• Published 30th Aug 2018
  • 9,628 Views, 1,254 Comments

The Untrotted Path - Luna Aeterna Solutae

At the moment before she leaves Equestria forever, Sunset Shimmer's destiny is taken away from her. A new path unmarked by pony hooves is placed before her.

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Greener Pastures (Edited 11/5)

‘No point in delaying, I guess.’

Six months ago Princess-Regent Celestia Sol Invicta had brought her personal student, the magical prodigy Sunset Shimmer, before the mirror. Ever since Celestia had first shown it to her, ever since she'd seen an image of herself as an alicorn Princess in her own right, it had plagued her every waking moment.

Like a tongue probing the socket of a missing tooth, she kept returning to the night prior. Celestia had been droning on about… something or other, and she'd finally snapped. Why had Celestia shown her that, if it was never meant to happen? If she wasn't ready?

The argument had escalated to a full-scale tiff. Her mentor-cum-surrogate mother had lost that damnable composure, and shrieked for her to go to her room.

Go to her room, like she was a blank-flanked foal instead of a grown mare of twenty who could bend the universe around her horn.

Celestia clearly expected her to think about what she had been saying to her for the last months. Sunset had pored through notes gleaned from any source she could find on the mirror, instead. She'd found out that it was one of Starswirl the Bearded’s miracles. That for three days it would connect to another world beside their own. She'd studied late into the night and made up her mind. She wasn't going to live under Celestia’s shadow any longer. She would venture into this other world and prove that she was ready for whatever Celestia had to offer her.

She packed her saddlebag with a few items she thought might come in handy from what she'd gleaned from her notes. A pouch of bits and a hoofful of gemstones- hard coin was rarely passed up no matter where one found themselves. A few of her carefully-annotated books on magical theory, to refresh her mind during her travels. At the very bottom, ignored by most of Sunset’s conscious mind…

A journal, emblazoned with her mentor/mother's cutie mark on the cover. A spell paired it with a twin in Celestia’s private study. Any time she needed to talk, she could write in it and whatever she would write would appear in Celestia’s half of the journal pair. She would take it with her, in case she regretted her decision, or if this was all…

“This might end up being the biggest mistake of my life. But you've left me no other choice, Celestia."

She steeled herself, and rested a forehoof on the surface of the mirror. A tingle ran up her foreleg and settled into her core as its magic mingled with her own. The second she felt it accept her, she would push through it into the other world. Never to return.

Instead of a ripple of magic, the floor rumbled and danced beneath her. With three legs, her balance was off and the shaking of Canterlot beneath her brought her to the ground. As the thunder continued, and mingled with the sounds of shouts and screams from the direction of Celestia’s School, the mirror vibrated.

She watched in horror as cracks spread across the silvered surface of her last chance. Her lifeline. Her heart broke as the mirror shattered. As jagged shards of glass collapsed to the ground with an almost smarmily cheerful tinkle. As if the universe was pleased it had subverted her destiny.

She stared for several minutes, cycling through myriad horrors. One of the few tangible objects left behind by one of history's greatest sorcerers, left in ruin. A beautiful object in its own right, destroyed. An ingenious magical artifact, undone.

Her destiny, disintegrated.

Nopony spared her a glance as she trudged down the hallways of the palace. They were all running the other way, towards the school. The commotion grew louder as she crossed the courtyard to her tower. Another student had probably Flared during the entrance examinations scheduled for this morning. In her current state of mind, Sunset couldn't be bothered with lending her arcane might to the task of assisting.

She slammed her way inside, and didn't bother even closing the door behind her. A hoof ran along the spines of books that she had prepared herself to leave behind as she clipped her way up the spiral staircase to the second level.

She gave a cursory glance to the laboratory housed there, and shook her head. Maybe tomorrow she would feel better, begin the research to repair the mirror. Maybe if she succeeded, Celestia would be impressed. She continued up the stairs, dropping herself into her far-too-comfortable bed.

She pressed her face into her pillows without bothering to remove her saddlebag, or even remove her jacket. Her magic flared, drawing her blankets around herself to ward off Canterlot's fall chill as much as to hide the shoulder-shaking sobs from the world.

She awoke some time later with a headache and dry, itchy eyes. Her saddlebag dug uncomfortably into her hip. The journal tucked at the bottom vibrated and glowed straight through the fabric of her bag, through the covers. The sharp vibrations of the journal had awoken her. She lifted herself from her damp pillows and sat up, fumbling for a light with her turquoise magic as she dug for the offending book.

As always, the next entry started on a blank page. Sunset watched as Celestia's flowery runic Ponish flowed across the crisp cream paper in stark black ink. She stared at the words, willing them to make sense, wondering if Celestia had slipped and written in a dead language, again?

She read over the missive again, puzzling over it for hidden meaning. It was as plain as it had been the first time, like their fight the previous evening hadn't happened. Like Celestia didn't hate her for being an ungrateful little nag who thought the world revolved around her.

‘Please join me in my study for a late tea. There is somepony that I think you should meet. It will be good for both of you.’

Another attempt at forcing her to make friends, then. There was nothing for it. Celestia had spoken and Sunset had better listen if she knew what was good for her.

Besides, listening to her mentor berate her would be worth it. They would have lunch at least. She'd stormed out without eating a bite of dinner the previous night, and had skipped breakfast to spend more time at the mirror. Her stomach protested uncomfortably.

The weather was clear and warm for a day in early fall this far above the treeline, but Sunset was cold. The cheerful chirping of birds in the trees grated on her ears. It was like the whole universe was objecting to her presence, like she belonged somewhere else.

She huffed and pushed her way through the imposing doors of Celestia’s private quarters.

She found them as she always did. The midafternoon light was too bright, throwing a thousand years of knickknacks into stark relief. Celestia stood by the stained glass doors leading out onto her balcony. She turned, their eyes met, and she stiffened. Sunset forced herself to withstand the withering gaze of the Sun Itself.

Ten years of this same scene played out in the back of her mind. Sunset would become enraged, one or the other would say something regrettable.

They'd stay apart for a day or two, and Sunset would slink back. She'd hang her head and mutter those magic words.

“I come before you seeking forgiveness, guidance, and knowledge.”

Wings that bore the weight of the kingdom would embrace her, and everything would be fine. In that moment, Celestia would cease to be Mentor, and transform into Mother.

The Princess Mask cracked, and Celestia broke eye contact first.

“Celestia, I-”


Sunset bowed her head. “You first.”

Celestia settled herself at the low study table, her golden aura embracing the silver-filigreed teapot and pouring out tea for the two of them. Two lumps of sugar settled into Sunset’s cup; Celestia drank hers dark and bitter.

“Do you know how old I am, my shimmering sunset?”

Sunset took her seat and fiddled with her tea. “Over a thousand years, as near as anypony can tell.” She knew better than to ask ‘why?’; Celestia always had some reason for whatever she asked or did.

“One thousand, one hundred twenty, actually. You'd think in all that time I would have learned something. Something staring me right in the face. But of course, the Sun outshines all other stars, and far too often I am blind.”

Celestia studied the stained panels that depicted the fall of her Sister nearly a thousand years before.

“She wasn't evil, or a monster, you know. She was my baby sister.” She cupped her tea in both hooves. “It was my fault. I didn't know how deep and dark my shadow was. Is. She was transformed into a wicked mare of darkness not by hatred, but by fear and doubt."

Sunset let her talk. When Celestia rambled, it was easier to just listen.

“Today, I'm breaking that cycle. You mean too much to me to live your life in my shadow, to have me outshine your glow.” A deep sip of her black, bitter tea. “As of today, you are no longer my student, Sunset Shimmer.”

Sunset’s heart stopped. A small lavender filly roused herself, awoken by the voices over her head. Sunset stared. Her turquoise aura darkened, deepened to a fiery red. Before she quite knew what she was doing she was already on her hooves, and the delicate porcelain had smashed against the wall. A hoof was thrust towards Celestia, as if Sunset willed it to be a blade to pierce her heart.

“This is so like you. Didn't take you long to replace me, did it.”

Celestia’s expression was impassive, the Princess Mask returned. “Sunset Shimmer. I'd like you to meet Twilight Sparkle. Your protégé.”