• Published 17th Feb 2018
  • 2,212 Views, 63 Comments

Compatī - Corejo

Sunset Shimmer lived a perfect life. Nightmare Moon destroyed it. When Luna seeks reconciliation years later, past demons resurface to threaten all that Sunset holds dear. Though she is willing, the question remains: is there a limit to forgiveness?

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X - Cleansing the Nightmare

I knew I should have returned to Canterlot at first light of the next day. Fate, it seemed, decided I should entertain my hopes for Sunset's change of heart.

I remained at Twilight's castle another day, making myself useful in assisting Spike with his chores and spending my free time among the vanilla smell of old tomes.

’Twas oddly relaxing, such a task as tedious as reordering books, but the repetition had an effect on my nerves, and it kept my mind occupied enough that it could afford no room for fear.

’Twas as I finished sorting the Mystery section that I heard the library door open.


I jolted to my hooves. That was Sunset's voice. She must have heard me rearranging books.

I faltered for the coming storm, but regained my stature. I would not fall. I needed to be strong in order to weather this storm. Weakness had no place here.

Sunset stepped into my corner of the library. Like our encounter in the principal's office, she recognized me immediately. She took a defensive step backward, but then held her ground. A hardness settled onto her face.

Despite the tension, I could not help but trace the outline of her face with my eyes. It had been years since I laid eyes on this mare, in equine form no less. I had forgotten just how strikingly beautiful she was.

“Greetings, Sunset Shimmer,” I said. I did well to watch the level of my voice. I did not mean to startle her, nor overcompensate and appear condescending.

The hardness of her face did not waver in the slightest. She took a slow breath as if also preparing herself for this storm. The silent commiseration served to tighten the muscles beneath my skin.

“Hey,” she said. “I… I talked to Twilight.” Her eyes danced back and forth between mine. It seemed as though she searched for a reason not to follow through with her coming words. “I've changed my mind.”

“That is…” I cleared my throat. “I am glad to hear it. I—”

Sunset threw up a hoof to stop me. The hardness had yet to leave her eyes. “I trust Twilight. Not you. Is she around?”

I swallowed. ’Twas difficult to hear such callous words, but I shackled my pride. This was not a time for bickering. To do so would risk losing this one chance she was willing to give. For I needed to save her, just as much as she needed saving.

“I believe she had business to attend to in town,” I said. “She should be back shortly. In the meanwhile, you are welcome to assist me with reordering the library, or Starlight Glimmer is somewhere in the castle.”

She perked up at Starlight's mention. “Starlight’s here?”

I flicked my ears back and forth. “She seems to hang about the upper floors of the castle whilst I am present. I believe she yet harbors fears of the… friendship lesson she tended to between Sister and myself.”

Sunset appeared confused by my wanton statement, but no less interested in meeting Starlight. She turned about for the exit and made it to the threshold before looking back.

“Thanks,” she said. She left me to my thoughts and the hum of my magic about the stack of books before me.

’Twas only then I realized I still held them in my magic. Indeed, my mind was absorbed so by her.

I recalled the calculated interactions with her, when I was still under the influence of Nightmare Moon. The pain I caused and the strings I pulled to see my machinations come to life.

I set back to finishing my task. I could not afford to drown in my own misery. Sunset needed saving. And, as I knew fully well, so did I.

A quarter hour passed without incident, save a missing book from Twilight's ledger. I double checked the shelf to ensure I had not missed it, bit it appeared the book had never been returned.

As if on cue, Twilight stepped into the library. She wore a smile that rivaled Sister's whenever we shared breakfast in the morning.

“How's the book reordering coming along?” Twilight asked.

“Flawless, save one missing The Curse of the Shackled Mare.”

She frowned. “I'm sure it'll turn up. Would you like to take a break for dinner? You've clearly been hard at work for the past few hours.”

I let my eyes scan up the bookshelf. “I do not believe now is a good time for dinner, Twilight. Sunset Shimmer arrived not long ago looking for you. I believe she went in search of Starlight.”

Twilight snapped toward me. Hope glimmered in her eyes. “You mean Sunset decided to let us help her?”

“I believe so.” All signs pointed toward such a belief, but I was not yet willing to allow my heart that jubilation. I had seen my hopes dashed before, and that was not a risk I was willing to take.

“That's great to hear! Meet me in the portal room in five minutes. I'll go find them. We can get started right away.”

She trotted off ere I could voice my concerns. I knew not whether to believe in her optimism or hold close my fears.

No. I rose to my hooves. The wallowing and self-flagellation ended here. I would walk through whatever fire the future held in store. I headed for the portal room and awaited their arrival.

Twilight knew her timing better than she probably assumed. ’Twas almost on the nose that she, Starlight, and Sunset stepped through the door. They had on their faces an array of emotions, from unbridled optimism to skepticism, to pronounced reservation, respectively.

Behind them towed in Spike carrying a bundle of pillows and blankets far taller than himself. Were it not for our situation, I would have smiled at the absurdity of his image.

“Right!” Twilight said. “So, all we need to do is have you two fall asleep next to each other, do… whatever it is that you need to do, and then wake up. Uh, right?” She glanced at me.

“In a… simplified manner, yes. Sunset.” I turned to her. “Are you… are you sure you are willing to do this? I know you do not trust me, and I will not be offended should you change your mind.”

Sunset threw her eyes and her melancholic ponderings to the floor. “Twilight told me about the Tantabus. You… You can make the nightmares go away?”

She raised her eyes to me, and in them, beyond the guarded fears and reservations there was the faintest glimmer of hope. It was all she needed to solidify my certainty.

“As sure as the stars in the sky,” I said.

My words appeared to find purchase in her heart. Her face softened all but a hair, and the glimmer deep in her eyes welled that much closer to the surface.

She turned to the pillows and blankets Spike laid out for us. A quick test of them with her hooves, and she lay down.

Twilight stepped up beside her and shared words I could not hear. No doubt reassurances, for how Sunset's ears lay back against her head.

“We'll be right here when you wake up,” was all I heard of Twilight before they shared a hug.

I laid myself down beside her, ensuring there remained some room so as to act as a buffer should she feel uncomfortable, yet not so much that I lose the strength of our proximity. The closer I was to the pony whose dream I entered, the greater our connection and in turn my influence over the dream itself. A small advantage, given my unfettered purview of the collective Equestrian subconscious, but I was not one to turn down every ounce of every advantage I could afford.

Sunset closed her eyes and relaxed her head onto her pillow. With a bit of magic on my part, she drifted off as easily as a ship to sea on fairest waters. Her mouth hung slightly open. Hers was a deep sleep that knew momentary peace.

I took a moment to watch her slumber, free of the nightmare that would soon consume her, take in that innocent beauty I only felt near her. It pained me to think I had once used that fact to corrupt her thoughts and play to her emotions.

No more. I was no longer that monster. I would right my wrongs and see her to the paradise she so righteously deserved. I closed my eyes and wound a thread of magic from my horn to hers.

I stood in a featureless plane of dark orange. ’Twas natural for dreams to begin amorphous, colored by the waking emotions the dreamer last experienced. Dark orange was a foreboding color, one of hope yet of presaged violence. Blood would be spilt by dream’s end.

The world drew itself to life as if beneath the pen of a master artist. I stood in the foyer of Canterlot High. A presence materialized behind me, and I felt Sunset Shimmer’s tether pull taut ere I turned.

She stood in human form, face blank as her soul fully took seat within her dream body. She blinked and looked around.

“Where am I?” she said.

I wanted more than anything to emerge from beyond the veil of her consciousness and hold her close. But I knew the Nightmare prowled somewhere in the shadows. If I were to best it, I would need every advantage I could find. So I waited, invisible, for it to show itself.

It did not take long. The room darkened as if a blanket of clouds hid away the moon, and a guttural laugh rolled in from the dark.

Sunset Shimmer staggered away. She raised her hands in front of herself, eyes up and into the high ceilings that began rising beyond sight. “Who’s there?”

My heart hammered in my chest. I felt its presence long before I saw it, the ghostly chill that ran up my spine like ice water. I turned toward the left hallway, and there I saw the first tendrils of its mane slithering toward us.

They lashed out like whips to snare Sunset Shimmer by the ankles. She fell backward screaming and kicked at them, but she could not break free.

The Nightmare stepped forward from the shadows. Black fog rolled out from its underbelly like dry ice as it took long, predatory steps. It had changed since last night. No longer did it appear as my former self, tall and slender, but rather ’twas a body that I likened to the muscular form of a panther. Its wings dragged across the ground at its sides, and it set its heavy jaw square with Sunset beneath white, featureless eyes. Its mouth opened like a jagged gash across its face, and out rolled a long, ichorous tongue.

Before it could take another step, I cast aside the veil of her consciousness and entered her dream in full. “Unhand her! You have violated the sanctity of Sunset Shimmer’s dreams long enough. Submit, demon.”

It stopped and regarded me. A surge of magic thrummed along Sunset Shimmer’s tether, as if a gangly talon plucked it like a string.

In a bassy, demonic voice, it spoke without moving its lips. “You have failed. She is mine.”

I sensed the potential coiled within its breast like a viper. ’Twas stronger than before, drew power from the turmoil I had caused Sunset this eve.

I lowered my nose and flared my wings. “I am Princess Luna of Equestria, Keeper of the Untamed Forest, Wielder of the Elements, Daughter of the Seven Tribes of Harmony, and Regent of the Heavens. You will not harm her.”

It lowered its head and smiled at me. “You are wrong.”

Without another word, it turned toward Sunset. It leapt on top of her, there was a blinding flash, and the Nightmare was gone.

Sunset screamed. She writhed on the floor, and then rose limp into the air as if being pulled up by a string connected to her chest. Her eyes glowed white, and she landed gently on her feet.

Her jaw hung slack, her head lolling to the side. She stared into the distance with blank eyes. Black, spidering veins pulsed beneath the skin of her face, arms, hands. A croaking death rattle rolled out from her throat.

I stepped forward on instinct, but when I realized what happened, I staggered back in horror.

It… joined with her?

This was unheard of. I had seen dreams corrupted by nightmares, subconscious landscapes twisted into depictions of hell and the eldritch alike. But I had never seen a nightmare conjoin with the dreamer themself.

This was bad. The dreamer’s body within a dream was the manifestation of their very soul. As such, the dreamer was sacred within the confines of their dream. But this sort of corruption reached deeper than the surface, had bound itself to the foundation of her being. I could not leave her like this, nor did I know the state of mind she would awake in should I fail.

I had to separate them somehow.

Sentience returned to her in some capacity. She stared at me with wide eyes as tears rolled down her face. She staggered forward with an arm outstretched.

“Luna...” Her voice barely registered over my thundering heart.

I rushed to meet her. “Sunset! What has it—”

She touched me, and her hands were like fire.

My skin hissed, and I cried out. I pushed her away.

The dream shifted. We were no longer in Canterlot High. Blackness stretched all around us.

She crumpled to her knees and held herself by the shoulders. She wept, and black steam wafted from her back. “Please... It hurts.”

“Hold fast, Sunset. I will wrest this demon from thee.”

“You said you’d help me.” She looked up at me, a snarl on her face. “You said you’d make me the greatest unicorn in history. You said you would love me the way She never could.”

I stepped back. There was a disconnect in her words. She spoke of the now and yet not. These were her regrets and fears given voice. The Nightmare spoke through her.

I stood my ground. “I said many things, Sunset. I said many things that hurt you, that made you do things you wished had never come to pass. That was the evil that held me prisoner, as it now holds you.

“But that was the past. You have overcome your failings as I have. You are stronger than your former self.” I fanned my wings and stood tall, but the dream shifted yet again. The darkness around us did not change, but it felt as if we fell deeper into it all the same.

Her tears turned black, and color drained from us both. She stumbled to her feet and backed away. “I gave you my magic. I gave you my heart. I gave… I-I gave you…”

Her face twisted in terror. She clutched the sides of her head and screamed.

“Sunset Shimmer, please! I know what it is like to be alone. I know how it feels to be misunderstood and cast aside by those you love." The tears started down my cheeks. I could not hold them back. "But the past does not control you. I know the good in you, I have seen it! Do not allow this nightmare to consume you. You must fight back!”

I felt the Nightmare reaching deeper into her, its roots digging through to the center of her being. If it infected her fully, I feared what would happen—what I might have to do.

She shook, her body slipping fully out of her control. Her eyes went blank, and her jaw fell slack, lost in the abyss of her Nightmare. She could not save herself.

Compassion bid I step forward, and I felt something I had not expected.

The Tantabus stirred within me. It reached out to her, like the opposite pole of a magnet. I knew what it wanted, what I had to do.

“I cannot take back what I did to you,” I said. “But I can take that which still hurts you.”

I wrapped my hooves about her despite my boiling skin and pulled her close. When my bosom touched hers, our hearts beat as one, and I kissed her.

I subsumed that fire, drank in the pain and countless years spent in darkness.

Sunset placed trembling hands on my chest. Her fingers curled inward, she dragged her knuckles down my chest, and she relaxed to release all that plagued her.

The pain was immediate and unbearable.

I knew the touch of doubt, the taste of greed, the hunger of ambition. I felt the hatred for authority, the emptiness of love unrequited—every last bit of misery I had inflicted upon her.

The Tantabus flared to life. It craned its stellar head toward the firmament of my being, and it rose to face the maelstrom. They clashed in a fury of stardust and lightning, and every blow they dealt wracked through me as if it were I betwixt them.

I squinched my eyes shut, and the pain bid I hold Sunset with all the strength I could gather. Tears streamed down my face, and I buried my face in her chest. I knew not if she regained herself in those moments, if she witnessed my agony. I knew nothing of the world around me, only the pain within and the warmth that was Sunset I clung to like a rock amidst a cataract. And as the seconds wore into minutes, I felt my grasp slipping.

With every clash of stellar hoof, with every roaring wind and crack of lightning I felt the Tantabus losing ground. It was weak, battered by the Nightmare’s unrelenting fury. Within my heart of hearts, it cried out to me. Were I to abide, the Nightmare would consume it and know power unbridled.

I knew of only one recourse. I gathered the Tantabus' essence to the deepest reaches of my lungs, and with another kiss I breathed it into Sunset.

It felt as if a part of me died that instant, as if my soul had been torn in two, one half whisked away in the torrent while the other reached with outstretched hoof. I knew unspeakable pain, the same that I experienced when Sister bathed me in the cleansing fire of the Elements so long ago.

The last wisp gone from my lungs, I pulled away from the kiss. Alone with the Nightmare inside me, I drifted backward in a sudden lack of gravity.

Sunset and I shared a moment of weightlessness, our eyes wide, the only connection between us now. In her eyes shone fear—not for herself, but for me.

I pulled free of her grasp before I lost control and hurt her—or worse, set the Nightmare free. I wrapped my wings about my chest and fell upward through the veil of her consciousness.

Faintly, as if from across the span of the universe:


I opened my eyes.

“Luna!” I cried. I lurched up to my haunches and reached out a hoof to the fading image of hers outstretched toward me, the night air like ice on my sweat-soaked coat. The image faded completely, and Twilight sat just inches from my hoof, wings fanned, probably startled.

“Sunset?” she said. “Sunset!” She hugged me before I could squeak in surprise, and the warmth banished the whirl of thoughts in my head.

It was all I could do to melt in her hooves and breathe a sigh of relief. But that didn't last long, as the memories rushed back in. I gasped and pushed Twilight away.

“Luna!” I shouted.

She lay next to me on the pillows. Her face tensed, and she sucked in a breath.

“Sunset,” Twilight said. “What happened?”

I kept staring, and I felt my hoof reach out of its own accord. An inch from her face, I pulled it back before I touched her. “I-I… She… she to-she took the Nightmare a-away.”

“What? What did you mean she took it?”

I looked up at Twilight. I couldn’t tell what was running through her head, but she looked ready to jump on me and throttle me for answers. It would have probably worked better than me fumbling for words. I felt numb enough as it was.

“I mean... she took it from me, she, she... sucked it right out of me. And… and now…”

“Now it's infected her,” came Starlight's voice behind me. She stared at Luna, lost in whatever thoughts ran through her head. Her eyes snapped to us, dancing between Twilight and me as if she didn't know which one of us to look at.”

I shook my head, but my brain told me to stop doing that with a sharp twinge somewhere behind my frontal lobe. I winced and put a hoof to my head to rub away the last of this jumbled mess of memories.

“But…” I said. “Why would she…?”

Luna was supposed to destroy this Nightmare thing, not take it from me and suffer in my place. Why did she have to do that? What right did she have to do that?

I was safe. I was strong. I could handle the Nightmare and whatever silly dreams it threw at me. Call it suffering, it was tolerable. I was fine. Nopony else had to suffer.

But this… Now someone else was hurting because of me, because of what she did to me.

No. She was hurting because of what she did to me. And you know what? That was fine. Actually, that was better than fine. It was about damn time she got what was coming to her.

She deserved this.

I stood up and headed for the portal.


It was Twilight. The shock rang clear in her voice. I didn't need to turn around to see it, but I could picture it in her eyes.

“Where are you going?” she asked.

“Home,” I said.

“Home?” Starlight said. “Just like that?”

I took a breath. The words about to come out my mouth tasted a lot worse than they sounded in my head, but no less right.

“She took my nightmare away, just like she wanted,” I said. “I didn't want anything to do with this. It's on her.”

Twilight took a few steps toward me, but her hoofsteps fell short. “So, you're just going to walk away? That's… that's not like you.”

I stopped just before the portal. The hurt in her voice cut through me like broken glass, but the fire in my heart, this feeling of just desserts, drew a scowl on my face.

“Then maybe you don't know me as well as you think,” I said. Before she could reply, I stepped through the portal and into the silent Canterlot High courtyard.

It was cloudy, and a chilly wind already tried creeping up the back of my hoodie. I zipped up my hoodie and headed home.

I didn't know what time it was, but with all the studying and that fight with the Nightmare, I was exhausted beyond anything I had felt all semester. I didn't care if there were ten Nightmares waiting for me, I just wanted to collapse into bed and never wake up.

I stomped my way through the piles of leaves lining the devil's strips leading home. The satisfying crunch was enough to keep my head empty of thoughts all the way to my doorstep.

I didn't want to think. I didn't want to hear that little voice in my head. It already tried pounding the words into my brain and—just, no.

I needed sleep. I needed to get my head around this whole damn thing that just turned my life upside down all over again.

The front door opened on creaky hinges, and I stepped inside. Keys in the fishbowl, jacket on the hook. I trudged upstairs.

I faceplanted into my mattress without even taking off my boots. The coolness of the comforter welcomed me like an old friend.

Yeah. This felt nice. I kicked off my boots and crawled under the covers. I liked my room pitch black, and I was happy I didn't have the mind to open the blackout curtains that morning.

I took a deep breath. I should never have agreed to this. I should have stayed here in the human world.

Nothing would have gone wrong. Everyone would be happy. Everyone would be safe. Why did everything have to go so wrong?

Thankfully, sleep hit me harder than I expected, and I was out before the thoughts could start creeping in.