The unicorn strolled down the streets of Canterlot, cloaked in unassuming attire, her saddlebags loaded with everything she needed. Trixie had never performed here before, but if she was going to earn enough money for a new caravan, it couldn’t hurt to try a somewhat wealthier clientele. And after all, a stage was merely a convenience for someone with Trixie’s talents. A true performer could rely on skill and charm alone. She scanned over the bustling crowds, picking out the perfect place to set up. A banner streamed out from her bags, tying itself between a lamp and a signpost. She tossed her overcloak into the air, a bright explosion sending it back down as confetti. All eyes were on Trixie now, her starry cape flowing in the wind. These ponies had no idea what a privilege it would be to see her performance. “Greetings, citizens of Canterlot. I hope you didn’t have any other plans today, because The Great and Powerful Trixie has graciously decided to host a surprise, one-time performance, and I pity anypony who misses it.” Twin starbursts lit up the street. The crowd was rapt. Trixie hadn’t expected such simple tricks would be enough to dazzle them, but she once again underestimated her abilities. Even common magic was uncommonly brilliant when Trixie performed. “Yes, you heard correctly. The Great and Powerful Trixie, the most talented unicorn in all of Equestria, is here before your very eyes. Is there anypony brave and foolish enough to challenge the awesome magic of Trixie?”
The crowd murmured, but no volunteers stepped forward. Trixie scanned over the first few rows, selecting her first victim carefully. A light blue unicorn with a blonde mane was glaring up at the stage with fire in her eyes. “How about you there? Care to try your luck against the amazing, show-stopping magic of The Great and Powerful Trixie?” The other unicorn stepped up, gritting her teeth at Trixie.
“I don’t know who you think you are, but if you want a challenge, I’m your pony.” Trixie scoffed.
“Then why don’t you go first? Show us a sample of your magic, then watch as The Great and Powerful Trixie shows everypony what real magic is.” That did the trick. The other unicorn closed her eyes, her horn beginning to glow. Trixie watched her closely, waiting to see what pathetic little commoner trick she’d attempt. Suddenly a jet of icy water spilled down her backside. Trixie yelped and spun around, seeing a nearby fountain had started gushing in her direction. The nerve! Though even she admitted the trick was better than she’d expected. But how to counter it? Trixie dried herself off while glancing skyward. At this elevation the clouds weren’t far from the ground. “If you thought only pegasus ponies could control the weather, think again.” Trixie called down the darkest cloud she could see, hovering it above the blonde unicorn’s head. Before she could even register what was happening, the cloud burst, drenching the unicorn and spilling into the street. She slunk back into the crowd defeated. “Hardly a challenge at all for somepony of my abilities.”
Trixie found few volunteers the rest of the afternoon, but all were soundly beaten. She almost felt sorry for them. It wasn’t their fault that they were so lacking in magical ability, or that she was so phenomenally talented. But Trixie had to give the rest of the crowd a show. If it was a choice between another pony’s pride and having enough money to eat, then it was no choice at all, and Trixie’s spare saddlebag swiftly filled with coins as she continued to trump each and every foolhardy challenger in the crowd. Eventually though the ponies began to lose interest. It might have been a mistake to use some of her better tricks on her first few victims. But now they weren’t even offering a challenge. It wouldn’t do for a performer of her caliber to exercise her full powers against such lowly competitors. She needed to find a real challenge, and she felt desperate. But now somepony was yelling in her direction.
“Just what do you think you’re doing? Are you authorized to use this space?” The white pegasus was decked out in gold armor, a Canterlot guard. This could be trouble. Trixie scrambled to think of a reply, but somepony else spoke up first.
“Let her be. She doesn’t appear to be causing any harm.” The guard backed down instantly at this command, the purple-coated unicorn who gave it now looking in Trixie’s direction. “But what exactly are you doing?” Trixie grinned.
“The Great and Powerful Trixie has been busy entertaining the fine citizens of Canterlot with never-before-seen displays of magical prowess. You’ve unfortunately arrived near the very end of the show, but I still have plenty of tricks left to perform. All I require is a suitable volunteer. Would you care to test your mettle against Trixie, and give these ponies a real show?” She’d selected these words carefully, not wanting to outright insult somepony with the apparent status to merit a bodyguard. But she looked like she might be decently skilled, enough of an excuse for Trixie to show off her best crowd-pleasers. And perhaps the common ponies would enjoy seeing the upper crust be bested by Trixie’s magic enough to tip well. The other pony grinned.
“Well then, ‘Great and Powerful’ Trixie, though I’ve never heard of you before, you do seem to have drawn quite a crowd. I would be happy to volunteer.” She spread her wings, which Trixie hadn’t noticed until then. What kind of unicorn had wings? Trixie also noticed how tall she was, nearly as tall as her guard in fact, though slender. A small black tiara perched at the top of her icy-blue hair. How had she not seen any of these things? Had she been in some sort of illusory disguise?
“Who are you?” The other pony didn’t need to answer as a shout rang from the crowd.
“It’s Princess Luna!” A host of excited whispering filled the crowd. Princess? The only Princess Trixie knew of was Celestia, who she knew did live in Canterlot. But this strange mare looked nothing like the images she’d seen. But she was definitely not an ordinary unicorn. Trixie felt a little nervous now, but this could be exciting, she thought.
“So I’m in the presence of royalty, am I? The Great and Powerful Trixie never backs down from a challenge, but she doesn’t play either. Are you sure you want to do this?”
“You mean will I sic my guard on you if you embarrass me?” Trixie smirked in reply. “You don’t have to worry about that.”
“Then would you like to go first, Princess?”
“My pleasure.” An array of tiny, twinkling stars appeared just a few feet above the street. They danced and whirled, lines forming between them in the shapes of the constellations. A neat trick, but not at all what Trixie had expected for an opening move. Still, she prepared to counter. The starfield scattered and dissipated as Trixie conjured up several blinding explosions. The late afternoon sky was clear once more.
“Sorry Princess, but as The Great and Powerful Trixie says to all of her fans, ‘anything you can do, I can do better.’” Luna didn’t appreciate that. A few more tiny stars appeared, and these shot down at Trixie’s hooves. She jumped as they struck the ground. Luna was making Trixie dance. Another blinding flash filled the air, and Luna felt something coil around her leg. Trixie’s rope hoisted her up into the air, her tiara falling to the ground as it lifted her above the crowd. Luna severed the rope cleanly in two, but Trixie was ready. The remaining length twisted and bound up Luna’s legs as she fell, and she impacted the cobblestones with a thud. Refusing to give her opponent time to react, Trixie spotted the cloud from earlier. Most of the rainwater was used up, but it was good for one other trick. A brilliant bolt of lightning shot down at the struggling Princess, striking with enough force to singe the ropes. Trixie thought she might have overdone it a bit.
Now Luna was furious. She hadn’t been expecting their contest to take such a serious turn so quickly, but she was through playing. The ropes around her legs shredded themselves, the pieces too small to do any more harm, and as Luna reared up, Trixie thought she seemed to grow taller. No, she had definitely gained some height, and an invisible wind had swept up her azure mane, now speckled with brilliant stars, looking like the night sky. But it was still daylight out. Trixie gulped as Luna leveled her fierce gaze at her, feeling a tug at her cloak. Now Trixie was being hoisted up, her hat blowing off in the wind, her cape covering her face as Luna hooked it on the edge of the building. Trixie struggled, then felt her cape’s clasp snap in two. She fell into the banner she’d hung earlier, ripping it apart and smashing hard into the ground, the remains of the tattered sign covering her flank. She felt a pain in her leg and couldn’t stand up. Luna loomed overhead, tall, regal, terrible. “D-don’t hurt me…” she pleaded, tears streaming down her face. The crowd backed away in fear, and Trixie clenched her eyes shut, softly sobbing. She felt somepony lifting her up, careful not to touch her injured leg. She opened her eyes to see the pegasus guard hefting her onto his shoulders. Luna was standing nearby, having shrunk back down, the stars in her mane fading. The other ponies seemed terrified, and Luna looked like she might turn and run at any moment, but she backed up toward Trixie and the guard, turning to inspect the unicorn. Trixie could see Luna desperately trying to hold back tears of her own. Her voice was shaky as she spoke.
“Carry her back to the palace. I’ll collect her things.” The pegasus leapt into the air with Trixie on his back, the view of the crowd vanishing behind the buildings. They arrived at the steps of the castle, swiftly followed by Luna carrying Trixie’s saddlebags, hastily stuffed with what was left of her repertoire. The Princess told the guard to carry Trixie to her quarters, and once there Trixie was gently lowered onto a soft round pillow, with a smaller pillow propping up her aching leg. The guard stepped out, and now Luna was hovering over her, inspecting her leg. “Nothing broken, but badly sprained. I’m—I wasn’t thinking. I’m sorry. Is there anything I can get you?” Trixie’s stomach growled on cue, and she realized she hadn’t eaten anything all day, and it was now early evening. Luna sprinted off and returned with a tray of food, setting it beside the bed. Trixie sat up as best she could and began to shovel the delicious food into her mouth, gasping for air between bites. She realized Luna was staring as she ate.
“Thank you,” she tried to say, though it came out muffled. Trixie swallowed her current mouthful. “I said thank you, sorry.”
“It’s nothing, really. I’m sorry I got carried away. Is your leg feeling any better?” Trixie could feel the pain subsiding, realizing Luna was helping It along with her magic.
“It’s fine, thank you. And I should apologize first. I wasn’t trying to be cruel, I just…I wanted to impress the audience.”
“You wanted attention, and you did something you ended up regretting…I know how that feels. But I hurt you more than you hurt me, so will you accept my apologies as well?”
“Sure. But where are we? Is this Celestia’s palace? I don’t know of any others in Canterlot.”
“Yes, she lives her as well. Since you don’t seem to know who I am, let me introduce myself properly. I am Princess Luna, Celestia’s younger sister.”
“She has a sister? Since when?” Luna thought of several answers to this, but decided against going into too much detail.
“I’ve been away a long time, but my sister has allowed me back to rule alongside her again, although I’m afraid of what she’ll say if she hears about what happened today. But she’s given back dominion of the moon and the night sky to me, and as it’s nearly nighttime now, I was wondering if you’d like to accompany me.” Trixie couldn’t believe her ears, but it was all so intriguing. Getting back on all four hooves, the pain gone from her leg, Trixie followed Luna to the palace observatory. “She should be waiting for me.” At the top, Princess Celestia stood, greeting her sister.
“You were almost late, Luna. Who’s that with you?”
“Just a...friend. I met her in town today. I wanted to bring her up to watch. Her name is Trixie.” Celestia looked over the blue unicorn now kneeling in respect.
“It’s very nice to meet you, Trixie. I’m so glad to hear my sister is making friends. But we’ll have to speak afterward or we’ll be late. Sister, are you ready?”
“Ready.” The Princesses’ horns began to glow, and Celestia tipped the dim evening sun over the horizon just as Luna brought up the shimmering moon. As they finished, Celestia smiled at Luna.
“Thank you, sister. I’ll leave you two alone for a while. I have a few other things to take care of. Twilight’s report should arrive shortly.” With that Celestia descended down the stairs toward her room. Luna led Trixie back down the other stairway into her chamber.
“Did she say Twilight?”
“Oh, Twilight Sparkle. She’s her student who lives in Ponyville. I only met her once, though.”
Yeah, same here, Trixie thought. But it made sense now that an apprentice to a goddess would be so powerful. “But wait, does she only have one student?”
“I think she’s had others in the past, but I never met any of them. I’m pretty sure she only ever has one at a time.”
“So…do you have a student?” Luna thought she understood what Trixie was driving at.
“Oh, no. I’ve never had one. But I have given it some thought.” She wondered if Trixie would take her hint.
“Just out of curiosity, what would you look for in a student?” Success.
“I suppose I’d like somepony with ambition. Somepony willing to listen to what I had to say, and to share my secrets with. But…” She turned and looked Trixie in the eyes. “My student would need to be patient, to be able to keep her ego in check, and to help keep mine in check as well. Do you think you’re up for the challenge?” Trixie stared into those eyes, infinite as the night sky. She smiled, then gave a little laugh.
“Trixie never backs down from a challenge.”