If you're interested in more of my Pony fanfiction, I usually post stuff on FIMfiction first (and reply to comments there too). You can follow me at FIMfiction dot net / user / Emperor
Daybreak in Ponyville brought with it the hustle and bustle of its many residents, as the marketplace filled up within the hour. The crisp morning air was as good as any cup of coffee or the juiciest apple to getting ponies wide and awake.
Trixie sighed as she surveyed the plaza she had used for her performance the night before. Few ponies knew what it meant to be a performer. Even if you had acted a thousand times before, you still threw yourself into the play with every fibre of your being. It was only then that Trixie truly felt alive. The stage was her world.
Ponyville simply wasn't large enough to support a single stage magician, even if she changed her act up every night. After Trixie and Starlight had made up the night before following the performance, it was with a heavy heart that Trixie had told the other unicorn this. There had been some crying, followed by a late-night dinner at the local castle (and didn't that still sound weird in her head!). With a new day would come a new show on the road for Trixie. All she needed to do was to finish her packing.
"Um…excuse me…if you don't mind…"
"Hmm?" Trixie turned around. "You look familiar, I've seen you at the acts I've had in town here. Did you want an autograph or something?"
"Er, uh, um, maybe. But not yet! Oh, I hope that didn't sound too rude…Um, actually, I wanted to ask you a question. Two questions, even."
Trixie regarded the other pony, giving her a once-over, eyes lingering for a second on her Cutie Mark. The speaker was a demure pegasus with yellow fur almost the tint of lemons, and long, trailing pink hair. Trixie suspected she used tail extensions given how her tail touched the ground. Her Cutie Mark was a trio of butterflies. Trixie was no Cutie Mark analyst, but she would put good money on this pegasus having a special bond with nature's fauna.
She took another second to weigh her words, before saying, "Certainly, but may Trixie have the honour of knowing who she is speaking to?" Trixie winced a little as she said that. She had reverted to third-pony speech for the sole purpose of embarrassing the pegasus for not mentioning her name yet. It was tactless and rude of her.
The pegasus' eyes widened, "Oh, sorry! I'm Fluttershy. Um, I'm one of the local animal caretakers here in Ponyville."
Ah, Trixie thought, basking in smug satisfaction. So she had been right about this Fluttershy's Cutie Mark. "It's good to meet you, Fluttershy. What did you want to know? I'm afraid I don't reveal how I do my tricks, though. It takes away from the show if I do that, you see."
Fluttershy fidgeted, "Um, no, not that, actually. What I wanted to know was, were you really going to commit suicide last night?"
Trixie froze up.
That was right. She had said a lot of words the night before, with her voice amplification spell still active. The boiling mass of emotions that had churned and percolated within her stomach threatened to come out in a mess of acid. Trixie swallowed, struggling to establish control over her gut and throat. Taking a couple of deep breaths, Trixie managed to calm down, tense muscles slowly relaxing. At least, cognisant of the fact she had blanked out in front of a potential fan, she spoke.
"I did want to die in that moment," Trixie admitted. "I had made a new friend, genuinely liked her, and then I said the wrong thing at the wrong time. Oh don't worry, we made up! But yes, for a brief time, I did contemplate taking the plunge."
"Oh. Oh my," Fluttershy said, flapping her wings as she started to hover above the ground. Front hooves covered a horrified expression. "I can't imagine how painful a way that would be to go, being digested alive."
"Wait, what?" Trixie asked. Then she realised how her actions last night could have been construed when taken in conjunction with her words. She wanted to slap herself silly for how she had overlooked such an obvious thing. "Oh dear. Tell me, were there any foals at last night's performance?"
"Um, I don't recall seeing any," Fluttershy said, trailing off in confusion. "Why do you ask?"
"I'm glad I didn't accidentally traumatise any foals, then," Trixie said, before adding, "Unless it was those two idiot colts. But the truth is, I was never actually in any real danger from the manticore."
Fluttershy blinked, "What? But the manticore ate you whole."
"Yes," Trixie said, "But did you notice how I changed my hat out for a helmet before launching myself out of the cannon?" Fluttershy nodded, looking rather unsure of what Trixie was getting at. "Before the show, I applied a layer of extract of the roots of Carapichea ipecacuanha to my helmet."
To Trixie's surprise, Fluttershy knew exactly what she was talking about, if her widened eyes and raised eyebrows were any indicator. "That! That's, oh my goodness, but why would you do that?"
Trixie raised her own eyebrow before forcing it back down. She was a changed mare, she didn't like belittling others, "Most serious stage magicians will incorporate escape acts into their repertoire, where they'll place themselves in a seemingly inescapable position. Many of these escape acts could result in serious injury or death if we aren't careful, so I've always made sure to leave myself a way out if things go wrong." Trixie shrugged, "In this case, if I wasn't able to get out on my own, he would have turned around and vomited me back up within a few minutes. Manticore stomachs only start secreting acid after they've digested something, so I would have been safe for those few minutes from being burned alive."
Fluttershy recoiled at that graphic description, seeming to almost wilt. "B-but how could you trust that the manticore wouldn't have chewed you up first? H-he almost seemed tame."
"That's because he was tame," Trixie simply said.
"Then why was he chained up like that, if he was tamed?" Fluttershy asked, seeming to come out of her shell at that revelation. "I've met a manticore before, and I was able to convince it to leave my friends and I be, but yours was really scary when he roared like that."
Trixie sighed, still a little on edge from the realisation that she had just had about how her act seemed to appear suicidal. "The collar and chain leash wasn't for his sake, it was for the audience's. How many ponies do you think would stay calm if they saw a manticore standing on stage with no apparent restraints, no matter how civilised you claimed he was?"
"That's, I guess that's true," Fluttershy conceded, before her ears perked up, "Where is he now anyways?"
"Back in the Everfree, if I know him."
"If you…know him?" Fluttershy picked up on the weirdness of those words. "Wait, what do you mean, know him?" She gasped as a thought occurred to her, "Did you get him for your show all by yourself?" Fluttershy was surprised that she had agonised overnight about the showmare's apparent willingness to commit suicide, and had only just now wondered about where Trixie had even obtained a manticore for her show. To Fluttershy's knowledge, she should have been the only pony in town able to do that.
"Something like that," Trixie confirmed. "I've cut through the Everfree Forest on occasion to save time. It's dangerous if you don't know what you're doing of course, so I wouldn't recommend going alone, even if you are an animal whisperer. But that's when I met him the first time, and when I had the chance to do the Moonshot Manticore Mouth Dive, I convinced him to help me perform it with a little bit of incentive. Er, you are an animal whisperer, correct?"
"I am," Fluttershy said, the pieces of the puzzle that was Trixie beginning to click in place in front of her. "So you were never in any real danger at all from the manticore?"
"That is correct," The unicorn said.
"Wow." Fluttershy said, lowering herself back to the ground and sitting on her haunches. The two ponies stood there for a few seconds at an impasse, as Fluttershy absorbed the information she had just heard. She had been tossing and turning the night before, her mind wandering to many different places on what could've been. She didn't think many other ponies understood exactly what occurred in a digestion process, and while Twilight Sparkle may have, Fluttershy knew she would have stepped in if Starlight Glimmer hadn't. In Twilight's world, surely there would be no nightmares, or at least that's what Fluttershy liked to believe.
"Can you keep a secret?" Trixie suddenly asked.
Fluttershy let out a quiet 'eep' as her thoughts were suddenly interrupted. "Erm, maybe? I guess."
"Good. That first time that I came to Ponyville, do you recall the tale I told about myself and the Ursa Major?"
"The l-er, tale, yes? What about it?" Fluttershy asked, holding her tongue. She had been terrified of speaking up at that show, as Trixie had humiliated three of her friends on-stage in addition to bullying Twilight.
"Did you ever find it odd that I specified the village of Hoofington as the place where I encountered the Ursa Major? If anypony had been so inclined, they could have written to somepony in Hoofington and found out the truth, and it's not that far away. Shouldn't I have picked somewhere far away instead, perhaps?"
"I…guess I find that weird," Fluttershy said. In all honesty, it had been so long ago she had forgotten most of the specifics beyond Trixie claiming to beat an Ursa Major, but Trixie's mention of Hoofington relative to her tale did sound familiar. Regardless, Fluttershy felt like she was being lead into something. She wasn't sure if she wanted to prod Trixie to get to the point already or not.
Trixie winced. "There may have been a few kernels of truth to the tale."
That got Fluttershy's attention. Trixie's reputation and career had been ruined on the basis of her being a fraud, and now she was claiming the opposite? "What do you mean?"
The blue mare sighed, taking a look around to make sure nopony else was within hearing distance, then turned back to Fluttershy. "It was in Hoofington. At the time, I didn't realise it was merely a baby, I thought it was a full-grown adult since it was still nearly as large as the castle in Canterlot and larger than the few dragons I've seen. It wasn't so much on a rampage as it had merely wandered into town. And I didn't so much as 'vanquish it with my magic' as I convinced it to leave and guided it back to its cave. I suppose if I had stuck around the cave I would've realised it was just a baby and not fully-grown."
"Bu-bwah?" Fluttershy felt her jaw hanging open wide. Stunned didn't even begin to describe it.
Trixie giggled. It was a light sound that Fluttershy found she liked, closely matching her bird choir when they were all in sync. "I told you I could understand animals." Suddenly, she stood up one her hind legs, possessed of vim and energy that Fluttershy had last seen of her in her first show in Ponyville, "The Grrreeat and Powerful Trrrixie has many hidden talents, Miss Fluttershy!"
"If that's the case, then why weren't you able to stop the Ursa here?" Fluttershy asked. With a start, she realised that she had been able to recompose herself even in the face of loud passion.
Trixie sagged, suddenly reminded of the event that had brought her low. "I panicked, especially after it destroyed my cart. That, and those two idiots antagonised it and brought it into town. There's no reasoning with an animal that's genuinely angry."
"That's not qu-" Fluttershy was about to explain the Stare to Trixie, but decided not to. The pegasus didn't think it would really help the conversation. "Well yes, I suppose so."
Trixie sighed. She seemed to be doing a lot of that lately. "I should have just gone to Hoofington after my last wagon was wrecked. At least they know I was telling the truth, well, a part-truth anyways, and wouldn't have shunned me. Any work there would have been better than that rock farm, and I probably wouldn't have given in to buying that accursed Amulet either."
Fluttershy frowned. This was going back onto the topic she had opened up their encounter with. However, she was also a little uncomfortable with it, and made one last-ditch effort to salvage a positive outcome from their chat, "Why don't you just get ponies from Hoofington to explain that you did kind-of-sort-of get rid of an Ursa in the past, then? Even if it's not as impressive as fighting one with magic, it's still, um…impressive?" She offered, unable to come up with a second term.
"It's simple," Trixie said, "Would anypony have believed them?"
Fluttershy opened her mouth to speak, then closed it. Unfortunately, Trixie spoke the truth. There probably would have been lots of holdouts who would continue to believe Trixie was a fraud, and even a few hecklers would still ruin a show, as she had to admit her friends had done to Trixie's original act in Ponyville. Heck, she wasn't even certain herself yet if Trixie was telling the truth, or if that was yet another lie.
So instead Fluttershy asked, "What are you planning to do next, then?"
"Go on the road and perform another show in another village. It's been what I've always done whenever I could, and even after last night I don't see any reason to stop."
"Are you sure about that?" Fluttershy asked.
Trixie narrowed her eyebrows. "Yes, of course I'm sure! Is there a problem with that?"
Fluttershy gulped as Trixie's voice had taken on an adversarial edge. Yet, she needed to do this. Working up her courage, Fluttershy said, "Last night, you said last night you considered killing yourself. Even if it was only for a brief seconds, how do I know you won't kill yourself when you're on the road again?"
"I-I-I, uh," Trixie was fast to respond, but found herself silenced, unable to answer, her eyes wide at what she had just been asked.
Fluttershy pressed on, gaining a boldness she was rarely capable of, "I don't really know you, but I can't in good conscience let somepony leave just like that if I thought she might try to kill herself. So, how are you really feeling, Trixie?"
Trixie backed up a few hoofsteps, not sure how to respond. This demure pegasus had seemed so quiet and soft at first, listening to Trixie talk a little about her own life and her encounters with the manticore and the Ursas. Then out of nowhere, she had gained a backbone forged of steel as soon as the topic had shifted onto Trixie's well-being. It was almost as if…
Huh, so this is what it's like to have friends, ones who look out for you. This isn't such a bad feeling after all.
"I won't," Trixie declared. "It won't happen again."
"Eh?" Fluttershy stumbled forward, surprised at how confident Trixie sounded over such a delicate topic. She stood back up, regaining her bearings, and took to the air again, not trusting her lower limbs to keep her stable. "How can I believe you?"
"I can't really 'prove it', to speak," Trixie said, "But let me point this out to you: I worked on a rock farm for nearly a full year, after having my reputation torn to tatters and two of my wagons destroyed. The rock farm was one of the most boring places I've ever been to, with nopony to entertain and fulfill my Cutie Mark. Then I used the Alicorn Amulet with its dark magic only to be defeated again. Despite that, I'm still here. Miss Fluttershy, I had a lapse of a few minutes and that was that. If I was constantly wallowing in my own self-pity, would I be here right now?"
Fluttershy hesitated, before she said, "But it would only take one more lapse. If you had one, then you could potentially have another, and you're a unicorn. You could do th-the deed in only a few seconds." Fluttershy knew her logic was sound. However, given the sudden vigour Trixie had shown, she knew it wasn't an argument she was going to win.
"That's true," Trixie conceded, "But I won't. Starlight Glimmer taught me something important yesterday. I'd feel like I'd be betraying our friendship if I were to even consider killing myself again." She narrowed her eyes, her attention suddenly hyper-focused on Fluttershy. "Or you, for that matter. I can't remember the last pony besides Starlight who cared enough about me to even do what you've done."
Fluttershy squeaked, landing back on the ground, her wings nearly locked up. The tables had been turned and suddenly the spotlight was on her. Unlike Trixie, she didn't thrive on the stage. She needed at least four other singers with her to even function. "Um, um, I just don't want to see ponies hurt is all," Fluttershy quickly said, tripping over her words as she rushed them out.
The other mare gave her a thoughtful look. An idea suddenly formed in her head. If this worked, maybe she might be able to make annother connection in this town that at times seemed to be her bane. Trixie asked, "Out of curiosity, what is it you do for a living?"
"I care for a number of the local animals at my house, and double as a casual veterinarian for ponys' pets," Fluttershy wrinkled her snout as an unpleasant memory of an encounter with the full-time local vet came up. Regardless of the abrupt change in topic, Fluttershy grasped for it like a thirsty mare for water, feeling uncomfortable about what they had just discussed, even if she had been the one to force the conversation onto that subject matter, "Um, I'm also occasionally called in to get wild animals to return to the Everfree, and sometimes I'll be consulted for some of the menageries the Canterlot nobleponies keep."
"You had me at that first one," Trixie said. "Tell you what. Introduce me to some of your animals. See how I interact with them. Perhaps that'll show you that I'm not suffering from depression or what have you. I can postpone leaving Ponyville for another day, I'm sure the Princess will be more than willing to give me another few free meals."
The pegasus hesitated. She wasn't entirely certain if she could trust Trixie, even after the conversation they had just had. It was one of the longest chats Fluttershy could remember her having in living memory with anypony who wasn't her family or Rainbow Dash. All of a sudden, she genuinely wanted to get to know Trixie more, but from some of the inflections and innuendo the unicorn had used, Trixie still seemed to have a mean streak.
Suddenly, unbidden, Fluttershy recalled an incident from two years ago when Trixie was possessed by the power of the Alicorn Amulet. The madmare had trapped Ponyville under a giant dome, exiling Twilight Sparkle from the town. The remaining members of the tight-knit group of friends that had formed around Twilight had located a book that went into detail on the Amulet, and it was decided to sneak Fluttershy out from the dome to get that information to Twilight.
Fluttershy had stowed away with a family of beavers, hiding inside a carved-out tree trunk. Trixie had spotted the beavers kicking angrily at the dome. At the height of her megalomania, possessed by the Alicorn Amulet, Trixie could have done any number of things. The ideas that Fluttershy conjured in her head were each more gruesome than the last, and she quickly had to shake her head to clear her thoughts before they got too dark. Instead, Trixie had lifted up the dome just a crack, allowing them to leave.
"OK," Fluttershy said. "I trust you. Um, I keep them at my home, so if you don't mind following me…"
"Of course," Trixie nodded, easily falling in behind the lemon yellow pegasus. After a few moments, she changed her mind and scooted ahead to be walking side-by-side with Fluttershy.
The two fell silent as Fluttershy lead Trixie away from the hustle and bustle of the village plaza, moving towards the edge of town where the Everfree Forest stood.
Then, "Um…f-friends?" Trixie asked Fluttershy, lifting a hoof.
Fluttershy let out a 'meep' at the sudden question, before looking at the proffered hoof. A second's hesitance, and then she held out her own hoof. She wasn't quite sure what to do, but rolled with instinct, bumping her own hoof up against Trixie's. "Friends," She agreed.
The two shared a mutual nervous chuckle as they continued walking on.
This idea came out of a combination of wondering who got the manticore for Trixie's show since Fluttershy apparently didn't, and the desire for Trixie and Fluttershy to have some interaction for once. Then it segued a little bit into Trixie's emotional state. Some of the things in here are headcanon dumps from this episode, mainly Trixie being an animal whisperer since she inexplicably managed to get what appears to be a tame manticore who even freaking bows at the end with no explanation. Unfortunately the story got a little out of hand near the end and I didn't want to have to add another three thousand words just to be able to organically wrap it up (it's happened before) so that's why the ending may feel a little abrupt.
If you compare the monochrome of Hoofdini being swallowed by the manticore, the manticore there makes several chewing motions with his mouth right after. In contrast, Trixie's manticore merely swallows and then burps, no chewing.
Carapichea ipecacuanha is used to make ipecac syrup, a medicinal cough syrup that was once commonly used to induce vomiting (not so much nowadays).
Trixie's argument near the end: there's at least one study following people who were averted from jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge that most of them never attempted suicide again, meaning the impulse for suicide can potentially be a short-lived urge. Of course, some of them still did kill themselves as well, and there's nothing that says Trixie couldn't have a second relapse. In a land of magic even a few minutes could potentially be enough.