• Published 13th May 2015
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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 6: The spirit of the Amulet

Sunset Shimmer giggled as she ran, trying to find a clearing to practice her new abilities. She didn’t want to choose one near Zecora’s hut. It took a few minutes of searching, but she finally found a space relatively clear of trees, with a watering hole and an overturned log.

Her horn began glowing, still the same green color, and she focused on the water, trying to lift up the entire ponds-worth. A bubble of water, only about the size of her head lifted up. The glow faded, and she let the water fall back down, a confused look on her face. She did a few more tests, but she couldn’t feel anything that special. It felt like her same old magic.

She tapped the Amulet a few times. “Is it broken?” she said to the air. She felt a tremor go through her as a joking voice spoke out to her.

“Do you really believe you’re worthy of the power of the Alicorn Amulet?” it asked.

Sunset crouched down slightly, getting into an attack position. “Who’s there? How do you know about the Amulet?”

“Such a sad sight you are. Always second best. Never good enough for those you cherish. A perpetual failure of a pony, one that couldn’t even get revenge properly.”

She felt her heart speeding up, her eyes looking all over for the source of the voice. She turned slowly in a circle, but the forest seemed still but for the voices of birds flying overhead. “What makes you think you know so much about me?”

“It’s obvious you haven’t changed a bit from who you were. You still want to rely on power to solve all your problems. That’s the real reason you put it on, isn’t it? You’ll use anything to achieve your ends, won’t you?”

She could feel her face getting flushed, the guilt from before blossoming again. Talking much more bravely than she felt she said loudly, “Why don’t you come out of your little hiding spot and face me, coward, instead of talking from the shadows?”

“That would be difficult. After all, I do not possess a body. However, you have already seen me. I’m very close by. In fact, I’m right next to you.”

A feeling of panic was setting in. She spun around quickly, still seeing no one. “What do you mean… you don’t have a body?”

“Silly foal. If I had a body do you really think I’d be sitting around your neck?”

Profound confusion pushed away her fear. “Around… my…” She put a hoof to the Alicorn Amulet. “Don’t tell me you’re…”

“Yes, indeed.”

Sunset sat down, finally realizing that she couldn’t pinpoint the voice because it was being transmitted directly to her brain. “I thought the Alicorn Amulet was just a power booster,” she said, now feeling curious. She hadn’t read in the book that it possessed a consciousness.

“No, no, no. It is much more than that. You cannot just have my power. You must prove yourself worthy of it first.”

Her eyes narrowing a little she tapped her hoof on the Amulet. “Hey, how did you know all that stuff about me? About my plans for revenge in the past?”

“I have my ways. When your magic touched mine I learned a great deal about you.”

Sunset thought back to the odd sensation that had gone through her the first time she had lifted the Amulet with her magic. “So that’s what that was,” she mused. “So… what? You read my mind or something?”

“Something like that, young unicorn. I felt your essence, and you formed a tenuous connection with me. It’s been quite a while since I’ve had an owner, so forgive me if I nudged you a little to put me on. It can get dreadfully boring sitting alone in the dark for years at a time.”

Sunset was quiet for a while, unsure of what to say. “So what are you?” she finally asked.

“Well, I don’t think that’s important. What I’m really interested in is you. I can see you seek the power to take Celestia off her throne and rule this world.”

Sunset twitched. “You’re wrong! That’s not my plan at all! That was in the past!”

“So then why put me on in the first place? Because you seek tremendous power, and you cannot accomplish your goals otherwise.”

“No, that’s not it!” she said firmly.

“Sunset, Sunset, Sunset,” it replied in a gently amused tone. “There’s no need to feel threatened. The Elements of Harmony freed you from the darkness clouding your heart. So why are you so nervous? Seeking power and wanting to rule is not a crime, when done with the right intentions. After all, somebody has to watch over the masses and make sure they’re doing well. Why not you?”

She stopped feeling so defensive, seeing it wasn’t attacking her. “I want to be a hero that others can look up to. I made a lot of mistakes, but now I want to go back and make things right.”

“But you don’t really want to say you’re sorry, do you? Hence why you’re trying to gain recognizance by deeds instead of words, hmm? You don’t really feel you were in the wrong for leaving. I don’t condemn you for it. Quite the opposite. I actually commend you for what you’re trying to do. After all, it’s only natural you don’t want to bow down before that false ruler of a princess. You can see her for what she truly is, can’t you? She’s a monster who plays the role of a model ruler to fool everyone else.”

Sunset turned her head away, feeling a familiar sensation in her gut. “That… was how I felt when I left, but she was right in the end.”

“Was she really? She lied to you. She told you that you couldn’t handle the advanced magic and visiting the other world. However, you proved that wrong and came within a hair of succeeding. Even without your magic you ruled over the school you went to. None dared to oppose you. You managed to swipe the Element of Magic right under Twilight’s nose, and you would have defeated her and returned a conqueror had the Element not betrayed you and deflected your magic.”

“Stop it!” she cried out, her voice cracking as she shivered, tears coming down her eyes. “I don’t want to go back to that place!” She shuddered as she remembered how pitch black the world used to look. “That cold and lonely existence.”

She heard a sound like a clicking tongue. “Ah, Sunset. I’m not saying you have to return to that way of life. I’m just pointing out that Celestia underestimated you.”

“So what if she did?” Her eyes clenched shut. “I was cruel and heartless, putting everyone down, until Twilight saved me from myself. I became a monster. I don’t want to ever feel like that again.”

“I understand,” it said sympathetically. “However, that doesn’t change the facts of the matter. Someone has to depose Celestia. Who would be better than you?”

She shook her head hard. “I don’t want to attack Celestia. What has she done to me? If I hadn’t been so…”

“Surely you understand. She has done many terrible things. Isn’t it funny how all those she 'cares' about wind up emotionally scarred? How anyone with any ambition wind up rendered powerless because she can’t stand the thought of anything being stronger than herself? That spirit of chaos, the unicorn king, and even her own sister.”

“All of them posed a great threat to Equestria. It only made sense to defeat them.”

“Can you imagine it, Sunset Shimmer? Being trapped in a prison of stone for all eternity? Unable to move, unable to do anything except exist? Completely aware of each and every second, knowing that there is absolutely nothing you can do about it? Wouldn’t you rather be dead? It’s a punishment for those who rose too high, so they would forever know their place. You’re lucky you didn’t get the same.”

Sunset Shimmer was starting to feel distinctly uncomfortable. She took a quick breath through her nose. “Twilight and her friends were able to reform Discord and Princess Luna. That wouldn’t have been possible if they had been killed. They would have died villains and stayed that way in everyone’s minds forever.”

“Fair enough,” it replied smoothly. “However, isn’t there something odd about that?”

“What do you mean?”

“If Twilight and her five buddies were able to turn those two to good then surely CELESTIA, far more powerful and knowledgeable, should have been able to do it as well. So why were they sealed away instead, as if it wasn’t worth the time to turn them to the right side? Because she wasn’t interested in that, that’s why.”

“Celestia was the one who ordered Twilight to unseal him!” she replied strongly.

“But not for HIS sake, was it? She had him unsealed because his magic would be useful in the future. He, himself, was unimportant.

“And as for Luna? That’s even more obvious she didn’t care. If Twilight and her squad could use the Elements to purge the darkness from Luna’s heart when they didn’t even KNOW her, then surely Celestia, who should love her sister more than anything, should have been able to do the same, hmm? Instead it was a thousand year stay at the moon for her.”

Sunset’s stomach was clenching hard, her breathing getting a little heavier as a familiar old anger began to eat at her calm. The red gem in the amulet began to glow faintly, gently pulsing. “It’s possible Celestia couldn’t do it. The… the Elements are supposed to be used in unison with other ponies.”

“Ah, but there is some concrete evidence that that is a lie.”

“And what evidence is that?” she said coldly.

“The book,” it responded simply. “Let me ask you something, Sunset Shimmer. Who was it that made the story prophesizing Nightmare Moon’s return? Being that she was the one who fought Nightmare Moon, it would have to be… Princess Celestia, right? Isn’t it just a little bit strange that she was sealed for one thousand years? “The stars will aid in her escape.” The sun is considered a star, is it not? Putting two and two together, Celestia deliberately released her sister from her imprisonment after enough time had passed, entrusting Twilight to do the deed of returning her back to normal.”

Sunset was shaking slightly. The voice was smooth as silk, speaking things that she herself had felt back then. She began to remember what had made her run away in the first place. “So then, what’s your explanation for the rest of it? If Celestia is just a power obsessed tyrant then why would she deliberately give control of such a vast power to her student?”

The spirit of the Amulet laughed, a mocking giggle like it should have been obvious. “Use your head, you silly girl. There’s two good reasons for it, and I can back that up with the most obvious evidence of all that it was all planned out.

“First off, why do you think Celestia didn’t offer the Elements to you? And the easiest answer is, simply, she was AFRAID of you.”

“Afraid?” she responded flatly. “A unicorn vs an alicorn. I would have been slaughtered.”

“Yes, there is a difference in magical strength, and you can’t fly, but that is irrelevant. Your true strength is in your individuality. You wouldn’t just conform to Celestia’s standards and do whatever she wished. You were too ambitious; too daring. You’ll notice that she smartened up the second time around. Her new apprentice is an idiot. Book smart, for sure, but naïve, always aiming to please. Because she’s so loyal Celestia is confident that her student will never betray her this time around.

“As for why Celestia would give that power to another… once more the answer is obvious: because she’s extremely lazy. She had a whole thousand years to study and increase her magic power, but still could do nothing against Discord when he broke free of his prison.”

“Still, that doesn’t prove it was all PLANNED! That’s insane!”

“Yes… she is.”

“Th-that’s not what I meant.”

“Let me ask you one final question, and it’s directly related to reason number two. What happened in the thousand years of Luna free solo rule? How many abominations and evil tyrants came to try and overthrow Celestia or take over Equestria?”

“Well, um… none really. At least as far as I know.”

“Exactly! For a whole millennium life was relatively good, but then all of a sudden in the span of a single year every single one of Celestia’s old adversaries came out of the woodwork? First it was Luna, then Discord, then Queen Chrysalis, King Sombra, and all the other problems in-between. It was all a test for Twilight, to make sure she was growing properly to fulfill her role as her majesty’s royal puppet. It was so she could justify it when Twilight suddenly 'earned' her promotion to Princess.”

A thoughtful frown came to her face. The spirit had a point. How could it just be mere coincidence that all those events happened randomly in such a short period of time? Her previous anger was getting stronger.

“Look!” she said sharply, letting out a huff, “I don’t know what’s right and what’s not, but I already told you before: I don’t want to go back to the way I was. I don’t want to start a war.” A few tears came down her eyes. “I was a monster back then. Whether Celestia is good or evil or right or wrong I don’t want to lose myself in hatred like I did in the past.”

“I understand, Sunset,” it responded calmly, “but things are different now than they were before, aren’t they? You’re NOT the same mare you were. The darkness was purged out of you. Your motivations are different now. You tried to brainwash a bunch of ponies and use them as a distraction for the guards while you fought Celestia with the power of the Element of Magic. Now you don’t want to involve peripheral victims. Celestia is coming here tomorrow, isn’t she? It’s when she’ll be the least under guard, so you can deal with her directly and leave the innocent out of the conflict.”

Sunset swallowed, her heart beating like a drum. “I said already I don’t want to fight.”

“Sunset,” it responded seriously, “it is not a crime to fight for good. Before you only fought for selfish reasons: for power and recognition. Now, though, that you have been purified, you can fight for the right reasons, to save Equestria from the tyrant that rules over them. You were always one with a good heart deep down, with drive and determination that surpasses even that of Twilight Sparkle. You have courage and strength and passion. Equestria needs you now, Sunset Shimmer. You’re the only one with the will to persevere, the one most capable for this task.

“A TRULY peaceful Equestria. Isn’t that worth fighting for? Isn’t that worth putting your misgivings aside to make a true reparation for your past misdeeds? Everyone would see you as a hero, and any mistakes you’ve made in the past would be forgotten. After all, isn’t that the whole reason you were reluctant to see Celestia in the first place? Because you felt you needed to do something heroic first to prove you’ve changed?

“So you purge Celestia from her unworthy spot on the throne, and free everyone of their fear. And then, at the end…”

For a few seconds the world faded away, and Sunset got a mental image of herself seated on the throne, wearing a crown and scores of ponies cheering, admiration shining on their faces.

It quickly faded away, leaving Sunset in tears as she gently sobbed.

“At the end, you’ll become the Queen of Equestria, the one who had the strength to do what no one else had the guts to do. You can start a new life, leading the next generation right, rather than having a ruler who expects a pony one tenth her age and experience to solve all her problems for her.

“It’s what you always wanted, isn’t it? What you always dreamed of?”

Sunset’s mind was in a whirl. It spoke to her like a dear friend she had known forever and could see her for everything she was. That image of her being the new queen was so compelling and beautiful. She did want it… she wanted it more than anything she had ever wanted before. However…

“I… I don’t know!” she said frantically, her voice cracking as the glow from the gem grew brighter and brighter. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if I can beat Celestia. I don’t know if I WANT to!”

“Settle yourself, Sunset,” it said kindly. “Panicking is beneath a pony of your stature. A ruler must rule over others. If your emotions rule over you then you’ll never make a good queen.”

“Ponies have been living under Celestia for over a millennium!” she said strongly, shivering. “Do you really think they’ll just plop me on the throne when I go and murder their leader? “

“Removing Celestia from the throne will indeed cause a gigantic shift in every way possible. Things will change immensely, which is why you need to be stronger than ever. You need to compose yourself. I know I’m asking the impossible of you, but Celestia is an ageless being. It’s not like we can just wait for her to pass away of old age. If someone doesn’t do something then nothing will ever change. You need to summon up all your courage and strength now, and resolve to do the right thing for everybody.

“In the turmoil that follows her passing someone will need to step up to lead the masses. Cadance has her own kingdom to rule, Twilight is still only just learning to socialize after spending most of her time in books in her youth, and Luna is still not fully trusted after her story became public knowledge. Thus, the only one who can fill the spot is you.”

Sunset was still fretting, the enormity of what it was expecting too much to comprehend all at once. Everything had made sense when she was controlled by bitterness and thoughts of revenge. Now, though, she couldn’t imagine the amount of work she would have to do if her plans came to fruition. “A ruler should be strong! They wouldn’t put some young brat like me on the throne. Luna would be the obvious next choice over me. She looks like a proper ruler. I’m just a unicorn. Even with this magic amplifier it still makes me look inferior to an alicorn. And what if I somehow get separated from you in an important battle? What if you get destroyed? Then the majority of my power will be gone! This is insane! I am mad at Celestia and, quite frankly, I think she should be taken off her throne, but this is too much!”

The spirit was quiet for a time, before saying. “Well… I had hoped to avoid this, but I guess now I have no choice. If an alicorn leader is what the ponies want, then I can help you there.”

Sunset looked down immediately, distracted from her rampaging emotions. “What? How?”

“I have something to reveal to you. The thing is… you already know quite a bit about me. You know who I am and have heard me mentioned many times.”

“I have?” she responded, her eyebrow going up. “How?”

“Well, I guess I should introduce myself. I am the famous spell-maker: Starswirl the Bearded.”

“What?” Sunset responded flatly. The gem of the amulet, which had been getting steadily brighter, dimmed slightly. “How is that possible?”

“I think you know the answer to that. Who else do you know that seals away those that oppose them for hundreds upon hundreds of years?”

“Celestia?” she said, disbelief in her voice.


“That doesn’t make any sense!” she said, a touch of anger in her voice. “There’s an entire wing of the library named after Starswirl. Celestia only ever spoke highly of him.”

“You mean… just like she did with you?”

Sunset flinched like she had been struck, memories playing of how it was in the early days of being Celestia’s student. “This is my student Sunset Shimmer; Brightest unicorn of her age I’ve ever met; Masters spells like they’re nothing; An extremely hard worker; I’m proud to call her my student.”

As time passed cracks appeared in their perfect relationship. She wanted to learn the more advanced spells, try out unusual magic, and really push her limits. But Celestia blocked her at every turn, slowly irritating her, up until their final confrontation. “There is more to spells than simple knowledge. You have an independent streak that is dangerous. Until you can realize that there is nothing more I am willing to teach you.”

Unable to convince her teacher she had decided to leave and make her own path, leaving everything she had known behind.

Tears came down her eyes as the bitterness of their final conversation returned to her.

“Sunset…,” the spirit said gently.

“Hmph!” she responded derisively. “So then, what did YOU do to earn her ire?”

“My real final spell was corrupted by Celestia. It was a spell… to turn a pony into an alicorn. You can surely imagine why Celestia wouldn’t care for that. Unlike her sycophant Twilight I didn’t beg at her heels like a dog.

“I was deep into research, discovering and creating new magic for the sheer enjoyment of the work. However, I finally came upon a wall: my own limits. I knew if I wanted to truly unlock all the secrets and theories and evolutions of magic that I would need more power. A lot more power than any unicorn alone could hope to achieve. A largely solitary figure, I didn’t wish to rely on the input of many unicorns for the required power, nor ask the alicorn sisters. As creating new magic can be a risky business I didn’t wish to put any in harm’s way but myself.

“So for the next few years I planned, I theorized, I worked, I experimented. However, the same limit that prevented me from discovering the deepest facets of magic in the first place also prevented me from reaching the finale of pony evolution. In order to attain more power… I would need more power. As a seemingly unresolvable contradiction I felt my passion slipping away, having to accept that I couldn’t broaden my horizons.

“I finally made the biggest discovery of my life: certain jewels can contain magical energy, such as the ones that make up the Elements of Harmony. By storing an exorbitant amount of energy inside a suitable gem I could use it as a substitute for the energy I could not muster alone.

“Along the way of my experiments, when I thought Celestia was great and a dear friend I told her of my plan. She tried to discourage me several times, but I always ignored her. I felt what I was doing was right. After searching for months I found a gemstone of a suitable size and capacity, setting it into a brooch I specially designed, the very one around your neck.”

Sunset pulled slightly at the Amulet to get a better view of it. “So that’s why it’s called the Alicorn Amulet?”

“Exactly. It was to be the means to foster my transformation. I spent a long time feeding as much spare energy I could into the jewel, until it felt full to bursting.

“The night finally came where I felt everything was ready. I placed the Amulet around my neck, ready to cast the spell that would ascend me to the greatest heights… but then Celestia burst in.

“She accused me of treason and plots of overthrowing the empire for disobeying her multiple attempts to stop me from continuing on. Before I could mount a proper defense she attacked, sealing my spirit inside the Amulet.

“I was still conscious inside there, just like her sister; just like the unicorn king; just like the draconequues. However, there was one big difference between their imprisonments and my own: I still had access to magic. She sealed me inside the gem I had spent months filling with energy, in effect fusing me with that great reservoir. Unfortunately, my control of that magic was very unstable, so largely I remained dormant. I could only use magic consistently when my mind and energy was fused with another unicorn, just like you.

“The only magic I could use regularly was 'hearing.' It is what has allowed me to see what is going on in Equestria despite being stuck in one place.

“Celestia, in the wake of my sealing, feigned ignorance over the circumstances and her involvement, and 'mourned' for my disappearance. She named a wing of the library in my honor, and to be sure things didn’t go the way they did before, changed the nature of my final spell.”

Sunset was listening attentively, her breathing heavy. “How did she change it? Twilight became a normal alicorn, didn’t she?”

“It became a curse, forcing a change of destinies for her friends. Once Twilight 'fixed it' Celestia used it as the catalyst to transform Twilight into an alicorn like her. In the process she stripped away Twilight’s free will. More and more she’s becoming Celestia’s mindless puppet, to be used to handle all of her business so SHE can sit lazily on her throne. Twilight keeps losing more and more of herself, all the while thinking it’s her own decision.”

Sunset gently growled, getting angrier and angrier.

“As for me, I’ve been passed around from pony to pony across my new 'life.' Celestia first put me in the royal gallery for others to admire, just like she did with Discord’s statue in her garden. I mean, really? Using your enemies sealed away forms as art decorations? Do you really need any more proof of how callous she is? It’s to further humiliate and rub in their loss.

“I was stolen by a daring thief, and then to this pony or that pony. Sometimes I’d be stolen, sometimes hung up as art, but hardly any wanted to wear me as jewelry. After all, who’d want to go around in public with something stolen from the ruler of the continent? Legends of how dangerous it was to have and Celestia trying hard to get it back meant others were too wary of me to keep me for long.

“Finally, I was sold to an out of the way curio shop, where a bitter stage magician picked me up for the sake of revenge against a pony she felt had slighted her. A pony you know well: Twilight Sparkle. The magicians name was Trixie.”

Sunset got a thoughtful look on her face. “Twilight told me about her.”

“She had a very petty mindset, very arrogant with delusions of grandeur. Since she actually had no fear of wearing me I decided to share my power with her, as otherwise she would have thrown me away. I hoped that I could temper her obnoxiousness and have her focus on the real issues plaguing Equestria, but she would not be dissuaded.”

It let out a sigh. “She was so childish and immature with my power that it was sad. She wound up being fooled by the same stage tricks she herself used in her magic shows, and she took me off, where I was taken and hidden away.

“And now YOU have found me... a pony infinitely more mature, already bearing a grudge against the princess, and who wants to use their power for the right reasons. You’re a dream come true.

“If you give me your vow to aid me in my bid to overthrow Celestia then all my magic will be at your disposal. And if, at the end of it all, you help to bring her down, then I shall teach you my greatest spell: I will grant you… alicornhood.”

Sunset’s expression glazed over, tears coming down her eyes. Once more the image of her as a queen with everyone cheering her on came to her. “W-why don’t you do it now?” she asked distractedly.

“Oh, don’t get me wrong, Sunset. You’re an exemplary pony for sure, but I trusted Celestia and look where it got me. I don’t want to be betrayed again. I want to see you’re serious first before I grant you such an upgrade.

“The tyrant Celestia overthrown; Equestria entering a true era of peace; the entire pony community’s love for your benevolent rule as you ascend to alicornhood and take the throne… isn’t that the kindest and most righteous thing to do? Isn’t that worth fighting for? Isn’t that worth risking your life for?

“We all tried to rise too high. Luna and me, we were punished for Celestia’s petty worries; for the sole 'crime' of simply wanting… just a little bit more. Just… like… you.”

Sunset had a very ugly look on her face, her eyes narrowed and her mouth a thin line. Her fear had long since passed, and her tears had stopped. Now all there was left was her anger from the past.

She took in a deep breath. “Celestia has harmed and endangered far too many ponies. If no one else is willing or able to stop her reign then that duty falls on me. I WILL stop her. She’s gone too far for far too long. It’s time for her reign of terror to end.”

“Wonderful!” the spirit responded joyfully.

Sunset’s green eyes began to turn red as the jewel in the Amulet glowed its brightest yet.

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