Bonbon lead Vinyl out into the theatre hall. Despite the grandeur of the exterior - in all its Neo-Gothic glory - the interior was pretty much the same as any other hall Vinyl had been to. A rare few halls, but she had went on trips to pantomimes as a filly. The stage was a semi-circular plate of perfectly smooth wood, almost as if it were carved from one tree trunk. Beyond it stretched seats arranged in rows all the way to the edge like the old Ponan Colosseum, creating an inclined semi-circle focused toward the stage in its centre.
They found a pair of seats near the front row, there were few other ponies in the hall. Vinyl supposed nopony would want to see a rehearsal or audition, they'd much rather see the finished product. Unless it was like Equestrian Idol, if those sort of auditions were the subject matter at hoof, then Vinyl felt she would enjoy the night.
Bonbon took a seat near the gangway, while Vinyl sat next to her, and the tray of pilfered cupcakes took its socially-acceptable place precariously balancing on the space between them. While Vinyl would have enjoyed to hoard the cupcakes to herself, Bonbon didn't seem to be that bad a pony, and her manners simply wouldn't allow selfishness anyway. Not just because Octavia had told her to be polite and cultured either.
She turned to Bonbon, who she imagined had attended this sort of tirade before, and could probably help her prepare for whatever was coming.
"So, what's this all about then?"
Bonbon coughed politely, pointing a hoof at a quartet of ponies seated alone on the front row. "It's an audition for the Grand Galloping Gala. Very prestigious, Lyra missed out last year for...personal reasons. She's hoping to get a place on the band that plays in the music hall there. It's a great boost for her ponysona."
"So Lyra and Octy are arguing over who gets to play music for the Gala...can't they just both play?"
"Oh, possibly, it's two string pieces, pianist, a brass instrumentalist normally. They could both play, but Celestia help the pony that has to get those two to collaborate."
Vinyl practically drooled at the prospect of some juicy gossip to collect, she lifted the plate of ball-bearing cupcakes to Bonbon's attention.
"Want some of these by the way? Can't eat them all by myself." A blatant lie if there ever was one.
"Oh, I really shouldn't...but hey, my cutie mark is a bunch of sweets." She cursively scanned over the cakes, grabbing the one with the most prolithic spattering of icing sugar. "I promised Lyra I'd cut down on sugary treats, but it's difficult to resist most times."
"I hear ya, filly. Why'd you promise Lyra that, anyway. You two on a diet together or something?"
Bonbon blushed, giggling into a hoof. "A bit more than a diet, we're married."
Vinyl's cupcake somehow found a way to violently lodge itself in her trachea.
* * * * * *
Anticipation welled into Octavia's bloodstream, seemingly giving her heart ten times the work at twenty times the beat rate. She scanned around the room as slowly, one-by-one, ponies filtered out. Ponies she'd seen before, that she knew couldn't best her. However, the one she was wary of still sat nearby, practising on her lyre. The thought had occurred to Octavia to divert her attention through practise, but she felt Lyra would find a catty remark or other if she dared try.
The one thing that had fractured the surface of her haughty facade, was the revelation of the pony presiding on the judging panel. Even thinking his name gave Octavia goosebumps. Hoofz Zimmer had been a lifelong inspiration, the reason she had begged her parents for an instrument on Winter's Moon Day, no less. This iconic composer had been the subject of much lavishly-applied praise from herself over Octavia's lifetime, and the very concept of playing in front of him made her legs feel unstable.
"Oh dear, Octavia. Not going to faint in font of our esteemed guest tonight?" Lyra had stopped practising, glaring at Octavia with that familiar, challenging grin.
"I'm afraid not, Lyra. I imagine he's eager to hear my piece first, hence why you've been placed at the...back of the queue."
Lyra twitched slightly at the jibe. "Saving the best until the last, and getting the trash out as soon as possible."
"Well, if it helps you sleep at night. How was it for work, last year?" Octavia was tip-hoofing the line, waiting for a response to gauge whether she could push onwards. Lyra scowled with a glare that would humble dragons.
"You know full well what happened, Octavia. But I'm not fussed at all, in fact, the only reason you got the position was due to my absence. Your revelry is over now."
"...And now they know how much better they can do. It's a real pity you had to dump an entire career of supposed celebrity for some mare from a backward squalor like Ponyville."
Lyra's mint-green face was cut across with throbbing, angry veins. "You dare say a single word more about Bonbon, and I will wrap that precious little bow around your neck...so then you'll have two bow ties. I'll make sure both of them are extra tight."
Octavia hastily drew herself as far away from the line as ponily possible, without coming across as submissive or defeated. She attempted to consider an apology or reconciliation, but was cut-off in her effort by the portly colt calling ponies onto the stage. It was her turn. Instead, she retreated away from Lyra, unpacking her cello and waving a hoof at the glowering mare. She received all the motivation she expected.
"Break a bucking leg, Octavia. Or your neck."