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[Everfree Forest] - Can go nowhere but up [Concluded]

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[[OOC Note - Thanks to Dubstep and Willow for giving permission to use their characters places for this opening :D]]

How did to come to this?  How could have the mighty have fallen so far?  It just didn't seem real - but here she was, The Great and Powerful Trixie, reduced to homelessness and near starvation in some dark, dank forest.  All thanks to that day, that horrible day when she took her wondrous magic to Ponyville.  The day where it all went so horribly wrong.  It all blew up in her face, everything she worked for utterly smashed into a thousand pieces, ruined, including her most prized possession ... her reputation.

It was dawn, and once again, Trixie was out scavenging - looking for anything she could use to survive in this accursed dank forest she found herself living in.  The thin blue unicorn quietly moved among the trees, wary of being noticed by any errant pony - or worse, by the various strange creatures that inhabited Everfree.  It was harder to be stealthy during the day, but the night was too dangerous. Still, no matter what they took from her, they could never take her amazing magic.  A whisper of power was all it took to muffle the noise of her passage.

The pickings had been thin this day.  She had come across a small, run down house on the edge of Foggy Bottom, but there was very little of value inside.  Whomever it belonged to was obsessed with Poison Joke. She couldn't help but monologue, "Eeeheeheehee!  Look at that amateur setup! Little foals playing games, not even using their gift of unicorn magic to its fullest!  Trixie laughs at such foolishness, no wonder he is so poor!" She smirked before her own situation brought a crashing blow to her ego, a couple tears running down her cheeks as she tried to hold back the depression.  Quickly looking about, she felt she needed to get out of there, and fast.  There, a few apples laying in the dirt.  Good enough - she took them and left in a hurry.

As she worked along to outskirts of the forest, there wasn't much to find that she could use.  The next building she spotted looked even less likely as a prospect than the previous place - a large home that looked like it was right out of a horror novel one told young foals.  "What could such a place hold for Trixie? Likely home to a crazy cat mare!", she quipped to herself as justification, hiding her fear.

Her final stop looked inviting - a large home built into a tremendous tree with a small brook out in front.  It seemed like easy pickings, and with her magic, it surely wouldn't be difficult to get inside and take a couple provisions.  The owner wouldn't even notice till it was too late!

Looking at the small cache of food she managed to rob from that last stop, Trixie suddenly grew despondent, "Is this what the Great an… I'm, reduced to? Stealing Apples? A Scavenger? A common thief??" In a flash of magical rage she pitched the apples violently, foolishly smashing her only food against a nearby tree. As the remains dripped down, Trixie just sat and sobbed for several minutes, lost in self-pity.

Suddenly an epiphany! "What if some of my spell books survived in Ponyville?! That accursed Ursa couldn't have demolished all of them in its bumbling around, and they are valuable enough not even those ignorant ruffians in that two bit backwoods town would destroy them. The Great and Powerful Trixie could get them back!', she smiled as she wiped away her tears. As Trixie contemplated just how to do that, she realized that she was still sitting exposed for anyone to see in the open fields near the home she "procured" her food from, and it was getting dark…

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((OOC: I hope you don't mind me jumping in before Dub or Willow get a chance to respond, but Trixie is definitely Lola's kind of people, so I had to seize the opportunity for them to meet.))

Lola skimmed the forest canopy irritably. She'd gotten separated from the balloon, and was getting increasingly lost over this fuddlesome forest. Flying around looking for the balloon had gotten her nowhere, and her compass was packed away in her missing bags. Frustrated, she landed on a tree branch momentarily and let out an angry squawk, taking some small satisfaction at the hush that fell over the area as the local birds were terrorized by her cry.

She scanned the horizon once more. Trees trees and more trees. But there, was that dip a clearing perhaps. A clearing was her best bet to find shelter for the evening, and it was already getting dark. This awful place had already claimed most of her day. Just this morning she'd been thinking she might be able to get all the way to Canterlot, and here she was, not even to Ponyville, and missing her companions and gear. She could only hope that they had made their way to the city without her, and that she would be able to meet up with them there.

She soared toward the clearing at the fastest speed she could manage without ruffling her feathers too badly. She loomed over the clearing, coming in from the west and casting a fearsome shadow over the clearing. When she landed, she gave an altogether more refined impression, as she reached up to brush a wayward feather back into place. A pony was a good sign, though from the looks of it this one lived out in this squalid little treehouse. Still, with any luck, she would know the way to Ponyville. This unicorn didn't seem particularly threatening, but Lola readied her parasol just in case.

"Excuse me, madam, but would you happen to know the way to Ponyville? I seem to have gotten a bit lost in these infernal woods. I don't suppose I could bother you for directions or guidance out of here?"

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Trixie felt confident again for the first time in a long time, she felt..great and powerful! Yes, if she could get some of those books of hers back she could start anew! Back to her old self!

Suddenly Trixie heard something land nearby! Quickly jumping up on all fours she found herself looking at a female Griffin with light pinkish feathering. The blue unicorn sniffed her still running nose, hoping it came off as indignant and not like she was trying to hide that she'd been crying.

The Griffin didn't seem to appear hostile - instead she asked about Ponyville ... that place ... that place where she was humiliated ... and now must go back to. Well, she had to get her books, anyway. Trixie puffed up a little and smiled proudly, "But of COURSE! If you need help of ANY sort, there is none who can assist you with greater MAJESTY than the GREAT and POWERFUL TRIXIE!"

Trixie turned around and began to step proudly in the general direction of Ponyville, holding her head high. She strutted several yards before turning to see if the Griffin was following her, "Come, then, and be glad to be allowed to follow the GREAT and POWERFUL Trixie!"

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Lola blinked, rather taken aback by the pony's demeanor. All the ponies in Rockwington had always been fairly meek, she'd assumed that was simply a common trait of their species. This pony almost seemed to be aggrandizing herself.

"I..." she paused for a moment, gathering her composure. Dealing with this sort of thing was not outside her expertise, as there were plenty of eccentric nobles in griffin society, but she had not been expecting it. "You have my thanks, Lady... Trixie was it?" She pretended not to have heard it yet as she followed behind the strange unicorn.

"I can only assume that your title is a reference to your magical abilities, as a unicorn. Is that correct? As it happens, I am actually conducting research on the magics of your kind. I wonder if you might be willing to tell me a bit about your superlative powers. It would be most enlightening, and I would of course reference your insight in any works I should happen to publish."

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Trixie trotted along slowly, giving the griffon a chance to follow her, but not so slow as to give the appearance she was doing so. She hesitated to look back, just in case the Griffin decided to dismiss Trixie's facade of boasting and call her bluff.

"You have my thanks, Lady... Trixie was it?"

Trixie's eye widened for a second as she kept looking forward, 'Lady' Trixie? Hrmmm... 'Lady' Trixie... she could get used to that... it sounded distinguished, even noble, and as far as this griffin knew, that is what Trixie was, a mare of nobility. And why not? I am as dignified as those aristocratic ponies around Celestia in Canterlot, certainly more so than those snobbish rubes in Manehattan!

As Trixie started to daydream about being treated as nobility she was almost caught off-guard by the griffon's inquiries about unicorn magic in such a flattering manner. "Wha..really?" as she looked back in confusion and surprise before regaining her haunty composure. "I mean..*ahem* There is no better subject from which you could learn the MAJESTY and WONDER which is UNICORN MAGIC!" Trixie stopped momentarily and smiled broadly with the appearance of great confidence, "and there is no better teacher that the.. er, LADY TRIXIE, for whom you may seek answers to your questions!"

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Flattery was always effective against these sorts. Lola gave an ever-so-subtle smirk at Trixie's reaction. "Well then, Lady Trixie, it is a pleasure to meet you. I am Lola Silverbeak, heiress to the great house Silverbeak, though I suppose my title wouldn't mean much in these parts."

"So tell me, is it the horn that give you the ability to work your magic? I've heard tales of Unicorns who have lost their horns in accidents, but they are so rare where I come from that such tales are little more than hearsay. Certainly the horn does glow when you use your powers. And what does using magic feel like? Oh, and it seems to create its effects from nothing, do you draw upon some arcane power source?" Lola plunged immediately into just a few of the questions she'd been wondering about for years. If she could only puzzle out how to access the seemingly limitless energy of magic, her company could make unimaginable profits.

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Once again Trixie found herself momentarily taken aback, this time visibility surprised with a look of stunned incredulity on her face. She really was expecting the usual trivial questions that as much extolled her magical ability as inquired about it, "How do you do it, Trixie? How are you so awesome, Trixie? How did you learn so many spells, Trixie?"

Not that these questions were unwelcome! Quite the opposite! Though Trixie had never been able to afford a formal education, she considered herself quite well-studied, and had put in many, many long hours slaving away over books. She quite liked the scholarly aspect of things, not to mention the ability to show off her ability and knowledge to a fellow scholarly mind! And it would divert her attention from the forest, which she most definitely was *not* afraid of, not at all. Just ... wary ...

Trixie cleared her throat and took on what she imagined to be a scholarly tone that a professor might use. She hadn't ever been in a university class, but she could imagine what sort of tone a learned professor would use - just a little pompous, but not festooned with her usual melodramatic flourishes.

"Well, for the matter of unicorn horns, and their breaking - those sad unicorns who have broken their horns frequently do find their magic lessened, it is true, but the effect of it seems to be particular more to the individual unicorn than to the degree of damage, suggesting but not proving a more psychological than physical response..."

In answering that question, she imagined the tone she used was the kind that encouraged confidence in the speaker - not that she needed the confidence, herself. She was quite confident in her self-taught knowledge, after so many long hours in the library. She wasn't at all self-conscious about those university-taught unicorns. Not a bit.

"As to what using magic *feels* like ... well, it's difficult to describe. How do you describe sight to a deaf pony? How does it feel when channel your lesser magic to sit on a cloud? It feels... natural. It's a strain, like flexing a muscle that does not exist. It's dangerous, like containing an explosion with your bare hooves. It's delicate, like weaving cloth out of threads of air. It's tough, like feeling stone move like clay." Her tone took on excitement as she warmed to her favorite subject, a subject she loved even more than talking about herself, though she rarely got to discuss it with anyone. "Everything seems to come into focus as you hook into that tingling energy. Colors are brighter, sounds are clearer, and emotions are tangible. The thrill of an applauding crowd is ... " The look in her face got a little distant, as she remembered that thrill, riding high off of others' emotions...

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"Fascinating," Lola whipped out a small memo pad and took down notes. There wasn't a whole lot of space in the pad, but her full-sized notebooks were still in the balloon, so she made do with very a succinct shorthand. "But where does the power itself come from? I've heard that magic can lead to exhaustion, but that still doesn't account for where all the energy involved actually comes from. The laws of physics clearly state that energy cannot be created or destroyed, so there must be some wellspring of magical energy that you draw upon. But then again, not all Unicorns have the same capacity to channel that power, it's a most perplexing inequity."

"Oh, and as for shaping that power, when you create an effect, how do you envision it? Is it like a scientific formula, or is it more intuitive?" She noted Trixie's mention of applauding crowds. A performer of some kind, that would explain the theatrical introduction. Someone who knew how to put a theatrical spin on her magic could prove extremely useful in the future as well.

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Trixie looked upwards towards the night sky as she continued to trot, lost in a momentary dream of applauding crowds and adoring fans showering her with praise and bits. The snap of a twig from the nearby forest startled her back to reality and she squeaked. Quickly turning her head in fear she saw it was just a rabbit running on by... Trixie felt quite embarrassed by it, and quickly went back to answering her griffon companion's questions in order to draw any attention away from her skittish mindset about that forest...

"*Ahem* To answer your question, the power comes from both within and without - it requires a certain amount of personal effort to access the aetheric field that powers magic - but once accessed, the remainder of the energy comes from that field. The disparity in power between unicorns comes from their personal ability to store and use power, as well as their efficiency in creating the channel through which the external energy would flow. Two different unicorns can both use the same spell, but use different amounts of energy to do so, if one is more *efficient* than the other."

Trixe paused briefly, as to allow her "student" to absorb what she just heard. She was actually enjoying this, a university education at some fancy Canterlot academy wasn't needed to understand magic and the GREAT AND KNOWLEDGEABLE TRIXIE was going to PROVE IT. "For your second question, it is simple. For shaping an effect, well - equations certainly can factor into it - you can measure and describe the flow of magic with equations... but it's not all science, it is also an art. It takes practice, and creativity, to channel the flow of energy. Intuition takes one only so far - understanding and practice is needed to be as wonderful as the GREAT and POWERFUL TRIXIE!"

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Aetheric fields, now that was something she could use. Certainly there must be some material that could affect them, and if she could manipulate them, she could hopefully find a way to tap into it directly. Even if she couldn't create full spell effects, it was a vast, untapped source of power, it could even make coal obsolete!

Her attention snapped back to the unicorn as Trixie continued. "What about the differences in creating effects of radically different natures. I have heard that most unicorns can only manage to create effects that are related to a specific area of expertise. Is that perhaps because of their mentality in controlling it? It does sound like it takes a very flexible mind to manage a variety of spells, are the processes behind their creation very distinct?"

As she followed, the trees thinned, and Ponyville was just starting to be visible on the horizon, just barely visible in the growing dawn.

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Trixie was really starting to enjoy herself - all her research was finally paying off. She got to show off her extensive knowledge for the first time, and small, whimsical dreams flitted through her mind of being some great instructor in the ways of magic. A whole "class" of young students who had come far and wide to hear the wisdom of the GREAT AND POWERFUL TRIXIE. Hmm, I wondered if I really could make some good bits doing that?, she pondered. Of course, first came the mission of retrieving her books, and even before she could think more on that - the pink feathered Griffin had even more questions on the arcane nature of the magical arts.

Trixie started to get a little more theatrical about her answers, looking upwards and speaking with a louder voice of confidence, "To answer your question, dear student of Trixie, different effects are caused by shaping the aetheric field in different ways. The pattern of the channel causes the energy to change - one channel might turn the energy into fire, another might change it into sunlight. The channel is shaped by the mind, so different minds are more suited towards different channels. The only real limit is on the imagination, on the understanding, and on motivation." She was quite proud of that answer, and feeling a little better as they were finally walking away from the creepy forest into the open common of short grass that surrounded Ponyville.

"Now in response to your other fine inquiry on the intricacies of the fine and beautiful skill of magic - it takes practice to generate a new effect, so the main thing that holds most ponies back is motivation. Theoretically, any unicorn could learn any spell, if they were to practice enough. Just like any pony could learn how to paint, or how to play an instrument. What limits unicorns from being multi-talented is desire, motivation, and perhaps just a little bit of pure, raw talent, the sort possessed by the GREAT and POWERFUL TRIXIE!", she smiled rather haughtily, waving her forehoof into the air as if she just finished putting on a show.

Trixie looked about and noticed the town was clearly in view, "and here we are! Trixie has once again successfully rescued a lost griffin from the despairs of wandering hopelessly lost through the wilderness!" She gestured to the town, despite it's obviousness, her entire attitude suggesting that no other could have performed the simple task with the same quality that she brought to the role. She didn't even think about it as she automatically positioned herself to the best advantage, lit by a ray of soft, first light from the morning dawn finding a way through the thick canopy of the Everfree Forest.

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Doctor Whooves was always torn. There were so many experiments to do at home... but so much to see, out in the world! He usually was out and about, but every so often he ended up back on his own front step, on the fringe of the Everfree Forest, full of ideas to try out. Today he was trying, again, an new take on an old experiment that kept failing. The tan pony with the dark brown, slicked-back mane, and the hourglass for a cutie mark, had put together an all-new, all-improved invention - this one would surely do the trick! He had based it off of blueprints from the Cloudsdale engineers, so surely it would work!

He had climbed the ladder up to the slanted roof, and made his careful way up to the top, his bag of gear held carefully in his teeth, a long cord trailing from the bag down to the ground below. Then, balanced carefully on the very peak of his roof, he had pulled out the invention.

It was rather like a weather vane crossed with a telescope - It had a bunch of little crystals set into the tube, with the focusing lenses properly aligned. If all went well... yes, of course it would go well! He straightened it up on the peak, then ducked his head towards his bag to retrieve - ACK! He quickly grabbed the toppling invention in his teeth, panting heavily. That was close! He straightened it up, balancing it in place with hooves and teeth.

Carefully... carefully...

He backed off slowly, watching the contraption. It seemed to stay in place... he ducked his head down to the bag again and HORSEAPPLES! He darted forward, grabbed hold of the device again to keep it from falling. His hooves slipped and he landed on his rump on the peak of the house, scrabbling to keep from falling off one way or the other. Just by sheer luck, his hoof snagged the bag, and kept *that* from falling, too.

He brought his invention in closer... hugged it to his chest with his hooves, and let out a relieved sigh. Then he heard the voices. He glanced around quick, up into the sky, into his bag, and then down at the ground... ah, there! A unicorn and a griffin, perfect! "Hey, you there! Either one, that will be fine, could you be so good as to hold this in place while I fasten it down?"

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Lola scratched down notes at a furious pace, nearly using up her note pad. It was not only intriguing, it gave her a solid idea of what she needed to look for to further her research. Certainly there had to be some way to manipulate the aetheric energies through physical means, even if it ended up being less versatile or precise than unicorn magic. She didn't want to betray her true goals to this unicorn, however, it might damage her pride. She had gotten about everything she could out of Trixie, at least for now.

"Well then, Great and Powerful Lady Trixie, I think I have all the information I can use for now, I'll need some time to digest it. And of course, you have my deepest thanks for aiding me in getting out of that terrible forest. Oh, could I get your address with the local postal services, in case I need to contact you again?"

She blinked as an earth pony called out to them. He was holding some kind of telescope... no, there was something odd about it. Curiosity took ahold of her, and she sauntered over. "Hmm, I'll help you out, on one condition. Tell me, what it is that you are doing."

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Trixie smiled, "The Great and Powerful Lady Trixie", she liked the sound of that - so full of nobility and awe.  Trixie almost giggled like a little filly at hearing that - she certainly was jumping for joy inside, but she could not sully her image by acting like that in front of ponies.  However that moment of joy was morphed visibly into fearful dread when the Griffon asked for her address!  No way she could admit she was just homeless, scrounging food ... a vagrant.  Trixie had to think fast before the Griffin caught on ... "Umm ... The GREAT and POWERFUL Trixie is not contained by mere WALLS! She travels the length and width of Equestria, sharing her brilliance with all who are lucky enough to see her!"

Feeling rather proud of that cover, she suddenly heard some other pony calling to them from a nearby home - or at least, she assumed it was a home.  It looked more like some gaudy junkyard to her, These Ponyville rubes ... no taste at all, she hmphed to herself, trying to hold onto her elitist aspirations.  As cluttered and messy as the house was, what really caught her attention was the strange brown earth pony trying to hook up ... well ... something on his roof, and now calling for someone to hold it for him.  Trixie was already annoyed that the strange pony manage to pull the griffin's attention away from her - in short, stealing the show - but now he wanted to her do manual labor?  Her?  The Great and Powerful Tri- ... Lady Trixie?  What..is he doing?, she pondered.  At least to herself, she could admit that she was curious.  Perhaps she could wait around for them to finish ...

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Doctor Whooves wobbled a bit, up on the peak of the roof, trying to balance all the different tools, bags, and gear that wanted to fall in so many different directions. Frustration roiled up inside him as the two just stood there and stared, the griffin even going so far as to hold his precious invention hostage to make demands upon his knowledge!

"Yef, yef, of courf, juft hurry! It'f dewicate!" he said, muffled around the device held between his teeth, trying to peer down at the griffin just casually looking up at him from the ground below. He let out a huff of exasperation. "Really, fanding around bargaining when dewicate magicaw fensorf are in jeapordy? We're not in a market! You could have juft afked!" He sighed. "Fee, the cryftalf align-"

And at that, his careful, awkward balance broke - his bag starting to slip beyond his hoof. He leaned in that direction, and scrabbled for purchase on the tiles of the roof. The precious magicvane slipped from his mouth as he cried out in surprise, and it seemed almost slow motion to the poor pony as he reached for the invention, helplessly...

Tools fell from his bag, scattering over the rooftop, a wrench bouncing away this way, a screwdriver that, and a lot of other odd tools not so easily identified. One tool, a welding torch, bounced just the wrong way and ignited, skittering along the tiles of the house and leaving a trail of flame behind it.

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With a strong flap of her wings, Lola burst into the air. Though she could barely understand what the pony was trying to say, she was a scientist first and foremost, and seeing delicate equipment damaged was never pleasant. She swooped down and caught the... whatever it was... moments before it would have tumbled to its destruction. She grinned as she held it up proudly, until a sudden heat and the smell of burning hair alarmed her.

"KEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!" She let out a sharp shriek and stamped on her tail, which had gotten too close to the lit welding torch and caught fire. The fire went out quickly enough, but she winced again when she saw the damage it had done to the fur on her tail.

"Good grief." She gave the earth pony a resentful glare. "You really ought to be more careful with your tools. Don't you ponies have tool belts and whatnot so you can hang onto things when you're up high?"

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Trixie was content to simply watch and see if the strange earth pony would explain his equally strange contraption. Did he say it was some sort of magical sensor? She had never even heard of such a thing! Was it even possible to make a device to detect magic? Even unicorns couldn't simply detect magic outside of of witnessing it with the normal five senses; although Trixie always wondered if the Alicorns somehow could.

Absorbed in her own thoughts on that, the blue unicorn was overlooking the earth pony's difficulties in keeping his balance. That is, until he started to slip on some those slick roof tiles and he, his tools, and his device went everywhere. Looking up at the sudden commotion that broke her train of thought, Trixie managed only at first to be smacked right in the face with a falling wrench. "Hey! You clumsy, blundering, oaf, you-" Trixie stopped in mid sentence as she looked up to see the earth pony himself and all his tools falling right towards her.

Trixie, of course, could have let everything, including the pony himself, fall to the ground. For a brief moment, she considered not lifting a hoof to help the inconsiderate buffoon who dared interrupt her verbal performance. However, in that brief instant, she remembered what her mother wanted of her. Besides, a good rescue from time to time sure enhanced her Great and Powerful status. And she didn't want anyone to die. Her horn glowed a beautiful purple light as she mentally focused on every tool bouncing down the side of the roof and halted them in mid-air. It took a little more effort, but nothing the Great and Powerful Trixie, couldn't easily handle, as she caught the earth pony in mid-free fall. Her mind moved towards the strange device, but it had already been lifted by her griffin companion.

Simply catching dozens of falling objects, as impressive as it was, wasn't enough for the stagecraft of the unicorn. The tools all started swirling around the earth pony as she lifted him slowly into the air, lining themselves up in intricate patterns that danced around him. Trixie smiled with strong assurance as she looked directly at the stranger. "Foolhardy earth pony, know that you have been rescued by the most marvelous of magicians, the most renowned of unicorns, the virtuoso of Equestria, The Great and Powerful Lady Trixie!"

She was enjoying this moment. After everything, she was a heroine once again, pulling a pony out of certain danger! It was too bad the audience was so small, but she'd give them the full treatment! Somewhere down deep, she had to admit to herself that the main person she was performing for was herself, anyway. "Now, my poor ungraceful rube, there is no need to say anything in your awe, but if you wish you may praise ...", her monologing ground to a halt as she suddenly realized the house was on fire. Her eyes widened in worry and trepidation, "oh my..."

It was a good thing everything she had captured was much lower to the ground, because in her shock of seeing the roof ablaze she lost her consentration and everything she was levitating now fell, including the no doubt befuddled earth pony. That's OK, she was sure he'd forgive her a bump and bruise when she'd saved his house. Damn, she should have taken the time to lower him gently to the ground. It would have made a better show for her not to be hurried... Well, stop worrying. The storm cloud was one of her standard acts. She focused her mind, her horn glowing anew, and small, dark clouds swirled out of empty air to form together into a number of small clouds, and gathered together into a larger cloud. Soon it was a fourth the size of the house. She clenched her teeth as she put her mind into it, her horn glowing with a blaze of purple light as she put her all into it. Lightning struck out of the cloud with a loud crack of thunder, striking towards the roof, almost causing a larger disaster. But what she was really going for was the small, localized torrential downpour that erupted from the cloud, smothering the roof in the cool water.

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Doctor Whooves wasn't really paying attention to the griffin's scoldings as he was busy trying to catch himself so he wouldn't fall to the ground and break his neck... really, she did pick the oddest times to try to talk instead of act... his hoof caught on the very edge of the roof and he sighed with relief, right before a skidding hammer smacked that hoof and sent him over the edge.

A startled cry pulled itself from his throat, his legs scrambling in mid-air, before he realized he wasn't actually falling anymore, but instead floating. Lopsided in the air, his tools spiraling around him, he lost the paniced flail and instead 'stood' at an angle to the ground, letting out a sigh of relief as he realized the unicorn had caught him. "well, now, that's quite-" he started to thank her...

And then tumbled the last several feet to the ground as she dropped him, landing in a heap. He covered his head as his tools clattered to the ground all around him. He looked up to see the torch laying on the grass, scorching a segment of it black and starting a small flame. Quickly he got up, grabbing the torch in his mouth so he could shut it down, and stamped quickly on the ground. *whew*. No telling how bad it could have gotten if that had gone out of control, and with no rain expected for-

He blinked as a sudden downpour soaked him from nose to hoof, then stopped just as quickly. He lifted a hoof and ran it though his mane. "Well, that was ... unexpected. Usually I don't have that sort of problem..." He glanced up at the rooftops, distractedly, and saw the smoke. He blinked. "Oh, my. Is everyone all right?"

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"An impressive little display of magic," noted Lola to Trixie. "Summoning up water and electricity from thin air..." She considered the possibilities. If she could harness just a fraction of that power on a longer scale via technological means, all kinds of things could be possible.

She landed next to the strange earth pony. "Well then, introductions are in order. I am Lola Silverbeak, a pleasure to make your acquaintance. And my benefactor here... well, she's already introduced herself. Your benefactor as well, in fact, as she's just doused what could have become a rather destructive blaze."

"Now, then, perhaps you should leave the aerial stunts to those equipped to do them," she said, spreading her wings illustratively. "I'm perfectly willing to aid you, of course, especially if you'd be decent enough to take a moment afterwards to show me about the town. I've just arrived, and I was separated from a companion in the Everfree Forest, I was hoping he'd come through here. An orange unicorn with a gray mane, you haven't seen him by any chance, have you?"

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Trixie remained focused with her eyes closed for several seconds. Her horn glowed with a brilliant light, allowing the drenching rains to continue covering the home. It was an unusual ability she was particularly proud of both knowing and showing off. Most unicorns couldn't manipulate the weather at all, as that was really the domain of the Pegasai.  It wasn't impossible though; if the unicorn was adept and trained well enough, they could create very small storms, enough to cover a single pony's house in rain.  Trixie had been using it a lot lately - to comically zap a particularly annoying show-off of a Pegasus, or to try to get rid of that cursed Ursa Minor...

She shook her head, trying to clear her mind of her greatest ... second greatest failure. Her concentration broken, the rain stopped as quickly as it had started, the smoke and fire long since smothered from the deluge.  Trixie herself was looking rather tired and a little dreary.  It took a great deal of magical energy for a unicorn to pull off what she just did, and the returning thought of the Ursa Minor in her mind certainly didn't help any.  Well ... At least now I will be showered with praise and thanks suitable to the glory that is the Great and Powerful Trixie! Perhaps even bountiful offerings of food and bits for saving this poor earth pony's hearth and health! Yes, surely I shall finally get the praise I deserve! A weary little smile spread across her muzzle as the impending praise helped her quickly regain her pride.

Trixie closed her eyes and smiled, taking in a deep breath and letting it out in a slow, satisfied sigh as she waited for the adulation that was certainly forthcoming ... any second now, aaaaaaaaany second ... Annnnd ... Waaaait a minute, where was her rightfully earned acclaim and offers of tribute?  Opening her eyes, she noticed the strange brown earth pony already distracted, barely even noticing her glorious heroism, and instead just talking to himself, and maybe a vacant response to her erstwhile griffin companion! He was ignoring her! HER! The Great and Powerful Trixie!

Trixie grew visibly incredulous, not even hearing him ask if everyone was alright, herself included.  "Hey ... HEY!  I just saved your pathetic life here! You could at least say thank you to being rescued so magnificantly!" she exclaimed loudly, looking quite perturbed and not a little insulted.

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Doctor Whooves blinked as he was suddenly being yelled at. He stared, perplexed, at the unicorn, then looked up at the roof, and then down at the ground, where all his tools were laying. Then he looked up at the roof again, then down at the ground, then back at Trixie. "Oh!" he cried, his eyes opening wider. "Did you float me to the ground?!" It was as if he had just realized what had happened! Hadn't noticed himself floating through the air!

He blinked, then looked up, then down again. "That's not bad! Not many unicorns can float an entire pony, plus their tools!" He smiled. "What's your name, then?" As if she hadn't just introduced herself just a few seconds ago. "Oh, wait, Rickie, right?" Before he could get an answer, he got a stricken look on his face. "My manavane!" He spun around, looking desperately over his tools, running in a circle as he tried to spot where the strange device he'd been setting up had landed.

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Lola cleared her throat, her patience already wearing thin for this poor-mannered pony. "It's right here." She gestured at him with it, though she did not give it back just yet, for fear of distracting him again. "Whatever it is. Now if you're quite done fooling around, perhaps you would be kind enough to introduce yourself."

She held up the object and examined it for a moment. "You called it a manavane? And earlier you mentioned it was a magical sensor of some kind. I assume 'mana' is a reference to magic, and vane implies it's used as a weather vane. So it detects the ambient flows of magic then? It must be made of a material that's sensitive to the aethiric fields, then." Her eyes lit up. This could be exactly what she was looking for. "What material is that? Does it just sense the flows, or can it affect them as well?"

She turned back to Trixie. "Perhaps your expertise can shed some light on the matter. Have you encountered something like this before, Lady Trixie?"

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Trixie waited with frustration for an answer from the peculiar earth pony; after all she did just save his inept flank. She shouldn't have had to remind him of her glorious triumph, rescuing both him and his ... *ugh* unsightly trashheap of a house. Finally, he acknowledged her with rather quick and straightforward thanks. Did he say it was "not bad"?! Not bad?? It was marvelous! Stupendous! What do I have to do to impress this colt!? With a rather incredulous curl of her brow, she contemplated some sort of new magical stunt to really show him what the Great and Powerful Lady Trixie was all about.

Although what really set her off is what she heard from him next, he asked her name! I just told the ignorant oaf!, she thought to herself angrily, Did he ... did he just call me RICKIE?! That was too much! He not only couldn't remember her wondrous title, he had the gall to mispronounce her name as RICKIE!?

'IT'S TRIXIE! TRIXIE, YOU SIMPLE MINDED BLUNDERING LOUT!' she yelled in a rather undignified manner, right into his ear. How could he be so dismissive! At first Trixie was just incensed - just like any previous encounter when she came upon anyone who dared insult her wondrous magic. Her usual response was to display even a more forceful demonstration of her skills to said doubters. This time, however ... this time she hesitated, her self-doubt creeping in. Maybe he was right to be dismissive, maybe she wasn't so great - after all, look what happened to her in this very town. Humiliated, shown up by somepony she couldn't hope to match; now homeless. No! She shook her head as to literally shake those self-defeating thoughts from her mind, she was on a mission! A mission to bring back her former glory! She was about to say more with Lola asked her about the earth pony's unusual contraption, the one he claimed could detect magic.

At first Trixie didn't know what to think. She'd never encountered an earth pony who was interested in magic before, at least to the point of trying to figure it out. They always seemed content to be impressed by unicorn spell casting and that was the limit of their concerns. She didn't even know if such a device was possible, and if it was, certainly a unicorn would have figured it out first! At least Lola showed the proper respect, calling her Lady. Oh, how she loved that title! "How should I know what sort of crackpot device this is? He is probably a crank and it doesn't do a thing but attract lightning bolts! Earth ponies and their strange ideas, they don't know anything about magic!"

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Doctor Whooves blinked as Trixie yelled at him, totally nonplussed by the sudden temper tantrum. "I think I know a Rikki when I see her," he said dismissively, waving one hoof. "As for me, I'm called Doctor Whooves. You probably wouldn't have heard of me, I tend to try to keep a low profile..."

His hoof gestured to the tool in the griffin's claw. "And that is my manavane. The casing itself isn't all that special, just a bit of brass hammered into shape. But I've got some aetherically resonant crystals lined up just so inside of there - same sort of crystals you'll find in the Cloud Condensers or Color Cauldrons that they use to make the weather in Cloudsdale, or the equipment on magic research laboratories. Sadly, only lab in town that I know of, other than my own shop, is under the library. Gotta nice computer and sensor array, though."

He shook his head, feeling himself starting to go off into a tangent. "Anyway, the aetheric flow should catch the crystals, nudge them into alignment with the local streams, and cause the vane to point in the direction the magic is moving... and basically tell me if magic's moving *towards* or *away* from the Everfree Forest! If it works right, anyway."

With that thought, blinked, and straightened up, tilting his head. As if he forgot all about the two visitors, he ran over to a corner of his yard, where a larger telescope was propped up on a fence, pointing at the Everfree Forest. He peered through it, curiously, let out a soft 'hrmmmm...' and then hurried over to a small set of spinning cups whirling away faster than the wind should allow, peering at the small dial set into the base of the contraption.

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In spite of Trixie's dismissal of the device, Lola was unwilling to ignore a possibly revolutionary technology without some testing. "Hmm, well, why don't we put his little gadget to the test then. Now then, Lady Trixie, I'll deploy the device here, and you can summon up some of your impressive magics over there. After all, if it can't even detect your high-powered spells, it would certainly be useless in detecting ambient energy coming out of the forest, wouldn't it."

While the Doctor was busy with whatever he thought he was doing, Lola took the opportunity to examine the device, and set it up at ground level, where Trixie's spells could best affect it. The device itself seemed remarkably simple, once its function was explained, and she was reasonably certain she could reproduce it later on provided she could gain access to the crystals.

With one last glance towards the earth pony, she winked at Trixie. "Let's find out if this poorly-mannered little pony is for real or not."

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