• Published 8th Nov 2017
  • 2,444 Views, 144 Comments

My Little Planeswalker: Shattered Sunset - Zennistrad



When the portal to Equestria is destroyed, Sunset Shimmer's planeswalker spark awakens in a moment of despair. Upon arriving in a world where souls are transformed by nightfall, the very foundation of Sunset's identity is broken in two.

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Wrecking Ball

After the parasite escaped, I’d decided it wasn’t worth my time to try to track her down, assuming she’d even survived the fall. I couldn’t afford to let myself get distracted from my mission, or it would all come crashing down on me. Besides, even if she was somehow still alive, she was completely powerless in her current state. I had much larger and more immediate concerns than her.

As I’d expected, it didn’t take long for word to get out that Luna and Fluttershy had their souls stolen. Almost immediately after breakfast, Twilight received a letter from Celestia informing her of the news of Luna, and an additional letter was sent to her from Ponyville Hospital informing her of Fluttershy. I’m not sure exactly how Ponyville Hospital was able to send mail by dragonfire, but ultimately I figured that detail wasn’t important.

What was important was that I didn’t immediately blow my cover when Twilight decided to call me and the rest of her friends to an emergency meeting in the throne room. They all looked understandably agitated, and Rainbow in particular had an absolutely murderous look in her eyes, like she was just about ready to snap the neck of the first pony she even suspected to be responsible.

Well, that makes my decision easier. I’ll take her out next.

Of course, just because I’d mentally prepared to deal with the situation playing out before me didn’t make it easy. Especially since Twilight’s friends weren’t the only ones there. As soon as I stepped into the throne room, I was greeted with the sight of a pony that I hadn’t laid eyes on in years.

“Princess Celestia!” I gasped. I knew she’d probably be here, but nothing could have braced me for the experience of actually seeing her here.

Celestia’s ears drooped as she turned to look at me. Her normally regal appearance was marred by the redness in her eyes, no doubt made raw by her own crying. Despite this, she managed to give a weak smile. “I am happy to see that you’re well, Sunset Shimmer. I only wish we could have reunited under different circumstances.”

Heh. That statement was true in more ways than she thought. I tried to conceal my own amusement, managing to look glum enough to fit in with the somber mood. “So, is it true? Has Princess Luna’s soul really been taken?”

“I...” Celestia’s eyes went distant for a moment. “...I’m afraid so. Her body was found in her chambers this morning, and our medical staff confirmed that there was no evidence of consciousness in her brain activity. Yet her body still lives, preserved by something we could not identify. I recognized this to be a forbidden spell, used by the necromancers under King Sombra’s employ many centuries ago. It would preserve the body while stealing the soul, keeping the body alive enough to tether the soul to the realm of the living. From there, the captive soul’s magic could be drawn from to fuel the necromancer’s own power.”

My head leaned back in surprise. King Sombra? He’s the one who came up with this spell? From the way Twilight described him, he didn’t have the personality to come up with something half as diabolical. Then again, she didn’t exactly see him in his prime.

“And you’re saying whoever’s responsible for this did the same thing to Fluttershy?” Rainbow cut in.

“Based on her symptoms, it would appear so,” said Celestia. “Unfortunately, there is no way to detect a soul once it has been stolen this way. There are only three known ways to release a captured soul. The first and least likely is for the captor to release them willingly. The second is for the captor to project the souls outwards from their mindscape and take control of them, and then lose concentration enough for their control to be broken.“

Uh-oh. I think I knew where this was going, and don’t think I liked it. “And the third?” I said.

“The third is to kill the captor,” said Celestia.

That was exactly what I was afraid she’d say. It took all the willpower I could muster to suppress a shudder. Celestia claimed to care about me, sure, but I knew from experience that she wouldn’t hesitate to hurt me if she really believed it was the right thing to do. If she decided killing me was the best way to free her only family, there was no doubt in my mind that she’d do it.

While everyone else looked horrified by the suggestion of taking a life, Rainbow Dash didn’t seem perturbed by it at all. Her entire body was practically quivering in determined anger. “If that’s what it takes, then I’ll do it! If I ever find the one who did this, I’ll strangle them with my bare hooves!”

“But even if that were the right thing to do,” Rarity interjected, “how would we even find the one who did this? They could be anywhere, and there’s simply no way of us knowing.”

I was kind of shocked by Rarity’s reluctance to kill, given she’d apparently seen King Sombra’s life literally be shattered. The same thing happened to that Storm King loser, now that I mention it. Why is everyone acting like they’ve never seen someone die before? Does being turned into some kind of mineral and then broken to pieces not count?

“Actually, I think I might have an idea about that,” said Twilight. Her voice was firm, and her gaze fell directly upon me. Her eyes narrowed as she stepped forward, seeming to pierce right through my skin. “I couldn’t help but notice that you were the only pony present when Fluttershy was injured, and Discord supposedly disappeared. If you even are a pony, that is.”

Ack, no! Not here! I can’t lose my cover yet! I might be able to deal with Twilight on my own, I might even be able to handle Celestia on my own now that I had Luna’s power, but there’s no way I could deal with all of them at once! No, no, no!

Okay, no. Calm down, Sunset. Don’t jump to conclusions yet, you don’t know what will happen. I don’t know if my composure cracked enough for everyone else to see my anxiety, but I tried to get a grip as best I could. “I... Twilight, what are you talking about?”

“I think you know exactly what I’m talking about, Queen Chrysalis.

Queen Chry— Wait, she thinks I’m a changeling? Oh my God, that’s the funniest thing I’ve ever heard! She’s so blinded by her own magic of fwiendship nonsense that she doesn’t even suspect the real me could be responsible!

I was just about to burst out laughing. I couldn’t help it, it was just so comical to me. Thankfully, before I had the chance, Twilight struck me with a blast of magic from her horn, sending me flying backwards and sprawling onto the ground. Okay, maybe not exactly thankfully, since that freaking hurt. Still, you know what I mean.

As I picked myself back onto my hooves, Twilight’s mouth hung open. “Wha... buh... That was a trueform spell! If it didn’t work, that means— Oh, dear Celestia!”

“Uh, Twi?” said Applejack. “You do know Princess Celestia’s standing just over there, right?”

Celestia cleared her throat. The disapproving look on her face was enough to make Twilight flinch. “I understand you hold me in high regard, Twilight, but it doesn’t help my efforts to prove that I’m not a god for you to refer to me in such a manner. But more importantly, I believe you owe Sunset Shimmer an apology.”

“I... I...” It had taken for Twilight to catch up with her own emotions. She really did look absolutely devastated to see Celestia displeased with her. As much as I could understand the feeling, I couldn’t say I sympathized with her. She had no idea what it actually meant to be hurt by her. “I’m sorry Sunset,” she choked out. “I... I really thought...”

“It’s okay, Twilight,” I said. “Honestly, I’m just glad I’m okay. You really looked like you were going to kill me for a second there.”

The way I said it made it sound like it was just a joke, but I really did mean it. Twilight shrank backwards at my choice of words, already looking like she was on the verge of tears. Still, I didn’t want to seem too cruel, not after I’d just dodged a bullet like that.

“Hey, cheer up, Twilight,” I reassured. “I’m not mad at you for reacting the way you did. I understand you’re going through a lot right now with the loss of your friend.”

Twilight looked away, idly pawing at the ground with a hoof. “I just...” She let out a sigh. “I don’t know. This is just so much to take in. I guess I wanted to catch the bad guy so badly that I just went for the first explanation I could think of. I shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions like that.”

“It’s fine, Twilight,” I repeated. A hint of annoyance crept its way into my voice, though not enough that anyone else would notice.

“Well, no offense to Sunset, but how in the hay are we supposed to find the bad guy if it ain’t her?” said Applejack.

“Hey, I’ve got an idea,” said Spike. “Why don’t you try calling the Gatewatch? I’m sure they could handle it, no problem!””

Without even meaning to, I inhaled sharply. I’d seen the Gatewatch in Twilight’s memories, and I didn’t know if I ever wanted to deal with them. Jace in particular was someone I absolutely did not want to cross paths with: a mind-reader could find out my true motives with practically zero effort.

“I’ve considered that, Spike,” said Twilight. “But if the villain we’re dealing with is powerful enough to subdue Princess Luna, I don’t even know if they’d be strong enough to deal with the threat. Not to mention that if our enemy absorbed a planeswalker’s soul, they’d likely gain access to the spark. Then they’d not only be a threat to this plane, but others as well. I... I’d have to think about it some more. I just don’t know if it’s worth the risk.”

“Whether you choose to call the Gatewatch or not is your decision,” said Celestia. “But don’t forget that you are a planeswalker as well, which puts you at just as much a risk. Whatever choice you make, I advise you to take utmost caution.” Her eyes crossed the room, turning to look at each of us. “And that goes for the rest of you as well. You are all, directly or through association, connected to the Elements of Harmony. That makes each of you a likely target for our unknown enemy.”

The fear that swept through the room was almost palpable. I could hear Spike loudly gulping. I tried to mimic their trepidation, but honestly I was just relieved that the Gatewatch wasn’t going to be coming. By the time Twilight finished her considerations, I’d have already won.

Before I could speak further, a pegasus royal guard entered through a window that had been left open, and whispered something into her ear. A crease formed on her face as she frowned at the message. “I am sorry,” said Celestia, “but I must return to my duties for now. In the meantime, I pray that you will all remain safe.” I followed the guard’s path as he led Celestia out the window, where a flying chariot awaited them both. In short order, she and her guards had taken off and disappeared into the distance.

All things considered, that meeting had gone less badly for me than I had expected it to. And that meant I was free to continue working towards my goals.

————————

Sunset didn’t really know what she doing.

Oh, sure, she might have known what her goal was, but how to actually get there remained a mystery. Returning to the Twilight’s castle wasn’t an option, as her double was still waiting for her and would have easily stomped her into pieces. She couldn’t die, not before getting a chance to save her friends. Besides, the only entrance she could reach was the front doorway, which her tiny body couldn’t possibly open.

That left her to wander the streets of Ponyville, hoping to find something that would bring her an answer. Unfortunately, it also ended up with her being nearly crushed by passerby on at least ten different occasions. Sunset had tried to get their attention, tried to call to someone who could possibly help her, but her tiny voice was easily drowned out by the pattering of hooves and the chattering of ponies going about their daily business.

All of it built up to the slow, creeping realization that she was completely out of her depth. She was lost, desperate, and completely powerless. And yet, despite all of it, she refused to let herself give up hope. She would find a way to make things right.

If only she knew how to begin looking for it.

————————

Eventually, we’d all decided that it was better not to spend the rest of the day hanging out in the castle. Rarity seemed reluctant to leave the safety of her friends, but Applejack wanted to get back to her farm, and Pinkie said the Cakes needed her for something. Rainbow, meanwhile, was eager to go off and ‘find the bad guy.’ She didn’t know that I would be the one finding her.

I’d told Twilight that I needed to go for a walk to clear my head. When I left the castle, I tried to see if I could find any sign of Rainbow. Sure enough, the moment I stepped out the front door, I could see a multicolored streak of motion zipping around the skies above Ponyville. No doubt trying to cover as much of town as possible in the hopes of catching something suspicious. Following her when she was moving so fast was going to be a royal pain, so instead I opted to climb up onto the highest hill in the town. After a short trip, I was able to see all of Rainbow’s motions from my vantage point. I sat patiently on the grass and waited, looking for the first opportunity I could find.

Eventually, after what was probably nearly an hour, the blur came to a rest on a massive cumulus cloud near the outskirts of town. Far away from any witnesses, and if I knew Rainbow Dash I knew exactly what she was doing. Perfect.

Slowly, I made my way through the town, towards the western edge. The many houses and streets grew sparser apart as I trotted, until eventually I was led to a simple dirt road leading into a field. The only settlements as far as the eye could see were stretches of farmland. I continued following the path, until I located the cloud that I had set out for.

The sound of loud snoring made it clear that I’d reached my destination. There, collapsed onto her stomach, was Rainbow Dash. I figured she would have fallen asleep: while the Rainbow Dash I knew was a stellar athlete, outside the school’s track and field she was practically a narcoleptic. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her in a classroom where she didn’t fall asleep at some point. This Rainbow must have tired herself out from nearly an hour of nonstop flying.

Calling upon my magic, I held my own body in my telekinetic grip, and began levitating myself upwards. With both Luna and Fluttershy’s soul inside of me, I was also able to draw from their pegasus magic to mimic their cloudwalking ability. Strangely, I could feel Fluttershy squirm within me when I tried to syphon her power, but Luna put up almost no resistance whatsoever. Not that it would have mattered, but I thought she of all ponies would be the one trying to fight back from within. Just what is going on with her?

Putting that thought out of my mind for now, I lifted myself onto the cloud. Rainbow’s snores were so loud that my ears reflexively folded back at the noise. I steadily approached her, and then gently prodded her shoulders.

“Mmhhnnn... What?” Rainbow’s eyelids slowly crept open. When she realized it was me standing just before her, she nearly jumped out of her coat. “Gyah! Sunset Shimmer!”

“Glad to see you’re awake,” I said. “Have any luck finding our little soul snatcher?”

Rainbow’s eyes instantly hardened, as though only just reminded of what she was doing. “Not yet,” she said, “but you’d better believe I will! Why, did you find something?”

I could feel the corners of my mouth turning upwards. It was a smile, but it wasn’t a forced smile like most of the ones I’d given this week. “Oh, you could say that,” I remarked.

Then, to illustrate my point, I called upon the dark magic that had bound Fluttershy’s soul to me. A swirling cloud of darkness surrounded my horn, so terrible and powerful that Rainbow Dash immediately stepped back at the sight. Then, from the darkness, a translucent white wisp spiraled out. It pooled into the space next just between me and Rainbow, expanding and coalescing into a more coherent shape.

Rainbow’s eyes went wide, while her pupils dilated to the size of pin pricks. There, standing just in front of her, was the translucent image of Fluttershy.

Fluttershy’s spirit let out a gasp, as though she’d been holding her breath for an entire minute. Her head frantically darted around as she took in her new surroundings, before finally settling on Rainbow.

“Rainbow Dash! Oh, thank goodness you’re here! Please, you have to help me! I—”

My horn flared with dark energy once again. With a yelp of surprise, Fluttershy was sucked back into my own mindscape.

It had taken a moment for Rainbow to snap out of her slack-jawed stare, as though she was only just beginning to understand what she just saw. Slowly, her face began to shift, morphing into the perfect image of pure, unadulterated rage. Her teeth gritted, her wings flared, and her body became so tense that she was practically shaking.

YOU! It was you!

“That it was,” I taunted. “So what are you going to do about it?”

Rainbow responded exactly the way I’d expected her to, immediately charging forward with as much force as she could muster. Fortunately, I’d already prepared a teleport spell to move out of the way. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough, as Rainbow’s movement speed proved to be several orders of magnitude faster than my reaction speed. She tackled me with immense force, enough that it should have instantly shattered every single bone in my body. Somehow, though, I managed to remain intact, although winded. Drawing from Luna’s magic must have increased my body’s natural resilience.

As she tackled me, her hooves implanted themselves firmly on my stomach, carrying me along with her as she flew through the air. I’d expected her to carrying her momentum to kick me into the ground, but she didn’t seem to be even trying to hurt me further. Instead, she dragged me along with her as she flew, her constant push against me keeping gravity from pulling me down.

My stomach turned as Rainbow’s flight path abruptly curved upwards, then downwards, then upwards again. She was flying in a vertical ring, looping around faster and faster with each subsequent pass, until it felt like the g-force would rip my face right off my skull. I began to wonder what Rainbow was doing, but then I saw it. A disturbance, created by a difference in air pressure, forming around both of is. It was a mach cone.

Panic flooded into every part of my soul as the realization dawned on me. Rainbow Dash was planning to planning to slam me into the ground at supersonic speed.

The crushing pressure of the g-force made it nearly impossible to concentrate, but somehow I managed to focus long enough to channel my magic into a spell. It wasn’t a complex spell, in fact it could hardly even be called a spell at all. More like a sudden burst of magical power send out from my horn in all directions. It would be barely strong enough to even mildly stun a pony, yet it was enough for what I wanted to do.

The sudden burst of magic broke Rainbow’s focus, and with the speed she was going at, the consequences for her were dire. She veered wildly off of her flight path, causing her grip on me to falter. My momentum combined with the pull of gravity, and I was sent flying diagonally downwards, towards a massive corn field. No longer under immediate threat by Rainbow, I was able to apply my telekinesis to myself, slowing my fall enough for me to land gently on the field.

I stared up through the large corn stalks, and saw Rainbow quickly right her careening trajectory. She furiously beat her wings, slowly bringing her to a halt in midair. She briefly darted her head around, trying to see where I’d landed. When her eyes rested on me, she immediately charged down at me, intent on tackling me once.

This time, however, I was ready. I responded with a powerful concussive blast aimed straight at her head. To my lack of surprise, Rainbow didn’t even bother trying to dodge, instead attempting to meet the beam of offensive magic head-on.

What was surprising, though, was that it actually seemed to work. Stretching her front legs out, she collided hooves-first with the end of the beam, somehow managing to push herself against it, pushing the beam back and becoming every closer to me. It quickly developed into something akin to a tug-of-war match, as both my spell and her body attempted to push back against each other.

It almost looked like our contest would be a stalemate, until I decided to draw from Luna’s magic once again. Not a whole lot of it—I didn’t want to vaporize Rainbow—but enough to nearly double my concussive blast’s power. The added force immediately broke through Rainbow’s assault, sending her flying upwards from the force of impact. A beat of her wings brought her to a halt once more, just below a large cumulus cloud. She shook her head, attempting to shake off the sudden disorientation from the blast.

A second beam of magic shot forth from my horn at my command. Rainbow flinched as the spell zoomed towards her, only for it to miss her by several feet. A prideful smirk appeared on her face.

“Hah! Missed me!”

“Oh?” I said. “Did I?”

A loud, violent rumbling came from above. Rainbow froze, save for the wings on her back keeping her hovering in place. Her neck slowly craned around, towards the source of the noise. The cumulus cloud that had hovered above her, struck by my magic, had transformed into a massive black cumulonimbus, filled with so much electrical charge that sparks were already crawling across its surface.

There was ear-splitting roar of thunder, paired with a flash of light. Then, a shriek of excruciating pain. An intense bolt of lightning struck Rainbow Dash in the dead-center of her back, right between the wings. With its charge expended, the storm cloud reverted to a normal cumulus, leaving Rainbow’s singed body to plummet to the earth. There was loud whump as she fell onto the cornfield, smashing several corn stalks and kicking up a small cloud of dust.

When the dust cleared, I approached Rainbow Dash to see her lying curled-up on the ground. Her injuries were fairly minor—pegasi were extremely resistant to lightning—but her wings were charred enough that she likely wouldn’t be able to fly with them for at least a few days. Her eyes pried open as she slowly staggered to her hooves, legs wobbling as she barely managed to hold herself upright. My eyes narrowed as I approached her, baring my teeth as I smiled.

“Aww, good try,” I said. “But not good enough, I’m afraid. You’re just a sniveling little weakling who thought she could play the hero. Now why don’t you be a nice little pony and hold still?”

My horn once again pulsed with dark magic, and Rainbow Dash let out a feeble cry of protest as her soul was sucked out of her body. I could feel the panic and fear in her as she dropped into my mindscape, her constant thrashing sending little bursts of pleasurable sensations down my spine.

And then, once again, I was struck by a sudden and powerful headache. I tried to fight back, tried to resist the sudden flood of memories, but they all came pouring into me nonetheless.

————————

GAH! Stupid bottomless pits!”

Rainbow Dash’s shout of frustration was so intense that it nearly burst Sunset’s eardrums. She’d been invited for a sleepover that Friday, which she figured was one of the best chances she’d have to get to know one of her new friends. That, and try to do with any bad blood that might have remained between them. Rainbow had stayed up well past midnight, sitting down in the living room and playing with one of the bizarre video games that Sunset had heard so many other students talk about. While Equestria did have arcade cabinets of its own, Anthropia’s video games were so much more advanced that it was hard to believe they were the same thing. The graphics were so detailed that during certain parts (’cutscenes,’ Rainbow called them) she could see every hair on the characters’ bodies. It truly boggled the mind that such images could be created without the use of magic.

“I don’t think you’re supposed to be boosting all the time, Rainbow,” Sunset chimed in.

Rainbow rolled her eyes. “Yeah, sure. That’s always the excuse Modern-Era apologists give. If they didn’t want you to boost as much as possible they wouldn’t make it so easy to fill the boost gauge. You used to have work for speed, but now you just zoom forward at the press of a button! Where’s the reward in that?”

Sunset raised an eyebrow. “Didn’t you say the series is more than twenty years old? You don’t seem like you’re old enough to remember these supposed glory days.”

“Doesn’t matter,” said Rainbow, “it still sucks!”

Sunset shook her head. “I guess I just don’t understand why you even bother with this game if you hate it so much.”

“Whoa, what!?” Rainbow paused the game as she interjected. “Who told you I hate the game? That’s ridiculous! I’m like, the series’s biggest fan!”

“Could’ve fooled me,” said Sunset. “All you ever do is complain about it.”

“Well yeah, but that doesn’t mean I don’t actually like the games,” Rainbow responded. “I’m pretty much contractually obligated to complain about every new entry. That’s how being a fan works!”

“That makes absolutely no sense.”

“You just don’t understand ‘cause you’re not a fan,” Rainbow shot back. She hesitated for a moment, a thoughtful look crossing her face. “Although... this game does have a multiplayer mode. You wanna try?”

Sunset gave a noncommittal shrug. “Sure, why not.”

Rainbow handed her the second controller. It had taken a bit of coaching on Rainbow’s part for Sunset to figure out how to hold it, but in short order she found herself gripping it comfortably. Rainbow reset the game, and before Sunset knew it they were both zooming around with their own characters in a split-screen match. It was a lot like racing, only it involved a lot more fighting than any races that Sunset had seen in the real world. Before she knew it, a large grin had broken out on her face.

“Hey,” said Sunset, “this is actually pretty fun.”

“Told you!” Rainbow boasted. “Now that you know how great the series is, why don’t you come with me to the official fan convention this summer? I hear Smash 180 is going to be playing live! It’ll be so awesome!

Sunset leaned back and held up a hand. “Whoa, there. Let’s not get too carried away.”

————————

I blinked as the memory finished playing before my perceptions, once again finding myself standing in the cornfield. The sickness I felt after each previous memory returned, my stomach feeling like it was doing backflips within my abdominal cavity.

I... I don’t understand. I thought getting rid of the parasite would get rid of these flashbacks, but it still happened. If anything, it felt more real than ever before. Just what is happening to me?

No. No, focus. I can’t let this get in the way. I have to keep going. I can’t let doubt hold me back. I am rage given form, I am vengeance personified. There is nothing in the world that can make me second-guess myself.

...Right?

I breathed in hard through my nostrils, and exhaled sharply from my mouth. I needed a clear head. I need to think about what I’m going to do next. I’m on the western edge of Ponyville, which means that Sweet Apple Acres should be just to the south of here.

And that meant I knew exactly whose soul I was getting next.

————————

Rainbow Dash’s Defeat 1R{w/b}

Instant

Rainbow Dash’s Defeat deals 3 damage to target creature or player and you gain 3 life. If a creature named Rainbow Dash, Wonderbolt is dealt damage this way, its controller loses 3 life.

“Live for the ‘Bolts, die by the bolt. Or something like that.”
— Sunset the Exiled

————————

Sweet Apple Acres was a very large farm, much larger than I’d expected it to be. While the orchard took up the vast majority of land, there were also strips of land dedicated to secondary crops, such as wheat and corn, as well as a pasture for cows to graze. I had to wonder how that arrangement worked. Were the cows given a place to live in exchange for milk, or did they have to pay rent?

Either way, locating Applejack wasn’t especially hard. It took a fair bit of wandering about, but I eventually found her tending to some of the trees, carrying a pair of saddlebags. Harvest season wasn’t quite here yet, so she mostly did work inspecting the apple trees and making sure they were healthy. Any trees that seemed weaker or injured she would gently place a hoof on, and its colors would very subtly become brighter. If I squinted I could almost see them growing in response to her touch. It was actually kind of impressive: I’d known earth ponies had some kind of magic connecting them to the land, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen it in use.

As I approached, Applejack’s ears swiveled, alerting her to my presence. She turned around and gave me a friendly nod.

“Howdy, Sunset. What can Ah do for you?”

“Oh, it’s nothing,” I said. “I was just thinking about stopping by, stealing your soul, maybe having you show me around the farm for a bit. I don’t think I got to look at much of it last time I was here.”

“Why, Ah’d be happy to!” said Applejack. “There’s lots to see around— Wait, what did you say?”

I love it when they have that moment of dawning comprehension. It never gets old. A grin broke out across my muzzle, and judging by Applejack’s astonished stare it must have looked truly vicious.

“Sunset, just what in tarnation are you trying to do? Is this some sort of sick joke? Because if it is, it ain’t funny!”

“There’s no joke here, you silly pony,” I said. “I’m going to take your soul. And I’ll tell you right now that resisting me won’t work out for you. So why don’t you be a good little mud pony and cooperate, hmm?”

For a moment, Applejack looked like she had been slapped across the face. That moment ended quickly, and her eyes narrowed, anger burning beneath them so intensely that it looked like she could kill me with a glance. Calling an earth pony a ‘mud pony’ was a big no-no, especially in this day and age.

“Ah should have known it was you,” said Applejack. Her voice was quiet, yet the words were harder than diamond and sharp enough to pierce a dragon’s hide. “Twilight was right about you the whole time.”

A short laugh escaped my throat. “Ha! Twilight? Seriously? Do you honestly think she has any idea what’s going on here? None of you even have any idea who I am.”

“Ah don’t rightly care who you think you are,” Applejack countered. “You stole mah friends’ souls, and Ah’m taking you down here and now.”

I’d almost started to laugh again. What was she going to do? Then I got my answer. Applejack swiftly turned and bucked the tree she was just inspecting. A rain of apples, still not yet ripe for harvest, began falling down. What happened next was almost too ridiculous to believe.

As the apples fell, Applejack spun around, and somehow manage to buck dozens of them in a row with perfect precision, her legs moving so fast that they were practically a blur. The result was me being pelted with a stream of rapid-fire projectiles, almost like a machine gun that had been loaded with apples instead of bullets. And since none of the apples were ripe, each of them was nearly as hard as a rock.

When the assault finished, I was left barely able to stand, my face bruised and bloodied, and my head spinning so fast I could barely see in front of me. I was genuinely surprised that I still had all of my teeth. In fact, I was surprised that my horn hadn’t broken off from the force of impact. If the souls inside of me hadn’t increased my resilience, that might have been a different story.

Just as I finally got my bearings, Applejack reached into her saddlebag and pulled out a lasso. Holding the end of it in her mouth, she rapidly twirled it around, before throwing it at me. The loop went around my body before landing. Applejack gave the lasso a short tug, and the loop tightened around my legs, sending me crashing onto my side.

I let out a short cough as I stared back up at Applejack, my legs still bound by her rope. “Oh, come on! Do you honestly think hog-tying me is going to—whoa!

Applejack tugged at the lasso mightily, sending me flying into the air. Still tied by the loop around my legs, I was slammed against the ground with incredible force, giving me a mouthful of dirt. Applejack repeated this process, lifting me up in the air and bashing me against the ground with each subsequent tug of the lasso. After several iterations, I’d lost count of them completely. I couldn’t even begin to focus on casting a spell through the pain.

Finally, after what felt like forever, the assault let up. I was lying on the ground in a disheveled, crumpled heap, pain wracking every single part of my body. I couldn’t tell if any of my bones were broken, but it definitely felt like I’d broken something. Applejack approached me, glaring down at me fiercely.

“Here’s what’s going to happen, Sunset. You’re going to release mah friends’ souls. Then you’re going to apologize for all the things you did.”

Despite my desperate situation, I looked back defiantly, lips twisting into a sneer. “Oh, really? And just what are you going to do if I don’t? Kill me?”

“No,” said Applejack. “But Ah can make things a whole lot worse for you than they are right now. So I’ll tell you again: release mah friend’s souls. You don’t wanna know what’ll happen to you if you don’t.”

It was then that I realized something. Applejack had let go of her lasso when she approached me. Though her strength was overwhelming, she’d allowed herself to get sloppy in her anger. My eyes darted around as I looked for an opportunity to retaliate. There, on a tree not too far from me, was my answer. A very large hornet’s nest, hanging from one of the branches.

For a moment, my horn glowed. Applejack noticed this immediately, and then stomped her hoof against it, interrupting the spell. The impact sent a sharp spike of pain into my skull, but thankfully my horn didn’t break from the attack.

“Nuh-uh,” said Applejack, “don’t you even think about trying your fancy magic. Now, Ah’ll say it again. Release. Their. Souls.”

“You’re not in a position to be making demands of me,” I said back. My lips curved upwards into a smirk. “Especially since I don’t need a fancy spell to deal with you. All I need is a single nudge of telekinesis.”

“Telekinesis? What the hay are you talking about?”

As if to answer her question, a sharp chorus of buzzing sounds came from behind Applejack. Her head swiveled to see a hornet’s nest laying broken on the ground, and its very large and very angry inhabitants swarming together into a cloud. Her body seized up in sudden, comprehending fear. With the hornets’ nest destroyed, they would immediately attack the closest living thing, believing it to be responsible. Unfortunately for Applejack, that happened to be her.

The swarm of insects closed in towards the two of us, and I quickly surrounded myself in a shield spell to protect myself, in case the hornets decided I might also be a viable target. Protected from the cloud, I watched as the hornets surrounded Applejack, repeatedly assaulting her with sharp painful stings. Applejack let out a yell of pain, desperately flailing about in the hopes of shaking the hornets off of her, but no matter what she did they wouldn’t relent.

Eventually, the cloud of hornets finally calmed down, flying off into the distance to find somewhere to build a new nest. Applejack was left lying on the ground, groaning in pain, her entire body covered in large, reddened welts. I managed to untie myself, and slowly stood myself up to my hooves and approached her. Her body shivered as she looked up at me, barely able to open her eyes through the swelling.

“Wow,” I said. “That’s the second time today one of you fell for the misdirection trick. I guess I overestimated your intelligence. Now, hold still.”

Dark magic pulsed into my horn. Applejack didn’t even let out a protest as her soul was sucked out, as her body was far too weak to even speak. As her soul spiraled into my horn, the injuries on her body rapidly healed, the spell working its magic to ensure it would be kept alive.

Afterward, I felt yet another pleasant tingle from Applejack’s panicked soul struggling within me. I felt rejuvenated, and I quickly realized that all of the injuries I’d sustained in my fight with Applejack had been healed by the spell as well. I felt like there was nothing in the world that could possibly hurt me.

At least, until the headache came back, and the memories returned.

————————

On some level, Sunset had a very rough idea of what to expect when going out to get to know her new friends. Even Pinkie Pie she could expect to see something completely unexpected. But with Applejack, Sunset didn’t even expect what not to expect. Sure, she lived on a farm to the southwest of Canterlot City, but that was about it. Having lived her entire life in both worlds as a city-dweller, Sunset had no idea what a farm life was like.

So when Sunset arrived at a fenced pasture and saw Applejack riding the largest, ugliest pony she’d ever seen, she very nearly jumped out of her skin in fright. It didn’t even really look like a pony, aside from vague similarities. It was some giant, brown, pony-shaped thing, with beady little eyes and a grotesquely elongated muzzle.

Yaiiee!” Sunset shrieked. “W-what is that thing!?”

The not-pony let out a startled whinny, jostling slightly until Applejack placed a hand on its withers. “Whoa, easy girl! It’s okay, she won’t hurt you.” As the equinoid thing calmed down, Applejack shot Sunset a baffled stare. “Just what in the heck is up with you? Surely you of all people would’ve seen a horse before?”

“I...” Sunset opened her mouth, then closed it again. “That’s a horse? No, no way. That can’t be right. Horses are supposed to be smaller than that. And way less ugly.”

“So you’re saying the horses in your world are different?” said Applejack.

“Way different,” said Sunset. “They’re like ponies, but larger. You see them mostly in Saddle Arabia. That... that thing you’re riding isn’t a horse. I don’t know what it is, but it’s really, really disturbing to look at.”

Applejack shrugged her shoulders, not letting go of the reins on the so-called horse’s muzzle. “Must be some uncanny valley thing. And now that Ah think about it, seeing a horse as livestock must be mighty disturbing from your perspective.”

“Right,” said Sunset. “Kind of like how you’d feel if I had a pet human. And it couldn’t talk.”

Applejack cringed. “Yeesh. You’re right, Ah don’t think Ah’d like the looks of that.” She relaxed for a moment, a warm smile appearing on her face. “But enough about horses. Just what brings you over yonder?”

“I...” Sunset looked down, rubbing her arm with a hand. “I... I don’t know, really. I feel like I should spend some time getting to know you better. And maybe offer you an apology for the things I did.”

“Well shucks, Sunset,” said Applejack. “Ah’m flattered you came to visit, but you really don’t need to apologize again. You’ve come a long way from where you were before the Formal. Ain’t no need to dwell on the past.”

Sunset let out a sigh. “I know. But no matter what I do, I can’t get rid of this feeling that my past won’t let me escape. Like some part of it’s still inside me, just waiting for a chance to come back. I know it’s ridiculous, but I just can’t help it.”

“Hmm,” said Applejack. “Well, Ah don’t rightly know what to say to you about that, but Ah reckon maybe finding something to keep you occupied will help keep your mind off it. There ain’t a whole lot to do here on the farm that ain’t working, though. Unless you like horseback riding, but Ah’m not so sure you’d be up for that.”

Sunset blinked. Horseback riding? It definitely sounded crazy. She didn’t like the idea of riding a non-sapient creature that only barely looked like the horses she knew about. And yet...

“You know what?” said Sunset. “Sure. I’m in.”

Applejack raised an eyebrow. “Really? You certain about that?”

“I came here to see if there was some way I could connect with you,” said Sunset. “If riding on a horse’s back is what it takes, I’ll do it.”

Applejack smiled warmly. “Well, if that’s what you want. Here, why don’t you come over and Ah’ll introduce you?” She carefully dismounted and walked over to the door in the fence, opening it just long enough for Sunset to enter the enclosure. Sunset followed after Applejack as they approached the horse.

“Sunset, this is Lulu,” said Applejack. “Lulu, this is Sunset Shimmer.”

Sunset slowly stepped forwards, towards Lulu. There was no higher intelligence to be found beneath her small, side-facing eyes, yet they still carried a surprising gentleness. Despite the crawling sensation running down her spine, Sunset felt a strange warmth in her chest. Kinship, perhaps? It was a weird mix of conflicting sensations that she had a hard time separating enough to understand.

Lulu lowered her head, while at the same time Sunset reached out with a hand. She gently touched Lulu on the bridge of her muzzle, feeling the soft coat against her fingers. Lulu responded by stepping forward, gently nuzzling against Sunset’s arm.

Sunset let out a giggle. “H-hey! Stop! That tickles!”

“Well Ah’ll be,” said Applejack. “Ah ain’t never seen Lulu take to someone so quickly. Ah guess she knows you and her ain’t too different.”

Sunset wanted to roll her eyes at the remark, but couldn’t bring herself to even be annoyed. There was a warm, fuzzy feeling spreading out inside of her as she became close to Lulu, one that melted away any anxieties she might have had about the human world’s horses.

For the next hour, Applejack had taught Sunset the basics of horseback riding. She learned the ropes very quickly, and throughout it all Sunset somehow knew exactly how Lulu was feeling at any given moment, and exactly what to say to get her to understand. Before long, she was already riding Lulu in short laps across the enclosure.

Then, while circling the enclosure for the fifteenth time, Sunset was nearly blinded by a sudden flash. The burst of light startled Lulu enough that she reared back onto her hind legs, forcing Sunset to grip tightly to the reins.

“Whoa! Easy there!” Sunset cried out. Lulu lowered back onto all fours, and Sunset carefully placed a hand on her withers. “It’s okay, see? Everything’s safe. I’m here, remember?” The words were exactly what Lulu needed to hear, as almost immediately she calmed down, coming to a complete stop.

Sunset turned her head towards the source of the flash, and Applejack’s own gaze followed. There, standing just behind the fence, were Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, and Sweetie Belle. Apple Bloom stood in the center, wedged between her two best friends, holding a camera with a large lens.

“Apple Bloom, what have Ah told you about spooking the horses?” Applejack scolded.

Apple Bloom smiled sheepishly. “Sorry Applejack, Ah was just taking a picture for the school paper. Pipsqueak even gave us this special camera and everything! Just look at how fancy the lens is!”

“I can see the headline now!” Scootaloo added. “Horse riding a horse! So wrong! It’s unnatural!”

Hey!” Sunset cried out. “I’m not a horse!”

“Well, sure, not anymore,” said Apple Bloom. “But you’re still a horse on the inside, right?”

“Pony,” said Sunset. “Calling me a horse is like me calling you a talking chimpanzee.”

“To be fair, that’s not too far off,” Sweetie Belle chimed in. “We do share ninety-eight percent of our DNA with chimpanzees.”

Apple Bloom and Scootaloo both turned to face Sweetie Belle, each giving her a deadpan look.

“What?” said Sweetie. “It’s true! Look it up!”

“No offense to you girls, but don’t you have something better to do?” said Sunset.

“Well, we do already got all the photos we need for this story, so Ah guess we can probably head off now,” said Apple Bloom. “In fact, we might even be find some other stories for the paper, too!”

Scootaloo excitedly raised her hand. “Oh! Oh! I know! I have an idea!”

“We ain’t doing another story on Rainbow Dash,” Apple Bloom said firmly. “Forty-seven in one year is more than enough.”

“Awww...”

As the three girls continued their argument on what to do for their next story, a smile crept its way across Sunset’s face. She turned to look down at Lulu, seeing the contentedness in her eyes. She then turned to look at Applejack, the one who had made all of it possible.

Despite her initial reservations, Sunset couldn’t have been happier to be there.

————————

I opened my eyes, and found myself standing back on the farm. I... I don’t know what to think of these flashbacks anymore. I know that they happen, but I don’t know why. Is it some kind of feedback from the spell? Is there some other power that’s trying to influence me? Just what is going on?

And that wasn’t even going into the nausea I felt. With every flashback it grew more overwhelming, more and more it felt like I was making a mistake. But I wasn’t making a mistake. I knew I wasn’t. Everything I’ve done is exactly what I was made to do.

I mentally fought against the nausea, against the sickness that crawled and writhed inside of me. I reminded myself of what I was here for, and what I came to do. Celestia and Twilight. I came here for them, I came here not just to destroy them, but to hurt them. Twilight especially, having utterly ruined my last attempt at taking back what’s mine, and stolen the title and power that I had rightfully earned. Words could not describe how much I hated her. I had worked to earn Princess Celestia’s favor where she relied on her natural gifts. I had risen from poverty and destitution, where she was born into a family of wealth and privilege. I was turned away and left to starve in an unfamiliar world for trying to unlock the secrets of magic, while she was rewarded for it with incredible power.

And the worst part? Twilight didn’t even want that power. She claimed to be a princess, but who does she rule? She could achieve so many great things with her strength and authority, and she wastes it all by pretending to be no different from anyone else. It disgusts me. I spent so many years and untold amounts of effort trying to reach greatness, while she stumbled into greatness completely by accident, and then proceeded to squander it.

It wasn’t enough to take her friend’s souls. I had to hurt her. To do that, I had to not only hurt her friends, but take away all the things they cared about.

A fire burned within me as I turned to look at the orchard. Blistering flames inside my soul, burning with enough heat to reduce an entire countryside to ash.

Perhaps it would be fitting if there was a fire on the outside, too.

————————

Applejack’s Defeat 1GG

Instant

Create a 1/1 green insect creature token with flying and deathtouch. When a creature named Applejack, Orchard Tender dies this turn, its controller sacrifices a land.

“I’ll admit, your trees make for excellent firewood.”
— Sunset the Exiled

————————

The time Sunset spent aimlessly wandering the town had so far proven to be fruitless. It was impossible to get anyone’s attention, and at her tiny size the streets had proven not only difficult to navigate, but outright perilous as well. So many times she’d been nearly crushed, and throughout it all she had no idea where she was going.

Just when she felt like nothing would happen, a sign came. A crowd of larger ponies had stopped in the middle of the street to gawk at something in the distance. Sunset weaved through their legs, pushing through the crowd, until she saw it. A sight that made her entire body go rigid in sudden dread.

A massive pillar of smoke was billowing from the land in the southwestern edge of town. Sweet Apple Acres was on fire.

Sunset didn’t even think twice about her response. She immediately bolted off, as fast as her tiny legs could carry her, towards the site of the fire. She weaved through the crowds of ponies, jumped across the cracks in the pavement, and ran through more of the town than she could have ever guessed was possible for someone of her size. The crowds of ponies thinned and the houses went by in a blur as she made her way to Ponyville’s outer reaches.

By the time she reached Sweet Apple Acres, a team of pegasi were already hard at work, extinguishing the fire with a series of rain clouds. Though most of the fire had already died down, rows upon rows of trees were reduced to charred, leafless husks of their former selves. It was immediately clear what had happened: her other self had attempted to burn the Apple family’s entire livelihood to the ground.

If Sunset had a stomach, it would have twisted itself into a knot. What she was seeing didn’t make any sense. Even in her worst moments, even when she’d made all of Canterlot High her plaything in a bid for social dominance, she was never this cruel. There were always lines she’d never have crossed. There was always a little voice in her mind telling her to stop before she went too far. But the pony claiming to be the real her wasn’t just crossing those lines, she was going so far beyond them that she was practically at the horizon. It was like there was nothing left inhibiting her cruelest desires, nothing holding her back from committing every single atrocity that came to her mind.

As Sunset stood there and watched the extinguished trees smolder, an understanding dawned on her. A burst of intuition, perhaps, but it had also felt like she’d known it all along. Maybe she just didn’t want to know it until now.

I... I think I get it. She and I used to be the same person, Sunset thought to herself. The voice in my head telling us to do that right thing was me, and my other self was... everything else. The part of me with all the rage, bitterness, and jealousy. And becoming a demon... that must have been her becoming separate from me. That’s what she is without me there to guide her. Being hit by the Elements gave me an identity and put me in control.

The thought of such a vicious person ever being a part of herself made Sunset feel sick. So much pain her other self could have caused, so many people who would suffer further had she not been there. And yet, at the same time, she only found her resolve hardening further. Any fatigue remaining in Sunset’s porcelain body was pushed away by the newfound determination pouring into her entire being. This was no longer just a matter of saving her friends. It was a matter of saving herself.

With renewed vigor, Sunset turned around and began heading on the path back to town. She’d put a stop to this. There was no doubt in her mind left about that.

Author's Note:

I would just like to say here that I am very, very proud of myself for finding a title that’s both the name of a Magic card and a pun that’s relevant to the events of the chapter.