Why doesn’t Lyra understand?
Trixie knew the Night Court. She knew Greengrass. He’d never displayed any interest in the arts except insofar as it gained him power; if Lyra would actually bother to listen to her for five minutes, she could explain this. But she wasn’t listening, and she was falling directly into Greengrass’s trap, and Trixie was trying to save her from herself but she wouldn’t let her. It was beyond frustrating.
I need to stop her from taking that job! If she won’t listen to me, I’ll have to trick her somehow, or find somepony else to talk to her. Or maybe get Octavia to slip up and reveal herself. But I have to do something!
She wondered what her friends would recommend. Ditzy, she knew, would suggest apologizing to Lyra and then asking her kindly to listen to her – but asking kindly hadn’t worked, and besides, Trixie didn’t think she’d done anything wrong. She’d only brought up blacklisting Lyra hypothetically. If Lyra didn’t know that Trixie wouldn’t actually do it, well, that wasn’t Trixie’s fault. Apologizing was not necessary.
But maybe the others can help. It’s not even seven-thirty… Carrot Top might still be in her fields. I’ll try her first.
“Lyra? Is something wrong?”
Lyra couldn’t help but let out a tired giggle as she approached Octavia’s room. The gray mare apparently knew her well enough that she could determine not only her identity but also her mood just by hearing her hoofsteps. That didn’t surprise her.
“It’s… yeah. Can I come in?”
Lyra entered Octavia’s room and sat down. “How are you?”
“Quite alright.” Octavia pushed aside the sheet music she was examining. “What is the matter?”
“It’s nothing,” said Lyra, suddenly feeling reluctant to burden Octavia with her troubles. She began to regret coming to see her; it wasn’t like Octavia had anything to do with Trixie.
“Really, I’m fine.”
“Lyra. Tell me.”
Lyra smiled slightly. “Hey, I’m not your student anymore. I don't have to tell you everything.”
“Lyra.” Octavia’s gaze was soft. “I want to help you, if I can. Please tell me what is upsetting you.”
Lyra nodded a little. Octavia had helped her with so much in her life. She had earned Lyra’s trust. And, while Lyra didn’t want to burden Octavia with her bad mood, the cellist clearly wanted to know. “It’s Trixie. She… she crossed a line.”
Octavia inclined her head. "I see."
“It’s been going on ever since you arrived…”
“What do you want me to do, exactly?”
Trixie smiled. “Come on, Carrot Top. We both know the Night Court’s bad news. Help me convince Lyra to stay here.”
“Why would I do that?” Carrot Top frowned. She was standing by the broken fence that she’d been repairing when Trixie had shown up. “This is a big opportunity for her.”
“Yeah, to get ensnared by Greengrass.”
“Never mind. Look, she isn’t listening to me, but she’ll listen to you. Help me convince her to stay.”
“That doesn’t sound like Lyra… I’ve always known her to listen to other ponies.” Carrot Top paused. “Did you say something to her that, uh, made her not want to listen to you?”
“No! Well, uh, I mean, I kind of did, but she took it totally the wrong way! And—“
Carrot Top shook her head. “Trixie, unless there’s some actual reason to believe going to Canterlot will hurt her, I’m not going to stand in her way, okay? And if you made her mad, then you need to apologize – it won’t do any good coming from me.”
“It’s not about apologizing. I need to convince her.”
“The first might help with the second.”
“No, it won’t, she wasn’t listening to me even before she got all mad!” Trixie turned around. “Fine, if you won’t help me, I’ll find somepony who will. I’m just trying to help her!” She ran off.
Carrot Top stared. “That was weird.”
“…I’ve tried to be nice to her for a really long time. And, I mean, it’s not like she’s heartless. She does care about other ponies. When she tried to save everypony when Corona returned, that was really brave. And when she helped get rid of the Ursa, and… you know what I mean. I’ve seen her be incredibly kind.”
Octavia nodded. “Yes.”
“But sometimes she’s just so selfish, and I think that she really doesn’t see me as anything but some other stupid chess piece that she can use to maneuver in the Night Court. And I know it’s wrong of me.” She took a rather forceful sip from the daffodil wine that Octavia had poured for her. “I’m the Element of Loyalty; I’m supposed to be loyal to my friends. I should be more forgiving of Trixie; I mean, I probably wouldn’t be much better if I’d been raised in the Night Court. But I can’t, and—“
“Lyra. It is not your fault. From what you have told me, Lulamoon has behaved abominably. You have every right to be angry.”
Lyra didn’t say anything.
“Perhaps the Song Cycle Extravaganza is coming at a good time, then. You will be able to leave town for a few months and get away from Lulamoon. And when you return, perhaps your absence will have helped her to realize that you do indeed matter to her and should be treated more appropriately.”
“That’d be nice,” muttered Lyra.
Raindrops glowered at Trixie. “So, you hurt Lyra, and now you want me to fix it.”
“No! I want you to help me help her!”
“If she doesn’t think she needs help, I don’t either.”
“Look, I know these ponies. I know how dangerous--“
“So tell her.”
“She won’t listen!” Trixie realized that she was starting to lose her temper, but couldn’t help it. “I’m trying, okay?”
“I know Lyra. She wouldn’t ignore you if she didn’t have a good reason. What’s the reason?”
“That doesn't matter. I--“
“The reason, Trixie.”
Trixie blanched. “Look, I’m not saying I’m perfect—“
“If you aren’t going to give me a straight answer, I’m not going to help you,” said Raindrops. She turned around. “I’m behind on my paperwork, Trixie.”
“I’m trying to help her!”
“So you say.”
Trixie wanted to scream at Raindrops, but she forced herself not to. She had no desire to get another buck to the jaw. Instead, she silently turned around and began to run off.
Cherilee hadn’t been home when she checked, and Trixie really didn’t want to have to admit to Ditzy that she might have screwed up that badly with Lyra. There had to be something else to try.
“…why don’t I play a new composition for you?”
Lyra’s eyes widened. “Oh, you don’t have to do that. I mean, we were just playing for three hours, and—“
“I practice for nine hours every day. Another thirty minutes won’t hurt me.” Octavia lifted up her cello. “As long as you promise not to fall asleep, I won’t mind if you lie down. I understand that you have had a… difficult evening.”
Lyra did so, snuggling under a blanket on the couch.
“Sonata for Solo Cello No. 34, in D-Flat Major,” said Octavia, raising her bow. “Dedicated to Lyra Heartstrings, my best student.”
“Lyra,” said Octavia, as if she was introducing the piece at a professional concert, “Has worked tirelessly to put into practice the principles which I taught her. She has demonstrated ceaseless devotion and dedication to her craft, and this is clear in every performance of hers that I have heard. No matter the challenge, Lyra…”
Lyra found herself grinning.
“…Lyra rises to the occasion and produces some of the most brilliant music of our time. She is everything one could hope for in an apprentice.”
Octavia bowed her head, then brought up her bow and began to play.
“Okay,” muttered Trixie, “What if I trap them in town until the stupid thing starts?”
She had galloped into the downtown area. Though she was starting to tire, she wasn’t going to stop. She was going to save Lyra, even if everypony in town was against her. She would save Lyra and they’d all have to admit that she was right.
“I can probably get the train station to close for a few hours on some pretext, but then Luna will probably get mad at me,” muttered Trixie. “And that won’t be long enough anyway. Maybe an illusion of a broken track? No, they’ll try fixing it right away and they’ll figure out it’s fake.”
She glanced at the little jail. “Maybe I could have Octavia arrested… or detained, or something.” But would that be enough to stop Lyra? Lyra might go to Canterlot without Octavia. Of course, Trixie could just have Lyra arrested… well, she could probably figure out a way to do that… but she had a feeling that Lyra might not ever forgive her for something like that, no matter how much better it was than the alternative.
Wait! Lyra was the Element of Loyalty. All Trixie had to do was come up with something Lyra would feel obligated to stay in town and do instead of going to the stupid concert. Some dumb task, it didn’t have to be hard or onerous, just something that would occur during the three months of the concert. Something like…
Her gaze fell on Town Hall, and on the little bulletin board of ‘upcoming events.’ Smiling, Trixie trotted over to the board. Surely there was something on there that Lyra could help with.
Octavia’s sonata was one of the most relaxing pieces that Lyra had ever heard.
The melody seemed almost like a fine mist, a gently floating stream of notes that enveloped her and drained her tensions. The harmonies were beautiful yet subtle, calling to her attention and diverting her focus from her cares without being overt or obnoxious. The more she listened, the more distant she felt, until it was like her mind was resting on a bed of music and her tired body was far below her.
She didn’t know when the piece was over, but she knew that she regretted that it wasn’t longer. She felt like she could listen to it forever. “That was so beautiful…” she murmured.
“You’re awesome, Octavia.”
Octavia stepped over to her. “Lyra.”
“I think that you want to play in the Extravaganza.”
At the moment, Lyra felt like she’d agree to anything Octavia said, just on general principles. What other friend could make her feel so good and relaxed after having such a bad fight? Besides, she really did want to play there. “Of course I would.”
“And it would mean a lot to me. I would find it deeply satisfying to see you, my greatest student, having the debut you deserve.”
“So – will you play?”
Hadn’t she already said she would? Lyra frowned. Well, if not, she'd say it now. “Definitely. You can count on me.”
Octavia’s voice sounded very pleased. “Thank you, Lyra.”
Trixie gripped the piece of parchment in her mouth and raced towards Octavia’s lodgings.
Finding the perfect task had been easy. The Ponyville census was coming up, and there were always a substantial number of ponies who didn’t bother to fill out the forms. Thus, the bulletin board proclaimed, the village would need census takers. Volunteers could sign up by talking to Mayor Scrolls’ secretary, and if there weren’t enough volunteers, some might be chosen by random draw. To Trixie’s delight, the sign-up sheet wasn’t even close to full. Random draw it would be, then.
It had been harder to track down Mayor Scrolls, get her to answer her door, and persuade her that they needed to choose one by random draw right away. “Look, the Night Court’s got an agent in town, and if they find out we’re behind they’ll take the advantage to cut our funding,” she’d lied. “We only have nine volunteers, and ten’s the magic number. If we don’t have ten, they’ll think we’re slacking and hammer us.” But to her relief, Scrolls had at last said that they could choose a ‘volunteer’ right then.
Any competent magician knew how to make a pony think they were choosing a name at random while actually directing them towards some predetermined outcome. Trixie had written the names of thirty ‘randomly’ selected citizens on cards and put them face down on the desk, Scrolls had ‘chosen’ groups among them, Trixie had discarded or kept the groups as needed, and when they were done, Lyra’s was the only name left. Thus she became Ponyville’s tenth census taker, a job which was not overly difficult, but would require just enough of a time commitment that it would make it impossible for Lyra to get to Canterlot.
Scrolls filled out the requisite paperwork, shoved it at Trixie, and informed her that under no circumstances was she to bother Scrolls outside of working hours again. Trixie had agreed and left.
She’d gone to Lyra’s house, but Bonbon had told her that Lyra hadn’t come up yet. Scratch said that she wasn’t at the studio. That just left Octavia’s place. All she had to do was go there and deliver the news.
Trixie smiled. Lyra was stuck in town now. Greengrass wouldn’t be able to touch her, and Lyra would be safe from his machinations. She was such a great friend!
“Could you please excuse me for a few moments?”
Lyra looked over at Octavia. The gray mare had helped Lyra get another glass of wine and had played a little more music for her. Lyra had asked for the windows to be opened up, which Octavia had, and was enjoying the evening breezes playing across her face. Octavia, she noted, looked a bit odd, like she was focusing on something only she could hear.
Well, actually, that wouldn’t surprise Lyra.
“Sure,” said Lyra.
“Thank you.” Octavia rose. “I will return as soon as I can.”
She left the room.
Trixie slipped inside the building. She didn’t know which room, precisely, Octavia was in, but she couldn’t be too hard to find. Hay, she could probably follow the cello music, and –
Was that voice coming from the floor above her?
Trixie looked up in confusion, then started to hurry towards the stairwell. But before she got there, the door opened, and Octavia stepped out.
Trixie froze, and the two stared at each other for a moment.
Then Trixie tucked the paper into her saddlebag so she could talk. “How did you know it was me?”
“I heard you walk in.”
“You heard hoofsteps downstairs from your room?”
“I have good ears.”
“And you recognized me from my hoofsteps?”
“You have the most arrogant gait I’ve ever heard. It is quite memorable.” Octavia shrugged. “This is my private room, and you are not welcome. Lyra has made it very clear that she does not wish to see you, and I will respect her wishes. If you try to force your way inside so that you can bother her, I will stop you.” Her eyes narrowed. "I will not let you agitate her further."
Trixie scowled. Okay. This would be harder than she thought. Well, no matter. She would just have to get around the cellist. Octavia was a musician; it wasn’t like she had any combat training.
Her horn glowed, and she cast an invisibility illusion over herself. She smiled as Octavia’s eyes widened; no doubt the cellist would start freaking out over not being able to see her foe. She slipped to Octavia’s left, then began running around her –
Octavia bucked her in the side.
It didn't look like Octavia was trying to land an especially hard blow; certainly the musician didn't seem to even notice the exertion, but it was still enough to send Trixie flying into the wall. Her head rang, and her invisibility spell fizzled out. “How?” she demanded. "How did you know where I was?"
“I can hear you,” was the response.
Trixie got back to her feet and glowered at the cellist, who seemed completely unperturbed. “Just a lucky shot," said the blue mare.
Octavia said nothing.
Trixie turned invisible again, this time focusing harder and making herself inaudible too. This drained a lot of her energy, but when she was done, no sound would be able to move past her or through her. Now that blasted musician wouldn’t be able to see or hear her. Trixie could get around Octavia, talk to Lyra, and get this whole stupid thing done with.
Octavia began to hum.
Trixie stared. What in Equestria was she doing?
It didn’t matter. She still had to talk to Lyra. She began to edge around Octavia again, going for the door.
And Octavia bucked her again.
When Trixie managed to get up and the world stopped spinning, she saw that Octavia had opened her saddlebag, which had been sent flying by the kick, and was looking at the census taker form. “Oh. I see.”
“…how?” It wasn’t a demand this time. It was a plea.
Octavia smiled thinly. “If I can hear an echo from every part of the room… except one spot… then something or somepony is in that spot and blocking sound.”
Trixie stared. She felt too dizzy to stand up again.
"Since when does the Town Representative act as a courier for the mayor?" mused Octavia. "And it is quite the coincidence that Lyra was selected for this duty now, of all times. I find it more likely that you forged the document as part of your jealous scheme to keep her here."
She put the form on the ground and began to carefully rip it up with her hooves. "I see no reason to subject her to your lies, Lulamoon."
"Not lies," hissed Trixie. "I know that you and Greengrass are up to something."
"I won't dignify that with a proper response."
Trixie wanted to get up and try again, but even disregarding her dizziness, she had no idea what to do. How did you get around an opponent that could find you even when you were invisible and inaudible?
Octavia finished shredding the form. “Good night, Lulamoon. Please do not bother me again.” And she returned upstairs.
Trixie could only stare, wait a few minutes to recover, and then slink out in disgrace.
It was over, Trixie thought. She’d lost.
She didn’t have any proof anymore that Lyra was needed in town, so Lyra wouldn’t believe her. Hay, at this rate, she probably wouldn’t care even if Trixie still had her proof. Octavia wouldn’t have dared attack her unless she’d been confident that Lyra would take her side. And, Trixie thought, Octavia had technically just been defending her room from an intruder. Trixie couldn’t even go to the police about this.
So now what?
I go back home and write Luna and tell her I’ve failed, she thought bitterly. Failed again. And Lyra goes to Canterlot…
She could visualize Greengrass meeting Lyra. Somewhat short and very slightly fat, with a red mane and a large red ‘X’ for a cutie mark, the Duke was a memorable figure. Greengrass would welcome her gregariously and wine and dine her. He’d befriend her, cajole her, and bamboozle her until she agreed to whatever he wanted. And then he would wait, and a month or a year later he’d use her. If his plan worked, Duke Greengrass would get another promotion, or a raise, or more land, or whatever he wanted, and Lyra… well, Greengrass had been known to say that he didn’t pay much attention to the fate of obsolete tools.
She could picture the last few nobles that had ‘worked with’ Greengrass. She could picture them easily, because they tended to make the papers when they went to prison, into exile, or to obscure positions and posts at the end of the world. Greengrass was bold and audacious, so everypony seemed to underestimate him... and yet, strangely, it was never he that took the fall for his actions. Trixie could easily see Lyra being jailed for treason, or barred from ever stepping foot in Equestria again.
But there’s nothing I can do. I’ve tried everything I know. I’m still too weak…
“Sorry, Lyra,” she muttered. “I really tried. I’m sorry…”
Right, apologizing. She remembered, again, that Raindrops and Carrot Top had told her to apologize. Trixie didn’t want to, though, and felt it wouldn’t do much good. She’d been in the right, after all, and…
No. Forget that thought. Lyra’s life was at stake here; Trixie was not going to let her get hurt because of pride. Who cared who was in the right? Trixie would swallow her pride and ask for Lyra’s forgiveness… and for her to listen to Trixie. It was the only option left.
She began walking to Lyra's house. The musician had go home at some point; Trixie would wait for her there. She’d wait, and then beg Lyra’s indulgence.
And if she failed, that would probably be it for Lyra Heartstrings.