“Lulamoon – ” Lyra began.
The blue unicorn glared at Lyra Heartstrings. “Trixie,” she ordered in a tone one normally reserved for informing ponies that their loved ones had met horrible ends, and that one enjoyed relating this fact immensely.
Lyra blinked a few times at the intensity. “I’m…sorry,” the mint-green unicorn apologized. “It’s just that Princess Luna said that ‘Trixie’ was a nickname, and I didn’t think I knew you well enough.”
The other unicorn stared across the wagon cabin at Lyra for a few moments, before sighing. “My given name is Trixie Lulamoon. I’m from Neigh Orleans, and the tradition there is to use a pony’s second name if they have one. But I hate, I hate, Lulamoon. So call me Trixie.”
Lyra raised an eyebrow. “What’s wrong with Lulamoon?”
“I hate it.”
“I gathered. But I mean, what’s actually wrong with it?”
The blue unicorn turned her head down, staring at the large cabin’s floor. The two had left Canterlot an half an hour ago, but the train ride still had about another hour and a half before it reached their destination of Ponyville. So far, the cabin had been just about the only enjoyable part of the train ride – it had been first-class, so the two unicorns had as much space as they wanted to themselves. The cabin was, in fact, almost as large as the apartment that Lyra had been staying in for the past several years while living in Canterlot and attending Luna’s school of magic.
Lyra realized after several minutes of waiting that Trixie wasn’t going to respond to her question. The unicorn let out a sigh as she looked out the train’s window, as the train sped by Equestria. The entire landscape was blanketed in glistening white snow, the aftermath of a nation-wide storm that the weather ponies had insisted was necessary. It gave the land a serene, inspiring appearance, and as long as Lyra sat in the heated train car she could appreciate the winter wonderland thoroughly. It was enough to make her forget about the grumpy pony sitting across from her and hum out a nice tune…
Trixie’s head shot up at the melody. “What are you doing?” she demanded.
Lyra glanced at Trixie. “Humming,” she answered.
“No, that tune,” Trixie clarified, one eye narrowing as she leaned forward. “That was ‘Skip to My Lou’ you were humming.”
“No it wasn’t,” Lyra responded, then considered the absent-minded song. “Was it? I don’t know, I wasn’t thinking…” Now, however, she was, and quite suddenly a full-toothed grin split her features when enlightenment struck. “Oh, stars above, that’s why you hate Lulamoon,” the mint green unicorn realized.
“No it isn’t!” Trixie insisted, though her widening eyes suggested the opposite.
“Lou, lou, skip to my lou,” Lyra sang, leaning forward. “Lou, lou, skip to my lou, fly’s in the buttermilk, shoo fly shoo – ”
“I’ll turn you into a newt,” Trixie threatened, pointing a hoof at Lyra, even as the unicorn continued to sing. “Every school day when I was a filly I had to hear ponies singing that song whenever my name was mentioned and seriously I will turn you into a newt if you don’t stop!”
Lyra did stop, but only because her laughter was interrupting the song too much. “Every time?” she asked between giggles.
“Every time,” Trixie insisted. “I don’t know, somepony thought it was funny and maybe it was funny, but it got old real fast.” Her gaze turned to a golden object sitting next to Lyra. “Why not put that thing to use?”
Lyra’s horn glowed, and a glowing aura of magic wrapped around her lyre as it levitated over to in front of her. The unicorn shifted sitting positions on the train’s seat, into one that most ponies thought looked incredibly uncomfortable, but which Lyra never minded herself – back resting against the cushioned wall, hind legs hanging over the seat’s edge.
One of Trixie’s eyebrows rose sharply at the sight, and managed to ascend even further as Lyra placed her hooves on either side of her lyre. “You’re…going to play with your hooves?” Trixie asked.
“I’m better with my hooves than with magic,” Lyra responded matter-of-factly.
Trixie blinked a few times at the statement, finding it exceedingly difficult to believe. After a moment, however, she settled down onto her stomach on the seat. “Fine,” the blue unicorn decided, waving a hoof imperiously. “Play on, maestro.”
Ahh ahh ahh ahhh...
My little pony
Friendship never meant that much to me
My little pony
But you're all here and now I can see
Stormy weather; Lots to share
A musical bond; With love and care
Teaching laughter; It's an easy feat,
And magic makes it all complete!
You have my little ponies
How'd I ever make so many true friends?
“And here we are,” Lyra proclaimed as the two stepped from the train and into the cool, crisp morning air, Trixie grateful for the enchantment woven into her cape that would keep her warm despite the thin material it was made from. “Ponyville.”
Trixie pulled back her hat’s brim, giving what she could see of the town a once-over. Unlike Canterlot, Manehattan, or most of the great cities of Equestria, Ponyville didn’t appear to have a single building over five stories tall. What the settlement lacked in vertical height, however, it made up for with horizontal spread; in terms of land area, Ponyville was one of the largest communities in the realm, though its population kept it firmly in the ‘large town’ category and out of the ‘small city’ one.
Trixie broke from her reverie long enough to see to it that her luggage and Lyra’s own were delivered to their respective destinations by a quartet of earth pony porters that had accompanied them from Canterlot. She took the time to pass them each a couple of silver bits apiece as a gratuity and to ensure that the best of care was given to their belongings. She quickly afterwards plunged back into her own thoughts, however, as she considered the tasks that lay before her, the responsibility that she had, through a combination of reasoning, pleading, whining, and maybe a little blackmail, finally been able to wrest from Princess Luna. No, Ponyville was not a large city like Manehattan, Stalliongrad, or her hometown of Neigh Orleans, but that was what made it ideal for her to finally put everything she was learning from Luna to practical use.
“So,” Lyra interrupted after growing uncomfortable with Trixie’s silence, “where to first? The Apples? The weather team? Introducing yourself to the mayor?”
Trixie glanced at her mint-colored companion, currently wearing a warm-looking, wool winter cloak and a gray Gatsby cap, somehow fitting the latter snugly over her horn without making the style look uncomfortable. “You’re eager,” she observed.
“No offense, but I want to get this whole ‘escort’ job over and done with,” Lyra responded.
Trixie grimaced at Lyra’s subtle, but clear, reminder that the two were not friends, merely acquaintances. “How much is Princess Luna paying you?” she asked.
Lyra named a large, round figure. Trixie’s eyes widened, causing Lyra to smirk. “Yeah, that was my reaction,” she said as she pulled the brim of her Gatsby cap over her eyes in a sign of mock embarrassment. Trixie looked away at that, her thoughts turning inwards to what the conversation must have been like, or at least how she saw it in her mind’s eye:
“You,” Princess Luna, tall and regal-looking as ever, said as she pointed to Lyra. “We are investing in our student a measure of responsibility for a change, and making her Our representative to Ponyville! And you are from Ponyville! So We ask that you serve as her escort for a few days while she settles. It’s not like you’ll have anything else to do since you’re a musician and so don’t have a real job.”
“Oh no,” Lyra responded. “You want me to deal with Trixie Lou-lou-skip-to-my-Lulamoon? Nopony likes her! I’ve never met her personally, and I would like to continue that lucky streak!”
“You’re right!” Luna exclaimed. “Especially after the ice palace incident, nopony likes Trixie. But We shall pay you an exorbitant amount of bits to do so!” And then the princess named a number.
Lyra considered. “Maybe if you throw in some land,” she suggested. “And a title. Vicereine Lyra has a nice ring to it…”
“Trixie,” Lyra interrupted her fellow unicorn. Trixie blinked a few times, and saw that she had nearly walked face-first into a lamp post and had been stopped only by Lyra’s outstretched hoof.
The blue unicorn shook her head to clear it. “Sorry,” she apologized. “I was just thinking about…stuff.”
“Stuff?” Lyra asked.
“Stuff,” Trixie confirmed. “And junk.”
Lyra was silent for several moments at the painfully obvious evasion to her concern, before letting out a sigh. “Whatever,” she said. “So where to first?”
Trixie considered, looking up to the sky as she did so. From the position of the sun, it looked to be about eleven o’clock – wherever they went, they’d have to hurry if they wanted to avoid being caught outside during midday. A rumbling stomach quickly decided Trixie’s first destination. “The Apple Trust,” she decided with a nod.
Lyra nodded, turning towards a street and beginning to trot off, her charge in tow. As they walked, Trixie considered the ponies around her. Some gave her an odd look at her choice of clothing – a purple, star-studded cape and wizard’s hat – but mostly she received only a few polite nods or the occasional greeting. It was a welcome change from the reputation she had managed to build for herself in Canterlot over the past few years, where the best she could usually hope for was an indifferent stare – and those she hadn’t received at all over the past few weeks, ever since the ice palace –
No, Trixie insisted, forcing herself to forget about that night, the ice-turned-water getting everywhere and the absolutely livid look in Princess Luna’s eyes. No, you’re not going to think like that. Fresh start, Trixie. Fresh start.
“Lyra, I’m going to ask you something, and I want you to be honest,” Trixie stated.
“Are you lost?”
Lyra’s silence to Trixie’s inquiry was answer enough. The blue unicorn let out a long sigh as her companion stopped at a fork in the road, considering as she rubbed the back of her head with one hoof. “I thought you grew up in Ponyville,” Trixie accused.
“I did, but I never really went out to the Apples,” Lyra responded as she looked around. Ponyville was to the east of them, still visible over the rolling, snow-covered hills, but the site of the Apple Trust’s first and largest farm was somehow evading them. “They came into town. No need to go to the farm.”
“So you’re lost,” Trixie surmised.
Lyra glared at her charge a moment. “No,” she said firmly, pointing a hoof down the right path. “It’s that way.” She began trotting off, a determined spring to her steps.
With a sigh, Trixie followed, glancing nervously at the sky as she did. “It’s just about midday,” she noted.
“I know,” Lyra responded gruffly, glancing over her shoulder a moment before returning her attention to the road ahead. “It’s just a stupid superstition. It’s not like Corona is going to fly on down and immolate us just for being outside.”
Trixie shivered slightly nevertheless, and not from the cold, as the two trotted next to a white fence that separated the road from an empty farmer’s field, a field notably lacking apples of any kind. Despite Lyra’s words, she picked up the pace just as much as Trixie did, and each cast nervous glances to the sky as the sun continued its inexorable climb overhead. At a guess, they had maybe ten minutes, at most, before the sun reached its zenith.
“Should have gone to my new home first,” Trixie muttered to herself. “I knew it was too close to midday to head out.” She glared at Lyra. “Or would you have gotten lost on the way there as well?”
“I’m not lost,” Lyra insisted.
“So where’s Sweet Apple Acres, then?”
“There should be signs. I mean, there were signs all over the place back before I went to Canterlot. I don’t know what happened to them.” Lyra glared at Trixie. “But I’m not lost.” She glanced ahead. “A ha. And I can prove it.”
Ahead, Trixie and Lyra spotted a gold-coated, orange-maned earth pony trotting with nearly as much speed as the two unicorns were. She was wearing a wide-brimmed sunhat and saddlebags laden with groceries, and was just beginning to open a gate in the white fence they had been trotting beside when she spotted them.
“Oh my,” she exclaimed on seeing the two unicorns. An odd look of hopefulness came over her features. “What are you two fillies doing out at this time of day?”
“Getting increasingly lost,” Trixie answered, glancing once more at the sun. At this point, it was close enough to midday that no one would argue the point. Trixie tried to remember the last time she had been outside when the sun was at its zenith, but couldn’t for the life of her remember. Nopony stayed outside during midday without an extremely good reason.
“We’re not lost,” Lyra insisted. She pointed down the dirt path. “It’s that way to Sweet Apple Acres, right?”
The earth pony’s hopefulness faded away at Lyra’s question, replaced by a sort of resignation. “Um, yes,” she responded. “Just keep going straight down that way about two miles. You can’t miss it.”
“Ha!” Lyra exclaimed, turning to Trixie and sticking out her tongue.
Trixie ignored her as she tipped her wizard’s cap. “Thank-you,” she responded, consciously doing nothing to hide her nervousness. She turned to Lyra. “Come on. At a full gallop we can probably be there in a few minutes…”
The orange earth pony bit her lip at Trixie’s obvious distress, and didn’t seem to miss Lyra’s own despite the mint-green unicorn working to hide it. “Hold on,” she insisted. “Is it really that important that you get where you’re going quickly?”
Trixie pointed a hoof straight up. “It is if we don’t want to be outside in this,” she responded.
“Is that all?” she asked. At a confirming nod from Trixie, she pointed down the path that lead to her house. “You can come inside if you like. I was just about to make myself lunch.”
“Oh, no. We wouldn’t want to impose,” Trixie lied, for herself at least.
“No. I insist,” the earth pony said, trotting behind Trixie and Lyra and shooing them towards her house, a rustic cottage about a hundred feet from the fence. Trixie put up only a small show of resisting before the three of them crossed the distance from the fence to the earth pony’s front door and made their way inside. Trixie did not hide her very real sigh of relief as she got out from under the sun’s rays and was, instead, safely enclosed by four walls and a sturdy roof. The house inside was simple and plainly decorated, looking like it contained little more than a living room, kitchen, and a few bedrooms, without so much as a second story.
“Thank-you,” Trixie said as she turned to the earth pony who had taken the two unicorns in. Yes, Trixie had subtly influenced her towards that decision with a few well-chosen words said in the right tone of voice, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t be grateful about it.
Her new acquaintance shook her orange tresses. “No need,” she responded as she slipped her saddlebags off of her, taking them in her mouth and bringing them to her kitchen. With her bags no longer in the way, Trixie could see her cutie mark – a trio of healthy-looking, green-stalked carrots. After setting them down, she turned back to Trixie and Lyra. “My name is Carrot Top, incidentally.”
“Lyra Heartstrings,” the mint unicorn said as she used her magic to slide off her Gatsby cap and wool cloak. She used the levitated cap to point to Trixie. “And this is Trixie Lul – ”
“Just Trixie,” the other unicorn interrupted with an angry glare towards her companion, before turning back to Carrot Top. “I’m Ponyville’s new representative from the Night Court of Luna.”
Trixie tried to keep the pride from her voice at that statement. She tried. She did not succeed, but she didn’t feel particularly bad about that, either. Carrot Top’s eyes widened a little at the proclamation. “Oh my!” she exclaimed, trotting up to Trixie and giving a slight bow. “Um…so would that be Lady Trixie, or Countess, or Vicereine, or…?”
Trixie shook her head, trying to hide her enjoyment at the bow. “Just Trixie. Or Representative Trixie, I suppose. I’m not a noble.”
Carrot Top seemed to be simultaneously surprised that the Princess would appoint a commoner to the position of Ponyville representative, and comforted by the thought that Ponyville’s new representative would be a mare of the people. From what Trixie understood, the previous holder – Blueblood something, or something Blueblood, Trixie hadn’t bothered to remember – had kept his noble person distant from the ponies of Ponyville prior to his retirement from office just a few weeks ago.
“Anyway,” Lyra interrupted, “we don’t want to impose. We’ll just wait out midday here and be on our way.”
“To the Apples,” Carrot Top added, her voice once more losing a bit of joy. She looked to Trixie. “So this is probably about the Longest Night festival, isn’t it?”
Trixie nodded at the mention of the celebration of the winter solstice, coming up in just two days. “Yes,” she confirmed. “I’ve been appointed as the official overseer of the festival. The Apples are overseeing the food stalls, I’m given to understand.” She looked out a window, at the empty, snow-covered fields surrounding the house. “So, you’re a carrot farmer, I take it?” Given the pony’s name and cutie mark, it was hardly a surprise when she nodded in affirmation. “What have you got planned?”
The farmer blinked a few times at Trixie’s question. “I’m sorry?” she asked.
“For the festival,” Trixie continued. “Or is it some kind of surprise?”
The golden earth pony’s eyes continued to flutter in confusion for a few moments. “I…well, I don’t have any plans,” she said, as though the answer should have been obvious. “The Apples are overseeing the food stalls.”
Now it was Trixie’s turn to be confused. “Well, yes, because the Trust is experienced with coordinating large numbers of ponies,” she said. “But you don’t want to miss a sales opportunity like the Longest Night, do you?”
“Uh, Trixie?” Lyra asked, stepping next to the blue unicorn. “That’s not how it works in Ponyville. At least not with the big-time festivals in fall and winter and spring. The Apples run all the food stalls.”
“That’s just how it is, Representative,” Carrot Top said, shrugging a little. “It might have something to do with the Apples being the founding family of Ponyville. There are other farms, and we get to set up stalls during any of the minor celebrations, but not during the Longest Night, the Eventime, or the Ingathering.”
Trixie considered that. More specifically, she considered the thought of having only apples to eat in two days’ time. Apple fritters, apple pies, apple juice, caramel apple, candied apple, apple cider…
“That’s stupid and that’s not what’s happening this year,” Trixie proclaimed.