• Published 4th Nov 2011
  • 5,279 Views, 104 Comments

Trixcord - RTStephens



Two grandstanders. Only one horn.

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Duet

“Well? Now what?”

Huddled next to her friends at the entrance to the Hooflyn Bridge and dripping with chocolate rain that poured from the pink sky, Twilight Sparkle frowned and dipped her head to stare blankly at the ground. Rainbow Dash hovered above her, waiting for some type of response to her question. The seconds dragged on but the unicorn didn’t react. Rainbow glanced around and noticed all of her fellows were in similar states of depression. Even Pinkie Pie was acting subdued, her cart of chocolate milk jars sitting forgotten off to the side as she sighed and pawed at the ground.

Finally, Twilight voiced her answer. “I don’t know. I’m sorry.”

Rainbow swallowed the lump that had suddenly formed in her throat and landed next to her. The pegasus patted and rubbed Twilight on the back with a hoof. “Hey... hey. Don’t worry about it. I’m sure you’ll think of something. You always do. You’re the smartest egghead I know. So just... take your time. Okay?”

Twilight closed her eyes and nodded slowly. “Sure.”

Afraid to say anymore, Rainbow decided to stay quiet but kept her hoof on Twilight’s back. Twilight didn’t make any attempts to remove it.

Silence fell over the group with the only sounds coming from the drops of chocolate striking the ground. Nearby, Princess Celestia paced back and forth, her features scrunched up in frustration. Finally, she stopped and stomped the ground, gaining everypony’s attention.

“My little ponies,” she called out. “To me, please.”

Quickly, the bearers got to their hooves and eagerly trotted over to the princess. Once they reached her, they looked up with desperate hope in their eyes. It tore at her heart to see such expressions. Celestia regarded each one equally, making sure that all of these brave ponies got the recognition they deserved.

“I’m going to be honest with all of you,” she began, taking her time with her words. “I’m at a loss as to how Discord could have overcome the Elements’ power. Such a thing should never happen... but it did. However, I, and more importantly, all of you, can not dwell on that. If we do, we will only be playing into his hands.

“So please, no more sad faces. Together, I’m sure we will think of something to stop Discord once and for all.”

Her small speech over, the six mares looked to one another. They searched each other’s eyes, looking for that spark that would reignite their passion to bring back the harmony that had been taken away from them and the rest of Equestria. One of them firmed up her features and stepped forward.

“Princess, I promise you we’ll find a way,” Rarity spoke with absolute conviction. “We all have overcome challenges in our lives, many of them together. This is no different. As you said, we just have to find the right path. And once we do, nothing will be able to stand in our way.”

“Yay!” Pinkie Pie cheered and enveloped Rarity in a tight hug. “That’s the way to talk!” She let go of the somewhat flustered unicorn and turned to the rest of her friends. “Come on, everypony! What do you say we ditch all this dreary-weary stuff and get to cracking this nut?!”

“Sounds good ta me!” Applejack seconded. “Ain’t nothin’ we can’t do if we all work together!”

The others soon joined in with their own shouts of encouragement and before long, smiles spread across each of their muzzles. The feelings of camaraderie and good cheer grew and grew. An aura of palpable harmony spread from them, pushing away the gloomy chocolate milk attempting to drown them in woe.

Celestia beamed with pride at the sphere of unity that now protected them. “You see? Discord’s power can be overcome. It just takes a little friendship.”

Twilight Sparkle also gave a wide smile, letting the wonderful feelings that her friends shared with her to lift her from the depression that had threatened to overwhelmed her. There was no way Discord was going to win, not with how great she felt. And now, it was far past time she got down to business. “Okay, girls,” Twilight addressed the group. “Let’s all put our heads together and think of what to do next.”

Pinkie came up to Twilight, took the unicorn’s cheeks in her hooves, and bonked their foreheads together.

“Ow!” Twilight cried in pain and pushed the earth pony away. “Pinkie! What are you doing?!”

“Putting our heads together, just like you said!” Pinkie explained while rubbing her sore noggin. “I’m not sure how that’s supposed to work without getting a huge headache though.”

Twilight planted her face in a hoof. “Pinkie, that’s not what I meant. It means to brainstorm ideas.”

“Huh. Hey, Dashie. Could you go get a raincloud-”

“Don’t even go there!”

Pinkie Pie sighed in exasperation. “You know, Twilight? If you just said what you mean, then others wouldn’t take what you said the wrong way.”

A series of strangled noises and half formed words spilled out of Twilight’s mouth. Before she could go into full blown rage mode, Applejack stepped between the two ponies and spoke up. “Let’s get back on track here. Now, what do ya’ll think should be our next move? I reckon that we should find out how Discord managed to beat our elements. We do that and I’m sure we can plan a way to finish him, good.”

“A perfectly reasonable suggestion, Applejack,” Rarity said. “Just... how do we go about doing that?”

An uneasy silence permeated through the group, threatening to pull them all back down from their earlier high. Fortunately, they were saved from stumbling over the abyss when Fluttershy meekly raised a hoof.

“Um... I... um have an idea. That is... um... if you want to hear it...”

Rainbow Dash let out a long suffering sigh. “C’mon, Fluttershy. You know us better than that. We’ll listen to whatever it is you have to say.”

“I think we should find Trixie.”

“Except that.”

Applejack swatted the blue pegasus over the head. “Quit the back talkin’!”

“Aw, come on!” Rainbow whined as she rubbed her sore head. “This again?! Gotta find Trixie! Gotta find Trixie! Can’t we get some type of leash and collar and tie her to a tree so we can keep her in one place?”

Fluttershy dipped her head down in shame. “I’m sorry. I... I guess it wasn’t a very... good idea.”

Twilight came up to her and patted the animal caretaker on the back. “No, Fluttershy. You’re right. This whole thing started with Trixie. I’m sure if we can find her and get her to talk, she’ll know something that we don’t.”

“You can’t be serious...” Rainbow moaned.

Twilight rounded on Rainbow and spoke sternly, “If you have any better suggestions, I’m all ears.” Twilight whirled around and pointed at Pinkie Pie. “That means I’m willing to listen!”

Pinkie Pie haughtily waved a hoof at her. “Well, duh. What do you take me for, Twilight? A simpleton?”

It took a colossal force of will for Twilight to turn away and address everyone present. “Now then. I know we’ve been from one end of Equestria to the other trying to track Trixie down but she’s the only lead that we have. There’s gotta be something she knows that can help us beat Discord.”

No pony voiced any objections but the put upon expressions some of them wore made it clear just how enthusiastic they were to once again take up the chase for the wayward unicorn.

Rarity huffed out, “Well, that’s all well and good, but just how do you propose that we find her? She could be anywhere in that city or... anywhere for that matter.”

“I should be able to help you with that,” Celestia suddenly interjected. Seeing as she now had everypony’s attention, she continued, “There’s a spell that can pinpoint Trixie’s exact location. The only thing I would need is something that belongs to her. Do any of you have something like that?”

“Trixie’s cape!” Twilight yelled in excitement. She turned to Rainbow and asked, “Do you still have that cape that you came back with?”

Rainbow Dash cringed and began nervously pawing the ground. “Um... no. It burned up back in Horschester when that candle came to life. You know? The one we all ran away from before leaving?”

“Oh. Shoot.”

Pinkie suddenly began bouncing up and down while waving a hoof in the air. “Oh! Oh! I know! I know!”

When Pinkie didn’t elaborate and just kept hopping, Rarity decided to prod her. “Well, Darling? Are you going to tell us?”

“Oh! Right! Um, yeah. What about her other set?”

“What other set?” Twilight asked.

“You know! The one she left in Ponyville. We could use that!”

It took a moment for Twilight to figure out what Pinkie was going on about. However, the memory of the night that an Ursa Minor had nearly rampaged through the town sprang forth. A grin spread across her muzzle and she began matching Pinkie’s enthusiasm. “Yes! That should work! Good going, Pinkie!”

“Ah, not to be a stickler or anythin’,” Applejack hesitantly spoke up, “but that’s all the way back in Ponyville and we’re all stuck here. I reckon we don’t have time to be travelin’ all the way back and forth.”

“I can help with that too,” Celestia offered and spread her wings to their full length. “All of you. Stand beside me. Three on each side under my wings.” The ponies did as they were told and once they were in place, Celestia’s horn glowed. A second later, a brilliant flash encompassed them all and they were gone.

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

They reappeared in front of the Ponyville town hall in a burst of light.

“Whoa,” Rainbow Dash breathed, swaying back and forth on her hooves as she fought down a sense of dizziness. “What a rush...”

“You get used to it,” Twilight Sparkle commented as she placed a hoof on Rainbow to help regain her balance.

“I liked it!” Pinkie Pie squealed. She looked up at Princess Celestia. “Can we do that again?!”

“Let’s get what we came here for first, Pinkie,” Rarity interrupted and began trotting away. The others followed suit.

“I apologize if the trip here was unsettling,” Celestia said as they made their way through the streets. Like at Manehattan, chocolate rain fell from pink clouds above. However, that seemed to be the extent of Discord’s influence as everything else seemed to be in order. “It was the fastest way I knew to get us here.”

“Don’t worry about it, princess,” Twilight defended her mentor. “We made it here alright.”

“Speak for yourself,” Rainbow mumbled quietly.

Nothing more was said as they moved on. The going was easy as no other ponies were out on the streets. Understandable, considering that the rain had heralded the coming of Discord’s brief reign over them last time. The townsfolk were all probably huddled in their houses and praying that salvation would be coming for them soon.

The seven mares finally reached their destination. A one story, unmarked wooden shed about as long as a train car situated near the outskirts of the town. Rarity opened the unlocked door and graciously held it open for everyone else to walk in first. Inside, the walls and floors were covered with all manner of discarded items and materials. Rugs, brooms, tools, kitchen utensils and many other household things filled nearly every nook and cranny of the shack.

“Hmm, looks like the last one in here didn’t clean like they were suppose to,” Rarity sniffed in disdain. “Honestly, some ponies.”

“I may be a little out of touch,” Celestia said as she glanced around at all the... junk scattered to and fro. “But what is this place?”

“It’s sort of a lost and found,” Applejack explained while rummaging through a pile of garbage bags with clothes in them. “When townsfolk lose things, they come here to see if it’s been found and left here by somepony else. Though lately it’s been used more as a dump than anythin’ else.”

“And sometimes, ponies that can’t buy new tools will look in here and see if they can get what they need for free,” Fluttershy added. “It’s like a donation building for some.”

“I think I’ll go with dump, like AJ said,” Rainbow Dash muttered. She poked at a doll on a shelf that was covered in so much dust that its colors were hard to make out. Her hoof came back with a layer of it that she blew away into a small cloud before moving on.

“Do we know what we’re looking for?” Rarity asked as she did her best to avoid touching anything other than with her magic.

“I’m pretty sure this is where Snips and Snails left Trixie’s stuff when they cleaned up her caravan,” Twilight answered as she went deeper into the shack. “I don’t remember her ever coming back to get it.”

“Hey, guys!” Pinkie spoke up from the deepest corner of the shack. “I think I found it!”

The group crowded around where Pinkie was pointing. She had moved away some boxes which had been covering up a worn, brown chest. A note had been taped on the lid that read “The G&PT.”

“Well, open it up!” Rainbow said.

Pinkie nodded eagerly and flipped a small switch that kept the chest closed. She then lifted the lid and peered inside. Several bundles of fireworks and rockets filled one side of the chest while the other contained a pile of books.

“Hey!” Twilight suddenly cried out and levitated one of the books towards her. “She had a copy of ‘Astronomical Astronomer's Almanac to All Things Astronomy’ the whole time?! I’ve been meaning to get that replaced ever since Spike torched the last one!” Luckily, none of the others seemed to care about her find. She discretely hovered the book off to the side and under a pile of clothes to retrieve later.

“Jeez, she had a lot of trash,” Rainbow complained and began tossing the fireworks and books away carelessly.

“Careful, Rainbow!” Twilight admonished, desperately catching the thrown items with her magic and setting them down gently. “If you set off one of those rockets then somepony could get hurt!”

“Ah, ha! Got it!” Rainbow whipped around and held up a see-through package. Inside, light purple cloth with stars of varying sizes and colors could be seen.

“Wonderful,” Celestia congratulated the triumphant pegasus. “Let’s get to a more open spot and then I’ll cast the spell.”

The Ponyvillians and one princess shuffled out of the shed and towards Twilight’s library. There, under the cover of the branches and leaves, the rain didn’t reach them. Rainbow handed the package to Celestia who opened it up and levitated out the hat and cape. Despite being folded up and packed away for years, the cloth of the two articles didn’t appear to have any creases in them. Nor did they appear damaged in any way, an oddity given that an ursa’s paw had trampled all over them.

Celestia ran a quick cantrip over the material and hummed in appreciation. “These clothes have enchantments cast over them. I assume this is why they are in such good condition.”

“What kind of enchantments?” Twilight asked, her interests peaked.

“We don’t have time to look into it further. You’ll just have to ask Trixie when you find her. But, this will help me locate her easily.” Celestia concentrated and her golden hued magic rolled over the hat and cape in a second. The magical energy pulled together at the tip of the hat. Then, a white ball of light shot off into the distance and hung in the sky like a miniature moon. Celestia placed the hat and cape back in the bag and pointed at the speck of light in the sky. “We are fortunate. She’s close by. Under that beacon is where she’ll be. Let us go-”

“Your highness!”

From above, a pair of pegasi guards touched down and rushed up to Celestia with panic in their eyes. Seeing the normally stoic guards act this way sent a disturbing shiver through the group of ponies.

“The castle!” one of the guards gasped out.

“All of Canterlot!” the other added.

“It’s in total chaos!” they both exclaimed.

Celestia’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “Discord,” she hissed. She turned towards the bearers and proclaimed, “My ponies. You know what you must do. I’m needed elsewhere. I know that you will succeed. Farewell and good luck.” With no further words, the princess took to the skies, followed closely by her guards. In a flash of golden light, they teleported away.

Twilight faced her friends. “You heard her, girls. We can’t let her down. Once we find Trixie and convince her to help us, Discord’s got a date with destiny.”

A rallying cheer rose up from the Elements of Harmony. With determination and spirits high, they raced off towards the horizon.

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

“Not much farther, now,” Rainbow Dash said as she rejoined the others after taking a quick peek at the beacon from high above. “A few more minutes at most.”

“Good,” Twilight replied back. “Everyone keep sharp. Don’t let your guard down.”

The pace they had set through the countryside was brisk but not too fast to tire them out. Twilight wanted to be sure that they were all in top condition for whatever came their way. With Discord’s power covering the land, anything and everything could happen. So far, the going had been fairly easy with only hippo ballerinas, flying whales, dancing roses, masked crocodiles and walking brooms impeding their way. Honestly, Twilight was surprised that a musical hadn’t broken out with so many odd creatures running amok.

However, they were almost there. With a final push through a forest of giant mushrooms, the ponies found themselves right below the pulsing beacon that the princess had created. Only a few feet away stood their target.

“You have been a wonderful audience today!” Trixie shouted out. She stood on her hind legs upon a mushroom, overlooking a field full of every manner of creature that Twilight had ever encountered and more. Manticores, Diamond Dogs, sea serpents, a green dragon, rabbits, an Ursa Minor, fauns, a hyrda, even parasprites were all crowded together. Each one clapped or cheered in any manner that they could for the pony performer before them.

As Twilight and the others picked their jaws off the ground, Trixie continued her speech. “Things have only just started! The show is far from over!”

“Um, Trixie?” Twilight hesitantly called up to the unicorn.

Trixie landed on all fours and turned towards the voice. She quirked an eyebrow down at her before smiling brightly. “Ah! More fans! Trixie approves!” The magician pointed a hoof down towards the “audience.” “Find a seat and be prepared for feats of magic the likes you have never seen before!”

“Is she for real?” Rainbow Dash asked.

“It’s lookin’ like Discord got to her,” Applejack stated.

“Yeah, but she’s not all grey like we were,” Pinkie Pie pointed out. Indeed, Trixie’s normal light blue coat and platinum mane and tail appeared even brighter than normal with how enthusiastic Trixie was acting.

“Darling!” Rarity shouted up at the performer. “Please come down! We have things we wish to discuss with you!”

“Now, now, now,” Trixie admonished them. “Do be patient, my zealous little admirers. Trixie will be signing autographs after the show. You can try to get a word in with her then.” She flipped back around and faced the crowd of creatures once again.

“We are not your admirers!” Rainbow yelled. Her retort was wasted as Trixie ceased to notice them anymore. “That’s it! Time for round two, baby!” She charged forward but hardly made it off the ground when Applejack snapped down on her tail and reeled her back in.

“Hold on there, buckaroo!” Applejack said through clenched teeth. “You take her down and then we got a whole host of critters ta deal with!”

“Applejack’s right,” Twilight confirmed. “We’ll have to do this in stages. First, we get the animals to leave and then we can handle Trixie.

“Fluttershy? Get to it.”

The pegasus in question blinked before feeling herself getting pushed towards what constituted the stage. “M-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-meeeeee?!” she shrieked in terror. Fluttershy tried desperately to dig her hooves into the ground but Twilight, Rarity and Pinkie were overpowering her efforts. “B-b-b-b-b-b-b-but why?!”

“You’re the only one that can do it!” Twilight explained. “Animals always listen to you!”

“Yeah!” Pinkie chirped in. “And if they don’t want to listen, you can just stare them away!”

“I-I-I-I-don’t know! I’ve never tried it on so many before! And it would be mean!”

“Just give it your all, sweetie!” Rarity encouraged her. “We know you can do it!”

With one final shove, Fluttershy stumbled out in front of Trixie’s mushroom. Shaking uncontrollably, she cautiously peeked out from behind her mane. Over a hundred set of eyes stared back at her.

“EEEEPPPP!”

“You there! Pipe down and get off Trixie’s stage! You’re ruining-Urk!”

Distantly, Fluttershy heard scuffling and shouting behind her but that was irrelevant against the horrors she was now facing. Memories of being on stage, of being paraded in front of ponies with flashing cameras and judging gazes raced through her mind. Oh, how she hated being the center of attention. It was almost too much to bear.

“P-please... I... um... would really appreciate... if you... um... were to... to go back home,” she barely squeaked out. “If you... don’t mind, that is?”

The assortment of animals looked at each other quizzically. One of the Diamond Dogs in the front row raised a paw and said, “Actually, I don’t even know how we got here. Is it really okay if we just go?”

Fluttershy nodded rapidly. “Oh, yes! Please do! If you would all just follow my lead...” With that, the caretaker began to direct each of the creatures to file out, starting with the larger ones first so that they didn’t trample anything smaller than them. Now in her natural element, Fluttershy’s confidence swelled and in no time she had all the animals moving along and back where they belonged. She promised each one of them that she’d visit later to see how they were doing.

Sometimes, it felt good to be a pony.

When Fluttershy returned, sporting the largest smile on her muzzle that anypony could remember, she found that the others had also finished their part of the plan.

“Boy, howdy, have I wanted to do that for a while now,” Applejack crowed as she looked over her hoofwork.

All Trixie could do was glare at the farmer as struggling against her hogtied legs wasn’t accomplishing anything. Even cursing at the hayseed was denied due to the apple lodged in her mouth.

“Keep her still, AJ,” Twilight said as she knelt down next to Trixie’s head. Her horn glowed a soft magenta.

“Are you sure that’s a good idea, Twi?” Applejack asked as she held Trixie down. The showmare increased her efforts to get away but she was no match for the earth pony’s strength. “She don’t look all Discorded like we were. She is actin’ kinda funny though...”

“How can you tell?” Rainbow quipped.

“She’s not exactly your biggest fan, Twilight,” Rarity pointed out. Her own horn was ready to counter any magic Trixie tried to cast. “What if she tries to fight back?”

“I have to try,” Twilight sighed. “She’s a victim in this too. I just hope she’s willing to listen. Well, wish me luck.” Wasting no more time, Twilight touched her horn against Trixie’s.

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

White.

White everywhere.

No matter where Twilight Sparkle looked, all she saw was white. There was no horizon, no landmarks. She couldn’t tell how far anything was, not that there was anything to see.

Nothing. Just white.

She looked down at herself and was relieved that at least her body looked fine. She wasn’t just a pair of floating eyeballs in this... whatever this place was. She did note that she wasn’t casting a shadow but she seemed to be standing just fine.

Did I do something wrong? she wondered to herself. I just meant to cast the same memory spell that I used before to get my friends to come around. Now I’m... here. What n-?

“Lost, my dear?”

“WHAAAAA!”

Twilight rocketed several hoof lengths up and then came crashing back down. How that were possible when there was nothing to stand on, she didn’t know or even cared at the moment. Once she picked herself up she whirled around and prepared herself in case of a fight.

“Quite the reaction there, young lass.”

Twilight couldn’t believe her eyes. Her gaze swept over the blue magician’s hat with yellow stars, blue crescent moons and jingling yellow bells. She roamed further to see a stallion’s muzzle looking down at her with gentle amusement. A long, white and curly beard hung down from his chin. His coat was a deep midnight blue though most of his body was covered up by a flowing cape that matched his hat.

Twilight breathed out a name without even realizing it. “Star Swirl the Bearded.”

“Oh? You’ve heard of me?” Star Swirl chuckled.

“Heard of you?!” Twilight sprang up as though she had been standing on hot coals. She beamed up at the ancient unicorn mage and grinned so hard that her cheek muscles strained to match the joy that Twilight felt at that moment. “You’re the greatest unicorn to have ever lived!”

“Oh, pish-posh,” the elder waved away. “I’m sure there have been much more talented unicorns after my day. I just came up with a few tricks here and there. Now then, what brings you here in Trixie’s mind?”

“Oh, right,” Twilight blushed, embarrassed that her fangasm had gotten the best of her. Still, it wasn’t everyday that she got to be muzzle-to-muzzle with one of her favorite idols of all time. It took some effort but Twilight forced herself to focus on the issue that brought her here. “I need to ask Trixie to help us. The Spirit of Disharmony is running amok in Equestria and we think that she might know something to stop him.”

“I see...” Star Swirl trailed off as he pondered this news. “That is quite the predicament.”

“If I may ask?” Twilight sheepishly piped up. When Star Swirl gave her a nod, she continued, “Ah, what are you doing here?”

“Oh, that’s easy. I represent the part of Trixie’s mind that has not yet been corrupted by Discord. He got to her, he did, and it won’t be long now before she’s completely under his influence.”

“That’s terrible!”

“Calm down, young one. All is not lost. You seem to be a rather talented unicorn in your own right. With you here, we may yet be able to reach her.” Twilight’s cheeks reddened at the praise. Star Swirl turned and began walking away. “Come along. This way.”

Twilight trotted up to him until she was keeping up. “Where do we go? It’s all just a blank in here.”

“Ah, that’s the beauty of the mind. We can go anywhere and everywhere with just a thought. Observe.” With a wave of his hoof, the white all around them fizzled. A new setting dissolved into place, that of a forest in the tranquil grasp of night. The quiet of the forest didn’t feel oppressive, but soothing and serene. The sky appeared cloudless, with thousands of stars lighting the heavens above and a perfect crescent moon slowly making its journey from one horizon to the other. It were nights like these that Twilight would love nothing more than to spread out a blanket on a hilltop and just spend hours gazing up at all the wonderful wonders that Luna had created.

“It’s beautiful...” Twilight let out slowly, savoring this perfect moment.

“It pleases me that you enjoy this so much,” Star Swirl said with a warm smile. “Let’s hope that this puts Trixie in a pleasant mood. Come.” He moved forward again, this time on a tangible dirt road. Twilight followed, awestruck at how magnificent this encounter had turned out. The two unicorns traveled only a short distance before the trees began to thin out and eventually open up to a grassy field. The view became even more spectacular as now all of the starry sky was visible to see.

And only a few paces away, a caravan with Trixie’s cutie mark painted on its side lay in the center of the field.

“She’ll be inside,” Star Swirl explained. “Do be prepared.”

“For what?” Twilight asked.

“For anything.”

The simple answer didn’t do much for Twilight’s nerves but she had come this far and wasn’t turning back until she got Trixie to listen. Too much was at stake to be apprehensive about a confrontation. Star Swirl trotted up to the caravan’s door and opened it up with an aura of white magic. It swung open without any resistance.

“We are fortunate. She’s allowing us in without a fuss.” He stepped aside and gestured for Twilight to enter. “After you, my lady.”

Twilight nodded and firmed up her features. With a confident step, she climbed up the wooden planks that lead to the door and stepped in. Inside, it was pitch black. The light of the moon only penetrated a few inches in. “Trixie?” Twilight called out as she walked further in. “Are you here? It’s Twilight Spa-”

The door slammed shut behind her.

Twilight jumped and instinctively lit up her horn. At least she tried to. Blinking, Twilight concentrated harder. However, she couldn’t feel the flow of magic that was as much a part of her as any limb of her body. She strained with all of her might but nothing was happening besides an oncoming headache.

“Tsk, tsk, tsk,” came a disappointed voice. Star Swirl’s voice. “I take it all back. You’re pathetic.”

“What’s going on?!” Twilight cried out to the darkness.

A response came with a burst of blue light all around her. Twilight shut her eyes from the glare. When she cautiously opened them back up, she found herself in a new surrounding. She gasped as she saw steel bars all around her, trapping her on all sides. Beyond the bars lay the sprawling expanse of tall skyscrapers and neon lights.

“Where... where is this?” Twilight asked to herself.

“Equine Square.”

Twilight spun around. Star Swirl stood just outside the steel cage, next to the edge of the building they were atop of. He stared out at the sight of the most lit corner of Equestria, a wistful smile on his lips. “Breathtaking. And soon to be all mine.”

“What are you talking about?!” Twilight demanded. “And where’s Trixie?!”

Star Swirl shimmered. His form lost a few inches, his coat lightened up and the hat and cape gradually formed into a familiar purple color. When the transformation completed, a mare stood in the stallion’s place.

“Surprised, aren’t you?” Trixie smirked at her captive.

Twilight stared. Her eyes then narrowed and she pointed an accusing hoof at Trixie and roared, “How dare you use one of my heroes against me!”

“Don’t be hatin’ just because you got trapped,” Trixie replied smoothly.

“How do you even know him?!”

Trixie scoffed. “Please. What self respecting unicorn doesn’t know of Star Swirl the Bearded? Granted, Trixie doesn’t know his exact personality but,” she pointed her own hoof at Twilight, “it was enough to fool you, wasn’t it?”

Twilight glared at the showmare, wanting nothing more than to slap her for abusing one of the most famous ponies in history. However, with effort, Twilight forced her emotions down. She closed her eyes, counted to ten, and placed the most neutral expression she could upon her features. Keeping her tone level, she spoke, “Trixie, I didn’t come here to fight you. And I don’t want this to be about us. Equestria’s in danger and we need your help to set things right.”

“Yes, yes, Trixie knows all of this,” Trixie said impatiently. “That big, nasty beast is on the loose. Though why the Elements of Harmony didn’t come to see Trixie herself and had to send you is rather insulting. They can’t spare the time to come see her themselves?”

“The Elements of Harmony have their hooves full, trying to keep Discord at bay. I’m sorry, but they just couldn’t make it.” Twilight figured that telling Trixie the whole truth wouldn’t help her in this case. She had to keep things civil and revealing that she was one of the fabled heroes that wielded the elements would probably set her off.

Trixie huffed. “Fine. Trixie supposes that she can give them some slack. As for you...” The magician reared up on her hind legs and pointed a foreleg towards a spire that rose from the building they were standing on. A ball with hundreds of lights attached at the spire’s top lit up like a sparkling diamond. “You have until that ball drops down to speak. If you haven’t convinced Trixie to help you in that time, then she’ll throw you out and let you deal with things on your own.”

“Wait, what?!” Twilight shrieked.

“As well as being great and powerful, Trixie is also generous. She will hear you out so that you can make your case. In fairness, Trixie will tell you what Discord offered her.” Trixie landed on all fours and paced around Twilight’s prison. “That creature came to Trixie and gave her a choice. Either accept his deal or live as his puppet. If Trixie were to accept, then all of Manehatten will be hers to do with as she pleases. She’ll be free from his rule, able to perform to the masses like she always wanted. Oh, and eternal life.” She stopped her circling and thrust a hoof in Twilight’s face.

“BEAT THAT!”

The ball began its descent.

Twilight just stared. The opportunity that she had been hoping to get was here but not in any way that she had expected. Did Trixie seriously expect for her to come up with a counter offer so that she would help them?

“Clock is a tickin’.”

Twilight shook her head, hoping to make some sense out of all this. She looked up and saw that the ball was steadily moving to the bottom of the spire. At its current rate, she estimated that she had about five minutes. Twilight gulped and turned to Trixie. “Trixie, you can’t be serious. Equestria’s in danger! Whatever Discord said to you can’t be worth that!”

“Try me,” Trixie retorted.

“Ugh! This is stupid!”

“For somepony that has a time limit, you’re not making good use of it.”

“Alright. Fine! I’ll play your game. But I don’t believe for a second that you don’t care what happens if Discord gets away with things!”

Trixie raised an eyebrow. “What makes you say that?”

“Because you wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of scaring off that Ursa Major if you didn’t care. My baby dragon saw you trying your best to warn the town that it was coming and when that didn’t work, you risked your life to vanquish it.”

A small frown formed on Trixie’s face. “Yes... I... didn’t want to see that town smashed to bits,” she admitted. Her eyes narrowed as she continued, “But it paid off in the end! Trixie finally got to claim what nopony had ever done before! It was the chance she was waiting for and she took advantage of it. So there!”

“Then what about my friend, Rainbow Dash, hmm?” Twilight pressed. “She told me that you threw her in some water and would have drowned if you hadn’t saved her.”

“That... that...” Trixie fumbled for words. “I... Trixie didn’t want to be labeled a murderer, is all. Yes, that’s it. Call Trixie what you will but she will not be called that.”

Twilight shook her head. “You know what I think? I don’t think you’re as tough and mean as you want others to think you are. I think you’ve got more compassion in you that even you don’t realize.”

“It doesn’t matter what you think!” Trixie shouted. “All you’re doing is spouting philosophical nonsense when you should be pitching what you can give me!” She jabbed her hoof at the still descending ball. “You still haven’t convinced me of anything and time’s running out!”

Twilight grimaced as she noticed that the ball was at the halfway point. Reasoning with her captor wasn’t getting her anywhere besides a boot out of Trixie’s mind. Sighing, Twilight thought of something that might appeal to the selfish unicorn. “Alright, how about this? I’m Princess Celestia’s personal student-”

“That seems awfully unfair,” Trixie grumbled.

“Just let me finish! What I mean to say is that I have some pull with her and I might be able to convince her to offer you the same thing. I don’t think Princess Luna has a student of her own yet. I promise to do what I can so that you can have the same opportunity.”

Trixie actually appeared to mull that one over. “Hmm, tempting...” She smiled and regarded Twilight fully. “What else you got?”

Twilight hemmed and hawed. “What... else... what... but... A unicorn would give up her own horn for a chance like that!”

A yawn escaped from Trixie’s mouth. “Perhaps Trixie would have been impressed by something like that at one point, but that was before she had all the time in the world to learn any spell she wanted to. Keep trying.”

Twilight growled through clenched teeth. “You... you... mean... pony!”

“Ohhh, that didn’t hurt.”

With a cry of frustration, Twilight flopped down onto her belly and racked her brain for something that Trixie couldn’t say no to. Unfortunately, working against the clock always rattled her nerves and left her unable to think clearly. To make matters worse, more was on the line than a passing grade. What could she possibly say that would get Trixie to help them willingly? Perhaps coming in here was a mistake all along. Perhaps she should just wait out the time limit, leave and get her friends to force Trixie to help-

“No. No, we can’t do that,” Twilight quietly said to herself. “We’d be no better than Discord then.”

“What are you babbling about?” Trixie asked as she adjusted her hat a little.

Twilight stood back up and gave a resigned sigh. “I’m sorry, Trixie. I just don’t know what to say. I was hoping you’d see our plight but it looks like you’ve already made up your mind. I... I just hope you can live with yourself, after this. Eternal life is... well... forever...”

“Yes, it is,” Trixie gleefully agreed. Just then, a blast of magical white light and the sound of party streamers erupted from besides them, signalling the completion of the ball’s fall. “Time’s up,” Trixie grinned. “You failed.”

Twilight cringed at “failed.”

“Do be a dear and prattle on now,” Trixie gloated and began trotting away. “Good luck to you and your friends. You’ll be needing it, Miss... Miss...” Trixie stopped and tapped her hoof against her chin. “Um... this is... embarrassing but... Trixie never got your name.”

“Twilight,” the librarian offered in a depressed tone. “Twilight Sparkle.”

“Twilight Sparkle...” Trixie repeated the name as though she were trying to remember something. “Twilight... Sparkle... Trixie... has heard that name somewhere... Sparkle... Twilight... Wait. Wait! Twilight Sparkle?!”

Twilight watched in stunned confusion as Trixie gained a horrified look. Suddenly, the scenery changed abruptly, the buildings of Manehattan sinking into the ground and the sky above being replaced by a high, majestic ceiling. Walls rose up from where the buildings once stood on either side of the two unicorns. Each wall contained dozens of stained glass windows.

Twilight gasped as she recognized where she now was. “Canterlot Tower!”

Trixie ignored her as she ran up to a series of windows that had been installed more recently. “Nonononononononononono!” she chanted desperately as she looked at two windows in particular. “This... no... can’t be.” She looked between them and the lavender unicorn still stuck in her cage with wide, troubled eyes.

“Trixie, what’s wrong?” Twilight called to her. She had no idea what it was that had Trixie in such a ruckus but it worried her. More so when Trixie’s coat flickered briefly. Twilight could have sworn she saw grey temporarily cover Trixie’s normal colors.

“You... this... no... No!” Trixie screamed and angrily whirled on Twilight. “It’s not true! Tell me it’s not true!”

“What’s not true?!” Twilight desperately wanted to know. “Trixie! You’re not making any sense!”

“You... you’re... you’re an Element of Harmony!”

“Oh, right. Um... yes, Trixie. I... I don’t brag about that but, yes, I am. I’m the element that represents magic.”

If anything, Trixie’s muzzle fell even further. “You... magic... element... Y-y-you mean I’VE BEEN SINGING YOUR PRAISE THE ENTIRE TIME?!

Twilight closed her eyes tightly and fell back on her haunches from Trixie’s shrill cry. She twitched her ears, relieved to know that they were still attached after taking such a loud force of sound. Grimacing, she peeked open an eye. “Um... sorry? I... didn’t know it would be such a big deal-OHMYGOSH! Trixie! Look at you!”

“No... big... deal,” Trixie repeated dully. She failed to notice the color draining from her body, starting at her tail and slowly reaching to the top of her hat. She turned away from Twilight and sat heavily on the floor. “Why do I even bother...”

The cage keeping Twilight contained sparkled briefly before disappearing altogether. She wasted no time in taking advantage of her new freedom and rushed up to Trixie. Twilight grabbed Trixie by the shoulders and twirled her around so that she was now facing her. “Trixie! Snap out of it! Wha-why are you acting like this?!”

Trixie didn’t react other than to face away. “Just go away...”

“No! I’m not going to leave you like this! It’s... it’s Discord! He’s taking you over!”

“It’s not him. It’s me. I... want so badly to be noticed... To go down in history as one of the greats.

“But I’m not fooling anypony. It will never happen.”

“But what about the Ursa Major? You did that when even I couldn’t! Ponies saw you do it!”

Trixie shook her head. “No. I... failed that too. I tried, I really did. But it wasn’t enough. Discord gave me the power to finish my spell. All I was able to do was take care of its baby.”

Twilight blinked before patting Trixie on the back. “That’s okay too! Don’t you see? You’ve matched me now. We’re even! We both took out an Ursa Minor! Very few can claim that!”

Trixie remained silent as she lay down on the floor and hid her muzzle with her hat. “Manehattan. Even if I take Discord’s deal, he’ll be the one responsible for getting the ponies to come to my shows. Not me.

“I’m worthless.”

Trixie’s coat shimmered again and her colors became even darker.

“Don’t say that!” Twilight shook Trixie harder. “Nopony is ever worthless! Everypony has something he or she is good at! Our cutie marks are proof of that!”

Trixie shoved Twilight away and lay back down again. “Leave me alone. Just... go. Save the world or something.”

“We can’t! We tried! The elements don’t work on him anymore! That’s why we came to find you! We need your help!”

Twilight heard a sniffle coming from under the hat. She lifted it off to find Trixie crying into her legs. “T-t-that’s my... my fault too,” she barely managed to say. “I-I let him out. I didn’t mean too. I didn’t even know...” She lost the ability to talk as sobs overcame her.

Twilight sat down next to the distraught mare and gathered Trixie into a tight hug. “It’s okay,” she soothed, gently stroking Trixie’s mane. “You didn’t know. Discord tricked you. He’s good at that. It’s not your fault. But, you have what it takes to make things right again. I know you do.”

Twilight looked up from her comforting and towards all the windows of past and present heroes that were still surrounding them. An idea came forth and she smiled down at Trixie. “That’s it. Trixie, you seem to care a lot about these windows, right?”

Trixie gave a slight nod. Struggling through her sniffles, she said, “Yes. They... inspire me. It was here that I got my idea of what to do at the Grand Galloping Gala. I... I wanted to give a show like nopony had ever seen.

“And that’s when everything went wrong.”

Twilight pulled Trixie closer. She whispered in her ear, “How would you like to be a part of them?”

“What do you mean?” Trixie asked with a sniff.

“Trixie, I can guarantee you that when we beat Discord, you’ll be honored with one of these windows. You’ll be among the legends that you love so much. You’ll be a hero, for all to see.”

Trixie lifted her tear streaked muzzle and stared into Twilight’s eyes. “Really?”

“Really. And I promise I’ll be there to see it with you. All of my friends too. And the princesses. All of Equestria will know just how great and powerful you are.”

Trixie looked at the other unicorn for a time, searching for any falsehood or deception. All she could see was Twilight’s friendly gaze and a promise that everything that she said was the truth.

“I... accept.”

A flash of light filled Twilight's vision.

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

“Ah!” Twilight yelped and fell back onto her rear. She shook her head to clear it of the last of the disorientation she felt and opened her eyes. Her friends all stood around her, anxious expressions adorning their muzzles.

“You alright, hon?” Applejack asked in concern and helped Twilight to her hooves.

“Ohhhh, give me a second,” Twilight moaned and rubbed her forehead. She blinked a few times and slowly took in her surroundings. She was back next to the mushroom forest that they had crossed to get here. Trixie lay before her, no longer hogtied and, more importantly, no longer grey. “I’m fine. Everything good here?”

“Well, we were getting a little worried when we saw Trixie change colors,” Fluttershy revealed. “What happened?”

“Oh, yeah. Things didn’t go exactly how I wanted at first,” Twilight smiled sheepishly. She brushed that away and stood up proudly. “But, I did it. I got Trixie to help us. Now we just need to find Discord and put things to an end, once and for all.”

“Do you always talk such mushy nonsense?”

Everypony turned to see Trixie slowly open her eyes and look up at the group of ponies next to her. Cautiously, Trixie got to her hooves and faced off with them, her half lidded stare regarding them. “Trixie hopes that she doesn’t have to listen to such things the whole time.”

“Hey, if I have to put up with it, then so do you,” Rainbow Dash shot back.

Trixie looked them over, a small frown tugging at her mouth. “Let Trixie guess. You’re all the Elements of Harmony.”

“Righty-o!” Pinkie Pie cheered.

“Hmph. Figures.” Trixie sighed and turned towards Twilight. “Remember our deal, Twilight Sparkle.”

Twilight nodded. “I’ve got it.”

“A whole window.”

“Sure.”

“All to my own.”

“Don’t push it.”

Trixie harrumphed again and began trotting away. “Well, don’t just stand there, gawking. Trixie has places to be after this and she doesn’t want to be late.”

“Hold up.”

Trixie stopped and turned back to them. “What is it?”

Rarity stepped forward and levitated a package in front of the blue unicorn. “We all thought you might want these back. Think of it as an act of good will. I for one would like to put all of our unpleasant history behind us.”

The showmare’s eyes widened at what she saw through the clear packaging. Her lips trembled as she accepted the package with her own magic and opened it up. Trixie almost lost concentration as she carefully unfolded a purple magician’s hat and cape. “My... my outfit. My... my precious...” Her voice broke and her eyes teared up. Delicately, she draped the cape around her and clasped it in place. Her hat came next, settling it on her head. They fit as perfectly as the day she had lost them.

“I... I don’t... I don’t know what to say...”

“Saying ‘thank you’ will be enough,” Twilight said with a smile.

Trixie realized she was crying and hastily wiped away her tears. “Trixie... that is... I... T-Thank... you. Thank you, very much.”

“Don’t mention it,” Applejack responded and patted Trixie on the back. “Friends do this for each other all the time.”

Trixie uncomfortably accepted the gesture. “I wouldn’t go so far as call us... friends. I'm not ready to forget just yet.”

“We’ll work on that,” Twilight spoke up. “Now let’s get going. You can tell us everything you know on the way.”

“Right,” Trixie agreed. She swirled around, her cape billowing dramatically behind her. “Now, let’s show that pompous oaf that no one messes with the Great and Powerful Trixie!”

“Oh, brother,” Rainbow complained. “Now there’s two of ‘em.”

Trixie ignored her and galloped off, the Elements of Harmony following close behind.

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

Princess Celestia cautiously cantered down the hallway leading to her throne room. Nothing had impeded her way here, which worried her more than if an entire plague of parasprites had arrived and tried to gobble her up. At least then she would have something to take her mind off the growing wariness she felt.

Just as her guards had said, Canterlot had been gripped in the chaos that Discord was infamous for. She had asked them to do what they could to keep things from getting worse but she knew that they were in over their heads. Celestia had decided to seek out the source and had been led here. Discord would pay for what he had done to her beautiful kingdom.

The large double doors to her throne room loomed ahead of her. With a casual flick of magic, they opened up and she strode through. Inside, she clearly saw that... nothing had changed. Everything was where it should be. Celestia was about to turn and check somewhere else when the doors she had just opened closed on their own accord.

“Heh, heh, heh. Leaving so soon, Celestia?”

The princess turned back around. The few brief seconds that she had looked away had been plenty for the room to change. The grand royal colors that adorned all the architecture had been replaced with dark reds and browns. Grey stone bricks made up the walls and floor. Torches lined the walls instead of the windows that had allowed natural light to fill the room. The harsh light of the flames contrasted sharply with the pleasant light of the sun that had made the place feel welcome to her subjects. Blood red tapestries hung from the high ceiling, their ends frayed and torn.

And, where her golden throne use to be, there stood a menacing black and red throne. Sitting on it, swirling a metal goblet of chocolate milk in his eagle hand and drumming his lion fingers onto the armrest with the other, was Discord.

“Welcome home,” Discord greeted her with a dark chuckle. “Like what I’ve done to the place?”

Celestia answered by charging forward, her horn blazing with golden power.

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