• Published 6th Apr 2013
  • 5,323 Views, 192 Comments

The Seventh - Arvaus

An impossible creature finds herself in a world which already knows everything about her. Slowly, she learns about the true nature of her own reality, her world's place in the cosmos, and herself.

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3 - The Impossible Creature

…together as part of this world...

Celestia’s head span. Sounds and images billowed past her, a bewildering spectrum of scenes filling her mind. Strange, impossible places appeared in her head, before melting away to nothing again. She searched desperately for something familiar, something from home to pull her back.

...purpose the same,

Gath’ring the six...

The words of the spell echoed in her ears, running through the endless soundscape. They carried her, holding the threads of thought together. Twilight Sparkle’s voice shifted, changing, becoming unfamiliar, but the words stayed constant. Her only link to home, she clung on to it, letting it guide her.

...the essence from whence we all came.

Then the world went dark. She became aware of solid ground again, rolling under her. She hit something, and the motion ceased. For a moment, her world was silent.

Harsh, unfamiliar alarms screamed in her ears. The hot air burned in her nostrils as she breathed, and freezing rain poured over her. The experiences piled onto each other, overloading her senses.

As quickly as it started, everything stopped again. The noises died, the rain stopped. The air, cooled by the downpour, was still and calm. Celestia lay on the hard ground, recovering her senses.

She cast her memory back, trying to remember how she had ended up here, but her mind was reeling, overwhelmed by the last few... it must have only taken seconds, if any time had passed at all, but it felt like hours ago when she had been standing in the snow—

The experiment! The memories came flooding back in a torrent. She remembered Twilight Sparkle and her friends, the mountains, the spell, the vortex...

Something had gone wrong. It must have. A mistake in the spell perhaps? No, when Celestia saw it, she had known it to be correct. Their research had produced so many clues, and each corresponded perfectly to that precise wording. And she had no doubt in Twilight’s spell-casting ability, of course.

Perhaps some external influence, then? Surely nothing could be so powerful as to hijack the Elements of Harmony, though. And even then, why? Who would go to so much effort in an attempt to foalnap Twilight?

She needed more information. First of all, she needed to know where she was.

She cautiously opened her eyes. After what had just happened, she had absolutely no idea what she was expecting to see. What she found was a wall, plain and unadorned, built from large grey blocks. It lay inches from her eyes, filling her entire view.

Turning her head downwards, she saw her body, thankfully still with her. To her side, the ground was pressing against her. It was an unfriendly grey like the wall. It felt like stone, but was clearly artificial.

Carefully, she picked herself up, the room shifting to its proper alignment as she righted herself. Her hooves slipped on the wet floor, but she managed to get a stable footing and lifted herself into a standing position.

The room rocked back and forth lazily as she looked around, examining her surroundings. It was small and cramped, clearly not intended for living in. There were no light sources apart from a row of narrow windows just below the ceiling. From the look of the other side, she was underground.

Something fell to the ground behind her. Turning at the sound, she saw a cardboard box lying upside-down on the floor, strange metallic objects rolling across the floor around it. It must have fallen off one of the shelves which lined the walls. She examined the other contents of the shelves; there were more small boxes, filled with objects she had never seen before. Some looked like insects, but they were oddly angular, and had certainly never been alive.

There was something... wrong about this place. Everything was artificial. There was no nature here. No life. In a profoundly unsettling way, the whole place felt dead. Something was missing, but she couldn’t quite figure out what.

She found her eyes scanning the shelves again. This time, she noticed racks of tools. There were heavy metal clamps, hammers and other blunt objects, and many devices that she couldn’t recognise.

In the centre of the room was an empty table with a hard metallic surface, easily large enough to hold a pony. Celestia realised with a sinking feeling that the room looked unnervingly like an operating theatre. The only difference was the chaos of the room’s contents, and the charring on the table and walls. It looked like something had exploded in here very recently. These details only painted an even bleaker picture of the room’s purpose.

Shaken and confused, her mind filled with theories as to why anypony would be brought here, each worse than the last. Starting to feel nauseous, she leaned against the table and drew long, deep breaths. So much had happened in such a short time that she couldn’t think straight. All she knew was that she had to get away from this place immediately.

Her eyes found the doors at last. They looked strong, probably reinforced, but that was of little consequence to the most powerful pony in Equestria. Foregoing rational thought, she charged across the room, throwing herself at the doors. They buckled, bending outwards, but the hinges and lock held.

Through the gaps that had now formed around the door, she became aware that she could hear voices, but she ignored them. Escaping this room was her first priority. She would consider her captors afterwards.

She stepped back and took a moment to examine the doors more carefully. Their security was entirely mechanical: thick metal sheeting, strong hinges, a physical lock. There was no sign of enchantment.

They co-opt the most powerful magical artefacts known to ponykind, and attempt to foalnap one of the most powerful ponies in history, and they don’t enchant the door? Celestia paused for a moment, perplexed. Either they were grossly negligent, or they had never expected Twilight to…

She stopped herself, refusing the entertain the thought. The feeling of urgency rising again, she lit her horn, charging her magic. Focussing on the weakened doors, she fired a burst of pure force at them, tearing them from their hinges and throwing them across the room beyond. She raised her head high, threw her wings open, and stepped over the threshold, preparing to confront her captors.

Celestia had expected guards, security ponies, or even just a lone arrogant tyrant. In any case, something to direct her anger at. Instead, she was met by a deserted room, dark and wet like the one before. Her eyes darted around the room, searching for anything hostile. She had been assaulted, and she had mentally prepared herself to fight back. The lack of opposition was almost disappointing, but thoroughly disconcerting.

Something moved behind a table to her right. She spun her head round to the source of the sound, and saw something moving in the reflection on a metal cabinet.

“I know you’re there!” she called. “Show yourself!”

The creature’s head inched out from behind the table, before retreating hastily upon seeing her. She barely got a glimpse of it, but could see that it was not a pony.

“Are there more of your kind here? What do you want with us?” She tried to sound confident and forceful, but her mind was reeling, trying to keep a grasp on the situation, and it began to show in her voice.

She folded her wings away again. They had seen her now, so the show was unnecessary, and her wings were only getting in the way in the cramped building. Lowering her head to the level of the creature she had seen, she moved slowly towards its hiding spot.

“I am stronger than you, and will use force if necessary!” she shouted. “Surrender at once and state your identity and purpose!” No response came, but she pressed on. “Where am I? What have you done? I demand an explanation!”

The creature remained silent, not responding to anything she said. She was nearly at the corner of the table, when a noise from her left caught her attention. She lifted her head up and turned towards it, finding herself looking directly into the eyes of another creature.

She could see its form much more clearly this time, but did not recognise the species. It stood on its hind legs, like a minotaur or a diamond dog, but curiously it did not have a full covering of fur like most species she knew, covering itself using clothes instead.

The two of them stared into each other’s eyes for a long time. Celestia tried to get a read of what the creature was thinking. Its expressions were hard to read – its eyes were far too small – but it appeared to be staring at her in disbelief.

“You were expecting somepony else I assume,” she said. “You should know that attacking anypony under my protection is a serious mistake.” She advanced, raising to her full height again. “This could be considered an act of war. Identify your race and affiliation immediately.”

Its mouth opened and closed wordlessly, failing to form any sounds. Celestia’s eyes narrowed as she waited impatiently for a response. She started to get a nagging feeling in the back of her head that this entire situation didn’t make sense. A part of her wanted to just leave immediately, to find an exit, fly away, and find her way home. But these... whatever they were... were a potential threat, and she was obligated to ensure that any threat to her nation was properly dealt with.

“Princess?” the creature eventually managed to say. He seemed to be responding instinctively, only half-aware of what he was saying. She sincerely hoped that these creatures were not always so slow.

“You know of me, then?” she replied sternly. “Hardly surprising if you have attacked my nation, but then you know of my capabilities. If you wish to remain unharmed, you will tell me why you have brought me here.”

“Brought you here?” he echoed. “We... we didn’t.”

Celestia cocked her head, taken aback. “Explain.”

“It was an accident... Nothing was supposed to happen... There was an explosion...”

He was telling the truth. She still had trouble reading his expressions, but her magic could sense his sincerity.

She recalled the room that she had been in. It was certainly true that there had been an explosion in there. But what had caused it? If the room was not an operating theatre then what were they doing?

Before she could enquire further, new priorities seized control of her mind. She realised that she was no longer a captive here. If they were not hostile then she could leave, find somewhere familiar again, and return to investigate once her head had cleared. The urge to be far away from this inexplicable place took over, and she started edging towards the exit.

“You are not holding me captive?” she asked. The creature shook his head, his eyes still fixed on her.

She marched towards the exit. “Then I am leaving,” she said. “I will be back to determine what happened here, but first I must first return to Canterlot.”

“But... that’s impossible.”

Stopping just before the door, Celestia turned and faced the creature again. Things were making less and less sense by the second, and everything this creature said just compounded the problem. She longed to leave and be rid of this madness, but something about his tone compelled her to investigate further.

He seemed to be slowly regaining his faculties now, looking around the room. Celestia realised that this was as much of a mystery to him as it was to her, although she was not sure why. The other occupants of the room – two of them, she now realised – also began to recover, lifting themselves out from their hiding places and staring in utter disbelief at her. She ignored them, focussing on the one that was speaking to her.

“What do you mean by that?” she asked. “You said that I wasn’t a captive.”

He shook his head again. “But... Canterlot doesn’t exist. It’s made-up, a story, like you are.” He looked down at his chest, and Celestia noticed for the first time that, on the garment he was wearing, there was a picture of a unicorn. One whom she recognised.

Her eyes darted back and forth between the creature’s face and the image of Rarity that he wore. Celestia had seen similar sorts of outfits worn by the Equestrian youth – hats, capes and the like – showing the images of Daring Do or other fictional heroes. He seemed to think that she, her entire kingdom, and all her friends, were characters in some story as well. How could they know such specific details about her life without knowing that she really existed?

Suddenly, it dawned on her. She knew why everything felt so dead, so wrong. There was no power in the air, or in the ground. Apart from her own spark, there was no magic at all in this place.

The world’s own innate magic should be present everywhere, the ever-flowing lifeblood of the entire universe. The world should have been falling apart without it, but here it was, oblivious to such a fundamental absence. This couldn’t be her world. It was impossible.

She felt ill. No longer caring about explanations, she just wanted to get away. She leapt towards the doors, kicking them open with her hooves.

She wanted to be rid of anything from this world that she couldn’t manage without. Jolting her head backwards, she cast a spell over her shoulder into the room, then without a second glance charged along the dark corridor towards the light at the end. The doors at the far end swung open when she hit them, and she stumbled up a narrow flight of stairs into the open air. She leapt upwards, unfurling her wings, and was gone.

~ ~ ~

Aaron stared in disbelief at the doors. You’re dreaming, he thought to himself. He couldn’t see any other explanation for how he could have just had a conversation with Princess Celestia. She was a fictional character, and, importantly, she was physically impossible.

He couldn’t even remember what he had said to her. He had been too distracted, trying to reconcile his understanding of the universe with what had been standing in front of him, to even listen to his own voice.

It couldn’t have not happened either, though. He knew for certain that what he had just seen was Princess Celestia. He had seen the evidence for himself, and he was a scientist. If a theory disagrees with the evidence, then the theory is wrong.

There was no theory here, though, just simple obvious facts. Fictional creatures by definition didn’t exist. Aaron started to fear that he may go mad if he thought about this too much.

“What just happened?” Sam said from behind him.

“I have absolutely no idea,” Aaron replied, his eyes not moving from the door.

Geoff walked back over to the entrance to the spectrometer room and peered inside. “That must have been quite some explosion,” he said. “Blew the doors clean off their hinges.”

“I guess the pressure wave got the door to the corridor, then,” Sam added, making his way over to examine the exit.

“The spectrometer's just... gone,” Geoff said. He was staring blankly into the next room, scratching his head.

Neither of them seemed to remember what had happened. Aaron was about to question them about this, then thought better of it. If they really didn’t remember anything, then he’d just sound mad, saying he’d talked to a winged unicorn princess. Perhaps he had imagined it, after all.

He could vaguely remember an odd feeling filling the room as Celestia left, though. Had she done something to wipe their memories? Odd that she’d leave him alone, though.

He made his way over to the spectrometer room, hoping to find anything to indicate either way. The entire room was a mess. The explosion, whatever had caused it, had thrown everything around on the shelves, and the huge spectrometer itself had indeed disappeared. The table was completely empty. Had it been destroyed in the explosion? Or was there really something more happening here?

“This is going to be expensive...” Geoff said from the door. Aaron nodded, but he wasn’t really listening. He had reached the far side of the table now, and was staring at the floor. There was a small amount of soot on the ground. It had been disturbed by the water from the sprinklers, but it still looked like something large had rolled across the floor through it.

The fallen box caught his attention, and he went to pick it up. As he bent down towards it, though, he saw something unexpected lying among the other boxes under the shelves. Checking that the others couldn’t see, he pulled it out from the mess.

It must have fallen off when she fell, he thought to himself. He still couldn’t fully accept that it had happened, but the evidence was beginning to win him over enough that he was willing to consider the possibility, in theory. He sat down on the floor, staring at the ornate golden tiara in his hands, and tried to figure out what to do next.