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She takes a breath, as her legs collapse under her. Her lungs burn as she gasps for air, sprawled out on her side on a cold surface. She can’t feel any wind, but the air steals the warmth from her coat and inside of her mouth and nose. It’s so cold. She shivers, her breath rattling, as she pulls her legs up under her to keep them warmer. It’s so cold. Wasn’t... wasn’t she... Heat and Light. Her eyes shoot open. No. She has a name. She is a horse. Her family... isn’t here. She has to get home. She stands up on shaky legs, looks around. And pauses. There’s darkness all around her. But it’s not empty; there’s a strange fog swirling in all directions, and all around her, as far as her eyes can see, floating lights twinkle. She hesitates to call them stars, but it’s the closest descriptor she has. They float gently in the darkness, fading in and out as they pass by her. They would remind her of large white fireflies, except she’s never seen any. She looks down... and scrambles back due to the lack of anything under her hooves. After a few panicked seconds, she manages to calm down; she can feel a cold, solid surface under her hooves, even if she can’t see anything. Below her, the not-stars continue into infinity, surrounded by darkness and fog. She doesn’t think getting home is gonna be easy. Well, standing here isn’t getting her anywhere. She picks a direction, and starts walking. As she walks, she tries to not think about what happened. But the thoughts come to her anyway. She’d been... the sun. She thinks. It had been hard to think, and she hadn’t been able to see or hear or-- but she’d been able to sense what was around her somehow. It is difficult to remember. She tries, but feels it’s like trying to recall what a sound smells like. What ...heat? Looks like. Still, she knows that there’d been.. a Giant. And an Other. It had been hard to think, but even then she’d realised the Giant was Gaia and the Other was Luna. And she. She’d been Celes... .... ....there hadn’t been anyone there. She was supposed to be connected to, to finally speak to Celestia, and... she’d been the only one there. Her body had been the sun, she had been the sun, and there was no Celestia. Her body shakes as she walks, but she can’t tell if it’s from the cold anymore. She’s not sure how long she walks; it’s hard to tell time in a space that does not change. If there is no Celestia, then surely there is no Gaia or Luna either. Are they just... dead rocks? Are there even such things as Heavenly spirits, or is it all a...? “That is almost, but not quite, correct” She gasps and looks up, startled at the first sound that isn’t her own labored breathing or hooves clip-clopping on the cold, smooth surface. In front of her is... something. Something so dark she can’t see any features on its surface. Its edges ripple everything behind it, reminding her of the air above a fire. It is still. Amorphous, but definitely much taller than her. She looks around when nothing else happens. There is nothing else here. Either she’d been imagining the voice, or... well, there is nothing else here to see her talking to a blob of darkness. “H-hello?” The creature is still. The filly waits, and waits, and... “Greetings” She scrambles back. She closes her eyes, and has to swallow the bile that rises in her throat. The creature had spoken, yes, but the words didn’t come from a mouth. It had opened itself completely, revealing a darkness inside so deep that the filly felt like she was being pulled in just by looking at it. It wasn’t disgusting, but she still felt like it was something fundamentally wrong for her to be witnessing. She keeps her eyes closed, not daring to see the creature again. “What are you?” “...your sun” At this, she involuntarily opens her eyes, head snapping to stare at the darkness. That... what? It couldn’t be trying to claim that it.. that it was.... “You are Celestia?” She can hear the disbelief in her own voice, as she stares incredulously at the creature of darkness. It doesn’t respond for a few beats. She can’t tell what it was feeling, with no way to read its lack of face. She’s just barely able to close her eyes in time when the creature opens itself again to finally answer. “No. ...You do not know much, do you?” “Wh- I was personally trained by Master Swiftword! He’s the best Listener in the whole county!” The nerve! The creature shuffles forwards a few hoofwidths, and the filly snaps her mouth shut. Right, maybe she shouldn’t be antagonizing whatever it was. “Impressive.” She has the distinct impression that the creature doesn’t actually think that. “It was his ‘teachings’ that got you here then?” The filly just keeps her eyes and mouth closed. “And the reason why that is your destiny?” This, she can’t ignore. She opens her eyes again, confused. The creature has reached out with an almost invisible piece of darkness towards her, and she quickly takes a step back. But it doesn’t do anything, just keeps its... limb? Outstretched towards her. She glances towards where it appeared to be pointing, before quickly looking back up again to keep track of what the thing is doing. ... Wait. She turns back to where it is pointing again, really seeing this time. A golden sun shines back at her from her flank. Her heart stutters in her chest. That’s --did they-- “I did it?” she blurts out. She can’t believe it. She’d done it? But... "How does the sun mean listening?” It could be symbolic, she supposes. Or maybe her talent was to listen specifically to-- But. Heat. And Light. And Celestia hadn’t been-- “W-who are you? You say-- you are not Celestia?” Luckily she’s too enraptured staring at her new Mark to see the creature speak again. “No” The word is uttered in a somewhat disgusted tone. “I am the Sun” She risks a glance at the creature at that, then looks back at her Mark. “Oh. But I thought... Celestia is the--” That made the creature react. It abruptly rises up, forming a looming shadow over the filly. She shuts up. “The sun? The sUn. You think that, thing, is the sun? I am the Sun, and you think that disgusting, miniscule, mimicry is me? It is nothing more than a burning moon made by a mOnSter” As it speaks, the filly sees it pulsate out of the corner of her eye. She doesn’t dare look at it directly, but makes sure to know where it is. Her heart’s speeding up again, her breaths coming in gasps, as the creature convulses and shuffles back and forth in agitation. It goes on for a few seconds, as the filly doesn’t dare interrupt, before it seems to calm down again. “No. That is unfair. How could you possibly know anything? Though, by the time I’d manage to explain it all, your faint fire will have already flickered out.” It’s quiet for a few moments, the only sound being the filly’s heavy breathing. She then feels something take hold of her muzzle. She tries to rear up in fear, but whatever it is, it holds her head in place. She shakes, tugs and whinnies in fear, but it will not let up. It slowly turns her head towards the dark creature, as her eyes dart wildly around and her hooves trot in place. It opens itself to speak again, and she shuts her eyes against the sight. Only to have her eyelids being forced open, and she is made to stare into its inside. It holds the darkness of the nothingness of space, the infinite emptiness. It holds the darkness of everything being compressed into a single point where matter and energy ceases to exist, blended together until nothing can be seen. It is the sight of before birth and after death. Of everything in between, pushed together into one second. She swallows down more bile, and tries to not choke as the creature speaks again. “Do you know what this place is? It is the middle, the unknown. It is where creatures like us go, we who are not alive any more, yet cannot die. I, a Spirit older than the earliest of life, in the same fate as you, a speck on the tapestry of the world.” It leans in closer. Her entire vision is filled with the darkness, as it steals the light from the orbs around them. She can hear nothing, smell nothing, as everything is pulled into its body. The only sensation she has left is cold seeping into her bones as even her body heat is stolen from her. “Sol. My name is Sol. I am the Sun, the true Sun. I was killed, murdered by a monster. But it wOuLdn’T lEt Me diE.” She feels herself being pulled deeper into it. Thoughts are getting difficult. She has to.. she has to remember.... “I cannot leave, I cannot live. All I can do is consume. Everything, I consume. But it’s nOt eNoUgh” She tries to remember what her brother’s voice sounds like. “It, the monster, made your ~CelEsTia~ in a foolish attempt at replacing me. But it failed. You, you, have to keep the false sun up or it falls and ends you all. Always push it up, or everyone dies.” She tries to recall the smell of her Papa’s coat. “Leaving mE to be dead in the center as lifeless corpses of stone and gas twirl around me. LUnA? GaIa? CELESTIA? They are NoThiNg, only Sol exists, and I am DEAD.” M-mama’s face.. what, what does it... “And you... another victim, not of a monster but of the desire for the power to help others. You, he, wished for the ability to save everyone, and for just a second, you had it. And then...” She can’t think. She can’t remember. “And then YoU dIeD. It had worked, and you died. The connection established, your soul forever altered, and then the fire. Your disgusting flesh burned away, as your soul was lit ablaze.” The.. the fire. She had been... “I...” She manages to rattle out. “I was Heat.” Gasp. “..And Light.” “The False one. Your soul connected to it, the swirling energy inside you mixing with its. When the flesh burned, the soul couldn’t leave. Like mInE. You had to go somewhere.” She can’t remember her... she can not remember her own... but... Heat. Light. “I don’t know how you escaped. This is nEW. I have not seen NeW in a long time. Not a Spirit, no. But close. Stuck here with me, in the space between.” She can’t tell if the darkness is creeping ever closer, or if she is being pulled in. Either way, the maw stretches over her, closer and closer to enveloping her whole. She can’t think, can’t remember who she is. But she can remember what she had been. Heat. Light. She is Heat. And Light. She is Heat, and Light. She is.... The shadows suddenly shies away from her, as she feels the Fire return. It is not much, not nearly so it could to banish the darkness --it greedily consumes every drop of energy she gives out. But it is enough, just barely enough of a hesitation, for her to wrench herself free from its grasp. She turns tail, and runs. Her hooves pounding on the cold, hard, floor, the air tugging at her mane and tail, her fire shining brighter than any of the orbs around her. Her muscles strains, and her chest is heaving, but she doesn’t dare slow down. With the Fire in her chest and the open space ahead of her, she can think again. Her brother, her Papa, her Mama. Her friends, her village, her life. “That is gone. You can be the False one, or be here. You are not alive, you are not dead. You are no Spirit nor Mortal. You cannot run bAcK.” She glances over her shoulder, and blanches. She is running, faster than she’d ever ran before, but she had barely moved. The dark creature, the undead spirit, is just behind her. It’s not moving, just remaining still, but she’s not getting further away. She somehow manages to push herself to go even faster, but it does nothing. It is like time and space is being pulled around her, so that no matter how quick she runs, she was not escaping. There has to be something she can do. She runs and runs, and tries to think. Master Swiftword had taught her, trained her to Listen. It was supposed to be her destiny, her talent, her Mark in the world. To communicate with.... But --she looks back again at the unmoving, undead darkness-- clearly he didn’t know as much as he thought. She wants to go home. She just wants to go home. She feels the Fire tugging at her heart, and knows somehow that she can follow it to the sun again. The False Sun? She doesn’t know, all she knows is that she does not want to live like that forever. But she definitely doesn’t want to stay here. She looks behind herself again. It-it is closer this time. Her legs are growing heavier and heavier, every breath burning her lungs. She just wants to go home. She is faltering, and the darkness is creeping ever closer. If it catches her, she won’t, she won’t remember anymore. She wants home. She wants her Home. Her Papa’s cooking, her brother’s games, her Mama’s songs. Even grumpy Master Swiftword, she wants to sit in his study and listen to his droning lectures about the Spirits of the world. The village, their holiday celebrations, their help during difficult times. The darkness has almost reached her, as she tries to continue to stumble forward. Celestia, Luna, Gaia --help her. Please. They cannot just not be, they have to be real, they have to help her. She sobs, as she stumbles one last time. Falling into a heap, she tries to catch her breath, to get up again. But she sees the darkness spreading out of the corner of her eyes, and knows there is no time. It envelopes her. She closes her eyes. She has to remember. Her family. She misses them so hard it hurts, and she knows they miss her too. Her thoughts touch on the next harvest, and she wonders how they’ll manage without her. Her village. She was supposed to help them, and she sent out a silent apology for her failure. They will have to find someone else to talk with... Luna, her guardian Spirit, Celestia, the one she chose to-- Who doesn’t exist. When her people cry out for guidance, it is to no one. She weeps silently for their suffering going unheard. The Fire. She feels it still burning in her, its Heat and Light staving off at least a few shadows. Protecting her for a few moments more. The darkness grows closer. Her family, her village, her responsibility. Celestia, gone. Her Fire, Heat and Light. Family. Responsibility. Fire. Responsibility. ... She wasn’t done yet. She wasn’t done yet. She had to go back. It didn’t matter what she wanted, she had to go back. She hAd To gO bAcK. ... Even as all else falls away, she keeps her thoughts on the burning need to return. Not her need, someone else's. She doesn’t know who they are any more, all she knows is that she needs to go back for them. And then, she feels her soul shift. A new light grows in her chest, one that doesn’t burn. She is only half aware of anything else as she feels it grow stronger and stronger. It’s not like the Fire before --the Fire had come from outside, from a burning giant far away. This comes from herself, her very soul glowing. She dares to open her eyes. Instead of only seeing the absolute nothing, she sees... a light. Faint but steady, glowing orange in front of her chest. It reminds her of a candle. She takes a breath. Just then, the light splits up and zips off in different directions, leaving trails of orange-red fire. She follows one with her eyes until it disappears behind her neck. Only to see another one appearing from beneath her stomach. Just as she realises they are orbiting her, she feels her hooves lift off of the floor. The darkness around her melts away, as the lights grow brighter and brighter, flying around her faster and faster. “Wh -what is...?” The darkness is below her now, splayed out, its insides open to the sky. She looks down, and realises that it doesn’t turn her soul inside out the way it had before. She looks up again. The flying lights are almost blotting out the landscape of glowing points around her. And then, they cover her entire vision. She is filled with such warmth, and a gentle feeling of heaviness resting over her body. “You are--” She hears nothing more, sees nothing more. Just a feeling of contentment. It reminds her of dark winter nights, when her family would press close together near the fire and tell stories until her eye-lids grew too heavy. It feels like the cheerful greetings the village would give her as she trotted towards Master Swiftword’s home. For a second she wonders if Sol had been wrong --maybe she really could die, and this was it. If that is the case, it isn’t so bad... She wakes up again, in yet another unknown location. This time, her awareness of the world around her comes slowly, as she fights to rise to the surface of unconsciousness. There is soil beneath her. She breathes it in, and feels tears rise up in her eyes at the familiar smell. A breeze ruffles her mane and fur, but it’s not cold. Just a gentle cool that soothes her mind. She can hear leaves rustling, and crickets chirping far away. The Fire is still burning in her chest, but dimmer, further away. She shifts her position, and feels... She opens her eyes finally. And is met with darkness. Her heart starts to beat wildly and she feels adrenaline rush to her legs and... Just then, the scenery becomes visible, and she realises it’s just nighttime. She is in a forest, somewhere, and its leaves cover the sky above. She stands there, shaking, as she breathes in and out a few times to calm herself again. The air is heavy with moisture, and she can feel it cling to her eye-lashes, fur and... She takes a wobbly step forward. She feels weak, like she’d just finished the Spring Run in first place --which, she tries to not remember too hard, would have been easier than what had actually happened. Still, despite her weakness, she feels strangely light. Like she’s floating in something between water and air. She takes another step, bounding a bit in the floating sensation. And as she wobbles, her... She can’t ignore that any longer. She looks at her sides. Feathered limbs flares out in shock as she stares at them. She takes a step back, but the wings just follow her --now flapping a bit in agitation. She stares at them in shock, before slowly looking around herself again. She just realised --she is in a dark forest in the middle of the night. How is she seeing anything? Holding her breath, she carefully reaches a hoof up towards her forehead. Just before she’s supposed to reach it, her hoof bumps into something --and she feels it, in her head. How something clacks and spreads vibrations into it, and how the warmth she hadn’t even realised was there goes out with a jarring popping sensation. The forest is plunged into darkness again. In its center, a new creature stands; her wings trembling, her horn sparking, and her chest burning with a Fire that is and is not her own. Trying to understand what she now is. Above her, so far away the light from her horn hasn’t reached it yet, the undead sun spirit watches the surface of one of its planets with interest. Waiting to see what had happened to the creature that wasn’t a mortal nor spirit --the one keeping the newborn soul of the burning moon. Idly wondering, if the false sun would go with it if it were to die.