The autumn breeze passed over the rolling green hills, shaking down the weakest leaves and rustling the tall stalks of wild wheat. It floated along its path until it brushed through the azure unicorn’s silver mane. The breeze forced shivers down her spine that broke her mindless monotony. She looked to the sky to find the sun hovering closer to the mountainous peaks—she gave a small smile at the thought of resting soon. The soreness in her hooves and welt under her mane quickly reminded her of the distance she traveled and recent event she suffered. Her ailments denied her the comfort of returning to her trance. Instead, her mind forced itself to be filled of past laments.
From Trottingham to Manehattan, everypony heard of the Ponyville incident. I had to forgo my full stage name just to secure a performance in Whinnypool. I know in time I can use it again, but nothing has the same impact as “The Great and Powerful” did. I just hope the next town has more stable buildings, unlike that pathetic dump in Pleasant Groves. At least the pitiful owner covered my hospital bill, but anypony who isn’t an idiot would have fixed the loose boards in the rafters. It’s as if everypony since Ponyville is trying to stop me from climb to fame in magic. I wonder how far away from “home” I am…
She was not in the mood to think further on that subject. She continued her walk up the small hill while a small breeze helped push her along. Upon reaching the apex, she noticed a small sign and the village behind it. She read aloud, “This is ‘Harlesteed Village,’” and sighed out, “how delightful. Bad directions again.” The name invoked no thoughts as to where she was. Surrendering to her exhaustion, she continued along onto the town’s wide center road where she watched the townsponies slowly continue their lives.
Well, I’ve yet to see a unicorn here. That is a good sign. These boring country farmers could use a real show by the next great magician to liven up their dull lives. No freaks of nature to tarnish my name, no foolish colts to ruin a successful day, no gossipers to refuse my performances, they are just simpletons who will love my show. It’s nothing more than small village that I can easily entertain, perchance gather quite a few bits, buy a new performance ensemble, and then leave before fate decides to strike me with another piece of wood. Now to find a place to...
“Evenin’ there missy. What brings ya ‘round these here parts?” She stopped upon hearing a soft farmer’s drawl. It was then she realized that she had strolled quite far into the village. She saw the aged earth pony resting in an oak chair on the porch of what was the village’s tiny public library. The pony had a fading brown coat with a white mane bleached by time and an opened book on her flank.
“Oh. Well, I am looking for a place to stay,” she hesitated, “and a perhaps stage for my new performance.” Of all the people, she looks just like her. Averting the elder’s gaze, she took a look around the town and saw ponies leisurely moving to and fro, closing up shops and heading home.
“So ya aren’t here ta visit family?” the elder mare questioned.
While watching the town, she flinched upon the word family, and then answered, “I am, umm, simply traveling the country to make a bigger name for myself; being loved in one town is not enough to be the best. So no, I do not know anypony in this village.” She was unnerved by how similar this pony was to her grandmare. The only good fortune was that the town was woefully unknown.
“So ya not got no pony ta visit? Well, we’ve got no hotels round here ‘cause none but family ever visits. Don’t ya fret none; I always do have an extra room. Ma young’un had up ‘n’ moved to the big city to make a big name for himself,” the eldermare finished with a weak smile and tired eyes. She insisted, “I’d like for ya ta stay the night here. I don’t think that you will find any other place for the night.” As she stood up and headed towards the door, she slowly turned back around with an actual smile and said, “Oh. I never did give ya my name. I’m Armide Write.”
“Beatrix,” she answered. Instantly, she realized she used that name. Chiding herself for letting this old and sad librarian pull out her given name, she corrected herself, “Trixie is preferred however.” It’s fine Trix, she just some old librarian, not your grandmare. Remember, she offering you a bed, so bite your tongue and not your hoof. Tonight will an improvement compared to sleeping under a tree on the roads. It dawned on her that Armide was waiting and held the door for her to come inside. She forced a small smile to hide her disdain for having no other real options and followed Armide inside the home.
“Well, I’ve never heard of ya before, but that’s ‘cause we don’t get much for visitors ‘round here,” Armide commented while Trixie followed her through the small library of eight incomplete shelves. Bumping into the untouched history shelf, Trixie knocked up a large dust cloud causing her to start sneezing. “Celestia bless ya poor dear; that shelf is always pretty dusty.” When the air settled and Trixie stopped, she continued, “Other than the news delivered from Cloudsdale, we don’t hear much ‘bout other places.” She stopped at a set of narrow stairs. “Up them stairs are the beds, but I’ll garner a guess that ya are a mite hungry from travlin’. And don’t ya worry about tryin’ to pay me for the night’s stay. If ya willin’ to help me ‘marrow morning with some work ‘round here, we can call it even. The dining room is this way dear. ”
Trixie simply nodded. At least she didn’t intend on making me a charity case. She responded to the grandmare’s questions. “Yes, I am a bit hungry. And yes, I supposed I can give a helping hoof.” When the elder mare turned into the kitchen, she pouted and mumbled, “Early morning chores? I’d rather do real work and pay with bits. Still, it’s better than trees and hay for comfort.”
From the kitchen, Armide called out, “Imma put this pot o’ stew on ta reheat and it’ll be ready in a giffy. Hope y’all like carrots ‘n’ broccoli.” Armide started humming a sad tune followed by her clinking some dishes together to prepare the meal. She reentered the dining room with two empty bowls. The old earth pony started to set the table, but stopped and offered, “I have milk if ya’d like that dear. Or if ya don’t want that, we got good ol’ well water.” She set a plate next to Trixie waited for an answer.
“Water is fine,” she replied, simply wanting to eat then sleep. The clock’s tick snapped Trixie’s mind into focus before it could wander to less desired memories.
Her mind’s free will ended with a thump; the soup was finished and on the table. The eldermare served Trixie and softly chuckled at how intently Trixie focused on her now filled bowl. The tantalizing aroma before Trixie overwhelmed her senses. She mumbled out a small thank you then slowly enjoyed her first meal in some time that wasn’t wild stalks of hay, roadside dandelions, or hospital food. The azure mare avoided real conversation, only answering the eldermare’s few questions with small noes and nods. She was asked if she wanted a third serving, but answered no and asked in which room she was going to stay.
“The room with red door is the guest room. Imma just finish up down here, so make yerself at home.” With that said, the old earth pony moseyed back into the kitchen, softly singing the same sad song. Trixie escorted herself up the stairs, moved through a rouge door and into a soft white room. She wistfully sighed at the small but enticing bed, but walked back out and down the small hallway. In the washroom, she ran some warm water, scrubbed her face clean, and deemed herself clean enough for much needed sleep. Upon returning to the guest room, she slumped under the wool covers. Finally resting, her less fortunate memories started to fill her mind while a small twinge of anger and disappointment rolled a lone tear down her muzzle. She rolled over and pushed the unwanted memories of her past and embarrassments away. Fatigue eventually invited her wanted sleep.
Downstairs, the brown and greying earth pony finished her nightly chores then retired upstairs. Looking in on her guest’s room, she gently smiled, closed the door, and headed towards her own chambers. She slid into the bed with a mother’s pride, hoping that the next day she could help the undoubtedly lost unicorn.
Trixie woke up refreshed but stiff. She lay in the warm bed under the wool blanket and started to think of what she would do next now that she had been detoured here. Before her planning could begin, she heard slow steps in the hallway followed by a short creak of the door. Looking up, she saw the librarian who had taken her in for the night smiling gently. The mare quietly spoke to her, “Breakfast is ready when ya want, dear.” She watched the elderly earth pony return to the hallway and listened to steps on the stairs lead down into the kitchen.
After deciding to start her day, she rose up and headed for the hallway. Not wanting to pass up the chance for a well-needed bath, she decided to ignore her stomach pleading for breakfast. Running the hot water spigot, she soaked in the messy image of the mirror. She returned it with a glare for the terribly unkempt mane. She then turned off the running water and immersed herself in the bath. As the hot water hugged her and eased some of her stresses, she closed her eyes and turned her thoughts to her plans for the day. I suppose first I have to hold to my word and help around the library, most likely something earthponies cannot do easily—being magicless seems so paltry for most daily things. Then, I shall find a map and plan a new route to Las Pegasus. I don’t even want to perform in this town now. That old mare will drive me insane. Not only does she have those eyes, but she even has that damned accent. Letting herself relax a moment more, she ran more hot water to try and help relax her joints and wash away her worries.
Slowly returning from bliss, she heard the same soft clop of the librarian enter the second room of the upstairs. After a moment, the movements came again, this time towards the washroom. She heard a soft knock followed by the eldermare’s voice, “Beatrix dear, I left ya a large bowl of oatmeal on the table.” Unnerved by hearing her given name, she almost yelled back, demanding to be called Trixie. Before she could look like a foal, she heard Armide returning downstairs. She eventually compelled herself out of the bath and happily devoured breakfast then set out to find her host. She walked back through the library and out the door. The outdoors greeted her with a cold chill and a few clouds over the busy town.
Armide greeted her guest, “Mornin’ there dear. Do ya know what ya gonna do t’day?”
“I did agree to repay you in some manner for the night stay, so I think I shall do that first. Later, I would like to refresh my memory with a map of general Equestria, if you have one.”
She watched the aged earth pony struggle a moment to rise out of her rocking chair and respond to her. “If ya want ta start right away, I guess ya can start dustin’ the history shelf ya met yesterday while I start puttin’ a few returned books back. I have ta read ta some of the foals when the teacher brings ’em over later, so ya can just quickly make sure everything’s in order by author’s name and on the right shelf and call it a day.” With that said, Armide went through the door. Trixie sulked on the thought of having to do chores; organizing the whole library would severely delay her day’s plans.
She entered the library, closed the door, and suddenly met large ball of feathers. Stepping back in shock, she quickly realized it was only the librarian offering her a feathered duster for her first chore. She grabbed the duster and put on her best smile. “This will do fine. Trixie’s magic makes it no work at all,” Trixie boasted to hide her contempt. She headed to the history section and proceeded to get revenge on the shelf with magic and a duster.
She quickly grew bored and let her thoughts wander to her other plans for the day. She only gave me two chores and she’s an earth pony, so these shouldn’t take too long. They still are bothering my plans. I just want find a map and figure out how far away Las Pegasus is. I can wait to get a new cloak and hat there. I need no excuses to stay here, even if this is the best I felt in a week. Ignorant of how viciously she was dusting, she knocked a large plume of dust into the air that caused her to enter another sneezing fit. When that ended, she declared the shelf clean and checked through the shelves with no effort and was finished shockingly quickly.
She exited out onto the porch in time to catch the end of the story Armide was telling to school foals. “…and the prince returned home to a large banquet for his victory. When the people demanded a him to don the crown and give a victory speech, he refused twice, then finally gave in. ‘My fellow ponies, tis not us thou should’st thank, but thank instead the hard working stallions and mares who helped us guide thy country to victory and peace.’ The prince then turned to his betrothed and kissed her, and the ponies cheered and cheered for their heir. The banquet passed, the prince married, and he was crowned, leading the country into a golden age, always remembered fondly. That is the end ma little ponies.” A round of groans came from the fillies and colts, the end of the story signaled a return to lecture. Armide chided them, “Now now dearies, if y’all wants more readin’ then y’all will just have ta wait nicely for Missus Blossom ta bring y’all back tomorrow. If y’all don’t behave, she might not bring y’all back for another story.” With that said, Pink Blossom and the foals said their thank yous and goodbyes. As the last foal sulked off the porch, Armide asked her guest, “Did ya enjoy the story my dear?”
“That is an unfamiliar fairy tale for me. I only did hear the last bit,” she answered. “Also, I did not find a map while I checked the shelves.” The eldermare stirred from her chair and headed towards the door.
Armide assured her, “I’m sure we can find ya somethin’ dear. I don’t think these shelves woulda had a map on ‘em. I got one somewhere dear, so don’t ya fret none.” Trixie followed her back inside to the dining room table and waited for her host to find the map. She returned to the dining room and gave one to Trixie. “Ya know, I have that room for ya if ya need ta stay longer. I wouldn’t mind lettin’ ya stay for a quite a while if ya need it.” Armide softly smiled with hopes that offer would be taken.
Trixie unfolded and glared at the map to avoid the next part of the conversation. No matter how temping a consistent bed was, she refused to live with somepony so much alike her grandmare. She responded curtly, “No. I have no interest in staying in this village. A showmare has to seek worthwhile opportunities. Although the town is quaint, it would reflect poorly on my image as a magician to simply stay here. I cannot ill afford another dent to my name.” Hoping that her answer would stop the over worrying eldermare’s further questions, she concentrated on finding her current location.
Not wanting to see the young mare go, Armide tried to think of words to encourage her to stay, clearly seeing the conflicted emotions in Trixie. Yet, she was at a loss for words, heartbroken to see another child leave her home unhappy on a blind pursuit of fame. She hopefully offered again, “The bed is here if ya want it. If ya truly want ta go, I’ll leave ya to yer business then.” Trixie ignored her by focusing on studying the map.
“I don’t think ya should go so soon dear. Ya don’t have ta go and show the world how great ya are. Ya don’t have ta prove yerself to the world, Beatrix; ya don’t have to be the Great and…”
“No! Trixie has a name to make,” Trixie snapped at her, grievously annoyed by the return of this conversation and her given name. “Trixie is going to continue to perform throughout the lands until Trixie gets the name she deserves. Trixie does not need to simply be Beatrix. Trixie does need to leave soon to keep schedule. Thank you, but no thank you. Trixie is leaving.”
Armide looked up, forced a smile despite her teary eyes, then shakily reached forward and offered the satchel. Brokenhearted, she barely whispered, “I hope ya find what ya need out there where he didn’t. I know it’s small, but here’s something ta help ya for a day or two. Ma extra room is still empty if ya change yer mind on the road.”
Before she would let herself cry from the flurry of emotions that the eldermare invoked, Trixie accepted her gift. She restated, “No, I…Trixie has a name to make for herself. The supplies will be helpful. Thank you for the room and your offer, but Trixie does have shows to perform and stages to grace.” Still on the verge of crying, she mumbled, “I…I need to leave as soon as possible.” She despised the silence, but waited. Time and guilt were grinding down her remaining willpower as she looked at brown mare whose sad eyes mirrored her grandmare’s long ago. Unable to keep a locked gaze, she turned to the door and pulled it open.
“Please take care of yerself dear, and I sincerely hope ya find what ya need.” With those last words floating through her ears, Trixie finally left, unable to tolerate her conflicted feelings the eldermare unintentionally wrought. She closed the door and walked off the porch onto the road. Feeling the chill brought by a large gust of autumn wind, she tightened her stachel but didn’t move; the contesting emotions bound her to the spot. After a moment of waiting, another smaller gust of wind pushed her along, choosing for her.