“This isn't Canterlot... Where am I? Princess Celestia?! What's happened to me? Somepony... help me!” Sunset whispered in frantic fear, a hunter’s moon shining down upon her as she crawled through the sands, almost completely in the nude, with only a frankly rather tight-fitting sheath dress to cover her. It was something that could hardly be considered modest nor fitting for the cold desert night.
Sunset swore, and punched the ground, cursing in the Sun’s name. She’d been such a fool, a child even and she was now forcibly looking at what it had cost her. She was worlds away, in an unknown area of space and time.
“And all for what…?” she choked out, shivering in the biting, slashing winds. “To be a Princess like her?”
Walking to a small structure, made completely of stone with an entrance flanked by two pillars and two black jackals wearing gold necklaces, she took shelter in the opening hallways, noting each hieroglyph carefully etched into the stonework. She let out a small sob, realizing that this was probably her place to die.
Sunset swiveled her head around when she heard the sounds of hoofsteps galloping against the sand outside, and saw a caravan, with guards atop Saddle Arabian sized horses guarding this big wooden box, with intricately stitched velvet curtains hiding the occupant inside.
“Help... “ Sunset coughed out, her throat raw from crying. “Help!”
If by pure luck or chance, the occupant of the caravan did hear… something and she motioned for it to halt. Peering out of the curtains, she did see a small figure curled up against the wall of the temple entrance.
“My Queen!” one of the guards shouted, as Somnambula jumped out of the caravan, her sandals touching the dunes beneath her. Curiously, she stepped forwards, with a small dagger in hand. Just in case.
“Hello, is anyone there?” Somnambula called out. “Are you in need of an assist? Are you hurt?”
“I… I need…” Sunset could barely muster up any words, as she tried to break free of the box that encased her. She tried to stand up, but let out a cry of pain as she fell back to the stone floor again, clutching her leg which was twisted in an unnatural way. She’d broken it in the fall, she assumed.
“Oh my!” Somnambula quickly knelt down towards Sunset and helped her back onto her feet, watching as she held the limp and mangled leg in her hands. “Whatever happened to your leg?”
“Broke it in a tumble, what do you think?” Sunset sniped. “Who are you?”
How this woman got here, got out so far and hadn’t frozen to death or been mauled by some wild animal was a question Somnambula would have to save for another time. For now, the only thing on her mind was tending to this wayward stranger as fast as possible.
Motioning to her guards, she gestured for two of them to come closer. “Get her to the caravan, we’ll bring her back to Alexandria. We’ll ask her who she is, and try and find her family after she’s been fed and watered.”
She then turned to Sunset. “As for you young lady, my name is Somnambula, daughter of the pharaoh; Hisan and his queen, Ahmose-Nefertari. Relax, you’re in good hands.”
The first time Sunset had ventured into the Duat, it was terrifying. Best way to describe it? You know that tingle in the pit of your stomach when you’re at the top of a very high drop of a fairgrounds roller coaster, and then you go into free fall? It’s pretty much like that, Sunset would later liken it to. Now, the Duat had many different layers, it existed beneath the waking world like a second skin. The deeper you went, the more likely you were to encounter the most horrible of things, things that existed only in your wildest of nightmares. Entire realms filled wall to wall with demonic forces, and palaces where the gods themselves existed in their pure forms and you would burn to ash upon entry.
Now, the beds that the kings and queens of Egypt, along with their loved ones choose to sleep in, they had special pillows as Sunset had found out. No, not accurate. Pillows would be a false term. More like ivory headrests, complete with various decorations like falcons and the like. This was to keep people from falling accidentally into the Duat. Sunset, on her first night here in this time period, had neglected to use such a thing and had almost fallen into Set’s realm, a world of utter chaos indescribable.
Now, the night Somnambula was remembering was a special night, where she and Sunset had to fill in for Set in protecting Ra as he journeyed through the rivers of the Duat passing through various gates every hour as he raised the sun and fought off Apep, the great serpent who would like nothing less than to swallow Ra (And the sun itself whole) and render the whole world into darkness forever more.
Night was Apep’s realm, and why everyone was so careful about traveling at night in Egypt. It was only to be used in emergencies when time was short.
Now the river, as you ventured into it and hopefully with a Book of the Dead in hand, the stars would vanish from sight and the water would turn as red as blood. Set’s favorite color, it was noted. The color of chaos. This was the destroyer’s realm.
Ra, with the sun disk atop his hawk head glowing as bright as a star rowed onwards, leaving Sunset and Somnambula to fend Apep’s forces with khopeshes and various magic spells. Monsters, with the heads of snakes and the feet of chickens. These were the opponents of light and Ma'at, truth.
The great serpent himself, he lingered in the shadows, a great wyrm. As per usual, Ra fended him off with blasts of pure sunlight, only for the snake to strike back. Tonight though, something was different.
“Mortals?” Apep laughed. It was a horrible high pitched sound that made your ears bleed just thinking of it. “Set couldn’t even find a single god to replace him in his task,” Apep’s form slithered within the shadows, circling their raft. “This night is far too dark and holds many terrors for those without a touch of divinity.”
“Yes, well,” Somnambula remarked. “You know how certain gods are. Sobek, likely to bite Ra’s head off, make your job all that much easier. Besides, Set’s here with us in a way.”
That much was true, as a long unnaturally lean animal with crimson red fur stood by her side, the Set Animal. The ears stuck up like ice cream cones rotating every which way, and the tail was like that of a snake’s. Fangs were bared out of a long snout, dripping with a green acid. A demon rested in his jaws, nearly bitten clean in half.
“Yes, I can taste the glyph of protection he gave you two,” Apep’s tongue flashed out from the darkness for the briefest of moments. “He always did have a fondness for those creatures. But I must ask, why bother helping my dear brother in his fruitless task?”
“Because someone must uphold Ma'at, order, in case light forbidding, Ra were ever to vanish from this world.” Somnambula stated, unflinchingly.
Apep laughed again, sending shivers down the pair of lovers’ spines. “Silly little girl, Ra’s light fading from the world is a certainty. It was foretold even before your kind first walked the sands. Darkness is the natural state of existence. I merely exist to bring true order.”
“And your idea of order,” Somnambula stated firmly. “Would be for demons to walk the earth, and have us slaughtering each other in the night, only to be reborn again and for the cycle to continue. A world of blood and bones, that’s your truth.”
“And would that be so bad?” Apep questioned, his body undulating in the dark. “You could spend eternity never fearing the Scales of Anubis, or his ever-hungry pet.” his eyes turned to Sunset. “You, fiery-haired one. I can taste uncertainty on you. It seems that there are sins that weigh heavily upon your heart.”
Sunset briefly faltered for a moment in her demon-slaying, and Apep smirked in the darkness. “Uncertainty on what others might… think upon you and dear Sommy’s relationship. Egyptians, they do hate hair, so one must wonder what they might think of you putting your head into-”
“BEGONE!” Ra bellowed, sending a blast of piercing hot flame from the tip of his staff, right towards Apep.
Apep recoiled further into the shadows, hissing in pain. “Darkness is inevitable, brother. You merely delay fate!”
“Maybe, but just for at least one more day, the sun will rise and you will have to wait to devour me brother of mine…” Ra remarked as they passed through the final gate and back into the world of the living…
Sunset let out a groan as she felt the warmth of the Egyptian sunset touch her barely clothed back, tingling it. Her arms were currently wrapped around her lover, one Queen Somnambula, spooning her. The bedsheets were barely covering their bodies that in such a way that if anyone walked into the room it could probably be called scandalous.
Not that anyone would dare really, considering the Queen’s quarters were pretty much considered off-limits to anyone who didn’t want their heads chopped off by a guard’s khopesh and their soul judged by Osiris, Anubis and Ammit just that little too early.
Trailing a finger around her lover’s nude backside, Sunset moved forwards and nibbled on Somnambula’s ear just ever so slightly, making her moan in her half-awake state.
“...And here I thought you’d be worn out after last night,” Somnambula murmured. “But you, my little Sun, guess you really are as energetic as a solar flare.”
“Spicy as one as well…” Sunset teased as Somnambula rolled over to look at her. “But you would know, wouldn’t you?”
Somnambula smiled, before giving her lover a quick kiss to the lips that lasted shorter than Sunset would have liked.
“Aww, is my little flare disappointed?” Somnambula whispered, kissing her again, and pulling back as if to seemingly deny Sunset anything more than that. Now, truth be told, Sunset nor Somnambula were exactly married as such. Fact was, Somnambula was married to one Flash Magnus of the Roman Legion.
He was nice and he was fairly handsome, she supposed, but she never exactly swung that way. Their marriage was purely political, nothing more. Both of them knew it, and accepted it. Somnambula deeply suspected, that in private, Flash was rutting with that scrollkeeper down in the archives, Stygian or whatever his name was.
Really, Sunset was just a consort or maid to the public’s eye. But in private, now that's another story entirely. Some may have balked, and in fact, Somnambula’s entire court probably would have. Not that she cared, Somnambula did not intend to live a life completely unfulfilled. Before Sunset came along, there was always this… gap I guess you would call it in her life, the woman never feeling quite whole. Times had changed since then… mostly.
“Maybe a little…” Sunset whimpered out, nodding her head as she snuggled her head deeper into the pillows, looking up above at the painted starry sky above them.
“Reminiscing?” Somnambula asked, with a concerned look. “That’s not like you, really.”
“I’m allowed bits of nostalgia from time to time aren’t I?” Sunset asked, eyebrow raised and an arm around Somnambula’s shoulder, pulling the exotic woman closer in for a deep and loving kiss. Somnambula often said that Sunset was like a cat. Never truly satisfied and always wanting something. Not that Sunset ever rejected this comparison. When it came to Somnambula, that was fairly true. She was woman enough to admit that. “Still can’t believe you found me in the dunes like that, that cold night. Probably could have frozen if you hadn’t.” Sunset remarked, flashing back idly tracing her fingers on the bedsheets. “Just, you ever wonder what’s next, I mean? I mean, here we are, married -More or less- and it’s just I have… concerns.”
“Concerns?” Somnambula asked, eyebrow raised. “You mean, about the kingdom’s future and all? Because believe me, that can be taken care of. There are certain magicians whom I know who could probably concraft a spell that-”
“Not that!” Sunset said, her face blushing red as she sat up and walked to the window, and pulled the bedsheets around her body for the sake of modesty. Although she would admit to wanting to have a child, someone to care and raise as her own, that wasn’t her biggest problem right now.
“Then what is it?” Somnambula asked, watching Sunset sigh to herself sadly, as she gazed over the kingdom upon which the Queen currently ruled.
“Something… something that HE said during our last fill-in for Set, as it were, when we were helping Ra take his nightly journey to raise the sun.”
Somnambula ‘hmmmed’ to herself, recalling a few nights back where she and Sunset had ventured deep into the Duat.
“So… so that’s what you’re concerned about?” Somnambula asked her lover, as she wrapped her arms around her in a comforting motion. “Words from the mouth of the chaos-bringer, who as we both should very well know, shouldn’t be trusted under any circumstances?”
“Yes… Y-Yes, I suppose.” Sunset sniffled out, shuddering at the memories. “B-But you have to admit, what would people think if they saw us like this? Our bodies entangled, in the afterglow of us making love? You’re supposed to be continuing the royal lineage with Flash Magnus for the Sun’s sake, not… not rutting with me!”
“Sunset…” Somnambula whispered, trying her hardest to comfort her lover, but Sunset recoiled, pulling herself away and quickly began dressing herself.
“I’m sorry, but I need some time to myself…” she sniffled, before walking outside of the chambers and into the hallway beyond.
“Oh, my love…” Somnambula whispered, feeling her heart break just a little at seeing Sunset’s despair and cursing Apep’s name. “By the Sun, what do I do now…?”
Somnambula found herself wandering aimlessly through the halls of her palace, unsure of what she could do to comfort her love. “I’m… I’m supposed to be the Queen, know all and see all! And yet… I can’t help the one person I’m closest to!” she thought to herself in frustration.
“Something wrong? You look like your mind’s drifted off to the Duvet or whatever you call it.” a voice asked from behind her, and although Somnambula recognized it, she could help but yelp in surprise at which the suddenness it came upon her. As she got her heart rate back to normal, and slowed her breathing she began to regain her composure enough to turn around and face her husband.
“Duat.” Somnambula corrected, Flash still hadn’t gotten the hang of a lot of Egyptian words and terminology. “It’s just… Me and Sunset.”
“Bedroom problems?” Flash asked.
“If it were only that…” Somnambula sighed, rubbing her forehead. “It’s more like Sunset’s… afraid,” she replied, carefully checking her surroundings to see if anyone else was listening in. The walls of her palace had ears, sometimes literally, in this case, thanks to Egyptian magic. When she was sure nobody was listening, Somnambula explained.
“A few nights ago, that snake got into her head, started bringing up old fears about what others might think if people knew we were making love together,” she explained.
“Ah, I got you,” Flash sighed, motioning for his wife to sit down on a nearby couch. “With me and the rest of my fellow Roman legionaries, it’s different. We don’t give a damn about who likes who. Hell, I used to rut my fellow soldiers for simple pleasure, and they the same. But you and the rest of Egypt? Bit more conserved in your ways.”
“Putting it mildly.” Somnambula deadpanned.
“Now, I have to ask,” Flash stated, putting a hand on her shoulder. “What’s more important to you, keeping up appearances and the opinions of your subjects, or your love for Sunset?”
“S-Sunset,” Somnambula answered with a small stutter, but that hesitation was more than enough to give away her true feelings.
“Then you’re an idiot,” Flash stated bluntly. “A big fat idiot. Crowds, I’ve found, they’re a fickle old bunch are they not?”
“Yeah, that they are.”
“Let me give you an example then. Say, someone just graffitis some statue of one of your Gods, like Bast or something. People would be pissed off for a few weeks, then move on to the next ‘moral outrage’. Crowds are like that. What seems earth-shattering one moment, it can be fairly blase the next. You get what I’m saying here?”
“Y-Yeah.” Somnambula replied, nodding her head. She was avoiding mentioning disrespecting Bast or cats in general for that matter in any way would likely have someone put to death as not to ruin Flash’s point.
“Then go to her, comfort her. Hold her tight, never let her go. Until death do you part and all that crap, right?” Flash asked. “Isn’t that what Egypt’s all about, considering you bury even a Pharaoh's beloved pets with them?”
“Yeah,” Somnambula said, nodding once more. Flash smirked at her.
“Now, as we Romans like to say: Veni, vidi, vici! Or in your langauge, I came, I saw, I conquered,” Flash continued before chuckling slightly. “Mind you, in my case I like to say, I came, I saw, I kicked it’s ass to Kingdom Come but you get my point. ...I hope.”
“Basically, you’re telling me to go and help my love conquer her and her fears, right?”
“Pretty much.” Flash nodded, popping the p. With that, he watched and smiled to himself as he saw Somnambula rush off in a flurry of motion to find her Light.
Eventually, Somnambula did find her love, where she suspected she would. It was a place Sunset always went to whenever she was feeling worried, or sad in any form of the word. A large, open room with a long rectangular pool in the middle of it. The water stood still, with the minor movements of crocodiles occasionally breaking the water’s still and clear glassy surface. The small pool was coated with lily pads; all as motionless as the clouds above her head. The skylight above her head was also very tranquil, as very few winds poured in from it before drifting down and around the room before leaving through the door she had entered through. More hieroglyphics dotted the walls, only these ones were accompanied by some scriptures and depictions of events she couldn’t tell had yet to come or had already happened. Prophecies were cryptic that way.
Somnambula remembered the history of this room, it was the first place Sunset had come to after her first night in the palace, always brought her peace. She described it as zen, whatever that meant.
“Sunset?” Somnambula asked carefully, watching her love wade into the water and just bask in the sun coming in through the skylight above them. The crocodiles, they didn’t seem to bother her. Unusually, they were albinos. Now, of course, Somnambula and her husband were always sent the most exotic of gifts from allied countries. Hell, she had this whole aviary full of peacocks and other various exotic birds so having crocodiles wasn’t particularly unusual. But these were actually. These particular specimens, they were made of clay -called shabti- and brought to life via spellwork to act as guardians in case Alexandria ever were to be attacked.
Sunset was dressed in her usual garb, one that befitted a servant to keep up appearances that nothing was amiss between her and Somnambula. It was that of one of the castle’s belly dancers, dressed in a lavender bra, belt and skirt with gold accents, a thin translucent veil over her face.
“Yes?” Sunset asked, turning her head. A henna tattoo of one of the eyes of Horus was painted on the side of her face. She sighed to herself upon seeing who it was speaking to her. “Somnambula, I thought I told you I wanted to be left alone for the time being?”
“And you expect your Queen to follow that order?” Somnambula asked, eyebrow raised. “I should think not, especially when it comes to someone I’m greatly concerned about!” she stated firmly.
“But-” Sunset started, before Somnambula put a finger to her lips shushing her.
“Let me speak, okay?” Somnambula asked softly. “Just let me speak, and you listen for a change okay? You’re stubborn as an ox, well guess what? So am I for that matter. I didn’t get to be the Queen of all Egypt by being this doormat.”
“True…” Sunset laughed slightly.
“Listen, and I want you to listen well and listen hard okay?” Somnambula asked as she placed both hands on her lover’s shoulders. “Screw everyone’s opinions, screw what they think. And actually, you know what, screw A-Apep as well!”
She faltered over the words, and nobody would blame her. Speaking the great snake’s name was a definite taboo. All around the room, torches dimmed and flickered almost nervously, as if they were afraid the great snake would come and devour their light. It had taken all of Somnambula’s courage, which she was the first to admit she didn’t have a lot of, to even think of speaking the serpent’s name.
Then, she was practically barreled over by Sunset, who swept her up in this great bone-crushing hug, clutching her tightly as if she were her only lifeline.
“You’d really be ready to face the wrath of the Lord of Chaos and the Shadows himself just for… me?” Sunset whispered in shock. She’d never really had the biggest confidence in herself, Somnambula had noted. She’d figured this out as soon as Sunset had told her story, what she was running from. Somnambula had figured out quite quickly that when Sunset wanted to become an Alicorn, whatever that was, that it was simply because she wanted to be looked upon and admired and thought of as something more than just a simple pony. She had what Somnambula would call an Inferiority Superiority Complex, having this gut-wrenching fear of being replaced and/or abandoned for someone or something else. Like that Twilight Sparkle character she’d mentioned once or twice.
“Yes, I would. I’d face the gods themselves just to be with you,” Somnambula stated firmly. “Nothing, and I mean nothing on this Earth will keep you from me. You came to my world as someone just looking for their place in life, and now you have it. My life-partner, my Light in life.”
Sunset sniffled once more, and Somnambula just hugged her tightly, running her fingers through the young woman’s fiery colored hair as she let her sob into her shoulder. Finally, after all tears were spent, Somnambula tilted Sunset’s head upwards with a finger, and removed the veil from her face before planting a long, lingering kiss on her face.
It was eagerly returned, and Sunset wrapped her arms around Somnambula’s neck, and wrapped her legs around the queen’s waist as they fell up against a stone wall kissing passionately for the next few minutes, only stopping now and then when they were forced to come up for air.
“Shh…” Somnambula whispered, running a hand down Sunset’s face. “I’ll always be here for you.”
“And I you,” Sunset repeated, kissing her love again. “Now, I believe we’ve spent enough time talking, no?”
“Yes, quite right my little Light.” Somnambula agreed, before closing the gap between them once more.