• Published 22nd May 2019
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Stardust's Odyssey - Cosmic Eclipse

A Thestral awakens in a world he never fell asleep in, is thrust into the middle of a century's long feud, and forced to come to terms with his new reality.

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Ch V - "The Sanctum of Lost Souls"

Crescent Eclipse dragged him along, carefully exiting their hidden sanctuary. He took a few cautionary glances, more out of habit than genuine concern that the phantoms would be out on their patrols early. Satisfied that they were all clear, he pushed Orion forward into the alleyway, “Alright Orion, the Sanctum’s over this way.” He gestured to an ornate cathedral off in the distance. “The others should all be there. Are you good to fly?”

He nodded his head. “Uh huh, I should be.” He began to flap his wings, but paused, turning towards Crescent with a concerned look. “Do you think the Phantoms are out yet?”

He shook his head. “Nah, they’ll probably be kept back for a few more… hours? Was that what you said a burn was?”

“Yeah, I know it’s a little confusing but it’ll make more sense, trust me.”

“Alright, I’ll give it a go I guess.”

“That’s the spirit!” he said smiling.

The two had finally reached the Sanctum, coming to a land in front of the large marble cathedral’s wooden doors.

Orion gazed up at the towering structure, a bewildered look quickly spreading across his face, “So this is it? You think this is the labyrinth’s puzzle?”

Crescent nodded, looking around at the rest of the surrounding area with a look of uncertainty on his face. “It has to be, we’ve all mapped out the city and this is the only place we’ve never been able to really get a good layout on. It’s almost like it’s not even a real building… it’s kind of like a big open world if that makes sense. It transforms based on who ventured in first. It’s honestly kind of weird but fascinating at the same time...”

“So who went in first? I mean that’s going to drastically change how we have to deal with it right?”

He chuckled, “Oh that would be Zax, he’s the de facto field leader, which makes the landscape interesting to say the least.”

“And why’s that?”

“I’ll let you ask him that yourself. Zax is a little bit of an odd one, but he’s still got a good heart despite what brought him here, trust me on this.”

Orion nodded his head slowly, “Uh huh… I’ll let you lead the way…”

He hesitated, but pressed onwards after a few solitary moments. “Maybe that’s for the best… Zax’s landscape can be a bit… overwhelming at times. Dontcha worry though, the landing point is fairly safe, the phantoms don’t venture near it often for some odd reason, but I won’t be one to complain about it.”

Orion’s hesitation wasn’t exactly put to ease with this, but seeing no other option he cautiously followed Crescent Eclipse through the large doors. The sight that followed was a strange one, one that could hardly be described as anything that resembled the interior he was expecting. Instead of the dark and dim place of reflection and worship that one might find in any normal cathedral, the duo found a war torn landscape with skeletons and rubble lying all around. Orion began to panic slightly before remembering that it was merely one of the Labyrinth’s illusions.

Orion timidly began to speak, staring at the landscape around him with concern, “This place…. it’s…”

“Horrible? I know… I know this all too well.” Came a somber sounding voice from nearby.

He turned towards the sound of the voice, noticing the small group of thestrals that were now approaching them.

So you’re the new walker? The name’s Zax, Zax Daybreaker. Nice to meet you, though I do wish this meeting could have occurred under better circumstances. This labyrinth is no place for a friendly introduction I am afraid.”

He nodded, extending his hoof out towards the strange thestral in greeting. “I’m uhhh… Orion. So this place, why is it like this?”

Zax closed his eyes, letting out a deep sigh, “This place is the dark world I tried so desperately to save, and now this forsaken labyrinth uses it to taunt me. There’s a puzzle in here that we have yet to solve, perhaps you’ll be able to aid us in that.”

“Do you have any lead? Any idea what we’re supposed to do?” Orion asked in curiosity, unsure of how to even address the task at hand.

Zax simply shook his head, lowering his ears in defeat, “None yet I’m afraid. The situation’s been a bit dire, the Phantoms seem to be increasingly active here, we haven’t had a clear opportunity to explore the landscape.”

Orion nodded once more, “Alright, well the first puzzle had something to do with our past right? Like reliving the past to move forward.”

“Right, but what does that have to do with any of this?” Zax asked as he raised an eyebrow.

“Well this is an echo of your past right? What if it’s harder to solve because it’s so much more complex?”

“Correct… so maybe I have to confront something with it?”

Orion shrugged, “It’s possible, but this is also significantly more complex. You’ve all been trapped here for quite some time right? What if this is something that couldn’t be done alone?”

“That’s a good question. Solar Flare has been theorizing about the dark energy that flows throughout the labyrinth. It seems to defy all normal logic that we run by. Magic has this innate harmony to it, but this energy seems to work against that. The more ponies that appear the more unstable and powerful it gets.”

“So maybe that’s the key. It’s not that you guys couldn’t find the solution, it’s that there weren’t enough of you to find it,” he paused for a moment, surveying the scene around him, “tell me a little bit about this place.”

“Well, we’re outside of Harmony’s Gate, the Ark is nearby.”

Orion began to form a question, curious about the strange window into Zax’s world that this landscape gave him, “What exactly is the Ark? I had something that sounded like that back home, but I don’t think it’s necessarily related to yours.”

“It is a secure bunker… a sort of vault that was meant to be the cradle of a new world. A world that could stand a chance against the leviathans.”

“The leviathans? I’m going to take it that they’re what caused all of… this?” Orion asked as he gestured around at the grim scene that surrounded the group, a twinge of fear carrying in his voice.

Zax nodded, “yes, mechanical monsters created by a team of scientists that sought to create a new world. A world fueled by technology that could benefit us all… the leviathans were creatures meant to protect us… except they turned against us. There was a simple faulty component in their logic processors it seems, a simple oversight that led to our protectors misinterpreting their orders. I… sought to return to the past in hopes of rectifying that oversight, I made the mistake of turning to forbidden magic— dark magic as you might know it as. To put a long story short, I found myself trapped here following a failed chronological experiment.”

“Alright, well was there anything locked down in it that might serve as the exit for this plane?”

“The central core, it was locked to everyone except the director.”

He began to slowly nod his head, “Right, well let’s look there then.”

Zax solemnly shook his head, “No, you don’t understand. We can’t just waltz on in there, even here in this false illusion. I’ve tried before, trust me on this.”

“So how do we get in? I mean there has to be some way to get into it, this might be a labyrinth but you guys have said that this is the only genuinely notable place here, I mean hell, it’s even set up like how the first room was for each of us— a reflection of our own past lives.”

“Well for one, you need to become the director or gain his favor, but that’s easier said than done.”

“Ok, well we need to regroup and get everyone here first then—“

“—And leave the sanctuary unguarded? I’m sorry but that is an incredibly foolish idea,” Came the point of fact reply from the yellow thestral. “I had to watch as my world crumbled away while I could only sit idly and try to assemble the missing pieces, and now you’re asking us to risk our one shot at finding sanctuary? I’ve been in your shoes once before, you think you have everything planned out, but you don’t, I know you don’t because it’s an impossibility.”

“Give it a chance Flare, let’s hear his plan out first!”

With an annoyed sigh he relented, “fine but when this doesn’t work don’t say I didn’t tell you so.”

Zax leaned in, lowering his voice to a whisper, “Do not mind Flare, he probably feels the most compassion out of all of us, he just has a strange way of showing it…”

Orion rolled his eyes in annoyance, “Gee you don’t say, so what’s his story?”

Zax shook his head, “It is not my place to say, he keeps to himself a lot but the stuff he has decided to tell us is most concerning.”

“Right… I guess I’ll go ahead and put a pin in that then.”

“That is probably for the better, to put it in lighter terms, he’s been through quite a lot and I do not think he intends to be as cold and harsh.”

Flare raised his voice, “No Zax, the kid is right, we do need to work together, that's a part of my problem. I try to do everything on my own when it’s clearly impossible.” He stepped forward, coming to a sort of bow in front of Orion, “I do apologize for my rather foalish outburst but I so desperately wish to escape this place, I just do not want to risk failing in this task,”

He paused for a moment, his eyes trailing off into the distance, “I come from a dying world, a world that sat on the brink of extinction. If you are at all familiar with what a dying sun can do to it’s world than I’m sure you can understand how dire our situation truly was. I was one of the great scientists looking for a viable solution, in my case it was researching a miraculous world of legend known as the Green Planet, an escape we could have fled to in the end of our days. It is a world of life, one that the galactic archivists of legend supposedly cultivated to serve as the universe’s ark… a place where all life could flourish and thrive in peace. I believe that my experiments into finding that world eventually led to my entrapment here, in this forsaken labyrinth. I alone live on while my world dies without me…” he lowered his ears, “I do not know if they failed or succeeded, that is my motivation for escaping… so that I might return and lead them to survival someday…”

Orion was taken aback and unsure of how to continue. After a long pause he hesitantly stepped forward, placing a hoof on Flare’s shoulder, “it’s alright, I understand,” he paused for a moment, “I apologize if this is personal, but did you manage to find the Green Planet?”

Flare nodded, “That was among some of my first discoveries. Finding it wasn’t the hard part, getting to it was. The charts and directions were archived and preserved for this very purpose you see. My universe had ancient constructs known as warp points scattered around the cosmos, I believed that those were the key to navigating through the reaches of deep space with ease,” he paused and looked up at Orion, noting the look of fascination in his eyes. “You, you are an astronomer too aren’t you? I can see that look of understanding and curiosity in your eyes. Do you too gaze up into the heavens and wonder about what lies beyond our grasp?”

Orion nodded, “Yes actually. My mom was an astronomer and my dad had friends that wanted to reach into the stars. I happened to be one of the first ponies that really took the whole astronaut thing seriously back home. That’s kind of what brought me here…”

Flare bowed his head in understanding, “Well then it seems that fate led our destiny down the same path. Perhaps we could work together once we are free, maybe discover a route back to our own respective homes,” he turned towards the others, “that goes for you all as well, if we must work together here then we shall continue to do so once we’re free from this nightmare.”

Zax cleared his throat, “Well, then we should not wait a moment further. We need to assemble the rest and begin to tackle this trial and escape this labyrinth once and for all.”

Orion nodded, “Well Zax, lead the way.”

He shook his head, “I shall go and grab the others, you stay here and guard the sanctum with your fellows. You may not have been brought here through your own volition, but fate has intertwined your destiny with all of ours, whether you believe to see it this way or not, you’re part of a pack now, a family of Lost Souls trying to find their way back home. Before we can venture forth it is best for you to familiarize yourself with each of them, if we crack this code and proceed beyond this plane than I’m sure we’ll encounter far more challenging trials ahead, it is best that you know what you might be encountering.”

Orion merely nodded, turning to greet his new family, “Well, I guess I should start with my own past. I come from a world known as Earth, or Terra as some have called it…”

As his new family eagerly listened to his tail, Zax made his exit, knowing that this could be the start of their salvation, something he desperately hungered for.

Author's Note:

A group of lost souls traverse the labyrinth with the hope of escaping, while another traverses an unfamiliar world with the hope of unsealing it.

Expect the Labyrinth chapters to be a bit shorter and jump around a bit.

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