Stardust's Odyssey

by Cosmic Eclipse


Ch III - "Legends of the Lost King"

I opened my eyes, seeing nothing save for the starry expanse in front of me. A strange fog rolled across the void, giving the illusion of a ground that wasn't there. I tried to press forward to no avail, it was as if I was merely floating in this void. Was I still alive or had I perished in the pairing process? I tried to glance down at my new limb, suddenly becoming aware that I had no form, I just… existed in this expanse… floating endlessly in a world I could not comprehend.

Time stretched into insurmountable eons as I sat there, the fog and stars being my only company in this strange twilight realm. Perhaps centuries had passed, time was as imperceptible here as the world around me, but even now the world continued to persist in this strange state… until I felt a presence calling to me from the void, echoing from every direction. “Greetings Stardust. I’m pleased that we are finally able to make contact, you’ve been through quite a lot and I apologize for that.”

I stared forward into the void, trying to locate the origin of the voice, a task I soon realized was futile. I could only voice a grim response. “Am I dead?”

“Far from it, you persist here in a realm between realms, a space between spaces… this is a world where only the mind exists, a state of reality known to you as a dream.”

The grim dread drained away from me, being replaced with a feeling of relief, relief that I wasn’t forever lost in some strange reality. “So I’m alive then… it worked?”

“I do not know the answer for which you seek, however I do have knowledge that could rectify the course that fate has outlined for you.”

I didn’t trust this voice, I needed more information before I could even think about discussing fate. “Just… Who are you?”

“Me? I am eternity, a being of unimaginable power… though my powers are locked away, sealed in a great labyrinth of betrayal and fear. That is why fate has willed this chance meeting.”

I was not a fan of their theatrics, I needed a clear answer and I needed it eons ago. “What do you mean?”

“You, Stardust, are the key to this all. You have the power to break the seal and release me, to bring harmony back to these lands. It is a destiny that fate has bestowed on very few in this lifetime.”

Something felt off to me. “Wait a second. So you’re trying to tell me that you’re some kind of god?”

“No, not quite in the traditional sense. I am a powerful being though, though perhaps one whose destiny has shifted.”

I was skeptical, but who wouldn’t be at this point when faced with the same situation? “But how are you able to even communicate with me if you’re sealed away?”

“My reality and your reality are millions of deviances away from each other, but there is one reality that does link the two, the world of sleep, a universe of limitless potential that bridges the gap between the two. I don’t claim to understand the intricacies of the universe, but these are realms that somehow converge here, our thoughts able to echo amongst them, even while separated by physical realities.”

“So it’s true then? I am from a different universe?”

“It appears so. Your reality, the one you were torn from is one of innumerable others, world's born from the different choices we make, the different potentials, actions… all causing different branches from one timeline.”

“But everything here… it’s so different. Is this really a branch from my own?”

“Potentially, one choice can cascade into an avalanche of changes, consequences you could have never even imagined existing.”

A feeling of longing dread filled me, I wasn’t sure if this was a hopeless plea or an actual possibility. I had to ask regardless. “Can… can I go home?”

“Its possible, there are beings who could grant your wish, beings with the power to reach through time and space, through realities. I am one of those beings… though I’m afraid my powers are locked away, too weak to really affect reality in the physical sense.”

“What… what would need to be done to free you?”

As impossible as it was I could almost sense this entity grinning at my line of questioning. “I’m glad you asked…”

The starry expanse shifted to show a map of the world, ethereal ribbons of light that glowed in an unnatural way flowed across and around it, highlighting various points and creatures. All a marvel to my existence. “What.. What am I looking at?”

“The world, in one space, but through many times. These ethereal paths you see mark the journeys of many great heroes throughout time, beings that fate had chosen to embark on important journeys, odysseys to conquer insurmountable threats… I was one of those beings a thousand lifetimes ago.” one particular ribbon lit up, the entire universe shifting until it was all that could be seen. As the fog cleared I was now in strange stone atrium, a large domed structure with a shining mirror in the center.

A strange winged being walked forward. “My liege, he has breached the walls, what are your orders?”

The figure who I could only assume was the king gazed down from a large telescope, surveying the damage and destruction that was slowly engulfing his kingdom. “Let him in.”

The guarded jumped back in shock, staring down at the destruction outside with widened eyes. “Let him in? But Sir, he’ll destroy us all!”

The king snapped back. “Then we’ll go down with the ship. He does not know of the dark power we have locked away here.”

“You don’t mean…”

He nodded, closing his eyes as he pushed the telescope away. “I do. Prepare the Labyrinth, if we seal it away we’ll finally rid ourselves of this plague.”

“But Sir, the cost of such an act would surely mean our end!”

“But it would also be the end of this dark threat, besides, there’s ways to persist, we have the Pearl after all…”

“But..”

“I have given you my orders.”

The guard sighed and bowed his head. “Yes my Liege.”

The room darkened as strange ethereal lanterns around the atrium lit, seeming to draw all natural light into them, replacing my surroundings with an inky black void that seemed to defy all known natural laws, the monolithic mirror and the lanterns being the only discernible structures that remained. A commotion could be heard outside as the guards presumably perished, the door suddenly breaking open revealing a shadowy figure who laughed as the mirror lit up, seemingly unaware of the trap that had been laid. A loud hum slowly grew into a thunderous chorus as the world seemed to shake around us. The last sight I saw was the world fading to black once more as the shadow king was consumed by the mirror, the burst of energy lighting up the universe in a flare of light that forced me to shut my eyes tightly.

The darkness returned as I cautiously opened my eyes. “What… what happened?”

“The betrayal, an act of vengeance that cost them their lives and the existence of their entire civilization.”

“Why were they attacking though?!”

“Lust for power, among other things. The world was on the verge of ascension, the universe finally reaching a critical point of balance… but they had to have it all for themselves. I was one of those beings caught in the cataclysm, locked away to a realm I could never hope to escape… That is why I summoned you here. Aid my release and I shall grant you what your heart desires most… a return to your own reality.”

“But.. how do I-- why did you show me this?”

“--Because you need the vital context that has been lost to time. The mirror is the key to your salvation.  Answers will come to you in due time young Stardust, but I’m afraid my powers can only reach so far. You will be returning to the waking world soon, I shall leave you with this… Seek out the ancient city, of Acadia, a city lost to time and history. The answers lie there. Until we meet again Stardust.”

My world began to fade into nothingness again, as I tried to yell out I found that I simply had no voice.


Voices began to fade back in, though my perceptions of them were still hazy at best. “Hey Xen I think he’s finally awake!”

“Is he now? Let me see. Does it look operational?”

“The readouts show that the pairing was successful, and he seems stable enough.”

“Excellent! Take it easy Stardust, you’ve been through quite an ordeal I can imagine.”

I started to stir from my slumber, the pain was still there, though by now it had significantly dulled. “Wha… what happened?” I groaned as I sat up, rubbing my temples with my hooves… both of them! I suddenly snapped my eyes open, admiring my new limb. “This… this feels so natural…”

“...Like it’s been a part of you for your entire life right?” Xenith asked inquisitively.

“Yeah, exactly!”

“You have the unicorns’ advanced knowledge to thank for that… so how are you feeling?”

Xenith’s line of questioning only served as a bitter reminder of the throbbing pain in my head. I groaned out a pained response. “Bad.. like I’m hungover… but not nearly as bad as I felt earlier.. How long was I out?”

“A few hours, I didn’t think the pairing would be that intense, but I’m just glad you’re alright.”

I sat up, giving my new limb another look. I carefully stepped off of the table, hesitantly putting weight onto it.

Onyx started to run forward but was stopped by Xenith.

Xenith stepped forward, adjusting his goggles. “How does it feel?”

I gave a few small steps forward, quickly moving into a short trot. “It.. It feels weird, but natural at the same time. It’s like my senses are dialed up way more than they should be…”

“As is to be expected, you just had part of your brain remapped to work with an entirely foreign limb… and it didn’t reject it either.”

I perked up at that. “What do you mean by that?”

“I apologize for not telling you earlier, there was a small chance that your body and mind could have rejected the leg during the pairing process, a real one in a billion chance, but a chance nonetheless.”

A bolt of anger flared up within me, but quickly faded as I realized that I was still alive and intact. “And what would have happened then?”

“Your mind would have likely been fried, there’s always a risk with these kinds of prosthetics, especially when you’re dealing with a heavily modified advanced prototype.”

I rolled my eyes, glaring at him in annoyance. “Well that would have been good to know at first…” I calmed down slightly, looking down at my new limb. “I guess it’s fine now though. So you wanted to tell me something earlier?”

Xenith nodded, waving me over to a bookshelf. “Let me share with you the legend of the fallen king.”

I nodded, shifting around on my new leg, still unable to fully get used to the strange feeling. I watched as Xenith rummaged around the shelf, retrieving a well worn volume, and flipping through it. “This is an enchanted tome, a relic passed down through my family for countless generations…”

The lights in the room seemed to dim from some unnatural force, as a vast starfield materialized above the open book. Xenith began to speak again, his voice carrying some ancient tone to it. “This is a tale that has been passed down for countless generations. A tale of a world ruled by kings, kings who led civilizations of unimaginable power.”

The void in front of me exploded into color, making me close my eyes reflexively. When I reopened them the starry void was replaced with a spinning globe.

“The world was ruled by seven tribes, and harmony prevailed throughout the land. Under their leadership they thrived for many years, sharing their knowledge and power, aiding one another in a goal of mutual harmony.” vibrant beams of light connected different points on the globe, lighting up each respective kingdom.

The globe began to spin rapidly, day and night becoming a blur. “Centuries went by and this harmony persisted… but one day it ended.” Two kingdoms lit up brighter than the rest. “The Thestrals and Hippogriffs furthered their own pursuits of knowledge, quickly outpacing the world around them.” The two borders began to grow, eventually meeting in a vibrant clash of colors. “They soon grew into kingdoms of immeasurable power, but still their lust for knowledge grew. Tensions quickly grew into fears, a spark that shattered a millennium of peace, the two nations fought for their knowledge, the two sides blaming each other for the schism that they had mutually formed.”

The world grew larger, fading away at the edges of my vision. The two kingdoms were now all that we could see. “They began creating magical weapons such as the world had never seen.” Smoke and fire began to envelop the world around us, a the two kingdoms clashed. “The combined might of the two kingdoms led them into a stalemate that lasted a lifetime. In a final act of desperation a final battle was waged, the outcome resulting in the decimation of both kingdoms, ending a century of disharmony, and the world slowly healed.” The fire around us slowly quelled, gradually being replaced by nature. In the blink of an eye the world had returned to normal.

I blinked a few times, reflecting on the two stories I had heard today. “What… What happened to them though? Evidently some remnants lived on because you’re here.”

“While the true victor is lost to history, remnants evidently did persist. The thestrals became a nomadic tribe, no longer having a homeland or leader. The hippogriffs however vanished, a tribe lost to time. The only remnants of their reign being tales and legends passed down in tomes such as this one.”

I thought back to my dream again, and the knowledge I now possessed. “I… When I was out I had a dream or a vision or something… I don’t know if it was real but I think it contained a long forgotten part of the legend.”

Xenith raised an eyebrow. “And what would that be?”

“The piece pertaining to how it all ended.”

“Then it must be true.” He began to pace around the room. “There were always rumors born in the aftermath… a tale of a hero who would emerge from the ashes and restore the rightful balance of the world. I believe that you may be that hero.”

I glanced between him and Onyx, unsure of what to say. “Isn’t the world already balanced though? You said harmony was restored after the final fight?”

Onyx shook his head. “A semblance of it was, but there were still ramifications, consequences in the world that act as a scar. It never fully healed.”

Xenith carried on. “The tribes no longer coexist as they once did. The thestrals are no more than a simple band of nomads, most living in tightly knit communities. The unicorns hoard their knowledge in their isolated city, away from those who might seek to misuse it. The pegasi are no longer the great warriors they once were, instead opting to live in the skies as travelling merchants. The earth ponies have remained relatively the same over the centuries, remaining as simple farmers who rely on the land more than magic or technology.”

Onyx perked up with a burst of energy, surprising me. “There’s also a whole slew of other tribes, crystal ponies, changelings, kirin… maybe even alicorns!”

Xenith rolled his eyes and shook his head. “You know they’re only a myth Onyx, we’ve discussed this at length.”

“There’s evidence that says otherwise… but I’ll refrain from arguing my theories further.”

I tilted my head to the side in confusion. “Alicorns?”

Xenith turned back towards me, nodding his head. “Yes. A lost race of beings who wielded unimaginable power, thought by many to be a mix of the core tribes. If they did exist, they’ve been gone far longer than recorded history can suggest.”

I could only think back to the ethereal voice that had called out to me earlier. “Xenith.. That vision, there was a place, a city… a name that called out to me.”

He raised an eyebrow. “What was it?”

“Acadia”

He suddenly lit up, his face reading a mix of emotions that were impossible for me to really place. “It can’t be… that site’s been abandoned for years.”

“What is it?” I asked, my own curiosity starting to eat away at me.

“The ancient city… once the seat of a mighty empire. It’s where our tribe used to reside.”

“Well let’s go there then.”

Onyx shook his head. “It’s not that easy, it’s hidden away in the southwest, in a forest full of dangerous creatures that we have no hope of combatting on our own.”

“Well what do we need then?”

“Backup… that we don’t have.”

“Is there anyone who’d be able to though?”

Onyx shook his head. “Not many… though maybe one of the bands of thestrals might be interested, it’s going to cost quite a bit though.”

Xenith cut in. “Not enough that I’m willing to spend on some deathwish like this. That said though… I do have an old friend who owes me a favor, a scavenger who might be willing help on the condition that he gets whatever we find there.”

I couldn’t let this opportunity to possibly return home slip by me. “Well where is he?”

“That’s just it, I haven’t spoken to him in years. The last I heard he was out north, in the Crystal City.”

“Well let’s just go there then, find him.”

“No. It’s far too dangerous--”

“--The vision implied that Acadia was the key to getting me home, I’m willing to take the risk if it means I get a shot at getting home. You even implied that I’m supposed to be some great hero, so what’s the point in sitting around doing nothing then?”

Onyx looked on in concern. “You don’t realize how dangerous this is Star, we’re talking elemental forces that defy the natural order. Beings of dark magic who aren’t willing to negotiate.”

“Well what if we assemble a crew then, get a proper plan together, and then go in once we’re sure that we’ll be safe?”

Xenith cut in once more, his tone shifting to one of a stern finality. “If you want to risk it all to do that then be my guest, but until you’re at that point I’m not going in.”

“Fine, give me and Onyx the information and we’ll handle this ourselves, we’ll pick you up when you’re ready to go okay?”

Xenith rubbed his temples. “You’re not going to budge are you?

I gave a simple reply. “Nope.”

Xenith sighed and gazed at the tome. “I don’t know why I’m agreeing to this, but fine. Let me at least prepare a guide for you.”

Satisfied with my victory, I walked over to the large window overlooking the village, taking note of the pegasi roaming below. It was hard to tell, but it seemed that Xenith and I were the only thestrals in the Hollows. Onyx walked up to me, joining me at the window. “You know, he’s not kidding. This isn’t going to be easy.”

I smirked and turned towards him. “Nothing ever is though right?”

“I can’t stress this enough, we’re dealing with unnatural forces here, these aren’t your everyday villains and ravagers, these are elemental forces that defy the very laws of the universe itself.”

I shrugged and turned back to the window, gazing out at the world below. “Well you better hope that Xen’s guy is really all he’s cracked up to be.”

Onyx sighed. “So you’re really set on this then?”

I nodded. “Yes, I am. It’s not going to be easy but if it’s my only chance at getting home then I’m willing to take it. No matter the odds.”

“Well we better start getting ready, it’s a long ride to the Crystal City.”

Xenith sternly called us over to his desk. As Onyx and I trotted over I immediately took note of the assortment of maps that were laid out on his desk.  “Alright, I need you to pay attention to this. The airship’s already departed for the day, but there should still be some merchant ships over in Cloud City.” he began to point out a few landmarks on the largest map. “It’s a bit of a long journey from the Hollows, but it’s your best bet if you want to get to the Crystal City in any decent amount of time. An old associate of mine runs a courier service there, you’ll ride along with him and depart in the city.”

“And how are we supposed to know who this courier is?” I asked, eyeing the various maps.

Xenith shifted the main map to the side, gesturing to a smaller one that sat under it. “This is a map of Cloud City, you’re going to want to go to the Cloud City Caravan and speak to Storm Glider. Tell him Xen sent you and explain where you’re going. He should be able to get you there.”

“And who are we looking for when we get to the City?”

Xenith smirked. “An old friend, he goes by the name of Captain Axion, last I heard he captained a vessel known as the Leviathan, a rather elegant ship… or at least it was he last time I saw it. For all I know he could have traded it away to pay for his bar tab.”

“So we should check out the local taverns for him?”

Xenith chuckled, nodding his head. “Aye, that’s probably your best bet. Give the old captain my regards too, will ya?”

Ignoring his request I prodded further. “Can we trust him?”

“He’s a pirate, of course you can’t trust him. He’s a pony of his word though, so any deal you broker with him will likely be upheld.”

I began to look around the room, surveying the strange items and trinkets that littered the walls and shelves. “We’ll need supplies too you know, maybe something to use as a bargaining chip. I’m sure you have plenty of rare artifacts here or something.” I started to wander towards one of the shelves, reaching for a simple lantern.

Xenith suddenly jumped up, snapping at me with an anger I hadn’t even considered he could muster. “You touch nothing here! I’ve given you enough as it is, by all rights you should owe me something at this point!”

I raised my hooves in surrender, trying to salvage the situation more than anything else. “Whoa whoa, calm down there. I didn’t realize these were so important to you!”

Thankfully Onyx came to my rescue. “Xen ease off, he doesn’t know about these.”

Xenith took a moment to compose himself, lowering his ears in embarrassment. “I’m sorry Stardust, these artifacts are the only connections back to my old life, a life I should have moved on from years ago. It’s still a sore spot for me, I hope you can understand.”

I calmed down and took a breath, nodding my head. “I can Xen, I shouldn’t have overstepped my bounds.”

“You’re right though, you will need something.” He walked past me, pausing and turning back. “Come on, follow me.

I didn’t want to upset him further so I followed him, Onyx in tow. “Where are we going?”

He ignored me, leading us to the far side of the room and up a short flight of stairs, stopping at the landing above. “I used to be full of energy, in a way I was much like you, setting out into an unknown world on some grand personal quest. A run in with some bandits ended that eventually, however that doesn’t mean that I haven’t collected my fair share of treasure.”

He pushed open the door, ushering us in. “These are some of those collected treasures, they’re well worn but should suit you fine.” He gestured towards a small trunk. “Go ahead, open it, you’ll need it.”

I cautiously walked forward, carefully opening the worn trunk, unsure of what to expect within. “Xen… are you sure?” I asked as I glanced at the well used saddlebags, cloak, hat, and goggles.”

He smiled and nodded. “You stick out like a sore thumb right now, these’ll help you blend in a little more. You’ll need a new name at some point too, Stardust stands out far too much.”

“Does it really though?” I asked as I began to suit up.

Xenith nodded. “It does. No other thestral here has a name like it. If you ever run across another there name is most definitely going to have an X in it, it’s a strange tradition that our distant ancestors used as a way to honor their lost king, a tradition that’s been passed down for generations.”

I shrugged at this, not really seeing any reason to change my name just to conform to some weird tribal tradition. “Alright, well what do you suggest?”

“Nothing. It’s not exactly my decision to make. It’s your name, it should be something personal that comes from you, not either of us.” he said, gesturing at himself and Onyx. “What did you do before all of this?”

I closed my eyes, thinking back to the life I was forcibly ripped from not so long ago. “I was a scientist, an astronomer too for a while… most importantly though, I was a pony trying to solve the many questions that the universe posed. There was so much to explore and I wanted to see all of it, discover how it all worked...”

Xenith nodded. “Noble pursuits indeed, you’ll no doubt think of something suitable in due time.”

Onyx leaned in and tapped his shoulder. “Xen we need to get going if we want to reach Cloud City by sunset.”

“Ah yes, a very good point. Come, come, I’ll show you out.”

I adjusted my new saddlebags and straightened my hat, following the duo back into the main lab, stopping to grab the carefully folded maps from Xenith. Pleased with his work, he set them into my saddlebags while Onyx grabbed a few supplies of his own, mainly some medical supplies and potions. We were quickly led out into the town and up to one of the large lookout points built into the side of some monolithic tree.

Xenith looked us over one final time, making sure that we had all the supplies we needed for the trip to Cloud City. “Alright, you should be all set… before you go though, take this. “He passed me a strange bracelet with an odd looking stone set in it. “This is a communication stone, an old relic from an old bygone day, but it still works reliably. If you need to contact me simply tap the side and speak into it, it’s linked directly to my own.” he raised his own leg to emphasize this. “Contact me as soon as you arrive in the city, I’ll walk you through everything if you somehow get into trouble.”

Onyx chimed in. “I hate to be rude, but we really should get going… Time’s a wastin’!”

Xenith nodded his head and turned back to me. “My protege is correct, safe travels, I wish you the best of luck… I genuinely do.”

With a final farewell we took to the skies, flying towards Cloud City, setting out on an adventure that would no doubt take it’s fair share of twists and turns.