67w, 5dLyra & Bon-Bon
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“Are you gonna eat that?” Lyra looked expectantly at the cake that was still on Bon-Bon’s plate.
Her roommate lifted a hoof to pull the plate a bit closer to her side of the table. “Honestly, Lyra…”
“Sorry. But it’s just been sitting there, and – “
“We just got to Sugarcube Corner five minutes ago,” Bon-Bon said. “And excuse me if I was a little shocked by how you inhaled yours.”
Coming here had become a tradition, something the two of them did every weekend. Mr. and Mrs. Cake were some of the best bakers in Ponyville, if not all of Equestria. For ponies who both loved sweets, it was a natural hangout.
“You think cake and candy are some kind of art form, don’t you?”
“It’s what I make for a living! Of course there’s an art to it!” Bon-Bon said. “And anyway, I’ve finally gotten a job interview scheduled with the owners, so before we know it, I might even be working here.”
“That’s nice. Will we get free cake, then?” Lyra asked.
Bon-Bon glared at her. “Anyway, I heard you were invited to play at the Grand Galloping Gala this year. That’s quite an honor,” Bon-Bon said. She took a single bite of her cake, enjoying it, savoring the flavor, unlike a certain unicorn.
Lyra nodded vigorously. “Yeah! Can you believe it? I’m not too good with formal events, though.”
“I… can’t imagine why.” Bon-Bon’s attention was fixed on some chocolate frosting still hanging off Lyra’s chin. “Let’s hope it doesn’t turn out to be a disaster like it was last year. You heard about that, right?”
Lyra nodded. “I never would have thought Fluttershy had it in her. It’s always the quiet ones.”
Taking another small bite of her cake, Bon-Bon continued. “So, have they told you what pieces you’ll be performing? Do you know what you’ll be wearing?”
Lyra shrugged. “I dunno, maybe Rarity – “
They barely heard the buzz of the scooter approaching before it slammed into the table. Bon-Bon’s cake was propelled directly into her face. Lyra attempted unsuccessfully to stifle a laugh.
“Scootaloo, are you sure that’s gonna be your special talent?” Apple Bloom said, walking towards the overturned table with Sweetie Belle at her side.
Bon-Bon gaped at the three fillies, her face covered in frosting.
“What can I say? Sometimes it’s better to finish quickly.” Lyra shrugged. “By the way, you’ve got a little something...” She lifted a hoof to her own face. “Right there.”
Bon-Bon had already snatched up a napkin and started wiping herself off.
“Sorry about that,” Scootaloo said, shaking her head. She adjusted her helmet. “I was going so fast that time! Now I just need to work on my turns…” She gave a weak smile.
“No problem,” Lyra said.
Bon-Bon hesitated and took a deep breath. “Y-yes… No… problem… at… all.”
“Lighten up, they’re just kids. Remember what it was like trying to get a cutie mark when you were that age? I don’t blame them for trying all this crazy stuff.”
Sweetie Belle’s face brightened up. “Hey, we never asked you how you got your cutie mark! Your talent is music, isn’t it?” She was staring at the golden harp on Lyra’s flank.
“Yeah! Actually, it took me a long time to get my cutie mark. It was back in filly school when I lived in Canterlot. I was one of the last in my class to get mine, you know…”
Lying awake in bed one night, Heartstrings – she’d still been calling herself Heartstrings back then – had heard her parents talking about her.
“You know that Heartstrings has been struggling in school…” That was her mother.
“Some unicorns just take longer to learn magic, that’s all. Things will come to her in time,” she heard her father reply.
“But what if it doesn’t? It’s been too long now. No magic, no cutie mark. What if it’s all because she’s – “
“Heartstrings is a unicorn. It’s that simple. It’ll all come in time.”
Of course, even though she was a filly, Heartstrings knew what they had been talking about. Her mother was a pegasus, but her dad was a unicorn. She had a horn, but she had never been able to use it. The other unicorns in her class had already mastered things like levitation, but she couldn’t even lift a feather. She had to agree with her mother. What if she just couldn’t learn magic?
Her teacher, Indigo Spark, said that it didn’t matter. If a pony had a horn, they were a unicorn. There wasn’t such a thing as a “half-unicorn,” but… This wasn’t the only time she had overheard her parents have this same conversation, and she still couldn’t focus any power through her horn.
Cutie marks and magic were still on Heartstrings’ mind the next day in class. They’d been brought to the music room instead of their usual classroom.
“Today we’ll be working with musical instruments. I’d like all of you to pick something out. We’re just practicing today, so don’t worry about sounding good!” Indigo Spark watched his class as they inspected each instrument.
Heartstrings tagged along after the rest of her classmates. Would she be any good at this? It looked like there was a tuba… too big… a xylophone… that had a lot of keys, how would she handle that one? There were some drums. Those would be easy.
“Yes, Bluebelle, that one’s called a lyre.” Heartstrings turned to see the teacher talking to a young navy blue unicorn. “It’s one of the more difficult instruments. It takes a lot of concentration to focus on moving each string to play even a simple song.”
“How does it work?” the filly asked.
“Focus your magic onto each string, and adjust the tension in order to make them vibrate and create sound.”
Blue Belle had already started, and what came out wasn’t exactly music, in the strictest definition. Heartstrings winced at the noise, and turned to look at a cello. Maybe that one would work. No, it was way too big.
“I think I’ll take a different one…” Blue Belle said, turning away from the lyre. “Something easier.”
Most of the instruments had already been taken. So much for drums, Heartstrings thought. Wandering around the music room, between other young unicorns who were already trying out their new instruments, Heartstrings finally took a closer look at the lyre. No way, that one would definitely be too hard…
Besides, that explanation had made no sense. How were you supposed to create music if you moved each string by itself? If you plucked them in a sequence, moving down the row… It was less a matter of moving each string and more of something moving through them, plucking each one.
A few notes played, soft but clear. A few more. It was beginning to sound like a simple melody, nothing too complicated, but musical all the same. Heartstrings closed her eyes, focusing on the notes. Yes, this was how a lyre was meant to be played.
“My, Heartstrings! You really seem to have a knack for that.”
Her eyes snapped open. The whole room had gone quiet. She tried to look at the horn on her forehead, and saw the edges of a lime-green glow. It matched the glow surrounding the lyre. She slowly backed away from the lyre, feeling the eyes of everypony in the room watching her.
“It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. That was truly impressive.”
“I, um… I just thought there was probably a different way to play it… Simpler…” Heartstrings stammered.
“There’s nothing wrong,” Indigo Spark said. “Now, does everypony have an instrument chosen? Let’s begin.”
Heartstrings stared at the golden instrument, and with some effort, managed to get it to float next to her. She was ecstatic. She felt like getting up and running straight home to tell her parents, but class had already started.
While the other colts and fillies struggled to create anything musical, Heartstrings was already grasping how to play this instrument. It was like she was born to play. When class was finally over, she noticed something different about herself. Namely, on her back leg.
To say the least, her parents were pleased when she returned home that afternoon. Heartstrings thought her mother was going to faint after she saw her daughter’s new cutie mark. And she almost did, after hearing a bit of what Heartstrings could do. Her father signed her up for music lessons right away. They were saying she was a prodigy – maybe she was? Heartstrings didn’t really care either way, the excitement of being able to do magic was enough for her.
It finally looked like Heartstrings was going to grow up into a perfectly normal unicorn.
“Is it true what they say about ponies like that?” Sweetie Belle asked. “When their parents are two different kinds of ponies, I mean. I know it doesn’t happen often, but you’re great with magic, Lyra.”
“Who knows? It took some practice, but I’m all right now,” Lyra replied. “And it just goes to show that everybody gets their cutie mark eventually. I’m sure you’ll all find yours soon enough.”
Bon-Bon had finished wiping the cake off her face and was in a better mood. “You know, when I was about your age, that was the first time I ever learned how to use an oven, and -“
“Hey, music might work! Maybe we should try getting our band back together! Come on, Crusaders!” Scootaloo said. The three of them disappeared in a yellow, orange, and white blur.
“Wha - ?” Bon-Bon said. “I didn’t get a chance to tell my cutie mark story! Kids and their short attention spans!” She turned her head. “…Lyra?”
There was a fork hovering in the air in front of Lyra’s face, and she was inspecting it with curiosity. She turned at the sound of her name, and the fork dropped to the ground. “Huh?”
“Oh… never mind. Let’s go home.”
Music played softly in the distance. A familiar sound in the darkness. Did she know this song? She couldn’t name it. Then, a figure. But it wasn’t a pony, that much was clear. It was… Yes. Lyra started to move towards it for a better look. The darkness was fading away until she could start to make out the details. She had just a glimpse before -
- she hit the bedroom floor with a thud, giving her a rude awakening from the dream. But she still had the image in her mind. Lyra stared up at the ceiling, her back on the floor and her legs sticking straight up in the air. The covers from her bed were still partially draped over her.
“It… it all makes sense now!” She grinned. “How did I not see this before?”
This had to be documented. Picking herself up off the floor, Lyra raced down the hall and found her journal in the office. Levitating it down from the shelf, she quickly started sketching with the nearest quill she could find.
“Lyra…? I heard a crash, are you alright?” Bon-Bon wandered into the room, rubbing her eyes. She stared at Lyra and the glowing quill scratching madly at the page. “What are you doing?”
“They designed it. It’s meant for them to play, not us,” Lyra muttered, not taking her eyes off the journal. “It all makes so much sense…”
Bon-Bon shook her head and watched over her roommate’s shoulder. Some kind of figure was taking shape. It was holding a lyre in what seemed to be… arms? The shape of the body wasn’t one that Bon-Bon had ever seen before. Maybe similar to a baby dragon, like the one that lived with Twilight Sparkle, but the limbs were elongated.
“The strings are much easier to pluck if you have fingers. I think it’s similar to how I play it, actually. What I imagine while I’m doing it, at least.” Lyra continued sketching. Bon-Bon couldn’t tell if Lyra was explaining it to her or if she was talking to herself. “They’re too close together to play very well with hooves, and it wouldn’t make sense for ponies to design an instrument that could only be played with magic.”
“Lyra, is this another one of your theories about those…” Bon-Bon’s voice trailed off into a yawn.
“Humans. Of course.” Lyra nodded. She dropped the quill, and looked up. “Humans invented lyres. Can you believe it? I’ve had their work on my flank for years and I never even realized it!” She grinned widely, looking at the image of the harp on her back leg.
“You’re… sure?” Bon-Bon let out another yawn. “You actually think that this was invented by some kind of a… what was it, again?”
“If you knew where to look, you’d realize that humans left their work all over Equestrian civilization. Ponies weren’t the first to establish a society. It’s all because of humans, and we’re just borrowing it.”
Bon-Bon stared at Lyra, not understanding how anypony could be awake and so energetic at three in the morning. And she was on one of her “human” rants again. Not that Bon-Bon had any idea what a “human” was, but apparently Lyra had a strange obsession with them. Some kind of obscure mythical being that was referenced in some old books. And that’s all they were – a myth. Nopony had ever seen a real human before.
“Just go to bed,” Bon-Bon said. She turned around and headed back to her room.
Lyra’s grin vanished, and she looked back at her drawing. She had put as much detail as she could into the way the hands held the instrument, and the way the fingers moved along each individual string. It all seemed to work so well. There had been less attention to the face and the rest of the body, just a rudimentary torso and legs. Already the details of the dream were fading from her mind.
It wasn’t the first dream Lyra had about humans - they happened sporadically. Usually in groups. She could expect several more hazy, indistinct dreams over the next few nights. Her journal was filled with as much as she could remember from them.
“I know humans used to exist…” Lyra muttered. “Maybe not anymore. But they were real.”
She took one last glance at the figure she had drawn, playing a lyre as she herself often did, but this was the right way to play one. The way it had been intended. Then she closed the cover and lifted the book back onto the shelf.
For the rest of the night, Lyra couldn’t remember if she had any more dreams.