written by Clever Clover
Clever Clover was walking home from the hockey rink where his team had just won a come-from-behind victory. Minoko and Belle Star were along, too. The pirate Minoko had really taken to the youth hockey matches, though she had the bad habit of encouraging fights. Belle Star had a knack for always choosing to root for the losing team. Fortunately, the opponents today had a cuter name, the Fuzzy Pandas versus Clever Clover’s Dragonflies.
As they arrived at Clever Clover’s home, Minoko glared at Belle Star. “Why do you always walk all the way home with us when we pass your apartment right after we leave the rink? Now you’re just gonna make Clever Clover walk you home again.”
“Gee, I never thought of that. We were just having so much fun together I didn’t even notice we passed my apartment!”
“It’s no big deal, Minoko. Besides, if you really wanted to make my life easier, you’d look into getting yourself an apartment.”
“I couldn’t do that. Officer Key released me into your custody. You have to stay close to me.”
“Bells Star is an officer of the Sea Patrol, too. If you got an apartment in her building, she could keep an eye on you for me.”
“Wouldn’t that be so fun, Minoko? We’d be neighbors and we could hang out together all the time!”
“We already hang out together all the time. I was trying to get rid of you.” Minoko threw open the front door first and marched into the living room, followed by Clever Clover.
“Play nice, Minoko. I don’t mind having Belle Star around. Hey, where is she?” Clever Clover looked around the room.
“Maybe she took a clue and went home.”
But just then Belle Star trotted in. “Clever Clover, I found this out on your doorstep. It was all covered in snow.” She handed him an envelope damp with melting snow.
“Probably a secret admirer,” Minoko huffed.
“I hope not,” said Clever Clover as he tore the envelope open. “It’s from Raven. He wants me to come to the Isle for a meeting with King Oak.”
“Great, I could use a vacation, even if it means running into Raven.”
“Sorry, Minoko; he says you can’t come- well, not you specifically. Just that I can’t bring anyone. I guess Belle Star is going to have to look after you while I’m gone.”
The tan pony threw Clever Clover a salute. “You can count on me!”
Minoko rolled her eyes. “Great. I’ve got a babysitter who needs one herself.”
“Hey! I don’t need a babysitter! What do you mean by that?”
“Minoko, try to be nice. Besides, I’m going to need someone to look after the Dragonflies while I’m gone; I’ll miss at least our next game. Think you can handle it?”
“Oh, yeah! We’ll clean their clocks!”
“And Belle Star, make sure Minoko doesn’t start any fights.”
“C’mon! What fun is hockey without a good fight?” Clever Clover just glared at the pirate pony. “Oh, alright. I’ll play nice.”
“I guess you’ll have to stay over here, Belle Star. Is that alright?”
“Oh, sure. It’ll be like a sleepover!”
* * *
The next day, Clever Clover packed for his trip to the Isle. It was always a long trip and this was the coldest time of year, so he had to pack extra provisions. Even though he wasn’t allowed any guests, he was taking his Vulpix along. Her fiery breath would come in handy camping out in the frigid Flatlands. It seemed to the princely purple pony that Raven delighted in tormenting him. He had never been invited to the Isle when it was warm.
Belle Star was also busy. Since she had a habit of sleeping in and Clever Clover wanted to get an early start, he had asked her to bring her things over and spend the night so that he wouldn’t have to leave Minoko unattended for the morning. The tan pony arrived at Clever Clover’s at five o’clock, just in time for supper. But Clever Clover had only prepared a light meal since he lost his appetite when he was nervous, and mysterious invitations always made him nervous, not to mention leaving Minoko and Belle Star alone in his house for more than a week.
After the meal, the three ponies sat around playing cards and eating potato chips into the night. It was near midnight when Clever Clover rose from the table with a yawn. “I have to be getting up early tomorrow so I really need to be getting to sleep. Belle Star, I’ll sleep on the couch tonight; you can have my bed.”
“Oh, no, you don’t have to do that. I don’t mind sleeping on the couch and you really should get a good night’s sleep.”
“But I insist. I won’t be able to get a good night’s sleep, anyway. Too nervous. Besides, I’ll be up way before you; and I wouldn’t want to disturb you.”
“But if I oversleep, I won’t be able to say goodbye.”
Minoko slammed her hooves on the table. “Would you two cut it out! Either go to bed or play cards!”
“Oh, right.” Belle Star started shuffling the deck. “Who’s deal was it?”
Clever Clover trod off to his bedroom. There was no way he was going to get any sleep on the couch with the two of them playing cards in the next room. He just hoped that Belle Star would realize that she had won the argument when she decided to go to bed.
* * *
The next morning, Clever Clover shuffled out of his bedroom toward the kitchen. Belle Star was fast asleep on the couch, snoring loudly, and the dining room table was littered with playing cards. The purple pony brushed aside enough cards to make room for a bowl of hot oatmeal with maple and brown sugar. Pixie the Vulpix was wide awake and ready for the journey ahead. By the time he finished his breakfast, Clever Clover was ready to go back to bed, but he knew that he had to set out as early as possible for the long journey.
As he gathered his things for the trip, he noticed that Belle Star had stopped snoring. He knew she had wanted to say goodbye, but she was sleeping so peacefully he didn’t want to disturb her. “Goodbye, Belle Star,” he whispered as he opened the door. Standing on his doorstep was Morning Glory, wearing a deep purple cape and hat. “What are you doing here?!”
“You seem surprised to see me. Didn’t you get one of these also?” She held up an invitation from Raven much like the one Clever Clover had received.
“Yeah, but it didn’t say anything about a traveling companion.”
“Well, mine did. Raven suggested I accompany you since we would both be going to the Isle to meet with him. I’m so excited. This is going to be my first visit to the Isle!”
“Actually, we were both born there. We weren’t brought to Friendship Garden until we were almost a year old.”
“Well, it will be the first time I remember being to the Isle. And I really look forward to meeting this Raven fellow. He seems likes such a wise and noble stallion.”
As the prince and princess talked, Belle Star rolled off the couch with a thud. Morning Glory craned her neck to see past Clever Clover. “Oh, Clever Clover, do you have company?”
“Yeah. Belle Star is watching Minoko while I’m gone.”
Belle Star sat up and yawned. “Oh, Morning Glory. Did you come to say goodbye to Clever Clover before his trip?”
“No. I’m going with him.”
“That’s very nice of you. Now Clever Clover will have someone to talk to along the way.”
“Yeah, well, we’d better be going. I’d hate to see how Minoko reacts to this news. She’s already upset at being left behind.” Clever Clover ushered Morning Glory off the doorstep. “Goodbye, Belle Star. See you in a week or two. And could you wait until Minoko is outside and away from the house before you tell her about Morning Glory? You know how she gets.”
“Uh-huh. I’ll do my best. Goodbye!” Belle Star stood in the doorway waving until Clever Clover and Morning Glory were out of sight. As she closed the door, Minoko wandered into the living room.
“Hey, Belle Star, did I miss Clever Clover?”
“Uh-huh. He and Morning Glory are on their way to the Isle.”
“Wha!? He AND Morning Glory? I thought he said he couldn’t take a guest!”
“Well, Morning Glory got an invitation too, since she is a princess after all, so they are going together.”
“Why that two-timing…”
“Uh-oh. Now Minoko, calm down!”
* * *
Clever Clover was becoming quite familiar with the road to the Isle, not that there really was a road. The Isle ponies liked their privacy so there were no roads, signs, or even footpaths leading to the isolated Green Lake in the northern reaches of the Flatlands. It made sense to have Morning Glory accompany Clever Clover for her first trip to their ancestral home. Without a guide who knew the way it would be quite difficult to find. And, like Belle Star had said, it gave the prince someone to talk to. Not that he needed someone to talk to. One thing he liked about his trips to the Isle was that he got to be alone for a whole week of hiking. When he walked, his mind tended to wander and it was hard to carry on a conversation, except for the time he made the trip with Belle Star whose mind was always wandering. Their conversations wandered with their minds and rarely made any sense looking back, though at the time they seemed quite intelligent.
“Clever Clover! Are you listening to me?”
“Huh? Sorry, Morning Glory. My mind was wandering. I’m still a little concerned about that explosion we heard right after we left. You don’t suppose Belle Star let it slip to Minoko that you were coming with me?”
“I wouldn’t worry about it. She gave you her word.”
“Yeah, I guess she did. But you never can tell.”
“Well, you should try harder to keep your mind on the present, considering you are the one who knows the way to where we’re going. If you don’t pay attention, we may get lost.”
“I haven’t gotten lost yet.” Clever Clover paused and looked around at the fir trees surrounding them. “Hm, I don’t remember any fir trees along the route.”
Morning Glory collapsed. “What! Those two ‘friends’ of yours are having a bad influence on you.”
“I’m just kidding. I know exactly where we are and we are right on track. There is a good place to make camp up ahead. We should be there in about half an hour.”
“That’s good. It’s starting to get cold. I’m glad you brought Pixie along. She’ll make quick work of lighting our campfire.”
“Yeah. And she’s like having a furnace in the tent at night.”
“Oh good. I had been quite worried about his trip, there being no inns along the way and all. I thought it would have been better to wait until spring when the weather was warmer. But I guess our duties as prince and princess are more important that physical comfort.”
“I don’t think it’s that pressing. Raven just likes torturing me.”
“That’s not a very respectful thing to say about the Regent. Based on what Lady Moonshine told me, he is a fine and upstanding pony. And very loyal to the crown.”
“True. But you haven’t met him. He’s almost enough to keep Minoko from even wanting to come with me.”
“Well, in that case, I have even more respect for him.”
“I never thought of it that way. But he did make Belle Star cry the first time she met him.”
“As I recall, that was because you brought her to the Isle without consulting Raven first. At least that is what Foxglove told me at Sugarberry’s Christmas party.”
“And as I recall, you wanted to go with me that time. It could just have well been you who was crying.”
“I suppose. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what sort of impression he makes.”
“I have to hand it to you, you are more levelheaded than Minoko or Belle.”
* * *
The two ponies soon arrived at the clearing where Clever Clover planned to make camp. For all he could tell, no one had been there since his last passing months ago. A rocky outcropping made a convenient hearth and the dense trees blocked the wind. Princess Morning Glory gathered firewood while Clever Clover pitched the tent. Pixie accompanied the princess for her protection. Not that she needed any protection. There was nothing dangerous along the route, but she had seemed nervous about going into the woods alone to gather the wood so Clever Clover sent his Pokemon along with her. Before long, she had returned to the clearing safe and sound with an adequate supply of wood for the night. Once the fire was burning and a pot of soup hung to cook, the ponies and Pokemon huddled in the tent to keep warm.
“I never imagined being a princess to be anything like this. But the grass is always greener they say. I suppose this is only the first hardship I’ll have to undergo as princess.”
“First? What about that whole Jack-O-Lantern adventure? If you hadn’t known you were a princess, you wouldn’t have gotten involved.”
“True. But that was a romantic adventure, even though you were rushing off to save another mare. It was so unreal, I think back on it almost like a dream. Clever Clover, was your trip to the Isle with Belle Star like this?”
“Not quite. It was a bit warmer, and there was a lot of snow. And we had separate tents, but that would be dangerous in this weather. We need to conserve body heat.”
“It’s that cold? I didn’t realize the trip would be so perilous.”
“No, it’s not perilous at all, as long as you know what you’re doing.”
“Then it’s a good thing I have you to watch over me, because I’d have no idea what to do on my own.”
“The soup should be done. I’m starving.” Clever Clover quickly exited the tent and retrieved the pot from the fire and rushed it back into the shelter. Morning Glory shot him a very cross look as he began to dish out the piping hot soup.
“Clever Clover! We were having a moment there, and you ruined it by rushing out for soup!”
“Huh? Sorry, I hadn’t realized that was a ‘moment’. When I get hungry I tend to zone out. Anyway, we need to be getting to sleep soon and the best thing we can do to get ready for the long cold night is fill our stomachs with nice hot soup. I’m just watching over you.”
“Oh, you were paying attention at least. And I suppose survival is more important than a ‘moment’. Thank you.”
And the two ponies ate their soup and settled down for the night.
* * *
The next morning dawned cold and bright. Clever Clover rekindled the fire and put a pot of hot chocolate on. After a sparse breakfast, the ponies broke camp and began the second day of their journey. “From here on out the land is relatively flat so we should make good time, but there’s still two nights of camping out before we reach the Isle. And in the Flatlands there are few trees for firewood or shelter.”
“It sounds very desolate. Why do you suppose our ancestors choose to settle in the Flatlands?”
“They wanted to be left alone. Besides, the Isle isn’t as desolate as the rest of the Flatlands. It’s like an oasis in a great northern desert.”
“That sounds so romantic.”
* * *
The rest of the journey went without incident. Two and a half days after camping in the firs, Clever Clover and Morning Glory arrived at the Green Lake- though the lake was not green, but icy blue. The ice boats of the Isle ponies glided to and fro across the glassy surface. Three boats and a party of ponies awaited the travelers as they arrived. Clever Clover expected to find Ironwood and the royal guard but to his great surprise was greeted by none other than King Oak himself.
“Ah, cousin! It has been too long. Welcome home again. And I see the princess is with you. Welcome, Princess Morning Glory.”
“I’m honored to meet you your highness.”
“Your highness, I hadn’t been expecting you to come out and greet us yourself.”
“Oh, we can dispense with all this ‘highness’ garbage. At least for the time being. Save it for formal occasions. Come, Morning Glory, let me introduce you to my queen, Gooseberry.” King Oak led them to the edge of the lake where a fire burned. Around the fire were seated the queen and her attendants.
“I see our guests have arrived. Come, princess, warm yourself by the fire. The trip across the lake can be quite chilling, so you’d best take advantage of this opportunity to fortify yourself and give me a chance to get to know you.”
“Thank you your highness, I mean Gooseberry.” Morning Glory sat next to the queen and an attendant wrapped a blanket around her shoulders.
Oak, standing back from the fire, took a deep breath of cold air. “I rather enjoy this brisk weather myself.”
“It’s a bit beyond brisk, I’d say. But still, it’s not bad.”
“Come Clever Clover, I’d have figured you for hardier stock than that.”
“I didn’t say I can’t handle it.”
“My mistake. By the way, did you remember your foil? You promised me another match.”
“Of course. And I’ve been practicing. As you’ve no doubt heard by now, the pirate Minoko is staying at my house and she is quite the fencer. It turns out Belle Star has some skill, too, as an officer of the Pony Sea Patrol.”
“Yes, Foxglove filled me in after her trip this Christmas. The fact that Minoko has taken to you gives me hope for the future of our people. Perhaps we can heal the divisions that have been plaguing us.”
“What divisions? I thought all our people lived here, except for those of us in Friendship Gardens; but there is no strife between us.”
“I was referring to Jack-O-Lantern. That is the matter I summoned you to the Isle to discuss. But there will be time for that later. Now is a happy time to greet returning friends.”
“Speaking of greeting, why did you come out personally? Isn’t that usually Ironwood’s job?”
“Normally, yes. But since Gooseberry and I had planned to go sailing today anyway, we decided to greet you ourselves, despite Raven’s protests. Actually, Ironwood is out on the lake now with my boat, keeping Raven blissfully unaware that I decided to greet you anyway.”
Meanwhile, nearer the fire, the mare-folk conversed. At least Gooseberry and Morning Glory did. The attendants fawned over Pixie’s shiny coat and six luxurious tails.
“So Morning Glory, how did you find the trip? I hope it wasn’t too much of a hardship.”
“Oh, no, not at all. Thanks to Clever Clover, that is. There is no way I could have made the trip on my own.”
“Well, I hope you enjoy the Isle while you are here. Malachite Castle is quite comfortable; it will be a welcome change from the conditions on the open Flatlands.”
“It will be nice to sleep in a proper bed at night. By the way, why is it that I was summoned to the Isle?”
“Oh, nothing much. You are a princess of the Spirit Clan and we thought you should have a chance to get to know more about your people. And Oak and I wanted to meet you. Since you are not in line for the throne, you will have little official obligation or duty.”
“But what about Clever Clover? He is not in line for the throne, either. Why does he have such responsibilities?”
“Do you envy his burdens? Clever Clover is both a prince and a regent. It is his duty to advise the king and act as intermediary between King Oak and his people in Friendship Gardens. Also, he is the son of the former king whom Jack-O-Lantern holds in great contempt.”
“I do not envy him, but I would like to take an active role in the leadership of our people, however small it might be.”
“I am sure something can be arranged. Though it may be difficult for you, living in Friendship Gardens, to take part in affairs of state here on the Isle.”
“You do have a point there. Well, we shall have to see what arrangement we can come up with.”
King Oak and Clever Clover approached the fire. “Ladies, it is time to return to the Isle.” The ponies went to board the ice boats. A small compliment of royal guards had the boats ready to sail. “Clever Clover, Morning Glory, you will ride with Gooseberry and me.” The four royal ponies boarded one boat, the attendants another, and the guards the third. Pixie, appreciating the attention she had been receiving, rode with the attendants. King Oak personally steered the boat as it skimmed gracefully across the frozen lake.
* * *
Morning Glory was awestruck by the sight of Malachite Castle. Its gray-green walls towered over the rustic whitewashed village in the cleft of the mountain. Down the main street they walked. The town did not seem too lively on this cold day, but there was more life than when Clever Clover had first come here. Ponies went about their daily lives while keeping out of the cold as much as possible. They rushed from shop to shop, tightly bundled in capes and scarves, but were never in too much of a hurry to not bow to the royal party with a polite “good day, your highnesses!” When they reached the castle gates, Morning Glory craned her neck to take on the entire height of the towering visage.
“This is so spectacular. I never imagined it would be so grand!”
“Yep, and for the next few days, it’s home.”
“It is always home, cousin, whether you are here or not. Both you and Morning Glory were born within these walls, as were Gooseberry and I. All the princes and princesses can call Malachite Castle home. Even those who are lost.” King Oak hung his head for a moment. “Well, then, let’s get in out of the cold, for the sake of the ladies.”
Morning Glory pulled Clever Clover aside from the group. “What did Oak mean about ‘those who are lost’?”
“I’m sure they will fill you in on all of that later. Right now, let’s go in and relax for a while.”
Foxglove, stewardess of Malachite Castle, greeted them as the door opened. “Your highnesses, I trust you had a good journey?”
Morning Glory curtseyed politely. “Oh, yes, it was quite charming.”
“I enjoyed it. Where’s Enchantment? Doesn’t she usually do the greeting?”
“She is away on a mission for the Magus. She should be returning shortly.”
King Oak threw his forelegs around Clever Clover and Morning Glory. “That’s what I like about you, Clever Clover; you never forget your friends. Now, shall we grab a bite to eat while we wait for her return? I asked the chiefs to prepare a special meal to celebrate your arrival.”
“As much as I appreciate the gesture, why are we waiting for Enchantment? I don’t want to sound cold or anything, but I’d like to know what business I was summoned for.”
“Enchantment’s mission has bearing on the business at hand. There is no point in beginning before we have all the facts.”
* * *
Foxglove and the royal ponies proceeded to the dining hall where a table was prepared for them. The guards and attendants, along with Pixie, stayed in the antechamber. Already at the table were three ponies: the imposing black figure of Raven, the aged Archbishop Vin, and the mysterious Magus. The three rose when the royal party entered. Raven seemed somewhat surprised.
“Your Highness! I hadn’t expected you back so soon. Not five minutes ago I saw the green sail of your royal boat out on the lake.”
“Oh, my. We entirely forgot about Ironwood. Though he should have noticed we had left the shore. I’ll have to have a word with him when he returns.”
“I see,” said Raven, who had resumed his usual stern demeanor.
“Now that that is settled, let us introduce you three to our guest. Princess Morning Glory, I would like you too meet Raven,”
“Your highness.” The midnight stallion bowed.
“It is an honor to meet you.”
“And finally, our court magician, Magus.”
The white pony only bowed.
“I am so pleased to meet all of you,” Morning Glory said.
“Now that that is taken care of, let us eat.” The King and Queen took their seats side by side at one end of the table . Foxglove guided Clever Clover and Morning Glory to their seats to the King’s right. Once all were seated, servants brought in the food, and the repast tasted good. Before the meal was finished, Magus rose from his seat.
“I have some matters to attend to. I will rejoin you shortly.” He bowed again and left the room.
Nobody seemed to take any notice of the wizard’s leaving other than Morning Glory. “I wonder what that was about?”
“With wizards, it is best not to ask such things,” commented Foxglove.
Raven glared across the table. “And it is impolite.”
“Please forgive me.”
The king nodded. “Of course.”
“I’m bored and this scene is going nowhere.” Clever Clover yawned. “Mind if we just skip to the next one?”
Raven slammed his forehoof on the table. “For once I agree with the prince!”
“Very well, by royal decree this scene is officially over!”
“Hip-hip hooray! Hip-hip hooray!”
* * *
After the meal, the ponies retired to the library. To kill time until the beginning of the next interesting scene, Raven had been lecturing Morning Glory on the history of the Isle ponies. As he concluded his lecture, King Oak nudged Clever Clover who had fallen asleep. “You better wake up; the next scene is about to begin.”
“Huh? What? Oh, sorry ‘bout that. It’s just that I heard all this stuff about our history back in MLP Monthly Issue #62, May 2002 (History by Clever Clover. Check it out!). Except I don’t remember that part about the Water Clan. I thought only two clans didn’t make the trip.”
Raven cleared his throat. “Yes, well, perhaps I omitted certain facts back in Issue #62, but that was only because we were pressed for time. The Water Clan did make the trip, but were unsettled here with only this small lake to sail. They returned to the high sea to search for the lost clans and the regents, but were never heard from again.”
The library door opened, Magus and Enchantment entered. Morning Glory clapped her forehooves together “Oh goody, the next scene!”
Enchantment’s face brightened at the sight of Clever Clover. “It’s good to see you again, Clever Clover. And you, too, Morning Glory.”
“I’m glad to see you, too. So, what have you been busy with?”
The young pony hung her head. “I have been investigating the lost clans, particularly the Night Clan.”
“I take it your findings were not pleasing?” Morning Glory asked.
Enchantment shook her head. “I have located the Night Clan, but they have been turned against us by Jack-O-Lantern. His apprentice, Hemlock, has somehow escaped form the Sea Patrol and resumed his master’s work. And there is another. She is Hemlock’s sister; I do not know her name. She is immune to magic and is a master swordpony. The people live in misery and they blame us as much as Jack-O-Lantern.”
“That is ill news.”
“True, Raven, but there is hope. Another clan has been found, at least. Now action must be taken to undo what Jack-O-Lantern has done.”
“Your highness, I ask that you leave this matter to my apprentice and me. The Night Clan have always been the most powerful magic users among our people. It will take powerful magic to put right what Jack-O-Lantern had done.”
“But what about Hemlock’s sister? Your magic won’t do much good against her.”
“When the time comes, we will call upon your assistance, good prince.”
“I was afraid of that.”
Morning Glory was quite overwhelmed by all of this talk of magic and deceit. As the discussion continued, the princess slipped out of the library. “Oh, what have I gotten myself into? Chasing a wizard who kidnapped a friend is one thing, but rescuing an entire clan? Maybe I should just go back to Friendship Gardens and my normal life. Like Gooseberry said, I can’t take part in the Isle’s affairs if I’m back in Friendship Gardens, and maybe that is best. I think I need to go for a walk to clear my head.”
The pink princess wandered the halls of the castle aimlessly. Malachite Castle was massive and its halls were cut deep into the mountainside. Before long, she was lost. She hadn’t seen anyone since leaving the library. Occasionally she would hear some distant conversation echoing through the halls, but she was content to be alone for the time being. Eventually she found herself in a grandiose hall lined with paintings of majestic ponies, each of them holding a weapon of some sort. At one end of the hall, near a pair of heavy double doors, was a painting she recognized as King Oak holding a heavy-looking sword. Across from him was a stallion who resembled Clever Clover and was holding the axe that the purple prince often carried with him. Next to the axe-wielding pony was one that seemed eerily familiar. She could almost hear his voice, but the more she concentrated the more distant it became. She stood mesmerized by the painting for she knew not how long before a voice from behind startled her.
“That is a painting of your grandfather, King Weis, the predecessor of Clever Clover’s father on the throne.” It was King Oak. He and the rest of the party from the library were standing around her.
“Your highness, I’m sorry for sneaking out on your meeting…”
“But it was all just so overwhelming?” Clever Clover finished the sentence for her. “I know how you feel.”
Gooseberry stepped forward. “There is no need to apologize. You were only brought to the meeting because you had asked to be more active in the affairs of our people. Perhaps we should have given you more warning about what you would be getting yourself into.”
“Why don’t you turn in for the evening? You have had a long day and a long journey before that.”
“That is an excellent idea, Foxglove. I am quite tired.”
Clever Clover yawned loudly. “Me, too. And does anybody know where Pixie got off to?”
The queen giggled. “My attendants seemed to be quite taken with your little pet. I’ll ask if they know where she is.”
“Come along, then; I’ll show you to your room, princess.”
“Thank you very much, Enchantment.”
“Well than, good night all. Will the two of you be joining us for a formal breakfast tomorrow morning?”
“Thanks for the offer, Oak, but I think I’m going to sleep in. How ‘bout you, Morning Glory?”
“I think I’d rather enjoy it. It’s been three days since I’ve had a proper breakfast.”
And so the ponies parted for the night. Enchantment showed Morning Glory to the room right next to Clever Clover’s. The Prince was in the same room he had stayed in since his first visit to the castle. Morning Glory was awestruck at the size of her suite. Three rooms- bathroom, sitting room, and bedroom- were all furnished with finely crafted furniture and luxurious upholstery. She was used to the simple comforts of Friendship Gardens. As she lay on the soft, warm, canopy bed, Morning Glory went over all that she had heard that day. She thought that sleep would allude her, but soon peaceful slumber overcame her.
* * *
The next morning, Princess Morning Glory was awakened by a knock on her door. She sat up in bed and looked around. For a moment, she thought the entire past four days had been a dream; but she was really in Malachite Castle. As overwhelming as the events of the day before, Morning Glory was feeling more at ease this morning. The knocking on the door came again. “Princess, are you awake?”
“Yes, Enchantment. I’ll be right there.” The princess jumped out of bed and glanced at herself in the mirror. “I hope I didn’t look this bad yesterday. One problem with camping out in the winter is that you cannot properly wash your mane.” She proceeded to open the door where Enchantment was waiting.
“Good morning, Princess Morning Glory. How was your night?”
“It was very relaxing. The bed was so comfortable I felt like I’d died and gone to Heaven. By the way, I hope there is no rush to get to breakfast; I need to freshen up a bit.”
“Oh, no rush at all. I came early just in case.”
“I knew it. My mane was a mess when we arrived yesterday. All that wind and sleeping on the ground, and I must have made a horrid first impression.”
“Not at all, your highness.”
* * *
Soon the two ponies were on their way to the royal chamber where breakfast was to be served. They passed through the hall of portraits and into a circular chamber with a domed ceiling. A round table sat in the middle of the room; the king and queen sat across from the double doors through which Enchantment and Morning Glory entered.
The royal ponies rose. “Welcome and good morning, Morning Glory. Please have a seat.”
“Thank you, your highness.”
“I’ve told you before there is no need to be so formal. Just call me Oak.”
“Yes, I keep forgetting. This place is so intimidating.”
“Really? I never noticed.”
After Morning Glory was seated, Enchantment turned to leave. Queen Gooseberry raised her hoof. “Why don’t you join us, Enchantment? We’ve another seat.”
Enchantment turned and bowed. “Magus is expecting me. I have lessons.”
“I think he would understand if you missed your lesson by royal invitation.”
“Very well. Thank you, your highness.”
Once they were all seated, the servants brought out the food. There were pastries and waffles with a variety of fruit syrups, as well a fresh fruit and juice.
“I hope we haven’t frightened you with all of these goings on with Jack-O-Lantern and the Night Clan. Although these things weigh heavy on our minds, our day-to-day concerns are more mundane.”
“Oh, no, Oak, you’ve not frightened me. I just wasn’t prepared for anything so intense. I still wish to take part in our people’s affairs, however small that part may be.”
“You have a strong spirit, Morning Glory. And as much as I hate to admit it, Clever Clover has little aptitude for his duties as Regent, and his vagabond lifestyle doesn’t help much either. You could act as his advisor and proxy in Friendship Garden, sort of a Regent of the Regent as it were.”
“I’m sure I could handle that. Thank you for trusting me with this responsibility.”
Enchantment clapped her hooves. “Congratulations Morning Glory! I’m sure you’ll do great.”
* * *
It was late morning by the time Clever Clover woke up. Pixie was still asleep at the foot of his bed. One of the queen’s attendants had brought her by shortly after he had turned in for the night. Despite the cold weather and stone walls of the castle, the fiery Pokemon had kept the bed quite warm. Clever Clover had actually had to get up in the middle of the night and open the window so that he could sleep. Now he was regretting it. The cold air chilled him to the bone as he crawled out from under the blankets. He rushed to the window and threw shut the shudders.
“Eh, Pixie, get up and light the fire. It’s freezing in here.”
The fire-fox yawned and stretched and lazily lifted her eyelids. “Vul?”
“Yes, it’s morning already. In fact, it’s almost noon.”
“Vul-pix!” The little six-tailed fox stretched once more and jumped down from the bed. She trotted over to the fireplace and belched forth a tongue of flame, lighting the logs in an instant.
“Ah, that’s better. I wonder what Morning Glory is up to. Her breakfast with Oak and Gooseberry should be long over by now. And speaking of Oak, I’ve got a fencing match with him this afternoon. There should be just enough time before lunch to get in a little practice, with a quick stop by the kitchen on the way to the gymnasium for a bite to eat. Come on, Pixie, let’s get going.” The purple prince grabbed his foil as he and his Vulpix headed for the kitchen.
The kitchen staff was already busy with preparations for the mid-day meal when Clever Clover and Pixie arrived. The chefs were only too happy to share some of the food with the prince and his pet. The head chef, a red pony with the symbol of a pear, personally served Pixie a bowl of soup while Clever Clover munched on fresh rolls.
“Thanks for letting us intrude like this; I know it must be pretty hectic in here. But your cooking is great, top notch.”
The head chef bowed. “Thank you. I do my best.”
Now fed, Clever Clover and Pixie proceeded to the gymnasium. Clever Clover had expected the massive room to be empty; but to his surprise, he found Raven and Ironwood engaged in a fencing match. “Fencing must be quite the popular sport here on the Isle.”
The combatants halted their match and turned to the newcomers. The royal guardpony saluted the prince with his sword. “Your highness, it’s good to see you again. I’m sorry I missed you yesterday.”
“That’s okay, Ironwood. So, how long have you been fencing? From the looks of it, if I’d borrowed your foil last year, I’d have been at less of a disadvantage than with Raven’s.”
“I’ve been fencing for just under a year now. The king insisted that all his guards take up the practice. I’ve actually found it quite exhilarating; I wish I’d taken it up sooner.”
“Well, I’ve got a match with the king this afternoon so I figured I’d get a little warm-up in this morning.”
Raven stepped forward. “Why don’t you and I have a quick match then?”
The prince grinned. “Finally, something we can agree on. Sorry to cut your match short, Ironwood.”
“It’s no problem, your highness. I was losing anyway.”
Once Clever Clover was dressed in the protective suit and mask, he faced off against the imposing ebony form of Raven. Ironwood sat on the sidelines stroking Pixie’s fur. Prince and Regent exchanged salutes. Clever Clover launched a quick attack to test his opponent; Raven deflected the blow with the slightest movement of his blade. The Regent countered with a mighty thrust that Clever Clover barely evaded. Back and forth the action flowed, as neither pony could gain a decisive advantage over the other. Raven had perfect control of his blade, never wasting a movement. Clever Clover countered with energy and determination, stubbornly refusing to let Raven get the better of him. Ironwood was mesmerized by the intensity of the engagement before him. All the ponies were so focused on the fight that they lost track of time and it was soon mid-day.
Unnoticed by the stallions, Foxglove entered the gymnasium. “I should have known I’d find you stallions here when dinner is ready to be served and you are nowhere to be found. If there is one thing that will keep a stallion from a meal, it is a fight.”
Clever Clover and Raven lowered their swords and looked at Foxglove. “Is it that late already? It seems like I just got up.”
Raven removed his mask. “Forgive us. We will be along shortly.”
“Speak for yourself, Rave. I’ll be along right now. Come on, Pixie.” Clever Clover marched out of the gymnasium, still wearing his fencing suit, dropping his mask and foil by the door.
“Why don’t you join him, Raven? You know you’ll all be right back here after dinner anyway.”
“Very well, then.” Raven and Ironwood, also dressed for fencing, followed Foxglove to the Grand Dinning Hall. They arrived just as Clever Clover took his seat next to the king.
“So, Clever Clover, are you trying to tell me something by your fashion? Afraid I’d forget outmatched this afternoon?”
“Not at all, Oak. I just don’t want to waste any time getting to it.”
“It seems you are not the only one who is so enthusiastic. I’m starting to feel out of place. We shall have to put away this meal with all due haste so that we can get on with the business at hand. Everyone sit down so we can say grace.”
Once everyone had been seated and the meal blessed, it was enjoyed by all. There was even a special bowl of soup prepared for Pixie. As they ate, Clever Clover asked the king a question. “Oak, last night in the hall of portraits, you said that Morning Glory’s grandfather was king before my father and since the son of the previous king crowns his successor and Vin crowned my father, does that mean that Vin is Morning Glory’s uncle?”
“Yes. Morning Glory’s mother is Vin’s sister. She is also a cousin of Lady Moonshine and Enchantment.”
Morning Glory was shocked. “I had no idea they were all family. Why didn’t anyone tell me this sooner?”
“I suppose with all the concern over Jack-O-Lantern and the Night Clan it just slipped our minds. Though I had assumed Lady Moonshine would have filled you in on your relations by now. But then, she does enjoy keeping secrets.”
* * *
After the meal and a long discussion of relations, everyone proceeded to the gymnasium to watch the royal fencing match between King Oak and Prince Clever Clover. The combatants faced off, saluted and took their guards. Clever Clover and Oak launched their first attacks simultaneously. They both dodged each other’s attack and recovered. Clever Clover took a more defensive posture, allowing Oak to take the initiative. The two ponies fought furiously, neither willing to loose to the other.
“You’ve improved much, Clever Clover. I think even with Raven’s sword you’d give me a run for my money now.”
“Thanks. When you’re training with a pirate who not too long ago wanted to kill you, you learn to give it all you’ve got.” With that, Clever Clover went on the offensive. Oak countered him move-for-move but was being pushed back. With his back against the wall, King Oak threw up his forehooves in surrender.
“Well done, cousin. I’ve not had such an invigorating match in ages.”
“You didn’t need to surrender. You could have come back.”
“Perhaps. But this isn’t about winning or losing. It’s about improving ourselves. Next time we meet, one of us will have to have improved if he is to win a decisive victory.”
* * *
The fencing went on most of the afternoon. King Oak easily defeated both Raven and Ironwood. Clever Clover defeated Ironwood but after a lengthy battle was bested by Raven. With a lucky blow, Ironwood was able to pull off his one victory of the day against Raven.
After the evening meal, the ponies gathered in the hall of portraits where Enchantment entertained them with tales of the past kings and heroes from days gone by. After that they retired for the night, in much higher spirits than the night before.
The next day passed quickly. Clever Clover, King Oak, Raven, Vin, and the Magus spent much of the day playing cards and discussing the Night Clan. Foxglove and Enchantment instructed Morning Glory on her duties as Clever Clover’s advisor and proxy while Morning Glory and Gooseberry shared gossip.