Author's Note: Many thanks to Heatwave for pre-reading! This story is much better because of him. If you're looking for something else to read, check out his stuff, you won't be sorry!
Pausing at the top of the mesa, Trixie looked down onto the frontier village of Appleloosa, and reflected briefly on the past year. She had been at the top of her game, wowing audiences with her repertoire of tricks, both magical and mundane. She had been the object of everyone else's affections and adoration. The world had been her apple... And then she had arrived in Ponyville.
Her stay there had started the same as all the other stops before it. Her arrival had gathered in the the curious, and then she had started her act. As always, challengers had been drawn out by her boastful nature, and one by one she had proved herself against them, demonstrating her greatness. It was only later, that very night to be exact, when things had fallen apart. How was she to know that the very rare creature she had claimed to have vanquished actually lived so very close to Ponyville? Trixie shook her head in disbelief at the improbability of it all.
Yet even her inability to do anything about it hadn't been the worst part of that night. No, it was watching as some other pony did what she couldn't do. Losing her wagon and her possessions during it all was simply adding insult to that kind of injury. After all, her things could be replaced, the proof being what she had pulled all these miles behind her. She looked back at her new wagon. Sure, it lacked some of the finer touches that her previous one had, and she missed that she couldn't have it fold out to create a stage for her. But for the small amount of funds she had been able to raise, it was an excellent place to spend the nights in. The only complaint she really had was how much heavier than her old one it was, but after the first couple of weeks, she hardly noticed that anymore.
And while it had been built, she hadn't just sat around on her rump. Trixie had done her best to expand her library of tricks. She had several new firework displays to be used, and the range of magical tricks she had gathered had grown too. Her only real regret was still lacking anything that could serve as an Ursa Minor defeating tool, but she had worked out a way around that. Simply not bring it up again. Not that she expected to run into a creature that dwelled in deep woods to live way out here.
However, that wasn't why she had decided to come to the very edge of Equestria. No, she had spent over a month on the road simply because, if she was going to have to start over, she figured it would be easier to do it in a place where nobody had heard of her before. Many were the tales of other ponies who, finding themselves in unsavory situations, had simply headed off to Appleloosa to start over. Not only was it difficult for news to reach out this far, its small population combined with the difficult terrain meant that every pony was welcome, regardless of the reason they had for heading out to the frontier town.
With a smile on her face, Trixie started to head down the trail that led to Appleloosa. The downward slope, coupled with the twisting trail that followed the curves of the ridge, meant she had to take things slowly to keep her wagon from pushing her out of control, but it wasn't anything that Trixie hadn't dealt with before. Taking her time, she started to think about how she would introduce herself to the ponies below.
"Boss, we may have a problem here." Taking the binoculars away from his eyes, the skinny diamond dog held them out and waited for his leader to take them. After a brief delay, a magical aura surrounded the binoculars and they floated away from his hand and over to a grey unicorn who proceeded to look through the eyepiece.
"Well, well, well, what do we have here? Another unicorn, and one who looks like she may have some ability too." A scowl turned the corners of the unicorn's mouth downward. "And today was looking to be perfect to put our plan into action. Well, no sense in rushing things. Let's just sit back and see what little miss magic there is capable of." The rest of the group, a pair of buffalo and a one winged pegasus, made various sounds of irritation, and quickly settled into a card game, while the unicorn and and the diamond dog took turns with the binoculars, watching Trixie from afar.
"Behold, Appleloosans, the Great and Powerful Trixie!... No, no, too straight forward, too blunt." Trixie muttered to herself as she carefully made her way down the trail. "Maybe I should go for something a little bit restrained at first? Ha ha, of course not. Hmm. Friends, Appleloosans, Equestrains, prepare to be amazed by me, the Great and Powerful Trixie! Well, that's okay, but I don't think that's the one I want to use."
Lost in her train of thought, Trixie missed the signs that a small rock slide had recently occurred. Scree and loose gravel covered the trail, and she was only made aware of it when her hoof slipped on a loose rock. All thoughts of opening speeches were forgotten as she found her balance threatened not only by the unsure footing, but also from heavy load that continued to push against her from behind. She scrambled, and for a moment thought she had successfully recovered, but then her legs shifted underneath her, and she was pushed into the ground by the wagon's momentum, using her and the harness she was attached to like a brake.
Had the ground underneath her been solid, or at least free of debris, Trixie felt certain that she would have escaped with just a dirty cloak and skinned knees. Instead, she figured she now knew how a plow felt, being used to clear aside the mess on the road and allowing the wagon to slowly build up momentum. With a muttered curse, Trixie did her best to get her legs back under her to avoid being scraped into a bloody mess. It took a moment, but she was able to get back on her hooves. Looking briefly in front of her, she saw the trail take a turn to her left up ahead. If she couldn't get the wagon under control before then, she realized she would be pushed right off the edge! Sure, it wasn't a straight away drop off, but it was steep enough that with her wagon still right behind her, she would like be very likely pushed to her death.
Searching her head for something, anything that would keep her from becoming the Dead and Mutilated Trixie, she finally had an idea come to her. Gathering up her magic, she got her legs underneath her and before she was pushed over the edge, jumped up and cast her spell. Using the telekinesis that all unicorns knew, she first grabbed the harness shafts with her magic, and lifted them upwards. In turn, this also lifted Trixie off of the ground. While she was no longer being forcefully being pushed through the dirt, she was also no longer doing anything to slow the acceleration of the wagon. With an audible effort, she increased the area of her spell, and soon she had the wheels of the wagon under her control.
She tried to stop them at first, but realized she didn't have enough time to bring the wagon to a complete stop before reaching the corner, so she did the next best thing she could think of. When the wagon reached the bend, she used all of her magical might and turned the wagon so that it stayed on the trail. She allowed herself a brief shout of triumph at having escaped death, until she realized that she wasn't safe yet. The trail still stretched out before her, with several more twists and turns to its route to go before reaching the bottom and opening up onto the outskirts of Appleloosa.
She considered dropping the spell, and in turn herself, to see if she could bring the wagon to a halt, but deemed the risk too high. Instead, she kept her magic going, and rode things out. By the end, she was about ready to collapse from the strain of maintaining such a draining spell for such a long time, but seeing that a crowd had gathered to watch her unorthodox entrance into town, she smiled. After all, if there was anything that Trixie was always ready to do, it was wow an audience. With a laugh, she let the wagon coast down the main road of the settlement, come to a slow stop, and only then did she slowly lower herself back to the ground and dismiss the spell.
All around her, the townsfolk were whispering to each other excitedly. "Did you see that?" "I can't believe she didn't fall off the edge! What a gutsy thing to do!" "I don't think I could have done the same as she just did, amazing!" Trixie soaked it all in, a smug look on her face. The crowd slowly parted to make way for a beige earth pony, wearing a black and red cowboy hat, and a blue vest with a silver star pinned onto it. "Welcome to Appleloosa, ma'am." he said with an twangy accent. "That was quite the entrance you made there. I'm Sheriff Silverstar, at your service."
With a huge smile, she replied, "I am the Great and Powerful Trixie! Entertainer of Equestria, master of many magics, I have come out here to put on a show that nopony will ever forget! Tonight, at sunset, come and watch me put on a show, for the ages!" At her declaration, excited murmurs raced through the crowd, with several ponies racing off to spread the news.
"All right, everypony!" Sheriff Silverstar cried out, getting the crowd's attention. "Let's give the lady some room to set her stuff up. It's still a few hours until sundown anyway, why don't you all return to your business until it's time, ya hear?" A few complaints were uttered, but in general the crowd dispersed, heading back to their homes and jobs. The sheriff then turned to Trixie. "Let me know if you need any help, or security for that matter."
"Security? Do you really think that the ponies here will be that eager to see me, the Great and Powerful Trixie?"
"Well, a couple of the younger stallions may get a bit feisty, but that isn't what I'm talking about. We've had a few problems with outlaws the past month or so. Nopony has been hurt, and they haven't managed to do anything but be a nuisance, but I reckon that's only going to last for so long." said the sheriff.
"Well, I'll certainly keep an eye out for ruffians such as those. The Great and Powerful Trixie thanks you for the warning. Now, if you'll pardon me, I need to make sure that all of my things are in order for my dazzling display later on tonight!" Pausing a second to look around, she asked, "Is there any place you would recommend for me to set up my wagon?"
The sheriff paused to consider. "Well, we do have a stage area over there," he pointed with a hoof. "Will that work?"
"Ah! Perfect! The Great and Powerful Trixie thanks you for your assistance! And now, if you'll excuse me?" Without waiting for an answer, Trixie started moving her wagon over towards the stage. The sheriff watched with an eyebrow raised, and then with a shrug walked off, back to the jailhouse.
The grey unicorn spat at the ground. "Okay boys, you can head on back to the camp if you want. I don't see it being worth the risk to try anything today." The buffalo and the pegasus both got up and walked away.
"What are you planning to do, boss?" the diamond dog asked.
The unicorn sat down behind a rock and raised the binoculars back up to his eyes. "Looks like our newcomer is going to put on a show later tonight. She's already heading over to the stage. I think I'll stick around and do a little bit of scouting, see what we might be up against." He turned briefly to look at the diamond dog. "Just keep an eye on the the others, would ya? I don't expect any trouble, but with the disappointment of not going ahead with things, they may be a bit... touchy, if you know what I mean?"
The diamond dog gave a wheezy chuckle. "I sure do, boss. I'll keep them in line if I have to."
"Good. Now go ahead and head on back. I may be here for quite a while."
The sun seemed to race across the sky for Trixie. While she was happy about there already being a stage set up for her to use, she had grown so accustomed to using her old wagon as her performance center that she was unused to having to set things up ahead of time. With the old wagon, the fireworks had already been in place, the props ready to go with the simple press of a floor pedal. Here, she had to set everything up by hoof herself, and it was taking her much longer than she would have liked.
As the clock tower rang out seven chimes, Trixie finally felt comfortable enough to stand back and realize just how hungry she was. Trotting over and into her wagon, she ate a quick meal of celery and apples while mulling over her performance to come. Should she go with her new routine? Was there anything specific she wanted to attempt? It had been quite a while since her last performance, since Ponyville, now that she thought of it. That's when the realization of it all hit her.
She was suffering from stage fright! Sure, she had put on a couple of small shows for others on request, but those had been private, personal affairs. She had been doing specific tricks for small groups, the largest groups still being less than ten ponies all told. Nothing even remotely close to this kind of free flowing, only partially planned extravaganza in front of what would easily be a hundred ponies, if the crowd from earlier had been any sort of indicator of how many might show up.
She growled at herself. "C'mon, Trixie! You've done this dozens of times! It wasn't even the performance that you botched, it was the arrival of the Ursa that brought everything crashing down! You have no reason to be worried at all!" Feeling better for saying it out loud, she watched as the townsfolk slowly started to file in.
Hello cousin! Just another quick letter to let you know how things are going for us up here in Appleloosa. Preparations for the Summer Sun Festival continue along smoothly. I still can't believe that it's just a few weeks away before Princess Celestia and Princess Luna both show up here. When you consider that two years ago there was barely a building in sight, well, you can imagine my pride at how fast our town has come along. This celebration will put Appleloosa on the map for sure!
Just thought I'd share with you that a name from one of your past letters has shown up here. It seems that the Great and Powerful Trixie arrived in town early this afternoon, and she already has all the folks abuzz with excitement with the promise of an exciting show. Looking back at what you wrote though, I'm wondering just how great it is going to be, if she really is as boastful and as big of a braggart as you made her out as. Well, I'll leave this off for now, and I'll add to it later tonight and let you know how things went. The Pony Express mail delivery pony doesn't leave for another couple of days still, so I'll have plenty of time to add to this letter.
Braeburn put down his quill and noticed that the sky was starting to darken. Not wanting to be late to the show, he quickly grabbed his brown cowboy hat and headed out of his house towards the stage. He was relieved to see that he wasn't among the first to arrive for the performance. If the show turned into anything resembling what his cousin from Ponyville had described, he wanted an easy avenue of escape. Looking around, he figured that at least half of the town had decided to show up. Which he supposed wasn't too big of a surprise, really. It wasn't as if there was anything to do other than hang around at the Salt Lick or take care of things at home at this hour.
Just as the sun dropped below the horizon and the sky started to turn noticeably darker, a flash of light followed by a puff of smoke drew everypony's attention to the stage. Torches seemingly lit themselves as the smoke cleared, and the audience saw that a blue pony, wearing a wizard hat and a star covered robe stood front and center. "Welcome, one and all! I, the Great and Powerful Trixie, have at long last come to the town of Appleloosa to entertain all of you with my marvelous multitudes of magical mysteries!"
The crowd whistled and stomped their hooves on the ground in excitement and expectation, and Trixie stood there, preening and posing. As the audience started to quiet down, Trixie waved a foreleg, and a flurry of fireworks erupted above her, filling the sky with colorful explosions. The audience oohed in appreciation.
"Yes!" Trixie called out. "Now, prepare yourselves, for what you are about to witness will be..." Trixie was cut off as another firework launched itself, taking off her hat as it barely missed hitting her in her head before detonating just off to the side of the stage. Braeburn could tell right away this wasn't part of the act. The unicorn looked a bit rattled by the incident, but she seemed to recover quickly enough. "Um, yes! See how fantastic my act is, even I, the Great and Powerful Trixie can not fully prepare myself for what I am about to do." She leaned towards the crowd, and in a stage whisper said, "Those who are faint of heart may wish to leave now!"
The crowd chuckled appreciatively. With a smile on her face Trixie gestured at several jars situated around the stage. "For my first act, I will share with you a display of magical mastery that was first developed in the distant city of Coltcutta, land of pony mystics! Watch as I, the Great and Powerful Trixie performs for you... the Dance of the Snakes!"
Trixie's horn started to glow, and she started a record player hidden behind the back of the stage. A tune played with pipes and strange stringed instruments filled the air, and from the four jars, Trixie slowly levitated ropes hidden in each one up into the air. Each rope moved in a serpentine fashion, twisting back and forth, never in a straight line. They were slowly woven together, in time to the music, into a complex weave above Trixie's head. Suddenly, the music sped up, turning from a slow, almost hypnotic pace to something that seemed almost panicked. Trixie started to obviously sweat as she tried to keep up, but when the music all of a sudden died, it threw off her concentration to the point where all the ropes fell down... right on top of her.
The audience laughed appreciatively at what they assumed was an intentional joke. Trixie did her best to ignore the laughter, and the knot starting to form in her stomach. Her mind raced as she pulled herself out from the pile of ropes, trying to figure out what was going wrong. Had the speedy trip down the path damaged some of her equipment? Thinking back, she had been more concerned with getting things into place, and hadn't really checked things over to see if they were still in tip top shape.
Finally standing up, she gave the crowd a weak smile. "All part of the show, folks! Haha. And now, for my next feat!" With a little help from her magic, she set off the next batch of fireworks. "The last time any pony performed this stunt successfully was over two hundred years ago! And even then, the performer who pulled it off was never quite the same afterwords." She lowered her voice, and the audience, fully drawn in, leaned in to hear every word. "Prepare yourselves, for the Comet's Tail!"
Trixie concentrated, her horn glowing brightly, until flames from the torches seemed to fly away from their sources and formed a ball of fire above her head. Soon, the pyrotechnic sphere was flying around above her, and then lower and lower, until Trixie was soon engaged in an elaborate routine of jumps and spins, seeming to barely evade the ball of fire by the smallest of margins with each of its passes. The crowd soon erupted in cheers, whooping it up as Trixie time and again seemed to escape injury time by mere inches.
Suddenly, the music from the previous act started back up again. The shock of it happening was enough to throw Trixie off of her routine, and the ball of fire caught her on her side. Gasps of horror erupted from the crowd, but Trixie was able to magic her cloak off quickly enough that her fur was barely singed. "All part of the act, ponies, no need to worry!" Trixie called out, trying to calm them down. Her insides were so tense, she could hardly keep he voice steady.
Braeburn frowned. While he had come only to see if this pony was as bad as he had been told, and he had to admit that her way of talking seemed to point in that direction, he was still starting to fell a bit of sympathy for the unicorn. Everything seemed to be going wrong for her, and the crowd was picking up on it too, if he judged the murmurs and muttering from the ponies around him correctly. Looking back at the stage, he saw that Trixie had extinguished the cloak safely.
"And now," Trixie called out to the assembled ponies, "for my grand finale! Watch, and be amazed, as the Great and Powerful Trixie..." She never got the chance to finish her description, as all of the remaining fireworks she had set up started to go off all at once. Soon, Trixie was dodging sparklers and balls of exploding light coming at her from what felt like every side. The crowd didn't know what to make of it first, but as Trixie kept on managing to evade time and time again what appeared to be certain hits, they started to cheer her on and hollering words of encouragement.
What brought the crowd to sudden silence wasn't Trixie being hit, but one of the bigger balls of light flying inside of her wagon and exploding with a loud boom! Trixie and turned and watched in horror as fires started to erupt from the inside of her wagon, and she rushed over, ignoring the glancing blows from other fireworks as she desperately tried to extinguish the flames before they caused too much damage. After a few seconds, Trixie managed to telekinetically carry out all of the items that had caught on fire, and dumped them safely onto the ground. The audience after a brief moment of confusion finally started to slowly applaud her actions, and soon everypony was cheering loudly for her.
Trixie stared dumbfounded at the reaction. She wanted to scream at them, let them know that she had failed miserably, that every part of performance had been flubbed, a disaster! Finally, she found her voice, and asked, "Why are you cheering?"
An older pony in the front row answered, "Miss, we haven't seen such an amusing and comedic performance here in Appleloosa in, well, as long as I can recall! You've done put a smile on all of our faces, and we are mighty thankful for that!"
Trixie blinked rapidly in disbelief. Her? Amusing? Comedic? Never! She was supposed to be revered, held up in high esteem! Not to be.. laughed at! The show pony in her kept Trixie from erupting in anger. "Well, I'm glad you all enjoyed the presentation! Thank you all, and have a good night." She watched as the residents slowly left in small groups, until she was finally alone. Checking over things to make sure that nothing would blow away, she stomped away from the stage in frustration, wanting to be alone with her thoughts.
Trixie soon found herself a fair distance outside of town. Finally, she slowed down and took stock of her surroundings. She had gone over a couple of hills, and now Appleloosa was barely visible in the distance. Seeing she was alone, she allowed the frustration she had been holding to come out. "Comedic! Amusing! Me, the Great and Powerful Trixie? How could they have mistaken my act for something so... Vaudeville?"
"Well, if you want my opinion, it's because those Appleloosans are all a bunch of stuck up freaks." A voice answered unexpectedly from above and to the side. Turning quickly, Trixie saw a grey unicorn stallion with a tan mane and tail, both ratty in appearance. Across his chest hung a bandoleer, holding easily a dozen knives. "They all think they're special and better than anypony else." He slowly approached Trixie, and she gasped in horror as she saw on his flank, where his cutie mark should have been, was a giant scar instead, showing signs of a terrible burn.
"Who, who are you?" she asked.
The pony chuckled. "Forgive me darling, it was rude of me to sneak up on you like that, and not even introduce myself." He slowly did an exaggerated bow. "Folks around here call me the Coyote Colt, fastest spell in all of Appleloosa. Why don'tcha come with me, I think you and I need to discuss some things."