HarmOnyRLA

Untitled Trixie Story - Part II - Travels With Trixie

Jul 16th, 2014
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  1. >You slowly wake in your bed.
  2. >Still groggy, you try to pull the blankets back over you and go back to sleep for a while, even though the light coming through the window is bright daylight.
  3. >Actually, it isn't your bed at all, you notice. And it isn't your bedroom.
  4. >And you can't pull the blankets over your head.
  5. >Suddenly startled, you try to sit up but can't.
  6. >You look around. The blanket is pink. The wallpaper is pink. There are balloons and streamers piled everywhere. You recognize Pinkie Pie's party cannon in the corner.
  7. >This must be Pinkie's bedroom.
  8. >Even more pleasantly, you smell an overpowering aroma of baking. You relax again for a moment, just taking in the aroma and enjoying the warmth of the bed.
  9. >The fuzz in your head is slowly clearing, and you begin to remember last night. Or you assume it was last night. You don't have a good sense how long you were out.
  10. >The last things you remember are pain and a certain amount of embarrassment as you went through a highly public transformation with your naked body on display in front of an audience that hated you.
  11. >Then, Celestia making it somehow bearable. Then, the final, excruciating pain of your horn forcing its way out from your brain and through your skull.
  12. >Then, a black, dreamless sleep.
  13. >You almost don't want to look, lest it was just a dream, but you can't wait.
  14. >You thrash around in an uncoordinated way, eventually knocking the blankets to the floor, and look down at your body.
  15. >Hooves! Beautiful hooves! Concentrating, you clop your forehooves together, enjoying the sound.
  16. >You then try to find your horn, and immediately, instead just slap yourself in the face with your right forehoof. Ouch.
  17. >Holding your head in your hooves, you feel around on top of your head. Yes, there is definitely a horn there.
  18. >As you get more excited about your transformation, you realize you can't just lie around in bed all day.
  19.  
  20. >You try to roll out of bed onto your hooves, and immediately fall over on your side.
  21. >Okay, that wasn't a very good first try. However, while lying on the floor contemplating your next move, you notice a full length mirror on the wall.
  22. >Maybe it would help you figure out how to get up if you watched what you were doing.
  23. >You sort of half roll, half drag yourself over to the mirror, and look at yourself lying in the sun streaming through the window.
  24. >You feel half-blinded by the bright light. Of course, Pinkie would always leave the curtains open.
  25. >After your eyes adjust to the light, you can get a better look at yourself.
  26. >Your coat was a moderate pink, with an appaloosa pattern of a slightly hotter pink.
  27. >You notice that where the light hits it, the contrast becomes more striking.
  28. >Rolling back and forth, you notice the color seems to change a bit in intensity.
  29. >Your mane has a similar effect, with thick forest green stripes alternating with sea green and mint green.
  30. >But it is your eyes you love the most, a deep green with barely visible flecks of pink.
  31. >Grudgingly, you have to admit that Trixie had done a fantastic job, meeting and even improving on your specifications.
  32. >Looking in your own eyes, you suddenly feel overwhelmingly happy and, before you know it, are crying with joy.
  33. >After a couple minutes, suddenly the door flies open and Pinkie runs in, looking concerned at you lying on the floor crying.
  34. >"Are you okay?" she asked.
  35. "I've never been better! Look at me! I'm a pony!"
  36. >"And you're a very pretty pony, too. But you're a pony lying on the floor!"
  37. "Here, let me try this again."
  38. >Watching your reflection in the mirror, you roll over so your belly is on the floor.
  39. >Then you tuck your legs under you, until they're in a position to get up.
  40. >Then, you take a deep breath and try to get up on all four legs at once.
  41. >Your left foreleg nearly gives way, but you end up standing, swaying slightly but more or less stable.
  42. >"Hooray!" says Pinkie.
  43.  
  44. >Finally standing, you look around. Everything looks bigger when you stand only three feet in height.
  45. >Even Pinkie Pie is now taller than you are.
  46. >Suddenly overcome with enthusiasm, you rare back and grab Pinkie and hug her with your forehooves.
  47. "You're such a great friend!"
  48. >Pinkie hugs back for a moment, and sniffs the air.
  49. >"I think some of the pies are done," she says. "Do you want to try to come downstairs? Everyone wants to see you!"
  50. >You are a little afraid of the stairs.
  51. "I'm not sure. I haven't even walked yet.
  52. >"Never mind that, I'll bring them up here."
  53. "What's cooking, anyway?"
  54. >"Well, 30 chocolate cakes, 30 apple pies, 30 lemon pies, 30 -- actually, I have to get to them really fast, be right back!"
  55. >Pinkie bounds down the stairs shouting "She's awake! Go on up if you want!"
  56. >Soon, you hear hooves clopping up the stairs.
  57. >It's Twilight, Spike and Applejack.
  58. >Twilight looks worried and angry.
  59. >The other two file into the room behind her.
  60. >You're still standing in front of the mirror looking at yourself.
  61. >"Are you okay, sugarcube?" asks Applejack. "That darn Trixie's gone too far this time!"
  62. "Don't worry, Applejack. It's fine. It's more than fine."
  63. >You smile broadly.
  64. >"I know you wanted this, but Trixie went out of her way to humiliate you. That's despicable," says Twilight.
  65. >As much as you know what Twilight is saying is right, you can't manage to be angry.
  66. >As much as Trixie went out of her way to get revenge, she also went all out doing the transformation perfectly.
  67. >"Don't tell me you're going through this slavery thing," said Twilight.
  68. "It's not slavery, really. And I'm a pony of my word."
  69. >You find it interesting how quickly you have shifted to think of yourself as a pony.
  70. >You wonder if there are any other mental changes, but you haven't noticed any yet.
  71. >"Are you sure, Anon? I feel like this is my fault."
  72. "If this is your fault, thanks. It's the best thing. Ever."
  73.  
  74. >Applejack says "We've taken the liberty of sprucing up your home a little bit. That's why you're here."
  75. >"Ya might remember it's built for a mighty big human critter."
  76. "Thanks. And thank the rest of the family for me, too."
  77. >"Ah'll do that."
  78. "Hey, Twilight. Can I go downstairs? I mean, if I try, can you make sure I don't fall down the stairs?"
  79. >"Certainly!"
  80. >You have managed to stand more or less steady, and you suppose walking is next.
  81. >You try to take a step forward, but your back legs take the steps, and you promptly fall on your ass.
  82. "Oops."
  83. >Getting up this time is easier than last time.
  84. "Okay, let's take this from the top."
  85. >This time, you slightly move your left foreleg tentatively, then your right, and then move your hind legs forward the same way.
  86. >You do this a couple more times, getting to the door. Twilight opens it for you with magic.
  87. >This time, you try to walk using all four legs, and by the time you reach the stairs, you have almost got the hang of it. This isn't that bad!
  88. >Then you look down the stairs, and you're suddenly overcome by vertigo.
  89. >Seeing your distress, Twilight steadies you with magic.
  90. >"Don't worry, Anon. I won't let you fall."
  91. >While you know she won't, your legs still shake a bit. Scared of a flight of stairs, ridiculous.
  92. >You take a deep breath and put your left hoof on the first step down, which forces you to crouch down a bit on your hindquarters and bend your right foreleg.
  93. >It seems wrong that your head is now facing slightly downward. You close your eyes briefly to cope.
  94. >You then take a step with your right, another with your left, finally move your right foreleg down the first step, and open your eyes to look.
  95. >So far, so good.
  96. >Somehow, you repeat this process.
  97. >When you reach the bottom, you are still concentrating intently on every step. You hope this is easier next time, but you feel exhausted.
  98. >Suddenly, you look up, surprised, at the sound of applause.
  99. >"Hooray!" shouts Pinkie Pie. "You did it!"
  100.  
  101. >At least normal walking seems a lot easier now compared to walking down stairs.
  102. >Looking up, you see Sugarcube Corner is packed with ponies, all clapping.
  103. >You think for a second that you could be back in America, with everyone clapping that somepony walked down a flight of stairs.
  104. >You notice the counter is stacked high with pies.
  105. "So what's with all the pies, anyway?"
  106. >Pinkie Pie looks nervous.
  107. >"Well, Trixie ordered them all. Something about concessions at her next show."
  108. >She seems embarrassed doing business with Trixie.
  109. "Don't worry, Ponks! I'm not even mad at Trixie. I'm going to have to get used to her, you know."
  110. >"Don't tell me you're going to go off with that big meanie!"
  111. "That was the deal. I'm not going to go back on it."
  112. >Vinyl's dire warnings aside, you are actually looking forward to it. Your first adventure!
  113. >You look around at the other ponies in the shop. You recognize a few as ponies who were jeering at you in the audience last night.
  114. >However, now, they're smiling at you like you're a celebrity.
  115. >Suddenly, a blue pegasus colt you hadn't seen before blurts out "You're really pretty now!" You let the implication that you used to be ugly slide.
  116. >Another blue pegasus, you assume his mother, kicks him under the table.
  117. >Spike says "It's true! You're almost as pretty as --"
  118. >Twilight pokes Spike in the ribs.
  119. "Thank you!"
  120. >Twilight levitates a small pony-height table and a few cushions to a corner of the room, giving you a small semi-private area. Then, she levitates a small pile of hay in front of you.
  121. >Exhausted from your trek down the stairs, you gratefully lay down on the cushion, a comfortable position for your new pony body.
  122. >After a tentative sniff at the hay, you decide to try it.
  123. >You had previously tried hay, but it tasted awful. It still tastes like hay, but is now delicious.
  124. >The bell over the door rings as a familiar blue unicorn saunters through it.
  125. >"The Great and Powerful Trixie is here to pick up her pies!"
  126.  
  127. >Suddenly, Applejack, Twilight, Spike and Pinkie are between you and Trixie.
  128. >Rainbow Dash zooms in over Trixie's head and tries to stop on a dime, but instead hits the ground and rolls to the foot of the counter.
  129. >The stacks of pies sway ominously, but Twilight steadies them.
  130. >Rainbow Dash says "She's coming! She's on her way."
  131. >Twilight says "Actually, if you'd turn around, she's here."
  132. >"Oh," says Dash.
  133. >"Well, hello, Your Highness Princess Twilight," says Trixie, with sarcastic emphasis on each syllable.
  134. >Pies are already floating out of the store, single file, and stacking themselves in a cart pulled by Snips and Snails.
  135. >"If it isn't the Great and Powerful Trixie," says Twilight sarcastically.
  136. >"Well, hello, Anon!" says Trixie, smiling.
  137. "Hello, Trixie," you say in a neutral tone.
  138. >"Are you all right?"
  139. "Yes. More than all right, actually."
  140. >"No thanks to you," says Applejack.
  141. >"Are you looking forward to our tour?" asks Trixie, sweetly. Too sweetly.
  142. >"Now, you just wait a cotton-picking minute here, missy. Anon here can hardly walk. She needs her rest."
  143. >"Does Trixie look like a monster?"
  144. >"Well, she kind of does," says Dash to Twilight in a stage whisper.
  145. >The pies continue their trek outside to the cart while Trixie pushes between Applejack and Twilight to lay down on one of the cushions facing you.
  146. >"Now, Trixie is an expert in transformation. She is well aware you will need some time to get your legs, as it were. So let's say Baltimare, week after tomorrow, noon, at the train station?"
  147. "That sounds fine to me."
  148. >"Now, we're not going to sit here while you take away Anon as some kind of slave." Twilight looked angry.
  149. >Trixie gestures to herself. "Trixie? A slaver? Whatever would give you such an idea?"
  150. >"O Great and Powerful Trixie, the pies are all in place. What do we do now for the greatest magician ever?" says Snails. Or Snips.
  151. >Trixie slams the door with magic.
  152. >"You were saying?" says Twilight.
  153.  
  154. >"Are you satisfied with the transformation?"
  155. "Yes, Trixie. I have to say I'm thrilled. Thank you."
  156. >Trixie looks around at everyone. "See? She's completely pleased, so why are all you mad?"
  157. >Twilight says "Because you made it humiliating and painful on purpose."
  158. >"Y'all went too far," says Applejack.
  159. >"But Trixie had to get a show out of it. And the specifications Anon gave were very specific. That kind of custom work takes time."
  160. >"Aww, come off it, Trixie. You were being mean."
  161. >"Perhaps Trixie was a bit angry. Anyway, Princess, if you had done it when she asked you, she would not have had to trick Trixie into doing it."
  162. "How do you know that?"
  163. >"So it is true, isn't it?"
  164. "Well, yes."
  165. >"How do you know that?" asks Twilight.
  166. >"Does Trixie look like a fool?
  167. >"Well, she kind of --" starts Dash, before Twilight silences her with a field of pink magic over her mouth.
  168. >"Last night, after Trixie was no longer angry, she thought about these things. The specific requests. The taunts. You put one over on Trixie!"
  169. "Kind of, yeah," you say sheepishly.
  170. >"But you cheated so blatantly you couldn't possibly have not been caught. One of the Flim Flam brothers? Anon, first you tricked Trixie into a duel, then you cheated!"
  171. "Would you have done it for me if I just asked?"
  172. >"No. So well played! Nobody puts one over on Trixie! And you would not have come to me without asking Twilight first."
  173. "So, you aren't angry now either?"
  174. >"Why would Trixie be angry at a pony who gave her her best show ever and a tour that is selling out as we speak?"
  175. >Twilight says "That's not all. She'll need to be taught magic. She has to get started immediately."
  176. >"And what makes you think Trixie will not be an excellent teacher? Trixie will remind the Princess that she graduated with honors from the same school."
  177. >"Last pies coming!" says Pinkie, opening the oven. Trixie helps pack them, levitating them as they exit the oven, into the boxes as Pinkie opens them.
  178.  
  179. >"Trixie has a hundred bits saying that when Anon returns, if she wants to return, she will be able to outperform any unicorn in this town. Bet doesn't include alicorns."
  180. >"How crass," says Applejack. "We Apples don't cotton to gambling."
  181. >"Any other takers?"
  182. >"Even if I did gamble," sneers Dash, "which I don't, I wouldn't bet against my friend. Nothing to do with you, Trixter."
  183. >"If Trixie bets she will make Anon a powerful magician, she is not gambling. It is free money if anyone is foolish enough to bet the other side. She is glad to see you admit it."
  184. >Trixie, even lying down on a cushion, takes a theatrical bow with her front half.
  185. >As the last of the pies make a single file toward the front door, it opens.
  186. >Trixie asks "Next week?"
  187. "I'll be there. Noon. With bells on."
  188. >"Bells?"
  189. "It's a figure of speech."
  190. >"Trixie looks forward to seeing you there."
  191. "I'm looking forward to it, too.
  192. >You actually are.
  193. >She then pulls out two pouches of bits, and levitates one of them to the counter and a slightly smaller one in front of you.
  194. >Pinkie signals to Mr. Cake, who pointedly counts the contents of the pouch before nodding his approval.
  195. >"For the tickets and whatever else you might need." She extends her right forehoof in your direction.
  196. >You sit, befuddled, for a couple seconds, until you realize what you're supposed to do.
  197. "Oh, sorry."
  198. >You clop your right forehoof to hers.
  199. >She leans in toward you conspiratorially.
  200. >"With Trixie's brains and your looks, we'll make lots of money."
  201. >She then gets up and walks toward the door.
  202. >"Goodbye Anon, Princess, Applejack, Pinkie. And thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Cake, for the prompt service."
  203. >Mr. Cake grunts in acknowledgment, and the other ponies pointedly ignore Trixie.
  204. >"Hmph. One would think a Princess would have better manners," says Trixie, as she walks out the door.
  205. >As the door closes slowly behind her, Mr. Cake says "Now, there's one where you should count your silverware when she leaves."
  206.  
  207. >"You sure about this sugarcube?" asks Applejack.
  208. "Yeah, I am. I know you don't like her, but look, she did a good job on this."
  209. >Twilight is staring at the ground looking forlorn.
  210. "What's the matter, Twi?"
  211. >Twilight says "Trixie was right. I let you down. And now you're enslaved to this horrible pony."
  212. "Look, Twi, I understand your reasons. And come on, look. This is like an adventure for me. I haven't been outside Ponyville since I got here except the once."
  213. >"I should have found some way."
  214. "Quit beating yourself up about it. Look, I promise I'll write you letters. It'll be fun."
  215. >"Well, before you go, I'll make sure you at least have the magic basics. So Trixie can't mess them up."
  216. "What makes you think she will? You know, if she has anything, it's a huge ego. If she's made a big deal out of teaching me, she'll do her best."
  217. >You stand up and go over and hug Twilight.
  218. >Pinkie says "Well, it does sound fun! Maybe if you're close, we can go see one of your shows."
  219. >Applejack says "Ah'd do that. Even if it means having to look at that varmint Trixie."
  220. >You poke at the money pouch on the table with your horn, moving it around, but not able to open it to count it.
  221. >"Okay," Twilight says. "Lesson one. If you're up to it. You might just get this immediately, but if you don't, don't worry."
  222. >You nod.
  223. >"Now, you have a totally new part, your horn. Think of it like a lightning rod for magic, except it's part of your brain and you control it by thinking about it."
  224. >"And the lightning is around you all the time. If you concentrate on it, you can feel it. It's like seeing and feeling at the same time."
  225. >"Just concentrate on the area between your eyes and up a bit over your forehead. Touch it if that helps."
  226. >You hold your left hoof up and touch where your horn is. You concentrate on that area, but nothing happens.
  227. >"Think of it like wiggling your ears."
  228. >You wiggle your new ears, and find you have much better directional hearing now.
  229.  
  230. >You flare your nostrils, and then purse your lips and blow air through them, making a flatulent sound.
  231. >Then, amused, you neigh and whinny.
  232. >Twilight, who has been watching patiently, narrows her eyes and stares at you.
  233. "Sorry."
  234. >You try again, treating the area of the horn like it was another ear or nose, and just trying to wiggle it a bit.
  235. >Suddenly, a light sputters on briefly, goes out, and then, as you concentrate again, glows green, becoming slowly more bright.
  236. >"Good!"
  237. >"Awesome!" says Pinkie. "Radical!" says Dash. Spike says "That's pretty good!"
  238. >"Okay," says Twilight. "Now, take that energy, and look at this straw of hay."
  239. >You do.
  240. >"Now, just concentrate on focusing the power you already have activated on that hay and pick it up, like you were reaching out with one of your old hands."
  241. >You do just that, and while it is tricky to get it exactly where you want it, you eventually manage to extend two tendrils of magic out to it and pinch it between them.
  242. >That done, you pull the force back a little bit toward the top of your head, and the straw rises off the table.
  243. >Exhausted, as if you had been lifting weights, you suddenly drop the straw as your horn goes dim.
  244. "Wow."
  245. >"Very good!" says Twilight. "That's enough for now. You don't want to strain yourself your first day, but you're doing great!"
  246. >Applejack says "Now, it's gonna take another day or so to finish your house, even with Big Mac helping, but Pinkie says you can stay here."
  247. >Pinkie says "The Cakes are fine with it!"
  248. >Suddenly, you find yourself ravenous, and devour the pile of hay that has been sitting in front of you since you got downstairs, and ask for more.
  249. >You eat the next pile of hay similarly, in seconds.
  250. "Oh, Celestia, that's good!"
  251. >Even though you've only been awake a couple hours, you are suddenly sleepy again, and ask to go to bed.
  252. >You can barely remember crawling up the stairs to bed.
  253. >Or Pinkie, later, climbing under the covers and snuggling up to you.
  254.  
  255. >You wake with a start to the sight of two big blue eyes staring directly into yours.
  256. >Apparently, Pinkie has been watching you sleep.
  257. >"You're awake!" cries Pinkie, delighted. "We've got your whole day planned for you!"
  258. "What time is it?" you mumble.
  259. >"It's nine o'clock on the dot!"
  260. >Sure enough, the grandfather clock in the hall starts bonging.
  261. >You try to turn over and sleep, but Pinkie jumps out of bed and takes the blanket with her.
  262. >"No, no, no! Up and at 'em! Rise and shine! Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed!"
  263. "What does that even mean?"
  264. >"Means get up, silly!"
  265. >You aren't going to escape this, so you try the rolling out of bed trick that didn't work yesterday. Today, it does, and you're on your hooves.
  266. >"I've got breakfast for you and everything! But first, let's get you presentable. First lesson for today, pony bathroom stuff."
  267. "Would you mind just showing me how to use this stuff and then let me use it myself?"
  268. >"There's no need to be embarrassed!"
  269. "I know, but, well, I kind of am."
  270. >It turns out a pony toilet is pretty much the same as a human one, but differently shaped, and you back up to it and use it.
  271. >They can take any kind of waste, but there are apparently outhouses around town for collecting fertilizer, and it is considered better to use these.
  272. >But you don't have time for that right now. There are hoof-sized buttons on the wall opposite the toilet itself, easy enough to use.
  273. >The shower is the same, level with the floor, with a curtain on the inside, sloping very slightly inward to drain water, with a rough surface to prevent slipping.
  274. >Again, there are hoof-sized buttons inside, and you quickly figure these out.
  275. >It reminds you a bit of a car wash, with jets of water from above, the sides, and even one from below.
  276. >You wonder how it's heated. Maybe magic of some kind. Your own home had a wood-fired water heater.
  277. >You can't quite figure out the towels, so you drip dry a bit.
  278.  
  279. >Looking around the bathroom, you think the Cakes must actually do pretty well. Just the shower is amazing.
  280. >Looking in the mirror over the sink, you see that your mane is a mess. In the sink are a toothbrush and a brush, you guess for you.
  281. >They are each attached to a wristband like contraption. It is easy enough to get a hoof into the ring. You start with your teeth.
  282. >Standing on three legs is a bit tricky at first, but you get used to it and brush your teeth with some kind of minty paste in a dispenser.
  283. >You bend your head down to rinse in the sink.
  284. >You do the same with the brush, managing to get your mane more or less presentable. You can't quite manage to reach your tail, but it isn't in terrible shape.
  285. >Maybe Rarity would have some tips.
  286. >Anyway, you are presentable enough, you guess.
  287. >You head downstairs. This time, you aren't frightened by facing downward, and while you take the stairs gingerly, it isn't that much of an effort.
  288. >Applejack, Twilight, Spike and Pinkie wait for you at the table you were at yesterday. You exchange good mornings.
  289. >"You might want this," says Pinkie, pushing a pouch bulging with bits across the counter.
  290. >You are glad ponies are so honest. Most ponies, anyway. You still can't believe you were so out of it you left a bunch of money downstairs yesterday.
  291. >"There's 193 bits in there," says Pinkie.
  292. "Wow!"
  293. >That's as much as money as you've seen at once since you were here, not that you've often needed actual hard currency.
  294. >Pinkie puts a green ribbon through a loop on the pouch, hangs it around your neck, and ties it in a neat bow in front. "There!"
  295. "Thanks, Pinkie."
  296. >You sit down at the table. It is weighted down with hay, oatmeal, and in your seat, a large but shallow bowl filled with soft cooked eggs and bits of toast.
  297. >"You have to eat them all," says Pinkie.
  298.  
  299. >You notice some silverware at the table, and try to pick up a fork with your magic.
  300. >Twilight interrupts, and says: "Please save your magic for later. We have another lesson later, and we don't want to tire you out beforehand."
  301. "Okay. So how do I eat this?"
  302. >Pinkie says "Just put your head down and --"
  303. >Pinkie puts her head down and makes nom nom nom sounds. "You know, like you're a pony!"
  304. >It seems a bit crude, but nobody seems to mind as you put your muzzle right into the eggs and gobble them furiously, spraying bread crumbs and egg fragments a bit.
  305. "Yummy!"
  306. >Applejack says "You have a bit of --" and Twilight's horn flashes briefly. "Never mind," says Applejack.
  307. >You drag over a few hay cakes with your hoof and dispose of them much like you did the eggs, with hay flying everywhere.
  308. >Then, you drag over a bowl full of various pastries, and dispose of it in four or five bites.
  309. >All the while, the other ponies sit just watching you, slightly amazed. Spike's jaw actually drops.
  310. >Twilight appears to be taking notes.
  311. >Then you start on the oranges. At first, you roll one around on the table, confused as to what to do with it.
  312. >Without looking up, Twilight picks up a dozen oranges from the fruit bowl, and they spin as the peel comes off in one solid mass, turns inside out, and flies over to the trash can.
  313. >Then the peeled oranges all drop into the two bowls you already have.
  314. >You repeat the performance, and a dozen oranges meet their demise in a few seconds.
  315. "I'm thirsty."
  316. >Pinkie brings by a large, deep pot full of water. You stick your muzzle in it and rapidly drain it. Slightly embarrassed after the pigout, you finally look up.
  317. >You have been completely obsessed with devouring everything within eating distance for several minutes.
  318. "Wow. Thanks, Pinkie. That was a great breakfast. What are you taking notes on, anyway, Twi?"
  319. >"It's interesting that the transformation seems to have made you ravenously hungry."
  320.  
  321. >"Well, it's good you're fueled up, 'cause we have some work to do," said Applejack.
  322. "So what are we doing?"
  323. >"For now, we're just gonna walk around town. If it seems right, maybe try out a trot. After that, maybe a canter."
  324. >You get up and wait for Applejack, then follow her out of the shop, your first time outside since the transformation.
  325. >The sunlight doesn't bother you, since Sugarcube Corner is always bright and Pinkie's bedroom always has the curtains open.
  326. >Twilight and Spike follow, with Twilight still taking notes.
  327. >"So what are y'all gonna do to teach a pony to trot anyway?" Applejack asks Twilight.
  328. >"Well, I read a book on various equine gaits, and --"
  329. >Applejack interrupts with a guffaw. "She read a book," she says to nobody in particular. "On how to trot."
  330. >"Not just walking and trotting, but ambling, cantering, galloping, loping. . ."
  331. >"Well, well."
  332. >"Also, did you know there are many different kinds of trot? There's the racing trot, extended trot, medium trot, slow trot --"
  333. >"Now, don't y'all go and overwhelm the poor mare with your book learnings. This is a matter of simple horse sense."
  334. >"If it makes you uncomfortable, I could stay away."
  335. >"Ah don't mind if you tag along, just be quiet less'n you have something useful to say."
  336. >You walk behind Applejack as she speeds up the pace a little. So far, so good.
  337. >Ponies wish you good morning as you walk by, saying things like "You were great!" and "You're so pretty now!"
  338. >Again, you're surprised these ponies that hated you the night of the show are suddenly friendly.
  339. >You guess they knew the animosity was all a show, but the turning into a pony part isn't.
  340. >"Okay, now we'll try a trot," says Applejack, herself breaking into a trot.
  341. >You watch what she is doing, and try to imitate it. But you can't figure it out, and on your first try to go faster, you immediately fall over.
  342. >Luckily, it is into soft grass. You lay there a bit, nibbling on the grass.
  343.  
  344. >"Now, missy, we don't have time for that," says Applejack. "Let's try again."
  345. >You get up and, again, try to trot. You're just not sure how to do it again, and while you don't fall over this time, you still aren't getting it.
  346. "How do I trot anyway?"
  347. >"Well, you just, you know, trot."
  348. >Suddenly, Twilight breaks into the discussion.
  349. >"The trot," she says, as if she is reading from a book, "is a diagonal gait."
  350. "What does that mean?"
  351. >"Well, first you take your left front hoof, and your right rear hoof, and move forward on those."
  352. >She does a little hop in place to show you.
  353. >And then, you take your right front hoof and your left rear hoof, and move forward on those."
  354. >She hops again.
  355. >"Like that, but moving forward. Like this."
  356. >She then trots, very slowly, showing you the process.
  357. "Thanks, Twi."
  358. >"Well, give it a try," says Applejack.
  359. >You try this odd hopping, nothing like walking or even crawling as a human. As soon as you're stable, you try moving forward.
  360. >While it seems unnatural at first, your body soon slips into the rhythm. Applejack canters ahead of you and you follow her as she drops back into a trot.
  361. >You eventually reach the gazebo at the center of town, and follow Applejack in circles around it, while a small group of foals in the gazebo watch.
  362. >Applejack speeds up the pace, and you'd guess you top out at somewhere a little over 10 miles per hour. You do this for a good hour, before Applejack stops.
  363. >"And that," she says, "is trotting. We'll do cantering tomorrow. You done good. Now, I gotta see about your house."
  364. >"See you soon," you say to Applejack.
  365. >You are barely winded, and soon recover.
  366. >Spike says "Not bad for your first day."
  367. >"Okay. And now, let's have your first real magic lesson. We can start right here. First, what we did yesterday. Just light up your horn."
  368. >This time, it is easy. Without any effort, your horn lights up, bright even in the late morning sun.
  369. >"Excellent. Now, let's start working on telekinesis."
  370.  
  371. >Twilight has reserved the schoolhouse for your lessons. Spike has disappeared, claiming he promised to help Rarity with some kind of inventory. Figures.
  372. >"Okay, class. We're only going to spend a few minutes on telekinesis. You can practice this on your own later. First, activate your horn."
  373. >Almost reflexively, you turn it on, and an aura of pink magic surrounds it.
  374. >"Now, pick up this chalk."
  375. >You pick up the chalk easily enough. This time, there is no strain.
  376. >"Now, move it to the blackboard and draw a line."
  377. >You float the chalk over, turn it properly, and exert a small amount of pressure, then move it down the chalkboard, making a line.
  378. >"Great! Now, we're going to work on heavier objects. This should be easy. For starters, actually try to look through your horn, like it is an eye."
  379. >This sounds difficult, but you are surprised that you are able to do it just like that. You see a strange overlay on your normal vision, thin and wispy and white like a glowing spiderweb in some places.
  380. >The tendrils branch out from larger pockets of glowing energy, in rippling, pastel colors, like a network of roots from a tree.
  381. >The tendrils move in a sort of rhythm, as if they were suspended in some sort of liquid that flows back and forth.
  382. >You are looking at the stuff of magic itself! The field from your horn is also brighter, and in addition to its visible component, extends tendrils that flow toward the larger concentrations of energy.
  383. >Twilight is pleased that you can see it.
  384. >"Okay, now, pull like you were pulling a physical object. Not that very large pocket of energy, those can burn you if you aren't protected, but one of the bigger ones. That."
  385. >Twilight points with her magical energy toward one of the larger veins of energy, which glows a light pink.
  386. >"The ones closest to your own kinds of energy are the best."
  387. >Twilight shifts her horn through multiple colors.
  388.  
  389. >"As you get more experienced, you will be able to utilize more colors more easily, but for now, stick to your natural magic."
  390. >You extend your grasp toward the pink mana, and gasp suddenly as you feel yourself fill with energy, fuller than you have been up until now.
  391. >It feels warm and electric.
  392. >"Now, mold that energy into two halves, and grasp this table at both ends. Lift it like you were lifting anything else."
  393. >You are surprised she's suggesting this. The table is something you could never lift without help even in your human form.
  394. >Despite this, you do as she says and are surprised to see the table lift up a foot from the ground, nearly without effort.
  395. >However, very soon, you start to feel more strain.
  396. >"That's very good. Now, at the same time, maintain your link to the energy, and let it flow through you."
  397. >You reestablish the connection to the pink energy, and suddenly, the table is again floating effortlessly.
  398. >It is a strange feeling. You once had stitches pulled out, and the string slid through the tiny hole in your skin as it came out.
  399. >This felt sort of like that, ticklish and odd, but unlike stitches, pleasant.
  400. >"You can practice this more by yourself, and I recommend practicing every day. Also, you don't need your horn on to observe magic, just to focus it. I recommend you learn to view magic and pay attention to it at all times."
  401. "Okay."
  402. >"Just be careful. If it seems overly hot, stop. Don't hold anything over someone. If your concentration breaks, it will drop on them. Or you, if it's over you."
  403. >The desk is still suspended in midair.
  404. >"You can put that down now. Gently."
  405. >You very gingerly put down the teacher's desk.
  406. >"Now, you're not just limited to picking an object up and consciously moving it around. Watch this."
  407. >Twilight picks up a piece of chalk and sets it spinning in midair. She then picks up a second and a third and does the same thing, then has them revolve around, as if they were orbiting an invisible planet.
  408.  
  409. >"You can also tell the objects to keep doing something. For instance, even if I leave the room or go do something else, those pieces of chalk will keep doing that. Now you try."
  410. >Again, something that seems tricky turns out actually to be as easy as willing it.
  411. >"Good. Some unicorns find that difficult at first. Practice that at home. Also, in the way you can divide your power in two to lift something, you can lift multiple objects. Start with just three or four, and work your way up."
  412. >You have seen Twilight manipulate over twenty objects at the same time while only half paying attention and even talking to other ponies.
  413. >While you doubt you can do that, you're looking forward to practicing.
  414. >It's funny to think that what for a born unicorn would be a boring school assignment is, for you, a kind of miracle.
  415. >"Now for something a bit more difficult. Hold still, this will sting a bit." You see a large needle approaching you.
  416. "Wait, what are you doing now?"
  417. >"Just a little prick. Then you'll heal it."
  418. >You closed your eyes. You hate needles, which is ironic considering how many IV pharmaceuticals you've helped design.
  419. >You feel a brief, sharp pain just over your left front knee and open your eyes again. A small drop of blood forms at the site.
  420. >"Okay, now, look at it and feel where the pain is, and just wish it better. It's that simple."
  421. >It is, in fact, that simple. The tiny wound instantly vanishes, leaving a drop of blood behind.
  422. >"And now, look at the blood, and wish it away, too."
  423. >You stare at the droplet, and it rapidly dries, turns to powder, and vanishes in a puff of magic.
  424. >"Next, the protective shield. This is easy, too. Form your magic, but instead of into a hand, just make it a flat rectangle. A wall. Between the two of us."
  425. >You soon create a pink, transparent wall of magic.
  426. >Twilight crumples a piece of paper and throws it at the wall. The wall stops it, and it falls to the ground.
  427.  
  428. >"Now, the spells I've shown you up to this point are called cantrips. These are minor spells that are as simple as willing them. Most unicorns can do these almost instinctively."
  429. >You are still impressed at how much can be done with even these.
  430. >"However, don't underestimate them. With enough power behind them, they can be quite destructive or even fatal. To you or to others."
  431. >Twilight moves everything she has used to demonstrate the lesson back to where it was before she started, and erases the blackboard.
  432. >"Follow me. We should do this last bit outside."
  433. >The two of you walk outside, and Twilight trots off toward the woods. You follow.
  434. >Eventually, you come to a tree that has apparently been struck by lightning. The tree is still alive, but has many dead, dry branches.
  435. >Twilight motions for you to move back from it.
  436. >"Attack magic."
  437. >She concentrates her power briefly, and directs it at one of the lower branches. A ball of light shoots toward the branch, hitting it and snapping it instantly. It falls with a crash.
  438. >"Now, you try it. Gather energy first, then direct it at that dead branch."
  439. >You pull at a thick vein of pink magic, collecting it at the tip of your horn, and then release it all at once toward the branch, which immediately breaks off and falls.
  440. >Twilight forms a pair of pruning shears with her magic and makes a clean cut along the trunk, removing the rest of the dead branches.
  441. >"Another thing, you can shape magic into any shape you want, even machines. But you have to understand them."
  442. "What kind of machines?"
  443. >"I know a unicorn watchmaker who makes prototypes out of magic, then builds them out of actual metal if they work. But even I couldn't do that. At least not without years of study."
  444. >You suddenly feel tired and hungry.
  445. >"Another thing you might have noticed is that using magic builds up an appetite. Let's go get some hayburgers."
  446. "Sounds great. Then I have to check out my home. They should be finishing up there."
  447.  
  448. >After about a half dozen hayburgers each, you head home.
  449. >You're feeling a bit woozy from all the magic, but good, like you just had a workout.
  450. >As you're passing by the Carousel Boutique, Rarity suddenly runs out to intercept you.
  451. >"Darling, you simply must allow me to take your measurements! You shan't leave Ponyville without proper attire."
  452. >Seeing no immediate means of escape, you consent. If you were going to be in Trixie's show, you'd certainly need some kind of outfit, anyway.
  453. "Well, thank you, Rarity. I do need something for the stage. It has to fit in with Trixie's general theme, but, you know. . ."
  454. >Rarity sniffs the air at the mention of Trixie.
  455. >"But less garish? Less tacky?"
  456. "Well, less likely to upstage Trixie, too."
  457. >While talking, Rarity levitates a number of tape rulers, measuring your neck, around your barrel, hoof to hip, withers to tailbone, or at least that's what it looks like to you.
  458. >"What lovely measurements. I have some ideas that will look utterly adorable. Capes!"
  459. >She starts choosing fabrics, a number of shades of green ranging from nearly white to forest green, and pinks as well, again ranging from nearly white to nearly red.
  460. >"The capes and linings will be interchangeable, so you can mix and match! Oh, and also, I'll put in some secret pockets. You never know when they might come in handy."
  461. "I have to pay you something for this."
  462. >"You certainly shall not."
  463. "I should at least cover your materials costs."
  464. >"I won't hear another word of it. Now, come back before you leave. Or I'll bring them to your house if I get the chance."
  465. "Thanks a bunch! I'm sure they'll be marvelous."
  466. >You head back to your house, to see Applejack and Big Mac and the others clearing it of various construction materials.
  467. >"It's all yours, sugarcube!"
  468. >You thank the Apple family again.
  469. >You're surprised how quickly they ponified your home. With your magic, you anticipate no trouble.
  470. >But now, you are just glad to sleep in your own bed.
  471.  
  472. >The next days pass rapidly.
  473. >You're a quick study with magic, and most of your current lessons are just practice, lifting heavier objects and more of them at the same time.
  474. >The next step is actual wizardry, but that requires reading and writing in the runic language of the unicorns. That will take months to learn, and only after that will you be able to study the theories.
  475. >You have lots of time, though.
  476. >Magic is easy. The bane of your life, though, is cantering.
  477. >Applejack and Twilight have both explained it endlessly, it's a three beat gait with a brief period of no hooves on the ground, repeated.
  478. >In speed between the trot and the gallop, it's a nice way to travel, you are told.
  479. >You've read descriptions, watched it done, and still either fall over or freeze up any time you try to do it.
  480. >Twilight even showed it to you in slow motion on a film projector.
  481. >Hind leg, other hind leg, opposite foreleg, UP, other foreleg, up in the air, repeat.
  482. >Even horses on Earth can do this and they can't even talk or do magic.
  483. >Twilight has another idea. She tells you to relax and just pay attention.
  484. >She grabs your body and picks you up and moves you over to the starting line on the track.
  485. >It still kind of bugs you when unicorns, or this alicorn, just picks you up and moves you around.
  486. >She does this to her friends all the time, especially Rainbow Dash when she is being rambunctious and annoying, which come to think of it is a lot of the time.
  487. >You decide to let it slide. This is for your own good after all.
  488. >She picks you up so only your right hind leg is on the ground, then brings your other hind leg down and the diagonally opposite forehoof.
  489. >Then, she brings up your right hind leg, down goes your left forehoof, up go the other two legs, now, you are supported only by your left forehoof and magic.
  490. >Now, you are in midair!
  491. >Your legs canter in a left-turning circle around the gazebo, faster and faster.
  492. >"Now, on your own."
  493.  
  494. >You start out at a walk and quickly slip into a trot, and then try to move into the canter, again.
  495. >You almost freeze, and stumble a bit entering it, but remembering the motions of your legs in the previous exercise, you slowly stabilize and slip into the rhythm.
  496. >Now, it quickly seems almost natural. Well, more than almost, since it is actually a natural gait for your species.
  497. >The transition into galloping is a snap after cantering.
  498. >This is the last item on the pony syllabus Twilight set for you, other than some magic.
  499. >That has also gone smoothly, and mostly consisted of combining earlier cantrips into more complex spells, like lighting candles or boiling water.
  500. >You realize you don't even need a real mortar and pestle or Bunsen burner, as you can simply create them out of thin air and maintain their existence as long as needed.
  501. >With a bit of practice, you can even generate custom Erlenmeyer flasks, boilers, retorts, graduated cylinders and any other piece of glassware you haven't had since Earth.
  502. >Twilight declares you've graduated her crash course in magic. The rest is just practice.
  503. >However, she also brings by a large stack of books, complete with a syllabus. These include basic books in unicorn glyphs and script, as well as more basic works in common Equestrian.
  504. >Then she launches into one of her Twilight lectures.
  505. >"Now, this Trixie is going to try to get you to take shortcuts and do things quick and dirty. But promise me you'll concentrate on fundamentals. Magic isn't a toy or for amusement."
  506. "I promise."
  507. >Twilight looks skeptical.
  508. "I PINKIE promise."
  509. >Mollified, she continues. "Now, I really recommend Introduction to Advanced Magic. It's basic, but I think you will find my marginal notes helpful. This is what I used in Princess Celestia's school myself!"
  510. >She even includes a lengthy list of books and where they are in what libraries in what cities all over Equestria.
  511. "Well, thanks, Twi. If I read half of these I'll be well read."
  512.  
  513. >Next stop, Rarity's.
  514. >It turns out she's outdone herself yet again.
  515. >The cape and wizard hat outfits are the centerpiece.
  516. >"Now, there's nothing flashy or gaudy about these, unlike a certain other unicorn's clothes," Rarity sniffed.
  517. >"But both the capes and linings are reversible, and with six of each, that's a total of 144 combinations just of capes and linings!"
  518. >You should have no shortage of outfits. Green, pink, black, white, and a couple paisley patterns were the basic set, and presumably, the reverse sides were also good.
  519. >"That's not all, though. Look at these clasps!"
  520. >Each clasp had gems on each side and a much larger gem between them.
  521. >"The two pinks are sapphire and tourmaline, the greens are emerald and alexandrite. The others are a diamond and a black opal."
  522. "You have to let me pay you something for these."
  523. >"I wouldn't hear of it, darling. Anyway, with the 144 combinations of cape and lining, and the six clasps, that makes, well, rather a lot."
  524. "864," you say.
  525. >"And that is still not all. Each of the capes and linings also has secret pockets in it. Look at this!"
  526. >Rarity places a large red gem in one of the pockets. "Now feel it."
  527. >You feel it with a hoof, as if you are frisking someone, and don't feel anything.
  528. >"Now open it."
  529. >You open the pocket and it is empty, or appears to be.
  530. >"But open it this way," and with a flash of her horn it opens again, "and abracadabra!"
  531. >The gem is now visible again. This may come in handy.
  532. >"Now, the fabric is also enchanted against rain. But all this is still magic clean only."
  533. >In addition to the capes, there is also a thick grey winter coat sort of like a pony-shaped peacoat, a set of horse boots like a leather version of Celestia's, scarves, cornuthaums and other hats, and sundries.
  534. >"And if anyone asks you where you got them, direct them to Rarity's Carousel Boutique in Ponyville."
  535. "Thanks, Rarity. I'm sure they will."
  536. >You go home to begin packing.
  537.  
  538. >It's another beautiful morning.
  539. >Tomorrow, you leave for Baltimare, so today, you finish packing and tidy up your affairs.
  540. >You mix up a big supply of all your regular remedies and leave a box for payment inside, and a sign explaining when you come back and that Zecora is still available.
  541. >Just Twilight's books fill up a huge steamer trunk, the clothes from Rarity numerous clothes bags and the rest, another few boxes.
  542. >You suppose for a year this is packing light, but you hope you'll have room for all this wherever you'll be sleeping.
  543. >It is a bit of a strain, but you are able to pick it all up and carry it.
  544. >So now it is off to Sugarcube Corner for a final feast.
  545. "Hi Pinkie. The usual."
  546. >"So you mean you want one of everything and two or three of some others?"
  547. "Pretty much. Oh, also, get me about five of every pie you have."
  548. >You assume Trixie's people sell these and probably eat some themselves. It's also something to do with that nice fat pouch of bits.
  549. >"Okey dokey lokey!"
  550. >You levitate a series of cream puffs into your mouth, munching on them briefly.
  551. >Pony metabolism is odd. Pinkie can eat enormous amounts without any apparent effect.
  552. >Magic use also appears to burn a lot of calories, so as long as you keep up practice, you should get away with it, too.
  553. >It is yet another benefit of transformation.
  554. >"I suppose I'll bring the pies when I meet you at the train station to say goodbye."
  555. >Pinkie looks sad for a moment.
  556. "Thanks. Don't be blue, Pinkie. I'll be back. I Pinkie promise. With lots of stories and fun things!"
  557. >"I'll write you letters!"
  558. "Put in a cupcake or two.
  559. >"Or three or four! Or five or six or seven or --"
  560. "I get the idea, Pinkie. I'll write too."
  561. >You go home and spend a mostly sleepless night, finally giving up and getting up around dawn and double-checking that you haven't forgotten anything.
  562. >Levitating the luggage, you walk to the train station, savoring Ponyville's beauty for the last time, for a while at least.
  563.  
  564. >Everyone is there to wish you well. Twilight, Spike, Dashie, Rarity, Pinkie Pie and pies, Applejack and even Fluttershy and Zecora.
  565. >You wear your grey pea-coat, pouch of bits around your neck, and saddlebags full of light reading.
  566. "Don't look so somber, everyone. I'll be back before you know it. Trixie and I will probably swing by here again before the year is out, with how well it went last time."
  567. >The ponies look aggrieved at the mention of Trixie's name.
  568. >Twilight glares.
  569. >"Don't let that terrible pony mess up your --"
  570. "I have your books and your syllabus. How can she mess up my education?"
  571. >"I know, I know. I'm sorry. I just. . ."
  572. >You just really hate Trixie, you think.
  573. >"I just really want to see you succeed."
  574. >"You can do your job with patience, as I will take care of your patients," says Zecora. You haven't seen her rhyme a homonym before.
  575. >The other ponies all hug you, Pinkie nearly in tears. You kiss Pinkie and boop her on the nose.
  576. "Silly pony."
  577. >Then you are on your way. Luckily, the brightly colored train has a bar and you calm your nerves with a series of overpriced hard ciders.
  578. >You fall into a nap while watching the scenery go by, and only wake up as the train pulls into the station at Baltimare.
  579. >As you disembark, a familiar blue unicorn trots up, smiling broadly.
  580. >"So how is the cute and adorable Anon?" she asks.
  581. "Couldn't be better. Trip was great. And you?"
  582. >"Excellent! We have a lot of ground to cover in the next couple months."
  583. >As the porter unloads the last of your luggage, you pick it up to carry it.
  584. >"Allow me," says Trixie. The luggage suddenly vanishes in a blue flash.
  585. >And before you can react, so do you and Trixie.
  586. >You find yourself next to Trixie, surrounded by your luggage, in a sort of large covered wagon, covered in cloth of Trixie's colors.
  587. >However, it is decorated more like a dressing room. "This is yours," says Trixie.
  588. "Hey, you're not calling yourself Trixie."
  589. >"That's for the rubes," she says.
  590.  
  591. >Trixie leaves you to unpack, as the caravan departs for Fillydelphia tonight.
  592. >This makes it a literal "fly by night" operation, though at least it wasn't ahead of angry townspeople or the police.
  593. >It's actually pretty nice for a stagecoach, with a wardrobe, mirror, even a small magic-powered stove and lights.
  594. >You unpack your most important items quickly and head up to the front of the caravan to see what's going on.
  595. >You bring a few pies, apple, peach, cherry.
  596. >The only two ponies you recognize are Trixie herself and Vinyl.
  597. >There are also a few donkeys in a circle of their own.
  598. >You assume they'll be pulling the wagons, because of their gear.
  599. >Trixie gestures you over with a floating arrow in the air.
  600. >"Hey babe," says Vinyl, pausing to drag on a joint.
  601. >There are three other unicorns, none of whom you recognize.
  602. >One is a tall black unicorn with white dots on his coat, and a deep purple mane and eyes, introduced to you as Domino, with a cutie mark of a domino with 12 pips.
  603. >The other two, introduced as brothers, are named Big Slick and Jacks, with an ace-and-king of horseshoes and a pair of red jacks as cutie marks.
  604. >Big Slick has a light brown coat and a black mane. Jacks looks about the same but with a red mane. Otherwise, they're nearly identical, with sleepy hazel eyes.
  605. >Trixie sits in front of what, to you, looks like an enormous pile of bits in numerous denominations.
  606. >She is casually doling out bits by the dozens into a number of leather pouches, then handing them off to the others, not seeming to count them.
  607. >"Now, as usual, don't be misers with this! I want to see this spread all around town when we hit Fillydelphia."
  608. >Then, she pulls a smaller pouch from under the table, and fills it as well. "Call it a signing bonus."
  609. >And it levitates to your neck, joining the other.
  610. >You put the pies on the table, prompting sudden interest.
  611. >"Oh, wow, you brought pies. You're completely awesome," says Vinyl.
  612.  
  613. "So what do you mean by spread it around, Trixie?"
  614. >"Spend it on local things. Local business used to hate my shows because we'd come through and kill their business for a couple days. So now we make sure they get some action, too."
  615. "So that's why you bought all those pies?"
  616. >"That and we can sell them in the next town by the slice."
  617. >You don't feel like telling Trixie the Cakes still don't seem too fond of her.
  618. >On the other hand, even Ponyville isn't driving her out of town on a rail any more either.
  619. >Jacks passes the joint to you and you hesitate for a second, wondering what effect this will have on you as a pony.
  620. >But hell, you aren't doing anything else tonight anyway. Vinyl holds it in front of you and you take a drag, immediately lapsing into a coughing fit.
  621. >"Care for some tea?" asks Vinyl. "It's Russian Caravan. Seems appropriate somehow."
  622. >You nod your assent, and she fills a small cup, leaving the pot near you.
  623. "So how come you have French haute couture and a Russian tea blend here, when you don't even have a France or a Russia?"
  624. >"Well, babe, you see, the barriers between the dimensions are what you might call semi-permeable in your line of work. Things slip through sometimes."
  625. "Like what?"
  626. >"Like artifacts, sometimes a book or two, and sometimes something really cool, like you."
  627. "So how did you know I was from Earth the first time I met you?"
  628. >"You might have noticed I have a few things from Earth. Recognize my turntable from anywhere?"
  629. "And you were playing metal at that show. And your other music sounds Earth-influenced."
  630. >"Let's just say when I was in magic college, before they threw me out, I found out that hallucinogens and teleportation mix in odd ways."
  631. "What kind of hallucinogens are there here, anyway?"
  632. >"That first time, I used a preparation of denatured Poison Joke and --"
  633. "You took Poison Joke for fun?"
  634. >"Yeah, pretty hardcore, right? Bad idea, never do that, but bada bing bada boom suddenly I'm picking up Earth radio."
  635.  
  636. "So, this seepage goes both ways?"
  637. >You tell Vinyl about the Celestia amulet you got back on Earth that apparently got you here.
  638. >"Maybe Celestia herself actually sent it."
  639. >That makes a certain amount of sense.
  640. >For a while, everyone simply sits eating pies, passing over a number of slices to the donkeys, before Trixie interrupts.
  641. >"Okay, new arrival. Let's see what you have in the magic department."
  642. "What do you mean?"
  643. >"We all do show magic here. Don't look surprised. Do you think I do all that just by myself? Some of it's also actual fireworks."
  644. >Trixie powers up, and gathers a ball of red energy at the tip of her horn for several seconds, then releases it into the air, where it explodes with an audible bang, sending down streamers in a dome of fiery color.
  645. >You try to do the same, and more or less manage it, although there is no sound.
  646. >"You have to do the sound, too. Create that up at the burst so it has a slight delay on it," says Vinyl.
  647. >You quickly do it again, this time with a bang. Apparently, it's easier to create the illusion of an explosion than an actual explosion, as it causes no strain.
  648. >"Good," says Trixie. "Very good for a foal at magic. I knew I did a good job on you. But now, another thing. Can you do invisibility?"
  649. >You haven't actually tried, but taking a large coin from your pouch, apparently a 50 bit denomination you've never seen before, you make it disappear in midair, then reappear.
  650. >"Now, apply that to the glow from your horn itself, and try the sky burst again."
  651. >Easily enough, you repeat the feat, but with no visible glow from your horn.
  652. >As the joint passes around the table, the six of you practice, with you imitating some of what the others are doing, improvising, until the sun is entirely down.
  653. >Anyone within a mile or so got a free show.
  654. >Now, though, everyone goes back to their own wagon and the caravan gets underway.
  655. >Too stoned to do much reading, you fall into a dreamless sleep.
  656. >Fillydelphia awaits.
  657.  
  658. >The caravan is still moving when you wake up sometime shortly before dawn.
  659. >You uncover a firefly lamp and make a quick breakfast of a couple cupcakes while heating water for tea, not bothering with the stove but just boiling it in mid-air and dropping it in your cup.
  660. >Practice is always good, and you might as well do everything with magic that you can.
  661. >Avoiding the cold spring morning air as much as possible, you part the curtains in front just enough to stick your head out while lying in the relative warmth of the covered wagon.
  662. >It again surprises you how strong Equestrian donkeys are, as just two of them have apparently been hauling this rather large coach all night without any apparent strain.
  663. >You are awake and still peering out as the sun comes up just in time for the arrival in Fillydelphia. First, you pass through farms and outlying villages, and then the taller buildings come into view.
  664. >The caravan stops in a large fairgrounds that looks like it was last used as a racetrack, since its chalked outlines still remain.
  665. >Trixie's show will stay in Fillydelphia for a week before moving on to Hollow Shades, Manehattan, then Canterlot itself, before swinging through the south, Ponyville, Las Pegasus, and on.
  666. >She even plans to take the show to the Griffon and Dragon Kingdoms, if the proper diplomatic safe passages could be arranged.
  667. >After all, despite the treaties protecting ponies in Equestria from predation by griffons and dragons, you are still apparently considered a delicacy by certain members of these species.
  668. >The first day is spent setting up, and the first show is a free show, basically a dry run for the rest.
  669. >Naturally, concessions aren't free.
  670. >You help as best you can, although you aren't quite into the routine yet. The others have it down to a science and with well-placed magic and donkey muscle, the stage and backstage go together in about two hours.
  671. >You decide to check out town.
  672.  
  673. >With a few hours to spare, you go into town to look through bookstores and libraries for things on Twilight's syllabus, having the store ship it to Twilight's library for safekeeping until you come back.
  674. >Tonight's free show is a relative success, even if it is little more than some improvised fireworks and stage magic, with Vinyl choreographing the fireworks.
  675. >The day flies, and after the show, you make your excuses and go back to your wagon. You still need more sleep than usual, even over a week later.
  676. >Things are pretty quiet, so you have little difficulty getting right to sleep after an hour or so with the latest Daring Do.
  677. >Later at night, though, you wake to the sound of footsteps outside your wagon.
  678. >They're not like the donkeys, who usually tromp around loudly, nor are they like the other ponies.
  679. >In fact, if it weren't unusually quiet, you might not have heard them at all.
  680. >You are startled when rather than the gentle anapestic clopping of hooves, the footsteps are the shuffling of a biped trying to be sneaky.
  681. >There is nothing bipedal in your caravan. Now thoroughly alarmed, you activate your horn for light and go out to confront what you assume is some sort of bandit.
  682. >You confront a hooded figure with a flash of light to startle it.
  683. >The figure crouches down and cowers, saying "I'm sorry, I'm sorry!"
  684. "What the hell are you doing out here? Show your face."
  685. >"I'm sorry."
  686. "Now!"
  687. >The figure pulls down the hood, revealing the head of a bird of prey. Looking down, you see cat feet. A griffon!
  688. >"I can explain! I just -- I heard about -- you know, you -- that show in Ponyville."
  689. Somehow, you can sense this creature is, at worst, harmless.
  690. "Calm down. Breathe in, breathe out. Just tell me what your business is here."
  691. >"Business?"
  692. "What do you want?"
  693. >"I heard Trixie could -- I was wondering, you know. . ."
  694. "I know what?"
  695. >The griffon hung his head as if in shame, embarrassed.
  696. "Come on, spit it out."
  697. >"Could you turn me into a pony? Please?"
  698.  
  699. "But why in Equestria would you want to be a pony?"
  700. >As soon as the words leave your lips, you're amazed you said something that idiotic.
  701. >After all, you not only wanted to be a pony, but actually turned into one.
  702. >The griffon cringes, looking forlorn.
  703. "What's your name, anyway?"
  704. >The griffon mumbles something inaudibly.
  705. >Just your luck to run into the Fluttershy of griffonkind.
  706. "You'll have to speak up just a little bit."
  707. >In a voice soft enough that it would be drowned out by the flapping wings of a butterfly, the griffon speaks.
  708. >"My name is --"
  709. "Go on, spit it out."
  710. >"Blood Talon, and. . ."
  711. >You try to control yourself, but you first snort, then explode into snickering and what you guess is a horse laugh.
  712. >"And I was about to ask you please, if you don't mind, don't laugh at it."
  713. >The griffon looks like he is going to start crying.
  714. >You compose yourself.
  715. "I'm sorry, but. . ."
  716. >"But it doesn't fit me. I know. Blame my parents. It's only fair. They blame me for not being what they wanted."
  717. "I didn't mean to laugh at you."
  718. >"But you just couldn't help it, could you? I guess I'll be going. I'm sorry for wasting your time."
  719. >The griffon turns to walk away.
  720. "Wait! I didn't say it couldn't be done! I may just not be the pony to do it."
  721. >"But. . .but didn't you turn into a pony yourself?"
  722. "Well, I lost a duel and I was kind of turned into a pony, you know, by Trixie."
  723. >"Wasn't that whole thing staged?"
  724. >Was it really that obvious? You're glad you really went out of your way to insult Trixie, who would otherwise have seen through your transparent ruse.
  725. "Yes, kind of. But Trixie didn't know that."
  726. >"What's it like, being a pony? I mean, turning into one."
  727. "Painful. It really hurt a lot."
  728. >Blood Talon, if that really is his name, cringes.
  729. >Not wanting to discourage him, you elucidate.
  730. "It doesn't have to, I think. Trixie just kind of wanted revenge."
  731. >"Anyway, my friends call me Tal."
  732. "Well, pleased to meet you, Tal."
  733.  
  734. >At this exact moment, as if delayed, the donkeys start shouting "INTRUDER!" and cowbells strung on twine start ringing, a crude klaxon.
  735. >Tal dives at your hooves, as if trying to hide under you, a futile effort for one six feet tall when you are at most three feet in height.
  736. >"I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"
  737. >"Who dares to disturb the sleep of the Great and Powerful Trixie?"
  738. >Vinyl stumbles out of her wagon without her signature glasses.
  739. >"Like, what the fuck, man?"
  740. >"I'm sorry, I'm sorry!"
  741. >The griffon hugs your knees, toppling you to the ground.
  742. >"How dare you attack Trixie's friend Anon?"
  743. "Calm down, Trix. It's okay."
  744. >"What do you mean? This vandal, this ruffian, dares to create a disruption in the camp of the Entirely Able to Defend Herself Trixie?"
  745. >"I'm sorry!"
  746. >"Trixie should turn you into a newt!"
  747. "Trixie, this is Blood -- this is Tal."
  748. >"And what does this brigand want with Trixie?"
  749. >Tal mumbles inaudibly.
  750. >"Speak up, thou base varlet, or face thy doom!"
  751. "Seriously chill, Trix. No need to get all medieval."
  752. >Are you actually talking like this? Decades as a research chemist, speaking mostly in footnotes, and a couple joints turn you into an extra from a stoner flick? You blame Vinyl for the moment.
  753. "This is the most harmless griffon imaginable."
  754. >"I promise I'm harmless. Don't hurt me, please."
  755. >The cowering griffon certainly looks harmless.
  756. >"And in any event, what sort of griffon are you?"
  757. >"The sort who really wants to be a pony? If you can do that? If you don't mind? If that would be okay? Please?"
  758. >Vinyl speaks up.
  759. >"But, like, suppose this is actually some kind of, you know, villain or something who wants to look like a pony just to be violent and shit."
  760. >You just gesture with a hoof at Tal trying to hide behind you.
  761. "Seriously?"
  762. >"Yeah, my bad. Still, I totally gotta crash. Again. Can you guys keep the noise down?"
  763. >"I'm good at being quiet," says Tal.
  764. >Trixie looks thoughtful. Her face says "show me the money."
  765.  
  766. >But how to make money on this? Last time, it was good show business, and this time, at least it isn't a human.
  767. >If anything, griffons are even more monsters than humans are.
  768. >After all, they even ate ponies, once, before the peace treaties, just like dragons did.
  769. >Of course, this particular specimen is not all that impressive.
  770. >"C-can you do it?" asks Tal.
  771. >"Does the Great and Powerful Trixie look incapable?"
  772. >"I wasn't saying -- I didn't mean -- I'm sorry."
  773. >"Do you ever say anything that doesn't end with I'm sorry?"
  774. >"I'm --"
  775. "Cut him some slack, Trixie."
  776. >"The answer to your question is yes, the Great and Powerful Trixie can do what you wish. The Great and Powerful Trixie can do anything!"
  777. >"Then, would it be okay if --"
  778. >"The question is what can you do for the Great and Powerful Trixie?"
  779. >"Well, I'm rather good at sewing," says Tal.
  780. >"Sewing?" says Trixie.
  781. >"And stage design. I even once worked on the Manehattan production of 'Hinny of the Hills.'"
  782. >Trixie grumbles, but with a yawn, appears appeased enough to go back to sleep.
  783. >"Trixie supposes she can find some sort of use for a griffon."
  784. >Tal looks relieved.
  785. >"But watch your step, buster!"
  786. >The situation defused, you decide it's time to go to sleep yourself, but realize there is nowhere for Tal.
  787. "I guess you can sleep in my wagon until we figure something out."
  788. >Trixie is walking off, when Tal suddenly looks startled.
  789. >"Great and Powerful --"
  790. >"What is it?"
  791. >"Look up," whispers Tal.
  792. >You see a tall, dark figure ahead, casting a shadow in the light of several torches.
  793. >A group of other figures slowly approach.
  794. >A canine face comes into view, atop a large, vicious looking brute, flanked by two similar creatures almost as large.
  795. >Diamond Dogs!
  796. >"Well, my pretty little ponies," says the Diamond Dog. "We have a little problem, don't we?"
  797. >"Yes, we do, boss," says the one on the right.
  798.  
  799. >"You have a lot of bits and nice, pretty gems. We have clubs. That means you have our money, yes?"
  800. >The Diamond Dogs dramatically thump their palms with big wooden clubs.
  801. >"Does the Great and Powerful Trixie look like she gives her money to a bunch of stupid, ugly mongrels?"
  802. >Trixie's horn suddenly lights up and shoots three red fireballs into the sky, each with an enormous boom.
  803. >Vinyl pokes her head out. "I'm sleeping in here! Oh, shit."
  804. >Tal tries to run away, running headfirst into another Diamond Dog, who grabs at him.
  805. >He flees into your wagon.
  806. >"Cry havoc and let slip the ponies of war, as these foul dogs stink up the earth!"
  807. >The dogs charge in from all directions and chaos ensues.
  808. >Trixie continues shouting theatrically while throwing balls of flame at them.
  809. >You guess it's time to try out that attack magic Twilight showed you. You collect power in your horn as the second largest of the brutes charges at you.
  810. >Just as you can see the yellows of its eyes, you release the power, blasting it. The dog flies backwards into the dog behind it, then they both roll backwards in a ball until crashing with a dull thud into a tree.
  811. >Suddenly you feel a pair of rough, leather gloved hands grab your hindquarters. You try to buck, but can't.
  812. >The dog swings you around and hurls you through the air.
  813. >Unable to control your flight, you create a pillow shaped mass of force around where you are about to land, somewhat cushioning the fall.
  814. >Rising to your feet, you find yourself surrounded by Diamond Dogs on every side.
  815. >The largest of them bends down, towering over you, to look you in the eyes.
  816. >Raring back on your hind legs, you poke him in the forehead with your horn.
  817. >He shouts angrily and pulls back, but then brings down an iron band in both hands on your horn, snapping the ring shut.
  818. >He picks you up, while you struggle and try to buck at him.
  819. >Trixie glares angrily at the Diamond Dogs.
  820. >"Such a pretty pony. Shame if something happened to her, yes?"
  821.  
  822. >You squirm helplessly in the grip of the Diamond Dog leader, unable to get a shot at him or use magic, because of the cold iron ring on your horn.
  823. >Just now, the eight donkeys arrive at a dead gallop. The two lead donkeys charge, heads down, directly at the Diamond Dog leader, knocking him senseless.
  824. >You hit the ground again, this time without cushioning, but quickly twist and run between the legs of another Dog to rejoin Trixie.
  825. >The other donkeys hit Dogs, knocking them sprawling, and turn to buck at them as they try to get up.
  826. >The Dog leader is still lying, gasping, trying to regain his breath.
  827. >Suddenly, Vinyl reappears, rolling a small cart with a number of speakers on it.
  828. >You hear no sound, but suddenly, the Dogs begin howling, holding their grubby hands over their ears.
  829. >"How you like me now, you mangy, flea bitten sons of bitches?"
  830. >The Dogs howl "Make it stop! Make it stop!"
  831. >Tal, who has been cowering behind the flaps of your wagon's cover, reaches out a talon and flips the ring open. It drops harmlessly to the ground, and you levitate it into a hidden pocket.
  832. >You never know when something like that might be useful.
  833. >Vinyl twiddles the volume knob, which you notice is up at 10, up to 11 for a couple seconds, bringing renewed howls from the Dogs, then flips it to 0. You notice it goes up to 12.
  834. >"What's a matter, guys? Don't like music? Breezies love that little ditty."
  835. >The Dogs concede defeat and back away, grumbling.
  836. >"You win for now, my little ponies, but you'll be seeing Diamond Dave the Diamond Dog again!"
  837. >"Not if you know what's good for you," says Trixie, shaking the dust from her cape. "Oh, damn. It's torn."
  838. >The dogs disperse as quickly as they came, leaving you alone.
  839. >"Now, what use is this cowardly griffon to Trixie? He hid the whole time!"
  840. >"I -- I can, you know --"
  841. >"Spit it out! Trixie doesn't have all night!"
  842. >"I can repair that cape for you, if that would be all right."
  843. >"Well, Trixie needs it tomorrow."
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