• Published 31st Jan 2018
  • 2,042 Views, 77 Comments

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...

  • ...

Chapter Twelve: After Inferno, There Shall Be Stars

The world was a disorienting haze of blues and browns.

Twilight tried to focus her eyes, and failed. Just trying was an exhausting effort. She drifted back to sleep, even as somepony spoke her name.

The room was in better focus this time. The walls and ceiling were crystal, with a chandelier of deep brown oak and glowing gemstones above her. The nearby window was closed, the morning glare making it temporarily opaque. She was in a bed, probably the deepest and most comfy bed ever, under layers of blankets and comforters.

After a few seconds, she remembered. This was her room. In the Crystal Castle.

Every muscle in her body practically screamed to stretch out and move. Yet, even as she tried to shift her position, warning twinges from her arm and wing, even in her chest, warned her against the idea.

I could just go back to sleep, she thought. I could even enter a healing mantra first, I have the energy now. I’d probably wake up in much better shape…

“Hey, hon.”

Twilight managed a weak smile. “Hey.”

“Doctors say you’re gonna be just fine.”

Applejack smiled down at Twilight with the most beautiful green eyes.

Yeah, Twilight thought, I can stay awake a little while longer.

Applejack glanced over to a side table. “Here, can you use some water?”

She brought Twilight a small cup with a straw in it, and Twilight obediently took a few small sips. Immediately, her eyes widened.

Applejack frowned. “What? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. I’m just…” Twilight stared around herself in amazement. “Wow, I am absolutely starving.”

Applejack chuckled. “Yeah, the Sisters said you might be. Somethin’ about alicorn metabolism, an’ whatnot? Anyway, ain’t exactly a shock, injuries you took. Woulda killed just about anypony else…” She trailed off. “Hey, you okay?”

Twilight looked away. “Yeah.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah,” Twilight sighed. “Just… processing.”

“C’mon Twi,” Applejack said softly. “This is me.”

Just then, the door opened.

“Hey, everypony,” Pinkie Pie cheered, “she’s awake!”

As their friends piled into the room, Applejack looked for an instant like she was about to say something. Instead, she settled for, “I’ll go see ‘bout gettin’ some grub sent up,” and stepped out.

Twilight winced as she removed the bandages on her limbs, despite Fluttershy and Rarity’s protests. She still hurt, but she could tell nothing was broken anymore. Moving herself into a sitting position, she glanced at the nearby mirror. An alicorn with a slightly black eye and sunken cheeks looked back at her tiredly.

Spike hugged her gently, and she returned the careful embrace. They had all been so worried about her, despite the Sisters’ assurances. After all, she’d been asleep for almost twelve hours.

She stared at them as Applejack stepped back into the room. “Twelve… hours?”

“I know, right?” Rainbow grinned. “We thought you’d never wake up.”

“Cooks’re whompin’ up some vittles for ya,” Applejack said as she re-entered. “Might take a lil bit afore it gets here, but the princesses had ‘em on standby. Said you’re up faster than they’d expected, an’… hey, you okay?”

“Peachy,” Twilight muttered. Then, she frowned. “Wait, what about Sunset Shimmer?”

“Oh, she’s fine, darling,” Rarity waved the concerns away. “Don’t worry about her. She was the least hurt of all of you.”

Twilight glanced down. “I’m not so sure about that.”

“Fulla spit’n’vinegar, anyway,” said Applejack. “Even gave Flutters here a buncha sass on her way out, just fer talkin’ to her.”

“Oh, I don’t think it was that—” Fluttershy started.

“Shoot, girl. You’d think you’d tried to slap her ‘steada talk to her, way she acted.”

Fluttershy looked at the floor. “Well, I mean… maybe she didn’t mean to. After all, she’s been gone a long time. She might not be used to ponies being nice to her.”

“Oh, come on!” Rainbow scoffed. “She was brought up by Princess Celestia. How not-used to it can she be?”

“You know, let’s not get into that right now,” Twilight said. “Sunset’s had a bad run in a lot of ways. I’m…”

She sighed, adding, “I’m not going into detail. It’s not my story to tell. But I’d really appreciate it if everypony gave her the benefit of the doubt.”

There was a brief silence. Then, Rainbow Dash cocked an eyebrow.


“She did bring Twilight back,” Applejack said softly. “An’ if Twi says to give the gal a chance, that’s good enough for me.”

“But she’s the whole reason she even had to…!” Rainbow looked at Applejack, then at Twilight. Then she rolled her eyes. “Fine.”

Twilight smiled. “Thanks, you guys.”

“But what happened over there? Why, when you came back, you looked just terrible!” Rarity blinked. “No offense, of course.”

“None taken,” Twilight replied, still smiling. “Well, when I first got there, it was so beautiful…”

Twilight told her tale, only occasionally interrupted by questions here and there. She didn’t even remember eating the tray of food when it was brought, and when she looked down at it in confusion, Applejack chuckled and assured her that more was on the way. As she went on, Twilight omitted any details about Sunset’s past, and she downplayed her own injuries as much as she could. But other than that, the Princess of Friendship shared with her closest companions every detail of her adventure, finishing up just as another tray laden with food was brought in.

“Oh, that sounds so marvelous,” Rarity sighed. “Bejeweled trees, gem-studded skies… oh, to see such a sight, even for a moment.” Then she sighed again, this time with regret. “Such a pity it was all destroyed by that ruffian.”

“And you flew how high?” Rainbow marveled. Then she shook her head, grinning. “Okay, new goal. I am not getting outflown by the newbie. Not on any planet.”

She winked at Twilight, who was already devouring the food before her, adding, “Look out, Princess Luna. Your moon may have been high before, but now you’ve got Rainbow Dash to deal with!”

While the seven friends laughed, they were not unobserved. On the other side of the sun-splashed window, on a long, winding outer walkway, three mares watched the tableau in silence.

At first, there had only been one, watching from the nighttime shadows, unseen. Then, the second had joined her after raising the dawn, a presence all but ignored in grudging silence. Finally had come the third, blue eyes narrowed slightly in the unaccustomed light as the moon slowly set in the sun’s rays.

Standing together, they could hear nothing through the thick crystal pane. But the strong bonds between Twilight and her friends, as well as her guaranteed recovery, were evident enough.

“So,” Sunset said at last. “Guess you’ve got a knack for selecting idiot apprentices.”

Celestia looked at her, a thousand memories and regrets assailing her mind. “Never.”

“Yeah, well.” She turned away, dragon wings twitching slightly. “I’ll show myself out.”

“Sunset, wait. Please.”

“We’ve got nothing to say to each other.”


“No!” Sunset rounded on Celestia, snarling, “No, don’t you dare, don’t you dare try to explain yourself! Don’t you dare try to make me understand, or tell me how I made my own choices, or how the mirror sealed shut behind me and you couldn’t get through, or how you thought the opening on that side of the mirror was as easy to find as this one! You don’t have the right, Princess. I don’t care that you were all that was keeping night and day going! I don’t care that the world would have ended without you, or that I went through that mirror myself! I was fourteen! Fourteen!!

“And if it had been you,” she went on, her voice still rising, “if our situations had been reversed, I would have frozen the sun into ice. I would have re-ordered time. I would have invented some new magic, some never before dreamed-of enchantment. I would have done whatever it took, no matter the cost, to someway, somehow, bring you back safe!”

She took a few fast breaths before the tearful words exploded out of her against her will, unwanted and unbidden,


Sunset stood before her old teacher, trembling with the force of her outburst.

Celestia’s voice was soft. “I loved you, too. I still do. But I wasn’t going to say any of those things.”

She closed her eyes, lowering her head. “I was going to beg for your forgiveness.”

For a moment, Sunset stared at her. Then she shook her head, refusing to acknowledge her tears by wiping them away.

“No,” she said. “Not now. Maybe not ever.”

“Sunset Shimmer.”

Luna’s voice was gentle as she spoke, and her steps were gentle as she moved from Celestia’s side towards her former foe. “There is a place for you here, if you wish it.”

Sunset stared, her voice a shocked whisper. “What?”

“Of all I said to you in Phaedra, nothing was a lie. Moreover, this is not the land you left behind, generations agone. That which your heart seeks, you may yet find in Equestria.” She tilted her head slightly. “It may be that you only need to look.”


Sunset shook her head, and tried again. “I… Uh, look, I… no.”

She looked down.

“No,” she said again. “I... I can’t. There is no place for me here. I know that now.”

Turning, Sunset began to walk away, adding, “Maybe there never was.”

“Sunset.” Celestia’s voice was calm. Pleading.

Her back to them both, Sunset stiffened.

“Please don’t go.”

Still facing away, Sunset shook her head once more. “Look. I didn’t kill any of you, and I brought you back your student. But don’t read too much into this, Princess. We’re not family, and we’re not friends.”

She began walking again, her voice barely audible.

“I’m just tired of hating you,” she said. “That’s all.”

Celestia stepped towards Sunset, her mouth open as if to speak yet again. But there was a burst of blue-green fire, and Sunset was gone.

Celestia sighed, and looked outward towards the clouds. “Where did she go?”

Luna, meanwhile, was studying the spot where Sunset had just stood. Interesting, she thought.

But out loud, she said, “Somewhere familiar. Somewhere she would feel safe. With her ability, probably somewhere in Canterlot, at least for the moment. Ultimately, she will seek out someplace remote and private, to try out her new wings and consider what she’s gone through. What she has lost, and what she has gained.”

“Will she come back?”

“That I cannot say,” Luna replied. “Nor can I say for certain whether, if she does, it shall be as friend or foe. But I think she is not an enemy, unless we make of her one.”

She looked to Celestia, still examining the clouds. “She is very hurt, my sister, and very tired. She needs time. Give her that, at least for now.”

Celestia nodded, feeling suddenly very old. “Of course.”

For a time, the two of them went back to watching the friends in Twilight’s room converse, laugh, and tease one another.

At last, Luna spoke again. “Her parents know of her return, of course?”

Celestia nodded, still watching Twilight’s growing strength with relief. “They should be here any time.”

“Good.” Luna considered, then said, “You realize, having been thus surprised once, she will now memorize every aspect of every magical object ever created by Starswirl. And likely the other great mages, as well.”

Celestia smiled. “That does sound like the Twilight thing to do.”

“It does. Will you not go to her?”

“In a little while. I want her to have time with her friends first. And besides, she still recovers more slowly than we do. One more visitor would only tire her out faster.”

Luna looked at her sister quizzically. “And yet, are you not also her friend?”

“Of course I am.” Celestia looked back Luna, still smiling herself. “But I’m your friend, too. And I wanted to talk with you first.”

Luna nodded. “And I wish to speak with you, as well, though my timing may be poor.”

She lowered her head, eyes closed. “I wanted to say that I am sorry. There were things I said before I left that I should not have said. I was angry.”

“And I think you should have said everything you said, exactly as you said them,” Celestia answered her. “And probably much sooner than you did.”

Stepping over to her younger sister, she continued, “And the things I said to you… I meant them. All of them. I’m lost without you, Luna. And I need you to be willing to speak your mind to me. About everything. Not because I’m a leader and I need your advice.”

She reached out, gently raised Luna’s head to face her. “But because I love you, and I need my sister. I know we’ll never be as close as we—oof!”

Luna tackle-hugged Celestia, eyes closed in a smile of sheer joy. After a moment, Celestia hugged her back just as hard.

A short time later, they were walking side by side.

“How are Cadence and Shining Armor doing?” Celestia asked.

“They yet sleep, but they should recover their strength within a another day at most. Their resilience, especially when with one another, is truly amazing.”

Luna smiled, adding, “Even as they recover, they aid one another, sharing each other’s dreams.”

While Celestia smiled as well, Luna continued, “And what they have done between them, maintaining the order of night and day for so many weeks…” She shook her head. “It is unprecedented.”

“It is,” Celestia agreed. “But then, so were we.”

The Princess of Day looked up at the leaves blowing by, orange, red, and gold.

“The times are changing, at last,” she said. “It’s good to see. The world has stood still for too long.”

“Yes,” Luna said. “Still, the coming years shall not be easy.”

“Oh, I know.” Celestia sighed. “What was it you always said, ‘There are only two truly perfect seasons…’”

“‘…the one that is left behind, and the one that is yet to come.’ Yes.”

“Every sign points towards another time of troubles ahead, for all of us.”

“Well, true, there is that,” Luna agreed. “But such times are tidal: they come and they go. I was referring to Twilight Sparkle. And not just the journey that must now lie before her. Even now, word is spreading throughout the land of the door that has been newly opened.”

“And it was Twilight who opened it,” said Celestia

“Yes. Though in a sense, so has Sunset.”

Celestia frowned. “I was speaking of the Alicorn Papyrus.”

“As was I. One might see it in terms of a magic ritual, but we both know it is a process, a quest. Such a transformation comes from trial and accomplishment, from the heart, and above all from one’s own magic. Personal evolution is no mere spell.”

Celestia’s frown deepened. “Of course it isn’t. How could it be?”

“But very well, let us take your example. In just a few short years, the bearer of the Element of Magic has become the Princess of Magic—”


“…Yessss… and so now I wonder, who else might have already set their hooves on such a journey? Who else, after being gathered together by this unique pony and her unprecedented gifts, have placed themselves as guardians of their fellow ponies?”

Luna glanced at her sister as she continued, “Who else embody not only the finest aspects of a noble heart but, through the embracing of their own deepest natures and the sympathetic use of ancient, deep, transformative magic, act as living representations of… elements?”

Eyes closed in satisfaction, Celestia trotted ahead a little. “Who else indeed?”

Luna’s eyes widened for an instant, before narrowing in a cunning smile. “Yes, I remember now why I stopped playing chess against you. But I wonder if, in your extreme wisdom and far-sightedness, you have considered the implications of one day having a Princess of Loyalty…”

“I have,” answered a very self-satisfied princess.

“…a Princess of Truth…”

“She’ll be good for us all.”

“…a Princess of Laughter…”

Celestia stopped short, staring straight ahead. “Princess Pinkie!”

Then she blinked, eyes widening in horror. “Perhaps I did act in haste.”

Luna smugly cantered ahead of her. “Too late now, events are already in motion!”

Celestia jogged to catch up. “No, wait, let’s discuss this…”

Enjoying herself immensely, Luna continued, “It is a stroke of brilliance, I must confess. To have so much surprise and disorder personified in a princess!”

Celestia groaned.

“When will she discover her wings and horn, I wonder?” Luna mused aloud. “And how will it happen? I can only imagine the personal growth that awaits us.”

“Oh, sweet ancestors before us, what have I wrought upon us all?”

Yet, Luna sobered again, slowing her gait. “And… there… is something else.”


“Something that has been troubling me, actually, since well before my exile to the moon.”

Celestia glanced at her sister, completely serious again. “Oh?”

Luna sighed, then shook her head. “You know you have my deepest regard, and I love you dearly. But…”

She reached out with a wing, lifted some of Celestia’s mane away from her head.

“Honestly, Celestia… pastels?”

They stopped walking.

For the merest of seconds, Celestia was genuinely shocked. But she recovered quickly, snatching her forelock back, affecting indignation.

“Oh, no, I am not taking beauty advice from Princess Fashion Disaster—!”

Luna rolled her eyes. “Oh, please. What are you on about now?”

Celestia stared at her with overly wide-eyed intensity, in a semi-mockery of Luna’s most formal voice.

“There must always be… black,” she pronounced. “And… black. And what about… oh, but of course: more… black.”

Rolling her own eyes, Celestia resumed in a normal voice,And then, just for contrast… off-black.”

“Excuse me?” Shoving her sister, Luna retorted, ““Black is a very fine colour, I will have you know!”

“Oh, sure. If by fine you mean mind-crushingly dull!” Celestia shoved back.

Luna made an indignant noise, protesting, “Black is the colour of mystery, of the night, of jet and ebony—”

“…and mud, and dead tree, and dirt…”

“Mud is dirt, oh wise one.” Luna lifted her own mane with her hoof. “And besides, this is not black, it is blue!”

“No, it’s a pastel! Ha!” Celestia cried, biting at Luna’s mane.

“Ow! Tia!”

Luna lunged, but her elder sister took to the air.

“Ha, you missed!”

“Oh,” Luna’s eyes narrowed as she unfurled her wings. “Oh, it is on…

She leaped, but again Celestia nimbly dodged out of the way. It quickly devolved into a chase game, both of them laughing, flying and pursuing one another among the spires of the Crystal Castle. Ultimately, they soared upwards, circling each other and the great building itself, their laughter echoing above the palace.

At one point, in Twilight’s room, the Two Sisters’ laughter was plainly heard as they buzzed past the window, completely absorbed in their game.

Applejack smiled. “Those the two you were so worried about, Twi?”

Twilight smiled back. “I think they’ll be okay.”

“Great!” Pinkie exclaimed. “That means I can unpack the favors for the Everybody Recovering From Their Epic Battle In Another World That Got Totally Destroyed And They Barely Made It Back Alive But Now Everybody’s Gonna Be Okay Reunion After-Party!”

Rainbow Dash raised an eyebrow. “That sounds… oddly specific.”

Pinkie grinned. “Don’t underestimate my power.”

“We never do, darling,” Rarity assured her.

Still grinning, Pinkie put an arm around Rarity’s shoulders. “And Rarity’s doing the ice sculptures!”

Rarity’s eyes were suddenly as big as dinner plates as she stared at her friend in horror.


Pinkie Pie winked. “Just kidding!”

As the seven friends laughed, the two most ancient and venerable rulers in the world continued to circle and tag one another, much to the amazement of the crystal ponies below. Most often, they were thought to be immortal. Some had even tried to worship them as gods. But whatever loneliness and love the future might hold, no matter the pains and joys that awaited them, for now, they were simply sisters. Laughing, playing, and – at least for the moment – being young once more.


Comments ( 19 )

A wonderful capstone to an epic tale. Sunset not taking a rainbow to the face means she has a lot to think about, especially with all these crazy ponies treating her like a person and not the monster she definitely is, regardless of her rescuing her little sister (shut up, Mom, she's not my sister and you're not my real mother, I hate you, I'm going to my room!)

In all seriousness, her arc is far from complete, and I look forward to more of it. And I'm always up for implications of the rest of the Bearers ascending... though Celestia may seriously want to consider the possibility of Pinkie transcending into a draconequus. :pinkiecrazy:

Again, great work all around. Thank you for it.

This was absolutely fabulous. This story had the incredible skill of getting me on the edge of my seat update after update, and it was a really deep twist on Sunset's arc. I loved it.

Celestia stopped short, staring straight ahead. “Princess Pinkie!” She blinked, eyes widening in horror. “Perhaps I did act in haste.”

You madmare! You've doomed us all! :rainbowlaugh:


...Sunset not taking a rainbow to the face means she has a lot to think about, especially with all these crazy ponies treating her like a person and not the monster she definitely is, regardless of ber rescuing her little sister...

Yeah, if she had been “punished” in some fashion, in a sense I think it would have let her off the hook.

(shut up, Mom, she's not my sister and you're not my real mother, I hate you, I'm going to my room!)

OH MY STARS AND GARTERS!!! :rainbowlaugh::rainbowlaugh::rainbowlaugh:

In all seriousness, her arc is far from complete...

Oh, truer words have rarely been spoken. :rainbowdetermined2:

And I'm always up for implicatjons of the rest of the Bearers ascending... though Celestia may seriously want to consider the possibility of Pinkie transcending into a draconequus. :pinkiecrazy:

Hee! Yes. As the Sisters observed, such matters might be influenced, but control is another thing entirely. Assuming all six Elements become princesses (in whatever form and fashion), Celestia is already going to have one more on her hands than she expected (Cadence). But she might ultimately have less, or even more...

...and what would a Princess PInkie look like?

...and what if a newly-made princess doesn’t want it in the first place?

Somewhere out there, Discord is cackling...

Thank you. I’m hoping to do more with Sunset in this ‘verse as time goes on. :twilightsmile:

>“I’m just tired of hating you. That’s all.”
Finally, I found someone who could make it feel right.

Thank you, that means so much to me! :twilightsmile:

I don't think I saw much of Luna in Twilight, but that might just be me. Everything else hit the mark nicely.

Thank you. I had hoped to show the strengths and styles of each princess in turn, in the process also showing how Twilight had learned from each of her mentors. Now that the tale is done, I hope I succeeded. :twilightsmile:

*nods* Cool enough. Depending on how things go, I may show more of Luna’s influence on Twilight’s education in future tales. But since Celestia was her primary mentor for most of her life, I think it makes sense that she would have the most obvious influence.

There's also Cadybutt too!

Oh, it wouldn’t be right without Cadybutt!
Honestly, I think we can thank Cadence and Shining for what soft skills Twilight had at series start...
Coincidentally, the tale of Cadence getting her Alicornness is another of the tales I am currently working on...

That'll be neat to see! I'll have to keep an eye out for it!

That explains things!

Oooh and count me on board for a Luna rare pair.

Author Interviewer

"So much black. We get it, you're sad!" XD

Dang. This started out pretty shaky, not gonna lie, but it was worth it for that climactic battle.

Dang. Finally finished it.

Good stuff.

This was a really interesting take on Sunset. Probably the best I've seen in a long while.

I've never had a story so succinctly sum up my exact problems with the relationship between Sunset Shimmer and Princess Celestia. Sunset blowing up at her in the final chapter was... perfect. And it made me so empty to see everybody else moving on, while she has to put herself back together alone. It's tragic, and it's so real it hurts.

There was another story I read recently where the villain semi-correctly accused Celestia of turning/treating Equestria as a "daycare/playroom" where her LITTLE ponies can ALWAYS be taken care of by MOMMY Celestia.

In that story and in your works Celestia in a sense, fears watching her "children" grow up and leave the nest.

(nods) In some ways, yes. A trap she fell into without even realizing it. At the end of the day, when you take upon yourself so many aspects of protecting another, it can be both condescending and stifling. But fortunately, she's getting better. :trollestia:

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