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Broken Young Nag, Bitter Young Haggard

By: Gabriel LaVedier

Swallow’s Swallow was a bar a few miles outside of everywhere and a few miles deep inside of nowhere. The dank hole in the ground was secreted into a dim little ramshackle place at a cross road between many little towns, including Ponyville and the road to the Earth pony portion of Cloudsdale. The dark sign showed a swallow with a bottle stuffed in its beak, whose label was just three exes; beside that the name of the bar was printed in faded black paint.

Inside, the place was as dingy as it appeared from the outside. Far from being the cheerful and light appearance of standard Equestrian architecture, it more reflected the hard, utilitarian weariness inherent in Griffin architecture. The pillars of wood holding up the roof sagged just slightly, kept supported and reinforced by bands of rusty iron. The floors were made of wood, with stains of various types evident all around. The tables were squat, ugly wooden things, a mix of round and square, surrounded with low stools. Along the far back wall there was a long bar, the wood slightly polished, with a brass rail on the customer side, and several stools lined up along it. Behind the bar, polishing up a glass was a skinny, pale booted eagle griffin, looking down at his solitary customer. She was a strong, solid bald eagle griffin, which marked her as a member one of the more well-regarded and powerful griffin clans. “Let me guess, you want another shot of that garbage I keep importing from back home.”

“Forget home. I just don’t want the taste of pony trash in my beak right now.” The reply was curt, heavy with emotion but backed with a vague threat.

“Fine. What do I care? I’m just a bootie, after all. And you’re a bald. Not that it matters around here, but I don’t want you to punch my beak into my keel.” The male griffin set up a shot glass and poured a dark, oily liquid from a plain brown bottle.

“Just what is a bootie doing in Equestria, anyhow? I thought only emissaries and other bigwigs came around here.” Gilda took up the glass and dipped her beak tip into the glass, shuddering a little at the taste of the foul alcohol.

“It’s comfortable here. And there was no way I was getting my own hens. Not even one hen of my own, bootie or otherwise. I can guess why you came here.”

“One guess and then I really will punch your beak into your keel.” Gilda gave the male a withering look, dipping her beak again and giving a disgusted quake.

 Swallow let the look roll off of him, having been faced by far drunker and more dangerous patrons. “You have to be some functionary’s chick.”

Gilda snorted into her glass and looked down again. “Lucky guess. Yea, I was hatched back in the kingdom and moved here. First of first. Wasn’t my father proud? His first hen’s first egg and it’s a girl. Heh. At least here I wasn’t too much of a freak. They’ve got WAY more hens over here.”

“Don’t I know it? Too bad so many of them hook up with each other.”

“You trying to say something, bootie?” Gilda curled a taloned limb, shaking it slightly at Swallow.

“Woah! Woah! Hey! Chill. I’m not saying anything about the filly fooler demographic. Just that they hook up way before I ever meet them.”

“Guess you really didn’t care about getting hens anyway. I’ll bet you’re one of those creepers that hang out at the beach with binoculars looking at the mares. Flank-watching bootie creep.” Gilda double-dipped her beak and gagged a little bit.

“I’ll admit it. Mares have got some NICE bodies. All kinds of candy colors and fancy hairstyles. Why shouldn’t I want to get with some of that? It’s not like it can’t happen. Hell, there’s a hippogriff in the government.”

“Yea, if you buy their crap it’s all one, big love-fest. Just shut up and keep pouring.” Gilda socked back a decent guzzle from the small glass and pounded her foreleg on the bar, swallowing with a hard shudder.

“Jeez, bald, no need to torture yourself with that rotgut. There’s better ways to get plastered without punching yourself in the giblets. I’ve got some fermented fruit stuff back here. How about some apple brandy?”

“How about you shut the hell up and get me another glass right now!?” Gilda glared at Swallow with murderous eyes, already bloodshot from the strain of swallowing the hideous liquid and just on the verge of tears, perhaps from more than the alcoholic masochism.

“Fine. You want the well drinks, you got it. Your bits are plenty good here.” Swallow set out a second shot glass and poured another helping of the oily nastiness from the brown bottle. “That garbage must taste really damn good to wash down whatever you’ve got stuck in your craw.”

“Oh, aren’t you clever? Listen, bootie, less talk, more pouring out the liquor. This is the last place I’ve got left that’s still taking my money.”

“I can only imagine why the other places stopped being satisfied with your money.” Swallow muttered, moving off to bring out another small brown bottle. “I need the custom. Buy as much junk as you like.”

Gilda drank in the manner she had been for a while more, dipping her beak, showing her disgust, and then doing it over again. After a while she coughed a bit and wiped at her eyes. “How do we drink this crap?”

“We stay in the kingdom and intentionally keep ourselves from spending the extra shillings on imports from over here. It’s always easier to drink nettlebeer and scrub liqueur than buy carrot liqueur and wine. Why do you think I have a bar here? The selection is much better.”

“Feh.” Gilda dipped her beak into her declining first shot, slamming it down on the bartop with a sharp gag.

All of a sudden the door burst open, admitting an azure pony unicorn wearing a threadbare cloak sprinkled with stars, and a rather battered conical hat similarly scattered with stars. She swept one leg out and struck a grand pose. “Look and be amazed all you fillies and gentlecolts! It is I: the great and powerful Trixie!” A glow under her hat created several popping and sizzling fireworks behind her.

The two griffins looked on, nonplussed, regarding the apparently-insane mare with quirked brows. After a bit of staring, Gilda shoved her empty glass away and brought the other one closer to her. “Go ahead and fill that one up. I’ll get to it eventually.”

Trixie stood, waiting for applause that never came. Her face fell quickly after no applause or even attention fell upon her. “Fine then. Be that way! The great and powerful Trixie does not need your attention and admiration. She is perfectly self-sufficient.” She trotted her way to the bar and struggled her way up onto a stool. “But she DOES need a drink. The great and powerful Trixie will have some blueberry liqueur.”

“And the great and powerful Swallow wants to see you lay a bit on the bar. I don’t pour the good stuff unless I see some currency. Oh yea, right, and you, no shillings. I take local money only.” Swallow first addressed his comments to Trixie but quickly turned and pointed to Gilda.

“What shillings? I live here, you dorkus. Yea I don’t have much of a living around here but I make enough to eat and live. Here, take it.” Gilda reached into a pouch hanging from her waist and took out a single bit, placing it on the bar.

“Hmph! You should show more respect. Trixie is a major celebrity and a big deal. You should be grateful she has deigned to come to your little tavern and brighten your dingy hovel. But, fine.” Trixie’s horn flashed under her hat, the object rising up and revealing a pocket sewn into it. A bit floated out of it and settled itself down on the bar. “Now allow me to have my drink, peasant.”

“Right away, your imperial majesty.” Swallow uncorked a light blue bottle and poured the syrupy liquid into a shot glass. “Here you go. At least you won’t be throwing up in half an hour like this one.”

“Stuff it. I’m fine. I’m cool. I’ve been doing this for a while.” Gilda dipped her beak into the new glass of liquor and swallowed hard, trying not to show weakness in front of the new arrival.

“That smells hideous! Honestly, how could anypony drink that kind of junk? Why not have a delicious bit of liqueur like this?” Trixie levitated the shot glass to her lips and tilted it slightly, taking a small sip and finishing with a light gasp. “S-smooth.”

“Yea, it’s plenty smooth, lightweight. At least it tastes like something.” Swallow poured himself a shot of the blueberry liqueur and pounded it in a single swallow, not even batting an eye.

“So much for you wanting mares, creeper.”

“I have standards. I don’t date customers. It doesn’t work out well.” Swallow calmly started wiping down the glass he had just used.

“Do not speak of Trixie as though she is not here! You insulting creatures! Is this what griffins are like?”

“It’s what balds are like. They’ve got too much power and not enough tact.”

“Hey! Jerkwad… just because you think you can get away with that thanks to the local laws.”

“Yea, I can, for that reason. Deal with it, bald. You can’t push me around just because I’m a bootie. I only let you because I was bored enough. But now this mare is in here and she seems more entertaining.”

“Hmph! Well! At least YOU have some taste and class. You understand quality and power. And it is true. The great and powerful Trixie is a wondrous entertainer and very well-loved over the face of Equestria.”

“Oh yea? Then why are you sucking blueberry booze in a dirty little griffin dive?” Gilda dipped her beak and swallowed hard, still making the effort to not show any effect of the disgusting liquid.

“Have some respect; you’re drinking here, too.”

“Well, Trixie has had a few setbacks lately, mostly thanks to the uncultured rubes in some little nothing town called Ponyville.” Trixie took another sip and shut her eyes tight, missing Gilda’s quick aside glance.

“Ponyville…” Gilda sneered at the word and gulped a good dose of the liquor. She genuinely did not react at all to the passing. “Yea, I’ve been there. It’s totally a lame place. All sorts of geeks and dorks and flip-flops. Nobody cool at all.”

“Indeed!” Trixie boldly took a longer sip of liquor, sucking in a sharp breath as the alcohol burned down her throat and her every breath cooled her uncomfortably. “You’ve got the right opinion.” She said with some strain.

“Nothing good could possibly come out of Ponyville. I’ll never set a claw in that lame-o town again! And I’ll never let any pony make me look bad ever again.” Gilda pounded her shot. Then pounded the counter with tears in her tightly closed eyes. The move was incredibly stupid. But she was loath to make Swallow’s prediction about vomit come true.

“There’s a puke bucket behind the counter, just say the word.”

“Ugh! How vulgar. I suppose I was too quick to think you were one who could properly appreciate the great and powerful Trixie.” Trixie sniffed at Swallow and turned up her snout, taking another sip of booze. “That’s fine, though. Not everypony can appreciate Trixie’s tremendous talents.”

“Right. That’s the problem.” Swallow rolled his eyes and returned to polishing a glass.

“Hey, show some respect, bootie. She may be a lightweight but, hey, not everyone can be like me.” Gilda drank more from her second glass, finally used to it, at least used to the sensation of it.

“Lightweight? For your information, the great and powerful Trixie is no pony’s inferior. She is always the best. Anything anypony can do, Trixie can do better.” Trixie glared hotly at Gilda, her horn glowing faintly and raising her glass.

“Yea, any PONY. But I’ve had it with all those lame-o ponies like R- Like the ones in Ponyville. They had their chance. But I was just too cool for them. So I left and never looked back.” Gilda hammered her shot again and pounded the counter, beak pressed tightly shut.

“Oooh… Is that so? Well well well. It appears we’ve got a neeeeeeigh-sayer in here!” Trixie finished the last of her drink, gasping lightly at the feeling but sliding the glass towards Swallow. “Ano-another! Give me another.”

“One bit. I don’t exactly have a ton of this stuff.” Swallow looked midway between Schadenfreude and disinterested. He was enjoying the alcohol-induced esophageal self-destruction, but he was also getting bored with watching giant egos clash.

Trixie glared aside at Swallow, but levitated her hat and lit up the interior pocket. But nothing rose from it. “Oh. Ummm… Trixie has had some… Financial setbacks since her home was crushed in an incident completely unrelated to her forced fleeing from Ponyville and has not had time to see a bank, or family member or loan shark. Can Trixie somehow get a drink, without payment?” Trixie fluttered her eyelashes at Swallow, smiling her brightest superstar smile.

Swallow smiled and leaned in close to Trixie. “Of course you can.” He then moved away and put the bottle of blueberry liqueur back in storage. “Build a distillery and make it yourself.”

“Hey! Here!” Gilda pilled a bit out of her pouch and slammed it down on the bar. “Lousy bootie creeper… No, even worse! You’re a liar. You said you were all hot in the hinds for mares. Here’s a mare offering you a look at her hot, hot flank and you just shut her down like a jerk.”

“That’s right! What?” Trixie looked quizzically aside at Gilda, then quickly down at her flank.

Swallow took the bit and, to his credit, brought over the bottle of liqueur and poured out another shot. “I told you. I don’t care how nice her flank is. She’s a customer. And I have other reasons. Let’s just say, I don’t just slobber all over every mare I see unlike some folk I’ve seen.”

“Hey, shut up! What are you trying to say, dipstick?”

“What? Nothing. Why are you so defensive all of a sudden.” Swallow grinned at Gilda, waving his head subtly, to proclaim his verbal victory.

Gilda ground her beak. The bootie had gotten her. “Nothing. Nothing at all, creeper. Fine. Ok. Still treat her with some respect. This dive needs all the customers it can get, even braggers.”

“Hey now! Watch your tone, griffin! You may have bought a drink but that doesn’t mean you can disrespect the great and powerful Trixie!”

“Don’t give me that. I can tell you’re all hot air. Yea, those losers in Ponyville don’t know their flanks from a hole in the ground but I doubt they had much patience for some pony who talked about herself and never shut up. Don’t give me that, mare. You’re nothing compared to me.” Gilda shook her head at Trixie and leaned casually and confidently on the bar.

“Oh really? Well then, it looks like Trixie will have to teach you a lesson in manners and respect.” Her horn started to glow, and her newly-filled glass levitated, tipped toward Gilda.

“Hold it! No! None of that in my bar. Look, you two, finish your drinks and take this outside. There isn’t enough room in here for both of your egos if they’re going to explode.” Swallow took a griffin talon-pike from behind the bar and waved it at the two arguing females. “Screech and squawk, drunken muscle head ponies and donkeys don’t give me this much trouble.”

“Watch your language flip-flop! Fine, fine. We’ll go.” Gilda checked her glasses for any remaining dregs and passionlessly drained them down.

“Hmph. No wonder no mare will get near you. You lack taste, tact and the ability to appreciate pony perfection. Trixie leaves your hovel of a tavern, unimpressed.” Trixie gulped the shot, making her cough, suck breath and groan lightly on her way out the door.

Outside, the sun was bright and cheerful, a typical Equestrian day, which was incongruous with the dark and serious anger the two females were showing. Swallow followed behind them, the short-poled pike with a curved head pointed down, but easy enough to spring up. “You can do anything you want. Go crazy. Out here.”

Trixie and Gilda were already ignoring Swallow, stepping out into the crossroads while staring each other down. “So how can the great and powerful Trixie prove her perfect power? She is capable of doing anything you can do, only better.”

“No way, pony. No way. I’m the fastest flier ever out of the Junior Speedsters. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Nobody can beat me when I go soaring. Especially not some land bound unicorn.”

“Trixie does not need to soar to be better than you. She can do better than you no matter what it is. She, after all, awed those rubes in Ponyville at first by out-doing a unicorn, a Pegasus and a cocky earth pony. Nopony dares threaten the skills of the great and powerful Trixie!” Another explosion of magical fireworks popped up around Trixie.

“Think you’re all that, do ya? I’ll make you eat those words with a side of humble pie.” Gilda stretched her wings out wide, flapping them powerfully and rising into the air.

“Not a chance! Trixie does not know the meaning of humble or of failure. But she will be feeding you a big helping of crow. Griffins eat crow, right?” Trixie started off looking slick and overconfident, then looked suddenly confused.

“Guess there’s a few things you don’t know.” Gilda launched herself into the air with a skree of laughter and barrel rolled repeatedly as she got altitude.

“Ouch. Gotta give the bald that one.” Swallowed leaned on his pike, watching the proceedings with a touch of amusement.

“Laugh while you can, griffin! Trixie will make you sorry you ever crossed her.” Trixie’s hat levitated off of her head, setting itself on a log by the road, while her cape did the same.

“Yea right! Beat this!” Gilda continued to barrel roll, in spite of her belly full of slop. She formed a rough cone of air, drilling through a series of clouds with speed and precision, creating perfect holes through each of them. She finished her routine by reversing, halting her spin and flying through the holes, her air rush pulling the clouds inside-out and inside each other. “Let’s see you beat that, pony.”

“Ha! Such a basic trifle. Stand back! Trixie will show you how it’s done!”  Trixie concentrated hard, pouring power into her horn, one eye slightly open to allow her to take aim at the layered clouds. After a long moment of drawing in power she released a bolt with a cry, striking the trick-layered clouds. They glowed with an inner azure light before detonating loudly with a shockwave which knocked Gilda around in the air, a profusion of fireworks and colorful rainbow streaks radiating all over.

“Points for looks. But you call that beating her?” Swallow shook his head and looked up as Gilda righted herself and looked on in stunned surprise at the fading cloud of color and streaks.

“What was that? You think blowing up my cloud formations is doing better than me? Lousy pony bragger!” Gilda shook a claw down at Trixie.

“Well, try to do better than Trixie! You may wow little nothing crowds but Trixie’s tricks have amazed audiences from Stalliongrad to Trottingham. That was a classic that always brings the house down! Your peasant mind cannot comprehend the quality of my skills.” Trixie stood confidently and smiled up at Gilda.

“I’ll comprehend your FACE, pony!” Gilda swooped up and hooked a quick U-turn, tucking her wings and extending her talons, dropping like an aerodynamic stone.

“Yea, not quite a good line, bald.” Swallow had a pouch of nuts and berries at his hips, and he ate from it casually as Gilda swooped.

“HA! As if the great and powerful Trixie needs…” That was as far as she got. Gilda spread her wings and banked sharply, talons aimed at Trixie. She shrieked and dodged to the side, wind rushing past her head and fluttering her hair. “Ha-HA! You missed, griffin!”

Gilda flipped around quickly, braking in the air and hovering. “You think so, pony?” Gilda held up a small quantity of grayish cyan hair, giving it a small shake.

Trixie gasped, looking at the side of her head where Gilda had passed, finding a section cut from her mane. “You! You dare to desecrate the mane of the great and powerful Trixie! I’ll teach you to anger me like that!”

“Ouch! Better watch it, bald. Mares love their manes. A lot.” Swallow munched some more nuts and berries, his pike already behind the door of the bar.

“Uh, excuse me. Can you tell me where...?” A unicorn mare approached Swallow. She was bright orange, with a darker orange mane and a wheel of cheese on her flank with a wedge cut out of it. “Great day in the mornin‘! What is going on here?” She spoke with a distinctive accent, an Equestrian lakeland area mode of speaking.

“Oh, it’s either two egos bumping into each other with a vicious abandon, or they’re going to kill each other. So, a desperate plea for attention from their daddies or a fight to the death. Either way, how can I help you, miss?” Swallow turned his attention to the mare.

“Shouldn’t you do something to stop them, there? They’re gonna get hurt!”

“I would. But they’re dangerous. They’re gonna do as they… Oops! There they go again!” Swallow turned back to the two warring women, reaching for another clawful of fruit and nuts.

Gilda swooped up into the air, skreeing loudly and laughing all the while. Trixie watched her flying, lifting up a large quantity of dirt and pebbles from the ground, forming it in a sphere. She took a look at the flying griffin and suddenly cried out, flinging portions of dirt and pebbles with all the force her horn could muster. She drew up rocks and dirt into the sphere as she used it, constantly replenishing her supply as she tossed them at Gilda’s flying, twisting, rolling form. “You will not disrespect Trixie with impunity!”

“Ooooh, big word and big talk, pony! Too bad you can’t get me!” Gilda twisted and swooped in the air, gracefully and elegantly dodging all the shots of dirt and stones. She twisted and swooped low, as Trixie finally stopped the barrage. “I told you you couldn’t get me!”

“Is that so?” Trixie smiled hugely, her horn glowing and bringing a feather down from the air. She lightly stroked it over her forehead. Gilda reached up to feel her forehead and found that one of her feathers had been pinged off by the tossed stones. “Looks like I got you, griffin.”

“Ouch. A lock for a lock. Style points for her.” Swallow reached into his pouch and held it out towards the unicorn. “Fruit and nut mix?”

“Well that’s terrible, there! Fer cryin’ in the corn, that’s… oooh, cashews, almonds, peanuts, raisins and cranberries.” The mare levitated the offered snack to her and munched on it placidly. “It’s still really dangerous.”

“Yes, I realize. But, it’s not my job to make customers stop fighting once they leave the premises.” Swallow smiled a bit, and offered more of his food. “I’m Swallow, by the way.”

The unicorn levitated more of the snack to her mouth and munched on it with a smile. “Oh, jeepers, sorry. Forgot my manners dontchaknow? My name is Aggie. Aggie Cheddar.”

Gilda smoothed down her bangs and glared hotly at Trixie. “Think you’re smart, pony? Think you’re hot stuff because you can mess up everyone else’s best material? You haven’t got the GUTS to take me on in a real battle of skill, and you know it. Coward! Pony coward!”

“COWARD!? You dare to call the great and powerful Trixie a coward?! Come at me you insulting griffin! Anything you can do Trixie can do better!” Trixie lit her horn and raised another selection of pebbles, popping off small but bright fireworks behind her in an attempt to be dazzling.

Gilda started in on a zooming, acrobatic show of skill. It was genuinely good. She executed barrel rolls and tight loops, often at the same time, drilling through the sky with her talons before her, eyes narrow and focused on her task. She spread her wings every so often for rapid stops, jerking her body hard but allowing her to rapidly change direction and zig around madly in the air.

Trixie could see Gilda’s plan, and wanted to get her to stop. She was on the road to showing her up. So she began to launch streaming pebbles, the rocks trailing glowing colors and popping into clouds of dust like miniature fireworks as they approached Gilda. Trixie aimed for the planned flight path, the height of tricks and the areas around her primary flight feathers. Her colorful barrage of shooting pebbles and stone flak turned a clear sky into an iridescent gauntlet in three dimensions. A gauntlet which Gilda seemed to soar through with agitation but skill.

Though she knew it galled Trixie, Gilda couldn’t take pleasure in her success. She was working hard just to stay ahead of Trixie’s barrage. It was like flying through a swarm of bees. The little fragments stung her haunches in parts where the fur was thinnest; her feathers on her forebody were layered enough to deflect the small chips of color-washed stone. But even that was a blessing because she was avoiding the densest clouds by modifying her impromptu routine to dodge the bursts she knew were coming. She had to give it to the unicorn. She was sharp enough to know where she ought to be. A slightly-less-skillful flying would have been downed with feather damage and stinging welts quite quickly.

Trixie was starting to sweat, her horn glowing slightly brighter, the fragments flying quicker, her supply of pebbles rapidly diminishing. Even with the huge supply she had available on the dirt crossroad she was firing them off with such rapidity, and to so little effect, she was actually draining the supply. It only created a beautiful panorama of colorful streams and pops that, far from hindering the cocky griffin, made her routine all the more impressive, if not exactly what she likely had in mind.

“Oh my jeepers. They’re really going at it, aren’t they?” By that point, Aggie was sitting with Swallow, the large pouch of fruit and nuts settles between them, both of them eating out of it, she with her magic and he with his talon.

“I’ll give it to them, that’s a lot of hate. And that’s a lot of skill they’re powering with it.” Swallow, not taking his eyes off the action, missed the bag and touched his talon down on Aggie’s hoof. He quickly looked down at the same moment as Aggie. His talons shot away rapidly and both  looked back up at Trixie and Gilda, huge blushes marking their faces.

Trixie finally had enough. Her barrage was not working. So she took up another sphere made entirely of dirt. With some careful aim she launched the ball of dirt with a cry, the thing streaking like a rainbow-tailed comet. It reached Gilda’s altitude, and was easily dodged. But a following burse of energy make it pop like a firecracker in a glorious multicolored display whose concussion corona hit Gilda hard on the side, sending her tumbling into a spiraling downward fall. Trixie let out a cheer on seeing her opponent take a tumble. “Witness! The great and powerful Trixie has triumphed!”

Gilda was near the ground before her eyes popped open and her wings suddenly spread, allowing her to quickly turn towards Trixie and launch herself with a violent skree and the extension of her talons. She was almost upon Trixie when a magical field went up, attempting to restrain the charging griffin. The telekinetic field pulled at the talons and body of the straining griffin.

Trixie strained loudly, her horn practically crackling as her magical skill was pushed to its utmost. She had almost tired her opponent out entirely, but her own energy finally gave out and the field slackened enough to allow Gilda her forward momentum again. That was sufficient; she broke the magical grip and impacted Trixie, talons holding her hooves as she sat upon the prone pony’s body.

Both women snarled at each other, evenly matched in strength; Gilda was too drained to shove the pony’s hooves aside, and Trixie could not muster enough mana to forcibly throw Gilda off. They struggled together for a time, glaring daggers at one another. “You’re pretty good, pony.”

“You too, griffin.” The fight abruptly ended when the two moved their heads together and began to kiss, limbs disentangling from each others to wrap around their bodies, pulling them into the powerful, heartfelt kiss.

“Jeepers…” Aggie floated some nuts and fruit into her mouth, shaking her head and rising to her hooves. “Great day in the mornin’. Can you believe that?”

“Well, put that much hate together and throw those kinds of egos into the mix, that’s bound to happen. What can I say? They obviously impressed each other. Oh well.” Swallow looked to Aggie and nodded some. “So, you needed something when you came here?”

“Oh! Right. Well, I was gonna ask which way to get to Hoofingdale, but that’s not really that important anymore. Can I get myself a drink?”

“I have this policy about customers. Luckily for me, I’m on break. Come on in and I’ll get us something good for some talk.”

As Swallow and Aggie stepped into the bar, Trixie and Gilda broke their kiss, staring into each other’s eyes. The fire was still in there, but tempered into passion and respect. They had matched one another. Gilda panted hard, running her talons over Trixie’s back and flanks. “I’m Gilda.”

Trixie panted hard herself, leaning her head in to rest against Gilda’s keel. “The great and powerful Trixie… I’m glad to meet you, Gilda. Looks like we might make a good team.”

“I fly solo… I flew solo. But I could use a good partner. Making a living isn’t easy. And you know the business.”

“An equal partner.” Trixie nodded her head and huffed. “Now I wish I hadn’t lost my house in Ponyville.”

“I’ve got a little shack I use as an aerie. It’s pretty Griffin-designed but it’s a roof over your head.”

“The great and powerful Trixie is not to be housed in some griffin hovel! She deserves opulent surroundings of her own! She…” Trixie stopped in the middle of her tirade and thought about it. She coughed into her hoof and pressed her head against Gilda’s keel again. “A griffin’s aerie sounds lovely.”

The End