Fiction by Z.K.
Crying in a Bottle
Summary: In the village of Wellshod, a day and a third's travel from the burgeoning Ponyville, there is a general store and a tavern, and that's about it. Someone who was once "Great and Powerful" has been watering her salt lick with tears...
(inspired by an image at e621 dot net, at /post/show/128582 - image is SFW, website is not, and I would love a better source for that picture)
Chapter One: Broken
"Mother said it, so I have to believe it." That's all the tavern keeper could get out of her now that she'd run out of credit. "I just wasn't strong enough." Her voice was raw and her eyes and nose were reddened. Her coat and cutie mark were dirty, and she refused to look at herself for the shame. She had to redeem herself. But she didn't know how.
Nor did the tavern keep know how he could close the day's books if she didn't leave. Finally, with nothing left but to do it, the stallion approached and said in a gentle voice, "Miss, I can't give you any more, and you're bothering the other patrons." A bit of fire flashed in the powder-blue unicorn's eyes, but she was almost ready to give up.
"Can't I put on one performance? Just one?"
"No, Miss. Please, it's getting dark. I know someone who can let you sleep in her barn, but I can't let you stay here tonight."
"A barn! The Great and..." She sighed, deflating. "Nevermind." If she hadn't been so dehydrated from the salt, she'd have squeezed a few more big drops from her eyes. After a few moments, the filly sighed once more and tried to stand, wobbling terribly. The rust-colored stallion helped her out to the door and down the steps of the porch.
"Now, if you go down that way to the edge of town and look for the mailbox next to a cart-path that leads back to a blue barn, you just go up and knock on the door of the house halfway down that path. Tell 'em Jars sent you for a night in the barn." Trixie nodded, thinking she understood. "They'll make sure you have some water and a warm spot in the loft, but you might have to do a few chores in the morning. You understand, Miss?"
The performer nodded again, head and ears down.
"All right. You walk slow and careful and you'll get there all right." He gave her a kindly pat on the shoulder with his hoof. "Goodnight, Miss. I expect I'll see you around tomorrow."
Once the keep had walked back inside to see to his regulars, Trixie looked around. The sun was almost done setting, and she had what seemed like far too long to walk, with a dozen houses on either side of the main road, and fields for a mile or so beyond that. But walk it she must if she didn't want to suffer tonight. Why I, of all people, have to sleep in a barn is beyond me, she thought, but she'd done it before and she could do it again now.
She eventually reached the end of the village proper, and tried to look for mailboxes with cart-paths next to them. There were two of them, standing across the road from each other when she finally got there, another three hundred yards past the last house. Her legs were trembling, her eyes were nearly crossed, and her head was fuzzy and hurting with fatigue and intoxication.
"Please, Mother, help me? I can't see so good." The warm presence she always felt when she called for her mother wasn't there, and she didn't know why. Trixie tried to focus and project a little magic light, a soft moonbeam to show the color of the barn at the end of each path, but her head felt like a bee had stung it. There was a flare that felt like a hammer, and Trixie thought she saw blue on the barn to the left. Instead of checking the other barn, she hurried as fast as her stumbling, worn-out limbs could carry her, stopping at the house to knock lightly, suddenly shy and afraid.
There was a bustle, and the lady of the house came to the door, a solid-looking earth pony whose colors were overshadowed by the light inside.
"Yes, Miss?" Trixie looked on this imposing matron and tried to speak slowly, so she could be understood.
"Jars said I might find shelter in your barn?"
The mare looked at the filly oddly. "Now, why would Jars send you here?"
"I-" Such a weak sound! She really wasn't so great or powerful, was she? Trixie took a breath to keep steady and instead fell sitting. In her hoarse, drunken voice, she sobbed, "I spent all day at the tavern and that purple unicorn and I, I, Mother said I was and, and, and, and... please?"
The mare's expression softened. "Come in, dear. Let's get you some water, and we'll talk." She opened the door fully and led Trixie inside.
Once inside so that the light fell more evenly, the unicorn could see that her rescuer was a brick red pony, with a mane like golden straw and a hay bale as her cutie mark. The door led to a family room which was connected to a large kitchen and dining room. There was a brick fireplace at one end of the room, around which several comfortable cushions and a couch were placed, and Trixie focused on that until the mare nudged her into the kitchen. "Come over and sit by the stove, it's still warm from this evening's dinner. I might have a few scraps to share, too."
Once settled with a large mug of water apiece, the mare said, "I'm Harvest Full. I grow most of the hay and straw we need in town. Aren't you that magician who put on a show last month, trying to impress us all with your power? 'The Great and Powerful Trixie'?"
Trixie nodded, feeling low. She'd managed to impress most of the residents, but it seemed like there were always a few who would make sure she moved on after only so long in a place. "Yes, Ma'am." She winced, as her voice was getting worse with every word, and her throat hurt terribly.
"Oh, don't speak, dear. You may be all bluster and shine, but that throat of yours will be sore for a week if you try it now. You just shake your head yes or no, all right?"
Trixie nodded and took another gulp of water.
"Now, you drink all the water you need, but not too fast. Got to give your body time to absorb it, you see." Harvest looked Trixie over with a speculative eye. "You must have taken quite a tumble to be back through here looking like that. Someone knock you in the mud? Be honest!"
That sharp directive caught at Trixie, and she shivered, a blink of orange crossing her mind. The filly shook her head no, and tilted her head and shoulder.
"Ah, you tripped?" A nod. "Well at least I hope nobody was rude to you on the road. May I ask where your wagon is?" A shimmer at Trixie's horn caught Harvest's eye, "Ah-ah, don't focus too hard before you recover, or you'll get a headache."
Trixie sighed. Her special talent was so easy to do, though! But her head did feel rather muzzy and heavy now that she thought of it. She gently formed an illusory image of a large bear smashing her cart. The effort of even that made her poor head throb, and she whimpered, rubbing it with her forehooves.
Harvest nodded firmly. "Ah, now, you see? All will be well in the morning, it always is here. And I should bundle you up for the night. Not in the loft! I've got a pair of colts in the barn that I'll be checking on shortly. We'll set you up on the couch for now."
The night passed quietly enough once everyone was settled, and Trixie slept well enough, with no memory of dreams; but when Harvest came downstairs to check on her one last time near midnight, the filly was talking in her sleep, asking, "Will Mommy be okay?" There was a pause, and then, "I can?" Harvest stroked Trixie's mane and adjusted her blanket, and the filly calmed. The mare picked up the lantern she'd brought downstairs and went back through the kitchen and upstairs to bed.