The Great and Exhausted Trixie panted softly, listening to the rush of blood in her ears and watching a few drops of sweat hitting the large rock she was leaning over, right between her forelegs. She took in a large breath of air and pushed one more time, hind legs scrabbling for purchase on the dry ground as she tried to keep her momentum up and rolling the rock forward until it came to a stop on its designated spot, give or take a few inches.
She moved around it to slump down in the meagre shadow it cast under the noontime sun, closing her eyes and leaning against it for a few moments to try and catch her breath, face still burning from the heated flush that was only slowly coming down again. The sky was bare of any clouds and she couldn't even remember the last time it had rained. Not that she could really blame anypony for that, ordering rain all the way out here had to cost a small fortune, not that that admission made the dry heat any easier to bear.
A year ago she had been somepony. Not a particularly successful somepony, certainly not as successful as she'd wished or pretended to be, a somepony with few enough belongings to be easily organized inside a moderate wagon. But she'd had a couple dedicated fans all over Equestria, a respectable rainy day fund in a hidden compartment and a show that still made her feel good about herself, most days.
Or maybe it just made her feel good about the pony she pretended to be, but as a mare who went up quite literally against destiny itself every other day, she quite frankly didn't care about being picky. She felt good and occasionally she even felt content, and that was enough for her.
And then Ponyville happened. Because obviously all those drifters and grifters she'd made acquaintances with over the years were exaggerating when they described it as the second coming of Discord, an outpost of Tartarus and the birthplace of Murphy's Law.
One three story high starbeast later and all she had left were a tattered cape, a battered hat holding her emergency emergency stash of Bits and a reputation more thoroughly shot than should be possible from a podunk earth pony village at the edge of the Everfree. A podunk earth pony village within view of Canterlot, sure, but then again a whole lot of villages were in view of Canterlot, with its whole mountain castle aesthetic.
However it happened, though, Trixie had turned into a laughingstock all across Equestria practically overnight. Anywhere she went, the only ponies who still showed up to her show were hecklers and a few impressionable foals and she wasn’t quite sure which one she dreaded more, now. Not that she had much of a show left with her stage, housing, props and general belongings left as a pile of kindle back in Ponyville.
In the end she took a job as helping hoof on a rock farm, of all places. A helping hoof in the most literal sense, because her employers wouldn’t let her use her magic to so much as touch the rocks. Which was honestly fine with Trixie; her magic had always leaned towards skill, not power, while rolling and dragging around rocks wasn’t that much worse than pulling her wagon all day. The housing was sparse and bland, but comfortable enough. It honestly would have been a bearable if not decent temporary job if it wasn’t for one thing.
Trixie pulled out the dented thermos with her lunch and shook it, listening to the ingredients rattle around inside.
Rocks boiled in water. No vegetables. No spices. Just rocks.
Trixie didn’t even.
She sighed and put the thermos down again, instead pulling out the half loaf of bread she’d been given to go along with it. It didn’t really go well with rock soup, but that was mostly because Trixie couldn’t conceive of anything possibly going well with rock soup. The Pie matriarch was a surprisingly good baker, although she rarely made anything more than simple bread.
Her stomach growled and she raised the bread to take a large bite, only to stop it inches away when another stomach answered near her. Her eyes shifted to the side on instinct and a second later she lowered the bread again, turning her head to properly stare.
It looked like the strangest dog Trixie had ever seen, and she had been abducted by Diamond Dogs no less than four times for her fake gems and a few sparkly magic tricks. Twice even by the same pack. As a matter of fact, if Trixie could ever imagine Diamond Dogs going to school, the creature staring back at her would probably be the kid they picked on.
The dog was bipedal, standing straight and easily like the few minotaurs Trixie had met in her travels, if you removed all the muscle. It was covered in short, eggshell-white fur with brown markings on his arms and legs, brown floppy ears and a brown collar. His head was topped in a large tuft of fur that was shaped too much like a beret to be a coincidence. Most peculiarly his right three-digit paw was holding a tail longer than it was tall, with a tuft of fur at the end resembling a large paintbrush, complete with most of it covered in what looked like slightly wet, brilliant white paint.
The dog blinked back.
Then it stiffened, seeming to realize only now that it had been discovered. There was a strange blurring sensation and next Trixie knew the dog was hiding behind her rock, leaning out his head and upper body to keep watching her with an honest to Harmony blush across its face, one paw gripping the rock for balance and the other still holding the tail that was trying to swish nervously.
They stared at each other for another moment until the tense silence was interrupted by another loud growl from the dog’s stomach. And because apparently the universe was trying to balance out all the bland monotony and drudgery of her last few weeks all at once, it started blushing even harder and grabbed his tail with both paws in an effort to hide his face behind the brush.
Then they were both reminded just what his second paw had been occupied with, when the dog inevitably lost its balance and tipped forward, arms and tail flailing as it stumbled out of cover, tripped over a small rock and landed belly first on the ground, his tail flopping over his head and the brush covering his eyes and nose.
Trixie stared, having absolutely no idea how to react.
The dog’s stomach growled again, echoing slightly against the flat, hard ground.
Trixie stared for a moment longer as the dog only moved to pull his beret-fur down over his blushing face with both paws when the tail swished away. She sighed and looked down at her bread, then back at was either the most pathetic creature or the most prodigious scam artist she had seen in years.
“I don’t suppose you like rock soup?”
She opened up her thermos and held it a bit closer. The dog took a few curious sniffs, then stuck its tongue out with a loud blech.
“Yeah, Trixie didn’t think so.” She sighed again and held out her bread. The dog sniffed again before stopping and letting go of its beret, looking up at the bread and past it at her with large, soulful eyes.
Trixie huffed and shoved the bread into its paws before she could change her mind, leaning back again and taking a large gulp of her soup, wincing at the crunch of sand and gravel between her teeth and swallowing before it completely killed her taste buds. She didn’t look up as the dog sat up and shuffled closer, staring down at its bread for a moment and then taking a nibble. A second later she could hear it ripping into the loaf, chewing and swallowing ravenously.
They sat in silence for a while, the dog licking crumbs off its paws and Trixie taking sips from her thermos as often as she could bear. She’d only just screwed the lid back onto the mostly empty container when the dog suddenly jumped up, jumping in front of her and bowing quickly several times before freezing in place again, paws fidgeting with its tail before its face. Then it suddenly jumped again, eyes sparkling excitedly as it gestured for her to get up.
Trixie blinked and slowly got to her hooves, turning to watch the dog as it ran up to the boulder they’d been sitting at and gripped its tail with a confidence she hadn’t so far seen from it. The white paint began to glow softly and it immediately started to swish it across the stone surface in broad strokes, leaving surprising amounts of blue, white and purple colors behind.
Less than a minute later it jumped back and Trixie found herself staring at an incredibly detailed picture of herself. Not just of Trixie but of the Great and Powerful Trixie, missing her cape and hat but posing proudly nonetheless in front of an explosion of starburst fireworks.
“This is… h-how did you…?” Trixie all but ignored the nervously fidgeting dog, eyes locked onto the painting as she stepped closer, one hoof hesitantly reaching out as if afraid to touch it, as if the picture could suddenly disappear.
[SMEARGLE USED SKETCH]
The picture suddenly disappeared.
Trixie stared at the empty rock, making a few choked off sounds at the back of her throat before she suddenly whirled around to face a wide-eyed dog holding up its paws, trying to back away as she got right in its face with a furious expression.
“Where did it go!” Her magic grabbed the dog’s fur collar to shake it a bit. “Where did the painting go! Bring it back!”
The dog stared at her, wide eyed and flailing its arms. She didn’t register one of them grabbing its tail until it was right between them, the white paint lighting up in a fraction of a second.
[SMEARGLE USED FLASH]
By the time Trixie could see again, any trace of the dog was gone.
A few days later, Trixie was on the road again.
After everything else, losing her lunch (or any part of it that qualified as edible, at least) to a stray dog had been the last straw. Trixie didn’t even know where she was going, just following the road wherever it would take her with a light pair of saddlebags on her back and her hat and cape donned once more. Maybe she would track down one of her less reputable contacts, buy an Ancient Artifact Of Ultimate Power and try out doing some smiting for a job. She could get corrupted by power and dark energies and hit up Ponyville or that rock farm again.
Not that she had anything against the Pie family. Just against the rock soup they served. That soup definitely deserved some smiting.
She reached under her hat and felt for the Bit bag hidden within, slumping a bit. Having left her temporary job when she did, she definitely didn’t have the funds to acquire an Ancient Artifact Of Ultimate Power And Dark Corruption. At best she might be able to get an Ancient Artifact Of Reasonable Power And Moderate Migraines. There really wasn’t much point in buying one of those. Again.
A growl snapped her out of her introspection and she stopped to look around. The first thing she noticed was that the road had apparently led her into a forest. The third thing she noticed was a large rock outcropping just off the side of the road. The second thing she noticed which made the large rock so memorable were four timberwolves watching her from just off the other side of the road, teeth bared.
She didn’t quite teleport, but she certainly moved very, very fast. Wooden jaws snapped at her ankles and tail as her magic helped push her up onto the rock. She scooted back a bit, tense for a moment until it became apparent that it was indeed too high and smooth for the timberwolves to climb or jump up to reach her. Trixie let out a breath of relief, relaxing a bit and waiting in the hopes that the wolves would just give up and hunt for easier prey.
Then the manticore appeared.
For a moment the manticore and the wolves growled at each other, giving Trixie hope that maybe they would attack each other or at least drive each other off. Then the growls changed in pitch, with the occasional bark and meow in between.
Then the manticore moved closer and Trixie could only stare in stunned terror and disbelief as the timberwolves jumped on its back, forming a lightly swaying but structurally stable tower tall enough for the last timberwolf to leap onto her previously safe spot.
This time Trixie actually did teleport.
She stumbled and shook her head clear, fur singed and horn aching from the magic flare, before looking over her shoulder to see that she had made it a lot less far than should have been appropriate for an accidental spell that made her feel like she’d just run a small marathon. It certainly didn’t stop her from taking run again, though, galloping into the jungle with the predators hot on her tail.
Then she came to the cliff and really, this was just unfair, who even designed this forest?!
She turned around and slowly backed away, closer to the cliff edge, the timberwolves slowing down as well to take point with the manticore watching her from behind them, poisonous stinger swaying above them.
The four timberwolves pounced all at once, Trixie letting out a high-pitched scream just as
[SMEARGLE USED STRENGTH]
a white and brown blur slammed into them from the side, pushing all four of them into one another and right off the cliff before any of them could turn enough to BITE it.
Trixie could only stare as the dog she’d done her best to forget about jumped back in front of her and
[SMEARGLE USED GROWL]
let out a low, dangerous growl, enough to make even the manticore flinch back and go on the defensive.
The dog raised its tail and Trixie closed her eyes on instinct, just in time to avoid the worst of
[SMEARGLE USED FLASH]
the flash of white light. It still left her blinking spots from her eyes, watching the large blurry form of the manticore wail and run away, crashing into several trees before it could see well enough again to flee.
Trixie sat down, looking around at the empty and safe cliffside and letting out a shaky, relieved laugh at seeing all the creatures that had tried to kill her just a minute ago now gone.
Then, because as already stated this forest was just plain unfair, a drop of green syrup landed next to her as a newly formed Alpha Timberwolf pulled itself back up behind her with a low growl. Trixie slowly turned her head to look at the much larger head of at least four timberwolves banded together into one murderous creature then jumped up and dashed forward with a loud shriek just as wooden teeth snapped shut behind her.
The dog jumped past her again, holding his arms out wide as if to protect her. Trixie skidded to a halt and turned around to watch, unable to run or look away as it stayed resolutely between her and the large predator, even as the Alpha Timberwolf pulled itself up completely to stand before them, the size of a small house. It roared and pounced forward, just as the dog’s tail glowed faintly along with its right paw that it was bringing around in a punch.
[SMEARGLE USED BRICK BREAK]
Trixie blinked, then blinked a few more times, staring at the suddenly empty cliff in front of the dog, the clear blue sky behind it aside from a few twigs and pieces of wood raining down all across the forest.
The dog blinked as well, staring ahead before slowly looking down at its steaming and faintly glowing paw, face going pale.
“So, what should Trixie call you?”
Trixie had finally made it out of the forest alongside her new companion, setting up a camp for the night in a small grove a fair bit down the road. She was dividing up her food again for dinner, partly out of pity for the dog but mostly because this time it had unquestionably earned it, if not more. She waited for a moment before looking up at the tense dog staring back at her.
“Well? Do you have a name? Can you even speak?”
The dog looked down, muttering something.
Trixie tilted her head, leaning in. “What was that? You’ll have to speak up a bit.”
The dog gulped before looking up again. “S-Smeargle.”
“Smear Gel?” Trixie hummed and focused on the food again. “That sounds a bit pony for a name, but I can’t say it isn’t appropriate.” And at least between the voice, the name and the general mannerisms now she was relatively sure that the dog was male.
They lapsed into silence for a moment, Smear watching her prepare their rather simple but filling meal until Trixie looked up again. “By the way, what was the deal with… well… everything? Where did that painting of Trixie go?”
Smear blinked before jumping up with a light blush, gripping his tail and hurrying over to a large tree at the edge of the clearing. He paused to glance back at Trixie, then stuck his tongue out and began to slash the brush across the bark. A couple slashes more and he stepped aside, smiling bashfully with his tongue still hanging out a little like a dog’s, revealing a new painting of The Great And Powerful Trixie. This time the painted Trixie was wearing her hat and cape, looking better than her real ones had in months, posing with small motes of magic floating around her.
[SMEARGLE USED SKETCH]
[SMEARGLE LEARNED DAZZLING GLEAM]
Smear froze and paled as behind him the painting disappeared just as suddenly as the last one. He snapped back to stare at the empty bark, then back at Trixie, then at the bark again before slashing his tail across it even more frantically than before. The new painting showed The Great And Powerful Trixie calmly levitating a multitude of items around herself, props and fireworks and more.
[SMEARGLE USED SKETCH]
[SMEARGLE LEARNED PSYCHIC]
Smear’s eye twitched a bit and he tensed up, letting out a low growl at the bark before attacking it once again with his tail.
[SMEARGLE LEARNED SPOTLIGHT]
[SMEARGLE LEARNED ENCORE]
[SMEARGLE LEARNED TAUNT]
[SMEARGLE LEARNED MIMIC]
“Welcome, welcome! Come one and all to see the Grrrrreat and Powerful Trrrrrixie!!! and her assistant Smear, the magical painting dog! Ponies of all ages are welcome! Tips are appreciated!”
Trixie still wasn’t quite sure what to do about her new companion. After trying to paint her close to a dozen times with none but short, temporary successes, he had first become frustrated and then despondent. She didn’t quite get what was up with what she’d decided to consider his special talent, but he obviously didn’t know how to fix it either. In an effort to distract him she had tried to teach him about her own trade, about show business and how to keep an audience’s interest. In doing so she’d realized that she’d struck onto a gold mine, because aside from being able to provide several special effects Smear’s quirky talent let him draw multiple paintings in short time without needing more than one single sheet of paper.
Of course, gold mine might have been a bit overstated since her reputation seemed to still be below zero with most ponies. But at least some came by to watch her new assistant and see their picture drawn. Trixie herself gave an abridged version of her show in between, which suited her just fine since she was still rusty after months of her not quite voluntary break from performing.
Still, as she watched ponies pushing forward and raising their hooves, trying to be the next to get their picture drawn, she decided that it could certainly be going much worse.
[SMEARGLE USED SKETCH]
[SMEARGLE USED SKETCH]
[SMEARGLE USED SKETCH]
[SMEARGLE USED SKETCH]
[SMEARGLE USED SKETCH]
[SMEARGLE USED SKETCH]
It was over two hours later that the last interested ponies dispersed, leaving Trixie sitting in front of the fountain they had set up at, counting the Bits ponies had left in her hat.
There was an exhausted, drawn out “Smeeeear…” from beside her as Smear flopped down, panting with his tongue hanging out and limp on the ground. Trixie chuckled lightly, leaning down to pat his beret. “Well, Trixie never said it was easy. But you did quite well for your first time. Take a moment to rest.”
She turned her attention back to the coins, finishing her counting with a soft hum. It was certainly not as much as she’d made on her best days before Ponyville, after the money needed to stay at an inn while they were in town there wasn’t really all that much left for supplies and they’d probably have to keep being careful with their spending…
She glanced down at Smear again, who hadn’t moved and was still panting softly, limp on the ground with his eyes half closed, looking exhausted to the bone. She realized that she actually didn’t know just how exhaustive his special talent was.
“Come on, Smear.” She got up and pocketed their money, patting his head again before looking around. “You look like you’re hungry. Let’s find a place to order a nice large dinner.”
It was another week later, camping out for the night near the road again around a small campfire, when Trixie realized that there was something she’d never asked him before.
“So… pardon Trixie if it sounds rude, but… where do you come from? Trixie has certainly never heard of any being like you. Do you have family? Friends?”
She watched as Smear got a distant look in his eyes for a moment, staring off into the distance. He blinked and nodded at her, then tilted his head in thought for a moment. Trixie had already figured out that Smear wasn’t much of a talker, and the few times he did say something it was always only his name in different variations and inflections, which… honestly, Trixie had no idea if it was something cultural, biological or just a personal quirk, because any of the explanations seemed equally ridiculous.
She watched her companion slowly get up, walking over to the large rock they’d camped near to take cover from a fresh breeze. He brought up his tail and started drawing, not slashing at the rock like usual but with slow, careful and deliberate strokes. She watched as several figures looking much like himself took form, along with a few other figures she’d never seen before either, all of them slowly taking more detail.
When he finally stepped back, they were both looking at a wide painting reminiscent of a much evolved cave painting, Smear with his family of Prench Paint Dogs surrounded by equally odd friends.
[SMEARGLE USED SKETCH]
[SMEARGLE LEARNED SKETCH]
Trixie slowly stepped forward and sat down next to him, finding no words to say. She let him lean against her, wrapping one of their blankets around them followed by her cape, both of them sitting and staring at the blank rock wall until they fell asleep.
“Trixie? Is that you? What are you doing here? We didn’t hear anything after you left and-”
“Trixie has no time for your petty rivalries, Sparkle.” Trixie pushed her way into the tree library, stopping in the center to look around at the shelves for a short moment before turning back around and posing. “Trixie is a mare on a mission!”
Twilight gave her an odd look before closing the door with a sigh. “Well, I see you haven’t changed since last time, at least. What can I help you with?”
Trixie straightened up a bit, glancing around again. “Trixie needs instructions for a spell. A very specific spell, that is. And since you are the most magically advanced pony Trixie knows outside of Canterlot, Trixie…” She tensed up and bit her lip for a moment, struggling to get the words out before slumping a bit. “Trixie has come to humbly ask for your help.”
Twilight blinked and stared at her for a moment before shaking herself out of the short daze. “Huh. Well, that’s not what I expected, to be honest. I’ll help you, of course, it’s just… not what I expected.” She paused to hum thoughtfully. “You know, I think there was actually a betting pool about your eventual return that somepony probably made a lot of money on just now…”
The ponies in Ponyville had fixed her wagon and replaced her belongings.
Because of course they did. Not even letting Trixie keep a good grudge.
If she ever did come across an Ancient Artifact Of Ultimate Power And Doom she would have to only smite the town a little bit. Maybe for a day or two. A Tuesday.
Trixie and Smear were spending the first evening in their new home, Smear still looking nervous and disillusioned as he glanced around the empty walls before looking back at Trixie.
“Please? For Trixie?” She gave him a small, crooked smile.
Smear let out a small sigh before turning to the wall with the most open space, slowly drawing in uneven, halting strokes. Trixie watched intently as colors took shape and shapes took on details, several Prench Paint Dogs surrounded by a few other creatures.
Smear pulled away his brush and stepped back.
[SMEARGLE USED SKETCH]
[SMEARGLE LEARNED SKETCH]
Trixie didn’t waste a second, calling up all her magic and every detail she had memorized, face twisted in concentration as she wove the still unfamiliar spell. There was a bright flash of magic across the wagon and then she opened her eyes, watching as all the painted figures and creatures faded back into view, near perfect copies of the ones that had faded out just moments earlier, colors burned into the wood with her magic.
She turned her head to see her companion’s reaction, only to find herself with a face full of fur. She yelped in surprise and fell over backwards onto the cot, the last sparks of magic still on her horn flashing once more as Smear hugged her tight, face over her shoulder and body tense.
She blushed lightly and chuckled, patting his back and feeling him slowly relax into the hug as she wrapped her forelegs around him in return. She gave soft, happy sigh and a content smile, relaxing as well up until she spotted the wall and suddenly froze at the new addition that had definitely not been part of the painting before the hug.
It was not as detailed as the rest of the painting, certainly, but unmistakable in what it represented, white and brown and blue surrounded by red.
“I see…” Mi Amore Cadenza took a slow sip from her cup, watching the pony and… Smear Gel… that were sitting across from her. “And why exactly did you decide to come all the way to the Crystal Empire with this?”
“W-well, Your Highness.” Trixie fiddled her hooves nervously, not quite bringing up the courage to look the Princess in the eyes even with Smear sitting right next to her and holding one of those hooves. “You are the Princess of Love, and, well, there’s never been anyone like Smear quite before, so Trixie was hoping to ask for your… your blessing, maybe? Or at least confirmation that this isn’t a mistake? Trixie means, it was still only an accidental spell discharge after all, maybe it wasn’t even-”
She broke off with a squeak as Princess Cadance gently held up a hoof to stop her rant. The Princess gave her a gentle, understanding smile before speaking up.
“First off, there is certainly nothing damnable about a relationship like this. Mutual love between two sapient creatures of any kind should be supported, in my professional opinion. As for your other concern, I can tell you quite frankly that there is indeed quite a bit of love between you, going both ways.”
Trixie squeaked and straightened up a bit more. “Y-you can see-?”
Princess Cadance leaned in with a sly smirk. “As you said, I am the Princess of Love. It’s quite a fortunate ability, too, since my magic can only strengthen what is already there. I would have felt quite silly casting a spell at ponies and having it sizzle out just because I couldn’t tell if their love was genuine.” She giggled softly behind a hoof.
“I… Trixie supposes she can see that.” Trixie nodded slowly.
“Very good. So yes, you do indeed have all my blessing to go ahead with this relationship, and if you do so I only hope that you will keep me informed of how it goes. Maybe drop by for tea sometime, together.” She smiled.
“T-tea? With you?” Trixie gulped.
“Oh, no need to be so nervous.” Princess Cadance shook her head with a fond smile. “I am a pony just like you and…” She paused to glance at Smear, sitting next to Trixie and watching the conversation quietly. “Well, just like you, in any case. Although if you’d rather make it up to me in a different way…” She grinned and leaned forward. “...I certainly wouldn’t say no to having one of your famous paintings taken of me, Smear.”
Smear blinked, then blushed lightly and jumped up, giving a salute. Trixie summoned a sheet of paper from her saddlebags in a practiced motion and held it up as her companion attacked it with his tail. She then quickly turned it around to show the Princess a portrait of herself, surrounded by amounts of pink, hearts, and pink hearts that from any other artist probably would have looked more than excessive, but which somehow felt just right in Smear’s painting.
[SMEARGLE USED SKETCH]
Cadance gave a grateful nod as Trixie quickly cast the spell to restore the faded picture, or rather make a copy of it on the now blank paper. Then she turned to Smear to thank him personally, only to pause and give a confused look at the bright red face he was trying to hide behind his paws and tail. “Is… is something wrong?”
Trixie gave her friend and prospective special some...dog a confused look as well, before frowning. “He has… as far as I understand it, he can gain abilities based on the pictures he paints. Although I can’t say what kind of ability would make him react like that.”
Cadance leaned forward. “Really? Well, now you just got me terribly curious. Could you demonstrate this ability to us? Is it safe?”
Smear blushed a bit deeper, turning on his seat to bury his face in Trixie’s chest. His chosen po...ny...mon chuckled and patted his back lightly, giving him just enough encouragement to grab his tail and swish it towards the far wall,
[SMEARGLE USED ATTRACT]
a pinkish red, heart-shaped blob of paint drifting off of it to float across the empty room, bobbing lazily and harmlessly towards the far wall.
Until the door opened.
“Cady! Drills went a bit faster today and I heard we had guests, so-”
That was the last they heard from Shining Armor before the floating heart hit him square on the muzzle and popped.
Trixie and Smear stared at Prince Shining Armor, Captain of the Crystal Guard. They slowly turned their heads to stare at each other. Then again to stare at Shining Armor, who was staring back at Smear quite intently.
[SMEARGLE USED EXTREMESPEED]
“Trixie thinks we should go thank you for the tea and the advice we’ll make sure to write good luck have a nice day byyyyeee!”