As a consequence of having a mad alicorn trapped inside of it, everypony in Equestria feared the sun to some greater or lesser extent. Even the most obstinate and impious still sought shelter during the midday. Still, few ponies outright hated the sun.
Trixie hated the sun, at least right now. But not as much as it seemed to hate her.
The blue unicorn groaned loudly as she turned away from her window and buried her face in her pillow, welcoming the sweet embrace of darkness that allowed her to escape from the wretched rays of the tyrant sun. She didn’t remember climbing into bed. She didn’t, come to think of it, remember much of last night at all after the contents of the first bottle of bourbon had disappeared under mysterious circumstances, forcing her to find a second one. Or maybe a third. Whatever. Trixie let out a contented sigh as she snuggled closer into her pillow, or tried to. Her hoof was caught in something.
Opening an eye – argh the sunlight – and looking down, she saw that whoever had laid her into bed last night, as she sorely doubted that she’d been conscious enough to do so herself, had neglected to remove her cape first. It was now tangled about her front, trapping one foreleg against her chest awkwardly. Groaning, Trixie forced herself to sit up on her bed and used a combination of magic, her hooves, and a substantial number of impolite words to escape her cape and sling it from her shoulders and onto the floor. Instantly upon leaving her person, however, its warming enchantment also slipped off of her body, and she suddenly realized that her bedroom was freezing. With a gasp and a few additional curses, she quickly got back underneath her bed’s covers. Unfortunately, the enchantment worked by making her retain all of her body heat – meaning that none had been lost into her bed. All she had succeeded in doing was to surround herself in ice-cold sheets.
“I hate my life,” Trixie proclaimed loudly, which turned out to be a poor idea. The sound reverberated through her skull, attempting to shake her horn from her head from the feel of things. She groaned one more time as she climbed from her bed, threw on her cape, and tried to lie back down. It was no use, however: she was awake now, whether she wanted to be or not.
“Hate,” Trixie repeated, though she had the good sense to be quieter this time as she stumbled from bed and resolved to brave attempting the stairs. After all, the worst thing that could happen to her would be falling and breaking her neck, and then she wouldn’t have to deal with the sunlight or the pounding in her head anymore.
Trixie found the house empty but surprisingly clean, given what little she remembered of the party. There wasn’t an unsoiled glass, mug, cup, or other such container to be found in the whole place, but they had, at least, all been organized into neat piles in the kitchen near the sink. The pantry was stocked with only the basics – bread and hay, mostly, and a few condiments – but despite Trixie’s habits, she felt that nothing more complicated than toast and butter was probably called for right now.
Trixie’s stomach roiled in protest at the thought of dairy. On second thought, maybe it would be better to skip the butter.
Trixie had just started to feel like an actual unicorn pony again – she’d gotten a fire going, eaten a few slices of plain toast, and was able to look out a window without going blind – when a series of explosions occurred at her front door. Or somepony knocked. Either way, Trixie supposed she should probably go and either inspect the damage, or else cause some of her own. Stumbling to the still-intact door revealed that the latter was most likely going to be the case. Sliding her hat on for extra defensive against the sunlight, she opened her door, and found herself staring and an earth pony with an orange mane and three carrots for a cutie mark, wearing a wide-brimmed hat and winter cloak.
Trixie blinked a few times as she stared. “Carrot Top?” she asked, then winced at her own voice reverberating through her skull again.
The earth pony nodded. “May I come in?” she asked, her soft voice doing considerably less damage to Trixie’s brain.
Trixie stared a moment, before nodding “Yeah, yeah, it’s just…what time is it?” Trixie leaned outside even as Carrot Top entered, trying to check the sun’s position. She didn’t even come close to accomplishing her goal before he pain of looking towards the tyrant sun forced her to retreat back inside and close the door, rubbing her eyes.
“Nearly midday, actually,” Carrot Top admitted, as she appraised Trixie. “Are you…alright? What happened?”
“I don’t know,” Trixie explained, as she used magic to take Carrot Top’s hat and cloak, and hung them and her own hat near the door, “you’ll have to find somepony else who was at the party and ask them…” Carrot Top grinned wryly and nodded knowingly at that. “So what brings you here?”
Carrot Top bit her lip. “Business,” she explained. “I had an appointment arranged with Duke Blueblood, but then he retired, and it’s sort of an emergency, so I was hoping that I could speak with you…”
Trixie blinked a few times at that, before rubbing her head. “Uh, yeah. Okay. I probably have an office around here…somewhere…”
Had she been somewhat less hungover, Trixie might have been embarrassed that she didn’t yet fully know the layout to her own home. Still, it took only a minimal of searching to find the room that would be serving as her office while she lived in Ponyville, since it was the closest one to the door. The office was small and only sparsely decorated – she’d have to change that provided she survived the morning – with a desk and comfortable-looking pillows on either side for sitting at, a bookcase with various dry tomes in it, probably the Ponyville legal code set against one wall and a large, old-style map of Ponyville set against another. There were also windows, but mercifully the curtains to them were closed over, so the only light came from the gas lamps that Trixie turned on as they entered.
“Okay,” Trixie said, as she got behind her desk and settled down, intending to give a somewhat dramatic cape flare as she did but failing due to a combination of being hungover and…well, no, actually, that was it. All she succeeded in doing was dumping the contents of her cape’s inner pocket onto the floor.
“Ugh,” Trixie said, summoning up magic and lifting the three spilled envelopes onto her desk. “Sorry, sorry…not at my best…this is sort of my first real hangover…”
Carrot Top offered another knowing smile. “I remember mine,” she said, though afterwards she paused and considered her words. “Actually, that’s not true. It wouldn’t be a real hangover if I remembered anything other than wanting to just be struck dead by Luna.”
Trixie let out a slight snort at that. “Yeah. That’s been arranged for me,” she groaned, before closing her eyes and forcing her mind to focus regardless of how much she just wanted to die right now. When she opened them again, she found herself looking at her desk. “Okay,” she said, as she used her magic to open the first midnight-blue envelope and slide out the paper inside. “What did you want to see me about?”
“Well,” Carrot Top said, fidgeting slightly as she spoke, “it’s…it’s a difficult thing to ask. It’s just that this past year’s harvest season wasn’t as good as I’d hoped it would be…carrot sales weren’t as large…and then the weather schedule called for an early start to winter for I don’t know what reason…”
Trixie nodded sympathetically, as her eyes glanced over the letter from Luna. Despite being, officially, from her mentor, the letter was extremely formal, nothing more than an outline of Luna’s intention to appoint Trixie to the position of Representative of her Night Court and outlining the duties and responsibilities that Trixie would be expected to uphold and carry out – nothing that Trixie didn’t know already, in other words. The formality and distance stung at Trixie. She hadn’t even received a ‘good luck…’ She folded the letter back up and looked to Carrot Top even as she started opening the brown-enveloped one. “So what is your request?”
Carrot Top shifted uncomfortably. “I’d like to request a tax extension from Her Majesty.” She said.
Trixie considered Carrot Top’s request. “You’re petitioning her directly?” she asked. “Shouldn’t you be taking this up with the Equestrian Revenue Service…?” Trixie’s question trailed off as Carrot Top looked away, dejected. The blue unicorn bit her lip. “You already have?”
Carrot Top didn’t look up. “Declined,” she said. “Since I run the farm practically by myself ‘til harvest season, I already receive some tax breaks. But I just don’t think I’m going to be able to pay on time this year, not without some leave…”
Trixie nodded as she glanced at the contents of the second envelope. As she had suspected, this letter hadn’t been sent from Luna at all, but rather one of her many secretaries. It was directions as to how to acquire her royal stipend for the month, as well as a list of tasks in Trixie’s backlog as Representative, which was, surprisingly, very little. Duke Blueblood must have been an industrious pony to have left her so little work…
Trixie offered Carrot Top a smile as she opened the last letter. “Lucky we ran into each other yesterday,” she noted.
Carrot Top looked mortified. “I’m not asking for payback for lunch or anything!” she exclaimed quickly.
Trixie gave a friendly laugh, as she turned her attention to her final dispatch. It was a series of sheets of paper, each looking older than the last. “I didn’t think you were. I’m just saying, it was lucky. I’m Luna’s personal student and I can…and I…” Trixie’s voice trailed off as her eyes glided over the paper in front of her. She looked to the next page, then the one after that, eyes widening. “…and Luna can go and join her sister in the sun!”
Carrot Top’s eyes widened and she stumbled backwards a little at Trixie’s outburst, which went so far past obscene that the concept of obscenity itself seemed polite and well-mannered by comparison. The unicorn was staring at her desk and the letter she had dropped there, breathing heavily with barely contained anger.
“…Representative?” Carrot Top asked after a moment, slowly making her way forward. “Is…is everything – ” she was interrupted at Trixie’s horn glowed, and the newest-looking sheet of paper Trixie had held onto levitated up and in front of Carrot Top’s eyes.
To Representative Trixie Lulamoon:
I am given to understand that you shall be my successor to the position of Representative of the Night Court of Luna to Ponyville. Congratulations on managing to displease Her Majesty enough to make her want to banish you from the Night Court, but not enough to make her want to appoint you as ambassador to the Griffin Kingdoms. Well done!
Now, the hard part is about to begin. Are you sitting down? Good. That’s it. Is there a clock nearby? If so, then take a long, hard look at it, for you will come to know it well as you watch the glacial movement of its hands counting down the seconds until you can escape, by retirement or death, the prison that is your thoroughly meaningless appointment to this nowhere town, this wasteland of Equestria.
Well, that’s it. I have ensured that there is a good stock in the liquor cabinet; there is no reason in Equestria why you shouldn’t spend the better part of your days in a drunken stupor. Just make sure to clean yourself up for formal occasions. Also, you are the deciding member in any tie vote in Ponyville’s town council. Don’t worry, it almost never happens, and if it does, they’ll call you.
Do not think me vindictive, Miss Lulamoon. I received a very similar letter from the pony whom I replaced in this position, and she received one of her own, and so on. I have enclosed a sampling of them with this dispatch, but in the safe behind the bookcase you’ll find dozens more, dating back to the very foundation of Ponyville itself. The town has always been used as a site of exile for those who have fallen out of Luna’s favor but were not so unfortunate as to elicit her hate.
– Duke Blueblood, retired.
P.S.: One more thing. Should a crisis strike Ponyville, you technically can override any decision the town council makes. Princess Luna looks poorly on such abuses, however, and doing so haphazardly is a sure way to get an appointment to that ambassadorship I mentioned. Still, if the tedium becomes too much to bear…
Carrot Top blinked a few times as she read the letter, before Trixie pulled it away. She swallowed a few times as she looked over the other letters. Each one followed much the same pattern, a depressing legacy of ponies who had realized the mediocrity of their position and, out of a sense of solidarity, had seen fit to warn their successors. “The Duke wasn’t lying…” Carrot Top observed.
“Baron,” Trixie corrected absent-mindedly, though from the look on her face, she was doing so almost subconsciously. “Duke is his name. Baron was his title before he retired…”
“Oh. I never knew that…”
Trixie blinked a few times. “Exile,” she said softly. “I’ve been exiled. I was exiled. I knew Luna was furious with me, but I didn’t think that…”
Carrot Top bit her lip as she regarded the unicorn. “I’m…I’m sorry,” she said, stepping forward. “But Ponyville isn’t so bad. We’re the site of the Longest Night festival this year!”
Trixie glanced up at that, eyes wide. “N…no!” she exclaimed, taking several rapid steps towards Carrot Top. The earth pony backed away, but Trixie kept advancing. “Don’t you get it? I’ve been banished! And Luna hated me enough to send me here! Here, where everything was heading into the sun already! She’s an alicorn, she must have known about the Everfree storm, somehow knew that Fluttershy couldn’t perform! She knows the Apple Trust runs the festival, knew that the food would be nothing but apples and she knows she’s a picky eater, always said it was her one vice, which means she knew that the catering was going wrong too, and then I don’t even know what’s going on with the decorations but there must be something awful…”
Carrot Top had been backed against a wall by the desperate-looking unicorn. “Representative – ” she began.
“And I’ve been exiled here!” Trixie exclaimed, backing away from Carrot Top and turning around. “She’s still mad about the argument and the ice palace and so decided to punish me by sending me here and making me suffer for a little bit before trapping me in this position for the rest of my life!”
Carrot Top blinked rapidly. “This…this seems like a bad time,” Carrot Top ventured, as she began making her way to the door. “I’ll come back later…”
Trixie turned in place at that, eyes darting back and forth over Carrot Top, the map of Ponyville set onto the wall, and her desk, where Blueblood’s and his predecessors’ letters lay. After several moments, her eyes narrowed. “No,” Trixie commanded, her voice dropping several octaves from the high-pitched panic it had been at. “No. Stay. I’m going to need your help.”
Carrot Top grimaced. “Help?”
Trixie snickered a little. “Oh, I know what you’re thinking,” she said. “I’ve fallen out of Luna’s favor. I can’t help you with your tax problems anymore.”
Carrot Top shook her head. “No,” she said. “Well…I mean, it’s on my mind, but really I think you need to be alone – ”
“No,” Trixie repeated, stepping forward. “No, I need your help. I need to know how fast you could put together a vending stall of carrots for tomorrow.”
Carrot Top blinked a few times. “What?” she asked.
“Carrots. Tomorrow. How fast?”
“Well…if I work through the night…but I heard you weren’t able to convince the Apples to let me set up a stall at the festival – ”
Trixie grinned. A plan was forming in her mind as she trotted up next to Carrot Top. “Forget the Apple Trust,” she said in a voice that was probably intended to be warm and inviting, but came across to Carrot Top as having a cold center to it. She guided Carrot Top back over to her desk. “You need money, right? Why pass up the opportunity of the Longest Night?”
“I don’t have any of the paperwork filled out for – ”
Trixie chuckled slightly, tapping the side of her nose with one hoof. “I think you’ll find,” she said, “that the paperwork is strictly for food that is intended to be sold on the grounds of the festival. But if you were to, say, use my front lawn, which just so happens to border the town center, where the festival will be happening…”
Carrot Top stared. “That could make the Apple Trust mad – ”
“Forget the Apples!” Trixie repeated, although louder this time. “Why should they get all the benefits of the Longest Night and leave you out in the cold?” Trixie leaned close to Carrot Top. “It’s their fault, you know. That gigantic apple farm of theirs. Probably snap up all the good workers during harvest season too, huh? And they don’t struggle. You know they don’t struggle no matter what that Applejack claims.”
Carrot Top opened her mouth to object, but then shut it as she considered. “Well…”
“You’ve got to take a stand!” Trixie exclaimed, a manic gleam to her eyes. “Show her you’re not just going to lie down and take what she’s trying to stick you with! It’s her fault you’re stuck here! Her fault you needed to ask for a tax extension!”
Carrot Top blinked, as Trixie trotted around to the other side of her. “This way,” Trixie observed, “you won’t need a tax break. You’ll be able to make enough bits during the festival to stay on your own four hooves. You won’t need anypony’s help!”
The earth pony blinked a few times, thinking deeply about what Trixie was saying. “I don’t want to antagonize the Apples, though…”
Trixie blinked a few times, then shrugged. “Fine,” she proclaimed. “Let them trot all over you. But you can forget the tax extension.” Trixie walked around to the other side of her desk, but didn’t break eye contact with Carrot Top. “Even if I could convince Luna to entertain your request, which after this I doubt I could,” she magically waved Blueblood’s letter in the air, “I’m not sure I’d be willing to do so for a pony who’ll just let other ponies have their way with her.”
Carrot Top blinked. “Wait, you won’t even send in my petition?” she demanded.
“Why should I?” Trixie asked. “Her Majesty needs to know that a tax extension wouldn’t be wasted on you.”
“But – ”
“However, if you do what I said, then I’ll send in the request. But by then you won’t even need it! You’ll have the money you need to pay your taxes from the sales on the Longest Night!”
Carrot Top stared, wide-eyed, at Trixie, who had a grin that wouldn’t leave her face. “I…” the earth pony began to object. “but…the…” Carrot Top continued sputtering for a few moments, before her expression changed from one of shock and betrayal to one of anger. “Fine!” she shouted, with surprising volume given how quiet her normal voice was. “Fine. I don’t know what you think you’re doing, but congratulations, your blackmail worked.”
Trixie beamed. “Good,” she said. “Now go. Go! You’ve got a lot to do and only a day to do it!”
Carrot Top glared at Trixie for only a moment more, before turning around and stomping out of Trixie’s office. The unicorn let her go, and in fact ceased to even look at her as she folded up the letter from Blueblood and tucked it back into her cape’s pocket, then quickly reviewed how to acquire her royal stipend. She was about to spend just about all of it.
Trixie entered the town hall’s auditorium to the sound of ponies arguing.
“No means no means no, Miss Cheerilee!” Rarity’s voice objected as Trixie approached the stage upon which Princess Luna would be making her initial appearance. Standing upon it right now was the cream-white unicorn and the magenta earth pony, the two of them glaring daggers at each other. Trixie took a moment to take in craftsmanship, and found it exactly in-keeping with the drawing Rarity had shown Trixie the previous day.
Neither of the other ponies noticed Trixie as she approached. “Miss Rarity,” Cheerilee said, “the students worked hard on their art projects – ”
“You’ve said that before – ”
“I was promised a spot in the festival right there – ” Cheerilee pointed to a point on the wall that would be the first part seen by anypony coming in from backstage
“By the mayor, but she gave me final say on all decorations – ”
“Your own sister has a piece!”
“Yes, and it’s very lovely,” Rarity said with a flick of her mane. “Truly, it is, but to even think that the Princess wants to come up on stage and have the first thing she sees be crayon and macaroni and construction paper thrown together by school foals…oh, Miss Lulamoon!” Trixie winced at the sound of her second name as her fellow unicorn at last noticed her. She saw the Rarity’s eye twitch slightly as she took in Trixie’s appearance. “I’m so glad you arrived, I was just finishing with Miss Cheerilee here…”
Trixie nodded to Cheerilee, who returned it, though the grimace didn’t leave her face. “What brings you here?” she asked.
“Oh, you didn’t know? Miss Lulamoon, here, is the Representative of Luna’s Night Court to Ponyville.” Rarity said as Trixie opened her mouth to respond. She closed it, and grimaced. Strike two, Trixie thought, counting the usage of ‘Lulamoon’ as strike one due to having made clear the previous day that she hated the name to Rarity.
“I knew that,” Cheerilee pointed out.
“– And, she is the official Longest Night festival overseer.” Rarity looked Trixie over again. “And darling, I am so glad you’re here. I realize I was perhaps a little…insensitive…yesterday about your…” Rarity waved a hoof over Trixie’s body, indicating her hat and cape. “…ensemble.”
Trixie blinked. She hadn’t been expecting an apology. “Um…that’s alright,” she admitted. “Now, I’m kind of – ”
“So I stayed up all night working on this!” Rarity exclaimed, horn glowing as she grasped something that had been carefully hidden behind the stage’s curtains, withdrawing something long, frilled, and looking distinctly like a dress. It was probably beautiful. It had taken Rarity all night. But Trixie didn’t wear dresses, not even to the Grand Galloping Gala.
“Much more fitting, don’t you think?” Rarity asked. “You can keep the clown suit if you wish, darling, but I simply insist on seeing you in this tomorrow night!”
Trixie saw, here, an excellent opportunity to get back at Rarity and Luna both. She looked at the dress and put on a false smile. “I love it,” she lied. “Though I came here to inspect the decorations, like I said.”
“Oh, of course,” Rarity said, settling back onto her haunches. “Inspect away, darling, but I’m sure you won’t find – ”
“There’s a problem,” Trixie interrupted.
Rarity sputtered slightly at that. “P-problem?” Rarity demanded.
Trixie nodded solemnly. “It’s a good thing I was here, too, to overhear what Miss Cheerilee wanted. See, Princess Luna? She adores children. She’s always regretted not having foals of her own, but between running Equestria, raising the sun, lowering the moon, seeing foreign envoys…there’s just never been enough time. Not to mention that she’s most active during the night, when foals are asleep. So she rarely gets to see any. But she loves them. In fact,” Trixie grinned, “she has an entire room of the royal apartments dedicated to pictures and letters that foals have sent her.”
Rarity blinked rapidly at Trixie’s words. “W…well, I see,” the unicorn said, “but I don’t understand what that has to – ”
“Being able to see crayon and macaroni and construction paper made by foals?” Trixie asked. “That would make her night.”
Most of what Trixie had just said was a lie. Luna did love foals, that much was true, but everything else had been more-or-less a complete fabrication. Still, Rarity didn’t need to – and never would – know that. The white unicorn’s eyes were wide.
“So,” Trixie said, smiling, “as festival overseer, I have final say over the decorations. And I say that there’s going to be a spot set aside for Luna to admire the art projects of the foals.”
“But – ”
“End of discussion.” Trixie interrupted, as she turned and trotted off, leaving Rarity and her dress behind. She thought she heard an overly dramatic cry of frustration, and couldn’t stop herself from letting out a contented sigh at the sound.