• Published 23rd May 2015
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Where Black Stars Rise - Corah Il Cappo



Yet stranger still is, Lost Carcosa

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Of Breakout and Banishment

Twilight left her castle at approximately midnight. She was bound for Canterlot, though she felt she could not take a train or coach this time. She didn't want to draw anymore attention to herself than was absolutely necessary. Instead, she leapt from her battlements, spreading her wings in flight. She really wished that she had spent more time training her wings, as her flight was a bit shaky. She did her best to steady herself, giving a few extra flaps before settling into a glide. The lights of Ponyville appeared beneath her, like twinkling stars dotting the earth. She rose a bit higher, aiming herself like an arrow for the distant, gleaming marble spires of Canterlot.

The flight was a difficult one, as it seemed that every stiff breeze that touched her wings threatened to send her into an earthward spiral. Despite difficulties, she persevered, trying to right her wings every time they teetered clumsily. She glided and flapped silently through the chilly night air, the only sound to reach her ears the whistling of the breeze as she slowly rose ascended towards the upper mountain of Canterlot. She almost wished for sound, if only to distract her mind from what she was about to do. A soft landing on one of the palace ramparts put an end to the flight, as Twilight began to search about for her quarry. She had attempted to land near it, though her judgement may have been slightly off.

There just above her, was a broken window. Twilight breathed a sigh of relief as she jumped for the open window, propelling herself upwards with a flap of her wings. She managed to get a solid grip on the inside of the window, hooking her hoof on the interior and using it as leverage to clamor up the wall to peek inside. It was Prince Blueblood's study, freshly cleaned after the break in that had occurred weeks ago. She practically rolled into the room, landing on the carpet with an ungraceful thump. Quickly rising to her hooves, she scanned the shelves in the Prince's Quarters. She found a large backpack, and snatching it up turned her attention to the nearby bookshelves. She paused for a moment, taking in the scope and volume of Blueblood's personal collection, and then began to sweep the titles, stuffing into the knapsack any title that had anything to do with Saddle Arabia. Saddle Arabia: A Brief History, Customs and Etiquette of Saddle Arabia and Camel Caravans, Myth and Magic Beneath the Dunes, and Sarabic for Utter Morons were all tossed into the empty satchel.

Once the books were packed away, Twilight switched gears, taking a look at the Prince's desk. She jostled a few of the drawers, finding one that was held shut with a small brass lock. A quick focused bolt of magic from her horn was enough to shatter the rather flimsy lock, and Twilight was granted access into the cupboards contents. Inside she found a few documents, some old newspaper clippings, and at last the object she sought: Blueblood's wallet. Contained within the black leather wallet was an assortment of receipts, bills, and bits, exactly what Twilight was looking for. She tossed the whole wallet into the bag, before closing the drawer and returning to Blueblood's trophy shelf. She quickly swept a few of the more valuable trinkets into the satchel, taking several jeweled rings, talismans, and other bits of jewelry that might be worth a fair amount of bits.

With all this packed, Twilight tossed the bag over her shoulder and peered out into the hallway beyond. It was dark, as it should have been after hours. No guards either. They must have been on patrol elsewhere at the moment. She stepped out into the unlit corridor, tramping quietly over the rugs, taking care to keep her hoofbeats light as she traversed the halls. She made her way through the dark, coming to what she assumed was a small way station for guards. She cracked the door open ever so slightly, and peeked inside. The lights were on, but it seemed empty. Cautiously, Twilight opened the door and stepped inside. The walls were practically gleaming with rows of armor and weapons. Swords, shields, spears, daggers, and breastplates hung on the walls, surrounding a few small chairs and tables in the center of the room. She didn't want to spend a whole lot of time here, and quickly levitated a thin, rapier-like blade off the wall, along with a belt, sheath, and holster. Twilight stepped back into the hallway, only to see a bright light moving her way.

"Who's there?" A rather gruff sounding voice suddenly echoed through the corridor.

Twilight decided to reply by quickly blinking out of sight, casting a spell to teleport her further down the hall, behind the approaching guard. She tiptoed around the corner, working her way through the maze of corridors towards her ultimate goal; Celestia's throne room. The halls were fairly lightly guarded, seeing as there were no weekend events planned at the palace, and she was able to pass through it without much incident. Within a few minutes, she had found the throne room, which seemed quite a bit less inviting in the night than it did in the day. She stepped inside, closing the door behind her. As her hooves clip clopped across the marble floor, she felt a strange, almost foreboding presence in the room with her. It was as though every shadow were moving, living beings, all of which seemed to be stretching and reaching out to grab her.

She tried to shrug it off as her imagination, or perhaps a symptom of the repeated nightmares she had been having as of late. Somehow she just couldn't shake the feeling that she was being observed however. She glanced around as she walked, trying to pinpoint the source of her unease, yet somehow she felt that she was being watched from every corner of the room. She lit up her horn with a pale purple glow seeing a bit of the shadows recede. Her eyes darted about, searching for some sort of invisible observer. Then, out of the corner of her eye, she saw movement. In an instant she whirled to face it, a spell at the ready, only for a rather quiet voice to reach her ear.

"Did I startle you, Twilight?"

Twilight turned to see Princess Luna stepping out from the darkness, her eyes almost luminescent in the dim light. She breathed out a sigh of relief, a bit of the terror she had felt dissipating.

"Just a bit, yes." She said, letting her prepared spell fade from her mind as she spoke.

"I know why thou hast come." Luna spoke quietly, seeming to stare right through Twilight as she spoke.

"Why is that?"

"Thou art here to break the Prince out of prison."

Twilight froze in her tracks, gulping softly.

"Are you here to stop me?" Twilight could feel her nerves prickling as she talked. She knew she had bested Nightmare Moon once before, but she had the Elements of Harmony on her side then. She knew Luna was much older and wiser than she, and was certainly a better flier than she was. Twilight supposed that raw magical energy could have been tipped in her favor, though she didn't know for sure. What she did know for sure was that the absolute last thing she wanted was a standoff between herself and Luna.

"I am not." Luna whispered, as Twilight exhaled with relief. "My sister explained your situation to me following Blueblood's snap. It would seem that the two of you claimed to have exited this plane of existence, and traveled to a mythic, lost city which you called Carcosa. no?"

Twilight nodded.

"Celestia finds the whole matter difficult to believe, and I must admit I'm inclined to agree with her. However, I've noticed one thing that's been rather odd since your supposed voyage was made. Your dreams-"

"You've seen my dreams?" Twilight interrupted, only for Luna to silence her with an outstretched hoof.

"Therein lies the problem Twilight. I have been unable to enter your dreams as of late." Luna said with a touch of concern in her voice. "Its as though something or someone is preventing my entry. It is as though I travel through a long, nighted tunnel, whose walls narrow the closer I come to the realm of your dreams, until finally it closes up, swallowing me in intense blackness."

"That sounds... a bit unsettling." Twilight replied, her eyes widening.

"Indeed. It's been much the same with my attempts to enter Blueblood's dreams, and I can only assume that there is something sinister going on, whether it is connected to this 'Carcosa' or not remains to be seen." Luna's voice was smooth, yet solemn and stern. "If you're here to break the Prince from his confinement, I can only assume you wish to search for answers, no?"

Twilight only nodded in response.

"Then I wish you the best of luck in the endeavor." The Princess said softly. "Celestia will likely not be as accepting of your actions this night as I am. After all, you're freeing one imprisoned under order of Celestia herself. What you're doing is tantamount to treason. I would advise you not to return to this court unless you have found solid evidence supporting your claims. Have I made myself clear, Twilight Sparkle?"

"Of course Princess Luna."

"May your night be most favorable then." Luna said as she took a step backwards into the shadows once more, completely fading from Twilight's view. A second later, and a gentle breeze blew past her, passing beneath the throne room door on its way out. With a quiet sigh, Twilight pressed on, finding the hidden staircase beyond the throne, pushing open the aged wooden door with a deep, foreboding creak. She began to trace her way down the stone staircase, the sound of her hooves echoing off the halls as she went. As she descended further into the dungeon, she could hear Blueblood's voice, though she couldn't make out what he was saying. She could only assume that he was still repeating that damn song from the play the other night.

In the dim light of the torches, Twilight came upon the old wood and iron door that lead to Blueblood's cell. His voice was far clearer now, and she could make out his garbled speech with ease now.

"-the Hyades shall sing, where flap the tatters of the-"

She scowled at this, pushing open the door and instantly silencing his inane babbling. Inside, Blueblood was seated against the wall opposite her, hooves across his chest with his head hung low, half suggestion exhaustion. At the creaking of the iron hinges, his ears perked, before his head jolted upright, his eyes wide with otherworldly terror.

"Who is it? Who's there?" The Prince stammered, instinctively leaning away from the door.

"It's Discord, remember?" Twilight half-heartedly joked, forcing a slight smile.

"It wasn't funny the first time you said that " He replied flatly. "What are you doing here? It's almost one in the morning."

Twilight took a deep breath, swallowing hard.

"I want to preface this by saying that you're still an egotistical, self centered, royal pain in my flank."

"Duly noted. So again, why are you here?"

"Because despite all that, you're the only pony in all of Equestria who believes me right now, and that's something that I can't afford to lose." As she spoke, Twilight let her magic begin investigating the chains which bound Blueblood. Just as she thought, they were enchanted. Of course, enchantments could be broken with the proper counter spell. All she needed to do was find it.

"You're going to break me out?" Blueblood said, his demeanor softening somewhat. "Even after I told you to leave me?"

There was a sudden CLACK as the chains binding the Prince snapped, his manacles falling from his hooves and landing in a heap on the floor. He rubbed the spot they had been, tenderly massaging the area as he shakily rose to his hooves.

"You gave me advice, and I chose not to take it." Twilight smirked ever so slightly. "After all, what do you know?"

"Your humor fails to amuse me yet again." Blueblood said, following behind as Twilight began to ascend the stairs. "Praytell, what exactly did you plan on doing after you sprung me from my cell?"

"From here, we go to Saddle Arabia."

"And how do we get there?"

"I seem to recall a certain somepony owning a personal airship."

"Damn. You've thought this whole thing through, how long did it take you to plan this big break out?"

"Five minutes, plus the time it took for me to eat some toast before departing for Canterlot."

"Remind me to be impressed when we're out of harms way then." Blueblood said as the two of them entered the throne room once more. This time however, Blueblood chose to take the lead, leading Twilight into the eastern wing of the palace, keeping the light from his horn dim as he stalked his way through the dark corridors. The two of them snaked their way through a veritable maze of hallways, some lit by torchlight, others by moonlight, and a precious few without any light at all. Twilight's memories of the east wing were hazy at best, as the library, living quarters, and other important rooms for a budding young spellcaster sat in the west. The rooms she passed here however seemed far different. Many were simple bedrooms, though they were adorned with all the finery and pomp that one would expect from the bedroom of royalty. Several had shields or flags bearing insignias that Twilight recalled vaguely as belonging to foreign royal families or especially high ranking dignitaries. Other rooms contained entire walls devoted to maps, with tables which held detailed dioramas of local topography. It didn't take a genius to figure out that this wing was mostly reserved for diplomats, both domestic and foreign. She guessed that this was where Blueblood spent the majority of his time, if not abroad or locked in his room.

Blueblood opened one of the myriad of nearly identical wood and iron doors, leading to a spiral staircase that seemed to stretch quite a bit further than any of the others. The air began to feel cooler as they ascended, and before long they exited the confinements of the castle to an open air platform, upon which rested numerous airships of various shapes and sizes. Twilight stood for a moment with her mouth agape at the sheer size of some of them, which seemed to her eyes less like ships and more like great floating cities of canvas and steel. Blueblood rolled his eyes, grabbing her by the foreleg and giving her a sharp tug to bring her in line behind him as he made his way through the cluttered deck, weaving between crates and barrels and other debris while practically dragging Twilight behind.

The pair passed ships with names printed in gorgeous cursive script. The Dauntless, The Northwind, The Alicorn, and The Breezie Chaser all towered above her, the moonlight behind them only illuminating their splendor. At the end of the row however, was something far smaller. It was still large, but compared to the other ships at dock. It seemed to have only been built to transport three or four ponies, as opposed to the hundreds that would be needed to staff the larger ships. However, it seemed to have been built with far more opulence than the other ships as well. Taking the place of steel was gold, and in place of canvas, silk. Emblazoned upon the side was its title Volonté de Celestia.

"Is this one yours?" Twilight whispered as they began to approach the already lowered gangplank of the airship.

"Of course." Blueblood replied, sliding the doors open and stepping inside to a world of pipes and gears and wheels that seemed entirely alien to Twilght's eyes. "Never been on an airship before, have you?"

"Not one like this. I mean, I've ridden in a balloon plenty of times but-"

"A balloon is nothing like an airship, believe me, I know from experience with both." Blueblood spoke as he went about his business, checking various gauges and valves before flipping a few switches and giving a hefty tug on a nearby lever. "Check in the central gas chamber there, and see if the gas is flowing. Just stick a hoof in and see if you feel a breeze."

Twilight did as she was told, opening a small hatch on a bronze shaft in the center of the room, and placing her hoof within. Sure enough, a breeze was faintly blowing across her hoof.

"I think its working." Twilight removed her hoof, shutting the hatch as she began to glance around at the myriad of strange devices that now surrounded her. Clockwork gears began to turn, and the whole contraption seemed to come alive with a soft whirring noise. She could hear the gold plated silk balloon above her beginning to fill, and the various clicks and clacks of gauges reached her ears only seconds later. The ship began to lift from its docked position, and Blueblood took his place at the steering wheel, giving it a slight turn as they began to sail forward, their cabin rising higher and higher as the spires of Canterlot Palace began to grow distant.

"You're going to want to make yourself comfortable." Blueblood tossed back his mane, his eyes practically gleaming in the dim light. "Its going to be a long ride to Saddle Arabia."

As Twilight took a seat, she happened to glance out the back window of the cabin, she could see a single solitary figure standing atop the highest balcony of the palace. A figure outlined in shadow, from whom the dim light of the moon seemed to radiate. Twilight could barely make it out, but she was certain that this figure was waving her a very grim farewell.