The youngest alicorn shouted in surprise and horror. When Empress Celestia had taken her daughters to a discreet area; a forbidden land known as the Everfree Forest, she had claimed it was time for them to begin training. Princess Twilight assumed it was to put her knowledge of magic to the test. She had been practicing and training all her life, hitting the books every chance she had. Yet this was not what the two sisters expected. As soon as they landed, full of eagerness and excitement, her mother welcomed her daughters with a cold, emotionless look and lashed out at the older of the two sisters. Princess Twilight had never seen her kind, elegant mother harm a fly, let alone lay a hoof on her sister.
Princess Sunset felt stinging pain on the left side of her face. Her eyes watered almost immediately upon impact.
"I expected you to be more prepared." Was all their mother had to say.
Gritting her teeth, the amber alicorn was at a loss for words. Princess Twilight ran up to her and glanced at her cheek, not failing to notice the bruise that was making itself known. That would be hard to hide and explain to their subjects.
"Mom?" Princess Twilight questioned, almost in fear. She knew better than to speak without being addressed.
Empress Celestia gave both of her daughters a long look, as if observing them to their deepest core.
"Twilight." She called.
"What can you tell me about wars?"
The filly gulped. "Wars... definitely not peaceful. There was a time before Equestria came to be - the three races; Unicorns, Pegasi and Earth Ponies were at each others' throats constantly, refusing to believe in unity. They were almost at war so many times, until they finally learnt to get along and formed Equestria. Equestria has histories of being threatened and invaded since then, but so far, no wars. Lives were lost and we did suffer damages though... In other words..,"
"We fight and sometimes die to defend our land." Her sister finished. Princess Sunset had one hoof on her cheek, with a wing held up to her face in an attempt to ungraciously wipe the blood casually flowing out of a nostril.
The Empress sighed; either from disapproval at the idea of a war or displeased with their answer. Despite that, she had to remind herself that her daughters are still young. Both of them had a long way to go.
"The reason I brought both of you here today - I need you both to realize, my princesses, that there is more to life than studying. Books may give you answers. But ultimately, it all will lead up to your own actions." The mare leveled her gaze to the two princesses, allowing them to see the grim expression her face held, but not missing the gentle look in her eyes.
"But... why?" Princess Twilight spoke up, still afraid of angering her mother. She gestured to her sister, who had now ended up with a smudged face instead of a clean, blood-free one. Her wing feathers were stained with some of the dried liquid as well.
Empress Celestia gave her elder daughter a sad look and magiced a handkerchief out of nowhere. After casting a spell to will it to be wet, she levitated it towards Princess Sunset. The filly hesitated momentarily before accepting the soggy item.
"The key to never get bested by your opponent... is to stay on guard. Be alert, stay strong, and you will win the battle."
"So the point of all this was to not get me whacked in the face?" Princess Sunset asked, almost mocking.
Princess Twilight nudged her. "Were you even paying attention?"
In return, she received a sharp glare. "You aren't the one with a bloody muzzle!"
"Calm down." Empress Celestia sighed again. She couldn't fathom why she decided to have children, knowing the costs. Her daughters are almost teenagers, and according to the weekly magazines 'Mother Mares', teenagehood is the worst phase a foal will go through. What's worse; she will have to deal with two at once. "Come over here, and let me tell you a story.
Her children immediately obeyed, scrambling over toward her, eyes gleaming with excitement. Children, she smiled. Why do they have to grow up?
"Once upon a time, in the magical land of Equestria. There were two regal sisters who ruled together, and created harmony for all the land. To do this, the eldest; used her unicorn powers to raise the sun at dawn. The younger, brought out the moon to begin the night."
"There were sisters?! I didn't know there could be two rulers at the same time!" Princess Twilight gasped.
Princess Sunset poked her sister with the tip of her horn. "Shhh!"
"Ow! Sorry! Sheesh."
Celestia allowed a small smile before returning to a stoic composure. "Thus, the two sisters maintained balance for their kindgom and their subjects, all the different types of ponies. As time went on, the younger sister became resentful. The ponies relished and played in the day her elder sister brought fourth, but shunned and slept through her beautiful night. One fateful day, the younger refused to lower the moon to make way for the dawn. The elder sister tried to reason with her, but the bitterness in the young one's heart had transformed her into a wicked mare of darkness; Nightmare Moon."
At the revelation, both fillies gasped. Empress Celestia went on with the story, as if reading it off of an invisible book.
"She vowed she would shroud the land in eternal night. Reluctantly, the elder sister harnessed the most powerful magic known to ponykind; the Elements of Harmony. Using the magic of the Elements of Harmony, she defeated her younger sister, and vanished her permanently in the moon. The elder sister took on responsibility over both sun and moon, and harmony had been maintained in Equestria for generations since."
"Whoa." Princess Sunset exclaimed.
"She must be really sad." Princess Twilight said quietly.
"Yeah. As annoying as you are, if I ever have to banish you, I'll miss having nopony to plan my pranks for."
The Empress loomed over the girls, clearly not done with passing the information she long wished to give.
"Sad as it is, the story is one of truth."
"You mean, it happened? It's real?" The older filly looked around fearfully, as if the evil mare will pop out of anywhere anytime.
"Nightmare Moon?" Her sister asked.
"Unfortunately, the story isn't of the utmost truth. As most stories are, when retold, storytellers recount what they remember, not the exact facts. But in our case, as royals, we intentionally change the stories, as the truth may cause harm. If our subjects know that the banishment is for a limited time instead of permanent, as the old ponytail states - we could cause fear and panic. Which is why, my loves-" The Empress wrapped her wings around the fillies, bringing together the dusk and the dawn of their pelts. "I need us all to prepare. As much as how crucial knowledge is, out intellectual skills will have to match our physical abilities."
"There's going to be a war?" Princess Sunset asked, snuggling closer into her mother.
"There's going to be a battle." Her mother corrected. "We must win the battle, for if we lose, a war may erupt. The truth to life; we won't always be able to remain in harmony. As rulers, we have to fight to maintain that harmony."
The young mares stayed quiet as they digested their mother's words, thinking through them carefully, counting all the threats and possibilities. Neither of them are trained or prepared for battle. The prospect had never even occured to them until this very moment. The many times their mother had tried to get them interested in fighting tactics, battle strategies, et cetera. The reason as to why finally came clear to the young minds.
As protectors, Equestria is theirs to protect.