Chapter 35: The Eye of the Beholder
Twilight caught herself as she fell into the darkness. She found herself surrounded by ten or so more of these... floating eyeball creatures, each about eight feet tall. With one accord, they bowed in mid air.
Hail the All-Sight, the Ever-Seek, the Great Mother.
Twilight drew up her hoof in confusion and some fear, then put it down as she gained her composure. “What is this? Are you the gods Lux told me about?”
We are the ones she spoke of, yes. The creature that she had first seen seemed to be addressing her, while the others were looking away. Well, each had at least one of their many eyes trained on her, but the large center pupils seemed distracted by unseen entities. But she over-praises us. We are a fallen race, and though someday we might rise from the ashes, now we rest, and fulfill our name.
“What name is that?”
We are the Beholders. And for now, your servants.
“You know, I'd appreciate some warning before I get pulled through another portal. It's been happening a lot lately.”
My sincerest apologies, but there simply wasn't time to explain. You may leave this place at any moment, just let any of us know when you wish to return. You had questions, though? All can be answered in due time.
The other beholders nodded –or perhaps more accurately– bowed once more, before floating off down the surrounding tunnels, some of them even flying vertically into shafts above. Twilight and her beholder guide stood alone.
“Why do you keep it so dark?”
Our race is accustomed to it, and we don't get many visitors. I can make a light for you, if you'd wish.
“No, that's alright.” With her fears about these creatures averted, she found the darkness comforting. “As long as I don't trip on anything, I should be fine.”
The beholder turned away, several of its stalk eyes remaining on twilight as it lead her through the tunnels. The air was cold, but not unpleasantly so. Down the many tunnels, Twilight would occasionally catch a glimpse of one of the other beholders. She still shuddered at the layers of teeth, which would catch whatever light there was, causing a stark and chilling contrast. Twilight coughed. “Excuse me for saying so, but your race is frightening in appearance.”
The psionic laugh was accompanied by a physical one, which was much deeper. Well, there was once a time when we were the dominant race in Equestria. Carnivorous, vicious, and bloodthirsty. Much of the world was at the time. But as time has changed your world, it has changed us. I won't lie, we're frightening because we are meant to be. But we wish you no harm, besides what harm may come from recognizing destiny.
They came to a round door, which had many layered, aperture-like plates with a symbolic eye in the center. The beholder nodded silently, and Twilight stepped forward carefully. She tapped the eye softly, and the door opened, the plates retracting around the circumference counter-clockwise. The gateway lead to a spacious room, with high ceilings, illuminated by softly glowing torches lining the room. Three beholders stood, or rather, levitated in the center, facing each other. From Twilight's angle, she could see that their center eyes were milky white, and obviously blinded. The other stalks seemed to retain some vision, but they weren't as active as the others she had seen.
They still creeped her out.
“Who are they?”
The elder mages. They have given up their sight to access the potent magic in this world. Each of our eyes is tied into natural energies and have different abilities, and most importantly, our core eyes are tied into neutralizing the magic of others. This was critical when we reigned above, as it stopped other races from challenging us. But to prevent others from using magic weakens our own. The mages gave up their sight and their anti-magic, and have indeed could be revered as gods by most mortals. And these mages are the ones that will answer your questions. It was an honor guiding you, All-Sight. The beholder turned to leave.
“Wait! What's your name?”
Then one I usually give to mortals is The Eternal Hunger, but to my Great Mother I am honored to give you my true name, Kulttrippse.
Twilight played with the foreign sounds for a moment. “Kulttrippse, could you stay? It'd be nice to have somebody to talk to during the down moments.”
In all honesty, I don't think there will be any, but I will do as you ask.
Twilight approached the three mages, not wanting to interrupt whatever they were doing, but desperately curious. Thankfully, before she got too close, they turned to face her.
The All-Sight. The Ever-Seek. The Great Mother.
“Why do you keep calling me that?”
The largest blinded beholder floated a few inches closer. It has been revealed to us what you shall become. They are titles of honor and worship. You will see more than the Million Eyes ever could. You will never rest in your search for knowledge, and you will create this world, and thus us.
Twilight rose a brow and grinned, but quickly stopped when she realized it wasn't joking. “Me? I'm just a simple unicorn, trying to make my way from day to day without getting me or my friends killed.”
Great Mother, you must remove these earthly bonds you have placed upon yourself. You've experienced tastes of your true power throughout your life, and you're getting to a point where it will be hard to retain control in your mortal frame. You must ascend.
Twilight took a deep breath. “So what you're telling me is...”
You must take your place among the Gods.
Twilight almost laughed once again.
Please, don't hold back your emotions in fear of offending us. There is nothing you could do to do so.
“Are you sure you don't have the wrong pony?”
We have discussed it for eons. There is no alternate interpretation, and I am honored to be in your presence.
“But a pony? A Goddess of the beholders?”
We thought it strange as well, and some were actually enraged and disgusted, but your origins do not hinder what you will become. You are the Goddess of all life on this planet, including your own.
Twilight took a deep breath. She could wrap her head around the idea of paradoxes, but one applying so directly to her, and on such a large scale, well, she found it hard to believe.
“I'm flattered, but I still think there must be a mistake.”
We will not press the issue any further. We are not here to convince you, unless that is your wish, only to state the facts.
“Fair enough.” Twilight thought for a moment. “So, tell me. Since you have such great sight,” she paused for a moment, realizing she might have accidentally made an offensive joke, but upon receiving a literally blank stare she continued, “why am I here? In this reality, I mean. I came from this evening, and was suddenly pulled back.”
Fate had a guiding push in it, All-Sight, as it has been since you began your journey, and long before that as well. But to be more scientific about it, you were pulled in because your dormant form detected, and hungered, for power. When you engaged the Metaspectre's power to eliminate your enemies, it began, but did not complete the ascension process. Be aware that any surge of power will set you on the path that you cannot turn away from. And, if you're not ready, it will destroy you.
“Here's a thought. If, as you say, I'm destined to become a Goddess, or an Alicorn, I suppose, isn't it true I cannot fail?”
Time is a mysterious thing. Until you have actually accomplished the task, you have no guarantee of success, despite the fact that even now you watch yourself. Your ascended form only exists because of all the fractured timelines, one managed to make it. And if it's not you, there will be another. You could die at any time, or turn back, or side with darkness, and this world would deviate from the one true timeline that all must eventually follow. The others end only in the Void.
“Oh. So, no free rides then?”
No free rides. But as to why you're here, now, for immediate concerns, I believe I can elaborate. Yes, your mortal frame strives to better itself, but you have a lesson to learn: the dangers of the ascension process. The unicorn you met, Lux, will ascend tonight. The shimmering form you met was her in a state of flux. You see, reflections cannot ascend. A warning which applies to you. If you allow the process to begin before you merge with Lustrous Revolt, you will end up as Lux has. She would be dead were it not for the time shudder she invoked at the last moment.
Twilight blinked rapidly. “You... I have to merge with Lustrous Revolt?”
An unpleasant thing, to be certain, but necessary nonetheless. And you must understand, Ever-Seek, that without finding your other half, you will not be able to progress in knowledge or power, and you will need both if you are to defend your friends.
A different, booming voice entered Twilight's mind. IS SHE HERE?
You speak, Great One? Yes, she has arrived, as foretold.
THEN MY REST COMES SOON. BRING HER TO ME.
Kulttrippse drew up next to Twilight. The Hive Tyrant speaks. He has been plagued with visions of the past for many years, and they are of great importance. He is also in a great deal of pain, and largely keeps himself shut off from our mental links so we will not suffer as well.
“Your people seem very bent on helping each other.”
Wisdom came with time and seclusion. We shook off our chains of ignorance and our xenophobic behaviors. Being banished to the deepest crevice of the forgotten realm made us rethink some things. We realized that rather than working endlessly for self interest, sacrifice of time and self benefited the common good. There is no higher honor.
The mages lead the way to another door, which opened in the same manner. The new room was smaller than the first, but more impressive than the first. A massive beholder, even more fear-inducing than the others, floated in the center of the room, which was bowl shaped, leading to the center. Archaic runes snaked around the walls, drawing larger runes and each glowing with power. The large beholder, or, Hive Tyrant, had all of its eyes focused on Twilight. She could understand now why the others had refrained from doing the same. She felt very small and quite unsettled.
Great mother. The booming voice had quieted now that she had entered the room. I have had a vision, a constant vision the haunts my waking moments and sleep alike. It is a vision of the true enemy you will face. A being of great power, but far more importantly, great cunning. You will be tested as you never have before, but you have never had a more important task. You must best this enemy, or else corruption will strangle your heart and all you hold dear.
“Who is this enemy?”
You've met him. Seren, the intelligence in the Moon Pool. More notably, the Alicorn of Vengeance, wielding the power of the Stars. And, Great Mother, the murderer of your teacher.