• Member Since 26th Mar, 2015
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Amber Spark

"Do it with love, do it with passion and never dream small!” - Author, Designer & Creator - Patreon/Ko-Fi



This story is a sequel to Bards of the Badlands

  Sunset hates dealing with chaos surges, no matter how amusing Moon Dancer finds them. After a particularly annoying surge while tutoring Moon Dancer in her advanced telekinetic studies, Sunset takes refuge in the teacher’s lounge. Though she was only looking for a cup of scalding hot tea, Sunset finds a pony walking down the same path she once walked, giving her an opportunity she’s never had before…
  To help somepony not out of guilt, but just because it’s the right thing to do.

Featured on Equestria Daily on September 19, 2016!

Historian’s Note: Set in a timeline where the Sonic Rainboom never happened, Bell Curve occurs in Sunset’s second year as an aide for Professor Apple Polish at Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns and several years before the events in The Application of Unified Harmony Magics.

Cast: Sunset Shimmer, Cheerilee, Moon Dancer & Professor Crystal Clear with Philomena as herself.

Stories set in the Wavelengths Timeline in chronological order:

Origins Arc
The Alchemy of Chemistry
Bards of the Badlands
Grading on a Bell Curve
Habits of the Equestrian Phoenix
How Not To Use Your Royal Prerogative

Applications Arc
The Application of Unified Harmony Magics
Princess Celestia: A Brief History
The Cloudsdale Report

Dreamers Arc
Tactics of Snowbound Unicorns
A Study in Chaos Theory
Teahouses of Saddle Arabia
As the Raven Flies

Cover Credits
Cover Design by Amber Spark using Pixelmator
Sunset Shimmer Vector by Midnight-St4r
Cheerilee Vector by J-Brony
Sunset Shimmer Cutie Mark by MillennialDan

Editor & Beta Reader Credits
Ebon Quill - Worldbuilding Writer on The Manehattan Project
Little Tinker - Sysadmin at Poniverse
Painted Heart

Special Thanks:
Orbiting Kettle - For some sorely-needed advice on getting something approaching a good synopsis for this tale!

Chapters (4)
Comments ( 104 )

Yay, another story from this AU :twilightsmile:

Yay, new sequel, er, prequel. I like this version of Sunset a lot, looking forward to more of her character growth.

Thatw as Twilight right she bumped into, and was this scene mentioned in the other story you wrote?

7485179 Don't worry, there's plenty more where this came from! :duck:
7485250 It makes me wonder just what happened between the events of EqG and Rainbow Rocks to the poor girl. Hopefully, you enjoy the exploration of a variant of that progression!

7486312 Do you know of any other Moon Dancer recolors? :raritywink: And I don't think Applications references any direct events in this particular story. If you're talking about the quote to the bouncer, that hasn't happened yet. :scootangel:

Something about seeing all this deserved poitivity come to Cheerilee is incredibly heartwarming :pinkiesmile:

7489773 If you've ever been lucky enough to experience this in life... it is a rare gift and one to be cherished forever. :twilightsmile:

Is this part of a universe of stories? (i.e., Lunaverse, Stallionsverse, ect.) No, I haven't read your other stories yet. This story sounds good though.

7492830 Thank you much! At this juncture, all I'm saying is this is in a timeline in which the Sonic Rainboom never occurred. :duck:

However, if you're asking if this is a timeline/universe that's already been established by other authors, the answer is nope! This particular timeline is wholly original (well, as original as a work derived off a television series based on cartoon pastel ponies can be...). :twilightblush:

I'm kind of sad that 'Grading on a Bell Curve' is over. However, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading the story as well. Keep up the good work.

7495904 Thank you kindly! But don't worry, we're just getting started. There's plenty more in this timeline for us to explore! (Probably too much for my own good. :twilightoops:)

From what I've read so far, this is shaping up to be really good. Your grammar is spot-on, your word choice sublime, and it really helps the story's overall tone stay consistent. Excellent work. :twilightsmile:

7506256 I think you may be one of the first people in my life to actually compliment me on mechanics, something I've often found to be one of my weakest areas. It tends to be what gets tweaked the most in my editing phase.

And I know for a fact that I have never been told my word choice was sublime.

So, thank you three times over (one for the comment as a whole, one for the mechanics and one for the sublime bit)! I do hope I continue to live up to these standards of quality! :twilightblush:

I think I like you, Novel. You have a way with writing. I'll be checking your future stuff. I think I enjoy how you handle comedy; not a heavy-handed reference that is supposed to cue in the 'Laught!' sign to the audience, but as something that has its own timing.

And yes, I know that this isn't a comedy. Doesn't stop it from having some comedic/humorous moments.

[I'll re-read this today and edit this comment to include more substance/criticism. Keep your finger on that F5!]

7516820 Originally, I had intended this to be a comedy, but I can't seem to pull off a true comedy. I guess I just end up writing a balance. That being said, Moon Dancer and Sunset's banter is just wonderful to write. I could probably write an entire story of nothing but dialogue between the two.

I'm thrilled you've enjoyed it and hope you enjoy what's coming in the future!

Cheerilee was getting emotional because she was reading this fic, wasn't she? Some sort of circularly paradoxical book about what she was doing right that minute.

7579828 Sunset-ception. :moustache:

Either that or "Stranger than Fiction." I loved that movie. :pinkiehappy:

I really like these stories that just are about slice-of-life - not too long and still they build the characters and the world.
My only complaint would be - and that is just biased opinion - that the intro in the first chapter was a bit too long.

Just keep up the good work ...

7611704 A legitimate concern. I may have overcompensated for the fact that I was turning back the clock by several years. I wanted to show Sunset's state of mind, which is fairly removed from the one we meet in Application, yet hasn't gone back to her old habits.

As always, thank you kindly for your words. :twilightsmile:

Hmm. I typcally intensely dislike Cheerilee as a character in writing. You somehow made it bearable for me, that doesn't happen too often, if ever. That alone means you've done an awesome job. Well done :3

7490757 I think that's why so many of us like these silly ponies. We wish real life could be more like this more often.

7507409 Well, he's right. I didn't realize it until I read his comment, but I've read two of your stories now and have not once had my train of thought come to a screeching, crashing halt as I try to decipher what the writer meant from context due to a grammar mistake or mischosen homophone.

That is really a miracle—for the Internet in general as much as for this particular piece of it! Not in the least because of the artificial errors so often introduced by misbegotten excuses for "helpful" software like Spellcheck and Applecorrect.

*grumbles something about predictive text algorithms being worth less than tea leaves in a cup*

You can has cookie nao.


7653203 I have a somewhat intense editing process that I use for all my stories. First, I put the story away for at least a week to "bake" allowing me to get some distance from it so I can see it more objectively. Then, I have my "story" beta-reader do a high-level pass (story structure, character, etc.), who catches a few things, then my "detail" beta reader does another high-level pass and then a deep dive where he literally goes Grammar Nazi on me. After reviewing their edits, I do a read-through myself and finally print two copies, one for my wife to read and the second I read aloud to myself. Finally, I'll get all those edits in and do spot-checks in various places. :twistnerd:

Even then, I still miss stuff. But I know just how immersion-breaking basic errors can be and I do my best to provide a seamless reading experience. The last thing I want is for someone to get knocked out of the world because I couldn't spell something right. :twilightsmile:

7652390 Thank you kindly! In fact, I haven't read a lot of Cheerilee stories that I've particularly liked myself. Those that I have read tend to focus on the "perky, always-cheerful" teacher side of her. Well, she's got a sarcastic and snarky side that's just underneath the surface. It's definitely there (just watch her expressions in "Hearts and Hooves Day!"). I'm glad you enjoyed this one, because she's actually one of the characters I had a bit of trouble handling. :twilightsheepish:

So... are any of your other stories necessary for reading this? Wanna know before I get into it. If I do... my reading list is long.

Moon Dancer I have trouble with. I identify with her too much... but no one ever went through any kind of effort to make amends to me. I never retreated into myself quite that much, either, partly due to my parents and what they taught me: I pushed on. Anyway, that's neither here nor there: I tend to mention that whenever Moon Dancer comes up. Onna my ways of moving along, as it were.

7654613 Chronologically, Bell Curve is actually before the events in Applications, History and Cloudsdale. While I'd recommend reading the last three in that particular order, Bell Curve is stand-alone, though set in the same timeline.

Moon Dancer always resonated with me on multiple levels. Namely, that the canon version she developed an abandonment complex so severe she pushed everypony away (a great deal like Starlight, only you know without the whole despot thing going on). I can understand the desire for someone to reach out... and not to get it.

Hence why I write fiction. I like to write the world as it should work. :twilightsmile:

7654655 I would say more how people should act. Or at least some of them. If everyone is excellent to each other (to quote Bill and Ted) all the time, then there's little in the way of conflict in a situation drama or comedy.

I tend to think if you think the world needs to be some other way, it's gotta start with you. I make a point of that at conventions sometimes when I do panels.

I have reconnected with some people, incidentally, but it was almost all me. They went to the bare minimum amount of effort, and would never do more. I'm doin' alright now, but I like to say these things to let others know they aren't alone.

Also, Twilight in that episode never realized what to me was blindingly obvious. There's only one way to make up for years of neglect... and that's years of non-neglect. Compared to that, big one-time gestures are insignificant. But in the tag? Her other friends, but while Twilight see her in the finale, she's never been name-checked again.

7654737 Ironically, I have thought about that. After all, conflict in indeed the heart of storytelling. Makes me wonder about stories in Heaven. Hm. Oh well. I'll figure that out later.

I do fully agree with you. One cannot control another's actions, only one's own. Sadly, friendship issues cannot always be solved in a half-hour or so. (Seriously, that was the greatest line in that entire episode, topping even Gummy's bit). In real life, sometimes folks just move on. They may not be folks you want to see move on... but it happens anyway. And sometimes... there is nothing you can do about it (Yeah, I've been on the receiving end and it hurt like mad).

But nevertheless, you push on forward and keep trying. Because in the end, that's all we can do. As for Twilight, we haven't seen her get together again with Moon Dancer, but Moon Dancer seemed pretty happy in the finale, to the point of fondly nudging Spike awake, so I'd like to think they got together plenty of times, just not on screen. And she did help Moon Dancer reconnect with her old friends, so there's something to be said for that.

Anyway, it's easier to write for a character who's only ever had one episode. :pinkiehappy:

7656476 True dat. I just worry the writers forget about her and that the resulting impression given to some viewers is that making amends is one-and-done, once you find the right one.

...Well enough on that. XP Probably comment like 6 months from now when I finally get to this point in my reading list.

Dang, this actually made me tear up a little.

7668580 Thank you. I tend to get emotionally wrapped up in stories (hell, I have a few of my own that make me cry). I always aim to get into the reader's head like this and it delights me beyond measure to know I succeeded. :twilightsmile:

Ah, impostor syndrome. I think we've all been there to one degree or another. This is definitely a good way to deal with it, to say nothing of showing how far Sunset has grown since that disastrous final.

Still, I can't help but wonder what happened in the main timeline. Cheerilee likely had the same doubts there as here, yet she still made it to that schoolhouse on the hill. How did she handle them with Sunset in another dimension?

7827746 I'm sorry, but you'll have to wait until the series finale to get true universe-to-universe comparisons! :trollestia:

This story was important for me to write. It helped me put a very important moment in my own life down onto paper in a way I hope others can use and learn from. I still suffer from this quite a bit in a lot of places. But most importantly, I think it's good to remember we're not alone.

“It is a long road,” Crystal Clear said, her warm smile never fading. “But it is a great deal easier if you do not walk it alone.”

You could say Sunset Shimmer has... a Long Road To Friendship.

...I'll see myself out. :trollestia:

7844722 Dammit, I could hear the YEAAAHHHH and Sunglasses from here. :facehoof:

with Phliomena as herself

Snerk. :rainbowlaugh:

It is a long road,” Crystal Clear said, her warm smile never fading. “But it is a great deal easier if you do not walk it alone.”

So you could say it's a long road...to friendship? :duck:

7934583; 7844722 Hey now! One joke per customer! :flutterrage:

7944078 7934583
I saw it first! It's mine! Get your dirty hooves off that joke! :raritydespair:

7944094 Dangit! I'd actually looked through the comments to see if there was another one about that. I guess I missed yours :facehoof:

Obviously I need to learn to be more obnoxious. It's a long road to making bad jokes.
No, it really isn't.

So... In the original timeline, with Sunset gone in EQG-land, Cheerilee never got over her self-doubts, gave up on ever amounting to anything, and slunk off to a podunk little earth-pony town, where she proceeded to become the no-effort, utterly useless tool that we know from the series?

That's a pretty radical character swerve, for her to go from the kind of assistant who'll put her schedule on hold to comfort a bullied foal, to the kind of apathetic teacher who'll ignore even the most flagrant bullying in the middle of her lessons (but Celestia help you, if someone else hoofs you a note!), and who determinedly shirks her oversight duties, even as the student paper's mud-slinging campaign becomes the talk of the entire town.

Comment posted by Code-Name99 deleted Feb 28th, 2017

I'm looking forward to seeing how Cheerilee, an earth pony, comes into play, considering our heroines attend the School for Gifted Pointy Horses, and there are no Flappy Horses or Regular Horses to be found.

Sometimes I wish Celestia would just do something about what I did. Punish me somehow… instead of making it feel like I always have a debt to repay. Instead, she just insisted I do what seems right to make up for my mistakes. But when you’ve made as many mistakes as me, it seems like an impossible task.

For a moment, she just stared at the spot and then back to the sofa. Then the sun emerged from behind a cloud. A beam of light shot through a window and struck the stain. In the light of the sun, the spot didn’t look nearly as bad. In fact, it barely seemed there at all. It was only when the light wasn’t striking it that the shadow seemed to deepen. That made the choice easy.

I think this is a misprint- this is just the same paragraph twice. :raritywink:

She had ‘just one more spelled’ her way to two in the morning before she finally collapsed from exhaustion.

Seriously, I empathize with Sunset on a spiritual level sometimes. There have been many of these nights. Sometimes I just don't go to sleep. Once I stayed awake for an entire week. I hate finals. :raritydespair:

Oh, it's Twilight! I was wondering when she'd show up, since we've met all four of her Canterlot friends. Glasses, though- that's an odd thing. I wonder how the lack of a Rainboom has affected her in the intervening years... I'm reading these chronologically, not according to the date they were written, so I guess I'm in the dark as to how things have turned out here. Everypony else in CSGU has clearly had some different stuff happen to them, Sunset and Moondancer most of all- but that doesn't mean much else is different in Equestria at large.

Come to think of it, I wonder if Cheerilee had some different experiences growing up thanks to the lack of a rainboom? I mean, Rarity and Applejack were her classmates, right? So if they're different- which I assume they must be, if they're not absent entirely from Ponyville- then maybe there's been a butterfly effect there.

...oh no, Pinkie Pie. :pinkiesad2:

Anyway, I'm kinda interested to see this story play out- not only for the actual resolution to Miss Cheerilee's problem, but also because it'll potentially shed light on why and how she became a teacher in her hometown in the original timeline as well. I've always been curious about that, even if I never stopped to ponder it in detail.

Oh my Celestia, that Sunset of Time callback. I love The Albinocorn's masterpiece as well, of course- being a Sunset Shimmer fan, and considering that that's pretty much considered to be the number one Sunset Shimmer fic. :raritystarry:

...I wish there were a Sunset emoticon. We've got the one-episode season-one ponies Twist and Photo Finish standing out like sore thumbs since 2012, and yet somehow nopony's decided to update the interface since before the Mayan Calendar Doomsday? :applejackunsure:

Anyway, this was a good chapter. Celestia nailed it with that scroll, too. I was surprised to see how quickly the conflict was resolved- but also, it struck a chord with me. Sometimes, solving a problem really is just as easy (or rather, just as hard) as asking for help from your professor, or your advisor, or your squad leader, or your Chaplain. The difficult part is getting that help. I often wish I had a friend who would drag me a la Sunset and Cheerilee to go get the help I need. It really is just as simple as making it known that you need help and you're struggling. I often find it hard to have faith in the intrinsic goodness of those around me. This quote in particular hit at the fiber of my very being:

“When I was a filly, I always worried my magic was… well, not good enough.” Sunset looked down at her hooves. “I had this voice in the back of my head telling me I was terrible, worthless and an utter waste of space. Why I had that voice in my head doesn’t matter. What matters was it was there. It hounded me, ate at me, made me doubt every second of every minute of every day. Every time somepony said how talented I was because of some new trick or spell, I never really believed them.”

Sunset failed to cite her sources here- namely, my unwritten autobiography. :applejackunsure:
I really have had issues with this crippling self-doubt for a long, long time. It'll probably never leave me. But somehow it makes me feel better to know that my favorite bacon-haired miniature horse also has the same problem. Stupid, I know. :trixieshiftleft:

Oh, in other things, I am genuinely excited to see a bit of Sunset-Celestia interaction in the coming chapter. Hopefully that pans out. :twilightsmile:

Aw, you got me with yet another story hook. I suppose you won't be satisfied until I read everything you've ever written AND play through your Fallout mod, huh?! :flutterrage:

...well, good, because I'm gonna comment on every chapter, dangit. :raritywink:

Anyway, this was a great story. Length was a bit odd, though. It was more than a one-shot, for sure, but still shorter than the other two preceding it, which threw me off a bit. I was hoping I'd get to see some of Sunset's lesson with the Princess, or at least the inside of that teahouse. But if my only complaint is that there wasn't enough of the story- a recurring theme which also appears in my critiques of 100k-plus-word epics- I think that's probably an endorsement of the highest degree. :twilightsheepish:

~ ~ ~

“You contacted the most powerful being in Equestria to help a pony in need without any thought to what you would gain from it, Sunset.” Crystal Clear beamed at her. “That’s called generosity. And that’s called kindness. "

This reminds me of something I noticed something a while back. In the Army, we have this set of principles called the Army Values. They've existed for a long time, 30-odd years if I'm not mistaken; and every Soldier is expected to live by them. Well, it just so happens that the Army Values line up almost exactly with the Elements of Harmony. There's seven Army Values, so there's an odd one out- but considering that Loyalty is both an Element of Harmony and an Army Value, it seems like a pretty solid match to me. I've figured out corresponding Elements/Values for several of them without a doubt, but the others I'm less sure of.

Loyalty, of course, corresponds with Loyalty, which the Army defines as "Bear[ing] true faith and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, the Army, your unit and other Soldiers." Honor, "Liv[ing] up to all the Army Values", is clearly Magic, which "makes it all complete". Honor is the "summary" of all the Army Values, just as Magic only appears when the other five are in play. I'm pretty sure that Generosity lines up with Selfless Service- "Put the welfare of the nation, the Army and your subordinates before your own"- since that's pretty much what applied Generosity seems to consist of. Honesty corresponds with the most oft-cited Army Value, Integrity, which is defined as "doing what's right, legally and morally". Simply saying the word "integrity" in a chiding manner is typically enough to prevent lies. Laughter was the most difficult one, but S1E2's song by Pinkie Pie illustrates that it's just a more friendship-oriented version of the Army Value of Personal Courage, which means "Fac[ing] fear, danger or adversity (physical or moral)." So that's five. And of the remaining two Army Values, Duty (Fulfill your obligations) and Respect (Treat people how they should be treated), the latter sounds pretty similar to Kindness, IMO; this leaves Duty as the odd one out.

So, in summary, the United States Army is the best at the magic of friendship, even if we probably would have tried a few less friendly methods of dealing with Nightmare Moon.

...I think I'll turn this into a blog post. Sorry for wasting your time with all that text. :twilightblush:

Philomena finally settled on Sunset’s back and nibbled at her ear affectionately. Sunset laughed a little, replying by way of scratching the bird under her fiery chin. The phoenix sang a little note in greeting then dropped the scroll she’d been holding. Sunset caught it in her magic and levitated it over to Professor Clear.

Does Habits of the Equestrian Phoenix come after this? Cause it appears to in the Author's Note, but they seem pretty chummy in this chapter, despite Sunset calling Philomena a pest at the start of said story.

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