[Author's Note: all of the entries in this series, 'Studies of a Bookworm' are designed to be canon to anything that I write, and I will gladly let anyone else that wishes to borrow these ideas do so, all I ask is that you let me know. You know, so I can read your story. Plus, it's more respectful, and I'd prefer to be as respectful to someone that respects my wishes. Okay? Okay then. Message me on www.fimfiction.net if you want to speak to me though, because I don't really answer my e-mails. I'm far more likely to answer any messages sent to me on the message system on this website. Enjoy!]
With the advent of pony civilization, many different societies and theologies began to develop at an alarmingly fast rate under the guiding hooves of Princess Celestia and Princess Luna. Their wisdom and knowledge quickly ushered their precious ponies through era after era, evolving rapidly in several ways, this due partially to the fact that throughout history, Equestria has always been ruled over by the Goddesses of the Sun and Moon, their dual Monarchy going unquestioned due to their unending knowledge of how to work metals, mechanical devices, and many other innovations that have rapidly sped pony society to an era of peace. However, one particular era in pony civilization was one that ushered in a great hundred or so years of excessive prosperity that would ultimately be the downfall of such progress. This was the Rennaissance of Equestria.
Approximately 1,100 years ago, according to the history books, the field of scientific research began to trump religious overtones in society, something that both of the Princesses embraced, seeing immense potential for the study of science to help explain Pony Magic, something that has eluded explanation for centuries. Unicorns have always been able to do remarkable things with their magic, but the question was always 'how?' This was something that Princess Celestia and Princess Luna both went about trying to discover, both in their own ways. Princess Celestia worked with funding more public organizations doing more socially acceptable tests. Princess Luna, however....she took the route of secretive, deep-forest studies, using what is known now as the Castle of the Ancient Pony Sisters as a basing ground for most of her research. Thus, it became the founding area for an organization almost completely wiped from existence in the history books, known as The Shadow Order.
This secretive organization, unknown to almost all of Equestria as a mastermind team of cutting-edge scientists and extremely powerful Unicorn Mage-Artisans in various fields of magical study, used a deep underground network of carved-out rooms, tunnels, sealed chambers and a multitude of both willing and unwilling test subjects to perform very, very discreet experiments, to try to find a way to create something or someone that could be a combination of scientific achievement, and magical prowess. Very few tests ever succeeded, and what few did seemed to be more limited by science than otherwise, science being a very rational and logical field of study whereas magic was something that science still couldn't fully fathom.
Scientific studies performed by Princess Celestia's groups had found that a lot of Pony Magic seemed to be enhanced the more emotional a Unicorn became while using it, but The Shadow Order attempted an entirely different route: Princess Luna set out to strike a deal with one of the more tame and friendly Wilder Nations of the world that had seceded from their rule long ago, with both Goddess's blessings, of course. They were kind and loving deities as often as they could be, rarely ever showing their true, often horrifying potential for malice, murder and violence. The Zebra Nations, living in the wild, had discovered a form of druidic magic known as Runic Summoner Magic.
Runic Summoner Magic can be performed by almost anyone, given they have the knowledge and equipment necessary to either draw or magically etch a rune into a surface accurately using basic Pony Magic to do so. When the rune is completed, all that is required afterwards, much like Pony Magic, is the intense emotions combined with the proper, respectful incantations which can vary from person to person, allowing many to put their own flair into their Runic Magic. Zebras often use this magic in the Wilder Nations, outside of Equestria, because the magic the Pony Sisters have used to make that area of the world entirely under the control of the ponies within it (being able to move clouds around, control the weather, control the growth of plants, etc.) heavily dampens the effectiveness of Runic Magic, because the massive nation of Equestria has been made entirely 'un-natural'. Without the world itself having a will of its own, its power cannot be summoned, 'asked for' in a sense, because it has lost almost all of its magical properties, disconnected from the natural magicks of the Wilder Nations.
This posed a problem for anypony attempting to perform Runic Magic within Equestria....except for the Everfree Forest surrounding the Ancient Castle of the Pony Sisters. Everfree Forest was left deliberately untouched by the magic of the Princesses, being one of the few areas in Equestria left wild and untamed, which made it the perfect place for them to perform their studies. Still, despite this, Runic Magic would serve little purpose or use on its own unless it could be adapted to work with the more controlled Equestrian nation, so both scientists and Mage-Artisans got to work re-designing and experimenting with the runes both in and out of controlled and uncontrolled areas of Equestria.
One Zebra, an extremely skilled Rune Druid, had been working with a group of both scientists and Unicorns to experiment with enchantments using runic spells, and the result of a runic incantation to conjure up nature was very unexpected. The magic, when combined with Pony Magic inside of Equestria, actually drew upon the inherent magic controlling Equestrian lands, and resulted in a small ball of compressed magical energy that could easily be moved and manipulated using Pony Magic. This ball of energy was bright and every Unicorn within reach of it could feel the immense, supernova-like power it possessed. A skilled enchanter amongst the Mage-Artisan was given permission to work with the ball of energy to apply its magical properties to a suit of armor, and for a full week he was locked in a sealed chamber, occasionally being brought food and water to be fed to him so he could retain his concentration.
The final result of this unexpected development was the first of a line of amazing suits of armor, powerful creations that did not require runes to use Runic Magic, completely bypassing the restrictions of Equestria's lack of innate magic in the lands. Inside and outside of the Everfree Forest, the armor was tested by Unicorns, Pegasi, and normal Earth Ponies, and the results were all the same. Within the Everfree Forest, the armor would naturally draw upon the innate magic of the land around them, but within Equestria, runes inscribed upon the armor itself would respond to the incantations spoken as normal, 'spending' one of the inscribed runes on the armor to use a spell while draining a minor, almost meaningless fragment of the power from the ball of intense energy that was used to enchant the armor in the first place.
The experiment was deemed a success, but Princess Luna wished to take it a step further, and began to work on a magic-based variant to the armor using a combination of what they'd learned from the mix of Pony Magic and Runic Magic, as well as her own very unique Alicorn magic. The result was an extremely powerful, darkness-based mixture of the two, known as Shadow Magic. This was a form of combined magic that only Princess Luna could perform. However, this magic was dangerous and proved to be unstable, as she soon found out when she began to apply her Shadow Magic to the same enchantment processes as had been experimented with using the magic drawn out of the controlled lands of Equestria instead of being drawn from the pure emotions of a single Alicorn.
A terrible incident happened after approximately 90 or so years of experimentation, resulting in untold atrocities all caused by a single magical entity that is believed to have perished by way of Princess Luna confronting and destroying the entity before it could harm anypony else. However, ten years later, Princess Luna became Nightmare Moon, forever ending the experiments on Runic Magic applications to enchantments of various things, as well as Princess Luna's somewhat promising, but far too dangerous experiments on Shadow Magic. The Shadow Order, ever since that accident, have been dedicated to taking care of and keeping silent a very serious problem caused by the Shadow Magic experiments.
With the creation of Shadow Magic, Princess Luna found that a horrible by-product of the magic spawned from the souls of those that were lost to such dark sorcery: Wild Shadows. Creatures that long for a purpose, and loathe the living for having everything that they could not. Those are the beliefs surrounding their behaviors anyways, in truth nobody knows why Wild Shadows do what they do or fully understand what exactly happens to those that get caught by one of them, but a few survivors can assist us in figuring out the methods for evading or even defeating such creatures.
One survivor stated that they managed to stay hidden long enough for the ones in pursuit of him to leave. This likely means that these creatures, though crude and far from sentient, have a certain degree of personal intelligence, most likely left over from their experiences while still alive. This could also lend credible evidence to the theory that these abominations continuously beg and plead and even try to take what they wanted most in life because it was the last thing on their minds before their death. This could further explain why it has never been documented that these creatures long for anything inanimate or unliving, always wanting things such as love and affection, or expressing disgust at the individual currently holding their attention.
Even if one of them wishes for a pet animal, it seems that their conversion into this dark and twisted version of themselves has made them extremely violent and prone to attacking even without provocation. One need only be able to see them, for them to see you and close the distance rather quickly. This is not always true, though; these creatures prey upon the natural fears of ponies, in whatever way they can get to an individual.
Another eye-witness came forward about the encounter with one of these Wild Shadows, claiming that he was getting into bed with his mate, or so he believed. He had seen her figure laying in bed, covered up and facing away from him, he had come home from work late. They always lived close to a dark forest, one that was known for being wild and untamed, but they never really cared much about such things. When he leaned over to give his mate a kiss, that was when he felt uneasy. The uneasiness became an intense shock of terror when she rolled over to reveal a rotting face with black ooze seeping out of its eyes. He ran as fast as he could out of his house, and didn't stop until he'd reached town. To this day, we are still unsure why the Wild Shadow did not take the opportunity to consume him.
Wild Shadows are carnivorous, as well as 'emotional feeders'. They are drawn to intense focal points of negative emotion, and the previous eye-witness did note that his wife had been behaving very erratically and became very edgy and very depressed within the span of a month. What was most alarming was that this attack took place on Equestrian lands, controlled lands that Wild Shadows tend to stay away from. However, due to their proximity to the wild forest, it is assumed that it preyed upon the mare because it was an easy 'kill' and within close reach.
One thing that remains a constant throughout all of the encounters with Wild Shadows is that fear seems to set off their predatory nature. Someone that feels a faint sense of unease around one even from an excessive distance will often attract the creature's attention, and the more fear they feel, the faster it will be drawn to them. If you are being preyed upon, try to suppress your fears and think logically. Furthermore, if you hear constant whispers overlapping each other within the area, then a Wild Shadow is near and it has locked on to you. It wants to eat you, and you're the only one that can hear those whispers. The best course of action is to spot the danger, and run the opposite direction, but do NOT panic. If it cannot escalate your fear, it usually will not continue to pursue you.
Wild Shadows often appear to be solid beings, but do not be fooled: they are magical in their design. They are a solid, liquid, and gas all at once, throughout every inch of their body. Some have even questioned their existence based on this fact. Often when luring in unsuspecting ponies that choose to wander through untamed wildernesses, they will appear as a normal pony, and will try to stay silent in order to lure the curious or naturally nurturing close. Then, they will try to get close to you, get a hold of you. Their bodies will begin to change into a black, dark goo-like fluid that pools around their bodies, and their solid forms will begin to rot away. If they get that black goo around your body and manage to immobilize you, they will then eat you alive, or it is believed that one is alive until one disappears down their gullet.
The only way to truly destroy a Wild Shadow is through the very Shadow Magic that created it, or by using a kind of Runic Magic similar to Shadow Magic, produced by Princess Celestia once these creatures were discovered, known as Purification Magic. Much like Shadow Magic, Princess Celestia's Purification Magic is an enchantment placed upon armor or an object, and uses Runic Magic incantations to summon up its powers. However, only Shadow Magic can summon Wild Shadows to you.
These creatures are the original reason why ponies have the fear of the wild untamed wildernesses instilled in them from childbirth, but even the origin of that fear has been forgotten. When Wild Shadows were commonplace around Equestrian wild wildernesses, and the lingering effects of Princess Luna's Shadow Magic were prevalent, parents often told their foals of dark and twisted creatures and abominations that stood at the edge of the forest, waiting to eat those that dare lay eyes upon them. Now, that fear is instilled in young foals because of the many other creatures wandering the wildernesses, such as Manticores and Hydras. Wild Shadows have been all but forgotten by pony society, most that still remember those old tales told to them as children believing that their parents were only trying to put a particularly scary twist on the usual Cockatrice or some other creature one would only find in places like the Everfree Forest.
If Equestria is full of peace and control, the Zebra Nations are one of the few Wilder Nations that can truly compare. Though the Zebra Nations were formed outside of Equestrian law, they are easily recognized as one of the most prosperous of the Wilder Nations in the world. What seems so unusual about this particular nation that perhaps makes it so successful is how deeply spiritual its people are.
The Zebra Nations are deeply rooted in tribal customs, often resorting to a multitude of Runic Magic spells to commune with ancient spirits and summon up elemental magicks to manipulate the natural world around them. Those that gain excessive skill in the use of Runic Magic in wild lands, at least in Zebra lands, are known as Druids. Druids are particularly skilled rune-users that can conjure up runic circles without needing to craft their runic circles before the casting of the spell.
Druids are very peace-loving, often having gardens and forests and animals that they tend to. (Author's Note: Perhaps speaking to Fluttershy about this would be beneficial; it's possible that she may know details from Zecora that are lacking in my books) However, Druids were not always of such a mentality. It was quite often that during the decades before Equestria and the Zebra Nations formed a peace treaty and became co-existing countries, the Zebras had to fight intense battles to retake what they wished to keep, and continue fighting for it before they could be fully integrated into the natural world they longed for. Thus, the Druids who fought, who tasted battle and bloodlust, who became so in-tune with the 'truth of nature' as they call it, became known as Battlecasters.
Battlecasters were greatly respected for crossing the line between peace and bloodshed and being able to come back to the side of peace, many believing that the bloodshed is too tempting to leave in the past for any amount of time. This belief stems from the general fact that using overwhelming force to gain what one desires is the way most things work in the natural world, and converting oneself from being the prey to being the predator can be an intoxicating power trip. Many Unicorns involved in shady dealings have fallen to this simple truth as well, only wanting to gain and build more and more power, using criminal activities to indulge in the violence and brutality needed to truly build one's skill with various combat spells.
Battlecasters differentiate themselves from Druids in another way, which is a significant change from what Druids are capable of. Battlecasters, when in the midst of combat, no longer need the time to summon runes to perform their spells, or even use incantations. Instead, most Battlecasters have described the experience as 'an intoxicating transcendence to a primal violent side of oneself that most have not and will not ever imagine, let alone experience'. In other words, in the midst of battle, their affinity for the natural world and their connection to it reaches its peak, sending them into an instinctual state of mind while allowing them to retain their sentience.
Dancing is often seen, and it is a magnificent sight. Battlecasters twirl, flip, spin and flourish their bodies in various ways, seeming to flow with the enemies themselves, every step of their primal dancing seeming to flow straight through almost any strategy or attack pattern that can be set against them. During this dancing, balls of explosive fire, roots of trees, razor-sharp cutting gales, even solid pillars of stone and hard dirt can seemingly be conjured by little more than a hoofstep. It is not unusual to see a Battlecaster's eyes closed and a smile on their lips, not even able to see what they are fighting, but winning the battle regardless and utterly enjoying themselves and what is often a particularly violent slaughter.
Though revered for their mental and emotional fortitude to be able to resist the call for violence that many often claimed to feel during times of peace, Battlecasters were also as feared as they were respected. Zebras and even most ponies that know all about the Zebra Nations are afraid of anypony having that much immense power at their hooves, mainly because of the loss of many societal values both en-masse and individually. Most would openly admit that they would abuse such power, in present days. Just the same, Druids are still around, and Druids are simply Battlecasters that have not waded into battle while wielding their Runic Magic, meaning it would be easy for Battlecasters to become a popular trend in the Zebra Nations again.
When the Zebra Nations were first founded, they were ruled by a powerful Battlecaster that used her might to secure a small area of land outside of Equestria for herself, which Princess Celestia allowed simply because she did not wish for violence or war, on any scale. Over time, this willingness to show restraint even with such power earned Princess Celestia's and Princess Luna's respect, causing the small plot of land that could only contain perhaps three villages to be recognized as an official seceded country from Equestria, the Princesses wishing to respect their leader's desires, along with the desires of all Zebras that followed.
Over time, more Battlecasters formed from normal Druids, due to the need to secure more land, many Zebras extending into the forests, flatlands, grasslands and savannahs all around the beginning area of the Zebra Nations. At the time, when the Zebra Nations began to extend their reach, the original leader was old and weak, but with many new Battlecasters taking in new lands and fending off feral creatures of all sorts, as well as befriending the gentler and more subdued ones, there was no shortage of new and willing leaders to take her place.
After a very long period of time, the small amount of 'safe' land that the Zebra Nations originally were soon became a multitude of different Wilder Nations, all consisting of Zebras, that joined and became a part of the Zebra Nations. Unfortunately, with what soon became a more aggressive push into new lands, many small skirmishes and minor wars broke out, which led to many, many Battlecaster-on-Battlecaster skirmishes. These fights were both beautiful, graceful....and devastating.
Sometimes Battlecasters would fight one-on-one, and other times, it could be as many as ten at a time all fighting each other at the same time. Most others originally a part of the fight would flee in fear of being caught in the middle of such a dazzling, horrifying spectacle, mostly because they would only get in the way and likely be killed before getting close to their enemies. Battlecasters fight other Battlecasters the same way they fight any other threat: through dance and use of the elemental forces of the natural world.
When fighting one-on-one, they would circle each other, calling out to the world around them, slowly but surely falling into the mental state they need to achieve the peak of their power. They step to each other weaponless, and try to strike physically, the dance beginning violently right from the beginning, flourishing swings of their hindlegs, flips and twirls around each other, it almost seems as if they are merely trying to beat each other up while almost passionately dancing with one another. However, as these dances speed up and build up their movements and the intensity thereof, many observers claim to feel an 'odd tingling sensation from the air itself'.
Soon, they are smiling, and losing themselves to the aforementioned violent desires and pleasure they derive from it. The world begins to shift and answer to both of them, the terrain being ripped apart by explosive fire, jutting pillars of stone and grass, their combined magical powers clashing with one another and uprooting nearby trees with tornado-force winds that seem to never affect them unless one of them loses their strength for even a moment.
As they both push themselves to the limits of their powers, they flow and dance around each other, often times causing their own attacks to just barely miss the individual casting it, slashing winds just slipping past the throat of the one that called it forth with a swish of his or her tail. Inevitably, someone must weaken, and when they do, they will undoubtedly perish in a most brutal fashion, be it by dismemberment through slicing gales, or burned to death by a blaze of fire, even getting impaled on a pillar of hard dirt and stone or having tree roots stuffed down their throat until it permeates every inch of their body. These are only a few documented deaths witnessed in ancient times.
Now, imagine such battles not just being one-on-one. Imagine the scale of a battle with five Battlecasters on both sides of the skirmish all dancing and fighting against each other all at the same time, their animosity and primal mentality making them possibly even forget who their allies are, who they went into that battle with from the start. One cannot imagine how badly ruined the terrain might be before the battle is truly over, but the very concept is horrifying, and possibly even more powerful than Princess Celestia and Princess Luna. It's no surprise that Battlecasters are mostly a thing of the past, because their power is likely a power that could destroy the world, rooted in bloodlust as it is, even if used for a noble cause.
In conclusion, the Zebra Nations were formed the way one would expect them to be formed, at one with nature in all ways, including taking land by force, expanding their control and taking what they needed to survive. Truly, the Zebras of both modern and ancient times relished the true ways of the natural world more than anypony could ever manage these days. Equestrian ponies have been raised coddled beneath the guiding hooves of two celestial entities given physical form, and by comparison, most cannot help but have great respect for the original founders and the modern Zebras that live in such untamed lands.
The Hall of Eternal Bonds has been around since even before databases and documentations became a regulated system. In fact, one could attribute The Hall of Eternal Bonds as being one of the reasons such systems were created to begin with, at least as a form of inspiration. It serves as a sort of database all its own, that only the Royal Pony Sisters are allowed to access. For that matter, they are the only ponies that know the magic necessary to access the information kept within The Hall of Eternal Bonds, though most everypony knows what is inside of the massive structure.
The Hall of Eternal Bonds has been moved around Equestria several times, though the most recent records of it have it being first within the ancient castle in the Everfree Forest as a large underground chamber, and now within the mountain that Canterlot is attached to. The Hall can only be accessed through several long and winding hallways within Canterlot Castle, and several illusion spells block the last leg of the hallways from being navigated by anypony but Princess Celestia and Princess Luna, as well as whoever they are bringing with them.
A visit to the Hall is a great honor to be allowed to be a part of, as well as being something that is a part of a great celebration. This is because the Princesses only visit the Hall for two, possibly three reasons. One reason is personal, while the second reason is for more detailed tours of the castle and documentaries, such as this paper I'm writing right now. The third reason is a great, celebratory reason: marriage!
The Hall of Eternal Bonds gained such a name because, around twelve-thousand years ago, when magic and alchemy and science all began to come together into a sort of scientific rennaissance, Soul Crystals were discovered. Aside from being able to store small amounts of magical power within them, something deemed useless in most circles, a discovery was made that would change another long-lived tradition: the ability to store the memories of a pony's life within them simply by 'activating' the crystals and having the pony in question wear the crystal around for however long it takes to 'fill' the crystal with memories and experiences.
In most circles this was still useless, but in regards to Princesses Celestia and Luna, this was a gift from the universe itself! The reason is that these crystals, when used to create a vast 'network' of memories with a large number of crystals all from the soul and mind of the same pony, can allow anypony that knows the specific series of incantations needed to activate the dormant memories in the crystals to view these memories and even re-live them, with the average ratio of memories being one year to a minute.
This was such a wonderful discovery to the Princesses because, long before their immortality was taken into consideration, Princess Luna and Princess Celestia had lovers here and there in their infinite lifetimes, ponies that meant the world to them, or so the records state. But they would always outlive them, watch them grow old, and then die, while they stayed eternally young. This brought great emotional pain to the sisters every time it happened, both when one lost their husband or mate, and when their sister lost a loved one.
As if that weren't enough, the psychological impact of losing so many loved ones over what would be an eternal lifetime wasn't considered until they began to obsess. They feared that they would eventually get on in the years enough that they would begin to forget their lost loves, the ponies that meant so much to them, that the thought of having to watch them grow old and die didn't matter compared to being able to be with them and hold them close, and feel the warmth of somepony else's love for them.
Their subjects began to worry greatly for their Princesses. Everypony knew and still knows that while they may live forever, they are not invulnerable, despite the great power at their disposal. They feared that madness would set in, or the possibility of yearning for suicide! Nopony knew what to do....but that was when an idea was brought forth, that for the time, set things right.
It was a simple idea, but it worked: every single lover of either Princess would record their thoughts, memories, everything that they possibly could, and they would create what was known as a 'Bond Book', to be presented to their love upon their death. That way, they could never truly be forgotten, and memories could be rekindled. This worked for a very long time, but the flaws in this idea became all too apparent, soon enough.
The Bond Books began to become coveted blackmail and ransom items, the security needed to keep them secure of a ridiculous level, and even some of the guards that were tasked with guarding the books would sometimes betray the faith of the kingdom in order to try their luck at getting a lifetime's worth of Bits!
This wasn't even counting the fact that Bond Books couldn't possibly capture ALL the memories that their lovers would wish to leave behind. How can one live one's life when they have to record most of the things they think and do? Not every pony out there was an articulate writer either, so often many scandalous secrets had to be told to Scribes and Scholars in order for their more intimate thoughts to be written down, borderlining on writing pornography in some cases.
One of the biggest flaws, however, was the possibility of omission. Anything that their lovers didn't want known about themselves they could simply not write down or give any information about. They could cheat on Luna or Celestia, whomever they were married to, and never tell about it. This is of course not the purpose of the book, to keep tabs on their lovers, but several of their mates spoke of the book inspiring such odd thoughts in them, making them follow the line of thinking where they would say to themselves 'well they would never find out if I keep records of everything else that I do in this book, so why not?'
The possibility of omission bothered Luna and Celestia more than anything else that was flawed about Bond Books. Not because their lovers could easily leave out details about cheating or doing things that were bad behind their backs, but it was the fact that, just as many Bond Books were the case, it made their lovers seem like paragons of ponykind, and that meant that they were missing a whole side of those they loved whenever they referenced their Bond Books to remember them. The memories became fakes to them. Nopony is and ever was perfect, but their Bond Books would have the Princesses remember otherwise. Soon, the Princesses even lost faith in the Bond Books, and the problem began to arise once more, though not to the degree it did in the past. Bond Books could still be relied on to spark old memories, inaccurate though some of them were. There was no fear of completely losing grip on the memories of their lost loves.
Then, Soul Crystals were discovered, and both Luna and Celestia saw the possibilities immediately when they learned how they worked. The first experiment was done with a farm pony ancestor of the Apple Family. Soul Crystals were used to record the young stallion's life from childhood all the way to his death as an old pony, every filled Soul Crystal fused with the stone of a marblestone statue. When the final Soul Crystal was retrieved from him just after his death, the Soul Crystals were linked together with magic within the statue, creating a perfect cycle of memories that, with the proper series of incantations, could be accessed by anypony that knew the incantations....with one drawback: it only worked for Unicorns, because only Unicorns could access the innate Unicorn Magic used to create and link the Soul Crystals together to begin with.
This didn't present itself as a problem to Luna or Celestia, however. If anything, this was the answer to one of their biggest problems in life. They had found their way to forever remember their lovers, all of the bad and all of the good. But then, this also presented a problem all it's own: how could they convince those they married to keep a Soul Crystal on them at all times, and to get a new one while away from Canterlot to continue 'recording' their lives and memories? It was a massive breach of privacy compared to the Bond Books, where they could choose what memories they wished to leave behind. Both had massive flaws, one being that a lack of honesty and virtue would result in flawed and inaccurate memories, and the other would lead to absolute lack of privacy even within their own thoughts.
The answer, as it turned out, was amazingly simple. Before agreeing to marriage, on several occasions throughout hundreds of years, both Celestia and Luna presented the Soul Crystals to their lovers and gave them a choice, either to wear the Soul Crystals as long as they wished to in their lifetimes to create everlasting sources of recollection that way, or to create a Bond Book to leave behind what memories they wished to leave behind at their whim. The key part of giving this choice, however, was that they always made sure to make it clear that, as immortals, all aspects of any one pony's life is sacred to them if they are going to love them and be with them 'til death do they part. Every time, their lovers chose the Soul Crystals, knowing that, save for a few lovers that, in time, turned out to be cheaters that lost emotional and physical interest in the Princess they had married. There was little need to remember them.
After a couple hundred years of mates and husbands wearing the Soul Crystals proudly, as clearly-displayed accessories and signs of dedication and love in equal amounts, Bond Books were phased out and became relics of the past, the Soul Crystals becoming mandatory for marriage, for every suitor that truly loved the Princesses never ever denied their wish to have a way to always remember them. This soon resulted in the creation of The Hall of Eternal Bonds, thus named because the Soul Crystals give the Princesses and their deceased lovers an eternal unity through undying memories of those lost to time.
Every statue in the Hall glimmers an almost neon green, thanks to the numerous Soul Crystals fused with the statues themselves, lighting up the inside of the hall with a dim green glow. All of the statues vary in size, depending on the lifespan of each pony illustrated, some small and some large, the size difference required to accomodate all of the Soul Crystals imbued within them.
The Hall of Eternal Bonds is split into two sections, one section (that is currently much bigger than the other) is Princess Celestia's, the greater size due to the fact that she has a thousand years over her sister in terms of time to fall in love and be married to several ponies, four to be exact. Luna's section of the Hall, even before her banishment, has always been significantly smaller because unlike her sister, she is not as adventurous and outgoing, nor is she anywhere near as social.
There is also a more unofficial rumor about the materials used to create the statues. Almost all of the statues for each Princess's sections in the Hall are made from a different kind of stone, metal, et-cetera. While it has never been confirmed, there have been rumors of conversations overheard between the sisters regarding how well they were treated by their deceased husband before deciding on what kind of material to use to create the statue that will house the Soul Crystals from that particular stallion, with standard granite or concrete making up many of the statues from back before and during medieval times. There were of course some exceptions.
Two of the four suitors Princess Celestia had married during the thousand-year rule without her sister earned statues made of polished marblestone and silver, respectively. It's believed that the higher the expense or value of the materials used, the more they loved that particular husband or mate. This is wildly inaccurate and a rather cold and vile thing to think of the Princesses. Rather, the truth of the matter regarding choice of materials is that it's based upon how well their lovers treated them throughout their relationship, using Soul Crystals the Princesses kept on themselves to review in private upon their husband or mate's death. It is their way of recalling at a glance how wonderful or how bad their decision was to be mated or married to any given pony in their past.
Only one issue remained for the Royal Pony Sisters, and it regarded the safety and security of their lives and memories stored within the Soul Crystals in the statues of The Hall of Eternal Bonds. They solved this problem by way of their impossible-to-comprehend celestial magic. They sealed each statue with impossible-to-detect, and equally impossible-to-evade celestial power, that stuns and assaults the mind of anypony that tries to force their way past the celestial seals to get to the memories locked away in the Soul Crystals. The statues are also firmly rooted to the very spot they're mounted on, their bases made of enchanted stone. When celestial magic is poured into the base of the statue, the base fuses with the bottom of the statue as if they were a single solid creation, and also fuses with the floor, becoming indestructible thanks to the celestial magic imbued within the statue.
With The Hall of Eternal Bonds at their disposal, Celestia and Luna have never had to forget a single lover that they have lost to time, able to relive entire lifetimes worth of memories and cherished thoughts and even vivid sensations of forgotten emotions within the span of only a couple of hours. This is a benefit to all of Equestria, because it allows our leaders, and bearers of potentially world-shattering magic to avoid going insane or falling prey to madness due to emotional distress or unstoppable obsession over the fading memories of their loved ones.
When most ponies refer to Princess Celestia and Princess Luna, they think of both mares as just that: Princesses and mares, nothing more, for the most part. Because of this and the fact that both Princesses are deeply involved in the daily political scene of Equestria as a whole, most ponies never really think about the domains that both Goddesses lay claim to.
In truth, finding books on this subject tends to be more difficult than most would ever expect. A long time ago, Princess Celestia, over the course of several hundred years, worked to shut down any and all established and growing religions and cults revolving around herself and her sister Luna, preferring to unite Equestria with a new era of peace through love and tolerance. Many books about those religions even in an academic sense fell into dis-use and were forgotten over the years, and thus are mostly lost to time.
For the sake of organization and simplicity, we will discuss Princess Celestia's domains first, and then cover Princess Luna's. This is also due to the fact that Princess Luna's section is fairly risque and not for little foals. Please keep this in mind.
Princess Celestia's domains are far from what most ponies would expect, save for one. Celestia is most known for being the Goddess of Light, or the Goddess of Day and the Sun. This is the longest-standing title for her due to the fact that she is the only creature in Equestria's history that has ever been able to move the Sun, or any celestial body for that matter, without any assistance, excluding her sister Luna.
On top of that, all of her magical abilities outside of standard Unicorn Magic revolve around utilizing the Sun and Light itself as a source to fuel her divine powers. Ancient war documents detail, very vividly, her ability to use spells that rained fire from the sky after some incantations on Celestia's part that call upon the Sun itself. This has never been used during civil unrest, even violent civil unrest, likely due to her other domains.
Her less well-known domains are her position as the Goddess of Life and Death. I have had the benefit of being able to ask her about this subject personally after doing as much research as possible in the Royal Library, and all of the notes taken directly from the Princess herself were more insightful than any book. I will recount some of the notes to you, the reader.
'While I am the one that watches over these natural parts of existence itself, it is an unwritten rule that I should not be the one that decides when someone dies, or whether or not someone should live if they are on their death bed with, say, a terminal illness. This often earns a lot of anger and hatred from mortal ponies because they know that I can save their loved ones. However, if I always interrupted the natural cycle of life and death by doing so, it could have long-term repercussions that could cause terrible consequences to befall the entire world. Thus I never do so at all. Don't get me wrong, I love all of my subjects dearly, and it wounds me emotionally whenever I feel the sensation of empowerment caused by the death of someone, because I know someone has died. Instead of interrupting the cycle, I have guided my little ponies as a society by being their ruler and helping them value the short lives they have, and I like to think that due to the lack of wars over the last millennium, I have succeeded in this endeavor.'
If the statement of empowerment is confusing, keep this in mind: ruling over such a domain means that, much like prayer in general, Celestia gains strength every time someone dies, their death very much like a prayer as well. Just the same, raising and lowering the Sun, instead of exhausting her mentally, gives her strength. This is why she never gets tired from doing such an amazing feat of magical and mental prowess every single day.
Thanks to Celestia's rule over Life and her next domain as well, she is also empowered by the birth of a new life into the world. This is Princess Celestia's least known domain of all, mostly because of society in general: Fertility.
Long ago, in ancient times, before and even during the time when parchment and writing were being invented, Princess Celestia didn't live in a castle. Instead, she lived as a travelling Goddess with an entourage of loyal worshippers that kept her safe from bandits, heretics and even cultists that would wish to do her harm for any reason. These are among just a few of the dangers that were present during such turbulent, chaotic times.
Why did Celestia travel? As a Goddess of Fertility, she travelled all of Earth, going from nation to nation, blessing crops to guarantee a bountiful harvest, as well as participating in celebrations thrown in her name. Religious buildings were often erected alongside her sister's to celebrate both of them, and often celebrations in Princess Celestia's name occurred around a particularly 'active' mating season.
Back then, it wasn't uncommon for miscarriages to occur, or for mares to die during delivery of their foals. Celestia's arrival during someone's pregnancy often led to celebration due to the fact that Celestia's blessings guaranteed a healthy, simple and quick birth, as well as a healthy, strong child. Just the same, as a Goddess of Fertility, Celestia was often pregnant herself, by her own choosing.
Of course, her choice of mate for such a thing as reproduction wasn't random or a subject of debauchery. On the contrary, it was never the case that Celestia lacked suitors vying for the right to gain such an honor as to sire a foal with her. Any stallion or mare that earned such a right in her eyes was usually somepony that had a strong will, a kind and loving heart, and usually went on to benefit all of ponykind in some large or small way.
To date Princess Celestia, by her own words, has given birth to approximately fifty-six-thousand, seven-hundred and eighty-eight foals. While that may seem like a massive amount of children to any mortal pony, we must keep in mind the fact that Princess Celestia, much like Princess Luna, has been around for far, far longer than any of us could possibly comprehend. She has been around even before ponies knew how to use a simple stick as an effective weapon or tool! On the contrary, such a number actually seems fairly small when one thinks about it hard enough.
It is also worth noting that with her having given birth to that many ponies, it's very, very likely that many families in Equestria have a heritage tracing back to Princess Celestia. Many of us may share the same heritage with the most prestigious nobles and not even be aware of it!
Where Celestia is the Goddess of Light, Day and the Sun, Princess Luna is the Goddess of Darkness, Night and the Moon. She is at home in the night and darkness itself, being at her most powerful when she is basked in the moonlight of her chosen celestial body. Many ponies misunderstand this fact and view her tendency towards secrecy and mystique as reasons to mistrust her and be suspicious of her. Some even view her as being evil and ill-willed.
This is far from true. Like the benevolence of her sister Celestia, Princess Luna loves her subjects like any Wife would love her Husband (Author's Note: I would say 'like a Mother loves her children', but that would make one of her domains immensely creepy). Several historical documents detail her powers of darkness and her stealthiness as being the only reason Equestria has not fallen to sneaky foreign nations striking and destroying valuable fortifications and civilian towns and farms in the middle of the darkest nights.
Her next domain is arguably the most beneficial of all to ponykind. It is also Princess Luna's second favorite domain out of the ones she holds sway over: she is the Goddess of Creation. Many ask how this is different from Celestia's rule over Fertility, but Creation is much more vast and broad a subject, and the way it is used is very, very different from procreation.
Being the Goddess of Creation, Princess Luna is easily classified as the greatest inventor of all time. Her creativity is unparalleled, her vast range of skills being as expansive as possible. To name a few, she is a skilled Artisan, Blacksmith, Electrician, Carpenter, and she is a highly accomplished Artist and Creative Writer.
Princess Luna's creations and inventions have often been the cause of complete reform in various jobs thanks to her skills in creating new devices and methods of doing things in those jobs. It has been theorized that Princess Luna's intellect is beyond even Princess Celestia, and Celestia herself has been noted as believing such a thing wholeheartedly. Most scholars have observed several times in several different situations that Luna tends to be the logical, intelligent one that is very book-smart, whereas Celestia seems to be the one that understands her subjects best and has something akin to a sixth sense when trying to predict what will happen in the near future. In other words, where Luna is intelligent, Celestia is wise.
[Author's Note: This last domain is very adult-rated. Any young foals that have somehow gotten their hooves on a copy of this paper, it would be preferred that you stop reading and turn this in to the nearest adult, or failing that option, please put it back where you got it from. Thank you for respecting me and being a good little filly or colt, if you have done what I've asked. If you haven't, then you should be ashamed. However, from what you've possibly learned from this next section, please consult a trusted adult to answer any questions that you have regarding this subject.]
Luna's final domain, and easily her favorite domain due to how very intimate it is, is subject to a lot of controversy between those that know about it, which are very, very few. The history of this domain is shrouded in secret to all but the most deeply trusted, and as such, I am literally one of four ponies that know all of the important details, and even many of the not-so-important details.
Luna is, for all intents and purposes, the Goddess of Lust and Free Love. This is not to be confused with Princess Cadance's title as a Princess of Love: Cadance is a mortal pony despite being a Pegasus Unicorn, not an Alicorn. She is not immortal, she does not have any domains that she reigns over. Due to her ability to control such an intense emotion however, many including both Luna and Cadance believe that she is the subject of a genetic fluke as a descendant of either Luna or Celestia. It's not a hard theory to believe, given how close her fur and mane colors are to Celestia's, and how both Celestia and Luna have domains that have a lot to do with love.
All of that aside, Luna's status as the Goddess of Lust has brought up many questions. The reason this is kept secret from modern pony society is because of her status as the sister of Celestia and second Monarch ruling over Equestria as a whole: the nobles and other campaigning politicians would likely use such a controversial title to make her look as bad as possible. Rumors would likely start talking about Luna's absolute debauchery and the shameless amount of sex she has, despite her having none at all, or being very discreet with her love life.
However, the conversations that I have had with Princess Luna have been very enlightening, though I had to remain objective in order to avoid insulting her and the things she'd done in the past. In some ways, there was far more love within Equestria as a whole long, long ago, compared to some of the stereotypes, taboos and what have you of modern Equestria.
Several thousands of years ago, as Luna explained to me, she travelled constantly much like her sister did, though she often travelled with others that viewed the art of mating, or the sexual arts, with as much value as she did. She saw such a practice as something that could bring ponies closer to one another in the most intimate of ways, and she often practiced them herself, usually every night with her followers that travelled with her, who were often her guards.
Orgies were a commonplace thing for her, especially when she visited a town or city that had a majority of inhabitants that worshipped her. Often, her worshippers were also artists and writers, these ponies being people that shared enthusiasm for experiencing all that they could experience, including all of the various ways one could possibly have sex.
This is of course not mentioning the more intimate side of sex in and of itself. I cannot claim to know or understand how I would feel if, say, my friends and I began sleeping with each other, all of us dating one another in a six-way relationship, but given how close we are to each other already, I can hypothesize that, much like how Luna's belief in free love had very many ponies loving one another without worrying about cheating on one another or hurting each other's feelings by preferring one person or another in the bedroom and participating in orgies without worrying about taboos or stereotypes, my friends and I would likely be that much closer to one another in a bond that would likely be near-impossible to break.
Sadly, Luna's promotion of free love was far, far ahead of its time. Eventually, other beliefs began to arise that threw Luna's 'irresponsible' and 'shameless' beliefs under scrutiny, mostly in foreign nations outside of Celestia and Luna's nations at first. Over time however, this scrutiny began to enter the minds of ponies within Equestria, causing many ponies to look upon such behavior with disdain. Luna noted that most of these ponies bringing her beliefs into question were greedy ponies that did not wish to 'share' their love(r)s with other ponies, or ponies that did not have their feelings returned.
Through this scrutiny many taboos came into being, like the long-standing taboo against mares marrying other mares, and in some ponies' eyes, mares even doing so much as loving other mares. Because of how widespread such scrutiny became, more ponies began to lean towards Celestia's more reserved and revised beliefs. Celestia's religion had been rapidly changed to satisfy the desired beliefs of the great majority of what was at the time a far more modern Equestria compared to when she and Luna had first begun spreading their beliefs through their new nation.
When all was said and done, Luna's beliefs in lust and free love had been almost completely abolished from her own religion, but the damage was done. Many ponies began to shun the night due to terrible rumors involving rape, ponynapping, and other demeaning lies such as how evil she was and how monsters roamed the world at night. This all got to Luna over time, and according to the established history, led to her conflict and turning into Nightmare Moon.
With Luna's return recently, she has confided in me a certain desire, one of wanting to bring the concept of free love back to life in this more open-minded, modern Equestria. She does, however, want to introduce this idea as a more reserved, sensible concept. Preferably, she would like to keep sexual activities out of public areas, but would rather destroy all reservations and taboos regarding any kind of sexual activity or sexual preference, and instead would like to have her subjects open their minds to let long-ignored desires and ideas in. She has noted that in the past, many ponies were far, far happier when they were allowed to simply be themselves. Only when this 'anti-sexual persecution' began did she realize that something that created such powerful emotions and bonds could just as effectively be used to cause levels of hate the likes of which she had never seen before.
In ancient times, such things happened at random, and they happened in public where young foals could see them happening, possibly. In modern Equestria, Luna would instead like to, over time, open up the possibility of polygamous marriages and relationships, to make them a more acceptable and less taboo thing for ponies to do. In truth there is nothing logically wrong with having more than one mate at any one time, in fact even I can't see anything wrong with being in love or having strong feelings for more than one pony and wanting to be with both or all of them instead of being forced to choose. Such a thing only hurts one of them deeply and causes the one making the choice to feel bad despite now being in a relationship with one of the ponies they love.
Just the same, love is a very greedy thing and a misunderstood concept. Many ponies believe that if you love someone, you can love them and only them, and that that is the only way to define true love. Luna would rather the world be filled with ponies following a thought process like this: why love only someone you know intimately when you can love everyone and be loved just the same in return? I can guarantee that there are a lot of ponies that would have a much better life on a daily basis if they felt like there was someone out there, even complete strangers, that really cared about them despite not really knowing them.
Love itself gives both Celestia and Luna strength. The more ponies love one another and openly spread their love, the more both of our Princesses stand to gain on a personal and widespread level. This is one of the larger reasons Princess Celestia endeavored to create a nation united in peace and harmony, something Princess Luna wished to strive for, but in her own way. There is little doubt that if she hadn't been turned into Nightmare Moon, she would have succeeded alongside her sister, though Equestria likely would have been very different. Luna may have even gotten her wish and succeeded in opening the minds of everypony during the Rennaissance.
Do keep in mind that despite my personal beliefs in Luna's domain as the Goddess of Lust and her desire to open up the minds of her subjects, even I find some amount of reservations when I think of the sort of things she used to do, and some of the things she would likely want to make a standard part of society. I am also very aware that this is purely due to my upbringing and my inexperience with such a field of 'study'. Perhaps one day I will, but not at this moment in my life.
Very few things that ponies do both during flirting, or courting as it would be referred to in the animal kingdom and in more ancient times, and during actual intercourse are considered 'rituals' anymore. It just isn't a word we apply to ourselves as ponykind because we usually use such things to describe the mating habits of creatures that lack the sentient thinking potential that ponykind and some other races have. Nonetheless, a lot of ponies still do certain mating rituals from more primitive times, possibly without even realizing it. This report will be summarizing earth pony, pegasi and unicorn mating rituals through the ages, mostly focusing on the most common: earth ponies.
Earth ponies are easily the most common race of pony in Equestria, with pegasi a close second and unicorns the rarest. The reasons for this can theoretically lie within the complexity of mating rituals, given the fact that earth ponies have the least complicated of mating rituals, their mating rituals technically consisting of methods that all pony races have as a part of their mating rituals.
Mating rituals for earth ponies consists mostly of instinctual methods that have been around since the dawn of time, but there are obvious additions that earth ponies have enjoyed for years. Only in more modern times have we begun to embrace more universal methods of attracting a mate, but even now our old traditions seem hard-wired into us to some extent.
For example, earth ponies seem to have a natural and positive response to any pony having a large amount of strength, endurance, stamina, or all three especially. This should not lead to the belief that all earth ponies have 'rough-and-tumble' in their genes.
Through the ages, as society began to lead further away from violence and more towards finding ways to be at peace, earth pony mating rituals became less standardized, but at the same time, more widely used due to their effectiveness with all pony species, with very few exceptions. The tender nibbling and grooming of a lover's mane, wrestling one another to assert dominance and instill arousal in one another while at the same time showing off each other's strength, kissing and nibbling along the more tender and sensitive parts of a pony's neck, all of these and more originated with earth ponies.
All of these mating rituals and more are now used by all pony species because of how universally effective they are. With that in mind, it has also been theorized that earth ponies have contributed the most to this field of study compared to any other pony species, and many agree.
Earth ponies were the first species of pony on Earth before evolution created the Pegasi and Unicorn races. Because of this, pegasi and unicorns have more specialized bodies while earth pony bodies are more generalized and 'basic' versions of pegasi and unicorns, thus it makes sense that their mating rituals would also work on their more 'specific' counterparts.
It is worth keeping in mind that while it doesn't stand as a universal truth, earth ponies have a very unusual weakness that only becomes apparent when an earth pony is in an intimate and potentially sexual moment: their Cutie Marks become highly erogenous zones, sensitive to the touch, to the point that constant rubbing and caressing could be considered equal to a hoofjob. Pegasi and unicorns have their own special erogenous zones that become as such when they get locked in such situations as well, but Cutie Marks seem to be the earth pony standard. For each race however, there are ponies that simply aren't very sensitive, and thus do not have these special erogenous zones at all, even when aroused.
Pegasi have very interesting rituals throughout history. As a very militaristic society, strength was a universal way of measuring a pony's worth. Combat skill, strategy, intelligence, virility, for a long time a pony's skill in battle determined their worth off of the battlefield, and when there was no war for new and growing pegasi to prove themselves in, they began to indulge in the growth of their culture by way of inventing arenas, competitions and even sports to 'blow off steam'.
In ancient times, a pegasi's wings were a large part of their sex appeal, and even today this still rings true. For many pegasi, even if they aren't consciously aware of it, scientific studies of anonymous single and mated ponies showed that pegasi liked things large. This coincides with the fact that through the ages, if you had the biggest wings in pegasus society, you were the hottest and studliest stallion or mare around.
Whenever a pegasus is attracted physically to a non-pegasus pony, their attraction usually winds up having something to do with a large part of that pony that they particularly like. Large genitalia if you're a stallion, or a big rear end, perhaps even a large horn or you're very muscular and strong. Essentially, excess is best to pegasi subconsciously.
Why do I speak of wings the most when regarding pegasi? Well, wings have everything to do with one of the oldest and most well-known mating rituals amongst their kind, so well-known in fact that some traditionalists still perform these wordless rituals to this day. It begins with simple flirtation that also acts as courtship.
A pegasus either male or female will stand tall and proud and put their wings on display after moving in front of the target of their affections, and will oh-so-gently flap their wings forward, wafting their scent over their intended target. By purposely displaying their interest and urging their scent upon that pony while displaying their body and showing off essentially, they are wordlessly saying 'You've really caught my eye! I hope you'll take interest in me as well.' Keep in mind that even a non-pegasus can do this by utilizing their tails to wave their scent in the direction of the pony they have their eye on, and this initiates the ritual just the same.
After the wing flapping (or tail-wafting), the pony will deflate and bow to the pony they've just pretty much laid themselves bare for. Keep in mind that this kind of behavior is appropriate both if you simply want to have a fling or if you're more interested in something long-term, but such details are meant to be private. Anyways, this display of what may seem like submission is actually a sign of respect.
Forgetting this vital step in the ritual is a grievous sign of disrespect, equivalent to saying 'You've really caught my eye! I hope you'll take interest in me as well, even though I think you're just an inferior piece of meat.' More than a few pegasi have been killed in less peaceful times over such a thing, and even now pegasi are more than willing to beat the snot out of anypony that does something like this, accident or not, if they dare to perform this ritual. If you don't know this ritual like the back of your hoof to the point that you might forget this step, you shouldn't be performing such a culturally sensitive act to begin with!
Remembering to bow is equal to saying 'You've really caught my eye! I hope you'll take interest in me as well, but if you don't I fully respect your decision as an equal.' After bowing, one of two things may happen. The pony executing the courtship may turn to leave, perhaps because the other pony doesn't immediately show interest, instead bowing in return and leaving it at that, essentially saying 'Yes, I'm interested, but we should speak later.' However, if the other pony shows interest immediately, they will step forward and off to one side of the courting pony, and will run their wing (or hoof if they are a non-pegasus) across that pony's cheek, drawing a line over the side of their neck with the tip of their wing or hoof.
That line, if the ritual is performed correctly, will draw the joint of their wing or their foreleg over the wing of the pegasus courting them, gently and tenderly. This essentially says 'Oh yes, I am very interested! Let's go somewhere else, where we can be alone....' After this, intercourse is expected. Pegasi were not a shy race in ancient times, and even now they usually aren't, though since most pegasi live amongst unicorns and earth ponies, they like the other two pony races have become a melting pot culture, and have thus become much more reserved. Back in ancient times however, whenever such a ritual was observed, if this happened, everypony knew what those two were going off to do together.
The third possibility is that the pony being courted refuses the advances of the courting pegasus. To refuse, the recipient of such attention would turn to display their side to the courting pegasus, extend their wings upwards fully, then flap firmly downwards, as if washing the courting pony's scent away from themselves, casting it downward, undesired. Non-pegasus ponies can have the same effect by swishing their tails around rapidly and widely, as if trying to wave the scent away from themselves, usually while shaking their heads at the same time. This may seem harsh, but it gets the point across clearly, something necessary for a race that was known for being very bullheaded back then.
This mating ritual is one of the most well-known, only outstripped by the most well-known unicorn mating ritual of all that will be explained below. This pegasi mating ritual came about during a time when pegasi didn't have time for extensive romances and deep relationships due to constant and very deadly wars with the Gryphon Kingdoms. Such wars had been happening non-stop for several millennia, thus it is no surprise that a ritual essentially focused on creating an instantaneous connection with somepony would come into universal practice amongst the entire pegasi race.
Even after peace began to reign supreme, pegasi didn't abandon this ritual as a necessary standard for another eight-hundred years, as a rough estimation of time. The retiring of this ritual coincided with the pegasi race becoming a part of Equestria, an idea that the unicorn race came up with to unify all three pony tribes under one banner. By merging their cultures, the pegasi realized that they no longer had any need for such a shallow method of proposing intercourse or possible romance or love to another pony, and thus more modern ways of courting prevailed.
However, almost all pegasi are taught about their history and their heritage, and almost all pegasi families have great pride in their history as a strong, proud and confident race that bore the most powerful army in all of Earth, and then Equestria when they united with the other three pony tribes. Because of this, lots of pegasi are fully aware of this old mating ritual.
For many pegasi, performing this mating ritual to say, after a date for example, that you're interested in seeing them again, or sleeping with them, or perhaps becoming something more? Doing this is considered extremely romantic and impressive, especially if a non-pegasus does it to a pegasus since it doesn't have anything to do with non-pegasi culture. Even if they turn you down, doing so can really spark a pegasus's interest!
Now for the most unique mating ritual, one that exists between the unicorns. Unlike the most well-known pegasi mating ritual, the unicorn mating ritual is very private and cannot be witnessed occuring. This ritual almost entirely takes place between the minds of two ponies, as well as the souls of those two ponies. However, the courting part of this ritual is something that can happen between a unicorn and an earth pony, pegasus, or another unicorn, it isn't limited to just unicorn-on-unicorn here. However, this part of the ritual is almost entirely flirtation and even possibly sexual, depending on how some look at it.
In ancient times this ritual was more common, but even today ponies practice it to some degree. Every unicorn has a kind of magical aura about their magic that never ever changes aside from altering color. A pony's aura color can be seen with every bit of telekinesis magic they perform, or even with any other kind of spell that doesn't go beyond performing a simple task.
The only time a unicorn's aura changes color is when their aura interacts with another pony's magical aura by way of mixing their spells together. This happens most often when a pony tries telekinesis on the same object another pony is performing telekinesis upon, since telekinesis is the most standard magical skill unicorns know. For most unicorns, it's a spell they learn naturally rather than needing to be taught.
However, the key aspect to an aura changing color depends on a pony's emotions. If a unicorn is attracted to another unicorn, when their magic connects, one or both of them will switch or swap colors with one another. If they are in love, however, the color is new for both unicorns; their two aura colors will mix and create an entirely different color for both of them, based on what color you would get if their two colors were mixed together.
Why does color matter? Well, it is the most discreet way that unicorns can state that they are attracted to one another. This ritual usually starts with one unicorn approaching another, gender doesn't matter in this regard, nor has it ever mattered to unicorns in the past. Only recently has gender become a subject of debate as to whether it is socially acceptable or not.
Anyways, upon being approached, usually during lunch or whenever your suitor can show off their magic to you, they will make small talk with you, compliment you and the like, just the same as most ponies do in these more modern times. However, when the opportunity arises, the courting unicorn will take it a step further and purposely attempt to manipulate whatever object that you are also manipulating with your magic. In doing so, their aura will change to the same color as your aura, giving the clear message that they are attracted to you.
Upon noticing this, one of two things may or may not automatically happen to you: your aura will switch to your suitor's color, indicating that you find them attractive as well, or if they have failed to pique your interest as well, your aura color will retain its normal color. If you wind up being attracted to the other pony, the next step in this flirting will take place in the form of the same type of suggestive flirting we all indulge in no matter the race in more modern times.
This next part, however, is something that only unicorns can do together. It is possible for a unicorn and a non-unicorn to do this, but the experience is entirely one-sided in terms of who puts forth the magical power necessary to make it happen, and this causes undue stress on the mind of the unicorn performing it, therefore it's much more rare.
For unicorns, touching horns and flowing their magic into one another is a very, very erotic experience and nowadays is normally restricted to the bedroom (or wherever you might wish to enjoy your lover's more intimate touch). Back then, however, a brief and short moment of doing this included transferring your emotions, your feelings for that other pony and thus getting their feelings in return. Doing so proves both to you and to the other pony that you both desire one another and it lets you both know exactly what you think of one another, whether or not you respect each other and have more long-term or short-term intentions with this proposition.
Once this step is done, the obvious will happen if both ponies want that sort of intimacy at that moment. Otherwise, they will either plan to do something together later, or they will go their separate ways. The first step establishes physical attraction. This step establishes a deeper interest based on that short amount of time spent together, and is necessary to make such mating propositions mean more than just a quick romp. However, some still only stopped at the first step, feeling that deep intimacy wasn't necessary to have some quick fun.
The reason no specific mating rituals were spoken of regarding earth ponies is because earth ponies didn't have any specific rituals that were universally accepted outside of conversing, picking up one another's scent, and then doing their own thing from there. This is the most common practice these days among pegasi and earth ponies, but unicorns often use parts of their old mating ritual to be sure of their feelings for another pony or to be sure they aren't simply being led on by somepony that just can't say 'no, I'm not interested, sorry'.
There are many, many more obscure mating rituals out there, especially amongst the Gryphons, the Zebras and the Dragons, but details of any large, universally accepted mating rituals are sketchy at best, and not accurately recorded in Equestrian records. To find out more about mating rituals amongst those species, you would likely have to travel to their respective kingdoms, though with dragons you would have to work up the courage to approach and try to converse with a grown, adult dragon about such a thing. As of right now, it's unknown whether or not there is a dragon kingdom that they keep records of all their history at or not.
Very little is known about the Shadow Guard, mainly because of all the secrecy surrounding it. What few historical documents that have been found regarding this very elite section of the Night Guard label them as monstrous abominations, looking more like predators than the ponies they originally were. They were considered meat-eating freaks of nature that were shunned from pony society if ever they were discovered.
Such documents, however, were from over a thousand years ago, and thus are likely biased due to the reputation Princess Luna/Nightmare Moon had back then. Unlike more modern times, most members of the Shadow Guard had to live in secrecy, sneaking out of their own homes and doing everything in their power to never be seen, even by those they had to keep tabs on.
The job of the Shadow Guards is one that can never be perfectly and accurately defined, yet every Shadow Guard knows it as if it were a secret only they could understand: defend Equestria from those that would make it less than it can be. While this is basically what all members of the Royal Guard do, this statement has a much more powerful meaning for the Shadow Guard.
In modern times very few common and law-abiding ponies even know the Shadow Guard exists, mostly because unless they wind up in trouble, it's a rarity if they would ever see a member of the Shadow Guard at work. These ponies, hoof-picked by Princess Luna herself, only operate at night, the darkness one of their foremost weapons against anything and anypony that would threaten Equestria.
Nowadays, pretty much all members of the Royal Guard know about the Shadow Guard, and those that work in the Night Guard encounter and even wind up working for or with them occasionally. While the identity of a Shadow Guard is privy only to Princess Luna and those a Shadow Guard trusts with such knowledge, such night-loving ponies have been dubbed a very fitting nickname due to the blessing Luna gives them: Batponies.
When a pony that Luna chooses is judged and found worthy, Luna uses magic that no mortal can replicate to infuse a 'blessing', as she calls it, into that pony. A very appropriate name due to how much it enhances almost everything about that pony physically.
This blessing imbues the gifted pony with night vision as well as enhanced forms of hearing, to the point of echolocation. One would assume this would give them a vulnerability to loud noises or sound when in abundance, but due to them having echolocation as well as keen and 'normal' eyesight, this weakness is obliterated completely. On top of that, even if they could be overwhelmed by way of an auditory overload, they can just as easily 'switch off' their hearing, as one trusted source has said.
Other obvious changes are to the kinds of wings that batponies have, namely the bat-like wings that replace their normal feathered wings. Most would assume that a batpony would have to re-adjust to flying with wings that have wing membranes instead of feathers that let some air escape between them in the process of flying, and they would be right. On the other hoof, most batponies that have been asked have stated that it doesn't feel all that different, and feels more like re-learning how to fly without having to re-learn all the basics. In other words, it's very easy, and usually only takes a single night.
On top of this, batponies say that having wing membranes allows them to fly faster and beat their wings with less intensity to go at the same speed they would normally, though they can attain much faster speeds when they try harder. Combine this with the increases in stamina and physical strength that they gain, and you have a pony that is far more than what they already seem.
Beyond these changes, all members of the Shadow Guard have oddly mysterious powers, no matter what type of pony they are. Of course the wings only belong to Pegasi that get turned into batponies, but whether you're an Earth Pony or a Pegasi or even a Unicorn, you have unusual magical powers that no Unicorn can replicate with normal Unicorn Magic.
They don't have a lot of them, but the ones they do have, their night vision included, are extremely effective. The one that is easily the most useful for them is their passive ability to completely disappear from eyesight to the point of their physical form actually melding with the shadows themselves. They can turn this ability on and off as necessary, but it's rare that they actually cease to use such an ability since outside of the castle, they have little reason to allow themselves to be seen.
The last unusual ability they have is similar to their ability to meld with the shadows. Along with being able to hide, with proper concentration any batpony can move through them with ease. Going hoof in hoof with this ability is the ability to return to Princess Luna's side at any time, though all members of the Shadow Guard know on a night-to-night basis whether they should or should not be intruding on the Princess's privacy. They are the few ponies in Equestria that would ever be allowed to arrive in the Princess's quarters unannounced.
What makes the ability to move through the shadows so unusual is the one exception to the rule: where there is bright enough moonlight, batponies can move through that light as well. The only reason given for this is that the magic used to bless the batponies comes from the Princess's divine connection to the moon itself. Therefore, it would make sense that where the light is strongest, their connection to such a source of mystical power would allow them to put it to proper use just as the Princess can.
One thing that causes a lot of controversy among those that know is the level of freedom that the Shadow Guard has. Both of the Princesses have agreed on granting absolute freedom of operation to the very small and elite branch, giving them the power to operate outside of the restrictions of the law. While this may very well make it possible for somepony to abuse their station, to date not a single batpony has ever done so. This could be considered incredible, but there is a reason that Princess Luna uses divination to judge their very souls before giving them such freedom.
There is something very simple to keep in mind when you meet a batpony: if they arrive with hostility, you've done something very wrong, and are in deep trouble. Even one batpony is a large amount of trouble, and they can take a lot of punishment, even to the point of normally fatal wounds, before going down. Whether this is because they are unusually tough or because the blessing can keep them alive long enough to get patched up is unknown. Even my source is unsure of that, and believes it varies from pony to pony.
My source tells me that at the moment, most all batponies lack any sort of significant other, mostly because of how dedicated they are to their work. It's rare for them to have downtime, though this is of their own choice. All members of the Shadow Guard may quit at any time and submit themselves to mandatory mind-wiping, much like members of the Royal Guard that learn about Rune Magic, but if the Princesses feel they can be trusted with what they know, their memories will be left alone.
This lack of free time is mostly due to them being so personally committed to what they do. All ponies in the Shadow Guard have a reason for being so driven to safeguard the peace in Equestria, and some reasons are more tragic than others. What they all do agree with at the moment is this: if they had loved ones, that would only allow those with ill intent to have a way to get to them, should their identity ever be discovered. For their own peace of mind, they all choose to be single for however long they are in service.
Note that not all members of the Shadow Guard are batponies, but all of them are considered clandestine peacekeepers. Even members of Celestia's branches of the Royal Guard are rumored to secretly be working in, for or with the Shadow Guard. The total number of confirmed batpony operatives is twenty-seven, but they could very well have far more or far less than that. Aside from reports to the Princess, what position a batpony has within the Royal Guard itself, outside of their station as a Shadow Guard, is considered unimportant. What is important is what they do with the power they have.
While Princess Luna does not keep absolute tabs on every single Shadow Guard, she does pay attention to their activities. Regular reports of what the Shadow Guard is up to and what it has been up to since the last report are requested at random times, keeping members of the Shadow Guard on the tips of their hooves at all times. The Princess has stated that its a 'necessary evil', for fear that allowing too much leniency would cause at least a few ponies to give in to the temptation to abuse the power they have been trusted with. Even she does not fully believe in her judge of character, through divination or otherwise.
Polygamy, swinging, and many other words have often been used to describe herding, though only polygamy comes close to properly defining what exactly herding is. In truth, herding is the act of many ponies entering into an intimate, likely sexual relationship with one another, for various or all the same reasons.
Herding is nowhere near as common an occurrence in Equestria as it used to be, before society became matriarchal with two Goddesses becoming the rulers of a now-united nation. Back then, when stallions were the ones in charge, it was far from unusual for stallions to have a multitude of mares officially 'dating' them. In those times, herding was a much more exact science, but now herding is defined much more broadly.
This form of relationship no longer requires a stallion to occur, partially due to the advancements of magic allowing mares to sire young with other mares, but mostly because society has evolved past the old prejudices and hatred towards homosexuality....for the most part, anyways.
On top of this, herding doesn't necessarily have to mean that intimacy can only occur between one individual and all of the others in the herd. On the contrary, some ponies begin herding as a form of getting to know other ponies without the difficulties that classic dating methods can have. For some, simply having that one thing in common, that they are in the same herd together, can make it easier to open up and be more social among other members of the herd.
Herds can also range in size from maybe three or four to ten or twenty. The largest recorded herd in modern Equestrian history occurred over three-hundred years ago, when one Dark Star was the founding member of a herd of sixty-three. Many have wondered if perhaps it was a harem since he was a noblepony living in Canterlot, but in truth it was due to his excessive charisma and his excessive caring, generosity and universal love for all of ponykind that he captured the hearts of so many stallions and mares, always giving to those more unfortunate than himself and caring about everypony he met. He even went as far as to openly call out the nobles on their greedy natures, earning him a lot of popularity and notoriety in equal measure, becoming a powerful voice in favor of the middle class. The fact that the majority of his lovers in his herd were of the middle class attests to how well-known and loved he was.
Herding occurs in modern Equestrian society for a number of reasons. The most common is when two or more ponies find themselves in love with one particular mare or stallion, and none of them wish to enter into hostilities or competition with the others for that pony's affections. If all ponies involved in such a relationship agree, a herd is formed, and they will remain platonic towards one another while still loving that single pony they were attracted to.
This method of herding can result in members of the herd that are platonic towards one another eventually becoming more intimate and close. Usually, this is exactly what happens when one or more members of the herd begin to feel unfulfilled in their divided relationship.
Another reason herding occurs is due to open-minded ponies all coming together, likely having been sexually acquainted previously, and forming a herd that is mutually exclusive in physical and emotional intimacy, rather than any of them restricting themselves to a single other lover. This sort of herd is self-defining, coming together due to the mutual desire for more sexual intercourse and possibly even love and romance, instead of settling for less with just one companion.
There are many other reasons, but the most difficult question of all with such a subject is how ponies broke away from their herding instincts in the first place. Herding in ancient times meant safety, and a far lesser likelihood of being caught and eaten by predators. Safety in numbers, as they say. So what caused it to stop?
The reason is difficult to pinpoint, but two theories have become very popular both among the scientific community, and among Equestrian society. The first reason is that after we formed civilization for ourselves, herding became unnecessary as we learned to build walls, buildings and various other ways of defending ourselves far more reliably, and on a more individual level.
The second reason is that ponies, upon achieving sentience, developed powerful emotions like love, and jealousy. Because of this, many believe that herding began to fail spectacularly due to so many clashing personalities and personal preferences and emotions being forced to co-exist in a single tightly-knitted and, above all, emotional community. Thus, more monogamous relationships rapidly became prevalent compared to forcing many mares, for example, to be with a single stallion.
What truly confounds science as a whole is a seemingly genetic predisposition for us as a whole to somehow know when more mares should be born, and when more stallions should be born. As far back as records show, Equestria has been a country that has a mare-to-stallion population of three-to-one! The farthest deviation from this pattern happens every couple hundred years, when instead of three-to-one, it becomes two-to-one. Not once in recorded history has the Equestrian population ever deviated from this statistical truth.
This means that deep down, on a genetic level, we're hard-wired to listen to our stallion-following herd instincts, but because of civilization and society, we've broken away from this, oddly enough for the sake of the whole, or the 'herd' you could say.
Some argue that we've never broken away from our herd mentality, and that becoming a united nation is just all of ponykind coming together into a single, massive herd all its own. Whether this is true or not is not the issue. The issue is that the scientific community as a whole deems this field of study unnecessary for the continued evolution of science in general. Thus, no one really performs any new studies in the field, though this could also be because it's extremely difficult to check one's theories with such a thing as herding.
Herding has become a very difficult-to-define, yet easy-to-define thing in society. While science ponders on the true definition of herding, ponies use the word to describe any relationship that winds up with more than just two ponies being together.