Let’s Talk About Sunset of Time · 1:25am
Before I even started this story, I knew I would do another one of these emotional retrospectives. Hm. Not sure about that name. But it’s easier to say than editorial/commentary/review-thingy. As usual, the following pretty much spoils absolutely everything for Sunset of Time by Albinocorn, so please, please, please...if you haven’t read it, do so before continuing.
You’ve probably already noticed that my writing for this is rather different than my previous emotional retrospectives. Usually, I let Pinkie Pie come out in full during these, bouncing around like a lunatic going SQUEE SQUEE SQUEE. However, this story has a more somber note than any I’ve done before, save for one. The final emotional climax is far closer to the end of Fallout: Equestria - Pinkeyes, though with a higher note of joy than Pinkeyes (though the ending is somewhat similar).
I want to respect the tone of this story. Once again, I stayed up far too late last night reading it. At 10PM, I knew I had already reached the point of no return and that I would remain awake to finish the story, no matter how long it took. I was up until after 1AM. And it was worth it.
This story is beautiful. It’s not without its hiccups and a few flaws, but in its own way, it’s perfect as well...especially considering the inception of the story idea itself.
You should know that I’m going to be avoiding the whole “feels” meme. Personally, I’m not a fan of it. As I said in my commentary for Pinkeyes “On Hope,” Personally, I think the reason it’s a meme is because people are trying to “hide” from the idea of showing their emotions. This is especially big in the male aspect of the community, because though we’re bucking the social norms by accepting MLP as part of our lives, we still often struggle with the concepts of how a male should act, one of which is being stoic and ‘strong.’ (The opposite idea that females are overly emotional is just as flawed, by the way).
I don’t like that meme. I am deeply and profoundly impacted emotionally by the stories I experience in fiction, be it in movies, television shows, video games or books. I cry at the end of the finale of Babylon 5, ‘Sleeping in Light,’ so much so that I have to mentally prepare myself. “Crusaders of the Lost Mark,” where the CMC finally get their marks after five years…yeah, I tend to cry for half the damn episode.
So no, we’re not going to talk about feels. We’re going to talk about serious emotional impact, because that’s what I went through.
In truth, I’ve been avoiding Sunset of Time. The ‘dark’ and ‘sad’ tags scared me off. I’m one of those people--as I’ve said before--who gets far too deep into good stories. Emotionally and mentally, they can actually do damage to my thinking process for days--if not weeks--afterwards. As someone who suffers from intense depression far too often (along with several other conditions that I won’t go into), I’ve learned to walk very carefully. That’s why I usually keep to the happier stories and the romances. I’ll likely be sticking to those for quite some time after this.
Let’s get this out of the way. While Sunset of Time deserves a sad rating and you’ll walk away with tears in your eyes (unless you’re one of those...individuals...who can get through something like this without the emotional impact), the tears will be because of the climax of the story...but they will be combined with tears of joy from the epilogues. Yes, plural. Even writing this now, I’m fighting back tears again as I mentally relive the scenes.
But it’s one of those journeys that’s worth it.
There’s a quote from another story that sums up this one very well. You may have seen it recently. With all that’s happened in the last few weeks in the world, it’s something that’s been spread around. And it deserves to go further.
FRODO: I can’t do this, Sam.
SAM: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something.
FRODO: What are we holding on to, Sam?
SAM: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.
That thing they’re holding into can be summed up in a single word:
That’s the theme of this book. Hope and sacrifice. Reminds me of one of the greatest stories in all of the MLP Fandom Fiction world. It should remind you as well.
Because hope and sacrifice was the theme of Fallout: Equestria.
Hope for a better world. Hope for a brighter future. Hope for a light in the darkness. Hope for the worst of us and hope for the best of us. Hope that our past is not our today. Hope that our past will not be our future.
And hope that through our sacrifices, we can make the world a better place
Sunset Shimmer did just that. She made the world a much better place just by being in it. And she made the world a better place through her final sacrifice. She stepped into the light, knowing what it would cost her, knowing what it would do to her...but she did it anyway.
Because it was the right thing to do.
There are three things I cherish in storytelling; well-crafted worlds with passionate and vibrant characters, the power and potential of redemption and finally, the noble sacrifice. The hero who pays the price to do what must be done, knowing the price all along but still making that decision.
It’s one of the reasons I loved the character of Marcus from Babylon 5. It’s one of the reasons I love the movie “Stranger Than Fiction.” It’s one of the reasons I loved the “Siege of the Crystal Empire” arc from the MLP Comics.
Those three things 'Sunset of Time' has in spades.
So let’s get into it.
Now, often times I get so wrapped up in a story, I end up desperate to find out what happens next and since this is quite a bit longer than most stories (heh, still a third of FO:E though), there’s a lot of places where I simply don’t leave notes for myself. So if I missed certain points, forgive me.
First and foremost, I’ll admit I was confused as hell at the beginning of this story. I was completely lost as to who this Sunset Shimmer was supposed to be. You see, I never read comments of a story before I read it the story itself. All I will read is the synopsis, nothing more. I’d say that confusion lasted too long, to the point where I was getting annoyed. Looking back, it’s blatantly obvious why that was left up in the air when the only note I got in the Author’s Comments was that the story had nothing to do with EqG. But it still bothered me until the end of Chapter 2, when I finally went “Okay, something’s going on here…”
The entire first chapter starting with the end of the world was handled brilliantly. We’ve seen many different end-of-the-world stories and we’ve also seen the idea of starting out a story there before. Now this could have been handled in an insanely dark way, showing the actual fate of the population of Canterlot, but instead, Sunset focuses on the city and landscape being destroyed (seeing Ponyville go up in a massive plume of magma was a painful image). Now, one could easily extrapolate something from her character here, that she was focusing on architecture instead of ponies, but I choose to see it in a different way. First, I think Albinocorn didn’t want to throw his readers into the turmoil of seeing ponies crushed, burned alive or worse. Second, Sunset was focused on one thing and one thing only: the Princess she dearly loves. Her closest friend, her greatest mentor, the most important person in the universe to her. It also makes Spike’s fate all the more horrific.
The last words of Princess Twilight were amazing in retrospect. You can see how she’s become the “new Celestia.” It takes a massive amount of talent to mature a character we know so well and have it still be Twilight...and the ever-so-foreboding comments such as “forgive me” and “don’t blame yourself…” Yeah. Powerful stuff. Even reading back on this, the utter horror and shock is still there, knowing that it never will happen...and according to the timeline now, it never did.
I was surprised when the Hourglass Scene went on as long as it did, especially considering it’s the beginning of the book. We know she’s going to get the damn thing...so why make us wait? Still, there was a very cinematic feel to her plunging toward certain doom, throwing herself after the only object in all the world that can save the world.
Finally, the first chapter...after so much death and destruction, after the literal armageddon...ending with the line “Yes, I’m in a lot of trouble.” The only response one can have is to laugh, if only to release the pent up emotions of the first chapter.
Side note, the cutie mark section break was beautiful. I’m delighted that Nyerguds’s ePub brought those over properly, though I did have to use Sigil to repair the .epub for some reason.
The next scene that really caught my eye was “The Storyteller” scene. I’m delighted this technique came up later. I love the idea of this little play of sticks and leaves plays out for an inquisitive and bored kid...and soon many more. It was a great way to tell some backstory without doing a simple infodump. One could argue that it still is an infodump, but it’s told in such a unique way (and told in the third person) that it frankly doesn’t matter. This cheerful romp makes such a perfect counterpoint to the revelation as to Sunset’s first time around at the top of that hill after the memory library with Luna.
Then come the little details. The idea that Sunset Shimmer actually getting motion sickness (and Applejack too down the line) just struck me as funny. It’s stuff like this that shows Albinocorn’s true gift. He built this Sunset before we ever came to know the Sunset of Canterlot High. Written off an idea based on a blindbag and a design, this Sunset was a total blank slate...and yet, Albinocorn got this Sunset so damn close to the one we came to know and love. That’s a gift.
I love the way that Twilight and Sunset start out together. Sunset immediately (and very desperately) falling into the role of student, drawing comfort again and again from Twilight’s form, even though it’s not the form she knows. Especially the nightmare. We get to see the moments before the opening...just a normal, happy day...and it goes straight to hell. Sunset’s “I DON’T WANT TO DIE!” sounded so desperate, so full of panic in my head that it gave me shivers...only to have the Twilight we know come galloping to her to help her new friend. I was also sold on that moment...that Twilight took Sunset at her word because of her eyes. Because of the expression...the pain. Pinkie confirms this even better when she says that Sunset looks at Twilight the same way Twilight looks at Celestia. That really drove home their relationship.
Oh? The hot water bit? Perfect. I laughed myself silly both at the inception and the finale of Spike shouting “something about cold water.” Seriously, Ponyville has some hot water issues. They should get that looked at.
“No, it’s a spoiler and I hate spoilers.”
This was just a great line and made even better when Sunset finally relents and tells Spike that yes indeed, he does get wings. His exasperated cry of ‘anguish’ was fantastic.
Nice touch with the Airheart name. Fun when a human name fits the pony naming convention. ^^
Now, you played out the whole Sunset’s inexplicable hatred of Celestia very well. I honestly didn’t know what was going on, though of course I had my suspicions, especially after Celestia’s confession to Luna at the end of Chapter 2. Especially the fact that it’s ripping her apart inside. Sunset ends up trying to keep so much to herself and it makes the point where it finally comes out so much more poignant. It never becomes recycled or stale.
...though you have a thing about Sunset talking to herself. To voices in her head to unicorn dolls. Hm.
Nice Chekov’s Gun with her cutie mark and her special talent. You handled that masterfully, played out well across the entire novel.
Sky Chart’s fate was...shocking. Casual death isn’t something you see often in a FanFic (well, at least the FanFics I usually read). It actually threw me hard to the right and reminded me just of how painful the beginning of the story. It was made so much more horrific when we see the zombies...especially the zombie versions of Sunset’s parents. That...yeah, AJ’s reaction sums up my feelings rather well.
The scene of AJ’s apparent “death” didn’t really have a lot of impact on me, to be truthful, for the simple fact that I knew AJ wouldn’t die. It would break one of the cardinal rules of storytelling in someone else’s universe. But the idea that Sunset needed to go back in time (with Rainbow of all people) once more...yeah, I’m glad you used the hourglass again. It made it less of a macguffin.
“There was a blinding flash of light and the sound of a knife clattering to the dirt. When the light faded, where the griffon had once been was an armadillo, looking quite terrified.
A purple aura wrenched it off the ground, lifting it high into the air. Her eyes still white with fury, Twilight slammed the armadillo into the hard packed earth.”
“Spike returned the hug in earnest but said, “Twilight, that was awesome! Do it again!”
Good golly, this was fantastic. Seeing Twilight completely lose it over the attack on Spike was amazing. Taking the armadillo, stuffing him in Pinkie’s cannon and firing into the side of a cliff? This entire scene was simply beyond description. SQUEE SQUEE SQUEE. That’s the most coherent thing I can say about it.
“Come on, Casanova.”
Nice shout out to the first episode. A line I remember quite well because I always felt it was for the older audience.
“So.” Pinkie bounced along next to Sunset. “Do you have any cool prison stories? Ooh, ooh, did you get any tattoos?”
“Pinkie, I was only in there for a few hours,” Sunset said, crumpling up the wanted poster and tossing it into a nearby trash can.
Pinkie, never change.
“Carrow snickered. “Oi, you sound just like ‘er, too.”
Sunset raised an eyebrow. “Sound just like—woah!”
Stop being such a damn tease, you jerk.
“She galloped after him, finding the griffon lying on his back, his eyes half-lidded in a daze. If Pinkie squinted hard enough, she could see little birdies circling over his head.”
Of course she can. Just...of course she can.
“There’s no such thing as zombie ponies,” Twilight scolded incredulously.
“Well, you might want to tell him that.” Sunset jerked her head.”
Ayep. (Nice line. I love that she’s snarky.)
“The sad part is, this doesn’t surprise me at all anymore.”
Pretty much. I’m delighted to see this reaction...because at this point, no one should be surprised by Pinkie Pie’s antics or abilities.
The entire sequence in Los Pegasus was excellently done. I was surprised it was spread out over so many chapters and I felt the breaks were odd, since I usually see/treat chapters as self-contained arcs rather than retelling the “same” story from different perspectives, I was only thinking about it when I came to the chapter break. Afterwards, the narrative just flowed.
And Spike was amazing in here. He deserved all the flirting that Rarity threw at him and then some (yes dammit, I’m a Sparity fan too. Sue me).
The revelation of Vesper Radiance’s true identity wasn’t a surprise (as I know you know from the postscript, you telegraphed it fairly strongly), but her reaction to Sunset’s presence was. The sheer insane rage she was spitting out was shocking and made me desperate to know what was really going on. That drove me forward like a whirlwind.
Great fight scene in the Wind Chamber, especially the fact that Sunset came back for Twilight. I really wasn’t expecting them to get out of there with the crown. I know you had some doubts about the scene and I feel you should have prepared the magical armor comment earlier (after all, you’re quite skilled at Chekhov's Gun), but it worked for me in the end. I’m glad it wasn’t all just spell slinging...I’m also glad that she didn’t pull her punches, yet also didn’t outright kill them. It felt very real without the simple fact that Vesper could have probably vaporized them if she had really tried. Back to the arrogance you mentioned in the postscript...though let’s be honest, while that’s a tried and true method of storytelling, it’s usually because the author knows they can’t kill off the hero like that (well, most good authors at least…)
Sunset blinked. “So her giant ego stopped her from becoming an egomaniac? Sure, I’ll buy it.”
This is one of the greatest lines in all of MLP Fan Fiction. Ever. In any possible universe, past, present or future. EVER.
“She contemplated leaving, but had no idea where to go. She had no family to return to, and she’d rather go live in the Everfree before returning to the orphanage.”
Not sure if this is a reference to Witch of the Everfree or just what she’ll end up doing later anyway, but if it’s a reference, bravo. ^^
Sunset threw herself into Celestia’s chest. “Yes, yes! Of course I’ll have you, Mother!” she cried. Joy and relief took liquid form and ran down her face in rivulets. “Thank you! Thank you so much! I love you!”
Celestia rested her head atop Sunset’s. “I love you too… my daughter.”
Just sobbing here. Carry on.
The entire memory sequence was heartbreaking, heartwarming and terrifying all at once. Yes, it’s an infodump. I don’t care. It shows a very natural progression of Sunset’s obsession and what drove her to such extremes. It was a corruption of love itself. She was almost the anti-Cadence. Cadence wanted to share love and spread it...Sunset wanted Celestia all to herself. She’d been abandoned so many times...forgotten so many times. The most terrifying part of it is how relatable it’s been. We’ve all had people abandon us, some more than others. For some, it’s defined their entire existence, for others, it’s been a painful period at the end of a traumatic sentence. Sunset is the first...so desperate to be loved and not abandoned. And the strongest emotion is love...how easily that can shift…
Sunset’s voice rose. “This isn’t fair! You can’t do this to me! I’m Sunset Shimmer! I’m heir to the throne! I’m your daughter!”
“No, you are not!” Celestia bellowed. “Your name may be Sunset Shimmer, but you are heir to nothing! You are not the daughter I tried to raise!”
This entire scene...the whole scene...is just agonizing to watch on both of their parts. I wonder what was going through your mind as you wrote this...wondered if it was dispassionate, a recollection of events as you had seen them...in Sunset’s shoes or in Celestia’s...or all of them.
The sonic rainboom being an event that defined her...it's amazing how much that single moment shaped Equestrian history as we’ve seen in the Season 5 finale. So much potential in that moment...so much potential was realized when it happened...but there’s so much potential if it didn’t.
Sunset broke into a grin. “Princess Twilight Sparkle.” She giggled. “Is this my replacement? Celestia, is this your newest favorite? Do you love her, Celestia? Do you?” She broke into a fit of laughs and clutched her side. “I wonder what she has that I don’t? Are you going to tell me, Celestia? Or do I have to figure it out on my own?” She laughed harder.
I can’t even remember what I was thinking when I read this. I think I was in “reception” mode and simply experiencing the story as if I were there. My heart ached for her to see her tortured soul and mind finally crack...and shatter, obliterated by a spell cast at precisely the wrong moment. She was going to help herself. She was going tell herself not to be a freaking idiot...instead...she ends up at the worst possible time. Tragic beyond measure.
And then in rapid succession...her successful reclamation of the Dark Regalia. You didn’t pull any punches here. Slam. Slam. Slam. They came in such fast succession that I felt myself being dragged along like an undercurrent had me completely under its control. Driven forward in a desperate need to see how it ended. In that moment, I was Sunset...driven beyond all reason or logic, unable to stop no matter what happened.
“The Day Court came to a close as the last petitioner left the throne room....”
And here it is. The true climax of Sunset Shimmer’s complete fall and her true death. You did a great job with the italics in random places throughout the words in addition to making the screaming solid. It make it feel wrong even while reading it. It’s a technique I’ve never seen before and something I plan to take careful note of. I might use it myself someday.
I think it was at this point where I finally looked up the term Vesper. I’ve heard it before and realized I knew the meaning, but had simply forgotten it. Yeah, the name’s a bit...off (but it helped that I didn’t remember so I didn’t make the connection between that name and Sunset’s for a while).
“Twilight!" Pinkie yelled, and shoved her out of the way. The miasma hit Pinkie instead, her entire body turning black and shuddering before she returned to normal.
And the reason as to why the future Pinkie was so different is finally revealed. Because she sacrificed herself to save her friend. It could have killed her instantly...but this one moment doomed the world. It would have been over right then if Twilight hadn’t been moved. In a way, Pinkie saved the world right here...by giving Twilight the chance to save Sunset’s soul...and give Sunset another shot, even if it was her succumbing to this curse that unleashed the soulless Vesper upon the world.
“Celestia opened a puffy red eye. “Luna… gone a thousand years. Alone. She was so alone. Nopony… deserves that punishment. I still… love her. Please… help her.” Celestia took a desperate gasp of air. “Don’t… let her suffer… anymore.”
I don’t have words for this. (Though Discord did).
And finally, I realize something about your version of Equestria. Harmony is definitely God. A living, breathing force and a self-aware entity. It was Harmony who reached out to give Sunset a second chance. You used the title Harmony as an entity in “Long Road” as well. I like the concept...of something more powerful than Celestia and Luna...perhaps the origin of all life on Equestria. The living personification of Harmony itself...it’s a fascinating idea. Something I think that should be explored in depth.
“The warm magic burned white hot and began to take form. She felt herself grow less aware, but more real. Little by little, bit by bit, she returned, her soul burning brighter than ever.
A foal’s cry echoed throughout the room.”
I crying as I write this now, because of the echo. The moments before, we see the soul of Sunset Shimmer fighting against the hate and darkness. Questions arise as to how much of the soul is made of memory and how much is innate. They aren’t answered in full, but the answers are hinted at. And the truth was, despite everything she had done, Sunset’s soul was still good. And hope was born again.
“Like she had so long ago, back in Canterlot Park when she had told the story of her cutie mark, she fashioned miniature ponies from sticks and leaves. With a shaky breath, she began her tale.”
I said it before, I’ll say it again, I love the way you told this story. This was even better since we had already been told the story, you simply...had her live it. Live the reactions. Everything was so visceral during this scene.
“But it wouldn’t last. The illusion would end eventually. Before the monster had been sealed away, she struck one of the heroes with a curse that they were never able to lift.” Sunset looked up at Pinkie. “It sapped at her strength, slowly killing her every day until after fifty years, she finally gave up. And with only one seal on her prison broken, the monster escaped.”
This was made so much more powerful by what happens next.
“She almost fell backwards as someone tackled her in a tight hug.
“P-Pinkie? What are you doing?” Sunset asked.
“I’m giving you a hug, of course,” Pinkie whispered.
Sunset sat rigid in her embrace. “Why?”
“Because you really need one.”
Despite the fact that she drive a lot of people crazy, when Pinkie is used properly, she is one of the greatest storytelling tools in all of the MLP universe. Boundless, endless joy, hope, optimism and love. Besides the whole Fourth Wall breaking thing...she is the perfect pony for this one moment. There’s no doubt that Pinkie knows that Vesper had killed her, slowly, agonizingly...but she doesn’t let that stop her. She gives Sunset a hug for the simple and desperately true reason that Sunset needed one. It’s so essentially Pinkie Pie...so full of life. This is the true core of Pinkie Pie, her soul.
Albinocorn, you wield Pinkie Pie like a master as if you were given a key to her by Lauren Faust herself.
Throughout the course of this story, you handle Pinkie so perfectly that I don’t think she’s even handled this well in the show itself. You manage to bring her into serious mode when it's appropriate, but even then, it’s still her. Pinkie Pie can be mature, very mature, when needed (I’ve always thought “Too Many Pinkie Pies” was an awesome character development episode for her). You don’t have her shatter the Fourth Wall, only poke it a little for fun, just like we see (usually) in the show. It is a masterful execution of a difficult character.
“Shut. Up,” Fluttershy said coldly, her hoof still raised.
You called this out in the postscript and you were right. This is another perfect scene. Another perfect moment of character. Fluttershy isn’t a coward, not a true coward. She’s just scared and just like in Dragonshy, she had enough of Vesper’s horseapples. This felt so satisfying I can’t even put it into words how powerful this is to me.
Sunset was faster; the dagger struck a blue shield an inch away from Fluttershy, who—for her part—had not flinched.
“Don’t you dare,” Sunset growled, now standing next to Fluttershy.
Bonus points for both Sunset and Fluttershy here. Sunset for being quick on the draw and Fluttershy for not flinching.
And then comes dealing with the truth. Forced to face the fact that she’s the second incarnation of Sunset Shimmer, she’s now forced to decide who she is. What she is. And what she will be.
Pinkie shook her head. “Be you. As you are right now. Not as who you were or who you think you'll be—be the good you that you know you want to be.”
You’re right. Pinkie Pie was the one who should have had this conversation with Sunset. She was the perfect character. There was still too much pain between Sunset and Twilight. But more importantly, this is one of the best life lessons anyone can take away from this story.
You are influenced by your past. And the future is unknown. But in the end, someone can only choose who they want to be in this moment.
This was gorgeous.
“That’s the spirit!” Pinkie jumped into the air and clapped her hooves. “I knew I could make you feel better! You just gotta dig through all the sour to find the sweet and smile!”
Sunset laughed. “Pinkie, don’t ever change.”
“Okie-dokie-lokie! You never change either, Sunny.”
“I’ll try my hardest not to.”
“Maybe my life is inherited. Maybe hardly anything belongs to me. Maybe I’m doomed to fade away. She turned and walked inside the train. But this is still my life now. And I’m going to be me until the very end of it all!”
Damn right Sunset. That’s the Sunset we know and love. The firebrand who won’t stop fighting. Ever. The passion and the drive. Nothing can stop the good Sunset Shimmer.
Celestia sighed. Brutal honesty was one of Luna’s endearing features.
I just burst out laughing at this. Amazing that you handled even Luna so well.
“But… Sunset was against the very idea of making friends. Twilight just found there was always something that took priority. She was an introvert. Sunset was a recluse.”
This is a fascinating dichotomy between the two. One’s just thinks there are more important things. The other has been hurt too badly to trust friendship ever again. How similar, yet galaxies apart.
“Yes. And I think there is the key difference between them. Power should go to those who want it the least.”
Something I’ve believed for years.
“Like I said, you’re still my friend, even if you hate me right now.”
The whirlpool of emotions swirling within Sunset made her want to scream. You can’t just let me hate you, can you? She kept walking, trying to ignore the flicker of hope in her heart.
And that’s why we love you, Twilight. That’s what so beautiful about it.
“Sunset allowed herself a small smirk. “Go to Tartarus.”
Vesper blinked. “You… you would pick them over yourself? You’d choose a fate worse than death over eternal life?”
“Guess we’re not so alike after all.”
“Why?” Vesper bellowed. “What is wrong with you, you useless doll? Why would you try and defend them?”
Sunset raised her head and looked down at Vesper. “Because they’re my friends. Recycled or not, illusion or not, they are my friends! And I’ll fight to the end to give them a future!”
Go snarky Sunset!
Act II Finale Author Comments:
You're all cordially invited to the Final Act.
Forgive me, by my response was as follows
“Okay seriously? <BUY SOME APPLES> You!”
“...cordially invited” after stabbing Sunset straight through. That’s just mean.
“Cadence smiled at her and raised her uninjured foreleg. “Twilight, you silly filly. Why are you apologizing?”
“Well, if ya wanna hide a tree, use a forest,” Applejack said.
This really stuck out to me as really, really good.
Nice touch with Vesper hiding as Sunset. There was still a major disconnect between her getting stabbed and how she got outside though. I totally felt like I missed something. That being said, I am very grateful that they figured it out so quickly. It would have been really annoying for them to miss it. And go designer Rarity for seeing it!
I have to admit that I reacted a lot like Twilight with Vesper killing Sunset. I mentally rejected it and almost skipped past the words...but then again, as a storyteller myself...I knew it couldn’t be that simple.
“On what, Princess?”
“On getting in, of course.”
“Miss Shimmer, you have an incredible gift of magic, one that requires not just instruction from the school faculty but more in depth practices. I would like to offer you a place at Celestia’s school, as well as becoming my own personal student. After you serve your parents’ punishments of course.”
“Oh dear… she fainted.”
I just was howling with laughter at this scene. Just...so great. So fantastic. “Oh dear...she fainted.” HA!
“...So… should we hug?”
“A hug sounds good.”
“Sniff… you girls are both so stupid!”
“Come on, Flora, I’m sure a hug and some shopping will cheer you up.”
This is great. We were forced to fight through Sunset’s original timeline...it’s wonderful to see her on her own. Happy. With friends. Family. Love...without the desperate need for acceptance.
“Sorry, Sunnykins. All questions must be in the form of an answer. But yes, you’re still immortal.”
“Sunnykins” I’ll have to remember that one.
“Discord crossed his arms, a sour look on his face. “No one was ever considerate of my feelings when they turned me to stone. Twice!”
I know you were hesitant about Discord, but I think he did wonderfully. The logic for having him there was a bit on the shaky side, but he was the perfect character for this conversation. Especially his whining about getting turned to stone twice.
“So you wanted to keep me ignorant then?”
“I suppose, yes, I wanted to keep you ignorant—”
Sunset growled in agitation.
Dammit Twilight, you learned from Celestia far too well.
This entire message from the Mentor Princess Twilight Sparkle was beyond words, but I’ll try anyway. The truth behind both Twilight and Celestia knowing about Sunset and both of them agonizing over it. Desperate to find any other way...but knowing that the fate of the world depended on this. And all the words came rushing back. “Don’t blame yourself.” “Forgive me.”
It wasn’t fair. They knew it. It tore them apart inside. It wasn’t fair....but it had to be done.
“Her voice broke again, and she looked away to swipe at her eyes. When she looked back at Sunset, she was smiling her sad smile again. “There’s also… one more reason why it had to be you. Why you had to come back to this particular time. It’s… a selfish reason, one that might cause me heartache later on but…”
Even in her holographic form, Sunset could see Twilight’s eyes sparkling. “I wanted to remember you.”
“What?” Sunset asked.
“I knew, whatever the outcome of your adventure, that a new timeline would be created: one where you… where we never got to meet in the future. But if I sent you back to this particular time, I knew you would run into my younger self and all of my friends. I knew we would work together and then… I would get to remember you. I wouldn’t just remember your fall from grace as Vesper Radiance. I would get to know Sunset Shimmer: the brilliant, kindhearted mare who has made me the proudest teacher in the world.
“That’s what you are, Sunset: brilliant. You’re strong, you’re kind, and you’re a wonderful friend. Those are your characteristics. No matter what happens, remember that, please. Don’t let your past define who you are.” Twilight’s voice took on a tone of urgency. “I don’t care if you share a soul, you’re two different ponies now. You have qualities that Vesper doesn’t have. You have friends, Sunset. Never forget that. No matter what happens, no matter how much you hate me, I will always love you, Sunset.”
And even reading this again, I want to break into open sobs. Hell, I’m having to fight back every blasted tear...and mostly failing miserably.
I think we all want someone to say something like this to us at a critical point in our lives. I think far too few of us get to fulfill that wish, especially in this day and age of internet anonymity. Far too many people get off on tearing down others when they should be building them up. We even have our own voices (as is shown by the next passage) constantly demanding that we give up, that we give into the darkness that we show nothing but hate and bile for everything around us. That cares for nothing about our own selfish desires and wants.
These moments, when you have the chance to speak this words or words like them into someone’s life, make sure you do it every time. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but it needs to come from the depths of your soul. You never know what someone else is dealing with in life. I’ve had friends who have lost their battles with their own inner demons and ended up leaving this world as a result. I’ve always wondered if the right words would have helped. Maybe, maybe not.
But no matter what, I do know that words spoken in love, kindness and friendship will always have power. The other person may not hear them or respond right to them (as we see with Vesper), but if we don’t try...then are we any better than those voices that want to draw us into darkness and hate?
There’s a lot of hate in this world. You can’t fight it through more hate. You can fight it only one way: with love. Yes, it sounds like a cliché. But it’s also true.
Words have power. If you’re writing a story, writing a comment, typing in a chat room, playing in a video game or posting on Facebook, your words matter. They will impact someone.
So no matter what, always let your words be spoken out of love and friendship. Because as Celestia said toward the end...there is no more powerful force than those two combined. After all, “Love God and Love Others” was the greatest commandments.
Love and friendship.
In the end, nothing can stand in the way of these two forces.
Back to the Highlight Reel.
“Rainbow caught her and set her down. “You all right, A.J.?”
Applejack adjusted her hat and shook herself off. “Yeah, ’course Ah am.”
Never lose the hat, AJ. No one would recognize you.
Then, its fallen bones floated from their resting places and back to the body. Applejack stared, open mouth, as they reattached themselves with clicks and snaps. The Frostlich stood up and shook some of the snow off, then gave a guttural growl.
“That’s disturbin’,” Applejack said, shell-shocked.
“That’s just not fair,” Rainbow added.”
Yeah, I’m pretty convinced the author hates you at this point. (I kid, I kid) I also heard echoes of Littlepip’s comments “That is so not fair” when dealing with the Alicorns in FO:E.
Rainbow grumbled and crossed her hooves. “Fine. But if you die, I swear, I’ll make sure you never rest in peace.”
That’s just the perfect Rainbow Dash threat. ^^
“Did Ah get it?” she croaked.
Rarity rolled her eyes. “Of course, that’s the first thing you ask. Yes, Applejack, your reckless plan worked. For how long remains to be seen.”
Busted up laughing.
Vesper shrugged. “Suit yourself. Just remember: I offered you the easy way out.” She stood tall on her throne. “How many enchanted items did Meadow Song have?”
Twilight bit her tongue. Nine? No, eight! Yes, definitely eight! “Eight!”
Vesper smirked. “Name them.”
If you’re referencing the “Cutie Map,” it was Meadowbrook. ^^
By the way, the battle of wits, trivia and history was a brilliant tactic. Much better than another spell war.
“Why won’t you fade away?” Vesper yelled. She threw her head back, magic charged again.
No. Can’t lose… Can’t give up. Twilight clung to the light in front of her. Vesper would not break her.
Vesper screamed somewhere over her. Twilight still couldn’t see, but she heard a familiar voice, faint and trembling, but full of conviction.
“What… do you do… when you have a choice… of destiny? To pick either saving yourself… or saving the world. Which do you choose?”
“Save myself, of course!” Vesper shouted.
“Wrong!” A blast of magic. Another scream. “I choose my friends!”
The darkness crawled away from Twilight’s eyes. Vesper had her back to Twilight and was holding herself up with only one leg. Across from her was Sunset, more than just a shadow. She was flickering in and out like a ghost, but all of her details were there. Her teal eyes shone with resolve.”
“Why?” Vesper breathed. “Why are you still standing?” She looked back at Twilight. “Why are both of you still here?”
Sunset took a step forward. “Because Twilight refused to give up on me.”
Twilight stood up, her soul filling with light. “And because Sunset refused to give up on me.”
I’m between sobbing and screaming “It’s about bloody time you showed up!” God, you know how to push my emotional buttons.
“Vesper looked between them, mouth slightly ajar, eyes flooded with defeat. She dropped her gaze to the floor. “Why?”
Sunset charged her horn. “Because…”
Twilight followed suit. Blue and purple collided against Vesper from both sides and bathed the throne room in a magnificent aurora.
“Friendship is magic!”
I cringed a little when I first read this. Then I realized why. I was hearing it in Twilight’s voice from Rainbow Rocks. Because that’s a cringe-scene. But now as I look at it again and I see two mares who have fought and given everything for each other, cherishing each other and loving each other as student and teacher, teacher and student and friends beyond measure. Love not of romance, but a deeper bond that transcends logic and will. Love that won’t stop, won’t give up, won’t ever quit.
And now? It’s perfect.
Side note: “Take that you bitch!”
It was quiet.
Not outside. Outside, Sunset could hear Twilight’s soft breathing next to her and the rumble and howling winds from a battle above. No, it was quiet inside her mind. Inside her soul.
Sunset opened her eyes, Twilight’s sleeping face greeting her. Sunset smiled, tears running down her face. She couldn’t think of a better way to wake up.
SQUEE SQUEE SQUEE SQUEE SQUEE SQUEE SQUEE SQUEE
/ahem. Moving on.
“But whatever happens, just remember—I’ll be right here. Always. No matter what, your friends will always be there. You taught me that.”
“Guess I’m a better teacher than I thought.”
“And you’re the best student I could ask for, Sunset.”
I don’t think it’s healthy for a person to be crying as much as I am. Both when I read this originally and even now as I’m reading it again.
Warm tears ran down Celestia’s cheeks. Forgive me, Twilight. I have failed your friends. And forgive me, Luna. We must be separated yet again. The heat grew intense, the ball of fire large enough to swallow them all. Celestia refused to look away. After millennia of living, she did not fear her death.
The fire collided against a purple and teal shield, straining against it before being pushed back. Vesper screeched in indignation, while Rarity, Rainbow, and Pinkie cheered. Straining her neck, Celestia looked beyond Vesper to the two approaching ponies.
“Leave our friends alone!”
“But Twilight, we want to help!” Pinkie protested.
Sunset cast a wide shield as Vesper veered around and fired again. “Live to see tomorrow! That’d be a big help!”
God Sunset. Still snarky even in the face of all this. Rainbow’s got nothing on your awesome level.
“I hate all of them. Truly I do. But as I look at you, I realize: I hate you the most.”
Vesper bared her fangs. “Why would you forsake your birthright for… for them?”
Sunset laughed softly. “Because I love them.”
And that’s why you’re awesome.
“Love will win you nothing in the end!”
“We’ll see.” Sunset leaned forward, running a hoof through the snow.
Vesper raised an eyebrow. “You’re kidding. You’re kidding, right?”
Following in the path of her mentor to the end. This was a wonderful treat.
Rainbow jabbed Sunset in the shoulder. “What are you doing? Stop egging her on!”
Sunset looked at her calmly. “Please, just trust me. And stay close.”
They all exchanged looks of apprehension and unease. Twilight moved first, putting a hoof on Sunset’s shoulder. “I trust you.”
Celestia hobbled forward, limping on her three good legs. She smiled down at Sunset. “As do I.”
Verbatim Comment: “Stop making me cry, dammit.”
Side note: This reminds me a lot of the final scene with Radiant Hope, Celestia, Luna, Cadence and Twilight at the end of the Siege of the Crystal Empire. I always cry during that too.
“They all gathered close, pressing against one another. Rainbow still looked unsure, but she settled right above Sunset. “If we die, this is all your fault.”
Sunset laughed. “Duly noted.”
Thank you Rainbow, I was choking in tears. Needed to laugh just a little.
Sunset’s character is steeped in arrogance, at least the one we know from EqG and the comic from the Annual. To have Sunset defeat Vesper through that very bit of hubris was poetic beyond description.
“Everyone… thank you.”
Verbatim Comment: “Shattered heart.”
When Twilight opened her eyes, Sunset was still standing there.
I was able to breathe again here. (I literally wrote that). It gave me a respite just long enough to get a drink of water, only to realize walking back to the couch that it wasn’t over. I didn’t stop reading until the very end after this point.
“Love, your faithful student…”
I’m out of words.
“Goodbye, my faithful student… Sunset Shimmer.”
Verbatim Comment: “And completely cracked.” Emotionally shattered. The noble sacrifice is complete...and she leaves with a smile.
Sunset cleared her throat. “Dear Princess Twilight Sparkle: Today, I learned that we aren’t defined by our past. Ponies have done terrible things before; sometimes they’ve done things they think no one will ever forgive. But real friends don’t care about that as long as that pony is trying to be better—trying to correct their mistakes.” She closed her eyes. Gold flecks floated away like tears of light.
“Everyone is given a choice in life to do what is easy or what is right. The right choice is never easy, but it becomes bearable if you have friends to help and motivate you. Real friends will stand by you and help you through even the hardest times. They’ll help you find hope, even when you’ve given up on it.
“I have a new hope now. That no matter where I go next, whether it’s to another life or into oblivion, I’ll never forget any of you. I’m so glad I got to meet you all, and I’ll treasure the memories forever.”
“We’ll never forget you either, Sunset,” Spike said.
Rainbow sniffled. “Y-yeah. We’ll think about you every day.”
“Thank you,” Sunset said with the most sincere smile Twilight had seen on her. “Friends are with you, no matter where you go. That’s something I learned a long time ago, but I think it’s the most important lesson I’ve learned. Whatever happens next, I know you’ll all be there with me.”
Sunset bowed her head toward Twilight. She was almost gone now; gold poured off her in an upwards shower of light. Twilight bowed her head too. Her horn touched the tip of where Sunset’s should have met hers.
“Love, your faithful student…”
I don’t have words for the emotions this brings up. I can’t add anything to it. But I want to just highlight it...to focus on it...to spotlight it. Because it deserves it.
Sunset deserves it.
Finally, a few last comments…
“The first time, Starswirl finally broke my door down and dragged me outside.”
Verbatim Comment: “Chuckle”
“Of course she believed in Sunset. She refused to believe Sunset didn’t exist anymore. It just couldn’t be possible. She was out there somewhere—she had to be.
Twilight smiled. Then she laughed. Yes, Sunset existed. She could feel it.
“We’ll meet again, Sunset. I promise.”
Verbatim Comment: “YOU’D BETTER!” (While still crying, you jerk).
“It is one of the strongest forces in existence, Sunset. When coupled with love, it creates a power no one can truly understand. But it protects us and guides us, even in our deepest despair.”
“... Will you visit me again?”
The corners of Celestia’s mouth folded upwards. “Of course I will. I promise.”
She had taken two steps when she heard a soft and sincere voice say, “I love you, Mother.”
Celestia looked back, seeing the young filly she had taken in so many years ago. She was struggling, but she was still alive. “I love you too, Sunset.”
Okay. As I try to get myself back under some semblance of control to finish my longest emotional retrospective ever (Seriously?! Over 9,000 words?!), I want to say there are a hundred other points I could and probably should mention. But more than anything was seeing Sunset’s soul free once more, echoing the scene between her transformation from Vesper to her second incarnation as Sunset, but this time was the light of love and life burning brighter than ever. Enough that she could quell the darkness beneath her and enough to focus on a single name.
Yes, she would see all of her friends again! She would not fade away, she would not sit in this abyss, she would continue! A spark of magic coursed through her.
All around her, she could hear them giving her encouragement, cheering her name. Her own name. She had forgotten that too. But it wasn’t her name that mattered—it was the other name. The one that had always believed in her, even when she couldn’t believe in herself. She reached for it. It was the key; the last thing she needed to remember.
“Twi… Twilight… Twilight Sparkle. Princess!”
Hope. More than a friend, more than a princess, Twilight was her hope.
...and once more, Sunset is given a third chance. Because she did the second chance right. Because she fought. She gave herself and of herself, knowing what it would cost her, because it was right and to protect those she loved.
There is no finer way to go in all creation than falling to protect those you love.
The lump under her wing moved again. As much as Twilight wanted to sit there and enjoy the moment, she knew it was time for both of them to get up. She pulled her wing back, revealing a bed head of crimson and gold hair, along with bleary teal eyes.
“Good morning, Princess.”
Twilight leaned down and nuzzled her young student’s neck. “Good morning, Sunset.”
Gorgeous. Thank you for this. God, this story needed this note so badly. So very badly. Hell, I needed it for my sanity. Not because it wouldn’t have worked otherwise...because it would have been too tragic otherwise and I just couldn’t handle it. We get our happily ever after. And with the world being what it is...we need all the happily ever afters we can get.
And there we are...somehow, I got through this. I don’t know how, really. I think last night I was so caught up in the desperate need to see how it ended that I didn’t even let myself feel the whole breadth of emotions. But this time, I didn’t have any such pressures.
When I did my “On Hope” post and spoke about Fallout: Equestria - Pinkeyes (and a lot of other things--and I should mention the only other story I can think of that made me cry like this), I spoke about Babylon 5 and how important it was to me.
What follows is major spoilers for Babylon 5, so if you haven’t finished the complete series, please avoid the next section. I’ve placed spoiler tags on it just in case.
There’s one other moment in fiction that reminds me of Sunset’s disappearance and that is the grand finale of Babylon 5. After twenty years of the Interstellar Alliance, Babylon 5 has become redundant, unnecessary. It served it’s purpose and it’s time for it to be decommissioned. As Sheridan has disappeared, taken by the First One to join the others Beyond the Rim, our heroes walk through the place one last time. JMS himself turned off the lights. When I see the beautiful blue and gray structure go up in raging flames, my heart seizes. The music swells and the moment is burned into my memory forever. This is a moment like that. Babylon 5 was critical to the galaxy. It changed the future.
Sunset Shimmer changed the future. And like Babylon 5, she would live on in a different form. While Babylon 5 lived on in an idea and a concept, a philosophy that would last a million years, Sunset Shimmer would live on as a newborn foal...and get the life she so richly deserved.
I don’t know how to end this retrospective. I’ll admit that at first, I wasn’t as engaged as I thought I would be in the story. I don’t really know why. But since Albinocorn did 'Long Road to Friendship' (and referenced this story many times in his comments), I knew I had to read it. Anyone who understands Sunset that well deserves the time. And he still does.
As was the case in 'Long Road,' 'Sunset of Time' is a masterpiece of characterization, adventure and the passionate power of friendship. How friendship can overcome anything. How we are better together than we are apart. Though the stories are very different (and I’d say “Long Road” is my favorite between the two because the tears are almost all happy tears there!), both stand as giants of fiction in this fandom, equal to such tales as 'Hard Reset,' 'Hocus Pocus' and 'Fallout: Equestria.'
Sunset Shimmer has had only three movies about her, as well as a couple shorts, a few comics and a book or two. But she has captured the imagination of so much of the fandom. The original Twilight Sparkle, who was to be the Bearer of the Element of Magic until she rejected Celestia’s teachings and forged her own path. Twilight’s equal in so many ways...the path not taken. In Rainbow Rocks, she becomes Twilight’s student (hmm...sound familiar…now someone get rid of that imposter Starlight) and in Friendship Games, she becomes Twilight’s true equal, defending the world against a threat that threatens to destroy two worlds. The Sunset Shimmer we now know could easily return to Equestria and take her place at Celestia and Twilight’s sides. She’s grown so much in such a short time, yet it is by this hard road that we love her all the more.
Because in the end, we’ve all made mistakes. We’ve all wondered what was down that path we didn’t take. And we all wonder...can we make up for what we’ve done? Can we be forgiven by others...and can we forgive ourselves?
The answer to both questions...is yes. But I think more than anything, it is the second question which is by far the hardest. Those who won’t forgive you aren’t truly worth your time. True friends will always forgive mistakes (Rarity, Applejack and Rainbow’s bickering was a great example of this and utterly hysterical at the end). But Sunset couldn’t accept forgiveness for herself until Twilight showed her just what lengths Twilight will go to to save Sunset.
Friendship isn’t just about others. It’s about us too. It changes us. It makes us better. It strengthens us, empowers us, shores up our failures and brings us back from the brink of destruction...and sometimes, from beyond that brink.
Sunset Shimmer is the embodiment of that failure...and that potential. After all, sunset and twilight are all about potential. The end of the day...and be the beginning of a new one.
But more than anything...it’s a new day where you aren’t alone.
So find those friends and face dawn together.
Because it’s up to use to make the world a better place.
So go forth and do it...together as friends.
As so, as we come to a close, I think it only fitting that since the theme of 'Sunset of Time' was hope and sacrifice, that I end the way I began my emotional retrospective on 'Fallout: Equestria - Pinkeyes.'
With Babylon 5.
Babylon 5 was the last of the Babylon stations.
There would never be another.
It changed the future, and it changed us.
It taught us that we have to create the future or others will do it for us.
It showed us that we have to care for one another because if we don’t, who will? And that true strength sometimes comes from the most unlikely places.
Mostly, though, I think it gave us hope that there can always be new beginnings.
Even for people like us.
Thank you for reading.