnose Carnie before Fluttershy does.
- Signature Scent: The cottage has one, and it's not pleasant: dozens of species in residence, all with their own feces drops and urine sprays. Fluttershy cleans whatever she can, but some odor remains, and it never fully drops to background awareness.
- Silk Hiding Steel: Fluttershy may seem weak, but it takes a tremendous amount of strength to face the duties required by animal caretaking every day and keep going back, especially when those duties include ending the lives of those you've come to love as friends.
- Roseluck even gets a very rare moment of determination: when Flitter proposes a move to Trottingham so Roseluck won't have to deal with the stresses of Ponyville, Roseluck angrily declares "I'll outlast you."
- Speaks Fluent Animal: Fluttershy occasionally speaks to animals in something that approximates their own sounds, only with pony tones added to the mix.
- Uncatty Resemblance: Not in appearance, but personality. Carnie is a tortoiseshell cat, and Flitter demonstrates several of the traits common to the breed: feisty, hot-tempered, possessive, and not exactly shy about expressing her opinion.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Among the many things Roseluck is afraid of: a cat being walked on a leash. As Flitter notes, a lot of ponies have trouble with shameless hunters, especially those who proudly present their companions with the results.