After returning to Friendship Gardens, Clever Clover's life pretty much returned to normal. Spade had cut him back to half-time at the lab so he had a lot of extra time for his hobbies. He had been doing a lot of cross-country skiing, and on the weekends he coached a youth ice hockey team. Little did he know that events were transpiring far away that would once again disrupt his quiet life.
* * *
Though the sea was calm, a tall vessel sailed across the glass-like water as if driven by a stiff wind. A black and red pony pirate, with three red gems on her rump, stood upon the deck of the mighty sailing vessel, her pale blue main blowing in the breeze. A small lop-eared rabbit sat at her hooves. Her phantasmal crew went about their duties without question or complaint. The pony smiled.
"I sense it: the mystical weapon that cleaved my horn so many years ago. Soon I will have it, and revenge!"
The phantasmal-crewed ship cruised into the bay of the Port Scurvy. The dock creaked as the ship's hull brushed against it. The gangplank fell with a thud as the mooring lines were thrown to the dock workers. The captain of the ship disembarked, followed closely by her lop-eared pet. She was met by the harbor master at the foot of the plank.
"G'day, Cap'n. Do ye know how long ye'll be in port, and if so would ye like to pay yer docking fees in advance?"
" 'No', ye don't know; or 'no', ye won't pay in advance?"
"No, I don't know how long I'll be; and no, I won't pay, at all."
" 'Ere now! Ye can't jus' park yer boat 'ere and not pay the fees!"
The captain raised her forehoof and pointed toward a pile of barrels. The gems on her rump glowed and a shimmering ball of red light gathered before her hoof and flew toward the barrels. A moment after the ball hit, the barrels exploded, showering all present in splinters and grog. The harbor master stared slack jawed at the smouldering stain on the dock where the barrels had been. "M…me grog."
"Come on, Ryo. We have more important business to attend to." The captain and her pet walked calmly from the dock as if nothing had ever happened.
* * *
That morning Clever Clover was coaching his hockey team's practice like he did every Saturday.
"Rookie! Keep your stick down! No, Seaside, the other way! No tripping, Viper! Look out, Sentinel!" Half the ponies on the ice ended up in a pile in front of the goal. Clever Clover sighed as he skated over to his team to make sure they were okay. Dusty Rose was already helping her team-mates back onto their skates. "We've got a lot of work to do if we want to be ready for our first game next week. Now, are you ready to give it one more try?"
"Sure thing, coach!"
"I know you're ready, Greyhound. What about the rest of you?"
"This'd be more fun if there weren't so many rules," complained Viper.
"Without rules there'd be no way to tell who wins and who looses, so we have to follow the rules if we want to win. Now, take your places and we'll run one more skirmish before lunch."
After practice and a quick lunch, Clever Clover decided to go for a walk in the park. As much as he enjoyed hockey, having to put up with the young ponies' shenanigans caused him a lot of stress some days. But on game day when the team was out on the ice having fun, and hopefully beating the daylights out of the other team, it was all worth it. Until then, however, he would have to settle for a long walk to calm his nerves.
As he walked, he noticed hoofprints in the snow. He had not expected anyone else to be out in the cold on a dreary Saturday afternoon, but then he could not be the only crazy one in Friendship Gardens. He looked around to see if whoever else was out there was still around. Just when he was about to give up his search, he was startled by a cheerful voice from behind him.
"Good day, Mr. Clever Clover." It was Belle Star.
"Oh, 'allo, Belle." Clever Clover glanced at the tracks on the snow in front of him. "Have you been walking around in circles out here?"
"Well, I haven't really been paying attention to where I was going. I was just enjoying the fresh air and the snow."
Clever Clover was not really that surprised to run into Belle Star. They were always running into each other. Jack delighted in teasing the purple pony about it, but he had long ago learned to ignore the taunting of his co-worker.
"Oh, look! It's starting to snow!" Belle Star giggled as a large snowflake landed on her nose. Clever Clover was packing a ball of snow between his forehooves. "What is that for? Are you going to make a tiny snowman?" The purple prince grinned (evilly) and hurled the snowball toward Belle Star, hitting her right between the eyes. Belle Star broke out in laughter and scooped up a hoof-full of snow and threw it back at Clever Clover, but her snowball fell apart short of its target.
"Here, let me show you how to do it." After a brief demonstration of snowball-making, the fight resumed. Clever Clover's next snowball fell short, and before he could re-arm he fell victim to a barrage of snowballs from Belle Star. "Eh, how'd you do that?"
"Oh…" Before she could answer, the calm of the winter day was shattered by a blinding explosion.
"I found you at last!"
Clever Clover and Belle Star stared in disbelief at the red and black pony floating ten feet off the ground. (Ten feet off the ground! Wow! Most ponies only have four feet!)
Clever Clover brushed the last of the snow from Belle Star's barrage off his shoulder and met the mysterious pirate's gaze. "Who, me?"
The pirate drifted slowly to the ground in front of the princely pony. "Yes, you. You are the son of the one who chopped off my horn... that accursed prince from that accursed Isle!"
"Now, wait a minute! My father wasn't a prince!"
The pirate was dumbfounded. "What? He wasn't? But you look so like him."
Belle Star stepped forward. "Oh, yes. His father wasn't a prince, he was a king. That's what he told me, anyway."
"What! They made that twerp king after he disgraced me, chopped off my horn, and drove me off the Isle!" The trio of gems glowed brightly and a shaft of red light spiraled out from the pirate's forehead forming a makeshift horn. She charged the purple pony who skillfully dodged.
"Hey! Cut it out! I understand you're upset by what my father did to you, but do you really think that killing me will make you feel any better?"
The pirate paused. "Hm, sure. At least for the time being. But once I have your father's cleaver, I'll be able to have my revenge on all the ponies of the Isle! Then I'll really feel good!"
* * *
Meanwhile, Belle Star's attention had been torn from the battle by a new arrival. "Oh, what a cute bunny! What are you doing out in the snow all alone, little fella?" The captain's pet snarled and growled at the golden-maned pony. "You must be cold and hungry. Now, let's see; what have I got to eat? Hm, this granola bar is all I have on me. I hope you like it." She held the all natural crunchy granola treat in front of the snarling bunny. Ryo sniffed the bar and cautiously nibbled off a corner. "I'm sorry I don't have any carrots on me. Please give it a chance."
"Mrow!" Ryo greedily devoured the granola bar (and almost took a bite out of Belle Star's hoof).
"Boy, you were hungry. But you sound funny. You must be coming down with a cold." Belle Star took off her scarf and wrapped it around Ryo. "There, is that better?" Ryo mewed and started to purr.
By that time, the pirate had noticed the goings on with her pet. "Hey, you! What are you doing? She was with him, the enemy! You're not supposed to be nice to the enemy!"
Ryo mewed apologetically but made no move to leave the cozy confines of the scarf. The pale-maned pony flew over to her pet and yanked her from the scarf. "We came here to get revenge, not make friends! Now are you going to help me destroy the prince or aren't you?"
"Hu? Where did they go?" The pirate captain looked around. The only sign of her prey was two pairs of hooftracks leading out of the park. "Now look what you've done! You've let them get away!"
* * *
Clever Clover raced across the countryside, dragging Belle Star behind. "Why are we running, Mr. Clever Clover? What's going to happen to the bunny?"
"Bunny? If you hadn't noticed, that crazy pony was trying to kill me! We need to get as much distance between her and us as possible."
"Oh, yeah. I forgot all about her when I found the poor little sick bunny. I hope she'll be alright."
"We can go back to the park and check up on the bunny after we get away from the crazy flying pony."
When they arrived at Clever Clover's home, the purple prince retrieved his father's axe from its place over the mantle. He turned to his Vulpix. "Pixie, keep an eye on Belle Star. Belle, don't open the door for anyone but me."
"Right!" Clever Clover locked the door as he left to confront the vengeful pirate pony.
* * *
The princely purple pony stood at the edge of the grove of trees along the trail to his house. It was not long before the pirate and her pet arrived.
"Well, you're not the coward I thought you were. You do take after your father."
"It wasn't meant to be a compliment."
"I don't want to fight you, but I will if I have to."
"So, you do differ from your father. He didn't hesitate." She dove toward Clever Clover who stood his ground until the last moment when he leaped aside and swung his mighty axe, cleaving through the pirate's false horn. The horn shimmered for a moment but did not disappear.
The pirate laughed. "Silly pony. That only works on real horns. You'll have to be smarter than that if you want to fill your father's shoes."
Clever Clover shrugged. "It was worth a shot. Maybe you'll like this better." He charged the pirate who stood her ground. At the last moment, Clever Clover sidestepped as the pirate lunged with her horn. Clever Clover swung a mighty blow, striking her red gems with the flat of the axe. There was a massive flash of light that momentarily blinded the prince.
When he regained his sight, the pale-maned pony stood before him in stunned silence, without her horn. "You…you have defeated me. And you never even knew my name."
There was something in the manner of the defeated pony that caused Clever Clover to pity her. "Uh, I'm sorry, but you were trying to kill me."
"That's okay. It was my mistake." The red and black pony began to sink into the ground. "By the way, my name is Minoko."
"I am Clever Clover," said the purple pony as Minoko disappeared from sight. Ryo, the lop-eared bunny, hopped out of the bushes onto the path. "You must be the bunny Belle Star was talking about. Was Minoko your owner?"
"I'm sorry about what happened. You're welcome to come stay with me if you'd like."
Ryo shook her head and mewed as if to say, "That's okay." She then floated into the air and flew off into the night sky.
* * *
After the battle with Minoko, Clever Clover walked Belle Star back to her apartment. When he got back home he noticed something odd as he unlocked the door. "Hm, I thought I had turned the lights off before I left." As he entered the living room he saw Minoko lounging on his couch. "Hey! What are you doing here!"
"Well, my ship was impounded and I need a place to crash until I can pay off the fines."
"Hu? So what are you doing here?"
"I was hoping you'd let me spend the night…"
"No way! Go find a motel."
"If I could afford a motel, don't you think I would have payed the docking fees at Port Scurvy in the first place?"
"Ugh, I'm too tired to argue. You can sleep on the couch tonight, but first thing tomorrow you're leaving." Clever Clover went to the mantle, took down his axe, and trudged off to his bedroom. "Come on, Pixie."
Minoko stared at the axe hanger over the mantle. "Hm, I hadn't noticed that. Too bad."
* * *
The next morning Clever Clover awoke early and went to church. He took his axe with him, discreetly wrapped in a sheet, so that Minoko couldn't find it. She was snoring loudly on the couch when he left. "Make sure she doesn't cause any trouble, Pixie."
When Clever Clover returned from Mass, he found Minoko and Belle Star sitting at the kitchen table drinking tea.
"Good morning, Mr. Clever Clover!"
"Yeah, good morning."
Clever Clover glared at Minoko. "What are you doing?"
"We're having breakfast, silly."
"But why are you having it in my kitchen?"
"Well, I came over to see if you were alright after all the commotion yesterday and Minoko here let me in since you weren't here and we were hungry so we helped ourselves to some food."
"Uh-hu, so why is she still here? I told her she'd have to leave first thing in the morning."
"Hey! Why are you talking about me like I'm not here? Besides, a gentleman like you can't just throw a lady out in the cold without at least letting her have some hot tea first."
"Fine. Finish your tea and then leave."
"Oh, but you can't just throw her out. She has nowhere to go and no job and no money. What would she do?"
Clever Clover opened the refrigerator. "She should have thought of that before she got her ship impounded. Where are my sausages? And my eggs?"
"We ate them."
"All of them?"
"Well, it took a while to get used to your stove and I burned some before I got it right."
"So my food is all gone? What did you do with the burned stuff?"
Minoko pointed to the corner of the kitchen. "We fed that to Ryo and Pixie."
Clever Clover stared at a pile of burned eggs and sausages laying on the kitchen floor and the two stuffed pets sleeping nearby. "Pixie has a food dish, you know."
Minoko shrugged "Yeah, but it wasn't big enough."
"I'm going out for breakfast. And you'd better be gone by the time I get back."
"Oh, come on! Where am I supposed to go?"
"Somewhere else? How am I supposed to know... or care."
"But, Mr. Clever Clover, couldn't you let her stay just long enough to earn enough money to get an apartment or something? I'm sure she wouldn't have any problem finding a job."
"Why can't she stay with you, Belle?"
"Well, my apartment is so tiny for one thing, and I can barely afford food for myself, and it's against the building's policy to have long-term guests."
"Come on, Clever Clover, let me stay just a few more days. I'll even help out around the house while I'm here. Please!"
"Fine, just a few more days. And you can start helping out by cleaning the kitchen."
"Right now? I was hoping to go with you and celebrate our new friendship."
Belle Star clapped her forehooves. "Oh boy! A party! What fun!"
Minoko bonked the golden-maned pony on the head. "Hey! You weren't invited!"
"Neither were you!" pointed out the stallion. "Okay, you can either both come with me or both stay here and clean the kitchen."
And so the three ponies went to breakfast together, which Clever Clover had to pay for since neither of the others had any money.