• Published 28th Apr 2018
  • 1,192 Views, 51 Comments

Light and Magic - Allenator05

Sunset Shimmer has made mistakes in her past that she's trying to move on and learn from. What happens when she meets an iron-willed Guardian with a similar past?

  • ...

The Plan Comes Together

Satisfied everything was in order, Princess Luna turned to Sunset and Hildr. "I believe everything is in order here," she said and stifled a yawn. "It is past my bedtime."

Hildr gave Luna a quizzical look. "You sleep during the day?" she asked.

"I am the Princess of the Night, no?" Luna replied with a smile. "I hope to see you both again before you leave for the human world." She looked squarely at Hildr and added, "It was good to meet you Hildr. I found our conversations most enjoyable, if not informative."

Hildr gave a short bow and replied, "Likewise, Your Highness." With a nod of her head, Princess Luna departed.

"Wow. Princess Luna," Sunset remarked.

"I like her," Hildr said simply. Sunset turned and looked up at Hildr in shock. "What? The stone-cold Hildr actually met somepony she can tolerate?" Sunset stood up on her hind legs and crossed her forelegs over her chest. "Stop the presses! This is breaking news!" She then fell on the ground and pretended to faint dead away.

Hildr rolled her eyes in annoyance. "If you're not careful, you'll find yourself off the list."

Sunset jumped back to her feet. "Really?" she asked. "You don't think I'm an annoying pest?"

"I still haven't decided yet," Hildr replied and walked to the door. "Now. I need a large open space that is somewhat secluded. I don't want to cause a scene with my ship."

"Um, sure. I know of a place, but I think we need to fetch Twilight first," Sunset said.

Hildr was confused. "Why? Let the bookworm read her books," she said.

Sunset admitted Hildr had a point. "Well, so we don't waste more time. Once your ship is ready, we can just leave."

"Or, you can show me where to go, you can go and get your friend while I make the changes. They should be done by the time you get back," Hildr said.

"Okay, fine," Sunset pouted. "I kinda wanted to watch you work."

"You mean get in the way?" Hildr replied.

Sunset sighed in exasperation. "If that's the way you see it," she grumped and led Hildr out of the training room. As they walked through the castle, Sunset was lost in thought. The plan they had come up with seemed like it would work, but there was still uncertainty. In all of her studies, Sunset had never heard of raw Magic condensing into crystals. And even if they were to find a large concentration of Magic, there was no guarantee they would find what they were looking for. It was a long shot, but that was better than no shot at all.

Sunset also wanted this plan to work for Hildr's sake. Hildr wouldn't like it, but Sunset couldn't help but feel badly for the displaced Guardian. She was still cold and emotionally distant, but having spent so much time with her, Sunset wanted to know more about her. Her likes, dislikes, what she liked to do for fun, if anything. What places she's been to and the things she's seen. Based on what she knew, Sunset figured that much of it wasn't very pleasant.

Hildr frowned. She noticed that Sunset wasn't really going anywhere but wandering around, lost in thought. She was starting to become irritated, something she found was becoming easier as time went on. She had learned long ago that no matter how well thought out, no plan survived first contact. That didn't make it any less upsetting when plans didn't work out. Not that she had a well-thought out plan in the first place. Perhaps the gods of the universe were punishing her for her seemingly impossible idea. This thought irritated her even further. If there was a god, she wanted to punch him, her, whatever, right in the face for making everything so difficult.

Sunset felt a chill roll down her spine and she shivered. Looking back, she saw Hildr scowling and the atmosphere suddenly turned chilly. Sunset shook her head to clear her thoughts. "Sorry. We're almost there," she promised and hurried on ahead.

The castle wasn't very busy, but Hildr noticed they hadn't seen any ponies in passing for quite a while. Just where was Sunset taking her? As if to answer her question, Sunset stopped at a large stained glass door. "If I remember correctly, this should be outdoor arena," Sunset said and pushed through. Hildr walked out into the sunlight and looked around. The arena was horseshoe shaped with high brick walls to protect the spectators. The ground was paved with white stones that must have had some sort of enchantment since they reflected very little sunlight. Right above their heads was a large balcony, most likely for the princesses and their entourage to watch.

"What happens here?" Hildr asked.

"Nowadays not much, but from what I've read, there used to be games held here. Stallions would fight and race to show off their prowess and earn glory from the crowds," Sunset replied.

"So this is area is available to the public?" Hildr asked.

Sunset shrugged. "Sure, but not for some time. Like I said, much has changed and this area isn't used very often anymore."

Hildr looked over the arena and made some quick calculations. "This should be large enough for my ship," she said and Raven appeared over her shoulder. "How many ships to I have?" she asked.

"Besides your usual ship, there are two others that will suit our needs," Raven replied.

He projected a holographic image of the inventory and Hildr frowned. "This one," she said and pointed with her hoof. Raven's eye blinked and his points spun around the central core and a wireframe appeared. After a few moments, the ship fully appeared and Sunset's mouth fell open in awe. "I don't know why I'm still surprised by anything you do," she said.

Hildr snorted. "When miracles become commonplace, they cease to be miracles," she said.

Sunset considered these words and nodded. "Yeah. That kinda makes sense." She walked around the ship to get a better look. It was certainly bigger than Hildr's other ship. It was dark blue and gunmetal gray. Attached under the nose was a rectangular box with two large antennas pointing forward. Attached under each wing was another antenna of similar design. The whole ship looked very aerodynamic except for a large disk attached to the top. "So what kind of ship is this?" Sunset asked.

A ramp dripped down from the belly and Hildr walked up. "This particular style of ship is designed for long range reconnaissance and information gathering," she said. "The large radome on top is used for detecting and classifying energy signatures."

Sunset carefully followed Hildr up the ramp. The inside was quite cramped, but still bigger than Hildr's other ship. In the very front was the pilot seat. Two more seats were behind the pilot and faced outboard to an array of screens, dials, and other indications.

Hildr stood in the middle of it all and frowned. "This might be more difficult than I thought," she huffed.

"Well, the first thing to do would be configure the sensors to track Magic energy," Raven said. "That shouldn't take very long."

"That may be so, but then we need to change the controls to fit ponies," HIldr said and waved her hooves in the air.

Raven hummed to himself. "Not necessarily. We'll have to make adjustments to the seats, but Sunset and Twilight can use their magic to change the settings on the displays. The only thing that will take time is modifying the pilot controls to fit your current needs."

Hildr gave Raven a disapproving look. "You want the ponies to watch the monitors? They don't know what to look for."

Although Raven couldn't roll his eye, Sunset had the feeling that he had just done so. "I can show them how to operate the sensors and what to look for. They both strike me as rather intelligent. I'm sure they can manage."

"Sunset maybe, but that Twilight Sparkle is bound to have a heart attack," Hildr said. She turned to Sunset and added, "Speaking of which, weren't you going to go and find her?"

Snapped out of her trance, Sunset vigorously shook her head. "Yes! Right. I'll go right now. Do you want me to bring anything back?"

"Like what?" Hildr asked.

"Well, it is close to lunch time, so I figured you might be getting hungry," Sunset smiled sheepishly. As if to prove her point, Sunset's own belly spoke up.

Hildr dismissed her with a wave. "Do whatever you want." Sunset's face fell a little and she exited the ship. Hildr watched her leave out of the corner of her eye and sighed. "Why don't you just tell her how you feel?" Raven asked.

"What do you think this is, some kind of happy children's cartoon?" Hildr retorted. "Should we sit around and profess our undying friendship for each other?" She shook her head and turned back to what she was doing. Raven sighed and began to reconfigure the ship's sensors. An uncomfortable silence began to fill the ship until finally Hildr exploded in exasperation. "Look. It's not that I dislike Sunset Shimmer. I admit that she's started to grow on me a little. But whatever dynamic we have won't last. After we go back through the portal, we'll never see each other again."

Raven bobbed in agreement. "That is true, however even short time relationships can have lasting effect. You of all people should know that."

"You don't have to keep reminding me," Hildr muttered.

Deciding to press the issue, Raven said, "You know, sometimes I wonder what she's doing."

"Stop," Hildr said, but Raven continued. "Is she still alive? Is she still punching Fallen Captains in the face? Does she still drink and swear like a sailor?"

"I said stop," Hildr replied, more forceful this time.

Raven ignored her. "I liked her. She was fun to be around. Being around you all the time is so depressing and dour."

"I SAID STOP!" Hildr shouted and threw a ball of flame at Raven, who ducked out of the way. The fireball exploded harmlessly against the bulkhead.

Raven slowly turned to face his Guardian. "Did…did you just do that?" he asked incredulously.

"So what if I did?" HIldr replied hotly. "I told you to stop, but you continued anyway."

Raven zipped up to HIldr's face. "I've put up with your nonsense for a long time, but this is the last straw. You are my Guardian, for better or worse, and right now is definitely worse. You continually close yourself off from me and others, you threaten me, argue with me, put me down, and actually attempt bodily harm!"

"You have no body," Hildr seethed.

"Then what do you call this?" Raven replied angrily and knocked himself against Hildr's head. "My shell is my physical form and therefore, is my body! You continue to isolate yourself and alienate others. As a self-professed doctor, you of all people should know how bad that is for you. Humans are social creatures and require contact with others. Otherwise, you will severely damage yourself, psychologically and emotionally."

Hildr glared at her Ghost. "So what then, is this a long delayed intervention?"

"I guess it is," Raven said. "And another thing, constantly bottling up your emotions will put undo stress on your body. Your temper is short enough as it is, and you're likely to give yourself a heart attack or aneurism."

"Anything else you want to add?" Hildr asked flatly.

"Not at the moment," Raven huffed.

Hildr glared at her Ghost for some time. "Get back to work. The longer this takes, the longer we'll be here."

"Gah!" Raven shouted. "You aren't listening to a word I say!"

Hildr angrily pushed him out of her face. "I am listening. I just don't care because I have other things to worry about, like getting this ship ready to fly!"

Raven shook himself side to side. "Nope. I can't do this right now." He turned and floated toward the exit ramp.

"Where are you going?" Hildr asked.

"Away from you!" Raven replied.

"Well duh," Hildr retorted. "Anywhere in particular?"

"Why does it matter? You'll be here when I get back. It's not like you're going to go anywhere," Raven said and floated away.

Hildr watched him leave and trembled with rage. The fire burned in her chest and she found herself short of breath. She wanted so very badly to lash out and burn everything to the ground, but she held back. Raven did have a point though. Holding in such intense emotions was not healthy and would certainly lead to problems later in life. Hldr took deep breaths to try and calm herself down, to no avail. The worst part was, she didn't know why she was so angry. Raven's words had upset her and she did tell him to stop, but it was much more than that. The smallest things set her off for no apparent reason. Maybe it was the tremendous stress she had seemingly put herself under. Perhaps that was true, but what other choice did she have? Hildr had made her decision and now she had to live with the consequences, even if those consequences were slowly killing her.

Raven's words had the side effect of bringing up unwanted memories: the feel of a warm embrace, the dampness of a kiss, a light touch of rough and calloused hands, the quickening heartbeat of deep affection. Try as she might, Hildr couldn't block them away. The anger was replaced with sadness and regret, and a stabbing pain in her heart caused Hildr to fall to the ground. Her vision turned blurry and Hildr closed her eyes tightly, but the tears would not be denied.

Sunset wandered through the castle and back out into town. She pushed thoughts of Hildr aside and headed toward the library. She remembered the general direction, but so much had changed. New vendors had opened shop, while others closed their doors. There was a certain electricity in the air, and just from watching other ponies, Sunset was under the impression that something was about to happen. Some kind of gathering or festival? She chuckled to herself. Equestria had many festivals throughout the year. It didn't take much of an excuse for ponies to get together and have a party. Sunset wondered what party everyone was preparing for.

She found the library and walked inside. It certainly resembled any library from the human world, but the books were much older and there were no computers. Sunset wandered through the rows and browsed some of the titles. Unlike the human world, there wasn't much diversity in the fiction section. A large portion of these books consisted of adventure, such as Daring Do, or medieval fantasy. A large portion of the library was devoted to non-fiction and reference. Sunset decided to head in that direction.

As she rounded a corner, Sunset found a table piled high with books and scrolls. At first, she didn't think anypony was there, but a book on top of the pile sprouted a pink magical aura and floated down while another took its place. Sunset grinned and walked around the table to find Twilight Sparkle hard at work. She flipped through the pages, carefully scrutinizing every word and making notes. Sunset recognized the single-minded determination. She was often the same way. Not wanting to startle the princess, Sunset gently cleared her throat.

Twilight didn't respond.

Sunset tried again, a little louder this time.

Still no answer.

Sunset snuck up next to Twilight and said, "Twilight?" Twilight's ears twitched, but she was otherwise unresponsive.

Sunset sighed. She contemplated her next action, and was hesitant to make any more noise since they were in the library after all. She put her mouth next to Twilight's ear and said, rather loudly, "Quesadillas!"

Twilight shrieked and fell over, hitting the table as she did so. This disturbed the stack of books which fell over with a loud CRASH. Sunset winced and helped Twilight dig herself out. "Sorry about that, but you were in the zone there," Sunset said.

Twilight took several deep breaths to calm down. "Yes, I was. Is something wrong?"

Sunset shook her head. "No, nothing is wrong yet. I came to tell you that Hildr had a better idea than burying yourself old books."

At this, Twilight frowned. "What could be better than that?"

Sunset tried and failed to keep the grin off her face. "Oh, I don't know. How about taking a ride in a space ship?"

At first, Twilight didn't quite comprehend what Susnet said. Realization slowly set in and Twilight's eyes went wide and she opened her mouth. Sunset quickly stuck her hoof in Twilight's face. "Library. Quiet, remember?"

"Hmphhth," Twilight nodded emphatically and Sunset slowly removed her hoof. Twilgiht was so excited, she was practically vibrating. "Okay, slow down a little," Sunset cautioned. "Did you find anything useful?"

"What? Oh. Right," Twilight stuttered and went back to the table. "So I checked Starswirl the Bearded's old journals and writings to see if he ever mentioned anything about Magic crystalizing in physical form. I didn't find anything, but Clover the Clever theorized that certain regions of Equestria, such as Everfree Forest, sit along areas of concentrated Magic."

Sunset thought this over. "Like ley lines?" she surmised.

Twilight nodded. "Precisely. Although he didn't have any way to measure these lines or prove their existence."

Sunset looked to one of the open books on the table and scanned the pages. "You know, Raven said he was able to track and measure Magic energy." She flipped a few pages in the book and showed Twilight a diagram. "You said Clover the Clever didn't have a way to accurately prove his theory, but he did write down the calculations for his formula. I bet that between the two of us, we can narrow down our search. That way we have less area to cover."

Twilight nodded. "Yes! And, if what you say is true, we can use Hildr's technology to accurately map the ley lines of Equestria!"

Twilight's enthusiasm was infectious and Sunset was starting to feel it. "I don't know how accurate Raven's sensors are, but it's a start. And it will have the added benefit of proving if Clover the Clever was right or not."

"Of course he's right! Why wouldn't he be?" Twilight exclaimed, but Sunset chose to remain cautious. Twilight opened her notebook to a new page and the two unicorns began their work. Sunset had always preferred practical application to theory, but she found that she and Twilight worked together very well. The two bounced ideas off each other, and sometimes they disagreed, but by the time they were done, they had developed a rough map to follow along with calculations for Hildr's equipment to measure.

"Wow. That was fun! We should do this more often," Twilight said with a sigh.

"I don't know about that," Sunset replied and rubbed her neck. "Books are more your thing anyway."

"But with this, we have a good place to start," Twilight said. They cleaned up the mess and Sunset helped Twilight put the books away. As they left the library, Sunset looked to the sky and noticed the sun was considerably lower. "Just how long were we in there anyway?" she wondered.

"Oh, a few hours or so. Time flies when you're having fun!" Twilight said with a smile.

Sunset frowned. "I think we should get back. I'm worried about Hildr," she said.

"Why?" Twilight asked. "She's capable of taking care of herself right?"

"Well yes, but you've met Hildr right? I don't want to leave her alone for much longer," Sunset said.

Twilight thought about this and nodded in agreement. As they were walking back, Sunset asked, "So. you and Hildr huh?"

"What about it?" Twilight asked, wrinkling her face.

"Well, I heard you haven't really been getting along," Sunset said. "I was just wondering why."

Twilight closed her eyes and sighed. "I thought things would be different after our talk in Zecora's hut, but I guess not. I think it stems from a difference of opinion and the fact that we come from vastly different backgrounds. I mean, I don't hate Hildr or anything, but I just don't see us getting along."

Sunset nodded. "I know what you mean."

"Well what about you? You don't seem to have any problems dealing with her," Twilight said.

Sunset considered this for a moment. "Sometimes I wonder too. Part of me thinks that the only reason Hildr puts up with me is out of obligation."

"What do you mean?" Twilight asked.

"Well, you know I got hurt pretty bad after we met," Sunset said. "She treated me and said I was her patient. There was some other stuff that happened too." They walked in silence for a while. "I think another part of it is since Hildr came here, I've spent most of my time with her. I think that if you spend so much time with a person, you start to learn things about them." Sunset's face fell and she stared at the ground.

Twilight thought about what Sunset had said. "I may be the Princess of Friendship, but that doesn't mean I know everything about friendship. I'm still learning new things and I realize that this will be a never ending learning experience." She then thought back to her interactions with Hildr. "One thing I have learned, and Hildr reinforced for me, is that it's good to hear opinions different than your own. If you simply listen to the same things over and over, you'll never learn something new or have your beliefs challenged." Twilight made a face and added, "I just wish Hildr would be nicer about it."

Sunset chuckled. "Yeah, but I can't imagine her being any other way. Hildr is pretty blunt and straightforward, but that's a good thing. She tells you what she thinks and why. The only problem is you might not like what she has to say."

The two ponies chatted about their work at the library on the way back to the castle. Sunset opened the door to the arena where Hildr's ship was located and Twilight stopped to stare. Obviously, she had never seen anything like it. Even the technology she saw and experienced in the human world didn't compare to this. Twilight's brain finally engaged and she started to run around the ship, taking notes. Sunset sat back and watched with a big smile on her face. "How are you doing Twilight?" she asked.

"I can't believe it! Everything we have in Equestira can't compare to this!" Twilight exclaimed. "Even the technology in the human world is primitive compared to this! Where did it come from? This makes me want to visit Hildr's world even more!"

"As much as I would like to show you, that would be a horrible idea," Raven said as he floated down the ramp. He turned to Sunset and said, "I see you found Twilight. Certainly took long enough. Did you get lost?"

"You could say that," Sunset replied sheepishly. "I got caught up in helping Twilight with her research."

"Was it productive?" Raven asked and Sunset nodded. "We were able to come up with a rough starting point to search for deposits of concentrated Magic. We also came up with calculations to help tune your equipment."

Raven made a sound like he wasn't impressed. "Oh. I guess I'll take a look then." He floated over to where Twilight was gawking at the engines. "How do these work?" she asked excitedly.

Raven made a humming sound and a thick book appeared on the ground. "Nothing in there is classified, so it shouldn't be too much trouble for you to look through that. It's an operator/tech manual for the ship that I've compiled with help from the Tower's tech support."

Twilight stared in awe at the manual, as if it was made of gold and precious gems. "I can look at this?" she asked.

"Of course," Raven replied. "But in return, I need the notes you and Sunset wrote down from the library."

"Oh! Of course!" Twilight said and pulled out the several pages of notes. Raven looked them over as Twilight tore into the manual. To be honest, Raven was impressed. The calculations were a bit off, but he never considered factoring the rate of tectonic plate drift and the density of the planet's core. He took the numbers from the notes and factored them into his own calculations. He found the results quite surprising and actually proved to be the final missing piece. "I must say, the two of you were quite thorough in your research," he said.

"Well, Twilight IS a magical genius and I WAS a personal student of Princess Celestia," Sunset replied, puffing out her chest with pride.

"I suppose you have a point," Raven said. "Whose idea was it to propose the ley line theory?"

"Actually, that came from Clover the Clever a few hundred years ago in Equestria time," Twilight spoke up. "He traveled all over Equesria and made a note of instances of higher than normal Magic energy. He then mapped them out using calculations similar to these and came up with his theory. However, he had no way to prove it with the means at his disposal at the time." She turned back to the manual and gasped in surprise. "NLS Drive? You mean this ship can travel at light speed?"

"Near light speed, but yes," Raven corrected.

"Wow!" Twilight replied, then frowned. "If that's the case, how do you compensate for time dilation and gravity interference?"

"All local gravity influences in the Solar System are carefully mapped and constantly updated through a network of ground stations and relay satellites," Raven said. "Orbits of the major planets and moons have been known and tracked for years, so traveling to them isn't difficult. And as far as the time dilation problem, it isn't much of a factor, but it does occur. You see, the ship isn't traveling past light speed, but near light speed, which is still really fast. So what the drive does is creates a field around the ship that causes the space around it to accelerate to tremendous speed, but the ship itself isn't actually traveling that much faster. Think of it like a small worm hole."

"I see," Twilight replied. "I still don't quite get it, but that's probably because you have all this really advanced technology. All we have here is magic."

"If you like, I can give you the calculations used for near light speed travel and how the NLS cores work," Raven said.

"Really? That would be amazing!" Twilight exclaimed.

Sunset looked around and frowned. "Hey Raven? Where's Hildr? I haven't seen her around."

At this, Raven became sullen and slowly drifted toward the ground. "After you left, we got into a pretty heated argument. I left because I couldn't stand Hldr anymore, and when I came back, she was gone. I tried looking for her, but decided to get the ship ready in case you came back."

Twilight and Sunset shared a concerned look. "What did you say to her that made her so upset?" Sunset asked.

"I brought up the fact that she constantly pushes others away and closing herself off emotionally will ultimately lead to long lasting problems," Raven said. "I might have also brought up an extremely personal matter and Hildr threatened me with physical violence. That was the last straw for me and I had to give her time to cool off." He sighed and turned to the two ponies. "Are you familiar with metallurgy?" he asked.

Both Twilight and Sunset shook their heads. "I know it has to do with working with and treating metal, but that's about it," Twilight said.

"Well, there's a process known as tempering," Raven explained. "Normally, you harden a metal to increase its toughness, but this also leaves the metal very brittle. Tempering is a process where the metal is then reheated to just below its critical point and allowed to cool. This reduces hardness of the metal, but makes it less brittle and prone to breaking under stress."

"And what does this have to do with anything?" Twilight asked.

Raven sighed. "I believe that Hildr is at or beyond her breaking point. She has been under a tremendous amount of stress and this little side adventure has only expounded the problem. Hildr is naturally a very stubborn person, and because of that, she doesn't handle change very well."

Sunset remembered what she saw from HIldr's memories and nodded. "I accidently saw some of HIldr's memories. There was a group of people, I think they were called Iron Lords?" Raven nodded. "In the memory, she didn't seem especially close to them, but she was pretty upset when most of them died."

"I remember," Raven said sadly. "That, among other things, has shaped Hildr into the person she is today."

"So what is it then?" Twilight asked. "What's driving her to do these things? Regret?"

"I'm not sure. Possibly," Raven admitted. "I may be her Ghost, but I don't understand everything that goes on in her head."

The three of them stood around in a circle, each left to their own thoughts and not saying anything. Finally Twilight spoke up. "Is there anything we can do to help her?"

"Right now? At this moment? Find a way to gain access to the Vex network," Raven admitted. "Other than that? Be there for her, support her, but she absolutely detests pity."

"I think we can work with that," Twilight said and Sunset nodded. "Now we just need to find her."

White. Everything was white. It was an odd sensation. Hildr knew she was standing on the ground, but with no discernable lighting source or shadows of any kind, it was hard to discern if she was in a small room or if the white extended to infinity. She looked down and saw she was back in her normal body. Hildr also noticed she was wearing her usual armor. As if playing with a new toy, Hildr wiggled her fingers and moved her hands around. She then patted herself down, feeling her body, touching her face and running her fingers through her hair. Finally satisfied this was indeed her real body, Hildr turned her attention to her surroundings.

At first, Hildr wondered what she should do. There was no horizon and no way to judge distances. Should she try to explore? Should she stay where she was? Ultimately she felt her annoyance building, so she picked a direction and started walking, her footsteps echoing quietly.

How long had she been here? Hildr had no sense of time, so she didn't know. Where was she going? With no visible landmarks, it was anyone's guess. Her mind began to wander until everything boiled down to one question: Why? Wasn't that the ultimate question? Why is the grass green? Why is the sky blue? Why do we do what it is we do? To bring the question to a more immediate standing, why was she walking?

Hildr stopped and considered this. With no purpose or clear direction, why was she walking? What benefit would it bring? One answer would be that she wasn't standing still. At least she was taking matters into her own hands and trying to do something. Moving was certainly better than being stationary, wasn't it? But then, what's the difference between moving for the sake of moving, and moving with a purpose? Maybe that was the problem. Simply by moving for the sake of not remaining still, you were bound to miss things in your surroundings.

Hildr felt a presence behind her, but didn't turn around. She didn't need to. She knew who it was.

"So. This is a thing," a new female voice spoke up.

Hildr felt a sharp pain in her heart and struggled to keep her face a neutral mask. "Why are you here?" she finally asked.

Hildr heard a sigh and footsteps as the newcomer drew closer. "You know, I'm not really sure. If I had to guess, it's because I'm supposed to be here."

Hildr huffed and rolled her eyes. "Typical."

The newcomer shrugged her shoulders. "What do you expect? I ain't exactly what you call a smart person. You of all people should know my usual response to a problem is just punch it in the face." To emphasize her point, she smacked her armored fist into her hand and made a satisfying THWACK.

"I'm well aware of your aptitude for violence," Hildr replied. "You are a Titan after all."

"And I wouldn't have it any other way!" she responded. She sighed and stepped forward, putting her hands on her hips. Hildr looked up and saw only the back of her onetime lover. She stood tall, wearing red and white plate armor of a newer, sleeker design than Hildr's own cloth, leather and chainmail armor. She was a physically imposing woman with shoulder length red hair that matched her armor. However, this was not the same woman Sunset witnessed in her memories. Hildr thought to their last meeting, and a wave of anger and guilt washed over her.

They stood like that for a moment until the red haired woman spoke. "So. Why did you do it?"

"Because I thought it was the right thing to do," Hildr answered.

"Is that really what you think?" the woman asked in reply.

"What other reason would there be?" Hildr asked crossly. "Are you going to stand there and say that I had some ulterior motive?"

The woman shook her head. "I know you're a Warlock and Warlocks are supposed to be pretty smart and stuff, but even I'm amazed at how dumb you can be sometimes."

At this, Hildr's anger flared and her eyes began to burn. "If you have something to say, then say it! I have no patience for games."

The woman chuckled. "Ah yes, the Valkyrie's legendary temper. You know I used to think that your rage, not Solar energy, fueled your Sunsinger abilities."

"Get to the point!" Hildr demanded.

The woman shook her head. "I don't think I'm the one trying to convince you of anything, rather you're the one running from the truth."

Hildr wanted to lash out, but it wouldn't do her any good. She clenched her fists and realized her old friend was right. "I know what the truth is, but that doesn't mean I have to like it," she said.

"If that's the case, doesn't that make you a hypocrite?" the woman asked. "All this talk of keeping the past in the past and looking only to the future, yet you are the one with the heaviest chains."

"What would you have me do?" Hildr shouted. "I told them! I did everything in my power to stop them, but the stubborn fools would not listen! They deserved everything that happened to them!"

"Is that really what you think?" the woman asked.

Hildr took a deep breath and let it out, along with most of the anger. Regret quickly filled the void as she replied, "No."

The woman sighed. "I get it. Really, I do. We Guardians are blessed with near immortality. We stop aging, or at least aging is considerably slowed. We have the potential to live for centuries. And for what? To fight endless hordes of enemies for the sake of humanity? It's a wonder we're not all crazy." She cocked her head to the side and added, "Or maybe we are?"

"So what are you saying?" Hildr asked. "That everything I've said and done is just to cover up the fact that I just…ran away?" The words didn't feel right in HIldr's mouth and she spat on the ground for effect. "I didn't run away, although I can see why you would think that. I just…wanted to find a better way."

"By using the Vex Network to travel back in time to steal the SIVA programming codes?" the woman asked.

"I never said it was a good idea," Hildr muttered.

The woman sighed and vigorously rubbed her head. "I'm probably the worst person to try and explain all this since I don't really get it myself. Say you actually succeed with your plan. Then what? What will you do?"

Hildr's mouth moved, but her mind couldn't quite formulate the words to get her thoughts out. "My first thought was to go with them. Go to Rasputin and prevent the tragedy," she managed to say.

"And would that have worked?" the woman asked.

"How should I know?" Hildr exasperated. "I don't even know if this whole crazy plan would work! I just had to do something."

"Because something is better than nothing?" the woman asked. "Didn't you just try to convince yourself that sometimes it is better to do nothing?" Hildr's response was to glare at the back of the woman's head. "But what are you afraid of?" the woman asked suddenly.

Hildr was surprised by the question and taken aback. "What I'm afraid of?" she asked.

"That's what I asked, isn't it?" the woman replied matter-of-factly.

Hildr knew the truth, but didn't want to say it. She refused to say it. It was silly, but if she gave voice to her deepest fear, then it became tangible. It became a thing. It would become real, and then she would have to deal with it and face it. Ignorance was bliss.

The woman sighed. "Are you really going to make me do it?" she asked. She turned to the side, but kept her head facing away. After a moment, she held her hand out.

Hildr stared at the offered hand as the separate emotions roiled in her stomach. She shook her head and silently cursed herself. There was no reason for her to be acting like a young school girl on a date with her crush. Memories began to flash through Hildr's mind and she stated to hate herself for it. She also started to grow angry at herself for feeling this way, angry at her friend for showing up in this place and forcing her to relive painful memories. With a snarl, Hildr grabbed her hand and held it tightly.

The woman winced a little. "Are you trying to break my hand?"

Hildr said nothing and stared defiantly ahead. The effect was lessened by the fact they were both wearing gloves. The woman spoke up, saying, "You never were one to show emotion, other than anger or annoyance."

"And for good reason," HIldr replied. "Showing emotion is weakness and there are those who would take advantage of such weakness."

"Or, some people simply use it as a coping mechanism so they won't get hurt," the woman replied. She gave Hildr's hand a slight squeeze and added, "I think we both know which one you are."

HIldr's face began to burn with embarrassment. "I told you this wouldn't work, you stubborn fool."

"And because I am a stubborn fool, I never gave up on you," the woman replied.

Hildr slowly relaxed and let her arms drop. "Everyone I've ever cared about either died or left me behind. Eventually you get to the point where it's easier to wall yourself off and push everyone away."

"And how is that anyway to live?" the woman asked. "It's unavoidable that you will intentionally or unintentionally hurt others and be hurt by others. That's simply how it is, how relationships work."

Hildr glared at the floor. "You think I don't know that? I'm acutely aware of the Hedgehog's Dilemma and what that entails."

The woman chuckled to herself. "But I don't see you pulling your hand away."

"What do you want from me?" Hildr shouted. "What more can I do? I'm tired of everything. Tired of running, tired of being angry all the time, tired of being tired." Hildr slumped to her knees. "I'm tired of feeling weak and acting like an angsty teenager." Her eyes began to blur. "I hate this. I hate feeling this way."

Hildr felt a pair of strong arm wrap around her and hold her close. "It's impossible for anyone to be strong all the time," the woman said. "Even for Iron Lords and even for someone like me."

"I was never an Iron Lord," Hildr mumbled. "I was barely associated with them."

"But they knew you and respected you," the woman replied. "Lord Saladin made an offer many times for you to join them, but you were too stubborn to accept."

Hildr sighed and rested her forehead against the woman's armored shoulder. "So you think I should just give up what I'm doing?" she asked.

"I'm not here to tell you what to think," the woman said. She stood up and helped Hildr to her feet. "All I can do is be a shoulder to cry on and tell you when you're being silly." She put her hand on the back of Hildr's neck and touched her forehead to Hildr's.

Hildr closed her eyes and the woman was gone, leaving her alone again. Hildr opened her eyes and sighed. Why did it always come to this? Was this her punishment for her actions, to always be alone? Hildr didn't think this was true. She hated to admit it, but her friend had been right and she couldn't ignore it anymore. Hildr started to become annoyed with herself for overthinking her current situation.

Hildr felt another presence and rolled her eyes. "I'm pretty sure the last thing I need right now is a magical pony princess invading my dreams," she said irritably.

"Forgive me if you think I am invading your privacy," Princess Luna spoke up.

Hildr turned and glared at her. "Oh you certainly are."

Luna narrowed her eyes and looked Hildr over. "So. I assume this is your true form?"

Hildr looked down at herself and nodded. "But why are you here? I thought you were sleeping?"

Luna nodded. "I am. Dreams are my responsibility after all."

Hildr rolled her eyes and shrugged. "Is there something in particular you want to talk about?"

Luna shook her head and sat down. "I sensed your dream was full of turmoil and I wanted to see if I could help."

Hildr knelt before Luna and said, "This is still a gross invasion of my privacy. Is this how you treat all the ponies?"

Luna nodded. "As I have said before, it is my duty to help my subjects with their dreams."

"By invading their privacy?" Hildr pressed. "This is a serious problem! How has no one taken issue with this before? You could blackmail the entire kingdom, or worse."

Luna gave Hildr a questioning look and cocked her head to the side. "Interesting. I have never thought of that. To an outsider who is unfamiliar with our ways, I suppose one could take issue with it."

Hildr sighed with frustration. "Being in the position you are in, doesn't all of this seem like a burden to you?"

Luna shook her head. "It is not troublesome to me at all. I have been gone for so long and so much has changed that I am glad to help ponies in one of the few ways that my sister cannot."

"Aren't you afraid of regressing back into Nightmare Moon?" HIldr asked.

Luna gave some thought to this before replying. "There is no difference between myself and Nightmare Moon. When those dark thoughts start to surface, I have the love of my sister and those I consider my friends to rely on."

Hildr looked down to the ground. "I see," she replied. "How much did you see before coming here?"

"Very little," Luna admitted. "I witnessed your friend departing as I arrived."

Hildr let out a small sigh of relief. "It's not that I don't trust you Princess, but I don't know you well enough to bare my deepest darkest secrets."

"Nor would I expect you to," Luna replied. "However, it seems that it has had quite an effect on you."

Hildr merely nodded in reply. "I don't mean to be rude, but I think my nap has gone on long enough. There is much I still need to accomplish here."

Luna nodded in understanding. "I thank you for being civil despite my intrusion into your thoughts."

"Oh, I'm still pretty mad," Hildr replied. She rose to her feet and quickly vanished, leaving Luna alone.

Hildr opened her eyes and groaned. She slowly rose to her feet and shook herself all over to try and get the blood flowing again. It was then Hildr realized she was still in Equestria and still a pony. She sighed heavily and took note of her surroundings. She was laying under a tree in the center of a large courtyard. Behind her was the entrance back to the arena where her ship was. The rest of the courtyard was ringed with high walls and closed down vendor stalls. From the look of things, this space hadn't seen use for some time. The sound of wood creaking on cobblestones caught Hildr's attention and she noticed a young unicorn wearing a blue cape and large pointy wizard hat pulling a wooden cart. She watched as the unicorn stopped to set up her cart.

Hildr was intrigued, but she wasn't quite sure why. Why would a pony she's never met spark her interest? By all accounts, she should get up and head back to her ship. Surely by now, Raven was looking for her. She then thought back to her dream. Perhaps this was one of those times she should just stop and observe.

The unicorn finished setting up her cart and Hildr realized it was some sort of stage. Taking this into account, along with the unicorn's costume, Hildr decided she must be some kind of magician or performer. She rose to her feet and walked over. "Hello," she called out.

"Eep!" the unicorn startled and jumped in surprise. Hildr stopped and waited for her to calm down. "Who are you? Where did you come from?" the unicorn asked.

"My name is Hildr. I'm just passing through," Hildr replied. "Are you some kind of magician?"

At this, the unicorn's eyes lit up and she puffed out her chest proudly. "But of course! The Great and Powerful Trixie stands before you, the greatest and most powerful magician in all of Equestria!" The Great and Powerful Trixie rolled the 'r' in her name for effect.

Hildr winced inwardly. Her delivery was a bit cringy, but she couldn't fault the little unicorn. "I see. Well, Great and Powerful Trixie, what brings you to Canterlot?" she asked.

Trixie tossed her head vainly, swishing her mane in the breeze. "The Great and Powerful Trixie was invited to perform at the first ever Friendship Festival!"

Hildr nodded her head. "Clearly a great honor," she said.

"But of course!" Trixie replied. "One cannot have an important festival without the Great and Powerful Trixie to perform. It would simply be a crime otherwise."

"Tell me, Great and Powerful Trixie, what sort of big surprise do you have in store?" Hildr asked as she sat down.

"Ah ha! The Great and Powerful Trixie sees what you are trying to do!" Trixie replied and pointed at Hildr in dramatic fashion. "You are trying to get me to tell my secrets! Alas! You will fail!"

Hildr sighed. "I would never do such a thing, oh Great and Powerful Trixie."

About that time, Raven showed up with Twilight and Sunset in tow. "I really don't understand your fear of melted cheese and flatbread," he said.

Twilight suppressed a shudder. "It's just…so much…cheese."

Sunset gave Twilight a questioning look. "I'm with Raven on this one. I just don't get it."

Raven looked up and finally noticed Hildr. "Oh. There you are." He hesitated for a moment before slowly approaching Hildr. "So. Is everything okay?" he asked carefully.

Hildr replied with a curt nod. "For now."

Twilight noticed Trixie and stopped in her tracks. "Trixie. What are you doing here?"

Trixie tossed her head back and smiled haughtily. "Well hello, Princess Twilight. Imagine Trixie's surprise at meeting you here. Trying to learn my most amazing secrets?"

Twilight simply stared at Trixie. "Um, no, actually. Besides, I thought you were past all of this. And where is Starlight Glimmer?"

Trixie shrugged her shoulders. "We're not tied at the hoof, so I don't know where Starlight is. And past all what? Trixie has always been Trixie."

Twilight groaned and rubbed her head. "Why does this have to happen now?"

"I agree!' Trixie exclaimed. "You interrupted my performance for this strange pony I've never seen before."

Twilight and Sunset both stared at Hildr. "What is she talking about?" Sunset asked.

"We were discussing her performance for an upcoming celebration," Hildr replied simply. "Since she is a stage magician and I am an audience, I was under the impression that she was going to put on a little show." Hildr turned back to Trixie and stared down at her.

Trixie's bravado cracked slightly under Hildr's unrelenting gaze, but she cleared her throat and quickly put on airs. "Indeed! The Great and Powerful Trixie will now give you a small taste of what to expect from the big performance!" Trixie stomped on the ground and disappeared in a cloud of smoke.

When the smoke cleared, spotlights revealed Trixie on her stage and she performed a few of her tricks and illusions. Twilight rolled her eyes at the show, but Sunset's attention was on Hildr. She became apprehensive at Hildr's seemingly unresponsiveness to the performance. Sunset secretly hoped that Hildr wouldn't say anything terrible to Trixie.

With a final flourish, Trixie performed her last trick and made a sweeping bow. Twilight faked a smile as best as she could and both she and Sunset clapped. "Yay. Great show," Sunset replied uncertainly. She quickly turned her attention to Hildr to catch her reaction.

At first, Hildr didn't move, but to Sunset and Twilight's surprise, an approving look appeared on Hildr's face and she clapped her hooves. "Bravo. Well done," she said.

Sunset's jaw hit the ground and Twilight could only stare in shock. "You…you liked the show?" Twilight asked incredulously.

Hildr gave them a curious look. "Why wouldn't I?" she replied. "It is clear to me that the Great and Powerful Trixie's talent is stage magic. And since both of you have told me that a pony's special talent is often tied to their livelihood, who am I to inhibit her calling? She's an entertainer. I was entertained. She did her job. Who am I to argue with that?"

"But…but she's so…Trixie," Twilight sputtered.

Hildr narrowed her eyes and rose to her full height. "I think I see where this is going. Your problem isn't with Trixie herself, but with her boastful attitude, correct?"

Twilight only stared back in response. Hildr sighed. "Let me guess. Once upon a time, Trixie came to Ponyville to put on her little show, you took offense to her bragging and outlandish claims, something happened, Twilight saved the day, and Trixie ran away in shame." She then looked to Trixie, who started to look rather uncomfortable. "Am I wrong?"

"Not exactly," Trixie admitted. "Everything would have been fine, but a couple of colts mistook my words and put the town in danger. Of course, Twilight saved the day, but I was practically run out of town."

"Because your bragging put the town in danger!" Twilight responded.

"But that was a long time ago and everyone has moved on from that," Trixie quickly said. She frowned and added, "Or so I thought."

Hildr turned her attention back to Twilight. "Do you not understand how showmanship works? Theatrics and grandiose claims are all part of the act, to draw attention and keep the audience engaged. Otherwise, who would want to see a mopey and depressing act? The whole point is to have fun and be amazed at the performance. If you can't understand that, then I really don't know what to tell you."

"I don't have a problem with it," Twilight defended herself. "What I DO have a problem with is the fact that lives were put in danger due to a misunderstanding."

"And rightfully so, but didn't you say the culprits were young children? It really is no surprise they took Trixie's claims to heart," Hildr said. She turned back to Trixie and said, "I really did like your show. Unfortunately, I don't think I will be around to catch the main event."

"Oh," Trixie replied sadly. "And here I was hoping I'd found a pony who actually understood what I was about." She shook her head and her aura of grandeur returned. "Fear not! The Great and Powerful Trixie assures you that her performance at the Festival of Friendship will be her finest yet!"

Hildr merely nodded and turned to go back to her ship. After a moment, Twilight and Sunset ran to catch up.


Are these journal entries really that necessary? I mean, we've been able to meet face to face and hold meaningful conversations. I really am glad to talk to you face-to-face. We should do it more often. Now that I've reestablished my relationship with Princess Celestia, coming back to Equestria doesn't bother me as much. But at this point, I've become used to writing my thoughts down and it has a therapeutic quality to it.

I've suspected it for some time, but I guess it really is true that ponies here have counterparts in the human world. And yes, that means I have a Trixie as well, and she's pretty much the same. However, hearing what Hildr said put it in a different perspective. Don't get me wrong, Trixie is still a braggart and can be quite frustrating to deal with sometimes, but I think we have to realize that some of it is part of her act as an entertainer. And before you ask, yes, I was mean to my Trixie as well, and sabotaged her chances of appearing on a television talent show. I really wish I could take that one back.

Most people just dismiss Trixie as an annoying blowhard, but maybe there is more to it than that. I'm not saying that she has issues she's compensating for, but perhaps we shouldn't be so quick to dismiss her outright. I'll have to think about this a little more.

I forgot to ask, how is Starlight Glimmer? I only met her the one time, but she seemed like an interesting pony. We got along okay and she was a big help during that thing with the mirror. Oops. Did I ever say anything about that? We'll get into that later.

I should warn you though, try not to freak out about Hildr's spaceship. She already thinks you're going to give yourself a heart attack from excitement. Let's prove her wrong, shall we?

Always yours,

Sunset Shimmer