by: Strange Phantasm
a. Informal: Sunglasses.
b. Darkness gathering at the close of day: Shades of night are falling.
c. A reminder of something: Shades of the past.
d. Specters or ghosts
The throne room of Canterlot Castle seemed especially cold today. The rainstorm outside was partly to blame, and because of the specific instructions Celestia had given to the weather team, it would continue on all day. The sun princess knew that the rain was not the only reason she felt so cold. A beloved celebrity was buried today, one who had revolutionized the music scene with her unique sounds and innovations. Even if Celestia never listened to anything but classical, her subjects were in mourning for a very important pony. Today simply was not a day for warmth, and so she did not allow herself to feel the connection she shared with the heavenly body she controlled; the one obscured by thick, gray clouds.
She sipped on her jasmine tea, hoping it would have the same practically magical affect on her spirit that it usually did. As if the universe somehow heard her thoughts of calmness and decided to mock her, the throne room doors burst open and an earth pony galloped inside panting for breath. Celestia almost didn't recognize her.
It was Pinkie Pie, but she looked nothing like her usual bundle of sugary madness. She was soaking wet, a large puddle forming beneath her already. Her mane hung limp and lifeless, and Celestia knew that no silly rain could possibly keep that cotton candy like mess down. No, the only thing that could affect Pinkie Pie's mane in such a manner was a deep seated sorrow. She had seen it once before, several years ago when Pinkie had rushed off to her parents rock farm in Boulder Province for some family crisis. Worst of all, the Cakes' assistant baker sported a large black eye swollen near shut. The princess' horn barely had time to glow before she teleported across the room.
“Pinkie Pie! Who did this?” She demanded.
The little mare looked up at her, tears in her eyes.
“It wah.. wuz my suh.. SISTER!” Pinkie sobbed. “In the suh.. CEMETARY! She... She won't leave!”
It pained her to see the Element of Laughter like this. She swept Pinkie Pie into a tight embrace. Her horn glowed once more and she touched the tip to Pinkie's forehead, the swelling under her eye disappearing in seconds.
“Pinkie Pie,” The princess started. “I'll take care of her. Just you wait, everything will be fine. You should get some rest. Guard! Escort her to the guest chambers!”
A large pegasus in gold armor came to lead Pinkie away.
“Thanks Princess.” The pink pony sniffed.
She had been sitting there since the service. She had watched them lower the casket into the ground and covered it with dirt. Most folks never stayed for that, and it always made the workers uncomfortable when they did. Still she had remained long after they had left. She stared at the monument. It was a gigantic garish statue of her fallen friend, a sardonic grin on its marble face and a hoof raised towards the sky triumphantly. It was exactly what she would have wanted. At the base of the statue, a small plaque read:
“Never Stop The Music!”
The funeral had been a private one, but outside the gates of the private yard there were literally thousands of bouquets from Vinyl's fans. Well, that wasn't entirely true. Those flowers were from DJ Pon-3's fans. Not one of them knew Vinyl the way she did. Not one of them could understand the true weight of her loss. She felt it pressing down on her shoulders and back as if she were carrying some monstrous load. She felt it pressing down on her broken heart, threatening to grind the shattered pieces into dust. Yet still the tears would not come.
“It's not healthy to stay out in the cold too long.” A voice said from behind her.
She gritted her teeth and turned, prepared to snap at them.
“What the hell do you kno---OH! Princess! Forgive me!”
She prostrated herself before the Solar Diarch.
“Rise my little pony.”
The princess came forward and levitated an umbrella saddle onto her back. Strange, she hadn't even noticed the rain before. Now she began shivering fiercely, by this time the cold had sunk deep into her bones.
“You don't need to apologize. I know what you're going through all too well I'm afraid.”
She said nothing and looked back at the statue. Vinyl continued giving that stupid grin. How many times had she wanted to wipe that smile off the unicorn's face? And yet, she would never ever have done it, no matter how infuriating, irresponsible and downright frustrating the disk jockey could be. In the end, Vinyl would always end up saying just the right thing to make her laugh, or something impossibly sweet that would make her turn as red as an apple.
Very few ponies knew the truth about their relationship. She had requested that they keep things under wraps, and Vinyl had been completely understanding about it. She knew that there were rumors about them, but as far as the “official” story was concerned they were just roommates and friends.
“Not many ponies know this, but I had a paramour once.” The princess said suddenly, as if she had somehow read her thoughts.
“He was strong and brave and ever so handsome, a member of my guards. Of course our dalliance remained hush hush. It would have caused quite a scandal had word of it gotten out. Sister teased me endlessly about it, but I knew that deep down she was supportive.”
“If it was such a big secret then.. why are you telling me this?”
The princess looked at her with a slight smirk.
“You were terribly obvious dear. I think just about everypony heard some sordid rumor or another. Regardless, I am very old and very perceptive.”
“Oh.” She blushed.
“Anyway, those days were like a blur.” Celestia continued. “I could hardly keep my hooves on the ground, or my head in court for that matter. Somepony could have slipped in a document stating my abdication from the throne and I probably would have signed it completely unaware.”
“What... what happened?”
The smile faded from Celestia's face.
“He started to age and I remained the same... He requested a transfer to the general rank and file. Said that he could better serve Equestria out in the field.”
“He left to find a mortal mare.” She sneered.
The princess' eyes widened in surprise
“Heavens no! You've got the wrong idea entirely. He left because he couldn't stand the thought of what he was doing to me. He didn't want to cause me pain. Later he lead an excursion into the Everfree Forest to rescue a lost filly. The child was saved but... he didn't make it.”
The princess shook her head.
“And so I grieved, but duty demanded that I carry on.”
She was quiet a while before she finally asked:
“Did you ever love again?”
“Yes, but not quite the same way. For ages I would not allow myself to have personal feelings about mortals. Living forever has its disadvantages. I have seen many ponies come and go during my long years. Then, quite unexpectedly, I met a very special filly whom I could not help but care about.”
Celestia looked up at the clouds, the rain falling down on her regal face.
“And one day, I will lose her. Twilight Sparkle, whom I love as if she were my own.”
She had ceased shivering from the cold, her body beginning to tremble for an entirely different reason as she listened.
“Does it ever get any easier?” She asked.
“No Inkie Pie, it doesn't. But what you have to understand about grief is, that pain that you're feeling is a reminder of how much you love the one that you've lost. You should take great comfort in that feeling! Those who do not grieve will never know what love really is. But don't become obsessed with it either. Remember always that Vinyl Scratch has given you a gift that can never be stolen.”
Octavia pondered Celestia's words, turning them over and over in her mind. It helped. A little.
“Come my little pony. Let's get out of this rain.”
She was lost in thought on the long walk back to the castle. 'Inkie Pie', the princess had called her. So few ponies knew her as anything other than Octavia. It wasn't that she was ashamed of her name or anything, it was just the nature of the music business. You had to have a stage name. She remembered the time Vinyl found out about it. On that day, she had cried.
“Bills, bills, fan-mail, bills, junk-mail, bills.” The white unicorn said, sorting through a pile. “Hey, what's this?”
A small white envelope was addressed to:
'Inkamena Suzanne Pie'
“Heh, what the hay kinda name is that?” Vinyl snickered.
“Give me that!” Octavia demanded, snatching the letter.
“You're gonna read somepony else's mail?! Who are you and what have you done with my Tavi?”
She sighed, knowing that there was no way out of this.
“Listen Vinyl, there's something I haven't told you... Octavia is just my stage name.”
“WHAT?!” The DJ shouted.
“My real name is Inkie Pie, okay?”
“You're for serious.”
“YES, I'm 'for serious'.”
“Why didn't you tell me?”
“I.. I was going to tell you but well I... kind of like it when you call me Tavi.”
Vinyl grinned at her and nuzzled her cheek. Apparently she was forgiven... VERY forgiven. The unicorn started doing that thing that she did when she wanted to make sure one or both of them was late for work... Octavia giggled and shoved her off.
“Cut that out, you've got a session in an hour.”
“...I don't need an hour.”
“That's what she said.”
Vinyl fell over, nearly exploding with laughter. It was rare for Tavi to make jokes, but when she did that deadpan voice of hers always made them hilarious. Octavia shook her head and opened the letter. Her eyes scanned the page briefly before going wide as saucers. She dropped it to the floor, hoof over her mouth. It simply read:
“Inkie, it's time.”
She started rushing around the room, grabbing a suitcase and chucking clothes into it. By now Vinyl was very alarmed.
“Hey, what's wrong? What's going on?” She asked.
Octavia ignored her and continued to pack, becoming more and more frantic by the second until Vinyl grabbed her. She tried to shove her away but the unicorn held on tight.
“Let me GO! I have to leave, now!”
She was crying, tears cascading down her cheeks.
“Hey hey, what is it? Tell me what's wrong.”
She looked at her, face full of sorrow.
“Its.. its my ma... Mama... she's going.”
Vinyl squeezed her and stroked her mane.
“I'll go with you.” She said.
Octavia shook her head.
“You don't.. don't have to do that.”
“Then you don't know me very well.”
She had come home, just like the letter said. The whole family was there, including relatives that were in actuality not uncles and aunts at all but family friends so close that there might as well have been no difference. Mamma Sue, from whom she had received her middle name, who had raised her and her sisters in her strict but loving way, was dying. She had been struggling with disease for some time, but now it was winning the fight.
Seeing her elder sister was the worst part of it all. Pinkie had become such a happy, carefree pony ever since she got her cutie mark. Now she looked like an absolute wreck. Out of all of them there, she was the most broken up about it. Blinkie tried to console her, but it was useless.
Pinkie remained in her depressed state long after the funeral and she had gone back to Ponyville. Only after months of encouragement and kindness from her friends did she return to her usual radiant self. For Octavia, Vinyl had made everything infinitely more bearable. She didn't know what she would have done without the unicorn at her side.
Now she would have to spend the rest of her life without her. That thought was like a dagger in her guts. One that kept twisting and twisting. She didn't know how she would get through this.
They had arrived at the castle. Instead of resting in her room, Pinkie Pie was there to greet them. Octavia slowly walked towards her, head hung low.
“I'm sorry I hit you. I shouldn't have done that.” She said.
Pinkie shook her head and hugged her sister's neck.
“It was my fault. I shouldn't have tried to drag you away.”
The accident had been so sudden. One minute they had been talking and laughing, the next minute a cart came careening out of nowhere. Vinyl had gone flying and landed in a heap. She was rushed to the finest hospital in Canterlot and the doctors had done what they could, but the prognosis was grim.
Seeing the normally lively and energetic mare lying in a hospital bed with tubes in her nose and covered in bandages was almost more than she could bear, but Octavia made herself go in the room. Vinyl was unconscious of course. Various instruments and machines beeped at her.
Somehow, in spite of her terrible condition, she still managed to look beautiful. But that was how it went with the unicorn. No matter what her state, she was always beautiful. It reminded her of the first time they kissed, what now seemed like a lifetime ago.
She had been asked to play fiddle at Ponyville's Harvest Moon Festival, being hosted at Sweet Apple Acres this year. Normally she preferred playing her cello, but the fiddle had been her Papa's and she loved it dearly. It had a kind of rustic charm that her prim and proper cello didn't. It was well worn from use. Papa was a stoic and was often seen as utterly joyless, but Octavia knew the truth. His hard life of rock farming filled him with peace. It was all he wanted. Sometimes Papa would take his fiddle and climb up onto the roof, playing long into the night. Sometimes, Mama would join him and her voice would mix with his fiddle and harmony came out. It was magical.
He had found her attempting to play it one day and she was afraid he'd be angry. Instead, he showed her the proper way for an earth pony to hold a stringed instrument. Papa gave her lessons, and soon enough she had her cutie mark. Later he gave her the fiddle and his blessing as one more of his daughters left to make her way in the world, and that eventually brought her to Ponyville.
The Harvest Moon Festival was an ancient tradition. Originally, the farmers would work all night by the light of the moon to get a bumper crop. As farm technology and practices improved this became unnecessary. So they turned it into a festival to honor Princess Luna. All the farm families would spend the whole night dancing and giving thanks for the Harvest Moons of old. The tradition had gone by the wayside during Nightmare Moon's imprisonment. The farmers simply could not understand how their princess had felt so unappreciated. Now the tradition was back in force.
Octavia was quite surprised when she had arrived at the meeting grounds and heard the large, silent type Big Macintosh singing the traditional Harvest Song that marked the start of the revelry. It was a supposedly fictional account of the first Harvest Moon, in which Luna herself went from farm to farm to tell them of her gift of an especially bright sky, but that they must all work together to make sure each harvest was completed by sunrise. And if the night turned out to last a little longer than usual? Why, they would just wink and claim Celestia was sleeping in. As it turned out, Macintosh had quite the beautiful singing voice.
When he finished, there was a great deal of applause. The workhorse was clearly embarrassed, even if his blushing barely showed up over his dark red coat. The ruckus over, the rest of the band finally noticed her entrance and welcomed her over. It was always stressful playing with anyone besides her usual ensemble, but since most of them were Ponyville farm folk themselves, they were friendly and jovial. They were quite pleasantly surprised that a famous player from “Snooty old Canterlot” wasn't looking down her nose at them. She made a brief mention of agrarian roots and after that she was practically kin.
It was quite refreshing to mingle with such open and honest folk. They were nothing at all like the backbiting, gossiping high society to which she was accustomed. She was quickly accosted by Applejack. With family being as important to her as it was, the orange mare was eager to meet one of her best friend's sisters. Inwardly she groaned and hoped that Pinkie Pie had respected her wishes about the 'stage name.'
“Well howdy there Miss Octavia!” Applejack greeted.
“I am honored to meet one of the Heroes of Equestira.” She said with a slight bow.
Applejack blushed and raked at the ground. These farm folk certainly were a modest bunch.
“Aww shoot, ah don't much like to brag about that. Ah think anypony would of done the same thing we did if put in the same place. Anyway, Pinkie Pie told us all about ya! She sure weren't kiddin' when she said you two were mighty different.” The orange mare chuckled.
“Yes... I'm well aware of my sister's eccentricities. She exhibits such odd behaviors, and has the tendency to pop up when least--”
“SECRET TECHNIQUE! NINJA-HUG ATTACK!” Pinkie Pie shouted, leaping out of a nearby barrel and tackling her.
“Hi Pinkie.” Octavia groaned. “You know, I'm pretty sure ninjas didn't go around ancient Neighpon hugging ponies.”
“Well that's dumb. Everypony loves hugs! And if they don't then they're just a great big mean ol' meany pants!”
“Sugarcube. Do ya even know what a ninja is?” Applejack asked.
“Of course! They're the second best sneaky sneakertons after me! Pinkie Pie!”
Somehow she managed to throw a bunch of confetti which she clearly did not possess a moment ago. The two mares promptly ignored her reality bending.
“Oh yeah! Hey sis, sompony asked me to give you this! Oooh! Zecora-ism! Zing!”
Pinkie handed her a mug of cider. Where she got it from, nopony could say. Octavia's jaw dropped when she saw the sticky note taped on the side. Drawn in pen was the distinctive face of a particular sunglasses wearing unicorn with the word “Hayloft!” written under it.
“Ugh. Excuse me ladies. I have been summoned elsewhere.” She said.
She took her leave and thought she heard Pinkie Pie wondering something about “black mana cost.” Whatever that meant. Ignoring her sibling's insanity, Octavia climbed up to the loft with cider in tow. There sat Vinyl Scratch snoozing on a bale of hay. She pushed up her shades a bit and grinned at the gray earth pony.
“Hey, you finally made it!” She exclaimed. “And you brought my cider!”
“What the hay are you doing here Scratch? And what do you mean your cider? Pinkie Pie gave this to me.”
“Yeah, to give it to me! Anyways, I came to hear ya play silly. Haven't heard you rock out on the fiddle before. When I got your note saying you were headed for Ponyville I figured I'd come have a listen. Now, gimme!”
Octavia rolled her eyes and hoofed over the drink.
“You know you could have gotten it yourself a long time ago.”
“Yes, but that would require leaving this awesome spot. Besides, this way I got to see my favorite mare!”
She blushed and quickly pretended to look down at the party. She still wasn't sure about her feelings towards Vinyl, and that unicorn was always saying the most frustratingly sweet things! How was a mare supposed to decide her feelings for herself with that silver tongued flatterer around? Truth be told, part of the reason she had accepted this gig was to get a little time away from her. Now she was inexorably here.
“You really came all this way just to hear me play fiddle?” Octavia asked.
“Well yeah, that's what I said.”
While touching, Vinyl didn't seem to see anything completely idiotic about this statement.
“Moron.” She sighed. “You could have asked me any time. You know... at the apartment where we live?”
Vinyl just grinned and pulled her shades back down.
“But then I'd miss out on the chance to bother you.”
“UGH! I'm going back down to the band. We'll begin playing soon anyway.”
And so the night passed with number after number. She had to play in almost every one of them too, as according to the farm folk “Ya gotta have a fiddle in the band.” As they took a break, Pinkie Pie was bouncing up and down in excitement. She hopped over to her sister with a huge grin on her face. Octavia could only guess what was coming next.
“Oooh! Oooh! Play our song! Play our song!” The party pony demanded.
“Wait, you don't mean..”
“YES! THAT ONE!”
“But they won't know the words...”
“Then you sing it!”
“S... Sing?! Me?” She stammered.
“Aww, don't be shy! You perform in front of ponies all the time. What's the difference in playing and singing?”
Octavia knew it was futile to argue with the pink menace when she really wanted something.
“Oh alright. Fine.”
She cleared her throat and gave a few strums of the fiddle. The rest of the band looked on in anticipation. It was the first solo of the night. When the gray mare had warmed up and started playing, she began to sing:
Purple mountains, freedom in abundance.
Life is old there, older than the trees.
Younger than the mountains, growing like a breeze.
Country roads! Take me home,
To the place, where I belong!
Boulder Province, mountain mamma.
Take me home, country roads.
All my memories, gather round her.
Miner's lady, stranger to blue water.
Dark and dusty, painted on the sky.
Misty taste of moonshine, teardrops in my eye.
Country roads! Take me home,
To the place, where I belong!
Boulder Province, mountain mamma.
Take me home, country roads.
I hear her voice, in the morning hour she calls me,
The rooster crow reminds me of my home far away.
And travelin' down the road I get a feelin'
That I should have been home yesterday,
Country roads! Take me home,
To the place, where I belong!
Boulder Province, mountain mamma.
Take me home, country roads!
Take me home.... country roads!
As the song went on she found herself getting more and more into it, allowing her classy self to slip into a countrified accent. Eventually Pinkie joined in on the chorus. All the other ponies had broken out into a spur of the moment dance, whirling around the floor with a gusto. When it was over they stamped their appreciation. Vinyl cheered from the hayloft, swinging a foaming mug of cider around in a manner that told Octavia she had at some point come down for several more while the gray mare wasn't looking. For the sake of posterity, it should be noted that Octavia almost always played with her eyes closed.
The night wore on and by the time it was over she was exhausted and her bow hoof hurt. The farm ponies all looked tired as well and began bidding friends and neighbors goodnight. She made her way to the Apple Family farmhouse where she was quartered. At the gate she was greeted rather... enthusiastically by the Cutie Mark Crusaders.
“WOW ARE YOU REALLY PINKIE'S SISTER?
“ARE YOU STAYING HERE TOO?”
“THAT SHORE WAS SOME FIDDLIN' YA DID MA'AM!”
Applejack's scolding voice came from behind.
“Now now, you youngins leave Miss Octavia alone. She's had a long night and so have you. Time fer lil' fillies to be off ta bed!”
“Awww.” They whined.
“No complaints! You're already well past your bedtime. Yer lucky we let ya stay up this late. Off ta bed now!”
“Oh, ah almost fergot,” Applejack started, turning to Octavia. “Your friend said she was stayin' in town so I figured ya wouldn't mind if she roomed with ya! I hope that's alright.”
Octavia ground her teeth.
“That's fine Applejack. Perfectly fine.”
“Well ain't that dandy? Say, you really did play a mean fiddle back there. Ya oughter come back and play fer Nightmare Night.”
“I'll consider it.” She said politely. It wasn't as if Applejack had intentionally stuck her with Vinyl or anything.
Vinyl was unconscious on the floor with her tongue hanging out, shades askew and tankard close to hoof. Octavia rolled her eyes. Typical Scratch, hitting the hard cider as usual. Well, at least that solved the problem of who got the bed. She set her fiddle down on the nightstand, flexing her aching fetlock. By the time she had readied herself for bed and came back from the bathroom, Vinyl was still lying where she was.
She considered leaving her there. The sore back in the morning would be a good lesson about too much cider. But she just couldn't find it in her to do it. With a sigh, she picked up the unicorn and flopped her down unceremoniously on the far side of the bed. Then she blew out the candle and got in bed herself. The night was certainly much quieter out here than it was in Canterlot. The sound of crickets chirping was something she hadn't heard since she left the rock farm.
Silvery moonlight streamed in through the window. The stars were particularly radiant tonight, as if Luna had heard Macintosh singing her praises and rewarded them with a spectacular sky. Even in her drunken state, the light framed Vinyl's face just perfectly. If only she would lose those stupid shades. When they were open, she had such pretty eyes.
Scratch had revealed to her a secret about them. She actually had a rare eye condition that made her see the world in red hues. The shades were actually corrective lenses that let her see normal colors, but did they have to look so gaudy? Octavia gently plucked them off so that they wouldn't get bent and placed them beside her fiddle. Then she settled down on her side, looking at the opposite wall.
She nearly leapt out of her skin when a pair of hooves wrapped around her middle. The earth pony immediately started blushing. Vinyl's muzzle was right against her ear.
“You're so cute when you're flustered.” She whispered.
“I can't believe you!” Octavia growled, turning around and shoving her away.
“Not so loud. Everypony's asleep.” Vinyl admonished.
“You pretended you were drunk!” She whispered angrily.
“Hey, let's not muddle the truth here. I am a little drunk.”
“Ugh! You're insufferable is what you are. Go to sleep.”
There was a long period of silence then finally Vinyl spoke again, this time with a serious voice.
“Hey... Tavi?” She asked.
“Yes Scratch?” Came an annoyed response.
“Will you play for me?”
Octavia abruptly sat up and re-lit the candle. She stared at her roommate, trying to discern her intentions.
“Everypony's asleep remember?” She finally replied.
“So play it quiet.”
“But... you heard me play all night.”
“That's different. Those songs were for everypony. Play a number just for me.” Vinyl pleaded.
Maybe it was the little bit of cider Octavia had drank finally going to her head, or maybe it was the moonlight unfairly toying with her. Either way, she agreed, opening up the case and checked to see if enough rosin was left on her bow. Then, she began to play. Vinyl Scratch had never really understood about the instrument Tavi played. How could a fiddle and a violin be the same instrument? That night she became educated.
It was nothing at all like the jolly folk music Octavia had played at the festival. Nor was it anything like the stuffy parlor junk she was always playing on her great big cello at those boring soirees she worked. What came out of the instrument could not properly be called a song at all. What came out of the instrument was the sound of autumn leaves blowing through desolate places, the wind whistling through bare branches. It was the sound of orderly silence. It was the sound of beauty in solitude and poise. What came out of the violin, was the sound of Tavi.
Just as she was about to finish playing, Vinyl kissed her, cutting off the sound. She was so surprised she nearly dropped her instrument. Eyes wide, she wanted to say something but found that she had forgotten how to speak. In fact she had forgotten how to think, her mind a complete blank from the shock.
“This is the part where you hit me.” Vinyl said, breaking the spell.
Neither could say how long it was before her terrified response finally came.
“What if... what if I don't want to?”
Tar Pit trudged along a dusty road that was somehow older than even he was. His son, Gravel, who was helping him pull the cart back from Dodge Junction let out a rather appreciative sounding whistle that drew his attention away from the ground beneath his hooves.
“Eh?” He asked.
Looking up he saw the pretty posteriors of a pair of ponies and whistled as well. As the cart drew closer Tar Pit squinted and let out a gasp. At this point the mares had heard them and politely stepped to the side so they could pass. They pulled up alongside and came to a stop.
“Why, I know you two!” The old stallion exclaimed. “You're Clyde's little girls! Well, big girls now. It's been ages since I seen you last!”
“Old Man Tar Pit? You haven't retired yet?!” Pinkie Pie wondered.
“No Ma'am. I figure I'll keep haulin' till the end of time!” The geezer chuckled. “This here's my boy, Gravel. Say hello Gravel.”
“I'm Pinkie Pie. This is my sister.”
Octavia said nothing and continued to stare at the ground.
“You whipper snappers headed out to the old homestead?” Tar Pit asked.
“Sure are.” Pinkie answered.
“Well, hop on and we'll give ya a lift. Headed in the same direction after all.”
It was Pinkie Pie who had suggested they go home. She figured her sister could use a change of scenery. Staying in Canterlot would do the musician absolutely no good. In fact it would do just the opposite. When Octavia had packed her things, Celestia provided a chariot so that they could get Pinkie Pie more luggage from Ponyville. From there, they made their own way. It was a long journey, catching rides when they could. Those were few and far between. They were already tired, so encountering Old Man Tar Pit was quite the boon.
As he helped to load their things onto the cart, Pinkie noticed Gravel checking out her sister and failing miserably to conceal it. This was par for course by now, as many of their previous rides had done the same. Inkie was a rather pretty mare after all. She didn't seem to notice his leering. In fact she seemed not to notice much of anything really. She had been nearly silent ever since leaving Canterlot. She didn't look too morose, just... lost in thought.
“So, how's Pa been doing?” Pinkie asked, hoping to break the ice and distract the young stallion at the same time.
“Old Clyde? Well, your papa never seems to change much. Old Stone Face we call 'i'm!” Gravel Pit laughed.
They hopped onto the cart and soon were on their way. Pinkie Pie found herself having to steer the conversation away from why they were coming back all of the sudden quite a number of times. Finally the two quieted down they way ponies usually did on a long trip and they trundled along in silence once again. Eventually Pinkie found herself nodding off. Hours later she woke up at the sound of Tar Pit's voice.
“Welp, here we are ladies!”
Her old home was just the same as she remembered it. As a filly, she hadn't seen the beauty of the place. She had found the farm gloomy and oppressive. Only years later when she had returned the first time did she understand what that old folk song meant. The sweet mountain air came blowing down onto the plain. The sky was clear of cloud houses and pegasi zipping about. There was no mass of population to deal with. Out here, there was peace and quiet. Out here, a pony could get away from it all. It was exactly what her sister needed.
They hopped off the cart and thanked the stallions for the ride. The old gate was squeaky as ever, protesting loudly as they headed into the yard. As soon as the gate slammed closed behind them, the front door opened. Blinkie came running out to greet them. She threw herself at Octavia, nuzzling her sister.
“Oh Inkie, I'm so sorry.”
The musician gave the barest hint of a smile, rubbing her sibling's mane. The screen door clattered, and there stood Papa. He really was old now. Most of the work was done by Blinkie and hired hands these days. When she had last come home, Octavia and her father had a “disagreement” about her girlfriend. They had never seen eye to eye on the subject.
The tan stallion slowly trotted out to them and stopped in front of her. His face was the same dour expression it usually was. Then he swept her into a sudden embrace, hugging his daughter tightly. He choked up and cried.
“My girl! My poor filly. You're too young for Death to put his filthy hoof prints all over your heart!”
Papa was angry! Papa was angry for her! That was all it took. The dam broke, and finally Octavia was able to weep. It came out in a gushing torrent. She howled and wailed, Clyde rocking her back and forth against his chest. Her sisters joined the hug as if trying to squeeze the sorrow out of the mare.
It was a slow process, grieving. The morning after they had arrived, Octavia refused to come out of her room and ate nothing. The next day was largely the same, but Pinkie insisted on leaving a plate by the door. It mysteriously vanished some time later. In the weeks that followed, the musician would appear and disappear like a ghost, making fleeting appearances at the table and retreating into the cave of solitude that was her room.
Then one day she went outside. She joined Blinkie in the fields as she worked. Even though she didn't possess a rock farming cutie mark like her sister, Octavia remembered the old routines like the back of her hoof. Most ponies didn't even know that such a thing as a rock farm existed. To be fair, it wasn't like they were actually growing rocks. For starters, the rocks themselves were a special type mined from the mountains near the farm. In his prime, Papa had done it, and done it exceptionally well as per the pickaxe on his flank.
After they were mined, they infused the piles of stones with a little earth pony magic, causing them to gain special properties that would make them into some of the finest building materials in Equestria as they soaked up sunlight. That was why they rotated the piles, they had to receive the light evenly or they would become useless.
The work was steady and rhythmic, the perfect thing to soothe the soul. Octavia never spoke, merely giving the occasional grunt or one word answer in response to Blinkie's questions. Then, as time went on she began to open up more and more. She started to talk about her feelings, all the things she'd meant to say to Vinyl but never got the chance. Eventually, she shared the secret that she thought the unicorn was going to ask her to tie the knot.
She knew that Vinyl was massively popular with the common crowd, on top of being attractive. Yet not once while they were together did Octavia fear she would stray. Vinyl had said in no uncertain terms that cheating was “totally uncool.”
Blinkie asked her what she would have done if the DJ had proposed.
“I don't know.” She replied. “I don't know.”
The weeks progressed, and Octavia found the pain receding. It made her feel horrible. A part of her wanted to hold on to the pain as long as she could, as if letting go of it was a betrayal. It wasn't the same as when Mama had died. They had known it was coming for a long time, and so when it happened they were at least somewhat resigned to it. When Vinyl died, it felt like getting hit between the eyes with a sledgehammer.
There was no improvement since the accident. Her condition remained the same the day after, and the day after that. Octavia refused to leave her side, even to the point becoming violent when somepony suggested she go home. “I am home you dick.” She had said. Coming from such a refined and elegant pony, it was shocking. Then one night, Vinyl woke up. Octavia was staring out the window, maintaining her silent vigil when it happened.
“Yo, sexy mamma.” Vinyl said weakly.
The musician rushed to her side, holding her hoof.
“Scratch! You're awake! Oh thank heaven!”
She covered the captured hoof in the tenderest of kisses, tears running down her cheeks.
“Hey.. hey now. You know I hate to see you cry.”
The unicorn barely had the strength to wipe Octavia's eyes.
“There's somethin' I wanna tell you.”
“What is it?” The gray mare asked.
“I love you Tavi. I love you with all my heart.”
“More than wubs?” She sniffed.
“More than wubs.”
Vinyl attempted to give her literally trademarked grin but couldn't even muster the energy for that. The gray mare looked at her with an ever growing concern. Her eyes went wide in horror. She knew what this was. After all, she had seen it before.
“I think it's time Tavi.”
“NO! You can't leave me! Doctor! Nurse!!” She screamed.
“Every rave's... gotta end sometime.”
Octavia clung to her hoof, tears blurring her vision. They stayed that way for a while, then the unicorn motioned for her to come closer, her voice growing faint.
“Mama take these shades offa me..... I can't wear them, anymore...and mama put my discs in the ground. I can't spin them anymore. That long... black cloud is... comin' down. Feel... I'm ...rockin'... at...”
The breath of life escaped her and the heart monitor went flat. The nurses and doctors came on the run, but it was well beyond too late. The last words of DJ Pon-3 had been in song. It was utterly appropriate.
Finally there came a day when she woke up and Vinyl wasn't the first thing on her mind. Work was. She was thinking about rocks and calculating how many rotations they would have to do today. The moment she realized this, the whole world seemed different. Brighter somehow. She recalled Celestia's words and now saw the wisdom in them. Octavia would never be alone. Vinyl Scratch would always be right by her side. There was still pain, and she knew it would remain with her for he rest of her life. But that pain was to remind her of how wonderful her memories were.
How many times had Scratch made her laugh? The unicorn knew just the right buttons to push to get her riled up, only to do something completely goofy and off the wall. She suspected that half the times they had an argument, Scratch had planned it just so that they could make up later.
Octavia stepped out into the yard where Blinkie was already hard at work. She wiped her brow and looked up at her sister. Something seemed different about her today. Then she looked into her eyes and understood. The lights in them had come back on. Blinkie smiled wide.
“Mornin' sis.” She greeted.
“Good morning Blinkie.”
Octavia looked around as if searching.
“Where's our resident mad mare gotten off to?”
“Mmm? She and Papa went off to town. Pinkie kept yammering on, saying something about not having enough stamps. You know her. There's no telling what goes on in that head of hers.”
They worked as if the musician had never left the farm for the big city. The hired hands were helpful yes, but this was their farm. They had an innate connection with it that a mere employee could never hope to have. The two of them did the work of five. When Pinkie was with them they managed to get done by midday most times. It was pretty remarkable really. A shame she wasn't here today. Oh well. Ce la vie, as they said in fancy.
At eleven thirty Blinkie looked up at the horizon, wiping her brow and shading her eyes against the sun. Something was coming towards them but she couldn't tell what at this distance.
“What the hay is that?” The rock farmer asked.
“Dunno. Wait.. are those.. Pegasi?”
Sure enough, it was. And not just pegasi, but pegasi with sky carts. Three of them. The lead pony landed at the front gate, gasping for breath. In the cart was what looked like a bunch of large green bags. The pegasus unhitched himself and came into the yard. He looked the two of them over and headed straight for the music pony.
“Are you... Octavia?” He panted.
“DUMP EM!” The stallion shouted at his companions.
In short order, three cartloads of mail bags were tossed onto the ground. The stallion produced a clipboard and thrust it at her in a very annoyed way.
“Sign here.” He demanded.
When she complied he went back to the cart without a word and started hitching back up. Octavia called out to him as the pegasi started to take off.
“But.. the bags!”
“KEEP 'EM!” He screamed. “I never wanna see another mail bag again! After this I quit!”
They left the mares standing there puzzled and stunned. Blinkie walked over to the massive pile of bags and opened one up. Sure enough, envelopes came spilling out. She turned one over and saw that it was addressed to Octavia's apartment in Canterlot. How they had found their way here she had no idea.
Octavia opened one of the envelopes, revealing a letter inside.
“Dear Madam Octavia,
I am writing you this letter to let you know how sorry I am for your loss...”
Tossing it aside she tore open another.
I am one of your biggest fans. I'm so sorry for the loss of your friend...”
The third letter caught her eye and she began to read it in full.
“Dear Miss Octavia,
I know you must be having a difficult time right now, so I don't want to bother you too much. I just wanted to tell you that Vinyl Scratch changed my life. In July of last year I was going through a serious depression. I had lost a great job at an accounting firm and was forced to take a menial position busing tables at a local restaurant. A friend of mine saw how miserable I was and took me to the greatest party of my entire life.
DJ Pon-3 was there, and her music was like nothing I'd ever heard before. It had so much energy, so much life to it. Within minutes I was dancing and cheering, all of my problems seemed to melt away as I sank down into that incredible sound. But it wasn't just the music. Vinyl Scratch interacted with the crowd, drawing them in with the sheer force of her magnetism, personally trying to ensure that everypony had a great time. I know that you are mourning the loss of a friend, but I just want you to know that the loss of Vinyl Scratch to the music world cannot be overstated.”
Octavia's jaw hung open as she read letter after letter. She didn't even notice Papa and Pinkie Pie return. They brought her lunch out to her and she could not even say what she was eating, so absorbed in reading was she. By the time the sun started to go down she had barely even made a dent in the pile. She spent the next day reading all of the letters, the day after that replying to them. On the third day, they received another visitor.
A fancy carriage pulled up in front of the house as Pinkie and Clyde were working in the yard. Out stepped a fancy looking earth pony in an even fancier looking suit. He wore a fancy gold monocle over his left eye and sported a fancy beard and mustache. On his flank was a set of scales. They didn't look so fancy, and fortunately as it turned out, he didn't speak in fancy either. The stallion took out a large parchment from his pocket and looked it over once before stepping into the yard. He leapt about three feet in the air as the gate banged behind him. When he turned around the pink pony was practically in his face.
“Hi! I'm Pinkie Pie! This is my Pa!” The Demented One practically screamed.
“Stranger.” Clyde said with the slightest a nod of his head.
“Yes... How do you do? My name is Bottom Line, and I am a lawyer from Canterlot.” He stated. “Am I correct in assuming that this is the current location of one 'Miss Inkamena Suzanne Pie' also known as Madam Octavia?”
Clyde's eyes narrowed to near slits. He was unsure about this pony. Like most country folk he distrusted lawyers. Many a poor honest soul had been taken advantage of by city slickers with fast tongues and unscrupulous ways. The fact that this lawyer wanted his Inkie for something at this delicate time put his hackles up.
“What's this about?” He asked bluntly.
Bottom Line seemed taken aback by the stark contrast between father and daughter. One seemed ridiculously amiable, the other seemed almost hostile.
“Erm... yes, I have a rather sensitive legal matter with Madam Octavia. I'm afraid I simply can't discuss it with anypony--”
“Anything you have to say to me you can say to my family.” Octavia said, pushing the screen door open. Blinkie followed behind her, staring suspiciously at the stallion.
The lawyer loosened his collar. Either it was the scorching heat out here or the daggers being glared at him, but he was sweating like a pig. Not that he'd ever seen a pig mind you.
“Ah.. er.. Madam Octavia I presume? I am here on behalf of the recently departed Miss Vinyl Scratch.”
The musician's eyes widened in surprise.
“Come inside Mr.---” Clyde started.
“Right this way Mr. Bottom!” Pinkie chirped, shoving him toward the door.
How he loathed his parent's naming abilities.
They were seated around the kitchen table, all except for Clyde who stood behind Octavia with a hoof on her shoulder. She looked up and gave him a look of gratitude, hooking her own hoof over his. The lawyer cleared his throat and delivered the news.
“Madam, it seems that Miss Vinyl Scratch has named you the executor of her estate.”
Again she seemed surprised.
“As such, I must inform you of the matter of her last will and testament.”
“Vinyl left a will?” She asked, stunned.
Was this the same irresponsible unicorn she was thinking of?Octavia felt the sudden urge to rush outside to check if the rock piles were rotating themselves. Or if the mountains had suddenly got up and walked off.
“Oh yes, my client had her affairs well in order. She also had no next-of-kin, which should make your job as executor considerably easier.”
All at once he realized he had misspoke. Even the jovial pink pony was now scowling, and the rather intimidating old farmer with the rather intimidating pickaxe cutie mark was actually baring his teeth at the lawyer.
“My apologies. In my experience as a lawyer it's unusual for the pony named as executor of the estate and the deceased to have been so... close. That was insensitive. I'm sorry.”
Octavia shook her head.
“That's quite alright. Vinyl and I kept the nature of our relationship unofficial.”
Her family seemed to relax and so did the lawyer. He no longer worried about ending up on the business end of a mining tool, dropped in a very deep hole and covered in rocks. That would be bad for his career. Terminal even.
“Well then, let us get down to business. Do you have a record player, or gramophone perhaps?” He asked.
The family looked at him, puzzled.
“Yes, in the den.” Clyde answered.
“Excellent. You see, my client has, and if I might add it seems rather fitting, left her will in record format. I shall promptly retrieve it from the carriage.” He said.
They retreated to the den and made themselves comfortable. Pinkie Pie and Blinkie sat beside each other on the cold hearth of the fireplace. Octavia sat in their mother's old chair that she had spent countless hours knitting in. The gramophone was set up on a small table to her side. Bottom Line returned with a large 8x10 envelope. He slid out the will, revealing a shining round disc of pure ego-maniacal idiocy. Octavia's jaw dropped and she facehoofed in disbelief.
“Tell me she didn't.” The musician groaned.
“She did.” Her family replied in unison.
“Ugh! Vinyl! Only you would make your last will into a platinum record!!!” She sighed.
The lawyer gave her the disc and she looked down at it, biting her lip. What would it be like to hear the unicorn's voice once more? What did Vinyl have to say to her from beyond the veil? She felt herself starting to get too nervous and slammed it into place on the spinning wheel, positioning the needle arm. A few seconds of scratchy silence was followed by:
“Is this thing on? Yeah, okay. So um... Hey Tavi.”
The gray mare lightly bit down on her fetlock, squeezing her eyes shut.
“I guess if you're hearing this it means I'm kinda... well... dead. I promise I had no intentions of kicking the bucket well before I became too old to rock anymore! I know it sucks big time, and I'm sooo so sorry. Now, I bet you're thinking to yourself 'Why does Scratch have a will at her age?' Well, a level headed and responsible pony like me has to be prepared ya know. Oh quit rolling your eyes, they'll roll right out of your head one day! Anyway, I guess old Bottom is getting anxious for me to get on with the boring legal crap. So here we go! I Vinyl Scratch, in sound mind and devastatingly sexy body, do hereby bequeath all my worldly possessions to Miss Inkamena Suzanne Pie, otherwise known as Octavia - World's Most Patient, Understanding, Beautiful, excetera excetera Mare.”
Aaaaaand cue the blushing. Even in death it seemed she hadn't lost her touch.
“There. Boring stuff over..... Tavi, I've never been too good with words. I can't properly express how happy the times we've shared has made me. You came into my life when I was just about burnt out and you re-energized me like nothing else could. If it wasn't for you, I wouldn't have half the hits I've got nor would I be number one on the charts. It felt like I had found a half of myself that I didn't know I was missing.
I know you thought I never listened to your advice, that you could never steer me in the right direction, but you really did. If you hadn't come along I could have gone down a dark path. You know what I'm talking about, there are a lot of traps out there for ponies like me, especially in the state that I was in. But I stayed away from all that, and for one reason. You would have left. That was enough to keep me on the straight and narrow.
So anyways, there's something I've been meaning to discuss with you but I'm not sure if I'll ever get around to it, so I figure saying it here is a good idea. I can always make another record if I need to. See, ever since the Harvest Moon Festival I've been thinking about our music. I always listened to you play, even the boring stuff that I didn't like. All of it was beautiful. You're really an amazing player Tavi. But you never really gave my music a chance. You always dismissed it as a bunch of 'horrible noise'.”
Octavia looked up at this, staring at the gramophone.
“Now, don't get the wrong idea. I'm not trying to make you feel guilty or anything. I just thought that maybe if you gave it a chance, you might start to like it. Or at least some of it. And then maybe, just maybe I thought... we could collaborate. I've been thinking about a new sound for a while now, my electronics and your classy instruments. The music scene has been growing pretty stale lately, and the time is just ripe for a whole new style. I can already hear what it would sound like in my head, and I think it would sound fantastic. If you're interested, I left a bunch of recordings in the closet.
Tell the boys at the studio thanks for all the hard work they did for me, and tell my agent I couldn't have done it without her. And tell those slimy record execs so long and thanks for all the bits! Well, that's about all I can think of to say since I don't really plan on keeling over any time soon. Oh, but just in case I haven't stated it enough, I love you Tavi.
…..Well Equestria, this is DJ Pon-3, signing off.”
They all looked at her with curious expressions on their faces, even Bottom Line.
“I think... I think I have to go back.” Octavia said.
* Several Months Later *
The anticipation was ineffable. She looked around at her band mates nervously. They stood on an elevator platform awaiting the slow rise up to the stage. Each musician checked his or her instrument diligently, leaving no room for error. Especially Lyra. Her laser harp had to be perfect. Now, all that was left was to wait for their cue.
Up above, the crowd awaited in a darkened arena, unsure of what to expect. Who exactly was The New Canterlot Symphony and why were they headlining for the Vinyl Scratch Memorial Concert? It didn't make any sense. But then again, considering the other bands booked on the ticket and the fact that the concert was all about DJ Pon-3, it had to be something spectacular right?.... They were about to find out.
Vinyl's catchphrase boomed out over the audience.
“Gooooooooooood evening everypony! HOW'S EVERYPONY DOING TONIGHT?!”
The crowd roared as their favorite musician's theme song exploded over the speakers.
We are gonna dance and party all night.
Tonight is the night that we're gonna lose it.
So spin that record Vinyl Scratch and never stop the music!
She wondered how this would go over, how it would be received. Her usual audience would absolutely hate it, of that she was certain. This was an entirely new thing they were trying here, and on their careers it could be heaven or it could be hell. Now in a situation like this, what would Vinyl do? Octavia grinned and pulled the shades down onto her face, her band mates doing the same as the platform began to rise.
“Heaven or hell... let's rock!”
Dear Princess Audience,
I'd like to thank everyone for reading this story. I wanted to give my interpretation of Vinyl's character. Also, it always bothered me that we never got to learn exactly where Pinkie's rock farm was, so I made the location up along with reworking John Denver's awesome song. I also wanted to include her family. From what I've seen, they haven't been in too many fics. Rock farmers need love too! Again, thanks for reading and as always, please review!
Your faithful author,
Vinyl Scratch sat bolt upright. The last thing she remembered was a cart coming towards her. Fast. Shaking her head to clear her confusion, the first thing she noticed was that her glasses were missing and yet she was seeing perfectly fine, which was rather strange. The second thing she noticed was that she was sitting on clouds.
“What the... I'm not a pegasus! How am I not falling through the clouds? And anyway how did I get to Cloudsd--- wait a minute. This isn't Cloudsdale! This isn't Cloudsdale at.... oh.”
Before her eyes was a large, exquisite gate seemingly made of pure pearl. In front was a podium, and standing behind it was a dark brown earth pony in a white robe with a stern expression on his face. A pair of crossed keys was printed where the robe covered his flanks. He looked down at her and narrowed his eyes.
“Am... am I?” Vinyl started.
“Dead? Yes, you are indeed very very dead.” He replied.
“Well... that sucks. Makes sense, considering the cart and all..”
“State your name.” He demanded.
There was a loud whoosh and a giant book came shooting up out of the top of the podium, landing back down with a crash. The earth pony blinked in surprise.
“Well... there's certainly... a lot written about you, Miss Scratch.” He said, opening the cover.
With a gulp, the unicorn wondered if that was a good thing or a bad thing. She definitely didn't like the way he was merely skimming through the pages, his eyes becoming wider and wider.
“Oh.” He exclaimed. “Oh my.”
Vinyl began to chew on her hoof, dripping beads of sweat as he started flipping through bigger and bigger chunks of her life story, the earth pony letting out several more exclamations before simply slamming the book closed.
“Well, I think I've read enough! Vinyl Scratch, prepare to receive your Eternal Judgment!”
He lifted a gavel and banged it on the podium three times. The blue maned mare squeezed her eyes shut, expecting the worst. Several moments passed and nothing happened. She dared to peek with one magenta orb and saw the gate had swung inwards.
“Wait... does... does that mean...”
The earth pony nodded with a chuckle and a slight smirk.
“Yes. You made it. Go on in and we'll get you fitted for a robe and a halo. Then you can pick out a gold harp.”
“A harp huh?” She said, scratching her chin thoughtfully. “Got anything in the way of a turntable?
The earth pony's smirk widened into a grin.
“Oh, I think something can be arranged.