Trixie rolled out of bed and landed on all fours. The doorbell jingled again. She shook the sheets off her head and dragged herself to the door. She opened the levitation-proof latch with her teeth and looked out into an empty corridor. Her disordered mane fell into her face. “Who dares disturb The Great and Powerful Trixie?” she demanded.
A jingling sound above her head made her look up. Molly was standing on the ceiling with a shiny blue sack in her mouth. She shook it and it jingled. Trixie fell back on her hocks. Molly dropped the sack next to her.
Molly trotted down the wall and nuzzled Trixie’s cheek. “I brought something for you,” she said, “They’re Unishoes from Starshine! He made a set just for you.” She pulled the string to open the sack and levitated one of the shoes. It was blue and glittered in the morning light. “Blue anodized titanium, size six.”
Trixie eyed them and held up a hoof. “I suppose they could come in handy and they’re quite pretty,” she said.
“They have the other special spell on them too,” Molly whispered in her ear, “They’re totally silent, when you want them to be.”
Trixie smiled. “I guess we could do pedicures this morning after I’ve had some coffee.”
“Heck, I thought we’d go to Falabella’s for breakfast. There’s a farrier’s right next door.”
“That sounds like a plan to me.” Trixie trotted inside and levitated a brush from her vanity. “As soon as I make myself presentable.”
• • •
Shadow turned the page to a beautifully executed woodcut illustration. It showed a regal looking pegasus in flight. Her eyes were covered with a blindfold and she held a vicious looking cockatrice in front of herself. The mark on her flank was an oddly curved crescent crossed by a scimitar. Shadow closed the ancient book.
“I thought you should know this too,” Luna said, “Since it’s important to our current situation. The tale is a nearly forgotten pony tale these days. Very few know the whole story, much less the truth behind it.”
“I wouldn’t have believed such power was possible,” Shadow said, her mane twitching, “It’s so creepy.”
Luna flipped pages in an oversized pure white sketchbook. One page after another showed views of a mountain range from above. Some of its ridges looked more like parts of a gigantic shattered stone pony than natural rock formations.
“Everypony knows about Mount Titan,” Luna said, “the tallest mountain in Equestria. They know it’s so tall it’s never been climbed. The hock of Mount Titan rises so high there’s no air to breathe or for pegasi to fly. They don’t know how it got there.”
“It’s a bit too much for present day ponies to believe, I think,” she said, “but there are powers much greater than these pampered ponies would believe. The power functions differently in each pony and sometimes chooses one to fully manifest itself. In some it appears as supernormal perception or artistic ability.” At this Shadow nodded vigorously. She glanced at the painting on the wall. It showed her and her father in a tearful embrace. They were surrounded by squished impatiens and colorful swirls of magical energy.
“When it manifests its full power that pony is in great danger of going out of control,” Luna continued, “You can see what happened the last time it manifested in a stallion millenia ago. Then it manifested in the mare who became Queen Bo. She used it wisely but her life was ended tragically early through treachery. If her daughter had been able to continue her legacy successfully Equestria would be very different today.”
“But this trickster power,” Shadow said, “the one that manifested in this Onyx and later in Theria was the one thing able to counter that power when it went out of control.”
“Quite so,” Luna said, “illusion and trickery can be more powerful than raw power. Onyx was the only pony able to lead Titan into the North Lands. She hoped he would die there. But when he discovered the trickery he was enraged. He went truly out of control and grew to fantastic size. It was only the trick she held in reserve that saved her and Equestria from destruction. She had brought a cockatrice with her disguised as a harmless pet bird. It stopped him even in his massively enlarged form. Now he lies broken, a mountain range formed from his petrified body.”
Shadow said, “I hope he never returns from being turned from stone. How powerful was he in life?”
“Far too powerful. The depths of magic are limitless. It may be that ponies could even tap the powers of creation itself some day. As you know we are already able to siphon power from other worlds. In my time nopony imagined that was even possible.”
Shadow shook her head. “I just hope the same thing doesn’t happen again.”
“It had better not. We need the pony the power has manifested in this time. Not only does she have that power but control of The Elements of Harmony. She’s the one pony who can really restore the balance of Equestria and end the illusion for good. It scared me when your cousin lost control of her transfiguration ability. That could be a bad sign but I think it was just a stumble along the way.”
“I think I know her pretty well,” Shadow said, “She loses herself in her studies all the time. When we were fillies she disappeared for hours in the forest and her mother freaked out. It turns out she was following butterflies and wanted to know what plant they were laying eggs on. She’s a good young mare and I think she’ll keep on until she figures things out.”
• • •
Trixie wrapped her cloak tight around herself. Her matching hock socks and cannon warmers were heavy but didn’t keep the frigid wind off her legs very well. Her hooves stuck to the bare rock and patches of ice perfectly. Except for Molly the other ponies fared less well. They slipped and slid. Some wore ice shoes but most didn’t. Twilight wore a purple mountaineering coat and crampons with saddlebags full of equipment and a coil of rope hanging at her side. Spike could barely fit on her back. Even he wore a scarf. Other than Trixie and Molly only Selene and Moon Pie were certain in their step in the icy mountains. They also seemed to be immune to the biting cold.
Miss Selene strode over the ice and snow with confidence. When the group reached a windswept ledge she stopped and gathered the group together. The towers of Canterlot rose in the distance behind her.
“You have all shown talent for shadow dowsing in controlled tests so now I have a greater challenge for you all,” she said, her voice raised against the wind, “These are the kind of conditions you’ll be facing when you actually go searching for things. This is a test too but you won’t be graded. However there will be prizes if you’re successful. Many things have been hidden in this area, some on or near the surface, others deep below. Anything you find is yours to keep. There is money, gems, mineral samples, magical items, and a case of Brumby’s Alfalfa Chews. In some cases they are too deep to dig up. You will have to teleport to reach the items or use some other particular talent so for some it is a two part challenge. I will be keeping a watch on you all and rescue is nearby but try not to get into too much trouble.”
Twilight headed out immediately. Her horn glowed and she headed straight to a nearby snowbank. She dug with her hooves and uncovered a buried pile of rocks. They tumbled apart and she levitated a very nice citrine into her saddlebag. Spike looked disappointed.
“Very nice first find, Miss Sparkle. I know you have some experience with this so it’s not surprising. Now the rest of you head out and see what you can find. We will meet back at this ledge in half an hour.”
Trixie and Molly headed out together. Molly’s scarf whipped in the wind. Trixie’s horn glowed faintly then more strongly. She looked down at the solid rock. She nodded to Molly. They both walked fearlessly toward the icy edge of the the rock ledge and straight over it. The two ponies walked straight down until they reached the edge of a large overhang.
They stepped delicately between icicles and down to a smooth stone floor. Beneath the ledge the ponies had gathered on was a natural chamber with crumbled stone walls keeping out some of the wind. Trixie trotted to a standing stone in the middle. A silver brooch with a big square cut sapphire in the middle sat on top of it.
“It’s your find,” Molly said, “and it suits you.” She levitated it to Trixie.
“Thank you sweetie,” she said and kissed Molly behind the ear. She examined it closely. It looked similar to the brooch she once wore but much nicer. She smiled. She was sure Luna had planted it for her to find. Looking at the back she saw her own cutie mark engraved on it. She fastened it to her cloak. The gem glowed for a moment. It made her feel warm in the cold. She’d have to explore its magic more later.
Trixie turned to Molly. She said, “Your turn, I think.”
Molly closed her eyes and moved her head around. She faced the back of the chamber and her horn glowed very faintly. When she opened her eyes they glowed much more brightly with an inner light. It filled the chamber with a strange glow. Molly walked forward, her glowing eyes wide open.
Trixie watched as she walked straight into the stone and disappeared. Trixie tried to touch the stone with her hoof and it went straight through as if the wall weren’t there. She nodded and confidently strode right into the seemingly solid stone. In a moment she had bumped a hoof on a loose rock and tumbled to the cold stone floor within. There were the remnants of an old iron chandelier hanging overhead. Molly looked down at her on the floor and giggled.
“U thripped,” Molly said, with a mouth full of alfalfa chew.
Trixie got back to her hooves. Molly had already opened the case of candies and was chewing one. Trixie looked at the box oddly. “Something’s not right in there,” she said.
Molly nodded. “Therth a magic ardifact in one of th bockthes,” she said, spitting just a bit. She moved boxes aside until one was revealed. Molly opened it and floated a candy out of it. She turned it over in the air and then slipped it into a coat pocket. “Magic candy, I guess,” she said. She floated another box of candy and offered it to Trixie.
Trixie took a candy from the box and unwrapped it in the air. “How about we teleport the case up to the meeting place?” Trixie asked before taking the candy in her mouth.
Molly nodded and they put their horns together. The box vanished in a flash of light. Trixie and Molly stood side by side and chewed molasses enveloped alfalfa for a while. They pressed against each other and shared their warmth. Neither of them felt like searching for more items.
When Trixie and Molly returned to the meeting ledge they found most of the other ponies already chewing candies. Moon Pie was wearing a large silver pectoral with a crescent moon in the middle. It looked like a smaller silvery version of the one Princess Luna wore. Twilight’s saddlebags were bulging with items and she was reading a book that bore her cutie mark embossed on its cover.
Molly floated the candy out of her pocket and looked at it. She turned it over and over in the air. Her horn glowed in one color after another until it had gone through the whole rainbow twice. It settled on an indigo color.
Molly closed her eyes and the candy changed. It became a tiny phoenix floating in the air, then a dagger, then a wand, and finally a silver cup. Molly opened her eyes and stared at it. “It’s magic but I don’t know what it is,” she said.
Miss Selene stepped to her side. “My dear, it’s a very special artifact,” she said, “It’s an omnis. It’s not one thing. It’s any thing you want it to be. It can be a candy or a pocket watch or even appear to be a living thing.”
Selene turned to the rest of the gathered ponies. “You may have noticed that each of you has found something appropriate to your particular talents. That was intentional. I’d like for you all to continue practicing but you’ve all passed a special kind of test. You’ve confirmed what I believed I knew of your personal natures. You’ve all found something that resonated with what makes you each special.”
Molly looked at the cup and it suddenly turned into a beautiful miniature unicorn with a crystal horn. It trotted around in the air. The tiny unicorn bowed toward Trixie then trotted over to Molly and enlarged. It landed in the snow and became a full sized unicorn so beautiful all the other ponies came to stare at it. The shining mare’s silvery mane floated in the wind and sparkled like Celestia’s. It turned to the side, showing its flank to Molly. She looked like she was concentrating for a moment and a sparkling blue snowflake symbol appeared on its flank. Molly smiled.
Miss Selene walked to Molly’s side. “I see it suits you perfectly,” she said, “Just remember that no matter how real it is, it has no life of its own. To others it can be completely convincing if you’re talented enough to make it that way.”
Molly nodded and blushed a bit. For a moment the unicorn followed her movements before returning to its former regal countenance. Molly watched it and it trotted around, kicking up bits of snow in the wind. “Sel…,” it said, “Selene. Miss Selene.” It bowed to the teacher. “Thanks you, Misss Selene,” the unicorn said. Molly’s muzzle moved a bit as it spoke. The unicorn bowed again with careful grace. Moon Pie looked at the creature wide-eyed as if he were creeped out by it.
Trixie looked deeply into the thing. To her it was clear it was a magical artifact, not a real live pony. There was no spark of life in it, just the bright glow of a charged artifact.
Selene turned to the rest of the assembled ponies. The wind seemed to die down in a moment. “You are the best of the best students. In a few days the school will be dismissed for winter break. Most of you will be going home,” she said. Miss Selene nodded toward Trixie. “Some will be going elsewhere, but our time together as a group will soon be over. You will be going your own ways. I wanted each of you to have something to remember this time by.”
Selene’s horn glowed. A wall of mist surrounded the group. The mountains and the sky vanished. She smiled. “By now my true identity is no longer a mystery to any of you.” She was enveloped in a swirling blue cloud twinkling with stars. Princess Luna emerged from the cloud, which unwrapped itself and became her mane and tail. She spread her wings.
She walked over to speak to Moon Pie. “Moon, you have been a wonderful student and truly discovered your place in Equestria. You found a talented pony who was on the verge of self-destruction and delivered her to me. She has been the best personal assistant I’ve ever had. It is your role to go forth and find the lost ones. Many ponies of the night are still out there and lost.” Her horn glowed. “I charge you with finding them. Find the lost ponies and bring them to me so they can find their places in the world. My gift to you is a teleport key so you may watch over Equestria from above and find my lost foals.” Moon bowed deeply. When he rose the silver pectoral sparkled strangely.
Luna walked over to Molly. “Molly, you are the most naturally talented transfigurationist I’ve ever seen. You can be anypony or anything if you try. You can go out into the world and be anything you wish to. For now I hope you return after the winter to continue your studies at my sister’s school and broaden your education. I also hope you choose to serve me and serve Equestria in the future.” Molly bowed deeply and so did the unicorn beside her.
Luna turned to Trixie and smiled. “You are my very special student. You missed out on the magical education you might have had and set out into the world on your own to make your way as you knew how. Now I see you’ve begun to discover and appreciate the depths of your talents. I’ve already asked you to accompany me during the winter and I’m so happy you’ve agreed.” Trixie bowed and her new brooch lit from within for a moment.
Luna trotted to Twilight, who had put her book away. Spike peered up at Luna from his seat on her back. “Twilight, my sister’s star student. I’m glad I’ve been able to teach you as well and give you a more complete view of the depths of magical power. I wish you the best and hope you continue your visits so I can teach you more. There is so much more to learn.”
Luna spoke to the other students one by one. Trixie and Molly snuggled next to each other in the cold.
• • •
A black wagon descended from the sky and touched down in the town square of Ponyville. Ponies stared at its lacquered sides as it rolled by. It turned into a small alley and pulled up to a gate in a weathered picket fence covered with roses growing wild. The head of a green unicorn peered around a corner and a camera flash lit the shaded alley for a moment.
An all-black earth pony stepped out and unhitched the black pegasus pulling the wagon. The earth pony glanced at a piece of paper with the pictures of two young unicorns with moustaches on it. They both went to the gate and rang the corroded brass bell. An orange head with a green mane popped up from a broken down picnic table in the back garden. There was a Gidran’s Magic Supplies catalog spread out on the table. Snails trotted over and opened the gate.
“Uhm, hello there,” he said, “You’re not from Pony Express.”
“No,” Shadow said silkily, “My name is Shadow. I’m Princess Luna’s personal assistant and this is Noir.” The pegasus bowed. “Are you Snails?” she asked. She noticed he didn’t have a moustache anymore.
The orange unicorn nodded and bowed. “Wow,” he said, “You’re really the princess’ assistant?”
“Yes,” she said, “I’m here to ask a few questions.” She looked around and spotted a signboard and two wagon wheels leaning against an aged wooden shed. Near it stood a wagon that had been sitting in place for a very long time. Its wheels had come apart and its axles were sitting on cement blocks. A screened porch was grafted onto it.
“You were one of the ponies who cleaned up the wreckage from The Great and Powerful Trixie’s wagon after the… Ursa Minor incident?”
Snails nodded again. “Oh yeah, Twilight asked us to.” He looked embarrassed. Shadow knew he had played a large role in causing the incident in the first place.
Shadow nodded. “I was wondering if you saved anything from the wagon.” She glanced over at the obvious pieces.
“Yeah!” he said, excited, “There was lots of great stuff in there. I gave all the books to Twilight at the library but she said it was okay if Snips and I kept the other stuff. That’s alright, isn’t it?” He trotted toward the sign and wheels.
“Quite alright, but I’d like to ask for some of the wreckage if it’s no trouble.” She looked at the poor surroundings and the magic catalog. “You would be compensated of course.”
Snails nodded vigorously. “Oh wow!” he said. His horn glowed faintly and he seemed to be straining. One of the wheels fell over and spun on its axle.
“That’s okay,” Shadow said, “Noir can help lift the heavy things.” She put her hoof on the sign. It bore Trixie’s cutie mark surrounded by stars. The silver paint still glittered. “Were there any pieces of magic equipment left intact?”
“Lots of stuff!” Snails said, “But we’ve been using her magic gear. I hope that’s okay.”
“I’d like anything that’s not broken,” she said, “and I can more than make up for it with credit with Gidran’s.”
Snails bounced around happily. He ran in through a screen door and in a few minutes he was back dragging a camelback trunk with Trixie’s cutie mark on the side. “We couldn’t get into this trunk,” he said, “I don’t know what’s in it.”
There was a heart shaped lock on its side with a horn opening.
• • •
Molly and her icy white twin danced around the room. The two could have been sisters. The beautiful white unicorn had long ears that matched hers. The earth toned unicorn folded clothing in the air and packed it into a large trunk woven of maple splints and cattail reed balanced on the white pseudo-unicorn’s back. Trixie watched it warily.
“So you’re naming it Snow?” Trixie asked.
“Isn’t it a beautiful name?” Molly asked in return.
“Very nice, but it’s not really a pony. It’s a… thing.” She was a little creeped out too. Snow looked like Molly but as extraordinarily beautiful as Molly was plain. The transparent horn made her look especially weird. A unicorn’s horn was usually the same color as her coat. Sometimes it was a different color that matched its owner’s hooves. They never looked like clear crystal. The thing was a bit freaky.
“A thing that can be the most lovely unicorn in Equestria.” She was totally unfazed by the strange looks Snow had gotten in the street and the corridors of the school. For once Molly was entirely unselfconscious.
Trixie smiled at the filly. “I’ll see you in the morning before we head off for Ponyville. I’m off to check out the new wagons,” she said. She kissed Molly on the head.
Trixie scooted down the corridor. She really couldn’t wait to see the new road show wagons. She’d supervised the construction of her old wagon herself. Wielding a saw or a blacksmith’s hammer may not be for her but she loved being involved in making the design choices. For the first time in her life she was had been too busy with her studies and other preparations to put her hoof directly into the business. She trusted Shadow to supervise in her stead.
The street outside was busy with wagons of goods and vendors selling their wares. Ponies from all over Equestria swarmed over the chilly streets. Steam rose a cart selling hot apple cider. The vendor looked familiar. Trixie passed right by him. It was fifteen blocks to the cart works. The distance had kept her away for the most part.
The last section of street came off a square with a pebble mosaic of Celestia and Luna circling each other with sun and moon symbols set in golden sandstone and gleaming white quartz. Her hooves clicked on the pebble tops, the quartz releasing tiny sparks from her shoes.
The sign at the head of Sulky Lane was made of cast iron painted with black and silver on a thick iron post. The gateway into the wagon works bore the outline of a great cargo wagon arched between two great wooden posts. Within was a confusion of horsecarts and parts. A wheelwright sat at a shaving horse making spokes. Trixie asked him where the new wagons were and he gestured toward a large building with his head.
Within she found more than a dozen large wagons lined up. Dominating the group was a black and purple monster with two rear axles rigged to be pulled by eight stallions. Its tongue was the trunk of a small hickory tree covered with black lacquer. Its side bore a huge silver crescent moon. Trixie slowly walked around it and found Shadow talking with a swaybacked pony in a filthy apron. “Trixie,” she said, “I’m so glad you showed up. Your personal wagon is finished.”
Shadow led her through a maze of working ponies and equipment to a beautiful black wagon sprinkled with silver stars. The windows were surrounded by elaborate carvings with a crescent and wand theme. Little Trixies were hidden under the eaves supporting the roof with their heads. At its head was what Trixie instantly recognized as the signboard from her old wagon. It looked just as it had when an old sign painter had made it for her many years before.
“I don’t know what to say,” Trixie stumbled out.
“You could try ‘it’s nice’ or ‘I like it’ or something like that,” Shadow responded.
“It’s much better than that,” she said and kissed Shadow on the muzzle, “It’s the most wonderful thing I’ve ever seen. And I think I’ve seen that sign before.”
“I tracked down some of your stuff in Ponyville. I found a trunk too. It’s inside.”
Trixie nodded and smiled. “Shall we?” she asked.
The two cantered up the steps into the wagon. It didn’t creak or sway an inch under their weight. The wagon looked bigger inside than it did outside. It smelled of freshly cut wood and new paint. There was a small kitchen and a luxurious canopy bed in the back hung with silver and blue curtains. The front was dominated by dressing area with a dressing mirror surrounded by a horseshoe shaped set of lights. Trixie nuzzled Shadow’s cheek. “I’d almost think you knew me.” She didn’t feel embarrassed one bit. She looked at the reflection of the two of them side-by-side in the mirror and her heart beat faster.
They stepped out onto the driver’s platform. “Shouldn’t this be rigged for a whole team? It looks like it’s set up for a single hauler.”
“It is,” Shadow said, “You haven’t met her yet. I’m confident she can handle this rig alone.”
Trixie nodded. “How about that trunk?” Shadow led her back inside. The trunk was at the base of the bed with a blue comforter neatly folded on top. Trixie put her horn in the lock and it popped open with a soft click. In a moment tears came to her eyes. A picture of her grandmother was lying on a folded filly-sized purple cloak.
Trixie levitated the picture to her chest and tears ran down her cheeks. She curled up on the bed and gestured for Shadow to join her. A battered photo album floated out of the trunk seemingly of its own accord and opened before them.
• • •
A lone dark-pelted guard wandered deep into the unlit passages beneath Canterlot where the walls were carved from the living stone and dripping water in places. The lantern he carried in his teeth cast a circle of feeble light into the darkness. His golden armor reflected more darkness than light. The smell of dark ages and fungus hung in the stale air.
His wanderings took him deeper into the mountain where the roaring of the underground river feeding the great waterfall echoed through the long passageways. He came upon a door at the end of a long dead-end passage. The iron-bound door had been crudely inscribed ‘Hoard 26’ in the ancient script. The hinges fell apart at the touch of his hoof. He shined his light within, revealing piles of gemstones. He made his way back up the passage, ignoring the treasure.
The tunnels crossed each other confusingly. In one place water dripping from the wall collected into a rivulet running along the side of the passage until it disappeared into a crack in the floor. He carefully avoided the running water, pressing himself against the damp wall on the other side.
The flowing water had washed some sand into the passage. The guard shined his light and carefully examined it. There were fresh hoofprints of extraordinary size traveling in both directions. “Aha,” he said to himself. One print overlapped another, indicating which direction the pony had gone and then come back. He followed the passage in the direction of the former. Soon he was rewarded. Sand had been tracked down only one passage. The floors of the others bore undisturbed dust.
The sand soon disappeared but that left only a few routes to explore. The roar of the waterfall faded to a distant sound. At the end of one passage the guard discovered an oversized door bound in thick bands of iron with a large well oiled lock. He turned around and shined his lantern the way he had come. Nopony was visible following him. He heard no sound.
He put his lantern down carefully and turned back to the door. In moments he became transparent and stepped straight through the locked door. The pony that emerged on the other side no longer bore the appearance of one Celestia’s guards. He became an aged unicorn stallion wearing a gray silk jerkin.
He cast pale light from his ghostly horn. The room was huge and filled with wooden boxes and unstable piles of dusty books. He cast around and discovered hoofprints in the dust. They led straight to what he was looking for. It was an object the size and shape of a large painting swathed in black velvet. Its surface showed no sign of dust.
Sir Gilead levitated the package and unwrapped it. His light revealed a partially finished painting. The edges of the canvas showed the familiar lines of the throne room sketched in charcoal. In the middle was the subject, partially rendered in paint. The violet-eyed unicorn did not show the regal countenance of absolute confidence in power. Her expression was one of concern and gentleness. Her pure white cheeks shone in morning light, the glow rendered in the finest brushstrokes. Her mane sparkled beautifully. The mark on her flank was only roughly sketched.
Surrounding the figure was a larger aura of power. Its head was held high and its wings were neatly folded against its sides. Its appearance evoked the vast power of the sun.
“A talent for revealing the true appearance of things indeed,” the unicorn said, his words echoing in the enormous storeroom.
He wrapped the unvarnished canvas in the black velvet once more and brought it close to himself. Both he and the package vanished in a swirl of blue light. The lantern was left forgotten in the passage outside.
I wrote the scene with Trixie and Molly walking down the ice before the Merrie Melody ‘The Wizard’ premiered. The scene with Daffy walking up the waterfall of Voldrini immediately made me think of it and the magic horseshoes. How did he do that? And why Celestia? It’s just way too weird. Don’t expect any waterfall walking or Garlons in my fic. Maybe an insatiable Gort. Thanks Gort!