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The very core of the Triptych Continuum, the original story from which the rest of the fanfics spun out.

Twilight Sparkle is very curious about Alicorns, having recently become one herself. Where did they come from? What are they? What makes a pony turn into one?

But she's not the only one curious about that. There's a conspiracy working out there, hidden in the dark corners of Equestria, working to unravel that mystery for themselves. And they will do anything to succeed at that goal.

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It's up to the Bearers of Harmony to root them out and stop them. Whatever it takes.

Read it here.


Tropes found in this story include:

  • Abusive Parents:
    • Chapter 8 strongly suggests this for Pinkie. Chapter 17 confirms it as both mental and physical: her parents hated her and treated her with scorn because she has absolutely no affinity for natural earth pony magic, which was especially enraging since they are, as a family, very skilled at earth manipulation — in fact, her father in particular was a hardcore earth pony supremacist. Chapter 26 features Applejack revealing this truth to Twilight Sparkle.
    • Chapter 40 makes this argument for Gentle Arrival. Loudly. In chapter 52, when she fails to aid him at the moment he demands it, Gentle Arrival snaps, calls his daughter a "useless clod", and begins physically pummeling her. In chapter 53, Princess Celestia proclaims that Gentle Arrival has somehow found a way to subvert his Cutie Mark, which would normally be, literally, "being a Papa Wolf".
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    • In chapter 50, Quiet Presence tells Twilight Sparkle that his little sister was born an earth pony — which led his parents to "send her on": either leaving her as a foundling in another settled zone or Offing the Offspring. (He's never been able to learn her actual fate.) When looked at in view of his earlier flashback, this explains why he developed a mark talent for his version of Invisibility: he was hiding from his parents in fear of having the same thing happen to him — to the point where the need to be overlooked defined part of his core.
  • Adaptational Villainy: It's eventually revealed that in this continuity, Star Swirl the Bearded became so jealous of Celestia and Luna's powers after they transformed into alicorns that he turned to necromancy to try and upgrade himself. He harvested essence from the dead and dying and shaped it into a magical amulet — the Alicorn Amulet — to try and boost his powers, something that forced the sisters to fight him and either kill him or imprison him somewhere until he died of old age: Trixie was unable to research events far enough to determine his exact fate, but knows he (or rather, the Amulet) took no notes concerning the final battle — which pretty much identifies the loser.note 
    • This actually becomes worse in Chapter 23, when it's finally confirmed that Star Swirl wasn't just a contemporary and friend to the sisters: he represented Magic within the original six Bearers, making whatever happened into a permanent Face–Heel Turn.
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    • Chapter 40 provides a few extra details: the mark-switching spell was originally intended as an attempt to ascend. He took Luna's mark under the theory that it might also grant her magic and a stallion's version of her form, then passed it off as a magical accident after everything quickly fell apart — although Gentle Arrival believes the sisters didn't quite buy the explanation.
  • Addictive Magic: Chapter 28 clarifies that there's an element of this to mark magic, and that this is the ultimate source of the psychological problem of "falling into the mark"; when a pony gets their Mark for the first time and becomes fully endowed with their new Talent, inevitably they begin experimenting with it, taking pleasure in using it to its full capabilities. And, with anything that can give pleasure, there's always those who find themselves unable to stop. Marks are supposed to guide, but some ponies start letting it dictate, allowing it to rule their lives. Those who get caught in time by friends and family, or who're just lucky enough or strong-willed enough, may only partially fall. Others... go much further.
  • And I Must Scream: A Flashback for Discord at the start of Chapter 10 has this happening to him during the period of calcification, apparently inflicted on him by something outside the prison. It puts him through agony which is described as "his entire existence spent as a single atom feeling the electrons being torn from their shells and waiting for the nucleus to shatter. An atom which cannot scream." And at that point in the past, this had happened at least several dozen times... and possibly more than a hundred.
    • The flashback also states that the calcification is perpetually trying to move deeper in, and it takes most of his remaining strength to prevent himself from becoming a perfect statue in a perfect garden, forever. Every time the violation occurs, he comes that much closer to losing the last of himself.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Attempted but failed when Twilight Sparkle asks Applejack if "the Secret" isn't doing more harm than good.
    "It's the Secret. The Great Nearly War was the Secret. If those unicorns knew that attacking would get them wiped out, they never would have tried in the first place. If I knew earth ponies could do more, I wouldn't have said something that stupid about her in the first place. Some ponies use all those words because... Applejack, when you make yourself look weak... how much damage has the Secret done?"
    • Chapter 44 reveals that the question got through to Applejack after all.
    "Y'know what tonight was, Pinkie? I think tonight was the Secret. The price of having it, letting unicorns and pegasi believe lies for hundreds of years. Telling them that lies are all that's out there, all there ever could be. And they believed us, didn't they? They decided we were telling the truth. We made ourselves look weak, and that meant we were weak. 'cause at least half of being a racist is deciding you're better than somepony else — and guess what? We'd told them they were. Must have made it all the easier, don't you think? Not that some ponies ain't gonna lie themselves into thinking they're better than everypony else no matter what the evidence is, but here we all went and gave them an excuse."
    • Played for laughs in chapter 55, when she innocently responds to Discord's lecture that she must learn when to ignore "stupid" rules by asking how she is supposed to tell which ones are stupid. Discord is visibly caught off-guard, and basically admits he doesn't actually know how to tell that himself.
  • Artifact of Doom: The origin story of the Alicorn Amulet in Chapter 17 has this sort of tone to it, especially after the ending reveals it was created by Star Swirl.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Quiet turns out to be trapped in an arranged marriage: when we finally meet his spouse, she presents herself as a self-absorbed bitch who uses her first meeting with Twilight as an opportunity for direct insult. (It's implied that Quiet's parents were trying to make sure he married a 'pure' bloodline.) When she is revealed as having an affair in chapter 53, no reader is surprised — and because the prenuptial contract has an infidelity clause, she winds up forfeiting title, castle, and any settlement she would have been due.
  • Baby Name Trend Starter: An Inversion is Invoked by being Discussed in Chapter 14, that "no pony will ever be named Twilight again", because Twilight Sparkle's now a Princess. Twilight later confirms that no newborn is *ever* named Celestia, Luna, or Cadance: the names are unique to them. (By contrast, the mare who birthed Dawn Sky in Chapter 14 is named Shining, and Twilight says that name, without a qualifier, is gender-neutral.)
  • Big Bad: While they initially don't seem the slightest bit evil and in fact come across as extremely friendly and good-natured, Gentle and Quiet are the masterminds behind the Great Work (or rather, the lead researcher and his most devoted helper): a process meant to turn a normal pony into an alicorn. The attempt went horribly wrong, and their attempts to fix it and keep it hidden drive the story's conflict.
  • Benevolent Conspiracy: The Great Work at least thinks of itself this way; reading between the lines suggests that they believe transforming all ponies into alicorns is the only way to break down the walls of Fantastic Racism that separate the three main pony tribes. Whether they actually count as this is debatable; their referenced and implied efforts initially seem to file them under Well-Intentioned Extremist.
    • "Benevolence" starts to fall apart in Chapter 40. Gentle Arrival clearly believes himself to be doing the right thing (or as he so often phrases it, "the needful"), but the results of this have included experimenting on unborn foals.
  • Blackmail: Chapter 29 reveals Clear Coordinator has Rainbow Dash's fanfic manuscript, and intends to use it to blackmail her into obeying him. He has no idea how badly that's going to blow up in his face...
    • As it turns out, he ultimately attempts to get control of Twilight, on Doctor Gentle's orders. However, he takes the unusual step of doing so personally, and that blows up in his face.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: The Snitcher device, introduced in chapter 27; it allows a pony who doesn't have their cutie mark yet to feel how close they are to actually manifesting their mark, but it also suppresses their magic and can be used to stop a mark from manifesting.
    • To clarify: whoever puts the Snitcher on its subject can feel how close that pony's mark magic is to the surface, and whether it's rising or falling. So in the case of a user who isn't the foal, it's possible to spot a rise and move to distract the pony. The magic suppression aspect (which was an unintended side effect) applies to racial abilities and stops functioning at the moment the wearer gains their mark: at that point, they're too strong for the Snitcher to hold them back. Effectively keeping the Snitcher on her since birth is the reason she never experienced any Surges, preventing Doctor Gentle from learning the Secret while denying her blood heritage.
  • Broken Pedestal:
    • Star Swirl the Bearded to Twilight after she learns from Trixie that he apparently created the Alicorn Amulet so he could become an alicorn because he envied Celestia and Luna, then went mad with power and had to be stopped by the royal sisters.
    • Celestia and Luna become this to Rarity in chapter 24 after she learns that they are not, and never were, divine, but are instead empowered from a once-mortal state — just like Twilight.
    • For Pinkie and Fluttershy, Doctor Gentle doesn't fall off the pedestal after the presentation, he shatters it.
    • Events in chapters 53 and 54 pretty much knock Princess Celestia from her pedestal in Twilight's eyes, if not shatter it irreparably.
  • Brown Note: Viewing her mark for the first time nearly has this effect on Twilight and later causes similar-if-lesser reactions for most (but not all) of the Mane Cast. Marks are not supposed to move. This turns out to be caused by chaos magic... and also becomes a way to determine if anypony Gentle helped deliver is one of the 'hybrids', who don't see anything wrong with it.
  • Brutal Honesty: Zephyra Hurricane is expressly described in this way by Princess Celestia in Chapter 53: a mare who, if she decided somepony needed to die, would simply kill them without hesitation or satisfaction — because the truth said that pony had to die.
  • Call-Back:
    • In chapter 29, Twilight refers to Ratchette, the star of Mechanical Aptitude when thinking about the kinds of ponies who would be able to build new Snitchers.
    • In chapter 35, Twilight and Applejack's conversation on the nature of nobility is almost identical to the one Applejack and Fluttershy had in Auk-ward.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: Doctor Gentle takes this approach on a national scale after Coordinator proposes killing the Bearers, noting that Equestria has been through more major incidents in the three years since the Elements were rediscovered than in the decades prior: it's possible that there's more coming, and he's not going to leave his nation defenseless by murdering its heroes. (There's also the not-so-minor consideration of how the palace would react after discovering that sextet of deaths.) He'll keep them imprisoned until Trixie arrives — something which gives him a decent head start — but he refuses to see them physically hurt.
  • Cassandra Truth: Invoked by Discord in chapter 55, when Twilight asks him about the Original Bearers and the process of becoming an alicorn, when he brings up that since Twilight is so prepared to believe what he tells her is lies, she has no way of knowing if he actually is lying.
  • The Cavalry: After she brings down Gentle Arrival at the end of chapter 52, Discord arrives to teleport everypony — Bearers, Spike, her and Gentle Arrival — back to the palace. However, this isn't meant as a rescue: he simply tells them that the mission is over and they're leaving. To the best of anypony's knowledge, he never interfered with anything while the mission was ongoing — because that's the 'pony way'.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Discord granted Fluttershy the ability to remove any one thing of her choosing (potentially including a pony) as part of their mission — or rather, he'll know when she wants it done and make that thing go away accordingly. This was the only thing the Bearers received for the mission at all. It takes ages to be fired, and that lack of firing is Lampshaded in chapter 46, where Fluttershy patiently explains to Rainbow Dash that A: they have to be certain they're using it for the right thing to vanish, and B: they need to be certain they understand just what they're making vanish. Finally, in chapter 52, Fluttershy uses it to remove her pain, ending her Painful Transformation and allowing her to be cleansed of some of the emotional abuse she grew up with. note 
    • Shortly after their initial teleportation, Rarity discovers a gemstone that disgusts Spike and which Pinkie Pie recognizes as a "deathstone". In chapter 24, it turns out that the Great Work makes use of them somehow, identifying them as "chaos pearls". As revealed in Chapter 40, Dr. Gentle used the pearls as a means to harvest the essence of dead ponies. That essence was then transferred into unborn foals — those he felt were unlikely to survive on their own — as an initial means of experimenting, and eventually to simply save their lives. The price of this process was the creation of hybrids.
    • Both Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie were delivered by Dr. Gentle Arrival, who turns out to be high up in the Great Work. Both of them have very weak to nonexistent skill in their apparent tribe's magic, both of them have powers more appropriate to a different tribe, and both of them find her cutie mark to be "beautiful" when the sight of it disgusts the other Bearers. Chapter 40 reveals them as two of the earliest hybrids (with Fluttershy as the first), and given that chaos seems to have been involved in her change...
    • After their talk in Chapter 6, Twilight decides to train Rarity in low-power, high-control workings: the first such spell changes a unicorn's signature, altering their field's hue in the process. In chapter 46, Rarity uses this to make it look like Twilight is manifesting a double corona through her Power Limiter, tricking a guard into removing that limiter, as it was stopping him from hitting her horn and triggering backlash. But in doing so, he let Twilight use her magic for real, which is instrumental to freeing them.
    • As part of her lecture on pegasus magic, Rainbow Dash explains that pegasi can see temperature differences. In Chapter 49, the Bearers have to search for the entrance to a secret passage — one which goes underground, with the search taking place during a major storm, at night, with autumn approaching. It makes the entrance noticeably more chill than the wall around it.
  • Combined Energy Attack: In chapter 52, the Mane 6 and Spike try to defeat the shield that is protecting Gentle Arrival by combining all of their magics into a single assault. It was created by her during the True Surge and subsequent fire: this means it possesses all three racial magics, layered into a single construct. Twilight and Rarity go after the unicorn aspects, Rainbow takes pegasus while Applejack counters the earth pony portion, Pinkie & Fluttery attack the shield with their shards of inner chaos and since it's a heat shield, Spike gives it the test of its life. Ultimately, all their efforts can do is create a single pupil-sized hole — but that's enough for Fluttershy's bubble to get through.
  • The Conspiracy: There's actually two in the story, although only one is visibly active. The Great Work is trying to find a way to turn ponies into alicorns at will, and that drives things along — but whatever made the earth ponies drive public awareness of their true magic underground qualifies as some level of conspiracy: one which extends across an entire species. It's not as if anypony's currently hunting for truth-tellers, but something created this Secret and the generational means to maintain it — and for now, their reasons are unknown.
  • Control Freak: Twilight comes to the realization that this is what Gentle Arrival is during chapter 52. The point is hammered home when they finally confront Gentle Arrival and he says this to Fluttershy after she admits that she is "one of his":
    Gentle Arrival: "Then why don't you act like it? Talk to them! Make them believe! You owe me your life, Fluttershy! She owes me her life, she owes me a debt for Primatura's death' and she has spent her lifetime trying to pay it! Why can't you give me five minutes, just five minutes of reason —"
  • Conveniently Interrupted Document: From Chapter 47, the convenient interruption of a "book of what could, in some ways, be termed as 'unicorn history'", which hints at a unicorn discovering the Earth Ponies' Secret, and possibly getting Killed Mid-Sentence for it:
    that mindless ramble about how unicorns had to beware of those with no true power at all...
    (There hadn't been any real details in that tract, and Quiet had generally assumed the sudden ending had been produced by the final tail-clamped drag to the asylum.)
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Seems to be the case with essence harvesting, which can only be done with the dead or horribly weak. The latter then become the dead.
    • The Differentiation Exception possibly qualifies, because not only can it be hideously abused (such as stopping somepony's heart), but it almost always requires a strong field and at least a double corona, putting its caster at extreme risk of backlash.
  • Deadly Euphemism: "Sending On" is used in two ways. The first is non-euphemistically; unwanted foals, specifically ponies born to parents of a different tribe, are fostered out to ponies of the correct tribe. This is the "normal" use of the term in pony society. Amongst the more vehemently tribalist crowd, it's used as a euphemism for filicide. Whilst it's left ambiguous if that form of "sending on" has actually been used, in chapter 52, Twilight directly calls this trope out, by referring to Quiet's parents potentially having killed Quiet's earth pony sister, and then sarcastically corrects herself by using the term "sending on".
  • Dead Person Conversation: In a way. Near the end of chapter 52, immediately after Fluttershy erases her pain, she has a vision of Primatura — something which allows her to finally realize that she's not responsible for her mother's death. However, there are image frames showing multiple ponies in an internal gallery: Primatura is just the one who climbs out to meet her. The implication is that we're looking at the eight ponies whose essence was used in the transformation attempt, and that she may ultimately be able to call on them as the alicorns reach towards those who were involved in the ascensions.
  • Deity of Human Origin: Pony origin, specifically. Twilight Sparkle is confronted with the fact that her ascension to alicorn status is basically causing ponies to start worshiping her. Right now, it's in fairly limited form: at least two mares who've arrived in Trotter's Falls to deliver their foals have asked Twilight to bless their offspring, and one parent mentions that no newborn will ever be named 'Twilight' again. (The obvious implication is that, as has been the case with Celestia, Luna, and Cadance, it's considered blasphemous to do so.)
    • Chapter 24 reveals that Celestia and Luna themselves were originally ordinary ponies, and modern Equestria's faith in them is just the same phenomena that Twilight Sparkle is receiving, after being given a thousand years to proliferate — and Chapter 55 has Discord directly state that the sisters were originally earth ponies. (Cadance was a pegasus, and he declares Twilight as the only unicorn to come this far.)
  • Dirty Business: Part of how Quiet may regard the Great Work. Unlike others in the conspiracy, he's not a bigot: he just believes it's impossible to get rid of them. In his view, the only way to keep foals from being sent on (as happened to his baby sister) is to find a way of guaranteeing a newborn's race. As he puts it, it means no birth would ever be dreaded, no foal ever hated for what it is; it would mean an end to both forms of "sending on". So even if some foals in the current generation wind up being hurt or worse by the experiments, the ends justify the means — unless, of course, you propose using his lost sibling.
  • Dogs Are Dumb: Diamond Dog foresight is usually limited to a few hours ahead. The geniuses can manage a week. They plan accordingly.
  • Downer Ending: In-'verse, donkey literature. All of it, at least according to Applejack.
    Applejack: "It ain't a donkey story unless there's a pile of bodies in the middle of the last page an' every survivin' character is so depressed, they're fixin' t' join 'em."
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: Quiet and Gentle are actually happy when they learn about her through hearing of Grape Indulgence's sighting, which initially leads them to misinterpret her condition — they think she's just a unicorn with the raw power of an alicorn — as a sign of progress rather than the horrific and agonizing failure it is.
    • By Chapter 40, this becomes Harsher in Hindsight. Gentle Arrival started the path of the Great Work because the childbirth which killed his spouse produced an earth pony daughter. He's been trying to restore what he sees as her stolen heritage, and saw transformation into an alicorn as an acceptable solution. Changing her into a true unicorn would have been his original dream.
  • Dream Sequence: Used as a Flashback device at various points, as characters visit recently-reminded relevant times in their past.
  • Duels Decide Everything: Earth ponies have the tradition of the fosse, an earth-manipulating duel they used in ancient times to resolve dispute. It's extremely old-fashioned in the modern era, but Chapter 26 reveals that Applejack fought one when Igneous Pie came to Ponyville and attempted to drag Pinkie home by force; winning (combined with her promise to kill him if he came near Pinkie again — it would have been a threat, but she clearly wasn't lying) was what made him leave empty-hooved and stay away ever since.
  • Eldritch Location: Chaos terrain: just being there triggers an instinctual panic response in ponies. These turn out to be areas where Discord's power has essentially saturated the land — and the only place to find chaos pearls. The panic is also kind of justified when you can take two steps to the left and find yourself in capital-N Nothing.
  • Emotion Bomb: The idea of using resonance, the emotional underlay of unicorn magic, as an offensive weapon is discussed by Twilight fairly early on. Basically, a section of field is rendered invisible and charged with the intended emotion: anypony moving through it then gets hit with the core feeling. Creating landmines of hopelessness can do a lot to destabilize an army.
  • Energy Absorption: In Chapter 15, Rainbow reveals some pegasi can do this with the kinetic energy of wind if there's no time to counter with equal and opposite for gusts or unwind a tornado. She also makes a point of saying it's a dangerous tactic which is generally utilized by idiots who don't last long: the energy has to be used up quickly or redirected, or something bad happens. She knows the technique involved, but hasn't used it in front of the others. "It — kinda sucks." By contrast, lightning can't be absorbed, but a very small number of pegasi are capable of redirecting it. Rainbow isn't one of them.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Nopony's entirely sure why Discord decided to send them on the mission — but at the outset of the story, it's established that whatever's happened has him genuinely angry. The only thing which seems to be keeping him from personal vengeance is a new, weak form of empathy and some level of belief that whatever revenge is warranted doesn't entirely belong to him. Something has offended the incarnation of chaos — but he's doing something different by playing it as what he interprets to be "the pony way", which means sending the Bearers in his stead. Of course, he told them nothing about why he was sending them...
    • By "pony way", he means Celestia.
    • Likewise, Gentle Arrival and Quiet Presence both despise Clear Coordinator. In chapter 29, seeing Coordinator smile at being asked to help control the Bearers is viewed as sickeninhg. When he gets excited upon confirming that this also means Twilight, it's enough to make Gentle Arrival feel somewhat nauseous.
    • In Chapter 10, it's revealed that something was coming into Celestia's gardens during the time of calcification and stealing Discord's personal energy — a drain which may have happened over a hundred times, with every last one bringing him within a few thaums of death, stealing all but his final ability to resist complete petrification — something he describes as rape. The same chapter has Discord (in Flashback) wishing for a way to tell Celestia what was happening, because he feels she never meant for this to happen — not even to him.
      • When this is confirmed to have been Gentle Arrival in chapter 41, Twilight actually understands why Discord was so enraged and even momentarily feels sorry for him.
    • Despite his own less-than-stellar parenting, Gentle Arrival exhibits genuine contempt for the abuse that Rock Pie heaped on Pinkie Pie.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The other form of 'sending on' qualifies: there are ponies too racist to accept an other-species foal, but they're at least willing to leave that newborn at a hospital or police station. Chapter 53 sees Celestia state that protective laws have been in place for centuries to make those abandonments legally safe, as having orphans is far better than dead foals. Unfortunately, not everypony is willing to take that step.
    • Gentle Arrival qualifies here. He refuses to see the Bearers killed (although this expressly includes some Enlightened Self-Interest, as he knows how the palace would react and has a very real reason to want a control on Discord) and practiced neither form of sending on with his own daughter. (Not that making her into the lifelong subject of an experiment while practicing emotional abuse may have been much of an improvement.) This contrasts to Coordinator, whom Doctor Gentle eventually describes as a child denied the right to play with one toy spending their lives in trying to break it.
    • Word Of Fanfic Author says that some of the ponies funding the conspiracy are doing so to protect their future generations: if a foal's race can be enforced, then sending on will end. Quiet ultimately turns out to be part of this faction.
  • Evil Is Petty: It doesn't come much pettier than Coordinator. He was the primary factor that soured Twilight on the very concept of friendship back during their school days because she spurned him, carefully arranging rumors which would drift into her ears concerning any ponies who might attempt to befriend her and actively using Blackmail on any who kept right on trying anyway, usually with evidence he'd created.
  • Explosive Leash: To deal with Gentle Arrival after taking him into custody in chapter 53, the Princesses put him in a special form of restraint which contains multiple layers — with the innermost being a layer of platinum, which will overload and detonate if it absorbs too much of the wearer's magic. This is the restraint used on Star Swirl, and is intended to defeat a pony who can get past differentiation: it doesn't matter if you can potentially cast through the restraint if doing so means the restraint explodes and takes your skull with it.
  • Fantastic Racism: The fact that many ponies don't think very highly of those outside their particular "tribe" is a very prominent aspect of the story. Unlike many such stories in the FiM fandom, it's not purely a case of unicorn supremacists; indeed, earth ponies seem to be just as prone to it as unicorns, perhaps even more so — after all, earth ponies are the only tribe who considers it necessary to actively hide the true extent of their powers, whilst unicorns and pegasi freely talk about the nuances of their abilities if asked. Applejack herself is a Politically Incorrect Hero with some unconsciously hypocritical views, whilst Pinkie Pie's father was a fanatic bigot who even looked down upon earth ponies who didn't hate unicorns and pegasi as much as he did, an attitude that is implied to be common amongst rock farmers.
    • Chapter 30 establishes Clear Coordinator as speciesist; he mocks the very concept of the "Great Work" as insane for its plans on converting all ponies into alicorns, and is mentioned as having vomited profusely and afterwards being very grateful for being "pure" and "safe" after hearing about what he calls "the warped" — which are clearly implied to be those ponies who, having been delivered by Gentle Arrival, have developed "twisted" magic.
    • And ultimately, Gentle Arrival may be the worst of all. Seeing that his daughter, whose mother died birthing her, was an earth pony made him obsessed with finding a way to turn all ponies into alicorns, so no other foal would be born "broken" the way his own was. He also repeatedly refers to cross-tribal breeding as a "sin". note 
    • In chapter 54, Princess Celestia talks about how long ponies have been hating and distrusting ponies for being born "the wrong tribe", ever since the Discordian Era. It's one of the reasons why she and Luna ultimately worked to redefine "sending on" from a Deadly Euphemism for "murdering the Chaos Children" (which such cross-tribal births were called — during the Discordian Era, ponies lost the truth of how their own blood worked and thought those foals were Discord's creations) to "fostering them out".
  • Freak Out: The revelations in chapter 40 are far too much for Twilight Sparkle. She relies on order as a lens through which to both view the world and force it into being something she can understand: everything she's seen and heard has shattered it, kicking her into utter chaos. The breaking point comes when Pinkie Pie, desperate for reassurance in the face of the conference's horrifying revelations, touches her with a hoof. Twilight, who learned about the hybrid creation process moments before, suddenly can't see Pinkie Pie as a pony anymore — and starts to scream. This forces the ponies lurking outside the viewing area to break in and take everypony captive, along with giving Quiet the chance to put a restraint on Twilight's horn. Ultimately, she keeps screaming until one of her captors finally manages to gag her.
  • Freudian Excuse:
    • Chapter 40 reveals that the whole mess began after Doctor Gentle's wife died giving birth to their daughter — who turned out to be an earth pony. Maddened by grief, Gentle couldn't bear the idea that their daughter would never know the magic her mother had, and so began to seek out any way of restoring what he saw as her stolen heritage.
    • Chapter 50 shows why Quiet is part of the Great Work: to prevent his sister's fate from happening to anypony else.
  • Fridge Horror:
    • In-Universe: during Chapter 40, Doctor Gentle explains why all pegasi try to give birth on the ground: it's from the terror that the foal will be an earth pony or unicorn — for whom a single second of resting upon a cloud's surface might kill. Rainbow, upon overhearing this within the spy perch, is immediately shaken, openly admitting that she had never before considered the possibility: it's also enough to disturb some of the unicorns in the floor-level audience.
    • In-Universe, in chapter 54, Celestia is shown worrying about what the hybrids will do to Equestria's social order. In particular, she brings up the problem of what happens if hybridization "breeds true", and ultimately they completely disrupt or replace the traditional tribal powers entirely. It could, as she points out, mean the end of Equestrian civilization, as it would result in things like ponies no longer being able to manipulate the weather or artificially generate crops.
      Princess Celestia: "And now... now, there can be a horn, and there can be a corona, and then there's something in the blood. What will their children be? Does this stop here, with normal foals born from their unions? Or will it lurk in the blood, surfacing every so often? A race created from the combination of races, appearing at random. Either of those results, and Equestria goes on much like before, even if it takes centuries to stop the attacks, and fearful, hateful ponies sending on if their infant seems the least bit different. But if hybrids only produce hybrids... and their children have children, across the centuries... what are we, in a thousand years? Is there a true pegasus left? A single pony on the continent who can perform the techniques of weather control? A few clouds broken, one storm moderated. And what is everypony else? What would our magic be? A thousand years, and who are we?"
  • Fridge Logic: In-Universe; during chaper 26, after apologizing to Applejack for her dismissive opinion of earth pony magic, Twilight Sparkle brings up that she actually only thought that way because of the earth pony tradition of obscuring their powers, and outright questions if it hasn't caused more problems than it's solved. It's perhaps telling that Applejack's first reaction is to basically accuse Twilight of simply passing the blame.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Nopony really trusts Discord apart from Fluttershy, and several of the Bearers are actively looking out for what angle the Chaos Lord may be running. As evidence about the Great Work builds up, in particular when Applejack has a break-down over The Reveal of the true secrets of earth pony magic and The Reveal that Celestia and Luna aren't the deities that ponies worship them as, they become increasingly suspicious that Discord's "real" plan is to foster a division between the Bearers that will make them incapable of ever wielding the Elements of Harmony again.
  • Fusion Dance: It's ultimately explained over Chapters 53 to 55 that this is how alicornization works; a pony is infused with essence from ponies of the other tribes, permanently leaving a small "shadow" of the donor-pony's soul meshed into the alicorn's soul. These slivers leave an imprint of that donor-pony's personality as well, so when an alicorn taps into the deeper parts of the magic left by that transformation, their personality actually shifts to resemble the donor they are tapping. When this imprinting is done with the aid of the Elements, it's harmless, but it is possible for the donors to be killed; Cadance's own ascension involved the death of her friends. (We never find out how that transformation happened, but the Elements weren't involved.) The most important aspect is that the donation has to be done voluntarily; the mingling of souls only happens if the donor-ponies love the host-pony and are willing to make that sacrifice of some of their essence. As Discord points out to Twilight, this means that no matter what happened afterwards, the Star Swirl who existed at the moment of the change cared about the sisters and was willing to do anything to help them.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong:
    • In chapter 29, it turns out that the terrifying Snitcher device started out as a simple, benign invention created by a dedicated caster who wanted to assure her daughter that her mark was coming soon, and maybe help her find it a little faster. It turned out to have a horrific side-effect in the form of completely suppressing the wearer's magic, and was promptly abused by various lunatics and would-be tyrants, which is why it's now illegal.
    • In the same chapter, Clear Coordinator starts planning to blackmail Rainbow Dash. The stubborn, hot-headed Element of Loyalty. There's no way that's going to work out well for him.
      • One chapter later, Clear Coordinator starts planning for what happens when his scheme succeeds and he becomes Twilight Sparkle's "friend". Again, there's not a chance in Tartarus that she's going to fall into place the way he expects.
      • Come chapter 36, it all blows up explosively in Coordinator's face as Twilight shrugs off his threats, feeling that the resultant fallout couldn't be any worse than what she already lives with — and when he threatens the other Bearers, she comes within a hair's width of crushing him to death in her field. (And as it turns out, his death was only postponed.)
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Or rather, pony hybrid, and the exact equation is birth race plus other-race essence channeled through and via chaos. Chapter 40 reveals that Dr. Gentle's "miracle" delivery ponies were saved via infusing the unborn ponies with the other-species essence of dead ponies which had been stored within chaos pearls. This granted them what's been termed as hybrid vigor, giving them the boost they needed to survive. The tradeoff is that because their essence was altered this way, their ability to use their own tribe's magic is severely weakened — if not just about entirely absent. Two of the Mane Cast are his: Fluttershy as a pegasus infused with the essence of an earth pony, and Pinkie Pie is an earth pony infused with the essence of a unicorn. Pinkie Pie seems to have gotten hit especially hard by this — while Fluttershy can still at least fly (albeit weakly), Pinkie Pie is completely unable to listen to the earth. (This may be due to the extra chaos energies used during her birth. However, she was also born a mere year into Gentle Arrival's career, while Fluttershy was his very first hybrid creation. The exact ratios required have required something of a learning process.) Such ponies are now all over Equestria, and the oldest are reaching the age where they may start to think about having children of their own.
  • Happily Adopted: It's been confirmed that Pinkie is legally adopted by the Cakes. (It took a while before the readership realized this meant the Cake was a Pie.) Also applies to Spike for Twilight's family, and there's a line in Chapter 21 indicating he has full Equestrian citizenship.
    • Meaningful Rename: Inverted: Despite being the Cake's daughter in all but blood, Pinkie still keeps her father's surname, and even Applejack has never been able to ask her why. Spike, however, is entitled to claim the name of his House, and receives that introduction in Chapter 34. (Which, incidentally, would make him a noble dragon).
  • Harsher in Hindsight: In-Universe: Twilight realizes that in attending Dawn Sky's birth, she was present while the newest hybrid was created — with no idea of what was truly happening.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: Appears in Chapter 38, as the first thing Quiet asks Twilight after she recruits him. However, he plays it subtly, asking if the Bearers have contacted Canterlot for help and, given that they're dealing with somepony who has alicorn-level strength, if there are any other potential reinforcements on the way.
  • Heel Realization: Downplayed in chapter 35. Twilight does a little soul-searching when she realizes that The Reveal that Applejack has a noble title of her own in the previous episode has actually unsettled her. She eventually recognizes that it's partially because her personal stereotype of nobles is strongly negative, and she doesn't want to associate Applejack with that.
  • Heroic BSoD: Applejack undergoes this after circumstances finally force her to break the veil of secrecy around earth pony magic. Coming out of it has been a slow process, with Rarity believing the Bearers will only see final recovery when Applejack takes up her Daddy's hat again — something which doesn't happen until the very last chapter.
  • Heroic RRoD: Rarity nearly puts herself through one when attempting to fish an object out of a river. In this setting, unicorn magic can't grab hold of things that are inside another object: the differentiation problem. (Twilight likens her feat of trying to separate the gem from that sheer volume of water with attempting to lift the entire river.) Only the affinity for gems granted by Rarity's mark allows her to perform the feat, and the process exhausts her into a faint.
  • Heroism Won't Pay the Bills: Applejack had to explain this to Celestia, who then created the Royal Vouchers, which recompense the Bearers for the revenue they lose and the expenses they incur when out saving the world. The vouchers aren't a blank check, but they come close.
  • Hidden Depths: Rarity stayed in touch with the Diamond Dogs near Ponyville and picked up quite a lot about their culture. It's part of an unwritten peace treaty between the town and the warren: she drops by every so often to help them find gems, and they don't do anything which would bring angry Princesses into the tunnels. Of course, the Dogs don't get to keep all the gems that Rarity finds...
  • History Repeats: In the tragic sense. The two Diarchs were part of a set of Elements instead of just those two, and they were the only ones to ascend. The Mane 6 had Twilight ascend, and whether the others will is still up in the air. And Cadance had every other one of her own team, lost to history, sacrifice themselves to keep her alive. Now the question is whether to let it keep repeating...
  • Hoist by Their Own Petard: In chapter 48, a panic-stricken and desperate Coordinator drinks a booster. Unfortunately, this particular variety works by converting the drinker's personal strength into thaums, and Coordinator wasn't very strong to begin with. The result is that he burns himself out, completely consuming his Life Force for an ultimately useless surge of magical power.
  • Honorary Uncle: Both Pinkie and Fluttershy seem to regard Doctor Gentle with degrees of this, with many of the others whom the obstetrician has delivered feeling the same way. Unfortunately for them, he turns out to be an Honorary Evil Uncle.
  • Horn Attack: Flebian Rams can flex their horns into different positions, curling them to batter or straightening them to puncture. The good news is that they're just magical animals and don't have the intelligence required for taking full advantage — but they're still territorial, perpetually angry, and dangerous.
  • How Do I Shot Web?: Three weeks hasn't been enough for Twilight to figure out how her wings are supposed to keep her up, let alone any other pegasus ability. It's embarrassing enough that she initially tries to hide it from the other Bearers — but the secret comes out in Chapter 13, and Rainbow becomes her official flying teacher.
    • Also a problem for her: she's studied various theories of magic, but has never gotten to put them into practice. Add in fear-triggered Power Incontinence and her lack of control can become a deadly issue.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: All of the terms can be linked to art — which may be its own clue.
  • In Another Man's Shoes: Overlapping with Emotion Bomb; during Chapter 51, Twilight stumbles into what can only be described as "memory bubbles" in the underground path to her rooms, allowing her to live out certain key moments from her childhood through her own eyes. (They were created by accident during the transformation.)
  • Innocent Innuendo: From Chapter 30, after Rarity discovers Quiet reading to Twilight:
    "So when a friend reads to you," Rarity quietly continued, "your natural listening position is to lie down so that your head is resting on his forelegs?"
    Twilight hesitated, searched for a response, then wondered how visible that hunt had been.
    "I don't know," she replied, and also wondered if the words sounded just as defensive to Rarity's rotated ears. "None of you ever read to me. So I guess any position I use during my first time would be my natural one."
  • Ironic Echo: before The Reveal of The Secret, Twilight dismissed her potential powers in earth pony state by mockingly suggesting that she would just "grow plants at us". Chapter 50 shows Doctor Gentle trying to scare her while she's in earth pony form, believing they're about to be capturing, knowing nothing will happen — and cue instant vegetation wall.
    "...oh," Twilight said, and barely heard her own words from the twin depths of storm and stun. "She grew plants at us..."
  • Irony: For lack of a better term, Quiet Presence; his family were fanatical unicorn racial purists, and then they had Quiet, who has some unnamed, unspecified genetic flaw that leads to him being very weak and sickly. To a more adult reader, it's obvious that he's suffering the health issues induced by overly-specified breeding, a common phenomena in "pedigree" animals. Thus, the practice of "purity" only introduced weakness and corruption into Quiet's family lineage - if they had been willing to mate outside of their tribe, their children would have been healthier.
    • Quiet's condition also calls to mind, for more mature readers, the real-world phenomena of Royal Inbreeding and the disastrous effects it had on noble families like the Hapsburgs. Note that his family is never explicitly said to be inbred, but the inferral is obvious to anyone familiar with the topic.
    • For a darker twist, it's revealed in Chapter 50 that Quiet Presence's frailty isn't the reason why he's never had kids: he's refused to have foals because his wife is of the exact same mentality as his parents (and he feels there will be those in future generations who continue to feel that way). The same ponies whom he believes may have murdered his little sister for being born as an earth pony. Quiet himself doesn't care what his children are, but he refuses to have foals so long as he has to be scared of the chance they might turn out to be earth ponies.
  • It Will Never Catch On: After disillusioning one aspiring inventor who mistakenly believed that Twilight being a princess meant she was rich, Twilight and Pinkie take a moment to discuss his invention of an "oil-burning engine" and disparage it, asking why anyone would want to burn something as dirty and smelly as oil when steam is far cleaner to produce.
  • Karma Houdini: Averted for Trixie: she was captured shortly after leaving Ponyville following the Alicorn Amulet takeover. She's currently on probation, has to regularly check in with Guards, and that will go on for a long time.
  • Karmic Death: Coordinator, the biggest outright jerkass amongst the Great Conspiracy, the stallion who was single-hoofedly responsible for Twilight's social aversion, ultimately dies when he unwittingly kills himself with a toxic dose of booster, being given a short "The Reason You Suck" Speech from Gentle Arrival and then abandoned as meaningless rubbish in a chamber below Quiet Presence's estate.
  • "Kick Me" Prank: Invoked in Chapter 4:
    Discord sighed, looked as put-upon as his features possibly could have managed, manifested a KICK ME. KICK ME HARD! sign on his back, front, and sides.
  • Lack of Empathy: Discussed and subverted in chapter 53; Discord admits to being as surprised as anypony when he figured out he actually cares about the hybrid ponies that were created with the chaos pearls that Gentle Arrival made from Discord's energy, and especially cares for her:
    Discord: "Everything you did to her, across her lifetime. You thought I couldn't understand that?" And a bitter laugh, the kind of mirth which came when the joke had been on him. "Neither did I! But here we are, Doctor! I'm as surprised as you! I would never hurt her! But you... here we are, here you are, after everything you did to me, to her, here we are and —"
  • Lap Pillow: From chapter 30: It's how Quiet and Twilight are positioned, when he reads to her — or, given pony anatomy, as close it could get: her head on his forelegs.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Trust Discord to get one in: this is his description of the mission:
    • "You're going to go do something that I, with all my power, could seemingly accomplish all by myself with practically no effort on my part. But instead, I'm sending a bunch of considerably lesser strengths out there for reasons which I will not explain and allowing my quasi-omnipotent self to take a nap while everypony else deals with all the trouble." He glanced back at Celestia, adjusted the lampshade resting on his head. "That's about right, isn't it?"
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    • In Chapter 39:
    The Lord of the castle is leading the Bearers down a secret passage filled with traps. There's every chance that if I saw this in a story, I might start shouting at the page in a completely futile effort to keep the heroines and hero from going in there."
    • In Chapter 40, through Gentle Arrival, nodding at the length of the story, and the chapter, which was the second longest, when it was posted:
    "'Cutie mark',"
    "There's a story in that,
    ...
    about how 'cutie' came to be part of the term.
    ...
    Perhaps this might be the night for it, or it could simply frustrate those who feel that tale is lengthening the delay."
  • Logical Weakness: Aside from being nullified by other earth ponies, the easiest ways to disrupt earth pony magic is by breaking their connection to the earth by either suddenly lifting them into the air via telekinesis/pegasus (and there has to be some real altitude involved to get outside that field's radius: merely breaking contact isn't going to do it) or by teleporting them. The latter has a much more drastic effect: from the earth pony's perspective, the earth vanishes — leaving them disoriented and nauseous upon emergence from between. (Word Of Fanfic Author was initially that it's like transplanting a hardy plant by yanking it out of one pot and jamming it into another: there's going to be shock — and Applejack eventually winds up describing it this way to Twilight while discussing ways to neutralize her when she's in her earth pony form.)
  • Magic A Is Magic A: All specific pony tribe forms of magic. At least, so far...
    • Officially subverted, disrupted, and just about blown to Tartarus in Chapter 40, as the hybrid creation process takes Magic A, mixes it with Magic B, uses chaos to fuse the blend, and sends it out into the world.
  • Meaningful Name: Every chapter of the story not only shares the core "artistic" theme-naming, but directly relates to the events of the chapter proper. The author even put together a blog explaining in the most spoiler-free fashion they could exactly how each chapter is meaningfully named.
  • Mineral MacGuffin: Deathstone, which Rarity renames to the more appealing "shiftstone" and which is given the conspiracy-assigned name of "chaos pearl" in Chapter 24. They are ultimately revealed to be containers of chaos energy and pony essence, essential for the attempt to artificially reproduce the alicorn creation process. And without them, there would be no hybrids.
  • Mundane Solution: Attempted. Upon being reunited with her, Doctor Gentle tries to treat her pain with drugs. This has some degree of effectiveness, but still comes with several problems: anything powerful enough to truly help has side effects (from clouding thought on up), there's a potential for addiction added to gradual decrease of effectiveness, and adverse reactions can crop up. (The fact that some drugs which are designed for one pony race are being put in the body of somepony constantly cycling through all three isn't helping, and he recognizes that before the first dose.) At best, it's a stopgap measure, and her vomiting during the trip to the castle shows it won't hold for long.
  • Mundane Utility: Being a pegasus/earth pony hybrid seems to cure a pony of the instinctual claustrophobia that nearly all pegasi suffer. Fluttershy has no trouble in the tight confines of the castle's secret passages, while Rainbow comes close to a panic attack.
  • Mythology Gag: When Rainbow Dash locates the hidden door to the lower levels with her thermal vision, she describes the segment of the wall hiding it as being "about twenty percent cooler", one of her earliest and most famously memetic lines.
  • The Nameless: Applies to her, to the point where she won't even take a temporary use name for the duration of a meeting. When challenged on how she thinks of herself, the response is "I." Given that some ponies seem to believe that the act of naming can confer a degree of destiny on the recipient, there's a good chance this is deliberate.
    "No name! Names limit! Name not earned! Never name now!"
    • Chapter 40 has Doctor Gentle directly state that he never named her, believing it would allow him to more fully shape that destiny.
  • Nightmare Fuel: In-Universe, the potential side-effects of wearing a shiftstone are terrifying to Twilight, and the idea that it might, eventually, make Rarity start to transform in the same way as her is scary enough to make Rarity agree not to wear it to the party. This turns out to have been unnecessary: Rarity's stone, as one of those used in her initial transformation, had been discharged — and even if it had been full, the essence within could have only mixed with Rarity's own at birth or during mark manifestation. However, Rarity also wound up finding the first of Gentle Arrival's chaos pearls — the one which held Primatura's essence.
    • Also, reading the casually described atrocities that the Snitcher was used for in order to be banned is absolutely horrifying for Twilight. (Among other things, one was apparently fused to a child's skin, providing a choice of options: never manifest your mark, or have part of yourself torn off.)
  • The Nondescript: Quiet Presence. There are times when even the narrator struggles to make adjectives stick to him, and a large number of ponies seem to have trouble noticing when he's around or remembering what he looked like after he leaves the room. In reality, he's a small young adult unicorn stallion (somewhat shorter and thinner than Twilight, who's described as being slightly built for a mare), whose coat, mane, and eyes are slightly-differing shades of grey. According to the text, ponies can tell that his mark exists in the proper location, but it's just as grey as the rest of him and so far, nopony has been able to determine exactly what that mark is.
    • There have been an increasing number of hints that this represents an aspect of his talent. In particular, Chapter 38 has the party about two body lengths away from where he's speaking to Doctor Gentle, with nopony noticing the conversation. Doctor Gentle immediately asks him just how much he's exerting himself and as soon as they reach an enclosed room, conducts basic medical monitoring. Chapter 44 has Rarity and Twilight mutually figure out that it is indeed a talent. Twilight ultimately describes it as Quiet projecting the emotional resonance of dismissal: he's not invisible, you just overlook or forget that he's in the room.
  • Not Now, Bernard: While everypony takes the theft of Rainbow's manuscript seriously (containing her account for the first year of their adventures), they also brush it off as completely irrelevant to the mission. The thought never occurs to any of them, even as they begin to wonder whether she may be connected to some kind of conspiracy, that Rainbow's manuscript might have been stolen in hopes that there might be vital clues about how Twilight Sparkle became an alicorn hidden amongst the rambling, probably self-glorifying, rather poorly-written anecdotes — and even without containing such details, it still ultimately turns into the key document for Coordinator's Blackmail attempt.
  • Oh, Crap!: Twilight's reaction in chapter 35 when she realizes that, if Spike finally gets that return response from Cadance, nobles unfamiliar with the magic may stampede in panic upon seeing the spurt of flame. She immediately goes looking for him, and everypony she brings this up with immediately shares in her concern.
  • Oh My Gods!: There are periodic references to ponies swearing on or by the various Princesses, and Twilight learning that ponies have already started to swear by her contributes meaningfully to the stress she's under.
    • In Chapter 42, Twilight swears by Discord's antler that the Elements will not help her — making the entire conference spontaneously pull away from her. Gentle actually pauses to note that he's never heard of someone swearing by Discord before. (It happens again in the final chapter, and the local audience doesn't take it well.)
  • Only One Name: Subverted. Fluttershy is usually just called that, but she actually has a surname, as revealed in Chapter 34. Phylia.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: A slight variant: Fluttershy (in the Continuum, at least) is perpetually on the brink of total bankruptcy, so when she is willing to drop everything and cross most of Equestria upon hearing that something's happened to Dr. Gentle, it's one of the first signs of how much his value him.
    • A number of readers view the Chapter 6 argument between Applejack and Pinkie this way: seeing Pinkie that livid meant something was very serious indeed.
    • Similarly, all throughout the Continuum it's been repeated again and again that Applejack's hat never leaves her head except under the most bizzare circumstances. As her shiva token, it is the symbol of her connection to her family and her memories of her departed parents. So when she takes off her hat and flatly refuses to put it back on, it shows just how much revealing the Secret has cost her.
    • In chapter 55, Celestia becomes so desperate to make Twilight talk to her after unintentionally revealing her origins as Star Swirl's reincarnation to her that she bluntly forces a literal torrent of message scrolls through Spike, almost choking him with their relentless volume to the point Twilight desperately sends her a message back screaming at Celestia to stop because she's hurting Spike. This ends the scroll flow.
    • Likewise in chapter 55, during her first dream-time communique with Twilight, Luna stops speaking in her usual formal method and very bluntly addresses Twilight — including telling her to pull her head out of her ass.
  • Oven Logic: Invoked in passing during Chapter 46: thanks to her general impatience, Rainbow Dash just doesn't understand why "turn up the heat" does not equate to "it gets cooked faster."
  • Painful Transformation: Experienced by her, constantly. Whatever went wrong in the ascension attempt resulted in perpetual cyclical shifting between the three main pony races, moving from pegasus to unicorn to earth pony to pegasus again, and so on through the cycle. Rarity believes the wing bones are breaking rather than simply being reabsorbed. Whether this is true is unknown — but she is in endless, unrelenting agony... until Fluttershy uses her gift from Discord to erase that aspect of her changes.
  • Papa Wolf:
    • Invoked and Zigzagged. In chapter 53, Princess Celestia reveals that Gentle Arrival's Cutie Mark is functionally to be the ultimate loving parent... but, somehow, his despair over his wife's death and his racism has allowed him to subvert his Mark. Strangely, he still seems to genuinely care for the foals that he midwives — he just is able to obliviously abuse his own daughter. (Pinkie's guess is that he displaced the love he should have had for his own onto those he delivered, and sadly wonders at how much there must have been for all of them to get some of it.)
    • Played straight with, of all beings, Discord, who gets legitimately angry about Gentle Arrival's treatment of her and reveals he feels a paternal fondness for all of the hybrids. He even goes so far as to effectively "adopt" her by taking her as his student.
  • Paralysis by Analysis: Stated to be one of Twilight's problems in combat: there are times when she's so busy sorting through every spell she knows, she loses the opportunity she would need for casting any of them.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Zigzagged in chapter 29; the opening of the chapter shows Gentle Arrival has been doing everything he can to solve her pain, but it's still not enough to make him renounce his plans to repeat the experiment.
    • In chapter 53, Discord does nothing but help and care for her, and even takes her on as his student.
  • Potty Failure: Gentle Arrival implicitly and understandably loses control of his bladder after being stared down by an incredibly angry Discord in chapter 53. (It's not described, but there's a fresh puddle on the floor.)
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: All of Dr. Gentle's "miracles" were saved by emergency infusions of dead ponies' essence into the unborn ponies. Essentially, Dr. Gentle used necromancy to save them.
  • Power Incontinence: Her, big-time. The failure of The Great Work didn't turn her into an alicorn, but it left her with the raw power of one in each aspect — with no experience in directing or controlling it. When she gets scared, alicorn strength can lash out at the stimulus, and there's no telling what it might do.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: Three words in Chapter 46: "Sorry. Wrong horn."
  • Precursor Heroes: Twilight eventually learns that there were six other Bearers (and a companion) at the end of the Discordian era — a group which included Celestia and Luna (with the sisters' specific Elements unknown). Within the main story, two other ponies have been named as having been part of that sextet: Star Swirl (unicorn, Magic) and Zephyra Hurricane (pegasus, Honesty).
  • Protagonist Title: Ultimately, she picks her own name: Triptych — in Chapter 55.
  • Required Secondary Powers: As part of the World Building, many of these are being revealed. The most prominent examples is that pegasi have a form of infravision, allowing them to see heat, humidity levels, and ion charges; it's part of how they both fly and manipulate weather. In all cases, they need to see what they're doing...
  • The Reveal:
    • Earth ponies in this universe don't merely have Fertile Feet, animal empathy and Super Strength, but can actively manipulate the earth around them. It's just that they've kept this aspect of their powers secret from the other species, to the point of having an oral history that refers to lynching potential secret-breakers — or at least, stories told to the youngest as a means of forever scaring them out of speaking.
    • There's a conspiracy to replicate alicorn ascension going on.
    • Star Swirl the Bearded created the Alicorn Amulet as a failed attempt at ascending, using necromancy to do so.
    • Celestia and Luna are former Bearers who ascended to alicorndom, just like Twilight Sparkle. In fact, they had their own party of seven when they faced off against Discord, but their allies have been forgotten by history, and for some reason the sisters allowed this to happen.
    • Rock farming is used to artificially produce gems to feed dragons, something rock farming families have used since the Discordian Era to keep the dragons allied with them: at least one dragon to a family as a fair-trade deal. The dragons receive the fuel they need for their own magic, and the rock farmer can call for protection at need.
    • Gentle Arrival has been using Necromancy to infuse chaos pearls with the essence of dead ponies, and his earliest experiments in the "Great Work" of recreating the alicorn transformation have consisted of infusing dying, unborn foals with the essence of ponies from a different tribe; this creates ponies with unique cross-tribal magical abilities. (He was initially trying to change a foal's race in the womb and, even after realizing it couldn't be done, continued because the process granted the strength for such newborns to survive.)
    • Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy were among Gentle Arrival's earliest experiments; Fluttershy, the very first hybrid, is a pegasus infused with earth pony essence, and Pinkie Pie has a double-whammy of unicorn essence and just a little more chaos than was used on anypony else. Additionally, Fluttershy's state is a partial accident: he was trying to change her into a unicorn in the womb — and in the panic of his very first professional delivery, used the wrong chaos pearl.
    • Princess Celestia used an experimental working of her own creation to try and force Star Swirl into reincarnating, telling him that if he wanted the power so badly, he could just keep trying over and over again until he got it right. She also believes that Twilight is Star Swirl's reincarnation, or at least his latest one.
  • Running Gag: Mention Star Swirl and suddenly everypony has narcolepsy. Apparently Twilight's delivered one hero-worshiping lecture too many.
  • Saying Too Much: During his attempted breaking speech to Twilight, Coordinator almost refers to Fluttershy's status as one of the warped — he cuts himself short, but Twilight picks up on it, leaving him to hastily excuse the word "warp" as a local slang-term for talent. It turns out to be one of the terms used by some in the conspiracy to describe the hybrids.
  • Scare 'em Straight: A variant; earth pony foals are taught all manner of horrible stories when they're young and have started to come into their magic about what happened to other earth ponies who tried to break the veil of secrecy around earth pony magic, which invariably resulted in those "traitors" being killed. Left ambiguous is if they were killed by pegasi and/or unicorns upon revealing they weren't "harmless", or if they were lynched by their fellow earth ponies.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: The only reason Coordinator got into Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns. His field strength is somewhere below average, and the field itself tends to wink out when he's under stress. He got through the majority of his exams through control of the teachers or getting other students to pass them for him. It's mentioned that entirely new fields of cheating were invented this way.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Invoked in chapter 55, when Discord explain to her that what he hopes to teach her is, among other things, the importance of understanding when not to follow the rules, instead of being Lawful Stupid.
  • Secret Keeper:
    • Following the events of Chapter 17, the entire Mane Cast is keeping one about the true nature of earth pony magic.
    • In chapter 26, Twilight Sparkle becomes one in keeping both the fact that Pinkie Pie was an abused foal from the rest of the Mane Six, and in keeping the fact that Pinkie's father actually tried to take her home before Applejack won a fosse to keep him away from Pinkie herself.
  • Secret Weapon: Applejack's reasoning for the Secret being — well, the Secret — is that it may be the earth ponies attempting to keep a hidden weapon tucked away in case Equestria is invaded. She also immediately admits it's perhaps not a very effective plan, seeing as how Discord knew about her magic anyway and casually nullified her magic at the same moment he stole horns and wings from the others. (This is part of why Applejack was inverted so easily: she was already shaken.) Twilight pointing out that Discord may be old enough to remember a time before the Secret doesn't help.
  • Shout-Out:
    • To Flash Fog: Chapter 3 reports that Fluttershy's income includes a small stipend with associated tax break from the Weather Bureau which she's never quite explained. Word Of Fanfic Author says that in this continuity, the cottage is serving as a first-alert station, with Fluttershy sounding the alarm if she spots a major uncontrolled weather system emerging from her neighboring wild zone.
    • To Gone with the Wind In her desperation to make dresses (plus one tuxedo) for everypony in time for the party, Rarity winds up cannibalizing a set of Quiet's curtains.
    • To On a Cross and Arrow: Chapter 14 has Twilight being asked/made to attend and bless the birth of two foals. Both are then named in tribute to her: the pegasus filly Dawn Sky and a unicorn colt named Dusk. A few chapters later, we meet the latter's father — and find out the last name is Shine.
    • To Edvard Munch painting, The Scream: In Chapter 15, a ponified version is described:
      "Y'see that paintin' on the wall?" Applejack inclined her head towards the ornate frame. "The one with what Ah think is s'posed t' be a stallion on some kind of bridge, with the sky all red an' somethin' wrong with the water an' two strangers approachin'? An' he's jus' screamin' at the air?"
    • To Dungeons & Dragons: In Chapter 13, Rarity reveals that the Diamond Dogs call her the Tyrant of the Underdark. She thinks it's meant with respect.
    • When Gentle Arrival discusses his list of "infusion" experiments, he mentions an earth pony with an incredible instinct for unicorn workings, and an instinctive ability to dispel most magics, which he uses to pursue a career as a wandering tutor for young unicorns — this is a reference to Green Grass, the male protagonist of the Traveling Tutor And The Librarian series.
    • In Chapter 33, Twilight mentions how she doesn't much care for peaches, a reference to a brief tide of 'Twilight Eats a Peach' story tags (and associated stories).
  • Slobs vs. Snobs: In chapter 35, Applejack explains that she kept her family's noble title a secret because she hates the way so very many nobles seem to hold it up as the be-all, end-all of who they are, making it little better than excuse to treat everypony else like dirt. She also comes clean that this antipathy is why she started mucking around in the gardens at a certain upper-class garden party.
  • Smug Snake:
    • Clear Coordinator, overlapping with Small Name, Big Ego, as made amply clear in his viewpoint swamp dive during Chapter 30.
    • In Chapter 53, Gentle Arrival stands defiant and proud, arrogantly demanding to be allowed to continue his midwifery, despite being a helpless captive in the presence of both Princesses — who are furious with him. (This breaks down somewhat once Discord makes his presence known.)
  • Sorting Algorithm of Evil: In Chapter 51, the Mane 6 has to let a pair of Murdoch's reporters go on their way after overhearing their plans to slander Twilight by writing fictitious accusations of Twilight being pregnant into the tabloids, because they have a much more important task to complete in the form of stopping Gentle Arrival. (They also learn that the duo tried to get into the party through wearing what Rarity describes as the worst fake pregnancy belly ever seen: it's visibly leaking birdseed.)
  • Steven Ulysses Perhero: Discussed. Some ponies believe the act of naming a foal can place some amount of destiny on the newborn, and Doctor Gentle has seen too many ponies with names just a little too well-suited to their jobs (himself included) to believe in mere and frequent coincidence any more. The two most major destiny moments are generally agreed on to be birth and the manifestation of the mark — but naming is close behind.
  • Take That!: Discord is angry with someone, but he decides to deal with it "the pony way", which means sending the Bearers in his stead. Without telling them who or what they are looking for, or why; giving them no time to prepare; and insisting that they not take things they anticipate needing. And by "pony way", he means he learned it from Celestia.
  • Tautological Templar: Gentle Arrival's status as this appears to have been cemented in chapter 28: despite seeing for himself the horrific pain that she is in due to her current state, he's already eagerly looking forward to repeating the experiment that created her.
    • Chapter 40 has made this worse, to the point where some readers are now calling him Pony Hitler. (Which is unfair, as his experiments on the unborn would make him closer to being Pony Mengele.)
  • Teleportation Sickness: Applejack, who becomes nauseous every time she's taken along: longer trips leave her vomiting all over the arrival point. We later discover that this is because being teleported briefly snaps her magical connection to the earth.
    • Spike seems to have more of a Teleportation Allergy: Twilight mentions that his scales don't react well with something in the between and unless she shields him first, he'll send up smoke plumes after exiting.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Fortreeze Laudanum, a historical pony mentioned in chapter 28, is regarded as this In-Universe, with the chapter repeatedly describing him as an idiot of a quality very rarely seen in anyone's lifetime: he was an incredibly talented researcher who decided to write a book about forbidden devices and how to create them, just because nopony had ever done that before. (He thought this was a good idea.) He's expressly described as one of the fallen: a pony whose personality has essentially collapsed into their talent.
    • Clear Coordinator, after Twilight shouts him down and reveals she doesn't care about his blackmail attempt, threatens to ruin the lives of two other Bearers. He quickly comes to regret this.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: In the "jerkass reveals they're even worse than they seemed to be" variation. Chapter 30 gives us a glimpse inside Clear Coordinator's head, and really shows what a selfish, arrogant, racist little prick he is.
  • Tough Love: In Chapter 55, when Luna first contacts Twilight after her and Celestia have their falling out, she tries to shock Twilight out of her funk by first telling her that there are ways that even alicorns can die, explaining the suffering Celestia is undergoing, and then concludes their visit by telling Twilight to take a breath, try seeing things from Celestia's point of view, and get (her) head out of (her) ass.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Trotter's Falls is revealed to be the center of a conspiracy its adherents call "The Great Work", which turns out to be a tribal supremacist cult that has, having failed in its original directive to find a way to forcibly change ponies from one tribe to the other, settled for trying to transform a pony into an alicorn. Not everypony in the town is part of the Great Work, but the town is racist enough to allow a strong location for first recruitments.
    • Word Of Fanfic Author describes Trotter's Falls as the pony equivalent of a sundown town: earth ponies can bring in the food deliveries, but Moon help them if they try to move in.
  • Transformation Horror: In Chapter 53, an enraged Discord drops the Mix-and-Match Critters body he normally wears amongst ponies and reverts to what might be his "true form", an Elemental Embodiment of chaos itself which appears as a sapient storm, terrifying everyone in the Hall Of Legends — Celestia and Luna included.
  • Try to Fit THAT on a Business Card!: The full title for the Mane Six is the Element-Bearers, Defenders Of Harmony, Exemplars Of The Six Pony Virtues, Saviors Of The Land. Twilight's full royal title is The Fair Princess Twilight Sparkle Of House Twinkle, Our Lady Of The Dusk And Dawn, Incarnate Of The Future, And Most Gracious Blessing Of Hope Upon The Land And Sky.
    • And then there's His Most Gracious Lord Quiet Presence, Heir To The House Of Deluge, Bearer Of The Standard, Light Of The Storm's Passing, And Holder Of The Sacred Leg Rings Of Trotter's Falls.
    • In Chapter 34, it's played for comedy, a touch of drama, and The Reveal as we learn the titles for all the Bearers — which allows everypony to discover Applejack's status as third-generation noble.
  • Unwanted False Faith: Chapter 14 sees Twilight being asked to bless a newborn foal, which makes her realize that some ponies will wind up treating her much like the Princesses: swearing on and by her, along with more than a few true prayers. She doesn't take it well.
    • Emphasized in Chapter 36: Twilight doesn't care about Clear Coordinator's blackmail attempt because even if her reputation is ruined when all her failures and misdeeds and accidents are made public, at least it means ponies will stop asking her for blessings which she can't give.
  • The Un-Reveal: In Chapter 50, Spike reveals that he received Cadance's reply to their question about how she Ascended to alicorn status whilst they were pursuing Gentle Arrival. We don't know what she said, only that it scared Spike so badly that he immediately sent it back to a "safe place" after reading it; as he puts it, Gentle Arrival must never be allowed to learn how Cadance transformed, as not only would it not help her, it would only make things worse.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Applejack's opinion of Igneous Pie, Pinkie's father; when they fought their fosse, Applejack won because while Igneous was stronger than her, he had only a very limited way of using requests, and she simply out-thought and out-maneuvered him. (She has an odd suspicion that he'd been beaten that way at least once before, and is simply a slow learner.)
  • Villain Has a Point: The example Gentle Arrival gives during the conference of pegasi giving birth to an earth pony or unicorn on a cloud surface and losing the foal to the plummet horrifies the audience and Bearers alike. At least to that extent, there's an argument to be made that absolute racial purity would have saved a few lives over the centuries — along with explaining why all pregnant pegasi will do everything they can to deliver on the ground.
    • Invoked in Chapter 50, when Twilight wishes desperately to herself that Quiet's rationale for helping the Great Work didn't sound like it made sense.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Doctor Gentle Arrival is the much-beloved father of modern obstetrics in Equestria, a unicorn whose unique magical talent has allowed him to save hundreds of ponies who might have otherwise died in childbirth. Who would ever believe a stallion like that is involved in a conspiracy to forcibly transform other ponies into alicorns? Or that he's been experimenting on the foals he helps deliver?
  • Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma: Referenced by name, as Rainbow hasn't quite mastered the art of paragraphs. Or punctuation. Or... pretty much everything else. Coordinator's attempt to gather blackmail material makes him the first pony to read her entire manuscript, suffering migraines accordingly.
  • Was Once a Man:
    • Celestia and Luna are confirmed in this story to have originally been ordinary poniesnote  who were turned into what may have been the very first alicorns by the Elements of Harmony. Cadance also appears to have been initially normal note , but all anypony knows about her route to ascension is that it didn't use the Elements. Twilight eventually winds up sending Cadance a scroll, directly asking what happened, just in case it has any relation to what went wrong with her: Discord's rules forbid the Bearers from contacting Canterlot, but not the North. Spike gets her reply during Chapter 45, but the contents aren't initially revealed, save that the answer was fourteen words long, and Spike teleported the scroll to safety rather than risk having Doctor Gentle ever read it. In Chapter 55, we finally learn what she wrote:
    they died
    they all died
    they chose me to live and they all died.
    • She is a failed attempt at replicating the process, creating a tormented wreck of a pony.
    • Twilight Sparkle herself, like Celestia and Luna, was once an ordinary pony. In her case, she's rapidly becoming disillusioned with her new status and has entertained thoughts of finding some way to reverse the process.
  • Weaponized Teleportation: Discord claims to be capable of this and would appreciate your thanking him for not using it.
    "If I had wanted to, I could have pulled you to much more interesting places. This land has volcanoes, you know. The heat — nothing to me. I can have a meeting on top of lava if I want to. You? Well, I suspect Rainbow Dash Number Two would rather enjoy the soak under normal circumstances, but swimming through your ashes might put a certain taint — on the experience?"
    • It's implied in Chapter 55 that doing this is actually not as easy as it sounds, even for Discord; apparently, extreme heat may interfere with teleportation to some degree.
    • This is how Applejack suggests that they fight her in her earth pony aspect. Teleporting an earth pony breaks their link to the earth, causing nausea and disorientation. And the stronger the earth pony, the worse the effect is.
  • Wham Episode: Many chapters qualify — and Chapter 40 is the bomb which shakes the entire Continuum to its foundations.
  • Wham Line: Chapter 42 features an in-universe example of this trope.
    Twilight: I swear on Discord's antler that when it comes to her, the Elements would only make things worse!
    • Another in-universe one comes at the climax of Chapter 54:
    Princess Celestia (to Twilight): "Leave me alone, Star Swirl."
    • Ad a third in-universe one is when Cadance's letter is finally read in Chapter 55:
    Cadance's letter on Ascension: they died
    they all died
    they chose me to live and they all died.
  • Wham Shot: There are a few scenes that, while Estee did a very good job of painting in words, you really wish could have been rendered in animation.
    • At the end of Chapter 8 and the beginning of Chapter 9: Twilight meets Dr. Gentle Arrival for the first time, and immediately bows to him, the sort of bow that, every other time it shows up in the Continuum, is being given to one of the Princesses.
    • Chapter 19: It's the morning after Applejack talked. She shows up for breakfast, and she is not wearing her hat.
  • Wife Husbandry: After reading some of her memories in Chapter 51, Twilight theorizes that Gentle Arrival may have been hoping to use her Ascension to somehow bring her mother's soul back from the Shadowlands, potentially displacing her soul in the process. The implications of that are enough that Rarity wishes she could vomit. (However, given how alicorns seem to work, the more likely hope would have been that she could feel and perhaps even communicate with Primatura's essence.)
  • Willfully Weak:
    • Earth ponies deliberately foster the impression that enhanced strength, enhanced constitution, their affinity with animals and the Cornucopia Effect are the only powers they have, keeping their ability to communicate with and shape the earth a secret they guard with their lives.
      • However, Applejack zigzags it, explaining in Chapter 26 that she does use her "requests" on their adventures; her restriction is just to do so subtly. In effect, she can do anything which would pass for pure coincidence — with constant worries that if she does too much, somepony's going to catch on.
    • In Chapter 27, Twilight notes that Pinkie Pie's mark and talent should let her pull off a perfectly acceptable "fancy" party... it's just that she hates anything that isn't a kid's style party and so refuses to "branch out". (Pinkie winds up assisting in setting up for Quiet's grand gathering, and does so professionally — then builds the welcome archways out of balloons and streamers.)
  • World Building: Particularly in the early chapters, there are often paragraphs devoted to doing nothing but explaining a specific aspect of how things work in this setting: physically, culturally, or magically.
    • Chapter 28 in particular covers the phenomena of "falling into the mark", which is Equestria's most prominent psychological disorder.
  • Wrong Context Magic: Justified. Gentle Arrival's experiments in using chaos pearls to infuse foals with the essence of ponies who belong to different races results in individuals who have powers distinctly outside of their tribal norm, but at the cost of both skill and raw power with the magic of their birth race. (This is also somewhat further distorted by the chaos energy necessary to create the change, and all of the hybrids carry a shard of that chaos within them. There's some variety in just how much of that energy each has — but among those ponies altered during delivery, Pinkie, who had two pearls utilized in her birth (one for essence, one for extra power of change), possesses more than anypony else.) In chapter 40, Gentle Arrival goes over a very partial list of the results: Twilight quickly realizes that he's showing pictures of what may be a fraction of his 'first generation' — just a few ones who've reached adulthood. Described within that section are:
    • Snowflake: a capless, critical pegasus birth who was infused with earth pony essence to help him survive: this grants him the raw strength to fly despite having had so much of his wings amputated. He's also completely impervious to the claustrophobia that bedevils pegasi as a whole, a trait he turns out to share with Fluttershy, and there's a hint that he's capable of sending reverberations through the earth.
    • An unnamed earth pony mare infused with pegasus, who feels a craving for heights, which has led to her becoming a master balloon pilot, aided by the fact she subconsciously controls the winds around her vessel. (The Comments section suspects this may indicate Cherry Berry.)
    • Ratchette: a pegasus infused with unicorn essence who has the instinctive ability to understand and repair devices created by unicorn magic. As shown in her chapter within The Elements of Elements anthology, she also has the unheard-of ability to overwrite normal control limitations on devices by smearing them with her blood — something she actually discovers on the same night as Doctor Gentle's conference.
    • A unnamed unicorn infused with earth pony essence who can instinctively connect with plants when his corona touches them, letting him intuit many facts about what they're capable of. It's implied that, if he were to truly listen to them, he might be able to do somewhat more.
    • An earth pony infused with unicorn essence, whose intuitive grasp of workings is such that he can successfully teach unicorn magic to unicorn foals. He also has the ability to subconsciously dispel most spells which target him, although he's unaware of it even taking place. (Word Of Fanfic Authors have identified this as the Continuum's incarnation of Green Grass, who was brought in with permission.)
    • A unicorn mare infused with pegasus essence, whose yearning for the sky has resulted in her developing the ability to astrally project herself in the form of a pegasus made of pure energy — during her sleep: she assumes she's simply dreaming, and doesn't know everything she sees is real. She has also yet to discover her innate ability to cloudwalk.
    • Fluttershy: a pegasus infused with earth pony essence, producing her affinity for animals and a subconscious, short-range version of the Cornucopia Effect: the cottage is actually just outside Ponyville's true radius. She's immune to claustrophobia. The Stare occurs when the shard of chaos within her is unknowingly recognized by those she focuses upon, forcing them to submit just to make the experience stop.
    • Pinkie Pie: an earth pony infused with unicorn essence, added to somewhat more raw chaos than any of the others. Her powers are intimately tied into her emotional state, and she also subconsciously generates a magical field that compels others not to think about the true source and implications of her abilities and feats: unless spotted by an exceptionally questioning or hidebound mind, it's just 'Pinkie being Pinkie'.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Rainbow Dash is sorely disappointed each time the world doesn't behave like a Daring Do novel.
    • Twilight eventually figures out that the mission isn't an adventure, it's a mystery, which would normally change the rules — except that the real world has no obligation to operate by any kind of genre conventions.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: When Twilight brings up Gentle Arrival's Control Freak status in Chapter 52, Rarity immediately tells Twilight that she is nothing like him, as she can see the shame and self-doubt rising in the alicorn as she considers it.

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