There was silence as my aggressive stance gave way to one of bewilderment and confusion. I let the axe’s head rest upon the ground, my hand on the pommel of the stock. The urge to lean on it in support of this turn of events was strong. A pony, a thing I have come to associate with softness and weakness, had invaded my one safe haven from their world in this dark and dangerous forest, my home.
Correction, a unicorn.
The light that I first perceived to be Dr. Manhattan’s in my revenge driven amblings had come from her workings and not of a barely contained fusion reaction in the shape of a man. Her horn was still aglow with a violet color, bathing the walls in its hue. Near her floated two pieces of flint surrounded by the same light, levitating over my fire pit where she had stacked an assortment of debris she found nearby. It was an ugly mess of drenched dead grass and twigs set in the center of shards of wood that I saw unfit to even burn. The wood showed the telltale signs of scorch marks and even a flicker of blue flame still hung onto life. It seemed the pony had attempted to use fireworks in order to start a fire; the blue light had been her tries to keep the fire aflame with strange magic.
The unicorn in question, now backing up into a corner of the cave, was a bright and familiar hue of azure. Nearby on the rock that most often I sat upon in my ponderings were her scarce belongings, it even included a hat that matched her obnoxiously star splattered cape. Both looked ripped and haggard from the biting lashes of the forest’s branches and thorns.
“How dare you creature,” she called out to me, attempting to be brave, “How dare you try to sneak up upon, the GREAT AND POWERFUL TRIXIE!”
I’m torn from my silent analysis of her at the sudden outburst. She had taken her own defensive stance in the corner of the cave now. Her eyes showed fear but now had a resolve to fight, however meekly that proved to be. Fight or flight response, flight not an option. Response was throaty growl, to me a hum, but to others I’ve found it seemed to infer some primal sound akin to a dog threatening an intruder. Her stance quickly fell back into fear at the sound but her horn was still glowing violet and pointed threateningly at me. Thought crosses my mind to disable her as I had no idea what she could do with magic, I quickly temper the thought with the reminder this was a hapless unicorn pony I was dealing with and not a demi-god who was twisted up in her own hope for harmony and all-encompassing control.
“You’re in my home.” I said bluntly.
The ‘Great and Powerful’ Trixie is taken aback and her guard drops in surprise. She looks around the cave and says quietly, “Oh…”
I grumble and lean the axe against the side of the cave and enter. Trixie shoves herself further into the corner she hoped to gain protection from but tries nothing more, better for her health if the most she did was cower. I take a look around at my disturbed hovel, noticing that she had taken my stored ration of foods that I kept hidden. The glow from her horn dims when she sees what I see. Luckily it still shined for a little light, I’d rather not fumble in the pitch blackness that envelopes the interior of my home where the moon could not reach me and I doubt she wished to be alone in the dark with some horrid monster. I go to the open sack and search inside.
She’d taken and eaten everything inside.
The gathered berries and nuts, the leeks, the mushrooms. I continued to search the damage as the pony spoke with her bravado, “Despite your cave’s barbaric and primitive style your foods did well to sate Trixie’s hunger. Even if it was bland and awful, especially the dried hay bacon which tasted absolutely horrid.”
I looked at her with a mixture of absolute venom and sly amusement. I don’t want to tell her but the supposed hay bacon she ate was actually dried strips of rabbit meat that I kept. Shame, was hoping to enjoy that too. Was still surprised she ate it, must have been starving to resort to eating literally everything that I kept.
I give a harsh sigh and mutter, “You ate everything.”
“Well it was barely anything at all, you’ll just have to go out and get more, creature.” She huffed. Had sudden image of breaking her neck.
She was not making it easy to keep my temper in check. She was a pony but she was not the kind I was familiar with. She was abrasive and annoying, boastful in her speaking. About everything I could possibly hate. Hard to keep telling myself to be calm and not to do anything brash just yet.
I fell to my knees and dug out the ugly stuff she attempted to start a fire with. “Not going to get fire started this way.” I said. She didn’t respond and I didn’t look at her. I felt looking at her would be too much for me to take, would end up outright strangling her to death.
I toss the debris outside, out of the way, and retrieve the firewood I had dropped. Took a momentary glance up at the moon and felt sure that this was going to be a long night. I reentered and the pony went on her guard again. With some peat I kept on my person and my own flint I quickly got a proper fire going.
One that did not glow a disturbing shade of blue.
I sharply turn to look at her and she panics again. “You’re still in my home.” I tell her flatly.
Her guard seems to finally drop and the glow in her horn disappears, leaving the fire our only light. “I have nowhere else to go,” she says. A hint of sadness I hear? Perhaps pompous behavior defense mechanism? Still wanted to break her neck.
I stir the fire to help it burn, took moment to glance up at the ceiling to make sure the smoke flowed outside the cave’s entrance properly. “Then go to the town nearby, bother them,” I reply harshly.
“I’m not welcomed in Ponyville anymore.” she says, disheartened.
The unusual statement makes me stop my tendings to the fire to look at her again. Was a surprise to hear that those ponies had the backbone to banish others, perhaps even into the hostile forest it seemed. Good for them. “Why?” I ask.
A flash of sadness crosses her eyes but is quickly hidden by a determine look, “Because they do not see the power that the GREAT AND POWERFUL TRIXIE commands!”
And it seems I’ve opened up a floodgate.
“That upstart unicorn, Twilight Sparkle, had the nerve to embarrass me! Trixe! In front of the town by stopping the Ursa Minor, seeing as I had performed all day that day I was… too tired to stop it.” Her voice dropped a few pitches and took the tone of sadness, “To add injury to my insult all my worldly belongings were destroyed; My wagon, my clothes, everything. And it’s all that Twilight Sparkle’s fault!”
By now was only half-listening. I highly doubted that annoying librarian could do such a thing. But then again you never thought she could be one to deceive you, a voice in the back of my mind replied. I stop and stare into the fire, it was true. Twilight had tricked me and potentially would have caused my death. Being sorry did not change that fact and in her adoration for her Princess she would have still done it again. Was it such a far leap that she would exile another pony? Even destroy her home in the process?
Hard to tell, would need to look into the matter.
Still left the matter of what to do with Trixie. She was annoying, boastful, and arrogant I could see why she wouldn’t exactly fit in with a town like Ponyville. Her voice gave me a throbbing headache and if she continued to shout her name I would have to hit her over the head to stop that. All reasoning pointed to kicking her out, sending her on her way. Let her contend with the forest on her own again while I repair the damage she had caused.
She had nowhere else to go, the woods were dangerous at night and until I could pass judgment, she was a pony, had to assume she was as innocent as any other, even with her more obvious flaws. For a human that meant very little, yet a pony… perhaps right to presume innocence before guilt in this backwards place. She was starving too; I could see the shadow of her ribs from under her coat. As much as I hated the thought I couldn’t turn her away yet.
I scowl and stand back up. She’s startled and looks at me with apprehension. “Deep in forest. How did you find me?” I ask accusingly, as if she had been planning to invade my home. It was hard to tell in this foreign place, she might very well be a shunned pariah or a punished criminal, even so my mind decides to try and irrationalize my thoughts into convincing myself she could stay.
Trixie scrapes at the ground with a hoof, “Well… umm…” she falls silent and I resist the urge to tell her to get out. “I was just searching for food is all. Times have been hard for me since I lost my home. Trixie’s show is not so well received now in towns. I was being chased by a pack of Timberwolves when I stumbled into the grove here. The moment I did the wolves ran away like something had spooked them. I found this cave and thought it was abandoned. I mean what pony would live in a cave?”
I ignore the possible insulting implications of what she meant. More fascinated with mention of Timberwolves, seems even if they were animals they knew enough to keep out of my territory. Worked to this pony’s advantage, if her story was true.
“You’re not going to force me to go back into that forest are you?” she asks me, I could hear the hint of fear in her voice behind her false bluster.
Can’t help but give the idea more thought now. Perhaps more to keep her on edge, I take a wicked satisfaction in seeing her hollow confidence fleet away to make way for begging. Sooner than I first planned the silence to be I shake my head, “No. Not yet.”
Trixie smiled and sticks her nose up to the air, “Good! Then you’ll have the honor of having Trixie’s presence in your cave, monster.” I give a harsh sigh and looked back to my missing food rations. In the morning I’ll have to see about getting more food.
I point to her, “Stay on that end of the cave. Don’t need pestering things bothering my belongings further. Touch nothing.”
“Why in this world would Trixie actually want to touch any of your filthy belongings? Just be glad you had food or else Trixie wouldn’t even tolerate your presence!” She huffed as she started to make herself comfortable. Seems she’s already forgotten who this cave belonged to and who was more willing to kill the other.
I sit down on the dirt ground and growl, “Watch your tone with me girl, only barely will I tolerate your presence. Besides, haven’t decided yet if I’ll just use you as food for replacement of the things you ate.”
The color in her coat drains a bit, giving me a scrutinizing and yet furtive look. She can’t decide if I am being serious or not. Now to see if she’ll take her chance and stay, that is if she is desperate enough for shelter.
Somehow even with her anxiety of me she manages to fall into a fitful slumber. Instinctively she moves closer to the fire, perhaps the only true warmth she has had for a while. I know the difficulties the forest gives in even that most basic of things.
I’ve since kept myself awake, the urge to sleep had long since passed me and I am left with a hollow feeling. I toss more wood into the fire to keep it strong, for her sake rather than mine. From how she looked she needed the small comfort. It is in our dreams where we are most vulnerable. Every little doubt is scrutinized by the subconscious and relayed into hazy visions and confusing scenes. I can hear her whimpers, twitches, and melancholy moans while she slept. I can’t help but wonder if I am the same when I sleep.
I have never slept well, I can never recall a time where I have truly slept without worry or concern. I’ve never slept in a bed that was not moth eaten and infested with bed bugs. Ever since the Keene Act, the law banning all vigilantes, was passed I did not allow myself the luxury of deep sleep. Always have escapes planned out, sleep with one eye open. Vigilance has helped me more than enough times to justify being light sleeper. Even in my childhood I can’t recall any deep slumber, always I was awaked by the filthy moans of my mother gyrating herself against another unlucky bastard who had five dollars to spend and fifteen minutes to spare, most left two minutes. I lost count of the times I laid there in bed wondering if the sounds were all part of a fevered dream and through a moldy plaster wall.
I sat there, watching her sleep, with my mind lost to wandering. What is this weak thing that has found itself in my cave? Why was she here? Her story still echoes in the annals of my memory but lies can come so easily to the desperate. In the morning I will go to confirm her story after I have found food.
I close my eyes, hoping that my own sleep will find me. I am tired of thinking. I am tired of these unanswered questions that plague me. Exhausted of the liars that cross my path and this place of skin deep deceptions, a world where I am lost and without purpose.
My mind slows down and I feel myself slip into slumber. I am only vaguely aware of the familiar ringing in my ears that calls to me.
Kill her and be done with it.
Trixie laid upon the makeshift bed, basking in the early morning calmness, a content smile on her lips. The azure unicorn had woken up to find that she was by herself again. She wandered around the gravel grove and even trekked down to the river to get water, she found no sign of the monster from last night. She was relieved of course but now she was alone again, that loathsome loneliness that had plagued Trixie since she lost her wagon and her home. She gave a sigh and went back to the cave to see where it was that she had walked in to.
The night before was dark and she had been at wit’s end, all she knew at the time was it was dry and safe. Looking at it now she was surprised to find it was comfortable. That monster had taken pains in making the cave more of a home rather than an indention in the mountain. The ground was sandy, kept warm by the well-used center fire pit. On the far wall wooden planks were shaped into shelves that held different assortment of jars, bundles, and bags. She sat down in what could be considered a seat; the monster had taken the time to grind down painful or uncomfortable grooves until the rock was smooth to the touch. The bed was just rock with soft hay over it and a blanket laid over it for comfort, Trixie was still surprised that the monster had allowed her to sleep there while it took the dirt ground. Still to her the monster seemed almost as perturbed by her presence as she was with it.
Lying down on the soft bed she listened to the birds outside and tried to relax. She quickly fell asleep with a smile on her face.
That was until she was rudely awoken by a loud thump on the sandy round before her.
Trixie woke up to find herself staring into the blank clouded eyes of a dead hog. The unicorn screamed and jumped back, she was keenly aware now of her heart pounding in her chest. She looked up to see the monster standing over the hog’s body, tossing one of its spears into the pile, careful to miss several green stained ones. Taking a knife out he dragged the body closer to the smooth rock seat and sat down.
“What in Celestia’s name are you doing?!” Trixie cried out.
I roll my eyes at the statement; obviously I was out getting the food needed to replace the things she had stolen. “Boar needs to be gutted and skinned. Remember I still need food?” I say to her. She’s still too busy eyeing the ugly dead boar at my feet but I believe she heard me. I take the knife and prepared to cut the hide off the hog to get to the flesh underneath.
“Might want to step outside for a bit,” I tell her when I find she still hasn’t moved from where she clung against the wall in sheer terror.
“But the boar is in the way!” she cried out shrilly
“Then step over it. Not dangerous now that it’s dead if that is what you’re worried about.” I reply. I can tell my style of deadpan was lost upon her.
Trixie bites at her lower lip until finally she lets go of the wall. Readying herself she pounces off the hay bed, over the hog, to land at the cave’s entrance. She doesn’t give a backwards glance to the corpse, still too frightened to look at it. She starts to walk away but stops when I toss her a cloth bag. “Barley, berries, and tulips. Not much but better than nothing.” I say. She doesn’t turn around but mumbles a thank you through her gritted teeth. I chuckle at her hostility; at least the rude awakening got her away from me and in a similar mood as mine.
She wasn’t going to be happy when she got back though. I was going to need to hang this body up to drain of blood outside the cave.
Or maybe I’ll just move it out of her view.
The process of cleaning a corpse was time consuming; I had to be careful with how I went about gutting something this size. I’ve eaten rats before and cleaned their corpses, same process for a boar but on a much bigger scale. I’d also be keeping some of the organs, no sense in letting those go to waste if they are safe to eat.
Still slightly upset, this boar was nothing in size compared to the one that Pinkie Pie scared off. One of these days I’ll find that one and drive a knife into its neck. For now would make do with this smaller one, wouldn’t know what to do with anything larger yet.
“I’m done, you can come back in now,” I shout out of the cave as I clean off my hands of the blood. For the pony’s sake I hung the body up out of view though she wouldn’t come near the grove until I got rid of the blood trail and cleaned off the blood from my coat and arms.
“No!” she cried out, “Until you clean out that awful smell Trixie will not step foot in there!”
And yet she refused to go away. I sigh and toss down the ruined rag. Picking up my cleaned coat I put it on and step out of the cave. “Hey? Where are you going?” Trixie asked with a hint of worry in her voice.
“To get mint, you annoying thing,” I say to her. I didn’t turn to see her reaction; I already know my comment likely stung. I cared little for her feelings, she should just be glad I’m doing at least this much for her. Besides, I had to see someone to confirm her story after I got mint to hide the smell of blood. I knew who to turn to as well.
I would go to the yellow pegasus that made her home at the side of the woods. She will know what to do.
Fluttershy hummed happily to herself as she worked despite the labor of her task at hand. One of the flamingos she took care of had decided to try and stand on top of her cottage’s roof with the rooster that woke her with the morning. The flailing the pink bird made trying to keep its balance on the slippery shingles removed some of them from their place and scratched up the roof. The result was a gaping mark in her roof covered in pink feathers. Now with the pink feathers cleaned away it was still a gaping maw of missing roofing that needed fixing.
After buying some new shingles earlier that morning she has been hard at work fixing it. For now it was just placing each piece back into place, later on she’d have to nail them in to keep them from falling off again but the canary pegasus wanted to get them all on before she went about making their places permanent. That and hammering nails made her nervous, it was loud and tiring to carefully hammer each pointed piece of metal into place. The shy pegasus figured though that she’d ask if Big Macintosh would help her, he always liked helping other ponies by fixing broken things.
With her spirits high and the gaping hole in her roof gone she settled back down to the ground to look up at the finished product. It was like it had never been damaged at all. Maybe she didn’t even need to nail it into place? She beamed at her grand finished work, glad to have the chore done before any trouble could come of it.
“Hey again, Fluttercry!” a voice mockingly called out from behind her.
Fluttershy’s spirits fell, the beaming smile she had turned downward into a frown. She slowly turned around, trying to hide behind her pink mane. There standing behind her were the two bullies that had pestered her since she was a little filly. “Oh… Hello… again…” Fluttershy softly said, “Umm… if it’s… alright with you two… could you leave me alone?… I mean if that’s okay.”
The response she got were two hearty and resounding laughs from the two colts. Fluttershy wanted nothing more than to disappear right this moment. For the longest time these two have taken every moment they could to make fun of her and call her names simply because she was so shy and easily offended. She knew this time would be no different and like every other time she’d end up crying because they wouldn’t stop.
“Oh that’s a good one, Fluttercry!” The brown one said. Leaning in towards her he leered and went on, “But I think we’ll stay, I mean ‘ummm if that’s okay with you’!” He and his wingman instantly burst into a fit of laughter at his own poor impersonation of Fluttershy while the young filly started to tear up. She tried to mentally prepare for the insults and threats to her pets that were soon to come, that was one of their favorites since it got to her so hard. She had thought about fighting back but was afraid of the repercussions or worse, she didn’t want to have to resort to using The Stare to get them away. She was just glad Angel wasn’t here; Fluttershy wasn’t sure what she would do if he got hurt. Or possibly what he’d do to them.
She shrunk away from the two, avoiding their gaze as they laughed it up, until suddenly her demeanor changed entirely. “Oh…. Oh dear. Please you two, please stop… umm if that’s okay… but you’re going to really really regret it if you don’t stop.”
“What’s that? Is Fluttercry actually standing up to us? How pathetic,” the brown one sneered.
“No please, you don’t understand…. I mean you really don’t want to make fun of me right now.” Fluttershy stammered with some urgency.
“No one threatens us, especially not some weak little pegasus like you that’s afraid of heights and can barely fly!” The other pegasus colt angrily said.
Both took a step forward.
They stopped when a shadow was cast over the two of them. Even the forest around them seemed to hold its breath.
Fluttershy backed away and spoke in her soft sweet voice, “Oh dear…umm… please don’t hurt them too badly Rorschach… Please?”
The color drains from the two colts as the sound of cracking knuckles cuts through the silence like a peel of thunder. The sound is soon followed by a voice like the grinding of stones.
“Promise to use an open hand. Had stitching done so will need to hold back.”
I’m sitting in Fluttershy’s cottage, listening to the steady sounds of the two bruised fools fixing the roof. Don’t usually care to discipline teenagers but I take a satisfaction in the fact that I have set them on the right path again. All they really needed was to be slapped around some to get their senses back. Perhaps went a little too far though, the brown one’s eyes still haven’t corrected themselves. I could tell they were still crooked by the amount of times he’s needed to take out a nail and fix it again properly and the number of times someone has cried out after hitting themselves with a hammer. At least this will be a lesson neither one of them would forget anytime soon.
Fluttershy, in her infinite kindness and ability to forgive, gave them both packs of ice to help ease the pain of the bruises they got. Odd but I didn’t question it; I’ve at this point come to expect such strange backward things from these ponies. Only now were we given a chance to talk.
Fluttershy returned from the kitchen, balancing a tray of tea in her mouth with experienced grace. Placing it down on the table before us she sits down in her overstuffed chair. She smiles at me, a heart warming one that makes me shift uneasily in my seat upon her couch. She pours herself some tea and offers some to me, I refuse. I’m already eyeing the cubes of sugar on the tray. She tries to hide behind her pink mane (that annoying thing that I wish she wouldn’t do) and says softly, “Um... thank you for helping me back there. Even though I wish you hadn’t been so rough on them, I mean they were mean but I don’t like seeing anypony in pain.”
“Bruises heal easily. Won’t look pretty and leave you sore but they’ll go away quickly. Sometimes best lessons are through pain. From experience, felt bruises would let them know they were wrong.” I say to her, trying to keep my hands clasped together.
“Oh…. Well… I guess…” she says indecisively. “So what brings you here? I mean… not that I’m unhappy to see you…. Just…. Um… please don’t get upset but you don’t…. seem the type to make friendly visits.”
I tilt my head, here I thought every time I visited was friendly, but then again they did not know what the usual meaning is to seeing me. I do know what she really meant though. I give a strangled sigh, finally giving into my temptation. Reaching down I pluck one of the cubes of sugar from the bowl. Moving my mask I threw it into my waiting mouth and quickly pulled my mask back into place again.
It was Fluttershy’s turn to look at me strangely. I shift uneasily and speak hesitantly, “I… have a weakness for sugar cubes.”
She giggles and says, “Oh, that’s alright. I do the same thing sometimes too.”
I nodded and after a second even smirked. Gaining my composure again I speak, “Reason I came was because I have a visitor. Calls herself the ‘Great and Powerful’ Trixie.”
Fluttershy’s eyes widen, “Oh Trixie? I know her. She isn’t hurt or anything is she?”
“Tired and anxious, but not harmed. Said she was banished from Ponyville.”
Fluttershy frowned, “Banished? She wasn’t banished. I mean there was the incident with the Ursa Minor but nopony blames her for that.”
“She seems to think otherwise.” I reply as I take another cube of sugar, “Cited some conflict she had with Twilight Sparkle.”
Fluttershy thinks for a moment before she answered, “Well if I recall she came into Ponyville with a magical act. She was very boisterous and arrogant which a lot of ponies didn’t really like. Later on with the Ursa Minor Twilight was the one who saved the town and sent it on its way.”
“Hurm, same story she told me. More embellishment on herself though. Doesn’t explain grudge she has.” I say, slightly lost in my own ponderings now.
“Maybe it’s all a misunderstanding? Maybe if Trixie just talked to Twilight she wouldn’t think she isn’t welcome in Ponyville.” The pegasus suggests.
“Doubt it would be that simple. Dealt with kind like her. Arrogant. Feel need to be justified.” I grab another sugar cube, “She doesn’t seem inclined to go back into town any time soon.”
“Oh… that’s a shame,” Fluttershy said, genuine concern and worry in her voice.
“Is she dangerous?” I ask her.
She shakes her head vigorously, “Oh, not at all! She’s just… umm… a little... Well a little loud is all.”
“Thought so. One less thing to worry about.” I say and lean back in the couch, trying my best to ignore the bunny glaring at me. How I wish I could eat that little monster.
“Well I’m at least glad to hear she’s safe and not lost somewhere in the Everfree Forest.” Fluttershy said.
“Safe isn’t best sometimes. Would rather she find another place to go.” I tell her.
“Well it sounds like she’s having trouble trusting other ponies. Just like you not so long ago.” Fluttershy said. I look at her, not liking where this was going. “Maybe if you can convince her she should come back to Ponyville we can help her and get her out of your mane?”
“I…. suppose so.” I say. It was the best idea I’ve gotten so far, better than just leaving her out in the woods. I reach down to take another sugar cube but find my hand strike the bottom of the bowl.
Fluttershy giggles, “Sorry, looks like I’ve run out of sugar cubes. You might want to cut back some on those, those can’t be healthy for… umm… well for your age.”
“Mhm,” I huffed and stood up. Adjusting my coat I nod to her, “I’ll take your advice. Talk to her. Thank you for your time.” I walk over to the door and open it but stop. “If those two bother you again… try to be more assertive, won’t be helping you a second time.”
Gently I close the door and head down the path. I stop when I hear the lull in the hammering upon the roof. I turn sharply on my heels to glare at the two, setting them back into frantic motion.
Feels good to inspire fear again.
[Happy St. Patrick's Day everypony/body/thing! -Ex-Nihilos]