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|Friendship is Tragic (novella)|
the story's cover art on Equestria Daily
|Date published||June 15, 2011|
Not counting the prologue, the fic is structured as a series of stories-within-a-story. Twilight either meets or is told the backstory of one of her friends in each of the seven chapters. The chapter titles are based on puns and/or common sayings, and match whichever character is being re-introduced into Twilight's life.
The order of their appearance is similar to the order in which the ponies were originally properly introduced in Friendship is Magic, part 1; only Fluttershy and Rarity are switched around. The final two chapters take place in the Everfree Forest, the setting of the confrontation with Nightmare Moon in Friendship is Magic, part 2, and the Laughter Song is explicitly quoted in another scene in which Pinkie tells Twilight to cheer up.
Non-structural references to the show and the show's fanbase include the name of a tavern which refers back to Steven Magnet from the show's first episode, and the brief appearance of the two background ponies Roseluck and Derpy Hooves.
The story is told using past tense, in the third person, and from Twilight's perspective.
A fairly short prologue sets up the premise of the fanfic: A few years after the events of the show's first episode, Twilight accompanies Princess Celestia on a mission to save Equestria from a "disaster" that isn't specified any further. Before she does, she takes leave of her friends in Ponyville. Pinkie Pie is particularly dejected, and Twilight promises that the Earth pony can throw the friends a huge party when she comes back a few months later.
Twilight and Celestia are eventually successful, but success comes at a high price: the conflict drags on for over a year and Spike and Celestia perish in the process. Twilight falls into a coma, and when she awakens, she finds that she has become unable to summon unicorn magic. Instead of returning to Ponyville, she remains in Canterlot as an adviser to Princess Luna, who is a well-meaning successor to Celestia, but not nearly as competent at governing.
When Twilight tries to reach out to her old friends, she is met with silence: they have all left Ponyville under uncertain circumstances. Still, she wants to meet them again, and has other ponies investigate where her friends went. Six years after she initially left for her mission, she receives a message that some of her friends have been found, and want to meet her at a "neutral meeting place".
The place in question is a run-down tavern near Ponyville, where she meets Applejack, who looks much the worse for wear. As she tells it, Sweet Apple Acres fell on hard times when Luna took over the government, and even Applejack bulking up to increase her workload didn't help. Big Macintosh foolishly made a deal with some loan sharks, and when he couldn't pay the money back, they killed him and burned the farm to the ground. Applejack took her anger out on royal guards who came to investigate and was banished from Ponyville. Her muscled-up state came in useful for her next job, however; it is implied that she shakes down establishments such as the tavern for protection money.
Twilight is shocked at how her friend has turned into a bully who makes life miserable for others, but does not have much time to digest the new information. Rainbow Dash enters the tavern, though Twilight does not recognize at her first: her wings are gone. This, Rainbow says, is the result of an accident caused by an entirely unnecessary and reckless stunt that not only ended Rainbow's flying days, but also got The Wonderbolts disbanded and Rainbow Dash banished from Canterlot.
Next, a carriage drives up in front of the tavern, and Twilight is bid to come outside. The carriage is richly-adorned, and Twilight expects to meet Rarity. Instead, the pony exiting the carriage is Fluttershy. She has a scar around her neck that seems like it came from a slave collar, but no matter what the ponies try, Fluttershy does not answer them how she got the scar or what she is doing inside such a carriage. We later learn that she was indeed kidnapped by slave-traders some time after Twilight left, that she was found by Rarity when she was looking for "cheap" laborers, and that she has mutely served her unicorn friend ever since.
Eventually, one of the stallions who pulled the coach in informs them that the vehicle is the property of Rarity, and that the ponies should get in so they can meet their mistress at her mansion. Rarity, it turns out, has become a famous fashion designer and very, very rich, largely thanks to the realization that kindness and generosity "were the two ingredients stopping me from realizing my true potential". Her specialty is the manufacture of dresses made from exotic animals such as manticores, ursas, and cockatrices. This revelation upsets Twilight more than any of the previous ones.
Sarcastically, she wonders aloud what terrible change must have come upon Pinkie Pie, in keeping with how events turned out for all her other friends. Rainbow Dash starts to reply but is stopped short by Applejack: they swore to each other once they would never talk about Pinkie Pie again, and Applejack intends to keep that promise. When Rainbow Dash shows no signs of adhering to that, Applejack, who had already threatened Rainbow with violence at an earlier point in the story, starts beating her half to death. In the process, she accidentally sets fire to the mansion, and the former friends barely escape with their lives. Much to Rarity's shock, Fluttershy uses the confusion to free the exotic animals Rarity had kept as "stock" for her fashion operations, and runs off.
Leaving Rarity and Applejack behind, Twilight carries the unconscious Rainbow Dash far away from the mansion. When she finally stirs, she is ready to tell Twilight what Applejack did not want her to say: Pinkie, she recounts, couldn't bear Twilight not keeping her promise, and so she kept throwing come-home-soon parties week after week after week. Until eventually, she abruptly left Ponyville for the abandoned castle in the Everfree Forest, where she was convinced Twilight had settled down. When the other ponies came to get her, they found that Pinkie had gone insane, actually believing Twilight to reside in the castle. They decided to leave her there and never speak of her again, for her sake; she seemed happy and content.
Twilight is convinced that she can return sanity to her bubbly Earth pony friend. She leaves the beaten-up Rainbow Dash in the care of Fluttershy, who has joined them, and makes her way - alone - to the old castle where she first felt the spark of friendship. Applejack has anticipated this and blocks her path, advising Twilight that it would be better for all involved to leave Pinkie be. She eventually lets her pass after Twilight confronts her with her violent tendencies.
Pinkie does indeed still live in the castle. She has a companion: a sack of flour, painted purple, which she speaks to as if it was Twilight. When the unicorn reveals her presence, Pinkie at first believes her to be Twilight's sibling, then an impostor, and finally the fog clears enough to make her accept that Twilight is real and is telling the truth. She agrees to come back with her and finally have that party they were supposed to have many years ago, all six friends together. Pinkie loudly imagines how it should be, how Rarity would make them all pretty dresses, Fluttershy would sing, and Rainbow Dash would show off new flying tricks she learned.
Twilight hesitates at first, but decides that she cannot lie to or mislead Pinkie any more. So she tells her the truth about what happened to their friends. When she is done, Pinkie collapses, wishing Twilight hadn't done so. She says the story broke her heart, and after softly singing parts of the Laughter Song again, she dies.
Twilight blames herself, not just for Pinkie's death, but for everything that happened to her friends. She throws herself off a cliff despite Applejack's attempts to calm her down. While she is falling, she believes to be having visions of Spike, Pinkie Pie, and Celestia. Celestia appears to tell her that she is proud that Twilight at least tried to bring friendship back together at the end. In her mind, Celestia smiles at her.
The story ends with Twilight hitting the ground.
As of March 15, 2012, the versions of the story on Equestria Daily and Pony Fiction Archive differ: the latter is more recent, each chapter is slightly longer, and has received more proofreading. Both versions used to include an epilogue, but the author requested in June 2011 that the epilogue be pulled. The summary on this page reflects the epilogue-less PFA version.
The EqD version credits editing to "LurkingBrony", the PFA version does not. Equestria Daily also posted an unofficial sequel by a different writer not long after it published the original, but has since removed it.