It was the last thing they needed to deal with, but that they had known would be inevitable. As soon as Trixie had set foot in Ponyville they were surrounded by bitter and irate townsponies, all of whom remembered what happened the last time she'd been in town. What was worse, they were blocking the way to the library.
"Back to try and trick us again," one pony accused. "We're not idiots, you know!"
"Get out of here," another shouted. "You've caused enough trouble!"
"Hey, leave her alone," Dash said, standing defensively in front of Trixie along with Spike. "She came to help Twilight!"
"A likely story," yet another pony shot back. "She probably came to gloat at her!"
"We don't have time for this," Spike told the mob. "We've got to get these herbs to the library to help Twilight out."
"You and Rainbow Dash go, then," yet another pony said. "We'll deal with this foal ourselves!"
"No way," Dash said, shifting to continue protecting Trixie. "We need her help to do this right. And none of you is gonna lay so much as a hoof on her!"
"Then we'll just have to go through you first," the same pony said, digging his front hooves into the ground menacingly. He was about to charge when a large, red hoof touched his shoulder. He looked up behind him and shrunk as Big Macintosh towered over him, glaring at him sternly. The huge, red stallion walked past the mob over to the trio they had surrounded.
"Miss Rainbow, do y'all need an escort to the library," he asked slowly and loudly enough to be heard by all.
"Uh…yeah," Rainbow said, still watching the mob cautiously. "We'd really appreciate one."
Big Macintosh looked over Rainbow's shoulder at Trixie, narrowing his eyes at her. "Y'all can vouch fer this one, then?"
"She's alright, big guy," Spike told him. "We just need to get to the library. Can you help us?"
Big Macintosh looked back at Rainbow and grinned at her. "Eeeyup."
With the huge red stallion in front of Trixie and Rainbow and Spike positioned behind her, the group made their way through the mob and over to the library. Once there, Big Macintosh opened the door for them.
"Y'all get on inside," he told them. "I'll stand guard here."
"I'll stay with him, just in case," Spike added.
"Thanks, Big Macintosh," Dash told him.
Big Macintosh just nodded to her as he took up position in front of the door. "Anythin' fer Miss Twilight."
Inside, the other assembled ponies at first rejoiced at seeing Rainbow Dash but then were given pause as Trixie entered. Applejack was first to walk up to the group.
"Rainbow, what in tarnation did ya bring this no-good filly back here fer," she asked angrily.
"Chill, AJ," Dash told her. "She's here to help."
"I find that exceedingly unlikely," Rarity added. "I'll bet she simply told you some made-up story just so she could come all this way and laugh at Twilight's misfortune."
"Think whatever you like," Trixie said brusquely. "Where is Twilight Sparkle? I need to see how bad she is before I can decide what needs to be done."
Applejack immediately stepped up to Trixie, bumping her backwards in the process. "If'n y'all think we're gonna jes let ya walk right up to Twi an' get yer laughs in, think again missy!"
Rainbow Dash quickly butted Applejack away from Trixie and stared her down. "I said chill out, Applejack! She wouldn't have even bothered to help us find the Albino Alfalfa if she didn't want to help!"
"Is that true," Fluttershy asked, approaching Trixie. "Oh, I'm sorry, we haven't been properly introduced. I'm, um, Fluttershy. I've heard about your visit to town from the others, but I didn't feel comfortable assuming that you were a bad pony."
"A pleasure to meet you, I'm sure," Trixie replied. "And yes, were that I didn't have some personal stake in the matter I wouldn't have bothered to help them out."
"She doesn't sound at all like the meanie you guys made her out to be," Pinkie added. "I say give her a chance."
"Are you both out of your minds," Rarity asked in shock. "You have no idea what she did to us the last time she was here! Never mind the damage the town incurred because of her!"
"That was on Snips and Snails," Dash said. "It wasn't Trixie's fault they did something so moronic."
Dash saw the distrusting look in Applejack's and Rarity's eyes and practically growled in frustration. "Look, we're wasting time. Twilight needs help now. You don't have to like it, but you're just going to have to accept that Trixie represents our best chance at saving her."
Applejack and Rarity looked at each other for several moments before nodding and looking back at Dash.
"You trust her," Applejack asked.
"I do," Dash replied. "Absolutely."
Applejack looked back over at Trixie and backed up, making way for her. "If'n Rainbow says yer okay, then I'll give you a chance. But so help me, you do anythin' to hurt Twilight an' there'll be consequences."
"Double consequences," Rarity added.
Trixie simply nodded silently to the two and made her way past them and up the stairs to Twilight's room, with the five friends now simply hoping that something, anything, could be done. She had braced herself for a bad situation but was wholly unprepared for the condition she found Twilight in. Twilight was breathing heavily through her mouth, her eyes wide and pupils small as pain wracked every part of her. Her horn was growing darker and darker. Trixie knew that action had to be taken immediately.
"You're going to be alright," she told Twilight, setting her bags down and immediately beginning to prepare the Albino Alfalfa. "I promise you we'll get you back on your hooves before you know it."
"T-Trixie…" Twilight said through gritted teeth. "I-I'm so…sorr…sorr…"
"Don't speak," Trixie told her, putting a hoof gently to her head. "You have nothing to apologize to me for. I'm the one who needs your forgiveness, and I'm not going to let anything happen to you. I won't let someone so important go without a fight."
She turned back to the herbs and continued preparing them, silently adding to herself, "Not again. I won't let it happen again!"
Trixie had been upstairs with Twilight for not but a few minutes when a knock came at the door of the library. The five pony friends plus Spike turned to see, of all ponies, Ditzy Doo walking in with her mail saddles on her back.
"Hello everypony," she said pleasantly. "Mail time!"
"Ditzy…" Dash said, passing a hoof over her face. "This is really not the time for delivering mail here."
"Silly Dashie," Ditzy said with a smile. "The mail never rests! Besides, I've been trying to catch up to you and Trixie all day."
"I was trying to deliver mail to Trixie, but you both kept running so fast I couldn't catch you," the wall-eyed mailpony said, fishing a letter from her bag and placing it on their table. "Please make sure she gets this. It's from her brother who's in Canterlot."
"Uh, sure thing Ditz," Rainbow told her.
"Well, I'm off again! Oh, and tell Twilight thanks for the muffins the other day. They really helped get me though to dinner."
As soon as Ditzy left, the five turned their attention to the envelope, which Rarity immediately levitated and opened with her magic.
"Rarity, that ain't yers," Applejack said, chastising her.
"Oh please," Rarity replied. "If we're going to suffer that nitwit and whatever aid she's giving us then we deserve to know a little more about her."
Rarity unfolded the letter and hovered it in place as the other four gathered around her to read it.
I hope this letter finds you well as usual, little sis. My research is progressing well and I think I may just be on the verge of a breakthrough. I know it's been hard to support me and mom all this time, but please do keep up the good work. Your contributions have made so much of my work possible that I simply can't thank you enough.
I know dad would be proud of you too, despite what happened in Ponyville. You've never had a mean bone in your body, and you've always been so forgiving of others no matter what they thought of you or your act. It's just a shame you've never been able to make many friends, but such is the life of a travelling star right?
Speaking of dad, I know I mention this every time but you really need to stop blaming yourself for what happened. It's not your fault dad caught Horn Pox too, and it's certainly not your fault he died from it. I know you feel like it is because all the stuff you did for me didn't help him, but please always remember that you still kept him smiling right up to the end. That counts for more than you know, believe me. I've seen so many ponies suffer because of this illness, and many of them don't have somepony to make them smile like dad did with you.
I hope to see your show come to Canterlot sometime. We get so little time together as it is. And I want everypony to know my sister is none other than The Great and Powerful Trixie. Please write back soon.
Your brother, Fleming
A deafening silence hung over the five pony friends, only broken by the sounds of Fluttershy and Pinkie sobbing at learning the truth about Trixie's past.
"She…" Dash said in a voice just above a whisper. "She never mentioned her dad in the story she told me."
"Consarnit," Applejack said, tearing up. "We've had her figgered wrong all along."
"I feel like an absolute heel now," Rarity added, letting the letter float back down to the table.
The heavy atmosphere around the table was broken as a scream of total agony came from Twilight's room. The five ponies rushed upstairs and found Trixie, who was still preparing the Albino Alfalfa, trying to comfort Twilight as she writhed on her bed.
"This is bad, very bad," Trixie said in a bit of a panic. "The Pox has spread too far. The herb won't be of any help at this point!"
"There's got to be something else you can do," Dash said insistently.
Trixie thought for a moment before remembering something. "There's a spell that can reverse the effects to an extent. It's an extremely difficult spell, though, and I'm not sure I'm capable of powerful enough magic for it to be of any good!"
Another scream from Twilight jarred them all. Applejack stepped towards Trixie, fear written on her face.
"You jes' gotta try," she told her.
Trixie was visibly afraid now. "I…I don't know…I'm not a doctor. Nor am I really all that powerful with magic…"
"Nonsense," Rarity told her commandingly. "You are The Great and Powerful Trixie! If anypony can do it, you can!"
"I'm an actress," Trixie shot back. "A sham! I'm no sorceress! I'm not even all that entertaining…"
"Please try, Trixie," Fluttershy pleaded. "You're Twilight's only hope."
"It'll work," Pinkie added. "It has to! We all believe in you, Trixie."
"You..do…" Trixie asked, eliciting nods from all five friends. She felt tears well up in her eyes, but blinked them back as she turned to face Twilight, her face resolute.
"Watch in awe," she said to herself in a whisper, psyching herself up, "as The Great and Powerful Trixie performs the most spectacular feats of magic…ever witnessed by pony eyes…"
She closed her eyes as her horn began to glow. Twilight's whole body became encompassed in a similar glow, though she continued to flail in anguish. Trixie strained as she tried to force the spell to work. For a moment it looked like Twilight's horn was changing colors again to a lighter shade, but it immediately darkened again.
"I'm…not…going to…give up…" Trixie said through gritted teeth as she tried to draw on more magical energy. "Not before I have…the chance to tell you…that I'm sorry for what happened. And I'll make it up to you…to everypony…I swear I will!"
As Trixie strained and Twilight suffered, a light began to permeate the room from above. The five pony friends looked up and saw the Elements of Harmony materializing above each of them briefly before forming around their necks into their respective necklaces. Twilight's crown also became visible atop her head. As they all wondered what was going on, another stone similar to those that represented the Elements came into view above Trixie's head. This one had what looked like a teardrop carved into it. It burst into a shower of sparkles that then formed around Trixie's neck into a necklace of her own, with a pearl-colored gem set in the front in the shape of her cutie mark. It flashed brilliantly as a flood of magical power surged into Trixie's horn, causing it to shine so brilliantly all had to avert their eyes from it.
Trixie felt the sudden rush of power and staggered underneath its weight. It threatened to overcome her, but she concentrated on letting it flow through her and into the spell. Light erupted from the tip of her horn, bathing Twilight in healing energy. Twilight's horn color faded from nearly jet black back through the spectrum of colors it had gone through until it was finally a pale violet color once again, almost matching her coat. She visibly relaxed, no longer in such excruciating pain. As the light finally died down, the other ponies present all stepped slowly towards Trixie, whose knees buckled after the spell had run its course. She forced herself to stay upright as she looked hard at them.
"Soak the alfalfa in hot water…" she told them weakly. "…for five minutes. Mash it up and apply it directly to her horn. Do this every two hours and…she'll be…fine…"
Rarity and Fluttershy gathered the supplies that Trixie had set out on the floor and rushed off to do just as she'd instructed. Applejack and Rainbow Dash, meanwhile, quickly moved to catch Trixie just as she collapsed. As they caught her, the necklace around her neck vanished as did all of theirs.
"What's this all mean," Applejack asked Rainbow as they carried Trixie out of the bedroom.
Dash just smiled as she looked at Trixie herself. "I think it means we just made another new friend."
Pinkie pranced along with a basket in her mouth as she made her way to the library. She let herself in and set the basket down at the table where Twilight sat reading to herself.
"Honestly, Pinkie, enough is enough," she said, closing her book and levitating it back up to a shelf. "I'm on cupcake overload at this point."
"That's absolutely not possible," Pinkie told her. "There's always room for cupcakes! Even when all you've had to eat is cupcakes. Believe me, I know."
"I'll take your word for it."
"So how're you feeling?"
"Much better. I think I'm pretty close to normal at this point. Well, as normal as I ever get."
"Think you're ready for that party, then?" Pinkie batted her eyelashes at Twilight and plastered a hopeful grin on her face.
"Pinkie, you've been throwing parties every day for the past week since Trixie saved my life," Twilight commented in a flat tone of voice.
"Those were all practice parties, getting me warmed up for the real deal!"
Twilight sighed and decided she might as well get it over with. "If it'll make you happy, Pinkie, fine. I think I can mange one party."
Pinkie felt like she might just explode and then explode again with happiness. She proceeded to cartwheel backwards out of the library door, knocking Trixie over as she was entering in the process.
"Pinkie, I don't begrudge you your nonstop celebrating but you could at least try to watch in the direction you're doing it," Trixie said, shaking her head as she got back up.
"Sorry," Pinkie called out as she cartwheeled away. "No time to chat! Party planning ahoy!"
Trixie rolled her eyes as turned to face Twilight. "She never does anything else, does she?"
"She wouldn't be Pinkie otherwise," Twilight told her.
"So have you found anything yet," Trixie asked, from the doorway.
"Absolutely nothing. I've gone over every book that talks about the Elements of Harmony at least three times now. None of them talk about seven elements, only six."
"Maybe what happened wasn't an Element of Harmony then," Trixie said with a shrug. "Maybe it was something else."
Twilight shook her head as she stood up and walked through the library some. "If what the girls said about what happened that day is accurate, and I have no reason to doubt them, then it has to be. It's just odd that there's no mention of it anywhere."
"Don't worry yourself too much over it. This really isn't all that important."
"All the same, I have my own hypothesis on it."
Trixie stood upright again, now curious about what Twilight had come up with. "Oh? Do tell."
"Well, each of the other girls embodies an Element of Harmony," Twilight said, pacing as she talked. "Loyalty in Rainbow Dash, Honest in Applejack, Kindness in Fluttershy, Generosity in Rarity, and Laughter in Pinkie Pie. Those are the main ones that are spoken of, but I think there may be other Elements that are a part of Harmony. They may be things we don't think of all that often, or that we take for granted, or that we even don't consider to be all that important. But they are nonetheless crucial to Harmony and friendship as well. And I can wager a guess as to what Element you may represent."
"And what would that be?"
Twilight stopped and turned to look at Trixie. "Forgiveness. I mean, after everything that's happened and everything you went through, you still found it in your heart to forgive me for showing you up during your show."
"I already told you, I never blamed you for what happened," Trixie said, lowering her head. "It was all on me."
"Even so, a lesser pony would've been content to just blame me and resent me for it. You didn't. You came back to Ponyville at great personal risk just to save me. And not only that, you've made rounds of the town over the past week to help others and apologize for what happened. You might not think much of it, but it's gone a long way to restoring everypony's opinion of you."
"Not everypony is still convinced of my good intentions, though."
"True, but with time I'm sure they'll come around as well. We all did, didn't we?"
"I suppose you're right. Anyway, I really just came by to check on you one last time before I shuffle off."
"You're leaving," Twilight asked, sounding surprised.
"Ponyville isn't home for me," Trixie told her. "Nowhere is, for that matter. I'm not the type who can settle down, after all. I'm only truly comfortable when I'm travelling. Besides, I need to get back to performing so I can continue to support my family."
"If you're sure. I could still write to the princess on your behalf and-"
"Absolutely not," Trixie said, cutting her off. "I wouldn't think of making such a request of the princess, much less ask you to use your relationship with her for my sake. I'll carry on as I always have, even if I am bringing in less money these days."
"About that," Applejack said from behind Trixie, interrupting her conversation with Twilight. "C'mon out here fer a bit, Trix. We got somethin' to show ya."
Trixie glanced back at Twilight for a moment, who merely shrugged at her. She followed the cowboy hat-wearing pony for a moment and felt her jaw just about hit the ground. In place of the wagon she'd been pulling recently stood her full stagecoach perfectly restored.
"We had the pieces lyin' around fer some time," Applejack told her. "Me 'n Big Macintosh set to fixin' it up, an' Apple Bloom even pitched in with the paint an' finishin' touches."
"I-I-I don't believe it…" Trixie said in amazement. "It looks brand new!"
"That's not all that's brand new, darling," Rarity added, stepping up alongside her. She levitated out of the stagecoach a brand new cloak and wizard's hat that she expertly dressed Trixie up in. "I've been working on these for the last several days. My own way of thanking you for all you did for us."
"And we've been spreading the word about your show all over the place," Rainbow Dash added as she landed along with Fluttershy.
"Pinkie's also been handing out flyers all around town to visitors and townsponies alike for your show," Fluttershy told her. "I'm sure you'll have quite a nice crowd next time you perform."
"All of you…helped me," Trixie said in disbelief, tears stinging her eyes. "How can I ever thank you?"
"Just get back to doing what you do best," Dash told her. "And help your brother find that cure for Horn Pox. What'd you say he called that stuff he's working on again?"
"Ponycilin," Trixie told her with a chuckle. "It's supposed to be derived from Albino Alfalfa, but far more potent. And he thinks there may be other applications for it as well."
"You sure ya won't hang 'round fer Pinkie's party, sugarcube," Applejack asked her.
Trixie nodded at her. "I've been in attendance for just about every other party she's thrown lately. Besides, there's someone else who deserves to be the center of attention for a party."
Trixie looked back at the doorway to the library where Twilight now stood and nodded to her. She then looked back at the others again.
"Give me just one moment, if you will," she asked them. The five nodded and wandered back a bit as she moved back over to Twilight. "Are you sure you'll be okay now?"
"Oh I'm fine," Twilight assured her. "Another couple days of light activity and I think I'll be right as rain."
Trixie smiled and nodded, and then changed her expression to a far cockier one, smiling slyly at her. "Well, you'd best get back up to speed soon, or The Great and Powerful Trixie really will surpass you as the most powerful magician in all of Equestria."
Twilight had to laugh at the idea. "Oh I'll be back in proper form soon enough. And I'll be looking forward to when you come back through town."
"You'd best be ready. The Great and Powerful Trixie will not suffer defeat at your hands again, Twilight Sparkle."
Twilight smirked at her. "We'll see about that."
The two laughed for a few moments before Trixie prepared to leave. She stopped and faced Twilight again after taking a few steps away.
"There's one more thing I wanted to tell you about, but please don't let the others know," she said.
"I can keep a secret, you can count on me," Twilight assured her.
"Pinkie Pie Swear?"
"Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my-OW!" Twilight had managed to poke herself in the eye again while trying to do the motions for the Pinkie Pie Swear.
Trixie shook her head at her. "You know you really need to remember to close your eye for that last part, dear."
"Yeah, yeah, I'll get it right someday. Anyway, you were saying?"
Trixie nodded and took a deep breath before revealing her secret. "I only call myself 'The Great and Powerful' Trixie because it's what my father called me after the first show I put on for him. After that, he always referred to me in that manner, right up to the day he died. I kept the name for my act. It's my way of dedicating every show, and my whole career for that matter, to his memory."
"I'm sure he would like that," Twilight told her. "And I'm sure in spirit he's been there with you at every show, Trixie."
Trixie nodded to her. "I like to think that too."
"Take care and don't be a stranger, okay?"
"Oh you will see The Great and Powerful Trixie again, Twilight Sparkle. Of that you can be certain."
Twilight laughed and shook her head again as Trixie hitched herself up to her stagecoach once again. With a dramatic bow and flourish of her new hat, she bid her new friends and the citizens of Ponyville farewell once again before returning to her true home: the open road.
Princess Celestia was just about to turn in for the night when a scroll appeared before her in a burst of green dragon flame. She smiled serenely as she unfurled the letter, having missed hearing from her precious student over the past week.
Dear Princess Celestia,
I must apologize for not writing to you myself sooner, but I have only recently regained the strength to use magic so as to write my own letters. Spike offered to write this one for me, but this is one time I wanted to do it myself.
Over the course of this past week, while recovering from Horn Pox, I have seen something truly amazing happen and have been reminded of one of the most important and powerful things about friendship. Ponies don't always start out as friends, and even longtime friends can drift apart or become bitter at each other over any of a variety of things. What brings us back together, though, and lets our friendships persist or even begin in spite of our differences is forgiveness.
Forgiveness is so important to our relationships with others, yet too frequently anymore we don't think much about it. Often times we think forgiveness isn't deserved or can even be seen as a sign of weakness if offered. And to be honest, it can be incredibly hard to forgive others of their misdeeds. But I think that's what makes forgiveness so important and so powerful. It can be so hard to be forgiving, but if you're able to do it then you can start to fix fractured friendships or even create new ones where you thought they could never exist.
I have met an amazing pony who is possibly the most forgiving individual I have ever met. We had our differences in the past, but she is now a close friend of mine, as well as having befriended the other girls. It is my hope that when you next hold the Grand Galloping Gala you will send me yet another extra ticket that she may attend as well. I would love for you to meet her someday.
Always your faithful student,
P.S. Please consider diverting additional funding to the medical research team that is working on the cure to Horn Pox. I believe their work to be noble and critical to the future prosperity of all of Equestria.
Celestia carefully rolled the parchment up again, but instead of discarding it as she usually did with her student's reports she placed it carefully up on a shelf. This was a letter worth keeping. After doing so, she went to her window and saw Luna soaring through the night sky, placing the stars in their proper places. She smiled to herself as she watched her work for some time.
"Truly," she said to herself, "forgiveness is indeed an important and powerful thing."