Forward from the Author
We’ve all heard the tales. Starswirl the Bearded, The Headless Horse, Commander Hurricane, and of course, Nightmare Moon. Heroes and villains from Equestria’s long and storied history. But did any of these ponies actually exist? In a world as rich with magic as ours the job of a historian is no easy task. Just because a story is fanciful doesn’t mean that it’s false, and just because a story is told with conviction doesn’t mean that it’s true. Perhaps if this were not the case, we wouldn’t have nearly as many “old mare’s tales.”
Regardless of whether they were true or not, we all have a few of our favorite characters or legends. Mine, in particular, was the tale of Sol Guard, told to me by my father when I was a filly. On stormy nights when I was lying fearful in my bed of the wind and the darkness outside my window, he would tell me about this brave pony who stood up to the night itself armed only with a lantern and his courage. Indeed, this story in particular was partially responsible for helping me earn my cutie mark and my special talent for history.
So, you can imagine my personal surprise when I awoke one “morning” to find that Nightmare Moon had returned while I was sleeping and was attempting to engulf the world in eternal darkness. After spending much of that night in the fetal position due to my achluophobia, I began to take a closer look at my favorite childhood legend, including any possibly related historical records from that time period. (Fortunately for us all, the current Bearers of the Elements of Harmony defeated Nightmare Moon in much less time than Princess Celestia and Sol Guard.)
Even with the stories of real ponies, there are some facets to these legends that are patently false - as far as anypony can tell, anyway. Sol Guard is known by another name: Soul Guard. Many stories use these names interchangeably, but the alias “Soul Guard” is more often associated with tales of the stallion communicating with spirits of the dead. This character is also said to have adopted a young ghost as his daughter for a time. These stories, while riveting to read with a cup of hot cocoa on a cold night, will not be described in the body of this text as they cannot be confirmed.
Lastly, this book also contains much information about Nightmare Moon’s Rebellion as well as the origins of Nightmare Night. After all, history is not a series of events in perfect chronological order, but a complex mixture of many events taking place simultaneously. Everything is related to everything else, and to describe this figure’s place in history without also describing the period in which he came from would be impossible.
Introduction: Princess Celestia and her Protegees.
There are two recurring problems that inhibit a historian’s ability to uncover the past. The first is that the farther into the past one ventures, the harder it is to rediscover the truth. The more time passes, the more likely that artifacts and records can be lost or looted, never to be discovered again. The second is that Princess Celestia will be of no help, regardless of whether or not she was actually present for the events in question. As historians have been hearing from her highness for centuries: “That would be cheating. You must solve this mystery for yourself, my little pony.”
It is precisely the princess’ tenacity for secret keeping that can make gathering historical information about or relating to her own history so frustrating. The case of the enigmatic Sol Guard, also known as Soul Guard, could have been made clear many centuries ago if this was not the case. Regardless, the recent reemergence of Nightmare Moon - and subsequently the return of Princess Luna - has lent much credence to the tales of this ancient pony.
Since Princess Celestia - and as we are now rediscovering, Princess Luna - first became the eternal matriarchs of Equestria, there have been protegees standing by their sides. Usually, there has only been one chosen pupil each generation. Sometimes there has been more than one at a time, usually because the previous protegee has become old and a younger pony has stepped up to begin her studies. At times there has been no standing protegee at all, although such periods were usually short, lasting no more than a few years.
The curriculum of a royal protegee has always been intense and stretched across all subjects. The pupil is taught everything from magic and science, to politics and economics, to music and art, all directly from the princess herself. The protegee has almost always been a highly studious pony to begin with and handled the workload well. In all cases, they were honored to simply be chosen for the position. They were always hoof chosen by the princess herself, sometimes in an event that inspired the cutie mark of the pupil. Many nobles throughout history have attempted to enroll their own fillies as a protegee, but none have ever been chosen. Such petitions ceased centuries ago.
At least, this is what protegees to Princess Celestia have been like through history. Knowledge of Princess Luna’s protegees has since been lost. Some historians assume that they must have been similar. On the other hoof, others note that Princess Luna’s demeanor is notably different from her older sister’s, and therefore her teaching style, student choice, and even curriculum might be different. As of this writing, Princess Luna has not chosen a new protegee.
Chapter 1: S. Guard’s Apprenticeship
The story of Sol Guard, or Soul Guard as some texts refer to him, is a particularly little-known historical figure. However, his role in history has become more apparent since the return of Princess Luna. This is because he was the protege of Princess Celestia during Nightmare Moon’s rebellion, and played a key role in her defeat. However, much information about the conflict between Princess Celestia and Nightmare Moon was lost before her banishment - including information about Sol/Soul Guard. What little records remain are even inconsistent about the spelling of his first name. Current history books generally refer to him as S. Guard. Few records exist from his lifetime; most information about him comes from legends and tales from after his disappearance, and often contradict each other. Were it not for Princess Luna’s recent return, the entire story of S. Guard could have been written off as an old mare’s tale along with Nightmare Moon herself.
The authors and scribes at the time were diligent about preserving as many records as they could during Nightmare Moon’s rebellion, so some information survives. It’s unknown where S. Guard originated, but we do know that he was an Earth Pony. He had a red coat and a yellow mane. The origin of his cutie mark is also unknown, but records agree that it was a silver and yellow shield with a kind of fire or flare in front of it. There are several interpretations of what his special talent was, the most common being leadership or protection. According to some legends he had some kind of magical ability, but they’re never consistent on what that entailed. Some said that he could control light or fire, while others said that he could amplify the magic of unicorns. Since there has been no confirmed cases of an Earth Pony possessing these kinds of magical abilities, they have all been rejected by most historians. Furthermore, some records have hinted at S. Guard being jealous of the Unicorns’ ability to use active magic.
Much of S. Guard’s personality is speculation by the storytellers who came long after he did. According to the stories, he was largely a solitary pony, preferring to stay by Celestia’s side and study instead of taking a more active role in politics. This, in itself, was not abnormal behavior for a protegee. He did have close friendships with several nobles, including Duke Firestar and Duchess Darkstride, both of whom were similarly reclusive and not particularly popular.
Another consistent theme in his legend is his relationship with a particular white Pegasus. Her real name has been lost to time, but letters suggest it abbreviated to C.L.. The two of them were said to have been deeply in love. Besides this, there is even less surviving information about her than there is about S. Guard. However, it would seem as though she was Princess Luna’s protegee up until the rebellion. These two ponies’ most significant contribution to history was their involvement in Nightmare Moon’s rebellion. Although there’s no doubt that Princess Celestia would have defeated her without their assistance, the damage caused by Nightmare Moon would have been more devastating.
Chapter 2: Nightmare Moon Appears
Princess Luna’s transformation into Nightmare Moon was caused by jealousy against her older sister, Princess Celestia. There are other texts that describe that story and what led up to it in further detail. Fortunately, the events of Nightmare Moon’s rebellion are much more well documented, and makes confirming what little information exists on S. Guard that much more reliable - especially now that there’s conclusive evidence that the events in question actually occurred.
When Luna seemingly disappeared, and Nightmare Moon seemingly appeared out of nowhere, the nobility were, at first, at a loss. It wasn’t until later that it was discovered that the two were, in fact, one and the same. A single Alicorn is much more mobile and powerful than any army of ponies could be. As she held the dawn at bay and wreaked havoc at different points across Equestria, the normal Equestrian army was unable to respond appropriately - and that’s besides the fact that visibility was poor in the now omnipresent night. Compounding the problems, Princess Celestia was forced to dedicate all of her time to tracking down the mysterious invader, leaving more tasks for the rest of the nobility to handle. In fact, Princess Celestia was unable to return to her normal duties until after Nightmare Moon’s defeat years later.
Several nobles and a large military force joined the hunt alongside the princess, while others tried to stabilize and maintain affairs from Canterlot. S. Guard wished to go on the attack with Princess Celestia and her ponies, but was refused. S. Guard’s studies did not include the art of war, and the princess deemed that his place was at home, not on the battlefield. Despite the army’s best efforts, Nightmare Moon usually managed to stay one step ahead of them, and actual conflicts were few.
Nightmare Moon was an agile opponent, and very much at home in the dark of night. She could move imperceptibly and strike anywhere. Most of her raids on the villages of Equestria actually resulted in little physical damage to neither property nor the population. Instead, she was said to have appeared in the middle of town and demand the affection and respect of the ponies who lived there. Whenever Princess Celestia and her army approached - if they could even intercept her in time - Nightmare Moon would slip away into the darkness, often leaving behind a set of traps or decoys for them to deal with. A number of strategies were conceived of by Princess Celestia to lure Nightmare Moon out to be captured or defeated, but she proved to be just as crafty.
Eventually, Nightmare Moon set her sights on Canterlot itself, instead of harassing towns and villages. It was during this turmoil that S. Guard made his first major contribution to history. It’s unclear how, but presumably Nightmare Moon was able to briefly manipulate the upper echelon of Canterlot. Some legends claim that she brainwashed them outright, while others say that she spread dissension in more subtle ways, such as instigating rumors and spreading lies while in disguise. None of these stories are beyond what we know of Nightmare Moon’s abilities.
For some undiscovered reason, S. Guard and C.L. did not fall prey to Nightmare Moon’s treachery. This is very strange as not even Princess Celestia was herself was resistant to her magic. One battlefield report claims that the princess was almost captured and corrupted by Nightmare Moon before Duke Firestar interfered, which would have meant the end of us all. Shortly after that, Nightmare Moon turned her attention to S. Guard and C.L. directly. There were a number of reasons why she would have made that sudden change. She could have been aware of their resistance to her subversion, C.L. might have possessed some information that could have been used against her, or she wanted to target a pony that was personally close to Princess Celestia.
One evening, Nightmare Moon broke into Canterlot again and captured C.L. personally. S. Guard immediately pursued the two of them, eventually catching up to them as Celestia’s army did. S. Guard and Princess Celestia personally confronted Nightmare Moon. There was never a report of exactly what transpired during this conflict, but journals of the soldiers that witnessed the event from a distance all describe a bright light that enveloped the area. This is believed to be the Elements of Harmony in action. The princess, S. Guard, and C.L. all then returned together. Princess Celestia claimed that Nightmare Moon was not defeated, but was weakened for a time before escaping. She did not lose her grip on the moon, but at the very least, her hold on the nobles’ minds was broken. The army then continued their search while S. Guard and C. L. returned home to Canterlot.
There has been much speculation as to why Nightmare Moon was not initially defeated by the Elements of Harmony. Some historians believe that Nightmare Moon used C.L. as a pony shield, while others believe that Princess Celestia was initially reluctant to use the full force of the Elements on her own sister. It’s also unclear why S. Guard was present for the engagement as well. Hostage situations like these should not have relatives and loved ones present. Either his now unknown special talent was required, or Princess Celestia’s compassion got the better of her then too.
Even after removing Nightmare Moon’s influence, there was much conflict among the nobles. Politics - in any time period - can be fraught with chaos and stubbornness even in the most dire of situations. S. Guard made an impassioned speech before the disparate leaders. He reminded them of the weight of the situation and that they shouldn’t be wasting their time fighting amongst themselves. There are no surviving transcriptions on what he said, but presumably his appeal went over well as most arguments ceased shortly thereafter. Although, it is hard to say whether this is because of a well formulated appeal or simply because S. Guard’s word was the closest to the Princess’ herself in her absence.
Chapter 3: Hiding In Shadows, From Shadows
It took several months for Nightmare Moon to re-emerge, and she maintained her grip on the night for the entire duration. She attacked Canterlot once more, using the element of surprise to her advantage. The first thing she targeted during the siege was the royal library and any books or records relating to herself and Princess Luna. Reports involving the conflict at hoof were still being distributed amongst the military, but everything else mentioning Princess Luna’s previous existence was lost. It’s unanimously accepted that Nightmare Moon did this to cover up any weaknesses she felt might have been archived there. It’s believed that she attempted to finish off S.Guard and C.L. as well, but this cannot be confirmed as they were not in Canterlot at the time. Either way, she immediately fled after ransacking the library.
As Nightmare Moon’s rebellion wore on, the population became increasingly unsettled by the constant night. Paranoia was beginning to set in as nopony knew when, where, or if Nightmare Moon would emerge from the eternal darkness and attack them. Furthermore, crops were faltering from the lack of sunlight. Torches and any artificial light available were used to grow food. Some unicorns were even tasked with generating light and heat with their magic for this purpose. Despite their best efforts, yields were still lower than normal and the entire process was costly and difficult. It was then that the first Nightmare Night occurred in a desperate attempt to appease Nightmare Moon, a practice which later evolved into the holiday we know today.
Early Nightmare Nights were very different from the ones we know today. They were not celebrations, but rather cult-like gatherings in an attempt to appease Nightmare Moon’s anger. They made offerings to likenesses of the invader of food, jewelry, anything valuable that they thought she might want. There were countless raids by her over the past few years, so her demands were well known. Some even tried disguising themselves and their villages in order to avoid her detection. There’s no solid evidence that any of these plans were effective. However, the spread of Nightmare Night did coincide with her initial defeat, so many ponies believed that their appeasements worked.
When the population learned about Nightmare Moon’s attack on the royal library, many also destroyed their own records about the Lunar Princess, hoping that might also appease her anger. Frustration also vented against C.L., as large portions of the population turned against even her due to her connection with the former Princess Luna. When S. Guard stood for her defence, he was branded as a traitor and a spy as well. When the very mention of C.L’s name became taboo, the last of any knowledge about Luna and her protegees began to fade.
Fearing for her life, C.L. went into hiding. With both Nightmare Moon and the general populace turned against her, it would seem she had little choice. S. Guard opted to go with her, choosing the mare he loved over his title and position.
It is during this part of the legend where records become more difficult to verify and confirm. While the two ponies were moving around in secrecy, no official records were kept of their locations, lest Nightmare Moon discover where they were. A handful of letters were found eventually which were written by an S.G. and C.L. that mentioned travelling a lot. It is only from these that historians know the mare’s abbreviated name. The two of them likely used aliases as they travelled the countryside, as most ponies hated C.L. and weren’t particularly trusting of S. Guard either.
After travelling for some time, S. Guard and C.L. were becoming suspicious that Nightmare Moon was catching up to them. She would normally make a sudden appearance only long enough to ensure that everypony was still afraid of her and to demand respect and offerings, but her targets were seemingly random. However, her appearances were beginning to become more and more frequent and were supposedly closer and closer to the pair’s location. For Princess Celestia’s part, she and her army were close enough behind to minimize damage every time Nightmare Moon rose up, but the shadowy alicorn would always escape just as they arrived.
Eventually, a plan was conceived to finally put an end to Nightmare Moon. By then, Princess Celestia was prepared to use the full might of the Elements of Harmony, but getting close enough to Nightmare Moon to use them would be too difficult. It is said that Celestia blessed S. Guard and C. L. with a portion of her power, a spell they could use together that would be strong enough to briefly stun Nightmare Moon. Once disabled, Celestia could then approach to use the Elements of Harmony.
It is this portion of the legend that seems the most improbable, as Earth Ponies and Pegasi are only capable of light, passive magic, not active spells. However, that could also have been a power granted to them by Princess Celestia. Or perhaps they finally managed to target that weakness Nightmare Moon believed they knew. A recently developed theory was that the power of S. Guard and C. L.’s love for eachother catalyzed a burst of energy powerful enough to temporarily disable Nightmare Moon. A similar spell was used by Prince Shining Armor and Princess Miamore Cadenza during the Changeling’s siege of Canterlot. However, the power of love is less studied than the power of friendship, so this cannot be known for certain.
Although no official record exists of how the next encounter played out, we can safely conclude that their plan worked. S. Guard and C. L. drew Nightmare Moon’s attention. Nopony else was present for that encounter, but a flare was seen that served as their cue to Princess Celestia. She left her troops for the site of the encounter, and shortly thereafter the light of the Elements of Harmony were seen followed by the rising light of the sun.
The transition from a perpetual night to that of an alternating day/night cycle came at somewhat of a shock to the population of Equestria. Legend says that Princess Celestia was compelled to maintain the day for approximately a week, much to the jubilation of the ponies. That is, until everypony across the land couldn’t sleep in the daylight and the princess finally lowered the sun for their own sakes. There’s no way to confirm if this was true, however.
What is for certain, however, is that Nightmare Night continued even after the banishment of Nightmare Moon. Countless ponies were terrified of the invader’s potential return - especially since that was the second time she had been defeated. As an extra precaution, many villages continued their Nightmare Night rituals. Princess Celestia reassured the ponies frequently that Nightmare Moon was gone for good, but it had little effect. Many nobles at the time advised having the practice outlawed, even during the rebellion, but the princess was adamant in letting ponies do what they wanted. Some historians believe that she did so knowing that it would eventually degrade into the benign and enjoyable holiday we know today. Indeed, there could be a whole branch of historical studies based on what she may or may not have foreseen.
Chapter 4: Later in Life
After the defeat of Nightmare Moon, S. Guard and C. L. both remained in hiding. The population of Equestria had gone through a tumultuous period, and many believed that C. L. played some role in it. S. Guard, choosing the mare he loved over his title once more, left Princess Celestia’s side for good. Since not even military records were kept of the pair’s actions at that point, the trail very much goes cold for years.
However, S. Guard and C. L. eventually return to Canterlot to ask for Princess Celestia’s assistance. Apparently, C. L. was suffering from some kind of disease that local apothecaries were unable to treat or even identify. Although appeals to the throne were regularly and thoroughly catalogued, this particular record was marked solely as “C. L.’s sickness.” There is no indication of what the illness was or even if it was cured. The legends do agree that the matter was urgent and had to be resolved that night. It was said to be some kind of magic related illness, but no two stories can agree on what it was, exactly. Regardless, it was a condition that Princess Celestia attended to personally.
The next day, S. Guard simply left the castle. As mysterious as that may seem, even less is known about the fate of C. L.. Legends conflict on whether or not she even survived her illness that night. Some say that she died, and S. Guard Left alone. Others claim that she lived, and the two left together. Strangely enough, there are several instances of the legend that claim she survived the ordeal with amnesia, forgetting all about S. Guard’s existence. This is especially anomalous considering there aren’t any diseases, discovered then or since, that have that kind of effect on a pony.
Regardless of what happened to C. L. that night, neither of them made any hoofprint on history again. Or, if they did, those stories have been lost completely to time. In a thousand years, almost all knowledge of these ponies has been destroyed or forgotten, but that does not mean their contributions to Equestria were insignificant. If the tales of Nightmare Moon taught us anything, it’s that forgetting the past can threaten the future. It’s the understanding of past, present, and future, as well as the thrill of discovery, that drives historians to search. The legend of S. Guard has proven to be a particularly interesting tale for many historians to rediscover - myself in particular.