Luna was walking around the forest near the castle. She knew it was a dangerous place, especially at this time, but she couldn't wake Lance, captain of the royal guard, just to go for a walk. Especially not this late. Besides, she felt she needed some time alone, some time to think. And night was the only time she could think. She was so deep in her thoughts, she didn't notice what was shifting in the shadows.

But it noticed her. It was an odd, dark cloud, and it lunged at her. She fell to the ground, having no time to react. Then a light flashed… and it was gone. Something emerged from the shadows on her other side. It took her eyes some time to adjust after that bright flash, but once they did, she noticed a pony. A pitch-black unicorn pony. The only thing about him that wasn't black were his red eyes, framed by white, so that they stood out from his dark coat. "You all right?" he asked.

"I… I'm fine." she said, rising from her fallen position. "What was that thing?"

"That thing was one of many." the pony said. "A magical anomaly known by some as Nightmare. They seek out strong sources of unicorn magic, seeking to control them by devouring and replacing their natural magic. It's no wonder it targeted you, Princess Luna."

"I… see…" the princess said. "So, why did it just… disappear?"

"It didn't." the black pony said. "I made it disappear. They have a natural aversion to light. It agitates them, and makes them tear themselves apart, dispersing into nothing. Add to that that they're made of magic, and my ability allows me to move magic, pushing it away from me… I'm the greatest defense against these horrors of the deep forest, and they know it. They avoid me at all costs."

"I see." Luna said. "That is very interesting." She thought for a moment, then said. "You seem to know who I am, but I never got your name."

"Kitsune." the pony said. "My name is Kitsune. And I recommend that you return home. The forest is no place for ponies, princesses or not, especially this far in."

"…I understand." the princess said. "However, I'm actually not supposed to be without an escort at any time. Besides, I doubt I could deal with one of those myself if I ran into one on the way back."

"I will accompany you if need be, if that is what you need." Kitsune said.

"Thank you, kind Kitsune." the princess replied, and the duo began to make their way to the castle. A short time later, however, the princess's curiosity got the better of her. "Please, tell me, what more do you know about this… Nightmare?"

Her companion wasted no time with his answer. "As I said before, they are magical anomalies which eat magic. They take control of their hosts' minds, using them for their own purposes. Typically, these purposes involve some way to cover the world in darkness, giving them free reign over the world. Fortunately, even after having taken a host, light agitates them, causing them to disappear, leaving their hosts back in control of themselves. But… in some cases, this effect seems merely temporary. Most of the time the hosts never return to the forest, but some still fall into the control of the Nightmare again, regardless. It will take a lot of time to truly understand everything about them, but… That's all I know. To be honest, that's the most anyone knows about the Nightmare."

"I see…" Luna said. "That is interesting." The two stopped, having reached the royal palace. "Well… Here we are. I appreciate your help."

"I suppose this is where I leave, princess." Kitsune said. His face was stoic, but his voice was noticeably forlorn as he turned back toward the forest.

"Wait!" Luna said before she could stop herself. Kitsune stopped, and the princess, despite not knowing why she was making this offer, continued. "If you like, you may come with me. I don't see how it could do any harm."

The unicorn thought for a moment, pondering the princess's generous offer. "Well… I suppose it wouldn't hurt." he said, following her as she walked inside, explaining to the guards where she had gone and why they should let this stranger inside.

The guards glared at him as he passed. He didn't blame them. While their coats were a pure white color, and their eyes a soft blue, his coat was pitch-black, the most impure color in the world, and his eyes a dark red color, the color of blood. He was scared, naturally, because were they to attack him, he would doubtlessly fall. He had magic, sure, but they had training and numbers, and the element of surprise.

"Luna." came a stern voice, and the black pony looked up to see Princess Celestia. "Where have you been?" Her voice was stern, but not angry. But it certainly wasn't happy. Nor did it convey any emotion. But she was certainly displeased. That emotion showed on the Princess's face.

"Sister." the younger princess answered. "I was out for a walk."

"And you didn't think to bring along some guards?" the elder sibling inquired.

"I thought I didn't need them." came the younger's reply. "Besides, I didn't want to wake them. Especially for something as trivial as a walk."

"And who is this?" the princess of the sun asked.

"This is Kitsune." responded Princess Luna. "I thought I didn't need an escort. I was wrong of course. Kitsune here saved me from something he called… 'Nightmare', was it?"

Kitsune nodded in response to the princess's question. In the presence of one princess in the dark, his vocal chords worked well enough. In the presence of both princesses, however, in the brightly-lit castle, he couldn't utter a single word. He didn't know why, though, just that he couldn't.

"I suppose that explains why you brought him here." the elder sister said. She gave a small smile at the unicorn before turning back to her sister, her face returning to its original state. "I suppose I will not punish you this time. Next time you may not be so lucky, however."

"You always say that, sister." replied the younger princess. "All talk and no action."

"Maybe so." her elder sister said. "Still, I must ask that you not try this again. Especially now that a new enemy has revealed itself." She turned her attention back to Kitsune. "Tell me, Kitsune, what do you know of this… 'Nightmare'?"

His gaze jumped around, from the princess who addressed him to the princess of the night, then to the glaring eyes of the guards and back to Celestia.

"He seems nervous, Princess." said one of the guards. "Perhaps you should let me talk to him." He stepped forward, and it was clear that he was of a higher rank than the others. His armor was larger, and had intricate designs on it. His eyes and mane were a darker, deeper shade of blue than the others', as well. "Alone." he added, punctuating his comment.

"Very well, Captain." Princess Celestia said. "Luna, let us retire to our quarters." she said to her sister, and the two princesses began to leave.

"Guards!" the captain said, and the guards stood at attention. "Dismissed." The guards left the room to go about their business. "Come." he ordered. He began to walk away, and Kitsune followed. He did not know where the captain was taking him, but the captain opened a door, allowing Kitsune to enter before him. It was a highly decorated room, so it was probably the captain's own quarters. "Sit." the captain commanded. Like a dog, Kitsune obeyed, sitting where he stood. "…Good enough, I suppose." the captain said. "No need to be so tense. I am Captain Lance, Captain of the Royal Guard. Kind of redundant to say the 'Captain' twice, but that's how it's done." He removed his armor, perhaps to make the black unicorn feel more comfortable in his presence. Kitsune noticed his cutie mark: a shield. "You may call me Lance, for now. Please, tell me all you know about this… 'Nightmare'…" The unicorn found his vocal cords to be operational once more, and he began to tell the captain what he had told the younger princess.

"…And that is all he told you?" Princess Celestia asked. When she heard her sister say that their new guest told her about the Nightmare, she had to hear about it. She was intrigued, and she wanted to know everything she could about it. She knew it was something to be avoided, of course, by her sister's description of it.

"It is." Princess Luna answered.

"A dark, magical cloud that eats magic?" she asked. "A cloud that attacks strong magical sources? A cloud that takes control of unicorns through their horns?"

"It does sound a little farfetched, doesn't it?" Luna asked.

"Not at all." Celestia answered. "Anything can happen. A magical cloud is not as hard to believe as some of the things I've seen, believe me."

"I know what you mean, sister." Luna said. "He was defeated some time ago, though. And his prison seems to be holding up nicely. Why don't we just seal the Elements away?"

"Because," the other princess said, "just because it seems to be holding up, doesn't mean it will keep him locked away for all eternity. And besides, he might not be the only evil out there. In fact, you experienced one of them yourself, firsthand."

"I don't think the Elements will work on them." Luna stated. "Besides, we have Kitsune. The ultimate weapon against the Nightmare."

"You don't seem to see my point." Celestia said.

"But you see mine, right?" Luna interrupted. "No one pony should have all that power. Not even you, sister."

"…I suppose you're right." Celestia relented. "So how about we compromise? Each of the Elements becomes stronger when used by someone who represents it well, right?"

"Right." Luna said, not sure what her sister was getting at.

"So, why don't we give the Elements to ponies we trust? We can keep one or two, if we need to…"

"But we won't keep all of them!" Luna said. "Sister, you're a genius!"

"Me? A genius?" Celestia answered. "A strategist, yes, but a genius?"

"Well, whatever you say you are, it's a brilliant idea." Luna replied. "Let's search for the next bearers of the Elements-" she was interrupted by her own yawn. "…Later. I'm feeling tired right now."

"Well, it is almost morning." Celestia replied. "Lower the moon and I'll raise my sun, and we can talk about this after sunset." Celestia left to raise her sun, and allowed Luna to use her powers of the night to darken her room so she could get some sleep.

"What are you talking about, Jingle?" Captain Lance asked the colorfully-clad earth pony walking beside him on his hind hooves, as he enjoyed doing.

"You didn't hear what I said?" the colorfully-maned earth pony asked in response, his jester's cap skewed atop his head. "I said, I think something bad's going to happen soon."

"What do you mean by 'something bad'?" the commander asked again. "How soon? Does it have something to do with that strange unicorn?"

"I don't know." the earth pony answered. "All I know is, something bad is going to happen in the next few days. It's a feeling in my gut, and you should know to always trust my gut."

"Right, 'cause your gut always knows when something bad's going to happen." the captain said, rolling his eyes. "You don't know if it's him or me or some outside threat, you don't even know if it's inside the castle. It could be hidden under our noses, just waiting for the time to strike. Or it could be hundreds of miles away, rushing to get here. All you know is, it's going to happen." The captain sighed. "And it will happen. Because, like it or not, your gut is always right. I'll strengthen my guard, and hope it's enough to at least minimize the damage."

"I don't think so." Jingle said. "I can tell, it's a big one."

"Ah, Jingle. Lance. Just who I was looking for." came a voice.

"Princess." the captain of the guard said, bowing his head in the presence of the princess.

"Looking for us?" Jingle asked. "What for, Sunshine?"

"There is something I'd like to talk to you two about. Privately. Shall we use your quarters, Captain?" she asked, referring to Lance.

"My apologies, Princess," the captain replied, "but while the guest rooms are under renovation, I am allowing your sist- er, Princess Luna's guest, to sleep there. And he seems to have the same schedule as her."

"Right, so my quarters then. Come." she commanded, and the two followed.

"Elements of Harmony?" Kitsune said. "Never heard of them." He and Luna were out on a balcony, looking up at the night sky to talk with one another.

"The Elements of Harmony are what my sister and I used to defeat Discord several years ago." Luna told him. "I think I know who my sister thinks worthy of Loyalty and Laughter. You've already met Captain Lance."

"I have." Kitsune said.

"She's probably going to give him the Element of Loyalty. The Element of Laughter she'll probably give to the court jester, an earth pony named Jingle."

"I see…" Kitsune said.

"That would leave Honesty, Generosity, Kindness, and Magic. I think you'd probably best represent Magic, so-"

"There are plenty more magic users in the world." Kitsune interrupted. "Many of them are more powerful than I. Some by a little, some by far. Honestly, I think I'd best represent Honesty. Don't you agree, my princess?"

"O-Of course!" the princess said, caught off guard by the unicorn's honesty. "Honesty it is, then." She paused for a moment, looking up at the moon. "…Tell me, which do you think I would best represent?"

The unicorn thought for a moment. "…I know if there was an Element of Artistry or an Element of Beauty, you'd be that one. After all, just look at this sky. The stars, the moon, all arranged so beautifully… As they are, however, I think you'd probably best represent Kindness."

"R-Really?" the princess said, one again surprised by the unicorn. "I mean, thank you, kind Kitsune. Knowing your honest opinion makes me feel… Overjoyed." She looked at the night sky once more. "…You really think the night sky is so beautiful?"

"Of course, my princess."

"Everypony else seems to disagree. They are afraid when the night comes. They go inside to sleep and to cower."

"Everypony needs sleep. For most, it's easier to sleep at night. Your sister's sun is bright, allowing them to see during the day. It's also harsh, and most can't sleep when it's up. That's why they must be active then. Your night, however, may be darker, but it has a softer, gentler light. Typically not enough to see by, but that's why they sleep at night. They never see its beauty, but they owe their very lives to your great masterpiece, my princess."

"…You have no idea how much that means to me. Thank you, my friend."

It was a fairly peaceful day in the castle. Aside from the guards changing shifts, nopony had either entered or left. That's why it was to nopony's surprise that everypony was surprised when the front doors suddenly burst open, forced open by a powerful magical force. The source of that force was the small, cloaked figure which was making its way into the castle. "What is the meaning of this!?" Captain Lance questioned.

The cloaked figure pulled back the hood obscuring its face, revealing a mare with a dark grey coat, whose mane was a lighter color with a few strands of deep red. "My name is Kokoro Kage." she spoke, a faint hiss noticeable in her voice. "I am here responding to the royal princesses' request for a court wizard." She let the piece of paper she had no doubt stolen from some town's crier float to the ground.

"I… See…" the captain stated. He could tell that she was emanating a strong magical power. Not as strong as the princesses, of course, but strong just the same. He felt that was likely why the guards hadn't leapt to attack her the moment she burst through the doors. Well, that, and the two seemingly lifeless heaps who could be seen just outside, on either side of the doorway. He gave a motion and two of the guards on either side of the entry hallway stepped outside, allowing another two to carry the heaped masses inside before closing the door and taking their places. "I… Will lead you to the throne room myself. I fear for my fellow guards' welfare, and so should not allow you to wander these halls on your own. Wouldn't want them to attack you and end up like… That…"

"I understand." the mare replied, following the captain of the guard to the throne room, where Princess Celestia sat, being entertained by Jingle.

"Captain?" she asked. "What is this about?"

Captain Lance bowed politely to the princess. "My apologies, princess." he said. "It seems someone with some true talent has replied to your summons, after all."

"I see." the princess said. "Jingle, Lance, would you mind leaving for a moment? I need to test her potential."

"Of course not, your highness." Lance said, bowing again.

"No prob, Sunshine!" Jungle said as he walked out, together with the captain, though he shuddered for a moment as he caught the mare's stone-cold grey eyes, and started clutching his stomach soon after.

Kitsune was once again on the balcony with Princess Luna. It had become fairly routine over the past few days for the two to sit on the balcony and talk. Not about important things, since things truly worthy of mention are often in short supply, but about less-important things. From minor occurrences in their pasts to more recent happenings, they talked about almost anything that came up, though some things were best left unsaid, as they knew.

"Can you feel it?" Luna asked.

"Feel what?" Kitsune questioned in turn.

"That power." Luna answered. "It must be overwhelming for you, to have such a huge magical force in such close proximity. And such a foreboding aura…"

"Oh, that explains a bit." Kitsune replied. "When my horn feels a particularly strong magical source, it automatically begins to push it away, to prevent extrasensory overload."

"Oh." Luna said, bluntly. "I did not know that." She smiled a bit. "Thank you for educating me on such an interesting side-effect of your already-interesting magical power. Not only does it disperse Nightmare clouds in a heartbeat and redirect any undesired magical effects, but it also shields you from extrasensory overload." The smile faded from her face, leaving but a slight trace on her face. "I ask because that new mare, I believe I heard her called Kokoro? I feel a… A strong and forebodingly dark magical force emanating from her whenever I pass her chamber, or meet her in the hallways. It might just be nothing, of course, but…"

Kitsune closed his eyes for a moment, clearly concentrating on something, before inhaling sharply, his eyes snapping open. "Yikes. You're right, that is a foreboding aura. Though… There are two other, more powerful auras. One which blazes fiercely from within the castle, like the very sun from which I hide, and one which is more lukewarm, and slightly less powerful, which beckons me toward it, as does the moon. Though, obviously, I can't actually go to the moon. I'd have to be crazy to think I could!" He chuckled for a moment, and Luna joined him, before the two returned to their conversation.

Jingle groaned, clutching his stomach as he walked beside Lance. He could feel that the normal spring in his step was gone, and now there was a literal feeling in his gut. Like some invisible force was clutching at it, squeezing it, sometimes even juggling with it. And he felt it had something to do with her. Her appearance three days earlier, the first time he had seen her, was the first he ever felt like this. And the feeling had persisted for three whole days.

"Something the matter, Jingle?" Lance said. "You're walking a little… Slower than usual."

Jingle looked at the captain's face, which showed genuine concern for his friend. Jingle didn't think he'd seen the captain this concerned since he first joined the royal court as a jester. Annoyed, perhaps, but never concerned. And Jingle felt it was more than just how fast he was walking that Lance had noticed. He'd likely also noticed that his step lacked its usual bounce, and the obvious hoof on his belly. Nopony else in the world would likely notice the missing bounciness or lack of speed, but anypony could have probably told something was wrong if they saw his hoof on his belly, if they didn't pay more attention to how he typically walked on his rear legs. He shook his head to get his thoughts back on track. "Oh, it's nothing." Jingle said, forcing his face into a false smile. "Just a little concerned about Koko."

"Still convinced that she's going to bring disaster to the castle, huh?" Lance asked.

"Well, that's the most likely explanation for current happenings." Jingle replied. "Keep your guard up, now more than ever. If she is the reason for my gut feeling, and I'm pretty sure she is, and the princess is going to give her the Element of Magic, which I'm fairly sure she will, you should especially keep an eye on her."

"Who, the princess?" Lance chuckled a little, expecting his colorfully-clad jester friend to join him.

He did not. He gave the captain a slug on the arm for suggesting such a thing in the middle of such a serious conversation, perhaps a little harder than he'd intended. If the jester isn't in the mood for jokes, it's not the time for jokes. "On Kokoro, you doofy." He didn't call others by anything but their nicknames, unless he was serious. Or angry. But anger would have him recite the full name. Jingle would be the one to know. He got grounded for a month because he dared speak up to his mother. Still, was a month of no supper really the punishment for speaking out against blasphemy? He was, at the time, at least, fairly convinced that it was the gallows for her had the princess of the sun heard her hateful outburst. That, or the guillotine. He did not really want to think about the guillotine, though. He was glad it was only ever used by the nobles, without consent from either princess, and never by the princesses themselves. It was a messy affair, and he was glad he never had to help clean up after someone fell victim to the guillotine. Yes, a hanging was much less messy… He shook his head again, to realign his thoughts once more. "Sorry, what were we talking about? I got lost in my thoughts."

"Do you, Kokoro Kage, understand the weight of responsibility that I, the regal Princess Celestia, am about to bestow upon you?" the princess of the sun questioned. Kitsune had been through this process already, as had Princess Luna, and so, too, he suspected, had Jingle and Captain Lance.

"Yes." the grey mare droned in monotone.

"Then I, Princess Celestia, guardian of the daytime sky, hereby pronounce you the bearer of the Element of Magic, quite possibly the most powerful of all six of the Elements of Harmony."

Kitsune watched as the stone orb made its way over to the mare, who grabbed it with her own magic. "Thank you, princess. I will do my best to protect the Element and your kingdom." she said, though Kitsune saw a sinister sparkle dance across her eyes.

"About time it ended, eh, Kits?" Jingle asked, nudging the pony's right side. Kitsune glared at the jester, saying nothing, but nodded his head all the same.

"It's not over yet, Jingle." Celestia stated. "Indeed, now that we have all six bearers of the Elements of Harmony, the six of us must become in harmony with one another if we are to effectively use the Elements to protect the kingdom."

The jester groaned a bit. His right hoof was still over his belly, and was cradling the stone orb which was the physical manifestation of the Element of Laughter which he represented. Everyone else was supporting their Elements with magic, except Lance, who was cradling his between his wings. "But, princess, I'm tired." Jingle groaned. "It's nighttime. How long do I have to stay up?"

The princess kept her regal composure. "Very well. Those of us who sleep at night are now dismissed, and may return to their quarters." She gazed at her sister. "That leaves just Luna and Kitsune, whom I trust to keep vigilant watch over the castle." She smiled a bit. "I can also tell that they are already in perfect harmony with one another, meaning they won't have much to do while the rest of us are asleep." She leaned a bit closer to her sister, her voice getting quiet. "Unless you want to… You know…" she teased, a mischievous look on her face.

"S-Sis!" Luna said, pushing her sister away and trying to hide the blush on her face. "Don't say things like that!"

"Ooh." Jingle said, his mouth curling into a mischievous grin. "Moonbeam and Kitsune, sitting in a tree-"

Lance nudged him, hard. "Don't tease them, Jingle. Besides, weren't you the one who complained about needing sleep?" He gave a yawn himself before leaving the room, followed by the jester. Celestia gave a small wink before leaving as well, and the grey mare slipped out just before the door closed.

Kitsune walked around the castle. While it was almost sunrise, he had a lot on his mind. Luna had asked him a lot of questions. Some he didn't know the answer to, but most were just ones to which he didn't want to give the answer. The highlight of that evening: "Kitsune… Do you like me?"

"Of course I do, my princess." He had answered.

"Not… Not like that…" she responded, blushing. "I mean, do you… Like me, like me?"

"O-Oh…" he had replied. It was followed by an awkward silence. He had wanted to give the same response, he could remember, but the words got stuck in his throat. Had there been a mirror nearby, he was certain his cheeks would be the same red color as the princess's.

As he passed the door to Kokoro's room, he heard some muttering from within. He slipped in, silently, so she wouldn't know he was there.

"…accursed object." she was saying. "Why. Won't. You. Work." Kitsune could tell that she was frustrated, banging the Element of Magic on the cold, hard floor. She tossed it at the wall like a cannonball, and it left a few cracks.

Kitsune chuckled a bit at the sight. He probably shouldn't have, but, what's done is done. He laughed a bit louder. It was an evil laugh. "You'll never get it to work like that."

"You!" she hissed, pointing a hoof at the black-coated unicorn.

"Me." he replied, smirking. "The Elements of Harmony only work if they harmonize with both their bearer and each other. That means you must harmonize with us, if you desire to have the full strength of the Element of Magic."

She pondered for a moment. "Hmm… New plan. I bring together all the Elements myself… By destroying their current bearers!" As she hissed that final comment, she unleashed an attack on Kitsune. Too quickly for him to repel, she magically latched onto his horn, too strongly for him to effectively repel.

"Kokoro Kage… 'Shadow Heart'." Kitsune grunted. "I should have known from the moment I heard your name. No, the moment I sensed your aura." He began screaming in pain. What was she doing? He could feel something inside him changing. It was as though she was altering his very essence, his very existence. And it hurt. His eyes burned as well.

"Ooh, a physical change." she growled out. "Never thought there'd be a way to gauge my progress with this spell. When your eye whites turn black, then it is all over." She began laughing, and it wasn't a comforting laughter, either. Kitsune wished that the pain would just stop.

And stop it did. But no sooner had it stopped than the mare began howling in pain. Whatever was happening, it had not ended yet. Kitsune could hear the mare's pained screeching, and could feel his magic growing. No, it wasn't his magic. It felt… Dark. Sinister. Cold… He was drawing the magic from Kokoro herself. He didn't stop, of course. She made him like this, she would pay the price.

Before Kitsune was finished ripping the magic from the sinister grey mare, however, the door to the room burst open. "What is going on in here!?" Captain Lance shouted, before the unicorn mare's screaming was replaced by another.

He could hear her screaming in pain. He didn't want that. Then he found that he couldn't stop it. Slowly but surely, he could feel her magic filling him. Calm and gentle. Warm and welcoming. He had to stop it. There was only one way he could think of: run away. If he got far enough away from her, the connection would break, surely. There was only one exit. As the captain of the guard shouted at him, he leapt out the window, plummeting a whole story before hitting the ground, hard. His knees buckled, but he had to keep going. He couldn't be sure the princess was safe yet, so he kept running. "Freeze!" Captain Lance shouted out the window, but it was too late. Kitsune was long gone. And, little did he know, Princess Luna collapsed in the doorway, overtaken by pain… Not just physical pain, but the pain of heartbreak.
"Freeze!" Captain Lance shouted out the window, but the shadowy figure had seemingly disappeared into the dark forest. The white-coated pegasus cursed under his breath, then turned to the sobbing princess. "Don't worry, princess, we'll catch hi-"

"NO!" the princess cried out. "I-I don't u-unders-s-stand… Wh-Why would h-he-?"

"I don't know…" the captain said. He turned to the court wizard. "You. What happened here?"

The unicorn mare was sobbing. "I-I-I don't know." she said. "A-All I remember is… Waking up with an incredibly strong headache… And him standing over me, with a sinister look on his face. I-It was terrifying."

The guard nodded. "Princess? Anything you have to add?"

The princess nodded, sniffling and wiping away a few tears as they continued to gather in her eyes. "I-It f-felt like… L-Like s-something was t-tearing at my h-h-horn. I-It h-hurt so much… I-I could f-f-feel my m-magic being d-drained… P-Please, d-don't h-hurt him…"

"I promise you, princess, we'll find him and bring him in. Unharmed, if possible. Protecting you and your sister is our top priority as the royal guard."

"Th-Thank you, L-L-Lance. J-Just d-don't h-h-hurt him, p-p-please."

"Alright, alright. I'll pass the message to the others. They are to capture him and bring him back to the castle without hurting him, as a direct order from Princess Luna herself. Now go get to bed. It's almost morning."

The princess nodded, still wiping at her tears as they continued to gather as she backed up and began to head to her own quarters. The Captain of the Guard followed her out, shutting the door behind him on the apparently-still-sobbing mare, who, unbeknownst to him, immediately started plotting.

The mare cursed profanely under her breath. All of her plans, ruined. After that foalish stallion's "betrayal", the princess of the sun decided it would be best if she held the Elements once more. There was no chance of getting to them now.

There was a knock at the door. "Who is it?" she snapped.

Captain Lance walked in. "Princess Luna has requested your presence. She said it is a matter of great importance."

The unicorn mare growled. "Fine. I'll be right there." She slammed the door on the pegasus's face, then started plotting. If she could get in good with Luna, that would mean getting closer to Celestia, and, by extension, the Elements, giving her a second chance at obtaining the ultimate power they hold. She suppressed a wicked grin as she opened the door politely. The pegasus was still there. "Thank you for waiting, sir. Might you be willing to lead the way?"

"Certainly." he said, rubbing his snout where the door hit him in the face. He led the unicorn to Luna's room, a room decorated with dark blue and silver, though it was difficult to see, darkened by the night princess in her vain attempts to get some sleep. The princess herself was curled up on her wet, tear-stained bed, still crying. "Princess, the court wizard is here."

"O-Oh. Thank y-you once again L-Lance." Luna said. She sniffled. "P-Please, Kokoro, c-come in. I h-have s-something I would l-like to ask you about." The addressed unicorn stepped into the magically-darkened room, the door closing behind her as the pegasus excused himself. The princess tapped a location on the soaked bed, sniffling once again, but the unicorn merely glared at the tear-soaked bed with a look of disgust on her face before sitting down on the floor next to it. In her eyes, it was better sitting in the dry, dirty floor than on the tear-soaked bed as the princess wanted.

The princess sighed. "K-Kokoro…" She sniffled a bit before looking to the addressed mare with a suddenly steel-hard look on her face. "I… Have decided… It's costing me a lot more sleep than it's worth… I need to know…" She sniffled a bit, still having trouble keeping her composure in light of recent events. Kokoro fought the urge to laugh at the princess's clear show of weakness. "I need to know… If you have a spell that can erase memories. Or change them, in any way. Anything to get… To get him… Out of m-my…" She broke down into sobbing again.

The unicorn rolled her eyes at the sight. She moved in to comfort the princess, trying to win the princess's favor. "I know of one." she said, grinning. "And I know what you want done. Don't worry. I'll make sure that he will never bother you again, princess." And with that, she placed the tip of her horn at the tip of the princess's and got to work purging her mind of anything even remotely related to that colt.

Princess Celestia found her sister's recent behavior to be strange… One day, she was sobbing so much her bed was completely saturated with tears, the next she was bright and cheery. Well, as bright and cheery as one who controls the night could be, anyway. As she pondered what might have caused her sister's sudden mood swing, Captain Lance and Jingle entered the throne room, Jingle walking on his hind legs, as usual.

"…still hasn't happened." Jingle said.

"So, let me get this straight." Lance said. "Your stomach stopped hurting a few days ago, but you still think 'something bad' has yet to happen? The princess had her magic drained by that black unicorn. That is 'something bad'."

"Yes, but that was not the something bad." Jingle stated. "The something bad is going to be worse, far worse, and Kokoro has had her hand in it. That's why my stomach stopped hurting. Princess Celestia, I suggest you get that evil court wizard away from here at once. Whatever evil she has planned, we must make certain it does not come to pass."

"I thought you said she's had her part in this." Lance said.

"I'm fairly certain she's evil." Jingle told his friend. "My stomach ache, believe it or not, was alleviated slightly the morning of… The incident. Kokoro caused the stomach ache. Kokoro had some part in that incident, I know it."

The princess listened intently to this conversation. "I will do what I can to keep this kingdom safe. Given Jingle's track record with threat detection, I'll take his word for it this time. Captain, inform the court wizard that we are no longer in need of her services, and escort her out of the castle."

"Right away." Lance said, before turning and exiting the throne room.

The princess nodded slightly. "Jingle, anything else I should know?"

"Not that you probably don't already know, princess," the jester answered, "but I didn't have any bad feelings about Kitsune himself. He may have been the cause of the incident several days ago, but I don't think he had any say in what happened."

The princess nodded again. "I'll be sure to extend a royal pardon to him. Hopefully we can get him to return once we get all this sorted out. I'm sure that would make Luna very happy. Anything else?"

"No, your majesty." Jingle said, bowing. "Anything else you need?"

"Yes." the princess sighed. "I need something to get my mind off recent events, Jingle. I feel the court jester would be the best pony for the job."

Princess Luna breathed in deeply. The night air was excellent. She always enjoyed her nighttime walks. They were always so calming. The forest, though filled with monsters, wasn't too bad a place to go for a walk. She knew every kind of monster in the forest, and how to most effectively defeat them. She was ready for anything. She didn't need the help of the guards. Captain Lance would enjoy a good night's sleep.

She heard a rustling in the bushes. A cockatrice? All she'd have to do is not look. It can't turn one to stone unless they look it in the eyes, after all. But what else could it be? She looked at the bush for a moment. It was fairly large. Maybe a griffon? They were semi-sentient, so maybe talking would help if it were. It wouldn't be a manticore, since the bush wasn't quite that big. Maybe a baby dragon? Not much was known about dragons, aside from their greed. But would a dragon really allow her baby to wander off like that?

As she pondered what it could be, a dark cloud emerged from the bush. She had never seen anything like it. It looked similar to her mane, somehow. Suddenly, the strange cloud leapt at her, latching on to her horn. She didn't know how to react. She tried grabbing at it with magic to try to pull it off, but that failed. Then she tried to throw it off by shaking her head. Once again, her efforts failed. She panicked. She didn't know how to deal with something she had never seen before. Her walking broke into a run as she continued trying to get the thing, whatever it was, off of her.

Eventually she slowed to a stop. The cloud was no longer latched on to her. She grinned. "Well, well, Princess Luna." she said. "This is a pleasant surprise. We could not ask for a better pony to have fallen under our control." She turned around and started heading for the castle. "Best not do anything suspicious, though. Act normal. Our plan will be more likely to succeed then. Eternal night… Such a delight." She chuckled to herself, which then became a full-on evil laugh.

As she approached the castle, she pretended like she was herself, bowing politely to the guards, who let her in after asking a few questions as to why she was out late at night without a guard to escort her again.

This was the last straw. Sister or not, Celestia could not let this outrage go on any further. From sad, to happy, to pure, jealous anger, all in the span of a few weeks. And now she refused to lower the moon! The ponies of Equestria needed the sun to go about their day! Without the sun, plants would die, and without plants, the ponies themselves would die! Equestria would become a barren, dead wasteland. And Luna didn't seem to care at all!

She burst through the doors of the throne room to confront her sister. "Luna!" she shouted.

Her fellow princess turned to look at her. She looked very different, however. Her coat was a very dark, almost black color, and her mane was a dark purple. She had replaced her crown with a silver helmet that covered the top of her head and partway down the back of her neck, with an armor piece of the same material similar to that of the guards at the base of her neck. "Ah, Princess Celestia. So happy you could make it." she said. "However, Princess Luna is no more. I am Nightmare Moon."

Princess Celestia was shocked. Luna, no more? "No. I won't believe it! Luna, lower the moon now!"

"No." the dark pony said. "This night will last forever. Nopony can stop me. Not even you, Celestia."

Celestia was shocked once again. "Luna, sister, please, listen to me!" she implored. "Everypony needs the sun. Without it, they would all-"

"I don't care!" Luna shouted. "They refuse to appreciate the beauty of my night, and for that, they shall all pay. The moon will never again go down, and the sun will never come up. This night will be eternal, and I don't care how many poor, pathetic ponies get hurt."

Celestia was stunned. This couldn't possibly be her caring, loving sister. Why, just a few days ago, she was crying over having lost a single pony, who was clearly very important to her. Now, she just doesn't care? "I will not allow this." she said, her face becoming stern. "Luna, stand down, or I will have no choice but to take drastic measures."

Luna laughed. "Do your worst, princess. You can't do anything to me!"

"Maybe I can't, but…" The six stone orbs representing the Elements of Harmony floated over to Celestia, circling around her. "…The Elements of Harmony can!"

Luna grinned. "You wouldn't use the Elements' power on your own sister, would you?" She laughed evilly. "Of course not! You wouldn't dare do anything that could lose your precious sister."

Celestia growled. "If that's what it takes to protect my subjects… Then I will do it without hesitation!" The Elements formed a pentagonal formation, the Element of Magic pressing up against the tip of Celestia's horn. Celestia wanted to remove whatever caused her sister's sudden change, but had no idea what it was. She racked her brain trying to figure out a way to stop Lu- No. To stop Nightmare Moon without harming her sister. She didn't know if it was possible. She may have to destroy her sister.

Then a thought struck her. Maybe she could… Yes, that would work. "Prepare yourself, Nightmare Moon. You are going to wish you had never taken over my sister!"

Nightmare Moon laughed. "Oh, really? And how are you going to do that, exactly?"

"I'm going to use the Elements of Harmony to protect myself and my subjects. I'm going to use the Elements of Harmony to get rid of you for good!" The Elements started spinning around the Element of Magic, in the center of the pentagon. "Say goodnight, Nightmare Moon!"

"What?" Nightmare Moon asked, startled as the Elements began to glow. "No." She could not believe what was happening. "NO!" she charged forward, straight toward Celestia, but it was too late. The Elements unleashed their power. A bright, rainbow-colored beam shot out toward her. It shot out the window and curved toward the moon.

Princess Celestia dropped to her knees, sobbing. She lost her sister. There was no way she was ever going to get her back… The moon was still up. Her subjects would want to know what was wrong if this night lasted for too long. Tears streaming down her cheeks, she used her magic to take hold of the moon, slowly drawing it down below the horizon. Once she had done that, she began to raise the sun. Slowly but surely, the sun rose until it was fully above the horizon. The princess collapsed, unable to do anything more, overwhelmed by extreme exhaustion and melancholy.