• Published 31st Jan 2018
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Equestria Mares: The Secret Apprentice of Princess Celestia - Coyote de La Mancha

Twilight is full of apprehension as she approaches the first Princess Summit. But no one expects that she will soon be fighting for her life and her people, beneath the falling sky of an alien world...

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Chapter Ten: The Final Betrayal

For a moment, Sunset could only stare at her old mentor. But she recovered quickly.

She glanced around herself, and back at Celestia. “You know, I hadn’t planned it this way. I’d thought to confront you in Equestria, after my Becoming. But… this works,” she said at last. “Your last act can be to witness my power, before Phaedra’s death and yours fuels my ascension.”

“This doesn’t have to happen.”

“Doesn’t it?” Sunset snarled.

“Sunset, I’m asking you. Please. I don’t want to fight you. Don’t do this.”

“Oh, so now it’s please!’” Sunset’s laughter was sudden and bitter.

Then her face became a mask of rage as she said, “Don’t you remember how rare I was, how special? How I would be the one to save your sister, and the world?! It certainly wasn’t ‘please’ then, was it?

“It wasn’t until later that I found out why you’d changed your mind and locked me out.” Sunset stared at her old mentor, seething. “Your precious papyrus! I wasn’t good enough for you. It didn’t matter what I did, what I accomplished, I just wasn’t princess material! That was why you shut me out. And then, when I found out the truth, you threw me away!”

Celestia shook her head violently. “No--!”

“Liar!” Sunset cried. “No more lies! This is my world, Celestia! Mine! And no mere princess am I!”

She unfurled her dragon’s wings magnificently, looking down on them all, crying out, “Behold Sunset Shimmer, Queen of All Realms! Behold Sunset Shimmer, Goddess of Magic!”

Cracks in the ground began to glow with hidden magma, lighting her eerily as Sunset’s voice rang with victory.

“Behold, Celestia, your creation!”

But Celestia’s face, while not hardened, showed only sadness and resolve.

“A creation without pity?” she asked. “Without compassion, or mercy? No. For all my faults, I never forced you into this. My failures will always haunt me, Sunset, especially the hurts I gave you. But don’t delude yourself: each pony’s soul is their own. Whatever you become now, whatever choice you make in this moment, the responsibility is yours alone.”

There was the briefest of moments when the two of them locked eyes. Violet eyes full of determination and regret, cyan eyes full of hate. Then, Sunset attacked, screaming, launching a storm of emerald lightning at her foe and everything around her.

The scream echoed across the barren landscape as Celestia launched herself into the air, leaving a shield of gold around her family. The electricity crawled across the golden dome like malignant vines, drawn by the ponies’ life energy, looking for a way in. But Celestia lacked such protection… and as the fingers of energy snaked rapidly through the air, most of the green lightning surged and coalesced around her, striking her through her skin and eyes, nostrils, mouth and ears, writhing through her, seeking out her vitals, tearing her apart.

It only took a second. Perhaps two. Only enough time to scream.

Sunset took in a gulping breath, almost a sob, so that she could cry out. Whether it was in triumph or in anguish, even she could not tell. Perhaps both. It is one thing to dream of killing someone, even to attempt it. It is quite another to actually kill another person. Especially someone you once loved.

But the cry caught in her throat. Celestia had, indeed, sundered. But she had sundered herself. No longer was there a mare of white with multi-colored mane. Now there were seven Celestias, each a different rainbow hue, each flying in her own spiraling trajectory.

Sunset had often privately wondered how Celestia could not merely wield but master each of the Elements of
Harmony simultaneously, to affect the banishment of Nightmare Moon. Now, she thought perhaps she knew.

“Sunset, I am so sorry,” said the orange Celestia as she glided past.

“For everything,” the yellow added.

“Please,” said the green, “I don’t want to fight you. I don’t want to lose you again.”

“No!” cried Sunset, looking wildly from one to the next. “You’re just trying to trick me!”

“I couldn’t follow you,” said the violet. “The world would have died.”

“I thought you could return as easily as you left,” said the blue. “I was wrong.”

Sunset covered her ears with her hooves, voice cracking as she shrieked, “Shut up!”

“Please,” said green again. “Just come home.”

For a moment, Sunset stared at the one that had spoken, forehooves slowly lowering. “What… did you say?”

“Come home,” the green alicorn repeated. “Please.”

Sunset continued to stare, almost in wonder. First at one Celestia, then another, then another. Then, she spoke in amazement.

“You… lying… bitch.”

“What--?” All the Celestias were taken aback, save for the orange, who simply closed her eyes in pain.

Fire erupted around Sunset’s hooves, weaving itself upwards into a gold and crimson shield.

“That was nice,” she smirked. “Seriously, you almost had me for a second. But you overplayed your part, Princess.” Her voice echoed slightly, flames encasing her completely as she finished:

“You should never have pretended to care.”


Suddenly, twin tendrils lashed out from Sunset’s fiery shield, quickly splitting into four, then eight, each one striking like whips in all directions. In response, each Celestia evaded with a grace that the Wonderbolts would have envied, each horn firing a like-colored beam of light as she did. Five of those beams were repelled by Sunset’s shield. But two, the yellow and red, passed through as if the shield weren’t even there, eliciting a scream from Phaedra’s mistress.

Red, yellow, and indigo spoke together. “No one dies today,” they said. “I won’t permit it.”

“That just means you’ll be first,” Sunset snarled. The flames of her shield turned to a brilliant silver, to better repel any of her mentor’s attacks.

The fight continued. When her stony perch was blasted apart, Sunset called forth a pillar of flame to stand upon. But battling Celestia was like battling seven different master mages, each with a different plan, all perfectly coordinated. And, while Sunset had the coronet and the power of Phaedra to call upon, Celestia had aeons of experience. A memory of every strategy that she had ever seen or had used against her. Knowledge of every spell she had ever read in the halls of the palace library.

And, when did Celestia become so fast…?

More and more, Sunset ravenously drew upon the power of the realm, hoping to crush her enemy through superior might. She’d understood immediately that finesse would not help her against such a foe. Celestia was too wise, and thought too quickly. Therefore, Sunset’s attacks were based on area effect, on devastating and overwhelming her enemy. Powerful as Celestia was, wise as she might have been, Sunset still knew the mare was not invincible. So, her best plan was to simply wear her enemy down, and then crush her. Even Celestia could not last forever.

But then again, neither could Phaedra.

Once Celestia and Sunset had begun battling in earnest, Twilight had protected both Luna and herself as best as she could. Not because Celestia had forgotten them, but because she knew that a fighter could be beaten more easily if distracted. But casting even the simplest shields had become a strain the likes of which she had rarely felt, and even bolstered by Phaedra’s power they were nowhere near as strong as they should have been. Several times, she’d had to teleport the two of them out from harm’s way as the other two mages tore apart the countryside, new cracks and fissures forming, stones and fire falling irregularly from the sky.

Then, huge meteors began falling with greater frequency, cast-offs from the giant celestial bodies above. There was no sky at all now, only massive jewels, grinding one another into fiery debris that rained down upon the land. Twilight managed to conjure a shield to deflect the first few when they come their way. But all too quickly, truly mammoth stones began to fall, more than her weakened magic could handle.

“Twilight,” Luna moaned, “leave me.”

“No,” insisted Twilight. “We’re going to get through this. All of us.”

“Little fool,” Luna said fondly. “I cannot die. But you—” then she broke into a fit of bloody coughs.

Twilight teleported them both again as a fiery gemstone the size of a carriage came crashing down where they’d just been. She felt her ribs pull apart again with that last burst of energy, pop, pop, pop.

“You’re a terrible liar,” she wheezed.

“Lack of practice,” Luna admitted with a weak smile. “Forgive me, dear one. I had to try.”

“Well, I wasn’t lying,” Twilight insisted. “We’re getting out of this.” Although, she thought as she glanced skywards, right now I’m damned if I know how.

As she watched in horror, a chunk of flaming emerald the size of a small house struck the indigo Celestia, breaking her back. As one, all the Celestias screamed in pain as the indigo mare fell towards the ground.

But before impact, there was a flash of white light. Now Celestia was whole again, white coat and light-colored mane. She was obviously injured and gasping for breath, having accepted every hurt her seven selves had taken. Yet, each wound was reduced to a seventh of what it had been. Then, a burst of rainbow light and there were seven of her again… each only as injured as she had been while whole.

Meanwhile, Sunset drank even more greedily from Phaedra, and launched another attack... even as the magic of four master magicians, the artifact they fought over, and Phaedra’s own wild power tore the tiny dimension apart.

The sea rose up like a living thing, a vast wave even greater than the one before. It roared like the father of all wendigoes, blotting out the sky, crashing down on all of them like a giant’s heel. Sunset rose above the waters like a kraken of steam and fire. Then, the red, yellow, and orange Celestias leaped from the waters, wings spread, and attacked her head on… even as the other four quickly granted gills to Twilight and Luna, and kept the torrents from dragging them both into the abyssal cracks that had torn themselves open, or even worse, out to sea.

Twilight had managed to conjure a shield against the tsunami, even as Celestia had cast seven more over it. All had shattered, and Celestia could tell it had cost Twilight the last of her strength. The young mare had not the strength of a kitten now, bleeding from her mouth and nose, barely able to walk. And Luna was well beyond spent, eyes unfocused, her battered and burned flesh soft, bone partially exposed along her wings and legs as more of her ruined body washed away.

Even as the cool-colored Celestias were saving her family, the red, orange and yellow ones cried out to Sunset, “This is madness! Sunset, we’ve got to get out of here! We’ll all die if we don’t!”

Sunset had changed her flame shield from the sliver that deflected Celestia’s spells, to a terrible hellish black that absorbed them.

“No! You won’t stop me! I can do this!”

Again, with three voices, Celestia beseeched her, “This isn’t worth it! Sunset, you don’t need to prove anything!”

“You think this is about you!?”

“Then stop this!”

“No!” As the waters finished receding, Sunset blasted in all directions, her shield becoming a terrible starburst of shadowy force knocking everything in the air aside.

By then, Luna and Twilight were safe again, at least for the moment. From where they crouched with her family, four Celestias looked over the injured alicorns nervously. They dispelled the injured alicorns’ gills and tried, with their fractured power, to help their wounds… or at least stabilize them. Meanwhile, from where they had landed, yellow Celestia glanced at the horizon, red watched Sunset, and orange peered at the sky.

“Then…” the Celestias all said in unison, “I surrender.”

Sunset frowned. “What?”

There was a burst of white light, and again Celestia was re-united, hovering before her.

“I surrender,” She repeated. “You’ve won. I ask only that you let the others go, and I’ll stay here with you. I never wanted to fight you, Sunset. And now, I won’t.”

The frown deepened. “This is another trick.”

Celestia shook her head slightly. “No. You have my word. Do whatever you want with me. Kill me. Sacrifice me. Anything you like.”

She met Sunset’s eyes as her former student lowered her shield.

“Just let them leave,” Celestia implored. “Please.”

In the heartbeats that followed, Celestia saw a series of emotions flood and fly across Sunset’s face. She saw her former student in the span of a few precious seconds struggle against her rage, against her hate and her love for her. She saw Sunset struggle against herself, against her own self-hatred and against her terrible, terrible sadness. But first and foremost, within that anguish, what Celestia saw most was a look of pure betrayal.

This, Celestia realized with a start, was in Sunset’s mind the final treason. To her, this was the ultimate proof that the three princesses shared what she had always longed for, and had always been denied. This was what she truly wanted. More than wings to fly with or a crown to wear, more than long life, or even recognition at last for her prowess as a magician.

Acceptance. Friendship. And above all, love.

It was love that Sunset craved, love that she starved for… and absolutely believed she could never and would never have. A love, Celestia saw now, much like the love Sunset had silently offered her every day, so many years ago, unseen.

She’s not going to let them go, Celestia realized. We’re all going to die here for my blindness, my thoughtlessness.

I’ve murdered them all, Sunset included.

The coronet struck the ground in front of Celestia so hard that it rang off the shaking stone. Sunset’s eyes bored into Celestia, full of fury and hate.


For an instant, Celestia could only stare.

“Go on, get out of here!” Sunset’s voice cracked as she screamed the words. Her horn glowed and flamed brighter; the membrane between worlds added its own scream to that of the dying realm as she tore the portal open again through sheer force of will.

Celestia glanced at the portal, then back to her former pupil.

“Come with us!” she cried.

“Get out!”





In agony, Celestia looked from her former student to her sister, barely alive and unmoving, and back to Sunset again. She looked at Twilight, mobile, but coughing blood and barely conscious. And now that the battle was over, Celestia could feel her own exhaustion taking hold, and the many injuries she had sustained.

There was only one choice to make, and no time. And it really wasn’t a choice at all.

“Come on, sister. I have you. Twilight, hurry.” With a thought, Celestia flicked the coronet through the portal even as she gently gathered Luna in her magic and her wings, helping her to flee the hellscape that Phaedra was quickly becoming.

Sunset leaped off her flaming pillar, leaving it to coil and vanish without her. She lunged at the alicorns clumsily on her unsteady wings, chasing them through the thickening smoke, screaming, “Get out, all of you! Leave me alone! Go on! Go! GO!”

Then, the glow of worlds vanished in the roiling smoke, the portal closed once more. Sunset Shimmer collapsed with a sob.

“Just… just go…”

The world that was the center of Phaedra cracked and quaked, huge fragments of shattered gems shifting and falling within their craters. Fissures opened and poured out steam and more black smoke. The sky filled with fire as the sun devoured the other orbiting bodies, ending the background fall of stones.

Despite the oppressive heat from above and below, Sunset Shimmer was breathing hard where she lay, trying not to hyperventilate, her muzzle soaked in tears.

“It’s okay,” she told herself. “I’m okay with this. It’s fine.”

She took a shuddering breath, released it.

“This is how it all started. It figures this is how it would end.”

She swallowed miserably, screwed her eyes shut. Her voice was thin and strained, holding in her heart’s agony.

“I just came full circle. That’s all. And that makes sense. It makes sense. It does.”

She rolled onto her side with a sob. “It’s fine,” she managed. She curled up, covering her head with her dragon’s wings. Her voice small, she repeated, “It’s fine.”

While the world around her ended, she took another shaky breath and released it. There was another choking sob, but she stifled it immediately… even as a small part of herself wondered why she was bothering anymore. Pride, maybe.

She willed herself into stillness. Yet her voice was almost inaudible, even to herself.

“I wonder if it’ll hurt?”

The terrible heat continued to grow, the light penetrating her eyelids. Then, darkness.

But it was not death. Only a shadow that had fallen over her as she waited.

An alicorn’s shadow.

And it was Twilight’s voice that spoke.