• Published 19th Sep 2015
  • 2,676 Views, 53 Comments

Broken on the Wheel - billymorph



Trixie lost everything to the Alicorn Amulet. But, after Trixie is tricked into becoming the new host of the Nightmare, she is the only mare who can save Equestria from eternal darkness, if she wants to.

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Prologue

My father put great stock in wheels. I don’t think there were ever more than a half dozen within a mile of our farm but, if anything, that rarity just fuelled his fervour. Every task in life could be made easier with a wheel. From the little cracked and misshapen circles of wood in a barrow, to the grand spans of the wheels on the market cart, he proclaimed their virtue for all to see. If you wanted to plow a field, or grind grain, or see the world, you needed a good set of wheels to help you.

I hate wheels.

In addition, I also hate roads, carts, large unforeseen rocks that should have been damn well cleared from a public highway, and cheap balsa wood spokes. A special place in Tartarus had also been prepared for small town craftsponies who think that, just because there isn’t another option for twenty miles, they have you over a barrel.

“Thirty bits,” Ornery Wheelwright said, in his low grumble. It was not his actual name, but it might as well have been for all the help he was being. He was a large stallion, a muddy brown all over, with grey in his mane and tail and a permanent scowl set on his low brows.

My eyes narrowed and I felt the familiar rage bubbling up inside me. I was hot, caked in dust and streaked with sweat from the road. “Thirty? Thirty!” I stamped a hoof. “The whole wagon cost me a hundred!”

Ornery Wheelwright’s turned his head towards me, with the speed and inevitability of a glacier. He didn’t bother to say anything, just furrowed his impressive brow, and continued chewing on his confounded nut.

“...it was on special offer,” I said, in a rush, dismissing the issue with a hoof-wave. “That’s not the point though, I could buy a full set of wheels in Manehatten for that kind of money!”

Ornery reached into his bag and popped another nut into his mouth. My ear twitched as he began to crunch down on it. “You’re not in Manehatten,” he said, at last.

I could smell that; in Manehatten showers were not something that just happened to pegasi. “Ten bits.”

Another nut, another crunch, another pluck on my last, fraying, nerve. “Thirty.”

My eyes narrowed. “I don’t think you quite understand haggling.”

“Perhaps they do it different in Manehatten, but we ain’t there,” Ornery pointed out, breaking his all-time record for words in a single sentence. “Thirty. Bits.”

“I don’t have thirty bits!” For a moment, utter silence descended on the market square. Yes, because screaming that you don’t have any money is a great way to start doing business, well done Trixie. For your next act, how about disappearing before your blush burns through your coat?

Ornery Wheelwright glanced over at my wagon. The wagon that had just got a fresh coat of paint in royal white and, save for a few travel stains, looked as if it had rolled out of the shop just yesterday. I could see the underused gears turning in his thick skull, as he sized up the size of his mark. “Thirt–”

“Fifteen,” I cut in, levitating my coin pouch out of my side-bag. The seventeen bits I had left to my name gave their best jangle, but it was a paltry sound from a paltry amount of money. “And that means I’m not getting any lunch.” Or dinner, or a fuel for my stove or... well, anything beyond a couple apples.

Another nut disappeared between Ornery’s teeth. “Twenty five. Need to cover materials.”

“Materials? It’s one spoke! You must have a dozen sitting in a Celestia forsaken box. What could possibly make you think it would take you more than five minutes and cost you a half bit?”

“Thrown pins,” Ornery said, pointing at the ragged wheel. “Needs some smithing, or a new bit of iron. Cracks in those two spokes, and the rest have shifted. You rolled in on this, didn’t you?”

“It’s my spare wheel,” I muttered. Another nut crunched, I wondered if I could get away with setting the damned bag on fire.

“Typical Canterlot unicorn,” Ornery grumbled, glaring at the wheel. “No clue.”

I slammed my hoof down on the cobble with a crack. “I am not. From. Canterlot.” I snarled at the stuck up, arrogant, joke of a caftspony.

I might as well have been a particularly menacing kitten for all the attention he paid. "Really? Rolling in on a busted cart, from the north road, with that accent?" He crunched another nut. "I don't believe you. Now, do you need this work done or not?"

The world went scarlet as I glowered at him. Blood pounded in my ears and I felt a spell begin to form at the base of my horn. Most ponies had no idea how much damage an enraged sorcerer could do. It would have once been the work of moments to wipe the smug smile off his ugly face. A destabilization charm could have welded his teeth together so thoroughly that it would take a hammer to separate them. There would be no more grinding nuts, nor smug self satisfied grin, just torn, bleeding gums and...

I shook myself, my eyes widening as I realised where my thoughts had been going. Holding a hoof to my breast I took a deep calming breath. It was thoughts like those that almost had me banished from Equestria. The spell fell apart with a tingle of magic that washed over my coat. It was never more than an idle fantasy; I didn't have a fraction of the power needed for such a charm.

"Well, oh Grouchy and Pernicious Trixie?"

It came as a bit of a surprise that he knew what the word pernicious meant, but that didn't stop my hot flash of anger. "That is Great and Powerful!" I snarled. "As I told you not five minutes ago."

"I call them like I see them."

"I need this wheel!" I roared, setting my hooves against the cobbles. "I need to get back on the road by tomorrow and I have seventeen bits to pay for it! You are a damn wheelwright! Why is this so complicated for you to fit through your thick skull?"

Ornery took another nut out of his bag, placed it carefully between his teeth. I winced as he bit down, my rage growing with every little crunch and grind. "Thirty five bits."

I hurled my purse at the ground, where it exploded, scattering coins everywhere. My horn burned with light as power poured through me."How about I shove these coins up your–"

"Trixie!"

I froze, noticing two very important things. First, Ornery had managed to get a fetlock around a thick bar of iron. Second, there were a good number of ponies around us were likewise armed and didn't seem to be watching with much awe, nor amazement. A unicorn leapt from the crowd, his hooves rattling on the cobbles as he rushed over.

"Trixie, it is you!" he said, with a cheery wave. "Is that a new wagon? How have you been? I've been looking everywhere for you."

The words washed over me and for a moment I struggled to keep up, or even to figure out who I was talking to. He was a very slight stallion, with a mud brown coat and a mane that was greener than freshly cut grass. I recognised the cutie mark a moment later, a blank mask surrounded by sparkles, then it hit me.

"Razzle?" I exclaimed. "Razzle Dazzle?"

"In the flesh." He pranced in place. "It's so good to see you again Trixie. How are you?"

"Well, I'm about to get run out of town by an angry mob, I'm flat broke and am down to three wheels." I sighed. "So, better than I have been."

A bark of laughter escaped Raz. “Ha. I knew you’d end up being chased out of a town or two. It’s great to see you back in my neck of the woods.” He slung a foreleg over my shoulders, dragging me into a hug. It was not reciprocated.

“So,” Raz continued, turning his broad smile on Ornery Wheelwright. “I take it you’ve already met the Grumbling and Testy Trixie. She always gets like this when she’s been on the road for a while, you know how it can be. After a hard day’s work we all get a little short tempered.” I shot a sidelong glance at Raz; I’m fairly sure after an honest hour’s work Raz would have demanded a lie down with a cold drink and a comely mare. Raz paid not a whit of attention to my incredulity, instead, the lies continued to flow through his lips like honey. “Now, I believe I heard you say twenty bits to fix the wheel.”

Ornery’s eyes narrowed. “I believe that I said thirty five.”

“Oh come on, I’d want three wheels and a backrub for that kind of money." He shook his head. "Let’s all take a step back and come at this fresh. Hi, I’m Razzle Dazzle and I’m very much looking to get my wheel fixed before I have to move on. What’s your price, stranger?”

Another nut appeared in Ornery’s hoof, but Raz interrupted. “Oh, can I grab one of those off you? Trix isn’t the only one in need of some food.” The stallion huffed, but held out the nut and Raz began crunching away at it, smiling all the while.

“Let's say thirty.”

“I’m saying fifteen.” Raz held up a hoof as the stallion began to splutter in rage. “Seriously. Now, I’m sure you’ve got a good yarn about how this is a small town and you’re the only option. My friend and I have these though–” He tapped his horn. “–and it’s not that hard to keep a levitation spell running long enough to get to the next town, and a more agreeable wheelwright.”

Ornery’s glare could have stripped paint at fifty yards. I nearly smacked Raz then; there was no way we could have levitated the cart more than a half mile. Lucky for Raz, it seemed Ornery was a businesspony at heart, though. “Twenty five,” he said at last.

“Twenty and I’ll keep Trix here out of your mane until you’re done.” Raz dropped into a conspiratorial whisper. “Trust me that’s worth ten bits right there.”

“Well, you’re not wrong, stranger.” Ornery crunched a nut. “Twenty it is.”

“By the end of the day?”

Ornery nodded.

“Excellent!” Raz clapped his hooves together and levitated a small coin purse from his bags. “Well in that case I'll give you this and make sure Trixie has a hot meal before I bring her back. Pleasure doing business with you."

The stallion shot me a final glare, before turning and disappearing back into his shop. There were some disappointed mutterings from the crowd, but for once I was glad to disappoint them. The village ponies dispersed once they were sure Ornery wasn't going to chase us out of town and I breathed a deep sigh of relief.

"Well that was fun." Raz turned to me, grinning.

"I had it under control," I muttered. It was to Raz's credit that he only sniggered.

"Sure you did. Are you going to pick up those bits, or can I put them in my Trixie wrangling fund?"

Glaring, I kindled my horn and began to pull my bits, so carelessly scattered, back towards me. Only twelve showed themselves, and with a deep sigh I cleaned the mud and assorted filth from my meagre supply of golden coins. No doubt their missing fellows would be lining some farmer's purse by now.

"Yeash, I've seen drowning ponies more upbeat than you, Trix, what's biting you?"

"Wheels." I turned away from him, and began to secure my carriage against the curious hooves of country bumpkins. "Now, I believe you promised me lunch."

"Ha! Trixie, you haven't changed a bit, have you?"


The village had only a single tavern, which had all the rustic charm and appeal of a communal outhouse. Needless to say Razzle and I found a bench outside. There was no view to speak of, but at the very least I could keep an eye on Ornery while he worked on my blasted wheel.

"Huh, I stand corrected, your appetite sure has grown."

The remains of a salad sat in front of Raz. On my side of the table was a loaf of bread, a large platter of cheese, a plate of stuffed, roasted peppers, a bowl of mashed potatoes larger than my head and half of Raz's salad. I glared at him. "What are you implying?"

"Well, I'd ask whether you're eating for two, but I think that might be low balling it."

My glower intensified. "I'm going to give you a ten second head start."

"Come on, Trix." Raz hung his head, adding a soulful glimmer to his eyes with a shimmer of magic. "Would you really hurt this face?"

"Repeatedly and with a hammer if necessary." I shovelled another forkful into my mouth. "However, your offering has pleased me so you will be spared for now."

"Heh, I think the dentist bill would be cheaper at this point. Come to think of it, I probably didn't need the wheelwright. A few more meals and you'll be so round I could just roll you down the road."

A wave of anger washed over me, and there was a sudden snap as the fork in my aura snapped. Muttering expletives I applied a quick fix charm. "It is unwise to comment on a lady's weight."

"Well you say that, but when you have to call a Princess to raise you in the morning–"

I slammed my hoof down on the table, making the plates jump. Raz reared back. "Whoa, Trix. Easy."

"I have pulling a very heavy cart down some very poor roads for the best part of a month," I said in a snarl, light sheathing my horn as a spell built. "I have earned a solid meal."

Genuine fear flashed across Raz's face, but it was gone in an instant, replaced by a solid, sympathetic smile. "Goddesses Trixie, what happened to you? You used to be able to take a joke."

I shot him another withering look before burying my problems in food. "Trixie has had a bad week," I said, between mouthfuls. "And month." And year.

Raz frowned. "Why are talking about yourself in the third person?"

"It's called stage presence," I said, lying through my teeth. "It makes sure that ponies all across Equestria remember the Great and Powerful Trixie's name."

"Sure..." I breathed a sigh of relief as Raz shook his head and moved on. "Anyway, what brings you back south? I'm pretty sure you said that, and I quote 'the next time you see me in Neigh Orleans crowds will be cheering my name'."

"Don't remind me."

Silence stretched between us, as I started on the peppers.

"So?"

"So what?"

Raz rolled his eyes. "So what brings you back so soon? I'll be honest, I've seen more enthusiastic mobs in my time."

"Pickings are slim near Canterlot." I glowered at the empty bowl of potatoes, and my own warped reflection. "Ponies do not seem to care much for the Great and Powerful Trixie's brand of performance."

"The whole Ursa Major thing backfired then?"

My head shot up. "How did you hear about that?" I demanded. "Trixie–I mean, I–thought that story hadn't made it south of the Everfree."

"You know me Trix, I always like to hear a good story. Is it true that you turned tail and ran at the first sign of the Ursa Major?"

"Ursa Minor." I glared daggers at the table. "It was just a baby."

"Wait, star-beasts breed, how?" Raz cocked his head to one side, his eyes going distant for a moment. Then he shuddered and shook himself. "Actually, no, don't answer that question. I think I'm better off not knowing."

"I tried to fight it." The words escaped me before I could stop them. I tried to hold my tongue, but it was Razzle Dazzle I was talking to. He was, in many ways, my first friend. After I ran away from home, Raz was the one who had helped me when no-one else would. If I couldn't talk to Raz then there truly was no hope for me.

I looked up at Raz's best earnest face. He was always good at putting on a mask, but I saw through them more often than not. He did care, there was anxiety around the lines on his eyes and his ears were pricked too far forwards for mere helpful curiosity.

"A pair of simple minded foals lured the Ursa Minor into town for me to defeat. They wanted to see me put on a show and send the beast packing and... I tried to fight it." A bitter laugh escaped me. "It didn't even pause. The beast shrugged off my magic, destroyed my cart and looked to be eyeing up the rest of the village for it's next meal. Then, some country bumpkin unicorn, the local librarian no less, stepped up and–" I let my forelegs fall wide. "–banished the beast. A mare who couldn't even look me in the eye when I called her out, humiliated me without even trying."

"To be fair, it was the future Princess Twilight Sparkle."

"And that makes it worse!" I ground a hoof on the table, gritting my teeth. "Look at 'Miss Perfect Princess', she has everything. Born to an ancient unicorn family. Tutored from the cradle in magic. Celestia’s own personal student."

"Er, Trixie..."

"I bet she never had to steal a spell book. I bet she never had to spend a month saving up for a single reagent. Who would dare suggest that the ever so perfect Twilight Sparkle work on a rockfarm just to feed herself over the winter."

"Trixie!"

Magic began to surge around me, tinged red with rage. "I hate her. When I see her again I'll–"

Raz smacked me, hard enough to snap my head around. There was a crash as all the plates that had been caught in my aura slammed back to the table.

"Did you just punch Trixie?" I demanded, glowering.

"Tartarus yes, your eyes were glowing red!" Raz shook his head. "Goddesses, Trix, what have you done?"

The rage drained from me, as if somepony had pulled a plug to be replaced by a gnawing horror. A shudder ran from the tip of my horn all the way to my tail and I flashed my aura before my eyes to check the colour. It seemed it's usual magenta, but perhaps it had become a shade darker. I frowned, squinting, trying to unpick my own magic, but it was like trying to carve a knife with a knife.

“Trixie?”

I snapped back to Raz, whose horn was also lit. He stared at me like I was a rabid bear, and sat rock still, as if any sudden movement would be his last. His eyes were wide and scared.

“What was that?” he asked, at last.

I tossed my mane out of my face with a flick of my head. “A mistake. A stain. Pay it no heed.”

Raz just sighed, shaking his head in despair. “Trixie, what have you done to yourself? When you got out of Neigh Orleans I thought you had it made. You had your own show beneath your hooves and all Equestria in front of you. What happened?”

“The wheel of life,” I said, levitating a pepper to my mouth. “When you’re up, the only place it can take you is down.”

“Can’t you just, you know, start again?”

I shot him a dark glare. “My name is mud in Central Equestria. I figure if I swing through the south and tour the frontier settlements I might be able to find a few ponies who won't throw tomatoes at me.” If nothing else, because they were too poor to afford tomatoes.

Raz frowned at me. “Wait, you weren’t going to stop in Niegh Orleans? Hay, Trixie, if the gang knew you were back in town they’d all want to come see. Or at least, the old guard would drag all kids along and make damn well sure they gave generously.”

“Yes, because I want an audience where the number of pick-pockets outnumbers the honest crowd.” I gave a long, theatrical, sigh.

“Hey, I haven’t picked a pocket in years!” Raz protested, far too loud for the location. A quick glance over my shoulder showed no more angry mobs forming, though, so I breathed easy. “I mostly act as a fence these days. You’d be amazed what ponies need shifted in a hurry, or what they need acquired. Though, I’ll admit to keeping my eye in with a couple of confidence games.”

“And here I thought you’d be in prison by now.”

Raz laughed. “You’re one to judge, miss Great and Powerful. I seem to recall you lifting a bit or two in your time.”

I shot him a steely glare. “I went straight.”

“There’s no money in going straight.” Raz lounged in his seat. “Who is buying whom lunch?” He frowned at my dainty meal. “Well, lunch, dinner, breakfast, second breakfast–”

My magic clamped his mouth shut. “Thank you Raz. Don’t you think its time you came up with some new material?”

There was a flash from Raz’s horn as he shrugged off my spell. “Why bother when I’ve got the most talented showmare in Equestria with me?”

I glowered at him, as Raz laughed at his own joke.

“Yep. Ah Trix, you always played the straight mare so well. We should work together again. We used to put on great shows for everypony, why’d we ever stop?”

“Why?” I cocked an eyebrow at him. “Because somepony tipped the police off that our shows were mostly bait for your light-hooved friends. It was somewhat difficult to get a venue after that.”

“Oh yeah, I’d forgotten about that.” He grinned fondly. “Those were simpler times, weren’t they? It’s funny how you can look back on living on the streets with nostalgia. Back then all we had to worry about was dodging the odd leadhoof, or staying a step ahead of an angry shopkeep. These days it's all gotten so complicated.” Raz shook his head. “You know, I’m currently trying to swindle an old mare out of a chunk of her inheritance. Right now, I mean. She thinks I’m on a hunting trip with some old army buddies of mine. I miss the days when you’d do the lights and sounds while I cut the purse strings. The long con’s the safer game, but there was a certain honesty to burglary.”

I shot him a flat look. “Raz. I got out.”

He chuckled. “Yeah, look at me carrying on like an old soldier. Marquess Masquerade is rubbing off on me, the daft old dear. Why don’t we talk about your success?”

I said nothing. If looks could kill, Raz would have been flayed alive and left for the crows.

“Sorry Trix, but I worry about you,” he said, backpedaling away from my death glare. “Come on. You aren’t going to get to the frontier with three wheels and seventeen bits. Even there, what’s the plan, put on a couple of shows for a bunch of ponies who have more rocks than bits to rub together? You can’t live like that.”

“I don’t have much choice.”

“Well, let’s fix that!” Raz spread his forelegs wide. “Let’s put on a show. You and me. I know a little boutique theatre down on Short Street, we’ll–”

“No,” the word escaped me before I could stop it.

Raz started. “What? But Trixie, I’m trying to help. This is a chance to get back on the cart, if you pardon the expression, why not?”

There was a list of reasons as long as my foreleg. Neigh Orleans had a way of sucking you in and, like the muck that surrounded the city, the harder you tried to pull yourself out, the harder the city pulled back. Sure it was just one performance, but my name would get around. Old friends and old ‘friends’ would start crawling out of the woodwork. Ponies would talk. Favours would start to accumulate and then, before I knew what had happened, the Great and Powerful Trixie would be just another half-bit performer on a half-bit stage.

Raz, of course, couldn’t see that. He’d been born on the streets of Neight Orleans, and had never dreamed of anything beyond the city walls. There was no trap in his eyes. I’d spent years trying to show him it to no avail.

“Thanks for the meal Raz,” I said, standing. “It was–”

“Wait!” he exclaimed, leaping to his hooves. “How about some magic?” I opened my mouth to point out that magic was my act, but he continued. “I know a guy, who knows a guy, who’s trying to perform a big ritual spell. He’s throwing around stacks of bits to try to find powerful unicorns willing to work on the downlow for him. It’s perfect for you.”

I sighed, sinking back into my seat. “Raz,” I said, my eyes cast down. “Just forget about it. You can’t help me. I’ve got a black mark on my record now, I can’t afford to risk getting caught up in anything criminal.”

Raz chuffed, rolling his eyes at me. “Black mark? Come on Trix, we’ve all got black marks. The mayor personally promised to throw me into the bay, if they ever got any solid evidence. There’s always a way to dodge around those if you’re clever enough, or know where to put your bits.”

“Not this one.”

Right...” Raz rolled his eyes. “Come on then, spill. What small town flunky decided to drag your name through the mud? Were you jaywalking? Littering? Did you insult her hat?”

A deep sigh escaped me. If I couldn’t tell Raz, who could I tell? “It was Princess Celestia.”

For a moment, Raz just stared. “Celestia?” he echoed, voice numb. “Sorry, Princess Celestia gave you a black mark? Personally? As in, you were summoned to Canterlot, to the big hall, and personally given a dressing down by an immortal goddess?”

Summoned was probably not the right word for being arrested at spearpoint. I didn’t bother to correct him, instead I just nodded.

Raz shook his head, lost for words, his jaw hanging slack. “I... Goddesses, Trixie. What did you do? Was it because of the Ursa Minor?”

“No. It’s a long story,” I said.

There was a pregnant silence, as Raz waited for me to elaborate. Instead, I started again on the potatoes. They were going cold, but I could hardly afford to be picky.

“Is it about the glowy eye thing?”

I said nothing. The last pepper disappeared down my mouth. I don’t recall tasting it.

“Oh Trixie.” Raz let out a pitying sigh. “I’m so sorry.”

I glared at him. “Sometimes the wheel of life just grinds you down.”

He clapped his hooves together. “Alright. I know just what to do. Come with me to Neigh Orleans–” I tried to protest, but Raz talked over me. “–no performances, no need for anypony to know your name. We’ll check out this job and, if it’s not too shady, do it together. That’ll get you enough bits to get you back on your hooves and on your way to wherever you want to go. Deal?”

Raz extended a hoof to shake. I regarded it with some distaste. Then again, what did I have to lose.

I took it, and Raz beamed. “Don’t worry about a thing Trix. This’ll all work out just fine.”