• Published 8th Aug 2012
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The Hero of Oaton - thatguyvex



Lunaverse story: Trixie and co. must save a rural town from a corrupt lumber operation

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Chapter 2: Memories and Complications

Chapter 2: Memories and Complications

One year ago…

Trixie stared out the train window at the passing landscape, chin in hoof, scowl on face, liquor at the ready. Irritation clawed at her, causing her to tap one of her hind hooves repeatedly as she waited for the train to make its appointed stop. Soon enough she could get this pointless and annoying errand over and done with and get back to Canterlot, her first order of business upon doing so being to find a way to get back at Baron Flouting for this indignation! Being reduced to a…a…a delivery pony!

Okay so perhaps she’d overstretched her ambitions by trying to eavesdrop on the Baron’s dealings, hoping to dig up some kind of dirt she could use sometime in the future when she wasn’t a political non-entity. Luna was teaching her how politics worked so the Princess could hardly be surprised if Trixie was trying to put some of those lessons to use…though granted Luna hadn’t actually taught her that sneaking onto a Baron’s property to try and listen in on his dealings was a good idea. That was all Trixie.

Trixie had been shocked to discover the Baron was no slouch in divination or warding spells. She was equally dismayed to discover that invisibility didn’t do much against guard dogs, who had annoyingly keen hearing.

For the record Trixie had decided she very much hated guard dogs. First of all who kept guard dogs in this day and age!? Furthermore, who, upon wishing to employ the use of said guard dogs upon a suspected invisible intruder, says ‘Release the hounds!’. Baron Flouting, apparently, because that was exactly what he had done. It was just in horrible poor taste as far as Trixie was concerned. She supposed she should count herself fortunate said guard dogs had been called off after she’d been cornered and her invisibly spell had faltered. Trixie’s endurance and concentration in keeping up such a spell while under duress (being chased by guard dogs, for example) still needed a lot of work.

In either an act of mercy or contempt…probably both, Trixie reflected, the Baron didn’t do more than request she do him a small favor in exchange for forgetting the whole affair and not having her thrown in jail for trespassing. The favor in question being this inane courier task to some two-bit nowhere village. What was the name of it again? Trixie didn’t recall, but since it was apparently the only settlement for miles from the way station she was getting off at she supposed it didn’t matter.

I do this, go home, and first thing first I start refining my invisibility spell, find a way to conceal sound as well as my body. Perhaps I can layer two spells together without them interfering, maybe even empowering each other...? But how to bypass wards designed to detect magic auras?

“You need anything miss?” asked a train attendant, a friendly looking white earth pony mare with a short mane of rosy red hair.

“No,” said Trixie curtly, not even looking at the attendant save for out of the corner of her eye, taking a long pull from her flask of bourbon. She felt slightly less annoyed as the liquid burned its way to her stomach and filled her with a pleasant warmth, despite the chill of the morning. Since moving to Canterlot and becoming Princess Luna’s apprentice her sleep schedule had become adjusted to one that generally saw her going to sleep around this time. Luna was a nocturnal being and Trixie had gotten used to following suit, so Trixie was normally asleep during the day and was active at night. Still being away this time of morning wasn’t the norm for her and she was more than a little cranky. Hence the bourbon. Admittedly the alcohol was a recent thing for her, having just come of age not long ago. She had become fond of the warm buzz that came with drink, however. It relaxed her. Trixie generally felt she was in constant need of relaxing.

“Well, okay, if you’re sure,” said the attendant, friendly smile dropping and edging away from Trixie to go see to the few other ponies in the passenger car. Trixie paid her no mind, continuing to nurse her flask of liquor and fuming over the general injustices of the world. By her side a simple small box shaped parcel sat, wrapped in brown parchment. She didn’t care what she was delivering or why and half suspected the package itself was a hoax, just set up as an excuse to send her on some pointless trip away from Canterlot.

She only somewhat remembered she was to deliver it to somepony named…Saw…something? Sawblade, that was it. Worked for the Hoofington Lumber Guild. At least she thought that’s what the Baron had said. It was getting harder to think clearly as the bourbon did its’ work.

By the time the train stopped at the way station, a simple stone platform in the middle of nowhere, Trixie was swaying slightly as she haphazardly threw on her hat and cape and carried the package in a field of magic next to her as she disembarked.

As the train pulled away Trixie looked about. There was a plain dirt road winding alongside the tracks, with another branching off in the distance towards a dense clump of shadows she figured was a forest. A single post with a wood sign sat at the cross section between the two roads, reading a single word: Oaton. The sign pointed towards the forest.

“And so the Great and Powerful Trixie, apprentice to Princess Luna herself, begins her epic quest to deliver pointless mail to a pointless town in the back end of Equestria!”

Taking a swig of her drink she began trotting down the road, a particularly dramatic wind billowing across the scene and causing her mane and cape to flutter just so-

----------

Present day…

“Okay, okay, can you just skip to the important part where you did the hero thing?” said Raindrops as Trixie described the way some wind or something was blowing her cape.

Trixie rolled her eyes, dropping the small telekinesis spell she’d been using to simulate wind blowing her cape and mane, “I need to set the scene! And what’s wrong with a little dramatic description and exposition?”

“I like it,” said Lyra, though Trixie wasn’t even sure the unicorn had been listening until she spoke up, as Lyra’s eyes had been closed and she’d just looked so…relaxed, laying back like that, practically sinking into Trixie’s couch, “Can’t get to the chorus without the introduction. Carry on.”

“I want to hear the whole story too, but we shouldn’t keep Bushel upstairs for too long,” Ditzy said.

“Don’t worry this won’t take much longer,” said Trixie “My memory of events gets fuzzy not long after I arrived in Oaton. It was just about sunset when I got there…”

----------

One year ago…again.

Oaton was tiny. Hamlet didn’t cover it. It was less than a dozen thatch roof buildings, one just slightly larger than the others, clustered along the bank what Trixie imagined was supposed to be a river but right now looked to be little more than a dry strip of mud. Across from the river was a series of small fields, all of them looking forlornly bare of crops despite it being prime planting season.

Gazing at her empty flask she sympathized with the fields. Nothing good ever comes from being dry. Trotting down the dirt road that led straight through the center of the cluster of buildings she barely noticed the shouting and yelling going on in the middle of town until she was right on top of the argument.

“Don’t you understand!? We need that river to keep our field irrigated. We don’t got a big well to water them and keep ourselves from dying of thirst!”

“I understand perfectly. You merely seem to lack an understanding of the extent to which I care. There’s, what, thirty ponies in this whole so-called ‘town’? You shouldn’t have any trouble moving to a more…populated area.”

“This is our home! And we’re not letting you drive us out of it! We’ll fight if we have to!”

“Is that so? Our operation is supported by very important ponies from Canterlot. Do you think, even if you did fight us, that there would be no repercussion from the law? We have ever legal right to be here.”

Trixie peered at the two arguing parties, headed by two ponies of near equal size if very different disposition and dress. One, an earth pony with a dark green coat and sandy colored mane wearing a wide brimmed straw hat was practically smoking at the nostrils in anger. By contrast the other pony, a violet unicorn with a painfully bright blue and neatly trimmed mane wearing a bowler cap and tie, was icy calm and seemed not even remotely concerned with the other pony’s ire. A dozen ponies, almost all of them of the earth tribe, were gathered behind the big green one, while behind the violet unicorn there were half a dozen ponies of all breeds, all wearing the same bowler style cap as their apparent boss. The mood in the air was one of extreme tension ready to boil over.

Trixie walked right up in the middle of it, between the two lead ponies, and planted herself between them and held up her flask.

“If anypony in town possess access to more alcohol let them speak now and forever gain the infinite gratitude of the Great and Powerful Trixie!”

Silence reigned for a moment, and then was broken by the violet unicorn.

“Who in blue blazes are you?”

Trixie just looked at him as if he were a slow foal, “Trixie. Great and Powerful. Try to keep up, otherwise this will take all night. I require a drink. I don’t care what kind, I’m still experimenting with what I like. Also I need to find a pony whose name is Sawsomething. Can you do either of these things?”

“I don’t plan on doing anyth-“

“Then you’re of no use to me. You, the big green fellow with the nice hat. Do you know where a mare can find herself something to drink, at least?”

The earth pony seemed a little taken aback but looked at the violet unicorn sputtering in impotent rage at Trixie’s dismissal and grinned at her, “Well might be I do miss Trixie. We might not have much here in Oaton but we got ale aplenty. Gonna need a drink myself after talking with this sod here.”

“Watch your tone Sheaf,” said the violet unicorn, “I don’t take insults lightly.”

“You’re still here?” said Trixie, “I thought I dismissed you. Go now,” she waved a hoof at the other unicorn “Shoo. I’m done with you.”

“I don’t know who you think you are missy, but I don’t let things like this slide. You’ll be in a world of hurt if you don’t adjust that attitude. I know some very important ponies in Canterlot.”

Trixie laughed, though it rather hurt her head to do so. She needed something to drink, her buzz was wearing off, and this pony was starting to get on her nerves.

“Important ponies? That right? Allow me a moment to care about that…okay, done. Now then, perhaps you should consider adjusting your attitude, as I know some rather important ponies as well. One in particular you may be quite familiar with. Princess Luna Equestris, Shepherd of the Moon, Sovereign of the Three Tribes, ect, ect? I’m sure you must have heard of her. And to think you’re threatening her personal apprentice and student. What would she do, I wonder, if she heard of that?”

…Probably nothing, actually. Luna was very much a ‘stand on your own four hooves’ kind of teacher and wasn’t likely to bail Trixie out of any trouble she got into. But Trixie didn’t need to tell any of these ponies that.

“Horseapples,” was the violet unicorn’s reply but he noticed several of his subordinates muttering amongst themselves plus the generally bolstered attitude of the Oaton villagers and seemed to quickly decide this was ceasing to be worth it as he snorted, “In any case mayor Sheaf, neither my ponies or our facilities are budging. We have permits. You want us gone you’d best take it up with the Count who owns that land, but good luck getting an audience. C’mon bucks, let’s scram.”

“Yes, you do that,” Trixie said as the ponies in bowler caps trotted off out of town, heading north towards the forest. She let out a disdainful snort and turned her attention to the villagers, who had gathered around her, most of them wearing smiles.

“Well that was just plumb refreshing! You sure got under that Sawblade’s hide!” said one yellow earth pony mare with a wide grin.

“You sure are fancy looking miss if you don’t mind my saying so. You really from Canterlot?” asked another mare, a dusty brown earth pony with a shawl covering her mane.

“Is it true you really are the apprentice of Princess Luna herself?” asked an excitable young stallion who looked a few years younger than Trixie.

Trixie adored attention, and beamed under the amount being showered on her now. She drew herself up and proudly puffed up, giving them all a very serious look.

“But of course! Few have the ear of the Princess of the Night as well as I! I’m all but her right hoof at the Night Court. She’s teaching me the most mystical secrets of magic and before long I may be the greatest spellcaster in all of Equine history, second only to Luna herself!”

Now would have been a more accurate time for that unicorn, Sawblade (wasn’t that name relevant somehow?…Trixie was sure she’s remember later), to show up and shout ‘Horseapples’. While it was true Luna was teaching her magic, and that yes Trixie was essentially the immortal alicorn’s apprentice…that actually didn’t amount to a lot. Trixie had no influence or power whatsoever. Hence her being regulated to a delivery pony status by a single Baron’s whim. Her magical abilities were also being exaggerated. She was certainly good at instinctively learning various spells, and was rather talented in the school of illusion spells, but her own reserve of magical power was…limited. She’d be a capable wizard one day to be sure, but greatest in history? Not happening. But Trixie had an audience now and she was happy despite her fading buzz.

“Now then, I seem to recall somepony saying something about there being more alcohol?”

----------

Present day…again.

“I’m surprised you got that drunk back then. I remember you telling me the morning after Pinkie Pie’s party that that was your first hangover,” commented Carrot Top as she brought out plates of the food she’d been cooking, everypony taking a plate gratefully.

Trixie looked away, face tingeing a little red. Carrot Top was referring to Trixie’s first day in Ponyville and the subsequent party a certain pink pony had thrown for the town’s new arrival. If the accounts could be believed Trixie got particularly hammered that night and the morning after had been correspondingly unpleasant. Trixie did recall telling Carrot Top that had been her first real hangover.

“Like I said, my memory goes to pieces after accepting the mayor’s offer for more alcohol. I didn’t even remember this much until Bushel jogged my memory. I think I tried to just bury the whole affair and forget it ever happened,” said Trixie, floating her plate of food next to her and taking a bite of sandwich, “Which means if there was a hangover, which I don’t doubt there was, I didn’t remember it.”

“Seems weird you’d do that. It was only a year ago, right? How do you forget something so quickly?” said Ditzy. Trixie wasn’t surprised Ditzy would ask that. The gray pegasus had a memory that Trixie suspected was near photographic. The idea of forgetting something, especially only a year past, was probably a foreign concept to somepony like Ditzy.

“When you have a long list of unpleasant experiences it becomes remarkably easy to selectively forget certain ones. At least it is for me. It probably helped that alcohol erased any clear memories except what I’ve already told you.”

Raindrops put a hoof to her face, “Wait, are you telling me you regaled us with a overblown narrative and you don’t even remember the important part? You know, the one where you actually saved the town?”

“That does seem a little anti-climatic,” mentioned Cheerilee, “I was looking forward to hearing how you managed to burn down a dam. While drunk. Like, did you miscast a spell?”

“What? Me, miscast a spell!? Not…likely…” Trixie trailed off as she got a raised eyebrow from Lyra and she quickly amended “Well…possibly. But even if I had miscast some spell while drunk I doubt I could have burned anything down. When a unicorn miscasts a spell it tends to just fizzle out.”

“Or turn ponies into not ponies,” muttered Lyra quietly, probably too quiet for anypony to hear.

“On the off hoof chance a spell still has an affect when miscast that affect would still be inside the school of the spell,” explained Trixie hastily, “Burning anything down would require an evocation spell. I don’t know much evocation…its…pretty much the opposite of what I’m good at; illusion. I can’t imagine a spell I could have cast that would have gone awry enough for a whole dam to burn down as a result. I don’t even remember anything being on fire that night. I think.”

“You think?” Raindrops hovered closer, “Just how much more do you remember about that night?”

“Not a lot. I remember the mayor taking me to the town’s only building that wasn’t a home, the tavern. There was singing, dancing, a pretty yellow mare who kept giving me drinks…” Trixie’s face scrunched up as she thought, dredging through faint images in her mind, none of which contained any context with one another, “…there’s nothing solid after that. I do recall something about a fire, but the strange thing is that I don’t think it was a dam that was on fire. I seem to recall something else burning…Gah, I just can’t remember what.”

“Do you remember anything about that line in the song about the permits being fake?” asked Carrot Top, “I remember when I got my farming license it was pretty easy. I can’t figure why this Lumber Guild would need to fake permits. Shouldn’t they have had an easy time getting legitimate ones?”

“Depends on who owned the land,” said Trixie, eyes staring up at the ceiling as she did battle with her memory, or lack thereof, “Land owned by a noble can either be expensive or cheap to get permits to build and farm, depending on the mood of the noble. I don’t remember anything about the permits though. If they had been forged for whatever reason then however I found out about it must have been…simple in nature. If I was that drunk I couldn’t have figured out anything complicated.”

“I don’t know, you seem pretty sharp when you get sloshed. And a lot more friendly,” Lyra said, “Almost disturbingly friendly.”

Trixie frowned, “Yes, I’ve heard about that. There’s a reason I try not to get that drunk anymore, at least not in company.”

“Oh, why not? I hear Lulamoon is a lot of fun!” said Cheerilee, “You should let her out more often!”

“Ugh, Cheerilee, I don’t find the existence of this…alter ego, the least bit amusing.”

“Oh come on, you’ve never even met her!”

“She is me! Or an anti-me. I don’t even know what she’s supposed to be! I just don’t like that there’s this weird split personality I get when I imbibe a little too much alcohol, and that this personality is more popular with my friends than I am!”

“We like you just fine Trixie,” Ditzy said, coming over and putting a hoof on the blue unicorn’s shoulder, “I’ve never met this other you either and I’m perfectly fine with there just being the one you. No need for alcohol. Two of you would be too much anyway.”

“Thanks…I think,” Trixie said, giving Ditzy a small smile before she glanced at the stairs that led to the second floor of her home, “In any case we should get Bushel back down here. She’s probably hungry. We let her eat, then hear what she has to say. I want to know just what’s going on with Oaton this time.”

----------

It took a few tries to get Bushel to not wolf down her food and talk at the same time. Even then the little filly focused a lot more on her plate of food than on answering their questions and it was clear she was famished. Trixie felt a little ashamed of having stuffed her upstairs at first instead of letting the filly eat. She just wanted to get her side of the story to her friends without the filly around to hear about it. Bushel kept looking at her with those awe filled eyes and Trixie couldn’t deny it felt…good, to be looked at like that. Besides, wouldn’t it be rather brutish to damage a young filly’s viewpoint with something silly like the truth? And what was the truth anyway? All Trixie remembered was going to Oaton, breaking up an argument, then getting quite drunk. Perhaps she was everything Bushel said she was in that song; a hero who rescued a village from certain starvation at the hooves of greedy ponies…

…okay so perhaps Trixie wasn’t entirely buying into that. There were too many unanswered questions about that night for her to totally believe that everything had gone down exactly as described. And the song was pretty vague anyway. Still, why not let the filly have her hero for however long it lasted? After all it was the duty of a performer to give her audience what they wanted and Trixie was loath to disappoint an audience, whether it be a whole crowd or just one awe-struck filly.

“Well my good young filly, have you finished eating?” asked Trixie after Bushel had devoured the last of the meal, and the filly nodded enthusiastically.

“Mmhmm! Is there any more? That was really good!”

Trixie gave Carrot Top a questioning side-long glance and the farmer pony smiled and gave a wink, “I think I can whip up some dessert pretty quick.”

As Carrot Top went back to the kitchen Trixie returned her attention to Bushel.

“Now then,” Trixie began, “Please tell the Great and Powerful Trixie what trouble has befallen your humble village.”

She noticed Raindrops roll her eyes and Ditzy quirk an eyebrow as she leaned over to Cheerilee and whisper “She really likes that title doesn’t she?”

Trixie didn’t hear Cheerilee’s response as Bushel practically began to shout at a hundred miles a minute.

“Its horrible! Everything was fine until a month ago when that stupid dumb Lumber Guild came back like they’d never left and just started rebuilding the dam you burned up! And they got the sheriff from Bridlesville telling my pa that their permits are all good this time and that there’s nothing he can do even though the Lumber Guild set a big mean basilisk loose in the forest-“

“Wait, a basilisk!?” Trixie said, eyes wide, but Bushel just kept right on going.

“- and its already turned Mr. and Mrs. Thresher to stone but the sheriff won’t do anything about it and nopony was allowed to leave town because it’s too dangerous! Oh, when you’re done beating up all the Lumber Guild ponies you gotta slay the basilisk! That’d be so cool! I can watch right? But you need to stop the Lumber Guild first, that’s most important of all! Even though they got all these fancy guards wearing livers or something I bet you can take care of all of them no problem.”

“Livers…?” Trixie was starting to get a very uncomfortable feeling about all this.

“Some kind of fancy get up! That’s what my pa said they was wearing anyway.”

“Livery,” Trixie said, trying to not gulp. Those weren't just hired goons Bushel was describing then, but noble appointed guards wearing the colors of whoever had hired them. Trixie put on a confident smile she wasn’t quite feeling.

“Bushel could you describe what the guards were wearing? You have seen them right?’’

Bushel frowned, “Yeah, them bullies marched right through town and caused a big ruckus at the tavern. Didn’t pay for anything! Said we ‘dirt farmers’ ought to be glad we let them run up a tab! But I got good look at them. Their livers were all bright blue with three red fish on them. How lame is that? Why’d somepony wear something that dumb looking?”

Because its shows which noble they work for, Trixie thought grimly as she scoured her brain for what she knew of Equestrian heraldry. This situation was getting a lot more complicated than she’d hoped. Basilisks were uncommon anywhere outside the northernmost regions of the land, and they were an endangered species to boot. It was little wonder the sheriff of the area would’ve been hesitant to round up a hunting party to deal with the beast. More so if he was already paid off by the Lumber Guild to look the other way. But of much greater concern were these guards. If they were working for a noble that meant that the Lumber Guild was now operating with noble backing, which probably meant their permits were legit this time. That was going to make things far more difficult.

Light blue with three red fish…red fish…that would be the Copper Coin family. Counts now. Great, so this is going to involve going up against a Count. Well I already have a Duke on my list of enemies, compared to that a Count’s not so bad.

Taking a deep breath and drawing herself up into what she imagined was a appropriately confident stance Trixie smiled at Bushel, getting into her performance as she imagined how a suitably heroic figure might talk, “Very well, I have heard all I need to hear! Fear not my good filly, rest assured the Great and Powerful Trixie shall not leave the folk of Oaton to face this peril alone. I shall accompany you back to your village with all due haste and do everything within my not inconsiderable power,” oh, Raindrops was giving her a very unpleasant look, “er, mostly formidable power to rid Oaton of that which imperils it!”

Whatever her friends thought of her performance the filly was overjoyed. Bushel was practically jumping with excitement and reattached herself to Trixie’s leg, “I knew you would! I mean, I wasn’t worried at all that you might have more important things to do. Nope, not at all! And now my pa will have to forgive me for…” Bushel blinked at her own words then sheepishly squeaked.

“Bushel?” Ditzy said, coming over and leaning down to look the filly in the eyes. Trixie had seen those eyes before. They were the mom-stare, an impossibly powerful technique against which no foal had a chance of keeping secrets, “Honey, it’s not nice to keep things from adults. We want to help but if there’s something you’re not telling us you really, really need to.”

Bushel’s jaw worked soundlessly for a moment save for a few tiny squeaks, but the mom-stare continued to bore into her and the filly’s willpower soon crumbled and she looked at the ground and scuffed a hoof on the floor as she said, “I might have kind of come to find the Hero of Oaton against my pa’s wishes. He didn’t want anypony leaving the village, even though a whole bunch of us wanted to come find Trixie!”

“I’m going to stab a guess and say that’s probably because of the basilisk,” said Cheerilee, “If you got something like that loose running around it wouldn’t be safe to travel.”

“Mmhmm,” Bushel verified, “Pa said he couldn’t risk anypony else getting turned to stone. He was real mad at me when I insisted we come find Trixie and grounded me when I argued with him.”

“And you snuck out of town and came to look for her anyway,” concluded Raindrops, shaking her head, “That was stupidly dangerous, but I kind of admire the dedication. How old are you?”

“Eleven!” Bushel proclaimed proudly, “Practically full grown. I can handle a long walk! And I’m not scared of any dumb lizard…” she wilted a bit though and her ears flattened on her head, “Though it was scary, seeing Mr. and Mrs. Thresher like that. They weren’t just stone, they were frozen with their faces all screwed up like they were hurting or something. Does getting turned to stone hurt?”

“I’m sure they’ll be alright,” said Ditzy comfortingly, “There’s cures for being turned to stone like that…” Ditsy glanced at Trixie and Trixie realized the pegaus was looking for some confirmation.

“Ahem, yes, as it happens being petrified can be cured with the right spells. I can probably do it myself, with enough time to study the spells in question. I’ll bring a spellbook with those spells when we leave.”

“So we’re doing this then? We’re going to Oaton?” asked Raindrops.

“Well,” Trixie looked among her friends, “I’m going. My assistant can take care of things for me here for a few days, and I can’t really say no to a plea like this. It wouldn’t be the…heroic thing to do.”

Given the circumstances few would likely blame her if she’d decided to deny Bushel’s request and instead just try to take care of the matter through third parties. Her influence was minimal at best as Representative in Ponyville, but she could still write some letters, make some inquiries, and try to solve the whole problem from her desk. She could write the sheriff in Bridlesville to try and encourage him to round up a posse to hunt the basilisk, though there might be some kind of legal issues coming up with it being an endangered creature (Trixie wasn't up on her law code involving such environmental affairs), and then try to get what few contacts she did have in Canterlot to investigate this Lumber Guild.

But none of that would be very heroic. It’d probably crush whatever image Bushel had of her certainly. A performer gives their audience what they want; it was one of the first rules of the stage. She might not be quite the hero from the song but she could play the role well enough, she thought.

Raindrops was looking at Trixie with an expression Trixie had trouble reading. The yellow pegasus had her forehooves crossed as she hovered a little off the ground, eyes only slightly narrowed. It made Trixie nervous, getting that look. Raindrops was doing a lot better these days with her anger management issues but the pegasus still had a way with displaying her displeasure that made Trixie’s jaw ache even months after the fact. It was clear Raindrops was not thrilled with Trixie’s act so far. At length Raindrops let out a sigh.

“Alright, I’m coming with you then.”

“Can you? I mean, your job with the weather patrol…” Trixie began.

“I got a few days off I can take. I usually work other pony’s shifts when they get sick, so I got a little leeway with my time off. Rainbow Dash has been shockingly less lazy this past week so I think I can afford to spend a few days away. Thing’s probably won’t fall apart.”

“I wish I could go, but I’m still scheduled for full shifts the next three days,” said Ditzy apologetically.

“You all know I’m pretty busy with the farm, but if you want me to come help I will,” said Carrot Top as she brought out some scones she’d been baking while everypony else had been talking, and she set the plate of still steaming pastries on the table in front of the couch.

“Actually its probably best if only a few of us go,” said Trixie, “I don’t want you neglecting your farm Carrot Top. Honestly me and Raindrops are probably enough for this.”

“You sure?” Lyra said, floating a scone to her mouth and munching away, “I don’t know what I could do to help, but you want it, you go it.”

“I’m sure. There’s no real point to a bunch of us going. Numbers won’t make a difference in a situation like this,” said Trixie, glad for the offers but feeling pretty sure that this was a matter that she was probably going to have to solve mostly herself.

“Well I’m definitely going,” piped in Cheerilee, which caused Trixie to over to the schoolteacher in surprise.

“Waitwhat? Don’t you have, you know, school to teach?”

“Three day weekend,” said Cheerilee, “Its Birds and Bees Day on Monday, so no school.”

“Its…what?” Confused Trixie was confused.

“Birds and Bees Day, national holiday declared two hundred and thirty three years ago by Princess Luna to celebrate the middle of spring and give certain ponies…quality time together. Kind of a smaller cousin to Hearts and Hooves Day.”

“That’s not a thing. You’re making that up,” Trixie said, almost certain she’d never heard of this holiday before now.

“Actually she’s not,” said Lyra, coughing politely, “Me and BonBon…well let’s just say I offered to come with you, but I’m pretty glad you declined. BonBon would’ve been less than thrilled if I was out of town this weekend.”

Trixie couldn’t help but agree. BonBon, Lyra’s marefriend, was tied with Raindrops on Trixie’s list of ponies she didn’t want mad at her.

“Still doesn’t sound like a real holiday,” Trixie said under her breath.

“You just haven’t heard of it because you’ve never-“ Lyra started but Trixie cut her off.

“Not important! Yay Cheerilee has time off and can come with me! This conversation can now move on to other things! More important things that have nothing to do with anything involving me and talking about…that…ever again!”

Trixie had turned a particularly dark shade of redish purple and for the moment was more than willing to let slide asking Cheerilee more about why the schoolteacher even wanted to come along on this venture. Aside from just wanting to help a friend she couldn’t imagine a motivation for the usually fairly introverted schoolteacher to want to come. No matter, while the paranoid part of Trixie wanted to ask further questions she’d trust her friend’s judgment here.

“So it’s going to be the three of us then,” Raindrops said, “When do we leave?”

“Tomorrow morning,” Trixie said, and as Bushel shuffled nervously Trixie looked to the filly questioningly.

“Shouldn’t we go right now? I’m not tired or anything! We can get there in a day if we leave now!” Bushel asked.

“There’s not rush. We’re not walking after all. We’ll take the train to the way station. Much faster. Besides I need to prepare a few things tonight that can help me help your village,” Trixie leaned down in front of Bushel, speaking softly and dropping the pretense of ‘acting’ like a hero. What she was about to say next wasn’t acting, after all, just Trixie being something rare for her…honest.

“Don’t worry. Whatever else happens, I give you my word as Representative of the Night Court that I will do everything I can to help Oaton.”

This seemed to be enough for Bushel because she just nodded slowly, looking a little more relaxed.

By now the evening had become late and the sun was setting. Looking at her friends Trixie said, “Does anypony have space for Bushel to sleep tonight?”

“I could sleep here! You could tell me stories about your other adventures! I bet you got dozens of ‘em!” Bushel said before any of Trixie’s friends could answer.

“Um, well, I only have the one bed,” Trixie said.

“ I don’t mind, I always share a bed with my little brother and sister. I’m used to it.”

“That’s not what I meant; I mean I’m going to be very busy tonight with some preparations for tomorrow. I’ll need to be able to concentrate completely on my work, which I do best when alone.”

“Oh…” Bushel said, head drooping.

“She can stay with me tonight,” said Cheerilee, “I don’t have a guest bed or anything but I don’t mind sharing. I have some things I’d like to ask Bushel about anyway.”

“You do?” asked Trixie, raising an eyebrow.

“Nothing big, just a few things I want to clear up before we leave for Oaton. I’ll let you know if anything important comes of it. You just focus on your heroic preparations,” Cheerilee said with a wink.

One by one Trixie’s friends filed out of her house, Bushel going with Cheerilee and already assaulting the schoolteacher with a barrage of questions about the Hero of Oaton’s life in Ponyville. Raindrops was the last to leave, and turned around to face Trixie as they stood in the doorway.

“How long do you plan to keep that act up?” the pegasus asked straightforward, staring at Trixie.

“I don’t…” know what you mean, was what Trixie was going to say, out of habit if nothing else, but saw the seriousness in her friend’s eyes and continued, “…want to break a filly’s dream by hitting her with the truth, alright? She clearly thinks I’m a hero, so why shouldn’t I play the part? Besides technically we are going to save her town!”

“Can you guarantee that?” Raindrops asked, putting her face close to Trixie’s, uncomfortably so and Trixie took an involuntary step back, “Can you guarantee we’re going to save her town? I saw that look on your face when you heard about the guards in livery. You’re not half as confident about our chances as you were putting on to Bushel.”

“And what would you have had me say? Sorry kid, you’re town’s probably screwed this time around?”

“No,” the pegasus admitted, backing off slightly but still keeping her stared fixed on Trixie, “But I’m not liking this. That filly at least deserves to know the truth about how hard this is probably going to be…we’re not just going to fly in there and kick out a legitimate business operation, even if they’re a bunch of jerks.”

“I know that. However there’s something about this situation that doesn’t seem right. No matter how legitimate this Lumber Guild’s actions are, there’s something very suspicious about they’re being in Oaton again. I mean, if they’d taken a hit before for being there illegally how did they recover within just a year, then come right on back? And why would a basilisk suddenly be in the forest? Wouldn’t trying to cut lumber in a place that has such a monster in it be far too dangerous to be worth the trouble? No…I can tell there’s something up with all this, and I intend to find out what. I may not be a hero like it says in the song, but I’m certainly a Representative of the Night Court. I have a duty to protect the ponies of Equestria, don’t I?”

“Oh, so this is about duty then, not say…getting the attention and praises of a whole town that thinks you’re a hero?”

“…Okay so maybe there is a little of that going on, but still it’s not like I don’t deserve a little praise, right? I did save Equestria from Corona!”

“With help.”

“Yes, yes you’re right. I know that. And I get what you’re trying to say here Raindrops, I do! I won’t let this get blown out of proportion. I’m going to Oaton to help it however I can, not pump up my ego, that’s the truth.”

Raindrops looked at Trixie for several long moments. At length Raindrops said, “I suppose you have preparations to do. What kind, if you don’t mind telling me that much?”

Glad for the change in subject Trixie said, “I’ve been working on a few things since Corona, actually. Branching out from illusion spells for one, and learning how to more permanently layer enchantments on items. I want us to be prepared for as many contingencies as possible and that means finding ways to keep my friends safe. Most of what I’ve been doing is still in the…developmental stages, admittedly, but some I can have ready by morning. Items I can enchant to do certain things. I’ll show you tomorrow.”

“Fine. Just…remember to get some sleep. And I’m sorry if I sound like I’m coming down on you,” Raindrops rubbed the back of her head, “I just don’t want to see you take a hard fall because you set yourself on too high a pedestal.”

“I’ll be careful. Besides with you along I can’t imagine I’d get very far in putting myself on a pedestal without you pulling me back down to earth.”

“Damned straight,” Raindrops said with a small, rueful smile.

With that the two friends parted with a final exchange of ‘good nights’, Trixie waiting until the pegasus had flown out of view before going back into her home, the door behind her with a brush of magic.

Now left to her own devices Trixie steeled herself for a long night. Despite what Raindrops said it was highly unlikely Trixie was going to get much sleep, but as she started to get out the proper materials and review in her mind the spells she’d need she reflected that she’d never read about a hero that slept when there was work to be done.