Starlight in a Broken Vessel

by the-pieman

Chapter 57

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Chapter 57

“That was not a request. Relinquish control of the artifact, it is not yours.”

“It is now. What, you wanna stop me?” I summon some coal from my pouch and have it form a clamp around his muzzle.

For a moment, it holds. Then, he snorts, and the coal dissipates, completely gone. How the-? He’s not even a unicorn!

“Relinquish. The artifact.” He glares at me.

“I don’t think you want to fight me. Bystanders could get hurt, so just run along and take your business elsewhere, asshole.”

“I am not here to fight. I am here to collect the artifact, then return it. Those are my orders.”

“Return it to who? Why don’t I just talk to them?”

“Because Lyra is in trouble, and is not allowed to leave her place. She should not have given the Lyre to you in the first place.”

“We all make mistakes, dude. Finders keepers.”

“You did not merely ‘find’ it, any more than you find the sun in the morning. Now give me the artifact.”

“So Lyra can be saved right? Well, why not I help her, and I keep the Lyre?”

“She is in trouble because she gave you the Lyre. She does not need rescuing, she needs to learn to do what she is directed by Natoque.”

“So she wants to do what she wants, big deal. How about I give it to her, personally? Supposedly, this artifact is incredibly powerful, and I’m not about to trust it with a middleman.”

The stallion snorts angrily. “No. Relinquish it to me at once!” his voice rises, but I’m not very impressed. The demon had way more impressive pipes.

Pinkie hops over, and looks between us. “Hello! Who wants hors d'oeuvres?” A platter of small pieces of cheese, coated in chocolate and speared with a toothpick, sat on the plate.

“Ooh, awesome!” I grab one and pop it into my mouth. I wince at the taste, the first time with Pinkie’s creations. It tastes like stale gouda and overly-sweet milk chocolate. I turn to Pinkie. “So, uh, who’s catering?” At this point I’m not even paying the stallion any mind.

“Uh, I am! Right? Yeah! I’m catering! I got the recipe right, right?”

“Not bad, but just a bit more practice, I’m sure this is a bit different than cupcakes, so you’re allowed a bit of room for error.” I ruffle her mane and return to the stallion. “Anyway man, I don’t care who you are, because I don’t know who you are. How do I know you aren’t gonna steal the Lyre for yourself? How about some proof?”

He leans towards me, lengthening the shadows on his face in what I assume would be an intimidating manner if he wasn’t a good foot and a half shorter than me. “I have no need for the Lyre. That is Lyra’s tool, and I would not be able to utilize it with her degree of finesse. Now, give it to me, that I may return it to her.”

“You think I was born yesterday? I’ve heard just about every lie in the book and then some, I’m not gonna believe anyone I don’t know, especially ones who demand powerful mystical artifacts, claiming to know the owner. If you really wanted her to have it back, take me to her and I’ll give it back to her.”

“She has been derelict of her duties for fifteen nights! She must return to them, and for that she needs the Lyre!”

“Prove it.”

The large stallion opens his mouth to say something, but stops when a hoof, blue-green and feminine, pats him on the shoulder.

“Stand down, Galeam, if he’s been this resistant to just handing it over, he won’t go giving it to just anyone.” I look at the new speaker, who is a rather smallish unicorn mare, reddish mane and a cutie-mark of a set of simple scales, one side overflowing with gold, the other with nothing but black smoke.

“I should think not. Seriously, I’m not a moron. Unless I know for sure that Lyra is going to be getting this, I’m not giving it up. Period.”

The mare nodded, a pleasant smile on her face. “Alright. We will entrust the Lyre unto you, provided you promise not to allow any but Lyra to take it from you.” Her smile fell, and the room seemed to grow slightly darker. “But take care, this includes ‘lending’ the Lyre to anyone, be they pony or not.”

“Do I look like I’m stupid? I’m not going to give this thing up, especially given the build-up you’ve been giving to how important it is. I may be reckless, but I know when something needs to be taken seriously.”

The mare nodded, and charged her horn, an aura the deep blue of late night or early morning issuing forth. A piece of parchment, glimmering with tiny sparkles of light, issued forth from the aura. Written on the parchment was legalese for ‘don’t lend, give, or throw away the Lyre’, and detailing several gruesome fates for me if I did any of those things, including...

“Denyxtification? What’s that?”

“To be stripped of your star core, and become one with the void.” The stallion said, face stony-blank once more.

“Ooooookay then. And how did I get this core in the first place?”

The two ponies shrugged, the mare offering up a quill with which to sign.

“Well, I guess I’ll sign, since none of these threats will apply. I’m not letting something like this out of my sight. It’s a killer at parties.” I sign my name, my real name, figuring if Lyra knew, it wouldn’t matter to hide it. “Speaking of parties, I should be getting back to mine, and I promised a mare I would dance with her.”

The unicorn nodded, her smile pleasant again. “Then I shall sign this, and you may be on your way.” She placed her hoof on the parchment next to mine. She pulled her hoof back, and an inky-black hole into the night sky shimmered on the paper. Faint lines connected a series of stars in the shape of her cutie mark.

“Alright, cya later Libra. And tell your friend to pull the stick out of his butt.”

The mare chuckled. “We’ve been trying for centuries, and it just seems to get lodged farther in there.” The stallion’s blank look tipped downward at the edges, turning into a vague frown.

I walk off to let them do their thing. I did promise that mare a dance, so I decide to look for her through the large crowd. As I step near the dance floor, the mare practically materializes, and I see that Pinkie has pushed her up to me, smiling and grinning as she fades back into the crowd. The young mare grins bashfully.

“Aw, come on. You should feel proud, you have the guts to ask the local alien to dance.” The mare nods, her smile still a little shaky, as she leads me to the dance floor. On the floor, it’s mostly packed with ponies doing fairly typical ‘this area is is super crowded’ dances. There’s only a single open space, and that’s where Twilight is getting her groove on. Or having a seizure, it’s a bit hard to tell with that facial expression she has.

“Heh, and she calls me strange. Anyway...” I turn to the mare at my side. “I honestly have no idea how to do this with a pony, so it’s probably gonna be a bit weird, but I’ll try.”

The young mare nods, and opens her mouth to say something, when the music changes. I look towards the stage to see Octavia, of all ponies, standing on a raised part of the stage. She’s holding up an absolutely massive contrabass, at least as tall as she is, standing on her rear hooves. While she’s as impeccably groomed as normal, the contrabass is completely different than expected, with tron lines outlining it and each string lit up a dull white.

Seriously, these ponies have the coolest instruments! If it weren’t for the starfield shadows on my harp and it’s musical capabilities, I’d feel gypped. I wait for Octavia to begin and mutter to myself. “Come on ‘Tavi, let’s see what you got.”

A slow, gentle stroke of the bow across the strings calls forth a soft, deep rumble from the bass, each of the strings lighting up as they are struck. Suddenly, the music picks up in speed as she begins to frantically pluck strings, and the sounds of a piano follows in the background. My eyebrows raise as the music refuses to slow, and the mare I’m with is grinning broadly. I’m already starting to tap my feet and I can feel the music flow through me, trying to make me move.

All the ponies seem to be dancing differently, each choosing their own way to move on the dancefloor.

I turn to the mare beside me. “Shall we?” I indicate that she should lead, as I don’t understand how this would work.

She just giggles and starts... moving. For a moment I’m lost, before it hits me: just move. This is not a formal dance, so... I just start moving to the music, letting the rhythm just do whatever it wants with me.

Laughing along with the other ponies, I barely notice when the music changes, just slowing with the beat like everypony else. for several minutes, I’m just another happy person in a crowd of dozens.

This isn’t like the rave in Canterlot, and definitely not like a concert back home, but... I like this just as much. I feel like I belong here, even if I’m the most different. Life is good.

Finally, the music comes to an end, and every pony and myself in the place all stomp and clap and generally give the applause the artists on stage deserve, Octavia giving a formal bow while Vinyl throws her hooves up like the reigning champion of an arena.

I think of something, then I grin. I turn to the mare and excuse myself. I walk up to the stage and ask Octavia if I can do a slow song as well.

She nods, and Vinyl quickly folds up the temporary stand. I wave Octavia back on as she gets ready to leave, and she smiles. The crowd cheers at me as I return to the front of the stage, the last song apparently forgiven for the most part.

“Alright. This is going to be a very... different song. Just to let you know, us humans aren’t all a bunch of metalheads... well, all the time. This is a love song, by the way.” I Spark up and strum the Lyre gently, not bothering to introduce the song this time.

The notes flow out, the soft sounds of a guitar being followed by all sorts of instruments. I sing the song, gently crooning into the mic in front of me. The entire place is enraptured, listening to the notes pouring forth from my fingers, lungs and soul. Octavia is strumming the bass like a giant guitar, and Vinyl is bobbing her head as she provides various snippets to fake at least two other instruments, including the drums.

The song begins to wind down, the final chords being plucked one at a time, before revealing that the song’s not over yet. Playing like my hands are on fire, I barely notice that the starfield effect has crept up my arms from the harp again, all the way to my chest and probably my face, too. The backlighting meant I probably looked like a hole of night pouring out the music everypony bounced to.

Finally, the song came to its actual end, fading out. I let my Spark fade, taking the starfield with it. Once more, I’m breathless and kind of sweaty from the hot stage lights, but it’s such a rush!

The ponies below stomp their approval, shouting and hollering. It takes a moment before the smattering of individuals organize enough to start the crowd chanting a single word.

“En-core! En-core! En-core! En-core!”

I grin and respond. “Well, that depends. Do you want the same song, or a similar one?”

“New song! New song!”

“Alright, let me think...” I take a few moments to think of a nice smooth song, but with a good beat anyway... I grin lightly. “This is going to be a bit different, but I think you’ll like it. This one is called Victorian Vigilante. Just to warn you, it’s a little dark near the end.”

I begin to stroke the strings of the Lyre again, and a jaunty tune begins to pour out, all brass and the gentle piping of an organ grinder. Once more, my Sparked arms become coated in night, and the music flows out through me, and the ponies are all listening to the story of the song, and I can almost feel their silent prayers that the unnamed hero takes out the villain, hanging on every word like I was some kind of prophet or radio star.

I come near the conclusion, and I hear their quieted gasps as the villain seems to get the upper hand... only to lose the fight, and his life. I see a few of the more squeamish ponies blanch at the mention of bloodshed, but most of the earth ponies and pegasi are nodding along and smiling as the song finishes.

Once more, the crowd erupts with applause, and I have to decline another request for an encore. After all, I said I’d go play a few games with Pinkie... I think I did at least. Either way, they sound fun, and I don’t want to miss a good chance to enjoy the party as a whole.

Next Chapter: Chapter 58 Estimated time remaining: 27 Hours, 16 Minutes

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