With a look that was equal parts disconcerted and dubious, the changeling standing before the throne of the Changeling Queen plopped down, flicking his gaze from Chrysalis to the pair of sketches that lay in front of him.
"So let me get this straight." The changeling began, his wings twitching as he turned a more serious expression to Chrysalis. "You want me to pretend I'm some school colt, whose only friend is an utter nitwit, and sing this magician's praises?" He placed a hoof upon the sketch to his left.
Chrysalis rolled her eyes, answering with a good measure of impatience, "That's exactly what I just told you. Try to pay closer attention in the future, whelp."
The changeling frowned, a little indignant upon being addressed derogatorily, but asked in an indifferent tone, "May I ask why I've been assigned to do this? Because I fail to see how this is either constructive or productive."
Chrysalis shook her head, glaring at the changeling that sat before her as she said, "Even if I find your question ignorant and your redundancy annoying, I will answer you nonetheless." The changeling rubbed at his forehead, muttering under his breath as Chrysalis brushed back her mane with a lacerated hoof. "Twilight Sparkle, the prized student of Princess Celestia, supposedly possesses unparalleled magical power. I need to confirm a few suspicions regarding her. It is in the best interest of the Hive to have first hoof accounts of what she is capable of."
The changeling sitting before Chrysalis sighed despairingly, hanging his head as he lazily stomped a hoof on the sketch to his right. "If you need me to spy, why can't I be someone important? This kid just doesn't-"
"Silence!" Chrysalis bellowed, interrupting the changeling's plea. "I myself determined that the colt called Snips is in an ideal position to not only study Twilight Sparkle, but also entice a feud between her and the magician known as Trixie."
The changeling glanced to the sketch of Trixie, then back to the one of Snips, then said, "Okay then. I'm assuming I'll have to capture and imprison the actual Snips manually?"
Chrysalis nodded, saying, "Correct. With the proper armaments, you should be able to harmlessly remove this colt from Ponyville, and then seamlessly replace him once you've finished your assignment without anyone being the wiser."
The changeling nodded, more intently studying the sketch of Snips more intently. "Right. I'll just neeee-wait a minute." He returned his attention to Chrysalis, looking confused. "Armaments? You mean....gear? Like weapons?"
Chrysalis smirked at the question, saying, "Courtesy of our new weapons lab, you will receive a few pieces of equipment to aid you. This mission is crucial, thus there can be no mistakes. The more simple your assignment is made, the less room for error there is."
The changeling's eyes widened at this as he said, "Wow. That's veryyy....we have a weapons lab?" He rubbed at his head, wings twitching for a moment as he said, "When did we get that? Why did we get that?"
Chrysalis shrugged, sounding indifferent as she said, "Oh, the union requested we establish a weapons lab."
"Wha?!" The changeling blinked rapidly at Chrysalis's answer, shouting, "We have a union?!"
Chrysalis scoffed at his question, glaring at the changeling as she hissed, "Of course not! That was a joke! The upgrade was necessary, so the Hive instituted a full time weapons lab!"
The changeling frowned at this, mumbling, "Based entirely on your decisions?"
"Ugh! Yes!" Chrysalis rubbed between her eyes for a moment, then dropped her hoof and glared at the changeling. "Go speak with one of our engineers. After that, you are to depart immediately."
The changeling stood, lazily saluting and shouting, "Ma'am yes ma'am!" He turned, trotting away from Chrysalis's throne.
"Raze." Chrysalis said, stopping the changeling in his tracks. "The weapons lab is that way." She pointed to a nearby cavern, looking annoyed.
Raze looked to the cavern, then started towards it. "Yes, your Queenliness!" Chrysalis sighed, engulfing the two sketches on the dirt floor in green flames with a small burst of magic.
Entering the cavern, Raze found an assortment of test tubes and vials filled with colorful liquids, many of which were steaming or bubbling. His interest was piqued by a dragonfly suspended in a green solution, which would occasionally twitch or shudder.
"Can I help you?" Asked a changeling from a table behind Raze as she busily sorted through test tubes with levitation magic.
Raze looked over his shoulder, then turned to the changeling with a curious expression. "You're an 'engineer,' right?"
"Hmm...I'm actually closer to a chemist than an engineer," She held higher one of the tubes, examining the solution as it changed from blue to red, "but I do work in this lab, if that's what you're getting at."
Raze nodded, his gaze set on the test tube with the newly red fluid as he said, "Good. I was told to come see you about some weapons."
The shifting and hovering vials and test tubes all froze, the chemist manipulating them seeming to start. All at once, they fell out of her magical grip, many of them shattering on impact. The chemist spun around, a deranged smile on her face as she put a hoof to Raze's shoulder. "Did you say......weapons?"
Looking the slightest bit disturbed, Raze nodded sheepishly. "Yes....I did say weapons."
With a brighter (and even more deranged) beam, the chemist asked, "You wouldn't happen to be Raze, the most successful veteran agent in the Hive?"
With a smug grin, Raze answered, "Well, I wouldn't say the 'most successful,' but yes. I'm Raze, one of the top changeling commandos."
With a hop and a gleeful squeal, the chemist darted down the lane of tables. "Right this way!"
Raze chuckled at her enthusiasm, following behind with a proud smirk on his face.
"Here we have the perfect tool for nonlethal incapacitation!" The chemist shouted as she pointed to a rather delicious looking pellet sitting on a colorful plastic wrapper.
"....candy?" Raze asked, staring at the pellet the chemist had designated. "How is this going to help me?"
The chemist giggled, wagging a hoof as she smiled snidely at Raze. "This is no ordinary candy. After hearing that you were to disguise yourself as a colt, I figured, 'Hey! Little colts love candy! And what's more lovable than taffy?' So, I put some mad science to work and whipped up these little babies!" From under the table, she produced a large bucket of taffies, each wrapped in a bright colorful wrapper similar to the one that the exposed taffy lay on.
"I see....what do they do?" Raze asked, sounding doubtful.
The chemist took to the air, expectantly rubbing her hooves together as she chuckled with pride (and insanity). "Behold the genius of Thorn, master of science!" She pointed to the exposed taffy that sat on the table, sounding triumphant as she said, "Designed to fool foolish ponies into foolishly partaking of it, this taffy delivers a paralyzing electrical discharge upon contact, rendering any foolish fool who is foolish enough to foolishly partake of it unconscious for a minimum of three hours!" Upon finishing her 'triumphant' rant, Thorn took a deep breath, then turned a crazed smile to Raze. Raze blinked, then looked to the taffy. He tentatively reached for it with a hoof, then nudged it, only to trigger a spark and send him to the ground. Twitching profusely for a moment, Raze scrambled to his hooves, glancing to the still airborne Thorn with disbelief. She crossed her forelegs, giggling with satisfaction. "I call it zaffy. It's only the most electrifying candy in history!"
Raze groaned, shaking away his daze as he said, "Can't disagree there...." Thorn landed, magically plucking a pair of the zaffies from the bucket and presenting them to Raze with a smile. Raze snatched them out of the air, examining the pair of zaffies in his hoof as he asked, "Two? Why two?"
Thorn shrugged, chiming, "One to capture him, and the other to put him back."
Raze nodded, using his own magic to hold the items as he said, "I see. Anything else I'll need?"
Thorn nodded, energetically prancing over to a neighboring table. On this new table rested a vat of pink powder, from which Thorn scooped up a hooful of the mysterious substance.
Raze glanced to the hooful of powder that Thorn held, then to the vat she'd taken it from. "What's this stuff?"
"It's called amnesia powder. Depending on the concentration, it can eliminate a certain amount of memory." Thorn answered, turning to face Raze.
"Interesting." Raze said, putting a hoof to his chin. "How does it work?" As an answer to his question, Thorn blew the powder into his face, which he blinked at. After a moment, he looked back to the vat, asking, "What's this stuff?"
Thorn chuckled a bemused chuckle, plucking a small pouch off the table and presenting it to Raze. "It's amnesia powder. The stuff you'll find in this pouch is really potent. Potent enough to erase thirty hours worth of memory. When you've completed your assignment, dust the kid with this powder. Just be sure not to breathe it in yourself." Raze accepted the pouch with his magic, nodding sternly.
"Very well. Anything else?" Raze asked.
Thorn took to the air, scratching at her cheek. "Uh....there was...um....oh yeah!" She darted to a table isolated from the rest, snatching an assortment of objects off of it with her magic. She returned to Raze, presenting him with a quill, inkwell, a single parchment, and an oil lamp.
Raze examined each of the objects in turn, then looked to the eager Thorn with a dubious look of confusion. "The inkwell, quill, and parchment I understand, but why the oil lamp? If I need to see in the dark, I can just change into an animal with night vision, like a cat or something."
Thorn giggled at this, allowing the lamp to fall out of her magical grip as she landed and caught it with her hoof. "What you see before you isn't a conventional oil lamp. This is actually the result of extensive study of unicorn magic. It took some doing, but we've finally produced messenger lamps!"
Raze picked up the lamp with his magic, eyeing it with puzzlement as he asked, "What's a messenger lamp?"
"You see, unicorns have somehow created spells that allow them to transport documents across the globe in seconds, with the only required catalyst being fire. Seeing that dragons don't seem to trust us, and we ourselves aren't very good at transforming into those fire breathing abominations, we decided to go a simpler route for the endowment of the spell. Thus, we came up with a lamp!" Thorn gestured to the messenger lamp with a large grin.
Raze scowled at the lamp for a moment, then offered an apologetic smile to Thorn. "Sorry to burst your bubble, but you do realize that oil lamps have to be lit to burn, right? Kind of defeats the purpose, don't you think?"
"Oh! I haven't shown you the coolest part yet!" Thorn shouted, hovering closer to Raze as she excitedly brought up her hooves. With a simple pair of claps produced by Thorn, the wick ignited, a small green flame burning within the glass vessel. "Neat, huh?!"
Raze, looking stunned by this feature, nodded. "Yes. Quite neat."
Thorn extinguished the flame with another pair of claps, then turned an expectant beam to Raze. "With this, field agents will be able to send reports directly to Queen Chrysalis within seconds of writing them. It's efficient, it's effective, and it's pretty awesome!"
Raze raised an eyebrow at this, mumbling, "Yes....'awesome.'"
"Anyway, do you have any questions?" Thorn asked, landing.
Raze glanced from object to object, then said in earnest, "Something to carry all this would be nice." Thorn nodded, dashing away and returning with a saddlebag.
"Here you are!" She presented the saddlebag to Raze, which he deposited all the items in and strapped to his side.
"Thank you.....Thorn? Was that your name?" He asked, making one final adjustment to the bag before looking back to the chemist.
"Yes indeedy!" She shouted, her deranged grin now present once more.
Raze cleared his throat, nodding curtly to Thorn as he turned and took off.
"Safe travels!" Thorn called out after him, waving maniacally before returning to her work.
Later that evening.....
"WHO DID THIS?!" Shrieked a red-faced Diamond Tiara as she glared at the toilet paper that covered her abode. "WHOEVER DID THIS IS GOING TO PAY!" The culprits, ducked behind a tree just a stone's throw from the victim of their most recent prank, suppressed laughs as they peered from behind their cover. "DADDY! COME LOOK WHAT'S HAPPENED TO THE HOUSE!" Still holding back laughter, Snips and Snails scurried away, successfully avoiding the wrath of Diamond Tiara.
"Ha! Have you ever seen Diamond Tiara so mad?" Snails asked as they came to a halt on the silent streets of Ponyville.
"I don't think she's ever been that mad before! Did you see the look on her face?" Snips said, snickering with satisfaction. The two shared a good laugh, then sighed in unison.
"Well, I'd better be on my way. See ya tomorrow, Snips." Snails said as he turned and trotted into the darkness.
"See ya, Snails!" Snips chimed as he turned the opposite direction and began toward his own home. He walked along, a smug smile on his face, until he stepped on something soft that easily flattened under his hoof. Eyes wide, he stepped back and scanned the ground, finding a squashed taffy where he had stepped. Snips glanced about, puzzled as to why there would be abandoned candy sitting in the road, then shrugged, licking his lips as he magically pried the taffy off the ground and unwrapped it. He tossed the treat into his mouth, and then immediately suffered its hidden effects. The poor colt glowed nearly as bright as day as the electricity ran its course, crackling and smoking as it arced here and there across his body. After a good ten seconds of this light show, Snips collapsed, his skin hissing as he lay unconscious.
"Well," began Raze as he placed a hoof to Snips's throat, "at least it only knocked him out. Note to self: request more subtle means of incapacitation in the future. I'm surprised that entire thing went unnoticed." He shrugged, hefting the limp Snips onto his back and trotting away into the night.
The next morning.....
Staring intently at the show cart that had just pulled into town, Raze ran his tongue over his new teeth, lost in thought. Hmm....this kid.....really needs to see a dentist about these buck teeth. His attention was captured, however, by the cerulean mare that stood beside the cart as she brushed her mane. That's the magician that Chrysalis briefed me on. What was her name...uh....
"Hey there, Snips." Snails chimed as he trotted up to his friend. "Whatcha up to?"
Raze blinked at the question, taken aback by Snails's thick drawl. This must be my dull-witted chum. Goody. I've always wanted a sidekick. "Oh, just checkin' out this awesome unicorn." He nodded to Trixie, causing Snails to direct his gaze to her as well.
"Ooooh....uh, what's so awesome about 'er?" Snails asked, cocking his head as he eyed Trixie with puzzlement.
That's a good question, sidekick. I'll tell you what I was told to tell Twilight Sparkle. "Haven't you heard? She's the greatest, most powerful unicorn in Equestria!"
Snails glanced to Raze, then eyed Trixie with intrigue. "Really? She doesn't look all that great and powerful..."
Raze chuckled, shaking his friend by the shoulder as he said, "That's because she hasn't gotten on stage yet. She needs to get ready first."
Snails raised an eyebrow, obviously a bit confused. "Oh. Uhhh....." Suddenly, Trixie flared her magic, her signature cloak and hat appearing on her from thin air. "Whoa! Did you see that?"
Perfect. Twilight Sparkle won't be able to resist! Raze nodded, shouting, "Yeah I did! She's so cool!" He put a hoof to his chin, looking deep in thought. "Hey! Do you know who we should go get?"
Snails looked back to Raze, obviously confused by the seemingly random question. "Who?"
Raze hopped in place, shouting, "Twilight Sparkle! Her talent is magic, right?"
Snails seemed to mull over this reasoning for a moment, then nodded excitedly. "Okay! Let's go find 'er!" Snails turned and took off after the library, Raze following suit.
Well, that didn't take a lot of convincing. I guess this is how Chrysalis feels. Commanding an army of numskulls like puppets has certainly got to be enjoyable. Raze thought as he broke into a gallop.
"Twenty-five, Twilight! Twenty-five different kinds of tricks, and counting!" Spike said as he walked alongside Twilight Sparkle, drawing a proud grin from the unicorn. Spike jogged ahead of Twilight, keeping in front of her as he continued, "I thought unicorns were only supposed to have a little magic that matches their special talents."
"True, for ponies whose talents are for things like cooking, or singing, or math. But what if a unicorn's special talent is magic?" Twilight asked.
Turning his head as he continued walking, Spike pointed to Twilight and said, "Like you, Twilight, and you know a ton of magic."
Sounding embarrassed, Twilight said, "Oh Spike, stop! I'm sure there are lots of ponies right here in Ponyville that know just as much magic as me."
Throwing his arms in the air, Spike said, "Are you kidding? I don't think there's another unicorn in Equestria with your kind of ability, Twilight!" Twilight took on a sheepish grin at the compliment.
Egads! My arch-nemesis! Thought Raze as he and Snails barreled toward Spike and Twilight. He must have caught wind of my mission, and now he's here to sabotage it! I'll finish what you started in Manehatten! Have at you!
"Gang way! Comin' through!" Shouted Snails, startling the unicorn and young dragon in their path.
Great. There goes our element of surprise. I officially don't like you anymore, sidekick! Raze thought as he rammed Spike and carried him along.
"Snips?! Snails!" Spike shouted as the two continued to charge forward. "What's goin' on?!"
Hold up....this isn't Rend. This is some other adolescent dragon. Raze thought as he skidded to a stop, Spike sent flying and crashing. All well. No harm, no foul.
"Well, haven't you heard?" Snails began. "There's a new unicorn in town!"
Okay. Showtime. "Yeah!" Raze said as he energetically hopped in place. "They say she's got more magical powers than any other unicorn....evar!" Holy chitin. That's the most adorable thing I've ever said. That even beats the time I was a toddler in Trottingham begging for scraps on the streets. 'Spare some change, gov?'
"Really?" Twilight asked, sounding despairing.
"No way! That honor goes to Twilight here!" Spike said, gesturing to the unicorn, causing her to blush and drop her ears.
"Where is this unicorn?" Twilight asked as she turned her attention back to Raze and Snails.
"She's in the town square! C'mon!" Snails said, hopping over Spike and running toward the square.
You're supposed to be the sidekick, sidekick! Raze thought as he looked to Twilight and shouted, "Yeah! Hehe! C'mon!" He ran at Spike, who hopped over him in turn. No wonder I couldn't tell this dragon apart from Rend. Stupid color blindness. Raze glanced over his shoulder to see Spike and Twilight close behind. Well, the plan is going smoothly. So far, so good.
"Come one! Come all! Come and witness the amazing magic of the Great and Powerful Trixie!" Shouted the Great and Powerful Trixie as her cart unfolded to become a stage.
What's with the roll on the Rs? Is she from Mexicolt or something? Raze thought as he stood at the front of the audience. In a burst of smoke and a flash of light, Trixie appeared center stage, a prideful smirk on her face. Seeing that the rest of the crowd was already 'oohing' and 'ahing' at Trixie's entrance, Raze joined in.
"Watch in awe," began Trixie as she held high her nose and put a hoof to her chest, "as the Great and Powerful Trixie performs the most spectacular feats of magic ever witnessed by pony eyes!" She stood on her hind legs, seeming to summon the fireworks that shot from her stage.
I'm not too fond of this third-person thing. It's suggestive of a severe superiority complex. Raze thought critically as he watched the show mare.
"My, my, my. What boasting." Rarity said, sounding disgusted.
That's the idea, toots. Miss Great and Powerful here is perfect for getting Twilight Sparkle to fan her feathers. Raze thought.
"Oh come on! Nopony is as magical as Twilight." Spike reasoned. Much to Raze's confusion, the young dragon's features drooped and his face paled as he stammered, "Twi...Twi...Oh!" He turned away from Rarity, clearing his throat with flush cheeks. "H-hey Rarity, I uh...um....mustache!" With this, he darted away from the white unicorn.
...what in the sclerite has gotten into that child? Raze thought as he watched Spike run.
"There's nothing wrong with being talented, is there?" Twilight asked as she approached Rarity, drawing Raze's attention away from the mortified Spike.
"Nothin' at all." Answered Applejack, turning a glare to Trixie. "'Cept when someone goes around showin' it off like a school filly with fancy new ribbons."
"Just because one has the ability to perform lots of magic does not make her better than the rest of us." Rarity scolded, causing Twilight to look ashamed.
Raze's eyes widened as he witnessed this, thinking, What do you think you're doing?! That does not help the plan!
"Especially when you've got me around being better than the rest of us." Rainbow Dash chimed, only to draw a scowl from Applejack. "Uh...I mean...yeah, uh, magic shmagic! Boo!"
That one...she's... supposed to be the Element of Loyalty, right? Raze thought as he glanced to Rainbow Dash.
"Well, well, well. It seems we have some neigh-sayers in the audience!" Trixie hissed.
...oh! I get it! It's a pun! Raze thought, grinning slightly.
"Who is so ignorant as to challenge the magical ability of the Great and Powerful Trixie?" Trixie asked, rearing and pointing to the sky in a triumphant fashion. "Do they not know that they are in the presence of the most magical unicorn of all of Equestria?"
Pony humor. Good stuff. Raze thought, glancing to Snails. Wait...did she just challenge the audience? What's going on? I wasn't paying attention!
With an annoyed raspberry, Rarity mumbled, "Just who does she think she is?"
"Yeah!" Interjected Spike from between Rarity and Twilight. "Since we all know that Twilight here is-"
"Spike! Shh!" Twilight interrupted, pushing Spike away from the front of the crowd.
Oh? Raze thought, watching Twilight and Spike move to the back of the audience. What's going on here?
"Twilight, what's wrong?" Asked Spike as he stepped away from Twilight.
Keeping her voice quiet, Twilight answered, "Did you see the way they reacted to Trixie? I don't want anyone thinking I'm a show off."
Raze's jaw dropped as he overheard this. Not good! Come on! Be the peacock! Show me what you can do! Raze's attention was snapped back to the stage as another bout of fireworks was released, along with a small fanfare.
With a slight scowl, Rainbow Dash rushed onto the stage by wing, her tone scornful as she said, "So, 'Great and Powerful' Trixie, what makes you think you're so awesome, anyway?"
"Ah. Why, only the Great and Powerful Trixie has magic strong enough to vanquish the dreaded Ursa Major!" From the stage's trio of trumpets erupted a flurry of lights, which formed into a crude representation of the beast Trixie had claimed to vanquish.
"What?" Raze asked, more from confusion than awe. That isn't right. A full grown Ursa Major is almost entirely impervious to magic. Well, changeling magic, anyway. I don't know what unicorns are capable of.
"No way!" Snails said, obviously a bit more impressed by the magical light show than Raze was.
"When all hope was lost," Trixie began, a proud look on her face, "the ponies of Hoofington had nowhere to turn to, but the Great and Powerful Trixie stepped in, and, with her awesome magic, vanquished the Ursa Major, and sent it back to its cave, deep within the Everfree Forest!"
Raze scowled at the magician for a moment, his thoughts a bit muddled by her story. Wait just a shape-shifting minute! Hoofington hasn't once been attacked by an Ursa Major. This is a flat out lie! But Twilight Sparkle doesn't know that... "S-weet!" Raze shouted in conjunction with Snails. "That settles it."
"Trixie truly is the most talented, most magical, most awesome unicorn in Ponyville!" Snails said in a rather matter-of-fact fashion.
Hmm...better up the ante. Raze thought, standing next to Snails and shouting, "No! In all of Equestria!" Wow. I am just so adorable.
"How do you know? You didn't see it! And besides, Twilight-" Spike's retort was cut short by a magically conjured zipper and an annoyed scowl from Twilight.
Unicorn magic is certainly gimmicky. Zippers? Really? Raze thought as he glanced to the silenced Spike.
With a condescending laugh, Trixie mused, "It's true, my enthusiastic little admirers. Trixie is most certainly the best in Ponyville!"
Uncanny. Doesn't take much to feed this fire. Raze thought upon hearing Trixie's self praise.
Trixie allowed the audience to glare at her for a silent moment, then said, "Don't believe the Great and Powerful Trixie? Well then, I hereby challenge you, Ponyvillians: anything you can do, I can do better."
Ha! She said I! Raze thought, barely paying attention to anything else Trixie had to say.
"Any takers? Anypony at all? Or is Trixie destined to be the greatest equine who has ever lived?!" Trixie said, a flourish of fireworks punctuating her taunt.
She's got as much nerve as she's got fireworks. I'm sure they'll both run short when Twilight Sparkle takes the stage. Raze thought, glancing to the unicorn.
"Pl-lease! She's unbearable!" Spike begged, throwing himself at Twilight's hooves. "You've gotta show her! You've just gotta!"
Listen to the little dragon, Twilight! The sooner I can get out of this little colt's body the better. Raze thought.
"There's no way I'm gonna use my magic now, Spike." Twilight whispered, causing Raze to bit his lip in frustration. "Especially since..."
"Hmm...how about...you?" Trixie said, pointing to Twilight Sparkle.
Even this flagrant bint is helping out! Why Twilight? Why can't you just vaporize her, or something? Raze thought, clearing his throat as he glanced to Twilight, who shrunk at Trixie's challenge.
"Well. How about it? Hmm?" Trixie began, an eager gleam in her eyes. "Is there anything you can do that the Great and Powerful Trixie can't?"
Avoiding Trixie's expectant gaze, Twilight mumbled, "I...I..."
"Well, little hayseed?" Trixie said, turning her attention to Applejack.
"That does it! Ah can't stand for no more of this!" Applejack shouted.
Raze scowled at Applejack as she stomped to the stage, then glanced to Trixie, thinking, Wait...hayseed? Wouldn't something slandering apples be more fitting?
"You show her, AJ!" Spike shouted after her.
"Can yer magical powers do this?" Applejack asked, proceeding to perform a series of stunts with a rope tied to her tail. Raze watched her pluck an apple from a nearby tree and eat it in a single bite, causing him to lick his lips.
An apple sounds nice right now. I bet the apples around here taste a lot better than the apples in changeling territory. Raze thought as the crowds cheered for Applejack's performance.
"Top that, missy!" Applejack said, two hooves curled inward.
"Oh ye of little talent. Watch, and be amazed at the magic of Trixie!" Trixie chimed as she magically removed her hat. Raze glanced to the rope Trixie had on stage, which had now become animate and was moving toward Applejack in a fashion somewhat similar to a snake. The other end of the rope plucked an apple from the same tree Applejack had taken one from, then the end preoccupying the earth pony lashed at her, tying her legs together and sending her onto her back. To add insult to injury, the end of the rope that had fetched the apple promptly jammed it into Applejack's mouth.
Raze frowned at the crowds as they cheered for this, thinking, Big deal. I've seen things just like before, but with live snakes! Those snakes were some of the best performers I've ever seen!
"Once again, the Great and Powerful Trixie prevails!" Trixie mused as Applejack hopped her way off the stage.
Rainbow Dash, now hovering beside Trixie, scolded her with, "There's no need to go struttin' around and showin' off like that!"
Yes there is, you foolish pegasus! Get off the stage! I beg of you! Raze thought, chewing on his lip with impatience.
"Oh?" Trixie asked snidely as she looked to Rainbow Dash.
"That's my job!" Upon saying this, Rainbow Dash flew off, circling a windmill, punching holes in clouds, diving back through the openings she'd made, circling the windmill in the opposite direction, and halting on the stage with a brilliant rainbow overhead. "They don't call me Rainbow and Dash for nothin'."
Ooh! I haven't seen a rainbow in forever! It's so majestic! So magnificent! Raze thought as he stared at the brilliant colors above the pegasus's head.
After an unconcerned glance to the cheering crowds, Trixie said, "When Trixie is through, the only thing they'll call you is loser." With a beam of magic shot from her horn, the spectrum twisted and engulfed Rainbow Dash, spinning uncontrollably and sending the pegasus through the air.
When she finally landed, she'd been spun into a daze, mumbling, "I think...I'm gonna be sick."
Come on! I was marveling at that rainbow! Stupid Trixie! Raze thought, pouting as he glanced to Rainbow Dash.
"Seems like anypony with a 'dash' of good sense would think twice before tussling with the Great Trixie." She materialized a small storm cloud near the still dazed pegasus, a bolt of lightning striking poor Rainbow Dash in the rump and provoking a pained yelp from her.
I believe you forgot your 'and Powerful,' she-witch. Raze thought, chuckling lightly to go along with the crowd.
"What we need is another unicorn to challenge her." Spike said, nudging Twilight with his elbow. "Someone with some magic of her own."
Well said, dragon. Go on up to the stage Twilight! You can do it! Come on! Raze thought, grinning expectantly.
"Yeah!" Exclaimed Rainbow Dash. "A unicorn to show this unicorn who's boss!"
"A real unicorn to unicorn tussle!" Added Applejack.
"Uh..." Twilight mumbled, looking unsure.
So close! Come on! Raze thought, leaning towards Twilight with a larger grin and a gleam in his eyes.
"Enough! Enough, all of you." Rarity said, stepping in front of Twilight. "I take your hint, but Rarity is above such nonsense. Rainbow Dash and Applejack may behave like ruffians, but Rarity conducts herself with beauty and grace."
And you refer to yourself in the third-pony. Just like our magician here. Raze thought, rolling his eyes.
"Ooh, what's the matter? Afraid you'll get a hair out of place in that rat's nest you call a mane?" Taunted Trixie.
Oh no she di'int! Raze thought, flabbergasted as he glanced to Trixie.
With a scowl, Rarity grumbled, "Oh, it is on." Walking onto the stage, Rarity began, "You may think you're tough with all your so called 'powers,' but there is more to magic than your brutish ways. A unicorn needs to be more than just muscle." Her horn aglow, Rarity went on with, "A unicorn needs to have style!" Magically tearing down the nearby curtains and surrounding herself in them, Rarity disappeared amongst the flurry of fabric she'd encased herself in. A moment later, she reappeared, the curtain now remade into a classy dress. "A unicorn is not a unicorn without grace and beauty." With a mischievous smirk, Trixie's own horn now glowed with her magic.
"Rarity won't let Trixie get the best of her! She's strong, she's beautiful!" Spike said, gesturing to Rarity right as Trixie struck with her magic. "She's-" Unable to finish what he'd been saying in light of what he saw, Spike's jaw dropped, along with Raze's and many of the audience members.
"Quick! I need a mirror! Get me a mirror!" Rarity shrieked in panic. "What did she do to my hair? I know she did something terrible to my hair!"
"Nothing!" Twilight said, struggling to keep a straight face.
"It's fine." Rainbow Dash said, also struggling to not laugh.
"It's gorgeous." Applejack said, not sounding terribly convinced.
"It's green." Stated Spike very matter-of-factly, earning him a trio of scowls from the three that had answered before him. "What?"
Tears in her eyes, Rarity despairingly shouted, "No! Green hair! Not green hair!" She bounded off the stage, running as she shouted, "Such an awful, awful color!"
"Well! I never!" Said an indignant earth pony as she was passed by by Rarity.
Oh snap! Raze thought, putting a hoof to his mouth. There's no way Twilight won't step in after that!
"Well, Twilight, I guess it's up to you." Spike said, gesturing to stage. "Come on! Show her what you're made of!"
"What do you mean? I'm nothing special." Twilight said sheepishly.
"Yes you are!" Spike argued. "You're better than her!"
"I'm not better than anyone!" Twilight said, obviously discomforted by the attention she was now getting from the audience.
"Ha! You think you're better than the Great and Powerful Trixie?" Trixie asked, walking to the edge of the stage. "You think you have more magical talent? Come on. Show Trixie what you've got. Show us all."
I'm thinking Chrysalis specifically recruited her. That's twice she's specifically challenged Twilight, and she's also the most narcissistic, cruel-hearted she-devil I've ever met. Ponies just don't get that bad on their own. Raze thought.
"Who? Me?" Twilight asked, the pressure from Trixie and the audience clearly getting to her. "I'm just your run-of-the-mill citizen of Ponyville. No powerful magic here." Shyly glancing away, she mumbled, "I, uh, I think I hear my laundry calling. Sorry." With this, she darted off.
"Twilight?" Asked a despairing Spike.
"Ha! Once again, the Great and Powerful Trixie has proven herself to be the most amazing unicorn in all of Equestria!" Turning away, she mused, "Was there ever any doubt?"
Gnashing mandibles! Every component of this operation was running flawlessly! Why can't she just mare up and magic this faker off the stage? Raze thought as the audience dispersed. What have I done wrong? Maybe I just...I... He glanced to Snails, who was following Trixie. Wait a minute. I think the solution to Twilight's 'stage fright' lies not in a large crowd of spectators, but in a mare-to-mare conflict. For now, Trixie must think herself to be a goddess! Won't be difficult. She already does. Raze took off after Snails, eager to inform his sidekick of the least conspicuous aspect of his plan.
Later that afternoon......
"Here's that smoothie you asked for!" Raze shouted, holding higher his flank to offer the plastic tray with the beverage atop it to Trixie. "With extra hay! Just how you like it!"
"Oom...hay." Mumbled Snails, looking ready to drool over the thought.
Trixie indifferently accepted the smoothie, sipping it for a moment before glancing down to Raze and Snails, asking with annoyance, "Yes?"
Quick! Say something adorable! "Ooh! Tell us another story, Great and Powerful Trixie." Who am I kidding? Everything this kid says is adorable!
"Yeah! Tell us about how you vanquished the Ursa Major!" Snails said with his own unique enthusiasm.
With a toss of the head and a scoff, Trixie said, "Trixie is far too exhausted from performing feats beyond imagination. Be gone with you, until morning."
Stalling! She's stalling, because she's never actually fought an Ursa Major before! Raze thought, shuffling away with Snails.
"Of course, Great and Powerful Trixie!" Snails said.
"Anything you say, we are at your beck and call!" Raze shouted, resisting the urge to snicker as he thought, So we can sabotage your other stuff, just like how I drank half of your smoothie before giving it to you.
After a few more backward steps, Raze and Snails were stopped by Spike asking, "What are you two doin'?"
Ooh! Here comes genius! I'm a genius! "Just bringin' the G-A-P-T a-"
"The what?" Spike asked, unamused.
Come on! That was genius! Raze thought before saying, "The Great and Powerful Trixie!"
"Sheesh." Spike said, rolling his eyes.
"Just bringin' her a smoothie!" Raze said, secretly irritated.
"How can you fall for her lameness?" Spike asked, gesturing to the two of them. "She's just a show off! But Twilight-"
"The Great and Powerful Trixie vanquished an Ursa Major." Raze interrupted, intent on angering Spike, which would, in turn (by his logic), entice Twilight to fight Trixie. "Can your Twilight claim that?"
"Oh really?" Asked Spike, sounding doubtful. "Were you guys actually there?"
"Well, uh...um..." Raze sputtered, glancing to Snails. Yes I was. But I'll just keep that a secret, lest Chrysalis's little protege be demolished. "...no, but-"
"But nothin'!" Interrupted Spike. "The proof is in the pudding!"
"Oh ho ho! I like pudding!" Snails said, Raze resisting the urge to facehoof.
With an expression expressing how Raze felt, Spike said, "Look. Unless an Ursa Major comes waltzing up the street for Trixie to vanquish, I am not going to believe a word she says! And neither should you!" Shouted Spike, pointing at Raze.
...now it is you who has shown your genius, dragon! "Hmm....an Ursa walkin' up the street, eh? Snails! You thinkin' what I'm thinkin'?"
"Why is it that they call it a 'flea market' when they don't really sell fleas?" Snails answered, looking particularly dimwitted.
That...is actually a valid question. Why is it called a flea market? "Yeah, uh...oh, come on!" Raze turned away from Spike, walking away with snails in tow. We have much work to do, sidekick!
"Oh! How are we gonna find an Ursa Major when I can't even see my own hoof in front of my face?" Raze asked.
"Hold on!" Snails said. With a grunt of effort, his horn began to flicker with dim light. After a moment of struggling, he conjured a sustainable light to illuminate the dark.
"Oh. Much better!" Raze said, his attention suddenly captured by the monstrous beast they had awakened. ...I didn't think they were this big. It leaned in closer to Snails and Raze, growling a menacing growl. Without meaning to, Raze screamed in fear, along with Snails, provoking a roar from the beast. Raze was the first out of the cave, Snails not far behind as the Ursa Minor pursued them. I'm gonna get eaten! This was a bad idea! I blame that stupid dragon!
After a good minute of frantic running, they passed by Spike, who asked, "Hey guys. Where you goin'?"
With a gulp and a genuinely frightened tone, Raze answered, "Can't talk now!"
"Got a major problem!" Snails added.
"Yeah! Ursa Major, to be exact!" Raze shouted back. As if on queue, the pursuing Ursa Minor roared again with seismic effects. Spike, now realizing why Raze and Snails were on the run, was now frantically fleeing alongside them.
Things have spiraled out of control! This plan is doomed to failure...but at the very least, I want to see this thing eat Trixie. Careful to keep the calm of his inner mind suppressed and his expression panicked, Raze shouted in conjunction with Snails, "Trixiiiie!"
"Twilight!" Spike called from behind them.
Arriving at Trixie's cart, Raze and Snails reared and pounded at the door, shouting, "Trixie! Trixie! Open up!"
"Trixie thought she said that the Great and Powerful Trixie did not want to be disturbed!" Trixie scolded.
"Uh he he. We have a tiny problem." Stammered Raze, thinking, One I'm sure you'll be thrilled to deal with.
"Actually, it's a big one." Snails stated, the urgency of his voice no longer apparent.
"What is so important that you cannot wait until morning to disturb Trixie?" A call from the nearing Ursa Minor answered her as the beast stomped into Ponyville. Upon clearing the trees that blocked its path, the beast roared a bestial roar. Trixie, a shining example of courage, exploded from her cart with a panicked yell, darting away from the two colts she had sent to the ground.
Picking himself up, Raze angrily thought, Oh, how very great and powerful of you, you stupid- "Aaaah!!" His thoughts were cut short as the rampaging Ursa Minor brought down a paw upon Trixie's cart, which Raze and Snails narrowly avoided as they ran after Trixie.
Now backed into a corner, the Ursa Minor stalked toward Trixie, Snails, and Raze.
So this is how it ends...oh wait! I was gonna feed Trixie to it first! Raze thought, instructing Trixie, "Great and Powerful Trixie, you've got to vanquish the Ursa!"
"Yeah, vanquish so we can watch!" Snails added.
"It took a lot of trouble to get that thing here!" Raze said as the beast bared its fangs. At the very least, I want to watch you put on a show before that thing chows down.
"Wait. You brought this here?" Trixie asked, eyes wide as she stepped closer to the two. "Are you out of your little pony minds?!"
"But, you're the Great and Powerful Trixie!" Raze reasoned, struggling to stay in character as he thought, That is, you are until you become the Sweet and Delectable Treatsie.
"Remember? You defeated an Ursa Major!" Snails added, the beast roaring ferociously at the three of them.
"Uh, okay." Trixie said with a gulp. "Stand back!" Trixie's horn began to glow, summoning a rope from a nearby jar and wrapping it around two of the beast's toes. "Ha! Piece of cake!" Unamused, the beast brought up its paw and snapped the rope by simply spreading its toes.
"Ah, c'mon Trixie!" Raze shouted, only able to think, That's how the cookie crumbles, Trixie. One deceptive chocolate chunk at a time.
"Quit goofin' around and vanquish it, eh!" Snails said, his eyes now facing different directions.
What the? How the? Raze thought, glancing to Snails. Looking more determined, Trixie conjured a storm cloud above the Ursa Minor, which rumbled and crackled with electricity. Compared to the Ursa Major, however, it was of pitiful size.
"Well, that was a dud." Snails commented very matter-of-factly.
"Yeah! C'mon! Where's all the cool explosions, and smoke, and stuff like earlier, you know?" Raze shouted, Trixie's cloud shooting a rather ineffective lightning bolt at the Ursa Minor, enticing another roar from the beast. Trixie rushed through the creature's legs, followed closely by Snails and Raze.
After escaping the Ursa Minor (mostly due to its rampage now being focused on the rest of the town), Raze and Snails stood beside one another as they watched Trixie.
Twilight Sparkle, hopping into view, asked, "What's going on?"
"We brought an Ursa to town!" Raze happily answered, now in a much better mood considering his poorly thought out plan was now coming to fruition. If I'm lucky, Trixie will get eaten anyway!
"You what?!" Twilight shouted disbelievingly.
"Don't worry. The Great and Powerful Trixie will vanquish it!" Snails said cheerfully, glancing to Trixie.
After a moment of guilty silence, Trixie hung her head and admitted, "I can't."
In unison, Snails and Raze shouted, "What?!" Raze, however, thought instead, You don't say?
"Well, I can't. I never have. No one can vanquish an Ursa Major. I just made the whole story up to make me look better." Trixie said hurriedly.
"Made it up?!" Snails and Raze shouted in unison, Raze being careful not to let his smugness show. With a quake of the ground, the Ursa Minor stood tall on its hind legs, bellowing ferociously. Looking hopeful, Raze glanced to Twilight Sparkle, seeing Spike emphatically gesture to the Ursa. With a gulp, Twilight stepped forward to face the beast.
Raze watched in wonderment as Twilight's horn glowed a soft violet, her spell not immediately apparent. On the now more forceful winds rode in a dreamy, melodic whistling, which served to calm the beast, the Ursa swaying from side to side. Unbelievable. Magically conjured music! Raze thought.
"Nice use of number sixteen!" Cheered Spike. With her horn now glowing intensely, Twilight strained herself to execute her next spell. Spike turned to look at an incoming object surrounded by Twilight's aura, commenting, "That's new."
Raze glanced to the giant metal container filled with milk just in time to watch its top be placed back on. I now take back what I thought about unicorn magic being gimmicky. Changelings could never telekinetically lift that much on their own. As if to further impress Raze, Twilight caught the collapsing Ursa and lifted it into the sky, placing the container between its paws. I...take back the take back. A giant bottle. Seriously? As the Ursa Minor began to suckle, Twilight's horn was now shooting off beams of light as she moved the sleeping beast back into the Everfree. Still...Chrysalis isn't gonna believe this. After moving the Ursa all the way back to its cave, Twilight panted with exhaustion, but stopped as the crowds behind her erupted into cheering.
"Come on, Snails. We've gotta go!" Raze whispered to Snails, who nodded and followed along without question.
"Unbelievable!" Shouted Rainbow Dash.
"That was amazing!" Lauded Spike.
"Heavens to Betsy! We knew you had ability, but not that much!" Applejack said.
"I'm sorry. Just please, please don't hate me!" Twilight begged.
"Hate you?" Asked Rarity, Rainbow Dash, and Applejack in unison.
"Why, whatever do you mean, darling?" Rarity asked.
"Well, I know how much you hated Trixie's showing off with her magic tricks, and I just thought-" Twilight stammered, only to be cut off.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa! Magic's got nothing to do with it. Trixie's just a loud mouth." Rainbow Dash argued.
"Most unpleasant." Affirmed Rarity.
"All hat and no cattle." Applejack added.
...I'm at a loss as to what that's supposed to mean. Raze thought, glancing to Twilight as he inched away.
"Sooo....You don't mind my magic tricks?" Twilight asked.
"Yer magic is a part of who you are, sugar cube. And we like who you are." Answered Applejack. "We're proud to have such a powerful, talented unicorn as our friend."
"And after whoopin' that Ursa's hind quarters, we're even prouder!" Rainbow Dash added.
"You are?" Twilight asked, now sounding less despairing.
After a single 'uh-huh' and a pair of 'm-hmms', Spike shouted, "Wow Twilight! How'd you know what to do with that Ursa Major?"
"That's what I was doing when you came looking for me!" Twilight answered, stopping Raze in his tracks.
Hold up. What did she just say? Raze held a hoof in front of Snails, stopping his sidekick without a word.
"I was so intrigued by Trixie's bragging that I was compelled to do a little reading up on them." Twilight said.
Raze scratched behind his ear, brow furrowed in thought. A little reading up...her strength is her studiousness...interesting.
"So it is possible to vanquish an Ursa Major all by yourself?" Spike asked.
"That wasn't an Ursa Major. It was a baby. An Ursa Minor." Twilight answered.
"That was just a baby?!" Trixie asked in disbelief.
If that's the case, then did I luck out or what? Raze thought, a little frightened by the notion.
"And it wasn't rampaging. It was just cranky because someone woke it up." Twilight said, turning a scowl to Raze and Snails.
"Oh." The two said sheepishly, shrinking beneath the gaze of the crowd.
"If that was an Ursa Minor...then...what's an Ursa Major like?" Spike asked, sounding panicked.
Twilight looked to the sky, seeming to consider what to say before answering, "You don't wanna know."
"Huh. You may have vanquished the Ursa Minor, but you will never have the amazing, show-stopping ability of the Great and Powerful Trixie!" Trixie reared, landing with a stomp and a puff of smoke. As it cleared, she could be seen, galloping away in the distance.
"Why that little!" Rainbow Dash grumbled, taking to the skies in pursuit.
"Just let her go!" Twilight said, stopping Rainbow Dash mid-flight. "Maybe someday she'll learn her lesson.
Here's hoping. Now we're clear to run away! Raze thought, tip-hoofing behind Snails whilst the crowds were focused on the fleeing Trixie.
"Now, about you two." Twilight said, standing in Snails's path.
"Uh, he he. We're sorry that we woke up the Ursa Minor." Raze said, the simple assurance in his mind, There's no way I'll take heat when I'm this adorable!
"We just wanted to see some awesome magic!" Snails added.
"Yeah. And the way that you vanquished that Ursa Minor was awesome!" Praised Raze. She only looked down her nose at the two, sending them into a cowering position.
"We deserve whatever punishment you give us." Snails mumbled.
Although I would disagree, that might just jeopardize the mission. Let's see where this goes. Raze thought.
Glancing to the wreckage of Trixie's cart, she said, "For starters, you can clean up this mess." With a grin, she added, "And...what do you think, Spike? Should I give them number twenty-five?"
"Oh! Twenty-five! Yes!" Spike answered.
Oh no! Scary, frightening unicorn magic! Raze thought.
This thought was countered, however, when Spike added, "I think I deserve it, too."
"Heh?" Raze and Snails asked, both genuinely confused.
"I think your right!" Twilight said, her horn aglow. Snails and Raze cringed as the spell took effect, but the end result was something far different than Raze had imagined.
In unison, the three of them chimed, "Sweeeet!"
Almost forgot. Gimmicky. Nothing to be worried about. Raze thought, stroking his mustache with pride.
Dear Queen Chrysalis,
As per your instructions, I have gathered insights on the Element of Magic, Twilight Sparkle. I'm not sure what you were referring to when you mentioned 'suspicions' during my briefing, but I can say with certainty that Twilight Sparkle's magical potential is nothing less than staggering. Although she, along with many ponies, seems to favor nonviolent solutions, she has demonstrated monumental talent for levitation and air current manipulation spells. In addition to her affinity for spell casting, I would like to point out that one of her greater strengths is her studious nature and sense of foresight. Twilight Sparkle has proven to be intellectual in preparation and dominant in down-to-the-wire combat situations.
Your loyal commando,
P.S. As a perk, I got this wicked mustache!
Satisfied with his letter, Raze rolled up the parchment and deposited it into his messenger lamp. Sure enough, the parchment ignited, spiraling out of the glass in a swirl of magic green smoke.
"Another successful mission, Raze. Good job." He congratulated himself, stretching his limbs with a groan as he stood. "Now...there was one other thing..." He scratched at his head for a moment, then his eyes suddenly went wide. "Oh!" He opened his saddlebag, placing his writing set and messenger lamp inside. He fished out his remaining zaffy and his bag of amnesia powder, then took off to where he had moved the real Snips. After a few minutes of flight, he found the hole he had thrown Snips into. Peering into it, he found Snips, limbs tied and mouth muffled by thick Everfree vines. Upon seeing Raze, he began to thrash and shout muffled shouts. Raze sighed, dropping into the hole. He watched Snips frantically flop about for a moment, then brought up a hoof, striking Snips on the head with a sharp crack. Snips had been knocked unconscious once more, much to Raze's relief, allowing him to open the bag of amnesia powder and pour it on Snips's nose with ease. Dropping the emptied bag, Raze curled his forelegs under the limp Snips, hovering out of the pit and back to Ponyville.
"Snips! Snips, where'd ya go!" Snails called out after his friend. Hearing this, Raze bolted from where he had laid Snips on the street, accidentally leaving behind the zaffy he had forgotten to discard earlier. Snails rounded a corner, then spotted Snips. "Oh my gosh!" Snails ran over to Snips, furiously shaking his shoulder. "Snips! Are you okay?"
Snips blinked awake, shakily getting to his hooves. "Ugh...what happened?"
Snails smiled, glad his friend was okay. "Oh good! You were just layin' there in the road, and I...uh..." His gaze wandered over to the colorful wrapper sitting next to Snips's hoof. "Hey, is that yours?" He asked, pointing to the zaffy.
Snips lifted his hoof to look at the zaffy, answering, "Uh...nope. Not mine."
"Oooh! I love taffy!" Snails shouted, plucking it off the ground and unwrapping it with his magic. He plopped the zaffy into his mouth, triggering its spectacular electric light and smoke show. After a comedic spasm, Snails collapsed, hissing just as Snips had the previous night.
Snips raised an eyebrow at his friend, shaking his head as he reasoned, "I must be dreaming, or something."
Oops. That's my bad. Raze thought as he watched from a distance, shuffling away as he quietly whistled to himself.