• Published 3rd May 2016
  • 761 Views, 72 Comments

Woebegone - Lost_Marbles



The embodiment of bad luck comes to Ponyville, and anypony foolish enough to cross his path meets disaster. And he's very sorry.

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Chapter 8 - The Cloud, the Curse, and the Courtroom

Right after Twilight saved Applejack’s behind from a mob armed with pitchforks, torches, and frying pans, she immediately set about taming the chaos around her - the fire in the building was put out and the storm outside was torn down by pegasi. Even Woebegone’s little thundercloud that had seemingly gone missing, too, had returned to its original roost. He sat timidly on a stool in the far corner of the tattered town hall at the request of the many persnickety ponies, far from the Princess and everypony else, where he continued to stare at his toes and twiddle his thumbs while waiting for an undeserved punishment he believed he deserved. Two statuesque guards stationed next to him kept a wary eye on the suspect, while all the others had been issued to corral all of the troublemakers. But to Applejack’s dismay, not everything Twilight did was magic.

Her stomach churned as Twilight’s words twisted the dagger in her gut. “Applejack, we’re putting Woebegone up for trial.”

“Twilight, you can’t actually be considering punishing him? He’s done nothing wrong! He never meant to harm anypony!”

The look Twilight gave in return was cold and distant. “I don’t want to hurt anypony either, but you’ve seen the damage that has been done. Ponies have been hurt, regardless of intention, and if he is the cause of this, then measures must be taken.” She sighed and turned away. “I have a duty to uphold.”

Of all the nerve. The voice in the back of her head was screaming. After all the help Applejack had given her, after all they’ve been through together, Twilight would even consider going against her. She grabbed her hat and threw it to the ground. Somepony’s hoof touched her shoulder and she pulled away with a huff.

Her eyes were burning.

Her mouth was twisted.

Her cheeks hurt.

She picked up her hat and put it over her face in shame. She was glad Twilight was looking the other way. The hoof from before tenderly touched her, and this time she didn’t flinch. Instead, she let it guide her back to her seat and she sat down.

“I know it’s tough,” said Fluttershy. Applejack lifted her hat up and saw her hoof on her shoulder. “But if you’re absolutely right about Woebegone, then you can show Twilight and everypony else as well.”

But I shouldn’t have to! This is so stupid, thought Applejack. She took a deep breath and held it in for as long as she could before exhaling and letting her stiff shoulders slump.

This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. Twilight was supposed to stop everything. With her royal authority, she should have been able to stop this whole mess, not drag it out with court proceedings and give the bloodthirsty mob, completely wrong and blinded by anger, a choice in the matter. She’d thought Twilight had her back all the way. She’d disperse the mob and tell Lyra to take a hike. Now she wasn’t so sure any more.

Pressure pushed her down against the wooden floor. Fluttershy had reached up and started massaging her shoulders. Applejack slackened further and took another deep breath.

But what would happen then? It’s not like the ponies would forgive and forget if Twilight just called this thing off. That could have just made them angrier. Perhaps Twilight was right in holding a court hearing for Woebegone. That’d be a chance for her to show the whole town how incredibly dumb they were being. They’d get their say in, she’d show them they’re wrong, then Twilight gets to protect her friend while playing the princess card smartly.

Applejack leaned back into Fluttershy’s massage.

By command of Princess Twilight, town hall was converted into a makeshift courtroom. She drew a hard line down the center of the hall and divided the ponies accordingly by how they felt about the little green man in the corner. In fold-out chairs, Applejack sat next to Fluttershy, who was still wearing her straw sunhat; Pinkie Pie, who was still holding a bag of frozen peas against a large bump on her head; a naked mare who introduced herself as the confectionist Bonbon; and Berry Punch, who was only recognizable because of the fur still on her face. On the other side of the hall was the rest of Ponyville with Lyra at the forefront. She glowered toward Applejack’s half of the courtroom with a hint of hurt under her wrinkled, bare-skinned face. She didn’t immediately snap to attention when Twilight pounded her gavel.

Front and center at a makeshift podium that was actually a fold-out picnic table, Princess Twilight looked over everypony with an irritated scowl. She gestured to Woebegone with a hoof, and he picked up his stool and waddled closer to her, stopping a few wingspans away from Twilight. He weakly asked “Is this close enough?” and Twilight nodded. He sat down where he was.

“Alright, I trust now that some modicum of order has been restored, we can determine the cause of this madness,” said Princess Twilight with audible frustration, “and what action we should take.”

“Throw the bum out!” yelled a pony in the middle of mob.

“Throw him out! Throw him out!” they chanted.

Twilight banged the gavel. “Order! No one will speak out of turn. Now, I’ve heard a lot about our recent visitor, and I’m going to get the facts straight.”

Accusations flew in from the crowded side of the room. With each accusation that was pelted, Woebegone sank deeper into his chair and his cloud grew.

“He got poop on my produce!” “He torched my tuckus!” “He bombed my brain!”

Quiet!” The royal voice boomed off the walls and into everypony’s eardrums. Even Applejack flinched. Woebegone fell out of his chair like he was shot with a cannon. It took a second, but Twilight focused on her breathing and brought her temper to room temperature. “There are two sides to this story. So each will have a representative to speak.”
The mob muttered amongst themselves for a moment before Lyra stepped forward.

Applejack turned to the ponies sitting next to her, and all of them looked in return.

“You’ve defended him so far,” said Fluttershy while adjusting her sunhat.

“Ooooh, I’d love to, but I’ve got a doozy of a bruisy on my head, but I can cheer from here, so never fear, I’m at your rear.” Pinkie raised the bag of peas she held against her head and gave it a few puny pumps like a pompom before returning it to the pink bump on her head. “Actually, I’m just going to sit here quietly. But you’ve got my support anyway.”
Bonbon stepped forward and gave Applejack a confident nudge. “You know more about the situation than I do. I’ve still got your back.” She leaned closer to her ear while looking over her shoulder. Applejack turned her head slightly and followed her eyes to the other side of the room. “And just so you know - when Lyra gets really worked up like this, it’ll probably be best to let her tire herself out first. She’s got a nasty habit of butting heads.”

“I doubt she has a head as hard as mine,” said Applejack without the slightest bit of humor.

Bonbon responded with an uneasy groan.

Berry didn’t mutter anything and kept her eyes on her hooves in front of her while she sucked on her lips.

With no other objections, she stepped towards the podium. “Twilight, I’ll stand up for the fellah.”

Objection!” yelled Lyra. “The defending representative is clearly a friend of the Princess and will undoubtedly use her influence as such to change the outcome in her favor!”

She came out swinging. “You idjit! Do you see how few of us are over there? If I don’t represent him, who will?”
Twilight stared at Lyra, quite frankly impressed by the sharp edge of her opening assault, and Applejack felt surprisingly vulnerable. Twilight’s response shook her immensely. “She has a point, Applejack.”

“But, but, I--”

“Princess Twilight,” said Bonbon calmly, “Applejack is an upstanding citizen of Ponyville, renowned and respected by all for her honesty and infallible integrity. Her character is so great that she was even chosen by forces beyond ponies to be the representation of honesty and wear its element around her neck. It would be heresy to even consider that she’d abuse her relationship for unhonest gain and still stand as the Bearer of the Element of Honesty.

“On top of her character is her standing in town. Almost everypony here in this room is a good friend or acquaintance to Applejack or one of her numerous kin in some way. The Apple Family tree has its roots deeply entangled with all of us in Ponyville and would therefore have the best interest to see that this outsider is judged thoroughly, as any harm brought by him to Ponyville would be harm to the Apples.

“She has used her position for nothing but good, using her element to help save Equestria a dozen times over. Even before she was given her title as an Element Bearer, she helped the town on numerous occasions. How many times has Applejack saved the town from a stampede? How many monsters has she chased back into the Everfree Forest? All on her own, I may add?

“Applejack is, therefore, the best representative for this case, as she has proven time and again to be a mare of admirable character and has just as much on the line as much as we all do, if not more.”
Everypony in the room looked on dumbfounded. Twilight tapped the gavel in the silent room. “Uhm, okay. Objection overruled.”

Lyra whined and kicked her hooves against the ground while Applejack slipped back to Bonbon’s side. “What the heck was that? You’ve got a serpent tongue of pure silver! You’re more the lawyer type than I am. Why don’t you go up?”
Bonbon lifted a hoof to hide a smirk and whispered back, “Sure, I may have the words, but I don’t have the brand recognition as you do. You’re an Apple. You bear an Element of Harmony. You’re a hero. You’re Applejack. Trust me, they’ll listen to Ponyville’s number-one cowgirl rather than some naked mare. Like I said, I’ve got your back.”

“If you say so,” muttered Applejack as she turned back to the court.
Twilight cleared her throat and the room went silent. She summoned up a notepad and quill and scribbled down a bunch of notes. The quill scratched loudly against the paper. “Now that we have things settled, will the prosecution please proceed?”

Lyra huddled up with the mob behind her and then turned back to the Princess with a big smile. “Your Highness,” she said with conviction, “we have many claims against the defendant, but our first case has to do with something that affects you personally. The cursed one came to our fair town early this morning. Plenty of us saw him during the morning rush. I saw him myself in the market buy apples from Applejack.” Those last few words were dripping with disdain. “It was about that time your castle began to teeter. The ground beneath it crumbled! He brought his curse to Ponyville and struck at its heart. He wanted to take you away from us. Our princess! We should all be very concerned, for your safety as well as our own. The cursed one must be dealt with!” Lyra threw an accusing hoof at Woebegone. “We must throw him out!”
Woebegone flinched as if the accusations thrown at him were rocks.

“Now, wait just a minute!” said Applejack. “Woebegone couldn’t have done such a thing. That castle is huge. And look at how puny he is. He’s got sticks for arms.”

“I… um… hmmm…” Woebegone raised a hand to defend himself and his physique, but realized it was better to just agree with her point. “And I’ve also never been to the castle, either.”
Lyra huffed. “Scrawny or not, he still used his curse... magic... to sink the castle.” The crowd beside her all nodded in approval.

“I must interject,” said Twilight, shocking everyone in the hall, “but Woebegone is not responsible for my castle’s faulty foundation issue.” She held up a piece of paper for all to see. “I’ve had it inspected, and it seems that my castle was built--well--it manifested itself on top of a lot of loose soil. It seems that despite being a magical castle, it didn’t know much about preparing proper foundation. So the ground underneath eventually gave way.”
Everypony stared in silence until somepony blurted out, “Huh, for such as smart pony like Twilight, she’s got a dumb castle.”

Laughter erupted throughout the mob but was quickly silenced by Twilight’s angry bashing of her gavel. “Please continue, Lyra,” she said with poorly-hidden irritation.

“Princess, while it may seem that your capsizing castle was just a coincidence, I assure you that it was bad luck caused by him. He’s cursed with bad luck. He’s cursed us with bad luck.” Lyra leaned in closer and hissed, “He’s cursed your friends with bad luck. And I shall prove it to you! I call to the stand Fluttershy!”
The crowd murmured loudly as Fluttershy uneasily walked up to Twilight. There was no stand or even seat to speak of, so she just sat next to Twilight. “Is here fine?”

“Dear Fluttershy,” said Lyra, “how are you today?”

“Oh, I’m fine, thank you.”

Lyra sighed. “Let’s cut the manure, Fluttershy. No need to be polite. You certainly are not fine. Do you know why?”
Fluttershy swallowed and leaned away from the questioning mare. “Oh, I mean… it’s not bad… Other than this trial and all, it’s been a good day.”

“Come on, stop avoiding the point. What has the cursed one done to you?”

Fluttershy shook her head. “Woebegone’s done nothing to me. I don’t know what you’re insinuating. He’s a nice gentlestallion-- er-- guy. He helped me feed my animals, then I walked him into town, and that’s all.”

“Hey, yeah, what is he anyway?” said a pony in the crowd. Others chimed in.

“He looks like a shaved diamond dog. Only uglier.”

“I thought he was a leprechaun.”

“No, he’s a pygmy ogre.”

Woebegone lifted a finger and weakly pronounced, “I’m a trow.”

“Oh, is that what he is? I’ve been calling him a hobo this whole time.”

“What’s a trow?”

“Isn’t that, like, farming equipment?”

“No! It’s a type of magical, sentient bean!”

“A bean? He’s shaped more like a potato.”

Twilight banged her gavel. “Order! Order!”

Lyra rolled her eyes and, with a quick flick of her hoof, she slipped off Fluttershy’s sunhat, revealing the large fish bone obscenely projecting out of her forehead. A mare in the mob screamed, and a stallion fainted. Fear swept over the room, sending them all into a jittery mess. Even some guards who witnessed it lost their steely composure. Twilight dropped her gavel and yelped in shock. “Oh my goodness, Fluttershy, what happened to you!?”
Fluttershy was suddenly made aware of her exposure and the overwhelming disgust in the room. She frantically flailed about for her hat, covered herself up, and turned away. Her eyes locked to the ground as she sobbed quietly. Applejack mentally prepared herself to kick in Lyra’s teeth.

Lyra pointed at Woebegone. “He did this. When he went to Fluttershy’s home, he made this happen. And then…” she pointed back over to Pinkie “...she hurt our beloved Pinkie Pie! Look at that bump. What could even cause such a huge bump like that?”

“It was a bathtub,” said Pinkie Pie, as if it was just a regular, non-leading question.

“A bathtub, mares and gentlecolts. The cursed one dropped a bathtub on her head. I overheard this at the hospital where Pinkie and Fluttershy were waiting treatment. Just like the rest of us. And what about Rainbow Dash? Why isn’t she here? They said she was at the hospital with them. Did any of you see her? You didn’t! And you want to know why? She was in the back -- for surgery. I shudder to even imagine what cruel fate she met with.” Lyra visibly winced in imaginary pain strong enough that even other ponies started rubbing their imaginary pains. “And each one of these mares met with Woebegone right before disaster struck. Just by passing by, he was able to destroy our sewer system in the Farmer’s Market and set fire to our hides on Main Street. It’s beyond a doubt that this thing is a menace to Ponyville and should be given the boot. For the our safety and that of our families, Princess Twilight Sparkle, we must kick him out!

The mob roared in approval. “Kick him out! Kick him out!

Twilight called for silence and banged her gavel to no effect. Visibly frustrated, she lit her horn and the next words out of her mouth roared like a train whistle. “ORDER!” The Canterlot voice flattened the mob.
“I rest my case,” said Lyra with a bow before returning to the mob and a hero’s welcome. Applejack required every last bit of her self restraint to keep herself from bucking that snake to the moon. How dare she humiliate such a vulnerable pony for her gain. How wicked were the townsponies for buying into it? If anypony should be thrown out, it was them.
A hoof rested upon her withers shook her out of her internal tirade. Pinkie Pie leaned in and whispered, “Hey, I think Fluttershy needs a hug.”

Her touch opened Applejack’s eyes to just how tense she was. Her jaw was so tight she could have crushed coal to diamonds. She let out all the frustration in a sigh and looked back up to Twilight, who was leaned over in Fluttershy’s direction, whispering assurances to her friend before turning back to Applejack.

“Applejack, it’s your turn to speak,” she said calmly.

The room was dreadfully silent as she walked up towards Fluttershy, who was still sitting at the side of Twilight’s makeshift podium. She swallowed and thought about what to say. She didn’t have the three-bit words like Bonbon or the fiery words to ignite emotional passion like Lyra. She was just an apple farmer. You could fit her entire vocabulary on two sides of a sheet of paper. She didn’t feel ready, like she was at a rodeo without a saddle. If she fell, there were no clowns to save her from the bull’s horns. The judgemental eyes of everypony were upon her, ready to tear her apart if she said one wrong thing. And then there was Woebegone’s, whose pitiful gaze was devoid of hope. Had his cursed bad luck really led all up to this and he knew what was coming?

In an effort to stall for time, she did what Pinkie suggested and gave Fluttershy a hug. No words between them. Just the physical contact of hooves rubbing on backs, scruffing up their fur. Fluttershy sank into her hug and leaned into her for support. When Applejack let go, she could feel the strength return to her friend, giving her the means to stand on her own. And she felt stronger, too.

No, she thought to herself. This had nothing to do with his curse. She never believed in such nonsense, and she wasn’t about to even consider giving this “curse” recognition.
But what to say? She took a deep breath and said the first thing that came to mind. The obvious. “This ‘curse’ thing’s a bunch of hogwash.”

Nopony cheered or chanted ‘hogwash,’ so she moved on to the next thing.

“Fluttershy, please tell us why you have a bone stuck in your head.”

Fluttershy looked up from her hat. “Mr. Woebegone and I were feeding the animals together when Mr. Bear choked on a fish.”

The ponies behind Applejack whispered wildly to each other about bad luck, but she ignored them. “Then what happened?”

“Well, before I could even act, Woebegone was already on top of Mr. Bear and performed a life-saving maneuver that dislodged the bone from Mr. Bear’s throat. The bone was coughed up, and I just happened to be in the way when it was.”

“So, do you believe Woebegone’s cursed bad luck caused this?”
Fluttershy emphatically shook her head and smiled wildly. “Why, no! Woebegone saved Mr. Bear. And he was so quick. And confident! Both Mr. Bear and I were very lucky he was there.”
Twilight continued to scribble down notes while the crowd came alive with confusion. Fluttershy’s words may have shocked them, but nowhere near as much as they did Woebegone. His dull sunken eyes lit up. The cloud hovering above his head turned two shades of grey lighter.

This warm change affected Applejack, too, as she felt her doubts melt off her back. Almost weightless, she effortlessly and unconsciously raised her head slightly higher. “One more question, do you believe that Woebegone is cursed?”
Fluttershy shook her head and answered with shared confidence, “No, I don’t believe he’s cursed, just that he’s too hard on himself.”

“Thank you, Fluttershy,” said Applejack with a nod, and Twilight excused her from stand.

The crowd could hardly contain themselves as Fluttershy returned to her seat. Applejack called for Pinkie, and when she did she took a quick look over at Lyra. Despite being nearly identical in fleshy-pink nakedness as every pony around her, she stood out like a rotten apple. Unlike every pony around her who was riddled with confusion and questions who talked with her neighbor, Lyra stared furiously ahead at Applejack with burning eyes heated by frustration and vexation. Applejack shook it off with a confident smile.

“Please tell us what happened, Pinkie.”

“Well, I left the water running in the tub and forgot about it. Then wouldn’t you know it? The bathroom fills up with water and collapses into the kitchen with me and Woebegone in it. The bathtub landed on my head.”
Ponies in the crowd hissed in pain.

“So do you think Woebegone’s curse caused the bathtub to fall on you?”

“Pfft, no! I started running the bath before Woebegone even got there. He was just there when it happened. That was all me.”

Applejack seized those words. “You heard Pinkie Pie, everypony. Just because he was there doesn’t mean he caused anything to happen.”

Judging by what little bits she could gather from the tones of their muffled conversations and less-threatening demeanors, it seemed like logic was winning. This was going so well. Hope swelled in her heart. An innocent trow wouldn’t be punished. Maybe Twilight knew this was going to happen all along.

Then Lyra stood up. “That’s great and all, but what about us?”

“Uh, beg pardon?”

Lyra stood up on two hooves and gestured to her fur-less body. “What about the explosion on Main Street? The one that fried the fur off our flanks?”

Applejack opened her mouth to give an explanation, but when nothing came to her, she panicked. She had no idea what had happened on Main Street.

“I can explain,” said a pony from the far side of the room.

Everypony snapped around in disbelief to see that Berry Punch, recognizable by the fur remaining on her face, had stood up from her seat. She stared at the floor, visibly shaking. Applejack rushed over to her. “What in Celestia’s name are you talking about?”

Bonbon jumped in beside her and whispered, “Applejack, the explosion was caused by a reaction between magically enhanced alcohol and dragon peppers. Berry and I knew about this, and we’ve planned to share the blame.”

“Say what now?”

Berry Punch shook her head. “No.”

Bonbon reached to hold her friend, but Berry slapped it away. “But why, Berry? We discussed this together just moments ago! What has got you so worked up?”

“Because I lied.” Bonbon nudged the two away, leaving them both dumbfounded as Berry approached Twilight.

Applejack let her pass. “Say what now?”

Berry’s shoulders were tense and held tightly together. Her chest fluttered with short, sharp breaths. But Berry took a big deep breath, held it, and when she exhaled, all of her features laxed and she melted into a slump. She looked up at Twilight and spoke in slow, deliberate words. “Princess Twilight, I’ve really messed up. You questioned me earlier about the barrel I took through town, and I panicked. Inside was the result of a failed experiment. I wanted to make a drink that’d knock the hooves off everypony in town. But, instead I created a powder keg. Instead of thinking, I figured I’d schlep it over to you to help me properly dispose of it. Had I been thinking, I would have taken further precautions. Heck, I would have left it at home. I had no idea this would happen.” She sniffled and sucked in a long boogie. “Something fell into the barrel and ignited the contents. When you brought me in for questioning, the severity of what happened sank in and frightened me. I was afraid of what you’d do to me. Of what everypony else would do to me.” She dared to glance over at the mob. They stared back in confusion and anger. “But now I see that keeping up this half-truth will completely ruin this trow’s life. I can’t live with that on my conscience. So, for the love of Celestia, please don’t punish him for what I’ve done!”

“Oh, Berry,” whispered Bonbon.

Applejack looked around the room, and the pony mob seemed moved by Berry’s words. Her tears trickled into their hearts, and their anger eroded away. Lyra crossed her front legs over her legs tightly and huffed.

Woebegone had at some point removed his hat and fidgeted with it in his hands. His face couldn’t stay still. One moment he looked as though he was about to get a shot, and then a present. He found himself guilty of being innocent.

Up at the fold-out picnic table, Twilight looked at Berry. No anger burned in her eyes. No teeth bared. Everything about her was relaxed, except for the tiny little corners of her mouth just under her eyes. She looked down on Berry like a disappointed mother. “Thank you, Berry,” she said calmly. “If you are done, please take your seat.”

Berry flinched. “I-- I’m sorry?”

“Thank you, Berry. Please sit down,” Twilight said as she scratched down a few more notes.

She looked around in disbelief. “But, I’ve caused so much damage. I’ve done this!” she waved a hoof over at the naked mob and used her other to pull at her naked skin. “Aren’t you going to punish me? Throw my sorry hide in a cell?”
Twilight looked up from her notes. “According to reports, no pony was seriously hurt. The worst damage was some broken windows and peeled paint jobs.” She smiled at Berry. “Ponyville has gone through much worse than that. Nothing irreplaceable was lost. Our manes and tails will grow back. If it will make you feel better, I plan to have you pay to fix all the windows.” Twilight put on a warm smile, reminiscent of the sun. “Will it?”

Berry fell down on her hindquarters. She spat and she sputtered, “Th-th-thank you, Your Highness,” and turned around to walk back to her seat, shaking even more than when she got up. But as soon as her butt hit the chair, she fell limp and a dopey smile spread across her face. Bonbon inched up close to her and offer her shoulder. Berry happily leaned against her and let out a loud sigh. And so did every pony else in the room.

Except for Lyra. She huffed.

Happy that whatever that was had finally blown over, Applejack turned back to the Twilight and the crowd. “So, there you have it. Woebegone ain’t cursed.”

Nopony interjected.

Except for Lyra. She huffed. “Oh, yeah? How do you think this whole curse business started in the first place? You should know, Applejack. When that trow came to your stand, you and him both talked about curses. I was right there and heard everything. You may not think he’s cursed, but he does. He even gave you bad luck, Applejack!”

“You’re really grasping at straws, ain’t you?”

“What about that apple that turned into an orange! He must have used magic to do that. How else would you explain that!?”

She had completely forgotten about that. “Uhhh…”

“What’s this about an apple turning into an orange?” said Twilight.

“When I first met Woebegone, he bought some apples from me. Some of them turned out to be bad despite looking very healthy on the outside. And when I cut into one, the inside was an orange.”

A mare started cackling wildly in the back of the mob. “Yes! Trixie has done it! I knew that I could change apples to oranges, just like I changed pots into teacups. I tried a few apples, but when I saw no change, I cut some open, and each one turned rotten on the inside, but Trixie must have forgotten to check some during practice. But I, Trrrrrixie, have done it!”

You’ve been messing with my apples!?” Applejack yelled across the room. Everypony shirked away, clearing a path between her and the naked mare, who looked back like she just met eyes with an angry bull.

“Gotta run,” said the mare. A poof of magical dust filled the air around her, and when it settled, she had disappeared.

“Who was that?” asked a stallion in the crowd.

Lyra just sighed and slumped to the ground as her last support had been kicked out under her.

Twilight lightly knocked her gavel to grab everypony’s attention. “Getting back to the matter at hand, Lyra does have a point. We’ve heard from everypony but the defendant himself. Mr. Woebegone?”

The little guy looked up from the hat in his hands and to Twilight. “Yes, princess?”

“Will you please tell us who you are and why you are here?”

With a sudden start, his sunken eyes darted back and forth and between the Princess and the crowd. His back straightened. He kept his hat tightly clenched in his hands and held against his chest. “Oh, me? I’m nobody special. I just spend my days in exile. I have no home to go back to and no place to go, so I just wander. Wherever the wind goes is where I go, because whenever I try to go the other way, something gets blown into my face. There’s no real reason why I’m here, but I’m here all the same. I wasn’t planning to stay long or cause as much trouble as I have, and I am truly sorry for what I’ve done.”

“What kind of trouble have you caused, Woebegone?” said Twilight.

“Bad luck,” he replied.

The short answer took Twilight a long pause to process. “Bad luck? Is that it?”

Woebegone nodded. “Well, yes, it’s what happens wherever I go.”

“Hmmm,” said Twilight as she magically organized her note cards in front of her and dipped her quill in the ink. “Can you please tell us more about yourself and your ‘bad luck’?”

“Oh, I’m nothing special. I’m just your normal trow. Born in the hilly Trowlands near the Coltic Sea to the… um… I think it’s northeast of here. I came to Equestria by boat and landed in some port near Fillidelphia, and then I just kept walking until I ended up here.”

Twilight scribbled down notes. “That’s a very far way to go. Why did you leave your home? Why come here?”

“Well, I couldn’t stay in the Trowlands. I wasn’t welcome anymore. They kicked me out shortly after I was cursed by the witch.”

Every pony in the room flinched at the last word. Even Twilight stopped scribbling notes for a moment.
“A witch?”

Woebegone nodded. “Oh yes, there was an old witch who lived outside of town in the woods. The other trow boys would pull pranks on her. Well, her and me. I didn’t have many friends when I was younger.

“I was never as surprised as I was the one day those same boys came to me holding a bucket of rotten fruits and vegetables, which I thought at first was meant for me, but then they asked me if I wanted to help them prank the witch! Me. How lucky, I thought to myself, that this moment came to me. I could finally become one of them. It felt as if it was a rite of passage. I took them up on the offer, and we went into the woods together.

“We found the witch just outside of her hut putting together a large brew in an enormous black cauldron. ‘That kettle is large enough to cook a trow!’ said one of the boys. Then they got real excited. They ditched the bucket, and we huddled together. We were going to push the witch into her brew when she wasn’t looking.

“We snuck in as close as we could, and when the witch turned her back, we all rushed out and knocked her in the bowl. There was a loud splash, and I was all wet, then I found out that I had fallen in with her.

“The boys had already made it halfway back into the woods when they noticed I wasn’t with them. They screamed and called for me to get out, but I couldn’t. I tried to climb out of the cauldron, but it was so slippery and big, and my hands were shaking because I was so scared. I began to cry. ‘Oh, just my luck!’ I said over and over again.

“I cried until I was finally able to pull myself out, but no sooner had I fallen out of the cauldron than I felt something hard and knobby grab me and pull me back. I turned around and screamed in horror. The witch had me. I thought I was going to die then and there, and I immediately started begging for my life. ‘It was an accident, it was just bad luck! Things like this always happen to me. Would it help any if I said I was really sorry?’

‘Sorry!? You haven’t begun to be sorry,’ said the witch. She began to make weird gestures with her free hand, and the fingers glowed with an eerie magic. ‘You say bad luck follows you? Were you to be the clumsy lad you seem to think you are, the world would be a fearful place for all folks near and far. So arm yourself with charms of luck that ne’er will serve you well, for you’ve crumbled your own cookie and your future is in dispel! But when you have a change of mind and believe your deeds both good and true, your small black cloud would shrivel up and the sun will shine anew!’

“I broke free from the witch’s grasp and ran into the forest, but my friends were gone and I was all alone until I got home. It was during my trip home that I saw this cloud over my head. I couldn’t get rid of it for all that I tried, but it didn’t really seem to bother me that much. It was very small, and I hardly noticed it there. Besides, I thought that it was a bunch of hooey.

“By the time I got back to town, the other boys found me and rejoiced, calling me a hero for facing the witch and surviving her wrath. I tried to tell them about the curse, but they wouldn’t listen. It was so weird. I didn’t even feel like I deserved the praise, but I liked it. ‘I just got lucky,’ I told them, and they found it humorous. ‘Woebegone’s bad luck is no more!’ they cheered.

“But that lucky streak ended quickly after that. Bad things began to happen all over town, and whenever disaster struck, I was always nearby. Soon any goodwill the trows had dried up, and I was outcasted. Whenever a wheelbarrow broke, a fire started, or a tree fell on a house, the blame was quick to fall on me. I was labeled a ‘jinx.’ The same boys who called me their friend earlier began to sing songs about me. They had dances for them and everything. One of them went something like this:

‘Oh it’s bad luck to be you
Disaster touches everything you do!
You make black cats turn their tail,
And cause trouble without fail.
Oh, it’s bad luck to be you!

‘Woe is he named Woebegone!
For we all wonder where his luck has gone.
But one thing for sure,
Our troubles have a cure -
We’d be saved if he left at dawn!

‘Oh it’s bad luck to be you
Disaster touches everything you do!
Everyday we say our thanks
That we’re not you, to be frank.
Oh, it’s bad luck to be you!

‘Diddly-doo!’

“Mean, but catchy,” said Pinkie Pie with a nod. Fluttershy nudged her and shook her head in disapproval. “What?” It’s true,” said Pinkie Pie.

“It was horrible!” continued Woebegone. “Then, one day, it began to rain. It rained and it rained. It rained so much the town was flooded. I was chased out of town. ‘Don’t come back again,’ they said. ‘We don’t want to see you no more.’ And they were right. Until now, all anyone’s wanted to see of me was my back as I left town.”

Woebegone sighed and shrugged. “And it’s been like that everywhere I go. And this is the worst it’s ever been. I’m truly sorry.”

The room was silent as he told his tale except for the rapid scratches of Twilight’s note taking and a few whispering sobs from the sympathetic ponies scattered around the room. There was a noticeable absence of hostility in the air, making it so much easier to breathe. The naked mob no longer stood stiff but had slackened into a slumpy slouch.
Relief washed over Applejack as she sensed this shift. At last they’d be willing to listen to reason, but there was one pony still too stubborn to give in.

“Hey, now, everypony, don’t get so sappy! Don’t you remember what he said? He attacked a witch! You don’t go messing around with witches without paying the price.”

“Now hold on, there,” said Applejack. “We all make mistakes. Haven’t you ever done something you’ve regret?”

Lyra huffed, “I’ve never attacked a witch!”

“That may be true, but I remember some words you spat out in front of kids earlier this morning.”

The mob behind her mumbled as ponies recalled the incident and whispered what happened to each other. One stallion gasped. “Oh my Celestia, she said what!?

Lyra went wide-eyed. “Hey, hey! Stop talking about that! That ain’t important! Hush up!”

“What, what did she say?” asked a mare. She leaned in to hear the stallion’s whispers. Her mouth fell open in shock. “Mare on the moon! What kind of mare says such horrid things?”

“Enough!” screamed Lyra as she stomped over to the mare in question. The crowd around her recoiled in fear. “Have you already forgotten!? Our fur, our homes, our bodies have been defiled by that trow and his curse!”

Applejack smirked with a delinquent delight. “The only cursing around here is coming your mouth.”

“What did you say, cowgirl!?”

“Lyra, that’s enough!” Twilight slammed her gavel.

“Yes, your highness,” said Lyra through clenched teeth..

Twilight laid down her gavel and turned to Woebegone. “Thank you for sharing your story, Woebegone.”

He nodded. “Oh no, thank you for listening.”

With his story done, Applejack turned to the crowd. She knew that if this was one of them detective or law flicks, this would be where she’d give her final statement. So she did. “Woebegone, everything that you’ve been blamed on is for something you couldn’t control. Lookit. No pony can… ahem, no trow can control the rain, right? You didn’t dig a big ol’ hole underneath Twilight’s castle. You didn’t drop anything on anypony’s head. Shucks, you didn’t set off a large explosion in the middle of town. You just happened to be there. And you let yourself believe that it was your fault, so much so that even we thought you were to blame, but we know better now! Pinkie left the water running. Berry had magic exploding beer. And Twilight’s magic castle can’t tell a good foundation from a hole in the ground.”
Woebegone leaned back on his stool and scratched at his chin. His mouth slowly drooped open in thought. “I ‘believed’ I was bad luck?”

“So, you see, Woebegone? Even that wasn’t your fault. You’re just so focused on blaming yourself and your ‘bad luck’ that you can’t even tell what’s really going on. It’s just a coincidence. Just because you’re there doesn’t mean you’re the cause!”

“Coincidence doesn’t mean correlation,” said Twilight with a knowing nod.

The room was silent again for a few moments while Twilight’s words sank in. The gears in Woebegone’s noggin were working overtime.“So, I’m not causing bad things to happen?”

Hearing him finally realize what she knew all along felt like winning a rodeo. “Yes, sugarcube. You’ve just always been at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“So, I didn’t hurt Fluttershy?”

“Nope.”

“Or Pinkie Pie?”

“You sure didn’t.”

“I did that myself,” said Pinkie Pie with a smile.

His eyes came to life. His long, droopy lips slowly lifted into a smile. He straightened his back and grew six inches taller. And his cloud overhead turned whiter and smaller with each passing second. “I’m not cursed?” he said in disbelief. He looked back up at Applejack with a big smile. “Could it really be true?”

“Attention, please,” said Twilight. “I have heard enough and have come to my conclusion.”

Everypony leaned in.

“Lyra’s case against Woebegone lacks substantial evidence of any intentional wrongdoing. And even unintentional. He is free to go, and most importantly: curse-free. Does anypony still disagree?”

All eyes fell back on Lyra, who was sitting back on her hindquarters and had her front legs crossed over her chest. She sighed, looked away, and mumbled something under her breath about exploding sewer pipes before stating loud enough for everypony to hear, “no.”

Ponies cheered, “There is no curse. There is no curse. We’re curse free!”

Woebegone jumped up and gave Applejack a hug. “I’m not cursed! I’m not cursed!”

His little cloud floated away from him and stopped at in the middle of the room, then expanded rapidly and exploded with a thunderous boom, revealing a long-limbed, vomit-green creature draped in rags and a crooked smile full of pointy teeth, and every pony in the room froze in fear as the creature called out, “I have come for you, Woebegone!”

Author's Note:

Good lord, this chapter... it nearly killed me. It was so different than what it first was. If any of you are still with me after that long absence, I am so very grateful for your patience. Thank you for sticking with me to the end. Just one more chapter to go, and it'll be up in minutes after this one.

Now, for chapter-related tid-bits...

In this chapter I finally reveal what Woebegone is called - a trow. And this was a very late addition.

What is a trow? In simplistic terms, it's a Celtic fairy usually described as "short of stature, ugly, and shy in nature." So almost Woebegone to a T. Given how the show has used obscure mythology such as Bug Bears and Changelings for inspiration (particularly English and Celtic), it seemed like a good choice to assign him a race of fairy-folk that have are capable of puns. (Trowlands. Really?:trollestia:)

There was further inspiration found in the game The Bard's Tale. In the game, there are trows that sing and taunt the hero about how much death and disaster he unwittingly brings to everyone around him. It was so fitting I just had to steal draw inspiration from it.