• Published 28th Dec 2012
  • 1,851 Views, 64 Comments

Duet of Strings - Prosopeio

What are the true origins of the cellist Octavia? And why does a letter from her Mother bring so much grief with it?

  • ...


There are so many starting points, Vinyl, that it's hard to pinpoint what tale to tell. I could talk about my Father or my Mother, but I only know small bits of their stories. They would regale my sister and I with how they first met and I remember how we would both sigh at how romantic it all sounded before making gagging noise at how 'kissy facey' they were being.

So instead, I'll start with my life. I was born along with my twin sister, Harmony Greensleeves Apple, on a mid-summer's evening. By the time we were born, my parents had only just started living in a nice home in Manehattan and, as cliche as it might be, music surrounded my sister and I constantly. Father and Mother would sing us to sleep as children, and during the day we would play on little baby instruments and our parents allowed us to be as loud and noisy as babies can get when they have such things. As we grew, my sister and I would always experiment with the various instruments in the house. Nothing was left untested, percussion, wood winds, brass winds, we tried it all. We also accidentally broke a couple, but my parents were fairly calm about that. Sadly, nothing really stuck until our first family reunion and, ironically, our first hoedown.

I remember it clearly, my sister and I were sad that we couldn't find any instruments that 'clicked' for us. As much as we liked music, neither of us felt comfortable playing the instruments our parents used in their professions. We had all but given up, until we saw them. Grandfather Stayman and his cousins, Summerfree and Sturmer Pippen, were up on stage getting ready for the hoedown. Father was going to join them on drums, while Mother would accompany them on piano, but what got our attention were the instruments the older ponies were using. A banjo, a bass and a fiddle. Rustic, I know, but when everypony got together to dance, the music was just so happy and upbeat, familiar yet so different. Mother and Father never used strings in their music, so they never thought to keep any on hand. But as my Sister and I got swept up in the dancing and playing, we knew we had a whole other world of instruments to try.

I'm not sure why I chose the cello and she the violin. Perhaps it was because there was something about drawing a bow across the strings for the first time, hitting that first, good note, that awoke something within us. My sister thought it was cause we could play swords with the bows. Sadly, I jumped at the chance to do just that as a filly, before we broke our first set of bows and cried about not being able to play our new instruments anymore. Odd... now that you mentioned it Vinyl, I distinctly remember Father giving my sister and I ice cream whenever we broke something. Not as a reward, but because he couldn't stand to see us feel so bad. Mother chided him for it, but he laughed it up. "As long as they know better than to do it next time, why let them wallow over it? Kids are kids, let them play and learn!"

Laughter... yes... Laughter and music always filled our lives. Father was always laughing as he played, his music always making ponies want to get up and dance as he swept them up into his melodies. It helped he could use magic to manipulate multiple instruments at once, which is how he got his Cutie Mark. Somepony was always coming around the house to meet with the famous 'Big Band and Jazz Apple' in hopes of getting them to play some event or another.

Octavia blinked as she looked at Vinyl, the pony sitting where she was with a dropped jaw and a small, almost inaudible squeak escaping her.

"... Vinyl? Are you alright?"

Slowly, Vinyl lifted a hoof up to her face, tapped it a few times to make sure it was still there, then did something Octavia never thought she'd ever see.

Vinyl hit herself. Hard.

"Vinyl! Whatever did you do that for?!" Octavia asked worriedly, almost getting up from her couch before the unicorn held up a hoof to stop her.

"I... I'm alright. I'm cool. This is real, right? You ain't pulling my leg? Your old man was THE Big Band? The One Pony Show? The Musical Manipulator?! The only Unicorn this side of the magical elite who could control multiple different instruments at once and make it sound AWESOME?! HE was your Dad?!" With every title spouting out of the DJ's mouth, Vinyl slowly got more and more worked up, her horn sputtering like a foal just coming into their magic. By the word 'AWESOME' she was standing on her hind hooves, her forelegs spread out as if holding the word in her hooves for Octavia to see, panting heavily as she tried to catch her breath.

Arching a brow, Octavia slowly nodded. "Yes... that would be Daddy. I take it you are a fan?" she asked, a slow, smug smile gracing her features.

Flopping back onto her own couch, Vinyl continued to give Octavia a gobsmacked look. "A fan? A fan? Octy, not just one, but BOTH of your parents were major influences in my life! They kicked traditional music to the curb and laughed at its face! I grew up listening to Peckish Pony over and over until my parents threatened to fling the record out the window! Hay, your Dad's the reason I was able to get my Cutie Mark in the first place! You bet your Apple Flank I'm a big fan!"

Giggling a bit, Octavia shook her head and sighed. "Did you know Daddy had my sister and I record ourselves saying numbers for him so he could use it for the album? We nearly drove Mother mad when all we would do one day is say 'One Two' the entire time while Father played the song. It was all in good fun of course. he had us do it as a reward for gaining our Cutie Marks. It was so that every time we heard that song, we'd always be reminded of that time..." Octavia's smile slowly faded before she let out a heavy sigh. "We're getting side tracked. Give me a moment and I'll continue."

Vinyl's own excitement died down as she realized something, a memory of her childhood hero coming to the fore as she got very quiet.

The laughter didn't last, sadly. I could go on and on about the wonderful things my parents did for my sister and I as we grew up. Putting us through school at the Manehattan School of the Performing Arts, never missing a single Apple Family Reunion, allowing my sister and I to play with other foals and humoring us by allowing us to perform for them on our new found instruments. Life was good... until Father started developing bad coughing fits. You see, all our lives, Father had a habit of smoking from a pipe. It was never constantly, just something he did at the end of a long day, or while we were all relaxing. I admit that the smell of the smoke was almost soothing in its own right, something we grew up with and associated with him. He knew proper spells for making sure the smoke never bothered the family, and he always smoked near an open window or the chimney. But over time, we began to notice that Father rarely played any of his instruments without magic. Where before he was part of the band, he became the conductor. Where he had once pranced about on stage with infectious energy, he started standing still, only swaying to the beat. He also began to get tired very easily. We were worried, but Father kept insisting he was fine.

Except, he wasn't.

One night, my sister and I were awoken by my Mother's frantic shouting and ponies running up and down the Hall. We ran to see what was the matter, only to see our Father laying on a stretcher, wheezing as he tried to breathe. We were crying, confused. What happened to Father? Why were they taking him away? The reason became clear once Mother calmed us down. Mother had slipped away earlier to bring an emergency wagon from Manehattan General Hospital, worried about Father. When she got back with the wagon, she had apparently heard Father coughing terribly before spitting out what looked like blood. They had gotten into a loud argument, before Father fainted, causing Mother to cry out in shock.

What my Father tried to pass off as a bad flu had turned out to be something far worse. Lung cancer. Cancer on a whole was something magic could only treat in certain situations, such as if it were found early, or if the tumor that was found was not spreading. Sadly, Father had an advanced case, possibly caused from his smoking. The Doctor went on and on about malignant versus benign and why this and that wouldn't work or would only delay the inevitable, but in the end all my sister and I understood was one thing. Daddy was dying.

We had cried at his bedside, Mother holding us close as we did. We were inconsolable. What can you tell a filly when she is witnessing the slow degradation of a parent? Of course, Daddy being Daddy, he placed his hoof on our heads and ruffled our manes, giving us a weak smile. "Don't cry, my little melodies." he said, but for the first time ever my sister and I couldn't do as Daddy said. He had Mother help us up to rest on either side of him, and we held onto him with everything we had.

In the passing month, as his condition worsened, we did everything we could to make him feel better. We played for him, we told him about things we had done, naively we also talked about things we would do when Daddy got out of the hospital. Did you know we even wrote a letter to Princess Celestia, begging her to help our Daddy? We never got a reply back, but in hindsight were barely knew how to properly fill out an address on an envelope, let alone write or send a proper letter. Mother seemed to withdraw into her music, setting something big up, and we noticed more and more family members dropping by the house to visit and talk with Mother. Before Daddy passed, we were allowed to bring him outside in a wheelchair, and the lawn of the hospital was the sight of an impromptu Apple Reunion. Everypony came to pay their respects, and the entire family got together, picking up whatever instrument they could, and began playing one of Daddy's latest songs. My sister and I clung to Daddy's side as they played. It was a chaotic mess, some ponies getting lost, others rushing the beat, and a few others barely knew how to hold their instruments... but they were having a grand old time. As the song ended, the only thing the Apples heard were two little fillies crying as their Daddy went to sleep for the last time, a bright smile on his muzzle.

The funeral was a large affair. Family, friends and fans seemed to come from all over when news of Daddy's passing was heard. Respects were paid, ponies I never even saw before were crying just as hard as we were. On the one hoof, a small part of me felt happy that so many ponies came to say goodbye. A much larger part of me would have seen any number of them take Daddy's place, just as long as I could hear him laugh again. Afterwards, we were brought to our grandparent's farm to live for a while, the old house filled with far too many memories for Mother or Sister to do anything without crying. As for me... I saw the farm as the final nail on the coffin. They were going to up and leave Manehattan and completely forget about Daddy! I know it's horribly foalish of me in hindsight, but I was young and hurting. Anything involving the farm was a symbol of moving away from everything Daddy ever did. I wanted to hold on to the past and never let it go, no matter how much it would hurt me in the long run. So Mother sent me back to Manehattan. We all had our ways of dealing with grief, and I wanted to wallow in mine as much as possible. She couldn't let me live alone in our old house though, so I was sent to live with Auntie Orange Sherbert and Uncle Gardner Orange, along with their daughters Seleta and Babs Seed. I continued my education at the Performing Arts School and occasionally met Mother from time to time until I was able to stand on my own four hooves and move out.

"And that is that." Octavia said with a bit of finality. Glancing over at the clock, she noticed a few hours passed. She had lost herself in the retelling and felt a yawn escape her. "Well... that was emotionally drai-NGG!" A pair of hooves wrapped themselves around Octavia, and she couldn't help but wonder when Vinyl had moved from her own couch to by Octavia's side.

"It's okay." Vinyl said softly, slowly rocking from side to side as she held her friend.

"What are you talking about? I'm perfectly fine Vinyl." Octavia said incredulously. The tears forming were from the yawn just then, a perfectly understandable reaction. She simply needed to blink them away.

"It's okay. Let go."

"I should be telling YOU that! You're the one who suddenly latched onto me!" She kept blinking but the tears wouldn't stop. Odd, tears from yawns never persisted this long. "I'm just tired is all, a good sleep will... will.." A hiccup. She must have eaten too fast. it was all Vinyl's fault for making the food so tasty. The only reason she was even wrapping her hooves around the stupid unicorn was to pull her off.

"I ain't going anywhere Octy. Just let it out..." Octavia felt a hoof stroke her back comfortingly and she felt a shiver pass through her. How could she be cold? Vinyl was so warm... and...

And then, for the first time in years, Octavia Brina Apple's carefully built mask completely broke. The tears fell and a wail of grief escaped her. And through it all, Vinyl Scratch rocked her friend gently, whispering soothing words.

When no more tears came, Octavia slipped into the first restful sleep she had in years. Though the couch was hardly comfortable, Vinyl simply laid back with her friend, floating a blanket over the two of them before she herself slipped off to sleep.

Author's Note:

I still blame Wanderer D. Celestia's flaming hindquarters, I need a kerchief.

And you guys have NO idea how annoying it is to physically copy youtube links (or any links at all) on a Vita. None. Unless you do, in which case, power to ya.

Finally, LUNA'S BLUE MOON! Where in the blazes did you all come from?! Wherever it is, thank you for giving me the chance and sharing this tale with me. I know I'm only two chapters in, but I feel like I'll be in for the long haul ^^ Your comments fuel my artistic fire, and I can only pray I get some C&C on my writing. If anything stands out in a bad way, lemme know and I'll try and adjust things.

until next time, all, fare thee well and Happy New Year!