• Published 2nd Dec 2012
  • 1,014 Views, 65 Comments

Three Wishes - TimeBaby



Trixie assembles an unlikely team to help her find a magic stone that grants its bearer three wishes

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Chapter 1

Despite being hindered by her cart and the rolling hills outside of Fillydelphia, Trixie had made good time getting to her next destination, Hollow Shades. She had expected to have to sleep for the night on the outskirts of the thick woods surrounding the small village, but there was still enough daylight left upon her arrival that navigating the forest didn't seem too dangerous. Even with a light spell, the barely-worn path through the woods was too dangerous at night, providing ample cover for bandits and wild animals. With even a hint of sunlight, though, Trixie felt confident that her magic would offer sufficient protection, should the need arise.

That a pony would need to defend herself was never a bad bet in Hollow Shades. The tree-shrouded village was once a simple community of craftsponies, but its isolated location made it irresistible for outlaws looking for a place to lay low. Gradually, the law abiding citizens left to find homes in safer locations, leaving the thieves and con artists as the town’s primary demographic.

Ironically, this had actually reduced Hollow Shades’ crime rate considerably. Once the town’s population was mainly composed of liars, cheats and criminals, an unspoken code of conduct had arisen. It was as if everypony realized that maintaining the town as a safe haven was a necessity that required a certain degree of restraint on their parts. To be sure, it was far less restraint than one found almost anywhere else in Equestria, but it was still more than one would have expected. Regardless, unrecognized faces couldn't expect safe passage into and out of town, which is why Trixie remained on her guard until she had passed through the forest and into the village without incident. This wasn't her first trip through Hollow Shades, but she was not exactly a regular, either.

She did have friends in town, though—specifically, a gruff old stallion named Porter Stout who was the proprietor of the Dragon’s Breath Tavern. Porter was one of the few regular ponies whose family had stayed in Hollow Shades after the outlaws moved in. They had been running the tavern and a brewery for several generations, and as Porter had explained it to Trixie once, his parents weren't the type to give up easily. Porter, who was if anything even more stubborn than his ancestors, had stayed and kept the family business going. He may not have been crazy about his clientele, but they did offer a steady income, and most weren't foolish enough to cross a pony as big—and as well connected—as Porter.

Trixie had never been sure what it was that made Porter like her more than his other morally compromised patrons. She was fairly certain it wasn't any kind of romantic interest; at least, if he had ever meant to flirt with her, she hadn't noticed. When they first met, she had treated him with the same arrogance and disdain she displayed when dealing with anypony. However, he had simply laughed off her attitude and welcomed her as he would any other guest. From there, the two of them began to develop a friendship based largely on verbal sparring. That eventually translated into Porter passing along bits of info that he thought might help Trixie in her dual life as a performer and, as she euphemistically put it, “treasure hunter”.

It was the hope of gathering information that had brought her back to Hollow Shades. The clueless unicorn scholars she had drunk under the table in Fillydelphia the night before had dished out far more than she expected to get from them, but she wasn't completely ready to trust their tales of an enchanted gem that could grant wishes. If Princess Celestia was commissioning research on the subject, there had to be something to it, but the fools had been completely sloshed by the time they started giving up the really good stuff. That left Trixie wanting a second opinion. There was no guarantee she would find that in Hollow Shades, but enough information flowed through the place that if anypony not working for Celestia knew about it, Porter probably would have heard.

After triple locking her cart outside the Dragon’s Breath, Trixie headed into the bar. As always, the place was packed with a crowd that crossed just about every racial and national boundary. There were Earth ponies, pegasi, unicorns, mules, even a solitary—and particularly cross looking—griffon. They were young and old, male and female, upper and lower class. The only race Trixie had never seen in the tavern was the alicorn, but then she only knew three of those to exist, and none struck her as the type to visit such a disreputable location.

Presiding over the noisy crowd from the bar were Porter and his wife Meadow Song. Hollow Shades was one of the few places in Equestria where Trixie didn't go out of her way to make a grand entrance. Nevertheless, Porter spotted her immediately as she walked through the door. His eyes lit up, and a smile spread across his grizzled old face.

“Well, if it isn't the Great and Powerful Trixie!” he called out with a chuckle.

“I've told you before, Porter, make fun of my stage name and I’ll give you a taste of what I gave those rubes in Ponyville!”

Porter laughed as he poured Trixie a pint of cider. If he knew the real story of the Ponyville incident, Trixie hadn't been able to get him to betray it. For the time being, it was enough that he didn't challenge her version of events.

“So what brings a busy unicorn like you all the way out to the Shades?” Porter asked as she took a seat at the bar.

“Porter, you make it sound as if Trixie only visits when she wants something!” she said, taking mock offense.

“Perish the thought.”

“Why, just last night, I was drinking with a couple of unicorns in Fillydelphia, and we were having the nicest conversation about an ancient magical artifact that might have been discovered in the north of Equestria. They certainly didn't think that Trixie was harboring any ulterior motives.”

Porter laughed his hearty old laugh. “At least not until sompony got them to tell everything they knew and stuck 'em with the tab, I’ll bet!”

Trixie gave Porter a wicked little grin. "Now that you mention it, they were awfully eager to tell Trixie all about the work they were doing for Princess Celestia. It was such an interesting story that I thought you might like to hear about it. Perhaps later tonight, after I've had something to eat."

The wary look that Porter gave Trixie brought her no small measure of satisfaction. She had always suspected that the old barkeep thought of her as relatively small-time, almost a hobbyist treasure hunter. Now she had come to him with a plan to steal an artifact right out from under the muzzle of the the most powerful pony in Equestria. She could tell it would take more coaxing than usual to get any information out of him, but she was confident that she would have her way in the end.

"It sounds to me like you've been on the road by yourself too long, Trixie. Why don't you try making some friends?” He indicated the griffon that Trixie had noticed on her way in. “That griffon's been sulking in the corner for three days now. Maybe you can cheer her up."

From anypony else, Trixie would've ignored such idle prattle, but she knew that Porter's small talk often carried a deeper meaning. More than that, he knew Trixie. If he was telling her to make friends—something that he knew went against her nature—there had to be a reason for it.

“Sure, Porter, Trixie will entertain your griffon. Bring us a couple of plates of fried squash flowers—oh, and I’ll be needing a room for the night, of course.”

“Right, oh great and powerful one!” Porter said with a laugh. Trixie glared at him, but held her tongue as he levitated her mug and made her way across the busy common room to the griffon’s table. She had only a few seconds to size up her mark, but that was all she needed. The creature’s sullen expression could have meant many different things, but the lackadaisical way she was pawing at her tankard suggested either a broken heart or a lost friend. Griffons not being known for their romanticism, Trixie settled on the latter option as her working hypothesis.

This was the kind of job Trixie hated. She wasn’t usually one to take an interest in anyone’s troubles, and the process of gaining the griffon’s trust would not be made easier by the fact that her race was notoriously standoffish. If she wanted things to work out in her favor, she would likely have to play the game differently than she would with a pony. For the time being, though, she decided to test the waters with her usual technique. As she sauntered up next to the griffon’s table, she put on the same confident smile she used to open all of her performances.

“And to think, the Great and Powerful Trixie didn't expect to find anyone in this pub interesting enough to share a meal with,” she said. “But Trixie has never had the pleasure of having dinner with a griffon before.”

Trixie lowered herself into the seat opposite her would-be dinner companion as the expected rejection came her way.

“A, I’m not eating,” the griffon said without looking up from her tankard. “B, even if I was, I wouldn't invite some lame unicorn.”

“Well, then, it’s a good thing Trixie has never been the type to wait for an invitation.” She laughed, not trying to hide the edge brought on by the griffon’s insult. This was the first time she had been face to face with a griffon, but she had heard plenty of stories. They were a proud and competitive race, and would know flank-kissing when they heard it. However, that didn’t mean that they weren’t susceptible to a little ego-stroking. Trixie tried to keep her own pride in check as the griffon replied.

“Look, let me make something real clear: I don’t like ponies. So beat it, while you can still walk.”

Trixie gave the griffon a confident little smirk. “Equestria certainly is an odd place for someone who doesn't like ponies.”

The griffon still didn't look up, but her expression betrayed just enough uncertainty that Trixie knew she was starting to chip away at her defenses. “Maybe I have some unfinished business here, ok? Either way, it’s none of your business.”

“Of course not. But Trixie can’t say she particularly blames you for not liking ponies. After all, some of us can be terrible bores. Always going on about friendship and kindness...”

At last, the griffon looked her in the eye, though with an intensely skeptical expression. “Oh, so you’re different?”

“Of course Trixie is different! Friendship and kindness are for neighsayers who are afraid to go after what they really want.”

For a moment, Trixie thought her would-be dinner companion was going to come around, at least until she spoke again. “Well, what I really want is for you to leave me alone and let me finish my beer in peace.”

Just then, Porter arrived with the food, and another tankard of cider for Trixie. He gave her an approving little nod before heading back to the bar.

“And what I really want is to have a story to tell my audiences about the night I drank with a griffon. You may not realize it, but here in Equestria, your kind are practically legends. So why not snap out of this funk you’re in for an hour or two, and live up to the myth?”

The griffon looked up again, this time with a renewed fire in her eyes. Trixie knew that her approach had worked—either that, or she was about to have the exhilarating new experience of being assaulted by a griffon.

“You want a story? Fine, you’ll get one.” Trixie was actually taken aback as the griffon threw back the ale that she had previously been eyeing listlessly, then pounded the tankard down on the table.

"Stout! Get me another!”

***

Drinking had always been a key part of Trixie’s strategy when working a mark for information, and she had put a lot of effort into building up her tolerance. While there were spells that could reduce the alcohol content of a drink, casting one of them in the middle of a drinking session was far too conspicuous. And so, Trixie had cultivated a genuine ability to hold her liquor that was befitting of her grandiose stage name. Before the night she met Gilda, she was fairly confident that she could drink nearly any mare or stallion in Equestria under the table. Of course Gilda was neither a mare nor a stallion, and Trixie was coming off another binge less than a day before, not to mention an exhausting trek from Fillydelphia to the Shades. In the end, she didn't have a chance.

After about seven rounds of beer and a few shots of harder fare, Gilda’s tongue had finally loosened enough that she started to confirm Trixie’s suspicions about her predicament. Even though the unicorn had been trying to pace herself, packing away as many of the salty fried squash flowers as she could to absorb the alcohol, her vision was starting to blur, and her lips were feeling tingly and swollen. She began to fear that she wouldn't be able to remember anything Gilda had said by the next morning, a worry that was only increased by the fact that some of the names in the story sounded suspiciously familiar to her alcohol-drenched mind.

“So after I beat Rainbow Dash in a race, this obnoxious pink Earth pony comes flying up to us on her dumb little bicycle helicopter thing, telling me that I had really lost. I mean, like a feathering Earth pony would even know, right?”

Rainbow Dash. Trixie knew she had heard the name, but in her line of work, names came and went so quickly that even in the least inebriated of circumstances it was tough to remember them. At a table piled high with empties, trying to place the name was like trying to wrangle a bunny stampede all by herself. As she slowly came back around to the conversation, Gilda had rocketed ahead to something else.

“Rainbow Dash used to be the only cool pony I knew, but she had changed. She was hanging out with that dumb pink pony, some weak yellow pegasus who was afraid of her own shadow—even a feathering fashion designer!”

Trixie screwed up her face as she made a valiant effort to continue listening to Gilda’s story while also trying to place why its cast of characters seemed so infuriatingly familiar.

“Worst thing was, I knew Dash was embarrassed by the crew of dweebs she had taken up with," Gilda ranted on. “But after I pointed it out to her, she actually organized this lame party full of dumb pranks just to try to humiliate me in front of all of them!"

Trixie still had just enough of her wits about her to stick to the plan of trying to befriend Gilda, and she thought it might help to suggest that she could identify with the situation. "That's awful! Trixie hasn't seen such pathetic behavior since the last time she was in Ponyville!"

It would be an understatement to say that Trixie's words had the opposite of their intended effect. Gilda slammed her tankard down on the table, sending a cascade of amber ale and white suds into the air. "Ponyville?" she roared. "I didn’t tell you this happened in Ponyville! Dash didn’t just send you here to make fun of me again, did she?"

The griffon's fury actually snapped Trixie's besotted brain back to attention, at least momentarily. "What are you talking about? Trixie was simply saying that the ponies you were talking about sound like the cretins she encountered last time she passed through Ponyville."

"And I'm saying that they're the same feathering ponies!"

All at once, the pieces fit together. The reason the characters in Gilda’s story sounded so familiar was that Trixie had encountered them before. They were the ponies she had humiliated, prompting Twilight Sparkle to show her up in front of all of Ponyville. With that realization came another. Porter had to have known the truth about the incident, and that a small-time treasure hunter like Trixie would only risk going after an artifact that had caught Princess Celestia's attention if she planned to use it to get the revenge she desperately wanted. She felt a harsh pang of embarrassment, but tried her best to push it aside. What mattered at the moment was that Porter was trying to help her find allies in her quest. And even a sulky, abrasive griffon was still a griffon—a powerful ally if ever there was one.

Just to be sure that this twisted chain of logic wasn’t the product of her drunkenness, Trixie asked one more question. "Gilda, tell Trixie...was one of these ponies a unicorn named Twilight Sparkle?"

Gilda eyed her suspiciously, but finally answered calmly. "Yeah, and all her stupid little friends."

With great effort, Trixie got to her hooves and tried to look as imperious as she could while balancing against her chair. "Sober up," she said, "and then have Porter show you to Trixie's room. We just might have a common interest."