• Published 26th May 2013
  • 1,446 Views, 162 Comments

No Heroes Part II - The Journey Home - PaulAsaran

Fine Crime and Princess Luna have chosen their team. Now there's just the minor problem of bringing them together. Every team needs a base of operations, and what place better than Ponyville?

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First Impressions

Nye was bored. Phenomenally so. Only so many trains were scheduled today, and those that had come so far had almost no passengers. So he just sat there in the ticket booth and stared blankly at the tracks, his mind revolving around the topics of Rarity’s latest shoe design, the napping he could be doing, and plot. At the moment he was on plot, his mind roving towards his mare-of-the-moment, Lyra Heartsrings (so aptly named!).

His admittedly campy fantasy was interrupted, to his annoyance, by the arrival of the early afternoon train. Grumbling, he sat up straight and waited for the thing to stop and deposit its undoubtedly tiny number of passengers, assuming it had any at all.

It had one, and the sight of her put Lyra out of the hot-blooded stallion’s mind instantly. “Hellooooooooo mare,” he muttered with a grin, checking his reflection in the window and adjusting his hat and mane before going out to see her.


She turned to him, uncertain at first but then recognizing him. “Ah it’s you. Mister…” She had to think for a moment. “Stone, was it?”

Sweet Celestia that voice was sexy!

“Yeah, Nye Stone!” He removed his hat to attempt a charming bow. “It’s been what, three months?”

“Indeed,” she replied with that ridiculously pretty smile. “How is your brother, Jimmy? Did his wing heal properly?”

“Oh, Jim’s fine,” Nye declared. “Couldn’t fly for almost two weeks, but that didn't stop him from working. He’d die otherwise. So,” he asked as they began to walk to the baggage car, “what brings you this way from Canterlot?”

“I’m moving to Ponyville.”

His hooves tripped him up as his mind froze, and he was unable to keep from falling. She helped him up with a frown that was both bemused and critical, but the only thing going through his mind was YESYESYESYESYES…!

“What for?” Play it cool, big boy, play it cool…YES!

“Just felt like a change of scenery.” Her beautiful mulberry eyes studied him. “Are you okay?”

“Hmm? Oh, yes. Why?”

“Your face seems to be locked in a disturbing expression.”

He realized he was grinning like an idiot and shook his head violently to get rid of the expression. “What, oh that? It’s nothing, just a…err…umm…”

Play it cool!

“You need help with your things?” He struggled to slide open the big cargo doors of the train car. Octavia raised an eyebrow and kicked her hoof against the bottom corner, dropping the locking latch, and the door jerked open so quick he fell on his face in the dirt. He was up in an instant, giggling and trying to strike an image-recovering pose. “I’ll be happy to help!”

Octavia gave him a look combining exasperation and amusement, patting dirt off his cap before offering it to him. “Aren’t you on duty?” She climbed into the cargo car.

“Assisting passengers is my duty,” he reminded her confidently, following. He was surprised to see that she didn’t have a lot of things. “Wow, light traveler.” Had he been paying attention he might have noted her self-conscious blush.

“Really,” she told him after an awkward moment that he missed entirely, “I can handle it.”

“Nonsense! Let me just get the wagon, won’t take me but a second.”

“But…” Too late, he was outside. He hitched himself to one of the smaller cargo wagons and came back grinning.

“Aren’t you supposed to be watching the ticket booth?” Octavia asked as they began unloading her things.

“Nah, it’s a slow day,” he declared, struggling to push a large chest into the wagon. “I mean really, really slow. Besides, All Aboard should be back in about thirty minutes to take over.”

“I see.” They were already almost finished. “Would you get those last things while I fetch my cello?”

“It would be my pleasure.”

YesyesyesYES. He couldn’t believe a beauty like her was moving to Ponyville! There were some attractive mares around here, but Octavia’s very presence drastically changed the equation. He was the first stallion to welcome her, too; no way he was missing this opportunity. Best of all? They had history. Had they not saved the Crystal Empire together? True, she’d worked with Jim during that whole ordeal and not him, but it didn’t matter. What mattered was they were both heroes!

Well, not really. Heroes were recognized, and nopony in the Crystal Empire had any idea who they were. All they knew was that Rainbow Dash defeated King Sombra with a sonic rainboom, Applejack had rescued the Crystal Heart (from hordes of brainwashed guardian ponies, or so the popular rumors had it), and Princess Cadance broke the curse on the Heart with the help of Twilight Sparkle and Shining Armor. Special credit had also been given to the vast number of unicorn soldier ponies from the Equestrian Reserve who’d weakened the barrier around the Empire enough for Rainbow to break through.

There was nopony who recalled how he had been there with Applejack the whole time. And what about Upper Crust, the highly unlikely pony who’d shown Rainbow Dash where she could break into the shield in the first place? Not to mention Octavia and Jim, who’d acted as a distraction and fought the real horde of brainwashed crystal ponies so the rest of them could get to the castle unnoticed. Nopony thought of Lightning Dust either, and she’d taken a direct hit from Sombra himself while helping Rainbow conserve her energies for a second rainboom! But worst of all – at least in Nye’s mind – was that nopony recalled Fine Crime, who’d nearly been killed in a duel with Sombra just to wear him down for the final blow.

Of course, the Element Bearers had been nothing but grateful for the help, especially those who’d been trapped in Sombra’s crystal prisons, and Princess Cadance had made a pronouncement of the Empire’s gratitude. But it hadn’t helped; nopony cared about them. They cared about the Element Bearers. Nye had been upset, but most of the others didn’t seem to care too much. Didn’t they want the recognition?

“Alright,” Octavia called from the door of the car, “is that everything?”

“Just one more box,” he claimed, not mentioning how he’d moved so slow because he’d been lost in thought. “Do you know where your new home’s going to be?”

“I was given a general description and directions,” she declared, head held high. “I was told it had a nice view of the countryside.”

“Ah. What realtor did you use? Perhaps I could—”

“No realtor,” she interrupted, “Fine Crime.”

He nearly fell again. “That guy? Why would he have a house in Ponyville? I’ve never seen him in town, and I’ve been living here for close to two years now!” And what kind of a relationship had she developed with him in the past few months since the Crystal Empire? Dammit, had that strange jerk beat him to the buck?

“I honestly couldn’t tell you,” she admitted as they walked out of the station, Nye blatantly ignoring the two customers waiting at the ticket window. “All I know is he offered me the place and made the arrangements.”

Nye didn’t like the sound of that. “So…how’s he been lately?”

She shook her head. “I wouldn’t know. I’ve not seen him in almost two months.”

Score! Also, confusing. “Wait a minute, he sold you a house in Ponyville – which to my recollection he’s never been to – and then just disappeared?” She nodded, but by her expression she knew it sounded weird. He gave her a very serious look. “Are you sure the sell was legitimate?”

“It’s legal,” she answered. “I checked.”

“Oh, that’s good then.” He really wasn’t sure what else could be said about it, save that Fine Crime’s actions were…odd.

“My goodness,” Octavia whispered (why did her voice seem so sultry in his head just then?), pausing to look around at the open, green town. “This is so different from Canterlot. Last time I was here was when that dragon attacked. That was what, two years ago?”

He paused, recalling the disaster, and stared at her for a couple seconds. Something was clicking in his head. “Say… do you remember working with a guy to help ponies out of the train cars?”

She blinked, caught off guard by the question. “What? It was so long ago, but…” She set a hoof to her chin in careful thought. “Yes, I vaguely recall something like that.”

“I thought so. I think that’s when we first met.” He remembered now. “Yeah…yeah! You were with that crazy picture pony, whatever her name was.”

Octavia glowered at the memory. “I made a conscious effort to forget all about her.”

“Do you remember me from back then?”

“Umm…” She studied him for a few seconds, then smiled in embarrassment. “Sorry…”

Ouch. “That’s okay,” he mumbled even as he drooped. “I probably didn’t put on much of a show.”

“I’m sure you were very…ummm…brave, I just don’t remember. This way, I think.”

He struggled to find safer waters. “So…eh…have any plans for life in Ponyville?”

“I’m a musician, Nye,” she noted, tone pretentious. “What else am I going to do?”

“I dunno.” He was floundering, he knew it. “I just thought maybe…well… Oh, Rarity!” Thank Celestia’s multi-hued mane, a distraction!

The white unicorn was just exiting a small, frilly café. She turned at the sound of his voice and smiled in her ladylike manner. “Ah, Nye. A pleasure as always! And who’s this?”

He gestured at the mares and announced proudly, “Octavia, this is Rarity. She holds the Element of Generosity. Rarity, Octavia Melody, musician and brand-new Ponyvillian!”

“Charmed.” Octavia’s voice was the epitome of polite, and not anywhere near as excited as he’d hoped from meeting somepony so important as an Element Bearer.


“Octavia?” Rarity considered the name for a moment. “Why, I think I know of you! You play at many popular events in Canterlot, yes? Quite an accomplishment, I am most happy to meet you.”

Octavia was clearly taken aback. “Really?”

“But of course, darling,” Rarity declared. “Anypony good enough to get invited to perform at the Grand Galloping Gala deserves a fan or two.”

Octavia glanced at Nye in a manner combining confusion and anxiety. “I…never thought of myself as having fans.”

Nor had Nye expected Rarity to take up his spotlight. Time to move on! “Well Rarity, it was—”

“Not having any fans?” Her words bowled his right over. “But surely a talented pony such as yourself must know the attention that comes from such grandeur! You really should be proud.”

“I am,” Octavia admitted, then added in a whisper so low Nye almost didn’t hear it, “Not exactly what I was trying to achieve, but—” she spoke up again, “—thank you very much!”

“Oh, you’re welcome most sincerely. You know, you should come by the Carousel Boutique! I’m sure you’d make for a marvelous guest compared to some ponies I know.” She said that last part as if she had somepony specific in mind. Her eyes fell on the wagon Nye was tied to, prompting her to smile knowingly. “Nye, are you being a gentlecolt and helping Miss Melody move her things?”

“It’s the least I could do,” he answered, glad to finally have a place in the conversation again. “After all, Octavia and I have history.”

That earned a skeptical glance from the musician. “We do?”

He coughed self-consciously, well aware of Rarity’s amused expression. “Well, anyway, we better get going! See you around, Rarity.”

“You too, Mr. Stone,” the unicorn declared pleasantly, adding in a whisper as he walked past, “and good luck.” She clearly thought he needed it. “I look forward to seeing you again, Octavia. Welcome to Ponyville!”

“She seemed nice,” Octavia ventured as the unicorn wandered off.

“She’s alright,” Nye grumbled.

Her first morning in her new home. Octavia hadn’t slept too well the night before; a different bed, a different room, different night time sounds. She knew she would get used to it, though, so she didn’t let a bad night’s sleep bother her any.

She was sitting on the balcony of her new second-floor bedroom, staring out over a grassy meadow. She had to give Fine Crime credit, it really was a nice view. It almost reminded her of home, albeit a touch warmer and much more sunny. And that’s why she knew she’d come to like it here: Ponyville was not all that different from Trottingham.

And yet she was still just a little uncomfortable about all this.

Nye – who had insisted on helping her unpack – had been curious as to how she’d come upon the large, pre-furnished house. Admitting Fine Crime’s involvement had been a foolish mistake, but she’d recovered effectively. Bought the house… She wished she could afford a place as nice as this. It was certainly larger than any she’d been in before, including her parents’ place. But she’d not bought the house, not at all. It had been a gift.

A gift from Princess Luna.

It was not as if moving to Ponyville was a problem. She was still easily capable of reaching any job she earned as a musician, and she actually enjoyed the traveling. The problem was that she didn’t think she’d earned the place yet. Oh yes, she’d done her part and helped defeat King Sombra, but her role had been only minor.

Yet she knew what the Princess – and her right-hoof-pony, Fine Crime – were trying to do. The Element-Bearers lived in Ponyville. The team Luna was trying to form was meant to support the Elements of Harmony. It only made sense that they be centered in Ponyville, too.

Except that they weren’t a team, not yet. They’d all helped in the Crystal Empire, but they weren’t even resembling a team. Apart from Fine, who had a direct hoof in choosing the players, Octavia was the only one aware of what was really going on. Nye and his brother Jimmy didn’t know, and at this moment she suspected they wouldn’t be interested anyway. That elite pony – Upper Crust, if she recalled correctly – had no self confidence and seemed comfortable with letting others handle Equestria’s protection. And Lightning Dust? Nopony knew where she even was, and she didn’t strike Octavia as a team player.

So this wasn’t a team, and Octavia wasn’t sure it ever would be. She’d agreed to come and live in Ponyville because it really was a nice change of scenery, and besides, how could she say no to a princess?

But that wasn’t the reason she’d agreed to answer the call, should it ever come. In truth she didn’t know why she’d done it. She was fine with the concept of helping others and perhaps protecting Equestria, but the way the princess had described her role sounded too large. It certainly did not fit in with her own life goals. So why had she said yes?

She shook her head, getting rid of the thoughts that had been plaguing her for much of the past three months. She kept coming back to them, knowing it did no good to do so. After all, ‘the call’ probably wouldn’t come for a long time, and if the team couldn’t be properly formed it may not come at all. Better to focus on her own goals than worry about the princess’ plans.

And so, after a light breakfast that required much stumbling around her new, unfamiliar kitchen, Octavia found herself in what she intended to be her music room, cello and bow set for some practice.

She got only six notes in before there was a knock at her door.

Grumbling to herself, Octavia set her instrument aside and went to see who her visitor was.

“It’s her!”

“I told you!”

“You’re here, you’re here!”

“This is the greatest day ever!”

Octavia stared, bewildered by the four excited foals at her door. At first she didn’t recognize them, but then she saw the colt with the yale-blue mane and green coat and felt her memory coming back.

He caught her eye and asked hopefully, “Do you remember me?”

Octavia gave him a warm smile. “Why of course I remember you, Green Daze.”

“Yeah!” He hopped almost three feet. “I knew you’d remember!”

Octavia cast a glance at each of the fillies. “And I remember you too: Apple Bytes, Dinky Hooves, and… err…”

The last filly grinned and posed in a manner that showcased her wings and horn at the same time. “Princess Animatia Erroria!”

Ah yes, the one with the hard name.

“For the unktillionth time Ani, you’re not a princess,” Apple Bytes declared with a roll of her eyes.

“Am too,” her friend declared. “I’ve got a horn and wings. That makes me a princess!”

“Getting a horn that doesn’t work because you got into some poison joke doesn’t make you a princess.”

“Does too.”

“Does not!”

“You’re just jealous.”

“Am not!”

“Are too.”

“Girls,” Dinky interrupted, “why are we here?” They stared at her, and she gestured to Octavia with a frustrated frown.

“You know you’re still my hero?” Green Daze fired off now that he actually had an opening, rushing forward to hug Octavia.

She patted him on the head with a bemused smile. “Really? I thought you’d have forgotten all about me by now.”

“No way!” he declared, looking up at her with determination.

“You bucked a dragon!” Apple Bytes reminder her.

“You got us out of that carriage,” Ani added.

“You saved Green’s life,” Dinky threw in.

“You bucked a dragon!” Green and Apple repeated with glee.

“You’re my hero,” he reaffirmed, “and I’ll never forget it.”

“You know Rainbow Dash bucked a dragon, too,” Dinky noted, earning annoyed looks from her friends. “What? She did.”

“Did you see her buck a dragon?” Ani shot.

“Well no,” Dinky admitted, “but Pinkie said she did!”

“And you believe what Pinkie tells you?” Green asked skeptically.

Octavia interrupted quickly, though she couldn’t keep from smiling at their banter. “Excuse me, kids, but was there something specific you wanted?”

“Oh yeah!” Ani turned to gesture to the town behind them. “You just moved in yesterday, right? We wanted to give you a tour of Ponyville!”

“Right,” Green added with a grin. “We can show you the sights!”

“What sights?” Dinky asked.

“Like the school and the town hall,” Ani suggested.

“I don’t know if she—” Dinky started.

“The arcade!” Apple cried, then added at their bland looks a “What?”

Green finally released Octavia from his hug and stepped back. “We just thought you might like to see all the important places—” with a sour glance at Apple, “—around Ponyville, help you get your bearings.”

“Yeah, it’s a small town but a big place,” Dinky noted with authority. “This way you can find whatever you need later, no problem!”

“And we get to spend time with our favorite hero,” Ani added with a self-confident nod.

Octavia stared down at the four beaming, wide-eyed faces. Goddess, did they know how to wield the power of cute! She glanced back in the direction of her new music room. Well… “Why not?”

The foals cheered so loud she felt her mane flutter from the wind.

It seemed the foals were in a bit of a disagreement about what places were certified as ‘important.’ Even so, they did what they’d said they’d do – more or less – and Octavia soon really did know the lay of the town.

The first stop had been Sugarcube Corner, which was apparently the town’s premier baked goods and catering shop. (Princess!) Animatia and Apple insisted it was a very important locale. Green and Dinky didn’t think so, but agreed it was a fun place to go, especially if Pinkie Pie was around. She was, and she treated Octavia to a welcome song, fireworks and a cake, albeit not necessarily in that order or – as easily noted by the icing still in Octavia’s mane – correctly prepared.

After came the town hall and the school, both of which were generally agreed to be very important. Octavia was pleased to see that the repairs of the dragon attack had been expertly done so that nopony would know that a carriage had crashed through its roof.

Because Apple insisted, they next brought her to the Arcade, though she was the only one to think there was anything ‘important’ about it. Octavia was tempted to agree, but it made Apple happy. The elder filly tried to encourage Octavia to try a game, but the other three foals came to her rescue and convinced Apple it was time to move on.

One undoubtedly embarrassing fiasco avoided.

Then they brought her to the Carousel Boutique. Octavia recalled it as Rarity’s home and place of business. Animatia – whom Octavia was learning to call ‘Ani’ like the others – seemed the most interested in it, noting with excessive pomp that Rarity was a successful fashionista and a very Important Pony of both Ponyville and Canterlot. Rarity acknowledged the complements with great…modesty. Ani’s friends? Less impressed.

The one place that all the foals immediately agreed upon as super important was the library, where lived the Bearer of the Element of Magic, Twilight Sparkle (not home, unfortunately). It seemed that Twilight was the unofficial ‘leader’ of the Element Bearers and the pony to go to when there was a major problem of any sort in or around town. Octavia stored this information in the back of her mind, realizing that if Luna’s team ever did come together Twilight would be an important pony to know.

The tour went beyond Ponyville’s center and into the surrounding areas. The first stop was the home of Fluttershy, Bearer of the Element of Kindness. They found her in the back trying to help a meercat and warthog come up with a theme song for their motto, ‘no worries’ (Octavia had low expectations). Why this was an important place was in question, as Octavia had no pets and didn’t want any. Even so, the foals seemed to think that Fluttershy being an Element-Bearer and very popular around town – especially to stallions – was enough to warrant adding her home to the tour.

They then showed her the outskirts of the infamous Everfree Forest, though they insisted on not entering. They had brought the forest to her attention for one reason: to warn her not to go in. Ever. Unless she wanted to meet the zebra, Zecora, who lived out there, who they confirmed was nice and even fun. Octavia was intrigued; she’d never met a zebra before. Perhaps at a later time.

Next they brought her to the home of Rainbow Dash, captain of Ponyville’s weather team and town hero (“But not as heroic as you,” Green was sure to remind her). Octavia remembered Rainbow well from the events in the Crystal Empire and had actually been interested in meeting her again, but sadly the pegasus wasn’t home.

Her small companions had been beside themselves with glee to find that she knew the town hero.

“You guys could team up!” Green cried.

“You’d be like a superteam,” Ani agreed.

“Going on adventures,” Apple added.

“Beating the bad guys,” Dinky suggested.

“Outshining even Princess Celestia!” Animatia declared, adding “But not outshining Princess me, of course.”

“You can be Rainbow’s sidekick,” Apple said.

“What? No way,” Green shot. “Rainbow would be the sidekick.”

“Rainbow?” Ani laughed. “She’d rather go a year without naps!”

“I think it’s time we moved on,” Dinky suggested with an apologetic glance at Octavia.

The last place to visit was Sweet Apple Acres, owned by the well-known Apple Family. There they met Applejack, who recognized Octavia instantly and heartily welcomed her to Ponyville.

“I’m sorry everypony went and gave us all the credit for the Crystal Empire thing,” Applejack noted after the introductions were over.

Octavia gave her a tilted look. “I appreciate the apology, but it’s not all that important to me.”

“Ya sure? ‘Cause Nye was all frustrated about it three months ago, and I thought you and the others who helped would feel a mite burned too.”

“Really, Miss Applejack, it’s nothing,” Octavia insisted. “I have my own intentions regarding fame. Being a hero is not one of them.”

“But she’s still a hero!” Green insisted with a bounce.

“She sure is,” Applejack agreed, ruffling the colt’s mane with a grin. “If you foals only knew.”

Octavia was eager to leave before the friendly mare could start regaling them with tales of the cellist’s ‘exploits’ in the Crystal Empire. It was well into the afternoon anyway and she still needed to get some practice in. The foals were sad that the tour was over (“Aww, already?”), but relented...after agreeing to walk her home.

It was while they were passing through the town’s central park that Octavia heard the singing. She paused, caught off guard by the nice voice and pleasant tune. Where was it coming from? Unable to stop her own curiosity, she began to follow. The foals had been distracted by another of their brief but frequent arguments (something about a SlenderPony) and were well ahead by the time they realized her change in course.

“Hey, where ya goin?” Ani asked as they caught back up.

“I’m trying to find the source of the singing,” Octavia explained distractedly. The four foals followed and listened.

“That sounds like Sweetie Belle,” Apple Bytes declared.


“Sweetie Belle,” Dinky replied, “Rarity’s kid sister.”

“She’s one of the CMC.” Green threw in.

“And what is the CMC?”

“The Cutie Mark Crusaders,” Ani explained. “That’s what they call themselves, anyway.”

“Hmmm…” Octavia finally spotted the filly in question. She was humming to herself while helping two others work on a homemade…catapult?!

“Oh, no,” Dinky muttered. “They’re on one of their ‘crusades’ again.”

“Better let them be, Octy,” Apple suggested, earning a curious look from the mare for the nickname.

“Yeah, let’s get out of here,” Green asked almost pleadingly. “When they get an idea in their heads it’s usually safer to be as far away as possible.”

“Oh, alright,” Octavia agreed, casting a worried glance at the three fillies and their potentially dangerous work. “Will they be okay?”

“Sure they will,” Ani assured her, “it’s everypony else who’s in danger!”

That little tune had been stuck in her head all day and night, and this afternoon Octavia found herself at her desk, struggling to put it down to sheet music. She wondered where Sweetie had found it, for it didn’t sound like anything she could recall.

That was precisely what bothered Octavia; she had studied music intensely all her life, to such a degree that when she heard a tune she could almost always identify the song, its writer and even the year of publishing after as few as four notes! But this one song – too fine to belong to any of the modern junk that was so popular among the classless masses – eluded her memory. Was it some composer she’d never heard of before? A foreign one?

Wherever it had come from, she liked it and was really hoping it might inspire her own writing. It took her some time to estimate the notes, but once that was done she set the sheet music aside and began to try writing something new, something inspired from the original. After a couple hours she found herself woefully lacking in results. She was frustrated, to say the least. If only she could identify the song, maybe get an idea of its origins and themes and—

Her work was interrupted by a knock at the door, but this time Octavia was glad for the break.

“I’ll be a horse’s rear, Nye, you were telling the truth!”

It was the twins Jimmy and Nye Stone, both looking pleased with themselves. And behind them Octavia was further surprised to see two more visitors: Applejack and Rainbow Dash.

“Well hello everypony,” she declared, genuinely happy to see them. She pushed her unbrushed mane back with a blush. “I wasn’t expecting company…”

“It is so very good to see you,” Jimmy declared with a charming smile. “How’s the leg? Nothing permanent?”

“I’m just fine, thank you Jimmy,” she answered politely. “Come on in, all of you! Applejack, Rainbow Dash, I didn’t expect to see the two of you, either.”

“What are you talking about?” Rainbow demanded as they all entered the house. “You didn’t think we’d forgotten how you helped out, did you?”

“We just wanted ta come by an’ welcome ya ta Ponyville proper!” Applejack said, revealing a bucket full of apples. “These’re fer you, a little welcomin’ present.”

“Why, thank you.” Octavia looked inside and couldn’t help thinking these apples looked very ‘high quality’ compared to what she was used to in Canterlot.

“Hey, nice digs,” Rainbow noted, flying slowly around the room. “You must make good money at those concerts to have a place as nice as this.”

“Umm, yes…” Octavia blushed and decided not to correct the pegasus.

The afternoon was spent pleasantly enough. In truth, Octavia hadn’t considered these ponies to be ‘friends.’ She’d helped out in a crisis and that was the extent of it; they were acquaintances. But they all seemed to think that their brief time together in the Crystal Empire qualified her for bonafide friendship material. It was a little surprising; in Octavia’s mind becoming friends required a bit more than a day and a half of obligated teamwork.

It was a good feeling, to be welcomed so quickly and accepted so readily. At some point Octavia came to realize that this was the true difference between urban ponies and country ponies: there was no need to prove oneself for acceptance. All the posturing of Canterlot, the rush and bustle of Manehattan, the showcasing and flash of Las Pegasus, the scheming and plotting of Coltcago, none of that mattered here. A pony could make friends just by offering.

And that was when the nostalgia of home hit her, and hit her hard. She’d given up the simple life for a shot at her dream, but now she was staring all the familiar elements of that life in the face again. It made her feel so…happy.

“Are you okay, sugarcube?” Applejack asked as Octavia attempted to discreetly wipe a tear away.

“Yes, I’m fine,” she agreed, beaming at her new friends. “It’s just… I think I’m really going to like living in Ponyville.”

“Is it true you’re a cello player?”

Octavia was visiting Rarity – one of the very few ponies in this town to share her appreciation of high class topics – and enjoying a nice cup of tea. She was surprised to find Sweetie Belle watching her, tiny hooves barely visible over the table’s edge. “Why yes, I am.”

Rarity smiled in her polite-but-proud fashion. “Ah, there you are, Sweetie. Octavia, my dear little sister, Sweetie Bell. Octavia is a renowned musician,” she added to her sister as if showcasing a trophy. “Be a dear and don’t cause her any trouble, okay?”

“I’m not gonna cause any trouble,” Sweetie snapped back with a huff. “You act like I’m gonna embarrass you or something.”

“With you around, Sweetie, that’s a very real possibility.”

Sweetie only glowered.

“Sweetie Belle,” Octavia tried the name out pleasantly. “You’re part of the… What is it called? Cutie Mark Crusaders?”

The filly cheered up instantly. “You know about the Crusaders?”

Octavia nodded warmly. “My friend Green Daze and his filly friends told me about you.” She cast a knowing glance at Sweetie’s flank. “No cutie mark yet, I see.”

Sweetie sat and covered her flank with her tail. “Well, no…” And she was up again! “But that’s why I’m here! I was looking for you.”

Octavia blinked, just stopping herself from taking a sip of her tea as she raised an eyebrow. “For me?”

“Oh, no,” Rarity snapped. “Don’t even think about it, little sister! You’re not getting Octavia caught up in one of your crusades.” She spoke the word as if it tasted of burned toast. “She’s barely been in Ponyville for a week! Give her time to settle in before trying to scare her away.”

Sweetie ignored her sister entirely, giving a small bounce as she explained, “My friends and I wanted to try our hands at being musicians!”

“Musicians?” Rarity gave her sister a high-browed, dubious look. “Sweetie, have you forgotten the talent show?”

The filly made a sick face. “Ugh, don’t remind me. But this is different. We want to try starting an orchestra!”

“An orchestra, really?” Octavia asked. How perfectly adorable! “Are you going to sing, then?”

“What? No!” Another disgusted look. “Singing in front of an audience? Don’t think so. I was going to play the harpsichord.”

Octavia stared, then cast a glance at Rarity. The unicorn shrugged and made a ‘don’t bother’ gesture with her hoof. “Well, harpsichords are a bit out of style, but can still function in a modern orchestration. Haymakin von Stirrup proved that.”

The filly blinked and rubbed her chin. “Who?”

Octavia face-hooved with an accepting smile. “Don’t worry about it.”

Sweetie let the comment slide. “Anyway, Rarity was going on earlier about how you’re this super big time musician—” a blushing, embarrassed grin from Rarity “—and we thought maybe you could give us some pointers on what it takes to make an orchestra! We’re…kinda clueless about it.” She scuffed her hoof on the floor and drooped.

Octavia considered this proposal. She glanced over the table at Rarity, who was shaking her head violently with a panicked expression.

But this was an opportunity. Sweetie Belle was the source of the tune Octavia was still trying to use as the basis for a new orchestral piece. Perhaps in this way she could find out where the music had come from without being obtuse in her interest.

“Do you have instruments?”

Of course they don’t,” Rarity answered before her sister could get a word in.

Sweetie shot her sister a burning look. “But we can borrow the instruments from school.”

“Then come to my place after school tomorrow,” Octavia instructed with a pleased smile.

The filly leapt into the air with a “Yay!” and was out the door within seconds. An instant later the entire house resounded with a chorus of “THE CUTIE MARK CRUSADER ORCHESTRA!”

“You mean the other two were waiting just outside?” the cellist asked while rubbing her ears.

“I don’t think you understand what you’re getting yourself into,” Rarity announced, alarm on her face. “Those three are a serious hoof-full.”

“I’ve been warned before,” Octavia declared with a dismissive wave, nose upturned as she sipped her tea. “If they’re anything like Green Daze and his friends, I think I can handle them.”

Rarity made a fretful sound but said nothing.

A disaster. Complete and total.

Harpsichord, harmonica and drums. Those instruments did not an orchestra make.

Octavia had tried to explain to the Crusaders the basic concepts – particularly the fact that one couldn’t have an orchestra with only three fillies – but she learned quickly that there was no reasoning with the Cutie Mark Crusaders. The afternoon was one big roller coaster ride. Between Scootaloo trying her hand at writing music (for the second time, she learned) and Apple Bloom insisting that the music required a ‘jammin’ harmonica solo, nothing really seemed to go right. Even Sweetie Belle, who displayed significant musical talent, couldn't grasp why things were going so horribly wrong.

And messy; the music room was rapidly becoming a wreck.

There was one respite, which came when Octavia had taken up her cello and shown them through her music how different sounds could blend to form musical harmony. It was a brief lapse in the chaos that, for some reason, the Crusaders had watched attentively.

After that? More chaos.

Despite it all, Octavia had managed to keep her temper. She put up with every horrible note, each brief argument and all the rapid shifts in goals. The fillies just couldn’t seem to stay focused on one topic for too long before deciding that their destinies lay in some other direction.

There was only one time when Octavia truly got angry, and that was when she’d caught Scootaloo preparing to try out her cello.

“I have been using this cello ever since I was just a little older than you. It was a gift from a relative I will never see again. It has been with me all my life, has earned me my bread and butter. I polish it nightly, practice on it four times a day. It is more important to me than the world and you will not touch it.”

They didn’t dare try again.

Near sunset the three fillies finally came to the sad conclusion that their cutie marks probably wouldn’t come from forming an orchestra and left for home. Relieved and worn out, Octavia was left to clean up the mess.

It had been an interesting day, to say the least. More frustrating than anything. She was glad, though, to have gotten this particular urge out of the girls’ system. She wouldn’t have to deal with this kind of trouble again anytime soon, and for that she was especially grateful.

But Octavia’s ulterior motive – getting a chance to ask Sweetie about her tune – had gone untouched. There simply hadn’t been any time in all the hustle and bustle and noise to bring it up.

Even so, the Crusaders weren’t quite as terrible as everypony in town claimed. Close, but not quite.

Octavia was surprised and just a little alarmed when she heard a knock and found Sweetie Belle at her door once again. “Sorry, Miss Melody,” she said with a blush, head hanging low. “I kinda forgot my saddlebag.”

“That’s quite alright, Sweetie,” Octavia answered with no small relief. “Come on in, I’m sure it’s somewhere under the mess.”

An opportunity! Octavia, busying herself with putting away the piles of sheet music that had been strewn about the room, wondered how to ask the filly about her little tune.

Turned out it wasn’t necessary.

“Hey, this is my song.”

The cellist looked up to see Sweetie studying some sheet music that had fallen atop her saddle bag. The filly hummed the notes for a few seconds, then looked up at Octavia with an uncertain frown. “Where did you get this?”

Octavia blushed, thinking carefully on her reply. How much of the truth should she tell? Just the basics, enough to get by? Or…

She stared at Sweetie’s blank flank. Something about seeing it and knowing from the day’s events how badly she wanted her cutie mark told Octavia that now was not the time for half-truths. So, feeling a little self-conscious, she approached and sat before the filly.

“I heard you humming that song the day after I arrived in Ponyville,” she confessed. “I liked it, so I tried to recreate it on paper.”

“Really?” Sweetie Belle beamed. “You really liked it?”

“I liked it very much,” the cellist declared with a smile. “So much in fact that I’ve been using it as inspiration for a new song…though I’m having a lot of trouble.”

At that Sweetie lowered her head. “Yeah, well I guess it’s not all that great.”

“You misunderstand, Sweetie. It’s not the song that’s the problem, it’s me.” She could see the filly was confused, so she leaned forward as if to convey a secret. “Do you know what my special talent is?”

Sweetie Belle blinked and tilted her head before casting a thoughtful glance at the cello in the corner.

Octavia smiled knowingly. “It’s singing.”

“What?” The filly stood and gestured at the instrument. “But… But you’re a renowned cellist, not a singer.”

“Take a look at my cutie mark,” Octavia offered, shifting so that her flank was readily visible. “What do you see?”

Sweetie didn’t seem to understand at first. She studied the musical note for a few careful seconds, then her eyes lit up. An instant later she was clearly confused again. “It’s a treble clef…but that doesn’t make sense. Not for a cello.”

“I’m a soprano,” Octavia declared, returning to a proper sitting position. “The clef is representative of my voice, not my instrument.”

Sweetie seemed even less certain. “But if you’re special talent is singing, why don’t you?”

Octavia smiled and playfully nudged the filly. “Because, like you, I don’t care to sing in public. Besides, I might be a good singer, but I like the sound of my cello more.”

Sweetie tilted her head, eyes crossing as she tried to make sense of what she was learning. “But wasn’t it hard to learn the cello, since it wasn’t your talent?”

Octavia shook her head. “It’s still musical, Sweetie. Playing an instrument and singing are related enough that it wasn’t all that big a jump.”

“I see…I think.” But then Sweetie Belle set a hoof on the sheet music between them. “But what does that have to do with my music?”

“Well Sweetie…” Octavia hesitated; she didn’t share this particular bit of information with many ponies. But she’d started, after all. “You see, I want to be a songwriter. I can sing and play the cello, but it seems I’m not so good at writing new music.”

She bowed her head, ears flat as she sighed. “It’s nice that people like my playing, but I want to create something new. The tune you were humming the other day inspired me, and so I hoped that by having my own copy I could finally create something.”

Sweetie sat back on her haunches, thinking with a hoof to her head. “So…your talent is singing, but you play cello. You’re great at cello, but you really want to write songs? But aren’t you happy being a musician?”

Octavia offered a weak smile. “I’m happy, but I’m not satisfied. It’s your dream to gain a cutie mark. It’s mine to be a great, renowned songwriter.”

Sweetie looked astonished. “And you think my music is inspiring? That’s amazing!”

“It is indeed,” the cellist declared. “If you don’t mind my asking, where did you hear it from?”

The filly tilted her head, confusion once again plastered on her face. “Hear it from?”

“Yes, hear it from,” Octavia repeated. She sat up straight and gestured to herself with great pomp. “I know the music of composers from all over Equestria, but I can’t place that tune. I simply must know where it came from, Sweetie, it’s been on my mind all week!”

“Umm…” Sweetie waved a hoof at the sheet music, eyes averted and cheeks red. “I just…came up with it on my own.”

Octavia blinked, her posh veneer cracking just a smidgen as she stared at the filly. “Really?” Sweetie nodded, eyes downcast. “You’re sure you didn’t…umm…hear it once and just can’t recall?” Another nod.

Oh, sweet merciful Celestia. This little filly had a gift that made Octavia feel both humbled and humiliated at the same time. She was tempted to pick the foal up and shake her silly; why didn’t she have a cutie mark yet?! To think, all this time she’d been searching the back of her mind for a composer, when the source of her daily frustrations for the past week was nothing more than a child. A child who didn’t even understand what she had!

Absolutely. Humiliating.

“M-maybe I should go now,” Sweetie Belle muttered, clearly aware of Octavia’s frustration. She slipped on her saddlebag and headed for the door, body slunk low in trepidation.

No. Octavia refused to let this get to her. It was unfair to Sweetie Belle, who’d done nothing wrong. “Wait.”

The filly winced but paused. Octavia took the sheet music in her mouth and approached, setting the paper down beside Sweetie. “This music is yours, Sweetie. True it’s not even a page long, but that doesn’t change the fact. It’s yours, and I can’t use it without permission.”

Sweetie looked up at her with big, surprised eyes. Octavia smiled and asked, “So? Can I use your music to make my own?”

The filly was in high spirits almost instantly. “Of course you can! I thought you were mad at me.”

“No Sweetie,” Octavia declared with face-saving regality. “A little flustered, I’ll admit, but one can’t let another pony’s talents be a burden. And if you’d like,” she added smartly, “you can come over from time to time and help me develop my music.”

Sweetie’s eyes shined like stars. “That’d be great! Can Scootaloo and Apple Bloom come, too?”

Octavia’s grin cracked, but only slightly. “Err… Yes. Of course.”

“Woohoo!” The filly was out the door. “Thanks, Octavia. See you later!”

She watched the filly depart in the fading twilight, feeling not just a little bemused. She took another long look at the sheet music before her. It wasn’t much, but it was a beginning. Maybe with a little push from a little friend she could finally get to where she wanted to be. It was encouraging.

Yes, she was really going to enjoy living in Ponyville.

Then she recalled the mess in the music room, and her agreement with Sweetie Belle.

She wilted just a little at the thought of more chaotic days to come. May they be few and far between.

Fine Crime stood amongst the trees of the mighty Everfree Forest, gazing up at the moon through the canopy. It was a warm night, the familiar sounds of a living, wild forest assaulting his ears. He found it quite pleasant...or at least he would have if he weren’t anxious about the very real threat that lay hidden somewhere nearby.

He’d been there for some time, just waiting. But then he heard soft hoofsteps over the quiet night noises. He turned in time to see somepony emerging through the thick woods, a zebra mare who appeared not just a little nervous to be there.

“There you are,” he noted, standing and bowing politely. “Zecora, master of the wood.”

Her eyes met his, revealing her hesitancy. “A master of these woods I hardly be,” she answered, shifting from hoof to hoof. “No master of the woods we’ll ever see.” Her eyes roamed the woods as if seeking out something familiar, but dreaded. “This is the place you wish to grace?”

“It is,” Fine confirmed, glancing around with equal uncertainty. “But I wanted your acceptance. You know this area better than anypony else.”

“This part of the wood often I am seeing, I may know more than any pony living,” Zecora confessed, turning her attention to him once more. “But why at this place where evil looms so soon after little Apple Bloom?”

“It is precisely because of Apple Bloom’s close encounter here that we chose this place,” he explained, waving a hoof at the surrounding area. “Nopony believes her story, but my ponies are aware. Both Celestia and Luna have expressed concerns of the dangers lurking here, but we know better than to try and do anything about it. Besides,” he added with a mischievous grin, “it’s dark and creepy and oh so me.”

But Zecora wasn’t distracted by his manner. Instead she watched him with an expression of utmost seriousness. “Do not taunt the curse of that place, lest you vanish without a trace.”

“We’re not fools, Zecora,” he countered, her directness knocking him back into solemnity. “We don’t intend to disturb the area beyond this place. We only want to distract.”

She raised an eyebrow even as her eyes darted amongst the trees again. “You wish to distract? What way would you act?”

“I will be here,” he declared simply, gesturing to the immediate area. “Ponies who come will see me, and have no reason to travel beyond. Should they try, we will have certain – let’s call them precautions – to stop them. Put simply, we want to protect the ponies of Ponyville by keeping up the illusion that there is nothing out here but…well, me.”

The zebra considered this for a long time, her expression deathly serious. At last she leveled him with a solemn frown. “Your cause I see may be for good, but still too close is the dark wood.”

“Which is exactly why we asked you to come out here,” he said. He turned to the woods, in the direction that he knew he couldn’t go. “We know it’s there...somewhere. But we just can’t tell where the border is – spiritual, magical, whatever. Our best mages are flummoxed. I’d like your help determining what would qualify as a safe distance.”

Zecora stood at his side, nodding her approval as she followed his gaze. “You are utilizing precaution. I am relieved at this notion.”

“Then you’ll help us?”

“If this will help more ponies to live, then my help I shall willingly give,” she answered. “Yet a question must I ask: why keep so secret this task?”

He grinned. “That’s just the way we work.”

And so they began their long and arduous work of choosing a proper location. Zecora guided him through the woods, providing her cryptic warnings as he sought the best location for his plans. Their talking went throughout the night, though neither of them enjoyed the dark environment they’d found themselves in. More than once they found themselves doing their best to ignore the gleaming, golden eyes that occasionally peered through the woods...

Author's Note:

What, something dark and ominous in the Everfree Forest? What could I possibly be referencing? :trixieshiftright:

Overall I can safely say that this 'mini-series' will be less gloomy than the original, though that's not to say it won't have dark material. In fact I can guarantee dark material and may end up bumping this story's rating to 'Mature' later if I feel it goes too far for 'Teen'.

The biggest issue I've had with this continuation of the previous story is that it's going to touch upon so many genre types that there simply is no way to establish one or two specifically. In fact when the entire series of stories (I don't know how many there will be) are finished I will have touched upon every possible genre available with the notable exception of 'Human.' And, depending upon your definition, 'Tragedy.' It's the kind of thing that makes a story rather hard to market. At any rate I chose 'Sad' and 'Slice of Life' because most chapters will involve that; don't go thinking it's mislabeled just because the opening chapter's not 'sad.'

This series is going to be much more episodic than its predecessor, which may give it a certain disjointed feeling in terms of plot development. Hopefully it won't be too jarring.

Some information regarding what we can expect in this story:
A) It will be 9 chapters long, just like its predecessor.
B) No epic final conflict like in the original; instead I've vied for something more personal.
C) Nye Stone is going to get an unusual amount of screen time; he's so easily accessible for the kind of material this series will focus on.
D) A special reference to one of my favorite fanfics.
E) A secret villain will make a cameo!

And a plot preview (in no particular order):
A) Fine Crime moves to Ponyville.
B) Upper Crust faces a very personal crisis.
C) Lightning Dust finally returns to her home, Foal Mountains.
D) Jimmy Stone struggles to start his own legacy.
E) Nye Stone discovers a new hobby.
F) Rainbow Dash and Nye Stone investigate dark rumors of the Everfree Forest.
G) Hearts and Hooves Day! :heart:

One last thing: I've chosen a theme for Octavia! Take a listen here.

UPDATE 8/23/14: Edits have been uploaded.