She peered closely at the thick book.
Rainbow moved closer.
The reintegration of the Crystal Empire into the world has had a number of side effects, and among those is the reintroduction of the species who live there. For the most part, that isn't an issue: the vast majority remain isolated within the Empire itself, unable to pass through the border storms. But a few can freely make it out, which includes a type of bird which hasn't been seen for a very long time. An aggressive, perpetually angry, hyper-territorial bird, roughly swan size (and with the strength to match) which truly believes that everything it can land on or fly over belongs to its flock. And that flock is migrating again, long after everypony had forgotten how to deal with them at all.
It just landed in Ponyville. And the first goose touched down at Sweet Apple Acres.
This won't end well.
Read it here.
Tropes found in this story include:
- Admiring the Abomination:
- Most ponies who see a Crystal Goose seem to have first impressions along the lines of "what a beautiful-looking bird". That impression fades very quickly when they find out what sorts of nasty things they are up close and personal.
- Cartier Anserini, the avian paleobiologist, is enthralled with the Crystal Geese to the point he absolutely refuses to listen to Applejack's warnings about how unpleasant they are.
- Bears Are Bad News: Anypony attempting to harass Fluttershy when one of her larger friends is visiting the cottage can take their issues up with Harry. (Of course, when he's dealing with her, that's just Beary Friendly.)
- Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted. By the end, the entire group is filthy, bruised, and just trying to reach the point where they can stop trying to clean Ponyville and head for the spa.
- Bilingual Bonus: Latin is used to represent the language of Griffonant. (Rainbow and Fluttershy both speak a little of it: one from summers spent with Gilda, the other because it's the traditional means of recording species taxonomy.)
- Brown Note: The primary means of getting the fruit bats out of the West Orchard is a combination of this and a one-pony band Make Me Wanna Shout, with Pinkie (and later, Lyra) playing instruments in the least musical way possible as a means of both flushing them out of the trees and driving them on.
- Combat Pragmatist: Rarity, to the shock and occasional horror of any witnesses. Applejack mentally notes that as an unicorn of both average physical and magical strength who knows no direct offensive or defensive spells, Rarity gets through combat through being 'the single dirtiest fighter anypony had ever seen': her first combat with a goose features pulling out its feathers, poking the bird in its eyes with the shafts, and biting its foot (with a little twist on the way out)."It is not," the affronted designer said, "as if I wrung its neck all the way."
- Continuity Nod: Saddle Arabian Grass being a delicacy is first mentioned in Chapter 9 of Triptych, where it says of Trotter's Falls:There are several restaurants, all of which specialize in one kind of foreign cuisine each. The grass at one is a Saddle Arabian delicacy and at the bits you're paying for it, may have been carried in blade by blade.
- Contrived Coincidence: Discussed. Fluttershy notes that after they got the fruit bats to attack the geese in one area, all the birds in the settled zone took off at the same time, including those at extreme distances who had no means of sensing what was happened to their fellows. She proposes that they didn't actually win: they just happened to make their assault at the exact moment when a migrating species — one which hadn't reached its final destination — had hit the instinctive time to start the next portion of their journey. The Bearers are left facing a pair of dismal prospects: they didn't actually win, and the fact that a migratory species is eventually going to head back.
- Deus Exit Machina: Twilight could have solved this, probably. Or at least made it much easier. She's absent for most of the story.
- Didn't Think This Through: After Applejack notices the geese having extreme stomach distress following the theft of a meal from Mr. Flankington's restaurant and that other birds are retreating from their sick fellows, she hatches a plan to get the rest of the Saddle Arabian Grass out of the pegasus' greenhouse and serve it to every possible bird in the settled zone, to see if she can get all the healthy ones to flee from an incomprehensible contagion. And in the meantime, Mr. Flankington will fly over Ponyville and feed the birds what remains of his pantry stock. What she doesn't consider is that she's taking a "food" item known to wreak havoc on pony biology and giving it to the creature with the world's "single least efficient digestive system." Upon returning to Ponyville with the freshly-prepared grass, she gets to see the results, which are... somewhat acidic. And while she's still trying to reconcile the failure, the geese steal and begin consuming the fresh supply. Cue Sanity Slippage.
- The Dinosaurs Had It Coming: Discussed, quite seriously, with regards to the return of the geese. Fluttershy points out that after so much time effectively extinct, the world doesn't know how to deal with them any more, and the birds could do more damage to the environment through coming back — which makes a second round of extinction into something which at least has to be thought about. (She's miserable just from talking about it, and the Bearers quickly settle for just trying to get the birds out of town.)
- Disproportionate Retribution: Apple Bloom is starting to view any Crusade-related punishment this way, especially those made preemptively. After all, she ain't never done nothin'!
- Evil vs. Evil: Well, bird-based pain in the tail vs. Planimal-based ache in the hooves. Once Rainbow's scouting establishes that the geese haven't gone into the West Orchard, Applejack concocts a plan to temporarily herd the fruit bats into town and drop them on the geese, hoping that the clash of two unreasoning hyper-territorial species will get the geese to leave.
- Expy: Crystal Goose = Canada Goose
- The story also introduces a elderly bull who lives as a tenant at the Acres, one who seems to loathe ponies and their government, who uses the goose migration (along with any other excuse which might be handy) to get out of paying his rent and grazing fees. His name? Cloven Bundy.
- Feathered Fiend: The Crystal Geese are vicious, gluttonous, and highly territorial birds. They also spread Styrofoam everywhere thanks to their incredibly inefficient digestive systems. It's telling that the names other races have given them are distinctly unflattering. Even Fluttershy can't get them to calm down (and she's befriended a bear). Makes sense, since they're based on Canada Geese, which some people would agree are a Real Life example.
- Grin of Audacity: Applejack turns out to have one, which Rarity once described as being "regrettably just a little bit mercenary, dear."She'd ignored that. And then she'd snuck off to the library to find out what 'mercenary' meant.
- Guest-Star Party Member: In the final chapter, Big Mac, Mr. Flankington, and a few hundred of Fluttershy's bird friends join the group in the final push to get the geese out of Ponyville, with Lyra coming in with a vital assist at the very end.
- I Have Many Names: The reputation of the geese can best be viewed by looking at the many, many titles which survived them, starting with the griffons calling them Ultionum Prandium — which, translated into Equestrian, works out to "vengeance lunch."
- Insistent Terminology: About halfway through the story, Pinkie starts talking about how various species have specific name for their feces dropping, then decides to come up with one for that of the geese. She chooses the nonsense word "styrofoam." It starts to catch on near the end.
- Instant Book Deal: Justified, at least by the publishers: the return of the Empire allowed them to hastily compile a taxonomy update featuring what little was remembered about their species. Now, if they'd just waited a few weeks and gone into the North themselves to check the local reference material...
- It Can Think: Averted: the geese are normal animals. Some of their honks and physical postures make up a primitive language, but they're incapable of reasoning on the pony level.
- Kill 'Em All: What happened to the geese who were caught outside the Empire when the barrier originally went up. The story suggests that the griffons, who would normally respect a fierce fighting animal enough to start breeding it for meat on their ranches, deliberately ate them out of existence. Given that griffons breed monsters for their primary meat source, the fact that they didn't seem to feel the geese were worth the trouble may really say something.
- And at the story's conclusion, the Bearers realize the migration now is heading towards Protocera, which may be about to set up a case of History Repeats.
- Kill It with Fire: Averted. Using Spike in this role is discussed, but it's the same problem as using lightning: there's too many geese and even if he's aiming to miss and scare them, he's going to hit something. However, once the fruit bat herding is under way, Spike's riding Rainbow in the air, where there's nothing else to hit, and so is able to use his flame in deliberate misses to force the bats into staying with the main mass of the colony.
- Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Played with. Early in the story, Applejack asks Spike to send a letter to the Canterlot Archives, asking for any ancient books they might have on getting rid of the geese. This eventually leads to the arrival of Cartier Anserini, a paleobiologist who feels he knows everything about the geese because he's read books and interaction is thus a mere formality. After hearing that he's considering asking the Princess to declare Ponyville as a protected goose sanctuary, Applejack quickly dismisses him as useless and lets him wander away. (He turns up at the very end of the story, passed out, heavily pecked, and being towed on a police sled. Apparently his last conscious words were to blame Ponyville residents for having done something to the geese in order to make them so hostile.)
- The Lancer: Rainbow quickly assumes this role to the temporarily leading Applejack.
- Misblamed: All over the place. Applejack originally and instinctively questions Apple Bloom to see if the Crusaders did something to bring in the first goose. Both Fluttershy and Applejack wind up blaming themselves for the geese returning because if the Empire hadn't been freed, there might not have been a migration. (Which kind of assumes the other option was to have it declared an enemy power, followed by blasting it off the map — but without Twilight present, the others don't necessarily understand every detail of how the banishment spell originally worked, and the last barriers didn't come down until after Sombra's defeat.) Rainbow counters this as soon as it comes out, but it doesn't stop Mayor Mare, who overheard Fluttershy tell the others about the geese being from the Empire, from blackmailing the Bearers into helping with the post-migration cleanup, or else she'll tell the townsponies just where the issue came from...
- Word of God: Word Of Fanfic Author is that Mayor Mare was trying to get any degree of control back, even a petty one, and recognized that it wasn't so much about what she personally believed as what she could get the townsponies to fall in line behind: part of a political special talent can be the ability to anticipate and partially direct herd mentality.
- Mundanger: After facing various magical fiends and the occasional Mad God, it's amazing how much trouble the Bearers have dealing with a perfectly mundane flock of large and vicious birds. Granted, Twilight isn't around to help.
- Mythology Gag: A few.
"MUSIC!" Pinkie proudly announced, and marched towards her chosen audience.Twenty seconds passed.And then a pink blur shot past them, instruments falling away in every direction as a trio of hissing geese snapped at her curly tail."CRIIIIITIIIIICS!"
- Fluttershy wonders if the initial goose who's camped out at the Acres is being so mean because of another thorn. Applejack darkly reasons that being able to charge that fast means his feet are fine.
- After Applejack reaches the library and discovers the usual librarian has left town for a few days, Rainbow declares Spike to be the new Twilight Sparkle. Which Applejack actually goes along with, reasoning that even if Spike can't use unicorn magic, he's been around Twilight long enough that he has to understand a lot of it. This comes in handy later, as he's the one among them who knows exactly what to do about magical overexertion.
- Rainbow decides there's no point to freezing the geese out if they can get through the weather around the empire.
- Fluttershy, while listing some of the hardships which the Bearers have to go through, says that she shouldn't have to do a lot of things. The context points towards this being a reference to Five Hundred Little Murders.
- Towards the end, Applejack wishes Twilight was in Ponyville, in the hopes that she might be able to use a working which would just clean up the entire town in one casting. Pinkie notes that the other option is to have the spell merge all the styrofoam into a single giant monster which then attempts to ''eat' the town — then remembers that they sort of did that one already, only without the giant monster part.
- Upon hearing that one of the many names for Crystal Geese is 'airasprites', Pinkie gets out her instruments again. It doesn't go so well.
- Nature Is Not Nice: Especially when it's in the form of an invasive species of territorial birds whose "territory" is "everywhere I land".
- Neat Freak: Rarity, who knows exactly what the goose-occupied terrain is like, refuses to leave the Boutique without her own personal wooden bathtub in harness-tow. (Unfortunately, a goose then decides to take a bath in it.)
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Averted. Ultimately, the goose invasion isn't the Bearers' fault — but some of them stand all too ready to blame themselves, and they've got plenty of company.
- Nonindicative Name: The alternate name "airasprites". While it does accurately get across the point that the Geese are gluttonous beasts, that doesn't mean they have anything else in common with parasprites. Pinkie finds out the hard way when she tries to use music to lure the geese away from Ponyville and is attacked for her troubles.
- Not Hyperbole: In Chapter Four, Fluttershy's book claims that the sheer mass of the migrating flocks used to darken the sky — but she dismisses this as historical exaggeration designed to make everything sound more important than it actually was. When the geese finally leave in Chapter 10, everypony looks up to find their view of the sky completely blocked.
- Not Me This Time: Twice. Applejack corners Apple Bloom to see if the Crusaders had something to do with bringing the geese in, and the Mayor confronts Applejack on both that and whether the Bearers had something to do with it. In both cases, the primary suspects have something of a reputation.
- Number Two: In order to get her leading the mini-herd, Mayor Mare tells Applejack that she's this to the Bearers as a whole. Rarity later points out that Applejack believed a politician who was saying something in order to achieve her own ends. However, it's also noted that there are times when Applejack does take charge, particularly when a practical solution is called for, and the others wind up asking her to lead on this one.
- Although Twilight is most often in charge, the Bearers as a whole tend to shuffle the role depending on the problem which needs resolving, trying to focus on individual strengths. (Spike's job is to get them in line when their individual issues threaten to overwhelm the group.)
- Parental Abandonment: Applejack has issues stemming from this by the cartload. On a subconscious level, she's afraid to split up the Bearers in order to deal with the problem because the death of her parents has her inner filly convinced that when ponies leave, they die. It also turns out to be part of the reason she hasn't ordered Apple Bloom out of the Crusaders: as much as she's convinced that her sister is one stupid stunt away from getting herself killed, she also thinks it might be worse if Apple Bloom was out there alone.
- Parental Substitute: Applejack has real problems with being one, and is more than half convinced that Apple Bloom wouldn't be like this if her Mommy and Daddy were alive.
- Planimal: As with the show, the fruit bats qualify for this, and that state exempts them from Fluttershy's talent: she's studied how they behave and can predict some of their reactions, but she can't talk to them.
- Power-Strain Blackout: Fluttershy briefly faints after overusing the Stare in an attempt to clear out the geese around Mr. Flankington's greenhouse. Spike's furious lecture to Applejack immediately afterwards makes it clear that Fluttershy, who'd apparently skipped breakfast and had already been running around with the others for hours, was just about at the border of a potentially fatal situation."It's part of her magic! Magic takes energy to use!"
- His follow-up discussion with a recovering Fluttershy also confirms that Twilight had multiple such blackouts while in school and continues to push herself to that point as an adult just while doing research. By the end of the scene, it's fairly clear that he has a major phobia about watching his loved ones overexert themselves into death.
- Precision F-Strike: In Chapter Four, Pinkie spends some time reading off alternate names for the Crystal Geese in the background of the scene, eventually reaching "Grey-Winged Shitbuckets", which makes everypony stop and stare at her in shock. It took nearly forty stories, but somepony in the Continuum finally got an actual curse word in."It's an official name! In a book! That makes it science!"
- Repeat After Me: Applejack tries dictating a note to Spike this way, reminding her to never feed a creature with a suspect digestive system a suspect "food" item. It falls apart quickly.
- Sanity Slippage: Applejack spends a good part of Chapter 8 going through the early stages, noticing how distant her own voice sounds to her ears — but snaps out of it after seeing the Crusaders go by with about four hundred geese close on their hooves.
- Sleazy Politician: The Mayor normally isn't like this, but at the end of the story she blackmails the Bearers into cleaning up Ponyville. The worst part is that she doesn't really believe the Bearers are at fault, but she knows she can make the rest of Ponyville believe it. Being able to push around the Bearers when she's usually a near powerless authority figure who does nothing but fill out disaster relief forms (usually due to something the Bearers or the Crusaders did) was apparently too tempting.
- Solid Gold Poop: Initially, Rarity has hopes of collecting the Crystal Geese feathers that they shed so copiously, as their combination of exotic value and inherent beauty makes them material she could use to potentially produce extremely valuable clothing. Events conspire against her plan and in the end, she declares the feathers to be substandard and worthy only of Barneigh's.
- Species Lost and Found: Everything within the borders of the Empire qualifies. A significant number of Crystal Geese were originally caught outside the barrier, but... well, see above.
- Superhero Paradox: Discussed extensively, with the majority of it done by the mayor and Rainbow. The former notes the increased level of chaos in Ponyville can often be directly linked to something which either the Crusaders or Bearers have done: the latter (with a verbal capper from Spike) takes the position that somepony has to do something, even if those actions bring in future chaos — because if nopony ever did, then where are they now?"...alone," Fluttershy quietly replied. "...in the dark."
- Take That!: After a while, you might start to get the impression that the author doesn't like Canada Geese. Of course, judging by some of the reactions in the story comments section, the author has plenty of company... in fact, all of the names for them either directly referenced in the story or used as chapter titles were originally suggested by people in a blog that the author put up before the story was written.
- Toilet Humour: Since there's styrofoam everywhere...
- Tyke Bomb: After learning that the Crusaders were trying to get a mark in goose removal, Applejack very briefly considers whether she can weaponize them by setting them to retaining the geese, with the most natural failure being getting them all to leave. She quickly rejects the idea.
- Vetinari Job Security: Nightmarishly inverted for Mayor Mare. The story takes place three weeks before Ponyville's election day: Day & Night Court representatives, plus the local mayorality. The deadline to file for running against her was two weeks earlier — and nopony filed. Between the constant need for filling out disaster relief forms and the inherent hopelessness in any executive attempt to keep the chaos down, nopony wants the job any more, and she can't leave it because then there would be nopony trying at all. (Word Of Fanfic Author is that this may eventually be followed up on in a future story.)
- Written-In Absence: Twilight misses the entire migration: when the geese arrive, she's on the train, heading out to attend the annual Equestrian Magic Society conference. Spike points out that he can at least tell her what's going on, but she's already been traveling for a day and is well outside what she considers to be her teleport range, requiring either an escort relay, Princess assistance, or air carriage to get her back. Applejack makes the decision not to bother her — then gets to spend the rest of the story noticing places where having Twilight would have been helpful.
- You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: Invoked, but not followed up on: When Applejack calls the mayor by her proper name, it shows just how seriously she's taking the elected official's depression. The mayor just doesn't rise to the bait, instead asking Applejack to simply head out and fix the problem.
- However, it does provide her true first name in this 'verse: Marigold.