How had it come to this?
A white earth pony stallion struck a tree and slumped to the ground, groaning in pain. He forced his eyes to open and took in the scene playing out before him. Twilight and the others had fallen and lay unconscious on the ground, the infuriating form of the cackling Vala standing over them in triumph.
In his eagle claw he held six black gems which glowed with a malevolent unlight. Six gems which used to be the magical pinnacle of what this world stood for, what he had so vehemently opposed for the entirety of his long existence: Harmony. Now they were twisted and corrupted, their light tainted to serve chaos.
His failure was now complete, that he could not save himself let alone these ponies was testament to that. But as great as his shame was it was as nothing before the anger he felt. Once it had taken the combined efforts of all creation to defeat him, but now with the damnable chain ensnaring his spirit he was helpless against this singular foe.
He had not always been so weak. Once he was as a living god, the mightiest of the Valar, the greatest son of Ilúvatar. He had helped to forge a world and then he had dedicated himself to destroying that world. He was once the Master of Fate. He was once the bane of all that made its home in the light. He was once Morgoth, the Black Foe of the World. Now he was just a pony.
How had it come to this?
He closed his eyes and he remembered.
He had no idea how long he drifted within the endlessness of the Void, it could have been days, months, years; there was no way to tell in the blackness. For a time he had raged and strained against his bonds, howling curses and oaths that only the abyss would bear witness to. But eventually as centuries gave way to millenia his rage subsided and he took to pondering.
He thought long on the events that led up to this imprisonment; the Lanterns, the Trees, the Silmarils. He thought on the enemies he had fought and broken; Húrin, Fingolfin, Fëanor, and so many others. But no matter how many times he destroyed the light, no matter how many enemies he vanquished, his damnable brother always won the day.
If he was still possessed of a body he would have growled in anger at the thought of his brother. Manwë, the King of the Valar. It should have been him that was king, not that naive fool! He was the mightiest of the Ainur, time and again he proved it, it had taken all of Valinor to bring him low. But still, bring him low they did. Angband was destroyed, the Silmarils were retaken, his own crown was beaten into a collar for him to wear.
Those fools didn’t understand. None of them understood the great vision he’d had for Arda. He would have sung the world into true perfection if they had not interfered during the Music. But they had not understood. Even Ilúvatar did not understand. Instead of the praise he was due he was berated and chastised for the Discord. None of them could see how great of an improvement it was!
He drifted within the Void for a time, minutes or millenia, he did not know, nor did he care. He simply brooded within the darkness. Then all at once a great light came upon him and nearly blinded him with its magnificence. As he roared in pain a voice spoke.
“Thou were once the brightest star, the greatest of thy kin. How far thou hast fallen.” it lamented.
“And still I am great!” he seethed. “Long may this prison bind me, but I shall escape. And great shall be mine wrath upon Arda when I do.”
A silhouette in the light nodded. “And escape thou shalt. And so ye shall die, the black sword, Gurthang, piercing thy heart.” said The One.
“Nay! He who bears that sword is dead by mine curse and shall not bring me grief.” Morgoth claimed.
“Thy fate is to die at the hand of the son of Húrin, it shall be so if thou cannot diverge from thy chosen path, so saith The One.” Ilúvatar warned.
“And what wouldst thou have me do? Repent mine sins? I do not think I shall for I feel no regret for mine actions. Let the final battle come, for I am the master of fate and if there is any who can change my destiny then it shall be me!” he declared.
“Great is thy pride and equally great shall be thy fall. Yet if ye were to divest thyself of such hubris I could offer thee an escape from such a fate.” Ilúvatar offered.
His words gave Morgoth pause. Master of fate he may be, but if Ilúvatar decreed he would die then it would be all but impossible to escape such a doom. This offer of escape, softened as he was by imagined aeons of imprisonment, proved too much.
“Thou would send me among Arda again? Pride is easily given up and I shall do it if it shall win me my freedom.”
“Take me not for some fool,” the god rumbled. “Words may have been enough to sway Manwë, but he is kind and does not know evil. Action shall be required to convince one such as me.”
“Name thy price for I shall do it. Pride is as nothing if it will win me no victory.” declared Morgoth.
There was a soft chuckle. “Water is wont to flow, as birds are to fly, as liars are to lie. But from these lies I take heart, for there was a time where pride such as thine would compel thee to simply reject such an offer. There is yet hope, Melkor, but thou shalt never walk upon the world of Arda again."
“If I am never to see Arda again then to where shalt thou send me?” Morgoth asked, incredulous.
“When the Ainur went down to Arda to live there I gathered to me all who stayed behind. They sang a new song, shorter and sweeter, and free of your Discord. The world was made perfect and free of the marring Arda suffered, meant to be a haven for all those who wished for a world of their own but would have no part in the doom that befell the kingdom of Arda. And so to that world went all that remained of the Ainur, three of whom became its Valar.”
“So thou would send me to this perfect world? To what end? If truly thou made this world free of fault then surely mine presence there would only upset it.” Morgoth said.
“The darkness of thy secret though reached yet further than thou couldst know and an Ainu who went there, tempted as he was by your song, has faltered in his duties as Vala and was imprisoned by his fellows.” Ilúvatar explained. “But now his power waxes and thou shalt right thy wrong. This trial shall be a test of thy character, tempering thy pride with humility, thy anger with laughter, and thy hatred with kinship.”
“I wonder, what is there to stop me from doing unto this world what I hath done to Arda?” asked Morgoth.
“Thou shalt undertake this trial as a mortal. Angainor shall be bound to thy spirit and thy spirit housed in a body of my own forging. Thou shalt have no power upon which to call.”
“And thou wouldst have me fight as a mortal against a Vala? Surely this is simply the trading of one doom for another!” he exclaimed.
“Hast thou forgotten how many mortals stood against the Dark Lord Morgoth? Thou shalt not bring low the Vala by thyself, but learn the value of kinship with others. With friends at thy side thou shalt bring low this wayward Ainu. Angainor shall be unbound from thy soul when thou hast truly learned the lessons I desire thou learn.”
“And who will be mine kin upon this world? I bid thee name thy Vala who upon this world dwell.” the dark lord asked.
“I name them to be thy sisters, Celestia and Luna, and thy brother, who since has become so taken with thy wayward views has instead named himself Discord. Surely thou doth remember them from the Music of the Ainur.”
“Aye.” Morgoth confirmed. “I doth remember them, such were their songs. And so I shall go to them, bound by Angainor, in a body not of my own, to fight a Vala. And what shall I be called through this trial? And what dost thou name this world?”
“I name thee to be Shadowfax, and the world Equestria. Dost thou accept this trail, to aid thy kin in the defense of their home, to aid any whom thou may meet, to shoulder their burdens and divest them of their woes?”
Morgoth thought over the deal. There would have been a time where he would have denied it and taken his chances in the final battle, but in this, his second imprisonment, his great pride had faltered. He would not let this chance at freedom pass him by.
“I swear by thy own name that I will go to this world and I shall set right this Discord. I shall relieve thy children of this world of their woes and seek to learn the lesson thou would ask of me.” swore Morgoth.
Ilúvatar spoke, and there was a smile in his voice. “It may also be good to temper thy tongue with honesty, for lies shall avail thee none here.” he said. “Now let no more time be wasted, thy kin have been forewarned of thine coming, though the decision to tell of thy past has been left to thee. All I have said is to expect wayward kin in need of a kindness.”
“Then let me be on my way. Though I find I must trouble thee with one last question. What dost thou gain from mine freedom?” Morgoth inquired.
Morgoth felt himself fading, but before he lost consciousness he heard the god speak.
“Is it not natural for a father to want his son back?”
“Is he okay?” an inquisitive voice asked.
Morgoth stirred, the voice was loud, high pitched, and grated on his every nerve.
“Oh look! He’s waking up! Hi Mister Sleepyhead!” exclaimed a second voice. This one was far more bubbly and excited than the first and Morgoth wished only to set the Balrogs upon its owner.
As he came to he became aware of his surroundings. Beneath him was grass, this was the first time in his life he had felt such a thing upon his skin. Upon his back beat the rays of the sun, they warmed him pleasantly. He felt a light breeze against his face, the crisp, clean air was as honey to him, so very unlike the wastes of Angband. Slowly he attempted to get to his feet.
“Oh, he’s moving, do give him some room, dears.” urged a third voice, refined and cultured. It almost reminded him of the elves.
Morgoth got to his feet and no sooner had he risen did he stumble and fall, unable to keep his balance on his two feet.
“Oh my! Are you alright, sir? Here, let me help you... I mean, if that’s alright.” a timid voice stuttered. Morgoth preferred this one, it was quiet and meek and the owner very clearly knew its place.
He felt a pair of hooves help him to right himself. This confused him immensely. He cracked his eyes open and immediately jammed them shut again. This world was so bright! He let out a quiet groan as he got to his hooves.
Wait... his hooves?
"What the hay’s wrong with this guy?" a brash voice asked.
He cracked an eye open, again braving the agonizing light to look at the newest speaker. He instantly wished he hadn't. The creature was a bright blue with a blindingly colorful mane and tail. This one would die first.
“Y’all right there, sugarcube? Ya want me ta get ya some water?” a voice drawled. He liked this one, it’s voice was far less grating than the others.
Eyes open and adjusting to the light and finally on his feet, he decided to take stock of this new body that had been made for him. Looking down at himself, he froze in shock. He had been made into a small, white horse! What manner of cruel joke was this? He recovered quickly and looked to regard his company. They, too, appeared to be horses like himself. This certainly seemed to be the humility part of his trial.
He turned to look at the small creature at his side who was so kindly helping him to stand and considered simply slaying the lot of them. No sooner than think it did he feel an inexplicable tightening in his chest, Angainor had seemingly sensed such a thought and made known its displeasure by tightening its grip upon his spirit. He sighed in irritation, it seemed Ilúvatar had wisely distrusted Morgoth to keep to his end of the bargain.
Realizing the horse creatures were staring at him expectantly, he decided it would be wise to give them thanks for their concern, misplaced as it was. It would be prudent to be kind until such a time as he regained his freedom, it was fortunate that he had much experience with appearing benevolent and fair. Indeed only two had ever seen past the mask of kindness he used during the old days in Valinor.
“I thank thee for thy kindness.” he rasped, taking his weight off of the yellow creature at his side to stand under his own power.
“Oh it’s really no problem at all.” the timid thing replied. “I’ve never seen you around before, are you new here?”
“Aye.” he confirmed. Remembering the name Ilúvatar had given him for this world, he thought it a good idea to introduce himself. “I name myself to be Shadowfax, son of Eru, brother of none.” he announced. “I bid thee name thyselves that I might know whom I address.”
The creatures all looked at him strangely, save the energetic pink one who practically bounced with excitement and seemed capable of only an eerily wide smile.
“Well I’m Twilight Sparkle.” said the lavender unicorn. “I run the local library.”
“And I’m Rarity.” the white unicorn announced, all grace and manners. “I’m a dressmaker and I run Carousel Boutique. It’s such a pleasure to make your acquaintance, darling.”
“I’m Fluttershy.” the meek winged one squeaked. “I... um, I take care of sick animals.”
“Name’s Rainbow Dash!” announced the brash, infuriatingly colorful one. “Fastest flier in all of Equestria!” Yes, this one would die first.
“Now don’t go braggin’ to ‘im just yet, let ‘im get ‘is bearings!” chastised the orange, hat wearing one. “Ah’m sorry ‘bout her, mister, she’s just like that. Mah name’s Applejack, but y’all can just call me AJ. Me ’n mah family run the local farm.”
The pink one looked like it was about to explode from excitement and wasted no time jumping right into its introduction. “I name myself to be Pinkie Pie!” it all but yelled. “Daughter of Winkie and sister of Inkie and Blinkie! I’m Ponyville’s premier party mare!”
For all of her almost unnerving energy, at least this one knew how to properly introduce oneself. He believed it would be wise to direct further questions to this ‘Pinkie Pie’. Though the name left a sour taste in his mouth.
“Well met, friends.” he said with a nod.
“So how come you’re all the way out here near the forest?” the one named Twilight asked. “It’s really dangerous out here, you know. Are you traveling to Ponyville?”
“Nay, Lady Sparkle.” said Morgoth. “I have been sent here by... my father. I have been tasked to seek out the aid of the Valar ruling these lands. Couldst thou perhaps direct me to their domain?”
“Valar?” Twilight asked, cocking an eyebrow. “I have no idea what that is.”
“Verily?” he asked, surprised. How could they not know of the very beings that ruled them? Though it was possible they did not name themselves as such here, perhaps they would be known by name?
“Wouldst thou then tell me if the names of Celestia and Luna are perhaps familiar to thee?” he questioned.
“Oh, the princesses? Of course we know them!” Twilight exclaimed. “Everypony in Equestria knows who the princesses are.”
“Ah, this is excellent news indeed. Is it possible that thou wouldst do me the kindness of directing me to them?” he asked Twilight.
She regarded him quizzically. “What do you want with the princesses?” she asked.
Morgoth leveled an even stare at her. “My business in none but my own, Lady Sparkle. But if thou doth feel the need to press me, I can tell thee that they and my father share a history, they shall be expecting me. Now can thee or can thee not direct me to them.” he repeated, his false patience nearing its end.
Twilight looked away sheepishly. “Sorry,” she mumbled. “I guess I let my curiosity get the better of me. I’m actually Celestia’s student, if you want I can send her a letter for you.”
Morgoth’s eyes widened in genuine surprise. “Thou, a mere mortal, art the student of a Vala? Truly thou must be possessed of incredible talent to warrant such an honor! I wouldst be most appreciative of thy offer, Lady Sparkle, but surely the time it would take a courier to deliver the letter would be better spent traveling.”
Twilight blushed at his praise and Rainbow snickered at her friend’s embarrassment. “Oh don’t worry about that, I have a special direct line to the princess!” she exclaimed.
Before Morgoth could question her, Twilight’s horn began to glow and with a pop and a flash of light, her explanation appeared. Though he wasn’t exactly sure what to make of what he saw.
“Sweet Celestia!” cried a small purple and green reptile. It was soaking wet and covered in suds, wearing a showering cap and holding a brush in its hand. “What the hay’s the big idea, Twilight?!” it yelled in embarrassment.
Rainbow Dash, Applejack, and Pinkie Pie all fell to the grass bellowing with laughter while Fluttershy and Rarity giggled quietly behind their hooves.
“Oh no, I’m so sorry Spike!” Twilight gasped, embarrassed blush deepening.
The lizard, Spike apparently, pulled off the cap and tossed the brush away, grumbling angrily to himself. “Yeah yeah, whatever. So what’s so important that you had to pull me out of a shower?”
“Well I was hoping you could take a letter to the princess for me.” she said.
Spike fixed her with a flat stare. “Without a quill or p-”
Before he could finish, another flash and a pop brought forth the writing materials in question. Spike grabbed them out of the air with a grumble and prepared to write. “Alright, let’s get this over with so I can finish my shower.”
Twilight glanced at Morgoth. “What do you want me to say?” she asked.
Still slightly confused, Morgoth took a moment to think. “It need not say much, tell her perhaps that the one she awaits has arrived.” he suggested.
Spike scribbled on the parchment for a short few seconds and then rolled the parchment up. “All set?” he asked.
Morgoth nodded. “Aye, that is all that needs saying. She shall understand its meaning.”
He watched in fascination as Spike held the scroll before his mouth and belched a torrent of emerald fire over it. The scroll quickly crumbled to ashes and floated away into the sky.
“I am unfamiliar with this manner of communication. Is the process a lengthy one or-” Before he could finish, he was interrupted by a loud gurgling from Spike’s stomach. He opened his mouth and belched a second torrent of flame, but from this one a scroll materialized. Twilight caught the appearing scroll in her magic.
“Alright, that’s done, can I please go back home now, Twilight?” Spike asked.
“Of course, Spike, thank you for being so understanding about this.” she said.
Spike gave her a small smile. “S’what your Number One Assistant is here for.”
With a smile of her own, Twilight’s horn lit up and Spike, along with all his toiletries vanished. Then with Spike taken care of, Twilight carefully unrolled Celestia’s reply and gave it a quick read.
“Wow, Mister Shadowfax, whoever you are you must be really important, Celestia seems really eager to meet you.” she remarked, looking up at Morgoth.
“It would not be a stretch to say that she and I are old friends.” he replied, allowing himself a small grin.
“Well it seems like she wants you there as soon as possible, would you like me to take you to the Friendship Express in town?” she offered.
“I must confess, Lady Sparkle, I find myself unfamiliar with this ‘Friendship Express’. Is it some form of travel?” he asked.
The ponies stared at him like he had just asked what a cup was.
“Have you never seen a train before?” Twilight asked.
“Nay, I fear I have never heard of such a thing.” he confessed.
“Oh man!” Pinkie exclaimed. “Boy have you been missing out! Trains are the absolute most amazingly super awesome thing ever invented! Well, after parties and cupcakes and candy and soda and cake and- mpf!” Pinkie was interrupted as Rainbow jammed a hoof in her mouth.
“What she means to say is trains are pretty cool.” she said.
“Will it deliver me swiftly to the domain of Celestia?” he asked.
“You bet yer plot it will!” Applejack confirmed. “It’ll take ya ta Canterlot in just under a day.”
“Excellent!” he said. “Then I would ask that thou show me to this ‘Friendship Express’ that I might be on my way as swiftly as possible.”
“Well then just follow us back to town and we’ll show you to it.” Twilight said with a smile.
“I thank thee for thy kindness.” Morgoth said as the group set off for town. “But I wonder, why dost thou aid me, an utter stranger to you? How dost thou benefit from it?”
The ponies looked at him strangely again, it seemed to have become a habit.
“Well we don’t really benefit.” explained Fluttershy. “Being kind to others is just the right thing to do. When you help somepony it makes them happy, and we enjoy making ponies happy.”
“Verily,” he distractedly muttered.
It was an almost humbling response, he thought. All his long life he’d always had allies and underlings that he would use and never give a second thought about. Anything he’d ever done ultimately led to something beneficial for him. To be faced with such unadulterated kindness and compassion... it really threw a lot into perspective. It ultimately changed nothing in him, but it certainly offered a different perspective.
He was broken from his reverie when he noticed the sensation of breath on his flank. Turning his head, he saw that Pinkie Pie had lagged behind and had her snout nearly pressed to his flank, her face a study of utter concentration, as though she was inspecting something quite interesting.
“Is there some matter with which I can assist thee, Lady Pie?” he asked loudly.
“Oh! Sorry! I was just looking at your cutie mark, it looks an awful lot like Twilight’s, you know!” she chirped.
He stopped. “My what?” he said bluntly. He craned his neck to see whatever it was that had Pinkie Pie so enthralled. Sure enough, there adorning his flank was a cluster of seven twinkling stars set in a circle of six surrounding one, all against a small field of soft midnight blue.
“Your cutie mark, silly! It looks a lot like Twilight’s! But her’s means she’s really good at magic and you don’t have a horn, so what does yours mean?” she asked as he continued onward.
After a second of pondering Morgoth was struck by realization. Seven stars. One for each light he stole from Arda. The Two Lanterns, the Two Trees, and the three Silmarils. It was not a mark of talent as it seemed to be for these ponies, but one of guilt, a constant reminder of the evils he was here to make up for.
“I have been known to gaze long into the night sky at times.” he lied.
“Oh my gosh, really?” Twilight gasped.
“Ah jeez.” Applejack drawled. “Ya had ta get ‘er started.”
“I love stargazing!” Twilight continued, ignoring Applejack. “You should come over to my house some time and I can show you my telescopes! It’ll be so much fun! Oh! There’s a meteor shower happening soon and-”
Morgoth quickly realized that these ponies seemed to be able to go for a very long time without having to breathe as Twilight went on and on about her love of stargazing. Perhaps it would be best to say as little as possible around them.
But as fate would have it, he would find this difficult as the ponies, Pinkie Pie especially, bombarded him with questions.
“So do you like parties?” Pinkie asked.
“I fear that I have never actually attended any form of celebration. There was never really any cause for such things in my home.” he told her. Pinkie didn’t seem to know how to respond to such an unthinkable answer and so moved onto the next one.
“Well what about cupcakes? Everypony loves cupcakes!” she persisted.
“Nay, Lady Pie. I fear I have no knowledge of these cupcakes you speak of, are they some form of pastry?” Pinkie seemed absolutely shocked by this point. The concept of there being a pony who had never had a cupcake or ever gone to a party seemed completely alien to her.
“Well... what about singing? I love to sing! I sing all the time!” she exclaimed, earning a few sighs from the other ponies.
Here Morgoth was at a loss for an answer. How did one explain to a small pink pony that they had helped to create an entire world with their singing? He decided that it would be wise not to mention that. Instead he answered with “Aye, I have been known to sing as the mood takes me.”
This seemed to appease her some and she relaxed a little.
“So darling, do tell, why is it that you talk in the Royal Canterlot Voice? I can understand why Princess Luna does it, behind the times as she is, but what about you, dear?” Rarity inquired.
“I fear I do not understand thy question, Lady Rarity. What is the Royal Canterlot Voice?” Morgoth asked.
“You know.” Rainbow said. “You’re always like ‘Thou this!’ or ‘Thou that!’ What’s up with that? Don’t you guys speak normal Equestrian where you’re from?”
“Well, Lady Dash, if thou must know, this manner of speaking is the norm in my home.” he explained.
“And where is that?” Twilight asked. “I can’t think of anywhere so behind the times.”
“I am... from very far away. It is a land you likely will not have heard of.” he said dismissively.
Twilight scoffed. “Oh please! There’s nowhere in the world I’ve never heard of,” she declared.
Morgoth grinned to himself. “Very well then, Lady Sparkle. If thou doth truly believe that the world holds no more surprises for thee then I shall tell. I name my homeland to be Arda.”
It gave him pleasure when he saw her confident smile drop into a confused frown. Rainbow Dash laughed at the display.
“Looks like Miss Know-it-all doesn’t actually know it all, eh?” she ribbed.
“You made that up!” she accused him. “I’ve never read about anywhere called Arda.”
“If thou doth believe that what I speak is untrue then perhaps thou should ask thy mentor, Celestia.” he suggested. “I am sure she will support my claims.”
Twilight settled for simply grumbling to herself for a while and the rest of the trip progressed in relative silence, much to Morgoth’s pleasure. As they approached the town Morgoth saw that the town’s buildings resembled those that looked to be what the race of Men would inhabit, but there was not a single one to be found. And the town was just so vibrant and colorful, it almost reminded him of of his days in Valinor before he destroyed the Two Trees.
As the group passed through the town he looked around in great curiosity. Much of the town seemed reminiscent of Arda, but there were a great many things he found unfamiliar. His curiosity reached its peak when they arrived at the Friendship Express. Nothing like a train existed in all of Arda and he found himself completely enthralled with it.
“What manner of magic lead to this great thing’s conception?” he wondered aloud.
“It’s just a train, dude.” Rainbow said. “Man, that Arda place must be really behind the times if this is enough to impress you.”
“And so this machine shall bear me to Canterlot?” he asked.
“That’s right.” Twilight confirmed. “It’ll have you there by this time tomorrow.”
“Thou have been most helpful, Lady Sparkle. And all of thee, I thank thee for thy repeated kindness. I shall speak highly of all of thee at my audience with Celestia tomorrow.” he said to them.
“It’s no trouble at all, Mister Shadowfax. Next time you’re in Ponyville feel free to come visit the library. I’d really love to show you all my stargazing equipment.” Twilight offered.
“When next I find myself in the area I think perhaps I shall take thee on thy generous offer.” he said. “I bid thee all farewell, perhaps we shall meet again soon.”
Morgoth boarded the train and the ponies all waved goodbye to him as they watched the train thunder off into the distance.
“He was, by far, the weirdest pony I think we’ve ever met.” Rainbow Dash said once the train had passed from sight. Her remark was met by the solemn nods of every other pony in the group.