Your Biggest Fan
by Cereal Velocity
Applebloom looked over her finished letter with pride. It was perfectly legible, and she had done it without any of that unicorn magic. Ha!
She carefully folded, creased, and inserted the note into an envelope, licked it closed, and clopped a stamp onto the front, along with the address of her intended recipient. She would appreciate all the formality, surely. Once she was satisfied the letter was presentable, she handed it to the awaiting wall-eyed gray pegasus next to her, who grabbed it with her mouth and stuffed it into her mailbag.
“I sure hope you can find her, Miss Mailpony,” Applebloom said to the googly-eyed mare. The mail carrier responded simply with an off-balance but enthusiastic salute to no one in particular before flapping off into the sky.
The Great and Powerful Trixie was not having a great week.
After being humiliated and chased out of Ponyville following her encounter with the Ursa Minor, she had fled through the surrounding forest, provisionless and completely lost, narrowly avoiding being eaten alive, or worse. By sheer dumb luck, she had found her way to the outskirts of Phillydelphia within a day or two. She used her last remaining bits to persuade a pony couple to let her stay in the loft of their barn for a few days.
No, she reminded herself. The Great and Powerful Trixie had used her superior grasp of magic to valiantly fight her way through the forest and find shelter despite being outnumbered and completely alone. The occupants of this farm had been so overwhelmed by her presence that they had let her stay out of pure respect. There, that sounded so much better.
She pawed at the hay beneath her hooves, tidying the strands to make a passable bed for the night. It would be nice to sleep on something other than a tree branch, though she still sorely missed her wagon. No matter, she’d procure a new one. Surely she could take what she learned from her mishap- harrowing adventure- and apply it to make a new routine for the townspeople come the following morning. Yes, yes she would. This was only a minor setback. After all, she was The Great and Powerful Trixie. Was there anything she couldn’t do?
The blue pony completed her bed, circled the hay for a moment, and lay down with a sigh, lidding her eyes a little with fatigue. She eyed the two apples the pony couple had been kind enough to supply her with. She absentmindedly nabbed the stem of one with her teeth and brought it closer to her. She took a small bite, and the thought occurred to her that she should repay them for the food and the shelter. It was an odd thought, and she wasn’t sure why it had come up. More than that, it surprised her. The Great and Powerful Trixie was simply gracing them with her visit, after all. This time it was her customary afterthought that left a bad taste in her mouth, like a bridle that had been chewed on one too many times. She gently put the apple aside. She wasn’t used to this… this feeling. Not being sure of oneself was a scary prospect, but it was one she was beginning to face.
Was it only that? Maybe-
Her retrospect was interrupted by a flapping of wings and the soft clop of something landing on the roof of the barn. Trixie stood up immediately, shaking stray strands of hay off of her coat.
“Who goes there?” she asked in a commanding voice at the ceiling. “Who dares disturb The Great and Powerful Trixie from her sleep?”
Her question was met with silence and the rustling of trees outside the barn. She waited, far more tense than she had any right to be. Why was she scared? It was nothing. She had magic. She was The Great and Powerful Trixie. It was just a bird, a stray gust of wind, a-
She heard hay rustle behind her. She swiveled around on one hoof to see a gray pegasus with a mailbag not two feet behind her. She yelped in shock, stumbling backwards. Unfortunately for her, she stumbled right off the barn loft and landed, tangled, back down into a large pile of straw, staring up at the moon through the barn’s open skylight.
Trixie flailed her hooves helplessly, forgetting her magic completely, but only managed to get herself more stuck in the straw. “How dare you?!” she yelled. “The Great and Powerful Trixie will not stand for this!”
In response, the wall-eyed pony slowly poked her head over the lip of the barn loft to look down at Trixie. She had something in her mouth, a rectangle of some kind. The pure oddity of the situation held its breath for several seconds while the two mares stared at each other. As if she were confident she had made her point, the mailpony simply dropped the item down onto Trixie’s stomach, turned around, and disappeared from the blue pony’s view.
Trixie was left staring at the spot where the mare had been, unable to comprehend what had just happened. It took her a minute to look down at herself to see what she had actually dropped. She wasn’t sure at all what to expect. To her surprise, it was a simple letter. In the moonlight, she could see that it was neatly creased, properly stamped, and addressed simply ‘Trixie’.
A hundred things should have been going through her mind, but she was overcome by a strange curiosity now that she was sure she wasn’t under attack. Never mind the fact that no one should know where she was, or would have any reason at all to write to her- she had never gotten a letter before.
She grabbed the letter in her mouth, rolled her way out of the hay, and gently opened the paper with her teeth. Inside was a note, written in pencil.
I wish you wouldn’t have had to go so soon. The other ponies say some mean things about you, but I liked your magic show! I think the other ponies just don’t understand you, and that you just made a mistake. Some of them don’t forgive you, but I do.
You should come back! You’re always welcome in Ponyville. Maybe you could teach me some of your magic! I’d love to see you again, no matter what the others say about you.
Your biggest fan,
Trixie read the letter twice, then folded it neatly back into its envelope. Only then was she was surprised to notice a tear on her cheek, and a smile on her face.
The Show Must Go On
By Cereal Velocity
A continuation of Your Biggest Fan.
Inspired by another anonymous request.
As man sows, so shall he reap. In works of fiction, such men are sometimes converted. More often, in real life, they do not change their natures until they are converted into dust.
Charles W. Chesnutt
“One ticket for Phillydelphia, please.”
“Aren’t you a little young to be traveling by chariot by yourself?”
“Yes. Yes, I am.”
As Apple Bloom boarded the awaiting craft, she looked back at the mail pony that had given her the tip and waved enthusiastically. The grey mare simply flapped her wings in response with a goofy grin across her face. Apple Bloom smirked. She really didn’t understand that pony.
The Great and P- Trixie looked forlornly back at the barn where she had spent the night. It looked a little smaller now that she was looking at it in middle of the morning and not in the dead of night, being attacked by insane mailmares. Behind her stood the still-dark Everfree forest, and a few miles up the road lay the grand pony city of Phillydelphia.
The letter she had so abruptly received the previous night had lifted her spirits more than she had thought possible. She was no stranger to adoring fans, of course: she had been an entertainer most of her life. She was, however, a great believer in superstition, an ironic thing for relatively powerful magic user. She had never been to Equestria before Ponyville, and she firmly believed the first performance in the first town of a new continent would set the mood for the rest of her tour. Needless to say, she hadn’t been off to a great start. Whoever the pony named Apple Bloom was, she had been the much-needed boost that Trixie had needed to keep going; though, she would never admit to needing such a thing. Not to anypony else, anyway.
She had put the letter into her saddlebag anyway. It was a nice memento.
She levitated an apple out of her bag- these really were scrumptious- and took a bite, starting to walk down the farm road towards the city. The first thing she’d need was a new caravan. It wasn’t strictly required per say, but it helped house some of the backdrop for her shows. Without it, she’d have to work twice as hard, magically, to keep up the appearance of a stage, and that would make the show shorter. Even she wasn’t tireless. She was used to buying them; it was often impossible to bring them with her when she traveled over water. She was out of money, though. She’d have to improvise.
As she walked, she savored the fresh autumn air. Spending two nights in the forest had made her miss the sunshine. Not only had it been dark, she had seen many a strange sight. Huts, certainly, adorned with pagan artifacts and Celestia knows what else, made up the majority of them, but she had also seen a perfectly planted field of carrots, situated in one of the only sunbeams capable of penetrating the thick tree cover. She had tried to snag one, but it had been protected by some kind of monster. She still wasn’t quite sure what to make of that. Still, it had given her an idea or two for a new magic trick once she reached the city.
It took an hour or two of walking, but she finally found what she was looking for: an operational lumber mill situated right next to a running river, likely set up to supply wood to the nearby city. She saw wooden machinery, wagons, and the earth stallions working under the hot sun to fell the mighty trees with two-pony saws. A job much better suited to magic, Trixie thought idly, watching the ponies- which was exactly the point. She trotted over to the important-looking colt with a construction hat on his head and a hammer for his cutie mark.
“Excuse me,” she said, causing him to turn around. “I need your wood.”
The pony donned a hilariously confused expression. “I’m sorry?”
Trixie pointed with a hoof towards the fields of fallen trees. “I require some of your lumber.” The foreman pony blinked once or twice while that sunk in.
“Oh. Uh,” he managed. “Well, this shipment is for the Phillydelphia construction yard. We’re behind schedule as it is, so even if you wanted to purchase some…”
“No matter,” Trixie interrupted. “I’ll get some myself.” The foreman pony looked her over skeptically.
“I mean no offense, ma’am, but unless you mean to steal some of my shipment-“
“Steal? Celestia, no. I’ll fell some myself. With your permission, of course.”
“Do you have a title deed for the forest?” Trixie asked. The foreman gave her another look and puffed out his chest a bit.
“You must not be from here. Owning land in Equestria outside city limits is forbidden by Princess Celestia and her royal court.”
“Then you won’t mind if I take what I need,” Trixie completed with a hint of finality. The pony looked quite confused at this point.
“I suppose not, but…” he looked around her, plainly expecting an explanation. Trixie was not inclined to give him one. She calmly walked past the colt, into the thick of the lumber-clearing operation. She looked around casually- ideally this would only take one good-sized tree. After a minute of searching, she located one that hadn’t been marked off by the timber ponies. It was fairly tall, fairly thick, and didn’t have too many branches. Perfect. She couldn’t help but notice that a few of the worker ponies had stopped what they were doing to look at the pretty slate-blue mare in their midst. Well, let ‘em look, she thought. She always enjoyed putting on a show for an audience.
She thought for a moment as to how to do this- truthfully, she wasn’t sure she could even pull this off. The tree was fairly large, and cutting it perfectly purely using magic was a stretch, even for her. There was, however, quite a large array of instruments around her suited for cutting wood. She spied an automated saw, driven by the river. That would do nicely.
The foreman pony had caught up to her at this point, watching as she stood silently looking at the trees. “Ma’am, I-“
Trixie ignored him as she began. Her horn glowed bright amber as she started with a precise magical incision at the base of the tree, separating it from its base. She turned the tree on its side, reoriented her invisible magical knife into a cylinder, and roughly cut off the excess branches to save weight and make sure the saw had an easier time with it, making sure to keep the debris away from anyone nearby. She narrowed her eyes with the effort- this tree was heavier than she had anticipated. With the utmost care, she moved the mostly-bare trunk to the automated saw. Laying the tree down, she slid the cylindrical tree down the length of the saw blade four times, removing the rounded edges and ending up with a long, squared block of wood. Taking that piece, she flipped it ninety degrees and started slicing it into sections long enough for what she needed. She took those separated sections and cut them further with the saw, ending up with sets of many planks of wood. Satisfied with what she had so far, she started to assemble a basic elongated caravan with the planks, magically cutting notches into them so they fit snugly into each other- handling hundreds of nails along with all the wood was just asking for trouble. One floor, four walls, and a slightly sloped ceiling, with a small hole for a window. With her last remaining strength, she assembled a fold-out platform that attached to the front of the caravan with rope. She was about to start on the undercarriage when she realized she simply couldn’t continue. With an exhaled breath she set the remaining planks down on the ground and released her magical hold on them.
She took a few breaths to gather her composure and tiredly opened her eyes to examine her handiwork. It wasn’t perfect, but the base assembly was there, and it wasn’t falling apart. She was rather proud of herself. She’d never worked with wood before.
It was only then that she saw the gathered crowd of worker ponies that had congregated around her, mouths agape at what she had just done. Nopony spoke for an entire minute.
Trixie turned to the foreman, who was wearing the same bewildered expression as the rest of the crowd. She couldn’t help but let out a small bark of tired laughter at his face. He turned to look at her.
“Horseradish, ma’am. I wish I had a dozen of you,” he said, with a little admiration in his voice. Trixie smiled devilishly and nodded her head once.
“The name’s Trixie. I don’t suppose you could supply me with some wheels?”
It was the middle of the afternoon when Trixie arrived at the outskirts of Phillydelphia some hours afterwards. With the help of the lumber crew, the undercarriage of the caravan had taken no time at all. It was still unadorned, and she still needed a few things from the city, but she would take care of those things when she got there. So, there she was, on her way, magically giving the house on wheels a little push now and then. It was a good thing the path was mostly downhill.
As she approached the city limits, she was impressed by what she saw. By contrast to Ponyville, Phillydelphia was much more mechanized and, as such, much larger. It was almost overwhelming after her time in the untamed countryside. Enormous buildings reached into the heavens, tastefully crafted out of both wood and metal accents, the latter subtly reflecting the sunshine, giving the buildings a gleaming quality. Endless shops lined the cobblestone streets, vendors hawking their wares. Yet, at the same time, it still retained the quaint, old charm characteristic of the cities of Equestria. The wood structures were hand-carved and eloquently placed, and the city had a distinct style about it; coherent, yet scatterbrained. Trixie was somewhat pleased to see this- this was becoming a very eventful trip.
She drank in the sights of city for a moment before looking round for a place to set up shop. A bigger city also meant there was less open space for her show. As she wove the caravan through the city streets she got more than one odd look at the self-propelled craft, but nopony tried to stop her. She almost wished they would. They’d all be looking at her soon, anyway.
Along the way, she sometimes stopped briefly, leaving her caravan somewhere safe, to gather up the few supplies that she needed for her show. Nothing fancy- a few fireworks, a few streamers, a few ribbons. All for show, so to speak.
She was quite a distance into the heart of the city when she came upon something she hadn’t expected to find. Past a row of shops lay a beautifully-maintained park, with a small artificial lake in the middle, neatly-trimmed pathways, and just enough trees to provide shade and, at the same time, not look too intrusive. Several ponies were enjoying the sunshine near the lake, while others rested on the benches. Still others were playing a game involving a small flat disk and, from the looks of it, lots of running. About a dozen in all, not including the gaggle of ponies that had followed the caravan through the streets. This place would be perfect.
She propelled her caravan out to the edge of the lake and oriented it so the sunshine would fall on the outstretched platform attached to the front. As she stopped the vehicle and flung open the platform, every pony in the park stopped what they were doing to come examine the curious spectacle. Trixie stood upon her completed stage and grinned at the small assembling crowd. Some had grasped the hint and looked delighted. Some looked confused. She’d rectify that. She quickly checked the sky to make sure it was clear, then put on her best booming voice.
“Well, now!” she began. “This isn’t an audience, now, is it?” With that, she lit, magically, one of the bigger fireworks behind her. Up into the sky it fizzled, before its long lazy trail ended with an attention-getting crack and a bright red flash, far above the line of buildings around them. The few pegasus ponies in the sky were the first to see the explosion, and, although startled at first, they quickly spotted the source and flew down to investigate. After scarcely a minute, more ponies started to enter the park from between the buildings, following those who had heard the firework. Trixie waited an appropriate amount of time for a good amount of them to file in before beginning her routine.
Now that she was sure the sky was clear, she brought out the big metaphorical guns. Assembling what few clouds there were, she gradually brought them into position to shroud the entire park in darkness, save for a single sunbeam illuminating the caravan. Once the lighting was established, she lit two of the streamers on either side of the platform.
“Fillies and gentlecolts!” she boomed, her voice magically amplified. “Prepare to witness the magical prowess…” she lit two more fireworks for good measure, layering her voice with their thundering retorts, “… of the Great and Powerful Trixie!”
The assembled ponies cheered at the spectacle. Trixie looked over their faces- their delighted expressions and outstretched wings and waving hooves, lit only by the colorful fireworks and the beam of golden sunshine. It was this moment she savored most of all. This miraculous, sensational high was what made all of the inevitable downs worth it. All of her planning and all of her preparation, all for the single instant of bringing a crowd together, all eyes on her.
There was no other word. It was magical.
It was the middle of the night when Trixie stepped quietly out of her caravan to get some water, taking great care not to wake the two mares sleeping on the mats inside. In her head, she quietly chuckled, and a smirk spread across her face. The purple one with the berries on her flank had certainly been a frisky one.
Closing the door behind her, she surveyed the now-empty, quiet park which had held witness to her show. All the ponies were gone, of course, and the trimmed grass held no evidence of what had taken place. Even the crickets were asleep. Everypony was presumably also asleep in their homes, their imaginations still tingling with the day’s events. It was quite the juxtaposition. Trixie yawned- she hoped the lake water was clean enough to drink.
As she walked, she gazed out at the city lights before her. Most were off, but those that were on gave the entire town an almost reverent appearance. It was very calming. They held her attention for a while as she approached the lake. Dipping her head towards the clear water and closing her eyes, she lapped up a few mouthfuls. It was only after she had opened her eyes again did she see a yellow blur reflected in the lake behind her. She turned, slightly startled.
“Hi!” the young yellow filly greeted her enthusiastically. Trixie swallowed her mouthful.
“Hello,” she responded with raised eyebrows, not sure what to say.
“I loved your show today,” she continued with a smile. Trixie returned her grin.
“I’m glad you did, but isn’t it a little late for you to be out?” she asked kindly.
“Nah,” the mare responded, sitting down. “Oh, I’m Apple Bloom.”
Apple Bloom. The name hit Trixie like a brick. The same Apple Bloom from the letter? It couldn’t be. She opened her mouth to speak, closed it, and finally managed, “you’re from Ponyville?”
“Yep!” Apple Bloom said proudly. “Took a chariot all by myself to see if I could find you. I saw your fireworks as I was coming in!”
Trixie still wasn’t quite absorbing this. She tested the waters, sitting down with the young mare. “I got your letter. It was very sweet.”
Apple Bloom beamed with pride. “Oh, thank you! I wasn’t sure De- er, Bright Eyes would be able to find you, but she did. She told me where you were. I hope you don’t mind I came to see you.”
Trixie beamed and fixed the filly’s pink bow. “Not at all.” The two mares sat for a minute, watching the calm lake water. Apple Bloom spoke up, a little more reserved this time.
“Your magic is amazing,” she said, looking down at herself. “I wish I were a unicorn. Maybe then I’d have my cutie mark.”
Trixie shook her head, looking at her own. “Magic doesn’t make that come any faster. I should know. I only got mine when I knew for sure what I wanted to do.” She paused. “It took a while.”
“When did you get it?” Apple Bloom asked quietly.
Trixie smiled, remembering the story. She watched a fish swimming in lazy circles around the lake as she talked. She wasn’t sure why she was being so open with this filly. “It was when I did my first magic trick. I was so proud of myself. I levitated a coin into the air and made it spin. It was such a simple trick, but my friends were very impressed. They cheered,” she added, with pride in her voice. “I got my cutie mark that night. I realized, right then, that what I really wanted to do with my life…” she paused, looking for the words.
“… was to make ponies happy?” Apple Bloom finished hopefully.
Trixie was surprised by the simplicity of the statement. She had never boiled it down to something so elemental before, had never really stopped to think about it- and yet it seemed to fit just right.
“Yes. I just wanted to make ponies happy,” she said to the yellow filly.
The two spent the night on the shore of the lake, watching the swimming fish and the city lights. Neither of them spoke a word all night.
Trials and Tribulations
By Cereal Velocity
Part three of And Life Goes On.
What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.
“Hey, you see that?”
“I do. Pretty little thing, isn’t she?”
“Sure is. Get ready.”
Another forest. Trixie hated forests.
After her talk with Apple Bloom two nights prior, she had sent the rather unwilling yellow filly back to Ponyville on a chariot with some of the bits she had collected from the show. Uncharacteristic of her, to be sure, but she felt it was the wisest thing to do under the circumstances. She herself had been out of the city before sunrise. It had been a shame to kick the two delicious mares out of her caravan, but she preferred to travel alone.
On her way out of the grand city, she had nabbed a map of Equestria, eager to not have a repeat performance of how she had gotten to Phillydelphia. The land itself was far larger than she had originally thought, but there were very few large, accessible cities, save the ones in the clouds and the mountains, and even fewer small towns peppering the intermediate area. The lack of population centers was strange, considering the amount of industrialization she had seen, but she reminded herself that this continent was ruled magically and, thus, a little strange. Monarchies always gave her pause on the best of days, but she had also heard there were two ruling princesses in this providence. She had given up thinking about it almost immediately- it gave her a headache.
The closest city on the map from the north side of Phillydelphia had been Hoofington, so she had started driving her caravan towards it. Unfortunately, no matter how she had tried to plan her route, she had to go through at least one wooded area, and she was not pleased about that one bit. The only alternative was passing through Ponyville, and she had had enough of that town to last a lifetime.
So, there she was- directing her caravan carefully through the only dirt path she could find, getting more and more sopping wet with the hot summer rain that had seen fit to arrive unannounced and make this trip even worse than it had to be. She blew a strand of wet mane out of her face, and readjusted the hat she had bought on her way out of the city. She wished she had constructed this caravan with a roof for herself. She had considered stopping and waiting the rain out, but she wanted to get out of this deathtrap as quickly as possible. She briefly entertained the motion that she’d be better off attaching giant balloons to her mobile stage and flying from town to town. She smiled- maybe.
She had no way of knowing how far into the forest she had travelled, but the moment she reached the unexpected small clearing in the otherwise claustrophobic path, she became uneasy. The area didn’t look natural, and there were tree stumps plainly visible, and that was enough to set her off. She was about to backtrack and find another route when two massive trees fell directly in front and behind her caravan, scaring her half to death and blocking her way.
“Now just hold on a minute there, missy!” a smug voice echoed through the trees, as soon as the thundering report of the fallen trunks had subsided.
Trixie whipped her head around to find the offending figure, and was greeted by a brown pegasus pony sitting in one of trees to her left. He was grinning ear to ear, clearly proud of his little trap. Upon further inspection, she counted two- no, three other ponies; one more in a tree as well, and two earth ponies on the ground. She assumed they had been the ones to fell the trees. Trixie sighed, her unease now replaced by annoyance. Thieves.
The brown pegasus took off from his perch and landed close to Trixie. “Say…” the pegasus drooled, still wearing his stupid grin, “you look lost. Perhaps we can be of some assistance.” As he spoke, the other three ponies all began to follow their leader’s example, surrounding the front of Trixie’s caravan. All of them were wearing very rough cloaks that shrouded their features. She supposed the effect was intended to make them look more formidable. In her opinion, it made them look silly, instead.
She gave the talking one a thoroughly unamused look. “No, thank you.” He laughed in response.
“No, I insist! It would be a crime to let such a pretty filly like you wander unescorted through such… dangerous territory,” he said. “There might be thieves!” he added for good measure, eliciting laughs from the other ponies. Trixie kept her deadpan expression and waited for him to finish.
“As such,” the pegasus continued, “my companions and I would be happy to guide you along,” he said, pausing for effect and fluffing his wings before adding, “for a price, of course.”
Trixie kept her tenuous eye contact with the leader while weighing her options. The hat she was wearing obscured her horn completely, which was probably why the thieves were being so brave as to approach her. In truth, she was almost impressed by their coordination- she was trapped, after all- and they weren’t exactly attacking her. She decided it would be in bad sport to permanently injure them in any way, but she was still going to have her fun with this. She deserved it, after all.
“Well,” she began, faking a thoughtful tone. “I do suppose it would be nice to have a guide…” she trailed off, putting a hoof to her chin and pretending to think it over. “How much do you want?” she asked cheerfully, her eyes sparkling.
The pegasus had clearly not expected this response, and it caught him visibly off guard. “Lady, I don’t think you understand me,” he managed. The other ponies looked like they were waiting for a signal of some kind to ransack her caravan, but were unsure as to whether they should take the initiative or not. Trixie laughed.
“But I understand you quite clearly! This forest is so dangerous!” she continued in her mockingly cheerful voice. “Thank you for showing me the error of my ways! After all, if something like this could happen to poor little me, just imagine…”
Trixie trailed off, directing a rope of magic around the hooves of every pony behind the pegasus. At the same time, she magically took hold of one of the patches of gloomy cloud she could see through the forest canopy. In one quick motion, she whipped the rope to one side, sending the ponies sprawling to the ground with various yelps of pain, while making a flash of lightning and a loud crack of thunder emanate from the cloud. She held the three others upside-down, their hooves and jaws locked together for good measure. The pegasus leader whipped his head behind him to see the spectacle, his mouth hanging open.
She gasped in mock amazement. “Just imagine what might happen to you!” she ended, her forced cheerfulness giving way to pure amusement. By the looks on their faces, she decided that the leader was the only one who had the slightest idea as to what was going on. He turned to face her, and she couldn’t help but laugh at his expression.
“What in Celestia-“ was all he had time to say before she magically forced his jaws together, shutting him up, too. She resumed her deadpan expression. Time for the clincher.
“Clearly, you don’t know who I am,” Trixie said, all traces of amusement gone from her voice, her showmanship taking over, “so I’ll make this easy for you. You’re going to get out of my way, and you’re going to run somewhere else, preferably out of this wretched forest. And to the first pony you meet, you will tell them of your encounter with the Great and Powerful Trixie!”
The pegasus, his mouth still magically shut, simply stared in fear at the blue mare. She waited a handful of seconds for the words to sink in.
“Do I make myself clear?” she asked simply.
The pegasus nodded profusely.
“Good,” she said, releasing her magical hold on the group. Without the slightest of pauses, every one of them turned tail and ran as fast as they could into the tree line.
Trixie watched their retreating forms and smirked. That had been far more fun than she had dared hope. She had needed to get that out of her system. It took her a moment to look around the clearing again, to make sure there was nopony else left. She realized after a second, though, that the rain had stopped during her confrontation, and the sun was peeking through the clouds. She felt the warm rays on her face as if they were congratulating her on a job well done.
Smiling cheerfully, she magically nudged the tree out of her way and continued on toward Hoofington.
It was after a span of some hours that Trixie finally emerged from the forest into the sunshine. She breathed a sigh of relief and took in the scent that the rain had left behind in the field in front of her. If she never went through another forest before she died, it would be too soon.
She pulled out her map from the interior of the caravan, where it had been stuffed to avoid getting wet. She studied it carefully. If she was on the far side of the forest path, that would put her about… well, she wasn’t exactly sure, but Hoofington was about a day’s ride away either way, with nothing in between her and the city. She looked up to the field once more, expecting to see exactly that vast expanse of nothing, but was surprised to see the rooftops of a smallish village about a mile down the road. She glanced back at her map- it wasn’t listed, or, if it was, she couldn’t find it. It was probably small enough to avoid notice.
It was at this point that her stomach made a noise. Trixie licked her lips, looking back to the rooftops. Come to think of it, she had acquired a taste for Equestrian apples, and she was fresh out. Maybe she could get some more in the village. It would be a good opportunity to rest, surely. She pushed her caravan onwards, eager for some contact with ponies who weren’t trying to rob her.
Rolling into the village, she realized that she had been correct about the size of the settlement. There were only about a dozen buildings, with a handful of ponies in the cobblestone street. In the distance she saw scattered farmland and lumber mills. A smallish community, after all, but it looked friendly enough. She parked her caravan near the side of a building, where it would be out of the way, and hopped off, looking for an apple stand.
As she walked, Trixie couldn’t help but notice some of the ponies were giving her odd looks. She tried to ignore them. She was just being paranoid after her encounter.
When she did eventually come across an apple stand, her eyes were greeted by the sight of the delicious, perfect red fruits, arranged neatly into rows. Her mouth watered. The shopkeeper was in the back, counting something and writing numbers onto a clipboard. She cleared her throat, and the pony looked up with a welcoming smile.
“Howdy, ma’am,” he said. “Just come into the area?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact,” she responded, still looking at the apples.
“Thought so, you don’t look familiar,” the pony said. “We’re a popular way station out here, I think I would have seen you before.” He spied where her eyes really were focused, and shifted into business mode. “Fresh batch, just brought them in this morning from the rain. They’re as good as they’ll get.”
Trixie looked up at him, magically lifting a set of bits from her saddlebag. “I’ll take two dozen.”
The shopkeeper nodded. “Certainly!” In a minute, he had the apples gathered and put into a bag for her. She also levitated the bag, separating the apples into two groups and stowing them in her saddlebag, save for one, which she took a large bite out of. It really was delicious, and it brought an involuntary smile to her face. She tipped her hat in appreciation.
“Much obliged,” she said, her mouth full.
“Anytime, ma’am. Come back and see us.”
Trixie turned to leave back to her caravan, still munching on the apple, only to find a female orange unicorn standing not five feet behind her, giving her a glare. Trixie raised an eyebrow at her.
“The Great and Powerful Trixie,” the orange unicorn said slowly and flatly, emphasizing each word. Trixie nodded.
“The one and only,” she said, taking another bite of her apple. “My next show is in Hoofington, so-”
“Your show,” the unicorn repeated, with scorn in her voice. “That’s all you think your magic- your gift, is good for. Your shows.”
“Whatever brings in the bits,” Trixie responded, finishing her apple. She wasn’t sure where the unicorn was going with this, but she was going to let her continue. The orange pony huffed in annoyance.
“Exactly,” she said, continuing her glare. “You just don’t care. You blatantly disregard what you could be doing with your gift, and you do your shows.” The ponies in the street behind her had stopped at this point, looking to the conversation in curiosity. “You’re irresponsible. You’re… insulting.”
“You seem upset,” Trixie responded plainly. The unicorn pawed angrily at the dirt.
“I’m ashamed for you,” she snarled. “I’m ashamed for all the unicorns that I know, and all the unicorns that I meet, that we have such a role model as you. You’re an embarrassment, flaunting your gift around as if it means nothing to you. It’s only a way to earn money. You make me sick.”
Trixie gave the unicorn an odd look, trying to avoid looking at the gathering crowd of onlookers. “So, tell me, what do you do with your magic?”
“I help ponies!” she responded. “I do Celestia’s work- I aid in times of need! You only think of helping yourself! You’re selfish!”
Trixie held her gaze for a moment. She was used to dealing with neighsayers during her shows, but this situation was a little more delicate. She couldn’t afford to have this unicorn spreading such slander about her. She cleared her throat.
“Now, see, that’s where I’m afraid that you’re wrong,” she started. She bucked her head sideways, throwing off her hat and exposing her horn, which she lit with magical energy, causing it to glow. “You do Celestia’s work, and for that you should be proud.” Discreetly, she began to form a bright, spherical ball of artificial sunlight several hundred meters above the crowd. One or two of the ponies looked up and saw the growing ball, but she wasn’t done yet, and she hoped they wouldn’t give it away. “But you and I are not so different.”
“How dare- we are not the same!” the unicorn shouted, clearly offended.
“But we are,” she responded, focusing more and more energy into the ball. She tried to keep her face impassive, hiding her focus. “I am not as selfish as you would believe.”
“How can you-“ the orange pony started, but Trixie cut her off.
“How can I?” she asked. Looking proudly up to the sky and her creation, she set off the sphere. The ball exploded in all directions with a loud bang, sending brilliantly glowing star patterns throughout the sky, casting a golden glow over the entire village. The gathered crowd of ponies all looked up at the spectacle, their eyes alight with pleasure and their mouths open with delight. Trixie heard their whispers of glee to one another as the orange pony looked up to gaze as well.
“Look around you,” Trixie said, almost in a whisper, to the unicorn in front of her. “Look at their faces. Look at the joy I have brought them, even though they did not ask for it. Listen to their voices.” The orange unicorn looked back down at Trixie, her glare even more pronounced. “How can you call that selfish?”
“Tricks,” the unicorn hissed. “Tricks are all you know, and they are all you are.”
“That may be so,” Trixie said, turning to walk back to her caravan, “but I know where my place in this life is. Maybe you should find that out for yourself.”
It was nightfall when Trixie decided to stop to get some sleep. She pulled her caravan over off the side of the road, locked the wheels, and crawled inside the living area and lay down on her sleeping mat.
She tried to ignore the unicorn’s words, but she wasn’t quite able to. Selfish. For all her bravado, the word had still stung. She had been ready to walk away from her, but after that word, she had… she had felt the need to prove herself. Prove herself to everyone.
She had always been an entertainer. She had never questioned her life’s work. Not until she came to this land. Her answer today may have satisfied the crowd, but not herself. Not fully.
For the third time in so many days, she pulled the letter from Ponyville out of her bag, unfolded it, and read it once more. She quietly thanked the filly who had written it, folded it neatly, and put it back where it belonged. She felt the uneasiness wash away.
It was only then that she could sleep soundly.