• Published 15th Nov 2011
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Cloudy Skies and Distant Lands - J-Webb



Applejack & Rainbow Dash end up in a jungle and must find their way back to Equestria.

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The Memo

Cloudy Skies and Distant Lands

[Shipping | Adventure | Grim-dark | Sad]

Chapter 3: |
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*Note* This is the second fic in my series, if you have not read the first story this one will not make sense! Please read "Fading Colors" before reading this one! Fading colors can be found under stories on my page here on Fimfic.

---

A low-pitched tone resonated throughout Canterlot Castle, spreading to the far reaches of the castle grounds. The magical frequency operated in a strange way, growing quieter the closer one drew to its source.

A lone guardspony stood strong in front of the Hall of the Elements. The two Royal Princesses approached the guard and halted mere feet in front of him. Celestia bent down to match the guard's eye-level. "Make sure nopony enters," said Celestia to the royal guardsman. Without breaking his forward stare, the guard gave a slight nod in agreement and stepped aside to allow the princesses access. Celestia brushed past the pony and motioned for her little sister to follow. Once inside the hall, the Princess of the Sun used her magic to shut and lock the door.

A single red carpet ran down the length of the hall and stopped in front of a large purple and pink door. The door itself was framed in solid gold that stretched halfway up the wall. The Princess of the Sun knew the décor like the back of her hoof and paid it no mind as she started her walk towards the hall's end.

Luna quickly caught up with her sister and stepped into place beside her. "Tia, I have heard that sound before," she said.

Celestia chuckled slightly. "Indeed you have, little sister, a very long time ago," she said and returned her sister's confused expression with a gentle smile.

With every step the princesses took, the low-pitched hum decreased in volume, and carried with it the natural sounds of life.

The volume level produced by the call began to decrease. Luna's nerves stood on edge as she registered the eerie shift in pitch. "Sister, is it just me, or does the sound grow softer the closer we get?" she asked.

Celestia came to a halt mid-stride; elegantly, she turned to face her sister. "Luna, the sound is a call; a call to the Eternal Lands. It grows quieter because to access the Eternal Lands, one must hear death. True silence."

Luna contemplated the name for a moment. "The Eternal Lands? That sounds familiar," she said.

Celestia sighed uneasily. "Sister, I wanted to keep this from you for your own good. However, it seems like tough times are ahead for Equestria. Y-"

Luna's face filled with concern. "What do you mean, Tia?" she interrupted.

"I was just about to expla-"

"Sorry."

Celestia spun around and slowly made her way over to one of the many windows that adorned the special hall. Exhaling lightly, she glanced out across the land. The Hall of the Elements was built with view in mind, positioned high in the castle, allowing for a beautiful view of the surrounding lands. Celestia dragged her eyes across the palace garden and stopped them ever so often to take in further details of the many statues that stood tall in the moonlight. After a brief moment, she turned her vision to the night sky and watched as the stars twinkled silently against the darkened atmosphere. "Luna, do you remember when we discovered the Elements of Harmony and how we used them to stop Discord's rule over Equestria?" she asked without removing her vision from the sky.

The Princess of Night took stance beside her elder sister. "Yes, I remember big sister," she said.

Celestia lowered her gaze to the tiled floor. "That was our first trip to the Eternal Lands, Luna."

"Does that mean?" Luna asked as she watched her sister's expression change.

Celestia exhaled deeply, closing her eyes in an attempt to regain her composure. "Yes, sister, it means that we… died." The elder sister paused briefly to release her pent up breath yet again. "The raw magical power of the Elements of Harmony, combined with our magic, was enough to turn Discord into stone. However, the sheer force of power consumed us both instantly."

Luna was getting frustrated at her lack of memory. Anger built up inside of her that severed only to shorten her fuse. All of her anger came rushing out in a fury as she stomped her forehooves into the ground over and over again. "Then how are we-why can't I remember?" she demanded.

"In the Eternal Lands, we met with the spirits of the Elements of Harmony. The spirits silently watch over the world today, keeping a close eye on how things are running. We may run the kingdom and raise the sun and moon every night and day, but ultimately, they are the ones with the power to do fate's bidding. Every day, they do their best to watch over the land and interpret the messages from the Pool of Magic."

Luna calmed down enough to let her anger subside for the time being. "The Pool of Magic?" she said.

"The everlasting source of magical energy; it is said to have spawned the very first life forms. The original six reside in the Eternal Lands, the place that is rumored to hold the Pool of Magic. There they read the magical currents that come from the pool whenever someone in the living world casts a spell. Each current tells a different part of the past, present, or future, and they do their best to piece it together into a timeline."

The Princess of Night cast a long, drawn-out glance over the land. "How do you know so much, sister?"

A tense silence filled the room for a moment before Celestia spoke. "In the thousand years you spent on the moon, the Elements called for me in the Eternal Lands many times. During each of my visits, they would tell me something new about the history of Equestria. They told me of how they saw that the Pool of Magic foretold a new leader. Surely you remember the time when we tried combining our spells?" she asked with a quick smile aimed at her sister.

"I believe so, sister," said Luna as she returned her sister's smile with one of her own.

Celestia bent down slightly and gently nuzzled her sister's cheek before continuing. "The Elements told me that they read the magical current we produced. That current of magic revealed to them a picture of us ruling over Equestria, sister." She paused briefly to allow herself a moment to keep her emotions in check.

Thinking that her sister had finished speaking, Luna began to reply. "If magical currents are produced by the casting of a magical spell, how do non-Unicorns produce magical currents?" she asked.

"That was one of the first questions that I asked the Elements myself. As they've told me, the miracle of foal birth produces a strong magical current, no matter what the race. A pony also produces a magical current when they achieve great feats in their lives, such as gaining a Cutie Mark. After interpreting our combined magical current, the Elements carefully planned out fate's decision to have us rule. They hid the Elements of Harmony in a place where we would find them. We stood up and conquered Discord. However, we perished in the process. Once we arrived in the Eternal Lands, the spirits of the Elements granted us immortality, just like every previous ruler. They sent us back from the Eternal Lands so we could rule Equestria and bring peace once again," said Celestia.

"Discord once bore the Elements? How can that be? He's pure evil," said Luna with a tone of utter shock.

Celestia glanced at Discord's stone imprisonment just outside the window and gave a half-smile towards the slab of rock. Perhaps she was remembering back to a time when Discord was not evil, back to a time when she looked up to the immortal Draconequus. "Indeed he did bear the Elements. This is why he cannot be destroyed, only imprisoned in stone. After a long chat with the spirits, I discovered that Discord himself did not always use to be evil. In fact, he ruled Equestria peacefully for many millennia. However, he grew lonely from being the last of his kind and eventually became mad with power," she said.

Luna scrunched her face as she fought hard to recall the memories from all those years ago. "Sister, the last thing I remember is stopping Discord. After that, I can only recollect vague scenes. It feels as if something has clouded my memories," she said.

Celestia's composure slipped briefly as she recalled just what was clouding her sister's memories. A single teardrop fell from the corner of the Princess of Sun's eye and silently to the ground below. Luna watched intently as the tear rolled off her sister's cheek and barreled towards the floor. Luna was so wrapped up in the teardrop that the sound of her sister's voice, slightly horse and raspy, made her jump slightly. "We ruled Equestria for five hundred years before you rebelled, sister. But during those years your resentment grew, slowly filling you with hate until you snapped. The Elements knew you were far too powerful for me to defeat, so they summoned me to the Eternal Lands for a second time. When I got there, they bestowed the power of all six Elements on me. Since you are immortal, I imprisoned you on the moon for a thousand years. During that time, the magical energy from the Elements of Harmony worked hard to remove all the evil within you. A side effect from the magic also removed all the bad memories in your life. It is also the reason why we are no longer connected to the Elements," said Celestia. Tense moments passed without words. The low pitched humming from the end of the hallway continued to ring deeply in their ears, a pitch so low, that it managed to block out the sound of Celestia's teardrops as they splashed against the tiled floor. Celestia began to shake as she desperately tried to hold back most of her tears. "I'm sorry, Luna… It was the only way," she said.

Luna stepped in and closed the distance between her and her sister. She wrapped her forehooves around her sister's neck in and attempt to comfort the crying Alicorn. "Sister… I do not blame you. You did what you had to," she reassured.

"Thank you, Luna," Celestia said as her voice cracked from her emotional distress.

Keeping the embrace, the Princess of Night spoke again. "Tia, do you think that… our time will come like Discord's?" she questioned.

To Luna's surprise, her sister spoke as if she was ready for this question, which allowed her to regain some of her lost self-control. "The spirits refuse to tell me anything about the future." Luna released her sister, allowing her to continue. "We can only make an educated guess as to what will happen, Luna. All previous rulers faced the same fate. If fate repeats itself once again, so be it. We are immortal. Imprisonment in stone is the last thing we should let concern us," said Celestia.

The Princess of Night took a confident stance. "You're right, sister. We still have a kingdom to run after all," she declared.

Celestia chortled at her sister's bravado, drawing a sarcastic expression from her. "Come now, Luna, we have kept them waiting long enough. It's time for us once again to journey into the realm of the spirits." Without waiting for her sister, Celestia began to walk off in the direction of the hall's end.

Wasting no time, the younger sister trailed her elder sibling but came to an abrupt halt as she bumped into her backside, failing to notice that her sister had stopped.

Luna poked her head out from behind her sister. "Everything alright, Tia?" she asked.

Celestia glanced back to her younger sibling. "From this point on, sister, we will not be able to hear each other. Are you ready to proceed?"

"Yes," replied Luna as she walked past her sister and towards the door.

Together, the two princesses continued down the prestigious hall. The hollow sound of beating hooves on the carpeted flooring quickly diminished the closer they drew to the door. Their breath fell silent, and soft heartbeats quickly diminished to nothing. Pure silence took over Luna`s ears by the time the pair had reached the door. She cast her glance towards her sister. Celestia nodded back, pausing briefly before returning her attention upon the magical door. Carefully, Celestia slid her horn into the small hole in the middle of the panel. Suddenly, the door lit up; a powerful flash of blue light poured forth, lighting the surrounding area in a shimmering aura. Celestia stood proudly, basking in the welcoming glow of the magical light. Luna, on the other hoof, shied away from the glow, shielding her eyes from its brightness. A few seconds passed, allowing the magical glow to subside. The Princess of Night cautiously lifted her eye lids, revealing to her the almost empty room ahead.

The elder sister levitated the lone jewel-incrusted box from within the room, placing it gently upon the floor in front of them. Levitating the lid from the box, a final wave of silence cut through the air. The deep silence startled Luna; it was like nothing she had ever experienced before. Sensing her sister's distress, Celestia placed a comforting hoof upon Luna's shoulder, reassuring the Alicorn. Turning to her elder sister, Luna smiled as her vision faded to white.

---

Hastily, a lone pony dressed in a hooded black cloak descended a long, dark spiral staircase within Canterlot castle, his horn producing the only source of light. His hooves echoed loudly against the stone steps beneath him. He kept a quickened pace as he reached the bottom of the stairs, and crossed the dark cellar of the Royal Castle. Finally, he came to the back wall of the long, dark room. The pony paused for a second, looking the wall over for something. He glanced right, squinting from the lack of light. There, just a few feet from him, a brick stuck slightly further out of the wall than the rest. The pony approached the brick, carefully pushing it in with a forehoof.

The wall began to shift backwards, spewing forth dust and little bits of rubble. The pony stood back, watching as the wall swung open like a giant stone door. After a few seconds, the dust settled, revealing another set of spiraling stairs. The pony stepped through the newly made doorway. Taking in a sharp breath of air, he discovered the change in atmosphere instantly. The air felt heavy and stale from lack of filtration. The dank smell of mold invaded his senses, making him cough lightly. Onward he pressed, down the new set of stairs. Despite the air quality, his pace was much more relaxed this time, almost as if he felt no danger as he continued deeper into the blackened subbasement of the castle. He kept his eyes forward the whole time, ignoring the horrid stench from the moss-covered stone walls. His shadow lay cast out against the rounded stone, creating an eerie atmosphere from the lack of light. Many circles of stairs later, he came upon a wooden door standing alone in the lower bowels of Canterlot Castle, hidden away from the curious eyes of innocent ponies.

Stopping in front of the door, the pony let his light aura fade out, leaving him in complete darkness. Concentrating, he sent out two pulses of magical energy at the door. Just like before, the door swung open. Inside, a row of lit torches hung from the sides of the narrow hallway. The pony stepped in, closing the door behind him. Slowly, he began down the dimly light hall, the hallow echoes of his stride now replaced with the sounds of crunching dirt beneath his hooves. As he drew closer to the hall's end, the pony started to hear voices from up ahead.

"He will be here any minute; then we will know if it's time," said a deep voice.

"Well he better be here soon or we might miss our only chance," complained another.

"There he is!" exclaimed a third.

Reaching the end of the hallway, the pony stepped forward into the room. Books and miscellaneous objects lay scattered about on multiple tables. Torches lined the walls of the tomb-like room, casting shallow shadows of everything the light rays came in contact with. In the center of the room, a circle lay traced upon the floor with magical energy. The energy gave off a bright white aura which seemed to pulse like the beating of a heart. Inside the circle, a Cutie Mark was drawn out with the same magical energy. A Cutie Mark that has not been seen for many millennia. The mark depicted was that of a Unicorn's horn with a single star placed just above its point.

The hushed conversations of the room's inhabitants drew to a close as the lone pony stepped into view. He glanced around the room, counting heads as he dragged his eyes lazily from pony to pony. The tension in the room built; nopony dared to make a noise. When he was finished, the elder pony counted a total of nine heads, all wearing the same hooded black robe as him.

At last, the old pony spoke. "For generations, our secret society has lived under the shadow of Princess Celestia's wings, waiting for the opportunity to rid that filth of a Princess from this world." The elder Unicorn's voice echoed through the room, carrying with it a hyped-up energy matching that of a young stallion. "We will succeed where our ancestors have failed, for the time has come, brothers. The time has come to call upon Xanthos, the last of the forbidden four, for she will instruct us on what to do next," he said. A smile crossed his elderly face as his brothers burst into cheers of praise and happiness.

A middle-aged looking Unicorn stepped towards the elder and proceeded to greet him with a hoofshake. "So, Northern Star, are you ready to begin the ritual?" he asked.

"Yes, Graphite, we shall begin," answered the elder. "Take your positions around the circle, everypony."

The cult scrambled into action, all taking their designated positions around the circle. Northern Star walked slowly to his place at the head of the circle, showcasing his modesty in the midst of the other's chaos. Without warning the elder's horn started to emit a dark-red magical glow. Not missing a beat, the remaining nine ponies joined in, their horns all emitting the same magical color. A single beam of dark-red magical energy expelled forth from all their horns. The energy collided in the middle of the circle, forming a huge floating ball of pure red. Gracefully, the ball of magic slowly descended into the circle. The ponies broke their spells, each stepping back from the circle. The magical inscription flashed blood red. It suddenly burst into flames, creating a ring of fire around the cutie mark. A transparent sphere rose out of the smoke, displaying a dark, empty cave.

---

A lone white Pegasus trotted down the main street of the underground town. Her coat, dull and dirty from the nature of the city, looked even shaggier from a couple of scars she'd acquired from injuries long forgotten. Her fiery orange mane and tail swung lifelessly at her side. Down the middle of each, a faded streak of crimson presented itself like a dying fire.

To her, the underground city held a unique sense of beauty to it, one that could only come from no natural lighting of the sun. Sure it was dark most of the time from the lack of torches, but she had grown used to it over the years. She glanced from building to building, reminiscing back to when the town used to be small. She spent the latter half of her childhood here. This was her home. Her mind became lost in old memories. She remembered watching as more and more ponies joined their underground hideaway. Their town had become a small community of ponies all sharing the same desire, a new leader. They would all sit and listen to Xanthos' tales of how she and her three sisters once ruled the land. How they met and spoke with The Six. Xanthos was boastful and proud. Even in the telling of her defeat, she managed to sound honored.

The Pegasus drifted back to her first day here. Xanthos had taken her in, raised her as her own. It did not take long to find out that Xanthos was no regular Unicorn. She began training the young Pegasus and teaching her how to use her special talent to its full potential. Over the years, Xanthos began to become attached to the Pegasus, even treating her as a daughter. The white Pegasus laughed silently to herself. Xanthos' voice boomed suddenly throughout the cave, shattering the Pegasus's thoughts. Quickly, she turned off the main street, galloping towards her master.

---

Far back in the depths of the underground cavern, an older Unicorn mare lay asleep atop a pile of dead hay. Suddenly, a ball of flames burst into life in the center of the room. The commotion awoke the Unicorn instantly from her slumber.

Xanthos jumped from her makeshift bed at the sound. "Sky! What is the meaning of this?" she yelled.

The mare glanced around her darkened room, finding no sign of the white Pegasus. As she dragged her tired eyes across the room once again, she spotted a transparent orb hovering in the air.

The old Unicorn approached the sphere. As she drew nearer, faces of other ponies appeared within.

"All hail Xanthos the Shining!" the ponies chanted at the sight of the Unicorn. With barely a thought, Xanthos lit her horn. Even in her weakened state, her magical abilities still came as a second nature to the old Unicorn. Her magical light stretched fully across the room, leaving no shadow. It was as if she had dragged the sun down from the sky and placed it upon her horn.

The white Pegasus burst through the door to Xanthos' room, a small trail of fire crackled lowly behind her. Blocking her eyes from the intense light with a forehoof, she spoke to her master between breathes. "Xanthos, master, what troubles you?" she asked.

"Ah, Sky, my dear, it's nothing. I was just startled by this unexpected visit." Xanthos practically spat the last word, narrowing her eyes towards the orb.

Skyfire slowly removed her shielding hoof to reveal her master. Xanthos stood, horn a glow, staring deeply into some sort of floating orb. The Unicorn's jet black coat shone glossily in the bright light, and her blood red tail and mane lazily flicked ever so often. Despite knowing the elder one for so long, this was the first time she had ever seen her in such good lighting. After a moment to regain herself, the Pegasus joined her master's side. "What is it?" she asked with a glance up at the Unicorn.

Xanthos turned her gaze to the mare beside her. "An ancient communication spell, Sky. I haven't seen it used in many thousands of years," she remarked and returned her attention back to the orb.

"What is your purpose?" questioned the Unicorn.

"Xanthos, the legends are true. You still live," spoke the orb.

"Fool, I am immortal. I will never die!" boomed Xanthos, her tail flicking back and forth angrily.

"Of course. We do not mean to offend. But, if the legends are true, than you know of the Pool of Magic?" asked Northern Star, standing a firm ground.

Xanthos' anger dissipated instantly at the words. "Go on."

"Xanthos, your greatness, we are a part of the Princess's elite council, a set group of chosen masters of the magical arts. We serve to protect the Princess and her subjects; however, for as long as Celestia has reigned, our council has served another purpose unbeknownst to her: to locate the Pool of Magic and restore the forbidden four," said the old Unicorn.

Xanthos stood quietly for a while, staring blankly into the orb. "Does this mean you have found it?" she asked at last, a slight weakness present in her tone.

"After many years of research, we do believe so."

"Bring me the magical energy from the pool and the Elements of Harmony and I will grant your council ultimate power when my sisters and I reclaim the world," Xanthos promised with a bow of gratitude.

"It will be done, oh great one," said the old Unicorn. "But may I ask why you need the Elements? Surely the Princess will notice them missing?"

"And here I thought you kept up with the stories passed down over the years. The Elements of Harmony are keys to an ancient power even older than I. Bring them to me!" she demanded. "My camp lies beyond Equestrian borders. I will have scouts pick you up just to be sure you're not playing me for a fool," she hissed. "Now begone!" With a wave of her head, the orb disappeared.

"So… you may finally get your sisters back after all these years," Skyfire said calmly.

"Yes, then we shall conquer the world where we failed the last time," replied Xanthos, her tone deep and sinister.

Without warning, she cut the light, temporarily blinding Skyfire. The sensation of movement gripped tightly at the Pegasus; she closed her eyes tightly, knowing that Xanthos was teleporting her.

Opening her eyes again, Skyfire noticed that she now stood in a long tunnel, one she had never seen before.

"Where are we?" she asked her master.

"Come, Sky. It's time I showed you something." Xanthos started off down the tunnel. She lit her horn temporarily blinding the Pegasus once again.

---

A small tingling sensation crept its way up Luna's hind legs. It started off slow, building in intensity and speed with each passing moment. The feeling of constricted blood flow served as a wakeup call to the Alicorn, slowly releasing her from her unconscious state. After inhaling deeply to help her brain wake up, Luna exhaled sluggishly, producing a heavy yawn. Despite the lingering feeling of sleeping limbs, the Princess found her balance and pushed off the ground. Surveying her surroundings, the Princess of Night, took in for the first time, the true beauty of the world before her. She stood within a field of pure green grass, surrounded in all directions by evergreen trees. A lush wind blew past, bending the unkempt grass at its mercy. Looking to the tree's peaks, Luna caught her first glimpse of the sky. High above, a very different star shone down across the land. Squinting against its bright rays, Luna could make out the bright red tinge the new sun carried. As its rays expanded outwards, they created multiple shades of bright orange and red across the sky.

A strange feeling came over the Princess of Night as she continued gawking at the sky's beauty. The world's energy seemed to pulse into her soul with every inhale, bringing with it a comforting wave of relaxation. Luna did this now, letting the relaxation seep deeply into her body as she returned her gaze to eye-level. She allowed her eyes a moment to focus on the ground around her before letting that held breath gently escape from her lungs. She stretched quickly, starting with her forelegs and ending with the unfurling of her wings to full span.

Across the field from Luna, a narrow opening in the tree line stood easily recognizable against the dense trees on either side. Luna approached the small break in the trees with curiosity gleaming in her eyes. After reaching the clearing's edge, she peeked into the small opening. A dirt path, slightly faded from time, seemed to drag on forever. In places, the length of the grass on the trail matched that of the surrounding forest, making the path uneasy to follow. Tall evergreens lined both sides of the path far as the eye could see. Their thick, green needles blocked out most of the sun's red rays, giving the darkness ahead a reddish tinge. Intimidated by the pathway, the Princess of Night retracted her head from the opening. Glancing back to the field behind her, Luna's jaw dropped. In front of her, a seemingly endless row of trees now stood present.

"Where did the clearing go?" a puzzled Luna asked aloud as she tried to piece together what has happening.

Turning back to face the opening in the trees, the Alicorn peeked in once again. This time, however, she spotted a faint bright light in the distance. With a deep breath and a strong face, Luna braved the enclosed area. Once on the dirt path, she exhaled her pent up breath as her anxiety calmed. A rustling of branches rang out through the quiet forest. Startled, Luna whisked around, coming face-to-face with the trees behind her. With her entrance blocked, the Princess of Night was left with no choice but to move forward. With a nervous swallow of her saliva, she started advancing, using her magic as a light source against the creeping shadows of the blackened forest.

Luna pressed on, noting the eerie silence of the forest. A slick layer of sweat lay present on her coat. Her nerves stood on edge, anxiety at its peak. Further she traveled, waiting for the darkness to make its move, to push her over the edge. She allowed her eyes to wander from the trail in an attempt to keep calm. With her glance focused between the rows of trees, the dream realm made its next move. The ground below Luna vanished, dropping the Alicorn into the frigid black water below.

Caught off guard by the sudden plunge, Luna's magical concentration vanished. Everything went black. Deeper, and deeper, she sunk into the waters. Her brain panicked. Her body reacted. Desperately, she searched for a sense of up or down, finding nothing. Her lungs burned with a great desire for air. Luna knew she couldn't last for much longer. Instinctively, she opened her mouth to scream, only to have water replace air. She was choking now, desperately gasping for breath, as more water filled her lungs. Seconds ticked by, and Luna grew weaker. Her muscles convulsed violently, sending sharp signals of pain to her brain. With her vision fading, Luna braved herself for death's cold touch.

"Pbbthh!" sounded a muffled voice.

Luna barely registered the noise. She perceived the call to be the approaching hand of death. The Alicorn closed her eyes for what she thought would be the last time. Seconds later, the water had vanished. Light poured forth, illuminating her closed eyelids. Luna's body dropped lifelessly to the ground. Suddenly, her eyes opened wide. They searched the space above them, frantically fighting for an escape. The Alicorn's lungs burned ferociously, desperately trying to suck in the air. Staring up into the now bright sky, Luna's body remained still. A heavy presence made itself known to her, pressing hard against her chest. Water expelled from her lungs, exiting through her mouth and nose. Luna rolled over on the grass, violently coughing up mouthfuls of water. The sting of acid bit hard at the back of her throat as Luna doubled over again and emptied the contents of her stomach. Finally, she collapsed on her back, greedily inhaling lungfuls of air.

"Luna!"

Before she could register what was happening, Luna found herself whisked up into a tight, loving embrace.

"Sister?" Luna questioned the figure weakly.

"It's me, sister. I'm here."

They sat quietly. Luna shook immensely from shock, her face buried deep in Celestia's coat. She tried to cry but found no tears would come. The Princess of Sun stroked her sister's mane in an attempt to calm her.

"Luna, sister, what happened?" Celestia asked with a whisper.

Luna didn't answer. Instead, she continued to rest.

"This world is easily manipulated but does not take too kindly to the living," a voice unfamiliar to Luna said as he took a position next to the Princess of Sun.

Luna's vision swayed as she gazed up at the figure.

"Celestia and I were just catching up. It was my fault for leaving you alone," he apologized and offered Luna a hoof.

Luna accepted the offering and allowed herself to be helped up. Once on all four hooves, the Alicorn's vision started to clear, allowing her to pick out more specific details of the strange figure.

The stallion stood taller than Celestia herself. His coat resembled a color of a translucent light-blue with a blue mane that flowed gracefully like Luna's own.

The light-blue Alicorn chuckled lightly. "Yes, I guess I do look a bit… silly," he said with a glance at the Princess's facial expression.

"It… is rare that I get to see another Alicorn, besides my sister, is all. Not to mention you are…"

"See-through?" he interrupted.

"Yes," said Luna.

"This isn't my true form. I am but a spirit now. What I used to look like is irrelevant. I just thought you two would like a form that is more appealing to your tastes," he explained to her with a little wink for added effect.

Luna blushed. "I must look terrible," she stated. "I feel terrible…"

"Of course. Where are my manners? I am the spirit of the Element of Magic. You can call me Magic for short. Now, let's get you cleaned up and into some place nicer."

Luna blinked. When her eyes opened again, she stood in the middle of a room. A sudden wave of warmth washed over her. Surveying herself, Luna found that her coat was no longer soaking wet and matted, but dry and groomed. The soft crackle of fire sounded off to Luna's left. She glanced toward the fire, feeling its warm inviting hand pull her forward.

"How did we get here?" she asked as she watched Magic and her sister step towards the fire.

"I teleported us here. Come now, Luna. You know magic, do you not?"

Luna joined the others around fire. "Usually magic takes longer than just a blink of an eye," she remarked.

"Please, have a seat," the spirit said.

"But there-" Stopping mid-sentence, Luna glanced behind her. Much to her surprise, a huge pillow now lay on the ground. Baffled by the pillow's sudden appearance, Luna sat quietly.

The spirit chucked lightly at the Alicorn's behavior. "Luna, your actions are much like the first time you visited here. It seems not much has changed in 1500 years."

Luna fell silent, a blank expression plastered upon her face as her brain searched for a response.

"Uh, forgive me, I know the troubles you have faced," the spirit said with a sympathetic expression.

Having decided that her sister had had enough torment, Celestia broke her silence. "Magic, is there something important you called upon us for?"

"As a matter of fact there is, Celestia. However, in order for you to understand the future, you must first understand the past." With a flick of his head, their vision faded to black.

---
An orb of light appeared far in the distance, capturing Luna's attention. Rapidly, the object grew in size. Doubling, tripling, there was no end to its massive size. The Princess of Night braced herself. The light was very strong now, almost engulfing her. Another second ticked by, and the light seemed to dim. A new object floated in place of the light. The sphere was covered in lush green and blue. Earth. With the setting now established, Magic began his story.
"The Elements and I were among the first life forms to appear on the planet. Truth be told, we had no idea of how we came to be. We grew up, just like your species does today. However, once we matured, we stopped aging. It didn't take us long to discover that we possessed a great deal of magical power. Together, we used our raw magical energy to create numerous different species. The making of a creature is a very complex task. At first, we had no standard for how long the average life should be. The Dragons and Draconequus were created first and hold the longest lifespan. As the years progressed, we created different intelligent life forms. The Deer came next, after that, the Griffins. Then the Alicorns, Pegasi, Unicorns, and Earth ponies were created, followed closely by the Zebras."

A scene of great vegetation, all alien to Luna, appeared before her eyes. These early plants were colossal in comparison to those of today. Exotic flowers and trees sprung from the ground only to grow rapidly to their matured age. Dragons and Deer frolicked about and soon they were joined by others. Griffins and ponies of all types appeared. It became clear to Luna, that this was a time-lapse of the very beginnings of life.

"Time passed and we found it strange to watch the others around us grow old and die. Many thousands of years passed. Over those years, we built up a colony and we watched as all life flourish together in perfect harmony. Then came the day when some of the species wished to expand across the globe to find a new home. At that time the other spirits and I still wished to watch over everyone. Using our combined magical energy we created six rings, The Elements of Friendship. Each ring held its own special meaning: Love, trust, compassion, sympathy, support, and concern. Each of us took the ring that we represented. The rings were magical and allowed us to communicate far across the lands. At the time, we still did not know the full extent of our magical abilities. The rings did a lot more than we had planned them to. They possessed the ability to boost any magical charge, multiplying the power tenfold.

Once we realized what power the rings held, we decided to combine their power with our own. We created an artifact of incomprehensible magical ability, the Horn of Power. It was then that we discovered our lifespan. After the Horn of Power was created, we knew something was wrong. All of us felt weak, like we had lost a part of ourselves. We brushed it off at the time, thinking it to be just a side effect of the massive amount of magical energy we used. I kept the Horn of Power, and we all went on our separate ways to travel with the species as they spread across the land."

A beam of white exploded into the sky. Lightning crackled, and thunder roared. Trees cracked and fell from the shockwave. Flowers uprooted and took to the sky like feathers caught in a breeze. Luna steadied herself as the shockwave approached her. With shut eyes and gritted teeth she waited. But the force never came. She opened her eyes again to find no sign of the shockwave. Down from the beam of light descended a translucent, rainbow-colored headpiece. Luna recognised the crown-like shape of the object. A hollow Unicorn horn extended from the crown's base, with swirls of color racing up the horn. Luna stood in awe of the artifact and watched in amazement as the color of the horn changed continuously. Magic's voice once again rang in her head.

"Another thousand years went by, and all the species were flourishing. We grew weaker, and they stopped coming to us for help. After realizing that they could live on their own, we decided to retreat back to our temple. The six of us lived in that temple holding on tightly to our last magical energies we possessed. The world was still young. It still needed a ruler. We drew up a map and split the world into four different sections each designed to have a ruler. So we sat and waited in that temple for hundreds of years before we found the perfect four."

Standing before Luna, a stone staircase rose up into the sky. At the top, a temple stood strong against the currents of time. Four ponies stepped around Luna and began ascending the staircase. She watched them hike up the absurdly high stairs. Two Pegasi, one Unicorn, and one earth Pony all climbed in unison, step after step.

"We called upon them to join us at our temple and they came. We taught them our ways over many years. Watched as they matured into four strong mares. Xanthos. I taught her all I knew about magic. She was the only Unicorn of the four. I selected her to lead the Deer and pony races in what is now Equestria and the Great Jungle. Vae'ei. A Pegasus elected to lead the Griffin Kingdom, trained by the Elements of Loyalty and Honesty. They taught her everything they could about flying. Ra'nouk, the second Pegasus of the four. She was the stronger flier, requiring no training. She did however need to learn a thing or two about generosity and kindness. She was to lead the Dragons and Draconequus in what is known today as the Dragon Lands. Then came the final of the four, Ahe'da'vii, an earth pony. She was chosen to lead the Zebra race in the far off lands. She was taught the ways of laughter to brighten the spirits of everyone around her. After we felt that their training was complete, we knew that our time had come. I had built us a chamber in the basement of our temple to serve as our resting place. In the center of the room, buried beneath the floor, lay the Horn of Creation, waiting for someone to discover it. Each of us, adorned with our rings of Friendship, our symbolic meaning of true friendship, put our magic together one last time."

The ponies disappeared over the top of the stairs. Moments later, a beam of light burst through the temple's roof. Luna watched the beam ascend to the stars above. Something inside the beam caught her eye. She squinted for a better look. Six orbs of light rode inside the beam, propelled into the skies by an unknown force. The light faded and the beam vanished. All was quiet. All was darkness.

"In our final moments, we discovered our true selves. It took us all those years to realize that we stood for perfect harmony. During the casting of our final spell, the others and I felt a special connection, one I have yet to feel again. Using our final traces of magical energy, we bestowed upon the four our own raw magical currents, granting them similar abilities. But, to keep the world in perfect harmony, we also created six representations of ourselves for whoever may rise to represent us. The four saw no reason for the Elements and left them on top of our caskets.

Everything faded away in an instant and we awoke here, a place we now call, the Eternal Lands. After many years spent wandering the colossal landscape, we discovered the source of all magical energies. Every so often, a ray of magic would shoot from the pool, allowing us to capture it's timeline of the past, present, or future.

"Time continued on and we watched over the four. They split up, each taking rule over their set district. Things went so well in the beginning. The population thrived. A sense of acceptable behavior was established, a sense of rule. But then the four grew bored with time. They didn't want to sit around watching for all eternity. We should have expected it. They began ruling with an iron fist and the world plunged into chaos. Harmony was broken. The Elements rang out, drawing in six bearers to find them and restore harmony once again.

The six marched into battle against the four, only to fall short. Their untimely deaths caused uproar from all over of the globe. The four, weakened from battle, snatched up the Elements of Harmony and went into hiding. They took refuge in our temple. It was there that they found the horn. They discovered the power of the horn. Power that we were afraid to use. They launched a worldwide attack, exterminating any and all who stood in their way. With the Horn of Power at their disposal, they built an army. War washed over the world, every race for themselves. The Deer, being the most magical of all creatures, were most susceptible to the horn. As a result, their entire species was wiped from the earth.

War waged on for a couple of years. The Draconequus would not stand for this. They set out to take down the four, but their magic was not enough, and all but one perished. Vowing revenge, Discord took it upon himself to vanquish this evil from the world. His journey lead him to our temple, to the Elements of Harmony. Discord took the four by surprise. Using the power of the Elements with his own magic, a great duel was held between the two sides. When the smoke had cleared and the dust settled. Discord stood victorious over them. All but Xanthos were turned to stone. She had managed to flee in the final moments of the battle. We called upon Discord and in the Eternal lands he met with us. We came to the decision to have him rule. We granted him immortality and sent him on his way. Harmony was restored to the world. Peace at last. Discord did what was right. He moved out of the Great Jungle and into what is now Equestria. Once there, he built a castle and locked away the horn in its basement. He then locked away the door's keys in our temple, hoping nobody would ever stumble upon the door they fit.

Discord was a great ruler, but he longed for companionship. He was a Draconequus living in a pony's paradise. He became lonely and started playing tricks on others to bring himself joy. His tricks grew nastier and nastier as time passed. The Alicorns had enough and threatened to dethrone Discord, but he had other plans. Discord attacked the Alicorn race and harmony was once again broken. Ponies went into hiding as Discord continued to wreak havoc over Equestria. Soon after, we pulled your combined magical current from the pool. You two were barely matured at the time, but it was worth a shot. We moved the Elements to a place where you would stumble upon them, and when you did, you knew. For the sake of your own, and all the other species, you two rose up and battled discord."

The scenes before their eyes dissipated and returned them back to the room.

"Is this what you called us here for, Magic?" asked Celestia.

"Now that you fully comprehend the past, you will understand my warning to you. The four seek to rise once again. But you two cannot stop them. No, it must be the six present representations of the Elements. They will be the ones to stop the world from losing harmony once more."

"But they're so young. They still have so much to learn. Surely it will be a death sentence?" said Luna.

"That's not what you said to Rainbow Dash about her trial, Princess. In fact, her and Applejack's trial has already begun, which for the most part could prove to be problematic."

"Their trial started?" asked both Princesses simultaneously.

"Indeed it has, currently they are lost just outside of Dragon territory."

Celestia hopped of her pillow. "What!" she cried out in rage. "Why was I not informed of this?"

"It is not my duty to do so, Princess. Besides, you know one should never interfere with the trial."

"How did they even get out that far?" questioned Luna, who had also taken to standing.

"A little spell mishap."

"Oh, Twilight…" Celestia sighed, dropping her tone.

"Do not blame her, Princess. Fate saw an opportunity and took charge. Whatever you do, you mustn't interact with the six until they get back. If you do, grave consequences can occur. Twilight and the others will come visit you soon. You need to point them in the right direction, it is important that they meet up in the jungle. Fear not for their safety. They are more than capable of making it back."

Celestia and Luna locked glances, their expressions exchanging silent words of worry and fear.

"Tough times are ahead, Celestia and Luna. Your kingdom needs you now more than ever. When the six return to Equestria from the Great Jungle, you will give them this information. Tell them that they need to find the six rings of Friendship that were stolen from our tomb many millennia ago. Combining the six rings with the six Elements of harmony will provide enough power to break the bonds of the four's immortality and destroy them once and for all."

The once inviting wooden room began to dissolve. The strange, silent wind of the afterworld washed over them like a wave. Once the room had vanished, the three stood in a familiar field of grass. A chill ran up Luna's spine as she recalled what happened only hours ago. A dark purple portal opened up in front of the three, illuminating the surrounding area in a mild lilac glow.

"It is time for us to part ways. For now," said Magic as he looked from one Princess to the next.

"Thank you for this warning, Magic," said the Princess of Day with a bow of her head.

"I do not wish for the world to suffer from old foes. They need to be stopped for good."

"Understood. Come, Luna, we have business to attend to." With that, Celestia stepped forward into the portal, disappearing into a haze of purple smoke.

The ghostly Alicorn turned to Luna. "Until we meet again, Princess," he said with a bow and held the position.

Luna stopped in front of the spirit. "Thanks for saving my life. It was nice to meet you. Again," she said with a shy smile. Without thinking, she leaned in and planted a kiss upon the spirit's forehead before disappearing into the portal after her sister.

---

Several Hours Earlier.

---

"Starlight, Nexus! Gather the supplies. It is time to travel into the Eternal Lands."

"Yes, Northern Star," chimed the two ponies. A flurry of hoof-beats echoed off the walls of the underground hideaway, sending a sign of compliance to the elder Unicorn.

"You know this is a very narrow opening, right?" Graphite asked the elder.

"It's our only opening. It's now or never."

The gray Unicorn nodded in agreement, moving to his next question. "Surely Princess will have the room guarded?"

"Ah, and that's where you come in my dear boy," said Northern Star. A slow, creeping smile formed across his lips.

---

"Guards! Guards!" Graphite cried out as he ran down the corridor towards the Hall of the Elements. Once in front of the door, he collapsed, breathing heavily.

"What's wrong, Graphite?" the guardspony asked as he rushed to the Unicorn's side.

The gray pony jumped back to his hooves and took off down the hall. "Its, Northern Star. He's collapsed!" he yelled back as the guard took off to catch him.

At the other end of the hall, two Unicorns peek around the edge. "Our time to shine," said the white Unicorn as he stepped into the hallway. A purple Unicorn reached out and clamped his teeth around the faded-yellow tail of his friend and pulled him back around the corner.

"Hey! What was that for!" he said angrily with a shove of the purple Unicorn.

The purple pony fell backwards, landing hard on his haunches. His light blue mane draped over his face covering his eyes.

"For Celestia's sake would you keep it down, Starlight, are you trying to get us caught?" he said as he blew the hair from his eyes.

Starlight began swaying back and forth in a joking manner. "Geez, Nexus, calm your mane. I'm just having a little fun," he replied.

Quickly, Nexus jumped to his hooves and forcefully stopped her friend's antics. "Careful! You don't want to smash those vials or Northern Star will have your head," he said.

"Fine, have it your way…" said Starlight as he began to skip down the hall.

Nexus took after him, cautious not to attract any unwanted attention.

"Here we are, the Hall of the Elements," said Starlight. He paused for a brief moment to study the door's lock. Once he deciphered the magical current used to lock the door, his horn began to glow and he shot a magical current of his own into the lock. The sound of turning gears filled the silent corridor, the sound was loud enough to make the two Unicorns freeze in fear, the sound stopped and the door popped open. The two ponies slipped through the crack and shut the door behind them.

Once inside, the two Unicorns made their way down the prestigious hall towards the Elements of Harmony.

"Are you ready, starlight?" asked Nexus, as he glanced from Element to Element.

"How much do you think these would sell for?" questioned the other Unicorn. Nexus turned to see he friend closely inspecting the Element of Kindness.

Nexus sighed loudly and threw his own hoof against his face in frustration. Without waiting for an answer from starlight, he began the spell to open the portal into the Eternal Lands.

With the spell concluded, he looked to his friend. Starlight was holding the Element on Generosity now. He bit down on the golden frame hard, testing the gold's authentication.

"Figures they'd put me with the idiot…" Nexus said without a care of his friend hearing the comment.

Starlight dropped the jewelry. "What was that buddy?" he asked as he turned towards his friend.

His eyes caught sight of the royal-purple portal that now floated just feet in front of him. "Whoa…" he said with a trail of his voice. Starlight reached his hoof out and touched the portal. Without warning, he was sucked up in a cloud of purple smoke.

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