• Published 28th Apr 2018
  • 1,189 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?

  • ...

Little by Little

To the surprise of no one, the tower that Hildr had seen in the distance was deceptively far away. Since she had no idea of where it was or how far away it was, Hildr simply kept her Sparrow pointed in the general direction and tried to keep it in sight. The path she had taken from the top of the cliff soon wound through narrow canyons of rock and bronze colored lattice work. All the while, Hildr noticed there was no sign of any Vex activity. She started to wonder if she was the only living thing on the whole continent.

The sun started to set and she was no closer to her goal. "Perhaps we should find a place to stop for the night," Raven suggested. Hildr ignored him and continued onward. Finally, it became too dark to see and Hildr hopped off her sparrow. Raven appeared and turned on his light. "Well now what? I don't want to say I told you so, but we'll pretend I did," he said.

Hildr looked around and from what she could see, the walls of the canyon weren't terribly steep and had ledges and steps cut into them. Up above, several stars poked through the clouds. While Hildr was contemplating her next move, Raven put the sparrow back in storage. "What are you thinking about?" he asked.

"I am thinking that I could get a better view from up there," Hildr said and pointed up.

Raven looked where she was pointing and sighed. "How about I just float my way up there, have a look around and take some scans?" he suggested. Hildr crossed her arms and shrugged. Raven hummed to himself as he made his way up the canyon wall. His light grew fainter and fainter until it disappeared over the edge, leaving Hildr alone in the darkness. Hildr took her helmet off and listened carefully. Normally, there would be some background noise from wind, wildlife, small insects, but there was nothing. In fact, the canyon seemed to act as an insulator. As her ears became accustomed to the silence, the sound of her own breathing and heartbeat became deafening. The rest of her senses became hypersensitive in attempt to make up for the lack of hearing. The overall atmosphere was very disturbing. Her mind naturally craved for some kind of auditory input and with the lack thereof, a cold tingle walked up her spine. A sudden dizziness came over her and she had to sit down.

Hildr huffed to herself and tried to focus her thoughts on something other than the uncomfortable isolation. At the very least her Light burned like a raging fire inside her. If this was to be her end, she would meet it with her head held high and no regrets in her heart.

Hildr vigorously shook her head. What was with those kinds of thoughts? There was nothing out here and that was the problem. And no regrets? Ha! Hildr had plenty of regrets, but she refused to let them hold her back. But she was curious. What was it about this place that played games with her mind? Perhaps she was simply overthinking everything.

Normally the sound of Raven floating around was never noticed, but with her hearing strained to the limit, he sounded like a hurricane and it startled Hildr. Raven jumped back in surprise. "Whoa. A bit jumpy are we?"

"Not really. It's really quiet and my hearing is super sensitive right now," Hildr said with a sigh and rose to her feet. "What did you see up there?"

"To be honest, not very much. Even for the Vex, this place is a wasteland," Raven said. "But you'll be pleased to know that the tower is up ahead, maybe half a mile as the Ghost flies."

Hildr put her hands on her hips and glared at her Ghost. "So how far is it as the Guardian walks?"

Raven's points twisted around his eye in a nervous fashion. "Um, yes?"

Hildr rolled her eyes. "So which way is it?" she asked.

"It's still in the general direction you were heading," Raven said, "But while I was up above, I saw that this canyon doesn't go that far. Either you climb to the top as you said, or I simply call the ship down, transmat you aboard, and then it will be about half a mile as the Guardian flies."

Hildr thought for a moment and nodded. "Okay. We'll do that then." A shadow soon fell over her and Hildr looked up and saw her ship hovering above. Raven transmatted her onboard and a quick flight later, Hildr was at the base of the tower. It was perhaps the size of a four story building with a series of spires sticking out of the top. From her current location, Hildr couldn't see a way in. She frowned and let out a frustrated breath.

"What are you looking for?" Raven asked.

"Right now, a way inside," Hildr said. She pulled out her pulse rifle and started to walk around the tower.

"Okay, I kinda figured that. What are you looking for inside?" Raven asked.

"Hopefully a conflux or some kind of information center to find a conflux," Hildr said.

Raven considered this. "I suppose that makes sense."

Hildr walked all the way around the tower, but didn't see an entrance at the ground level. However, the sides of the tower had different layers, providing a series of makeshift steps. About half way up, she noticed an area that had a darker shadow than the rest. "Do you see that area?" she asked.

Raven squinted his eye. "I think so. Looks like it might be an entrance of some kind."

"I was thinking the same thing," Hildr replied. She then planned her route up the tower and started climbing. Using her Glide ability, Hildr deftly made her way up the tower.

Raven took the time to look around. "I bet this would look a lot more impressive in the daytime," he said. "Also, don't look down."

After a few close calls, Hildr arrived at the opening she saw from the ground. "If you would please," she said and Raven floated forward, lighting the way. The narrow entryway opened up into a larger room. Off to the side was a ramp that lead to the upper levels. With Raven leading the way, Hildr walked up the ramp.

Normally, Vex structures were lit from within and there was always some kind of background noise. Not so. Like everything else she had seen so far, this place felt dead, almost tomb-like. "What do you think happened to make everything like this?" Raven asked. He was periodically looking around and taking scans.

Hildr walked carefully behind and had her shotgun in her hands and ready to go. "I don't know, but whatever happened, it was certainly effective," she said.

By now, Hildr guessed they were close to the top of the tower. She walked up the ramp into a large dead-end chamber, however there was a hole in the roof. Hildr looked up and could see the stars and some clouds overhead. Carefully timing her jump, Hildr used her Glide ability to emerge through the opening. The top of the tower was about the same size as the room below with a perimeter wall about waist high. In each corner was a long, jagged piece of metal that probably served as some kind of antenna. As she looked around, Hildr noticed a Vex portal off to one side. Unfortunately, it was dead. Hildr turned her attention outwards. From this height, she could see the path she had taken to get here, along with other paths that branched in different directions. Behind her, the narrow canyon opened up into a wide throughway. The moon was just over the horizon and cast a pale glow across everything.

"Hildr? I think I found something," Raven called out. HIldr jumped back down through the hole and made her way to where Raven was shining his light. "What is that?" she asked.

"I'm not sure. Some kind of Vex data storage?" Raven wondered. The object in question was a dark blue-green colored orb, about the size of a basketball. The surface was very shiny and it looked to be made of glass, but was also pitted and chipped in some places, suggesting it had been exposed to the elements for many years. A bronze colored metal ring circled the globe with patterns etched into the surface that reminded Hildr of solder connections on a computer board. The whole thing was supported by a metal base that seemed to grow out of the floor. Raven floated around the thing while taking scans.

Hildr searched her memory to see if she had any recollection of such a thing, but nothing came to mind. She stowed her shotgun over her shoulder and removed her glove. "I'm going to touch it and see what happens," she said.

"Um, okay," Raven replied hesitantly. "My initial scans haven't revealed anything, but for the record, I don't think this is a very good idea."

"Noted," Hildr said and slowly reached out with her hand. Her fingertips brushed the smooth surface and she held her breath. When nothing happened, Hildr pressed forward until her whole hand was firmly on the orb. "Hmm. Nothing. Perhaps it is dead," she said.

Raven made a sound, like he was letting out a sigh of relief. "I don't know why I expected anything different," he said.

Hildr frowned and looked at her Ghost. "What's that supposed to mean?" she asked.

"What I mean is, normally in situations like this, the lights suddenly come on, the intruder alarm blares loudly, and the security devices engage. It usually doesn't end well for the interlopers," Raven said.

"You've been watching too many heist movies," Hildr scoffed. She pulled her hand away and put her glove back on. "Keep scanning and see what you can find. I'm going back up to take a look." Raven grumbled to himself as he returned to scanning the orb, while Hildr jumped back through the hole in the roof. She went back to the portal and looked it over very carefully. It didn't seem like it was too badly damaged and the only wear and tear appeared to be from exposure to the elements. Hildr supposed that its location also had something to do with its good condition. From what she could remember, Vex portals required a power source, but Hildr didn't find one on top of the tower. If anything, it was down inside and power was routed up.

Hildr hopped up on the wall and sat down, her feet dangling out in space. Going over what she had seen and learned, she started to put together a hypothesis of what happened. The first and most obvious was that humans had colonized this world. Although she didn't have actual proof yet, Hildr strongly believed a colony ship from Earth came to this planet. There was also the idea that these weren't actual humans, but aliens that closely resembled humans in shape and function, however Hildr decided the possibility of this was quite low.

The second fact was the humans managed to build a highly advanced civilization, if their buildings and city ruins were any indication. Hildr wondered if this was the work of SIVA and shuddered at the thought. She hoped that if that was the case, the SIVA was long dormant or even destroyed. The thought of SIVA brought back difficult memories for Hildr, ones she would very much like to forget.

SIVA. A self-replicating nanotechnology developed by the Clovis Bray research institution, back during the Golden Age of Earth. It was believed that by utilizing SIVA, the colonists could inhabit new worlds and quickly build a civilization. The records had long been lost, but it was thought that SIVA worked by breaking down and reshaping matter, using a series of command codes, or directives. During the Collapse, SIVA was thought to have been lost. Hildr sincerely wished it had been.

Hildr shook her head to try and clear her mind. Dwelling on the past did her no good here. All she had was her mission, and she would do everything in her power to see it carried out. But first, she had to find a way to activate the Vex portals.

Back to her hypothesis. The Vex had arrived. How and why was anyone's guess. Despite all this time, the Vex were still a mystery. Osiris had driven himself mad trying to learn the secrets of the Vex. What hope did the rest of them have? In any case, the Vex were here and started doing their Vex thing. Clearly, this brought them into conflict with the humans. Based on historical data, the Vex should have steamrolled this planet and converted it into one of their machines. So what changed?

The wind picked up and pulled at her robes. Hildr jumped down from her perch, deciding it wouldn't be a good idea to get blown off the edge. She pulled out a pair of binoculars and scanned the horizon. Since it was still nighttime, there wasn't a whole lot she could see, however something did catch her eye. Off in the distance, she could make out another tower. Hildr zoomed in as best as she could, but the tower was just a fuzzy blur at best. A cloud moved out of the way and the light of the moon reflected off of something shiny. Hildr continued her search of the horizon, but when she looked back, the tower was gone.

Hildr frowned. Had she simply overlooked it? She stared at the spot she thought she had seen the other tower and searched very carefully with the binoculars, hoping that the reflection would give it away. Unfortunately, the clouds moved in and covered the area in shadow.

A low growl escaped from Hildr's throat. She was certain she had seen something out there. How could she miss it? This whole area mostly flat and had very little in the way of hills or mountains. Hildr made a mental note to investigate the area in question.

Just then, Raven spoke up. "I think you should see this." Once again, Hildr jumped down into the chamber below. "What?" she asked.

"I finally managed to decipher what this is," Raven said.

"And?" Hildr asked impatiently.

"This is a storage node on the Vex network," Raven said.

Hildr crossed her arms and asked, "How does that help us?"

Raven turned to Hildr, shining his light in her face. She winced and put her hands up. "Hey! Watch it!"

"Oh! Sorry," Raven said and quickly looked away. "Like I was saying, I believe the Vex use these to store information, like filing cabinets."

"And did you find out what is in this particular node?" Hildr asked, her voice rising.

"Yes, yes, please calm down," Raven said. "From what I was able to find, this tower served as a forward outpost. Here, the Vex recorded observations of the human cities and military movements."

Hildr thought over Raven's words. "Is there any indication of what killed everything?" she asked.

"The nearest I could find was mention of a strange power, completely unknown to the Vex," Raven said. "After that, the data is either missing or corrupted."

Hildr began to pace while she thought. "If this was just a forward base, there must be a central hub the Vex used. Can you find it?"

Raven spun his points, the equivalent of a shrug. "I suppose. Shouldn't be too difficult."

"Well get on it then!" Hildr replied curtly. Raven sighed and turned back to the orb. Hildr sat down in the corner, suddenly feeling very tired. She pulled her helmet off and breathed in the cool night air. How long had she been stuck on this planet? Actually, stuck isn't the right word. Marooned? Stranded? Side-tracked. How long had she been side-tracked on this planet? Three days now? But before that, how long had she spent in the Vex network? Time meant nothing to them. It could have been days, months, even dozens of years. And in that time, Hildr hadn't allowed herself time to stop. She hadn't been sleeping very well or eating much. She couldn't allow herself to stop moving. If she did, even for a moment, questions and doubts would creep in and infect her thoughts.

Hildr shook her head and sighed. As a medical professional, she knew the importance of proper rest and taking care of her body, but she couldn't find it in herself to care. Lost in her own thoughts, she didn't know Raven was talking to her until he nudged her cheek. "Hey. I found something that might be important," he said.

Hildr blinked and wiped her eyes. "Like what?" she asked.

"Are you familiar with the Citadel on Venus?" Raven asked.

Hildr stared at him. "You found something similar here?" Raven nodded. "It's located near the center of the Vex infestation and as such, I believe we'll be able to find the answers we need there."

Hildr nodded in reply. "So Raven, based on everything we've found so far, what do you think happened to the Vex here?"

Raven looked around the room. "I honestly don't know. For there to be this much devastation, it's almost like the Traveler used its power directly."

"But why would that be the case?" Hildr argued. "What is the only difference between this planet and our Earth?"

"What are you getting at?" Raven asked.

Hildr rolled her eyes in exasperation. "Besides us and the Vex, who or what else has been in contact with this planet?"

Raven's points spun around faster and faster as he thought. Hildr was certain he was going to fry all his processors when he stopped and focused on Hildr. "It's Sunset, isn't it," he said.

Hildr nodded. "Not her specifically, but her kind. The ponies."

Raven floated down until he was eyelevel with his Guardian. "But how is that possible? Sunset Shimmer is the only one, isn't she?"

Hildr shrugged. "Remember, she came here through a magic portal. Who's to say there weren't others before her?" Hildr then cast her gaze to the Vex storage node. "It's only a guess, but it's the best one I have at the moment. I think that at some point, ponies came here from their world and used their magic on the Vex."

Raven considered what Hildr was saying. "I suppose that would explain the 'strange power' the record describes," he said. "But can you imagine what kind of power it would take to do all this? If that's true, these ponies are more dangerous than we thought."

"I never considered them an actual danger," Hildr said. "From what Sunset Shimmer has said, it sounds like the magic the ponies use is virtually non-existent here."

Raven hummed quietly to himself. "So what do you think we should do?"

"For now, I don't want to do anything, but I suppose we should go find this planet's Citadel and investigate," Hildr said.

Raven flited about nervously and said, "I think we should check in with Sunset Shimmer and make sure nothing has happened to her."

Hildr frowned. "Why should I do that?" she asked.

"Because it's the decent thing to do," Raven argued. "She got hurt because of us. She's involved in this because of us. She, her friends, and everyone else on this planet have no defense against the Vex. We have a responsibility to see this through and keep them safe."

Hildr scoffed. "You barely know her. Why would you even say such things? It's her own fault for getting involved. No one asked her to get involved in the first place. Whatever blame you assign me must also be placed on her."

"And how could she not get involved?" Raven shot back, raising his voice. "You are right. We don't know her very well, but from what I have seen, she is smart, strong willed, and willing to sacrifice herself for the people she cares about." His voice lowered and he added, "She reminds me a lot of you."

Hildr sighed. "Maybe once, but not anymore." She stared off into the distance for a moment before adding, "Were you able to get the location of the Citadel?"

"Like I said, yes," Raven said. "Based on what we know from Venus, it shouldn't be hard to find." Hildr nodded and rest her head against the wall. "I just want to rest a bit, then we can head back to Canterlot City. Were you able to find any more signal beacons?"

At this, Raven jumped back. "Actually, I haven't been looking," he admitted.

"Well it's not like you'd be able to find anything about it in the Vex records," Hildr said. "Whoever set those up, did it recently. If I had to guess, probably within the last ten years or so."

"How do you figure?" Raven asked.

Hildr shrugged. "Just a hunch. The technology needed for such a thing is pretty advanced, more advanced than what I've seen from this planet so far. That says secret government research and funding to me."

Raven nodded in agreement. "That is a good point. Plus, there's no telling how long the government or whoever has been hiding all of this."

"Well it's not for us to find out," Hildr groaned as she readjusted her position.

"Do you want the overnight kit?" Raven asked. Hildr shook her head and closed her eyes. Raven settled nearby and watched his Guardian sleep. Based on his calculations, the sun would be up soon anyway.

The alarm went off and Sunset Shimmer quickly turned it off. She lay in bed for a moment while her body struggled to wake up. She then remembered what she had planned for the day and her eyes went wide and she shot up. In her hurry to get up, Sunset's legs became tangled in her blanket and she fell to the floor in an unglamorous heap.

"Oof," Sunset winced and rubbed her head. "And a perfect 10 for the epic dismount." She untangled herself and quickly got dressed. She grabbed her backpack as she ran down stairs and stuffed several notebooks, pens, and her journal inside. Sunset then went to her makeshift kitchen and put together a small lunch. Before heading out, she checked the terrarium by the window. "Hey little guy. I'll be gone for a while, so be good okay?" she said. The yellow and black spotted lizard gave Sunset a lazy look and went back to sunning itself. Sunset placed a small jar of food in the corner, grabbed her helmet and headed out the door.

As her name implied, Sunset Shimmer was not a morning person, however she was willing to make the occasional exception. Like when she had big plans for the day. Smiling to herself, Sunset walked briskly through the parking lot to her motorcycle. Once she was ready, Sunset hopped on and took off.

Sunset turned onto the main road and headed out of town. Her destination was Everfree Forest. The first reason was that it was away from the city where she wouldn't be noticed, however it wasn't the townspeople she was worried about. Her hope was those shady government guys wouldn't find her. The second reason was arbitrary at best. Back in pony Equestria, Everfree Forest was a wild and chaotic place that didn't adhere to the normal pony ways. It also housed many strange and dangerous animals. Sunset Shimmer doubted the same was true for this Everfree Forest. The last reason was purely personal. Sunset Shimmer simply wanted to get away from the city for a while.

Everfree Forest was also the home of Camp Everfree, where Sunset Shimmer and her friends had spent a week earlier in the summer. The camp, however, was several hours away from Canterlot, and Sunset Shimmer had no desire to travel quite that far. There were many other trails and campsites that would suit her needs.

Sunset quickly left the city behind and cracked the throttle open on her motorcycle. The engine responded almost instantly, and the speedometer quickly reached triple digits. Sunset could hear the wind whistling through her helmet and tugging at her clothes. She then slowed to a more reasonable speed and leaned back while balancing carefully, and stretched her arms wide. The pure joy she felt made her want to shout at the top of her lungs. It was for moments like this that Sunset had her motorcycle, and it made her feel like a young filly again.

Sunset took control of her motorcycle and turned off the main road. She followed this side road for a while and arrived at a small parking lot. At the far end was a large board that displayed the different trails and campsites. Sunset parked her bike, locked it up, and briefly consulted the map. When she was satisfied, she set off down the trail.

It wasn't quite mid-morning yet and the air was still crisp. The wind whispered through the trees, adding to the sounds of animals and insects. The trail was well maintained, so Sunset Shimmer had no difficulty walking while admiring the wilderness. Among the many regrets she had from her time in Equestria was she never took the time to go out and simply enjoy the outdoors. She had been so focused on her studies, she considered many things as distractions. Sunset sighed and her face fell. In the time since the Fall Formal, Sunset had made sure that she would let herself enjoy the little things in life.

Before long, the trail ended at a small campsite. A wooden table sat next to a fire pit and a hand pump for water. Sunset put her backpack on the table and pulled out her books and notebooks. A tall tree stood nearby and looked particularly inviting, so Sunset sat on a rock near its base. She opened her notebook and read over her notes. "The first step is to focus on the latent magical potential inside and bring it forth."

Sunset Shimmer closed her eyes and concentrated on her breathing. Slowly, the sounds of the forest faded away and was replaced by the thump thump of her heartbeat. Deep inside herself, Sunset found the tiny ember that was her magic. She imagined reaching out and embracing it with her hands. The ember fanned to life and became a small flame. Sunset felt a surge of warmth through her body that felt very familiar.

Sunset opened her eyes and saw a red aura surrounding her body. She reached up and felt the pony ears on her head and noticed her red and gold hair had grown in length. "Hmm. Step one complete I guess," she said. Sunset knew that she wouldn't be able to perform many of the spells or abilities she was used to, so she decided to focus on her primary skills: object manipulation and pyromancy.

Sunset frowned. Twilight Sparkle's primary ability was using her magic to move objects and she was becoming quite good at it, as she proved during the incident at camp. But that shouldn't mean that Sunset couldn't do it too.

She held a pen in her hand and concentrated. Just like that time with the rocks, she imagined a thread of magic reaching out and grasping the pen. A faint red aura appeared around the pen. Sunset let out a quick breath and focused her magic on lifting the pen. Very slowly, the pen started to twitch in her hand and then raised in the air. Sunset smiled as a bead of sweat trickled down her face. Once she was sure the pen was stable, Sunset turned to a new page in her notebook and held it out in her lap. The red aura around the pen was stronger now as it floated down to the page and Sunset began writing.

She started simple, writing the alphabet in lowercase, then uppercase. The letters were shaky and misshapen, but Sunset anticipated that. It was to be expected that her skills would deteriorate with disuse. Sunset filled the page with the alphabet and numbers. On the next page, Sunset attempted cursive letters. After this, she filled a page with her name, in regular and cursive letters.

Sunset decided to take a short break and look over her notes. The letters were still rough and uneven, but she was pleased with her progress. It would take some time and a lot of practice to write fluently, but Sunset was more pleased with the act itself.

The sun was higher now and the heat was starting to become noticeable. Sunset wiped her face with a handkerchief and drank some water. "This is a bit more strenuous than I thought," she sighed. Feeling better, Sunset put her notebook and pen aside and pulled out a small rubber ball. She grabbed it with her magic and held it up to her face. She then levitated the ball up in the air as high as she could. It kept going and going until her control started to falter. Sunset then released the ball and caught it as it fell to the ground. She repeated this process, but sent the ball out, not up. This time, her reach was a bit further before it dropped.

"Not bad," Sunset said to herself as she made a note in her notebook. Sunset retrieved the ball and pulled out a second. She levitated both balls in the air to work on manipulating multiple objects. First she sent one up and down and the other side to side. Before long Sunset was tracing complex shapes and patterns with the balls.

Satisfied with her object manipulation, Sunset decided to work on her pyromancy. As a little filly, Sunset's first magic was creation and manipulation of fire, hence why her cutie mark was a little sun. During her time as Celestia's student, Sunset practiced and mastered other types of magic, but fire was her strongest.

Fire itself was both simple and complicated. Simple because it was easy to do, but the action itself was more complicated. To create fire, you needed air, fuel, heat, and the right chemical reaction. If any of these things were even the tiniest bit out of balance, fire would not happen. Because of this, the hardest thing to do was create fire out of thin air. Sunset decided to start out a bit easier, so she simply picked up a twig from the ground. With the twig as the fuel and air all around, all she needed was heat and a chemical reaction.

Sunset focused on the end of the twig and it began to glow red from her aura. Using her magic, she began to gather air molecules and vibrate them rapidly, creating heat. All she needed to do was heat up the small twig until it reached its ignition point. Sunset had spent many hours learning, studying and testing the ignition points of various materials, to the dismay of the castle staff. As such, Sunset knew that in the current conditions and the type of wood, she would need to generate a temperature of at least 600 degrees Fahrenheit to auto ignite the wood.

Sunset willed her magic to create fire. Barely noticeable at first, the end of the twig began to discolor. Soon, a little wisp of smoke appeared and began to curl skyward. Sunset started to feel giddy, but forced herself to concentrate. Just when she thought she was going to go cross eyed, a tiny flame appeared and quickly grew.

"YES!" Sunset shouted and threw her hands up in elation. She had done it! She had created fire! In her exuberance, the twig slipped out of her grasp and flew across the campground. Gasping at her mistake, Sunset ran to the small fire and quickly stamped it out. She emptied her water bottle over it just to be safe. "Rule number one: safety first!" Sunset scolded herself.

Emboldened by her success, Sunset picked up a small branch and repeated the process. Like with the pen, practice and repetition increased her confidence and ability. She wasn't anywhere near where she used to be, but Sunset was pleased with her progress. "Now that I have that part figured out, let's try something else," she said.

What she wanted to do was much harder than lighting things on fire. Now she would attempt to create fire out of thin air. Normally, this would be impossible because air is mostly nitrogen, and nitrogen isn't flammable. Oxygen itself isn't flammable, but acts as an oxidizer which makes things easier to burn. Fortunately, Sunset Shimmer had something called "Magic."

Sunset held up her hand and focused her magic in her palm. Just like the twig and the branch, Sunset used her magic to vibrate and heat up the air molecules. In place of fuel, Sunset increased the amount of magic, and with a bit of trial and error, a small flame burst to life. Sunset waved her hand and the fire disappeared. "That's one way to do it, but there must be a faster way," she mused.

Sunset went back to the table and started flipping through her notebooks. "Hmm. I'm not sure there is a more efficient way," she said with a frown. "Normally I would use the inherent magic of Equestira to bolster my own, but since this world has no natural magic, I guess I'll just have to practice until I can summon the flames instantly."

Sunset looked up at the sky and saw it was now late afternoon. "Gosh. I didn't realize it was this late already. Time flies when you're having fun I guess." She gathered her notebooks and began writing down her notes and observations while eating her lunch. Using one's innate magic expended a lot of energy and because of this, unicorns and pegasi who overexert themselves would suffer from magic fatigue.

Overall, Sunset was pleased with how the day had turned out. With a bit more practice, she was certain she would be able to utilize her pyromancy in a more active role. As she was cleaning up and gathering her things, a shadow appeared overhead. Sunset looked up and saw Hildr's ship hovering above the trees. With a flash of light, the Guardian herself appeared before Sunset. Hildr wasn't wearing her helmet and Sunset could see the fatigue on her face. "Hey. Is everything okay?" she asked.

HIldr shook her head. "We need to talk."

Frowning, Sunset sat at the table and indicated to the seat across from her. "Uh sure. Please sit. You look tired."

Hildr's ship flew off and Hildr joined Sunset at the table. "Sunset, are you the only one of your kind who has come through the portal?" she asked.

Sunset was taken aback but shook her head. "No. After I stole Twilight's crown, she followed me here to get it back. Also, a long time ago, a group of malevolent spirits known as Sirens were banished from Equestria and sent through the mirror," she said.

"And those are the only ones? You, Twilight, and these sirens?" Hildr insisted.

"As far as I know, yes. To get a better answer, I'd have to ask Princess Twilight or someone from the other side," Sunset said. She leaned forward and peered carefully at Hildr. "What happened? What's this all about?"

Hildr sighed and ran her fingers through her hair. "Remember the other day when I took you to space?"

"Yes. That was really cool by the way," Sunset said.

Hildr ignored her and continued. "I noticed other large landforms while we were in space, so I went to investigate. I know you're not from this world, but what I found was very startling and could have lasting consequences for this place."

Sunset was growing impatient. "So what was it? How bad could it possibly be?"

Hildr narrowed her eyes. "On the continent across the sea to the east, I found the remains of an advanced human civilization and evidence of Vex terraforming," she said.

It took a minute for the news to sink in, and Sunset's eyes grew wide in shock. "What?"

"It's exactly as she said," Raven said, appearing over Hildr's shoulder. "All the signs point to the fact that some time ago, humans settled this planet, built a highly advanced civilization, and it was destroyed by the Vex. But what we can't figure out is what stopped the Vex. Also, we found evidence that either the government or some very powerful people are keeping this information a secret."

The gears in Sunset's mind started spinning in overdrive as they tried to find traction to form a coherent thought. How could any of this be? Finally a thought took hold and Sunset blurted out, "But didn't you say that the Vex were a time traveling army of killer robots? Aren't you having difficulty with them back where you come from?"

"That is correct," Hildr said. "We found no live Vex or active Vex technology. A very powerful force ended them and stopped their progress in an instant." She snapped her fingers for effect.

"But if you can't even do that, who can?" Sunset asked.

Hildr folded her hands and leaned across the table. "This is why I was asking if you were the only one to come here from your Equestria," she said.

Sunset finally realized what Hildr was saying. "You think one of us, a pony I mean, came here and stopped the Vex?" She shook her head. "That's impossible. There's no spell that I know of powerful enough to do something like that. And even if there were, there's no pony in existence who could even pull it off. Except…" Sunset gasped and put her hands to her face. "That can't be, can it?"

Hildr stared intently at Sunset, who slowly rose to her feet and started to pace. "Clearly you have an idea," Hildr said.

"I…I do, but I don't want to believe it," Sunset stammered. "There's only two ponies in all of Equestria that could perform a spell that powerful. Starswirl the Bearded, and Princess Celestia."

"And who are they?" Hildr asked.

"Starswirl was a unicorn, one of the most famous and powerful unicorns that ever lived. He was instrumental in the founding of Equestria and he invented the majority of the spells ponies use today. He trained Princess Celestia and Princess Luna in magic, and he was the one who invented the portal mirror," Sunset explained. "And Princess Celestia, well, she's the ruler of all Equestria and is responsible for raising and lowering the sun. She even banished her sister, Princess Luna, to the moon with the Elements of Harmony."

Hildr nodded. "I see."

Sunset turned to face Hildr. "I get why this might be important, but what does it have to do with now? You said the Vex are defeated and gone right? Shouldn't that be good enough?"

"You're right. That would be good enough, except I need a Vex portal so I can finish my mission," Hildr said. "And I can't do that because all of the Vex technology is broken and doesn't work! Do you see the problem here?"

Sunset thought for a moment and nodded. "I think so. And based what happened when you came here, if you do manage to activate a portal, there's a chance the Vex will find out and attempt to come back here." Hildr nodded in agreement.

Just then, Sunset's journal started to glow and vibrate. Raven noticed and said, "Um, not to interrupt or anything, but what does that mean?"

Hildr and Sunset turned their attention to the journal. "Princess Twilight is sending a message!" Sunset said. She grabbed the book and opened it to the right page. Her eyes quickly scanned the text and she gasped. "Twilight wants me to come to Equestria!" She slowly looked up at Hildr and added, "And she wants you to come with me."

Dear Twilight,

Today was quite productive. For the first time in a while, I feel like I have a purpose, a goal to work towards and strive for. Since there is no natural magic here in this world, and my own magic is somewhat limited, there is very little I can actually do to train my magic. But the way I see it, since I have a natural affinity for fire and pyromancy, that shouldn't be a big deal for me, along with telekinesis. My "Empathy Touch," as I call it is pretty passive, so I don't think I need to actually train that ability.

I tell you Twilight, it was hard work and will continue to be so. Using telekinesis and pyromancy was like working old muscles you never use and made me feel like a filly all over again. I'd forgotten what it felt like to practice my magic, and the thrill of having your sweat and hard work finally pay off. Even the simplest of spells felt like a cause for celebration. It made me realize that I had forgotten they joy and wonder of practicing magic. Perhaps if I had held on to that and not become so jaded, I might not have ended up like I did.

But that's neither here nor there. I was quite surprise to hear you wanted to see me. And to bring Hildr too? I am both excited and nervous for this trip. Excited to visit Equestria again, and nervous for what the purpose is. I imagine it has something to do with Hildr and the Vex. I don't know if I've said this before, but Hildr is a …complicated person. I don't think she'll react well to a pony bouncing up and down, asking a million questions all at once. And by that I mean you, Twilight.

In any case, I have to prepare for the trip since I don't know how long we'll be. I'll take a few vacation days from my job, just in case.

See you soon,

Sunset Shimmer.