Octavia fidgeted backstage, ensuring her mane was in perfect form, her cello tuned, and that her bow wasn’t frayed or missing any strings. Her equipment was perfect, and as she strode out onto the stage, cello in one hoof, bow in the other, she felt pleased that her performance would match her instrument's perfection as well.
Carefully, she set down the cello, resting it by the long spike that protruded from its bottom. She stood on her hind legs, a delicate and graceful synergy as she and her cello used each other for balance. Finally, she raised the bow to the strings, and began to play. The sweet melody of Beethoofen’s Sixth filled the hall, a grand theatre she often packed to the rafters, tonight being no exception. Octavia was extraordinarily professional, there were no tears of emotion as she played, not like other ponies she had met, (a certain mint-green lyrist sprang to mind), no, she simply played the notes with her trademark poise and precision, and watched as the emotion unfolded on her audience’s faces instead.
She cradled the bow in her ankle, nipping it between her calf and hoof. At first her fame stemmed from simply being a musical earth pony, most instruments needing magic to operate, or were simply too awkward for hoof and tooth alone. However, Octavia managed, despite her lack of a horn, and it had been said by more than one reviewer that no unicorn cellist could match her talent. Octavia allowed herself a slightly smug and haughty smile as she continued to play, watching as the effect on her audience ranged from a delicate patting of the eyes with a handkerchief, all the way up to unrestrained cascades of tears. After several songs of a similarly powerful and emotive ability, she began to change tempo, speeding up into an uplifting and heartwarming little number she had written herself. The audience was lifted too, bright smiles and soft eyes greeted her as she stood, eyes closed, sawing the bow across the strings with unparalleled execution.
Finally, her set ended, and she released her audience. Bowing low before carrying her bow and cello away, she left them to recover from the emotional ravaging she had brought upon them. Returning backstage, she rechecked her cello and replaced a string that had become frighteningly close to fraying under her fervent playing. The cello was then placed in its case with the utmost care, her bow placed inside with it. She zipped up the case with the tip of her hoof, and raised the strap over one shoulder, balancing it on the tip of her hoof while she lifted it over her head, before letting it drop softly onto her shoulder, steadying it by resting the long, thin segment on her flank.
Now that she had completed her set and tidied away her instruments, she could relax. Octavia always liked a light drink after a performance, not anything uncouth like a pint of lager, oh no, she was no drunkard. Octavia’s tastes were more refined, naturally. She preferred the smoky taste of a good whiskey, her absolute favourite being the oaky tones of the Jura whiskey, distilled and brewed on an island just off the shore of Clydesdale. No ice to bruise the flavour, no quite frankly idiotic garnishes like limes or lemons to pollute its purity. No. Octavia enjoyed the taste on its own merits, and drank it straight, as she felt it deserved.
However, upon meeting the familiar blue-coated barmare, she realised that something was not quite right. The barmare was emptying out the till and stowing away drinks in the cupboards, Octavia felt a slight pang of loss as she saw the Jura bottle get tucked away besides the travesty that was Buck Daniels. It was at this point she felt action must be taken, verbal and peaceful action, but action nonetheless!
“Excuse me, m’am.” Octavia put on her most airy and polite tone. “I was wondering if I can perhaps have a glass of your Jura whisky?”
“Sorry love, can’t do it, I’m afraid.” The mare’s rough, Braytish accent assaulted Octavia’s eardrums, but she repressed the urge to clamp a hoof over each ear. “Bar closes after eleven now, new management ‘n’ all that.”
Octavia’s grey cheeks turned white. “But. But I wanted a drink, surely just one? It’s only ten past eleven now anyway, and I’ll be sure to drink it quickly in order to not hold you back!”
The barmare’s eyes narrowed, and she stopped cleaning a glass in order to stare at Octavia suspiciously. Octavia, for her part, crept her lips up into a smile, a benign attempt to woo the mare over.
“You, uhh, you ain’t an alcky, are ya?”
Octavia audibly gasped. “An alcoholic? What do you take me for? You see that poster there? I’m tonight’s main attraction! The piece de resistance! I’m an artist, not a drunkard!”
“Uh-huh. But bar’s closed, you’ll have to go somewhere else, love. Try the joint down the street, they’re open ‘til three AM normally.”
Octavia’s eyes hardened. “Very well. I shall!” She straightened her mane once more, shouldering her cello’s case and trotting off out the door. “You just lost yourself a very respectable customer!”
The barmare snorted as the door closed behind Octavia. Her magic gripped a bottle from underneath the bar, and filled a glass about half a hoof full of a certain whisky she had been running low on.
* * * * * *
Octavia heard the late-night bar long before she even laid eyes on it. It was exactly what she expected to be open at such a late time in the night. The dull thud of the bass reminded Octavia of a Pilohippus banging rocks together, and probably carried the same calibre of musical talent with it. She spotted a young colt pointing a hoof at her as she waited outside, his friends chuckling amongst themselves. They had absolutely no chance of being let in; manes spiked with gel, hoofs shod with trainers, and dressed in trashy tracksuits that Octavia imagined must be really, “hip,” with these types of vagrants.
Octavia herself, on the other hoof, had no issues with entry. She casually trotted to the bouncers attending the door, smiling and bowing her head slightly. She raised the cello case and nodded at the doorway, and the bouncers parted. It crossed her mind that the bouncers must have assumed she was part of the music setup, but hadn’t realised there was no orchestral involvement in the thudding bass she could hear. She managed one last glance punctuated with a haughty smile at the little rodent colt, who’s jaw was parted wide with shock. The sight only stretched her smile further as she entered into the club. Although, in hindsight, she was glad the gangster pony days had ended. If this club allowed anypony with a violin case to trot right in, it couldn’t have been safe otherwise.
She navigated her way through the narrow corridor leading from the entrance, delicately stepping over an inebriated, and probably unconscious, filly before entering into the club proper. The pulse of the strobe lights she had anticipated almost blinded her, like a flash-bang spell. She barely managed to stop herself toppling over onto a couple sitting near the door, who were similarly paralytic. She righted herself, her eyes rapidly trying to get up to speed with the situation and clarify things for her. Both sound and vision were assaulted with rhythmic booms. Flares of light and heavy thuds attacked Octavia. She just came here for a drink. Order one, pay the bill, and sit in a corner, as far from the sub-woofers as possible. She ignored the spiky-maned colts who were - despite the age restriction, and looking like they’d barely earned their cutie marks - heading up the entrance corridor behind her. Their cat calls were devoured in the music as she pushed through the crowd to the bar.
So after a fervent hoofful of minutes spent yelling over the bass, Octavia found herself sitting in an unoccupied corner, sipping a glass of Buck Daniels and cursing the lack of any class in this place. The barcolt had looked at her and implied, “a classy filly like you’d drink pina coladas, right?” Octavia’s shocked expression must have told him all he needed to know. That he’d believe she’d drink that trampony’s urine disguised as foals’ orange juice was beyond her. He apologetically offered her the Buck Daniels on the house, it being the only whiskey he stocked, (and Octavia felt it barely qualified,) and she took her leave with a polite, but sharp, thank you.
Octavia now found most of her glaring directed at the DJ pony that coordinated the attack on her eardrums, the bassy undertones were cut up with an overtone of electromagical music. The sort of tinny, strange noises no instrument could make, and no sane pony would want to hear, Octavia felt. She bitterly swilled a sip of the vulgar whiskey pass-off. Once more she felt the night wasn’t turning how she wanted. What she had wanted was a quiet, wind-down session with some tasteful alcohol and silence. She got cheap pigswill and ear-invasive thuds. She directed her irritation at the music, it was a screeching mass of magical tones and notes. It had no class, no refinement, no skill at all!
Though that being the case...why was her hindleg bobbing in time with the beats?
She suppressed the treacherous limb, and instead focused her attention on the DJ pony creating the noise. Her shimmering white coat, the crude blue mane streaked with electric blue, the eyes hidden away behind lustrous, purple shades. Her head bobbed in time with the music she created, hooves working a frenzy on the tape decks as her mane whipped back and forth with her head. Octavia assumed she compensated for lack of precision with speed and pure volume.
A pair of mares caught her attention a table over. One was an exuberant pink filly with candy-floss like hair, the other an irritated sky-blue pegasus punctuated by her rainbow mane and tail. Octavia saw the pink one trying to drag the other by the hoof, presumably into the crowd. The pegasus of course was having none of it, at least not until the pink one planted a kiss on her cheek, causing the pegasus’ wings to burst from her back, knocking a passer-by to their hooves. A flustered motion of apologetic help from the embarrassed pegasus was blended with the pink filly’s giggles, then the pair retreated into the crowd to avoid any more mishaps.
It was at that moment that realisation washed over Octavia. She hadn’t actually looked at the bar’s name, simply beelining for the door in search of a calm drink. However it was only now she looked at the bar mats for the drink glasses. ‘Fillyfools,’ how quaint. Well, Octavia would do her best to get her drinks and leave before anything like that happened. She was a modern pony, and had no issue with it...unless a pony hoped it involved her, then she would happily evade any attempts.
She turned her irritated and flustered attention to the DJ once more. It was then she noticed the glasses turn towards her mid-headbang. A glow of white magic enveloped them, and Octavia saw a flicker of red behind the purple glass as she lowered them. A grin opened up on the DJ’s face, and the glasses were once more lifted to cover her eyes, her headbanging now only matched by the riot that had enveloped in the crowd. Octavia noticed the security guards were making no attempt to restrain the rowdy, ‘audience.’ Typical. The look in the pony’s eyes intrigued Octavia, she had expected, if anything, contempt from the younger, trendier mare playing the decks. However Octavia wasn’t entirely sure contempt was what the eyes were trying to convey.
* * * * * *
One merit Octavia had to give to Buck Daniels, was that it slowly washed away any capability she had for tasting, until she no longer grimaced with each sip. In fact, she even gained the courage to move up to ‘slugging’ the drink, not that she’d ever be caught dead using that phrase. It was after several on-the-house glasses, from an unknown benefactor, that she found her lacking the co-ordination to pick them up anymore. Her teeth simply failing to clamp onto the sides. Upon blearily inspecting the two glass-mirages in front of her, she noted that instead of the stout glasses she had be given all night, she was instead looking at a slender, flute-like glass. A unicorn glass, for the only non-unicorn musician she knew of, typical.
She was so engrossed in defying both nature and pony design, by trying to lift the glass with her tongue, that she hadn’t noticed the absence of the thudding bass that had troubled her eardrums moments ago. She hadn’t noticed the DJ receive her standing ovation and cheers as she left the stage. In fact, she barely even noticed the same DJ as she sat across the table from her. The DJ’s concerned red eyes glinting from underneath her raised, purple shades. Octavia’s little bubble of glass-design irritation wasn’t broken until she felt the worried hoof on her foreleg, she dropped the glass in surprise, vaguely catching the tinkling splash of it shattering on the floor.
“You, uhh...you okay there, filly?”
Octavia had difficulty locking onto a particular hazy manifest of the polar-white DJ pony, so she did her best to spread her eyes between the three of them. For Vinyl’s part, Octavia looked very similar to a Ponyville mailmare she’d seen on the news.
“I am...ferpectly pine, thanks!” Tracking all three ponies was getting difficult with all the swaying the room was doing. Octavia didn’t remember boarding a cruise ship, but she’d played on some now-and-then. It was also irritating that she always gravitated to the eyes of the center pony. “I’ll just be on my way!”
The ill-fated attempt to sling her cello case over her shoulder and leave the club ran its course, and Octavia was soon sprawled in a mass of her limbs, hair, and case strap. Vinyl couldn’t help but smile at the inebriated mare, and bent down to untangle her from herself.
“Something tells me you’ll have a little trouble getting home tonight. Where do you live?”
A foreleg broke free from the mass, pointing roughly to its left. “That way...ish.”
“Yeh, I think I’ll have trouble finding it then. C’m’ere.” Vinyl slid her legs under Octavia’s body, pulling her to her hooves. “I’ll help you home, you look like you won’t hold a long journey, but my place isn’t far, only a block or two.”
Despite the added support, Octavia barely held herself steady. Her swaying motions had the obvious effect, and Vinyl leaned out of her way as she heaved the sautee’d daisies she’d had for supper over the floor. Both ponies gingerly stepped around it, Vinyl shooting an apologetic smile to the bartender, who, despite having a broom handle between his teeth, still managed to control enough of his face to look thoroughly pissed off. A shrug was all Vinyl could offer on top of it as she left, struggling to deal with the now barely conscious filly that was draped over her shoulder.
True to her word, the journey was short. Carrying Octavia up the stairs was no mean feat, she looked light and sprightly, but seemed to have lead for a skeleton. Vinyl barely managed to drag her into her bed, and throw the covers over her, before she wandered off for a much needed cup of coffee. The mare had no contact numbers in her cello case, so Vinyl was at a loss until she got the alcohol out of her system. She’d dealt with a fair few fillies that couldn’t handle their drinks, (though it was drunken stallions that were most common.) Let it run its course, then send them out in the morning. She’d noticed the mare’s pink eyes as she’d been halfway through her set. She practically glared Vinyl as if she wanted her to abandon the stage. Typical that she was an orchestral musician, she supposed.
The cello was no cheap number either, the ivory tuning pegs alone said that. It wasn’t until she flipped through her Musician’s Weekly magazine that she noticed the pony on her bed, standing forelegs-crossed on the front cover. “Canterlot’s Earth Pony Musical Maestro.” So her name was Octavia, she’d heard of her down the apple branch, actually. Vinyl had to hoof it to her, earth pony musicians were as common as, well, pegasus scientists, or something. Playing an instrument with magic was difficult enough, never-mind trying to do it without the amazing horn unicorns were blessed with.
The coffee, as with every night, had a short-lived effect. Vinyl felt the usual weight of a long set draping itself over her shoulders. It was a Princess-sized bed, so...yeh, there’d be room to spare. She didn’t have work until evening tomorrow, so she’d be able to help the mare on her way before she left. She tip-hoofed around the bed, being careful not to wake the grey pony as she slipped onto the bed next to her, still giving a good pony’s worth of room between them. She slipped her shades onto the bedside cabinet, and turned towards the mare, noting the almost graceful way her mane spread across the pillow as she lay. The delicate lightness of her breathing, the little smile that curved across her muzzle. A little giggle at a drunkard’s dream. She had to admit, for an unconscious, drunk pony, she pulled off the look very well. Vinyl turned away from her, closing her eyes and drifting off to a well-earned sleep.