Clever Clover sat at the ice cream shop enjoying a butterscotch and rum sundae. The weather had been unusually hot and humid for so early in the season, and the cold ice cream tasted all the better for it. Normally Belle Star would have joined him, but today she had to stay late and help Spade in the lab to make up for missing a day of work with a cold. It was nice to be able to enjoy his ice cream in solitude for once. Not that he didn’t like Belle Star; she was his best friend at work and one of his best friends in all of Friendship Gardens. But he liked to be by himself every once in a while. Unfortunately, his solitude would not last.
“Good afternoon, Prince Clever Clover. How was your day?” Lady Moonshine sat down across from the purple prince.
“Not bad. Why don’t you sit down?”
Moonshine giggled. “I didn’t know you could be sarcastic. Have you been practicing with your father’s axe?”
“Yeah, from time to time. I’m usually too worn out from work, though. Why are you bringing that up now?”
“Oh, no reason. It just popped into my head. But you should practice more often, if you ever want to grow beyond your need for the axe.”
“Oh, nothing. So you’ve been seeing a lot of Morning Glory lately. How are the two of you getting along?”
Clever Clover shot an accusing glare at Lady Moonshine. “Why did you have to go and tell her that we were betrothed? My life was complicated enough before. Now that Minoko has decided that she wants to marry me, too, I just don’t know what to do. And I’m not even sure I want to get married; not right now, anyway.”
Lady Moonshine got up to leave. “Well, I’m sure you’ll think of something. I’ve got to be going. Be seeing you.”
“Some days I wish I wasn’t me,” Clever Clover mumbled as he finished his sundae. As he shuffled off for home, he thought about what Lady Moonshine had said. She was a strange one, never quite revealing everything. He had been able to figure out that she was an Isle pony originally. She had lived in Friendship Garden for as long as anyone could remember; but unlike Morning Glory and himself, she had known all along about her heritage... and theirs.
The purple prince had known that he and another pony had been sent to Friendship Gardens as infants to keep them from the curse of the evil imp, Bic. And that they had been betrothed to insure the continuation of his bloodline, the only bloodline that could break the curse. But now that the curse had been broken, that wasn’t needed. At least that’s what he had been led to believe. But if that was the case, why would Lady Moonshine be trying to fix him up with Morning Glory? Or was she trying to fix them up? Maybe she wanted to provoke Minoko into taking an interest in him. But what would she gain from that? Minoko was an enemy of the Isle ponies. Maybe Lady Moonshine wanted to mend the rift between Minoko and the rest of the Isle. Whatever her motives, Clever Clover had no chance of understanding them for the time being.
When he got home, he found Minoko and Morning Glory sitting in his living room, glaring at each other. “I’ve got to get new locks,” he mumbled.
“Clever Clover, why won’t you evict this pirate? You’re developing a bad reputation.”
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe I like my house. And I know that she could level it easily if I made her mad. Besides, you’re spending almost as much time here as she is.”
“You see, the only reason he lets you stay is because he is afraid of you.”
“Hey! You know I’d never do anything to hurt you!”
“That’s not what it looked like when you first got here. If I remember correctly, you were trying to kill me.”
“Yeah, but that was before I got to know you. How could I hurt the pony I’m going to marry?”
“Hey! You can’t marry him! We were promised to each other long ago!”
Clever Clover stepped between the two bickering ponies. “Don’t I get any say in the matter?”
Minoko smiled. “Of course you do. But you don’t need to say anything. Your actions speak for themselves. If you didn’t really love me, you would have thrown me out a long time ago.”
“He does not love you! He is just a compassionate pony who took pity on you.”
A knock on the door gave Clever Clover an excuse to escape the conversation he was really taking no part in. At the door he found a hooded pony with a bobbed tail and a younger pony carrying a heavy-looking pack. “ ‘Allo, how can I help you?”
“Greetings, gentlepony,” said the hooded pony. “I am Lantern and this is my apprentice Lock. We are tinkerers. We buy old broken appliances, repair them, and re-sell them. May we come in and show you our wares?”
“Uh, yeah, sure. Come in.” Clever Clover didn’t really need any new appliances, but there was always a chance that they would have some interesting antiques in their inventory. And hopefully the girls would behave themselves in the company of guests. He led the tinkerers into the living room where Minoko and Morning Glory still argued.
“Minoko, Morning Glory, this is Lantern and his apprentice, Lock. They are traveling salesponies. Please try to behave yourselves.”
The pony calling himself Lantern grinned evilly. “Ah, Minoko. My old apprentice. I wasn’t expecting to find you here. Perhaps I should rethink my plans.”
“Huh?” said Clever Clover and Morning Glory in unison.
“Jack O Lantern. Whatever plans you have, you can leave me out of them. I’m perfectly happy here with Clever Clover.”
“Oh? After what his father did to you? To us?”
“So you are the evil wizard Jack O Lantern?” Morning Glory asked.
“Evil? I guess that depends on your point of view.” Jack O Lantern formed a mystical symbol with his forehooves. Clever Clover and Morning Glory found themselves paralyzed.
Minoko stepped in front of Jack O Lantern and formed the energy horn upon her forehead. “Release him!”
Jack O Lantern seemed unconcerned. “Hemlock.” The young apprentice drew a long dagger and held it to Clever Clover’s throat.
The gems on Minoko’s rump glowed brightly. “You wouldn’t! Call him off!”
“Wouldn’t I? Tell you what, I’ll let them live if you join me. Yes, with your gems, the gems I gave you, I can finally destroy Magus. He created those gems and they will give me power over him.”
Clever Clover strained against Jack O Lantern’s magic. “You know, you talk too much, Jack O.”
Hemlock pressed his blade close to the prince’s neck. “Hold your tongue. Master Jack O Lantern is not concerned with your opinion.”
Minoko’s horn dispersed and she hung her head. “Alright. You win.”
Just then the door burst open and Belle Star rushed in, tripping over Hemlock. “Clever Clover! Spade asked me to tell you... oof!”
Taking advantage of the diversion, Minoko re-energized her horn and rushed Jack O Lantern. The evil pony effortlessly deflected her blow with his own energy-horn. “Hemlock, take us out of here!”
“Ugh, yes, master,” replied the apprentice as he crawled out from under Belle Star. Standing, he formed a mystical symbol, creating an orb of darkness that enveloped himself and his master, along with their captive, Minoko. The orb vanished as silently as it had appeared.
“What’s going on here?” Belle Star asked.
Clever Clover, able to move again, helped her to her hooves. “Jack O Lantern has kidnaped Minoko and plans to use her to take over the Isle, if not the world!”
“Aren’t you overstating things a bit?” Morning Glory asked.
Clever Clover shook his head. “I don’t think so. I’m going to have to rescue Minoko.”
“You can count on my help!” Belle Star volunteered.
“Are you two crazy!” yelled Morning Glory. “Minoko is an evil pirate. Evil people who associate with evil people should expect things like this. I think she deserves whatever happens to her.”
“No. Nobody deserves to be used like that. But unfortunately, I have no idea where Jack O Lantern has taken her.”
“Well, maybe we could ask Ryo. I mean, if she was with Minoko when she was Jack O Lantern’s apprentice, she might know where Jack O Lantern might take her.”
Clever Clover and Morning Glory both stared at Belle Star in disbelief. The tan pony rarely seemed to know what was going on. But then, sometimes, like now, she seemed as clear headed as anyone. Well, almost. Seeing as Ryo was Minoko’s pet rabbit, it didn’t seem like she’d be able to tell them anything.
“Belle Star, how did you know that Minoko was once Jack O Lantern’s apprentice?” Clever Clover asked.
“Oh, she told me all about it while you were visiting the Isle.”
“Was that when she loaned you my iron?”
“Uh huh. How did you know?”
“Well, there’s still no way to find Minoko, unless one of you can talk to that bunny rabbit.”
“I’m afraid Morning Glory’s right, Belle Star. We’ll have to find another way.”
Ryo, who had been curled up with Pixie on Clever Clover’s bed during the commotion, hopped up onto the coffee table. “Mrow!” With a flash of light Clever Clover’s living room faded away to be replaced by the deck of a ship.
Morning Glory looked around in confusion. “What just happened?”
“Ryo must have teleported us to Minoko’s ship. We must have to sail to wherever Jack O Lantern is,” Belle Star suggested.
Clever Clover shrugged. “Uh, right. But her ship is impounded. We’d have to pay the back dock fees if we want to take it anywhere.”
“Minoko was only staying with you because her ship was impounded, right? So if we pay her fees, even if we do rescue her, she will be able to sail away and she’ll be out of our hair!”
“That could be, Morning Glory, but unless you have the money, there’s nothing we can do.”
“For such a good cause? Of course I have the money. I’ll go to the harbor master right away and take care of it.” Morning Glory pranced merrily off the ship to pay the overdue fees. Clever Clover set about exploring the ship while Belle Star played with Ryo. By the time Morning Glory returned, Clever Clover had finished looking around and had joined Belle Star on the deck.
“So, how did it go?” the prince asked.
“That harbor master was rather unpleasant. But he did agree to release the boat, as long as he never sees it in his harbor again. Not that I mind. It will hopefully keep that dreadful pirate away.”
“Then we’re ready to set sail. Do either of you know how to pilot one of these things?”
“Uh huh,” Belle Star chimed in.
Clever Clover was shocked. “You do?”
“Sure. My grandpa was a captain and took me sailing all the time.”
“Really? You’ve never talked much about your family before.”
“I guess it never came up.” Belle Star took the ship’s wheel. “Now, let’s see. How did that go again?”
With a little time, a lot of effort, and some help from Ryo, the three ponies got the pirate ship under sail. Ryo had called out the phantasmal crew from their hiding in the ship’s hold. With their help the ship almost sailed itself. Belle Star steered the ship while Ryo navigated.
Clever Clover and Morning Glory had nothing to do in running the ship. The purple prince sat at the bow watching the waves. After pacing the deck awhile, Morning Glory joined Clever Clover.
“Clever Clover, I’m sorry about the way I’ve been acting lately. I’ve had a crush on you for awhile now; and when Lady Moonshine told me about our history, well, I guess I overreacted. I hope you can forgive me.”
“Uh, sure I can. I agreed with a lot of what you said about Minoko; but if you give her some time, she kind of grows on you.”
“Yeah, like a fungus. He-he.”
“That’s one way of looking at it. Hey, there’s a ship out there.”
“Do you think it could be Jack O Lantern?”
“I doubt it. If he can just teleport around like he can, why would he need a ship? Belle Star, there’s another ship coming our way!”
“I see it. It’s one of Grandpa’s.”
“Huh? ‘One of Grandpa’s’? How many ships does your grandpa have?”
“Oh, quite a few. But he doesn’t really own them; he’s just the Fleet Admiral.”
The approaching ship came alongside Minoko’s pirate ship. From its mainmast flew a flag bearing the letters SP and a golden star. A stern looking black maned blue pony with a golden key on her rump stood on the deck. She wore a black, white, and yellow sash from which hung a hanger, the preferred sword of the Sea Patrol.
“Ahoy! Prepare to be boarded by the Sea Patrol! Do not resist!”
Morning Glory stared in disbelief at Belle Star. “Your grandfather is the Fleet Admiral of the Sea Patrol?”
The Bushwoolie crew of the Sea Patrol ship threw boarding lines onto Minoko’s ship. After Clever Clover tied down the lines, the Sea Patrol pony crossed the ropes between the ships, hanger in hoof. “This ship has been identified as belonging to the pirate Minoko. Where is she?”
Belle Star ran up to the blue pony and threw her forelegs around her neck. “Key! It’s been such a long time! How are you?”
“Belle Star? What are you doing here?”
“We’re going to rescue Minoko from an evil wizard.”
“Rescue? What are you talking about? Minoko is the most wanted pirate on the high seas!”
“Uh, Belle Star, would you mind introducing us to your friend?”
“Oh, sure, Clever Clover. This is Key. She used to be my partner when I worked for Grandpa. Key, this is Clever Clover and Morning Glory. They are a prince and princess.”
Key was baffled. “Why would a prince and princess be helping you rescue a wanted pirate?”
“That’s a long story,” replied Clever Clover.
* * *
“Uh hm,” was all Key could say after Clever Clover’s explanation. “I respect your title and position, but I’m afraid that you have no authority in this area. Our treaty with the king of the Isle gives the Sea Patrol final authority on these waters.”
“But if we don’t rescue Minoko...” Clever Clover began.
“I’ll have to insist on escorting you to your objective and overseeing the operation,” Key interrupted.
Belle Star was jumping for joy. “Oh goody! It’ll be just like old times, Key. You and me fighting bad guys, side by side.”
Key seemed less than enthusiastic. “Uh, yeah. Well, if we’re going to find this Jack O Lantern, we should check the files on the Yagamo.”
The four ponies and Ryo boarded Key’s ship, leaving Minoko’s ship to the care of the phantoms. In her cabin, Key rummaged through numerous file cabinets until she found what she was looking for. She sat down at her desk with the file spread out before her.
“Let’s see now. Jack O Lantern, wanted for numerous crimes including piracy and pillaging. He seems to target ancient relics, objects rumored to have magical power. I suppose that makes sense if he is a wizard. Known accomplices: Hemlock and formerly Minoko. I’m afraid we don’t have any information on his current whereabouts.”
“Do you have some maps?” asked Clever Clover. “Maybe we could find some likely places.”
Ryo tried to hop up onto the desk but didn’t quite make it. Her front paws just managed to grab onto the edge of the desktop, but try as she might, she couldn’t get her hind feet up. Belle Star, seeing her distress, picked her up, set her on the desk, and fed her a carrot.
Meanwhile, Key was hunting up the navigational charts. She spread the charts on the desk and pointed to the middle of a vast open sea. “We are right there. The nearest land is here.” She pointed to a small cluster of islands. In the middle of the cluster was the mark of the skull and crossbones.
“Merow!” Ryo hopped excitedly onto the chart and pointed at one of the islands.
Key read the name of the island the rabbit indicated. “Isla Soja. It’s right between Isla Sorna and Isla Nubar. We lost a small patrol fleet there a couple of weeks ago. That could be it.”
And so the two ships set sail for the mysterious Isla Soja.
Belle Star insisted on making the journey on Yagamo, her old friend’s ship. But Key made every effort to avoid the cheerful tan pony. Belle Star didn’t seem to mind. She was satisfied prancing about the ship talking with, and getting in the way of, the Bushwoolies of the crew. Clever Clover tracked Key to her cabin and knocked on the door.
“Go away, Belle Star! I’m busy.”
“It’s me, Clever Clover, not Belle Star. I was wondering if I could talk with you.”
“Sure. Come in.” Key sat behind her desk, shuffling through a pile of papers. “What do you want to talk about?”
“Well, Belle Star, for one thing. She’s never really talked about her past, and she’s been rather evasive when I ask her about it. Since you’ve worked with her in the past, I was hoping you could fill in some of the blanks.”
“It’s not my favorite subject. Why don’t you ask her?”
“Like I said, she’s evasive. Whenever I ask her, she gives as brief an answer as she can and then changes the subject.”
“She’s not being evasive; she’s just being herself.”
“She said you used to be partners. What happened?”
“We got promoted. In the Sea Patrol, you only get a partner for your first year of service. Once you’ve proven yourself, you get your own ship.”
“You don’t seem to like her as much as she likes you. Why?”
Key sighed. “She’s clumsy and incompetent. Her bumbling was holding me back. We were partners for almost two years before her grandpa gave her her own ship, and I got Yagamo, the ship we partnered on.”
“She doesn’t seem incompetent to me... clumsy and absent-minded maybe; but she’s a good worker, once you get past her faults.”
“You’ve got to have a lot of patience to get past all her faults. And her perpetual cheerfulness got on my nerves. She never took anything seriously.”
“That’s what I like about her.”
“What are you two talking about?” Belle Star stood in the doorway to Key’s cabin, which Clever Clover was sure he had closed when he came in and he had not heard open again.
“I was just asking Key about life in the Sea Patrol. She tells me you had your own ship. What happened?”
“Oh, it hit a reef and sank. Grandpa didn’t have any other ships available so he suggested that I go to the mainland and find another job until he could get another ship ready.”
“So you came to Friendship Gardens to do archaeology?” Clever Clover asked. Key had returned to shuffling through her papers.
“I took some archaeology classes in collage. It sounded like fun.”
“Yeah, sort of a bait and switch.”
* * *
Isla Soja loomed out of the sea before the ponies, shrouded in mist. The four ponies and Ryo rowed to shore in a small launch. Key had her hanger at the ready. Belle Star now also wore the sash and sword of the Sea Patrol, which Key had loaned to her. Clever Clover carried his ancestral axe, which he had fortunately had with him when Jack O Lantern showed up. Morning Glory was unarmed, but she insisted on coming along anyway.
Key skillfully maneuvered the launch between the jagged rocks off Soja’s shore. They landed on a gravel covered beach at the base of a towering basalt cliff. The top of the precipice was lost in the mist.
Clever Clover looked up and down the beach. “So, which way do we go?”
“If I was going to build a hideout, I’d build on the high ground,” suggested Key.
Belle Star craned her neck, gazing up into the mist. “You mean up there?”
Morning Glory sighed. “Not straight up the cliff. We’ll have to find a way around.”
“So, which way do we go?” Clever Clover asked again.
“I think we should go that way.” Belle Star pointed down the beach.
Key shook her head. “I wouldn’t... hey! Where are you going?” The others were already gone in the direction Belle Star had suggested. Key galloped to catch up with her companions.
The group continued for several hours along the beach when they reached a broad river flowing out of a deep canyon cutting the black stone of the cliff. The river was too wide to cross and there was no footing to travel up the canyon.
“I tried to tell you...” Key began to say.
Belle Star shrugged. “Oh well, I guess we should have gone the other way.”
And so they went back the way they came, to where their launch sat on the beach and beyond. No more than half an hour past the landing site they found a set of stairs cut into the cliff.
Clever Clover peered up the stairs. “This seems awfully obvious. Do you think it could be a trap?”
“There’s only one way to find out.” Key stepped up and carefully began to climb the steps. “Be careful.”
The others followed Key’s lead, first Clever Clover, then Morning Glory, and finally Belle Star with Ryo riding on top of her head. The stairs were steep and slick from the mist and sea spray. Even without the worries of traps, it was a challenging climb. As they climbed, the mist became thicker. They could barely see the pony in front of them when Key called the halt.
“What’s up, Key?”
“There’s a door.”
The ponies crowded around the imposing doorway. The door was of aged oak, bound with wrought iron. “Is it locked?” Clever Clover asked. Key pulled on the ironwork handle but the door did not budge.
“What do we do now?”
Belle Star stepped forward and lifted the heavy knocker. “NO!” the others cried out in unison. Belle Star released the knocker. The iron knob swung down and impacted on the door with a heavy reverberating thud.
“Well, there’s no way we’ll be getting the drop on him now,” complained Key. Then the door swung open with a loud creak.
Clever Clover hesitantly stepped over the threshold into a vast arched hall. The room was cut from the very stone of the cliff and polished to a mirror-like shine. Columns of white stone accented the darkness of the basalt. The far end of the hall was lost in darkness, such was its vastness. The purple prince took a torch from its sconce, conveniently located right next to the door. “Come on. Whether or not Jack O Lantern knows we’re here, we have to keep moving.”
The four ponies and Ryo started off down the dark hall, Clever Clover’s torch the only source of light aside from the dim glow of sunlight filtering in through the doorway receding behind them. Before long the light of the sun was lost and the rescuers seemed lost, adrift in a sea of darkness.
Morning Glory pressed close to Clever Clover. “It’s rather spooky in here. It hardly seems like we’re making any progress.”
“Don’t look straight ahead,” the prince advised. “Watch the columns; it helps give a sense of progress. A little.”
The other ponies heads turned to the side. “I can’t say that it’s a great improvement,” observed Key.
Belle Star froze in her tracks; her eyes went wide. “What is that?”
The others turned and followed her gaze into the darkness between two columns. Key shook her head. “I don’t see anything.”
Clever Clover stepped forward, holding his axe at the ready. “You stay here. I’ll check it out.” As he proceeded, his torch melted away the darkness, revealing a suit of black pony armor with a whorled horn upon its forehead. The princely pony approached the apparition cautiously, holding the torch in front of him and the axe on guard. He stopped with his nose within inches of the armored face before him. In the hollows of the visor holes, he could see that the armor was indeed empty.
“It’s alright. Nothing to be afraid of.” As soon as Clever Clover had assured his companions of their safety, a sudden gust of wind that seemed to originate from the muzzle of the hollow form extinguished the torch. Acting on instinct, Clever Clover swung with his axe a mighty blow against the armor, severing its lifeless head. The hollow vessel rose a mighty clatter upon the stone floor.
“What happened!?” cried out Morning Glory.
Clever Clover was carefully backing toward his friends. “I’m not sure. Just stay calm until we can figure it ou... UUWWW! Hey! Watch it!”
Belle Star stepped aside, holding her hanger over her head, and out of the way of Clever Clover. “Oops, sorry.”
“Now what?” asked Key.
Before anyone could answer, the hall was bathed in eery light and Jack O Lantern’s laughter echoed throughout the walls. They could now see that they were halfway along the hall and between each of the columns stood a suit of armor. Or rather had stood, for now the empty suits moved as if possessed. And they converged toward the ponies.
“Did you think that you could challenge me within my own home?” Jack O Lantern’s voice boomed. “Now I will finally be rid of you and able to take what is rightfully mine. The throne of the Isle!”
Belle Star looked about in confusion. “If he already has this whole island, why does he want yours, too, Clever Clover?”
Key lunged toward the leading armor. “Shut up and fight these things!”
Clever Clover swung his axe in mighty arcs, slicing through several armors at a time; Key lashed out with carefully aimed strikes and felled an advisory with every blow; Belle Star whipped her hanger about wildly, taking out as many armors as Key. Morning Glory was unarmed, but kicked with her hind legs if any armor got past the others’ blades.
Clever Clover took stock of their situation. “These things don’t seem to be that quick! If we make a fighting advance we should be able to keep ahead of the ones behind us!”
The ponies pressed further into Jack O Lantern’s realm, leaving a trail of shattered armor behind them. Meanwhile, the evil wizard watched from his inner sanctum. “They are faring better than I expected. Though their brutish tactics may be effective against my puppet warriors, there is little they can do against me. However, it is better to be cautious. Hemlock, go to the Grand Hall and make sure they do not escape.”
Hemlock bowed to his master. “As you wish.”
As the apprentice went to do his master’s bidding, the master turned his attention to his captive, Minoko. “It seems your friends have come to rescue you. Even the princess. You seem to have developed a knack for inspiring loyalty in your friends. Although as I recall, you didn’t have any friends when you were my apprentice.” Minoko, who was imprisoned within a magical bubble, simply scowled at her former master.
By the time Clever Clover and the others reached the exit from the Grand Hall, Hemlock was ready for them. “We’ve got to stop him before he can cast any spells!” the purple prince called to his companions. They redoubled their efforts and pressed onward toward the green apprentice pony.
“They have done quite a job on our armor,” Hemlock mused. “But what has been once animated by magic can be re-animated just as easily.” He began to form the mystical sign that would restore the fallen armor. As he chanted the ancient spell, Belle Star tripped on a fallen piece of armor. She tumbled into an advancing armor, knocking it into another. Armor after armor fell like dominos until one, as it fell, jostled Hemlock, altering his sign. And the spell was cast. A burst of magical energy swept across the hall, and in it’s wake the remainder of the active armor collapsed into piles of rusty metal.
“What? That’s not...” Before Hemlock could finish his thought, he found himself facing two threatening blades, joined shortly by Belle Star’s.
“Don’t even think of trying anything!” Key commanded. “You are under arrest in the name of the Sea Patrol.”
Hemlock hung his head, grinning evilly. “Heh, fortune favors you. But though you have bested me, you will not defeat my master.”
“Belle Star, you and Key stay here and keep an eye on Hemlock. I’ll take care of Jack O Lantern.” Clever Clover turned to move on, but Morning Glory stopped him with a hoof on his shoulder.
“Um, Clever Clover, what should I do?”
“Oh, you can come with me if you like. But be careful.”
* * *
Clever Clover burst into Jack O Lantern’s inner sanctum, but the evil wizard was nowhere to be seen. Minoko in her spherical prison floated on the far side of the room. “Clever Clover! Look out!” she called.
The purple prince was already halfway across the room when Jack O lantern stepped out of the shadows behind him. The evil pony formed his green energy horn and lunged toward Clever Clover. The purple pony spun around and blocked with his axe but was knocked back against a stone pillar by the force of the blow. Morning Glory rushed to his side. “Clever Clover! Are you okay?” Clever Clover could only groan in response.
Minoko’s eyes raged with blazing fire. “How dare you!” With a burst of energy she shattered her prison. Her energy horn flared to life, brighter than it had ever been. She charged her one-time teacher with a frenzied attack. Jack O Lantern countered her onslaught with a simple shield spell.
“Come now, Minoko, I thought I taught you better than that. Don’t waste your energy on such unfocused attacks. Not that it will change the outcome of this battle; you must focus your energy. Make it count.”
“Thanks for the advice.” Minoko sank into the floor, disappearing from view. Jack O Lantern grinned confidently. With a sudden discharge of brilliant energy, Minoko rose out of the floor and collapsed.
“I hoped for better from you. How does this speak of my abilities as a teacher?”
Meanwhile, Clever Clover had, with some help from Morning Glory, struggled to his feet. “Alright, Jack O Lantern, it’s time to finish this.”
“Oh, you’re still here? I thought I’d dealt with you.”
“I forgot my line, but it was something dramatic.” The purple prince advanced toward the villainous wizard, barely able to stand, or lift his axe. The heavy blade dragged on the floor behind him, cutting a deep groove in the polished stone floor.
“That would be quite an impressive weapon, if only it had a worthy master to wield it.” Jack O Lantern waved his hoof and the axe flew from Clever Clover into his waiting grip. As soon as Jack O Lantern touched the weapon, however, there was a deafening explosion that knocked the orange pony back and hurled the axe across the room where it buried its head in the stone of the wall. Jack O Lantern quickly regained his composure. “Well, no matter. Though I cannot use the weapon, neither can it be used against me. And without it, you are defenseless.”
Clever Clover shook his head. “No. I cannot let you win.” A sphere of blue light appeared floating above the purple prince’s forehead.
Jack O Lantern recoiled. “What is that?”
The sphere settled upon the prince’s brow and a whorled horn sprung forth, not vaporish and immaterial like the energy horns wielded by Jack O Lantern and Minoko, but apparently solid. “Jack O Lantern, you will not threaten my people again.” Clever Clover lowered his head and charged the evil wizard.
Jack O Lantern had regained his composure and parried the blow. “You may have found yourself a weapon, young prince, but you lack ability to use it. Why not surrender and save us all a lot of trouble and suffering?” Clever Clover didn’t take time to answer. As soon as he recovered from his failed attack, he lunged again. Jack O Lantern didn’t even need to parry; he just stepped out of the way. The evil wizard shook his head at the pitiful attack. He leveled his horn at the exhausted prince. “I will end this quickly.”
“Not!” Clever Clover leapt aside at the last moment and struck Jack O Lantern on his head, rendering the villain unconscious.
Morning Glory threw her forelegs around Clever Clover. “You scared me! I was so worried!”
Clever Clover’s mysterious horn disappeared. “You should know me better than that. They don’t call me ‘Clever’ Clover for nothing.”
Minoko rose to her knees. “Clever Clover. You did it; you saved me. I knew you’d choose me.”
Morning Glory turned red with rage. “He did not choose you! He only rescued you because he knew how dangerous Jack O Lantern would be if he could control your power.”
“Yeah, whatever makes you happy.” Minoko stumbled over to Clever Clover and threw her foreleg around his shoulder. “Now, let’s get out of here.”
“Not quite yet. Morning Glory, could you run down and send Key up here?”
“Hm, I guess so. But you’d better not try anything while I’m gone, Minoko.”
As Morning Glory rushed off to summon the Sea Patrol pony, Minoko snuggled close to Clever Clover. “How clever of you, sending her off so we could be alone.”
“That’s not why I did it. I need to keep an eye on Jack O Lantern until Key can get here and put him in custody.”
“Custody? Is this Key with the Sea Patrol?”
“Oh, I’d better be going. If I remember correctly there is a secret exit around here somewhere.” Minoko turned to leave but, still weak from her fight, fell to her knees as soon as she let go of Clever Clover.
The purple prince extended his hoof to the battered pirate. “Don’t worry. I’m sure she can be reasoned with.”
Minoko took his hoof. “Thank you.”
Key arrived shortly. “I’ve heard you subdued Jack O Lantern. Good work.”
“Yeah, it was nothing.”
After Key bound Jack O Lantern with special cuffs that inhibited the use of magic, she turned to Clever Clover and Minoko. “Now about Minoko...”
“Don’t even think about it.” Minoko tried to stand on her own but could not.
“Listen, Key, how about you release Minoko into my custody? Since she’s been in Friendship Gardens, she hasn’t caused any trouble. Well, not too much.”
Key shook her head. “I don’t know. She is one of the most wanted criminals on our list, but we do have an extradition treaty with the Isle. I will accompany you to Port Scurvy where we can draw up a proper extradition contract at the local Sea Patrol office.”
“Oh goody! Now nothing will come between us!” Minoko nuzzled Clever Clover.
“Uh, well the harbor master of Port Scurvy has sort-of banned Minoko’s ship from port.”
“Leave that to me.”
* * *
One week after Jack O Lantern arrived at Clever Clover’s door, Yagamo and Minoko’s ship sat in port at Port Scurvy. The paperwork officially remanding Minoko into Clever Clover’s custody was finally finished. Clever Clover, Minoko, Morning Glory, Belle Star, and Ryo were preparing to leave for Friendship Gardens.
Clever Clover threw Key a salute. “Well, Key, it’s been nice meeting you.”
“Likewise, your highness. I just hope you can keep that pirate under control.”
“I’ll do my best.”
Belle Star, who still had her hanger, stepped forward. “Thanks for letting me be your partner again, but I guess I should give this back.” She handed the sword to her old friend.”
Key shook her head. “Why don’t you hold onto it? Considering the company you’ve been keeping, it may come in handy.”
“Oh, thank you! I’ll never forget this.”
Minoko tugged at Clever Clover. “Come on, let’s get out of here. I hate long goodbyes, especially with the law.”
“You’re right to be nervous. With your reputation, she could very well change her mind if you hang around too long. Maybe arrest you for loitering.”
“Clever Clover, Morning Glory is teasing me,” the pirate whined playfully.
Clever Clover shook his head. “Let’s go.”
As the four ponies and Ryo started off for Friendship Gardens, Belle Star cried out, “Oh, Clever Clover, I just remembered! When I came over to your house it was to tell you that Spade needed you to turn in your part of the site report so it could go to the printer on Friday.”
“Friday? You mean six days ago Friday or two days from now?”
“Uh, six days ago, I guess.”
Clever Clover hung his head and sighed. “Well, I’m not looking forward to getting back. Anybody mind if we take the long way?”