• 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.

  • ...
16
 308
 5,550

9. Alicorns

Mother stared back at me, unblinking, unreadable. I could see my own steadfast eyes reflected in hers, abating and becoming more uncertain as the silence stretched on.

I looked away. “What?” I asked bitterly. “Do you not want that?”

“Nothing would make me happier, Sunset,” Mother said quietly. “But, there are so many unknowns to this plan. I told you: we don’t know if ascended alicorns are immortal. And to purposefully seek out ascension…”

“You’re saying it’s impossible.”

“I’m saying, we should tread carefully and not raise our hopes too high.” She stood from her seat and walked around the table to me. Running a hoof through my hair, she said, “I will do everything I can to help you, but I also have to be honest with you: I don’t know how possible this endeavor will be.”

Trying to sow the seeds of doubt before you even begin. How much help is she going to be, truly?

She’s trying to temper both our expectations! I shook my head to clear the thoughts away, but that had the unintentional side-effect of cueing Mom to stop brushing me. “I have to do this.”

“I know. What element are you going to use to try and ascend?”

“Magic.”

Mother raised her head to the ceiling. “Of course. My daughter, the Princess of Magic.”

Sunset Shimmer, Princess of Magic. It had a nice ring to it. Would becoming a princess make the rest of Equestria notice me? Alicornhood would protect me from a mortal death, but if ponies still forgot about me…

Mother gave me a gentle scritch behind the ear. “While you’re studying magic, perhaps we could work on your public image as well.”

“How?” I leaned into her hoof to make up for my accidental rebuke earlier.

“Hmm. I’ll have to give it some thought.” She knelt down, bringing herself eye level to me. “I cannot promise you this road will end with you becoming an alicorn, but know I will do everything in my power to keep you safe. I don't know where you came from, Sunset, but as far as I’m concerned, you are my flesh and blood.”

I fought off the sting of tears in my eyes and wrapped my hooves around her. “Thank you, Mom. I love you.”

“I love you, too, little sun.”

******

I got to work immediately, grabbing as many books from the library as I could carry in my magic. As much as I wanted to jump ahead, I figured a quick refresher on everything I had learned so far wouldn't hurt. After all, I need to understand every facet of magic.

I spent the following week mostly in my room. A fire stirred within my heart now, driving me forward. My life was dedicated to the arcane arts. Truth be told, it wasn’t too much of a shift—I was already very studious. Now, I just did it with a fervor—ceaseless. I supposed Mother had redoubled her efforts to keep me in her thoughts at all times, because I had not had a fainting spell since my birthday.

Six days into my studies found my room piled high with books and scrolls. Papers, quills and open ink bottles took up almost inch of my desk. Dusk settled, casting an orange glow across the tome laid out in front of me.

I turned a page, soaking in what Search Light had written about detection and security spells. I had been reading all day, like every day previous, stopping only to eat, sleep, and use the bathroom. I hadn’t found the spells that would remove those needs yet.

Mother brought most of my meals as part of her routine to check up on me. With the oncoming night, she would be here soon. Every time she visited, she asked me how I was doing, offered me words of encouragement. But, I always saw the smallest spark of hesitation in her eyes.

She’s scared. Understanding all the secrets of magic could make you more powerful than her.

I lifted my head from the tiny, cramped writing and closed my eyes, scoffing at my own ridiculous thoughts. Mother couldn’t be beaten. Nightmare Moon had only won because Mother planned it. And I wasn't in this for power; no, I just wanted to survive.

My eyes opened of their own accord, telling me they were finished resting. I resumed my reading, memorizing every word and taking careful notes. Some of the spells I had learned so far proved easy to cast, requiring more focus than raw magic. Still, several needed both, and raw magic was something I still lacked despite my returning strength.

That remained my biggest concern. If I knew and understood every spell but couldn't cast them, would that be enough to ascend? There were still so many questions about ascension that I needed answered, but Mother could only speculate. Maybe Cadence could help me?

Knock, knock, knock.

“Enter,” I said, my eyes still on the page.

The door opened with a soft creak and in stepped not my mother, but Luna. She had gained a few more inches since I last saw her, putting her a head taller than me. Her mane was longer and appeared to be turning a darker shade of blue. I couldn't fathom what was happening to her. It was like some sort of accelerated puberty. The wisdom in her eyes never changed though. Today, however, there was something else in them as well. Something haunted.

She walked in, carrying a silver tray in her magic. She found a clear spot on my nightstand to place it, then turned to face me.

“Good evening, Sunset Shimmer,” she said cordially. Her voice was a little deeper, sounding more regal than before. “I hope you are doing well.”

I gave her a searching look while trying not to glare. She was hesitant, just like Mother. “I’m doing okay. Very busy.”

“Yes, so I have heard.” She looked around at the books I had amassed. “You have covered an impressive wealth of knowledge in such a short span of time.”

“Thank you,” I said, perhaps a little too coldly.

My guilt quickly vanished when she gave me that examining look again. “I am not my sister,” she said abruptly. “I never learned the nuances of interacting with ponies, the way she can read them and guide them to answers they themselves did not know they were seeking. So, I will be blunt with you, Sunset. I know you are trying to become an alicorn.”

I decided to be blunt in return. “Yes. It’s the only way to ensure my survival.”

Luna flicked an ear. “I wish I could say that is not true, but…” She looked at my open book. “Sunset, I was not here when Cadence ascended, so I cannot pretend to know what this path entails.”

She looked back at me, the haunted look in her eye taking center stage. “But I know what it is like to chase after power.” She pressed a silver horseshoe to her chest. “I wanted to be remembered. I wanted to shine brighter than my sister. I grew envious and resentful and eventually, desperate. I heard whispers in the shadows, and I listened to them—allowed them to lead me into darkness.”

She took a deep breath. “The price I paid was not worth it, and no, I am not referring to just my banishment.” Tears slid down her cheeks. “I hurt my sister. My only family. I left her to fight and rule and mourn for a thousand years. I do not wish to see her hurt like that again, nor do I wish to see anything befall you.”

I had looked away when her tears fell. They felt private, and I felt rude for being in Luna’s presence while she let them fall. I also felt a little annoyed with her. The warning was appreciated, but I wasn’t doing this for power or to prove something. I wanted to survive. I had half a mind to scream this at her, to tell her that I wasn’t the petty, jealous brat she had been.

The cynical voice urged me on, but I resisted the temptation. It was out of order. “I appreciate you telling me this, Princess, really. But, I’m just doing this so ponies will remember me. And so that I… I never have to face what comes after death.”

Luna looked at me with pitying eyes. “Death comes for us all, Sunset. Even alicorns.”

I scoffed, my temper starting to rise. “You sound like Mother. I’m going to live forever, one way or another.”

The look of pity turned into an apprehensive gaze. “I merely urge you to be careful, Sunset. Whatever your reasons are for seeking power, darkness will tempt you to take more than you bargained for. If, for even a brief moment, you believe the dark is calling to you, I urge you to come find me. I can help.”

Stray thoughts gathered at the fringes of my mind. What exactly could she do even if dark ideas began to surface? Once again, irritation welled up. I wasn’t doing this for selfish gain. Unless self-preservation now counted as selfish.

I pushed it all down and brought a grateful smile to my lips. “Thank you, Princess Luna. I’ll be careful and keep your offer in mind.”

Luna wiped her tears away and smiled, a weight seemingly off her shoulders. “Thank you, Sunset, that is all I ask. Truly, I do hope you succeed. And know that you are now in my thoughts as well. I am not nearly as strong as my sister when it comes to our divine magic, but I am trying as well.”

That actually left me at a brief loss for words. “Th-thank you, Princess… Aunt Luna.”

She smiled again, then excused herself from my room.

Perhaps that was part of the reason why I felt so normal. With Celestia and Luna both Acknowledging my existence, I had a slightly stronger tether to the world. It was comforting, yet still served as a reminder of how fragile my existence was. Yes, the two immortal princess remembered me, but as Mom had shown before, I could slip her mind. And if Luna wasn’t as strong as Celestia, there was still a chance for the void to come back and claim me.

No, I needed not only to become immortal, but I needed the world to remember who I was. The more ponies who remembered me, the more anchors I had.

I ate my dinner and pressed on into my studies, reading and practicing spells until well past midnight. When my eyes strained to keep the words on the page clear, I knew it was time for a proper rest. An upside to studying so hard, I didn’t have existential nightmares anymore. My brain was too tired to conjure up those hellish scenarios, allowing me a dreamless sleep.

My alarm woke me up at eight. Groggy and bleary eyed, sleep tried to take me again as I slowly attempted to get out of bed. I rolled over and fell onto the floor, half-covered in my blanket. Not the best way to start a morning, but I had work to do.

A growl from my stomach reminded me I was still mortal and thus, still needed food.

Huh. Does Mom actually have to eat? Can she still starve, just not die from it?

A hoof knocked three times on my door. “Lady Sunset, Princess Celestia would like your attendance in the dining hall at your earliest convenience,” Platina said.

I untangled myself from the blankets. “Right, be down a few minutes.” Perhaps Mom got tired of bringing my meals up. I showered and ran a brush through my mane before exiting my chamber.

Platina and one of my other guards waited on the other side. It struck me that I hadn’t talked to Platina since the night of my breakdown. I rubbed my forelegs together, unsure of what to say to her. Actually, part of me wanted to hug her, but felt that would be unprofessional outside of life-and-death circumstances.

“It’s good to see you’re feeling better, My Lady.” I could hear the genuine relief beneath her professional stoicism.

“Thanks. Sorry if I made you worry. I just… well, I…”

She held a hoof up. “I don’t need an explanation. As long as you’re okay now, that’s all that matters. And if you need anything, know that I am always here for you.”

That deserved a hug. Platina’s armor made it uncomfortable, but I squeezed her as best a possible. She gave me a tender pat on the head before scooting me down the hall.

“Come now, I know you were up half the night studying. You’re probably starving.”

My stomach growled, eliciting a groan from me and a smirk from Platina.

Mom, Cadence, and, to my surprise, Luna were all seated at the dining table by the time I arrived. The usual lavish spread of food waited for me as well, though there appeared to be a little more than normal. Perhaps because there was an extra mouth to feed.

“Good morning, Sunset,” Mother said, piling my plate with pancakes and strawberries. “How are you feeling this morning?”

“Great, thank you.” I took my seat next to Cadence, opposite Mom and Luna. My plate landed in front of me, and I tore into it with as much ferocity as royal table manners would allow.

Mother took a break halfway through her plate and dabbed her mouth with a napkin. “I have a little announcement to make. To celebrate having our family whole and together, I have commissioned an artist to make a royal painting of us all.”

“Oooh,” Cadence said with a gasp. “I’ve never had a painting done of me!”

Luna look at Celestia curiously. “That sounds nice, but why have someone take one of those ‘pho-to-graphs’ you have been showing me?”

Mother chuckled. “Call me old fashioned, but the idea of a royal family portrait sounded better than just a photograph.”

“Wait…” I looked at her intently. “Does this mean we’re going to have to stand in one position for hours?”

“Yes, it does.”

Cadence and I groaned.

“It’ll help teach both of you the art of patience. True art takes time.”

“Sure, when you're the one making it,” I said, slumping in my chair. “We’re just standing there doing nothing.”

But, Mother would have no arguments. She kept her eyes on me all the while, almost like she was trying to tell me something. It hit me as I got up from the table. Having a picture of me hung up somewhere might help ponies remember me. It would at least help the castle staff, since they still forgot from time to time.

As breakfast concluded, Cadence and Luna went their separate ways, I followed after Mother, an idea in my head. “Mom?”

She looked at me as she walked. “Yes, little sun?”

“I was wondering… after the portrait… do you think we could make individual photos of me and put them around the city?”

She smiled and nodded. “I think that is a good direction to take.”

It was an optimistic one at least. I had a feeling it couldn't be that easy though. If ponies had a hard time seeing me, why would a picture be different? Yet, I couldn't help but feel that a constant sight of me, even just a fleeting glance, might help solidify my presence in ponies minds.

And ease them into the idea of their soon-to-be newest princess.

Author's Note:

It's not much. Just a little something to keep the ball rolling.