Chapter Three: Celestia and the Sunken City
Princess Celestia stood on the cliff-face overlooking the ocean. Her multicolored mane flowed in the harsh wind as she stared at the black thunderclouds swirling overhead and the jagged spires that had risen in their shadow. They stood like monoliths against the crashing waves. At their center was a sickly green tower stretching to the stormy sky with two great stone doors running its length. Celestia felt an ominious prescience behind the gates, something ancient and fowl ...
Celestia turned to see her dear sister, Princess Luna, lying down on the rocks. In front of her was the strange book they found in the library, the source of the unnatural power Celestia had sensed late last night.
"Yes, my sister?" said Celestia.
Luna turned the pages with her dark purple horn. All the pages were blank.
"I don't understand," she said. "How can this book be magic if nothing's in it?"
"I suspect it was not always like that," Celestia said. "Its power was strong enough last night to terrorize the library, but now I feel nothing from it. The magic of the book must have gone somewhere else, along with its writing. It has to be the cause of the storms and the undead." Celestia glanced back at the dark city rising from the depths. "Not to mention that."
"Can't we just undo the spell?"
Celestia sighed. "I wish I could. But this type of magic is unknown to me. No pony wrote that book. It must have been placed there by something from another world. I cannot undo it if I can't decipher the spell's full nature." Celestia paused. "Luna?"
"I'm ... not sure what to do."
Celestia fell silent, then she felt Luna nuzzle her nose against her side.
"Don't worry, Big Sis," Luna said. "We can figure this out. We can do anything together."
"Of course, my sister. Thank you for reminding me."
Luna grinned back.
"One thing is for sure," said Celestia. "That city has something to do with it. It's not of Equestrian origin either. Perhaps if we seal the city away, it will stop the undead before they have a chance to act. Or at least give us time to figure this out."
"But Sis ... what's inside the tower that could be so bad?"
Celestia felt a prickle on the back of her neck as she glanced back at the tower doors. She could still sense the unearthly prescience waiting in the sunken fortress.
"I'm not certain I want to find out."
Trixie came to staring up at an unfamiliar ceiling, her head throbbing. She only saw tree bark and ... bookshelves? Where was she?
What had even happened? Her memories were bits and pieces. She remembered flying away from ... somewhere. Then there was falling ... oh, and crashing. Yes, she definitely recalled the crashing part. But everything else was hazy like a half-forgotten dream.
Trixie heard voices, each word feeling like it raked against her brain.
"What in tarnation do you suppose that was?"
"I dunno, but it sure looked like falling had something to do with it."
"Y'all know that's not what I meant, Dash."
"Well how am I supposed to know? She was probably running away from those things!"
Trixie groaned as she attempted to move. The ponies speaking sounded so familiar ...
A new voice sprang up. It sounded more calm and reasoned than the others. Trixie had definitely heard that one somewhere before.
"Wait, I think she's coming to. Give her some room. She might still be in shock."
Trixie finally managed to sit up. She blinked to adjust her eyes, but all she could make out was a group of five colored blobs watching her, as well as one small blob that looked like it had a pot on its head.
Suddenly, a frighteningly large pink abomination popped up in front of her.
"HI!" it said in a shrill, inhuman screech.
Trixie pounced back on her hooves, stumbling against the bookcase. It rocked from side to side. Trixie cringed, sure it was about to fall on her. Instead, it suddenly glowed white and righted itself. Trixie's vision cleared as she saw who saved her from further head trauma. It was a purple unicorn with pink streaks through her violet mane.
Trixie couldn't believe it. It was her! The pony who had upstaged her! What was her name? Twilight ... Spackle? Spittle? Whatever.
Trixie looked around the room. All the other "blobs" were the ponies who had heckled her at the show. She was back in Ponyville? She didn't remember being anywhere near here before, so how was that possible?
"Are you alright, Trixie?"
"I-" Trixie realized every pony was watching her. She had an audience. She cleared her throat and said, "Why, of course Trixie is alright."
"Are you sure? You had a nasty fall.
"Sounds like someone forgot they're talking to the Great and Powerful Trixie." She raised her head high. "A few thousand feet is a morning stroll for me. Hardly felt it at all." Trixie smirked in spite of her enormous headache.
The white unicorn stepped forward. Trixie recalled she was called Rarity. Her memory was beginning to get clearer.
"Well, if she has enough energy to boast, she must be fine," Rarity said.
"Well, well," she said. "Looks like Trixie forgot about the famous Ponyville hospitality. Nice to see you're still as conceited, stuck-up, and unkempt as ever."
Rarity bared her teeth.
"Oh, you did not just call me unkempt-"
Twilight stepped between them before Rarity could pounce on Trixie.
"Alright, that's enough," said Twilight. "Arguing won't get us anywhere." She faced Trixie. "I'm glad you're okay Trixie. You gave us quite a scare. And I'm also sorry about Pinkie Pie." She whipped over to the pink pony with big poofy hair. "I told you to give her some room."
Pinkie Pie giggled. "I'm sorry, I just wanted to see if she was awake." Pinkie Pie paused, then added, "Hey look, she's awake!"
Twilight sighed. "Yes. I noticed. Thank you Pinkie Pie."
"You're welcome!" said Pinkie Pie, as immune to sarcasm as ever.
Twilight turned back to Trixie. "What happened anyway?"
Fluttershy timidly crept closer from the back. "Were you running from something?" she whispered.
Trixie scoffed. "Running away?" She shut her eyes. "Of course not! The Great and Powerful Trixie doesn't run from anything."
Rainbow Dash leaned over to Applejack's ear and whispered, "Yeah, anything but an Ursa Minor apparently ..."
"Trixie was not running away!" she shouted. "She was simply coming back from Can-" Trixie's eyes widened. Everything came flooding back. Going to Canterlot, breaking in the library, the Necronomicon, the vision, everything.
"From where?" asked Twilight.
Trixie thought fast. She couldn't tell them what had happened. If they didn't think she was crazy, they would probably sell her out to Celestia. Twilight might be acting nice, but Trixie was sure they all secretly resented her.
"From cannnnn- er - canvasing a new venue for my show. Anddd then I fell. Accidentally. And that's all that happened." Trixie gave a sweet smile to punctuate her story.
All the ponies looked at each other, confused. Rainbow Dash zipped over to her, hovering a foot above Trixie as she glared down at her.
"Is there a problem?" said Trixie.
"So you were just looking around outside?" said Rainbow Dash.
"Yes. Did Trixie stutter?"
"And you didn't see anything to run away from?"
"You didn't notice the zombies?"
"Of course Trixie- wait, what?"
Rainbow Dash eyed her suspiciously. "The zombies! The ones popping up all over Equestria?"
"You been living under a rock or something?"
"Now Rainbow Dash," said Twilight. "We haven't known about it for that long either. Lots of ponies don't know. After all, they just appeared this morning."
Trixie felt a pit form in her stomach. "T-this morning?"
Spike hopped up on Twilight's back, waving his soup ladle around. "Yeah! The Princess sent Twilight a note and everything."
"That's right," Spike said, crossing his arms. Twilight's her star pupil. Celestia told her they were popping up everywhere under these weird black lighting clouds?"
"B-black lightening?" She thought back to the book in the library, the strange spark that struck her. No, it was impossible. The stupid book couldn't have done all that. There had to be another explanation.
"Oh, I get it now," Trixie said bitterly as the wheels turned in her head. "The Great and Powerful Trixie understands. There's no such thing as zombies. You're just pulling my hoof!" She stomped her hoof. "Just trying to get back at me for last time, I bet. Well, you can't pull one over on Trixie!"
"Trixie," Twilight said, "we're not-"
"And you!" Trixie said with a mean look. "Miss Best-Friends-With-The-Princess, I bet this was your idea! I don't buy your little miss nicey-nice act for one minute! Just trying to butter Trixie up so she swallows whatever horseapples you shove down her throat, huh? That how you get your kicks, mocking ponies with a concussion? How dare you?"
Twilight was taken aback. She looked away, her eyes becoming watery. Trixie shut her mouth, instantly regretting what she had said. Not that she cared or anything, it's just ... well, Twilight appeared genuinely hurt.
Applejack galloped forward furiously, stopping just inches away from Trixie's face.
"Now hold on there, ya highfalutin mule!" she yelled. "Twilight was the one most worried when ya'll crashed through here like a crazy pony! If anypony is full of horseapples, it's you, so ya'll best show some respect!"
Trixie cringed and, for once, she was speechless.
The tenseness in the air was cut by Pinkie Pie's overly perky voice.
"Besides," she said over by the window Trixie crashed through, "if it is a prank, then it sure is convincing! Just look at all those things out there!"
Fluttershy floated next to Pinkie Pie and looked outside. "Oh my ..." she said.
"What? What are you looking at?" Trixie ran over, avoiding eye contact with Twilight as she passed by. Perhaps Trixie had gone a tad far, even if it was all just a joke.
Trixie squeezed between Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy. Trixie felt her stomach knot up and her mouth gape at what she saw out the window.
Outside on Twilight's lawn were over a dozen of the pony skeletons. They stood in a line like soldiers in formation. They said or did nothing, only staring at the house with empty holes in their lifeless skulls. The dark clouds over the undead rolled with thunder as a black lightning bolt strike in the distance.
"Huh! That is pretty convincing!" said Pinkie Pie.
Trixie did not respond She only stared, her mouth agape.
"Are they going to attack us?" whispered Fluttershy.
"I don't know," said Twilight. "I've already locked all the doors. We should all the windows too."
Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie slinked away.
Trixie was frozen in place. It wasn't a joke. That weird tome had somehow done all this. Trixie couldn't believe it. It had to be a nightmare.
"Trixie?" said Twilight. "Trixie, what's wrong?"
She could only stare into the lifeless holes of the skeletons. She heard a faint whisper on the wind, saying incomprehensible words and forgotten phrases, though that may have been her imagination. It didn't matter. Her mind was occupied with only one thought.
I did this.
Celestia and Luna flew above the closed entrance of the strange tower.
"You sure this'll work, Sis?" said Luna.
"I believe so," said Celestia. "If we can seal it these structures at the bottom of the sea, that may at least buy us time."
Celestia righted herself in midair. Luna however nearly lost control against the harsh winds blowing through the air. Celestia extended one of her great wings at Luna's back to support her until she was able to float in place.
"Are you ready?" said Celestia.
"Yes, big sister."
Celestia closed her eyes. She focused, drawing on the power of the sun, the dawn, the solar winds, and all the light in Equestria and concentrated it into her angelic white horn. She could sense her sister next to her, straining to draw her strength in the daylight. It would be difficult for her, but Celestia trusted Luna and knew she could do it.
Celestia felt a burst of energy and watched in pride as Luna shinned like a star, gleaming with the power of every comet, galaxy, shooting star, and planet that blanketed the beautiful night.
Together, their horns shone brighter than the most brilliant sunrise. They focused their magic on the corrupt spire, making it glow a radiant white.
Celestia strained with all her might to lower it back into the sea. There was a loud, drawn-out creak as the tower sunk slightly. The sisters glanced at one another, smiling, both proud to be at the other's side.
Their triumph was short lived. There was a slam, much louder than any thunderclap Celestia had ever heard. The stone door cracked open. Celestia tried to shut it with her magic, but there was no effect.
She felt the evil prescience inside stir. A chill ran down her spine. Luna gasped. Celestia darted over to her sister. Whatever that was, she didn't want it to endanger Luna.
"Luna!" shouted Celestia. "Get out of here before-"
The gateway burst open, sending up a giant wall of water, rushing straight for the princesses.
A massive shadow dwelled at the threshold, reeking of decaying fish and barnacles. As the tidal wave crashed into them, Celestia saw its glowing, sickening green eyes pop open.
The dark sockets of the every skeleton Trixie was staring at flared with a green light. Before she could react, one of the zombies charged and smashed against the window. She tumbled backwards as it shoved its skull into the house, snapping at her with rows of rotted teeth.
Fluttershy screamed when one bite came dangerously close to Trixie's hoof.
"Trixie!" said Twilight.
Trixie growled at her attacker. No, she thought. I will not be a coward!
A violent telekinetic blast knocked the head of the zombie off. It bounced against the wall and fell at Rarity's feet. Rarity jumped back with a grimace.
Rainbow Dash immediately took flight.
"Oh, that's it!" she shouted. Before anypony could stop her, she zipped out the window, smacking the decapitated body of the wretch away.
"Dash!" yelled Applejack as she charged after her.
Spike tried to follow, but his path was blocked by Twilight.
"No Spike!" she said. "I'll stay down here. You have to get everyone up stairs. High ground will be safer."
"But-" he started.
"Do you really want to leave Rarity's side?"
Spike paused, then nodded. He adjusted his saucepot and ran towards Rarity and the other ponies, saying they should get upstairs.
Twilight knelt down to help Trixie up, but Trixie did not move.
"Get away from me!" said Trixie harshly.
"Come on, you need to go to high ground. I'll try to help Rainbow Dash and Applejack."
"Trixie is not going anywhere. You can't tell me what to do!"
"This isn't the time to be stubborn! It's dangerous! I know you like to act tough but-"
"You don't understand! I have to do this. Trixie has to be the one to stop them."
"What are you talking about? Why?"
Trixie's face was red. She spoke before she could even stop herself.
"Because this is all my fault!"
Celestia crashed against the sea, hit by the full force of the giant wave. She struggled to the surface, gasping for breath.
"LUNA!" she shouted. Celestia looked around desperately, but could not find her.
A deafening, inhuman wine rumbled above Celestia and she saw the beast, a titan looming above her. Its face was like a gigantic squid with tentacles dangling from its maw. Its humongous body was coated with a putrid green slime. As Celestia craned her neck up, she noticed something clutched in its clawed hand.
Luna! thought Celestia.
The monster was holding the night princess near the feelers covering its mouth.
"Unhand my sister, you beast!" said Celestia in a booming voice. She ascended from the water, up to the demon's claw. It glared at her with its piercing, slitted eyes and let out another roar.
A bright spark emerged from Celestia's horn and coursed through her entire body. Her fur and mane lit up, flaring as bright as daylight. Her eyes became red fire pits as she charged at the creature.
"FEEL THE MIGHT OF THE SUN!" she shouted. She spread her wings as a brilliant, searing light radiated from her entire body. The monster screeched as its hand was struck by the blinding heat of a supernova, bubbling and blistering under the solar blaze. Luna fell from its grip.
Celestia's light extinguished as she swooped underneath Luna. She landed with a thud on Celestia's back, unconscious but still breathing.
As she attempted to regain altitude, the monster's other claw swung at her.
Impossible, thought Celestia. It shouldn't have been standing after that assault. She tried to evade, but was too late. She collided against its grime coated palm.
It let out a thunderous roar of pain as it closed its grip on her and Luna. Celestia could see its wounded hand, oozing black ichor from pus-filled blisters.
The squid-faced colossus turned back towards the tower, the open entrance still showing the dark abyss within. It wound its arm back and savagely flung the princesses straight for the shadowed gates.
Celestia barely had enough time to guide herself towards Luna as they hurtled against the wind. She clutched her sister in her hooves, trying to cushion the fall for her.
There was a violent jolt as Celestia smashed into the ancient stone floor. Her ears rang and her sight dimmed. She laid Luna at her side, comforted to see she was safe.
Outside, she saw the demon raise its palm up. As if on command, the entrance began to creek shut.
Celestia, barely conscious, lowered her head in defeat.
Twilight, she thought. Everyone ... I'm sorry ...
The gate sealed shut, leaving the princesses in darkness.