Chapter Three: Magic Duel

Ponyville, Library...

Twilight Sparkle felt like today was a good day. She sat on the balcony of the library in which she made her home, reading one of her favorite books. Spike was inside the library, tidying the place up as usual. The sun was shining, birds were chirping, and the town was bustling with activity. Twilight sighed contentedly to herself. Nothing could possibly spoil today.

Of course, that would make life too easy for her.

For as it so happened, Ponyville had received a strange visitor today. A hooded pony trotted down the street, wearing an unsettling mask that various ponies could look at for only a moment before averting their gaze away from those horrible, soulless eyes. The masked pony ignored them, for Trixie was focusing on a mental conversation she was holding with the mask.

So, how do you plan to gain your revenge on Sparkle? the mask inquired.

She humiliated me in front of the entire town, Trixie responded. I intend to return the favor.

That's it? Humiliate her? What are you planning to do, throw a pie in her face?

What are you trying to suggest?

Humiliating her is not enough. She deserves so much more than simple ridicule.

...Perhaps, but...

She may attempt to return the favor herself afterwards. How do you think that will look to you?

I will obtain my vengeance the way I choose. You are to do your job and strengthen my magic like you're supposed to. Understand?

...Yes, of course.

Satisfied she had quelled the mask's insubordination, Trixie returned her focus to the library she was approaching. Unbeknownst to her, however, the mask was forming its own plan. Trixie's plan, on its own, would not bring sufficient harm to Twilight. But it was not concerned. The more she used it, the further she would fall under its influence, making it easier for the entity within to manipulate her thoughts.

With this in mind, the mask kept silent as Trixie halted a short distance from the library.

"TWILIGHT SPARKLE!" Trixie bellowed, magically magnifying her voice to a Canterlot Royal Tone quality.

The surrounding ponies cringed and massaged their battered ears. Most of them didn't appear to recognize her voice, though.

Most of them.

"Whoa, comin' through!" came a female voice with a rustic country accent. "Is that who Ah think it is?!"

The crowd parted to reveal the farmpony Trixie knew as Applejack. Applejack glared coldly at Trixie for a few moments, scrutinizing her and eyeing the mask suspiciously. "Ah know that's you under there, Trixie," she spoke, not bothering to hide your disdain.

"And who said Trixie was trying to keep her identity secret, you ignorant hick?" Trixie shot back.

"What'd y'all call me?!" Applejack snorted, pawing the ground. "Y'all gotta lot of nerve, comin' back here and-!"

"Oh, shut up, will you!" Trixie snapped, channeling her magic into the mask.

A burst of power exploded from the mask, propelling Applejack backward into a nearby vegetable cart. The stunned farmpony lay in the wreckage in a daze.

The crowd collectively gasped in shock and disbelief.

Trixie scoffed. "Let's see your lasso top that, foal."

"Why you little-!"

Trixie casually turned her head to see the cyan pegasus Rainbow Dash bearing down on her at high speeds. Suddenly, Rainbow Dash stopped cold just a few feet above Trixie, her divebomb halted by the mask's power. "W-what the-?!" Rainbow exclaimed, flailing her hooves. "Put me down so I can shove that stupid mask up your flank!"

"Ah, Rainbow Dash," Trixie greeted with a savage grin. "How nice to see you too. Let me repay you for such a warm welcome, Rainbow Trash!"

The mask's eyes glowed again, and to everypony's shock, Rainbow Dash's wings vanished into thin air. The pegasus regarded this with a gasp of horror and dread. "No! No no no no no, not this again! I-I can't lose my wings again!" she cried.

"You just did," Trixie sneered. "And this time, you get to stay like that...forever."

Rainbow Dash looked deep into the cruel, soulless eyes of Trixie's strange mask, her eyes widening in realization. "F-f-f-forever?" she timidly squeaked.

Trixie roughly tossed Rainbow Dash aside, the former pegasus crashing unceremoniously into Applejack, who had just dislodged herself from the wreckage of the vegetable cart. "Good heavens! Applejack! Rainbow Dash!" another familiar, refined voice exclaimed.

The fashionista Rarity attempted to help her friends to their hooves. Before Trixie could open her mouth to mock them, she was interrupted. "What's going on here?!"

Trixie sharply glanced towards the speaker and chuckled darkly. "Hello, Twilight Sparkle. At last we meet again."

Twilight glanced around at the carnage Trixie had wrought before staring hard at the perpetrator. "Trixie? Is that you?" she asked.

Trixie smirked beneath the mask. "You remember me then? Good. I've been waiting for this moment, and-!"

"Hey, you big dumb mean meanypants!" another voice interrupted.

Trixie glared at the pink, messy-maned pony who had made her presence known. Trixie did not recall seeing this one before, but she did recognize the butter-colored pegasus standing next to her. "Give Dashie her wings back, you big jerk!" Pinkie Pie demanded. You should be ashamed, coming into Ponyville and throwing my friends all over the place and-!"

Trixie didn't even grace her with a reply, instead silently bringing the mask's power to bear. Right in mid-speech, Pinkie Pie's mouth abruptly clamped shut before skin stretched over it, removing her mouth completely. Pinkie tried to gasp in shock, but was unable to make a sound. Overcome by terror, Pinkie rubbed her hooves over her face, as if trying to wipe off the skin sealing her mouth, muffled cries escaping her throat.

Trixie grinned. "Much better."

"That's enough, Trixie!" Twilight yelled angrily. "Leave my friends alone!"

Trixie turned back towards her adversary. "You're right. I shouldn't be wasting my time with your dear friends. You're the real reason I'm here."

"What do you want from me, Trixie?" Twilight demanded.

"Do you remember what happened a year ago, when I last came to Ponyville?" Trixie asked. "When you made a fool of me in front of the entire town dealing with that Ursa Minor?"

"I wasn't trying to upstage you, Trixie!" Twilight explained. "I was trying to clean up the mess-!"

"DO NOT INTERRUPT ME WHILE I AM TALKING, SPARKLE!" Trixie screeched, her voice powerful enough to shatter nearby windows.

Ignoring the falling glass, Trixie continued, "After the incident, I had to move on to other venues. But word spread about my exaggerated stories, and no matter what town I went to, nopony, nopony would even allow me to perform. Without a show, I was bucking broke. I lost everything; my job, my home, my reputation! I had to earn more money by working at a rock farm! A stinking rock farm! It was the most degrading, pitiful existence I was ever forced to endure, and it's all because of YOU!"

"No! It was you who lied about your feats in the first place!" Twilight shot back. "None of this would have happened if you had just been honest from-!"

"I SAID SHUT UP!" Trixie bellowed, slamming her hoof down.

A seismic wave rippled across the ground, knocking nearly everypony off their feet and rocking the foundations of the town structures. Twilight managed to save her footing. It was at this moment that Spike walked out of the library. "T-Twilight? What's going on?" he yelped, seeing the masked pony confronting his guardian.

"Spike, get back inside and stay there!" Twilight ordered.

"Oh no!" Trixie goaded. "Let him stay! Let him watch his loving caretaker get what's coming to her!"

Spike trembled and clutched Twilight's leg. "I-is t-t-that Trixie? W-what is she wearing? Twilight, I-I-I'm scared!"

Trixie laughed, a cold, pitiless laugh that didn't sound quite right coming from her. "You should be, lizard."

She then glared at Twilight. "Enough talking! It's time we got to more important things. Like teaching you a lesson about what it means to tussle with the Great and Powerful Trixie!"

A deep rumbling noise heralded the inexplicable appearance of black storm clouds, which roiled overhead in agitation. Lightning flashed and rain began to pour, but none of the pegasi made any move to clear the clouds away, too transfixed by the confrontation taking place. The dark atmosphere emphasized the ominously glowing eyes of Trixie's mask as they bore into their intended victim.

"So it's a duel you want?" Twilight asked with finality. "Alright. You give me no choice."

Trixie laughed again. "Good."

Trixie struck first, directing a bolt of magic through the mask at Twilight. Defending herself, Twilight cast up a defensive barrier, Trixie's attack slamming into it full-force. Twilight's knees buckled as she strained against the force of Trixie's attack. After a few moments Trixie let up, allowing Twilight to catch her breath.

Then a wave of pure, unbridled power pounded her defenses.

Twilight let out a cry as her shield shattered, the force knocking her harshly on her back. As she lay there, dazed, Spike yelled, "C'mon, Twilight! Get up! You have to get up!"

"Yes! Get up!" Trixie cackled. "Get up so Trixie can knock you down again!"

Twilight shook her head, a thin trail of blood leaking out of her nose as she came back to her senses. Where is she getting that power? Twilight wondered to herself as she rose to her feet. Is it that mask she's wearing?

Thinking quickly, Twilight tried to cast a spell to teleport the mask out of Trixie's possession.

The result was an explosion of pain in her head, sending her reeling. It was if the mask itself had struck back. Trying to shake off the piercing headache, Twilight brought her magic to bear, hoping to incapacitate Trixie quickly before she could cause any more harm.

But Trixie was faster.

The ground grew uneven beneath Twilight's hooves, shifting unsteadily as she tried to keep her balance. And then the ground rose up beneath her, knocking her off-balance and falling flat on her face.

Twilight lifted her head off the ground, ready to cast again...

Only for Trixie's hoof to push it back into the dirt. "No. It's over, Sparkle."

That statement was spoken in the coldest, most hate-filled manner possible, eliciting chills from the gathered crowd. "How does it feel now, Sparkle?" Trixie sneered, grinding Twilight's face against the dirt, her foe too weak and exhausted to resist. "To be undermined in front of your peers? For everypony to see your magical talents laid bare? Does it sting, Twilight? I bet it does. But I'm not finished with you yet. Trixie has one last trick up her sleeve, just for you."

The mask's eyes glowed once more, the townsponies watching in bewilderment as Twilight's horn darkened from lavender like the rest of her body to a dead, ashy black. Trixie stepped back, admiring her handiwork. After a few moments, Twilight feebly got to her feet, determined to keep fighting no matter what. Clenching her teeth, she readied a powerful spell.

Nothing happened.

Trixie just stood there and watched as Twilight looked at her blackened horn. "W-what...what did you do to me?" Twilight weakly demanded.

Trixie smirked. "What does it look like, Sparkle? I negated your magic."

It took a few seconds for the implications to sink in, but when they did, Twilight's eyes widened in horror. "You...you took away my magic!"

Trixie nodded. "It seemed a fitting fate for you. Once the most powerful unicorn in Equestria; now you're no more special than an Earth pony. You can stay just like that, forever!"

Overcome by exhaustion and dread, Twilight sank to her knees. "Please...Trixie, you can't...you can't do this..."

"Oh, can't I?!" Trixie retorted.

A wave of magical energy sent Twilight hurtling into the library, the pony's body tearing the library door off its hinges as she came to rest against the opposite wall. Twilight did not move any further. Trixie then addressed the horrified crowd. "Can't I?! I hold a power greater than anything encountered in Equestria before! There is nothing Trixie can't do now! You hear me?! NOTHING!"

There was a full minute of absolute silence. And then, somepony spoke. "You're a monster."

Trixie's gaze darted throughout the crowd. "Who said that?" she demanded.

Slowly, timidly, but with a great deal of determination, Fluttershy wormed her way to the head of the crowd. Her usual demeanor was replaced by a steely gaze that seemed wholly uncharacteristic of the usually-shy pegasus. "I did," she confirmed, her voice as quiet and soft as always, but with a sharp edge to it.

Trixie scoffed. "You? You have something you'd like to say, little animal lover?"

Fluttershy nodded resolutely. "I can usually see the good in everypony," she continued. "I look past their faults and accept them for who they are. I forgive them. But you...you don't deserve forgiveness. This isn't just bullying or mean-spiritedness. What you're doing is evil."

Trixie said nothing.

"You think you can just come into Ponyville and hurt my friends just because of imagined insults? That your vendetta justifies taking away Rainbow Dash's wings, or Pinkie Pie's mouth, or Twilight's magic? No, it doesn't! So change them all back right now, and then you better get out of here, and this time, don't come back. Do you get me?"

"And you can be sure that Princess Celestia will hear of this too," Rarity interjected. "We'll see how high and mighty you still think of yourself when you're put on trial in Princess Luna's court!"

Trixie glanced fervently at the angered townsfolk, wondering how to reply.

We leave. NOW.

Trixie agreed wholeheartedly with the mask, and without another word, she teleported away.

XXXXXX

Trixie reappeared a fair distance away from the riled town and plucked the mask off her face to wipe off her sweat. "That...that was exhilerating," she admitted, however her satisfaction quickly gave way to dread. "But they were right. Princess Celestia's sure to hear about this, and-!"

Enough, child, the mask spoke telepathically. Yes, by doing this you have earned the ire of the Princesses. But you have nothing to fear. Not if you trust in my words and my power.

"I don't know what you're thinking, but this is Princess Celestia we're talking about here! Goddess of the Sun! Ruler of Equestria!"

She is NOTHING to me. As I said, trust in my power and guidance. We will deal with the Princesses...together.

Trixie stared at the mask for a long while before setting it back on her face. "Yes...together," she spoke ominously.