• Published 14th Apr 2018
  • 5,550 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.

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5. The Summer Sun Celebration

As the darkness receded, I could hear music, muffled, but distinctly cheery and festive. With a tired groan, I opened my eyes to a wooden ceiling above me. My head laid against a plush pillow, and my body tucked beneath a warm blanket. Too warm, actually. The late morning summer sun, while blocked by the curtains drawn across the windows, still left the room toasty.

I threw the blankets off and rose to a sitting position. On the stand next to me was a tall glass of water, from which I drank deeply.

A small snort made me spit some of it out. I jerked my head toward the door, finding Platina standing by it, her head bowed. She made a light snore, then snorted again and jerked her head up. She blinked wearily at me, then broke into a wide smile.

“My Lady, you’re okay! We were all worried about you. How do you feel?”

I finished my water and smacked my lips, assessing my current state of being. Surprisingly enough, after everything I went through today—or rather, yesterday… the last twenty-four hours—I felt fine. A little groggy, but no worse for ware.

“I think I’m good,” I said, climbing out of bed. “How about you?” I could see the bandages under her armor.

She noticed my eyes and gave a wave of her hoof. “I’m fine. Just a few scratches and some burns…”

“Oh… sorry about that.”

“I’ve been hit with a lot worse,” she said proudly, though I could see a guilty glint in her eye. “But, come. If you’re feeling better, your mother wants to see you.”

My heart skipped. “She’s okay? Where is she? And what happened to Twilight? What happened to Nightmare Moon?”

Platina raised a hoof. “Easy there. Yes, the Princess is fine. So is Twilight Sparkle and her little friends. As for Nightmare Moon… I think it would be easier to just come see for yourself.”

That certainly piqued my curiosity. I followed her out the door, realizing we were in the inn from last night. I waved to the bartender, who gave a confused wave in return. Outside, the music was loud and jubilant. Lamp posts and trees were adorned streamers and ribbons. Confetti laid scattered all over the ground, and balloons wandered through the air. All around me, ponies were dancing and singing and laughing in the afternoon sun. I knew I had been out for hours, but the fact that the whole town had been decorated in my short absence blew me away.

Platina led me back to the center of town, where floral wreaths hung from balconies, and golden bells had been set up on the roof of town hall.

What, is someone getting married?

We moved through the sea of ponies, Platina using her size and status to part the crowd. Eventually, we made it through to the front steps, where I could see Twilight, Spike, her friends, and—

“Mom!”

She looked away from Twilight, and smiled her radiant smile, tears in the corners of her eyes. She looked absolutely perfect, like Nightmare Moon hadn’t touched one hair or feather on her.

I sprinted toward her and threw myself into her forelegs. “You’re okay!”

She bent her neck down and nuzzled me warmly. “Yes, my little sun. I’m fine. And so are you.”

“The princess has a daughter?” a scratchy voice asked.

“Rainbow, you met her earlier this morning. We were talking about her an hour ago,” Twilight said.

“We were? Pretty sure I’d remember something like that. Wait… no, it’s gone.”

Twilight made a frustrated groan.

I pulled myself out of my mother’s embrace and looked at Twilight and her colorful entourage, now sporting golden necklaces with gems resembling their cutie marks. Twilight herself wore a tiara.

“So…” I looked from her to my mother. “What happened to Nightmare Moon?”

They exchanged such a variety of odd looks that I had no idea what to make of the situation. I thought they were mostly happy, but there was a little trepidation in some of their eyes. Mother then prompted me to her other side, where sat a pony I had complete overlooked until now.

She was only a little bigger than me, with a blue coat and a light blue mane. A black splotch sat on her hindquarters, and her cutie mark was a bright crescent moon. She appeared to be making herself as small as possible, standing close to Celestia, and keeping her head bowed low.

“Hello,” she said softly.

“Sunset,” Mother said, putting a hoof on the mare’s back. “This is Princess Luna. My sister… and your aunt.” More tears fell from her eyes.

It was then I noticed the wings accompanying her horn. Another alicorn in the family. Something in my heart gave a rather violent twitch, but I stoutly ignored it, focusing my attention back onto my mother.

“You said… you said it was just a story.”

She nodded all sage-like. “I did. It was a story. It also happened to be a true story.”

My eyebrow climbed higher.

She at least had the decency to look a little abashed. “Forgive me, my little sunspot. For this to work, I had to… withhold some of the details. If I told Twilight the whole story, she would see this as just a mission from me and lose sight of the bigger picture. That’s why I told her to oversee the celebration and make some friends along the way—so that she could use the Elements to their full potential. And if I told you, you would have told her.”

I glanced at Twilight, whose face was beet red. I could concede some of the points Mother had made. Still, I couldn’t help but feel a little hurt at the secrecy. And the fact that she assumed Twilight was the only mare for the job.

Okay, so I probably couldn’t do it with the whole ‘ponies can’t focus on me for longer than ten seconds’ deal, but it would have been nice to be considered!

Mother placed a hoof under my chin, and raised my head to meet her eyes. “I am sorry, Sunset. Believe me, I understand the risks this brought. But, it was all to save my family.” Her wing extended and pulled Princess Luna in closer.

Luna gave me a nervous smile. “It is… nice to meet you.”

I think the word you’re looking for is ‘awkward.’ Still, I smiled as well. “Nice to meet you, too.”

“... Seriously, the princess has a daughter?

“Hush, Rainbow, you’re ruining the reunion!” the white unicorn said, dabbing her eyes with a tissue.

I looked back at Mother. “I don’t agree one-hundred percent with your plan. But, I’m glad you’re okay.”

She kissed me on the forehead. “And I, you.”

“So, what happens now?”

Celestia gestured to the rest of the town with her long leg. “We have much to celebrate, do we not? Let us enjoy ourselves out here a bit longer.” She looked at Luna. “Unless you would like to go home? How are you feeling?”

Luna shook her head and gave a weak smile. “No, that is a fine idea. I would like to enjoy the fresh air a little longer.”

Before Mother could smile approvingly, her eyes fell on the crowd in front of us. Pushing his way to the front, anger still flickering in his eyes, was the brown stallion from earlier. He stopped at the bottom of the stairs and gave a respectful bow.

“You’re Majesty,” he said, his voice tight. “I’m afraid I have a grievance with your… ‘daughter’.” He eyed me disdainfully.

Meanwhile, I was just shocked he still knew who I was. Ponies never came looking for me, especially after having met me only once.

“You remember me?”

“Of course I do!” he said heatedly. “Princess, thanks to this mare, one of my good friends and her daughter have severe burns! She set one of our houses on fire!”

I stomped a hoof against the floor. “I told you, it was an accident! I was trying to help!”

Mother moved up to my side. “Mr…”

“Stone Skipper, Your Majesty.”

“My dear Stone Skipper, you have my sincerest condolences for your friends. I will personally make sure any damages are covered. I only ask that you don’t turn your anger on Sunset. I am certain she was only trying to help.”

Stone Skipper set his mouth in a hard line. “Your generosity is appreciated, Your Majesty, but I feel there should be more reparations than just that! She could have killed somepony! For that matter, your so-called sister could have as well!” He thrusted a hoof at Luna.

Luna flinched and retreated behind Celestia. At that, Mother’s eyes narrowed dangerously.

“I respect your right to be upset, Mr. Stone Skipper,” she said, her voice light, yet infused with the strength of a thousand-year old monarch. “But I will not punish my daughter for an accident, especially when I know she only had the best of intentions. And my sister has already been punished enough. I will make sure your friends recover and the home is paid for.”

Stone Skipper flinched back under Mother’s withering gaze, but the fire in his eyes said he still wanted to protest. He must have decided the Princess’ offer wasn’t worth risking and instead, turned on his hooves, kicking up a cloud of dirt. As retreated back into the crowd, he gave me one last spiteful look.

And oddly enough, I felt… stronger.

Mother looked down at me, concerned. “Platina told me there had been an incident with Timberwolves.”

I heaved a sigh. “Yeah. I don’t know what happened. My magic kinda just exploded. I was trying to save them, honest.”

“Of course I believe you, sweetie.”

A few tense minutes passed before the celebrating spirit returned to us. Despite Stone Skipper’s attitude, Luna still wanted to see the rest of Ponyville.

I followed Mother around, watching her talk to the townsfolk and introduce her sister. For the pony who had been Nightmare Moon this morning, most took to her pretty well. Luna herself looked awkward in the presence of so many ponies, like it was taking all her strength not to flee. Whenever we moved from area to area and had less of a crowd, her shoulders relaxed.

Mother tried to show me off as well, my name and face drawing some recognition from the crowds. Otherwise, it was business as usual. I looked at Luna, receiving another floral necklace from a group of earth ponies.

One day home, and you’re already more popular than me. Must be nice. I brushed away the shadow of jealousy. She had been locked in the moon for star’s sake! She needed this.

The sun had begun its descent when we approached the chariot taking us home. While the crowd had thinned, a large number of ponies had still followed to bid farewell to their princesses.

As I neared our ride, I paused and looked back at the crowd. “Wait, where’s Twilight?”

Mother let out a dreamy sigh. “Twilight has decided to remain here so she can study the magic of friendship.”

My heart sank. “So… she’s not coming back to Canterlot?”

“Not right now, I’m afraid. This will be a good experience for her.” Celestia opened her mouth to say more, but hesitated again. “If you wanted to—”

“Sunset!”

I swung around, finding Twilight and all of her friends rushing toward me. Truth be told, I had never seen Twilight with as wide a smile outside of our lessons.

“I’m glad I caught you,” she said. “I would have felt terrible if I didn’t get to say goodbye.”

My heart rose a little. I could see it in her eyes. Twilight did consider me a friend. “I’m gonna miss you, Sparky. Who else is gonna keep up with me in class?”

“There’s plenty of smart students there. And I’m not too far away.” She held a foreleg out, and I jumped forward and pulled her into a hug. When I pulled away, my eyes were starting to sting. Something ponies never tell you about making friends: it’s hard to say goodbye to them.

Just as I turned back to the chariot, the ‘duh’ switch in my brain flipped on. “Twilight!” I said quickly, “I’m… having a birthday party tomorrow. I know it’s short notice but… maybe you could come? You could bring your new friends with you.”

Twilight beamed at me. “I would love to.”

Canterlot!” the white one, who I had recently learned was named Rarity, squealed. “We get to go to Canterlot for a royal birthday! Pinch me, I must be dreaming! Ow! Pinkie!”

“What? You said pinch you!”

Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.

Twilight caught my eye and patted me on the shoulder. “Don’t worry. They’ll grow on you really fast.”

We said our goodbyes, Mayor Mare apologizing profusely for the celebration despite my mother assuring her that it had gone better than anypony could have hoped. Then, we were up in the air, Ponyville growing smaller as we returned home with a new family member.

Luna looked much more relaxed now. A giant smile sat on her face as she stuck her head over the side, ogling the Unicorn Range below.

“Equestria! How I have missed you!” She beamed at Celestia. “It all looks so lush and alive and wonderful!”

Mother smiled. “It wasn’t always easy. But I had a reason to keep going.” She kissed Luna on the cheek.

I couldn’t help but smile too.

******

Cadence fretted over Mother and I upon our return. Her hugs were strong enough that several pops came from my spine. She hesitated a little upon her introduction to Luna, and gave her a warm hoofshake instead. From my current impression of Luna, I think it was for the best.

We told her of our exciting tale in Ponyville. She made a good audience of one, gasping in all the right places. When I asked her what she had done, she said she had been escorted to safety by the royal guard captain. She deliberately avoided making eye contact with me.

Celestia departed with Luna. I imagined they had a lot to talk about. That left Cadence and I alone in the dining room, with Platina hiding in one of the corners.

Cadence regarded me with a thoughtful expression. “Are you okay?”

I tilted my head. “Yeah. Why wouldn’t I be?”

“No reason,” she said quickly. She scuffed a hoof against the rug. “I just wanted to make sure you didn’t feel… left out or anything.”

“Left out?” The words clicked together in my brain. “Oh. Relax, Cadence, I’ll be fine. So I’m not an alicorn, big deal. Celestia still calls me her daughter—no pony can change that.”

Cadence smiled, and I could see a spark of relief in her eyes. “You’re absolutely right. You’ve got something no other pony can lay claim to. Still…” She looked at the door Mother and Luna had exited. “I’m curious to see how things will change.”

“Yeah. We just got an aunt who was locked in the moon for a millennium. Not something that happens every day.” I had also lost the pony closest to me in age and intellect. Given that Mother would end up diverting a lot of her time to making sure Luna was okay, and Luna’s hesitation around other ponies… this did not seem like an equivalent exchange. Maybe Cadence had a right to be worried about me.

The sun was still setting, but I bid Cadence a good night and headed for my tower. The marble halls glowed a vibrant orange that reminded me of my own coat. Narcissistic probably. I stopped in front of a set of large bay windows that overlooked the gardens. Stone statues and their long shadows stood guard in front of the hedge maze. The evening gardeners were making their last rounds, watering the ring of flowers surrounding a statue of Star Swirl the Bearded.

It all looked picturesque and serene, as it always did. At least some things never changed. Even while my whole world turned upside down. Tomorrow, I would turn nineteen, and nothing about me will have changed. I’ll still be in this castle, waiting for school to start again. Twilight gets to study in Ponyville, Cadence starts her official royal training, and Mother has her sister back.

I shouldn’t be complaining. Aside from my fainting spells, life has been mostly kind to me. I’m the Princess’ daughter! Even if ponies could barely remember that face.

But, watching the sun set beyond the horizon filled me with a melancholy I couldn't shake. I wanted to be happy for everypony moving on in their lives. My heart just wasn’t in it though.

“Platina,” I said softly.

She was by my side in an instant. “Yes, My lady?”

I continued to watch the sun. “You could have been a guard captain. Why did you turn it down?”

Platina turned her gaze to the sun as well. “Well… guard captain isn’t as glamorous as it sounds. Besides…” She smiled. “I found I had more important things to take care of.”

My heart made a small flutter. “Thanks, Platina.”

“Of course, Lady Sunset.”

She escorted me to my door, then bade me goodnight. My room was exactly how I left it; a brush on the vanity, and Predictions and Prophecies on my bed. Outside my window, the stars popped to life above, while the lights of the city flickered on below.

Even with my nap, I was worn and ready for bed. Besides, I had another party to attend to in the morning. I closed the curtains, but as I turned for bed, I swooned and stumbled. I braced myself against one of the bedposts while I waited for the dizziness to pass. It wasn’t as bad as any of my incidents yesterday. The void never tried to claim me.

Still, I growled in agitation when it dispersed. I wondered what a life without experiencing this was like. A life where ponies remembered your name, and I had more than one friend that wasn’t part of the castle staff.

I climbed into bed and got comfy before turning the lights off with a flick of my horn.

If I couldn’t live an ordinary life, I at least wish I knew why this happened to me.