"One pony's magic is another pony's engineering.
'Supernatural' is a null word"
- Robert A. Heinlein
Prologue: Birthpains of a New World
Days like these were everypony's favorite, for they falsely promised that everything could stay the same, unchanging, until the very end of the world.
But nothing ever stays the same. The order of things that existed since the earliest days was about to change.
The sun, shining high over the horizon, controlled by the primordial magic of Princess Celestia and Princess Luna, illuminating all the wonders of Equestria and the world, was the main factor which allowed the ponies to fine-tune nature for all their needs.
Not for long, anyway.
Zephyrus, Boreas, Notos and Eurus, the main winds of the world that moved the air around, were always maintained by the pegasi so as to never ever allow anything bad to happen. There were no unscheduled tornadoes; no dangerous storms could ever endanger the lives of ponies and other creatures that inhabited the area of their influence. Even the rain poured down according to their wishes and whims. The elements of nature were in their absolute control.
The land was always tended to by earth ponies. There were places where nature grew wild and unchecked, like the Everfree Forest, but everywhere else, the plants and trees rose up according to the plans of master gardeners and farmers. Food was never scarce, always plentiful.
Tension hung in the air, and only those isolated from the main hubs of civilization could consider themselves blissfully ignorant.
Unicorns were undoubtedly the masters of magic, one of the most fundamental forces of the world. As others worked with their hooves or wings, they did everything by their horns, the ambient magic always there to help them in their endeavors.
No more masters, but slaves.
It was the natural order of all things under the sky. Since ancient times, nothing has changed. The status quo kept the world in perfect balance.
And if there was anypony who knew best about it, about the stability and stagnation, it surely was Golden Barley. That old earth pony, in the twilight of his life was a farmer who lived throughout his life on the farm, located somewhere in southern Equestria, right in the middle of a particularly rich field where golden grain grew. His cutie mark reflected his predicament, three ears of wheat, for it was all he ever saw. He loved it though, the pride he felt when the fields were covered with rye, barley and other varieties of wheat he himself had sown was simply incomparable. But his time had almost passed, and now, being too old to take care of the fields, his family did all the job, so his only task now was to overlook the fields and see that everything went okay.
It was a warm, sunny day, with a number of very light cirrostratus clouds covering the sky. Local pegasus ponies took special care of the farm, providing perfect weather for all their needs, because keeping good neighborly relations was good for them. After all, half price for the grain? Who wouldn't go for that!
Nothing ever changed on the farm, there was nothing to watch out for, therefore he was napping on the swinging chair on the porch of their house. Days like these, surrounded by the fields, crop swaying gently in the wind, he felt at peace.
Suddenly, Golden Barley woke up. This rude awakening was caused by an event most peculiar.
The sky turned jet black. The sun disappeared, an all-encompassing shadow veiling everything. It was as if night had suddenly come, but there were no stars up above. A deafening loud roar, like a crack of thunder, was so loud it could be heard even by the deaf and the dead. But it was no thunderstorm. There were no lighting bolts to be seen. The sound seemingly emanated from no fixed source.
"Uhhhmmm, what's that..." Golden Barley spoke slowly as he opened his eyes, all his reflexes slowed down by his age, "is it night already?" As soon as he finished the sentence, he closed his eyes and drifted back to slumber. Thanks to that, he couldn't witness the sky turning back to its normal hue, as the phenomenon lasted for no more than half a minute.
A moment later, he was woken up again, this time by a very audible, wet "THUNK!" near him. Golden Barley's aged eyesight and hearing weren't enough to tell what it was now. And even if they were, it would have been better for him to stay in that blissful ignorance.
Somewhere near him, on the field, there was a shallow crater made by a pegasus pony that had fallen to its demise. It would be impossible to identify the body, as the impact thoroughly obliterated anything that could name the poor soul. All that was left was an undefined mass of various biological tissue, fleshy red with some white bone accents. The surrounding crop was sprayed with blood and other even less pleasant things of organic origin.
Meanwhile, the sky was a battlefield, many pegasi fighting for their lives, struggling to maintain flight, feeling gravity binding them in their last moments. Luckily, some managed to spread their wings in an attempt to somehow glide down to the ground. That violent flight would save their lives, although, to tell the truth, the velocity and acceleration made it almost completely impossible not to break a bone or two, or every single one in the process.
Golden Barley's eyes couldn't tell him what exactly was going on up there, for all he saw was many silhouettes of pegasus ponies 'flying' above his farm.
"Pegasi are flying low," he mumbled, half-asleep, "it's a sign it's going to be a good harvest this year..."
And after stating that old piece of ancestral knowledge, he went to his peaceful nap again, without a care in the world about the many mysterious wet sounds near him, which sounded like something heavy was hitting the ground. Their screams were loud, but not enough to wake him up again.
De facto, except pegasus ponies and terrified eyewitnesses, not many cared about their sudden loss of flight capabilities. There were far more serious problems than that.
Because at that exact moment, in an event that was later named 'the Shift', the ambient magic of the entire world had vanished. The apparently immutable order that existed since the early days was turned upside-down in just one second. The unicorn ponies found themselves weak, their magical abilities diminished. They were still able to use their arcane skills, but without the background magic, all their powers became so weak that levitating a quill became the best they could do. And even that power came with a price.
Pegasi were no longer able to use their innate cloud-walking abilities, as the natural magic that supported them became unavailable. Even though they could still fly, it was nothing compared to that what they could do before, as even their wings became weak.
After the initial stage of confusion, it became painfully clear that the magic simply withered away and wasn't coming back. Sensing weakness, enemies of Equestria attacked. However, it was futile, as even they became powerless. Being accustomed to solving problems by magic, those who tried to conquer Equestria found themselves unable do to anything at all. Enemies from outside were routed out surprisingly easily.
Enemies without... and enemies within. It's unknown what the exact cause was, who started the civil conflict, and over what it was fought, but in an event known as the Birthright war, Equestria was torn apart into two parts.
One of those was Terra, Old Equestrian for "ground", the country governed by the earth ponies, who, left with no help from the unicorns and pegasi, turned all their focus on technology, thinking it was the only option left, as old ways of life were useless now.
And the other was Luna's Domain, a safe haven for unicorns and pegasi, established by Princess Luna in a futile attempt to stop the tides of chaos that ravaged the land. Although it was useless, as the seeds of dissent had already taken root in the hearts of ponies. Earth ponies divided themselves from unicorns and pegasi, each group trying to find their own new ways of life.
As those were the times of chaos, not many accounts survived, but by the end, the ponies got used to the new world. The transition was painful, but they've managed to adapt. The old ways became forgotten, lost to the tides of time.
The borders were established, and unstable peace was brought back to the land. For a moment, it was good.
But nothing ever stays the same.
One thing that I should say right-off-the-bat: I'm not a native speaker. Although the 1st, 2nd and 3rd has been beta-read by Periphery, there still might be an odd-sounding sentence, almost always a late-moment addition. Therefore, please, if you find anything like that, please tell me!
Okay. Now on to my comments on the story.
So, I've noticed that the previous version was simply inadequate. It was boring, couldn't convey anything well, and frankly, it was somewhat chaotic. Thus, a rewrite.
But still, I've got a request: voice you opinion, pretty please? Did you like what you've read today? Or not? Anything wrong? Anything you particularly liked? Disliked? Was it boring? Chaotic? Interesting? So-so? Mediocre? Awesome? Throw-it-in-the-bin-and-let-us-never-speak-of-it-again?
Please, let me know by posting a review, I'd be very, very happy if you'd tell me what you think! Especially (can't stress that word enough) if you have any criticisms: only listening to these can I make the story better. I'm trying to write something that would be good enough to gain some attention, here, there, elsewhere, or maybe on EQD...? I might've set up a bar too high, but it's simply proper to set up a goal for myself, isn't it?
And now, for something completely different: I've read Cereal Velocity's guide to writing fanfiction that he posted on EQD. It was mentioned there that it's generally a bad idea to write a prologue. I, on the other hand, disagree. A good written prologue is a hook that manages to catch reader's attention faster than any first chapter could (of course, there's the question whether I've done that bit right or not here... but that ties to previous paragraph). So, what's your opinion? Do you like prologues? Or not?