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On the Sliding Scale Of Cynicism Vs. Idealism, I like to think of myself as being idyllically cynical. (Patreon, Ko-Fi.)


In the moons since her parents died, Applejack has hardly left the Acres. Pinkie has barely seen her. She's willing to do anything in order to get some crucial time with her only friend -- but Applejack always seems to have something else to do. Somepony else to speak with.

Somepony else she can listen to.

(Part of the Triptych Continuum, which has its own TVTropes page and FIMFiction group -- but can be read as a stand-alone, and no knowledge of the other stories is required. New members and trope edits are welcome.)

Now with author Patreon page.

Chapters (1)
Comments ( 36 )

Lovely character development.

Very interesting character development, especially with how much (and how hard) Applejack can easily lock herself onto something and follow it over several waterfalls. That it took this much, and pushing Pinkie Pie to potentially break a friendship to get Applejack out of shiva.

Oddly enough, it makes me more sympathetic for Applejack in Triptych-tradition and Earth Pony legacy and feel are her foundations. If anything uproots them (like teleportation or having to reveal), the effects are horrible for her.

Shader #3 · Aug 16th, 2014 · · 1 ·


Oddly enough, it makes me more sympathetic for Applejack

Personally, I've always been sympathetic towards what Applejack's going through in Triptych. And this story just cements it further.

People were been demonizing her for starting a fight, but she was clearly at the end of her tether. Everything that happened frayed her to the point that she snapped when Twilight made a rather racist remark (A racist remark that Pinkie realised was going to cause Applejack to completely lose it before Applejack moved, so there might also be some history). After being forced to explain earth pony magic to non-earth ponies, Applejack took the hat off willingly. We haven't even gotten to the actual demonstration of said magic.

We're getting a glimpse into how much she treasures the hat and what it stands for, and for her to take it off because of something she did speaks volumes in just how much she believes she has betrayed her family and her ancestors.

We also still need to hear what those stories and tradition are, and why there's the law in the first place.

Lovely story. And Triptych Earth Ponies are Jewish?

Estee #5 · Aug 16th, 2014 · · 1 ·


Tradition... tradition!

No, although I was waiting for someone to spot that. I just wanted a foreign-seeming word for a mourning period and 'shiva' was right there. (I actually added it to the Tropes page under Bilingual Bonus before starting the story, so there's a chance someone got a sneak preview.)

Interesting nods back to Tryptich, too, with Pinkie being racially scrambled enough to be both deaf to and mute for earth pony soul-presence. I wonder if Fluttershy has that sensitivity?

The thing about character growth is that flashbacks imply character shrinkage, and you demonstrated that masterfully here. The Applejack and Pinkie here have a long way to go before they're the pillars of the community that they'll become. Pinkie hasn't buried the scars of the rock farm under layers of streamers and frosting. Anything that might have softened Applejack's stubbornness has been torn away by her loss, leaving only raw obsession and the need of a child. The echoes of this event still resonate in them as far in the future as Triptych, but here? Here we see the base material, and it is a most enlightening sight.

Excellently done, in both the character study and the magic. Thank you for this. I am tremendously glad to see that you followed through on both of these ideas.

Ah, earth pony magic is also a type of shamanism. Ask the dead questions, hear their requests, and fulfill them so they will be at peace and leave the living alone... And clearly Triptych-Applejack has had a psychotic episode at least once in her life. Is she schizophrenic? In a world filled with magic, how do you tell the difference between mental illness and ordinary life anyway?

That was an intense read. Kudos.

Very interesting. To me this seems not only a prequel to Triptych, with a VERY appreciated look into earth pony magic, but also Mark of Appeal. Applejack fell into her mark, didn't she? That's what was ACTUALLY happening when she felt compelled to work constantly in the field and fix the imagined mistakes of strangers, wasn't it? I'm surprised Big Mac didn't recognize that, I thought falling into one's mark was a well-known danger in the Triptych-verse.

This was pretty good, but it's got me wondering about the secret more.

Since Cadence was apparently a Pegasus raised in an all-Earth Pony community until her ascension, I wonder if there's anything unique or interesting there.

I doubt it. If [POTENTIAL SPOILER REDACTED], then it's not a case of things being 'scrambled'.

"... can be read as a stand-alone, and no knowledge of the other stories is required."

The first paragraph already lost me. When Applejack mention a shiva, I'm absolutely lost. I gave up reading because I wasn't satisfied that I was left even more clueless the further I read. If you do want to make this a standalone fiction, make sure you give enough information to stuff like these.

I know these are late replies, but... replies they remain.


In this case, I'm going to disagree. Shiva appears as a term for the first time in this story, and so I made sure it was defined within. (As noted by the fourth comment, it's also a real word -- Hebrew -- and can be looked up: the base meaning is very close to what's being used here.) I also repeated a lot of information which has turned up in other places so that no one would be left out. The story functions somewhat better for those who've been through the group because they get to link events here to those in other places -- but on the whole, I think it can and does stand alone.

But then, the interpretation of the author is subject to death.


One thing I wanted to double down on was the importance of the hat. In the modern day, it's been years since her parents died and Applejack is still carrying her token.


I have to clear something up here, and fast: it's the residue of magic, not souls or even essence. It's like Twilight reading another unicorn's field signature, but the detection range lasts longer and comes with a somewhat increased personal touch granted by the embedded words.


As said elsewhere, this is Pinkie's oldest and sometimes deepest friendship among the Bearers -- and that there was a time when it was just the two of them. (I have AJ and Rarity as the only two Ponyville natives, and they didn't run in the same circles.) In that sense, this one has aspects of a foundation stone.


All the ponies in this town 'verse are crazy!'

You could definitely argue for a shamanism aspect in the sense that there's more of a communication going on. However, as for what AJ was hearing there.... let's bring someone else in first...


AJ is not the first sentient to listen for their own words and call it something else after a death. Children make up imaginary friends, speak to the lost in quiet corners. Others go to gravesites, ask questions into the wind, and wonder if the rustling of grass is a response. Taking up refuge in fantasy after a major tragedy is a common reaction and to that extent, it's no more a break than any child experiences when asking their stuffed animal for advice -- at least in terms of frequency.

Given some of what Applejack's mark represents, I feel there is an aspect of falling into it here (with Pinkie as the one who loves her enough to pull her out). But falling has different manifestations, and those vary from pony to pony -- which can make it harder to recognize when falling is taking place.

(For 4884876 : this one didn't come up in-story, so I'll define it here. Falling into the mark (or just 'falling') means allowing your mark to basically dictate your entire life. Some ponies just obsess on their talent, others never do anything else unless it keeps them alive for the next display. It's not a healthy condition, and far too many ponies have more than a touch of it.)

Talking to oneself... when Pinkie talks about AJ possibly being sent away, what's implied there is a psychiatric facility. (Run by earth ponies, of course.) It could be falling, it could be grief -- but whatever it is, he's helpless to cure it. She just ignores him. All the time. That's what little sisters do with their big brothers, especially when they're in charge..

4867887 .

While we're pretty much at AU by now, I have said this Cadance was originally a pegasus. Getting to her family life... ow.


...okay, I know why you did that, but even I think it looks cruel. :trollestia:


Like I said, the first paragraph lost me slightly.

"Not the words, not immediately -- just the tones, and those rises and falls said as much as language ever could."

This, I couldn't get my mind to wrap around it.

The next paragraph lost me with the multiple play of words.

"There was stubbornness there, a refusal to listen, incomprehension of why the mutual trot could ever be important at all."

"... one which had noticeably thickened over the last few moons, and it lost none of the protest along the way."

I pretty much gave up on the third with this sentence that I start to skip sentences until I get to something more understandable before returning.

"There was an accent there as well, a different one, tones nopony in the settled zone had heard before she had been brought in -- but this one was getting weaker."

The fourth paragraph is when I gave up and start skimming a lot faster because I had no idea who or what you are referring and I don't want to get more lost.

I'm sorry if I sound negative, but it's very difficult for me to paint a picture in my mind of the scene or a rough sketch of what you are trying to interpret. Since I stopped reading before I reached the quarter mark, I'm sorry that I may not be able to read any further because my mind cannot catch up to what you wrote if my previous statement was wrong.


So it's really more an issue with my writing style.

*points towards FIMFICers Against Estee's Writing Style clubhouse door*

Now serving Member #125,809.

So...Earth Ponies have terraforming abilities on the level of TLA Earth Benders? As cool as that is, it kinda grates me. Not having such "OP" things is a bit Linear Warrior; Quadratic Wizard, and you kinda introduce a Tomb of Battle, if that reference makes any sense to you.

I like it. And the story around is awesome. But it's honestly just weird to me...

There's a question about this series that I've been meaning to ask for a while, as it keeps bugging me, and this seems as good a place as any to ask it. However, before I do that, I should say that this is incredible as always. I am consistently amazed by how good your writing is Estee, and I eagerly look forward to each one of your releases.

But the whole Earth pony secrecy cult? I just don't get it.

From what I understand, the Earth ponies know magic, but don't tell anyone who isn't an Earth pony about it. The punishment for breaking this taboo seems to be vague but horrific - the implication appears to be that they're lynched.

This seems like a very extreme measure to deal with what is essentially a non-issue - unless they plan on some kind of coup-de-tat, the only reason for the Earth pony's secrecy seems to be tradition and the idea that other ponies won't 'get it' (although on this point I accept that there may be an explanation later in Triptych). Additionally, I find it pretty hard to believe that in the 1000 plus years since the founding of Equestria, not a single Earth pony has been willing and able to tell the other races about Earth pony magic without being caught. It just seems very unlikely that so many ponies would hold up a rather obsolete tradition for that long just because - unless other Earth ponies can psychically sense when the secret is being told, it just doesn't make sense. It could of course be argued that there is a very good reason for the secret which we have not yet been told, which prevents ponies from revealing it - but then again, Pinkie Pie seems quite happy to.

I suspect any answers you have for this are massive spoilers for future chapters of Triptych, but I had to ask.

What a fascinating take on earth pony magic. And as a bonus I finally understand what "settlement zone" means.

I really need to get around to reading Triptych at some point.

I have to admit--I wasn't expecting an actual lazy river.


The story was partially inspired by an amusement park visit: the facility had a winding course of its own. (No fish.)


I have to think that fish would improve the experience overall. I visited a water park in Texas once where all the water was drawn from the river it was next to, circulated once, and then run back into the river. Several tube rides ended by dumping you into the river, which you could then do a lazy river float on.

while I like a lot of your stories I hate this idea of Earth pony death and funeral practices.

This seems to me like everyone you know and love will die by bleeding out slowly in your arms. It comes across more as torture than anything else.

Why only Earth ponies, and for so long? Couldn't it be possible for a pegasus or unicorn to be attuned to Earth magics the way Pinkie isn't?

Something about this hit me pretty hard. It was a great story, though, and it finally sated some of my curiosity about Earth Pony magic.

I don't know why I avoided reading this Triptych verse for so long, but I'm glad I finally started it.

I realize that this is a late arrival spoiler:

For whatever scant difference it may make, I feel compelled to respond to your comments.
To answer this comment in isolation, the work does stand on its own, with all essential context being supplied. There is a great deal more to be gained by connecting it with other works in the 'Continuum,' but I maintain that it is self-complete. For your complaint against shiva—Estee could have used any term, even a fabricated one, for this; even so, shiva is a thing that exists in the real world, and comes with many connotations to those who know of (or do research into) it, particularly with its use being a deliberate choice. Historical artifact aside, shiva, as used within the story, is explained in significant detail within the work.

These points, however, seem quite separate from your later comment…

As suggested by Estee, your complaints here seem based more on failure to engage with the writing style. This is valid, but, as others can adapt and enjoy it, calling it out as a malfunction on the author's part would seem to be improper.

The style here asks more from the reader—words shape thoughts, with the corollary being that the reader must be willing to imagine and engage. The first line, "Not the words, not immediately -- just the tones, and those rises and falls said as much as language ever could," asks the reader to consider how the tone of a discussion, in which the words themselves cannot be understood, can be adequate to know something about the discussion, and the speakers themselves. Listen to a conversation or argument in a language you don't understand, and one can still follow the relationship, if not the particulars of the discussion itself.

Similarly, "There was an accent there as well, a different one, tones nopony in the settled zone had heard before she had been brought in -- but this one was getting weaker," suggests the idea of an unknown accent—a N'Awlans speakah who moves to the New Yawk Bronx; A Chicagoan who finds herself in th'Daip Say-outh; Summun from the Plains planted in Dee-troit—but one that is being fought away, to assimilate into the incumbents. (Insert additional Britain/Australia/New Zealand dialect comparisons as suits.)

There is a lot going on, and this is a style that I, personally, enjoy to read and to write because it asks so much from the reader: to engage.

I understand completely if the presentation is not to your preference, but I ask you not to assign fault to a work because the deliberate style is challenging (unless that work is Finnegnas Wake)—you are likely just not the target audience.

Heh, I think I'll join that "FiMFicers against Estee's writing style" club.

...after I finish reading your entire list of fics, naturally.

So far, I think this fic fits both your style and my own tastes the best. I didn't feel bogged down in the descriptions and details, I wanted to experience the fic as Applejack did, and I was captivated the entire time lost in her point of view. The emotions that resonated in the writing clicked with me much better here than in, say, the Twilight speed-dating fic.

Your writing is truly a beautiful craft, even if I find myself wanting a more insipid work. I keep reading the triptych side stories and long ones both, and I absolutely love the portrait you paint.

Honestly, I wasn't all that enthused about a prequel, but getting into Applejack's head and seeing this radically different Pinkie were worth it, and the climax... wow.:fluttercry:

Though on a lighter note, AJ's early thought processes and justifications were worthy of a Cutie Mark Crusader.:ajsmug:

Eleven thousand words. I feel like I just browsed a thousand-image imgur dump, except the content wasn't shallow and it kinda made me tear up.

I'd love to read more of your stuff if most of it wasn't ten thousand words per chapter. Either I need more hours in a day or a faster reading speed.

I reviewed this story as part of Read It Later Reviews #72.

My review can be found here.

The use of the term shiva is just about perfect here.

Although IRL it involves less magic and more tasty food being brought to the family.

Huh. An interesting take on shiva.
Do earth ponies also say kaddish?
More seriously, now I want to try writing a story in which somepony (or their human analogue) is sitting shiva in the Jewish sense.

I really liked the look into earth pony traditions and low magic elements here. This was genuinely some very unique worldbuilding. The character interaction of what pre-S1 Mane Five gals could have been like in Ponyville before Twilight was also leagues better than what the show presented. One thing I noted that was a little pesky was that there was an unneeded [/hr] at the start of every new section.

Is the tradition of shiva based on anything from the real world?


(as a positive comment on a story)

What a story.

thoughtful, along with just a little bit mercenary

It feels like you use that word to refer to Applejack more than any other pony in your stories.

Rarity might be opportunistic and haggles negotiates like a demon, Rainbow Dash tries the occasional get-rich-quick scheme, but your Applejack seems to have an inclination toward -- for lack of a better term that hasn't already been used -- money-grubbing.

It makes me wonder what she'd have been like if she'd had a different life; if she had stayed in Manehatten, if her parents hadn't died, or she didn't have the friends she did, etc.

Not sure how but I've never read this story. Sort of sad, sort of sweet. All good.

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