by Imploding Colon

Old Signs

"So... uhm..." Pilate bit on his lip as his ears twitched. "Uhhh..."

Crimson stared at him, then straight ahead at what O.A.S.I.S. was illuminating.

"Uhmmmm..." Pilate's metal brow furrowed in the rippling torchlight. "This is... this is a lot of symbols..."

Before them, in a claustrophobic basement chamber below the upper ruins, stretched a wall of granite. Though the age and wear of time had soiled its otherwise pale features, there was enough contrast to expose dozens if not hundreds of complex symbols, all of which were swiftly being scanned by the sweeping laser emanating from the zebra's floating manasphere.

Pilate exhaled heavily through his nostrils, marching up and pausing the laser's sweep so that he could place a hoof upon a repeating pattern: that of the emblem Rainbow Dash had found on the deceased pegasus.

"Though the exact meaning of all of these is completely unknown to me, I have seen this figure before. Its prominence is most alarming."

"If I didn't know any better, I'd say it was a crest of sorts," Crimson remarked, his deep voice echoing against the cold walls. "Perhaps a form of identification for whoever once lived in this part of Foxtaur."

"Could it be that they built these ruins?"

"I'm not sure if you can 'see' this with your sphere, but the etchings aren't exactly framed well with the floor. Many of them are positioned at crooked, odd angles to the dimensions of the wall."

"It could be that they were carved here by ponies who had inhabited the ruins before us." Pilate rubbed his chin. "But why were they here in Foxtaur? And for how long?"

"If we're talking about winged ponies, there's no doubt they'd be migratory," Crimson said. "I doubt they had any reason to dwell here long."

"Long enough to carve ritualistic circles in the floor."

Crimson squinted. "Huh?"

"Did you not look down, Captain?"

Crimson pivoted the torch in his telekinetic grasp. The mercenary gasped upon seeing several circles within circles carved into the granite below their hooves. The geometric precision was inspiring in its complexity.

"What are these... It..." Crimson blinked lopsidedly at the zebra. "How did you even see these!?"

"It's taken several years, but with the aid of O.A.S.I.S., I've learned to observe things in three dimensions." The white stripes of his muzzle took on a red hue. "Though, I must admit, it takes considerable concentration."

"So, I'm guessing you've mapped this entire room already?"

"Mapped, yes. Comprehended? Hardly." With a breath, Pilate reached back into Princess Luna's saddlebag—which was adorning his figure at the moment—and he pulled out a familiar tome of ancient wear. "I would like to think that there was some definite purpose for why these sketches were left here. The circles on the floor, granted, are likely related to a ritual..."

"What kind of ritual?"

"Well, I doubt there's blood involved." Pilate gave a twitching grin. "As the grooves etched there aren't deep enough to collect such."

Crimson stared at him blankly.

Pilate sighed and flipped the book open. "Yes, I do believe some study is in order."

"Do you... uhm... need some help?"

"No, this is a task I must endeavor to do on my own. I wouldn't want to burden you with something so terribly dull."

"I can't just leave you down here..."

"Can't you?" Pilate glanced his head towards him with a smirk. "Thanks to you, O.A.S.I.S. is working just fine. I have no doubt that I can find my way up to the surface if I needed to."

Crimson sighed. He glanced around the lengths of the room. Eventually, he said, "I'll check back on you every twenty minutes or so."

"Better make it forty," Pilate murmured, flipping through the pages as he flickered the laser from his manasphere between the wall and the tome. "I do believe I shall be here for a while."

"I hope you find what you're looking for," Crimson said, marching away with his torch.

"I hope I know what it is before I look for it."

Alone with the bleak soundlessness of the ruins' bowels, Pilate scanned and scanned the pages. He paused upon reaching a page in the book that showed a rough outline of connected dots, almost like constellations. The upper "limbs" of the conjoined symbols appeared to be stretching out towards the heavens.


He tilted his head towards the wall, at the page, and back towards the wall again. The rune on his forehead pulsed as the manasphere rose up, spun a few times, and fired a beam of energy at the wall. With remarkable ease, a thick cluster of symbols—all with repeating patterns—lit up amongst the rest. When they did so, they roughly resembled the shape and outline of—

"A pegasus," Pilate slurred. His clouded eyes narrowed as O.A.S.I.S. scanned down the "neck" of the rough equine figure. "And if I was to assume she was facing the viewer..." His manasphere stopped at a pair of symbols, thicker than the rest, positioned right below the cranium of the figure just like a pendant hung beneath the chin of a familiar pegasus. "'Austraeoh,' but of course."

Pilate's lips curved, and he eagerly flipped through the book.

"Let us see just how 'old' you are, dear friend..."