I've never been the quickest of ponies. That is why I am who I am. If I'd been quicker, I'd have dropped this instrument long before this day. I'm just another earth pony. Maybe not as smart, maybe not as fast, maybe not as good as the pegasus or the unicorn. But I am who I am, and that is not worth a bit.
Not worth a bit. Those are the words I fearfully long to hear. I fear them, for with them, my life is meaningless. But I long for them, because I truly believe in my heart that they are true. I dream about it, sometimes. I'm performing for a crowd of ponies, all pretending that they appreciate my music. All of a sudden, a new pony comes in, one without fear. And they hear my music, turn to the crowd, and say that it isn't worth a bit. Condemning me and freeing me in a single action.
The cello never really was an earth pony instrument. I am, so it is said, the only earth pony who could play one. It's a unicorn instrument, truly. Only those with consummate delicacy and grace can play one. Only the unicorns. I merely mangle the sounds as best I could do. Always my memory pricks me, telling me that the best I could do simply isn't good enough.
I thought it would come after the breaking. But thankfully or not, it did not. Ponies still believe my music is worth more than a bit. I hope, and dread, that they do, at least.
It is hard, sometimes, to see the point. Other instruments are more popular than ever, and recorded music gives the joy to those who can't play it. Every night, I stay awake, wondering what the future will bring. Whether I really am worth less than a bit. The scales that seem to weigh my fate never tilt it in favour of me.
I can see that pony every night. It's the same one, each time. A unicorn. Male. White. Blueblood is his name. He comes in, and says my music isn't worth a bit. I try to hide, but the dream keeps following me.
I can't run from it anymore. It seems to just be so useless. Every day, I see other ponies doing better than me. Every day, ponies are doing things they enjoy. But all the while, I'm just here. Just part of the background to their happy lives. If there was even somepony who cared about me, I'd have the strength to carry on. But every day, the chances of that happening seem to get lower and lower.
A musician's life is a hard one, especially for a classicist. I didn't eat last week. I found a coin on the pavement today. Maybe today, even for a moment, I'll be worth a bit. There's no real food it will buy me. Not even a single apple.
I wake when the sun rises, and sleep when it sets. A candle or a lamp would cost too much to use. So I save them. Sometimes they're all I have to keep warm with. The winter's chill is so very cold.
But then, as with every year, the Gala comes around. With it, the only time I have even so much as a bit. For a month before and after, I'm lucky enough to be usually one of those hired out by the elite for their parties. They don't even let us eat the scraps of the food they leave. They toss them to the birds.
Then, if we're lucky, the two month period of prosperity leaves enough that we can just survive the rest of the year until it comes round again. But it's hard. We move from apartment to apartment, from flat to flat, leaving when our debt gets too high. Carefully moving, for if your instrument breaks, there is nothing left to do. You have nothing worth even a bit to show for your hard life. The economy is tough, so they tell me.
Princess Celestia is our hope each night, but even the princess is not all powerful. Even she can't make the world turn right. But we see her looking to us, each day. Tears running down her face.
She knows us each by name. She sends out an individual invitation to perform at the Gala to each of us. She knows when we're struggling, and sometimes an anonymous gift is left on our doorstep, usually with enough food for a month, or two. Would that there was prosperity enough for all of us, even those not worth a bit.
You've read my tale. Please, don't mourn for me. I am gone, the troubles of the world can no longer harm me. Mourn for those still struggling, those who don't have the strength to end it, those who have failed already.
Mourn for the lost children of Equestria. For those who are not worth a bit.
For it was that day that I dreamt of that freed me.
It was one of the few performances outside the Gala season that we were hired for. It's funny, I guess. I remember it more from the dream than from reality. It was the third song, and Blueblood came in.
It was the dream come to life, and yet different.
He came to the stage, to me. I tried to keep concentrating. But I faltered, and stopped.
He said those fateful words. "Octavia, your music is not worth one bit."
I closed my eyes to keep the tears from flowing. My face fell. Unexpectedly, it was lifted. I opened my eyes. Blueblood was there, holding my face in his hooves, an expression I'd never seen on anypony's face on his.
"Your music is worth more than could be encompassed in the world, for it is yours. Please, for me, play it once more." He kissed me, and left the stage. I lifted up the cello once more, raised the bow, and played it once more, unaccompanied by the others. It was the worst I'd ever played, and more. But he stood there, entranced by it.
He loved my music, and he loved me. He tried to romance me, but he fumbled his way through it. I loved him anyway. He was unlike all the others I had met. He only wished for me to play for him. He could listen for hours as I practiced, then give me effusive praise.
Then, one fateful day, the cello broke, mid-practice. He stared on, seemingly stupified. He dropped to the ground. I ran to him. He didn't know quite was wrong, but he couldn't think. He just shook. I was there for almost an hour when the guards came in and asked me to leave. I looked up, and I saw Celestia watching. A tear ran down her face as her eyes met mine. I fled the hall.
Back in my room, I tried to keep to my previous lifestyle, making everything last as long as it could. I was without instrument, and without it, I had no way to survive the next year. It was a meaningless effort, and I knew it, but I did it anyway.
Someone left a cello by my door, again anonymous. I cried, silently. I hated the instrument. But it was all I had. I resumed my practice daily. I finally had the emotion my playing had never had before. I had learned the music, but now I had part of the feeling behind it. It was a haunting feeling, and though I was a masterful player, even on the happy, cheerful songs, there was not a dry face in the audience. I saw him sometimes, again. Hiding through my performances. He sometimes left flowers. He could never see me face to face.
I never knew why, though. Was it me or him? Was I, once again, not worth a bit? Or was it that he was ashamed for me, that he had broken some unspoken rule I did not know? Or was it shame for himself, that he had loved and lost?
I never found out. All I knew was that the flowers stopped being left. He stopped coming. His heart had hardened. I guess I was the only one he thought he could love. And now that it was lost, what other could fill the gap? Maybe I am egotistical, but do I not deserve at least a little leeway, at the end of my journey?
I saw him once more only before I was freed. The Gala. The fateful Gala. His heart had truly hardened. He saw me, and only a pale, grey arrogance, as if I was unworthy of his very notice, met my gaze. He left the hall, and I tried to shake off the feelings inside me, to concentrate once more on my music. It was hard, for I knew that soon he would reenter. Would he even look at me? If it wasn't for the princess having invited me to play personally, I would have tried to leave then, try to go another year not worth a bit.
But I kept playing. Eventually, the first of the two ponies who ended the night requested a song. We played, and played. She exhausted us, and we retired. We were once more coming on the stage when he entered. He had another pony by his side. A unicorn, a white unicorn like him. But even she was unworthy of him now. She rounded on him, and when she was just about to yell far more than she could have intended, the animals came in.
They knocked me down. The stage was only me and the once more broken cello. They trampled over me, but I was mostly unharmed. I tried to stand, and could not. My hindlegs refused to move. I lay there for what seemed like hours, but could only have been a couple of minutes. And then a face leaned over mine. It was him.
In his eyes were tears, and his face was sorrowful.
"I'm so sorry, 'Tavi." he said, his tone apologetic. "I was too blind to see. Too deaf to hear. And too foolish to understand. Please, forgive me."
I tried to speak, but couldn't. It all went black then.
I awoke in the hospital. I lifted my head. He was there, watching. His eyes were tired. But when they saw me rise, they lit up.
"I forgive you," I said.
I told you before that I was gone. Please, if you cannot bear to watch the conclusion to my tale, imagine that it ended there, that Blueblood and I were to be in love forever.
But in truth, it was not to be. For I did not come through the Gala unscathed. He was not told, but Blueblood guessed. The doctor had found that the damage was not from the trampling.
No, indeed I had a wasting disease. The doctor tried, but all he could do was slow it down and numb the pain. For it attacked the nerves, he said. I would eventually be unable to move, to play, to eat, and finally, at the end, to breath. My nerves would die off completely, he said, in less than a year from the Gala.
I hid it from Blueblood as best I could, but he knew something was wrong. He tried not to show it, but the worried looks when he gazed at me were unhide-able. I grew unable to feed myself, but I could still walk. With difficulty, for my legs were growing numb, but it was possible.
My last performance was at another of the upper class' parties. I told Blueblood, my love, my song, to wait for me. I would be back, I said, sooner than he could think.
I went out and played. I wasn't as capable as I usually was, my hooves still numb. But it passed, and I was able to leave, when a new group, among whom were the two ponies who had forced the Gala to a close, appeared at the party. I left as quickly as I could. Blueblood was waiting for me, in the Gala hall. I tried to run, and fell. He rushed to me. I couldn't move. I spoke to him "I'll be alright. Just need to see the doctor." The brave smile on his face could not mask the tears of fear in his eyes. I remember. He was the only one who paid attention to the mare who was not worth a bit.
He lifted me up, his horn straining as he did so. Like most of the unicorns, he didn't use his magic for things his body could do. It was a long trip, but he kept me stable. Even when he stumbled, I moved not an inch. He took me to the hospital, and lay me on a bed. He sat on the ground, exhausted. His eyes flickered, then he stood up again. "Doctor!" he called. "Doctor!"
A doctor came in. He saw me first, and ran to me. By then I was known by sight to all the ponies at the hospital. He looked at me, a sorrowful no in his eyes. And I sighed. It was to pass, then. I could not change a bit, and turning to Blueblood, I would not want to. I didn't have to be worth a bit.
He sat by my side those seven days, as my lungs eventually ceased to work. He watched me as I breathed my last, hot tears flowing down his eyes. And when I died, he screamed. "No! 'Tavi, you can't leave me like this! Please! I'll do anything! Help her!" The doctor at my side shook his head slowly. Blueblood collapsed, his head on my body, and cried.
The orderlies came in to remove my body for burial. But he stopped them, and carried it himself. He collapsed once, and rose back up, never letting me drop. He collapsed a second time, and my body shook. As he reached the door to the hospital, he collapsed a third time, and my body dropped.
It dropped, only to be caught by another. Celestia was there, her eyes red from the tears she had recently shed. Together, they carried my body away.
It's a strange thing, to be dead. They say there is eternal reward after, but I didn't care. I stayed by him all his life. As he lay in his room and refused to leave, inconsolable after my death. As he gradually grew stronger, and his emotions started to return. As he finally flung open his room, a small mark on his head. The Treble Clef. My cutie mark. He never let it fade.
I watched him as he grew old, as his eyes grew dim and he began to remember only his past.
He took to one memory, the first time he heard my music.
"Such finesse. Such beauty. How her works astound me. If I live forever I will never love a mare as I do her."
Then, as the passage of time came, he died too. He was buried, as were his wishes, next to me, in an unmarked grave. His spirit rose up, as mine did.
"'Tavi? You...you waited for me." he said. "Let us enter the paradise together, my love." I replied.
I can only repeat what I said before.
Please, don't mourn for me. I am gone, the troubles of the world can no longer harm me. Mourn for those still struggling, those who don't have the strength to end it, those who have failed already.
Mourn for the lost children of Equestria. For those who are not worth a bit.