• Published 8th May 2021
  • 1,801 Views, 92 Comments

Birthrights and Love - The Albinocorn



Sunset Shimmer knows she's not normal. Normal people can't levitate objects or shoot energy from their hands. When strange creatures come looking for her, Sunset begins her path back to her true home and the birthright that awaits her.

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3. Sinister Sundown

Beep! Beep! Beep!

Sunset kept her ears covered as she watched her dad swat a shirt at the smoke alarm. Her mom heaved the window open, letting an autumn draft blow the smell of singed sheets into the hall.

The alarm finally stopped, allowing Sunset and her family to marvel in silence at the burned sheets and ring of ash around the bed. Sunset had a robe pulled tight around her tattered bra and underwear. Her body was still hot to the touch, and her heart continued to pound in her chest.

She had woken from her nightmare with a scream and a release of her power. It hadn’t been like previous times, warm and tingling. It had burned and forced its way out of her like a heat wave. She was grateful her bed was the only thing ruined. Bits of ash still floated through the air, landing on her desk and nightstand.

Her dad put a hand on her shoulder, recoiling slightly from the heat. “Are you sure you’re okay, sweetheart?”

“Yeah.” Sunset took a deep breath. “Yeah, I’m good. I just… don’t know what happened.” Her powers occasionally fluctuated with her emotions. But they had never done anything like this before. She approached her bed, thin wisps of smoke still curling off the sheets.

“Don’t worry, honey, we’ll just toss those out,” Velvet said, unease still lingering in her voice. “I’ll go get you some new ones.” She hurried downstairs, pulling Night with her.

Sunset stripped the sheets and tossed them to the side. She sat on the corner of her mattress and massaged her temple, feeling a headache come on.

“What happened?” Twilight asked, sitting next to her.

“I… don’t really know.” Sunset closed her eyes. “I was having a bad dream, I guess. I couldn’t see anything. But I could talk. But it wasn’t my voice speaking. Someone was… hurting me—torturing me. They wanted to know where I hid someone… a child.” The longer she lingered on it, the worse her headache became.

Twilight hummed in thought. “Normally, this would be ludicrous, but because it’s you, it’s in the realm of possibility.” She wrung her hands together. “You don’t think that dream might have been some sort of vision, do you? And—and this is completely crazy—but maybe the child being talked about is…”

“Me?”

Twilight nodded.

The idea had crossed Sunset’s mind, but she tried not to indulge it. Maybe this was some weird magicy stuff related to her. Or, maybe her powers were just on the fritz after a disturbing dream.

But the pain felt so real.

Either way, it was a question for morning Sunset to deal with. Late-night Sunset just wanted to go back to sleep before her headache evolved into anything worse. She and Twilight waited silently until Velvet returned with new linens.

“Here, sweetie. Do you need anything else? Are you feeling okay?”

“Yeah.” Sunset waved them out. “I’ll be fine. Pretty sure it was a one-time thing.” She saw the uncertainty in their eyes. “Really, I’m fine. I know how it looks, but I swear, I’m okay.” She flashed them a smile before focusing on making her bed, refusing to look up again until she heard the door close.

She lifted her hands from the sheets and stared at them. That question returned; the one that haunted the farthest corners of her mind, ever-present, despite how hard she tried to ignore it.

What am I? The dream had felt so real. Yes, she couldn’t see anything going on, but those voices sounded like real people. And she knew one of them; had heard her voice before in whispers and songs. It was faint, but the memory was there, an image in a shroud of fog.

But the other voice, the imposing darkness with a laugh that froze Sunset’s blood when she thought back on it. She had no idea who that was.

Sleep now, think later. She had just finished fixing her bed when a soft rap came from her door. Tightening her robe, Sunset crossed her room and pulled it open.

Her mom stood in the threshold, wringing her hands. “I just wanted to double-check on you.”

Sunset couldn’t help but smile. “I just have a headache. Other than that, I’m fine, I swear.”

Velvet gave a small, relieved sigh. “Good. I know this isn’t… you know, normal. But, there’s nothing wrong with you! We love you no matter what.”

“Mom, relax, please. I know.”

“Right. Okay. Just remember that. And that you can talk to us about anything.”

Sunset understood where Twilight got her defensive stance from. Her mom stood with her shoulders slightly hunched and her toes pointed inward.

As she turned to head back to her own bedroom, Sunset said, “You guys… never met my birth parents, right?”

Velvet turned around, eyes wide. “N-no. There was just the note left with you. Why?”

Sunset rubbed the back of her neck, still warm. “I dunno. I had a dream and I heard someone who sounded familiar. I just thought… maybe it was my birth mom.”

It was brief, but Sunset caught it. She didn’t catch what it was, but the loving, maternal look Velvet fixed her with had been replaced with something that looked like fear. Maybe even anger. It lasted a split second, and in a gentle voice, Velvet said, “Maybe she’s still looking over you.”

“Yeah. Maybe.” Sunset rubbed her eyes. “Sorry I scared you all. Good night.”

“Good night. Love you.”

“Love you too, Mom.” Sunset closed her door, tossed her robe off, and crawled back under the covers. Her eyes stared at the ceiling while her thoughts continued to spin.

Something felt different about her. She felt… connected. The warmth that rose through her whenever she used her powers felt stronger, flowing through her even when Sunset wasn't calling upon it.

This feeling had occurred before. It sprouted up once in a while—every other month or so. Enough for Sunset to remember that it had happened before, but not enough to see a pattern. Still, this was the first time the power had exploded out of her like that.

And that voice. Sunset had heard it in other dreams before. It had the same warmth her powers gave her, like it was pure sunshine that would sing to her and tell her she was loved. Sometimes, when Sunset felt her loneliest, she thought she could hear the heavenly voice telling her it would be all right.

After the night she found out she was adopted, Sunset felt lonely a lot.

She always felt a small gap between her and the rest of her family thanks to her abnormalities. The revelation gave her an explanation of why at least, though her parents couldn’t tell her any more than that they had found her on their doorstep one evening with a note that said her mother—her birth mother—loved her.

Sunset had spent many a night lying awake, wondering where she was from and who her birth parents were. The thought that they had abandoned her left her in tears one night and red with anger the next. If they loved her, why did they leave?

She closed her eyes and softened her breathing. She hated these introspective thoughts. They only wasted her time. What did it matter where she came from? If her parents hadn’t come back for her after all these years, clearly, she wasn’t wanted there.

But the voice that told her it loved her...it was too real for her to have made it up. It didn’t mean it was one of her parents, yet it gave Sunset the faint hope that she hadn’t been given up willingly.

That’s enough. Whatever the case is, you’ll probably never meet them. You already have a family.

Sunset tried to slow her thoughts and allow herself to drift off. Remnants of the dream pain prickled her soul, however, and she tossed and turned for several hours, finally finding rest as the sun began to rise. Even after she tumbled back into the dream world, she found little respite. She stumbled through dark forests and caves while monsters growled around her. Faces she didn’t recognize flickered in the darkness, all while mad laughter swirled through the air like terrible music.

It wasn’t until Twilight knocked on her door at one in the afternoon did Sunset rouse from her fitful sleep. She opened her door with a miserable, “What?”

Twilight took a small step back. “Umm, good afternoon.” She wrung her hands. “I was just… uh, coming to see if you were okay, and, uhh…”

“I look horrible, don’t I?”

Twilight pressed her lips together and nodded.

“Uuuugh.” Sunset stepped around her and trudged into the bathroom. Indeed, her hair was a wild mess, her eyes were puffy and red with bags under them, and she had scorch marks on her arms and shoulders. While a hot shower cleaned and woke her up, she didn’t feel any better.

She reheated leftover pizza for lunch and planted herself on the couch, Spike joining her. Normally, her mother would have admonished her for wasting a beautiful Saturday. Instead, she kissed Sunset on the forehead and left her to her devices.

Twilight wasn’t as kind.

“Oh no, you’re not going to spend another whole day just watching T.V.”

“Why not?” Sunset asked, having found herself upside down on the couch. It added an interesting perspective as she watched a group of teenagers try to survive alone on an island.

“Because today, you’re coming with me to spend time with my friends. We’re having a picnic in the park.”

“Thanks but no thanks.”

Twilight grabbed her arm and tried to pull Sunset up into a sitting position. Sunset didn’t fight back, seeing Twilight was struggling enough already. Her face turned red and she made a long, whining grunt as she heaved Sunset up.

“Geez,” she panted, “you’re heavy.”

Sunset scrunched her nose. “Did you just call me fat? I think you just called me fat.”

“You sit in front of the T.V. like a vegetable, maybe you are getting fat.” She poked Sunset’s side. “Now put your boots on. We’re going to be late.”

Sunset groaned loudly even as she got up. She could have easily ignored or overpowered any attempt her sister made to get her out of the house, but Twilight asserting herself in anything that wasn’t homework related was a rare sight. Sunset swore to complain often and loudly, but she’d comply with Twilight’s wishes today.

Boots and jacket on, Sunset followed Twilight out the door, wishing Spike goodbye. Twilight had made a simple salad for the picnic and made Sunset carry it, probably to help her make a good impression.

“Why am I doing this?” Sunset asked, mostly to herself.

“Because you need fresh air and healthy social interactions.”

“So weird, I could have sworn mom was at home.”

“You’re lucky you’re holding the salad.”

The park sat a few blocks past the school. It had a simple layout: a grass field, a little playground with swings and a jungle gym, and a gazebo covered in a halo of golden leaves, courtesy of its maple tree neighbor. Twilight’s friends gathered inside the gazebo space, their laughter audible from across the park. They all gave Twilight a warm welcome. Rarity and Pinkie extended it to Sunset while the others waved awkwardly.

“I’m just here for the food,” Sunset said, eyeing what the others had brought; a spread of pastries, chips, and a cooler of drinks.

“Well, it’s nice to have you all the same,” Rarity said.

“Totally!” Pinkie Pie bounced over, getting dangerously close to invading Sunset’s personal space. “You never wanna hang out with us! What’s the special occasion?” Her smile curled into a wily grin. “Did Twilight steal all your bras and blackmail you to come or else she wouldn’t give them back?”

Sunset gave her a flat look. “No. She didn’t.”

“Phew, that’s a relief! Limestone did that to me once, and let me tell ya, bouncing around without a bra on sucks!” She jumped a few times for emphasis.

I knew I didn’t like the pink one.

The girls steered the conversation into safer waters and started the trivial chatter and laughter she had expected to hear. She grabbed a soda and perched herself on the rail to stare out over the park. The autumn leaves blanketed the field like a multicolored quilt. She guessed this wasn’t so bad.

“So, uh, Sunset,” Applejack said, drumming her fingers on her hat.

Spoke too soon. “What?” she asked, keeping her eyes on the falling leaves.

“Well… how are you doin’?”

Sunset turned and narrowed her eyes. Did Twilight say something while she wasn’t paying attention? “What do you mean?”

Applejack made a defensive shrug. “Just, how are you? You know, how’s life and school and… stuff.”

Sunset softened her leer and took a sip of her soda. “It’s fine. Can’t complain.”

“That’s good.” Applejack tugged on her blonde ponytail. “Um, read any good books lately?”

“Have you?”

It was Applejack’s turn to narrow her eyes. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Sunset could have told her it meant she was a hillbilly who wouldn’t know good literature if it came up and beat her with a shotgun. But Twilight was watching. Plus, Sunset knew in spite of her thin frame, Applejack could run fast and kick hard. Sunset had confidence she could win a fight, but she didn’t want to test her luck. Instead, she settled on, “Have you read anything other than the farmer’s almanac?”

Applejack flared her nostrils, but Rainbow doubled over with laughter. Even Twilight had to fight to keep the smirk off her face.

“Ah was just tryin’ to be friendly,” Applejack said with a huff.

“And a gold star for trying,” Sunset said, giving her a thumbs up. She saw Twilight’s smirk dissolve into a glower. “Being serious though, I’ve been reading the newest Daring Do book.”

“Seriously?” Rainbow rushed over, pushing Applejack out the way. “I love Daring Do!”

“No kidding?”

Applejack dusted herself off. “Pretty much the only book Rainbow will get in spittin’ distance of.”

“Because it’s the only book worth reading! How far you? Did you love the opening? Daring fighting that temple guardian on a crumbling bridge over a volcano!” Rainbow squeed, pressing her cheeks together. “It was soooo awesome! And then when she tricked those guys in the marketplace with those antique vases? Oh oh, did you get to the part where Caballeron starts talking about Daring’s dad? Oh my gosh, I have so many theories now! I’m just glad it debunked the dumb idea that he was really Daring’s dad. Oh, but then at the part where—”

“Stop!” Sunset threw her hand out at Rainbow. A flash of gold light temporarily blinded Sunset, and when it faded, Rainbow had indeed stopped. She had an outline of gold around her, her mouth was open in mid-sentence, eyes still sparkling with excitement. Yet not an inch of her moved. Sunset lowered her trembling hand. “Oh, crap…”

The girls all held their mouths open, affirming to Sunset she wasn’t the only one who could see it. Fluttershy ran over to Rainbow, holding her hands out over the golden outline. She gave a fearful look to Sunset. “What… what did you do to her?”

“I don’t know!” Sunset got off the rail and poked her, feeling the warm magic run up her arm. Rainbow remained frozen.

“Don’t just poke her!” Applejack said, stomping her foot. “Ah don’t know what this is, but you need to fix it!”

“I… I…” Sunset looked to Twilight for help but only got a terrified look of uncertainty. “Right, yeah.” She threw both her hands out and closed her eyes. Move! Unfreeze! Go! She cracked an eye open. Rainbow still stared at her with fantastical wonder. Dammit all! Come on powers, work! Another flash left spots in her eyes.

“—Professor Gemini gives her that last piece of the map, and—oof! Fluttershy, what’s up?”

“Oh, thank goodness you’re okay!” Fluttershy said, tears running down her face and onto Rainbow’s shoulder.

Rainbow blinked. “Um, yeah? Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Because Sunset did some freaky-deeky glowy stuff on you, and you just froze!” Pinkie said with a mix of excitement and panic.

“She did? I don’t remember anything like that.”

Sunset didn’t stand around to hear how the conversation played out. She ran out of the park, fists clutched tight. Rarity called out to her, but Sunset kept running.

Way to lose control like that! Sunset strived to keep her powers in check, using them only in small bursts to push people around when they didn’t do what she said or got under her skin. Yes, Rainbow had been talking a mile a minute, but Sunset hadn’t meant to freeze her, especially in public with all those witnesses!

One student complaining that Sunset had knocked her over without touching her was one thing. How she hid another student’s backpack in the school basement that was locked at all times was another. Small individual things that no one could prove. Now, four girls had witnessed something completely unexplainable.

She slowed to an aggravated march and took deep breaths to refill her lungs. Maybe no one will believe them. I froze Rainbow. That’s a tough pill to swallow! Still, what if the school did believe them? What’s the worse they’ll do? The image of Sunset being tied to a stake and burned came to mind.

Speaking of school, Sunset finally took notice of her surroundings and saw she was across the street from Canterlot High. Her gaze was drawn to the marble statue at the front. Something in her heart stirred her toward the base; the odd mixture of nostalgia and longing. She crossed the street and approached it, looking at her reflection in the silver surface.

Please, they can’t prove I did anything. Not individually. But with this new display, students would begin to talk, converge ideas based on all of Sunset’s past performances. They would start to ask questions instead of just taking Sunset’s weirdness at face value. She paled. Maybe Twilight was right. Maybe I have been using these powers too much.

“Sunset?”

Sunset leaned around the marble base and raised her eyebrow. “Miss Inkwell?”

The principal stood on the other side of the base, looking just as surprised to see Sunset. Sunset hadn’t heard or seen her come down the stairs. It was like she had appeared from thin air.

Raven regained her composure and straightened her red tie. “I didn’t think you would want to spend your weekend at school.” She gave Sunset a playful smile.

Sunset half-heartedly returned it. “I just kinda… ended up here. Wasn’t on purpose.”

Raven frowned. “You seem upset. Would you like to talk about it?”

Sunset couldn’t help but roll her eyes. Every time Sunset ended up in her office, she always asked if Sunset wanted to talk about things. Sunset would say no, and Raven would remind her that she was always available to talk if Sunset wanted… then would ask Sunset not to pick on the other students, even if she had no proof it was her.

Looking into Raven’s orange eyes, Sunset’s automated response of, ‘no’ faltered. Raven’s expression reminded Sunset of her mother from last night; filled with parental concern.

She’s really trying to put ‘pal’ in principal. Sunset looked away and shrugged her shoulders. “It’s no big deal.” She hoped it wasn’t a big deal.

“Are you sure?”

Sunset huffed, touseling the tuft of hair that hung over her forehead. “I don’t know. And even if I did, I doubt you’d understand.”

Raven took a half-step forward. “You’d be surprised. I know you’re a little bit… different, Sunset.”

Sunset snapped her gaze back toward her and narrowed her eyes. “Is that your way of saying I’m a freak?”

“What?” Raven looked at her aghast, almost hurt. “I would never call you anything like that. In fact, you and I might have more in common than you think.”

“Doubtful.” Sunset softened her expression regardless. “But thanks for trying to be helpful and stuff.”

“Of course. I’m here if you ever need to talk.” Raven continued to look at her expectantly. It was almost… hopeful?

Sunset cocked her head to the side. She’s weird. “What are you doing here on a Saturday? Even Mr. Noteworthy isn’t this committed to his gig.”

Raven jumped. “Oh, er, I… left some paperwork in my office. I need to have it completed before Monday, so I came back to finish it up.”

The smile she gave Sunset this time was easy to read as forced. But, Raven hadn’t pressured her, so Sunset felt it was only fair she returned the gesture. Sunset gave her a peace sign. “Have fun with that.”

Raven’s smile became genuine. “I always do.” She turned and hurried up the steps.

Sunset shoved her hands in her pockets and kicked a stray pebble. She probably won’t be as friendly with me if those girls go blabbing.

“Sunset!” From down the road, Twilight came running. She slid to a stop in front of Sunset, dropping her hands to her knees. “Are you… okay?” she said between wheezes.

“I’ve been better.” Sunset crossed her arms. “Are you happy I came outside now?”

Twilight regained her breath and straightened up. “Just tell me what happened.”

“I don’t know what happened. Rainbow was talking too much, I wanted her to stop, so she did. I didn’t mean to make her freeze like that, it just happened.” Sunset turned her back to Twilight and looked at the setting sun. “What did you tell them?”

“Well, I told them it was probably just an accident. I didn’t know what else to say. That was a blatant use of your powers! What else could I say?”

Sunset clapped her hands together. “Well, I think I can safely say I burned all those bridges. Back to solitary confinement for me.”

Twilight arched an eyebrow. “Did you do that just so you wouldn’t have to make friends?”

“I don’t make friends because of instances like that!” Sunset turned around and threw an arm into the air. “I’d lose control of my powers as a kid and they’d call me a freak! So I tried to embrace it! And of course, the one time I go to one of your little friendship pow-wows, I lose control again! Now, they’ll blab to the rest of the school, and I’ll have to deal with the fallout from there. Let’s face it, I’m better off on my own.”

Twilight let out a heartfelt sigh. “Sunset, listen…” She cocked her head toward the marble statue.

Sunset followed her gaze. “What?”

“Umm…” She adjusted her glasses. “Nothing. I thought I saw… anyway, I know you’re life hasn’t been easy but—”

Sunset jumped and tackled her to the ground as something lunged out from inside the statue base. She and Twilight rolled across the concrete with Sunset landing on top. She pushed herself up, gesturing for Twilight to keep low. Turning her head, she threw a hand over her mouth to keep from screaming.

Its long black body turned toward her, glowing blue veins running down its six-pointed legs. Its face was an elongated snout, and it had three eyes on either side of its sharp nose. A tangled mat of blue fur rose off its back, and curling into the air over it was a long tail ending in four claws clenched together so they almost looked like a cage. A second of these nightmarish creatures crawled out of the base, the surface glowing and rippling like water as it exited.

Twilight let out a series of hyperventilated breaths. “S-S-Sunset! What are those things!” she squeaked.

“I don’t know. But I won’t let them touch you!” She raised her hands, teal static curling off her fingertips.

Both creatures looked at her. One of them opened its mouth, revealing two rows of jagged teeth. Its nose twitched and it let out a guttural growl before speaking in such a garbled and sludgy voice, it was nearly impossible to make out. “Grab them both! Bring them to empress!”

Their legs scuttling across the ground as they charged. Twilight screamed and covered her eyes. Sunset thrust a hand forward with a yell, surprised when an actual beam of light exploded from her palm. It struck one monster square in the head and sent it spiraling back near the statue. The other one moved around it and continued its charge. Sunset drew her arm back to thrust again, but the creature whipped out a long, salivating tongue and wrapped it around her wrist.

“Ew—whoa!” It yanked Sunset forward and tossed her up into the air. Its cage-like tail closed around her, its tight confines locking her arms and legs in place against her sides. “Let go! Let go, you freak!”

“Sunset!” Twilight screamed. The other beast was upon her, using its tongue to grab her and toss her up to its own tail. She squirmed and yelled but to no avail.

Let go of her!” Sunset bellowed. A white light gathered around her, and she felt the world twist violently. She tumbled through space and hit the ground yards away from where the creatures were standing, head spinning. She forced herself to her feet anyway and charged for the beasts, throwing her hand forward. What was normally a telekinetic push manifested itself into a raming shove. The creature that had tried to take her prisoner flew against the wall of the school and slid down.

The second beast bulged its cheeks and spat a wad of what looked like liquid darkness. She threw her arms up, watching the world in front of her take on a teal shade. The dark goo stopped right before her and slid down the bubble she had conjured. It dripped onto the ground into a puddle of black and purple ooze. Sunset lowered her hands, watching the teal wall fade, then continued her charge forward, fist reared back. The creature met her halfway, slamming its head forward. Both of them recoiled with Sunset falling to the ground.

The first beast flipped onto its legs again and scuttled toward Sunset with an eerie, burbling hiss. She quickly backpedaled over the grass, trying to get enough room to stand up. She heard Twilight scream, and her pounding heart twisted. Her pursuer reared over her, opening its mouth to unleash its tongue. Sunset raised her hand, not sure what she wanted, as long as it stopped the beast. Blistering magic shot up her arm and another beam of light, far stronger and brighter than the first, exploded from her hand and blasted through the monster, leaving a hole Sunset could see the school through. The monster let out a weak groan then collapsed to the ground and dissolved into a black mist.

Sunset didn’t watch the finer details, she sprang to her feet and tore back to the statue, where the other monster was exiting, Twilight still locked in its grasp.

Sunset! Sunset, help, please!”

“Hold on, Twilight!” She readied her magic but faltered. What if she hurt Twilight? One of the beast’s claws sank into the marble, and Sunset jumped onto its tail, using Twilight’s leg as leverage while she wrapped herself around the long stem. The monster roared in impatience and violently waved its tail around until it smacked Sunset against the corner of the base. The impact against her shoulder jarred her grip and she fell to the ground.

“Empress will be back for you,” the monster gurgled as it climbed through the marble.

Sunset!” Twilight cried, vanishing with it.

“No! Twilight!” She rolled to her knees and gripped her throbbing shoulder. It was just a bruise, she could fight through it! She got to her feet and charged toward the reflective surface of the statue base, seeing her own volcanic expression before she dove forward and melted into a world of prismatic colors.