Once upon a time, on the magical world of Harmonia, there existed a race known as ponies. They were divided into three tribes: the earthbound Earth Ponies, masters of the earth; the horned Unicorns, masters of the spirit; and the winged Pegasi, masters of the air and sky.
But these three tribes were divided by hatred and bigotry for many, many generations… until the Last Ice Age, which brought the three tribes together in the United Tribes of Equestria. The United Tribes remained as one for almost a grossentury, but then, chaos descended from The Far Beyond, and life on Harmonia was a time of misery and terror. For douzaides, it seemed that the dream of peace on the planet Harmonia was to be a false, fleeting one, but then a pair of regal Alicorns − ponies who possessed the traits of all three races of pony − appeared from the fables of old, wielding the Elements of Harmony, the greatest magic known to any pony before or since. With the six Elements, they banished the chaos to a stony prison, and the Diarchy of Equestria was established, with the savior Alicorns as dual queens regnant.
The two regal Alicorns fought their hardest to bring harmony to all the land of Equestria. To do this, the elder Alicorn, as bright as the day, used her nigh-divine Alicorn powers to raise the Sun at dawn; the younger Alicorn, as dark as dusk, used hers to raise the Moon to begin the night. Thus, the two Alicorns maintained balance for their queendom and their subjects, all the different types of ponies.
But as grossenturies wore on, the younger Alicorn became resentful. The ponies relished and played in the day that her co-regent brought forth, but shunned and slept through her beautiful night. One day, the younger Alicorn refused to lower the Moon to make way for the dawn. The elder Alicorn tried to reason with her, but the bitterness in the young one’s heart had transformed her into a wicked mare of darkness:
She vowed that she would shroud the land in eternal night. Reluctantly, the queen of the day called once more upon the Elements of Harmony, and used them to banish the younger queen permanently inside the Moon itself. The elder queen regnant then abandoned their ruined castle in the Everfree Forest, and took on responsibility for both the Sun and the Moon, and harmony has been maintained in Equestria for generations since.
Ordinarily, Twilight Sparkle could not imagine anything better than burying herself in a good book under the shade of a tree on a sunny day. Even before Queen Celestia had taken her in as a Ward of the Crown, she had always been most content with her muzzle between a book’s pages. As a foal, she always enjoyed it when her mother read her all the old breezie tales, and when she learned to read them herself and to use her magic to turn pages herself. Books were the one thing in her life that never gave her any vexation. There it was: the truth, in fine print, black-on-white. Books could not hurt you, or yell at you, or call you a terrible pony. They could not curse at you for not being able to control sudden magical outbursts. Books were the only friend Twilight Sparkle could ever want or need.
She didn’t care to pretty herself up like so many other mares she had seen around Canterlot. This was not to say that Twilight Sparkle did not care for her appearance. Her mane, dark-sapphire, with violet and pink streaks flanking her alicorn, was kept in a bowl cut with a simple sweep to her left. She kept herself well-groomed, trimming any overgrown hair when necessary. But it was not for other ponies; it was so that she would be presentable, from poll to fetlocks, as the star pupil of Queen Celestia, ruler of all of Equestria.
Appearances alone would not do as the apprentice to the Queen of the Day and Night, though. Twilight Sparkle immersed herself in all the books of every form of thaumaturgy that she could find in the royal library. As an admittedly prodigious practitioner of magic, Twilight devoted much of her time to reading some new book on some new theory of magic, with a particular focus on transfiguration − transforming an inanimate object into something animate, or vice versa. On her pre-scheduled off-days such as this, though, she liked some light reading on her favorite thaumaturgists, historians, and theorists.
Again, there was ordinarily nothing that Twilight found better than reading a book in a tree’s shade, with no company save for the book and dewy grass to idly graze upon.
But now, on this sunny day, under this particular tree beside the Creek of Dawn in the Courtyard of Sunrise, this book − specifically, the prelude to A Contrite Chronology of Equestria, As Told By Griffons, For Griffons − had struck something in the lavender Unicorn that made her fetlocks itch. Her leonine tail, typical of Unicorns, twitched behind her in some unconscious uneasiness, as though she meant to flick a fly off of it.
“NightMare Moon…?” Twilight murmured to herself, her cloven hoof tracing an invisible line under the name of that doombringer. “I know I’ve heard that name somewhere before… But where?”
With a mental shrug, she sent a signal down her horn, to pick up the book. Her horn glowed a bright pink matching one of the streaks in her mane, and the book followed suit − this was typically referred to by Unicorns as the dwimmer shimmer. She closed the book, levitated it into one of her saddle-bags, emblazoned with the cutie mark on her flanks − a pink starburst with five smaller white starbursts around it − and prepared to wink back to her home in deeper Canterlot when…
“Twilight Sparkle!” cried a spirited voice of another Unicorn, galloping towards her. She had a bright-pink mane and a white coat.
Twinkleshine, today of all days, Twilight thought bitterly. She’d hoped to avoid social interaction this one time.
“Moondancer is throwing a bit of a shindig in the West Castle Courtyard,” Twinkleshine said brightly, either ignoring or oblivious to the obvious disinterest that Twilight was projecting.
“And?” Twilight said, just curtly and quickly enough that she’d hoped that Twinkleshine would leave her be.
Such hopes were quickly dashed.
Twinkleshine took a step backwards, her ears flattening slightly against her head, her eyebrows creasing slightly.
“W-well, if you don’t want to go…”
“No. I don’t.” Twilight galloped past the other mare, her prior concentration on winking so scattered now that she might as well have tried to wink to Tartarus. “Some ponies have studying to do.”
As she left the Courtyard of the Sun, Twilight Sparkle heard Twinkleshine hiss, “Do you ever do anything but study?”
She pretended to herself that this didn’t hurt.