• Published 3rd Oct 2012
  • 3,833 Views, 263 Comments

The Eternal Song - Stereo_Sub

I'm Vinyl Scratch. DJ, producer, lover, borderline alcoholic... and now, apparently, savior of the universe. Yeah, I don't really know either.

  • ...

Chapter Three: Legato

I woke up the next morning with a pair of grey hooves wrapped around my chest and a sleepy smile on my face. Last night had been... well, ‘awesome’ would have been an understatement.

I glanced over to my left, where Octavia was still sleeping peacefully, mouth curled in a small smile that matched my own. It was rare I woke up before she did, but she was probably still all tuckered out from our previous... activities.

Chuckling, I stretched and hopped out of bed, then started in surprise when I noticed the time displayed on the nightstand’s clock.

Oh, crap.

It was already past nine, and I was nowhere near packed or ready for our expedition. Cursing softly, I shook my head to clear away any lingering sleepiness and began to dart around the house, grabbing as many bags and various pieces of important equipment as I could. With any luck, I would be ready before Octavia woke up, and then be able to explain my plan to her before the others showed up.

I made my way into the kitchen, opening as many cabinets and drawers as I could and grabbing anything that was bagged, dried, or otherwise preserved. Shoving the food into my saddlebags, I moved on to the storage closet near the back of the apartment. There, I found an old sleeping bag and some warmer clothes, which I grabbed as well. The letter hadn’t asked for cold-weather gear specifically, but no harm in preparing, right? The sleeping bag was a little small and patched in places, but I didn’t think ‘Tavi would mind sharing with me if the situation called for it.

Now for the firestarters. I trotted back to the kitchen, opening the drawer where we kept our matches and dropping the box in my bags. There weren’t too many left, but I hoped the others would bring some too.

Let’s see. That was food, shelter, and firestarters taken care of. The only thing missing was... water! Of course. I darted back over to the closet, sifting through various piles of assorted junk until I found the objects I was looking for: two canteens, each big enough to hold around a half-gallon. I levitated them back over to the sink, wincing slightly as I felt the weight as they began to fill. The saddlebags were going to be heavy enough as it was. Whatever, I thought. Whatever we can’t carry, we’ll eat, drink, or throw.

Once the canteens had been filled to my satisfaction, I went back into the bedroom and found Octavia’s saddlebags, which I filled with half of the supplies. A couple minutes of frantic packing later, both our bags were filled to bursting with everything a pony could need to survive out in the wilderness, interdimensional or otherwise.

I took another look at the clock and breathed a sigh of relief. Nine forty-five. Never let it be said that Vinyl Scratch can’t do something she puts her mind to, I thought happily. Now to wake up my soon-to-be partner in adventuring.

“Morning, beautiful,” I said, sauntering into the bedroom and giving Octavia a gentle shake. My goggles were still laying on the nightstand next to her, and I threw them around my neck as I prodded ‘Tavi with a hoof. Interdimensional savior or not, I wanted to look good. She mumbled something in Russani before turning away and resuming her slumber. I tried again, more vigorously, with the same result. Obviously more drastic measures were needed, and I thought I knew just the trick.

Giggling to myself, I hopped onto the bed and straddled Octavia in the same position she had used the night before. Then I leaned in and gave her hind leg a quick lick, just short of the inner thigh.

The effect was immediate. Octavia gasped and jerked on the bed, eyes shooting open. “Vlatye skartanov— Vinyl! What was that for?”

I couldn’t help myself. Her expression of outright indignation coupled with her tangled bedhead mane and rapidly reddening cheeks were the perfect storm of adorable and hilarious, and I burst out laughing. Octavia looked on, thoroughly unimpressed.

Once my laughter had subsided, I turned to her. “Sorry about that.”

“No, you’re not,”she replied, rolling her eyes and getting up from the bed. “You know, a simple ‘good morning, Octavia’ would’ve sufficed.”

“I tried that. Several times. If the tongue thing hadn’t worked, I was considering an airhorn, but—”

“Oh, hush.” She gave me a light smack with her tail, but she was smiling. “The one time you’re up before me, and you milk it for all it’s worth.”

I snorted. “One time? Please. There’s been at at least three,” I said, giving the bedside clock a surreptitious glance as Octavia rolled her eyes again. Nine fifty. If I wanted to explain to her the plan, I would have to do it fast.

“Forgive me for not keeping perfect count,” she said. “Why did you wake me, anyway? It’s not like we have anything to do today.”

I grinned sheepishly. “Yeah, well, about that...” I retrieved the letter from my now-bulging saddlebags and unfolded it for her. “I may have not been entirely honest with you last night.”

Octavia’s eyes narrowed as she scanned the parchment. “What do you...”

A minute later, her jaw dropped, and she turned to stare at me. “You’re joking. You are joking, right?” She gestured incredulously at the letter. “You don’t... you wouldn’t go do something like this without telling me.”

Oh joy. The moment of truth had arrived.

I shook my head and sighed. “Look, ‘Tavi...”

“No! Don’t even start!” she shouted, leaping up from the bed and throwing the letter aside. “Why do you do this, Vinyl? Why do you insist on going behind my back for every idiotic, half-thought-out endeavor that drifts into your mind? I carry you back when you’re drunk and passed out, tend to you, make you breakfast, and this is how you repay me?!”

“And you know I appreciate that an incredible amount,” I replied, cheeks reddening, “but it’s not my fault that you would rather sit at home and slowly bore yourself to death than—”

“I would not!” she yelled , prodding an angry hoof into my stomach.But, unlike you, I prefer to have at least the tiniest inkling of our potential chances of death or horrible dismemberment before embarking on some hare-brained quest!”

“That’s all? I’ve got those,” I said, taking a small step backward. This was not going over well, but if I could just stall long enough for the others to get here...

“Oh? And what are they? Please, enlighten me,” she said, sarcasm dripping off every word.

I grinned. “Medium to high.”

“Vinyl... that’s... you...” Octavia’s voice began to almost squeak with rage. It would’ve been hilarious, had said rage not been directed at me.

“Come on, Octavia,” I said quickly, trying to quell the rising torrent of psychotic fury that was about to be unleashed upon yours truly. “It’ll be fun! We’ll be able to see the sights, learn new things, meet new ponies. And besides, like I told the others, it’s probably just—”

“Others?” interrupted Octavia, irritation temporarily forgotten. “What others? You’ve found two more?” I breathed a silent sigh of relief.

I nodded happily. “Yep! Lyra and Redheart are both on board. Actually, they should be here any minute now...” Another quick glance at the clock. Nine fifty-seven. Celestia willing, they’d be on time.

Octavia sighed. Some of her anger appeared to have subsided, and she put a hoof around me. “Vinyl, why? I’m the mare you love, aren’t I? If you’re hiding things like this from me, what does that mean about... us?”

“I... I knew you wouldn’t consider it unless I had somepony else to back me up—”

“And for good reason!” she retorted, anger flaring back up like a fanned fire. “This whole thing just reeks of danger and... and... sketchiness!”

I shrugged. “So what? There’ll be four of us. Lyra and I have magic, Redheart’s a trained nurse, and, uh, you are...”

“-not agreeing to this,” finished Octavia, shaking her head. “Not again. Hoax or not, I’m not interested in roaming around the city looking for something that may or may not even exist.” She put a hoof against my chest and gently pushed me back, away from the door. “Why don’t you just forget about all this and—” The obnoxious screech of the entrance buzzer cut her off, and I spun around and made a mad dash for the door, grabbing both our saddlebags as I ran.

“HeyTaviGuessWeHaveCompanyI’llTalkToYouAbouttThisLaterBye!” I blurted, slamming the ‘unlock’ button on the buzzer console and racing out into the hall. She gave an angry snort and chased after me, just as I had hoped she would.

“Vinyl, I swear, when I catch you...”

Oh how I hoped to Celestia that wouldn’t happen before I could meet the others. The weight of the extra saddlebags was slowing me down, and I could feel Octavia gaining on me even as I raced down the hall to the stairwell. I reached the door, slamming it open, and vaulted down the first flight. Spinning on the landing, I turned to leap down the next set of stairs...

Only to smack headfirst into Lyra, Redheart, and Bon-Bon.

I gave a yell of surprise as I tumbled down the stairs, the other three following behind me in a tangled heap of legs and saddlebags. Octavia leapt down onto the landing, still intent on catching me, and stopped short when she saw the scene below.

“Ow. Whose horn is that?” I groaned. “It’s poking my flank.” The other three mares, minus Bon-Bon, were both carrying bags that bulged similarly to my own. I wriggled around, trying to get my mouth somewhere other than the dry canvas of Lyra’s saddle strap.

“No idea. Maybe Redheart or Bon-Bon grew one,” Lyra said, rolling her eyes. “What the hay were you running from, anyway?”

“Long story,” I replied, finally extricating myself from the ponypile and standing up. “But that’s not important—”

“Not important? Not important?” Octavia’s voice came from the landing, her tone now even and deadly quiet. Somehow, that managed to be even more terrifying than her angry yells, and I shuddered and felt my mane stand on end.

“‘Tavi, please...” I started weakly, then broke off as she narrowed her eyes and nearly began to vibrate with rage.

“Vinyl. Fortissimo. Scratch,” she began, still in that same unsettlingly calm tone.

Ooooh crap. The middle name. I gulped, preparing myself for the incoming verbal firestorm that I probably deserved, but was not looking forward to.

And then Lyra, that heroine, that minty-green angel from the blue, jumped in and saved me.

“Yeah, c’mon, Octavia!” she said brightly, hopping in front of me as if to shield me from my marefriend’s rage. “It’ll be fun!”

Fun?!” she spluttered, her deadly-calm demeanor lost in her indignation. “Walks in the park are fun. Spending time with the mare I love is fun. Attending a classical performance is fun.”

For rocks, maybe, I thought, but didn’t dare voice the jibe out loud.

“Wandering around the city in midsummer heat, with only a vague letter, a drunken memory, and piece of jewelry for guidance? That,” she yelled, stamping a hoof in anger, “is not anywhere close to my definition of fun!”

Lyra sighed. “It won’t be that bad, Octavia. Besides, you will be spending time with Vinyl, and hey, wherever we end up might even have some parks!” she said, flashing my marefriend a winning smile. Octavia tapped a hoof, still unconvinced.

“Assuming it’s not a hoax or some horrible war-torn wasteland,” Redheart muttered. Lyra shot her a look, and the white mare coughed. “Sorry. Er, we’d love to have you, Octavia.”

Octavia glared at us. Lyra smiled. I gave my best pleading expression. Redheart shot ‘Tavi a look that seemed to say ‘please don’t leave me alone with them’. Bon-Bon stood off to the side, staring anywhere but at the standoff going on around her.

The silence stretched on for what felt like minutes on end. I began to wonder what kind of sick joke Celestia had pulled to make time act like the way it did, when Octavia sighed and began to walk down the landing.

“Oh, vyarten korkil utvin. Fine. I’ll go. But only to prove you wrong,” she grumbled, finishing her descent and grabbing her saddlebags away from me. I was fairly sure she had cussed me out in at least sixteen different ways with those three words of Russani, but I was too elated to care.

“Oh, and Vinyl?” she asked, placing a hoof on my shoulder.

I turned toward her, smiling sweetly. “Yes, my love?”

She returned the smile before leaning back, winding up, and giving me a resounding THWACK on the back of the head. I yelled in pain and jumped back, taking a forehoof and massaging my now-aching head.

“Ooooooh, I totally deserved that,” I mumbled, blinking tears out of my eyes. “Eeesh. Thanks, I guess.”

“Any time,” she said, not dropping her smile. “Now, I believe we have a record shop to find. Or rather, a record shop to wander about searching aimlessly for until you finally return home, defeated, and I prove that I was right all along.”

“Ah, don’t be so negative,” said Lyra, skipping down the next flight of stairs. “It’ll be an adventure either way!”

We reached the glass double doors of the apartment complex and pulled them open, sagging collectively as the late afternoon heat washed over us.

“Well,” said Redheart, looking at me with a this better be good expression. “Where should we start?”

I opened my mouth, closed it, then stood silent for several seconds as I realized the letter hadn’t actually given me any particular directions for where to go. Near the place you know the most, it had said, as if that were the most obvious thing in the world. Where did I know the most? My apartment? A club? My parents’ house? Oh how I hoped to Celestia it wasn’t that last one. Well, whatever.

Swallowing, I cleared my throat, spun in the direction of a random street, and jabbed my hoof forward in what I hoped was a leaderly fashion.

“That way,” I said, setting off at a confident stride and motioning for the party to follow. “We go that way.”

“You have no idea, do you?” said Redheart, rolling her eyes but walking after me anyway.

I gave a snort, as if the very idea of me not knowing something was completely ridiculous. “Don’t be silly. Of course I do. The letter was very specific.”

“She has no idea,” muttered Octavia, setting off at a begrudging trot after me. Lyra and Bon-Bon followed, looking unsure but optimistic.

“I do too,” I replied, not turning around. “You know, it’s generally not good adventuring etiquette to doubt the decisions of the party leader.”

“Oh, of course not. Forgive me for slandering the infinite wisdom and guidance of our fearless commander, without whom we would be little more than lost, wandering foals.”

Ouch. If sarcasm could kill, ‘Tavi would’ve been on Equestria’s Most Wanted ages ago. I nodded, refusing to let her get to me. “Apology accepted, lieutenant.”

“Oh, hush and get moving so we can get back sooner,” she snapped.

I smiled, turning my head to the side slightly to let her see. “Yes ma’am.”

Now, I thought, ignoring the grey mare staring daggers at the back of my neck. If I were a record shop with ties to an interdimensional world-threatening catastrophe, where would I hide?

Vinyl Scratch’s life tip of the day:

Manehatten is big. Like, really big. Like, so big that you can spend two hours wandering around its various side streets looking for, say, a record shop, and barely even cover an eighth of the city.

This fact had made itself extremely prominent in my mind as the day wore on, the sun’s heat waging a neverending assault on my back, neck, and shoulders. By now, I was little more than a dripping, panting ball of sweat, stumbling around the heat-hazed cobblestones in an exhausted daze. The others weren’t faring much better.

“It. Is. So. Freaking. Hoooooooot,” Lyra groaned, shuffling along beside me.

I sighed. “I know, Lyra. I knew the last four times, too.”

“This is idiotic,” said Octavia, pausing to wipe a damp streak of mane from her eyes. “We’ve been out here for nearly two hours, and have nothing to show for it but sweaty coats and aching hooves.” She stopped, turning around and pointing back towards the horizon, the direction of our apartment. “I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m just about finished.”

Redheart nodded in agreement. “Octavia’s right. I have double shifts tomorrow, and I still need to shower and get some sleep. I’m heading home.” She turned to follow, but I ran in front of her, cutting the pair off.

“Come on, you don’t really mean that, do you?” I pleaded, looking at Lyra for support. “Lyra’s still with me, right Lyra?”

The green mare sighed. “I dunno, Vi. When I agreed to this, I kinda thought you at least had some idea of where you were going.” Bon-Bon nodded in agreement. “I... I think we should head home,” she said, looking at me apologetically. “Sorry.”

“W-wait!” I yelled desperately, wringing my hooves as the rest of my so-called party began to walk in the opposite direction, “Come on! You’re gonna give up now? We’re close! I can feel it. Just one more side street. Please?”

Lyra glanced back and gave me another regretful stare, but nopony turned around. “Okay, fine. Be that way. I’ll catch up. Don’t wait for me.”

“Like they were going to anyway,” I muttered, turning a corner and walking huffily down the avenue. Like it was it my fault the letter had been so stupid about where to find the place. Honestly, I thought, staring moodily at the ground as I trotted, if you’re going to expect a mare to save your world, some actual directions seem would be nice. How hard would it have been to write ‘Oh, and by the way, the record shop is on 34th and Cherry, just past the crepe stand.’ But no. They had to go and make it all-


“Ow! Son of a...”

I had been so intent on my brooding that I had barely realized the street I had been walking down was a dead end, and that I had just walked directly into a shabby-looking wooden fence.

“Jeez,” I muttered, rubbing my smarting nose. “Dumb fences should know better than to... hang on...”

I stepped back from the cluster of boards, eyes widening as I glanced around behind me at the deserted street. I knew this place! The alley, the fence, the graffiti on the nearby wall... This was where Octavia and I had shared our first kiss all those years ago, when the boarded-up building to my left had been the hottest underground club in Manehatten. I could still remember every detail of that night, like it had been loaded into a film reel and stuffed into my brain. The drinks, the jokes, the not-so-sly advances made by yours truly, and then, finally, that first, beautiful, spellbinding moment that had made me realize I had found the one mare I wanted to be with forever.

I ran a hoof along the fence, all my resentment towards it gone in the happy light of the memory.

Wait a minute.


The place you know most.

“Oh, you’ve gotta be freakin’ kidding me,” I muttered, turning around and scanning the street. If, after all this searching, it was here...

And there it was. Sandwiched in between an empty, fenced-off lot and what once had been a drugstore, it sat, like it had always been there: a tiny, dusty-looking storefront with Legato Records printed in faded gold above its window. I whooped, the joy of success giving me newfound energy, and set off at a gallop towards where I had last seen the rest of the party.

“‘Tavi! Lyra! Guys!” I shouted, sprinting back around the corner as fast as my exhaustion-weighted hooves could carry me. “I found it! It’s over here! Come on!” The group was already almost two blocks away, and it took nearly another minute of pursuit before they heard and turned around.

“You found it? Really?” Lyra’s grin could’ve split the sides of her face. “Hell yeah! Where was it, Vi?”

“Near the end of a dead-end street,” I replied in between gasps. “The same place Octavia and I had our first kiss. You remember that, don’t you, ‘Tavi?”

She smiled wryly. “How could I forget? That was also the night we nearly burned to death in an alcohol fire and barely managed to avoid getting arrested.” At our partymates’ dumbfounded stares, she rolled her eyes and put a hoof around me. “Oh, don’t be like that. It wasn’t Vinyl’s fault. Well, that time.” Their expressions all shifted to various degrees of relieved and embarrassed, and I giggled.

“Thanks,” I said, pecking Octavia on the cheek. “Now, come on. We’ve got a world to save.”

The soft tinkle of a bell greeted us as we opened the door to Legato Records, the sound seeming oddly out of place in the quiet, musty atmosphere of the shop. The oak-paneled walls were stacked high with shelves housing hundreds upon hundreds of ancient-looking vinyls, and nearly everything was covered in a thick layer of greyish dust. I had the distinct impression that nopony save us had entered for years, and suppressed a shiver.

“Brrr. I don’t like this place, Vi,” Lyra said, eyeing a dust-coated record player warily. “I can’t put my hoof on it, but something about it just feels off.” The others nodded. I couldn’t deny that there was something weird about the place, but I wasn’t about to let that stop me.

“I know what you mean,” I replied. “But we’ve already spent so much time looking that it would be kinda dumb to give up now, right?”

“I guess,” she replied, still looking uncertain. Steeling my nerves, I walked up to the counter and cleared my throat.

“Uh, hello? Anypony here?” My question was only met with the same oppressive silence that had hung over us since we had entered. “Um, it’s Vinyl. Vinyl Scratch. I’m here about the whole saving the world thing. That position’s not taken, right?”

Still no reply. I began to feel a small worm of anger making its way up through my stomach. We come all this way, do everything they ask, and they don’t even have the decency to meet us in person?

“Well, we tried,” said Redheart, sighing and making for the door. “Good game, well played, come back never. We’re done here.”

“Wait!” I said, staring back over the counter. “There’s gotta be something I’m missing. This can’t be a hoax. I’m don’t remember any Legato Records when I was here all those years ago, and this place looks ancient.”

“Vinyl, you were drunk,” objected Octavia. “Frankly, I’m surprised your remember anything.”

“Even so, this just seems too well thought out. There’s gotta be something else, something I’m missing... Ha! Here we go!” I said triumphantly, pointing to a shiny silver call bell sitting on the corner of the counter. It looked oddly new compared to its dust-choked surroundings, and I felt an almost unconscious urge to give it a tap.

“A bell?” said Octavia dubiously.

“Yep!” I nodded. “It’s a shop thing. You know, ‘ring bell for service’? Here, watch.” I raised my hoof, and, with a flourish, brought it down on the bell, eliciting a soft, clear ding.

The sound seemed to reverberate in the dusty silence, like it had come from something much louder than a simple call bell. Then I heard a shuffle of hoofsteps, and from back behind the counter emerged the most ancient-looking earth pony had ever seen.

His coat, once probably a rich chocolate brown, was now a muted beige and had the appearance of worn leather. His mane had fared no better, and clung to his head in whitish wisps where it remained at all. But his most interesting feature was his eyes. Bright, clear, and intense, the steely blue orbs could’ve belonged to a pony a quarter of his age. He regarded us with a nearly-toothless smile, and said, in a surprisingly full voice, “Well, look at you. My. Times sure have changed, haven’t they?”

I blinked, still slightly jarred by the disconnect between his voice and eyes and the rest of him. “Uh, yeah, I guess they have.” I frowned, remembering the letter’s instructions. “Wait. Are you Clef?”

The stallion nodded, and I swore I could hear joints creaking. “I am indeed.” He glanced down at me, eyes stopping on the amulet around my neck. I hadn’t noticed it before, but the stone inside it had begun to pulse faster as we had entered the shop, almost as if it was eager to get going.

“I suppose you’re the mare little Aura picked to head on after her?” Clef asked, staring at me. His eyes felt like they were boring straight through me and out the back of my head. Not the most pleasant sensation, let me tell you.

“That’s me. I have the letter right here,” I said, opening my saddlebags and rummaging around with my magic until I found it. “Oh, and would it be too much to ask for a little briefing? You know, just an idea of what we’re getting into before we jump headfirst into it?”

He smiled, shaking his head. “Sorry, miss. I couldn’t tell you if I wanted to, and besides, I’m not entirely sure what you’ll find either.”

“Figures,” I muttered, giving him the letter with a sigh.

The envelope was battered and wrinkled, but Clef took it wordlessly, opening it and scanning the paper within with those piercing eyes. After a minute, he nodded, sliding it back across the counter towards me.

“That’s it, all right,” he said. “And I can feel the pulse from that amulet of yours from here.” I didn’t question how that was possible. Old ponies say weird things. “Everpony got their silver?”

“The letter said the amulet would work,” I said, gesturing at it. Clef nodded. “Uh, you guys got yours?”

Lyra whispered something to Bon-Bon, who smiled and ducked down into her saddlebags. A second later, she came up with a small silver ring clasped in her mouth, which Lyra took and slid onto her horn with a flicker of magic. “Got mine,” she said. “Red, you good?”

Redheart nodded. “Right here.” She tapped her hair, still in its customary nurse’s bun, with a hoof. “There’s a silver pin in it.”

“Awesome,” I replied. “So that makes everyone... er... oh, shit.” Four pairs of eyebrows raised at the curse, and I smacked a hoof against my forehead. “Uh, ‘Tavi, you wouldn’t happen to have anything made of silver on you, would you?”

She shook her head, bewildered. “No. Why? Is it important?”

I shrugged. “Apparently. The letter said we would each need one, but I have no idea why.”
A clunk from the other side of the room caught my attention, and I turned to see Clef holding a small wooden box in his mouth, which he set gingerly on the counter.

“It’s your lucky day, miss,” he said, smiling at Octavia. “I’ve been saving this for a while, and you look like the type of mare who would appreciate it.” He leaned in and popped the box’s latches with his mouth, revealing a simple silver hoofband nestled in a bed of dark velvet. “Go on,” he said, gesturing to the jewelry. “Take it. You need it more than this old coot, anyhow.”

“O-oh. Thank you very much, Clef,” said Octavia, blushing slightly. She took the band from the box and threw it into the air before catching it neatly on her front hoof in that freaky way earth ponies can. The jewelry looked like it fit perfectly, and Clef nodded in approval.

“Now, normally,” he continued, looking around the room at each of us, “I would ask you if you’re ready to leave. But as of now, we seem to have a bit of a problem.”

“Problem? W-what problem?” I asked, casting my mind back frantically for anything I might have missed. Had I really come this far only to get stopped by a stupid technicality?

“Well,” Clef said, gesturing to the group, “Unless my eyesight’s going, I’m pretty sure there’s five ponies in front of me. Now, you do know the letter called for only four, right?”

I nodded, relieved. “Oh, that.” I pointed a hoof at Bon-Bon. “She’s not coming with us. She just wanted to say goodbye to her... um...” I trailed off awkwardly as I realized what I had been about to say. Clef seemed nice enough, but old folks and mare-mare relationships had always seemed to be a touchy subject.

Clef, however, just smiled. “Say no more. Can’t say I understand it, but if it makes them happy, I couldn’t give a damn.” He looked at Bon-Bon. “All right, missy. You say your goodbyes.” She nodded and turned to Lyra, who was looking uncharacteristically melancholy.

“Well... I guess this is it,” the green mare mumbled, grabbing Bon-Bon and pulling her tight.

“Oh, don’t say that,” her marefriend replied, returning the embrace and giving her a kiss. “You’ll be back soon, skipping home celebrating the fact that you saved a world. I know it.”

Lyra smiled, and I turned away awkwardly as I noticed the tears staining both mare’s cheeks. I could only imagine how difficult it was for her. I mean, being away from ‘Tavi... it was almost unthinkable.

“I love you, Lyra. Stay safe.”

“Love you too, Bon. You know I will.”

They broke away, and I turned back around. Lyra’s eyes were still shining, but her mouth was set in a small, confident smile. Bon-Bon looked on from the side, her face somewhere in between proud, joyful, and sad.

“All right,” Lyra said, turning to Clef. “I’m ready.”

The ancient stallion nodded. “Anypony else need to say their farewells?” When we all shook our heads, he turned to the side of the counter, opening the small gate set into it and motioning for us to follow. “All right then. Follow me.”

We obliged, forming a single file line around the shopkeeper as he led us around the corner to a back room that looked just as old and dusty as everything else. The floor was scattered with vinyl sleeves and record player parts, and I hissed in pain as I accidentally stepped on a stray needle.

“Watch your step,” said Clef, chuckling. “I’m not really the organized type.”

Once we had all filed into the tiny, dust-filled space, Clef turned to the seemingly bare wooden wall at the end of the room and tapped it with his forehoof. There was a low, throaty chord, something major, maybe a C, and the wall rippled and warped until it was no longer a wall, but an arched wooden doorway.

“Whoa,” I whispered. “Neat trick.”

“Thank you kindly,” Clef replied, ushering us in. The room beyond the doorway was even smaller than the one in the back, and we had all barely managed to squeeze in before he tapped the doorway’s arch and it morphed back into a wall with a soft A minor.

“Now,” said Clef, gesturing to the room’s center, “I’m going to ask everpony here one last time. You’re sure you’re ready to start? Is there any doubt, any hesitation, any tiny piece of your mind that says, ‘this is a damn fool’s errand?’”

“Well...” muttered Redheart, and the old stallion laughed.

“Good,” he said, patting her on the shoulder. “I would think less of you if there wasn’t. But you’re here, and you’ve said you’re ready, so unless anypony tells me otherwise, I’m going to leave you fine mares alone to get started.” He turned to me, blue eyes like polished balls of ice. “You’re their leader.” It wasn’t a question.

I swallowed. “Guess I am.”

“Then you’re the one to do the honors,” he said, pointing to the middle of the space. I realized the room only had one piece of furniture: an engraved table made of dark wood with a well-polished record player sitting atop it. “Oh, and remember...” He glanced back at me. “You’re the leader. That means you have the best point to see from, but the highest to fall. Don’t let your commitment to a role overtake your commitment to yourself.” And with that, he turned and stepped through the wooden wall behind us with a diminished G.

“Well,” I said, looking around the room. Three mares stared back at me, their faces ranging from nervous to confident to cautiously excited. “You guys ready to save a world?”

Three nods. They weren’t ready, not even close, but hell, neither was I. And it didn’t even matter. They were my friends, the ponies I could trust to stick by me to the end of the world and back. Loyal, kind, capable, and willing to put up with me. A mare can’t really ask for much more than that.

I turned to the record player. The vinyl was already on the platter, and I rotated it carefully with my hoof as I read the golden words that circled the inside:

Visite Sonum Regni Eternus

I had no idea what the phrase meant, but it felt... old. Powerful. Like was it tied to something else, something bigger, something strange and ancient and maybe even dangerous.

Something I was about to be a part of.

“Then let’s get started.”

With a smile, I pushed down the player’s arm and pressed the power button.

The sound the record player emitted seemed too powerful for its tiny speakers. It was indescribable, a steadily-increasing throaty hum that seemed to slide seamlessly between hundreds of pitches at once. I felt a strange whirling sensation in my stomach, like my insides were turning at the same rate as the edge of the vinyl, and motes of white light began to gather at the edge of my vision. The strange song continued to grow steadily, increasing in both volume in tempo until it was vibrating through my entire body. The room began to fade out of focus as the light behind my eyes became brighter and brighter, and I blindly reached out a hoof, finding what I hoped was Octavia and hooking it around her.

The notes came faster and faster, flickering between keys and scales like a pianist on his last legs of sanity. The light had now fully consumed my vision, and I held Octavia tight as the ancient song swirled around me, spinning me around and around the room without moving a step. The hum was deafening now, loud to the point where there was nothing else I felt, and still it grew louder.

Then, the song suddenly stopped, there was an ear-shattering CRACK, and I felt myself being tugged sideways, away from Octavia, through what felt like an infinity of space. I had the brief, strange sensation of being completely formless, before, with another CRACK, I collided with a soft, greenish surface and everything melted away into soothing nothingness.