• Published 29th Oct 2017
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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.

  • ...

Black Country Mare

Trixie was in no danger of running out of places she could claim to have visited, and towns she had wowed with her stunning performance. And the most of them weren't even lies; Trixie truly had been on the road off and on for the past sixteen years, ever since coming to that little disagreement with her big sister and her stuffy lump of an earth-pony husband.

Trixie's line of patter nearly stuttered there, she can tell you, as her description of her long and storied journey across the length and breadth of proud Equestria wandered too close to stories about her sister's theater-troupe and Trixie's less than successful experiment in working for family. The Beast, who had begun striding through the great Tartarus-garden into the interior of this… whatever it was, looked down at Trixie's showmare self, a great eyebrow of tenumbral shadow crooked upwards at her accidental pause.

"Well! And at that crossroads, Trixie proceeded to the great maretropolis of Baltimare, while some individuals returned to the uncultured backwaters of southern Horseshoe Bay, and the Hayseed Swamps. You cannot imagine how poor the pickings are in those waterlogged hamlets, although they stretch southward along the eastern coast forever and a day!"

"Now that," ground out the Beast in a tolerantly amused gravel of verbal grit, "is the first set of place-names I have recognized in half a watch's time. And the Hayseed Swamps hide a proud if damp nation of bog-trotters. I have known many a fine bog-pony to come from that marshy land."

"A watch? How long is that, Lord Shadow? It has a very old-timey sound to it, 'watches'. Almost naval! Trixie likes it."

"A watch is a watch, Dame Trixie." The great lord of shadows had given her a title! The courtesy warms Trixie's cockles even now, in remembrance. You don't give titles to ponies you plan on having for lunch -- progress! "It contains a fraction of a glass, which I can be confident in saying, is more or less three full days' time. We make our own time here, Trixie."

The great Beast looked upwards through the mist that he and Trixie were walking, towards no sun in the sky, no stars or moons – and barely sky at all, if Trixie were pressed to describe it. Definitely not a cavern ceiling, that much Trixie was… mildly confident in stating?

"For there would be no time, if I did not make it." And here, their civilized conversation was interrupted with a most civilized booming bell-like noise that echoed strangely through the mist, a round and glassy tone, which was followed by another tone of lower pitch, and then a series of musical intonations in the general shape of a rather crude tune. One that Trixie thought she might vaguely recognize, if she hadn't had something of a dead ear for music.

What! No pony's experience and talents are so broad as to have universal application! And Trixie is not ashamed to admit that she only knows two tunes, and one is 'Donkey Doodle Dandy', and the other is not. Trixie can carry a tune in a bucket, with accompaniment and the aid of others, and seven times out of ten, most of the music will not end up slopped out all over the stage. But if given her druthers, Trixie would prefer to work with a proper musician, and limit Trixie's participation to an approving hum, which any given audience will generally interpret as a good-faith effort to participate in the public ritual of, bah! Song!

"Ah," ground out the Beast in his death-of-boulders rumble. "A full watch, ended. I would show you the time-machine, but I have obligations and duties, and while you are easily the most novel thing to enter our world in far, far too many glasses, there are matters which cannot, must not be delayed for mere novelty. Follow me. Or do not, I do not care overmuch."

The Beast changed direction, following a lane at an angle from our previous line of advance, and Trixie scrambled to keep up with her host, looking around her as apple-trees emerged from the mist.

"Ah, good, you're keeping up. I fear if the Harriers tried to eat you again, they might develop some sort of indigestion. You upset them enough as it is, I can hear one or two of them following us, snuffling in outrage and frustration."

Now that the Beast mentioned it, Trixie thought maybe she heard it too, a sad and alarming animal echo to their echoing hoof-steps, and perhaps paw-steps in not-at-all-an-echo? Trixie hurried to put the Beast between her and the unseen 'Harrier' in the mist.

"Oh, I wouldn't worry. I don't think one of the Harriers has actually harmed another pony in, well, a great long while. Who knows what they remember, or why they attack, or why they just lurk about, waiting for who knows what?"

"My Lord of Shadows, what is a Harrier, and why shouldn't Trixie be wary of such… things? They seem rather to have large and sharp teeth, whatever else they might be."

"Ha!" laughed the Beast like a shower of pebbles across a hillside. "When it comes to that, their fangs are shorter than mine, and a little nip will generally keep order in the herd. That, that is a much longer story, for another time, for here we are."

Trixie looked up at a monstrous great black face, nothing but empty white blotches where eyes should have been, and a blackened outline where Trixie's intuition would put a muzzle. The Beast's general shape was that of a pony, but built on a vast scale, and of uncertain and nebulous materials. But Trixie could swear that if a penumbral shadow could look pensive, that shadow-face had managed it.

Trixie looked around the great shadow's haunch, and discovered that they had approached a dwelling while she had been distracted by talk of tartarus-beasts and their master. A very modest place, this little hut, ancient in design, fully thatched and looking rather like something Trixie had once seen in a display on ancient archeo-ponies after sneaking into a museum.

She'd had quite the afternoon, before the guards grew too numerous, and before Trixie had to make an exit lest somepony asked her to pay for her amusement. Or worse, tried to get her involved in the clever theft which had, quite coincidentally, occurred during her visit to said museum of art and history.

Trixie pauses to note this, as explanation for why she was not at all surprised when a living, quite normal, pony in exceedingly archaic garb came stumping out of the hovel to greet her Lord of Shadows. Although Trixie will admit that she was surprised when said peasant-pony proceeded to berate the great Beast in tones similar to an old nanny chiding her one-time charge.

"Stygian! Ye left us aloyn again! Almost an entire glass, an dae I see hoof nur hair of yer lairdly hide in my orchards? I told you last time, I cannae maintain these bludy trees withit somepone tae tend them in all the glasses aam nae aroond fur on accoont ay nae existing!" The old mare's accent was thicker than that of a Griffish tenant-farmer, and Trixie struggled to keep up with the conversation between the peasant, one 'Mistress Malus', and her dark overlord. Who apparently had been neglectful in tending to the peasant-pony's orchards and their precious fruit.

Which Trixie gathered was prone to… 'milk-rot' in these challenging agricultural environs? Honestly, Trixie failed to understand how fruit-trees stayed alive in that eternal half-night, let alone how they managed to fruit in the absence of any sort of sunlight. The wonders of that peculiar half-world were only beginning to dawn upon Trixie.

Which was good, because it was also beginning to occur to Trixie that she had perhaps seen her last dawn, as she'd gathered from the tone of the conversation that the sun never, ever shined on this land. Or world.

Trixie always struggled with these sorts of terms and descriptions. It's always best to use the natives' terminology on the stage, it breeds a camaraderie between audience and performer. But that was difficult when one's encounters with a prospective audience was one pony at a time, and conducted in a brogue peatier than the muck of a Hayseed Swamps rice-fen.

At last, the tenant was done with her beration of her lordship, and said great lord looked down at his Apple, and sort of smiled. If the toothy exposure of a great maw in a swirling black mist of a face could be called a 'smile'.

"Come, Mistress Malus. Our time is coming close. Shall I return you early, and leave you in your home to await your next glass? Or would you accompany us to collect the other furloughs, so that you all might go together when you go?"

"Us, us? Oo is 'us'?" barked the old peasant, looking around the shadowy leg of the Beast. She had not even noticed Trixie's bright coat in all the time she'd been sniping at the Beast! Trixie is still offended at the lapse, although if pressed she'd have to admit that nothing really stood out in that heavy, deadening mist and half-dark, half light gloom.

Trixie knew at that moment, that she would have to work twice as hard to claim the attention of these ponies. It was an existential imperative!

"The Great And Powerful Trixie, a visitor to your proud land and your lovely home, greets you, Mistress Malus! Rejoice, for you have been visited by-"

And the sour old biddy cut Trixie dead! She turned to the great Beast, and said, amazingly, "Look 'er, yer pointy-eadedness, it's aw weel an' guid tae play silly buggers wi' yer magic, but enoogh's enaw! Stopit wi' th' weirdings! It's nae healthy!"

"Truly, Mistress Malus, if this mare is an illusion, it isn't one my mind is projecting."

"Gaw, go awn wid ye! Look at 'er! Is she something' yoo'd fin' haur in Hades?"

"Mistress, I've told you before, I've done the calculations. This is almost certainly not Hades, or anything like it. If it were, would I be left in charge by whatever shade-king commands the place?"

"Och, come on, wee lairdlin', yoo're mair worth than ye gie yerself. Ye make a proper laird ay Hades, ye dae. Makes us aw prood tae see ye groon up sae."

"Excuse me," interjected your narrator. "I'd like to get back ta thees - er, to this business of me not being real. I truly am a pony. Here, see?" And I did a little bit of the old Somnambulan rope-trick with a bit of knotted cloth I kept in a pocket of the back of my hat for the purposes of random prestidigitation.

"Fie! As if a wee bit ay unicorn hornswagglin' woods prove yoo're real. Lookit ye, phantasm, yoo'd better dae better than thes."

"Ah, then, a confirmed neighsayer! A challenge!" Trixie tapped her chin, thus, as she pondered her options. "Can a phantasm pull a bit out of your ear like this?" and so Trixie did.

"Ooh, isnae 'at bonnie? What's th' wee squiggles on it? I dornt recognize th' coinage! But producin' coin frae naethin' still proves naethin'!"

"Well, fair enough, how's about this? The Brave and Powerful Trixie could show you how she once trounced a terrible Ursa Major, using only her wits and vast unicorn magic!" And Trixie began to fire up the old slide-show so worn from use that it damn near had developed a sienna tint, even in the glow of her powder-blue magic.

But instead of watching Trixie's clever illusion of star-bears and brave unicorn fillies in terrible battle, the old mare was staring at her own hoof, which perhaps was more grey than the rest of her in that perpetual half-light.

"Och, Ah dornt hae time fur yer dumb-shows, ghostlin'. Lookit this, laird! Me hoof! Time's a burnin', yer grace!"

"Fine! Fine! Trixie knows when she's not wanted. Be that way!" Trixie was having fun, and was hopeful of more challenges, but sadly, the old mare had lost interest and didn't want to play anymore.

"Aye? An' I will be thes way, coz it is as I am an' I ever will be. If I dornt let th' shadow-curse gie me first. Laird, aam ready tae gang, sod th' others, aam in nae muid fur further company." The ancient Malus took a pose, as if she was expecting somepony to take her picture. "An' best hurry tae the rest, they'll be in their ain trooble suin."

The great Beast bowed his head, and suddenly the billowing grey tendrils which had been lazily flowing about his great bulk straightened and grew sharp, like razors. They reached out stiffly, as Trixie had observed in some of the larger species of spiders when they labored to bind up a struggling insect or fly that had fallen into their web. And like those spiders, the Lord of Shadow took hold of his vassal, and did something peculiar, tugging, twisting – and then piercing the smug-looking mare right through her chest and barrel!

The assaulted peasant reacted not at all, as the shadow-tendrils slashed through her with a terrifying violence, and Trixie fell back on her haunches screaming in absolute horror.

And just like that, the peasant-pony was gone. Without gore, without a noise, but for a small gem-like stone which fell from where she had been standing, a sharp little clatter as it landed upon the flagstone in front of her hovel's front door.

"Well, blast," said the great Beast, looking down at the bit of obsidian its tendrils had dropped upon the front-stoop of the house. "Just call me butter-feathers. I hope she didn't chip. Do you see any chips, Dame Trixie?"

The shadowy monster turned his shadow-head around, to query Trixie's opinion of the rock which he transformed a living pony into, and discovered that your narrator was paralyzed with horror and fear.

"Oh. Oh, bollocks. No, wait, I can explain," said the great Beast in a whining, wheedling tone that completely and totally failed to match the terrible portentous substance of the horror he had just perpetuated in front of what Trixie can tell you was one thoroughly perturbed show-pony.

"Explain what? That's murder! You killed somepony! You killed my audience! Look at that, it doesn't even look like a pony anymore! Stay away, keep away, Trixie has not gotten this far, only to be reduced to a bit of dragonglass!"

And Trixie put on her evil pendant of doom. If she was going to be murdered for her shiny, most rock-like qualities, she would go down fighting.

Author's Note:

Thanks to my editors, Oliver and Shrink Laureate for their help in putting this story in order. All errors are entirely my own.

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