The Grief of a Nation
Everypony knows the simple version. Luna grew jealous, and refused to lower her moon for the sun. So Celestia harnessed the elements, and imprisoned her in the offending orb for one thousand years. After this time, Nightmare Moon returned and the evil magic that had twisted Luna's form manifested again. The Elements of Harmony and their holders banded together to blast away the foul shroud; restoring Luna's mind and form to their former glories. Celestia offered her forgiveness, and Luna accepted. Few ponies are privileged enough to know more. Those who do are far and few between. Lucky for you, dear reader, for tonight that privilege is now yours...
With a countenance of stone, Luna sat and brooded on the throne. Celestia had woken early and trotted softly into the audience chamber. Discerning the meaning of the hardened and faraway look on her sister's grim face with the practice of centuries, Celestia spoke softly.
"I knew this day was coming, Luna. As sure as I raise the sun from the east, as sure as I set it in the west, I knew it was coming. You can still turn back you know, it's not too late. The dawn is not due for a few hours yet. Do not turn your back on Equestria now..."
Not deigning to face her sister, Luna addressed the empty chamber. "Celestia
My sister, my guiding light, my rising star; just as the trees love the sky, I love you most of all. But I cannot. There will be no sunrise this morning. I will not allow it. All of Equestria will come to love the dark! This will be the last time they sleep through my beautiful night, for the rising sun they expect shall not appear. I will not allow it to be so."
Taken aback at her sister's fierce words and dreading their portent, Celestia withdrew to her own chambers. There, with great pain in her heart, Celestia began to write history anew. From the river of time she ripped the Elements of Harmony from their gently meandering streams. Gathering them to herself, she began to weave a beautiful and terrible spell.
With the fire of defiance in her eyes, she approached the evil wearing the guise of her sister. The two stood in the grand audience chamber. In happier times, they had shared it equally. Now the great hall echoed with malice and seethed with evil.
"Luna, my dear Luna" Celestia stopped herself short, realization flashing across her face.
" No, you are not Luna. The Luna I know is locked away now, isn't she?"
"Celestia, as sure as your sun will no longer rise, I knew you would come. One last attempt to sway me from my appointed destiny? One last appeal to the Luna you thought you knew? The Luna who no longer is?" Nightmare mocked. "She still loves you, you know
When she made the pact with me, the passing on of that fact was a condition of the binding. A condition I've just discharged. Welcome the night, Celestia. Embrace it and I may allow you to remain in the night sky as a distant cluster of stars. A tiny sparkle in the heavens, pointing to the east and distanced from all others. The last twinkle of the past, awaiting the rising sun that shall never come."
"Nightmare Moon... Of all the demons of the dark I feared Luna would deal with, it was you whom I dreaded most. I know the heroes who may free the sister I love from your wicked grasp will not be born for almost a thousand years. I've gone against the fabric of reality itself to bring these Elements together before their appointed time. Rest assured, you will not win the coming conflict. I offer you one final chance at redemption, before I cast you from this land and chain you to that stolen moon. Null the bargain, and release Luna from that twisted prison inside her own mind. Give her back her freedom, so I will not be required to banish her with you. Dissolve the contract and I shall let you go peacefully. I give you my word."
"You really believe in all that, don't you? I care not for such empty threats. My answer is simple and clear: I will not. Luna surrendered her powers and body to me of her own choosing. This contract is as much her doing as it is mine. I am only fulfilling her deepest wish...to have all ponies love the night and its moon as they do your day and its day-star. That overgrown sphere they call the 'Sun.' From this moment on and by my 'royal' decree,
The night...Shall last
Celestia began to concentrate as the hate blackened form of Nightmare Moon waxed on about the evils she would soon perpetrate. The rights she would soon wrong, the futility of Celestia's attempts to expunge her. Wrapping herself with the stolen elements of harmony, their auras still bleeding and raw from the way she had mishandled them, Celestia focused intently. The sorrow she felt in her heart came like crashing waves as she prepared to do her terrible deed, to banish Nightmare Moon to that lonely sphere. Equestria and all the lands would be safe for a time from the terrors of the night, but poor Luna would be sacrificed alongside the dark one. One thousand years of silent, lonely exile, with only the hate-filled black magic of Nightmare for company. Between her sister and her country, Celestia knew which she had to choose. She cursed Nightmare Moon for forcing her to such desperate action.
"...and so, 'sister,' I now give you a choice: Take my offering of a distant star cluster, or be blasted from existence!" Nightmare demanded, only slowly becoming aware of the powerful magic suffusing the chamber about the pair.
Celestia lowered her head, tears beginning to swell behind her eyes. "I choose
Exile. I choose to be exiled from my sister's company for a thousand years. To rule these lands alone, with no one to comfort me by my side. Luna, I know you can hear me. For what I am about to do, I crave your pardon..."
Celestia raised her tear stained visage, looking Nightmare Moon directly in the eyes. Weeping softly from the pain, she tore the sixth and final element from the sisterly love in her soul.
The rest, as they say, is history. Concerned about the lateness of the morn, several messengers were sent to the Royal palace. There, they found Celestia; battered, bruised and singed by the fierce energies of the mistreated Elements. She was gently woken. Promising never to be late again and refusing to speak of her sister's absence, Celestia wheeled her sun into the sky three hours late.
It took three days time, but the entire sordid tale finally came out. Celestia took over responsibility of the night in Luna's stead. The ill-treated elements of harmony were released back into the flow of time so that they should meet with their appointed holders far into the future. Official histories were written and everyone congratulated Celestia on her bravery in the face of Nightmare Moon's treachery. The subject of Luna's simultaneous banishment was not discussed.
Every night, as she trundled the moon into the sky, Celestia forced herself to look upon it; and every night, as she thought of her sister's barren prison, she mourned. For one thousand years she did this. On the very last night, the final Summer Sun celebration without her sister, Celestia did not lament. She knew what was coming. She wasn't sure if the holders of the elements of harmony would succeed where she had failed, but she didn't care anymore. Even if Twilight did not feel the spark, she would be happy. Even banished to a distant star cluster in the eastern night sky, Celestia would not grieve. So when she found herself hurtled through thousands of light years in mere moments by Nightmare Moon's power, Celestia rejoiced. Her sister was no longer fettered.
Nightmare Moon was free. Her desperate misdeed was forgiven. Now it was up to the Elements of Harmony to right her past wrong, to free Luna from her own mistake.
Would they manage? Celestia did not know. For one thousand years she had known the outcome of every day because she willed it; but for the first time in her life the cosmos would not obey her. The ebb and flow of time was no longer her captive, and she reveled in it.
That night, amidst the ruined remains of a once proud castle, the stars themselves witnessed a miracle. Against all odds, a certain purple unicorn felt something spark deep within her soul...