• Published 23rd May 2015
  • 2,233 Views, 125 Comments

Where Black Stars Rise - Corah Il Cappo

Yet stranger still is, Lost Carcosa

  • ...

Of Myths and Masks

The light in the distance was a fire. A fire that burned bright green, seated in a brazier of a copper colored metal. Perhaps burned was the wrong word, as the fire was completely still, as though it had been frozen in time and place. It didn't give off any heat either, although the jade glow flickered and flashed just like a real flame. As Twilight drew closer to it, she could see that the light illuminated a spiral staircase, that seemed to stretch far beyond the reaches of the tower they occupied. Come to think of it, they had walked far beyond where their tower should have been by this point. Twilight had since given up trying to comprehend the inner workings of this world, and chose to simply go with the flow. Slowly but surely she and Blueblood ascended the staircase, the sound of their hoofbeats the only noise.

As Twilight continued her upwards climb, she paused near a large slit carved into the wall. Its sides were smoothly cut into the black, bone-like substance, and appeared to have been polished to a glossy sheen. However, it was the world outside the window that caught Twilight's eye. The skies were bright again, flashing in their erratic pattern of ever shifting colors, punctuated by streaking black stars. She managed to crane her neck, poking her head through the rather narrow slat. Once her head was outside the tower however, the sky was black as coal once more, with only the pulsating moons to light the streets below. Upon pulling her head back in again however, everything reverted back. Something very odd was going on here.

They reached the top of the staircase, only to stand in a wide, open chamber lit by numerous green fire braziers. unlike the rest of the chamber, this room was actually very well lit, even if it was a nauseating green color. The walls seemed to have been covered in a fine, almost metallic substance, looking like the entire room had been gilded in gold leaf. A low table sat before them, surrounded on all sides by cushioned pads. Although there was no food upon the table, it was set as though a great feast were being held, with numerous plates and knives and goblets set up in positions around the table, as though whoever owned it had been expecting guests.

Blueblood ran a hoof along one of the silvery plates, a thin film of dust left upon his hoof. "Seems like whoever set this table did it a while back, perhaps days or even weeks ago. Not to mention they were expecting quite a few guests at their party."

"The question is, what sort of 'guests' would be arriving at a place like this?" Twilight said, picking up one of the goblets to examine it under the glow of the green lights. "You think maybe someone was expecting those cultists we stopped?"

"Could be." The Prince replied. "Certainly seems likely. But how would they have gotten the message across dimensions? Its not like they have a telegraph line between Equestria and Carcosa."

"I'd assume if they found a way to open portals through dimensions, then they could pretty easily find a way to communicate across it. But you're right, it does seem a little odd. I think the question we ought to be asking is, what were they trying to contact here?"

"Well, I heard those cultists mention something. They said they were offering a sacrifice to the 'King in Yellow'. I'm guessing that this King was the one they were looking for. Then that means..."

"That we're in a palace."

"The banquet hall to be precise."

Twilight set her goblet down, and began to trace along the wall of the banquet hall. It looked like the room was a dead end, but Twilight was beginning to realize that here in Carcosa, things were never as they seemed. She touched her hooves to the black walls, applying only the slightest bit of pressure as she moved along. She noticed what appeared to be an opening to a hallway, but it was on the ceiling. However, when she applied pressure to the wall below it, she was able to push through as though nothing was there. It was weird, but it worked.

"I found another passageway." She called to the prince, making sure she caught his attention before passing directly through the wall. Somehow she had imagined it would feel different walking through walls. She had imagined there would be some sort of palpable sensation from the material, yet there was none. Of course, she wasn't even sure if there really was a wall there. The laws of physics she had grown so accustomed to seemed to be completely wrong here. Once she and Blueblood returned to Equestria, she had every intention of writing a book with her observations on the warped reality she encountered here.

As Twilight exited on the other side of the illusory wall, she had to adjust her eyes to the darkness. It seemed that assuming this place would be well lit was no more than a fleeting hope. She ignited her horn, and the glow was soon joined by another as Blueblood followed suit. The room in which they stood was a bit smaller than the banquet hall, though still rather open. The walls were covered with images; massive tapestries of strange, bipedal pale beings dressed in yellow robes. They were arrayed along the walls in a semicircular pattern, their portraits surrounded by strange runes and glyphs that had been etched into the wall and made to stand out with gold inlays. Further into the room, still shrouded by shadow, was a throne. It was nothing like the thrones in Canterlot, with their velvet cushions and gilded wooden frames. The throne of Carcosa was twisted and gnarled, like a tree with its branches doubling back upon themselves. Twilight gulped softly, for she swore that she had seen the throne moving. She pushed the thought from her mind, as she and Blueblood began to explore the throne room.

"What in Celestia's name are these things?" Blueblood said, staring at the intricately woven tapestry that towered above him. "Are these the natives of Carcosa?"

"I think we can assume these things are native to Carcosa, seeing as they have their portraits in the throne room. But to say they're the natives here might be a stretch. Maybe those weird bird-bat-bug things we saw earlier are the natives, and these are just the rulers." Twilight moved to stand beside him, hoping to stay as far as she could from the throne. Something about it just felt off.

"You may be right." Blueblood leaned in to examine the series of strange squiggles and signs that lined the walls around the image. He had seen plenty of languages in his day, yet these symbols didn't seem to match up with any of them. One sign in particular stood out to him however. It was an odd, curved figure, which was somehow entirely alien, yet all too familiar to the prince. One thing was certain to him however. This sign did not exist in any equine script, and judging by the shape of the runes surrounding it, it was perhaps not a member of this language either. Whatever it was, it sent a chill down his spine.

"Blueblood come check this out." Twilight called from the opposite side of the chamber. The wall in front of her was covered from floor to ceiling with those same strange symbols, interspersed with tiny, carved pictures of those bipedal beings. However, what Twilight pointed to was something all the more mind boggling. Amid all the swirled sigils and glyphs was a small image of a four legged being. It seemed to be wearing the same robes as the bipeds, but there was no mistaking it. There was a single, solitary carving of an equine being. It had one hoof outstretched, upon which sat an open tome. Nearby was one of those two legged creatures, its hand also over the book.

Blueblood's eyes grew wide. "It can't be."

"But it is. Somepony has been here before us."

"When I was serving in Saddle Arabia, some of the royals there told me the tale of a pony by the name of Abdullah Alhazred. He was a scribe who had served the Caliphate for years, before requesting a leave of absence to meet with his family. When his request was granted, Abdullah vanished for 15 years. He returned a vastly changed pony. They said he had gone mad, that he spoke only in gibberish, clinging to a book he had carried with him. He died only days later, screaming until the last ounce of breath left his body." Blueblood paused, staring at the figure on the wall. "Celestia and Luna both... Could the legends be true?"

"At this point, I'm willing to believe anything." Twilight mused, still examining the other carvings. They seemed to be a history of sorts, though exactly what the history was telling was anypony's guess. She began to feel a growing dread in the pit of her stomach. Her curiosity still burned, yet now she was worried about what else she might uncover here. She felt as though there were things lying amid these shadows that perhaps she, nor anypony else, was meant to know. Besides, she had seen plenty now, enough to fill volumes on the strange new discoveries she had made.

"Alright Blueblood lets go-" Twilight turned to leave, then instinctively froze in her tracks.

Something sat upon the throne.

Something very much alive.

It looked almost identical to the last of the tapestries; a tall, massive being clad in flowing yellow robes, face obscured by a pallid, featureless mask. It seemed to grow in size as it rose from its seat, filling the chamber with not only its body, but also its presence. It towered far above the prince and princess, seeming to stretch far beyond the limits of the room. As the light from her horn illuminated the creature, Twilight felt her stomach tying itself in knots. Everything about it was just plain wrong, from its size to its shape, everything about it seemed a massive contradiction of the logic she had so deeply instilled within herself. Its form seemed blasphemous to nature, the very fabric of its robes seeming to squirm and crawl. Twilight and Blueblood were so paralyzed from the sight that all they could do was back away slowly, till they were pressed against the opposite wall from the creature.

Slowly, the loathsome being began to move towards them, although it seemed to lack any visible means of propelling itself. Its robes scraped across the floor, appearing to leave long drag marks in the bony substance, yet it made no sound. In fact, in the presence of this thing all sound seemed to vanish. The room was blanketed by a palpable silence, the feeling practically squeezing around the prince and princess as the entity drew ever closer. It froze, its masked face staring down at them.

Twilight began to grope about frantically, trying to find some sort of passage or escape route, yet her search proved fruitless. She was trapped between a bone wall and a towering fiend. It seemed frozen for a moment, glaring down at her through false eyes. She could have sworn she heard Blueblood whimpering in fear.

Then the mask fell away.

What lay behind the mask was simply indescribable. It was a twisted mass of impossibility that boggled the mind with its transgressions against logic. No words from any tongue that equinity had since created could relate to it, save for one. Wrong. Everything about it was wrong. It didn't exist. It couldn't exist. It was so far beyond comprehension, that the ponies sight failed them. They did not perceive the face as a sight, for it was far more than that. They perceived it as a feeling. They perceived it as pain. It was snapping, twisting, shrieking, clawing, gnawing pain, and it permeated every cell of their bodies. It felt as though something had bored into their brains, scuttling about with chitinous legs and ripping its way through their grey matter. It was foulness and decay seeping through their bones, making them feel as though their flesh had been afflicted with boils, hives, and pus filled sores. It was profanity and blasphemy tainting their minds, their very thoughts seeming to melt amid a sea of horrific visions as they tried to wrap their mortal minds around what their eyes had witnessed.

As if by an act of self preservation, Twilight's horn lit up, surrounding both her and Blueblood with a blinding purple light. Before either of them knew what was happening, they had teleported out of the throne room, and high into the skies above Carcosa. Twilight's head was swimming, and her body numb as she began to free fall through the dim skies. The ground began to approach, and yet there was simply nothing she could do about it. Her mind and body had been thoroughly broken by what she had witnessed. As the vision of the wickedness that lay behind the mask faded from her mind, the reality of the situation began to dawn on her. She reached over, taking a firm hold of the Prince as she spread her wings, settling into a rather shaky glide above the frothing cloud lake.

Blueblood was trembling as the two of them floated above the swirling foam. Twilight hadn't noticed yet, but she too was shaking as she flew. Her breathing was shallow and rapid. A part of her wanted to turn around, to see if the being had pursued them, yet the rest of her was too afraid to check. Instead she fixated her eyes ahead, on the shadowy silhouette of a slumped pony that sat on the horizon. Twilight descended rapidly as she approached the gateway between the worlds, not slowing a bit as she flew directly through it, landing with a thump on the other side. She and Blueblood bounced and rolled across the earth in the clearing from which they had entered. They both lay on the grass, catching their breath and trying to erase the memories of what they had seen.

Twilight closed her eyes. She panted and choked, fresh air filling her lungs. The sounds of crickets and cicadas and birds chirping soon rang in her ear. The moon had fallen, and the sun had begun to rise over the horizon, casting the world around them in a sea of golden light. The sweet smell of damp earth filled her nostrils. All seemed right here. Things made sense in Equestria. Yet despite that, Twilight knew somewhere deep down that things would never be the same. Perhaps now, things in Equestria would cease to make sense. She would have taken the time to ponder this, had it not been for one small issue.

Both Blueblood and Twilight had blacked out.