Trix of the Trade

by Miyajima

A Clean Slate

Nopony could remember a time when it had rained so hard. The normally dry and dusty plains of Appleloosa and the surrounding area were flooded with the heavy rainfall. The blue unicorn pony looked at the rain through the window of the train carriage, and wondered briefly if the ponies pulling the train would make it to Appleloosa before the track was flooded. She was, herself, absolutely drenched, her pale mane plastered to her head and neck. She was a far cry from the "Great and Powerful Trixie" she'd once proclaimed herself to be. After losing her caravan in Ponyville, she had wandered across Equestria, scraping a living with her magic shows, illusions and parlour tricks, and occasionally stooping so low as to use them for theft. Although brought low by Twilight's actions, Trixie was still far too proud to ask anypony for help or rely on generosity. Now she was heading out to Appleloosa, where peace had recently been declared between the settlers and their Buffalo neighbours. The frontier town had a reputation for being a clean slate where ponies could start anew, and Trixie knew that she, of all ponies, needed that.

The rain was coming down all the harder when the train pulled into Appleloosa station. Trixie stepped out of the carriage and walked into the main street, up to her ankles in the river of rainwater flooding through the frontier town. Following the lights glowing warmly from the windows, she came to Appleloosa's renowned "watering-hole", the Salt Block. Pushing her way through the swinging stable doors, she stood at the entrance for a few seconds, dripping onto the wooden panelled floors. Directly opposite was the bar, where salt was served with impunity, along with juices, water and other drinks. Some older settler ponies sat perched on the barstools, hunched over their glasses and little dish of salt. Behind the bar stood a tall grey pony in a waistcoat, sporting a magnificent handlebar moustache. He was busy cleaning a glass he was skillfully balancing on his hoof. There were tables scattered around the room, most of them occupied by groups of ponies just as wet as she was. After being outside in the rain, she felt a wave of warm air wash over her from the fire roaring in the grate to one side of the saloon.

Shaking off the worst of the rain, she went across to the bar, lifting herself up into the barstool and ignoring the side glances from the settler ponies. Even in her bedraggled state it was obvious she was an outsider, she still held herself proudly out of sheer force of habit. She fished the last of her bits out of an equally bedraggled satchel and placed them on the bar.

"A hay smoothie and a room for the night." She said, without turning to look at the bartender. He took the bits and soon returned with the smoothie and a receipt for the room. Trixie sat there, slowly drinking her smoothie and glancing around the saloon. She didn't talk to anypony, and none of them seemed interested in talking to her. A couple of the older settlers near her at the bar muttered to each other in hushed tones about the new arrival, but the rest of saloon seemed to simply ignore her. She sighed inwardly as she remembered the days when people would rush out of their homes to see the "Great and Powerful Trixie", and how she'd be the talk of the town for the week or so she'd stay in each place. It wasn't until Ponyville when the ruse had finally fallen through and the illusion shattered. Rousing herself from her self-pity, she reminded herself that this was Appleloosa, and here she'd start again, and become the Great and Powerful Trixie once more.

Trixie woke up the next morning with the sunlight shining through the window of her small room. She'd been able to secure a room on the east side of the saloon, facing out into the main street, and through the flimsy, single-pane glass she could hear the chatter and noise of carriages being pulled up and down the street, and ponies going about their daily business.

She reached for her hat and cape, as she did every morning, which only reminded her that they too had been lost in Ponyville. Muttering nonsense under her breath in her half-asleep state, she rolled off the hard single bed and set about looking for a brush for her mane and tail. Opening the drawers of the simple wooden dresser on the far side of the room, she found an old comb and shaving mirror, which would have to make do. Managing to tame the frizz of her rain-washed mane a little with the oily comb, she looked at herself in the small mirror for a while, before sighing and stowing it in her satchel along with the comb.

She headed downstairs and past the now-empty saloon. The storm had passed over Appleloosa, which was now glistening in the early morning sunlight, the cool, fresh air blowing the last of Trixie's drowsiness away. The river of rainwater had left behind a thick bed of mud, which was already criss-crossed with the tracks of many carriages, caravans and carts. Ponies were setting up their market stalls and unloading their wares to sell all up and down the street. Most sold some variation on apples, although some more of the land outside Appleloosa was now being cultivated, and here and there ponies were beginning to sell the more common staples of Equestrian cuisine - carrots, salad vegetables and hay. Driven by her empty stomach, Trixie walked nonchalantly alongside one of the apple carts that was still unloading, and quickly took an apple using her magic when she was sure nopony was looking. Taking a bite as she walked away, she looked around for any opportunity she could seize on. Whether someone hiring labourers (though the thought disgusted her, she was rational enough to admit she couldn't get away with theft forever), or somewhere she could use her magic to make money. Without her equipment, however, her magic was little more than simple telekinesis, smoke and lights. Not enough for a full show, at any rate. She'd never really learnt how to do real magic, the sort that Twilight pulled off. It always seemed too much like hard work and with little reward, for after all, simple spells, amplified by special effects like smoke, fireworks and illusions, were enough to dazzle anypony. She wasn't the only unicorn to use this technique, not by far; Rarity's fashion shows were often augmented by illusions and tricks of the light conjured by the unicorn pony and amplified by floodlights, mirrors and coloured lenses. However, though it looked impressive, it required a lot of preparation and equipment that Trixie could no longer obtain or afford.

She wandered down the street, pondering working in the saloon as an entertainer, but again her pride flared up at the thought of being nothing but simple entertainment for a bunch of ponies who wouldn't even remember her the next day. Image was everything, and although she'd had to start as a nobody, she couldn't face doing it again.

As she walked, she suddenly heard a loud shout from the far end of the street, and looked up to see a tall pony standing atop a crate in front of a caravan. A simple cloth banner was hung over the caravan, reading in bold script: 'Doctor Leechcraft's Patent Pony Panaceas - Cures All Ills'. Strewn across a makeshift stall, little more than a plank over some barrels, were all manner of glass bottles, little bags and herbs. At one end sat a large coiled snake, snoozing in the early morning sun. The pony, who Trixie assumed was this 'Doctor Leechcraft', had a dark grey coat with black mane and tail. On his flank was a small green bottle, which matched the colour of his eyes. He also sported a large black leather hat, which gave him an almost fearsome appearance, combined with his overall dark colouring.

Trixie watched, first with mild amusement, and then with fascination, as the pony regaled the gathering crowd with made-up testimonies of non-existent patients about the effectiveness of his "all-herbal, all-natural" remedies. In his presence, it seemed, even the most able and well pony suddenly felt aches and pains that could only be cured by a bottle of 'Doctor Leechcraft's Daffodil Tonic'. Keeping to the back of the crowd, Trixie just stood and watched as first one pony, then another, bought the tonics, liniments and remedies sold by the 'Doctor'. Glancing at the herbs lying in sprigs on the stall, she recognized some as perfectly ordinary grasses with absolutely no medical qualities whatsoever. But under the spell of Doctor Leechcraft, even a plant recognizable as hay to a young filly was suddenly a sprig of rare Manewort from the lush forests of southern Equestria, rumoured to bring shine and body to mane and tail. But then a shout went up from the crowd. Trixie turned to see a young colt looking displeased with his purchase.

"Hey! This 'ere's nothin' but apple leaves! Y'promised it was a rare herb from Griffondelf!" The colt exclaimed, glaring at 'Doctor' Leechcraft. Leechcraft looked taken aback, and his sales patter faltered. He began to stutter, and now that the illusion of confidence had vanished, Trixie noticed he wasn't that tall after all.

Another voice piped up from the crowd.

"An' if this ain' jus' coloured water, I'll give up mah salt fer a week!" An older settler pony yelled, knocking a green bottle off the stall. Once its contents had been spilt onto the street, it was plainly obvious that the old pony was right. Leechcraft just continued to stutter as the crowd, previously spellbound by his confidence and showmanship, now railed at him for a fraud. They dispersed, angry and disgusted, leaving Leechcraft looking dejected on his podium.

Trixie finished her apple and tossed the core over her shoulder, standing aside as the ponies left Leechcraft's caravan. A plan was beginning to form in her mind. Leechcraft was picking up his bottles from the mud where the ponies had dropped them when she came along beside him and levitated them with her magic. Leechcraft didn't look up, and mumbled what might've been a 'thanks' under his breath. He put the rest of his wares away, and was surprised to find the blue unicorn pony still standing there.

"Can I... help you?" He ventured, not sure what to make of her. Trixie smirked.

"No." She replied, curtly. "But I think Tr- … I think I can help you." Leechcraft looked up and down at her, unconvinced.

"An' how d'you think you're gonna be able to help me?" He said, a trace of mocking pride mimicking her own in his voice.

Trixie ignored the subtle insult. "You're a cheat, 'Doctor Leechcraft'. A cheat who's good at bragging, but you can't back up your claims when they're questioned, can you?" Leechcraft visibly winced at the accusation.

"If this is your idea of 'help', missy..." He picked up another discarded bottle in his mouth and put it with the others. "... then I can do without."

Trixie leant in closer. "But what if your products worked as well as you claimed?"
Leechcraft raised an eyebrow and looked her square in the eyes. "An' you're sayin' you can do that? Huh. S'just sales patter, missy. Sometimes works, sometimes don't. Should've known better'n to try shillin' apple leaves in Appleloosa..." He muttered, half to himself.
Trixie levitated one of the bottles back out of the crate and looked at it. It was a small blue bottle, that looked like it just contained water. She sniffed it, and could just make out the scent of mint in the water. She turned to Leechcraft.

"Mint leaves in water. Completely ineffective except for freshening your breath. But now look..." She tipped the bottle, pouring its contents onto the road. Her horn, already glowing faintly, flashed brightly at the tip, conjuring a bright red flower from the sodden leaves. "... Growth Tonic." She finished, smirking, and placed the now empty bottle in the crate.

Leechcraft looked at the flower. "But you conjured that yourself. Ain't nothin' to do with the tonic."
"They won't know that." Trixie grinned, briefly.

Leechcraft looked at Trixie, then back at the flower. Slowly the idea dawned on him, and he broke into a grin of his own. "... You're good, missy. Y'got a name?"

"Trixie. And I know. I know."