The warm spring breeze blew through Dream Valley. Brightblade and Medley's wedding was days away. The bride to be still hadn't chosen her wedding gown. She and Marshmallow (the maid of honor) were spending every day at Bobbin's Dress Shop, trying on every dress they had (most of them more than once).
"What do you think of this one?" said Medley, striking a pose.
"Hm, not bad. I still think number seventeen is the best."
Medley picked up a clipboard and perused the list of dresses. "Seventeen, huh? Well, it's in my top five. But I think this one is better."
"Maybe if you tried on seventeen again you'd see it in a new light."
"All right. Now, where is that dress? Bobbin! Have you seen number seventeen?"
"Oh yes, I'll have it for you in a minute." The dressmaker pranced off and rummaged through the racks of dressed. "Ah, there it is."
Medley changed into the dress. "Hm, it's kind of old-fashioned."
Marshmallow shrugged. "Well, I am fifty years behind the times."
* * *
Meanwhile, at the Sweat Lodge, Brightblade, Sitting Bull, and Breeks sat in the sauna, relaxing after a hard workout.
"So, Little-Blade, having any second thoughts yet?"
"Sheesh, you won't be satisfied until the vows are said, will you, Bullhorn?"
"Kraaw!" Breeks the raven crowed. "Can you two not give it a rest and relax? Kaw!"
"Little-Blade, why'd you have to invite that filthy bird into my once-respectable establishment?"
"He was hanging out here before I'd even heard of it, and I don't think this place was ever respectable."
"Kraw, Kraw, Kraw!" Breeks laughed.
"What have you been tellin' him, bird?"
"Kaw? What, me?"
"Some day that big beak of yours is gona git you into trouble!"
"Oh, it's already done that, more than once."
Brightblade stood up. "Well, this has been fun, but I've got to be going."
"Wha'! So early? You don't have to walk all the way to Dream Valley today. You could spend the night at my place!"
"I've got a lot of preparations to take care of for the wedding, and I need to get started bright and early tomorrow morning. See you guys in a couple of days."
"Sure thing, Little-Blade! I wouldn't miss this for the world!"
* * *
On his way home, Brightblade stopped by Medley's house. "Hey honey! How was your day?"
"Brightblade, you're acting like we're married already!"
"I'm just getting some practice. Have you picked our a dress yet?"
"Well, I couldn't decide on just one, so Bobbin is making a custom dress. It'll be tight, but she promises it will be done in time for the wedding."
"I'm glade your father's paying for it; having a custom dress made from scratch must cost an arm and a leg."
Marshmallow came bounding out from the living room. "Yeah, but it'll be worth it!"
"It's that nice, eh?"
"Well, you'll just have to wait and see, now won't you?" Medley said, coyly.
"I guess. Now I've got to be getting home." Brightblade kissed Medley. "See you tomorrow."
* * *
Brightblade was up bright and early the next morning. He had to meet with the caterer, florist, organist, and priest to finalize arrangements for the wedding. Tomorrow would be the rehearsal and the next day was the big event. The day's business went smoothly. Medley met him at the caterer's and accompanied him through the rest of the day. After the last meeting, with the priest, Medley gave Brightblade a kiss on the cheek and said, "I've got to be going to Bobbin's for the final fitting of my dress. See you tomorrow."
"I'll be looking forward to it."
Just then Shoreline, Brightblade's neighbor, came running up. "Brightblade! Brightblade! Your lawn has been overrun by gypsy vermin!"
"Well, it looks like you'll have your hands full," called Medley over her shoulder as she pranced off.
Brightblade smiled. "I guess I'll have to look into this."
* * *
When he got home, it looked much as Shoreline had reported. There were two dozen rats pitching tents on the lawn. As he neared the rats, one of them stepped forward.
"Hey, Ramon! Long time no see! Glad you could make it!"
"Yes, it has been too long," replied Ramon.
"I would have liked to have come and visited, but my life kind of got the better of me. Is Cassandra with you?"
Ramon smiled and nodded. "She's with the baby. Come here." The white rat led Brightblade to the one tent that was fully erected. He opened the flap and Cassandra stepped out holding a tiny baby rat.
"Ramon, I didn't even know the two of you were married!"
"Yes, we wanted to invite you to the wedding, but we didn't have any way to get you the message. Breeks stopped by the village every once and a while, but not with any regularity."
"I hadn't even seen Breeks again till about half a year ago. But I'm glad he was able to get my invitation to you. I'm surprised that he didn't tell me about you two! What's the baby's name?"
"Roberto," said Cassandra.
"It's nice to meet you, little Roberto."
* * *
The time to the wedding seemed to just disappear. Brightblade strolled down the lane toward the church. In just a couple of hours he would be a married pony. He wasn't at all nervous; after the challenges he had overcome in the past, marriage seemed rather mundane. It almost seemed too good to be true. There were no monsters or evil spirits, and the fate of the world wasn't at stake... just of two ponies, him and Medley. Hopefully it would be that way for the rest of their lives together.
But as Brightblade rounded the last bend before the church, a strange odor met his nose... an odor that took him back to his quest for the Warrior's Horn. It was on the edge of the Pack Lands, near the Lands of Death, when he had been accosted by the strange, mangy wolf. It was the smell of death. A sound from the bushes along the lane caused the pony to start.
"Not so brave without your horn, are you Warpony?" came a raspy voice. The wolf from so long ago, now even more mangy and decrepit, limped out from the bushes. "It has been too long, Warpony. My master has been curious about how you were doing, so he sent me to find you. I would have been lost had I not happened upon the village of the rats just as they prepared to make the journey to Dream Valley for your wedding."
"What do you want from me?"
"My master wants to send you his best wishes for the future."
"I find that hard to believe. Last time, he wanted me to join him."
"My master doesn't hold a grudge. Though he would request a favor of you..."
"You can tell your master that I am not interested."
The wolf shrugged. "Very well. He will just take her instead."
The wolf tried to laugh, but it came out as more of a cough. "Marshmallow. She was in his service once, and he still has some influence over her. But he will release her, if you agree to his favor."
"Wendigo was another of your master's servants?"
"Aye. Long before I entered the master's service, Wendigo was his greatest warrior. I had hoped to meet him, someday. Perhaps I shall have the opportunity to meet his most recent host, though."
"No. Tell you master, whoever he is, to leave Marshmallow alone!"
"You're accepting his offer then?"
"What does he want me to do?"
The wolf smiled. "For the time being, nothing. He just wants your word that when the time comes, you will not refuse him."
"All right. You have my word, as long as Marshmallow, and the rest of my friends, are safe!"
"Excellent. I shall take word to the master of your decision."
"And tell him this: if you, or any of his lackeys, come anywhere near any of my friends, if any of them even catches a whiff of your stench, the deal is off and I'm going to hunt down this master of yours and make him regret ever having heard of the Warpony!"
The wolf paused a moment and then nodded. "Fair enough." Then he disappeared into the bushes.
* * *
Brightblade arrived at the church shortly after his encounter with the wolf. Sitting Bull, Breeks, and Ramon were waiting for him.
"What took you so long!?" bellowed Sitting Bull. "And what's with the long face? You're not having second thoughts, are you?"
Brightblade shook his head and forced a weak smile. "It's nothing. Just some old memories that have been bothering me lately. But now's not the time to talk about it. Today is about the future, not the past."
"Are you sure you don't want to talk about it?" asked Ramon. "It might not be a bad idea to get it off your chest before the wedding."
"We'll talk about it later. For the time being, don't worry yourselves with it." Brightblade strode into the church and took his place by the alter to await his bride.