• 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 Four: Da Capo

When I opened my eyes, my world was blue, and Octavia was gone. A vast, unbroken expanse of deep azure consumed all of my vision, seemingly endless...

At least until I moved my head. Then the rest of the world came into focus, and I felt my stomach lurch as my brain reoriented itself to match the newfound data. The world wasn’t really blue, of course. I had just been lying on my back, staring up into a cloudless sky. That alone was a bit of a shock, but it was nothing compared to the rest of my surroundings.

“Holy crap,” I murmured, picking myself up off the ground and slowly turning to get a good look around.

I was standing in the middle of a vast, rolling meadow, stretching on as far as the blue sea above. The grass was so green it nearly hurt my eyes, and pockets of fiery red-and-yellow flowers grew here and there like tiny sunbursts. Giant, oddly-shaped chunks of stone were studded every thirty feet or so, their intricately carved faces overgrown with moss and vines. They looked like they could’ve been pieces of buildings once, maybe from some ancient city or temple.

Wow. For a dying world, this place doesn’t look too bad. I cracked a smile at the ridiculousness of the thought. Sure, I was stranded in the middle of giant field with no idea where my home was, where my friends were, or how to get back, but hey, at least the scenery was nice.

“All right,” I said aloud, trying to keep my spirits up, “first things first.” I levitated my goggles up onto my face as if to tell the world, ‘I mean business’. As of now, food and water were a priority. I wouldn’t do my friends any good if I starved to death trying to find them, after all.

I glanced behind me and located my saddlebags, which had been thrown into a patch of tall grass near the Vinyl-shaped indent where I had first landed. There. Now I at least had supplies.

Shrugging the bags on, I did a quick 360 of the field, finding nothing but more grass, more flowers, and a couple scattered pieces of stone. Crud.

I closed my eyes, spun in place a couple times, and set off at a brisk trot towards the direction my hoof had stopped on. Hey, it had worked once, right?

“Lyra? Redheart? ‘Tavi? Hello?” I shouted out the query as loud as I could every few minutes, but got no response except the whistle of the wind. The scenery hadn’t changed from the general theme of ‘idyllic vista’, and I frowned, scuffing a hoof against the too-bright grass as I realized the thing that had been bugging me since I had first woken up. This place was beautiful, yeah, but it was quiet. Too quiet. There were no birdcalls, no chirps, no hum of insects. Just the wind and the brush of my hooves against the grass. I shivered despite the pleasant temperature of the meadow. Maybe the world didn’t look dead, but it sure felt it.

Shaking myself back to reality, I walked on, continuing to call out for my party members. “Guys? Come on! Anypony there?”

It occurred to me that I was probably broadcasting my location to not just my friends, but everything else within a couple hundred feet, friendly or not. I wasn’t too bothered, though. From I had seen so far, this place was practically a ghost town, or ghost field, and I would be able to see anything coming at me from at least three hundred feet away.

Ten minutes of wandering later, my search finally payed off. I had been on the verge of giving up and breaking camp by myself when my call was answered by a voice that, while far away, was unmistakably Lyra’s.

“Vi? Is that you? Oh thank Celestia!”

Punching a hoof in the air, I sprinted across the field towards Lyra and tackled her into the grass, sending her saddlebags flying. “Hell yeah, it’s me!” I said, laughing in relief. Now she was laughing too, and it took us around a minute before we had both sufficiently recovered enough to stand.

“Ugh. Us being the saviors of the world and all, you’d think they’d have given us a better way to travel, or at least a map,” Lyra muttered, telekinetically repacking her saddlebags and slinging them onto her back.

“Tell me about it,” I replied. “You didn’t see anypony else, did you?”

She shook her head. “Nothing. Just flowers, grass, and weird rocks. What about you? Anything interesting?”

“Nothing you haven’t already seen.” I sighed. “Damn. Guess we should keep moving, then. Hopefully we’ll find the others as quickly as I found you.” The sun was already past its midway point, and it would be getting dark soon. By then, I would have really preferred to have found everypony and set up camp.

I might be able to help you with that.

I jerked back in shock. “The hell— Lyra, was that you?”

The green mare frowned in confusion. “Was what me?”

I shook my head, cheeks reddening. “Never mind.” Great. Not like I didn’t have enough problems already. No, let’s add ‘mysterious voice in my head’ to the list!

Please. I can help you.

Oh, for Celestia’s sake...

“Who... who the hell are you?” My confused yell caused Lyra to turn toward me. She looked concerned, and my face reddened even further.

“Uh, Vi? There’s nopony here but me. You okay?”

I sighed, shaking my head. “I’m fine. Just thought I heard something.”

“If you say so,” she replied, looking unconvinced. Okay. I would deal with this later. For now, finding ‘Tavi and Redheart was priority one, no questions asked.

Vinyl. It’s me. Aura. From the alley. I want to help. Just think your responses, and I’ll hear them.

“I—” I cut myself off before Lyra could question my sanity any further. I don’t understand. You disappeared. How are you still here? Throwing up a nonchalant smile, I nodded at Lyra and continued to walk. No big deal. Just my crazy.

I’m not ‘your crazy’. It’s the amulet, Vinyl. It’s got my essence in it.

The amulet? Oh, right. I glanced down at the little quarter note, eyebrows arching as I noticed the inset stone. It wasn’t pulsing as fast as it had been in Legato, but it seemed shinier and brighter, and the colors blended into each other like running paints.

You know what? Fine, I thought, my temper starting to rise. You’re a little pony inside a necklace who can read my thoughts and talk in my head. Sure. Whatever. Not the weirdest thing to happen today. Now, considering I’m saving your dimension and all, I would really appreciate some freaking answers.

Fine, Aura replied. Tone was hard to tell through thoughts, but I was pretty sure she was on the verge of irritation. What do you want to know?

Okay. First things first. Where am I?

While not the most pressing question, it was the one I was the most curious about. Was this an ancient city? Some faraway planet? Equestria, a thousand years into the future?

No, no, and no. You’re in the Elrinian Fields, in Sonus. The dimension between dimensions, the cosmic bassline that keeps everything else on beat. The world that, if we don’t save it, is going to be gone in a couple weeks.

Oh, thanks, I thought. That really clears things up. Maybe I was being a bit of a jerk, but by this point I had just about had it with whole ‘mystical dimensional wizardry’ schtick. Cosmic bassline? What are you talking about? What does any of this have to do with music?

If a soul-essence could’ve sighed, Aura would have. It’s... complicated. All right. Imagine your universe as a kernel of corn on a cob. Follow me so far?

I frowned. Uh. Sure.

All right. So that kernel is your entire dimension: All the planets, all the stars, all your physical and magical laws and everything else wrapped up into one neat little package. Still following?

I nodded, then mentally kicked myself as I noticed Lyra’s confused stare. Yeah.
Good, she replied. Here’s where it starts getting complicated. Now, you see, your dimension, whatever it’s called-

Equestria, I thought. Well, that’s where I’m from, anyway.

Equestria? The thought sounded amused. Interesting name. Anyway. Equestria, and the entire universe that surrounds it, is only one of thousands, maybe millions of dimensions that make up the Multiverse. That’s the all and everything. The whole corncob. A near-infinite number of possible universes, expanding and collapsing a near-infinite number of times every second.

So... you’re saying that there’s more than one Equestria? I thought, attempting to pry a tiny shard of sense from the pile of metaphysical mumbo-jumbo she had just spouted. Like, there’s more than one universe like mine?

Yes, she replied, sounding pleased at my understanding. Probably thousands, possibly millions. And that’s not even counting the amount of places that are so far removed from standard dimensional law that our minds would implode trying to understand them.

I could almost feel the gears in my brain grinding. Uh. Okay. I think I’m with you. But what does this place have to do with any of that?

Sonus is the cob part of the corncob. Now, imagine what would happen if the cob of a corncob suddenly poofed out of existence. Gone. Just like that.

Uh... the corn would all fall?

Exactly. Now imagine that, but with dimensions instead of kernels.

I swallowed. Ah. That would be bad. Well, at least now I had an idea of what the stakes were, as heart-freezingly terrifying as they may have been.

Yes. Very bad. To put it mildly.

All right, I thought. I think I get it. Now, next-

Vinyl. We’ll have time for Q&A later, once you’ve found everypony else. For now, just focus on the task at hoof.

I repressed a sigh. Fine. You said you could help me find them? How? I was still full to bursting with unanswered questions, but the pony in my head was right. The party was still priority one.

Close your eyes. This might sting a little.

I complied, then gave a small gasp as a sharp spike of pain stabbed through my head, receding almost as quickly as it had came.

There. That should have worked

I looked around, confused. Huh? I don’t— whoa. Octavia and Redheart were still nowhere to be seen, but I realized I could hear a soft, meandering melody coming from off to my left. I focused on it, and it seemed to split, diverging into two separate rhythms from two different directions.

Let me guess, I thought, cocking an ear towards the loudest melody. Follow the music?

You’re a fast learner. Every living thing has its own unique cosmic rhythm, including your friends. I’ve linked your signatures together so you’ll be able to find them however far away they are.

I rolled my eyes. Just a “Yes” would’ve been fine too. Well, thanks, I guess. Does it work both ways? Like, can they find me and each other, too?

No. It’s part of the inherent magic of the amulet, so it can’t be-

‘No’, I thought. Got it.

Turning in the direction of the song, I began to trot towards it, motioning for Lyra to follow. “Hey. Let’s head this way. I’m getting bored of walking in the same direction.”

She shrugged. “Whatever you say.” I was fairly certain she still thought I was at least one flavor of completely insane, but I would have time to deal with that later.

The first melody slowly grew in both volume and complexity as we walked on, while the other one receded until it was barely more then a murmur. I gave a grunt of irritation. Wherever one member was, the other was obviously in a completely different direction. Even if we traveled fast, would be lucky to find both of them before nightfall.

I started as the melody I had been following gave a sudden, discordant screech before picking up again, much faster and more hectic than before.

Vinyl. Somepony’s in trouble.

Swallowing, I broke into a run. Ya don’t freakin’ say.

“Lyra! Come on!” I shouted, clearing a piece of a ruined dome with a single leap. I was not going to lose a pony before we had even started.


“Trust me!” The song was louder now, sounding more panicked by the second, and I urged my legs forward, not bothering to check if Lyra was following. Just a little faster...

And then I heard it.

A shrill, piercing scream that made my mane stand on end, matched by a jarring stop in the melody I had been following. With a panicked yell, I clambered up a sunken pillar, leaping off it and over the next hill. That was Redheart’s scream.

I landed heavily on my left forehoof, hissing in pain before forcing myself onward again. Passing over the crest of the next hill, I was confronted with a scene that looked like something out of a nightmare.

Redheart was sprinting across an open expanse of the meadow, a trio of dark, flickering, pony-shaped forms pursuing her. They moaned, wisps of greenish vapor trailing off their decayed-looking bodies, and I gave a yell of anger and charged.

“I’m coming, Red!”

Vinyl! Don’t!

Don’t? The hell do you mean, don’t? I thought, leaping towards the closest of the evil-looking things. Redheart’s in trouble, and I’m not-


I gasped as I felt all my limbs lock simultaneously, like they had been grabbed by an invisible vice. A second later, my hind legs jerked backwards by themselves, sending me arcing away from the trio of monsters in a graceful backflip. I landed a couple feet away and sighed in relief as I felt the control of my body return to its rightful owner.

What... what the HELL was that? I thought, shaken by the sudden loss of control.

No time! Look!

I felt my blood turn to ice as I realized that my yell and narrow escape had turned the monster’s focus to me. They gave another chilling moan and began to hobble their way towards me, closing the distance much faster than seemed possible. I gulped and turned to run.

Vinyl! Think of a note!

“A what?!” I screamed, too flustered and terrified to remember that I didn’t have to speak out loud. “I’m about to get murdered, and you’re worried about—”

Do it! A musical note! High G!

Just the name of the pitch immediately sparked a subconscious recognition in the musician part of my brain, and I focused on it, sprinting as fast as I could all the while. The monsters were gaining, and it wouldn’t be long before they had caught up entirely.

Okay, now what? I thought-shouted. How does this help?!

Focus harder! Aura replied. Let the pitch fill your entire body, then release!

Gritting my teeth, I imagined the note getting louder and louder, enveloping my entire body in a constant, steady hum. To my surprise, I felt a warm, energizing glow begin to spread outwards from the middle of my body, continuing until it reached the very tips of my hooves.

Good! Now hold it...

One of the monsters gave a snarl and leapt toward me, nearly grabbing my tail in its rotting mouth. It tumbled down into the grass, but I still had the other two close behind.

A little more...

The glow intensified, growing from pleasantly warm to almost painfully hot as I leapt over another broken shard of stone. My hoof caught on a rough edge, and I yelled in shock as I fell heavily to the ground. The monsters slowed, looming over me, their decaying jaws parted in horrible grins. My skin begin to itch and burn as the hum in my chest grew even louder, swallowing up my entire being.

Vinyl! NOW!

The first of my pursuers lunged for me, and I screamed, releasing the glow in a brilliant blue arc of chain lightning that leapt between all three of the monsters. It bounced back and forth, piercing them through their shadowy ribcages until nothing remained but three piles of black, smoking ash.


I had expected several things to happen when I had screamed, the most obvious being my grisly and untimely death. Spontaneous chain lightning from a musical note I had imagined in my head had not been on the list.

Oh, thank the Gods. That was too close, Aura thought.

No freakin’ kidding, I replied, taking a shaky breath and staggering to my hooves. What the hell were those things?

I’ll tell you later-

That was it!

Like hell you will! I thought, my shock and fear replaced entirely by a prickly flood of anger. I’ve been thrown across the universe, lost my party, almost gotten murdered by a couple of monsters straight out of a budget horror movie, and you know what? I would be okay with all of that, if anypony would actually give me even the tiniest hint of WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON!

There was a long pause. I wasn’t sure if thought-ponies could sulk, but if they could, Aura almost certainly was.

I am not sulking!

“Oh?” I replied, my anger returning in a rush at her indignant tone. “Good! Then you’ll be able to tell me what those monsters were, how I did what I did, and exactly what in the name of Celestia’s shiny left flank is going on in this clusterbuck of a dimension!” Honestly, the freakin’ nerve...

“Er... Vinyl?”

I felt my heart drop somewhere near my hooves as I realized that I had been speaking aloud, and that Redheart and Lyra were standing near me, concerned looks on both their faces.

“Oh, heya Red!” I said, trying and failing to plaster a nonchalant smile on my lips. “That was pretty close, huh?”

She nodded shakily. “Too close. But, Vinyl, what... what was that? And who were you talking to just then? Are you all right?”

“Yeah, Vi, what’s up? Are you hearing things?” Lyra asked, voice worried. “You want to take a break for a little?”

I sighed. Aura, there isn’t a way you’d be able to prove to them that you’re, ya know...

Not just a figment of your crazed imagination? No, I’m afraid not.

Of course. Silly me, thinking I could actually catch a break. Well, nothing for it. I looked between the two mares and steeled myself.

“No. I’m fine. But there’s a snarky little pony stuck in my head who keeps promising me answers, and so far she hasn’t been delivering,” I said, pretending not to see the worried frowns that had appeared on both mare’s faces. “That’s all, really.”

My reassurance worked exactly as well as I had expected, and Lyra sighed, put a hoof on my shoulder.

“Uh... Vi, I think you should sit down for a little. You know, catch your breath, calm down, get yourself together. I mean, you’ve been through a lot...”

I shrugged the hoof off, snorting in irritation. “Lyra. I’m fine! Aura, the pony from the bar, apparently managed to turn her soul into the amulet I’m wearing, and now she can talk in my head.”

She raised her eyebrows. “And you’re sure that’s true because...”

I pointed to the closest ash pile. “Because if she hadn’t, I would probably be dead. Look, just give me a minute to figure everything out, and I’ll tell you guys whatever I find.” I could tell they weren’t still entirely convinced, but I would take what I could get.

Well, at least you give me some credit.

I rolled my eyes. Unless you start giving me some answers, I wouldn’t get used to it.

All right, fine. I can see you’re stubborn enough to keep at this until we’re both out of our minds, no pun intended. Fire away.

I grinned. Progress!

Okay. First. Those monsters. What were they?

Thralls. The souls of dead ponies summoned up from the underworld and shoved into a mortal form. If they touch you, your life force will slowly drain away until you’re nothing but a husk.

I swallowed, now understanding why Aura had been so adamant that I avoid physical contact. Thralls. Undead, bad, don’t touch. Got it.

Good. The three you found were roaming, broken away from whatever had summoned them, but they’re usually within close company of a follower of Mortem, and therefore much more dangerous.

A follower of what now? I thought, growing more confused by the minute. Every answer I got seemed to open up two more questions for me to ask. Why would they be more dangerous?

Mortem, god of death, destruction, and decay. The most powerful of his devotees can raise and command hundreds of thralls at once, binding them to their soul and commanding them at will. Those are rare, thank the Gods, but they’re almost universally an awful thing to run into.

I frowned. There’s a god of death?

There’s a god for everything. But we’re getting off topic. Next question.

I repressed a snarky reply. No need to push my luck when she sounded irritated enough as it was.

Okay. Death gods and evil ponies who can control souls and raise the dead. This day keeps getting better and better. Now, second: I’ve never done a backflip in my life. How the hell did I manage to pull one off midsprint, and in the opposite direction, no less?

That was me. The soulbond you have with the amulet gives me limited control of your facilities, but only in critical moments. I can’t suddenly decide to possess you, if that’s what you’re worried about, but-

Oh hell no. Talking in my head was one thing, but taking control of my body?

Aura, I thought, gritting my teeth.


How attached are you to living in my head?

Yours? Not particularly, but you’re who I’m stuck with, so I suppose I can’t complain.

I gave a slow nod, ignoring Lyra and Redheart’s stares. All right. Then listen to me, right now. If you ever, ever, so much as make me twitch without my permission again, I swear to Celestia I will rip off this amulet, find the deepest hole I can, and bury you in it.

There was a pause.

...Point taken. Although I did save you from slow, excruciating death by life-force extraction.

And I appreciate that, I replied. But I prefer my body to be property of me, and me alone, thanks.

All right. Anything else, or can we actually begin to attempt some form of productivity?

Last one. The lightning thing. Explain. How did a note I thought of in my head turn three thralls into undead barbecue?

There was a soft murmur in my head, and I wrinkled my brow in confusion before I realized Aura had sighed. How she had managed that without lungs was beyond me, but after everything that had happened so far I just went with it.

I was wondering when that would come up, she thought. I’m going to give you the short version, because the long one goes a little over even my head and we’re pressed for time.

Fine with me, as long as it makes sense. Which, just like almost everything else she had explained, it probably wouldn’t.

In Sonus, music has power. Well, actually, that’s inaccurate. Music is power. Almost any musically-inclined pony has their overall prowess increased while they’re here, but some, like you and I, take it a step further. You’re a Sonomancer, Vinyl, like I am, or was, ever since the moment I soul bonded with you in that alley. You can take the changes you introduce into the universe’s cosmic song and manifest them in the physical world through sheer force of will. It’s a rare skill, and the intensity varies per individual. Last I checked, there were only a couple hundred, most of them here.

An answer that didn’t involve evil, monsters, death, or general awfulness? Sweet. Chalk one up for Vinyl.

So I’m some kind of music mage? I asked, head spinning slightly from the ‘explanation’ but pleased nonetheless. And you said the power varies from pony to pony... where do I rank up? It’d be just my luck to get blessed with awesome musical-magic powers only to find the best I could do was a couple sparks.

It’s honestly too early to tell, she replied. From that bolt you loosed, it looks like you have plenty of raw power, but that doesn’t mean much if you don’t have the finesse to apply it.

I snorted. Finesse? Finesse? Aura, I don’t think you know who you’re talking to. This mare right here is the queen of finesse.

I don’t think you even know what that means.

‘Course I do. It’s like ‘sexiness’, right? But cooler?

There was a long pause, in which I had the odd mental image of a tiny pink-and-green mare smacking a hoof against her face repeatedly.

So that’s a ‘no’?

You’ve asked enough questions. Now let’s get moving before you make me want to unbond us myself.

Fine with me, I replied, breaking out of the semi-trance the thought conversation had lulled me into and turning to Redheart and Lyra. “All right. I now have almost no idea what the hell is going on, which is a fairly big improvement over what I knew about two minutes ago. But right now, ‘Tavi is out there somewhere, and we need to find her, so I’ll tell you as we go.”

Two hesitant nods. “Er... all right, Vinyl... if you’re sure you’re fine...” said Redheart. “Of all the things I’ve agreed to, this takes the Celestia-damned cake,” she muttered, rolling her eyes.

I began to stroll away from the pillar, following the faint strains of Octavia’s song and pretending not to hear Red’s grumbling. She would come around eventually, she always did. Hell, maybe we would get lucky, one of us would get some major-yet-almost-definitely-not-fatal injury, and she would just retreat into Zen Nurse Mode for the rest of the day.

I’m not sure what it says about you that you would see yourself or your friends badly getting injured as a positive, but I’m fairly certain I don’t like it.

I rolled my eyes. Do you have an off switch?

Of course. It’s a very simple procedure. First, acquire a heavy, blunt object. Second, raise it above your head. Third-

“Very funny,” I muttered, causing Lyra to glance at me. Shit. “I-I mean... hey, let me tell about what I found out from Aura!” Nice save, Vinyl. That’ll be one for the history books.

I did my best to tune out Aura’s periodic snark bombs as I explained to my party members everything I had learned as we walked. They took most of it pretty gracefully, although Redheart did give a little shudder when I explained about the thralls. I couldn’t really blame her. Tough or not, those things were damn creepy.

“So, let me get this straight,” said Lyra, raising her eyebrows as we carefully navigated over a crumbled archway. “You’re some kind of... music wizard, who can make lightning bolts and stuff appear just by thinking of a note?”

“Pretty much,” I said, nodding. “There’s probably more to it than that, but when I try to think about anything else she told me it makes my head hurt.”

Lyra grinned. “Vi, that’s freakin’ sweet! Anything gets in our way, you just bust out some sick drops and bam, nothing’s left but a couple blobs of ash.”

If only it was that easy, Aura thought.

“Well, Aura says it might not be quite that much of a walk in the park,” I said, “but yeah, at least I have fall back on if we get into another scrape.”

“Right,” she replied. “Wait a minute, though...” Her grin got wider. “If you could do that with just a note, imagine what you could do with a whole song!”

I raised my eyebrows as I considered the possibility. “You know, I didn’t think of that...” Aura, does it work that way?

Sort of. Notes are materials, songs are tools. If you can perform and arrange them correctly, you should be able to channel huge amounts of power, but it’ll take practice.

“Aura says it’ll take a lot of practice, but yeah, once I get it...” I matched her grin. “Watch out, thralls.”

My smile faded as I noticed the growing shadow I had begun to throw across the grass of the field, and I picked up my pace. “Crud. Come on, guys. The sun’s gonna set soon, and I would really like to have ‘Tavi safe and sound before it does.” They nodded, and we set off at a quick trot towards the steadily-strengthening sound of Octavia’s music.

I was still utterly lost in the middle of a world I didn’t know, with no clue where my marefriend was, how to return, or why I was there in the first place, but hey. I had my two best friends, a bag full of food, and the power to shoot lightning bolts whenever I damn well pleased.

With the day’s events considered, things were looking up.

Two hours later, the sun had set almost completely, and with no sign of ‘Tavi or change in scenery, I was beginning to reconsider my previous assessment. It didn’t help that with the drop of the sun came a substantial drop in temperature, leaving my teeth chattering and hooves heavy as I walked blindly after the faint, wandering melody.

Jeez, Aura. How big are these fields? I thought, trying to make some conversation if only to keep my mind off the numbness that was slowly creeping its way up my legs.

Extremely, she replied. I don’t know the exact dimensions, but at one point several cities were contained within them. That’s what all these ruins are from. Hopefully you got dropped near the edge, otherwise we could be walking for a very long time.

“Fantastic,” I muttered. The others didn’t hear me, thankfully, and I slowed and glanced backwards. “Hey, how are you guys holding up?”

“F-f-f-fine...” Lyra replied, trying to disguise the castanet-like racket her teeth were making. “B-but V-Vi... Are we g-gonna stop and make camp s-soon?”

“I’d like to know that as well,” said Redheart. “I mean, as much as I enjoy the refreshing numbness of hypothermia and frostbite, I wouldn’t mind ending my first day here with all my vital organs intact.”

“Oh, stop,” I said, rolling my eyes. “I get enough of that from Aura.”

If you didn’t act like a pouty, defiant filly, I wouldn’t have to.

I gave a frustrated grunt. Case in freakin’ point, thoughtpony.

I have a name, Aura replied. I wasn’t sure if she was getting better at expressing emotion through my thoughts, or if I was just listening better, but either way, I could tell she was annoyed.

And I’m too busy freezing my ass off to care. So unless you know of some magical nearby place where the temperature isn’t somewhere between ‘snowdrift’ and ‘glacier’, I would suggest you shut up and let me think.



On your left.

“Wha...” I glanced over to my left, squinting in the light of the dying sun at a small, rectangular speck in the distance. I couldn’t be sure, but it looked like a building of some sort, and Octavia’s song pointed straight towards it. I yelled in triumph and punched a hoof in the air, forcing myself to double my pace.

“Hell yeah! We’re not stopping now, girls. Not while she’s this close!”

It was another minute or two before we reached the building’s entrance, and in that time nearly all feeling had managed to recede from my hooves. I couldn’t have cared less. The song was strong and clear now, which meant ‘Tavi was here.

Wherever here was...

I slowed slightly as I approached the large, imposing construction, eyes widening at the intricate, ice-blue runes carved into the greyish stone. There were four pillars near the front, each containing a sconce filled with blue fire that bathed its surroundings in a cold, eerie light. The door, set back behind the pillars and flanked by twin sconces of its own, was no less impressive. Huge and solid-looking, it was covered in the same runes as the rest of the building and pulsed slightly with an inner azure glow.

But, most importantly, it was also slightly ajar, just enough that a slim grey mare would have been able to squeeze through to get to whatever was inside.

Aura? Any ideas? Knowing my luck so far, I wouldn’t have minded having at least some idea of what to expect in there before I charged headlong into it.

None worth sharing, she replied. It obviously looks like a temple or shrine of some kind, but to what, I don’t know. Those runes aren’t familiar to me. It could be... no. She seemed to check herself. Never mind. I have no idea.

Great. Well, time to re-use the time-honored strategy of ‘run straight in there with no idea what to expect’.

When haven’t you been using that?

I rolled my eyes. Touche, thoughtpony.

My pleasure, unicorn.

I walked slowly up the chipped stone steps to the temple’s door, running my hoof along the glowing marks and catching my breath slightly as I realized they were warm to the touch.

“Lyra, Red. Come on. ‘Tavi’s in here, I’m positive,” I said, pointing to the door.

"What, you’re just going to rush straight in there?” Redheart replied, shuffling uneasily. “What there’s more of those... things, or something even worse?” She shuddered, looking terrified at the very thought of whatever that ‘something worse’ was.

I shot her a confident grin. “Then I drop the bass and fry ‘em.”

You make it sound like it’ll be so easy, when you’ve had no formal training, no experience, and no idea how to control your power.

Celestia, wasn’t she just a ray of freakin’ sunshine?

I growled. I thought you were supposed to help me, not mock and insult me every chance you got.

I wouldn’t, if you would behave like a pony who actually understands the gravity of the situation she’s in.

I do understand! I shot back, smacking a forehoof against the door in anger then jerking back as a burst of bluish energy flared up from it. Look, I’m just taking things as they come for now. Once I’ve found ‘Tavi, set up camp, and maybe eaten something, then we can talk world-saving, all right?

There was a silence, then a terse ‘fine.

Vinyl: one. Thoughtpony: zip.

I heard that, Aura murmured angrily.

Without ears? Impressive.

Another frustrated sigh emanated from my brain. How did she do that?

“Vi?” Lyra’s concerned tone brought me back into reality, and I mentally kicked myself as I realized I had been wasting precious time arguing when Octavia was so tantalizingly close.

“Yeah. Sorry. Talking with Aura, zoned out a little. Won’t happen again. Let’s go,” I said quickly, sucking in my gut and shoving myself through the door’s opening. Lyra and Redheart followed suit, and with a little wriggling and scraping, we were in.

The temple’s interior mirrored its exterior in almost every way, from the glowing runes to the torches filled with icy blue fire set on the walls. We had emerged in what looked like some kind of entrance hall, with archways leading off on each side to what I assumed were other rooms. It was slightly warmer in here, though not by much, and I shivered as I made my way towards the middlemost arch, where Octavia’s song still played.

“Come on, guys. ‘Tavi’s this... way...” I frowned as Octavia’s melody suddenly picked up in speed, the notes flitting around like disturbed birds. It wasn’t frantic, like Redheart’s had been, just more... active.

I darted through the center archway, following the twists and turns of the hall beyond it with only the glow of the runes and the melody to guide me. It only seemed to increase in speed and complexity as I neared its source, and the fear of what could have happened to her gave my hooves wings. I skidded around a corner, nearly bouncing off the wall before spinning around and smacking directly into another large, slab-like door. This one was shut tight, but I could hear Octavia’s song from directly behind it. I heard other things, too: clangs and strange scuttling sounds that set my teeth on edge. I smacked a hoof against the door. It refused to budge, sending out another burst of blue light, and I smiled.

“You guys might wanna stand back.”

Redheart gasped softly, and Lyra grinned and hopped from hoof to hoof like an excited filly. “You got this, Vi. Blow that sucker open!”

Closing my eyes, I conjured another note, an A this time, and let it begin to grow. I felt the warm glow of power build inside me, tingling out to the tips of my hooves with a soft, clear hum. It felt slightly easier than it had when I had fought the thralls, but whether that was because I was getting better at it or because I wasn’t running for my life, I couldn’t tell.

“Just a little more...” I murmured, eyes still shut in concentration. I felt the hot, prickly feeling burning on the tips of my hooves and leapt into the air, releasing the stored light in a burst.


There was blinding flash of bluish light, and the door shattered inward with a crash of stone and an A major, releasing a gigantic cloud of dust and debris into the room beyond. I fell back onto my hooves, panting slightly. Blowing things up with lightning was definitely fun, but it could take a lot out of a girl.

The sounds in the chamber were clear now, screeches and clacks interspersed with the occasional snikt of metal. Fighting sounds.

I frowned, squinting through the veil of dust. Octavia’s melody was clear as day, spinning and thrumming between notes almost faster than I could hear them. I stepped farther into the gloom and stopped short when I saw what was beyond it.

I had been through a lot in the past 24 hours. I had seen things that would’ve made most normal ponies curl up into a ball and scream in terror, and I wouldn’t have blamed them. You would think that, by now, dealing with the weird and insane would have become almost normal.

But the thing before me was so strange, so unthinkable, it made my head pound and jaw drop just imagining it. Something so far away from the ordinary and mundane it probably shouldn’t have had a right to exist at all. But it was here, undeniably, and I could do nothing but stare in awe and murmur.

“Oh no freakin’ way.