• Published 23rd May 2015
  • 1,940 Views, 123 Comments

Where Black Stars Rise - Corah Il Cappo



Yet stranger still is, Lost Carcosa

  • ...
1
 123
 1,940

Of King and Cult

It seemed that the sword had been taken further than Twilight initially thought. The tracking spell lead her through the halls of Canterlot, out the main gate, and yet continued to grow further away. Who or whatever stole this blade was fast. Of course, Twilight might have been able to catch them if she hadn't been burdened with the company of a certain somepony. Despite the fact that it was his property they were chasing, Blueblood seemed to be in no hurry to contribute anything to the mission at hand. Instead, he seemed perfectly content to simply trot alongside her occasionally complaining about how far they had to walk or lamenting the fact that he might have to mingle with the "common rabble" as he put it.

Twilight's tracking spell on the scimitar finally showed the sword settling down into a location. Seemed it was in the Everfree Forest just outside of Ponyville. And so the Prince and Princess boarded the next train bound for Ponyville, with Blueblood reserving the seats on either side of him to keep the more unsavory ponies at a distance. Twilight rolled her eyes and plopped down into a seat across from him, whispering a silent prayer that he could keep himself behaved for a train ride. Celestia knows what could happen if he made a scene in such a cramped area. Though, she supposed if such a thing were to happen, at the very least she would get to watch. For his part however, Blueblood kept relatively calm about the situation. Sure he would occasionally mutter under his breath or growl at a passenger threatening to take one of his three seats, but other than that he kept peaceful, and even more surprising, he kept quiet.

Soon, with a squeal of metal on metal, the train pulled into Ponyville station. Everypony began to file off, scattering as they exited the station. Slowly, Blueblood rose from his seat, or rather seats, and let out a quiet yawn as he stretched his limbs.

"Well then, where are we off to now?" He said, adjusting his jacket and tie. "After all, the sun is going down, and I'd prefer to be back in Canterlot before it gets too late."

"I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but we've still got a ways to go." Twilight replied, falling into step as she and Blueblood exited the train. "It looks like whoever took your sword has settled down in the Everfree Forest."

Blueblood grimaced at her words.

"Of all the places they could flee, they fled to the muddy, abhorrent cesspit that is the Everfree." He shook his head as they walked. "Something about this just doesn't add up. They only stole the sword, nothing else it seemed. If they were looking for a valuable treasure, I had plenty of things worth more than that scimitar. And furthermore, why the Everfree? It would have made more sense to try and sell the blade as soon as possible, rather than hang on to it. Perhaps taking it to a pawn shop would have been more prudent. It seems that whoever stole this sword was after the sword itself."

"Well, you seemed to have a pretty strong attachment to it." Twilight replied. "Maybe its somepony holding it for a ransom of sorts? Or maybe they just wanted to get revenge on you for something? Do you have any enemies who might want to get you back?"

"The question is not who has a motive, its who doesn't have a motive." Blueblood chuckled slightly. "Believe me, I've pissed off everypony in Canterlot at least once, and those outside the city haven't fared much better."

"I can think of at least one pony like that... " Twilight muttered.

"Oh? Who's that?"

"Rarity."

"Sorry... Who?"

"Rarity, you know, the one who you brushed off at the Gala?"

"I brush off ponies every year at the Gala, usually more than one per night."

"Unicorn, purple mane, white coat?" Twilight said, still not eliciting a response. "The one who got cake all over you?"

The Prince paused for a moment, the nodded.

"Ah yes, I remember the one now. Quite a rude little mare wasn't she? Refused to hold open doors, expected me to pay for my own meals, and ended the evening by getting cake all over me." He shuddered slightly at the memory. "Ugh. It took three baths to get all the frosting out of my mane. Yet still, it wasn't the worst gala I've been to, so at least there's that."

Twilight sighed. It seemed that the hate between the two of them was one sided, though she couldn't really blame Rarity for holding a grudge. Was this just how Blueblood treated everypony? Or did he have a select few whom he at least treated slightly better than dirt? Twilight hoped for the latter, seeing that she still had at least the rest of the day to spend with him.

"Wait a second." Twilight quirked an eyebrow. "You've been to a worse gala that that one? The one where you ended up wearing the cake, animals took over the ballroom, and half the columns in the palace got knocked down? What could possibly be worse than that?"

"Two words. Drunk. Griffons. We hosted a get together with some visiting representatives from the Kingdom of Schwarzkamf, and made the mistake of serving alcohol. One thing lead to another, and soon the ballroom had become a battlefield, with guards trying to subdue a group of very strong, very angry, and very intoxicated Griffons. It was quite a sight for sure, but still, ponies ended up with broken bones and more than a few bruises, and the Griffons were expelled from Equestria the next morning. Not exactly a fun affair for any involved."

"That sounds... Yeah that sounds pretty bad." Twilight caught herself cringing at the thought.

Blueblood slowed to a halt as he and Twilight reached the edge of Ponyville. He stood, leering at the forest as if he hoped the branches ahead of him would simply vanish if he glared hard enough at them. The sun had already begun to sink behind the horizon, casting the sky in a brilliant mixture of reds and oranges that shone through the bramble of brush and bark that lay ahead. Blueblood sighed softly.

"Do I really have to follow you in there?" He said, his voice sounding almost piteous.

"Yes." Twilight replied. "You want that sword back, you've got to come with me and get it. That's how friendship works. Its give and take."

"You and I are not friends." Blueblood said with a bit of indignation. "We are partners brought together by unfortunate circumstance. Believe me, as soon as we get back my scimitar, I'll go straight to Celestia and hopefully the two of us will never need to speak again. Personally, I think that's reason enough for me to press on, if only to get all of this over with quicker."

Blueblood set his face, gave his mane a confident toss, and took a step forward into the shadows of the forest. After that one step, he froze where he stood. His eyes glanced down, looking at the mud puddle he had just stepped in. He tore his hoof back as though he had touched a white hot ember, letting out a rather unflattering shriek as he did so. He covered his mouth, trying to stifle his own scream. Twilight fought to keep from bursting into a fit of laughter at the sight, only just barely containing herself.

"Er... " Blueblood stammered, trying to give her a nervous smile. "Après vous."

"We really should have brought a navigator." Blueblood whined, his steps crisscrossing over themselves as he tried to avoid stepping in any muck in his path.

"For the third time, I know where I'm going Blueblood." Twilight replied with an exasperated sigh. "Lets not forget that I'm the one who has the tracking spell."

"You may have the tracking spell, but the question is if you have a sense of direction."

"I do so have a sense of direction!"

"Well, we've been wandering in the forest for close to an hour now, and we seem to be no closer to finding my sword."

"Maybe it wouldn't have taken so long if you didn't insist on walking around every single speck of dirt you see."

"I just had these hooves manicured! I'm not going to ruin them that quickly!"

"Look, do you want the sword, or do you want to keep your perfectly buffed hooves?"

"I don't see why I can't have both."

Twilight huffed, hooves going to her temples in frustration.

"There's just no arguing with you is there? Everypony just bends over backwards to accommodate your every whim, don't they? And if you don't get what you want, then you whine and cry to your aunt to get you w-" Twilight suddenly stopped. They were close. She trotted ahead, pushing aside a tangle of branches to gaze out into a clearing in the woods. Amid a spacious field stood a group of ponies, clad from head to toe in bright yellow robes. At least, Twilight thought they were ponies. The robes obscured the bodies, and white, featureless masks obscured the faces. They were joined together in a loose circle, muttering quietly. She froze dead in her tracks. Something about these ponies just felt... off somehow.

"I'm sorry, were you done verbally assaulting me? Or have you-" Blueblood was silenced as Twilight clapped a hoof over his mouth, pointing to the robed figures in the clearing. The Prince shoved her hoof away, sinking down to peer through the hole she had made in the bramble. Into the center of the group walked another figure, still robed but unmasked. Even from this distance Blueblood could tell it was a griffon. Not just any griffon however, this was a griffon wearing a jeweled scimitar at his hip. The Prince practically growled as he saw that sword. He leaned forward ever so slightly, only for Twilight to yank him backwards.

The griffon unsheathed the sword, removing a flask from within the folds of his robe. He poured the contents onto the blade, as a black, oily substance flowed from the bottle. He gave the scimitar a flourish, splattering the excess liquid on the grass before hoisting the blade above his head.

"Iä! Hastur cf'ayak'vulgtmm, vugtlagln vulgtmm!" The others shouted, almost in perfect unison. "Iä! Hastur cf'ayak'vulgtmm, vugtlagln vulgtmm!"

The group of ponies surrounding the griffon began to chant, their voices deep and guttural as they repeated the phrase again and again. Twilight covered her ears at the noise. It sounded like the grinding of metal on stone. She winced every time they opened their mouths, hoping it would be the last. Blueblood seemed a bit less affected by their words, yet his ears twitched at every syllable the robed ponies shouted.

Just as suddenly as it had started, the chanting ceased.

"Brothers," The griffon said, lowering the blade. "Tonight is the night that all our work shall finally pay off. We have worked in the shadows for years now, waiting for our moment to rise, and now our time has come. Brother Stone Steps has graciously accepted the call. Brother Stone, please step forward."

One of the ponies stepped out of line. The griffon turned to face him, then continued.

"Have you seen the Yellow Sign, brother?"

"I have seen the sign, brother. I have seen the sign, and the king, and his city."

"Are you prepared for what you must do?"

"My life is mine to give, and I give freely."

The pony knelt down on the grass, and the griffon once again raised the sword aloft, his voice booming amid the empty clearing.

"Iä! Hastur cf'ayak'vulgtmm, vugtlagln vulgtmm! I powerfully call upon ye and stir ye up O ye mighty spirits that dwelleth in the Great Abyss. In the dread and potent name of Azathoth come ye forth and give power unto this blade fashioned in accordance to ancient Lore. In the Name of Great and Mighty Yog-Sothoth and in the invincible sign of Voor..." At this he passed his hand over his chest, holding up his two outermost claws. "Give power! Give power! Give power!"

Twilight's eyes widened with shock as he slashed the blade across the throat of his comrade, cleanly cutting through it. There was a loud gurgling as the once yellow fabric of the pony's robe began to run red as blood dribbled from his wound. Twilight gasped, clasping a hoof over her mouth. She couldn't believe what she was seeing, not in the slightest. She hadn't considered for a moment that somepony would die tonight. Only now did the severity of the situation begin to dawn on her. She wanted to look away, to try and blot the images from her mind, yet she couldn't tear her eyes away from the scene. Terror and curiosity had mingled in her mind, and ultimately curiosity was a more powerful force. Blueblood too looked disgusted by what he saw, yet also oddly fixated. He swallowed hard, his heartbeat practically audible through his chest.

"In the names of Azathoth, and of Yog-Sothoth, and of their servant Nyarlathotep, and the invincible sign of Voor, I command you! Accept our offering, King in Yellow, and open to us the path to enlightenment!"

"What do we do?" Blueblood whispered, his eyes wide as saucers. "I thought we were hunting thieves, not madponies."

"Well we can't just sit here and do nothing!" Twilight replied, rising to her hooves.

"What are you doing! You can't go out-"

"Hey!" Twilight shouted, taking a firm step into the clearing. "I don't know who you ponies are, or what you're doing here, but I'm putting a stop to it!"

There was a moment of silence, before the cultists suddenly turned on Twilight, with the griffon leading the charge. He rushed towards her, brandishing his stolen sword. Twilight stood her ground, her horn igniting as she blasted the blade from her enemies claw with a concentrated beam of magic. She prepared to swing at him with her hoof, just as she was grabbed from behind by one of the masked ponies. She thrashed in his grip, trying desperately to break free, but to no avail.

"Blueblood help me!" She yelled, kicking her legs in a vain attempt to break the vice-like grip of her foe. "If you don't get out here then so help me I'll-"

Twilight was interrupted by a loud THWACK from behind her, as her assailant slumped to the ground. Blueblood stood behind her now, looking positively mortified.

"I hope you're happy. I chipped a hoof for this."

"Priorities Blueblood! We've got bigger problems here!" Twilight said as she used her magic to hurl a knife wielding cultist across the field. She turned, sending out another bolt of mystic energy to the chest of another pony, dropping him almost instantly. Blueblood meanwhile, was racing across the field to retrieve the sword he had come here for. He put a hoof on it, only for the griffon to lunge for him, beak and claws bared. The Prince toppled over backwards, the sword skittering from his grasp as his enemy pinned him to the ground. Blueblood kicked and shoved, trying to keep the griffon's claws from slashing his neck. Blueblood's horn glowed a pale white as his magic took hold of the scimitar just beyond his reach, With all his might, he swung for the griffon's head... and managed to hit him with the hilt of the sword. Not exactly his intention, but it worked. Blueblood rolled out from beneath the now unconscious griffon, brushing himself off and trying desperately to fix his mane.

Twilight on the other hand was facing one final cultist, apparently a unicorn, based on the fact that it seemed capable of magic. She let loose a bolt of purple energy, which her enemy deflected with a well placed shield. The unicorn returned the favor with a gout of arcane fire. Seeing an opportunity, Twilight lit up her horn, vanishing in the blink of an eye. Before her adversary could even react, Twilight appeared beside her, delivering a swift blow with her hoof and sending the cultist sprawling. With that taken care of, Twilight made her way over to Blueblood, who was frantically trying to brush the dirt from his good jacket.

"Are you alright?" She said, looking him over. "No broken bones, no cuts or bruises I should worry about?"

"No, but I've chipped a hoof, gotten dirt on my coat, and positively ruined my mane." Blueblood replied, still making a valiant effort to keep himself looking as prim and proper as he could.

"You're fine. After what we just saw, I'd say a chipped hoof is the least of our worries." Twilight turned to the pony the cultists had slain, who still remained on his knees, stock still and upright. She recalled reading in her biology textbooks that upon death, a ponies muscles should cease to function. If that were the case, then how was this pony still on its knees? Shouldn't it have toppled over, or at least slumped to the ground? She reached out a hoof, tapping the mask of the corpse ever so slightly. She jumped back with a yelp as the body instantly dissolved into dust, as though years of decay had suddenly caught up with it. Where the corpse had once sat was now a black outline. At least a black outline seemed the best way to describe it. It was like a shadow, yet it seemed to exist in three dimensions rather than two. A pure black, pony shaped void now hovered in mid air where the cultist had died.

Blueblood had just retrieved his sword, his nostrils flaring as he returned it to its sheath. Whatever they had poured on his blade reeked like an open grave, and he practically gagged on the foul stench. As he turned, he froze staring at the black figure.

"What in Celestia's name is that thing?"

"Honestly, I have no idea." Twilight mused, reaching out a hoof to touch it. As her hoof made contact, it seemed to sink within the figure, going beyond it. Her eyes grew wide as she pulled her hoof out, staring at it. It didn't hurt, and her hoof certainly seemed fine...

"Don't touch it!" Blueblood shouted. "We don't know what this thing is, and judging by the fact that somepony just died to bring it about, I don't think we ought to be messing with it! We got my sword, now lets just get out of here."

"Blueblood, this is magic the likes of which I've never even heard of! I just want to figure out what this... thing here does. That's it."

"Fine. But if you die, don't say I didn't warn you."

Twilight again reached her hoof into the shadow. Then she placed another hoof in. Nothing seemed to be going wrong as of yet, so she decided to take a leap of faith, and stuck her head through the outline. She remained within it for just a moment, before pulling her head out and turning to the Prince.

"Blueblood, you gotta see this." Twilight said, just before taking a full step into the void.

Blueblood sat there for a moment in stunned silence. This was incredibly dangerous. They come across a chanting cult of ponies who speak of signs and kings, and who shriek in indecipherable tongues, and now they're playing with their magic? It seemed an apt way to get oneself killed. Yet deep within him, there was a nagging feeling. He felt that he had to see, or that his curiosity would never be sated. So with a deep breath, he swallowed his fear and stepped forth into the blackness.

There, on the other side, was everything Blueblood did not, and was never meant to know.