As the Great and Powerful Trixie looked out over the crowd of ponies gathered in front of her stage-coach, she realized that her initial hunch was right: trying to put on another show in Ponyville was a very bad idea. Canterlot hadn't been a great location for her off-season travels either, but that was mostly because the mountain-side city was a hub for unicorns and magic, which made it difficult for a magic stage show to attract any real attention. Ponyville, however, was much worse for one reason: she'd been made an absolute foal of in that town – twice – and thus the residents weren't likely to be supportive of a third attempt. She'd let some of her… not quite friends but more than acquaintances, who lived in Canterlot talk her into taking her new, improved, and generally successful act to the small town to try and repair her reputation. Trixie knew that they, or at least one of them, had her best interests in mind, but she was having second thoughts before she'd even started.
The audience was giving her tolerant stares at best, although she could see clear disapproval and outright malice in more than a few eyes. She'd started her act as usual, starting behind the scenery as she projected her voice out to welcome everypony to her show, promising mind-blowing illusions, amazing sleight-of-hoof, and, of course, great tales of daring-do. She announced her name and cast a smokescreen spell along with setting off some fireworks to cover the flash and sound of her teleporting onto the stage in time with announcing her name. Although doubts ran through her mind at the sight of the lackluster response, Trixie didn't falter. She was used to getting poor receptions, having had to muscle through more than her share when she was rebuilding her image. What she wasn't expecting, however, was the flying produce.
Trixie had no idea who'd started it. It wasn't the cyan pegasus with the rainbow mane, since she'd have been all too eager to be known as the instigator. Trixie couldn't see the orange earth pony apple farmer in the audience, so she wasn't a suspect either. All the blue showmare knew was that a slightly over-ripe tomato hit the stage only seconds after the smoke had cleared, and that impact heralded a storm of fruits and vegetables flying up from the crowd, which began to jeer and boo, and homing in on Trixie's location. Trixie dropped out of her dramatic reared-back pose and raised a hoof to cover her head as she activated her horn and tried to decide what to do. She simply couldn't allow herself to take the abuse lying down, but to grab the projectiles with her magic and fling it back would only serve to cement her image in the Ponyvillians's minds. She decided that a tactical retreat would serve best, but just as the produce was about to impact and she was working her teleport spell, the projectiles all stopped and hung suspended in a purple aura of magic.
"Shame on all of you," said a voice Trixie found familiar and which raised an old anger that she quickly forced back down. A purple unicorn with a slate blue mane with a pink highlight and a cutie mark of a large starburst surrounded by smaller stars approached the stage from off to the left, her horn glowing brightly with magic. She hopped up on the stage and leveled a disappointed glare out at the ponies. "Now," she said, "I know Trixie here hasn't been the best visitor to Ponyville in recent times, but that's no excuse to pick on her now."
"But," a pony in the audience started to say.
"No buts," Twilight Sparkle snapped, "If you don't want to watch Trixie's show, then you can just leave." She gathered the fruits and vegetables together and dropped them in a neat pile in front of the stage. The crowd slowly dispersed, the ponies grumbling as they went. Twilight gave a deep sigh and lowered her head, feeling worn out from the effort of holding so much in her magic at once. Silence reigned for a while as Trixie simply stood and looked at Twilight, trying to sort out her thoughts and feelings. Beyond a doubt, she was grateful that Twilight had intervened, since Trixie hadn't been sure she could've escaped without suffering some fruit-based damage to her self or, worse, her outfit. On the other hoof, she had her pride and there was a voice in her head trying to link this latest event to the previous times Twilight had gotten involved with Trixie. She finally decided that the best course of action required talking to the lavender unicorn. She cleared her throat to get Twilight's attention.
"Sorry about that Trixie," Twilight said, cutting off what Trixie was going to say.
"What are you apologizing for?" Trixie asked, rallying to her usual attitude of pomp, "You are not responsible for those foals and their treatment of the Great and Powerful Trixie. Perhaps, though, you mean to apologize for stepping on Trixie's hoof once again and-"
"Please don't go there Trixie," Twilight said, narrowing her eyes at the showmare, "I saw a pony in trouble and decided to lend a hoof, that's all. I was hoping the things I'd heard about you lately were true, that you'd learned a little humility and responsibility." Trixie opened her mouth to make a scathing reply, but then paused and closed it, feeling a little ashamed. She had changed since her last visit to the backwater little town, a visit which had been far more humiliating than the first by a long shot for reasons Trixie did not wish to dwell on. Twilight sighed and gave Trixie a small smile. "Look," she said, "I think we need to talk, just the two of us. I was just on my way home for lunch; would you care to join me?"
"The Great and Powerful Trixie… accepts," Trixie said, "Just give me a minute to close up."
Trixie lingered over her carrot soup. It wasn't because it tasted bad; in fact, Trixie had to admit it was a lot better than most of the soups she'd eaten on the road. No, she was simply feeling awkward sitting in Twilight's library home, being served food by the lavender unicorn's baby dragon assistant, whom she recalled from her first Ponyville show as one of the more persistent hecklers. The fact that he was holding his tongue and only giving her cool glances now was obviously due to the fact that Twilight was sitting across the table from Trixie at the moment, finishing off her own bowl of soup.
"Thanks for making lunch Spike," Twilight said to the dragon after swallowing the last of the soup and setting the bowl on the table. Spike just nodded and took the bowl to the kitchen, returning quickly out of a determination not to leave his caretaker and employer alone with the showmare longer than necessary. Ignoring the dragon for the moment, Twilight met Trixie's eye and asked, "What exactly were you expecting to happen when you showed up here again?"
"Trixie was hoping the ponies of this little backwater would give her at least a few moments to perform before they broke out the produce," Trixie replied sourly, "Although, considering what happened before, even that may be too much to expect…" She took a sip of soup while she considered her next thought.
"You're still not trying to find some way to prove you're better than Twilight, are you?" Spike asked. Trixie eyed him angrily before swallowing.
"For your information, lizard," she said, "The Great and Powerful Trixie does not harbor petty grievances."
"Lizard?" Spike exclaimed, "I'll have you know I'm a dragon."
"Whatever," Trixie said dismissively, "This conversation does not concern you, so be off with you."
"That's enough," Twilight said, shooting Spike a disapproving gaze as he took a breath as if preparing to spit fire, "Trixie, I invited you here so we could have a nice, calm talk. Besides, this is a library." Spike let his breath out in a disgruntled noise and slumped away.
"I'll be shelving books if you need me," he grumbled.
Twilight sighed and looked back at Trixie. "He did make a good point," she said, "You have gotten over the Ursa Minor incident, right? Applejack told me you were telling an… altered version of that night in your Manehatten show."
"Well," Trixie said, "Telling the true account would destroy the image I portray on stage. Don't worry though Twilight Sparkle, I've come to terms with that unflattering episode of my life and realize that although the blame can be shared among many, you are not one of those ponies."
"So you're coming here had nothing to do with me?" Twilight asked, sounding a little pleased at the prospect.
"No," Trixie said with finality. A few seconds later though, her face fell and she added, "However, I'd be lying if I said you're not on my mind more than I'd like. I, the Great and Powerful Trixie, have traveled the length and breadth of Equestria, faced many ponies in contests of skill and wit, and have experienced every nearly level of success a performer of my caliber can stand at. I should be happy with the course of my life now, but always, in some corner of my mind, I hear this voice questioning why I've never met you on even ground. I hold no grudge, and I'm sure it will only lead to trouble, but I don't think I'll ever be truly content to move on until I've tested myself against you in a proper challenge."
"Ah-ha! I knew it!" Spike declared, poking his head in from the back room.
"And just what would a 'proper challenge' entail?" Twilight asked.
Trixie's eyes shifted to the side and she took several slurps of soup while she thought. "That is the conundrum," she said at last, "Based on the incident with the Ursa, it is obvious that you have more power than the Great and Powerful Trixie. Therefore, a direct contest of strength would be weighed significantly in your favor. We would need something that's more or less an equal challenge for the both of us." Her gaze went around the library until it settled on the window through which she could see her wagon parked next to the tree and her eyes lit up. "Of course," she said, stamping a hoof as she gave Twilight her best game face, "This will be the challenge Twilight Sparkle: can you put on a better, by which I mean more well-received, magic show than the Great and Powerful Trixie here in Ponyville? Of course, we'll have to make sure the Ponyvillians will give Trixie an actual chance to perform this time…"
"Can I cut in?" Spike asked, coming over to the table.
"What's up Spike?" Twilight asked.
Spike turned his face toward Trixie and said, "As much as I'd love to see Twilight beat you at something, you do realize that the ponies around here like and respect her, and don't like you at all. Do you really think they'll give you a fair chance?"
"Some might," Twilight said.
"No," Trixie said, looking thoughtful, "he's quite right. The odds are still against Trixie. There must be some way to balance things out." She thought for a few seconds and then stood up from the table. "I will return in a moment," she said, "I may have just the thing." She walked out the door and headed to her wagon. She entered the portable stage and located her stash of scrolls and spell books. After she'd earned enough bits from her big break in Manehatten to replace the wagon she'd lost during her first Ponyville fiasco, the blue unicorn had picked up the hobby of collecting spells that weren't exactly common in the hopes of integrating or adapting them to her act. What she was looking for now was a spell she'd found in an old tome in the Trottingham Library a few months back. She hadn't found a way to alter it for use on stage, but if she understood it properly it would be the perfect way to level the playing field between her and Twilight. She found the scroll and picked it up with her magic, making it float along behind her as she returned to the library. Spike had cleared away her bowl of soup, which had still been half-full, but Trixie simply filed that away to deal with later. "Here," she announced, bringing the scroll forward and unrolling it, "I have a "Mile in Another's Hooves" spell. It will cause us to switch bodies for a short time."
"What?" Twilight and Spike both asked at the same time.
"What I'm thinking," Trixie explained, "Is that if I look like you I'll be able to get my next show going before anypony realizes who I actually am. By the same token, if you look like me, your success will depend wholly on your skills at charming the crowd and not on any biases of friendship or familiarity."
"Have you ever used that spell before?" Twilight asked, walking over to look at the scroll. Trixie rolled it up with a snap and pulled it away from the lavender unicorn.
"I am the Great and Powerful Trixie," she said, "Do you think I'm so irresponsible?" Twilight and Spike just narrowed their eyes at her. "Look," the showmare said crossly, "I may not be as powerful or skilled as you Twilight, but my talent is in magic and I know how to follow instructions for a spell. Besides, the book from which I copied it was quite informative regarding its successful use in the past. What do you say?"
Spike and Twilight shared a glance and then huddled together for a discussion. "I don't like this Twi," Spike said, "It seems really risky."
"I'm inclined to agree," Twilight, "but she seems pretty sure of herself."
"She was pretty sure about her ability to vanquish an Ursa Major," Spike deadpanned.
"This is different Spike," Twilight said, "It looks like she's put in at least a little research. And if this will make her happier, I'm willing to risk it. We might even become friends after this." She looked up at Trixie and said, "Ok Trixie, I'm in."
"Wonderful," Trixie said triumphantly, unrolling the scroll again. She read it over quickly, frowned for a split second, and then nodded. "You just stand there and try to keep your mind clear," she said, "This should only take a minute or two." Twilight nodded and Spike moved to give the two unicorns space, watching Trixie warily the whole time. Trixie took a deep breath and began to focus her magic, glancing at the scroll every once in a while to make sure she was doing the spell right. As the magic moved into place, she sent it toward Twilight. The lavender unicorn stiffened and her eyes glazed over as the spell entered her head. Trixie felt herself start to sweat a little from the effort of maintaining the spell, but kept her concentration as she began to guide the magic into herself to begin the transfer of minds. As soon as the energy touched her, Trixie suddenly began to feel lightheaded and disoriented. Her horn flared and dimmed several times as she fought the dizziness, but ultimately she lost that battle and blacked out as the spell collapsed on itself and Twilight fell unconscious to the floor as well.