• Published 31st Jan 2018
  • 2,043 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...

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Chapter Seven: Amethyst Daydreams, Darkness and Flame

As one, each of the mages lashed out against the other, violet-red light blazing against ruby fire. Despite themselves, each was mildly surprised to see such a basic tactic used by her opponent. But at the same time, it made sense.

She’s testing me, they thought, just as I’m testing her. And she’s hoping to end this quick.

The collision point between their magics wavered between them for a moment, hoof-sized fragments of almost-liquid energy arcing away from the midpoint, burning away all they touched in a series of sizzling hisses. Then, slowly, inevitably, crimson began to overtake violet. The closer the point of destruction got to Twilight, the faster it came. Until, in a massive rush, her position was overtaken by fire, flame hugging the shape of her suddenly-conjured plow shield to reach and devour the space behind.

Sunset barely got her own shield up in time against Twilight’s immediate counter-attack, coming as it did from behind and above. Sunset’s cyan eyes narrowed as she turned to face her enemy. Few in history could have managed such a maneuver after such a short time on Phaedra, especially while under attack.

Sunset lashed out again, this time sending a trio of serpentine tendrils of flame, each curving around to attack from a different flank. Twilight gave another surge of flight – a graceful barrel-roll – evading the attack entirely but almost colliding headlong with a large amethyst-leafed tree.

Interesting, Sunset thought.

Twilight stopped and turned, fired another blast from her horn, a continual stream of magic that sparked harmlessly off Sunset’s shield.

Sunset frowned. That couldn’t have been her move—

Still maintaining her purple barrage against the center of Sunset’s shield, Twilight fired five more bolts of energy, each one a different color, each in a completely different direction.

Orange and yellow zig-zagged on opposite sides of her, bouncing from tree to bejeweled tree. Blue soared upwards almost joyfully, rebounding among the clouds. White ricocheted along the crystalline ravine nearby. Pink struck the ground beneath Twilight, then bounced up, arcing crazily like some child’s ball. Each of them perfectly coordinated, moving with absolute geometric precision. Each of them simultaneously finding a different target along Sunset’s body, bypassing her shield entirely.

Sunset cried out; it was impossible to tell how much from pain and how much from anger. Nearby, the sea raged and surged. Above them, planets collided and ground into one another. They sent millions of jewelled fragments into space, only for them to begin tumbling down in a meteoric descent, setting the sky on fire.

Twilight blinked. Even in Equestria, any one of those blasts should have knocked Sunset unconscious.

“Sunset, stop this before it’s too late,” she pleaded. “Please. I don’t want to hurt you anymore.”

From where she lay, Sunset stared at her, then the sky. Eyes blazing, she snarled, “Then you’ve already lost.”

Twilight was already in motion again as Sunset re-created her shield, this time a sphere of red and gold fire, herself a shimmering silhouette within. But Sunset’s next attack did not come directly from her. Trees were hurled in all directions as the ground beneath Twilight exploded into motion, a giant griffon’s fist of living stone snatching her in an instant, clenching around her, cutting her off from view as it crushed her. It glowed from inner volcanic fire, its surface crackling orange and black, radiating the heat of the planet’s heart. Simultaneously, a counter-spell against teleportation blanketed the area for miles around.

Sunset snorted. “No,” she muttered. “That was too easy...”

Almost immediately, there was a sound as if a mountain of glass were slowly being twisted apart. The glow changed from orange to violet, then the fist and its supporting pillar of stone exploded into thousands of amethyst butterflies.

They circled around Twilight where she hovered, eyes closed, serene. Then they divided into twin kaleidoscopes of motion. One continued circling Twilight, protecting her. The other group engulfed Sunset’s sphere of power, attaching themselves to it. They glowed with magical power as they drained it, siphoning the shield’s energy to feed and heal their mistress.

Sunset nodded to herself, and her shield blazed brighter, overloading the amethyst creations, burning them to nothing even as the planet’s life force replenished her own energy levels.

Both sorceresses faced one another again in a ruined landscape, healed and recharged, each more wary of the other than before. Twilight, hovering, surrounded by jewels and light. Sunset, glaring at her from below, engulfed in shadow and fire.

“Alright,” Sunset admitted. “That was an elegant solution.”

“Sunset, look into your heart,” Twilight pleaded. “You don’t want to do this!”

A sneer. “Don’t I?”

“Look around us, look at this desolation! If you really wanted to kill me, don’t you think I’d be dead by now?”

The fiery silhouette shook her head. “Don't kid yourself, Princess. I’m just treading carefully. This world is in a delicate state, and you’ve got too much power to fool with. You’ll be in position soon enough. And then I’ll end you.”

Twilight gaped at her. “Really? You’d really murder me? And for what, to be a princess? You can’t be serious!”

But Sunset only laughed. “Don’t you get it? This isn’t about being an alicorn anymore. It hasn’t been for a long time!”

“What?” Twilight stared, incredulous. “Then why are you doing this at all?”

”Power, Princess! Power beyond even the dreams of gods!”

Without warning, there was a terrible roar. All conversation halted as both combatants were buffeted by a storm of whitish dust from the west.

They weathered the powdery storm for almost a full minute. When it was mostly over, Twilight shouted, “Sunset, that was the moon! It’s ground itself into the planet somewhere over the horizon. Our combat is destroying the realm! We have to stop!”

“I agree,” Sunset called back. “And I admit it, I underestimated you! I thought you were unworthy to be an alicorn!” she gritted her teeth. “And I was wrong!”

“Then come back with me!” Twilight cried. A windbreak of compressed whitish sand stood arcing over her hastily-erected shield, a heavy drift built up against its far side. “Please, before more damage is done!”

“No. But I will offer you this.” She took a step forward as the last growl of the dust storm echoed into the horizon, her eyes staring at Twilight from a face lost to shadow. “Go home.”

Twilight stared at her in sheer disbelief. “What?”

“Go home,” Sunset repeated. “I can force the portal open. Whatever’s left of the coronet is yours, once I’m done with it. I’ll even repair it, if I can. But I won’t let you or anypony else stop me. That’s not happening.”

“But I am going to stop you,” Twilight insisted. “I have to.”

“No, you don’t. There’s no need for you to die. I… I don’t want to deprive the world of somepony like you,” Sunset said quietly, looking away.

There was a terrible, wrenching sound, the membrane between worlds crying out as a rift of light appeared next to Twilight.

“Take your life,” Sunset said, “and go.”

Twilight shook her head, still staring. “You know I can’t do that.”

For a moment, Sunset seemed regretful. Then, she looked again at the disintegrating sky, the desolate countryside around her. Her eyes hardened. The tear between realms healed itself, its unearthly light extinguished.

“Your funeral.”

Sunset’s shield flared and pulsed. Its mystic flames lashed out in a series of golden tentacles like an attacking monster from the deep. But Twilight made another winged leap, her amethyst swarm staying with her as she evaded each tendril.

“Your lack of flight control makes you unpredictable, so you’ve been using it as an asset. That’s clever,” called Sunset. “But Phaedra is my world. This is your last chance!”

“No,” Twilight said softly. “It’s yours.”

Twilight folded her wings in, guiding her flight by will and mental visualization alone. In an instant, she was a blur surrounding Sunset, everywhere yet nowhere, a lavender hurricane, forcing the air up, up, draining the area of anything to breathe.

Once Sunset passes out, I can imprison her somehow, cut off her ties with Phaedra and bind her magic, wait for the gate to open again…

Then a terrible shadow fell across everything with a deafening roar. Twilight had only an instant to realize what was happening before the tsunami engulfed her and the surrounding countryside for a hundred miles around, mercilessly crushing her into the ground faster than she could think, plunging her into darkness.


It was pain that forced Twilight back into consciousness. She knew she hadn’t been out for long. The water was still receding into the massive crevices formed from their duel, and Sunset was walking towards her.

Twilight’s shield was gone. Probably it was the only reason she was still alive. Her butterflies, now gone as well, had been useless against such an attack. She knew that her wing was broken, she could feel some of the bone sticking out, her blood starting to matt the feathers. Her right eye was swelling shut, and each breath was a new experience in agony.

Broken ribs, she thought vaguely. Hope not too many.

Then again, it might not matter. Whether Sunset had caused the wave or just anticipated it, she’d apparently weathered it out just fine. And now she was walking towards Twilight, her own protections also dispelled. Sunset stopped less than a foot from her fallen foe, looking down at her with an expression that was neither angry nor contemptuous, only grim. Even sad.

“You’re a joke.”

Twilight tried to speak, but only coughed weakly, tasting blood as she did so.

“Oh, relax,” Sunset scoffed. “You’re an alicorn now. You’ll be fine.

“Besides, I don’t mean it like that,” she went on. “I said I respected you, and I do. You’ve got a good mind, though not exactly a flexible one. Granted, some of that might be your age. But you’re amazing at spell composition and combat geometry, and you’ve got a gift for magic that only comes along maybe once every few centuries, if that. Plus you’ve got heart to spare.

“But, really? After however many years in Equestria, you’re my replacement? The Princess of Friendship? Even your name: ‘Twilight Sparkle.’ It’s like the universe just wanted to make sure I didn’t miss its latest little jab at me.

“Just please,” Sunset knelt down, while Twilight strained to focus her one good eye on her, “please, just tell me you’re not her only apprentice! Tell me there’s somepony else, somepony with some genuine perception. Somepony with real self-control. Not just some sheltered, fragile, rote-memory learner ruled by sentimentality and fear. Tell me she didn’t spend all those centuries waiting just for you!”

Then, Sunset sighed and sat back. “And yet, when all is said and sifted, who does Celestia send after her precious crown?” she asked. “Her barely-out-of-training student, half-grown and just now on her own, overconfident and under-experienced!”

Suddenly livid again, she put her face next to Twilight’s, her eyes blazing.

“Do you want to talk about insult?” she hissed. “Do you want to talk about the ultimate contempt? Careless, short-sighted, arrogant child--!

“Really?” Twilight managed faintly, blood staining her mouth as she spoke. “Don’t you think… that’s a little harsh? You were never young? You never made mistakes?”

Sunset’s head jerked back as if she’d been slapped. For only an instant, she stared at Twilight.

And in that instant, the two of them were engulfed in violet light.

In Equestria, it was a memory spell. Powerful, but sorely limited. Luna had taught it to Twilight recently, so she could navigate dreams and help ponies heal from past trauma. Twilight had cast the spell when Sunset’s mental defenses had faltered, hoping to gain some understanding of her foe. To either reach her, or get away entirely.

But this was Phaedra. And as the spell engulfed them both, so did Sunset’s memories. Dreams were made real, the dream realm itself invading the physical plane.

The world was an inky void now, populated by shards of emotion and light. The dreamscape had separated them, but through the spell-bond Twilight could feel Sunset hunting her. She could feel her rage and her hate, and above all her resentment at the psychic violation Twilight’s spell had caused.

Desperately, Twilight tried to force herself to move. She collapsed with the first attempt, coughing up more blood. Something inside her ground against something else. Another something stabbed her from within. Still, she knew that if Sunset found her now there would be no mercy.

So, Twilight crawled as best she could through memories and dreams that weren’t hers. She pulled herself forward one inch at a time, eyes closed, making helpless little mewing sounds from the pain, even as the fragmented past played out around her.