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Trix of the Trade: Part II - For Want of a Hat

A few minutes later, Trixie was sitting on the floor of Leechcraft’s caravan, as comfortable as she could get on the threadbare carpet.  Leechcraft had hung up his hat and was pouring them two stiff drinks (whilst Equestrian ponies didn’t drink alcohol, they tended to create very strong flavoured punches and cordials).  He topped off the syrupy green drink with a sprig of fresh mint, and carefully picked up the tray in his mouth.  Before he had a chance to put it down, however, Trixie had already levitated her drink off the tray.  He sat the tray on a small, rickety stool, and took a sip of the cordial, sighing.  Trixie decided it wasn’t really to her taste and placed it down on the floor, subtly pushing it aside.

They sat in silence for a few moments, Leechcraft examining the blue unicorn with a calculating look in his eye, and Trixie doing much the same to the dark grey earth pony and his caravan.  She was first to break the silence.

“You can’t have always sold fake produce,” She began, feigning disinterest and glancing around the sparsely decorated caravan, “... or you’d have been run out of Equestria long ago.  I imagine then, that you’ve fallen on hard times, and you’re trying to work your way back up.”  Levitating the cup again, she forced herself to take another sip of the cordial.  Although the strong herbal flavour was too bitter for her, she was thirsty, and was going to take anything she was given.  She looked back at Leechcraft.  “Well, am I right?”

He finished the last of his cordial.  “I’m goin’ t’answer that with a question of my own, Miss Trixie.”  He said, smirking.  “You’re in exactly the same boat, I’m guessin’.  I’ve been around, an’ I can tell you’re no Appleloosan.  You’re too well spoken, fer starters,  an’ y’carry yerself like a filly showin’ off her new saddle.  So, if you’re here, talkin’ t’me, that means y’got nothin’ better t’do.  Am
I right?”

Trixie was caught off-guard by Leechcraft’s own conclusions.  The momentary flicker of uncertainty was enough to make her lose her concentration, and the cup fell to the ground, spilling the sugary cordial on the caravan floor.  Leechcraft grinned broadly, and pulled a hankerchief from his waistcoat pocket with his mouth, tossing it over the spill.

“But yes, missie, you’re right.  I ain’t a cheat.  Least, not when I can help it.  An’ I didn’t get this mark for nothin’.”  Leechcraft motioned his head at the green bottle on his flank.  “I run this caravan all across Equestria, y’see.  I stock up on supplies when I’m near the Everfree Forest, s’only place I can get half the herbs for my tonics.  Then I travel, an’ sell all the stuff I make.  Thing is, tho’, in recent years I jus’ can’t get as deep into the Forest as I used to, an’ I can’t find th’right herbs no more.  But I gotta live somehow, an’ I jus’ can’t face settlin’ down in one place, so I water the stock down, try an’ make it last as long as possible.”

Trixie had regained her composure, putting on the same haughty tones as before.  “But what you were selling out there was junk.  Coloured water and apple leaves.  Nothing medicinal about it.”

“Right again.  I’ve run out of herbs, but I’m still at least a week away from Ponyville, an’ I got t’pull this thing by myself.”  Leechcraft motioned with a hoof at the caravan.  “S’not like I can jus’ eat grass, either.  Round these parts you’re lucky t’find a single blade, let alone a patch big enough t’eat.”

Trixie sat in silence for a few moments.  She was certainly no stranger to the difficulties of the travelling life herself, although she, too, could never settle down in one place.  She knew, however, that it was not an easy way to live, and you could never be sure where your next meal was coming from.

Leechcraft looked at her, grinning.  “But with your help, missy, I can make this junk fly off the shelves faster than they can get their bits out of their purses.  Heck, I might be able t’skip the Everfree Forest altogether, jus’ sell whatever I find!”

Trixie smirked herself, masking her eagerness at the proposal.  A chance to use her magic and exercise her skills in stretching the truth again was just what she was after.  Even if it meant putting up with the minor inconvenience of acting as ‘sidekick’ to a quack of a salesman, it was better than having to face the shackles of employment.  

“Of course, I’ll require food and lodging.”

Leechcraft bowed low.  “My caravan is yours, missy.  I rather sleep outside anyway.  Grass an’ earth is better than any bed I’ve ever had.”  Trixie picked herself up and immediately set to re-arranging the meagre furniture to her liking.  Leechcraft looked at her glowing horn for a moment, and, avoiding the levitating mats and table, picked up his hat from the stand.  He flicked his head sideways and flung the hat at Trixie, it landing slightly skewiff, and being too large for her, slipped over her eyes.  Her concentration once more broken, the furniture fell to the floor, sending the tray and Leechcraft’s empty cup flying.

Trixie, barely containing herself, lifted the hat from her head.  “And what was
that for?”  She spat through gritted teeth.  Leechcraft was stifling a laugh.

“Well now, missy, I was thinkin’, with you lightnin’ up like Celestia durin’ the Summer Sun Celebration every time you’re doin’ something with your magic, they’re sure to catch on quick.  So, you’ll be needin’ a hat.”  Leechcraft said, trying hard not to let any trace of mirth into his voice.

Trixie held the hat in front of her with her magic.  She looked hard at it for a moment, and placed it back on her head, with great ceremony, tilting it back so it rested over her horn, but didn’t slip over her eyes.  She levitated the small shaving mirror out of her satchel and looked at herself in it.  
“Tie my hair back and I’d look like that farm filly with the fancy rope tricks.” She thought to herself, moving the mirror around to examine every angle.  She was forced to admit that it didn’t look too bad, as a replacement for her old conical hat.  Besides, every magician needed her props.

“It’s the wrong colour.  I’ll need a white one.”  She said, matter-of-factly, not looking up from the mirror.

“Well, I’ve known you barely an hour an’ you’ve already taken over my house, so Hay, let’s spring for a new hat.”  Leechcraft replied, clearly finding the situation deeply amusing despite his best attempts at remaining stoic.  “I did pretty well at my last stop, so I got enough bits.  ‘Sides, the tailor here knows me.  I can probably get a discount.  Let’s wait ‘til later, mind, when the crowd out there don’t wanna lynch me no more.”  Leechcraft grinned.

Trixie and Leechcraft spent the remainder of the morning and the early afternoon mostly in silence.  Both were so used to living by themselves that they felt no need to make conversation beyond simple statements, responses and requests.  They shared a meagre lunch, and Trixie forced herself to drink another cup of Leechcraft’s cordial.  She found the taste beginning to grow on her, but it was still an effort to swallow it.

Leechcraft finished putting the plates back into a small cupboard with one door missing built into the side of the caravan, and took a glance out through the equally small, scratched window.  

“All clear.  Guess most people are out tendin’ to th’orchard.  Come on then, now or never.”  He stepped out of the caravan and held the door open until Trixie had followed.  She didn’t thank him, not that he really expected her to.  He led the way up the main street, ignoring the glares and glances from any ponies still outside.  He walked straight past the clothes store with its large wooden sign swinging in the light wind.  Trixie looked up at the sign and stopped in front of the store, staring after Leechcraft.

“I thought you said we were going to the-” She began, but realised that Leechcraft had no intention of stopping, and for that matter, wasn’t listening.  Taking a deep breath, she stopped herself from yelling after him and making a scene, and trotted quickly to catch up.  Leechcraft turned a corner into an alleyway off the main street, and when Trixie caught up with him, he was standing by the store’s side entrance, smirking.  He took in Trixie’s glare and rolled his shoulders in the equivalent of a shrug.

“After this mornin’, I don’t think folk’d take too kindly to me jus’ walkin’ in the front door.”  He offered by way of explanation.  “Besides, like I said, I know th’gal here.  Jus’ watch.”  He raised a hoof and knocked gently on the door, then stood back.  After a few seconds of silence, the door swung open, revealing a plumper, older mare in a bonnet and sporting a pair of glasses balanced on her muzzle.  She narrowed her eyes at Leechcraft, and adjusted her glasses with her hoof.  He grinned at her.  Slowly her glare gave way to a smirk, followed by a smile.

“Leechcraft, y’old villain.  What brings yer round ‘ere this time?  In trouble with Silverstar?  I tell yer, if you try an’ hide in my dressin’ rooms again like th’last time he hounded you out I ain’t gonna hold him back!”  She glanced aside and suddenly noticed Trixie, a mixed expression of annoyance and amusement across her features.  

“Well, who’s this fine young filly you’ve picked up?  Looks like a city girl t’me.”  She smiled at Trixie, who was taken aback by the sudden implication that she was
involved with the ‘Doctor’ and, for once, at a loss for words.  Leechcraft stepped between them before Trixie had a chance to regain her wits and temper.

“Uh, it’s nothin’ like that, Charity.  She’s jus’ agreed to help me with my work is all, an’ I thought I’d buy her a hat as a token of appreciation.”  He said, smiling disarmingly and taking a backward glance at Trixie.

The seamstress, Charity, looked at the pair and rolled her eyes.  “Well, it ain’t my place to pry.  Come on in, little missy, lets get yer measured up.  Been a while since I had city-folk drop by here.”  She said, backing up and letting Trixie and Leechcraft in, and closing the door behind them.  

Trixie took a look around the room while Charity went to fetch her measuring tape.  It was practical and no-nonsense, like the rest of Appleloosa, consisting of barely more than the plain wooden floors and walls.  They were in the storeroom behind the shopfront, as she could tell by the racks of cloth and clothes strewn haphazardly around the available space.  She turned to face Leechcraft, who was staring at his hooves.

“What was that about the ‘last time’ you were ‘hounded out’ of Appleloosa?” She said with a smirk.  Leechcraft shot her a glare.

“T’ain’t the first time I’ve been here, y’know.  An’ last time they got the Sheriff involved.”

“You’re not one to learn a lesson, are you?” She asked, not expecting a reply.  An unbidden thought emerged in her mind that the question could just as easily be applied to her.  Leechcraft opened his mouth and was about to deliver a snappy comeback when Charity returned.  She wasted no time with idle chatter and immediately set to measuring Trixie’s head to find a fitting hat.

“The problem with you unicorns is that horn.  It’s nearly impossible to make a decent hat that fits over it.”  She mumbled, pencil between teeth, while writing down measurements.  She adjusted her glasses again and peered at the numbers.

“Ah, yer in luck.  Think I got jus’ the thing.” She said, whipping the tape off Trixie’s head and rushing back into the shopfront.  She returned half a minute later with a large white hat, with a high crown and a wide brim.  She held it out towards Trixie on the end of her hoof.

“We call it the ‘Boss of the Orchard’.  S’new style, imported from Fillydelphia, colt named Studson designed it fer us settler ponies out here in Appleloosa an’ the other new towns ‘round ‘ere.  I think this’ll suit yer right down t’the ground.  Hide that horn of yours too.”  Charity winked at Leechcraft.  “Don’t think I ‘adn’t guessed.  Unicorn comes into town an’ next day she’s at my door with
you, of all ponies.  I thought t’myself: ‘He’s up t’somethin’’ soon as I saw yer.”

Leechcraft put on his best look of feigning ignorance and innocence.  Trixie levitated the hat off Charity’s hoof and placed it on her head, turning to admire herself in the mirror.  Now that she finally had a chance to look at herself in a full-length mirror, she realised what a mess she looked.  Her coat was mussed up and her mane knotty, having been left to dry naturally after the rain.  Her quick combing when she’d got up earlier that morning hadn’t had much of an effect.  On the other hoof, the hat was
perfect.  It rested  just above her eyes, shielding much of her face if she looked down, and the high crown of the design served to hide her horn without the hat getting caught on it, as so often happened with headwear designed for Earth Ponies.  She picked up the mirror with her magic and gently swivelled it around herself so she could see herself from every angle.  It reminded her of the time, long ago, when she had bought her original hat and matching cape from a boutique in the city.  Then she’d been The Great and Powerful Trixie.  Now?  Well, she wasn’t sure what she was now, but the title didn’t seem as apt without the wizardly get-up.

She took another glance at the mirror and smiled.

‘Doctor’ Trixie would do.

<- Part I ~ Part III ->

Trix of the Trade: Part IV - Ignoble Thief

Trixie woke up.  The first thing she noticed as her eyes snapped open was the ache in her back.  Evidently during the night she’d turned onto it and stayed there, which was a position not exactly comfortable for ponies at the best of times.  Turning onto her side, her brain started following her body’s lead and filtered through the usual early morning thoughts: Where am I?  What day is it?  What am I doing in this bed?  Who is that colt sleeping on the floor over there and why is he sleeping on the floor over there?

Slowly, it came back to her.  She was still in Appleloosa.  She’d been taken ill and must’ve been put into the bed.  The colt was... something to do with leeches.  She glanced at his cutie mark, trying hard to draw out his name from her scrambled thoughts and memories.  She was still staring at him with that blank look of the recently awoken when Leechcraft himself began to stir.  Yawning and running his tongue over his chapped lips, he turned around to see Trixie looking at his flanks, and couldn’t help but grin.  Trixie broke out of her trance almost immediately, and blushed, despite herself.

“Well then, still alive I see, good start.”  Leechcraft said, stretching and lifting himself up off the floor.  

“No thanks to you!” Trixie snapped back at him.  Leechcraft looked a little taken aback.  “If you hadn’t kept your poisons next to your salads none of this would’ve happened!” She continued, glaring at the earth pony and trying her best to hide her red cheeks.  At this, Leechcraft’s look of shock melted into a wide grin.

“Guess that proves you’re feelin’ better alright.”  He turned and started searching through the cupboards to prepare breakfast.  Trixie was feeling hungry, again, having lost what was left of the previous day’s meals.

She was grateful for Leechcraft’s intervention the previous night, and was cursing herself for being such a foal as to eat a strange plant she didn’t recognize.  Not that she’d dare show it, of course.  The Great and Powerful Trixie was not accustomed to being in debt to anyone, and she didn’t plan on starting anytime soon.  To take her mind off things, she set to work brushing her bedmane, which, as she saw in the mirror levitating in front of her, was quite a sight.  

Leechcraft was skillfully tossing plates onto the table with the air of somepony who’s spent a lot of time practising the trick (and even longer cleaning up). and looking for any available greens.  He still had a couple of jars left of salad stuff, he knew that much, but there wasn’t anything to... spice it up with.  It’d have to be lettuce with a side order of lettuce.  As the cupboard door swung shut, he took a moment to look at it more carefully.  Where it’d been lop-sided and rough the day before, Trixie had straightened it and smoothed it over like she had the floor.  The whole caravan looked better, for that matter.  Part of him supposed that it was Trixie’s way of thanking him for taking her in and giving her a place to sleep and eat, but the cynic in him believed she had probably done it for her own comfort as much as his.  After all, he’d only taken her in because she was useful to him, hadn’t he?

He turned his attention back to breakfast, and was soon finished.  He sat down at one side of the table and waited while Trixie was still struggling with the knots in her mane, oblivious.  After a few minutes, he coughed into his hoof.

“It’s, uh.  Gettin’” He said, causing Trixie to turn.  She rolled her eyes and put the brush and mirror back down, and sat herself opposite Leechcraft.  They both ate in silence, and it took Trixie some effort to force it down after all she’d been through the evening before.  

When they’d both finished, Leechcraft cleaned and put the plates away while Trixie dressed herself in her new clothes.  She spent several minutes just tilting the hat back and forth until she was satisfied it sat right.  Leechcraft, by comparison, had fallen asleep in his waistcoat, and just tugged on it a few times with his teeth to get the worst of the creases out.  Leechcraft was the first to break the silence.

“I’ll be needin’ to prepare my stuff for sellin’.  I got some left over from yesterday, that’s them bags over there.  Obviously that ain’t gonna go down so well, so I’ll mix it together with the stuff I brought in last night.  I did a lot of the work when you were asleep, so it’s just a matter of packin’ ‘em now.”  Leechcraft waved a hoof at the sprigs of herbs dangling from the caravan’s ceiling.  Trixie looked up at them.  They just looked like withered, dead plants to her, but she had learnt firsthand that Leechcraft probably knew what he was doing when it came to flora.  

She spared a moment to ponder how in Celestia’s mane he’d managed to tie the little bundles to the beams, and was slightly disappointed when she realised he had no intention of taking them down again.  Instead it seemed that he was taking similar-looking plants from another container, crushing them under his hoof, and scraping the pieces into a bag.  Since he hadn’t asked her for any help, she just continued watching with mild interest.  She didn’t often see earth ponies at work, and it was odd seeing Leechcraft perform all these seemingly intricate tasks with nothing more than his forehooves and mouth.

He took about an hour to complete the task to his own satisfaction, mixing up tonics (barely more than bits of leaf tossed into water) and preparing powders.  He would occasionally start talking whichever herb or flower he was currently working with, explaining their uses to Trixie, or the folklore surrounding them.  She was quite surprised to learn that some herbs had different effects on the three different types of ponies, as Leechcraft was explaining to her as he worked with the Five-Pointed Hornshine.

“Only works on unicorns, this ‘un.  Give to a pegasus or an earth pony an’ it won’t do a thing.  Just tastes a little bitter.  But to unicorns?  Over time it helps strengthen your horn and I’ve heard some herbalists say it can even improve your magic, but I ain’t in a position to prove or deny that.” He said, crushing the leaves and putting them into bottles.  Trixie levitated a stem from the small pile and looked suspiciously at it.

“It’s not... Poisonous, is it?”  She said at last.  Leechcraft smirked.

“Missy, all you’ll be gettin’ from eatin’ too much of that is a bit of a headache.  ‘Sides, you think I’d be sellin’ it if it was poisonous?”

Trixie frowned.

“... Then why were you keeping that other plant here?  The one I...” She faltered.

“Like I said, differen’ plants do differen’ things to differen’ ponies.  The one you dined on last night is commonly known to unicorns as ‘magebane’, but to earth ponies and pegasi it’s nothin’ more than a painkiller, albeit one of the stronger ones.  I use it myself when I’ve been pullin’ this thing all day.”  He rolled his head, indicating the caravan.

“Doesn’ do squat to us, but with unicorns, it messes ‘em up somethin’ fierce.  No one’s really sure why, but some of the bigwig doctors up at Canterlot guess it has somethin’ in it that interferes with a unicorn’s natural magic somehow, an’ the results are usually fatal.  Worst you’ll get on a pegasus is that they’ll lose feelin’ in their wings for a few hours, but that’s rare.  To us earth ponies it’s harmless.  Hay, we even call it ‘white restwell’.”

Trixie blinked a few times, and looked back at the hornshine she was still holding.  She took one leaf off it and nibbled on it.  Leechcraft was right, it tasted bitter, but she didn’t start having any adverse reactions to it, so she finished off the rest of the leaf.  Leechcraft snatched away the rest of the sprig in his teeth and put it back in the pile with the rest.  After he’d finished, he looked out the window, peering at the sky behind the nearby houses.

“S’gettin’ on for late mornin’ now, I reckon.  I’ll pull the caravan back inta the main street an’ we can set up shop.  Then with your magic, an’ my dashin’ good looks an charisma, we’ll be takin’ more bits than we know what t’do with.”  He winked at Trixie and swept outside to begin hitching himself up.  Trixie briefly pondered staying inside and letting him pull her, but decided to at least lighten the load a little, and stepped out after him.  She didn’t help him with the harness; again, she was quite interested in watching how the earth pony managed to strap himself in without the aid of magic.  She did notice a few of the town’s residents glaring at Leechcraft from the windows of their homes, however.  She was glad that they didn’t seem to be directing any of that hostility towards her, but she supposed that with her new clothes she just blended in with the townsfolk.

Leechcraft either didn’t notice (or, thought Trixie, didn’t care), and started forcefully walking back down the side-street, dragging the caravan behind him. It was a slow start to pull it out of the ruts it had worn itself into, but once onto the now dry earth, it rolled along at a respectable pace.  Trixie walked behind, looking up and around at the buildings.  Like everything else in Appleloosa, they were no-nonsense wooden constructions, with few (if any) frills.  Any paint or decoration seemed reserved solely for the fronts of the shops, where there was a little here and there to highlight the more elaborate wood carving and identify each store.

The caravan turned slowly into the main street, and Leechcraft pulled it to the same place he’d set up the day before.  The other shop carts in the street had either sold most of their goods or were in the process of packing up, but when the ponies looked up and saw Leechcraft, they all began glaring at him.

Leechcraft had just unhitched himself from the cart when he noticed a crowd had begun to gather around him.  He took in the angry expressions and murmured threats and gulped, looking around for Trixie, to find she had vanished without a trace.  Swallowing again, he put on his most disarming smile, but the sweat showing on his brow gave away his fear.

“N-now, gents, one at a time, I’ll be finished settin’ up in a moment...” He began, before a well-aimed carrot struck him in the side of the head and knocked his hat clean off.

“We don’ want none o’ yer tricks, yer quack!”  A voice shouted from somewhere in the throng.  There were cries of agreement as more ponies armed themselves with leftover produce and began pelting Leechcraft with all manner of food-based projectiles.  He was fending off a hail of unripe apples when there was the unmistakable ‘splutch’ of an Apple Pie hitting the ground.  

The crowd turned and parted immediately, hiding or eating the incriminating evidence of the attack.  Sheriff Silverstar strode right up to Leechcraft, ignoring the other ponies.  He glowered at the cowering earth pony for a few moments, before lowering his head down to him.

“Leechcraft... Ah thought Ah told you not t’show yer face ‘round these parts again.”  The Sheriff said in a low tone.  Leechcraft laughed nervously.

“W-well, eh-heh, y’know how it is, Sheriff, pony’s gotta make a livin’, righ’?” He said, smiling as innocently as he could when he knew there was no way out.

“Deputy!” The Sheriff yelled, lifting his head and looking through the crowd.  There were a few seconds of awkward silence, but then a grey pony with a large hat and a mouthful of carrots was nudged forward.  Sheriff Silverstar narrowed his eyes at his deputy, who spat out the carrots and gave a mock salute with his hoof.

“Deputy, take this low-life t’the cells.  We’ll decide what ta do about ‘is property later.”  Sheriff Silverstar ordered, glancing over at Leechcraft’s caravan.  The deputy duly stepped forward and produced a pair of hoof-cuffs from his belt, swiftly latching them around Leechcraft’s front pair of legs.  Leechcraft blinked, surprised, before being hoisted briskly to his hooves by a yank on the chain.

As the deputy led Leechcraft away and the crowd dispersed, Trixie emerged from her hiding place between two closely-built shops.  Her first thought was to leave, immediately.  She could make it to the next town in a quick day’s trot, and from there...

From there... Do what?

She furrowed her brow.  For that matter, she didn’t even know where the next town
was.  She glanced at Leechcraft’s caravan, briefly picturing herself once again as The Great and Powerful Trixie, standing on a stage in front of the little mobile home, dazzling Appleloosa and every town beyond with her magic.

She sighed, and looked down at the ground.  She couldn’t bring herself to do it.  As much as she hated to admit it, she felt... indebted to the earth pony.  He
had saved her life, and more importantly, given her a home, shelter, food and work.

“So he’s a generous crook,” She thought to herself, “but he’s still a crook.”

Then her mind wound back to everything she’d done since she left Ponyville, disgraced.  She’d stolen, she’d lied, she’d tricked, and committed acts of all-around questionable legality.

“... And here I am, justifying stealing his home, by telling myself he’s just as bad as me.”

She looked up, determined, and tilted her hat with her hoof.  She grinned to herself.

“He’s a crook...

… And so is Trixie.”

<- Part III ~ Part V ->

Trix of the Trade: Part V - Learning the Ropes

Trixie looked around to make sure the crowd of angry Appleloosans had dispersed before darting out from her hiding place and making a bolt for the caravan.  She didn’t know how long it’d be until the Sheriff decided to move it, or some nosey pony decided to have a look inside, and she needed some peace and quiet to decide what to do.

She shot inside before anyone had a chance to see her and bolted the door to prevent interruption.  Letting out a breath she didn’t know she was holding, she looked around at the caravan’s interior, her gaze lighting on the piles of prepared stock that Leechcraft had intended to sell that morning.  She started sifting through the bottles, bags and dried herbs, trying to recall what Leechcraft had told her about them all barely an hour or so earlier.  Admittedly, she hadn’t really been listening to most of it, too preoccupied with her own thoughts (and preening), and now she was beginning to regret it.

“Gah, was it the one with the spiky leaves and blue petals, or smooth leaves and square stem?” She thought as she picked up first one herb, then another, peering at them both closely.  “Why doesn’t he label anything!?” She let them both fall, and huffed in frustration.

“Trixie, you’re going about this all wrong.  If you’re going to break Leechcraft out, first you need to make a plan.” She looked out of the window of the caravan at the buildings lining the street, taking care to avoid being seen.  She quickly spotted the Sheriff’s office; it was the only building in Appleloosa with barred windows.  She knew she had to get inside and have a look around the place, but at the same time was reluctant to let herself be seen in case she was recognized later.  

“... It can’t be helped, I need to know the layout of the office before I try anything.” She looked around at the caravan again.  Leaving it unguarded while she went over to the sheriff’s office was a risk she’d have to take.  She put on her satchel and took one of every item Leechcraft sold, in case the caravan was emptied or taken during her absence.

Peeking out of the circular hole cut into the door to make sure no one was looking in her direction, she quickly stepped out and closed the door behind her.  Assuming an air of confident disinterest (one she’d long since mastered when talking to ‘fans’), she trotted briskly down the street to the Sheriff’s office.

She looked up at the building, quickly making a mental note that there seemed to be only one visible door, directly at the front.  All the windows were barred, with the bars built into the frames, and securely fastened.  It was only one storey high, and she supposed that there was no skylight, from what she’d seen of other Appleloosan buildings.  Clearly getting in and out was only possible through the front door.

While she was contemplating any other possible means of entry, the door swung open to reveal the deputy.  He saw Trixie standing in front of the verandah and quickly stood to attention, adjusting his hat and trying to look as single and available as possible in front of the gorgeous light-blue mare.

If there was one thing Trixie had learnt from her years on the road, it was how to read body language.  Ponies could lie with their mouths easily, but the rest of the body took a lot more training.  She saw the opportunity, and seized on it.  She drew in breath and was about to state her demands in the same haughty tone she was used to using, but stopped and checked herself.

“No no no.  Not the ‘Great and Powerful’ Trixie this time.  You want him to be putty in your hooves.  Eye flutter and pout at the ready!”

The deputy stepped forward, putting on his best charm.  … Which wasn’t saying much, but he made the effort.

“Yer look a little lost there, missy.  Can I be any help?”  He said, giving her a wink.  Trixie looked up at him and instantly put on the full works.  She pouted a little, doing a convincing impression of a scared little filly lost in the big city.

“W-well, I’m n-new here, and, uhm, I was... Looking for work?” She said, fluttering her eyes at the deputy.  

He fell for it hook, like and sinker.

“Then yer come to th’right pony!  I’m Deputy Irons.”  He said, turning to show her his cutie mark; a pair of hoof-cuffs.  “If yer after work, we could always do with more helpers in the orchard...”

Trixie looked down and let her ears droop, scuffing a hoof on the ground.

“... but if that ain’t yer cup o’ apple juice, me an’ th’Sheriff could do with someone t’help with all this filin’!”  Deputy Irons waved a hoof at the office door.  Trixie looked back up, smiling sweetly.

“Oh, th-thank you, sir!  That’ll be just perfect for somepony like me!”  She said, pulling out all the stops.  Deputy Irons never stood a chance.

“Well, I gotta go on my rounds, but uh... Maybe you an’ me can get some salt later, huh?” Deputy Irons winked at Trixie again, walking past her.  “Oh, jus’ head on in an’ talk to th’Sheriff.  Tell ‘im I sent yer if ‘ee asks.”

When Deputy Irons was safely out of the way, Trixie broke into a grin.  She trotted up the steps and pushed open the door to the Sheriff’s office.  Sheriff Silverstar was riding a chair behind a desk piled high with papers, his hooves crossed and on top of the pile.  His hat was tilted over his eyes, and Trixie guessed he’d decided to catch some sleep while his deputy was out.  She tread as lightly as possible on her hooves, trying not to wake the Sheriff unnecessarily.  

She took a quick glance around the room.  The Sheriff’s desk was to the left of the door, and behind it were a row of cells with brick walls and iron bars.  Two were currently occupied.  Leechcraft was in one, facing the wall with his back to Trixie, and in the other snored an old pony with a pickaxe for a cutie mark and salt encrusted on his muzzle.  To the other side of the room was the Deputy’s desk, some cabinets for filing, and finally a humble bed and living space off to one corner.

Trixie was shocked out of her mental planning by the loud creak of a floorboard.  She lifted her hoof off the offending piece of lumber immediately, but too late.  The Sheriff jolted awake, overbalancing the chair and collapsing to the floor with a yelp.  Leechcraft turned and barely suppressed his laughter, before noticing Trixie.  Fortunately, he had the presence of mind not to call out to her, guessing that it was best, for the time being, to leave the Sheriff under the impression that they were unacquainted.

Sheriff Silverstar picked himself up, muttering curses at the chair, now little more than a pile of kindling.  He caught sight of Trixie at the same time as Leechcraft, and narrowed his eyes at the blue unicorn.

“Can I help yer, ma’am?” He said, in the tone of one who has no intention of actually helping but is obliged to ask.  Trixie giggled nervously.

“I-I was... told I could find work here?” She said, quickly adopting the same stance and tone as earlier.

“Who told yer that?”

“Y-your deputy, sir.  He s-said I could help with... filing.”  She looked down at her hooves, rubbing her forelegs together.  Sheriff Silverstar wasn’t quite as easily swayed as his Deputy.  He stood in silence for a few moments, glowering at Trixie, but finally sighed and waved a hoof in the direction of the Deputy’s desk.

“Fine.  It’s all over there.  Get ‘er done by tonigh’ an’ I’ll see about payin’ yer.” He said, and started picking up the pieces of his wrecked chair off the floor.  Trixie saw the opportunity to ingratiate herself and swept over.

“Please, let me!” She didn’t wait for an answer, and immediately began levitating the pieces of the chair, quickly slotting them back together.  A little light from her horn escaped from under the brim of her hat while she worked.  Sheriff Silverstar blinked, looking back and forth between her and the repaired seat.
“Unicorn!  Well naw, that’s more useful.  Problem with half the ponies out ‘ere in Appleloosa is they can’t grip a pen in their mouth fer longer than a coupla hours, so we never get this paperwork done.  But you’ll be absotively perfect!”  He said, smiling enthusiastically behind his moustache.

Trixie smiled sweetly at the Sheriff and went over to the deputy’s desk, perching herself on the chair.  She briefly pondered why chairs were always made in this style, with the uncomfortable and unusable backrest, but dismissed the issue for later contemplation.  She fidgeted for a few minutes, trying to get comfortable and simultaneously cause as little squeaking as possible on the floorboards.  The Sheriff had climbed back into his chair and fallen asleep, which Trixie was thankful for.  Keeping up that false smile and shy-yet-enthusiastic demeanour was tiresome.

Leechcraft, meanwhile, was sitting in his cell, watching Trixie through the bars.  He guessed she was planning something, and he supposed that ‘something’ involved getting him out of jail, but he didn’t know how she planned to accomplish it.  He’d only been locked up for an hour or two, but had already counted all the bricks in the wall (twice) and given up on making conversation to the snoring miner, taciturn Sheriff or over-zealous Deputy.  He hoped that whatever Trixie was planning, she went through with it before he died of boredom.  Or Apple Pie to the face.

In the hours that passed, Trixie felt she’d learnt more about Equestrian Law than was strictly safe to one’s health.  For such a small and new town, Appleloosa had a lot of ‘criminals’, even though some of the charges were... questionable.

She levitated one form in particular, peering at it.  


- Charged with Over-Enthusiasm in Guided Tour of Appleloosa, Resulting in Loss of Trade.

Fine: Two Hours Community Service as Appleloosa Tour Guide

Rolling her eyes, she ticked and signed the appropriate boxes and rubber-stamped the form, placing it in a neatly stacked pile with the countless others she’d already worked through.  It seemed that for every file she took from the mound of paper, two more appeared in its place.

It hadn’t been a total waste of an afternoon.  Not only had Trixie learnt that there are at least seven different ways to assault somepony with an apple, but more importantly, she had learnt where the Sheriff kept his keys.  Only an hour or so previously, the Sheriff had awoken from his nap to let the old miner out.  Judging by the way he talked so amiably to the eldery pony, Trixie guessed he was a regular customer.   Sheriff Silverstar kept the keys inside his waistcoat, returning them swiftly as soon as he’d let the miner out.  He’d left Trixie in charge of the office while he took the miner back home, but before she had a chance to go over and talk to Leechcraft, Deputy Irons had returned from his rounds.

The last hour or so since had consisted of Irons flirting, badly, and posturing at any given chance.  Trixie had tried her best to ignore it and carry on with the filing, but by now her patience was wearing thin.  She wasn’t sorry to hear the town’s (newly reconstructed) clocktower strike five, releasing her from duty.

Veritably leaping from her seat, she made a quick dash for the door, but was surprised to find Deputy Irons blocking her way, leaning on the doorframe, both sets of legs crossed in a casual manner and hat tilted down.

“So, how about that salt?”  He said, flicking his hat back up with a well-practised gesture and a grin.  Trixie felt her heart sink.  There was no way she was getting out of this one.  She nodded, mutely, feeling the tiniest pang of guilt when she saw how overjoyed the Deputy was that she said yes.

“Great!  Come on!  If we get to th’Salt Block early we’ll avoid the rush!”  He said, rearing up and running off down the street without waiting to see if Trixie was actually coming.  She looked back at Leechcraft in the cell, who shrugged at her.  Sighing, she followed after Deputy Irons.

He was standing outside the saloon waiting for her as she approached, still grinning enthusiastically.  He pushed open the swing-door with such force it was nearly knocked off its hinges, and held it open for Trixie to enter.  She looked around the familiar saloon.  It was still warm and inviting, and she could hear a pony clumsily trying to play a piano in the corner, not an easy feat with hooves.  The saloon was still mostly empty, a couple of ponies sat here and there at tables, and two stood leaning against the bar, talking to the barman.  

Deputy Irons came in behind Trixie and strode to the bar, knocking on it with his hoof and making the other customer’s cups rattle.  The barman strode over and looked down his nose at the Deputy.  He was at least two hands taller than Irons, and took full advantage of it.

“Yes?” He said, the single syllable hanging in the air like a death threat.  Irons fought to keep up his bravado in front of his ‘date’.

“Two salts, Morton, an’ I’ll take an Apple Twist.  The lady here’ll have a...” He paused, and turned around to Trixie.  “... a, uh... Whaddya wan’ t’drink, missy?”

Trixie blinked.  “Oh, uh... H-hay smoothie, please.”

Morton, the barman, peered at Trixie, but decided not to pry.  He set to work preparing the drinks and measuring out the salt as Trixie took a seat next to Irons at the bar.  Irons scooted his stool closer to hers.
“So, I didn’ catch yer name...” He started.  Trixie forced herself not to roll her eyes.  She gulped and adopted the same tone of voice she’d used earlier.

“T-Trixie.”  She replied, avoiding looking at him directly.  She’d had an idea of how to remove Deputy Irons from the equation, and now needed to wait only for the perfect opportunity.  They chatted, although the conversation was a little one-sided.  Deputy Irons didn’t seem put off by Trixie’s short answers and had started talking enough for the both of them.  

Morton returned a couple of minutes later with their drinks and salt, and Irons flicked a hoof-full of bits at the barman.  They talked as the bar slowly filled and their drinks emptied.  Irons was telling Trixie of how he came to settle in Appleloosa and his life in Manehatten, always wanting to be a cop but never quite making the grade.  Trixie, in return, made up a story about her life on the road before coming to Appleloosa, at least when she got a word in edgeways.

Irons was onto his third Apple Twist and second salt when the moment Trixie had been waiting for finally came.

“I’m jus’ -hic- g-gonna... go out b-back fer a sec, -hic- Trix.  Wait up -hic- f’me!” He half-rose, half-fell off his stool and stumbled towards the saloon’s doors.  Trixie briefly wondered whether the ‘no alcohol’ thing was strictly observed in Appleloosa, but didn’t waste time thinking about it.

She flicked open her satchel and dug through the herbs inside, using her hooves to avoid unwanted attention from the other ponies in the bar.  She thought it quite likely that she was the only unicorn in the entire building, and didn’t want to draw light to that fact.  She cast her mind back to the previous night, trying to remember which herb Leechcraft had given her to send her off to sleep.  She hadn’t gotten a good look at it, but she remembered that it smelt quite strong and tasted spicy.  After looking through a few of the small bags, she found what she was looking for.  A bag of small, jagged-edged leaves, that smelt strongly of pepper even through the combined scents of the other plants.

She looked around, then surreptitiously dumped a good portion of the bag into Deputy Iron’s drink, quickly stirring it in.  Fortunately, an Apple Twist called for cloudy apple juice, so the leaves weren’t immediately visible, not that she thought it’d be a problem with Irons in his current state.

No sooner had she put the bag back on top of the other herbs and closed the satchel, than Irons came back into the saloon, after a false start walking headfirst into the door frame.  With some difficulty, the Deputy managed to slump back onto his stool.

“Y’know, yer n-not -hic- like the other m-mares around ‘ere, Trix...” He slurred.  “Y’really -hic- l-listen.  It’s n-nice to have so-someone -hic- t’talk to, y’know?” He finished with a flamboyant wave of his hoof and picked up his drink in his teeth, knocking it back.

He went out like a light, hitting the floor with a thud.
Morton leant over the bar, looking down at the now-snoring form of Deputy Irons.  A small smirk played at the edge of his lips.

“Well, seems our good Deputy can’t hold his salt, fellas!”  He announced to the bar, getting a response of raucous laughter as the other ponies turned to look.  Trixie had slipped off her stool and made a move for the door as soon as Irons picked up his drink, and took advantage of the distraction to slip out unnoticed.

“One down...” She thought to herself, glancing up at the darkened sky and rising moon.  The sky to the west was still awash in orange and purple, so she guessed the sun had only just set.  There were a few stragglers on the main street going to and fro, but most were now at home or in the saloon.  She made her way back along the street to the Sheriff’s Office, peering in through the barred windows.  Sheriff Silverstar was still working at his desk, and it looked like Leechcraft was asleep.  

“... One to go.  How am I going to get him out of the way?” 

Her eyes twinkled with inspiration, and she briskly trotted away, back towards Leechcraft’s caravan.  She was relieved to find it was still there, and quickly went inside.  She ransacked the cupboards once more, before lighting on the canister Leechcraft used to hold his prepared mint cordial.  She flipped the lid open and poured the rest of the sleeping herb into the mixture, shaking it to make sure it spread through.  Dumping her satchel and taking the canister in her mouth, she ran back out of the caravan and up the street, coming to a halt outside the Sheriff’s Office.  She composed herself, fluffed up her mane and tail a little, and then walked inside smiling.

Sheriff Silverstar looked up from his work as he heard Trixie enter.

“Back already, missy?  Would’ve thought Irons’d keep yer occupied fer the evenin’.”

Trixie placed the canister down on the Deputy’s desk.  “Oh, he’s gone to bed.  Had a long day of patrols.”  She replied, flicking open the lid.  The minty smell of the cordial filled the room, and Silverstar craned his neck to see what she was doing.

“Already?  Mighty early fer him.  Say, whatcha got there?”  

“It’s a cordial I made, it’s not much, but I thought it could be a small thank you for letting me work here.”  Trixie poured out a cup of the cordial and levitated it across to the Sheriff’s desk.  He looked at it quizzically.

“Really?  Fer me?  Tha’s righ’ kind o’ yer, missy.  It smells delicious, mus’ say.”  The Sheriff said, picking up the cup and taking a swig.  He set it back down on the desk and looked up at Trixie.

“Say, I was lookin’ through that paperwork y’did an’ it’s... it’s... uh... Land’s sakes, I feel... t-tired...”
Sheriff Silverstar slumped forward and hit the desk with a thud.  Trixie smiled.  Knowing exactly where to look, she levitated the keys from the Sheriff’s jacket and slotted them one after the other into the lock on Leechcraft’s cell until one finally turned.

Giggling to herself, she swung the door open and dropped the keys on Leechcraft’s head.  The earth pony shot to his hooves with a start, looking around wildly.

“Whas- wheresth’fire- … … Oh, evenin’ missy.”  He said, blinking in disbelief as he took in the open door and Trixie standing before him, grinning.

“I’ll tell you when we’re out of here, come on!”  Trixie turned for the door as Leechcraft caught sight of the Sheriff and gasped.

“... You... You didn’t...” He stuttered, looking agape at the slumped over pony.

“Didn’t what?”

“You know... You didnt...” Leechcraft drew a hoof across his throat and stuck his tongue out.

“Of course I didn’t!”

“Then wha-”

“I said come on!”

Trixie was out of the door before Leechcraft had chance to continue.  To settle his own fears he put an ear to the Sheriff’s head, and sighed with relief when he realised Silverstar was just asleep.  Wasting no more time, he galloped out of the door after the blue unicorn.

When they reached the caravan, Leechcraft quickly harnessed himself to his mobile home and began moving.  However, speed was of the essence, and Leechcraft was no draft pony.  Trixie placed a hoof on his shoulder, stopping him, and levitated her hat off her head, setting it down over Leechcraft’s own.

She stood in front of the caravan, legs apart to ground herself, and concentrated hard.  With a spark, her horn ignited, magic flowing up the spiral and gathering at the tip as she cast the spell.  Leechcraft suddenly felt his load lighten, and looked back to see the entire caravan lit up in that eerie purple glow that accompanied any unicorn magic.  The wheels began to spin of their own accord, slowly at first, but quickly picking up the pace.  Leechcraft was pushed forward, still tied to the harness, but felt the straps loosen and pulled free.  

He watched in amazement as his caravan rolled past him at a quick trot.  Trixie’s horn stopped glowing, and she panted for breath, but the caravan kept moving.

“Quick!  Follow it!”  She gasped, taking a gulp of air and breaking into a gallop after the caravan, now moving away at a good speed.  Leechcraft blinked, and grabbed Trixie’s hat from his back, running after her.

“... So then, while he was outside, I slipped the herbs into his drink!”  

“Hah!  Bet he wasn’ expectin’ that.”

“Went out like a light.”

Trixie and Leechcraft were sitting out on the prairie surrounding Appleloosa, around a small fire blazing under the starry sky.  Trixie’s ‘Come to Life’ spell had finally worn off the caravan, allowing them to stop and take a break.  After catching their breath, Leechcraft had built up a fire and Trixie had lit it, and then related her day’s activity to the earth pony.

“So I’m guessin’ you tried the same stunt on the Sheriff?”  Leechcraft said, wiping a tear of laughter from his eye.

“I took your cordial and emptied the rest of the bag into it, then gave him some to drink.  Worked like magic.”  She said, grinning.

“Well, I can’t thank yer enough.  Mind, they wouldn’ ‘ave done anythin’ bad t’me.  Probably jus’ forced me into community service for a week or two ‘til I’d paid off my charge, but y’saved me that much.  My only regret is that I won’t be there t’see ol’ Silverstar’s face when he wakes up tomorrow.  Hah!”

Trixie’s grin faded a little, and she stared into the fire.  

“Leechcraft...  Can I... Stay on with you?”  She asked, after a moment’s silence.  Leechcraft put on a stern expression.

“‘Course not.  I’m goin’ t’leave you out here all alone with nowhere t’sleep an’ no food or water.”  Trixie looked up at him in shock.  Leechcraft’s mouth twisted into a smirk.  Trixie followed suit, and the pair soon burst out laughing.

“Yeah, ‘course y’can stay with me.”  He said, after they’d finished.  “We both saved eachother now, so I reckon we’re even.”

Trixie smiled, and looked Leechcraft right in the eyes.

“Thank you.  For everything.”

She realised she meant it, too.  She’d come to Appleloosa looking for a fresh start, somewhere she could begin anew and become the Great and Powerful Trixie once more.

Now she sat out here on the plains with a con artist that she had just broken out of jail.  A con artist that saved her life and had given her, unconditionally, a place to sleep, food and water, a new wardrobe and, above all, work.

Her boasting had cost her friends in the past, but this was the first time she remembered it helping her make a new one.

“Doctor Leechcraft, and his assistant: The Great and Powerful Trixie.”  She thought to herself, smiling. “I can live with that.”

<- Part IV