• Published 19th Mar 2015
  • 2,207 Views, 29 Comments

Black Magic Mare, Roaming Queen - Meta Four



Ditzy Doo and Trixie take the road to Baltimare together. Stories will be shared. Conversations will be won and lost. Pine cones will be eaten. The past will be fled.

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1. I left there in a hurry, looking forward to my big surprise.

Two sounds snapped Ditzy Doo into wakefulness. The first was the plodding of hooves along the dirt path below, a sound Ditzy could not afford to relax around. The second sound was a bit more surprising: the creaking of wooden wheels. Ditzy had not heard any of those since she fled that village a week earlier.

Flinging off her blanket and shaking away the last traces of sleepiness, Ditzy perked up her ears. The forest around her was silent, aside from the visitor and their cart. From the number of hoofbeats, and the smell of body odor, there seemed to be only one pony walking. But another sound reached Ditzy: the sound of a mare’s voice. Who was this unknown traveler speaking to—herself, or somepony riding in the cart?

Carts, Ditzy thought. Those orderlies didn’t ever ride in carts, did they? Always on hoof, with stretchers. Oh, and they were all stallions. Right.

The tree canopy around Ditzy was a sanctum of green leaves, gray branches, and a few golden rays of sunlight. However, those foliage walls that had shielded her from prying eyes below, now blocked Ditzy’s view of the ground. As quietly as she could, she stuffed the blanket into her saddlebags and checked that her money and food were properly packed. Then she lifted off the tree branch that had served as her bed, and she descended to a lower branch, near the bottom of the canopy.

The unknown mare on the path below was a light blue unicorn, and her cart was actually a wagon, one resembling a small, mobile house. Nopony else was visible. She continued speaking to herself, but she had lowered her voice, so Ditzy still could not make out her words.

The unicorn stopped walking, and her horn lit up with a faint pink aura. At the same moment, the tree branch beneath Ditzy glowed the same color. Ditzy’s eyes widened. She tried to leap from the branch, but it shattered into toothpicks under her hooves.

Ditzy found herself sprawled in the dirt, with a blue blur filling her vision. The blur spoke.

“Well, well, well. Why, pray tell, is a pegasus spying on a forest road, this far from any town? Are you some kind of highway robber?”

Ditzy put one hoof to her forehead. Her eyes focused, and the blur resolved into the figure of the blue unicorn. She had unyoked herself from the cart. The way she held her head said, “You are beneath me,” quite unmistakably—but her wide stance said that she was ready for a fight.

Her horn glowed again, and she continued, “Do you intend to rob The Great and Powerful Trrrrrrixie?”

Ditzy stood up and brushed the dirt from her coat. “Uh ... no.”

Trixie furrowed her brows and scowled. “No? Why not?

Ditzy froze. “What.”

“Trixie has many things worth stealing! Why don’t you want to rob her?”

Ditzy took a few steps backwards. “What?

“Don’t back away like that! You come over here and try to rob Trixie this very instant!

I’m not a robber!” Ditzy shouted, before she turned and bolted. “And you’re crazy!”

She didn’t make it far. A length of rope wrapped around her rear hooves, halting her forward progress. Trixie held the other end of the rope in her telekinesis, then pulled. Her forehooves digging into the dirt, Ditzy tried to pull herself forward, but the snare inexorably dragged her back, then lifted her into the air. Ditzy dangled upside down in front of Trixie’s face.

“Oh, you’re not a robber? Why didn’t you just say so?”

“Because ...”

“So, where are you going, strange pegasus?”

“Umm ...”

“What a coincidence! Trixie is traveling that way, too!”

Trixie’s horn flared again. Ditzy found herself roughly deposited halfway through the open door of the house-wagon. Trixie re-yoked herself, and the wagon began moving. Ditzy kicked the rope off her legs and found a more comfortable position, but didn’t move from her spot.

“So!” Trixie said, “Strange pegasus—”

“I have a name, you know.”

“Of course you do. Anyway, how much do you know about Trixie?”

“Aside from the fact that you’re apparently the weirdest kidnapper in the world? I dunno, we just met!”

“Are you saying you’ve never heard of Trixie before?”

“Should I have?”

Quieter, as if to herself, Trixie said, “What luck! It appears Trixie has finally outrun her reputation.” She raised her voice to address Ditzy again. “Consider yourself lucky, strange pegasus—”

Ditzy. My name is Ditzy.”

“Consider yourself lucky, Dizzy, that you’re the first of your friends to hear the legend of The Great and Powerful Trrrrrrixie! And from none other than Trixie herself!”

“Yaaaaaay,” Ditzy deadpanned.

“So which would you like to hear first, the tale of how Trixie saved the town of Hoofington from a rampaging Ursa Major, or the tale of how Trixie retrieved the Orb of Thackleborg from the Castle of Terror?”

“Actually, there’s something I should probably tell you—”

“Castle of Terror? Excellent choice! It was a dark and stormy night when Trixie first came to Transylmaneia ...”

Ditzy sighed and lay down as Trixie launched into her story. The wagon rolled on to the south, while the rays of the rising sun began to peek through the forest.


“... And that,” Trixie said, “is why Trixie makes sure she’s never more than twenty feet away from her trusty bag of mint leaves.”

Ditzy yawned and stretched her legs.

Trixie turned her head to look back at her passenger. “Now, wasn’t that a tale worth the telling, Dizzy?”

“Sure, but did the townsponies ever find those missing horns?”

Trixie smiled and faced forward again. “Hmm. Trixie doesn’t know. They were still missing when Trixie left town. And Trixie hasn’t been back there since ...”

“Oh. That’s too bad.”

“Well, it’s been a few years. Trixie is sure they’ve found all those horns on their own by now. Oh! Here’s a good place to stop.”

She turned to the side and pulled the wagon into a clearing that bordered the road. The grass was thick and tall, reaching up to Trixie’s withers.

“Um, I don’t think this is such a good idea,” Ditzy said. She lifted into the air, then perched on the wagon’s roof. “All this thick grass is probably full of ticks.”

“What kind of greenhorn do you take Trixie for?” Trixie said as she unyoked herself. “She knows about ticks, thank you very much. Behold!”

She turned and faced Ditzy. Her horn flared. A wave of telekinesis washed over her body, from her head back to her rump, then down to all four hooves. Then she smiled at Ditzy.

“Can you brush off those bloodsuckers half as well?”

“No,” Ditzy said. “Probably not.”

“Ha!” Trixie turned and trotted towards the tree line. “Now if you’ll excuse Trixie, she has a great and powerful need to visit the little filly’s room.”

Ditzy turned away from Trixie. She took a few deep breaths, then turned back. Trixie had disappeared into the trees. Ditzy took to the air and followed the trail of trampled grass Trixie left, until she reached the tree line herself.

“Trixie?” she called out, hovering above the grass. “There’s something I really need to tell you before we travel together any further.”

“Trixie is a little busy! Can it wait?”

“Probably not.”

“Then why didn’t you tell Trixie sooner?”

I tried, but you wouldn’t let me get a word in edgeways!”

“You’re just jealous that Trixie won the conversation.”

“No, I … What?” Ditzy shook her head. “Conversations are not contests!”

“With that attitude, it’s no wonder Trixie bested you.”

“Whatever! Trixie, I may be putting you in danger just by being with you. I’m ... There are ponies hunting for me.”

“Trixie certainly hopes so! Aside from your weird eyes, you’re not a bad-looking mare.”

Ditzy dropped her face into her forehooves. “Not like that! They want to lock me up, not date me.”

“Their loss! So is that all you were worried about?”

“What do you mean, is that all?

“Well, Trixie’s rather more familiar than she’d prefer with getting chased out of towns by angry mobs. And angry wives. And angry husbands. Word of advice, Dizzy: don’t mess around with married ponies. It’s just not worth the extra headache.”

“That ... that is beside the point. That isn’t even in the same solar system as the point!”

“Well, then, Dizzy, what did you do or allegedly do to make these ponies want to throw you in the slammer?”

“Not jail. A padded room. They think I’m mentally ill.”

“Really?” Trixie stepped out of the trees and into the clearing. She looked up, studying Ditzy’s face with such intensity that she scrunched her nose. Then she turned away. “Hmmm. Trixie doesn’t think you’re crazy.”

Smirking, Ditzy turned back towards the wagon. “And you know all about crazy.”

“Trixie knows all about a lot of things!”

The tips of the tallest blades of grass whipped Ditzy’s hooves as she sped back to the wagon. She paused upon arriving, glancing back and forth between her prior seat in the wagon’s door, and the reins and yoke, lying on the ground. Ditzy descended and pushed her head through the yoke.

Hey!” Even though she was some hundred feet away, Trixie’s shout was still loud enough to make Ditzy flinch. She trotted closer. “Just what do you think you’re doing, Dizzy?”

“Pulling the wagon?”

Trixie was now close enough that Ditzy could make out her scowl. “Are you implying that Trixie can’t pull her own wagon by herself?”

Ditzy lowered her head slightly. “I just wanted to help with—”

“Are you implying that Trixie needs help?” Trixie was now close enough that neither pony needed to raise their voice, and she continued to come closer.

Mental help, maybe,” Ditzy muttered under her breath. She continued in a normal voice, “I’m just trying to do a favor. ‘A burden shared is a burden lessened,’ right?”

Trixie leaned forward, breaking the sanctity of Ditzy’s personal space. “On the contrary, ‘If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.’”

“Darn it, Trixie!” Ditzy raised her head and leaned forward quickly. Her nose mere inches away from Trixie’s, she said, “Normal ponies would appreciate a break from pulling a load like this!”

Trixie is not a normal pony!”

Ditzy bit her tongue, but a hint of laughter still escaped her nose as a snort. “I’m not touching that one,” she said, smiling.

Furrowing her brow, Trixie took a step back. Then she rolled her eyes and sighed. “Fine, be that way. But you won’t be able to pull it half as far as Trixie could, she’s sure of that.”

She walked halfway to the wagon, then returned to Ditzy, levitating a bundle of rags and towels. “The yoke is too loose on you. You’ll get nasty blisters if you try to pull it like that.” She stuffed the rags and towels between Ditzy’s neck and the yoke, until it fit snugly and rested against her shoulders.

“Ready?” Ditzy said.

Trixie climbed into the wagon and called out, “Hi ho, Dizzy, away!”

Ditzy pushed forward, but nothing happened.

She adjusted her stance and pushed again, harder, but the wagon still refused to move.

“Problem, Dizzy?”

“Third time’s the charm!” Ditzy called back. She took several deep breaths as she adjusted her stance once more. She pushed again, throwing her entire weight against the yoke. Just as she began to fear that her legs would give out, the wagon creaked and rolled forward.

Once it was in motion, Ditzy found the wagon much easier to pull. It rolled still more easily when she got it back on the path. The weight was comparable to an overpacked saddlebag—not pleasant, but bearable.

Ditzy’s snoot tingled, a faint sensation she would have ignored if she hadn’t also noticed a pink aura appear at that precise point. Both the light and the tingle swept over her, across her back and down to her hooves. Then the telekinesis dissipated—the entire sweep had lasted one second or so. Ditzy blinked.

Guess I don’t have to worry about ticks now, she thought.

Trixie was turned to the side, humming to herself as she filed one of her forehooves. But when she saw Ditzy looking back at her, she set down the file and faced forward.

“Dizzy, tell Trixie a story!”

Ditzy sighed. “Now?”

“Of course now! It’s a great way to take your mind off repetitive labor like this.”

“Huh. That’s a good point.”

“Or we could sing a song, if you prefer.” Trixie threw her head back and belted at the top of her lungs, “Don’t turn your back on me, baby! Don’t turn your back on me, baby—

“That’s okay, that’s okay,” Ditzy interrupted. “I’ll tell a story. Just give me a bit to think of one ... Okay, I know the one.”

“Great!” Trixie sat on the wagon floor, grinning and bouncing slightly.

“So, this one year at band camp, I got to be bunk mates with Carrot Top. Two weeks into camp, she tells me—”

“Who’s Carrot Top?” Trixie interrupted.

“My best friend back then. We were classmates in Ponyville.”

“What’s she look like?”

Ditzy glanced back. “I’m telling this story.”

“And Trixie is listening to this story. Trixie can’t follow it if she can’t picture it in her mind. So if you don’t give some details, Trixie will assume that Carrot Top was some kind of purple octopus.”

Ditzy chuckled. “No, she was an earth pony. Pale orange-ish. Carrot cutie mark.”

“Got it.”

“Anyway, two weeks into camp, she said to me, ‘Hey, Ditzy, did you hear about the haunted lake outside the north fence?’”

“Where and when did this conversation happen? At night, while you were roasting s’mores? In the middle of band practice? Roasting s’mores in the middle of band practice?”

“It was in the cabin, when we were supposed to be sleeping. So I answered ...”


“... So we burned the canoes.”

“How many?”

All of them. Over twenty.”

Trixie shivered. Ditzy smiled, in spite of the soreness in her neck and the aches in all her legs. In between heavy breaths, she continued, “I sifted through the embers and ashes, to make sure all the sigils of Kaza-raa’s eye were truly gone. And, thank Celestia, they were. The nightmare was over.”

“Did anypony ever find those missing saxophones?”

“Nope. Mrs. Keys had to buy replacements. That’s why Carrot Top and I didn’t get bigger medals. Oh, yeah, we earned medals for solving that mystery. I should’ve mentioned that.”

Ditzy trotted on for a few seconds, breathing heavily and saying nothing.

“That’s it?” Trixie said. “That’s the whole story?”

“Yeah, that’s it.”

“Hmm. Well, Dizzy, that story was adequate. Trixie wasn’t bored by it.”

“Wow, thanks.” Ditzy rolled her eyes, then turned her head to get a better look at her surroundings.

This region of the forest was much older than the one from this morning. The trees were taller and thicker, their canopy denser. The time was only late afternoon, but it felt like twilight with how few of the sun’s rays reached the ground. The only underbrush hugged the sides of the dirt road.

Ditzy looked again to the side of the road, and her eyes widened. “Oh my goodness, oh my goodness ...” She dug her hooves into the ground and flapped backwards with her wings, and the wagon ground to a stop.

“What are you doing?” Trixie said. “Are you stopping for a break?”

“Look at that!” Ditzy pointed into the woods, then pulled her head out of the yoke.

“You realize, of course, that Trixie won? She pulled the wagon twice as long as you did!”

“Whatever.” Ditzy rushed off the road and stopped at the base of a tree. Placing one hoof on its trunk, she turned back to Trixie. “You see this?”

“It’s a tree,” Trixie deadpanned. “We’re in a forest, which has no shortage of trees.” She climbed down from the wagon.

“This is a special tree.” Ditzy gazed up, into the tree’s branches. “We’re in a primarily hardwood forest, but this,” she said, tapping the trunk, “is a pine tree. Specifically, a brushy-brushycone pine.”

“And what’s so special about—” A loud crunch interrupted Trixie. She looked down to the source of the sound: a large pine cone was partly crushed beneath her hoof.

“That’s what’s special.” Ditzy picked up the cone, held it up to her nose, and inhaled. A heady aroma—both woody and nutty at the same time—filled her nostrils. She continued, “These babies are edible. And not just edible—they’re really healthy, they taste great, and they’ll stay fresh for months!

She extended her hoof, offering the cone to Trixie, who grabbed it with her telekinesis. Ditzy zipped back to the wagon. Trixie sniffed the pine cone, then scrunched her nose and turned away. Ditzy returned, carrying her saddlebag.

“Trixie remains unconvinced that these pine cones are really edible.”

“Your loss,” Ditzy said, snatching the cone and stuffing it into her bag. She then scoured the ground, grabbing every pine cone she could find.

From the corner of one eye, Ditzy saw Trixie standing still, presumably watching her. Then, Trixie levitated one pine cone that Ditzy had somehow missed. Delicately, she broke off a few scales between her teeth, and she chewed. Trixie’s face softened.

Ditzy turned to face her, and their eyes met. Trixie hastily swallowed, and said, “Well, this isn’t the worst thing Trixie’s ever eaten off a forest floor.”

Ditzy smirked, then looked back up into the canopy. When she glanced back, Trixie had taken a second bite.

Ditzy reared and bucked the tree. The trunk swayed from the blow, and a few needles and branches fell.

“Well that’s mean,” Trixie said around a mouthful of pine cone scales. “What did that tree ever do to you, Dizzy?”

“There are a bunch of cones up in the branches, ready to fall off,” Ditzy said. “If I can buck them down like this ...” She struck the tree again, harder. Still, no cones fell. “... it’ll be easier than flying up there and pulling them off, one by one.”

Trixie looked up into the canopy and took another bite of the pine cone. Ditzy trotted to the far side of the road and faced the tree. She lowered her head, snorted, and charged. As she passed Trixie, she lept and spun in midair, to face away from the tree. The crack of her rear hooves against the trunk echoed through the forest for a few seconds. Still, the tree did not yield any cones.

Ditzy muttered to herself, “Stupid tree, if you were a cloud I would just ...” She landed and turned to Trixie. “Hey, you’ve got stronger legs than me, apparently—”

“Of course.”

“Can you try bucking the cones down? Or maybe if we both bucked it at the same time ...”

“Trixie has a better idea.” Her horn flared. Dozens of points in the tree’s canopy glowed pink, and a chorus of snaps sounded and went silent. Ditzy raised a hoof to shield her head as pine cones rained down.

“Now how do you like that, Dizzy?”

“That’s great, thanks!” Ditzy resumed scooping cones into her saddlebag.

“What?!” Trixie shook her head. “No, don’t you realize? This means Trixie is better than you!

Ditzy raised one eyebrow at Trixie, but didn’t stop collecting cones.

“You couldn’t knock down the pine cones! Trixie did it on her first try!”

Ditzy stuffed another hoofful of cones into her bag.

Trixie stamped closer as she continued, “Anything you can do, Trixie can do better! Don’t you understand it? Doesn’t it just eat away at you, to realize how outclassed you are?!”

Ditzy didn’t even look at her as she said, “No.”

“Aaaargh!” Trixie kicked and stamped the ground as she vented. “You are the most impossible pony!”

I’m impossible?” Ditzy whipped around to face Trixie. “I’m impossible?! Why, you—”

“Trixie can pick up these pine cones better than you! Behold!” She flared her horn, and all the remaining pine cones levitated in a field of pink magic. “How do you like them pine cones? Get the bag, Dizzy!” Her eye twitched once as she pressed the cones together, into a ball about five feet in diameter. Then, she pushed the ball against the opening of Ditzy’s saddlebag. “You’re lucky Trixie’s here, otherwise this would have taken so much longer to ... um ...”

The mouth of Ditzy’s bag was only one foot across at its widest point. The five foot ball of pine cones was obviously not going to fit.

“What a pity,” Trixie said. “Your bag is full.”

Ditzy rolled her eyes, grabbed a single pine cone from the mass, and placed it in the bag. Then she grabbed another, then another.

“You see,” Trixie said, “this just proves that ... that ...” Trixie tilted her head and stared. “How are you doing that?”

Ditzy had already stuffed half the mass of pine cones into her bag, and continued packing them steadily. “It’s just a matter of how you pack them.”

“That bag is only one cubic foot at the most! Putting that many pine cones in there should be impossible!”

“I am impossible. Remember?”

“But ... but ...”

“Really, Trixie, with that attitude, it’s no wonder you can’t do it.”

Trixie groaned and turned away. “It’s Trixie’s turn to pull the wagon! As soon as you’re done playing with pine cones, we’re leaving.”

“Just a minute more.”

Trixie was already yoked by the time Ditzy returned. As she started pulling, she said, “It’s Trixie story time! Which do you want to hear, Dizzy: the tale of how Trixie vanquished the cloud gremlins of Griffin Pass, or the year Trixie saved Hearth’s Warming Eve?”

“Saving Hearth’s Warming? How did that happen?”

“Trixie wouldn’t believe it either, if she hadn’t done it herself! You see, it all started on a dark and stormy Arbor Day, when Trixie came to a lakeside town named Lakeside Town—”

“How big was the lake?”

“Trixie was getting to that! ... Townside Lake was pretty big. Not a great lake, but a pretty good one. Trixie was looking for a place to camp for the night ...”


“... And that’s why amending laws in the Equestrian government is so darn complicated.”

“What?” Ditzy said. “That has nothing to do with the story you were telling!”

“Yes. Trixie was testing to see if you were paying attention.”

Why?

“And you passed.”

“That’s just great, Trixie. Meanwhile, back here in Equestria, I’m still wondering—”

“Oh, this looks like a good place to camp for the night!”

Trixie pulled the wagon off the side of the road, behind a thick stand of oak trees and bushes. There was a convenient patch of leaf-covered soil, mostly free of rocks, on the other side. When Trixie stopped the wagon, the burbling of a nearby creek could be heard.

“Yes,” Trixie said as she unyoked herself. “These trees will shield us from any unfriendly eyes on the road. And there’s running water close by. Don’t you agree this is an excellent spot, Dizzy?”

“I guess.”

“You guess? Do you have a better place in mind, then, hmmm?”

Ditzy hopped down. “I dunno. I’m not used to camping with this much stuff,” she said, waving a hoof at the wagon. “Normally I’d just sleep in a tree.”

“Well, you’re lucky to be traveling with the Great and Powerful Trixie, then!” Trixie hooked her foreleg over Ditzy’s shoulder. “There will be no sleeping on tree branches for the duration of this trip, Dizzy! We may be in the wilderness, but we don’t have to leave all the comforts of home behind us.”

“Uh, thanks.”

“Of course,” she said, leaning closer to Ditzy, “the comforts of Trixie’s home are much nicer than the comforts of your home—”

“I’m gonna get some firewood!” Ditzy said. She slid out of Trixie’s grasp so quickly and smoothly that Trixie found herself draping one arm over open air.

Trixie fell and landed on her side, leaves crunching and twigs snapping beneath her. “Trixie meant to do that!”

Ditzy searched the forest floor, grabbing fallen branches and tucking them under her wings. She happened upon a cottonwood tree and stopped to examine it. Thankfully, the trunk was free of any black marks. And behind it was a dead pear tree that was still standing. Five minutes of bucking later, she had enough wood to keep a fire going several hours. It took her a few trips to get it all back to the campsite, and by then Trixie had already arranged some stones into a fire ring. As Ditzy dropped off the last of the wood, Trixie drove a curved metal stake into the ground just outside the fire circle.

She hung a cast iron pot from the stake, then turned to Ditzy. “Trixie’s in the mood for stew. How does that sound, Dizzy?”

“I—”

“Glad you agree! Stew it is.”

Ditzy stamped a hoof. “I was trying to say, I haven’t had a warm meal in two weeks.” She stepped closer, staring straight into Trixie’s eyes. “I would be delighted.”

Trixie didn’t blink. “Trixie will chop the vegetables, then.”

“I’ll start the fire.” Ditzy piled up the kindling: first the dry leaves, then the twigs and inedible pine cones, then the thickest branches and logs on top.

“Why are you fussing so much over the logs?” Trixie said, telekinetically chopping a green onion in midair. “It’s just a fire, not an art piece.”

“I’m maximizing the airflow. A good fire needs good airflow.”

Ditzy grabbed the knife and flint from her saddlebag. She held the stone between her forehooves, against the kindling, and grasped the knife in her mouth. But before she could strike the flint, a pink spark appeared from nowhere. The kindling burst into flame, and Ditzy yanked her hooves back just in time to avoid burning them.

Trixie faced the side, chopping some potatoes and humming to herself.

Ditzy spat out her knife. “Thanks. Starting a fire with a flint is a real pain.”

Trixie chopped the potatoes faster and hummed slightly louder.

“So ...” Ditzy said. “Looks like I finished my part first ...”

“Trixie is finished!” The knife in Trixie’s telekinetic grip flew so fast that it practically vaporized the final potato. She spun around and flung the chunks into the pot, hard enough to splash water over the side. “Ha!”

Ditzy extended a hoof to stop the pot’s swaying.

Trixie plopped a ladle into the pot and began stirring. “So, Dizzy,” she said, “you strike Trixie as quite knowledgeable about roughing it. How long have you been doing this?”

“Oh, most of what I know, I learned from my parents. Mom and Dad were big on wilderness survival. We’d go camping several times per year. And when I turned thirteen, we started going on trips where we brought almost nothing. Just living off the wilderness.”

“That sounds miserable.”

“Heh. I guess I wasn’t into it nearly as much as Mom and Dad were.”

“Ah, yes.” Trixie nodded. “Parents not seeing eye-to-eye with their children—a familiar story.”

“Oh, it wasn’t that bad. ... Wait, did you have disagreements with your parents?”

“Of course not! Trixie had the best, most supportive mother in all of Equestria...”


Twenty-three years ago ...

“Your mom loves you more!”

“No, Trixie loves you more!”

The voices carried, even over the idling airship engines. All along the jetty, the other waiting passengers couldn’t help but stare at the two shouting unicorns.

“Your mom loves you ten times more than you could ever love her!” The mother was dark blue, and she wore a tuxedo and top hat.

“No, Trixie loves you a hundred times more!” The daughter, still just a filly, wore a purple wizard hat and matching robe.

“Oh yeah? Well, your mom loves you a hundred thousand million times more!”

“And Trixie loves you infinity times more!”

The mother stepped back and spoke in a stage whisper. “Curses! Infinity times more. Dodger can’t top that!” Affecting an elaborate bow, she said to Trixie, “Well met, daughter of mine!”

Trixie squealed and kicked her front hooves. Dodger spun on her hooves and trotted away. As she ascended the gangplank towards the waiting airship, she called back, “You know what your mom is going to do when she gets home? She’s going to have another daughter, even better than you!

“Oh yeah?” Trixie replied as she, also, turned away. “Trixie is going to pass all her classes and get even better grades than you ever did!

She trotted, then galloped, back to Celestia’s School For Gifted Unicorns. She got all the way to her dorm room before any tears formed in her eyes.


“It’s done!” Trixie produced a pair of bowls, ladled soup into them, and hoofed one over to Ditzy.

Ditzy held the bowl in her forehooves and quirked an eyebrow. “You know I can’t actually use this, right?” she said, nudging the spoon.

“Oh! Let Trixie help!”

The spoon, glowing with Trixie’s magic, scooped a large chunk of potato. Before Ditzy could react, it rammed itself into her mouth.

“I—” Ditzy tried to speak around the mouthful, but Trixie took the opportunity to stuff some carrot and onion slices between her lips. Trixie smiled, and Ditzy glared as she chewed, slowly.

Finally, Ditzy swallowed and tried to speak once more. This time, she was prepared. “Tri—” Again, the spoon rushed towards her open mouth, but Ditzy swatted it to the side with one forehoof. “Darn it, Trixie, what is wrong with you?!”

“What do you mean, what’s wrong with Trixie? You’re the one who just knocked your spoon into the dirt.”

“Because you were trying to feed me like some kind of baby!”

“Well, Trixie isn’t going to let you use her spoon. Trixie doesn’t think our relationship is that close yet.”

“For Celestia’s sake, I don’t even want to use your stupid unicorn utensils! I can eat by myself!”

Ditzy lowered her snout into the bowl and grabbed a mouthful of vegetable chunks. “See?” she said. Then she chewed and swallowed. “Wait, what was that you said about—”

“Trixie doesn’t talk with her mouth full!” She scooped a heaping spoonful into her own mouth and chewed in silence.

Ditzy shrugged and resumed eating her stew.

Around the two travelers, the forest darkened. Thick trees blocked the horizon and hid the setting sun, but signs of the late hour were all around. Outside the fire’s circle, shadows lengthened and deepened. A whine in the ears heralded the arrival of the dusk-feeding mosquitoes. Shortly after, bats began their rounds.

Ditzy finished her last bit of stew. “Hey, Trixie,” she said.

Trixie quickly shoved another spoonful into her own mouth, then shrugged at Ditzy.

“How do you want to do the sleeping arrangements?”

Trixie waved a hoof while she chewed as fast as she could. Upon swallowing, she answered, “Oh, Trixie has a very comfortable bed. You’re more than welcome to sleep on it.”

Not what I meant.” Ditzy shook her head. “What about taking watch? I mean, I think these woods are safe. But since there’s two of us, we might as well take turns keeping an eye out.”

“That would be a lovely idea, Dizzy, if you were traveling with anypony besides the Great and Powerful Trixie. However, she has a much better alternative. Behold!” Trixie’s horn lit up, and a wave of magic spread outward as a circle along the ground. It continued spreading until its glow was barely visible in the dark forest.

Trixie turned back to Ditzy, smiling. Then she put a hoof to her forehead and said, “Oh, right. You couldn’t see anything since you’re not a unicorn.”

Ditzy stifled a laugh and raised a hoof to cover her mouth.

Trixie continued, “What you didn’t see was a proximity alarm. If anything larger than a raccoon comes within a hundred yards of us, we will know.”

“Nice!”

“And the entire forest will know, too.”

“What?”

“It’s not a very subtle alarm.”

“I see ...” Ditzy said. “And what if we get visited by another unicorn who knows a counter-spell?”

“Then …” Trixie raised her hoof dramatically. “Then, um …” Her hoof wavered a bit, then her face fell. “Stupid logic,” she grumbled, then raised her voice. “Well, Dizzy, how do you normally keep unwanted visitors at bay when you sleep in the woods?”

Ditzy shrugged. “I sleep in a tree.”

“Well.” Trixie turned away and stared into the woods for a few seconds. Then she spun back around. “Dizzy, a crazy thought just occurred to Trixie! Perhaps we should take turns keeping watch tonight.”

Ditzy rolled her eyes. “Gosh, Trixie, do you really think that’s necessary?”

“Oh, Trixie thinks we’re alone in these woods, but since there’s two of us … You know, better safe than sorry.”

“You talked me into it. Two hour shifts?”

“Trixie gets the first shift!”

“Sounds good to me.” Ditzy lifted up and flew towards the wagon.

“Dizzy, you are still welcome to sleep on Trixie’s bed.”

“Thanks, but no thanks.” Ditzy landed on the wagon’s roof and laid down. Folding her legs beneath her body, she closed her eyes.

Dizzy!

Ditzy’s eyes snapped open. She looked down, and was greeted by a glare that could have bored through granite.

Why aren’t you sleeping in Trixie’s bed?!”

Ditzy sighed. “It’s not your bed, it’s me.” At that, Trixie’s expression changed from indignant to puzzled. Ditzy continued, “Look, I’m sure it’s really comfortable. More comfortable than my bed back at home, of course, and definitely more comfortable than this roof. It’s just, I have this mental thing where I can’t get a good night’s rest if I’m in a small space or too close to the ground. I need to be elevated.”

“Oh. Is that some pegasus thing?”

“Twelve percent of all pegasi, maybe.”

“Trixie sees.” She disappeared into the wagon.

Ditzy laid her head back down and closed her eyes. Something fell on her head, soft but surprisingly heavy. It was a large pillow.

Trixie called up, “That’s double-stuffed with genuine goose down. Trixie imported it at great expense from the Frozen North. Does that meet your standards, Dizzy?”

The pillowcase was the same shade of blue as Trixie’s coat, and it bore a picture of a magic wand—the same one from Trixie’s cutie mark. Ditzy’s head sank into it quite comfortably as she laid back down.

“Thanks” she said. “This is very nice.”


“Dizzy. Dizzy!

Ditzy jerked her head up and looked all around her before she remembered where she was. She looked down at Trixie.

“Dizzy, it’s your turn to take watch.”

“Okay, okay.” She stood up and grabbed the pillow. “Did you want this back?”

“Trixie certainly does.” She caught the pillow in her telekinesis and climbed into the wagon. As she went, Ditzy noticed for the first time that the other side of the pillow—the one that had faced down while she was sleeping—bore a portrait of Trixie, with the smuggest smile imaginable. Ditzy rolled her eyes.

After the wagon’s door shut, Ditzy lifted into the air as quietly as she could and made a circuit of the camp. The campfire was completely extinguished—the only illumination was the moon’s faint light. Although the pink glow of Trixie’s magical alarm was still visible in the distance, as well.

The cottonwood tree from before was within the alarm’s circle, so Ditzy went to examine it again. She rubbed its trunk with her hoof, then placed her ear to the trunk and listened.

“I’m not even sure what I should be listening for ...” Ditzy muttered. She slipped her forehoof into the trunk and felt around for about a minute. After pulling back out, she examined the fine powder coating her hoof. The powder was a distinct blorange color. “Very good, very good.”

She passed the rest of her shift alternately circling just inside the magic alarm and perching atop the wagon. Finally, the two hours ended.

Ditzy gave the wagon door three quick knocks, and the door immediately opened. Trixie’s mane needed a good combing, and she had dark bags under her eyes.

“Is it Trixie’s turn again, already?”

“Afraid so.”

“Good! Trixie couldn’t sleep.”

“Sorry to hear that.”

“Trixie forgives you.”

“What?”

Trixie climbed down from the wagon before turning back to Ditzy. “You had no trouble sleeping when Trixie was on watch. How did you do it?”

“What?”

“Is it because you trust Trixie’s skills as a watchpony enough to banish all worries from your mind ... but Trixie can’t reciprocate?”

Ditzy raised one hoof to her forehead. “I’m not even sure what you’re asking ...”

“But that makes no sense, because you’re clearly a canny outdoorspony, so Trixie should trust you! No, it’s something else ...”

“Have you had problems with insomnia before? There are herbs to help deal with it.”

Trixie stepped forward and grabbed Ditzy’s shoulders. “Never before, Dizzy! Not before Trixie met you.”

“We just met today.”

“No, Trixie thinks she knows. Tell me, Dizzy, how do you put it out of your mind?”

Ditzy flared her wings and pushed Trixie’s hooves away. “Put what?”

“Don’t you remember how much better Trixie is at telling stories? Knocking pine cones out of the tree? Starting fires? Pulling the wagon? Why, half the time you pulled the wagon, Trixie was using her magic to help you—didn’t you notice?!

“What? Is that all? Is that what this is about?”

“See? See?” Trixie waved one forehoof in the air, gesticulating for the benefit of an audience that only she could see. “Trixie is obviously better than you, but you ... you ... don’t even care! Why don’t you care, Dizzy?”

Why don’t I care about pulling wagons and shaking pine cones?” Ditzy shook her head, hard, and snorted. “Why do you even care about any of them?”

“Because how else is Trixie supposed to justify her existence, if not by comparing herself to others and coming out on top?”

“Maybe by helping others? Spreading Friendship and Harmony? Raising children?”

Trixie turned to the side, raising her head and closing her eyes. “Please. You sound just like my philosophy teacher.”

“Uurrgh. Fine, here’s another angle. You see this?” Ditzy turned her whole body to the side and pointed one hoof at her haunch. “You see my cutie mark? Does it look like a mark for shaking pine cones or pulling wagons?”

“No. Just bubbles.”

“Right. So—”

“What is that a mark for?”

“That’s not important right now.”

“Oh, don’t be so hard on yourself, Dizzy. Your cutie mark is important to you, and Trixie cares about it as well.”

“Well of course it’s that kind of important.” Ditzy waved one forehoof to the side, as if to swat away the extraneous topic. “It’s just completely irrelevant to this conversation—”

“Trixie thinks it’s relevant!” She punctuated that with a hoof stamp.

“No, I’m not—”

“Trixie’s made her decision. This conversation will not proceed any further until you tell Trixie what your cutie mark means.”

“But—”

“You won’t believe how obstinate Trixie can be.” Trixie’s brow was furrowed, but there was a hint of a smile on her lips.

“Fine! It means I’m really good at blowing bubbles! Happy now?”

“You’re lying.”

Ditzy glared and snorted once more.

Trixie continued, “If your mark were really that mundane, you wouldn’t have tried to hide its meaning from Trixie in the first place. What does it really mean?”

Ditzy continued glaring. With one hoof, she dug a line in the ground, but her tone was even when she spoke. “The bubbles symbolize fragility. I’m good at protecting fragile things.” Under her breath, she added, “Like your ego.”

“And now you’re being overly vague.” Trixie breathed a dramatic sigh. “But Trixie supposes it will do for now. You may proceed.”

Anyway …” Ditzy stamped and stopped digging. “I have my special talent and I’m very good at it. Maybe I’m not the best in the world at it, or maybe I’m the only one in the world with this talent, who knows? But I’m good at it, and that makes me happy. So I don’t need to prove myself to anyone, and certainly not by pulling pine cones or shaking wagons.”

“That’s an ... interesting outlook.”

“So how about you, Trixie? What does your cutie mark mean?”

Trixie angled herself, displaying the magic wand on her haunch. “Oh, this old thing?” She waved one forehoof at it, for the benefit of the cognitively impaired ponies in the audience that only she could see. “It represents, Anything you can do, Trixie can do better.”

“For crying out loud, Trixie, were you even listening to me?!”

“Trixie caught the important parts. She’s great at everything, remember, Dizzy?”

Ditzy muttered under her breath, “Not at getting my name right, apparently.”

“What was that?”

“I said, if you’re so great, Trixie, why can’t you get my name right? It’s Ditzy, not Dizzy!”

“Oh, uh, Trixie knew that. She was deliberately saying it wrong to get on your nerves.”

Ditzy stared, slack-jawed, at Trixie.

Trixie circled in place, with quick, light steps that were almost, but not quite, a dance. “And apparently it wo-o-orked! Trixie was beginning to worry that you didn’t notice ...”

“For the love of Celestia, I thought us pegasi were supposed to be the annoying, competitive ones! But you are the most competitive pony I’ve ever met!” Ditzy felt the urge to wave her own hooves around for the sake of Trixie’s imaginary audience, but she refrained.

Trixie completed her circle. “Oh, you’re too kind!” she said, batting her eyelashes.

“That ... wasn’t a ...”

Trixie placed a hoof to Ditzy’s lips and smiled. “Shhhh. Trixie knows exactly what you mean.”

Ditzy pushed the hoof away. “No, I don’t think you do.” Something about Trixie’s smile made Ditzy’s stomach knot up, but her stomach refused to tell her brain why.

Trixie placed her hoof on the ground, then took one step closer. “So, Dizzy … You’re not married, are you?”

“What does that have to do with anything?

“Oh, Trixie likes that answer …”

She kissed Ditzy.

Ditzy’s entire body tensed. Her eyes bugged open, staring into the blue face that was entirely too close. She screwed her eyes shut for a few seconds then reopened them, confirming that she was, indeed, locking lips with this strange unicorn. The wet warmth of Trixie’s lips against her own, the light scratching of Trixie’s hooves on the back of Ditzy’s head: these felt entirely too vivid for a dream. And Ditzy didn’t hallucinate.

Her lips were completely limp, but Trixie didn’t notice, if the way she slurped Ditzy’s face was any indication. One of Trixie’s hooves crept down Ditzy’s neck, to her shoulder. Then her telekinesis gently squeezed Ditzy’s rump, and Ditzy unfroze.

“Gaaaaaah!” She flared her wings and shoved Trixie away, kicking her forelegs in the air.

Trixie didn’t react to the shove until she fell on her back. “Ooof!” She looked at Ditzy with half-lidded eyes and said, “Wow. Was it good for you, too, Dizzy?”

“What was that? Where did that come from?

“Oh, there’s plenty more where that came from ...” Trixie said as she stood back up.

“No!” Ditzy snorted and beat her wings a few times. “I barely like you, Trixie, and I sure as hailstones don’t like you like that!

Trixie continued smiling. “So you admit you do like Trixie ...”

Ditzy buried her face in her forehooves and groaned.

Trixie’s smile wavered but didn’t completely disappear. “Dizzy, dear, you’re sending Trixie some very mixed signals ...”

Ditzy raised her head. “Then maybe this will be clearer: if you ever try to kiss me again, I will buck your teeth out.”

What?” Trixie’s face fell. “But ... Trixie thought you wanted ... But those things you said to her ...”

“I was arguing, not flirting!”

“There’s a difference?”

Ditzy raised one hoof and opened her mouth, but no words came. She put her hoof down and shook her head. “That’s it. I give up.” She flapped her wings and rose into the air. “Congratulations, oh Great and Powerful Trixie, you won another conversation! Now I need some sleep. Wake me up in two hours.”

Trixie watched, stunned, as Ditzy disappeared into the oak canopy overhead. “But ...” she said quietly, “... it doesn’t feel like Trixie won.”

She grabbed the pillow and waved it in the air as she called up, “Wait, don’t you want Trixie’s pillow?”

“No!”


The chirping of a bluebird, and the dawn’s light on her eyelids, woke Ditzy. She blinked her eyes a few times before bolting upright, completely awake. She had slept for much longer than two hours.

Oh sleet oh sleet oh sleet,” she muttered under her breath as she descended to the lowest branch in the canopy and looked down at the camp. “Trixie, if anything happened to you, I’ll never forgive ...

Nothing seemed out of place in the camp. The wagon stood in the same place, and the fire circle had not been disturbed. Ditzy scanned the area until she saw Trixie, sprawled halfway through the wagon’s open door. From this distance, Ditzy couldn’t tell if she was breathing.

Ditzy’s mind whirled. Was Trixie merely sleeping ... or knocked unconscious, or worse? Was the undisturbed camp a sign that nothing had happened last night ... or did the perpetrators hope to ensnare their victim’s traveling companion as well?

Ditzy didn’t enjoy jumping at shadows, but this paranoia was the only thing that had kept her out of ...

Trixie yawned and rolled to her side.

Ditzy rolled her eyes as she spread her wings. She glided to the ground, her hooves crunching on leaves as she landed, but the sound didn’t wake the sleeper.

“Hey,” Ditzy said. “Trixie.”

Trixie flicked one ear and mumbled, “Whaaa...

“Trixie!”

“I’m awaaaaake!” But her bleary eyes said otherwise as she turned to face Ditzy.

“Trixie, you were supposed to wake me up after two hours. Shifts, remember?”

“Trixie remembered. Trixie just ...” She yawned. “... wanted to make it up to you.”

Ditzy quirked an eyebrow.

Trixie continued, “Trixie doesn’t make ... mistakes. But she does occasionally make slip-ups, especially when she’s working off incomplete information. And, Ditzy, what Trixie did last night was certainly a slip-up.” She yawned again. “And to show that she is the moooooost contrite pony, Trixie kept watch the rest of the night so you could sleep.”

“Wow. Umm ...”

“You’re welcome. Besides, Trixie didn’t ...” Once more, she yawned. “... couldn’t get to sleep.” She laid her head back down on the floor and closed her eyes.

Ditzy moved one hoof, and a twig snapped beneath it. Trixie’s head also snapped up. “Time to get moving! We’re wasting daylight ...” Slowly, she climbed down from the wagon, and just as slowly she trotted towards the empty yoke. “Trixie will ... pull the ...” Her head dropped, and she stood still.

“Yeeeeaah ...” Ditzy said. “I’m gonna go wash up first.”

She flew away, in the direction of the stream.

A minute later, she returned. “Um, Trixie?”

Humunumanuma ...

“Can you turn off that alarm spell?”

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