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Novel-Idea


"Do it right, do it with style and never dream small!” - Author, Designer & Creator - Patreon/Ko-Fi

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With the gulf between Sunset Shimmer and Princess Celestia growing wider by the day, Raven makes a desperate bid to connect with the young prodigy before things spiral even further.


Knowledge of the previous stories set in the Wavelengths Timeline is encouraged, but not required.

Historian’s Note:
Set in the Wavelengths Timeline where the Sonic Rainboom didn’t happen, As the Raven Flies occurs about three months after the events of Teahouses of Saddle Arabia.

Cast: Sunset Shimmer & Raven Inkwell
Co-Starring: Princess Celestia & First Lieutenant Sunny Day


Wavelengths Timeline Master Guide: Light Version | Dark Version
Stories set in the Wavelengths Timeline in chronological order:

Origins Arc
The Alchemy of Chemistry
Bards of the Badlands
Grading on a Bell Curve
Habits of the Equestrian Phoenix
How Not To Use Your Royal Prerogative

Applications Arc
The Application of Unified Harmony Magics
Princess Celestia: A Brief History
The Cloudsdale Report

Dreamers Arc
Tactics of Snowbound Unicorns
A Study in Chaos Theory
Teahouses of Saddle Arabia
As the Raven Flies


Cover Art by Little-Tweenframes/adgerellipone
Cover Text and Chapter Header by Novel Idea
Raven's Cutie Mark by Parcly-Taxel

Beta Reader & Editor Credits
Cursori: Reader of Many a Pony Word
Beltorn: Commenter-at-Large on FimFiction
Carabas: Author I Totally Didn't Fangirl Over

Word Count: 11,000 words
Version: 2.6

Chapters (4)
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Comments ( 55 )

(I've probably been teasing that for way too long...)

Ya damn right ya have. :ajbemused:

And I was raised by two ponies who taught me to take anything I wanted.

Well there's a potentially critical data point...

Only after one week did the Dragon Lord deign to acknowledge you equal to his might and offered a truce to recognize your skill in granting him such a glorious contest.”

… and then the proposed.

New Amber story! :yay:
Possible progress on Sunset's isolation! :yay:
Uncertain outcomes and the specter of a disastrous future hanging overhead! :unsuresweetie:

In any case, brilliant work from start to finish. It's important to remember that Celestia isn't perfect. If she were, they wouldn't be scrambling to prepare for her sister's return. She made a mistake, and she's continuing to make more for fear of making yet more still. But at least this time she made the right call, and hopefully the situation will improve from here. We'll see in time...

As always, thank you for this.

Ri2
Ri2 #5 · February 3rd · · 2 · Comfort ·

Oh god. Here we go again.

So how badly will Raven fail and drive Sunset into even further despair and self-loathing?

Ri2

Yeah, I think maybe they shouldn't have waited SIX WEEKS to deal with this.

Ri2
Ri2 #7 · February 3rd · · · Trust ·

Sunset's getting closer and closer. The question is... is she close to a breakthrough? Or breakdown?

Breakdown.

So Sunset might finally be reaching out for help with her angry little pony?
:yay:*insert Starcraft clip of "Hell, it's about time" here.*:yay:
Nice to see that she is going to finally start getting some help she desperately needs.

And it's also nice to see you back, Novel. Looking forward to seeing how this arc wraps up.

Ri2
Ri2 #9 · February 3rd · · 1 · Reply ·

They needed Sunset. Needed her more than she could be allowed to know. And not just for their sakes. The world needed Sunset Shimmer. Not as her alone, but as what she would become. They needed her to become the leader Celestia and Raven knew she could be.

Yeah, too bad you've all kind of screwed that up badly. For years.

That being said, you see a lot of Celestia in her reactions, both in the first chapter, and in this chapter, hearing around Sunset. Many have decried Celestia for her actions. But as I've said, there are reasons for them. Reasons that Celestia hates herself. There is a weight upon them all... a weight that's a single story away from doing potentially catastrophic damage to them all.

Ah, thanks for letting us know the next story has an unhappy ending. Good to have something to look forward to.

(I'm sorry for my cynicism. It's just that every new story in this continuity leaves me more hopeless and depressed than the last. Reading it is starting to feel like an exercise in masochism. Same with Mono's Enchanted series. I really do love your writing, though!)

On a personal level, the longer we go with being told "Celestia has her reasons" without actually being told what those were and having to see the fallout from her actions makes me feel that no matter what they are, some people are still gonna think she's been terrible.

It just seems like a thing that happens in stories. You get characters that end up screwing something up a whole bunch with these hidden justifications, only for them to be revealed and the reaction to be "so?". Not saying you're gonna deliver a bad or even underwhelming conclusion to events, just that a lot of the time, the worse things get, the more dire and important the reason for the initial event needs to be.

I'm personally on the side of Celestia being a fuck up in this case. Screwing around enough to influence things in a certain direction, but making the choice not to interfere to improve the condition of those affected is pretty damn on the nose for ineffective chess master.

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10067009

I don't disagree with Celestia not handling this as well as she could. But I think it may be a bit harsh to come down on her for it and claim she's screwing things up.

The thing to keep in mind, I think we have a natural expectations of characters in fiction to make smart, logical choices. Why, I'm not sure. But I very often see criticisms of characters (throughout media) that they are stupid and did stupid things. The reality is though, sometimes smart people make bad choices. And it is not because they are stupid or had an idiot ball, it is just how people work. Emotions are clouding their judgment, they misread a situation the reader sees clearer, their past experiences influences their perspective in ways the reader can understand only indirectly, their guilt over mishandling something previously and they are being more careful now. I'll wager that last one especially is a major factor in Celestia's decision-making.

Conversely, the reader will have hopes for the characters to make decisions in accordance with where they believe the narrative is going and where it ought to go. However, those expectations often don't align with how events actually play out. I'd really like to see Sunset and Twilight hook up, of course. I would like to see story events and character growth happen to that end. But I must acknowledge that any development toward a healthy, romantic relationship between the two has a lot of personal barriers for them each to overcome first, and that will take time. And that is assuming they will hook up, they may not, I don't know the authorial intent here or what will happen in future stories.

We'd all like Celestia to just go to Sunset, psychoanalyze her with 100% accuracy, and say the exact right things that need to be said to resolve Sunset's internal conflicts. But that relies upon Celestia having information we have but she does not, her acting in accordance with what we see to be the logical solution without her experience and emotion affecting her decisions, and for Sunset to respond in kind. It is not realistic. What is real is not always what's pleasant, but it is what makes the characters feel so genuine and makes us want to see that scene happen so much. And it is what makes this series so gripping and makes us want to keep reading more.

Well, at least Celestia noticed she maybe didn't say the right thing to Sunset....

Poor Celly, heavy hangs the head indeed. ;-;
Bless Raven.

I liked it :)
Now I want to read your stories again to understand better this new one.

Ri2

10067049
*sigh*
Yeah, I know. That doesn’t make it any more comfortable to watch happen.

10067049
I'm gonna have to hard disagree with you over Ceelstia not having appropriate information to have a decent talk with Sunset. Her not doing anything is the issue, not doing the wrong thing. Way back in Chaos Theory, she questioned whether or not she had done the right thing, and now we've got Sunset isolating herself from everyone, all the while Celesita still stubbornly believes that this Sunset, down the path that she helped lead her to, is going to be this magnanimous leader? She doesn't need to have the reader's perspective to know shits not sweet right now.

It's the opposite problem canon Celestia had. She showed Sunset too much and made her Ego go out of control. This Celestia isn't doing enough and Sunset's in a self deprecating spiral. The benefit to this Celestia being she has more avenues of action than canon Celestia did, and she can still do something before everything deteriorates into shit.

Darn good work on the start of this latest short story. I have to say, the chat between Celly and Raven was quite well done. I particularly liked Raven picking through Celestia's defenses and getting her to admit how bad her concerns for Sunset are and admitting how badly she messed up.

On to the next chapter.

That was one dozy of a match between Sunset and Sunny Day. REALLY good way of showing just how bad Sunset's issues are right now.

All in all, wonderful job on the exchanges, characterizations, action and future chapter set-up in all the right places.

On to the next chapter.

REALLY good job on this second-to-last chapter of this latest story. LOVED the chat between Raven and Sunset. And, yeah, Raven finally getting Sunset to admit that she needs help, well, it's at least a start. They still have A LONG way to go, but it is SLIGHT progress. We can only hope that it's progress in the RIGHT way.

On to the final chapter.

10067049

The thing to keep in mind, I think we have a natural expectations of characters in fiction to make smart, logical choices. Why, I'm not sure. But I very often see criticisms of characters (throughout media) that they are stupid and did stupid things. The reality is though, sometimes smart people make bad choices. And it is not because they are stupid or had an idiot ball, it is just how people work. Emotions are clouding their judgment, they misread a situation the reader sees clearer, their past experiences influences their perspective in ways the reader can understand only indirectly, their guilt over mishandling something previously and they are being more careful now. I'll wager that last one especially is a major factor in Celestia's decision-making.

That's just "she's screwing up' with a bunch of extra words and qualifiers.

REALLY good job on the wrap-up to this latest story and probable set-up for the very next story. The discussion of young dragons (and children in general) made some good points as was Raven's recap concerning how she's been trying to talk to Sunset. And that letter from Sunset at the very end was an excellent cliffhanger.

I'm definitely going to be looking forward to the next story.

10067189
Yes, because people screw up. Go figure.

Comment posted by Krack-Fic Kai deleted February 4th

10067196
I'm sorry, I should be more polite than that.

Yeah, I know that people are allowed to fail, but the current level of failure being exhibited is a little unreasonable. Not only is Celestia betraying Sunset's trust, but she's supposed to be good at teaching/mentoring people, and that makes her lack of action— any action— incredibly frustrating. I appreciate her guilty and defeated demeanor in this book but if we'd at least heard of her trying to make things better I'd think better of her. And hearing 'she screwed up, people do that, deal with it' is not somehow helpful.

That's all made worse by the fact that both this story and the last story exist largely in service of some future story, specifically by establishing Sunset's poor and frustrated mental state and then denying catharsis so that it can pay off when we get to that story. It was worse in the last story because it spends its entire runtime teasing future plot threads and the only payoff was a Discworld reference (not even a crossover, just a reference come one) and that the goal is Sunset making Celestia happy because she's the only love she has that doesn't use people to get what she wants when we have all that irony just waiting to drop.

Though Raven Inkwell being a boss is always a win.

10067229
Well, consider that we have seen - from Celestia's perspective - that her attempts to try and be helpful toward Sunset have perhaps ruined Sunset's chance at a romantic relationship with a mare she loves and who could love her back, and it put a lot of strain on her friendships. Celestia knows that Sunset places a lot of weight on her words, and she also knows Sunset is very emotionally volatile right now.

If Celestia says the wrong thing to try and console Sunset about ASICT, it could nudge Sunset to thinking she should be with Twilight and to actively pursue her, which would strain their relationships even more. Or reassuring Sunset of her importance and destiny could put more pressure on Sunset which would make her even more volatile. Telling Sunset a snippet of her plans and what she wants to achieve could cause Sunset to try and play along with them and make others do the same, and presuming this is building up to the Elements of Harmony, that's the kind of thing that can't be forced.

That said, I do agree that Celestia could be more proactive in attemtping to help Sunset, while still being indirect in her methods. But I think her nudging Raven to bond with Sunset is her attempt to that end. We know Sunset will suspect any pony that tries to get close to her may be doing so on Celestia's orders, so Celestia can't overdo it - if a random guard or servant starts trying to be chummy with Sunset, she'll know it's Celestia and pull away But Sunset already knows Raven, so if Raven starts showing more concern for her, then Sunset may respond favorably. The problem is that Sunset has such a small circle of friends that Celestia has limited options on who to talk to and get to support her, Sunset isn't going to open up to a stranger and her other friends are apparently being groomed as the Elements.

Queen's folly a heavy stone
Young Sun hangs by a sharp thread
Dice rolled to change path

And so the next chapter of this world's journey begins. Can Raven help turn the ship away from the collision with the reef that they all know is coming, or will she simply stick the rudder further? Can't wait to see.

Fire and ice,
They explode and they crack
Young sun's mind a shambles
Watcher tries to put her on track

Dark things linger still
Her wrath at fell voices
Could this have been avoided?
What were the right choices?

Others worry for her
She pushes them away
Can pain be dispelled?
Or is hate here to stay?

The walls hold fast against the siege
The clever seeker finds cracks in the stone
The defenders throw ever more at their foe
Only for them to bring the walls crashing down

Sunny needed that. Badly. Let's just hope she pulls her head out of her plot sooner than later.

Sun returns to home
Keeper shares new truths found
Hope for the future

Sunny needed this, and she needed it badly. The darkness in her that has been growing by the day has drawn the attention of one who stands in the light. Raven may not look it, but she's the right hand of the sun, and hopefully, she can maybe salvage Sunset's soul before the dark claims it.

Thank you for the new awesome Amber. It's much appreciated.

A breakthrough? here's hoping, for Sunny's sake.

Ri2

10067254

10067229
On the other hand, it also comes off as Celestia foisting a responsibility that should be hers onto her secretary instead of doing anything herself. I know that's not how it is, but that's what it feels like.

She's so afraid of doing anything she's doing nothing, which is just as bad. Twilight's assertion that Sunset and the others are just being made into weapons isn't wrong. But we've seen time and time again if said weapons aren't cared for properly they'll blow up in the user's face, and all the glimpses we saw of the future in the last story (yeah, SURE they're things that 'might' be) don't speak to any of this being resolved in any way that keeps Sunset from imploding further.

Celestia continues to be a terrible parent and person.

Oooh! I'm always excited for another story in this--

aaaaaand it's gone

Aww. But I'm glad to see that Sunset may finally be getting some of the therapy help she so desperately needs from a (mostly) uninvolved-but-concerned third party.

I really, really adore your prose in a way that I don't think I've taken the time to appreciate until now. Your Celestia is wonderfully, beautifully flawed and emotional and has her head jammed so far up her

Ahem. Point is, this is a lovely story, and the only thing I didn't like was that there wasn't more. I really desperately want poor Sunset to find some peace and happiness, and for everyone to stop ignoring the (apparently) extremely alarming fact that her magic is changing color.

Oh, my. Wish I'd seen this earlier. Let's have a look-see, shall we?

10066960
Oh, let's hope that Raven doesn't fail. Equestria itself is at risk, because we all know why the one who normally solves such large problems cannot solve this one.

...Wow. Shimmer's got big problems... Or maybe one big problem...

Ri2

10068786
Because she didn’t get her cutie mark in a rainboom?

Perhaps what she needs is a breakdown. In a safe, controlled setting, surrounded by friends who can and will help build her back up again. And again, and again, until she finally gets it all out of her system. Because that's what she needs to do, is get it all out of her system. Otherwise, it'll continue to build until...
...The Nightmare gets an apprentice of her own...

10068828
No, no, no. We're not talking alternate futures here, we're talking this present. She can't help with the coming problem because it's too personal...

Ri2
Ri2 #41 · February 5th · · 5 · Reply ·

10068850
No, she can't help because she never helps. Ever.

None of it did anything to detract from the view of Canterlot beyond Sunset’s window or the magnificent hourglass that dominated the room,

I've always wondered what that hourglass is actually for. Does somepony turn it over every day or so? Does it run some sort of clock?

One has to wonder just what Raven is capable of if the greatest unicorn of the age can't even get a hair loose from that bun.

She's just got some really good hair spray.

On a lighter note, anyone else saw Sun Horse Guard every time they read Sun House Guard?

did...
did she poach surprise or something?
christ

Much much better than Teahouses, to be frank. I admit I was offput by the saccharine gooiness of Teahouses so it's utterly refreshing to see you return to a more grounded and realistic approach for character interactions, just like in your earlier stories that drew me in in the first place. After my reticence to dive into this one, I once again eagerly await the next step in this wonderfully crafted story arc, and I'm pleased to say I have no idea what it will bring next.

Another long comment incoming, read on at your own risk. First though, read this story; it's a very strong return to form for a series that never really left, but threw a whole heck of a lot of extra conflicts at us last go round.

On a light note... I find myself realizing I don't have a bookshelf for this kind of story. I just... don't tend to seek out drama for its own sake, I suppose. Not to say this was bad. On the contrary this was a very good story as a follow up to the whirlwind of Teahouses that both recenters our focus on Sunset's internal plight (without all those distracting eldritch horrors), and focuses on the conflict that's more than just a search for a holiday gift that got WAY out of hoof. Not to say I didn't enjoy Teahouses for what it was (mostly...), but this feels more like what the characters, the story, and Equestria need happening right now.

Because, and this particular epiphany pains me, Sunset is not worthy of the mantle she's been chosen to receive. She's not, any more than a runner with a broken leg is worthy of winning the 100m in the Olympics. It's not fair, but that's life. Celestia needing someone to save Luna and the world isn't fair either, and these grand stakes call for somepony that isn't broken. But Sunset doesn't need to be the hero of Equestria, and more to the point she can't be. She needs, as the A.N. points out, years of therapy. In canon we saw this unworthiness in action: she ran away because she wanted the power without the responsibility of making the world better with it. She spent the next several years (or whatever, EQG time is weird) terrorizing a school basically because A) She could, B) That was who she was. It took getting blasted into a crater to make her see that maybe, just maybe, she was kind of a terrible person. Unfortunately, she didn't get blasted into a crater in this continuity. Rather than reaching past herself (and maybe feeling that tinge of regret even before said blasting) she was saved from herself, and the circumstances that self had created, by a friend who stood up for her. The trouble is... Sunset doesn't believe in that. Even now, she doesn't. It's not part of her world view, which is why she doesn't believe she ever deserved it.

I don't believe the worst demons are the ones we make for ourselves. That's a good bit of self empowerment (ironically), but it's a lie. For more details, see PoWs, concentration camps, and the victims of sexual trauma (or don't, I wouldn't blame you). In fantasy it's worse... for more details, see Event Horizon (or don't, I REALLY wouldn't blame you), or the monsters of Teahouses. Sunset's demons, while self-maintained, are not of her own design, not really. Nor are they from Teahouses, not really.

It started with her parents, and her continuing belief in power. Canonically, she didn't give friendship a chance until Friendship mopped the sidewalk with her. She had to see the power before she could see the good. Sunset, for all her brilliance, is not a subtle pony, and for more details on that see Royal Prerogative. Being saved by Moon Dancer left her with a nagging doubt: that she didn't deserve to be saved from what she'd done. Her enemies had power over her that was granted by her carelessness, and she was saved by little more than a pony speaking out in her defense and Celestia taking her side. It was subtle, no big flashy light-show to beat her over the head with FRIENDSHIP SAVED YOU AND IT WAS GOOD. It wasn't her own power that won the day, or the power of friendship, not in her eyes. It was... a fluke. She got lucky, and she never forgot that.

Of course that isn't quite how it went down... despite legitimate resentment towards Sunset's actions at CGU, Slate and company did frame her in the end, and so they really didn't deserve a win regardless of their motives. ...The problem is, and Sunset pretty much knows this, the reason they went that far was that complaining to Celestia about her hadn't gotten them anywhere. Power protected her, and she knows deep down that she's not the pony Celestia wants her to be. So despite trying to be better after that, the nagging doubt that she was saved, both not through her own power or because of her own worth, continues to eat away. It just needed one more little tug to rip open and begin truly festering. ...What a lovely image.

...Oh look, Moon Dancer actually loves Twilight, and vice versa, and the only reason they weren't already together and Twilight was alone for years is 'cause Sunset. Ding ding ding! ...that'll do it.

Do you really think Sunset would've left less guilty, less doubting of herself, if she'd gotten together with Twilight despite knowing how Moon Dancer felt? Sidenote... honestly Moon Dancer annoys me. It was established that she was straight until we apparently needed a love triangle and she suddenly loved Twi all along. Ugh... this is why I don't seek out drama. Adventure, romance, comedy... lures, one and all! So when Celestia told Sunset to be careful and not trust the magical influence on her mind, it reinforced the doubts Sunset already had in a big way. Fine time to start listening to teacher there, kid. But we can't be surprised. Sunset, post CGU incident, has dedicated herself to Celestia's power over her. She wants to be the good student, to be better. But because she still sees the power and not really what Celestia wants for her, she's still going at it wrong.

Where's the belief in redemption and forgiveness? Those are pretty damn big in Equestria (right Trix, Star... Discord...?) and we see it in this canon as well as show canon. Sunset wasn't punished for her actions at CGU. She wasn't really punished for abusing her power in Royal Prerogative (sidenote: that's a weird word to spell), and she damn sure wasn't punished for any harm she did to Twilight. Why does that bother her? Why is she punishing herself so hard that she's tearing herself apart? ...The same reason she's training so hard with Sunny Day that she's breaking training equipment like an anime protag: power.

Power punishes its enemies and gets what it wants. That is how she was raised, that's the aunt we saw in Teahouses and (so far as we know) that's her parents. That's Celestia, too, despite her benevolence ...almost. She wanted Sunset to get through CGU without punishment for her actions, so she did. Sunset learned a lot, and some of it was the right lesson... but some not. Part of her became a better pony for that experience, as Celestia hoped all along, but that part is still grown from the same tainted soil as the part that was a monster at GCU. The two are at war... and that better pony is handicapped by that taint. That taint caused that good pony to miss the reason she didn't get punished: she didn't need to be. She'd learned what she'd done wrong and felt regret and a desire to be better. At that point, punishment serves no purpose other than vindication (though it could be argued that, for the sake of her victims if nothing else, that might have been a good thing). But through the taint of her upbringing she's missed a lesson that Twilight, in a brighter future, always seemed to have known: redemption and forgiveness are more important than punishment.

And so she'll use power, which she still believes in, to punish herself. She'll seek it out while pushing away the good Celestia's tried to teach her (because she doesn't deserve it in her mind), that being the friends (who have disappointed me and also might not be worthy of their apparent destiny here) she has made. Because Celestia never did dispel her belief in personal power the way the Elements did. It could be argued that they didn't, just gave her a healthier idea about it that allowed for Rainbow Rocks (and Embrace the Magic) in another timeline. But this Celestia never brought her around to believing in the power of friendship, not really, at least not the part where she is and should be a part of it. A fundamental part of that power is forgiveness, and faith in your friends to help you through anything not because you deserve it by being perfect, but because they're your goddess damned friends, dammit. But Sunset still has too much of her upbringing in her, we saw this with how much she (in an odd way) reveres her aunt. It's not a loving reverence, or does it strike me as earned, for more on that see my comment about her in Teahouses. But Celestia has, unintentionally, reinforced that belief in power while trying to lead Sunset down a better path, resulting in Sunset being two ponies at war with one another. It's not a war the good pony can win alone, by its very nature. Sadly, both ponies have succeeded in scaring away any reinforcements (and again, shame on them... these are to be our Elements?).

...Until now. And can I just say how powerful an image it was that after Sunset lost her shit during the first conversation with Raven, Raven was standing right there, not a hair out of place? The message was a clear one, and one that speaks to Sunset's preconceptions (even the ones she needs to lose but is still beholden to): I am strong enough to help you because you cannot hurt me. Now if she can convince Sunset that there's more to strength than being powerful... maybe she can earn that Element after all.

Because despite everything I just said about Sunset's unworthiness, the shackles of her upbringing and the continuing doses of venom from her ALP... I really, genuinely hope we will find that Celestia didn't back the wrong horse.

Edit: All that and I didn't mention the B5 reference when Raven said 'I have always been here'... 0/10.

10090256
It’s ok that you didn’t mention it. There’s a hole...in your mind.

I also love how Raven kept her composure during Sunset's outbrust. I am imagining it in my head right now.

Is there more Raven in your other stories?

Without tags I can know...

Ri2
Ri2 #50 · March 19th · · · Reply ·

10090438
Is that a reference too?

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