The Reluctant Reunion of the Redoubtable Rabble-Rouser - Chapter 3: An End and a Beginning.
Trixie stood alone on the large, elegant stage while wearing her trademark hat and cape. A bright spotlight shone in her eyes, obscuring the theatre and the occupants from view. She squinted and put a hoof in front of her face before realizing she was in the middle of a show. The mare let out a soft gasp, swiftly lowering her hoof to put on her Great and Powerful Trixie persona. "Welcome, fillies and gentlecolts! Foals of all ages! The Great and Powerful Trixie is here to dazzle and AMAZE you with feats of awesome magic!"
Stifled giggles from a few inconsiderate fillies echoed through the cavernous, infinite theatre, causing Trixie to stumble upon her words a little. However, years of experience had given the showmare the ability to bounce back easily. She ignored their heckling and resumed her show, more giggles sounding from beyond. Soon after she started, the giggling evolved into full-on laughter, no matter what awesome feats of magic she performed.
"Okay!" Trixie shouted, "The Great and Powerful Trixie demands that somepony turn off that irritating and blinding spotlight this instant!" After a couple of seconds of delay, the bright offending light turned off, casting the theatre into darkness as her eyes tried to adjust. Meanwhile, the laughter had grown to absurd and obnoxious levels, echoing off the endless walls of the venue.
The magician felt a chill run across her entire body: the entire theatre was empty save for six seats near the front. "Why are you laughing at Trixie, you inferior KNAVES!?" All six of the ponies she met in that wretched Ponyville, even the pink and yellow ones who had not insulted her before, chortled and roared with laughter.
"Ya ain't great and powerful," snorted the orange hayseed.
"You certainly don't LOOK it anyway. I mean, you're nothing more than skin and bones," the white unicorn continued. Trixie looked down at herself to find her cloak missing, revealing her malnourished figure and skinny legs. She blushed in embarrassment and shrunk a little on the stage, forgetting she was in the middle of a show, before everything vanished completely into darkness.
"Not to mention... that you... I can't finish! It's just TOO funny!" The annoying rainbow-maned Pegasus giggled in fits between her words, tearing up in laughter.
"I'll say it for you, FRIEND," that insidious lavender one smiled, "You've got no magic, Trixie." Twilight giggled a little at first before it quickly rose into a disturbing crescendo that she did not hear outside of cartoons. "Well, on the bright side, you don't have to worry about me calling you my sister anymore. There's no WAY I'd associate myself with a unicorn as WEAK and PATHETIC as you, Trixie."
She felt her lower lip tremble as tears welled in her eyes for no apparent reason. Trixie hated that mare the most out of the group: so why did her comments sting more than the others? More laughter rang out through the vast expanse of blackness, causing her to weld her eyes shut and turn away from the audience. The shame overwhelmed her fury, tossing her into a melting pot of swirling emotions. Her world spun as the laughter echoed, eventually overpowering her senses.
Trixie woke with a start, nearly tossing herself out of the bed and onto the wooden floor below. Her covers lay askew in the soft morning light, barely covering her azure form. She sighed as she realized it was all a dream, then noticed an indigo tail sticking up from the opposite side of the bed. Cautiously, the magician dragged herself out from the tangle of blankets and over to where her fellow unicorn bent.
"What are you doing, Twilight Sparkle?" she asked impatiently. Trixie smirked when the lavender pony jumped and hit her head on the bottom of the bed: a small consolation prize to start off the day. She pulled herself out from under it, her head in that box the magician dug through the day before.
"Oh! Trixie! Good morning!" her voice sounded, muffled from inside the box. Twilight pulled her head out and looked at the glaring mare, shrinking a bit. "Um... have you, by any chance, seen a... a tiara with a large, purple star on it?"
"You mean the tacky one with the amethyst jewel? Yeah, Trixie saw it. Kicked it somewhere, so it's probably under a bed or dresser or something with the other disturbing knick-knacks," she answered.
"You went through my box!?" Twilight raised her voice, her expression rapidly going from betrayal to fear before finally settling on embarrassment, "I guess I deserved it... after the collar... I'm sorry about that, Trixie... it's just... when I get stressed out I stop thinking straight and with you injured and our mo- Shimmer Tail here... I just---"
"Words are cheap, Twilight Sparkle," Trixie huffed, pointing her snout skyward. A wave of warmth suddenly washed over her neck, tickling her a little. Looking in the vanity beside her, the showmare saw the collar glow a soft lavender before finally disappearing. She blinked, feeling the spot where it once snugly fit to feel nothing but her coat at her hoof.
"I'm going to trust you, Trixie, like I should have right at the beginning. I've got no right to chain you up... Shimmer Tail chewed me out last night for it after you went to bed and I told her about the second feature. I've never felt more... well... ashamed in my entire life. Can you ever forgive me?"
"The Great and Powerful Trixie can never forgive you for what you have done to her! However, she believes she possesses enough mercy to delay your well-deserved punishment until later. You will not know where, when, or how, but it is coming, Twilight Sparkle. Trixie can promise you that!"
Free once more, the livid magician marched down the loft, through the door, and down the stairs. At the bottom stood the white unicorn mare with the two-tone mane of purple and white, looking upon her with that... sparkle in her eyes. "Trixie," she spoke softly, "I can guess where you're going now, but before you do, may I have a word with you? Please? It would mean the world to me."
Trixie paused about halfway down the stairs and starred at the unicorn. She had actually asked her to do something, as opposed to the purple one ordering her around, meaning she could refuse if she wanted to. However, the showmare owed her freedom to her, so she would show the gratitude she earned. The azure pony nodded her head and replied, "The Great and Powerful Trixie does owe you for setting her free and she never forgets favours. So yes, you may have a word with her before she departs."
"Please, follow me to the basement," the older mare started, "These walls have ears." Sure enough, after a nonchalant kick of her back-right hoof, the door opened to find Spike hiding behind it. He grinned sheepishly, knowing his cover had been blown before retreating, citing something along the lines of re-sorting in the crawlspace under the floor.
Silently, the azure magician followed the white pony into the kitchen and through a door that lead into the basement of the library. Despite being made of wood, it was not as dank down there as she expected, although it was a little on the dark side. After reaching the bottom of the stairs, and dodging the various stacks of books and electronic equipment, Shimmer Tail turned around to face Trixie, the sparkle back in her eyes.
"What is it you wanted to say to The Great and Powerful Trixie? Are you going to beg her to stay?" she asked.
"No, Trixie. You are a grown mare, so it is not my right to boss you around... not anymore. I know Twilight has told you that she is your older sister."
"Trixie has no siblings," the azure mare spoke bluntly.
"She wasn't lying when she told you that, but she is wrong for trying to MAKE you feel the same way towards her. I'm going to be blunt with you, Trixie. Twilight and you are both my daughters. However, unlike Twilight, I'm not telling you this to seek your approval. I just wanted you to know that I exist, and that I'll be here for a while yet in case you ever need a helping hoof. You're old and mature enough to form your own opinions about me."
"Well," Trixie started, "Trixie is grateful that you're not going to force anything upon her, unlike that insipid Twilight Sparkle. But Trixie has heard too many tales of the like to believe you. Trixie will not accept forged documents: only the truth will do for her."
"How about this?" Shimmer Tail asked, "If I can tell you a couple of things you have never told anypony before, will you at least acknowledge that I am not lying to you about this?"
"Trixie will consider it, but not acknowledge anything, Shimmer Tail."
"That's all I ask," the elder mare replied, "For one, you and Twilight both have stuffed unicorn dolls. Yours is purple with an indigo mane and tail. Hers is sky blue with a white mane and tail. However, they both have something in common: on the tags of each are three purple stars that look exactly like my cutie mark. Furthermore, you have a birthmark in the shape of a diamond on your left flank. Finally, like Shimmer Tail, you have little trouble speaking in the third-pony perspective, although unlike her, you do so almost exclusively."
Gears turned and groaned inside of Trixie's skull as this new, disturbing information processed in her mind. It was doubtful she could know all of that without knowing where to look, so coming across such details was unlikely. The azure mare's eyes narrowed as new questions buzzed around in her mind. "If you're really The Great and Powerful Trixie's mother, then answer this: Why did you give her up? How come you never looked for her!?"
Shimmer Tail looked toward the ground in a mixture of shame and pity, scuffing the stone floor with a hoof. After a couple of seconds, she looked back up at her, shadows of tears building in her eyes. "When your father died," she said, "Shimmer couldn't support herself and a foal. Twilight was off at Princess Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns, so she didn't need to worry about her. Shimmer tried to get a better job, but she simply couldn't without betraying a promise she made to the princess years before.
"So, with no other option, Shimmer had to give you up, Trixie. It was the hardest decision she ever made... but if she could go back in time, she would do it all over again. Do you know why? Because no matter how hard it was, she did it because she loves you and only wants the best for you... Trixie... you did have a good foalhood, right?"
The azure mare thought on that for what seemed like for ages. She could see weekends in the park with her dad, tea with her mom, and all the other fillies and colts she was friends with back in the day dancing in front of her waking mind, like some old home movie. Trixie closed her eyes and nodded, "Yes, Trixie did have a good foalhood."
"Now, as for why she hasn't tried to find you," the elder mare continued, "Shimmer had to work constantly to support herself, and only just managed to get by, since she could not do what she was best at until recently. So, she gave Twilight Sparkle the task of finding you, which she succeeded at... to mixed results as you know. Shim- ... I can never apologize enough for separating you... for destroying your relationship like I did."
"What do you mean?" Trixie asked, curious.
"Oh, you two were so precious as foals. Twilight would be reading her books and you'd be sitting there, watching her read while begging her to play. After a while, she'd take pity on you and would take a break from her studies. It's a shame she has so many problems. I'm sure she told you about the stress, but she also has... long-term memory issues too. It's not her fault... she was... born that way."
The Great and Powerful Trixie sighed. There was only so much she could take of sappy stuff like that before she cracked, and she was right on the threshold. "Trixie supposes that perhaps a departure right now might be... premature... if only because she still looks like a candidate for a position as a casket jockey. So, she will grudgingly stay here in... Ponyville."
Suddenly, the older, white unicorn stepped forward and wrapped her neck around the azure mare in a hug. She quickly broke off and smiled at the filly softly. "Would you like to help me make the apple pie for tonight?" she asked. Trixie had to take a step back to consider the offer. Of course, she had helped her mom... her adoptive mother... in the kitchen before. Perhaps she could learn something from cooking with... with her birth mother.
"All right, sure," she replied before following the white pony up the stairs. Although she would admit she and Shimmer Tail shared some common traits, The Great and Powerful Trixie could never accept that insufferable Twilight Sparkle as her sister. Not until there were some massive changes, at least.
Hours melted into what felt like mere minutes as the trio of mares (plus one baby dragon) got preparations for that night underway. It would be the first time the lavender mare ever hosted all of her friends at that library for a formal dinner, rather than a Pinkie-Pie influenced party. More often than not, the parties were usually to celebrate some sort of adventure, not for visiting family.
While Twilight and Spike got around to setting the table and putting the main room of the library in order, Trixie and Shimmer Tail tackled the food. The extra set of hooves really helped, but the purple pony could not help but feel something was... amiss around Trixie. As far as she could see, there was nothing out of the ordinary, yet she could not shake this feeling, like it was just out of her reach of understanding. It did not matter though: they needed to finish setting up, with only thirty minutes until their friends arrived.
Closing her eyes, the librarian shook her head with a sigh. The feeling she had about the blue unicorn probably came from the fact that she nearly starved to death. Or perhaps it came with the fact that Trixie seemed to hate her more than anything she had ever seen before. Anything else had to be simply a figment of her imagination... yet it still gnawed at her enough to voice her concerns. "Spike, have you noticed... anything odd about Trixie?"
"You mean besides the fact that she's a jerk?" he replied, earning him a stern look from his caretaker. "...What? Why are you giving me 'the look': it's true!"
"She's not a jerk. Spike," she retorted, "It's just that... well, she DOES act like one, but only if a pony insults her, or starts an argument with her first. I mean, yesterday she was quite civil around Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie."
"Yeah, but Pinkie doesn't even react when someone spits in her face, and Fluttershy is so timid that ponies can't HELP but be nice around her unless they're a bully like that Gilda. So, your argument isn't really the best one, Twi."
"Have you spoken to her since she got here? I'm sure if you're nice to her, she'll be nice back."
"Well," the baby dragon trailed, "No, I haven't talked to her... How about I fix that by sitting beside her at dinner? Then, if she's a jerk, you won't be able to say I haven't seen it."
Twilight let out a frustrated sigh at the attitude of her number one assistant. Just because they had a bad first impression of her was no reason to assume Trixie was, well, boastful ALL the time. If she had condemned any of her friends the same way, then she would not have any of them in her life. She would probably be back at Canterlot, that very minute, with her nose deep in another unfeeling tome older then her. Actually, thinking back on it, she did condemn them all and the very idea of friendship before they became her friends... even Derpy.
Sadly, her friends seemed unable to see the poor starving filly she saw, and instead saw the same braggart from the Usra Minor incident. Hopefully, this dinner would allow them all the chance to let their manes down and get to know Trixie the unicorn as opposed to The Great and Powerful Trixie: the loudmouthed and obnoxious magician. Meanwhile, she did not notice how much time had passed as she stood musing in the middle of the room.
"Twilight Sparkle? Equestria to Twilight, come in Twilight!" A blue hoof waved across her vision, snapping her out of her stupor. The lavender mare blinked her eyes and looked around in confusion: the table was fully set and the food was all ready upon it. All that remained were their five other guests to complete the set of eight diners.
"Oh, Trixie!" she realized, "I'm sorry about that! I was setting the table, and then I just sort of drifted off in thought. I didn't mean to leave you, Spike and mo-... Shimmer holding the bag. I'm really, really sorry!"
"Trixie understands, just don't let it happen again or else she'll have to ship you off to a mental hospital," she replied. The purple pony could not help but notice a little bit of mirth in her eyes as she gave her deadpan delivery. Had Trixie become more comfortable with her? She had little time to muse on this, however, as a rapping on the door shook her from diving in again.
"I'll get it," the librarian piped up as she trotted over to the door. "Hey girls, so glad to see you could all make it!" Twilight stepped to the side to let in her closest friends. Pinkie bounced in first, followed by a streak of rainbow and the three slower ponies in their wake. Thankfully, there were no sudden exclamations of 'you!' from either side of the room. Foresight allowed the lavender pony to anticipate that event and counter it by telling them all that Trixie would be there.
One by one, the guests walked over to the table and began to chat with one another, including the elder unicorn that they all met the day before yesterday. So far, so good, the scholar thought as she too joined in the festivities. Meanwhile, Trixie decided to tactically seat herself in the best position: on her left sat Shimmer Tail, and Spike on her right. By the time Twilight seated herself at the round table, the only spot left was the chair directly in front of her.
Trixie's plan for the evening was a simple one: all she had to do was keep quiet, not look at anypony and there would be no altercations. However, about ten minutes into the meal, she completely forgot about the sky-blue Pegasus, who had obviously grown bored. "So, Trixie," she started loud enough to silence all over conversation, "How is it that you've been asked five times to pass something, but you've ignored it? That seems pretty RUDE, if you ask me."
"Trixie isn't trying to be rude, Rainbow Dash... unlike you." the azure mare responded, doing her best for Shimmer Tail's sake.
"She ain't bein' rude. She's askin' a simple question... but yeah, that there last sentence was NOT needed," Applejack chimed in, glaring at Rainbow.
"So, what does everypony think of the weather?" Twilight asked in hopes of diffusing the situation, "Pretty mild, don't you think?"
"I'm just saying you haven't been very helpful tonight is all. I mean, you ask anypony else to pass something and they do it in a heartbeat. But you, Trixie, you just look blankly into space until somepony else does it!"
"That's not true: Trixie has been very helpful tonight. She helped me prepare the food and the pie," Shimmer Tail countered, only to be ignored.
"Trixie simply has her head in the clouds, Rainbow. Again, that is just a figure of speech, in case you couldn't understand."
"Why, you little!" the Pegasus started, placing her front hooves on the table to stand on her hind ones, "I know that's a figure of speech! I'm not an idiot, unlike YOU."
"Trixie," started the farmer, "Just stop now, before ya get hurt. You couldn't win in a fight with this one, considering how weak and fragile you are now."
"Indeed," Rarity joined, "We don't really want to take you to the hospital for being abrasive to Rainbow Dash."
Enough was enough! The Great and Powerful Trixie refused to take any more of those baseless accusations and back-hooved attempts to stop the confrontation any more. It quickly became obvious to her that Rainbow started this intentionally, if only to try and make her look worse! That vermin! How DARE she!? "What do you all have against The Great and Powerful Trixie!?" she rose her voice, standing up at the table, "Sure, she humiliated you all on stage, but how long ago was that? A year? A year and a half, perhaps? You three act as if she killed a member of your families! If anypony here is being coarse, it's you three!" She swept her hoof across the offending Pegasus, hayseed, and unicorn.
"Trixie, stop this!" Twilight shouted unexpectedly, standing as well, "Sure, they're wrong for being overly hostile to you, but you can't fight fire with fire. It will only make you look worse and lead to nothing but trouble. Just calm down, maybe go into the other room for a few minutes, and then come back and try to talk about this."
"Don't be a hypocrite, Twilight Sparkle! Yesterday, instead of talking to Trixie, you slapped a SHOCK COLLAR on her!" Several of the ponies, including the shy Pegasus and the party pony gasped, little realizing what happened the day before, "What kind of a pony DOES something like that? I don't care if you weren't thinking straight from stress! If you REALLY cared for Trixie like you keep saying, then you wouldn't have done something so... so barbaric... so soulless!"
Although she could see the lavender mare's eyes widen and glisten with tears, she did not care. At that instant, it felt too good airing her dirty laundry to care for the feelings of such an insignificant pest. "Trixie!" gasped Shimmer Tail in shock. Yet the magician did not hear her and continued on her rant.
"You dare to keep calling Trixie your sister, even after you've demonstrated just how LITTLE you actually care for her! A real sister would not have been so willing to do harm to her sibling! Stop playing Trixie for the fool she obviously isn't. Sure, you probably feel bad that YOU destroyed The GREAT and POWERFUL Trixie's life, but you can never be related to her! Not after how pointlessly cruel you have been to her!"
"I...I... I just... that's not... did you... did you WANT to die, Trixie? I never spread those rumours about you! I tried to tell of how brave you were that night for even standing up to it! You... you call the others unrefined for holding a grudge, so what about YOU!? I only did what I had to do, but you keep going on about how you're going to punish me for ruining you? You brought this upon YOURSELF, Trixie! If... if you want to leave and kill yourself... then by all means, go! I'm sick of dealing with you... you... you JERK!"
Without another word, the purple scholar ran for the door, escaping the library before slamming it behind her. Soft sobs filtered through the door for a brief second before they vanished into the uncomfortable silence. After an uneasy minute, a voice suddenly piped up, breaking it once and for all. "Get out," muttered the orange hayseed in controlled rage, "Get out 'fore we skin ya alive, you no good, talentless HACK!"
Looking over the table, the three insidious mares she humiliated, plus the baby dragon, looked at her with unbridled fury. The only thing keeping them from an all-out brawl was but a single word. Fluttershy hid under the table, while Pinkie and Shimmer just sat there in shock, neither looking at the magician. "Fine!" Trixie shouted, "You don't need to ask The Great and Powerful Trixie twice!" Without another word, she stormed out of the library.
Twili--- dusk settled upon the sleepy town a little faster then she anticipated, but she did not mind, since it would make her harder to spot. Trixie did not bother with her cart yet: she would wait until about midnight, when everypony had left or gone to sleep, before she would take her leave. For the moment, however, blind rage coursed through her, leaving deep hoofprints in the dirt road on the outskirts.
It took all of her willpower to restrain herself from jumping across the table at those stupid, hate-filled ponies and beating the living snot out of them like she did to countless hecklers before. She needed something to hit, to kick and tear, something inanimate to take her abuse. It was a shame that the egghead was not around: she would have made a wonderful outlet for her indignation, but Trixie doubted she would last long enough to satisfy her need for revenge.
Trixie sighed as the thought crossed her mind. Revenge: the dish best served cold. Every time she sought revenge against somepony, it usually came back to bite her in the flank. Usually, it happened sooner rather than later, but it would happen nonetheless. Still, as the azure mare left Ponyville behind her, the rage would not leave. Everypony there hated her for her OBVIOUS superiority! So what if a couple of them may have liked her before?
None of it mattered anyway. The Great and Powerful Trixie did not need anything as silly or useless as friends. Why, she could make her own friends with her powerful and awe-inspiring magic. At least... she could have, once upon a time. Thankfully, no pony was around to see the sudden, albeit very brief, look of sorrow that crept onto her muzzle before being replaced by anger once more.
Now in the Whitetail Woods, the azure mare walked over to the nearest tree and bored holes into it with her deathly glare. If only she still had magic, she would have set the thing on fire. Her anger boiled over at the idea, causing her to let out a feral scream and leap at the tree. The failed magician kicked, bucked and rammed the tree with her useless horn, not caring how badly she bloodied her hooves on the bark.
Unseen by the raging pony, however, was a pair of happy little fillies walking down the road. One was a purplish-gray unicorn, and her friend was an orange Pegasus filly about the same age. As they rounded the last turn, the grunts and cries of the mare echoed through the trees, bringing fearful speculation on whether it was a monster.
"Aw, it's not a monster," the Pegasus filly huffed as they drew closer, "Well, see you later. I've got to get going home now." The two fillies split at a fork in the road just before the raging azure pony. While the Pegasus trotted away, the unicorn drew closer, curious about why she was mad at a tree like that.
"Hi there! My name is Dinky! What are you doing out here kicking a tree, miss?" she asked.
"Trixie is upset," The Great and Powerful Trixie replied through gritted teeth, trying to fight back her anger and tears for the sake of the innocent filly, "So, she is out here kicking this tree because there are no ponies around for her to beat up instead!"
"Well, why are you so mad, Miss Trixie? Maybe talking about it will help?"
"You wouldn't understand, little filly. Trixie doubts it would help to talk about it. Never mind the fact that it is none of your business!"
"Please? I promise not to tell! Please, please, please, please, pleeeeeeeeease!" the filly begged incessantly.
There was only so much whining that she could take before she caved, even though, much to her credit, she managed to resist for a few minutes. Inevitably she took a deep breath and sighed before looking down to the small unicorn. "Fine, Trixie will tell you," she conceded, "To make a long story short, The Great and Powerful Trixie performed here some time ago, everypony took it the wrong way, a giant bea... Ursa showed up. Then, Twilight Sparkle arrived and chased it away, so Trixie fled to save face after trying to vanquish it herself..."
The azure mare had no idea why she was telling her long, sad story to the tiny filly. As if she had any idea what true pain and hardship was. Still, she had a point about it helping her feel better to get all of the misery off of her back. Naturally, the filly would gasp and look sad at the appropriate places, making her inner storyteller happy that she had evoked such an emotional response. "... and then I came here to kick at this tree."
"Oh wow," spoke the tiny filly in awe, "So, you're THAT Trixie! As in, Aunt Twilight's sister Trixie!" She smiled and jumped up to hug the azure mare, which stunned the elder unicorn to no end.
"Aunt Twilight!?" Trixie gasped in disbelief.
"Well, she's not really my aunt, but she did help my mommy get me back from some bad people. Well, she's not really my mommy because my mommy and daddy died about a year ago, but she adopted me with help from Twilight, so I call her 'Aunt Twilight' to show how grateful I am. Just because Mommy isn't my real mommy doesn't mean she isn't, like how I know Twilight is only friends with my mommy, but that doesn't mean I can't call her my aunt."
"That still doesn't excuse her from doing what she did to Trixie... Dinky, was it?" The little filly nodded in reply, the gesture still visible despite the encroaching darkness of the rapidly setting sun, "It's obvious to Trixie that she doesn't really see her as her sister, but was just saying that so that her insipid friends would lay off on Trixie a little so SHE could get to make her look like a fool!"
"That's not true, Miss Trixie! Her ways of doing stuff is a bit funny, but Aunt Twilight only means only the best for every pony she meets! I think you hurt her feelings a lot because you were being very mean to her. I'm not saying her friends weren't mean, but you were mean for taking it out on her when she only wanted to help you. So, even if you don't think of her as your sis, she thinks of you as hers, and she sounds really, really hurt, so you should go apologize, or you might feel sorry about it for the rest of your life!"
As much as Trixie did not want to admit it, the filly had a point that deep down somewhere, she regretted hurting Twilight's feelings like she did. Yet, her Great and Powerful persona would not have any of the mushy stuff like that for anything. She was... conflicted at best about if she should really go back and apol... apologi... talk to her about what happened. "Trixie will think about it as she escorts you back to town," she replied.
"Okay, sounds fair to me!"
Stars blanketed the velvet sky, painted soft indigo by the light of the moon that drifted in the eastern skies. Ever since she was a filly, the lavender unicorn loved to look up to the stars and figure out the deeper meanings of the universe. Memories floated to mind of her lying beside the princess in the observatory tower of Canterlot, asking her the name of every star and the stories they told together. They would stay up so late some nights that she would fall asleep beside her only to wake up in her bed the next morning with her doll resting beside her head.
It was a doll she now knew represented her sister: a mare that would rather see her dead then have anything to do with her ever again. Twilight knew that she needed to be firm with her, but she felt like she had overdone things again, like she had with that collar. She gave such a pitiable look when she called her a jerk... or that could have been when she told her that she no longer cared if she lived or died. The purple unicorn sighed and cast her gaze skyward once more, blocking out everything else. However, the sound of soft hoofsteps on the grass rustled in her ears, though she would not act upon this new stimulus.
After searching the town high and low for the past hour and a half, she had finally found her on a grassy knoll in the park on the border of the Everfree Forest. Trixie approached the lavender pony and quietly sat beside her, searching for the words to start the impossible task before her. It took her a few dozen false starts before anything of meaning could come out of her mouth, the silence making her wonder if she would even acknowledge her.
"Trixie... may have gone overboard back at the dinner," she started, "She could have handled the situation a lot better than she did, but she should not have flown off the handle like that. Still, Trixie knows that is no excuse for solidifying your friends opinions about her and for making you cry, Twilight. She doesn't care if you don't accept this, but she wants you to know this is how she feels."
A long silence passed between the two mares after the words faded into the night sky. Neither moved, except for when the elder of the two decided to sit up instead of lie down. She took a deep breath and then sighed. "Do you want to know why I think you constantly speak in the third-pony, Trixie?" she asked, waiting for the answer that would never come, "I think that, subconsciously, you're ashamed of yourself. So, you disconnect from your actions by speaking as if you're not the one doing them."
"Trixie is perfectly capable of speaking in the first-pony! She only does so, however, when she is explicitly serious about something," the azure mare replied.
"Trixie... you're no picnic. You're selfish, obnoxious, and arrogant as all outdoors. By all rights, I should hate you as much as you say you hate me. Yet, no matter how I look at it, I can't see you as anything other than misguided and lonely. But, I have always been serious with you, Trixie. The least you could do is be serious with me. If you're really, honestly sorry about what happened at the dinner."
The Great and Powerful Trixie sighed and closed her eyes. She had not dropped her stage persona in so long that she was afraid to now. Trixie was not anywhere near as strong as the performer and she was far more sensitive. The obnoxious magician urged her to stop, telling her that all that would happen would be pain and regret. She did not need Twilight... she did not need anypony at all! She would have been fine, if she had not been pitied by that frustrating serf! That argument was what settled it for her, for she could not deny just how closely she flirted with death that night.
"Twilight Sparkle," she started, "Trix-... The Grea-... This is really hard. Trixie hasn't dropped her stage persona in years. Not since... well, that can wait. Twilight... I'm sorry for my atrocious behaviour at dinner tonight. Rainbow Dash may have antagonized me, but I should have just been the better pony and ignored her." Suddenly, a pair of hooves wrapped around her as the elder unicorn pressed their bodies together in a hug.
"Trixie, I'm so happy to hear that! I still feel awful about that collar, personally. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me." Silence stretched between the pair once more, the younger unicorn nodding her head in reply, looking to the stars herself. Twilight broke off the hug soon after, trying to find a topic to break the ice with. "So... you're a performer, right, Trixie? Who is your favourite... other than yourself?"
"The Great Hoofdini," she replied almost immediately.
Twilight felt her jaw drop, a foal-like excitement coursing through her veins. "Really!?" she nearly shouted, "Mine too! The pr... My teacher would take me to his shows in Canterlot all the time! Oh, I was such a big fan of him before..." That oppressive silence came back as she saw the tears beginning to well in her sister's eyes. "So, what trick of his did you like the most? Personally, I loved the Casket of Catastrophe! I could never willingly get into an iron maiden, and then be buried under a hoof of dirt!"
"I liked the Sultan Surprise," she answered in a suddenly sombre tone. "That one was always the most fun to set up, since I got to go high onto the catwalks to secure the ropes. I don't mention this a lot, but I was sort of his... his protégé."
"What!?" Twilight gasped in surprise, "No way! Are you really telling me that YOU are the fabled Heir of Hoofdini!? Can you do a trick for me, Trixie? Pleeeeeease?" The purple pony looked at her pleadingly, like a schoolfilly meeting her idol for the first time. In a way, it was adorable, but in another it was slightly disturbing to see her lose her composure so quickly.
Trixie bit her lower lip and looked at Twilight apprehensively. She needed an excuse for why she could not do even a simple trick taught to her by her master, when suddenly an opportunity presented itself to her. "No... I can't. I mean, I could do a trick for you, but... well... it would bring back... too many unpleasant memories... mostly about... that day. You, as a fan, know of the day I speak of."
"I cried like a little filly for two days straight, no matter how my teacher consoled me," the lavender mare confessed, lowering her head sadly as her own memories of that day surfaced. "I can only imagine how hard it was for you, his apprentice."
"I've never told this story to anypony before," Trixie confessed,"Forgive me if I break down while telling it. I'll try my best to get through." Already, tears began to well up.
"If it's really that hard for you, then don---"
"I want to, Twilight."
Five years before, in the revered Pegasus Theatre in the metropolis of Manehatten, a middle-aged unicorn stallion sat in his dressing room, combing his mane while looking into the large mirror. The Great Hoofdini always kept himself immaculately groomed, unless the show called for him to get a little dirty. Tonight, however, his mind wandered to other things, taking his attention away from his greying mane. Was he really ready to perform this trick? What would happen to his student if he should fail?
A knock rapped upon his chamber door, reminding him to resume his confident airs. "The Great Hoofdini allows you entry," he spoke to the pony beyond. The door to the room opened, ponies beyond pushing behind the azure mare that stood upon the threshold. A clipboard levitated beside her as she walked in and shut the door with a soft purple glow of her horn. "Salutations, Trixie, my young apprentice! How are things going under your watchful and attentive gaze?"
Trixie bit her lower lip, not quite sure how to voice her concerns about the finale for his show. "Everything's going fine, Sir," she replied respectfully, "Although, we couldn't find any Mango-cream Pies, so we had to settle for Lemon Twist, and the riggers had to replace a pulley..."
"It's about the Rainbow Faint, isn't it?" he sighed. Trixie looked to the floor and nodded her head, knowing the aging stallion rarely missed a trick around her. "I know it's dangerous, but that's why I'm doing it. Show business is a siren: beautiful, but often lures ponies to their doom. I know my limits, Trixie, and I would never do anything more dangerous than this. If I may confide in you, I am a little nervous."
"Then don't do it!" Trixie cried, "Cut it from the show! Say something came up and you had to cancel it! Save it for another day, another month, another year, if you can!"
Hoofdini smiled, turning in his chair to face his precious student: one of the very few ponies he felt comfortable being himself around. "That's the problem, Trixie. If I don't do it now, I'll become too old and stiff to ever dare try it. Consider this my magnum opus: my last and greatest solo act." He smiled and walked over to the distraught mare, gently placing a hoof on her shoulder. She looked up at him with the shadow of tears forming in her eyes.
"I don't know what I would do without you, Sir. That is... if you... I mean..."
"You are a strong, proud mare, Trixie. You seep confidence now that I never possessed at your tender age. You might not think so, but... I think you're ready to stand on the stage now. Trixie, I want you to perform with me for the shows after this one. It would be just the two of us dazzling the audience with our combined magical prowess. All I ask is that you have a little faith in me."
The azure mare looked to the floor, trying not to cry at the fear of losing her master. Still, the idea of standing on the stage with him, her idol... her friend... steeled her against the possibility. She looked up into his smiling face and nodded her head. "I believe in you, Sir," she spoke sincerely. He suddenly leaned forward and gave her a soft, tender hug, gently stroking the back of her mane to calm her down.
"Now," he said after breaking off the embrace, "If you're going to be on stage with me, we're going to need a stage name for you, kiddo. I've actually been pondering on this for quite a while, and only one name seems to fit your prowess and your wonderful showmareship. From now on, whenever you go upon the stage... you are The Great and Powerful Trixie!"
"Th-thank you, Sir!" the newly minted magician stammered. "Y-you're far too kind to me."
"Not at all, Trixie. You deserve every letter," he smiled, holding her cheek warmly with a hoof, "Also, you've never really had the chance to see any of my shows. How about you take the night off and enjoy it for once? Consider it a long-overdue gift."
"Y-yes Sir!" she smiled, "Thank you, Sir!" Trixie happily trotted to the door, tail happily swishing back and forth as the door opened. She paused, however, continuing, "... for everything." Hoofdini smiled at her as the door shut, thankful she accepted the invitation. If anything did happen to him... well, he did not want her to feel like it was her fault as the stage manager. He took a deep breath and walked over to his desk to write a letter.
Meanwhile, Trixie received her pass and found the assistant stage manager to take over for her for the night. Not only was she over the moon about her new title, but the idea of seeing one of his shows as a member of the audience thrilled her to no end. Usually, she would be far too busy backstage to enjoy what she could see of the show for much longer than a few scant seconds.
With just a couple of minutes left until it began, she picked up some popcorn at the concession stand with some of the few bits she had. From there, she proceeded to her seat, in the middle of the lower level of the Pegasus Theatre. Ponies from all walks of life filed in, from rich debutantes in the private balconies down to common ponies who could only afford tickets in the nosebleed sections. For a few hours, they would all be joined in the magic of the theatre, temporarily dissolving class like no other spell could.
Suddenly, the house lights dimmed as the spotlights pointed to a blank spot in the stage. "Welcome, fillies and gentlecolts, foals of all ages!" boomed the voice of her mentor. "Prepare yourselves for the magical might of the one, the only, The Great Hoofdini!" Magical fireworks screamed forth as the aging unicorn appeared in a puff of smoke. As usual, he made a perfect entrance, his black cape (and trademarked handlebar moustache) billowing in a magical wind he conjured.
Although she knew the ins and outs of the show like the bottom of her hoof, Trixie still found herself captivated in giddy foalhood delight. For the first time, she was able to see her mentor from the perspective of the audience as she munched happily on her popcorn. He commanded the stage with unparalleled grace and power: something she herself could never hope to accomplish.
However, she could not help but notice some changes to the queue that night. A couple of the tricks scheduled were scrapped in favour of some of her favourites, like the Sultan Surprise and the Dauntless Descent. Trixie smiled as she caught on to his subtle way of trying to sooth her nerves over the finale. It made her relax just a little more, but did not quite vanquish the nagging thoughts from the more macabre side of her imagination.
Before she even knew it, Trixie saw the set for the finale roll onto the stage. Hoofdini would lock himself upside-down, while in a straitjacket, in a large, steel crate. It would then be hoisted to the level of the catwalk, a deadly sixty hoof drop down to the stage below. Once free and out of the box, he would then land on a hidden mat to break the fall and vanish in a puff of rainbow smoke all in one instant before appearing in the aisles... if all went well, anyway.
Trixie bit her lower lip as he trotted into the box, his rear legs shackled to the ceiling of it so he hung upside-down. The box clanged shut before the massive lock was clasped over the rings and the whole thing sent skyward. He had but two minutes to escape before the combined weight of the stallion and the box would snap the line and send him plummeting to his doom.
Like the rest of the audience, she sat upon the edge of her seat in anticipation, uttering silent prayers to the creators to help him escape unharmed. The box creaked and groaned on its only support wire high above the stage, each one making Trixie panic just a little more. Thankfully, after about sixty seconds, the door opened to wild applause from the audience, who then gasped as he swan-dived to the safety of the mat. However, right where he was supposed to erupt in rainbow smoke, there only sounded a meaty crack that filled the air and silenced the theatre.
Medics rushed forwards from behind the scenes, tears instantly beginning to well in Trixie's eyes. Something had gone horribly wrong with the act. She got out of her seat and rushed out of the theatre, waving her backstage pass in the face of the bouncer to let her past. By the time she got there, several ponies and paramedics huddled around him. A white Pegasus she knew as Snowbell came up to her to stop her from getting close.
"I'm so sorry, Trixie," she said, tears staining her cheeks, "He's... he's gone... landed funny... s-s-snapped his neck... f-felt no pain." Her world crashed all around her. The azure mare could feel nothing but cold sweep over her body, tears flowing freely from her eyes. She tried in desperation to call out to him, thinking it was some sort of sick prank. The Pegasus had to restrain the unicorn and drag her back into his dressing room before she could batter the corpse in a foalish attempt to wake him.
In the privacy of the room, the young mare cried like she had never cried before. It was so unfair! She was going to have the chance to perform with him, the legendary magician and escape artist! How dare he die on her like that, after he PROMISED! Trixie rolled around the floor in a sick mixture of pain, sorrow and anger, sobbing loud enough to be audible in the hushed halls behind the stage. "It's not FAIR!" she screamed over and over, pounding on his emotionless possessions all the while.
Minutes dragged on into hours, leaving the azure mare alone in her misery. After expending her energy on smashing some of his old worthless things, she curled up into a tight ball on the floor and sobbed quietly to herself. A quiet knock filled the room. "Trixie?" called the voice of Snowbell, "I... found something for you... from him... I'll just leave it by the door." The dressing room door opened, a plain brown package sliding inside before it shut.
Despite her extreme sorrow, the blue mare pulled herself off the floor, driven by curiosity, and slowly walked over towards the package, pulling a small card from the top before sitting down to read it.
Dear Trixie, it started.
If you are reading this note, it means I failed you. Words cannot express how sorry I am. I wanted to give you a little something after the show, to truly mark you as a bona-fide magician. Alas, now you will have to open it without me there to smile cheerfully at you. Before you go tearing into the package, I just want you to know something very important, Trixie. For the past couple of years now, I haven't really seen you as my assistant, or my protégé.
Now, before you get upset (even more so), this is because you've become closer to me then such an impersonal relationship. I'm sorry I never got the chance to say this while I was alive, but Trixie... you are like the daughter I never had. I realize this is of little consolation in regards to the circumstances, but I have always been proud of you, and will always be proud of you. Even if my untimely death has turned you off from show business, you will always be the Heir of Hoofdini.
No matter what path your life takes, I will always be with you. Even as my body decays, I live on in your heart... yeah, it's cheesy as all sorrel hells, but it's true nonetheless. So, chin up, kiddo! Go out there, and make me even more proud of you! You truly are 'The Great and Powerful Trixie!'
Hairy R. Hoofdini.
The azure mare wiped her tears off on her leg before ripping the wrapping to shreds with her magic. Brown paper floated around the room like dirty snow, revealing the white box underneath. Trixie cautiously opened the folds in the package to take in a sight that took her breath away. Sitting in the box, stitched in fields of blue, dotted with dozens of beautiful and colourful stars was a magician's hat and cape.
She sobbed once more as her magic gently lifted the hat and placed it upon her head, hiding her horn and most of her snowy white and light blue mane. The fabric felt so warm and gentle, almost like the stallion who gave them to her. Tears flowed freely from her eyes once more: in one night, she had been given a title and attire befitting of a magician... but she had also lost her master. She snuggled up against the cape like a blanket before her emotional exhaustion finally took hold, coaxing her into a dreamless sleep.
Back in the present, new tears filled the azure magician's eyes, even as the lavender unicorn held her in a tight embrace. It had been so hard to keep her composure while telling the sad tale, yet she managed to do so nonetheless. Trixie sobbed quietly as the memories continued to play out in her mind, the funeral that was held a couple of days later. She had tried to be brave that day, but she just could not keep her composure, babbling through the speech she prepared.
It was all in the past though. At present, she was in the embrace of a unicorn whom she previously blamed for destroying her career, for making a mockery of her magical abilities. Only the brief time outside of her stage persona, coupled with reliving the sore memory, made her realize how her bitterness and pain twisted and distanced her from others. She had become the Great and Powerful Trixie, not to honor her mentor's memory like she told herself, but to run away from the crying filly inside. Cut off from everypony else by her hubris, her sneering mask, she now had no friends left, which led to her currently powerless state. After all, friendship was magic, or so the old saying went.
"Oh, Trixie," the other mare started, "I'm so sorry that I made you relive such a horrible day! I was... I was just curious and I disregarded your feelings and I..."
"It is okay, Twilight," the magician countered, "By making me break my character and... and share something heart-breaking... I realized that... well... perhaps The Great and Powerful Trixie has a bit too much of an ego for her own good. Perhaps... perhaps I should just... just be Trixie. I would keep my title, but... not resort to all the useless bragging. I mean, a little is okay because otherwise I'm not interesting, but nothing like saying I conquered an Ursa Major."
Twilight Sparkle only squeezed tighter at that realization, beginning to cry a little herself, swept up in a tidal wave of emotions. "That sounds great! I'm sure everypony would love to get to know the real Trixie and not that obnoxious persona you built to hide from your own survivors' guilt." A look of surprise on the azure pony prompted her to add, "Trust me: I know what you're going through. I've... done things I'm not proud of. Let's just leave it at that."
A look of shame crept across the purple scholar's face at her own worst day ever, only to suddenly find herself being patted on the back by the other unicorn. "Come on, Twilight," Trixie spoke, "It's getting late out." Indeed, the moon hung high in the sky, telling the learned mare that midnight would soon be upon them. Being that close to the Everfree that late at night never boded well.
As the two ponies walked down the hill and into the deserted streets, Trixie could not help but feel as if a massive weight had lifted from her back, allowing her to nearly float on a cloud of relief-born euphoria. She knew that she would have to do a lot to make up to Twilight's friends, but it was a task she felt ready to tackle. Sure, they all loathed and despised The Great and Powerful Trixie, but they had never met Trixie Treats before.
The blue unicorn smirked at her situation. It was almost like a classical tale of redemption and forgiveness. Well, she was not about to become completely sugary and happy-go-lucky. At best, she would probably give more hints in her snide remarks to show they were in jest, but she was not about to change who she was completely for anypony. Not for her birth mother, not for Hoofdini, and not even for her 'sister.'
Still, it felt nice to let her mane down and just... be Trixie again, for the first time in a very long while. It was almost like stepping out of an old, stuffy room and back out into a fresh evergreen forest after years of confinement. Eventually, the blue mare snapped herself out of her musings, as the duo had walked all the way to the library.
A shiver ran down the blue pony's spine as the events of a few hours ago came back. Would Shimmer and Spike still let her stay, or would they be so angry that they would kick her out? Unfortunately, Twilight held no such reservations about coming home and opened the door immediately, beckoning her to follow suit. Trixie stalled for a couple of seconds, "Well, come on!" the purple pony prompted.
"Twilight! Trixie! Thank goodness you're both safe!" Shimmer Tail shouted before trotting over and hugging them both. "I was so worried when you both stormed out of here!" The room had been cleaned up so well that there was no trace of the table, or any of the food left. It only made the blue mare feel worse how she had spoiled things. It also reminded her of how she hardly ate anything, causing a quiet growl of protest to come from her stomach.
"So... you're not mad at Trixie?" the magician inquired.
"Oh, I didn't say THAT, young lady. I just meant I was worried about you two being out on your own... but I'm glad you managed to find each other and make amends... I think."
"We did, Mom, don't worry," Twilight added, "How's Spike holding up? He's asleep by now, I hope?" While the two other mares chatted about the baby dragon, and how he was handling the events of the night, Trixie began to ponder. It would only be a matter of time before they figured out her lack of magic, so perhaps it would be best to just get it over with and put it out into the open.
After the moment they shared on the hill, Trixie could not help but feel that Twilight would not berate her or parade her inabilities around town. She would take a risk and show her some of the trust placed in her. "Shimmer Tail... Twilight Sparkle... Trixie has... a small confession to make," she spoke, taking a deep breath, interrupting them suddenly, "There's a reason I didn't... or couldn't show Twilight a trick I learned from my master when she asked, and it wasn't because of the sore memories about losing him... at least, not completely. Please, promise to not laugh, but... but I... I can't do magic anymore." She looked to the floor and scuffed it with a hoof, utterly ashamed with herself.
"What!?" breathed both of the other unicorns in shock. This might be a tougher nut to crack than Trixie thought.