• Published 15th Mar 2017
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Of Heaven and Earth - Garuda IV

It's been over a thousand years since Sol was hidden away and sealed in crystal. Now freed by Twilight and her friends, he must readjust to the present while also having to deal with old grudges both from and against him.

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Chapter 4- The Underkingdom

No one knew of how much time had passed as they all stood there taking in the sights before them. By all rights none of this should be possible, let alone it even existing here in the first place.

Before them laid a vast cavern that stretched as far as their eyes could see in all directions, save the wall they came out of behind them. But that wasn't the most unbelievable thing about all of this. Somehow, someway, deep beneath the plant's surface resided an underground ecosystem thriving with life. From the rich green forests below, to the birds flying up in the clouds above, none of them could even begin to understand what was going on here.

Being the first to regain her senses, Twilight looked over to her right and saw off in the far distance a large section of land that looked similar to several different kinds of farms. Looking away and turning to her left, she then saw that that area was completely different, having gone from a forest, to a rocky desert, and shifting to a sandy desert that stretched beyond what she could see. Turning her gaze away from it, she looked in front of her towards the horizon where she swore that she saw several villages scattered about deep within different sections of the forest. And there, laying beyond the other side of the forest, was what she could only predict to be a large city built around a castle.

"Did I fall asleep on our way down that tunnel and am now dreaming this?" Spike asked.

"If you are, then I think that the rest of us are too," Pinkie slowly said.

"How can something like this even exist?" Starlight asked in quiet shock.

Recalling something from the book, Twilight reached in her saddlebag with her magic and pulled it out. Flipping through the pages, her eyes soon landed on another one of Starswirl's lost chapters.

"So this is what he meant."

"Did you say something, Twilight?" Rarity asked.

"This place is what Starswirl was talking about!" she exclaimed, pointing at the page the book was opened to. "One of Starswirl's lost chapters mentioned a kingdom being hidden away by Equestria. I though that it was talking about the Crystal Empire, but now I know that it wasn't talking about the Empire, but this place!"

"Ah can't believe it. This place has been down for Celestia knows how long and nopony even knew about it," Applejack awed.

Daring snorted. "If I had to guess, I'd say that Princess Celestia may have very well known about this place."

"She and Princess Luna have lived long enough, so they might know something," Fluttershy spoke. "Perhaps we should ask them?"

Silently agreeing with her, Twilight pulled a ink pot, quill, and parchment from her saddlebag, and began to write down what they'd found. Once finished, she levitated it over to Spike.

"Could you send this to Princess Celestia for me?"

"Yeah, no problem."

Sucking in a breath, Spike blew his fire over the parchment and watched as a green wisp of magic flew off... only for it to return soon after and land in front of Spike's feet.


"The outside of this place must be magically sealed like the tunnel," Starlight deduced.

"You mean this entire place?" Rainbow questioned disbelievingly.

"If Spike's messages can't even get out of here, then that must be the case," Twilight agreed with Starlight.

"And yet Starlight's magic seems to be working just fine now that we're out of that tunnel," Rarity noticed, having seen Starlight's horn flare up with magic once they'd left the tunnel and stepped onto the plateau they were now on.

"We can find out the reason behind that later," Twilight told them. "Right now, let's get down there and see if there's anypony here. I spotted a village down on the path ahead of us, so let's start there. If we can't find anything there, then we'll head up to that city."

Following the wide stone ramp leading down the side of the plateau, Twilight and the others made their way towards the cavern floor. As they descended, they became aware of the wildlife around them. If they didn't know any better from seeing a few deer and other woodland critters running about, they would've figured that they were still up on the surface. That was, until they all felt a tremor and looked to their right.

"What are those things?!" Fluttershy asked, staring frightfully at the creatures that just stood up from beneath the tree canopies, towering over their group as they stood twice as tall as the trees.

Twilight's eyes had a shine to them. "They're golems! Giant stone golems!"

"But how?" Starlight asked in disbelief. "The amount of magic required to create one that's pony-sized is large enough, so how much magic would it take to create something of this size?!"

"I have no idea!" Twilight beamed giddily.

Seeing a shadow falling over them, they stopped and turned around to see one of the golems towering over them and lean down to examine them. While several of them cowered or prepared to fight, Twilight took a few steps towards it with magical curiosity.

"Who are you?"

Hearing the rumbling voice inside their heads, they all looked around to see where the voice came from, but upon finding nothing, they looked back up at the golem again to see it slowly blinking at them.

"Um... excuse me," Twilight cautiously called up to it, "but was that you?"

The golem slowly nodded. "Yes. Now, who are you?"

"Umm... Twilight Sparkle, and these are my friends."

The golem regarded the others briefly before turning back to Twilight.

"An alicorn."

Twilight blinked before she understood that it was talking about her. "Oh. Well yes, I am. I'm the Princess of Friendship and the Element of Magic."

The golem's magical eyes glowed brighter for a brief moment before diming back down to their prior glow.

"An alicorn princess and the Elements of Harmony. You may proceed. Welcome to the Underkingdom."

"'The Underkingdom'? Is that what this place is called?"

"Yes. It was created by our master for the sole purpose of serving as a self-sustaining safe haven, should Equestria ever fall."

"Well that would've been nice during Tirek's rampage," Rainbow grumbled before blinking. "Wait. 'Master'?"

The golem gave a single nod. "Our master slumbers. He has for many years now."

"Just who is this 'Master'?" Starlight asked.

"He is the Lord of Earth."

"Do you know where he is?"

The golem pointed towards the horizon. "There he resides."

"So he's inside the castle?" Twilight asked, receiving another nod from the golem.

"Yes. Now, I must return to watching over the land. Safe travels, visitors to the Underkingdom."

His business finished, the golem stood back up and left them be. Watching the golem leave, they all let out a heavy sigh of relief.

"Anypony still think that comin' here was a good idea?" Applejack questioned.

"He seemed friendly enough for a giant rock creature, so I think so," Pinkie piped up. "Ooh! I wish I brought my parents and sisters with us! I just know that they'd love it here!"

"Perhaps another time, but for now, let's focus on meeting this master of theirs."

Listening to Twilight, they made their way down the rest of the ramp and walked off onto the cobblestone road. Seeing that it led straight ahead towards the village, they began their trek down the road. An hour of walking later, they finally came to the boarders of the village and split up as they took a look around. A half-hour later, they reconvened at the fountain in the center of town.

"What happened here?" Fluttershy asked. "This place is abandoned, but these buildings look like they're in perfectly livable condition."

"I believe that we're going to be having a lot of questions down here that we won't be getting any clear answers to," Rarity voiced.

"Best if we just move on then," Daring told them. "I don't know how much you all brought in terms of supplies, but as much as I'd like to stay here and explore this place, I'd rather not run the risk of running out of food."

"Good idea," Twilight nodded. "Let's keep moving. The sooner we find this master, the sooner we can head back home."

"Really? I thought that you'd like to stay in this place and explore it too?" Rainbow smirked.

"Oh, I do, but like Daring said, I'd rather not run out of food down here."

"When I was looking near the outskirts, I found a lake with really clear water," Fluttershy said. "I could see all the way to the bottom of it, so I'm sure that it's perfectly safe and drinkable."

"And I'm pretty sure that I saw a group of apple tress growing over on the other side," Rainbow informed them.

"Okay, so we'll have some food and water incase we run out and need to resupply, but I'd still rather that we not risk it," Twilight told them.

Daring nodded in agreement. "Then let's get going. It'll take us a few more hours of traveling by hoof until we reach the city, and I'd rather not be out here in unfamiliar territory come nightfall."

Figuring that that'd be for the best, they made their way out of the village and onto the road leading to the city. As they traveled, Applejack looked up and saw the sun shining brightly overhead.

"How in the hay is that thing with the sun even workin' in the first place?"

"It's probably just an illusion spell of some kind," Starlight guessed.

"I've been thinking about that too," Twilight voiced, "and I don't think that it's just any illusion spell either. If it was, then the plants here wouldn't be getting the nourishment that they'd need to survive down here."

Starlight tapped her chin in thought. "An artificial sun then?"

"Maybe. But if that's the case, then that just further proves that Princess Celestia knew about this place."

Rainbow let out a loud sigh. "The Princess hiding secrets aside, do we have to walk? Of the nine of us here, there are five of us don't have any wings, but Starlight can fly with her magic, so can't we just carry somepony and fly over to the city instead? It'd be a lot faster than all of us just walking. And besides," she added an eye-roll, "we'll have plenty of that to look forward to on our way back through that tunnel."

They each shared a silent look as they gauged their reactions before Daring spoke up.

"I suppose I could carry one of you," she shrugged. "Just as long as it's not the farmpony, she might be a bit too heavy for me."

"Pft. No sweat, Daring. I can carry Applejack easily," Rainbow waved off. "You can have Pinkie."

"I can carry Spike," Fluttershy said.

"And I can carry Rarity," Twilight offered. "That is if anypony has any objections?"

Everyone seemingly alright with their picks, they stopped so the non-flyers could hop on their rides. Once they were all settled in, they took to the skies above the treetops. With the new speeds they were flying at with their passengers, Rainbow figured that it would take them somewhere between forty-five minutes to an hour until they get there. While it wasn't quite as fast as what Rainbow was hoping for, it was still good timing. That is, until Fluttershy's wings started to become tired from flying for so much longer than she was used to with a passenger.

Landing, everyone dismounted and continued the rest of the way on hoof, much to Rainbow's dismay. Thankfully it was only a twenty minute walk from where they landed, which Rainbow eventually gave Fluttershy credit for for flying for so long. Twenty minutes later, they finally arrived at the city gates.

Taking a moment to take in the architecture, Twilight quickly and excitingly pointed out the stone gargoyles that were patrolling the city walls, each armed with a halberd and shield in their right and left claws respectively. Walking over the drawbridge, they took notice of the large moat that protected the city walls from the outside before passing beneath the gate and entered the city. While it wasn't anything fancy with the plain stone buildings, they couldn't deny that the city had a certain medieval charm to it that made them feel like they were in a time period a thousand years ago.

As they took in their surroundings while walking, they came across a few buildings that they recognized as a blacksmith shop, a bank, barbershop, bakery, tailoring store, a bazaar with dozens of food and trading stands sitting on both sides of the street, and hundreds of other shops.

"I'm gonna take a guess here and say that this would be a sort of market district," Spike said.

"Sure looks like it," Applejack agreed.

Seeing a group of gargoyles patrolling the street, they stood off to the side to let them pass. Now having a closer look at them, they noticed that they each stood four times taller than the average pony, and that their long tails ended in either a spiked club, or an axe. Deciding to stay away from them, they continuing further into the city. Looking up at where they were going, they could see the white marble stone and golden-roofed castle just up ahead, reminding them of a much older version of Canterlot Castle. By the time they got to the castle gates, the sun started making its descent. But, to make up for the setting sun causing a lack of light, the crystals in the street lamp posts magically lit up, illuminating the city with their soft light.

Walking under the gate separating the castle from the city, they entered the castle's front courtyard where they all froze while Fluttershy ducked for cover. While the courtyard was well kept with the flower gardens and trimmed hedges, what took them by surprise were the statues of six dragons, each standing over twice as tall as a normal adult dragon. While three of them were slim and appeared to be female by their features, the other three appeared to be males and varied on their bulkiness and broadness between the three of them. Getting over their initial fear of seeing them suddenly, and for how intimidating the light crystals illuminating them made them appear, they walked down the stone path until Twilight froze in place and looked over to the nearest one.

"Hey, Starlight, do you feel that?"

"I do," she nodded. "I don't know how or why, but I can sense powerful magic coming from these statues."

"How powerful are you two talking?" Daring asked.

"As in alicorn and Discord levels of power at least."

Walking over to the base of the closest one, Twilight looked down with a quirked eyebrow at the name on the plaque.

"Fissure? Is that the name of this thing?"

"Hey! There's one here too," Rainbow called.

Daring walked up alongside her and took a look. "Pyre."

"This one's name is Aero," Applejack announced.

"And Aurora," Fluttershy said.

"So all of these statues have a name," Starlight muttered, now looking over the one named Nocturne with an uneasy shiver.

"This is some strange stone that they used," Daring said to herself before scraping a sample off of the one named Aques and putting it into a jar to later study.

Despite being intrigued by the statues, Twilight walked away from them. "Let's head on inside. If we can, I'd like to be done here and head on back before it gets too late."

"Ah agree," Applejack nodded. "Ah wouldn't want ta worry Granny, Big Mac, or Apple Bloom non if Ah can help it by comin' home so late after midnight."

"Here, here," Rarity agreed. "I would much prefer to get some beauty sleep before I have to open my boutique tomorrow if I could."

Passing through the rest of the garden, they entered the white marble castle and walked down the abandoned halls, the sound of their steps muffled by the violet carpeting beneath their hooves.

"Alright, so where do we start first?" Rainbow eagerly asked. "The throne room? Dungeons? Kitchen?"

"I say that we find some stairs," Pinkie suggested.

Spike gave her a questioning look. "Stairs? I thought we were looking for this Sol guy that Starswirl mentioned?"

"I know. Sol will be up the stairs, in the highest room, in the tallest tower."

"What makes you think he'll be there?"

"I read it in a book once," she shrugged.

Glancing up at her horn, a small and eager smile formed on Twilight's lips. "Well, Pinkie's kinda right."

"I am?"

"Sorta. I can feel a source of magic, but it's very faint, and it's coming from somewhere down below us. Only problem is that I can't seem to get a good read on where exactly. There's some sort of interference that's making it impossible for me to pinpoint where it's coming from."

"Ohhhh. So we need to go down to the lowest room instead of the highest then. Okay, I get it."

"Does that mean that we're going the dungeons now?" Rainbow asked.

"You seem ta be awfully eager ta go there," Applejack noticed.

"Could we not, please?" Fluttershy shivered.

"Don't worry, Fluttershy, we won't have to if we don't need to," Rarity assured.

"So what? Are we just gonna walk around and try and find a staircase leading down?" Spike questioned.

"Pretty much," Daring said, shrugging her wings as she led the way.

Following after her down the torch-lit hallways, they began their search of the castle for a way to the lower levels. During their search, they found several different staircases leading up, a few bathrooms, a kitchen, which they took a moment to sit down and have some dinner at, a large communal bathing room with gold pillars and water fountains, but no stairs leading down. This continued for over an hour before they entered the throne room and sat down in front of the dais leading up to the throne.

Taking a small break from their searching, Twilight looked up at the golden throne with a violet cushion and backrest, and saw Celestia and Luna's banner hanging from either side behind it. As she looked it over, Twilight spotted something and walked closer to the throne's dais to investigate it.

"So, anypony got any ideas?" Rainbow asked. "Because I'm all out."

Spike fell flat on his back with a groan. "If this place had a library on the first floor, I'd suggest we'd check it out for any secret passages leading down."

"And we've already checked the bathing room, the kitchen, and the pantry," Rarity listed.

Noticing that somepony from their group was missing, Starlight looked around and saw Twilight looking at the throne with a scrutinizing gaze.

"Is something wrong, Twilight?" Starlight asked, silencing the others.

Twilight turned back to them and pointed behind her. "Yes, actually. And it's been bothering me since I first noticed it."

"What is it?"

"It's the dais! I don't know who designed this thing, but it's sitting three inches off-center to the left and is driving me crazy!"

Walking over to see for herself, Daring leaned down to inspect it and frowned when she saw that it was indeed sitting off to the side. Frowning at the poor work the builders did here, Daring looked away from the faulty work when her eyes locked onto the floor. Walking over and leaning down, a small smirk began to from as she could just barely make out the scratches running alongside the dais. Eager to see if she was right, Daring reared up on with her front hooves on the side of the dais and began pushing with a strained grunt.

"Uhh, Daring? What are you-"

"I'm trying... to move... this thing..." she grunted between pushes before stopping for a moment to catch her breath. "But... I could use... some help here... phew!"

Twilight's eyes lit up as she realized what she was getting at. "You think there's a secret passage beneath the throne?"

"Of course it would," Rainbow muttered with a facehoof. "It's so obvious that it's painful."

"The floor along this side the dais is scraped up pretty good," Daring told them. "Which means that something heavy once sat here and was moved. It would explain why the dais is off-center like this."

Getting up, everyone joined Daring and helped her push the dais. With them grunting in effort with how heavy it was, even with Twilight and Starlight's magic, they slowly began to move the dais. After a minute of pushing, and almost slipping in later, they managed to push it off to the side far enough to reveal a set of stairs leading down a torch-lit cave.

"Good job there, Daring," Twilight complimented.

"Don't mention it. It's what I do," she nonchalantly shrugged.

With Daring taking point, they filed down one-by-one into the cave. For minutes they descended down, the light of the throne room having long since lost to them with wall-mounted torches lighting their path. A few minutes later, they saw a red light coming from the mouth of the cave, and panted as they felt a sudden heatwave washing over them.

"Jeeze! It's like standing too close to a flame that's burning hotter than the sun in the middle of July down here," Pinkie said, trying to fan herself with a hoof.

"If by that you mean that it's incredibly hot down here, then yes, Pinkie, it is," Rarity huffed, not pleased with how sweaty and smelly she was going to get by being down here.

As they walked closer, Spike's ear fins perked up, along with a scent that caught his attention. Recognizing both of them, Spike gulped.

"Hey, girls?"

"Yes, Spike?" Twilight asked.

"Is it just me, or am I hearing magma?"

"Well it would explain why it suddenly got hot down here," Applejack said, fanning herself with her hat.

Getting an idea, Twilight lit her horn and casted a heat resistant spell on them. "Better?"

"Much. Thank ya kindly for that, Twi."

Nodding back to her, Twilight and Daring led them further down to the bottom of the stairs. Coming to the bottom of them and exiting the tunnel, they found themselves in a large dome-shaped room several hundred feet long, and by Twilight's guess, another seventy-five high. Gulping at the bubbling lake of magma right below them, Twilight turned her attention over to the stone bridge that the tunnel they exited from led to. Following the stone bridge's path, she saw the stone island sitting in the center of the room where a cracked red crystal was floating in mid-air, being held down by four golden chains.

Feeling the magic coming from the crystal, Twilight walked ahead of the others and approached it. Making sure to be careful as to not fall into the magma beneath her, Twilight eventually came to a stop in front of the floating crystal.

"This is it," she whispered. "This is the magic I felt."

"Hey, Twilight, look at these chains," Starlight said. "These chains all have magic runes carved into them."

While Twilight looked at the golden chains, the others looked at the floating crystal. However, while the others saw a large gemstone, Rarity saw something else. Squinting her eyes and focusing on it, she was able to make out the rough outline of what was inside and took a step back.

"Twilight? I think there's somepony in there," she nervously said.

Hearing this new news, Twilight turned her attention back to the crystal and lit her horn to scan it. A few moments later, he eyes snapped wide open.

"She's right. There's somepony inside this crystal... and they're alive!"

Everyone's eyes copied Twilight's as they all shouted, "What?!"

"Do you know if they're alright?!" Fluttershy worryingly asked.

Lighting her horn, Twilight began to pump more magic into the crystal. But, as she continued to do so, she was so focused that she became unaware when the golden chains started to rattle.

"Twilight! Look out!"

Hearing Rainbow shouting was all the warning she had before she felt herself being pulled by her friends. Now seeing what was happening, Twilight and the others watched as the golden chains started to violently rattle before snapping off one by one. With the seals being broken, the crystal crashed into the ground on its end for a moment before it fell forward on its side.

"Did we break it?" Pinkie asked, popping her head up from behind them.

As if to answer her, the crack on the crystal started to grow, spreading throughout the entire crystal until it started to crumble, revealing the occupant that it contained. It's ivory-white coat and faded red, orange, and yellow mane and goatee were easy to see, and while definitely a male, he wasn't quite a pony either. While he did have a pony-shaped body, back legs and hooves, neck, head, wings, and a cutie mark of Equus with the sun peeking out from behind it, his forelegs and tail were all draconic, bore a pair of golden horns in the top of head that pointed back, and sported a tuff of fur on the end of his tail that matched his mane colors.

Hearing him breathing, everyone took a surprised step back. That is, everyone but Twilight, who found herself captivated as she slowly approaching the sleeping creature.

"I can't believe it," she whispered in awe. "It's a kirin."

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