An unlikely trio

by Ssendam the Masked

One big old coincidence

The world of Mundus. Most of the planet looks rather dull and dry, when seen from the outside. On the inside, it still looks dull and dry, but now it's a lot closer up then it would be if you were observing from some far-away vantage point. There are many kingdoms, countries, empires- all of them exist here. The mighty griffins, who dominate the skies with their powerful wing-beats and fierce talons. The proud minotaurs, who typically have muscles the size of grapefruits. It is unwise to touch a minotaur's chest unless you are very, VERY sure that the Minotaur will let you do so. And that it is not a cow. Groping a cow is a surefire way to getting your head shoved up your own backside.

The donkeys, business intrepaneurs, always seeking to trade and bargain with others to make up for their lack of physical and magical strength. Insectile Changelings, who feed off the love of other species and can turn into anything. This makes them ideal sex workers, and to get a non-changeling sex worker is quite a rarity. Diamond Dogs, brutish mutts who dig underground to satiate their appetite for jewels and precious metals, which they sell to other races for essential supplies.

And of course, the gigantic dragons, well known for being large, magic-and-heat proof and firebreathing, dominate the unexplored corners of the map. Which is technically impossible, as by definition 'unexplored' means that nothing's been there, but the dragons are clearly there. Which makes it explored. Because that's how it is literally.

All these species, and many more, exist in Mundus, making a living as best they can. But of all of them, there is one species that continues to baffle the other civilisations out there: the ponies.

Size-wise, they are small and are brightly coloured, like certain spiders and insects. Unlike spiders and various insects, ponies are surprisingly non-toxic. They come in three varieties: earth ponies, who possess no outstanding feature or attribute asides from their strength and ability to grow food well (tough but nutty according to dragon connoisseurs), pegasi, who possess feathered wings or, more rarely, leather, bat-like wings and can fly (light and airy, but the bones stick in your teeth) and unicorns, who can levitate things with their mind and can do other powerful feats of magic (have a kind of fruity taste to them.) The only thing that was discovered from these various taste tests was that eating too many ponies causes indigestion.

All ponies really live in one place, excepting those who travel beyond their borders: Equestria. The kingdom of the ponies. Though its size is relatively small compared to the gigantic Griffin Empire, and it possesses no extraordinary military outside of its unicorns and pegasi, it has somehow been ignored for centuries. Perhaps it is the small size of the kingdom that has allowed it to be ignored. Or maybe it's something else, some great work of magic that was performed in a tiny patch of land that will never occur anywhere else.

It was beautiful. Key word here being 'was.' Once known in the distant anals of time as a prosperous and happy kingdom, some great calamity fell. What calamity? Who knows? Whatever the case, one day Equestria just... stopped. The vast majority of the kingdom dried up like water coming out of a bathtub. Once fertile and blooming soil has given way to the dry, dull sands of the desert. Only the area known as the Everfree Forest and a couple of oases remain, remnants of a more fertile era. The ponies are hard-working and adaptable to any suffering.

But the ponies have legends, whispered to babes to help them sleep. A fairy tale and an almost abandoned hope in one. It tells of two ponies, taller than the others, who possessed the traits of all three races- though how anypony was supposed to tell whether or not they had any earth pony traits is best not contemplated. The legend has many versions, but the gist of it is the same- the alicorns left Equestria one day, but left behind them a great tree, a tree that would supposedly grant any being who found it their hearts' desire...

Of course, nopony really believes in that load of horseapples anymore. But the hope still exists, and whoever found it would have wealth beyond compare...

The Magician

"Nngh... haa...haa...haa..."
A blue unicorn panted for breath, trudging through the pale tan dunes of the desert. Her form was swathed in a long purple robe, her head shaded by a tall, conical hat. Once, it had been a deep, lustrous purple, with stars that twinkled and dazzled with no particular outside influence. Now, it was bleached pale and starless by long periods of exposure to the merciless sun. She looked up at the horizon, purple eyes flickering around as if she was trying to track a fly. Eventually, she sighed.

"Blast it, where's this stupid town that the Great and Powerful Trixie is supposed to be at by now? It makes no sense!"
She sat down, uncaring of the burning hot sand, and started absently drawing crude diagrams in the sand with her hoof.
"Trixie supposes that this is the right way... but if Trixie doesn't find this town sooner or later, then Trixie is screwed..."
Her eyes widened as she imagined what horrible scenarios would likely happen to her. "Oh, Trixie will likely DIE out here of dehydration, with no water at all. Then, Trixie's body will wither away, and be preserved under this burning hot sun. And worst of all..."
She turned to her heavy load, a wooden carriage. Inside, there was a bed, though it was mostly buried between fireworks, various chemicals, and the occasional spellbook. It was Trixie's home, stage, and cross to bear all at once.

But worst of all... "Trixie's carriage will get stolen when Trixie is dead?! This is terrible!" She shook herself, and her eyes, once filled with panic and wider than a dinner plate, gradually shrunk back down to more manageable proportions as she took several deep breaths. "Alright Trixie, you're just exaggerating things again."

With that, she forced herself to keep moving. The pounding desert sun beat down on her like particularly hot rain, if that makes sense, and soon enough she wanted to just give up and let the desert take her again. However, when she came over the next dune, her eyes widened as she beheld the most glorious sight she'd ever seen in a long time:

The small, dingy town of Ponyville, right next to the large forest known as the Everfree Forest. It was the only one of its kind, and apart from some slight loss around the edges, nopony really wanted to go inside of it to see what source of water it possessed. Just another one of those old superstitions, especially after all those ponies got lost in there trying to find the supposed 'wish-granting tree'. Truthfully, Trixie had no idea why she was going to THIS town in particular.

She paused, then laughed. Of course Trixie knew why she was going here: the citizens of this town were morons who'd likely never heard of real magic before. Standard show fare- show up, do some sparkly lights and fireworks, con them out of almost all their money and then leave while the going was good. It also helped that she was a pretty powerful unicorn in her own right.

"Onwards! Onwards to Ponyville!" Trixie said to herself, pulling her cart forwards with renewed fervour.

The Bounty Hunter

Sunset Shimmer woke up to a knife being held at her throat. She sighed mentally- this was the third time this week. So she looked at her aggressor with a cheerful smile on her face. "Who, exactly, are you?"

The bandit who was pinning her down leered at her with a mouth so bad it would have set a dentist for life. "Oh, nopony important, Sunset 'Showdown' Shimmer. All I know is, you got my boss last week, and I'm here for revenge!"

Sunset Shimmer idly examined a hoof. "Oh? And who is your boss? I've captured so much scum over the past week, I honestly couldn't remember."

The bandit's face turned an interesting shade of red underneath all the dirt. "You can't even remember his name?"

Sunset Shimmer's green eyes lit up. "So it was a he. That..." She paused, perusing a mental list of the bounties she'd collected. After a moment, she shook her head. "Nnnnope, you're going to have to be more specific."

The bandit sighed. "Earth pony?"

Sunset Shimmer blew a strand of red and yellow hair out of her face. "I take in a lot of earth ponies."

"Tall? Muscular?" When Sunset Shimmer just looked at him with a half-lidded stare on her face, the bandit got off of her, pressing his free hoof to his eyes. "You can't be that-"

Sunset Shimmer took the opportunity to blast him with a stun spell. As he lay on the ground, twitching, she smartly tied him up with a green binding spell. "Honestly, more details the next time you're taking revenge on somepony."

She took the opportunity to pocket his knife, inspecting it. It was decent steel, a keen edge to it and surprisingly light. After a moment, she shrugged, and added it to her luggage. She then turned to the erstwhile revenger, who was still completely out of it. With a little bit of telekinesis, she hauled him onto her back and exited her room.

As she descended, the sounds of a fight breaking out below in the hotel foyer. She sighed, dropping the stallion unceremoniously and continued downstairs.

The sight in front of her could only be described as utter chaos. The entire bar was filled with never-do-wells, all of them trying to take some of the hotel's bits for their own purposes. Sunset Shimmer sighed yet again. Criminals could be so stupid sometimes.
She cleared her throat. "Oi."

The robbers ignored her, instead focusing on the terrified unicorn mare who was running the counter. "Hey, sweetcheeks, just give us the money and we'll let you go without cutting you up, okay?" The terrified mare couldn't speak, her normally alabaster coat somehow getting even paler. Tears pooled in her eyes and from the looks of things, Sunset Shimmer suspected that she may have wet herself.

She raised her voice slightly. "Oi, morons."

The leader of the thieves turned around, sneering. "What do you wan-"
His voice died down in his throat as he saw who was talking to him. The unicorn mare was staring at him as if he was some sort of cockroach. Over her left eye, there was a large scar, which ran down to her cheek and jaw. Her red and yellow mane billowed out from her head like a cloud of mustard and ketchup. She wore a black jacket, and her green eyes glimmered with amusement.

The bandit chief immediately backed up. "Guys, it's her!"
One particularly dim bandit didn't get the memo. He was a huge earth pony, standing a full head above this rather average mare. Muscles bulged underneath his dirty white fur. "Uh, who's 'she?'" His tiny brain calculated her as a threat, and he rushed at her, his huge bulk giving him a sense of superiority that had never failed him before. Unfortunately for him, this sense of superiority would be leaving him today.

Sunset Shimmer coolly dodged, and as he sailed past with a surprised look on her face she effortlessly tripped him up. The bandit chief grew even paler, the dirt covering his features obscuring much of this effect. "Who? WHO? That's Sunset 'Showdown' Shimmer, one of the worst bounty hunters in Equestria itself!"

Sunset Shimmer started lazily tying up the huge earth pony as he continued. "She never stops hunting a target until she has the bounty- alive or dead!" The rest of the bandits did not take well to this information, and most started making a break for it. However, with a flare of magic the windows were surrounded by a green glow, indicating some sort of spell had been cast by this mare.

Sunset Shimmer nodded, satisfied with this capture of a rather stupid bandit. She then refocused her attention on the rest of the bandits, who were having second thoughts about this robbery. "You."

The bandit chief gulped, his large brown eyes shrinking at her searching gaze. She pulled out a large stack of wanted posters from her saddlebags, and started leafing through them, all without taking her eyes off the bandit. Eventually, she found the poster she wanted. "Capony 'Gang' Bege. Bounty of two thousand bits." She put the posters away, and smiled at him. There was more than a hint of predator in her grin. "Seems as if you're wanted for robbery, armed assault, and murder. You coming quietly?"

Capony gulped, sweating so much that his natural dirt covering came off in a couple of seconds. He then turned to one member of his gang. "Oi! Yellow Flash! Get us out of here quickly!"

The unicorn, a yellow maned fellow with a pale blue body, nodded and flared his horn, the golden glow surrounding him and Capony. Sunset Shimmer immediately charged them, but with a yellow flash, Capony and Yellow Flash were gone. For a moment, Sunset Shimmer stood completely still, breathing heavily. Then, she turned to the remaining bandits.

"You guys..." she growled, walking towards them slowly and surely. They immediately tried to run for the windows, only to bounce back as the protective spells worked. They looked at her angry face as she raised a hoof, horn flaring.

Five minutes later, and there was only one still conscious. Sunset Shimmer picked him up in her aura, shaking him violently. "Where. Did. They. Go?"

He gulped, contemplating two courses of action. On the one hand, he could tell this unicorn mare and betray his boss. On the other hand, if he didn't, she would likely exact her frustrations on him, which would be exceedingly painful. He came up with a decision. "We have a bolthole in Ponyville! They're in Ponyville!"

Sunset Shimmer nodded. "Ponyville, right." She glared at him, and he started crying. "If you're lying..." the unspoken threat of a painful, painful beating was left hanging in the air. She dropped him and he scurried away. She then turned on the receptionist.

"What in Equestria's good name were you doing, you shitty receptionist?!"
The receptionist shrunk away from Sunset as she advanced. "Geez, do you know any spells at all? What's your name, shitty receptionist?"

The receptionist, now more terrified than she had ever been in her life, attempted to answer, but kept stuttering the whole time. "A-A-A-"

Sunset Shimmer was up to here with that kind of attitude. "A? Do you speak Equestrian or do you speak in 'A,' whatever language that is? Equestria, motherbucker, do you speak it?" She gripped the receptionist tighter, and she burst into tears anew. "NAME?!"

"A-Alabaster Sheen! It's- it's Alabaster S-Sheen!" The poor mare finally screamed out. Sunset Shimmer glared at her in disgust.

"You're a unicorn; didn't your worthless parents teach you any spells?"

When she didn't answer she left. "Hmph. Typical." She glared right into the receptionists' face. "Listen. If you don't want them to attack you anymore, get some bucking guts next time."

With that, she left. Alabaster Sheen just sat there in her chair for a moment, still unsure of what had happened just then. Then, with a determined frown on her face, she pulled herself together and, not really knowing what to do in this kind of situation, started cleaning the bar off. It was the only thing she could really do, what with the bar being filled with groaning ponies.

Some time later...

Sunset Shimmer stared at the town, still refusing to believe that it existed. The entire town was extremely lush and green, especially with one of the few patches of greenery in Equestria, known as the Everfree Forest. Sunset Shimmer had heard the legends, and had briefly contemplated going in there to find the supposed 'wish-granting tree.' However, reality always found a way to stifle that kind of a dream. "What kind of moron names a town Ponyville? Are all the inhabitants on paint fumes or something?" She took a swig from a bottle of whiskey, enjoying the burning sensation in her throat as it went down. "Well, might as well check here. Sunset Shimmer never lets a target get away from her."

The Librarian

Twilight Sparkle put her hoof in her mouth as she thought about what to write to her brother, Shining Armour. Eventually, she came up with the perfect letter. She levitated her quill pen in her lavender coloured aura and began to write.

Dear Big Brother Best Friend Forever,. She chuckled a bit at that before continuing to write.

I'm alive and well, thanks for asking. How are you in Canterlot? I bet that it's hard work for you, going around in that heavy armour all day in the blazing sun. Father says that it's been traditional for the stallions of the family to be in the Guard, so I suppose you're alright there? Speaking of Father, how's Mother? Is she still ill? I'm sorry that I'm leaving, but you know how big an opportunity this is for me! I'll send money as soon as I can, BBBFF! I will!

I know you want to become the Captain of the Canterlot Guard, but these things take time, BBBFF.

As for me, you know what I'll be doing- I've got a job as a librarian in this 'Ponyville' place. It seems- Twilight put her hoof in her mouth again, trying to think of an inoffensive name to call the town she was travelling to.

it seems rather different from what we're used to, but I hear that they're one of the few towns that can claim to have not one, but two oases. Isn't that incredible? Anyway, from all accounts I've also heard other rumours about it- that it's near the Everfree Forest. I've heard that the forest is home to many strange and wonderful creatures. It's apparently over a thousand years old- isn't that just exciting? I can't wait to research it more thoroughly when I'm there!, brother, I don't believe in that old legend any more than you do. But if it did exist... the implications of it would staggering.

Twilight's ears perked up as the train started coming in the the station and turned back to her letter hurriedly.
Anyway, I've just arrived here. I'll write to you in a week's time, BBBFF!
~Twilight Sparkle.

She looked over it for any grammatical or spelling errors and, finding none, nodded and rolled the letter up, placing it in her saddlebags. Twilight Sparkle then waited patiently for the seemingly never-ending river of ponies to leave the train carriage while she gathered her things up. She wasn't in a rush. She had all the time in the world to get there.