• Published 29th Oct 2017
  • 1,181 Views, 72 Comments

Trixie And The Beast - Mitch H



Trixie thought the amulet she'd bought would bring her vengeance. It brought her something else, something much more important. An audience.

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Nopony's Fault But Mine

The first thing Trixie would like to establish, before saying anything more, is that there was no thieving father at the root of this particular rose-bush. Trixie was not the victim of a larcenous progenitor, or a foolish parent. Trixie's parents are prosperous, alive, and living in smug retirement outside of Boca Pastern. No, Trixie got into this mess all on her own.

Revenge, simple, red-eyed, squalid vengeance was what animated Trixie's purchase of the dubious artifact she found in a sketchy back-alley pawnshop in the stews behind the Ministry of Cuddles in Lower Canterlot City.

She had no real idea what the evil-looking thing did, but it was so red and shiny, that it had to be of some use in putting that Princess's pet in her - well, the problem was that Sparkle was already in her place, wasn't she?

Not that Sparkle's place belonged to Trixie, Trixie hastens to add. She did not mean to imply such a thing. No, if overpowered purple throne-sniffers must have a place in this peculiar world, a library-tree in an obscure tourist-trap like Ponyville is better than some alternatives, and honestly, Sparkle can keep it.

But that miserable brat had done worse than show up the Great and Powerful Trixie. This happened, from time to time. It was the lot of an itinerant illusionist, to be occasionally embarrassed before a crowd. No, Sparkle let Trixie's sole possession be destroyed. She had to have known that damn bear was lurking out there. How could a Princess's student live next door to Tartarus on Earth and not keep a complete inventory of the hellbeasts that lurked in the neighboring dark forests?

And Trixie's destroyed home must. be. avenged.

Thus, the amulet. The shiny, red and black amulet, glimmering like someone had caught evil in a stone and locked it within a blackened cold-iron cage. Trixie almost fell in love with the simple look of it, that sleekness, that combination of rigidity and smooth gem surfacing... But Trixie was able to put on a disinterested look for the benefit of the decrepit shopkeeper and his equally creepy pawnshop. At least, Trixie thought it was a pawnshop? The signage was inconclusive.

In fact, now that Trixie thinks back on it, she’s not at all sure the shop had any signs or name-plates at all. And she struggles to tell you the address, beyond ‘a block and a half behind the ministry’.

Trixie will have to return once she’s a free mare again, and give that dotard a piece of her mind. Honest business-stallions have no business retailing something as ancient and dangerous as that amulet.

Not that she gave a hoot in the moment. Revenge burned brighter than stars, hotter than the sun, weighed heavier than mountains. And after that moment?

Trixie’s purse was much, much lighter than mountains. Or rocks, or stones, or pebbles for that matter. When she left that curio shop, or pawnbroker’s, or whatever it was behind, Trixie didn’t have enough bits to her name to buy an order of hayfries.

So of course she snuck onto a westbound train out of Canterlot station. Not that she had any particular destination in mind, she just felt that… she needed to get as far away from that shop as she could possibly get.

Trixie tends to not dwell on things she has done. It interferes in the performance when she has to sell a given story for the audience. Better to believe with all of your heart whatever story you’re currently telling. If you believe, the crowd will believe right along with you. So, to reflect the dream as it is woven, one must be an unblemished mirror.

Trixie is as empty as silverglass when it comes time to reflect an audience’s expectations back at them.

And speaking of silverglass and reflections, seemings and appearances are what the Great and Powerful Trixie! excels in performing. She slipped onto that train without a single conductor spotting her, and she took an unoccupied seat in the serene knowledge that she would not be required to pay for her passage, any more than the last thirty times she had dead-headed on the Royal Rails.

And of course that was when Trixie fell asleep, lulled to unconsciousness by the rocking of the rail-car along the long, gentle slopes that stretch of railway meandered down out of the Canterlot highlands into the alpine meadows of the provincial back-country. You can’t hold Trixie accountable for this lapse – she hadn’t really gotten much in the way of sheltered sleep since she’d left Rock Valley. And that rail car had been very warm, toasty even.

Which is why it was such a shock to be forcibly awoken by an incensed conductor demanding to know where the Great and Powerful Trixie got off, hiding on his rail-car.

And he showed Trixie exactly where she got off, as he mare-handled her right out the back of the train, and out onto the rushing tracks, with not a single thought given to a delicate unicorn’s safety or well-being!

Oh, fine. The train was barely going faster than a brisk gallop, and Trixie didn’t get more than a bruise or two, but it was the principle of the thing!

While Trixie was rolling across the tarry sleepers and the gravel of the railbed, the amulet spilled out of her saddlebags. When she came to a stop, Trixie found herself staring at her now-most-precious-possession, dangling by its gold chain off of the end of her horn in front of her crossed eyes.

What did the world have against Trixie? Had she crossed a gypsy crone and not noticed? Had she stolen candy from foals one too many times?

Oh, what? It was part of a stage routine, Trixie swears. And the foals were given the candy ahead of time, it was all part of the game.

Even if Trixie did end up enjoying a truffle or two in front of the large-eyed moppets. Those kids always reaped a proper harvest afterwards. Nopony ever suspected the put-upon urchins whom the big bad showmare had shaken down for candy in front of a disapproving crowd.

Trixie and the triplets only pulled that routine on the most insufferable and cheap of towns. And they’d eventually aged out of the role. Last time Trixie heard, two of the three triplets were in a work camp somewhere near Mareidian, working off petty larceny convictions.

The third? Trixie believes that Lighthoof is happily married to a bailiff in some nameless little burgh in the Smokey Mountains. Nothing sketchy, the triplets worked much 'younger' than they actually were. The appearance of youth is more precious than bits to a pony with the right skills.

The reason that the triplets were on the irrepressible Trixie’s mind at that moment of setback and disarray was because she was well aware that she was in need of co-conspirators. Trixie’s resources had become sharply limited, it was clear, and she was in need of somepony to watch her flank when she couldn’t spare the time for self-admiration.

The Princesses know, when Trixie didn’t have time for self-admiration, the situation was indeed dire.

But, alas, the triplets were unavailable, due to their various engagements, voluntary and otherwise, with Equestrian law-enforcement, and although Trixie was aware of other members of the morally-flexible sisterhood of the road, even Trixie has her standards.

And those yellow-bellied slick-talking con-stallions were as like to leave Trixie holding the bag – cat struggling and clawing through the burlap as enraged villagers descended upon their trail – as help her in her time of need.

And they were far too fond of unreliable gadgetry, anyways. Expensive, dubiously portable gadgetry.

And neither the two-thirds-incarcerated triplets, nor the twins were anywhere to be found upon that sharply sloping mountainside Trixie found herself and her amulet, watching her train rush off into the distance.

And that was when Trixie noticed that the setting sun was setting in the wrong direction. And that this steep slope was not the rolling alpine hillocks that separated Canterlot’s outer boroughs and suburbs from the farm-belt within which Ponyville lurked in wait for unsuspecting show-mares.

Trixie had snuck onto the wrong train.

And had no earthly idea where she was, for that matter. She found herself peering up-slope, trying to identify what massive mound of rocks and dirt she’d gotten herself abandoned upon. The heights were far out of Trixie’s view, but she could see foliage and trees in the ravine running along the lower edge of the slope upon which Trixie was marooned. There was nothing for it but to follow her train in hopes that Trixie could find a path off of the railway before the next train along this route ran her off the tracks and down the precipitous slope.

Trixie gathered her cloak around her, and pulled her hat down on her ears. She’d relied on both in recent days to keep the weather off of her, in lieu of more expensive lodging, but this mountainside looked a good deal more inclement than the roadsides and under-guarded orchards she’d made her pied-a-terre up to this point.

After an hour of increasingly dark and cold mountain hiking, Trixie came across a patchily-overgrown path that crossed the railroad grading and continued downwards into the ravine, offering a smoother descent than the alarming slopes she had passed along the way. Trixie looked uphill, to try and see what dwelling or roadside above the railway had occasioned this mysterious path, but saw nothing but the trail curling out of sight far overhead, disappearing around the foot of an alarming-looking cliff.

So downward it was. Trixie at least wished the comfort of a wind-break, not wanting to be caught out in the open on that rocky slope with a fall storm pushing in behind a front from the – yes, Trixie was quite sure now that storm was coming in from the east. Not that she could see the moon, hidden behind bruised thunder-heads, but Trixie hadn’t gotten turned around enough to forget in which direction the long-gone sun had set.

Trixie barely made it under the upper-most stand of trees at the top of the ravine, before the cloud-burst broke over her heels. She kept moving as quickly as she could in the deep, shadowed darkness of the woods, because the deeper she got into their protection, the less likely Trixie was to be struck by lightning, or hail, or some careless pegasus’s thrown shoe.

Yes, Trixie has heard of ponies who have had that happen to them. But most often, when you look into it, it was actually a turd.

Once Trixie’s hooves started down the incline within the ravine, it was hard to not keep going. So she didn’t. That little night-sight cantrip was useful, though. Trixie shudders to think of what might have happened if she had somehow managed to clothesline herself on a branch, or worse – impale her precious self upon those sharp woody impediments.

Before she knew it, Trixie found herself fetlock deep in a freezing-cold stream at the bottom of the ravine, and used her momentum to drive herself across the waters and up the muddy bank to the far side. There, she laid down, shivering, blowing on her chilled frogs, and cursing all Royal railway employees, earth pony, unicorn, or pegasus.

Eventually some life came back into her lower extremities, and Trixie could spare enough attention to notice a peculiar standing stone in the darkness of the woods, just close enough that she could make it out through the mostly-bare branches. Winter lingered long in these mountain wastelands, long after spring had been welcomed to more pony-friendly lands, and late spring in the mountains was harder on a pony than it was in the lowlands.

Trixie got back up on her hooves, and crept through the stillness towards the strange, tall stone. Faintly, in the distance and far overhead, she could hear the pitter-patter of rain, and the howling of a far-away wind, but down here among the trees and the – stones? Here there was silence.

And there were multiple stones, boulders – pillars of bluestone three times the height of an adult pony. As Trixie circled around the one she had spotted initially, she realized that the stone’s siblings were spread out in a rough curve, one each on either side of the first bluestone. As she passed inside the curve of the stone-line, she saw on the far side, the curve concluded in a circle, with two – no three more piles of stone set on their heels in a – yes, indeed, a true circle.

Trixie stumbled through the darkness as a few droplets fell into this open space, which somehow had been kept clear of the tangle of trees, brush, and vines which tangled the woods in all other directions. The droplets grew fatter and louder with each moment Trixie spent staring wide-eyed at the circle of stones around her.

Then she tripped over the central altar. In Trixie’s defense, it was much shorter than the high stones which encircled it, and was made of some less flashy material. Trixie thinks. And it was when Trixie tripped backwards against this altar, that the damned amulet broke free of its saddlebag home yet again, and clattered against the top of the circular altar.

And the amulet, with its alicorn stylings and baleful red-stone gleam, was not satisfied to simply be evil-looking and expensive. No, it chose at this moment to glare with all the fires of Tartarus, a bright and dark mottling of reddish light which lit up the entire clearing, the entire temple. Trixie’s eyes were dazzled by the unexpected glow, and her night-vision spell was ruined.

Which made the flicker of ghost-lights just behind her left flank all the more startling. Trixie picked up her evil trinket in her blue horn-glow, and spun to meet whatever threat had emerged from the spooky forest-ruin-thingie.

But nothing was there. Just one of the great bluestones, its native bluish rock-face looking purplish in the red glare of the amulet. Trixie felt her eyes narrow in suspicion at this decision upon the part of some ruins-ghast to hide from her righteous fury, and looked side to side, to see if she could spot where it had gone.

And that’s when two different ghostly figures appeared in Trixie’s peripheral vision, standing upon the throne-like depressions in front of two of the stones on opposite sides of both the altar, and Trixie, crouched defensively on top of that altar.

And so long as Trixie didn’t let her eyes focus on the spirits, she could sort of make them out, standing still and staring at her with their wicked ghost-eyes. A great bearded earth stallion, to her left, and just behind her, an ancient and wrinkled eastern unicorn with more wrinkles than the oldest pony Trixie had ever seen in her life. In the very back of Trixie’s peripheral vision, she thought she saw ghost-glows of two additional figures behind her tail, corresponding to the rearmost pillar-stones. Directly to her right and in her front, Trixie’s stillness allowed the final two ghosts to emerge from the red-slashed darkness, and a slightly less ancient-looking bearded unicorn mage in a tasteless hat crouched in front of her, his mouth moving soundlessly. Next to him, a dumb-looking pegasus in archaic Pegalopolisan armor stood stoically, holding an odd-shaped shield in front of him.

Trixie’s grasp on the alicorn-amulet tightened, as the darkness congealed around the flanks of the suddenly shining-bright ghostly figures, and then the old unicorn stallion’s eyes flashed some indescribable color, and then, the whole world was that color.

And while Trixie stood still, trying to describe to herself what exact color it was that had washed everything away – everything came back.

Except it wasn’t everything. It was – a twilight. A half-lit noble’s garden. And above Trixie wasn’t a forest, but an empty, grey sky.

And in front of her, was a statue of that damned bearded unicorn, his stupid hat with its stupid bells hanging stone-ishly above her, three times as tall as life.

And it began to occur to Trixie, that perhaps she wasn’t in Equestria anymore.

***

Trixie sat in front of the statue of Beardo, the Magnificent, and thought to herself, well, at least Trixie’s not cold anymore. The light she and the statue sat in was a creepy sort of half-light, more than a little green, with a distant red glare somewhere out of Trixie’s line of sight. There were sickly whitish bushes and growth in orderly squared-off plantings all around Trixie’s hooves, stretching into the greenish gloom in all directions. Except behind the statue of Beardo.

Behind Beardo, was nothing. Not darkness, not shadows, not depths nor obscurity – nothing. A deadness that made Trixie leery of testing that deadness with hoof or magic. She strongly suspected that she’d lose whatever she thrust into that nothingness.

Trixie was eyeing a stick, and pondering using it to probe the nothingness when her alert ears caught the slightest sound of… wailing.

Barking? Howling. A strange wavering noise that certainly prophesied nothing good heading Trixie’s way. Trixie immediately started searching her environs, looking for a solid wall or a barrier upon which she could place her vulnerable rear, so that whatever was making that horrid noise wouldn’t have access to her vulnerable nethers.

All she found was a low stone-edged planter, and she cuddled up against it, her horn alit, and her eyes everywhere at once, looking for the source of the predatory-sounding noises.

And as Trixie crouched, glaring into the half-light, her vigilance was rewarded.

A pair of shadows coursed into the part of the garden Trixie could see. They sniffed, like dogs, or wolves. But they were nothing but bits of shadow and darkness, shifting slightly as she watched them. There didn’t look to be any flesh and bone beneath that swirl of darkness. Just shadow teeth, and darkened mouths…

Then they caught Trixie’s scent, and sprang in her direction.

And a third, unseen, leaped over Trixie and her planter-box, landing on paws of darkness and smoke. Too close!

And that’s when Trixie’s magic pulled the little tab which set off the pyrotechnics embedded in the fabric of her cloak and hat, which burst in a flare of terrible light right through the shadow-beast which had gotten within biting range of Trixie’s precious, bitable flesh.

The shadow-beast burst apart like it was nothing at all – a fragment of dimness dispelled by Trixie’s fireworks, which continued, sparking and flaring across the suddenly-brightly-lit garden. Trixie’s dazzled eyes barely registered the other two shadow-beasts as their tattered forms fled the sudden burst of light.

They didn’t actually yelp as they fled, but Trixie was more than happy to interpret the noises they did make in that vein.

Then… a thump. And another thump. And more in sequence, as if a very, very large monster was approaching through the green-and-red-lit shadows and mist. And it was growing increasingly misty – Trixie’s fireworks seem to have drawn out a damp mist from the soil and leaves around her, so that she could see much less further than she had, initially. Only the shadowy bulk of Beardo the Magnificent was still sort of visible in Trixie’s immediate vicinity.

The thumping noises continued, until they were clearly the sounds of something large and dangerous moving through the mist. Something far too large moving through the mist.

And then Trixie saw it. Saw – her? Trixie saw the horn first, jagged and terrible. Then a wing, flicked out in agitation, then the other. Alicorn? And then it grew closer.

And that muzzle – nothing Trixie had ever seen had ever boasted a jaw that square, and yet managed to be female.

A male alicorn?

Then it came closer by several more heavy, earth-shaking hoof-steps, and Trixie abandoned all hope of alicornic beneficence. This was no alicorn, no kindly immortal mistress of the Sun, or the heavens, or the star-studded night, or frilly, foolish adoration and crushes and other soft-hearted stuff.

This was Tartarus’s critique of princessdom. This was Hades’ mockery of the alicornic ideal.

This was a Beast.

"Show yourself, Equestrian! I can smell you!" The Beast said this in a voice like stone grinding itself into gravel, a tumble of boulders falling down a slope towards whomever heard it. A doom in vocal cadence, a promise of on-rushing obliteration.

Trixie does not like to admit it, but she may have made a noise. Even squeaked a bit. It was enough, however quiet or dignified the noise she had made, that the Beast turned her way.

She was discovered.

So Trixie gathered what dignity she had remaining to her account, and she raised herself to her full height, and stepped away from her rampart, such as it was. She looked up, at the blackness enshrouded in billowing grey mists and shadow, and did her best to answer her doom in a dignified manner.

"Trixie is most certain that she does not stink. She will admit that it has been a day or two since her last bath, but she has been most careful to not soil herself. Retract your calumny, Lord Shadow!"

The Beast was upon Trixie before she could blink. His hot breath bathed her in yet more steam, and he leaned over her small frame like a wolf might loom over a rabbit.

But Trixie was no rabbit.

"Stand your ground, your Lordship! Trixie the Great and Powerful may not stand as tall as you do, nor does her breath reek of the charnel-house and the abattoir as yours does, but she is powerful, and respected in her own right! Give Trixie her due space!" Trixie accompanied this last sentence with a series of pokes with her left hoof, the alicorn-amulet floating in her magic behind her.

And in a moment of miracle, the Beast retreated a step, and then another, with a look of confusion on its great, terrible muzzle, which resembled a nightmarish mastiff’s mug more than that of a pony.

"Wh-what?" ground out the Beast. "You – you are what you smell like."

It smelled her, closing its eyes in a sort of confused concentration. "No, you are not… not a delusion. I… I think? Say something I wouldn’t expect, phantasm!"

"What? How in Celestia’s name could Trixie possibly know what you expected a delusion to say, Lord Shadow? Do you have an actual name Trixie could use? The Great and Powerful Trixie feels somewhat awkward, repeating herself in this fashion."

"Who- are you talking about somepony else? Who is Trixie?"

"Trixie you see before you, Lord Shadow! Showpony extraordinary, marvel of magic, exemplar of unicornic power and brilliance! Known from here to Trottingham and far Kludgetown, Trixie is mistress of all illusions and imaginings!" Trixie took the chance offered, and fired off another small fireworks squib with this last exclamation. It was possible that the shadow-Beast might interpret it as a threat or an attack, but Trixie felt confident that this great Beast was not to be banished by pyrotechnics and flash-pan displays.

After Trixie was done cringing from the flash, the Beast was still there, looking down at her, perplexed.

"I’ve never heard of any of those places. Can you… say something more? Where is… Trottingham?"

And then Trixie knew she had the Beast.

Or, at least, he wasn’t about to eat Trixie. Which was progress.

Author's Note:

How can you tell the difference between a third-person story starring Trixie, and Trixie telling a story?

Her lips are moving.

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