• Published 13th May 2015
  • 2,266 Views, 104 Comments

The Return of Sunset Shimmer - Never2muchpinkie



Sunset returns through the portal when it opens again, wanting to make amends for the past. However, things get complicatred when she discovers a familiar dark artifact. Lured by a promise of power, can Twilight save her from herself a second time?

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Chapter 5: The worst discovery

Sunset felt more relaxed than she had in a while. There was a calm feeling in the air as she looked around at her friends, just sitting quietly in the afterglow of her welcoming party.

“Aw, man,” said Rainbow Dash with a yawn. “Now that was a party. I’m about ready to pack it in for the night.”

“Same here,” said Rarity.

“So how are you feeling, Sunset?” asked Fluttershy kindly. “Do you feel ready now?”

Sunset let out a gentle sigh. “Yeah. I think I am.”

“That’s great!” said Twilight. “Princess Celestia should be over in the morning.”

“WHAT?” Sunset cried out, the sleepy, calm feeling disappearing in an instant.

“I told her to come to us. I thought you’d be more comfortable with that.”

“Oh, no. No no no no no.” All her anxiety was rushing back.

“Come on, Sunset,” said Applejack encouragingly, “Buck up. At least ya don’t have ta go all the way ter Canterlot.”

“I know, I know! It IS better that way, but what if she comes in the room and sees me?”

Rainbow’s eyebrow went up. “Umm… isn’t that the point? Isn’t that why you’re here?”

“No! I mean, yes! But I don’t want her getting the wrong idea. I mean, did you TELL her that I was here in your letter?”

“No,” Twilight responded. “I knew you weren’t ready yet, and so I didn’t want Celestia rushing over here to see you.”

“SEE?” Sunset said strongly, gesturing at Twilight.

“I’m afraid I don’t understand, darling,” said Rarity.

“Me neither,” said Pinkie Pie. “I mean, you came to be all-” she bowed and adopted a regal voice-“I’m sorry, mine dear sun princess. I ask thine forgiveness and that we-ith be-ith friends…ith.”

Twilight shook her head. “Pinkie, she’s not Princess Luna. And even she has learned to adjust her dialogue to fit with the times.”

Sunset let out a small giggle. “Look, I’m trying to say that Twilight hasn’t explained the situation to her, so if she sees me here before Twilight lets her know she might get the wrong idea.” She gestured with her hoof to the glass case in the room. “I mean, you have the Elements of Harmony sitting right there in the open.”

Twilight got a thoughtful look on her face, rubbing her hoof with her chin. “Yeah, I see your point. Seeing you out of the blue with no warning might make her suspicious.”

“What’s the big deal?” said Rainbow. “Just sleep with someone else for tonight if you’re that worried.”

“And how do I know Celestia won’t stop by any of your houses before seeing Twilight?” asked Sunset. “Maybe she’ll be in the mood for an apple or a morning snack. It’s too risky.”

“Oh, come on!” Rainbow said, sounding mildly annoyed. “What are the chances of that?”

“Rainbow Dash,” Fluttershy said gently, “Sunset has had some hard times in the past. I know how hard it can be to confront someone you’re scared of. Don’t be so hard on her.”

“It’s not that I WANT to be hard on her, but she just discarded all of us. Where is she supposed to sleep, then? On a park bench? Oh, wait. Celestia might fancy a nice stroll in the park first. Either pick one of us or you’re going to have to leave Ponyville for the night, so which is it?”

“Hmm,” Applejack said. “I guess I could see if my Aunt an’ Uncle Orange can take her in fer a night.”

“But they’re all the way out in Manehatten,” said Rarity. “That’s a bit of a ride.”

“OH!” Twilight said excitedly, her eyes twinkling.

“What?” said Rarity.

“Zecora!”

“Zecora?” said Rainbow Dash questioningly, but then her eyes lit up. “Oh!

“Oooh!” all five of them said almost simultaneously.

“That’s brilliant!” said Rarity.

“Who’s Zecora?” asked Sunset.

“She’s a friend of ours,” said Fluttershy. “She lives in the middle of the Everfree Forest.”

“Whoa,” Sunset said, impressed. “She actually LIVES there?”

“Uh-huh. “ She nodded. “Princess Celestia has absolutely no reason to be going into the Everfree Forest, so there’s no chance you’ll run into her on accident there, and you’ll still be close by.”

“Yeah,” said Twilight, nodding. “And she has no direct connection to the princess like the rest of us. I don’t think she’s ever seen the princess aside from pictures, so Princess Celestia wouldn’t just pop in there casually to say hi, either.”

“Would she want to take me in?” asked Sunset.

“It’s not like you’re going to be moving in. It’s only for a night. Friends do things for friends. If she says no then we’ll just have to make a new plan.”

“Alright,” said Sunset after a few seconds.

Spike yawned. “Well, you guys have fun.” As he stretched he added, “I’m gonna hit the hay.”

“Okay,” said Twilight, patting his head. “Goodnight, Spike.”

The seven of them left the library, heading in the direction of the forest. “Y’know,” said Fluttershy, “my house is right next to the Everfree Forest. It’s almost like a backyard for me, but I barely use it. There is a lot of scary stuff in there, but so long as my friends are with me I know I’ll be fine.”

“That’s surprising,” said Sunset. “I would think a… um…” She hesitated, not wanting to sound insulting.

“Scaredy-pony,” Fluttershy said, without a hint of shame.

“Yeah, that. I would think someone like you wouldn’t want to live so close to the Everfree.”

“Well, the creatures in the forest tend to keep to themselves. Only Timberwolves usually leave the forest, and even they don’t come out too often.

“We’ve had some scary adventures there. One time Twilight got turned to stone by a cockatrice.”

Sunset gasped. “I guess you had to bring her to Princess Celestia to restore her.”

“Nope!” said Twilight. “Fluttershy scared it so badly that it turned me back.”

Sunset paused. “Fluttershy?” she said incredulously.

Fluttershy giggled. “That’s right,” she replied, a confident smile on her face.

“HOW?”

“She gave it the Stare!” said Applejack.

“The… Stare?”

“Yep,” said Rainbow Dash, smirking. “I know it’s hard to believe, but when she gets in a certain state of mind she just gets this strange power to make others fear her simply by glaring at them. Besides the cockatrice, she also reduced a dragon to tears.”

Sunset’s eyes went wide. She couldn’t picture that. “Heh! Remind me to never get on your bad side, Fluttershy.”

“Oh, I would never use it on a fellow pony,” she said in a comforting voice. “You don’t need to worry. And I don’t have full control over it anyway. I only really use it to protect my friends, and you’re a friend now too.” She nuzzled Sunset.

Sunset smiled widely as they walked on.

They continued chatting for the next few minutes, going deeper and deeper into the forest, Twilight using her horn to light up the area. “There it is!” said Twilight, spotting Zecora’s hut. Approaching it she gave a few raps on the door. “Zecora! It’s Twilight. Are you home?”

A few seconds passed, and then the door opened. “Greetings, Princess Twilight. Is everything all right?” said Zecora. Looking over her shoulder she saw the rest of the group. “Late at night all this company. Do you have some dire need of me?”

Zecora saw Sunset giving her a weird look. “And here is one I don’t know. Why is it she stares at me so?”

Sunset flushed, realizing she was being rude. “Oh, I’m sorry. I just… wasn’t expecting…. I thought Twilight was bringing me to see a pony.”

“Oh!” Twilight said, gently smacking her forehead. “That’s right. We’re used to it now, but you’ve never met her before.

“Sunset Shimmer, this is Zecora. She’s a zebra.”

“Oh!” Sunset replied with interest. “So this is a zebra. I’ve actually never seen one before. I did read about them, but that was a long time ago.”

Pinkie Pie hopped over, saying, “We all used to fear Zecora because she was different, and she was a total outcast. We all avoided her, thinking she was up to no good when she’d come into town.”

“Until we actually took the time to get to know her,” said Fluttershy, “and we found out that she was a very sweet zebra.”

“She tried to warn us about these flowers that gave us all strange ailments,” said Rainbow, “but we didn’t want to listen. And then we went and blamed her for it, even though she was going out of her way to whip up a restorative medicine to fix us up.”

“We judged her based on her appearance,” said Twilight, “and we were totally wrong. In the end we got everything cleared up, and now she’s a good friend. She’s even the entertainer for our Nightmare Night celebrations now.”

Sunset closed the distance between her and Zecora. “I’m sorry if I gave you the wrong impression. I… I know what it’s like to be an outcast myself. Can we be friends?” She nervously put out her hoof.

Zecora smiled, meeting her hoof. “Yes, yes, that is fine. Any friend of Twilight is a friend of mine.”

As she lowered her hoof Sunset wondered whether Zecora was a poet, or if her rhyming shtick was a zebra thing. She didn’t voice that question. She didn’t want to offend Zecora right after they had started a friendship.

“Listen, Zecora,” started Twilight, “I have a big favor to ask of you.

"Sunset here is from… out of town. She has an important message to deliver to the princess, but they parted previously on bad terms, so she’d like me to set up the meeting between them. However, she’s nervous she’ll run into the princess before I can explain the situation, so she’d feel more comfortable if she spends the night somewhere she’s unlikely to run into her. It would only be for a night. I’m expecting the princess in the morning.”

Zecora turned to Twilight. “When getting an order from a princess, what more can one say but 'yes?'”

Twilight shook her head hard. “No, no, no!” She didn’t know if she was ever going to get used to that. “It’s not an order! It’s a request. And I don’t want you to treat me special just because I’m a princess. If you don’t want to do it then I want you to be honest.”

“Yes, yes, I understand, but I’ll still choose to lend you a hand.”

Sunset bowed her head. “Thank you, Zecora. I promise not to be a burden.”

“I admire your attitude. It’s always nice to hear appreciation and gratitude.”

Applejack yawned. “Welp, now that that’s settled I’m about ready ta hit the hay, so I’ll bid ya good night.”

“Same here,” said Fluttershy, yawning as well. “A Pinkie Pie party always wears me out.”

Sunset was hoping that they’d stay a little longer so she’d have time to settle in a little bit, but Zecora didn’t know about her past, so it wasn’t like she had to work on convincing her that she was good. At least she had that.

“Goodnight, everyone,” said Sunset meekly. “I’ll see you all in the morning.” She sighed. “And then I can put all this behind me.”

Twilight gave her a hug. “Goodnight, Sunset. It really was great having you here. By tomorrow you’ll laugh at your worries when you and Celestia are reunited and crying your eyes out.” She winked before turning around and walking off, the rest of them following suit.

Sunset turned to Zecora, feeling a little awkward. She hoped Zecora wasn’t going to probe into why she and Celestia had split apart. “Well, then. Why don’t we go inside?”

Zecora nodded, and the two of them went in, Zecora shutting the door behind her.

Sunset looked around the relatively small house, unable to keep herself from staring at the décor. It was like nothing she had ever seen. There were big masks, bottles of all kinds on shelves, a big cauldron with a fire under it in the middle, and glass jars hanging up in the air attached to vines. She understood why ponies would feel off-put at the sight.

“So this is my first time meeting a zebra. What exactly do you do here, Zecora?”

“I am a maker of potions. When there is an ailment to fix I go through the motions.” She gestured with her hoof to the numerous bottles, then the cauldron. “I throw in a little of this, and a dash of that, and I mix it up in no time flat.”

“A potion maker, huh?” Sunset responded. “That’s interesting. I’ve never met one before. What kinds of potions can you make?”

“All kinds, child. Let your imagination run wild. From the common to the exotic, to the pure to the demonic.”

Sunset felt a shiver go down her spine. HAD Zecora heard of her before?

Zecora quickly cleared her throat, heat suffusing her face. “Of course, just because I can doesn’t mean I will do. I would never brew a potion to harm anyone, and that includes you.

“So what is it you do?” Zecora said quickly. “How about you?”

“W-well, I’m still learning my way. I used to be a part of Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns. However, I grew too arrogant because I was better than the rest of my class, and it went to my head. I demanded more than she was willing to give, and when I didn’t get my way I abandoned my studies with her.

“Now that I’ve had some time to reflect and learned new things I’ve made a fresh start. I just want to clear up this matter from the past before I can truly move on.”

“That is a noble goal indeed. Things go horrible for those consumed by greed. But when one learns to find a different way, the sun is always there to brighten your day.”

Sunset thought of her friends, and a gentle grin came to her face. They truly were the light that made her fight on when she was willing to give up.

She queried Zecora for more detail over her past circumstances, and got to hear how hard it was for her just trying to get other ponies to talk to her. The few times they did they would usually talk like they wanted her gone. As a result she didn’t often go into town. It wasn’t until the incident with the poison joke flowers that the barrier was finally breached and they got to know each other.

“It was all because of that little filly. She thought all the rumors about me were just plain silly. She opened her mind and gave me a chance, not holding to everyone else’s stance.”

Sunset sat down on the bed, her head down as she put her hooves on her legs. “I know that feeling. Back when I finally realized what a jerk I was I strove to change. However, all those that I stepped on and looked down on wouldn’t just forget what I had done to them overnight. Even though I tried really hard I only had a few willing to accept my apology and help me onto the right path. Little by little I won over the old crowd until they believed me. Now Celestia is the only one left.”

Zecora went to a shelf, pulling down a bottle and walking towards the cauldron. “What you are saying is wise. Before one can learn to run one must first open their eyes. When the mind is shut and the heart is closed, all that comes out of it is strife and foes.”

Opening the bottle she poured a small amount of a yellow liquid inside, making it bubble and froth.

Hopping off the bed Sunset took a look. “So what is this potion?”

“This brew is a mixture to stave off pain. It saves time by cutting through the toughest stains.”

“What does pain have to do with cleaning stains?”

Zecora looked up at Sunset’s horn. “To a unicorn like you it may be nothing to clean a floor. However, constant scrubbing can make an earth pony sore.”

Sunset felt her hoof twinge sympathetically as she recalled having to rebuild the entrance to Canterlot High. “Yeah, I get that.” Looking down at the potion she asked, “Can I help? I figure it’s the least I can do to repay you for letting me spend the night. Also, I’ve never tried potion making. It sounds fun.”

Zecora nodded. “Well, surely I would be a doof, to refuse a willing, helpful hoof.”

Sunset felt a tingle in her stomach. She found herself relating to Zecora, and it was always nice to have another friend, especially one that had similar problems.

For the next ten minutes Sunset handed over supplies when asked. With her magic it saved Zecora a lot of time. She stirred the potion when Zecora told her to, and then they had to wait another thirty minutes for it to thicken, adding new ingredients as necessary. After it was fully prepared Sunset used her magic to dip containers in it and seal them.

Sunset was sweating from the heat of the potion, but she had no complaints. She had had a blast. During the process Zecora gently hummed words in a language she had never heard. Even though she didn’t understand the words the intonation was clearly benevolent, and she found herself gently bobbing her head to the song.

Once the cauldron was washed out and scrubbed Zecora brought it back inside. “Asante. Wewe ni aina Zaidi.”

“I’m sorry?” Sunset said, an eyebrow going up.

Zecora giggled. “My native language is still on my mind. What I said was 'Thanks,' and that 'you are kind.'”

“Oh,” Sunset replied, her confusion replaced with an embarrassed smile. She bowed her head. “I am honored. I can see why you’re so popular in Ponyville. Like the others said before I was a little bit wary of you, but now that I spent some time with you I can see you’re just like us. You’re a lot of fun to work with, and your singing is beautiful.”

“I give my thanks for you praise, and am most glad your assumptions have changed their ways.” Zecora looked toward the cauldron. “With your help I got through my work twice as fast. Should you wish, that potion does not have to be the last.”

Sunset’s eyes lit up. “Really?”

Zecora giggled again. “A hard worker is something I adore. I am honored you wish to help out some more.” She picked up a large jug and pulled off the cork, pouring the contents inside the cauldron. “It all starts with a jug of water, just as without a mother there can be no daughter.”

Sunset helped to pour the jugs in until the cauldron was half full. Sunset picked up all the empty jugs. “I’ll go fill these. Is there a place to get water nearby?”

“The answer is yes.” She pointed with her hoof. “You just need to head west.”

Sunset nodded. “Gotcha.”

It took a minute but she eventually reached a clearing with a watering hole. Besides an overturned log and some bugs there didn’t seem to be anything else in it. She filled up all the jugs and brought them back to the hut, placing them with the rest.

“Kuwakaribisha nyuma. Ni vizuri kuona tena.”

“So what is it this time?”

“”Welcome back, my friend. It is good to see you again.””

“Your language is pretty interesting. The difference in the way we talk is distinct, but I can tell you’re saying nice things even without the translation.

“Well, I’m ready to keep working.”

Just like before she grabbed all the ingredients as directed. “So what are we making this time?”

Zecora tilted a container over, and powder came out of the small holes in it. There was a flash and a sharp sound. “This one I don’t really have to say. Just give a sniff, and let your nose lead the way.” She grabbed a few daffodils and lilacs and dumped them in too.

Almost instantly the room became suffused with a flowery scent. Sunset took a deep sniff, the smell so soothing it almost put her to sleep.

“For those who cannot sleep their best, this brew helps them to find their rest. For the insomniac who stays awake all night and all day, taking this potion helps their dreams come out to play.”

Sunset picked up a green bottle, looking to Zecora for approval.

Zecora gave her an appraising look. “Beware. One must take great care. Otherwise they will create undrinkable fare.

“For that bottle half of it is desired. And for the blue one just a smidge is required.”

Sunset nodded. Tipping it over she poured most of the bottle in, and she noticed the brew turn from orange to blue. She picked up the blue bottle, gently turning it over. A drop hung off the end of the bottle, and Sunset anxiously waited for it to fall in, her tongue hanging out the side of her mouth.

“Aah!” Sunset yelled as a bird cawed nearby. The bottle fell out of her hooves, landing right in the cauldron.

It immediately began to rapidly fizz and bubble, hissing loudly, turning a nasty black-brown color. Sunset gasped.

Zecora grabbed her hoof. “Too strong. Won’t be long. We must get out, or you’ll have a reason to pout.”

The two of them ran for the door, going outside and slamming it behind them. Just a few seconds later there was a loud bang, and the sound of things breaking inside.

Zecora let out a sigh of relief.

Sunset felt her stomach twinge as she cautiously opened the door. The cauldron was in a million pieces, glass littered the floor, the bed had a big hole in it, and the shelves were all knocked over.

Zecora walked in, looking at the scene of destruction with a look of despair.

“I-I can fix this!” Sunset said, quailing at the look Zecora gave her. “I mean it.” Her horn glowed, and piece by piece the cauldron took its shape again. Once the last one was set her horn flashed, and the cauldron glowed bright. When the aura faded the cauldron looked as good as new, with no cracks or chips.

“See? I can fix this mess.”

Zecora let out a heavy breath. “You clean,” she said roughly. “I must collect more ingredients.” She turned around and stormed out without another word.

Sunset sighed heavily as Zecora left, noticing that Zecora hadn’t rhymed. When someone changed their usual mannerisms you knew they were angry. “Way to go, Sunset STUPID!” she said angrily to herself. “Why didn’t you just use your magic?” Her horn glowed as she began to fix up all the broken bottles. “We were having such a good time, getting along so well. Now look what happened. You messed everything up, as usual.”

She picked up the shelves, putting them back upright as she continued fixing broken objects, verbally berating herself all the while. When all the glass was cleaned up she went to the last part of the house: Zecora’s sleeping area. The hut was all one room, but where Zecora slept had a wall on one side, making it more private.

She saw a few splintered drawers and long pieces of wood belonging to a dresser near the bed. As she repaired the damage she noticed a brown box in the wreckage, possibly a jewelry box. The lid was missing, and it was empty. She took out the box, setting it aside for the time being as she finished repairing the damage. She saw a couple more objects that had been in the wreckage, but the lid and what was inside, if anything, was nowhere to be found.

Sunset mused to herself. “Well, either it was like that to begin with, it got vaporized by the explosion, or-“ she turned her head left “-it’s under the bed.”

She looked underneath the bed, seeing something in front of her. She reached her hoof in, and retrieved the lid. “Well, that’s one thing down.” She reattached the lid to the box.

Looking underneath the bed again she thought she saw something in the corner, but it was too dark to know for sure. After a few moments she gave herself a mental smack. “Magical unicorn, remember?” She lit up her horn, and the space under the bed became illuminated. “Aha!” she said victoriously, seeing what looked like a necklace. “Come here, you little sucker.”

As her magic aura lifted up the necklace she felt a shudder go through her body, a feeling of dread and cold making her gasp. Her head jerked up, hitting the bedframe. She saw stars for a few moments, her spell fading. She’d never had a reaction like that before. She stared down at the necklace, but nothing else happened. Cautiously, she forewent magic and crawled under the bed to grab it manually. She pulled it to herself and backed up until she could stand again, taking a look at it.

“That was odd,” she remarked to herself, staring at the necklace. It had a red diamond shaped jewel in the center, and a darkened pony with a horn and wings up top. She waited a little while, but still she didn’t get a reaction like she had before. “Maybe it’s just because I’m out of practice from not using magic for so long. In that other world I didn’t have a horn, after all. I had to survive on my own pluck and determination.

“Well, that doesn’t make much sense. Didn’t I just repair an entire room?” She shrugged. “Well, I don’t know what happened, but with this the room will be perfect again.

“Hmmm.” She couldn’t take her eyes off of the strange object. “I know I’ve seen this before! But where?” She strained her brain, thinking back to her lessons with Princess Celestia. “What was it?

“Oh!” she said, her face lighting up. “This is an old enchanted artifact. I think it was called the Alicorn Amulet.” She closed her eyes, thinking back to the book she had read about it in. “It… it increases a unicorn’s magical powers immensely…. It has some kind of protective enchantment on it that stops anyone but the user from taking it off…. And… and… something else.” There was a little more to it. There was supposed to be something else it did, but the knowledge kept slipping away from her.

Her eyes glazed over. “It increases a unicorn’s power immensely,” she said slowly to herself, the forgotten detail quickly becoming unimportant. She shook her head hard. “Stop it!” she said sternly to herself. “You don’t need that kind of power.” She imagined herself in that evil form from when she had put on the Element of Magic. “You’re not that kind of pony anymore.”

She placed the amulet back inside the box it came from and put it back in the drawer.

She sat down on the floor, surveying the room for anything she missed, but she couldn’t focus. Her thoughts kept returning to the Alicorn Amulet and Celestia. She thought of the looks every one of them gave her when they saw her and knew who she was. Those distrusting, scared looks.

“Twilight is so sure that Princess Celestia will forgive me if I just apologize, but I’ve done so many terrible things. I betrayed her. I ran away. I stole the greatest magical object in Equestria and tried to come back a conqueror. She won’t just forget about what I did if I come back and apologize. If I did something remarkable then she’d know she could trust me now.”

She envisioned some terrible monster attacking Ponyville, and shoving Twilight out of the way just as it went to stomp her. The two of them gave each other determined looks as they teamed up to take it down.

Twilight would bring her to the princess, telling the tale of how she, Sunset Shimmer, had saved her life. And then the Princess would walk up to her, tears in both their eyes, as she apologized and they hugged.

As her daydream faded she could feel the tears in real life. “I want to help. I do! But Twilight is an alicorn. If she can’t beat some monster then what use will I be? She also has the Elements of Harmony, but if one of her friends is out of town or knocked unconscious they’ll be useless. She needs a friend with great power to help her out in the toughest spots.” She looked over at the box again, using a spell to bring it over. “She needs me,” she said as she opened the box, staring at the Alicorn Amulet.

Her expression once more grew vacant. “With this I could stand by her side.” She came back to reality and sighed. “Yeah, I’m sure it’s likely a terrible monster is just going to HAPPEN to attack tomorrow, render the Elements useless, and force me to be the only one that can help.”

She let out another heavy breath. “Maybe Twilight is right. Maybe I AM making too big a deal about this. Maybe I should just apologize instead of hoping for a disaster to happen.”

Her heart was beating quickly as her eyes stayed right where they were. She could almost feel the power swirling inside of the Amulet.

She struggled with herself a few seconds more, then shook her head hard and slammed the box shut. “Stop! That’s enough.”

She felt a bead of sweat come down her face as she panted slightly. The box hovered in the air, going up and down, up and down, indecision plaguing her, before she finally forced herself to put it back again.

She took a deep breath, and then popped the box open again, pulling the Amulet toward her and putting it on. “One little test can’t hurt,” she said giddily, ignoring the flush of guilt beneath the surface as she ran outside.

Author's Note:

For the curious, that is REAL swahili Zecora is speaking. Thank you, google translate. =)

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