Octavia’s day had not been wholly pleasant. In fact, to be honest, it had been mostly unpleasant thus far. She had woken in the morning following a somewhat fitful nights’ sleep, only catching about two hours at most of uninterrupted slumber – and even then, when she had slept, her unconscious mind had plagued her with bad dreams about the upcoming concert and how many things would go wrong. When the clock had hit about eight in the morning, she had finally decided to throw in the towel in her futile match against insomnia and get out of bed.
She’d proceeded to make herself some breakfast, which she had narrowly avoided burning – likely thanks to her lack of sleep and hence her powers of observation failing her. She had then brewed her special tea, only to discover that she was now starting to run very low on the ingredients. That was a pain because it meant she would have to trek down to Ponyville – and although the journey was maybe only a walk of two to three hours, it was still quite the distance. She could of course catch the train, but she didn’t like the idea of doing so for just getting more tea. There was also the fact that she would have to be fortunate enough to catch the rhyming zebra while she was in town to begin with; that was, unless she felt brave enough to venture into the Everfree Forest.
There was another factor that she did not want to have to deal with, specifically related to visiting Ponyville: it would mean she ran the risk of encountering the feared hyperactive pink pony whom had caused her a severe amount of upset, embarrassment, and personal expense on that fateful evening just about a year ago. Even the thought of that sent a shudder through her: the highly sociable and hyperactive pink terror was probably one of the few ponies in all of Equestria with whom she simply had no idea how to deal, thus she did not know what would occur if she were ever to meet the frizzy-maned living spring again.
If I have my way about it, we shall never have to find out.
Still, it had meant that a visit to the otherwise pleasant little town was in order. Octavia did not want to compromise her sense of hearing during such a critical time as this, after all; hence after she had taken some time to finish her breakfast and freshen herself up, she headed for the door of her cottage. She paused, however, at the doorway. She looked up to the image hanging there, and a small smile crossed her face. The rendering of herself that took pride of place on the wall was certainly one of the most breathtaking she had been given, it had to be said. Regardless of the artist responsible lacking some social graces, she certainly couldn’t deny his talent for bringing imagination to life on the page. Trotting on her way out of the house, she began to weigh up the pros and cons of the possibilities open to her for her slightly spur of the moment but nevertheless necessary day trip. It was a lovely day to be out in the sunshine – but the very same sunshine would mean a long walk would have her sweating and panting for water by the time she reached the nearby town. It would therefore be better to take the train, but that would mean the expense of a ticket – and there was no guarantee that she would find her zebra acquaintance in town, either. If that were to be the case...
I do not think I dare risk venturing into that dark and dangerous forest unbidden.
Her mind was thus made up: even if it meant some small expense, she would take the train to Ponyville and wait around as long as she could afford for the local herbalist to show herself.
Roughly half an hour later saw Octavia aboard the morning express from Canterlot to Ponyville. The ride at least was quite pleasant as the train chugged its way steadily down through the mountains, then on into the countryside beyond. The cellist found herself yawning once or twice on the way, her tiredness proving to still be a bother. Nevertheless, the journey was otherwise uneventful and she soon found herself in the rural locale of the current Element-bearers. She felt a slight sense of trepidation as she left the station, as the thought hit her that the one they called Pinkie Pie could be lurking quite literally anywhere in the little town, and she would likely have little to no warning of her presence. With that said, the need to have full use of her sense of hearing outweighed the risk of running into said party pony; thus she ventured forth into the town proper.
Ponyville was fairly busy even though it was still only ten o’ clock. The marketplace was a hive of activity with assorted ponies wandering hither and yon, the air filled with friendly banter and the occasional bit of happy laughter. This at least put the cellist a little more at ease. If nothing else, this rural community was quite pleasant and welcoming, with a somewhat relaxing atmosphere overall. Octavia was also quite thankful for the fact that, despite her renown as a performer, she did not tend to have as much of a fuss made here as she might in other locales. Of course, that was likely due to the fact that none other than the six ponies responsible for saving the whole kingdom twice over thus far made this place their home, and the residents never seemed to make much of a fuss over them either. It wasn’t clear if this was due to ignorance, forgetfulness, or disbelief on the part of the townsfolk – but either way, it made for a relatively easy time going mostly unnoticed. That was something she was grateful for; in fact she had found herself thinking on more than one occasion that if she were not so attached to Canterlot that a community such as this where she could blend into the crowd would make for a good place to call home. That, though, was a big if – and one that was unlikely ever to become a reality. She had far too many things keeping her in the royal city, such as her career for one and the delightful little house she called her own for another – to say nothing of the orchestra and her fellow quartet musicians. There were few other places in the entire kingdom, she knew, where so many skilled instrumentalists could be found gathered together.
She promptly snapped out of her internal ramblings, however, when she spotted an unmistakable black and white striped equine threading her way through the crowd.
“Pardon me! Miss Zecora!” she called, trotting towards the zebra.
“Octavia, my dear cellist! To what do I owe such pleasure as this?”
Octavia smiled broadly at that. This was something she found very endearing about her foreign friend: the curiously-accented zebra had a way with words, having yet to ever speak in anything but a well-turned rhyming phrase around her.
“I was hoping to obtain some more of your special blend, Miss Zecora.” she replied. “I have almost run out, and it is imperative that my ears remain clear. I have quite the important performance to direct.”
“Ah yes my dear, my herbal tea.” the zebra nodded, a smile creasing her face. “You are in luck – please, follow me!”
Octavia breathed a small sigh of relief at that, and fell in step alongside the bristly-maned zebra. The two of them made their way towards the edge of Ponyville, heading for the Everfree Forest.
“How have things been since last I was in the area?”
“My life has been without calamity. Of late, I find less fear surrounds me.”
“Now that you mention it, I could not help noticing a lack of fearful looks aimed in your direction.” Octavia noted thoughtfully. She was relieved to see it, too. Despite the fact that she had become familiar with the zebra some time after the latter had become less of an enigma to the residents of Ponyville, she still knew from both firsthand experience and anecdotal evidence that the forest-dwelling herbalist had not always been so welcome in the small town.
“And what of you, my dear maestro? What bones has life seen fit to throw?”
“I would say probably the largest thing I have on my plate currently is the forthcoming Summer Equinox Concert.” Octavia replied as the two made their way into the forest itself. “It is quite the large commitment, and the reason I sought you out.”
“Ah, a celebration of the moon, yes? I can see how that would cause you stress. But worry not, Octavia, dear. I’ve just the thing to help you hear!”
Octavia smiled at that as she followed the zebra along the rough path through the slightly dank interior of the forest. The humid air carried the assorted scents of strange plants and creatures, and the occasional sound of some forest-dwelling bird or animal. She was glad to have the zebra for company; without her it was safe to say that the prim cellist would not have felt brave enough to set foot in the ancient forest of mysteries.
They soon arrived at the zebra’s rather rustic home. Octavia was led inside, and the assorted mixed scents of all kinds of plants, herbs and other various potion ingredients found their way to her nose. Her host, meanwhile, was busily rummaging in a large pot. She presently lifted her head from it, carrying a smaller vessel filled with crushed tiny leaves.
The cellist smiled, recognising the contents of the little pot as the same thing she had gotten from Zecora on her previous visit. After putting a lid on the little pot, the herbalist spoke up again.
“There we are, my musical friend: enough to last til summer’s end.”
“Thank you, miss Zecora. Your kindness knows no bounds.” Octavia smiled, taking the little pot into one of her bags.
“Your thanks is welcome, if unneeded. We would not want your ears impeded!”
The musician nodded in agreement at that. “Indeed we would not!”
“Quite so. Do you now plan to trot back to your home in Canterlot?”
“Well... not right away. I have time to spare before I must go – if you don’t mind my being here, that is.”
Zecora smiled at that. “Then stay a while and talk, my friend. Who knows when we may meet again?”
“So very true.” Octavia nodded, a small sigh escaping her lips. “I have so very little time in which I am free to travel as I please. Were it not for the fact the rehearsal I must attend today is in the evening, I would not have come to these parts on such short notice.”
“A precious thing is time, my dear. We only have so much each year. Days roll past and time moves on – before we know, it has all gone.”
“It does, at that. You know... I have spent quite a lot of my time in the company of someone whom I have come to call my friend, of late.”
“Would you class it time well spent? I hear a hint of discontent.”
Octavia found herself quite impressed by both the zebra’s ability to sense such small things, and her seemingly infinite capacity for creating rhyming sentences on the fly. “I would say my time spent with him has been primarily beneficial. He has shown himself to be one of the most chivalrous, kind, and thoughtful stallions whose company I have had the pleasure of being in.”
“Yet still he somehow made you pout. Have you had a falling out?”
“We did, yes. If I am honest, though, we were both to blame. I have been so wrapped up in my musical pursuits that I could not discern the abnormalities in his behaviour. If I look back upon things now, there was a somewhat marked difference in how he had been acting after a certain point... However, he too had become wrapped up in his own distractions and pressures. It is small wonder that we ended up having a dispute.”
“To hear you speak I get the feeling, your nerves and his are slowly healing.”
“There were further issues thereafter... I am led to believe that his problems have become less severe since, although not before he had hurt the feelings of another of his friends also. With that said, they are almost like brother and sister. I have no doubt they will find a means to resolve their differences. As for myself...” she trailed off.
Zecora paused in the midst of trotting about her hut gathering ingredients, and fixed her keen gaze on her earth pony guest.
“If advice you seek of me, this is what I plainly see: your heart’s desire is to be kind, but doubt lurks still within your mind. Hence this guidance I profess: put his character to the test. If selfishness has been his rending, selflessness shall be his mending.”
Octavia smiled at that. “That is, more or less, what I have already asked of him. I explained to him that I require some kind of proof of his apology. You are right, I want to put things back on track, as it were. The majority of our time spent together so far has been quite pleasant, and most memorable.”
“Well said my dear - and might I add, I hope things do not turn out bad.”
“My thanks. I am sorry to have to disappear on you again so soon, but I shall have to make my way back to the station. I would not like to try making my way back out of this forest when it is dark.”
“Such apprehension I know well. I shall escort you for a spell.”
About half an hour later, the two equines stood at the mouth of the mysterious forest. It was already past midday going by the sun’s position overhead, though thankfully there would still be time enough for Octavia to make her way back to Ponyville, board the next train back to Canterlot, and still have some time for poring over her music prior to rehearsal.
“Thank you once more for your hospitality, Miss Zecora.”
The zebra smiled and bowed her head slightly in return. “You are always welcome, my dear cellist. Make haste now, lest your train you miss!”
Octavia smiled in return at that, nodding a little. “You are quite right. Au revoir, madam. I promise I shall visit you again when I am granted some more free time to do so!”
“‘til you are once more before my eyes, I bid you home with my best good-byes!”
The walk back to Ponyville was without incident, and Octavia found herself passing through the main square of the pleasant little community once more. For a spur of the moment, impulsive, but nevertheless needed excursion, it had turned out to be quite the nice little day trip. Now she would just head back to the station, and—
Octavia froze. She recognised that voice – it was one she heard every so often when she revisited the unpleasant memory of the Grand Galloping Gala from about a year ago. She stiffly turned her head toward the source of the voice, her dread of its owner at odds with her need to be properly mannered regardless of her disdain for the pony she knew she would see.
As expected, Ponyville’s prized pink party pony was stood a few feet away – or rather, bouncing in place a few feet away, as was her nature. She grinned her characteristic huge grin, looking thoroughly delighted to see a new face.
“You must be new in town! I know you must be new because I’ve never seen you here before and I know everypony – and I mean every pony here in Ponyville! So what’s your name, where’d you come from, what’re you doin’?”
“Ah, well...” Octavia replied, a tremor in her voice. “Actually, I w-was just v-visiting a friend—”
Pinkie Pie’s excited squeal interrupted the cellist mid-sentence. “Oooooh! You have a friend here in Ponyville!? Well a friend of any of my friends is a friend of mine, too!” She bounced closer to the stone grey musician, causing Octavia to recoil slightly in abject fear.
“Ah... excuse me, Miss Pie—”
“Just call me Pinkie Pie! Hey, wait a minute, how did you know my name? I mean, I never even told you it yet!” Pinkie Pie giggled, apparently wildly amused by Octavia’s seeming precognition.
“We have met before... albeit, most briefly.” Octavia stated, her legs trembling slightly out of a mix of apprehension at being this close to the pink terror and repressed anger at the memory of what had happened at that previous meeting.
Pinkie Pie stopped mid-bounce to contemplate that idea. The fact that she stopped at the apex of her bounce and remained there with a thoughtful look on her face barely registered in Octavia’s mind.
“Really? Hunh... well it can’t have been here in Ponyville, I’d remember where I’d seen you...” she stated, and then suddenly she let out a loud gasp and landed back on her hooves, causing Octavia to jump slightly.
“Wait! I remember! The Grand Galloping Gala!” Pinkie exclaimed cheerfully – only for her to pause, her smile fading as she fully recalled the events of that evening.
“You... remember, then.” the cellist inquired, her teeth grinding slightly.
“I think so... you were part of the shiny band, at the big shiny dance floor?”
Octavia felt her eyebrow twitch irritably at such a description, but she slowly nodded.
“That... yes. If you want to put it that way, yes, I was.”
The pink pony cringed slightly at that. “Oh gee... uhm, you were playing the cello, right...?”
Octavia nodded. “Every. String. Broken.” she stated, a note of hostility creeping into her voice. The target of her hostility winced at the sound.
“Uhm... All I can say is—uhm, sorry, what was your name?” she asked in a more muted tone of voice, her expression looking more pathetic by the minute. Octavia could swear she even saw the pink pony’s mane drooping a little.
“Right... Octavia. I’m really, really sorry about... you know. I thought back on it afterwards, and I really really really wanted to make it up to you! I just... There’s been so much going on here in Ponyville, and I had no idea where to find you...”
“If I am honest, Miss—pardon me, Pinkie Pie. If I am honest, it is not without benefit to us both that you did not know where to look for me.” Octavia stated, the apprehension she had felt starting to fizzle somewhat, leaving only the animosity she felt towards the hyperactive filly.
Pinkie Pie hung her head at that – a reaction which Octavia had honestly not expected. “I... I know what you’re saying.” she said in a sad sounding voice.
“It wasn’t so long ago that I met a donkey who just wanted to be left alone... and, well... that’s OK.”
Once again, Octavia found herself unable to make proper sense of the pink pony before her. She had expected Pinkie Pie to act in her usual over-the-top and intrusive manner, the same that she had displayed at the Gala so many months back. Yet here she was displaying a far greater level of understanding than Octavia would have given her credit for. She blinked and shook her head, the hostility she felt towards her fellow earth pony subsiding somewhat.
“Erm. Right.” she stated, awkwardly. “Well, I was needing to catch the train back to Canterlot...” she said, trailing off at the end of her sentence.
Pinkie Pie nodded slowly at that.
“Right.” It looked as though she really wanted to say something more, however, as she was shifting her weight from side to side a little.
“...out with it. Whatever it is.” Octavia commanded, despite feeling that she would perhaps regret this later.
Pinkie Pie brought her gaze back up to meet the musician’s, her large blue eyes slightly watery and sorrowful. Octavia internally winced; the ordinarily happy pony’s face possessed a great degree of childlike innocence, and seeing her upset would be enough to wrench at even the most cold-hearted creature’s heartstrings.
“Well... uhm, I just wanted to ask... is there anything I can do to make up for what happened back then...?”
Octavia mulled that one over for a good few long moments. “...no. It was months ago, now. Besides, you clearly regret your actions... that is apology enough.”
“Then... you forgive me?”
The cellist looked into the large blue eyes for a few moments longer. Try as she might, she really couldn’t justify denying her redemption.
“...yes. It was not the first time I have suffered embarrassment or humiliation in my line of work, I expect it will not be the last, either.”
It was almost as though someone had shot a bolt of lightning through Pinkie Pie’s body as she instantly sprang back to life, bouncing up and down excitedly on the spot once more.
“Oh, thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou!” she cried delightedly, starting to bounce around the musical pony in a circle. Octavia trembled a little at that. Even if she had forgiven Pinkie Pie’s former grievances, it didn’t change the fact that her abnormal level of energy was a bit much to deal with.
“It is nothing, honestly!” she stated hastily. “I really must be on my way—”
“Right, right, you gotta catch the train!” Pinkie Pie declared. Octavia suddenly found herself shunted along at high speed to the station before she had time to realise what was transpiring. She blinked several times as she arrived on the platform, finding the frizzy-maned pony stood alongside her.
“It was neat seeing you again, Octavia! I hope you visit again soon! Have a safe trip and thanks for dropping by! Bye~!” With that, she was suddenly gone, racing off to do... well, whatever it was she did. It took a few seconds more for Octavia’s mind to process all that had just happened.
...I hope that this train has a tea service.
So it was that, roughly half an hour later, Octavia stood once more upon the platform of Canterot Central Station. She breathed a sigh of relief to be back in the city she called home once more, hoping that the day would not bring any further unforeseen annoyances. She was still slightly shaken from her encounter with Pinkie Pie, after all – though she had to admit that said meeting had not been anywhere near so unpleasant as she had pictured it might be, were it ever to transpire. She set off from the station in the direction of her home.
It did not take her long to reach her own four walls once more, though she noticed as she headed inside that it was already past three in the afternoon. A little mental arithmetic told her that she had in the region of two to three hours’ worth of free time before she would have to make her way to the Canterlot Royal Amphitheatre for tonight’s rehearsal. She stowed away the little pot of mixed herbs and tea leaves in one of her kitchen cupboards, alongside a selection of other varieties of her favoured beverage. Making her way back through to the living room, she surveyed the assorted sheets of music strewn across the table and seats, sighed to herself, and then trotted over to the couch and seated herself. She picked up the nearest sheaf of paper and began scrutinising it.
Her free time, much as her zebra acquaintance had noted earlier, ticked by before she knew it. She heaved a sigh, gathering up the assorted pages into their respective movements. She had made some further minor adjustments to the piece; though cumulatively speaking they were enough that most of the orchestra would need to take a look over the revised music.
With the entire lot packed into her saddlebags, Octavia set out once more for the amphitheatre. She was pleased to see, just as she arrived, Princess Luna descending from overhead with her entourage of Royal Guard escorts. She trotted over to the slender royal pony, a smile on her face.
“Good evening, Princess!” she called out as she approached.
“Miss Octavia! Good evening!” Luna replied, her voice as resonant as always. “I trust you are well?”
“I have had better days, Your Highness.” Octavia admitted. “Today has not been without its trials. Still, hopefully tonight’s practice will be the least of my worries.”
The princess nodded her head approvingly. “Let us hope so. Things have been progressing well thus far.”
“I am glad to hear you say as such.” Octavia replied happily. Princess Luna was, after all, the pony whose opinion of the work she valued beyond all others’, her own included.
The royal pony’s detachment of Guards returned, whispering a brief report to her.
“Come, let us join your orchestra.” she directed, after lending the Guard her ear for a few brief moments.
Octavia nodded an affirmative, making her way inside the theatre’s backstage entrance. She was joined by the princess and her attendant pegasi, and together they made their way to the stage. There was a muffled clattering of instruments being safely put down or held out of the way as the assembled musicians showed their respect to Luna.
“Good evening, everyone!” she declared, her voice carrying on its own – though thankfully not at the traditional volume. “We are but a short few weeks away from the Equinox itself, and I am most delighted with the overall level of excellence displayed by you all. I feel certain that the event itself shall be marked in history as a welcome return of the seasonal festivities.”
Her short speech was met with muted cheers and applause from the assembled performers. She waved a hoof briefly for quiet.
“I also must once more express my heartfelt thanks to our lead composer, Octavia. She has been working tirelessly upon this symphony since the beginning, and without her dedication I am certain we would not have so beautiful an arrangement as we do now.”
There were further voices of agreement from amongst the orchestra, and Octavia noted her fellow quartet members also nodding their heads and smiling in her direction. She blushed slightly at all the praise and attention – even if it was warranted to some degree. She took the opportunity to speak up herself.
“I must mirror our Princess’s words – and I thank you all for remaining so dedicated to this work, and enduring my occasional lack of patience. I must also apologise as I have made some further revisions to some of the piece. Minor revisions, though, you will no doubt be relieved to hear.”
There came a mix of groans and laughter at her last remark. Her fellow musicians were by now used to her single-minded approach to her composition, having already been through at least four major revisions of some of the larger parts of the symphony. She pulled the pile of music from her bags, setting it down carefully on her seat on stage. It was then that she noticed, due to negligence on the part of a stagehand, her prized instrument was not sitting waiting for her where it should have been. She frowned slightly at that, shaking her head.
“My friends, might I ask you to begin distributing these sheets for me?” she inquired of her fellow quartet members. “It would seem that somepony forgot that each member of a quartet requires an instrument to play.”
Her little joke was met with smiles and even a smattering of polite laughter from the other ponies sat near her, accompanied by them nodding in reply to her question. She smiled thankfully to them, before turning and heading off into the backstage area once more. It didn’t take her very long to locate her cello: it had been left sitting in its case backstage. She shook her head at that, tutting under her breath.
Were they not informed that I am always present? Honestly!
Still, it was only a minor inconvenience, and it was not as though she was required to play right this instant. She swiftly opened her instrument’s case, carefully pulling out both the instrument itself and its bow. It would be simple enough to carry the cello from here to the stage: it was not very far to go, after all, and she was more than capable of manoeuvring herself on only her hind legs. Thus she picked up the instrument carefully between her forelegs and began the slightly awkward approach to the stage.
On the stage itself, Princess Luna still stood among the other members of Octavia’s quartet. After a little bit of confusion had ensued regarding which sheet was for whom, she had stepped in to help organise matters. As such, the sheets had now been meticulously organised by orchestral section rather than by symphonic movement. There was a low hum of idle chatter among the quartet and the orchestra members as they pored over the newly edited sheet. The low noise was very suddenly interrupted, however, by a cry of alarm from the direction of the backstage.
All eyes were turned, just in time to catch the sight of Octavia stumbling through from the backstage entrance. It was almost as if time slowed down as the horrifying spectacle played itself out: the cellist’s body was already horribly overbalanced, and the bottom of her cello scraped along the floor in front of her, then slid under her as her shoulders fell forward.
The theatre fell silent as a sickening CRUNCH of metal horsehoes smashing through antique finished wood echoed throughout.
The silence pervaded for several long moments, as Octavia carefully picked herself up – and then her jaw hung open in horror as she bore witness to the fact that one of her front hooves had come crashing down on her beloved instrument, punching a horrible jagged hole in the back of its body.
“...no...” she whispered, feeling her limbs start to shake. Tears welled up in her eyes, and then rolled slowly along her nose, dripping off with a quiet thp... thp... thp... of water hitting finished wood.
It was the Princess of the Moon who was the first to move, carefully setting down the music she had been holding aloft, and approaching the stricken musician.
“...Octavia...” she said, quietly. The cellist looked round at her with wide eyes, tears still rolling down her cheeks.
“...why?” she squeaked in a trembling voice, before slowly pulling her hoof from the instrument.
Luna stepped swiftly forward, wrapping a foreleg around the smaller pony’s shoulders before she could think to flee or cry out. Octavia tensed up briefly, and then promptly buried her face in the alicorn’s neck, sobbing into her coat.
There was a rather uncomfortable silence hanging in the air whilst this transpired, until the Princess turned her head to glance over at the other three members of the quartet.
“Would you excuse us? I believe Miss Octavia will want some fresh air and time to recover. Please go ahead and continue the practice without us.”
Her directions were met with a hastily nodded answer from the musicians she had addressed, who then turned to begin issuing instructions to the orchestra. Luna turned her attention back to the sobbing musician, speaking quietly.
“Come along outside for a moment, dear. This is not an environment conducive to your current state.”
The distraught cellist lacked the strength or the semblance of mind to disagree, and she let herself be slowly led outside of the amphitheatre’s backstage; whereupon she promptly collapsed to the floor, breathing heavily. Presently, Luna spoke up once more.
“My dear Octavia... I am so very sorry. Are you going to be alright?”
Octavia slowly turned her gaze on the midnight blue alicorn, her eyes still slightly blurry from her tears.
“I... I will be fine, Princess... I just... that cello is... is like...”
“A part of your very being?”
Octavia nodded, sniffing slightly.
“I know the feeling. Artists are always quite attached to their tools, be they pens, pencils or instruments. For harm to come to any of them is like an injury to oneself.”
“...quite...” Octavia agreed, wiping her eyes with a foreleg. “I... I feel so very foolish. It would not have been such an ordeal to have summoned a porter.”
“Oh believe me, I know the feeling of wishing to handle something for oneself.” Luna remarked, a knowing frown on her face. “I sympathise with you there, my little pony. Regardless, something will need to be done about repairs... do you know a good luthier to whom you can entrust her?”
Octavia frowned for a moment in thought, and then nodded her head slowly. “Yes... there is one here in Canterlot to whom I can take her for repairs. I merely hope I have not injured her so severely as to...” she trailed off, shuddering. A hoof was laid gently on her shoulder, and she looked up to see the face of her sovereign looking back at her with a kindly smile.
“I do not believe it is a mortal wound that has been struck. I have certainly seen worse, in my time.”
“That... that is a relief, coming from you.” Octavia replied, finally beginning to get her emotions under control with that reassurance. “Nothing like this has ever happened before... I shall be fine, I am just a little overcome.”
“Come along. Let us go and get her to safety.”
Octavia nodded, rising to her feet and following the taller pony back inside. They soon came to the spot where she had tripped. Her stricken cello still laid where it had fallen. This came as little surprise to Octavia. She knew full well, as did her fellow performers and the stagehands, how possessive any musician could get of their instruments. Octavia herself was no exception.
A soft, light blue glow surrounded the cello as Princess Luna engaged her telekinetic magic to very gingerly lift the instrument from the floor. Octavia shuddered slightly, looking at the nasty hole in the cello’s back.
“I hope you will pardon the indiscretion, dear, but I am going to have to put your instrument out of tune.”
Octavia blinked at that, turning her attention to the night blue alicorn. The latter looked back at her and, noting her quizzical look, went on to explain.
“It is to lessen the chance of further damage. You know, of course, how the strings are held tense over the body and the bridge, yes? That tension is now unevenly distributed.”
“Oh, of course... go ahead. I shall fetch her case.”
So saying, Octavia hurried back to retrieve the hard case for her instrument, bringing it back to allow Luna to lay the damaged cello gently to rest. She also noted the alicorn carefully scooping up the larger splinters of wood and tucking them into the case as well. That, at least, she could understand: the back of her instrument was now an intricate puzzle to be pieced back together by an expert. Luna carefully closed the case up, fastening it securely.
“I suppose for tonight I shall have to relegate myself to simply directing and not leading overall.” Octavia noted glumly.
“There are worse fates, Octavia.”
“There are, but still...”
“Worry not. I assure you, any luthier worth his salt will be able to repair her.”
The rest of the evening consisted of Octavia devoting her energies to listening carefully to each section of the orchestra dealing with the minor revisions she had made to her masterpiece. Each individual part seemed to be more or less now as she wished for it to be – but without the ability to play the entire work as it was intended, she would not know for certain. It irked her considerably to think that, for once, it was she that was holding things back; to say nothing of the fact it was her own ineptitude that had caused it.
Come the end of the night she was certainly calmer than she had been when her beloved instrument had been damaged, though now her upset was replaced with a lurking frustration over what it had wrought.
Still, there is little point to dwelling upon it. I shall have the luthiers repair it, as the Princess said. I care not for what it may cost me.
With that thought in mind, she set off for home with the instrument in its case slung over her back.
Princess Luna watched the departing cellist thoughtfully. She inclined her head slightly, her eyes moving to one side to glance round at one of her accompanying Guards.
“Yes, Your Highness?”
“I’ve an errand for you...”