In the land of the dead there are fearsome creatures who are nonetheless noble, and serve the Lord of the Dead lawfully, such as the orthroi, the manticores and the wyverns. But there are also ferocious monsters and horrifying beasts. Timberwolves, hydras, harpies, and emponysas were only some of the creatures the Lord of the Dead could send against them. There were also ghastly undead creatures, zomponies and vamponies, shadow ponies and nightmare monsters, spirits of hatred and disharmony. And there were all of the unrighteous dead, many of whom were angry at the god of breaking rules for leading them into a battle they could have never won.
In addition, the Lord of the Dead was able to use the gate of ivory, which is the gate of illusions and false dreams, to send illusions to confuse them. But the Lady of Dreams dispelled the falsehoods and the nightmares with her power over dreams, and the light of the Moon shining from her horn, illuminating the darkness. The god of breaking rules persuaded many of the monsters, who were his children, to let them pass. And his love, the Sun mare, shone the pure light of day on vamponies and shadow ponies, and they vanished in the light.
Once they had passed through the monsters, they were faced by an army of the unrighteous dead. "God of breaking rules! You betrayed us!" shouted Futile Ambition, whose ambitions had returned to him when the god had been defeated by the hydra, some time ago. "You said you would fight the Lord of the Dead with us, and you lied!"
"If the Lord of the Dead was your enemy, and you wished to fight him, why do you fight for him now?" the Sun mare asked.
"Because he has promised us the Elysian Fields if we defeat the god of breaking rules!"
"But he cannot give to you the Elysian Fields. They are for the righteous, and you are the unrighteous dead," the Sun mare said. "Only if you repent of your sins in life and embrace the harmony of friendship with your fellow ponies can you reach the Elysian Fields, and you will never achieve that by fighting."
"Even if we were to repent, we are to be tortured in Tartarus forever, unless we serve the Lord of the Dead and do his bidding! So we must fight you!"
"Do you truly wish to fight us? Or do you wish to see the Sun and Moon again, and be freed of the darkness within you, and thus enter the Elysian Fields? For I believe that the Lord of the Dead is wrong to imprison and torture anypony for eternity. I believe that anyone who truly repents should be allowed their freedom, to join the ones that once they loved in the Elysian Fields. Embrace harmony, and I tell you, I will make a path for you to enter Paradise. Or refuse, and fight us, and my sister and I will ensure you are banished to the darkness, until the day you do repent."
"And who are you to say such things?" the unrighteous dead demanded. "You are only a dead mortal pony, just like we are!"
"I was a dead mortal pony," the Sun mare said. "But now I live again, and the Sun lives inside me, and I walk beside my sister, the Moon. That is how I can say such things."
The wicked dead were restless. Some wished to take her offer, for after so many years of unending torment they had come to repent of their sins, but they could not imagine how she and her companions could defeat the forces arrayed against them. Some wished to smite her all the more, for sometimes when we have lost hope for so very long, the thought of it coming back offends us. And some laughed, for they had no desire to repent, only to escape their punishment.
While they shifted amongst themselves, the Sun mare said to the Moon mare, "I know you were mortal a very long time ago, but do you remember the legend of the Elements of Harmony?"
"I was mortal a very long time ago, but I have walked in the dreams of mortals ever since that time," the Moon mare said. "I do remember. The six Elements combined are said to have power over even the gods, for if the gods do not act in harmony, why then are they gods?"
The god of breaking rules was troubled by such talk. It is very, very rare that breaking a rule should ever lead to harmony. "They won't hesitate for long. We need to fight back, not talk of childhood stories."
"No, my love. We will never win in a fight; look how many legions of wicked dead there are, and how many monsters! What we must do is bring harmony to our enemies, so they will no longer be our enemies."
"And those who may choose to be enemies after that, we will seal away until they repent of their wickedness," the Moon mare said.
"I don't see where I fit into this," the god said crossly. "Now that you have a sister, you no longer care about me?"
The Sun mare sighed. "You're wrong, love. The Elements of Harmony are Honesty, Kindness, Generosity and Loyalty, but there are two more. Laughter, for how can we achieve harmony if we suffer stress and tension all the time? Laughter lets ponies at odds with each other relax and enjoy the company of the other... and there are very few ways to create Laughter that don't involve breaking a rule." She placed her hoof on his paw. "You always made me laugh."
The god was somewhat mollified, hearing the calm and gentle words of his love. "What is the sixth?"
"Why, the sixth is the very force that brought you here, the force that led my sister to join us, the force that binds us three together. It is Love – the love shared in bedrooms, the love between parent and child, the love of sisters... the love of friends. My sister showed you friendship when you were imprisoned, because she longed for love, and now we are all three together. In Harmony. Do you understand?"
The god of breaking rules understood very little about Harmony, but he did understand love, and agreed that Love as a principle could include him as well. Had he not stormed the gates of the Land of the Dead for love, and had he not been transformed irrevocably by it? In any case, he would never admit that there was anything he didn't understand. "Yes, of course I do," he said.
"Then let us act," the Moon mare said.
But the Sun mare held her gaze for one moment. "We are sisters. We should know each other's names," she said.
"It was too long ago that I was mortal. I no longer remember my name," the Moon mare said.
The Sun mare nodded. "Then choose one. And I will choose a new one also, for I am no longer the mare I was when last I walked the earth. We are truly both born anew and should have new names."
The Moon mare agreed. Then the two rose into the cavernous sky of the Land of the Dead, and their horns lit with a light so bright, even the god of breaking rules, who could visit and chat with the Sun, had to shield his eyes. And the Sun mare spoke, in a voice that echoed through the caverns.
"I am Celestia, of the Sun and sky!"
And the Moon mare spoke, in a voice equally as loud, "I am Luna, of the Moon and dreams!"
"And to those who sorrow over their sins in life, we will bring harmony, and free them to enter Paradise!"
"But to those who cling to their wickedness, they will no longer be tortured, but they will be banished to darkness until they repent!"
"With Kindness, that my sister the Moon showed to my love when she helped him to be free of the Lord of the Dead!" And as the Sun mare Celestia spoke, a pink sparkling gem appeared, circling around the Moon mare Luna.
"With Generosity, that my sister the Sun showed to me when she gave up her own womb to give me flesh!" And as the Moon mare Luna spoke, a green gem appeared, circling around the Sun mare Celestia.
"With Honesty, that my sister the Moon brings to ponykind when she carries to them true dreams from the gate of Horn!" And so an orange gem appeared before Luna.
"With Loyalty, that my sister the Sun gives to me and to her love!" And so a red gem appeared before Celestia.
And then Celestia reached down with her forehoof, gesturing for the god of breaking rules to come and join her, but he was uncertain, for the light hurt his eyes and he still felt he was no true part of Harmony.
"Come, my love," Celestia called to him. "We are about to break one of the greatest rules of all – the rule that a pony should endure eternal suffering for their wickedness in life. For a life is short, and eternity is long, and there can never be justice in eternal punishment. This rule is unjust, and we will break it, with your help."
And so the god of breaking rules was convinced, and flew up to join his love and her sister. Celestia called out, "With Laughter, that my love brings to the world through the many rules he breaks!" And a blue gem appeared before him.
And then the two sisters spoke as one. "With Love, which binds ponies to one another, through friendship, through mates of the heart, through parents and foals, through brothers and sisters!" And a final gem appeared before them like a star, and it shone even brighter than before.
The monsters and nightmares and creatures of shadow that still remained cried out as the pure light of harmony dissolved them. The dead who had been wicked in life, but who grieved for their sins, reached to the light, and prayed for redemption in Harmony, and so they were transported to the Elysian Fields. The dead who still turned from the path of righteousness, who clung to their sin and did not repent, were banished from the plains of Tartarus to the darkness out beyond the moon. Sometimes some of these wicked creatures manage to slip back to earth and invade the dreams of the living, but the Moon mare Luna, the Lady of Dreams, continues to protect us from them, banishing them from our nightmares to this day.
As all the dead were dispelled, some to an eternity in the paradise of the Elysian Fields, some to lonely darkness, the Lord of the Dead appeared. Before, he had been proud, and arrogant, and cruel, for his dominion had been absolute. Now he was humbled before the power of Harmony, but still he sought to enforce the law of life and death.
"Do not do this," he pleaded with them. "Can you not be content as goddesses who live within the Sun and Moon, without flesh? You are dead, both of you. If you break the law of life and death by returning to the land of the living, you will break everything. If you value Harmony, you must not do this."
The sisters looked at each other in trepidation, for they both valued Harmony and had no desire to break the world. But the god of breaking rules laughed. "That's what everyone says, every time I break a rule! Oh, god of breaking rules, do not give wings to ponies, for ponies are not birds and shouldn't have wings! And yet I did, and ended the loneliness of the sky, and made the ponies I touched delighted with the gift of flight! Oh, god of breaking rules, do not give creatures extra heads, for creatures should have only one head! And yet I took your own faithful hound, who was so saddened by his brother's dying that he wished to follow his brother into death, and I took his brother's head while he still lived and joined it to him, and now they are one hound with three heads, as loyal and faithful as ever, but happy now for they can never be parted! Oh, god of breaking rules, do not break the rule of fire and death, for creatures who are burned should die! And yet I gave the gift to the phoenix of being restored to life with fire, and she was grateful and happy!"
He landed before the Lord of the Dead, glaring at him with the corroded eyes that the Lord of the Dead's torments had left him with. "Your law, your order, only makes creatures suffer. I gave up almost all the parts of my body to free my love from you. I have sacrificed more than any creature can without dying. And still you would not grant my request, because your rules say that the dead should never return to the living. But I say, rules are suffering! Rules are pain! Your rule said that the wicked dead should suffer eternally, though their crimes were far, far less than an eternity and the suffering they caused could never equal an eternity of suffering. An eternity of suffering! Even if they repented! Because of your rules!"
The god of breaking rules spat on the Lord of the Dead. "You love torturing those who break your rules so much, I freed myself by tricking you into torturing me. You have so little capacity for love and mercy in your heart that you took a young mare, nearly a filly still, and carried her off to be your wife, and yet never in all of this time did you ever love her. I gave her a sister that loves her. And I will make sure that both of those sisters walk in the land of the living again, for they deserve it, and I will not deny such virtuous and magnificent mares the reward they deserve just because you have a rule."
The sisters heard his words, his passion, and they were moved. They heard how he spoke of the happiness he brought by breaking rules, and they considered them. And they heard his reminders of the cruelty of the Lord of the Dead, and they were convinced. If a creature who caused such suffering and did not care, or even was pleased by it, was enforcing a rule, and a creature of such passion, who wanted to bring happiness, wanted to break it, was it not obvious that the rule should be broken? For the sisters were not yet wise, despite all their intelligence and their good hearts, and they did not know that sometimes rules exist for a reason, beyond the nature of who is enforcing or breaking them.
And so the three marched onward, through the now-empty lands of Tartarus, but they did not go to the river. For at the river Styx, the caverns of the Land of the Dead are low, and stalactites hang thick, and even a skilled flyer cannot be certain of crossing the river without falling in... and none of them had bits, so Charon would not take them. Instead, they went to the gates where first the god of breaking rules attempted to breach the land of the dead.
At the seventh gate, the gate of obsidian, the windigos blocked their passage, but Celestia and Luna used the power of Harmony to dispel the windigos into nothingness. And so they passed.
At the sixth gate, the gate of gold, the centaurs blocked their passage, and tried to steal their magic. But Celestia generously bargained with them, giving them two of the horns from the gate of horn. These horns were imbued with magic, and so the magic-hungry centaurs were sated, and let them pass.
At the fifth gate, the gate of silver, the harpies blocked their passage. But Luna kindly combed the fur on their monkey-like heads and bodies to groom them, and preened their wings for them, and for the first time since their vigil began the harpies were comfortable and did not itch. So the harpies were satisfied, and let them pass.
At the fourth gate, the gate of copper, the tigers blocked their passage. But Luna told them the truth – the Land of the Dead was empty of the restless, the wicked and the monstrous, and there was no more need to guard the passage. Tigers are solitary creatures and do not like working together or taking orders. When they heard that the task they'd been bound to no longer had a purpose, the tigers ran away. And so they passed.
At the third gate, the gate of brass, the manticores blocked their passage. But manticores were the children of the god of breaking rules, and fathers know where their children are ticklish. The god of breaking rules tickled the manticores and made them laugh too hard to hold the gates, and so they passed.
At the second gate, the gate of bronze, the griffins blocked their passage. "You may go through," they said to Celestia, "but only you. These others are ugly and stupid." But Celestia took offense at those words, for her loyalty to her sister and her love. She glared at the griffins so fiercely that they took fright, and threatened to bring the might of the Sun against them if they did not take back their insults. The griffins agreed, and in their fear, they let them pass.
At the first gate, the final gate, the gate of iron, the minotaurs blocked their passage. "We are the last line of defense," the minotaurs said. "We have been charged with keeping the dead from entering the land of the living, and we will keep to our charge no matter what."
"But these mares are alive, and so am I," said the god of breaking rules.
"The living cannot enter the land of the dead without sacrificing all that they are."
"And I have done so. Don't you remember me? You took my horn."
The minotaurs scowled. "You tricked us! That horn was made of paper."
Celestia, Luna and the god of breaking rules all attempted to open the iron gate, but iron absorbs magic, and held a grudge against the god of breaking rules. It swallowed their magic and would not let them go. The minotaurs stood stern, refusing to move, and without being able to use magic against them, Celestia, Luna and the god of breaking rules could not defeat them.
Through the iron grate that served as the gate to the land of the living, there were ponies, for the god of breaking rules had worn away the stone that blocked the passage from their sight. Many ponies had come to the gate, hoping to find the ones they had loved. "Ponies!" Celestia called out to them. "I have come from the land of the dead, and I can give you news of the ones you loved! But we need more magic to open the gate, for iron swallows magic and we need more than we have!"
One of the ponies spoke. "But we are mere mortal ponies of earth, Goddess," he said. "We could try to kick down the gate, but the minotaurs have swords and could stab us through the gate!"
"Yes, that is exactly what we'll do if you try to kick down this gate," the minotaurs said. "Challenge us, and you'll meet a dire fate!"
"But if you had horns, you could use magic!" Celestia said. "Sister!"
Luna threw the bag of horns to Celestia. The minotaurs moved in on Celestia with their swords, to take the bag of horns from her, but she tossed it to her love... who emptied the bag by flinging its contents through the iron grate.
The ponies saw the horns, like the horns of the gods and goddesses but much smaller, and knew what they needed to do. They took the horns and put them on their heads, and gained the power of magic. With many, many ponies who wanted news of their friends and loved ones using their magic, the gate was forced open and the minotaurs were forced to flee.
Within the antechamber, hidden from the sunlight and moonlight of the lands of living ponies, Celestia told the ponies of their loved ones, many of whom she had met in the Elysian Fields. Ponies, unlike the god of breaking rules, can be satisfied even if those they love are dead, so long as they know their loved ones are happy in a land of paradise, for they know they are mortal and in the fullness of time they will join the ones who went ahead. They were pleased with the news Celestia brought, and they dispersed, leaving the tunnel with their new horns on their heads. And that is why the unicorns can wield the power of magic, for the power of magic is the power of love and friendship, which drove them to brave the gate to the land of the dead.
The god of breaking rules went ahead of the sisters, eager to be free of the confines of the rocky tunnel. He floated in the air outside, breathing deeply of its freshness, enjoying the warmth of the Sun on his back. "Celestia, Luna, come on!" he called to them, and if they had had any doubts, those were dispersed by his enthusiasm. With equal eagerness, they ran to join him, and those who had been dead came out, alive again, into the land of the living, carrying the hearts of the Sun and the Moon within them.
And above them, in the sky, Moon was yanked into the sunlit sky by the presence of her heart, and the presence of her own heart froze Sun in place. Never again would they move on their own, as the harmony of the world broke. The sky stopped as well, as the laws of everything shattered.
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