Empty Horizons

by Goldenwing

Supplement: Twilight's Notes on Archaeology

Research Notes, Entry Twelve
17th of May, 673 Anno Caeli, 3:22 AM

After searching through five different books on world history, ten different regional history books, and a pair of extremely well organized noble pedigrees, I’ve learned very little as to the nature of the world-shattering event that occurred in my absence. Although they’ve given me a clearer view on modern Equestrian politics and culture—and I am looking forwards to gathering more books on the subject of the various Princess cults that seem to have sprung up—their knowledge of what is now “ancient” Equestrian history is so sparse that many of them don’t even mention events further than three centuries in the past.

As it seems modern Equestrian scholars lack the knowledge I need, I’ve turned to first-hoof accounts of archaeological expeditions. It’s my hope that my personal experience with old Equestria will give me a unique perspective that may bring some new theories to light.

I’ve read several archaeological journals since Entry Eleven (17th of May, 673 Anno Caeli, 2:42 AM), and of particular note to me is Sir Sea Diver’s Survey of the Sunken City of Stalliongrad, written by the titular Sir Sea Diver—the third son of Count Cave Crawler—during a series of archaeological dives he headed from years 642–655.

The unusual thing about them is that they were in fact archaeological dives. Every other journal I’ve read were written by archaeologists on ride alongs with dedicated salvage crews, and their inability to direct their vessels or look at anything of historical value for more than a few minutes before the crew moved on in search of further salvage shows in just how broad many of their findings are.

Sir Diver’s first expedition into Stalliongrad is little more than an excuse to go hunting deep sea creatures, and reads as such. An excerpt from one of his first journal entries reads:

Keep in mind the time of year if you intend to dive around these waters. It’s early spring right now—an ideal time for deepfish hunting, as the beasts roam closer to the surface in the warmer waters—but I’ve seen the Gray [Note: The Gray is a colloquial term in the northern islands for the ice sheet that moves south during the colder months] start moving south as early as August before, sometimes at great speed. I recall a story my cousin Shoal told me of a fishing trip he’d taken late in autumn, when most of the sane folk have settled in for the off-season or gone south to keep their coat warm. He’d gone under for maybe four or five hours, and when he came up to haul his catch the ice had moved in above him! He had to travel almost a quarter mile before he found wet waves again. The daft fool even had the nerve to complain that he didn’t see anything on the ice! He isn’t all dumb, though. He’s refused to fish even a day past July ever since.

He rambles on for nearly five thousand words about fishing and weather and his cousins before returning to the dive itself. Even then, he does little more than theorize on the possible religious significance of what I believe to be the Stalliongrad industrial sector’s smokestacks before returning to the subject of “deepfish,” the term for the various monstrous breeds of fish that now populate much of the ocean below the epipelagic zone. I admit that it was interesting subject matter; the deepfish seem to have some sense for objects which disturb the ocean surface, and will rise up in schools of ever-increasing size to investigate (and subsequently attempt to eat) anything which remains there for much longer than an hour. It’s curious to note that the deepfish otherwise are observed to live largely solitary lives, and don’t seem to have any sense for objects beneath the surface.

I recall reading in the world history books of a period where surface vessels were used for salvage, at a time when scrap and wooden wreckage were a fairly common occurrence floating on the ocean surface. Crews would often use airships to lift themselves out of the water whenever the deepfish became too agitated, as the fish would actually slam themselves into the boats hard enough to create leaks in unarmored hulls, and eventually jump up onto the deck to bite at the crew. In fact, In the interest of remaining topical, thoughts on the deepfish can be found in Addendum A to this entry.

His future journal entries are much more informative. Included in the journal are sketches done by Sea Diver’s skilled companion, Dewlight. The sketches depict battered Royal Guard helmets (Sea Diver theorized them to be ceremonial drinking bowls), bankhouses (He mistakes them for churches. How? Equestria still has banks!), and commemorative crystal pins depicting Princess Cadance (It seems Cadance’s existence is no longer common knowledge among Equestrians. He hypothesized she was a local fertility goddess.).

Reading an archaeological perspective of one’s own past is an almost surreal experience. Of course any decent scholar knows that archaeology involves a great deal of conjecture due to the general lack of context given with any artifact that’s dug up, but seeing just how wrong one pony can be in their hypothesis casts everything I’ve ever read on Old Equus into a skeptical light. I’ve included here an excerpt of Sir Sea Diver’s theories on the purpose of what I’m certain is the Stalliongrad Rail’s train tracks.

The trail consists of two steel rails, travelling in parallel throughout the entire city. Although the passage of time has warped much of it, careful measurement of the best preserved segments leads me to believe that it was designed very precisely to accommodate two full-grown mares of average build. The rails are laid across a path of heavy stone, raised above the cobble that was used in much of the city's hoofpaths, and decorated with long crystal nails that seem to have been driven into their surface with great force. Attempts to follow the rails to any form of origin point have all been for naught; they travel beyond the city in many directions, perhaps to smaller villages that might have existed into the surrounding metropolitan zone.

Based on the religious columns and large gathering buildings lining the trails, the raised surface, and the crystal used as decoration, I can only assume that that they were used for some form of religious ceremony centering on Stalliongrad’s ubiquitous fertility goddess. We’ve found more of the ceremonial bowls in structures built around the trail, and so I believe that some form of idol or altar may have been carried by teams of mares marching abreast throughout the town, while the populace would wait at these stations to shower them with praise, adoration, or pleas. From afar, it is difficult to tell whether the trails or the city came first. Perhaps these trails are marks of some arcane leyline ancient ponies drew succour from, or perhaps they were built in such a way that as many ponies as possible could reach them easily for religious satisfaction. One thing is for certain: Stalliongrad was an extremely religious settlement.

It appalls me how Sea Diver seems to see religion in almost everything he touches, despite diving in a city known for being rather cold towards the Princesses in general. On the plus side, the crystal Cadance pins tell me that whatever apocalypse befell Equestria didn’t happen more than a few years after my disappearance. I recall Cadance discussing plans to attempt to ingratiate herself to the city through distributing collectible pins to the populace in five-year increments. It’s merely a coincidence that the northern city had developed a penchant for using crystal in much of its infrastructure.

From my readings so far, it seems that the loss absence of the Princesses has led to a significant rise in what I’m calling “Princess cults” around Equestria. As much as I wish to read and discuss further on the subject, I shall hold myself back for now in the interest of remaining relevant to the material at hoof.