• Published 10th Jul 2011
  • 3,454 Views, 22 Comments

Trix of the Trade - Miyajima

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Ignoble Thief

Trixie woke up. The first thing she noticed as her eyes snapped open was the ache in her back. Evidently during the night she’d turned onto it and stayed there, which was a position not exactly comfortable for ponies at the best of times. Turning onto her side, her brain started following her body’s lead and filtered through the usual early morning thoughts: Where am I? What day is it? What am I doing in this bed? Who is that colt sleeping on the floor over there and why is he sleeping on the floor over there?

Slowly, it came back to her. She was still in Appleloosa. She’d been taken ill and must’ve been put into the bed. The colt was... something to do with leeches. She glanced at his cutie mark, trying hard to draw out his name from her scrambled thoughts and memories. She was still staring at him with that blank look of the recently awoken when Leechcraft himself began to stir. Yawning and running his tongue over his chapped lips, he turned around to see Trixie looking at his flanks, and couldn’t help but grin. Trixie broke out of her trance almost immediately, and blushed, despite herself.

“Well then, still alive I see, good start.” Leechcraft said, stretching and lifting himself up off the floor.

“No thanks to you!” Trixie snapped back at him. Leechcraft looked a little taken aback. “If you hadn’t kept your poisons next to your salads none of this would’ve happened!” She continued, glaring at the earth pony and trying her best to hide her red cheeks. At this, Leechcraft’s look of shock melted into a wide grin.

“Guess that proves you’re feelin’ better alright.” He turned and started searching through the cupboards to prepare breakfast. Trixie was feeling hungry, again, having lost what was left of the previous day’s meals.

She was grateful for Leechcraft’s intervention the previous night, and was cursing herself for being such a foal as to eat a strange plant she didn’t recognize. Not that she’d dare show it, of course. The Great and Powerful Trixie was not accustomed to being in debt to anyone, and she didn’t plan on starting anytime soon. To take her mind off things, she set to work brushing her bedmane, which, as she saw in the mirror levitating in front of her, was quite a sight.

Leechcraft was skillfully tossing plates onto the table with the air of somepony who’s spent a lot of time practising the trick (and even longer cleaning up). and looking for any available greens. He still had a couple of jars left of salad stuff, he knew that much, but there wasn’t anything to... spice it up with. It’d have to be lettuce with a side order of lettuce. As the cupboard door swung shut, he took a moment to look at it more carefully. Where it’d been lop-sided and rough the day before, Trixie had straightened it and smoothed it over like she had the floor. The whole caravan looked better, for that matter. Part of him supposed that it was Trixie’s way of thanking him for taking her in and giving her a place to sleep and eat, but the cynic in him believed she had probably done it for her own comfort as much as his. After all, he’d only taken her in because she was useful to him, hadn’t he?

He turned his attention back to breakfast, and was soon finished. He sat down at one side of the table and waited while Trixie was still struggling with the knots in her mane, oblivious. After a few minutes, he coughed into his hoof.

“It’s, uh. Gettin’ cold...er.” He said, causing Trixie to turn. She rolled her eyes and put the brush and mirror back down, and sat herself opposite Leechcraft. They both ate in silence, and it took Trixie some effort to force it down after all she’d been through the evening before.

When they’d both finished, Leechcraft cleaned and put the plates away while Trixie dressed herself in her new clothes. She spent several minutes just tilting the hat back and forth until she was satisfied it sat right. Leechcraft, by comparison, had fallen asleep in his waistcoat, and just tugged on it a few times with his teeth to get the worst of the creases out. Leechcraft was the first to break the silence.

“I’ll be needin’ to prepare my stuff for sellin’. I got some left over from yesterday, that’s them bags over there. Obviously that ain’t gonna go down so well, so I’ll mix it together with the stuff I brought in last night. I did a lot of the work when you were asleep, so it’s just a matter of packin’ ‘em now.” Leechcraft waved a hoof at the sprigs of herbs dangling from the caravan’s ceiling. Trixie looked up at them. They just looked like withered, dead plants to her, but she had learnt firsthand that Leechcraft probably knew what he was doing when it came to flora.

She spared a moment to ponder how in Celestia’s mane he’d managed to tie the little bundles to the beams, and was slightly disappointed when she realised he had no intention of taking them down again. Instead it seemed that he was taking similar-looking plants from another container, crushing them under his hoof, and scraping the pieces into a bag. Since he hadn’t asked her for any help, she just continued watching with mild interest. She didn’t often see earth ponies at work, and it was odd seeing Leechcraft perform all these seemingly intricate tasks with nothing more than his forehooves and mouth.

He took about an hour to complete the task to his own satisfaction, mixing up tonics (barely more than bits of leaf tossed into water) and preparing powders. He would occasionally start talking whichever herb or flower he was currently working with, explaining their uses to Trixie, or the folklore surrounding them. She was quite surprised to learn that some herbs had different effects on the three different types of ponies, as Leechcraft was explaining to her as he worked with the Five-Pointed Hornshine.

“Only works on unicorns, this ‘un. Give to a pegasus or an earth pony an’ it won’t do a thing. Just tastes a little bitter. But to unicorns? Over time it helps strengthen your horn and I’ve heard some herbalists say it can even improve your magic, but I ain’t in a position to prove or deny that.” He said, crushing the leaves and putting them into bottles. Trixie levitated a stem from the small pile and looked suspiciously at it.

“It’s not... Poisonous, is it?” She said at last. Leechcraft smirked.

“Missy, all you’ll be gettin’ from eatin’ too much of that is a bit of a headache. ‘Sides, you think I’d be sellin’ it if it was poisonous?”

Trixie frowned.

“... Then why were you keeping that other plant here? The one I...” She faltered.

“Like I said, differen’ plants do differen’ things to differen’ ponies. The one you dined on last night is commonly known to unicorns as ‘magebane’, but to earth ponies and pegasi it’s nothin’ more than a painkiller, albeit one of the stronger ones. I use it myself when I’ve been pullin’ this thing all day.” He rolled his head, indicating the caravan.

“Doesn’ do squat to us, but with unicorns, it messes ‘em up somethin’ fierce. No one’s really sure why, but some of the bigwig doctors up at Canterlot guess it has somethin’ in it that interferes with a unicorn’s natural magic somehow, an’ the results are usually fatal. Worst you’ll get on a pegasus is that they’ll lose feelin’ in their wings for a few hours, but that’s rare. To us earth ponies it’s harmless. Hay, we even call it ‘white restwell’.”

Trixie blinked a few times, and looked back at the hornshine she was still holding. She took one leaf off it and nibbled on it. Leechcraft was right, it tasted bitter, but she didn’t start having any adverse reactions to it, so she finished off the rest of the leaf. Leechcraft snatched away the rest of the sprig in his teeth and put it back in the pile with the rest. After he’d finished, he looked out the window, peering at the sky behind the nearby houses.

“S’gettin’ on for late mornin’ now, I reckon. I’ll pull the caravan back inta the main street an’ we can set up shop. Then with your magic, an’ my dashin’ good looks an charisma, we’ll be takin’ more bits than we know what t’do with.” He winked at Trixie and swept outside to begin hitching himself up. Trixie briefly pondered staying inside and letting him pull her, but decided to at least lighten the load a little, and stepped out after him. She didn’t help him with the harness; again, she was quite interested in watching how the earth pony managed to strap himself in without the aid of magic. She did notice a few of the town’s residents glaring at Leechcraft from the windows of their homes, however. She was glad that they didn’t seem to be directing any of that hostility towards her, but she supposed that with her new clothes she just blended in with the townsfolk.

Leechcraft either didn’t notice (or, thought Trixie, didn’t care), and started forcefully walking back down the side-street, dragging the caravan behind him. It was a slow start to pull it out of the ruts it had worn itself into, but once onto the now dry earth, it rolled along at a respectable pace. Trixie walked behind, looking up and around at the buildings. Like everything else in Appleloosa, they were no-nonsense wooden constructions, with few (if any) frills. Any paint or decoration seemed reserved solely for the fronts of the shops, where there was a little here and there to highlight the more elaborate wood carving and identify each store.

The caravan turned slowly into the main street, and Leechcraft pulled it to the same place he’d set up the day before. The other shop carts in the street had either sold most of their goods or were in the process of packing up, but when the ponies looked up and saw Leechcraft, they all began glaring at him.

Leechcraft had just unhitched himself from the cart when he noticed a crowd had begun to gather around him. He took in the angry expressions and murmured threats and gulped, looking around for Trixie, to find she had vanished without a trace. Swallowing again, he put on his most disarming smile, but the sweat showing on his brow gave away his fear.

“N-now, gents, one at a time, I’ll be finished settin’ up in a moment...” He began, before a well-aimed carrot struck him in the side of the head and knocked his hat clean off.

“We don’ want none o’ yer tricks, yer quack!” A voice shouted from somewhere in the throng. There were cries of agreement as more ponies armed themselves with leftover produce and began pelting Leechcraft with all manner of food-based projectiles. He was fending off a hail of unripe apples when there was the unmistakable ‘splutch’ of an Apple Pie hitting the ground.

The crowd turned and parted immediately, hiding or eating the incriminating evidence of the attack. Sheriff Silverstar strode right up to Leechcraft, ignoring the other ponies. He glowered at the cowering earth pony for a few moments, before lowering his head down to him.

“Leechcraft... Ah thought Ah told you not t’show yer face ‘round these parts again.” The Sheriff said in a low tone. Leechcraft laughed nervously.

“W-well, eh-heh, y’know how it is, Sheriff, pony’s gotta make a livin’, righ’?” He said, smiling as innocently as he could when he knew there was no way out.

“Deputy!” The Sheriff yelled, lifting his head and looking through the crowd. There were a few seconds of awkward silence, but then a grey pony with a large hat and a mouthful of carrots was nudged forward. Sheriff Silverstar narrowed his eyes at his deputy, who spat out the carrots and gave a mock salute with his hoof.

“Deputy, take this low-life t’the cells. We’ll decide what ta do about ‘is property later.” Sheriff Silverstar ordered, glancing over at Leechcraft’s caravan. The deputy duly stepped forward and produced a pair of hoof-cuffs from his belt, swiftly latching them around Leechcraft’s front pair of legs. Leechcraft blinked, surprised, before being hoisted briskly to his hooves by a yank on the chain.

As the deputy led Leechcraft away and the crowd dispersed, Trixie emerged from her hiding place between two closely-built shops. Her first thought was to leave, immediately. She could make it to the next town in a quick day’s trot, and from there...

From there... Do what?

She furrowed her brow. For that matter, she didn’t even know where the next town was. She glanced at Leechcraft’s caravan, briefly picturing herself once again as The Great and Powerful Trixie, standing on a stage in front of the little mobile home, dazzling Appleloosa and every town beyond with her magic.

She sighed, and looked down at the ground. She couldn’t bring herself to do it. As much as she hated to admit it, she felt... indebted to the earth pony. He had saved her life, and more importantly, given her a home, shelter, food and work.

“So he’s a generous crook,” She thought to herself, “but he’s still a crook.”

Then her mind wound back to everything she’d done since she left Ponyville, disgraced. She’d stolen, she’d lied, she’d tricked, and committed acts of all-around questionable legality.

“... And here I am, justifying stealing his home, by telling myself he’s just as bad as me.”

She looked up, determined, and tilted her hat with her hoof. She grinned to herself.

“He’s a crook...

… And so is Trixie.”