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Equestria was not always the land of peace and plenty that it is today.  Once, long ago, the land was filled with dangerous beasts and terrible monsters.  But you’d be hard pressed to realize this from the history books, for records from those times are few and far between.  In fact Equestria’s historical records are littered with gaps and spaces.  Entire eras and civilizations lost to history, known of by only a few ponies.

Daring Do is one of those few.

She has learned that lies in those historical gaps;  dead empires, extinct species, and monsters of immense power.  More than that, she has learned that not all of those ancient monsters are dead and buried.

Some persist even to this day.

And some hide in plain sight.

Tenth Place in the July 2016 Write-Off Event: End of an Era.

First Published
19th Mar 2017
Last Modified
19th Mar 2017
#1 · 1w, 3d ago · · ·

A nice piece of work. Some of the terrors I cound identify (and I'm glad you didn't limit yourself to Sun and Moon), and some I couldn't. Well done.

Nopony went out digging around in the dirt! That wasn’t what archeology was all about! Instead a true archeologist dug through books! Searched through libraries, compared bibliographies, and cross-referenced citations. Anything you really needed to know about the past had already been catalogued, written about, and filed away after all. So why bother sullying your hooves?

I was immediately reminded of Lord Dorwin from the original Foundation Trilogy, who thought that this was exactly how archeology worked. Him and most of the Empire, it seemed.

#2 · 1w, 3d ago · · ·

>>8034109

Indiana Jones anyone?

#3 · 1w, 3d ago · · ·

I loved this, absolutely loved it. Twilight being goofy was a little off putting, but a good way to set the scene so to speak, and I'd love to read more like this. You obviously have a great imagination for these sorts of things, and it makes Equestria itself more interesting. Most stories with the theme of hidden pasts tend to be human vaults or things of that nature, not that many of those aren't good, it was just very refreshing to see something completely different.

#4 · 1w, 2d ago · · ·

Very good, and that's a clever way of looking how the past could be obscured without much in the way of active propaganda. It was perhaps a bit genocide-ey even by the standards of human history, but then we've never had to coexist with actually different intelligent beings: I somehow doubt we would have been even as successful as the Equestrians. :fluttercry:

Not magic stealing bag, rainbow of darkness. Turns ponies into monsters.  :pinkiecrazy:

Liked the callbacks to G1 villains - Arabus, Crunch the Rockdog (was that Squirk, or just a Sharktopus? :pinkiehappy: ) But no Grogar? :

#5 · 1w, 2d ago · 3 · ·

“You do realize that everything I did… everything… Was for the benefit of my little ponies, right?”

That always does seem to be the excuse, doesn't it.

#6 · 1w, 2d ago · · ·

>>8036959 it is. It needs to be, else one recognizes itself as the genocidal monster it is. Even if it was needed at the time... But was it? While the doubt exists, while the guilt holds one in it's icy grips, everything is going to be alright.

When they change, though, you have the modern heroes, elements of harmony, of hooves unsullied by blood. If they fall, most likely for the lack of a warrior's determination to do whatever it takes...

That's when the one who knows the truth acts. Who knows the truth, and had found that which one gave pause to the monsters that sit upon their guilded thrones.

Those portrayals of the elder princesses always divide me. Not if I like them, for well written they are damn good, but about what would purple smart do. It mostly depends on how fanatical is her (let's be honest) blind faith and devotion for Celly is.

Would she dismiss the search of such knowledge, believing the lies being told by her supposed "equal"? How would Celestia bear that guilt? If you go with immortal Twilight interpretation, it becomes even worse, for sooner or later her thirst for knowledge shall take the best of her.

Now, what if she realized she's been lied to? Would she search for the truth? How would she react? Not only abut conquest - that's a normal part of empires - but about genocide. Purges. Killing if Innocents on a scale greater than most - if not all - of her enemies. Would she believe such a being can actually be redeemed? What stops them from doing it again? Could Twilight make herself fight or even kill them if needed?

There are fics that go there, I think. Can't remember one now, though. But I did like this one, and Daring's realization that the greatest monster of them all invited her for tea just makes it that me special :twilightsmile:

#7 · 1w, 2d ago · · ·

I find it amusing that Daring is only still alive to have that conversation because Celestia cannot easily be slotted into the 'monster' box Daring's made for her.

#8 · 1w, 2d ago · 1 · ·

>>8034109

Thanks, glad you liked it!  I tried to use villains from earlier generations of MLP but, to be honest, I know very little of those settings.  So mostly I used critters from the show, or earlier villains who I've learned of more or less through osmosis.  Plus a few I just made up.  

I'll also admit that the first book of the Foundations Trilogy was the inspiration for that part of the story.  Mind you, that was as far into the series as I got.  I found the whole "Able to predict the future development of an entire civilization with incredible accuracy" part to be rather ridiculous.  But I always remembered the part where serious academics never sullied their hands actually looking for evidence but just referenced earlier works.  :pinkiesmile:

>>8034622

Yeah, I made Twilight a tad goofy... But even in canon she's a rather major fan filly.  Heck, she was so excited to find out that Daring Do was real that she stood there watching as she fought of a gang of thugs instead of helping!  :twilightsheepish:

>>8036708

Well, if it's any consolation, most of the genocides weren't performed by Celestia or Luna.  But when it's kill or be killed, and genocide or be genocided, well...  I imagine that Celestia and Luna at least tried to parlay with other species before blasting them, which would be more consideration than many of the other monsters would show.  (I imagine that long ago the Griffons ran into Ponies and were savvy enough to realize that this prey had protectors with very sharp claws.  And/or they encountered the Sisters after Ponykind had achieved enough safety and security that they could give their enemies a smack on the nose as opposed to going straight for the throat...)

Ah, Grognar... Forgot about him.  As I said, not actually that familiar with G1 villians.  I made one or two monsters up, and the rest I mostly leaned by osmosis...  I could have put a line in there about the Ram of the Bells or some such... Oh well!

>>8036959

The line between excuse and justified explanation is a blurry one.  In this case, Celestia regrets the necessity of doing the things she did.  She certainly regrets some of the specific actions she took, and mistakes she made.  And she regrets the fact that the discovery of her past actions has made one of her ponies fear her.  But she doesn't regret doing whatever she felt she had to to keep her people safe.  And Daring Do is pragmatic enough to recognize that if Celestia hadn't done those things, her entire civilization wouldn't exist.  (After all, she's had personal run ins with some of Celestia and Luna's 'contemporaries,' and they're all far from as pure as new fallen snow.)  

>>8037479

As addicted to book learning as Twilight is, I doubt she'd go 'digging to find the truth' anyplace other than a library.  Which means she'd hit the same dead ends that Daring Do did.  But if she did find out the truth, from Daring, her own research, or even Celestia herself... I think she'd be shocked and horrified, and Celestia would be unsurprised but still hurt by her reaction. It would certainly change the way Twilight viewed her mentor, but I think she'd get over it in time.  Especially if she is immortal, since she'll eventually experience the same thing herself.

One of the main themes I had in mind for this story is how cultures and morality change over time.  For mere mortals it's not a big deal, because the world can only change so much in one lifetime.  We change and adapt generation by generation.  An immortal can change and adapt as well... But they're still the same person.  It wasn't great-great-great-great-great-grandpa who ordered Carthage burned to the ground, or forced the Indians on the Trail of Tears or who had deformed babies thrown into a pit.  It was you, and you were simply living, acting, and behaving as society and culture of the time deemed appropriate.  

So if Twilight is truly immortal...

:trollestia: So, yeah.  I kinda exterminated whole civilizations to keep Ponykind safe and non-extinct.  

:twilightoops: That's horrible!  You can't just run around murdering people!  You should have won them over with love and kindness!  What you did was monstrous!  

:trollestia: Well, things were different way back then.  you'll understand when you're older.

-----1,000 years later -----

:scootangel::applecry::unsuresweetie:  You and your friends used to keep sheep and cows penned up like animals??  That's horrible!  You can't treat thinking beings like second class citizens!  That's monstrous!

:twilightblush:  Well, yes, but... It was a long time ago, and things were different then...

:facehoof: Why does this sound so familiar?

:trollestia: Welcome to immortality, Twilight.  Now do you see why I never funded historians?  

>>8039067

Actually, Daring has Celestia slotted in a box marked "Monster, Friendly."  Which, honestly, is pretty accurate in this case.    :raritywink:

Which is why Daring Do censors her own stories.  She and Celestia are more or less on the same side; they both want to preserve pony civilization and maintain peace and harmony.  Publishing the full truth would hurt Celestia and Equestria as a whole, and no one wants that.  On the other hand, she's seen enough to realize that what everyone thinks is a friendly poodle is actually a friendly wolf.  And as such it might be prudent to keep a weapon or two handy just in case the wolf stops being friendly...

#9 · 1w, 1d ago · · ·

I wonder how long it took Celestia to track down Daring's insurance policy. Very unwise of Daring to openly make herself a threat to Equestria.

#10 · 1w, 1d ago · · ·

Yeah, you do have a point.. Twilight can be majorly goofy at times, it's just become less common recently so it wasn't at the forefront of my mind, but you're right, she did watch Daring Do fight and just watch with her mouth hanging open, like it was the best play ever. XD! Still, I would LOVE to see more like this, are you planning on expanding on this or writing something along the same lines?

#11 · 1w, 1d ago · · ·

"(I imagine that long ago the Griffons ran into Ponies and were savvy enough to realize that this prey had protectors with very sharp claws. "

Well, there are a lot of species which managed to co-exist with Ponies: Minotaurs, Gryphons, Donkeys, Cows (symbiotic relationships?), Buffalo, Diamond Dogs (which are a problem, but do seem more a nuisance than an actual menace), and Dragons, which seem like they would be an existential threat if anything is (so much that the writers did a whole bullshit world-building episode to Nerf them :twilightangry2:).

Thinking about it, there's odd world-building in that an entire species is all in one small location suitable for exterminatin.' Nations are localized, species aren't: they spread to the limits of the environment they are suited for, and intelligent species can handle most environments. Humans spread all over the Old World thousands of years before agriculture. Perhaps this is a sign of an actual divine creation, with species created already with farms and cities (so they will be less likely to wander) in restricted locations, and perhaps  fairly recently to boot. Or maybe the fact that the cat people were only in one location to die fighting Ponies was an indication they had actually been losing for a long time: they'd never been able to coexist with other species, and weren't that good at exterminating them, either. (Hm. The problem of multiple intelligent species evolving simultaneously is a doozy in of itself: it again seems to argue for a magical creation rather than a normal biological process).

(Sorry. I tend to overthink these things. :twilightsheepish: )

#12 · 1w, 1d ago · 1 · ·

>>8039324 I dunno, "I poured lava on a city full of kids!" is kind of crossing a moral event horizon, at least in my view. :rainbowlaugh:

(Don't get me wrong, though; it's a great story.  It makes me want to punch Celestia in the noseparts, but that's probably part of why it's great. :rainbowlaugh:)

#13 · 1w, 1d ago · · ·

And thus things are hidden, are lost, and the history of pre-Equestria sinks into the abyss.

#14 · 1w, 1d ago · · ·

I'll also admit that the first book of the Foundations Trilogy was the inspiration for that part of the story.  Mind you, that was as far into the series as I got.  I found the whole "Able to predict the future development of an entire civilization with incredible accuracy" part to be rather ridiculous.  But I always remembered the part where serious academics never sullied their hands actually looking for evidence but just referenced earlier works.  :pinkiesmile:

Borrow from the best, I always say. After all, Lord Dorwin was very good at what he did...

Oddly, I didn't find the premise ridiculous - the statistical nature of the exercise was always made quite clear. The interest was on how it played out in practise (Seldon was predicting the broad flow of society, not forseeing the future as such). The fact that it is a statistical prediction becomes more important in the second and third books, where things start to go badly wrong.

#15 · 4d, 5h ago · 1 · ·

While this was well written, I have some reservations. Celestia (and probably Luna too) seems to have learned nothing from her experiences. No regret, no doubt, no guilt. Seriously, after doing the things that she did, she ought to have a lot of regret and shame about her past.

I really would have liked Daring to have the last word in the conversation, something like, "If there is one thing that I have learned, it is that monsters, for all of their power, lack the courage to face what they have done. So they find ways to lie to themselves. They justify. They will say 'I had no other choice,' or 'I did it for the greater good.' In the end all they succeed in is deluding their own selves." She could then follow up with, "If there is one thing that I have learned, it is that all monsters eventually die, and usually it is by the hoof on another monster." Just to show that she is completely aware of what Celestia did and while she isn't going to tell anybody, she knows what she's done.

#16 · 3d, 22h ago · · ·

Ok, here's what I don't get:

Before Luna was banished, they still had the elements of harmony. So why not just reform the other races into being friendly and coexisting with the ponies instead of exterminating them? Massive plot hole in an otherwise well-crafted philosophical piece.

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