Trixie Lulamoon’s hat drooped, rainwater pouring from the brim and dripping across her field of vision. Her customary cape clung to her huddled figure, wrapping her in a soggy blanket. The freshly-turned dirt at her hooves had long since softened into mud, soaking into the hem of her cape and turning the beautiful, star-spangled lavender fabric an ugly brown.
Trixie’s jaw was set, and her eyes fixed and unblinking.
Her gaze was set on a stone slab set in front of her. Not enough time had passed for the stone to have been weathered by the elements, so it still carried the white sheen that it had been constructed with. It sat upright, pointing to the clouded sky as a silent monument. Its top wasn’t rounded like many other tombstones were, but had angular corners. Sharp and hard. Cold and unyielding, much like the pony who it represented.
Two words were etched in elaborate cursive script across the stone. Two words that Trixie had always dreaded to hear, but now couldn’t tear her gaze away from.
At one time, Trixie had called this pony “Mother”.
Other times, it had been “Heartless Witch” or “Obdurate Crone,” but she usually reverted—however reluctantly—to “Mother”.
Other words and numbers were scrawled as an afterthought below the name, but Trixie cared little for dates or quotes. The rest of the epitaph meant nothing to her. She ran her eyes again and again over the thirteen letters of Glory’s name, etching them into her memory, making sure that she would never forget.
Tears didn’t come. Trixie hadn’t cried. Not when the letter arrived under her front door, announcing the tragedy. Nor through the funeral, despite the host of weeping ponies surrounding her. Not even while giving her closing speech did Trixie shed any tears—her voice had been flat and emotionless, almost monotonous, while she recited her memorized eulogy.
Trixie almost hated herself for thinking it, but it was the only word that readily came to mind. Freedom from the oppression of her mother. Freedom to go out and make her own mark on the world, without the constant fear of her mother’s drunken rages. Her slurred admonitions. Her constant coercion for Trixie to do better. Freedom to do what Trixie loved.
Trixie’s neck creaked as she turned her head. Several painful pops accompanied the movement; she had been sitting in this position for over an hour and the bones in her neck complained at their sudden reactivation. Across the graveyard, almost hidden by the downpour, Trixie’s cart sat behind a tree, staring silently back at its owner. The bright red paint that Trixie had so meticulously applied was muted from the moisture that clouded the air, and the logical half of her brain blearily wondered about water damage.
That cart had been Trixie’s only friend for as long as she could remember. Throughout her education, she hadn’t been the most socially savvy pony, but not for her lack of trying. The other ponies at Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns had either ignored her because of her shady background, or hadn’t even acknowledged that she existed. Even as far back as magic kindergarten, Trixie had been the outcast of the group. Sitting alone at lunch, trying intently to find a secluded corner of the cafeteria where she couldn’t see the scathing looks from the other students. Poking her meticulously-prepared daisy sandwich listlessly, all appetite having left her.
The cart was divine intervention, an escape. Trixie had found it abandoned by the side of the road one day, and took it home to care for it. A new coat of paint, some gadgets and gizmos, and it became more than just a machine.
Trixie gazed wistfully at the cart now. She stood, ignoring the stiffness of her limbs and the mud that caked her hooves. Prismatic points of light danced across her field of vision, mingling with the blurred drops of rain that still poured steadily from her hat. She waited for her blood to adjust to this new alignment, then turned and started to walk towards her cart. Countless tombstones lined her sides, and she turned her head to read the names inscribed on each one as she passed. Some names were famous—old war heroes and epic poets—while some were just as obscure as Glory Lulamoon. Names that Trixie read, and had already forgotten by the time she looked away.
Rain dripped in careless rivulets down the cart’s door. Ignoring the damp, Trixie pulled at the metal handle with her clenched teeth, causing the door to unlatch from its fasteners and swing outward. She tasted rust on the handle, and spat determinedly, ridding her tongue of most of the metallic tang. The dry scent of paper and wood wafted out from the dark interior of the cart, giving Trixie a welcome break from the wet smell of rain. Smiling a little, she stepped inside.
Trixie’s lantern was just where she expected it to be: hanging from the ceiling, almost dead center but slightly to the left. She closed her eyes, sending a mental pulse of concentration towards her horn; a turquoise glow partially illuminated the confined space, but the real intent of the magic was to light the lantern. The dancing glow of the firelight was thrown across the room, revealing the contents of Trixie’s cart.
A single-wide cot was pushed against the wall, its crimson bedclothes bunched at the foot. Partially hidden beneath Trixie’s pillow is a tiny stuffed animal—a felt teddy bear that kept the monsters away at night. Trixie spared her fillyhood toy a simpering glance, then turned to take her hat off and hang it on its designated peg on the wall. Her cape joined the headgear on the adjacent peg, still dripping steadily. Absently, Trixie kicked a bucket under it to catch the moisture.
Trixie sunk heavily onto the chair in front of her vanity. She regarded her disheveled appearance critically in the attached mirror. The mirror was grimy around the edges, and had a serpentine crack winding from top to bottom, but it got the job done. Trixie could tell what she looked like, and that’s really all that mattered.
Deep circles shadowed Trixie’s eyes, giving her the appearance of a specter. Her mane—usually so expertly constructed—was bursting free of the product she had used to keep it in place. Offshoots of willful, powder blue hair popped free, giving her a very unbecoming cowlick. Wearily, Trixie cast her eyes from side to side, searching for something with which to tame the beast that was her mane. The closest object that could serve as a sword in this battle was a ragged purple comb missing half its teeth.
Trixie picked it up, twirling it around absently in midair with magic. The magical aura surrounding the small object undulated with the motions. The comb halted, holding perfectly still, and then dove into Trixie’s mane.
Trixie winced at the popping of the remaining teeth separating from the comb and instantly becoming lost in her rat’s nest of a mane. She looked at her reflection in the dirty mirror—it stared mournfully back at her, regarding its counterpart with a mixture of remorse, and deep contempt. Trixie abandoned the attack on her hair, tossing the comb carelessly behind her, and lowered her head onto her crossed forelegs.
When she raised her head again, the reflection now wore a winning smile . . . as false as the face paint on a clown. Everything was going to be just fine.
Trixie tugged the harnesses tighter with her teeth. She looked behind her, turning her head as far back as her anatomy would allow her, checking that she was properly secured to the cart.
Once satisfied that her wrangling job was sufficient, Trixie started to pull.
Immediately, a sickening, multitudinous crash rang out over the silence of the night. One side of Trixie’s stage had unfolded from the rest of the cart and spilled its contents all over the muddy ground. Trixie cursed colorfully. Among the wreckage, she could make out a crate of fireworks and her spare cape being ruined by the elements.
Letting a steady stream of curses flow from her lips, Trixie began to unlatch herself from the various harnesses she had worked so hard to secure. Once freed, she made her way around to the back of the cart, scooping up the various bits and bobs that had tumbled free and landed on the ground. Half of the curtains had also shaken free, and now laid in a jumbled mess on the ground. Trixie bent, clasping a corner of the red fabric and pulling it back. With every bit of cloth she tossed over her back, she let loose with a new swearword—her obscene phraseology muffled by the fabric in her mouth. By the time that she had gathered everything she could, her choice in vocabulary had gotten considerably more creative.
With little regard for organization, Trixie lugged the mass of fabric off of her back. It landed with a heavy thud on the wooden floor of the stage, exhaling a thick cloud of dust. On top of that, she lugged the crate of fireworks, dropping it haphazardly with magic. Upon impact, a rocket popped free and sailed into the sky. Trixie yelped, cowering back at the sudden movement. An explosion of blue and gold sparks rocked the night sky, letting loose a giant bang that thudded against Trixie’s eardrums painfully. Fizzling embers meandered their way back down to earth, dissipating before they could hit the ground.
Trixie’s lungs heaved. She found herself pressed against the side of the cart, hugging herself tightly in fright. It took several moments for her to steady her breathing.
Once her heart rate had steadied, she felt safe to remove her clutching hoof from her chest. She still breathed heavily, but not for lack of oxygen—Trixie was now sobbing silently, taking huge, shuddering inhalations as tears dropped freely. It took all of the mental fortitude that she could muster to keep herself upright, and not give in to the tantalizing temptation to simply sink to the ground in anguish.
Trixie kept moving. An excuse not to give up this early. Motivation, for if she rested now, she may never get up again. Just simply fall down to the ground and sleep, with no intention of waking.
A turquoise glow shone from the unicorn’s forehead as her horn began to work its magic. The smaller objects that had been scattered in the mud were enveloped by the pulse of magic—one by one, the bits and bobs were extracted from the adhesive soil, popping free as their bonds were broken with sounds like a plunger being withdrawn from a blocked sink.
Trixie placed her head under the stage and extended her neck upward, pushing the wooden platform up with a disheartening creak. She shoved, ignoring the discomfort, waiting for the click that signaled that the stage would not fall back down on her if she let go. Tears blurred her vision, so she closed her eyes completely.
Click. Relieved, Trixie withdrew slowly. She opened her eyes to scrutinize the stage, making sure it wasn’t about to break free and crush her under it. It creaked ominously, but seemed to be holding steady. Satisfied, Trixie turned away. She kicked the cart gently—not enough to negate her hard work by causing everything to fall apart again, but enough to let out a little of her frustration.
Trixie gave her cart a long, lingering look, taking in its dilapidated exterior, and then looked ahead into the mist. The pathway was clouded by a low-hanging fog left over from the rain—an omen that could only mean misfortune, but Trixie dismissed it. She once again partook in the painstaking task of affixing herself to the straps on the cart, gritting her teeth all the way.
And Trixie traveled.
“So, Trixie . . .” Twilight Sparkle coughed uncomfortably, and Trixie really couldn’t blame her for feeling a bit awkward. “Where are you from?” the unicorn inquired, a seemingly-pleasant smile painted on her face.
“Trixie is from Manehattan originally, but really, she seems to wander too often for someplace to become home.” Trixie took a sip of tea. She observed the small porcelain object hovering in front of her face—it was a nice teacup, a little pink thing with a pair of hearts painted on each side. “Thank you, Twilight Sparkle, for the tea, by the way.”
“Oh, it’s no problem at all,” Twilight assured her, rolling her eyes offhandedly.
“But really, Twilight . . . you’ve gone to such great lengths to accommodate me.” And it only accentuated Trixie’s utter shame and embarrassment. What had she ever done to deserve any manner of kindness from Twilight?
Twilight met Trixie’s eyes, smiling. “Me?”
“Yes, you. Of course.”
“No no . . .” Twilight giggled. “You said ‘me’, instead of Trixie. You weren’t speaking in third-person.”
“Oh yes.” Trixie looked down. “I suppose I wasn’t.” She studied the swirling liquid in her cup intently.
“Where did you go to school? Was it at Manehattan University, because I know a couple of ponies who . . .”
“I went to Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns.”
“Really?” Twilight’s eyes lit up. “I went there too! I don’t remember seeing you around, though!” Catching the look on Trixie’s face, she changed tact at the speed of light. “It is a big school, though, so picking somepony out in a crowd would’ve been tough.” Twilight smiled encouragingly.
“So . . .” Twilight seemed to be grasping at straws as to how to continue the conversation. “Do you have family that you live with?”
“I’m sorry,” Twilight finished softly. Her own teacup, untouched, quivered as she placed her hoof down on the table next to it.
“Please don’t be.” Trixie looked up sharply. “If there’s anything at all that Trixie . . . I . . . don’t need . . . it’s any more PITY.” She didn’t mean to do it, but the last word came out at almost a shout.
Thick silence fell, painting the room with sudden tension. Twilight stared at Trixie. Trixie stared back. For a moment, the lavender unicorn looked scared.
“Sorry,” Trixie whispered. “I . . . I didn’t mean to . . .”
“It’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”
“Be that as it may, I am worried. What’s wrong with me, Twilight Sparkle?”
Twilight absently drew a small circle on the table with her hoof, while resting her chin on the other. “Nothing’s wrong with you Trixie. You’ve just been alone for a while.” But she wouldn’t meet Trixie’s inquisitive gaze.
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve been alone? What is that supposed to mean? I’ve performed for hundreds of ponies, all across Equestria! I’ve never been alone!” Trixie’s voice rose again, like a teapot reaching a boil.
“What I mean is that you don’t . . .” Twilight cut herself off.
“What?” Trixie demanded.
“You don’t . . .”
Twilight closed her eyes and took a deep breath. The muscles in her face tightened. “You don’t have any friends!” she exploded, speaking very fast.
More silence. Twilight breathed heavily, steadily pink in the face, waiting for Trixie’s reaction.
“I suppose you’re right, Twilight.” Trixie refrained from adding “Sparkle” to the end of the sentence. A habit that had been hard to shake, much like speaking in first person. “I suppose . . . you’re right,” she repeated.
A door creaked, and both unicorns turned to the noise. Standing silhouetted in the doorway, bleary-eyed and tired looking, was Twilight’s assistant, Spike. The baby dragon rubbed an eye with a curled fist. “What’s all the yelling about?” he slurred.
“Nothing, Spike,” Twilight replied. “Go back to bed.”
Spike’s unfocused eyes slid across the pair, clearly not taking in the sight of either one of them. The claw that had been rubbing his eye slid across his face to scratch the side of his head.
“Huh . . . ‘night Twilight. ‘Night Trixie.” Spike turned to shamble back upstairs, then froze in his tracks, his shoulders bunched up comically. His head turned almost 180 degrees to look back at Trixie. “Trixie?” he gaped, aghast.
“Hello, Spike the dragon,” Trixie said formally.
“You can just call him ‘Spike’,” Twilight muttered out of the corner of her mouth.
“Oh . . .” Trixie cleared her throat and tried again. “Hello, Spike.” Trixie looked to Twilight for approval. She nodded.
“W-what are you doing here?” Spike squeaked, backing up against the door and accidentally closing it behind him. He pointed an accusing claw at Trixie, who recoiled, confused and somewhat hurt.
“She’s going to stay the night,” Twilight intoned cheerfully. “I hope that’s okay with you Spike. Sorry, I should have told you earlier.”
Spike continued to mouth wordlessly. “I’ll take that as a yes,” Twilight chuckled. “Now, back to bed with you, mister.” Twilight blinked hard her horn lit up magenta—Spike was lifted off the ground by the unicorn’s magic. “Trixie, could you get the door for me?” Silently, Trixie complied, using her own magic to twist the doorknob and pull outward. Twilight propelled the stunned dragon up the stairs and closed the door.
“Anyway . . .”
“Twilight?” Trixie asked timidly.
“Would it be okay if I called you my friend?”
Twilight turned around, surprised. A wide, genuine smile broke across her face.
“Trixie, I would be glad to be your friend! I thought you’d never ask. So . . . friends?”
Trixie smiled, the widest she could remember smiling in a long time.
“Friends,” Trixie agreed.