Long ago, when the world was young, the races of the land ponies later called Equestria lived according to the cycles of the changing seasons. Spring, when life returned from the dead and the cold, gave way to summer, when the sun shone and fruit ripened. Autumn came in the twilight when the world began to fall asleep, and gave way to winter, when all was frozen and barren.
They planted their crops in the spring and harvested in the autumn, following the endless arc of the celestial bodies as they danced through the eternal night. Small cogs of a greater machine, that meted out the universe' existence with every swing of the pendulum and turning of the gears.
But the world was not impersonal. Each concept that graced the world had a form, a being, a name. Spring ran wild in the meadows at dawn, shaking the dew from her hair as the pale light of the morning sun glistened off her scales. Budding flowers and leaves were left in her wake, each carefully crafted within her gentle hands.
Summer, the pompous Lord of the Light, strode across the land, and the world around him would grow in splendour to reflect his majesty. His face was the sun of the midday, his coat the lush leaves of the forest. He granted life to wherever he willed, but his anger was unbearable. The earth would scorch under his gaze and the grass would wither.
Autumn came in his footsteps, the kindly elder who stored away the life of the planet so it would survive another winter. Her pelt was the flames of the hearth and the red, gold and orange of the trees, and in her claws she clutched the harvest, spreading it across the world so that none would go hungry.
Winter was two-faced, both haughty and humble, cold and warm, hard and gentle. It could not be seen, for to see the face of winter was to perish in its cold, but its beautiful craft was a source of admiration to many. Each flake it would breath to be different from those that came before, and each surface on which it left its touch would be latticed with the crisp and clear beauty of ice and frost.
And for the races of that land, Equestria, this was enough. The world would continue ere it always had done, and the forces that kept it so well would strive to keep it still.
But for one race, it never was enough.
While the dragons become masters of their own domain and the gryphons found their home in the crags and cliffs, or while the buffalo eked out a stoic but happy existence on the open plains, the pony found itself alone and defenceless in the world.
Its cousin, the zebra, was at home in both the jungles and the grasslands. The donkeys and the mules were content with their lot. But the pony grumbled.
When Spring came, the last wicked touches of Winter would kill the seeds as they slept in the earth.
When Summer came, the crop would be burnt under his majestic gaze, and fruit alone was not enough to sustain the herds.
When Autumn came, the days grew short and cold and the shelter once provided by the forests turned to dust.
Winter they loathed most of all, for they were hungry, and could find no pasture anywhere.
The three tribes of pony, Earth, Pegasus, and Unicorn, gathered together in one place to plan a course of action. They would not go on living under the rule of the seasons, but would take the world for themselves, to control the weather, to raise the sun and moon, to clean winter and bring spring, at their own time and bidding.
Three were chosen, one from each tribe, to make their way to the centre of the Deep Forest, the home of the elder spirits, and there steal the six elements that allowed them control over the world.
The three swiftly reached the borders of the Deep Forest, where even the trees were alive in the presence of their masters. They fought their way through the thickets and the woods, until they came upon the Castle of the Seasons. They met no resistance as they made way to the central courtyard of the castle, for the Seasons never saw fit to guard their keep.
Before them in the courtyard stood a great fountain, on which rested five stones. The Earth Pony reached out and took two, naming them Kindess and Honesty. The Pegasus reached out and took two, naming them Loyalty and Laughter. Finally, the Unicorn took the fifth, naming it Generosity.
Upon the removal of the fifth stone, the fountain dried up and the stone beneath their hooves began to crack and crumble. The timbers of the castle rotted and fell, tiles smashed to the earth as the very land around the keep shattered and fell away, stranding the quaking ruins on a cliff-top surrounded by a deep gorge. The woods themselves howled in torment as the force that kept them in control faded away.
The Seasons appeared before the Three, furious. Lord Summer spoke first, as the three ponies averted their eyes from his blazing glory.
"See now what you have done! The world will wither and wane without the power that kept it in balance!" he cried, even as his own form began to fade.
"The cycle is ended, no more will it move of its own accord," spoke Spring, as her buds decayed before the ponies.
"No more will the land bear life and fruit, in this eternal sleep," spoke Autumn, as the crone grew older.
Winter merely remained silent. Turning its heads towards the ponies, it spoke gently.
"You realise not what you have taken upon yourselves, little ones. The world is your charge, now. To keep or to destroy. The sun will not rise without your intervention, nor set unless it is guided. The seasons will not turn without you to oil the great wheels. Water will not move without the sweat of your brow flowing with it. Rain will not come unless you first shed tears of grief."
It leant forward, and opened its great, rime-encrusted claws.
"But I will give you both a boon and a curse. Take Magic, for Magic is the binding of the six. While you yet have Magic, the world will not seem so dark and dead."
Winter let the sixth orb fall, and the Unicorn took it, naming it Friendship. Before them, Winter turned its baleful gaze back upon the three, as the other head spoke, haughty, frosty and in contempt.
"Yet you will not be without adversary. You have slain the Seasons, and their remnant shall ever be with you. As the light of the sun casts shadows, and the moon is dark for half her days, neither can Harmony exist without Discord to balance it. While yet you still draw breath on this land, Discord will go with you. He will bear our form, and bear our power. He will drive your people to the brink of destruction."
The other head turned again.
"And a second curse I give unto you, that all the world will know what you have wrought this day."
Winter touched each of the Three upon their back, and as they cried aloud in pain, a mark took form upon them.
"You alone of the peoples of this land will bear this Mark. It will be a sign to the world that while you stole the powers of nature for your own, you are now their masters. You will be reviled and you will be hated. Your Mark will ever be upon you and your children, 'til the days of this world are ended and the wheels at last cease to turn."
With these words, Winter faded away with its brethren, and the Seasons came to an end. The ponies looked at themselves, and found each had taken the form of the other. The Unicorn, black as night and with stars in her mane, called herself Luna. The Pegasus, white as the clouds and with all the colours of the morning sky in her mane, called herself Celestia. The third took no name, for he was ever an Earth Pony, and an Earth Pony he would remain.
Luna brought down the moon.
Celestia raised the sun.
And a new era dawned.