It all seemed so perfect. Go on tour. Visit every village and city in Equestria. Spread her Great and Powerful name. Make ponies of all types gape in awe. Nopony in Canterlot seemed fit to mention that there were, in fact, roads not made of stone. Muddy trails were not kind to anypony pulling a wagon.
Trixie wiped the sweat from her brow, eyeing her brand new carriage with a mixed sense of pride, and complete loathing. Things would be so much easier if she had somepony to pull it for her. Perhaps an earth pony. A nice, strong stallion. Though, a mare was fine too.
Despite the muddy path, the day was quite beautiful. Mockingly so even, as Trixie couldn't help but notice that a number of song birds were perched on the physical anchor of her life. They were singing. She was trudging through the mud, sweaty, tired, dirty, and they were singing.
With a spark of her horn, a blue firework flew over the carriage, popping loudly, ending the song as the birds scattered.
That carriage was a gift from her teacher. It was her home, her stage, and no woodland critters were going to perform there while she suffered. She then let out an indignant cry as several of the birds chose to share their grievances with her.
“Okay okay okay! Trixie is sorry!” she let out, making the birds back off as she gave them an unpleasant look. Any attempt at intimidating them with such a stare was lost to the fact that her mane now had feathers stuck in it. “Look, just, stay off the carriage, you can perch on the straps if you want,” she added, watching as a number of them returned to the trees, making her exhale a long sigh. Vanhoover seemed ever so far away.
One good thing came from her muddy situation, time was passing at a brisk pace. And it only came at the price of her stamina, composure, and feminine charm.
Coming around a bend, she saw a break in the trees ahead, seeing the spires of her destination in the distance. It was close, but it felt so far away. Her eyes then shifted towards the path, noticing something that made her eyes narrow for a moment. Was she seeing things?
After rubbing her eyes, she scrutinized the road again.
There was a small two-wheel cart parked on the left side. It had a single box on it; one that looked needlessly secured by ropes and chains. The cart was leaning over, the left wheel clearly broken. Next to it stood an earth pony stallion, who was bickering with what could only be a pony with the lower body of a snake, a lamia.
Between the two, Trixie couldn't decided which was more deserving of her concern.
The stallion, well, looked like a thug. Every single aspect of him screamed that he lived a thug life. His black, greased back mane. His dirty, splotchy tan coat. His black jacket. Even the way he talked oozed with a sense that he was no better than a two-bit crook. Trixie then had to resist the urge to facehoof. His cutie mark was an open scroll, with two golden bit-coins printed on it.
The lamia wasn't any better. Her light brown mane went down to her shoulders, curling slightly at the end. Her coat was beige, while her scales were dark brown. She was wearing too much make-up, which was quite a shame, since Trixie could make out an attractive mare under that layer of powder. The make-up around her eyes gave her the look of an up-tight individual who laughed maybe once a week, usually at somepony's expense.
Trixie didn't know much about lamia. Well, besides the fact that they were snake-like and avoided ponies as best they could. Okay, maybe that was all a pony really needed to know when it concerned the pony-snake hybrids, but seeing such a creature talking with a pony was easily something out of the ordinary.
To be clear. The oddly matching couple weren't arguing. They weren't fighting either. They were bickering. Like foals.
“I said we should have dropped two bits for a spare wheel!” the lamia retorted.
“Funny, coulda sworn ya said we dinna need ah spare wheel!” he replied with a raised eyebrow, practically in her face, “And ya'd be right, if ya didn't go and break the cart!” he added, making her glance to the side.
Trixie simply shook her head, pulling her carriage along, hoping they'd pay her no mind as she passed them.
“Well, maybe you shouldn't have run over my tail!”
“I already said sorry,” he bluntly replied. He then noticed Trixie as she started passing them. She gave him a warm smile. A forced smile, but he didn't know that. After all, he looked like an idiot. “Afternoon,” he said with a casual nod, before looking back to his partner. Okay, a polite idiot.
“A-After-?” the lamia replied, before noticing, to her shock, how close behind her Trixie's cart was. “Oh, hello,” she added, eyeing Trixie oddly, making the blue unicorn explicitly aware of the fact that she had feathers in her mane, was sweaty, and covered in mud.
She had been so distracted by how odd those two looked, that she'd forgotten to attend to her own mess before letting them notice her. The lamia's eyes followed her for a moment as she continued past, Trixie's face blushing at her sorry state. They were supposed to be the oddballs here, not the showpony covered in filth!
Her carriage suddenly lurched, followed by the snapping of wood as the lamia let out a hissy, joyful laugh. “Look Slick. A spare! Lucky~!” she declared energetically, making Trixie stop, her eyes widening as she glanced to the two, seeing the stallion raise a hoof to his forehead, as if her actions had induced a headache.
“Sid, that wheel's too big,” he replied flatly.
Seeing a part of her livelihood being carried in Sid's tail, Trixie's eyes darkened, the straps that tied her to the carriage coming loose with a passing flicker of her horn.
“Uh oh, looks like I upset her.” Sid added with a sly smile, getting an annoyed sigh from her companion.
“Look toots, we don't wanna hurt ya,” he began as he walked closer to Trixie, a disinterested look on his face, “The city's not that far. Ya can make it on three wheels, ya understand what I'm sayin'?”
Trixie simply raised an eyebrow, as her horn started to glow.
Everything was perfect.
The day was beautiful. Birds were singing, sun was shining, the breeze was cool, the air smelled of grapes and salt, and Trixie got to appreciate every single aspect of it. From the roof of her carriage. Sipping a glass of lemonade, while stretched out on a beach chair, wearing star shaped sunglasses, as the stallion and lamia pulled her cart.
Slick was resisting the urge to comb his mane. That would mean stopping the cart. He did not want to do that. There were flower petals sprinkled through it. His jacket was also inside out. Don't ask how, he doesn't even know. And, he was covered in soot.
Sid's make-up was running something fierce. She was also covered in soot. There were also lines of running mascara and ash under her eyes, born from the aftermath of Trixie's Great and Powerful display of dominance.
It didn't take much persuasion after that to convince the pair that pulling her carriage to Vanhoover was in their best interests. And, not only was she Great and Powerful, Trixie was also Kind and Forgiving, allowing them to place their crate on her cart, instead of leaving it with their broken wagon.
“Next time Sid, can ya check before ya go and upset a student of Luna?”
“H-How was I suppose to know!?”
“Oh I don't know, how 'bout by checkin'!” he retorted, right as the carriage bumped, making Trixie almost spill her lemonade as Sid let out a small cry of pain. The winding motions of a snake didn't sit well when it came to pulling something on wheels. Suffice to say, another bruise would soon be tallied to her tail's count. “Erm, Miss Trixie.”
“What is it?”
“I got the wagon, can Sid just follow along?” he asked with a flat look, getting small, thankful tears from his companion.
“Trixie is fine with this,” she replied, feeling sorry for Sid as her horn glowed. Sid was freed from the straps, making the lamia move to the other side of Slick as Trixie continued to relax.
She let out a pleasant sigh, stretching in her beach chair, before eyeing the chained and roped box sharing the roof with her. The box itself was made of metal, and it had a small pair of holes near the top. It looked like a present, waiting to be unwrapped.
Now, Trixie knew it wasn't nice to pry into other ponies' things. But, Slick and Sid were not nice ponies. Who knew what kind of cargo they were shipping. Wrapped up like that, it must be important. Eyeing the box curiously, she could almost hear it calling her, begging to be opened.
Trixie wasn't one to let a box beg. She adopted an innocent grin as she cast a small spell, creating a transparent, noise canceling bubble over the carriage's roof. She then levitated the box closer as she rubbed her hooves together. It wouldn't hurt just to take a peek, right?
Meanwhile, Slick was giving Sid an aggravated look. Mostly because she just used his jacket to wipe away her make-up, imprinting a crying silhouette on it. Before he could voice his disgust, she placed the tip of her tail over his lips, bringing a hoof to her mouth in a hushing motion. She really did look better without make-up, not that Slick would ever admit it.
“She got the jump on us,” Sid began in a hushed tone, “One bite from me, and she'll be out for hours. Keep pulling the cart, and I'll get the jump on her,” she said with an energetic grin, making him raise an eyebrow.
“Sid. That broad is one of Luna's students. I say we cause no more trouble.”
“But, Slick, if the boss finds out...” she said in a whiny tone, making him roll his eyes.
“Fine, but don't blame me when ya tail's in a bind,” he replied, getting a small grin from her, and a brief hug, which he took stoically, before her scales started to shift colors. She then looked to the carriage, her scales and coat shifting to better blend in with its look as she approached the side Slick was pulling from.
Trixie was really hoping those bindings would put up more of a fight than that. One knot undone, one lock detached, and the chains and rope slipped right off, making her feel a little embarrassed for the naked container.
Taking the lid off, she took a brief step back as a small bit of white smoke left the box. It smelled sweet, and made Trixie yawn, but it quickly dispersed. She then rubbed her eyes, shaking her head before taking a peek inside.
Her mouth slowly fell open as she took in the sight of a young lamia, sleeping on a padded layer of blankets. She had a light red coat, dirty blond mane, and scales that took hues from both. Between her hooves was a small green salamander doll. Her face scrunched as daylight landed on her face, and as her eyes started to open, Trixie's horn started to tingle. Powerful magic was being awakened in those eyes, giving them a subtle glow.
Whatever that spell was, Trixie didn't want to get a taste of it. Her magic shifted gears, the lid being dropped, falling over the side as she enchanted her sunglasses, right before the filly looked at her. The spell her eyes were casting didn't pierce those starry spectacles, making Trixie let out a brief sigh.
The lamia blinked at Trixie, her eyes a bright shade of green, and as she became more awake, she became aware of the pony outside the box, making her break eye contact with Trixie as she started to move.
Trixie took a step back as the box fell onto its side, the filly slithering out as she quickly hid behind it. She peered around it as Trixie watched, a little confused at the strange turn of events. She then frowned, seeing her beaten chauffeurs in a more sinister light.
Seeing Trixie doing nothing hostile, the filly's gaze moved from her to the box. She then glared at her former prison, before whipping her tail around, hitting it soundly, making Trixie watch wide-eyed as it hurtled past her, towards the front of the carriage.
It was at this point that Sid's head peered onto the roof, her eyes seeing nothing but box. There was a loud clang, that didn't escape the soundproofing bubble, making Sid fall backwards, landing on Slick's back.
“W-Whoa, Sid?” he asked, peering at her, seeing a distant, lost look in her eyes.
“The wheels on the cart go round and round~” she mumbled, before passing out, making Slick sigh as he shifted her around on his back.
“Ya camouflage don't work too well covered in shmuck,” he pointed out as he shook his head, “Well, at least ya tried.”
To Trixie and the filly, it looked as if the box just felt like stopping with a clang as soon as it reached the roof's ledge. It rested there without a care in the world, as the two rooftop dwellers looked to each other.
Considering what the filly did to the box, Trixie now understood why it'd been so tightly wrapped.
“I want to see mom,” the filly said, glancing to the side with an upset look on her face, pulling her doll and blankets close to her as Trixie considered her.
“Uhh, does she look like this?” Trixie asked as she created a small illusion of Sid in the air, making the filly stare at it in surprise for a moment, before shaking her head.
“Never seen her before,” she said, eyeing the illusion in wonder as Trixie raised an eyebrow.
“Well, what's her name?” She asked as she ended the illusion, getting a very flat look from the filly.
“Are you dumb or something? Her name is mom.”
“Oh yes, very helpful,” Trixie replied sarcastically, “and is your name daughter?” she asked with a smug smile.
“Huh? O-Oh...” she replied, looking like she just tasted something sour. “I, I'm Reina. Can you..." she began, eyeing the forest around them as if it were an alien world, "Can you help me find her?” she asked, about to look Trixie in the eyes, before quickly glancing away, making Trixie tilt her head.
She appraised Reina's eyes, before letting out a sigh, pretending to be bothered by her request as her horn glowed. A window on her carriage opened as a pair of gaudier shades levitated out towards her. Her horn shined brighter as she focused on it, making the shades become transparent, altering the frame's shape, and enchanting the spectacles.
“The Generous and Heroic Trixie sees no reason why she shouldn't,” she replied, before presenting the glasses to Reina, who eyed them in a moment of confusion. Trixie rolled her eyes, before placing them on the filly.
Trixie then took off her own shades, before approaching Reina. The filly didn't know how to respond, so she simply glanced away, before Trixie's magic raised her chin, making her look into the mare's eyes. Their gaze locked for a moment, before Reina blinked. Nothing happened.
She brought a hoof to the glasses, her mouth falling open, before her eyes shifted slightly. Now, she was looking, focusing, on Trixie's eyes, and she found herself blushing as Trixie smiled.
“Your eyes are pretty,” she mumbled, getting a nod from the mare.
“Trixie is well aware, and thanks you for your honesty. And she must say, your eyes are pretty too.”
“Mom said I have dad's eyes,” she replied in a disappointed tone, “Is this magic?” she asked as she scooted back, looking down as she carefully took off the glasses, eyeing them as a treasure.
“What else is it supposed to be?” Trixie replied proudly.
“I don't know,” she replied flatly as she put them back on, before giving Trixie a cross look. “That's why I asked.”
“Yes, it's magic,” Trixie replied, giving the thankless filly a cross look of her own.
“Mom liked to talk about magic,” Reina mumbled, before glancing to the side. “Thank you, Mrs. Trixie.”
“S-Spare the 'Mrs.'.” Trixie replied with a blush. “Now,” she began as she adopted a more sinister look, “let's get some answers...” she added as she peered over the side, looking towards Slick, before blinking in confusion.
“What happened to her?” Trixie asked with a raised eyebrow as she pointed to Sid, out cold and in a happier place.
“Hu-wha?” Slick let out as he glanced over his shoulder, “Ya sayin' this ain't your doin'?”
“Did Trixie do it?” she asked as she thought on it, “Well, she's not prone to feinting around auspicious unicorns, show ponies, royal students, or experienced truth enhancers, is she?” Trixie asked, dead serious, getting a flat look from Slick.
“She probably doesn't handle boxes being applied to the face very well,” Reina chipped in as she peeked over the side, her tail pointing at a indentation on the box that matched Sid's face. Slick's eyes widened as he noticed the filly, his face turning a light shade of red as he glared at Trixie.
“H-Hey! Dontcha know it's against the law to open somepony else's mail!?” he claimed, self-righteously. “Put our goods back in the box, or I'll report ya crime to Luna herself if I must!” he added, making Trixie blink at him for a moment.
“Pfft,” she snorted out, before breaking out into a fit of side-splitting laughter.
“H-Hey, what's so funny-” he began, but faltered as Trixie fell over, holding her sides as her laughter escalated, tears welling in her eyes as she tried to look at him.
“Y-You-” she let out, between fits of giggles that earned a concerned look from Reina. Slick however adopted an impatient look as Trixie tried to breath, “Y-You think you- That you can blackmail Trixie to Luna,” she got out, trying to get on her hooves, her shoulders shaking a little as Slick's shade of red deepened, from embarrassment. “Oh, ooh~ That was a good one,” she added, feeling a little relieved as she collected her breath.
“You laugh at breaking the law?” Reina asked as she looked at Trixie oddly, making the mare shake her head.
“Trixie was Luna's student. She's not worried of what a two-bit crook has to say about her.”
“Ya might just hurt somepony's feelins sayin' stuff like that,” Slick replied, sounding hurt as he eyed the straps that connected him to the carriage. “So, ya gonna give her back?”
“Trixie thinks not. She told Reina she'd help her find her mother.”
“Right. Good luck with that. That old broad's on the other side of Equestria,” Slick replied, making Trixie blink in surprise.
The other side of Equestria? That was more than a short stroll. Trixie then glanced to the side. Oh well. It is what it is. She had no intention of turning her back on the filly. She'd just have to put her tour on hold.
Her moment of affirmation came at a cost. Slick lurched the carriage forward, before quickly jolting back. The rocking caught her off guard, making her fall from her perch, crashing into the mud. She then heard the sound of wood snapping, as she pulled her face out of the road.
“Ms. Trixie! He's getting away!” Reina said, which wasn't really needed. If fact, it only helped to fuel Trixie's pivoting mood, as her eyes glared daggers at the fleeing stallion, his companion still on his back. She also couldn't help but notice that parts of her carriage's straps were accompanying him on his journey.
“Whoa-! Slick, what's going on!?” Sid asked in surprise, now holding onto her companion as he fled for his life.
Trixie's horn glowed, revealing a hidden drawer on the front of her carriage, filled with an arsenal of fireworks. One of the biggest in the box flew out, sending out a stream of sparks as it was guided towards the fleeing stallion. She got on her hooves as the firework reached them. It was at this moment that poor Sid looked behind her.
The duo was caught in a flashy display of Trixie's show-stopper, a privilege she doubted they'd appreciate. After the spectacle of blue fire, purple sparkles, and orange hues came to an end, Trixie couldn't help but smile. However, it didn't last, since she could make out Slick still running, with an even toastier Sid on his back, out cold once again. Shortly after the smoke cleared, the stallion rounded a corner, and disappeared from sight.
“Anndd they're gone,” Reina stated, her voice thick with disappointment. “Ms. Trixie-”
“Just Trixie,” the blue mare interrupted, her horn flickering as she magicked away the taste of mud pie from her mouth.
“So ... what now?” she asked, her green lizard doll in her hooves as she looked down on Trixie from the roof. “He said mom's on the other side. How far is that?”
“Assuming he was being true, that's a long ways from here.”
“But how long? I'm not dumb, Trixie, I want to know,” she added, getting a considering look from the mare.
“On hoof, it's a couple months away.”
“Oh,” she replied as her ears fell, before looking at the burnt crater Trixie's attack created. “Those two, they had me in the box. You found them, and took the box from them. Was that intended?” she asked, making Trixie shake her head. “Are you really gonna take me to her?” she added, giving Trixie a skeptical look.
“Stop looking at Trixie like that,” she requested flatly. “Yes, Trixie is gonna take you,” she added, making Reina look to the side, blushing slightly as she eyed her doll for a moment.
“Because Trixie wants to,” she replied, without even a hint of hesitation. Her answer surprised Reina, making her look at Trixie for a moment, before putting a hoof to her glasses. She then smiled, her body becoming less tense as she glanced from Trixie to the doll.
“Reina should thank the pony,” the doll said in a slightly deeper voice than the filly's, making Trixie blink. She eyed the doll, raising an eyebrow as she looked to the filly.
“Thank you Trixie, for helping me,” Reina said as she glanced to the side.
“See, that wasn't so hard~!” the doll quickly replied, Reina's hooves making it move in time with its words. It was subtle, but Trixie could make out her lips moving when the doll talked. “You should be nice to the pony, since she's helping! And those things on your face, that was nice too!” it added, making Trixie smile as she looked between the doll and its speaker.
“Those are called glasses. Reina, what's his name?”
“He's Tiko. Mom made him so I'd have a friend. He's always with me.”
“Well Tiko, Trixie thanks you for your kind words-”
“Don't talk to Tiko, you dum-dum!” the doll quickly replied, making Trixie blink in surprise.
“Tiko, you said be nice to her!” Reina chided.
“You. I said you! I'm just a stuffed doll, I owe that pony nothing! I bet she has more fluff in her head than I do in my whole body!” he let out, getting an annoyed look from Trixie. “What's with that dum-dum look? Wanna fight! I can take you on any day, my little pony!” it added, Trixie's horn starting to glow as Reina quickly hid the doll behind her. “Let me at her, let me at her!” it added, eliciting a sheepish smile from the filly.
“Cute,” Trixie replied flatly.
“So, you're really fine with it?” Reina asked.
“With Tiko? No.”
“N-No,” Reina replied, “Fine with helping me. For several months,” she said, making Trixie let out a small sigh, before nodding.
“Trixie said she'd help, and that's what she'll do,” she replied dismissively, moving around her carriage to appraise the damage to the straps as she did. A little bit of magic and some branches later, and it was almost as good as new. Almost. Slick was going to pay, next time she saw him.
“Magic sure is helpful,” Tiko pointed out.
“Mind helping us down?” Reina asked, before she let out a small yelp in surprise as Trixie levitated her and her things off of the roof. The filly blushed at her own reaction, and Trixie thought better than to place her on the muddy path. She opened the front window of her carriage, and levitated Reina inside. She peeked out through the opening as Trixie pulled her cart off the path, before going inside.
“Well Reina, Welcome to the home of the Great and Powerful Trixie!” the blue mare let out boisterously, getting a small snicker from Tiko, which the others ignored as Reina's eyes took in the small space.
A unkempt bed. Several drawers and cupboards with food and traveling amenities. As well as a bunch of this-and-thats resting on the wall, hanging from the ceiling, plushing on the bed. It was small, and cozy, but there was something about it that bothered the filly.
“It smells funny in here,” she pointed out, making Trixie clear her throat, her horn flickering before the place smelled of apples and flowers.
“You can sit in here, or rest on the roof, while Trixie gets us to Vanhoover.”
“What's a Vanhoover?” Tiko asked.
“A city Trixie was going do a show at tonight.”
“Show? Show what?” Reina asked, making Trixie adopt a sly grin. “What's with that look?”
“You'll have to wait and see,” she replied, before eyeing the cupboards. “If you're thirsty, Trixie has apple-juice here. You can have some, but the carrot juice is off limits. Low of food right now, but that'll change once Trixie's resupplied. If you need help reaching the higher drawers, just ask Trixie for help,” she divvied out as she nodded to herself.
“Why do you talk like that?”
“Because she's a dum-dum!” Tiko quickly interjected.
“That's just the way Trixie prefers to talk,” she then raised an eyebrow as she gave Reina a sly smile, “Just like you prefer to speak your mind through Tiko,” she added, getting a flustered look from the filly.
“S-She's onto us Reina!” Tiko let out. “I knew it was odd, the way she didn't freak out when I talked!”
“Hah!” Trixie let out as she stood tall, “Trixie can do the talking doll trick too. Without magic! It's called ventriloquism,” she explained, making Reina glance to the side.
“I didn't know its name,” she admitted in a low mumble, before looking Trixie in the eyes. “You don't mind?”
“You mean Tiko?” she asked, getting a nod from Reina, “Trixie can tolerate him.”
“Glad to hear it!” Tiko let out, “Now go outside and get moving!”
“Though, Trixie may be inclined towards using him as tinder,” she replied with a small frown, making Reina place Tiko behind her.
“Sorry,” Reina said with a small smile, “Thank you, Trixie.”
“You can thank Trixie when she's found your mother. With any luck, those two goons will try to take you back. When they fail, we can try asking them for details again.”
“-She said, after letting said goons escape,” Tiko chimed in from over Reina's shoulder, getting an aggravated sigh from Trixie, before going outside, and strapping herself to the carriage. She then eyed the muddy path apprehensively, before setting out.
“So, is your home on the other side of Equestria?” she asked.
“No. It's in a desert to the south,” Reina replied as she rested her chin on her hooves, perched on the front window sill. “I've never been in Equestria before,” she added as she eyed the passing surroundings, a hint of wonder in her gaze. “It's really green.”
“She likes it more than home~!” Tiko pointed out in a teasing voice, making Reina frown for a moment.
“It feels more alive, that's all.”
“That's because it is,” Trixie said flatly, getting an unamused look from the filly. She then dipped out of sight, getting a curious look from Trixie, before shrugging as she continued to Vanhoover.
She then faltered when she heard cupboards open, hearing things being moved around and rummaged through. “What are you doing?”
“Just looking!” Tiko replied, instilling little confidence in the mare as she pulled the cart through the mud. It wasn't long before Trixie had to wipe sweat from her brow, cursing the path as she did.
After pulling the cart for about half an hour, she was too wrapped up in her impromptu workout to realize how quiet it's been. She did however notice a break in the path ahead, revealing how thankfully close the spires of the city were.
“Hey, Trixie?” Reina chimed in, almost making Trixie jump in surprise, before looking over her shoulder. The filly had an embarrassed smile on her face, and she was avoiding eye contact with Trixie as she pulled into view an empty juice jug with her tail. “This, ugh, apple-juice. It was really good. Can you get more?” She asked, her face turning a deeper shade of red as Trixie gave her an odd look.
“There were two jugs.”
“Not anymore!” Tiko proclaimed, making Reina bury her face in her hooves, her ears adopting her blush. “She really liked the stuff,” he added, making Trixie adopt a sly smile.
“Trixie can get more, but why should she?”
“Because...” Tiko began, before letting out an annoyed sigh, “Because you're a nice pony?”
“That's right, and don't forget it~!” Trixie replied with a slightly victorious smile. She then stumbled when her hooves found firmer ground. Looking ahead, she saw that the path connected to a stone road, that seemed to go in the same direction as the muddy path she'd been following...
“W-Where was this path earlier!?” Trixie let out in dismay, getting a small chuckle from Tiko as she eyed the new road. Her ears then fell when she saw a sign indicating the path she'd been on. 'The Road Less Traveled --->'.
She honestly didn't know if she should feel proud, or embarrassed.
The new path was wide enough for several carriages to take it up side to side, and it lead directly to Vanhoover's eastern bridge. Trixie brought her carriage onto the stone, before cleaning herself off with a spell. She then pulled out her map, frowning as she saw no evidence of this nice, mud-free road. To be fair, she did get the map at a fairly cheap price.
“Is that a map of Equestria?” Reina asked as she joined Trixie's side, getting a nod from the mare. Reina then looked from the map, to the city nearby, her mouth falling open as she took it in.
Further down the road was a large bridge spanning a river. The bridge was high enough for boats to sail under. Past that river was a wall of mismatched buildings that pierced the sky. The road itself was full of busy ponies, a number of them passing Trixie's gaudy carriage without even batting an eye. Some noticed Reina, but didn't know how to react. Not many ponies have ever seen a lamia before, let alone one as young as her.
“Is that Vanhoover?” Reina asked as she turned to Trixie, an excited look in her eyes.
“That's right. Biggest city on the west coast,” Trixie explained as she put the map away, before giving Reina an amused smile. “Like it?”
“It's so big! How did those mountains get shaped like that?” she asked, getting a small chuckle from Trixie.
“A lot of ponies worked together to make them, that's how.”
“Worked together?” she repeated, the notion sounding alien to her.
“Yep! And Trixie's gonna show her tricks here! But first, we gotta enter~!”
“Right! Then you can do that show thing. Is that how you make, uh, money?” she asked, getting a nod from the mare, which made Reina's smile widen. “Which means more juice~” she said more to herself, before quickly slithering back on the carriage.
“Let's see the city!” Tiko decreed, leaving Trixie with a silly grin on her face, as she continued forward.
As they reached the bridge, a pegasus and earth pony, both stallions in uniform, approached Trixie.
“Well met miss,” the earth pony began, “I'm Roller, and this is Turbine. You here for business?”
“That's right!” Trixie let out energetically, before giving the stallions a sly smile, “You should know, you're speaking to The Great and Powerful Trixie! And she shall be performing a show at Hoover Park tonight.”
“That's quite short notice, is it a side-show show?” the earth pony asked.
“Carriage side,” she replied confidently, “Trixie however would like to set up in the park, if that's not too much trouble.”
“Trixie?” The pegasus said as he eyed her carriage, “Trixie Lulamoon? As in Princess Luna's student? 'Disciple of the Moon'? That Trixie?”
“But of course!”
“Well, you're in luck,” Roller replied as he wrote a few things on a clipboard, “The park isn't booked for any major events right now, so it's open to the public. Just make sure you clean up after yourself,” he explained, Trixie's smile growing in the process.
“That's great news~!”
“Well Ms. Lulamoon, would ya like a tour of Vanhoover?” Turbine asked, “It's only ten bits for the brief runabout. It'll help ya from gettin' lost.”
“Trixie appreciates the offer, but she'll abstain. She wants to see it at her own pace,” she explained, unaware that Reina was nodding in agreement, her eyes on the pegasus' wings.
“Heh, aren't you a cutie,” Turbine said as he noticed Reina looking at him, “Ya look like ya've never seen a pegasus before.”
“She's lived a sheltered life,” Trixie said with a smile, which was short lived. She expected Reina to snark back, but her words only seemed to pop Reina's little bubble of wonder. Turbine then raised an eyebrow as he flew closer, adopting a confused look as he better saw the young lamia.
“Um, Ms. Trixie, are ya aware that your filly has a snake's tail?” he asked, getting an confused look from Roller, while Trixie looked a little flustered at his discovery.
“Paint a picture, it'll last longer!” Tiko let out, Reina hiding behind him as Turbine raised an eyebrow.
“Magic eh? Neat trick. What's this filly to you, Trixie?” He asked as he gave the mare a suspicious look.
“Assistant!” Tiko let out, getting a surprised look from both Trixie and Reina, prompting the filly to throw the doll over her shoulder, “This is not how you treat a doll!” he let out, from inside the carriage.
“Assistant? That true little one?” he asked as he flew closer to the window, making Reina glance to the side.
“That's right! She's Trixie's stage assistant!” Trixie let out confidently.
“I was asking the filly, not you, or the doll.”
“...Yes, I'm her assistant,” Reina replied, giving him a forced smile as he scrutinized her.
“Welp, good enough fer me!” Turbine said suddenly, backing away from the carriage as he gave Trixie a hearty smile. “Enjoy your stay in Vanhoover you two. I'm lookin' forward to the show tonight!” he added, making Roller roll his eyes.
“About that, Turbine,” Trixie began, levitating out ten bits, “Though Trixie doesn't want the tour, she would like a favor, if it's not too much trouble?” she asked as she gave him a sheepish smile, making herself blush as she eyed him. He blushed in turn, before coughing into his hoof.
“Just name it!” he let out as he eyed the bits.
“Could you tell everypony you can about Trixie's show tonight?” she asked with a heartfelt grin, making him look a little more bothered as he quickly nodded.
“Keep your bits ma'am, it'll be my pleasure!”
“Glad to heart it!” she let out cheerfully, making Roller roll his eyes again as Turbine adopted a sheepish grin, before flying off. Trixie then nodded to the remaining stallion, before continuing on.
She then eyed Reina for a moment, who lowered her head to the point that her eyes were barely peeking over the sill's edge, as they entered the city in silence. After putting some space between themselves and the bridge, Trixie coughed into her hoof.
“Tiko said it-”
“And Tiko is you, Reina. Call Trixie a dum-dum all you like, but she's not gonna buy your act,” she assured, before adopting an amused smile, “Still, it wasn't a bad idea,” she admitted, “We can use that story to get you around Equestria,” she added, making Reina blink in surprise.
“Wait, so it's fine?”
“Yep!” Trixie let out, before adopting a sinister smile, “Hope you're ready, assistant,” she added, making Reina's eyes widen, before she let out a painful groan, thumping her head on the sill.
On a road less traveled, a hooded figure stood, perplexed. The trail was scorched. With a look of intrigue, she continued following the muddy tracks beyond, easily seeing that whatever caused the fire, it happened after her quarry passed this scene.
She halted, a bird demanding her attention. It chirped out everything it had, giving her a completely detailed recount of the events. It was especially sure to recount the evils of the blue mare, and her noisy, scary fireworks. As the chirping died down, the figure nodded.
“Thank you little critter,” she replied, getting a happy chirp from the bird. “Sadly, I don't speak twitter.” The bird had a surprised look in its eyes, before letting out a disappointed tweet, flying off.
Continuing on, she came upon a metal box, the imprint of a surprised mare bent into one of its faces. Her mouth fell open in shock, eyes noting the set of fresher wagon tracks with more interest as she took in new evidence. Discarded ropes and chains. Fragments of brightly painted wood. Tracks of a tall stallion, and a mare.
She then let out a sigh. Her quarry had switched hooves, and if the colored wood was any indication, Reina was with the gaudy wagon she passed on her way here.
“Seems I've come across a fortunate bungle,” she said, frowning as she glanced back the way she came, “But now I must return to the concrete jungle.”
With haste, she pocketed the wooden fragments, and started galloping back the way she came, hoping her little charge's new host was less villainous. And foolish.
Trixie's ears felt hot, making her glance around for a moment in confusion. She then dismissed the sensation, returning her attention to the dire matter at hoof.
“That'll be three hundred bits for damages,” she said, her tone leaving no room for debate, making the blood drain from the taxi stallion's face.
“Th-That is not worth three hundred bits!” he exclaimed, pointing that the garish scratches his negligent driving had caused to Trixie's wagon. “I'm not paying!” Trixie stepped close, making him slink back.
“Trixie will now take this moment to point out that this wagon was crafted and sanctioned by Princess Luna,” she said, a scowl on her face as she indicated a magical seal of authenticity branded on it. He took it in, his eyes widening, managing to look even more pale. “However, Trixie will admit to some fault, and cut you some slack.” She then nodded to herself, “Fifty bits, and you have to tell everypony you see about Trixie's show tonight.”
“F-Fine...” the stallion replied, his head held low. After an exchange of bits and details, he scurried off, his damaged taxi carriage pulled along.
“Why do you keep telling everypony about this 'show'?” Reina asked as Trixie pocketed the bits.
“The more ponies that know, the more there will be to witness the Great and Powerful Trixie~!” With that, she fixed her carriage with a brief flare of magic, before continuing on through the city. Reina tilted her head at Trixie's reply, still unsure of what a show was. However, with a small shrug, it wasn't long before her attention returned to their surroundings.
Being a city, it was a matter of course, there were ponies. Everywhere. All types, all colors, ages, and sizes, trotting from building to building with purpose, and those were the ones on the ground. Pegasi flew between the buildings, moving faster than those below, being just as driven.
And the buildings! They were taller than any hill the young lamia had ever climbed, each sporting their own unique look. Four story buildings made of brick and stone, forty story spires of colored metal, and in the sky, there were even a few buildings made of clouds. The crowded sidewalks were lined with bushes and trees, adding an ever-present touch of nature to the concrete jungle.
And it wasn't just her bespectacled eyes getting a taste of this biome. The air smelled of, well, a lot of things. The city's inhabitants. Food from countless venues. Critters that called the greenery home.
Curious, she gave the air a lick of her forked tongue shortly after entering Vanhoover. She was overwhelmed with sensory data, making her decide to keep her serpentine sense in her mouth, where it was safe.
Honestly, she was a little surprised she could even hear herself think, let alone what Trixie was saying. The drone and buzzing of walking, talking ponies melded together into an odd cacophony, reminding Reina of bugs buzzing on a cool desert night. Only magnified by twenty.
Suffice to say, she was completely enamored. If what she saw wasn't distracting her, it was some new smell, or some oddity in the buzzing around them. Easily, her eyes were taking up the most of her attention, making her point off towards the next spark of wonder.
“Tiko, lookie there!” she let out excitedly, her eyes soaking in a building further down the street. It stood like a pillar to the sky, walled with blue glass halfway up. The lower half was easily taller than all the buildings around it. The upper half was white, made of clouds, and it climbed further into the skies. Reina had a good feeling, that, was the tallest building. Anywhere.
“Oh, that's the Cloud-Ri-La Hotel,” Trixie pointed out, “One of the tallest buildings in Equestria.”
“Wait, there are even taller buildings?” Reina replied, unable to fathom it. “C-Can we go inside it!?” she asked wide-eyed.
“Not today,” Trixie said, before quickly adding, “But tomorrow...” her brow then furrowed as she glanced over her shoulder, looking to the filly. “Well ... don't you want to find your mother?”
“I, that is,” she replied, her ears falling.
“Well, we shall see what happens,” Trixie stated, eyeing the building, wonder in her eyes too, “Trixie wants to see Equestria from the top,” she admitted, giving Reina a small smile, which she mirrored. Trixie then distracted herself by talking to a pony running a wagon none too different from hers, only it was made to cook carrot dogs.
“If you wanna see it, then you should go see,” Tiko muttered, getting a considering look from the young lamia.
“Hungry?” Trixie asked as she levitated a dog over to the filly, getting a considering look from Reina as she took the carrot nestled meal in her hooves.
“Th-Thanks,” Reina replied, looking at her food with a confused look, eyeing Trixie as the mare started eating hers. Giving it a skeptical sniff, her curiosity was rewarded with a disgusted look. Taking a hesitant breath, she opened her mouth, exposing a pair of sharp fangs, which she sunk right into the carrot.
Her whole body flinched, eyes starting to water. With a hard jerk that almost made her fall back, she liberated her sensitive teeth from the hard veggie. When Trixie was distracted, the filly discreetly discarded the detestable delicacy. Which was promptly snatched up by a crow. She wiped her eyes with her tail, before letting out a bothered sigh. She wasn't hungry anyway.
As Trixie continued leading them through the city, Reina started to notice a few things about the path she took. With Cloud-Ri-La as a landmark, she found that they were traveling in a large circle, as if Trixie was avoiding the city's center. She also caught on that Trixie was mostly conversing with ponies that had wagons like her own. Ponies whose livelihood came with wheels.
“Trixie, haven't you told enough ponies about the show?”
“Trixie's told more than enough,” the mare admitted, before looking to the lamia with a curious look, “Why do you ask?”
“She's wasting time!” Tiko chimed in, getting an agreeing nod from Reina, which got a scoff from the mare.
“Trixie, is working!”
“You're just chitty chatting,” the plush salamander insisted, “like mom does with uncle Ren!”
“Look, if Trixie wants to make a healthy amount of bits from her show, she needs sponsors.” Yep, that got a blank look from the filly. “Look, Trixie's show will gather a lot of ponies into one place, and that'll happen around dinner. Those ponies will want snacks and drinks, so Trixie convinces a few vendors to go there and set up shop, and Trixie gets a small cut of the profit,” she explained, getting an intrigued look from the filly.
“...What if somepony you didn't talk to 'sets up shop'?” Reina asked, making Trixie blink at her for a moment.
“Well, aren't you a sharp one,” she replied with a sly smile, “Trixie will deal with those the same way she dealt with that taxi-pony.”
“Talk them out of their bits?”
“W-What?” Trixie replied wide eyed, “No, Trixie will make them regret it.” She then nodded to herself, “It's really simple. She'll just tell them that she'll remember this in her next Vanhoover performance. Tonight will be Trixie's first show here, and when it's a smashing hit,” she stated, her voice ringing with a captivating sense of certainty, “Trixie will work with the mayor for any future performances.” She then adopted a devious grin, “And any opportunists that feel like slighting Trixie today will come to regret it when the encore plays!”
“Well, isn't that mature of-“ Tiko began, being cut off when the carriage rounded a corner, revealing a vista that bled out into the western sea.
“Aww~,” Trixie let out, adopting a pleasant smile as a salty breeze blew past her mane. “The cities may be different, but this right here feels just like Manehattan,” she added, Reina's mouth falling open as she took in the blue horizon. Trixie noticed her awe, keeping a chuckle to herself as she led the wagon to a nearby beach, as populated as anywhere else in the city. “The docks are on the southern end of town, so this is where everypony goes to rest and relax,” she explained, bringing a hoof to her mouth as she yawned. “And Trixie could use some R&R right now.” Reina nodded absently, her eyes on the coast, the foaming waves drawing her attention. The filly then glanced to the side.
“Trixie ... you're gonna help me, right?” she asked, giving the mare a timid look.
“That's what Trixie's gonna do,” she replied without hesitation, “But there's not much we can do right now. If we exhaust ourselves too much, we'll be easy pickings,” she then adopted a bothered look. “And Trixie doesn't want to give those two goons the satisfaction of getting one over on her.”
“Psst, Reina,” Tiko began, making Reina glance to the doll at her side, “We should have fun while we're outside.” Reina frowned at that, considering the notion for a minute before looking to the spires, then the beach.
“Trixie agrees with Tiko,” the mare added, giving Reina an amused look, “Listen well, assistant. You should always make time to take a breather. Whether you're working, having fun, or doing something very important, it's all the same.”
“Why?” Reina asked, trying to raise a single eyebrow like Trixie had on several occasions, failing on her first try.
“Because being too focused on one thing can be stressful, and you're more likely to screw up when you're stressed out.”
“Sounds like an excuse to be lazy,” Tiko chided, making Trixie roll her eyes as Reina appraised them.
“...How do you, relax, at the ocean?” she asked, getting a wide smile from Trixie as she parked the carriage.
Ten minutes later, Trixie was sprawled out on a beach towel under a parasol, a short distance from the waves. Reina was laying on the sand, a pleasant smile on her face as she let the sun bake her back. The tip of her tail was waggling side to side slowly, which brought a small smile to Trixie.
The ponies around gave them a wide birth, just as unsure on how to act around the young lamia as everypony else that's noticed her. Trixie and Reina were oblivious to the curious stares. Trixie was used to attention. Reina didn't care. She was in her own little world, playing with the sand.
“Trixie suggests staying close,” she began, levitating out a wind up alarm clock from her beach basket. “We'll stay for a little over two hours, then it's back to work, okay?”
“~Kay,” Reina replied, eyeing Trixie as she closed her eyes, the clock set beside her.
“The dum-dum is going to sleep!” Tiko let out, “She wants us to be foal-napped!” Trixie let out a sigh, shaking her head.
“Don't wander off and you'll be fine. There's too many ponies around for Slick and Sid to try anything,” she added, pointing off to a lifeguard station nearby. Reina looked to Tiko, who fell silent, getting a small nod from the filly, as Trixie fell asleep.
With a magical click, the terrible, roaring bells of the alarm came to a thankful end, making Trixie stretch out, a blissful, shameless sigh of pleasure escaping her lips, before she opened her eyes. She then rubbed them, doing a double-take at the new addition to her surroundings.
There were four sand sculptures ahead of her sleeping spot. Three were finished. The shortest came up to her shoulder, the second was taller than she was, the third being higher than her standing on her back hooves. They were sandy replica's of some of the more distinguished buildings of the city. The shortest of the four had Tiko poised on it, the building looking as if a giant salamander had climbed up its side, destroying parts of the building in the process.
They were made very close to each other, and the reason for the height became apparent immediately. Reina was working on the fourth, modeled after the Cloud-Ri-La, and she was 'standing' on the other buildings for support.
The sculptures had drawn a small number of observers. Reina continued away, using her tail to sculpt out details such as window lines and inlaid balconies. She was so into the task that she didn't notice the ring of Trixie's alarm.
She worked quickly, her posture shifting constantly to reach all around her creation. The fact that she was using the other building as support clued Trixie into their integrity, causing the mare's mouth to fall open in wonder.
She was impressed.
Letting Reina continue sculpting, Trixie started packing her things away. As she finished, she gave the filly an appraising look. Reina's sculpting came to a stop, at a loss on how to proceed. She'd finished the 'metallic' part of the tower, but Trixie could see her eyes darting from her model to the real one, spotting the cloudy half.
“Hah,” Trixie let out, making the filly aware of her presence, “Not bad. If Trixie was inclined, she could do it too. Well, with her magic anyway,” she added, giving the filly a smile. Reina wasn't sure how to react, her face flushing a little, before she climbed down her spired miniatures.
“Aww, leaving already?” one of the onlookers asked, making Reina glance from them, to Trixie.
“We have a place to be, so sadly, it is so,” Trixie said in an apologetic tone, her horn starting to glow. Reina then watched, wide-eyed, as the second half of her miniature Cloud-Ri-La formed before everypony's eyes. After a few seconds, the tower was now complete, with a sandy base, and cloudy top. “In our absence we leave this tribute. Vanhoover is proving to be a wonderful place, and you all should be proud to call it home.” With that, Trixie started to leave, catching Reina off guard, who scooped up Tiko from his dominant perch and started following.
“You're not gonna tell them about the show?” Reina asked as she slithered to Trixie's side.
“Maybe next time,” she said with a smile, “That was your performance, not Trixie's,” she explained, making Reina's eyes widen in realization. The filly then glanced back at her work, seeing several more ponies coming to appreciate it. There was even an artist there, starting to paint a rendition of her sandy city.
“Is that what a show is?”
“Close, my talented little assistant,” Trixie replied in a teasing tone as they reached the carriage, before continuing on their way.
Trixie was frantic. Thanks to their little detour, she was behind schedule. Traffic didn't help. She was in a completely frazzled state as she reached the park, an amused look on Reina's face.
“You look stressed,” Tiko chimed in, his tone being far too happy, “You could use some R&R—“ he was suddenly knocked into the carriage with a telekinetic push, making Reina look at Trixie wide-eyed.
“Now's not the best time to mock Trixie,” she said in a dangerous tone.
“S-Sorry,” Reina replied, her ears falling as Trixie continued, the mare giving her full attention to what came next.
With a snap, the carriage's false wall gave way. Reina blinked in surprise, being inside the wagon when it lurched. Crawling out through the window, onto the roof, she could see the false wall, having been laid out to form a stage, the wall's removal showing a line of purplish-blue curtains. Trixie fiddled with the stage for several minutes, adjusting things only she could see, before nodding to herself. She then levitated out her cape and hat, Reina's eyes following them as the show-pony donned them on. She then hopped onto the stage, giving it a solid tap of her hooves.
As Trixie looked from the stage to where the audience was gathering, Reina let out a sigh. It was amusing to see her put the stage together, but the filly was starting to feel a little left out.
“Just stay put and watch,” Trixie replied, “Trixie doesn't have the time to show you what to do. That, and this is your first time seeing Trixie perform.” She then gave Reina a smug grin, “You won't want to miss a minute.”
“...Should I hide?”
“You're fine up there,” she assured, before tilting her head, “On second thought...” Reina let out a little yelp, which made her blush, as Trixie's magic hoisted her from the roof, placing her on the stage, near the curtains. “Stay right behind the curtains. You'll be fine, and, you'll get the best seat in the field!” Trixie then cleared her throat, priming herself up as she gave Reina a little wink, before turning to the gathering spectators.
“Fillies and Gentlecolts! The Great and Powerful Trixie is here! To astound. To amaze!” she decreed, her voice projecting over the crowd, getting their attention as a small stream of fireworks went off on both sides of the stage. “And tonight, Trixie will begin with a tale! A story of a princess, her kingdom, and the jealous father that wanted it all for himself!” She then leaned towards the audience, a sly grin on her face, “And though there are those that would say Trixie's tale is taller than your spires to the sky, Trixie can assure you, it is quite true.” She then coughed into her hoof before glancing to the side, adopting a small blush. “Well, mostly true,” she added, getting a few chuckles from the audience as she began.
The story started off with puppets made of loose cloth. Basic doll heads with fabric bodies that moved to Trixie's narration. It was simple. Despite that, the audience was drawn in as she spun her tale.
A fairy princess, looking to protect her mother and kingdom from a looming war on the horizon against the sprites. A vile, warmongering father. A loyal guard. Trusted friends. And an odd sprite prisoner.
Trixie gave each of them a voice of their own, the mare seeming to disappear from the stage as the puppets took the show for themselves. Reina was in awe, and so was the audience, drawn in by the magic of Trixie's delivery.
And then, the princess, along with her friends, fled the castle, now free of her father's clutches. The puppets walked through a veil of light, their simple forms disappearing, being replaced by fairies and sprites that matched the picture the puppets had painted.
The fairy princess, her best friend and the sprite traveled across dangerous lands on their journey to the kingdom of the sprites. But, the way wasn't easy. A terrible storm, opened eyes, new friendships, and loss greeted them on their journey.
Trixie narrated her story with flare, playing up the high emotions, and the low, directing her story toward the spectators, while acting as part of the audience; drawing them in. And before Reina realized it, the story had reached the climax. She was holding the curtain tightly as the final battle was presented to all.
A roar of fireworks went off as the victory was secured. The audience let out a hearty cheer, and Reina had to resist joining them in their triumphant cry.
“...And so, the fairies and the sprites found peace, and our newly crowned queen, a friendship that would last through the ages,” Trixie said, appearing on the stage as the illusions turned to the audience, bowing. “And they lived happily ever after.”
The entire story only took about half an hour, but Trixie looked ready to give more to her audience. Reina watched eagerly as the mare started to get more involved with the ponies. She talked to them, asking what amazing feats of magic they'd like to see. Sometimes, she'd give exactly what was asked, other times, she'd give something unexpected, causing a riot of laughter, usually at her own expense.
And through it all, Reina and the audience were enamored with the mare's show.
Reina blinked, her eyes moving from Trixie to the crowd. It had tripled in size since Trixie had started. Too many for the young filly to count. There were just as many adults as there were colts and fillies. Many of them were smiling. Some had a glow of awe in their eyes. And every single one of them were focused on the blue mare. She had their attention, and they were enjoying her use of it.
Reina then looked to Trixie. Being so close, she could see that the mare was sweating. She was giving the performance her everything, and she was loving every moment of it. The eyes on her, the smiles she spawned, the feeling of accomplishment at a successful show, they drove Trixie.
Reina wanted that. She liked seeing the ponies appreciate her sand-towers. She liked being a source of attention. Why? Was it because she'd grown up with just her mother? She didn't know; she didn't understand it all. That bothered her a little, but it didn't change how she felt. She wanted to be where Trixie stood. She saw all those smiles, and she wanted to be their source. The filly blinked again, looking at her hooves and tail, before glancing to the star of the show.
Could she be like Trixie?
She blinked again, before feeling her glasses with her tail. Her ears fell, the slight tingle in her eyes reminding her of the trouble they caused. She then flinched when something booped her nose.
Tiko was floating in front of her, carried by Trixie's magic. Reina looked to the mare, who gave her a small smile. Reina grabbed Tiko, hesitating a moment, before giving Trixie a smile in turn.
“Tiko, do you think we can be like her?”
“Be a dum-dum?” the doll asked, making Reina simply shake her head, as she continued watching Trixie's performance. Her gaze shifted from Trixie, to the stage she stood on, making Reina hug the doll close, as fire was burned in her eyes.
Trixie waved as the last vendor carted away. She arched her back as she stretched, a big smile on her face as she took in the early evening skies, where dark clouds were being gathered above the city. She then eyed her bulging purse, giving it a pleasant shake, before letting out a small yawn.
Turning around, she paused as she saw Reina, who was giving her a very upset look. Glancing past, Trixie could see that the park looked exactly as it had when they arrived, minus the young, dirty lamia with a pair of stuffed trash bags at her side. Trixie then nodded to herself.
“Good job, assistant!” she said, ruffling the filly's mane with a hoof, which Reina swatted away with her tail.
“It's Reina,” the filly shot back, before pointing to the bags, “And why'd I have to clean up the mess?” she asked, making Trixie scoff.
“Trixie thought you wanted to help. Besides, you said you're her assistant, didn't you?” she asked, making the filly glare at the ground for a moment.
“Couldn't you have cleaned up with your magic?” she asked accusingly.
“Trixie could,” she said, before looking terribly dejected, “but there's only so many Great and Amazing feats Trixie can do a single day.” She then leaned close, giving Reina's glasses a lite tap. “Making these took a lot out of Trixie. Because of that, she had to use all of her reserved fireworks. Still, it was all worth it in the end,” she said, wearing a big grin.
“So, you were tired, and made me do it,” Reina said flatly.
The filly let out a small sigh, giving Trixie an odd look for a moment, before looking over herself. She was covered in mud and spilled carrot-juice. There were popcorn kernels sticking to her scales, and there were a number of other unidentifiable things clinging to her. All of it, compiled together, left Reina with a particularly strong desire for a sand bath.
“...I smell funny,” she admitted, getting a small chuckle from Trixie.
“Luckily for you, it's supposed to start raining soon.”
“I'm doing what soon?” the filly asked, looking a little confused. “Oh,” she added, her eyes widening in realization, “You meant rain.” Her gaze then softened. “Like, pony made?” Trixie nodded, making Reina eye the clouds, blinking as a drop of rain left its mark on her glasses.
By the time they'd tossed the trash and returned to the wagon, the opening drizzle had upgraded into a downpour. “How does this make me lucky?” Reina asked, both of them under the carriage's extended canopy. Trixie looked to her, tilting her head at the filly's question as she lit a pair of lanterns.
“You can take a shower,” Trixie replied, sounding a little surprised by the question.
“A … shower?”
“...You don't have those where you're from?” Trixie asked, wide-eyed.
“She doesn't even know what 'those' are, you dum-dum!” Tiko pointed out, making Trixie glance at the window-perched doll, before sighing. She then levitated out a washrag and bar of soap, before pulling a half-barrel off from the back of her carriage, placing it in the rain.
“Trixie will clean you this one time, so pay attention,” she said, indicating for Reina to get in the tub, making the filly blush.
“I- I can do it myself!” she insisted, looking between Trixie, the barrel and the rain.
“Alrighty then,” Trixie replied, tossing the rag and soap to the filly, who barely caught them. “Trixie needs to take care of something else anyway,” she added, letting out another long yawn, before taking off her hat and cape, letting them hang over the door before entering her home.
The mare let out a sigh as she glanced out the window, seeing Reina standing at a loss, looking between the items in confusion. Adopting a small smile, Trixie opened one of the cupboards, pressing her horn to a gemstone embedded in the door's back. The gem pulsed, lines of magic covering the wooden surface, revealing a spell matrix that gave a small hum as it came to life. She then closed the cupboard, feeling the spell finish setting up.
“Do you think she'll come begging for Trixie's help?” the mare asked the doll, getting silence in return, making Trixie glance to the filly outside, before pulling out a quill and parchment.
Reina was no less perplexed. She was supposed to stay inside when the rains came. Equestria was a little too different from home. She then eyed the half-barrel, reaching for it with her tail and pulling closer. Looking in, she saw a small amount of water had begun to pool in the bottom, and a memory came to mind when she ran her tail through it.
The rains had just passed, and the long sleep was over. Water was plentiful, as it was when the raining season ended. And her mother had taken the opportunity of giving her daughter the rare luxury of a water bath...
Reina hugged herself, feeling a pang of home-sickness. She glanced back to Tiko, silently looking over her. She then gazed past the carriage, beyond the nearby trees, seeing the lit high-rises beyond the park. Her sickness went as quickly as it came, a fire lighting in her eyes as she pushed the barrel back into the rain. After taking a deep breath, she slithered into the tub, rag and soap in her hooves.
It didn't take long for her to figure out the purpose of the rag, but she was at a loss on what the soap was for. The fact that it was starting to get slippy was only complicating matters. Her eyes then widened in wonder as she saw bubbles born from trying to hold the bar.
Tiko watched the filly stoically as Trixie eyed her letter with a frown.
I, your Greatest and most Powerful 'former student', finally made it to Vanhoover, and her performance at the park was a smashing hit. As if there was ever any doubt! :)
So the strangest thing happened this morning. I found a filly in a box! And, she was a lamia! I don't know too much about lamia, and was hoping you could help
Trixie considered her incomplete work, eyeing the last paragraph, before letting out a sigh, making a quick motion with the quill.
So the strangest thing happened this morning. I found a filly in a box! And, she was a lamia! I don't know too much about lamia, and was hoping you could help
Naturally, I'm doing just fine. It was tiring, but I managed to do everything I needed to by myself! I even made enough bits to make my way to Manehattan, with some left over! And that was just from one show! Just imagine how well off I'll be by the time I reach Manehattan!
The mare then glanced out the window, noticing the rain lightening up as she saw Reina playing with the soap.
Well, mostly by myself. Look's like the Great and Powerful Trixie has gotten herself an assistant. But, that's a letter for another day.
She then hesitated, considering scratching off the last two sentences, before shaking her head.
So you don't need to worry about me. I'm doing just fine on my own. Like I said I would when I left, The Great and Powerful Trixie doesn't need anypony's help.
Pretty soon I'll be heading back to the east coast. I'll try to hit Ponyville and Canterlot on the way, so let the others know for me.
My best regards and wishes, Trixie Lulamoon~
She looked over the letter, nodding to herself with a smile on her face as she pulled out another parchment. In short order, she made a copy, free of edits. She then rolled it up, sealing it with wax. Her horn glowed, the candle's flame shifting to match, before she burned the letter. She watched with a smile as it burned, the ashes whisping out the window to their destination.
Another yawn greeted her, water in her eyes as she wound up her alarm clock. She glanced outside as she placed the clock on the desk, smiling as she took in the mass of bubbles formerly known as Reina.
Trixie raised an eyebrow as she stepped outside. Indeed, the tub and the filly inside had been covered up by bubbles. Trixie could hear the occasional giggle as she got closer, making her shake her head. Her horn tingled, Trixie's instincts warning her of an unseen danger in the tub, making her glance away as she cleared her throat. The patch in the sphere of bubbles parted, Reina's glowing eyes looking out curiously.
“...Is it bed time?” Reina asked, adopting a confused look as she noticed Trixie glancing away. The filly's eyes then widened when her tail reached for her face, feeling for glasses that weren't there. Her head disappeared into the plume of bubbles for a moment, her tail and hooves rummaging through the water before she found her treasure. Silence fell between them, the rain slowly washing the bubbles away, revealing a down filly, her back to the mare. “I- I'm very sorry Trixie, I didn't mean too...” she said, her ears low as Trixie let out a sigh.
The mare then frowned for a moment, her horn protesting as she lifted Reina from the barrel. The filly floated still, shame in her eyes as Trixie emptied the barrel, bringing it and Reina out of the rain. Placing it on the ground upside down, Trixie nodded to herself, levitating out a towel as she sat Reina on the barrel.
“Look, just, try not to lose those,” Trixie said in a composed tone, pointing at the glasses, “Trixie will make them even better tomorrow.” Reina's ears perked at that, making her give Trixie a curious glance. Which was smothered by being drenched from water pooled in the canopy. “Now, let's get you rinsed and dried off. And yes, it's just about bed time,” she said, helping Reina with the towel, before the filly insisted on finishing off by herself.
“...Trixie, do my eyes scare you?” she asked, making the mare raised an eyebrow at her.
“Scare?” she scoffed, “Trixie is concerned, but you don't see her running for the hills, do you?” Reina shook her head, getting a smile from Trixie.
“Maybe you should be...” Tiko said in a small voice, making Trixie eye the doll for a moment.
“If your eyes are that big a deal, then be more aware of these,” she said as she tapped Reina's glasses, getting a small nod from the filly. “Let's move along and get some sleep. Trixie has a magical trap set for those two goons, and when they attack Trixie in her sleep, they'll be as good as ours,” she said with a rueful smile, “Then we can … ask them where your mother is.”
“Okay...” Reina replied, letting out a short yawn as she slithered into the carriage, Trixie a step behind her. Both paused, becoming aware of a certain problem almost in unison. The carriage only had one bed. Reina eyed Trixie for a long moment as the show-pony considered the problem. “It's okay, I can sleep here,” Reina said, easily slinking under the desk, before coiling into a ball, getting a troubled look from Trixie.
“You want to sleep on the floor?” she asked, getting a small nod from the filly as she hugged Tiko close. Trixie glanced to the side, looking troubled, before letting out a sigh.
Her horn glowing, she levitated her cape over, unlatching the gemstone from it's clasp, before laying the garment on the filly. Reina didn't seem to notice. She was breathing soundly, already asleep, getting a small chuckle from Trixie. “Guess we both had a busy day...” she said with a small smile. With a clap of her hooves, the candle and one of the outside lanterns went out. Letting out one final yawn, Trixie curled into bed, and was out just as quickly.
The alarm went off. Its loud, infernal, otherworldly ringing made Reina stand up with a start, causing her head to hit the desk's underside. She let out a small yelp, tears forming in her eyes, cradling her head as the source of the ringing fell to the ground, landing on the floor next to her.
“Make it stop!” Tiko cried out, making the filly eye the offending cacophony with a heated glare. She then blinked as the clock was wrapped in magic. Becoming a blur, it disappeared with a crash, leaving a clock-shaped hole in the wall.
“Take that, you ruffians,” Trixie mumbled, punching a hoof in the air, before rolling around in her bed. Reina eyed her in wonder, the mare making strange, egotistical noises as she continued sleeping. Reina glanced at the hole. Despite being chucked, the clock still rang, albeit not as loudly. Correction. Several seconds after being ejected outside, the ringing grew in intensity, as if it had been designed to get noisier if it were ignored.
Reina, rubbing her head, slithered out from under the desk, surprised to find Trixie's cape resting on her. She adopted a small smile, which melted when she considered the sleeping mare, no different from a rock at this moment. A snoring rock.
“Behold, the dum-dum in its natural environment,” Tiko said in a sagely tone, “See how it drools~”
Reina shook her head, before looking to the hole Trixie made, her brow furrowing as the alarm continued singing its song. She sighed to herself, moving to the door, before the ringing came to an abrupt end. Her ears perked up, her back tingling as a worried notion came to mind. She then flinched as somepony knocked on the door.
“Ms. Trixie, have a letter from the mayor for you,” the knocker said, speaking the voice of a unfamiliar mare, sounding a little impatient.
Reina glanced from the door to Trixie, who was mumbling something about how amazing she was. Reina frowned for a moment, before glancing back to the door.
“I- The Great and Powerful Trixie is busy!” Reina replied, trying to imitate Trixie's voice.
“Don't hafta tell me twice, Ms. Trixie. I'll leave it by the door. The mayor would like ah reply as soon as possible. G' day to you.” Reina blinked, surprised that actually worked. She peeked through the window, seeing the mare trot off. When the coast was clear, the lamia opened the door, finding the alarm clock sitting in front of the door, the letter nestled underneath. She brought both of them in, eyeing the letter curiously, before turning to Trixie.
“Reina, don't be a dum-dum,” Tiko said in a sad voice, getting an annoyed look from the filly. “Once you start speaking like one, it's just a matter of time!”
“...Tiko, how do you wake a sleeping pony?”
“Oh, that sounds like a fun question!” he replied, Reina picking the doll up, before climbing onto Trixie's bed. “Roll her outta the bed?” he offered, which she considered, before placing her tail on Trixie's shoulder. She paused, becoming self-aware of her donned glasses, making her smile as she shook the mare.
“Don't me shilly Twilight,” the mare mumbled, “the shquare root of four ish delicious pie.” Reina tilted her head, appraising the sleeping mare in wonder.
“Maybe she's not a dum-dum, but some creature from another world,” Tiko offered with a small snicker.
“Trixie, wake up. The mayor has a letter for you. And...”
“We wanna climb the tall building!” Tiko added, “Oh, and find mom.”
“Tiko, that should have been first,” Reina mumbled.
"Well, Reina wants to also see from the top, right?" Tiko asked, getting silence from Reina, her brow furrowing as Trixie showed no signs of waking up. “So, knock her outta bed?”
There was a thud as the carriage rocked for a moment, before a surprised voice broke the silence that fell over the park.
“Tr- Trixie is awake!” the mare declared, sounding as dignified as she could, sprawled out on the floor. She then blinked, seeing Reina peeking at her from the bed. As Trixie tried to register this, another detail came to mind. One that took precedence, and quickly got her sluggish mind rolling.
There was an alarm-clock shaped hole in her wagon. Her eyes narrowed as she gave Reina an accusing look.
“H-Hey, you did it, not me!”
“The dum-dum did it! We saw the whole thing!” Tiko exclaimed, making Trixie consider them for a moment, before rolling her eyes as she got on her hooves. She spotted the alarm-clock on the desk, as well as the letter, taking a moment to consider it before giving the lamia her attention. Trixie had a rough look on her face, and Reina felt an urge to slink back under that stare. The mare then took in a deep breath, followed by a lengthy exhale, before looking to the hole.
“Guess this means those two fools are a little smarter than Trixie gave them credit for,” she said absentmindedly as she spent a minute addressing the wounded carriage. “It'll be hard, finding out where your mother is, if those two are too scared to approach the Great and Powerful Trixie,” she explained, getting a thoughtful look from Reina, before the filly pointed to the letter.
“Somepony said this was from the mayor.”
“Really?” Trixie said, her mood flipping around as she gave the letter her attention. Freeing it from the envelope, Reina watched Trixie read through it. Trixie's expression slowly went from curious to elated, a big smile growing on her as she reached the bottom, her shoulders shaking before she stood tall.
“Yeesss~!!” she let out, before falling back onto the bed with a hearty laugh. “It's only natural after all!” she added, laughing for a little longer, before she let out a happy sigh, her eyes on the carriage's ceiling. “There was never a doubt I could do it.”
“She said I,” Tiko pointed out, making Trixie flinch.
“What happened?” Reina asked, getting a surprised look from the mare. Trixie then blinked, before her smile faded. Getting up, she eyed the letter left on the desk for a moment, a conflicted look on her face. “Trixie?”
Before the mare could answer, there was another knock at the door, making the two share looks. Trixie's horn glowed, opening the cupboard to see the spell circle was still active.
“Who is it?” Trixie asked, getting on her hooves, tossing the letter in the trash as she approached the door. Trixie and Reina blinked when the door opened, revealing a cloaked zebra, who was appraising Trixie with a curious look.
“I'm sorry if I made you totter,” the mare began, “But I'm seeking a friend's daughter...” Her eyes widened when she noticed Reina, giving Trixie and odd impression.
A pony up to fairly little good was pulling a small wagon through the park. It was just after dawn, and the light ringing of somepony's alarm clock could be heard in the distance, making the stallion frown. Eyeing a familiar tree, he separated from the cart, giving the higher branches a passive look.
“Sid, ya there?” he asked, getting a surprised yelp from above, followed by panicked desperation, before a short scream that ended with a crack as something unseen fell into the bushes. Slick let out a small sigh as his companion's camouflage melted away, revealing an embarrassed lamia, sprawled out through the underbrush.
“P- Present...” she replied, sitting up, rubbing her head, before giving the stallion a curious look.
“Ya stayed back, right?”
“Right, just like you told me!” she replied, giving him a fired-up look.
“And...?” she repeated, titling her head.
“Did ya learn anythin' useful?” he asked as he brought a hoof to his head.
“Oh! Uhmm, I think Reina hasn't used her eyes on Trixie,” she replied, getting a curious look from him.
“Yeah. She's got these glasses, and they both got rather depressed when she dropped them while bathing in the rain.”
“Hmm, magical glasses eh? I guess ah student of Luna can-” he then blinked, “Wait, bathin'?” he asked, getting a happy nod from Sid, “What kinda broad makes ah filly clean up outside, in ah city?” he asked, before shaking his head. “If she's not under Reina's magic, that's gonna makes things … complicated.”
“If you say so,” the mare replied, “It's just a feeling, but I think the she isn't gonna just give Reina up,” Sid said with a bothered sigh, before slinking over to the wagon, adopting a small smile as she pulled out a make-up kit.
“Not yet,” Slick said, making her blink at him, before putting the kit back, crestfallen.
“So, big boss was mad then?” she asked, giving Slick a guarded look.
“He was,” he replied as he rubbed his bruised cheek.
“Sorry about breaking the wagon, and Trixie's too,” she added as she eyed the ground, getting a bothered look from the stallion.
“It ain't that bad,” he quickly assured, getting a confused look from her, “Boss got all strange-like when I mentioned the broad's name.”
“Ya, got all quiet. He looked, well, scared,” he explained, before frowning, “He wants us to just watch 'em 'til they leave the city.”
“Sounds good to me,” she replied, kit in her hooves. She noticed the bothered look her companion was wearing, making her tilt her head.
“He's assignin' 'back-up'.”
“He is!?” she replied energetically, getting a hushing motion from Slick, the stallion peering through the trees to their back, Trixie's carriage barely visible in the distance. “S- Sorry. So, who is it? Is it Habadashery?” she asked, making him shake his head. “Glimmer?”
“Ch-,” he let out, spitting to the side, “No. And all the better fer it. That mare gives me the willies.”
“Awww, but she's kinda cute,” she replied, ears fallen. “Umm, what about Flora Bed?” another shake of his head. “Bark? Yoinker? Clangidie Clang? Yick Yack? Onno Matto Peia?” she asked, winning a 'no' for each, prompting Sid to adopt a worried look. “R- Ruler?”
“Thankfully, no,” he replied, getting a sigh of relief from her, before her eyes widened.
“Then, that just leaves...” her ears fell along with her silence, tears starting to well up.
“I- Isn't dealing with that firework mare bad enough!” she said, tears running down her cheeks. “C- Can we ditch this for a better job? Like, watching paint dry? In jail, where it's safer?” she asked, getting close to the stallion, a desperate, begging look in her eyes.
“Sorry Sid. I told the boss the same, but she's the closest around,” he replied, before giving her a cool look. “Anyways, we messed this up, so now we gotta set it straight.”
“W- When's she coming?” she asked, getting a troubled look from Slick.
“Any moment now,” he replied, peering through the trees. His eyes then narrowed, “Where's the specs?” he asked, getting a flustered look from the lamia. Digging through the bush she landed in, she picked up a pair of...
Slick frowned, getting a sheepish grin from Sid as she gave him two 'monoculars' hanging from the same strap. He simply shook his head, before using one to get a better look at Trixie's carriage. “Ch- Look's like our tail's caught up with Reina,” he said, getting a confused look from Sid, making him nod his head in Trixie's direction. “The zebra...”
“So your name is Zecora?” Trixie asked, getting a nod from the cloaked stranger, taking off her hood.
“Ah!” Reina let out, eyes filled with surprise, “I remember that mane! Mom helped you when...” her face then scrunched, “When you were ... ?” she asked, getting a pleasant chuckle from the mare.
“It is lifting that you recall my face from then, when your mother carried me to her den,” Zecora replied, “Lost I was, in the southern sands weak with thirst. But with her aid, my plight grew no worse,” she explained, getting a small nod from the filly.
“That's right!" Reina replied with a nod, "You talked funny back then too,” she pointed out, getting another small chuckle from the zebra.
"And you have certainly grown, your voice now eagerly shown," she pointed out, getting a bashful smile from the filly,
“Yeah yeah, touching,” Trixie interjected, motioning Reina back from the door, “What's the short of it? Where's Reina's mother? And why are you showing up now?”
“The short of it that you do seek, is I must guide—“
“On second thought, nevermind,” Trixie interrupted, getting a surprised look from Zecora. “Trixie just needs to know where Reina's mother is,” she said, getting a considering look from the zebra, who glanced from Trixie to the filly.
“She waits south of Baltimare, where she can hide,” she replied, making Trixie blink.
“Guide and hide? Does that count as a rhyme?” Tiko asked as Reina's eyes grew in awe, “She is not a dum-dum!” he added.
“Using a rhyme is sublime,” Trixie began with an annoyed look, “but to astound a crowd, you must dare for flare.” She then raised her head, “Besides, that rhyme of hers was ruined by Trixie's interruption.”
“Of my rhyming, what you speak is true. But tell me Trixie, what will you do?” Zecora asked, indicating Reina.
“Trixie will take her there, of course,” she replied matter-of-factly, getting a surprised look from the zebra. Zecora considered Trixie for a moment, before nodding herself.
“If that is how it will be, then I shall accompany thee.”
“W- Wait, Trixie didn't ask for your help!” she replied, getting a confused look from Zecora.
“I didn't mean to get you riled. I simply seek to help the child,” she pointed out, making Trixie hesitate.
“Trixie is just being a dum dum. More is better!” Tiko chimed in, getting an agreeing nod from Reina. Trixie glared at the doll and its companion for a moment, before considering Zecora.
“You know where to go, but Trixie can fix that with this map,” she said, levitating out said article, before pointing at Baltimare. “If you want to accompany Trixie, you're gonna need to do more than rhyming.”
“A mare of many skills I am. Herbs, potions, lore, and more, madam.” Zecora then pulled out two vials, one a quarter the size of the other. “Particular diet, Reina has, which this brew can aid. While this one will make her eye's power fade.”
“Diet?” Trixie asked curiously, seeing Reina eye the larger vial. The filly blushed as her stomach made a gurgling noise, making her glance to the side for a moment, before eyeing the smaller vial. “Well, besides that, Reina doesn't need her power 'faded', that's what the glasses are for,” she pointed out, getting a disagreeing look from the lamia, who kept it to herself.
“But, the glasses only work when I wear them,” Reina said flatly, getting a cross look from Trixie.
“Let Trixie see those,” she replied, making Reina blink, before eyeing the ground as she took the glasses off. Zecora put her smaller potion away as she eyed Trixie curiously. The alchemist then noticed the filly carefully eyeing the larger brew, prompting the zebra to give it to her. As Reina accepted it, Trixie's horn started to glow brighter, the glasses doing the same. “So what's this about a diet? Are Lamia allergic to water or something?” Zecora chuckled at that, but her reply was cut short when Reina tapped her with her tail, avoiding eye contact as she shook her head. The sage nodded in understanding.
“Hard foods are no good. Leave that to me, if you would.”
“...Fine,” Trixie replied, looking a little put off.
“Hey, Trixie!” an unknown, tomboyish voice called out from outside, making Trixie's concentration waver, getting a frown from the show-pony as she glanced outside. She raised an eyebrow as she took in a pegasus wearing goggles and thin saddlebags hovering several meters above. “Catch~!” she let out, a red stick with a lit fuse leaving her hooves. Trixie's horn glowed. The pegasus' smile then turned to surprise as her stick stopped falling, floating right in front of her. “Eh?”
The pegasus disappeared in a small plume of fire and smoke, the boom making the carriage rock slightly, wind blowing through Trixie's mane. The show-pony couldn't help but smile.
“Now, where were we?” Trixie asked, looking quite pleased with herself as her attention returned to the glasses.
“Y- You think a single explosion is- cough, is gonna do me in!” the ruffled pegasus asked, flying closer, another lit stick in her hooves. Her eyes then widened when they met Reina's, whose attention had been caught by the explosion.
Trixie casually glanced over her shoulder as she stomped a hoof on her carriage. In response, the magical crystal in the cupboard glowed brightly, its light shining through the wood as the pegasus was trapped in a magical cage. Said prison was short-lived, the bars disintegrating as another explosion swallowed up the pegasus.
Trixie frowned, hearing the crystal snap as the cupboard burst to pieces. Feeling flames lick the carriage's canopy, Trixie took in a deep breath, putting the glasses back on Reina's surprised head, before giving the thinning mushroom cloud her undivided attention.
“You haven't won yet, you hay-rolling meddler!” the mare let out, the smoke giving way to reveal that her original colors were now lost in a layer of black soot. She was pointing accusingly, but was facing the wrong direction.
“The Great and Powerful Trixie disagrees,” she replied, sounding as if the entire thing was beneath her, “Incidentally your saddlebags are on fire,” she added, her horn glowing to make the statement true, getting an alarmed look from the pegasus. She tried to reach for her bags, only to notice they weren't on her back. She rubbed the soot from her goggles, before freezing in acknowledgment. Trixie was levitating the fiery bags a pace away from the flying mare.
“You- You cheeky little-!” Trixie levitated the bags closer, getting an indignant cry from the demolitionist as she started to fly away, her bags in hot pursuit. Her flight was given a speedy boost when the bags detonated, propelling the pegasus out of the fireball, leaving a trail of smoke in her wake as she disappeared beyond the tree line.
“...Is she going to be okay?” Reina asked in an unsure tone, getting a short scoff from Trixie.
“A mare like that is quite tough, even if that was a little rough,” Zecora replied, looking a little bewildered.
“Who was that?” the filly asked curiously, wiping some ash from her glasses, and successfully smudging them instead.
“Don't know. Either it was somepony jealous of how amazing Trixie is! Or, probably a friend of those two goons,” she replied, giving Reina's glasses a light tap with her hoof, making them sparkle, soot free. “Now, the enchantment Trixie's placed on the glasses will linger after you take them off, about half an hour or so. You won't need those silly potions, and the magic will stay longer if your eyes are closed, so your eyes will still be safe for a few minutes after waking up in the morning.”
“R- Really!?” Reina asked wide-eyed, getting a small smile from Trixie as she nodded. “Thanks Trixie!”
“Think nothing of it, assistant. Trixie is well aware of how nasty 'good' concoctions taste, and felt it was her solemn deed to spare you such torment,” she said valiantly, winning another small chuckle from Zecora, which got a brief look of annoyance from Trixie in return.
“What's going on out here?” another unexpected voice asked, making Trixie shoot daggers from her eyes at the source. Those daggers melted away with surprising swiftness as Trixie took in the police officer.
“T- Trixie can explain...”
“Fricken unicorns!” Ember Dust exclaimed, getting small, agreeing nods from Slick and Sid, “Had I another stick, I would have had her!” she added, getting flat looks from them. “What, I would!”
“We saw the whole thing,” Sid said, before mumbling 'idiot' under her breath.
“Ya know it's bad if Sid calls ya an idiot,” Slick pointed out, getting an alarmed look from the lamia, who slinked back as Ember got in her face.
“Who are you calling an idiot?” she asked, making the stallion clear his throat.
“Sid, what do you call a pony that blows themselves up?”
“Unfortunate,” she quickly replied, getting a briefly disappointed look from Slick as the pegasus turned her ire towards him.
“Let's get movin',” he insisted, “The cops are gonna be lookin' around here soon.”
“Hey, we're not done here!” Ember replied.
“Yes, we are. The boss said so,” he replied, strapping himself to the wagon as Sid crawled into the back, before she started applying her make-up. Ember flew closer, a flustered look on her face.
“Okay. Fine. I kinda botched it, but only a little! We can still get Reina back,” she said, a sense of urgency in her voice that made the stallion consider her. “We can't let her stay with that mare, there's no telling what she'd do to her!”
“Must I point out you almost blew her up?” he asked, getting an insulted look from her.
“Oh please, I checked my fuses so my sticks would blow before getting too close to the wagon.”
“Clearly,” he replied, getting a happy nod from her, before the implication dawned on her, making her give him a heated look. “Anyways, we ain't tryin' anythin' 'til they leave the city,” Slick assured, making Ember get in his face.
“And I'm saying we gotta do it now!” she decreed, getting a long sigh from the stallion, before he matched her glare.
“Gettin' blown up must be tirin'. You should take a nap,” he said in an odd tone, getting a confused look from the pegasus, before she flinched.
“Ow!” she let out, seeing Sid reel back from her, spitting as if she just tasted something disgusting. “Did you just bite...” Ember's eyes started to droop, “...me?” she asked as she passed out. Before falling to the ground, Sid caught her with her tail, lifting her into the wagon, before trying to wash out her mouth.
“Bleh, she tastes just like charcoal,” the lamia let out, her ears perking as Ember started to snore.
“...And how do ya know what charcoal tastes like?” Slick asked in a sarcastic tone, making the lamia look at him for a moment, before adopting a sheepish blush.
Reina eyed Trixie and Zecora, who were still conversing with the police. Her gaze then shifted to the bottle the zebra had given her. Pulling off the cork, she gave the contents an experimental lick. Finding it almost as pleasing as apple-juice, she quickly downed it, being left quite satisfied. She appraised the empty bottle, glancing to the mares, before taking it over to the trash. She paused when she noticed the parchment resting in it.
Looking back to Trixie, she adopted a curious look, swapping the bottle for the parchment, which she started to read. Yep, nothing but chicken scratch. She wasn't surprised or disappointed, but annoyed. It resembled all the other pony writing in the city, which the filly couldn't make heads or tails of.
“Honestly, that took far too long,” Trixie said as she returned into her carriage, her eyes narrowing on the broken cupboard, among other things. She then gave Reina a curious look when she noticed what the filly carried.
“Trixie, what's this say?” Reina asked, making the mare frown for a moment, before it disappeared in a blink of realization.
“You can't read?” Trixie asked, her tone making Reina frown at nothing in particular.
“I, well, mom said she'd teach me how to read pony, but...” she explained as her ears fell.
“If it's something of concern, I can help you learn,” the zebra chimed in, catching the others off guard.
“I, I'd like that!” Reina quickly replied, before looking back to Trixie, “So, what's it say?”
“Not your concern,” she replied, throwing the letter back in the trash. “Look, Zecora, you can help, just, stay out of Trixie's spotlight, alright?” she asked, getting a considering nod from the zebra.
“The stage is yours, my good magician. Thank you for letting me follow my mission,” she said, making Trixie blush for a moment before she glanced to the side.
“Y- You're just lucky that Trixie is Kind and Considerate!” she added, getting a smile from the zebra.
“Zecora, is mom alright?” Reina asked, getting a nod.
“That I can assure to be true, and she is waiting for you.”
“But the road is long, so just stay strong,” Trixie added, before her eyes widened in realization. “Oh great, now Trixie is rhyming!”
“...Can we see Cloud-Ri-La, before we leave?” she asked, getting a small nod from Trixie which won a smile from the filly.
“I swear,” Trixie mumbled under her breath, “first a filly, now a zebra? At this rate, Trixie will be a circus ringleader before we even reach Ponyville!” she said, before letting out a sigh.
“You'll be a spring eater?” Tiko asked in a confused tone, getting a cold shoulder in return. After that, Trixie quickly got her things together, repaired her cart, and before long the three of them were on the move.
“Zecora,” Reina began, perched in the window as she got a curious look from the mare, who was following alongside the carriage, “Why was I foal-napped?”
“A good question you bestow. Sadly, I do not know.”
“We'll find out sooner or later,” Trixie chimed in, “But enough about that, we need to get stocked up before heading out. And, there's a certain building to climb,” she added, giving Reina a small smile, which the filly mirrored, as they returned to the heart of the city...
Trixie's eyes widened, an excited twinkle in them as she took in the the wide structure. 'Vanhoover Super Mega-Mall' was splayed across each side in bright colors, a four story shopping complex just begging for all of your bits. It was bigger than the hockey ring across the street, but smaller than the hoofball stadium that towered behind it. Plenty of ponies were entering and exiting the complex; a small number of them had wagons with them, getting a smile from Trixie.
“What's this place?” Reina asked, her eyes matching Trixie's.
“It's the largest collections of stores this side of Equestria,” Trixie answered, taking her carriage to the entrance, “Everything a pony could ever hope to buy is waiting for us inside.”
“So, it's like all of those pony stalls outside, selling things, but here it's all in one place,” Reina elaborated, “Bits sure are convenient.”
“Hah, indeed!” Trixie replied, giving her assistant a beaming grin, “The trick is to keep it as best you can, which the Great and Frugal Trixie is quite good at doing, just you watch!”
Trixie's eye twitched as a moth lazily escaped her purse. She let out a tired sigh as she rested her chin on the table, her carriage parked next to it, loaded down with supplies.
She shopped expecting a number of things she'd need to get going: Refilling her cache of fireworks. Buying supplies to last them to at least Ponyville. Acquiring enchanted lumber, and replacing the shattered spell crystal.
What she wasn't expecting, was all the extra purchases needed for Reina. After all, it just wouldn't do to have an illiterate assistant! And not only that, but it seemed only fitting to buy the filly a stage costume; Trixie kept that purchase a secret, just in case the filly wasn't up for performing.
Every good magician has a stage aide, right?
“...Maybe Trixie is taking this assistant thing too far,” she mumbled into the desk, getting a considering look from Zecora, before the zebra took a sip from her tea. “N- Next time, Trixie is going outside the city to shop!”
“Is that better?” Reina asked.
“The prices were set as a starter, leaving no room to barter,” Zecora replied as she swilled her drink.
“It was a scam!” Trixie added, “Those prices! Some of those would put Canterlot stores to shame! And then there was the carriage fee!” she exclaimed, before letting out a sigh. “Those bits were supposed to last,” she said in a whining tone. She then lifted her chin as she frowned, “Trixie doesn't want to be in Vanhoover anymore!”
Her eyes then shifted when she saw her lunch approaching, which was being delivered by a pony on roller skates. Said mare expertly left Trixie and Zecora's orders on the table, before sliding to the carriage window to give Reina a glass of apple juice. The waitress flinched when the lamia grabbed the cup with her tail.
“Thank you,” Reina said, making the server blink, before she gave the filly a smile. “You okay Zecora?” the filly asked as the waiter skated off, “You haven't said much since we left the park.”
“That is because I do not like this alien place. What with its hustling, bustling, and lack of space,” she replied with a sigh, getting a curious look from the others. “I am thankful for your concern. Truly, leaving is what I yearn.”
“Well, Trixie can no longer blame you for not liking the city,” the showpony said as she appraised the high sun, “We'll leave soon enough. We just have one stop left before we do,” she added, hers and Reina's eyes looking to the towering spire right down the street from where they ate.
“Hah. Down here with the carriage I'll stay. So, you two are free to go up and play,” Zecora replied with a small chuckle, making Trixie give her a flat look. “But before I give way, tell me, how will you pay?” she asked as she indicated their food.
“A smart mare doesn't keep all her bits in one place,” Trixie replied in a sagely tone, before digging in. Reina watched the two adults for a minute, sipping through her straw, before she turned into the carriage's interior to appraise the things Trixie bought for her.
Nestled between the bed and cupboards was a small pile of children's books. They had bright colors, and were filled with pictures. Shuffling through the books in order stacked, she frowned when she reached the bottom.
“A lamia book!” Tiko said, prompting Reina to carry it over to the window, seeing Trixie looking flustered.
“And what would you know about magic?” she asked, making Reina tilt her head for a moment, before clearing her throat.
“Trixie, what's this book for?” she asked as she showed the book, picture of a lamia drawn in a cartoon-ish fashion on the cover. Trixie blinked, before coughing into her hoof.
“That, that book is for Trixie, so she can learn a little more about you.”
“Dum-dum! You could have just asked!” Tiko let out, making Trixie give the doll an annoyed look for a moment, before she adopted a sheepish smile.
“Trixie could have, but she, uh, didn't want to trouble you!”
“Liar,” Reina replied with a flat look.
“Okay, fine,” she replied, looking a little put off, “Trixie didn't consider that. So, smarty pants.” She blinked before tilting her head, “Can lamia even wear pants?” She then shook her head, “Alright, smarty flank.” Trixie blinked again, about to ask another pointless question, before her eyes narrowed. “Reina, tell Trixie about lamia.”
“Right now?” the filly asked, sounding disinterested.
“Well, you brought it up, so yes!” Trixie replied.
“Lamia come in three types. Of that, I'd bet my stripes,” Zecora offered, getting a cross look from Trixie.
“Trixie wants her assistant to explain, thank you very much,” she replied, getting a small smile from the zebra as the filly nodded. “And Trixie read that part. The three types are constrictor, mesmerizer, and slithering lamia.”
“Uh, that's wrong,” Reina said, making Trixie give her a surprised look as Zecora chuckled.
“Completely, utterly wrong,” Tiko added.
“But, that's what the book said,” Trixie replied defensively.
“Well, the book is wrong,” the filly insisted, making the mare's eyes narrow.
“The names are too long, and it's not how we refer to each other,” the filly began sagely, looking quite pleased with herself. “The three types are boa, mystic and lurker.”
“Mom is a lurker,” Tiko said, “calling her one is like calling you a unicorn. Or a dum-dum.”
“So,” Trixie began with a pondering look, “calling Reina a mystic is like calling Tiko tinder?” she asked, making Reina nod briefly, before her eyes widened. “Excellent!” Trixie added, making the filly hold the doll protectively.
“Tiko is not tinder!”
“Yes yes,” Trixie replied as she waved a hoof dismissively, “So, what makes them different?”
“Oh, well, boas are really strong, or really flexible,” Reina explained. “Some are both, it depends on the lamia. When it gets cold, lamia get really tired and sleepy, but not boas!” She then adopted a warm smile, “Granny is a boa.”
“That's right!” Tiko added, “We once saw her crush a boulder! It was awesome!” the doll said energetically, getting a smiling nod from Reina.
“You can do the next one, Tiko,” the filly said, making the doll nod.
“Okay! Mom is a lurker, and lurkers have a nasty bite.” Reina glanced to the side as the doll continued, “What that bite can do varies from lamia. Mom can make things feel sick. Some bites can make the bitten feel confused, or sleepy.” Reina then glanced to Trixie, an excited look in her eyes, “Mom's pretty cool; she can also exhale a mist that's like her bite, but weaker and more spread out. And the neatest thing that just about any lurker can do is appear to be invisible!” he finished, Reina's smile fading as she let out a sigh.
“I wish I was more like mom...” she said as she fiddled with her glasses.
“So, does that mean your father was a mystic?” Trixie asked, making the filly frown.
“Yes,” she replied curtly, making Trixie tilt her head.
“Does a mystic's eyes come in different types too.”
“It does, and dad's was the worst,” she replied, getting an eager look from the blue pony. “His eyes ... made anything that looked into them fall in love.”
“Huh,” Trixie replied, imagining such an ability, “That sounds pretty useful—“ her sentence ended with a 'Foal's guide to Lamias' nailing her right in the head, making her fall back from the table with a crash.
“What do you know, dum-dum!” Tiko replied, making Trixie blink as she saw the glare Reina was giving her.
“You didn't have to throw the book at Trixie!” the mare replied, making Reina glance to the side for a moment.
“It's not useful. I hate it,” the filly mumbled, making Trixie's eyes narrow.
“Trixie will not have that kind of talk coming from her assistant,” she replied, getting a confused look from Reina. “Your eye's magic is a part of who you are. You shouldn't hate any part of—“ another book came flying her way, and this time Trixie caught it.
“Dum-dum!” Tiko shouted as Reina left the window, slamming the shutter shut, shattering into a shambled state.
“W- What was all that about?” Trixie asked as she the wooden fragments, getting a calm sigh from the zebra.
“When you upset a child, they tend to go wild.”
“And just how did Trixie upset her?” she asked as she looked to the zebra, “Her eyes are her eyes. Hating that is the same as Trixie hating her magic. It's just … wrong,” she said, a conflicted look on her face. “Why would she hate her magic?” she asked, getting a considering look from Zecora.
“What eyes of love can bring about, must surely bring her a lot of doubt.”
“'Do my friends and family love me, or is it my eyes they wish to see?'” she offered, tilting her head as she looked to Trixie, who looked troubled.
“...Can a mystic control their eyes?” she asked, getting a small nod from the zebra. “So, Reina just can't control hers yet,” she said, her horn glowing as she reformed the shutter. “Is Trixie ... suppose to apologize for this?” she asked, more to herself than Zecora, tilting her head in thought as the zebra eyed her quietly. Trixie's eyes met hers, making the blue mare blink, before raising her nose. “Trixie didn't do anything wrong, so there's no need to apologize. In fact, Reina was the one that threw a book at Trixie! She should be the one saying sorry!” she exclaimed, before her shoulders slumped, “Still...” she left hanging as she went around to enter her carriage.
Looking inside, it appeared to be completely empty. A brief moment of panic hit Trixie, her horn glowing to sense nearby magic. She then let out a small sigh as she pinpointed Reina. Lifting the blanket hanging over her bed's side, she bent down to peer beneath, seeing a filly who was avoiding eye contact with her. “It would appear that there's a snake under Trixie's bed.”
“I don't want these eyes,” Reina mumbled, making Trixie frown briefly, “they're the kind of eyes a bad guy would have.”
“Is your father a bad guy?” Trixie slipped out, her eyes widening at her own careless blathering. Reina didn't respond, making the mare tilt her head. “Trixie didn't mean to ask that...”
They silently considered each other for a moment longer, before Trixie let out an annoyed sigh. “Look, Trixie didn't mean to make you mad. Trixie likes magic, and she likes your eyes, so she didn't like hearing you say you hate them.” Trixie paused for a moment, eyes darting around as she looked for what to say next. “They're your eyes, so Trixie can't hold your dislike of them against you...” she concluded, giving the filly an awkward smile, which Reina looked away from. “Look, are you going to stay under there all day?” Her continued silence made Trixie frown again.
The mare was about to open her mouth, but quickly shut it, getting on her hooves as she sat on the bed, a ponderous look on her face. She kept pondering until she started to show signs of frustration. Her annoyance faded when her eyes fell to the pile of books, before said eyes widened. “Reina, as we know, Trixie is quite adapt at controlling magic,” she began, resisting letting out a yelp when Tiko appeared out from under the bed, right between Trixie's legs.
“What of it?” the doll asked.
“W- Would you like Trixie to help you control yours?”
“...Really?” Reina asked.
“Really,” Trixie replied with a nod, “It's a long way to Baltimare. Trixie is sure we'll have plenty of time to get it down,” she assured, before hopping on her hooves, “But, if that's not good enough for you, then Trixie supposes you can just stay under the bed.” She then left the carriage, pausing before the door closed, “That just means Trixie will be going to Cloud-Ri-La alone.”
Reina's eyes widened as she heard the door close. She hugged Tiko closer as she eyed the light leaking in through the blanket.
“She's just trying to lure us out,” Tiko said, getting a nod from Reina.
“But, I want to go,” Reina said, “And, shes gonna help us even more...
“She's too nosy. And, she should have said sorry!” Tiko added, making Reina frown.
“I did throw a book at her...”
“Heh, that was great! Got her right between the eyes!” the doll said with a small chuckle. Reina then reached for her glasses with her tail, tugging on them lightly, before the filly adopted a determined look. Leaving her hiding place, her eye caught something in the corner, making her reflect on what happened this morning, before she pulled it out of the trash. Nestling the tossed letter discreetly between herself and Tiko, Reina quickly slinked out the door, her eyes widening when she saw no sight of Trixie.
“Over here,” the mare let out, making Reina blink as she saw Trixie sitting at the table, continuing her meal. “What, you didn't think Trixie was going now, did you?” she added with a small smile, getting a bothered look from the filly. “Trixie said she'd take you to the building, and that's what she'll do.” The mare then blushed, “Trixie hasn't always been the best when it comes to keeping promises, but, she's trying. And... Trixie is...” The mare looked like she was trying to spit out something uncomfortable.
“Trixie,” Reina began, “I'm sorry for throwing the book. I got mad.”
“Oh, really?” Trixie replied sarcastically, before wincing, “Look, let's just put that behind us, okay?” she asked as she levitated the book towards the filly, who took if, giving Trixie a nod. “Excellent!” Trixie let out as she got up from the table, giving the zebra a considering look, “Trixie is trusting that her carriage won't blow up while she's gone, okay?” she asked, making Zecora chuckle.
“No need to ruffle your mane. In one piece, it will remain,” she replied with a smile.
“Right, come on assistant, we have a mountain to climb!”
“Wait, do ponies actually climb up those things?” Reina said wide-eyed as she looked to Cloud-Ri-La.
“Oh heavens no!” Trixie exclaimed, “We've got elevators to save us from such a terrible fate!”
“Wow! We're so high up!” Reina said excitedly, placing a hoof on the window as she took in the city around the tall hotel.
“And this is only halfway up!” Trixie said, appreciating the view for a moment as well.
From this high, the half-way terrace was above most of the other buildings in the city, giving the illusion that Cloud-Ri-La was surrounded on all sides. Reina pressed her nose to the glass, looking at the ponies and carts down on the streets below. She was in her own little world.
Trixie couldn't help but smile at the filly's wonder. Before she could get in another comment, however, one of the other ponies in the terrace addressed the showpony, seeking an autograph. Trixie turned to them, giving them a beaming smile as she did just that. Reina noticed Trixie's distraction, prompting the filly to slide back a bit as a few more ponies started seeking Trixie's quill.
“First the ride up, and now here,” Tiko said, getting an envious sigh from Reina.
“Then there were those that saw her in the big store,” Reina added as glanced to the side, before eyeing the few other ponies in the room. “Looks like now's our chance, Tiko.”
“Reina?” the doll asked curiously.
“Trixie wouldn't answer, and I'm sure Zecora wouldn't either, but, I want to know,” the filly replied as she pulled out the letter, leaving the distracted show-pony behind as she approached a pony keeping themselves separate from the crowd. “Excuse me, miss, could you read this for me, please?” she asked of the mare, catching the unicorn off guard.
“Um, uh, sure, sweetie,” the pony replied with a sheepish grin, taking the letter in her hooves for a moment, “A letter from the mayor?” she asked in surprise, before reading it out loud. “'I heard about your performance, and the crowd it gathered. That, along with you being a pony worthy of note, has led me to offer you a primary spot in the Grand Performance Tribute'!” the mare blinked before looking to Reina. “Where'd you get this from?”
“It's a letter that was given to...” Reina paused for a moment, before glancing to the side, “my caretaker.”
“They must be quite the pony to get a primary spot,” she said enthusiastically.
“What's the Grand Performance Tribute?”
“You don't need to use the long version, most everypony here calls it the GPT, or the Tribute.”
“Okay, but what is it?”
“Oh, sorry,” she replied in an embarrassed tone, “It's an event Vanhoover hosts every two years. A lot of ponies come from across Equestria to perform, or see performances of all kinds. If you're really good, you can make a lot of bits and a name of yourself there.”
“Really?” Reina asked wide-eyed, “When is it!?” she asked excitedly.
“Umm, about three weeks from now, to this day,” she said with a smile, making Reina blink.
“Th- Thank you,” the filly added, taking the letter back.
“You're very welcome. Oh! If I may ask, who was the pony's name?”
“Trixie... Where have I heard that name...?” the mare replied, before blinking and noticing the thinning crowd around said pony. Reina hid the letter again as the mare approached Trixie.
“Trixie really is a dum-dum,” Tiko said, his voice sounding a little deflated as Reina nodded in agreement. A minute later, Trixie returned, looking quite happy with herself.
“Well, that was fun. Now, let's shoot for the top!” Trixie exclaimed, before noting how Reina looked.
“Uh, yes, the top!” Reina said sheepishly, making Trixie tilt her head for a moment, before nodding.
Following the blue mare, they went around the terrace to the elevator that lead to the cloudy half of the structure. The arch over the elevator door was made of gold, and gave off a slight glow. With a ding, the door opened into a cloudy box, and as Trixie walked over the arch's threshold, her body was enchanted for walking on clouds. Reina's eyes widened as Trixie walked onto the white elevator. The mare chuckled, before beckoning her over.
The elevator worked wonders at distracting the filly; the ride up was puffy and bouncy. When they reached the top floor, Reina was still springing up and down, to the amusement of the other passengers.
“That's enough of that, assistant, let's take in the view!” Trixie said, getting an agreeing nod from the filly, slithering onto the cloudy top, the skies open all around them. Besides the clouds they stood on, there was nothing but blue in all directions. As Trixie continued towards a railing a short trot away, Reina paused, her awe making the letter slip from her loose grasp.
The filly blinked, seeing it fall away. It fell on the cloud, fluttering in the breeze. Her eyes widened as she reached for it, but it blew away before she could grasp it. Her gaze followed the letter as it slowly disappeared from sight, her ears falling again.
“Reina?” Trixie asked, the filly slowly looking to her.
“Trixie, you ... didn't look into my eyes, did you?” she asked, getting a briefly confused look from the mare, before she scoffed.
“As if Trixie would let herself fall for such an enchantment,” she bolstered out, before giving the filly an appraising look. “Why?” Reina glanced the direction the letter blew, before reaching for her glasses.
“Trixie, why do you do your shows? Is it for the bits?”
“Trixie doesn't see what that has to do with your eyes. As for your answer, Yes, it's for the bits,” she bluntly replied, getting a disappointed look from Reina. “And the fame. But, most importantly, because it's fun.”
“Fun? Funner than taking some filly you barely know across Equestria?”she asked, getting a flat look from the mare.
“You don't need to, you know,” Tiko replied, matching Trixie's tone. “Zecora can do it, and you can keep having your fun.”
“As if!” Trixie replied, “A filly asked The Great and Powerful Trixie for help, and she's going to help! What, are you already fed up with her?”
“No, that's not it,” she replied, looking quite small as she looked to Trixie, “I just don't want to drag you down.”
“What are you going on about?”
“I know about the tribute thing,” she said, making Trixie blink for a moment, before letting out a haughty laugh.
“Oh, that thing? Trixie is above such events!”
“Don't lie, you dum-dum!” Tiko said, making Trixie's mirth switch out for a flat look.
“Fine. Yes, Trixie wants to go, but she made a promise, and she wants to keep it.”
“Because you're not good at keeping promises?” Reina asked, making the mare glance to the side for a moment, before letting out a heated sigh.
“Because Trixie does what she wants! And she wants to help the first little filly to ask Trixie for help to reunite with her mother. Is that really such a bad thing? Do you want Trixie to just leave you alone with that rhyming zebra?”
“No, that's not—“
“Then it's settled, alright?” she declared, getting a frustrated look from the filly.
“It's not fair,” she mumbled, getting a confused look from Trixie.
“What's not fair?”
“Everything! All your bits are gone thanks to me. Because of me, those goons are gonna come after you. And, you're gonna miss out on the tribute, all because of me!”
“Well, Trixie says that it is fair, because Trixie is accepting all that.” Reina shook her head.
“Trixie, I want to help.”
“Isn't that why you're my assistant?”
“That was an excuse to get in the city," Reina pointed out, "And, I want more than that!” she elaborated, making the mare blink. “I want to help with the bits, and the goons. I … want to make it up to you,” she said, her ears falling as she glanced to the side.
“Hmph, you're almost as bad as Sunset,” Trixie said, getting a confused look from the filly. “Get on Trixie's back,” she said, making Reina blink, “Now!”
“R- Right!” the filly let out, awkwardly standing on her tail to reach Trixie's back. Once she was there, she wrapped her hooves over Trixie's shoulders, her tail wrapping around the mare's waist, getting a giggle from the mare.
“Mind the belly, Trixie is ticklish and she doesn't want to drop you.”
“Okay,” Reina replied, her face flushing as she tried to avoid the curious looks the other ponies were giving. Her eyes then widened a little, compared to the cold air around them, hugging Trixie was surprisingly comfortable.
Trixie then moved, leading them towards the fence. Reina's grip tightened as a breeze brushed past them, seeing the horizon, and the city beneath coming into view as they reached the edge.
“Take it all in,” Trixie said, as she started to slowly walk around the circular roof, and Reina's mouth fell open as she did just that.
To the east, a constant breeze blew. Snow capped mountains lined the horizon, the brief scent of snow in the air. A train came out of those mountains, leaving a trail of steam in its wake. South, nestled in front of another mountain range was a cluster of buildings. They weren't as tall as Vanhoover's, and an expanse of trees separated it from the city. To the east was the sea. The blue horizon and the breeze to their back gave Reina the feeling that they were being pulled towards it. And to the north, nothing but green forests as far as the eye could see.
“...It's so pretty”
“Yes, it is,” Trixie replied with a smile, “And, Equestria is a big place. Even if Trixie spent her whole life doing it, she'd never see every place, or bedazzle every pony.” She then glanced to Reina, “Get it?” she asked, making the filly consider it for several moments.
“Umm, what am I supposed to get?” she asked, getting a bothered look from the mare.
“Luna makes this look so easy,” she mumbled. “What you're supposed to get, is that it's okay if Trixie misses the Tribute.”
“How was she supposed to get that?” Tiko asked.
“Th- That is- It's because the tribute is small when compared to-” Trixie then shook her head, “Look, you can help Trixie.”
“Well, you are my assistant, aren't you?” she asked, getting a firm nod from the filly, “Then of course you're going to help Trixie!” she exclaimed, blinking as the filly smiled at her, before tightening her hug. "Honestly, just do what you want, like Trixie does."
“O- Okay!" Reina replied, her eyes falling back to the landscape around them. "It really is pretty,” she added, making Trixie blink, before letting out a sigh.
“Reina,” Trixie began, the filly looking back to her as she was about to enter the carriage, “There's something Trixie bought for you, it's in the red box,” she said with a smile, getting an intrigued look from the filly, “Trixie thought you should have it, but wasn't sure if you'd want it. Well, Trixie is sure now!” she added with a nod, “So help yourself.”
“O- Okay!” the filly replied excitedly, entering the carriage. Trixie closed the door behind her, glancing to Zecora, who was giving her a curious look.
“What?” Trixie asked bluntly.
“Since you left, it's closer you two seem. Did the climb make you more a team?” she asked with a wry smile, making Trixie blink.
“A team... Well, that's one way of looking at it,” Trixie replied dismissively, “Reina wants to help, and Trixie doesn't want to stop her,” she added matter-of-factly, before unlocking the wheels of the wagon and strapping in. “So you know, we're returning to the park. There's some work to be done.”
Inside the carriage, Reina was eyeing the box. It was flat, only a little thicker than the thickest book they had. Tearing off the ribbon, she freed the two contents onto the bed. One was a filly sized cape, one side black, the other red. The other item was a flat disc, with a similar color scheme. She eyed the disc curiously, a confused look in her eyes as she picked it up. She spun it around on her tail for a moment, uncertainty in her actions.
The disc suddenly expanded with a loud pop, making the filly flinch back, letting out a embarrassing squeak. Her faced reddened as she glanced around, getting a small chuckle from the doll, which she glared at. She then let out a short sigh, before looking back to the disc, now a top-hat, which had landed sideways on the bed. She blinked at it, poking it with her tail, before picking it up. Looking over the hat and cape drew Reina's gaze to Trixie's costume, hanging on the wall. Yesterday's show played through her eyes as she smiled, before looking back to her costume.
With amazing haste, she slipped the hat on her head, lining her ears to the holes in its rim, before clasping the cape around her neck. Eyeing what she wore, she spun around, an excited look in her eyes as she glanced to Tiko.
“How do I look?” she asked.
“Like you're ready to steal the dum-dum's show!” he replied, Reina still smiling as she shook her head.
“We're not stealing anypony's show. And stop calling her a dum-dum.”
“Well, you still look cool,” Tiko replied, losing the filly's attention as she climbed to the front window.
“Trixie!” she let out, catching the eyes of the others. Reina simply smiled as they looked to her, tail swinging side-to-side as they saw her in all her glory.
“Trixie knew those would suit you,” the mare replied with a small grin. Zecora considered the filly for a moment, before adopting a similar look.
“Well Reina, if it makes you happy, then there's nothing wrong with looking snappy,” she said, making Trixie blink, before looking to the zebra.
“What, you're not impressed?” Trixie asked accusingly, getting a flustered look from Zecora.
“M- Many count on what's seen skin deep, but looking deeper is the rule I keep,” she quickly replied, getting a smile from the showpony.
“Sounds like something Luna would say,” she admitted, before her brow furrowed, “Not that it matters,” she said, getting an odd look from Reina and Zecora, before the filly noticed where they were heading.
“We're going back to the park?” she asked as she tilted her head, “I thought we were gonna leave.”
“We are, but that'll be later. Trixie has it all figured out! Those goons probably don't want to try anything in the city. That's why that one bird brain acted alone. So, they're gonna wait outside, and they know where we wanna go, so Trixie knows which exit they think we'll take. So, we'll head out late, and choose a different exit.”
“That's … a lot of assuming,” Reina said in a negative tone, getting a small laugh from Zecora as Trixie blushed.
“Well, Trixie doesn't expect a filly to appreciate Trixie's Sharp and Insightful mind!” the mare replied smugly, making Reina frown at her. “Your disapproval aside, isn't there something you wanted to do?” she asked, parking the carriage close to where they were earlier as she did, giving the filly an amused look. Reina tilted her head for a moment, becoming aware of the weight on it.
“W -We're gonna do a show!?” she asked excitedly, getting a devious smile from the mare.
“One of us is,” she replied, her horn glowing as she gave the wagon a kick, causing it to lurch as the stage folded out.
“...Who?” Reina asked, causing the filly to let out a yelp as Trixie levitated her over to the stage. “L- Let me know when you're about to do that!” she said with a blush, getting a haughty laugh from Trixie.
“As Trixie's assistant, you get the rare privilege of sharing her stage!” she replied, following Reina as the filly was placed on the platform. “Such a privilege has been given to only two other ponies!” she then gave the filly a flat look, “They both did poorly. But,” she added with a grin, “We all had fun, and that's what's important.” She then gave Reina a focused look, “Seriously though, if you want to be Trixie's assistant, you need to show Trixie you can strut your stuff!”
“Lamias don't strut,” Reina replied with a flat look, getting another haughty laugh from the showpony.
“Lamias also don't cast spells, so, how are you going to entertain your audience?” she asked with a whimsical smile, before turning away, walking away from the stage, “You may want to figure that out, as the show begins when you get on that stage,” she finished, her magic fading, leaving the filly alone with a shocked look.
“Let the dum-dum go,” Tiko stated, “You can't ask her for help! You're the one that's gonna help her!” he added defiantly, making the filly consider the doll for a moment, before hesitantly nodding. She then looked to the 'audience', her shoulders sagging in relief.
There was no audience.
While the park had plenty of ponies going about it, many of them children, few were giving the stage more than curious glances. Her eyes then widened when she noticed a pair of colts coming closer, their eyes on the snappily dressed lamia.
Reina's eyes darted in Trixie's direction, seeing no sign of the blue mare. However, Zecora was sitting near the carriage, giving the filly an encouraging smile.
“That's a pretty cool costume you got there!” one of the colts, the older one, let out, making Reina look to them, her heart pounding. She then glanced to the side for the moment, hugging Tiko tighter, before taking a deep breath.
“Th- Thanks!” she replied, spinning in place to show it off.
“Neato! The tail moves!” the younger colt let out wide eyed, making the stagefilly blink. She then adopted a smile as she transferred Tiko to her tail.
“That's not part of the costume, sillies!” Tiko let out, making the colts gasp!
“That doll talked!”
“She's a snake-pony!?”
They let out energetically, their surprise and excitement filling Reina with an odd sensation. She felt energized, her heart racing at the sights of their smiles. The unfamiliar sensation made her hesitate, making her aware of the fact that more children were approaching.
“That's right, I can talk. What of it!?” Tiko asked.
“B- Be nice Tiko,” Reina replied sheepishly before looking to the children, “This is Tiko, and yes, I'm a 'snake-pony'.”
“That's so cool!” the colts replied in unison.
“What's your name?” a fast-talking filly asked.
“I'm Reina!” she replied, her face filled with happiness.
Inside the carriage, Trixie had a smile of her own. With the stage deployed, the wall between Trixie and her assistant was quite thin, easily hearing what was going on. Nodding to herself, she pulled out the magic crystal she bought.
Her horn glowed brighter, Luna's seal on the carriage glowing briefly as Trixie infused the crystal to the cupboard the old one had. As it melded into the wood, the spell matrix glimmered for a moment, letting out a magical hum. The energy grew even more radiant, making Trixie's eyes widened at the gem's potency. The power suddenly flickered out, cracking the cupboard in the process.
Trixie adopted an annoyed look, horn still glowing as she gave the gem a couple hard taps, making it flicker back to life. The humming continued for a moment longer, the cracks seeming back together, before the light gradually died down. Running her hoof over the warm gem, Trixie nodded to herself, before returning outside.
Glancing around the carriage, she saw her assistant foal-deep in attention, getting a small laugh from the showpony. An idea flashed through the mare's eyes, making her glance back to the city, before looking to Zecora.
“Trixie will be right back,” she said, looking to the carriage as her horn glowed. “If that pegasus comes back, give the carriage a tap while looking at her,” she explained, getting a curious look from the zebra.
“If she comes to disrupt the stage, will she be placed in another cage?”
“Yes, and this one won't break,” Trixie said confidently, before looking back to Reina.
“It's odd, since she's no friends to call her own, yet on that stage I see no shyness shown,” the zebra pointed out with a smile, making Trixie turn to her for a moment.
“Guess Tiko is to thank for that,” she said in a thoughtful tone, getting an agreeing nod from the zebra.
“So, it is herself to thank, if we were being frank,” she said with a small chuckle, making Trixie glance to the side, before continuing towards the city. “Aren't you being a little remiss, leaving her alone like this?”
“That's why Trixie told you about the spell,” the mare replied in an put-off tone, before her eyes widened. “Oh, you mean about the stage?” she asked, getting a nod. “Well, she can't copy Trixie. She isn't a unicorn, so it would be hard to do that. Still, Trixie trusts Reina will be fine by herself. Trixie's already seen that the filly has talent, so she's not worried.”
“Who will be teaching her? You or me, do you prefer?” Zecora asked, making Trixie sigh.
“Trixie will teach her how to be a good assistant, if that's what you're asking. You can teach her the alphabet and all that. Now, if you're quite done wasting Trixie's time, there's something Trixie must-”
The showpony's eyes widened when a wisp of ash gathered in front of her, popping into the form of a letter, with Luna's seal. “O- On second thought, Trixie isn't going anywhere,” she said, quickly taking the letter and returning to her carriage, leaving a confused zebra in her wake. Falling onto the bed, she broke the seal, ready to read, but she paused, her ears perking at a question from Reina's audience.
“So you don't need the glasses?” a confused, bespectacled filly asked Reina, getting a troubled look from the filly.
“That is...” the showfilly began, her ears falling.
“That's because her eyes shoot magical lazer-beams!” Tiko finished.
“Nuh-uh!” one of the colts replied, “You made that up!”
“You would doubt a talking doll!?” Tiko replied indignantly, getting a murmur from the crowd of children.
“Tiko does have a point,” one of the fillies said, getting agreeing nods from the others.
“These are training glasses!” the doll added, “Without them, these eyes would start randomly shooting beams of tingly-annoying-badness! That is not fun!”
“W- What Tiko said?” Reina added in an unsure tone, getting an unheard chuckle from Trixie, as the mare returned her attention to the letter.
Hello, my Greatest and most Powerful former student. :)
There was never a doubt in my heart that you would be just fine. I'm glad to hear that you made it to Vanhoover well, and that your performance was a smash! Oh, and enough bits for Manehattan you say? And an assistant? I'm quite eager to hear more about all this.
Are you staying for the Grand Performance Tribute? Maybe train your assistant for it? If so, I would not minding waiting to meet the lucky[unlucky? :) ] mare/stallion a few weeks before the big show!
Or are you going to continue on to Manehattan?
I mean, it would be a shame if you didn't attend the GPT. I mean, it shares your acronym after all-
Trixie could almost hear Luna chuckling as she read that line.
Well, either way, just do what you feel is right. I'm looking forward to hearing more about your assistant. Sunset didn't seem all that interested, but Spike is eager to hear more.
Sunset sends her best wishes, and you'll be hearing from Twilight soon.
Continue to smile. Love, P. Luna.
Trixie smiled, reading the letter all over again, her eyes stinging slightly, before she folded the letter up, placing it in a drawer that had three other letters like it. She eyed those letters nostalgically, before closing it.
“You're Trixie's assistant?” one of the children asked, making Trixie's ears perk again, before placing it against the wall.
“The Great and Powerful Dum-dum, Trixie!” Tiko quickly replied.
“Who's that?” a filly asked.
“Only the greatest ever!” the fast-talking filly answered, her words traveling at a speed only a child would understand, “She told this story about some fairies and sprites and there were fireworks and I was standing on daddy's back and it was flashing and amazing and she looked at me and I waved at her!”
“Yeah, I saw that from my home,” the younger colt from earlier said, pointing to a nearby building, “You're her assistant! That's so awesome!”
“Is that Trixie?” the older colt asked, pointing at Zecora.
“A zebra~” a number of children let out.
“She's not Trixie,” Tiko explained.
“She's traveling with us though,” Reina added, getting a small nod from the zebra.
“Oh, so she's a groupie!” the younger colt stated, making Zecora's eyes widen, before quickly shaking her head.
“Yeah, a groupie!” a number of the kids let out, making Trixie snort, covering her mouth to stifle her laughter.
“Can we see Trixie?” somefilly asked, making Reina hesitate, a number of children matching that wish.
“If you're her assistant, that means you can bring her out, right!?”
“That's not how being an assistant works,” the older colt said.
“Like you would know,” the fast-talker replied.
“Trixie went to do something, so it's just me,” Reina explained, getting a small murmur of disappointment from the crowd, which made her adopt a determined look.
“What's that about?” Tiko asked indignantly, “A talking doll and a snake-pony isn't good enough?”
“How does Tiko talk?” the older colt asked.
“He's haunted!” the fast-talker replied, making Reina dip Tiko, making it look like the doll just nodded.
“That's right! I'm a ghost. But not just any ghost!” he said in an eerie voice, making the group fall silent with anticipation. “But, a friendly, totally awesome ghost! Watch, as I leave my body!” he let out, everypony's eyes widening as Reina let Tiko drop, the doll falling to the stage lifelessly. Many of the children exchanged confused looks. “What?” Tiko asked, his voice coming from the curtains, which fluttered in the breeze, “I'm a ghost! Everypony knows you can't see ghosts during the day!” he let out, making Reina smile as her audience was filled with awe.
Trixie nodded to herself, feeling oddly content as she pulled her ear from the wall. She then appraised the messy state of her carriage, her horn glowing as the books and empty box were levitated around. After a quick clean-up and organizing of their new things, Trixie pulled out a piece of parchment. Quill hovering over it, she glanced to the drawer of letters with a considering look on her face, before letting out a small sigh.
Thinking to herself for several moments, she tapped the parchment before her eyes widened with an idea. The quill went to work, forming a seven line list, which she then hung on the wall, close to the door on the side her bed rested on. With one ear still listening for her assistant, she continued her actions, pulling out her dated map of Equestria.
Eyeing over its features for a minute, she started to draw a line. It started in Vanhoover, leading to Tall Tale, before striking east, hitting Ponyville and Canterlot. Between Tall Tale and Ponyville, she wrote 'Cloudsdale?', circling it before returning to the line. From Canterlot, it went south to Dodge City, before curving up to just south of Baltimare; Horseshoe Bay.
Eyeing the map for a moment longer, she nodded to herself, before placing it on the wall, adjacent to the list. She then eyed the wall, hearing a great deal of giggling from the other side. Feeling satisfied, she left the carriage, coming around to see how things were going.
Reina was no longer on the stage.
All the children were in a large pony pile, making Trixie blink in surprise. She looked to Zecora, the zebra laughing at what transpired. Trixie tilted her head, hopping onto the stage as she watched the cluster. The mob shifted, getting an alarmed look from the fast talking filly standing on the very top.
“She's coming!” she cried out.
“W-Whoa!” a colt let out as he slid down the pile, a doll bursting out from the dark recesses of the multicolored blob of giggles.
“Tiko will not be contained!!” the doll let out triumphantly, his voice sounding muffled, considering the source was still buried. Trixie raised an eyebrow as the kids let out false cries of alarm. The showpony then cleared her throat, making some of the children take notice of her.
“It's Trixie!” one of them let out.
“The dum-dum!? Where!?” Tiko asked, the small tail wrapped around his waist turning him to look around. Tiko was left hanging as the pile melted, many of the foals coming closer to the stage.
In the pile's center was a disheveled showfilly. Her hat was flat, resting to the side. Her glasses were crooked, and her mane was scuffed up. Her cape was covered in dirt and hoofmarks. And, she looked very happy. As she sat up, her glasses fell off, making Trixie adopt a mischievous smile.
“Having fun, assistant?” Trixie asked with a smile, making the filly look to her sheepishly. Trixie's horn glowed as she did, making beams of green light shoot out of the filly's eyes, barely missing Trixie. “And what'd Trixie tell you about your glasses!?” she asked, as she put her hooves up defensively, making Reina adopt a confused look as she fished for the spectacles. The children looked at her, clearly surprised.
“I- I told you!” Tiko let out, breaking the ice as several of the children voiced out just how cool that was. As they did, Trixie ushered a few of them away from the stage, before folding it up, getting a confused look from everypony.
“Show's over, for now. Trixie will be putting one on around sundown,” she assured with a smile, before looking to Reina, “Assistant, you have the rest of the day to yourself, just stay close, okay?” she asked, taking the cape and hat from the filly. Reina looked at her for a confused moment, before glancing to the fast-talking filly and two colts, a smile growing on her.
“Really?” she asked, making the mare sigh. Trixie then came closer to her, catching the filly off guard as she whispered something in her ear.
“Yes, really. We'll be leaving tonight, so have fun,” she emphasized, making Reina look over her for a moment, before looking down.
“Thanks, Trixie,” she said, getting only a smile from the mare, before the filly turned to the others.
Having fun, was exactly what she did.
And as it goes with such things, time flew by faster than what was considered fair.
Trixie's show had come to an end. A show that wasn't as grand as the first, and not as profitable, a fact that didn't bother the showpony in the least. Reina had the opportunity of being with the audience this time, spending it with the children that stayed with her since her own show started. Now, it was time to bid them farewell, which they all did with a smile. She remembered their names, and carried a small hope in her heart that they'd meet again someday, before they left to return home.
As the crowd thinned, Reina stood put, her eyes following her friends long after they fell out of sight, looking to the darkening city, now washed by night. The day was over, and it was one she hoped to never forget.
Slowly turning around, she saw Trixie waiting for her patiently on the stage. Reina closed her eyes for a moment, before stretching, and letting out a yawn, her body sore and looking for reprieve.
Trixie and Zecora endeavored to stay up, intending to leave in the night while the filly slept, so Reina knew she'd have the carriage all to herself tonight. As she entered the cart, she noticed the map, and the list next to it. The additions made her pause, but before she could ask about them, Trixie came to her side.
“This is a map of Equestria, and where we'll be going to reach your mother,” she explained quickly, before slapping a hoof on the small list, “This, is for you.”
“I can't read it,” Reina said flatly, getting a nod from the mare.
“You'll have to learn then, won't you?” she pointed out, before looking to the parchment, “This list has what Trixie thinks is important for being a good showpony. Learn this, and you'll be the best assistant Trixie could ask for. Okay?”
“Okay,” Reina said with a nod, looking at the alien writing for a moment, before letting out another yawn.
“She can start tomorrow,” Tiko added, sounding just as tired.
“Sounds great. Sleep well~” Trixie replied, rubbing the filly's head, which got an annoyed look from Reina, before Trixie left. As the door closed, Reina looked to the list, then the map. Her eyes fell to the large circle at the end of the line, giving the filly the urge to touch it. Her destination, where mother was waiting.
Her eyes drooping, she instead curled up under the table, pulling close an extra pillow and blanket, that were just for her. As she closed her eyes, the faces of the colts and filly she befriended played out in her head, making her smile, as she fell into sweet dreams.
First impressions are important. They set an expectation for anypony that meets you. That hears of you. That looks forward to your performance.
In everything that Trixie does, that first impression sets a bar. When Trixie gets on that stage, everypony present holds her to that bar.
And when you leave that stage, you want that bar to be completely shattered.
You want to exceed those expectations. You want to make them gawk in awe. Cheer in amazement! Laugh in wonder.
When the show is over, nopony is left doubting the mare on the stage. To be a showpony, to leave an impression that trumps the first, you must defy expectations.
That, is Trixie's first rule of the show!
The carriage bumped as it crossed onto the stone bridge, causing the sleeping filly to stir from her dream. She rubbed her eyes, a confused look on her face when she realized she was in Trixie's bed.
She rubbed the soft bedding, finding it unusual, but not unpleasant. Adopting a small smile, she grabbed Tiko, before slinking across the bed onto the desk, opening the shutters.
The moon was halfway through its journey, casting its white light on the bridge and carriage. The cart rocked steadily over the cobblestone, lanterns weakly lighting the span as Reina glanced to the front, seeing Trixie and Zecora walking side-by-side. The showpony let out a long yawn as Reina looked back, to Vanhoover.
Most of the buildings had gone dark, but there were a few lit rooms in each of them. The hustling noises were missing, giving the impression that the city itself was sleeping. With a tired look in her eyes, Reina waved goodbye to the amazing place, silently speaking the farewell with a sad smile. Leaving the window open, she returned to Trixie's bed, balling up in it before closing her eyes.
“This was the worst idea,” Trixie mumbled, shadows under her eyes, “Next time, let's take a boat or train instead,” she added, getting a small chuckle from Zecora.
“Here, a sip of this mix, and your fatigue, it will fix,” she said, pulling out a small vial from her robes to Trixie, who rose her nose in disgust.
“The Great and Powerful Trixie does not need such a—“
“Hey, Trixie! Prepare for trouble!” an annoying voice from ahead said, making Trixie's disgust shift forward, seeing Ember Dust floating ahead of them. “And this time, make it-” A firework zipped out from the carriage, making Ember disappear in a ball of sparkling light. Trixie then let out a sigh, the firework easily outshining the lanterns, its glow showing her annoyance as she glanced behind them.
Her eyes narrowed as she wordlessly took the vial Zecora still had in her hooves, and chugged it. Surprisingly, it went down like applesauce. Zecora looked to Trixie in alarm, her eyes following the empty vial as it was discarded. That was more than just a sip.
“Great! Just great! It really was the worst idea!” Trixie let out, turning the cart to the side, before separating herself from it, seeing a figure blocking the way back to the city. A figure whose greasy mane shined in the moonlight.
The forward window of the carriage opened, revealing a confused filly who was now quite awake. “Reina, stay inside,” Trixie stated, getting a hesitant nod from the young lamia. Trixie's eyes then widened as the mix hit her, feeling that drooping feeling in her eyes melt away, her thoughts becoming more focused as her heart began to race. Her gaze sharpened as she glanced back to the dying embers of the firework, her horn glowing in preparation to fire the next.
“Double...” coughed out the pegasus, giving Trixie a heated look. “D- Don't do that again, or we'll blow up the bridge!” she shouted defensively, causing another firework Trixie had been guiding towards the surprised mare to shift past, flying high into the air before detonating, illuminating the whole arched bridge. Trixie kept her eyes on the mare, her ears perking at the voice behind her.
“G' evenin', Trixie,” Slick began, a neutral look in his eyes, “Ya know why we're here, and I've heard from a trusted source that ya ain't givin' up Reina. Ya gonna fight us?”
“Hah! Why wouldn't Trixie?” the mare asked confidently, “She's already shown you all just how outclassed you are.”
“Ain't gonna argue with that,” he replied, “We ain't really equipped to manage unicorns. Specially one of yer caliber,” he added, getting a smug smirk from the showpony, “But, we gotta job to do, and I'm not one fer quitin' a job. So, we'll just hafta use more desperate options,” he said, making the mare scoff.
“Yeah, sure. Blow up the bridge then, Trixie isn't buying it!” she replied, getting a bothered look from Zecora as the stallion tilted his head.
“Ain't no fur off my back. City this size can fix ah bridge like this before lunch,” he pointed out, making Trixie's gaze narrow.
Her eyes winced as a sudden plume of fire washed behind the stallion. A large boom followed, sending back a strong gust that rattled the carriage. Slick stood still, the light behind him casting him as a dark silhouette. Debris was sent flying into the air, a several yard gap forming in the city-side part of the bridge not too far behind him. As smoldering rock fell around him, he pulled out a comb, re-straightening his mane, his eyes cool as he looked to Trixie.
He then toppled over when a rock hit him in the head, breaking said rock, messing up his mane, and knocking his comb out of sight.
“Tch,” Ember let out, hovering from on high, “I told you you were standing too close, idiot!” she said, before glancing to the side. “Though, that was pretty awesome...”
Trixie's mouth hung open. She then shook her head, horn glowing, sending a firework at the distracted pegasus as Trixie turned back to the mainland side of the bridge. As Ember was swallowed up in the explosive present, Trixie paused, the boom of her effort being outdone by another explosion on the bridge ahead of her.
The fire and dust were quickly swept aside by the breeze, revealing a bridge that no longer was. Now, they stood on a roughly 'T' shaped island of stone, six yards wide, and twenty long.
In the carriage, Reina saw both explosions, her surprise as evident as Trixie and Zecora's. She was so surprised that she failed to notice the wagon's door opening during the loud display, and the weight in the cart shifting before the door closed.
Trixie's horn glowed as she looked to her home, activating the gem inside, ready to be used at her call. She then pushed Reina away from the window, to the filly's surprise, all the shutters being closed in the same motion. Three clicks rang out, three locks now set.
“Stay by the bed, Reina, Trixie will keep you safe!”
“I'll be fine, I've got Tiko!” Reina replied, “So show them who's boss!” she added, getting a smile from Trixie as she turned to the zebra.
“Zecora, keep your head down,” Trixie said, the alchemist giving the mare a surprised look as the carriage's hidden cache of fireworks opened. Zecora then gave Trixie a fiery gaze, before moving closer to the carriage, standing by the door.
“Don't think I'll just lie prone. You won't be fighting alone!” she replied, getting no comment from the showpony.
There was a brief pause, the warmth of the second blast brushing past Trixie as her eyes met Slick's, who was finally recovering from not wearing a safety helmet. She gave him a small smirk, and he responded with a determined look.
With a flicker of her horn, the ward activated, a pink glowing cage closing around him. He was trapped in a prison that was thrice as strong as the old one. Slick had an annoyed look in his eyes, which faltered as Trixie fired off a dozen fireworks of varying size. Six for him, and six for Ember.
“Oh you've got to be flinting me!” Ember shouted, apprehension in her eyes as she dived towards the quickly approaching volley. Trixie's mind raced, surprised by how easy it was to keep track of each firework. Guess she had the energy drink to thank for that. She smiled, her eyes darting between the two goons opposite of her, the fireworks hitting their marks.
Both of them disappeared in showers of deafening, multicolored lights. As the lights lingered, Trixie's eyes darted across the bridge, a missing detail drawing a bothered look from her. Where was Sid?
She looked to the carriage, her horn glowing for a sweeping spell. She could only sense Reina inside, a fact that didn't ease her concern.
Her ears then perked at the sound of metal hitting stone, drawing her attention to the further end of the bridge, seeing Ember flying towards her, a trail of smoke following the burnt pegasus. She had dropped a small black ball, a lit fuse in it. Trixie's eyes darted from it to the mare, who was quickly approaching. Ember dropped another ball, making Trixie raise an eyebrow as the pegasus lit a red stick, throwing it ahead of her. Trixie frowned as she caught it-
The very short fuse ignited, making the stick burst into a thick red cloud of smoke that quickly enveloped the two mares.
“W- What!?” Trixie let out, feeling Ember zip past her, the sound of something hitting the ground behind her.
“Gotcha!” Ember said smugly, Trixie's ears falling as she tried to reach out for the bomb, her gut telling her she wouldn't be quick enough.
“Aww bu-” she began, before the ball exploded. The flame-less blast sent Trixie flying, knocking the wind out of her, eyes widening as she realized which direction the burst sent her. She tried to clear the way, but trying to do so while being blasted and flying wasn't particularly easy. Trixie could say she was good at casting on the fly, but not this literally!
The second bomb went off right as she flew past it, accelerating her towards the third. The third blast changed her direction, her flight taking her over the side of the bridge, the shocked mare finding herself taking note of the moon's reflection on the quickly approaching river.
Inside the carriage, Reina looked to the locked windows, hearing a series of over a dozen small blasts, followed by three large ones. All of it transpiring in less than seven seconds. She looked from the window, to the cupboard, which was giving off a pink glow. She then glanced to Tiko, holding him tight, a troubled look on her face. Her ears then perked, an odd, worried feeling coming over her, making her look around in the cart. Her forked tongue darted out, licking the air, eyes widening when she tasted that she wasn't alone.
“W- Who's there!?” she asked, slinking off the bed with starling haste, feeling her scales rub against something unseen as she got under the mattress.
“S- Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you,” an unfamiliar voice replied, Reina's eyes narrowing as Sid discarded her camouflage, “I just want to talk...”
“You're one of those goons!”
“Those dum-dums!” Tiko added.
“Ahh!” Sid let out, flinching away from the bed. “I almost forgot about the haunted doll!” she added, making Reina blink, before adopting a sly smile.
Outside, Zecora watched as Trixie disappeared over the side of the bridge, shaking her head in disbelief. Her ears then perked when she heard chatter from inside the carriage, making her briefly glance to it, before looking back to Ember. The burnt pegasus clumsily landed not too far from her, rubbing her goggles free of red and black soot, before looking around.
“Did I get her? Is she gone?” she asked in a worried tone, getting a cough from the stallion as the cloud of smoke born of Trixie's barrage thinned, revealing he was still quite trapped.
“Look's like it,” he replied, tilting his head as he looked to Zecora, who had taken a defensive posture, a calm and collected look in her eyes. “Tell me toots, can ya swim?” he asked, making her blink, before nodding.
“Odd question, considering the determination you show. Tell me, why do you wish to know?” she asked, a hoof drawn under her robes, a small pouch in her grasp.
“So ya rhyme too. Guess it is a zebra thing,” he replied as he eyed his prison, running a hoof where the bars met the stone.
“Need help with that?” Ember asking in an amused tone, pulling out a small stick of TNT.
“Nah, I got it,” he replied, getting a confused look from the pegasus as he rolled onto his back. He then kicked his hooves, bucking the roof of the cage, making the ground crack. He did it two more times, singing the song of cracked stone as he did; A brief moment of satisfaction shined in Slick's eyes as the third try sent the cage flying. Ember's eyes followed it as it fell out of sight, letting out a low whistle as she flew closer to him.
“Okay, that was pretty good. Now, let's get Reina away from Ms. 'Princess Pet' and this outsider-” Zecora chucked the pouch at the pegasus, hitting her right between the goggles, making it burst in a puff of white dust, causing the pegasus to cough. “Oh come on! Why does everypony keep interrupting-” her wings then twitched. “Wait, what-” she then landed, the dynamite falling away as she scratched at her wings, before rolling around on the stone in annoyance. “What did you do!? M- Make it stop!” she cried out, Slick giving Zecora a guarded look as Ember was paralyzed with itchy fever.
All their eyes were then drawn to a flash of pink light, which was accompanied by a short 'pop', revealing a Great and Drenched pony standing close by, a very heated look in her eyes.
Meanwhile, Sid was busy being berated by a talking doll. She was laying with her face on the ground, looking to Reina, who was still under the bed.
“L- Look, there's no need to call me mean things,” she said, moisture gathered in her eyes, “I can be nice and fair! Oh! I know! How about a game!” she said enthusiastically, getting a guarded look from the filly, “We ask each other a question, one at a time, and the other has to answer it! And since I'm nice, you can go first!” she said, getting a considering look from Reina.
“Okay. Are you gonna foal-nap me?”
“Don't know,” she replied, making the filly blink. “My turn! Did you use your eyes on Trixie?”
“Hey wait!” Tiko interjected, “How're we supposed to play seriously if you give an answer like that, dum-dum!?”
“I, that is-” Sid replied, looking a little lost, “I don't know what I don't know,” she replied, a confident, yet oddly confused note in her voice. “So … did you use your eyes on her?” she asked sheepishly, making Reina look to Tiko with a bothered expression.
“No,” Reina replied flatly, “I'd never do that.”
“Oh, really?” she asked, sounding a little pleased. That didn't spare her from getting a cross look from Reina.
“You said one at a time, dum-dum!”
“I'm sorry!” Sid quickly replied, getting a satisfied look from Reina.
“Where were you taking me?”
“To The School,” Sid replied with a nod, before taking on a ponderous look. “So, does that mean Trixie is your friend?” she asked, making Reina keep a guarded look as she considered the question.
“Yes, she's my friend.” She then blinked at her answer, a smile looking to escape at the realization, but she didn't let it show. “So what is 'The School'?”
“Oh, that's an easy one!” Sid replied, sounding quite entertained, “It's a place where children of all types learn together. It's a great place, if you're good at making friends. I saw your show earlier, so I think you'd do great there,” she said, sounding a little envious. They both paused when another series of explosions went off outside, particularly close to the wagon. Blasts that signified one thing:
Ember wasn't itching anymore.
In fact, she wasn't doing much of anything anymore, besides being a passed out, smoldering scorch mark on the bridge.
Slick was now closer to the carriage, having used Trixie's focused barrage of revenge to approach unscathed. He looked from his smeared companion, to the two mares before him. He was now too close to them for fireworks, a fact he was quite aware of. Trixie eyed him dangerously, before glancing to the carriage.
“Reina, you okay in there?”
“It's nothing Tiko can't manage!” the doll shouted out, making Trixie frown as she glanced to Zecora, who nodded. The zebra then scooted closer to the door, but paused when Slick took a step forward.
“Alright,” Trixie began in an attempt to distract him, “what sort of sorcery did you use to dispel my cage?” she asked, getting a blank look from the stallion.
“I bucked it really hard,” he replied with a deadpan expression, making the showpony scoff.
“And you expect Trixie to buy that?”
“Well, yer cage is gone, ain't it?” he asked, getting an annoyed look from the mare. Despite her efforts, his eyes were still on Zecora, making Trixie frown.
“Are you quite done wasting Trixie's time?”
“Maybe, it is a bit late after all,” Slick replied in a put-off tone, getting a surprised look from the mare, “Honestly, we should all be asleep right now, instead of makin' all this noise.” From inside the carriage, Sid's ears perked, who then nodded. “But, we gotta job to do,” he then bounded forward, catching the mares off guard in his haste. Trixie's horn glowed, her magic ready to send off a firework, but she hesitated.
Her hesitation allowed Slick to slip past Zecora, knocking away another pouch she'd chucked. She turned to follow him, but paused when he placed his hooves on her glyph-marks. Everything seemed to freeze for a moment as the mares processed that. Zecora's face turned red.
“Y- You are much too frank! Now let go of my-” she began, her breath catching when Slick swung her around, leaving Trixie and Zecora's mouths agape as he casually tossed the zebra, sending her flying over the side of the bridge.
“Z- Zecora!?” Trixie asked with some concern, getting a loud splash in return.
“She'll be fine,” Slick assured, giving Trixie a cool look. “So, how'd ya get back up here?” he asked, getting a cautious look from her.
“Magic,” she replied, horn glowing in preparation, before giving him a confident look. “You do know that you can't beat Trixie, don't you?”
“Didn't really plan on it,” he said with a sigh, his body glowing pink as he was swallowed up by Trixie's power.
Meanwhile, inside the carriage, two lamia were wearing considering looks.
“So what's it like, back where you live?” Sid asked, making the filly blink.
“What, you've never been there?” she asked, before waving her hooves about, “Don't answer that, it doesn't count.” She then looked to Tiko. “What's with her? Why does she care?” she whispered to the doll, getting silence in return as she looked back to the mare. “Home, well, it's sandy and dry, and there are a bunch of dangerous creatures there. And it's always hot. But,” she added with a smile, “it's home.” She then glanced to the side, noticing an oddly sweet smell in the air, making her let out a small yawn. “Why did you take me away from home?”
“That wasn't me, or Slick,” Sid replied defensively, “We don't like doing that sort of thing. We were just supposed to take you to The School,” she said, before letting out a long exhale.
“It's true,” Sid replied, sounding hurt. “...Reina, what's it like, having a mother?”
“It's awesome,” the filly replied, her head nodding several times as she tried to keep her eyes open, “She's always there when I get hurt. She smiles when I make something for her. She makes me … feel safe...” she said, letting out a yawn before looking to Sid. “Why am I sleepy...” she then blinked, before giving the snake a weak frown, “Oh, you're a lurker, just like mom... You cheater...” she finished, getting a hurt look from Sid as the filly passed out, Tiko rolling out of her limp grasp.
Sid eyed the doll worriedly, expecting its ghost to hop out and spook her. After several tense moments of nothing, she let out another sigh. A sudden and close crackle of thunder then made her jump, causing her to glance to the shutters, heart racing. After a moment of collecting herself, the older lamia considered Reina for a moment, her sleeping white mist hanging in the boxed in air, a conflicted look on her face.
Outside the carriage, Slick stood there, briefly reflecting on better days. His mane was now poofy and multicolored. His jacket was gaudy and riddled with stripes. His face was white, and his muzzle was painted red. The air smelled of ozone. Under the paint was a plethora of new scorch marks, carriage friendly scorch marks.
“Ya done?” he asked, getting an impressed look from Trixie.
“How are you still standing?” she asked, making him tilt his head.
“I was still standin' last time, wasn't I?”
“Well, yes, but you gave up that time!” she pointed out.
“I sure did. Wasn't 'bout to pull somethin' on somepony as important as you. But ya had to go an' open the box!” he exclaimed, before shaking his head. He then took a step forward, making Trixie step back with a guarded look. He blinked, tilting his head, “Scared?”
“Hah! As if!” she quickly replied. “Trixie isn't scared, just, impressed,” she replied, her horn glowing threateningly as he considered her.
“Heh, a compliment,” he said with a small smile, making her blink.
“Oh, you liked that?” she asked with a sly smile, “Trixie admits, you're the first pony she's had to tackle with that wasn't bothered by her fireworks. Shame that being strong and tough isn't enough to best Trixie!” she said, her horn glowing brighter, before the light flickered away, along with the pony.
Slick blinked, Trixie was gone, making him look around with a guarded look. “After all, being strong means nothing if you can't touch her,” he heard, the source having no definitive direction.
“I knew we were poorly equipped,” he said dismissively, walking around for a moment, expecting an attack that never came, “Still, don't need to see ya to deal with ya,” he added, feeling a sense of hesitation in the air. Slick adopted a considering look as his hoof rolled over the abandoned bundle of TNT the itchy pegasus dropped. “Ember's explosives can manage that. It ain't a problem we can't work around,” he assured, before kicking the dynamite away, glancing defiantly towards the carriage.
“...What's with you?” Trixie asked cautiously, Slick's eyes softening as he adopted a flat look.
“Just doin' a job,” he replied, an awkward silence falling between them. His ears then perked, eyes widening as he glanced back towards the city, “Looks like it's over. Time to go!” he added, before turning away from the cart, approaching the scorched pegasus.
“What? You're leaving?” Trixie asked in a confused tone, her invisibility discarded, horn aching from the exertion.
“That's right, we ain't stayin' fer them,” he replied as he tossed the burnt pegasus onto his back. Trixie tilted her head for a moment, before her ears perked too, catching the sound of sirens in the distance.
“Wait, so you're gonna run, just like that?” she asked in a disappointed tone, before her eyes widened in alarm, making her look to the carriage, riddled with small burns and dents. Her eyes narrowed suspiciously, horn glowing as she saw all the locks undone, the windows hanging open.
With amazing haste, she climbed up to the closest window, peering in, heart racing. She then let out a big sigh of relief when she saw Reina asleep, tucked in the bed, Tiko wrapped around her hooves. There was a faintly sweet smell in the air, one Trixie was sure she'd smelled before. She then blinked, “How is she asleep?” Let alone the unlocked everything.
She then looked back to Slick, noticing that the stallion and explosive bird were nowhere to be seen. She heard the sound of something big splashing into the water, making her frown. “Seriously! You're gonna just run and be all anticlimactic about this!” she shouted, sounding insulted, getting silence in return.
She then glanced back to the city, worry lining her features as she heard the sirens coming closer. She took in the sorry state of the bridge, her eyes widening at the conclusions somepony would draw if they saw it, along with her fireworks collection. She could also imagine what Luna would have to say after hearing about this.
“Right, nothing to see here!” Trixie let out, quickly strapping herself in and putting the cache away as she pulled the wagon to the far end, “Just going to, uhh, continue on our way!” she added, pausing at the short gap. As she considered how to get the carriage past it, a soaked zebra came running from ahead. Zecora paused when she saw Trixie, a worried look in her eyes.
“That toss gave me quite a sight, now tell me, is Reina alright!?” she asked, getting a nod from Trixie.
“She's fine, but we gotta go,” she said, eyeing the pony-sized gap.
“Then Trixie, allow me to offer my aid, and together our retreat shall be made,” she said, easily hopping over the gap, standing at Trixie's side as she nodded to the carriage. Trixie's eyes narrowed at her, before she noticed that both of their manes were still wet. They'd both shared in the dip, and Trixie had a feeling Zecora was the reason Ember was such an easy target in that last volley.
Trixie let out an annoyed sigh as she glanced to the side. With a flare of her aching horn, the straps shifted and changed, making the carriage go from one pony power, to two. Okay, one unicorn power, and one zebra power, but that was complicated math that Trixie didn't want to get into.
“Okay, we jump on Trixie's call,” the showpony decreed, both of them pulling back to get a running start, before they began galloping to the gap. “Now!” she let out, both leaping in unison.
Trixie's breath caught as they went airborne, expecting the back ends of the cart to catch in the fall, and pull the carriage and all along into the river. Their hooves landed in unison, their momentum carrying them forward. They both were jerked back briefly as the back wheels were caught, before the wheels were pulled over the edge, breaching the gap. Trixie could hear all manner of things being knocked around inside, making her free herself from the straps as she told Zecora to keep moving.
Running around to the back, Trixie effortlessly opened the door and hopped in, seeing the insides being in a sorry state. Reina was buried under several books and blankets on the floor, but was still asleep, getting a sigh of relief from Trixie. The showpony then sat down, eyeing the filly with wonder, before glancing back to Vanhoover, the run across the bridge ending as the carriage entered the forest.
She briefly glanced at the river with an annoyed look, before her eyes fell to the city. Adopting a small smile, she gave the city a small bow, before turning to put things back in order, letting the filly dream away, as the city grew distant behind them.
“That mare is a real brute!” Ember exclaimed, wincing as she stretched out her soaked wings, soot free, but still looking a little scorched. “Just look at my feathers!” she added, getting a sigh from the washed up clown.
“Sid, ya here yet?” he asked the open air, getting silence in return. He then glanced back to the bridge, now filled with ponies they didn't want the attention of.
“Present,” Sid said in a small voice as she came out of the woods.
“Wait, why isn't Reina with you?” Ember asked in alarm, her eyes narrowing. “Don't tell me after taking this,” she said, spreading her wings out in their glorious shame, “You couldn't even manage to save her from that- that- charlatan!”
“I ... couldn't do it,” she said as she glanced to the side, getting an appraising look from Slick, before he nodded.
“I gotcha,” he said in a calm tone, making Sid look all the more ashamed, “Did ya at least learn anythin'?”
“Um, I know they're heading to Horseshoe Bay,” she said as she looked back to him, “And they'll be going through Tall Tale to get there.”
“And just how do you know that?” Ember asked accusingly, barely keeping some semblance of sense at Sid's failure.
“It was hanging on the wall,” Sid said confidently, “Slick, Ember, I'm sorry,” she added as her ears fell.
“Just how incompetent are you!?” Ember shouted as she got in Sid's face, “We gave you plenty of time!
“Stop it Ember,” Slick said in a stern voice, making the mare hesitate, “Sid couldn't steal Reina away. That's all there is to it. Next time, Sid will just have to deal with the broad instead.”
“O- Okay,” Sid replied, giving them a determined look.
“...Wait, you said Tall Tale?” Ember asked, getting a nod from the lamia, “Then, that means we're heading there next!” she said with a hint of excitement, her altered mood getting a confused look from Sid.
“Well, yeah. We're headin' to Tall Tale,” Slick affirmed, getting a small smile from the pegasus, which disappeared when her wings flinched in pain. Just like that, her emotions flipped back, making Sid slink behind Slick as Ember glared out over the river.
“That foul mare! I'll make her pay for this, just wait and see!”
Reina came to with a start, worry breaking her from her dreams as she glanced around. She then blinked, feeling an odd warmth next to her. Her worry shifted to surprise, her face blushing as she realized Trixie was sleeping next to her. Her red deepened when she noticed that her tail was coiled around the showpony.
It was still dark, and Reina wasn't too sure what happened, but she was still in the carriage. Still safe, like Trixie said she'd be. The filly glanced to the side, eyeing her bed on the floor, considering it for a moment.
Talking to the odd lamia had made her think of home, of her mother. Her chest hurt for a moment as those thoughts came rushing back, but the pain slowly melted away from the warmth breathing next to her. Looking to the sleeping mare, Reina slowly closed her eyes.
The air was pleasantly cool, sun still low in the sky as birds sang their songs. The smell of flowers in bloom was dancing in the air. Truly, it was a wonderful day to have a headache.
Trixie rubbed her head as she sat up in bed, shadows under her eyes. It wasn't her horn that was giving her grief, even though it did ache, but her temple, making her glare at the pain, as if trying to threaten it away.
The headache seemed indifferent.
Letting out a sigh, she pulled her hoof away, blinking when she noticed greenish-brown mud smeared on it. She winced as her horn glowed, one of the drawers opening up, a mirror levitating before her.
Her reflection showed a confused showpony, decorated in tribal markings. Frowning, she put the mirror back, before quickly exiting the carriage, a focused look in her eyes.
To her surprise, she found herself standing near the center of a small clearing. Its middle was bare earth, forming a hole in the otherwise grassy and flowery ring. A hole her assistant was laying in, tail scribbling through the dirt.
The trees lining the clearing's edge had marks on them, etched deep into their bark. Some looked like random scratches, while others had purpose put into them; markings none too different from the ones on the unicorn. Their canopies stretched out over most of the area, obscuring the sky, but not to the point of making it too dark for the flowers. Surprise lingered in Trixie's eyes as she took it all in, unable to get her bearings from the evidence provided.
The showpony then blinked when she realized she couldn't remember much of what happened after the fight last night. Maybe her throbbing head played some key part in that fact.
“T- Trixie!” Reina let out, looking over her shoulder to the mare, surprise in her eyes. She was also covered in similar markings, making Trixie raise an eyebrow at her. She sat up, slithering close to the mare, leaving intricate markings in the earth behind her. “Are you okay?” she asked with some concern, making the mare's annoyance falter. “Zecora said you were blown up!”
It only faltered for a moment.
“Trixie has a headache, so stop yelling,” she insisted, before eyeing their surroundings. “Where are we?” she asked, noticing that the most likely architect of their face paintings was missing, “Where's Zecora?”
“We're a little bit off the road,” Reina replied, adopting a considering look, “Zecora was very certain they wouldn't find us here.” She then blinked at Trixie's pressing look. “R- Right, she went out to gather herbs,” she added, before her eyes widened. “Oh!" Trixie winced, "She also told me to tell you: 'Just a sip was all you needed. Perhaps next time my words shall be heeded',” she delivered, her voice trying to sound like Zecora's, not being far from the mark.
“And she painted us because...?”
“To hide us from magic!” Tiko said confidently. Trixie came closer, considering the strange paint for a moment, before eyeing the markings in the dirt. Reina had been practicing the first few letters of the alphabet.
“Last question,” the showpony said in a demanding tone, getting the filly's full attention, “Who's the host of this garden?” she inquired, making the filly look a little surprised.
“You knew?” she asked, getting a nod from the mare.
“Of course Trixie knew! This isn't the first deer's den she's come upon!” she stated proudly.
“Well, Zecora said that this place was, ugh, 'vacant',” she explained, sounding a little disappointed. She then glanced back to her writing for a moment, before turning to Trixie, “I kinda wanted to see one.”
“And, we wanted to see your fight!” Tiko added.
“It sounded really intense.” She then covered her ears, “And loud,” the filly pointed out, getting a flat look from Trixie.
“Clearly not intense enough, Mr. and Mrs. Sleepy Head.”
“Th- That wasn't our fault!” Reina replied.
“Dum-dum! We're not married! That'd be weird!”
“Look,” the Reina added, “Sid, she's a lurker. She snuck into the carriage.”
“She was?” Trixie asked, looking a little put off, “Tch, Trixie had a feeling something was off,” she replied, before her eyes widened, “How did she avoid my sweeping spell,” she asked under her breath. Her eyes then narrowed curiously, “...How did you manage to fight her off?”
“I ... don't really know,” she replied with a confused look.
“She was a bigger dum-dum than you,” Tiko pointed out, “And she asked a bunch of odd things.”
“I ... don't think she's as bad as the others,” Reina concluded, looking very uncertain. Admittedly, that wasn't the answer Trixie was hoping to hear.
“Reina, the next time somepony- some lamia corners you. Call. For. Trixie!” she exclaimed, getting a surprised look from the filly, who glanced to the ground, ears falling.
“I thought it'd be fine,” she mumbled.
“Well, it wasn't,” Trixie replied, before rubbing her aching temple. She then paused when Reina lowered her head, eyeing the ground with a hint of shame in her eyes, making Trixie adopt a troubled look. The mare then glanced back to her carriage, causing her mouth to fall open.
It was covered in mud, leaves and branches. From a distance, the once gaudy cart now blended in seamlessly with the surroundings. Under the sticks, she could make out the burns and dents from the previous night. The whole scene started to make her blood boil, which only made her head throb more.
A little too much, in fact. Trixie swayed for a moment, almost toppling over as her vision briefly darkened.
“T- Trixie?” Reina asked with concern.
“...Trixie is fine,” she replied. “Just, need to calm down,” she added, more to herself, “Zecora is just doing right by us. It can be fixed, later...”
“You sure you're okay?” the filly pressed, getting a long sigh from the mare, who then turned to her.
“Never better~!” she replied sarcastically. She took a deep breath, hesitating for a moment before calling on her magic. The gem inside her home started to glow, the spell now armed. She then let out another long breath, before an odd realization struck her. “...Did Zecora get any sleep?”
“I don't think so?” Reina replied, getting a bothered look from the mare. Trixie considered it all for a moment, the fight, the clearing, the zebra and the filly. She then nodded to herself, before sitting next to Reina.
“What, what did that zebra show you?” she asked, getting a flash of annoyance from her assistant.
“Zecora, showed me how to write a few words, and the first five letters of the alphabet.”
“Words? Shouldn't it be all the letters first?”
“I guess so, but, there were a few I wanted to know first,” Reina replied, adopting a small blush as her tail wiped the dirt clean of what she'd practiced. She then wrote five words. She wrote them slowly, eyes locked in concentration, and Trixie found herself smiling as she saw the words come together: Reina, Tiko, Lin, Trixie, Zecora.
“Who's Lin?” Trixie asked, seeing the filly adopt a smile. “Wait, is that your mother's name?” she asked, getting a nod.
“Zecora knew,” she replied, writing the name a few more times. “Wish I could tell her I'm alright...” she said with a sad look in her bespectacled eyes, getting an assuring grin from the showpony.
“That's easily doable!” Trixie replied with a nod, getting a surprised look from Reina, “If Zecora knows where she is, we can send a letter. With a bit of magic, it'll get to her long before we do,” she explained.
“R- Really!?” the filly asked, “Wait, is it like that letter you got from the mayor?”
“Kind of, but Trixie has a faster way-” the mare's eyes widened when a swirl of dust started to form in the air nearby, giving off a magenta glow. “Talk about timing! Trixie's receiving one right now!” she said, the filly watching with wonder as the cloud of ash grew.
...And kept growing.
After several seconds, Trixie adopted an alarmed look as the 'letter' finally formed, into a small booklet which hit the ground with a small thump. She picked it up, reading the words on the front page out loud.
“Dear Trixie, From Twilight,” she let out, her surprise mirrored by her assistant.
“That's a big letter,” Tiko said.
“No kidding!” Trixie replied, quickly fumbling through the pages, finding each bogged down with paragraphs. “This ... will take some time to digest,” she said sheepishly, before her eyes widened in alarm. “Oh bu-” she eyed the filly, “-uuggadoodle, I need to write a letter for Luna!”
“Can I watch?” Reina asked curiously, getting a considering look from Trixie.
“Sure,” she replied as she turned to her 'decorated' home, entering.
She then froze as her eyes came upon an intruder. A woodland critter of gray fur and black stripes; a raccoon. It noticed her as well, both still as they looked to each other, seeing who would move first. Trixie's eyes narrowed, horn sparking as the gem shimmered, forming a small cage around the critter, completely catching it off guard.
It was carrying half a dozen apples in its greedy little paws.
“Thinking to steal from the Great and Powerful Trixie, are you?” she asked smugly, getting a sheepish look from the critter as it hid the apples behind its back. “Don't think Trixie can't see those!”
“What's that?” Reina asked.
“Is it a furry Tiko?” Tiko offered.
“It's a raccoon, and a little thief.”
“...Are we gonna keep it?” Reina asked enthusiastically, getting a troubled look from the woodland bandit.
“Most definitely not!” Trixie assured, before her eyes widened in alarm, seeing Reina giving her a pleading face. “In fact, Trixie is going to send it on its way, right now!” This group didn't need any more members, least of all a raccoon! Ignoring the small ache in her horn, she picked up the critter and apples, ending the cage before taking them outside. “You can keep these,” she added, leaving the apples with it, “Just don't come back! Oh, and tell your little friends to stay away too!” Where there was one, there were many. “Trixie will not be so generous next time!”
The raccoon looked at her, a little confused, before it let out a happy squeak, and left, apples in paw.
“Aww,” Reina said in a disappointed tone.
“Don't 'aww' Trixie! We've got letters to write!” she said, laying out some paper on the table. She then blinked, “Your mother can read, right?”
“Of course she can read and write, dum-dum!” Tiko exclaimed.
“Both pony and lamia,” the filly added, making Trixie pause as she brought a quill to the parchment.
“Lamia? What's that like?”
“It's like...” Reina said, being a hoof under her chin, before nodding to herself. “It's like pictures,” she explained, pointing at the quill, “Can I?” she asked, and Trixie gave it to her, backing from the table as Reina took a stab at writing with it. After a few terribly rough attempts, she managed to ink down something coherent. A line of hieroglyphs. When it was finished, she smiled at Trixie, “This says: I'm fine, see you soon, and I love you.”
Trixie took in the line. It looked like several snakes in strange postures that all tied together into what she figured was a sentence. It had a certain style and appeal to it that Trixie liked, but couldn't quite pin down why. “Want to try?” she asked as she gave Trixie an eager grin, making the mare shake her head.
“Trixie sees no need to learn this. Nor does she think trying to learn it would be a good idea.” She then waved Twilight's pamphlet before the filly, “The author of this would be most curious though, Trixie can promise that.”
“A friend of yours?” Reina asked, sounding a little put off, but still curious.
“A good friend,” Trixie replied, before pulling out fresh paper. “Write a note for your mother, and we can do the next step later, after Zecora returns.”
“What about you?” Reina asked, getting a sly smile from Trixie.
“Trixie has more than one quill,” she replied as she pointed to her horn.
“Gonna rub your head all over it?” Tiko asked with a small laugh, getting a flat look from Trixie.
“And when Trixie's done, she'll make Tiko do the same.”
“S- Scary!” the doll let out, getting a sly grin from the mare, before giving attention to her own letter. Her horn then glowed, words forming at her thought.
By now, you've probably heard about the bridge in Vanhoover. Suffice to say, no, I'm not staying there. I'm heading east, and will be making a stop at Canterlot along the way.
About the bridge. A group of goons blew it up trying to take something important from me. Naturally, the Great and Powerful Trixie sent them running.
What happened to the bridge couldn't be helped, and I can assure you, it wasn't my fault. So, as I said, you don't need to worry. I can manage this.
But, I promise that if I get in over my head, I'll ask for help.
So please don't send any of the shadowbolts to tail me or something like that.
My best regards and wishes, Trixie Lulamoon~
Ps. Got Twilight's 'letter'. It's a freaking booklet!
Trixie nodded to herself, then flinched when she noticed Reina looking over her shoulder. “W- What is it?” Trixie asked, making the filly glance to the side.
“Nothing, just looking,” she replied, before pulling back, sitting on the bed. “So how do you send it to … who?”
“Luna. Princess Luna,” she replied, getting an intrigued look from Reina.
“Princess? That sounds important!” Tiko said, getting a nod from the mare.
“Indeed she is. She taught Trixie a lot. Like how to send letters to others with magic. It goes a little something like … this!” Trixie explained with a grin, the tabletop candle briefly flickering to life, the flame matching her glowing horn as the letter turned to ash, and flew out the window. “It should reach Luna pretty shortly.” She then looked to the filly, “Later, when Trixie's magic is up to maximum power, she'll be able to do that with your letter.”
“Why's mine harder?”
“Because Trixie doesn't know this 'Lin', so she's going to have to get creative with her magic. And unless your mother has a crafty unicorn close by, you're not likely to get a reply.”
“I had a feeling about that,” Reina replied as her ears briefly fell, “But, it's fine as long as she knows I'm fine!”
“That's the spirit!” Trixie replied, before moving to leave, “Now, let's get ready to go. Trixie wants to hit Tall Tale as soon as Zecora returns-” she paused as she looked forward, surprised to see the zebra was already back. She was looking over a rolled out cloth covered in leaves, ferns, and flowers. Zecora smiled as she glanced over her shoulder, before nodding to herself, and rolling it back up. “How long have you been back?” Trixie asked with a guarded look.
“I've been here for a minute or two. Now tell me, how are you?”
“Head hurts,” Trixie replied curtly, before pointing at the carriage, “Let's go, we've got a city to visit,” she said, getting a nod from the alchemist.
“After we continue on our quest, would you allow me some rest?” she asked, pointing at the carriage. Trixie appraised her for a moment, before letting out a sigh.
“Once we get on our way, the bed's yours. And … thanks,” she said, blushing slightly before her horn glowed, “Now, help Trixie clear all … this off!” she exclaimed as she waved at the camouflage, getting a smile from the others, as they did just that.
“So, how will Zecora help?” Reina asked, getting a curious look from the zebra, and a confused one from Trixie.
“Help with what?” she asked.
“The letter!” Tiko exclaimed.
“Oh!” the mare replied, before turning to the zebra, “Zecora, do you know precisely where Lin is? Can you form a strong mental image of the place?” she asked, getting a nod.
“A yellow cave by the sea, shadowed by a smitten tree,” she replied, “A strong image indeed, if that is what you need.”
“Excellent! Once we're both in tip-top shape, we'll send the letter.”
“But, how?” Reina asked, getting a sigh from the mare, “And don't say 'magic'.” She used air-quotes, both hooves plus tail. “I want to know more.”
“Fiiine,” Trixie let out, “When the letter is burnt, Trixie's magic carries it to the intended pony it's for. When Trixie does it, she thinks of who it is as she does. She pictures Luna in her head, and the spell does the rest. Trixie has Lin's name, and Zecora has her location, so Trixie will mix her magic with Zecora's thoughts to complete the spell.”
“Your explanation seems rather flat. Are you certain you can magic that?” Zecora asked skeptically, getting a scoff from the pony.
“Of course Trixie can! It's not the first time she's used her magic in tandem with another, you know,” she assured, getting a tired nod from the zebra.
“Then later, we'll put your words to the test. Now excuse me, but I'm in much need of rest.”
“Yes yes go on,” Trixie said dismissively.
After being shown the path back to the road, Zecora went into the carriage. As soon as she was out of sight, Trixie's horn shimmered, cleaning herself and Reina of the mud that shrouded them. “Now, assistant, Trixie is intending us to stay for two days. She'll be doing another show, and she'll be expecting the same from you. But this time, your audience will not be so easily won, understand?” she asked, getting a determined look from the filly. “Good,” she added, lifting her assistant to the carriage's roof, Trixie's smile growing as they reached the road, seeing brick structures a healthy stroll down the way.
She pulled the cart across the cobblestone for several minutes, letting Reina continue with her alphabet with the quill as the mare wondered what the city had in store. Her thoughts were interrupted by the appearance of a letter. A normal sized one, with Luna's seal. Trixie's ears dropped as she opened it, eyes filled with trepidation as she began to read.
You'll be surprised to know that I've heard absolutely nothing of this incident!
Trixie felt her heart skip a beat.
Good thing I happen to know a worried mare who was willing to send me a very incriminating letter!
Said mare let out a pained groan, before her eyes narrowed upon the next line.
Guess this means it's time to summon the shadowbolts and have you brought in for questioning!
She rolled her eyes at that, before letting out a long sigh.
Trixie, here you are, telling me not to worry. Have you considered the possibility that you are the one worrying too much?
You, Twilight, and Sunset have already proven that each of you can take care of yourselves. You're not my students any longer, but your own mares. So, don't worry, I trust each of you.
If you say you can manage these 'goons', then manage them. I'll be looking forward to the tale you have to tell when it's all said and done.
But, if things get a little too wild, don't be shy to call for a bail, okay?
Continue being your Great and Powerful self. Love, P. Luna.
Ps. If you can, try and keep away from any more bridge burning.
Pps. I would not send the shadowbolts after you. I would come get you, personally!
Trixie looked over those last few lines, mixed with a sense of amusement, sprinkled with a dash of dread. She then took a deep breath, her chest warm as she glanced over the words again, before letting out a long sigh, and shaking her head. After levitating the letter into the carriage with the others, she continued pulling the cart.
“Was it a good letter?” Reina asked, getting a surprised glance from the mare.
“What makes you ask?”
“You're smiling,” Tiko replied, getting an oddly soft look from the showpony.
“Yes. Trixie thought Luna would be worried about all this. She wasn't.”
“...Mom's probably really worried,” the filly as she glanced to the side.
“Of course she would be!” Trixie didn't hesitate to assure, “It's only natural for a parent to worry.”
“Really?” Reina asked, seeming oddly sad and happy to hear that.
“Really,” Trixie affirmed, “And that's what your letter's gonna fix!” She then paused, her eyes widening as a thought struck her, giving the filly an odd look. Trixie's brow furrowed for a moment as she glanced to the city in the distance, before pulling the carriage to the side.
“You reminded Trixie of something important she needs to do! A letter that she needs to write, and it's one she should have written days ago,” she explained, eyes glancing to the city as she levitated out some paper. She then eyed the parchment, adopting a warm smile. Tall Tale could wait.
“A letter for who?” Reina asked eagerly, mirroring Trixie's smile, getting a sly look from the mare, as she began to write.
Slick opened his eyes, taking in the late morning sky, his lungs filling with the sweet smell of spring. There was a hint of a smile on his face as he took a moment to enjoy the sounds of nature around them.
The experience was short-lived, as he quickly realized that he was trapped, caught in a position many stallions probably wouldn't have many complaints about. Slick knew better. He knew just how dire his situation was, making him silently curse his fortune.
He was completely coiled up by Sid, who was sleeping peacefully, muzzle pressed into his shoulder. Waking up with scales pressing against him wasn't particularly odd for the stallion, as wrapping around others in her sleep was a habit Sid's had for as long as he'd known her. The problem, was that there were also feathers pressing against him.
Slowly tilting his head, he saw Ember, breathing into his other shoulder. She was still out from last night's activities, a fact he knew would end sooner or later. So he lay there, tightly wrapped between two mares, cursing his luck.
He glanced to Sid, considering waking her, having her let go without waking the other, but knowing the lamia, she'd probably just make things worse in the process.
He then noticed something that made the stallion let out a tired sigh. Ember was starting to stir, her eyes opening shortly after...
With her letter finished, Trixie smiled to herself as she moved around her carriage, opening the side window quietly, before standing on her hind legs and looking in.
Zecora was sitting on the bed in an odd meditative stance that made the mare adopt a confused look. Despite the posture, the zebra seemed to be asleep. Shaking her head, Trixie looked to the candle, bringing her letter over as her magic focused on the wick.
In time with it lighting, a loud boom sounded out from the forest, making Trixie flinch, hitting the back of her head on the window frame. She fell to the ground, letting out a wave of emotionally, and painfully, charged gibberish as she glared at the sky.
It had been such a lovely clearing. Now, it was nothing more than a blackened mess of charred wood and grass.
Slick let out another sigh, a puff of smoke following his exhale as he looked to his companions. Sid was just as sooty as he was, and she was letting out a few sobs as she tried to get the grime out of her eyes. Ember looked completely fine, if a little flustered. Her surprise switched over to annoyance as the lamia let out another sob.
“L- Look, can you stop crying, please?”
“Shut up, you- you- meanie!” Sid replied with a glare, “I was having such a nice dream... What kind of pony blows up her friends!?”
“But we're not friends,” Ember mumbled under her breath, “I woke up caught in a lamia's coil, can you blame me for overreacting?”
“Yes!” she replied without a hint of hesitation. Ember looked to Slick desperately, making her frown when she saw him casually whipping his jacket with a thwack, sending off poofs of soot, before he slid it back on.
“Little help here?” she pressed, “Isn't she your best bud?” Slick gave her a cold look.
“Learn tah clean after yerself,” he said sternly, making the pegasus blush, before he approached the crying mare. He then glanced to the side as he sat next to her. Raising a hoof, he placed in on her head, making her flinch for a moment.
To the pegagus' surprise, Sid's sobs started to die down, and after several moments came to an end. Ember looked on in disbelief, before Slick took his hoof off. “Feelin' better?” he asked in a disinterested voice, getting a small nod from Sid as she rubbed her eyes. “Ember, ya better watch whatcha hit with them sticks,” he said as he gave the pegasus a cold look. “Hear me?” he asked, getting a frown from her as she glanced to the side.
“I said I was sorry,” she mumbled as she glanced to Sid, “And can't you act more your age?” she asked, getting a small frown from the lamia.
“Can't you?” she countered, making Ember's mouth fall open as Sid stuck her tongue out at her.
“Let's not get tah bickerin',” Slick said, making both mares glare at each other for a moment longer. Sid was the first to break away, giving the stallion a small nod. “Let's get cleaned up, then movin'. Want to reach the city 'fore we split up.”
“We're splitting?” Sid asked curiously, getting a nod from the stallion as he started to put away camp.
“If Trixie's headin' southeast, she'll need tah go through the mountains, and we'll hafta follow her,” he explained, making Sid's ears fall at that.
“Mountains...” she said, getting a confused look from Ember.
“What, scared of heights?” she asked, making Sid shake her head, before nodding.
“I mean, yes. Like, really high heights, but that's not the problem,” she added, getting a nod from Slick.
“Lamia like Sid get tired and weak in the cold,” he explained, getting a ponderous look from the pegasus.
“Then, does that mean Reina will be the same?” she asked, concern in her voice, making the others share an odd look.
“Yeah, but that broad she's with will think of somethin' fer that,” he said dismissively, getting a frown from Ember. “Either way, we'll wanna lay low after what happened yesterday,” he added, giving Ember a hard look, “Got it?”
“G- Got it,” she said, glancing to the side. “Well, that's fine, I guess. There's something I wanted to check out in Tall Tale anyways.”
“Do you want me to find Reina and keep an eye out?” Sid asked, getting a nod from the stallion, “Okay. What about you?”
“Gonna do a little fishin'. There's lotsa raccoons to feed in Tall Tale, after all,” he replied, making Sid tilt her head for a moment, before giving him a smile.
“Gotcha!” she replied, leaving Ember with a confused look, as they gathered what little remained intact of camp, and continued on their way.
Trixie rubbed the bump on her head, cursing a certain pegasus' name. With her familial letter sent, she continued pulling the carriage, her frown lifting as the surrounding forest started to give way. They were entering the suburbs of Tall Tale.
The canopy thinned, brightening their surroundings, and shortly after the breeze shifted they could pick up the smell of grapes. It wasn't long before the road passed a vineyard where several earth ponies were working the field, giving Trixie a casual welcome as they continued their tasks.
Trixie and Reina's eyes widened as the forest's roof fully gave way. Ahead of them were many small wooden homes, sporting plenty of green. Beyond those, reaching into the sky, was a line of snow capped mountains that stretched east and west. Before those white peaks was a large cluster of buildings, mostly made of brick, averaging around three stories tall, with some being six to ten high in the city's center. The ground was uneven, leaving city and homes built on varying levels of height.
Compared to its close neighbor, Vanhoover, Tall Tale wasn't nearly as grandiose, but it had an aged feeling to it that gave it a certain kind of charm. The atmosphere around the city reminded Trixie of Canterlot, old and proud. It also felt like the village Twilight now resided, warm and welcoming, Ponyville. And, it was bustling with activity, the road growing more crowded as they continued on.
“Trixie, what's that smell?” Reina asked curiously, making Trixie's nose perk.
“Oh! Those are grapes. Interested?”
“Do you ... eat those?” she asked, getting a confused look from the mare.
“Well yes, just like apples and carrots.”
“But, I drink apples.” Reina then blinked, “That's apple-juice, right?”
“Yes, and you can drink grapes too. Some of it is even for children!” she said with a coy smile, getting a confused look from the filly. “Trixie will buy some juice for you around lunch, sound good?”
“Yeah!” she replied with a grin, which Trixie mirrored. With that, they continued on in silence for several minutes.
Reina's attention turned back to what she was practicing, before something dawned on her. “Trixie, where's The School?”
“School? Which one?” Trixie asked in a confused tone, making the filly blink.
“There's more than one?” Tiko asked, getting a flat look from the mare.
“Schools are very common in Equestria. So where'd this come from?” she asked, making the filly glance to the side.
“Sid. She said that they were suppose to take me to 'The School'.”
“Well, that's not ominous,” Trixie said as her brow furrowed. “So, which school are they referring to?” she asked, more to herself.
“What's a school?”
“It's a place where colts and fillies go to learn,” Trixie explained dismissively. “If they want to take you to a school, then it must be a private one. Someplace where they could keep an eye on you?” she speculated.
“So you don't know where it is?”
“Not without knowing the name.”
“What if its name is The School?” Tiko inquired. In a condescending tone.
“Trixie seriously doubts there's a school out there like that,” the mare replied, before letting out a sigh, “But, she supposes it should still be looked into,” she added, glancing to the city ahead, “Something else to ask about it looks like.”
“The dum-dum will be busy?” the doll asked, getting a fired up look from the pony.
“Yep, we've got a couple of busy days ahead of us!”
“Us?” Reina asked excitedly.
“Of course! In fact, let's get started right now!” Trixie added as she adopted a sly grin, “Now, about your performance yesterday,” she began, getting an eager look from Reina. “As your first show, you did pretty well. Why, those fillies and colts were all over you!”
“Literally!” Tiko added, the filly wearing a beaming grin.
“However,” she showpony added in a stern tone, “if you want to help Trixie make bits, then you're going to have to try harder.”
“Awww, but we were trying really hard!” Tiko whined.
“And you'll need to do harder regardless, because, bits are made by adults.” Trixie had a confident air about her, a note of passion in her voice that drew her assistant in. “You should never perform a show for children expecting bits out of it. Mares and stallions are where the money is, and they're a little harder to amuse than fillies and colts. Adults are more skeptical, busier, experienced, and frugal. To keep the attention, awe, and wonder of an adult, you must appear to be somepony that is larger than life,” she explained, Reina considering her words.
“Is that why you talk odd, and always call yourself Great and Powerful?” she asked, making the mare blink.
“Hah! That's just who the Great and Powerful Trixie is. A magnificent showpony who has dabbled in all kinds of entertainment. Singing, dancing, acting, comedy, acrobatics, and of course, magic! And while those others were fun, being a magician is what Trixie feels the most comfortable with.”
“Y- You tried all that?” Reina asked wide-eyed, getting a proud nod from the mare. “How?”
“Trixie had a lot of time to experiment,” she said with a fond smile.
“So, you can sing? Are you good at it?” Reina asked curiously, getting a put off look from the mare.
“You doubt Trixie?”
“No, it's just,” she said, adopting a focused look, “It's... Well, you don't seem like the singing type.”
“Hmph!” Trixie let out, raising her nose.
“S- Sorry,” the filly added. “So ... there's a bunch of different types of performing,” she said with a thoughtful look, “And being a magician means using magic. So, I'll need to do one of the other types then,” she said, making Trixie frown.
“No you don't,” she replied bluntly.
“Huh?” the filly asked in surprise, making Trixie adopt a contemplative look.
“You don't need to be a unicorn, to be a magician.” Trixie then coughed, “Though being one does have its advantages.”
“But, the only magic I have is...” she let off as she fiddled with her glasses.
“Right, Trixie has some explaining to do!” she let out, pulling her cart to the side of a field, just before reaching the city proper. She then freed herself from the carriage and helped her assistant off the roof. Moving around the cart, they placed themselves out of sight from the road, Trixie's horn summoning a sound canceling bubble as she adopted a very serious look.
“Now listen Reina, what Trixie is about to tell you is really important, and very secretive. You can keep a secret, right?”
“Right!” Reina replied, giving Trixie a spirited look.
“Very well then,” Trixie replied, looking over their surroundings one last time, before taking a deep breath. “There are two kinds of magic in this world,” she began, raising a hoof, bottom up, “There's your everyday magic,” she said as her horn glowed, summoning a small image of herself standing on her hoof, “and there's the magic of the unknown!” She waved her other hoof over the image, making it disappear in the motion, a bit being left in its place. Trixie looked to Reina eagerly, getting a confused look from the filly.
“What's the 'unknown'?”
“The unknown is anything that looks like magic, but isn't. If you don't know better, then you believe it's magic, because it's easier to think that. Something like Zecora's potions, Trixie's tricks, or hypnotism are like that,” she explained, waving her hoof past the bit, making it disappear, “And one thing distinct about this kind of magic is, with practice, most anypony can do it.” She then glanced to Reina, “You can make the bit disappear and reappear, but, you can't copy Trixie's spells.” She then smiled as she rose her empty hooves. “Do you know where the bit is?” she asked, making Reina shake her head, getting a sigh from the mare. She then reached out, the filly blinking as Trixie touched her chin. She then raised her hoof, showing the bit resting on it as Trixie raised an eyebrow. “What if Trixie told you it was under your muzzle the whole time?” Reina's eyes widened as she looked at the coin for a moment.
“So that, that wasn't everyday magic, but the 'unknown'?”
“That's right!” Trixie replied, giving the filly the coin, who nearly fell over when she caught it. Trixie then applauded for her assistant. “But, let's call it what it actually is. A trick. Trixie tricked you.”
“How'd you do that?” the filly inquired, getting a smile from the mare.
“The bit never left Trixie's hoof. She simply made you think it did,” she explained enthusiastically. She then showed Reina the whole trick again, showing how she made the filly glance in the wrong place as the bit switched hooves. How it was tucked out of sight. How she was fooled. “As you can see, a magician tricks their audience into believing the improbable!” She then raised a hoof, adopting a smug look. “As a unicorn, everypony assumes Trixie's magic is the real deal. But when an earth pony does it, or a lamia for that matter, the wonder increases, because the means to which it was accomplished, is unknown.”
“So, if you know the trick, the magic is lost?”
“Exactly!” Trixie said with a proud smile. “That's why it's important to keep the secrets behind the trick, a secret!” She then poked Tiko, “Those fillies and colts believed Tiko was haunted by some sort of spirit. Because he could talk, and they didn't know you were talking for him, the children believed in something improbable, over something as simple as the truth. Do you think it would have been as wonderful, if they knew it was you all along?” She asked, getting a surprised look from the lamia. Reina then glanced to her doll for a moment, her mind racing, before realization lit her face. She then gave Trixie a curious look.
“If you can use real magic, then why do tricks too?”
“Because it's more efficient that way,” the mare replied, unphased, “Trixie can make fireworks with her magic, but using real ones is easier. After all, it takes a troublesome bit of magic to perfectly mirror the flash and boom of the real deal.” She then nodded to herself, “Basically, Trixie sprinkles tricks into her act to help her perform longer.”
“Then, doesn't that mean you're not as Great and Powerful as you say you are?” the filly asked with a flat look, her words instantly popping Trixie's enthusiasm.
“Th- That is- Trixie is Great and Powerful!” the mare insisted, “Her magic just isn't...” she then adopted a sheepish look, before it switched to annoyance. “Look, that doesn't matter!”
“Trixie?” the filly asked, confused by the mare's behavior.
“Don't look at Trixie like that!” she said, giving Reina a hard frown, “She is great! So what if her best friends have more umph in their magic, Trixie can weave a better spell matrix than both of them!”
“Trixie, I didn't say anything like that,” Reina quickly assured in a worried tone, getting a surprised look from the mare, her face turning red.
“F- Forget what Trixie just said!” the mare insisted, before her eyes widened, “And remember not to tell anypony about this, okay! A magician's show relies on the secrets to her tricks!”
“R- Right!” the filly replied.
An awkward silence then fell between them. Trixie glanced to the side, avoiding eye contact with her assistant, as if she was trying to ignore what she just let out. “Trixie,” Reina said, getting a guarded look from the mare.
“Can I learn these tricks?”
“Oh,” she replied, looking a little surprised, before regaining her composure. “Trixie doesn't see why not. You've got talent after all. Few your age can pull off the level of ventriloquism you show. And you've shown that you're pretty slick with your hooves and tail.” Trixie then let out a sigh, “But, there's only so much you can learn while we're here. So for now, Trixie will show you how to assist in her own performance.”
“Also,” the mare said, a thoughtful look in her eyes, “It may be a good idea for you to see other showponies at work. Give you an idea of the competition.”
“Yep, competition! There's only so much attention and bits an adult has to give, after all,” she said confidently, “But, how about we get that lunch Trixie mentioned earlier, before we go see what's going on in Tall Tale today?”
“Sounds good to Tiko!” the doll let out, getting a nod from the filly.
“Excellent!” Trixie replied, both getting back to the cart. As she started to strap herself back in, Reina gave her a concerned look.
“Do you think those goons are still after us?” she asked, getting an briefly worried look from the mare.
“They waited till it was dark, and ran when the police came running,” Trixie pointed out, “We should be fine if we stay in the city,” she explained, getting a nod from the filly. “Assuming those villains can even find us in this hilly place,” she added smugly.
Those villains stared on, shocked looks on their faces. They could clearly see Trixie's gaudy cart, the blue mare pulling it down the road a hundred yards ahead of them. Ember was the first to collect herself, turning to the others with a fired up look in her eyes.
“Come on, let's get them!” she hissed, “Let's get Reina back!”
“Calm down,” Slick said in a commanding tone, getting a confused look from her. “I said we're gonna lay low. Too many witnesses. Too close to Vanhoover.”
“No means no, Ember.” He then gave her a cool look, “Yer free to try all by yerself, just don't count on us tah bail ya out once yer caught.”
“So what, we're giving up!?” she asked.
“Not so loud!” Sid replied, making Ember glance around in alarm, the lamia now invisible. “I'll keep an eye on them, Slick,” the mare added, sounding determined. “Meet up at the Usual Spot tonight?”
“Sounds good to me.”
“Slick...” Sid started hesitantly, “Tomorrow, can you take me to the theater?” The stallion considered the question, getting an annoyed look from Ember.
“Find out how long Trixie's stayin'. Then we'll see,” he said, getting an affirming sound from her as he glanced to the pegasus. “Ya know where the Usual Spot is?”
“We're actually abandoning her? You can't be serious! She's right there!” Ember let out in exasperation, pointing in Reina's direction.
“They're takin' the same way to The School,” Slick pointed out, “We tail 'em fer a while, let 'em think they lost us. Then, we get the jump on them.”
“After the mountains?” Sid asked curiously, getting a nod from the stallion. “Okay! See you later Slick, good luck!”
“Stay outa trouble,” the stallion added, getting silence in return, which made him sigh. “And stay away from grapes.”
“Aww!” Sid replied in disappointment.
“I mean it Sid. Not even a sip.”
“I … I promise I won't,” she replied, making Slick let out another sigh. Ember watched in disbelief as he continued on down the road, making her grab her head in frustration.
“Arghh! I can't believe I got assigned to a couple of cowards!”
“Sticks 'n Stones, Ember. Just don't drag us down with you,” he said dismissively, leaving the pegasus all alone.
“...H- Hey, wait! I don't know where the Usual Spot is!” she explained, blushing as she went after him.
“Gotta admit, not too many ponies out to buy this raw,” the sales-mare commented, patting a hoof on the small keg of grape-juice.
“It's really good!” Reina insisted, juice on her lips. Trixie let out a sigh as she parted with the small number of bits she had left.
“It makes Reina's tummy feel warm!” Tiko added, making Trixie pause.
“This is grape-juice, right?” the showpony asked.
“Ya think I'd mess something like that up?” the sales-mare asked indignantly, “If I was peddling that, I'd ask fer yer age! Taste it yerself if you're skeptical!”
“No no, that's fine,” Trixie assured. “So, have any suggestions for where a tourist may want to go?”
“Heh, you do got that look about you,” the mare said with a nod, “Well, there's a convention of sorts going on next few days at the con center. Think it's called … Dino-con?” she then waved a hoof dismissively. “'Sides that, if you're interested in entertainment, you should check out the theater district,” she added as she eyed Trixie's wagon.
“And that would be?”
“See that tall building with the gray-blue roof? Most of the ones around it are part of the theater district.”
“Ahh!” Trixie said as she spotted said landmark, “Thank you very much~” Trixie added, turning back to her wagon.
“Don't mention it. And come on back if ya want more!” the mare let out, before her eyes widened. “Ahh shoot!” she exclaimed, drawing Trixie's attention as the mare dived into her stock, crushing grapes and knocking several things over in the process. Trixie stepped back in surprise as a spray of grape batter flew over her head. “Get back here ya varmit!” the sales-mare shouted, covered in juice as a raccoon skittered away from the mess, taking a small haul with it.
“Another raccoon? Is that common around here?” Trixie asked, getting a defeated sigh from the mare.
“It is. Might wanna keep an eye on yer food while yer here.” She then blinked, her eyes following Reina as she slithered up to her stand.
“Reina?” Trixie asked, getting a small smile from the filly as she pulled out a bit.
“How many grapes for this?” she asked as she placed it on the table, getting a soft smile from the mare.
“For a cutie like yerself, a whole stem,” she said, grabbing a bundle of grapes and presenting it to the filly. “Sound good?”
“Is that fair?” the filly asked skeptically, getting a small laugh from the vendor.
“It's more than fair, I'd even say it's a steal!” she added, getting a considering look from Reina, before she nodded to herself.
“Thank you, for the grapes,” Reina said in a dignified and respectful tone, taking the grapes, before rushing back to the smiling blue mare. “Bits sure are amazing!” the filly exclaimed, presenting her first purchase with a smile.
“Keep being proud of yourself," Trixie said as she shook her head, "That was our last bit. We're broke now,” she added with an amused look. “Let's go, probably going to have to do an odd job if we're going to see any shows today.”
“~Kay!” Reina replied, popping a grape in her mouth, sucking on it for a little bit, before spitting the rest of it away.
“D- Don't just spit them onto the road!” Trixie let out, getting a lightheaded giggle from the filly.
“Okay!” she said, tail swaying side to side as she pulled herself on top of the carriage, to Trixie's surprise. “Thanks for always being so nice to me, Trixie,” she added, her face flushed as she popped another grape in her mouth, getting a concerned look from Trixie.
Sid looked on, invisible to all. Or, at least she had. Now, her eyes were on the grapes scattered about by the sales-mare's reckless vermin scuffle. The lamia swayed side to side, trying to convince herself that just one wouldn't hurt. She was also trying to convince herself that just one was one too many.
She then flinched when a pony stumbled over her tail. Sharply pulled from her mental quandary, she noticed the pony looking around confused. She also noted that Trixie's carriage was on the move, leaving her behind. Eyeing the grapes one last time, she sighed as she turned her back on the succulent, tempting, intoxicating mouth watering morsels.
Unbeknownst to the lamia, her tail had other thoughts in mind, taking a branch and dragging it along. The tripped up pony eyed the apparently self-moving grapes, shaking her head and mumbling about seeing things. Sid was oblivious, her eyes locked on the happy filly on the roof.
She'd been told that her weakness to grapes was a rare trait among her kind. That fact brought a smile to her face; it was a trait Reina shared with her. To Sid, the filly had truly discovered something wonderful. Something that she probably wouldn't fully appreciate, until she was older.
Sid then winced as something bit her tail, making her look back. Confusion assaulted her as she witnessed a raccoon running off with a stem of grapes. She rubbed her tail as it skittered away, two questions nagging at her: Why did it bite her, and how'd it know where her tail was?
“Reina, are you feeling ... lightheaded?” Trixie asked as she glanced to her assistant, getting a hiccup in response.
“It'ss only light becausse I'm sso high up!” she replied.
“Well, that's one way to put it,” Trixie said with a frown, levitating away the grapes and juice-filled barrel from the filly.
“Yeah, okay,” she said as her eyes followed the floating fruit. “Better to- <hiccup> better ssave for later.” Her gaze then narrowed for a moment. “My s’ss ssound like grandma’ss,” she pointed out, before laughing. It was an odd, hissing laugh, which Trixie couldn’t help but find cute, and unsettling.
“Reina, is this really your first time trying grapes?”
“Uh huh. Never heard of ‘em before today!” she said as she threw her hooves up. Trixie's frown deepened as she noticed the passerbys giving her troubling looks. Looks that said 'Did you give that filly what we think you gave her?', and that just wouldn't do.
Pulling the cart aside, Trixie brought her assistant down from her cloud.
“Wheee~” she let out, legs spread out in flight, a fit of giggles escaping her as she touched the ground, looking to Trixie with big, half-lidded eyes. “Trixie. Your eyess are really pretty.”
“As are yours,” the mare replied, her horn glowing as she prepared a spell she just happened to know. A spell she most definitely did not learn to remedy certain conditions that a mare of her age and importance would never have...
Her spell ready to go, Trixie hesitated as Reina glanced to the side.
“Momma really loved daddy'ss eyes. I kinda misss hi- <hiccup>.” She then frowned slightly, making Trixie tilt her head for a moment, before casting her spell, covering Reina's body in magic, the filly's body tingling. The spell ran its course for several seconds before the glow faded away.
“There, you should be thinking straight again,” Trixie said with a nod, making Reina blink, before she started to blush. “Ohhh? Is somefilly feeling a little silly now?” she said with a smug smile, making Reina look more distressed.
“I- That was...” At a loss of words, she simply glanced to the side, rubbing the back of her head sheepishly.
“That was an … experience. Sadly, you'll have to wait out the headache. Trixie's cleansing can't clear that out,” she said with a sigh, “Apparently there's no spell that can. So you'll have to bear with it,” she added, making Reina appraise her.
“What headache?” she asked, tilting her head.
“You don't have a headache?” Trixie inquired, getting a nod from the filly as she smiled. Trixie's eye twitched, and in a blink, she gave her assistant a light bonk on the noggin. “Ow! Why'd you hit me?”
“Because life isn't fair,” Trixie said curtly.
“Oh...” the filly replied, her frown melting as she glanced to the side.
“Now, as adorable as that was, Trixie can't have you on any grape-juice in the middle of the day. Especially now, for we’re on the prowl!”
“On the prowl?”
“Are we hunting antlions!?” Tiko added. “It feels like forever since we've had antlion.”
“...What's an antlion?” Trixie didn't like the implications of Tiko's words, and had a feeling her question was only going to usher in more concern.
“It's this really big bug that has a lot of legs and giant pincers. It makes traps in the desert,” Reina said matter-of-factly.
“How big is ‘really big’?” Trixie asked, making Reina eye her for a second, before pointing at the carriage. Trixie briefly paled. “W- Well, good thing Equestria doesn't have any of those!”
“So, what are we on the prowl for?” Reina asked, giving Trixie an eager and determined look. She was fired up. Trixie cleared her throat, her gaze sweeping the street they were on, before nodding to herself.
“What's a customer?” Tiko asked, getting a sigh from the mare.
“Look, just trust Trixie on this. We'll make a few bits, and once we're good again, we'll go see somepony else's show to broaden your view.”
“Good, now follow Trixie's lead!” the mare exclaimed, the filly eager to help.
“Come one, come all! Be swept in awe by The Great and Powerful Trixie's wisdom~!” Reina exclaimed energetically, fully in costume, standing a stone's throw away from the carriage.
The cart's stage-less side had its canopy extended, curtains drawn around as a wall, forming a makeshift room. In this ambiently dark space, Trixie sat, a crystal ball resting in a bundle of blankets in front of her.
“You there!” Reina singled out a stallion that’d been lost in thought for several minutes, getting a confused look from said pony, “Yes, you! You have a question that needs answering!”
“Well,” Tiko began, perched over Reina's shoulder, “It's your lucky day! Don't be a dum-dum. Get the answer! Just talk to that dum-dum—“
“Just talk to Trixie~” Reina cut in, “She can answer any problem, for a small fee,” she added, extending an open hoof as the stallion considered her. “Skeptical?” she pressed as she got closer, her voice in a low tone, “Have no worries, if you're not satisfied, you don't have to pay. So come on, what do you have to lose?” she inquired, the rim of her hat hiding her eyes from the stallion, giving her a sly appearance. He looked from her, to Trixie, before nodding to himself.
“You know what? Sure, why not?” he replied, taking a deep breath, before walking past her, getting a small bow from the filly. Reina watched as he sat before Trixie, a satisfied grin on her lips.
“Trixie was right, it is getting easier!” Reina said to Tiko, letting out a small laugh.
“And it only took three hours of practice and a dozen failed pitches to get it right!” Tiko added sarcastically.
“Yeah, and you almost messed that one up!” Reina chided, “We lost three others thanks to your name calling!”
“How else are they supposed to know they’re dealing with a Rank One dum-dum?” The doll asked in a valiant tone, getting a sigh from Reina, before she slithered closer to their customer.
“Now tell Trixie, what is eating at you?” the showpony asked in a mystical tone, waving her hooves over the crystal ball as it gave a small glow. “What question burns in your heart? Is it about somepony special, or, is it something that troubles you?”
“W- Well, yes. I mean, no! Yes it's about a special pony,” the stallion flustered out, “I want to tell her how amazing she is, but, I'm afraid she'll turn me down.”
“Is that all that ails you?” Trixie asked in a warm tone, getting a small nod. “Fret not, good stallion!” she added, horn glowing for a moment. Her crystal ball then shimmered, the stallion's gaze caught in it.
Reina saw Trixie make a small gesture, making the filly look away, her eyes peeled for whatever it was that stallion was being distracted from. The filly then blinked when a nearby pigeon let out a hoot, flying away in annoyance as a feather, caught in magic, was pulled from it. “Yes, I know your remedy. Your heart lacks courage, but have no fear, Trixie can grant you all the courage you'll ever need! For a price.”
“I'll pay anything!” the stallion replied, pulling out a bulging sack of bits, presenting it to the mare. She was surprised for a moment, but quickly hid it as the feather drifted closer.
“For this many bits, Trixie will grant you her most powerful remedy! Now, close your eyes,” she asked, the stallion quickly doing so. Trixie then pulled the feather over the ball, its grey and white strands changing color, shifting to shimmering gold. “Now, look upon this token,” she commanded, his eyes opening, and widening as he saw the golden feather glow bright. “This feather has been in Trixie's possession for many moons, its power offering many that little push they needed. For your generous payment, this magic feather, radiating bravery, is yours to keep. Carry it on you, and you'll be able to let your heart sing out!” she assured confidently, the feather shining with her words.
“I- Incredible! Truly amazing!” the stallion said, the feather's shine reflecting in his eyes as he picked it up.
“Go now. Say what you wish to this special pony. If you find this feather's power insufficient, then you may take back your bits.”
“I- I can already feel its power! I think I'm going to do it!” he exclaimed as he placed the feather over his ear, getting a smile from Trixie. He then gave her a very determined look, “Trixie Lulamoon, I am madly in love with you!”
“Eh?” Trixie said, her mystic persona faltering, hat tilting over as she gave him a slightly surprised look.
“It's true! Ever since I saw your show in Ponyville, I’ve been traveling Equestria, just to see you perform!”
“Yes! Dropped my job, sold my home, and left!” he explained with a wide, proud grin, “Your shows are just so- so amazing! No story you’ve told has been repeated. The way you really get into it is energizing. And your magic! I’ve never seen another unicorn that could do what you do!” Goodness, Trixie was starting to blush!
“Th- That’s really flattering.” She then blinked. “Wait, so you’re stalking Trixie?” The showpony asked with alarm.
“I- That’s not quite right…” he said as she glanced to the side, his enthusiasm dying at her tone. “I mean, I’ve followed you city from city, like a groupie!”
“But you just said that you were madly in love with Trixie,” the mare pointed out.
“I- I think I am...” the stallion suddenly looked unsure of himself, his confidence starting to cave, getting a concerned look from the mystic. She then adopted a small grin.
“Your words make Trixie happy, they really do,” she said, turning his frown around. “Alas!” she began woefully, “Trixie has captured yet another heart. Sadly, her own is not hers to give, even if you wished it yours.”
“It, isn't?” he asked, suddenly looking concerned.
“An arrangement from years past binds Trixie. She is betrothed to the noble, Blueblood. An agreement made, without Trixie’s consent! Were it not for that, then perhaps…” she let the sentence hang as she looked to the stallion. He adopted a small frown.
“Arranged marriages in this day and age…” he said, glancing to the side for a moment, before giving Trixie a confident look. “Thank you for this feather, my beloved! Thank you, for hearing me out. Now, I know what I must do,” he said in a very serious tone. He then turned around, making her blink as he ran off.
“W- Wait! Trixie never got your name…” he was already gone, to do only Luna knew what.
“...Was that normal?” Reina asked as she looked off towards the galloping stallion.
“No, it wasn’t,” Trixie said with a sigh.
“Though, I guess it’s a good thing he left,” the filly said with a considering look, making Trixie raise an eyebrow.
“Yeah,” Reina said, giving Trixie a very serious look, “He loves you. He could have given you cooties!” The surefire look in her eyes, along with her words, prompted Trixie to start laughing. “W- What’s so funny?”
“If it’s cooties you’re worried about, well, Trixie got those years ago in a silly dare.”
“Eh?” Reina blinked. A mischievous grin flashed across Trixie’s face, and in a swift motion, she pulled close to Reina, and planted a quick kiss on her forehead. “Ehhh!??”
“And now you have them too,” Trixie said curtly, “better to catch it young.”
“Nooooo…” Reina said as she started rubbing her forehead with the blanket, sending the crystal ball rolling away. Trixie caught the ball as she started laughing.
“It’s not funny!” Tiko let out, “This is serious business!”
“Better look out, Tiko, or you’ll be next!” Trixie said slyly, making the filly flinch, giving the mare a guarded look. Trixie then let out a happy sigh.
“Still, I’d be nice to have gotten his name.” She then lifted the bag of bits, a troubled look on her face, “He gave us far too much.”
“...Why’d you lie about the feather?” Reina asked, keeping a respectable distance between herself and Trixie, a bothered look on her face.
“A story is easier to sell than saying ‘this is from that ugly bird over there’.”
“Was it easy to do your magic on it?” she inquired curiously, getting a sly smile from the mare.
“Very easy, since Trixie only put a very weak heat enchantment on it. It’ll always feel warm to the touch.”
“Huh? You mean it didn’t make him brave? You tricked him?”
“That’s right,” she replied smugly.
“That doesn’t seem fair…”
“Which is why Trixie’s bothered by this,” she added as she jingled the bag. She then took out a small number of bits, before hiding the rest away inside the carriage. “If he didn’t go running off to Canterlot, he’ll be at Trixie’s next show. We can give him the rest when he does,” she said with a nod, before giving three bits to Reina. “Here’s your share.” The filly took the bits, a mixture of pride and concern in her eyes.
“Should I have these, if we’re going to just give him back his money?”
“Would you rather not?” Trixie asked with a raised eyebrow, getting a thoughtful look from the filly.
“I, I think I’ll keep it,” she replied. Trixie then let out a small sigh.
“Do you think he ran off to challenge Blueblood?” she asked, getting a shrug from her assistant, along with a ‘I’m just a filly’ look.
“Was that a lie too?” she asked, now giving Trixie a cross look.
“Of course it was! Trixie wouldn’t be caught dead with that stuffy colt!”
“Oh ho! The truth comes out!” a strangely deep yet effeminate voice cried out, making Reina and Trixie exchange confused looks. “Poof!” A small plume of smoke suddenly formed ahead of the carriage, making Trixie frown, quickly getting to her hooves, her magic pushing Reina behind her. “You spiteful woman, just like a vixen! Harpy! Witch! You easily claim the hearts of others, before tossing them aside.” The smoke started to clear, a dark silhouette forming in its center. “Truly. You. Are. FABULOUS!”
Trixie blinked in confusion as the smoke cleared, revealing a tall, provocatively well built stallion. He had a great deal of make-up on his handsome face, including lipstick, and he was pointing at Trixie in an odd pose.
“What the-? Wh- Who are you?” Trixie asked in a flustered tone, getting a deep chuckle from him.
“I am Onno, the Showstopper! Sparkle!” A plume of glitter exploded out from behind him, the sun’s light reflecting all sorts of colors around. “Maybe you’ve heard of me, oh Great and Powerful Trixie?” he asked with a toothy grin. Before she could reply, he pressed on. “No matter! What’s important is that you are here, in my lovely city! Tell me, you wish to perform here, yes?” he asked, making Trixie take a moment to clear her head, before giving him a guarded, but confident look.
“Trixie shall, tomorrow. Then, we’ll leave the following morning to the east,” she explained, Sid’s unseen ears perking in response.
“Ahh, intending to catch Cloudsdale as it drifts by!” he said energetically, his words making Trixie take a mental travel note. “Quite the traveler you are! Just wonderful!” he added joyously, before spinning on his hooves.
It was then that Trixie noticed that several passersby had stopped what what they were doing, giving both of them their attention. “And who are you, little miss? Don’t see many of your color around these parts,” he said as he looked to Reina. The filly blinked, not sure if she should answer what was clearly the strangest pony she’d ever encountered. Trixie considered Onno for a moment, adopting a small smile as she gave Reina an assuring push.
“I- I’m Reina. And this is Tiko,” she added as she pat her doll.
“You look funny!” Tiko pointed out, making Trixie cover her smirk as the stallion let out a loud laugh.
“That I do! This here, this, is the face of theater!" He struck another pose. "Make-up and gusto and bravado! All to hide the terrible truth!”
“Truth?” the filly asked.
“That it’s all an act!” he explained, getting a short laugh from Trixie. “The wiley vixen is amused! Most excellent.”
“Onno is an odd name for a pony,” Trixie pointed out coyly, “Is there more to it?”
“Well of course there is!”
“And just why would you call the Great and Powerful Trixie a vixen?” she asked in a playful, hurt tone, “She’s done nothing to earn such a name.”
“A slander of lies if I ever heard one. Truly, the mark of a magician,” he said, without an ounce of doubt. “Not that I mind! A vixen or a matron, hero or villain, the stage cares not! The audience shall applaud regardless!” He then eyed Reina, “What of you, young one, what song do you sing? What role do you portray?”
“Well, I don’t want to be a vixen,” Reina quickly replied, getting a laugh from him, and a frown from Trixie. “I don’t know about being a saint either. Can I just be me?” Trixie blinked at that, looking to her assistant, before adopting a proud smile.
“Oh ho~? You wish to play on stage as yourself?”
“Isn’t that what Trixie does?” Reina asked in a confused tone.
“Trixie is Trixie, on and off the stage,” the mare stated, before looking to him. “Trixie is curious, Onno, is this your performance, or do you actually use a stage?”
“Oh, this?” he asked as he motioned to all of his handsome self, “Consider this my way of greeting a fellow artist of high esteem! Trixie Lulamoon, Disciple of the Moon. Student of the Princess herself! Truly, it is an honor!” he said with a deep bow, making the mare blush. “And yes, I do have a show later, if you wish to see me shine!” he said, getting a nod from Trixie.
“Reina needs to see other showponies at work, so yes, we’re for seeing you ‘shine’.”
“Hah! Doubt! I love it!” He then pulled out two tickets, giving them to Reina and Trixie. “It starts in two hours. I’d be quite depressed if you missed it!”
“Fine with you?” Trixie asked the filly, getting a hesitant nod in reply.
“Most excellent! I look forward to your show too, Trixie. So as I leave, I say to you: Welcome to Tall Tale, where the stage is always shining, and the audience is always cheering! Flash!” And with that, there was a flash of light, briefly blinding everypony, as Onno twirled off, leaving behind many an amused mare, stallion, and one confused filly.
“Umm, do you become weird like Onno if you get cooties when you’re older?” she asked, making Trixie blink at her, before spitting out a laugh. “I told you, it’s not funny!” she said indignantly, her words being drowned out as Trixie doubled over, her humor on display for all to see, making Reina blush in embarrassment. The filly hugged her doll as the mare continued on for a solid minute. Trixie’s sides were aching, as her joy slowly died down.
“Oh gosh, the things parents tell their foals,” Trixie said as she wiped some tears from her eyes.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Reina asked defensively, getting a short laugh in reply.
“Don’t worry about it,” the mare said, straightening her hat and cape, before appraising the ticket Onno had given her. “...His name isn’t here,” she said, surprised. Reina frowned at her for a moment longer, before letting out a sigh.
“What do they say?” she asked as she looked over hers.
“They’re tickets for a duet. Some band called r.A.R.u.” She then pointed to a pair of names on the ticket. “Don’t know what Onno intended, but he gave us tickets to see a concert for Coloratura and Sonata.”
“Yep, it’s going to be a show filled with music.”
“That sounds like fun,” Reina replied, an eager smile on her face.
Onno continued on through the theater district, waving and gretting at any mares, or stallions, that smiled at him. Reaching his destination, he grinned to himself when he noticed the long line of ponies forming outside, eager to be filed into the concert hall. With practice that would catch the vigilant off guard, the flashy and handsome stallion ducked down into an alley, disappearing from sight.
“I wonder how well their performance will be?” he asked out loud as he made his way to the back door. He then stopped, his eyes widening as something taut wrapped around him. It was firm, but not crushing. Adopting a smile, he loosened his knees, making him topple over, taking the invisible assailant with him.
Sid let out a small ‘oomph’ as she fell. But, she wasn’t going to be bested that easily. Laying still, Onno’s smile widened as the world went dark. A pair of hooves had closed his eyes.
“Guess who?” Sid asked, getting a friendly chuckle from the stallion
“Cottonmouth? Is that you?” he replied coyly, prompting Sid to tighten her hold.
“Oh! How could I forget! Bushmaster!”
“Onno…” Sid said, sounding a little impatient.
“Heh. Hey Sid. How’s my favorite garden viper doing?”
“I’m not a viper,” she said, half playful, half whining. “So, how’ve you been!?” she asked as her invisibility faded, revealing a mare happy to be with an old friend.