• Published 29th Oct 2017
  • 1,183 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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Blue-Collar Mare

The next several 'watches', to use the Beast's time-conceits, went by in a green-half-lit blur of exertion. Trixie found her host laboring like a common drover, smoky tail flitting back and forth over the traces of a very, very prosaic dray-cart, piled heavy and thick with the milky-white grains of that peculiar field-crop.

Your noble and talented narrator can offer you proof of her status a proper duchess of the rails. Trixie is a credentialed marchioness of the roadways – she has it on parchment! And yet, despite this documentary evidence, she still could not prove precedence ahead of an actual landed aristocrat, let alone one who had somehow managed to give himself stature like a ursa minor. Nothing is so demonstrative of natural nobility as wings and a horn!

Damn his magnificent flanks!

Despite Trixie's mild and understandable envy of the Beast's magnificence, all she could do in the face of this demonstration of the nobility of labor was to fall in line, and swallow her contempt for breaking a sweat. What else could Trixie do, but join her host in bringing in the harvest? It wasn't as if she could pretend that such work was beneath a lady of her stature, not when the lord of the manor played teamster for his peasants and his Miller.

And so this proud show-mare found herself once again breaking a sweat in the dust of a field-harvest. Thankfully, the mists which had greeted Trixie when first she arrived in this place had evaporated, leaving the air over the Beast's corn-fields cool and dry. Which, naturally, led to clouds of choking dust churned up by stomping hooves and the damage done by the sweeping blades of sickle and scythe.

Thankfully, Trixie had more than enough scarves within her cloak of tricks to supply all the workers in the field, so that they did not cough themselves into the next life.

Where does one go, Trixie wonders, if you die in the after-life?

That nonsense aside, she was touched to be thanked by the mechanics, whose eyes went great at the quality and brilliance of the silk-scarves she gave them to keep out the dust of the harvest. Trixie was glad to accept their 'tusind tak' for her benevolence.

The scarves weren't real silk, anyways.

Miller was less enthused to find that Trixie was encouraging his liege in the Beast's non-liege-like behavior.

"Och, yer ladyship, it's bad enaw when he indulges himself loch thes in front ay th' hoople-heids. Dornt ye be encooragin' heem tae stump aroond loch thes!" groused the Miller.

Or 'Miller'? Trixie had to ask.

"Och, an' whit? Och aye, mah nam is Miller, an' I mill. Mah nam an' mah duty ur a body an' th' sam. An' wa woods it nae be? Yer nam is yer life, is it nae? Is 'at nae wa they caa ye Trixie?" The miller pointed at the twirling bit of twine Trixie had taken up as she listened to him, weaving a bit of nothing to keep her hoof in.

Trixie blushed to be caught fiddling like a school-filly, and cleared her throat.

"Perhaps most modern ponies don't generally take names quite so literal-minded, Master Miller. If only because there's just so many rock-farmers or mail-mares, or royal guards, or what have you."

"Weel, aam sure ah dunnae ken what's modern these days, yer ladyship. But when yoo're th' only miller in th' warld, ye micht an aw be Miller. Saves oan hemmin' an' hawin', dornt it?"

By then, the Miller and the Beast had unloaded the lord's cart into the bin-hopper, and Trixie hoofed the Miller another one of her silk scarves, for which he 'thenked' Trixie kindly. Then the gruff stallion threw off his miller's-vest and loaded up another cart with a pile of what looked like wooden poles to Trixie, and shrugged into the traces.

"You're coming out with us, Miller?" asked the Beast.

"Ah can hardly sit haur an' fiddle aroond wi' th' coople ay cupfuls ay grist yoo've given me sae far, mah laird. An' mony hooves make lecht wark, doesnae it?"

The Miller grinned through Trixie's donated scarf.

"Let's gie some grain threshed!"

And so it was that Trixie learned how wheat got off of those drying bundles of shooked stalks, and into the Lord's carts.

It was absolutely brilliant!

The wooden poles turned out to be wheat-threshing flails, and Miller had brought along enough additional flails that Trixie was able to join in the festivities. And Trixie did so with a vengeance. She pictured Sparkle's face in every pile of stalks, and pounded that smug purple muzzle into grain-less straw again and again and again.

Trixie swapped Sparkle out for her brutish friends in her frenzied imaginings. Then she conjured the images of various towns-ponies who had likewise made Trixie's life on the road a Tartarus for far too long. Towards the end of that field, Trixie had a dozen sets of flails grasped firmly in her red horn-glow, simultaneously battering entire platoons of imaginary oppressors into clouds of shattered hulls, dust, and little bits of dried-out stalk.

Trixie may have torn a few tarps in the process, but by the Long Road did she get some built-up stress properly vented!

Miller had stood aside when Trixie had picked up her first flail, and after the third flail went into operation in Trixie's increasingly-crimson hornglow, he threw up his hooves and left the threshing to the horned ponies in the field. Trixie was vaguely aware of the miller collecting the properly threshed straw behind her and the Beast, and had some notion that Miller had disappeared with one of the carts several times during her rampage across the stook-stippled wheat-field. When she got to the end of the stooks, she looked back, and saw the Beast pouring a tarp full of threshed grain into his own cart, while the Miller passed by on the cart-track, pulling up to collect Trixie's last few stooks-worth of straw.

Time for the next field!

Now, Trixie was fully aware that this method of threshing was insanely archaic. She'd never had to work in the grain fields before, and if she'd had to do this day in, day out, it would have been an excruciating bore, Trixie is sure. As a novelty and an opportunity for exercise it might have been superlative, but Trixie made a mental note to see if she could remember any details of the modern threshing-machines she could have sworn she'd seen in use by the Pies' grain-farming neighbors.

Well, neighbor – proper food farming wasn't exactly popular in Rock Valley.

That first field was a joy and a lark. These were not large fields, Trixie should point out, but rather were narrow strips laid out in between berry-bushes and nut-bearing trees. So they went by fairly fast, at least at the pace she and the Beast maintained. The second and third fields were amusing, but Trixie had already begun to vary the experience with displays of legerdemain with the stalks and some bits of flash and illusion to entertain herself and the Beast.

By the fourth field, Trixie had had more than enough of threshing. Her horn-magic had once again faded into her natural violet, and the rush of energy she'd felt at the beginning had faded away as the tedium of the task reasserted its dominion. Trixie was more than ready when the Miller said something about lunch.

The Beast used some sort of cleaning cantrip to blast the field-dirt from his black hide and hooves, and Trixie, realizing that a break was in the offing, thought to herself for a second, and then shrugged when she realized that she'd forgotten her own personal hygiene-spell in all the excitement.

The Beast's simple spell was easy enough to sight-read, anyways. Trixie managed to replicate the feat on the second pass.

She didn't need those extra hairs in her tail, anyways.

By the time she caught up to Miller and the Beast, the Miller had a table-cloth spread out on the verge next to the field the reapers had been harvesting, and the Beast was fiddling around with a large tureen that Trixie had apparently not been awake for during the previous watch's food-preparation. The tureen glowed a slight cherry-red for a second or two, and then the Beast's grey tendrils took off the cover, revealing a bubbling mass of soup. It might have been three-bean soup, or just some sort of lentil with extra beans, but in either case, it was a very, very beany soup, and once the gathered harvesters tucked into it, Trixie found that it was also an excellent soup. The bean-heavy broth was exactly the proper match to the oatcakes she and the Beast had made, exactly the sort of proper filling that hard-working farm-ponies deserve after a long – well, not morning, but a long set of watches in the field.

"Åh, vidunderligt, det er den tre-bønne igen," said Sharp Hone to the mare.

"Ja, ja. Stærke svingende suppe gør for søde sang suppe," cackled Loose Bind in response.

"Og vi alle sang i harmoni i eftermiddag!" chorused the both of them, "Åh, musikalsk suppe, vi skal flyve på din vind!"

"Och, pit a cork in it, ye tois flatulent breech-bursters! thes is wa th' laird doesnae trooble himself wi' buyin' breeks fur ye lot!" barked Miller at the giggling farm-hoofs. "Dornt coont yer farts afair they're hatched, ye villains! An' ye best nae be lollygaggin' in th' fields efter lunch. 'er ladyship haur is a huir uv a devil wi' th' flails. she'll catch up tae ye an' yer damp-arsed sloppy stooks afair suin!"

Trixie eyed the mush-mouthed farm-workers, and their sweat-slicked manes and coats. The reapers had been out here all this time, while Trixie had enjoyed her beauty-sleep. But thus is the lot of the peasantry, and Trixie is sure that a long life – or half-life in the event – of back-breaking field-work had bred the two mechanics to this sort of thing. Trixie, on the other hoof? A delicate mare of the road. Trixie's hooves might be iron-hard from thousands of miles trotted in the harness, her legs strong and well-muscled from pulling her beloved stage-vardo every single one of those miles, but she was still a lady!

Trixie will deny it to her dying day if you repeat any of this, by the by. Trixie knows she can trust you all – you're such a lovely audience!

And Trixie has kept the wheat-flails.

After this lovely lunch-break of oatcakes and sang suppe under darkling skies, we returned to our respective work. Trixie tried to keep up her enthusiasm from before her heavy meal, but the joy was largely spent. It had become work.

Ah, well.

As it proved, the Miller had been correct. Trixie did, indeed, catch up to the reapers' work, and found the stooks too damp for threshing. Or so the Beast assured her. The reapers were nowhere in sight, of course, as they themselves had been working their way through the narrow little field-strips, and were probably halfway across the world by then.

Trixie found herself wondering exactly how large this place was. She asked the Beast and Miller as she helped them load the last carts full of, respectively, straw and grain.

"Och, fa has time tae explore? I've got sae leetle time tae gie anythin' dain, mah quine. Ah gie myself started oan a project, an' afair I look up, th' laird is back, ready tae put me back in mah cubby-hole. Th' flittergibbets say thaur isnae much beyond abit a league ur two beyond uir doors, I hink?"

Trixie followed the Miller back to his mill, although she had been tempted to tag along with the Beast and see what he was doing with all of that straw. Still, it was a fact that Miller would only be here for a brief time, and Trixie wanted to interrogate the burgher about his liege without said Beast being in ear-shot.

"Weel, yer ladyship, ah dunnae kinn if Ah want tae be tellin' tales it aut ay school. His lordship deserves some privacy, doesnae he?" Miller said to Trixie's entreaties. "I-"

Wait a tick. Trixie should ask you all – do you want Trixie to continue with the accent? She can do this all glass, an' nae e'en break a sweat. Trixie has bin talkin' burgher fur sae lang, 'at sometimes she dreams in it, she swears. Nae? Ah, weel, braw.

Trixie will summarize.

The lord, Trixie wheedled out of Miller, hadn't always been this way. No, once upon a time, he had been a modest little unicorn of some privilege and stature, His Grace the Grand Duke's grand-nephew by a disfavored sister of the Grand Duke's second wife.

The Miller told Trixie this as they unloaded the carts into the mill's silo-hoppers, which was more of a production than you'd think. The Miller had to operate the hopper-belts by hoof. Trixie eyed the mill's gearing, and wondered why they couldn't just use the drive-train for this, but the Miller continued speaking.

"Lord Stygian was made steward of our manor in his great-uncle's name, just before Discord happened. He was a thin, undistinguished colt just barely marked, and was he not a sight when he came stumbling off the Duke's highway with that old cart packed over-flowing with books!"

Hrm. Yes, Trixie agrees, loud sir. It rather doesn't sound like something a Miller would say. Back to the accents! What? No?

Sorry, loud sir, the others are louder all together than just you in the back there.

Fine. No accents.

"And it was as if Discord was just waiting for Lord Stygian to take up his post. As soon as he had settled into the tower, everything changed."

"What? I thought the Lord of Shadows said that Star Swirl was to blame for your exile here!"

"Oh, no, Miss. Not this exile. The one before that. I think? Let me count… yes, the first one."

"Discord did… something. And the Lord was exiled?"

"Oh, no, Miss. All of us were. We looked out the next morning, and it was a tea downpour. Everything smelled of herbs and beet-sugar for a week afterwards. After we cleaned up the flood, his lordship sent somepony the next manor over to see if they needed any help there. Except they weren't there, nor were what was supposed to be on the other side of that hill."

We finished cranking the cartloads into the silos, and the Miller went back outside to throw the levers which opened the flues from the water-race into the millwheel. Trixie looked upstream from the millrace, and asked a question which hadn't even occurred to her before laying eyes on that water-wheel.

"The creek? Oh, who cares where it comes from? It comes, and that's all I needs to know. Do any but pegasi care where the rains come from? Not that we get rains here. Damned unseelie mists rising up out of the earth and the creek-"

What? No, Trixie wasn't doing an accent. How else would you describe such a scene, madam, in that dreadful greenish half-light, the water blackly burbling away under the paddles of the water-wheel, its ancient bulk squealing its outrage at having to move once again, after so many glasses of inactivity. Trixie's new world was decidedly unsettling, madam, and if she cares to give her characters – er, relate her compatriots' words in terms that are unfamiliar to you, well, that is not Trixie's problem!

Now where was Trixie? Ah, mysterious creeks.

"Trixie has to ask – if she drinks from this water, will she forget all her days and become some sort of blank slate?"

"Not that I ever noticed, miss. But you'd best not, any rate."

"Ah-ha!"

"No, miss. You're just likely to catch the trots. This isn't a clean stretch of the creek by any measure, and nopony's been maintaining the watershed hereabouts. But I need to get inside, we're wasting grist-time."

And so we did, and while the Miller did his thing, mysteriously pushing levers here, pulling cords there – if you labor under a peculiar need to understand the mechanical processes of an amazingly archaic water-mill, Trixie is sure there are books in a library somewhere, go, read up, you pedantic ponies, you!

While the Miller did his work, he told Trixie further of the story of poor little lord Stygian and his peasantry. How the world beyond their manor had been wiped away in a storm of strong tea and crumpet hail-stones, leaving in its steeped wake a land utterly unrecognizable, peopled by creatures they had never seen before.

"That was the first time most of us had ever seen people who weren't ponies. Deer that spoke – cows that spoke! This was before the griffons and the minotaurs and the buffalo, of course, but what we ran into was passing strange enough! Lord Stygian, though, he kept his calm. Good colt! Not much to look at, mind you, but a steady temperament."

The Miller pulled one last lever, and grain began pouring out of the silo in a controlled stream into the grinding chamber, and the low grumbling of the stones against each other became an ear-assaulting crackling roar. Miller shouted over the horrible noise, one last observation. "It weren't Discord's world that brought us here, Miss! It were the damned heroes that brought us to this pass!"

Author's Note:

Thanks to Oliver for making an edit pass on this one.

And Styx for the title this time. Although I suppose it should have been Lethe?

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