• Published 14th Apr 2018
  • 5,562 Views, 308 Comments

The Maker's Reject - Albi



Every pony has a destiny—a reason for being. Sunset Shimmer has no cutie mark, and struggles just to feel like she belongs in this reality. But the price to find her purpose might be one too high to pay.

  • ...
16
 308
 5,562

4. The Longest Night

What followed Nightmare Moon’s proclamation was a panic of epic proportions.

Platina threw herself over me to block the stampede of frenzied hooves, scrambling to get anywhere that wasn’t here. Adults cried, foals screamed, and Nightmare Moon cackled all the while.

“Seize her!” Mayor Mare shouted. “Only she knows where the princess is!”

“Stand back, foals!”

I heard the crack of lightning, and two pained cries, followed by dull thuds against the ground. More shouting, a rush of cold wind, then, the room fell silent. Platina pulled herself from me, and I found most of the hall empty. The snack table had been overturned, banners torn from the walls, and glass shards littered the floor. A group of ponies tended to two guards laying off to the side.

“My Lady,” Platina said urgently, “I must get you somewhere safe. Let us get to the inn.”

“But…” My strength was still low, giving me little resistance to fight against Platina’s gentle push toward the door. We stepped outside in time to see most other ponies retreat into their houses.

The night air felt different from only an hour ago. Maybe because some instinctual part of me knew it was supposed to be day now. Instead, the world remained under a thick blanket of night. Even the moon, it’s face now blank and smooth, seemed to give less light than before.

The cold, foreboding air made the fur on the back of my neck stand on end. That my thoughts kept circling back to my mother didn’t help either. She vanished, and Nightmare Moon appeared in her place. What had happened to her? Was she hurt? I had to find her!

“Can you walk, My Lady?”

I nodded absently, still in my own thoughts. However, when I brought myself back to the present and moved forward, I was still stuck in a mental fog. My body felt disconnected from thoughts, creating a delay in each of my movements. A constant lightheadedness followed me as I teetered down the stairs. Moving down was easy enough, but when the world leveled out, lifting my hooves took more energy than it should have.

“Are you you’re all right, Lady Sunset.”

“Y-yeah, I’m fine.” I took a deep breath and redoubled my focus. Just then, a familiar purple unicorn appeared in the corner of my eye. She was headed for the dark eaves of the Everfree Forest. Five figures were hot on her tail. “Twilight!”

I tried to run after her, but it felt more like an uneven hobble. Still, I managed to catch up while she was in a discussion with her cohorts. She turned and faced me, looking a little relieved.

“Sunset, you’re okay!”

I looked at her, to the five ponies around her, then to the path vanishing into the forest. “What are you doing?”

Twilight wiped a thin line of sweat from her brow. “I’m, uhh… well, I’m going into the forest. There are relics called the Elements of Harmony. They’re the only things that can stop Nightmare Moon.”

“Umm, Twilight,” the orange earth pony said, “who is this?”

“This is Sunset Shimmer. She’s my… uhh… study buddy.”

I won’t lie, the fact that she didn’t say ‘friend’ stung a little.

The pink one tilted her head quizzically at me. “Have I seen you before?”

“She’s Princess Celestia’s daughter,” Twilight said pointedly.

“Princess Celestia has a daughter?” the white unicorn said, scandalized.

I sighed and ignored them. “Are you sure these element things are in there?”

Twilight nodded. “Their last known resting place is in the old castle.”

“Great, then I’m going with you.”

A strong hoof rested firmly on my shoulder. “I’m sorry, My Lady, but I can’t allow that,” Platina said sternly. “It’s far too dangerous for you to go.”

I tried to wiggle free from her grip, but it was fruitless. “I can’t just wait here though! Besides, Twilight’s going!”

“I’m not in charge of Miss Sparkle, I’m in charge of you. My duty is to keep you safe.” She turned her eyes down to Twilight. “Though I strongly discourage any civilians going into the Everfree.”

“With all due respect, Miss Platina, someone has to go in there and stop Nightmare Moon,” Twilight said, standing tall.

“Besides,” the rainbow pegasus said, pounding a hoof against her chest, “she’ll have us to back her up! We’re not gonna let some snooty fake princess take away our daytime!”

Twilight looked less confident, but the others firmly nodded their heads, save for the yellow pegasus hiding near the back.

I wanted to protest, but knew it would only serve to waste more time. If there was anypony I would trust for a job like this, it would be Twilight. She was a prodigy after all.

“Okay,” I said, unable to hide some of my bitterness. “Just be careful. She’s an alicorn, Twilight; who knows what she’s capable of.”

Twilight nodded. “Don’t worry. I… we’ll find the elements and put everything the way it should be. Stay here and look after the town.” She gave me a small smile, and a shot of energy flowed through me, pushing away some of the mind fog.

When I blinked, Twilight and her posse we’re disappearing into the unnatural darkness that shrouded the forest. I turned back and faced the town, my mind already set on my next task.

“Lady Sunset, where are you going?” Platina asked as I walked by her.

“I’m going to look for Mom,” I said firmly. There had to at least be clues to what Nightmare Moon did to her. I figured the best place to start was the scene of the crime.

Platina didn’t object, but kept herself pinned to my side the entire time. As touching a gesture it was, I liked it better when she shadowed me from afar.

Ponyville was eerily silent now. Doors were barred, and windows shut. I found it impressive how quickly the mood of a town could shift. What was once a quaint, if quiet hamlet was now a ghost town.

Platina and I made our way around to the back of town hall, where Mother had gone when we parted ways. As I approached the unassuming door, Platina held a hoof out.

“I’ll go first.” Horn alight, she stepped in front of me and pushed the door open.

Nothing but inky darkness greeted us inside. I lit my horn as well, though the simple act brought back some of the fog. The room was nondescript, looking closer to a tidy storage area than a place to make an alicorn wait. I then saw the stairs, and pointed Platina toward them.

The backroom at the top was a little more decorated. Red drapes flanked the open window, and moonlight spilled onto the pink carpet. A large velvet pillow sat tucked in the corner.

I scanned the room meticulously. It didn’t look like there had been a struggle. In fact, if there hadn’t been a depression in the pillow, I would have thought nopony had entered the room at all.

I ran a hoof against the pillow. Maybe it was just my imagination, but it still felt warm. “Mom…”

“I’m sorry, My Lady,” Platina said softly. “I don’t think there’s anything here.”

She was half right. I could feel a thrum of magic in the air. But who it belonged to and what it had accomplished… those details were beyond me. I scooted past Platina and walked onto the balcony where Nightmare Moon had stood. Town hall was deserted, but the mess remained.

“Ahhh!”

Platina’s armor made a hard smack against the floor. Whirling around, I found her twitching on the carpet, drowning in the black shadow Nightmare Moon cast. Her draconic eyes fell on me, and her nebulous mane gave a sharp snap.

“Leave her alone!” I fired a bolt of magic from my horn, but Nightmare Moon batted it away with a hoof like it was a pesky fly.

Her own horn crackled with electric malevolence. “It’s been one nosy foal after another tonight.” She shared a viscous smile, and I backed into the balcony railing, wondering if I could survive the fall.

Then, her eyes narrowed, not in anger or disgust, but curiosity. The magic coursing up and down her horn diminished to simple sparks. She tipped her head to one side.

“Who are you?” Her haughty growl was gone.

I ran my tongue along my dry mouth. “S-Sunset Shimmer.” The longer I spoke, the longer I got to live.

“Sunset Shimmer?” Nightmare Moon’s eyes pierced me, but I couldn’t tell if she was looking at me or through me.

“I… I’m Princess Celestia’s daughter.” In hindsight, telling the evil alicorn I was the daughter of the princess she just disposed of probably wasn’t a good idea.

But Nightmare Moon’s expression didn’t change. “Celestia… does not have a daughter.”

“I’m adopted.” Once again, I couldn’t help sounding a little bitter. Still, I raised my head with pride. “But she treats me like I’m her flesh and blood.”

Her head tilted to the other side, her eyes were wide now with interest. She stared like she had never seen anything like me before. “What are you?”

Confusion began to erode the overwhelming fear clogging my chest. “What?”

“You’re…” Nightmare Moon’s horn started crackling again. Yet, it wasn’t vicious and terrifying like before. It reminded me of Twilight, whenever she was about to conduct an experiment. “You’re not supposed to be here.”

“What?” I repeated. At that moment, more of my strength was siphoned away, like a vampire fruit bat had mistaken me for a meal. I dropped to one knee, vision flickering wildly. Nightmare Moon was stepping closer. I tried to draw up enough magic to at least make a shield, but the harder I tired, the further my powers seemed to get.

“Yes,” she said softly, as if entranced, “I see it now. You’re—gah!

Platina rose from behind and shot another pulsing bolt, striking Nightmare Moon in the ribs as she turned around. The alicorn let out a snarl as her magic turned a hauntingly dark blue, almost black. Her beam ripped across the room and struck Platina just as she raised her shield. While typical magic cast a glow when released, Nightmare Moon’s sucked all the surrounding light away. It even sounded different; more like a hiss than a thrum.

The overcharged beam engulfed Platina and her shield. I let out a strangled scream as the blast ripped through the back wall and carried out over the town. When Nightmare Moon finally let up, Platina was nowhere to be seen.

With a dark chuckle, she turned to face me again. “Now, back to far more interesting matters. Where did you come from, little interloper?”

My eyes, wet with tears, were still fixed on the spot Platina had been standing. I heard Nightmare Moon, but didn’t know how to answer her. Even if I did, I refused to.

Nightmare Moon’s ears stood at attention, and she jerked her head back toward the hole in the wall. “What? They got past the manticore?” She gnashed her teeth together, then, without a second glance toward me, she dissolved into purple smoke and sped away.

I stumbled back onto my hooves and leaned against the rail, vertigo and tears making it hard to process anything in front of me. The dizzying spell vanished a moment later, like the vampire fruit bat had returned and given me my strength. It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough for me to run down the stairs and burst through the doors.

Platina!” I yelled, my voice echoing through the streets. “Platina!”

“Sunset!”

From around a corner she came, golden armor singed and a dent in her helmet, but otherwise, fine. She rushed toward me and scooped me into a tight hug. I felt another burst of strength wrapped in her hooves. Today was officially the strangest in my life. My energy levels were fluctuating so hard now, I felt I might be sick.

“Are you okay, Sunset? How did you get away?”

“I should be asking you that,” I said into her shoulder. She let me go, and I dried my eyes. “She said something about a manticore and just bolted. Twilight must be close.”

Platina looked in the direction of the forest. “I hope that filly can handle herself.”

A piercing scream made us both jump. Platina charged her horn and looked wildly around for the source of the noise. I pointed toward the fountain across the bridge, where a unicorn mother was carrying her foal in her magic as she ran from three prowling figures.

I let out a gasp as they stepped out of the shadow of the building. They were nature given animated forms. Rough pieces of wood of various shapes and sizes cobbled together by the wild magic of the forest into beastly shapes. Thorns made up their snarling mouths, finding a way to salivate as they cornered their prey. Their eyes were bright and yellow like the sun, but no warmth existed within them. Their wooden limbs creaked with every step they made.

The lead one jumped and pinned the green unicorn down, raking its claws down her leg in the process. Her filly dropped out of her magic and landed hard against the ground a few feet away.

“Timberwolves,” Platina breathed. She gave me a sharp glare, telling me to stay put, then ran across the bridge, blasting concussive spells at the wolves.

Were Timberwolves usually this brave? Or was this a side-effect of the endless night? I edged closer to the bridge as I watched Platina blast one into the fountain before pulling her spear off her back and impaling one in the snout. The mother was now crawling toward her child, a deep gash in her leg.

Keeping my head low, I snuck across the bridge and ran to her side. Unfortunately, my tendency to be overlooked by ponies worked against me. As I pressed against her to help her up, she let out a short but noticeable scream.

The Timberwolf climbing out of the fountain growled at us, snapping its wooden fangs.

Platina looked over her shoulder, her fierce blue eyes trained on me. “I told you to stay put!”

Technically, she didn’t tell me anything, just glared really hard. But now wasn’t a good time to split hairs. The wolf with its face impaled was trying desperately to get the spear out, while its friend lunged at Platina, pinning her to the ground. This only resulted with it getting a face full of magic.

It flew back and rolled across the ground, leaving pulp and wood chips behind. When it got up, it raised its head to the moon and howled. At least a dozen hair-raising howls responded, all of them sounding dangerously close to Ponyville’s edge.

Meanwhile, the soggy Timberwolf was advancing on me as I stood defensively in front of the wounded mare. I could feel my magic flowing through me, but I knew it wasn’t enough to beat back a fully formed Timberwolf. I readied a shield spell, hoping I could just fend it off until Platina finished it.

As the wolf leaned back to pounce, Platina charged shoulder first into it, slamming it into the side of the stone fountain. Several large pieces of wood chipped off, but it remained in tact, and growled in fury. A pearl of light appeared at the tip of Platina’s horn, but both of the remaining wolves tackled her at once, their claws making horrendous screeches against her armor as she went down.

“No!” I cried. Looking up, I could see more yellow eyes appearing in the shadows. “No, no, no!”

Mother had said everything was going to be all right. This was far from all right! I clenched my teeth and drew up every ounce of magic I could, I didn’t care how winded it left me. I wasn’t going to lose Platina!

A swirling pillar of rainbow light exploded up from deep within the forest, stretching high into the starry sky. At once, I felt the greatest surge of magic I had experienced all day, and it burst forth like a damn. My vision became white, and my body grew blazing hot, like someone had shoved me into an oven for a minute.

Ponies screamed.

Timberwolves whimpered.

The heat died down.

When I could see again, Platina was getting to her hooves, a ring of charred wood around her. The fountain had dried up, and even the stream looked lower than before.

She rushed over to me and put a hoof against my forehead. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” I said, out of breath. “I’m fine.” It was surprisingly true. Usually, after a release of magic like that, I felt bone tired. I turned around to check on the ponies I had been protecting, and my blood ran cold.

They were no longer curled behind me on the ground. Instead, they were both lying several feet away, in front of a house whose thatched roof had caught fire. I could hear the ponies inside screaming for help.

As Platina ran inside to save them, I hurried over to the unconscious pair, my heart constricting at the sight of them. Their manes had been terribly singed, and their coats were charred as well. They were both breathing, but their faces were twisted into pained grimaces.

Platina hurried back out with three ponies on her back. She dropped them off next to the fountain just as more ponies arrived on the scene, their expressions curious and fearful, similar to when Nightmare Moon first arrived. They looked at the house, then to me, then two the ponies I was crouched over.

“What did she do?” one of them cried.

“Who is she?”

“Is she working for that evil pony?”

Angry mutterings buzzed into my ears. The collective face of the crowd became more and more hostile. I stepped away from the injured family and waved a placating hoof.

“No, it’s not like that! I was trying to help, honest!”

Platina stood in front of me, no doubt ready to fight them all off if she had to. But the mob quieted down as someone in the back gasped and pointed to the tops of the trees lining the town.

A soft pink glow rose up. The sky transitioned from black, to dark blue, to the teal of a new day. A beam of light broke through the trees, and just like that, the ponies of Ponyville gave a collective cheer. The long night was over.

She did it, I thought, dazed. She actually did it.

I didn’t get to enjoy the jubilation with everyone for very long. While a majority of the town emerged from their homes to welcome the dawn, the core mob that had first appeared after my magical outburst returned their attention to me. Several pushed past Platina and I to tend to the family. The rest eyed me with disdain.

Oddly enough, under their cold expressions, I felt back to normal. The fog and fatigue had dissipated completely, and my magic gave a happy thrum within my horn. My stomach, on the other hoof, gave a guilty lurch.

“Lady Sunset is not to blame for these events,” Platina said sternly. “She was only trying to help.”

“Look at what she did!” a stallion yelled. “She burned two ponies and set a house ablaze! Who was she helping?

Fire ponies had arrived on scene and were working to control the blaze. Smoke billowed out of the second story windows, ruining the otherwise picturesque dawn.

Ignoring the nauseating squirm my insides made, I stepped around Platina and faced the crowd. “I’m so sorry about what happened. I wasn’t trying to hurt anypony—I was trying to protect them. My magic acted up and—”

I was hurled back into the void of nothing. No warning, no dizzy spell, no fatigue. I was simply gone. Just like that day four years ago, I felt every molecule in my body at the same time, then felt them all come apart. I could do nothing but wait for the end to finally come and rid me of this suffering. I thought I was alone in the void, disintegrating with nobody to mourn me. But for a brief moment, I saw the back of a pony. Quick as a flash, but in the brief glimpse I got, I felt a magnitude of awe so powerful, it would have left me breathless if I could breathe.

My eyes snapped open, and I took in a heaving breath. I could feel the ground beneath me, and see Platina kneeling by my side, her face pale and eyes wet. I turned my stiff neck, looking at the crowd who stared back at me with varying levels of concern, though the stallion who had yelled at me raised an eyebrow.

“Is she okay?” he asked, like there was a possibility I was faking whatever had just happened.

“She’s faking it!” another shouted.

“Are you kidding? Look how pale she is!”

“Who is she?”

“Sunset,” Platina asked, running a hoof through my mane, “are you okay?”

As she spoke, another revitalizing surge hit me, coursing through my veins like electricity. My body had the strength to jump up and do cartwheels, maybe even put out the blaze behind me.

I, however, was drained in every sense of the word.

The fluctuations had finally taken their toll on me. Up and down, up and down, I couldn’t handle the inconsistency of it all. I gave a short shake of my head to Platina.

Then, I blacked out.