Prelude: Mock Chance
Trixie scowled. From her vantage point on the top of the hill, her violet eyes roved from one end of the town to the tree that marked the Ponyville library, her destination. The tree was home to the one pony that had ever bested her: Twilight Sparkle. She was the pony that had shamed The Great and Powerful Trixie, the pony who had erased her name from the show business.
A mare as great and powerful as Trixie lets no pony best her and get away with it! Trixie reviewed the plan in her head. First, she would cast an invisibility spell to sneak into town unnoticed. Second, she would approach the library, knock, and quickly drop her spell. It wouldn’t fool a unicorn as gifted as Twilight anyways. Third, she would, under the guise of friendship, ask for Twilight’s forgiveness. If all went according to plan, she would be invited in. Once inside, she would find a way to distract Twilight. While Twilight was distracted she could enact her revenge.
She may be able to best me in magic, but she’s gullible. Her trust in friendship will be her downfall. Trixie cackled in glee. Oh Trixie! You are truly the Great and Powerful! Her plan was perfect. Shrouding herself in the invisibility spell, she set off down the path to Ponyville.
As planned, no one noticed Trixie. In fact, Trixie didn’t see a single pony out and about. I could drop my invisibility spell, but I am no foal. The plan will proceed exactly as planned. She passed all the familiar sights from her last visit: Carousel Boutique, Sugar Cube Corner, the mayor’s office, the town square fountain. Squinting her eyes, she even thought she could see where her wagon had been demolished. Trixie had to admit that the ponies had done well in their repairs of the damage done by the Ursa Minor. She frowned at herself and shook her head. I’m not here to admire their handiwork. Determined not to let her lust for vengeance soften, she quickly shifted her focus back to the task at hand.
As Trixie rounded the corner of the street, her eyes fell on the sign beside the library door. Her gaze shifted to the door. Time to enact phase two of my beautiful plan. She approached the door and knocked. As the door opened she remembered to drop the invisibility spell and feigning cordiality, put on her best smile.
“You don’t have to knock, silly. This is a pu-” Twilight stopped, her eyes filled with shock. “Tri-Trixie, what a surprise! I wasn’t expecting visitors.” Her eyes narrowed in suspicion. “What are you back here for?”
Trying her best to look humbled, Trixie hung her head. “Trix-I mean, I came to ask for your forgiveness for the shameful behavior of my last visit. I wanted to know if there was anything I could do to redeem myself.”
Twilight didn’t respond right away. Instead she scrutinized Trixie. She noted that Trixie’s mane and coat were slightly darker than she remembered. Her cloak and hat were starting to fray at the edges. It appeared that Trixie had fallen on hard times.
Finally, deeming Trixie no threat, Twilight cautiously opened the door the rest of the way open. “Fine, you can come in and we can talk about this. It would be rude of me otherwise. Though I’m not sure I totally trust you after your last visit.”
Breathing a sigh of relief, Trixie mopped her brow and followed Twilight into the library. Instead, she ran face first into Twilight’s flank. Oof. “Twilight, one usually considers it rude to stop in front of a pony like that.” Trixie rubbed her head and shot a glare at Twilight, who didn’t respond. Trixie skirted around her into the library.
Trixie turned to look at Twilight and gasped. Twilight had not moved at all. Trixie waved a hoof in front of Twilight’s face. Trixie then poked Twilight when she didn’t respond, but even the poke failed to bring action.. Twilight’s eye’s were in a half blink, her mouth in a slight frown as if suspended in time. Even her mane was frozen, hanging in stasis on its own accord.
Confused, Trixie poked and prodded Twilight. Did I do this? Trixie nearly panicked. Hiding a frozen body would be impossible. This isn’t what I planned.
A sudden, deep laughter from behind her caused her to spin around. Peering into the gloomy depths of the library, Trixie strained to see who had laughed. Wait, the library was well-lit just a few seconds ago. Looking down, Trixie could see a fog starting to roll in. Her eyes darted around for the source of the frightening laugh. Her brow started to sweat and her knees began to shake. Finally she screamed as she hit her nerves end.“Who’s there? What is the meaning of this?”
The laughter drifted from the fog again. Trixie swung her head in the direction of the laughter and almost collided with a hooded pony, who was partially shrouded in the mist. Trixie recoiled in surprise. They stood for a second, examining each other. The fog swirled silently around them, settling down before either pony spoke.
The mysterious pony finally stepped back, a silly grin on his face. “What have we here? A prankster perhaps?” Trixie opened her mouth to speak, but the pony raised a hoof to cut her off. “Or, perhaps a pony looking for some... friendship?”
Trixie was at a loss for words, so instead she vigorously nodded. “Silly Trixie, you can’t fool me. My entire job is to seek out those trying to exact revenge.” The grin faded from the pony’s face.
“You see, my job is to try to prevent revenge. Revenge makes chaos and Princess Celestia doesn’t like that. However, since Equestria is so large, the Princess can’t take care of every little misdeed herself. She needs helpers, like myself, to maintain this utopia.” The mysterious pony paused and ran his hoof over the spines of some books on a nearby shelf before continuing. “ Normally, I just prod a pony bent on revenge in a different direction and avert the disaster. However, every once in a while, it’s fun to take a more active role. Relieves the boredom it does.”
Trixie trembled as the mysterious pony walked around the room, feeling the books and stirring up fog with his hooves in a bored gesture. “And you think I need the help of a pony like you to right my own problems?”
“Well, yes. You see, your case is... puzzling. Most ponies are easy to help. Most want to kill or cause grievous harm to another pony when enacting their revenge. I send them a little reminder of the regrettable consequences or an interruption of sorts, and most chicken out. You, however, only planned as far as getting to your target. After that, it gets murky. If I were to, say, place you here with a knife, you wouldn’t know what to do. You only have a notion of how important getting this revenge is to you.”
Now that she thought about it, Trixie could see where this mysterious pony was coming from. I never really did have a plan once I gained Twilight’s trust. What would I have done? I know I couldn’t bring myself to kill her. Trixie looked the pony straight in the eyes. “That still doesn’t tell me why you’re here. You could have just as easily sent me a reminder that I didn’t have a full plan.”
“True,” replied the pony, “but, I have an experiment of sorts that I’d like to try. Your case provides the excellent opportunity to try this experiment. So, I’ve decided to help you.
“By giving you more elaborate prod. A new idea that I’m trying, you could say. I’m going to send you back to a mock version of the day you ruined your reputation. This time, however, I want you to try to keep your reputation in good standing with all the ponies of Ponyville throughout your stay.”
The mysterious pony suddenly flipped back his hood, revealing that he was not a normal pony, but rather an ethereal blue unicorn. Even his mane was a transparent blue. What Trixie found most striking about the unicorn was his bright, yellow eyes and the way he walked. Every time he took a step, traces of magic flowed off his mane, drifting to the ground before disappearing. She watched the sparks of magic trail behind him as he walked around the room yet again. Before Trixie could comprehend who her mysterious visitor was, he turned back to look at her and a gust of wind flowed through her mane, gently causing it to dance in the wind. So many questions came to the front of Trixie’s mind, but she was robbed of all power to ask them.. “Wait! How... when... what... what do you hope to accomplish by sending me back?”
“To nudge you in the right direction, of course,” the unicorn replied as the fog surrounded him, slowly causing him to fade from sight. “Remember, nothing you see will be real, and nothing you do will affect reality.”
Questions still raced around Trixie’s mind like a barrage of meteors across the night sky.. She reached out a hoof to grab the unicorn, but her hooves slid right through. She could feel herself sliding back, pushed by a fierce wind. She gritted her teeth and covered her eyes, trying to see the unicorn, but he was quickly fading into the fog. “Wait!”
The first thing Trixie was aware of was the chill air slowly crawling up her back. She shivered despite her show cloak and hat.She found herself quickly pulling her cloak tighter around herself in an attempt to combat the cold. When she opened her eyes, the blinding rays of an early morning sun caused her to immediately throw up her hooves to shield herself, dropping her cloak. Immediately the cold air seeped back into her.
When her eyes finally adjusted to the bright light she lowered her hooves, pulled the cloak back around herself, and took stock of her surroundings. She appeared to be on a country road just outside Ponyville. For miles to either side of her were rolling hills of tall, green grass. In front of her was the road leading to Ponyville.
All right Trixie, you can do this. She took a big breath, slowly let it out to calm her nerves, and set out towards the town square. Her heavy wagon rattled and bumped over every notch in the rough road, just like she remembered.
When she arrived in the town square, nopony paid her any attention. She proceeded to set up her stage. After setting it up with all its nifty little firework dispensers she quickly darted behind the curtain to wait for an audience to gather. Everything seemed identical to the real event, and like before, an audience gathered.
Trixie felt obligated to try and mimic her original dialogue as best as possible, but unable to remember her words from so many months ago, she had to improvise. “Welcome, ponies, to the greatest magic show in all of Equestria! Watch and be wowed as The Great and Powerful Trixie performs feats of magic better than any magic ever seen!” She teleported out onto the stage in an impressive display. She waited for the admiration of the audience, but none came. To her shock, a rotten tomato flew from the audience, hitting her square on the horn. The juices ran into her eyes, stinging them. Tears welled up and she had to grit her teeth to keep from crying. Leaning low, peering through her watering eyes, Trixie growled, “Alright, who’s the insolent foal who threw that?”
Oops, came a voice in Trixie’s head. Even as she watched all the ponies froze mid-action, as if stopped in time. The familiar fog rolled back in. The unicorn strode out of the fog and stopped by Trixie’s side. He had a look of confusion on his face. “Now where did I go wrong?”
Trixie glared at the unicorn. “I know that isn’t how the show started before. You messed it up on purpose, didn’t you?”
The unicorn ignored Trixie. Instead, he mumbled to himself, “Hmm... I see. This isn’t a perfect system yet, but I think I got it.” Seeming to notice Trixie for the first time, the unicorn spoke to her. “I never said that this would be exactly the same as you remember it.”
Before Trixie could object, the fog had blown away again, and she found herself reacquainted with the hill overlooking Ponyville she had been on.
Trixie glanced around. As far as she could tell she was at the same starting point as before. Instead of taking the time to look at her surroundings she immediately set off for the town square.
The same ponies paid her no attention. She set up as fast as possible, then darted behind the curtain, taking a few seconds to wait for a crowd to gather. When she was sure she had an audience, she began. “Welcome ponies to the greatest magic show in all of Equestria! Watch and be wowed as The Great and Powerful Trixie performs feats of magic greater than any magic ever seen!” Again, she teleported to the center of the stage. Not knowing what to expect this time she decided to add a bit before any tomatos were thrown. “Thank you all for coming to see The Great and Powerful Trixie.”
With a flourish she set off fireworks. She expected the usual ooo’s and aww’s, but this time she heard something very unusual, applause, it came from everypony. She spun around, half expecting another pony to be showing off, then realized, I forgot the firework dispensers! She turned back to the audience and blushed.They’re really impressed by plain old fireworks? Well then.
Caught in the moment, Trixie set off more fireworks. Reds, yellows, and blues burst in puff-balls, ribbons, and other various shapes. Before she could stop herself she yelled out her challenge: “Come one, come all! Test your talents against The Great and Powerful Trixie’s! What you see before you is only a taste of my true power.”
Immediately, a pony from the audience called out. “Oh, ya! That may have been impressive, but what makes you think that you’re any better then one of us? After all, we do have our different talents.”
Trixie glanced around. “Who else here has as impressive repertoire of feats as I?” Her horn flared and a burst of multi-coloured sparks flew into the air. They slowly rearranged themselves, taking the form of a blue colored bear and a mare, much smaller then the bear. The mare waved a wand and Trixie started her well rehearsed story of her encounter with the Ursa Major.
Half way through, a stallion jumped up on stage. The stallion turned to face the audience, pointing to Trixie at the same time. “Do you guys honestly believe that this... this... show mare could actually beat something that is rumored that not even the Princess will take on head to head? This mare is a fake I say! A fake!”
Trixie grabbed the pony in her telekinesis and shoved him off stage. “Perhaps, but I assure you, I have more stories to tell, better stories. In fact, I can do more elaborate pictures too.” Concentrating intensely, Trixie flared her horn. This time, rather then sparks, the translucent image of a mare walking down a path floated high above the audience. The stallion that had called Trixie a fake, stared, dumbfounded.
Trixie launched into her tale. “One day, I was walking down a long and lonesome road. It was a road normally well traveled by ponies, but that day, it was strangely barren of any pony. Anyways, I was walking along, when in the middle of the road there appeared a gliverex.”
“Hey, wait a minute!” A cyan pegasus flew straight at Trixie, coming to a halt right in front of her. “Is there even a creature called a gliverex?” The pegasus, who Trixie now remembered as Rainbow Dash, shoved her face snout to snout with Trixie. “I don’t think so.”
Trixie pulled back in disgust. “You silly foal, of course there’s such thing as a gliverex. Look it up in any good reference book. I may exaggerate some of my feats, but I know my facts. Now, back off before I force you off stage.”
Before Rainbow Dash could fly back to the audience, Twilight Sparkle jumped up and walked straight over to Trixie. “No, Rainbow Dash is right. There is no such thing as a gliverex.” The audience gasped. “I should know. Back at the academy, I took several courses on mythical beasts, and never once did my book, or the professor mention such a beast.”
Trixie growled at Twilight and shoved her off the stage like she had shoved the stallion. Before anypony could react, a light orange mare jumped up and bit onto Rainbow Dash’s tail. Rainbow Dash started to struggle fiercely with the other mare.
“Let go Applejack! No pony treats my friends like that!” With an extra hard tug, Rainbow Dash broke free of Applejack’s grip and flew at Trixie. Trixie stepped back. Is she really going to attack me? Trixie closed her eyes and turned her head, ready to receive the blow. It never came. When she opened her eyes, she jumped back in fright. Rainbow Dash’s hoof was inches from her face; frozen in time.
Once again, fog rolled in, covering the scene. The unicorn walked out of the fog, his cape making interesting swirls in the fog. “No, no, no. You’re supposed to make a good impression on the locals. Not get them to attack you!”
Trixie shrugged. “How was I supposed to know Rainbow Dash would try to hit me?”
“Think, think about your performance. You started off well, but then you challenged them. At least this time you didn’t embarrass them by making fools out of them. Then you went and boasted of things obviously not true. Though, I have to admit, those would make good stories if you work on them a bit. Lastly, before I pulled you out, you assaulted one of the towns most important ponies, not to mention the one who called you out before.
The unicorn paused and walked around Trixie, examining her. “You know, I’ll say this again, but I think those stories could be really good. A little work, such as using a hero instead of yourself, and those stories could wow audiences everywhere. That was a nice bit of conjuring you did there with the second story. Perhaps you should focus on your strengths? Say, magically showing, as well as telling your stories?
Trixie turned her head to follow the unicorn as he walked around her. “Perhaps you’re right. If you’ll send me back again, maybe I’ll focus on the stories. I... I do have a story that could wow the audience. All right, send me back.”
“ Okay, but this is it. Three strikes and you’re out.” The unicorn gently tapped Trixie on the shoulder with his horn. “Now, you get one more chance. Fail at this and I might have to send a stronger prod to deter your need for vengeance.” The unicorn spun around and trotted back into the gloom. The gray fog blew away, taking with it the unicorn.
For the third time that day, Trixie found herself on the hill overlooking Ponyville. She sighed, and immediately began to work her way to the town square.
When she arrived at the town square Trixie paused. Perhaps a change of scenery will help. She turned back towards the entrance of Ponyville and set off. At the outskirts of town, she set up her stage. This time, she made sure to leave the stage as empty as possible to make room for the pictures she would conjure.
As Trixie finished setting up, she sent a burst of magic flying high into the sky. The flare turned into a colourful display of herself. Underneath the picture, the words: The Master of Storytellers, Trixie, invites all to come and listen as she tells stories of great heroism!
The words hung in the air instead of fading. Quickly, ponies began to pour from the Ponyville entrance. Trixie smiled at how easy it was to get the attention of ponies.
“Welcome,” Trixie shouted as the last of the ponies gathered around her. “Today, you shall see story telling like you’ve never seen before! Today, I shall not only tell you the story, but conjure images that will wow you all.” Trixie closed her eyes and concentrated.
When Trixie opened her eyes, the image of a small town, set up much like Ponyville, had appeared, floating high above the audience. “Today, I will tell the tale of how a mare of outstanding magical ability vanquished one of the mightiest of all beasts, The Ursa Major!”
In the town, the audience could see ponies going about normal, everyday business. “The day started out normal,” began Trixie. “But, for one mare, it wasn’t a normal day.” A purple unicorn trotted up as the town faded and was replaced by a library. “You see, this mare had been to a magic show that day. In the show, the show master had bragged about being able to vanquish an Ursa Major. Being the smart mare that she was, she had immediately gone to the library and begun researching Ursa Majors. She didn’t believe the show master, and she had noticed the strange behavior of two colts. She could easily see them doing something as foalish as going off to find an Ursa for the show master. While she knew it would be unlikely that they would find one, she thought it best to be prepared to fend one off.”
While Trixie spoke, the mare walked about her library, pulling down various books. The mare flipped through a couple and threw them over her shoulder to land sprawled on the ground. Finally, the mare seemed content with one of the books she had pulled off the shelves. She went over to a stand, plopped the book down, and began to read.
The scene faded and was replaced, once again, with the town. In front of the audience, a very real looking Ursa Major formed. The audience drew back in fright, gasping. Some pony shouted out, “Run! It’s an Ursa,” before drawing back sheepishly at his mistake. Immediately, the Ursa began to rampage through the town conjured up by Trixie. It flattened buildings, it smashed trees, and it roared at fleeing ponies.
Trixie teleported to the edge of the stage and leaned forward. “Indeed, the mare had been right. The two colts foalishly went out into a nearby forest in search of an Ursa. Against all odds, they found one. Of course, it was much bigger then they expected, and they took off running, leading it straight to the town.” While Trixie spoke, the Ursa stopped rampaging as a stallion, in a deep green show pony’s cloak and hat, adorned with the traditional stars of a magician, stepped out from his carriage and boldly faced the Ursa.
“The two colts went straight to the stage master. They had figured that he, if anypony at all, would be able to vanquish the Ursa. However, this wasn’t to be. No matter what the stage master tried, the Ursa always managed to avoid him. In fact, the Ursa came close to smacking the stage master. Luckily for him, the mare had finished her studies and had run up behind the Ursa, ready to take it on.”
The mare appeared in the scene, behind the Ursa. The audience ooed and awwed as the mare proceeded to fight the Ursa. Bolts of yellow and red flashed on stage. The Ursa swiped at the mare, but she nimbly dodged. She threw some more bolts at the Ursa, and it retaliated with some more swipes. Finally, with one final grandiose spell, the mare sent the Ursa flying back. Slowly, it faded. The ponies of the town crowded around the mare, cheering. In the background, the stage master sulked away, fading into the shadows.
Trixie’s audience cheered and stomped their hooves as the story concluded. Trixie took a bow, basking in the applause. “Thank you, thank you!
Before she could turn and leave, two young unicorn colts galloped up and introduced themselves as Snips and Snails. “Oh Master Storyteller Trixie, is it really possible to vanquish an Ursa Major?”
Trixie smiled at the two eager unicorns. “Of course it is. I myself-” The audience leaned forward in anticipation. Trixie quickly covered her mouth with her hooves. Her eyes wide with sudden alarm. “I didn’t mean-” She didn’t bother to finish, choosing to run into her wagon instead. She slammed the door.
Calm down Trixie. You can still salvage this. No one will remember in the morning. She slid down onto her flank and groaned. Though, with my luck I’ve already ruined my chance. Trixie got up and walked across the small wagon floor, she slid into her bed and closed her eyes.
The sound of rapid banging and the repeated calling of her name woke Trixie up. Irritably, she swung her hooves onto the floor and walked over to the door. While walking to the door she noted her reflection in a mirror. Her mane was a mess, but she had no time to deal with it now. She sighed, she would deal with it after she dealt with the annoying visitors.
She cracked open the door. Outside she could see Snips and Snails, their eyes filled with terror. “What is it that you insolent foals need?”
“Trixie, Trixie! We need your help. We have a big problem.” The whole town lurched. The entrance gate to Ponyville was suddenly and violently forced from the ground, flying into the wall of Sugar Cube Corner. Snips cowered back and whispered, “A very big problem.”
Trixie stared at the advancing Ursa. She shook her head and took a deep breath. Okay Trixie. Just give it a try. You can vanquish the Ursa Minor. You saw what worked last time. Trixie gulped nervously and focused all her magic. Instead of a gentle breeze like she had planned, a harsh wind sprang up. Rather than soothing music from reeds, a harsh, screeching tone assaulted the ears of everypony.
Angered by the sudden, screeching tone, the Ursa Minor turned, stood up on its hind legs, and roared. It brought its paw smashing down on top of a house. Splinters flew everywhere; including into the Ursa Minor’s paw. In anger, it swiped again at the house. The house walls came crashing down, sending more fragments of wood spinning off into the night.
Turning around, the Ursa Minor looked for the source of the noise. All it saw was the bright glow of Trixie’s horn. It charged, coming to a stop inches from Trixie’s face. It roared as loudly as it could.
The combination of the roar and flying spittle broke Trixie’s concentration. Her nerves reached their end and she curled up into a ball, waiting for the Ursa Minor to do what it would with her. Pictures of the Ursa biting her or mutilating her filled Trixie’s mind.
Please Twilight. Any time now would be great, she desperately thought. Her eyes swiftly darted from one end of the town square to the other. She spotted, from the direction of the library, Twilight, galloping towards the Ursa Minor as fast as she could. Trixie’s eyes filled with hope. Yes! I’m saved!
Twilight slid to a halt behind the Ursa Minor. Squeezing her eyes shut in intense concentration; she began to work her magic. Rather than a harsh wind, like Trixie’s, Twilight summoned a gentle breeze. Beautiful, soothing music drifted with the wind. The Ursa immediately fell onto all four paws. Its eyes glazed over, as if it was falling asleep. It wobbled, threatening to fall over and squash some nearby houses.
Looking into the distance, Trixie could only watch in awe and envy as the Ponyville water tower disconnected itself from its base, emptied itself of water, and gracefully soared through the barn full of cows, and landed, full of milk, into the paws of the Ursa Minor. As a final touch, Twilight picked up the Ursa and sent it floating back into the Everfree Forest. Finally, the Ursa Minor vanished from view, blissfully asleep. Twilight sunk to the ground, exhausted. The ponies around her gaped in wonderment at this feat of magic. Her friends cheered and crowded around her, congratulating her.
This is your big chance Trixie. Just go up to Twilight and compliment her on her skills. Trixie hesitated however. She couldn’t help but also help but feel a tad jealous. Trixie felt that she should have been the one to vanquish the Ursa. She had seen it done before. Why wasn’t I able to replicate Twilight’s tricks? I’ve seen them before and they didn’t look that hard.
While ponies crowded Twilight, praising her magic skill, Trixie slowly shuffled away a look of anger in her eyes. As she walked she noticed a fog rolling in to cover her hooves. The town disappeared and Trixie found herself back in the dark library.
“So, what did you learn?” The gentle voice of the unicorn drifted from the fog. Trixie turned and there he was. He was sitting right next to her on the ground. Trixie looked around. The library hadn’t changed a bit. Twilight was still frozen in time in the doorway and the candles were just as dark as it had been when she had first entered the library.
Trixie sighed. “I learned a few things I guess. I learned not to take an audience for granted, bragging can get you in trouble, I should stick to what I do best, story telling, and old habits die hard. Oh, and I suppose I learned that I will be able to change, even if it takes a long time.”
The unicorn prodded Trixie. “And? Do you still seek revenge on Twilight?”
“I don’t know. Part of me does and the other part says to just walk away.”
“Very well.” The unicorn stood up and shook off some creeping fog. “I’ll see to it that something comes up to deter you... just in case you still want that revenge.” He turned and walked into the gloom. The fog was dragged with him, leaving Trixie in the darkened, empty library.
“Umm... Trixie? Why did you put out all the candles?” The voice behind her caused Trixie to spin around. Twilight stood in the door, a perplexed look on her face.
Before Trixie could respond, there was a loud thump from upstairs. The thump was followed by a cry of surprise. It was followed seconds later by the noise of hooves coming down the stairs. “Sorry Twili-” Rainbow Dash stopped mid-sentence as she saw the other pony in the room. She growled as she recognized Trixie from her previous visit. “Trixie... I told you, if you ever showed-”
Trixie held up a hoof to stop Rainbow Dash. “Never mind, I was just on my way out anyways. Trixie knows when she isn’t wanted.” Trixie shot a glare at Rainbow Dash, turned hoof, and trotted out of the library.
Two ponies sat on a roof across from the library. The first turned to the unicorn. “Do you think she could change?”
The unicorn silently watched the scenes on the streets below. He listened to the exchange of words between Trixie and Rainbow Dash, ignoring the first pony for the moment.
As Trixie walked out, a look of scorn on her face, the unicorn turned to the hooded pony next to him. “Yes, she has proved capable of it just now, merely by walking away from a situation that she would have normally stayed in and argued. Give her time Princess and maybe someday she can earn redemption.”
The Princess stood up and spread her wings. Lightly, she jumped from the roof and took flight. “If I can repent, so can she.” Her last words lingered in the air above the unicorn.
Chapter 1: Forest Travel Can Be Dangerous
High above the Manehattan Player’s Theater sat Luna, a cape and hood rested around her shoulders. She sat unmoving, just watching. Down below, ponies of all backgrounds were flooding into the theater.
A sign on the wall of the theater announced a new performer, Master Storyteller Trixie. The sign promised the audience to be wowed by the heroic tales of different ponies. The mysterious pony softly laughed.
It’s been two months and I still follow this pony. Why? Before Luna could answer why, the street barker called out that the show was starting in five minutes. She smiled to herself, flipped up her hood, and lightly jumped off the roof, landing in the street below. Maybe it’s because I want to see her fully redeemed with my saviors.
Luna walked into the theater and chose a spot in the center of the seats. For the past two months, since Trixie’s encounter with the ethereal helper, Luna had been keeping an eye on her. Now, she almost considered Trixie a project. Something to do, something to maybe learn a little bit out redeeming one’s self. Slowly, a plan had formed and now, the plan was about to officially start. A simple compulsion spell, a merry little chase, and some clues would lead Trixie back to Ponyville via the Everfree Forest. There she would meet a particular pony and then maybe, just maybe they could work together enough to become friends.
The forest made an ideal place for her plans for several reasons. The first reason had to do with location, it was close enough to everypony involved for them to easily travel to and from. The second reason had to do with its natural affinity to magic. The forest’s affinity to magic would make it easy for the pony to manipulate the surrounds inside the forest, and create the trials she had in mind. The third reason had to do with the relative safety of the forest. Despite the rumors about the forest, it was quite safe to travel, but had just enough danger, if one wandered off the path, to make things interesting. lastly, if the need arose, Luna could easily get to Trixie and her companion.
Of course, there’s more to the plan then that, but I have to first get the two ponies into the forest. The pony’s attention focused on the stage as the lights dimmed and out walked the very mare she had come to see.
Trixie was nervous. She had been lucky to get this job. Last time, she had been in Manehatten as a traveling show mare. She had had to run out of the city after becoming too boastful. This time she had come back as a storyteller, and the manager, who remembered chasing her out, agreed on two terms. Trixie stuck to storytelling and storytelling only. Secondly, she had also had to agree to not boast about feats that she hadn’t actually done.
The lights dimmed on stage and the stage manager whispered, “You’re on, go get ‘em.” He paused before adding, “If it helps the nerves, I think your stories were told spectacularly during your rehersals.”
Trixie glanced at the stage manager once before marching out on stage. Okay Trixie, you’ve performed before. This is… just a larger audience then you’re used to. She looked at the audience and gulped. A lot bigger.
Swallowing her fear Trixie reared up and conjured a picture of a dragon sufficiently large enough for everypony to see. Her skills in conjuring pictures had improved since her strange encounter in Ponyville, and now she used that to her advantage. In fact, she felt that she had improved enough that she could add sound. The dragon which appeared in front of the audience not only looked real with its dull, red, gleaming scales and rough texture, but it also roared at the audience, causing them to lean back in mock fright.
“Good evening ponies! Sit back and be wowed as Master Storyteller Trixie tells you the tale of how six ponies banished a dragon that threatened to melt all the snow and flood Equestria!”
Trixie sent the dragon flying to the top of a mountain, conjured to scale of course, that had appeared on stage. Immediately smoke began to drift from the cave in which it disappeared, and the audience could hear a faint snoring. “Our story begins in the small village of Ponyville.” The mountain swirled, collapsing in on itself in a bright flash. It was replaced with a tree house, of which, six ponies had appeared just beside it. “These six mares were the best of friends. Upon hearing the news of the dragon, they tasked themselves with banishing it to another part of the land.”
With grandiose effect, Trixie told the story she had only heard rumors about. The audience ooed as they watched the six prepare for the journey and set out. They booed at the six mares as tension built when one mare, wanting to go faster, complained to the lead mare about how the timidness of another one of the mares was slowing them down. They ahhed as each mare in turn tried to trick or force the dragon into leaving. They groaned as the dragon, now enraged at the efforts of the mares, attacked. They began cheering, but quickly fell silent as the timid mare watched her friends get attacked and finally took a stand herself, telling off the dragon and sending it away to find another place to take a nap.
With as much special effect as possible, she had the budding heroine vanquish the dragon, which flew away and burst over the audience in a rainbow of sparks. The crowd cheered, calling for an encore.
“Thank you all. Thank you all very much for coming tonight!” Trixie bowed again and again. “Thank you all, you were a wonderful aud—” Trixie stopped mid-bow. It was then that she noticed the hooded pony. There was something in the way the pony stood so calmly, something mysterious, that caused her to notice the pony. The pony wasn’t clapping, but Trixie could almost imagine seeing the approval from the pony.
Despite the distance between them, Trixie could almost see the faint grin under the hood and the small beckoning flick of the head. Something about the pony was familiar. Something urged Trixie to go and greet the pony. Trixie felt compelled to ask... something, but she couldn’t place her hoof on it.
The mysterious, hooded pony turned and trotted towards the exit. Ignoring calls for more from the audience and questions from the stage manager, Trixie jumped offstage and shoved her way through the crowd. That pony seems so familiar. I must find out who this pony is!
Finally pushing her way through the last of the crowd, Trixie ran out of the theater and into the chill evening of Manehatten. She looked both directions and saw the tail end of a cloak disappear into an alley to her left.
“Wait! Who are you?” Trixie galloped quickly past the entrance in pursuit of the mysterious pony. Again, she only saw the tail end of the cloak disappear around another corner. Panting, Trixie galloped around the second corner. She rounded it just in time to see the pony jump over a fence and disappear.
Not able to jump over the wooden fence, Trixie came to a halt at the end of the alley and glared at the obtrusive object. I could try to teleport over, but with no way of knowing what’s on the other side, it would be dangerous. Trixie sat down with a huff of frustration. Maybe the pony will be back for another one of my shows.
Trixie was so distracted that she didn’t notice the small sparks of magic and the piece of paper that was drifting down until it landed lightly on her forehead. “Huh? What’s this?” Trixie grabbed the paper and under the glow of her horn, read it. It didn’t say much, only: Ponyville is a nice place to perform.
Trixie read the paper over and over. If the writer knows about Ponyville, then surely they know how well that went for me before. Sighing, she dropped the paper on the ground and was about to head back to the theater when she noticed something peculiar. On the flip side of the paper it read: You must travel quickly now if you are to reach the village in time.
Puzzled, Trixie picked the paper back up. Pondering what this new discovery could mean, she slowly retraced her steps back to the theater. Back in her room, she took off her cape and hat and prepared for bed. However, no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t get her mind off the second part to the note.
Suddenly it all clicked. The day after tomorrow was a festival that most of Equestria celebrated. It was a festival honoring the heroes’ of the village, town, or city. As part of the festivities, they had a unicorn magically tell the story of the heroes greatest accomplishment.
Perhaps that’s what the note means. But why Ponyville? Again, it came to her suddenly. Ponyville would be perfect! I know the perfect story to tell too. Trixie resolved to leave the next morning. Perhaps this time I can do better. The memories of her last visit to Ponyville lingered as she lay her head down and fell asleep.
The early morning beams of the sun somehow managed to sneak past the curtains. Groaning, she turned over and put her hat on her face, hoping to get a few extra minutes of sleep. The sun was unrelenting however, and Trixie finally gave up. Yawning, Trixie walked over to a wash basin and splashed the frigid water on her face.
C... c... cold! Quickly, Trixie grabbed a towel and furiously scrubbed to mitigate the numbness that had begun to set in upon her face. Finally satisfied, she trotted about her room, humming a merry tune. Today was the day she would leave for Ponyville, and she wanted to get an early start. Besides, she would have to tell the manager of the theater. She gathered her meager belongings and happily trotted out the door and down the hall to the office of the manager.
Only when she was knocking on the door did it occur to her that the manager might not even be up. To her pleasant surprise, however, a faint “come in” followed her knocking. Pushing the door open, she walked in. The manager sat at his desk, furiously scribbling something down in a thick folder.
“Ah, Master Storyteller Trixie! Just the mare I wanted to see!” The manager paused to light a fat cigar. “The audience absolutely adored you last night! Profits went up twenty percent. I already have you booked for another show five days from now.” The manager flipped around some papers and thrust them at Trixie. He played with the smoke from his cigar, twisting the smoke into swirls, as he waited for Trixie to finish reading.
The papers showed an article proclaiming Trixie’s story telling as “wonderful”, “marvelous” and “five star all the way”. Trixie barely glanced at the article before turning back to the manager. “That’s great news, manager, but I didn’t come here to brag. In fact, I was just about to tell you about my trip.”
“What!” The manager stood up, his hooves knocking over papers and baskets from his desk. “You just had a groundbreaking performance though! You can’t leave now.” The manager sat back down, leaned back, and began fanning himself furiously. He snubbed the cigar and lit a new one, hoping it would calm him down.
Trixie backed away in surprise. “Oh no, I’m not here to tell you I’m quitting. I mean, I should be back in time for my next show.” Trixie glanced around the room nervously. It wasn’t that the manager made her nervous or anything, but Trixie was used to the open road a traveling showmare faced and the office made her feel as if she were held in place. “I’m going to Ponyville in hopes of participating in the story telling of their town’s hero, for the festival.”
The manager stopped hyperventilating and eyed Trixie suspiciously. “You’re not just saying that, are you? Weren’t you chased out of that town anyways? What could possibly be there for you?”
“No sir, I have every intention of coming back to perform here.” Trixie fidgeted with her hooves. “It’s just… well you see… I want to go back and try again. I think I can make it up to the ponies of Ponyville.” Trixie turned to leave. “I’ve already packed.” Trixie hefted a small shoulder pack to show the manager. “Just don’t worry. I’ll be back in time.”
The manager watched her leave, his eyes never straying from her. Just before the door closed he called out to her. The door stopped and Trixie peered back in. “Umm… Good luck. And… have a safe trip.” Trixie nodded and closed the door.
Outside the theater Trixie breathed a sigh of relief. That had gone better than she expected. Now... to get to Ponyville. That should be simple. I’ll just teleport. Focusing her magic, Trixie prepared to teleport. In a blinding flash she disappeared… and felt herself jerked back. It felt as if some force had grabbed and yanked on her tail, hard. Opening her eyes, she saw that she was still outside the theater. She sat down for a few moments, dazed and confused. When she regained her composure, she tried again. This time it felt like she had galloped into a wall. She fell back, hard. Again, she sat there for a few moments, dazed and confused, before opening her eyes. There was no forest, only the usual hustle and bustle of the morning Manehattan traffic, nothing had changed.
All right, this is strange to say the least. It was at that moment that Trixie noticed a spark of magic and the arrival of a slip of paper. It read: Nice try, but do you think the Ponyville ponies would like it very much if you just appeared in the middle of their town square?
To nopony in particular Trixie mumbled, “I suppose not. But what about to the edge of Ponyville, like last time?”
To her surprise, the paper tingled and upon flipping it over she read: Aww… but what fun would that be? There’s no adventure in that. Tell you what. I’ll let you teleport to the edge of the Everfree Forest. But no further! Again, the paper tingled, and Trixie flipped it over. Perhaps you’ll even find a new story to tell your audiences.
Perhaps this mysterious messenger is right. Sighing, Trixie rolled her eyes and focused her magic. She was familiar enough with the forest from her prior travels to Ponyville that she felt comfortable teleporting to the edge of the forest. Focusing her magic, there was a bang and a flash, and she was gone. This time, there was no sensation of being grabbed or yanked back. When she opened her eyes, she found herself at the edge of the forest.
On a hill overlooking the path to the forest Luna, still covered with the hood, watched Trixie. That was a close call, but I managed. she smiled, satisfied with her work. She watched Trixie hesitate in front of the forest a second longer before walking away.
Now to go and retrieve Trixie’s companion. Luna flipped back her hood and breathed deeply. Luna found the chill air to be refreshing. After a few seconds, she turned away, flipped her hood back up, and with a flash and a bang, disappeared.
Luna appeared outside a familiar cottage. She took a second to examine it. Everything was as she remembered it, the grassy roof, the cheery river, and an abundance of animals. She finished examining the cottage and walked towards the door.. Luna ignored the bunny who chattered fiercely at her. Stopping outside the door, she knocked.
“Oh, just a minute. Just let me finish feeding this family of squirrels and I’ll be right with you,” came a soft, gentle voice from inside.
Trixie heard a loud bang and turned just as the remains of a teleport spell could be seen floating to the ground. Trixie gulped. Whatever it was, it was gone now and hopefully it wasn’t something to worry about. She felt it best to move on quickly rather then waste time searching for ponies that were already gone.
Turning back to the forest Trixie gulped again. She had heard stories and rumors about the forest. About how ponies went in, but never came out. Tales of hydras and manticores came to mind. She even thought she remembered a story or two about a cockatrice.
Trixie took a tentative step into the forest. Come on, you can do this. Ponies have traveled the forest before and have come out fine. The second step was easier, and the third even more so. It didn’t take more then a dozen steps to trot around the first bend in the path and lose sight of the forest entrance. Immediately, the trees, with branches thick with dark green leaves, began overarching the path, blocking out the sun. The branches seemed to reach down over the path with the single purpose of obstructing Trixie’s way. To either side of the path was a sparse layer of bushes, no more then a few scraggly, sun-deprived bushes. Beyond the bushes was an eerie darkness that unnerved Trixie.
Trixie illuminated her surroundings with her horn, chasing back the shadows a few feet, but couldn’t shake the uneasiness that something wasn’t right with the situation. The darkness felt unnatural, but she supposed it followed all the stories she had read. Bravely, she continued forward. She opted to look dead ahead to avoid growing uneasy from the daunting environment of the forest.
This, however, wasn’t so easy. As Trixie walked, eerie noises assaulted her ears. Hoots from owls, rustles in the underbrush, and the ever-insistent buzzing of the bugs. Trixie turned her head from side to side, unable to shake the feeling that she wasn’t quite alone.
Suddenly, a creature bolted out from the undergrowth. Already having frayed nerves, Trixie jumped back. Breathing a sigh of relief, Trixie watched as a mouse scrambled to the other side of the path. Before she could continue walking, she could suddenly sense that the mouse hadn’t been alone. She turned back to the bushes just a cockatrice leaped out.
Trixie cried out in terror. Instinctively, she shut her eyes like any smart adventurer from her stories would. She had been lucky. The cockatrice hadn’t been expecting her, so its gaze wasn’t focused enough to turn her to stone.
The cockatrice eyed Trixie wearily. It backed away, hissing. Like many creatures, it distrusted the magic light that emitted from the horns of unicorns. Favoring the dark and a chance at easier prey, the cockatrice slithered back into the bushes. Seconds later, the frantic squeaking of a small woodland creature came from the darkness.
Slowly and carefully, Trixie opened her eyes. Her breathing slowed, as did the rapid beating of her heart. Turning back to the path, she continued on her way, opting for a quick trot. To keep herself occupied, she told went over her vast collection of stories.
The fork in the road was unexpected. Trixie stood at the foot of both and looked left and right. Neither looked better than the other. The fact that the sign that had once stood at the split appeared to have been torn down and trampled beneath somepony’s hooves didn’t help. Further adding importance to Trixie’s decision was the fact that one of the pointers read: Danger, dangerous beasts ahead.
Well, that’s helpful. Trixie rolled her eyes sarcastically. You’d think that the ponies from Ponyville would better maintain the path through the forest bordering their town. After a quick seeing spell, not Trixie’s strong suit, she decided on a path. The one to the left, from what Trixie’s spell could see, was nice and straight. The path on the right had curved around on itself, making it look less promising.
Sure of her choice, Trixie, for the first time since entering the forest, hummed happily to herself. It can’t be much further. And the mysterious pony was right. With a little embellishment, I can tell how I, the Master Storyteller of Manehattan, bested a cockatrice in the Everfree Forest.
Of course, Trixie was aware that there were larger creatures out there, but for now, she would take what she could get... anything to wow the audiences.
The trail abruptly ended at the mouth of a cave. Curious as to whether the path continued on the other side, Trixie walked in. Wisely, she kept the urge to shout and listen to her echo to herself. She spun around in wonder, shadows danced under the light of her horn. She stopped to examine the walls. The walls were a smooth, almost reflective surface. They were a pale white, and glowed a soft blue under the light from her horn. As she brought her eyes closer to the wall, shapes started to form. She squinted hard, trying to discern what they might be.
“Huh, that’s funny, that one almost looks like an Ursa Min—” A grunt from behind cut Trixie off. Slowly, she turned around, the form of a sleeping Ursa Minor coming into view. Slowly, she began to back away. She bumped into something. Cautiously, she turned around.
The roar of the Ursa Major caused Trixie’s ears to ring. The alarm Trixie felt even caused her horn light to extinguish, washing the cave in the light purple glow of the Ursa Major instead. Screaming, she ran between the Ursa’s feet and back down the now darkened path. She barely avoided the swing of a paw from the Ursa. The swipe leveled the foliage around Trixie. She careened down the path. She saw the fork in the path up ahead, but before she could start down the right path this time, the paw of the Ursa Major hit the ground close by. Too close for comfort. The shock waves sent Trixie flying off the path. Dazed, she stood up and stumbled through the forest, not even bothering to get back on the path, not daring to look back. Blindly, she conjured an image of herself and sent it scurrying in the direction of the Ursa Major.
Behind her, Trixie could hear the Ursa Major roaring in fury as it quickly lost sight of her. Looking back, she could see it swinging its paws again and again, leveling more of the area around it. Suddenly, it roared in triumph. Trixie guessed that it had caught something, probably the image of herself. Its blood-lust sated, it turned and lumbered back in the direction of its cave.
Trixie was now utterly lost. She slid down to her haunches and groaned. She remembered to light up her horn again and took stock of her surroundings. In either direction, she could only see trees, trees, and more trees. There was no sign of the path anywhere. Did I really cover that much ground in my flight from the Ursa? She groaned again.
It was then that she noticed a soft tug in her horn. Somewhere, she could sense something or somepony was pulling her in a direction. The pull was soft, like that of a mother pony correcting a foal when it went the wrong direction. Deciding to trust the pull, Trixie lowered her horn and let it guide her. Suddenly, the darkness didn’t seem so scary. The noises no longer made her blood run cold.. It was only her and her horn. Trixie even went as far as to close her eyes.
The pull gently dissipated. Trixie opened her eyes and found herself at the edge of a clearing. In the center sat a boulder. She could tell that the boulder had been the source of the pull.
I came all this way only to find out it was some stupid, magical boulder?! Trixie’s mind screamed at nothing. Growling, she started to the boulder. It’d better at least have some directions, or a sign on it. Something to help lost travelers such as myself.
A noise from the bushes behind her caused her to spin around. The noise had been too close for comfort and it sounded, to Trixie, like a growl. Cautiously, she backed further into the clearing in hopes that whatever was in the bushes wouldn’t jump out at her. She brightened the glow of her horn.
A bird from the bushes burst out close by Trixie as another growl emanated from the darkness. Surprised, Trixie jumped back and bumped into something. The object she bumped into yelped in its own surprise. Spinning around, Trixie caught sight of the tail end of a butter yellow mare jumping into the bushes in fright, only to spin around and stare out at Trixie with a pair of blue eyes.
“Wait!” Trixie called, extending a hoof to try and stop the other mare.
Chapter 2: Adventure in Pink
Sunlight streamed into the house, bathing the room in its warm glow. As Fluttershy tended to the animals in her care, she delicately hummed a tune, which was repeated by the animals. As she filled each bowl, the animals stopped singing and turned to eat.
Fluttershy had just started distributing feed to a family of squirrels when she heard a light tap at the door. “Oh, just a minute. Just let me finish feeding this family of squirrels and I’ll be right with you.” She poured the last of the food into the squirrels food bowl before setting the feedbag down and making her way through the crowded living room to the door. However, when she opened it, she found herself staring at her front yard.
“Hello? Anypony there?” Except for the clucking of the chickens, the yard remained silent. Thinking it may have been a creature, she changed her approach and called out, “I’m sorry if I frightened you.” She looked around again, but no pony nor creature revealed itself. Shrugging, she turned to go back in. Out of the corner of her eye she saw, on the welcome mat, a sheet of paper, still emitting a faint, dark blue glow.
Picking up the paper, Fluttershy read it out loud. “A new friend awaits you in the forest. Follow your instincts and the adventure of a lifetime awaits you.” Before she could contemplate the words, the cry of hungry animals waiting to be fed stole her away her concentration. Setting down the paper, she went back to feeding the last of the animals, all the while thinking about what the mysterious message could possibly mean.
Does it mean a forest animal? Fluttershy gasped. Does it mean that there’s an animal that needs my help? But this note could be from anypony. it could mean anything, and this mystery pony could be dangerous.
Fluttershy decided it would be best if she got opinions from her friends on the note. Rarity, being the closest seemed like the best choice. However, she would have to finish feeding the animals before going anywhere. Picking up the feed bag, she went back to work.
Finally, she finished distributing the food to the last of the animals. She set the feed bag down and picked up the piece of paper again. Carefully, she made her way across the living room. Sidestepping animals, daintily stepping over some, she finally made it to the front door. The animals gave her annoyed looks and some growled as she passed, but went back to eating almost instantly. Apologizing profusely, Fluttershy opened the door and made to take off, but a soft tug on her tail stopped her. Turning around, she found Angel, a look of curiosity in his eyes.
“Don’t worry.” Fluttershy held up the note. “I’m just going to get this note checked out. If Rarity doesn’t think whoever wrote this means any harm, I’m going to investigate it. I’ll tell you before I leave.”
Angel glared at her, pointing in the gesture of Ponyville. He imitated eating, reading, and other various actions.
Fluttershy scratched her head in confusion. “What? I’m sorr... oh! I get it. Don’t worry, I know about the festival; I’ll be back in time.”
Gently closing the door, she looked back through its window one last time. The creatures were already finishing up their food, and some looked anxious to get out of the house. She didn’t worry though. There were various ways in and out of the house for the animals; they would find them eventually. She turned to the skies and took off towards Ponyville.
“I’m sorry, dear, what was that?” Rarity stood at her sewing machine, trying to sew, pin fabric to a mannequin, and measure another bolt of fabric all at once. “Again, I’m really sorry, but I have an order that I promised to finish for a client. I’ll do what I can, but I can only do so much.”
“I said, the way this note sounds is just... odd. It could be a friendly pony who really does want to help me make friends, or it could be a prankster.”
“Mhmm,” Rarity mumbled as she examined the piece of fabric she was measuring. Finishing the measurement, she turned, and, for once, gave all her attention to Fluttershy. “There are spells that can tell you who wrote the note. Unfortunately, I have neither the time nor the skill to perform such a spell.” She began to turn back to her work before hesitating a moment. “Though, I’m sure if you were to take it to Twilight, she would be more than happy to help.”
“Okay, thank you. I’ll—” Fluttershy started, but a customer walked in and cut her off. He began talking to Rarity about the aforementioned order. Examining the various fabrics on the shelves, Fluttershy waited for the client to leave. However, the client seemed to have a lot to say and wasn’t going to be leaving anytime soon.
Rarity shot Fluttershy an apologetic look. Fluttershy nodded and, carefully stepping around the client, left the boutique. As she stepped off the porch, Pinkie Pie bounced up, a wide grin on her face.
“Hi, Fluttershy! Where are you going? Are you going to a party? I almost never see you unless you’re going to a party!” Pinkie Pie bounced up and down as she circled around Fluttershy. “Oh, can I guess?” She plopped down on her haunches as if she were in deep thought. Just as quickly, she popped back up. “You’re going to see Twilight. Just like I am!”
Fluttershy grinned shyly. She really liked Pinkie Pie, but Pinkie Pie’s ecstatic nature could be overwhelming sometimes. “Yes, Pinkie, I’m going to see Twilight. Sompony left me a note, and Rarity suggested I go and get it checked out.” She showed the note to her bouncing companion.
“Oh... mystery games! I love them!” Pinkie Pie pulled out a bowler hat and a bubble pipe, immediately putting on a serious expression. She took the note and examined it closely as they began walking. Bubbles floated from her pipe as she puffed. Finally, after a full ten seconds of consideration, she handed the note back to Fluttershy. “The author’s good, too good. I got nothing. I’ll bet Twilight could help us though. Speaking of which...” Pinkie pointed towards the library as it came into sight. She galloped the rest of the way, with Fluttershy following closely.
Fluttershy followed Pinkie into the library, walking in just in time to see Pinkie Pie bouncing between bookshelves, seemingly pulling books off at random. Pinkie would skim the pages of the book, frown, and then toss it over her shoulder. Twilight was behind her desk, shaking her head. “It’s nice to you Pinkie Pie. You seem in a good mood today. However, this is a library. Would you please just pick a book and sit down? And why are you wearing a detectives outfit?”
Pinkie waved at Twilight, preoccupied with her searching. She finally picked a book that apparently looked interesting. She bounced over to a spot under a window and plopped down. She began flipping through the pages, spending only a second or two on each one.
Twilight turned to Fluttershy. “What brings you to the library today; do you need another one of those animal care books?
“Oh no, it’s not that, but thank you, those books were so helpful.” Fluttershy took out the note and passed it over to Twilight. “Rarity suggested I bring this to you. I found it outside my door earlier this morning while feeding the animals.”
Twilight took the note and quickly read it. “Hm... this does sound like it could be a friendly pony, but why would he or she want to remain anonymous? I can run a quick spell through the paper and see if the writing is from anyone we recognize. Do you mind?” Fluttershy nodded and Twilight concentrated as she prepared the spell, finally casting it after a few seconds. Twilight strained against the magic, but finally, the spell ran its course.
“Sorry Fluttershy, but I can’t trace the writing style.” Twilight stopped to think for a second. “But I could feel a powerful sense of magic. Do you mind if I run another check to see if the magic on it is recognizable?”
“Go ahead, you don’t need to ask.”
Twilight’s horn lit up, but the second the spell touched the paper, she gasped. Quickly, she levitated the paper out of reach of Fluttershy. Her eyes narrowed as they swept back and forth, reading and rereading the note. Pinkie Pie, who had grown interested in the proceedings at the front desk, bounced up and read over Twilight’s shoulder.
“Fluttershy... I suggest you do what the note says. I know the forest can be dangerous, but I assure you, you’ll be quite safe on this little adventure.” Twilight went to give the note back to Fluttershy, but Pinkie Pie grabbed the note from the air and held it just out of reach.
“You can’t do that silly! Didn’t you read it? It said not to tell! It’s supposed to be a surprise.” Pinkie Pie stuffed the note into her mouth and swallowed, much to the horror of the other two ponies. Immediately, Twilight was on top of her, peering down her throat in a futile attempt to discern the paper.
“Pinkie! You don’t know what effects the magic within the paper could have! It’s the—” Twilight was cut off as Pinkie jammed her hoof into Twilight’s mouth. Pinkie made a shushing gesture, and slowly retracted her hoof. Dumping Twilight of herself, Pinkie hopped back to her feet.
“Okay you two, I’d best get back to SugarCube Corner. The Cakes don’t pay me to sit and read all day, after all!” Pinkie Pie bounced out of the library, humming a random tune.
Twilight shook her head. “Anyways, back to your problem Fluttershy. Pinkie’s right, I’d best not ruin the surprise. Though, I assure you, it’s quite safe.”
“All right, if you say so.” The silence that followed stretched on for seconds before Fluttershy spoke again. “Well, thank you, but I should go now.” Fluttershy backed out the door. “I’ll be back as soon as possible.”
As Fluttershy backed out of the library, she could hear Twilight calling after her, “Good luck! I hope you find this new friend.”
Smiling, Fluttershy took off flying in the direction of her house. For once, she flew unusually fast. They mystery pony was slowly beginning to bug her. Twilight and Pinkie’s reactions to the note bugged her even more. As she flew, her mind drifted to the adventure the note had promised.
I trust Twilight, but I’d better go prepared. As she flew, Fluttershy began making a mental list of things she would need for an adventure in the forest. A pack, some bandages, water, food. Is that all? Oh! And that one potion that Zecora gave to me as a gift.
Fluttershy was so preoccupied with her thoughts that she overflew her house. She almost reached the forest before realizing she was now off course. Despite there being nopony around, her cheeks reddened in embarrassment. Turning around, she flew back to her home, coming to rest in front of her door.
Inside, she found her old saddlebags and placed into it the items she had thought about while flying. In addition, she grabbed a book on the Everfree Forest and shoved it into the packs. Looking around once more, she realized she had forgotten the potion. She went over to shelf she stored it on and picked it up. However, before carefully putting the potion into the packs, she paused to examine it.
The potion, Zecora had told her, was a major pain killer meant only to be used when first aid wouldn’t be enough and serious help was needed immediately. It could make a pony with a broken leg walk on it, or a pegasus fly with broken wings. Since receiving the potion, Fluttershy had always brought it with her on trips to the forest, just in case she ran into an injured creature too big for her to carry but needed serious help.
The note promised the adventure of a lifetime. It will probably take all day. I’d best fill up the feed bowls for the animals, early. Humming quietly to herself, Fluttershy trotted from bowl to bowl, filling them with food. She knew that, despite the fact that the room was empty now, animals would come in as soon as they smelled the food. Not wanting to keep the other pony or animal waiting, she finished the task as fast as possible before rushing out the door and towards the forest.
As soon as she passed the front gate, Fluttershy took off flying. While she flew, she attempted to guess who would write to her in such an odd manner. Her mind skimmed over all the ponies she knew, but she couldn’t recall anypony that would be this mysterious. Except for, possibly, Rainbow Dash, but she didn’t feel like this was the type of prank Dash would play. Even Dash knew the limits when it came to pranking nor was she this subtle.
Before she knew it, Fluttershy was at the edge of the forest. Pausing, she took time to consider what she was doing. Well, Twilight did say it was safe and I trust her. She took one step in, and paused again. The second step is easier, as will be the third. You can do it Fluttershy. She swallowed her fear and took the second step.
Halfway through the third step, a clucking noise reached her ears from off the path. Looking up quickly, Fluttershy was just in time to see a chicken disappear into the forest. It only took her a second to realize it was her chicken and it had probably escaped through a hole in the fence that she didn’t know about. She took off into the forest at a gallop.
“Wait, it’s too dangerous for you to go off the path!”
A dark blue alicorn quietly followed Fluttershy, staying just far back enough to keep her in sight, but close enough to keep an eye on her. Luna didn’t worry about being seen; a simple illusion spell caused the ponies around the area to ignore her. She was frustrated at the slow progress of her plan. Trixie had easily succumbed to the compulsion spell. It had even been strong enough to keep her from trying to break the rules. However, the spell seemed to not be working as well on Fluttershy.
Perhaps it’s because how timid she is? Luna began to doubt the wisdom in her choice of companions for Trixie. Will Fluttershy even be able to handle the challenges I have in store for her? Then she remembered: She was the only one to not witness the whole Trixie affair. She would be the easiest to make friends with at this point. Luna reflected back on her own redemption process. She became so lost in her thoughts that she almost missed Fluttershy going into the boutique.
Positioning herself just to the side of the boutique door, Luna listened as Fluttershy tried to get advice from Rarity. Luna watched as another pony walk into the boutique. Delays! I should be helping Trixie and Fluttershy become friends! Fluttershy should already be in the forest!
Luckily the other pony seemed to have caused Fluttershy to leave earlier rather than stay, and she flew out soon after, headed for the library. However, the relief was short lived as Luna felt fate conspire against her as Pinkie Pie joined Fluttershy. They stopped and Pinkie Pie put on a detective’s outfit. To Luna, the twelve seconds Pinkie Pie spent examining the note felt like forever.
Luna perked up as Pinkie Pie suddenly bounced up and galloped towards the library, Fluttershy in close pursuit. Luna followed and alighted on the branches above the door after Fluttershy followed Pinkie Pie in.
Straining to hear what was being said, Luna could barely make out the conversation. Snorting, she lowered her head to rest on her forehooves. If only I weren’t trying to do this so anonymously, I would just go talk to Fluttershy myself. However, if I did, I would be forcing a friendship on both Trixie and Fluttershy. That isn’t the point of this... project.
Luna could all of a sudden feel as the familiar magic of Twilight touched the magically imbued paper she had been using to communicate to Fluttershy. Concerned, she fed a bit of magic into the paper to get a feel for the other mare’s magic, and found the makings of a discerning spell in progress.
Twilight’s magic disappeared, then reappeared a few seconds later. This time, Luna was prepared. She sent a small change to the note through magic: Twilight, this is Princess Luna. Please don’t tell Fluttershy though. I require her help with another pony in the forest, and this is something she needs without the help of the other Elements of Harmony. Though, I will be watching her, just in case.
Inside, Luna could hear Twilight begin to discuss it. Then she heard Pinkie Pie stop Twilight. Suddenly, the door opened, startling Luna. She quickly threw up her hood and faded back into the shadows. Out from the library bounced Pinkie Pie. She disappeared around the tree and Luna breathed a sigh of relief, only to fall back in surprise as a pink snout appeared right in her face.
“Hello Princess!” Pinkie Pie bowed.
“Pinkie Pie, how did you manage that? I thought I was well hidden!” Princess Luna gasped, trying to slow her speeding heart. As she regained her composure, she examined Pinkie Pie, wondering how such a poufey pony could get the surprise on any pony.
Pinkie Pie beamed at the Princess. “I just wanted to make sure you were making good on your promise to keep a close watch on Fluttershy.” Before Luna could respond, Pinkie jumped out of the tree, landing on the path in a heap. Without missing a beat, she was back on her hooves and bouncing off towards SugarCube Corner.
The silence that followed was deafening. Luna was almost afraid that her little conversation with Pinkie Pie had caused her to miss Fluttershy leaving. However, she heard Twilight calling out, wishing Fluttershy good luck.
Fluttershy appeared in the doorway and Luna sunk deeper into the shadows. She watched as Fluttershy took off flying in the direction of the forest. As soon as she felt Fluttershy had flown far enough, Luna took off and followed after, just out of sight. She arrived at Fluttershy’s house just in time to see her disappear inside, only to reappear minutes later with full saddlebags.
From her point on the roof, Luna could still see Fluttershy, even thought she was at the edge of the forest. As Fluttershy hesitated, Luna felt as if her heart had stopped, afraid that the hesitation meant she wouldn’t go continue onwards. Come on, come on. Go, you know you’re safe. Luna stomped her hoof in impatience. A dull thunk sounded loudly around the yard, causing the chicken coop below with erupt with frantic clucking. A chicken ran out, heading through a hole in the fence and straight for the forest.
Luna snorted silently in frustration as the chicken distracted Fluttershy from the path, and into the brush, running after the chicken. This isn’t what I planned! If things don’t take a turn for the better soon, Trixie and Fluttershy may completely miss each other. Luna quickly organized her thoughts, and tried to come up with a way to keep either one of them at the rock as the other made their way there.
This happened with Trixie too. Luna had been keeping a watch on Trixie via a scrying spell in the corner of her eye. She remembered her impatience as she had watched her plan go wrong and had to wait for Trixie to calm down enough to be receptive to a guiding spell. Last she had checked, Trixie had been in the process of making her way to the rock; already she had been nearly there.
Luna sighed. I guess we’ll have to wait just a bit longer for the two to get together. Luna cast an invisibility spell and settled down on the roof. As she got comfortable, she cast the spell to scry on both Fluttershy and Trixie as they made their way to the meeting point she had set up.
Fluttershy darted off the path and through the scraggly brush, into the gloom, after the chicken. She could hear it ahead of her, but couldn’t see it. When she heard it give a frantic series of clucks, she rushed on as carefully as possible, determined to get the chicken to safety. Suddenly, the clucking ceased and Fluttershy’s imagination took over. She imagined the chicken all of the sudden trapped, or a fearsome beast about to eat it. From her right, she heard the chicken start clucking again, more frantic then ever. She swung towards the noise and galloped towards it. Ahead, she could see a clearing.
Entering the clearing, Fluttershy was just in time to see a manticore slam its barbed tail into the chicken. She heard the bones break in the chicken’s body as the barbed tail pierced all the way through. She watched in horror as the maticore casually brought its tail to its mouth and swallowed the chicken whole.
Furiously, Fluttershy flew at the manticore. “How dare you kill something so needlessly! You should be ashamed of yourself.” It cowered back at the furious onburst of words. It whined at Fluttershy, and her gaze softened a bit, but she still held it captive with her stare. “It may be natural for you to hunt for food, but that chicken belonged to me. It wasn’t yours to take.” The manticore whined again, its stomach rumbling, indicating it was still hungry.
Fluttershy sighed. “All right, the damage is done now. Please, just don’t do it again.” The manticore gave Fluttershy an apologetic look before disappearing into the forest.
Looking around, Fluttershy realized that she no longer recognized where in the forest she was, except she knew that Zecora’s hut might be nearby. The chase after the chicken had led her in that general direction. Maybe Zecora can help me figure out where I should go next. She turned back towards the direction she had come from and started walking.
Fluttershy carefully stepped over the flora, hoping she wasn’t crushing anything that Zecora would consider precious. She followed the path her wild dash had taken through the forest, her mind wandering back to the encounter with the manticore. She wondered why a creature such as the manticore would resort to killing chickens when it’s usual prey was much bigger.
While deep in thought, she nearly walked right by Zecora’s hut. Had it blended in with the forest any more, she would have missed it. She found herself staring at the back of the hut. She couldn’t help but notice that there was no light coming from the window. Not even the glowing of potions that she normally associated with the alchemy performed by Zecora. Curious as to what the Zebra could be up to, as she rarely left her hut, Fluttershy walked to the front of the hut and knocked. When Zecora didn’t answer, Fluttershy slowly pushed open the door and looked in.
The shelves were almost completely empty of anything except a few empty bottles. Upon closer examination Fluttershy found that somepony had recently been there. Further searching revealed very few herbs. Brushing her way past some hanging herbs, Fluttershy found the big cauldron, normally filled with a brew, empty.
Huh, that’s strange, Zecora rarely leaves her hut. She must have left to go buy some more herbs. Disappointed, Fluttershy left the hut. Quickly, she made her way back to the main path, being careful to walk around the patch of poison joke. She felt slightly disturbed by Zecora’s absence, and despite Twilight’s assurances, the forest still felt eerie. Trotting even faster, she reached the path faster than what she would have expected.
The second she reached the main path, Fluttershy felt a faint feeling that she should walk in a certain direction. It was a pull that she felt compelled to follow, despite the possible dangers of the forest. Slowly, the pull led her away from the main path, and deeper into the forest. The pull seemed to be keeping to the path, so she didn’t try to resist.
Then, it pulled her sharply to the left, leading straight towards a patch of forest that Fluttershy knew to be dangerous. She tried to resist, but the pull was too strong. She no longer felt in control of her own legs, only compelled to follow the path she was now on. Then, she was in it; the most dangerous part of the forest.
Fluttershy knew for a fact that not too far away was the cave to the family of Ursas. This part was also known to be the home of a cockatrice. While she was afraid of the cockatrice, she knew that they were just as afraid of ponies, or at least, she was well enough known around the forest that she wouldn’t be bothered by it. The Ursas on the other hand recognized no power but their own. They could be a problem if they were incited to anger. If they became enraged, she would be able to do nothing but run away and pray they didn’t catch her.
While Fluttershy thought about the various dangers of the forest, she hardly noticed how quickly she was moving. She didn’t even notice the feeling of the magic leaving her, bringing her to a halt. She stood still a few moments before realizing she had stopped. When she did realize this, she looked around at the clearing she had stopped in. The clearing was completely enclosed, and there was no clear path leading out of the area. In front of her sat a rock. It seemed to be of no significance, but just in case it had a sign, or some directions, she went to take a look. Upon examining the rock, she found nothing special. From every angle she could reach, it looked just like what it was: a rock.
A rustling noise in the bushes, just beyond her sight pulled her attention from the rock. Nervously, Fluttershy backed up, ready to flee at a moment’s notice. The rustling continued, seemingly from all directions. Something touched her flank. Frightened, she yelped and dived into the bushes out of habit. As she regained her composure, she turned around to peer out, curious as to what had touched her. Looking back at her was a blue mare with a silvery mane.
The mare held out her hoof towards Fluttershy. “Wait!”