• Published 4th Nov 2011
  • 5,284 Views, 104 Comments

Trixcord - RTStephens



Two grandstanders. Only one horn.

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The Remake

“Well, now what?” Applejack asked.

The question was directed to no pony in particular. She, like the rest of her friends, were resting in a private room in Canterlot Castle, courtesy of Princess Celestia. It had been decided that it was too late to go chasing after their new target and had come back to get some much needed sleep. In the morning they’d all be off once again, so Applejack and her friends were taking this time to relax before getting back to work.

“Obviously, we need to get to Manehattan,” Rarity spoke up as she luxuriated in the most comfortable set of cushions she had ever laid on. On either side of her were two handsome stallion servants, each of them taking turns feeding her grapes from a golden bowl set beside her. If being this pampered was common place within the circle of the nobility, it made her seriously consider giving Prince Blueblood a second chance. Perhaps all the big lug needed was a woman’s guiding influence and he’d mend his ways?

From across the room and lying on her own cushion, Twilight Sparkle sighed as she studied a map of the country spread out in front of her. “Easier said than done. There are several ways to get to the city from here and there’s no knowing what route Trixie took.”

“Who cares how we get there as long as we get there,” Rainbow Dash said, lounging on a hammock of clouds hanging from the ceiling. She never would have thought clouds could get any more comfortable than the ones she normally slept on, but whatever magic Celestia used to create this bed had everything before this beat. It was taking considerable effort not to doze off.

“Have you ever been to Manehattan?” Applejack asked up at the pegasus. When Rainbow lazily shook her head, the farm pony continued, “Then you have no idea just how big and crowded that place is. Trixie could come in and walk right by us and we’d never know it. It’d take a miracle ta find her then.”

Fluttershy, blushing furiously at receiving the massage to end all massages to her back and wings from a mare servant, moaned out, “Then what do we do?” She groaned as the servant hit a spot that sent pleasant shivers down her spine. The specialists at the Ponyville spa could learn a thing or two from this master! “Oh! A little to the left! Um... if you would, please.”

“I know! I know!” Pinkie Pie squealed, tearing herself away from all the goodies that she had piled before her due to her finding the room service button. “We could-”

“We are not throwing Trixie a party!” her fellows interrupted.

“Aw, am I that obvious?” Pinkie pouted. “Must be in a rut.” She decided to drown her woes by plunging her entire head into a giant stack of gumdrops.

“Listen girls,” Twilight said a few minutes later. She levitated up her map and displayed it up for everypony to see. “According to the map, there are two ways to get to the city by hoof from here. Each has a few villages and settlements that Trixie would need to stop at to get resupplied. I think it’s best if we split up. It’ll help our chances of finding and watching her. Each group takes a different path. If one team finds her first, they’ll send a signal to the other to let them know.”

“And how does one team contact the other when they’ve found Trixie?” Rarity brought up. “Unless we fetch Spike, then we have no way to communicate.”

“Glad you asked!” Twilight beamed and held up a pair of clear spherical crystals no larger than a marble. “These are called Find-Me Crystals. They are enchanted to help ponies find each other in case they get lost or are bad with directions. Each group will carry one. When one group manages to find Trixie, they’ll activate theirs which will activate the other, no matter how far apart they are. As the two crystals get closer, they begin to pulse with light. The closer they get, the faster the pulse gets. All you have to do is travel in the direction of the pulse and you’ll find the other one, which the other group will have.” Twilight levitated one of the crystals over to Rarity, who took hold of it with her own magic once it got close enough. “You hang onto this one, Rarity. Only a unicorn can turn it on.”

“So I guess that means that we’ll be on separate teams,” the fashionista surmised. She looked over the Find-Me Crystal now laying in her hoof. “How do I get it to work?”

“Don’t worry, I’ll show you. But first, I think we should figure out who’s going with me and who’s going with Rarity.”

A few minutes later and the teams were decided. Twilight, Pinkie and Rainbow would be one group while Rarity, Applejack and Fluttershy would be the other. They chose which path they would take, not that there was any preference for or against either of them. Once that was done, Twilight demonstrated how the crystals worked and what to look for when it was turned on. With preparations complete, the six ponies finally called it a night and tucked themselves in. Tomorrow would be a busy day.

---------------------------------------------------

The sound of snoring woke her up.

Slowly and groggily, Trixie opened her eyes. She peered through her lids and saw that it was still night out. She wearily craned her neck a bit and managed to get a glimpse of the moon. Judging by its position, only a few hours had gone by since she had turned in. Trixie huffed at having her rest interrupted, especially with how much travel she still had. She mumbled a curse at herself for making so much noise and curled back up to get a few more winks in.

It was a few moments later when she realized that the snoring hadn’t stopped. And it wasn’t coming from her.

Trixie opened her eyes completely, now fully awake. Nothing was in her field of view. Swallowing through a suddenly dry throat, the unicorn slowly inched her head up. The sounds of whatever was breathing through its slumber were deep and long and seemingly coming from everywhere. Trixie wasn’t an expert in animals by any means but even she knew that whatever was causing this level of snoring was something large. Very large. Fearing to find out what it was but unable to stop herself, she nervously turned her head around.

Her gaze met a wall of blue, translucent fur with little star marks sprinkled throughout.

Trixie knew what it was instantly. She would never forget the beast that had ruined her career, not to mention nearly eating her in a cranky rage. Eyes widening in terror, she looked up and beheld the giant snout of an Ursa Minor, sleeping next to her in contentment.

The unicorn shut her eyes tightly. This is a dream. This is a dream. This is a dream. This is a dream! she repeated in her head. Trixie snapped her eyes back open, expecting to see that there was nothing there; that she was alone on this hilltop with nothing but the stars and the moon above for company.

Her heart skipped a beat when the ursa above yawned, briefly revealing canines as large as herself, before settling back down and remaining still.

Trixie’s breath came in short, agonized gasps. The coat of her body, normally a light blue, was as pale as the mane on the top of her head. This wasn’t a sick joke conjured up by her subconscious. The enormous creature besides her was real.

A panic the likes of which she hadn’t felt in years gripped her and she bolted to her hooves. She hurriedly backed up, keeping the ursa in her sights the entire time. Unfortunately, the emotional state Trixie was in didn’t come with gracefulness and she tripped over herself after only taking a few steps. She tumbled to the grassy ground. However, adrenaline coursed through her body and she scramble back to her feet quickly. She worriedly looked up and almost swooned with relief when she saw that the Ursa Minor hadn’t woken up. As quietly as she could, she began edging away. Once she had fifteen hooves between herself and the giant bear, Trixie turned and bolted.

Running as though her life depended on it, Trixie shot through the night. Gradually, the sense of panic that had completely overwhelmed her began to ease and coherent thoughts began to take form. How in the name of all that is good and pure did an Ursa Minor appear right next to me? No way I could have slept through something of that size walking up and plopping down to sleep.

Trixie shook her head. It doesn’t matter; only getting away from that monster matters. I better check my map and see where the next town... is...

Trixie skidded to a stop, plowing four dirt trenches in the road she had been running on. Heaving for breath, the showmare looked back. Even from the distance she had traveled, she could still see the form of the ursa on the hilltop. Somewhere next to it were all of Trixie’s possessions. She shook her head, banishing any thoughts of going back for her things and turned back to the road ahead of her.

“I don’t need them anyway,” she reasoned to herself. “I’ll have everything I need once I get to Manehattan. I’ll just work for my bits the way I’ve always done and that will be enough to get by until I get there.” Satisfied with her plan of action, Trixie lifted her hoof to begin heading out.

Coward.

Trixie froze mid stride. She blinked twice before shaking her head and moved to leave.

This is your chance.

Once again, the unicorn halted. It took considerable effort for Trixie to firm up her features in determination and continue forward.

Pathetic.

“SHUT UP!”

Trixie’s breath heaved. The voice, coming from her head and sounding suspiciously like her own, fell silent. Anger now fueling her movements, Trixie forcefully took a step, followed by another. And another.

The Great and Powerful Trixie, running away with her tail between her legs. Fitting for a mongrel like yourself.

“So what?!” Trixie snarled back, pushing onward. “No one’s here to see it. I’m making the safe choice. Surviving is what’s important; not getting myself killed when I’m so close to getting everything I want!”

Everything?

“Yes! Money! Fame! Recognition for my superior talents! All of that is waiting for me to take it by the hooves!”

How about self-respect?

Trixie stopped her laborious movements. “What are you talking about?” she whispered.

You know exactly what I’m talking about. Don’t try fooling yourself.

Trixie clenched her teeth together so hard that she threatened to break her enamel. “Enlighten me.”

Hmph. Is that really necessary? I am yourself, you know. Fine, I’ll tell you.

You know that unicorn? The one that so spectacularly showed us up? She wouldn’t have run from that ursa. She would have stayed and taken care of it, just like she did last time.

“That... this is different...” Trixie argued back. “It’s not doing anything. It’s not a threat.”

It could be. What do you think will happen once it wakes up? It won’t know where it is and what happened to it. It will try to find its way back home, but how many settlements are between it and the Everfree Forest? You know how cranky these things can get when they’re riled up.

Don’t try to make excuses. It’s a waste of our time. The issue here is that we’ve never recovered from that night. You’ve tried burying it with all your might but the fact is that you lost more than your reputation at Ponyville. You lost your confidence.

“Lost my confidence?! Then what do you call what I’ve been doing all these weeks? I may have been jittery at first but since then I’ve never felt more sure of myself. Who’s wasting whose time now?!”

Your acting ability? Fair enough. That has certainly not been affected. What I meant was your magic. Aside from the stage, you’re afraid to admit that we’ve been shown as second rate. Even with all the new tricks and practicing that you’ve learned and gone through you still fear that’s not enough.

But it doesn’t have to remain this way. You have the perfect opportunity to put all your fears to rest. An Ursa Minor has dropped right into our lap. Take care of it and prove that you are not a con.

“But... but...” Trixie sputtered. “But even if I do... there’s nopony around to... see it. Nopony will... believe me...”

This isn’t about them. It’s about you. About us. Vanquish the ursa and then we’ll know without a shadow of a doubt that you can match that unicorn. And then, someday, we’ll surpass her. If gloating to her that she can’t top your show stopping abilities was gratifying, imagine what it will be like when she sees that we’ve exceeded her in her own special talent.

Trixie remained silent for a time, staring at the road beneath her. The voice had gone silent now and she didn’t think it would be returning. It didn’t need to. Everything it had said had been the truth. Now all that was left was for her to make a decision. Surprisingly, the choice came to her easily.

“I must be losing my mind,” Trixie muttered as she performed an about face and ran back the way she had come. “First arguing with myself and then rushing back to get myself killed.” Despite the dark thoughts, a smile graced her features. At least this would be a show to remember.

It didn’t take long to retrace her steps and the Ursa Minor was right where she had left it. Quietly, Trixie crept up to the giant beast until she was only a few steps away. She spotted her saddlebags next to one of the ursa’s paws and magically moved them behind herself. With that taken care of, Trixie considered what to do next.

Ever since Ponyville, Trixie had racked her brain as to what she could have done on that fateful night to get the ursa minor to go away. Her normal repertoire of spells and been woefully inadequate. It wasn’t until weeks later that she had slapped herself for not thinking of the solution sooner. It was so obvious that she could only blame the stress of the moment for not coming up with it. It would have been a risky move, but had it worked, she could only imagine how different her life would have turned out.

Unfortunately, the spell she had in mind wouldn’t work unless the ursa was awake. As much as she wanted to prove to herself that she could do this, waking a sleeping ursa where it lied sounded like the quickest way to become a tasty snack. However, there were other spells that she had learned since then. One in particular she had come across was a lance of magic that was said to be able to pierce the scales of a dragon. Unfortunately, the magic necessary to call upon such a weapon was beyond her capabilities. But that didn’t mean she hadn’t found inspiration from it.

Trixie set herself and began calling up a dark storm cloud. Inside, electricity started building up and when it reached critical mass, a lightning bolt erupted from the cloud. Before the bolt could reach the ground, Trixie grabbed hold of it with her magic. Quickly, before the energy could dissipate into the air, she molded the lightning into the shape of a sharp spear and she aimed it towards the motionless ursa.

Last time, her lightning had only slightly singed the large bear on the rear, making it more angry than hurt. This time, Trixie sought out the one place that she had a chance to cut through. Its eye.

Trixie reared back, straining to keep the lightning contained and in its appropriate form-

-but after several seconds of remaining motionless, the energy fizzled out.

Trixie remained stationary for a time, just staring out into space. She lowered her head and stomped her front hooves into the ground, blinking away tears. I... can’t do it. I can’t... kill a defenseless animal, even an Ursa Minor. I’m a magician, not a butcher.

She sat down on the grass, no longer caring about the huge bear only a few hooves away. So this is it then, Trixie sighed inwardly and closed her eyes. Even after convincing myself that I needed to do this, I can’t go through with it. She considered trying to lift up the ursa, much like that lavender unicorn did, but honestly didn’t think she had the power to do it. She’d exercised with boulders four times her size but this was way beyond that. I guess it’s just a matter of time before it wakes up, smells me and finished the job it started at Pony-

Wait.

Trixie opened her eyes and looked down at the blanket that she had been sleeping on before the whole incident started. An idea began to germinate. A wild and crazy idea. There was no way it was going to work-

“It has to work,” the unicorn firmly told herself. “It will.”

Not wasting anymore time, Trixie draped her saddlebags over her back and levitated up the blanket. She crept around the ursa, making sure she was behind it and out of its sight should it wake up. She directed the blanket to hover just under the ursa’s nose, swishing it back and forth.

At first, the beast didn’t react. However, after a few more passes, the ursa’s nose started to twitch. It gave a great sniff, nearly sucking the blanket up its nasal cavity but Trixie’s hold was firm. The blanked was directed away and as Trixie had hoped, the ursa rose up to follow it in a sleepwalking daze. The bear lumbered forward, occasionally pawing at the blanket like a cat trying to catch a toy but it remaining just out of its reach. Trixie trailed behind what she hoped was a safe distance and led the giant creature with the proverbial carrot tied to a stick.

“Trixie, you genius,” the mare congratulated herself softly. “I knew you could do it. Even if no pony will ever believe this.”

---------------------------------------------------

“I don’t believe this.”

Discord watched his host’s actions from high above, impressed and a little disappointed that Trixie’s solution hadn’t been more... bombastic. He had expected flashing lights, daring maneuvers and... he didn’t know. Explosions perhaps? Certainly not this.

“I guess even ponies can occasionally think outside the box,” he mused. He continued to float above, noticing that Trixie was leading the ursa towards the closest border to the Everfree Forest. He grinned in anticipation.

“Well, this is only part one of my act,” Discord reminded himself. “There’s still the grand finale. Time to get the best seat in the house before it’s taken.” With a flash he was gone, once again merging with Trixie’s horn.

Below, the unicorn in question felt an odd tingling sensation to her horn but quickly shrugged it off. She couldn’t lose focus now. The trek to the forest where she could dump her burden off was getting closer. Having traveled the land as much as she did, Trixie was well aware of where the Everfree Forest was in relation to herself. She often had to plan her routes between towns so that she could avoid it and not have to deal with all the wildlife that made that untamed spot of land their own. Now that knowledge was coming in handy as she was making good time in leading the Ursa Minor back where it came from.

Trixie crested a hill and saw what she had been expecting to see. Below was the thick canopy of the forest. Even better were the lights of a small village only a few miles away. She couldn't make out many details of the town with how dark it was but she wasn't complaining. Once her task was complete she’d be making a beeline straight to it. It was almost morning now and the local ponies would be waking to start their day. She’d be arriving just in time to get a quick breakfast and then find some lodging.

But first things first, Trixie told herself. Blinking away her growing sleepiness, the unicorn continued directing the ursa in front of her towards the forest. She’d lead it in a little then toss away the blanket so that she could make her escape. The Ursa Minor would be able to find its way back on its own. It was a solid plan.

A plan that was shattered when a roar that shook the very earth sounded throughout the land.

Trixie froze in mid-trot. Her concentration on the blanket wavered and the ursa finally managed to grab it in its large maw. It settled down and began idly chewing on it. Trixie didn’t notice. Her gaze was fixed on the horizon just above the forest tree line.

If there was a word that could describe just how big an Ursa Major was, Trixie didn’t know about it. Huge didn’t do it justice. Massive didn’t come close. Suddenly, she was reminded of what that unicorn in Ponyville had said when asked what an Ursa Major was like.

“You don’t want to know.”

For once, Trixie was in total agreement with her.

The red tinted major towered over the trees it was walking through, casually knocking over some every time it took a step. Each time one of its paws touched the ground, a tremor rocked the earth. The creature looked like it could easily snap up an entire town of ponies and not even begin to feel full.

And it was headed straight for the village.

“This is so not happening...” Trixie breathed. She took a quick look at the smaller ursa she had been trying to get rid of and saw that it was busy tearing her blanket apart. The next thing she knew, she was sprinting as fast as she could towards the unsuspecting village.

This is crazy. This is crazy. This is crazy. This is crazy. The repeated mantra in her mind didn’t stop her though. I can do this. If I warn the town and get all the ponies out, then I’ll be the hero!

She ran as fast as she could while keeping an eye on the large predator bearing down on the town. Luck was on her side as the ursa stopped every few steps and dipped its head down into the tree line. From appearances, it seemed it was looking for something.

It must be that smaller one’s mother, Trixie concluded. It’s looking for its baby. I have to get to the village before it does or it will tear the place apart looking for it.

Despite feeling as though she were moving at a glacial pace as compared to the ursa, Trixie finally entered the village proper. She rushed through the streets, guesstimating where the center square was, and stopped. She gasped for air, unused to having to move so quickly in so short a time. Trixie considered herself to be in good shape what with all the traveling she had done in the past, but after a full night of running and exerting her magic so much, exhaustion was setting in. She forced herself to continue as she could practically feel the breath of the Ursa Major bearing down on her.

Taking a deep breath, Trixie shouted out with a magically amplified voice, “EVERYPONY! WAKE UP! GET UP NOW! THERE’S AN URSA COMING!”

An ear shattering roar was not the response she was hoping to get.

Trixie turned around and wished she hadn’t. At least then she wouldn’t have seen the sight of a creature as large as a Manehattan skyscraper looming over the town. It seemed to regard the buildings as insignificant anthills and nothing to worry about in slowing its advance.

All around her, Trixie could see and hear the citizens of the village opening windows and bursting out of their homes to see what all the commotion was about. The cries and gasps of the townsfolk joined the cacophony of the ursa’s growls. In moments, the ponies began screaming and running for their lives.

The panic roused the attention of the Ursa Major. It bent down and sniffed the air and apparently decided that it could use a little pick-me-up in its search for its cub. It opened its tusk filled mouth, the opening wide enough to easily swallow a building whole, and bent down to fill up on all the fleeing ponies.

Trixie didn’t think. There was no time to. If she did she would have convinced herself that what she was about to do wasn’t going to work. The solution she had come up with for dealing with an Ursa Minor was put into action.

The unicorn’s horn flared brightly. The next second, an outline of Trixie’s body began to expand upwards and outwards from herself. She poured more and more power into the illusion, making the image of herself grow larger and larger. Soon, it was the size of an Ursa Minor and it caught the attention of the larger ursa terrorizing the town. It stopped its advance and regarded the new strange creature with curiosity.

Trixie could already feel her control slipping. Sweat ran down her face as she clenched her teeth together. C’mon, c’mon, just a little more!

Her illusion reached its largest she had ever managed to get it, half the size of an Ursa Major itself, before she lost control of her legs. She stumbled to the ground but she kept her focus of the spell. Trixie shut her eyes tightly, huffing and grunting with effort, and continued to make the illusion grow. Her horn flashed with discharged magic in all directions, a beacon of light that out-shown any street light surrounding her.

It was as her illusion reached three quarters of the ursa’s size that her magic finally give out. Trixie yelled with rage and tried to force herself to continue, but the glow around her horn started to fade and her transparent double began to shrink.

No... NO! Trixie screamed impotently, tears leaking from her tightly closed eyes. I can’t stop now! Please! Please! Dear Celestia, give me strength!

Hmph! Why does every one of you ponies always call to her in need? No one ever thinks to ask me for help!

The voice wasn’t her own but Trixie wasn’t in the right mind to comprehend that. She chalked it up to her own inner self from before.

You know, I’ve got more magic in my right eyeball than that over-hyped turkey does in her entire body! And she probably wastes it in making that mess she calls a mane flow the way she does. She’s got issues, I tell you.

Trixie couldn’t spare the thought to answer back. All her focus was in keeping the construct that was growing smaller by the second from collapsing completely.

Hmm, I think I understand what it is you’re trying to do. Make yourself bigger than the ursa and scare it off. Kinky!

Trixie’s horn began to sputter sparks. Soon, it would no longer have the magic to keep the spell going.

You’ve got quite the crowd watching you, you know. Just like one of your shows. Oh, wait. You can’t see them, can you? Too bad. I know how much you like the spotlight. Looks like this will be the closing curtain if you can’t do something fast!

Finally, the illusion, which was now just slightly bigger than the magician herself, faded from existence. Trixie held on to consciousness but was unable to draw forth the energy to stand. So she remained lying on the ground, panting for air and waiting for the end to come.

... Wait. This is just like one of your shows, isn’t it?

.................... Drat. That means I have to help you. I made a deal, you know. As much fun as it was to watch you fail and all the chaos that the Ursa Major would cause, I don’t back out on my bargains. You’re lucky, little pony.

The Ursa Major, having stopped its advance due to the potential threat that the pony had temporarily shown, now decided to make its move. It growled, rattling the windows of the buildings underneath it, and lunged forward to lap up its early morning breakfast.

It had only taken a single step when the Ursa Major received the shock of its life.

Trixie’s entire body suddenly ignited with eye searing white brilliance. The ursa turned away and shielded itself with a paw from the blinding light. When it peeked out a second later, it found a sight that caused its massive lower jaw to drop.

The tiny, helpless pony that was as big as a flea on its back now stood in front of it. But it was far, far larger. For the first time since it was a cub, the Ursa Major beheld a creature bigger than itself. It found that it didn’t like the sensation of feeling small.

Trixie’s colossal image towered so high that it reached the clouds that had drifted in from the Everfree Forest that night and that the local pegasi ponies had yet to clear. The magic leaking from her illusion caused the particles in the clouds to become excited, generating lightning to sporadically spark all around it, adding to the horrifying effect. The eyes of Trixie’s giant double were pure white and it directed its piercing gaze down at the now trembling form of the beast that had come so close to snuffing the life out of her.

“LEAVE.”

The thunderous voice of the illusion crashed against the ursa, making it cower back.

“LEAVE NOW.”

The ursa backed up more, its animalistic instincts roaring at it to get away from the frightening being. However, the desire to find its cub was also just as strong. It couldn’t abandon it.

As if sensing what was on the ursa’s mind, the titanic illusion spoke, “YOUR BABY IS OVER THERE.” It pointed a hoof the size of the Ursa Major’s head over towards a nearby hill. “GO TO IT AND DO NOT COME BACK.”

The ursa got the idea and rushed off, miraculously not trampling over any houses on its way. It quickly found its cub sleeping contentedly, strands of cloth dangling from its mouth. The Ursa Major gently picked up its offspring, cradling it lovingly with a single paw, and then ran into the Everfree Forest and back to its lair.

Only once the Ursa Major was out of sight did Trixie finally stop her spell. The image of herself shimmered and then exploded into thousands of motes of magical sparkles. The motes drifted down to the earth like snowflakes before winking out altogether.

Down on the ground, Trixie decided that consciousness was entirely overrated and promptly collapsed onto the dirt path in the center of the village.

A voice that was not her own had one last thing to say before becoming silent itself.

You better appreciate this later.

---------------------------------------------------

Clear, sunny skies made for good traveling, Applejack decided. Taking a glance back at her two companions, Rarity and Fluttershy, she saw that they felt the same way. Well, Rarity had complained once or twice about all the dust she was kicking up, but the farm pony could tell that the unicorn was enjoying herself. Mostly.

“How ya hangin’ back there?” Applejack asked of her friends.

“Just... dandy,” Rarity let out reluctantly, eyes fixed forward. She didn’t even want to look down at her hooves. She just knew that they were covered in layers of dirt and that her precious pedicure from a few days ago would need touching up.

Applejack caught the undertones. “Ah, don’t be like that, Rarity. If ya ask me, we got the better end of the deal. Just a little further an’ we’ll be back home. Gives me the chance to tell Big Macintosh that I’ll be gone for a while.”

“And I can check up on my animals,” Fluttershy added. “I left the poor dears all alone, thinking that I’d be back last night. I hope they all behaved themselves.”

“I suppose I see your point,” Rarity relented. “It allows me to set up my away sign for my boutique. I’m just relieved I don’t have any orders to fill at the moment. Though I shudder to think of how much I’ll need to do to catch-up once this whole ordeal is over.”

“Yer telling me,” Applejack sighed. “There are a whole heap of apples needin’ to be bucked and Ah have to spend my time trackin’ down that no good Trixie. I reckon we won’t be the ones to find her, either. Ah can’t imagine she’d want to head down this way, not after her last visit.”

The three of them fell silent, each looking forward to reaching the top of the hill they were trotting up as it would bring them into view of their hometown. It would be a pleasant sight for sore eyes, even if they hadn’t been gone for long. They may have been a bit biased but there was no place more beautiful than Ponyville.

It was as they crested the hill that they saw the craters.

“Oh, horseapples,” Applejack whispered.

The mares stared out at the scene that greeted them. As they had anticipated, Ponyville’s picturesque landscape was just as they left it. However, a line of depressions measuring many hoof-lengths across in the ground, stretching from the town itself and beyond the horizon, marred its otherwise perfect appearance.

“What...” Fluttershy gasped. “What happened?”

“I don’t know, darling,” Rarity breathed, just as stunned as her pegasus friend.

“Well, we’re not goin’ to find answers just gawkin’!” Applejack yelled out. “Come on!” She raced down towards the town, the other two snapping out of their stupor and following soon after.

They passed several of the craters as they went by but didn’t stop to investigate them. Their first priority was making sure everypony in town was okay or needed help. Unexplained divots in the earth could be checked out later. Some ponies were actually working to fill in the giant holes, dumping loads of dirt into them and then smoothing out the top layer. Given enough time, the craters would grow with new grass and blend in with the rest of the landscape as though they had never been there.

When Applejack, Rarity and Fluttershy reached the central square, they found that Mayor Mare was busy giving out directions to a crowd of ponies that wanted to help. Spike was standing next to her, furiously writing down the directions that the mayor was giving on a notepad and then ripping off a finished piece and handing it off to the next pony in line that passed him. It seemed some of Twilight’s organizational skills had rubbed off on him and he was putting his partner’s legendary talents to use.

“Spike!” Applejack called to him as she rushed up.

“There you guys are!” Spike burst out in relief, taking this opportunity to give his sore claw a break. “You won’t believe what happened here while you were gone!” He noticed that only half of the mares that left for Canterlot had come back. “Where’s Twilight and the rest?”

“They’re quite alright,” Rarity was quick to alleviate any of his worries. “We had to split up due to a new mission that the princess gave us.”

“But enough of that,” Applejack said in a hurry. “What happened here? It looks like a war zone. Is anypony hurt?”

“Thankfully, no,” Spike answered. He then got a nervous look to his scaly face and avoided eye contact with the ponies hovering around him. “Well, that’s not entirely... true...”

“What?” Fluttershy squeaked and nearly toppled him over when she thrust her face forward. “Was it any animals?”

“No! No! You see... well. You know how that Ursa Minor attacked a long while back?” Each of them nodded their heads. “Well, you also know how that was only a baby, right?” More nods, though dawning realization began to enter their eyes as they began to piece together where this was going. “Well, earlier this morning, just before dawn, we got to see just what an Ursa Major looked like.” He shuddered at having caught the sight of a full grown ursa almost trampling the town under its paws. “Twilight was right. I didn’t want to know.”

“An Ursa Major attacked?!” came three synchronized and shocked exclamations.

“Yeah. Ho boy, was it scary. Makes that dragon that lives out in the Everfree Forest look like me in comparison.”

“Then those holes we saw coming in...” Rarity trailed off.

“They’re the footprints of that thing,” Spike finished for her.

It was too much and the three arrivals sat on their haunches and shuddered. Even seeing the evidence themselves, it was hard to believe just how big a creature the ursa had to be in order to leave such large and deep craters.

Swallowing, Fluttershy recovered her nerves first and asked, “But it’s gone, right? It didn’t get a chance to attack so it must have left before it could hurt anypony.”

“If you found the Ursa Major hard to believe,” Spike said, finding it hard to believe himself even though he had seen it with his own eyes, “you’ll never guess just who managed to scare it off.”

Surprisingly, the answer was on each of the ponies’ lips the moment he stopped talking.

“Trixie.”

Spike looked up sharply at them. “How’d you know?!”

Applejack, Rarity and Fluttershy looked at each other worriedly.

Fluttershy asked the question that was on each of their minds. “Do... do you really think that... she’s really being controlled by Discord?”

“It’s lookin’ that way,” Applejack said. “She couldn’t handle a Ursa Minor last time but now she’s goin’ around tusslin’ with a major? It’s a might suspicious.”

“A might?!” Rarity yelped. “I’d say it’s a lot suspicious!”

“What are you all talking about?” Spike interrupted.

Rarity shook her head to clear it of any unnecessary thoughts and regarded Spike fully. “We’ll explain later. Right now, I think it’s best that we see Trixie as soon as possible. Where is she?”

Once again, Spike grew nervous and not because the love of his life was giving him her full attention. “Well... you see. She’s a... um, the thing is... ah...”

Applejack lightly bopped him on the head with a hoof. “Spike! Focus! What happened ta Trixie?”

Spike took a deep breath and blurted, “Sheisnothere!”

The three blinked.

“Come again?” Applejack prodded.

“Trixie... she’s... not here anymore,” Spike finally finished.

Rarity swallowed and hesitantly asked, “She’s... not dead... is she?”

“No!” Spike quickly corrected. Sheepishly he continued, “Sorry. What I meant to say was, she’s been taken to another town. Once she took care of the ursa, she collapsed and wouldn’t wake up. The nurses tried their best to take care of her but they feared that she had strained herself too much with her magic. They said that they didn’t have the means to treat a unicorn that exhausted, and without Twilight to check with, they got a team of pegasi to airlift her to someplace that had a better treatment center to help her. That happened just an hour before you all got here.”

“Fiddlesticks,” Fluttershy swore. She gasped and looked ashamed for using such language. “Sorry. That just... slipped out.”

“Ah got some other choice words in case ya need ‘em,” Applejack offered.

Rarity spoke up before things got off track. “Do you know what town she was taken to?”

“Yeah,” Spike beamed. “Trottingham.”

“Applejack, can I see the map that Twilight gave us?”

“Sure,” Applejack said and fished out the rolled up map from her saddlebags. Once she had it out, Rarity magically took hold of it and unfurled it so that all of them could take a look.

“Hmm,” Rarity mused as she scanned the map. “Ah, ha! There!” She pointed at the spot where Trottingham was located.

“Oh, my,” Fluttershy commented. “That’s on the route that the others are taking.”

“Looks like we’ll be meetin’ up with them sooner than expected,” Applejack stated. “You got that doohickey that Twi gave ya, Rarity?”

“Right here!” Rarity announced, holding up the Find-Me Crystal in her hoof.

“Great. Spike, Ah think you should come with us on this. We may need to get a hold of the princess in a hurry and yer fire breath is the fastest way Ah know.”

Spike was taken aback a bit. Normally, he was left behind on the girls’ adventures. “Really? How come?”

“‘Cause if what we suspect is true, we may need the Elements of Harmony again.”

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