Before anything is built, first there must be a need.
"C'mon, we're going to play Griffs and Ponies." Celestia trotted to where Luna had secluded herself, already mid turn back to the field and expecting Luna to follow as soon as the sentence left her mouth.
"No." The word rang sharp, the young filly's attention down on a fuzzy caterpillar. She studied the multiple waves traveling down its long body as it moved, from end to end in mesmerizing grace.
"C'moooooooooon!" Celestia moved beside her sister and pushed her by degrees with her forehead.
Luna shifted her hooves for balance, still trying to watch the caterpillar. "No. I don't want to. Everyone is faster than me."
"C'mon, c'mon, c'mon, c'mon!" Celestia continued to push, nearly getting Luna to her feet. "I want you to play, too."
A huff of frustration came from Luna, losing sight of the bug. "Fine!"
Celestia bound forward, her trot hopping proudly as she returned to the field of her peers. Luna came up behind, tagging along closely with her head low as she approached the field of taller, older ponies.
"Hey! Hey, everyone!" Celestia's voice carried well over the general disordered play of her peers, and they all stopped to listen as she bounced up in enthusiasm. "Painted Hoof is a griffon!"
Every filly and colt took off a different direction, screaming in the exhilaration of play. Painted bolted up to his feet and gave chase to a group of colts that all scattered. Celestia whooped and cheered in excitement and ran with a mini-herd for no other reason than that they were running. Luna took a different route. She watched Painted's movements carefully and ran to the opposite end of the field, putting as much distance and as many ponies as she could between the two.
Dirt kicked up behind Painted Hoof as he took off like a shot and another pony was tagged in an instant. The new "griffon" singled out a slower runner and tagged her. And so on it went, the griffon changing hands, causing a wild flow as the herd scattered, combined and scattered again in the game. Eventually, Luna was singled out.
Celestia's younger sister weaved and zagged with the griffon in hot pursuit, buying herself time. But longer legs and stronger bodies eventually paid off and Luna became the new griffon. She stopped, panting fiercely, neck drooped in the inevitability of the game's course. With that moment's rest, she singled out a group in hopes numbers would slow them down, and charged.
Many scattered, but several of the cocky colts stayed behind letting Luna approach, only to bolt a few steps at a time and dodge her every time she got close. They laughed, taunted, stuck their tongues out daring her to continue. Luna pressed on, galloping at full speed trying to surprise them, before moving to a new cluster of ponies and trying to catch them.
The excitement started to die. Celestia groaned in the air of boredom that settled. Each time Luna approached a new group, they'd canter out of her way until Luna moved on and galloped slower and slower as chase appeared fruitless. Celestia reared up and kicked in the air, yelling as loud as she could. "Crimson Coat is a manticore!"
The wails of play erupted anew with twice the chaos as before. Colts and fillies ran in all directions. Two predators about them instead of one, added to the confusion, excitement, and most importantly, the fun! And the disarray gave Luna a chance to catch one unexpected.
In the insanity, Celestia found she caught Luna's eye --hard to miss that pink mane-- and her younger sister galloped with renewed vigor after her. Celestia smiled at the challenge and shoved off the other direction, running clear of the herd. It wasn't an uncommon tactic to break away from the crowd when the turmoil grew too great.
Luna stayed tight on her heels, having chosen her target, herd or no. Celestia weaved her path in long arcs more from the thrill than anything. Luna paced herself in a steady run, evidently trying to overtake her sister through exhaustion. The elder grinned lowered her body and put on even more speed as she crested a hill.
Her hooves tore up dirt in a sudden stop.
Painted Hoof laid limp as a wolf held his neck in its jaws. In those precious seconds it took to come to a halt, every detail about the scene shown in the clarity of a still lake on a sunny day. Painted Hoof was on his back, his limbs hanging in awkward, uncomfortable positions Celestia had never seen a pony take. The blood pooled around the wolf's lips, like drool, from where the colt's throat was crushed or the life choked out of him by teeth and jaw. Painted's tongue dangled out of his mouth, perhaps from when he tried to scream, but the eyes had since grown vacant of any spirit.
Wolves were among a pony's most feared predator. They dwarfed Celestia and Luna, standing as tall as an adult mare. From nose to tail, their body's bled swiftness, and rending teeth could wear down animals far bigger than a mere pony. But worst of all, they never worked alone.
While one wolf made the kill, four others competed for the prize and tried to tear Painted Hoof away, or whatever piece they could hold. But none failed to notice Celestia's approach. The cold, steady stare of a wolf was what nightmares were made of. The emotionless, calculating gaze of yellow eyes set in black faces.
Every limb in her body stiffened as hard as oak and her stomach left her body, leaving an empty, quivering hole where her insides had been. Somewhere in her thoughts, she was aware of Luna's tiny hooves coming up behind her.
"Gotc--!" Luna bumped into Celestia, but never completed her triumphant cheer as she crested the hill herself.
"Run." Celestia turned, pushing her shoulder into Luna before her sister stared too long. "Run! Run!" she screamed and shoved Luna to get moving.
Luna fell into step that quickly turned into a panicked flight as she responded half to her sister's state and half to what she saw. "Mom! Dad!" Her terror filled voice cracked as she began to call over and over again, between lapses to breathe.
Behind them, Celestia heard the soft impact of padded feet coming for her. A pair of pursuers, by the sound of their breath. "Wolf!" Celestia felt tears whip down her cheeks, cooled by wind. She drove Luna on, determined not to leave her. "Wolf!"
The alarm already sent waves of loosely organized panic through the ranks of the playing young and grazing adults. The fillies and colts' whoops of play turned into just general noise as they all ran to fall behind the protective rank of their parents. Some adults fled at the sound, others formed together into a cohesive mass. Still more sat still in raw confusion. Unlike griffons, there was no set plan of escape. Wolves' hunting tactics were too varied and cunning for a simple solution.
Whip Scar broke from the herd and flew across the field. His nostrils flared in wild rage, muscles and sinew from his shoulders swelled to power the large stallion's gallop as he went to meet his daughters. Lightning Kick was quick to his side, grim determination on her face. In the disorder, a few more followed their lead.
The wolves peeled off of their pursuit. A meal had already been won, and the opportunity of a quick second started to dissipate.
Whip Scar plunged past the fleeing fillies and placed himself between them and the carnivores. He kicked the ground and stomped feet with an angry whinny warning off any thoughts of passing him without a fight. Lightning stopped short and drew Celestia and Luna close. "Come on, girls. To the herd, I've got you."
A mare with a brown coat and black feet broke from the ranks that followed Whip and marched forward with an anxious hop. "Oh no, oh Sun, oh stars, oh no, oh no." She mumbled as she went even beyond Whip to look over the hill. She gasp as if she had been dunked in a winter stream. "No. No! Painted! PAINTED!" She reared on her hind legs and kicked into the air, eyes the size of saucers. "My Painted! No! Get away from him you monsters! Get away!" She pounded the ground, looked as if she'd charge, lost nerve and ran to the side, braced for a charge again, then went back to running. "GET AWAY FROM HIM! GET AWAY! GET AWAY! PAINTED! GET AWAY, GET AWAY, GET AWAY!"
The wolves sat in patient silence, waiting to see if she'd draw near.
"GET AWAY! MONSTERS! GET AWAY!" She stomped and screamed. Other mares moved to her side and slowly pressured her back while she resisted and pushed through them. "GET AWAY!"
"Celestia?" Lightning Kick's soft but firm voice drew her away from the scene. "Back to the herd, let's get you away from here."
With her daughters pressed close to either flank, Lightning retreated to the other mares.
The chief mare led the herd across the fields, away from the expanse with the wolves. Not that they'd be a threat now that they ate, but to move everyone away from the scene of Painted's end. What was left of the afternoon, then, was spent in migration, a carefully organized affair that carried everyone to new fields between the vast expanses of the Everfree Forest. As the sun dropped below the horizon, the migration stopped to rest.
The moment she stopped, Celestia's fell to sitting on her haunches and broke into a loud wail. Tears streamed down her pale cheeks in small rivers, dripping on to the ground below. Whip stepped behind her and stroked her back with his nose. "It's alright. It's been a rough day for you."
Eventually, his low, bassy voice and soft touch turned down the wails into sobs. Celestia choked out words. "Why Painted? He was fast! He was the best at Griffons and Ponies! Why him?"
Luna slipped underneath her mother and pressed her head against Lightning's chest, as she had done since she was a foal. The younger sister had always been hard to read. She never lost a quality about her blue eyes that made her appear to be a distant observer. Luna watched Celestia and her mother in silence, whatever thoughts she had never coming to the surface.
Lightning frowned in sympathy and slowly shook her head. "My poor Celestia, my poor, dearest Celestia. No pony has an answer to that question, other than that what is, is."
The elder daughter's sobs slowed to near ceasing. Only a bad case of sniffles remaining as she listened. "But why?"
Whip's low voice responded. "This is our lot in life, as Earth ponies. That is the only answer any one knows. We are prey, and all that entails. Creatures will hunt us. Sometimes, bad things will happen to those we care about."
The pink mane fell over her eyes, and her ears pinned themselves back and flat. Her shoulder's sagged and her forelimbs threatened to buckle.
With her tail, Lightning dried her daughter's cheeks. "This is something we all must pass through, my dearest. It is a tough chew which no one likes to swallow. I was your age when I lost my first friend."
Celestia wasn't sure, but when she looked up, she thought she saw a gleam of a tear in her mother's eye, reflecting the colors of sunset.
Lightning lowered he head and checked on Luna, nosing her side. "Her name was Fall Arrow, and she was like a sister to me. One day, we were playing at the river's edge when a cougar attacked us from behind. It could have killed either of us, but had chosen Arrow. They both fell into the river and I ran to warn the herd. Arrow didn't make it. You never forget your first lost friend, and I am sorry to say it will not be your last. It hurts right now, I know it does. It will hurt worse than anything you know. Tonight, you will feel like grieving, and you should grieve for your friend. Tomorrow will come, and you will feel like grieving just a little less, and a little less. One day soon you will stop grieving and life will continue."
Everything felt too heavy, she wanted to shrink into a ball. She slowly lied down, silently staring at the twilight.
"C-can you tell us a story?" Luna took a step half out from under Lightning.
Lightning looked to Celestia. "Would you like to hear one as well?"
She nodded solemnly.
"Any old one you want to hear or a new one?"
"The one about the Sun and Moon." Luna spoke up again in a quiet voice and retreated back under Lightning.
Lightning took a deep breath and closed her eyes. Her voice was moved in a strange poetry, her narration like a song with invisible melodies that none the less touched the heart in her quiet delivery:
A long time ago, back when legends lived and walked the Everfree Forest, there was born a very special pony. The first unicorn. Her coat was perfect and shined out a magical light on all that gazed upon her. Her mane and tail were as soft as a warm spring breeze. They made her into a princess, for her beauty was unlike anything ever seen, and she used her magic to bring peace to all those who saw her.
Hearing of such wonders that roamed far below, the stars traveled many miles through the sky and came here to gaze at the world that created such wonders. Amazed by the unicorn princess' beauty and kindness, they shined down on earth a small reflection of her magic light, and continue to do so in her honor.
Seeing that the star's attention turned from her, the Sun grew jealous and moved to Earth to claim it as her own. Trying to overshadow the princess unicorn, the Sun made itself glow with as much glory and passion as she could. But her vanity betrayed her and she shined so bright that it blinded any who tried to look at her.
The stars grew angry at the Sun's petty jealousy and made an appeal to their sister, the Moon to put a stop to the Sun's poorly thought out actions. The Moon agreed and tried to reason with the Sun. When the Sun would not listen, they battled. The Sun turned the sky blue to chase away the stars and deprive the Moon of their help. But doing so tired the Sun, so she went to rest. The Moon restored the sky so that the stars could watch the planet and all its wonder. Each morning, the Sun reawakens and turns the sky blue once more in her battle against the Moon. Each night, she tires and the Moon restores the night. They have been fighting for so long, they have forgotten why they fought. But even as they battled through the ages, life continued below and the unicorn lived happily underneath the Sun, Stars, and Moon.
As they story concluded, Celestia's chest rose and fell in the silent sighs of sleep. Yawning, Luna left Lightning and curled up to her sister's side, resting her head against Celestia's shoulder.