SteampunkBrony’s: Night’s Magic
Original story and concept by SteampunkBrony
Rewritten by Starquake One
Posted with permission.
Prelude: Shattered Marble.
Darkness everlasting; a rock in the void of space was his life. Silent and unmoving; his eyes blind and ears deaf; the unicorn’s body was cold stone. Despite having neither breath nor heartbeat, he was alive. Alone with his thoughts for all of eternity; it was more than a prison sentence, it was damnation. He was a criminal in Princess Celestia’s eyes. A criminal . . . the very thought was preposterous. The imprisoned unicorn only wished to pursue and understand magic that the princess had deemed heinous and vile.
Celestia’s own sister, Princess Luna, had helped him with his studies. He often wondered what became of the Princess of the Night. He hoped she didn’t fall to the same fate that he was condemned to. Being cursed in stone was a wretched existence. He stood on display in the most unlikely of dungeons: Canterlot’s royal garden, overlooked from Celestia’s great castle.
The unicorn could not see the beauty that surrounded his living tomb. Countless ponies had passed by or admired him as a piece of sculpture, but he could not hear their compliments. He could only feel them vaguely on the edge of his periphery in his mind, through his stagnant magic. He was aware he wasn’t the only prisoner in the garden. He could sense others hidden in plain sight among the other statues. The other ponies were once masters in their field. The unicorn’s specialty was magic; it was also his downfall. The others were art; agriculture; war; enterprise and performance.
Art was obsessed with creating perfection. He was consumed with the idea. His madness brought him to plot against the kingdom. His grand scheme was to use the life essence of royalty cleanse the country; turn it into a blank canvas and rebuild it with his own vision of perfection. War lusted for conflict. He cared not for the lands he conquered, even though he swore he did it for the sake of Equestria. He had crushed villages and towns under his hooves for the thrill of combat; his violent conquest nearly destroyed the nation. Enterprise was an avaricious miser. His gluttonous desire for power and control let him to use his money to manipulate the will of the land for his own benefit. His greed brought misfortune and misery to ponies of lower economic status, especially those who were reluctant or refused to do his bidding. Performance was a silver-tongued devil. She used her popularity and charisma to create a rebellion. Her weapons were well crafted lies, seduction and treachery. She destroyed the foundation of her enemies and backstabbed her friends. Her rebellion fell apart after her betrayal was exposed. Agriculture was too ambitious. To compete against other farmers, he had developed a special chemical. He boasted how it had miraculous effects on his farmland. Others naturally wanted to buy the formula for their crops as well. However, the potions they received created a miasma that caused a great famine and sickened thousands of ponies.
There was one other prisoner in the garden. His name was Discord; the anarchic prince; the spirit of chaos. He was a very powerful and mischievous creature. His pranks and disruptions were all fun and games to him; however it was impossible to live a peaceful and organized life around him. It took both Princess Celestia and Princess Luna to trap him in his stone prison. Discord stood out from the other ponies. He had done something the unicorn had thought impossible; he escaped. His freedom was short lived though; or so it seemed. Gauging the passage of time was tricky in his current state. Somepony had recaptured Discord. He could sense the vibrations of his rage and frustration. When Discord had broken free, the unicorn had felt the ethereal flow of magical energies. He realized how Discord had done it. It was so clear now. The unicorn knew how to how to get out but needed the right moment to make his move.
Excitement welled in his mind; he was almost whelmed by it. All he needed to do was borrow a little bit of magic from the outside and he could be free. Let the others be damned till the end of time; they got what they deserved for their wickedness. The unicorn only wanted to research forbidden magic that nopony understood. He wanted to use that wealth of knowledge to better the land of Equestria. The unicorn never intended any harm or ill will towards anypony; but that blasted Celestia locked him away anyways when he had done no wrong.
The unicorn was pulled away from his thoughts by a familiar presence. The aura shined like serene moonlight at the outskirts of his mind. It was a mare he had not seen with his own eyes since before his imprisonment; his old friend Princess Luna. He wondered if she would recognize him in his petrified form. The energy she radiated was different somehow; it felt pure and bright. It triggered an old memory. Princess Luna had changed the last time he saw her. She was darker near the end before she disappeared; the unicorn hadn’t noticed it until now. The last thing they did was work on a spell together.
A thought suddenly dawned on him. Could the side effects of the forbidden spell he was using be what slowly tainted her soul? Was he to blame for her disappearance? He felt his first pang of guilt in all the centuries of being cursed. His studies had blinded him. The unicorn had seen the change in her, but his research was too important to be bothered by it.
Princess Luna stood before him. He reached out with his mind, projecting his will like unheard whispers and suggestions. He wanted her to look closer; see that it was him encased in stone; they all were and it was unfair that he suffered like this.
Come to me, Princess of the Night . . . the unicorn beckoned with a silent voice. He felt the ripples of magic caress his spirit.
Princess Luna sauntered through the royal gardens. The evening air was warm and flowers in bloom. Three unicorn mares tended to the gardens nearby; they usually worked hard until the sun set. It had been over a thousand years since Luna set hoof here. Her banishment to the moon was finally over and the darkness that consumed her was cleansed.
She gazed at the marble sculptures that decorated the grounds. Luna had questioned her sister’s taste in art. Some of them depicted notorious figures from the past. One of them; Discord; she knew all too well. The winged unicorn was still recovering from her ordeal when Discord escaped. The same six ponies who had defeated her corrupted form had used the Elements of Harmony to entrap Discord back into his prison.
Spending century after century locked in stone was a nightmarish punishment. Luna could relate to the torture Discord was enduring. During her own banishment, she was known as Nightmare Moon. Darkness and jealousy had poisoned her mind. Luna suppressed a shudder. It was a nightmare indeed.
Luna stopped suddenly. She thought she felt something strange; something vague stirring in the back of her mind. What was it? She surveyed the garden; the three unicorns were busy with their tasks, oblivious. Luna reached out with magical feelers with her mind, searching for—Luna.
The princess stopped dead in her tracks. It wasn’t a voice she heard, more of a sudden flash in her mind; an image or an emotion that wasn’t hers. She didn’t dare move; she focused her mind to find who or what was calling her.
“What?” she whispered under her breath.
Something compelled her to draw closer to a statue of a unicorn; defiance in his sightless eyes. His features seemed almost familiar, like a pony she once knew long, long ago. Something about it tugged weakly on her soul. She felt flashes of fear and dire need. She reached out a hoof and touched the statue. A sense of urgency swelled within her.
It’s me, Luna.
Her eyes grew wide. She recognized who the statue was; she could almost hear his voice in her head. She remembered he was an ash and obsidian colored unicorn she knew from before her exile.
Heart racing, Luna used her magic to touch the statue. She felt something pull on her energy frantically.
Please help me!
Luna recoiled in horror. It was him! Locked in stone and pleading desperately. Did her sister do this? He was her friend, why would Celestia do this to him? Luna glanced around at the other statues of those who once threatened Equestria. She knew Discord was turned to stone, but were they all prisoners?
“No . . .” Luna panicked. Emotions flooded her mind; she flashed back to her isolation on the moon. Slowly she backed away from the statue. The crazed phantom struggled to keep its grip on her. Luna pulled her energies back, away from the unicorn’s distraught spirit.
Don’t leave me.
Luna fled from the garden, galloping like a gale of wind.
No, Luna wait! The stone unicorn cried out after the princess.
Why did she run? He was her friend; why did she abandon him when he sorely needed her help? Frustration filled his mind. He needed to get out of this stone prison immediately. If only he could channel the magic from somepony.
A different aura approached the unicorn. He searched through the darkness. Two more came near. He felt the faint hint of magic, then a second and a third. Three unicorns focused on him. This could be his only chance to break free.
“No!” Bewildered, the three gardeners looked up from their work at the sudden outburst. Princess Luna had bolted from the garden. The trio gathered together by the statues where the princess once stood.
“What in Equestria was that about?” The other two unicorns shook their heads and shrugged.
“She was staring at this unicorn statue like she had seen a ghost.” They eyed the statue suspiciously. An eerie feeling came over them that they couldn’t describe.
“Hold on,” the oldest mare said, “I’m going to try something.” She reached out with her magic. Her face contorted, trying to make sense of something she felt. “I think there is something about this statue, but I can’t quite make it out.”
“Let me try,” said the younger mare. All three focused their magic on the statue; feeling for something out of place.
My only chance.
Phantom limbs lashed out with a vice grip on their minds. The three were paralyzed; their magic leeched away by some psychic siphon. Their energy swirled in a violent maelstrom around the statue. A blustery storm erupted in the skies over Canterlot. The three hapless mares convulsed helplessly.
The dark unicorn mustered every ounce of his being and latched onto the three magic sources. The unicorn inhaled the flow of magic. Rivers of energy hemorrhaged from his victims. He fed on it ravenously; its taste was sweet and fresh. The rush was intoxicating. He had been starved of magic for a millennium. Strength and power returned to his body; he had forgotten what it was like to be alive.
He could feel the bindings of the spell weakening. He thrashed about within his marble prison; smashing against the barriers that held him. His spirit stomped and bucked vigorously, full of life. His stone prison quaked from the unicorn’s fury. Hooves of iron hammered at the alabaster shell.
Cracks formed over the statue’s surface; chips flaked away from the wounds. Black mist oozed from the fractures. Roiling, it blanketed the garden. The three garden attendants lay prone on the grass, unresponsive. The unicorn statue darkled before the castle’s royal guards that flooded the statuary. The captain barked orders to his fellow distressed guards; most of whom stared in awe.
The unicorn fought like never before. He summoned all the magical energy he could; condensing it into a rapidly spinning sphere. When the density became critical, he unleashed the full force of his power like a dying star. The detonation annihilated his stone prison. The shockwave blasted everypony off their hooves. A dark silhouette appeared in the center of the crater, only to vanish in a flash of light.
Far from Canterlot, on a lonely hill in the Everfree forest, the dark unicorn materialized instantly from the teleportation spell. Exhausted and weak, his body wracked with pain, the unicorn crumpled to the ground. Gasping, his lungs filled with his first breath of air. It tasted clean and smelled of earthy scents. He could finally touch the dirt and grass beneath his hooves. His eyes adjusted to the dark of night.
His heart filled with glee. The unicorn was victorious. He smiled, noticing the moistness of his mouth; the pounding of his heart and the rushing of blood in his veins. He was alive and free. His chest heaved with throaty laughter. The forest around him fell silent. The unicorn rose to his hooves and looked to the starry sky. The dark clouds lingered over Canterlot. His smile twisted into a fierce grin.
“Yes! I did it!” the unicorn bellowed. His voice echoed through the woods; the nocturnal creatures fled in terror from his thundering roar. Relishing his newfound freedom, his mad cackling intensified. He stomped his hooves on the ground.
“Do you hear me Celestia? I am . . . free!”