• Published 13th May 2012
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Austraeoh - Imploding Colon

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Gate

“It's how tall again?!” Cold Canter's voice resonated incredulously.

“Two hundred and fifty feet,” Rainbow Dash said. “I'm not even joking. I'm a pegasus and I know my heights.” Even at mid-hover, the humongous gates loomed above her. The bone-white material was ancient, made out of compressed stone and mortar that had congealed together over countless centuries from the structure's massive weight. “And it's pretty long too.”

“How long?”

“Uhhhh...” Rainbow Dash flew up, up, up and angled out along the top of the wall. She peered left and right, towards both the northwest and southeast horizons. “I, like, seriously can't see where it ends. But if I could guess...” She narrowed her ruby eyes as her wings flapped on either side of her in the afternoon air. “I'd say the south length of the wall is curved slightly towards the east. Otherwise, it's pretty dang straight.”

“And you're certain it's abandoned?”

“CC, dude...” Rainbow Dash hovered over what was once the gated entrance to the wall. “This thing is smashed to heck! The door looks like it's made of solid oak, and yet it's barely clinging to the hinges.” She glanced down at giant slabs of sundered wood that hung in the sandy, pelting winds. “Anypony with a lick of sense would have fixed this crap by now. If I didn't know better, I'd say it had been pretty smashed for a while.”

“Constructed out of solid oak, you say?”

“Yeah.”

“And I'm guessing it's the same two hundred off feet of length?”

“Pretty much.”

“What in industry's name could have broken the thing apart?”

Rainbow Dash opened her mouth, but lingered. She gulped and stammered, “I have no clue, C-Squared. Hang on a bit. I'm gonna have a look on the other side.”

She flew through the gate, ducking flakes of ash and sediment that rained down on her from the blowing winds. After a good fifteen, she finally pierced the far side of the immensely thick wall. She blinked and stopped in place.

At first her heart skipped a beat, for she felt as though she was looking at a boneyard. After blinking, she realized that she was peering down on the pale rooftops of a tiny city. Several domed structures and rectangular walkways stretched below. Half of the buildings were collapsed, with several chunks of stone and concrete forming piles of refuse within the ovegrown streets.

“Yup... Definitely not Dream Valley.”

“I beg your pardon?” Cold Canter's voice reacted.

“Shhh. I'll give you an update in a moment!” She dove down.

Hovering closely over the two and three story structures, Rainbow Dash got as close a look of the ruined townscape as she could afford to. The pale-white buildings may have once held color, but their surfaces had faded over years of arid exposure to the elements. Everything may have been decrepit and demolished, but she'd be lying if she said it was completeyly devoid of life. Grass and vegetation—the first green thing she had seen in days—were growing in various spots. Water troughs, windowsills, and aqueducts were overgrown with flora. Soil collected in the former plots of land where wooden houses once stood. Even a few flowers dangled out of collapsed huts and imploded storage crates.

Lining the edges of several of the buildings—especially the larger ones—were brown and black splotches of discoloration. Even after innumerable decades of neglect, Rainbow Dash spotted the unquestionable signs of burn marks. Looking deep into the windows and doorframes of houses, several piles of ash rested where furniture had once been. In abandoned gardens, hollowed husks of charred wooden trees stretched skyward forever.

“You still there, C-Squared?”

“At your beck and call, filly,” his voice replied.

“Every street is empty,” Rainbow Dash said, gliding just a few feet over the ground as she passed through a rubble-strewn neighborhood. “Looks like the ponies here had a thing for stone. But it didn't save them in the end.”

“Save them from what?”

“Looks like a fire,” Rainbow Dash said. “I'm guessing that they had to abandon the place from a terrible blaze.” She paused, perched on a hollowed-out schoolyard, and turned around to look at the large, smashed gate. “Or worse.”

“You are sure there are no other equines around?”

“I dunno about you, but I'm not prepared to look into every single building of this place.” She flew up above the rooftops and looked towards the east horizon. “Besides...” Her eyes narrowed as she spotted several splotches of curious structures dotting a long, brown plain. “I'm willing to bet that this isn't the only town. I'm guessing this was some sort of settlement built for ponies who looked after the gate. I heard Stalliongrad in Equestria had a wall with similar townships.”

“Stalliongrad. That's a pretty name for a metropolis.”

“Yeah, well, it was pretty in name only,” Rainbow Dash said, grumbling. “Hold on a second. I'm about to do something I haven't done in ages.”

“What's that?”

“Visit a library, I think,” she murmured, flying down into a large, half-collapsed building with several rows of dust-strewn bookcases. Her hooves made echoing, scraping noises as she touched down and marched through the misty archives. Each time she breathed, the particles in the air undulated around her. Squinting, she glanced down at the overturned shelves and nudged them with her hooves. She dug and dug until she found a rectangular structure. Pulling it out, she gave it a good shake. The dust fell off to reveal a book, but its pages were too torn to even consider reading.

“Finding any records?” Cold Canter's voice eventually asked.

“No such luck,” Rainbow Dash muttered, rummaging through the piles of papery debris. “Too bad I'm not an egghead, or else I'd be perfect for this thing.”

“Not much of a literary figure?”

“I fell asleep once to the Pegasus Meteorological Manual.”

“Then how did you ever make a living in Equestria?”

“I let my coolness outweigh my dumbness.”

“How quaint.”

“See? My lifestyle kept me from saying crap like that.”

“Like what?”

“'How quaint.'”

“Don't be so foolish.”

“Shhhh... Dead civilization, remember?” Rainbow Dash kicked at the pile one last time. A cloud of dust flew up, and she coughed savagely in the wake of it. “Unngh... Yeah. This is lame.”

Something glinted in the corner of her peripheral vision. “Mmmmf... Huh?” She turned to look. There was a partially buried container embossed in gold. The shine was barely noticeable, considering all of the weathering that sand and grit had done throughout the years. Nevertheless, Rainbow Dash trotted towards it and gave it a meager shove with her forelimbs. The thing turned over and crashed against the marble floor of the library. Flecks of metal and glass flew every which way, but something with a bergundy binder had survived the ordeal. Reaching down, Rainbow Dash picked the book up—and did a double take. “Whoah...”

“What is it?”

“Something familiar,” she murmured. She turned the book around until she saw the image that was plastered to the front of it. It was a circle with two curved lines attached to the sides of it. Curiuos, Rainbow Dash sat on her haunches, opened her saddlebag, and produced the medallion from the corpse. She flipped to the side of the coin opposite from the engraving of the two mesas and the palace. To her fascination, the emblem matched the symbol on the coin. “I think I may have found the survivor's neck of the woods.”

“You don't say?”

“This book has the symbol from the coin that was found on him.”

“What's the book about?”

“Well, it has no title, but it was placed in some special container, no doubt something that was on display in this place at one time.” She opened the book and blew the dust off. Squinting, she flipped through several pages. “Hmmm...”

“Is it legible?”

“Yup.”

“That's remarkable...”

“Not really,” Rainbow Dash murmured. “I've traveled a long, long distance and the same stuff seems to come out of all ponies' mouths, regardless of what goes in it.”

“How's that?”

“There's a place called Windthrow where they like to eat things that used to walk, sleep, and ask that other creatures not eat them.”

“Your civilization is purely vegetarian?”

“We're sane, if that's what you mean.”

“I applaud you for being civil and open-minded up to this very moment.”

“Jee, you're welcome.”

“I'm glad Desert Light was willing to part with so much lettuce for you.”

“I could have asked the guy for a grilled cheese sandwich, but something tells me he would have shoved his horn through my throat.” Rainbow Dash stopped murmuring in time to focus on a single page. She read out loud: '...to his brother's brother, give equal share, for the sake of equality and justice, for such is the Silvadelian way...'”

“Are you reading?”

“If I thought that last stuff, then I'm ready to have my head examined.”

“Sounds like a book of social etiquette and customs.”

“You guess well,” Rainbow Dash murmured as she turned the book over and over. “This is full of boring scenarios of ceremony and stuff, but the same name appears over and over again: 'Silvadel.'”

“The name of the province?”

“That's what I'm thinking. Still, no word of how everything hit the fan.”

“Well, if it's a published and manufactured book, I doubt it would have been made after a terrible apocalypse.”

“Guess there's only one way to learn more.” Rainbow Dash stuck the book into her saddlebag, stretched her wings, and propelled herself east out of the library. “Here's hoping I can see more stuff before sunfall.”

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