[MLP:FiM] A Bear in the Hoof is Worth Two Ponies in the Bush (Twi, CMC, R63!Trixie)


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As a new resident of Ponyville, Twilight is still feeling her way around her friendships. The slower-paced life is difficult to adjust to, with nopony she feels comfortable with talking about her Cutie Mark talent of magic with. As Celestia's student, Twilight doesn't want to show off, lest she alienate her friends who would see her as a braggart. As a result, Twilight is beginning to lose her drive to study and learn.

In this ennui of Twilight's early days in Ponyville steps in a nomadic showpony who might just reignite Twilight's passion for magic. Meet the Great and Powerful Tristan!


“My baby!”

Brilliant Light was a normal mare, who knew and was known by most in Ponyville. She was a lifer, born and raised and wed in Ponyville, and likely to die there as well. At times, when she was given to self-reflection, she would admit to herself that her life was a little bit boring, and would resolve to do something to spice it up.

Seeing the stroller she had been toting her newborn filly around in suddenly take off on its own was not the sort of interesting she wanted. With dawning horror, she watched as the stroller picked up speed, making its way down to the bottom of a hill. Already she could see the future in her mind’s eye, where the stroller would curve up slightly as the hill terminated in a cliff, hurtling through the air before splattering over the ground. “Somepony, please help!” She pleaded to the skies above, praying to Celestia, to Cadance, even to the newly-returned Princess Luna. For once she cursed her inborn Earth pony strength, incapable of averting this situation.

Just as it left the cliff face, the stroller turned from white to magenta, and Brilliant Light blinked. The mare, nearly catatonic with hopelessness, found herself staggering forward to get a better view. It took her a few seconds to comprehend that the stroller had stopped moving forward, its velocity halted completely and stuck in mid-air. It took Brilliant Light a few more seconds to realise the reason for the stroller’s change in colour was because it was enveloped in a magical glow, one that was just now setting the stroller to the flatter ground down below. Blinking again through eyes flushed with tears of despair, she observed in a near-detached state the stroller finally touching steady earth again, not even upturning a particle of dust with its smooth landing.

“Is this your filly, miss?”

She looked down across from where the stroller had landed to the source of the voice, and immediately stuttered out a “Y-yes.” Not satisfied with that answer, she quickly galloped across the upper slopes of Ponyville, before turning at a sharp right angle and down the route she had initially intended to walk her daughter along, a dirt trail that dropped at a far gentler angle than that horrendous cliff did.

In what felt like no time at all, buoyed by the epinephrine that coursed through her body, she found herself in front of the stroller again. Picking up her foal from the stroller to squeeze her, reassuring her own self that her own flesh and blood was safe, she finally looked up to her unknown saviour, toting a large wooden carriage. “You saved my filly! Oh, how could I ever repay you?” Brilliant Light asked, the tears beginning to dry up on her fur.

“Bless you,” The stallion responded, a handkerchief floating out of his pocket hovering over and dabbing at her cheeks, soaking up the stray tears. “It was nothing. Any other pony would have done the same thing if he or she had magic. Although,” He paused, hesitant, “Perhaps you could point out wherever Ponyville’s central open air is? Its plaza, centre, square, whatever.”

“Just continue down the road,” Brilliant stated, motioning to the path the stallion had been trotting along before he caught her child. Now that she was up much closer, she had to note he did look rather handsome, though dirt from the road coated him in light sprinkles. Tall without quite approaching the height of some of the farmer ponies around Ponyville, well-defined muscle shone through his blue fur, no doubt an effect of pulling the large wagon he was currently wearing the harness for. A tousle of light blue hair bordering on white was combed back, with a wicked cowlick in front that curled skywards. Brilliant owed him her gratitude; answering such an innocent question was the least she could do. Still, she was curious, “Er, what are you planning on doing there?”

He grinned, showing off his pearly whites. “First, I intend to clean up. Then, the Great and Powerful Tristan will put on a show this town has never seen before, and Tristan would welcome you as his guest!”


Somewhere else in Ponyville, a unicorn was practising her magic with the dragon whelp she considered her foster brother. After he daydreamed a fantasy aloud about the mustache she had temporarily conjured upon his face, she giggled, “Sorry Romeo. As attractive and enticing as you look, it’s just for practice, and it’s gotta go!” Her horn glowing a pale pink, Twilight Sparkle dematerialised the mustache off the dragon Spike’s lip.

“Wait!” Spike cried, feeling for his mustache, only to find it gone. “Aw, rats,” He said, shaking his fist.

“A mustache isn’t going to make it or break it for Rarity, Spike,” Twilight teased him. “But I’m feeling a little hungry now. How about you and I go get something to eat?” She asked. As she saw Spike open his mouth, she headed him off over the question she was ninety percent certain he would ask, “Yes, I’ll bring a few gems along for you to snack on.”

Spike pumped a clenched claw in the air, bouncing with a wild hop down the stairs, “Alright!” He said. Twilight couldn’t help but feel her day enriched by his enthusiasm.

The two made their way outside, the younger whelp sitting astride the older pony as Twilight trotted along, brother and sister exchanging idle banter on Twilight’s magical studies. Twilight closed her eyes for a brief second. Sighing, she felt lazy. Moving to Ponyville was an acceptable change in her pace of life. It was slower than Canterlot, but making new friends who always seemed to get into antics kept her busy nonetheless.

Still, if there was one thing that was missing, it was the feeling of competition. In Canterlot, Twilight was the absolute best of her age class. As Celestia's student, it was only natural, but she kept it that way through intense study, constant practice and no small amount of drop-ins on university-level lectures. Here, the closest she had to anything approaching 'competition' were unicorns specialised in one talent. It took her intense amounts of mental concentration to come close to levitating the amount of objects Rarity seemed to float around unconsciously. She would never be as talented with a musical instrument as Lyra Heartstrings was, and oh boy was that a familiar face she had to stop avoiding some day. But on the level, there simply was no comparison between her and these 'backwater' unicorns, as more than a few of the snobbier types in Canterlot liked to call them.

Twilight shook her head, trying to rid herself of her ennui. She closed her eyes again, intent on basking in the rays beating down on her, not a cloud in the sky to obscure Celestia’s sun.

At least, that was her intent, until she got run over by what felt like the unholy love child of a Yak and a Minotaur on steroids.

“W-what the?” Twilight cried aloud, body stinging from the grass burns she had incurred on sliding across the ground, fumbling with her hooves for land and finding herself wanting. As the world stopped spinning and her vertigo cleared up, she blinked away the tears that were welling up, before looking over to the side. She was unamused.

“Sorry Miss Twilight!”


“We’re really, truly, honestly contrite, Miss Twilight.”

Two fillies looked over at the third, before looking at each other. “There she goes again, using big words,” Said one of the two, an orange pegasus.


The other filly, an Earth pony with fur the colour of hay bales and a mane of deep red giggled, “Mah big sister says Mac is a walkin’ mathermatics book. Maybe Sweetie Belle is a walkin’ dictionary?”


“Hey!” Shouted Sweetie Belle, the trio’s third member, a white-furred unicorn with a dichromatic mane of pink and purple. Her indignation was obvious by the way her face puffed up, triggering a fresh burst of laughter from the other two fillies. “Hey, Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, stop it, please, seriously!” Just as fast, her face lost its puffiness, as she looked about ready to burst into tears.


The three fillies, collectively known as the Cutie Mark Crusaders, hutted to attention. “Wh-what is it, Miss Twilight?” Apple Bloom asked, trembling at the sudden loud noise. That Twilight, just now pulling herself up, had green marks along one side where she had scuffed the grass, didn’t help to calm Apple Bloom down.

Twilight took a deep breath, then exhaled, able to feel her torso decrease in size as her lungs contracted. Taking a brief second to survey her surroundings, relief at seeing Spike also standing, shrugging as he saw her spot him to indicate his being unharmed, she spoke to the three fillies, “Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo, please watch where you’re going next time. You knocked me over! What if it had been somepony on a ladder, or somepony carrying something a lot more fragile than Spike on her back?”

She was satisfied to see her scolding had indeed left the Crusaders ‘contrite’ as Sweetie Belle put it, the three nervously shuffling under her iron stare. Outside of Apple Bloom, who Twilight had met briefly on her first day in Ponyville and assisted her with some Cutie Mark anxiety, Twilight barely knew them. Sweetie Belle she only vaguely knew through association as Rarity’s kid sister, and Scootaloo even less than that. Twilight would have fretted if they had ignored her, not feeling comfortable enough to bring the issue up with Applejack, Rarity and whoever Scootaloo’s guardian figure was.

A sudden thought brought Twilight out of her worrying, and she resolved to use it as a lesson for the three younger ponies. “What was so important anyways that you were running like a flock of goats?”

“It’s amazing, Miss Twilight,” Apple Bloom said in what Twilight thought to be an adorable country twang, “Somepony new came into town, and now he’s puttin’ on a show in the square!”

“A…show?” Twilight asked, her thoughts about teaching them a lesson thrown to the wayside. “You know what, show me.” If this was anything like some of the Sheepspeare plays she had seen as a younger mare, this should be good.

“Come one, come all! Come and witness the magic of the Great and Powerful Tristan!”

One wall of the wagon burst outwards, slamming into the ground as several props unfurled to create a stage, complete with curtain and a large sign showing a wand overlaid a crescent moon. Moving her eyes to the stallion on-stage, Twilight noted the overhead sign appeared to be his Cutie Mark, writ large. She had since cleaned up her grass-stained coat with a quick application of magic, and accompanied the Cutie Mark Crusaders to the town square where this mysterious pony had appeared.

“Watch and be inspired by the spectacular and awe-inspiring feats of the Great and Powerful Tristan, as he performs the greatest magic ever seen by pony eyes!” The stallion who was announcing punctuated his declaration with several miniature fireworks, the exploding cacophony of light and sound eliciting a chorus of delighted gasps from the foals among the audience and even some of the adults.

It wasn’t what Twilight had expected at all coming in to the show, sidling in by her friends Rainbow Dash, Rarity and Applejack, who also had shown up. As Twilight herself had come in with her cohort, the Cutie Mark Crusaders had split apart, each trying to get the attention of one of Twilight’s three friends, though Rainbow Dash paid little attention to Scootaloo. Twilight had expected something like a play, perhaps even a one-pony vaudeville act. Instead, this stallion, Tristan as he referred to himself, was putting on a magic show. Tristan certainly looked the part, with a purple hat and cape that glittered with stitched stars of various shapes, sizes and colours, and a white cravat around his neck. He was being a little redundant in his phrasing too, she noted. Then again, what better way to get his name across than to speak in the third-pony?

Taking a brief bow with one limb crossed over his chest and one splayed out to the side, Tristan, who appeared to have made an art form of standing on his back hooves, waited until the audience applause died down before continuing, “Now, let Tristan show his first magnificent and extraordinary act for the audience!”

“Oh my, what boasting,” Rarity commented, before fluttering her eyes, “Although he does look quite good on the eyes, rather like your brother Applejack.”

“Hooves off mah brother Rarity,” Applejack growled, all while keeping her eyes focused straight forward. The orange-furred apple farmer admitted she found herself a little bit taken by the stallion’s magnetic presence, personality aside, and his sleight of hoof as he made a dozen doves appear from his hat was impressive. However, in the short time she had known Twilight, she knew the Canterlot expat could learn to do the same if not better if she so put her mind to it. “Ah’m surprised you’re here, Twilight. Ah thought you’d be disinterested in this, y’know, knowing real magic an’ all.”

“Yeah, nopony’s as magical as Twilight is!” Spike piped up in praise of his sister. Unknown to him, one blue-furred stallion perked up at the words, even as three of him appeared on stage. Smirking, the three started to juggle multiple variant objects, a bowling pin thrown from the hoof of one stallion caught by the middle Tristan, whom himself had thrown an orange and tennis ball to the left of the three doppelgangers. That final Tristan caught them, in turn returning the objects he had to the first Tristan, the three completing a large, continuous loop. He willed his heartbeat to stay steady as the crowd applauded in mad wonder, letting trained instinct take over. Something like this usually shut up the hecklers.

“But I thought you liked Rumble’s brother, right Rarity? I heard you talk him about the other da-” Sweetie Belle looked up from where she had sat herself in front of her sister, only to have a hoof plugging her mouth up. Rarity had hissed in a way that closely resembled the manners of her pet cat Opal, the image complete by her raised hackles and narrowed pupils. Rarity was quite capable of passing along threats through eyes alone, and Sweetie Belle let the topic drop.

“It’s not just magic, Applejack,” Twilight explained, missing the conversation between the two unicorn sisters to the side. She raised her eyebrows in amazement as the middle Tristan suddenly did a backflip on stage, all while seamlessly catching and passing on the objects he was juggling. “It takes physical talent, hand-eye coordination, acrobatic practice and intense mental training to pull something off like that. It would take me years to approach something like what he’s doing.” Then again, Twilight was uncertain how much of what the showpony was doing was physical, and how much of it was magical. Those fireworks earlier certainly hadn’t been set-off from physical explosives. She supposed with the cost of real fireworks, however, any competent unicorn would use the magical type instead. There was no danger from handling magical fireworks, either.

“Yeah, yeah,” Rainbow Dash commented, lightly beating wings keeping her a few hoof-lengths above the ground. “I bet if it was between you and him, you’d mop the floor with him. Besides, what need do you have for a talent show when you have me around?” Rainbow Dash had many qualities, but tact was not one of them. Being able to pick up on the subtle cues in the ensuing silence after some of the things she said, however, certainly was. “What?” She asked with a frown on her face.

“Well, I suppose we’re certainly covered for bragging with Rainbow Dash,” Rarity commented. As an aspiring high-class lady, Rarity normally wouldn’t have said such a thing, etiquette demanding otherwise. However, she knew her friend Applejack all too well, and decided heading the farmpony off before Applejack said something more blunt and wisecracking was the better option.

“Yeah, and ah bet he wouldn’t last more t’an a few minutes in a rodeo, or even applebuckin’ on the farm” Applejack said, finding something else to talk about.

“Th-there’s nothing wrong with being talented, right?” Twilight asked, fidgeting at how the conversation had suddenly taken a turn.

“Oh, not at all,” Rarity said, before her tone turned acidic, “Except when one hogs the attention with loud noises and bright lights and flamboyancy like him. Just because this Tristan can do what he does doesn’t make him better than all the rest of us. Great and Powerful indeed!”

The pony on stage had had enough, as the commentary from the mares in front had slowly risen both in volume and intensity. Several of the ponies and even a donkey watching had begun to pay more attention to their chatter than to him. Three foals sitting in front had been turning their head every which way instead of looking straight forward. With a quick flash of light, two of the Tristans disappeared, the third catching all of the objects in the air. “My, my, it would appear that we have some neigh-sayers in this audience,” Tristan commented, listening closely to the crowd as he put his juggling balls away.

Only one pony groaned, and he knew exactly what he was going to do. In a small-town crowd like this, typically only the well-educated would groan like that, and in the case of Ponyville it was a demure, dainty purple unicorn on the front who commanded his attention. He would see if he could make her flinch and eliminate possibly the only true threat to his posturing, then move on to the other three annoying mares.

“Who is so ignorant as to challenge the ability of the Great and Powerful Tristan? Do you not know that you are in the presence of the most magical unicorn in all Equestria?” He asked, letting out a dignified snort at the end. For his efforts, he watched the front line, as the three ponies that had been slandering him piped up indignantly. More importantly, a little dragon of all things also attempted to speak, only to get shushed by the same purple unicorn he had been eying earlier.

“Heh, Mr. ‘Great and Powerful’ Tristan, what makes you think you’re tough stuff anyways?” Said one of the three rabble-rousers, a blue-furred pegasus lazily floating in the air. As if she was honestly attempting to intimidate him, she swooped in close to him, blocking out his vision of the crowd, and vice-versa. Well, that settled things. He would attempt his last trump card. If that failed, he would have to move to a less-favoured method to shut the hecklers up.

“Heh heh,” Tristan chuckled, “Why, only the Great and Powerful Tristan, alone among ponies outside of our esteemed princesses, can lay claim to having vanquished the dreaded Ursa Major!” Standing up on his rear hooves to establish an even greater height advantage over the ponies sitting on the grass, with the side effect of causing the pegasus to fly back before she got knocked over, he focused his magic. With a flick of his hoof for a sense of showmanship, coordinated with the actual casting from his horn, a blue outline of a large bear appeared. A genuine feeling of joy seized Tristan at the wonderful faces of awe on the fillies and colts who had started paying attention again, but he moved past it and completed the light show, creating a miniature version of himself.

“In the town of Hoofington on the opposite end of the Everfree, an Ursa Major stumbled into town. When all hoped looked lost, the Great and Powerful Tristan stepped in, and sent it back to its cave deep within the Everfree Forest!” Tristan rattled off the words with a great confidence, as the miniature-Tristan cast its wand, sending sparks flying out. Pelting the Ursa, the star bear turned around, fleeing the mini-unicorn.

“Wow! That’s so cool,” Sweetie Belle said below, her two fellow fillies in mischief and mayhem nodding in agreement.

“Yah, all ah’ve ever seen was Timberwolves, and they scare me bad,” Apple Bloom added.

“Big deal, how do you know that?” Spike chimed in, already fed-up with the way the show had devolved from magic and acrobatics to straight-up bragging. “It would’ve been big news if it happened, and besides, I bet Twilight-“ He attempted to continue talking, but found himself the recipient of a hoof to the mouth, much like Sweetie Belle had earlier.

“Spike, quiet, please!” Twilight pleaded.

“It’s true, my little ponies!” Tristan exclaimed, settling back down on all four hooves, satisfied at how he was once again playing the crowd. If there were three things Tristan thought himself to be well-possessed in, it was his talent in magic, his talent on the stage, and his charisma. Even the three troublesome ponies in front had shut up for the moment, perhaps sensing they would draw the audience’s ire if they interrupted now. “Tristan truly is the greatest equine to ever live, aside from our esteemed Princesses!” He added the last little bit in a quick, quiet aside. With that declaration, rearing up on his back hooves for a brief few seconds again, Tristan set off a fresh burst of fireworks, several of the stage props spinning or glittering in turn.

“I can’t take this anymore! Please, Twilight, please!” Spike was just about sobbing, laying himself at Twilight’s hooves as he begged her. “Just shut him up!”

“No, Spike,” Twilight whispered, even as she found herself being turned off along with much of the rest of the crowd at the overt boasting now occurring on stage. “Don’t you see how everypony else is reacting to him? I don’t want them looking at me like that!”

Tristan continued, well aware of the sudden shift in the audience, but more than willing to continue until the hecklers were all subdued, “Don’t believe me? Then I challenge any and all of you! Anything you can do, Tristan can do better. Will it be you?” He asked, pushing attention to a pale blue Earth pony, who flinched back, cowering under the sudden spotlight. “Or perhaps, it’ll be you?” He whipped his neck around, hyper focused on the purple unicorn whom he suspected might be trouble.

She gulped, taking a hoofstep back.

“Well, little hayseed?” Wiggling his eyebrows, Tristan kept on egging her, attempting to push her to a breaking point.

“Hmph! I suppose it would be remiss of me to allow you to bully dear Twilight,” The white unicorn who had made one third of the annoying girls from earlier announced, stepping forward and hopping onto stage. With a disgruntled whinny, Tristan turned to face her. “Very well darling, I accept your challenge.”

“Say your name for the crowd please, dear,” Tristan said in what was more a command than a request. He smiled, exposing his teeth in a grin he knew would capture the hearts of the more fickle mares in the audience. “I’m certain you already know Tristan’s name, of course.”

“Of course, darling. Rarity would never think of not introducing herself,” Rarity said, adding a dollop of sarcasm to the word ‘never’ in addition to mocking his use of the third-pony form. “You may think you’re great and powerful with your magic, but there’s more to magic than little tricks and illusions. You also need elegance, dear! Hmm, give Rarity a moment here...Ah, your curtain shall do!”

Tristan wrinkled his snout as Rarity used her magic to tear one of his stage curtains off, silently adding a few bits to the costs he would need to recoup from today’s performance. As the curtain floated over to her form, Rarity cast another spell, and in a quick blur of shape-forming magic, the purple curtain had turned into a form-fitting dress, with a gold inlay Tristan wasn’t quite certain where it had come from. In the process, she had also given herself a coiffure that reminded Tristan unpleasantly of some snobbish aristocrats. “Top that, darling!” Rarity dared him.

“With pleasure,” He smirked in turn. Floating his hat off to expose his horn, he mulled his options for a few seconds. His first instinct was to give her hair a most garish colour, an instinct he firmly squashed down on. A pest she may be, but she was still a lady. In this case, subverting her would be a sure crowd-pleaser. “With pleasure,” He echoed himself, and a beam of magic leapt from his horn, striking the other unicorn head-on.

The crowd gasped.

“What happened?” Rarity demanded, twirling around to face the other ponies, the audible chorus too obvious for her to ignore. Her sensitivity to magic was dead, having sensed no internal changes, which only could mean…It was with a start that she realised hair was partially covering one eye, getting an inkling as to what precisely Tristan had done. ”A mirror! Somepony get me a mirror! What did he do? What did he do?!

“It’s-it’s,” Applejack found herself stuttering.

“It’s, um…” Rainbow Dash trailed off, holding a hoof in front of her face to hide her expression.

“It’s beautiful,” Spike sighed, and Rarity could have sworn she saw hearts in the lovesick dragon’s eyes.

“Indeed, the Great and Powerful Tristan is more than capable of style,” Tristan bragged as he conjured a mirror, bringing it up in front of Rarity, who found herself breathless. Rarity normally kept the hair on her head well-combed, one half drooping sideways over her head, the other going back and around to the opposite side, both halves ending with distinctive curls. It was, to Rarity, elegant and high-class.

Her new hair style wasn’t. Gone were the curls. Instead, her hair had been straightened out, with most of it coming down the back of her head, looping around one shoulder to rest below her neck. A small tousle dangled in front, covering the left side of her head and a little bit of her eye. It was simple practicality at its finest. It also made her look…cute, that was the word.

Rarity never particularly liked looking cute, but she felt her cheeks reddening all the same at the adulations of the crowd, the lovesick dragon most obvious of all. Detecting quiet gushing even from the more silent ponies, Rarity decided she could make an exception here.

“Is Tristan not a sharp eye at bringing out the beauty of a fine mare such as you with even the simplest hair style?”

Yes, even with that attitude.

“It looks lovely,” Rarity replied, only somewhat gritting her teeth at the admission as she hopped off the stage in as graceful a manner as possible.

“Consarnit Rarity, how could ya? Now yer gonna give him a bigger blown-up head than he already got,” Applejack said, sighing as she saw only part of it got through her friend, currently doing a quick twirl, drawing a few ‘ah’s from others. “Guess I’m the one to show that braggart who's the top pony around here,” She said, climbing onto the stage to face off.

“And you are?” Tristan asked, having pulled a file out of somewhere to smooth away his hoof. Applejack wanted nothing more in that moment than to wipe the condescending smirk off his face.

“Ah’m Applejack,” She said, playing up her country accent. In a town mostly composed of Earth ponies, if Applejack could get him to make a comment about it, she would turn the crowd against Tristan in an instant. “And ah bet yer fanshy-panshy magic cannut do this.” Getting a rope tied to her tail, with the other end tied into a large open knot, she spun it around several times, performing a few hoop-jumps through it, before sending the knot end at a nearby tree, snagging an apple.

Pulling the rope back with a jerk, she freed the apple from the tree’s nefarious grasp, causing the apple to fall well away from the tree into her waiting mouth, chomping the fruit to pieces within seconds. Letting out a light burp, she turned to face Tristan and said, “Top that mistah.” The loud applause of the crowd for a pony from the hometown team made her blood hot with passion.

Tristan just rolled his eyes as he put his hoof file away, “Oh, ye of little talent. Allow the Great and Powerful Tristan to show what you can really do with a rope.” Levitating the rope with his magic, he untied the knot, then tied the two ends of the rope together to form one continuous circle with a tiny knot. Standing up again, he grabbed hold of the large rope on two ends, then pulled the rope taut against his neck, just above his white cravat. “Everypony can see this rope, correct?” He asked, “You can see how if I pulled it any tighter, it could potentially choke me?”

A chill settled into the crowd. What was this stallion doing all of a sudden? Was he secretly a madpony?

“Watch!” Tristan exclaimed, his voice becoming cracked as he began to gurgle, “N-now you see it, and now-“ And suddenly, he took a deep breath, the rope no longer choking him. It took a few seconds for even the quickest-witted to notice, but when they did several of the foals were quick to lightly cheer. The rope had somehow gone through his neck, and it was now on the back side of his throat.

Twilight Sparkle blinked, suddenly enraptured again. That had to have been a sleight of hoof technique, but whatever he did had been so quick she hadn’t spotted it.

“Or perhaps this?” Tristan asked as he brought the rope from around his neck, sitting down on his haunches, no longer putting all his weight on one pair of hooves. Quickly unknotting the rope, he grasped the ends of the rope in one hoof, then held up a looped section of the rope in the other hoof. “Now watch, as I cut this rope in half,” He stated, and with a precise application of magic, the loop was cut in half.

“Hey! That’s mah rope!” Applejack protested.

“You didn’t see me complaining when your friend used my curtain, now did you?” Tristan retorted, eliciting a blush from Rarity down below as her faux pas was brought up. “Watch closely, one of little faith, as Tristan demonstrates his greatness and restores this rope,” He continued, letting sections of the cut rope free to show two ends above his hoof and two below. While continuing to hide part of the rope from the audience, he used his other hoof to tie the two top ends together, before finally showing the rope in its entirety.

“You tied it into a knot,” Applejack deadpanned.

“Yes, a knot,” Tristan agreed, before moving the knot all the way to one end of the rope, and then undoing the knot to reveal a whole, uncut rope. “And now, no knot.”

“Wha-how the?” Applejack’s eyes were wide in surprise, and the crowed let out a larger chorus of ‘oh’s this time around.

There had to be a reason Tristan had hid sections of the rope in his hoof most of the time, Twilight observed, and decided a book on magician’s tricks would be in order for her reading backlog when she returned home. That rope...was it a little bit shorter than before?

“Or is that not enough for you, miss Applejack?” Tristan prodded, “Perhaps you need something grander still?” Not waiting for a response from Applejack, whose neck muscles were beginning to twitch, he cast his horn again. The rope lifted up on its own, snaking down to the ground. While the middle section stayed flat along the stage deck, the two ends slowly trailed around to Tristan’s back hooves, before slipping below the small gaps under the centre concave section of his hooves.

Applejack grimaced, and made to let out a snarky comment, when she realised she had to raise her head to keep eyes locked with Tristan. Slowly, she looked back down, and her eyes widened. Tristan’s back hooves were now several feet off the stage deck, standing on the two ends of the rope that were now pointing straight up and supporting the entirety of the stallion’s weight.

“My mother always did say I would reach new heights,” Tristan remarked, eliciting a round of laughs from the audience. “Thank you, thank you everypony,” He bowed once more, before backflipping off the rope ends, landing on his back hooves again. He repressed a wince as he did so, ignoring the pain. This time, he was rewarded with a loud stomping of hooves.

“I got nuthin’, girls,” Applejack apologised to her friends sitting on the ground, before looking back. “Can ah have mah rope back, please?”

Tristan made to, but paused as a seed of an idea germinated in the vast field of imagination that was his head. “Certainly,” He said, “However, since clothing made from curtains appears to be popular today, how about…” With an application of more magic, he knotted the rope back together in a continuous loop, folding it over to make a double loop and decrease the size of the circle. Ripping his remaining curtain off with more magic, Tristan brought it over. With a great deal of finesse, he manipulated the curtain and folded it over, forming several ruffles around one half of the looped rope before tying up the ends of the ruffles to keep it from coming undone. It achieved an effect rather similar to some of the napkin animals Twilight had seen at the fancier diners in Canterlot, only with a curtain and a rope necklace.

“For you, my fair lady,” Tristan said, finally slipping the rope-and-curtain-turned-fashion-accessary over Applejack’s neck.

“Er, I, uh…” Applejack found herself stuttering, then decided it wasn’t worth coming up with a smart-aleck response this time. Instead, she made her way off stage. In the process, she heard somepony let out a loud whistle of admiration, and reddened.

“My, my, Applejack,” Rarity chortled, tapping Applejack in the side with a hoof a few times. “Dare I say you look rather das-“

“Shut it Rarity,” Applejack growled, already feeling enough mortification and not wishing to hear any more.

“Once more, Tristan prevails,” The stallion declared, hoping that would be the last of it. It wasn’t.

“Oh yeah?” That annoying blue pegasus from earlier was in his face again. “Maybe Applejack and Rarity were too nice to really show off their talents, but that’s not a problem for me! Showing off is my job!” Goddesses above, he really despised her voice. “Time to show you what a pegasus like me can do!”

“Your name plea-“ He was interrupted.

“Yeah yeah, try this on for size!” She yelled, before she was off in a blur. Flying through the air at a great speed, she came to a windmill, spinning it around several times before launching herself up further into the great blue, smashing through stray cloud after stray cloud before posing up high, the sun at her back. In complete defiance, the blue pegasus flew straight back through the clouds, collecting condensation with her as she went, spinning the windmill in the opposite direction and flying back onto stage. The condensation she had brought back with her combined with the sunlight she had obtained up high combined to form a shimmering rainbow.

“Beat that!” She said snidely, kicking her hooves off the stage and floating upside down, eyes closed and her front hooves acting as a headrest. As the audience applauded loudly at the feat of agility and style, she threw up a hoof in fake admonishment, “Oh thank you, thank you, but that’s really too much!”

The pegasus may have been blue in colouration, but all Tristan saw at that moment was red.

“I see your parents didn’t teach you proper manners, because the other two actually introduced themselves,” Tristan ground out, and he seized the moment, “Normally, a parent uses soap when the foal does something naughty. I don’t have soap, but maybe something hot will do.” With a great burst of magic, he grabbed the rainbow contrails left behind by the pegasus’ mad dash around, and pushed it together. Under a great deal of pressure, the rainbow condensed into rainbow liquid.

Summoning a bottle to capture most of it for later alchemical purposes, Tristan threw the few remaining drops at the inattentive pegasus’ mouth, who had her eyes closed as she was regaling the audience with tall tales of her own.

Her reaction was rather interesting to Tristan. First, she gasped. Then she clutched at her throat. Next, her face began to turn red, reality mirroring his earlier perception, before steam hissed out from her nostrils, mouth and ears. “H-h-h-HOOOOOOTTTT!” She took off like a rocket, achieving what was definitely a quicker speed than before.

Smirking at how easy it had all been, Tristan looked overhead. In small towns like this, he knew, even on days where no rain was scheduled the pegasi normally would leave a small pile of clouds around in case of emergency. Finding the large cloud overhead in the distance, he concentrated, breaking off a small piece of cloud larger than the puny stray clouds that lazily drifted over the afternoon sky. As a unicorn, weather magic was hardly Tristan’s forte, but merely being able to move a little section of cloud was within his capability.

Bringing the cloud over, he amused himself for a few more seconds at the out-of-control pegasus, before finally putting the cloud in front of her flight route. Whether through instinct or conscious thought, the pegasus kick-started the cloud, triggering an isolated torrent of rain, most of the water slathering her tongue as she attempted to drown herself, if only so her mouth wouldn't be on fire anymore.

“Let it not be said that Tristan isn’t generous,” Tristan proclaimed, garnering another round of laughs. Braggarts like that were always the most fun to show up. With them, Tristan could really let loose, unafraid of an audience backlash. That it had helped him to vent his temper was always a bonus. As the pegasus slowly floated down to earth, attempting to take a few steps only to stagger like she was drunk, Tristan delighted. That it was a mare he had brought low was even better.

Tristan did have to give her props though, whatever her name was. Her performance had been impressive.

“Is there anypony else who would like to challenge the Great and Powerful Tristan now?” Either the slight threatening tone he had now adopted seemed to do the trick, or the rest of the audience had learned from the three mares who had challenged him, and had all been grounded, one quite literally. Bringing a hoof up to remove his hat, he bowed his head, “Thank you everypony, you’ve been a great audience! Tristan needs to take his break now, and replace his curtains, these two fine mares have taken a liking to them!” This time, the outpouring of stomping hooves was tremendous. Tristan exalted in it.

Twilight Sparkle had seen enough. This stallion, the self-proclaimed Great and Powerful Tristan, truly was talented, and a little good-looking too. He was also arrogant, conceited, and a bully to boot, and she was still feeling hurt from the silent scorn he had placed on her with those eyes of his. She didn’t think she could stomach another minute of his performance after what he had done to Rainbow Dash. Given the amount of whining he had been doing before being distracted by Rarity’s new hairstyle, neither could Spike.

“C’mon Spike,” She said, turning around, “We’re going home.”

“Sure thing Twi,” He said, taking one last moment to daydream over Rarity’s new look before hopping onto Twilight’s back.

“Consarnit, ah better get back to work mahself,” Applejack commented, having been drawn away from her stall where she was selling apples to watch the show. She made to leave, then stopped, turning around to face her younger sister. Opening up her saddle bag, she passed a hoof full of bits to Apple Bloom, “Now y’all be careful. You can stay and watch, give ‘im a bit or two if you think he was worth it, and then stay out of trouble. Ah don’t want Carrot Top yellin’ at me again over your idea for eyesight-related Cutie Marks again.”

“Yes, do be careful, Sweetie Belle,” Rarity added as she made to leave too, a wave of vertigo passing through as memories passed. Somehow one of them had heard about carrots boosting eyesight, and then the three decided to eat them until they ended up puking. Cleaning up after Sweetie Belle was bad enough, but having to listen to her sister cry about her fur turning orange for a few days was the absolute worst.

“Don’t worry, sister!” Apple Bloom said, a fake innocent smile on her face.

“We won’t do anything rash,” Sweetie Belle promised.

“Yeah, you hear that Rainbow Dash?” Scootaloo asked aloud. Hearing no response, she looked around. “Rainbow Dash? Rainbow Dash? Huh, she’s gone already, aww…”

Tristan isn’t going to be Trixie with an extra appendage. He still has the same boastfulness, cockiness and arrogance Trixie has. However, he’s his own character. In this case, he has a healthy dash of chauvinism, but also a sprinkling of chivalry. Notice how he didn’t brag about saving a filly coming into town. More importantly, this isn't going to be a straight rehash of Boast Busters, or else I might as well not even bother.

The one thing that probably really requires suspension of disbelief here is Tristan taking the rainbow-contrail from Rainbow’s flying and making rainbow liquid out of it. However, Trixie managed to use that same contrail to spin Rainbow around, and Scootaloo did something similar with an actual rainbow in Hearts and Hooves Day, so who am I to question cartoon logic?

Tristan’s two rope tricks are indeed both regular techniques employed by magicians today. You can search Youtube to see how they’re achieved. In the second trick, there is a small segment of the rope that gets lost as a slipknot tied around the regular rope to deceive observers into thinking it’s two ropes tied together, but given the size of the rope Applejack had it's difficult to tell the difference. Tristan hid the small slipknot.

Also, you gotta give stage magician pony mad props. Several of the tricks magicians do must be infinitely more difficult without fingers.


Well-Known Member
“Wow, that was awesome!” Sweetie Belle said to her two friends as the newly-installed red curtains closed, joining in with the crowd of hoof-stompers.

“Yeah well, he still hurt Rainbow Dash! That wasn’t nice of him. He’s a meanie, that’s what,” Scootaloo said, but her heart wasn’t quite in the argument. Neither was her face, a radiant grin that could light heartwarming emotions in any miserly codger.

“She ‘ad it comin’, getting’ in his face like that all the time,” Apple Bloom came to his defense, enamored with the last round of fireworks Tristan had set off before bowing for the last time. His denouement performance had scared her initially; right after Tristan had warned away any foals with a strong phobia of fire, he lit up several hoops on fire before throwing them into the air. In that moment Apple Bloom was about to call him a madpony, certain there was no way he would avoid injury from the all-consuming flames licking away at the hoops, but Tristan proved her fears wrong with the way he leaped and bounded through them.

The crowd had gone nuts at that.

“Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Scootaloo asked, her tail wagging back and forth with excitement, buzzing wings momentarily lifting her several inches from the ground.

“I think so, Scootaloo, but where are we going to get several inkwells? We’ve already been banned from Quills and Sofas,” Sweetie Belle said.

Scootaloo just brought a hoof up to her face, smacking it for good measure.

“No, silly,” Apple Bloom giggled, “What Scootaloo means is we haven’t tried getting our Cutie Marks in magic shows yet, look!” She pointed over at the side of the stage, where Tristan had set up a small table, processing a short line of ponies looking for an autograph, or in the case of the more dedicated fans, a hoofprint. 

“Awww. But I can’t use magic yet,” Sweetie Belle bemoaned, before scrunching up all the muscles on her face. A light green glow appeared on her horn, but all she got for her efforts was a few sparks that disappeared before they could even touch the ground, “Every time I try, I don’t get anything.”

“Silly Sweetie, heheh, I’m gonna use that from now on, silly Sweetie, you don’t need that kind of magic!” Scootaloo declared, thumping her chest this time. “Everypony knows half of what he did was a trick. My parents took me to a magic show in Fillydelphia once where it was an Earth pony.” It was a vague memory for her, being west Fillydelphia born and raised, but her parents had moved shortly after some civil unrest in that city to a smaller town.

“Really?” Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom both asked at the same time, their voices an echo of one another. Each of them were feeling encouraged all of a sudden.

“Yeah!” Scootaloo nodded furiously, “I bet if we asked Tristan really nice, maybe he’d help us get out Cutie Marks!”

All three of them jumped together at the same time, each with one hoof upraised to form a group hoofshake, “CUTIE MARK CRUSADERS MAGICIANS YAY!”

“I don’t really plan out most of my acts in advance, unless I’m booked in one of the cities,” Tristan explained to the mare standing opposite him as he signed a form letter for her baby filly, meant to encourage her to do the best she could. He despised form letters like that, but given Tristan had just saved the same filly from imminent injury or possible death earlier today, he would set his feelings aside. 

That, and the healthy donation for the show Tristan had seen her make. He had refused payment for his role earlier, so Brilliant Light had made up for it by giving a more than generous tip for his show. They both had their prides, and Tristan knew not to really butt heads with a small-town Earth pony like her. “Usually, I just follow the road and go whichever which way I feel like walking that day. When I roll up into a town, I put on a performance or two before heading on. From Canterlot yesterday, I decided to walk south, and here I was,” He finished answering Brilliant Light’s earlier question about when he intended to return.

“Yes, yes,” She nodded, looking thoughtful. “I’ll bring her again the next time you come, by that time she should be grown up enough to appreciate it. Thanks again, Great and Powerful Tristan.”

“With pleasure,” He gave her a broad smile, watching as she left before letting out a brief sigh. He normally had an issue with pushy mares, but something about Brilliant Light made it easy for him to have a cordial chat with. Perhaps it was that she actually had a daughter already. Married mares seemed to mellow out much to his merriment.

Tristan looked ahead past the table. Brilliant Light had waited until most of the crowd had dispersed to talk to him, waiting until there were far fewer ponies milling around to coax the stallion behind the act out of his shell. That left just three little fillies waiting patiently for him, and he had a good idea of what they were going to request of him.

“Mistah Great and Powahful Tristan, can we get your autograph pwease?” Apple Bloom asked as the Cutie Mark Crusaders approached the table, playing up her young age at the end by speaking with a foalish accent.

“Oh, woe is Tristan, for he cannot resist the cuteness of three young mares,” Tristan hammed it up, bringing a hoof up to his forehead in mock misery, before bringing it back down. “Gladly, little ponies,” He said in as endearing a voice as possible. He had learned well the first time a foal had gotten indignant over being called little, and handled them with foal gloves now. “One or separate autographs for the three of you? To whom should Tristan make it out?”

“Make one out to all three of us!” Sweetie Belle chimed in, accidentally letting out a squeak in her excitement that sent a pleasant tinge through Tristan at how adorable it was, “I’m Sweetie Belle!”

“Ah’m Apple Bloom!” Apple Bloom said, quite well aware of how important introducing oneself seemed to be to this mysterious magician.

“And I’m Scootaloo!” Scootaloo announced, bringing up the rear as her buzzing wings levitated her up slightly, “Together, we are-“

“THE CUTIE MARK CRUSADERS!” All three of them yelled in their loudest, high-pitched voice as they bumped hooves in the air.

Tristan sat shock still for a second, before bringing a hoof up to rub away the treacherous skeletal muscle at the intersection between his neck and collarbone. As he took reigns of the muscle, his neck no longer feeling like it wanted to pop out, he broke back into a grin, “Very well, then Tristan shall address this to Sweetie Belle, Apple Bloom and Scootaloo of the Cutie Mark Crusaders!” Grabbing a quill in his magical aura, he sketched out a message tailor-made for little amateur groups of fillies. Tristan made sure to keep it in a block font, uncertain if they could read cursive at their age.

As he hoofed it over, what he was expecting came to pass, “Mr. Tristan,” The white unicorn who had identified herself as Sweetie Belle began, “We were wondering.”

“Could you show us some magic tricks? Could ya? Could ya? Pretty please?” All three of them turned up the brightest smiles they could, their glee like a contagious virus that could infect even the blackest-hearted of ponies.

It was too bad for them Tristan had been vaccinated to the smiles of foals by encounters with them in dozens of similar smaller towns and villages.

Tristan was not, however, without sympathy for younger fillies, before they grew up. It was similar conversations that he used as a guide to start this one, “You girls are thinking about getting your Cutie Mark in magic tricks?” With three eager nods, he continued, “How are you girls going about getting your Cutie Marks?” He asked, probing lightly for useful information.

“We’ve tried everything!” Scootaloo said, “Artillery construction, river fording, growing several giant Venus flytraps-“

“Dungeon crawling, interior architecture, drawing cartography-worthy maps-“ Sweetie Belle took over.

“Upgrading Pinkie’s Bubble Gum Cannon, timberwolf wranglin’, and playing craps!” Apple Bloom ended. “We’ve tried everything, and all it’s resulted in is us getting covered in lots o’ tree sap!”

Tristan blinked. This group certainly had more wild ideas than the last few he had asked about getting their Cutie Marks. “Well, you certainly have lots of imagination, and for a magician such as Tristan, that is saying something,” He admitted. With a delicate hoof, he maneuvered the conversation to something he was familiar with. “Have you three ever thought about telling a story?”

“What, like a book?” Scootaloo wrinkled her snout. “Get real, books are for eggheads, just like what Rainbow Dash says!”

“No, no, not like a book,” Tristan moved hastily, preventing the conversation from being derailed. “Like a show, rather. Perhaps you can hold your own act?”

“Doing what? I can’t use my magic, Scootaloo can’t fly, and I swear Apple Bloom has four left hooves some days.”

“Hey!” Apple Bloom growled.

“It’s true!”

Tristan interrupted again before the two came to blows, “Tristan is a stallion of many talents, but he prefers acrobatics and magic in his shows. Despite that, Tristan has participated in many a play in Canterlot and Manehatten as both an actor and singer. Perhaps one of you can construct props and build the set, one of you can sing and dance, and one of you could show some fancy moves? Not those exact things, but I hope you see what Tristan is saying.”

“Hold on,” Scootaloo said, and motioned to the other two ponies. Grabbing one anothers’ hooves, the three tightened around in a huddle, whispering at a low volume. Tristan briefly thought about using a sound-amplifying spell before shoving that thought aside. As a nomadic pony, he was rather protective of his privacy, and it wouldn’t do to take it from others without them even realising it.

After what seemed like an eternity but was probably a minute tops, the fillies broke their huddle. “Thanks, Mistah Tristan,” Apple Bloom said, “We’ll take your advice, ah think our school is holding a talent show soon. Ah bet we could dress up with face paint and everything.”

“Tristan is glad to help three little ponies,” Was all Tristan had to say. Internally, he was glad he had managed to deflect their curiosity away from trying to fleece a magic lesson out of him. He wasn’t always able to do that, and he wasn’t always able to turn away prospective students without one or two of them bursting into tears.

Tristan was a soul filled to the brim with wanderlust, incapable of settling down for more than a few weeks here or there. Teaching meant the possibility of forming attachments, and he couldn’t allow that.

“Is there anything we can do to pay you back?” Sweetie Belle abruptly asked.

He briefly thought of something, but then decided against it. He wasn’t so lazy as to not get his own hayshake. Maybe if they were mares, but not younger ponies like them. “The location of the best place in town to get a hayshake from, somewhere I can park for the night, and wherever your local library is.”

It was like pulling teeth over the next couple of minutes as they inquired about his reading interests, but Tristan eventually got what he desired. Standing up, he moved from behind the table, and cast a spell, the table disassembling itself and being packed onto his wagon. Aware of his enraptured audience, Tristan went through fanciful motions of assembling his harness and putting it around his chest and back. He paused, and decided if he was going to play the role of sage adviser, he may as well throw in some corny dime-a-dozen warnings as well, “Now, stay safe girls! Don’t be out too late at night, and especially don’t go into the Everfree Forest! 

As he started to canter in the direction of the lot the Cutie Mark Crusaders had pointed out for him to stay at overnight, he hummed and started to sing, “Gonna be as busy as a hibernating bear, can’t wait for some hayshakes in my wagon lair!” He wasn't too concerned with the quality of the ditties he belted out, so long as they were catchy and they rhymed.

Several dozen hoof-lengths back, Scootaloo looked at Sweetie Belle. “What’s a lair?” She asked.

“I think it means a cave of some sort,” Sweetie Belle slowly said. “Like where a bear hibernates in, I guess.”

“Did ya say a bear?” Apple Bloom asked, suddenly excited. “You mean like, maybe an Ursa Major?”

“Oh, I know!” Scootaloo said, “Maybe the Greatest and Powerfulest Tristan was asking us to go find an Ursa Major?”

“What? No, he never said anything like that,” Apple Bloom said, wrinkling her snout.

“Sure he did,” Scootaloo replied, achieving liftoff again for a few seconds with an exciting buzzing, “You gotta like, read between the lines like Miss Cheerilee always says in class. He told us to stay out of the Everfree Forest at night, right before talking about a bear in its cave!”

“I dunno, Scootaloo,” Sweetie Belle said, “I think he was just trying to be all teachery and responsible and stuff. Miss Cheerilee tells us that stuff about the Everfree Forest all the time too.” 

“No, no,” Apple Bloom interrupted, dominating the conversation, “Ah think Scootaloo’s onto something. Notice how he never answered us about teaching us magic and stuff? Maybe this is like, his test for us before he shows us anything.”

“Really?” Sweetie Belle asked. She attempted to muster as much sarcasm as she could, but given her voice’s tendency to crack and come out into squeaks, it was lost entirely on Apple Bloom.

“Yeah, yeah!” Apple Bloom nodded. “Like maybe we’ll have to track the Ursa down to show we’re good at detective work, y’know? C’mon, girls, maybe we can even find that mysterious Zecora while we’re at it!”

“Yeah!” Scootaloo added, caught up in Apple Bloom’s spirit.

“Uh, OK…I guess…oh, why do I know this’ll end up in tree sap…” Sweetie Belle trailed off.

Twilight Sparkle jumped as she was interrupted from her blissful daydream.

With a start, she looked around, identifying her immediate surroundings as being her upstairs bedroom in the library. Satisfied that there was nothing to worry about, Twilight took several deep breaths, pushing a hoof up against her chest to feel the thumping of her heartbeat slow, the vital organ’s rapid expansion and contraction yet another reminder to her of how fascinating the equine body was in its operation.

Shaking her head before she got off into another line of thought that wandered off the beaten path, hopped onto a train, went to the coast, then took an ocean liner to another continent, Twilight looked in front of her, and grimaced. Falling asleep at her desk wasn’t unusual. Drooling over a book was, and it was all the more embarrassing now that she was the librarian and actual caretaker of these tomes of knowledge. With a quick application of a few minor cantrips, she removed the drool from the pages of the book on creatures of the Everfree Forest, then dried it out.

Twilight glanced at the page she was open to, trying to remember where she had been before dozing off. It was an arduous struggle that seemed to have no end, like the old mare’s tale of the old Griff king Griffyphus, cursed to forever roll a boulder up a hill only to watch it roll back down again. She let out an audible curse, then winced as she turned around. She sighed in relief, as she recalled Spike had left shortly after returning home to assist Rarity at her shop.

It wasn’t something that happened often, but Twilight was in a rut. She hated it. In Canterlot, when she walked anywhere, she would always have a book open in front of her, scanning its lines at a brisk pace as she trotted to her destination. For Twilight Sparkle, who had little need for money in the gilded halls of the Palace of Canterlot, where any delicacy she desired was dished out with haste by dedicated chefs, time was the one true commodity of this world. And now Twilight was wasting it, in what had been the most intellectually unproductive day since the griffon Gilda had appeared in Ponyville, even counting her successful spell practice with Spike in the morning.

Twilight growled, smacking her head lightly to rustle herself out of the ennui of the day. If it hadn’t been for that stallion Tristan and his show, admittedly entertaining even with all his personal faults, Twilight had a feeling she would have been sitting in bed all afternoon, listless and bored. At least something Tristan had said had inspired her to do some reading.

She paused as a thought hit her. Twilight had definitely heard a noise earlier which had awakened her. It had come in that split-second between the realm of the returned Princess Luna and her old lover, the Sandmare, and the realm of the waking. Twilight had been left disoriented from that split-second as she awoke, and couldn’t confidently identify it as having been in her dream or something from the real world.

Well, Twilight thought to herself, it was better to be safe than sorry.  Pulling herself off her desk, she staggered onto the floor. Twilight winced from the brief pain that shot through her hooves after keeping her weight off them for so long, the sting no doubt like some of the fire ants she had been reading about the other day.

OK, maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration, but when else was she going to have the opportunity to use the Starrlion sting pain scale in real life?

Satisfied that she had regained finer control over her legs, Twilight let out a quick yawn, then walked out the door, intent on seeing if anypony had wandered into the library. Noting the wind chimes she had set up at the entrance were still slightly drifting back and forth, she quickly trotted down the stairs, issuing her greeting, “Good afternoo-“ and then stopped, her muzzle left open.

“Hmm? Is something on my face?” Tristan asked, as he continued perusing the one shelf opposite the front door. “At least this library is organised here by the Dewhoof Decimal System, the last village I was at had it all sorted alphabetica-“ This time, it was his turn to stop short, as he turned around to face the librarian. “Oh,” Was all the blue-furred stallion could stammer out as he finally recognised who she was.

“Oh, is correct,” Twilight growled, recovering her voice. “You have a lot of nerve coming in here after what you did to Rainbow Dash and I, and even if this is a public place I-“


“I-I-wait, what did you just say?” Twilight asked, blinking rapidly in surprise.

“I said, I was sorry. You’re not from around here, are you?”

Twilight narrowed her eyes, not sure which line of conversation to tackle as Tristan had deftly given her two entirely subjects to follow. With a second’s thought, she decided on the latter, “Why do you say that?” Twilight asked, part distrustful, part curious.

“Well, let’s see here,” Tristan hummed as he brought a hoof up to his lips, making a weird rasping sound for a second, “Your accent strikes me as upper-class. Being a unicorn and given this town’s location, you most likely grew up in Canterlot. In small towns like this, most ponies either work in a family business, or learn a trade from a family friend, and being a librarian doesn’t neatly fall into either category. Several rural librarians I’ve met are also displaced ponies from the big-city looking to live someplace smaller, or graduate students wanting a steady income while they complete their studies and research. That’s merely a statistical likelihood, not a surety. However, there’s also the fact I saw you leave with a small dragon earlier, which given his age and familiarity with riding your back means you most likely grew up with him. Princess Celestia has to personally approve the citizenhood of any dragon taking permanent residence, and I can’t see anypony allowing you to simply grow up with a dragon without reasonable precautions, and living in Canterlot would be a far more secure location than growing up out here in Ponyville.”

Twilight stared. Several of his deductions were flawed, but pointed in the right direction.

Tristan smirked. “Given your lack of response, I’m guessing that I’m correct.”

Twilight seethed. Something about that smirk just didn’t rub her right. It was different from the genuine smile she had seen Tristan make a few times at the show, one that truly did bring out his eyes. Twilight was about to make an acidic remark, when something else occurred to her, “Wait a minute, what happened to your third-pony speech?”

The stallion’s smirk turned into a frown. “This is why I don’t always like small towns,” He grumbled, “Everypony comes out for the show, and then they expect me to stay in character afterwards if I go anywhere for food or a book.”

“Ah,” Twilight understood now, illumination coming as if the stars of his cape and hat were shining on her. She made to ask him about that, then stopped herself. This Tristan seemed to be really good at changing the conversation, having deflected her anger twice already, admittedly inadvertently the second time. Twilight wouldn’t let there be a third time. Choosing her words carefully, she said, “What you did to Rainbow Dash wasn’t very nice.”


Twilight refrained from facehoofing herself. Rainbow Dash hadn’t introduced herself, but between her rainbow mane and the dearth of other ponies on-stage who Tristan had treated horribly, he must have known. She rated it at ten to one odds he was playing dumb right now, “The pony you fed concentrated rainbow essence to,” Twilight clarified.

“Oh, her,” Tristan threw a hoof up in the air. “Maybe. Rainbow essence only tops out at a hundred thousand units on the Scoltsville Scale, and it was only a couple of drops. I was nice enough to bring a cloud by too, you know.”

“That doesn’t matter, that still wasn-wait, you know about the Scoltsville Scale?” Twilight asked eagerly, “Oh, have you been to the Manehatten Observatory yet? I’ve heard they’ve bred a new pepper that ranks over a million units!”

“The Celestia’s Wrath Pepper? It has been some time since I’ve been to Manehatten, and the Observatory is hardly at the top of my list. I have heard of it, though. After all,” He pointed at the shelf he had been looking at, “I was looking for a culinary book when I came in.”

Twilight gazed over, and saw that it was true.


“I, er, expected you to be looking at a magic book,” Twilight stammered, blushing in light embarrassment.

“Pfft, what need does the Great and Powerful Tristan have when he’s already so good at magic?” He asked as he turned around, eyes zooming over the shelves. “Travelling all the time, however, I need more than pinecones and peanut butter crackers.”

And there was the supreme arrogance he had displayed during the show. Twilight’s mind ricocheted back to her original intention as the more mild talk about food bounced off his boasting. “Why were you trying to get me to challenge you earlier?” She slowly asked, her mood as volatile as her mentor’s when her cake ranked anything above zero on the Scoltsville Scale. “That wasn’t very nice of you, either.”

“Oh, that? Yeah, that’s what I was mainly apologising for earlier,” Tristan said as he pulled out a book, opening it up to a random page. “Hmm, lemongrass, that should go nicely in a daisy-and-pinecone stew. Aw, they only grow in the wild further south and west? I really don’t want to buy some here, if the market in this town even has anything beyond the staples. Anyways, Miss, um, what was your name anyways, sorry?”

“Twilight Sparkle,” She supplied, her temper beginning to flare.

“Yes, Miss Twilight Sparkle, I wasn’t actually trying to get you to challenge you, I was trying to get you to not challenge me. I saw you had a dragon, and not everypony raises a dragon. You also had a star Cutie Mark, which means your special talent might be in astronomy, but also potentially in a field of magic itself. You were an unknown factor, so basically I pushed you until I was satisfied you wouldn’t come up on stage. Reverse psychology and all, y’know,” He said, putting the book back in place on the shelf and looking for another one.

Twilight narrowed her eyes, “Get out.”

Tristan paused, and turned around, “I’m sorry?”

“I said, get out.”

“But this is a public library,” The stallion protested.

“That may be so,” Twilight said, her horn glowing as she grabbed the other pony in her magical grip, causing him to yelp, “But I am the librarian here, and I think you’re being disruptive and unruly to the other patrons.”

“But there aren’t any other ponies here!”

“Oh look, here I am, reading a book,” Twilight snarked as she looked at an open book lying on the table, “And since you didn’t leave right away, I’ll have to send you out!” With a tug on her magical grip, she started to levitate him towards the door.

Tristan attempted to magically resist her grip on him for a few seconds, but he then appeared to change his mind. Instead, he let out a growl, his face contorted with a mixture of anger and indignation, “You stupid mare!” He hissed.

Twilight gasped, and in that moment, any hesitation she had dissolved away into the ether, as she opted to throw him out instead, closing the door behind him. She hoped he had landed on his horn. From experience, hitting your horn against the ground would hurt.

She sat there for several minutes, calming herself down, her heart rate having jumped after the last insult he had thrown her way. Twilight had heard more than a few insults thrown her way as Celestia’s star student, ranging from remarks about her penchant for studying to comments on her practically being a shut-in. One pony had even said something about how her dancing was like gazing into the abyss, and having the abyss gazing back at her. Twilight thought she had grown a thick skin over the years, and would admit she had overreacted a little at the end there when she told Tristan to get out.

Somehow, being insulted for her gender hurt like nothing else had. Twilight found herself prone to overanalysis, and she was living up to that reputation as she delved into why the remark had found its mark. Perhaps it was because Equestria was a strongly matriarchal society, ruled by a Princess for over fifteen hundred years, with mares taking most of the higher governmental positions as well. There was the occasional grumbling from a stallion about the status quo, but almost nopony dared to insult a mare over her gender when Princess Celestia, beloved as she was, was herself a mare. 

Moreover, what exactly was the issue that Tristan had with mares? Had he perhaps had a bad experience with them, such as childhood trauma? Perhaps he was just naturally misogynistic. Twilight briefly entertained with glee the idea that he had been dumped by a former lover, but decided that was too cliché. Or was she perhaps reading too much into it, and he didn’t actually have anything against them, just using that word as an epithet against her?

Shaking her head aside to cast away those toxic thoughts, she trotted back upstairs. Her break time was over. Something Tristan had bragged about at the show had bothered her. Given Tristan’s admittance of his third-pony speech being an act, she wondered about the other comment too. She supposed if nothing else, she might be able to show him up in the immediate future if he hung around Ponyville. That was unlikely, though, given Tristan had said he was somewhat nomadic. What were the odds that her studying would really come in handy?

Still, being worldly and knowledgeable about everything was something that Twilight did. Yes, she resolved to herself, she wouldn’t let thoughts of an obnoxious stallion poison her drive to read and understand, even if it was tempting to wipe that smirk off his face.

If only she wasn’t so disappointed that her hopes he would make a good muse to discuss the intricacies of magic with and bounce ideas off had been dashed. That ship of hope had gone down. 

“I don’t know about this Apple Bloom, this really is beginning to seem like a bad idea.”

“Aw c’mon Scootaloo, you were the one who suggested this in the first place.”

Scootaloo looked around, and gulped. “Yeah, but that was before we actually got into the Everfree Forest,” She stated. The sun had set before they even struck out, something Scootaloo was beginning to think was rather foolish now. Hadn’t her teacher Miss Cheerilee once said something about most animals in the Everfree being nok-noc-noctorm-something, sleeping during the day and moving around at night?

The pegasus filly wasn’t paying too much attention to where she was going, and so it was that Scootaloo stepped over a fallen twig, cracking it under the frog of her hoof. The reaction was immediate, as Sweetie Belle squeaked, practically jumping on top of Scootaloo and hugging her. Scootaloo couldn’t help but feel Sweetie Belle’s trembling, and it was getting to her too.

“Relax Sweetie, that was just a branch,” Apple Bloom said, carrying a lantern as they navigated the treacherous forest, its verdure undergrowth already shadowed in the light of day, now nearly impenetrable with a single tiny source of light. “Don’t tell me ya girls are a buncha chickens?”

Scootaloo shouted, “Don’t call me a chicken! C’mon Sweetie, let’s go,” She said to her very first friend, giving her a squeeze on the shoulder. Sweetie Belle’s teeth were still chattering, but she seemed to find solace in Scootaloo’s reignited confidence.

“Look girls, I found something!” Apple Bloom said, and it was true. Father Time had eaten away at the side of a cliff, leaving behind a large cavern. “Ya think we should go inside?” She asked.

“I-I dunno, Apple Bloom,” Sweetie Belle finally found her voice, speaking up, “I really think we should go back, I don’t like this.”

Apple Bloom opened her mouth to speak.

Something howled off in the distance.

The three Crusaders didn’t even realise they were moving until after they were already inside the cave.

Scootaloo huffed and puffed, sucking in air to make up for her mad dash. “What was that?” She asked, wishing she had paid more attention in class now.

“Ah think that was a Timberwolf,” Apple Bloom whispered, her cockiness all gone. “Applejack said something once about them not liking caves, so ah think we’re safe here.”

Sweetie Belle gulped, “And what about all the other creatures in the Everfree?”

Apple Bloom gave her a raspberry, but it was obvious it was false bravado. Attempting to swagger, she swung her lamp around, “C’mon girls, let’s go a little bit deep-“ And then she stopped, as the light from the lantern exposed something in front of her.

The three couldn’t tell precisely what it was, but it had fur a rich blue. There was a black shape that almost looked like the wet nose of most animals, except the rhinarium alone was nearly the size of each of the fillies…and if that was the nose, then those flaps of skin on either side were this creature’s eyes. 

One flap opened, exposing a red iris against a yellow sclera. The creature snorted in surprise, hot air washing over the three fillies.

“You know girls,” Apple Bloom said, slowly backing up, “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all.”

“You think?!” Despite the situation, Scootaloo couldn’t help but get a snarky comment in.

“I think this calls for Cutie Mark Crusaders RUN!” Sweetie Belle squeaked out the last word, and all three of the fillies heeded her.

The Ursa’s other eye opened, and it began to move.

Tristan looked out the swing door of his wagon at the moon.

For all his life, he had enjoyed looking at the stars and the moon, the latter which had formed a part of his Cutie Mark. Before the reign of Celestia and Luna, the old, old religions of Equestria equated the moon with many things. Several of the old lunar deities were associated with fertility, plants, animals, the ocean and more besides. However, the two he most enjoyed were the moon as the mother of magic, and the moon as the source of dreams. He supposed he truly was a romantic at heart, even if so many of the opposite sex were flawed.

Then one day, the Mare in the Moon had disappeared.

Tristan had honestly slept through the ‘Longest Night’ incident, having gone to sleep an hour before the sun was to be raised, exhausted from the performance he had put on in Trottingham for the Summer Sun Celebration, with pay already in hoof. To his embarrassment, having left Trottingham right after he had awoken and ignoring the buzzing of gossip on the streets, it wasn’t until the next night he realised something was wrong. Upon returning to civilisation, he had found out Nightmare Moon had really been the corrupted form of Princess Celestia’s sister, a Princess whom had been lost to history.

It was just a rumour, but it was an interest rumour Tristan had once heard. Supposedly, if a pony obtained a Cutie Mark that had the Sun, they could go to Canterlot and get a little bit of one-on-one time with Celestia, who purportedly took a special interest in any ponies who shared the same Cutie Mark subject as she did. Tristan supposed that when Princess Luna re-entered the public eye, he would have to do the same with her. He only hoped she would be over what had to be a massive culture shock by then. As the matron of dreams, Tristan would enjoy talking with her about the nature of a dream, and that of a nightmare. 

Maybe she could even help him get over his distrust of mares in general, something he genuinely recognised as a character flaw in himself. Tristan had regretted the word when he had slung it at that librarian earlier, but with how bitter they had split ways, he wasn’t even going to try to apologise. Besides, he was going to leave Ponyville tomorrow morning anyways. It was a long-shot. So long as Princess Luna wasn’t like what a cold-hearted manipulator like what some of the conspiracy theorists thought of Princess Celestia, however, he should easily get along with her. Even if it wasn’t polite to ask a mare her age, Tristan knew she had to be several hundred years old, even beyond her banishment to the moon. If he could be tactful enough, he would ask her how much control she retained of her core being when possessed by the Nightmare. The inner romantic in him demanded it: Tristan liked the idea that, even banished for a thousand years, Princess Luna had still watched over her little ponies during all that time as the Mare in the Moon.

He yawned, opening his jaw wide open for the moon and all the stars to see. There was the Little Dipper, and then there was the Dog Star that all Diamond Dogs prayed to. Moving his eyes over, he spotted the Big Dipper right away, followed by the Lynx constellation. As the mistress of the stars as well, Princess Luna had been putting extra work into the night sky, and it showed in a way that Celestia must not have ever had one or more of the time, the talent, or the passion for, as each star shone in its own individual way.

As his own star, Tristan intended to shine so bright that no other star could cloud out his radiant light.

Huh. It was funny, how he could have forgotten about that one constellation, especially considering his acts. Given how he had once returned home as a colt by following the star at the centre of its formation, the Merak body, he wondered how he could have overlooked the Ur-

His ear twitched, and he looked down, away from the sky. He heard the scared yelps of three ponies right before the three fillies he had talked to earlier in the day burst out from a bush. “Mr. Tristan! Mr. Tristan! Ya hafta help us!” The Earth pony was wailing. What was her name again? Oh yes, Apple Bloom. 

With sudden alarm, Tristan noted the cuts and scratches over the three fillies, as well as the fact they were all panting and sweating from obvious exertion. “What’s happening?” He immediately demanded, cutting to the chase.

Once more, he heard before he saw. He didn’t like what he heard, the sound of something loud trampling whole trees underneath. Then he saw it, and Tristan gulped. The moon was no more, blotted out by its incredible mass, and the stars were like flickering fireflies before its majesty.

There, in the living flesh, its blur fur as dark as the twilight sky, was an Ursa Major.


Well-Known Member
The Great and Powerful Tristan was talented in many different fields.

Many days spent on the wild trails between smaller villages had toughened him up and made a fighter of him. Tristan instantly knew he was outmatched when it came to an Ursa Major, but every skirmish with a timberwolf, every showdown with a doombunny and the incident that shall not be named in the Salamander Lands had helped to deaden the panic response that most ponies had when faced with a threat. Before he had finished gulping, he had his saddlebags on, carrying a few odds and ends such as a bottle.

By the time he had finished gulping, he was already out the door of his carriage, horn casting again to grab two of the three fillies, the orange one and the yellow one. Names failed him at the moment, but he grabbed the white one, the unicorn filly, by the scruff of her neck. Unicorns had some innate magical resistance to the magic of other unicorns, and unicorn foals would sometimes have their resistance act up. Tristan didn’t want to chance that resistance kicking in and dropping her, so he picked her up with his teeth instead.

The Great and Powerful Tristan could add sprinter onto his list of talents after the mad dash he made. He winced as he heard the sound of splintering wood behind him, just knowing that it was his wagon that had become the Ursa Major’s first casualty.

Within the first few seconds, Tristan reassessed where he was going, and decided to stay on course. He was galloping from the edge of Ponyville’s urban core to its outskirts, and the steady thumps of the Ursa Major that never got too far away was proof enough he was at least leading the Ursa away from Ponyville.

Coming into an open clearing, Tristan decided he couldn’t run much longer, his nose incapable of circulating air through his lungs quickly enough with his mouth otherwise preoccupied. Coming to a halt, he dropped all three of the fillies in a pile, before turning around to verify that yes, the Ursa Major was indeed coming their way.

“Buck!” He shouted, “Where in the Princesses’ name did an Ursa bucking Major come from?”

“It followed us into town,” Apple Bloom confessed, deathly aware that they would get into trouble. Her conscience wouldn’t allow her to leave that information out, however, in the event it would be crucial to getting the star bear out of town.

“We went into the Everfree, and accidentally came across it,” said Scootaloo, watching her short life fly by her eyes as the blue ursine got closer.

Tristan spun around, a look of shock on his face. “You brought that thing into town? Are you bu-“ He choked on his words as he stopped himself from saying something he might regret for the second time that day. He had been wrong, they weren’t fillies; they were already full grown mares with no thoughts for their actions. Deep breath, no time, he had to think.

“We’re really, really sorry,” Sweetie Belle said, biting her lips. “But you beat one before, right? You can beat it again!”

“The last time I fought one I was well rested! I didn’t do a performance that day already!” The lie slid off his lips far too easily. It terrified Tristan how easily he could come up with excuses even in a situation like this. No, they were still fillies, he felt a duty to protect them, even if it meant making himself the Ursa’s target. “Run into town, warn everypony else about the Ursa. I’ll lure it back into the Everfree!”



He winced, unsure if the looks of fear on their faces were of him or of the Ursa Major, but all three quickly moved. Now to make sure the Ursa Major stayed focused on him. Turning around, he saw the Ursa had paused as it looked between the running targets and the stationary one. It was currently eyeing up the unicorn filly, who Tristan now remembered was named Sweetie Belle. Well, he wouldn’t let that Ursa Major think about anything other than the Great and Powerful Tristan.

“Hey, Ursa!” Tristan yelled, using magic to grab its attention. The Ursa turned back to look at him. Using his magic, he quickly grabbed a chunk of dirt, and threw it right at the Ursa’s eye.

The giant creature from the Everfree was almost quick enough to block the dirt, getting a paw up to deflect the rounded ball of earth. The ensuing scream, high-pitched enough to send shivers through Tristan’s spine was enough to tell him a little bit had gotten through. As the Ursa Major brought one paw up to its eye, the remaining visible eye honed in on Tristan, the red iris something Tristan was sure would haunt his dreams forevermore, if he survived.

The Ursa charged.

Tristan summoned up all his courage, waiting. He had emboldened the beast, tickled the sleeping dragon, but he didn’t know how cunning the star bear might truly be. It could be of an intellectual capacity sufficient enough to see through his scheme. So he waited. And waited.

The Ursa was near.

Now! His horn aglow with his pink aura and gathered magic waiting to be unleashed, his eyes and brains cooperated like they never had before to track where the Ursa’s paw was about to land, and then his magic tore through the ground, gouging out a deep trench in the earth. A deep trench to ponies, that was. To the Ursa Major, it would have been a piffling wound in the skin of Mother Gaea, but it was just large enough that when its front paw landed in the trench, the giant Ursa tripped.

As the Ursa’s forward momentum caught up with the rest of its body, sending it forward for a landing, Tristan had an idea of what a real Eternal Night might have been like. All the light of the world was gone, shadowed out by the Ursa Major as it was about to fall on Tristan.

Tristan cast again, teleporting several hundred yards further back. Despite how exerted he was already, from his initial dash, then gouging a trench followed up by teleporting, he still had the energy to jump. Tristan counted his lucky stars when he did, because he missed the worst of the massive tremors that quaked out from the Ursa Major’s landing point, only feeling the aftershocks as his hooves touched the Earth again. Even that was sufficient to rattle him, and he stumbled, tripping over.

Vaguely, Tristan recalled something from school about a square cube rule, and how it made the old Zebra proverb ‘The bigger they are, the harder they fall’ actually true according to science. The blue-furred unicorn really hoped the Ursa Major wouldn’t be getting up from this, but Tristan had a feeling he wouldn’t be that lucky. Looking over in the distance, he saw he wasn’t. The Ursa Major had already spotted where he had teleported to, and was getting up. To his fortune, it appeared to be struggling, the fall having disorientated the Ursa more than it had him. Now he just had to get up quicker than the Ursa itself. He wasn’t sure he could win that battle.

“What in Tartarus is going on here?!”

That voice was familiar, and not in a good way. Looking up, he saw the blue pegasus from his show earlier in the day hovering around. He remembered her name, Rainbow Dash, all too clearly from when the librarian had told him it. And she did not look happy.

“What the hay, an Ursa Major? What’s it doing here?!” She hollered, recognising it from the light display at the show earlier that day, before she caught a sight of Tristan. “You! What the buck are you doing here?!”

“Trying to lead it away from town,” He shouted back, pulling himself up, cursing that he had to waste precious breath answering this stupid mare. “Get away from here before you get hurt!”

“No way!” Rainbow Dash had no idea what was going on. She had been taking a nap in a tree after a quick bite to eat at Sugarcube Corner, where the burst of flavours from her berry pie had finally washed away the last of the spicy rainbow essence. Rainbow Dash had just been having a good dream, only for it to be interrupted and for her to be knocked off the branch by tremors. Flying up high, she had swooped around, following the source of the miniature earthquakes, and finally honing in on the big blue thing that definitely didn't belong in Ponyville.

“Y-you,” Tristan almost stumbled at that moment. His temper flared up, nearly exploding with the intensity of a supernova, but the immediate threat of an Ursa Major held his tongue at the last second. Despite that, the rage that passed through him choked his trachea off, denying him vital oxygen for a crucial few seconds. Somehow, he found himself back on his hooves again, and he quickly poured over his options, before his eyes wandered back to the pegasus.

The blue-furred pegasus, with a rainbow mane.

It wouldn’t bring the Ursa Major down, but it would definitely keep its attention on Tristan and away from the town.

“Rainbow Dash!” Tristan yelled, catching her attention, “Bring a storm cloud!”

The confusion was obvious on her face. “Huh? Why?”

“JUST DO IT!” He shouted. When she wavered, not certain which way to go, he added, “I HAVE A PLAN TO GET HIM AWAY FROM HERE BUT I NEED A STORM CLOUD!”

That did the trick, as resolution passed over her face, and she flew off, putting up an impressive speed Tristan had seen few pegasus do. If she got what he needed, he might even apologise to her for earlier.

Tristan turned back to the Ursa Major, which had finally found traction with its paws. Red eyes met violet, and Tristan realised that there was a primal intelligence in there that was above most predators. The Ursa Major was calculating, and Tristan knew there was no chance he would be able to pull off the same trick as before. It was a bittersweet plus that the Ursa would have to slow down to avoid being caught in that same trap: even a slow pace for the Ursa would eventually catch up with a quick stallion.

Tristan ran, and the Ursa started to move after him.

Silently, he thanked his luck that he was a travelling showpony and not one who stayed in the same city all the time. The countless number of leagues he had walked from village to village, pulling a heavy wagon behind him, had given the unicorn the physique of an Earth pony. Between that and the treacherous dirt trails he had navigated, Tristan was able to keep his footing even under the tremors generated by the Ursa’s movement, while continuing to run. If he had never walked anywhere, he would have probably died after that initial burst of sprint, with no stamina left.

He was beginning to reach the Everfree Forest. Once more, Tristan tried to justify his misfortune. The trampled trees that were littered across the landscape indicated he was on the right path to luring the Ursa back to its home, away from Ponyville. If the Ursa was as smart as he thought it was, however, it might decide those same trampled trees may make good ammunition for target practice. Zig-zagging, he darted in and around the trees and branches, finding precious purchase in the few unscatched patches of grass.

Then Tristan paused, and turned around. The Ursa had stopped making noise and vibrations. Whatever it was, it couldn’t be good.

“Well buck me,” He swore.

The Ursa had stopped and it was half-turned around, facing the direction it had come from: the direction of Ponyville. The showpony panicked. He wasn’t the saintliest stallion at heart, but there was no way he was letting innocent ponies get trampled underfoot by a rampaging Ursa Major. Casting his horn again, he did the only thing he could think of.

The giant blue star-bear paused, then it brought a paw up to its face. Its eyes began to water, drops the size of Tristan’s head gathering at its tear ducts, and it started trembling slightly. Even from a decent distance, Tristan could hear the Ursa take several rapid breaths as he continued to tickle one of the Ursa Major’s most sensitive spots.

The Ursa Major sneezed. Tristan was quick to get a shield up, just before hot liquid pelted the shield. Tristan felt like he was on his last legs. The legends about the Ursa Majors stated that they were formed from the very stars themselves. The bear’s magical resistance to a mundane activity such as tickling its nose had proven like a steel wall stopping a feather, and so Tristan had been forced to overpower his spell. Still, he may have been almost out of magical energy, but he would not tolerate bear snot getting on him!

Yet, now he felt he needed a miracle…

“Somepony order a storm cloud?!”

“One miracle, check,” He mumbled as he looked skywards. The pegasus, Rainbow Dash, was hauling a large storm cloud behind her, far larger than he was even hoping for.

“Whaddya need it for?” Rainbow Dash yelled, staying well out of range of the Ursa Major’s vertical range. Even if the bear thought to throw something at her, she had room enough to fly out of the way. Fortunately, the great beast of the Everfree seemed distracted, scratching its nose of all things. Was that what she had heard earlier? Somehow, the image of a creature several stories long doing such a mundane thing as sneezing didn’t process, and for once Rainbow Dash felt she could have rightfully been called a bird-brain.

“I need you to set it off on its shoulder or front arm!” Tristan hollered, rapidly switching his view between the pegasus and the bear every couple of seconds, leaving himself disoriented. “Then get out of here before it decides to attack you, and warn the rest of the village in case this doesn’t work!”

“You have a plan?” She shouted, her throat beginning to get a little hoarse.

“YES!” Came the reply.

Rainbow Dash would have nonchalantly shrugged, but the situation was a little too urgent and serious for her to do such here. The bear hadn’t seem to notice her presence yet even with their yelling, but she would stay cautious regardless. Dragging the storm cloud over just a little bit more, staying several hundred hoof lengths above the Ursa, she called upon the birthright she had been given, the innate Pegasus talent of depth perception between the heavens above and the earth below.

She stomped twice, and then she was off and away.

To any Earth pony or unicorn, the lightning strike would have resulted in serious wounds, and possibly outright death for a foal. To the Ursa Major, who towered over all but the greatest palaces, the oldest dragons and the largest mountains, it was a trifling sting. It was still enough to incite the Ursa to its greatest bellow yet, the roar it let out enough to rattle Tristan’s teeth even several hundred hoof lengths away.

It turned to face Tristan, and he knew his plan had partially worked. The lightning strike was also enough to make the Ursa bleed, a weird mixture of red blood common to most animals and a glittery plasma that reinforced the legend of the star beast being made from actual stars. It was a tiny wound, barely noticeable, but it was still there. Tristan wouldn’t be surprised if he was the first living pony in centuries to see an Ursa bleed, but he had a sinking feeling he wouldn’t be alive long enough to regale others with his experience. Slowly, sweat streaming down his face, he concentrated his magic again. Pain lanced through his horn from magical exhaustion, almost as bad as the time he accidentally kicked over a red bullet ant hill, but he kept casting.

The bottle Tristan had retrieved from his cart flew through the air, and the rainbow essence he had extracted earlier soaked the Ursa’s wound.

He immediately put his hooves over his ears, just in time. Tristan had thought the Ursa’s earlier rage was incredible, but that was nothing to this tantrum. Even through his solid hooves, he still heard its scream, higher-pitched than anything else, and it terrified him like no nightmare could. The shockwave from the Ursa dropping over onto the ground was enough to knock him over again.

Tristan had earlier thought about throwing the rainbow essence in the Ursa Major’s eye, before dismissing the idea as being too cruel. Now he was glad he hadn’t. If he had, he wasn’t sure there would be anything left of him to bury. As a colt, he had once accidentally spilled the juice from jalepeno peppers in a cut on his hoof, and the agony had stunned him for several seconds. Rainbow essence was not technically a spice, but as an odd delicacy for some, it had been given a rating on the Starrlion scale. Rainbow essence had a hundred times the tear-inducing power of jalapeno peppers. If a few drops to the tongue had made Rainbow Dash go red in the face within seconds, he could only imagine what it would do applied to a wound.

Lifting his head off the ground to look up, he gulped. His plan had worked. The fury present in the Ursa Major’s eye was directed at him, and this time it wouldn’t decide to deviate to return to Ponyville.

“Buckbuckbuckbuckbuck-“ Tristan shouted, as he teleported a few hoof-steps back to dodge the size of his wagon. A sensation not unlike brain freeze from drinking a hayshake too quickly set in, the pain writ large tenfold, but his muscles had received their latest injection of epinephrine. He was off again, following the trail that had been trampled earlier by the Ursa leaving the forest.

He hopped, dipped, zig-zagged, and let out the occasional gallop across more open areas as the Ursa continued to close in on him, crunching trees by the dozen under its mass. Tristan could all too easily hear his own bones snapping like that. Just the thought made him queasy, but he continued to run. Time was meaningless when he was the prey.

It could have been a moment. It could have been a minute. It could have been an hour, or even a lifetime, with the Eternal Night having come, but at last he saw something that gave him hope.

Tristan came to a stop. Before him was a cavern entrance, carved into one of the many outcrops of rock that dotted the landscape in this section of Equestria. He could feel the pure, ethereal magic seeping from the cave. Even as his body was on fire, the arcane energy was like the blessed winter storm, reenergising him. No wonder the Ursa Major had made its nest here.

The showpony turned to face the Ursa Major. Predator and prey looked each other, eye to eye. In that moment, Tristan felt he understood the Ursa Major’s very being, he was the Ursa Major in all its majesty, made up of all the stars of the world.

Tristan would die here, but he would leave the stage in a blaze of glory, outshining even the galaxies and nebulae themselves. Death would be the Last Act of the Great and Powerful.

“I’m ready, Ursa,” He declared, his body feeling lighter and lighter. No longer was the Earth able to maintain its tyrannical grip over him: he would end up in the night sky, where he belonged. The winds howled.

The Ursa let out one final roar.

Tristan closed his eyes.

“Say hellooooo to your friendly neighborhood Rainbow Dash!”

He opened his eyes.

“What in the-“ Tristan broke off as he saw the sight overhead. Rainbow Dash had returned, but this time she had outdone herself. Whereas the storm cloud before was a baby cumulus cloud, this was a cumulonimbus, the empress of clouds. Grey was no longer its dominant colour, a few patches of slate here and there surrendering to a near-uniform black. Its mass was large enough that the outer edges of the cloud slowly rotated, the potential energy in the centre enough to excite the perimeter.

To Tristan, it was the most beautiful sight he had ever seen. Even if he would have to surrender part of the spotlight to the pegasus mare, legends would be spoken of this night.

Rainbow Dash stomped on the cloud. All the electrical energy stored in the great front came together, and pulsed out in a single fraction of a fraction of a second.

The world shook, and all was white.


It felt like an interminable time before his eyesight began to recover, but Tristan was certain it was more like a few minutes. After the searing pain had passed and his eyes were only screaming bloody murder, he had clued in that he was, in fact, still alive. From there, his internal clock kicked in, and he urged his other senses to compensate until the seat of his optic nerves could recover.

The feeling of warm wind at the back was still there, slowly refilling him with vitality-giving magic, a font of power if one ignored its massive denizen. The smell of burning fur was all-present, and only non-vital organs shutting down in response to his fight-or-flight response kept Tristan’s stomach from protesting. To his front, he could hear the loud breathing of the Ursa Major, an irregular frenzy that sounded more like an angry, aggrieved beast than one in its death throes. Even as panic set back in, Tristan was glad. The Ursa may have nearly trampled over Ponyville, but it had been led there by ponies. Such a noble beast, with metaphor and poetry mixed in with myth and an apparent strong dash of truth resulting in a concoction that sang to Tristan’s own sense of romance, should not die like that.


Tristan’s eyes snapped open. His eyelids resisted, like steel gates that would not be pushed, but he forced them up. When he would be ignorant of life soon enough, what point was there to avoiding a little bit extra pain?

“No,” He whispered.

The Ursa Major might still have been recovering, but Tristan could see that it had finally made its first brilliant maneuver of the night, as it had somehow snatched Rainbow Dash out of the air. The Ursa itself seemed ignorant of this fact. Even as it had stumbled onto its knees again, smoke wafting from a large section on its back where the thunder had struck it, the star bear was rubbing its eyes with its paws. In one of its paws the tomboyish spitfire who could was turning red, tears visibly streaming down her head even from this distance.

Tristan would go down, but he would not allow the Ursa Major to take any other than himself down with it.

The Great and Powerful Tristan had hoped the last spell he ever cast would be something big, worthy of his title. Perhaps it would be a spell of purification to compete with the artifacts of creation that had supposedly redeemed Nightmare Moon. Possibly, it would be a summons of hellfire to chase away a long-forgotten enemy that attempted to conquer Equestria. Maybe the Princesses might even be incapacitated, and he would die on one of their twin thrones in Canterlot, keeping the sun and moon rising and falling, the spells doable by a unicorn but so magically exhausting they would die within days.

His senses were numb. They were literally numb, the pain that had racked him earlier now washing over like a light breeze, barely noticeable. They were figuratively numb, not appreciating the sense of irony over what his last two spells would be. The first, to create four tiny, condensed orbs of magic, each of which plugged up one of the ears of the two equines present. The second, a shrill shriek, one that made him clench his teeth even through the earplugs.

The Ursa wailed again, its paws moving away from its eyes to its ears, but Tristan’s last gambit had succeeded. Most ponies were not as well-traveled as Tristan himself. Most ponies would never realise that while many creatures with hands or claws could clench them into tight fists, those same bundles of nerves would relax into an open palm when the person was stunned. Freedom from the Ursa’s grip was all the excuse Rainbow Dash needed to fly away from the bear.

The eyes of pegasus and unicorn met again, and they understood one another in that instant. The comparison was more than skin-deep with their blue colourations. Each was a braggart, prone to take things too far. Each would step up to the plate and offer up their well-being to save the lives of others, come what may.

An apology, and a thank-you, from each to the other. One was accepting death, so that the other may live.

A sorrowful goodbye, sorry that she hadn’t gotten to know him better.

And then Rainbow Dash was gone.

The Ursa had seen none of this, recovering first from its temporary blindness, and then from the wailing cacophony of discordant pitches Tristan had set up, unsure exactly where in the noise frequency the Ursa Major was most vulnerable to, and then compromising by trying every range on the audio spectrum. The Ursa Major was not the basis of many a legend for nothing, however, and it had recovered.

Rainbow Dash had left, the Ursa Major never really having acknowledged her existence. For it, blue and silver were the new red in its rage. Tristan saw all of this, and he welcomed it.

“My name is Tristan. I am the Greatest, the most Powerful equine to ever Live,” He proclaimed.

The Ursa rumbled, almost as if it agreed with him. Tristan decided it did.

It grabbed a tree, and snapped it in half. Sap poured out, coating a paw. Momentarily diverting its attention, the Ursa cleaned off as much sap from its fur as possible, tossing the sticky clump of sap behind it, the ball of fluid quickly disappearing into the night sky.

This wasn’t what he had expected of the night when he had gone to gaze at the moon, but this hadn’t been it. Ponies said your life would flash by your eyes when death approached. Tristan sidestepped it by closing his eyes. What was the nature of a dream? Or was life itself the epitome of a dream, ephemeral in the reality that was the state of non-existence? He would never get to discuss it with Princess Luna.

Huh. That was a lullaby he hadn’t heard in a long time. His mother had occasionally whistled it to him as a colt to lull him to sleep. He heard a yawn, but couldn’t feel his mouth opening gaping wide to let one out. He was tired.

Tristan gave in, letting the end of the illusion come to pass.




Waketh up, mine little pony. Thy end approaches only if thou alloweth it.


What doth thou mean, an eternal dream? What nonsense! Thou hath much more to liveth for!

Heaven’s veil closed.

Tristan woke up.



An exquisite pain washed over Tristan like his body was a canvas. The artist who had found Tristan had delighted in him, painting him in rich flavours of agony.


His eyes focused, and purple moved into his vision.

“I think the Ursa scared away all the monsters, so we should be safe for the time being, but we should really get out of the Everfree before they come back.

Tristan’s mind was beginning to reassert itself over his body, and he picked out more details, narrowing the shade of purple down to something cliché like lavender. Seeing the horn and the mane stripes of alternating purple and pink, his eyes widened as the voice resonated with his memories: this was Twilight Sparkle, the Canterlot-raised librarian with a dragon.

“You can move, right? You’re showing all the signs of magical exhaustion, I already took a risk treating your wounds with magic, I don’t want to use magic to lift you if I don’t have to.”

He was a mixed pot of sentiments, his brain desperately trying to process them into words. His tongue felt drier than it have ever been before, yet the taste of copper was obvious. Tristan struggled to get his jaw to open. He thought he knew now what Mareacles had felt like, struggling to complete her Twelve Labours.

“I’m sorry.”

Twilight eyed him carefully, and he let out a curse as he felt a sting through the embrace of pain on his forehead. “Well, at least you can talk,” She said, applying a thin strip of gauze to a nasty cut. “I’m glad I remembered to bring my first aid kit. Stay! I want to get moving right away, and I can’t do it if you don’t let me get the worst of your wounds. You're lucky I spotted Rainbow Dash chasing after the Ursa with a storm cloud, and then spotted you just before the Ursa was about to kill you. If it wasn't for that, I would have stayed in Ponyville and helped the emergency night watch.”

Tristan relaxed. In, out, in, out, he counted his breaths to get into a rhythm, but his heart took off as Twilight started to stitch something right above his left ear. When Tristan felt he was over the worst of it, he asked, “What happened to the Ursa Major?”

“I put it to sleep,” She answered, her magic levitating several swabs of cotton, some of which were stained red and brown already, the others reeking of antiseptic. “I played a lullaby. It seemed enraged enough that it was resisting, but then I laced it with a hypnosis spell before moving it back inside. Normally that shouldn’t have worked, but the arcane winds from the cavern gave me enough magic. I never realised there were magical wells in the Everfree! No wonder the Ursa chose to make its cave here. Why, I bet it hibernates here specifically to survive through the winter, they’re not like normal bears, they actually need ambient magic while they’re sleeping too, and, er…” Twilight trailed off, letting out a nervous giggle as she realised she had been rambling.

Tristan ignored her when he realised she was going off-topic. A part of him was angry that he had been upstaged in his grand finale. The larger part was just happy he was still alive. He was a star made flesh, and the weakness of any flesh-bodied organism was that it would always want to live. It just meant Tristan could continue to travel and put on shows, which had filled him with happiness and given true meaning to his life.

But first…grunting, he pulled himself up. He wobbled, feeling lightheaded, but stood his ground and stayed on his hooves. Tristan’s frogs attempted to usurp him, but he brushed the coup d’etat aside with little effort.

“Let’s go,” Tristan said, finding his bearings as he placed one hoof after another. Twilight watched him carefully, ready to grab him if he stumbled, but nodded her assent, falling in line beside him.


The two walked through the forest, Twilight occasionally sending out a magical derivation of supersonic echoes to detect any nearby monsters. Her earlier theory that the Ursa had scared the smaller critters away had held and then some, as nothing had crossed paths with them on the return to Ponyville.

“So…what exactly happened?” Twilight asked. “I was woken up by loud tremors, then when I came outside I saw the Ursa in the distance. Its cave was tens of thousands of hoof lengths into the forest, what could possibly have brought it out all the way to Ponyville?”

Tristan winced, as a memory of three fillies came to mind. “Can you keep a secret?” He asked, and then winced again at how suspicious that sounded.

Twilight followed it up with a tongue lashing, “I most certainly can, but if you think I’m going to keep something secret about a giant bear nearly coming into Ponyville, you have another thing coming!”

Well, Tristan supposed he deserved that. His head hurt, and he found himself tripping over words. “There was was, er, was a pony who brought it into town, by accident,” He slowed down before he revealed too much. “That pony is still a foal, and I think that pony didn’t really think about the consequences.”

The other unicorn sighed, “The Cutie Mark Crusaders, I gather?”

Tristan stared. Even keeping to a gender-neutral pronoun to pretend there was just one pony involved, she had still figured it right away. “How did you-“ He shut his mouth, but knew the secret was good as exposed.

Twilight clicked her tongue, “Of all the fillies and colts in town, those three come up with the most outlandish and outrageous ideas, and actually go through with them. That, and I saw the three of them slinking around before I came out here. They must have felt guilty, because they confessed to me right away. They didn't tell me you had lead it back out of town, however. That was just luck that I followed Rainbow Dash and found you.”

Ah. The pain briefly lifted, as warmth flooded his chilled heart. So those three had survived after all, and none the worse for wear outside of fright. Still…”What will happen to them?” He asked. “I feel a little guilty…I think I did give them the idea for it, after all.”

“Yes, you and your whole claim earlier about defeating an Ursa Major!” said Twilight.

“Hey!” Tristan said, even his indignant protest costing him dearly with a sharp jab of pain to the ribs, “It’s not just a claim! Even tired from my performance earlier and with absolutely no prep time, I still managed to lure this one all the way out to its cave without anypony else taking an injury. Although, your friend Rainbow Dash showed up a couple of times and helped,” He added. “She nearly got killed in the process, but I think she managed to get away without really getting hurt.”

Twilight Sparkle had to think that over, as they continued their slow trotting pace to civilisation. The Great and Powerful Tristan infuriated her. In all her life, she had split things into black and white, good and evil fairly easily. Nightmare Moon had been just the tail end of this perspective on the world before her struggles on understanding friendship had required Twilight to view morality through a new lens, but Nightmare Moon had been a powerful tail end. There was nothing truly good about the Nightmare itself, with the good part of Princess Luna buried underneath deeply. That the Princess and the Nightmare were such polar opposites was undeniable, and Twilight could safely slot one in the evil pool and one in the good.

This stallion was different. Tristan appeared courteous, to a fault, but had appeared to casually disregard her for her gender earlier. He was playfully mischievous, tempered by a mean streak. He was loud, arrogant and a braggart, yet when a giant bear came into town, he had apparently put himself in the line of fire to get it away before anypony else could be hurt. From the defiant stance he had taken up at the last, Tristan had expected to die. Twilight had certainly never seen anypony else magically exhaust themselves as much as Tristan had that night.

The trail she had followed spoke of their battle. A magically-gouged trench, followed by a crater where the Ursa had presumably tripped and then fallen down. A splatter of rainbow-coloured liquid mixed in with a steaming, oozing pile of red blood and glittering star-like plasma. Countless trees littering the ground, and at the end of it all stood a single pony, resolute against the Pony of the End herself.

It frustrated her, and yet she felt giddy. Friendship was like an insidiously difficult puzzle, constantly changing on you, never quite solvable but the solution always within reach. She didn’t understand how she could be friends with ponies with such variable personalities, but she enjoyed it. She could make friends with this enigma of a nomadic pony, if only she could utter two words.

“I’m sorry,” Twilight said, and she meant those two slippery words. Tristan looked over at her, slightly dazed still. For his benefit, Twilight clarified, “For earlier today. I shouldn’t have thrown you out. I was upset over what you did to Rainbow Dash, but I overreacted. For all you’ve done tonight, I’d even let you stay over hours.” Twilight halted, as she realised that such an honour might not be that important to other ponies. She silently cursed her social awkwardness.

Tristan took it in stride as he continued cantering along, Twilight matching his slow pace. “I shouldn't have insulted you either. I'll accept your apology if you accept mine."

"It's a deal," Twilight replied.

"As for staying over hours, I might have to take you up on that offer. The Ursa destroyed my wagon after all, so I have nowhere else to stay tonight," Tristan said.

Twilight couldn’t help it. She giggled, and then she felt mortified that she was laughing at another pony’s misfortune. Despite that, her giggling continued, only getting stronger the more she tried to clamp down on it.

To her surprise, Tristan joined in with a deep laugh that came from the belly up, even as his eyes tightened shut, shedding tears. “Hehe, it hurts to laugh, and yet I’m laughing still. This sensation is so ticklish, it’s funny.”

“It is, isn’t it?” Twilight agreed, laughing along with him. She didn't know why, but she enjoyed the sound of his laugh, even through the occasional sob of pain. It was alluring.

The two unicorns refrained from talking for the next few minutes. The wind. As the lights of Ponyville got brighter and brighter, Twilight decided there was no point in holding off on it, as unpleasant as it may be, “Hey, Tristan?”


“You stated that this was the second Ursa Major you fought off, correct?” Twilight asked.

The blue unicorn frowned. “Yeeees,” Tristan slowly said, unsure of where this was going. "The first time was in the village of Hoofington." Even then, the words felt like ash in his mouth.

“Then why didn’t you know that that wasn’t an Ursa Major, but just a baby, an Ursa Minor?”


Well-Known Member
The Great and Powerful Tristan was talented in many different fields.

Bluffing, boasting and telling tall tales were just some of his myriad gifts, and in a pinch he could tell a convincing lie to worm his way out of nearly any situation.


At the moment, however, Tristan was half-dead on his hooves, and the aches and pains that were like paint splatters over his body detracted from his ability to think fast. If asked later, he would have admitted that at that moment, he was exhausted in more than one way: physically fatigued, mentally numb, magically drained, but above all, he didn’t want to keep up the façade any longer. This was the first time he had fought an Ursa. He had never even seen an Ursa Minor or Major before.

“I see,” Twilight said, looking away from Tristan and up at the stars. “There was no Ursa Major in Hoofington, was there.”

“No, there wasn’t,” Tristan replied. “Hoofington was where I grew up. After I entered the show biz, I requested ponies there to back me up if anypony from out of town asked whether it had actually occurred.”

“Thinking ahead, then,” Twilight marveled, still facing away. “But then, it was always meant for entertainment purposes only, right?”

“Yes. I never thought it would get so out of hand like, well, this.”

“Welcome to Ponyville,” Twilight said, thinking of near-misses with a bunny stampede and a cow stampede, mass poisoning by baked bads, and a frenzy to get a ticket to the Grand Galloping Gala, all coming after Nightmare Moon choosing the town to make her reappearance. That was excluding the antics the Cutie Mark Crusaders had already gotten up to in such a small time together. The poor librarian had no idea how true that refrain would become in the years to come.

“Yeah, I kind of figured,” Tristan said, trotting ahead to stand next to Twilight again. “Hoofington is on the other end of the Everfree Forest, and we had big incidents like this from time to time. Never an Ursa, er, Minor wandering into town, though. That makes me wonder now just how big an Ursa Major is.”

Twilight rolled her eyes at that last comment, “Trust me, you don’t want to know.” There were very few verbal accounts of ponies who had seen an Ursa Major, but all described it as reaching the very stars itself, towering over all but the largest mountains.

Tristan paused, hyping himself up to do one of the hardest things he had ever done: admit his gratitude. “Still, you saved me. How can I ever repay you?”

“You won’t have to worry too much about that, or your wagon. You did do the job of getting it all the way out to its cave,” Said Twilight. Then again, she thought to herself, there was a way he could repay her personally, “But if you really want…”

Tristan had been looking away, fidgeting on his hooves in continuing awkward embarrassment. As such, he was totally caught off guard when moist warm lips contacted his own, and he nearly jumped. Twilight didn’t let him move away, however, keeping herself pressed against him.

The stallion thought about resisting it, but then he shivered. Unlike the other tremors that shot through his spine that night, this was one of pleasure. Tristan relaxed into the kiss, embracing the warm tingling that was a tidebreaker to the pain that had been washing over him earlier, the cool night sky now just a distant memory.

Tristan kept his eyes closed, willing the moment to last forever. In actual fact, he wanted to go further, roll down and roll over into the hay with this wonderful pony, but he knew his injuries would flare up if he did. Oh Princesses, being on the road meant it had been forever since he had last kissed a mare.

At last, they parted, and he regretted nothing more, even as his lungs sucked in delicious life-giving air again.

“Some more of that,” Twilight Sparkle said, purple eyes glittering mischievously, “And maybe a date when you’re recovered.” Flicking her tail, she started walking again to town.

For once, Tristan felt at a loss for words, his cheeks growing hot as he followed this frustrating mare who confused him.


Rainbow Dash sat in the trees, looking up at the stars. While not much for book knowledge, the constellations of the sky were an important thing in Pegasus culture, who could always see the stars no matter what the weather was like. If she squinted, she could just pick out the Ursa Major constellation.

“Should I, or shouldn’t I?” She thought aloud to herself about revealing what she had overheard to others.

It was a no-brainer, “Nah!” Hers was the Element of Loyalty, and to betray somepony who had intended to sacrifice his life to save a town full of strangers went against everything Rainbow Dash was.

Just a few more minutes, then she would hop off, and make her way to the hospital to get herself checked out. Tristan looked like he had been through the mad science lab at the Weather Factory in Cloudsdale, but she hadn’t escaped entirely unscathed either. Rainbow Dash shuddered at the thought of being squeezed in the Ursa’s grip, her life blood being popped out of her body like the gooey insides of a marshmallow oozing out the ends after it had been cooked over a campfire. Rainbow Dash had an inkling she would have a few troubled nights over the next few weeks.

In that moment when their eyes had met, she had felt kinship with the stallion. The two of them both had a single-minded passion for their talent, their art, and enjoyed showing off for others. They both exaggerated and went a little overboard, but when danger struck, both Rainbow Dash and Tristan would sacrifice themselves. It had been heart-wrenching to fly off, knowing he would die, and only spotting Twilight and telling her of the Ursa ahead had averted certain disaster.

Rainbow Dash thought about pursuing Tristan, but relegated that to her fantasies. Twilight Sparkle had already expressed a little bit of an interest, and Dash, at this point, had little time for romance, even for flings. She was still training hard to get into the Wonderbolts. Who knows? She might even be able to pull off that legendary Sonic Rainboom again.


In the end, the final injury list had been mercifully small. Upon encountering Rainbow Dash, Tristan learned she had taken a little bit of a backlash from the second thundercloud, overriding even her tribe’s natural immunity to electricity. Between that and a sprained wing she had incurred when the Ursa had grabbed her, Rainbow Dash had been given clearance for a couple of days off.

Outside of the sheer physical exhaustion he felt, Tristan had numerous visible nicks and cuts all across his skin, the result of his mad dash through the forest over wrecked trees, and multiple tumbles during that time. It had taken a visit to the doctor to verify a couple of cracked ribs as well. The doctor and nurse had tied off some gauze and tape around his chest and back, leaving him rather trussed with a white midsection where there was normally blue fur.

Tristan had worried he might have damaged his magic with the intensity of the spells he had been throwing at the Ursa, going past the point where his horn had nearly shorted out with pain. A specialist had come out of Canterlot to examine him within the day. It seemed saving a town from a monster attack meant you got looked at immediately instead of waiting a few weeks for an appointment. Fortunately, the doctor had pronounced him alright, outside of warning him not to attempt any magic for a few days, and to work steadily back up to any intense performances in the future. Although a little bit of property had been damaged, only Tristan and Rainbow Dash had received any harm from that night.

Oh, and three fillies that had gotten coated in tree sap when an Ursa Minor had scraped some of it off its arms and thrown it away, tossing it far enough to reach Ponyville.


“Twilight, are you ready?” Tristan called up the stairs, impatiently tapping a hoof against the floor several times a second.

“Relax,” Spike said, standing next to him. “She was probably ready half an hour ago, I bet she’s just triple-checking all her checklists.” As it had been the first time he had watched Twilight go out with a stallion, the little dragon had felt it his responsibility, in lieu of Twilight’s actual big brother, to be the protective big brother and threaten Tristan over treating her right. The older male had shrugged it off, but was a little bit wary of Spike, given that he was a dragon after all.

Tristan just rolled his eyes, looking at his one leg, where he had donned a watch obtained from the local watch-maker in gratitude. “I have reservations for five minutes from now,” He grumbled. As a smaller town, Ponyville didn’t really have any high-class restaurant that required reservations months ahead of time, and showing up a few minutes late was hardly a societal misstep. There was still the principle of the matter. Deciding he would use the time as best he could, he used his magic to lift up a small hoofmirror and go over his appearance one more time.

As all his belongings had been wrecked by the Ursa Minor, Tristan had had to accept the generosity of the townsponies in replacing his goods. Though he was waiting for a new wagon, he had gotten outfitted by Rarity with a couple of new suits. Keeping the cravat that he usually liked to wear, Rarity had designed a suit that went down to his front hooves and along his torso, terminating halfway along his body just shy of his Cutie Mark and leaving his back legs uncovered. In homage to the hat and cape that had been lost, the suit was purple with stars in all sizes and colours.

Tristan liked it. Not only did it match his old hat and cape, but it also covered up the bandages he was wearing around his midsection, so only a tiny bit of white peeped out from the end of the suit. Now he had to make sure it was free of wrinkles.

“I’m ready, oh I hope we’re not late now!”

Tristan swallowed down the smart-aleck comment he wanted to make. While the relationship between him and Twilight Sparkle was confusing, not quite approaching marefriend and coltfriend but hardly in the realm of ‘just friends’, Tristan knew snarky comments could ruin their bond quick. He didn’t want that. Twilight Sparkle was, after all, one of those mares who had transcended that designation. Instead, he looked up the stairs, where she was walking down.

In the literary world, it was cliché for a stallion to be rendered speechless the first time they saw a mare in a pretty dress, or perhaps fumbling for words, or even star-struck. Tristan was none of those, but it didn’t take away from the genuine happiness he felt at seeing her in a dress. It was a little bit fancy for the occasion, a blue dress with multiple flower petal emblems stitched in on the ends, but Rarity was not a pony with analog expectations: she either did the absolute best she could, or she didn’t do a dress at all. It was still mesmerising, and Tristan would tell Rarity as much later. After the dress, Twilight had apparently gone to the spa earlier in the day, and had her hair tied up in a bun.

“You look good,” Tristan remarked, “Don’t worry, we still have a few minutes, Twilight. The diner’s not far, so if we keep a good trotting pace we’ll get there with time to spare.”

“But,” He added as Twilight came down the stairs, “One more thing.” Levitating a rose he had obtained earlier, he put it in her hair towards the left side of the hair, before lifting up the mirror for her to see the result, “How does it look?”

Twilight smiled, and his heart started to thump.


“Do ya really gotta go, Mistah Tristan?”

“Yeah, can’t you stay around?!”


“Now now Sweetie Belle, don’t cry,” Tristan teased the unicorn filly, who had been silent but looked set to break it with a sob. He brought up his hoof to wipe off an unshed tear. “I’ll be back within two months, promise.”

“W-weally?” Sweetie Belle’s voice had cracked up, and she was beginning to lisp.

“Yes,” Tristan said, and he meant it. When he did, however, it would still only be for a few weeks at the most. Tristan was a free soul, one prone to wandering the lands and oceans. Magic may have been his talent, but wanderlust was what truly made him. Still, this time he had something extra to tie him to a place other than being where he had grown up in.

The stallion had been a little wary of the Cutie Mark Crusaders after the events that led up to them bringing an Ursa Minor into town, but he had been assured by two of the three’s older sisters that they would never do such a thing again. Apparently, getting splattered with tree sap was a terrific form of negative reinforcement for them. After talking with some of the other adults in town, Tristan decided he would forgive them for it.

As he attached his harness to his body and started out of town, getting used to the balance on the new wagon, he stopped again. He had already said his goodbyes, but Twilight Sparkle seemed to still want to get one last goodbye in.

“So you’re leaving,” Twilight said, the same words she had used to lead off their conversation from a few days ago. This time, however, she was far more optimistic.

“Yes,” Tristan assured her. “I’ll be learning the spell matrix for sending a letter directly to Spike, but it’ll take me more than a few days, the magic for it is fiendishly complicated. Until then, I’m sure Muffins would be more than happy to deliver you any mail I send.”

“Happy to knock over all the shelves in my library as well,” Twilight deadpanned. “Then again, I suppose Rainbow Dash does that enough times on her own too.”


“Take care, Tristan,” Twilight tilted her face up to give him a quick peck on the cheek, ignoring Rainbow Dash, who was doing a poor job of eavesdropping from a cloud above.

“I’ll be sure to do that,” Tristan said, “And tell Rainbow Dash I’ll send her letters as well.” He continued the charade for the poor pegasus’ benefit. In the wake of the Ursa Minor’s attack on Ponyville, Tristan had been aware of a very odd triangle developing between the three of them. Having talked with Twilight over it, the two decided they would let Rainbow Dash decide on her own terms and time when she would come forward and pursue him. Until then, he would do his best to treat her as a good friend.

“Then I’ll do that,” said Twilight, walking the blue-furred stallion along the road leading south out of Ponyville. “You replaced your bandages this morning?”  She asked, looking at the fresh wrapping he had around his torso.

“Yes,” He affirmed, his legs growing heavier with every step, but Tristan continued trotting. 

“Then this is goodbye for now,” Twilight said, and he was silent. Twilight took this as her cue to continue talking, “It’s funny, you know. I felt so listless a few weeks ago, like I was missing something. Then you came, and despite that first day, you provided an excitement that’s made me feel alive since then.”

“You take a Canterlot mare out of the palace and put her in a small town, adjusting can be hard,” Tristan at last commented, having heard all about her life over the last few weeks.

“Yes. So, I suppose what I’m saying,” And this time she kissed him directly on the lips, causing him to halt long enough to enjoy the sensation and return it back. The two stayed like that for several seconds before Twilight broke away, “Is don’t be a stranger and come back soon.”

“Y-yes, I will. That’s a Pinkie Promise,” Tristan said, already making plans to scour some of the book markets in Manehatten before he returned to Ponyville. Feeling the conversation at an end, he resumed his light, lazy pace, the lighter weight of the new wagon a heaven-sent blessing for his body, out-of-shape from two weeks of resting up.

As the road steadily turned from a flat, paved path to the dirt trails that linked most of the smaller towns and villages of Equestria in a spider’s web network, Tristan found himself looking up at the morning sun. At one time, the bringer of daylight had seemed anathema to him. His very Cutie Mark included the moon, and fireworks were always more impressive at night. Now? Now, knowing somepony who was the personal student of the embodiment of the Sun had given him a new appreciation for Her Majesty the Daystar. Rainbow Dash’s opinion of taking a snooze while basking in the sun’s radiance also helped.

No other town had quite affected him like Ponyville. Of course, no other town had sicced an Ursa Minor on him either. And while Tristan had engaged in a few quick flings over his years on the road, no other town had ensnared him, with not one but two romantic interests waiting for him to get back home.

All this and more, he thought about as he continued walking to the next town, and then the next, and the next, until he returned to his hometown of Hoofington. And when he was done there, all roads would someday end at Ponyville.


Now, below is basically me rambling on about things that didn’t make it in the story, things that got changed, and so on. I always think Word of God interviews and the like are cool, but similarly dislike it when authors dripfeed stuff (see: J.K. Rowling and her releasing new tidbits nearly a decade after the Harry Potter series is done). Feel free to ask anything as well in the comments, and I’ll try to respond in a timely basis.

When I initially set about writing this, I was thinking it was going to be a romcom version of Boast Busters with a chivalrous male Trixie who ends up actually thinking during the Ursa rampage instead of letting fear take over. It didn’t really end up as either of those genres. It genuinely makes me terrified of writing longer fiction, honestly, knowing that any plot twists or events I have planned for future events could too easily be completely derailed by my characters and early events taking off on their own.

Spike was originally going to have a bigger role, and after the first chapter he disappeared completely. First, I had to banish him on a mission to Rarity’s so Tristan and Twilight could talk alone in the library. With me flipping Trixie’s gender, I also decided it would be cute for fillies to admire him instead of a couple of colts, but I felt it made more sense for the Cutie Mark Crusaders to stumble into finding an Ursa on their own instead. With that, however, Spike wasn’t required to give them the idea, either.

As I’ve said in my author notes before, when writing Tristan, I wanted to make him familiar, but also give him his own spin on character traits. As a male, I envisioned him as being chivalrous, and treating Applejack and Rarity rather courteously was intended early on. I had a tough time trying to think of a way for him to show up Rainbow Dash in a polite manner, then realised I could make him get upset at Rainbow Dash’s abrasive personality. By shuffling around the order of ponies that went up on stage I had Rainbow Dash come last. 

However, Tristan’s dislike of mares only evolved from when I wrote the Rainbow Dash scene, and I figured it would make for an interesting narrative for him to be mildly chauvinistic, while at the same time trying to be a gentlestallion. I thought about whether or not to give him a 'reason' in this last chapter for his chauvinism, but decided against it. Not every negative character trait needs a genesis and a subplot to resolve it. You can just assume his dislike of mares in general naturally evolved over time over a series of minor things.

In Chapter 3, Tristan was originally going to have Rainbow Dash retrieve a bag of spice, and he was going to throw it into the Ursa’s eye. While I was in the process of writing Chapter 2, I realised I actually had an out with the rainbow essence from Chapter 1. Rainbow Dash, however, was always going to show up with a big storm cloud right at the end. What I could have done was just have her show up twice instead of three times in the chapter, with Tristan telling her to get a storm cloud the first time and her bringing it the second time for the finale. However, I kept her having three appearances in: the first time, instead of having her get spice, Tristan tells her to get a cloud to produce thunder with. Tristan throws the rainbow essence at the wound the Ursa takes in, which while would be extremely painful, is still less cruel than throwing it at the Ursa’s eye. Then Rainbow Dash takes her own initiative to get the second, larger cloud. But yeah, when you hear about Chekhov’s Guns in fiction, sometimes it’s the author realising there was a plot thread from earlier that he can conveniently use and make it look like it was planned all along. I appended in a little bit about Tristan thinking about throwing the rainbow essence into the Ursa’s eye and deciding it wouldn’t be a smart idea, the only remaining vestige of that idea.

The Ursa was originally going to smack Rainbow Dash out of the sky at the end, but I changed that, since I didn’t really want to write about a wounded Dash, and had the Ursa grab her instead. The scene where Tristan uses magic to tickle the Ursa’s nose, making it sneeze, was originally planned for here, to distract the Ursa. The tickling scene got moved up, and instead Tristan uses a high-pitched noise.

Tristan’s visit to the library was originally going to involve him and Twilight chatting cordially, leading into the romantic part of the romcom the story was originally planned to be. Between Rainbow Dash’s humiliation, Tristan’s attitude and my need to actually have him be arrogant time to time changed that scene around entirely, so if Twilight’s whole make-up with him in Chapter 4 feels a little fast, I apologise: her kiss and asking him out on a date was planned from the beginning. Warmer relations in Chapter 2 would have made it more believable.

In fact, Twilight practically disappeared on me. I had every intention of writing her doing something between the library scene and her appearance at the end of Chapter 3, and she would just not cooperate. I can see where Tristan gets his frustration with her, stupid mare.  Rainbow Dash surprised me, too, because after her badass moment in Chapter 3, it was Rainbow Dash who felt like she would fit a Tristan romance better.  I had intended this fic to be purely a Twixie one, and then Rainbow Dash comes in and ends up forming a triangle.

When I changed Trixie's gender, I also changed who the ponies admiring him were who would bring the Ursa into town, to make it a far fresher take on Boast Busters. I wonder how many people caught on to that when they first read the synopsis and saw Call of the Cutie had already occurred in this continuity.

The brief scene with Luna in Chapter 3 was only added in at the last moment when writing up that chapter. I felt it would be too abrupt for Tristan to wake up right away, and decided a dream sequence would work. At the same time, I didn't think it should be an elaborate dream sequence, so instead we get Luna being all vague and cryptic in a few lines.