• Published 10th Jul 2011
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Trix of the Trade - Miyajima

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Flowers and Favours

There were times when Leechcraft wished he was able to levitate objects like a unicorn. In fact, magic of any kind would’ve been nice. Not that he resented being born an Earth Pony; after all, it was the Earth Pony’s special knack with all things natural that led him to find his path in life, even if he did tend to deviate from it more often than not. It was just that, after the sixth time of opening his saddlebag, pulling out the tome with his teeth, setting it gently on the ground, flicking the pages carefully with a hoof until he found the right entry, then picking it up and putting it back into the bag that was barely big enough to hold it; he really began to envy the unicorn’s ability to make these little things in life just that much easier.

Especially since it had been rubbed in his face all afternoon with that blue unicorn filly he’d made the mistake of employing. Well, was ‘employing’ the right word? She had, in the space of a few hours, kicked him out of his own home, somehow got him to buy her a new wardrobe, and now he was out here in the plains trying to gather what herbs there were to be found, whilst she redecorated his caravan to her tastes. When he looked at it that way, though, he couldn’t help but chuckle. He guessed this was what it was like to be married.

He stopped in front of another cactus and looked at it. The torrential rain of the previous day had made his journey to Appleloosa a long and arduous one, pulling his caravan through what had suddenly become several inches of mud, but, almost as compensation, it made today’s task a lot easier. A little water was all it needed for the dry, dusty and dead plains of Appleloosa to burst into life again, and the cactus hid in its shade several different plants, all coming out into flower. He knelt down on his forelegs to look at them more closely. Years of experience meant he was able to identify nearly all of them without having to resort to the aggravating task of pulling out his copy of Super Naturals once more. There was the Plainswort bush, the Dusty Mare’s Tongue, Yellow Hoofswell, Five-Pointed Hornshine... But one plant in particular caught his eye. Carefully untangling the trailing stems and leaves, he uncovered a small, unremarkable-looking plant hidden under the shade of its taller neighbours. Plains Mint! A rare find in the rocky soils of Appleloosa. Whilst it had no real medicinal use, it was Leechcraft’s favourite flavour of mint, and one of the ingredients in his cordials. He smiled happily and carefully bit it off at the stem, placing it into his other saddlebag.

He gathered up the other plants as well, mentally checking off what they were all used for. Plainswort Leaf: bitter, and left an awful taste in the mouth. Added to water, it made a convincing “medicine” for just about anything. After all, all medicines tasted bitter, or so common belief went, and if you thought it was helping whatever ailed you... Well. In some ways, it was better than the real thing. Dusty Mare’s Tongue: another fairly useless weed that, after being dried and crushed, gave off a strong smell that was only useful for keeping away flies. However, if you told the customer that the scent helped to clear the lungs and fight off coughs, then what they didn’t know didn’t hurt them. More importantly; what they didn’t know netted you a hoof-full of bits.

Yellow Hoofswell was just a nice flower to look at, bland-tasting and giving off no scent. It was an old Equestrian belief that the plant had healing properties related to the hooves, due to its rather distinctive, hoof-like shape. Like many herbalists, Leechcraft knew that it had no healing properties whatsoever, but old beliefs ran strong in places like Appleloosa, and he knew to capitalize on it. Finally, there was Five-Pointed Hornshine. That was one plant that actually did do something... Except that it only affected unicorns. Hornshine, true to its name, helped stimulate the growth of new keratin over a unicorn’s horn, covering over scratches and chips and giving the horn a reflective lustre if used regularly.

Satisfied that his little harvest would gather enough bits to feed him and his ‘guest’, Leechcraft put the last of the plants into his saddlebags and started back towards Appleloosa. By now it was early evening, the sun beginning its journey below the horizon and tingeing the sky orange. Leechcraft walked at a slow pace, taking in the scenery. He wanted to live free, out in the wild lands of Equestria, where the weather didn’t have to be scheduled by pegasi, where the plants grew without being cultivated, and where animals roamed wherever they liked.. The neat and ordered fields of Ponyville and the other towns and cities of central Equestria felt dead to him, lacking that true spark of life. He knew, before long, the settlers’ expanding influence in Appleloosa would push back the wilds once more, and in time the plains and canyons would just become more fields and meadows, choked of the very thing that made them once beautiful.

“Then I’ll jus’ hitch up and move to the next border towns.” He thought to himself as he entered Appleloosa. The workers were returning from the orchard after their day’s tending to the trees and pathways. Most of them returned to their homes, but Leechcraft saw a few groups enter The Salt Block for their daily nip. He felt like a little salt himself, but knew he’d hardly be a welcome sight in the saloon after the morning’s fiasco. Tomorrow, on the other hoof, should everything go according to plan, he’d have enough bits to buy every pony in Appleloosa a lick.

He turned down a side street and followed it through to the residential area of Appleloosa. He had moved the caravan here before leaving, since it had been getting unwanted attention sitting in the main street. Here, with the signs taken down and hidden among the other carriages, caravans and carts, it blended in just fine.

Then he heard the muted explosion and saw clouds of billowing, sparkling smoke spilling from the blown-open windows of his mobile home. Cursing all unicorns, he galloped the last few feet to see what damage Trixie had wrought.

~~~
Leechcraft and Trixie had just returned from the clothes store, where she had decided that the hat wasn’t quite enough, and bought herself a jacket and neckerchief on Leechcraft’s tab. He had grumbled a bit at the price, but eventually gave in.

He had dropped Trixie off at the caravan, explaining that he was going out beyond the town’s limits to see what herbs he could find to sell. In the meantime, she was free to do what she liked, and she decided to spend that time sprucing up her new abode. She had been able to tell from the moment she first laid eyes on it that it was a bachelor colt’s caravan. The wood was rough and full of splinters, the furniture (or what passed for it) was in disrepair, and it generally looked a complete mess. Whilst Trixie wasn’t particularly houseproud, she had her standards.

She’d spent the next hour or two cleaning and tidying, using magic to stitch the carpet back together and smoothing out the worst of the wood with her hooves. The end result was still a mess, but at least it was a mess she felt she could live in, for now. She sat down on the carpet and put her head on her crossed legs, staring at the wall. Now she came to think about it, she wasn’t sure what she planned to do. She’d offered her services in magic to an earth pony she’d never met in return for a place to sleep and a chance to earn some bits. Was that a wise decision?

… Probably not, she conceded, but it kept her stomach full and her mind occupied, which was the main thing. Besides, she was sure that if he... tried anything, she was more than capable of holding her own.

While she was still concentrating on the ‘occupying the mind’ part, it became rapidly apparent that her stomach was far from full. It was getting on for early evening now, and all she’d eaten that day was a stolen apple and a light salad.

Getting up from the floor, she trotted across to the cupboards and searched through them for anything suitably edible. Nosing through, she found an airtight jar that looked much like the one Leechcraft had prepared lunch from. Lifting the lid with her magic, she looked at the leaves and blooms inside. They looked quite appetizing; the leaves were glossy, the petals were thick and waxy-looking, and the smell was quite overpowering, reminiscent of a full field of wildflowers in the height of summer. She guessed that this was just a pre-prepared salad, and took a plate from the cupboard, tipping the contents of the jar onto it. The strong scent began to permeate the room as the leaves and petals fell onto the plate, making her feel a little dizzy, but she chalked it up to hunger and dug in, not stopping until the last of the petals had been licked up.

That took the edge off her hunger, at least. She realised that she still felt light-headed, but now supposed it was the strong, lingering scent of the flowers. She levitated the empty plate off the table and placed it in the small sink.

… At least, that was the intention. Noting a distinct lack of plates in sinks, she turned back around and saw the plate still stubbornly sitting on the table. Frowning, she concentrated and tried again. A spark flew off her horn as the plate wobbled and rose a few centimetres, before falling back to the table. Trixie felt her dizziness getting worse, and it seemed that the scent of the flowers had almost become stronger, but she ignored it and focused completely on the plate that was apparently mocking her. Attempting the simple spell once more, she struggled to even bring a single spark of magic to bear against the plate. Her head was beginning to spin, and small floating specks were appearing in her vision. She felt stifled, and briefly thought of opening the window, but her quick temper overrode her more logical train of thought, and her attention snapped back to the plate that was arrogantly defying her. She set her legs apart, grounding herself, and closed her eyes tight, concentrating as hard as possible on the offending piece of tableware. Slowly, she felt the magic building up in her horn, but was now struggling to ignore her head’s spinning. She wobbled, lost her footing, and fell onto her side, the pent-up magical energy erupting in a cloud of chaotic, swirling smoke. The burst of energy blew open the windows, and she heard the galloping of hooves towards the caravan. Her vision swam and blurred, lights flashed in front of her eyes, and her head reeled like a boat in a storm. The last thing she saw before slipping into unconsciousness was Leechcraft bursting in through the door.

~~~
She awoke some time later, and instantly regretted doing so. Her stomach churned, and her first instinct was to roll over onto her side and retch. The half-digested remains of the glossy leaves and waxy petals were swiftly caught in a bucket that appeared before her as if by magic. Once she had stopped vomiting, she looked up through bleary eyes to see where she was. As her vision cleared, the shape of Leechcraft’s face came into view, wearing a concerned expression that vanished almost the instant she registered its existence.

“Good, you’re still with us. Ain’t gone off t’join the dead jus’ yet. Open your mouth.” The command bypassed all higher thought, and Trixie obliged. A hoof-full of small, jagged-edged leaves was stuffed in immediately.

“Chew.” Again, Trixie complied. They had a dry, slightly spicy taste to them, and her stomach heaved at it, but she forced herself to swallow the leaves after chewing them thoroughly. Her head slumped back onto what she realised must be the bed. Now she was properly awake, she was able to take in her surroundings, and saw she was still in Leechcraft’s caravan.

She felt awful. He head was pounding, and her horn ached, an unusual sensation normally only felt after the casting of a particularly difficult spell. She still felt sick to her stomach, and it seemed almost every part of her body was screaming at her. She clenched her eyes shut and curled up in response to the pain.

“You’re lucky, missy. There was enough poison in them flowers t’kill a draft pony. Fortunately they weren’t fresh-picked, so it was less dangerous. Still, maybe that’ll teach y’not t’eat plants y’don’t recognize, hrm?” Leechcraft’s voice cut through the haze of pain, and Trixie opened her eyes again, lifting her head up to look at him. She tried to say something, but couldn’t form the words. Exhausted from just that effort, she slumped back into her curled up position.

“You jus’ sleep it off... You’ll be back on your feet in the mornin’.” Leechcraft said, looking at Trixie with a sympathetic gaze, at least now he was sure she wasn’t looking at him. He glanced at the contents of the bucket, the strong scent of the poisonous flowers now mixed with the stench of bile and stomach acid. He wrinkled his nose in disgust as he took the bucket’s handle in his mouth and poured it out on the dirt outside the caravan. He looked up at the sky, gazing at the waning moon overhead. It had been early evening when he came back to the caravan to find Trixie lying unconscious on the floor. The strong scent lingering inside was enough to tell him instantly what had happened; Trixie had obviously mistaken one of his merchandise jars for food and helped herself. He’d put her into the bed and kept watch over her for hours, muttering prayers to Luna and the rising moon, despite himself, that she would wake up again. It was now well past midnight, but she had pulled through the worst of it and her body had done the rest. He said a quiet word of thanks to the moon, went back inside and put the bucket away.

“I’ll jus’ sleep over this side of the caravan t’night. Just in case y’need me.” He said, although he wasn’t sure if Trixie heard him. Her breathing was slow and steady; the herb he’d given her was well known for inducing a restful sleep. Sighing to himself he laid down on the floor, noting that the carpet was in a better state than he remembered it being, and the floor felt smoother. He smirked as he laid down his head; now they’d both done each other another favour.