"Wake up, you foal" rang out a feminine voice. Immediately afterwards, a burst of magic electrocuted Mario. Quickly opening his eyes, he saw a pale blue unicorn standing in front of him. "I hope you had a nice rest."
Mario wriggled in an attempt to stand up, but he quickly realised he had been bound up by his captor. Looking around, he could see that his companions were all still unconscious and tied up. "Why do you have me tied up here?" he asked.
"Self defence. When you invade my home, I hold every right to beat you up. Frankly, I should have left you to freeze to death" she said, sparking up a small flame in front of the ponies. "Explain yourself."
"Not before you tell us why you have us bound up, you psychopath" spat Mario.
"Very well. I, The Great and Powerful Trixie, have made this part of the Everfree forest my home. Here is notably safer than Fillydelphia, where I have quite a few, uh, associates wishing certain things from me" said the unicorn, who had begun to put a cape and a hat on. "No sane pony would willingly enter here and expect to live, so I'm safe for the time being."
"I'm not questioning the flaw in your logic, but why are you attacking us?" replied Mario, trying to squeeze out of his binds.
"Don't wriggle, I'll only make them tighter" she said. "I set up my camp here, and I created a frozen wasteland, and worsened the fog to create my shield from any wildlife foolish to stumble upon me. A few charms later, and I am hidden from any pony that should try to find me. So imagine my surprise when I see a group of ponies walk right into my camp, searching for something. The Great and Powerful Trixie doesn't take mercy on fools, and I quickly disposed of you. Now, tell me why you were sniffing around here and I won't have to mess you up even more."
Seeing his captor's horn begin to glow as she brought it closer to him, he began to think quickly. What if she is one of Discord's goons? She certainly seems tough enough he thought. "Taking a nice stroll in the woo-- GAH!" the stallion said, as she shot a bolt of energy at his stomach.
"Don't buck around with me, I'm a sorceress without compare. Well, at least not anymore" said Trixie.
"What do you mean by that?" asked Mario, spluttering and wheezing for air.
"Well, back in my days as a travelling showmare, I came across a town not too far from here. I bigged myself up for the act, and anyone who dared take me on was humiliated quickly. But, there was one unicorn who managed to show me up."
"Something involving an Ursa Minor I presume?"
"Er... yes. Anyway, she was the only pony who has ever beaten The Great and Powerful Trixie at anything. So imagine my surprise when I found little Twilight Sparkle trapped in a playing card, unable to do anything to save herself."
"YOU WORK FOR DISCORD?!" shouted Mario, trying to break free of his bounds. He wanted to beat the smug unicorn standing in front of him to a pulp, but the ropes squeezed even harder on his legs.
"Trixie told you not to flail. Now look what happened. Besides, I'm insulted. Why would I want to work for anyone, Trixie looks out only for number one."
"Where did you get the card then?" asked the red stallion.
"Some pegasi wearing black armour came here, looking for something. Natural, Trixie lured them into her trap and managed to rob them easily. In their haste to flee, they left this card, but they also swiped one of my possessions, and held it to ransom. They even gave me a little note" she said, levitating a small scrap of parchment towards the bound pony.
"To dumb showmare
Give us back the card, or you will feel pain never known to you. Bring it to us in the cave of the Ursa, and we will give you back your chest.
The Legion of Chaos"
"They call themselves the legion of chaos now?" asked Mario, incredulously.
"It would seem so" said Trixie. "That chest contains many treasures I am less than willing to share with them, and those half-wits could pose a threat to me, should we there be a full fight in that cave."
"Well, I guess you don't work for 'The Legion of Chaos' then. If I told you we were also looking for something stolen from us by them as well, what would you say?"
"Well, I would think that you would be perfect for my plan then" she said, loosening the rope around his hooves. "However, if you think about trying to steal miss Sparkle, or just running away, that'll be one thing your friends will never do again." She walked over to the motionless figure of Ditzy and lightly tapped her knee, whilst making a cracking noise. "Do I have your word?"
"Yeah, I guess. What is your plan then?" asked Mario.
"We meet up with them and uh, negotiate" said Trixie, with a wink.
"That translates as beat them up and run for it, right?" asked the red stallion.
"Of course. Since we need to be stealthy, it'll just be us two going. Don't worry about your friends, the ice shields should keep any threats from here" she said, moving the fire over to the unconscious ponies.
"How far is the cave then?" asked Mario.
"Not too far, we can follow its inhabitant's wake of destruction, like you planned to. Once we get near, Trixie will cast some of her astounding magic on us" she said, gesturing for her escort to follow her. As they walked, they passed many shards of ice burst from the floor, covered in cracks and a pale blue liquid. As well as this, the fog began to rethicken as they left the showmare's camp, as if it was all a shield to protect Trixie.
"Do all of this yourself then?" asked the mustached stallion.
"Would you expect any less from the greatest unicorn in Equestria?" she replied, lifting her nose up. "Anyway, this is where Trixie defeated some foolish ponies," pointing to the spot Mario had stood only hours before.
"Yeah, thanks for that" he replied, voice dripping in sarcasm.
"No need to thank Trixie, she was simply doing what she enjoys. The scary bear lives just a bit down from here, so we will need to don our disguises now. Hold still, or you might lose a few limbs" she said, grinning and casting a blue light over the both of them. With a loud snap, Mario flinched from the burst of light. Opening his eye's, he looked at his hooves and was surprised by what he saw.
"What happened to me?" he asked, looking at where the boaster had once stood. Seeing nothing there, he said "What happened to you?"
"I merely turned us invisible. This will let us get the drop on them" said the floating hat and cape. She quickly threw them down to the ground, and kicked a few leaves over them. "If you do exactly as Trixie says, we shall be in and out in less than ten minutes, and the demon wont wake up. Stay close, lest you get us both killed."
Mario nodded, despite the fact that she couldn't see him to know he had. Following the light tapping of her hooves, the stallion kept close behind the sorceress. Occasionally, he'd bump into her flank, which would ilicit an irritated growl from her, or a swift kick to the jaw. Soon after, they arrived at the mouth of the cave.
"From here on, hold onto my tail, and don't say a damn word" hissed the witch. His voice muffled by the mass of hair in his mouth, he mumbled something that sounded like "Okay."
"If this goes to pot, leg it and try to make it back to my camp. If it is your fault we fail... Oh, who am I kidding, I'm not going to slip up. I can and will slaughter you where you stand. Hear me, moustache?" spat Trixie.
"Loud and clear" mumbled Mario. He followed into the cave, where they lightly tiptoed in, unaware of the sheer amount of danger that lurked in the shadows for them.
Inside the cave, there was little light. In the distance, a small torch could be seen, emanating an orange glow and casting the shadow of a pegasus across the cave. Trixie trotted quickly over to where the light was coming from, with Mario in tow with her. Hiding behind a rock, she listened in to what was being said.
"So do you think that crazy mare is going to turn up?" asked a high pitched voice. It seemed this belonged to a young griffon, wearing a poorly fitted set of armour. It was nothing compared to Gilda's, noted Mario. It certainly wasn't as fancy he thought, comparing it to the griffon that had accosted him at the mountain near Oasis.
"Of course she will. Whatever is in this box, she must want it pretty bad, considering the look she had on her face when we took it. Reminded me of my ex-wife when she saw me with that filly from the pub" replied a lower, more gruff voice. Upon inspection, this was a green pegasus, who was wearing a bloodied guards helmet and a black suit of armour. His legs were also covered in scars, and had a bandage covering the knee of one of his forelegs.
"So when we get the card back, are we just leaving it lying around here? Sounds kinda risky, I've seen Luna and her do-gooders sniffing around the forest for a while. We should at least leave it with something we know the allegiance of" said a third voice, that belonging to a mule. She was elderly, but had a look of danger in her eyes, and was surprisingly toned for an elderly woman. On her back was a blade, sheathed in a black scabbard.
"Even old Moony wouldn't think about getting on the bad side of these two. When Screwy thinks going after this is risky, no sane pony would even dare to do it" replied the pegasus, kicking the chest they had stolen.
"Stick close" said Trixie, who had started to crawl over to the thugs, dragging her captive with her. "What did you say they had taken from you?" she asked as they reached a better vantage point.
"A card containing Twilight Sparkle" whispered Mario, grinning. The witch stopped dead in her tracks, turning around slowly.
"Not as dumb as you look, Trixie likes that. Although, I could have guessed, going by your reaction to it earlier. If this goes off well, I may entertain your claim to the card. For the time being, try to sneak up on the pegasus, and wait for my signal" she said, preparing a spell.
"What will I do at that point then?" the stallion asked.
"Kick him hard and take the chest. Run like hell after that."
"Gotcha." Crawling behind the stallion, he could smell a foul odour coming from the pegasus.
As soon as he got into position, a large blast of white light rocketed towards the griffon, causing him to squawk in pain and cover his eyes with his claws, sobbing. Seeing his comrade be attacked, the pegasus yelled "It's the witch! Get --urk!" as Mario landed a kick square on his kidney, causing him to fall to the floor and writhe.
With the griffon holding his eyes, blinded and trying to find his attacker, and the pegasus wheezing for breath on the floor, the mule drew her sword. It was a katana, a type of sword rarely seen in central Equestria. "Playing hard to get, are we, little girl?" she said, throwing down a smoke grenade. "Let's even the playing field, shall we? You can't see me, I can't see you, and any loud noises could bring an invincible foe to the battle. And that'd be terrible, wouldn't it?" Staring carefully through the smoke, she saw a small chest moving through the smoke.
Mario had decided that fleeing the crazed ninja was probably the best idea, so he had grabbed the chest and ran for the exit. Blocking his way was a sword which came down onto his chest. Feeling the steel cut into him, he let out a loud yelp and stumbled, but not stopping in his dash for safety, despite feeling his chest tear and a shooting pain rocket through him.
"Now I've wounded you, all I have to do is look for some blood to find you. You should never judge a book by its cover, you know" gloated the elderly mule.
"You dumbass" hissed Trixie. Charging up a spell, she looked towards the smoke surrounding the battlefield. A powerful wind blew through the cave, causing the smoke to dissipate. "I'd run, old lady, before I bust out the big guns."
"You're a two bit performer, Trixie. The biggest gun you have is that mouth of yours. Tell me, how many towns have you been chased out of?" said the mule, looking around for the invisible ponies. "Maybe you should meet up with the Flim Flam Brothers. I hear they're just as pathetic as you are."
"I shall not be compared to such failures as them!" shrieked Trixie, firing off a huge flare at the ninja. Even Mario, who was near the edge of the cave, had to cover his eyes to prevent him receiving the same fate as the unfortunate griffon. As the light died down, the mule began to laugh.
"Only an idiot wouldn't close their eyes when they saw a flare being fired at them. Was that the best you've got?" she asked. Deep in the cave, a low growl came from the darkness, and the ground began to shake as it began to slowly walk towards the group. Everyone in the cave was in stunned silence, and in the shadows, a bright pair of yellow and red eyes glared at the intruders in its home.