• Published 9th Apr 2013
  • 20,896 Views, 946 Comments

A Puppet To Her Fame - Kaidan



My unicorn parents called me a worthless mud pony. They pushed me every day to overcome my lowly status. When I woke up one morning with my cutie mark, I thought they would love me. I couldn't have been farther from the truth.

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Act I - Prelude

She left me. She left me and I was powerless to stop it.

After all the suffering I’ve endured at the hooves of my parents. After fighting the haunting melodies of that cursed cello. After making myself vulnerable and trusting her completely, she left me.

Now I sit alone in my room. The music that has been tormenting me my whole life is all I have left. I focus my eyes on the desk and pour all my attention into transcribing the music onto paper. There was nothing else in my room I wanted to look at.

I did not turn to see my cello sitting in its stand. I did not glance at the blood stained walls or corpses of my parents. I did not look to see her sunglasses on my nightstand.

My life has nothing left, so I compose. I craft our mournful sonata into a piece that will last millennia. Even the last bit of sunlight in my life, cast through a hole in the curtains, is fading.

All that I have, all that remains, is the music.

My parents named me Octavia. They decided before I was born that their daughter would be a famous musician. I can only imagine their shock, as I was but a foal, when the two unicorns gave birth to an earth pony. My father, as conservative and spiteful as they came, was a famous conductor. My mother, who was swift to pass judgement, the famous composer. They had long, unbroken lines of musical prodigies in their families. Not even my status as ‘just an earth pony’ would break that chain.

I was raised from a young age knowing nothing but music. There were no “boring friends” or “depressing playgrounds” to distract me. I had my enthralling books on music theory, wise and elderly instructors, and gentle parenting instead. As an earth pony, I had to prove every day I was just as good as a unicorn. When I complained or failed, I was acquainted with the more effective means of parenting. To their credit, the lessons rarely left marks. It would not bode well for their filly to be seen with bruises or sent to the hospital with a broken leg.

Regardless of the more. . . heavy-hoofed aspects of my childhood, they still found time to teach me other lessons. I most prominently remember my weekly trips to the orchestra hall. It was much more fun than meeting ponies my own age. My stoic father offered his silent support from the front row. My mother would guide me between instruments, pointing out my failings with such grace. ’Try to sit up straight. You’re not sweating in the dirt, plowing a field. Hold the violin like this, Octavia. Stop fidgeting with your bow tie.’

All I had to do to earn their love was receive my cutie mark from an instrument. Surely I, an earth pony, could at least accomplish that.

Month by month they graced me with their presence at the concert hall. Week by week I failed to find my cutie mark. Day by day my father ignored the cries for help as my mother took her anger out on me. Hour by hour, I was dying on the inside. I was desperate for their approval, if only for an end to the pain.

I still recall the day I finally got my cutie mark. At least, I recall that I can’t remember how it appeared.

“Octavia,” Father stated. He stood in the hallway with perfect posture and no hint of a smile on his face.

I hurried over to him, frowning while keeping my eyes on the floor. “Yes, Father?”

“We’ve decided to stop taking you to the concert hall. I bought you a cello, and you will only play it from now on.”

I looked up at him and gasped. “But that’s not f—”

“Octavia,” Father interrupted. His tone stayed perfectly casual. “It is final. If you had any talent, you would have found your cutie mark by now. You will take this cello and play it every day until it becomes your talent.”

“No, I won’t play a stupid cello!” I screamed. I started to run towards my room and collided with the chef, nearly knocking him over.

Father looked at the cook and spoke. “I expect my dinner in my study in thirty minutes. Bring wood for my fireplace, and teach my daughter a lesson twenty times before then.”

He turned to leave and I was already in tears. I slumped to the ground in front of the chef. The fact that father never raised his voice was the worst part. He would order a servant to discipline me no differently than he’d ask them to change his linens.

There were no other earth ponies at the mansion, just the chef and me. I am glad he had enough of a conscience to only beat me half to death. When he stopped hitting my flank early, my first thought was to beg him to finish. The punishment would only get worse once my father found out he went easy on me. ’Please—he’ll punish us both if he doesn’t hear the screaming.’ I thought I saw him choke back a tear before walking out in silence.

Within thirty minutes of the punishment my hunger drove me to sneak out of my room. I was feeling energetic after being spared the majority of my father’s wrath. The only thing on my mind was snatching something to eat and drink. Meals were a privilege given to reward my good behavior. I still recall my giddiness, my youthful exuberance, at having only been lashed ten times instead of twenty. I wish I still had that innocence of youth.

The kitchen was just past a set of stairs leading into the attic. I heard the most bizarre noise emanating from above me: dissonant chords were weaving through the air. I could almost make out the spoken word within the haunting melody. A vibrato pulsated through the air like a heartbeat. I could not tell if they were chanting, or playing an instrument. I was enthralled by the song, drawn up the staircase as a slow crescendo built. Like the sirens of yore, I had to gaze upon the source of this unnatural performance.

I quietly crept onto the last step of the landing and slowly opened the door to peek inside. To this day, I still can’t recall the source of that infernal chanting—just that it somehow didn’t agree with me. The only memory left is stepping back in shock and falling right off the landing. During my tumble down the stairs, I lost consciousness.

You can imagine my confusion when I awoke the next morning with my cutie mark. Somepony had moved me to my bed. All four of my legs were banged up and sore from the fall. I had a bandage on my head, and felt like a carriage had run me over. As I moved my leg, a sharp pain shot up my flank. It felt like something had been carved into it. I looked down and there was no wound, only a purple treble clef. I had finally gotten a cutie mark in music. My parents might finally accept me! The only problem was that I did not have the faintest clue how this clef had came to adorn my flank.

I recall leaving my room in my youthful optimism to tell my parents I had gotten my cutie mark. Giggling filled the air as I skipped down the hallway. I was smiling from ear to ear, so excited to finally have my cutie mark. Now they would treat me like their daughter, they would love me.

If I made them proud, perhaps I could start spending time with other ponies. After my daily practice, I could go make a friend.

At first, I could not find my parents. When I heard their voices echoing from around a corner, I crept up towards it slowly.

“Just because you buy her some special cello doesn’t mean she has any talent,” Mother stated.

“And I will not keep wasting time on her! It is done, she has the cello and a mark,” Father barked.

“And what now? You continue to have servants discipline her for you until she gets good? We could have avoided all of this if you’d let me abort the pregnancy before your parents found out," Mother said.

“Don’t bring them into this. You recall they told me not to marry you? If we can teach that worthless mud pony to be a famous musician, it will prove we’re better than them.”

“Then let me handle her. You lack subtlety. I will make her submit to her fate and play the cello. . .”

Mother trailed off as I sprinted back to my room. I could barely see through the tears, and sobbed loudly between breaths. Once I got to my room, I closed the door and collapsed in the middle of the carpet. They knew I’d gotten my cutie mark, they’d bought me a cello, and they still thought I was a worthless mud pony. If I could have crawled in a hole and died at that moment, I would have.

An echoing melody filled the room, distracting me from the horrible conversation I had overheard. It was the same one that I had heard in the attic, only now it was played by an unaccompanied cello. I wiped my eyes and glanced over at my cello in its stand. The bow rested next to it, unused.

I approached the cello and found the strings were still. The music was all around me, filling the room, yet it came from nowhere. It continued to get louder, angrier, as percussion and brass instruments joined in. I could barely hear the thundering melody through the ringing in my ears.

I searched every corner of the room as the symphony continued to build. I felt drawn to play the cello. It was becoming painful, and it constantly drew my gaze back to the instrument. I couldn’t take it anymore, so I began to scream. I kicked the cello from its stand, and scurried underneath my bed.

I was so frightened that I remained curled up under the bed for a full day. The music did not cease once. My parents would blame me for all of this. They would say I had gone insane, that the cutie mark was a fraud. They would never love me.

“Mother, can you hear the music?” I asked.

“What music, darling?” she coldly replied.

“It’s slow and sorrowful. It’s far away, but I hear it clearly.”

“That is your muse. Go now and compose what you’re hearing.”

“But it’s dinne—”

“Octavia! Do not presume to talk back to me. Go to your room at once!”

“Yes, ma’am,” I spat. Doubtless she had picked up on my sarcasm. I was certain she would repay me in kind later. It is an odd thing how the threat of violence loses its edge when it becomes as commonplace as breathing.

Since discovering my cutie mark, my ears could hear the sounds of music everywhere I went. Whole notes drifted lazily through the air while staccato eighth notes battled for my attention. Warm major chords invited me into their relaxing embrace. Minor chords taunted me with their slight dissonance.

It was when I began composing that I discovered how to rid myself of the annoying melodies. Each time I would compose one of the songs I heard, it would leave my mind and give me a brief respite. Like an itch that would not go away, each song that vanished was replaced by a more persistent, complex piece of music.

For years my frustration grew. When I kept to myself in my room, like a good earth pony, my parents would leave me alone. I spent every waking moment composing music and playing cello. That maple and ebony cello and music composition were my only talents. They were the only things that made my existence worthwhile. As long as I could play, as long as I had the sanctuary of my room, I could endure the pain. And living with my family was painful.

Day after day I composed, practiced, then performed. Every time I left my room I ran the risk of incurring my parents’ wrath. I once managed to avoid them for a whole week. I ate meals in my room and spoke only to the servant who escorted me to the theater for performances. I thought I could avoid my mother forever.

A month later, I auditioned for the Royal Canterlot Orchestra. I had finally reached the minimum age of eighteen.

“Octavia, put your bow tie back on,” Mother ordered.

“No. It’s too tight,” I complained.

“You’ll put it on this instant, or else!”

“Or else what? You’ll beat me in front of the judges and spectators? Maybe pummel me as the stagehands ready the lig—”

The red bow tie floated over to my neck and quickly fastened itself. I stood there on all four legs as she cinched it as tight as the magic would allow. I found myself unable to breathe, let alone speak another word of protest.

“Is it too tight?”

I opened and closed my mouth like a fish out of water. I sat on my rump to free up my forelegs and clawed at the bow tie. Nopony saw me, or nopony cared, as I suffocated backstage. The pressure on my neck was starting to make me light-headed. I could feel tingling in my face, and the burning in my lungs. My panicked heart beat faster and faster.

I was beginning to pass out and saw nothing but red in my vision. I collapsed to the floor, gasping for air, when she loosened up the bow tie. My body trembled as I nursed my sore throat and aching lungs. A rush of warmth left my head and my palpitating heart began to slow.

“You’re on next, darling, do not disappoint me.”

’Like father disappoints you in bed every night?’ I thought. I was so frightened and starved for air that I bit my tongue. I would save the vehement comment for later.

I watched her leave as an announcer walked on stage and began speaking. A fresh wave of panic swept over me as I realized he was announcing my audition. Either I would become the cellist in the orchestra, or my parents would devise a clever new way of parenting their daughter.

“Octavia!” the announcer proclaimed.

Ponies began to clap, neither too loud nor too soft. I glanced at the stagehand who carried my cello out for me. He nodded his head towards the spotlight. I was still shocked and panicked. I refused to move.

That is when I saw a hook dangling in front of me. It was a thin gossamer string with a hook resembling the kind a fisherman would use. I could see no source of the string, nor could I discern its purpose. Curiosity got the better of me. Without anything to distract me, time seemed to stretch on endlessly.

Slowly I raised my hoof to the odd, golden barb. I tapped it and watched it swing gently in mid-air. I tapped it again and felt it prick my skin. I yanked my leg back from the sharp pain.

I felt where it had pricked me, yet the spider-like hook had seemed to move. My eyes followed the string, looking for where it had bitten into my flesh. When I found the end of the string, it was pierced straight into the pastern above my hoof. The hook was too deep to be visible, and when I tugged on the string now I could feel it tug at my bone.

I felt a sharp pain as the string retracted, drawing my hoof forward. I saw another silvery strand branch out and embed itself in my left foreleg. I tried to rear up and tear them out, but they were fastened too securely.

One leg at a time, the two lines tugged me forward. Each step towards the cello that I resisted caused another jolt of pain. It was as if the hooks had embedded themselves into the tendons and nerves of my legs. I found myself walking along to the tempo of the mysterious strands, until I reached my cello.

I was still nervous to perform, but the friendly strings had thought of everything. They raised me to my normal posture. I balanced myself on two legs with the cello for stability. I took the bow in my hoof and began to play. I had saved a lovely ballad titled Luna’s Remorse for this occasion. As I lost myself in the music, I hardly noticed as the strings and hooks vanished. They had accomplished their purpose.

If I had ever been happy before, perhaps the feeling of my acceptance into the orchestra would not have been such a shock. I wanted to dance, to scream, to run off at once to orchestra practice. No longer would I live in a gilded cage composing instrumental pieces, and playing endless sonatas. For two hours a night, five nights a week, I would be safe from my parents. I would get to meet eighty other ponies in the orchestra.

The chance to be free of their influence was reward enough, but I had something else on my mind. They had taught me as a child that friends would be worthless, yet I had always doubted it. It seemed like there were ponies out there that would not hate me just for what I was. Perhaps some of the ponies in the orchestra would like me. It was then I realized what this meant.

I would have friends.

I rode the wave of endorphins and happiness for a full week until my first night of practice with the orchestra. My sleepless nights were hardly noticed amongst all the songs demanding to be written. Neither hunger, malnutrition, nor punishments issued by my mother phased me the entire time.

Playing with the new musicians and conductor was pure bliss. Every pony was friendly, or quiet and reserved. The conductor did not go out of his way to embarrass me when we played one of my own compositions. There were no loaded questions designed to goad me into misbehavior, or veiled threats behind false kindness. The ponies here were real, happy, and. . . alive.

My fellow musicians had the kind of freedom I had always dreamed of. I resolved to do anything I had to in order to earn it for myself.

That first practice passed quickly, and I soon found myself packing up to return home. A mint green mare had been watching me during the last song, and approached me shortly after. Perhaps it was the way I looked in amazement at the simplest things, like a Wonderbolts sticker on a violin case. Maybe she could see that I needed a friend.

“Hey, name’s Lyra.”

“Good evening,” I replied. “I’m Octavia.” I extended a hoof to shake, when she quickly bumped it.

“Cool, I saw you audition. You want to visit a nightclub with me and my friends?” She maintained a friendly smile and allowed me to make eye contact with her.

Part of me considered declining her offer. It was the part that had been beaten into submission. The majority of my being, however naive, knew this was my opportunity to be free and enjoy a night like normal ponies. I would get to hang out with this mare. I wouldn’t have to return home until later in the evening. I would be rid of my parents, even if only for a few hours.

“I would like that,” I admitted. I smirked as I pictured my furious mother stomping around the study, wondering where I had run off to.

“It’s not far.”

She led me out the back door of the theater towards the night club. The expansive theater dwarfed the rest of the buildings in the district. A road ran around it and several streets spread from it like spokes on a wheel. Lyra took me down one such road.

“How long have you played cello?” Lyra inquired.

“I’ve been playing it every day since I got my cutie mark.”

“Hmm.” Lyra glanced back at the cutie mark and frowned. “Shouldn’t it be a bass clef?”

“Huh?”

“You got a cutie mark playing cello, right? Then shouldn’t it be a bass clef?”

“I don’t know how I got it. I guess I was just lucky.”

“Lucky? Nopony just wakes up one morning with a cutie mark. Did you start out on violin and change your mind? After I found my mark, I still wanted to play guitar. It was too hard; I’d need thumbs or something to play one.”

“My apologies, you’re right.” I smiled at her and giggled as I pictured her playing a guitar. “I didn’t just wake up with it. I compose music too, that’s why it’s a treble clef.”

“Oh. That makes loads more sense. Have you composed anything I might have heard of?”

“Well,” I added, smiling, “I composed the concerto we were playing tonight.”

“Octavia,” she gasped. “You’re the filly who started composing at eight years old?”

“Correct, so I don’t really get out much.”

“Well no wonder! You’ve released at least a dozen songs, and written sheet music for every instrument I can think of. I’ve really got to show you a good time tonight. You must have spent every minute of every day locked in a room composing!”

“Heh,” I chuckled nervously, “you have no idea.” I blushed and averted my gaze towards my surroundings.

The cobblestone streets were still wet from a rainstorm. Lamps and neon signs reflected off small puddles of water. Red seemed to be the dominant color in the grimy street we were walking down. I had never gone this far from my home, and found it exciting. Lyra must have seen how much I was enjoying the scenery, as bland and filthy as it was, for she did not speak up until we reached the club.

“Well, we’re here!” Lyra shouted. She swept a hoof out in front of her, inviting me to take in the scene.

I wasn’t sure what to expect as I looked at the club. The neon sign pulsed to the beat playing inside. The bass rhythm was the only part audible from the outside. The sign read “The Blue Moon.” The “B” was flickering rapidly, and the “n” had burnt out. An azure blue moon with a seductively smiling Luna hung over the neon lettering. The building was constructed from large grey stones, and the door was the sole feature. It seemed to suck the nearby ponies in. They were drawn to the velvet ropes and the lone pony guarding the front door. Several stallions were lined up behind him, waiting for their chance to get in.

“This nightclub has the best DJ in Canterlot, and they cut the drinks with grain alcohol instead of water,” Lyra explained.

“I don’t understand: Grain alcohol? Cutting a drink?”

“It means you get more drunk instead of less drunk when the bottle is running empty. Come on!” Lyra walked up to the door and began talking to an earth pony.

I looked around, noticing how uninviting every other building on this street looked. Lyra grabbed me by the hoof, pulling me into the club. The burly stallion at the front door let us pass.

As we walked into the dark night club, my senses were assaulted by the smell of smoke. I began to notice the layout of the club as my eyes adjusted to the dim light. Ponies were relaxing at tables and enjoying their drinks. Others were smoking, and a few seemed to be passing small pills out. The ponies that chose to dance to the music were sweating in a large crowd on the dance floor. The warm air carried their musky odor throughout the club.

I was worried the complex melodies that constantly demanded my attention would detract from my enjoyment of the nightclub. For what would prove to be the first, and most blissful night I can recall—it did not. Deep bass rhythms flooded my ears, each drop, each beat, hammering its way into my consciousness. The cello solo that had been stuck in my head for two weeks was powerless against the thumping music. I followed Lyra to the dance floor where her and a tan mare began to stare at me. I believe they expected me to dance.

I was full of nervous energy and adrenaline. Here I was, far from home, at the first and biggest party of my life. I wanted to scream in joy and join in the dancing. As the thought of how ridiculous I’d look entered my head, I found myself too nervous to consider it. My lips had begun to feel dry and I wet them with my tongue, wishing I had a drink.

Lyra must have known how thirsty I was because she quickly carried over some water for me.

“Thanks, Lyra,” I replied. I took the glass of clear liquid, greedily swallowing it all.

It burned. Oh, how that first drink burned. I choked and coughed, wishing the fluid was out of me. “What. . . Lyra. . . What was. . . in that?”

Lyra and her friend finished laughing as their faces began to return to their normal colors. “That was vodka! You should have seen the look on your face!”

“Vodka?” I coughed again. “What?”

“Alcohol! It’ll loosen you up and get you to stop acting so prim and proper.”

“Really, Lyra,” the tan mare chided, “I’d think you would have matured a little by now. Hello, Octavia, my name is Bon Bon.”

“You can call her ‘stick in the mud,’ “ Lyra added.

“Thanks, nice to meet you. Lyra, could I get something normal to drink?” My voice was still raspy from the vodka’s unexpected assault on my vocal chords.

Lyra gave a light chuckle, while Bon Bon gave her a disapproving glare as they both turned and walked to the bar. I was left waiting and noticed the ponies dancing, and the DJ onstage. I looked up at the mare spinning records in wide, purple sunglasses. Her fur was white as a fresh snowfall and her electric blue mane would put my mother’s sapphire necklace to shame. Here was a mare that had it all: the freedom to party every night, and no pony telling her what to do.

I could feel warmth spreading from my stomach to the rest of my body. The drink Lyra gave me was making me feel a little light headed. I also became fascinated by the neon lights surrounding the dance floor along the ceiling. Several blue, red, and green beams were refracted into dozens of dots on the dance floor.

Between the light show and the dancing ponies, it seemed as if the electronic rhythms had come to life. Lyra and Bon Bon returned and gave me my second drink of the night. The drinks made dancing seem easier and the excitement overwhelming. I hardly noticed as Lyra supplied me with drink after drink. I had no experience with alcohol or pacing myself. I continued to attempt to dance with Lyra, yet my gaze always returned to the DJ.

“Whosh the DJ?” I asked.

“That’s DJ Pon3,” Lyra stated.

“Well, sheesh hot,” I giggled.

Lyra grinned. “You’re not the only mare or stallion here to think that.”

“Think she wantsh to hang out?”

“Goodness, Lyra, what have you been giving her?” Bon Bon asked.

“Oh just some long island iced teas, a couple panty droppers, a few shots of Colt Daniels. . .” Lyra ran out of hooves to count on and noticed Bon Bon’s glare.

“Really, Lyra, were you trying to knock her out?”

“Ish ok, thish ish the besht night I’ve ever had! I never getsh to leave the manshion.”

My gaze was drawn back to the DJ as I thought I saw her lift her glasses and wink. I could feel the heavy beats from the subwoofers. Between the music and alcohol, my parental issues were the last thing on my mind. I wish that joyful night had gone on forever. Time blurred together as hours passed like minutes, and soon the DJ stopped playing and several ponies started to leave.

“Well, Octavia, why don’t you ask her to hang out? Looks like the show is over,” Lyra advised.

Sure enough, not two minutes later, the DJ had walked over to us. I’ll never forget the way she smiled. It was as if every moment was the happiest one in her life. She had no worries or cares, and just gazing into that smile made all my own worries seem twice as distant.

“Hey, namesh Octavia. You’re purdy cute.” I smiled and wobbled. Had Lyra not kept a hoof on me, I would have fallen over.

“Yo, Lyra, Bonnie. I see you made a new friend! Name’s Vinyl, you can call me the best DJ in Equestria,” Vinyl shouted, throwing a hoof in the air.

“Hey, Vinyl,” Lyra and Bon Bon chimed.

“Can you hold shtill?” I slurred. The nightclub seemed to be tilting to the side. My feet struggled to find purchase as the floor wobbled around.

“She old enough to drink, Lyra? I don’t need a repeat of the time you brought that flute-playing-pony in here,” Vinyl warned.

“They’re called a flautist! “ Lyra replied.

“I wanna flute,” I stated.

“So, why’d you drop in? Did you just want to get a new friend piss drunk, or has she never been to a nightclub before?” Vinyl inquired.

“A little column a, a little column b,” Bon Bon quipped.

“Come on! I wanna flute!” I whined.

“Vinyl, she said she likes you.” Lyra winked as she spoke.

“Yesh! I wanna be jusht like you, no parentsh or shervantsh. I bet nopony ever chokesh yo—” I felt a rush of pressure in my abdomen. My mouth began to water and before I could react, I had vomited in the direction I was facing. Lyra was not amused as it cascaded over her.

“Gross!” Lyra shouted. Vinyl was already on the ground, unable to hold back the riotous laughter. Bon Bon stayed on her hooves, but was equally powerless to resist joining in.

“Wash it shomething I shaid?” I asked.

Vinyl slammed a hoof on the floor as she laughed, tears streaming from her eyes.

“It’s not funny!” Lyra cried.

Bon Bon had managed to control the laughing by now and comforted her friend. “That’s what you get for making her drink so much. She is from the upper class. They can never hold their liquor.”

Vinyl had stopped laughing and stood back up, nursing her sore side. She still had to gasp to inhale. “That. . . that made my night. . . Lyra! You shoulda seen the look. . . on your face!” Vinyl twisted her face attempting to mimic the wide-eyed, slack-jawed expression of Lyra.

“Stop it! I just wanted her to have fun,” Lyra pouted.

“I am having lotsh of fun, sho let’sh grab my flute and get going,” I exclaimed.

“See? She’s having just as much fun as us. It’s you who is boring,” Vinyl quipped.

“Alright, girls, you’ve had your fun,” Bon Bon interrupted. “Lyra, let’s head home and get you cleaned up. Vinyl, be a dear and help our new friend get home?”

“Come on,” Vinyl objected.

“You really want to argue?” Lyra threatened. “How about I give you a hug and get this all over your fur.”

I laughed as I looked at Lyra. “Hey, shomeone threw up on you!”

Vinyl started laughing again and waved Lyra back to stop her advance. “Alright, alright. I’ll take her home. Come on, kid.”

I followed the white blur out the door onto the street. The cold air felt great, and who ever was keeping a hoof on my back to steady me was doing a good job.

“So, this was really your first night out?” Vinyl asked.

I jumped back in shock, tumbling over my hooves and landing on my side. “Gah! A ghosht!”

“Easy,” she chuckled. “I’m Vinyl, remember?”

“Oh yeah! You’re the one with a flute.”

“Sure am. So, Octy, where is your house?”

“four—five? forty-five Luna avenue.”

Great, Lyra stuck me with a drunk noble. Figures.”

“I’m not noble, I’m an earth pony.”

“Huh?”

“You have to be a unicorn like my parentsh to be noble.”

“I see.”

We walked in silence after that. That is all I recall, the alcohol must have finally overwhelmed my liver and defeated my brain.

I awoke the next morning with a splitting headache. It was truly dreadful, so painful that I dare not even curl up into a ball and weep. I clenched my eyes shut against the cursed ball of flame that Celestia had sent to torment me. My throat was dry with a slightly acidic twinge to it. It felt burnt, parched, and begged me to find some water. My head, on the other hoof, demanded I lay perfectly still.

Bits and pieces of the night came back to me, worrying me more and more. I wondered if I had made it home. I tried to shut out the noise of someone entering the room. My mind wandered and picked up the first hints of the music. An upbeat melody played by a violin and an oboe. It was a curious combination. Had the slightest noise not been torture, I may have enjoyed it.

I covered my ears, however the duet was coming from within my head. I groaned as I rolled over and rays of sunlight landed on my eyelids. I covered them with both hooves. I was feeling so awful that I was not sure if it had been the alcohol. Perhaps my mother had poisoned me for staying out late.

Home. Where am I? Have I been caught? My moaning had caught the attention of somepony. The curtains closed, allowing my eyes reprieve. I cracked them open and was relieved to see I was in my room.

“Rest, and have some soup,” a voice whispered. His kindness was a balm to my throbbing brain. A twisted, yet cheerful, musical duet continued to aggravate it.

I slowly raised myself to a sitting position near the nightstand. My surprise at being treated kindly was only matched by the fact it was the earth pony chef who stood beside me. “Why help me? They’ll find out,” I asked.

“I’ve lost so much with age.” The chef frowned, his wrinkled brow lowering. He stared away and I noticed how many grey hairs were in his mane. “My wife, my daughter, my courage. . . but I can’t stand how they treat you, how they treat earth ponies.”

I tasted a spoonful of the soup. It had an amazing flavor, and my protesting stomach was quick to settle down. “Then why beat me when my father asks? Why work here in the first place?”

“Had I not lashed you, he’d have sent another servant.” He looked back at me and rubbed his eyes before I could tell if he was crying. “I do what I must to keep my job so that you have at least one friend in this house. It’s all I have left to give at my age.”

“That’s . . . actually kind of nice. What happened last night?” I inquired.

“Your friend brought you back, drunk. We snuck you in through the servant’s quarters. Despite our effort, they know you stayed out late. I have to go now, be strong. Next time you stay out late, knock on the servant’s door and I’ll let you in.”

The melody was still getting louder, and I noticed the violin and oboe had been replaced by an assortment of bass instruments. A dissonant chord repeated as a cello kept a steady rhythm. It was unsettling, as if the music was turning violent.

The chef left the room to return to his duties. He had worked here my whole life and only recently had he spoken to me. So far the only ponies to be nice to me were Lyra and Vinyl. I had trusted a maid once and told her all the horrible things my parents did. I told her how I would run away and find the police. I had shared my escape plan.

The maid had been ordered by my father to gain my trust and spy on me. I learned what a cat o’ nine tails was after that escape attempt. It was natural to wonder if I could trust the chef, or any servant here.

I was so focused on my hot meal and the symphony ringing in my ears that I hadn’t heard my mother enter. She never made a quiet entrance, preferring for me to tremble as she barreled into my room. Perhaps the reason I did not hear her enter was the loud bass drums. They sped up the tempo of the composition waiting to be scribed on paper. I was resting my eyes and enjoying the aroma of the soup when she made herself known.

“Good morning, daughter of mine, isn’t it a beautiful day?” Mother flung the curtains open allowing the sunlight to pour in.

I jolted away, huddling under the covers partially from the glare of the sunlight, partially from the instinct to get away from her.

“Now, now. There’s no need to be shy,” she stated loudly. “You must feel wonderful after going out for drinks after practice.”

I could feel her stare and knew she was only a few feet away.

“I would hate for you to be too sick to compose. If you are not playing or composing, then you have no reason to exist. Without a purpose in life, you are as worthless as the dirt you ponies worship. I could lock you in the cellar for a week until you’re begging me to let you compose. You wouldn’t want that, would you?”

I swallowed and shivered under her withering gaze. I had not even attempted to make eye contact yet—I couldn’t.

“I asked you a question!” she spat.

“No,” I mumbled.

“No what?”

“No ma’am.”

“Good, now lay flat on your back like a normal pony.”

I was trembling as I uncurled on the bed. At least the music had quieted down, fading to occasional minor chords.

“The first thing to learn about hangovers is to stay hydrated. I see you already have some soup, open up.”

I opened up my eyes as instructed, yet that was not what she meant. As my pupils adjusted and the light stopped stinging, I saw the soup bowl hovering above me.

“Sweetie, it’s okay. Nice and slow, or you’ll make me angry.” Honey dripped off her words, making me wonder where the bees and their stingers were.

I opened my mouth and allowed her to align the bowl so I could sip from it. She used her magic to dump the entire bowl into my mouth. Her magic clamped down on my nose as her hooves held my mouth shut.

I had instinctively tried to spit the soup out, and failed. This resulted in it sloshing back into my throat, where in my confusion I inhaled.

“Drink all of your soup honey.”

I convulsed as my body’s natural reflex to protect my lungs caused my airway to seal. I took a painful gulp, swallowing most of the soup, as I tried to get it out of my mouth the only way left. It is hard to describe the discomfort of having hot soup forced down a narrow pipe. It burned my throat, it felt like swallowing a grapefruit, and it felt like drowning all at once.

I moaned to signal I had finished the soup.

“There you go, sweetie, all better.” She released my mouth and I swallowed as much air as quickly as I could.

I coughed, and turned to face her. “Soulless witch!” I continued to writhe. I realized it was caused by my stomach readying to expel its contents.

“Oh, poor thing, you drank it too fast. Whatever shall I do? You need to stay hydrated so I can’t let you throw up.”

“If you weren’t a unicorn I’d shove my hoof so fa—” I was cut off by a spasm as my stomach contracted.

“This should do,” she chirped. She quickly fastened the red bow tie around my neck. “I don’t know why you ever take it off. It looks lovely on you.”

I was now fighting the urge to kill her, breathe, and vomit. I would have given anything to have done at least one of those things. More than anything else, I wanted to smash my cello over her head.

“Well, looks like you didn’t vomit. Good girl. I’ll be back in an hour and I expect you to have composed something.” She got up and quickly left the room.

I tried to call out for her to wait. She had forgotten to loosen the bow tie and I still couldn’t breathe. I clawed at it. She loved to cinch the knot tight enough with magic that my hooves could barely untie it at all. Try as I might, this was one of those occasions. An earth pony’s hooves were not made to unfasten small knots.

I recall the pressure building in my head and my lungs going numb from the burning. I banged the headboard of the bed as my vision faded. My last thought was ’At least I’ll be free.’

Air rushed into my lungs as my bow tie was loosened. I looked around for my mother, and saw only the gossamer strings dangling from the ceiling. The small hooks had unfastened the bow tie for me, saving my life. As I recovered, I began to hear a sorrowful cello play. It was slowly joined by the full orchestra.

The puppeteer, as I had taken to calling whatever entity controlled the gossamer strings, must hate my mother as much as I. I followed the strings to my desk. Empty sheets of paper sat alongside quills, a metronome, and several books on music theory. I had not needed to reference a book to compose since my cutie mark appeared. The music is alive. It is a living, breathing entity, and it sings to me constantly.

I composed bits and pieces of several songs, for the thoughts in my head were scattered today. I rubbed my sore throat, remembering the bow tie. Normally I would take it off and throw it away, but I knew my mother would be back soon, and I knew what would happen were I not still wearing it.

It was a long day, but I finally found myself being escorted back to the orchestra practice with the butler. I couldn’t pronounce ‘butler’ as a filly. I had taken to calling him different variations of ‘Butters’ instead. I could have sworn I saw him grin at the nickname once. From then on I had always referred to him with my playful names. He always referred to me as “m’lady.” This was either because he was very professional, or my father had ordered him to.

The butler dropped me off at the theater. The conductor was interested in my thoughts on the concerto he had chosen and asked if I had composed anything new lately. I lied and told him I had not, so we practiced a variety of sonatas. I had trouble discerning when the orchestra stopped playing due to the music in my head. I was hearing a lively melody in my head featuring trumpets and much fanfare. It seemed to be building up to my inevitable reunion with my new friends.

I smirked as I thought about them. What I can recall about last night was mainly Lyra covered in vomit, and how hilarious it was. I wondered if Lyra was still upset. She sat there with her lyre as if nothing had happened, and even smiled when she caught me glancing at her.

Practice ended and I headed away from stage right, which was where the butler waited.

“Psst, Lyra,” I whispered. I snagged a hoof under my bow tie and tore it off.

“Hey, Octavia. You want to go get a bite to eat?” Lyra asked.

“No, let’s go back to the nightclub.” I smirked at her. The fun I had last night more than made up for this morning.

“Hmm, there is a bar with some good food we could try, Vinyl and Bon Bon will still meet us there.”

“Alright. Let’s check it out, only you’re not allowed to buy me drinks.”

“Fair enough. I’m surprised you lasted that long,” she giggled.

I glanced over and saw the butler approaching. I hastily left my cello and trotted out with Lyra. “Come on,” I called to her as we exited the theater.

“What’s the hurry?”

“My parents don’t like me,” I said. Quickly I added, “staying out late. I don’t think the hangover helped.”

“Haha, yeah. I won’t give you so many drinks, unless you promise to aim at Vinyl this time.”

“Is that what you do for fun, go to nightclubs and bars?” I followed Lyra as we turned onto a new street.

“I do other things, too. There is a shopping mall near my house, plenty of great books at the library, and I’ve even gone to an airshow.”

“That sounds great, can we do that sometime?” I grinned imagining how many new places I could visit each night after practice.

“Well, the mall and library are closed this late at night. Why don’t you swing by at noon tomorrow?”

“Oh, I’m real busy tomorrow.” I frowned and sped up my pace towards the bar. I wouldn’t be able to get out of the house in the middle of the day. We reached the bar in silence.

As I approached the bar I noticed an upbeat rondo playing in my head. I decided to ignore it and transcribe it later. The frequency at which inspiration struck me had been increasing lately. The more often I had happy moments, the quicker new ideas came to me. It was as if the recent events were creating new emotions and styles of music for me to explore. I had even considered writing electronic songs for Vinyl to play with her electronic machine. Unfortunately I didn’t know anything about operating it.

My pace slowed so Lyra could show me where this bar was. We were in the right district of the city. The ground was dirty, the walls covered in grime, and neon signs were more frequent than street lamps. I was directed towards the door to a building with crowds of ponies standing around outside. The neon sign here was in good repair, casting a purple glow over the street. The words “Salty Muzzle” stood vigil over the door, next to a mug of beer.

Once I got inside, I realized we had walked in at the end of Vinyl’s performance. She was on the stage in the back, dodging glow sticks as a crowd of ponies screamed wildly. The notes and harmony continued to rise and build, drawing the crowd in. She then lit her horn, adjusting the turntable in front of her. I didn’t know how the electronic table worked, but my talent for music told me what was about to happen. She dropped the high note, and the subwoofers shook so hard a blast of wind and bass poured over the crowd.

It was so unlike anything I had ever heard. The ponies responded by screaming and cheering. It inspired me to write something with an expanded bass section. This, however, was a sound that could not be recreated by physical instruments.

“Lyra, does she perform at every place she goes to?” I asked.

“Not always, but she’s saving up money to move to Ponyville,” Lyra responded.

After the cheering died down, Vinyl joined the three of us at our booth. A stallion took the stage to run the turntable. Bon Bon had made it clear she didn’t want me passing out or vomiting on anypony tonight. Lyra had pouted, but agreed to pace me.

Vinyl scooted next to me and we began to have a quiet conversation.

“Yo, Octy, what’s up?” Vinyl asked.

I looked up towards the ceiling. A small yellow light hung overhead, illuminating our corner of the bar. “A light?”

Vinyl chuckled and shook her head. “Wow, we need to get you outside more. It’s not like a little sun would kill ya.”

“Not unless Celestia failed to keep it in a proper asynchronous orbit,” I replied.

“What?”

“The sun, it wouldn’t kill me if I went outside.”

“Yeah.” Vinyl turned to the barkeep. “Hey! Give me two glasses of Blue Moonshine.”

“Oh, that sounds lovely. I need to make sure to get home earlier tonight, and less drunk.” A chill ran down my spine. “Say, what do you do about hangovers?’

“Simple, have a little hair of the dog in the morning.” Vinyl leaned back and put her hooves up on the top of the booth.

“Oh, I don’t have a dog.” I frowned at the thought of having never had a wide-eyed puppy that loved me unconditionally.

“. . . I mean, just have a glass of alcohol, maybe a fancy red wine with a side of cheese on crackers.”

I fell back laughing into the booth. The thought of me eating cheese and drinking wine like a unicorn was too much. I had never been allowed to drink wine. My memory recalled the many times I had been sent to organize our family wine cellar. My father had thousands of bottles. Sometimes he would have me organize them in ascending alphabetical order, just to have me switch it back to descending. At least now that I was composing, I didn’t have time for that nonsense.

“Was it that funny?” Vinyl was staring at me with her head tilted.

“Yes, I don’t drink wine!” I chuckled.

“I’m pretty sure she didn’t drink ever until last night,” Lyra added.

“Weird. I thought nobles drink wine all the time. Us common ponies spent most of high school sneaking out to get drunk,” Vinyl replied.

“Not me. If you need something organized, like statistics or a new filing system for tax returns, maybe I could help you. I used to have quite an eye for categorizing things,” I boasted.

“Let me guess: then a cello fell in your lap and you joined some lame orchestra,” Vinyl quipped.

“Hey!” Lyra interjected. “Orchestras aren’t lame. It takes much more talent for a hundred ponies to play in unison then it does for you to scratch records.”

“And it takes more talent to scratch records then it takes to sit on your rump plucking strings.” Vinyl scrunched her face up in concentration and pretended to be plucking an imaginary lyre.

The barkeep came over and dropped off the drinks Vinyl had ordered. I grabbed mine and examined it while enjoying the conversation.

“My offer still stands, Vinyl! Fifty bits says I can DJ better than you can play a lyre,” she spat. She leaned forward and stared straight at Vinyl.

“Hah! That turntable costs more than you make in two months,” Vinyl explained. She leaned forward and pointed towards the stage. “Those subwoofers? Custom made. No way I’m letting you blow them out for some silly bet.”

I was about to sip my drink when Lyra grabbed it out of my hoof with her magic.

“Fine! Fifty bits on a drinking contest then,” Lyra challenged.

“You’re on, as long as Bonnie doesn’t mind carrying her widdle Wyra home tonight.”

“Fine by me. If she’s passed out cold I won’t have to hear any of her theories about aliens visiting Equestria,” Bon Bon calmly stated.

“Oh, this sounds like fun. Can I be in the drinking contest?” I inquired with a smile.

“No!” shouted every pony in unison.

“Darling, they’re about to do irreversible damage to their livers drinking dozens of drinks, then stumbling home to pass out. We’re better off just watching,” Bon Bon explained.

“Lyra may be stumbling home, but I train every night for this,” Vinyl joked. She threw her head back and downed the Blue Moonshine in one gulp.

Lyra finished her drink and called the barkeep for another round. Bon Bon kindly ordered me something and we went to chat with some of the stallions. We would check back in with the quarreling unicorns later.

“So, Octavia, Lyra tells me your parents were unicorns?” Bon Bon questioned.

“Yeah, how about you? You sound nearly as ‘sophisticated’ as most of the boring unicorns living at the mansion.”

She giggled. “You don’t have to be rich to have manners. I was born to a blacksmith and a tailor. I grew up learning to make candy.”

“Father always says earth ponies are only good for the service industry.”

Bon Bon’s eyes flew wide open as she gasped, before harsh lines shaped her frown. “Octavia! That’s awful. Look at you, a famous musician and composer. I hate when ponies talk about how we should be out farming or serving food.”

It appeared I had said something wrong, but I had no idea what.

“Sorry, but it’s true. The only reason I’m famous is because my parents forced me to be. I’d gladly trade places and make candy for a living. It sounds much more fun.”

We finished our drinks in silence. I glanced back to see Vinyl and Lyra surrounded by ten empty glasses. Five were on each side of the table.

A couple stallions walked up, and Bon Bon whispered. “Watch how to get free drinks.”

“Evenin’ ladies, name’s Hopper. Can I buy you a round?” The stallion smiled and flexed his shoulder muscles.

“Sure thing. Two apple martinis,” Bon Bon replied, batting her eyelashes. Him and his friend left to get drinks. “See, Octavia? Everypony likes a pretty mare.”

I blushed a little at the thought that I was pretty. With grey fur and black hair, I had been called everything except pretty.

“Here they come. We’ll just make some conversation then go back to join Vinyl,” she instructed.

“Okay,” I replied.

“Here you are, ladies. So what brings two beautiful young mares like you to our little bar?” Hopper asked.

“Just relaxing after hard day’s work,” Bon Bon replied.

I lifted up the drink and tasted it. This was much better than some of the drinks Vinyl and Lyra had let me try. Instead of burning my throat offensively, it was sweet. I drank it up quickly, enjoying the flavors.

“You live far from here? We’re throwing an after party at my place. Lots of ponies will be there,” he smoothly stated.

“No thanks, we’d rather stay here at the bar,” she replied. Bon Bon lifted her appletini up to take a drink, when Vinyl plowed into her.

“Hey, Bonnie! Check it out, she couldn’t even make it to ten!” Vinyl stated exuberantly. She seemed loosened up and twice as happy, staggering slightly as she walked. Somehow she still seemed to have full control of herself, unlike me after the six or so drinks last night.

“Vinyl!” Bon Bon scolded. “You spilled my drink and Lyra is passed out cold. Can’t you two do anything without it being a contest?”

“Where’s the fun in that?” Vinyl asked. “Hey fellas, sorry but me and the girls were just heading out.”

I thought I saw a flash of anger in the stallion’s eyes before his friend poked him in the ribs. “Fine. I’ll be here if you change your mind,” he said.

“Who’s the new coltfriend, Bonnie? Looking for a good time now that Lyra can’t lend you a hoof?” Vinyl mocked.

“Vinyl! You needn’t be so vulgar. Come on, help get Lyra onto my back and I’ll be on my way,” she replied. “And you can collect the wager after you see Octavia safely home.”

“Yeah, Vinyl, let’sh go home. I’m really. . . ” I yawned. “Shleepy.”

“Hah, drunk again! I’m the only mare in Canterlot—” Vinyl burped, looking at the ground anxiously for a second before resuming. “The only mare that can hold her liquor! I should have received a shot glass cutie mark.”

I laughed loudly. “Itsh true.” I was feeling quite light headed, just like last night, only it felt as if something was off. I didn’t recall having more than a couple drinks, but it sure felt like it. Vinyl helped hoist Lyra onto Bon Bon’s back. I put my foreleg over Vinyl to keep from falling down.

“See you tomorrow, Bonnie,” Vinyl shouted as we walked separate directions down the street.

“Vinyl. . . can you carry me too? I’m too tired,” I whined.

“You don’t look so good, what’d you drink tonight?”

“Hmm. . . branberry vodka. . . oh, and the shtallion bought me applesh!” I giggled.

“Well, looks like you’re oh for two on not getting drunk. Just try and stay awake and quiet. I swear you woke up half the mansion giggling when we snuck you in yesterday.”

“That’sh why she was sho angry!” I exploded in laughter, hanging on tighter for balance. “Mushta had the shervantsh tellin’ her how drunk I wash!”

“Hey now, stay on your feet, Octy. I can’t sneak a sleeping mare home.”

“Ish ok, Mother fed me the shoup and I got all better. She jusht had to hold it in until I shwallowed!” I cackled.

“Oh, that’s nice of her.”

“Yup, she helped keep my mouth closhed until I shtopped choking.”

I recall Vinyl lifting her glasses and looking at me with a concerned expression. Were her eyes wide, or was her mouth agape? It’s so hard to recall that night. One minute we were walking home, the next I was wrapped in a blanket.

I awoke the next morning with a mild headache, and stretched my legs out. My room was much darker today, allowing me to open my eyes and look around. That was when I noticed I was not in my room.

I felt a foreleg wrapped around my chest. There was a warm body snuggled up against me on the bed. The feeling made me smile. Last night was a complete blur. It was clear I had slept at somepony else’s house. I smiled at the thought of telling my parents I had slept with a stallion and lost my virginity. The thought of how livid I could make them after running away for a night made me chuckle. If that didn't get me disowned, and thus freed of their demanding legacy, nothing would. After a moment, the gravity of that statement sank in.

I would have to explain this to my parents.

Fear gripped my heart at that moment, for I could count on my hooves the number of times I had disappointed my parents this badly. Each time I had failed them, they would devise a new punishment just for the occasion. Their disapproval and guilt trips used to feel like a cold knife plunging into my heart. Once that ceased to be effective, they had agreed to just lock me in a room with my mother until the screaming stopped. It was her that I truly feared now.

I pried my eyes open and ignored the howling objection of my brain. I looked down to see a white foreleg wrapped around me. Fate chose this moment to reunite me with the ballad I had drunk away last night. Chords slowly crescendoed in my head until they reached unbearable levels. The ringing in my ears was matched in strength by the song demanding to be composed.

I rolled off the bed, vomiting a bit of bile onto the floor. I held myself up as I continued to retch onto the tiles. The floor was covered by all manner of clothing, discarded pizza boxes, and beer bottles. I quickly regretted my decision to get drunk and flirt with stallions at the nightclub. The best thing to do was to head home now. I had succeeded in my goal of escaping my mundane life for one night. I could be happy with that until my next outing with Lyra.

That was when I turned to face the stallion, whom I assumed had showed me a good time, even though I could not recall it. That was when I saw Vinyl and a fresh wave of memories from the night before were unleashed in my brain. White fur, stained by sweat and beer, was accented by an electric blue mane, splayed in a hundred directions from the long night. Two eighth notes adorned the mare's flank, and though I could not recall what had happened in bed, it mortified me all the same.

I had slept with Vinyl, the DJ, and a mare. To rub a stallion in my parent's face might be hilarious enough to offset the punishment. My parents deserved to suffer. Knowing their daughter had gone out and experienced the real world would do that. What would filly fooling accomplish? How would they react to know I had run off, gotten drunk, and slept with a mare?

Angry staccato notes began to race through my head. A battle between the woodwinds and the brass section raged. The music had returned, and it sounded upset. I had ignored its call to compose last night. The chaotic dissonance made thinking impossible.

I slumped down on the floor and begged the raging classical song to stop. I needed to think. Why is the music haunting me here, of all places? Why is composing the song all I can think about? I need to get out of here!

I rummaged through the apartment until I found a pen and some blank paper. In order to begin composing the song, I had to draw the lines and clefs in by hoof. I needed to finish this so I could have a moment of quiet.

It looked like the sheet music was composed by a foal, but the notes were falling in their proper places. Then I felt the pinch that would become so familiar to me. It was the same pinch I had felt at the auditions.

I had taken my mind off the composition of the music, yet my foreleg continued to guide the pen across the page. I could feel a sharp pain near my pastern, the groove above my hoof. It felt as if another hook had been lodged there, and was being tugged on.

I continued to resist with my clouded mind. There were much more important things for me to worry about. If I left now, maybe I could get home before she noticed.

I continued to revise and improve the ballad I was composing. When the paper ran out, I found plenty of pizza boxes to use. My improvisation continued until everything I could reach had notes on it.

My struggles continued against the puppeteer. I pulled my hoof back towards my body. The near-invisible strings pulled it back. It felt as if my ligaments had been snagged by some unseen force, guiding my hoof. Hungover and confused, I surrendered and allowed my body to finish composing without me. I pondered if this was some side effect of the alcohol, or perhaps drugs, I may have had at the nightclub. Perhaps my mother was right about the debauchery and wickedness of such places.

I was pulled out of my stupor by the sound of the mare behind me waking up. I had lost track of time and completely forgotten she was there. There were no thoughts in my head on how to deal with this situation.

I couldn’t remember the whole night, and I still had to find a way to explain this to my parents. They were sure to notice me missing for an entire night. Hiding here with Vinyl would only make it worse. I decided the best course of action was to get the heck out of her apartment.

I left the sheet music behind, a mistake in hindsight, and fled into the streets of Canterlot. It took me a while to realize I was in 'the slums.' My parents referred to anything below the upper tier of the Palace district as the slums. It was where all the unfortunate earth and pegasi ponies lived, as well as unicorns too poor to afford the proper station of their birthright.

While I did not agree with their assessment, I had only met a couple ponies that were not nobles. One of them had gotten me drunk, the other I had awoken in bed with. I decided to head away from the grimy streets towards the affluent district nearest to the palace.

Imagine my surprise as countless ponies who could never have afforded a ticket to one of my concerts recognized me. I soon had several fans following me towards my mansion. I did my best to ignore them as I fought off nausea, headache, and the tingling pain still fading from my sore pasterns.

It took longer than I thought to reach my home. I was used to taking a carriage when I was forced to travel long distances. I knew as soon as I saw the royal guards approaching me that my parents had gotten them involved. They likely believed I had been dragged away and raped in an alleyway. I suppose they were not far from the truth. I was quite glad to have riled them up. Now I just had to face the music.

I steadied my resolve as I walked up to the mansion. No matter what happened, they could not take last night away from me. Whatever punishment they planned, I was still their prodigy, their ticket to fame. They could not injure me to the point of missing orchestra practice. My father’s career as a conductor had been declining, and my mother hadn’t written a decent piece of music in years.

I will be okay. I will emerge stronger. I will see Vinyl and Lyra again.

The song I had composed, and forgot, at Vinyl’s apartment came back to me. I opened the front door to the mansion and saw the butler waiting. He was frowning. At least I could focus on the music. For once it would distract me when I needed it most. I followed the butler to my room.

“Butters, how bad?” I asked the butler. He frowned, and closed the door silently, awaiting my father. At least the butler was not mean to me, even if he wasn’t nice. I had never been so grateful for his neutrality as when I had broken the rules.

The door opened. Father was first to visit me. He walked in calmly, as if he had simply forgotten his reading glasses. He stood there, staring at me, waiting for me to beg forgiveness. I would not give him the satisfaction. I rarely did. After a suitable amount of time had passed, he spoke.

“I had a dog when I was a child. It was unruly and never obeyed anypony. It kept getting in trouble, until finally it crossed the line. My father ordered me to get rid of it, for his patience had run out. I took it into the back yard and bashed it in the head with a rock.

“It cried out in pain, for I lacked the strength to end it cleanly. It looked at me pleading for forgiveness, but her time for mercy had passed. I had no choice but to continue to beat it until it died."

I spoke up as he turned and started to walk out. “Aren’t you going to ask me what happened last night? How about have one of your servants beat me for you? I didn’t go get screwed last night to watch you slink out like a cowa—”

My father stopped. He did not even have to turn to face me. The words caught in my throat, my rage at him turned to fear in a split second.

“Do not test my patience. I loved that dog far more than you.”

To say his reply scared me would be an understatement. I need not ponder it long. I could hear my mother coming from clear across the mansion. My bed was right behind me. I could have scrambled under it like I had as a filly. Instead I stood fast. My spirit prepared to weather the storm, determined to prove they could not control me.

The doors flew open in a red glow that matched my Mother’s horn. Windows across the room vibrated when she slammed the doors shut. My mother was accompanied only by a red bow tie.

“You insolent little whore! How dare you run off in the middle of the night! On your knees!” she screamed.

“Screw you and your coward of a hu—” I was cut off, as expected, by the bow tie. It cinched fast around my throat, the constant reminder of my submission to my mother.

“How dare you! You will only speak when spoken to. Open that vile mouth again to insult me and I’ll rip your tongue out! Now where the hell did you go last night?”

I felt the bow loosen slightly, allowing me enough air to speak. I stood steadfast on my hooves, and answered. “I went to a bar and got rutted, it felt amaz—” The bow tightened back up.

I stared straight in her eyes, grinning. The rage building inside her felt liberating. Finally, she would know the kind of hatred I felt for her on a daily basis. Finally she would understand I would not be caged.

“What bar?” she spat.

The bow tie loosened, allowing another precious breath of air. I stood there, smirking, and maintained my silence.

What bar!

I felt a sharp crack as something collided with my temple. My vision blurred slightly as my ears rang. The bow tie pulled me back up to my hooves. She was waiting for my response.

“A mare nailed me—” I felt the bow tie tighten for the final time, and knew she was done playing my game.

She closed the distance between us in a fraction of a second, punching me in the throat with her hoof. I felt the urge to cough and gag, but the binding around my throat held the airway shut. The next shot was to my jaw, sending me back to the floor. I could taste the blood in my mouth, and let it pool.

“You mud ponies are less than useless! I told him to let me abort the pregnancy. We could have had another child! But no! It was too late, his parents knew about the baby. He couldn’t disappoint his parents!

She kicked me in the ribs. I didn’t know I could have the wind knocked out of me while her grip sealed off my lungs. She hoisted me to my feet and released the bow tie to allow me a breath.

I inhaled sharply through the nose, quickly exhaling and spitting the blood out of my mouth into her face. “Burn in Tarta—”

Something heavy hit me in the back of the head. I do not recall what. It knocked me out cold.

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