• Published 4th Sep 2012
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Flim and Flam Save an Orphanage - KFDirector

They're not gonna catch us. We're on a mission from Goddess!

  • ...

Flim, Flam, and Trixie

The sun was making a determined ascent, to the lack of concern of most of the residents of the temporary village – for most of them had already set out to their construction jobs in Canterlot hours ago, while Luna’s ward still ruled the sky, and as for the remaining two –

The brothers’ snores, assisted by a miserably uncomfortable bed and a few bottles of cider, rattled the windows of The Stable.

A certain cream-colored pegasus looked up at their third-story window with a pair of binoculars, and frowned. Reaching it would be no difficulty for her, of course, but it would be unseemly if there were witnesses to her opening a stranger’s window – and there were witnesses, in the form of a Night Guard carriage pulling up to the building. She sunk herself down into the bushes, and listened carefully.

The first one out of the carriage was a round, rose-colored unicorn, dressed in far more clothes than ponies usually wore except for the fanciest of occasions – and her red sweater and white stretch trousers weren’t slated for any appearances at the Grand Galloping Gala. Behind her were two pegasus ponies from the Night Guard – one white, one black.

“Now, right here, sirs, is the address Mister Flim Flimflam left on file with us. Oh, I sure hope for his sake he didn’t lie to us, or things will be a mite unpleasant for him too, don’tchaknow.”

“Thanks for your help, Pearl.” The black pegasus guard held the door of The Stable open for the unicorn and his pegasus partner, and a moment later all three were inside, and out of sight.

Wild Fire bit at her hoof, and looked up at the rattling window. “They’re going to get caught!” she whispered to herself, and thought quickly. A lantern went on over her head.

Months earlier, just after the Chrysalis Invasion, and before the true royal wedding, Wild Fire had, like so many other ponies, been wandering the streets in a daze. Somehow, she had ended up just outside the Hall of the Elements of Harmony – and come across a curious device, left behind by somepony who had participated in the battle. She had taken it with her, and hadn’t been sure why – but now she was certain.

She turned the dial past “Recommended Maximum”, past “Maximum Safe”, past “No, Really, No Higher”, all the way up to “Why Is This Even an Option?”, at which point it would turn no further, and then she flipped the hammer that would light the fuse.

Whatever this “Party Cannon” was, it had been given to her for this moment.

“Flim?” Pearl knocked on the door to the brothers’ stall. “Flim, this is Pearl, your parole officer. Yah, now listen, sweetie, you missed check-in – ”

From the window facing the street, there came a great white flash, and then did arrive a shockwave of bass beats, strobe lights, compressed fog, pressurized confetti, and season-old cake batter.

Wild Fire looked around herself, in a daze, at the flattened village.

“I’ll…catch up with you later, Mystery Stud.” She leapt into her carriage, coaxed the engine to life, and motored on down the lane.

Flam poked his head out the rubble, blinking, and used his magic to pull a few more chunks of busted lumber and stucco off of himself; Flim followed in short order. Flam squinted at the sun, blinking.

“Aw, horse apples. Look at the time! We need to go meet with Guise!”

The two trotted off to their carriage, which had survived the blast, even though the shed serving as its impromptu garage had not, and made their exit.

A few minutes later, Pearl made her way up to the rubble, her magic persistently towing the pegasus guards behind and below her, despite their groans of protest that they could struggle out under their own power.

“And a one and a two and a uff-dah!” The two pegasus ponies popped all the way out of the rubble, and onto the street. Gasping, coughing to clear the stale cake batter from his throat, the dark pegasus guard finally managed to speak.

“I’m going to bring those two sons of Diamond Dogs in – if it’s the last thing I ever do.”

Unicorn magic gave him a light slap on the back of the head, and he rubbed it irritably. Pearl glared at him, chastising. “Yah sure, they got away this time, but there’s no call for profanity, is there?”

There was a knock on the front door of Sweet Apple Acres - eager for the distraction, Applejack hastily called "come in!" while trotting to meet the new arrival.

Twilight Sparkle indeed let herself in, bringing a concerned expression with her. "Applejack - is everything all right? I heard the Night Guard was here last night."

"Oh, that." Applejack laughed nervously. "'t'ain't nothing, Twilight, just a little misunderstandin' – how was Princess Celestia’s sun-raisin’ in Canterlot this mornin’, that go okay? I mean, the sun came up and everything, so I assume – "

"A misunderstanding caused by a couple of criminals!" Rainbow Dash added angrily, interjecting herself into the conversation as she flew in from the kitchen. "Those two con artists! Flim and Flam! They put down Sweet Apple Acres as their address!"

"Now, Rainbow - " Applejack protested, "I ain’t gonna hold that against them, messin' around a little with the Night Guard."

"‘Ain’t gonna’ - ?" The blue pegasus stammered angrily. "They're screwing around with the cops and you're not going to hold that against them? You're the Element of Honesty!"

"Well, of course," Applejack said, almost preening with pride. "The Apple family has always prided ourselves on hard work, not takin' shortcuts, and truth-tellin'. And followin' good laws, of course. But sometimes laws ain't so good." Twilight tilted her head, watching, with interest, as her earth pony friend explained herself. "Fr' instance, say some busy-body unicorns in Canterlot decided nopony could drink cider any more. Well, if'n that were to happen, maybe the Apple family would do whatever it took and then some to make sure thirsty ponies didn't stay dry just because some can't-mind-their-own-darn-business-unicorns stuck their nose in."

The orange earth pony gave an aside glance to Twilight Sparkle. "Ah, no offense, Twi, unicorns ain't the only ones who don't mind their own business." The aside glance moved back to Rainbow Dash. "Pegasus ponies have also been known to put their hoof in it." Her gaze returned to a more neutral, less accusatory form. "Anyways, what I'm sayin' is, maybe the Apple family can respect havin' a little fun at the Night Guard's expense every now and again."

"Well - okay!" Rainbow Dash thrust her forelegs out exasperatedly while she hovered off the floor. "But still! It's Flim and Flam!"

"I had been wondering when those two would get out of the dungeon..." Twilight murmured to herself, looking meaningfully at Applejack.

Applejack nodded, leaving the pegasus thoroughly out of the loop. "Yeah, I'd talked over what we'd talked over with the rest of the orchard folk, and they said they wanted me to go ahead and give it a shot. So in a way it's good that they pulled that little stunt, so'n I know fr' sure that they're both out of the dungeon."

"Wait wait wait." Rainbow Dash dropped down to the ground, physically placing herself closer into the conversation. "What the hay are you on about?"

"Well." Applejack took a deep breath, and looked to Twilight for assistance. Twilight shook her head in a manner that said 'all yours, sister'. "After everything had a chance to cool down last fall, Big Mac and I ran some numbers, and we ran 'em past Twilight, and she said they made sense - so - well - we were thinkin' of doin' a co-op, all the apple orchard folk around here with the Flimflam brothers. All the orchards could sell their cider as the premium stuff, that everypony'd pay top bit for, and the Flimflams could make up each day's supply shortfall with a little cheaper but still pretty respectable cider - and we'd make a profit-sharin' arrangement, so nopony would be at risk of losin' their farm but the brothers'd still get a good return on their fancy contraption."

"I don't believe it." Rainbow Dash flapped her wings again, if only to free up her forelegs so she could cross them in anger. "After all those jerks tried to do to you and your family - what they did do to you, if they hadn't started serving cider from the last barrel they made instead of the first - you want to work with them?"

"Ah, well, it all worked out okay. I mean, I knew they'd be servin' from the last barrel first, since the early stuff was all at the inside of the pile, and I knew it'd all be fine in the end - even if they didn't give up and run away like they did, I knew y'all'd do somethin'. And I was right - turned out Twilight was plannin' a - how'd you put it again?"

"A benefit concert," Twilight said quickly.

"A what now?" Rainbow Dash asked.

"A variety show, to raise money so they could get through the winter and keep the farm. I'd, ah, sort of been planning on the possibility for a few months. I've still got it on the shelf, just in case. I just have this feeling we'll end up needing it sometime."

"So see? It would've worked out okay. And Flim and Flam - they paid their debt. Hard time in a dungeon and everything. I mean, Twilight here started a riot, and the worst that happened to her is we had to start helpin' with her homework. So why can't I forgive and forget?"

"Augh!" The pegasus shook her head angrily. "AJ, you are such a - such a softie!"

She continued to look angry, even as Twilight's magic pulled her gently back down to the floor - though she looked less angry when Applejack suddenly threw a foreleg over her. "Rainbow - I'm real happy you're on my side - and I really admire your loyalty. But I'm done bein' mad, when there's a lot of good to get done by forgivin'. Can't you see that?"

"Fine." Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. "Let's go find those jerks." She shook her head. "So you can offer them a business deal."

The first train station out of Canterlot – a valley between Canterlot Mountain and the next one over, where the cold winds howled daily, where ancient mine tailings left the soil incapable of growing so much as a thistle, where the sun was only visible for the thirty minutes before and after noon, where the Friendship Express didn’t stop so much as accelerate through, and where, above all, the rent was dirt cheap.

It was no surprise to Flam Flimflam that he’d find his lawyer here, operating out of a shopfront, with the front door missing and a single lantern hanging from a chain to illuminate the office – although Flam would have expected at least one of the other shops in this dilapidated plaza to be occupied by somepony, even a vagrant. As it was, it seemed Nickel Guise had the run of the place, not that he had taken advantage of it. The brown earth pony was still hoofing through files at his desk when the brothers walked up.

“Mister Guise! How good to see you again!” Flam began. The earth pony instantly looked up and shot him a glare.

“Oh, yeah, I’m sure, Flam. So good to see me again, that you’ve been ducking my messengers, letters, and bill collectors for most of a year. What do you want?”

The brothers took seats at the lawyer’s desk, and wasted no time in putting their back legs up, reclining.

“It’s time for us to get back into the business, good sir. We’ve taken a long enough sabbatical.”

The lawyer set his fore hooves together and sighed. “You know that you only ever had one shot at the cider scheme. The griffin has flown on that master plan.”

Flim looked at Flam, Flam at Flim, both with mock indignation. “I said nothing about cider – did you say anything about cider?”

“So, what, you want to move on to a new product line? Have you considered selling construction supplies? There’s a lot of work left to do in rebuilding Canterlot….”

“Yes, we know.” Flim leaned forward. “Let me give it to you straight, dear Nickel. We need fifty thousand bits by the end of the month.”

Nickel Guise laughed.

Flim and Flam waited patiently for him to stop.

He kept laughing.

After about two minutes, they decided that was quite enough patience, and used their magic to stick a crumbled-up newspaper in his mouth.

Spitting to clear his palate, he finally got the breath back to ask. “If I had the contacts to secure any sort of distributorship or franchise that could deliver fifty thousand bits in eight days, do you really think I’d be working here?”

Flam considered this. “You are a bit of a notorious cheapskate.”

“I’m thrifty. What point in renting a place in Canterlot proper when the elevated levels of damage claim work will dry up in another six to eight weeks?”

“We’re departing from the main point, my good sir. Fifty thousand - ”

“Yes, yes, fifty thousand bits.” Guise shook his head. “I’m sorry. You two are brilliant showponies, excellent at sales, quite good at invention, and if we were talking about what you could accomplish in thirty to ninety days, we would have dozens of lucrative things to discuss. But in just over a week? We could barely secure a worthwhile product to sell in that time; we certainly couldn’t secure fifty thousand bits in commissions.”

“Think harder, stallion!” Flim leaned forward suddenly, grasping the lapels of Guise’s vest with his fore hooves. “You owe us!”

“I – I owe you? I’m still waiting to get paid for not one, but two criminal defenses! In what demented version of reality do I owe you?”

“Ah – ah – ah!” Flam wagged a hoof. “Don’t forget – we’ve kept our mouths shut about some of your ethical issues.”

The attorney shoved Flim’s hooves away. “Now this, I’ve got to hear. What ‘ethical issues’?”

Flam smiled knowingly. “You used to date the prosecutor at our trial.”

“And? I dated all the earth pony mares in my class at the Canterlot Legal Academy. She, all the earth pony stallions. When your entire race is one study group and your entire study group is one race, that’s just the way of things.”

Flam’s grin got even wider. “Ever stud with her?”

“That’s none of your business – and no.”

“So there you are then – hoping to get on her good side, you put on that shameful performance you called a defense.”

Flim and Flam looked smugly at their attorney. Their attorney looked back. There was a moment of silence.

“Three problems with that theory. First, you weren’t convicted for anything fraud-related, so I’m going to go ahead and take the credit for saving you five to ten years apiece in the dungeon. Second, you two really were dumb enough to include a button to turn off quality control and then use that button in a production setting and then forget to turn the mode back to normal in the next town you went to, thereby contaminating cider with rocks, twigs, and…” Guise paused, and looked around. “…things…and I refuse to be blamed for failing to get you off the hook for that!”

“And third?” Flim asked.

“You have no idea how attorneys think! Get on a mare’s good side by taking a dive? Hah!” He snorted. “Horse apples. If such had been my intention, I would have been determined to impress her with my talent and intellect by putting on a skillful, passionate defense, so brilliant that a fire would have lit in our minds, souls, loins, and afterwards, fresh in the glow of my victory, our eyes locking across the courtroom, with quick, shallow breaths – ”

“That’s – that’s quite enough.” Flim held up a hoof in horror. “I have had a sudden change of heart and realize that it would be wrong to blackmail you. Very wrong. But are you sure there’s nothing you can give us?”

Guise threw up his hooves. “Seriously, you two – I’ve got nothing. I’m in hock up to my hock with student debts to the Legal Academy, I pretty much bet what little savings I had on the cider scheme, I’m not even renting this office so much as squatting in it, I make my daily commute by impersonating a bag of mail, and it turns out the old money Canterlot clients are just as bad at paying me as you bums – I helped out a couple with names like ‘Jet Set’ and ‘Upper Crust’ – you’d think they’d be legit, right? – and they said they’d cover their bill in trade.” Hot steam snorted from his nostrils, as he opened his desk and pulled out three gold-colored tickets. “In! Trade!

Unicorn magic seized the tickets, and pulled them into Flam’s pocket. “Every little bit helps, Nickel. Thank you ever so much, kindly do keep an ear to the ground, and we’ll be in touch.” Flam looked over at Flim, who had just been the one to speak and to take the tickets, with a little horror in his eyes. “Come brother! We’d best be off and not bother Nickel Guise any more than we have!”

“Brother?” Flam asked, as their carriage ground its way up the road to Canterlot.

“Yes, Flam?”

“Do you think we did the right thing, back there?”

Echoing through the mountain valley continued the cry of “Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu – ”

“Indubitably, Flam. Guise is a very hard worker, and would probably have neglected to make use of these tickets entirely.”

“And our plan is to scalp them?” Flam asked, looking closely at the tickets Flim was holding up.

“I think not. They’re for the final ceremony of the Summer Sun Celebration, some kind of grand operatic pageant, are they not?”

“Indeed, and I’d rather be skinned alive and sautéed for a griffin family reunion than listen to one of those, so – oh ho ho!” Flam had finally noticed some of the print on the tickets. “Luxury box seats?”

“Drinks included! And there’s even an extra one for the old girl. What better place to brainstorm our master plan – at some of the toniest seats of one of the grandest spectacles of the year, blissfully ignoring opera while getting blackout drunk?”

“Fantastic. Now, the next question – when are we going to be able to cross this bridge?”

The brothers’ carriage was, again, stopped at a bridge – though over a much shallower canyon, really more of a small stream barely six feet down, compared to the one they faced yesterday.

At the center of the bridge, a small herd of buffalo. Just nearer to them than the buffalo, a construction forepony with a clipboard and an orange safety vest shouting angrily at one of the buffalo. Between the brothers and the crew, a dozen carriages with angry or exasperated or bored drivers, pulled over to the side of the road, under shade trees – by all appearances, they had been there awhile, as were a score of idle construction ponies taking an extended break. The brothers leaned over the side of their carriage and pressed their ears forward, to listen to what was being shouted.

“This river is sacred to my people. We will not allow further work to proceed on this bridge!”

“For the love of – you guys protested about the last river, too!”

“Many rivers are sacred to my people!”

“The whole idea of ‘sacred’ is to set special things apart from other mundane things! If everything’s sacred then what’s the point?”

“Only to you ponies is it such a narrow thing! To my people – ”

“Your people: who, I remind you, haven’t lived here for centuries!”

“Because you ponies forced us out!”

“But we live here now, and these bridges need to get built for progress to happen!”

“Who asked for your ‘progress’?”

They did!” the forepony screamed, pointing at the lines of cars at the side of the road.

Flim looked at Flam. “Brother, this sounds like a complex, deeply nuanced issue – perhaps even an intractable conflict – with moral, sociological, legal, economic, ethnic, and political dimensions unparalleled. Certainly it is highly unlikely to be resolved in, say, the next twenty-two minutes, even supposing an impromptu song-and-dance number on our, or anypony else’s, part. I, for one, am not certain that there is even necessarily a ‘right’ side at this stage.”

“Perhaps not, brother,” Flam said, tapping his chin. “However, I do believe I have observed a flaw in the buffalo’s present argument, which they will have to correct before the debate can resume.”

“And that flaw is?”

Flam coldly worked the throttle of the carriage. “That they are in my mother-bucking way!” The turbine howled to maximum power, and the telltale sparks and smoke arose from the back wheels.

Flim held himself back against his seat. “Flam – Flam – if those buffalo don’t move – ”

“Hold steady, bulls,” the lead buffalo said, eying the oncoming carriage.

“Relax, Flim. They’ll move. Every buffalo in these parts would’ve gotten schooled at the missions – run by Penny Wing’s order.”

The lead buffalo spoke with assurance. “No pony carriage could possibly survive an impact with one of us.”

The carriage was up to full velocity now.

“Not seeing how that helps, Flam!”

“They would have learned from the same physics text we did. Including…”

The lead buffalo’s eyes widened. "Kinetic energy equals one-half mass times velocity squared."

“Wuuaaaaaaagh!” cried the lead buffalo.

“Aaaaaaaaaaagh!” cried Flim.

“Baaaaanzaaaaai!” cried Flam.

“Buck!” cried the forepony.

A clamor of hooves arose as the buffalo rushed to get out of the way of the oncoming carriage, demolishing the guardrails and landing in the stream below. Cheers from the ponies – save the forepony, still clutching his clipboard protectively over his head in terror, and the construction ponies, who knew that their break was over – followed, as the carriage continued to Canterlot.

Coughing up water, and trying to keep his footing in the muddy bed of the shallow creek, the lead buffalo frowned. “Somebull – anybull – bring me that carriage.”

“Trixie wishes you had given her a bit more notice,” Trixie said, as the three unicorns walked into the Royal Canterlot Opera House. “Trixie would have liked to be able to dress up a bit more than this.”

“No worries, old girl!” Flam said, clapping her on the back with his hoof. “You don’t have the money to go splurging on some kind of fancy thing to wear anyway!”

“Trixie still could have done a bit more – just a bit – for her mane than this.”

“Ahem.” The trio looked up to the throat-clearer, a gray unicorn with a slick black mane, dressed in a black silk suit.

Flam laughed. “Let me guess – ‘Waist Coat’? That your name? ”

“Cuff Link, sir. Your tickets?”

Flim presented them. Cuff Link gave as polite and deferential an expression as he could while clearly despising the brothers and everything they stood for, and magically opened the door to their box suite. “Anything sirs will be needing – perhaps I could take your…straw hats…to the coat check - ”

“Indeed, my good fellow, indeed!” Flam slapped Cuff Link on the back with his hoof – a bit more aggressively than he had Trixie, with a bit more rumpling resulting. “No, I have one simple requirement for you this evening, just one – keep the cider flowing.”

Cuff Link sniffed. “We do not have cider, sir.”

The Flimflams gasped. Trixie looked to salvage the situation. “Smoothies, then?”


“You – you must have something,” Flam said, nearly begging.

“We do have a variety of fermented nectars available, if sirs would care to specify – ”

“All of them. Bring Trixie and her guests all of the nectars. Or must Trixie speak to her retained counsel about the service she received?”

The brothers snickered as Cuff Link beat a retreat, and situated themselves in their box suite.

These particular seats were not, strictly speaking, the most desirable among the Canterlot nobility and assorted upper crust, as they were neither particularly good for seeing nor being seen. Had Nickel Guise gone, it is possible he would have been disappointed – yet for the three ponies that now inhabited it, it was perfect for their requirements.

Well, almost perfect – it took the arrival of the drink cart for it to become truly perfect.

Somewhere below, standing alone on the stage, a young colt, barely more than a foal, was singing the opening verses to Canticle of the Two Mistresses of the Stars, a piece considered by centuries of musicians as “an enduring masterpiece, without equal”, in a performance contemporary critics would themselves call “subtle, technically skilled, moving, worthy of the Princesses themselves."

Trixie Lulamoon had another opinion.

“Is that little twit ever going to shut up? He’s been on for something like five minutes now! When do the fireworks start? Trixie came here to see some pyrotechnic masterpieces!”

“Couldn’t tell you, old girl – but perhaps we can find out.” Flim magically passed Trixie a glass bottle filled with pale green fluid. “I have it on very good authority that the answer to your question is at the bottom of this bottle.”

Trixie squinted, flipping the bottle upside down to peer at it. “Trixie does not see this answer.”

“Ah, that is because it is backwards. And the glass is like a one-way-mirror of sorts. You must read it from the other side.”

Trixie smiled. “One-way mirrors are one of Trixie’s specialties. Very well: challenge accepted! Which of us shall first master the secrets contained in these nectar bottles?”

The Canticle went on, a cappella. The Canticle traditionally could stand on its own without instrumental backing, and in the first century of its performance, it did so. However, in its second century, a musician – it remained a bone of academic contention whether it was Bate Hooven or his contemporary Hay Den – composed a stunning orchestral accompaniment that met with the approval of Celestia herself, and in more than two thirds of the Summer Sun Celebrations which followed, the Canticle was sung at the closing ceremonies with the backing of the finest orchestras in Equestria.

Because a dive-bombing changeling had punched a hole through the roof, floor, and plumbing of the opera house a few months earlier, and contaminated with water and mold the instruments of nearly the entire Canterlot Symphony, it was decided that this year’s closing ceremonies would be done entirely a capella.

A dozen empty bottles rolled around the floor of their suite by the time the colt bowed and left the stage, only for a cluster of mares in far too much dress and makeup to come onstage and start saying lines that Trixie and the brothers couldn’t make out.

“Well,” Trixie said, reclining, “these bottles failed to answer that last question. Have they anything to say about the orphanage?”

The brothers sighed, not quite back to reality but certainly feeling closer to it.

“What’s the use?” Flim asked. “There’s nothing we could sell, no scheme we could undertake….”

“You couldn’t do the cider again?” Trixie asked, squinting at the brothers, mostly to deal with her slightly-blurring vision.

“One, not cider season. Two, our names are mud in the orchard business. Three, the cider scheme was never about the quick bit – we’d make a little right away, right up front, snatch up a bunch of farms around Earth Pony country – ” Flim stopped, hiccuped, and continued. “ – pretend things were going wrong and run a loss – on paper – for nearly a year…”

“And then corner the market on not just cider, not just apples, but half of Equestria’s agricultural production. We’d cash out, maybe even accept a ‘bailout’ from the royal government, and trot away….” Flam paused to consider the metaphor.

“Filthy Rich?” Trixie suggested.

“Nah, we could have bought and sold his discount-retailing hide.” Flim tried to drink from a nectar bottle, found it empty, tossed it over the side of the balcony, and found a full one. “We could – we could’ve bought an entire ski resort, Royal Guest House and all, in the Coltorado Rockies. We could’ve written the guest list for the Canterlot Garden Party. We could’ve leased our own personal Wonderbolt!”

“Spitfire?” Flam asked, with a mischievous, and, of course, inebriated, grin.

“You know it!” The brothers clapped hooves; Trixie sighed, tipping her own bottle further back. “Still,” Flim muttered, “It’s all for nothing now. They’d be on to us too quick. Even if they didn’t run us out of town as soon as we rolled in, somepony would be poking around our business and figure out what we were up to – probably even make the last few steps illegal before we could get to doing them, and then we’d be left holding the bag on a bunch of farms that we couldn’t possibly run profitably ourselves.”

“Trixie had no idea….”

Flam shrugged his shoulders and leaned back, resulting in the clanking of more nectar bottles. “It was a good master plan, as master plans go. It failed – and it failed early enough that we just did months in a dungeon, instead of centuries on the moon. And it failed while it was still fun. We’ve got a long life ahead of us, plenty of time to come up with new plans.” His speech was almost nostalgic.

“Yes…but we still only have a week to save the orphanage.”

Flim and Flam sighed. Flim looked for another bottle. Flam leaned forward, towards Trixie’s seat.

“I must ask you, old girl. Are you really a traveling magician?”

“The Great and Powerful Trixie is more than a mere – ”

“Because I am beginning to suspect that the Great and Powerful Trixie is a professional assassin, descended from a mystical order of such, employed by Princess Luna herself to hunt down and kill good moods wherever they should appear!" Flam brandished an empty bottle at her. "Confess, ninja!”

“Trixie notes your gift for melodrama, and that you continue to evade the question.”

“She’s right, Flam. We need to think this through. What are our gifts?”

The third part of the grand pageant was on by now, some kind of retelling of the dark days immediately preceding the arrival of the royal pony sisters to Equestria. Widely said to be a ‘dramatization’ of events that included the dread draconequus himself, somehow few stage performances resulted in it being in any way dramatic, and this year appeared to be shaping up to be no exception.

“We are traveling salesponies nonpareil.”

“Yes,” Trixie asked, irritably, as she felt she was starting to sober up but couldn’t find a fresh bottle among the two score empties to ward that off. “But what does that mean?”

“We…we can pick a product, a market…we can badger our lawyer into keeping it just legal enough...we can put on a show to get ponies into our product….”

There was a tremendous clash of cymbals down on the stage, the first instrument heard in the entire performance, and the unicorns winced in pain. Trixie squinted towards the stage, finally looking at it for the first time in half an hour, and blinked painfully at a powerful mirror.

“Do you…see that…light?” Trixie asked, turning away from it.

“What?” Flam asked, too loudly, as he slapped the side of his head with his hoof, trying to get the ringing to stop.

“The show…” Flim murmured to himself, leaning forward with wide eyes.

“I asked: do you see that light?” Trixie said again.

“What light?” Flam asked again, looking only at the floor.

“Yes!” Flim cried, half-hung over the balcony, fore legs stretched towards the great mirror, which with optical tricks and bright flames emulated the light of Celestia’s glory, at least as far as the stage production was concerned. “Yes! YES! I can see the light! By all the Angels, Ministers, and Elements of Harmony, I have SEEN THE LIGHT!” He flipped himself over, leaning with his back against the railing. “The show, Flam, Trixie, the Show! It’s not the sales, it’s the Show!”

“The show?” Flam asked, skeptically.

“The Show?” Trixie echoed.

“The SHOW!” Flim cried enthusiastically, with, by now, most of the opera house looking up at him.

“The show…” Flam muttered.

“The Show,” Trixie nodded.

“The SHOW! Owww – ah – ” Flim slumped forwards, back into the balcony, four hooves on the floor, nearly prone, and heaved. “Aw, horse apples. I gotta get sober so I can explain this.”

“And….” Trixie gagged. “We should probably make our exit, because that is an awful lot of rather colorful vomit on a very expensive looking carpet.”

“Right.” Flam staggered. “Let’s go. I’ll drive.”

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