always_the_moon: (01 ☽ before there ever was a you and me)
Dear Sir Karkat Vantas:

It is with a heavy heart that I write this letter to thee. I knew not of thy world and its troubles, and it gives me no pleasure to hear of them. Now I, too, must tell thee a story, so that thou might better understand my place in mine own world, and why thy tale troubles me so.

Equestria was not always the verdant and peaceful land it is now. Long ago, before ponies began to number the years, the world was ruled by a baleful spirit known as Discord. This spirit thrived on disharmony and chaos, and shaped the world and its inhabitants to provide that which he craved. One day he would bring boiling heat, the next freezing cold, the next a vicious storm that would tear the very earth asunder, all to watch the suffering of the land's inhabitants. He brought forth monsters, beings of destruction and greed, to torment those under his rule. And when he tired of watching from a distance, Discord would come down among his subjects, warping their minds and senses, sowing dissent and disharmony between ponies for his own twisted amusement. Equines of all sorts were subject to his every whim, and had no recourse, for no mortal pony could hope to match the chaos lord's power.

At that time, my Sister and I existed solely in the firmament, our only duty to guide the sun and the moon in their endless journey. We cared little for the affairs of mortals; as long as the land below us received its equal share of day and night, its inhabitants were none of our concern. But as time wore on, we became more and more aware of the injustices heaped upon the ponies below--how they longed for peace, but could find none while the fell spirit reigned. Finally, we could stand it no longer, and so my Sister and I quit our stations in the heavens and descended to confront Discord ourselves.

The battle was long, and hard fought. Though we had the highest magics on our side, the two of us together were barely a match for Discord's power. To defeat him, we called upon a still greater magic, brought forth not from ourselves but from the hearts of all ponies everywhere. The Five High Virtues, those qualities which are the foundation of all bonds between living beings, were given physical form, in a set of artifacts that would come to be known as the Elements of Harmony. Wielding these Elements, my Sister and I were able to overcome Discord, sealing him away in stone and ending his reign of terror.

We never intended to stay. Once Discord was gone and his taint was purged from the land, my Sister and I thought to return to our place in the firmament. But 'twas not to be. For the first time, we met the inhabitants of the land to which we gave light and darkness, and they met us. The mortal equines who walked the earth saw that somepony cared for their welfare, and wished to bring them harmony and peace rather than chaos and despair. We, in turn, saw the true impact of our daily cycle of night and day, and grew to truly love the ponies of this world, just as they loved us in return. How could we bear to leave? How could they bear to see us go?

No, we were never to return to the heavens. Instead we continued our celestial duties from our place on the earth, even as we aided the mortals in removing Discord's influence from the world. Those beasts that could not be reformed were banished to a realm of their own, that they might trouble ponykind no longer. The pegasi honed their skills at shepherding the weather, the earth ponies their skills at growing crops, and the unicorns their magical craftsmareship, so that they all might live in comfort. As civilization grew and flourished, my Sister and I acted as mentors and advisers, resolving disputes between ponies, granting boons to those who asked, and--though we did not relish it--meting out punishment to the truly deserving. Though the cities and provinces had their own governments, it was understood that we, the alicorns of the sun and moon, were the true stewards of the world.

I tell thee all this, Sir Vantas, not to boast of my power, nor to argue that I was right to direct mine ire at thee. I write of these things only so that thou might understand what happened after. For the spirit Discord, it seems, can never be truly banished from the world. His influence persists, corrupting the minds and hearts of ponies and turning them against one another.

And it persisted in me.

For a time, I was happy living among the mortal creatures. As my elder Sister was the Sovereign of the Sun, holding court during the day, so I was the Monarch of the Moon, taking her place at sunset each night. But as time wore on, I saw that my Sister received many petitions for her to grant boons and resolve disputes each day, but it was rare for anypony to approach me with the same requests. I came to realize that while day and sunlight were beloved by all, my night was not. The day was a time for work and for play, for the green growing things that nourished ponykind. The night, by contrast, was a time for ponies to cloister themselves away for sleep. Though I labored long and hard to bring forth the moon and stars each night, my efforts went unnoticed by the populace. My Sister was beloved; I was, at best, acknowledged.

It was then that the seeds of disharmony were planted in my heart. I grew jealous of my Sister and her subjects' adoration. Over the centuries, jealousy became resentment, and resentment festered into a hatred that consumed my very being. I was no longer the Princess Luna; instead, I had transformed myself into a creature of pure spite, who would come to be known as Nightmare Moon.

One fateful night, a thousand years ere this one, my Sister arrived at court to raise the sun at the dawning of the day... but I refused to vacate the throne. I had resolved to keep the sun from the sky, making my night neverending, so that our subjects would pay it, and me, the respect I believed to be mine by right.

At first, my Sister allowed it. I know not why; mayhap she thought it was a passing fancy, and that I would soon come to my senses. When the next day was due to begin, she came to me again and asked to take her place in court. Again, I refused. Another night passed that would have been day, and my Sister came again. She tried to reason with me, telling me that eternal night would bring destruction to the land as the crops withered and died, and our subjects withered and died along with them. But I would hear none of it; I was beyond reason, willing to allow all life to perish in order to satisfy my grudge. Logic gave way to entreaty, and then finally to violence. 'Twas a long and bloody battle, even more so than our struggle against Discord. The palace was blasted to ruins, killing all inside save my Sister and myself; the echoes of the magics we cast that night still resonate in the surrounding lands, such that no pony can live there in peace. But in the end, we were equals in every way, and neither one could prevail over the other.

At long last, my Sister called upon the greater magic, the Elements of Harmony. For the sake of all ponykind, she did the unthinkable: she turned the Elements against themselves, striking down one of the two wielders of their magic. Because it was the only way to preserve Equestria's harmony, it worked, and I was banished into the moon itself, trapped in an enchanted slumber while my silhouette looked down upon the world from the moon's surface.

My Sister had restored balance, but at a terrible cost. Our bond with the Elements of Harmony was broken; we could no longer use their power, for good or ill. What's more, she alone was left to shepherd both sun and moon, with my face as an eternal reminder of what she had done. Over time, Princess Luna was all but forgotten, and Nightmare Moon became nothing more than a fairy story told to frighten misbehaving foals. But my Sister could not forget, and knew that the balance she brought to the world was incomplete. There is no such thing as a harmony of one.

But my Sister was wise. She knew that one day, the stars would come together to release me from my prison, for the stars loved their Princess as a foal loves its mother, and would not see their creator locked away for eternity. And she also knew that, on that day, new wielders of the Elements would arise to oppose me, and, with luck, would be able to not merely stop me but to restore me to my former self.

And so it came to pass. On the longest day of the thousandth year of my captivity, I was freed, and charged back to the earth with hate renewed. My first act was to bind my Sister so that she could do nothing to hinder me; my next was to return to the ruins of the old palace, where the Elements still lay, to destroy them once and for all. But Harmony, like Discord, can never truly be destroyed, and the six mortal ponies who came before me were not merely wielders of the Elements, but carried the spirits of the High Virtues within them.

The earth pony Apple Jack, strong and true, held the spirit of Honesty.
The pegasus Fluttershy, friend to all creatures who would never raise a hoof in anger, held the spirit of Kindness.
The earth pony Pinkie Pie, whose goal was to bring happiness to all whom she meets, held the spirit of Laughter.
The unicorn Rarity, maker of fine garments to share with the world, held the spirit of Generosity.
The pegasus Rainbow Dash, true to her friends and to her home at any cost, held the spirit of Loyalty.
And thine own friend, the unicorn Twilight Sparkle, bore that nameless power that cannot exist save in the presence of the Five High Virtues: the Magic that binds ponies together in love and friendship.

The power these six ponies brought forth from the reborn Elements of Harmony was enough to purge the jealousy and hate from my spirit, restoring me to my former self. Nightmare Moon is no more. And yet, upon reading thy letter, Sir Vantas, I see that I have not entirely escaped the shadow of her arrogance. My actions toward thee were foolish and short-sighted, and I of all creatures should know better. I cannot justify my harsh words against thee; I can only send my deepest regrets and ask for thy forgiveness, if thou wilt give it. If not, I'll not trouble thee again.

Yours sincerely I remain

December 2012

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