• Published 23rd May 2015
  • 1,949 Views, 123 Comments

Where Black Stars Rise - Corah Il Cappo

Yet stranger still is, Lost Carcosa

  • ...

Of Black Stars and Bright Skies

Blueblood's hooves touched down on the ground on the opposite side of the shadow figure. At least, he thought it was the ground. His head was swimming after passing through what he could only assume was a portal of some sort, and he felt a bit of nausea creeping up on him. The heavy, harsh scent that hung in the air certainly wasn't helping matters. It wasn't a foul smell by any means, but it was acrid enough to curl his nostrils a bit. It reminded him a bit of industrial cleaner, or bleach; very strong and acidic smelling. He coughed a bit at the odor, still trying to suppress his gag reflex. As his head relaxed however, he finally got to take a good look around himself.

He stood on solid earth, or at least he assumed this was what the earth was like here. It was smooth, pristine looking, with a texture almost like glass or fine crystal. His hooves nearly slipped a few times as he tried to take a step on it. Yet despite its glass-like structure, it was full of pockmarks and chips, as though something had battered it over the years. In addition to this, deep gashes had been formed in its surface, each with polished sides, as though they had been etched by the hooves of a master jeweler. Other sections however, looked closer to ocean waves, with a curled, scalloped texture. Something deep below Blueblood seemed to be giving of a faint light, causing the entire earth surrounding him to glow with a faint yellowish hue.

The crystalline ground sloped gently downwards to the edge of what the Prince could only describe as a sea, or vast lake. However, it was not filled with water, but instead by swirling white fluff. It looked almost like an ocean of clouds, with mist hanging thickly over the surface. Yet despite looking like cloud, the stuff still behaved like liquid water, rolling and frothing and crashing on the shore in waves. Amid the clouds however, was something big and red. It looked almost like a ball of fire, and Blueblood needed to squint to get a good look at it. It didn't appear to float upon the lake, but rather to be slowly sinking amid the choppy waves of vapor. Suddenly, Blueblood realized what this strange red orb must be. It was a star. He guessed it must have been an old one, based on how little light and heat it gave off. Not that the area needed lighting.

The sky was blazing bright, almost searing if one looked at it for too long. Unlike the sky that Blueblood had grown accustomed to, this one was like a kaleidoscope of constantly shifting colors, from blue to red to pink to green to colors that the Prince simply had no words for, and doubted any existed. It was like a rainbow, if the visible light spectrum stretched to infinity. All through out this strange, sickeningly vibrant palette of the heavens were small, twinkling specks of pure black. Blueblood guessed these must have been stars as well, though of what sort he had no idea. They whirled and spun throughout the sky, rotating so quickly that they at times appeared as streaks of black against a multicolored backdrop. In addition to these stars were two moons, or at least what appeared from here to be moons. Unlike the rapidly spinning stars however, these seemed to remain in place. Stock still amid a sea of violent motion.

On the distant shore of the cloud lake stood the ghostly silhouette of a city. It seemed relatively normal at this distance, save for the fact that its tallest tower seemed to be obscured by one of the moons. Or was it? The moon seemed to be both in front of and behind the tower, or perhaps occupying the same space as it. Just trying to comprehend the spatial arrangement of this singular piece was giving Blueblood a headache. Or perhaps that was from the ceaseless pounding in his ears. It sounded like a drumbeat, yet at the same time like a voice.

"Car-Co-Sa. Car-Co-Sa. Car-Co-Sa."

Blueblood guessed that Carcosa must have been the name of the city. The city itself, save for the abnormality of the moon and the tower, seemed to be otherwise normal. It was composed of numerous black spires jutting out from the glassy earth, each one piercing the whirling heavens with its blackness. It seemed to be entirely composed of these jagged spikes, looking at this distance like the shadow of a pincushion, save for the few chinks of light that seemed to suggest slits or windows in the buildings.

Blueblood stood there in silence for what felt like an eternity, just trying to take everything in. Finally, after several minutes of stunned silence, he managed to whisper.

"What... What in Celestia's name is this place?" He said, eyes darting about rapidly. "You have experience with magic and strange spells and such, do you recognize this place?"

Twilight shook her head.

"I've done a lot of spells, and seen a lot of weird stuff, but this really takes the cake." Twilight gazed out over the glaring vista, cupping a hoof over her eyes to block out some of the light. "Its like we stepped into another world, maybe even another dimension."

"Well, whatever it is, we're leaving." Blueblood said, arms folded over his chest.

"Oh come on!" Twilight pleaded. "You don't have an adventurous bone in your body, do you?"

"I have plenty of adventurous bones, but very few of them want to go adventuring here. We have no idea where we are, or what this place is, or if anything even lives here. It could be infested with razor toothed, pony eating rats for all we know."

"That's exactly why we need to explore it Blueblood! We're the first ponies ever to enter this place. Its a whole new world full of new things just waiting to be uncovered! Doesn't that excite you just a little bit?"

"Whatever happened to 'lets get this whole friendship thing over with?' " Blueblood quirked an eyebrow at her.

"We will. We're not going to stay here long. I just want to go and check out that city on the other shore. Carcosa, I believe its called." Twilight put on her best pouty face as she looked at the Prince. "C'mon Blueblood. Who knows, maybe it'll be fun."

Blueblood took a deep breath, then let it out with a huff.

"Alright fine. Lets go and explore the creepy city of death."

"Carcosa. Its called Carcosa."

"Whatever. It beats being stuck in an office all day anyways."

The Prince and Princess began to walk around the edge of the wispy cloud lake, the sound of their hooves clip-clopping on the glass earth below echoing through the seemingly endless expanse. The whole place felt so bleak. There was no sound, not from the rolling cloud sea, nor from the star which floated within it. There was an uneasy silence that seemed to hang in the air, which only grew more and more palpable the closer they moved to Carcosa. Twilight also couldn't help but note the stillness in the air as they walked. Despite the fact that the clouds swirled about, there was no wind. In fact, the air felt stagnant and stale, and the heavy chemical odor that hung in it didn't help matters. Coupled with the intense light from above, Twilight couldn't help but be reminded of a hospital room.

Despite the fact that the city appeared to be nearly on the other horizon, they were practically at its gates within minutes of walking. The black spires towered over them, sticking into the sky like the spears of an advancing army. As they drew nearer and nearer to the city, the sky above began to darken. The sky that had once been filled with blindingly indescribable color soon became a sheet of pure blackness that stretched as far as the eye could see. The stars were no longer visible, but the moons certainly were. Now it was the moons which burned with a plethora of different hues and shades, as well as the moons which circled rapidly through the blackness. It was as though the city was somehow warping the world around it, shifting its rules and reversing them for its own purposes.

With their main source of light extinguished, Blueblood and Twilight both lit up their horns, casting dim white and purple glows over the area. They had entered the city of spires, and things only grew stranger from there. The pillars themselves didn't appear to be cylindrical, as they had initially thought, but were closer to being octagonal in shape. They seemed to have each been cut from a single piece of smooth black material, and seemed to be blurry, as if in constant motion.

"Look at these buildings." Blueblood said, running a hoof over the smooth side of one of the pillars. "It feels like bone."

Twilight examined the tower as well, hoof on her chin.

"Its like ivory." She gently tapped on the tower, the sound visibly reverberating through the structure. "This place is so strange."

"It just doesn't make sense." Blueblood turned his gaze from the tower to the city. "Where would they get anything resembling ivory around here? Everything for miles around is just barren. Its not like it just appeared out of thin... "

The Prince's eyes caught a glimpse of movement in the shadows of the streets. He squinted, trying to brighten his horn as he peered into the darkness. The light glinted off of a pair of eyes, which stared back at him. Blueblood took a step backwards, letting out a yelp as the beast in the blackness lurched toward him. Twilight turned at the noise to see what she could really only describe as a thing limply flopping after Blueblood. It was nearly as large as she was, and it had thin grey tufts of fur covering an almost skeletal body, from which sprang two pairs of glassy, membranous wings. From its face jutted a conical beak, like that of a raven or crow, yet it had no eyes. In its place were two pairs of antennae that twitched and jerked about spastically. It propelled itself along with webbed talons, awkwardly flailing its body as it came. Its beak opened, and it emitted a noise somewhat like the croaking of a frog, the cackling of a crow, and the shrieking of an equine being. Blueblood fell over backwards, trying desperately to scoot himself back before the strange beast could catch up to him.

Twilight quickly stepped between him and the creature, her horn lighting up with a brilliant purple glow as she gave the foul being a telepathic shove. The beast fell over on its back, writhing about and uselessly flailing its six legs. By now Blueblood had clamored to his hooves, drawing his sword from its sheath. With a shout and a flourish, he slashed the blade across the creature's exposed belly, which elicited a much louder shriek from the eyeless demon. This time the sound was enough to make both Blueblood and Twilight pause to cover their ears as they were assailed by the horrible noise. With a moment of respite, the beast was able to flip itself over, and with a flap of its massive wings, took off into the dark sky. Twilight glanced up after it, watching as it soared higher and higher, just before a small group of those same beings swooped in, ripping it to shreds with beak and talon. It fell upon the glassy earth, as the others too fell upon it, their claws tearing off bits of flesh before crunching it between their beaks and swallowing it with a backwards tilt of their heads. Before either Prince or Princess could react to the sight, they simply vanished, appearing to blur before their very eyes before fading entirely from sight.

"It... It didn't even bleed." Blueblood said, trembling. "I cut it open, but there was no blood. Just chitinous innards squirming. Celestia's sake... What was that thing?"

"I... I don't know. I just don't know." Twilight stammered, trying to find her tongue. She leaned back against a nearby tower wall, trying to collect herself. Unfortunately, there was no time for such things. Twilight felt a sudden, powerful force tug her backwards, and she tumbled down through what had seemed to be a solid wall. She screamed as she fell downwards through inky blackness, futilely flapping her wings to slow her descent. She hit ground with a rather ungraceful thump, rolling to her side as she hissed between her teeth at the pain. Above her, perhaps eight feet or so up, she could see Blueblood peering down into the hole she had fallen into.

"Are you alright?"

"I'm fine." Twilight brushed herself off as she rose to her hooves, gently shaking the dust from her coat. "A few bumps and bruises, but nothing I can't handle."

"Celestia and Luna both, not even the architecture here makes any damn sense!" Blueblood said from above.

"Look, just jump down here and I'll catch you."

"No way. You fly up here, and lets leave."

"I'm already in here, so we might as well check it out." Twilight said with a shrug.

"Oh no. You've had your fun. You've already watched those...things appear and attack us. I'm putting my hoof down on this. We're leaving."

"Well right now, you're up where those things were." Twilight smirked slightly. "So right now, you're the one in danger, not me."

She couldn't see from there, but Twilight was sure that his eyes had just grown about an inch wider.

"C'mon. Just jump."

Blueblood sucked in his breath, before taking a leap of faith down into the black cavern below. Although he only fell for a few seconds, it felt to him like minutes of time passed before he landed, toppling Twilight as he crashed into her. They both hit the floor, with Blueblood rolling off of her as he landed.

"Ugh... I thought you said you were going to catch me?" He said, brushing the dust from his coat and tossing his mane.

"I didn't expect you to be so heavy!"

Blueblood let out a soft harumph, turning his nose up at her comment. Twilight lit up her horn, slowly but surely walking deeper into the corridor. In the dim light, it seemed that whatever they had landed in was an utterly barren room. However, as they walked, the ceilings began to grow higher and higher, and soon what had started as an 8 foot tall chamber soon stretched to what Twilight estimated to be about 45 feet. It was massive, almost vault-like. Their hoofbeats could be heard, yet they did not echo. It was as though these catacombs swallowed up the sound.

Suddenly, both ponies stood stock still.

Just in front of them, illuminated by the dim glow of their horns, was a massive stone door. It stretched from floor to ceiling, and was carved with hundreds of thousands of strange squiggles and runic shapes, each one seeming to belong to some incomprehensible alien language. Twilight reached out a hoof, tapping the door with her hoof. There was a massive grinding, as though a mountain were being bored to bits just in front of them, as the slab floated diagonally upwards, vanishing from their sight. Ahead of them, deep within the inky blackness of the vault, was a bright greenish light.

"Apr├Ęs vous." Blueblood muttered, motioning with his hoof.

With that, Twilight took her first step into the crypt.