It's hard for ponies these days to imagine what it was like back then. If they were dropped into this time before Equestria, it'd be unrecognizable to their eyes.
Whip Scar chewed with his head low and his eyes peeled in the soft moonlight. Tension filled his every muscle and he wandered amidst the herd aimlessly. Deep in the wilds of the wide, wide forest known as Everfree, the simple herd of ponies grazed the grasses in the fields that sometimes broke the expanse of trees. They, too, were tense though they did not show it.
Foaling was a dangerous time for all. During the first few hours of life, a foal cannot walk. Predators sought those times. They preferred to not attack the strong or swift, it did a carnivore no good to pit themselves against the best when all they wanted was a meal. They liked their prey helpless, be it sick, old, or simply unaware. There was nothing so helpless as a new foal.
For that reason, the heard grazed around Lightning Kick, hiding her from stalking eyes, and Whip Scar wandered to and fro with nervous energy. Slowly weaving his way to the center, he kept his head below the grass line and spoke while pretending to eat.
"How is It? My little foal?"
Lightning Kick curled on the grass and rested, keeping a small figure protectively close. A soft breath rose and fell on Lightning's chest, but she spoke between the quiet pants. "She's healthy. Just . . ."
Whip Scar's heart leaped several places it didn't belong. "Just what? Is something wrong?"
"Just . . . look at her."
Whip couldn't keep up his charade of nibbling, and walked around Lightning to see his daughter. No thought in his mind could have prepared him for what he saw. "Pink . . . hair?"
"Pink as a flower," she whispered.
Lightning's observation was uncannily accurate. Before Whip's eyes, a foal curled peacefully with her mother, wearing a mane pink as a pale rose. If that was not all, her coat shown flawlessly in moonlight, white as a cloud or a drift of snow. But otherwise, a perfectly healthy Earth pony.
"But . . . how?" Whip stared at her in confusion and some of the rest of the herd couldn't help but crowd closer in curiosity. Browns, blacks, spots, and grays, not a one had a color as wild as pink or pure as white. Whispers began to pass between them. Some in amazement, others in concern.
-"How will we hide a pink pony? . . ."
-"A dragon would see her from miles away . . ."
Whip’s shoulders instinctively flexed as he discerned the words, feeling unease. His hide bristled, showing the scars from the lash of human masters he escaped. “We’ll ask the shaman.”
"You won't have to wait long," Charging Hoof whispered, his head still down. "She's here."
Lightning Kick jolted, but stayed down close to her foal. Whip stood erect in shock, then looked over the backs of the other ponies to see her coming. Where the Shaman came from or went was anyone’s guess, but she knew things no other pony knew. The rest of the herd parted like a sea, and closed up behind her.
"Shaman." Whip lowered his head in respect.
"Whippy," she responded in a bubbly voice and moved past him. Whip wasn't sure how, but he got a sense that under her concealing cloak, she smiled. "So this is the foal born tonight? Ya-huh! No mistaking it, now!"
Lightning watched silently, fear creeping across her frame and features, and she huddled the new foal just a little closer.
"The stars have guided me here, silly. They gave me a message." Shaman pointed a hoof matted with dirt, but the gesture seemed to hide a surprising amount of gentleness just beneath the mangy surface. "This foal has been blessed by their hands. The stars wanted to give us a present. She will have the capacity to change this world in ways not even they can see." Shaman looked to the parents once more, and a giggle erupted from under her hood. "You have reason to celebrate, but be warned. How things change is beyond anyone's power but hers." She turned and walked away just as she came, a slow, deliberate trot, until she vanished under the forest's shadow. A traveling song echoed through the woods in her voice, slowly fading from ear.
Moments passed, a collective and silent awe on everyone’s lips as the herd surged and fell back, wishing to see this new foal while maintaining their vigil. Finally, Lightning Kick broke the silence with a quiet laugh. “I think I know her name. In honor of those who blessed her." She licked her new daughter’s pink mane. “Celestia.”
The sun beamed down over Celestia's flank, warm and bright. The filly bounced between blooming flowers, stopping occasionally to eat one in a gulp and see if they tasted as pretty as they looked. "Bleh!" She spit out a bluebonnet, then continued to prance. "Gotcha!" She shouted to a colt, lying in the grass before she pounced. But the warning gave Painted Hoof time to spring up and run.
"ROOOOAARRRR!" Celestia gave chase. "Dragon gonna get ya!"
Painted Hoof stuck out his tongue and laughed as he kicked up dirt in his sprint.
"Celestia?" Whip Scar's deep voice carried over the field. "Celestia, come over here."
"Oh, no!" Celestia shrank away from the chase and trotted back to Whip Scar with her head lowered. "Yes, father?"
But Whip smiled and pulled a stray grass from her mane. "I've got something to show you." Together, they walked through the herd and Celestia had to press close to her father to squeeze between some of the grazing flock. After passing through, she caught sight of Lightning, laying on the ground. "Mommy!" She trotted the last few steps over to the gray mare and touched her neck against Lightning's in a pony style embrace.
"Celestia, you may look now." Lightning gestured to a form between her legs, a baby pony with a coat of dark, midnight blue.
Celestia's eyes widened to the size of saucers and she gasped. "Wwwoooooowwwwwwwwwww . . ."
"You have a sister," Whip said, bemused and proud.
“Just as you are named after the stars,” Lightning added after him, “she is named after the sister of the stars. Meet Luna.”
Celestia leaned forward and sniffed the dark foal. Luna looked up at her with large, inquisitive blue eyes.
The pink-maned filly sprung into the air, bouncing around in front of them and speaking in sing-song. “I got a sister! I got a sister! I got a sister!”
“Careful now!” Whip laughed and nudged her a step away from the newborn. “You have to be gentle with foals.”
Celestia stopped and nodded obediently.
"Well, now, off you go. Luna will be able to play when she is older."
Celestia darted away, weaving between the grazing ponies. “Wait until my friends hear!” Then singing in a cocky voice, “I got a Luna! I got a Luna!” Half way back to the fillies and colts, her eyes caught sight of a butterfly and she pranced behind it from flower to flower.
Whip laughed to himself and shook his head as he watched Celestia disappear. “Cheerful as the sun, she is, yet, named after the stars.” He lowered himself by degrees until he laid down next to Lightning and gave her cheek a lick. “And how is Luna? Able to walk yet?”
Lightning pursed her lips in thought, then slowly nodded. "She is quite different from her sister. But I think she is strong in ways harder to see. If we nudge her, I think she'll walk."
Whip stood up and moved to Luna, giving her an affectionate touch from his nose. "Best we get started, then. The sooner she walks, the safer she'll be."
Luna turned and looked at Whip, confused by the nudge at her hind quarters. But inch by inch, Luna responded by getting closer and closer to standing.
"Ahh, there you go. That's my girl."
On all four feet, Luna looked as confused as he ever saw a foal, and promptly fell to her side with a bleat.
"Not quite what I had in mind, but it's a start."
Some minutes later, with patient nudging and encouraging nuzzles, Luna took her first step.
Lightning and Whip both let out a little cheer and Luna responded with a wide smile and a proud lift of her tail before falling on her side once more with a bleat.
Every head shot up.
"IN THE SKY! GRIFFIN!" Charging Hoof's bellow rung out over the field before he turned to the forest. Already, the first bubbling of panic erupted from the herd. Brays and neighs of surprise and alarm quickly grew into a cacophony, and one by one, ponies began to head for the cover of the forest, bumping and stumbling into each other in chaotic fright that spilled to others like wildfire.
Whip turned, but Lightning was already on her feet, standing protectively over Luna. With broad shoulders, he shoved a frightened stallion away and reached under Lightning to grip Luna by the mane with his teeth. Whip was as gentle as he could manage, but Luna brayed at the discomfort before she was set on Lightning's back. Keeping the foal steady, Whip and Lightning moved as one within the herd.
Ponies bumped into each other, stumbled, got in the way, or otherwise jostled Whip and Lightning. Normally, such group movements were nothing to an adult pony, but he was trying to steady a foal, and each bump on his side or Lightning's threatened to dislodge Luna and send her tumbling under the rampage of hooves.
Whip's nostrils flared in anger as a mare took a sharp turn to dodge a hill and rammed her shoulder against his chest. The impact shook Luna violently and she cried in pain and fear. But Lightning slowed a step for her mate and Whip used his large size to shove the mare out of the way. Finally, they slipped under the canopy and safety of the trees, Luna still crying out her heart. In a sigh of relief, he set her to the ground and wiped away the tears with a gentle touch of his nose.
But Lightning's eyes were back to the field and asked a question that sent a chill through his spine. "Where is Celestia?"
Her mom and dad had trained her to listen to the warnings of predators. "When you hear the shout of 'griffin" They said. "Run to the forest." They'd repeat the last part. "Remember, griffins, run to the forest." Whip and Lightning drilled it with her. They'd whisper "Griffin!" in her ear and together, they all ran under the trees and stopped once the shadows enveloped them down to their hooves.
The butterfly tickled her nose, when the call went out and sent it flying off. It boomed over the field and she dropped to her haunches in the scare of it, tail pulled up tight to where she sat. She looked to the other ponies. Their faces were like that she had never seen. Their eyes wide and wild, lips peeled back in horrible grimaces. They didn't look like ponies anymore and their hooves beat a terrible thunder as they barely dodged around her to either side, colossal beasts to the little filly.
Celestia cried out in fear of those horrible faces, and pinched her eyes closed. To the sky, she called to mom and dad, over and over as the hooves beat their wild noise. She opened her eyes and ice plunged into her heart and pumped cold water through her veins. The griffin glided above.
The wings spread wide and black as it silhouetted in the sun. They beat slowly and soared, the creature sailed like an eagle on the wind. Celestia froze stiff and couldn't turn away. It was a sight she felt was not meant for her eyes. Like Death itself hovered above her.
A stallion leaned over on its run and bit Celestia across the back of her neck, lifting her off the ground. The force of the grip hurt. Teeth pinched through her coat and mane and she cried anew kicking violently for the pain of it. She knew the stallion, though, and called him Uncle Apple, despite lack of blood relation (or even "Apple" in his name). The struggles were not directed against him and she was carried to the forest behind the herd and set down in the shadows.
"Go on, find your daddy, little miss," he said with a nudge to her rear.
She stood up and took off, skating along the trees until she found Whip Scar at the edge, looking out. Celestia ducked under his body and pressed her head against his chest.
"There you are!" He breathed a great sigh of relief and let the filly hide underneath him. "Stay close, he'll pass over soon."
Looking over the rolling hills of the field, she saw the shadow travel across.