• Published 27th Jul 2013
  • 5,316 Views, 208 Comments

Scale - shortskirtsandexplosions

Daring Do goes on an epic quest full of danger and peril. Her goal: to cross landscapes, to scale boundaries... and to transcend herself.

  • ...

And the Eternal Emptiness

Daring Do had seen the building before; she simply didn't want to believe it was there.

She sat, slumped upon the crest of glossy black granite, bathed in amber torchlight. In panting breaths, Daring gazed at the enormous stone structure before her. The cold steps that ran up to the front entrance matched the bone pale surface of the structure as a whole. It stretched majestically for six looming stories above her, its outer framework sloping inward like the bastions to some ancient bunker.

Gulping, Daring stood up and trotted forward. As the building loomed closer, the void's flicker of lightning highlighted the grand immensity of the entire thing. It stretched from end to end of the floating plateau, its rooftop dotted with large, burning basins at equal intervals.

Just then, a ripping sound echoed from behind the mare, like tearing paper. With a gasp, she looked behind herself, witnessing as slivers of the rock where she was just standing cracked apart and flew away like dust into the thunderous void.

She lingered, wincing, then resumed her steady trot forward. As she pressed further on, the rock broke away behind her, gradually reducing the plateau to a flimsy platform upon which the enormous building precariously perched.

With feather-light taps, Daring's hooves scaled the steep steps. She tilted her gaping face up as she approached a ridiculously tall pair of doors, fashioned out of solid oak. Within the wooden framework, complex engravings illustrated a dense crowd of ponies forming a living pyramid, and upon the end of their outstretched hooves there rested an open book. Within the tome's open pages, a torch was inserted, casting further brilliance upon the alabaster surface of this lonesome mausoleum.

At last, Daring reached the front gate. Reaching forward, she tensed her weary muscles and pushed... then pushed harder.

With loud, echoing creaks, the oaken panels gave way. They opened slowly, kicking up dust and sediment in the process. Once a space was wide enough to accommodate her, Daring slid through, entering the mysterious domain and allowing the enormous doors to close on their own weight behind.

As they ultimately slapped together, a cacophonous thud echoed throughout the arena. This noise would have stunned Daring, if only she wasn't being floored by something else entirely. With a breathless whimper, the mare slumped to her knees, falling back until her flank rested limply against the shut entrance. Her ruby eyes twitched with disbelief.

It was a library, and an immense one at that. The walls were no less than fifty feet high, and they stretched outward for hundreds of yards. Large partitions dotted the interior, bathed in torchlight, forming long columns that occupied the lengths and widths of that labyrinthine place. At last, along the corners, several hoofball lengths away, steps led up and up towards enormous balconies that overlooked the vast, dusty interior.

Every single square inch of every single wall and nook and cranny of that place was covered in shelves, and every single shelf within sight and out of sight contained books. Hundreds of books. Thousands of books. Millions upon millions of them: dusty tomes, thick encyclopedias, thin novellas, almanacs and journals and periodicals and ledgers. The air smelled of paper and age and death, and Daring was drowning in it.

She tried to step forward, but she collapsed instead, sprawling across the ancient stone floor like a tired infant anchored to a bed mattress. It took several minutes of fighting the aching pulse in her heart before Daring summoned the strength to stand up again. When she trotted forward, it was in a zombified lurch, wincing with each hundred feet of leather bound clusters that she passed.

The place was deathly quiet. Her hooves were like softs mountains crumbling against the emotionless walls looming over her. Aside from the flicker of torches, there wasn't even the smallest hint of rustling to accompany Daring's steps.

The mare trotted forward without thinking. She didn't bear giving any of the books a single glance. Instead, she kept her eyes locked towards the floor beneath her, and eventually she found a winding staircase. Following the stone steps up the central chamber of the library, she noticed a change in the air. The amber flicker of torches was giving away to other colors... albeit muted and condensed.

Curious, Daring glanced up, and only then did she catch sight of her destination.

The staircase was leading up to a raised platform, positioned within the nape of a grand dome that made up that section of the library's ceiling. Framed by whalebone beams of bent granite, several stained glass windows made up the majority of the dome's shell. As lightning flickered through the void outside, the mosaic of splattered color cast an ethereal haze over the flimsy platform, highlighting a raised podium situated in the very center.

Daring approached this bench, her eyes squinting.

A single book lay open, its pages pale and bright beneath the vomit of refracted light color. When Daring nervously placed a hoof against its wafer-thin edges, she felt a jolt of energy wafting through her, something as familiar as the taste of her own tongue, a fluid that had been coursing through her heart and brain since the day of her foaling.

She didn't want to, but she had to. With one swift heave, she closed the massive book shut, lifting its title to the light so she could read across its dusty words:

"Daring Do: The Friendless Filly."

The pony was silent. Her brow twitched, then furrowed as her jaws clenched. A deep tremor swam through her body, shaking tears loose from her eyes. In liquid motion, she draped herself against the podium, nuzzling the leather binding closely as she let loose sob after muffled sob, each disquieting sound devoured by the immense emptiness of that place, by the emptiness in everything.

For far too long, she had been acquainted with the smell and taste of that void, a world where thirst and hunger and exhaustion could not be satiated. It didn't have to take an epic journey to bring Daring to a place where she had actually been living all her life, if she had ever lived at all. Even with so much danger and adventure and discovery, none of it meant anything if she wasn't risking something precious to begin with.

Daring brought her face up from the tear-stained bookcover. When she stared up at the messy colors of the stained glass windows, it was with a frown. That expression buckled, and soon she was snarling, throwing her hooves forward, heaving the podium completely off its foundation.

The thing crashed through the brittle granite railing that surrounded the platform, littering the rows of bookcases below. The one book—"The Friendless Filly"—fell to a rattling stop within the penumbra of torchlight, which led Daring to leap up, perch upon the remaining railing of the platform, and reach for a torch dangling from a brass handle above. As she did so, something reflected off the glossy surface, something blue and dashing, like a panicked falcon.

Daring ignored it; she ignored everything. Snapping the torch off its foundation, she flew back down, spread the one book open, and slammed the burning end of the stick into the thick of its pages.

The novel went up in flames like a pile of matches.

But Daring wasn't done. Hopping over the smoldering pile, she perched upon the shattered railing, held her breath, spun, and tossed the flickering torch down into the sea of bookcases.

One line of densely packed books caught the flame along the way down. The many bound bodies lit up, their papery innards shriveling up and spouting smoke towards the dome overhead. Daring jumped through the gray curtain, hopping from bookcase to bookcase until she reached the opposite wall. There, she yanked the next torch off its foundation, spun, and dragged the tongues of flame across five full rows of manuscripts.

The library burned like a smoldering forest from the inside out. Daring added more fuel, darting from torch to torch and tossing them violently into the middle of the fray. The amber light within that domain intensified, sending waves of ash spouting upward, giving color and vibrancy to the holocaustal display.

For over half an hour, Daring punished the tomes around her, sprinting left and right to the full extent of her panting lungs, grabbing torches and flinging them into the ensuing bonfire. Soon, the air was thick with the musk of burning canvas and leather. Shreds of paper flew along a gusting wind, and yet Daring had no trouble breathing. She sat still within the center of the heated maelstrom, watching with twitching feathers as the last shred of substance withered away to fizzling embers.

Try as he might to revel in the destruction, Daring couldn't stop the tears streaming down her face. She hissed through clenched teeth, trying to keep her eyes open while the smoke pelted her face time and time again. As the heat grew to intolerable levels, she heard a violent crack behind her. Turning to look over her injured wing, she saw deep fractures forming along the library's front entrance, worming outward from the oaken doors as they rattled along their vast hinges.

A tiny shard bounced off of Daring's head. As deep cracks formed in the floor below, she looked straight up.

The stained-glass dome above was buckling, bending. As all the smoke collectively rose to coat its glossy surface, Daring saw the glow from beyond intensifying. The void's lightning strikes grew more and more frequent, ardently punishing the library from the outside. The resulting thunder had its toll on the dome, warping the structure violently. As the distortions met the cracks running up through the surface of the granite building, everything finally collapsed. The stained glass panels contorted, briefly summoning every color of the rainbow, then raining down on Daring's body like a merciless sea of knives.

The mare immediately tumbled back from the nightmarish salvo, her screams swallowed up by a sea of chaos surging through.