The Sweet and Sorrowful
"The Great and Powerful Trixie!" The older stallion trailed off, what would usually be a dramatic effect taking on a sarcastic and uninterested drawl, plain and dry as the brown of his mane. "And to what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?"
"My cart has met an untimely end. I am here to requisition the new one," Trixie huffed as she lowered her horn and pushed into the workshop, turning to face the older pony with a vorpal smirk. "...Daddy."
He didn't even snort in response, unaffected as usual save for a violent slam of the door. Stiffly and without a word he stomped through a larger door in the back of the shop. "You know the drill. Go on and take one." Trixie followed him, stepping into a much larger barn; not a place for horses or other creatures, but a hangar lined with wheeled carts and carriages of varying specifications. It seemed grand in scale compared to her tiny frame, but she just rolled her eyes at the untouched conveyances and trotted into the tiny kitchen adjoining. Her breath halted and her stomach growled as she reacquainted herself with emptiness: an empty breadbox, an empty pantry, an empty home. A bin was kicked over in frustration, spilling forth its lone inhabitant, a golden pear. Trixie grinned and laughed for no one to hear before picking it up in her teeth and walking back out to the barn. She scoffed at the familiar sound of her Daddy’s typewriter, sitting behind him and taking particularly loud crunchy bites out of her snack.
"Writing for commissions again? Wagon sales as nonexistent as usual?"
"How many bits have you made off of your magic show?" He whinnied in frustration when another loud chewing noise interrupted his concentration and he messed up a line. He tore the sheet out of the typewriter with his mouth and went about the troublesome process of starting a new one; unable to deal with all the finer mechanisms, typing with hooves was an exercise in masochism.
"Allow me." Trixie leaned up on the desk, faint light issuing forth from her horn to envelop the paper sheets and carriage. Soon it was all back in place and her father resumed typing. She idly looked over the page that had just been disposed of. "More fanfiction?"
"Hey, a lot of good writers start out with fanfic."
"Please, while you are whiling away the years writing about the imagined adventures of someone else's imaginary life, I have been out to see the world and live some adventures of my own! The very same one that reduced my trailer to firewood." Trixie did a turn about the office and triumphantly bit off a large chunk of pear. "Why don't you write about that?"
"If it's so great, why don't you tell me about it?" He turned to settle on his haunches, secretly glad to take a break from the typewriter. Trixie took pleasure in being the center of attention once again, unable to resist the urge to pull some desktop items together on a table. “So where are we?”
“This is the rural burg of Ponyville, nestled in the Canterlot countryside. Don’t let its proximity to Princess Celestia’s seat of power deceive you, it’s as much a hick town as any other. The ponies living there, going about their dull lives and leading empty existences longing for some excitement. The same poor, deprived, and uncultured souls that the Great and Powerful Trixie deigns to grace with her awe-inspiring presence and magical wonders!” Trixie’s horn glowed as she rearranged some loose scraps and broken tools into a facsimile of the town square, or at least how she remembered it: she took particular pains in altering the appearance of one structure to become a tree.
“Is that the Ponyville library?”
“Er, yes, dare you doubt the authenticity and prowess of the Great and Powerful Trixie?”
“It’s just that your mother—never mind, go on.”
“Oh. So she’s been there, too.” She stared at the library for a moment before reorienting herself, her little stringless puppets dancing into view with the help of a little magic. “Yes, the Great and Powerful Trixie was precisely what these simple-minded ponies needed to brighten up there lives. Her wagon pulled into the town square, and she wasted no time in making her presence known! All eyes were upon her magnificent cart as it unfolded to reveal the pyrotechnical prowess and magnificent magical marvel that was the Great and Powerful Trixie!”
“Could you skip the whole Great and Powerful bit? Save a little time.”
“Ugh. Daddy, you have no appreciation for the craft.” She dropped her puppets. Exchanging a stern look with him, she resumed her little play. “...Just like some of the neighsayers in the crowd, even! No sooner had Trixie gained a horde of loyal followers did she receive challengers to her glory. Now, there was never any doubt as to who was the superior performer, but I let them have their time in the spotlight, a little bit of fun and excitement for these plebeian ponies whose existences could finally experience a fraction of glory. Such is the generous nature of the Great and Powerful Trixie. First up was an earth pony, none too smart and quite plain as her kind are wont to be—”
“No offense taken.”
“—and since she had not the horn for magic nor wings for flight, she elected for some silly rodeo rope trick. You may recall that the Great and Powerful Trixie’s wondrous abilities first manifested as rope-manipulating cantrips when she was but a foal, so she was at a natural advantage. They danced, they slithered, they looped and weaved, and soon that silly filly was tripping all over herself just trying to keep up!”
“Is that really how it went down?”
“Listen, who’s telling the story, you or me?”
“Well, that rope trick got you into all kinds of trouble when you were a foal. I don’t think you made any friends in your class after the accident...” He withered his words down to a whisper, then just nodded for her to continue. Trixie paused for a longer time before readying herself for the next bit.
“The Great and Powerful Trixie had enough of these games and called for a unicorn to challenge her, for that was the nature of her travels: to find worthy opponents and prove that she is the most amazing and talented unicorn in all of Equestria! Not that she expected to find any who could rival her glorious repertoire of arcana, but seeing hope and ambition light up the eyes of her challenger made victory all the sweeter. This was a prissy one who fancied herself an aesthete and a walking guidebook on grace and elegance; her challenge was to use magic to craft a truly stunning outfit! Of course, when the Great and Powerful Trixie revealed her own ensemble, the sheer awesomeness of her beautiful visage dissolved the lesser unicorn’s artificial dress, so overbearing was the magic that nothing else was to impede or distract from her sublime image. The defeated challenger bowed and recognized that the Great and Powerful Trixie was not simply a wizard of the highest order, but an artist of the greatest caliber, a messenger and embodiment of beauty and—”
“Could you skip to the part where this explains how your wagon—my wagon—was destroyed? Again?”
“Well, if you must know, it was in the midst of defending Ponyville from the rampage of an Ursa Minor!" Trixie cackled for effect as she brought the gargantuan creature into the scene, crushing the library with a bit of undue fervor. "The Great and Powerful Trixie was undaunted as always, but the small town of Ponyville would have suffered incredible damage if she loosed the full force of her magic, and so elected to simply lure the beast away from town. Her plan worked, but not before it crushed her wagon. Much as the Great and Powerful Trixie wished to return and greet her adoring fans, she would need a proper stage from which to greet them.”
"Hold it, something doesn't add up." He hoofed his chin for a moment as he thought. "You told me that in Hoofington, a much larger town, you single-handedly fended off an Ursa Major. Why couldn't you have simply subdued the Ursa Minor right there instead of losing your wagon and running away?"
"I was not running away, it was a tactical withdrawal! If my plans hadn't been ruined by that stupid Twilight Sparkle—" Trixie caught herself and decided to finish off her pear in dignified silence.
"Twilight Sparkle, huh? I recognize that name from the newspaper... She was the one who ended the Endless Night."
"Just because she's famous doesn't make her anything special."
"Uh, defeating one of the Princesses is kind of a big deal. They are in charge of the day and night, after all."
"But I am the Great and Powerful Trixie!"
"And I've yet to see your name show up in even the back pages. Look, Trixie, it's a nice story, but I'm guessing you were just outclassed and run off by an honest magician... again. This is why I don't write about you, you're just a sack of lies."
"And your stupid little fiction isn't?"
"Mine have at least some ring of truth to them."
"You just read the papers and sit in your workshop and write stupid stories about talking bald monkeys that don't even exist. I actually live real adventures in real places, getting chased around by gigantic real bears made of real stars!"
"Well, I'm better than somepony running about the real countryside with real hick ponies in real backwater towns making a real foal of herself, just like her mother!"
"You leave Mommy out of this!" Trixie screeched, her single horn giving off fireworks. They were harmless, insofar as not setting fire to anything, but they were tainted with angry color and furious light, the merciless heat of a summer sun packed into the tiny office. Both ponies quietly glared at each other until the Trixie's magic died down. "I'm leaving."
"You always do." He turned back to the typewriter.
"Forever!" She kicked out the door and packed some saddlebags for herself, then harnessed herself to the biggest wagon she could find. "And I'm never coming back!"
"Fine! I have enough trouble running this business without you coming back to replace every cart you destroy."
Trixie unharnessed herself roughly and walked right back up to the stallion. She shook out her mane, releasing a bundle of bit coins she kept magicked away. "There, that's the last of what I have."
"Not enough for even one wagon, but I'll consider the debt paid."
"And with that the Great and Powerful Trixie shall never deign to show her horn here again." She took up the wagon once more and left without another word. The stallion tried returning to his work, and stared angrily at the small diorama she had set up. A gruesome urge welled up inside of him and he put his hooves through the table without thinking.
"Plainmane, what's gotten into you?" She folded her wings down, backing away so far she bumped into a counter.
"They rejected the manuscript. And the mural proposal. Just because I don't have a mark on my flank—" Plainmane snorted as he looked at the smashed table and the ripped up letters. "I'm sorry about the furniture, Whinny Whirl."
"Don't worry, I'll have it replaced with the bonus from my last trip." Whinny cautiously swept the loose bits of wood together. "Speaking of which, they're sending me up to Cloudsdale this month."
"Of course." He joined in the cleanup, few words being exchanged between them. She paused every now and then to examine his expression, disappointed to see the same disinterested glare as always.
"Honey, you can't be so angry all the time. Trixie needs you to look after her, I'll be gone for a while and you won't be able to visit this time."
"It's just... Look, I'd love to have a mark of any sort, even a boring one, it doesn't have to be an interesting one like your little pink whirlwind. And even though I burn with all this passion, it's somehow not my path, not my destiny. But I can't help it, it's like a force of nature." Plainmane brought a bag over to stuff the mess into, apologetically running his nose along the crest Whinny's neck. "Like my love..."
"...A whirlwind across the plains." She rolled her eyes, unable to hide her smile. "I don't deny that you enjoy your metaphors."
"Well, unlike a whirlwind, I never seem to go anywhere in life."
"Do you have to? I mean, you're here with Trixie. What else could be more important than being with your daughter?" Whinny bleated it out without thinking, earning a vile glare from her husband. "No, not this again."
"Then stop bringing it up. You know very well how I feel about that subject."
"How can you be so selfish?"
"Selfish? You of all ponies have no right to call me that!" He raised his voice slightly, but decided to walk it off through the back door.
"I... I'm not proud of what happened, but that was so long ago. Trixie's just started going to school. Can't you put your pride aside for one moment and focus on what's important?" She followed him into the barn behind the shop, carefully dodging the deep grooves in the ground he was making with his furiously heavy steps. Plainmane slammed the door of his office shut, leaving Whinny to lean against it helplessly. "How many times do I have to tell you I'm sorry?"
The mountainside was an old friend to the Great and Powerful Trixie, offering a full view of her hometown and the surrounding plains, aglow with surprising clarity under the watchful orb of the pure white moon. Trixie looked up into the sky, missing the dark silhouette of the Mare in the Moon, her one companion in the nighttime, a would-have-been witness to the ritual that would take place on this precipice overlooking the black, icy river leagues below.
Downstream, Trixie could see the flood formed around the makeshift dam, a mass graveyard of broken and shattered wagons that had seen an untimely end over the edge of the cliff. It's not that this road was particularly treacherous or prone to accidents; tragedies, maybe, but not accidents. She sighed and let her horn glow, taking up a bit of rope and tying it about herself, securing the other end to the wagon. Eyes closed, she pressed against the wagon, urging it toward the cliffside. It lurched and tipped over, and Trixie sucked in breath as she felt herself being pulled down by gravity. There was a baleful snap as she hit the mountain dirt, and then nothing.
Trixie looked up from the road and cursed at the snapped wagon wheel impeding her plans. "That stupid wagonwright can't afford the proper wood to make a wagon. No wonder no one buys them!" She shook off the rope and kicked the overturned wagon again in frustration. In a fit, she lowered her horn at it and tried to will it over the edge with a spell, even setting off a small blast of light and color, but to no avail. She huffed and she puffed and sat down on the cold dirt, glaring at the blasted thing and undoing the rope in frustration.
It was only then she saw the unfinished paint job on this particular wagon, it was of a color most familiar to her even in the dim moonlight. The design on the side was a dark pink whirlwind. Stupefied, she leaned up against the wagon and started to cry.
Even in the bright midday sun everything seemed so unclear to her. One day, she had been having a fight with her husband, and in a fit of anger she spread her wings... Her first thought was that she had busted a hole in the roof and brought the rafters down on herself. Everyone else was still whispering about how she and Plainmane had always been fighting, and some accused him of attacking her. She said that he had no reason to be angry with her; then they said she was lying to cover up for him, then she stopped saying anything at all. One thing that was for certain was that her wings were injured and she couldn't fly for a while. The doctor had said it might do her some good to keep her feet on the ground for once. She didn't think that was very funny.
"The stupidest things..." she muttered as she idly scuffed her hoof against the dirt, looking into the black, icy river below. Even on the warmest days, nopony dared swim in that river; it was too cold, too swift, and filled with jagged rocks. She pondered what a fall from this height would do.
"Mommy?" The shy, little voice sent a shiver down her spine, but she turned with a warm smile anyways.
"Oh, Trixie dear. How did you get all the way up here?"
"I was playing with the other foals but I saw you taking a little walk up the mountain so I thought I'd follow you up here and say hi, also I wanted to show you my new magic trick!" Little Trixie pulled a loop of rope from her saddlebag. A single spark from her horn, and the rope began to dance, even forming a primitive lasso and spinning about. "I'm a regular rodeo rustler!"
The mare walked over and gave Trixie an approving nuzzle. "That's so wonderful. You just earned your cutie mark and you're already so talented."
"And one day my magic will be so good I can even make whirlwinds with my magic like you do with your wings!"
"Oh yes, that would be fun. But mommy's wings have to heal first, okay? You should go back down to play with the other foals."
"Uh... can I stay up here with you?" Trixie let the rope fall lifeless, ears dropping.
"What's wrong? Don't you want to play with your friends?"
"They make fun of me. They don't think I know, but I do! They say I'm weird."
"Oh, Trixie, you're so much more mature than other ponies your age. You shouldn't listen to whatever they say, because they don't know any better."
"And the grown-ups are worse! They say mean things about you, and Daddy. They say it's not natural, and they called you all kinds of bad words that I shouldn't say even if I'm telling you because you'll put soap in my mouth again, but they said that if Daddy's an earth pony and you're a pegasus then why am I a unicorn? And then I ask them why it should matter at all and they just look at me weird and tell me to go away and that I'm not wanted and that you're a bad word."
The mare winced at this news; it wasn't new, but it always hurt. "Now, listen to me, Trixie... what grown-ups talk about, sometimes they hear things that aren't always true. Or completely true. And the parts that are true aren't what you think they are. I mean... ugh, what's the word?"
"I wouldn't say that."
"But if it's not true, then it's a lie, right? They're lying. I am wanted. You are my Mommy, and Daddy's my Daddy, and there's nothing wrong with that."
"...If you put it like that, I guess, but—" The mare felt her back twitch, nervous instinct flexing her broken wings and bringing out unbearable shocks of pain. "Don't worry, Trixie. Everything's going to be all right. Mommy just needs some alone time for now, okay? Her wings are really hurting."
"Okay." Trixie gathered up her rope and gave her mommy a quick nuzzle before heading back down the mountain path. The mare looked back out over the precipice and began pondering again.
"Plainmane, I'm cutting you off."
"What? It's not even evening! A little apple cider never hurt anyone, anyways."
"It's for your own good. You're running up a mighty big tab here, and between your little filly and Whinny Whirl being out of a job til she heals up..."
"Dam it, I get enough opinions about my personal life from the rest of town!" He slammed his hoof against the counter, leaving a few bit coins. "Make it double."
"You're mad, bronco. I understand. But this isn't the way to go about it." The barrister leaned in gently. "You need to find help. Ain't right to buck another pony in anger, especially if she's your mare."
"I didn't buck her! I haven't laid a hoof on her for years now." Plainmane sank when he realized how that sounded. "I mean... you know how she travels a lot for her job and we barely get to see her. There's hardly time to—busy with the shop—Trixie's started school—I've been good. I've done everything that's asked of me. Why is everypony coming down so hard on me? I'm not the bad guy."
"Nopony's saying you're the bad guy, but it's plain as day that there's something bad going on, and you have to fix it."
"This isn't my fault! None of it is my fault. None of it..." Plainmane sauntered off and in his anger bumped over a table, splitting it in two. "...That is." He set it right and picked up the mess. "Will fixing this shrink my tab any?"
"Eh, not really. It's not like you do the best woodwork anyways: that was one of the tables you made for me to begin with."
"See, that's the problem with all of you ponies, none of you appreciate craft. Whinny's the only one who admires my imagination, always telling me stories about the places she's been to, wants me to write about them, and she doesn't look down on me just because I don't have my mark even though I'm a full grown stallion! Whinny Whirl loves me, and that's all I need to know. I don't need you or anyone else to tell me—"
"Excuse me, is there a Plainmane in this establishment?" A stallion with a badge and vest broke through the doorway. Plainmane stopped stamping his hooves and looked nervous.
"Officer, I didn't—I told you, I'd never buck—"
"Mister Plainmane, there's been an incident at the river."
"Weren't you Whinny Whirl's husband?"
"Yes. She put up the capital for the Whirlwind Wood Shop, that's her mark on the sign."
"Yes, well... We've found an unusual number of wrecked carts damming up the river, causing severe flooding. Upon investigation, we found they each bore your mark... well, your workshop's mark, anyway." The unicorn adjusted her glasses effortlessly, a clipboard and pen levitating before her. "Did you happen to sell any carts in the past months?"
"Not really. Mostly been doing side jobs to pay the bills."
"Would you happen to know how your carts got out there?"
"No, not really."
"Mister Plainmane, let me make this... plain, for you. You have made insurance claims about lost or stolen inventory, when said inventory is simply being disposed of recklessly in the river. If you've been pushing them into the river, you're not only commmitting fraud, but also causing thousands if not millions of bits in property and environmental damage."
"Why is everypony always judging me like this? I'm no crook. I've never stepped out of line. I never bucked anyone that didn't deserve it, not even—" He stopped himself, eyes narrowing angrily as he finally put the pieces together. "...Trixie!"
"Trixie, you're awake! I'm so glad—"
"Daddy, where's Mommy?" Trixie mumbled.
"Mommy had a bad fall in the river. Your rope was tied around you and her, so you fell in with her. Just an accident, that's all. Just an accident." He repeated that line over and over.
"Yeah, I used my rope magic." Trixie tried to crane her neck and look for her Mommy. "Did I save her? Where is she? Mommy?" She tried raising her voice to call for her but only coughed when her waterlogged lungs burned in protest. He was tired, so he just listened, but while Trixie wasn't saying anything, he could only hear the murmurs throughout the clinic.
Take Trixie with her... His fault... anger management... Pegasi and earthies don't... Cheating...
"Daddy... is what they're saying true? That I'm not your daughter?"
"...I don't even know any more."
"Nothing, Trixie. Just a sack of lies."
"Just a sack of lies, aren't you?" Plainmane yelled at the small unicorn leaning against the ruined cart. "Your carts aren't getting stepped on by Ursa Minors, you're just dumping them in the river!"
"So what?" Trixie regained her composure, igniting her horn with a bright light to illuminate the unfolding drama.
"Do you know how much damage you've caused with all the flooding? Do you know how much money I owe the town now? Do you ever think of anyone but yourself, Trixie?"
"I made up those stories so I could get a new wagon from you! It was just an excuse to see you again, and I wanted to tell you stories like Mommy used to." A loud bang punctuated her words, horn glowing brighter than ever. "But nothing I do is ever going to be good enough for you, is it? If you want selfish, you should look in a mirror!"
"It's not about what you do at all, it... I mean, I just can't—It's not your fault things turned out the way they did."
"Stop patronizing me, I know exactly what happened! I tied the rope around Mommy and tried to pull her out of the river, but I wasn't strong enough. And that same day I told her about the awful rumors going about town about us, and that's what made her sad and want to kill herself. My magic is useless, I'm useless, who would want a useless pony like me? Why can't you forgive me for what I've done?"
"Because it wasn't you who... Look, the rumors are true. She had a fling with some rich unicorn in another town, and when you were born, she had to tell me. She couldn't keep that kind of guilt inside, but I was angry anyways, and I never forgave her. This has nothing to do with you." Plainmane calmly walked through Trixie's harmless sparks, silently wishing they would set him on fire, but he could only lay down under that harsh light and look forlorn. "I lied to myself, thinking I did her no harm. But the truth is, I killed Whinny Whirl long before she died."
"This doesn't have anything to do with me, you said." Trixie's magic faltered, the lights flickering in and out of existence as she became unsure of herself. "But it all happened because I was born. Answer me this, what am I to you, then? A mistake?"
"Trixie, I..." Plainmane stood up again, head hanging low. "I'm sorry. You really should just leave town and never come back."
"The Great and Powerful Trixie planned to do just exactly that." And with that, Trixie moved out to the cliffside and looked down at the river.
"Trixie, no!" Seeing her about to jump, he panicked and snatched up her tail in his teeth, pulling her back to the road.
"Geld dam it, will you learn to let go!" Trixie's horn burst into pyrotechnics again, and though this magic was ineffective she was able to buck like any other pony. His pulling didn't hurt, in fact he was surprisingly gentle for all the mean-spirited yelling he could put out, but Trixie's struggling made it difficult for him to hold on. He closed his eyes and finally found it in himself to fling her back towards the road and away from danger. As she hit the ground, a final spark went off from her horn and disturbed the broken wagon. Plainmane huffed and walked up to her, shaking his head.
"Trixie, I—" The axle on the wagon sprang loose and came down on him, pushing him over the cliffside.
"Daddy!" Trixie sprang to her feet and followed after him, horn lighting up as it carried the rope from before with her. She started having second thoughts, but realizing that the drop was long enough for that, she moved on to figuring out how they were going to get out of this alive. Her horn shone brightly, every ounce of her willpower pouring through. The rope became a white line in the dark canvas of the night, securing one end around a branch jutting out of the cliff, the other shooting downwards past Trixie to catch Plainmane. She grinned as she telekinetically secured the knot around his body... and started screaming when she realized she had no rope for herself.
"I've got you!" His legs wrapped around her, and she opened her eyes to see that he had caught her as just as she fell past. Trixie looked down to see the cruel barbed rocks only so many hands away. It wouldn't be a fatal drop at this distance, but the dark, rushing waters churned just beneath, lapping hungrily at the cold air and eagerly waiting to reclaim the pony that got away. For her, it was staring into the pure essence of her nightmares. The warm, firm embrace of her Daddy shook her out of this reverie.
"Trixie, listen to me. You're not a mistake. Whenever I see you, I have to remember her. All the bad memories, sure, but... all the good ones, too. I was lying to myself, thinking I could make it all right. And it's because of that I shouldn't put you through this. You should be off having happy memories of your own instead of fixing the ones I broke. You deserve better than that, because no matter what anyone says, you're my daughter." He choked out these words, shivering just at the sight of the foreboding current below. Trixie managed to look back up at him and smile just before the rope snapped and they tumbled together into the darkness.
Crazy... Her too... Anger management... Dysfunctional... No hope...
"Daddy, what are they saying?"
"Nothing, Trixie. Just a sack of lies."
A few days later, when they were cleared to leave the clinic (particularly after some grueling psychiatric evaluations and family counseling), they were free of their patients' robes and were all too glad to walk out together.
"So you really never forgave her?"
"I did, but by that time it was too late. All she really wanted was for us to take care of you, for you to be happy." Plainmane squinted in the sun. "So are you going to keep traveling?"
"The Great and Powerful Trixie still has a name to make for herself. Though... I guess I don't have to impress you with my stories?"
"As long as you tell the truth. That's the one thing your mother did for me."
"True enough... I wonder if—" Trixie stopped in her tracks as she watched Plainmane go forward. "Daddy... your cutie mark!"
"Yeah, I know, never had one. And for big manly stallions like me, it's just called a mark."
"No, that's the thing, it's there! You finally have a mark."
Sure enough, there was a bright mark on his formerly unremarkable flank, even glinting in the daylight: the silhouette of a stallion and his little pony, heads held high with pride, trotting together.