• Published 10th Jun 2014
  • 1,206 Views, 35 Comments

Hoe Down - Talon and Thorn

Octavia isn't finding it very easy to adjust to her new life in Ponyville. The place is full of crazy ponies! How will she cope when the inhabitants decide to throw a part in her and her fellow element bearers honour? A Cadenceverse story.

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Unlucky in love

“So a hoe down is a type of music?” asked Octavia. It was several hours later, upon hearing about the celebration in their honour she and Lyra had visited all of their friends with the good news, now they were all gathered around a table at Fluttershy’s house, the vet having generously offered it as a meeting place. Even Medley had been persuaded to take a long lunch, shutting up her shop for a while. Outside the afternoons scheduled rain had begun to fall and meant that few ponies would be keen on shopping.

“Well technically it’s a fiddle tune played in fast 2/4 timing,” said Bluenote. Octavia raised her eyebrows in surprise, the music teacher had never seen particularly knowledgeable on such things before. “Hey don’t look at me like that, I studied music as well you know. I didn’t sleep through all the classes!”

“But here it’s just what we call a barn dance, the Apples host them once a month,” said Fluttershy.

“A ‘Barn dance’? Doesn’t Ponyville have a proper dance floor?” asked Octavia.

“Actually we do, but the Apples barn is bigger, and it’s traditional to hold them there,” said Medley.

“Yeah,” said Vinyl lifting her head from the table and taking a slug from a fizzing can she had brought with her. Octavia had spent twenty minutes hammering on her door before she had roused the DJ to come to the meeting. “They even let me hold my larger raves there, they’re good ponies.” She slammed the can down and a few drops splattered on the table where they hissed and smoked.

“What is that stuff?” asked Octavia staring on in horror.

“I don’t know what’s in it, Carrot Top makes it. I call it ‘Wake up juice’, it’s got me through a lot.” The beverage seemed to be doing its job as the DJ was sitting up straighter.

“I think it really is nice that the town wants to honour us in this way,” said Fluttershy looking nervously it the damage Vinyl’s drink was going to her table. “But they really didn’t have to, there are so many better causes they could hold the dance for.”

“I don’t know,” said Lyra accepting a sandwich from Fluttershy’s pet rabbit, Angel, who was hopping around serving the guests snacks. “I don’t think we should be getting rewarded for just doing our duty, but a celebration in our honour does sound nice. Maybe they’ll release dozens of white doves or scatter our path with flower petals.” She gazed into the distance for a moment.

“Uh, I don’t think they’ll go quite that far,” noted Medley. “Just a dance sounds fine.”

“Well there’s normally food as well,” pointed out Bluenote. “The Apple’s sure can cook, even if the menus a little limited. You can do a lot with apples, but sometimes you feel like a pear or two. A pair of pears so to speak.”

“So there will be some sort of formal banquet as well as dancing?” asked Octavia ignoring Bluenote’s silliness.

“Well less a formal banquet, more a buffet, but that’s more or less right.”

“Well I have received significant tutoring in dance at home and further instruction at the Princesses school, on occasion at Candence’s own hoof.” She smiled for a moment thinking back to her schooling, although Viola had always been the better dancer in the family she was still skilled in the area. “Although I do not know the exact style of dance expected, surely it cannot be that different from a waltz or foxtrot, although a little faster from what you say Bluenote. Maybe you could give me a few lessons on the exact style?”

“I’m not the dance expert here, I’m afraid,” said Bluenote with a shrug. “I’ve not exactly got four left hooves, more like three, maybe three and a half. It’s Medley you want to talk to about dancing.” Octavia turned to the pegasus in surprise.

“You don’t have to look so shocked,” grumbled Medley face darkening. “My music is all about natural rhythm and most dances are the same, letting yourself go with the flow of the music and the other dancers.”

“I am sorry but I find it difficult to picture you at such a well, frivolous activity.”

“Hey, I may work hard, but once the day is done I can play hard as well.”

“Yeah, you should see her when she lets it all out,” Vinyl whistled. “Mothers lock up your sons and daughters.”

“I’m not that bad,” scowled the teal pegasus.

“You are once you’ve had a few in you, you can’t hold your booze. Remember last Hearth’s warming eve? How you got Caramel and Rose to the top of the town hall I’ll never know.”

“Anyway,” said Medley hurriedly changing the topic, “You might find the hoe down is a little different to the types of dances you’re used to.”

“Really?” Octavia sounded nervous, she wouldn't want to embarrass herself in front of the whole town, and one particular pony especially. “Would it be possible for you to tutor me? I can pay if you want.”

“Keep your money, you’re my friend, I’d like to help you.” Medley considered for a moment. “I have a few hours free this evening, once the shop closes.”

“Thank you Medley, I would not want to embarrass myself at an event in my own honour.”

“Oh, you don’t have to worry Octy,” said Lyra. “Most of the ponies there won’t be expert dancers, it’s just a bit of fun after all.”

“Still, I feel I have to at least have adequate skills in this endeavour.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to impress somepony? A certain stallion?” said Lyra with a grin.

“I do not know what you are talking about!” said Octavia quickly her face beginning to colour.

“What’s this? Octy’s interested in somepony?” said Bluenote with interest.

“I think she’s rather taken with a certain big red stallion up at the Acres,” said Lyra her eyes twinkling with fun.

Vinyl whistled, “Wow, Octy you’re setting your sights high there, half of the mares and a fair number of stallions in town would give their hind legs for a shot at Mac. I don’t think he’d ever dated before.”

“He went out with Dash a few years ago,” noted Medley.

“Well that was more like she went out with him, I don’t think he had any say in the matter. He was probably too shy to say anything to her.”

“I don’t know, he’s got an interest in things from outside of Ponyville and she’d just arrived from Cloudsdale. Plus he wasn’t shy that time you and him were dancing in that fountain,” said Bluenote.

“Oh, I found his weakness all right,” said Vinyl with an evil grin. “About a hogshead of hard cider. He’s a lot less shy once he’s liquored up.”

“I would not want to get him drunk just for him to dance with me,” said Octavia.

“I never said you would. Why, is there some reason you’d want to loosen up his inhibitions?” Vinyl waggled her eyebrows.

“I think Big Macintosh is a very nice pony,” said Fluttershy, “But, errr, I wouldn’t think he would be your, err, type Octavia. I thought you might be more interested in, well high class ponies, rather than, well Mac? But of course it’s none of my business.” She hid her face.

“Yeah, you just looking for a bit of rough?” asked Vinyl.

“I.. I have to admit to a certain attraction to ponies who are not afraid to get their hooves dirty. Some of my peers can be rather boorish. But I do not currently have time for a suitor and my.. my previous attempts at romance have not been very successful.”

“Have you seen the new gardener, sis?” asked Viola pouring a glass of lemonade. “What a hunk! I could watch him ploughing for hours.”

It was summer and Octavia had returned from Canterlot to visit her family for a few weeks. It had been several years since she had first joined the princess’s school and although it cut into her practising time it was nice to see them again, even if her sisters often teased her. She would have preferred to spend her time practicing in her own room but it was high summer and the temperature was sweltering, the conservatory was much cooler but even here it was warm enough to cause her to sweat as she ran through a new tune on her instrument.

“Don’t you have a coltfriend?” asked Melody raising an eyebrow.

“Who? Jet Set? No, we broke up last week, he was such a bore.” She dropped a few ice cubes into the glass before resting it on a silver platter.

“What no mourning period?” said the eldest sister with a raised eyebrow.

“Got to strike while the iron’s hot and this one sure is hot, hot, hot. Hey Tavi!” cried Viola to her younger sister. “Want to come out into the garden, the view sure is nice today.”

Pausing in her practicing Octavia looked at her older sisters. She had to admit she was somewhat curious about the new member of staff, she had heard her mother admit to one of her friends that the temperature wasn’t the only reason she had taken to working from a desk in the garden recently, apparently she liked to admire the view as well. She couldn’t understand what her sisters saw in colts, after all they had cooties, didn’t they? “Very well. Maybe a breath of fresh air will help my concentration.”

Carefully packing her instrument into its case Octavia slung it over her back staggering slightly. Over the last year her body had suddenly decided to stretch itself almost an extra foot in height, there were some advantages, she could better hold her instrument now but she was still getting used to controlling her now lanky body. Straightening herself she followed Viola out into the gardens, behind her Melody trotted along intrigued by her sister’s description of the new help as well.

The grounds of the Philharmonia estates stretched for several acres in all directions and required a sizable staff to keep in order. The youngest member of the team, about the same as Melody, was standing only a short distance from the house with his back to the sisters as they approached. He was a large dark green earth pony stallion with a long blond mane currently plastered to his head with sweat. As they watched he was struggling to move a new sculpture into position, every one of his many muscles stood out, from his thick neck to the solid slabs of his flanks, as he used all of his considerable strength to shove the marble block into place. Suddenly with a final burst of energy he slid the statue onto its plinth.

“Wow!” gasped Melody her eyes wide as dinnerplates.

“Uh, hu,” mumbled Viola almost drooling.

Octavia, forgotten by her older sisters, found her hind legs suddenly weakening and her plot slammed into the ground as a whole herd of butterflies erupted in her stomach and the temperature seemed to rocket, causing her to break into a sweat. Suddenly she decided that maybe cooties weren’t that bad after all, she wanted, no needed to get a closer look at the new employee.

“All that work must give him quite a thirst don’t you think?” said Viola. “Now I’m sure he’d be appreciative if somepony brought him a cooling lemonade. Oh, look I just happen to have one with me.” She grinned.

“Give me that!” said Melody trying to dislodge the drink from Viola’s back. “As the heir apparent, it falls to me to see to the needs of our staff.”

“That’s your excuse for everything, you don’t have to tidy your room because you’re the heir apparent, you shouldn’t have to spend as much time with the tutor because you’re the heir apparent. I saw him first, he’s mine!” said Viola stepping aside and placing the tray on a table for safety.

“That’s not fair!” complained Melody, “I’m older.”

“Well I’m prettier,” said Viola sticking out her tongue.

Octavia frowned at her quarrelling sisters for a moment, she’d like to talk to the gardener as well, for some reason the thought of him smiling at her, grateful for his drink, made her feel sort of squirmy, in a strangely good way. Apparently unaware of the sisters antics he had trotted over to a hose pipe and with a quick turn of the tap had begun to spray himself with the chilled water, it ran in rivulets across his chiselled body and Melody and Viola quickly forgot their disagreement as their eyes locked onto the scene in front of them. Screwing up her courage Octavia snuck past her stunned sisters and took the tray onto her back, if somepony was going to take him a drink it was going to be her. She tried to remember her posture teacher’s lessons and trotted as gracefully as she could into the garden trying not to spill a drop of her cargo. Her nervousness only increased as she approached the gardener but she felt drawn on. She came to a stop only a few feet away him, he noticed her and turned, his mane flaring out throwing small droplets of water in all directions.

“Hi little one,” he said in a slow deep voice. “Is that for me?” His face broke into a huge grin revealing a mass of gleaming white teeth.

Octavia stood staring for a moment as a blush broke out over her whole body. She opened her mouth but found to her horror she seemed entirely unable to speak. She froze for a moment before closing her mouth again and nodding vigorously.

“Thanks,” said the stallion reaching over and taking the glass before pouring it down his throat in a single gulp. Octavia found her attention drawn to a single droplet of water as it rolled down the curve of his flank and slowly flowed down his leg, for a moment she wanted desperately to be that drop.

“Aaahhh! That hit the spot,” he gasped, returning the glass to the tray. “Thanks little one. I’m Tap Root, what’s your name?”

Octavia struggled to drag her gaze back to his face. She had to actually think for several seconds before she could work out the answer to his riddle. “Oct.. Octavia,” she stuttered.

“Nice to meet you Octavia. I don’t think I’ve seen you out here before.”

“No, practising,” she managed to say.

“Practising what?” he asked.

“Music!” she squeaked.

“You play an instrument?” he asked. She nodded animatedly. “I love music, would you play for me?”

Her eye’s widened and her ears stuck straight up, she suddenly wanted to show him her skills more than anything else in the world, even playing for the Princess would pale in comparison. Not replying she scampered off to her case, sitting between her two rather jealous looking sisters, and quickly extracted the instrument within.

The handsome stallion lay down in front of her as she prepared her cello. Still giving her nasty looks her sisters sat down one each side of Tap Root, significantly closer than would normally be considered proper, although the gardener did not complain.

As she prepared her cello she noticed that Tap Root looked less than infused. A tiny trickle of panic started to well up in her but she pushed it down, she knew she was a great player she would impress him with her skill and he’d want to spent more time with her. Trying to control her breathing Octavia brought up her bow to the strings and... her mind went completely blank. She could not think of a single composition, not even a single note she could play. Sweat started to bead on her brow, for a moment she wanted to run but then almost out of her control her limbs started to move sliding over her instrument with a precision built by hour after hour of practise. She couldn’t even remember what the piece was called just how to play it and she put her all into doing just that.

Finally the music came to an end and Octavia slumped slightly, drained by the energy she had put into her performance. She blinked and looked up, her sisters set there looking stunned and between then still sat Tap Root a slight frown crossing his face. A frown!

“Wow! That was very nice,” he said. “I’m not much for old music but it was very good, I just thought you’d play something a bit more modern.”

How could he not like it! She had poured her whole self into that music, it was perfect. The music had been perfect, in that case there must be something wrong with her, she was not good enough. “I... I am sorry, I will have to practice more,” she said hollowly before turning her back on the gardener and lugging her cello back into the house. After a few moments her sisters pursued her, congratulating her on her performance, the gardener forgotten for the moment.

Octavia spent the remainder of the summer hard in study, hardly leaving her room except to eat and spend time with her family, trying to improve herself enough to get Tap Root to notice her again. She occasionally caught a glance of the gardener through the window but never worked up the courage to talk to him again. The next summer she didn’t return home instead staying in Canterlot. She never saw the gardener again.

Octavia shook herself out of her recollection, her friends were looking on in concern, her face must has betrayed her feelings as suddenly she was engulfed as Lyra drew her into a deep hug. “Don’t worry there’s somepony for everyone, Octy.”

“Than.. Thank you Lyra,” said Octavia gently prising the mint unicorn off of herself, “But I am quite content, how could I not be when I am surrounded by such good friends?”

Author's Note:

Awww! Poor heartbroken little Tavi.

This was one of the first sections of this story I wrote, I'd read Octavia sings the Blues and liked the flash back to little Octy so I wrote my own with adolescent Tavi instead.

In this Octavia is about 13-14, Viola 16-17 and Melody 19-20

As always comments are appreciated