“This can’t be possible. I triple checked the scheduling…”
“Trixie booked this spot a month in advance!”
“Hah! Well, I booked it a month and a half in advance!”
“Trixie was also here first! Trixie’s props and performance are already ready to go!”
“Pfft. You call fireworks a performance? I have everything I need at the tip of my horn. I can waltz out on stage and begin right now.”
“Really? Then Trixie suggests you take your act to the alley and sit on your- “
SLAM! A barrel, make that a very full barrel of cider and fruit, slammed down to the ground the loud noise immediately had the desired effect on the two arguing mares. Trixie and Dazzling Sparkle turned in perfect unison, despite their own imperfect harmony, to the earth pony mare that had slammed the barrel. She had slammed the barrel, which from the sloshed sound it made was full of cider and fruit, above her head and to the ground with her bare hooves.
“Ladies,” Berry Punch spoke with a calm tone but the way her brow scrunched up and that she still had both hooves on the barrel both Trixie and Dazzling did not need magic to know Berry Punch was anything but calm with them. “Are you both going to stop shouting at each other or am I going to have to escort you out of my fine establishment?”
The Punch Bowl was an establishment, how ‘fine’ it was, was debatable considering both Dazzling and Trixie had performed in Canterlot however both mentally considered two factors. The first, The Punch Bowl was the only place in Ponyville that hosted stage shows and even though it was more of a bar it was still the most popular venue in Ponyville on any given night. The second, Berry Punch did not have any bouncers or any other security at the Punch Bowl which meant she was more than capable of handling any ‘trouble’ that happened there. Technically, there was a third factor but they had already both considered that Berry Punch had just lifted and slammed easily a full barrel of cider.
“No, no, no I think we can act…I mean BE much more civil.” Dazzling said, nodding her head in total submission.
“T-trixie also agrees! Yes, we are professionals the…both…of us!” Trixie said, the wide smile that followed said ‘please show mercy’.
“Oh, well then that is all very well and good to hear!” Berry Punch’s demeanor changed so dramatically that both Dazzling and Trixie had to do a double take as Berry Punch took her hooves off the barrel of cider and leaned up against it casually. Propping her head up on the barrel with an elbow she continued, “As I said, I do apologize for the mix up. It looks like I had two different copies of the same scheduling sheet and you both got slotted for the same time! It happens.”
“Not in Canterlot,” Dazzling said under her breath, next to her Trixie appeared to feel the same way as she rolled her eyes. Fortunately, Berry Punch either did not hear or see them.
“So, usually when this happens at the Punch Bowl is we have a two-for-one special! You both go up at the same time and do the thing you do. Together.” Berry Punch finished her words and turned from Dazzling and Trixie to the barrel. Lifting a hatch in the barrel’s top she dipped a cup into the cider and drank, “Mmmm! When I order cider punch the Apple family sure knows how to make it!”
“I’m sorry, but you want me to perform as the same stage as…her?” Dazzling asked, she pointed a hoof at herself and to Trixie and back to herself.
“Trixie could have said it better,” Trixie narrowed her eyes at Dazzling before returning them to Berry Punch, “but she agrees. Trixie’s feats of magical skill require the full stage.”
“Please! What about this? Trixie goes on stage, pulls a rabbit out of her hat and then leaves. Then I outstand and amaze the audience with the wonders of my magic?” Dazzling ignored Trixie’s death glare and looked straight at Berry Punch who had already begun to work on her second cup of cider punch.
“Hmmm.” Berry Punch gulped down a mouth full of cider and tapped her chin, the smile on her lips steadily became more lopsided the more she drank. She motioned with her hoof with her cup to Dazzling and Trixie, “How about this…come here and listen…”
Both Dazzling and Trixie stepped forward, leaning toward Berry Punch as she took another drink of cider punch. She drained her cup, double checking it to make sure she had, and set it down on the barrel, “If you two don’t perform together I blacklist you from the Punch Bowl. Foooorever!”
Dazzling and Trixie eeped and jumped back from Berry Punch, panic in their eyes.
“You can’t do that! It would not be fair! I-I have fans in the audience! I cannot-cannot-cannot disappoint them!” Dazzling said, chewing on the bottom of her lip.
“Trixie needs this performance! Trixie would be a laughingstock if she did not perform!” Trixie pointed her hoof at Berry Punch.
“Tough.” Berry Punch replied, slamming the hatch closed on the barrel, “I was going to let you both perform separately, but then you both started shouting and belittling one another.”
“…were you going to let Trixie perform, first?” Trixie snapped her mouth shut at the glare from Berry Punch.
“Listen, ladies.” Berry Punch said and pushed the barrel of cider punch to the floor so that it was laying on its side, “You can either go out there in two hours together and I don’t care what you do. Or you can both leave and don’t come back forever.”
Ignoring the pleas from both Dazzling and Trixie, Berry Punch rolled the barrel away leaving the two show mares alone behind the stage. They looked over one another warily.
The two continued to stare at one another for at least another minute before finally, Dazzling relented with a sigh. “Alright then, well it seems that we are going to be stuck with one another. You don’t think there is any way we can resolve this do you?”
“The Great and Powerful Trixie does not think so.” Trixie said, shaking her head.
“I agree. That means this can only be settled one way.” Dazzling swept her hoof over tuxedo, it was specifically tailored for her. From out of thin air she produced a top hat which she slides onto her head before extending a hoof to Trixie, “Stage duel. Duel to the curtain’s close?”
“Trixie agrees, Queen Mousette rules, most applause wins. Duel until the fat mare sings.” Trixie swept out her star and moon tailored cape out dramatically, several doves flew off from the inside of her cape and up toward the rafters of the stage. She extended her own hoof and shook Dazzling’s hoof.
“Loser exits stage left!” Dazzling and Trixie announced in unison, both mares grinned at one another and thinking about triumph.
The Punch Bowl, the entire place was packed, every table and bar stool had at least one plot in them. A few ponies were even happy to stand against the wall to get a view of the stage. It has not taken very long at all for word to get out that tonight’s magic show would instead be a Battle of the Show Mares. A voice sounding like Berry Punch’s could be heard laughing, “Works every time,” before being lost to the voices of dozens and dozens of different ponies.
Close to the stage one table was occupied by a pair of ponies. One was a timid looking mare, she did seem to be happy to be there but was noticeably startled every time a loud noise like a new barrel of drink was slammed to the ground. Every time she was startled the mare closed the bonnet she wore tighter over her yellow mane. Next to her, the mare who was obviously her friend seemed slightly distracted. The white coated mare divided her attention between her friend and a book on their table, the title was “Rocks and Hard Places”. The latter mare looked up from her book and looked at a clock on the wall before she snapped her book shut and turned to her friend.
“Appleflower, dear, it looks like the show is about to start. Are you excited to see Dazzling perform?” Gem asked, Ponyville’s resident expert on minerals and rocks of all shapes and sizes, her hair bun which her purple mane was neatly arranged into bobbed behind her head as she moved.
“Oh…ah’m…excited, sugarcube. This will be my first time in Ponyville since…since...N-n-n-ight-ight- “
“Nightmare Moon?” Gem finished for her friend.
“Ye-yes! S-sorry, sugarcube. Ah’m just a little n-nervous. Thinking about N-n-night-“Appleflower stammered out before a wave of Gem’s hood cut her off.
“Don’t be worried, darling. Dazzling, you, our friends and I defeated Nightmare Moon and now Princess Luna is back! It was quite the adventure, like something out of Daring Doo!” Gem smiled and gently reached over to pat her friend’s hoof reassuringly. Out of the corner of her eye she spied a waiter walking around with small glasses filled with some kind of drink. Suddenly, a thought occurred to Gem as she remembered something she had read in a book, “Appleflower, why don’t we have a few drinks? I hear it can help with nervousness. Waiter! Yes, can we have all of those glasses?”
Getting the waiter over and sliding him several bits as a generous tip and mentioning to put it on Dazzling Sparkle’s tab, Appleflower and Gem had between themselves a dozen shot glasses filled with liquid that from their different color variation appeared to be several different kinds of drinks. Gem took a moment to pick up one of the glasses and sniff the glass itself. “Ah! Limestone from…outside of Los Pegasus if I am not mistaken.”
“Ah don’t know about that, Gem.” Appleflower looked at the tiny glasses. “Ah’m used to cider in Appleloosa. Granny Smith always said if somethin’ comes in a glass smaller than yer hoof- “
“Nonsense, Appleflower. Look at the size of these glasses, they must be taste testers of some sort.” Gem replied, she looked about ready to try the glass she held when the sound of drum rolls filled the stage. On the stage a spotlight appeared, “Oooh! Here we go! Bottoms up, Appleflower!”
The spotlight on stage split into two separate lights, both moving sideways from one another along the curtain before stopping. At the height of the drumroll Dazzling and Trixie emerged from behind the curtain. Trixie emerged in a flash of smoke, one moment she was nowhere to be seen and in the next she was there her cape billowed out dramatically behind her as if an invisible wind was blowing. Dazzling emerged through the curtain, stepping directly through the material of the curtain, an aura of violet magic surrounded her body. She stepped through the curtain half way giving a dazzling smile and wave of her hoof before stepping all the way through, tipping her hat toward the crowd.
“Ladies and gentlecolts! Prepare to witness the amazing magic of the Great and Powerful Trixie! As she performs the most spectacular magic seen by pony eyes!” Trixie shouted to the watching crowd, from her side of the stage magical fireworks exploded outward around her. The spinning lights and bursting fire eliciting a wondrous oooo from the crowd.
“My, my, my.” Dazzling shouted to the audience, “What boasting! Doesn’t she sound like a school filly with fancy new ribbons?”
The crowd’s laughter at Dazzling’s quip bounced around the Punch Bowl. Trixie glared at Dazzling while Dazzling just smiled and tossed her mane. Dazzling’s horn brightened as her own magic built up, from the tip of her horn magic spilled out over the ceiling of The Punch Bowl. Her magic shifted into a replication of a clear night time sky above the audience, every star twinkling and even Luna’s moon shone proudly. The crowd wooed again, perhaps a little bit more enthusiastically than they had at Trixie but it was hard to tell.
“Magic is art! Wonderous creation! I am just the mare to make your dreams become reality” Dazzling was proud at her words, her face beamed at her own creation as much as her own words.
“Pfffft. You’re all flash and no bang!” Trixie shouted to the crowd, and used her magic. In a flash summoning a deck of cards. Using her magic the entire decks slides out of its box and twirls around the air around Trixie. Twisting in the air forming shapes like a figure eight, stars, moons, a Major Ursa, and so forth until Trixie finished with kicking the cards with a back hoof so that they leapt over her and over to Dazzling spreading out, “Go on, Dazzling, pick a card! Any card…”
“Ugh. A card trick? Really? That’s what you are going to go with? Very well…” Dazzling used her magic to slide one card out.
“Now show it to the crowd!” Trixie said, a growing smile on her lips.
“Fine, fine. Here! Look!” Dazzling shook her head as she used her magic to flip the card toward the audience, it was a Princess of Hearts. Using her own magic Dazzling made the cry fly back and forth between several tables.
“I-I can catch it! HIC!” Appleflower’s words were slurred as she reached out to grab the card as it zoomed past her table with Gem.
“Oh! Oh! You caught it, darling! Yes, wait, noooooo you didn’t! Hahaha!” Gem rocked back in her seat laughing. Several stands of her hair in her bun had come out and swayed in the air with her.
“How does this trick go? Is this my card?” Dazzling asked, not noticing her friends, she returned the card to the floating deck. Immediately, Trixie’s magic shuffled the cards in the air before returning them to Trixie’s hoof.
“Is this your card?” Trixie asked, pulling out one of the cards from the top deck and showing it to the crowd, it was the Prince of Fools.
“No! Hah!” Dazzling laughed, but did not notice that Trixie still continued to smile.
“Oh? Really? Well, then Trixie will ask again. Is this your card, Sparkle?” Trixie flipped over the next card in the desk and showed it to the crowd. It was the Prince of Fools-again.
“Nope! The same card twice in a row? Well, well I’d say that’s lucky but your performance as a card shark could use some work.” Dazzling shouted smugly to the crowd, who laughed along with her. Trixie continued to smile even as Dazzling turned back to her, “How about we move on to my performance now?”
“The Great and Powerful Trixie just asks for one more chance, Sparkle.” Trixie said even as she lifted the third card from the deck.
“I don’t see how that’s going to- “Dazzling had begun to say but was cut off as the card deck sans the card in Trixie’s hoof rocketed into the air once more. The deck slithered its way through the air before rearranging itself into the shape of a literal card shark. The card shark smiled at Dazzling as it showed her rows of ‘teeth’.
“YIPE!” Dazzling screamed as the card shark dived down toward her. She teleported several feet away as the card shark smashed into the ground and scattered into hundreds of cards. Dazzling let out a breath of relief, but realized too late that the cards were still moving. The cards formed around her, forming the card shark again with her in the ‘belly’ of the shark. “HEY! Let me out of here!”
“Only if you answer Trixie this one question!” Trixie and the crowd laughed as the card shark disassembled itself back into a stacked deck with the exception of three cards. Dazzling was revealed again from where the card shark had been with three cards on her face, both Prince of Fools cards covering her eyes and finally the Princess of Hearts stuck to her forehead.
“Thank you! Thank you! Yes, the Great and Powerful Trixie simply is the best!” Trixie shouted to the crowd as she bowed to their uproarious applause.
“Grrrr. A lady does not shove cards in their opponent’s mouth.” Dazzling said to herself as she wiped the cards from her face and turned to Trixie. “A lady gets even…”
“Not bad, Trixie. Not bad. I will admit, but I’m afraid this is where I am going to have to burst your boasts.”
“Buahaha! The Great and Powerful Trixie IS the best. Trixie does not see what you can do about it.” Trixie laughed again and marched across the stage to Dazzling, poking her with one hoof.
“Oh, I can do quite a lot about it. For you see you just haven’t realized the simple truth.” Dazzling brushed Trixie’s hoof off her and wiped at the spot as if Trixie had gotten dirt on her tuxedo.
“Truth?” Trixie put her hoof to her mouth as if she was shocked before rolling her eyes, “Sparkle, do you mean one of your delusions-oh, I mean illusions!”
“You see Trixie…” Dazzling began, even as she spoke her body seemed to shake. The next moment a magical aura surrounded Dazzling and she was growing on the stage! Her entire body shooting up to a gigantic size, Trixie gasped from her place on the ground and stumbled back as a hoof bigger than she was slammed down where she had been standing. Displaced air and a booming sound washed out over Trixie and the stunned crowd.
“WOOOOOOOO!” Appleflower shouted from the crowd, banging her hoof on the table. “YER GONNA NEED A BIGGER STAGE!”
Appleflower and Gem laughed out loud together, turning over empty and partially empty shot glasses on their table as they banged on the table louder and harder.
“She is pretty big…and magnificent.” Gem whispered to Appleflower, a blush on her lips as she tried to straighten her eyes on the enlarged Dazzling.
“Ooooo! Ooooooo! Gem! Geeeeeeeemmmm.” Appleflower slurred into Gem’s ear, “I think you have a..a...a-WAITER MORE DRINKS!“
Appleflower turned from Gem and waved her hooves above her head signaling a waiter to come over.
“TRIXIE, THE TRUTH I WAS TALKING ABOUT,” Dazzling’s voice boomed through the Punch Bowl, shaking the entire building and forcing ponies to cover their ears, “I’VE ALWAYS BEEN THE BIGGER ACT! JUST LOOK BEHIND YOU!”
“What?” Trixie asked as she turned around to see a normal sized Dazzling. Smiling, Dazzling slammed a headband with rabbit ears over Trixie’s head. Trixie turned around back to the gigantic Dazzling to see that she had disappeared, the gigantic Dazzling had been an illusion all along while the real Dazzling had snuck behind her. Trixie tried to tug off the pair of bunny ears but they wouldn’t come off. “Hey! Get these off of Trixie!”
“Oh, but I think they just look absolutely wonderful on you, darling.” Dazzling giggled. She took her hat off with both of her hooves and slid it down over Trixie, impossibly it seemed Trixie disappeared entirely into the hat by the time Dazzling had dropped it to the floor of the stage. Without breaking a beat, Dazzling levitated the hat into the air beside her. “Now! Lets say the magic words! Bibby Bobby! Abra Magicy! Dazzling is the bestie!”
The top hat shakes and twirls in the air as soon as Dazzling has finished her words, she brings one hoof underneath it to steady it as it seems to struggle with itself. Finally, Trixie forces her head up from the rim of the hat, gasping for air her bunny ears flop out on top of her head.
“Tada!” Dazzling shouts to the crowd cheering, laughing, stamping their hooves and jumping up and down in front of her. The Punch Bowl shakes on its foundation. “It seems like we have a winner Trixie.”
“Errraugh! Yes! Fine! Trixie gives up! Just get me out of this!” Trixie struggles inside of the hat. Dazzling giggles one more time before turning her hat over and letting Trixie slide out of the hat completely and down to the floor. On the back of her cape there is even a fake, cotton bunny tail.
The lights in the Punch Bowl come on and now Dazzling can see the entire room clearly now, looking down she smiles to see both Appleflower and Gem cheering her on from their table. Dazzling’s eyes in particular slide down to Gem, where she takes in the absolutely adorable smile on Gem’s face. Dazzling shivers and at the tip of her horn she lets a soft ripple of magic escape, it forms just the barest shape of a heart. Dazzling quickly covers her horn with her top hat before Gem can look too closely and turns back to Trixie who has turned away from Dazzling, stamping one hoof to the stage floor.
“Trixie…” Dazzling’s features soften, her mind wanders back to the last time she was in Ponyville. Going on an epic adventure across Equestria and making new friends from the unlikeliest of ponies. Learning about the Elements of Harmony and the spirit of friendship. Dazzling sighs and extends a hoof to Trixie as she looks back to Dazzling.
“That was…that was a pretty good magic trick. With the cards, I mean. I was scared there when that card shark dived at me.” Dazzling admitted, using her magic to help Trixie back onto her hooves.
“Really?” Trixie asked, she wiped a tear from her eye as Dazzling nodded, “It-it was a spur of the moment thing. I was originally going to make a house of cards fall on you but…but then you gave me the shark idea…erm. Your presentation was flawless by the way.”
“Thanks, Trixie.” Dazzling looked out toward the crowd and before Trixie could do anything about it Dazzling took her hoof and bowed. After a few shocked moments Trixie followed through and bowed as well, smiling all the way. The crowd cheered and stamped their hooves in applause just as loud as before.
“Come on, my friends are down there. Drinks are on Berry Punch!” Dazzling said, she took Trixie by the cape and made to drag her off stage.
“Drinks? No, Berry Punch doesn’t cover tabs for performers. Believe Trixie, she has asked before.” Trixie replied, puffing her cheeks in and out in past frustration.
“What? But we are the entertainment! Wait, wait that means…” Dazzling gasped and looked toward the table with a cheering Appleflower and Gem. She mentally counted each glass stacked in towers on the table and by the time she added it all together she gulped loudly, “…maybe just water for me in that case.”