Author's Note: Here I am with another story. And this time, another new fandom. Well, not really new for me, but new for publishing anyway. I always loved MLPFIM, though my interest hibernated for a long time.
This past November, I finally got around to watching the Equestria Girls movies (yeah, yeah, don't look at me like that), and I loved them. While catching up in the fandom, this idea came to me and I just had to write it.
For those reading my other work, I'm not quitting The Lost Boy or First Days on Earth. I really wanted to write this and I still fully intend to continue those too. Like with The Lost Boy, I have a few chapters of material drafted in advance (that really seems to be working for me) so expect relatively quick updates initially.
And as always, the cover art for this story was done by my good friend PrettySoldierPetite. If you like it, I encourage you to check out her gallery on DA.
Disclaimer: I don't own My Little Pony Friendship is Magic or any of the characters within. I'm just a fan writing fanfiction.
Chapter 1: Fear
"Thank you for letting me come visit," said Sunset. Sparks danced at the end of her horn, causing her to smile. "I'd almost forgotten what it's like to have my magic." Taking a step forward from the mirror, she wobbled. "Guess I'm still used to two legs."
"It's perfectly fine Sunset," replied Princess Twilight, using her own magic to keep the unicorn steady. "I had the same trouble coming over the first time. Stairs were the worst."
Sunset chuckled. "Ditto." Taking a look around, she whistled at the surroundings. "Wow, this place is huge."
Twilight nodded. "This is only my personal library. There's a lot more to the castle than this."
"How do you find your way around this place?"
The alicorn laughed. "When I figure it out, I'll tell you."
The two ponies barely took three more steps before a golden light enveloped them both. The castle library fell away in an instant, and Sunset felt a sudden weightlessness. When the blinding light went away a second later, the pair landed unceremoniously on a carpeted floor.
Sunset's head shot up, eyes widening as she beheld her surroundings. The walls and banners of Canterlot Castle surrounded her, the same as they'd been when she'd last lived there. She was in the throne room, the heart of all power and authority in Equestria. And right ahead of her was Princess Celestia, seated upon that same gilded throne, her face completely unreadable.
Sunset's whole body froze in shock. "Princess..." she said, her voice strangled.
"Sunset Shimmer," Celestia repeated, softer this time. She stood up from her throne, climbing down and closing the distance between them. "After all these years, you have finally returned."
"Princess, I..." began the unicorn, but any further words failed to find her tongue.
"Princess Celestia, what's going on? Why are we here?" asked Twilight, just now getting her bearings.
The solar diarch turned to her fellow princess. "I apologize for the abrupt trip, but I heard from Cadance that you were bringing Sunset to Equestria. Now that she's here, you may return to Ponyville, Twilight."
Twilight was taken aback. "You want me to leave?"
"I wish to speak to my former student alone. It is a most personal discussion Twilight," said Celestia, giving the purple alicorn a soft smile. "We have not seen each other in quite some time."
Twilight's eyes widened in understanding. "Oh, right. I understand. I'll just, uh, teleport myself back." She wrapped her forelegs around the unicorn encouragingly. "I'll see you later Sunset."
Sunset didn't want Twilight to leave, but the purple alicorn was gone in a flash before Sunset could even voice a single syllable in protest.
Now, it was just her and Celestia.
Sunset shuffled a hoof against the rich carpet. "Princess, I want to say that I'm sorry-"
"I know you are Sunset," interrupted Celestia. Her tone was so soothing, the unicorn almost felt compelled to sleep. A great white wing wrapped itself around her. "Twilight told me a great deal of her encounter with you beyond the mirror. I know you regret what you've done."
She pulled the unicorn closer. The close contact took Sunset by surprise as the scent of the alicorn's coat filled her nostrils. "And because of that," continued Celestia, "I believe you are finally ready."
"Ready for what?"
The solar alicorn chuckled. "Ready for what you sought in the first place, my faithful student."
Sunset's hooves practically fell out from under her. "W-What?! But Princess, I... I'm not... I don't deserve that anymore. I couldn't-"
"Hush." She put a golden clad hoof to Sunset's muzzle. "I will brook no argument on the subject. You have done more than enough to earn this. But first, there's a place we must go. Close your eyes and I'll take you there."
Sunset did as she was told. A storm of emotions raged inside her chest. Guilt, shame, and feelings of love. Celestia wanted this for her. Her mentor of so many years still cared about her, didn't hate her.
There was a rush of magic followed by a popping sound. Sunset felt the ground leave her, followed by a feeling of weightlessness. Another teleportation spell. Were they headed to the celestial plane, a place Sunset had only read about in books all those years ago? Could one simply teleport there, or was there more to it?
Sunset felt the teleportation spell end, and the chirping of a bird reached her ears. Her brows furrowed in confusion. When she opened her eyes, she was greeted not by another plane of reality, but by the walls of the hedge maze placed within the royal sculpture garden.
Before her was a crowd of other ponies. A dozen or more were members of the royal guard, stallions and even a few mares, all dressed in gleaming golden armor. All carried weapons of some sort, from spears to swords, all ready to use them in defense of the princesses and the kingdom.
The second group among the crowd was more confusing. They were hoofmaidens from the castle, their dark, carefully pressed uniforms so easy to distinguish. At their hooves rested chests of various sizes, but as for the purpose they served, Sunset didn't know.
"I don't understand" she said finally.
Sunset found herself lifted in Celestia's magic. The sun princess's once gentle eyes were now hard, angry. They were the same eyes that had looked upon Sunset the night she'd left through the mirror. The alicorn's normally serene face was twisted into a grimace, as if the sight of Sunset repulsed her.
"You, Sunset Shimmer, demanded power and authority far above yourself. You rejected my teachings and ran away." Celestia's eyes narrowed. "Do you remember what you told me? You said throwing you out would be the biggest mistake I'd make in my entire life."
Celestia's telekinetic hold tightened, and for a moment Sunset thought her whole body would be crushed. "But I think it is you who made a mistake Sunset. The mistake of rejecting me. The mistake of running away through the mirror. And the fatal mistake of ever returning to Equestria."
A guard came forward, carrying an anti-magic restraint in his own magical aura. Celestia waved it away with a wing. "That will not be necessary."
The bright sun of the day suddenly felt like a sweltering heat for the unicorn. Sweat dripped down her brow. "Please Princess, I'm sorry. I've changed. Twilight must have told you-"
"She told me many things Sunset. She told me of what you did in the human world, the friendships you destroyed, how you planned to attack Equestria with power stolen from the Element of Magic." Purple eyes bored into Sunset, like Celestia was seeing right into the unicorn's soul. "But Twilight is young and still quite naive. She does not see what I do."
Sunset found herself pulled closer to the alicorn so that they were almost nose to nose. "And what I see," said the princess, "is a traitor and a failed student."
"B-But," Sunset argued, "What about the Sirens? The Friendship Games? My friends and I stopped the portals that were tearing the human world apart."
Celestia waved a wing dismissively. "You were doing little more than protecting yourself from the Sirens. If you were truly immune, then it was only a matter of time before they attacked you directly. And as far as the happenings of these Friendship Games, Twilight only had your word of what happened. For all we know, you were responsible for it."
"But that's not true! I-"
"Silence!" Celestia's hoof smashed against the ground, making the whole garden shake. "Pleading before me is worthless Sunset Shimmer. I have passed judgement, and it is time for you to receive what you are due."
The unicorn was thrown towards the ground, stopping sharply only an inch above. "You wished nothing more than to be a princess Sunset Shimmer, to be praised and adored. And I, as ruler of Equestria, have decided to give you what you asked for."
The crowds of ponies parted now. Behind them stood a single pedestal, tall and freshly made. On the ground around it had been planted bushes full of wild roses. Carved deep into the pedestal's base was a single word: Majesty.
Sunset's eyes widened in horror, voice unable to speak above a whisper. "No."
Celestia spread her mighty wings. "This garden is a kingdom. Its grand palace is the maze, its adoring subjects, the statues. Victory, Friendship, Wisdom, Love, these and others in a legion of virtues are waiting to be a proper court, for somepony to fawn over and sing praises to day and night. As you can see, the throne of this kingdom sits vacant. And from this day forward, it shall be filled by you.
"And now, Sunset Shimmer," said the princess coldly, "we must begin your coronation." She turned her gaze to the hoofmaidens. "My ladies, you may prepare her."
The trunks beside them opened, and the unicorns among the mares levitated out item after item. A silk ball gown fit for the Grand Galloping Gala was pulled over the unicorn's head.
"NO!" Sunset cried, flailing her legs in the air. She tried to use her magic, tried to teleport, to escape. But Celestia's magic was like a fire blanket, smothering her horn and suppressing even Sunset's best magical efforts.
Terror filled her very being. "Princess, please, have mercy! I've changed. I'm sorry. Anything but this!" Her hind legs kicked out as one of the mares forced her hooves into a pair of sparkling shoes. Another of them grabbed her tail, entwining it with a string of pearls.
She flicked the appendage in protest, trying to stop her. "Let me go! Let me go!" Her head was yanked back when a pegasus mare pulled a brush through her mane. "Stop!"
The mares didn't even react, as if Sunset hadn't spoken at all. Not even the unicorn's struggles seemed to deter them. They simply brought her flailing limbs back under control without even really trying.
Eyes wild, she turned to the assembled guards. "Somepony help me. Help me! Don't just stand there. I've changed!"
None of the guards moved an inch, their faces neutral as they watched the spectacle before them with unblinking eyes. Eyes filled with judgement, but devoid of compassion. Eyes that screamed traitor, thief, monster, demon.
Why wouldn't they help her? How could they sit by and do nothing?! Didn't they understand what Celestia was going to do to her? Didn't they care? There just had to be somepony that would help her, save her. There just had to be.
The hoofmaidens forced her head up as they slipped a gold-chained necklace around her throat. At its end was a solid gold depiction of Celestia's cutie mark interlocked with a silver crescent moon.
Sunset's eyes went to the sky. "TWILIGHT!" she screamed with all her might, "HELP ME! TWILIGHT!"
Celestia watched her former student's desperate struggles, her face completely impassive. "Twilight Sparkle will not hear you Sunset. There is no use in fighting. Soon, you'll be a princess, just as you wished."
Sunset kept fighting. She fought and fought against the magic that held her, fought and struggled like a madmare, screaming and shouting for the hoofmaidens to stop this insanity even as they continued to dress her like a life-size doll.
Jewel-encrusted bracelets were slipped around her forelegs, each bearing a heart of turquoise colored crystal. Earrings studded with gemstones were clasped to her ears. Her fiery mane was tied up into an intricate style, held together by diamond hairpins. It was every bit of finery one would find on a Canterlot noble.
The magic, the clothes, the jewels, threads of the great gilded net that had her completely ensnared. A tiny amber fish caught by a giant magenta-eyed fisherman.
When they finally stepped back, Celestia was beaming. "Wonderful. Sunset, you will make a fine ruler here. But as princess, you still need a crown." Her eyes moved to the ground beside her. "Thankfully, I believe we have one that will do just fine."
A smaller trunk was levitated, and from it, Celestia pulled out something Sunset recognized. It was the fake crown she'd substituted for Twilight's, still as lackluster and somewhat misshapen as it had been the first time.
Celestia lowered it onto Sunset's head, tucking a few loose strands of her mane back into place. "There," she said with a satisfied smile. Sunset was lifted far off the ground now, placed upon the cold, unforgiving stone of the pedestal, facing the eastern sky.
Her body was forced down into a graceful curtsy by Celestia's magic. The silk dress pooled around her legs, the necklace sinking low enough to rest on the pedestal.
"Princess, y-you can't do this. Please, I-I'm not that mare anymore." Tears began pouring down her cheeks like rivers, right before the unicorn broke into full sobs. "I don't want to be stone."
The solar diarch's face fell. "Sunset Shimmer, you shouldn't make such an anguished face at your coronation." When the unicorn continued to sob, Celestia sighed. "Guards, hold her face still while I cast the spell."
The unicorns among the guard added their own magic, contorting the muscles in Sunset's face so it was frozen in a serene smile, her eyelids forced closed.
She screamed, sound and air blasting out her nostrils. She wanted to live. She wanted to live and laugh with the people and ponies she cared about. She screamed and screamed, for mercy, for forgiveness, for her very life.
"From this day forward," intoned Celestia, "I, Princess Celestia of Equestria do crown you, Sunset Shimmer, the princess of stone prisoners. And onto you, I give a new title. I crown you Princess Majesty, ruler of the royal sculpture garden."
Celestia's horn flared, and Sunset felt the numbness overtake her. She lost feeling in her hooves and legs first, flesh and blood and bone turning to solid rock. She felt the added weight as her tail was petrified. It spread so quickly. Her flank went numb, then her shoulders, and then her chest.
Whatever air she had to scream with was trapped forever when her lungs turned to solid granite. Her heart froze in mid-beat. The spell traveled up her neck and to her head. Her mane froze before her face, pushing her head down further into the pedestal.
One by one, she was deprived of her senses. The feel of soft silk on her coat. The lingering taste of oatmeal, her last breakfast. The smell of the grass, of the roses surrounding her. The sounds of the world, of distant, happy songbirds. Each and every one of them faded away, gone forever.
All that she knew, all that she had left, was sight, the glow of the sun filtered through her eyelids.
And when that too was stripped from her, Sunset Shimmer fell into complete darkness. Nothing around her except herself, herself and a black void.
Sleep wouldn't come. There was just the sense of wakefulness. She was always awake, but unable to move. Always able to think, but unable to act, or even to feel true rest, unable to be at rest, body and mind trapped in that one last adrenaline rush, in that sense of utter terror that permeated her being when she was still flesh and blood.
How long had she been like this? Time itself seemed to stand still with her. Seconds, minutes, hours, they were all rendered meaningless in the endless and unmoving nothing.
And then, there was a flicker of light. Sight and sound returned to her in the form of a little window, framed by Celestia's golden magic. A pair of ponies were approaching.
"I can't believe it's been eight months," spoke somepony sadly. Twilight, it was Twilight's voice! "The guards still haven't found anything?"
"No" came the reply. That was Princess Celestia. "There has been no sign of Sunset Shimmer. I still have them searching all of Equestria."
"It's not fair," lamented Twilight. "She comes back for the first time and then she just disappears!"
But she hadn't disappeared. She was right here! Couldn't Twilight see her?
"I know Twilight," soothed Celestia as the pair trotted closer. "Had I known it would happen when I left her in her old room, I would have never let her go."
Sunset saw Celestia wrap an affectionate wing around the smaller alicorn. "But you must not focus on these things. You have many new duties as the princess of friendship that require your attention."
"I suppose you're right," sighed Twilight. She came to a stop before the pedestal, keeping her distance from the wild thorns. "Is this a new addition? I don't recall there being a statue at the center of the maze."
"Yes, I had her placed here a few months ago." The white alicorn gave a soft smile, but as she looked right at Sunset, the smile never reached her eyes. Instead, there was a glimmer of private, wicked amusement.
"Majesty," read Twilight. "That's an interesting name."
"Majesty represents the nobility of spirit as well as blood, an image of royal grace and dignity" explained Celestia, slipping into a lecturing tone Sunset was all too familiar with.
"Why is she wearing my crown?" asked Twilight, eying the tiara.
"She wears symbols of all four of us," said Celestia. "In this way, she represents the upholding of order and balance," Celestia pointed a hoof at the necklace, "love," pointing at the crystal hearts around her forelegs, "and friendship," she pointed to the crown.
"Majesty holds these things deep in her heart," she continued, "and displays them for all to see. But she is still a mere unicorn, so Majesty bows humbly-"
"To the eastern sky. She's bowing before the rising sun and moon every day and night, signifying her allegiance to you and Luna as the eldest alicorns," finished Twilight. "That's a really clever touch."
"I'm sure the sculptor will appreciate your praise Twilight," chuckled Celestia. "Now I think it's time we return for tea. You go on ahead. I wish to spend a few more moments in the garden."
"Alright Princess." Twilight turned to leave, and all Sunset could do was scream. She screamed and screamed for Twilight to come back, to save her from this. She wasn't Majesty. She was Sunset Shimmer! Didn't Twilight recognize her? I'm right here Twilight! It's me!
Celestia, who had watched Twilight leave, turned back to face Sunset, giving her a knowing look. "Rule wisely, Majesty. Your kingdom depends on you to make the right choices."
And with that, the golden window was gone, and Sunset was plunged even deeper into the darkness. Her soul screamed inside Majesty's shell, screamed and sobbed even while Majesty remained serene and smiling.
Within the stone prison that had become her body, her screams echoed into infinity.
Sunset Shimmer awoke with a jolt, falling out of her bed and onto the floor with a resounding crash.
"Owww," she groaned. Rubbing her throbbing head, she untangled her legs from her sheets and got up. "That's the last time I let Pinkie and Rainbow talk us into a late night horror movie marathon."
Movie marathons, even late ones, were a common pastime among her group of friends. When Twilight had joined in, their selection grew to include a number of sci-fi and historical films, as well as dog movies for Spike. But this time, it had been horror.
To be more specific, it had been a mummy movie marathon, beginning with, of course, the original classic from 1932 starring Uncanny Karloff, and moving on from there. At first, Sunset had been all too happy with the selection.
She'd never seen them before, so that was a plus. Ever since coming here, her movie watching experience was limited. She'd gone to a few at first just to get a better sense of the culture around her. Modern films entranced her, her eyes not yet trained to spot CGI like every other person her age, or technical age anyway.
But at the same time, she rather liked old films. Equestria's film technology was decades behind the humans, still using black and white and film projectors, an industry truly in its infancy. So to her, those older, classic movies offered a feeling of comfort and nostalgia beyond their normal entertainment value.
Clearly though, several hours of films about men getting ritualistically buried alive for the heinous crimes and blasphemies they'd committed had made an impact on her psyche.
Sunset supposed the films had reminded her of the stories some of the guards told her once when she was young, that the ponies in the royal sculpture garden were petrified prisoners. The guards had laughed when they told it to her, but she certainly hadn't. It had given her nightmares for three days and made her avoid the gardens for even longer.
When she'd finally told Celestia about it, the princess had assured her of the opposite with a gentle laugh, before taking her to the workshop of the royal sculptors to prove her point, showing her the still in progress Victory.
As much as Sunset could blame this particular nightmare on the movie marathon though, she knew it was part of a larger problem. This was merely the latest in a series of dreams she'd been having on and off for a week.
All of them shared the same theme: Sunset returning to Equestria and finding an angry Celestia. Every time, she faced punishment. With the first one, it was being thrown into the deepest and darkest dungeon in Canterlot, left utterly forgotten and alone. The second nightmare had banishment to the sun.
Then she'd had one where she was made to ascend. Only the result was her turning back into the raging she-demon, and she was subsequently thrown into a volcano, much like Queen Chrysalis all those years ago.
And then there had been one where her horn was broken off at the base, the stump burned, and she was sold into slavery to the Diamond Dogs for the rest of her days, left to become a broken mare, dying of lung disease.
Despite all the progress she'd made in making friends and fixing what she'd done, Princess Celestia was one of the ponies Sunset had yet to face. Writing in the journal again after so many years had been hard enough, but with the school under threat, she'd found the strength. The fact that Twilight had responded instead had been a blessing of sorts.
But as time went on without any contact, her guilt and shame at facing her mentor was joined by a new emotion: Fear. A fear had gripped Sunset that, should she ever return to Equestria, she would face the sun princess's wrath.
After all, Twilight had mentioned that the magic journal had been in a donation pile. Clearly Celestia didn't want anything to do with her former student anymore. And why not? Sunset had been so awful when she'd left, and Celestia had been so angry. So very angry.
Adding more fuel to the fire was the fact that Sunset was a felon by Equestrian law. Even if her friends had forgiven her for her actions at the Fall Formal, it didn't change what she did. And, technically speaking, by being in this world, Sunset was a fugitive.
There were days when she missed Equestria. Oh sweet Celestia, there were days. She missed her magic, her hooves, the taste of grass and hay. Her last "visit" so to speak had been so brief, but only made her miss it more. The thought that she'd never even see it again, never be able to cross the portal without...
She shuddered at her most recent nightmare. It just added on another layer of pain, knowing she'd probably gotten herself not only kicked out of Canterlot Castle and Celestia's good graces, but permanently kicked out of her native dimension.
Letting out a sigh, Sunset ran a hand through her red and yellow tresses before moving over to her window. Darkness still blanketed the city. Down below, the streets were quiet, while up above, the stars twinkled. They didn't shine as brightly here as they did in Equestria, and such a thought only made Sunset feel worse.
Her hand automatically reached out for the magic journal sitting on her floor, a part of her wanting to contact Twilight, to reach for her emotional support.
But just as quickly as the impulse struck her, so too did she resist, hand pulling back to her side. Talking to Twilight about it wouldn't really help, not for this. If anything, Twilight would try and force the two to meet, and Sunset's heart just wasn't ready for that, wasn't ready for her fears to come to life.
Twilight is young and still quite naive. She does not see what I do. And what I see is a traitor and a failed student. The words echoed in her head, every syllable feeling like a nail being driven into her gut.
Walking back to sit on the edge of her bed, Sunset rested her head in her hands, rubbing her tired eyes. How long was this going to go on?
With each nightmare being different, Sunset had grasped onto the hope that perhaps, when her guilt-plagued imagination ran out of horrifying ways for Celestia to punish her, it would all end.
"Then again," she grumbled, "with my luck, my subconscious will probably switch to showing reruns."
Looking up from her palms at the glowing screen of her phone clock, she saw it was only 4:30 AM. Letting out another sigh, she got to her feet, gathered her sheets from the heap, and fluffed her pillow.
Sleep would be hard to come by. But Sunset would try anyway, try to dig out those little, precious nuggets of rest. She had places to go in the morning.