1000 years before the return of Nightmare Moon...
Princess Celestia sat dejected on the throne room floor, staring with tired eyes at the spot where the elements of harmony had fallen. Once upon a time the six elements had been beautiful to behold, each one held within its own piece of enchanted jewelry and glowing with an inner sparkle that reflected the power they embodied. Now she watched forlornly as the ancient gems slowly lost their luster. One by one, each element went dull, the jewelry which carried them crumbling to dust. She could only sit, frozen by her unhappiness as the elements petrified, expanding into stone spheres as the magic once contained within them finally went out, never to return.
Even after the change in the elements seemed to finish, the Princess continued to stare at the spot near her hooves where they lay. She simply could not summon the will to look up at the devastation that surrounded her. She did not want to see the doors to the throne room, which had been blasted off their hinges by her sister earlier that night. Nor did she want to turn around and see the smoking hole in the throne that she had been sitting on that evening, or the ragged gap in the vaulted ceiling of the hall, framing perfectly the face of the new moon. Most of all, Celestia did not want to even catch a glimpse of the sight which was visible through the broken stained glass windows.
Outside, the great capital city of Equestria, once the most beautiful city in the world... burned. Hydras and manticores roamed about the dark and abandoned streets of the city freely, roaring now and again in triumph. Here and there would be seen the last of the abominations, the shadow ponies, running or flying about madly before they would spontaneously catch fire and gallop into an unburned building, never to be seen again. Immolating themselves for the glory of their mistress, and doing it all in what could only be described as an unnatural silence.
Through all this destruction, one thing was missing which Celestia thought should be there. No mares terrified screams could be heard, nor the desperate cries of abandoned fillies, nor the calls of helpless ponies in need of assistance. Celestia strained as hard as she possibly could to pick up the smallest sound coming from the city, anything that would indicate that even one of her little ponies still existed there... but no, they had all been silenced... or transformed. A single tear, which promised to be the first of many, fell and splashed against the cracked tile floor.
A clear and prolonged note, like that made when a bell is struck, sounded across the great hall, reverberating through the air as if it were the sound of the end of the universe. Celestia hardly noticed through the tears and sobs that filled her. She was so tired... the battle with Nightmare Moon had left her with numerous injuries, including some broken ribs, a dislocated wing, and several deep gashes along her barrel and chest which continued to slowly ooze blood. There was no pain, in fact her whole body felt numb, and a dreadful cold was creeping into her. The Princess began to shiver uncontrollably, as a light fog rolled across the floor.
" Celestia! My word... Butler, go and get some bandages..."
The Princess looked up at the words, but was overcome with light headedness at the motion. Celestia could not keep herself up anymore, it was just too much. Falling onto her side, she splashed into what appeared to be a crimson puddle. As her vision faded, the last thing Celestia saw was a pair of light red hooves standing beside her...
" *sob* Tia... I'm so sorry..."
*SNAP* Celestia stiffened and cried out as searing pain shot through her body. She tried to struggle, but the motions hurt her broken ribs and she coughed up some blood.
"Oh dear... Tia please don't move or you'll hurt yourself. That pain was me popping your wing back into place... Butler..." A gentle hoof began dabbing and wiping at the sides of her mouth with a warm washcloth, meanwhile the familiar voice continued, "I promise that's the last of the pain dear sister. you lost a lot of blood in that..."
"Destiny? Is that you..." Celestia croaked, spitting up some more blood in the process. She tried to open her eyes, but one seemed sealed shut. To her relief, she could still see him through the good one. The light red alicorn flashed a small smile in her direction, before leaving her vision once more.
"Yes sister, it's me. Now shhhhh... just listen and don't try to speak. As I was saying, you lost a lot of blood before we could get you inside and bandaged... grunt if this hurts." light jabs in her barrel, causing Celestia to grunt and cough up some more blood. "I see... some of your ribs are broken, one moment while I cast a spell." Celestia could feel the tingle of magic around the area her ribs where. Through it all, the hoof with the washcloth continued to wipe at her face, moving from the princess's muzzle to her sealed eyelid. Eventually, it moved away, and Celestia found that she could open both her eyes again.
She did so, and found herself staring at a dignified looking violet colored unicorn. He had a coifed blue mane streaked with light green, and was wearing a monocle on his left eye. His eyes were green like the streaks in his mane. Seeing the questioning look in her eye, the violet pony said, "You may call me Butler, your majesty."
"Hnnggg... there, that spell should start the healing process and prevent the internal bleeding. Butler, go and fetch a pillow and blanket for the princess. She needs to sleep in order for the spell to take its full effect." Butler moved off, only to be replaced in her vision by Prince Destiny. He promptly knelt down in front of her and nuzzled her cheek. "You gave me quite a scare for a minute, Tia..." Butler returned with the bedding, which her brother took and magically tucked her into, "Now try to get some sleep. We'll talk all about everything when you wake up." Celestia wanted to protest, but was racked with a huge yawn before she could say anything. She really was tired. As she placed her head on the pillow, Destiny whispered soothingly in her ear, "I'll watch over you as you sleep lil' sis. I'll be here when you wake up"
As Celestia closed her tired eyes, Prince Destiny leaned in and whispered to her, but Dream Catcher politely ignored it. Some things were best kept for those they passed between. His master rose and walked over to the studies enormous empty fireplace. His horn flashed the blue glow of his magic, and a crackling fire appeared in the hearth. Taking a position in front of the fire, Destiny let the silence drag on, staring thoughtfully into the blaze. Dream Catcher waited patiently for the Prince. He had a feeling that his assistance would be needed shortly. After a while the silence was broken, “Butler…”
“Yes my Lord?”
"I will be staying with the Princess until she wakes. Go and retrieve the remains of the Elements of Harmony…" Destiny’s eyes never left the fire as he gave out his instructions.
“At once sire.” Dream Catcher turned to leave, but as he walked out, Destiny spoke up again.
“And Dreamer…” It startled Dream Catcher to hear his nickname. The Prince rarely called him anything but butler. He turned to find that Destiny was looking directly at him. “Take a bucket of water with you.”
“I-I will sir.”
A hooded figure entered the destroyed throne room. Hoof steps echoed back and forth as it moved with purpose through the rubble strewn about the hall. It made its way slowly towards the defiled throne. It spared a glance out towards the ruins of the city, still smoldering against the blood red sunset.
As it continued its journey, it passed the now dead elements. The pony let out a derisive snort.
…mmm… a pity, but they were flawed anyway, I will simply rebuild them, from scratch… better…
The cloaked figure finally stopped in front of the throne. What is this… a blue glow surrounded the object which had fallen at the base of the throne, and it levitated itself up towards the figure’s hood.
…what have we here, hmm?
The glow intensified, revealing a tarnished gold crown. A small smile could be seen from the darkened hood. ….It worked... Tucking the crown under its cloak, the figure stepped up and positioned itself upon the throne. Unidentifiable sounds could be heard from the figure. They built up slowly into a chuckle, and then into full-blown laughter, the bass voice seemingly coming from everywhere at once.
“He…Hehe…Hahaha…Bwahahahaha… It’s just me and you now Destiny! Your sisters are dea…” One moment… The voice stopped short. The hooded pony jerked its head back and forth, scanning the hall for a sign, any sign, that would prove its hopes confirmed.
Wh-Where… Where are the bodies! They should be here… Its thoughts froze as it spotted the pool of blood near the elements. The smile vanished, and a growl escaped its lips, “Grrrr… I-I must know what happened here...” Its horn lit up with an intense blue light as the mysterious pony cast a divination spell.
As the divination spell finally winked out, the pony visibly slumped onto the thrown. “I see that I have misjudged.” A brooding silence descended over the throne room, as the figure reassessed it’s plans.
…That sound. He’s returning.NO… HE CAN’T POSSIBLY have discovered me. I made myself invisible to his gaze. The figure rose hastily and ducked behind the throne as a fog formed on the other side of the hall. The mist expanded to reveal a set of ornate wooden doors, suspended just above the top of a pile of rubble, framed by wisps of cloud. Though the figure had never witnessed its appearance before, the pony knew with certainty what it was. It was the entrance to Destiny’s mansion.
Dream Catcher opened the door and entered the ruined throne room, a bucket wrapped in a green glow floating beside him. Spotting the elements near the door to one of the balconies, he made his way down the pile, set the bucket of water at the base, and trotted up to the elements of harmony, carefully avoiding the still congealing pool of blood nearby.
Dreamer had been occupied with the injured princess before, but now that the urgency had passed somewhat, he took the time to survey the damage around him. Piles of rubble littered the floor, fallen from the many jagged gaps in the ceiling and walls. Dreamer did a double-take when he spotted the moon through one of the larger holes. Its surface, once as bright as a mirror, was now marred by a number of dark splotches in the shape of a mares head.
Shattered glass was scattered near the walls, it seemed that no windows had survived, while the tattered remains of banners flapped lazily in the slight breeze. Thankfully, many of the pillars which supported the roof had survived. The throne sported a gaping hole in its upper left corner, and there was a crater like depression beside it. Burn marks, the remnants of magical energy blasts, appeared all over the place.
Behind him the great double doors of the throne room had been blasted inwards. One had come clean off and was now lying halfway beneath a pile of rubble. The other had been torn in two, its upper half still hanging from its twisted hinges, the lower half nowhere to be seen, likely shattered into splinters.
Dreamer sighed. It pained him to look at the utter destruction that surrounded him. In his mind’s eye, he could still see the splendor that the room had once radiated. It was hard to describe the feeling, but if he were to try, he would say that it was like seeing the hopes and dreams of the place itself, the aspirations of what it was meant to be. All of that was gone now, destroyed in less than a day, and left to be forgotten.
It was Dream Catchers special talent which allowed him to see the visions. The ability was initially a curse which he could never escape from, but it had turned out to be a great gift when he had caught the attention of Prince Destiny. But that was a story for another time. It had become his self-appointed mission to help keep the hopes and dreams he saw alive. Casting a glance at his cutie mark, a blank easel surrounded by mist, he took a deep breath and pulled from thin air a pad and pencil.