• Published 16th Sep 2018
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Timberwolves: Guardians of the Everfree - Keystone Gray

A research paper on the timberwolves, exploring their creation, purpose, and their connection to the Everfree Forest.

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9. On the Importance of Letting Go, by Princess Luna

On the Importance of Letting Go

By Princess Luna

Eater of Shadow

Eva ful na meyuzh, nai 'yuut autre.
Fi chai nai sho-la es eva sahtt vel.
Nai ful nei kahl ret uzh memki, Vorku
Nyei vida es drema na a aksur kehl.

To stain the mind, scar the heart, and smother love in its cradle, look no further than dark magic.

By now, all of Equestria knows of my crime, where I betrayed all and became the dreaded Nightmare Moon. I make no secret of my misdeeds of the past. It could not be a secret even if I wished it to, for any who turned up to my night sky saw the evidence emblazoned on the surface of the moon. My very existence had become a cautionary tale against hubris.

I've felt true darkness. One cannot imagine the way such magics gripped my soul and turned it black, feeding itself with recurring anger as necessary. It granted limitless power, but at the cost of everything else. It acted a blindfold, preventing me from seeing my own folly. It was a comfortable drug, an escape from my limitations. It was a blanket of straw, acting as tinder and burning me alive with wanton spite. I felt I could do anything, and often more than anything.

It was a continuous, cycling chain of hatred, one that could not be broken by words or reason. I had not given Celestia any other choice but to banish me. And what did I first do, when I sprung free from my prison a thousand years on? I scoffed. Lost time was trivial to me. Meaningless. Nothing. Still under the influence of the darkness, I could not understand how incredibly lost I would be, or how different the world had become, or how powerful its magics still were. I became arrogant. I faltered and failed. In this failure, I was finally disarmed of the darkness in my soul.

No pony would have doubted Celestia had she returned me to exile, banishment, or worse. Even as I write this, there are still elements of Equestrian society that would see me driven from the land and my royal office, and to them I hold no ill will, for even today I still work to regain their trust. But at the very instant of my Reunification with Celestia, the dark cloud was lifted from my eyes. With the darkness excised, the weight of my crimes crashed down upon me. I could finally see it then, the harm I had caused to those who loved me. I was no longer blinded, nor possessed. Then came the remorse.

I imagine that Celestia had spent a millennium thinking of what to say to me upon my return. As she looked down at me in my defeat, I was at her mercy, to be crushed or cast out. But even after what I had done, and after all that time in between, she still considered me family. She still offered forgiveness. Kindness. Love. So here I stand, once more at her side as an equal, and I have since striven to earn this forgiveness every day, again forever in service to Equestria. May I learn, and may I never fail you again, my little ponies.

Alpine once considered me family too, as he was the closest friend I had ever known in life. But to use dark magic was as heavy a betrayal to a deer as any could be. Alpine's feelings fell from deep fondness and affection to revulsion and pain, and so great was his disappointment that he cursed my very name in his memoirs. I cannot fault him. You now know of the harm Sombra wrought upon Alpine's beloved forest. Dark magic became the most illicit act in their kingdom; even today, conviction for its practice carries the penalty of death. For this, Luna became a term synonymous with betrayal.

Much has changed since the old times. Our own race has been beyond the Everfree Forest for so long that many do not even remember we were ever there. Our seat of power is now in Canterlot, a land once foreign to me. Our roads are safer to travel, free of brigands and carnivorous beasts. Our diplomatic relations with other nations have civilized such that war is infrequent and bordering on rare, with trade and discourse being the norm and not the exception. The definition of "town" has changed as well. In my day, such a term meant that the settlement had a guarded border wall, but this is often no longer required.

Technologies and modes of transportation exist that I could not have even fathomed in the old days, such as airships of wood and canvas, or naval ships of metal and coal. Trains, steam power, electricity, new methods of crop cultivation. Vast unwalled cities stand unopposed and unassailed at the shores of our continent, made of more concrete and steel than I could have ever dreamed of, without any fear of pirates and raiders sacking and razing their homes from foreign shores.

I learned the new legal provisions, learned of our major cities, of where the conflicts laid, and of each nation's relationship with ours. Our culture, our artistry, and even our very language has changed, and with it our very way of life. Despite the difficulty presented by all of this new knowledge, I have brought myself fully up to speed in the years since my return. My capability now matches that of long ago, and my sister and nation have welcomed me back most graciously, for which I am ever thankful.

In the early months immediately following my return, I moved to confront my shortcomings and reconcile where and when I could. Reconciling with those one has betrayed is difficult indeed when time has claimed them all. But if what I have earned back is to have meaning, I must try, and I resolved to never allow myself to forget who I have wronged. Among those is Nyx'it, the daughter I left behind.

Of course I remembered Nyx'it upon my return, quickly asking Celestia of her fate. She admitted that she did not know, for Celestia had not returned to the Everfree even once following the Exodus of 782 B.R. Wanting for an answer, I wrote to the deer, not yet knowing that my very name had entered their lexicon as a curse. King Aspen's attendants would provide me with nothing.

This was frustrating, but understandable, for I was new and unknown to them at best. Our relationship with their nation had waned over the centuries, and our parting was not on the best of terms. Worse still, the deer remembered me, for King Alpine's memoirs had become a cultural mainstay on the bookshelf of every citizen in the Dierkahl. So, left with no other options to find Nyx'it, I recklessly struck out to the Everfree on my own to search, carrying naught but my wings, a will, and a pure intent.

I loved Nyx'it dearly, as all Vorku parents do. Despite her fearsome golem made of graywood, dark as night as she was, her personality had always been sweet, kind, and charitable in my presence. I remember how, long after her cousins had left their creators and moved on to their natural duty, Nyx'it remained in my care, following me around nearly everywhere I went. Hunting with her was such a delightful hobby, something I could not have imagined living without.

Such is the gift of graywoods to age slower, making her practically inseparable from me, always looking to me with love. In the days before my banishment, we very well expected our Guardians to last forever. Their golems were sturdy, and the forest's bounty was reciprocal, seemingly endless. We had not yet known the long term effects of soulsharing or the effects of the waning moon on their magics.

Several months before Apex would take her first steps toward Briar, I would take my first steps back into my old home: our tall castle deep within the Everfree.

The concept of a thousand years of time is difficult for most ponies to fathom. Lo, to fully come to terms with this span, I had to see this place in its full dereliction. Two Sisters had changed significantly, now broken with time, its skylights and ceilings collapsed from a thousand years of rain, its bridges crumbled through a thousand years of wind and snow. Still, as a testament to our architects of yesteryear, the library within the castle's core was exceptionally well preserved. Dust, I felt, was tolerable and preferable to decay.

I felt right at home there, immediately turning to the comfortable and familiar pages of the Old Language. Alone, and in a place without judgment, I studied with ease, returning to the castle at least twice a fortnight, arriving and leaving through my old chambers in the Moon Keep. I caught up on our history as rapidly as I could, seeking to know what eventually became of those I once knew. To know such things occurred long in the past was still difficult to process.

Between my studies, I continued my search for Nyx'it in the forest, traveling to the places I had taken her in her youth. I attended the ponds and meadows where she once loved to hunt, but the land had changed. Old villages were long absent, with no trace left in their wake, and other places were simply overgrown. In those explorations, as I flew and searched and rediscovered my lost home, I saw several timberwolves from on high, some of them taking notice of me in passing. To know their race still flourished was a breath of hope.

Over the next month, I read of the deer, and how their own culture adapted to their new Guardians alongside Equestria. Then, I read with some difficulty that timberwolves did indeed expire with old age - worse, they forgot their creators with time. Knowing this, I stopped looking for Nyx'it, trying to accept that she had at best forgotten me, and at worst had passed and was gone forever. In either case, it would be much too painful to confront her as she was now. The deer would surely not permit me to visit the Mausoleum to see if she had been interred. So as with all the other things I had lost to time, I tried to let go of her, too. For some weeks, I thought I had.

But as fate would have it, Nyx'it found me anyway.

One evening, I had stayed at the castle later into the night than was typical for me. My magic had finally returned to me, my scorched horn at last recovering from the shattering of the nightmare spell. By then, I had returned to my former strength and appearance, my mane again flowing as my attunement with the moon was restored. It felt good to cast comfortably and without pain, and so I cast a simple magelight spell to celebrate. This permitted me to explore the old castle entirely under the darkness, and so I walked down memory lane, cutting through the shadows of the Moon Keep and exploring old hidden passages long forgotten.

As the light of the sun grew and streamed through the windows and breaches of the walls, I could see better without my spell, and thus doused it. In its place, I began to channel the spell that would lower the moon, knowing it was my time and duty to yield. I rounded the corner into the grand entrance hall, observing the old tattered standards of family houses long gone. I moved down the steps, my hooves echoing through the hall as they crushed pebbles, and I craned my head to the broken ceiling above to watch the moon as it gave way for Sister's sun.

I hadn't seen Nyx'it there in the shadows cast by dawn. She sat alone, watching the sky, following the moon as it withdrew. The only hint I had of her was the glow of her striking green eyes. I stopped as I saw her. My breath caught. My heart froze still. She turned, laying sight upon me at last.

There was no mistaking Nyx'it as the dawnlight struck her features. She glowed softly from the sides of her skull, enchanted petals of violet creeping flowers hanging from her leafy ears. Her golem's colors were rare among her kind, a grayish brown that belied the enchanted wood of her making. There she was, as I lived and breathed... the only daughter I ever had. For the briefest of moments, I forgot the effects of their aging, of the deterioration of their individuality. As I stood in the hall of my old home, it was as though I had never left. I had taken a step back in time.

Without thinking, I ran to her, calling her name, missing her dearly. But she snarled and snapped, recoiling as I approached, countering my advance with aggression. I halted, struck with denial as I gazed into those green eyes of the Everfree. I knew the truth. I had read it. Still, I was desperate to make her remember me, and so I pled with with her in the Old Language.

"Nyx'it? 'Yuut nyu memki nyei mat, chai nei?"

Do you remember your mother, my child?

But she could not. As with all other things, time had taken its toll.

Despite this vast disparity between us, she heard my words. At first I thought she had finally recognized me, for there was new uncertainty in her eyes, her ears folding and her head canting to the side. At that moment, her pack flooded the Great Hall in support of her, drawn from the forest by her earlier snarls. Their growls nearly drowned out the clattering of wood as they swarmed. But as they entered the range of Nyx'it's telepathy, they stayed their advance, taking note of her new concern.

Nyx'it approached me slowly at the foot of the stairs. I could not move as I stared into her eyes; if she wished me slain, it would have been so, for in that moment I could not raise a hoof in my defense... not against my beloved daughter. I breathed her name as she came within mere inches. I was powerless before her gaze. She stood for several moments, the greens of her eyes blinding me as she touched my nose with hers.

I am not sure what I was feeling in that solitary, frustrating moment as she sensed my soul. Was it just sadness? Or was it fear? Confusion? Disappointment? I think it was a mixture of these things. I had lost so much, had been feared and distrusted by nations, had been forsaken by old allies. I was slowly coming to terms with all of this. With death of friends, with dejection, with scorn cast my way. But I had never yet faced an old friend to find I had been... simply forgotten. This was a new sensation, one so foreign and miserable as to rend the heart deeper than any other loss I had suffered.

Guilt flickered strongly then, for leaving her behind. My head was bowed in submission to her judgment. I remained still, refusing to move as she considered me. Then, without ceremony, Nyx'it turned away. She moved for the door. Her pack, trusting her judgment of me, followed her without hesitation. I again listened to the clattering of their enchanted claws on the broken tiles. Then, silence.

I remained quite still for some minutes as I considered what that encounter had meant to her, or to me. She must have felt my love for her. There was no way she could not detect the deep respect I held for that place, for her, or for the Everfree in total, or that I now intended no harm. There was also no way she could not feel the guilt in my heart, that she could not see the wrong I had wrought. Yet, as was her right as Keeper of the Land, Nyx'it had deemed me worthy to walk these halls once more.

While most timberwolves soulshare their memories away within twenty years, Nyx'it and her graywood children perhaps held onto hers for around a century or more. The effect of this knowledge was strong upon me. What could she have thought after I left her? If the deer of that time had told Nyx'it what I had done, who was I to her then?

Despite what I had done, Nyx'it returned to the forest. It loved her as much as I did, holding her close, sustaining her, and it provided my daughter with the power to have children of her own. Today, she is every bit the Guardian I had hoped she would be, for I had raised her with all of the love I could give in our short time together. She did not crumble without me in her adulthood, nor did she fail in my absence. She had taken to the forest seeking balance, structure, and order.

I still miss her as she was in her youth. But I am proud of her now, even if she does not fully know who I am or what she means to me. Nyx'it moved on, becoming something beautiful and cherished by all who call the Everfree home. To see my daughter one final time, to see that she was not ruined by my act of betrayal, eventually brought a warmth to me that no words of forgiveness could have given. It took many days of contemplation to come to this conclusion.

Only then did I finally begin to move on as well.

A thousand years ago, before a warm hearth in a humble home, the first timberwolf was born.

It had not the trappings of professional craft, nor any knowledge of its fellow kind. It was a blank slate. Clear. Pure. It came into being as a pile of wood, not knowing what it was, what it was for, nor how it came to be. As it formed into the basic shape of its soul, it stood. In front of it was another being, a fawn that matched its size. This fawn, merely two years of age, made a sound... perhaps it was a gasp, or a cheer, or a simple hello. The timberwolf, new as it was and knowing nothing else, made a sound back too.

The fawn danced with excitement next, bounding left and right on her front legs. The timberwolf joined her, mimicking her movements. Next, the fawn jumped. They began to dance together. The fawn was happy, and through her, the timberwolf knew what it was like to be happy too. Within seconds, they were friends, one welcoming the other to life with innocent, loving play.

What a marvelous way for the first Vorku to meet their creators.

We had created new life, and we were awestruck with the immensity of what we had done. We had created a new soul, one as living and delicate as any of ours. Each was a vast responsibility, one that stretched for millennia. We took them in love and kindness, honoring them for their service to us with service of our own. Through our actions and through our care for the land upon which we stood, we taught them not how to kill, but how to feel love and how to protect it.

The Guardians were created for war. But in that first moment of purity, when we heard that this creature had played with a fawn, we knew instantly that they were more than the sum of their parts. These were not mere weapons. They deserved more than war, and so we sought that limitless potential within them. Our resultant affection inspired them, leading these innocent, youthful creatures to adopt our love for our home. They are, after all, reflections of our selves.

It is frightening for many of us as parents to see our timberwolves grow and mature, to watch them leave our sides, and to know that their memories will spread thin as they become one with the forest. But in calling ourselves their parents, we recognize that they, like our fawns and foals, will eventually grow beyond us, becoming something unique and beautiful.

Nyx'it, who was born at the very beginning, has long forgotten who I am. There is no way she could still know Kehl Luna, Kehl na Equestriy iy Kahl na Lohkei, any more than she could know Princess Luna, Ruler of Equestria and Heart of the Night. But I still love Nyx'it, Eater of Shadow. Like the deer, I choose to believe that those memories of our love together are still held close by the Everfree itself, dispersed throughout its being. The memory of her youth remains strong within me too, and I will always cherish that for as long as I am blessed with life. As I see what the timberwolf race has become, I think of everything they have accomplished in their eternal dance with nature.

If they so desired, the Vorku could destroy so much. They could easily breed beyond their means, could become what they were born to fight, and could devour the forest entire as their enemies once did. But as creatures who love our home and our culture, the Vorku choose not to do this. Continually thirsty for guidance, they donate their young to their creators, giving them a beautiful life in our care. They protect their home ferociously, exactly as they were raised to do. I choose to believe that our goodwill, that our love for these creatures, is internalized at their core. We have taught them to embrace balance.

That is the lesson we wish for them to hold forever in their hearts. This is why the deer still teach them, raise them, and share their intent with them. We do not set them upon the world with a lonely birth in bitter winds. We do not force them to obey, or to conquer. As they age, we do not swaddle them. They become their own, strong and noble.

Because long after they are a scampering mess of wooden paws clattering down a hallway; long after they have nestled against us in our sleep, safely tucked against our sides to share their warmth; long after we have sung their praises before them as two nations saved; long after they have forgotten us and have moved on from our homes; they move on ever forward without us, but stronger for us.

Trade has reopened with the Dierkahl in recent years, and with it comes a mixing of cultures. The legend of the timberwolf has thus resurged throughout Equestria, spoken of in whispers and shrouded in rumors. The truth of our history has also trickled out into our kind from the knowledge stores of the deer, our historians again uncovering the long lost tale of Sombra's Dark War and how his horde was conquered.

In the wake of this, those who are close to me in my court have asked me the rather ambiguous question of how we managed to create a new creature from nothing. Academically, even scientifically, it was relatively simple. A living creature is so easily created, but also easily abandoned. Speaking purely from experience alone, I know that life can be a hollow existence to those without affection or purpose. To me, to truly live is to thrive, to be accepted, and to be loved. So whenever this question is posed to me, I hold no doubt nor hesitation in my answer, one simultaneously simple and complex in so many wonderful ways:

Love. That is how we created the Guardians of the Everfree.