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

Trixcord - RTStephens



Two grandstanders. Only one horn.

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8
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The Big Time

They found her in the medical ward of Horschester.

“Boy, howdy! You look more worked over than that busted old plow of my brother’s!”

“Shut up, Applejack.”

“Rainbow,” Twilight Sparkle said softly as she came up to the bedridden pegasus. “How are you feeling?”

Rainbow Dash looked away and crossed her forelegs together. “... fine,” she grumbled. “Doc says I have a lingering cough but that’s it.”

“My gosh, Rainbow Dash,” Rarity spoke up. “Did Trixie do this to you?”

Rainbow looked away. “We had a... fight. I tried talking to her but one thing led to another and the next thing I know we’re going at it.”

“I see,” Twilight sighed.

From atop her back, Spike asked, “Where is she now?”

“Don’t know,” Rainbow answered. “She dropped me off here yesterday and I haven’t seen her since. Frankly, I don’t care.”

“Rainbow!” Twilight scolded. “You know we have a mission-”

“The mission’s over!” Rainbow yelled, making her friends to back up in surprise. “There’s nothing wrong with Trixie other than her being a pain in the flank. We’ve been wasting our time for nothing and I’m tired of it! Let’s just cut our losses and go home!”

The others looked at each other, slowly absorbing what Rainbow had said. Finally, Applejack stepped forward. “And how do ya figure that? What makes ya think that we should just give up?”

“Well, what do we know so far? Give me one good reason why we need to keep hunting down that blowhard.”

“Well,” Twilight began, “she was found in the garden-”

“So?” Rainbow interrupted. “She tripped and took a snooze. Big deal.”

“It is a big deal, Rainbow. She wasn’t suppose to go in there.”

“You weren’t suppose to go into that Star Swirl the Bearded wing and nothing bad happened, right?” Rainbow countered.

“Well, no...” Twilight floundered.

“You’re forgetting how she just so happened to gain enough power to scare off an Ursa Major of all things,” Rarity brought up. “Explain that.”

“She’s good with illusions,” Rainbow pointed out. “Whoopty do.”

“And that parade that appeared and disappeared outta thin air?” Applejack offered. “Seemed rather elaborate even for her.”

“How do we know? She could have learned a spell or two to pull it off.” Rainbow spread out her legs in exasperation. “Look, all of these are just guesses. There’s no real evidence that Discord or anyone else is behind all this. It’s just a big false alarm.”

“I don’t feel the same way, Rainbow,” Twilight said. “We need to make sure. It’s too important that we get this right.” She sighed as Rainbow recrossed her forelegs and decided to change the subject a little. “At least she’s still wearing the Find-Me Crystal. Right?”

Rainbow reached under the blanket of her bed and pulled out a shredded piece of purple cloth with stars on it. She tossed it at the foot of her bed and a small crystal rolled out. Rainbow held up a similar crystal in her hoof. “Not anymore.”

Twilight moaned. “Great. Now how are we supposed to find her?”

“We don’t!” Rainbow shouted and hopped out of bed. “Let’s just let her go! She can have her stupid shows or whatever! According to me, we’re outta-” She suddenly stopped her tirade and stared ahead blankly.

Her friends watched her uneasily. Cautiously, Applejack stepped forward and placed a hoof on Rainbow’s withers. “Dash,” she called to her. “You okay, hun?”

Rainbow Dash continued to stare ahead, oblivious to Applejack’s prodding. Then, her mouth began to move and she spoke in a sing-song voice, “A message I wish to speak for those ponies that continue to seek. The one that fills you with fright is hiding in plain sight. This and more for you to grapple down at The Big Apple.”

Silence filled the room afterwards. The others stared at the pegasus as though she had grown a second head. Applejack reacted first and grabbed Rainbow with both forelegs and shook her hard. “Rainbow Dash! Wake up! Snap out of it!”

The violent shaking managed to finally rouse Rainbow from her unresponsive state. Focus returned to her eyes and her stomach began to churn from being ponyhandled from Applejack’s desperate shaking. “Huh? Whoa... WHOA! Lay off! I’m gonna hurl! Hugh!”

Rainbow pushed Applejack away and rushed to her puke pail. She made it just in time and emptied the contents of her stomach. Once she was finished, she took a moment to gather herself before turning back around. She glared at the farm pony. “Ugh! Wadja do that for?!”

She didn’t receive an answer. Everypony wore a look of shock and didn’t say anything. Dread began to spread over their faces.

Curiously enough, it was Fluttershy that managed to find her voice before anyone else. “That... that sounded a lot like... one of... Discord’s riddles.”

Before anypony could comment further, a pony burst into the room and shouted, “Ah! It’s terrible! There’s... I... well... I don’t know how to explain it! Just come and see!” The pony rushed back out, leaving a confused group of equines behind.

The six mares and one dragon looked at each other briefly before running out of the room. They followed the pony that had given the strange announcement until they burst out onto the streets of Horschester.

A collective blink came from the group.

It was just like Ponyville at the height of Discord’s brief reign. Buildings looked more like cardboard cutouts than three dimensional structures, raspberry jelly was shooting out of a nearby well like a geyser, carts of food and other goods were floating in midair and many more sights of chaos greeted their eyes.

“Four!”

The Ponyvillians looked up at the shout of warning in time to see a meteor streaking towards them. With a yelp of surprise and fright, they scrambled out of its way. The resulting impact caused a shockwave that blasted the ponies off their hooves and flung them several feet away. Slowly and painfully, they managed to pick themselves up and regarded the fallen meteor warily.

“Sorry about that,” a flying pig apologized as he landed in the crater the space rock had created. The pig held a croquet mallet in one of his hooves. “Just playing through.” The pig placed his mallet against the meteor, set himself into a stance and swung with unbelievable force. The mallet struck the meteor, sending it back into the sky. The pig watched it go and looked dissatisfied with his latest stroke. “I think I sliced it.”

Without another word, the pig took off after his “ball.”

Applejack turned towards Rainbow Dash. “Is that enough evidence for ya?”

“... Shut up, Applejack.”

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

Manehattan. It was as large, grand and crowded as Trixie had heard it would be. Thousands of ponies shuffled through the streets either by hoof or by carriage. Street vendors and newsstands filled the sidewalks for as far as the eye could see. Equine Square itself could fit the entirety of Canterlot Castle within its neon lit borders. The buildings rose higher than any Ursa Major that had ever walked the lands.

It was here that Trixie was determined to find her fame and fortune.

“I can’t believe how long it took me to get here,” Trixie murmured to herself as she looked out the window of her hotel room. The city, lit by Celestia’s sun, sprawled beneath her. “So many days of traveling and hardships, enough to fell a lesser pony. But, that’s all behind me. Time to move forward. My time has come.”

Trixie turned away from the window and trotted towards the bathroom. She needed to get ready for her first appointment and a hot shower would be most welcome. Then, it was go time.

It had been such a relief to come here and find all her belongings that she had sent from Canterlot had arrived safely. Honestly, with the type of luck she had been pulling lately, she half expected her things to have been lost on the way. However, everything was in order. Now she could concentrate on more important things.

After refreshing herself, adding some eyeshadow and combing her mane to perfection, Trixie checked over what she should wear. Her last set of hat and cape were gone, but they had never felt right anyway. Instead, she chose a lavender vest that complimented her eyes and checked herself over in a pony sized mirror. It was a simple ensemble but it would do the job just fine. Satisfied, she left the hotel and strode purposefully down the street.

Floating above her, hidden from her view and everypony else, Discord fussed over the strands that made up the life connection between himself and his unknowing host.

“Come on, come on,” he said through gritted teeth. “I’m going to get it this time. Just a little more annnnndddddd, wala!” Discord held up the strands before him. The mess of threads tangled in his hands resembled a failed cat's cradle.

“Arg!” Disgusted, Discord let go of the strands and let them flow back to their original, untangled state. He placed his lion paw against his chin and sulked. “I’ve been working on separating us for days and I’m still no closer than when I started. Where’s Celestia when you need her? This is more that overgrown turkey’s specialty than mine.”

While he hadn’t been able to figure out how to separate himself from Trixie’s essence, Discord now had a pretty good idea of just how it happened. Really, it came down to his own disorderly power. He had meant to merge with Trixie temporarily, just long enough to hide from Celestia, and then break away afterwards. However, his very nature had played against him. Instead of an easy separation, Discord’s chaotic influence had merged him with Trixie without his knowing. Even now, his power was working to keep them together despite his efforts to undo it.

As Discord continued to ponder over this, his attention was diverted when Trixie passed by a newsstand. He floated down to it and read the headline of one of the displayed papers.

[Weird Happenings Overtake Local Towns!]

“This looks promising,” Discord mused. By now, Trixie had walked out of sight. Feeling daring, the draconequus dropped his invisibility and came into view for all the city to behold. Barely a glance was sent his way as the locals went about their business.

Discord reached forward and plucked up the newspaper that interested him. He began to read through the main article and whistled appreciatively. “Well, well. Looks like my little seedlings finally sprouted. Ah, they grow up so fast...”

“This ain’t a library, fella.”

Discord blinked and looked down. A dull grey pony stood behind the newsstand’s counter and was giving him a cross look. “You wanna read that paper, it’ll cost you a bit.”

Discord continued to stare at the pony. He finally managed to ask, “That’s what you have to say towards the spirit of chaos and disharmony? Aren’t you just the tiniest bit curious about having a strange creature like me standing before you?”

The owner of the newsstand gave a small shrug. “I’m a Manehattenite. I’ve seen it all. Now about that bit...”

Letting out an over exaggerated sigh, Discord snapped his fingers. A half dozen brown sacks appeared above the pony and then crashed down on top of him. A few golden bits spilled out of the sacks when they impacted the sidewalk.

“Will that do?” Discord asked with disinterest, already turning back to his paper.

“That’ll do...” the flattened pony groaned.

Discord continued to read through the newspaper, occasionally chuckling as he read about all the wonderful chaos he had created. If he weren’t so distracted with Trixie, he’d be there to witness it all in a flash. Still, it was nice to see he hadn’t lost his touch.

A bell chime sounded, as though a timer had gone off, and Discord jerked to attention. He reached behind him and came back holding a watch. “Oh, it’s that time already. I should be hearing that wonderful sound right... about...”

“WHAT?!” an enraged cry echoed through the streets.

“... now.”

Laughing darkly, Discord placed away his watch and teleported. A splendid scene was about to play out and there was no way he was going to miss it.

Left behind, the newsstand pony wobbly made it to his hooves. He shook his head to clear out any lingering dizziness and picked up one of the bits that had fallen out of the sacks. Without preamble, he bit into it.

“Chocolate,” he sighed and looked down at all the “Fool’s Gold” he had acquired. Well, on the bright side, at least he wouldn’t have to spend anything for this year’s Nightmare Night.

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

“You have to be kidding Trixie!”

Her furious statement was directed at the earth pony sitting behind a desk across from her. He was an orange stallion with a red mane so greased with oil that it glistened like a glazed doughnut. He wore a finely tailored business suit that cost more than most ponies made in a year. He tapped his hooves in front of him, staring dispassionately ahead.

“It is as I said, miss,” he said, seemingly unaffected by the mare’s outburst. “Your talents are not what we are looking for.”

“Do you not know who it is you have before you?” Trixie demanded to know. She slammed her forehooves down onto his desk, scattering his belonging everywhere. “I am the Great and Powerful Trixie!”

The stallion didn’t react to her growing hostility besides giving a curt, “So?”

“So? SO?! Trixie will have you know that she performed at this year’s Grand Galloping Gala to rave reviews! She dazzled the crowds every night since then with her wonderful tales of heroics and adventure! She played Lady Macquine to a packed audience at the Regal Mane Attraction Theatre of Canterlot!

“Trixie vanquished an Ursa Major for crying out loud!”

The oily talent agent shook his head and groaned. “I’m fully aware of your credentials, Miss Trixie. But in this town, you’re still an unknown. The best I can offer you is work with one of our subdivisions with special effects and lighting.”

“Menial labor, you mean,” Trixie sneered.

“Call it what you want but that’s all you will get.”

Trixie stared hatefully at the stallion but managed to keep her anger from spilling over into violence. At least, for now.

“I don’t understand,” Trixie said a little more calmly, trying a different tactic. “I’m a show pony and my background clearly shows that I have what it takes to bring in the crowds. Why should it matter that this is Manehatten and not Canterlot?”

“I’ll tell you,” the agent said and stood up from his chair. He walked around his desk and stood before Trixie, making sure that he had her full attention. “The ponies of Canterlot are an easy bunch to please. Once you have their attention, that is. After that, you could prance around with a bucket on your head and they’d call it art.

“Here at Manehatten though, ponies don’t have the luxury of checking out every up and comer that thinks she’s hot stuff. City ponies are too busy for that. So they rely on agencies like mine to weed out the slop and only show them the best. And I do not consider the opinions of snooty nobles in Canterlot to know what it means to be the best.

“So this is my recommendation to you. Either take my offer, possibly work your way up, or go back to Canterlot. I’m sure you’ll find a niche somewhere there.”

It took considerable effort on Trixie’s part not to snap at him. “I am not going to wallow away my time in some effects pit. And I don’t want to find a niche. I’m going to be a star that everypony will see, no matter the place! I can’t get that at Canterlot. They’ll forget about me within a month! That’s unacceptable for Trixie!”

“Then our business here is done,” the agent said with finality. He reclaimed his seat and began rearranging his scattered papers on his desk. Without glancing at her, the agent motioned for Trixie to leave. “Do see yourself out.”

It was all Trixie could do not to cast a spell over him and turn his mane into a tangled mess that no amount of oil would be able to fix. Instead, she had a different way to mark her exit. “Trixie has no interest in your second rate agency, anyway. Obviously, this is a sign that her talents would be wasted here. Trixie will be sure to forget about you when she’s living the life of Broadway!”

With that, she turned her tail and nose up at the oblivious agent and trotted out of his office. There were other places that would die to have her sign up with them. She couldn’t keep them waiting, now could she?

She failed to hear the malevolent laughter that rang out in the office behind her.

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

“Think, Twilight! Think! What could that riddle mean?”

“Um, Twi?”

“Come on, you can do this! You figured out Discord’s last one; you can figure this one out too!”

“Twilight.”

“Hide in plain sight? How does anyone hide in plain sight? Unless he means he’s invisible... in plain sight. Is that even possible?”

“Hellooooo! Twilight!”

“And the big apple? As in Sweet Apple Acres, perhaps? There are a lot of apples there and maybe he’s hiding in the biggest one...”

“Yo! Egghead!”

A not so gentle rap to her head brought Twilight Sparkle out of her pondering.

“Ow! What? What? What did I do?!”

“Sugarcube,” Applejack spoke up to gain the unicorn’s attention. “It means Manehatten. Ah don’t know about the rest but The Big Apple is just another name for Manehatten.”

Twilight gave her a confused look. “Why would somepony call it something else when it already has a name?”

Applejack shrugged. “Beats me. Just the way it is.”

“In either case,” Rarity piped in, “at least we know where to start. We should be able to figure out the rest as we go.”

“We’re really going, aren’t we?” Rainbow Dash pouted.

“Of course, darling. Unless you want to live in a world like that.” Rarity pointed out the window of the medical ward. A row boat being crewed by a troupe of ducks floated by.

Rainbow sighed in defeat. “Fine. Let’s just go.”

“Before that, we need to contact the princess,” Twilight said. “We’ll tell her to meet us there and to bring the Elements of Harmony with her. Spike? Take a letter.”

“Already on it!” her dragon assistant said excitedly as he held up a quill and a piece of parchment.

“Good. Let’s begin.

“Dear Princess Celestia...”

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

“What the hay is going on here?!”

Trixie’s rage fueled cry to the heavens went unanswered as she left the fifth straight talent agency in row. She couldn’t believe it. Just couldn’t believe it! What was wrong with these ponies?! Didn’t this town know greatness when it came up and bit them on the flank?! Obviously, Manehatten’s show business industry was in dire straights if they were turning back one such as herself over one-hit wonders like Sapphire Shores. That pony of pop was entirely overrated.

One by one, each appointment that she had scheduled had ended with her storming out. Reasons such as, “You’re not well known enough,” or “We aren’t interested in your talents,” kept being thrown in Trixie’s face. She knew the real reason though. They were all scared that she would swoop in, become the best actress they had ever seen, and make all their other clients jealous. All lame excuses so that Trixie wouldn’t outshine the lot of them.

“It has to be...” Trixie sniffed as she trotted through the busy streets. “It has to...”

Trixie levitated up her schedule and sighed as she crossed another name off the list. She only had one more left and she was debating whether it was worth going or not. Today had been such a letdown and she just wanted to go back to her hotel and sleep it off. Perhaps tomorrow things would turn around.

“Ah, Miss Trixie. We are expecting you.”

Trixie blinked and looked up from her list. A unicorn mare stood next to her, her coat and mane colored orange and black respectively. Her cutie mark was comprised of several black lines with arrowheads crisscrossing each other and pointing in random directions. She stood next to an outdoors restaurant and extended a hoof in greeting. “My boss is waiting for you. Come with me, please.”

Trixie shook the offered hoof in a daze. She must have been really out of it to have stumbled upon her last appointment without realizing it. The unicorn ushered Trixie through the tables where several groups of ponies were dining. Towards the back sat another unicorn, this one a stallion, with the same coloring as the mare that walked next to her. However, the stallion wore a brown business suit that covered his flank and a pair of sunglasses that hid his eyes. Trixie took a seat opposite him.

“Hello there, Great and Powerful Trixie,” the stallion greeted her. He turned towards his assistant. “You may go now.” The unicorn mare bowed her head and walked off, leaving Trixie with the stallion who regarded her once again. “Thank you for coming. My name is Striful. A pleasure to finally meet you.”

“The same,” Trixie answered casually.

“Well, let’s not beat around the bush. We are both very busy and there’s no need to waste time. I own a company that’s looking for up and coming ponies like yourself that showcases the very best in show biz. I’ve looked over your accomplishments and I have to say I’m very impressed. Not many can boast about facing down an Ursa Major and live to tell the tale.”

“Oh, so you do believe that,” Trixie beamed and smiled appreciatively. “Not many want to believe Trixie but it’s the honest truth.”

“Indeed it is.” Striful smiled as well. His horn glowed with a black aura and levitated out a piece of paper from his suit pocket. He set the paper on the table and pushed it in front of Trixie. “This is a contract that I wrote up. I’m offering you the opportunity to represent my company. Just sign on the dotted line and you’ll be on your way to stardom the likes of which you’ve never experienced before.”

“Finally, a pony that recognizes true talent when he sees it,” Trixie complimented. “Not that there was any doubt.” She picked up the contract with her magic and accepted a quill that Striful offered her. She quickly glanced through the document, nodding in satisfaction at all the bits and benefits that she would be receiving, and hovered the quill against the dotted line.

Just as she was about to write her name, she happened to see some squiggles at the very bottom of the page. Curious, she brought the contract closer and squinted but she couldn’t make out what was there. Narrowing her eyes, Trixie cast an Enlargement spell. The paper quadrupled in size in an instant.

“H-hey!” Striful stuttered in shock. “What are you-”

“Cute. Very cute.”

Trixie lowered the contract, revealing her unamused face. “Is this some kind of joke? Trixie prays for your sake that it is.”

“I... don’t know what you’re talking about,” the agent answered uneasily.

The contract returned to its normal size and Trixie immediately crumpled it up into a tight ball. She then flung it at Striful’s face, bonking him on the nose. “Your fine print,” Trixie hissed. “You think Trixie was born yesterday and would miss it? Hardly. And giving you her eternal soul? How amateurish. What are you, the spirit of death or something?”

“Not exactly,” Striful chuckled darkly. He reached up and removed his glasses. Trixie grimaced at what she saw. His eyes were yellow with mismatched red pupils. “I wasn’t planning on revealing myself to you. It’s so annoying when you ponies don’t fall for one of my schemes.”

Trixie felt the hairs all over her body stand on end. She slowly left her seat and began backing up, not once taking her eyes off of him. “W-what-what are you?”

“Ah, my dear, forgotten me already? Such a shame. And after everything I’ve done for you, too.” Striful twisted his muzzle into a cruel smile and raised his hooves to the air. Dark clouds appeared and began swirling above him. A bolt of lightning struck him and his entire body erupted with white light. Trixie was forced to look away which only brought her attention to her surroundings.

The scenery all around her had changed. She was no longer standing in the ritzier part of town but rather the seedier, grungier streets that she had meant to avoid. The pleasant patio that held diner tables and ponies eating were melting away like heated wax before her horrified eyes. The resulting brownish liquid then flowed around her and towards where Striful was positioned. The liquid rose up around his still blazing body until it completely encompassed him, forming a brown cocoon.

Trixie’s hopes that this nightmare would be over soon were dashed when the cocoon began to form cracks all around it. In a climatic burst, the cocoon shattered into pieces, revealing the being underneath it. She had thought that she had seen the worst so far. She was wrong.

Discord rose up to the sky, his maniacal laughter reverberating throughout the entire area. Thunder and lightning crashed all around him, painting the perfect picture of malevolence.

As soon as it began, it was over. The storm clouds suddenly disappeared and Discord sat down on a conjured up black beanbag chair. “Ah, nothing like a dramatic entrance,” Discord crooned as he wiggled a bit to sink deeper into his seat. “Haven’t had one of those in a while.”

He lazily glanced down at the shell-shocked pony staring up at him. “I really need to think about investing in a camera for these moments. Your face is priceless!”

Indeed, Trixie’s expression was a mixture of disbelief and terror. Impossibly, the worst threat in living pony memory was right in front of her. How could this be? She didn’t know, but that was the least of her worries. Unfortunately, Trixie was too dumbstruck to do much of anything but just stare.

“I would introduce myself,” Discord began, “but since you gave an entire play about me, I think we can skip the introductions. We have a lot to talk about, my little pony.”

Given the situation, there was really only one coherent solution that Trixie could come up with.

She turned tail and fled.

Trixie raced through the dirty and dimly lit back alleys that she had somehow found herself in. There was little time to ponder as to how she got here. All her thoughts were on moving forward as fast as she could. She dodged past garbage cans, jumped over discarded junk and galloped through corridor after corridor of brick laden walls. She turned a corner and saw a T-juncture coming up and, with no better idea of where to go, she decided to head right.

The wall to the right of Trixie moved.

The rumble of a multistory building sliding next to her scared her witless. A scream tore from her throat and she watched in fear as the direction she was about to take closed up. Panicked, she took the only route open to her and turned left.

She heard more rumblings coming from behind her but she dared not look back. Up ahead, she saw what she hoped was an exit from this madness. Light, blessed light, spilled out of a slit in a wall only a few strides away. If she could squeeze through, Trixie was sure she’d escape.

Only for the slit to vanish from the bottom up as a silver zipper sealed it closed.

“You won’t take me!” Trixie roared. She charged at full tilt and fired off a blast of magic. The shot collided with the sipper, tearing through it and once again revealing light. Now invigorated, Trixie continued to fire her magical missiles to be sure that the path remained open. Her breath came in short gasps and her horn felt like it was on fire but she didn’t stop. Forcing herself through the exhaustion and pain, she tunneled her way through the wall with the primal need to stay alive.

At last, she burst through the end of the wall and came out the other end. Wonderful sunlight greeted her. Weary eyes spotted ponies scrambling out of her way as she rocketed past them. She stumbled and crashed to the pavement, totally spent. Trixie lay where she fell, huffing and shaking uncontrollably from her ordeal.

However, despite her pains, Trixie still managed to smile in relief. She had done it. She was safe.

“Stop! Watch out!”

Trixie’s eyes shot open. The last thing she saw was the wheel of a pony drawn carriage rolling towards her.

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

“Well, I think I’ve messed with her long enough,” Discord mused as he backstroked through the sky. “Better go get her before the poor gal has a heart attack and d-”

Searing agony suddenly lanced through his neck. Discord attempted to howl in pain but only a choked whimper escaped his mouth. It felt like his throat had been crushed in a vice. As a spirit comprised almost entirely of magic, Discord technically didn’t have to breathe but that detail was forgotten in his panic as he tried to suck in air. He wasn’t even aware that he was falling until he impacted on the pavement below. Once the dust from his landing settled, Discord’s still body was revealed.

All around him, Manehattanites crowded around the strange creature that had suddenly fallen out of nowhere. The sidewalk had cracked around where Discord had landed, leading many to believe that he must have surely passed on. Nothing could survive a fall like that.

A pitiful moan drifted past Discord’s pony lips. Some of the ponies closest to him jumped back in surprise.

“It’s alive!”

“Ew, what is it?!”

“It looks like some kind of weird manticore...”

“Look! It’s moving!”

The crowd backed away as the draconequus laboriously pushed himself up to a sitting position, leaving a perfect indent of his body in the sidewalk. He had never felt such pain before in his long life and every movement of his neck created stabs of intense suffering. Grimacing, Discord grabbed his head in both of his hands and pulled. A pop, like a cork escaping from a wine bottle, sounded out.

Several mares from the crowd fainted dead away.

“What?!” Discord’s disembodied head complained from its perch on top of his lion paw. “Haven’t you ever seen someone take their head off before?” Ignoring the annoying ponies around him, Discord rotated his paw so that his head could examine the rest of his body. His eyes bulged out when he got a look at his headless neck. A deep, rectangular indentation ran through one side of his throat.

“That’s... never happened before,” Discord said with worry. His hands positioned his head just above the stump of his neck. Taking a deep breath (despite not being connected to any lungs), Discord clamped down on the end of the stump with his mouth and blew. Like a balloon, the draconequus’ body began to inflate. It continued to grow, to the point where it seemed that it would pop at any second, until a sickening crack was heard. Many of the surrounding ponies nearly lost their lunch.

However, Discord’s unconventional methods worked. The indentation in his throat was gone. He released his mouth, causing his body to deflate back to its original dimensions. Finally, Discord ended the gruesome display by placing his head back where it belonged and gave it a sharp twist.

“Aaaaahhhhh,” he groaned in relief. He wrenched his head one last time, locking it in place. “Much better.”

Feeling in top shape, Discord hopped to his feet and looked over the wide eyed ponies staring up at him. “Now then. Does any one of you know where I can find a blue unicorn? One with a cutie mark like this?” He held up his eagle claw and an image of a wand with pixie dust appeared above it.

The demeanor of the crowd quickly turned from shocked disbelief to sorrow. Slowly, and as one, their eyes traveled to the street beside them. Discord followed their gaze and frowned.

In the middle of the street, a group of ponies were gathered. Some were carefully pushing away a wooden carriage while the rest were crowded around something laying in their center. Discord teleported next to them and with a quick force of magic, flung them to the side. With the ponies out of his way, Discord got to see what they had been looking at. His eyes widened and his face fell.

Trixie lay before him. Her eyes were closed and she was completely still with no sign of breathing. A red welt covered her neck, right across her throat.

Gingerly, Discord pressed a lion claw under Trixie’s jaw line. He couldn’t feel a pulse. Undeterred, he placed an ear against her chest but there was no heartbeat. Raising himself back up, Discord sat back and steepled his claws together, unsure of what to do next. He just gazed down at Trixie, a troubled look across his face.

“Um, sir?”

Discord jerked and looked down at his side. A blue pony with a grey mane was standing next to him, clearly uncertain as to what to make of the draconequus. “Was this pony... a-a friend of yours?”

Discord turned back to Trixie. At length he said, “She was... an acquaintance.”

“Oh, I see. Well, I’m sorry to say but she’s... passed on. Her throat... well, you know.”

“What? Are you a doctor?” Discord surprised himself with the amount of force that had entered his voice.

“Actually, I am.” The pony indicated his cutie mark which was a thermometer. “If it’s any consolation, it was over quickly. She didn’t suffer for very long.”

Discord remained silent. How long he sat there, he didn’t know. A part of him told him to leave and to get ready for when the Elements of Harmony would arrive. He was free now. There was no reason to be here. However, the rest of him didn’t want to go. It didn’t feel... right, for some reason.

A gasp from the doctor jostled him out of his conflicting feelings. “I-Impossible...”

Irritated with the pony’s continued presence, Discord nonetheless followed the doctor’s shocked gaze. He blinked.

Trixie’s chest slowly rose and fell with regular consistency. She was breathing.

The doctor got closer and examined the mare closely. “Her neck. It wasn’t like this when I checked her over before. It... healed. H-How...?”

Before he could comment any further, the draconequus next to him pushed him away. Discord bent down, focused his eyes and peered at the pair of strands that connected him to Trixie’s life force. What he saw startled him. “Well, I’ll be,” he breathed.

“Ah, sir?” the doctor asked timidly. “What are you-?” He didn’t get to finish as a flash of light forced him to look away. The pony blinked his eyes rapidly to get the resulting afterimage to slowly disappear. When he felt capable, he opened his eyes and gasped once again.

Discord and Trixie were both gone.

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