The air was heavy. To Sonata, the silence between them proved unbearable. It was no consolation that the Lady's ruby eyes burned into her so acutely that finding fascination in the wood grain of the floor seemed fitting. Now and then, when she would muster the courage to speak, Sonata would discover that a glance at the mare's beautiful face made her throat clench, her voice dissipate. It seemed impossible that she might converse with such a pony as one would a friend. Perhaps things would be easier if she tried doing what she usually did around nobility—groveling.
"Please do me the honor of having a bit of tea with me, My L—Pardon me—Ad-a-gi-o?" It still felt utterly wrong to be calling her that. "Surely, you must be quite on edge."
There was a beat of silence.
"And what has led you to believe that I am 'on edge' as you say?" the Lady retorted in that calm, curling manner of hers.
"Oh, I'm sure I wouldn't know," Sonata giggled nervously. "I suppose I only assumed that with everything—"
"Perhaps you shouldn't," the silken voice came again with an air of finality.
Nodding to herself as if to agree that she was being a fool, Sonata then rose to her hooves, and passed the Duchess the most forced of grins. "Quite right, as usual! Quite right! I suppose I shall just go make a pot for myself, then. After all, my fortitude is surely nothing when compared to yours, yes? Yes!"
Something glimmered in the Lady’s eyes as she scanned Sonata over. “And who is it that told you I wouldn’t like tea? I would love some." A tiny smirk creased her lips.
By this point, Sonata felt perfectly puzzled. “O-of course you’d love some tea. What in the dirt was I thinking? How could I possibly sit here enjoying my own whilst you watch? I’ll fetch us both some, then!”
Seeing that she was sounding increasingly deranged, she turned to trot into the kitchen. Realizing she had not bowed before she made to leave, the blue mare turned about, and bent over so quickly that her face slammed into the floor. It was then that she remembered the Lady's request that she stop bowing in the first place. Some good advice, it seemed. "Oww," she squeaked, a shiver of pain running through her entire body. Too mortified with herself to attempt looking again toward the Duchess, she rose up, turned once more, and shuffled away. Once in the kitchen, she plopped down onto the floor to lament her own clumsiness.
“Spirits. What is wrong with you, you foolish mare?” she scolded herself, burying her face into the nook of her forelegs. When she had made herself feel sufficiently horrible, she stood, and headed toward the hearth to heat some water. The warm, crackling fire proved enticing. She sat down before it. Closing her eyes, she focused on clearing her mind of all the trouble she had unexpectedly become part of.
The Duchess? Had Prance gone completely mad? Didn't he realize the danger he was putting her in by bringing Lady Goldenstalks here of all places? How could he find it in himself to do this after everything he told her in the fields?
She shook her head. In her heart of hearts, Sonata knew that he wouldn't have done it if it wasn't important, or if he wasn't sure if she, his closest friend, would be safe. Perhaps this had something to do with the war or maybe even...
Sonata gasped. If the latter were true, then she felt even more keen on aiding them. Far be it from her to allow a child to grow up unhappy or endangered just as she had before the farm. In fact, Sonata felt so convicted about this that she found it simple to convince herself it, indeed, was the reason the two ponies had decided to run.
One could do only so much stalling to avoid others before said "others" began to feel shunned. Sonata dared not dwell on how Lady Adagio might react if she were to feel even the least bit slighted. Thus, with great hesitation, the earth mare made her way back out into the sitting room, teapot dangling from her mouth, cups and saucers carefully balanced atop her back.
She trotted in to find the Lady casually moving about the main room, exploring the trappings of Sonata's home. The noble mare had shed her cloak, revealing a fine, deep violet robe. Its sparse train flowed like water over the floor rug. By and by, she happened upon Sonata's collection of dolls where they were arranged atop the fireplace. The unicorn smiled, appearing intrigued.
Sonata's eyes went wide as she watched the Duchess reach out toward the little linen creatures. Placing the pot and cups down upon the tabletop, she rushed to block her advancing foreleg. The Lady snatched her appendage away, quite startled. "Oh, please don't, Adagio, My Lady. Those are quite filthy. Only a tangle of old rags," Sonata urged.
The Lady eyed her over, and at first it seemed as if she might yell. A smirk cracked her lips instead. "A tad overprotective of a 'tangle of old rags,' are you not?" she countered, her smile growing even wider.
The earth mare's eyes shifted repeatedly from left to right. Her cheeks went purple.
Naturally, a full minute of watching this reaction only worked to irritate the Lady. She cocked a fine brow, and frowned so precisely that it seemed as if she had practiced doing it her entire life. "You are just going to stand there gawking at me, aren't you?" she sighed.
Sonata could manage only a withering grin.
The Duchess rolled her eyes, and turned away. Her curly tail smacked against Sonata's nose. The blue mare couldn't help but marvel at how it felt like silk, and smelled of roses.
"I was going to tell you that your dolls were charming, not that it would very much matter to you," the Duchess muttered, taking her seat upon the cushion at the tea table.
Sonata could only stare. She was positive that Lady Goldenstalks had long tired of this, but it was something that just could not be helped. She had never seen a pony shine and flow as the Duchess seemed to. Every little move she made came slowly, calmly, as if her actions were part of some large, inconceivable plan of her own making. Sonata couldn't help but wonder why a pony so guarded, cunning, and full of regal promise should have wanted to act upon desires so forbidden that she now found it necessary to hide from retribution in a peasant farmer's dusty little cottage on the edge of the woods. This type of thing didn't seem to suit her at all.
Lady Adagio had been Prance's lover all along.
Sonata felt sick even thinking the words. Still, they would not stop echoing across her mind. Surely, considering the gravity of these circumstances, she had managed to evade the wrath of Silent Wing and Echo Hum by chance alone. It didn't take a sage to realize that the two had used her due payment as cover for the new "errand" they were completing on behalf of Duke Goldenstalks.
The Duke... He knows.
Her mouth went dry as she imagined what might happen if they were caught. The Duke and Duchess were royal peers, potential successors to the unicorn throne. By taking the Lady as a lover, Prance had not only committed a sin. No, this was beyond sin. This was treason.
Sonata couldn't fathom what the Duke would do to Prance if he got the chance. As for herself—a simple vassal's adopted street urchin of a daughter who, by the way, was not exactly on the Duke's amicable side—it would surely be the gallows. Worse yet, it would be some magical punishment conjured up by the most sadistic of unicorn wizards. Perhaps shrunken in size and crushed like an ant? An eternity trapped in stone?
Sonata was lost so deeply in her thoughts that she never noticed her front hoof wandering upward to hover before her neck. Her back slid against the wall, down toward the floor.
Gone undetected was the now agitated look upon Lady Adagio's face. At once, the Duchess loudly cleared her throat, snapping Sonata from her trance. The earth mare fell hard onto her backside. Her gaze darted about. "Wh-Huh? Yes, My Adagio Lady!" she blurted, earning only another contemptuous glare from the unicorn in return.
"Pardon me," the Lady began. "Whilst I have no doubt that your ruminations are all quite intriguing, I simply can't help but wonder whether you had expected me to pour my own tea." A hoof moved to rest beneath her comely chin. "Is it different for you all? I presumed pouring drink for a guest was common practice."
"Oh!" Sonata yelped. Bounding to her hooves, she rushed over toward the little table to snatch up the teapot. Carefully, she poured Lady Adagio a cup whilst the yellow mare's eyes wandered off over her head to save Sonata the embarrassment of her gaze. The earth mare then filled her own cup, and when she had finished, took a seat opposite the Lady.
"There you are, Your Graaaa—Adagio," she declared. "I hope you are fond of lemon balm."
Indeed, she did. These leaves had proven quite costly when she had procured them from Dandy on the week before. She had even given the stallion a kiss upon his cheek, hoping for a discount. Thankfully, it had worked. Nevertheless, it would be a shame if so much was spent just for the odd chance that Lady Adagio might sputter the liquid out all over her floor. "And I must apologize again for the state of my home. As I told Prance, those two... whatever they are tore it all up just before you arrived."
The Duchess caught her spoon up in a glow of magic. She stirred the cup whilst scrutinizing its contents. Her mouth was formed into a slight grimace. "Pegasi mercenaries," she muttered, "a dreadful bunch, indeed. Particularly those who are deemed worthy enough for employment by Lock & Stock."
Sonata blinked. "But I thought they only delivered important messages and packages, and guarded very important ponies."
At this, the Duchess scoffed. She raised her cup in magic, and allowed it to hover before her lips. "Is that what they're calling it nowadays?" Barely managing to take a tiny, unfulfilling sip before catching the befuddled look Sonata was wearing, the Duchess then sighed and rolled her eyes. "Listen to me. Those pegasi are some of the best private warriors for hire in the kingdom. The only warriors more skilled are those who are royally ordained, and very few of the king's warriors are pegasi. Their kind aren't fond of following unicorn orders unless they are paid very well for doing so. Anypony who hires pegasi like that from a place like Lock & Stock is one who wishes to assuredly keep another well watched and pinned beneath their hoof." The next sip she took from her cup was now long and satisfying. She didn't notice Sonata's brow creasing.
"Pinned beneath..." Sonata mumbled to herself. "But why would mother and father..." These thoughts, far too disconcerting for her to want to dwell upon, melted away when she spied a bright smile edging its way across the Duchess' lips. Soon her question was wholly forgotten, and as the noble mare lowered her cup, Sonata sighed in relief.
"Quite lovely, Sonata. Well done," Lady Adagio tittered.
Sonata felt her cheeks go red at the sound of her name being called without title. It sounded far more personal that way. "Th-thank you, My Lady, Adagio." Grinning from ear to ear, she leaned down to take a sip from her own cup. She had been right about the tea. After a few cups she found that it did work to calm her nerves. This, however, had another adverse effect in that it also made her profoundly aware of the silence in which the two of them were now sitting. Eyes darting back and forth between the Lady's face and her fifth, half emptied cup, Sonata decided she should commit herself to being a better hostess. Surely, she could think of something to say that wasn't so trivial that noble wouldn't care for it. Surely, her nerves wouldn't get the better of her so much as to make her speak something completely ridiculous.
"You probably shouldn't drink too much, if you don't mind my saying, My Lady," Sonata stated without prompt. "Lemon balm may not sit well with those who are expecting."
There went the Lady's tea, spat up all over the floor just as Sonata had feared.
"Pardon me?" the noble mare exclaimed, wiping stray droplets from her lip. "Just what the jewel are you implying?"
By this time, Sonata's face had drawn into the most painfully forced and terrified of tea time smiles. She wasn't sure of exactly what it was she had done wrong, but figured it would be best to find out.
"So sorry, Myladagio," she peeped, immediately getting to her hooves. "I can make you a different tea! Which would you like? If I'm recalling it correctly, I believe dandelion tea is very good for fluid retention in—"
"I'm not pregnant, you little imp!"
Sonata's eyes grew wide. Her lips drew in tight. Slowly, she retook her seat.
"Oh," she squeaked. Instinctively reaching out toward a nearby empty saucer, she then pushed the plate toward the Duchess. "Biscuit?"
The thing nearly tumbled off of the table amidst her delirium. Lady Adagio's face drew up into a confused and slightly frightened sneer as she stared from the empty dish to Sonata's hysterical expression.
"Dear Bullion, Lighthoof has left me in the care of a madmare," she muttered below her breath.
Drawing the deepest of breaths, Sonata's mouth didn't quite open again as much as it unhinged itself, and fell ajar.
"I... I just assumed that you and Prance were running because... well... you know."
This statement seemed to make the Duchess ease back into her seat. Her brow crinkled as she stared at Sonata, not in anger, but in contemplation. Lips trembling, it seemed as if it was taking all of her strength to work up the mettle to speak. After a moment, she sighed, and shook her head.
"I... I don't think I am able, actually," she divulged, now looking rather melancholy. Sonata blinked.
"To run? Oh, but Your Grace, you must! If the Duke were to catch you now, then—"
"To bear foals. I... I don't suspect that I can have them."
Their eyes locked.
"B... but that cannot be," Sonata snorted as if the idea itself were ludicrous. This garnered yet another perturbed look from the noble mare.
"And why not?" the Lady probed.
"Well, because, Your Grace, you are... well, you are perfect. You're everything a noble lady should be. Everypony knows that." Sonata knew she was sounding horrible by the scathing air now gathering about Lady Adagio's face; yet, she just couldn't stop her mouth. "Surely there must be some mistake."
When she heard the Lady sigh, and watched as she moved away from the table to stand near the fireplace, Sonata gazed down into her empty cup, feeling very much ashamed of herself. She decided that perhaps it would be best to leave the lovely unicorn to her own devices. Still, some large part of her could not resist the urge to at least attempt an apology first.
"I'm sorry, My Lady. It was a foolish thing to—"
"Have you ever felt torn between wanting something, and wanting its complete antithesis?" the Lady inquired gently, her eyes never straying from the flickering fire. Sonata, at first stunned by these words, and then subsequently confused, forced herself to ponder on the question for a moment.
"I'm afraid I don't quite understand what it is you mean, Your Gr—"
"Adagio," the Duchess corrected her, sternly this time.
"A-Adagio," Sonata stammered with a quick nod.
There was a beat of silence during which Sonata could have sworn that she witnessed the Duchess silently fall apart only to quickly put herself back together again. The unicorn let off a ragged breath.
"Part of me wanted so badly for things not to have concluded with him in this manner."
Sonata's brow furrowed.
"But Prance is most certainly—"
"With the Duke, I mean," the Lady clarified, her eyes momentarily going soft. "Once upon a time, I wanted to make him happy. I would do anything for him if only he should ask it of me. If there were even the smallest chance that it would make me grand in his eyes, I swear to you, I would do it. And all for the hope that he might show me a little more affection, a little less frigidity, be a little more free."
Her voice trailed off, and her eyes closed. She shook her head, perhaps to ring it free of delusions that she now knew were untenable.
"All he cares for is adhering to his duties. 'An heir, an heir. By Bullion, when shall you give me an heir, Miss?'" Adagio scoffed, purposely mocking the Duke's deep and regal vocal. "Could you fathom that at first I thought that sort of life was tolerable? When we were first married, all I desired was the comfort and power that his title could provide for me. But in the end..."
The Duchess shook her head.
"Duties, indeed. I imagine it would have made him quite happy if I could do as he did, and live up to mine. Alas, I came to see that the one thing he and his realm demanded of me most, the one thing that would make him feel complete... is the one thing that I could never give him."
The unicorn straightened out her shoulders, and stood tall. Raising her chin, she huffed with an air of authority.
"Thus, I went looking for what I suspected I was missing somewhere else... and found it in Lighthoof. More so than I could have ever hoped for. I love him; I do. And yet, some part of me still wishes so very badly for things to have been different. Some part of me still wants to believe that there was something... somepony for me at Goldenstalks manor."
Her head finally turned about so that she might look at Sonata. Her eyes seemed to plead for her understanding.
"I don't know why it is that I'm telling you all of this. It is all rather perplexing, yes?"
The entire time she had been listening to the Duchess, Sonata couldn't help but feel that floating below her somber tale was a notion that she did in fact understand quite well.
"It isn't confusing at all," she began. "I feel that way all of the time. I've spent years tending to my parents' farm whilst they were away, sending them funding for their upkeep, which was very difficult to obtain, mind you. Life would undoubtedly be far easier if they were home, and I do miss them both very much, indeed."
Sonata's hoof wandered upward to tap against her lip.
"And yet, sometimes when I wake up in the morning, I become aware of what it sounds like for nopony to be yelling, nopony is scolding me. I actually get to eat the pies and cakes that I bake."
The earth mare seemed blithely unaware of the expression of cheer that had slowly begun working its way across her own face. However, what she also did not seem to notice was the troubled look now spreading across the Duchess'.
"I can hear the earth clearly, and even though things are difficult, things are still good. That's when I begin to wish that they would stay away just a day longer. Always just one more day."
Sonata looked down at the floor. Guilt had descended upon her like a brick.
"Part of me wonders whether I keep sending them the money because I know that they require it, or because I know that they shall have the means to stay away longer if I do." Her eyes trailed upward to meet the Lady's. They glistened in the firelight. "But I do miss them. I really do."
There was another silence, quite heavy and drawn out. The two mares seemed to study each other deeply. For a moment, there was a flash of something between them, very faint, but profound enough to make them both jump back into awareness.
The Duchess shot a sly grin in Sonata's direction.
"You make good company, Sonata. Now I understand what Lighthoof sees in you."
The earth mare beamed.
"Well, I suppose that is good! Better late than never, yes?"
The Lady smirked, and turned again to face the fire.
"Indeed. And to think, I always just assumed you were some sort of blithering idiot."
"What?" Sonata squawked.
"Yes, the type of adorable, brainless mare who accidentally wins the heart of everypony she comes into contact with," the Duchess continued.
Sonata tapped her hooves together. Failing to stave off a guilty smile, she tried to recall, to no avail, whether or not she had received any marriage proposals that day.
"I'm not brainless," she whined.
Adagio seemed to catch her quip.
"I despised you at first," the Lady hissed.
These words, so filled with venom, made Sonata shrink back into her seat.
"I hated you for not only being beautiful, and for having a beautiful voice. I hated you for the freedom that you possessed, the freedom that, until now, I had always been afraid to claim for myself. I remembered you once from childhood when I saw you singing atop those boxes in the Greenwaters market. You seemed so happy. Your joy was contagious, and your liberty..."
The Duchess shook her head once again.
"The way you were allowed such intimate contact with the Duke and his family seemed so unfair. Why should one have the privilege of noble company without the due sacrifice of their own freedoms and desires? Yet, still, for years, every time I would pay a visit, there you'd be alongside Lighthoof. Utterly confounding. When we finally came of age, I was always quite certain that you had been the reason the Duke could not love me enough."
It took a moment for Sonata to catch onto what the Duchess was implying, but when she did, she scoffed as if it were the funniest joke in the world.
"Wait a moment. You thought the Duke... and I?"
She guffawed, and after a long time, her laugh began to take on a mocking quality, one that proved to agitate the Lady.
"And why not?" the yellow mare snapped, finally spinning about, her eyes ablaze. "A pretty country mare, full of life, and perhaps a bit of ambition, with a voice that brings joy to everypony who should hear it. Always catching you alone with him at odd hours of the day and night. What is so shocking about concluding what I had? And surely some pretty, little, provincial pony such as yourself has had endless practice with—"
"Your Grace!" Sonata shrieked, hooves pressed firmly against her cheeks. "I would never!"
"Oh, don't pretend to be so innocent either, you little... bird," Lady Adagio hissed, plopping down to sit, and placing her hooves upon her sides. "It would have been so easy. Admit it! You should admit to me that I had a right to worry! Do it!"
"No!" Sonata sassed, completely forgetting her decorum in the noble's presence. Her tongue jutted out viciously, too fast to give her time to recall just whom it was she was sticking her tongue out toward.
"Oh, thear," she sputtered whilst watching the Duchess' expression grow incensed.
"Did you just tell me 'no,' little imp?" the Lady trilled, getting up to her hooves again.
Sonata drew back, quite sure that a few of her dolls would soon come sailing across the room toward her head.
"Well, what else should one think when they walk into their husband's study first thing in the morning to find some mare straightening out her hems in his presence, hm?"
Sonata thought to herself again. That scene from months ago replayed itself in her head, once how it really happened, and the next how Lady Adagio might have witnessed it. Her eyes went wide.
"Ohhh... Oh... Oh, dear."
"Quite right," the Lady clucked with a vindictive nod of the head. "Always smiling and bouncing about the manor, canarying your disgustingly happy, little field pony canticles in his face."
"But My Lady, I've never sung for the Duke in private," Sonata rebutted. "Only the former Lord and Lady. Maybe a guest or two, and much of it happened in your presence."
Lady Adagio seemed to study her, still looking quite skeptical.
"Yes, well, I suppose. Upright never was one for songs, was he?"
Sonata smiled, and shook her head. In all actuality, she was trying her best not to giggle at the mention of the Duke's name.
It seemed that the Lady, again, was able to read her mind. At once, Sonata feared that the unicorn might lash out in anger.
"Well, not everypony in the world can possess such glorious names as we, can they?" the Duchess laughed. Gradually, the amused look upon her face became quite pensive. "Hmm. Sonata. How did you say you came by that name? Did your parents gift it to you for your love of song?"
Sonata shrugged, and shook her head.
"No, Miss. No one gave it to me. I've always just sort of known that Sonata Dusk was my name. Ever since the beach—"
Lady Adagio's eyes went wide. She spun about to stare at Sonata.
"W-what did you say?" she breathed.
"Nopony gave me my name," the earth mare repeated, sounding quite proud of herself. "I've always been Sonata Dusk. Ever since I woke up on the beach in—"
"A beach, you say?" the Duchess blurted again.
Sonata apprehensively shook her head, now certain that the Lady looked as if she might faint. The unicorn's hind legs gave way, and she came plopping back down onto the floor.
"This memory of the beach... That wouldn't happen to be your earliest recollection, would it?"
Now, Sonata's expression grew wary. She wondered what significance this fact could possibly hold.
"Why, yes. Yes, it is. But why do you ask, My—Adagio?"
The golden mare said nothing at first, seeming far too stunned to reply. Eventually, after gazing about the room in a daze, her eyes again landed upon Sonata.
"This is my earliest recollection as well. Waking up on a beach on the shores by the Glow Estate."
"You mean, you aren't a Glow?" Sonata gasped. "I always wondered why it was that you looked so different from the rest of them! I just supposed it was some sort of fluke!"
"No, no. My full name is Adagio Dazzle. That was the name I remembered as well."
As the Lady spoke, an eerie feeling began to encapsulate Sonata. It was similar to the flash that snapped between them earlier, except this time it was stronger, more lingering.
"That and something else," Lady Adagio continued. "Something I can barely remember now. It was like some sort of—"
"Melody," Sonata interjected. "A melody was in my ears as well. But the words... I can't seem to remember them anymore... My Lady... how..."
Her voice trailed off into nothingness. They both sat there, stark still. Tempered breathing was the only sound that broke the silence of the room.
"Sonata," the Duchess began, her voice barely above a whisper, "do... do things ever happen whilst you sing, sometimes subtle, sometimes not? Things that you didn't suppose should happen so perfectly timed... Strange things."
Slowly, Sonata's jaw dropped open as she tried to put words together, but before she could, a sudden rustling of leaves came from somewhere outside in the yard. The sound shook both mares from their shared entrancement. Purpose and drive instantly overtaking them, they quickly leapt to their hooves. Adagio trotted over to the window to pull the shades a little more whilst Sonata hurried to make sure that the main door was locked.
"We should put out the fire," Sonata quavered. But before she could rush over to the small pail of water sitting by the fireside, Lady Adagio had already gone to scoop it up in her magic.
"Go and inspect the lock on the other door," the unicorn commanded. "I shall tend to this."
Nodding her head, Sonata raced off toward the kitchen. When she arrived there, she immediately drew the curtains, and checked the back door's lock. It was still closed, thank goodness.
With a sigh of relief, she turned about to face the hearth. Noticing that the embers therein were still red, she moved to go pour some more water into the pot that hung above it, and then plopped it down onto the heat. Surely she could get at least one more teapot full of hot water out of this. After all that had just happened, she could certainly use another few cups of tea.
The stillness surrounded her as the firelight coming from the main room died down to nothing. Left in near darkness with just a few hearth embers and slivers of moonlight to brighten the space, Sonata found herself again wandering off into her own thoughts.
How curious it was that she and Lady Goldenstalks might not only share such similar origins but talents as well. Yet, still, the Duchess' previous question worked to unnerve her.
Strange happenings, indeed.
Why, Sonata's entire life had seemed made up of strange happenings and coincidences. But what did that have to do with her songs? Did the Lady know something she didn't? Perhaps this was why she had wanted her to remain a singer at Glow Hall where she could keep an eye on her like she had said before.
Something began to make her feel anxious. Sonata couldn't quite put her hoof on what it was. Granted, there was much to be anxious about this evening, but besides Echo and Silent's late night rampage, and the Duchess poking about her messy home, there was something far larger and yet far more subtle lurking beneath the surface. It felt old and familiar. It nagged her, calling to her in words she couldn't understand.
She closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. Immediately, a flash of undulating blue appeared in her mind's eye, bobbing up and down as if to create a foundation for a melody. The picture became clearer, and as it did, a smile creased her lips. Those bobbing waters, soon enough, took on a familiar rhythm. She recognized this one. It was her prayer to the youngest alicorn sister, the song she had sung months ago before her first time taking the stage at Glow Hall. Interestingly enough, after that evening she had not felt the need to sing the tune again. Why was it popping up now?
"Nerves," Sonata mumbled without even hearing herself. She felt the wellspring in her mind beginning to open up, and soon, a wonderfully calming feeling overtook her. In the stillness, it took shape, loomed over her, and enveloped her in an embrace. For some reason, her fur felt cold and wet, but as that old, hovering thing wrapped itself tighter, the sensation turned into a comforting one as familiar to her as she assumed a mother's touch should be.
Be still, be still, ye unsettled mind,
When dark becomes the day.
Those yonder wide and worrisome hills,
Shall recede, shall make way.
The words were the same as when she had first sung them, and yet came more beautifully than they ever had before. They carried with them more meaning now, and as she sang, for the first time she couldn't help but feel as if she had not thought of such wonderful words herself. Every part of her now felt that something—grand, and old, and ever present—had whispered them in her ear.
The moon, she follows e'er over your shoulder,
Watching, lighting each small step.
That tiny, internal voice continued on, growing ever louder until Sonata swore it began to take form. Steadily, the sound of that second voice drew her from her deep reverie, and when she glanced again upon her darkened cookery, there Lady Adagio stood, streaked in moonlight, singing along with her as if she'd known the song all her life.
Bless me then, all shadow and shade.
I'll make you my own home.
And blessed child born in sweetness of night,
See that I don't walk alone.
There was something about the Lady’s bell-like voice that drew Sonata in. Naturally, Lady Adagio being herself, this was to be expected, but yet again, it was a feeling stronger than anything else the earth mare had ever experienced before. It was almost as if the noble mare had used her voice to reach through the space between them, and draw Sonata’s own out. Barely another short moment had passed before she found her melody rising up to twist and intermingle with the Lady’s. They harmonized together beautifully, reinforcing the notion that this was the only way the song should have ever been sung.
For rocky, uncertain lies my road,
But my courage faileth not when you're near me.
Stay near me. Know my heart, child born of midnight,
Please bring peace to these shadows.
And just like that, the song was finished. The two mares’ voices trailed off slowly, almost defiantly as if something vital were being wrenched away from them. However, to their astonishment, when they went quiet, what should have been silence seemed anything but. The air was full, trembling, and pregnant. The weight of something new bore down heavily upon them both, and they could see it in each others' eyes.
Sonata was hit by a powerful sense of familiarity, one so strong that she could smell it. It made her nose sting, and her mind buzz. Images of something shiny like diamonds that glided as gracefully as a ribbon in the air flashed before her mind's eye. There was something forcing its way up her throat, something she couldn't hold back, and didn't have time to try making sense of. When the new words came, they came of their own volition, madly but altogether magnificent, and in perfect tandem with Lady Adagio's.
Timeless Lady born of moonlight and silver,
And midnight beams in cerulean.
Oh, Sister who once danced alongside me,
Through the deep and boundless,
There in the moonlight.
It was almost like retching except that it felt and sounded euphoric. A charged tremor lingered in the air between them as the melody finally faded away to nothing. Their smiles, both immensely confused but equally pleased, seemed to communicate to the other what they no longer had words for. That feeling of some odd connection between them stayed strong, and now it was yearning to be addressed. It was Lady Adagio whose brow crinkled first. Her lips parted slowly as she seemed quite unsure of what to say.
"Sonata... who...what is that song about?" she inquired. The expression on her face said clearly that she didn't completely understand what she was asking.
"I... I thought it was a prayer to the child miracle, little Luna," Sonata stammered, visions of blue, and wet, and dark still flashing across her mind. "But, now I'm not so certain."
There was a beat of silence.
"My Lady, may I ask you a question?"
Sonata could see the yellow mare visibly gulp before she slowly nodded her head.
"You knew that song before you ever heard me sing it, didn't you?"
It took a second, but Lady Adagio's head soon bobbed up and down once again. The two edged closer to one another, studying reflections of identical dreams in each others' eyes. She watched the Duchess' chest heave. The yellow mare looked confused as to why a single tear had chosen that moment to fall from her eye.
"Another question, My Lady," Sonata breathed, her own eyes beginning to water, though she did not know why. "Are you as parched as I am? Dirt, I could drink an entire bucket of tea, I could."
It was the Lady who then broke out into the most lighthearted of laughter. The tension seemed broken as she took a few steps toward the blue mare who was still looking very much dumbfounded. There was no warning before she gathered the younger pony up into a comforting hug. She smiled whilst sniffing away stale tears.
"Silly little imp," she chuckled to herself. "Whatever shall become of you?"
It took a moment for Sonata's mind to stop reeling, but when it did, she too began to giggle, lightly at first, and then louder, joyously.
These sounds of happiness were brought to an abrupt end as a sudden crash came from outside of the kitchen window. The spell was broken between them, and again the two mares were cast into stillness. A feeling of dread traveled up Sonata's spine when she realized that she recognized the grim and mocking laugh that had now begun to seep in from behind the curtain.
"Oh, Spirits, no," she breathed just as the shutters burst open, and a strong gust of wind ripped through the room. Two grand, stark white wings poured forth through the window's frame. When they had retracted, a pair of cold, silver jewels gleamed in their direction.
"Tweet tweet, little songbirds," Echo Hum snarled, resting her head upon her hooves on the window sill. "It would seem that I have found you."