• Published 19th Feb 2014
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The Unchosen One - MagnetBolt



Princess Twilight decides to reconnect with old friends and ends up exploring a mystery that may end with the destruction of all magic and love in Equestria.

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Don't Talk To Strangers

The Unchosen One
Chapter 2: Don't Talk To Strangers
By MagnetBolt

“No no no no...” Trixie slammed the door shut, locking it. She'd gone out to get a drink and been ambushed by a reporter who had apparently been lurking and just waiting to strike.

***

Trixie dropped the bits she had been holding, one rolling under the vending machine. The mare cursed and knelt down to see if she could still reach it, but it was stubbornly behind the grasp of her hoof. It suddenly started glowing green and rolled back towards her. Trixie backed up, surprised, and her flank bumped into a pony standing right behind her.

“Looked like you were having a little trouble there,” the pale brown unicorn said. He levitated the bit over to Trixie. She snatched it out of the air and turned away.

“I had things well in hoof. And it's just a bit anyway.” She shoved it into the machine along with a handful of other bits, getting herself a criminally overpriced iced dandelion tea. The unicorn watched her as she retrieved it and struggled with opening it for a few moments. Eventually Trixie had enough and turned to face him. “What?!”

“Nothing. I just wanted to see if you were the kind of mare who would ask for help.” He got himself a tea from the same machine and opened it easily with magic. Trixie tried to keep from frowning with how easy he made it look.

“I don't need help,” Trixie clarified. She flipped her hair with a hoof. “I'm perfectly fine.”

“I can see that,” the stallion agreed, nodding. “So have you heard the news?”

“What news?” Trixie took a sip of her tea. It was too sweet. She frowned and looked at it. It was the same brand she always used to drink. It had just been a long time since she'd had anything that wasn't just plain water and bread. By her own choice. The Pies actually made quite a bit of food, she just never felt comfortable eating with them.

“The Princess got hurt in some train accident.” The stallion was watching her closely. Trixie glanced at him out of the corner of her eyes, trying not to react. “Apparently she's said the only reason she survived is because a mare saved her life a few times.”

“I'm sure it isn't as exciting as you make it out to be,” Trixie retorted.

“Really? A train accident, royalty, lives being saved-”

“The Princess gets in a lot of trouble. She and her friends probably save each others lives every other week.” Trixie took a few more sips of the tea. The honey in it was thick and cloying. “I doubt anything that happened was really all that exciting.”

“You must have quite a few stories to tell if that adventure seems boring.” The stallion smiled brightly. Trixie crushed the still half-full box of tea, splashing it over her hoof and leaving a mess on the floor. With a disgusted sound she threw it in the garbage.

“I don't,” she said, with an air of finality. “I don't go on adventures and I never have. I'm just a boring pony that is going to go back to rock farming once I get discharged.” She turned to leave. The stallion followed.

“It's funny you should say that. The Princess said that the mare who saved her had a blue coat with a silver mane. You know, you don't have to be so modest. My readers would love to hear about the adventure from-”

“Readers?!” Trixie froze.

“You might have heard of me. My name's Bold Headline, with Ponyville Press. I was hoping I could get a quick interview in, if you don't mind talking a little about yourself.” Trixie's eye twitched, and she ran back to her room screaming.

***

“Calm down, Trixie. You can handle this.” Trixie tried to calm her breathing. “You just have to get out of here before you get run out of town with your picture plastered all over the paper.” She paced around the room. “Half of the ponies will probably think I caused the train to derail in the first place! And the others will think anything I did is a lie or exaggerated.”

Trixie looked out the window. Could she get down to the ground from here? She could write an apology letter to Twilight later about backing out, but this was hardly the rest she needed anyway. A glance down made her go pale. She was several stories up.

“Trixie don't be stupid!” She muttered to herself. “You're not some helpless foal. You can just walk out there and-” She swallowed. “And have to talk to that reporter.” She looked back to the window. She opened it and looked down.

“I hate to use magic, but...” A catfall spell was one of the simplest spells a unicorn could learn. All she had to do was jump out and cast it before she hit the ground. And since she was so high up she'd have more than enough time to do it. Taking a deep breath to calm herself, Trixie jumped. Her horn lit up with magic and she cast the catfall spell.

Unfortunately instead of slowing her fall, all that happened was that sparks and bursts of light appeared around her. Trixie screamed as the ground rapidly came up to meet her. She closed her eyes, not wanting to see the end. There was a sudden jerk and for a moment she thought it just meant it had been even worse than she expected and she was in shock, then she felt the hooves holding her and the rushing wind around her was going in a completely different direction.

“Hey there! You know Twilight is the alicorn princess, not you, right?” The blue mare smirked. Trixie frowned. It was one of Twilight's friends. What was her name? Prism Smash? Raincloud Crash? Something like that. The pegasus set her down. Trixie looked back at the window she'd fallen from. It was a long way up.

“I just- made a mistake,” Trixie finished, lamely. The blue mare patted her on the back.

“Not the first one. Fireworks don't usually stop a fall.”

“I was trying to cast a slow-fall spell!” Trixie snapped. “But my magic hasn't been working right. I'm out of practice and...” she sighed. She had to remember her resolve to at least try to be a better mare. “I screwed up. Thank you for catching me.”

“Don't worry about it. I have to keep somepony from falling to their death at least two or three times a day, and you're not as heavy as Twilight. You're just lucky I'm awesome and I saw your little show there.”

“Er... right.” Trixie kicked at the dirt. “Anyway, since you're here and you did just save my life, I suppose this is as good a time as any to start apologizing. I can't remember if you were the one I locked in a cage or-”

“You made one of my wings grow huge so I couldn't fly right.”

“Ah! That was it!” Trixie smiled and looked up, then coughed and assumed a more serious face. “I mean, ah. I'm sorry about using magic on you in that way. The Princess dragged me out here, so I suppose I'd better get used to apologizing to everypony I meet. Miss, um...”

“Really? Dash. Rainbow Dash. I'm pretty famous.”

“Trixie wasn't born yesterday! You can't just pull a name out of a Daring Do story.” Dash snorted and started laughing. “See, you can't even keep a straight face!”

“Actually it's a long story. I'll tell you some time. So what got you to decide to jump out a window? Hospital food isn't that bad.”

“Ugh!” Trixie rolled her eyes. “A reporter.”

“A reporter,” Dash repeated, her smirk growing. “You, of all ponies, running from a reporter. He must have been really terrifying since the last time I saw you, you were trying to get everypony in town to kneel before you.”

Trixie frowned. “I've been trying to change.”

“I can tell. You've only spoken in the third person once in the last minute.”

“If I wanted to be mocked I'd go somewhere to be alone with my thoughts.”

“Don't take it so hard.” Dash slapped Trixie on the back. “I don't think anypony is gonna hold a grudge. Even if you did put some of them in cages. Or turn them into foals. Or-”

“Yes, thank you for reminding me that I have a lot to apologize for.” Trixie sighed.

“Why'd you run from the reporter, anyway?” Trixie started walking back into the hospital. “I thought you'd love to have your name in the papers after you saved Twilight.”

“You really have no idea how the press works. With my record they'd probably assume I caused the train to derail in the first place!” Trixie made a dismissive gesture with a hoof. “Besides, they're making it out to be some big adventure. It's hardly more than you mares deal with every week.”

“Hah! Most of the time Twilight is saving us!” Dash smiled and followed Trixie inside. “What are you gonna do? Go back to your room and hide?”

“I'm going to say goodbye to Twilight. This trip has been a disaster already, but if I don't at least see her, she's just going to hunt me down again.”

Though neither of them saw it, Scootaloo was hanging in midair, her eyes wide. She'd just taken her scooter off a small ramp and now she couldn't seem to fall. Her hooves were glowing with a flickering blue light.

“I'm gonna get a hangtime cutie mark!”

***

“Pinkie how did you even get a three-tier cake into the hospital?” Twilight looked at the cake. Her room had been decorated with blue and purple streamers and a banner that announced a 'getting-back-to-Ponyville-alive' party. There were enough balloons tied to her bed that Twilight was worried she'd float away.

“Oh that wasn't hard. The really hard part was sneaking the punchbowl in!” Pinkie giggled. “I probably shouldn't have filled it before bringing it over, but I only spilled a little.”

“Thanks, Pinkie,” Twilight laughed. She sipped at a cup of the punch she held with telekinesis. Her magic was back to normal after getting all the gunk off of her coat. “I just wasn't expecting a party so soon. I have no idea how you do it.”

Pinkie's expression changed and she looked at Twilight very seriously. “I have an emergency party supply stash that has the basics for any and all party contingencies. Careful planning and re-purposing materials is the secret of my ability to be the perfect party pony.”

Twilight blinked with surprise, her good wing rising up unconsciously. “You mean like you have checklists and plans and-” Pinkie giggled.

“No, silly! I just made that up!” Pinkie bounced around the bed. “Oh! I almost forgot!” She opened the closet, rolling out her party cannon. Twilight watched with trepidation as she aimed it at the door.

“What are you doing?” Pinkie shushed her, and the door opened. There was a blast, or a honk, or something between the two, and a burst of confetti hit the mares standing at the door. As the chaff cleared, it revealed a very surprised Trixie and Rainbow Dash, both now wearing party hats that hadn't been there a moment ago, with streamers wrapped around their necks. Trixie reflexively blew on the noisemaker that had found its way into her mouth.

Twilight couldn't hold back a laugh at the sight. Trixie spit the noisemaker out as she walked in. Dash immediately made her way over to the cake.

Trixie adjusted the party hat. “Not the stupidest thing I've ever put on my head. How's the wing?” Trixie asked, raising an eyebrow. Twilight could instantly tell two things from her tone. First that the fact Twilight had wings at all was still a sore point, and secondly that she hadn't really come by to ask after Twilight's health. On the other hoof, it wasn't too long ago when Trixie wouldn't have bothered trying to make small pleasantries.

“Feeling much better,” Twilight said. “I don't think I'll be up for any of Dash's flying lessons for a while, but that's probably for the best.”

“What's that supposed to mean?” Dash asked, her voice somewhat muffled by cake.

“Nothing!” Twilight tried to smile, and quickly changed the subject. “So I guess you're feeling better since you walked here from your room.”

“Something like that.” Trixie shot Dash a look. “I just wanted to make sure you were fine before I left. The last thing either of us needs is you getting really hurt because of me.”

“What do you mean, leaving?” Pinkie asked. “You just got here! We haven't even had your totally-not-evil-now party!” Pinkie bounced up to Trixie and hugged her. The unicorn froze, and when Pinkie let her go she was somehow holding a slice of cake and a cup of punch.

“How does she even do that?” Trixie asked. Twilight just shrugged.

“I stopped asking. But she's right. You shouldn't leave yet. I mean, things have gone well so far!” Trixie put the cake down on a chair.

“I don't see how you can say this is going well. I came back with you to apologize to people and you've ended up in the hospital! Most ponies would consider any trip that ends at the hospital to have gone extraordinarily poorly.”

“Yeah, but you did save my life a couple of times, which more than makes up for challenging me to magical duels. So that's one apology down already with flying colors! Plus, I have that weird ooze to examine later.” Trixie blushed a little at the compliment.

Dash said something, but it was blocked by thick icing. She started to cough, and Pinkie poured punch down her throat. “What I was trying to say was, two apologies down. We had a chance to talk on the way up.”

“And you don't need to apologize to me!” Pinkie said, then her smile went serious again. “Unless you miss the party I'm throwing for you. Then I'll hunt you down and you know what I'll do?” Trixie shook her head, backing up. “I'll find you when you least expect it and I'll-” She smiled brightly. “Throw a surprise party!”

Trixie sighed and sat down. There was a splat as the cake she'd just put down transformed into a messy and uncomfortable cushion.

***

“You made a list of everypony I should apologize to?” Trixie looked over Twilight's shoulder at the scroll. There were a lot of names but... somehow fewer than Trixie had expected. They were walking down Ponyville's main street. Trixie wasn't sure which of them drew more stares.

“It always helps me when I need to get something done,” Twilight explained. “If you make a list you'll never forget what you were doing. I learned that lesson at Princess Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns.” Trixie rolled her eyes at that.

“Please. All they did there was try to make everypony learn about the most inconsequential history.” Trixie snorted. “I remember I had a teacher there who would just go on for days – literally days without stopping – about Starswirl the Bearded.”

“Oh! Professor Vellium! I remember his lectures!” Twilight gasped. “I never knew you went to the same school I did!”

“Just because I'm terrible at magic doesn't mean I dropped out after magic kindergarten.” Trixie hesitated. “Though maybe I should have.”

“Stop being so hard on yourself. You're probably the most skilled unicorn in Ponyville.”

“I think that you're forgetting you're here-” Twilight coughed and raised her uninjured wing, the other one bound to her side with bandages. “Oh yes. Not a unicorn.” Trixie sighed.

“Trust me, it's not all it's cracked up to be.” Twilight turned a corner.

“I wouldn't know.” Trixie was silent for a moment, embarrassed at how petty that sounded. “I need to tell you something about my magic before-” Twilight stopped in front of a dress shop.

“Before what?” Twilight asked. Then the door opened and a pink foal with a purple and white mane stomped out as loudly as her tiny frame would allow.

“I need the dress done before Friday!” She shouted back. “Hmph. Trying to tell me there are other ponies ahead of me in line. The nerve!” The foal stormed off. Trixie watched her go.

“Who was that?” Trixie asked.

Twilight sighed. “Diamond Tiara. Sometimes I swear that foal's parents ruined her. I keep being tempted to hit them over the head with A Canterlot Guide to Disciplining Disrespectful Foals.” She turned back to Trixie. “What were you saying about-”

“Ah! Twilight! You simply must come in!” Rarity walked out, measuring tape draped around her neck and glasses still on. She had clearly been in the middle of working on something. “I recently acquired some marvelous new silks and I absolutely need to know how they look against your coat.”

“Why my coat?” Twilight asked. “I haven't ordered-”

“Oh I know you haven't, darling. But I will never let it be said that I didn't have something special waiting in the wings for our local Princess for this Hearts and Hooves day.”

Twilight blushed at that. “Rarity!” The Princess looked around to make sure no one was looking. Rumors spread like parasprites in Ponyville. “If you say things like that people are going to assume I've started dating somepony and then it'll turn into a big thing and it'll end with Pinkie throwing a wedding and everypony except me being surprised when no groom shows up!”

“That only happened once,” Rarity countered.

“Once was too many times!” Twilight took a deep breath. “Anyway...” She looked to the side where Trixie was standing. Rarity followed her gaze and gasped.

“You! You did that AWFUL thing with the- Oh I can't bring myself to say it. Those colors!”

“It was just a dress,” Twilight said. “And she came here to apologize.”

“Hmph. I won't just accept an apology. No, no. She is going to have to learn a lesson.” Trixie sighed an looked down. It had been too easy so far. There were going to be some ponies who would just never forgive her. “A lesson about style and the PROPER use of color!”

“Wait, what?” Trixie looked back up sharply.

***

“What's wrong with blue?” Trixie asked.

“You're already several shades of blue. It just wouldn't look right.” Rarity thought to herself, pulling a few more bolts of fabric from a high shelf. “Hm. Yes. I think this will do. Silver and black. Perhaps a little orange for just that bit of pop! Can you hold this for me?” Rarity floated a bolt over towards Trixie. The mare moved to grab it with a hoof.

“Don't move!” Rarity said, sharply. “Just use magic. I'm trying to picture the perfect shape and you moving doesn't help.”

“Ugh...” Trixie sighed and tried to focus. It was a simple telekinesis trick. She could do it. Her horn lit up and there was a burst of light and sound as the spell failed and the fabric dropped to the ground. She panted, feeling surprisingly strained. “Sorry. This is what I was trying to tell you before, Twilight. My magic hasn't been working right.”

“You're probably just out of practice, or you strained yourself taking out that timberwolf,” Twilight said, though she didn't look sure. “I mean it was a big tree, and you were able to move it.”

“That's true,” Trixie said, tilting her head. “But I couldn't even manage a simple spell to keep myself from falling, and-” She put more effort into moving the fabric. “-and I can't even budge silk!”

“If your magic is strained as badly as my wing that might be natural,” Twilight said. “And I was wondering how you and Dash managed to arrive together. Let me guess, another one of her last-minute saves?” Trixie nodded. Twilight smiled, then got hit in the head with measuring tape.

“Dear, you could at least lend me a hoof,” Rarity said.

***

An hour later, Trixie had to admit that she was looking good. The white unicorn really did know her stuff. The dress was fitted perfectly and the panels were the orange of a sunset and a velvety black that seemed as dark as the night sky. Silver threads traced out abstract patterns in the black like constellations, and on the whole it was the nicest dress Trixie had ever owned, not that it had much competition.

“Mm. Very nice.” Rarity examined her own work. “I don't get to work with a pony with a blue coat very often. Rainbow Dash rarely models for me, and the color of her mane makes it somewhat more difficult to put together a flattering ensemble.”

“Orange and blue seem to work well together,” Trixie commented. “I concede you have better taste than I do.”

“Well of course, dear. I do this for a living.” Rarity struck a pose. “Trust me, you'll see orange and blue all over the place by the time this season ends.”

Twilight coughed. “According to my schedule we should go and see Applejack next.”

“That is entirely the wrong sort of orange for this dress. If you're going to walk all the way out to Sweet Apple Acres you'll need-” Twilight raised an eyebrow and Rarity backed down from suggesting another outfit. “You'll need to get the dress off at any rate. Hold still and I'll just help you with that.”

Rarity focused and there was an odd shimmer to Trixie's coat for a moment before Rarity herself flew into the air, surrounded in the aura of her own magic. She slammed into the ceiling with enough force to bang her head and fell. Twilight reacted quickly and grabbed her before she could do some real damage.

“What was that?!” Trixie gasped.

“Ooh...” Rarity rubbed her horn. It had left a dent above her. “I've never had that happen before. I couldn't get a grip on you for some reason.”

“It was more like the magic just bounced off of Trixie.” Twilight walked around the mare in a circle, looking. “I've never heard of anything like that. Trixie, did you-”

“I didn't do anything, I promise!” Trixie tried to shrink back.

“I know you didn't. Your horn didn't even light up.” Twilight stopped and tried casting a simple magic-sensing spell. “Aha! It looks like you're... casting a magic detecting spell? What?”

“I think you're detecting yourself,” Rarity noted.

“Maybe if I take you to my lab we can...” Trixie gave Twilight a look. “...figure it out later. Right. Sorry.” She moved to help Trixie undress, pulling the elaborate dress off of her. “I don't know how you're going to get this back on without using magic.”

“Applejack always manages,” Rarity noted. “She hardly ever rips them anymore.”

“How often do you have her-” Twilight raised an eyebrow. Rarity laughed and pushed her away.

“Twilight don't you have somewhere to be? Just let me fold that up for you...” Rarity put the dress into a floral bag and floated it over to Trixie. The mare grabbed it in a hoof and carefully put it in a saddlebag.

“Thank you again,” Trixie said. “Sorry again about the, um. Bump on the head. How much do I owe you?”

“Think nothing of it. I was just glad I was able to correct your dress sense.” Rarity flipped her hair and waved a hoof. “I mean after all, that hat and cape you used to wear-” She stopped herself at a look from Twilight, demurely turning it into a small cough.

Trixie tried not to show that the remark had bothered her. “I'm not wearing them anymore. They were supposed to catch the eye when I was on stage, and I've had too much of that lately.” Trixie sighed. “Anyway, here. I should at least pay you for the materials and labor for those two dresses.” She took out a bag of bits and handed it to Rarity.

“Two dresses?”

“This one and the one you probably had to burn in disgust that I cursed you with.”

***

“I don't think this is a good idea.” Trixie frowned at Twilight. The two had stopped in the Sweet Apple Acres orchards before going to see Applejack.

“I just want to know what we're dealing with so I can look it up more accurately in the Library,” Twilight countered. “Go ahead and grab an apple from that tree.” She pointed to an apple tree. Trixie sighed and walked up to it, reaching up for an apple.

“Just give me a moment...” Trixie jumped for the apple, coming up short.

“I meant with magic, Trixie.” Twilight sighed. Trixie stopped and blushed.

“Sorry. Right. I just got into the habit of not using magic.” Trixie sat down and looked up at a small apple. It was probably even lighter than the fabric that Rarity had tried to get her to hold. Her horn started to glow and... fireworks went off around the apple. While they lit up the tree, they barely even moved the leaves.

“That wasn't quite what I meant,” Twilight said. “Does that happen when you try to cast any spell?”

“I haven't tried a lot of them.” Trixie shrugged, feeling defeated. “But so far, yes.”

“What in tarnation is goin' on out here?” Applejack said, running up to them. “Don't tell me you two decided to have yer little scuffle here! I heard that last blast from clear over on the south field!”

“It's nothing like that,” Twilight said, trying to laugh it off.

“I swear on Granny's bad hip if you two are gonna go tearin' up mah orchard...” Applejack frowned harder.

“We're not fighting!” Twilight yelled, taking a step back and giving ground to the earth pony. “I was just trying to help Trixie with a little problem.”

“A little problem.” Applejack sounded nonplussed.

Trixie sighed and stepped in. “My magic isn't working anymore. She was trying to see if I could even do something simple like pick an apple.”

“Y'all ever considered you could just buck the tree?” Applejack kicked the tree casually, and an apple fell out, rolling on the ground.

“It's not about getting the apple,” Twilight sighed.

“It's about not being able to do even the simplest things that any unicorn should manage.” Trixie kicked the tree in frustration, and a number of apples fell out, one landing on her head and impaling itself on her horn. The juice ran down her face and she sighed and cleaned it off.

“At least ya got a good kick to you.” Applejack offered, with a smile.

“I've been working at a rock farm for months. It does tend to toughen a pony up.” Trixie returned Applejack's smile. She could at least appreciate the honest comment. “Trixie doesn't mean to sound too proud, but she has been working herself to the bone.”

“Twilight you sure she ain't just a changeling? I don't think the Trixie that came to town last time knew much about work.”

“I'd been working on a rock farm before that, too!” Trixie defended. “Though... I know what you mean. I did try to take the quick and easy path, and it ended badly.”

“Aw, don't think much of it. Tell you what, if you stick around y'all can help when it's time to buck the apples down from these trees. Ah can always use the help and there ain't many ponies that can keep up with me. O' course that's only if ya fancy a challenge.”

“Hmph. Trixie can easily keep up with you! Rocks are far heavier than apples, as you know, and Trixie has been shoving them around for months!”

“Girls,” Twilight cleared her throat, smiling. Once she had their attention, she continued. “Trixie, why don't you put some of that confidence back into your magic. Maybe that's the problem. Just grab the apple and try as hard as you can.”

“I'll try but... stand back. When it goes wrong it's probably going to make more flashes and sparks.” Twilight and Applejack backed up a bit. Trixie focused on another apple. She just had to give it her all, like she did when the timberwolf was coming for her in the woods. Her horn flickered with light like a sputtering candle before it suddenly flared to bright light, and the tree tore out of the ground, soaring over the next hill and landing somewhere beyond.

“What in tarnation?!” Applejack gasped.

“I didn't mean to!” Trixie said, looking afraid. “There was nothing and then it was like something slipped and it just suddenly- Woosh!” She motioned with her hooves.

“You sound like Pinkie Pie,” Twilight said. Trixie frowned. “But that's a good result! Whatever your problem is, it isn't a lack of magical power, that's for sure. Though your aim could be better. How do you feel? Does it hurt or do you feel faint or tired?”

“No, not really,” Trixie shrugged. “...Should it hurt? Is not hurting bad? Am I dying?!”

“What? No! Probably not.” Twilight teetered between running away and stepping closer before erring on the side of being polite and moving to stand next to Trixie. “I'm sure you'll be fine. It's just some kind of strange magic-reflecting thing that's also preventing you from using magic and is proving very difficult to analyze.”

“Oh good,” Trixie said. “That's probably no more than even odds of killing me. How wonderful.” She sighed. “I guess we should go get the tree. Maybe if we put it back in the ground it'll be okay.” They started walking uphill towards where it had sounded like it had landed. Midway up, Big Mac intercepted them from the other direction.

“Don't worry, Big Mac,” Applejack said. She looked back at Twilight and Trixie. “Jes another one of the seemin'ly infinite magical accidents that happen around here. Especially with these two. I'm gonna have 'em put the tree back in a fruitbat's heartbeat.”

“Er...” Big Mac looked at them, then back the way he came, which wasn't the way the tree had gone. Applejack frowned. She recognized that expression.

“Trouble?”

“Eyup.”

***

Mud was geysering up as high as Applejack's barn. Not that the barn was anywhere near the north field where the mud was rapidly turning Sweet Apple Acres into Muddy Puddle Acres. It had already covered enough space to hold two cloudball matches and didn't seem to be running out of steam yet. Twilight Sparkle stopped at the edge of the spreading patch of mud and knelt down to look.

“I think this is the same kind of mud the train fell into!” Her horn started glowing and a patch of the mud tried to lift up before the glow sputtered and vanished. “Oh yeah. Definitely the same stuff. It's like it just eats magic.”

“Wonderful,” Trixie said. “Which means you're just as useless as I am.”

“If we don't do somethin' soon all we're gonna harvest here is mud pies! And ah think we can agree that ain't quite as appetizing as apples.” Applejack paced around. “What the hay is goin' on? We ain't never had this happen before!”

“It looks almost like a volcanic event. I read that sometimes there are small tectonic events called mudpots that somewhat resemble this.”

“Really, Twilight? A fumarole?” Trixie snorted. “Either the books you read are woefully incomplete or you completely forgot Professor Slate's lectures on geology. If it was a mudpot the mud would be boiling. This is cold and clammy. There's not even steam right at the center.”

“That's true,” Twilight conceded. “It could be indicative of a flood, but we haven't had enough water up in the mountains to force mud out of caves here. Not that there are a lot of caves here to start with. I can check with Rainbow Dash on the weather, but...” she shrugged.

“It could also be from a landslide or a sinkhole forming at the other end of a cavern system and causing a pressure blowout,” Trixie suggested. “It's possible if it was far away enough from town that no one will have noticed the shaking.”

“Look all this theorizin is wonderful an' all, but I have a farm to work here and this ain't gettin' better on its own. Are these theories of yours actually gonna help you keep that muck from turnin th' north field into a swamp?”

“Well I think that understanding a problem is the first step towards a solution and...” Twilight kicked at the dirt. “No. Probably not in this case.”

“Of course not,” Trixie sighed. “You can't reason with geology. Has anypony tried just shoving a boulder into the hole that mud's coming from?”

“We ain't exactly a rock farm. We'd have to go miles to get anythin' bigger than a pebble.”

“There has to be something we can use to plug it..” Trixie thought.

“I know! We'll use that tree you uprooted!” Twilight smiled. “I know it's not exactly a boulder, but it might plug it long enough to find a more permanent solution.

“I suppose it's better than nothing,” Trixie agreed.

***

“Why are trees so heavy?!” Trixie demanded. Twilight had managed to get it near the slime oozing out of the ground, but the rest had to be done purely on hoofpower. Some kind of interference from the slime was making it impossible for Twilight to keep carrying it. The alicorn was watching from a safe distance to avoid getting the muck on her, in case somepony needed emergency magicking.

“Ah thought you said you were tough!” Applejack retorted as they shoved the tree towards the mud geyser. “This shouldn't even be a thang for somepony who's so proud of shovin' rocks around all day!” Trixie grunted and pushed harder, hooves slipping in the uncertain terrain. Big Mac remained quiet, mostly because he was pulling from the other side with a rope hitched around the tree.

“I didn't say it was too heavy!” Trixie retorted. “Trixie can keep up just fine!” She shoved harder, and the tree jerked free from where it had been stuck for a moment, the mud making a sickly sound as the branches were freed.

“You're almost there!” Twilight yelled.

“Yer doin' a lot better than that cheerleader o'er there,” Applejack muttered quietly. “Ah can't believe she tried to make a list for proper procedures on tree movin'.”

“She probably read it in some horticulture book.” Trixie kept shoving. Now that it was free they were making good progress. “However Trixie doesn't think that wrapping up the root ball is particularly important for the application we're going to be putting this tree too.”

“Twilight's just tryin' to help in her own way. It ain't like she thinks she's too good to get her hooves dirty helpin.”

“I know,” Trixie said, mollified. She hadn't meant to let resentment creep into her voice. “Sorry. I just- get frustrated sometimes. Everything I do lately ends up with me being covered in mud!”

“Ah'm pretty sure that's jes farm life for ya.” Applejack smiled. “If it bothers ya that much you could have Rarity make you some little frilly boots and a raincoat.”

“They'd end up destroyed within an hour and then I'd have even more to apologize for!” Trixie stumbled, almost falling. Her hoof was stuck deep in the mud. “Ugh! I always get stuck in muck like this. I have no idea how you earth ponies can keep from sinking in up to your flanks!”

“Practice. D' ya need a hoof?”

“Just give me a moment...” Trixie pulled harder, and her horn glimmered. She didn't notice, but Applejack did, the orange pony's eyes going wide.

“Ah, Trixie-”

“Just a little more...” Trixie's horn burst into light, and her coat flashed with a mirror sheen for a fraction of a second before the mud around her erupted, splattering away from her and leaving her free and surrounded by an almost perfect circle of grass. Even her coat was clean. Twilight looked shocked, but was too far away to run over and fuss and make all sorts of statements about magical impossibility.

“Well I suppose that's one way to do it. But you could be a mite more careful with your aim.” Applejack's front was entirely covered by a splatter of mud, and her hat had fallen into the muck. She picked it up and shook it off before putting it back on, only slightly more dirty than usual.

“Um... Heh. Sorry about that.” Trixie kicked at the grass sheepishly. Applejack rolled her eyes.

“Come on ya little mudslinger. We still got a bit to go.” The three ponies got the tree right next to thy geyser, which still wasn't showing any signs of slowing or stopping. The mud wasn't just flying into the air, it was seeping out along the edges too, creating a standing wave as high as Trixie's flank.

“What now?” Trixie asked. Applejack looked at it and thought.

“If'n we had a bunch of pegasuses we could hitch ropes around th' tree and have them lift it in. But we ain't got that right now so we gotta figure somethin' else out.” She looked at Trixie and rubbed her chin. “Y'all ripped this tree outta th' ground. Think you could put it back in th' same way?”

“That's-” Trixie was about to say impossible. But she had thrown the tree nearly a country mile, and even if Twilight's magic wasn't working, hers clearly was. Or at least it wasn't working any more poorly than before. “Just stand back. I can't control it very well and if I kill you with an apple tree it will be so wonderfully ironic that I'll probably be lynched instead of thrown out of town.”

“No arguments on that account.” Applejack nodded to Big Mac and the two got a safe distance away. Not that anypony had a clue what the safe distance was. Trixie took a deep breath and pushed at the tree with all her strength. And absolutely nothing happened. The mud didn't even burble. Her magic was acting as dead as Twilight's.

“What am I doing differently?” Trixie asked herself. She'd just moved enough of the ooze to fill a small shed and now she couldn't even get a leaf to flutter. It wasn't a matter of effort. She was trying just as hard as before. The only difference was... “Last time I was trying to move myself!” Her eyes went wide. “And then it moved everything around me because it bounced off!”

Trixie considered her options for a moment then tried to push herself away from the tree. There was a creaking and groaning sound as the wood started to move, but it was coming to her more easily now. It felt backwards, trying to shove herself away from the tree, and the force was far from precise, but she felt like she at least had a little control. She cranked it up a few notches (from a solid three on the Trixie-ometer to a seven) and the tree rose up.

“Trixie has it!” She crowed happily. Then she almost lost it. She might have had control over the amount of power but it still felt like it was as slick as ice, even the slightest change of force having a huge effect. She carefully maneuvered the tree into the geyser then shoved down, planting it firmly into the hole, driving it almost crown-deep in the soil. The mud slowed and stopped. “Yes! Trixie did it! The Great and-” She stopped herself and coughed. “I mean, um-”

Applejack walked up and slapped her on the back. “Nice work! Ah'll have to ask Dash ta keep the rain outta this field for a bit so all this muck can dry up, an' well have to replant a bit, but ain't worse than some of the floods we've had in the spring.”

Trixie!” Twilight was hopping at the edge of the patch of mud.

“Ah think you'd better go before she starts with her crazy worryin' and ends up almost destroyin' Ponyville via paranoia an' overthinkin'.” She looked at Twilight. "Jes try not to let her blow up the town."

Author's Note:

I've got the next few chapters penned (which is why I can confidently use the tags I've used), but I want to give them another pass with editing before I post them up. I've already completely scrapped one chapter that was a bit down the line and rewritten it from scratch because it wasn't working out, and to properly edit anything I've written myself I find it's good to take a few days to get some distance.

This chapter is mostly just about Trixie starting to forgive herself, but there's that strange ooze again. It's probably nothing serious.