Friendship is Surreal Chapter 1: Your Princess is in another Bastion, Part 1
Octavia groaned as she lifted her head off her pillow. It was the night after the Gala, and Octavia had been playing her double bass all night, virtually without break. Virtually. There had been several interruptions of her performance; however, she could not remember what exactly happened yet. She could not remember why she could not remember, until she winced in pain as her head throbbed. It all started coming back to her.
The Gala had begun like it always had; posh ponies from all over Equestria flocked to socialise. Though, not all of them were quite as posh. As that night was drawing to a close, a pink earth pony had walked in and subsequently began to dance around like a lunatic, and jump onto stage where Octavia played. She did her best to continue playing as this annoying pony continued her misdemeanours throughout the crowd.
By now she could tell that this Gala was not going to be normal. As the night progressed, the pink pony had interrupted them again, requesting the band to play the 'Pony Pokey'. It was an absurd song to be played at the Gala, of all places, but something possessed the rest of the band to agree, shrug at her, and then begin playing the ridiculous music. Her choice was either leave the stage or play. She sighed, and then joined in.
The pony continued disturbing the diners as she sang along to the band. It got even worse when Octavia was literally thrown off her double bass as the pink pony disrupted the band, allowing only the pianist continue awkwardly finishing the song without his stool.
Octavia's head pounded again as she remembered the last event of the night. As she picked up her double bass, pondering trying to get them together to continue playing normally, the door to the grand room opened and a stampede of the garden animals rolled in. The Gala was well and truly over, and she dragged her double bass out while shooing away a flamingo that had taken an interest in the instrument's strings.
She couldn't remember much after that, and so assumed that her night had concluded with a round of drinks. She tugged at the bow tie around her neck that she apparently had forgotten to take off. It didn't relent, but her struggles seemed useless to her, and so left it on as she wandered, dazed around her house in Canterlot. Everything was in place, and she was still in possession of her double bass. She was afraid she might not have brought it back, considering the ruckus last night and her intoxicated state.
A banging outside interrupted her thoughts. It repeated, closing in on her door. She trotted up and opened it, having a fair idea of who it might be. Sure enough, she recognised the familiar grey coat, yellow mane and walled eyes of Derpy, the Pegasus mailmare with a mental condition. Over time, she established a bit of a rapport with the abnormal pony.
"Derpy! The door is down here!" She called. The Pegasus righted herself, and then flew down to Octavia.
"Mail for you," Derpy chirped through the envelope she held in her mouth. Octavia took it from her, then realized Derpy's mistake.
"Tar-... what? Derpy, this is addressed to Dr Whooves, not me."
"Oh! Right. Sorry, here's yours" She swapped the messages around, and Octavia now held her own mail.
"Thank you. Dr Whooves lives in Ponyville, so you'd better head there."
"Oh, he doesn't really live there, he just pretends to," Derpy giggled to herself as she flew in the general direction of Ponyville, dropping several letters along the way. It was a wonder as to why they continued to employ her.
Octavia decided to ignore whatever that sentence could have implied and walked inside with her letter, trying in vain again to get the bow tie off her neck. She slid the letter out of the top of the envelope and read it.
Considering your musical ability and experience, you are being offered to play in a band that will be covering the Summer Sun Celebration being hosted in Ponyville. The celebration, as you know, takes place a month from now, giving you plenty of time to prepare and move to your new temporary lodging in the town. Enclosed is information as to where your new home is located, and the names of the other invitees. There is no need to rush, but you may want to make your way to Ponyville soon.
Canterlot Musical Committee
Well, this was interesting. Yes, she'd played for many prestigious events, but had never been offered to go to Ponyville before, or to play during the Summer Sun Celebration. She was used to the routine; she'd be invited to an important event, be asked to play a bass instrument (in most cases, her double bass), meet with a band often consisting of different instrumentalists, and perform. She thought that, by now, she must have played alongside every type of instrument out there.
She often wondered what was so interesting about this little town that drew Princess Celestia's attention to it. Why didn't she just hold it in Canterlot? Then again, there was going to be a large amount of redecorating in the grand city after last night's events.
She decided that she'd head there early tomorrow, while trying to get the bow tie of her neck again. She stood up on her back legs, and with a final pull, it snapped off, sending her flying backwards into her double bass. Something heavy fell on her, and with a snapping sound she realised that it was her bass.
Lyra was a Unicorn living in Ponyville. Her talent was playing the lyre, and her cutie mark reflected that. However, throughout her life, she had never been offered to play for such a celebration!
"Well, I'm happy for you, Lyra," Bon Bon, the cream-coloured mare was saying, "but next time, don't actually let Derpy into your house."
Immediately after Lyra received the letter, Derpy had failed to see where the door was, and proceeded to give herself a concussion after making contact with the wall beside the door. Still airborne, she had flown about the room, knocking over furniture and such while attempting to get out. Lyra had politely held the door open until Derpy rebounded in the correct direction.
Her friend, Bon Bon, had offered to help clean up as they continued their conversation. Lyra was giddy with excitement, despite the fact that the Summer Sun Celebration was a month away, leaving Bon Bon to do most of the actual cleaning.
"I know, right," the turquoise mare did a little spin, "finally I get to play for an actual crowd. An actual crowd! Not a school performance or anything!"
"Yeah, I get the idea," Bon Bon righted a chair, the last object in need of attention in the room. "Why don't we talk about it some more over lunch? I'm starving."
The two friends walked out and headed towards the marketplace of Ponyville. As they turned a corner leading into it, they noticed a carriage pulling to a stop. It looked a lot like a Canterlot taxi, especially since it had the words 'Canterlot Taxi' emblazoned on the side, glowing magically.
The side door opened, and a grey mare stepped from the vehicle. She moved with an almost feline grace as she walked around to the back, retrieving her large piece of equipment from it. Her elegance evaporated immediately as she attempted to pull the object from its perch. She kept struggling as Lyra began to trot up to her.
Lyra asked, "Do you need any help with that?"
"No, that's alright, I can get this thing off- oof," her speech was cut off as the double bass fell on her for the second time, and another crack could be heard inside.
"That... didn't sound very good," Lyra remarked.
"It's already broken. Why must everything important be so delicate? I'd been hoping to stop it from further damage," she added. She placed it on a cart, denying Lyra's help. As she turned around, Lyra noticed her purple Treble Clef cutie mark, and then pieced it together with the instrument-shaped case.
She inquired, "Hey! Are you one of the musicians playing for the Summer Sun Celebration?"
Octavia gave a brief nod. "Just came here from Canterlot. My name is Octavia. I'll probably be playing this double bass if I can get it fixed." She started walking, and, now that it was on wheels, the cart rolled along behind her. She breathed a sigh of relief. "Are you one of the other instrumentalists?"
Lyra started walking alongside her, Bon Bon in tow. "Yup! Name's Lyra. I play the lyre. My special talent is playing the lyre. My cutie mark is a lyre. Kind of a giveaway, isn't it? Anyway, this is my first time performing for an actual event!"
Octavia's face fell. Lyra was taken aback with her reaction. She guessed that this must be a professional professional. "I know how to play fine; it's just that I haven't played on a large scale before. And in Ponyville, it's mostly casual. If that helps..."
Octavia righted herself, and then stood before Lyra, her expression now more positive. "We have a month to prepare before the performance, and it's just one day, so I think this might work alright. Nothing's gone wrong yet."
Bon Bon decided to interrupt, "so, are we having lunch or not?"
Lyra's reaction, or rather, lack of one, answered for her. She was too busy with her new friend. Bon Bon sighed, and then fell in behind them. The direction of the group had now directed towards the town hall, where the last musician in the group was at.
Octavia had realised that this was likely not going to go like all the other performances. Lyra was an amateur, sure, but she decided to reserve judgement until she'd actually heard her play. They arrived at the town hall, and opened the door to a sight Octavia was not expecting to see.
The hall was occupied by one unicorn. She was completely white save for her blue tinted, spiked mane and tail, and she wore odd coloured sunglasses... inside. She had apparently set up a small disco, despite being the only attendee, complete with a turntable and stereo. And this was the last 'musician'?
"Uh, Octavia? Your eye's doing a little twitch," Lyra noted.
She sighed inwardly. This was definitely going to be different.
The unicorn noticed them as they walked closer. She stepped out from behind the turntables, dropped off the stage and trotted towards them. "Hey all of you," she yelled, "you must be the other performers! Nice to meet a fancy pony. Name's Vinyl Scratch, or DJ P0N-3, whatever you prefer. What's yours?"
Vinyl hadn't reduced her volume as she strode towards them. Octavia assumed that this was a side effect from being inside those loud clubs all the time. She tried to keep her face composed as she responded. "My... name is Octavia," was all she managed to get out.
Vinyl looked at her quizzically. Or, rather, Octavia thought she did. It was impossible to tell with those ridiculous goggles. She shrugged and moved on to face Lyra. "And your name is...?"
"Lyra," the turquoise mare energetically responded. Bon Bon was wandering about behind them, being completely ignored, waiting for them to leave. "I'm an instrumentalist, like Octavia. I play the lyre, and this is my first time performing!"
"Well, good to see that somepony isn't practically a mute, like 'Tavi seems to be," Vinyl said.
Octavia snapped out of her bewilderment at the last few words of her sentence. "Please, if you're addressing me, use my name. 'Tavi is not my name."
"But you still respond to it," Vinyl pointed out.
Vinyl started towards the stage again. "Well, I'll be here tomorrow if you want to have a session. For now, bye," she called as she packed up the stereo.
They briskly walked outside, with Octavia in the lead, now with her broken double bass in tow again. Lyra assumed her speed was to get away from the DJ.
"Well, now I don't see how this is going to work," Octavia voiced her thoughts.
Lyra was surprised. "You mean this doesn't normally happen?"
Octavia threw her hoof to her forehead. "Oh, Celestia. No, this doesn't normally happen. Now I'm positively mortified."
It was then that a certain Pegasus with trademark walled eyes popped out of the sky and landed next to them, holding a lot of disconnected technical equipment. "Do you know where I could find a particle accelerator?" Derpy Hooves asked.
"No, I don't even know what that is," Octavia responded, starting to move away from her. Lyra wondered if she was more worried by the equipment or Derpy herself.
"Oh, it's a sort of long circular tube with electrode-thingies around it that shoots atoms around really fast that then does stuff," Derpy replied, her eyes doing a clockwise motion in their sockets as if to accentuate her description. "Anyway, never mind, I guess I can make do with an exposed hadron collider." With that, she flew away again.
Octavia turned to face Lyra again. "So, next I've got to go to Doctor Whooves'. He's very good at fixing things, despite not seeming to have enough equipment."
Bon Bon decided to try again, "So should I just go eat by myself or... oh, nevermind," and she trotted up with them again.
Octavia pushed open the door to Doctor Whooves' odd store. All sorts of gadgets, woodcraft and different devices with which to tell the time with were arranged along the walls. The Doctor himself seemed absent.
Octavia decided to try calling, "Doctor?"
Doctor Whooves suddenly appeared from under the counter, wearing a welding mask for some reason. He lifted the visor. "Yes, Octavia?"
Finally, a familiar face from a mostly-sane pony. He had fixed some broken instruments for her in the past, though she decided to reconsider his sensibility after seeing the device he held in his hoof that he was using in conjunction with the welding mask. She could not understand what the penlight-thing was for, so she decided to ignore it.
"Well, yesterday my double bass fell on me and today... it fell on me again," she tried to say, then regretted how she'd put her sentence together.
Again, an interruption was provided by Derpy as she flew into the small store. This time she held nothing. "Hello everyone," she acknowledged, "hey, Doctor? Do you have any spare fission reactors?"
Doctor Whooves glanced up briefly before nodding. "In the back," he responded.
She thanked him and flew through an opening behind the counter. Needless, to say, Octavia was completely dumbstruck. Doctor Whooves had intentionally let Derpy into his workshop in order to find Celestia-knows-what. She decided to ignore this fact in order to go on with her life.
Doctor Whooves faced them again, removing the welding mask. "Anyway, yeah, I can get that repaired. It'll cost quite a few bits," he added.
Octavia pulled the cart over to show him. She opened the case it was in. "The wooden body has been broken pretty badly, and needs to be replaced. It shouldn't take more than a few days."
As it was brought out, Lyra, who had been silent until now, noticed something. "Why is the bow a different colour to the main instrument strings? The colour doesn't quite match."
Octavia looked at her for a second before realising. "Oh, yeah, I'd better take that out," she said as she took the slightly darker grey bow from the set. She then said to Lyra, "It's just a bit of sentimentality," and did not elaborate further.
"So, tomorrow, and early, right," Lyra was saying.
"Yes, I don't want that Vinyl around when we're trying to play music." Octavia responded. She was starting to look a bit sleep-deprived after the events of the day. "I'll figure something out."
"Alright. Well, goodbye," and with that, Lyra trotted in the other direction. Bon Bon realised that they had finished the day, without lunch in the end, and then cantered after her.
The sun was beginning to set, so Octavia headed towards her new home. When she arrived, she made sure no other ponies were around. She could only keep her composure up under this pressure for so long. When she was positive that no other ponies were in sight, she put her inventory to the side and took a deep breath.
"WHEN I FIND THE PONY WHO ORCHESTRATED ALL OF THIS I'M GOING TO-"
Lyra woke up with a start. Groggy with sleep, she walked to the window, and judged the time to be about seven o'clock in the morning.
She moved about the house, packing her lyre and other equipment onto a cart, and then went back to her room. She set the alarm to eight with her magic, and then fell asleep again.
Octavia was in the main hall of the town centre, waiting for Lyra, but taking the time to think some more. She'd spent a long time last night thinking, and had spent the morning thinking, and was still thinking. She still had no idea how they were going to pull this off, with an amateur instrumentalist and a DJ. Seriously, who put them together like this? Whoever it was, they hadn't the slightest idea of how music comes together, and they somehow got it approved by the musical committee.
She was getting a practise double bass out when Lyra walked through the main doors, pulling a cart with her lyre on it. Octavia noticed that she had bags under her eyes, and was walking rather slowly.
"You know, when I said early, I meant sometime before lunch." Octavia said, somewhat sternly.
Lyra seemed unfazed by her approach, and dumped the cart. "Didn't hear my alarm," she mumbled. "I don't normally get up this early."
Octavia lost interest and retrieved her bow. She had set up the double bass, and then stood up on her hind legs against it. Being a perfectly normal routine to her, she was surprised when she heard a gasp. Lyra's expression had lost all hints of sleep deprivation and changed to a state of awe.
Lyra asked, "How'd you do that?"
Octavia was astonished. "Do what?"
"Stand like that!"
Octavia's expression turned quizzical, looked down at her form, then she realised. "Oh, you mean standing on your hind legs. It's nothing, it just helps play this instrument," she indicated her bass, which looked almost identical to the one she owned.
Lyra's face lit up. "Can you teach me?"
Octavia groaned silently, and almost said no, but again looked at Lyra's odd look of wonderment and then considered it. "Yeah, sure, why not," she finally said.
It was sometime after two that Vinyl decided to head towards the town centre. She was carrying a stereo on her back, wearing headphones. She had been taught by the mayor mare many times in the past to use headphones, as she had walked in on events with the stereo at full blast. Nopony was very impressed by it.
Her thoughts drifted to the other ponies in the musical crew. There was Lyra, a young, eager pony who apparently had never played for any events. An odd choice, but, then again, everypony has to start somewhere, right?
Then there was Octavia. From their brief meeting, Vinyl had gotten the impression that this was going to be one of those pompous asses. Vinyl gathered that she played an old-fashioned string instrument, the cello, or was it a double bass? The instruments looked so similar, but did it really matter?
She reached the door. She fully expected Octavia to tell her to be quiet while she was practising. She wondered how this was going to work out, with her living in the modern world and these other ponies playing five-century old instruments. She pushed through the door, being met with an uncharacteristic scene.
The two ponies, Octavia and Lyra, were on the stage, but their instruments were pushed to the side. Instead, they appeared to be practising an awkward pose; Octavia was standing like a biped, apparently trying to show Lyra how to do it. Lyra subsequently fell over, noticing Vinyl as she got up again.
"Hey, P0N-3!" Lyra called. Octavia turned to look at Vinyl, with scornful look upon her face.
"Well, look who it is," Octavia said. "We were trying – going to – practise music. I suppose that's not going to be possible now, is it?"
Vinyl was taken back with her hostility. She shouldn't have been surprised.
"You know, you're going to make a name for yourself in Ponyville if you keep talking like that."
Octavia was suddenly confused. "What name? I already have a name."
Oh. It was one of those sorts of ponies.
Lyra sensed the growing tension and tried to prevent it. "Hey, uh, why don't we try going on with the practise session?"
The DJ walked off to set up her stereo. "At least I don't play century-old instruments."
"And they still sound better then a bunch of electronic speakers spouting out random chaos," Octavia retorted.
The session went ahead without much correspondence. Vinyl did, however, play only through her headphones. They weren't going to make much progress like this, so Vinyl decided, however much against her instincts, she was going to at least try.
Octavia had decided that Lyra actually had a fair bit of talent after all. She had listened to her play for a bit, and she was expertly strumming the instrument. She found it hard to believe that Lyra had never played on stage before.
Her mind had been blocking out the idea of Vinyl playing along with them, so she had no idea how to respond when Vinyl had walked up to them.
"Uh, yeah, so, this isn't going to go ahead if we don't cooperate, and I'll try playing the old instruments," she said, slightly apologetically.
Octavia suddenly sensed a ray of hope. "Okay, okay, we might have the components for a regular classical band if we add you in on a piano or something. We'll go through a selection of instruments over the next few weeks, and hopefully find something that suits you."
She left the stage, reappearing seconds later with a trumpet. "You like things that blow out your eardrums, so start with this."
When Octavia passed the trumpet to Vinyl, her expression immediately changed to that of confusion.
Vinyl started turning the instrument around on her hooves, trying to figure out how she was supposed to hold it. "Yeah, so, how do you play this?"
Octavia sighed. This was going to be a long month indeed.
Three days until the Summer Sun Celebration
"What do I do? What do I do?"
Octavia rapidly paced around her home, on the verge of panicking. No, wait, she was already panicking. If it went on for much longer she would have a mental breakdown. Then she would go insane, be sent to an asylum, live the rest of her days sitting in a white padded cell wearing a straitjacket spouting nonsense...
Get a grip on yourself, she thought. I still have... three days...
Vinyl had proven inept with virtually every classical instrument Octavia tried to give her, in addition to their lack of cooperation anyway. She cursed whoever had the brilliant idea to put them together on something like this. She hadn't panicked for years until now.
She couldn't believe they had wasted the entire month. She had written to the Comittee, but they almost literally sent her back a letter saying 'deal with it'.
She had tried pulling out her hair. This was actually a difficult thing to do, where she would have to lay her head on the side of a table, then use her hoof's edge to try and cut some of it out. It never ended well.
She was never good with calming down, and nearly yelled at Bon Bon as she walked through the door.
"What is it," she mumbled, impatiently waiting for Bon Bon to answer.
"Well, uh... Lyra and Vinyl are waiting for you in the town centre. You mares need to talk," she responded.
Octavia trudged past Bon Bon, making a point of leaving her instrument behind. She hadn't felt more defeated in her life.
She made her way towards the main hall, thinking. She stared at the moonless sky, unable to comprehend the fact that she had failed putting together three musicians over a month in time for the celebration.
Wait, what? There was something wrong. She searched the night sky, trying to find what was missing. As Bon Bon continued towards the centre, Octavia was lost in thought, until she realised.
"Where's the moon?"
She couldn't see the moon in the sky, however hard she looked. It didn't seem a particularly cloudy night, but there must be some sort of explanation. She decided to put that thought aside for now, and continued onwards to the hall.
She pushed through the doors to see Vinyl and Lyra standing on the stage. They noticed her as she approached, and waited for her to reach them.
"I had the feeling this wasn't going to work out, 'Tavi, and we tried, but..." Vinyl started, "It's only the Summer Sun Celebration, it's not as important as something like the Gala."
Lyra continued, rather bluntly, "We can't perform in time. We're sorry, but it's not working."
Octavia had been expecting this, but it still felt like a kick in the stomach. "But we still have three days before Celestia arrives..."
Vinyl shook her head. "Sorry. We don't have enough time."
Octavia hung her head. She'd never failed a performance before.
Suddenly, the doors burst open. Derpy flew into the building, doing awkward somersaults in the air. She came to a stop, then announced, with a happy mood in contrast to the information, "Princess Celestia is missing!"
"No, Celestia is not missing, she's just out in Fillydelphia," Doctor Whooves corrected as he walked in after Derpy.
Lyra asked, "Then why are you here?"
"Because Princess Luna is missing," Doctor Whooves claimed, to the group's bewilderment. "According to the guards, Luna left the castle without schedule or escort. I think they're overreacting, but Luna hasn't returned yet, and she left last night."
His words were met with a confused silence which continued for a while until Lyra broke it.
"Then what are we waiting for?"
"What are we waiting for what?" Octavia had temporarily forgotten about her predicament.
"Well, every time a princess goes missing, it's up to the heroes to save them!"
Octavia didn't feel the need to tell Lyra how ridiculous that statement was, but Bon Bon apparently did.
"Uh, Lyra, I don't think that's a good idea."
Doctor Whooves added, "The guards are actually waiting for her to come back. They aren't normally in this situation, so they honestly don't know how to respond. They'll set up a search, but it'll be confined to the towns and cities of Equestria."
"You're not helping," Bon Bon hissed to the Doctor.
"Actually, this might be kind of fun, y'know," Vinyl cut in, "Celestia won't be back for three days, AKA she'll arrive just in time for the Celebration. She'll probably be worried about her missing sister."
Lyra had started walking out the door. "C'mon, let's go!"
Octavia finally spoke in astonishment, "Wait, you want us to go now?!"
"Well, yeah, the sooner we get going, the sooner we get there," Lyra called back.
Octavia started to walk after her. "But we don't know where to look!"
Derpy chimed in, flying past them, "There's this big tower thing that she went to when she was Nightmare Moon."
Octavia didn't bother asking her how she knew, and resigned herself to the fact that they were going on this journey as Vinyl, Doctor Whooves and Bon Bon joined them.
"It's through the Everfree Forest," Derpy finally mentioned, much to Octavia's horror.
Lyra was strangely confident as she added, "Don't worry; it's not actually that dangerous. There's this group of ponies that go in every now and then, and there's also this zebra that lives in there."
They had arrived at the edge of the forest, as Luna's moon began to rise, rather late. This is it, Octavia thought. Everypony had gone insane, and she was probably going to be drawn into helping them. That morning she had been thinking of how they were going to pull off the performance, and then she had been thinking of how they were going to find the princess. However, her most recent thought was this:
How did I get here?