• 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 3: Oaton

Chapter 3: Oaton

Trixie hadn’t noticed morning arrive until light from the rising sun literally caught her right in the eyes and she blinked irritably at the interruption, muttering under her breath.

“For the love of-, Luna could you have at least waited another hour or two? I know it’s the season for longer days, but really, I wouldn’t have killed you to be late on a sunrise for once.”

Ignoring the fact that talking to a pony that wasn’t there could be construed a sign of her exhaustion Trixie resumed her concentration on her work. The item floating before her consumed her entire focus, filling her field of vision as she interwove the layers of her magic through the material of the item, adding fine latticework after latticework of arcane thread. Theoretically she’d done this numerous times, practiced the patterns over and over again until she was certain of their viability and strength. This was, however, her first time putting the theories into practical use. She hadn’t been lying to Raindrops when she’d said these had all been in the ‘developmental stages’.

The first three items had been easy enough. Those enchantments had been simple ones in nature and each earpiece, a small silver clasp meant to clip onto the ear, had been easier to enchant than the last.

The next item had been…more problematic. Mainly because while she had a little experience with the type of enchantment in question. Divination wasn’t exactly an opposite school from illusion, like evocation was, but it was certainly a side-step from what she was used to working with. The enchantment in question wasn’t remarkably advanced, compared to the things she could do with illusion, but she’d still needed to practice the formula numerous times to feel comfortable with layering this enchantment upon the item chosen; a pair of thick black glasses.

So then that had left this final item to enchant, which was by far the easiest because she’d done this particular enchantment before. Compared to the others layering this one was a cakewalk. The problem overall with all the items had been much more about the duration she was attempting to achieve, not the effects themselves.

Enchantments she was present to maintain were essentially second nature. A long term enchantment, however? One that would theoretically last for hours if not days without her around to keep it maintained? It was a task well outside of what she was used to doing and the toll it was taking on her exceeded what she’d anticipated.

But it was nearly done. Before the sun managed to crawl too much higher into the sky Trixie wove together the final threads of the spell and tied them off, watching with satisfaction as the enchantments settled into the pendant she had floating before her. It was a plain diamond shaped piece of steel no larger than a bit, with a single oval sapphire embedded within. The pendant was attached to a plain series of small box-links. A simple enough bauble that few ponies would take a second look at, which was exactly what Trixie had wanted when she’d sought the item out from the local jeweler, Amethyst Star.

It was a cheap piece of jewelry, but with the enchantment now on it Trixie imagined it was worth quite a bit more than what she’d paid for it. Too bad there were certain laws against selling items with the kind of enchantments she’d placed on the pendant otherwise Trixie could solve all kinds of financial problems with a little side business.

Tucking away the enchanted items in a pair of small saddlebags the same color as her signature cape and hat she did one brief check that she had everything she’d need, yawning as she did so. Perhaps she should have at least tried to get a quick nap in between enchantments? She was feeling a little light headed and the world was tilting ever so slightly to the left…no, wait, that was her. Trixie caught herself from falling over and shook her head, clearing the light, fuzzy feeling.

“I’ll just sleep on the train,” she told herself as she went to the shower and got herself cleaned up for the day.

----------

Cheerilee was a morning pony as much by nature as by necessity of her job as Ponyville’s only current practicing schoolteacher so she was up, packed, and almost as eager to get going as the filly by her side by the time they left her home under the light of the sunrise.

“Bye-bye guys,” Bushel said, waving back at the house, “I had a lot of fun feeding all of you! Especially you Monty!”

“Oh, you liked Monty the most?” Cheerilee said with a knowing smile.

“Mmmhmm! He gets all big and puffy and it’s awesome with all those spikes! Why’s he do that and the others don’t?”

“It’s a defense mechanism his species developed to avoid being eaten by bigger fish,” Cheerilee explained, instantly dropping into instructor-mode, “He’s called a porcupine-fish, from the Diodontidae family.”

“That’s weird name,” Bushel said, face screwing up in confusion.

Cheerilee chuckled, “It is isn’t it? Monty is a much better name I thought.”

“But I feel kinda bad for Monty 2, 3, and 4. You should think of special names for them.”

“Well that’s…kind of…” Cheerilee trailed off. She wasn’t sure how to break it to Bushel that she’d run out of new names a while ago and had to move onto alpha-numeric system in order to keep things straight with her fish.

“And why is there only one goldfish named Gil 29? That’s weird. What about the other Gil’s?”

“Oh that’s a long boring story; you don’t want to hear about that, dear,” Cheerilee said, perhaps a tad on the quick side and waving a dismissive hoof.

It had certainly been an interesting time, having Bushel in her home. Cheerilee was used to dealing with a large number of energetic foals, it sort of came as part of her job description, but there was something…different about having one in her own house. Cheerliee wasn’t really used to having anypony over to her home, at least not for more than a brief visit, so for a little while at first she hadn’t been sure what to do with Bushel besides answer the filly’s enthusiastic barrage of Trixie-related questions. Bushel had wanted to know everything about the Great and Powerful Trixie. What she liked to eat, what she liked to do for fun, what kind of adventures she’d had besides the one in Oaton. The thing of it was…Cheerilee wasn’t sure how to answer a lot of those questions. Trixie was her friend, no doubting that, but Cheerilee had to admit that she hadn’t spent a lot of time with the azure unicorn since Trixie had arrived in Ponyville.

At least not as much as the other Elements had, it seemed.

Cheerilee knew a lot of that had to do with her job and how busy it kept her, making it difficult to find the time for just being social and ‘getting out there’ as it were. It wasn’t like Cheerilee didn’t enjoy being around other ponies. And she didn’t think she felt guilty about not being able to spend a lot of time with her friends, or being there to help when some misadventure had reared its head, which had happened quite a lot since Trixie had come to town.

That said she’d made the snap decision last night that she was going to help Trixie out with this situation. It just felt like the right thing to do. She wasn’t exactly sure how she was going to help, but she was certain she’d find a way. She’d actually already started the previous night with Bushel. Cheerilee had managed to work in some questions of her own for the filly amid either awkwardly hiding how little she really knew about Trixie’s personal habits or telling a highly edited version of the events of the Longest Night festival, the only adventure Cheerilee knew Trixie had had that was legit.

I’ll let Trixie know what I found out on the train, Cheerilee thought as she and Bushel came upon Trixie’s home. There wasn’t a lot to what she’d learned from Bushel, but Cheerilee knew every little detail might prove useful.

She saw there was light on inside Trixie’s house and Cheerilee figured the unicorn had to be up, so when she knocked and didn’t get an response after a few minutes Cheerilee taped a hoof to her chin and tried knocking again.

“Something wrong?” Bushel asked with the voice of somepony trying to sound worried and not succeeding.

“Oh, no I’m sure nothing’s wrong. Probably just wrapped up in her preparations. You know how heroes are, dear. Extremely focused,” Cheerilee said, going over to peer through one of the windows. She didn’t see Trixie inside the living room, though a pair of saddlebags were clear to be seen sitting by the couch with Trixie’s wizard’s hat and cape.

Then Cheerilee heard the sound of the shower running and nodded her head. Oh, so that explained that.

“Hey, Cheerilee, what’s up?” said a male voice from behind her and she started a bit in surprise, turning around to see a blue unicorn stallion trotting up to the house. Pokey Pierce, assistant to the Representative of the Night Court in Ponyville, all around saint of patience and mental endurance, whose horn shall one day pierce the heavens, looked between Cheerilee and Bushel with a quizzical raise of his eyebrow.

“Good morning Pokey. Aren’t you here a little early?”

“Trixie messaged me last night saying she wanted me here crack of dawn to start work ‘cause she was going out somewhere. Offered overtime for covering the weekend for her, but I’ll believe that when I see the bits hit my wallet.”

“Messaged?”

“Spell she’s got going that lets her talk from one spot to the next. Basically she yells into her desk drawer and the sound comes out right next to my friggin’ bed. I never should have let set it up… but you know how she can be convincing,” Pokey said with an exasperated sigh, which he then shrugged it off and asked, “So what’s with the kid?”

“I’m Bushel! So you work for the Great and Powerful Trixie!? That’s so cool!”

“…It’s…cool?” Pokey looked to the schoolteacher for help as the filly bounced up to him, wide eyed and clearly ready to assault the poor unicorn stallion with questions.

“Bushel’s traveled here from her village to ask for Trixie’s help with a problem her village is having. You know Trixie how she’s always helping ponies,” Cheerilee grinned at Pokey while giving him a stare that she hoped suggested that he needed to take the hint and play along.

No such luck.

“Trixie helping ponies…” the way Pokey said it was as if he were sounding out the words of a foreign language.

Yes,” Cheerilee responded with emphasis, “She does that. She’s known-” point at Bushel while the filly wasn’t looking, “-for her heroic deeds in helping ponies. And as her assistant you would of course know about that, and act accordingly.”

“So what do you do as her assistant?” Bushel asked, “Do you help her fight bad guys and monsters?”

“I do her paperwork, mostly, and fetch her drinks and generally take her shi-guglgh!”

Cheerilee had come up and wrapped a hoof around Pokey’s neck, in a way that probably looked like a hug to the casual observer, but was actually rather closer to a choke. Hopefully Bushel wouldn’t notice the difference. While Pokey was busy trying to figure out how to move air through a now significantly constricted wind pipe Cheerilee smiled at Bushel in a completely natural manner.

“Oh Pokey, such a kidder! He’s actually quite embarrassed about helping such an important pony like Trixie so he likes to joke a lot about it. Anyway Bushel why don’t you listen at the door and tell me if it still sounds like Trixie is showering?”

While Bushel gave them a weird look she obeyed and went over to the door. In the meantime Cheerilee let Pokey go enough so the could get some air but not quite get away as she put her face up against his and whispered.

“Sorry Pokey, but just play along, okay? For the moment Trixie’s a hero, at least to that filly. And really, watch your language. You’re old enough to know better than to swear around a foal.”

“Gee, thanks mom,” Pokey said, then frowned, “Wait, Trixie’s showering?”

“Well, the shower’s running, so it stands to reason…” Cheerilee said, wondering at the concerned look on Pokey’s face.

“Then shouldn’t we be hearing some sort of off key annoyingly loud and inappropriate singing right around now?” Pokey asked with a raised eyebrow.

Actually Cheerilee hadn’t thought of that. She didn’t know much about Trixie’s habits, but it was kind of hard not to know about her penchant for singing in the shower, as Pokey at least complained about it often and there had been a few other complaints from the Representative’s neighbors about noise pollution. And right now there was certainly no singing going on.

“I suppose we’ll have to check inside,” Cheerilee said, coming up to the door, which Bushel still had her ear pressed against.

“Oh, Miss Cheerilee! I still hear the shower going.”

“Thank you dear, me and Mr. Pierce will take things from here. Just wait here and we’ll go fetch Trixie, alright?”

“Um…okay,” Bushel said and stood aside.

Cheerilee didn’t want to worry her but if something was wrong she didn’t want to waste any time. She tried the door handle but found it was locked. Really, Trixie? Ponyville was about as crime free as towns got and Trixie still kept her door locked? Cheerilee shook her head and glanced at the windows, “Maybe we can get one of those open?”

“Oh, no need for that,” said Pokey as he trotted, or more like strutted, up to the door, his horn practically catching the morning sunlight in a gleaming glint, “I got this.”

Cheerilee cocked her head as he lowered his head and aimed his horn at the door knob around the lock, “Pokey, are you sure?“

“Just who the hay do you think I am!? I’m Pokey Pierce! Now let me show you why I got that name!”

The blue unicorn flipped his mane out of the way of his horn and lowered his head, tip of the horn aimed squarely for the lock that Pokey now had his eyes fixed on like a prizefighter sizes up his opponent before the bell rings. His nostril’s flared and Cheerilee wondered if that wasn’t steam she was seeing jetting out of if her imagination was just getting a tad overworked. There was a tense moment of silence as school teacher and filly watched on as Pokey and Trixie’s door lock squared off. Then with an undulating cry of battle Pokey shoved his head forward. Horn hit lock with a high pitched squeal of metal.

Cheerilee was suitably impressed. Pokey’s horn had gone right through the lock and embedded itself all the way up to his forehead. Property damage and possible legal repercussions aside it certainly was one way to get into a locked house.

Then a minute passed and Pokey hadn’t removed himself from the door. Cheerilee continued to wait patiently but when it was clear the unicorn stallion wasn’t extricating himself from his position she cleared her throat.

“Are you alright Pokey?”

“Uhhhhh, yup, just fine. Just…y’know, really comfortable where I am right now.”

“You wouldn’t happen to be stuck would you?”

There was a small, experimental wiggle of Pokey’s head before the unicorn’s body sagged.

“It is a distinct possibility.”

“That was so awesome,” Bushel said in a small voice, “Do it again!”

“Later, dear, first I need to get Mr. Pierce out of Trixie’s door. Pokey, I apologize in advance if this hurts a little.”

“Wait what are you going to do? Oh, oh no, wait a sec Cheerilee!” Pokey began to saw as the earth pony mare got behind him, wrapped her hooves around his barrel, and braced her hind legs to pull, “A unicorn’s horn is real sensitive! It’s like…like…well like a part I can’t talk about with a filly present! If you pull like that-“

“Oh I’m sure you’ll pop out just fine,” Cheerilee said as she yanked. However Pokey had apparently done a very good job piercing Trixe’s door because he didn’t come free from the first tug, the second, or the third. Pokey was less than enthused with the situation.

“Gaaaaah! For the love of Luna’s hot immortal plot just stop! Cheerilee, you’re gonna tear the thing off!”

“Maybe I’m getting the angle wrong? Try wigging it a bit.”

“NO! No wigging! Just get off me!”

“I’m certain we can get it out with enough force.”

“You can do it Mr. Pokey! Don’t believe in yourself, believe in the me that believes in you!”’

“Bushel, you’re not helping!”

“Do I even want to ask?” interrupted a dry female voice.

Everypony, well, everypony that didn’t have their head shoved in a door, looked up at the new voice to see Raindrops flying over head, saddlebags strapped to her back. The pegasus was looking at the scene with the look of a pony that wanted to ask details but wasn’t sure it’d be worth it.

“Trixie’s not answering her door and is taking a shower but her doors locked so Mr. Pokey attacked the door with his head but now his horn is stuck so Miss Cheerilee is trying to pull him free but he’s being a big baby and I was so helping even if he doesn’t say so!” Bushel got out in one giant rush of a run on sentence, only sucking in a breath when she was done.

Raindrops looked at each of them in turn and then shook her head, sighing, “Right. Hold on a sec.”

Raindrops flew around the side of the house out of sight. Cheerilee heard Raindrop’s voice and in a few seconds the pegaus was flying back, landing next to them, looking vaguely annoyed. Not long after that Pokey let out a yelp as the door swung open inward, dragging him along with it, Cheerilee letting go and standing there to stare at a still dripping wet Trixie who had a towel half wrapped around her.

Trixie looked dead tired, her horn glowing with its faint violet aura as she held the door open, looking at everypony. Her eyes slowly came to rest on Pokey who was half laying on the floor and half held up by his horn stuck in her door.

“Good morning Pokey,” she said.

“Mornin’ boss,” he said, waving a hoof.

“…Why are you in my door?”

“We couldn’t hear you singing even though you were taking a shower. We got worried, and Mr. Pierce decided to…open the door,” Cheerilee explained with an apologetic smile.

Trixie’s deadpan expression matched her tone, “I was tired of all the complaints, so I decided to use a sound dampening spell this morning, see how well it worked and if it’d get my neighbors off my back. You could have just done what Raindrops did and knock on the shower window. I can hear stuff right outside the field.”

“Yes, well, I suppose we all just got a little caught up in the moment,” said Cheerilee, “But only because we were worried about you.”

“You alright?” asked Raindrops, looking Trixie over, “You did get some sleep didn’t you?”

“I’m fine,” Trixie said, starting to yawn, but then seeing Bushel there, suppressed it and smiled instead “More than fine. If you don’t mind waiting just a minute I’ll finish drying off and get my things.”

Trixie turned and went back inside, closing the door behind her, with Pokey still in it.

“Gaaah! Boss, watch it! I’m seriously starting to feel my horn loosening here!”

“Oh don’t exaggerate,” Cheerilee said with a comforting pat on Pokey’s head, “I’m sure your horn is fine. Biologically speaking the horn of a unicorn is one of the stoutest pieces of their anatomy. It’s not like a tooth that can just be knocked out. It’s practically a part of your skull. It’s far more likely to break in half than come loose.”

“Thank you Cheerilee. That makes me feel much better,” Pokey’s voice was skinny dipping in the Ocean of Sarcasm.

“You’re very welcome,” Cheerilee said with a smile, oblivious to the unicorn’s tone.

“We’re not even on the train yet and this day’s just starting off weird,” Raindrops muttered.

A minute later the door swung open once again, dragging a groaning Pokey along with it, and Trixie, freshly toweled off and striking a fairly impressive figure in with her violet spark bedecked wizard hat and cape. Despite her earlier signs of fatigue the azure unicorn mare had an alert and determined poise to her, though the way her eyes flicked towards Bushel suggested the filly’s presence had a lot to do with this.

“Well then, shall we be off? We have a town to save and little time to waste I suspect,” Trixie said in that slightly baritone pitched ‘hero’ voice she come to adopt.

Cheerilee might not have been the most observant pony in the world but even she caught the way Raindrops stiffened at Trixie’s voice, though the pegasus didn’t say anything. Bushel’s eyes were locked on Trixie with clear reverence and excitement.

“Yes, yes! Let’s go. I can’t wait to get back home and see the look on everypony’s face when they see who I brought! Pa won’t be able to stay mad at me I’m sure! Not when you save the town again!”

“Just be ready Bushel in case this…takes longer than just one day,” said Raindrops as they all got walking towards the train station, slowly choosing her words, “We might not be able to pull this off easy, you know?”

“Oh come on! This is the Great and Powerful Trixie we’re talking about! She beat up Corona, so how could a stupid Lumber Guild be hard compared to that?” the filly asked with innocent confidence.

Raindrops looked at Cheerilee who smiled sheepishly and said, “I may have told her a little about what happened on the Longest Night festival.”

“Apparently you did tell ‘a little’. Beat up Corona?” Raindrops whispered as she floated down next to Cheerilee, putting her head next to the earth pony mare so they could talk quiet enough for Bushel to not hear.

“I tried to put Trixie in a good light while sticking as close to the truth as I could. I didn’t tell her anything like Trixie beating up Corona in a hoof-to-hoof duel, but Bushel’s a foal, Raindrops, they tend to fill in gaps with their own vivid imaginings. I at least tried to make it clear that Trixie had the help of the rest of us during that incident and that it was all of us together with the Elements that defeated Corona, not just Trixie herself.”

“Yeah, I can see that from the way she’s glued to Trixie and seems to see the rest of us as sidekicks,” Raindrops said.

“Are you jealous?” Cheerilee asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Ugh, no, I’m not jealous of Trixie getting hero worshiped. I’m worried Cheerilee. Whole different spectrum of emotion.”

Cheerilee frowned. She knew she sometimes had difficulty reading her fellow ponies, but it still sounded to her like Raindrops was jealous of the attention Bushel was giving Trixie. But she could be wrong. If Raindrops said she was just worried, well, Cheerilee wasn’t going to question that. Still, she didn’t think the situation was all that bad to warrant such worry. Sure the problem in Oaton might prove more difficult to fix than what Bushel seemed to think it was going to be. True Trixie might have been slightly (slightly being a purely relative term here) overacting for Bushel’s sake, but Cheerilee had to admit it was hard not to get into the spirit of things. A small band of ponies embarking on a quest to save a small hamlet from the machinations of greed and avarice? Felt like the start of a properly heroic folk-tale to Cheerilee. Reminded her of that Gates & Golems game she’d played back in college.

Raindrops just needed to lighten up.

“Well try not to worry too much and let’s have fun with this,” Cheerilee said, giving the weather pegasus a reassuring smile, “I mean, as much fun as can be had in a very serious have-to-save-a-town kind of situation. Just relax. We’ll help Trixie help Oaton and then everything will be fine. You’ll see.”

Raindrops looked far from convinced but she did nod an acknowledgement and the group continued on to the Ponyville train station.

Some time later, after they had long since boarded the train and left, Ditzy Doo arrived at the house as part of her regular mail rounds. Trixie of course would still be receiving her mail and Ditzy surmised, much as had been the case during other times Trixie had to leave town that Pokey Pierce would be there to take the mail.

The first thing Ditzy noticed was that Trixie no longer seemed to have a front door. That was disconcerting.

It didn’t seem likely but perhaps robbers had removed the door from its hinges to ransack the Representative's home!? Tentatively poking her head in Ditzy was immediately greeted by Pokey Pierce, who was awkwardly dragging himself across the living room towards Trixie’s office…door still attached to his head.

“Mornin’ Ditzy. Mail?”

“…Yes…”

“Good, good, just, uh, leave it on the table there. I’ll get to it in a sec.”

“…Okay…”

Ditzy carefully set down Trixie’s mail on the table in front of the couch, not taking her eyes, well one of them, the other was doing its thing, off of the unicorn stallion and his epic struggle to cross the room.

“Do you need help Pokey?”

“Huh? Nah, I got this. You have a good one Miss Doo!”

“Yeah…you too,” Ditzy said as she slowly backed out of the house.

Once outside she stood there a second. She then shook her head and turned and walked away. There were times even Kindness was too baffled to do more than that.


---------


Trixie had a lot on her mind by the time Oaton came into view. Her memory of the hamlet almost matched what she was seeing, though she hadn’t really expected any changes to occur in just a year. The main difference that she noted, even tired as she was, was that the river that ran alongside the thatch roof houses of the village wasn’t completely dry like last time. It certainly wasn’t what a proper river ought to be, but there was still a clear flow, albeit the water level was far too low for a riverbed of that size.

She filed that away in her ‘interesting’ mental folder alongside what Cheerilee had told her in-between power naps on the train.

“I’d been curious to know why Bushel didn’t seem to recognize you, despite being eleven, and this whole affair with you and Oaton having happened a mere year ago,” the schoolteacher had explained while Trixie had been forcing herself to stay awake and Raindrops kept Bushel busy a few seats down. Staying awake was hard enough under normal conditions but the comfy train seat combined with the rhythmic soothing motion of the train was a two-hit combo that was killing what little energy she had.

“I *yawn* suppose that is a little odd,” Trixie said. Honestly she hadn’t even thought about it. Normally she was pretty good at spotting strange details like that but she’d been so caught up with Bushel’s hero worship that it’d been an easy detail to miss.

“It certainly was, but there is a simple reason for it,” Cheerilee explained, “She had fallen very ill the past few days before you arrived in Oaton. Some kind of fever that none of the local remedies could fix. Her parents were quite worried about her. Seems the poor dear was in a borderline coma and there certainly wasn’t a properly trained doctor in town to look at her.”

“Why not just get a doctor from Bridlesville? It’s a larger town, and within walking distance.”

“They didn’t have any bits to pay for a doctor’s visit. Most times a pony gets sick in a hamlet as small as Oaton if there isn’t a local healer then the pony just has to stick it out and hope for the best.”

“She clearly got better though,” Trixie noted as she looked ahead where the filly had apparently convinced Raindrops to let her stick her head out the window.

“That is actually the most interesting part of this,” Cheerilee pointed a hoof at Trixie, “According to her it was you that cured her.”

Trixie’s closed eyes fluttered open and she gave the magenta mare next to her an incredulous look.

“Waitwhat? But…healing magic is well outside my area of expertise. I mean, I could learn the spells if I wanted to of course. I’m studying how to un-petrify ponies after all. But unless I’d known exactly what Bushel had been ill with there’s no way I could have studied, mastered, and then properly cast a spell to cure her. Especially in one night, while drunk!”

“Well what she’s told me is all second-hoof, told to her by her parents. However she insists that the story goes that before you left, after you’d dealt with everything else, you found out there was a sick filly in town and insisted to be shown to her. Apparently you spent all of ten seconds looking Bushel over, did some sort of spell with your horn touching it to her forehead, and said she’d be fine. A day after you left, Bushel recovered completely,” Trixie had noted the way Cheerilee’s tone softened as she looked towards Bushel, “Far as that filly is concerned you not only saved her town, you saved her life.”

Trixie had been mulling that over in her mind for most the rest of the train ride and the subsequent walk to Oaton after they’d gotten off at the way station.

Despite Raindrop’s clear concerns it seemed more important than ever to Trixie now that she put in a good showing for the little filly. Still, what exactly had she done to fix Bushel back then? It just didn’t seem possible that while drunk her…ugh…Lulamoon personality could have somehow instantly diagnosed a disease and pulled a curative spell out of her flank, in less than a minute! No, Trixie refused to acknowledge that side of her could possibly be capable of a feat she herself wasn’t. There was clearly more to the story than this. When she got a chance to talk with Bushel’s parents she’d press for more details.

Cheerilee had made it pretty clear Bushel didn’t know any real details of Trixie’s actions in Oaton either, as that had been the other thing she’d tried asking about. Bushel’s illness had kept her from witnessing any events herself and while she’d heard the tale from the other Oaton villagers Bushel’s recounting of events seemed to vary with each telling. Cheerilee had theorized to Trixie that chances were the filly had probably heard a few conflicting versions of events. If Trixie, Cheerilee, and Raindrops wanted to find out the truth they’d just have to piece it together by talking to the ponies of Oaton themselves.

At least the trek was nearly over. The sun was out in full force today and while summer was still a ways off this particular day had decided to provide a preview of what was to come by being particularly humid and hot. Trixie was glad for the shade of her hat.

The three adult ponies plus one filly were spotted by the villagers well before they got close to the collection of homes and there was already a small crowd gathering to see who was coming to Oaton by the time Trixie and company passed the threshold of the hamlet.

Trixie hadn’t been entirely sure what to expect out of these ponies, but it didn’t take long for her to get her answer as about a dozen earth ponies of various hues met her and the others and promptly all began talking at once.

“Bushel! You daft girl your pa’s gonna tan your hide after he’s done hugging you! Where’d you run off to!?”

“Who’re them ponies with…you…? Wait, is that-?”

“Ohmygoshohmygosh! It is! It’s her! Bushel you crazy little filly you actually up and found her!?”

“Mayor! Mayor! You gotta come! You daughter’s back and she brought her back! She brought back Trixie!”

“I thought her name was Lulamoon?”

“Its both you daft draft horse. Some ponies do got two names. Like, real important ones.”

“Can’t believe you came back, just like you said you would! We’re gonna bust out the best whiskey, hay, all of the whiskey, tonight!”

“Who’re your friends Miss Trixie? They also from Canterlot?”

“Don’t ask dumb questions Spit Shine, course they are! Bet they’re big-wig nobles or, like, special bodyguards for Lady Lulamoon!”

“Oh, come on, you still calling her ‘Lady’ after she took you in a hoof-wrestling and drinking contest, at the same time?”

“Well, yeah, ain’t that what you call noble mares and the like?”

“Not when they down nine mugs of hard liquor without battin’ an eyelash then proceed to break your arm off, Potato Sack. Then you call them ‘Goddess’.”

Before the deluge of dialogue could get any more drowning a bellowing male voice cut through the noise as a familiar big burly dark green earth pony stallion with a straw hat on over his sand colored mane waded through the crowd.

“Alright that’s enough! Everypony back up and give these ponies some space! And where you at Bushel!? You’re in an entire rainbow spectrum of trouble girl!”

Bushel, eyes wide with the kind of terror only a kid who knows they’ve royally pissed off their parent is capable of having immediately gulped and decided to try and see how easily she could turn herself invisible behind Trixie. Trixie for her part looked at the approaching stallion with as much confidence as she could muster despite thinking how promising the dirt looked right now for a good lay down and nap. Damn, maybe Raindrops was right and she should’ve gotten more sleep.

“Mayor Sheaf, good to see you again,” she said, pitching her voice so she was sure everypony gathered could hear her clearly “Don’t be too angry with your daughter. She went through much to come to me and inform me of Oaton’s peril! She’s only had the well being of your village at heart and merely took the initiative to do something about the problems you face. Surely that merits consideration?”

Trixie’s memory of mayor Sheaf had been brief but in it he’d seemed a genuinely friendly pony, or at least friendly when not stuck in a shouting match with the ponies who’d been responsible for his village’s farmland drying up. So she was surprised at the sharp look Sheaf gave her, though the expression softened almost instantly. However the way it did was like the mayor had just thrown on a hasty mask. Trixie was good at picking out masks and it was clear Sheaf wasn’t used to hiding his emotions, so mask or not his feelings were clear; unlike the rest of his village he was not happy to see her.

“I’ll keep it in mind Miss Trixie,” he said in a even tone, “Won’t say I ain’t impressed my girl managed to go get you, but a child needs to mind her parent, and I told her it was too dangerous to leave town.”

“Yes, the basilisk. She told me about that. We didn’t see any sign of such a creature on our way in,” Trixie said.

That had been a concern on the walk to Oaton to be sure. Raindrops had flown above them a fair portion of the way to keep an eye out and Trixie had been ready with a few choice illusion spells to provide distraction in case the beast did rear its head, but the walk had proven peaceful.

“Seems to have gone to ground past day or so,” Sheaf said, a grave look on his face, “But ain’t no denying it’s out there, the Thresher family’s condition are testament to that. Lot a folk here said we ought to try and get a hold of you when the Hoofington Lumber Guild set up shop here again, but I didn’t want to risk any more of my ponies getting turned to stone. Especially not my daughter.”

“Sorry pa,” Bushel said quietly from behind Trixie, “I just thought that if I did manage to bring her back with me you wouldn’t be too mad. I’m a real fast runner you know!”

“Hush girl, and stop hiding back there. You might have done right but you still disobeyed your father. Very least you’re grounded to your room until all this blows over. Now get on back to the house and see to your mother, she’s been worried sick about you.”

“…yes pa…” Bushel slowly walked out from behind Trixie, head hung a little, and gave Trixie one last look before heading off towards the largest of the buildings in town.

Trixie had been watching Sheaf’s expression carefully, trying to measure his reactions. She wished she’d thought to put on the glasses she’d enchanted before all of this but she had been too busy napping on the train in between talking with Cheerilee to even mention the items to her friends or explain their use. That was going to get bumped higher on her to-do list as soon as she got things sorted out with Sheaf and got a few answers.

“Yes, well, that aside I would like to know more details about what exactly is happening here in Oaton. My friends and I will need to know as much as possible if we’re going to be able to help.”

“Who are your friends, exactly?” asked Sheaf.

“Name’s Raindrops,” the pegasus in question said, looking uncomfortable with all the village ponies looking at her, “I’m part of the weather patrol team in Ponyville.”

Cheerilee was happy to chime in, “And my name is Cheerilee. I teach at the Ponyville grade school.”

“Weather patrol team…?” one of the villagers asked another in a whisper that did little to keep it from being heard, “What’s a weather pony doing hanging out with Princess Luna’s right-hoof mare?”

“Don’t ask dumb questions, that’s obviously just a cover. She’s probably a Shadowbolt or something like that, just pretending to be a weather pony. It’s like a secret identity!” said the other villager.

“And the school teacher?”

“I’m going to guess Royal Guard. Just look at those eyes! Those are the eyes of a mare that knows how to kill you five different ways before your body hits the ground.”

“…I’m not seeing it.”

“Tilt your head a bit; get the light to catch her eyes just the right way.”

“Ooooh yeah, now I’m seeing it.”

“Spit Shine, Potato Sack, we don’t need the run-on commentary,” said mayor Sheaf dryly and the two stallions in question both quieted down, looking embarrassed.

Raindrops seemed to be surpassing a groan, shaking her head as a few more whispers about the ‘Shadowbolt’ and ‘Royal Guard’ flitted about the crowd, but Cheerilee didn’t seem to mind and was looking like she was hiding a amused grin behind her hoof. Raindrops came up next to Trixie and whispered.

“If you’re going to start setting the record straight now would be great time to start. Just tell them all who we really are and why we’re here so we can get to the actual business of helping them out.”

“Yes, yes, I know. Trust me Raindrops, I have this well under control,” said Trixie whispered back as she then turned to the ponies of Oaton and cleared her throat loud enough to get all of their attention, which wasn’t hard since most of it was riveted don her and her friends anyway.

Trixie smiled. She couldn’t help it. Whether she was on an actual stage or not all eyes were fixed on her and this was the time to perform. It was clear from the looks on the faces of these villagers that they thought the world of her and by extension thought the same of the ponies by her side. It was time to put on a good showing.

Just a touch of dramatic license, she thought, No need to overdo it.

“Good ponyfolk of Oaton, my friends are as they say! A humble weather patrol pony and schoolteacher. But fear not, for each of them is a mare worth ten of any Shadowbolt of mere Royal Guard! They are part of my personal entourage as fellow bearers of the Elements of Harmony! What are the Elements of Harmony you might ask? Why, the very primal forces of creation that brought the dreaded Corona to her knees in utter defeat! Primal forces that have chosen myself and my intrepid companions as their living vessels! Yes, the very embodiments of Honesty and Laughter have come alongside me to restore peace and prosperity to your humble village. Now watch in awe as I, the Great and Powerful Trixie, bearer of the Element of Magic itself, shall use all of my not inconsiderable power and intellect to banish the troubles that face this community!”

She ended reared up on her hind legs, forelegs poised out dramatically before her, and she resisted the urge to throw in a few illusionary bursts of magical light and smoke to add some pizazz to the speech. For something ad-libbed on the fly she thought it sounded appropriately impressive and heroic. She’d spoken loudly and clearly, hoping that Bushel, even indoors, might have been able to hear her. She may have added a slight sound amplifying spell to get her voice pitched just right. On top of that nothing she said was in any way a lie. A little exaggerated perhaps, but what performance wasn’t? Surely Raindrops would be satisfied with this-

-Raindrops hoof casually wrapped around Trixie, not strongly or anything, just sort of there in a almost hugging manner, as she gave the crowd an extremely forced smile that involved more grinding teeth than actual smiling.

“Trixie, can I talk to you for a second, over there, behind that house, where nopony can see or hear us?”

“Um…sure,” Trixie said quietly then addressed the crowd, “If you would all be as patient as to wait a moment while my stalwart companion wishes a word with me! We shall return in a momen-“

Raindrops didn’t even wait for Trixie to finish before she started to drag the showmare away, giving Cheerilee a brief look to say, “Mind keeping them busy for a second while I chat with our ‘entourage’ leader here?”

“Sure, no problem,” the school teacher replied and while Raindrops half dragged a worried looking Trixie behind the nearest house Cheerilee smiled brightly at the confused looking Oaton villagers, “So, who here has ever played Apples to Apples?”

----------

Raindrops was keeping her breathing even as she let go of Trixie once they were both out of sight of the villagers and faced the azure unicorn.

Keep it cool, keep it cool, just talk to her without all the shouting you want to do

“What the hay was that back there!?”

Okay, not so good at the not shouting, Raindrops took in another shuddering breath.

“What do you mean?” Trixie asked with an indignant toss of her mane, the sight of which only dug a deeper claw of irritation into Raindrops, “I was telling the truth, that’s all. With some slight embellishment.”

“Would it have been so hard to just say ‘hey, we’re just a few concerned ponies here to help’? Was the speech about the power of the Elements of Harmony, which by the way we don’t actually wield at will, necessary?” Raindrops had gotten control of her voice, not shouting anymore. Despite the distance she’d taken the unicorn she didn’t want to risk any villagers listening in on this and she gave a few glances about, just in case.

“It’s not about necessity Raindrops, it’s about appearances. Did you see the way they were looking at us? It was obvious what they wanted, so I decided to give it to them,” Trixie set her shoulders straight, “and I did it without lying, if you were paying attention.”

Raindrops had been paying attention, and Trixie was missing the problem.

“Maybe not lying in the literal sense,” Raindrops said, tone steadfast “But that’s not important. What’s important is that you were making us out to be more than we are. I’m a weather pony. That’s it. A Shadowbolt, if they even exist, would kick my flank! Being the bearer of an Element doesn’t make us better than any other pony.”

“I’m aware of that. Believe me I was keeping things simple in comparison to how I could have gone about presenting us. Again Raindrops, just a little embellishment, but still the truth. As long as we succeed in saving the town what does it matter if I make us look good while doing it?”

Raindrops looked her friend in the eye, trying to measure, trying to be sure. She knew Trixie could be manipulative. There had been certain promises involving hooves and jaws concerning that matter. And that being said Raindrops was even willing to cut the unicorn mare a bit of slack, understanding that to a degree this was just Trixie being Trixie. She was a showmare and this was a performance to her, and while Raindrops wasn’t happy with it she couldn’t fault Trixie for it. Yet. There was always the chance Trixie could take things too far…and that was what Raindrops was most concerned about. Raindrops knew how bad things could get when anger took over and she was aware of few things that could be angrier than that of ponies who felt betrayed. If Trixie made out that saving the town was a given, and they failed to deliver…

Slowly Raindrops said, “Just keep the speeches to a minimum and focus on the job. We still need to find out what’s up with this Lumber Guild.”

“I’ll try to tone it down a bit,” Trixie said, “Just wanted to make a good first impression.”

“By the way, do you actually have a plan, or are we just winging this?”

“First things first we get mayor Sheaf alone. Something seemed a bit off about him. I want to get details about the Lumber Guild, obviously, but I’m curious about why the mayor doesn’t seem nearly as thrilled about us being here as everypony else is. So-” Trixie rummaged into her saddlebags and pulled something out, “-I’ll need you to wear these.”

Raindrops looked at the item Trixie had levitated out and blinked.

“Trixie, I don’t need glasses.”

Trixie grinned, “Oh, for what I have in mind, you do. Trust me.”