There were no windows on the train car, only dim, foggy lightbulbs; about three of them all hanging overhead. It was barely enough light to illuminate the cramped wooden box, filled with starving, sweating, tired passengers. Chord sat– or rather, stood –in the corner of the car, leaning his head against the rough wood of the box. He turned, looking through a crack where two boards met, and he placed a hoof on the stringed instrument beside him so nopony would nab it, his guitar, the only thing he could take, aside from the meagre scarf around his neck and his scratched, rounded glasses.
Chord expected the train car would be in a state of chaos, ponies shoving each other, pretending like they had personal space. However, that was not the case. He found the atmosphere to be melancholic, lacking in life, depth, breath. Chord was bothered not by the total silence, but the blank expressions, emotionless and cold, as if they all were daydreaming, imagining themselves in a better place, dreaming of the home they left behind. He smirked, but only for a moment, realizing how hypocritical such a thought was. He was so busy being distraught by their empty mugs and wandering minds that he failed to realize that he had the exact same look on his face, that he was thinking the same thing as them. As Chord looked through the crack, he saw vibrancy and colour, the vigour that Equestria promised. Through the trees, he saw brief glimpses of houses, shacks, each as colourful as the next one. Ponyville.
The passengers groaned as the train came to a halt with a screech and a gust of steam. The door of the train car then opened, relieving the poor wooden container of its burden, a crateful of refugees. Chord took his guitar and attached it to his back, using his yellow and blue striped scarf as a makeshift strap. He wasn't the first to get out, but he wasn't the last, and he looked back at the rest of them, sighing to himself as he watched entire families step outside. There was nopony waiting for them, nopony smiling and laughing, nopony to hold them and welcome them to their new home. They were greeted by guards, with their threatening armor and their swords. There was one unarmored stallion with a clipboard, however, and was assigning ponies to their temporary houses, giving each one an identification card.
The train station– unlike the other buildings in Ponyville –had a fairly bland color scheme; a small wooden, faintly purple frame, and a straw-covered roof. There was a green, two-story house nearby, possibly the house of an employee from what Chord could tell. Chord was escorted by a guard into a lineup, a grouping of his fellow passengers. As Chord got closer and closer to the screening area, he felt a small hoof fiddle with the strings of his guitar, stunning him for a moment. He looked back with an accusatory expression, ready to scold whoever strummed his instrument. His expression faded, however, as he realized that it was simply a filly, held by her mother with one hoof; she couldn't have been any older than one or two.
"I'm sorry, I-..." Chord trailed off as he watched the mother bow her head and nod. She didn't have the energy to respond.
Chord turned his head and arrived at the screening area and unstrapped his guitar, handing it to one guard for inspection. As the guard shook it around, he cringed a bit, holding back the urge to protest as the guard fiddled with his prized possession. "Um, excuse me, but..." Chord paused as the guard looked up at him with a raised eyebrow. "Is that really necessary?"
"Standard procedure, kid." The guard responded with a blunt, nonchalant tone as he handed him back his guitar. "Here. Go over to the stallion with the clipboard. He'll get you your papers."
Chord trotted over to where the guard pointed his hoof, cautiously making his way over to the stallion. Only when Chord cleared his throat did the stallion with the clipboard finally notice him, and he brought out his pen in a panic, realizing that Chord had been waiting patiently. "Oh, my apologies! I was merely filling out somepony else's papers..." The stallion tapped his pencil on the clipboard and tore off a rectangular piece of paper. "Okay, let's see here. Name?"
"It's, um, Chord... Arpeggio Chord."
The stallion analyzed him, double-checking with Chord to make sure he was getting the finer details correct as he eyed his pegasus wings. "Okay, so... you're a pegasus. Height?"
"Seven hooves." Chord said, standing up straight.
"One-forty, last I checked..." Chord thought back, it had been a long time since he had weighed himself. He was most likely less than that.
"Alright. Eyes...?" The stallion looked deeply into Chord's hazel grey eyes, then wrote it down on his paper. "Grey. Fur...?" The stallion examined his coat of fur. "Powder blue. Mane...?" Once again, the stallion investigated him, eyeing his tail and mane. "Sea green with white highlights, long-length. Cutie mark... guitar pick. Age...?"
"Twenty-one." Chord replied.
"Family...?" The stallion was unsure of his question, and Chord simply shook his head slowly. "That's, um... that's an optional question anyways..." The stallion handed him his paper, and Chord stuck it into his scarf. The stallion then pointed over to a dirt road nearby. "Off you go. Take that path over there, that'll take you to Stirrup Street. Oh, and the address of your temporary home and the name of your roommates is on the back of that piece of paper. Make sure to ask if you're lost, these folks are more than happy to help."
"Alright, thanks..." Chord nodded as he continued to the dirt path, looking back at the mother and child behind him, weary-eyed and alone, like the rest of the passengers.
The red evening sun shone brightly on the horizon, casting dark shadows across the town; it had taken him a while to reach his destination since he didn't bother to ask for help. Eventually, he found it. Chord stopped at the doorstep and rung the bell, looking over at the odd shrubbery near the entranceway; a quarter-note shaped bush. It was certainly odd, and the fact that the house was split in two was a little odd as well. The outer walls were cobblestone, but one side was light purple, whilst the other side was brown, more traditional and less loud. It didn't take long before Chord heard frantic hoofsteps coming from the other side. It opened just a crack.
"Hello? Who is it?" A mare with a proper Canterlot accent asked from behind the door; a single, purple eye poking out of the crack.
"I'm, um... Arpeggio Chord..." Chord responded as he read the back of his slip of paper. "Are you-?"
"Octavia Melody?" The mare opened the door, letting him in. "Yes, I've been eagerly awaiting you, Mr. Chord. Although, I didn't expect you to arrive at this hour..." The mare named Octavia looked back at a clock. "Oh my, you must be exhausted! Please, come in, let me take-..." Octavia realized that Chord had no other luggage except his guitar and scarf, and that reminded her of where Chord came from. "I'm... sorry."
"It's fine." Chord assured her, knowing full-well that it was an honest mistake. He stepped inside, noticing in Octavia's expression that she was still hung-up on her slip-up. "Really, it's okay..."
"Would you... like some tea? I just finished preparing a pot of water." Octavia asked him as he sat down on her couch and nodded to her. "I suppose you want something to eat as well, since... again, I'm sorry."
Chord got a full view of the mare as she raced over to her kitchen to prepare him his tea. She was slender, elegant, certainly attractive in his eyes. Her large purple eyes were akin to that of amethysts, and her long dark mane and tail was well kempt and gleaming. She exuded an aura of politeness and grace as she trotted along, humming to herself a classical tune as she grabbed a plateful of scones from a bread basket on the kitchen island.
"My apologies..." Octavia said as she placed the plate on the living room coffee table in front of Chord. "I expected Vinyl would be here with our groceries, but it appears she is running very late."
"Oh, right..." Chord looked at the back of his paper slip once again. "I forgot there were two of you. Vinyl... Scratch? What is she like?"
"She is... well, she is..." It was clear Octavia had a hard time pegging Vinyl's character. "She is an interesting one, to say the least."
Chord looked around the house, noticing the obvious differences between Octavia's side and Vinyl's side. Octavia's was, again, traditional and was primarily brown, like the outer wall of her side of the house. There were shelves lined with books on musical theory and classical pieces, old antiques such as ships in bottles and porcelain dolls, and in next to Chord in the corner, a cello fashioned out of spruce and maple. Vinyl's side was more abstract and carefree, unafraid to flaunt its bright colors and rambunctious attitude. It gave him a better introduction of Vinyl than Octavia could give him.
"Is that yours?" Chord pointed over to her instrument, setting his guitar down beside him as he grabbed a scone and his cup of tea.
"Yes, yes it is," Octavia smiled as she sat down on the loveseat across from him. She then directed her eyes to Chord's rosewood guitar. "I see you are a purveyor of music as well. May I look at your instrument?"
"Go ahead." Chord was usually sceptical when most other ponies in Ponyville requested to handle his guitar, but based on Octavia's obvious experience, he had to trouble with her looking at it. "It's not much, but-."
"Not much?" Octavia said, in awe at the beautifully crafted guitar. Aside from a few scratches along the handle, it was almost perfect; it was definitely not what she expected considering where Chord had come from. "This is marvellous."
"Thank you." Chord said with his mouth full of scone as he set his guitar beside him once more, to which Octavia replied with a jovial giggle, laughing as a crumb fell out of his mouth. "Sorry, I just... haven't eaten in a while."
Octavia's grin disappeared as she tapped the side of her cup awkwardly, unsure how to ask him a tough question. "Chord...?" She trailed off, taking a sip from her cup. "How long has it been... since you've eaten a proper meal I mean?"
Chord finished chewing and took a sip of his chamomile tea, brushing his hoof against the base of his guitar. "A few months, maybe a year..."Chord set his cup down on its small plate. "I never really counted the days..."
"That's... awful." Octavia frowned, putting her cup down as well. "It must be difficult, to leave your home like that. I don't want the full details, not at this hour, but... what's the situation down there? Your island in the west? I heard about your king, what the revolutionaries did to him."
"It's not good." Chord's expression went blank as he stared into the translucent liquid in his tea cup. "There's, um... fighting in the streets. Revolution has... torn us apart. They don't even know what they're fighting about over there anymore."
An awkward silence dominated the next few minutes before Octavia finally worked up the courage to say something. "Well, it'll sort itself out soon, I hope..." Octavia looked over to the guitar again, motioning to Chord. "I don't suppose you'd be willing to play? Or are you too tired?"
"No, I was going to anyways." Chord said with a half-smile as he picked it up with his front hooves, cradling it carefully. "It always... helps." And with that, Chord began to play.
*Chord plays the tune to Stairway To Heaven– by Led Zeppelin*
Chord closed his eyes as he started, letting the first few strums carry him away, far away from his doubts and fears, to his home before the chaos. He imagined the rolling emerald hills of his homeland, the rocky cliffs and the surging tide of the coast. He rocked his guitar as it hummed his tune, bringing him utter bliss as he almost felt the cool air of the sea overtake his senses once more. As the song ended, he opened his eyes, sighing as he returned to reality.
Octavia's head had tilted to the side, in awe by the sheer emotion of the song; tears were welling in her eyes. "That... that was beautiful, Chord." Octavia wiped her eyes dry as she gathered up the dishes on the coffee table. "Thank you." Chord offered to help, but Octavia refused and took the dishes to her sink, a warm, full expression on her face. As she turned to face Chord, she gestured to the set of stairs nearby."You must be tired. It would be best to get to bed before Vinyl arrives. You can meet her in the morning. Here, I'll take you to your room upstairs..."
"Yeah, that'd be nice." Chord nodded slowly as he rose from Octavia's couch, grabbing his guitar and strapping it to his back.
Chord used Octavia's toothbrush, although he objected at first when she offered. Her kindness had touched him, and the fact that he was a tenant to two musicians certainly was a pleasant surprise to him as well. It was rare to see a musician on his small island, even rarer after the conflict. His bed wasn't extravagant compared to Vinyl's or Octavia's, but it was a single bed, more than enough for Chord. Anything was better than sleeping on a rectangular bale of hay or on a pile of tattered quilts.
"Thank you... for everything, Octavia." Chord smiled as he leaned his guitar against a bookshelf by his bed.
"If it's not enough I can give you my bed, it's-." Octavia was cut off by Chord, who shook his head and grinned.
"It's perfect." Chord laughed as he turned off the overhead light, leaving the lamp on his nightstand as the only source of light in the room.
"I want you to feel at home, Chord. Really, I do." Octavia's eyes danced about the room, looking for some way to make him more comfortable. "If you like, we can go to the boutique tomorrow. I can get you some more furniture and clothing."
"Yeah, sure." Chord gave her a withering smile as he climbed into his bed. He knew it would've been impolite to refuse such an offer. "Thank you, Octavia. Really, thank you."
"There's no need to thank me, please..." Octavia laughed lightly as she closed the door. "Goodnight."
"Goodnight..." Chord turned his body and shut off his lamp as Octavia closed the door. As he rolled over, he wept, looking over at his guitar. "Goodnight, dad..."