Three young fillies, two mares, and one stallion waited near the only train platform in Hoofington. The train sat idle on the track, its many operators checking over the vehicle and preparing it for its regular cross-Equestria journey to the frontier town of Appleoosa. A myriad of other ponies waited for the train to be ready along with the aforementioned six, but they all kept clear of the three rambunctious blank-flanked fillies of the group.

Having thoroughly explored the train station and platform within a few minutes of arrival, the three fillies had dedicated the next two hours to attempting to find their special talents via the most creative havoc possible, much to the dismay of their guardians. The list of talents they had tested had included numerous things ranging from luggage inspectors, train track renovators, roadside shoe-shiners, flagpole operators, flagpole repairponies, and lost change finders. Only the last had yielded any return, in the form of 5 copper bits being exchanged for one bag of barbecue carrot chips at the concessions stand, but to the great disappointment of the three, still no cutie marks.


"Take that, evil empty chip bag! You will not pollute the ground today with your non-biodegradable foil wrapping!"

"Excuse me ma'am? Ah'd like to take jus' a moment of your time this fine afternoon to discuss your carbon hoofprint... what size horseshoes are those anyhow?"

"...I guess this is kind of like a crusade, but this isn't gonna get me any closer to Rainbow Dash."

"Okay girls! Ah think it's 'bout time y'all got yourselves over here an' said your goodbyes! Th' trains about to leave and I think it's best you be getting you on it, little missy."

"I told you sis, stop calling me that already! I -am- a big pony!"

"What-? But Rainbow Dash! We haven't tried getting a cutie mark for ticket scalping yet!"

"C'mon pipsqueak, there's gonna be plenty of opportunities for you to earn a REAL cutie mark with me once we get to flight camp okay? And besides, I think Applebloom and Big Mac need those tickets, right big guy?"


"You too Sweetie Belle, say g'bye and the like to your fellow crusaders so they can all get movin' along. We shouldn't keep 'em waitin', you know."

The young unicorn walked forward with her head hung low and ears folded as her two close friends turned back towards her, but she said nothing.

"C'mon Sweetie Belle, don't be like that. I know yah can't come with us... but we need one crusader to stay behind and protect Ponyville. Besides, Appleoosa is like the most borin' place to try to earn your cutie mark in. It's all dirt 'n cactus."

"Yeah, we need you stay behind and tell us if anything cool happened while we were gone! It's too bad Rarity wouldn't tell you how to cast that super radical spell that gives you wings, then you could come to flight camp with me and Rainbow Dash and earn a super awesome cutie mark for being like... the first unicorn to fly!"

"Uh... Scootaloo, if Rarity had wings then she already WOULD be the first unicorn tah fly, ya'know."

"Oh... right."

The young unicorn opened her mouth as if to talk, but still did not respond. She stood there quietly, sniffling as she tried to hold back tears that threatened break free. The toot of the train whistle signaled that their time was coming to an end.

"I just don't want... and without you t-two I'm alone and-"

"Sweetie Belle... when we come back we'll all be crusaders again, ah promise! Even if we somehow get our cutie marks, we'll make it th' crusader mission to find yours."

"Yeah! And crusaders never break a promise!"

"*sniffle* ...thanks girls. I'll try my best."

"APPLEBLOOM! Git your rump on over here and hop into the caboose with your big brother! Train's a-leavin'!"

The three fillies pulled each other close. hugging into the neck of the next before the friends finally parted. One went to the train, one to her pegasus idol waiting in the sky, and the last waited behind on the platform.

"Big Mac?"

"Yes, AJ?

"I shouldn't need to warn you like last time. You. Behave. Yourself. You got that?"

"E-... ee-yup."

"And Applebloom? Keep an eye on your big brother for me, make sure he gets into no trouble."

"...yes, sis."

"Good, now get on the train and have fun in Appleoosa, and say howdy to your cousin Braeburn for me."

The young unicorn filly waved one hoof goodbye to her closest friends as they began to grow distant across land and sky, a small stream of tears running off her cheeks as they vanished into the horizon. She was the only one left, alone.

"It'll be okay sugarcube. They'll only be gone for a month, ya'know."

"... I know, Miss Applejack."

"Good. Now dry those tears and let's run on home to Ponyville. Rarity said she's gonna be busy all night, so I'll take care of dinner for ya. C'mon, I'll make ah nice big apple pie for ya when we get there."

"The Guidance and Patronage of Trixie"

Chapter 1

An MLP:FiM fanfiction by Lounge_Lizard

(Characters: Sweetie Belle, Trixie, Applejack, Rarity)

(Revision v1.2 - 10/11/2011)

Sweetie Belle sighed, her mind slowly drawing itself back from dreamland as she woke from her nap inside the clubhouse on the edge of Sweet Apple Acres. The unicorn filly sleepily opened her emerald eyes and glanced across her back towards her flank before letting them close again, the pink and purple curls of her mane unmoved in the warm stale air as she lay where she was.

"I guess taking naps every day isn't my special talent either..." she muttered apathetically to herself. She didn't want to wake up, or even open her eyes. She hadn't needed to today or after any of her naps she had taken in the Cutie Mark Crusader clubhouse over the six days that had passed since returning from the Hoofington train station. With the other crusaders gone, Sweetie Belle found the days she had once filled with their adventures to be empty and lonely.

Eventually the stale air and rising heat inside the clubhouse became too much for the young unicorn to rest anymore. With a quiet groan she rose from the tall pile of pillows and cushions she had collected in the corner of clubhouse for just such a function, knocking a few aside onto the bare floor. She blinked away the fuzziness in her eyes as she nudged the door open with her chin and stepped out into the warm late summer air.

It was a bit past noon, and the heat always made it impossible for Sweetie Belle to sleep much later than this on most days. The few other fillies and colts in Sweetie's class usually went right home after school ended in the late morning. Foal-sitting would be a more appropriate term, however, as school was technically out for summer. Many families took the chance to take vacations or send their children off to summer camps, leaving Ponyville much quieter this time of year.

Sweetie Belle carefully hopped down from the ramp that extended the yellow clubhouse before continuing her walk down the slope of the hill to the small creek that ran through this part of the apple orchard. The cool water and breeze made it a much better location than the inside of the clubhouse at this time of day. Finding her usual spot under the shade, Sweetie Belle flopped down hard on the grass with a grunt.

Sweetie Belle sighed as she let herself fall to the side, the grass rustling under her as she rolled onto her back and stared up at the sky through the branches . The young unicorn held up her front hoof, looking past it into the air. The minutes passed as she gestured meaninglessly at clouds passing by. Eventually her leg began to tingle, numbness creeping into the limb held out before her. Sweetie grimaced bitterly, letting her hoof drop limply back to her side.

"I hate you, sis..."

"For the last time, NO! I'm not sending you to Unicorn Camp! You're far too young!" The white unicorn shouted in frustration. her normally prim and pampered purple curls a disheveled wreck. Carousel Boutique's interior had been turned into a chaotic and ugly mess, indicative of the nature of the hours-long fight between the two sisters.

"But this isn't FAIR! I want to learn how to use magic so I can be like you, sis! I just want to try to help for once, to be somepony important! Why won't you LET ME!" The other unicorn shrieked back, anger and frustration coloring her tear-stained cheeks as she stood in the center of the wreckage she had caused. Her breathing grew ragged between her clenched teeth as an angry scream built in her throat. Taking an overturned stool in her teeth, the fully hurled it across the room at her sister with as much strength as her young body could muster. The stool crashed into a glass-windowed cabinet a few feet from Rarity, shattering the fragile barrier and sending its contents spilling out onto the floor to join the rest of the growing swath of destruction. Dye from broken bottles leaked out onto torn fabric bolts, a sewing machine lay smashed on the floor where it had fallen, and dress-forums lay toppled from where the older unicorn had tried and failed to physically restrain the younger from the ongoing tantrum.

The older unicorn flipped her mane back and did her best to ignore the outburst, long since past her earlier shrieking hysterics at the reckless vandalism of her younger sister. "I'm sorry your friends are all leaving for the summer without you, but this isn't about fairness, Sweetie. I simply cannot let you go if you can't cast a single spell or even turn a page! You don't even know what your special talent is, and nopony can hope to teach you anything if even you don't know yourself what it is you are meant to do with your magic! I'm not going to fight with you any more, dearie. You're just not ready for this, and THAT. IS. FINAL."

The small filly's expression began to change almost instantaneously, the defiance and anger that once colored her face melting into despair and hurt. Her body began to shudder as she broke down, tears streaming from her pleading eyes. "W-why..? It's n-not my fault I can't cast any stupid magic! I just want you to see th-that I'm not s-stupid! Why don't you ever SEE THAT? I'm n-never going to be good enough for you just b-b-because I don't have- because... because I don't have my c-cutie mark! I'm not good enough for ANYPONY! Because I-I'm just a STUPID BLANK FLANK!"

"Sweetie, no! I didn't mean-!"


"Why does it have to be like that..." Sweetie Belle muttered half-heartedly to herself as she reminisced. It was too long ago for her to still feel as hurt as she had been that evening, but Sweetie and Rarity hadn't exchanged more than few words since the fight. There had been no apologies, no sisterly love to make up for the pain, nothing. Just a wall of silence between the two unicorn sisters. Sweetie Belle felt numb, apathetic.

Still, not being able to go to Unicorn Camp like most of the other fillies with their cutie marks had hurt too. Sweetie had tried many times to do something with her magic, but she could never do more than make her horn glow no matter how much she strained. Sweetie Belle's pleading in the weeks leading up to summer vacation had convinced her sister Rarity to ask around for anypony who could possibly teach her sister or find out if something was wrong. Even Twilight Sparkle had tried working with Sweetie Belle, but nothing had helped. Twilight had suggested that if she was having trouble doing even simple magic, like picking up small objects or making a light with her horn, then her special talent was probably something very subtle or different in some way than most ponies... or maybe she was just a slow learner. Going to Unicorn Camp wouldn't help unless she could already show some magical aptitude.

After the fight in the boutique, Rarity had talked to Applejack and asked her to watch over Sweetie Belle for a while so they both had some space apart from each other to calm down. Applejack understood, and after taking the three crusaders to the Hoofington train station she had brought Sweetie back to stay on the farm. Sweetie had asked to stay at the clubhouse on the outskirts of the Apple family orchards instead of in the Apple family home, and Applejack understood and respected that. She came by a few times a day to see how Sweetie was doing, and let her know that if she needed anything she could always come to her. Otherwise she let Sweetie Belle have her privacy while she stayed at the clubhouse.

Sweetie Belle shuffled uncomfortably, her hip growing steadily sore the longer she lay by the bank. With a feminine grunt the filly rolled off her back and slowly stood up on all hooves again, taking a moment to shake out the loose grass that had gathered in her coat. She couldn't stay inactive for that many hours of napping and introspection without becoming restless, even if she had nothing better to do. Stretching the soreness out of each leg, the filly hopped down from the bank into the shallow stream for a quick drink.

She had only just begun to get a mouthful of water before she heard a far off shriek and the sound of splashing coming somewhere farther up the creek. The noise made her jump; Applejack wouldn't have been working on this edge of the orchard without letting Sweetie Belle know, and it wasn't yet time for the apple harvest for there to be any hired help around. She waited to hear if there was any other noise, but after listening for a few moments heard nothing.

"What was that?" Sweetie Belle wondered out loud. "Maybe... somepony is in trouble at the creek? Maybe somepony dropped something important in the water... or doesn't know how to swim and started drowning!" She began to charge off in the direction of the shriek, only to skid to a halt a few seconds later. "Oops, I forgot!" Sweetie Belle said as she turned around and run back into the clubhouse.

Emerging with her signature Cutie Mark Crusader cape tied around her neck, Sweetie struck a pose with her front hoof in the air and a confident heroic smile on her face.

"Cutie Mark Crusaders Apple-family orchard creek-drowning victim rescue tea-! Oh, forget it. It's just me anyway..." She said, her enthusiasm in announcing the latest Crusader mission lessened by the absence of her two friends.

Sweetie Belle galloped as fast as her little legs could carry her, following the creek in the direction of the cry she had heard just a few moments earlier. At a bend in the creek Sweetie came upon one of the most unusual things had seen, which was saying a lot considering she lived in the same town as Pinkie Pie.

A unicorn mare with an azure coat and light grey-blue mane stood unmoving in the center of the small stream, head submerged into one of the few deep sections of running water. On her flank was a wand with a star at the tip and a swirl of sparkling dust trailing down. Air bubbles surfaced as the other pony made some sort of odd gargling noise under the water.

Sweetie Belle approached carefully, glancing momentarily at the flowing purple cape adorned with a star pattern and wizard's hat laying discarded on the grass nearby, looking quite worn and dirty as if they hadn't seen care in a long time. Clearing her throat, Sweetie Belle reared up on her small back legs and struck as tall a pose as she could for a filly of her size and announced herself.

"Have no fear! I am Sweetie Belle of the Cutie Mark Crusaders, and I am here to rescue you!"

The other unicorn did not respond, her head still held under the water, leaving Sweetie Belle to glance around awkwardly. Shaking off the slight wave of embarrassment, Sweetie coughed loudly to draw the other pony's attention and resumed her pose.

"I said, I am Sweetie Belle! I am here to save... um... ? Miss... ? Are you drowning?"

Suddenly the blue unicorn's ears twitched and she shot up out of the water, gasping for breath. The sudden motion flung a spray of droplets at Sweetie Belle who barely had time to give a shout of surprise at being splashed before the other unicorn began speaking.

"UGH, finally washed that dis-GUSTING taste out of my mouth! What pony in their-"

"So... you're not drown-"

"-right mind would operate an apple orchard whose crop is INFESTED with WORMS? Maybe these common rural ponies can stand eating such VILE and polluted produce but those of us raised in more... civilized environs are more discriminating than to just stick ANYTHING in our mouths." The other unicorn continued with a scowl as if Sweetie Belle didn't exist at all, purple eyes flashing wildly and face dripping. "Can you imagine ME, the Great and Powerful Trixie, eating a WORM?" the unicorn said, rounding on the young foal suddenly and looming over her with an expectant glare.

"Um... yes?" Sweetie Belle responded, tilting her head quizzically.

"EXACTLY. The owners of this property should be given a HEFTY citation for- "

The blue unicorn froze mid-sentence, her front leg raised in midair from her prior indignation and her mouth hanging open as she suddenly recognized that she was in the presence of another pony. She backed away a few steps from the small white filly in front of her, hooves splashing in the water as she glanced around nervously as if worried that others might be nearby. "Wha... h-how long have you been here! The Great and Powerful TRIXIE is not granting autographs at this time! You'll just have to wait until my next appeara- I mean... err, Trixie... Trixie isn't even here! I am definitely not-"

"Hi Trixie! My name's Sweetie Belle, one of the Cutie Mark Crusaders! Did we save you from drowning? Do we need to perform, um, CPR?" Sweetie Belle interrupted excitedly, the purple and pink curls of her mane bouncing as she hopped in place a few times before lifter her back leg up to inspect her flank for the possible appearance of her new cutie mark.

"Drowning? Crusaders...? The Great- I mean Tri... uh... I was NOT drowning. The Great and Powerful Trixie would never perish in such a boorish and unspectacular manner." Trixie responded, whipping her still-damp head to the side with a disdainful scowl before snapping it back in shock. "Wait.. we? Crusaders? I don't see any other ponies around here... there are no other ponies around, right?"

"Oh... no, it's just me..." Sweetie Belle mumbled back, harshly reigning in her enthusiasm at remembering she didn't have Applebloom and Scootaloo with her this time. I guess I got carried away again... just like Rarity says I always do...

"Just you then... hmm..." Trixie rubbed her chin with one hoof thoughtfully, smiling down at Sweetie Belle as she examined the filly before her. "I suppose The Great and Powerful Trixie could entertain just one young adoring admirer, even in her unfortunate exile..."

"The great and what-who?" Sweetie said skeptically, glancing over at the purple cape and hat on the grass then back at Trixie. "...are you a wizard?"

Trixie raised an eyebrow, blinking in amused disbelief at the caped filly in front of her. "You mean to tell me you've never heard of The Great and Powerful Trixie? Renowned for her AMAZING, show-stopping feats of magic? The greatest unicorn in ALL of-"

Sweetie Belle perked up, a little hope creeping back into her eyes as she gazed up at the azure unicorn. "So... you're good at magic? Does that mean you could teach another pony how to use magic?"

Trixie scoffed, her horn emanating a delicate pinkish light as she levitated her ragged cape and hat off the grass and donned them with expert finesse. "There is absolutely NOTHING Trixie cannot do with her endless talents. She is, after all, the greatest unicorn in all of Equestria!"

Sweetie Belle's mouth widened into an ecstatic smile before bowing down before Trixie, pressing her head to the ground before the newcomer who had suddenly become her Celestia-sent savior. "Then you... you could teach me magic! And maybe help me earn my cutie mark! I'll do anything! Please, please, please teach me!"

Trixie's face took on a worried expression as she slowly backed away from the younger unicorn and began chuckling anxiously. "Me? You want... but... I-I mean, The Great and Powerful Trixie does not have the time to personally entertain every request that comes her way. She has more... important matters to deal with than a young blank-flanked unicorn filly such as yourself, matters that take her to many faraway places. Now run along and play with your friends, and don't tell anypony you saw me. Trixie needs her privacy." Trixie said, gesturing dismissively at Sweetie Belle as she turned away from the young filly. Dealing with Sweetie Belle was starting to look like more trouble than she had intended.

Sweetie's face had slowly progressed from a hopeful smile into a deep frown as Trixie spoke, frustration building up in her. She could tell what Trixie was trying to do; Rarity had done the same thing many times each time she tried to get her big sister's attention. Bringing up her friends when she was without them had only added insult to injury. "What? My sis and Twilight said that nopony can teach another pony magic, that it's just impossible! But you said you could! That you were the greatest unicorn in Equestria! I don't believe you! You lied to me!"

"Did you say Twilight? You know Twilight Sparkle? That upstaging, insignificant, smug piece of TRASH!" Trixie shook her head, clearing the reviled thought of the purple unicorn from her mind before turning around to face Sweetie Belle. Stomping her hooves on the soft ground, Trixie angrily strode up the smaller unicorn, her horn beginning to glow as she tried to control her temper. "You accuse ME of being a liar? The Great and... Trixie is NOT... I just... Rrrgh! Who are YOU to talk anyway? I will be the greatest unicorn in all of Equestria! Anything YOU can do, I can do BETTER! I don't have to listen to a THING you say!" Trixie shouted, thrusting her face directly in front of Sweetie Belle as she verbally lashed out.

Sweetie Belle cringed away at this outburst, Trixie's harsh words stinging deep enough to make her eyes tear up. "Of course you don't have to listen to me. Nopony ever listens to me. I'm just a dumb blank-flank filly. There's no way I could be as good as you..." Sweetie responded bitterly, sniffling as she turned away and tried not to cry, unable to stare down the older unicorn in front of her no more than she could her older sister Rarity. "You're just as mean as my big sis..."

Trixie stood there speechless with mixed indignation and shame at being shown up by the younger unicorn, the threatening glow from her horn fading in an instant. She tried to come up with some response to counter the smaller unicorn but couldn't form the words. Turning away with a frustrated shriek through her clenched teeth and a flash of her cape, she began inwardly cursing herself for her immaturity. I got myself worked up over a little filly wanting to be a grown-up, and now I'm screaming at her? What are you even DOING, Trixie? Maybe I wasn't being entirely honest about being good at teaching magic, but that's none of her business! And Twilight... as much as I hate her, it's not this filly's fault... Trixie is many things but she is NOT mean to children! I have to save face somehow... but I don't want to admit I was being boastful either. What do I do?

Sweetie Belle stared hesitantly at the back of Trixie's cape, waiting for the other unicorn to speak again but dreading it all the same. The once inspiring presence of the azure unicorn felt transformed into one of a more uncaring and hostile creature. She's just going to yell at me again... but... maybe she won't...maybe... After waiting for a few moments Trixie still did not shift from her silent, dismissive stance. Lowering her head and sighing, Sweetie Belle turned around and started to walk back towards the clubhouse as she mumbled to herself "At least I'm better at being nice than you are." ...not that anypony ever got a cutie mark for being nice.

Trixie's eye twitched involuntarily as Sweetie's words reached her ears. Oh she did NOT... ! Okay, FINE, buck the consequences! What could possibly happen, I get kicked out of Ponyville again? It can't be worse than last time. Being a noble patron of... 'lesser' ponies is an important part of greatness... right? Trixie is a paragon of greatness, and she is not going to let some filly tell her otherwise. And maybe I can get a decent meal out of this too, I'm tired of apples.

Turning back around, Trixie called out to Sweetie Belle's retreating form. "Wait! The Great and Powerful Trixie is NOT lacking in generosity, she just... er... has many concerns she must attend to! And she must carefully balance which concerns... need her personal attention."

Sweetie Belle looked back over her shoulder with furrowed eyebrows at Trixie, still skeptical of the other unicorn's claims and unsure if she should risk trusting her again after the outburst she had just been subject to. "So? What do you want with me then?"

"Well... it just so happens that The Great and Powerful Trixie is in need of a reprieve from her usual duties. Some of the ponies at her last performance were not... satisfied with the result. Despite Trixie's superior judgement about how it should have been handled, she decided to remove herself from the public eye for the time being so that-"

"Is that why you're out here stealing apples?" Sweetie interrupted bluntly. "You shouldn't eat the ones with the holes in them. Those have worms and caterpillars, you know."

"Trixie DOES N-" Trixie retorted furiously before catching herself, taking a few deep breaths to calm down before continuing. "The Great and Powerful Trixie will accept your request to become her student during her brief respite here in Ponyville, but only on a few conditions."

Sweetie Belle turned around completely, sitting her rump down on the grass next to the stream facing Trixie as she listened, wanting to hear what Trixie had to say but still not entirely trusting of the older unicorn. "Okay... like what?"

Trixie glanced upward, rubbing her chin with one hoof thoughtfully. "Well... I will need someplace comfortable and secluded to stay as well as regular meals, and as my student you must fulfill any other need I might have. And in return I will teach you a fraction of the infinite, amazing skill and talent that Trixie possesses." This won't be too hard, right? Just get her to levitate a few rocks, maybe show her the really simple tricks and let her struggle with them while I relax... yeah...

Sweetie Belle nodded, hope rising again inside her. "I can get food from Applejack... and I guess you can stay in the clubhouse. But... you'll really teach me magic?"

Trixie thumped one hoof on her chest, her face becoming stern. "The Great and Powerful Trixie NEVER breaks a promise. NEVER. Such things are a matter of honor. And speaking of promises, under no circumstances are you to EVER tell anypony that The Great and Powerful Trixie is in Ponyville, understood?"

"But why n-"


"I promise, I promise!"

Trixie smiled and nodded her head in satisfaction, her eyes starting to glaze over as she became lost in thought. "Good. Now let's inspect Trixie's new dwelling and get settled in. Trixie is tired after her long and arduous travels, and a long hot water bath would be most appealing... then perhaps a nice dinner of fresh seasoned greens and pear wine... followed by a long sleep on cozy satin sheets..."

Sweetie Belle started wondering if maybe the other unicorn was going to be more of a hassle than she was worth as she led the way back to the clubhouse. " water? Applejack said not to play with fire on the farm after the last time we..." Sweetie let her voice trail off as Trixie continued talking over her. This is gonna be a long month without you, sis...

-To Be Continued-

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