A Puppet To Her Fame

by Kaidan

First published

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.

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.

It was not destiny or enjoyment that led me to discover the cello and composing. My parents made that decision, deciding before I was born I would continue their family legacy of famous musicians.

They did not realize what that decision would cost them.

Special Thanks and Links:

Cover Art: Dreampaw. The inspiration for the story.
Dramatic reading of Act I-III by Malao567. June 2013
Reading with music by ObabScribbler. June 2014
Song: Hooks and Strings by Reverb Brony. May 2014

Style inspired by H.P. Lovecraft
TypeWriterError: Editor & Rating Board
Gage of Grandiloquence: Editor
The11thWonder: Pre-reader
Nharctic: Pre-reader
Breath of Plagues: My Pinch Editor.
ArgonMatrix: Bad Grammar Exterminator
Daemon of Decay: Advice, also inspired me to write fan fiction. Blame him!

Act I - Prelude

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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?”


“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.”


“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.


“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.

Act II - Concerto

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I recall equal parts blurred vision and smug satisfaction when I awoke. My first thought was to examine myself for injury. My second was to aim away from the bed as I vomited. My head ached, and despite however long I had been asleep, I was still drowsy.

I considered this a victory. As cruel as she was, my mother never lost control. I had to have hit a sore spot with her to make her knock me out that suddenly. My throat was aching and my head was pounding. I idly watched the clock while drifting in and out of sleep.

Orchestra practice was at six. Around five I was awake long enough to realize how hungry I had become. I did not look forward to making a trip to the kitchen. Once my body had recovered from the nausea, I got out of bed and approached the door. It creaked slightly as I pushed the door open enough to glance out into the hallway. My parents were not in sight, and my goal was to keep it that way. Quickly and quietly, I made my way to the kitchen.

Each short hallway felt like a trap, yet I managed to make it to the kitchen unnoticed. The chef was preparing some daisy sandwiches.

I approached him quietly and submissively. My hunger was too great to risk upsetting the stallion with half a dozen sandwiches in front of him. “May I?”

“Glad to see you up. Take as many as you want,” he said.

“Thanks.” I scooped up a few sandwiches. “You know, ponies aren’t usually nice to me. What’s your motive? What do you get out of it?”

He stood in silence for a moment, averting his gaze. “You remind me of somepony. I failed them, and have to live my life being reminded of that failure everyday. Helping you makes it feel better.”

I stood there in silence for a moment. “You know, I wish I had grown up with earth pony parents like you.” I turned and exited the kitchen.

It was a relief to make it back to my room and eat in peace. After finishing my meal, I saw I had about twenty minutes left to compose some music. A jubilant violin and cello duet was playing non-stop in my head. If there was time, I would have listened to the beautiful song all night. My mind needed to be clear to play my cello tonight, so I composed it and would enjoy the duet later.

I hastily scribbled the staccato eighth notes for the violin onto the page. Below them sat the whole and half notes of a harmonic chord on the cello. Pianissimo, then a crescendo into fortissimo, then a decrescendo back to pianissimo. The music was alive and wrote itself onto the page. The technical terms of my craft are meaningless to one who can feel the music flowing through their veins.

My hooves glided across the page until I heard a knocking at my door. I stopped scribing my work and felt twinges of pain shoot up from my hooves. Ignoring my urge to continue writing, I managed to pull my forelegs back under my control. I walked to the door expecting to find my mother, and was relieved to see the butler.

“It’s time for concert practice, m’lady,” he said flatly.

It tickled me each time he called me that. His professionalism truly knew no bounds. I’d often suspected that for all the occasions I had given him a hard time, he might have gone so far as to ask my father to punish me. He seemed neutral enough to dispel such notions.

I began to walk out the door and he stopped me. “Your cello.”

“I left it at the theater,” I replied.

“No, it is right there.” He pointed with a hoof to my cello stand.

“Oh.” Just as he had indicated, my maplewood cello sat neatly on its stand in the corner. I went over and placed it into its case and strapped it on my back. My mind must have been too focused on composing to realize it had been brought back by the butler.

“Very well, buttered toast, lead me to yon theater!” I marched out of the room, balancing the cello on my back. After the operant conditioning my parents used to train me to carry the bulky instrument, I never dropped it. I could still feel a twinge of pain when it cantered off balance towards my left side. Not even I could argue with the effectiveness of their technique.

My smile ceased and my expression went cold when I saw my parents waiting near the door. Neither of them spoke. Even though neither of them spoke, their message was clear. Don’t you dare run off again, you insolent brat.

It did not take long for me to reach the theater. Lyra seemed surprised to see me, and after the practice concluded, I found out why.

“Octavia! What happened to you?” Lyra asked.

“Huh? Do I have a bruise?” I looked myself over again, and noticed the bow tie. “Ugh, not this again.” I tore the bow tie off and threw it on the ground.

“What bruises? No, you missed practice yesterday! The night before that, you went home with Vinyl and were gone when she woke up.”

“Yeah, I was nervous when I woke up in bed with—wait, yesterday? What day is it?”

“It’s Wednesday. Are you feeling okay?” She placed a hoof on my forehead.

“Son of a . . . I was out cold for a whole day?”

“I figured it’d be worse than a cold.”

“Nevermind. I need a night off. Let’s go back to the nightclub!” I exclaimed.

“You sure? I know Vinyl and Bon Bon would like to see you’re okay. You’re just acting odd.”

“Odd? I uh. . . guess it would look that way. I mean, I did freak out a little when I woke up in Vinyl’s apartment.” I smiled weakly.

“When you woke up in her apartment, composed a symphony on napkins, pizza boxes, a few pieces of parchment, and a twelve-pack of beer, and then ran away? Yeah, just a little odd.”

“What can I say? Inspiration strikes in odd places. Now, I’d like to get out of here before the butler finds me. My parents don’t approve of fun and sent him to watch over me.”

“Heh,” Lyra chuckled. “I can understand that. I can’t imagine spending my whole life stuck behind a cello and a desk full of parchment.”

“Consider yourself lucky.”

“Considering all the drinking we’ve been doing, Vinyl and Bon Bon are at my apartment. We’re just going to relax tonight.”

“Alright,” I responded.

Lyra walked away from the downtown district that had become so familiar to me lately. We were somewhere East of the theater, between downtown and the noble district. The streets were packed with apartments and not much else. At least the roads and sidewalks were clean, and the planters had living flowers in them.

Lyra and Bon Bon lived in an apartment identical to the rest on the street. Each one had grey outer walls, windows evenly spaced in pairs, and a single door leading inside. Past a small atrium were stairs leading up to the various dwellings. Lyra’s room was number seven, which caused me to giggle. I thought a simple number could foreshadow my good fortune.

Upon entering her apartment, I was taken aback. It had the most amazing patterned carpeting, being grey with speckled brown and black spots throughout. Lyra’s simple brown sofas looked much more comfortable than the chesterfield with silver trim in my room. Vinyl gestured me over to the sofa.

I was sure my parents or the butler had some sort of trick up their sleeves. Perhaps they had let me sneak out again, and were devising some worse punishment. Hed the butler been instructed to follow me to Lyra’s apartment? Maybe they wanted to come and take my friends away.

I pushed the thought from my head. Tonight would be fun. If I didn’t die of embarrassment from how I ran off last night, I’d get to spend more time with Vinyl. Maybe she could tell me what it was like to live a wild life. Perhaps the partying, drinking, and sleeping with stallions and mares was a lifestyle worth envying.

It turned out to be Vinyl’s night off, so we had some time to chat. We sat on the couch with a couple of mixed drinks while Lyra and Bon Bon talked quietly in the chairs near their fireplace.

“Hey, Octy. Sorry about the whole apartment thing. You could barely walk and I had to levitate you back to my place,” Vinyl explained.

“Oh . . . thanks.” I blushed and felt a little relief.

“You had me worried when you vanished. Then I found the music you scribbled all over my stuff! I had no idea you could compose dubstep.”

“Yeah I get these urge—wait, what? What’s dubstep?”

Vinyl laughed and adjusted her sunglasses. “Funny. You were tagging music left and right in my apartment. Half of it had some pretty sick beats, the other half looked like boring classical stuff.”

“Vinyl, no. I thought I—I was composing a string quartet piece. . . I had to get the music out of my head, it was driving me crazy. Then the headache, and all that bright light—I heard you waking up and panicked. I thought we—I thought you and I. . . slept together.

A short gasp escaped her lips. “Octy, I wouldn’t take advantage of you. You’re lucky to still be innocent, and that’s worth protecting. Stick with me and I’ll make sure nothing bad happens to you.”

“Thanks, I’d like that.” I had never been called innocent before. It was hard to believe there was innocence left after my cruel upbringing.

“So, what did mommy think of your drunken all-nighter?” Vinyl chuckled.

“What—” I was caught off guard. What should I say? ’Oh nothing much, Vinyl. She choked me out the instant she saw me. I told her I had slept with a mare, then I spat blood in her face. It’s all good, though. She only knocked me unconscious for a day and a half. The vomiting and drowsiness probably wasn’t a concussion.’

“She didn’t say anything,” I lied. “She was just glad you weren’t a drunk stallion.”

“Heh, at least they were cool about it.” Vinyl leaned forward and whispered. “So I suppose you just fell down the stairs onto your throat, and then missed band practice?”

I instinctively raised my hoof to my throat. My trachea was still sore, and I hadn’t taken a look at it. Had the bow tie been hiding a bruise? Did Vinyl know? My eyes darted around a bit, and I quickly drank the rest of whatever drink Bon Bon had mixed me.

“Calm down, it’s cool. I’m here, if you ever wanna talk about it.” Vinyl smiled warmly.

I nodded politely and sighed in relief. “Thanks. I uh—I’m curious about your eyes. Why wear sunglasses indoors?”

“Heh, well it’s all part of the DJ Pon3 persona. You’re alright, kid. I’ll let you in on a little secret.” Vinyl leaned forward and lifted the glasses up, revealing two red irises. “I’m a vampire.”

I had screamed before I realized what had happened. Vinyl’s eyes shot wide open and she put the shades back on, leaning back. Glancing around I saw Lyra and Bon Bon staring at me, and chuckled nervously. Vinyl joined in on the laughter.

“Whoa, Octy, I was just kidding. I wear sunglasses because red is such a rare eye color. Ponies used to tease me about it.”

“Oh, I’m terribly sorry,” I said. “I actually think they’re beautiful.”

“Thanks, and relax. We’re here to take it easy. Bon Bon, can you make screwdrivers please?”

“Sure thing,” she answered, smiling.

“What’s a screwdriver?”

“It’s what you use to drive screws around,” Vinyl replied.

“Oh, ok.” I smiled and leaned back into the sofa, relaxing.

Vinyl cocked her head to the side. “Lyra wasn’t kidding about you being sheltered. It’s orange juice and vodka. Figured I’d introduce you to the breakfast drink of champions. Well, it’s tied with bloody marys, actually.”

“That’s nice of you. There is one thing I’ve been wondering, Vinyl.”


“When I compose, I hear this music in my head that nopony else can hear. My mother says it’s my muse, but neither she nor Lyra have ever heard music in their head. Do you ever hear music that you have to play on stage?”

Vinyl shifted in place and began to bob her head. “Like the idea for a wicked bass line that you just keep thinking about until you find the right beat for it?”

“No, I literally hear it. It echoes off the walls. Sometimes it is above me, other times all around me. No matter where I go or what I do, I continue to hear the music. The only way to make it stop is to compose it. It is loud enough to keep me up at night.”

“Hmm,” Vinyl stopped imagining a new beat and looked back at me. “Well, Lyra says the stuff you write is amazing. I’m no expert, but that sounds like a decent trade-off for writing such awesome music.”

I blushed at the compliment. I had never considered just how long my music might outlive me. Would our grandchildren be playing my music? Would Celestia and Luna be hearing my song at a gala in a thousand years ?

Bon Bon came back with the drinks and left us to our private chat. I tried my screwdriver, and found it harsh but enjoyable. Thanks to Vinyl pacing me, I wasn’t worried about passing out and waking up in her bed again. I was enjoying this night out. There was some music annoying me, begging to be composed, but I tuned it out.

“So, Vinyl, what’s it like to do whatever you want all the time? No parents bossing you around, nopony controlling your every move?”

“Hmm, I never really thought about it. Being a DJ is my passion. The first time I heard electronic music was after sneaking into a nightclub. I wasn’t old enough to be there, but I knew after seeing the DJ table, speakers, wiring, and lights that I had to try it. That night after closing, I snuck back in to mess with it. That was when I discovered my cutie mark. I love what I do more than anything. Being free is just a part of growing up. You have to become an adult and leave your Parents’ house eventually.”

“That sounds nice. . .” I sipped my drink and imagined moving out of my Parents’ house. It’d take an act of Celestia, or their untimely deaths, to make that a reality.

“You do love music, right? And you plan to move out?” Vinyl inquired.

“I’m not sure I get to move out. My parents are very. . . strict. They built my whole life to turn me into an expert musician and composer. Heck, I don’t even know how I got my cuti—” I cut myself off and quickly guzzled my drink.

Vinyl mouthed a few words before speaking. “Wait, did you almost say you don’t know how you got your cutie mark?”

I laughed nervously for a moment. “Uh, not really. I sorta got hurt one day and woke up with a cutie mark and a cello. That was the first time I started hearing music, playing, composing. . . don’t get me wrong. I enjoy it. The only time I get to be alone is when I’m playing or composing. I lose myself in the music, forgetting about all the bad things in my life.”

I sighed and looked down at the grimy floor. Barely a few days had passed after getting out of the house and meeting other ponies. Already the stark contrast between their carefree lives and mine was crushing.

My train of thought was interrupted by a glint reflecting off something.

Vinyl began to speak again, but I couldn’t hear her. My attention had been captured by four strings dangling from a cross of wood in the air. A gentle breeze passed the strings, causing a sorrowful chord to play. At the end of each string hung a set of small metal hooks. I had enough experience by now to know they did not bode well.

I tried to recall why this was happening. It usually seemed to occur when I needed encouragement to compose or play music. Aside from a hastily composed duet earlier, I hadn’t composed for three days. Tonight at practice my cello parts had been unchallenging. All night long I played slow chords and whole notes.

Were they here, dangling in front of me, as a threat? I had to decide what I would do as they inched closer to us. I could make a scene and fight it, or I could go willingly. Would they release me this time? What infernal tormentor had sent them for me?

My distress must have been written on my face. I could feel my eyes widen and my heart pounding in my chest. My distress had to be easily visible to Vinyl.

“Octy, what’s wrong?” Genuine concern was apparent in her voice. “Ow!” she yelped when one of the hooks pricked her leg and then pulled out. The small nick caused Vinyl to look around in confusion.

“I need to get home now. Thank you, tonight was wonderful.”

I leaped off the sofa and ran out of the apartment. I turned to look behind me and saw the hooks jingling on the pavement in pursuit. “You want me to compose!” I shouted. “I’m going!”

In my confusion I nearly got lost in the unfamiliar district. I ran as quickly as I could, not looking back again. If I ran fast enough, I could beat the hooks home and convince my mother I had not gone out for drinks again. She’d likely punish me regardless, yet it was worth a shot.

The mansion came into view. The sense of dread from being chased by the entity had dissipated. Circling around to the Servants’ entrance to my estate, I finally slowed down. I knocked a few times, and after a couple minutes the chef came and opened the door.

“Thanks,” I whispered as I jogged past him and headed up to my room. I would have to calm down and wait for the music to return to me with something meaningful. There had only been bits and pieces of music all night, like a middle eight for a woodwind section, or a fanfare for the brass. In order to appease the ghastly puppeteer, I would have to compose an entire orchestral arrangement.

I turned on the lights to my room, moaning as my family portait came into view on the wall. It showed my parents dressed in their fancy suits. It showed me, cowering between them on my belly, with my ears lowered. As far as family portraits go, it could have been worse.

I walked over to my desk and remembered that I had left my cello and bow tie at the theater. The butler would have grabbed the cello, but I’d rather not get a surprise visit from my mother. I searched my closet until I found a discarded red bow tie. My hooves struggled with the fabric as I attached it to my neck. It was obvious from the large, loose knot that I had just put it on.

I sat at the desk and sighed, dipping a quill in ink. Perhaps one day I would make my parents proud enough to buy me a pen. I’d heard nothing but good things about them from the servants.

I felt the strings cross my back like a spider web, sending a chill down my spine. My body froze as I awaited a pin prick. Instead, I felt the bow tie fix itself. It almost looked normal, and just in time. My mother had chosen that moment to visit me.

She had been in the mood to sneak up on me lately. Luckily, the muse that supplied me with so much wonderful music had me covered. The sonata buzzing around my head turned into a dirge. The brass section began to carry the beat with a foreboding fanfare. I scribbled the notes down as quickly as I could. Perhaps I could present this composition to my mother as a birthday present. ’Here you go, Mother. This song is what I think of you. Notice how I still have enough talent to write good music. Do you remember what that feels like?’

“You look awfully happy. I’m glad you’re hard at work and not sneaking off to a bar. It is odd, though, that the butler carried in your cello. I’ve told you never let anypony else handle your cello,” Mother cooed.

I had become used to when she wanted to lull me into a false sense of security. She got bored of tormenting me, and liked to mix it up once in a while. I wiped the smug grin off my face and turned to face her.

“Hello, Mother. To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“Can’t I drop in to see my favorite little girl? I wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to you if you keep sneaking out, so I’ve brought a little incentive.”

This was it, time to take a shot at her pride before she revealed her newest invention. “Indeed, I would hate to get knocked up by a unicorn and have a filthy unicorn foal.”

She was actually stunned speechless, mouth agape, for a moment. It had become a game between us. She would come and taunt me, I would make my quips, and she would punish me. The implications of what I had said caught her off guard, a rare victory.

I completely forgot I was poking a bear with a stick as my laughter echoed throughout the room. Mother jammed a cloth into my mouth and fastened it around my head, gagging me. “Mmph mmph,” I mumbled.

“It really is a shame, that filthy tongue of yours. Perhaps if I can’t cut it out I could just have you chew on a hot coal for a couple minutes? I heard the Gryphons did that to Pegasi prisoners of war.” She walked over to the hearth where the servants had started a fire to keep me warm.

She wouldn’t. . . there was no way. . .

“Sadly,” she whined, “I have been instructed not to do anything drastic, yet. Your father has a contingency plan, should you continue to rebel. For now, I’m just going to use the old-fashioned method to keep you from running away.”

She turned to stare at me, malice radiating from her like heat from the sun. I got up slowly and walked over to the bed. My hope was to placate her and give her a false sense of security. I had even put the damned bow tie on. I lay down on top of the covers and closed my eyes.

“Nice try, Octavia. You could lick my hooves clean and I still wouldn’t believe you’ve learned your lesson. How many times have you been to the bar?”

I rolled onto my belly as she approached me. She wasn’t the only one who could trick somepony, and I never did it the easy way. Now it was her turn.

“Three times. Three times you’ve run away after orchestra practice. Isn’t it enough we finally let you out of the house without us by your side? Must you act like an ignorant rock farmer? Must you confirm our beliefs that you are not worthy of the family name?”

She was in striking distance now. I tensed up my haunches and launched myself off the bed, tackling her. My hoof sailed towards her jaw, but she reacted quicker than I thought possible. She flung me off and pinned me by the neck using the bow tie.

It was much easier for a unicorn to use levitation to control inanimate objects than a living pony. I tried to rip off the bow tie so that she could not keep me pinned. My hoof finally found purchase, and the loosened tie flew off. In the few seconds I had to react, she brought a hoof down on my ribs, knocking the wind out of me.

“Animal!” she screamed. “If you want to act like a savage mud pony, then that is how I shall treat you from now on!”

Her saddlebag opened up as rope flew out. It quickly began wrapping around my legs, hogtying me in seconds. I began to grin.

“What’s so funny, pig?”

I smiled as I thought about how the hooks would arrive and free me. Where are they? Why aren't they here to help? I glanced over to the desk where I had been passionately composing. Of course. They only seem to appear when I need to compose or I’m ignoring the music. I grunted in anger.

“That's right, trussed up like a pig. I don’t know why your father doesn’t enjoy this as much as I do. I almost wish I could conceive another mud pony, so that I can punish it when you start behaving.”

I was floated up in the air by the ropes and ended up hanging upside down. I saw the window approaching as she opened it with her magic.

Animals sleep outside, and if you’ve learned anything in the last eighteen years, you’ll stop fucking with me!” she screamed.

I was flung out the window, landing in a pile of mud. Of course, it had to rain today. Thank you, Celestia, this is just what I needed. The window slammed shut and I was left alone with only my rage to keep me warm. One day I would repay her a hundredfold for every time she had abused me.

I wished she were dead.

I squirmed around awhile, eventually giving up on getting free. The mud clung to the countless hairs in my coat and mane. After some careful wiggling, I reached the wall of the mansion. It took forever to reach the cold stonework, and the exertion didn’t help me get to sleep. I was so riled up, and the air was so chilly that night. The wall made a poor shelter, and I couldn’t tell if sleep ever came. I drifted through various states of awareness as the ropes dug into my legs, keeping me awake.

During the long night, I had plenty of time to think. It was as I lay there thinking that I began to realize something. I was doing this to myself. My mother was right.

I was acting uncivil, like an animal. All they had ever wanted was for me to play and compose music, which I could do. Why did I continue to provoke them? Why didn’t I just behave and make it all better? They may claim not to love me, but if that were true, why would they spend so much effort to correct my bad behavior?

I quivered in fear and sobbed under the new moon. The thoughts of defeat going through my head were unwelcome. No. They are the ones acting like animals. It’s not my fault. . . is it?

I awoke in my room the next morning untied and covered in dry mud. Somepony had carried, or perhaps thrown, me into my room. I lay in the middle of the floor. Stretching out my legs caused sore, tense muscles to protest. Tears fell from the pain of trying to close my jaw as my muscles fought to stay locked in place. Once enough of the stiffness had been relieved, I walked over to the bed. I didn’t want to get it covered in mud, that would make Mother unhappy. Crawling underneath it would provide enough peace of mind to fall asleep.

It was easy enough to slide underneath the oak bedframe. I had often slept under the bed as a filly. The carvings in the wooden frame were still visible. My favorite spot was near the wall, safe in the corner. I looked up upon reaching it and read the carving in the oak bed frame: Mommy loves me. I closed my eyes and waited to get some more sleep.

The next time I awoke was near noon. A servant had brought me some food and the aroma roused me from my sleep.

I crawled out from under my bed and was shocked at what had been set on my table. Fresh daffodil and rose salad, apple cider, and hay fries. It was my favorite meal, an incredibly rare occurrence. I walked around it, sniffing suspiciously. Punish bad behavior, reward good behavior, I recalled.

Memories of my childhood returned to me. I had been as unruly then as now. When the stick had failed, Father had convinced Mother to try the carrot. For a while my behavior had improved as I was rewarded. In my naivety I had believed my father loved me, for he had actually become kind. Then. . . I had gotten my cutie mark.

It wasn’t only me that had changed when I got the cutie mark. My mother had become more cruel, and my father more distant. I had never dared ask if they knew how I got my cutie mark. I was scared to know if they had heard the chanting too. Just recalling that awful night made the room feel twenty degrees colder.

This food was clearly another attempt to buy my good behavior. My stomach was growling. Screw it, just eat the salad! I shrugged and sat down to enjoy a meal. At least if I knew they were trying to condition me, I could resist it. Right?

After lunch I cleaned myself up properly in my bath, then hurried over to compose. My mind focused on scribing songs like a good pony. I thought of how I would pass the time and get to meet Lyra and Vinyl soon. The thought filled me with joy, causing more ideas to come to me. I began to scribe faster, becoming happier as the hours passed. Soon, I was hearing three songs at once. I wrote furiously, trying to keep up with the inspiration.

The more joy I felt, the harder it was to keep up. I slumped on the table in exhaustion after finishing a fourth composition. My jaw ached from clenching the thick quill and my eyes burned from hours of focusing on the parchment. I rolled my head over so I could see the clock. Practice was in thirty minutes!

I got up from the desk and began to ready my things: a cello, bow, case, and some sheet music. All I was missing was my bow tie. I checked my closet for one, only to find they had been moved. Their absence could only mean one thing: Mother would want to put it on personally before I left.

It was painful to sit there with the cello waiting for her. My hooves began to fidget as I chewed on my lip. I had every intention to go to the bar tonight. She was foolish to think a salad could win me over.

If I could just hold my tongue for thirty seconds, I’d be on the way to the theater. The door opened, and I bit into my cheek. A jolt of pain gave me something to focus on.

“Excellent, darling. I see you’ve decided not to act like swine anymore,” Mother observed. “If you’re back from practice by eight, I’ll let you sleep in the kennel instead of the mud tonight.”

Eight. . . nine. . .ten. . .eleven. . .

“Now hold still,” she ordered. I felt the bow tie fasten.

Fourteen. . . fifteen. . .

“There, just like when you were a filly. Tell mommy you love her.”

Twenty-one. . . . . . I can’t do it anymore. . .

“Octavia, that was not a suggestion.”

Tw—enty thr—ee. . . I was biting my lip so hard I tasted blood. Three little words and she would turn and leave, yet I could not, would not, say it.

I felt something prick my lips, startling me into opening my mouth. I saw two thin strands leading to the hooks in my lips, pulling them upward into a gentle smile.

The puppeteer guided my words. ”I love you, mommy.” If I could have curled up and died in revulsion at that statement I would have. The strings lowered my smile and let go. You’re welcome.

“Good girl.” She patted me on the head, turned, and walked out.

twen—ty ni—ne . . . . THIRTY! The door clicked closed behind her.

“Stupid fucking eggheads!” I swore at the top of my lungs, slamming a hoof into the ground. “Ugh, we’ll see who is laughing after I go to the bar, again.”

I stood up and walked to the door. I had done it: for thirty seconds I hadn’t insulted or attacked my mother. That had to be a new record. I would check the carvings under the bed later to verify that.

The butler was waiting outside the door to escort me to practice.

“M’lady,” he politely greeted me.

“Buttery,” I giggled.

“In a good mood, M’lady?” He closed the door for me once I had walked through with my cello.

“Hell no, but it doesn’t hurt to try.” I glanced around the vacant hallways.

“Shall we be going?”

“Yes.” I started walking to the front doors of the house with the butler following closely behind.

“Might I suggest you skip the bar for at least one night? They have been. . . speaking of how to deal with your next infraction, M’lady.”

“No you may not suggest it. Just keep being neutral. If you start being nice or mean, I’ll know that they’ve gotten to you.”

“As you wish, M’lady.”

We walked to the theater in silence. Maybe I’d talk to the chef later and see what he knew about the butler. Stranger things had happened than a unicorn butler being nice to a disobedient earth pony. I could only think of one, however. If the old mare’s tale of Nightmare Moon was true, perhaps a nice unicorn was possible too.

Orchestra practice passed swiftly. The trips to the bar had become the real reason I lugged a cello halfway across Canterlot. I stood up at the end and looked over at the butler. Our eyes met for a moment, and I put my cello down on the ground. He sighed, and nodded.

I headed over to find Lyra this time. “Let’s go,” I snapped and dragged her towards the exit, stopping only to drop off a certain red piece of fabric in the trash can.

“Slow down, Octavia,” Lyra begged. We had made it outside, and I realized she was still hopping along on three legs to keep up. I let go.


“Hey, you ok? Did you read a horror story or something. I did that once and didn’t get any sleep all night. That’s how you look.”

“Yes, I didn’t get any sleep, and what story?” I barked.

“See? Being all grumpy. Was it the story about the faceless creature under the bed?”

I glared at Lyra.

“Heh, fair enough. That one kept me up for four days. It was about a starving creature that stood upright like a diamond dog. He would swing from tree to tree through the forest until he spotted a pony. He would then dress up like one of the pony’s loved ones. At night he would sneak into their bedroom. He stood at the foot of their bed then he would rip the blankets off.

“The pony would wake up, startled, to see their loved one staring at them. Only, he had no eyes or face. As soon as the pony looked at that face, they lost a piece of their soul. From that moment onward, the abomination haunted every second of their lives. He would hide in the periphery of their vision, allowing them fleeting glimpses. Each glimpse stole part of their soul until they went insane.”

“Quite a horror story,” I mocked. “Remind me to tell you about my last birthday party, and we’ll see which one of us is up all night crying in fear.”

“Oh, cool. It must have been quite a good novel you got for your birthday.”

“Just. . . no.” I sped up to outpace the chatty unicorn.

“Is it one I’ve heard of? Lovecolt? R. L. Stallion? The Sparkle Zone?” Lyra continued to list off authors and novels as I tuned her out.

It was the horror story about a mother flogging her daughter for trying to run away. Spoilers: she couldn’t walk or sit for two weeks, I thought.

The “Blue Moon” nightclub was up ahead, and never had I been more relieved to see it. I would have a good night, chatting with Vinyl. My plan was to get as drunk as possible before I left. Mother would be furious and beat me, but I’d be too drunk to feel it. I’d wake up and deal with the hangover. I’d repeat the cycle after the next orchestra practice.

It was a flawless plan.

Once we were inside, I found Vinyl sitting at a booth. She got up and looked me once over, then allowed me to slide past her into the booth.

“Hey, Lyra, why don’t you find Bonnie? Have a few drinks, on me.” Vinyl levitated ten bits to her.

“Oh, thanks, Vinyl! And I’ll totally get you that fifty bits I owe you. We’re making truffles for the carnival in town next week,” Lyra promised.

Vinyl signaled a mare over and ordered herself some hard liquor and me some mixed concoction. I didn’t even notice she was talking to me at first—I was lost in my own world. She bopped me on the nose, waking me from my stupor.

“Octy, I asked if you trust me?”

“Sure,” I mumbled.

“Look, you must think I’m immature for being a DJ and partying every night. I’ve met a lot of ponies, seen a lot of things in the slums of this city. I need you to be honest with me.”

“Yeah yeah,” I replied. My mouth was still on autopilot as I fantasized about strangling my mother with a dozen red bow ties. Will her horn turn blue when she asphyxiates, or just her lips?

“Is. . . is your father beating you?” Vinyl asked.

My full attention turned to the DJ instantly. She wore a rather somber expression. I didn’t last two seconds before I burst out laughing.

“This is serious, Octy! You look like hell.”

I stopped laughing when I noticed I was drawing some attention. “Sorry, I uh. . .”

“Fell down some stairs?” Vinyl finished for me.

“Yes, and to your earlier question, no. My father doesn’t beat me.”

“Right, just the stairs,” Vinyl sighed. She reached out and lifted one of my hooves. “Do you not notice these rope burns? I’m surprised no one at the theater has asked you why you keep showing up with bruises.”

I yanked my hoof back. “It’s none of your business!” I hadn’t meant to shout, and yet I had.

“Octy, you said you trust me. Let me help you, let me protect you.”

“Protect me? From one of the richest noble families in Canterlot? Parents who think I’m just a worthless mud pony? Yeah, that would end well.”

“You can just leave. I’ve seen the shelter on third street. Run away and the cops will protect you.”

“Yeah, like the sheriff who plays poker with my father. Maybe it’ll be the first lieutenant that helps him pick the best vintages of wine. Oh, I know. Swift Script, judge at the courthouse! He and my father play shuffleboard every Tuesday.”

Vinyl slammed her hoof on the table. “This isn’t a damn joke! I’m not going to let some asshole abuse you! Who is it?!”

“And I told you, it’s none of your damn business!” I shoved Vinyl away. “Stop trying to help me! Nopony ever helps me!”

I sprinted out of the bar and ran blindly down a side street. My mind didn’t have time to figure out where I was or where I should go. I just wanted to hang out with Vinyl, not to see her hurt by my parents too. Why did she want to ruin everything by trying to take on my parents? It wasn’t fair. I just wanted to have some fun.

I continued to race up the street until I collided with somepony. I recovered quickly and stood back up to meet the stallion’s eyes.

“Hey, pretty, you lost?” he asked.

“Yes—I’m l-looking for the p-palace district,” I replied. My heart was beating quickly due to the jog.

I heard a pony behind me whistle. “Hear that, Hopper? Got us a lost noble.”

“Sure do. The palace district is right through this alley here.” He pointed down a narrow, dark alley. “Just turn left on the other side and head straight up the street.”

“Okay, thanks. I really appreciate it.” At least one thing was going right tonight.

I turned and walked into the alleyway. Halfway through, a shadow stepped out blocking the other end of the alley. I nervously turned around to go back, finding Hopper behind me.

“Looks like you picked the wrong night to get lost. How about we do this the easy way, and I won’t have to break that pretty mouth?”

“What do you want?” I glanced around anxiously. Only a few feet of free space were left. “I don’t have any money.”

“Heh,” he chuckled. “I don’t want money, I want payment for the drink I bought you. I want to ride you until the sun comes u—”

“Get the hell away from my friend!” Vinyl screamed.

I had never been so relieved in my life.

“Boulder, handle it,” Hopper ordered.

“Who do ya think you are? Come to join the party, little unicorn?” Boulder asked.

“No, I came to force-feed you your own hooves!”

The malice in her voice was making me cringe, and yet the stallions began to laugh.

“How about your last chance to get lost before we knock your teeth out and make you bl—” Boulder never finished the sentence.

The three stallions had overlooked one key detail. Vinyl was a unicorn. The earth ponies had strength, size, and speed. Not a single trait helped Boulder when a large rock smashed into his head, knocking him unconscious.

“Wrong answer,” Vinyl spat.

“Now wait you crazy bitch—” Hopper caught a trash can with his face. The full weight of the metal bin slammed down on him several times.

“Think you’re stallion enough for me still?” she taunted.

I heard panicked hooves behind me. I turned and saw the last stallion disappear behind the end of the alleyway.

“Octavia! Are you okay? What the hay were you thinking? Why’d you run off at night in the red light district?” She walked over to check on me.

“Oh, Vinyl!” I jumped on her, hugging her around the neck. “Thank Celestia. I got lost, and they tricked me! They were going to do horrible things.” I began to sob as the stress and fear were washed away.

“Hey now, I told you before. Stick with me and I’ll protect you. I wouldn’t let scum like them, or your father, hurt you. You just need to trust me.” Vinyl lifted me up off her neck and smiled.

“Thanks, I will. . .” I was choking back a flood of tears. “I. . . I do.”

“Hang in there, my apartment is not far.” She held me close with one hoof while walking me to her apartment.

It was a short walk, and I was grateful for that. I was barely keeping control of my composure. Once we were inside, she locked the door and quickly flung the cans and empty boxes off her sofa. She led me there and sat down next to me.

As I sank into the sofa, I let myself be vulnerable. Vinyl would protect me. I began crying uncontrollably, years of repressed emotions flowing out. I could hardly breathe through the sobs and the gasps. My tears could easily have been mistaken for a waterfall, and my running nose for a sink faucet.

I buried my muzzle into Vinyl’s side and cried for an eternity until exhausted. I was used to it though. With my mother around it was as common as a meal, but it was different with Vinyl.

She cared.

I’d never had a shoulder to cry on. I always read about it and knew of the phrase, but only now did I realize how much it meant. VInyl wasn’t a pillow or a stuffed bear, she was a pony who truly cared about me.

That realization brought on another flood of tears. I thought that maybe all my crying might start annoying her, but the way she stroked my mane told me it didn’t. If anything, I think she was glad that I opened up to her.

“Octy?” Vinyl whispered.

“It’s m-my mother. Don’t make me go back,” I sobbed.

“I won’t, not ever. Do you want to tell me about it?”

At first, I didn’t want to talk about it. I wanted to forget all the horrible things Mother had done. Vinyl would understand, so I told her about the abuse.

“She loves t-to choke me, hit me, t-trick me into th-thinking she loves me. I have to either grovel o-or face her wr-wrath every day. If I don’t make e-enough music o-or—” I wept.

“It’s okay, we can go to the polic—”

“No!” I interjected. “I mean not. . . not tonight. Please, I j-just want to be with you. You’re the only pony that cares about me and isn’t just d-doing it because Father says to.”

“You’re right, Octy. You’re damn right I care about you.” She sniffled. I remember seeing her tears fall to the inside of her sunglasses. “If you want, you can live here with me.”

“You would really do that? I could stay here, forget about the cello, and they wouldn’t ever find me?”

“Something like that, yeah.”

There was something about the way she said it that shot my heart into space. It wasn’t poetic or romantic, all things considered. It was a simple statement, but in it was my hope. The hope that I’d never have to go back and that I could be happy for the rest of my life.

I still don’t know what I felt at that moment, but it was the greatest feeling in the world. My heart beat faster as my cheeks heated up. All I wanted was to spend that moment with Vinyl. Every other worry vanished from my mind.

She took her glasses off and tossed them across the room onto a chair. It was the first time I had seen her red eyes up close. I wouldn’t say they scared me, but I could see why somepony might have found them frightening. Yet the more I looked at them, the deeper I saw. Underneath her cool, collected veil was something beautiful. There was this twinkle, a deep passion for doing the right thing.

I could smell something faint, something vanilla. It was Vinyl’s scent, and I immediately sensualized it.

As we sat there staring at each other, there was a point in time where something shifted between us. I saw her lips quiver and inch closer. The music began to play, soft and gentle, but I knew where it had to go. This was the prelude to a piece that would be mine and Vinyl’s symphony.

Soon it exploded into everything from crying violins to tribal percussion.

My heart raced as I leaned in. I’d never kissed a pony before. My mind worked quickly to figure out how it was supposed to work. Before my brain could catch up to my heart, I had sealed my lips to Vinyl’s.

She pushed me away.

“Octy, you don’t know what yo—”

“Please, Vinyl. Let me do this,” I pleaded, trying to pull back in.

I clenched my eyes to keep the tears from surfacing. I didn’t want her to see how broken and desperate I was.

“I don’t care if I mess up. I just want to be happy. . .”

I never saw it coming, but that’s when the orchestra resumed its crescendo.

I felt a hoof wipe a few tears from my eye. As soon as I opened them, Vinyl had taken me and pressed her lips against mine. Closing my eyes, I let our burning passion push us closer.

We wrestled and maneuvered ourselves until she had me pinned to the couch, never letting ourselves separate for even a second. She pressed my hooves down on either side of me. As I lay there exposed to her, my heart was pounding in my chest. I was so open and vulnerable that I began to whimper and tremble beneath her.

She picked up on my nervousness and pressed her body against mine. I thought that she was experienced and that she’d be cool and collected, yet I felt her heart beat just as fast as mine.

I gasped into her mouth as she placed her hoof somewhere I had never been touched before. The bombastic musical piece in my head silenced, and I heard a single slow and mournful violin. I cried at it. The movement fit the contour so perfectly that I just wept and cried straight into her.

She didn’t stop. As the heat of her touch began to rise, so did the music. I could imagine just how silly I probably looked at the moment, but I didn’t care. I was happy.

“Octavia. . . I want you too,” she whispered passionately, suddenly dampening the music.

“I-I d-don’t know if I c-can. . .” I stammered.

Vinyl never planned to wait though. She took my hoof and moved it herself. At first I was scared to hurt her. She was so soft and delicate, but when her expression said otherwise, she let go of my hoof, and I continued.

The music picked back up as we embraced. Everything rose higher and higher: our heart rates, the temperature, the tempo of the music. This was our song, and we played it for hours.

Still, the finale came too soon. It was a final movement, a final push to resolve the piece that crashed inside my head. I—We wanted it to conclude. The symphony raged and built, working its way to the last resolution and movement. We worked so hard to compose the last piece, and just as I thought we would hear it, there was silence. A beautiful silence.

Euphoria surged through us. White hotness filled my mind as pure ecstasy. I saw Vinyl’s mouth move. I had to read her lips because I couldn’t hear.

I love you.

I love you too.

I found myself falling asleep as the silence offered me my first reprieve since my cutie mark had appeared. There were so many things I wanted to say as she held me, yet all I managed was, “thank you.”

I felt safe with her hooves wrapped around me. With no parents or music or strings to haunt me, I was quickly falling into a blissful sleep. I curled up and pressed myself into her.

“I’ll never leave you, Octy,” she cooed.

“I know,” I whispered. “You saved me.”

I fought my drowsiness as long as I could. Seconds stretched to minutes and felt like hours as I drifted to sleep. I wanted to hold on to those wonderful feelings forever. With a final yawn, I let go and fell asleep.

I was awoken in the morning by something pounding on the door. My body was more comfortable and relaxed than it had been my entire life. Stretching under the warm sheets, I opened my eyes, and memories flooded back to me. This was Vinyl’s apartment: safe, warm, and we had. . .

It was a night I would never forget. The pounding continued, and my weary ears thought they heard shouting. I felt Vinyl get up from behind me to answer the door. Moaning, I curled up and gathered all the blankets around me.

The banging continued “Dang it, hold your horses!” Vinyl shouted. I watched her stumble for her sunglasses and walk to the door.

“. . . the . . . . open. . . . door.” I couldn’t hear the whole conversation.

“Yeah right, if this is another joke—” As soon as Vinyl had unlocked the door, it flew open, flinging her back.

Several guards rushed in, complete with their golden armor.

“Octavia? Hey, sergeant, we found her!” he shouted into the hallway.

“Just who the hay do you think you are? Get outta my apartment!” Vinyl yelled.

“You’d be smart to shut up, or we can arrest you for obstruction of justice!” the guard barked.

“Vinyl? What’s going on?” I whined, clutching the blanket close for comfort.

“Octavia. We were sent by your father when you didn’t return home. We’re only here to bring you back to him. Your friend here won’t be charged with anything if she shuts up and stays out of our way.” The guard walked over and tried to get me out of bed.

“No! They beat me, I won’t go back!” I screamed right in his ear.

“Ugh, hey, Iron, Lance, Shield, come give me a hoof with her. Looks like she really is off her meds.”

“What? I don’t take medicine! Get off me!” I kicked out at the guard, tangling myself in the bedsheets. “Vinyl!”

I glanced over to see her being held back by the sergeant.

“Octy, don’t worry! I’ll come for you,” Vinyl exclaimed.

“Not if you’re smart,” the sergeant warned.

The four guards had used the bedsheet to their advantage. It was easier to just wrap it around me further than try to get me out and grab my legs. I found myself squeezed into a ridiculous ball of cotton and fur, being hauled out in the magical grip of a guard unicorn.

My eyes remained locked on Vinyl until they had carried me out into the hall. I had wanted to say something, anything, but with the guards here, nopony could save me now.

My struggling continued until I managed to pull my head inside the ruffled blanket. I didn’t want anypony to see me, especially my parents. Perhaps ponies would think I was just a ball of cotton being carried along the streets of Canterlot. Nothing to see here, ponies, move along. I laughed briefly at the thought of me as a ball of laundry.

It didn’t take nearly long enough to arrive at the mansion. I had hoped the guards would get lost, maybe accidentally ending up in the Gryphon kingdom. They unceremoniously dumped me out of the blanket onto the steps in front of my mansion.

I recalled the routine I had used during the two times I had tried, and failed, to run away. Meet butler at door? Check. Escorted to room? Check. Father walks in for staring contest? Check. Father leaves to let Mother do his dirty work? Check. Mother takes her anger at Father’s small manhood out on me? Check.

It began as I expected, with the butler at the front door. He did not meet my gaze once as he escorted me to my room. My father was not waiting there this time. He had sent my mother in first, abandoning all pretense at a guilt trip in lieu of physical violence.

I waited for Mother to speak first this time. I’d prepare a good retort before she cut me off with a bow tie.

I could see her wrinkled brow and trembling lips. Her angry grimace pulled her facial muscles taught. It was just me, her, and my cello.

“My cello?” I muttered in surprise. How does it keep coming back to me?

“Shut the fuck up!” she spat. “Twice in a row you stay out overnight! Twice after we covered for you so you could mope around in your bed for two days!”

“Mope around? You bashed me over the head, you wrinkled harpy!”

I believe I saw a capillary burst in her eye at that very moment. The distended veins on her neck and forehead bulged out against her furry skin. If only she could have an aneurysm or a stroke at this very instant. If only I could strike back at the witch.

“Bastard devil-spawn! Ten-thousand-to-one odds, and we still manage to have a worthless earth foal! I’d choke the life out of you, but it’d mean admitting defeat to his parents. Just because they said he shouldn’t marry me! They blame me, for you! Can you believe it!? You aren’t worthy to lick my horseshoes clean, bitch.”

After my night with Vinyl, I didn’t care for my mother’s games anymore. “Yeah, yeah. Hurry up and get this over with. I have some music to compose, though I guess you can’t relate. My music will live on for centuries. Your crayon-drawn scribbles will be forgotten inside a month. How long has it been since you composed something halfway decent? Four years? Five?”

Mother’s horn glowed and I heard rustling from a nearby bookshelf. I heard the projectile whistling through the air this time and ducked. I was only clipped by the book. It still hurt, but I stood my ground.

“We had this custom-made. Since you want to act like an animal, I’ll collar you like an animal.” She levitated the device out of her nearby saddlebag. “It’s a red bow tie, magically enchanted with a metal collar underneath the fabric. You can’t take it off and you will not run away again. If you do, I’ll track you down and drag you back here kicking and screaming.”

“You wouldn’t dare,” I shrieked, taking a step backwards.

The collar lunged forward for my neck in her magical grip. I fled for my bed and tried to dive under it. Her magic began to tear the tassels off from the drapes to use as improvised ropes. One of them reached me before I made it under the bed, fastening around my neck.

“Di—n—a fir—” I choked out. I kicked and clawed, slowly forcing my way under the bed as she assaulted me. I would not be collared like a dog.

“I’ve always wanted a pet. I wonder if you will appreciate me after I break you once and for all.” Mother laughed as she managed to drag me out from under the bed, towards the waiting collar.

I was floating in mid air, flailing, at this point. She could not get the bow tie around my neck due to my struggle. She hovered me closer and began raining blows down upon me instead. I refused to give up, making steady progress against her magic assault.

One of her blows missed its mark, nailing my left eye. It would doubtless leave a large black bruise, making it quite obvious to all what she had done here.

If only I could fight back, if only I could meet her blow for blow.

The music filled the room to deafening levels. This was the worst time for this to happen, I couldn’t compose now! I could barely fight the urge to lose consciousness!

It was at that moment my salvation came from the unlikely, yet most welcome, of places. The marionette strings and hooks shot down from the ceiling to my aid. The tassel around my neck was snagged and ripped effortlessly away. I gulped air into my lungs greedily, regaining my footing on the ground.

I looked up at my mother with a feral grin, showcasing my teeth. Unbridled fury filled my eyes as my pupils narrowed. I could feel the hooks attaching to my lower and upper legs, the strings that would guide me to my revenge.

I began to cackle at my mother, who was still standing there in shock as the strings bound the tassel and bow tie to the floor.

“My turn.”

I leapt forward, guided by the strings. She instinctively let her magic run wild, flinging everything within reach at me in a maelstrom of fury. I dodged the projectiles effortlessly, closing the distance between us in a second.

She couldn’t even flinch before my hoof connected with her temple, throwing her back towards the door. She opened her mouth to scream before I brought my hooves down on her ribs, knocking the wind out of her.

I laughed as she gasped for air. The strings dragged the bow tie over, quickly cinching it down around my mother’s neck. She began to gasp for air. “What’s the matter? Too tight?” I mocked.

The strings lifted my legs up into the air for the final blow. I readied myself to trample that cursed face.

The door burst open as I brought my hooves down. The butler and my father rushed in. Before I could complete my vengeance, I was tackled to the floor. I stared upwards at my father. His hoof sailed through the air as he hit me for the first time.

Act III - Finale

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“Octavia, get up.”

I kept my eyes closed and stayed motionless in bed. He may have thought it stubbornness, but I was truly mortified when my father spoke to me.

“I will not ask again,” Father commanded.

I rolled out of bed, falling to my hooves and playing the role of beaten mutt that he was doubtless eager to see. My eyes remained on the floor. I would find a way back to orchestra practice. I would find Vinyl. We would run.

“Step forward.”

I took a few steps towards the voice.

“That was quite the show, but ultimately useless. You continue to find creative ways to disgrace my family name. Now, feel your bow tie.”

I lifted a hoof up and put it on my neck. The collar, half metal and half magic, they had devised for me was latched in place. I could feel the tingle of magic coursing through it, and the true despair of my situation sunk in.

“I had hoped it wouldn’t come to this, but my wife’s methods proved insufficient. She’ll be in shortly to begin your training. I’d suggest you stop antagonizing us. Both of us can track that collar. Both of us can use it to deliver a powerful magic surge through your nerves.”

My Father’s horn glowed and the device around my neck tightened. I could still breathe, yet it dug deeply into my skin. To demonstrate what would happen next time I disobeyed, he effortlessly activated it. I fell to the floor in exquisite agony as I felt hundreds of nerves running through my body, from my brain, down the spine, to my hooves, ignite in white hot fire. As sudden and severe as it was, the searing affliction vanished just as quickly, leaving me gasping.

“We thought you had better sense than this, it’s truly disappointing. We have given you everything, sacrificed everything. All of this, we have done so you would be capable of playing music. Years of schooling, dozens of instruments, countless tutors, the best experts on music theory money can buy. And still, you refuse to learn your place.”

I was still kneeling on the floor, tears streaming from my eyes. Even if I got to Vinyl, what good would it do now? Would she or Lyra even know the first thing about this kind of magic?

“Behave for your Mother and I’ll escort you to the theater to practice tonight,” Father stated.

I heard my father exit and my mother enter.

“I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time. Go ahead, call me names now,” Mother spat.

I stood up and faced her, searching for the words to convey my feelings.

“I gave you an order, insult me.” Her horn glowed briefly. The sensation of thousands of small cuts spread across my skin, sending me convulsing to the floor.

“You're too big a coward to face me without magic,” I whimpered from the floor.

“Is that so? Then go ahead, hit me.”

I looked up in time to see her walk over and aim a kick for my head. I rolled to the side but was still too weak to get up.

“Hmm, doesn’t look you have it in you. Now sit.”

I closed my eyes and sobbed until she sent another burst of pain through me. This time my nerves told my brain that I was being compressed under several tons of pressure. I felt like I was being forced through the eye of a needle, yet I had not moved.

“Sit,” she repeated.

I got up and sat on the floor, I had never felt so humiliated. Would this be my life, controlled from a safe distance by my cowardly parents? Was I destined to know only pain and servitude?

“Good girl, now stand.”

I stood up. There was still the chance of reaching Vinyl and getting free. If I waited long enough, perhaps the puppeteer would even come to my rescue.

“Good girl.” She held out an apple to me as a treat.

“Are you fucking kid—” I fell to the ground, biting my tongue, as jolts of electricity arced through me.

“This new collar has so many exciting features. I do enjoy finding out every single one of them. So go ahead, try my patience.”

I looked at the clock, there were still six hours until practice and any hope of escape. I ate the apple, then softly spoke while keeping my eyes on the ground. “If I behave may I nap?”

If I believe you’ve learned your lesson, and not a second sooner. I’m tired of having servants lock your room at night. I’m exhausted from constantly having everypony ask me about my gifted daughter and what it must be like to have such talent in the family. If they only knew what a spoiled brat you were.”

I sat quietly while she paused, testing whether I was going to say something stupid. I didn’t have the motivation too; I had brought this all upon myself.

“Roll over,” she ordered.

I proceeded to roll over onto my back. At this rate, I might die of embarrassment and be spared another five hours and fifty eight minutes of torture.

“Play dead,” she cackled.

I relaxed my muscles to play dead, realizing too late her intent. My muscles seized as I felt thousands of magical needles piercing my skin. I felt as if I’d been pinned by them like a butterfly on a cork board. She was still laughing when she released the block on my motor neurons, allowing me to move again.


I slowly dragged myself upright. Was I really that disobedient? All these years, had I misread their intentions? She would not hurt me if I behave. She’d love me if I behave.

“Good, now tell mommy you love her.”

“I love you mommy, please forgive me,” I begged.

“I won’t forgive you, but you may have your nap. If I hear a peep, or that you left the bed for any reason, you’ll be sleeping outside again.”

“Yes ma’am.”

I walked to the bed and slowly climbed onto it, then buried myself under the covers. It was all my fault, I could never do anything right. I couldn’t learn music on my own, I couldn’t follow orders or make proper friends, I couldn’t even be born a unicorn! All I did was anger my parents, and for what?

I cried myself to sleep, wishing I knew how to make my parents happy. I dreamt of how my life would be if I obeyed my parents. In my fantasy they had allowed me out for dinner parties, and bought me presents for my birthdays. My father would let me watch him conduct, and I composed grand symphonies with my mother. In the dream the only thing I had done differently was behave.

I heard the door open in what seemed like minutes, yet it had been hours of restful sleep.

“It’s nearly time for practice, get up, Octavia,” my father commanded.

I quickly scrambled out of the covers and rushed to sit in front of him. I kept my eyes on the ground hoping to placate him and my mother.

“You’re right, honey,” he said to Mother and turned to me. “Lay down” Father stated.

I laid down on my belly, listening to them whispering back and forth. The pain from earlier was still lingering, so I did not move a single muscle. At last, I heard them turn to leave.

“Did I make you happy, Daddy?” I cooed.

“Yes, you made daddy very happy. Now finish the sandwich on your table and meet us downstairs for practice.” My eyes followed his gaze to the bedstand. A plain wheat and sunflower sandwich sat on it.

I hurried to finish the sandwich I had been left. It wasn’t until I was done and walking downstairs with the cello that I remembered the whole point of this day. Lyra would get Vinyl, and Vinyl would free me. No a voice inside me spoke. You can’t run away, it would make mommy and daddy angry.

I took a seat near the door and waited for my parents and the butler to arrive. The trio would escort me to the theater, ensuring I didn’t escape.

“ Remember,” my father warned. “You even think about stepping a hoof out of line, and I can fry every neuron in your body. Your mother has begged me countless times to end you. It is only by my grace you live. The only thing I despise more than you is admitting my father was right. I will not give him the satisfaction of being right about my wife. Even if that means throwing you off the cliffs of Canterlot myself.”

I was sobbing freely now, truly a slave to the cruel fate he had engineered for me at birth. I could not imagine how it could possibly get any worse than this. I wished with all my might for the music to haunt me, or the strings to aid me. I would give anything to be rid of my parents, once and for all. I knew these things would be impossible.

I was their property now, but perhaps if I behaved I could be their daughter again. Perhaps it was not the unseen hand of fate’s job to save me. What had my parents suffered to give me that gift of musical talent? To imagine using their generous gifts against them suddenly seemed wrong.

Obediently I followed him to practice and performed my music. I wish there was more to tell about the heroic moment where I defeated my father at the orchestra that night. There was none, for I had been broken.

Towards the end, as I marched back towards my father, Lyra dragged me off to stage left.

“Come on Octavia, I’m getting you out of here!” Lyra ordered. “What did he do to you? You look so. . . broken!”

“Stop,” I commanded. “I won’t go.”

“Please Octavia, you have to! We were so worried when you missed practice again, it’s Friday.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Lyra Heartstrings,” the calm collected voice of my father recited. “Lyrist, Royal Canterlot Orchestra. You will unhoof my daughter and head home. Your services are no longer required, do not return on Monday.”

“What? Who the hay are you? I can’t be fired by some has-been child abuser!” Lyra spat, her words filled with equal parts venom and malice.

“Do you know who I am? I own this theater. I own this orchestra. I hired the conductor and the judges who chose the musicians. I own you. Now leave, Lyra, before I have you thrown in jail by one of the police on my payroll.”

I looked up off the floor for the first time that night, into Lyra’s eyes. She was crying silently, gazing at my bruised left eye. She was my first friend, the first ray of sunshine in my life, and I would never see her again.

“I’m sorry, Lyra,” I mumbled. “So sorry.”

Lyra turned with her lyre hovering close by and exited through the back door of the theater.

“You’re not as stupid as you look,” Father whispered. He led me away from the other musicians towards an exit. “It almost makes me want to tell my beloved wife to take it easy on you. Almost.”

“Sir,” the butler whispered to my father. “The conductor wishes to have a word with you.”

I watched as my father went to speak to the conductor, and my mother chatted with a unicorn that was playing a custom violin.

I glanced at the door, and could see Lyra peeking through it. She said something to somepony I couldn’t see, and a second later waved a pair of purple sunglasses at me. I wouldn’t fall for their trick, I was a good pony now.

“M’lady,” the butler said. “Go to your friends, if only to say goodbye. I will cover for you.”

“No, please, it’s a trick,” I whined.

“M’lady, you won’t get another chance. Please, let me see you smile one last time.”

I looked up at him. “Butters?” The butler grinned at my nickname. I smiled back to him. “Thanks.”

I hurried over to the backstage exit and went outside. I was surprised to not only see Vinyl and Lyra, but Bon Bon too.

“Octy! Thank Celestia. The guards wouldn’t let me anywhere near your mansion,” Vinyl complained.

“It’s okay. Thank you, for everything, but I need to behave now,” I replied.

“See Vinyl! They’ve done something to her. We can have them arrested!” Lyra shouted.

Vinyl’s horn lit up as she examined me. I could feel my hairs tingling. “Something’s in the bow tie.”

“Oh, I think I know just the thing,” Lyra stated. She fired up her horn and focused on the bowtie. I was hit with a wave of pain, causing me to collapse to the ground whimpering.

“Luna’s nipples,” Bon Bon swore. “That’s the most vile thing I’ve ever seen, what is it?”

“I’m a bad pony. I don’t want to be a bad pony anymore, the collar is helping me,” I explained. I didn’t bother to get up from my position kneeling on the ground.

“Dammit Octy, listen to yourself! I don’t know how, but we’ll get into the mansion. Just meet us at the servant’s entrance in two hours. We’ll figure out a way to remove that collar by then,” Vinyl promised.

“I. . . alright, but if this rescue attempt fails, I never want to see you again. I don’t want to hurt anymore,” I said.

I turned around and walked to the butler who had been waiting for me to finish. He took me back to my parents, and we walked home.

I followed them home in silence. My father carried my cello for me, quite thoughtful considering his disdain for me. Perhaps it was his backhanded reward for my submission. I no longer cared. I heard the clinking of the hooks along the pavement following us. They were so close, could they help me fight him? I dared not even acknowledge their presence lest they do something stupid and get me punished.

I ignored them and focused on the music, a grand orchestral piece that had formed in my head over the past day. It was my funeral dirge, the Sanguine Sonata I would call it. It would be my masterpiece, the ageless song that everypony would know even ten millennia from now. The sorrowful song written by Octavia, a great musician who took her life after writing it. What a poor, tortured and yet brilliant soul to compose such a masterpiece. Historians wonder why it took such depression to make something so beautiful and timeless that Celestia herself still weeps to hear it.

I found myself at home soon enough, or late enough. It doesn’t matter. I found myself standing before my mother and father in my room. Just the three of us, the collar, and the cello.

“Well I’ve been looking forward to this. I told you it was a good idea, honey, look how well my little girl is behaving herself now.”

“Yes, just one problem,” my father replied. “The butler has informed me of your escape plans. You will be punished accordingly by your mother, your friends will not be meeting you in two hours.”

I shot a glance at the butler, who would not look me in the eyes.

“So, any smart ass remarks? You want to tell your Father about his small penis now?” my mother mocked.

“Octavia,” Mother cooed. “I just love you so much, and you don’t have orchestra practice for three whole days. I have a very, very special weekend planned for you. I’m going to find out exactly how much pain it takes to make an earth pony pass out. And then I’m going to do it again, on the hour, every hour, until orchestra practice Monday. That should ensure your loyalty.”

I heard the butler close the door.

“And let’s not forget Father’s gift to you. He has given every servant in the mansion the entire weekend off. It’s just the three of us now. We gave a pound of flesh for you, I think it’s only fair we reclaim that pound of flesh tenfold for your wretched disappointment of us over the years. Nopony will hear your screams.”

I thought that tensing my jaw muscles and closing my eyes might somehow brace me against the pain I knew was incoming. It did not. The first wave was little more than a jolt to get me on my knees.

“I suppose I should pace myself, yet it’s so fun to watch you squirm like the wretched parasite of a mud pony you are.”

My mind was overwhelmed as I was consumed by fire. I screamed in horror, convinced I was being burned alive. I quickly tried to roll around and smother the flames, flailing about uselessly on the floor. If Celestia weren’t a goddess, I imagine this is what her sun would feel like if she were to visit it. How do I put into words what it is like to have every cell in your body screaming at your brain, warning you that it’s being burned alive? How would I count the infinite network of nerves flashing between unbearable heat and cold throughout every organ?

“Do you know what we sacrificed for you? I thought you’d have enough common sense to listen to reason. I thought you were smart enough to function without me pulling your strings. Now, this will be your life until you die,” she cackled.

Wave after wave of my mother’s torment hit me. Between each assault to my mind would come a verbal command. Whether or not I obeyed it, she would fire up the collar again. I was burned, frozen, stabbed, electrocuted, and more. The apathy and submission I felt earlier was being replaced by hatred and blind rage

“Where’s the unicorn slut now, when you need her?” she asked. “She’s probably off banging the first stallion that walked out of the theater. Heck, she might have just grabbed the first flute she could find. You mean nothing to her. You mean nothing to anypony.”

“No,” I spat between the tides of agony. “I am not your puppet!”

“That’s exactly what you are, a worthless earth pony that needs us to pull the strings to keep you out of the fields picking wheat!”

A rage was building up inside me, burning in my chest and tinging my vision red. The pain from the magical device on my neck was blocked out by the fury building in my mind. Anger became my world, my sole focus. I found myself standing despite the protests of my muscles. I narrowed my eyes as my heart raced.

“Vinyl loves me, more than you ever have! I wish you were dead!” I screamed.

Father and Mother shared a glance before I felt a new wave of pain, only it didn’t hurt anymore. The electric energy surging through me was no longer perceived by my brain as agony. Instead, it mirrored the emotional fury I felt, it fueled my need to be rid of them permanently. I began to walk towards them, each muscle coiling up to strike.

That was when the music began again. It was loud, angry music filled me with courage. The thoughts of how I would do anything to please them had vanished entirely. Memories of my night with Vinyl replaced them. Thoughts of my friends at the nightclub shattered my chains. The overwhelming agony of the life they had crafted for me trumped all other emotion.

My parents were still laughing at me, allowing me a brief respite. Their laughter pissed me off more than the torture. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel now, the happy life that I had always wanted. The fury and pain would end here, now, with them.

“I will not be mocked by you!” I screamed.

They focused and another jolt of pain hit me. It broke through to my brain and felt as if my skin was being boiled off. My will and fury faltered, yet something was still holding me upright. The room darkened and I heard the loudest sounding chains imaginable. I forced my eyes open to see not a gossamer string and small barbs, but dozens of eight inch meat hooks and large wrought iron chains.

The darkness in the room was caused by the chains blocking out all light, and my parents noticed it. They looked around in confusion, unable to see the chains, but able to see the shadows cast by them. Like the shadow of a tree on a stormy night, shades of the chains flickered around my parents, adding to their bewilderment.

I smiled vindictively as I felt the hooks effortlessly tear the torture device from my neck. The puppeteer seemed to be gaining strength from my fury. The tempo increased in the music only I could hear. The chains almost appeared to sense my thoughts and feel my emotions. I was not sure if we simply shared a common enemy, or if they were obeying me.

“Now it’s time for my gift for all you’ve done to me!” I laughed maniacally.

For the first time, I believe my parents looked at me with fear for a change. Perhaps they had some knowledge I did not about what was coming. Maybe they knew the entity I was invoking. They both instantly threw up protective spells. The chains lashed out, shattering the weak barriers surrounding them.

I watched with absolute delight as they shrank back in horror. Father tore at the doors to the room, yet the invisible chains held it shut. Mother began to fire spells and throw every object not bolted to the floor at me. Chains blocked the projectiles, as the hooks finally reached her.

It was that first scream, when I saw the blood, that I realized this was really happening. The chains were going to get rid of them for me. I had never seen a pony die before, and as I watched I began to get nauseous. They were not just killing them, they were tearing them apart. As I felt the urge to vomit, I backed away and decided I did not want to watch this.

I hid under the bed and listened as my dirty work was carried out. After a momentary silence, I peeked out from beneath the bed and quickly wished I hadn’t. The chains had reached both parents. My eyes closed and I hid as I heard the sounds of their punishment.

The chains grinded together, filling the room with their echoes. Loud popping noises, likely their joints being pulled out of socket, caused me to flinch. The music, for all its angry glory, did nothing to hide the sounds of my revenge.

I had always imagined death to be peaceful like the bodies at a funeral. I had no words to describe what I was witnessing, for such horror was previously unknown to me. Mother was screaming wildly in pain. I wished the chains would hurry up and finish the job. No sooner had I wished for an end to her screaming, I peeked out and found a chain gagging her.

I’m doing this. I’m killing them! It’s not some unseen force, they’re obeying me! I started to panic. What would I do? Everypony would think I murdered them. If I got caught, I’d never see Vinyl again. But did I really want it to stop? After all this time, I would be free. Vinyl would help me run away and I wouldn’t have to go to jail.

My father’s shouting broke me out of my dazed state. I heard something splatter on the walls but dared not look to see what it was. I knew all too well there were only two other ponies in the room.

That’s when I heard the drums begin. The bass drums first, followed by the snares, then an assortment of other percussive instruments. They did their best to shield me from the cracking of what I can only assume were Father’s bones.

I was trembling furiously under the bed now. Was I going to be the next victim? Could I stop the chains if they came for me?

“Stop, please stop,” I cried. I continued to hear the clanking of chains. All of the sound in the room vanished, and I realized my revenge must be complete. Why then, did I feel so hollow? If I were free, shouldn’t I feel happy?

I waited until the music and sounds of clinking chains died off, and then crawled out from under the bed.

I rushed to my parents, hoping that somehow they would be alright. Maybe it was a nightmare and they had learned their lesson. There wasn’t enough of them left to learn anything. I took stock of the scene in front of me. They were gone and I was free, all I needed to do was walk out the front door of the mansion.

My legs refused to move as my mind still tried to cope with how they had died. The puppeteer I considered my benefactor had not just killed them as I had so longly wished in secret; it had tortured and quartered them like wild beasts. Had it been the chains will that killed them, or my own desire for revenge? I danced around the conclusion that I didn’t want to draw. I murdered them. I’m no better than them, in fact, I’m worse than them. I murdered my parents.

I stood between them, my fur now red from the earlier ordeal. I had wanted to be free of my parents at any cost, but not like this. Never like this. It’s okay, I was just angry. I didn’t mean to kill them, but even if I did, does it matter? Whether I feel hollow or victorious, it’s done now. I’m. . . I’m finally free.

I was frozen in place as if I were dead too. The room was completely silent. My parents, the music, and the chains had all abandoned me. As I struggled to walk towards the door and leave I felt more alone than I had ever in my life.

The room was beginning to spin and this time I did not feel the nausea coming. I vomited on the floor and began to stumble backwards. I needed to leave before somepony found me here with the bodies. I needed to find Vinyl. I needed. . . I needed to breathe.

As I hyperventilated I thought I heard a voice call out to me. I looked around frantically, only surveying more of the fresh coat of paint on the walls. I lost my balance and collapsed to the floor.

“Octy?” A familiar voice called out to me.

I woke up in bed, which would not have surprised me, yet I was clean. My last memory was of losing my balance amidst a sea of red. How then, had I ended up clean? Once I had finished expecting myself I looked around and began to realize where I was. This was Vinyl’s apartment, which meant I had done it. I was safe.

Vinyl noticed my movements and began to walk over.

“How? How’d I get here?” I asked. “It’s not safe.”

“Easy, you had a traumatic night. We’re safe now.”

“No, I don’t want it to happen again. I need to compose something, where is a pen and paper?” I asked.

“For what to happen?”

“The hooks—I killed them Vinyl!” I sat up and began to scan the room for my cello.

“It’s okay we don’t have to talk about it now, I got us tickets for the next train to Ponyville.”

“No, it’s not okay, if I don’t compose they’ll kill you too, or me, or everypony!”

“Octy, you need you need to calm down! Look at me,” she ordered. “I want you to take these sleeping pills and say ‘to hell with the music’. We’re going to go to bed, and you’ll feel better in the morning.”

I whispered out “To hell with the music” and downed the pills. I lay down and waited for sleep to overtake me. I pondered why Vinyl had helped me after what had happened. I realized I never wanted to let her go again. She was truly an exceptional mare.

That was when the hooks returned. It was not enough for them to inflict such horrors on a mare as she watched helplessly. Now they did not want me to sleep. They wanted me to resume composing. They attached themselves to me, two per limb and two on my face.

The invisible puppeteer wanted to guide me to a pen and parchment, but I was dead weight at that point. I did not care how hard they pulled, I had gone numb to the world and wanted nothing but sleep. I supposed I looked quite ridiculous, seizing on the ground. Vinyl told me to sleep. I’m not going to write any music tonight.

Vinyl was standing over me, a worried look on her face. Her and the strings fought to control my body. She was careful to wait until I stopped convulsing to grab me. She kept trying to make me throw up the pills. I tried to mouth some words of comfort to her, however at this point I found I could not move a single muscle in my body.

The puppeteer was now in complete control. Despite my unwillingness to compose, I walked over and sat down right in front of the wall and began composing the Sanguine Sonata on it.

After a few tries to dissuade me from my task, Vinyl gave up and went to sleep. Once the sonata had been finished I joined her, regaining control of my body just in time to pass out from exhaustion two seconds later.

It was late the next day I woke up. Vinyl brought me over a sandwich and some water.

“Hey Octy, you had me scared for a while. You ok to talk about. . . last night?” Vinyl questioned. She sat down next to me and guided my head onto her shoulder.

I nodded my assent. “Sure.” The food and water could wait; I wanted to feel safe at her side.

“Look, I’m not mad at you. I don’t know how that happened, but they’re gone now. They were evil, but what happened?”

“They. . . Mother wanted to torture me more, to control me but. . . I’m sorry, Vinyl, I understand if you don’t love me anymore but I can’t talk about it.

“What? No, that doesn’t change how I feel.” Vinyl stared at the sonata on the wall for a while letting the words sink in. “How. . . did they die? It was just you and them when I got there.”

“I didn’t want to!” I screamed. “I just wanted the bow tie off! I wanted them to suffer and know what I felt like. I tried—I didn’t know. . .” I began sobbing. “It was the hooks, chains, the music—I’m so broken and I don’t know why. But, I would never hurt anypony else!”

Vinyl waited to take a breath and let her words sink in. She knew that a pony could not have done what she saw with their bare hooves. “I believe you,” Vinyl replied. She laid a hoof gently on my shoulder and gave a warm, gentle smile.

I looked up to tell her how much that meant to me. It was then I saw the hooks, hovering all around her, taunting me. They were large enough to skewer her.

“Wait!” I yelled. “Don’t hurt her! Take me!”

“Octy?” Vinyl looked around in confusion.

“It’s not fair! I composed last night, please, make the music stop!” My whole life I had nothing, then I had everything, only to have it torn from me. Vinyl was my ticket out of here, and I could barely understand my emotions for her after the horror we witnessed.

Vinyl started walking towards me, the hooks shadowing her.

I ran to my cello, tears running from my face. As soon as I picked it up and headed for the door I looked back. The hooks were leaving Vinyl alone, following me now.

“I’m sorry, I have to play the music. If I don’t, they’ll kill you too!” I turned and fled out the door from Vinyl. I ran down the street, letting the sound of the music guide me. It grew louder the closer I got to the theater.

Vinyl found me in the orchestra hall some time later. It may have been a hour or just a few minutes, I couldn’t tell. I surrendered my body completely to the puppeteer. It was less painful that way. I hardly felt the strings guiding my actions anymore as they tugged me along. On my way there, all I could hear was my music and all I could see were red stains in my room. I wasn’t just broken anymore, I was a ghost. She could have followed me all the way there, yelling at me and I wouldn’t have known.

My stupor ended as I started playing my masterpiece in that lonely orchestra hall. I smiled as I saw her face. Vinyl was there, bawling her eyes out. She was rambling something I couldn’t hear. She must have followed me all the way there.

I hated seeing her cry, but knowing she hadn’t given up on such a lost cause was such a painfully endearing bittersweetness. I cried upon seeing her. Her face, scrunched up in heartbroken sadness, brightened, if only a little. Even after running from her to try and protect her, she refused to let go.

“Octy, you in there still?” she asked apprehensively.


“Oh, t-thank the goddess...” She embraced me, crying into my shoulder.

The gesture interrupted my playing and I shrugged her off. She fell to the ground with a hard thud. I cringed as she did, but there was nothing else I could do. I could only ensure our safety by playing. It was nice though, to feel her touch, her wet tears against my skin. I wondered if that would be the last time she’d ever hug me.

“Octy! Come on! Just talk to me... I-i can’t take this! Do you hate me or something?!”

I was silent. Explanations could wait until the hooks and strings had vanished for the night.

“Just say something! I don’t wanna do it, but I’m gonna have to go home and get all sorts of smashed to get you out of my mind!” she said from the ground. “Okay, wait that came out wrong, but you’re really freaking me out! What do you want from me?! Just say it and I’ll do it!”

It just so happened that the tempo of my piece increased as the silence built between us. I think it was something she understood, the beat and what it meant in a piece. A look of determination came over her.

“What? You wanna play music?” She stood up, wiping her cheeks. “Maybe cause music brought us together, we shouldn’t say ‘to hell with it’?”

“Yes, the song has to finish.”

“I don’t wanna mess up your song, but if this is what brings you back to me, I’ll do it!”

Vinyl frantically scoured the music hall. Her heart racing against a self-imposed clock, she began muttering swears to herself. Before she grew too tense, she found what she was looking for, a drum set.

She sat down and began her thumping bass line. Almost in a cruel twist of fate, the beat was set to the tempo of my heart. Every pounding beat by her broke my resolve. To my own song, images and memories flashed in my mind.

I stood at the back of the club, watching, waiting. Vinyl was at her turntables, directing the crazed crowd in their bid for freedom. She stood in front of a dazzling light and lazer show, shrouded in mist. The neon lights faded and the music died down, the beat reduced to just a modulation of the melody. It was quiet and the crowd grew anxious.

I could feel my smile grow and grow as remembered the next part of her song. It was a rush to watch her perform, knowing that the beautiful mare on stage was all mine. The pride I felt watching the crowd cheer her on and knowing she was having the time of her life was unforgettable.

Right when the crowd was at their breaking point, the speakers blared with music, exploding the club into a frenzy. The entire crowd jumped as one as the bass exploded. I cheered and shouted ‘I love you’ at the top of my lungs. It was lost in the music, but I didn’t care. Vinyl already knew it.

Later that night, Vinyl took me to a bathroom. I have had too much high society in my life to enjoy anything proper and clean anymore. Our time together was dirty, fast, and passionate, but it was everything I wanted it to be.

That’s when My song ended. Sanguine Sonata was over. Vinyl had accompanied my masterpiece on the drums and turned it into something else entirely. It was so much better than what I had written.

Vinyl was sobbing pathetically.

“Octy, t-that’s a p-pretty good song...” she stammered, sniveling loudly. “S-sorry I messed it up.”

She laughed nervously, waiting with bated breath for any kind of response.

“You didn’t mess it up, it was beautiful! I love you, Vinyl! I love you so much!” I cheered at the top of my lungs, still lost in the euphoria of my memories.

That’s when I started the song over again.

“Octy, please,” Vinyl begged. “Stop playing, talk to me.”

I could feel my own face, stained by tears. I could feel my aching joints, pierced by the curved needles and trickling blood as they guided me to play my song. My attempts to pull back from the cello failed. ”Can you give me a hoof? I can’t stop playing.”

Vinyl made sure we were making eye contact. “I love you, Octavia.”

”I love you too, Vinyl,” I cried. “Let’s ditch the cello and move to Ponyville.”

Vinyl reached for the bow, and the strings caused me to slap her in the face with it. She stood there in shocked silence for a minute while I resumed playing.

“Let me know what’s wrong. I don’t know what else to try.”

”Vinyl? Can’t you hear me?”

Vinyl gently placed a hoof against my shoulder and I continued to play the sonata.

”No, no! this is all wrong! Vinyl!” I screamed. “Vinyl help me!” I pounded against the strings with all my might, yet I did not budge an inch. I was powerless to move, so I focused on my voice and my eyes.

“Octy,” Vinyl wept. “Please, tell me you love me, that we can be happy, say something!”

”YES! Yes! Please Vinyl, look at me, it’s not me! You’ve got to help me fight it! Look me in the eyes!”

Vinyl stared right into my eyes. “Don’t choose the music over me. . . I . . . Please . . .”

I felt the strings tugging at my lips as a familiar feral grin formed.

”NO! NO! STOP IT!” I demanded. It couldn’t end like this, after everything I couldn’t let it end! “Vinyl! Save me! I Love you!”

Vinyl turned around and began to walk away. She turned her head to the side, and spoke. “I’m sorry, Octy. I don’t know what I did to make you hate me, but know I will always love you.”

Vinyl walked slowly to the exit.

”Celestia damn it! Get back here Vinyl! Help me! Stop!” I threw every bit of energy into snapping the strings. I could feel the strings tugging against my joints, and for all my struggle I could not even throw the sonata off by half a note.

I watched helplessly as Vinyl walked away. That was the day I truly became a puppet to my fame.


“Here’s your seat ma’am, the performance will be starting soon.”

“Thank you.”

The mare took a seat and awaited the cellist to come on stage. It did not take long before the aged grey musician reached the cello and readied her bow. She wore a faded red bow tie that was accented by her black hair with grey streaks. Her wrinkled face conveyed the great wisdom and experience from a long life of music. The musician’s purple treble clef was just as the mare remembered it.

Octavia sat on stage and began her number. The mare instantly recognized it, for it was the musician’s most famous and tragic work. It was the Sanguine Sonata, the last cello sonata she would ever compose. After all these years, the mare still cried when listening to it.

For 70 years Octavia had no rival on the cello, and no composer to match her talent. At least she was happy, standing onstage with her cello. Even from this far away, the mare could see her wide smile. Octavia was crying, for she was so moved by her music on stage. She performed flawlessly until there was not a dry eye in the house.

The mare got out of her seat and left before intermission. After all these years, the song was still too painful to finish listening to. At least Octavia had gone on to live a happy life without her.