• Published 24th Mar 2013
  • 13,273 Views, 1,251 Comments

Syncopation - Terrasora



Octavia Philharmonica, the Canterlot Conservatory's rising star, is about to begin a whole new part of her life; one that involves an old friend, an ambitious businesspony and a certain eccentric DJ.

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The Coffee House

Octavia Philharmonica stood before her audience, a single spotlight shining down onto the grey mare. She was balanced perfectly, her cello keeping her upright and Octavia herself providing the only support for her instrument.

She took a glance at her audience, making sure that she had their full attention. She did. She looked down at her pink bowtie, making sure that it was perfectly tied. It was. Everything was set up perfectly; nothing could go wrong, nothing would be allowed to go wrong. This was, after all, Octavia’s first major performance, a making or breaking point in the young Conservatory star’s life. But Octavia was a genius! She was, after all, the most accomplished musician in her class, a fact made all the more impressive because she was an earth pony. A unicorn's magic often provided for more precision than hooves alone could match, but Octavia Philharmonica could outplay anypony else, unicorn, pegasus, and earth pony alike.

Octavia allowed herself one small smile, a rarity on the mare’s normally stony face, then cradled her bow, closed her violet eyes, and began to play.

But no sound came out. None of the resistance, the slight scrape as her bow slid past the strings of her cello. She opened her eyes and looked down. There were no strings at all! The four metal strings that she had painstakingly tuned some hours before had vanished. Not only that, but the hairs on her bow had come loose, falling to the wooden floorboards one after the other.

The crowd began to laugh. It started out quietly, a single snort from a single pony, but soon everypony was guffawing loudly.

Back on stage, Octavia was on the verge of tears. The only way this could get worse was if—

"Miss Philharmonica?"

And there he was. Professor Arpeggio, Octavia’s favorite teacher. Always willing to lend an ear to her troubles and quite possibly the most talented string musician among the faculty. The older, ever-kind, stallion was now looking disapprovingly at his student. He frowned and shook his head.

"Miss Philharmonica I regret recommending you for this concert, kindly pack your things and leave. Music is clearly not your talent." With that, Arpeggio walked off-stage. The laughter grew in intensity.

Octavia sighed pitifully and reached over, preparing to re-pack her cello, run back to her room, lock the door, and hide under the covers never to be seen again. But, like the strings and her hopes of a music career, Octavia’s cello had vanished.

The grey mare plummeted to the ground, the delicate balance she had found upset by her instrument’s disappearance. Why is everything disappearing? Octavia asked herself. Things don’t normally do that on their own…

But that thought hardly mattered given the speed at which the floor was coming up to meet Octavia. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, turning to make sure that she did not fall onto her fore hooves.

She crashed through the floor, but found that the previously wooden panels had been replaced by a pool. Octavia fell through sinking deeper and deeper as time went on. The grey mare couldn’t move or breathe, couldn’t do anything but listen. The laughter had not lessened as she fell, quite the opposite. It grew louder, grinding against the cellist’s ears, echoing though her head along with her mentor's words. "Pack your things and leave. Leave. Leave! LEAVE!"

Octavia woke with a start, the chill of the night playing through her room. What started as a warm night, warm enough to warrant an open window and thin covers, had chilled to what seemed like single digit temperatures.

She sat up, checking the clock on her wall by the scant moonlight. Octavia couldn’t quite make out the time, but it was definitely way too early. Worse than that, the cellist knew that she wouldn’t be able to fall asleep again; her dream, as foalish as it seemed to her, had left her shaken. Literally.

The grey mare clutched at her shoulders, trying to stop her shivering through force of will. "Am I really that nervous?" she whispered to herself. She stood up and walked to the window, shutting out the draft.

Honestly, I’ve played concerts of this magnitude before. In the same auditorium, in front of the same parents and students. For goodness’ sake, I’ve played with the Canterlot Philharmonic without being as nervous as I am now!

But this time I’ll be alone. For the first time I’ll be playing for MY audience, not parents forced to wait for their children, not ponies who paid to see the philharmonic and got me hidden away in the back. Everypony there will have come to see… me.

Octavia waved her hooves in the air, trying to disperse the less optimistic side of her mind.

I’ll be fine; everypony says they enjoy my music.

And if I make a mistake?

The cellist shivered, partly from the lingering cold and partly from the prospect of missing a note in front of her audience. She laid herself back into bed.

I… I will cross that bridge when I come to it.

***

Ten minutes later, Octavia was wrapped up in her blankets, eyes closed and breaths slow and regular. She was still very much awake, but trying to trick her body into thinking it was asleep.

Okay, maybe if I stop thinking. Crap, not stopping. Crap. Crap! Mind, I order you to stop thinking! Oh, who am I kidding?

She threw her covers aside and decided to get a very early start on her day. Hygiene came first, and the grey mare marched into the bathroom, grabbing her toothbrush. A song played in her head as she brushed.

Brushie brushie brush brush bru-… Damn that Colgate and her needlessly catchy songs.

Bring water into mouth, spit into sink, wipe. Octavia checked her reflection, noting the very slight bags under her eyes and three strands of out of place mane. She dragged her hooves across her face. "I’m a mess." The few Conservatory students she spoke to called her a perfectionist. This was only partly true; every performance should be perfect, but her appearance hardly mattered to her outside of the concert hall.

Shower, extra long given all of the extra time she had. Octavia sang through the water cascading over her, switching from melody to melody as the whim took her. She began with Beethoofen, then Hayden, then switched styles completely and hummed Louis Hoofstrong and Colttrain. The cellist even found herself singing snippets of Mareosmith at one point.

Octavia finished her shower around the time when she began to ponder the meaning of life, feeling infinitely more refreshed than she had upon waking up. The grey mare sat on her bed, reaching for the purple brush she kept on her nightstand, beginning the hundred brushstrokes meant to keep her mane in perfect condition; a bit old-fashioned, but it had become a daily part of the cellist’s routine.

1… 2… 3…

The brush had a soothing effect, getting rid of the last bit of tension that her nightmare had left behind.

I can’t believe I actually had a nightmare; I have not done that in years. It’s a bit nostalgic, actually. 9…10…11

One of the many good things about being a musician: Octavia could allow her mind to wander without losing count of her brushstrokes. In this case, the grey mare’s mind wandered to the topic of her parents.

Legato and Marcato Philharmonica; even their names sounded good together. They had met at the demand of their audience, Octavia had sat through the story enough times to know that much. The citizens of Canterlot had repeatedly called their agents, asking them to arrange a concert between the two. Legato, whose last name was Voce at the time, responded first; she had always been a rather relaxed pony, especially when compared to the far more shy and introverted Marcato. Indeed, at first, Marcato refused to perform on stage until he was promised that no spotlight would shine on him.
That all changed when he performed with Legato.

They became friends.

They became a duet.

They became each other’s special somepony.

Which, if half of their stories are true, was a very awkward phase for them, thought Octavia. 83… 84 …85.

Then they became husband and wife and, ultimately, father and mother.

Honestly, I can’t imagine father as a shy colt, he’s always making some bad joke and laughing at it. Mother is just as bad, if not worse. Still, it is a rather cute story, and definitely a far cry from most other ‘falling in love’ stories. Then again, Father and Mother are rather far cries from the rest of the Canterlot “elite.” 98… 99 ...100.

Octavia replaced the brush and got to her hooves. Hygiene phase complete, now to find food.

She walked into the kitchen, checking her normally stocked refrigerator. Which was, for the first time in a while, not stocked. The cellist sighed and shut the fridge. I forgot to buy food. Highly uncharacteristically, Octavia had procrastinated, preferring to spend her time studying sheet music rather than ensuring her survival.

They grey mare turned back into her bedroom, quickly tying her pink bowtie and ensuring that she had enough bits for a rather meager breakfast at a local coffee house. She had far more than enough, but the six bits she would have to pay seemed rather extravagant to the frugal earth pony.

I could make a cup of tea and take it with me instead of buying one there…

No, her pride wouldn’t allow it, what kind of pony brought their own drinks to an establishment where ponies bought drinks? It was an absurd idea!

Octavia left her home, assured that the door was locked, unlocked and reentered her home to pick up her sheet music, re-exited and assured that the door was locked, and made a beeline for the coffee shop.

The Sun had only just begun to rise.

***

“Good morning and welcome to SunBucks, what can I get for you?” asked the rather cheery magenta earth pony. She was clearly a morning pony. The other barista, a pale yellow with an orange mane, yawned and kneaded one of her eyes with a hoof. She was clearly not a morning pony.

“Chai tea with skim milk and a Blueberry Oat Bar, please.” Octavia mumbled her order, unintentionally avoiding eye contact with the pony on the other side of the counter.

“Yes ma’am, that’ll be six bits.”

Octavia placed the money on the counter and walked away, breathing a quiet sigh of relief. She found a secluded and rather comfortable leather chair and looked over the music she would have to perform later that day. It was still as intricate as ever. Harpo Parish Nadermane had written it, a friend of Octavia and one of the Conservatory’s most accomplished composers. The grey mare hated playing Harpo’s music. They were beautifully crafted and had been known to bring audience’s to tears, but they were nearly impossible to play!

Harpo believed that music should be “free,” that the eight notes in a given key were insufficient. He composed with every pitch on the piano and some that weren’t. Harpo’s works were also known to bring musicians to tears… and mental breakdowns. To add to this, Harpo and Octavia were friends; the composer knew what the cellist could and couldn’t play, and always made sure that Octavia played at her fullest. At some point, Octavia had begun to call him Sergeant, a name that rather confused anypony who only knew the soft-spoken side of Harpo. In other words, most anypony that hadn’t played his compositions.

They grey mare’s thoughts were broken by a general stirring. Everypony was moving, some were leaving, a slightly annoyed but resigned expression on their face, but most were simply shifting in their seats, getting a clearer look at the front entrance. An older stallion who had been engrossed in that morning’s copy of Equestria Daily had laid it aside. The clearly not a morning person barista seemed to awaken the slightest bit. Even a college-aged unicorn had put her cell phone away. Now Octavia knew something was about to happen.

The magenta earth pony glanced at the clock. “3… 2… 1… Go!” The baristas split, one heading to the assortment of ingredients behind the counter, one manning the register. Half a second later, the smell of rather strong coffee began to fill the room as the front entrance opened with a bang.

“GOOOOOOOOOD MORNING SUNBUCKS REGULARS!” yelled a mare as she barreled through the doors. Octavia flinched at the sudden loud noise. All the cellist could make out was a blur of white topped with an electric blue that contrasted starkly with everything else in the coffee house.

“GOOD MORNING VINYL!” yelled the regulars. Octavia flinched again.

Morning pony or not, nopony should be this loud in the morning.

The loud pony, Vinyl apparently, tried to stop in front of the counter, but misjudged the slipperiness of the floor. She skidded and crashed, somehow managing to flip over the register. The barista sidestepped without hesitation, allowing Vinyl to fall on a rather large pillow.

The white pony glanced down at the pillow and then up at the barista standing over her. “Berry, you’re so kind to me. Probably would’ve been funnier if I’d landed on the floor though.”

Berry smiled. “No ordering from behind the counter.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Vinyl picked herself up and vaulted over the counter. “Give me a Green Eye with some caramel and hazel—” Vinyl was silenced as the yellow barista pushed a drink onto the counter.

One part of the coffee house cheered, the other ground and more than a few bits changed hooves.

The orange-maned pony giggled. “We win this one Vinyl.”

The white mare dropped a few bits onto the counter, picked up her drink with a swoop of her hoof and shook her free hoof in mock anger. "But mark my words; I will have my revenge, Carrot Top! And then you'll see," Vinyl swept a hoof, gesturing to the many ponies watching her, "You'll ALL see!" She broke out into evil laughter, pausing to take a sip from her drink. "Oh, and great job on the coffee Carrot Top."

Off in the corner, Octavia had returned to her music. Or she was attempting to, at least. That white mare had begun to walk around, speaking to nearly everypony in a voice that carried through all of SunBucks. It took a bit of time for Octavia to focus entirely on the music in front of her.

Harpo had written a particularly difficult part right in the middle of the piece.

How the hay does he come up with this?

Unconsciously, Octavia held up her left hoof, twitching it into position on her imaginary cello.

It would be a bit easier if I played that note on the A-string and then shifted down to the D-string for that part, but then I’d have to… I think Harpo hates me.

“Oh, so you’re a musician, huh?”

Octavia jumped a bit; she’d been doing that a lot this morning. She turned to Vinyl, who was now standing over the secluded and comfortable chair. Octavia gazed coolly into a pair of bright purple sunglasses, seeing only her own now purple reflection gazing back at her.

“Whoa there, filly; didn’t mean to scare ya.” The white mare grinned. “Just curious.”

The cellist sighed mentally; she did not enjoy being interrupted, but there was no need to appear rude. “Curious over what Miss…?” She let the question hang.

“Scratch, Vinyl Scratch, but you can just call me Vinyl.” She extended a hoof which Octavia shook gingerly.

“Octavia Philharmonica,” Octavia said in way of introduction.

Vinyl looked up thoughtfully. “Mmmmmmm… Rejected.”

“… Pardon?”

“Oc-ta-vi-a Phil-har-mo-ni-ca,” Vinyl bounced her hoof on every syllable. “That’s almost ten syllables, the maximum is three. I reject your name and substitute my own.” The unicorn put a hoof to her chin and looked down at the floor.

Octavia was now thoroughly confused, a feeling not assuaged by the fact that nearly everypony in the coffee house was looking at the exchange with barely contained laughter. It was always entertaining when Vinyl found somepony who wasn’t a regular.

Vinyl’s head shot up. “I’ve got it! Tavi! … or maybe Octy… Okay, not quite sure yet but I like both of them.” She got to her hooves and turned to the other customers. “EVERYPONY, THIS IS TAVI… OR OCTY… CHOOSE YOUR FAVORITE NAME!”

Everypony yelled back, much the same way they had when Vinyl walked in. They looked expectantly at Octavia. The cellist, pink creeping into her cheeks, nodded politely. The regulars went back to their drinks. Vinyl, much to Octavia’s hidden chagrin, levitated a chair and settled next to the grey mare.

“So, you’re a musician, huh?” the unicorn repeated.

“Yes, Miss Scratch.” Octavia had switched into introvert mode. Short, curt, answer questions, don’t be too rude, avoid conversations and carry on with your day. Maybe Father really was shy and introvertedness is hereditary.

“Call me Vinyl. Cool! Me too,” Vinyl shifted slightly to show the double eighth notes on her flank.

Octavia’s eyebrow threatened to arch upward, but she withheld it.

Vinyl didn’t seem to notice, “Are you a composer or an instrumentalist?”

“Instrumentalist.” Short, curt. The grey mare began to look over her music again, attempting to look busy.

“As an earth pony? How awesome! What do you play?”

“Cello.”

Vinyl whistled softly. “Respect. I’m a producer myself, some remixes but mostly original dubtrot. Though I started DJ-ing recently. I go by DJ-PON3,” she spread her hooves, imagining the name in neon lights, “I know, awesome name, right?”

Octavia nodded slightly, taking a sip of her largely untouched chai tea. It was cooling, but still good enough to drink.

“So, Tavi,” Octavia twitched slightly at the nickname, “are you one of those Conservatory students everypony’s been talking about?”

The grey mare blinked. ‘Everypony’s been talking about?’ Ponies have been talking about the Conservatory? Octavia nodded, her nervous attitude covered by a mask of indifference.

“I heard that there’s gonna be a concert up there today, not really my thing but I might show up; there’s been a lot of hype about it and who knows, maybe I’ll get some kind of inspiration from you classical music types.” Vinyl glanced up at the clock. “Oh, buck, I’m gonna be late!” She jumped to her hooves and downed her mostly full coffee in one scalding move. “I GOTTA GO REGULARS! See you later, Octy.” Two seconds later the white unicorn was speeding down the street dodging around carriages and pedestrians, leaving behind a slightly distraught cellist.

The magenta barista, Berry, pushed the chair Vinyl had moved back into place. “Well,” she said, turning to Octavia, “that was Vinyl Scratch. I hope she didn’t scare you off, she’s a bit of…”

“A character?” suggested Octavia.

“An idiot.” Berry giggled. “But her heart’s in the right place and she’s smarter than she looks. No common sense whatsoever, though.”

Octavia smiled lightly.

“So,” continued Berry, “thinking about becoming a regular?”

Octavia thought back to the white mare, the way she moved seamlessly from customer to customer exchanging hoof bumps and jokes. How comfortable everypony seemed to be around her. The way that Vinyl had kept up a conversation with Octavia herself. The cellist glanced up at the clock on the wall. Time to leave.

Octavia got to her hooves, taking another drink from her slightly cold tea and finishing her Blueberry Oat Bar. “With all due respect, dealing with Miss Scratch on a daily basis would probably drive me insane.”

The cellist trotted off towards the Canterlot Conservatory, the now familiar feeling of nervousness twisting her stomach.

Author's Note:

And so begins the many, many pony puns this tale will entail. Any and all comments and feedback are appreciated.

EDIT: *Low whistle* This chapter's a bit of a mess. It could do with a rewrite. Then again, maybe I could keep it like this, as evidence of my growth as a writer... And my A/N is so sparse, compared to what I normally write. No matter, that's the reason I've returned here.
Greetings!
I'm Terrasora (4 syllables may be a bit too much, so just call me Terra). I wrote this fic, and I hope that you've enjoyed it. (There seem to be a good amount of people who do that.) If you found this slightly entertaining, then I invite you to read on. There's so much more to go, an entire universe that I get to frolic in, and I would be rather sad to think that you left this universe when you have only just crossed the threshold.
But it's your choice in the end and I won't hold it against you if you don't like my writings.
Thank you for clicking on this fic. This is only the beginning.

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