Everywhere Rainbow Dash flew, the metal chamber opened up even more. She had to pace herself, or else she'd be drawn into flying too far away from the group of escapees. Every corridor she peered down, the interior held more and more winding passageways full of silver-plated pillars, shiny platforms, and mysterious pieces of machinery.
The place was massive; that couldn't be emphasized enough. Rainbow Dash felt as if she would have far less locations to visit if she was floating in the very heart of Cloudsdale. Not only was the labyrinthine place immense, but it was clean, pristine, immaculate, hardly indicative of a location that was so old and abandoned.
At least, she assumed the place was abandoned. Astral wasn't the only one who felt as though the place showed hints of intelligent design. At every turn, the interior resembled a huge, royal palace. And yet, at every other turn, gigantic gears and levers and conveyor systems rested in perpetual silence.
Rainbow Dash couldn't pretend to guess what the machinery's purpose was. As curious as she was, she wasn't about to find out. She kept remembering that she wasn't the only pony there, the only soul turned breathless by the sights of that awesome place. There was no telling what would happen if she moved a single switch or lever. The twenty-nine escapees needed her. What was more, they needed to pass through this area safely.
But where were they all headed? Rainbow Dash paused briefly in her flight, hovering above the multiple platforms and walkways. She hadn't realized it until a good hour into the trek, but she was being drawn towards a distant part of the place. It was different than when she flew ever eastward in her normal, everyday journey. This was something that was beyond instinctual, something that was pulling at the very fiber of her being.
She gazed down at her pendant. She saw a dim glow at the heart of the ruby lightning bolt. Then, looking down at the platforms, she saw how the seams and grooves in the wall shimmered noticeably around her. The place was incredibly dark on the inside, at least until her presence graced it. Afterwards, the group got plenty of illumination. She never thought about questioning the reason why, but she never felt the reason to. Rainbow Dash had been filled with a great sense of ease upon reaching that place. She didn't fear in the least for the well-being of her fellow ponies. Until an instinct made her feel differently, she wasn't about to panic.
She flew ahead of the group, dashing left and right, checking each corridor before ultimately choosing a passage that was safe—that she somehow knew was without danger. This process of travel continued for a very long time. Hours crept by. The group paused on more than one occasion to collect their breaths, as well as their senses.
“Just how old is this place?” a mare remarked.
“By the Sun Goddess! I can't imagine!” said a stallion. “Somehow I wouldn't doubt if it's as old as Creation!”
“But that's impossible,” another stallion exclaimed. “The Creation of the world was a divine event. The gods and goddesses of old wouldn't have left this place to be forgotten! Obviously, this was built by some later civilization...”
“It could be possible,” a unicorn spoke up. “The world is likely a log older than most Wintergate historians imagine. The only living souls capable of understanding the lengths of time are the alicorn goddesses of Equestria.”
A few ponies looked up at their blue, winged chaperone from afar. They then exchanged glances.
“Why does this place light up for her? Is it because of that thing she wears?”
“You don't suppose she was always meant to come to this place from the beginning?”
“Why would she bring us with her?”
“You... You don't think she means to sacrifice us, do you?”
“Don't be absurd! If we meant so little to her, she would have done away with us earlier! Besides, her only sin is thinking with her gut more than her brain from time to time.”
“I just don't like this situation,” a mare said. “We're in a deep, frightening place that's far too grand and old for any of us to comprehend, and yet she's the only one with a chip on her shoulder.”
“You mean she's the only one who's so courageous?” Red Turnip Sr. remarked, shuffling over to sit with the group. “If you ask me, none of us should begin freaking out until Miss Dash does.”
“Why are you defending her so much, Red? This entire time, you've been practically worshipping her.”
He smiled back at the group. “She brought my son to me. She freed us from our imprisonment. She's filled my entire life with hope and joy. Until I see something break that pattern, I'm standing by her side to the bitter end.”
“Besides...” Astral also joined the group, levitating the last bit of minotaur rations over so that they could have a bite to eat. “Where she is, there's light. I have the feeling that whatever this place is, it was meant for her to find it. There's no safer place in Wintergate to be than by her side.”
“I hope you're right,” a stallion remarked. “I hope this isn't just blind faith.”
Astral nodded, took a bite out of some preserved meat, and swallowed. “I've never been more blind than I am now.”
“Don't you find that alarming?”
“Hmmph...” He swallowed another morsel. “On the contary.” He smiled and gazed up at Rainbow's hovering figure. “I find it rather... liberating. Like I've sprouted wings of my own...”