• Published 29th Oct 2017
  • 1,424 Views, 75 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.

  • ...

Dawn Is A Feeling

Trixie's energy levels were flagging badly by the time she followed the Beast downstairs to the kitchens. The kitchens could be found down yet another set of stairs, on the far side of the grand hall from the dais and the thrones, and down a passageway wide enough for heavily-laden servers and fat cooks to shuttle vast tureens and platters to the tables for hungry courtiers and followers that clamored in their ghostly hordes for their supper.

Then Trixie blinked, and the tables were once again covered in dust, filth, and the detritus of centuries, and the ghosts of the past were gone. She hurried to follow the Beast, and thought that this world was forever compelling her to scamper at the heel of this smoky lord, staring at the cloud of smoke which was his tail.

At least the view was worth it.

Trixie was just thinking that the kitchens were surprisingly neat and tidy, when she realized the shifting shadows weren't an artifact of her tired eyes, or the Lord of Shadow's uncertain horn-fire. The Beast bellowed like a boulder rolling down a hillside, and the gentle greyfire which had been lighting the wall-sconces turned instead to a series of lightning-blasts at the little scurrying bits of darkness covering the preparation-tables and counters.

"Damn your eyes, you little pests! Git! Git!" the Beast barked as he swatted at the – Trixie wasn't sure what they were. The shadow-things moved and were somewhat shaped like mice or rats, but there was nothing casting these shadows, only the shadows of the mice themselves.

They had done mice-like damage to the food and preparatory materials laid out on the counters and tables, though. Aside from one or two little shadows splattered into nothingness by a blast of greyfire, nothing much came of the Beast's tantrum, but it left his chest heaving, and his eyes wild with a strange sort of elevated enthusiasm and anger.

It was a good look on him.

Trixie looked over what the shadow-mice had left, and wondered to herself how often the Beast and his retainers left food out like this, if they had pests.

"My Lord Shadow, do you always leave your cooking-stuff out like this? Of course you'll get rats if you don't clean up after yourself."

"Bah!" Another blast of lightning. "There's five million things to do around here. I was going to come back to it, and then you interrupted." Lightning, again. "I still don't know how these things keep getting in." Greyfire! "It's not as if any other large animals survived the shadows for long." Fire!

"My lord, how you have escaped burning this tower down to its foundations, if this is how you deal with –" and Trixie quickly dodged another blast of fire, with which the Beast nearly blew her hat right off of her mane. "BE MORE CAREFUL!"

"Oh, sorry, sorry. My apologies. It's just – that was my dinner. Or it was going to be. Bah, I suppose they're gone now. I can eat what I was planning to make for the harvesters and Miller. I simply loathe waste, is all."

Trixie helped the abashed Beast clean up the partially-gobbled mess, and scraped the waste into a barrel for later disposal. The kitchens came with a clever bit of pipes that brought in cold water from somewhere overhead – Trixie supposed from a cistern somewhere upstairs. Those pipes led into prettily-cast taps over broad and clean wash-basins, almost as cleverly drained as any modern kitchen-sink Trixie has ever seen. Not that she's made a practice of examining wash-basins; Trixie is nopony's washer-mare, as she'd told Cloudy Quartz on many a – no, never mind all that.

The Beast's sinks were an vast improvement on some wash-basins, despite having to have been hundreds of years out of date. Trixie thinks that certain innovation-allergic earth ponies could have learned a few things from the Beast's kitchens.

Anyways, Trixie and the Beast washed their hooves in those generous sinks, and began preparation to make a snack – no, no, to feed the reapers and the miller.

The Beast took pity on Trixie's hunger when her protesting stomach loudly announced her incipient starvation to her kitchen-audience. She'd not had a bite to eat since stealing some pastries off of a cart on the train from Canterlot, after all.
The Beast made a cold gruel from a barrel of oats the shadow-mice hadn't gotten to, yet, pasted together with something Trixie mistook for honey, along with diced bits of apple and some fruit she did not recognize in its mangled state.

"What is this stuff? Mmmhm. Sweet! And tangy, despite being in storage!"

"Ah? Oh, those are pomegranates. They grow best in this climate, for some reason. Even Malus's apples don't quite develop properly without sunlight, but pomegranates? They thrive."

"Well, it seems as if your bees thrive here. Trixie thought you said that no other animals…?"

"Bees? We don't have bees. Oh, that. That's maple syrup. We have a grove of sugar maples that produce surprisingly regularly. More strange shadow-earth-magic, I suppose. Here, we need these firmly formed in bricks, like – yeah, that. And roll them in dry oats, for tidy eating in the field. Right."

The Beast laughed.

"Try to leave a few for the field-hoofs, Dame Trixie."

Trixie has never been one for domestic affairs, or for futzing around the home. Which has generally suited her way of life, because she never really had a home. But as a mare who was always on the road, she had long since mastered the art of keeping herself fed, and clean in her beautiful, marvelous vardo. What?

Oh, for the love of the princesses, what are they teaching in schools these days? A vardo – a caravan, a camper, a wagon – a home on wheels! Yes, that's a thing. And it was a thing of perfection, Trixie's very much prized possession, her stage, her living-space, her life on wheels.

And wheels betrayed Trixie's trust. Wheels and SPARKLE!

Ahem. Pardon the digression. Where was Trixie?

Oh, yes, pigging out on the field-hoofs' din- NO!

Really, will you be a good audience, or will Trixie have to get out the ropes and the manacles?

Very well then. Trixie's hunger was sated in the preparation, and she found herself rather enjoying the work together, which was not at all characteristic of Trixie's natural temperament. Trixie's former employer at the rock farm, after she had lost her livelihood and was compelled to take – ugh! – honest employment. Well. The Pies may very well be good ponies, and so everypony who knows them insists, but as far as their food and their matriarch's approach to house-work – well indeed. It left Trixie with something of a contempt for playing the farmwife, the housewife, the homely home-keeper. Dullness and starchy grimness doesn't even begin to describe it.

But this! This was quite charming.

So charming, Trixie is sad to relate, that apparently she nodded off right there, face down in the oats and the diced apples. Not that she recalls this personally, but the Beast has tasked her often enough with his ‘hilarious anecdote', that she can relate it in her sleep.

And supposedly has done so, on at least one occasion.

In any event, Trixie's memory jumps directly from something amusing said over apple-bits, to twitching awake under a disgusting, dusty bit of fabric that smelled and tasted more like a drop-cloth than a bedsheet.

Trixie looked around her, disoriented, and realized she was laid out on a lumpy, musty-smelling bed, the old-fashioned sort made of rope and straw and a sheet binding up both in an approximation of something semi-comfortable. It was actually quite familiar.

The Pies had believed in rope-beds. Sigh.

Trixie lit up her horn, and discovered her missing cloak and hat placed carefully on a chair next to her bed, awaiting her return to action. She had been left in an unfamiliar bed-room, not especially fancy or elaborate. Clearly a guest-room, but all the dirt and clutter had been pushed into the corners and onto the side-tables and dressers and so forth. Honestly, it was in better shape than the grand hall with all of its trash laid out on the benches and tables.

Trixie felt a slight pinch, under her neck, and looked down to find the amulet still wrapped snugly around her throat. Had the Beast undressed her, but left her necklace in place? Perhaps he didn't want to lay hooves on something as precious as her amulet. If so, she thought the better of him for it; it showed some sense of boundaries and basic decency.

Then Trixie's horn-light lit upon the night-stand, and lurking in the darkness was a –

Fresh flower? Trixie isn't an expert when it comes to flowers and flower-language – that's pretty much an earth-pony pastime – so she wasn't exactly sure what an orchid means, but she had a vague notion of it being something somewhat racy. Trixie might have felt that she should be blushing a bit upon finding such a gift first thing after waking.

Trixie got up from her bed, and took a closer look at the orchid. It was beautiful. It was fresh.

It was impossible. The orchid was a living confection of brilliant red and pink, the most living color Trixie had seen in this half-world, aside from her own lovely coat.

And then as Trixie stood there, regarding the flower, she had a flash of a half-remembered dream, of strangely familiar ghost-ponies shouting, screaming, arguing. Yelling at Trixie, yelling at a scrawny little grey unicorn Trixie didn't recognize, yelling at each other. Then a terrible bright red light and – the memory of the dream ended. An ugly, pointless dream, truly unlike Trixie's usual fare.

Trixie is generally proud of her technicolor nightscapes. She has always had vivid and well-formed dreams, and is quite skilled at lucid dreaming. She firmly believes that the creativity of a pony is reflected in the unconscious constructions their dreaming selves project against the screens, nay, upon the very walls of sleep itself!

Having decided to ignore such ill-constructed meaningless dream-nonsense, Trixie stared at her orchid-flower, wondering at its beauty. Why was it so vibrant, when everything else was washed out and drained by the eternal greenish half-light?

Speaking of light, Trixie realized then that the only light in her little apartment was coming from her horn. Trixie looked around for a window, finding it with its attendant heavy shutter carefully latched against – were there any elements in this world?

Trixie opened the shutter – which had been made for sieges, and was heavy-built oak, proof against ancient pegasus projectiles, Trixie imagines – and squinted in reflex against an expected sunlight glare which disappointingly failed to shine in her eyes.

The sun had failed to rise and dispel this whole strange nightmare.

The prospect from her room's window was impressive, and the mists which had hung over the land when last Trixie had looked out over it had dispersed. Trixie could see a forest's edge in the distance, crowding two of the great statues she had seen in her first moments in this place. Between the forest and her window stretched the Lord of Shadow's demesne – Trixie loves this word, de-mes-ne, so delicate and possessive, don't you think? And it was like something out of a history-book. The fields stretched out in narrow strips between wood-lots and orchards, with the occasional cottage and shed crouched charmingly beside paths and little roads. At a distance, it was a picture-post-card.

Colored dusty-green and dark, like the last moments of dusk before the fall of true night.

Trixie thought she could see where the harvesters were working, the point at which the distant grain turned to stubble and tiny little dots which must have been the stooks she had seen yesterd- no, the glass before? Yesterglass? How do you conjugate that?

No matter. Trixie could see a little cart approaching the little dotted line of stooks, and a great mass of shadow and darkness drawing that cart like a dray-pony pulling a foal's toy.

Trixie got quickly dressed, and tumbled out of her bedroom, giving the orchid a wave in passing as she rocketed through the door and down what turned out to be yet another set of steep stairs.

Morrowglass was another day!

Author's Note:

Thanks to Oliver for editing advice on this one.

Oh, and as for the chapter-title: Dawn Is A Feeling. This day will last, a thousand years - if you want it to.

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