My Little Pony Monthly Issue 35 (February 1, 2000)

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Issue 35
February 2000

Letters to the Editor I love your My Little Pony Monthly newsletter; however, I would like to unsubscribe due to the fact that it is too large and ends up messing with my server. Thanks anyway, though. I loved reading the story called "Sparkler Speculates"; I thought it was very clever! Good job! Thanks for sending me your delightful newsletter. However, I would like to unsubscribe. Thanks again. Hi, we haven't said "Hi" for awhile-- keep up the good work. This newsletter is so-o-o-o good!!!


The Clockwork Cat
A Fairy Tale by the Ponies Grimm

With grateful thanks to Talia for her constructive criticism.

C. Alan Loewen

(Author's note: This story takes place several months before the events depicted in the 1984 animated My Little Pony video that introduced Dream Castle (™), Spike, the Sea Ponies, (™) and Megan. Your welcome comments and critiques may be sent to

In a land not far from your dreams lies a castle, and in that castle live ten wonderful ponies. And whether they have wings or unicorn horns or neither, they are all magical.

The ponies lay comfortably in front of the huge fireplace as the snowstorm outside howled and fumed. The walls of Dream Castle were thick and strong and all the ponies except one felt safe, snug, and secure within them.

Applejack groaned with pleasure and stretched her legs. "Nothing like eating baked apples in front of a roaring fire. It makes me feel sleepy."

Ember leaned against Twilight-- her favorite place to rest-- and blinked at the sound of the wind attempting to rush down the massive chimney. "I can't sleep. The wind is scary," Ember whispered. She snuggled closer to her friend.

Twilight nuzzled Ember gently, the unicorn-pony remembering her own fears when a young filly. "Would a story take your mind off the wind?" she asked.

Ember looked up with gratitude. "Just don't make it scary," she said.

Cotton Candy, Moondancer, Bubbles, Applejack, Glory, Firefly, Medley, and Bowtie made themselves comfortable as Twilight's voice wove a tale highlighted by the faint howls of wind in the chimney and the comforting crackling of the fire.

* * *
A long time ago in a city not far from here, a young orphan girl lived with her grandfather. Her name was Briar, and, though her grandfather was a toymaker and made the most beautiful toys, he was quite poor. The wealthy folk of the city saw little value in toys; and though Briar's grandfather loved his mechanical creations, most of his income came from repairing broken clocks.

To help with the bills, every morning Briar would walk down to the flower merchants and sell flowers for them while standing on street corners. The little money she made went toward helping her grandfather pay his debts, and there always seemed a little left over for an occasional treat at the Candy Maker's booth.

Briar's life was not all that unpleasant. Her grandfather was loving and kind, though sometimes a little forgetful. Many times he would be searching for one of his favorite tools only to find it already in his shirt pocket or tucked behind his ear.

As for selling flowers, Briar was most happy. The fragrance of the pretty blossoms always made her happy, and she loved the smiles that they brought to those who bought them. Yes, though Briar and her grandfather did not have the easiest of lives, it was not hard either and there was love and laughter and contentment.

Yet Briar did have one secret desire. The one thing that she wanted most of all was a pet. She didn't care what kind; a kitten, a puppy, even a small piglet would have made her happy.

One day as she stood on the street corner, a carriage pulled up alongside the curb. The carriage was magnificent, the horses were majestic, and the livery men stood in their finest crimson and purple coats. However, inside the coach somebody was not happy.

"I don't care!" a shrill voice whined. "What made you think I wanted a cheap toy for my birthday?" The head of a little girl, her face ringed in dark curly hair, scowled through the window, caught sight of Briar standing with her flowers, and stuck her tongue out at her. Shocked, Briar simply stared at the incredible rudeness.

"Now, Flavia. Calm yourself!" ordered a deep masculine voice. "Your mother and I bought that from the most expensive toymaker in the Seven Kingdoms and here you've gone and broken it!"

"Don't care," pouted the little girl. "Don't want the stupid old toy anyway." And with that, a small black furry lump came sailing through the open carriage window to land at Briar's feet. It was a cat; a toy cat. The hide of the thing had split open and the insides looked like one of the clocks her uncle repaired.

With harsh words still coming from the carriage, it drove away down the street and disappeared around a corner.

Briar picked up the pathetic thing that lay at her feet and tried to smooth the soft silky fur. The little toy's eyes seemed almost lifelike and even the paws revealed intricate detail. If it were not for the springs and gears popping through the tear in its side, it would have looked just like a real cat. "I'll bet my grandfather can fix you up," Briar said and gently placed it in her flower basket.

She sped home with her newfound toy and found her grandfather searching his little shop.

"Good evening, Grandfather!" Briar said.

"I can't find the magnifying glasses that I wear," he said in exasperation. "I've searched through every square inch of this shop, and they're gone."

Briar gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and slid the glasses from his forehead to his nose. "Oh, thank goodness!" he said. "What would I do without you?"

"Grandfather," Briar said, lifting her flower basket to the table. "Look!"

Her grandfather gasped at the mangled toy cat, its gears and other bric-a-brac scattered around it. "Oh, my," he said softly. Carefully, he picked up the limp form and carried it to his workbench.

"Would you like some stew, Grandfather?" Her grandfather, already immersed in the intricate workings of this new marvel, simply ignored her-- not out of rudeness, but because he had now become so engrossed in this new wonder that he would be oblivious to everything until he had fathomed the mysteries of the clockwork cat. Briar got herself a bowl and spoon and slowly ate her dinner as her grandfather worked feverishly. His hands danced over the workings, placing gears and springs back into place like some mad jigsaw puzzle. Using delicate tweezers and files, he continued working long into the night.

Briar fell asleep in her chair watching her grandfather, and was finally awakened by the sunlight streaming through the large glass store window. Her grandfather sat at his old workbench fast asleep, his head cradled in his arms. In front of him sat the cat.

Briar blinked her eyes in stunned surprise. If she had not seen the cat's inner workings, she would have sworn the creature was real. Any moment she expected it to blink and begin to purr.

Rising from her chair, she walked to the workbench, her hand reaching out to stroke the clockwork cat.

It blinked.

With a gasp, she jerked her hand back. The clockwork cat stood with a whirring noise, blinked its eyes again and leaped.

Briar cried out in surprise, but the cat merely landed at her feet with all the grace of a real feline and began to wind itself around her ankles in the way of all cats. Briar clapped her hands with delight and picked up the cat where it snuggled against her chin.

The clockwork cat became the talk of the city. People came from all around to see the marvel and though many offers were made, Briar and her grandfather refused to sell it. With the attraction of the cat, Briar's grandfather discovered that his other toys grew in demand and slowly the money came in. Briar eventually stopped selling flowers on the streets.

Briar loved the clockwork cat as it quickly became the pet she had never owned. Though it never meowed, the purring of its clockwork interior lulled her to sleep at night and it became her constant companion. She named him Sundial.

Her grandfather never learned to duplicate the delicate inner workings of the clockwork cat. Whoever created Sundial was a master toymaker and Briar's grandfather was no match for him or her. However, from reassembling Sundial he had learned some new tricks of the toymaker's trade and his automated dollhouses became the talk of the Seven Kingdoms.

Unfortunately, talk traveled far not only of the old man's dollhouses, but also of the clockwork cat that prowled the little toy store.

One day, Briar sat at the back of the store stroking Sundial while he whirred and purred in her lap. The bell hanging from the front door jingled, announcing the arrival of a customer; Grandfather greeted them warmly. Briar looked up and froze in surprise. Though she did not recognize the man who was dressed in all the finery of royalty, the little girl was the same one who had thrown Sundial at her feet so many months ago.

The man announced himself as Count Basil of Bontoc and the child as his daughter. The little girl, a scowl marring what could have been a pretty face, stamped her feet and demanded the return of her toy cat. The Count simply patted her on the head and smiled.

Carefully, Briar moved back into the shadows of the back room, the clockwork cat dangling from her arms. She made her way to the back door and slipped out into the alley and began to run.

The streets were busy and it was a beautiful spring afternoon. Briar simply ran, not caring where she was going.

She ran for a long time. Finally, out of breath, she found herself in a part of the city she had never seen before. Tired, she slipped into a quiet alley and sat on an old barrel. Holding Sundial in her lap, she watched the shadows lengthen and the streets empty. When the full moon finally blazed brightly overhead, Briar decided that it was time to return home and see what fate had in store for her and her clockwork cat.

As she stood to go, she heard a strange noise like leaves being rustled by the wind. Looking down the alley, Briar was amazed to see the streets were alive with cats-- not hundreds, but thousands of cats in every size and color. Proud Siamese walked next to loping Angoras that ran beside the more common tabbies and shorthairs. Thousands of cat paws rustled down the street toward her. Feeling a growing fear, Briar hugged Sundial close to her chest and sank into the shadows waiting for the strange feline parade to pass.

But cats can see in the dark.

The procession of cats stopped in front of the alley and thousands of glittering green eyes reflecting the moonlight stared unblinking at Briar and Sundial where they crouched in the shadows. One lone cat, a Persian, sauntered forward and addressed Briar where she knelt. "The Queen of Cats," the Persian said, and Briar was too frightened to realize she had never heard a cat talk before, "wishes to see this imposter, this mechanical cat."

"How," Briar squeaked, "how did you know I was here?"

The Persian simply purred and licked a paw. "We are cats," was all he would say in response.

Briar saw no other choice. Hugging Sundial close, she walked into the streets where the cats parted in a living wave to make room for her. Except for the gentle whispering sound of thousands of cats' feet on cobblestone, the cats, Briar, and Sundial silently made their way down the empty, moonlit streets.

What a story will be told if somebody looks out their window, Briar thought, but there was no interruption as they made their way through the city.

Eventually they came to another alleyway where the procession stopped. The Persian motioned with a paw toward the darker shadows. "The Queen of Cats," was all it said.

Slowly, Briar walked into the shadows trusting the feel of the pavement and the echoes of her footfalls from the walls to tell her where she was. At the back of the alley, the full moon was able to penetrate the shadows and, sitting on a makeshift bench in the center of a moonbeam, sat an old calico cat. Her fur was tattered and dry and her movements were stiff.

Briar sat Sundial at her feet and curtsied. "Your highness?" she asked.

The old cat made no reply but with painful steps left her bench and approached Sundial who whirred at Briar's feet. After sniffing at the clockwork cat, she finally spoke. "We have heard of this imposter, this feline mimic. Tell me, do people wish to replace cats with an invention of their own?"

Briar quickly shook her head. "Oh, no, your highness. Sundial is only a toy."

"Then..." said the Queen, raising a paw as if to strike the clockwork cat.

"No!" Briar cried and swept Sundial into her arms. "Please don't hurt my Sundial. He's my friend."

The Queen cocked an eyebrow in question. For the next hour, Briar told the Queen of Cats the story of Sundial, the clockwork cat.

It was an hour later when the Queen finally spoke. "The cats of this city grew worried when we heard the story of this clockwork cat, for we are cats and cats are proud. Yet, though it purrs and loves it does not chase mice and if it does not chase mice then we will still be needed in this city. Also, it does not meow or sing to the moon and so our nighttime concerts will be ours and ours alone. You may go and the clockwork cat may go with you." And with that, the Queen of the Cats turned her back.

Quickly, Briar curtsied again. "Begging your pardon, your majesty, but could I ask one small favor?"

The Queen turned and again cocked an eyebrow in question.

The next day, Briar and her grandfather stood in the store waiting for the carriage to arrive with the Count and his daughter, Flavia. All too quickly, the bell on the door jingled and the tall count stood before them while Flavia glared and impatiently stamped her feet. "I want my toy cat!" she pouted.

Briar curtsied to the count and his daughter. Though Flavia hardly deserved a token of respect, Briar's courtesy overrode her feelings. "Of course," she said with a delicate smile. "At once. If you would please follow me?"

The count, Flavia, and Briar's grandfather followed her through the backroom of the store and into the alley.

The alley was filled with cats. Thousands of them stood on the barrels and doorsteps. The cats were crowded so tightly, it was impossible to see the cobblestones under their feet. Briar turned to the count and his daughter and waved her hand toward the thousands of cats. "I'm sure," she said, "that the clockwork cat is here somewhere."

Flavia glared at her in fury. "It's just a toy cat," she said. "I'll just find the one that makes a whirring noise." With that, the entire alley began to rumble as each cat began to purr the loudest it could purr.

Briar laughed in spite of herself. "I believe it will take quite a number of days to find which cat is which. Of course, there is no telling that you might take a real cat home in its place."

"A real cat?" Flavia sputtered. "A dirty, hairy cat?" With that she turned and stormed back into the store followed by her father. They continued out the front and into the waiting carriage. With a snap of the reins, the horses pulled the carriage through the streets where it disappeared around a corner.

When Briar returned to the alley it was empty except for the clockwork cat who purred and whirred. However, that night and every night after that, Briar always left a large bowl brimming with cream in the alley and it was always empty in the morning.

* * *
With that, Twilight ended her story. The other ponies yawned and, getting to their feet, made their way to their warm beds.

"Twilight?" Ember asked, trying hard not to yawn. "You said this story happened a long time ago. Whatever happened to the clockwork cat? Is it still around?"

Twilight laughed gently. "They say that many years later that the cats of the city adopted the clockwork cat as a full member into their ranks. And just like Flavia in her dilemma, nobody knows which cat amongst the millions of the world might be the clockwork cat because they all look and purr the same." Twilight stifled a yawn. "Now let's run along and go to bed. The wind has died down and the night is still."

"I'll be right up, Twilight," Ember said. "I want a drink of water first."

A few minutes later after getting her drink, Ember quietly walked back to the fire to where the sole cat of Dream Castle lay staring into the dying coals. "Are you the clockwork cat?" Ember whispered.
The cat merely smiled and purred.


Twenty Thousand Words Spoken Under the Sea
by Tabby
inspired by Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

I have reprogrammed myself into Tabby's body, I noted with interest as I looked at myself in a mirror. "And I can talk like an adult pony now, too!" I said out-loud.

Yes, here I, Baby Noddins (but now I looked like Tabby!) Stood aboard the very strange submarine, the Sea Pony. I had been taken captive on it along with my two best friends, Baby Falling Leaves and Mr. Skidoo. Well, actually, they aren't my best friends because I decided I didn't like Baby Falling Leaves and I don't know Mr. Skidoo at all.

I walked out into another room of the Sea Pony, this one being sided with windows that showed out into the sea. Baby Falling Leaves stood there, staring at the glass.

"Baby Falling Leaves, you're supposed to be classifying things," I snapped. "Get to work!"

Baby Falling Leaves immediately pulled her sight away from the glass pane. "I don't wanna classify stupid Furbys," she complained. "This was your stupid idea. I wanna play with Baby Leaper."

"Well, he's not here," I retorted.

"Then I'm gonna leave," Baby Falling Leaves scowled.

"But I'm older now than you are, so you have to listen to me," I reminded.

"You're still Baby Noddins, even if you look like Tabby," Baby Falling Leaves argued.

"Classify the Furbys!" I said impatiently.

"But I'm going to escape with Mr. Skidoo tonight," Baby Falling Leaves continued. "Then I won't have to put up with you."

"Why, what's he going to do tonight?" I questioned.

Mr. Skidoo appeared on the scene. Besides being Miss Hackney's one true love, he also fished for whales and tried to escape the Sea Pony every night. "The same thing we do every night," he told me. "Try to get out of here!"

"I already knew that," I said. "What plan are you using this time?"

"It doesn't involve Furbys!" Baby Falling Leaves said as she stalked off with Mr. Skidoo.

"Baby Falling Leaves, you're supposed to classify!" I hollered after them, but she did not listen. I looked out of the window into the sea myself. There were a variety of Furbys floating out there. I saw several black ones; many yellow ones; a purple one; a whole ton of blue ones; some pastel lavender, blue, and green ones; some black and white spotted ones; some orange and black spotted ones; a group of neon orange ones; some black and purple baby ones; several of the rare teal and yellow ones; and a single red one.

At first, I had not known what to think after Captain Barnacle had taken us captive aboard his ship. But I finally realized that it gave me the perfect opportunity to study my life's work-- the underwater habits of Furbys and their hereditary enemies, the squid.

Just then, Captain Barnacle entered the room. "ARR!" he exclaimed.

You see, Captain Barnacle had developed a very intricate secret language for use among his crew. It consisted entirely of "ARR"s. Plus, he had a neat mechanical leg.

"Oh, hello, Captain Barnacle," I said cheerfully. "I was just studying the Furbys."

"ARR!" he said again. "We be goin' to Atlantis tomorrow."

"Atlantis?" I gasped. "Wow!" Atlantis was the primary breeding ground of Furbys, and many families made it their permanent home. "I will study all sorts of Furbys there!"

"ARR," Captain Barnacle agreed. "And my crew has just apprehended your two friends trying to escape."

"They're not my friends," I said. "I don't like Baby Falling Leaves. She wouldn't classify the Furbys."

"It's time for your supper now, anyway, and then you must take a nap," Captain Barnacle said. "ARR!"

"You're sounding just like my mom," I said. "What've you fixed this time?"

"Eat this plate of seaweed and then go off to your room," Captain Barnacle replied.

I stared down at the plate. "I don't like seaweed," I complained. "Can I put ketchup on it?"

"No, ARR!" Captain Barnacle protested. "The ketchup plants do no harm to us, but ponies are right to eat seaweed!"

"Oh," I said as Captain Barnacle left the room. I tossed my plate onto the window, and it left a sticky green mess. It spread all over the pane. I realized that I could no longer see out to look at the Furbys.

I decided to go take a shower, because my hair was feeling very lifeless and it was beginning to look like seaweed. The water in my shower was just beginning to warm up when I noticed a slimy squid tentacle oozing up out of the drainhole. I stomped on it, but that could not hold it back. More of the squid came up into the bathtub. Soon, the whole creature was terrorizing my bathroom. I ran down the hall, screaming.

I found Baby Falling Leaves wandering through the Sea Pony. "Oh, hi, Baby Noddins," she greeted me.

"A squid just invaded my bathroom!" I explained.

"Can we play with it?" Baby Falling Leaves asked.

"Not until you've classified all the Furbys," I said firmly.

"Oh," she sighed. "Mr. Skidoo was caught escaping again."

"What's he doing now?" I questioned.

"He's fishing for a rare Dewgong he spotted," Baby Falling Leaves replied.

"Ooh!" I said in awe. "The evolved form of Seel?"

"Right," Baby Falling Leaves affirmed. "It's very rare. This will be the first Pokèmon he's ever caught."

"Say, where is Captain Barnacle?" I queried. "I must interview him."

"ARR, you be wantin' to interview me?" Captain Barnacle came out of the dark shadows down the hall.

"Yes," I said. "Baby Falling Leaves, take notes."

"I don't wanna," Baby Falling Leaves wailed.

"Captain Barnacle, is it true that you're here to seek revenge upon humanity?" I asked of him.

"ARR, it be none of your business who I be seekin' revenge on!" Captain Barnacle snapped.

"Baby Noddins, this is boring," Baby Falling Leaves complained. "Let's go play in the seaweed forest."

I diverted my attention from Captain Barnacle. "What seaweed forest?" I asked curiously.

"The one that grew where you threw your plate," Baby Falling Leaves explained.

"Oh! Big fun!" I exclaimed. "Captain Barnacle, it has been a pleasure interviewing you, but I must be going now. Goodbye!"

Baby Falling Leaves and Baby Noddins ran towards the site of the seaweed forest. Giant strings of seaweed hung from the ceiling down to the floor.

"Baby Falling Leaves!" I shrieked. "There's a squid in there!" I saw the two luminescent eyes staring out of the seaweed.

"AHHHHH!" Baby Falling Leaves screamed. "THERE'RE MORE!" Several more pairs of eyes appeared in the forest. All of a sudden, at least five killer giant squids lunged at us.

Immediately, there was panic on board. Bushwoolies, who made up Captain Barnacle's crew, were scurrying all over. Mr. Skidoo ran up to us and urged, "Now's the time to escape!"

The three of us began dashing away when I looked back and saw that a squid had captured a Bushwoolie in one of its tentacles. The Bushwoolies was crying, "Ah! No again! Down, please. Ah! Down, down. Ah! No again! Ah! Ah!"

The Bushwoolie's plea echoed in my ears as I prepared to chop-off the tentacle. All of a sudden...

* * *
Baby Noddins woke up with a start and lifted her head up groggily. She looked down at what her head had been laying on-- a book titled Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. "Ooh, weird," she breathed, realizing that she must have fallen asleep at her desk while reading.

The next thing Baby Noddins was conscious of was her Furby crying, "Ah! No again! Down, please. Ah!" She glanced around in the darkness and realized that her pastel Furby, Waylo, had been knocked onto the ground and was now demanding attention. She swiftly picked him up and placed him right-side-up.

"Hee hee! Party, wah!" Waylo laughed.

Baby Noddins yawned as she began to realize that she was not really being attacked by giant squid. "Weird dream," she repeated to herself. Waylo, being in such a dark room, quickly went back to sleep.

The seaweed must have came from the disgusting green beans her mother had served that evening at supper. And Baby Falling Leaves-- well, Baby Falling Leaves got into everything of Baby Noddins' (including her My Little People collection), so it was really no wonder that she had wound-up in her dream. But how had Mr. Skidoo, Miss Hackney's one true love, taken the place of Ned Land from Twenty Thousand Leagues?

Oh, yeah, Baby Noddins recalled. I caught Miss Hackney lookin' at his picture after school yesterday when I was handing in my assignment, and she had to tell me who he was. And, since Miss Hackney was responsible for making Baby Noddins read the book, Mr. Skidoo made sense, too.

Normally, Miss Hackney would not assign such a long book as Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea to a second-grader, but she had felt that Baby Noddins could handle it-- or at least, Baby Noddins had been in need of some extra credit to make up for some failed tests and her teacher had said, "If you can read as many words as you speak, Baby Noddins, you'll have no problem with this." Baby Noddins had eagerly taken up the task of reading the novel and writing a report of it.

And that was how Baby Noddins had come to have this strange, delusional dream. She giggled as she read the top line of the sheet Miss Hackney had written-up giving the outline of the report she had to write. It read, "Captain Nemo was seeking revenge upon humanity." That was how the interview with Captain Barnacle came to be! Plus, Baby Noddins' mother had sent her up to her room after supper, just like Captain Barnacle.

Baby Noddins yawned as she abandoned her deskwork and crawled into bed. Tomorrow Baby Noddins would call Tabby and tell her how she had dreamed that she was her. And then she would write a note to Barnacle (the notorious pirate of Port Scurvy) and tell him of what a wonderful Captain Nemo he would make...


Snow Angel
Shining Series #12
by Shining (

Expect A Miracle sighed with her pink nose pressed against the glass of the office window of Mended Hearts Farm. Her breath fogged the glass, making the wintry scene outside seem even colder. Involuntarily, she shivered, feeling the cold of a British winter even through her thick gray winter coat.

Another boring day. It was too cold to run outside, and there was no one to play with. The filly frowned, thinking of loneliness. She knew her mother was lonely. But sometimes she forgot that she, herself was lonely. Mira's father had been killed in an automobile accident even before she had been born. She had seen pictures of her father, Noble Caesar. His name fit him; he was strong and handsome, and had been one of the best horses on the show circuit.

Mira sometimes wondered what it would be like to have a father. She knew without a doubt that everyone around her loved her, and that she would always be happy, but yet, she wondered. Her mother told her stories about when she fell in love with Caesar. They had waltzed through autumn leaves and made snow angels on Christmas. Mira had never made a snow angel. If her father were here, would he have showed her how?

The fog cleared on the window and Mira blinked in surprise as a dark face appeared on the opposite side of the glass. With a happy shout, the gray filly unfolded her long legs from the old leather chair and dashed to the door. Quickly she flung it open, barely noticing the sharp bite of the wintry gale. "Adagio!"

The face from the window came into view with the rest of the body to reveal a handsome bay stallion. "Hey Mira," the stallion smiled, picking her up in his strong forelegs for a hug.

Laughing, Mira squirmed from Adagio's grasp to close the door. "What are you doing here?" she blurted out.

Adagio laughed at her unconscious audacity. "I had to drop off my entry forms for a show in early spring." He rolled his eyes. "Can you believe how early those things have to be in?"

Mira nodded sympathetically. "How's Arrow?" she inquired, referring to Adagio's mate, a sweet paint mare. The two had fallen in love when Arrow had been in training at Mended Hearts Farm. Adagio had moved to Arrow's hometown, Ripon, when they had married.

"She's great," Adagio replied. "I'm surprised you're not racing around the track, Mira," he added.

Mira shrugged and wrinkled her nose. "It's too cold to be outside. And Grandsire called the other day and warned Mom about slipping on the ice. He's worried I'll break a leg."

Mira's grandsire and granddam, Signature Required and Shining, had been world-class performers and now trained young horses at their barn, Glorified Acres in Dream Valley. Several years ago, when Mira's mother had been a foal, Shining had a training accident, nearly finishing her career.

"I see. Well, do you want to come to the indoor arena with me and practice? I should pop over a few fences before I go," Adagio offered.

Mira's ears perked in interest. "Sure! I haven't done jumping in a while. Mom's been really busy lately, even though it's the off-season, so she hasn't had time to watch me. Let me grab my splint boots and I'll meet you out there."

Now ready with neoprene splint boots, Mira entered the sandy arena. She scanned it quickly. Adagio was setting up verticals to her left. On the far side of the arena, Mira spotted her mother, On My Honor, a beautiful dark bay mare.

Honor was coaching a three-year-old colt on transitions. The mare caught Mira's eye and beckoned her over. Mira broke smoothly into a canter, much to the colt's chagrin, and did a sliding stop, spraying Honor with sand. Honor laughed and hugged Mira. "Do you mind staying with Moment and Eva tonight?" Honor asked Mira. "I have to take the entry forms into Harrogate." Honor looked at Mira with an apologetic face.

Mira knew how stressed Honor could get. Honor had grow up on her parent's farm, Glorified Acres, and had become a world-famous dancer with Caesar. After Mira's father died, Honor had sworn never to show again. Honor had found Mended Hearts Farm and ran it with the help of Smoothie, a roan stallion who had been a close friend to both Honor and Caesar.

"No problem, Mom," Mira agreed.

"Hey Mira!" Adagio called. "Come on over here."

Mira obliged, meeting Adagio in the center of a complicated course. The filly eyed it suspiciously. "You don't expect me to jump that, do you?" she asked in disbelief.

Adagio shrugged innocently. "Why not?" he said. "I'll time you. Start over there at the oxer." He smirked.

The gray filly took a deep breath and exploded in a sudden burst of speed. She flew over the oxer and spun right to face a vertical. Sailing over every obstacle, Mira concentrated on speed, flattening her jump and shaving fractions of seconds off by spinning quickly to the next jump. Mira finished the course with a giant spread fence and looked at Adagio expectantly.

The bay stood staring with his jaw open. "You're a speedy one, aren't you?" he asked jokingly.

"Time?" Mira inquired.

Adagio shook his head. "Not telling," he refused. "Too fast."

Mira marched over to the older horse with her forelegs crossed. "After I did that crazy course, you won't even tell me my time?"

"It's faster than I'd ever do it," Adagio quipped. "You could be a steeplechaser, Mira."

Mira frowned. "No thanks," she declined.

"What's wrong with ‘chasing?" Adagio asked with a devious grin. But before Mira could answer, Adagio had grabbed her and her reply dissolved into giggles as he tickled her.

* * *
"Moment, can you help me with my homework?" Mira pleaded with her uncle from her spot, sprawled on the floor of his box stall. In A Moment was a handsome black stallion, Honor's twin brother. Unlike his twin, Moment never showed. He was an artist, intent on capturing the beauty of life.

"Sure, darlin'," Moment drawled, contrasting with Mira's pert British accent.

Mira sighed, exasperated. "You're so weird," she said. Moment shrugged in apology. "Anyway, Mira continued, "we have to make a family tree as far back as we can go. Plus we have to add photos or draw a picture of what each horse looked like."

"Hmm..." Moment said thoughtfully. "Well, your dad's side should be easy enough." Mira raised an eyebrow. "Caesar's parents were killed in a train wreck. He never told anyone who else he was related to," Moment explained.

"My grandsire was Without A Doubt, right?" Mira asked. Moment nodded. "And my granddam was Sky's The Limit."

Carefully, Mira printed the names on the paper in front of her. "What was my dad like, Moment?" Mira asked offhandedly.

Moment paused in the sketch of Sky to gaze at his young niece. "Caesar was my best friend," Moment said quietly. "He was so insightful and so distant at the same time. I think it was his eyes. You have his eyes, Mira," Moment informed her.

"Was he happy?" Mira whispered.

Moment blinked. "At first, no. The wreck was so traumatic for him. But your mom brought him out of his shell." The stallion sighed. "He loved your mom so much."

The filly sat still, trying to imagine how life must have been for the horse she never knew, yet still managed to touch so many lives. "He would love me, wouldn't he?" she asked worriedly.

Moment scooped Mira into his arms. "Oh Mira, of course he would," he reassured her. For a long moment, neither one spoke.

"Now we get to do my side of the family," Moment interrupted the silence. "This should be interesting."

Mira giggled. "In A Moment and On My Honor by Signature Required out of Shining," she recited as she wrote.

Moment applauded. "Very good. Can you go back farther?"

The gray filly wrinkled her brow in concentration. "Granddam's sire was Townsend Pride." She paused. "And her dam was Brite Morn."

"Good, good," Moment praised. Humming, he got up off the floor to grab a box of photographs. "We can use these instead of drawing them all out," he suggested.

Mira shuffled through the box, pausing at the select photos to smile nostalgically. She held up a photo of Moment.

"Now there's a handsome-looking fellow," Moment smiled. The stallion leaned in for a closer look and grimaced. "I think this one will look better upside-down."

Mira snorted and put the picture back. "What was my mom like when she was a foal?" she asked, staring at a picture of her mother as a fuzzy filly.

Moment chuckled, remembering. "She always tugged on my tail. But we usually got along." Moment paused, "Except for that cootie episode."

As Mira opened her mouth to reply, Moment's stall door slid open to reveal Honor. "Are you corrupting my filly, Moment?" she teased.

Moment grinned and held up his hooves. "You caught me, Honor."

Quickly, Mira gathered her possessions. She held up the photo box. "Mind if I borrow this to finish my project?"

Moment shook his head. "It's all yours," he consented. "Stop by my studio if you need any more help."

"Will do," Mira agreed, giving Moment a hug.

"Good night," he bade them farewell.

As the two horses walked side by side down the quiet barn aisle, Honor chatted. "I got a new student this afternoon," she informed Mira. The gray filly raised an eyebrow expectantly.

"He's a three-year-old," Honor began. "A year older than you. His name is Windminstrel. I think he's a good jumping prospect."

They arrived at Mira's stall. The filly unlatched the door. She reached on tiptoe to give Honor a peck on the cheek. "Good night, Mom," she whispered sleepily.

As Mira drifted off to sleep, she had visions of a handsome dapple gray stallion and a black stallion facing off, battle intent in both their eyes. Mira waited for them to begin their duel, but it would not happen. The war would wait.

* * *
The next morning, Mira awoke to someone whistling. Still groggy, she slid her stall door open to find a tall roan stallion striding down the barn aisle jovially. "Smoothie?" the gray filly inquired.

The roan turned and smiled at Mira. "Morning, love," he said cheerfully. Smoothie strode over and patted Mira on the head, flattening her dark forelock. "Your mother's in the indoor arena. She wants you to meet her there," Smoothie informed her.

Mira nodded sleepily and yawned. "I'll be right out," she promised. She ducked back into her stall and took up a comb, trying to tame her unruly cowlick. Grabbing an apple, Mira exited her stall and walked toward the arena.

Mira heard her mother's clear voice even before she had reached the arena. The bay mare was giving a private lesson. Quietly, the gray filly tiptoed to the bleachers so as not to disturb her mother's lesson.

However, her plan failed as Honor called her. "Good morning," Honor called. "Come on over, Mira."

Still munching on her apple, Mira turned around and walked toward Honor, as slim as a willow. But Mira knew how strong Honor really was despite her seemingly delicate frame.

A short black colt stood next to Honor. Mira smiled a greeting at him, but frowned when he glared back with shifty eyes.

"Mira, I want you to meet Windminstrel," Honor said. "He's from Holland."

"Nice to meet you," Mira said politely.

Windminstrel rolled his eyes looking irked, and turned to Honor. "So you think that I could make it as a jumper?" he asked, completely ignoring Mira. His voice was low and cold with a heavy accent.

Honor exchanged a glance with Mira before replying. "Yes, you have a deep chest and probably pretty strong hind legs. If you can get your speed up, you could really go places," she encouraged.

The black colt nodded thoughtfully and an uncomfortable pause followed. Mira shifted restlessly on her hooves, counting the ceiling beams in the arena.

"So," Honor said cheerfully, breaking the silence, "I was thinking that you and Mira could train together since it's too icy for Mira to run outside."

Mira gave her mother a startled look. "Fine," Windminstrel said shortly. "But she better not hold me back."

"I won't," Mira said softly. The colt snorted.

"I left the course that Adagio set up," Honor explained. "Mira, why don't you--"

"I'll go first," Windminstrel interrupted, walking over to the entrance oxer. Quickly, Windminstrel was over the course, leaping strong and landing firmly. He gloated as he passed the filly, kicking up the dirt around her.

Mira glowered as she took her place before the oxer. Her pent-up anger pushed her along as she exploded into a gallop, taking the jumps dangerously fast, and whipped around the turns like a barrel racer.

When she landed from the final spread, she took a deep breath, trying to calm her nerves. Anger wouldn't help anything now. She ignored Windminstrel's penetrating glare and walked out of the arena without a single word.

Too angry to go back to the arena, Mira wandered. She could hear the wind howling mournfully outside and shivered. The filly blinked in surprise and stopped in front of a paint-splashed door. She had made her way over to Moment's art studio. Cautiously, she rapped on the door with her small hoof.

"Come in!" Moment's voice came through, muffled by the wooden door.

Mira slid the door open and peered inside. Palettes and tubes of paint cluttered a far corner. A heap of canvases graced a low table. Various paintings in several different stages of completion were hung precariously on the walls. In the center of the room, a pedestal held a blob of gray clay which Moment was carefully shaping.

"Hey Mira," Moment welcomed her.

Mira wrinkled her nose. "This place is a mess, Moment."

The black stallion shrugged. "But I know where everything is," he defended. "So by what circumstances am I graced with your presence?"

Mira gazed around the room. Although she frequently visited her uncle's studio, it never ceased to amaze her how much talent he had. "Adagio's not here," she said distantly.

Moment chuckled. "Thanks, Mira."

Mira realized what she had implied and blushed. "Sorry," she apologized. "I didn't mean it that way."

"It's okay," Moment pardoned her. Worriedly, he peered into Mira's eyes. "You okay?"

The filly sighed and brushed her forelock off of her forehead. "Have you met Mom's new student, Windminstrel?" she asked. Moment shook his head. "He made me so angry. He wouldn't give me the time of day and he's too aloof to realize that he's not a world-famous star yet. He's so cold." Mira's anger came rushing back to her and she could feel her cheeks flare with color.

"Well, you can always just stay out of his way," Moment suggested.

"But Mom's making me train along with him," Mira wailed.

The stallion raised his eyebrows in amusement. "I guess you'll just have to make the best of it then," he said diplomatically. "Make sure you don't do anything rash."

"Easier said than done," Mira muttered.

Moment gave Mira a sidelong glance and dipped his hooves in the gooey slip. With a mischievous grin, he pulled Mira into a hug, smearing the muddy clay all over her gray coat. Mira cried out in feeble protest. "Don't worry, Mira," Moment assured her, his voice filled with mirth. "I'll back you up."

The filly wriggled out of Moment's clutches, covered in slimy clay. "A lot of good that will do me," she grumbled good-naturedly.

Mira quickly exited Moment's studio and headed towards the wash racks. Halfway there, she was stopped by an angry black colt.

"Nice look," Windminstrel sneered.

Bravely, Mira stood her ground. "I thought so," she said flippantly.

The black colt leaned in so close to Mira's face that she could see every hair on his dark muzzle in perfect detail. "Stay out of my way," he warned in a rasping whisper. With a critical eye, he studied Mira.

Mira jutted her chin out but said nothing. Windminstrel's hard mouth broke into a cold smile. "There's a good girl," he scorned, roughly tousling her silky mane. With a harsh laugh, Windminstrel continued on his way in the opposite direction.

* * *
For several weeks, Mira and Windminstrel trained together, both reluctantly. Dejectedly, Mira slowed her speed, always letting the black colt have the better time by a wide margin. Windminstrel gloated his success every chance he got.

Finally, one harsh winter day, Mira lost her temper. Windminstrel had been taunting her all through their training session, and finally, she snapped, unapparent to the colt.

Calmly, Mira took her position at the beginning of a complex course. She cantered in a circle to warm up, and slipped easily into a fast-paced gallop. Charging toward the first jump, Mira let all thoughts but the course ahead leave her mind.

The filly was up and over the first jump without a hitch, her mind already focused on the oncoming triple oxer. Mira was a silver blur as she streaked through the course effortlessly. After she landed the final jump, a daunting Liverpool, Mira finally took a breath.

Fearlessly, she met Windminstrel's hateful eyes. "You'll be sorry you did that," he said in an even voice that sent chills down Mira's spine. Quickly, he spun on his heel and left the arena. A cold silence followed the angry colt's departure and all that could be heard was the fierce howling of the wind.

With a sigh, Mira brushed her forelock out of her eyes and walked to Moment's studio. She slid the wooded door open and stepped into Moment's art studio. "I think I made a big mistake," she blurted out without a preamble.

Moment turned from his easel. "Hello yourself," he teased her.

Mira shook her head. "This is important, Moment." She made her way through the clutter to face him. "I was practicing with Windminstrel and I lost my temper. I ended up flying through the jump course, trampling his time."

Moment blinked slowly. "I don't really think that he could do anything to you," he chided gently. He set down his paint brush and blew his forelock out of his eyes.

Exasperated, Mira crossed her forelegs. "You haven't had to train with him every day," she reminded him.

Moment sighed and picked his paintbrush up again, dabbing it in a veridian green. He brought it close to his face and studied it. "What do you want me to do about it?" he asked her.

Miserable, Mira shrugged. "I don't know," she whispered. "I just have a feeling."

"I'll keep an eye out," Moment offered kindly. The filly nodded and left the studio.

The day wore on for Mira. She was tense and jumped at the slightest sound. As the afternoon slowed into a snowy evening, Mira thought that perhaps she had blown things out of proportion. Maybe nothing would happen.

As Mira turned off her stall light for the night, she heaved a sigh of relief. Disaster had been avoided. She fell asleep quickly, worn out by the day's efforts.

That night, Mira's dreams revisited the two warring stallions. This time, the black and gray stallions were in full combat, rearing and kicking in clouds of heavy smoke. Mira coughed as the acrid smell of smoke filled her lungs.

The gray stallion turned his head to peer at her with deep dark eyes. "Go!" he ordered.

Mira woke with a jolt. Her breath caught as she choked on thick clouds. "Fire!" she screamed hoarsely. The frightened filly crouched low and unbolted her stall door.

"Fire!" she called again, staring horrified at the indoor arena entrance. Great red-orange flames licked the wood, crackling forbiddingly.

Honor burst out of her stall, her eyes wide with terror. She whipped her head around frantically, making her mane dance like silhouettes on a fiery background. "Mira!" she cried anxiously.

"I'm here Mom!" Mira waved her hoof through the smoke.

The bay mare dashed toward Mira, hugging her tight. "Quickly, Mira!" she urged her. "Go down to the other side of the barn and get Moment and Eva out! I'll get the students."

Honor turned and disappeared into the thickening smoke. Mira blinked, the fire stinging her eyes and headed cautiously toward Moment and his mate, Eva's stalls. "Moment!" she hollered. "Eva! Fire!"

Out of the rolling clouds, a dark colt appeared. "Windminstrel!" Mira cried in surprise.

Windminstrel cocked his head to the side. "I told you to stay out of my way," he said calmly, his eyes alight with the reflecting flames. Roughly, he grabbed Mira's slender foreleg and forced her into the nearest stall. Mira cried out, but to no avail. Windminstrel purposefully locked the stall and walked away.

Frantically, Mira pounded the strong wooded door with her tiny hooves. "Help!" she screamed. "Let me out of here!" Panic began taking over and her stomach rolled in knots.

Whimpering, Mira crawled into the farthest corner of the small stall and curled into a ball. She racked her brain for ideas, finding none. Big, fat tears squeezed out of the corners of her eyes.

Time seemed unreal to Mira. The only sounds she heard were the snapping of hungry flames and it lulled her into a daze. The lack of oxygen made her sleepy, and her eyelids felt heavy. She licked her parched lips in futility. "I'll just close my eyes for a minute," she whispered, her voice raspy from the smoke. Pitifully, she coughed.

Suddenly, the stall door burst open. A handsome gray stallion entered, and Mira was astounded by how mysterious his eyes were. She tried to speak, but could not find the strength.

The mystery horse quickly gathered Mira into his strong forelegs and carried her away. Mira had found that she had lost all her strength and rode limply in the stallion's embrace.

Soon, she found the air around her was cool, and that she could breathe again. Hungrily, the filly breathed in great gasps of fresh air.

"There, now," the stallion comforted. His voice was deep and gentle, and Mira could feel it vibrate in her through his muscled chest.

Curiously, Mira craned her head around to see her rescuer. She gasped and struggled in his forelegs. Gently the dapple gray stallion set her down in the soft snow. "Dad?" she whispered in disbelief.

Mira started as she saw a tear run from Caesar's gentle eyes. "You've grown to become so beautiful," he murmured. Softly, he stroked her silky mane.

"How did you--I don't understand," Mira said, confused. Searchingly, she tried to memorize every detail of his handsome face.

"There need not be an explanation," Caesar said. "Just always know that I love you and that I'm here."

Tentatively at first, Mira reached her forelegs out to the stallion she had never met until now, but still managed to love. As Caesar returned her hug, Mira's embrace tightened. "I wish I knew you," she whispered into his silky black mane that smelled clean and good. Blinking, she fought back tears that threatened to fall.

"Someday," Caesar promised. "Now you should rest."

Mira frowned. "But Moment--"

"Moment and Eva and everyone else are safe," Caesar assured her. He smiled a quiet smile. Mira stared into his dark eyes and felt he had touched her soul. But she knew that her secrets were safe with him.

With a contented sigh, Mira curled in the snow, not cold in the least. Caesar stood above the filly as Mira slept in the protection of his love.

Slowly, Caesar bent his elegant head down and kissed Mira's forehead. "Sleep well, my angel," he whispered.

* * *
The bright sunshine made Mira blink rapidly as she raised her head from the snow. No one was in sight. With a sigh, she laid her head back down and closed her eyes, reviewing the events of the previous night. A warm feeling spread through her as she thought about her father. He did love her. She smiled.

Gingerly, Mira rose from the snow to head back to the barn. Honor would be worried. Slowly she turned and walked back to Mended Hearts Farm, ready to face the world again.

Mira turned to look behind her one last time and smiled. In the snow where she had lain, was a perfect snow angel.


Unfinished Stories

Remember reading a really cool story in a past issue of My Little Pony Monthly, but you don't happen to remember reading any further chapters? Did it really leave you hanging, wanting to find out what happened?

Here's your chance to vote for which of these unfinished tales you'd most like to see continued by the author. You can use the convenient table located at to instantly throw in a vote for your favorite writers. If you'd like to go back and read their stories, simply click on their names on the poll form to be taken to a special page compiled with all their past stories.

Maybe if they know their writings are appreciated, they'll be inspired to write more! ^.^ The address to vote, again, is:


Invento Ponies


Name: Atlanta

Breed: Celestial Adult Unicorn

Body Color: Lavender

Hair Color: Silver

Symbol: Rearing Unicorn


The Insane Crossover Story
Chapter Eight
Part One
by Tabby, Merry Treat, Barnacle, and Friendly

Tabby, Merry Treat, and their companions are trying to find their way back to Dream Valley after setting out on a quest to seek revenge on an evil move reviewer. Since the beginning of their adventure, however, they have traveled far and are not exactly sure where home is anymore...

The group stopped for lunch in a clearing in the forest they happened to be traveling through that day. "Gosh, I'm starving!" Merry Treat said hungrily and bit into her sandwich. "I never thought peanut butter would taste this good," she commented after swallowing.

"Yes, I'm surprised, too! But it's nowhere near as good as cherry pie filling!" Tabby agreed.

"Did we bring any of that, Tabby?" Tarquin asked and took a sip of water.

"I think we ate it all...." Tabby said thoughtfully after a moment of silence.

"Ah, man!" Tarquin snapped his paws.

"I know how you feel," Tabby nodded in agreement.

"These berries are nearly as good," Tess offered, gesturing towards the pawful of fruit she had picked.

"It's not the same," Tabby sighed.

"Spearow, why don't you go and see if there's a path or something?" Merry Treat asked her Pokèmon, changing the subject from food.

Okay! Spearow chirped and flew off obediently. He hadn't been gone more than a few minutes when they heard a loud shriek several yards away which could be no other than Spearow's cry for help.

"Oh my gosh, Spearow!" Merry Treat exclaimed in alarm and abruptly took off after him. Tabby and the others hurriedly followed.

Merry Treat screeched to a stop at the edge of a clearing, and anxiously scanned the air for her beloved Pokèmon. She didn't have to look far to find the source of the problem.

"Pikachu, thundershock, now!" cried a boy's voice.

Merry Treat instantly sprang into action. "Spearow, drill peck, now!" She rushed into full view with Tabby right behind. "There's no way I'm letting this kid get you!"

"Pika?" The yellow rodent-like creature stopped abruptly and cocked his head.

The boy, who apparently was the owner of the Pikachu, stood for a moment, perfectly dumfounded at the sight of the two little ponies. "What are... who are you guys?" He whipped out his handy red PokèDex and scanned the two creatures.

The mechanism's voice came back with the reply, "No available data."

"A new breed of Pokèmon!" the boy cheered, sticking away his PokèDex. He was dressed in blue jeans, a black t-shirt, and a blue over-shirt. A red and white baseball cap was perched on his head.

"We're not Pokèmon, twerp," Tabby growled, glancing warningly at the kid. "Pokèmon don't train Pokèmon, do they?"

"That's my Spearow your trying to capture, young man!" Merry Treat said threateningly and stormed up to the boy.

"Oh dear..." Tabby trailed off.

"He got her upset," Tarquin added and sweat dropped.

Merry Treat continued to storm up to the kid. "You tried to capture my Pokèmon!" she continued.

"You tried to capture her Pokèmon," Tabby agreed, nodding vigorously.

"You tried to capture my beloved Spearow!" Merry Treat's voice was raising dangerously high.

"Exactly," Tabby added.

"And you're gonna pay-- and pay dearly, at that!" Merry Treat shouted loudly.

"I'm... I'm... s-sorry, lady," the kid laughed nervously, waving his hands in defense. "I just thought..."

"I told you you shouldn't've tried to capture a wild Spearow!" a red-haired girl, who was standing back in the trees, commented to the boy. She was wearing short jean shorts and a short banana-yellow tank top.

"Well... I didn't know it belonged to someone!" he shouted back in self-defense.

"No, she's right. Do you know how dangerous a wild Spearow is in the first place!?" Merry Treat raged. "Ooh, are you gonna--"

"I think it's the other way around," Tarquin commented. "Merry Treat's really more dangerous than a wild Spearow when she gets mad."

"Oh, Tarquin!" Tess giggled.

The pony turned to glare at the two Meowths. "I'll take care of you later!" As she was turning back to continue the argument with the frightened boy, she was abruptly cut short by another boy, appearing to be several years older than the one with the Pikachu.

"Now, cool it!" he said, and stepped between the two while Tabby tried to restrain her friend from killing the first kid. This human was wearing an orange t-shirt, and khakis. "Ash, what happened here? I was mixing up a batch of rice balls when I heard this screaming--"

"Brock, it was just a misunderstanding!" Ash said pleadingly, and cowered behind his friend.

"She should calm down sooner or later," Tabby said helpfully, still restraining Merry Treat.

The red-haired girl came up beside the two guys. "Who are you guys, anyway?" she questioned.

"Hey, let me go!" Merry Treat broke free of Tabby's grasp. "I'm Merry Treat. This is my friend, Tabby. Spearow you've already met." Spearow swooped and landed on her back.

"These are Tarquin and Tess," Tabby took over and gestured at the two Meowths. "And those are..." She glanced at the white bunny and suited dog. "...Sam and Max."

"Hello!" Sam hollered cheerfully.

"Pet me!" exclaimed Max as he bounced through the group.

"I'm Misty. These two are Ash and Brock," the girl introduced her side. "Then there's Pikachu, and this little guy--" She gestured to the egg-shaped creature she was holding. "-- is Togepi."

"Pikachu!" the Pokèmon hopped up on Ash's shoulder.

"Toge-pr-I-I-I-I-I!" Togepi squealed happily.

"A Togepi," Tabby gasped in terror.

"Ooh, a Togepi! I have one of those!" Merry Treat smiled at the Pokèmon. "She finally hatched a few weeks ago."

For some reason, Tabby decided to whip out her special-edition Pokèmon Nurse PokèDex to get a scan on Togepi. The synthesized voice said in dull but cheerful monotone, "Togepi. The lemon-juicer Pokèmon."

"I've had mine for a few months now," Misty said proudly.

"Even though I'm the one who found it," Ash muttered.

"Don't start!" Misty angrily turned towards her friend. "You know full well that it belongs to me!"

"But I'm the one who found it! If you hadn't taken it away right before it hatched, it would have been mine!" Ash shot back. The two glared at each other and began to growl. The spectators could see the negative energy flash between their eyes.

"Yeah, you should have given it to its rightful owner," Tabby snapped at the girl. For some reason, she instinctively felt that the Togepi belonged elsewhere.

"No!" Max exclaimed. "Give it to me! I love a good omelet!"

"Please ignore my little buddy," Sam apologized. "He likes his eggs fried."

"And they say Pokèmon battles are bad," Tarquin commented, watching the two humans.

"Spearow," Spearow agreed.

"Now, cool it, you two!" Brock stepped between his quarreling companions.

The two instantly stopped and turned to stare at him. "Who's arguing?" Ash asked innocently.

"Yeah, who said anything about that?" Misty added.

"Pika pika!" Pikachu rolled his eyes.

"Spear!" Spearow agreed. The two Pokèmon seemed to have made up faster than Merry Treat had with Ash.

"So, I presume you people are Pokèmon trainers?" Tarquin put forth.

The phrase obviously startled the three, and they instinctively stepped back. "It's a talking Meowth!" Ash gasped.

"Not Team Rocket," Misty groaned.

"Team Rocket?" Tabby cocked her head.

"I don't know," Brock said, eyeing Merry Treat and Tabby thoughtfully. "Team Rocket may be devious and scheming, but they'd never get into horse costumes."

"Are you sure?" Misty looked suspiciously at the ponies.

"What do you think we are, Pokèmon thieves or something?" Tabby snapped.

"Well, actually..." Ash started.

"Your talking Meowth there just threw us for a spin," Brock explained. "We know a gang a Pokèmon robbers with one of those, and the average Meowth isn't supposed to speak English..."

"Oh, my family highly encouraged all of us to learn the language," Tarquin said.

"Mine, too," Tess agreed. "All the Meowths in our land that I know of can talk like this."

"Two of them!" Misty explained.

"We're from Dream Valley, by the way," Merry Treat said.

"Dream Valley? I've never heard of that," Ash pondered. "What are you doing here?"

"Trying to get home, actually," Tabby said.

"Would you three, by chance, know where we are?" Merry Treat questioned hopefully.

"We have no idea ourselves," Brock admitted.

"Knowing you, Ash, you'd probably lead us straight to this Dream Valley place," Misty said.

"Do you have a map, or something?" Ash asked hopefully of the ponies.

"We've got one," Tess said after a pause.

"But it never does us much good," Tarquin added. "A strange magician we prefer to forget gave it to us."

"Argh! And I had just managed to forget him!" Max cried.

"Don't worry, little buddy," Sam said. "With your short attention span, you will have forgotten in another thirty-four paragraphs."

"Hey, that's right," Max said happily.

"Well, let's have a look! Anything's better than being lost!" Ash said determinedly. "Where is it?"

Tarquin pulled the map out of his backpack, and Ash, Misty, and Brock gathered around it. "This probably won't help you," Tarquin cautioned.

"Well, it's better than nothing," Ash said and began to study it. "What the... what in the world is a Starry Up?"

"Oh, that's just where we..." Merry Treat trailed off.

"It's a nice little village on the Milky Way," Tabby said helpfully.

"Ah," Ash nodded. "Whatever."

"Hm, I wonder why we couldn't see that on there when we first came to it," Merry Treat murmured.

"The Dark Forest?" Brock raised an eyebrow as he read off another place listed on the map.

"Oh, that's in Dream Valley," Tabby said. "Not a very nice place-- the forest, that is, not the valley."

"Tea Bunny Land?" Misty furrowed her brow.

"Max's relatives live there," Tabby explained, glancing at the white bunny, who was poking at Ash's PokèBalls.

"Well... here's where we are," Brock said after a moment or so. He pointed at a planet in about the middle of the map. "You ponies must get around a lot. So, according to this..." He studied the map carefully.

"Well?" Ash asked impatiently, wanting to get out of the forest.

"We're... hopelessly lost," Brock finished.

"Great... just what we need," Merry Treat sighed.

"Well, why don't you send out your Spearow to do some scouting for us?" Ash suggested to Merry Treat.

Merry Treat cast him a threatening glance. "Only if you're sure you're the only Pokèmon trainer around here that's foolish enough to try and catch a ‘wild' Spearow!"

Misty smiled at the pony's comment. "She's got a point, Ash!"

"Spearow, go and see if there's a path or something," Merry Treat told her Pokèmon. "And be careful to avoid flying near Pokèmon trainers if you should find any."

The bird took off obediently. The group stared after him. "Good luck, buddy!" Tarquin called out.

Ash noticed the loving look on Merry Treat's face as her Pokèmon flew away. He saw why she had gotten so defensive when he'd tried to catch him for himself. "I guess you must really love that Pokèmon," he commented.

"Oh, you have no idea," Merry Treat shook her head.

"Tabby gets that same look when she's thinking about Thomas," Tarquin said.

"Tarkie, I do not look anything like that," Tabby said primly. "I would never be caught looking like that. Why--"

"Ever hear of that river in Egypt? De-nile?" Tarquin shot back.

"Ah, Egypt!" Tabby sighed for no particular reason.

"Hopefully she's not as bad in that department as Brock is when he sees a pretty girl!" Misty commented.

"Be quiet!" Brock said immediately, causing the girl to start laughing.

Before Brock could do any more, the group sensed a new presence in the clearing. They began to look around. A large, muscle-bound human was strolling towards them. He was dressed in manly lavender pants and a pink shirt.

"He looks familiar," Tabby murmured.

"Oh, no," Tarquin groaned, catching sight of who accompanied the figure. Floating alongside the blond-haired man was what could only be described as a flying t-shirt.

Indeed, the specimen did look like a flying red t-shirt. On his head was a peaked cap, and he appeared to have no form but two blue hands and eyes peering out from the darkness under his hat with ears protruding from the brim. "Gee, Prince Adam, I think we found them!" the thing exclaimed.

"Argh!" Max shrieked. "Why must the fates conspire against me?"

"And with only one paragraph to go," Sam commented.

"Hello, everyone," the man introduced himself. "I'm Prince Adam of Eternia, and this is my friend, Orko."

"We've met," Tarquin muttered.

"Treat the t-shirt with some respect," Tess chided him.

"You remember me!" Orko said gleefully. "Yipee!"

"Don't get to excited," Sam said. "We were trying our darndest to forget you."

"Well, what're you doing here?" Tabby asked bluntly.

"I ran into He-Man, and he said he thought I should follow after you in case you needed my help," Prince Adam explained. "He had been with you, but had to leave to accompany someone back to the Milky Way, if he told me correctly. And, I brought Orko along with me."

"How... kind," was all Merry Treat could think of to say.

"He-Man was especially concerned over the fact that you might run into some of those evil movie creatures," Prince Adam continued.

"Oh," Tabby nodded in a way that meant she had not been listening. "Did you know that your hair cut and color is identical to He-Man's?"

"My hair? Oh, this is a popular style back home," Prince Adam said.

Meanwhile, Orko was making small talk with Ash, Misty, and Brock. The three humans didn't know what to think of the strange magician, and they nervously conversed with him. "Hey, I'm real good at summoning things," Orko said excitedly. "Wanna see?"

"Uh... heh..." Misty laughed tensely.

"Great," Merry Treat rolled her eyes. "Orko, remember that bit about not summoning up anything?"

"My friend really doesn't mean any harm," Prince Adam said. "Why don't you allow him to perform a magic act for you this evening that doesn't involve summoning anything?"

Tarquin began walking towards the man menacingly. Tabby was not sure whether to call him back or let him go on. Tess, ladylike as she was, got in the first word, however.

"I think that's a wonderful idea, Prince Adam," the petite Meowth said. "How about it, guys?"

Merry Treat and Tabby exchanged a nervous glance. "Umm... well... as long as you make sure he doesn't do any summoning," Merry Treat stuttered.

"That will please Orko greatly," Prince Adam said. "Thank you, my friends. I'm sure you'll enjoy his show."

"Enjoy it almost as much as having my head stuck in a bear trap," Sam said.

"Ooh, yeah, that reminds me!" Max recalled and hurried off.

"What's that? Prince Adam, I'm gonna put on a magic act? Oh boy-oh boy! I can't wait!" Orko floated away from the Pokèmon trainers and came back over to his companion. "I really get to do it?"

"Yes, Orko. Why not begin setting up now?" Prince Adam suggested.

"Yipee!" Orko said excitedly, pulling out a book of magic. "First I'll do..."

Tarquin shook his head slowly. Would any good come from this?

* * *
Later that evening, everyone was gathered around the clearing, watching Orko's magic act. The magician had set up a table in the center of the area, and everyone "oohed" and "ahhed" politely. Ash, Misty, and Brock had decided to stick around-- normally they would not accompany such a strange group; but they were lost, and where else could they go?

Currently, Orko was doing what he called "the shell game". He had several walnut shells laid out on the table, and was swiftly moving them around. He selected one and picked it up. "Tah-dah! It's the marble!"

"I don't think that's a marble," Tabby said. "I'd say it's a portal of some kind."

What Orko uncovered under the shell was certainly no marble. In fact, it was actually a purplish-blue swirling mass of energy.

"Eeek!" Max cried and jumped into Prince Adam's arms.

"Careful, everyone, it's obviously a Dark Portal, writhing from the agony of the trapped souls within," Sam said knowingly.

"Oh, dear," Orko said, frantically flipping through the pages of his book. "That wasn't supposed to happen..."

Before Orko could do anything, the strange portal began to steadily enlarge. Soon, it had encompassed the table, causing Orko to flee over to Prince Adam. "Adam, Adam, what did I do?"

"I'm not sure, Orko. Let's see what happens."

The ponies and Pokèmon did not seem too concerned. After what they had encountered already, a weird portal was not the strangest thing they had run into. However, the three Pokèmon trainers were not taking it so lightly.

"I've never seen anything like that," Brock said nervously.

Misty figured that Ash was to blame. "Ash, you got us into this mess by getting us lost! You'd better get us out of it!"

Before Ash could retaliate, everyone's attention was riveted back to the portal. Something was coming out of it... something muscular, and tall, and green-skinned. The creature was clad in furs, and his lower jaw stuck out, fangs protruding from it.

The creature stepped out of the portal and into the clearing. "Dah-boo!" he said cheerfully, and ambled off into the woods nonchalantly. "Zug-zug!"

"What do you suppose just happened?" Tabby queried after several moments of silence.

"What was that thing?" Tess gasped.

"I think it's an orc," Tarquin said critically.

"Orko..." Merry Treat looked at the flying t-shirt threateningly.

"Wow, that portal-thing is pretty cool!" Ash exclaimed.

"Um... I gotta go, uh, doing something," Prince Adam decided suddenly, and jumped behind some nearby bushes.

Brock raised an eyebrow. "What's up with him?"

A few moments later, the gathered group all heard an echoing voice call out, "BY THE POWER OF GRAYSKULL!" Lightning bolts illuminated the forest around them, and several stray bolts struck at the clearing grounds.

"Togi-togi-pri-I-I-I-I!" Togepi wailed.

After that ordeal was over, a new figure walked out of the forest. Merry Treat and Tabby recognized him well-- it was He-Man, the most powerful man in the universe!

"Prince Adam told me you need help tracking the foul orc beast," He-Man declared. "Can I be of assistance?"

"Um..." Tabby paused in thought.

"Sure, you can track him if you want," Tarquin shrugged.

Not having to be told twice, He-Man ran off into the forest, taking the path the orc had taken only a few minutes earlier while passing the same scenery several times over.

While waiting for his return, Merry Treat and Tabby conversed over the matter. "So, what, He-Man is the secret identity of this Prince Adam guy?"

"It was pretty obvious," Merry Treat rolled her eyes. "We heard him shout out that stuff about Grayskull."

"And the lightning bolts," Tabby nodded. "Must be a sort of Darien/Tuxedo Mask deal."

"Yeah, only Tuxedo Mask dresses better," Merry Treat agreed.

"Do you think we should comment on it?"

"Nah. We'll just humor him for now."

"I'll bet furry underwear is all the rage in Eternia along with that sissy boy hair-cut," Max said.

"Max, you should know better than to make fun of someone based on his moronic sense of style!" Sam chided.

To get their minds off the matter at hand, Brock had set to work mixing up a batch of rice balls. Misty was beginning to simmer down after her initial outburst at Ash.

Awhile later, they heard footsteps coming towards them from the forest. Not long after, He-Man reappeared. "That orc is a slippery villain," he said regretfully. "I lost his trail."

"Really?" Tabby said skeptically. "He wasn't moving that fast."

"However," He-Man continued, "I did see a meteor fall not far from here, creating a large crater in the ground."

"But no orc?" Misty prodded.

"There wasn't a sign of him after I stopped to inspect the meteor. It shone with a brilliant radiance. I've never seen anything of its kind," He-Man said.

Merry Treat sighed. "Well, the orc doesn't seem to be in the area any longer. One orc probably couldn't cause any trouble. Don't worry about finding him, He-Man."

"Alright," He-Man agreed. "But to be on the safe side, I'll stay with your group for the night in case of any more trouble."

"Please, that's not really necessary."

"No, I insist!"

"No, that's really not necessary."

With that settled, they all sat down to polish off the rice balls; and then they all went to bed for the night.

* * *
The next morning, Tabby awoke to find strange smells tingling her nose. She cranked one eye open, and was extremely surprised at what she saw. Bolting up in her sleeping bag, her eyes opened wide. She jumped up into a standing position. "AHHHH!!! EVERYBODY!!! GET UP!!" she shrieked.

After Tabby's awakening call, everyone was soon alerted to the matter at hand. What had been the previous night a clearing in a huge, sprawling forest was now simply the outskirts of an orcish town-- at least, that's what they suspected after seeing green creatures positioned by the city gate, similar to the orc that had stepped out of the portal the previous evening. A farm was built right near where they had been resting.

Many orc peons were busy chopping at trees in the forest with axes; and another line of peons was constantly flowing into the city with large bags hung over their shoulders. They were coming from a gold mine now revealed in the forest. Bigger, tougher looking orcs and trolls were positioned around the perimeter of the city with weapons.

"That's the last time I fill up on rice balls before bed," Sam said.

"Until the next time, anyway," Max added.

The group stood around for several minutes, stunned and shocked. However could one orc peon have made all this overnight? Before they had completely recovered, they were conscious of another vehicle approaching them.

A hoverbike with a large grenade launcher mounted on the front was fast approaching them. Two figures were positioned on it. Upon reaching the city outskirts, the bike stopped at the traveling group.

One figure stepped off the bike. He was an eight-foot-tall alien creature in big cybernetic armor. A large ponytail was noticeable on the back of his head. "Terra-kalla!" he said.

"Hey, man, we need your help," the other figure said. This one was a human with a moustache, dressed in powered battle armor. "I'm Jim Raynor, and this is Tassadar."

"You see, the Overmind, who leads the Zerg, has come here to assimilate all the Pokèmon," the alien, identified as Tassadar, explained. "He has to catch them all. He followed the creatures to this world, and we are looking for help to eradicate the Zerg."

"An entire attack force is on its way, but Tassadar and I rode ahead to help the natives stage an offensive," Raynor went on. "But my bike was making a high-pitched shrieking sound and I couldn't figure out what it was. I was afraid we weren't gonna make it."

"Did you try turning up the radio real loud?" Sam offered helpfully.

"Yep, but it didn't help," Raynor explained. "I finally figured out it was just Tassadar screaming like a girl."

"Oh, boy!" Orko exclaimed.

"That's... nice," was all Merry Treat could think of to say.

"Tell me again, how did we get into this?" Brock queried.

Suddenly, a cry came from the orc city. "We're being attacked!"

"The pale... worms?" another orcish voice came. "Those things aren't that pale!"

The ponies, Pokèmon, Pokèmon trainers, flying t-shirt, and muscle-bound oaf had no time to react to what was about to happen. The orc city was suddenly thrown into turmoil. Orc grunts, troll axethrowers, and ogres all ran over to one side of the city. Large, worm-like creatures began to invade. The orc defenses began to hack on the Zerg invaders, including Hydralisks (creatures with a worm-like body, spined back, bony head crest, wicked claws for hands, needle-toothed maws, bony jaw, and beady black eyes), Zerglings (smaller hopping bugs with four legs and bony plates), and Mutalisks (flying eyeless worms with two tiny wings and large mouth, teeth, and tongue). The orcs were knocking down only a small percentage of the Zerg.

"They're destroying our city!" a call from the orcs came again.

"Aww, they're so-o-o cute!" Max said. "Let's shoot ‘em!"

The original group was extremely confused by this point. Pikachu was running around in circles, and Togepi was wailing. They had not yet adjusted to the orc city that had been built up in a night, let alone to mysterious strangers and an attack from these Zerg creatures.

To add to their confusion, they suddenly saw a strange sight. Pulsating, gooey, pillar-type things suddenly flopped up into the air over a ridge right across from them. He-Man and Orko were the closest, and ran over the ridge to see what was up.

The image that met their eyes was an entire Zerg city, laid out before them. "Worms! Worms!" Orko shrieked.

"The meteor that crashed yesterday must be what brought these aliens to this planet," He-Man theorized. "Fascinating!"

"This could be bad," Raynor said to the ponies and Pokèmon trainers.

Tassadar had just finished conversing with one of the orcs. "The orcs say they have to upgrade to dragons before they can attack the Zerg, but there's no way to hold them off until then."

Ash's eyes lit up. Brock held him back. "Don't do anything rash," he cautioned.

Ash ignored the heeding of his friend. He jumped forward. "We'll do it!" he exclaimed. "We'll hold the Zerg off!"

Misty shook her head slowly. "He'll never learn, will he?"

"Pika-pika," Pikachu agreed.

"Then let's get in there and fight some Zerg," Raynor prodded.

Ash immediately went into action, calling out all his Pokèmon. "Bulbasaur! Squirtle! Charizard! Pidgeotto! You too, Pikachu! Go!"

Brock shrugged and followed suite. "Geodude! Onix! Zubat! Vulpix! Go!"

"I don't know why I'm doing this, but..." Misty reached into her backpack. "Staryu, Starmie, Horsea, Goldeen! And, hey, Psyduck-- you, too!" Maybe he'll get wounded in battle, she thought idly to herself. Her Pokèmon positioned themselves in a pool in the center of the city.

"Well, while we're at it..." Merry Treat threw her PokèBalls into the air. "Catalina! Vulpix! Jigglypuff! Kittyhawk! Tess and Spearow, too!"

"Tarquin, get on out there," Tabby ordered. "And then... Oddish! Jigglypuff! Mew! Hitmonlee! Mr.Mime!"

The battlefield was now crammed with orcs, Zerg, and Pokèmon. He-Man ran into the fray himself to knock some Zerg around, and Orko flipped through his spell book. The Pokèmon trainers were, naturally, commanding their Pokèmon. Raynor drove around on his bike (which was known as the Vulture) launching grenades, and Tassadar used cool psychic attacks, like psybolts and electrical storms.

"He's one powerful psychic Pokèmon!" Ash commented upon seeing Tassadar's attacks.

"I'm no Pokèmon," Tassadar said simply.

Max bounced around the battlefield insanely grabbing Zerg antenna and biting thick carapaces while Sam fired shot after shot from his gun, but hit nothing.

Tarquin and Tess ganged up on one Zerg unit with their scratch attacks, while Spearow Mirror Moved another. Hitmonlee tried out some kicking moves, while Oddish sent out some Stun Spore. Vulpix fired-up the battle, and Kittyhawk sent her feathers flying. Merry Treat's and Tabby's Mews both had some powerful psychic attacks of their own, whereas their two Jigglypuffs just got in an argument. Mr.Mime had some fun building invisible walls.

Charizard, meanwhile, was not obeying Ash and had fallen asleep next to an orcish farm. Squirtle used his water gun and Bulbasaur his vine whip. Pidgeotto used his sand attack, and Pikachu was lighting up the field with his thundershock.

Psyduck was frantically running around the pool, screeching out his name and holding his head and really not accomplishing anything, but Misty hoped he'd get beat up enough that his headache would increase. From their pool, Staryu, Starmie, Horsea, and Goldeen were spraying lots of water at the Zerg.

Brock's Vulpix was also active in the fight, and his Zubat fluttered around in the air. Geodude was piling some dirt on the aliens, and Onix tunneled underground in an attempt to confuse them.

Of course, He-Man was also having fun. He was currently covered in a swarm of Zergling, but with a mighty heave, he cast them all off. Next, a Hydralisk came at him, snarling viciously. Without missing a beat, He-Man quickly switched his sword from one hand to the other and then struck the Zerg square between his beady black eyes with his fist. This sent the Hydralisk tumbling backwards, into the rank of Zerg behind him, causing them all to fall over as well.

Orko cast several unsuccessful spells, which were probably only to the Zerg's advantage. "Ugly little Zerg, feel the power of this iceberg! Now if only I could remember the next word!"

The Pokèmon were holding up well, but they were still only managing to knock-out a fraction of the Zerg. Their trainers bravely kept them going, however; and the Pokèmon wanted to win the fight.

All of a sudden, a giant floating mass came in over the three human trainers-- Ash, Brock, and Misty. Before they knew it, there were covered with a thick, disgusting slime, preventing them from moving.

"We're stuck!" Misty cried.

"I... I can't move!" Brock exclaimed.

"What're we going to do?" Ash frantically glanced around for help.

Just then, He-Man walked in front of the camera and began talking. "In today's story, we saw how the Zerg wish to assimilate and enslave the entire universe. Anyone who wishes to do this is evil, and they'll never make friends easily. So remember, if you ever see a Zerg, do away with it."

He-Man's lecture seems to have given this chapter a natural ending point. Just as it seemed our heroes might have been getting somewhere, it appears that they have gotten themselves into a sticky situation. What will happen now? Will the Zerg succeed in carrying out their plan of assimilation? Will Ash and his friends be able to continue the fight? Will Sam ever hit anything? Will He-Man stop talking like an idiot? Will...



The Lost Prince
Chapter 2
by Moonjumper

~* Several years after the events in chapter one *~

"And no one has ever seen Dorin since that fateful night..." Paradise finished with a mysterious air.

The banquet hall converged into loud applause, and Majesty grinned at Twilight. So far so good, she used her unicorn magic to say to her friend who was across the room from her.

Twilight nodded, but still shifted uneasily in her seat. The Spring Festival was her responsibility-- she couldn't let anything go wrong.

"Paradise, a wonderful fairy tale, as usual!" a light pink male pony with sparkly dark blue hair congratulated the pegasus. He had the royal mark, a silver gem adorning his neck.

Majesty frowned. That's no fairy--

Paradise bristled. "That, Prince Sapphire, was NOT a ‘fairy tale'. Every word of it truly happened." She came close to glaring at him, but caught herself and smiled politely.

Prince Sapphire nervously tried to back-up what he had said. "Well, I..." He looked very contrite.

Majesty's frown disappeared and she shook her head slightly. It wasn't good for the prince to not know that particular legend, since it was all they had of their past.

Twilight saw that everyone's attention was centered on the prince. This will never do-- the heir of the Crystal Castle... I can't let this happen... She stood up and announced, "Paradise's beautifully told story could only be complimented by Medley's voice talent. Medley?"

Medley nodded and rose. She loved to sing and didn't mind Twilight asking her unprepared.

After Medley's song, clowns came out-- much to the delight of the baby ponies-- and the rest of the evening passed rather quickly, without any mishaps.

* * *
"Shhh!! Jinx! You want to wake everyone?" A lone pony with a dark brown hawk slipped out of Dream Castle. He hid in the shadows and waited to make sure no one had heard his bird's squawking.

"You have to be more quiet," the pony stroked the hawk's feathers gently. He placed the bird on his back where it promptly climbed up to sit between his ears.

"You'll fall off," the pony warned as he started out for the other side of Dream Valley. A beam of pale moonlight showed a covered pony with sparkly dark pink hair.

The journey was rough; no path was carved out of the rocky mountainous sides of the valley. Many times he stopped to rest. It seemed as if he'd been traveling for years when he reached his destination-- Talon's Cave.

"Well," he said, setting Jinx down, "we made it. Now, where's the treasure Barnacle spoke of?" The pony lit a torch and walked in the cavern.

The walls were a strange light tan color, and he touched one to find that they were really golden, covered with dirt and grim. He wandered along the cave walls, not knowing that it was rectangular-shaped.

Jinx cried out suddenly and abruptly flew away; the wind made by his wings blew the torch out, leaving his companion in the dark.

"JINX!!!" the pony called after him. "Argh... now what?" he wondered.

He brushed against the wall and jumped back with a cry of surprise. Something was there. Tentatively, he reached out; but quickly drew his hoof back.

"Unnnhhhh..." A light came from the wall and blinded the pony. Hearing a grating sound, he tried to back up more, but found he was stuck.

What's going on?? he thought. Barnacle... this must be some sort of joke they play on roya--

"You have awoken me!!! I am free!!" a voice crashed into his mind.

The light dimmed and he saw a silhouette of a person. His eyes widened in horror when he saw the face at the instant claws grabbed at him, tearing away his canvas covering.

"What's this? The mark of HER?!" A long, thin finger reached out and touched his neck, right where a silver gem shone brightly.

The person shrieked and the cave went dark.

* * *
Majesty entered the throne room sleepily. Where is Twilight... I thought she'd be back from showing our guests their rooms by now... so tired...

"Majesty?" Twilight crept into the throne room a little while later to see her queen and friend asleep on the throne. Just like her, Twilight thought as she laughed softly. She stood there for a moment, pondering whether she should wake her friend or just let her sleep. She'll get uncomfortable soon... I guess I should wake her...

But Twilight had no chance to awaken her, for as she was about to shake her gently, Majesty bolted upright with a look of shock on her face.

"No..." Majesty said hoarsely.

To be continued...


The Merry Treat and Tabby Gossip Hour!
by Merry Treat and Tabby

Merry Treat: Sorry this wasn't in last months' issue, everyone!

Tabby: Yes, we were terribly busy the whole time.

Merry Treat: I do hope you'll accept our sincerest apologies.

Tabby: Aw, come on, MT. They never even missed us.

Merry Treat: You sure? I always thought people looked forward to reading our mindless babble...

Tabby: What if they don't look forward to reading anything in the newsletter?

Merry Treat: Then why do you always send it out?

Tabby: *sniffles* Maybe I'll just change it to Man-Eating Slug Monthly and see if anyone notices.

Merry Treat: Oh, Tabby, it's okay. I'm sure all you readers love this newsletter-- right, readers?

Tabby: Anyone out there?

Merry Treat: Anyone?

Tabby: They're not responding, MT.

Merry Treat: Hmm... maybe we should have people e-mail you to tell you their opinions, Tabby.

Tabby: Alright, people, e-mail me with your opinions on the newsletter!

Merry Treat: Please, everyone, help comfort poor Tabby by telling her how much you love this newsletter!

Tabby: Let's get back to the point of this feature-- if there's anything to say.

Merry Treat: ~pats her shoulder~ Let's lighten our thoughts. Hmm... what's been going on in Ponyland lately?

Tabby: Well... hmm... we go through this every month...

Merry Treat: That's true...

Tabby: But... say... you'd mentioned something about Vixie earlier, hadn't you?

Merry Treat: Yeah, she passed onto the next level in her Spyro the Dragon video game. She was quite proud of herself.

Tabby: Wow! *claps* What's that game about, anyway?

Merry Treat: It's about this cute purple dragon that goes around trying to save other dragons and getting crystals and stuff... I don't exactly know the whole plot.

Tabby: I think I've seen commercials for him while watching Pokèmon.

Merry Treat: He's such a kawaii little dragon! He's purple with big eyes and yellow scales and yellow wings with this dragonfly that follows him around everywhere!

Tabby: Awwww!

Merry Treat: And they've got some pretty bizarre stuff that he goes up against, too...

Tabby: Well... let's see here... how's your Furby been?

Merry Treat: I don't know... I'll check. ~goes to wake him up~

Gah-Noh-La: ~begins chattering~ Cock-a-doodle-doo! Hehehe! Huh? Me Gah-Noh-La!

Merry Treat: Hehe, I guess he's doing just fine! ~giggles~

Gah-Noh-Lah: ~snores and shouts~ Party! Hehehe!

Tabby: Merry Treat, I think it's Dah-Noh-Lah, not Gah-Noh-Lah.

Gah-Noh-Lah: ~sings~ Oh, oh! Hug me!

Merry Treat: What? Tabby, do you think the Furby senses an evil presence in this room?

Tabby: I think he does. Furbys know of stuff like that.

Merry Treat: Ooh, maybe we'd better keep a look-out!

Tabby: *continues muttering that his name has be Dah-Noh-Lah, not Gah-Noh-Lah*

Merry Treat: ~mutters how she can't understand Furbish words, so she went with what she heard~

Gah-Noh-Lah: Hmm, boring. ~snores and falls asleep~

Tabby: Found anyone in your life to replace Marcus yet?

Merry Treat: ~shrugs~ I've decided that I'll wait around for someone.

Tabby: Well, Valentine's Day is coming up. Maybe someone will come into your life then.

Merry Treat: Hm, true. Hey, you know what?

Tabby: What's that?

Merry Treat: Tess was saying something about a wedding last night...

Tabby: A wedding? Who's? Nobody's been married around here for... years, actually.

Merry Treat: ~shrugs~ I dunno, but I have a pretty good guess...

Tabby: You do?

Merry Treat: ~nods~ Because Tess has a ring on her finger from Tarquin.

Tabby: WHAT?! Why wasn't I informed of this?! Tarquin is my Meowth. He could have said something to me. *fumes*

Merry Treat: I wasn't informed, either! I only heard her mumble something about it! But I can't think of anyone else who would give her a ring!

Tabby: Well, it sounds like we'll have to dig some information out of those two later... oh, MT, they'll leave us when they get married!

Merry Treat: That's true... but where will they go?


Merry Treat: ~wails~ I'LL MISS THOSE MEOWTHS!!!

Spearow: ~looks at the two wailing~ Spear...

Tabby: *wipes away tear* It had to come someday.

Merry Treat: ~nods shakily~ Yes, those two were meant to be together since the day they met. But, oh, I'll sure miss those two. *sniff*

Tabby: They won't forget us, will they?

Merry Treat: I don't know. I hope not. How could they forget us?

Spearow: ~sighs~ Spearow-spear-row-spear. (These two drive me nuts...)

Tabby: *sniff-sniff* Let's get our minds off it for now. We're here to gossip, not sob our eyes out.

Merry Treat: ~wails~ WHAAAA! One more good sob! WHAAAA! Okay, now I'm ready. *sniff*

Spearow: ~shakes head~ Spear-row. (You're weird.)

Tabby: Of course, on the topic of weddings, I've heard that Sparkler did sell one of her engagement rings. She's not telling who bought it, though.

Merry Treat: Ooh! Maybe it was Toby, and Tiffany'll stop bragging about getting one... oh, wait, then she'll brag even more...

Tabby: Or what if it was Tex for Tamara? I still don't like that guy...

Merry Treat: Or maybe it was Thomas for-- whoops! Better shut up now!

Tabby: *blushes slightly at the comment* Of course, it could still have been Vanguard for Sugarberry.

Merry Treat: ~grins mischievously at Tabby's blush and thinks Maybe we'll get those two together yet!~

Tabby: And, then again, it could have been someone entirely different...

Merry Treat: Hmm... who else around here has a crush on someone and wants to get married?

Tabby: Well, you never know-- maybe somebody has a crush that badly on you...

Merry Treat: On me? ~blush~ No, nobody could possibly go after me again.

Tabby: Heard of anyone planning a Valentine's party yet?

Merry Treat: ...besides, all the good guys around here are taken... a party? Knowing Tiffany, she'll probably plan something.

Tabby: Or she'll forget a party and just plan a quiet, romantic evening for her and Toby.

Merry Treat: Oh, that would be so sweet.

Tabby: Plus, there's an important event coming up this month even before Valentine's day.

Merry Treat: What's that? I always forget important events...

Tabby: *glances witheringly at her* My birthday...

Merry Treat: ~smacks herself in the forehead~ Do'h! I knew I forgot something!

Tabby: Technically, it's Tamara's birthday, too, on the sixth...

Merry Treat: ~makes a mental note to surprise Tabby and Tamara with something on February sixth~

Tabby: You know, Tamara did just move into her own house; and I have a feeling she's planning something on the sixth.

Merry Treat: Tamara moved out finally? What convinced her to do that?

Tabby: She just happened to find a house she liked one day while taking a walk through town. And it happened to be for sale, too, and she bought it right up.

Merry Treat: Well, is Tarquin happy to have his room back, now?

Tabby: Oh, yeah! But... he's not going to use it much longer if...

Merry Treat: ~makes a pouty face~ ...and Tess won't use hers, either...

Spearow: *sniffle*

Tabby: Tamara thinks she's finally going to get started seriously with her show-cat breeding with this new house of hers.

Merry Treat: Hmm, I wonder if she'll ever look into breeding Meowths...

Tabby: *giggles* If she ever breeds Pokèmon, it'll be Persians.

Merry Treat: Ah, but before you get a Persian, you must first get a Meowth!

Tabby: Well, she has a Persian, and she didn't start with a Meowth. Clever Clover just gave that one to her.

Merry Treat: Hmm... I wonder... ~looks deep in thought~

Tabby: Tamara hasn't said much about our birthday, but I think she's planning a party at her house.

Merry Treat: Hmm, that's nice... ~only half listening~

Tabby: Merry Treat, what are you doing?

Merry Treat: Pondering... do you think, if Tarkie and Tess get married, will that make us related or something? ~cocks head~

Spearow: ~sweatdrops~ Spearow-spear-row-row-spearow-row. (Oh my... you two... related... that's too much...)

Tabby: Related? I wonder how that does work...

Merry Treat: I don't know, but it sounds like something we'll have to look into...

Tabby: We don't have any Pokèmon professors around to ask on deep topics like this.

Merry Treat: Maybe we should consult Clever Clover. He knows a lot about Pokèmon.

Tabby: Hey, hey! And everyone's been excited lately over the new royalty in Dream Valley!

Merry Treat: New royalty...? ~blank look~

Tabby: Where have you been?! Twins were born with the royal marks!!!

Merry Treat: Twins were born with the royal mark?! When did this happen?

Tabby: Just a few days ago!!

Merry Treat: I guess I wasn't paying attention.

Spearow: Spearow-spear-row! (You never pay attention!)

Tabby: A boy and a girl, so Dream Valley finally has a prince!

Merry Treat: --well, it's not my fault if I'm always out doing sa-- eh... I guess I don't, do I?

Tabby: Ya know, they've got tinselly hair and a raised medallion symbol, so they're automatically declared royalty.

Merry Treat: I never knew that.

Tabby: Ah, yes, not many ponies know the full story behind royalty. My mom made me learn every little detail on them, though.

Merry Treat: That must have been fun.

Tabby: Oh, yeah. *rolls eyes* I'd rather have been playing with My Little People.

Merry Treat: I used to love doing that!

Tabby: Didn't we all?

Merry Treat: Yes, I think so.

Tabby: Anyhow, the new prince and princess' names are Baby Princess Springtime and Baby Prince Melonball. The princesses were horrified over those names at first.

Merry Treat: Melonball?

Tabby: They're named after their parents; what more can I say... however, the parents have decided that the two will have the choice to change their names when they come of age and move into the Royal Paradise.

Merry Treat: With a name like Melonball, I wouldn't hesitate to change it...

Tabby: Really, I don't see what the big deal with them is. They're just more baby ponies-- no worse or better than any others.

Merry Treat: I hope they don't treat them any differently at such a young age.

Tabby: Not too much, except for having the princesses fawn over them all the time.

Merry Treat: Hehe, that must be fun.

Tabby: And now... let's see... there was a deal with the Bushwoolies' ice-skating expedition.

Merry Treat: The Bushwoolies were on an ice-skating expedition?

Tabby: They were the other day; only they didn't notice a hole in the ice in the lake they went out on. Hugster was the first to fall in, and the rest followed suit.

Merry Treat: Oh, no! Were they rescued? Were they all right?

Tabby: Ah, yes, the Bushwoolies recovered fine.

Merry Treat: I hope none of them froze!

Tabby: Not quite. At least, not for long. Spike happened to be sledding in the area and saw the commotion. He hauled them out of the water and loaded them up on his sled, then pulled them all to the hospital.

Merry Treat: But were they all right?

Tabby: Yes, they just needed to be warmed up a little. Spike got them out of the water fast enough.

Merry Treat: Phew! Thank goodness they were recovered safely.

Tabby: Yes, Toby's assistant was able to take care of them herself.

Merry Treat: That's good.

Tabby: And then Sugarberry has been complaining lately over the new computer system Thomas got for the clinic.

Merry Treat: She should call my sister. She's very good with computer stuff.

Tabby: She's just having a difficult time figuring out the new interface.

Merry Treat: Hmm... what exactly is it set up like?

Tabby: I actually haven't seen it myself.

Merry Treat: Hmm...

Tabby: And then it didn't help matters when a kitten that was staying overnight at the clinic somehow got out of his pen and started messing with the printer in the front room.

Merry Treat: ~giggles~ Kittens love to play with electronic stuff that they're not supposed to.

Tabby: He must have been fascinated with the buttons on it, because he had ejected nearly all the paper supply by the time anyone found him. He was doing this in the middle of the night, y'understand.

Merry Treat: Hehehe! He must have had a fun time! I bet Thomas wanted to strangle him, huh?

Tabby: Well... not quite... but it was rather a nuisance.

Merry Treat: Maybe we'd better be signing off for this month.

Tabby: ‘Kay-kay. Goodby-e-e-e-e, everyone!

Merry Treat: Goodbye!

Tabby: Let's make like a cactus and get all prickly!


Further Occurances in the Dark Forest
by Tabby

One day, for no particular reason, Tabby had the inclination to venture into the Dark Forest. The plan seemed reasonable as she had nothing else to do that Saturday, and she thought it might help inspire her on the story she was writing. And so, she headed out without bothering to tell anyone.

Tabby knew her way around the Dark Forest fairly well, having lived in the area all her life. However, on this day, a forgotten path took her to a place she had never been before.

Revealed before her in a clearing in the midst of the trees was the most beautiful waterfall Tabby had ever seen-- of course, she had seen very few waterfalls in person. Water fell serenely from a rocky ledge down into a sparkling pool. Bright green trees surrounded the area-- no bother that it was still January; things like this happened in the Dark Forest-- and Tabby instantly felt at peace there.

Tabby tossed her backpack aside and sat down on the gray rock rim of the pool and stared down at her reflection. At first she saw only the face of a pink unicorn with vibrant red hair-- she would have been deeply concerned if she had seen something else-- but after waiting a few moments, the image seemed to be marred by unnatural ripples in the water.

Tabby cocked her head as the ripples moved across the pond. It seemed like there had to be a living creature causing it-- but there was certainly nothing hidden in the crystalline water.

A haunting melody began to echo throughout the clearing. Tabby jumped up from her seat. This trip was getting quite mysterious. The strains of the song she could make out sounded somewhat like, "Va-por-eon, va-por-e-e-e-eon, va-por-eon..."

"What in the world?" Tabby exclaimed outloud in confusion.

"Die-die-die!" a different voice laughed from the direction of the rock ledge.

"Okay, what's going on here?" Tabby demanded, aiming her voice at the waterfall.

"Die-chu!" Suddenly, a fairly large orange mouse-like creature leaped down from out of a tree growing atop the ledge. It landed in front of Tabby. "Die!"

Following suit, another creature formed out of the water-- it was shaped somewhat like a dog, but was blue with aquatic fins on its face and back. "Vaporeon!" it declared.

"A Raichu and a Vaporeon!" Tabby exclaimed. Being a certified Pokèmon nurse, she didn't need a PokèDex to identify these two, an electric rodent and the evolved water-type of Eevee.

"Die," Raichu agreed, rummaging through Tabby's backpack which had been tossed aside.

"Vapor," the other Pokèmon mumbled from the depths of the backpack.

"Wait a second! Stop! Don't go in there!" Tabby shrieked, rushing to protect her possessions.

The two looked at her curiously as the pink unicorn shied away, clutching her backpack. "Poreon, poreon," Vaporeon laughed, holding a notebook in his jaws.

Tabby's eyes opened wide. "Give that back to me!" She jumped forward and grabbed it from the creature. "It's the story I'm writing," she added as a sidenote to the two.

"Die. Diechu," Raichu hopped over to Tabby's side as she seated herself again by the waterfall.

"It's about Atlantean Furbys," Tabby went on, somewhat subconsciously.

"Vapor," Vaporeon nodded knowledgeably.

"Rather fascinating, really," Tabby murmured, smoothing out the pages. "So far, Dah Doo-ay has managed to get caught in a swirling whirlpool of water while his sister is off on her first date with a handsome new Furby to the city."

"Die," Raichu said in approval.

"Vapor," Vaporeon agreed.

"And what's up with you guys, anyway?" Tabby snapped her notebook shut. "What was with that singing? Was it you, Vaporeon?"

Vaporeon nodded. "Vapor. Roreon. Va-vapor. Vapor-roeon," he elaborated, and continued to repeat his melody that Tabby had heard earlier.

"You've learned to sing your name to the tune of the Jigglypuff song!" Tabby said gleefully. "Clever, clever!"

"Vapor, vapor." The Vaporeon looked a bit downcast.

"But you can't put your adversaries to sleep with it, can you?" Tabby said sympathetically. "I suppose that's true, if I'm still awake."


"You could always find a Jigglypuff to teach you," Tabby suggested.

"Vapor-reon!" Vaporeon paused in thought.

"Die," Raichu reflected.

"And Raichu," Tabby said, turning to the other Pokèmon, "what is your obsession with death?"

"Die. Die-chu! Die!" Raichu explained.

"Va-vapor," Vaporeon added.

"Ah," Tabby nodded. "You have a lisp. It sounds rather intimidating, really."

The two Pokèmon lapsed into silence. Tabby took the opportunity to pick up her backpack, making sure that her writing and other miscellaneous supplies were still there. "Well, it's been fascinating chatting with you, but I really must be on my way." She turned to look once more over the waterfall before heading onto the trail. "Perhaps I'll stop by here again sometime."

Her gaze fixed itself on Vaporeon and Raichu for a moment longer. It certainly would be nice to catch them... but it didn't seem right for the two. They seemed happy in the wild; and they were so friendly, too. She just couldn't bring herself to battle Pokèmon like that. She shook her head and walked resolutely out into the forest.

Oblivious to Tabby, the two Pokèmon snickered quietly as they themselves ran into the woods, keeping themselves disguised in the underbrush. They followed along for several minutes before Tabby was aware of them, their laughs giving them away.

Tabby whirled around. "You're following me, aren't you?"

"Die-chu!" Raichu declared, coming out into the open.

"Reon," Vaporeon said in agreement.

"Why?" Tabby looked at them intently.

The two paused in thought. "Die..."


"Do you want to come with me?"

The Pokèmon looked at each other. "Die..."


"Now you're just repeating yourselves," Tabby said sharply.

"Diechu! Die!" Raichu said gleefully, running forward and leaping up on Tabby's back.

"Vaporeon." Vaporeon wrapped himself around Tabby's front legs.

"You do want to come with me?"



"Was that a yes, or a no?"

The two looked at her impatiently.

"You're impossible to figure out," Tabby fumed. "What do you want?"

Without replying, Vaporeon cleverly unzipped Tabby's backpack again and extracted one of her PokèBalls-- an empty one. Raichu hopped down and found one for himself. They stood, looking up at Tabby.

"Wow," Tabby breathed. "You really want to be caught?"

"Vapor-roreon, vapor, reon, vapor-vapor."

"Diechu, die-die, chu, diechu."

"Vaporeon wants singing lessons from my Jigglypuff," Tabby translated, "and Raichu just wants to come with you."

They nodded.

"Hey, how you'd know I have a Jigglypuff?" Tabby demanded.

Vaporeon sniffed out one of the other PokèBalls in the backpack and rolled it out-- the one that Tabby knew contained her Jigglypuff.

"You can really sniff out who's inside?" Tabby said in amazement.

"Diechu," Raichu nodded knowingly.

"Vaporeon." Vaporeon impatiently nudged one of the empty balls.

"Okay, if you're sure..." Tabby picked up the two empty PokèBalls and tossed one at Raichu and the other at Vaporeon. They both disappeared into their respective balls in a flash of red light.

"Hmm, not too bad of a trip in the Dark Forest," Tabby reflected as she gathered up her catches. She glanced back down the path which had led to the waterfall-- she hadn't gone too far, and the green trees should still have been visible-- but she could see nothing now. The trail now dead-ended where the clearing had been before, and it was now filled in with the regular, ominious trees of the Dark Forest.

Tabby shrugged and continued back home. The Dark Forest was not meant to be understood.


The Ghost of Box Five
Part Two
by Masquerade
This story was inspired by The Phantom of the Opera, written by Gaston Leroux

Windsong returned to the opera house after a two-day sick leave. Madam Moondancer had arranged for it, and Windsong had graciously accepted. Now she felt a bit fresher as she returned to her dressing room. She changed into her rehearsal clothes and thought about the last time she was in the room. This time there was no mysterious voice, so as she put on her pointed shoes, she decided to forget about the whole thing she had experienced earlier.

During the rehearsals, Windsong did better than she had in awhile and didn't have to feel embarrassed about anything. To her shock, one of the other dancers even told her that she was improving nicely.

"There, you see? I told you they'd come around," said young Moondancer.

"I really didn't think they would," Windsong said.

"Well, I'm right about a lot of things."

Windsong thought about what Moondancer said, and decided to keep the voice in her dressing room to herself.

"Oh, I forgot to tell you!" Moondancer continued, ignoring Windsong's silence. "I wish you had been here yesterday to see it!"

"What? See what?" Windsong asked.

"Coloratura nearly had a melt down. You should have seen her. She was in the middle of a big aria during the dress rehearsal, and a sand bag fell from the ceiling. It landed only a few feet away from her. She had a fit and went to her dressing room. She didn't stay there long, though."


"When she got there, there was a toad hopping around the room! I nearly died laughing."

"What happened after that?" Windsong asked.

"She yelled at the managers for awhile, and then said she was taking the rest of the week off. You know what I think?"

"What, Moondancer?"

"I think that the opera ghost is mad at her for some reason. I think it was him that played those tricks on her to scare her."

"Oh, stop it, Moondancer. You're getting carried away with this ghost business," Windsong said, who was scared a bit herself.

"Okay, but I think I'm right, though. You still don't believe me about him, do you? You should go ask my mother. She's seen him before, you know," Moondancer said.

Then it was back to rehearsals, so the two young mares put aside their discussions.

* * *
The next day, Windsong still hadn't heard anymore from the voice. She figured that in all her stress she really had just imagined the whole thing-- at least, that's what she believed until that evening.

The rehearsals had run late, as the opening night was only a week away. Windsong was exhausted when she arrived at her dressing room and plopped down onto her couch. She was so tired that she soon was fast asleep.

When she awoke, she found that everyone else had already left for the night. There was a fruit bowl in the room, so she decided to eat some of that and just stay at the opera house for the evening, since she didn't like walking alone in the dark.

After eating two apples, she sat again on the couch and was carefully brushing the tangles out of her mane. "Good evening, Windsong." It was the voice again! "Are you ready for your first singing lesson?"

So it was real! Windsong thought to herself. "Um, yes. I guess so," she answered.

"Good. I'd like you to, first of all, stand up. You'll have better voice control and posture. Now I'd like to hear you do your scales."

Windsong obeyed and did as she was told. When she finished, she heard a sigh. "Did I do something wrong?" she asked.

"Well, you're singing with your throat. You need the sound to come from deep inside you, from your diaphragm."

"How do you mean?" she asked.

"Oh, how shall I explain? Think of your lungs like toothpaste tubes. When you sing a note, squeeze all the air out of your lungs, like a toothpaste tube, as you sing. Don't hold the breath in your throat."

"Alright. I think I understand," Windsong said. The lesson continued and ended up lasting for two whole hours.

* * *
The next morning, Windsong was greeted by early morning sunshine streaming through her window. She stretched out on the sofa and thought again about the Angel of Music, as she referred to the voice now. He really did know a lot about music. She felt that he'd taught her more in one evening than Miss Medley had in a whole week! This is wonderful! she thought to herself as she got ready for the day's work ahead of her.

"Hi, Windsong! You certainly look cheerful today," greeted young Moondancer.

"Thanks. Well, today is dress rehearsal, so why wouldn't I be cheerful? A few weeks ago, I thought I wasn't going to make it this far."

"There, you see! I told you it would work out," Moondancer said.

"Places everyone, places!" said director Monsieur Concerto. "For today's dress rehearsal, we will be using La Coloratura's understudy, Meadowlark."

Windsong took her place in the ballet chorus and waited for her cue. When she saw it, she sprang into her dance and did it with almost no mistakes. When it was time for lunch break, she was pleased with herself.

During lunch, she noticed Madame Moondancer sitting by herself in the theater. "Madame Moondancer, may I ask you a question?" she spoke-up.

"Certainly, child. What is it?"

"Well, your daughter told me about some ghost that is supposed to be haunting the theater. She said that you had actually seen it before. Is this true?"

"Moondancer tends to talk too much at times."

"Then there is no ghost?" Windsong asked anxiously.

The look on Madam Moondancer's face grew serious. "If you must know, yes, there is. But no, I haven't actually seen him. I don't normally speak about him. He doesn't like ponies gossiping about him," she said sternly.

"Oh, you can't tell me anything, then?" Windsong said.

Madam Moondancer thought for a moment. "Well, I suppose he wouldn't mind a bit. As I said, I haven't seen him. I have had contact, though. You see, I take care of opera box five. Box five has always been kept empty, as the ghost demands that it be left for him. No one ever sees him there, but he does indeed go there."

"How do you know?" Windsong asked.

"After the show, I check it; and there is sometimes an envelope there for me to deliver to the managers. Also, when the managers pay him his salary, I'm the one who puts the money in his opera box before the show," Madam Moondancer said.

"Are you ever scared?" Windsong asked.

"I'm cautious, but have never been scared of him. So far, he's always been good to me. He often leaves a rose or some other small gift. I believe that as long as nothing is done to anger him, he'll be kind. There, I have said enough," Madam Moondancer said with a sigh.

"Oh, thank you very much. I just wanted to know if it was real or not," Windsong said. Then she thanked Madam Moondancer again and went to get some lunch.

* * *
The next weeks flew by for Windsong. The show she'd been working so hard on came and went and was successful. She danced all her parts and didn't mess up, except for one small incident.

The thing she liked best, though, were her lessons with her Angel of Music. He came to her almost every night in her dressing room to teach her; and her voice was improving wonderfully. The fact that she couldn't see him sometimes bothered Windsong, though, especially at first. She'd gotten more used to it by now, but she still longed to see what he looked like. To have a voice like he did, he must be beautiful, she thought.

One day, Windsong came to her dressing room and saw a book on top of her boudoir. She picked it up, and found that it was the script for an opera called Happy Endings. She looked through it and waited for her lessons to begin. Perhaps the Angel of Music would tell her what this was about.

When he came, he told her that the opera house was going to be doing Happy Endings as its next show. He wanted her to study the lead female role, Starlight.

"Why? I'm not a singer at the opera; I'm a dancer," Windsong said.

"Don't ask questions. This is a good piece for you to learn. Someday, you will be on stage for real. The part of Starlight will be good practice for your acting skills as well as singing. Shall we begin then?" asked the Voice.

"Yes. As you wish," Windsong said.

Each night, Windsong would do more and more from the script with the Voice coaching her all along the way. This kept up right until three days before the opening night. That day, Windsong got a shock when the Voice came for her lesson. "My dear, I must tell you that you've done very well. I tell you the truth; you could actually go on stage and play the role for real," he said.

Windsong blushed at the complement. "Oh, I don't think I'm quite that good. Anyway, Coloratura would never back out of the lead role. Even if she did, I'm sure she has an understudy."

"Perhaps, but you never know what unforeseen occurrences could come about before curtain call." With that, he left her for the night and Windsong spent the rest of the evening wondering about what he'd said. The Voice had always praised her voice, but this was the first time he'd said she was good enough for the stage.

* * *
The following day, there was a dress rehearsal. Coloratura was there, strutting her stuff all across the stage. Windsong did have to admit though that Coloratura was a good singer; she just overacted too much and was way too bossy.

Everything was going fine during the rehearsal, right up until lunch time. Then things changed when Coloratura's assistant came in all frantic. "What's wrong?" asked Monsieur Concerto.

"It's La Coloratura! She's lost her voice," said the assistant.

Then Coloratura came bursting in, her eyes filled with tears. She kept pointing to her throat and could only speak in a tiny hoarse voice. "I can't sing!" she said in a tiny shriek. "I had lunch and then my voice was gone," she whispered.

"This is terrible!" the stage manager, Blackberry, said. "What about her understudy?" he asked the director.

Monsieur Concerto looked down at the floor. "Miss Meadowlark took ill two days ago with laryngitis as well. She has no voice, either. The show will have to be canceled. What a disaster this has turned out to be. All the seats have been sold; now we have to refund all the tickets," he said.

On that sad note, the rehearsals came to an end and everyone sadly went home, including Windsong. She'd been looking forward to the show and had even landed a small singing part in the chorus. It was a very small singing part, but she was still thrilled. Now none of that would happen.

* * *
The next day, Windsong was awaken by a hard knock at the door. She quickly got out of bed and went to see who was there. She opened the door and saw that it was a messenger from the opera house. "Miss Windsong?" the messenger asked.

"Yes, that's me."

"The opera managers would like you to come to the opera immediately."

"But it's six o'clock in the morning!" Windsong protested.

"I'm sorry, but they demanded that you come right away. They said it was very urgent."

"Alright, go back and tell them I'll be there within the hour."

After that, Windsong went back upstairs to get ready. Why did they want her to come so badly? Was she in trouble? She was almost scared to go and find out. If they were upset with her, she didn't want to make things worse, though; so she quickly got ready and went.

On arrival, she was brought to the stage where the managers and the director were waiting for her. Blackberry looked her over carefully; and she noticed he was holding a letter in his hoof. "Miss Windsong, it has come to our attention that you know the entire role of Starlight and are capable of taking this role on. We have been told that you were taking voice lessons," he said.

Windsong grew wide-eyed. How did they know that? She hadn't told anyone-- not even young Moondancer-- about her lessons.

"If you would then, Windsong, we'd like you to audition for us for this role," said Concerto the director.

"Me? Now?" said Windsong.

Concerto nodded and told her what song he wanted her to audition with. Then everyone left her alone on the stage to show them what she'd learned. The piano started and Windsong was afraid, but bravely started to sing. The first few notes sounded a bit sour, but after that she relaxed as she continued to sing.

At the end of the song, it was Blackberry and Concerto who were now wide-eyed. They spoke a few words to each other and then Concerto approached her on stage. "Windsong, would you like to take on the role of Starlight on opening night?" he questioned.

"But that's tomorrow!" Windsong blurted out.

"I know, but we're really in a tight spot right now. Can you at least try?" Concerto asked.

"Yes. I'll try," Windsong answered.

"Wonderful!" said Blackberry. "Maybe we won't have to give refunds after all."

After that, Windsong was whisked off to the costume room. Coloratura's costumes would have to be altered so that they would fit Windsong. By the time the day was over, she was totally exhausted, and she was still in shock over what had happened that day. She hoped that the Voice would come to her soon so that she could perhaps find out about it all.

When she arrived at her room, he was indeed waiting and called out to her as soon as she came in. "How was your day, my dear?" he asked.

"How was my day? Well, I'm going to be playing Starlight on opening night tomorrow," Windsong said.

"Wonderful! Now, how did this all come about?" the Voice asked.

"I'm not totally sure, but I think you probably know more about this than me," Windsong said a bit sarcastically. "You did something to Coloratura and Meadowlark, didn't you?"

"What makes you say that, my dear?"

"You've had me practicing Happy Endings all this time. You said I was good enough to play the lead for real. The next thing I know, Coloratura and Meadowlark are both sick," Windsong said in a troubled tone.

"It was the only way," was the Voice's simple answer.

"What?" Windsong asked.

"As long as Coloratura was in the picture, you would never get a chance to play the parts you deserve. I was left with no choice," he said calmly.

"No choice? That's silly. I know you care about my career, but what about Coloratura's and Meadowlark's?" said Windsong.

"Don't worry; they'll be fine. They just ate something with a powder in it that affects the voice box. A good week of rest and they'll be back to normal. Anyhow, the deed is done and you must sing," the Voice said.

Windsong knew he was right. She'd promised the managers that she would go on instead; otherwise the show would have to close. She thought about it and sighed. "Can you help me? Is there anything I need to work on before tomorrow night?" she asked.

The Voice told her there were a few things to improve on; and, despite the fact that she was tired, Windsong practiced for the next two hours. At the end of her lessons for the night, the Voice told her, "Don't worry about tomorrow night. You'll be wonderful. And I'll be there the entire time."

"Thank you," Windsong said.

* * *
Opening night was a mass of confusion and excitement. There were giggling ballet girls running around back stage, and all kinds of colorful props being set up. Windsong walked around in full costume trying to get used to the feeling of the wig and dress.

Young Moondancer came around to encourage her friend. "Don't worry! You'll do fine! I told you you had a wonderful voice. Everyone will love you out there in the audience."

"I hope you're right, Moondancer."

"Haven't I always been right before?" Moondancer said. Then came the final call and everyone had to take their places.

When Windsong finally took to the stage, she was absolutely terrified. She kept thinking she'd forget a line or trip on the long dress she was wearing. She made a few mistakes on some of the words and caught a severe look from Blackberry who was sitting in the front row. Nearly panicking, she thought of the Angel of Music, smiled, and from there on she forgot her fears for the rest of the opera.

At the end of the last act, she received a standing ovation and dozens of beautiful bouquets. There were so many, in fact, that she couldn't carry them all herself. She bowed to the audience a number of times and watched them all as they clapped. It was wonderful.

As soon as the curtain went down, all the cast and crew swarmed around Windsong to congratulate her, even the ballet girls who usually snubbed her. "Beautiful! Beautiful!" said Monsieur Concerto. "My dear Windsong, you have quite a talent."

"Thank you, sir," Windsong answered.

"Yes, Windsong. I knew you could sing, but you were a hundred times more amazing than I thought you were," said young Moondancer excitedly.

"Yes, you did extremely well. ‘He' will be very pleased with you, Windsong," said Madam Moondancer.

"What do you mean, ‘he'?" Windsong asked. She never got her question answered, however, because a very excited Blackberry came rushing in. "Bravo, my dear! Bravo! Here, I have someone with me who would like to meet you. He's our premiere patron to the opera, Prince Blizzard."

All the ballet girls gushed at the sight of the handsome prince. He was an all white stallion with brilliant blue eyes. "It's an honor to meet you, your highness," Windsong said shyly as she bowed to him.

"Ah, the pleasure is all mine! I enjoyed your performance very much tonight. Your voice is one of the best I've ever heard."

"Thank you very much, sir," Windsong said. With that, everyone else seemed to suddenly have somewhere else to be and left the two ponies alone to talk.

"Miss Windsong, I would like to ask if you'd like to accompany me to a late dinner tonight," said Prince Blizzard.

Not daring to say no to a prince, Windsong said yes. Then the prince left her to get ready and told her he'd meet her in half an hour.

Windsong hurried to her dressing room where there were costume ponies waiting to help her out of her opera wardrobe. As soon as they left, young Moondancer came in to visit her friend. "Wow! You got to meet the prince!" she beamed.

"Yes, I can hardly believe that all this is really happening. It's all so much," Windsong said as she got ready for her meal with the prince.

"So, what do you think of him?" Moondancer asked.

"Think of him? I only spoke to him for five minutes. That's not really long enough to get to know someone."

"I know. And I know he's really cute and really rich!" Moondancer continued.

"Money isn't everything," Windsong said. She looked over at her clock and yelped. "Oh no! I'm late!"

"Late for what?" Moondancer asked as she chased after Windsong, who suddenly flew out the door.

"I'm going to dinner with the prince," Windsong shouted back.

"Windsong! You never said anything to me about that!" Moondancer protested.

"Sorry, no time to chat now, Moondancer. I don't want to make him wait," Windsong called to her friend as she exited the opera house.

Once outside, she looked around for Prince Blizzard and saw him waiting beside a beautiful royal carriage. He smiled when he saw her coming towards him and introduced her to his two carriage ponies. They came around and assisted the prince and Windsong in getting inside; and then they went around to the front of the carriage, hitched themselves to the harnesses, and started pulling them to the restaurant.

It was a very short drive to the establishment and they were soon seated in a very posh dining room in the very expensive dining place. Windsong sat in silence for about five minutes in total awe of everything. "Are you feeling alright, Windsong?" the prince asked.

"Oh, yes, your highness. I guess I'm just a little nervous around royalty and all."

"Please, don't be. And you don't have to refer to me as ‘your highness'. You may call me Blizzard."

"Yes, your highness... I mean Blizzard," Windsong said.

A waiter brought them menus and filled their glasses with sparkling grape juice. Windsong was quiet again as she studied her menu. Then she looked up and noticed the prince staring at her. "Is something wrong?" she asked. She thought maybe she had something smudged on her face or something like that.

Prince Blizzard smiled and sighed. "You really don't remember me. Do you?"

"Remember you? From where?" Windsong asked in a puzzled voice.

"It was quite awhile ago, actually. You were just a young filly and I was only a year older than you. Your father came to teach my sisters the violin at the summer palace in Rose Valley. You and I used to play hide-and-seek in the royal gardens."

Windsong sat trying to remember things as he continued to speak.

"The last time I saw you, we were at the seaside and you were crying because your red silk scarf had blown into the sea. I wanted to be the young hero and swam after it. I nearly drowned myself, but I did get your scarf. My parents weren't too happy with me, but you were thrilled to have your scarf back."

Windsong smiled as it all came back to her. "Yes, I remember now. You mean you were Little Flurry?" she asked.

Blizzard blushed. "I didn't think anyone remembered that nickname; but, yes, that was me."

"I still have that scarf, you know. I kept it safe in a jewelry box ever since that day. It had been a gift from my mother not long before she'd died. I felt terrible when it blew into the water," Windsong told him.

"After your father finished my sisters' violin lessons, I never thought I'd see you again. Then when I was looking through the opera program tonight, I saw your name listed as the lead female. I wasn't sure if you were the same Windsong at first. Once I saw you up close after the show, though, I knew it was you!" Prince Blizzard finished.

Now that Windsong had rediscovered her old friend, she wasn't so shy and they now chatted with each other during the rest of their supper together. They both had a wonderful time and afterwards, Prince Blizzard dropped Windsong off at her home so she could get a good nights rest.


The Continuation of the Beginning
Chapter Three
by Barnacle

Malteeze flew through the corridors with great speed, pausing only momentarily at each intersection so as to get his bearings. Barnacle hurried along, staying close behind their guide, with his sword drawn, ready for any trouble which might present itself. Directly behind him followed the other members of the group-- Protius, the parrot shaman; and Davey and Jones, the Bushwoolie sailors. Fortunately, Kracken, Barnacle's first mate, took up the rear and made sure no one fell behind from the furious pace.

Suddenly, Malteeze rounded a corner and stopped dead in his tracks. Even though he motioned for the others to do the same, no one stopped in time and everyone collided with the person in front of him. If it were not for his cat-like reflexes, Malteeze surely would have been sent toppling to the floor. As it was, he meerly stumbled into a wall.

"Careful," he warned. "This is the gateway. It's heavily guarded."

Barnacle crept forward and peered around the corner. On the other side was a huge chamber with a vaulted ceiling-- easily four stories high-- held aloft by gracefully rounded arches. Every surface of the room was detailed with intricate bas-relief carvings in much the same way the caverns outside the city were covered with crystals.

One end of this wonderous chamber was filled with a packed crowd of creatures. Short and stout in stature, and looking to be made of stone, they were all no taller than a Bushwoolie. In fact, they resembled Bushwoolies in a great number of ways.

"Bouldiers," Malteeze whispered. "Rosweld uses them as slaves."

"ARR," Barnacle muttered in reply.

Surrounding the crowd was a two-man-deep rank of soldiers wielding spears and halberds. Their armor was similar to Malteeze's and their very appearance as well. At the head of the gathering was a table hewn of stone on which was standing another of the felines. This one, however, was a good deal larger than the others and his fur was a darker shade of grey. His armor was polished so finely it shone like a mirror and at his side hung a very large sword.

"ARR, who be that?" Barnacle asked.

"Rosweld," Malteeze replied. It was possible that the slightest bit of anger flashed across his face as he spoke the warlord's name, but Barnacle couldn't tell for sure.

"Wow," Kracken said as he pushed his way forward and took his first view of the place. "So where's the gateway?"

"There." Malteeze pointed to the other side of the chamber where a stone archway nearly thirty feet high stood. The only thing between them and it was the crowd of Bouldiers, the armed guards, and the warlord.

"ARR," Barnacle said, making it a curse. "Is there no other way?"

Malteeze glanced around the chamber. "No, every other way looks just as bad, if not worse."

"Captain Barnacle," Protius suddenly spoke-up, "I might have a suggestion."

"ARR, what is it?"

"The scepter of the Bouldiers," Protius explained. "Whoever holds it is the unquestioned ruler of the Bouldiers. If we had it, Rosweld wouldn't be able to control them. We might even be able to convince them to help us."

"ARR, a fine plan ya be havin'," Barnacle agreed, "but where is this scepter?"

"At the far end of the chamber," Malteeze said, pointing to the end opposite where the crowd was gathered.

"Why doesn't Rosweld have it?" Kracken asked, but quickly added, "Not that I want him to have it..."

"He's toying with them," Protius observed and tried in vain to suppress a shutter. "Rosweld loves to do that. Unfortunately, I speak from experience."

"Yes," Matleeze said. "Why else would he have the guards?"

"I don't like this guy," Kracken said as he nervously shifted the grip on his sword.

"ARR," Barnacle said in thought. "Alright, here's what we'll be doin'. Protius, Davey, and Jones will grab the scepter while the rest o' us be keeping the guards busy."

"Oh great," Kracken said. "We only have to fight, what, twenty-five to thirty of them?"

"I count forty," Protius said helpfully.

Kracken sighed. "Maybe we should rethink this plan..."

But before anyone could reply, Malteeze cried out and threw his staff like a spear right at Kracken! Kracken managed to duck at the last instant but still heard a cry of pain from behind him. Everyone turned and saw that Malteeze's staff had taken out the first of a group of guards which had somehow snuck up on them from down the passage.

"ARR, Kracken, yee were supposed to be watchin' our back!"

"No time for blame," Malteeze said with infinite calm as he lept headlong into the advancing guards and retrieved his staff. "Move! I'll hold off these here."

Barnacle turned back to the chamber and, with a slight bit of horror, saw that the forty or so guards were coming at them with Rosweld in the center. "Protius, get the staff!" Barnacle ordered. "Kracken, you're with me!" With that, Barnacle charged forward, his sword held aloft.

"Aye-aye," Kracken replied meekly and followed his captain. The clashing of steel on steel suddenly rang throughout the chamber as Kracken and Barnacle met the advancing guards. With flashing swords and all of their skill, the two pirates could just barely hold their own, let alone take any ground. Lesser men surely would not have held out, but these did just the opposite.

On the other side of the chamber, Protius ran as fast as he could for the raised dias which held the scepter. Close behind him were Davey and Jones who only managed to keep up because some of the guards had peeled off after them. Bounding up the steps, leaving a trail of feathers in his wake, Protius reached out and, just as his wings wrapped around the gold and jewel-encrusted scepter, one of the guards slammed into his back. To his credit, Davey had managed to stop the guard by rolling into a ball and tripping his feet; but, the sentry still fell right on top of Protius. The scepter went sliding straight across the polished floor to stop right at the feet of another feline soldier. This time, however, Jones lunged forward and dove for it. He managed to get his hands around the shaft a split second before the guard. But, that did little good when the guard lifted scepter and Bushwoolie both off the ground.

As he flailed the scepter about in an effort to get Jones to let go, Protius came fluttering in from above to land in the feline's face while Davey tackled his legs. All four of them went down in a pile.

Meanwhile, Barnacle and Kracken were still holding their own against the guards. But, Malteeze, who was fighting in the side passage, could not be seen. "Stop!" a raspy voice commanded above the din of battle. Every last solder obediently ceased their assault and kept the two pirates at weapons-length as Rosweld strode forward.

Towering about everyone in the room in his brilliantly gleaming armor, and with his hand resting on the hilt of his sword, the warlord made a truly imposing figure. "You two fight very well," Roswell said as an evil smile crossed his lips, "against my men, anyway." His thick fingers drummed against the scabbard of his sword. "Why don't you see how you do against me?"

In a single fluid motion, Roswell's sword was out of its scabbard and arcing through the air at Kracken. Kracken quickly brought his own sword up and with both hands on the grip deflected the powerful blow. Seeking to take advantage of this opening, Barnacle lept forwrad, his cutlass slicing a path through the air. But Rosweld easily sidestepped the attack and smashed Barnacle's blade away. The force of the impact was so great that it actually sent Barnacle stumbling backwards. Fortunately, before the warlord could continue his attack, Kracken charged forward, ramming his shoulder into the small of Roswell's back. The thick armor he wore, though, probably did more damage to Kracken than to the warlord, who merely stumbled to the side and parried two more attacks.

As this fight continued, all the guards formed a ring around the combatants but none moved to help their lord. They knew that to interfere in Rosweld's games was to risk a fate worse than death. The crowd of Bouldiers, meanwhile, split into two groups. One formed around the guards to watch the pirates fight the tyrant ruler, while the others gathered around Protius and the Bushwoolies who were still wrestling with the guards over the scepter.

All of a sudden, Protius rose up out of the pile holding the artifact aloft. "I've got it!" he cried. But a split second later, the other guard rammed him from behind. Again the scepter slipped out of his grasp, but this time it went sailing high into the air. It seemed to fall to the ground as if in slow motion, spinning end over end until the jeweled bulb came down against the rock floor... in an ear-splitting crash, the scepter shattered into thousands of tiny pieces which went sliding all over the floor in a starburst pattern. Everyone-- including Roswell, Barnacle, and Kracken-- stopped what they were doing and were silent.

"Whoopsie..." Protius muttered in a barely audilbe peep which still managed to carry throught the entire chamber.

One of the Bouldiers stepped forward and fell to his knees where the scepter had broken. "Whoever hold scepter is ruler," he said, "but, now there no scepter, so who rule?"

Protius managed to free himself from the pile in which he was entangled and walked up to the Bouldier. "Now, this is just a suggestion," Protius said, "but perhaps you could rule yourselves."

"Rule ourselves?" the Bouldier said, turning to his fellow Bouldiers dumbfoundedly. "What do we do if we rule?"

"Whatever you want," Protius replied.

Slowly, turning back to Protius, a smile spread across the Bouldier's face. "If we rule... then I say... we get rid of him!" The Bouldier shot out a finger pointing right at Rosweld and all of the Bouldiers let out a cry as they moved as one and swarmed over the guards to get at Rosweld. Though the guards were trained soldiers and the Bouldiers no more than craftsmen and artists, sheer number won out as the peasants pushed back the warriers.

"NO!!" Roswell bellowed.

"I'm thinking, yes," Kracken said smugly as he squared off with the warlord.

"Aye," Barnacle agreed as he held his sword at the ready next to Kracken.

Rosweld's eyes flashed from one to the other and then back again. Taking a step back, he bellowed at the top of his lungs, "Fall back!" Then, pointing menacingly at Barnacle and bearing his fangs, he said, "This isn't over, pirate."

"ARR, I hope not," Barnacle replied.

With that, Rosweld and all his troups turned and ran through the gateway into the damp caves beyond, never again to return to Bouldier City. As the last of the felines fled through the gateway, a great cheer rose from the Bouldiers and they closed in on the pirates to thank them for their help.

"Wait a second," Kracken cried. "Where's Malteeze?"

"I am here," Malteeze replied as he emerged from the side passage looking quite winded.

"Where were you?" Kracken asked, happy to see their friend but a little upset at the same time. "We could have used your help out here!"

Taking a moment to catch his breath, Malteeze leaned on his staff and nodded at the passageway through which he had emerged. "There you will find fifty or so reinforcements who did not make it to your fight."

"Fifty?" Kracken said, shocked.

"Or so," Malteeze clairified. "All now, unconscious."

"ARR," Barnacle said as he sheathed his sword. "Good work."

"No, not really," Malteeze said shaking his head. "Once again, I've broken from my path. Can I go nowhere without fighting?"

Davey and Jones, with Protius held between them, stumbled over to the other three. Flapping down on the floor to catch his breath, Protius said, "Malteeze, when you can travel the whole world over and then see no fighting, perhaps everyone will have achieved enlightenment. Until then, we do what we must to find enlightenment for ourselves and those whom we meet."

Sighing deeply, Malteeze replied with a weary, "Yes, master."

"No look so sad," the Bouldier said as he again stepped forward. "Now time for party! We have freedom again! We have heroes to celebrate!" he said, putting his arms around Barnacle's and Kracken's legs.

"I think I could use a break," Kracken said.

"ARR," Barnacle agreed. "ARR."


The Story of the Royal Twins
by Tabby and Sugarberry

"Hello, everyone," Tiffany said extra-cheerfully as she arrived at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe one night.

"Hey, Tiff." "Welcome." "Oh, Tiffany, hi." "Have a seat," the chorus of replies came.

"It's so exciting, isn't it?" Tiffany squealed.

"What is?" Clever Clover cocked his eye.

"Oh, nothing. The world is just so wonderful, and I'm here with my friends, and it's so exciting," Tiffany said brightly.

"Ah, yes, of course," Tabby nodded.

"Well, um, how was your day, Tiffany?" Sugarberry asked.

"Just a regular, ordinary day," Tiffany said in a sing-song voice. "Nothing much. Nothing much at all."

"You know something we don't, Tiffany," Clever Clover accused. "You never act this friendly."

"Yeah, yeah," Friendly nodded, swerving his attention over to Tiffany.

"I just said it was a wonderful day," Tiffany said innocently. "And-- oh-- it's so exciting!"

"Tiffany, stop blathering like that, and tell us what you're so excited over," Tabby said sharply. "You just keep repeating yourself."

"Well, I guess there is something," Tiffany finally admitted. "But I promised not to say anything."

"If you're going to be like this all night, you might as well just go home," Tabby suggested.

"Who did you promise not to tell?" Sugarberry asked curiously.

"Toby," Tiffany revealed.

"Toby? Then it must have something to do with the hospital," Clever Clover mused. "If you can't tell us, Tiffany, can we guess?"

"He didn't say anything about guessing..." Tiffany sat up straight. "Okay!"

"Is the hospital getting a new expansion?" Clever Clover queried.

"No, no!" Tiffany shook her head.

"Someone... got sick?" Sugarberry asked timidly.

"No!" Tiffany said impatiently. "Wrong! Wrong!"

"They're going to start caring for Furbys?" Tabby asked, wide-eyed.

"No!" Tiffany glanced witheringly at Tabby.

"The hospital... the hospital... what else happens at a hospital..." Clever Clover said thoughtfully. "Someone got better?"

"Wrong!" Tiffany blustered. "I mean, somebody did-- but, oh, you've got to do better than this!"

Just then, a gurgling Baby Dangles entered the shop along with her parents. "Look over there," Tiffany urged pointing at the family.

"There's Sprinkles, Walnut Sprigs, and Dangles..." Sugarberry trailed off. "Oh!" she gasped. "Someone had a baby!"

"Better than that," Tiffany said triumphantly.

"A Furby, then?" Tabby suggested.

"Twins?" Sugarberry squealed.

"That's right!" Tiffany said excitedly. "But there's something special about them--"

"Whose are they?" Sugarberry asked, cutting off Tiffany's statement.

"Springtime and Melonball's," Tiffany replied. "But--"

"Are they both girls or boys?" Sugarberry prodded.

"Neither," Tiffany said.

"Neither?" Sugarberry echoed. "If they're not two girls, and not two boys, then... a boy and a girl?!"

"YES!!" Tiffany shrieked from the excitement.

"That's nice and all, but it's not like you to take such an interest in new baby ponies," Clever Clover remarked. "The way you're acting, you'd think a princess had been born."

"But one has!" Tiffany prompted. "That's what I've been trying to--"

"Royalty?" Sugarberry gasped. "The twins are royalty?"

"Exactly!" Tiffany said, nearly jumping up and down. "Royal twins!"

"Does that mean..." Sugarberry breathed, "...that Dream Valley finally has its own prince?"

"And a new princess," Tiffany reminded. "But, yes! A princess and prince!"

It was at that moment that Tiffany was aware of someone standing behind her. "Tiffany," came Toby's stern voice, "I told you that the news about this couldn't be released until tomorrow."

"Well... yes... I know," Tiffany said meekly, putting on a sorrowful and regretful face. "But I just couldn't help myself. It was too exciting." She added a few eyelash bats.

Toby's expression softened. "I guess that's true. It is an exciting occurance."

"A prince. A real live prince," Sugarberry sighed blissfully.

"Don't forget the princess," Tiffany reprimanded. "They're twins, you know."

"Of course," Sugarberry said giddily. "What do they look like?"

"Do they have sparkle in their hair? And medallion symbols?" Tamara asked anxiously.

"Obviously," Tiffany said with an air of intelligence. "They have to."

"Oh, I knew that." Tamara sunk back in her seat.

"The girl," Tiffany continued, "is pastel blue with pale yellow hair and has a rose-shaped medallion. Oh, that medallion!" She paused to sigh in rapture.

"And the boy," Toby continued, "is blue with yellow hair."

"And a leaf-shaped medallion," Tiffany added quickly.

"Cute, yeah, yeah," Friendly spoke-up. "They get Bushwoolies, too?"

"Oh, yes, definitely," Tiffany planned. "We'll have to select two of them from the Bushwoolie nursery, and--"

"You're not in complete charge of this, you know," Toby reminded. "Springtime and Melonball will have some say in this matter."

Thomas finally broke through the confused babble that followed. "If Springtime and Melonball aren't royalty, then how can their offspring be?"

"Because they have sparkly hair and raised medallion symbols, and they were simply meant to be royalty, the cute little things," Tiffany said giddily.

"Exactly," Tamara nodded firmly. "That's just what I would have said."

"Let's see... how does that go..." Sugarberry paused in thought.

"I believe I can elaborate," Tabby said promptly, sitting up erect. "Now, let me think for a second..."

"Yep, it's that simple," Spike snickered. "Even I remember--"

Tabby shot the dragon a silencing glance, and continued. "Whenever any pony in Dream Valley is born having both sparkly hair and a raised medallion symbol, it is taken as a sign that they were destined for great things. Therefore, they are automatically declared royalty, regardless of their parents' status in life.

"Due to this, the Royal Paradise supplies the money for the royalty's bringing-up, and when they come of age, they move into the Royal Paradise and reside there as a princess; and therefore they have a shot at becoming queen someday.

"The queen of Dream Valley rules over the territory until her death; and upon this occasion, a vote is held between the princesses to determine who the next ruler will be. And, since the phenomena of having sparkly hair and a medallion symbol only occurs with females, Dream Valley has only ever had to worry about princesses and queens.

"However, in the case that a princess of queen of Dream Valley should marry, they--"

"I think we get the picture," Clever Clover cut her off.

"How'd you get to know so much about the royalty of Dream Valley?" Tamara eyed her cousin.

"Oh, my mom had that drilled into my head by the time I was three," Tabby said nonchalantly.

"Whatever the case, I think it's simply wonderful to have a new princess," Tiffany sighed blissfully.

"And prince, yeah," Friendly said. "Fun, yeah."

And so the evening went on. The story of the new royalty in Dream Valley quickly spread around the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe, and the entire building was buzzing with voices. The commotion only started dying down late in the night.

* * *
The news of the royal twins had spread all across Dream Valley by the next morning, and everyone was pleased over the double birth; and the citizens were especially excited about the rare birth of a prince.

Sugarberry made a point of dragging Tabby to the hospital maternity ward to view the newborn foals. A festive atmosphere hung over the entire complex; it seemed as if all of Dream Valley had come to celebrate. The two actually had to wait in line to see the twins through the viewing window.

"Aww, Tabby, aren't they the sweetest little things," cooed Sugarberry as their turn finally arrived. Both foals were sound asleep; the prince lay on his tummy, his little rump proudly bearing the silver medallion. "Look at the sparkly hair on the little fellow!"

"It looks gaudy," Tabby contradicted.

The newborn princess rolled over and yawned at the same time. "Did you see that, Tabby? She yawned! Wasn't that cute?"

Sugarberry's eyes sparkled with delight over the foals, but she and Tabby were soon directed on into the lobby to allow more ponies the chance to get a look at the prince and princess.

There, Princess Dawn, Princess Tiffany, and several of the other princesses were swarming around, vibrantly discussing plans for the newest royalty of Dream Valley. "Isn't that petite little princess a work of art?" Dawn breathed.

"Both foals are beautiful!" agreed Sugarberry.

"That little girl will grow up to be a charming and intelligent princess; I just know it," Dawn trilled.

Tabby cocked her head. "You haven't forgotten the prince, have you?"

Tiffany waved her hoof through the air as if that was of no consequence. "Oh, yes, him. He's nice, I suppose. I don't know what we'll do with him."

"Tiffany, what are you saying? You're not against the prince, are you?" Sugarberry argued.

"I would think you princesses would be most excited over the prince," Tabby pointed out.

Snuzzle, who was volunteering at the hospital to help handle the crowds, overheard the ongoing conversation. "Isn't this a grand event?" she said. "We have reason to celebrate with the arrival of a prince for the very first time in the history of Dream Valley.

"But the little princess is the true royalty," Dawn cooed.

"Besides, the other princesses and I discussed it yesterday, and we have reason to believe that the so-called prince is not true royalty," Tiffany said primly.

Sugarberry disagreed. "A prince will add a new dimension to the royalty of Dream Valley."

"Not to mention a cute stallion at the Royal Paradise in a few years," Tabby smirked.

"What was that? What about a cute stallion?" Tiffany had lost track of the conversation for awhile, admiring herself in a mirror on the wall.

Snuzzle laughed. "He's a bit too young for you, Tiffany. But the little prince will certainly look up to you for training when he gets a few years on him!"

"Oh, the prince again. I still don't think he has a claim to the role," Tiffany disclosed.

"What are you saying, Tiffany?" puzzled Sugarberry. "Of course he's a prince-- he has--"

Tiffany cut her short. "There is no precedent that a male foal would be covered in the designation of royalty."

"That's right," assented Dawn. "I think Tiffany's right. There have been nothing but princesses before; we have no need, or desire, of a prince in our court."

Princess Royal Blue made an appearance out of the crowd. "Tiffany, Dawn, have you heard if a name has been decided on yet?"

"A name? Wouldn't you need two?" Tabby pondered.

Royal Blue sniffed. "It's the princess' name I was referring to. She frowned at Tabby, then turned to Tiffany and Dawn. "We are going to use the one I discussed last night, aren't we?"

"You're the one that wanted ‘Adalia', right?" Dawn frowned. "I think ‘Daria' would be much nicer."

"What about ‘Alida'?" Tiffany argued.

"It's too close to ‘Adalia'," Royal Blue snapped.

"Excuse me," interrupted Snuzzle, "but I've heard that the parents have already named them."

"What?" exclaimed an indignant Royal Blue. "They have no right! That's what we're here to discuss with them!"

Sugarberry rolled her eyes. "They're her parents! Of course they have the right to name their own children!"

"It's not the place of a peasant to decide matters of state," Tiffany declared.

Siding with Sugarberry, Snuzzle reprimanded Princess Dawn. "The parents may be ‘peasants', as you call them, but they do have a parent's rights over their foals until they come of age."

"Pray tell," asked Tiffany, "what names have the parents chosen?" Her graceful wings fanned the air.

"They settled on the traditional family names-- Baby Melonball and Baby Springtime," informed the helpful Snuzzle, who knew immediately that the princesses were not happy with the choice.

"That will simply not do!" Tiffany fumed. "They should have known to wait for us before announcing such treason." Royal Blue and Dawn were also quite vocal in their assent.

"Unfortunately, I must agree with the princesses on this one," Tabby yawned. "They could have picked something with more originality."

A crowd had gathered around the scene of dissension, and several ponies were angrily admonishing the princesses to leave the foals in peace.

Coming on the quarrel late, Princess Misty listened to the controversy for several minutes before offering her input. "Perhaps we had better go discuss this with the parents instead of standing around arguing longer," she suggested. "That is what we came here to do." She held a piece of paper in her hoof. "I have the notes we took last night at our discussion."

"I don't think this is a good time for you four to go bursting in on Springtime and Melonball with your conceited plans," stated Sugarberry, scowling at them each in turn.

"Yes," agreed someone in the group. "These foals don't belong to you."

Raising her voice, Princess Royal Blue retorted, "That's where you're wrong! The newborn princess is rightfully our concern!"

"And what of the prince?" wondered Minty from the sidelines.

"The prince is of no concern to us," declared Princess Misty. "Only a princess is eligible to rule in Dream Valley."

At this point, Toby, searching out Tiffany, came across the gathering. "Is there a problem here?" his authoritative voice cut through the tension.

Tiffany hurried to Toby's side. "We princesses must speak to Melonball and Springtime to advise them on the rights we hold over their little princess." She unconsciously batted her eyelashes to punctuate her plea.

Toby frowned and shook his head after carefully deliberating over the problem. "I'm sorry, Tiffany, but Springtime needs her rest. This will have to wait."

"But Toby," Tiffany implored. "This is a very serious matter."

"And it involves all of Dream Valley," cautioned Royal Blue.

Toby once again carefully considered his options. His first concern was Springtime and her foals, but he knew the princesses well enough to realize that they would not back down from such an important discussion. Finally, he spoke.

"Tiffany, you and the other princesses sit down with Snuzzle and explain your concerns to her."

Tiffany started to speak, but Toby stopped her with an influential glance.

Toby continued, "Snuzzle, you will act as mediator between the princesses and the parents. Present the concerns of royalty to Melonball and Springtime, and help iron out any difficulties." He smiled at Snuzzle. "I'm sure you will handle this well." He knew that Snuzzle was the most compassionate and the most energetic of all the hospital's volunteers.

"I suppose that will have to do," Tiffany sniffed. "Snuzzle, would you have the time now?"

Snuzzle was excused from her duties, and she and the four princesses were soon seated in a quiet room away from the conversation outside. "Now, ladies, what are your major concerns for the twins?"

"The names," Dawn protested right away. "I like ‘Daria'. She's the heroine in the novel I'm reading now, and she is such a wonderful character."

"I don't know about ‘Daria'," Royal Blue continued, "but she needs a better name than ‘Baby Springtime'. It would be a terrible name to put upon royalty."

Snuzzle was carefully jotting down these notes. "What about the prince? Do you object to him being ‘Baby Melonball'?"

"We couldn't care less about this so-called prince, could we, girls?" Tiffany looked around at the others, and received their agreement.

"Why exactly do you feel this way about him?" Snuzzle questioned.

"There has never been a prince before, so we are led to believe he cannot be a prince because there are to be no princes in Dream Valley," Misty put in wisely.

"You're saying he should be considered a ‘peasant' while his sister is a princess?"

"Exactly," Royal Blue nodded.

"But he shows the signs of royalty. Just because we've never had a prince before doesn't mean there can't be any."

"Snuzzle," Tiffany said indignantly, "a prince would be a disgrace to have at the Royal Paradise. Just think of how much attention he would detract from us princesses, the true rulers! Why, his poor, dear sister had already been pushed out the spotlight because of him."

"Okay." Snuzzle looked up from her paper. "I'll present these arguments to Springtime and Melonball as soon as I am able. Was there anything else you wanted to say?"

"That will be all," Tiffany said crisply.

"For now," Misty added.

"Shall I stop by the Royal Paradise after I have had a discussion with the parents to let you know how they feel on the matter?"

"Certainly. But let them know that they cannot get away with naming the princess ‘Baby Springtime'," Tiffany said threateningly as the princesses filed out of the room.

* * *
It was the next evening when Queen Serena called the princesses together for a meeting. "Snuzzle has brought it to my attention that a group of you... have taken a strong interest in the new prince and princess' welfare," the queen began.

"Snuzzle? Did she get back to you?" Royal Blue asked anxiously.

"As a matter of fact, yes. She explained the matter to me..." Serena paused as she lifted her eyebrows. "...which before then I had not known of."

"You were just so busy," Taffeta interjected. "We didn't think we'd hassle you with this deal of the prince and princess."

"Whatever the case, it is my duty to share with you the information Snuzzle collected from the parents of the twins," Serena continued. "The first topic is of their names."

"The names Springtime and Melonball have picked out for them are terrible," Royal Blue protested.

"Springtime and Melonball have reported that the twins will definitely be Baby Springtime and Baby Melonball, and there will be no changing that at this point," Serena said firmly.

"But--" Pristina began to object.

"However, after they have come of age and move to the Royal Paradise, they will have the option to change their names then, if they wish it to be so," Serena concluded.

The princesses began to whisper among themselves, but the queen raised her hoof for silence. "There is still the second topic to discuss, which is of greater importance even than the names."

"That's right," Tiffany nodded. "The prince," she added scornfully.

"Is it correct that you doubt the authenticity of the new prince?"

"Of course," Misty spoke-up immediately. "There has never been a prince of Dream Valley, so I don't see why it should even be considered that the new child is true royalty."

"Never been one?" Serena smiled to herself, and began to speak again, but was cut off by Pristina.

"Besides," Pristina declared, "it would completely detract from our images if there was a prince among us."

"This is not a matter of keeping images up, Pristina," Serena said sharply.

"But think about it," Tiffany backed up Pristina. "Even now, everyone is commenting about the ‘prince' and completely forgetting about the poor darling princess. Imagine the psychological problems this could produce for her as they grow older!"

"There simply are not princes of Dream Valley," Royal Blue said stubbornly.

"But that's where you're wrong," Serena said, smiling knowingly.

"Huh?" Royal Blue said in confusion.

"What do you mean by that, Serena?" Pristina prodded.

"I can see that you haven't retained all the knowledge we learned in history class," Serena said, winking. "For there has been a prince in Dream Valley's past. A relation of Dawn's, in fact, I believe."

All eyes in the room swerved over to Dawn, who had remained silent throughout the meeting. "Dawn, what do you know about this prince thing?" Royal Blue said accusingly.

"Well," Dawn said timidly, "not many remember him anymore, because it was awhile ago..."

"And?" Tiffany prodded.

"My... my great-grandfather was a prince," Dawn said in a rush.

This statement caused an instant uproar throughout the room. "If that's true, why haven't we heard of this prince before?" Tiffany challenged.

"You must admit..." Dawn stared down at the floor. "We never did pay much attention to history class, or to our past fellow members of royalty."

"I find this bit about your great-grandfather hard to believe, Dawn," Royal Blue argued. "Do you have any proof of this?"

"I do have a... photograph," Dawn swallowed.

"Why don't you go get it so we can all see, Dawn?" Serena suggested.

Dawn excused herself from the room and dashed off. The rest were silent until her return, waiting in anticipation.

"Here," Dawn said breathlessly, re-entering the meeting room. "Here's the picture. My great-grandfather, Prince Prism." She placed the old, tattered photograph in the center of the table.

Everyone crowded around to get a view. For the first few moments, no one said a word as they gazed at the black-and-white picture of a good-looking stallion in regal surroundings. Even without the vibrant colors, they could make out a raised medallion symbol and sparkly hair.

Pristina finally broke the silence. "He's cute," she breathed.

"Yeah! Why didn't you say anything about him to us before, Dawn?" Misty agreed.

"Well, he was a little old for you," Dawn giggled.

"This isn't a joking matter, Dawn," Taffeta said primly.

"I'll leave you to discuss this in peace now, princesses," Serena dismissed herself. "Dispatch your decision to me so that I may, in turn, pass it on to Snuzzle." With that, she left the room.

"There really was a prince?" Starburst said in awe.

"I had no idea," Tiffany breathed.

"If the kid grows up to look like that-- well, it might be fun having him around the Royal Paradise," Sparkle put forth.

"But what if we're all married by then, anyway?" Starburst fretted.

"You know, maybe we've been acting a bit too conceited over this whole thing," Dawn suggested.

"Conceited?" Tiffany looked miffed at the remark.

"You have to admit that Springtime and Melonball do have certain rights over their foals," Dawn continued timidly.

"Maybe we were being too meddlesome," Misty said thoughtfully.

"But Baby Springtime and Baby Melonball!" Sparkle protested.

"Serena said they'd be allowed to change their names when they come of age," Dawn said reasonably.

"Having it put that way... I'm beginning to regret acting so in control of the twins," Royal Blue sighed.

"Yes, me too."

"That's true."

"I guess so."

"I concur."

Slowly, all eleven of the assembled group agreed with Royal Blue's sentiments.

"I suppose that living in such luxury, we're prone to forget that others have a say in things, as well," Pristina added.

Dawn glanced again at the picture of her great-grandfather. "Then what does everyone say we treat the prince and princess as equals and live with their names until they're older."

And all eleven decided that would be best.

"Can't we still pick out Bushwoolies for the two?" Pristina asked anxiously, breaking the silence of the room.

"I don't see why not," Dawn said cheerfully.

"I'm going over to the Bushwoolie holes right now!" Pristina squealed. "Anyone with me?"

"The rest of you may pick out Bushwoolies, but I am going to get the twins some adornments to show off their rank," Tiffany said snobbishly.

Dawn wrinkled her brow. "You mean crowns and stuff? I don't know about everyone else, but I think they really need some more attention themselves. I'm going back to the hospital to see them."

With that settled, the princesses all went off in their separate directions to get done the required duties. Perhaps they couldn't have full control of the twins... but maybe the could have a little.


Party, Wah!
by Tabby
with help from Merry Treat

"Tabby, Tabby, I have the most exciting news!" Tamara shrieked excitedly upon entering the house.

"Yes, you're going out with Tex tonight," Tabby said, unconcerned. "You already told me that."

"But it's even better than that!" Tamara bubbled. "I mean, not better than that, but-- I bought a house, Tabby!!"

"A house?" Tabby immediately jumped up from her chair and turned to face her cousin. "Tamara, you just went out to go shopping."

"Well, yes, I did," Tamara continued. "But I took a different route to the mall this time through the scenic part of town and I saw the quaintest little house you've ever seen!"

"And then you just walked up and bought it," Tabby interjected skeptically.

"No, well-- anyway, there happened to be a for-sale sign posted outside, and I fell in love with the place immediately--"

"Tamara, do you really own the house or not?" Tabby cut her off.

"Well," Tamara continued, "I went up the path-- oh, Tabby, it's on a street all its own!-- to get more details. It's owned by a nice elderly couple, and they're in the middle of moving away, and I had a nice talk with them--"

"Tamara," Tabby said impatiently.

"Oh! I just couldn't leave the place behind, so I signed the papers for it right away," Tamara finished.

"You mean... you actually own a house now?"

"That's what I've been telling you all along, Tabby! I have to sign a few more things tomorrow, but it's virtually mine!"

"Does this mean you're going to move out now?" Tabby asked eagerly.

"I'll presume you didn't mean to sound so eager to get rid of me," Tamara said dryly, "but, yes, I will be moving." Her eyes glazed over as she rested her chin on her front hooves.

"Maybe you can finally get around to doing some real work in life now," Tabby suggested.
"What do you mean by that?" Tamara's head snapped-up.

"Well, you've done virtually nothing in Dream Valley since you arrived besides go out with Tex," Tabby pointed out.

"That's not true!" Tamara said indignantly. "Remember the cat-show I hosted back in... June, was it?"

"That was a total disaster, and you weren't even there," Tabby said.

"Whatever the case," Tamara said, returning to a state of bliss, "I've got to go tell everyone about this. Tabby, stay off the phone; I've got to get in touch with Tex first of all..."

* * *
The next few weeks flew by. The final arrangements were made, and Tamara was declared the official owner of her dream house. It was an old, stone place surrounded on all sides by forest-- the trees were covered in snow now, but in spring, they were guaranteed to add a solid green atmosphere to the property.

It was also the only house on a curving drive on the east side of Dream Valley, which especially appealed to Tamara. She thought it was one of her best purchases ever.

Tamara's new items were quickly moved from Tabby's house and transported to her new location, the previous owners having already moved out. While Tamara was busy choosing furniture and such, Tabby was celebrating her victory with Tarquin.

"Well, Tarquin, it looks like you can have your room back now," she said cheerfully to her Meowth.

"No more crowded windowseat for me!" Tarquin cheered.

"Have you talked to her Persian lately, by the way?"

"Oh, yeah. She says it'll be great to have a whole house to prowl through."

Tamara was also making plans for things besides furniture. She had realized that the basement of her new home would be perfect for showing and raising pedigreed felines.

"It couldn't have worked out better," Tamara said happily. "Now that I've got a place to set up, I can really start something!"

The bustle and excitement through Tabby's house began to die down as Tamara's orders were completed and she began to arrange things in her new house. Tabby was exhilarated to regain the space in her house that Tamara had been using all this time.

The excitement for the rest of the gang was just beginning, however. They had been hearing about Tamara's house throughout all this, but few of them had actually seen it except for a glimpse of the outside. Now they were begging Tamara to invite them over, and Tamara came up with the perfect solution.

"Tabby, I had the most grand idea!" Tamara's voice came over the phone one day.

"Another cat show with me taking your place?" Tabby suggested.

"Well, our birthday is coming up soon, you know," Tamara said excitedly.

Tabby was shocked into silence for a moment as the looked over at her calender-- it was already February first. She was had been so busy with Tamara's moving-out that she hadn't thought much of it. Of course, it hadn't occurred to her that this year she'd have to share a birthday with Tamara.

"Are you there?" Tamara prodded.

"Oh, yes!" Tabby exclaimed. "You're right... it's only six days until the sixth, I guess."

"I think we should have a party at my house," Tamara continued. "Everyone wants to get a good look at it, anyway. It'll work out perfectly. What do you think?"

"I think..." Tabby felt a twinge of jealousy. She didn't particularly like having to share her birthday with anyone else, but what argument could she give? "Six days for planning a party would really cut it short, Tamara."

"But I love planning parties," Tamara said breezily. "I can get everything set up in six days, just watch."

"Yes, but... you've already got a lot to do with your new home."

"That's okay! Planning a party will be a great diversion."

"Eh... if you say so..."

"Oh, it'll be great, Tabby!"

"Fine, then go ahead and do it."

"Wonderful, wonderful! I must go and get to work on it right away. I'm already getting ideas. Tah-tah!"

Tabby hung up the receiver slowly, not sure what to think of a joint birthday party for her and Tamara. How had she ended up getting an identical cousin, anyway? Last year, everyone had forgotten her birthday entirely, and now this year there was the frenzy over Tamara's new home. Tabby was certain she'd get left out again, leaving Tamara in the spotlight.

Without bothering to say goodnight to Tarquin like she usually did, Tabby went straight up to her bedroom after Tamara's call. Perhaps everything would seem better in the morning.

* * *
Tamara had obviously already spread the word of her party to some ponies by the next day, for Tiffany made an appearance at the Pokèmon Center to see Tabby that morning. "Tabitha, Tamara just confided with me on her plans for her birthday party next week," Tiffany said briskly.

Tabby looked up from her work. "Tiffany, it is my birthday, as well," she interrupted.

"It is? Oh, yes, you two do share a birthday, don't you?" Tiffany giggled. "Well, anyway, I was wondering if you'd help me on something."

"Sure. Anything," Tabby said sarcastically.

"I need insight on what Tamara would like as a gift," Tiffany continued. "It's only proper for me to get a gift, it being a birthday party and all."

"I don't really know, Tiffany," Tabby sighed.

"Do you think she'd prefer a new dress or a new jewelry set? Or even a new makeup collection?" Tiffany prodded. "I just can't decide! Oh, I love a birthday!"

"Don't we all," Tabby muttered.

"You're not in the best humor today, are you?" Tiffany commented. "Well, no bother, Dawn and I will just go shopping this afternoon and select something for her. Oh, this is going to be such an exciting party, Tabby! Goodbye!" With that, she whisked herself back outside and was on her way.

Tabby tapped her hoof on the desk. So far, it didn't sound like her birthday would be much different from the last.

* * *
Tamara did indeed work fast, for the next day the official invitations to the double birthday party were sent out by Tamara. Tabby really hadn't heard from her cousin at all since their last discussion, and so the final design for the invitations were a total surprise to her when she found the fancy envelope in her mailbox.

You are invited to the birthday celebration of
Tamara Collette Moore
Tabitha Elaine Fershund
at eight o' clock at Tamara's new home
located on Pleasant Drive
on February sixth.
Refreshments will be served, and gifts are welcome.

Tabby had to smile to herself as she read the last line-- it was just like Tamara to remind everyone to buy a present for her. However, the fact that her full name was printed on the invitation didn't make her too happy.

"She had to use my full name, didn't she? How dare she even think of doing that!" Tabby fumed. After thinking about it, she realized that it was only proper to use one's full name on an official invitation, but she needed something to direct her anger at. She didn't want to share her birthday!

That evening, all the gang could talk about was seeing Tamara's new house at Tamara's great birthday party. Tabby was feeling a bit put-out, and kept reminding them that it was her birthday as well; they meant well by their comments, but it didn't help much.

"Oh, Tabby, don't worry; we haven't forgot you," Sugarberry said sympathetically. "We're just excited over seeing Tamara's home."

"Besides, it'll just be more fun to celebrate your birthday along with your cousin this year," Chocolate Chip added reassuringly.

"And Tamara'll have better food than you would at any party of yours," Clever Clover said jokingly.

Tabby smiled wryly at Clever Clover's remark, but inside she was terribly distraught. Tamara certainly seemed to have messed up her birthday; it wouldn't be very personal. At least last year she'd gotten attention, even if it was a day late!

The birthday card from her mother did not help matters, either. Agatha Fershund simply expressed her joy in Tabby and Tamara finally sharing a birthday together and inquired whether or not she and Thomas had discussed marriage yet.

As a matter of fact, the only one who seemed to truly understand Tabby through this was Thomas, yet even he seemed preoccupied with something. Naturally, Tabby began to rather fancy the idea of being entirely left-out and forgotten on her birthday-- it would lead to many opportunities for revenge. Of course, if she happened to be really remembered after all-- well, that would be alright with her, too.

* * *
Meanwhile, Thomas was doing some plotting of his own-- or trying to plot, at least. He was well aware of Tabby's sentiments over the joint birthday party, and wished he could do something to make it up to her; but nothing had come to mind yet. So, his next thought was to turn to his Furby Doo-Moh for help.

"Doo-Moh," he questioned of his Furby after getting her into Ask Furby mode, "do you know what Tabby would like on her birthday?"

"Very big... yes," the autumn-colored Furby decided.

"Can you tell me?"

"No," Doo-Moh snapped.

"Are you sure you know what you're talking about?"

"Me see... no."

"In that case, should I do something special for her?"


"Better than the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe?"

"Very big yes!"

"Better than the Estate Manor?"

"Me see... maybe... yes."

"Is there anything else, Doo-Moh?"


"Will you tell me yet?"

"Maybe... no!"

"Doo-Moh..." Thomas paused before going on, feeling somewhat foolish to be questioning a Furby on such serious matters. "Does she want a diamond ring?"

"No," Doo-Moh spat.

"Okay, I'll take your word for it." Thomas momentarily wondered if he was placing too much trust in a Furby, but quickly shook off the thought after looking closely at Doo-Moh. Furbys had to be more than electronic pets... or else Tabby had influenced him too much.

"Me done," Doo-Moh decided.

Thomas' thoughts wandered off Doo-Moh. Despite the advice given by the Furby, he still pondered over the idea of proposing to Tabby on her birthday. It would be a nice opportunity... and he had to admit he'd grown quite close to her since their first meeting a year ago. But it was here that he hesitated.

Was it only Doo-Moh's comment holding him back from doing the inevitable? Or was it more than that? It could be the fear of what Tabby would reply with-- or it could be the dream.

It was a recurring dream-- or nightmare, as it could be called. Thomas could never remember much of it-- only flashes of water, and waves, and revenge, and of a crumbling city (and Furbys, too, it seemed)-- but somehow, Tabby played an important part in it as well. Thomas felt that it really had a deeper meaning. "And that's what I'm going to find out," he promised silently to himself, "before... before..."

"Hmm... hum-dee-dum-dee-deet-dee-doo," Doo-Moh hummed in a bored tone.

"Go back to sleep, Doo-Moh," Thomas suggested. "I'll just have to think up something else for Tabby on her birthday. But the ring will wait-- she'll wait-- until... until..."

Doo-Moh snored several times and shut down.

* * *
Tabby arrived early at Tamara's house on the night of the party, being one of the guests of honor and all. Tamara was scurrying around doing last minute necessities and chattering to her cousin excitedly.

"I just can't wait for everyone to get here," Tamara bubbled over. "I hope everyone makes it. Did I ever show you the guest list, Tabby?"

"No, no, you really didn't show me anything concerning the party," Tabby said simply.

"Oh, well, it's over there if you want to take a look." Tamara indicated a desk on the other side of the room.

Tabby searched the list out-- she wanted to know what to expect that night. The usual names were on it-- Tiffany, Toby, Tex, Sugarberry, Vanguard, Thomas, Clever Clover-- however, as she scrolled down, one name took her by surprise.

"You sent an invitation to Barnacle?" she questioned Tamara. The pirate from Port Scurvy who hung out with the gang upon occasion didn't seem like the kind Tamara would want at a a formal party.

"Oh, Barnacle," Tamara giggled. "I thought that since he had such nice presents for us at Christmas, it would be worth inviting him. Who knows what he'd have as birthday gifts?"

"He gave me a pack of worms on Christmas, Tamara," Tabby pointed out.

"He did? Oh, yes. Well, he did make up for it; and he gave me that glorious emerald, remember? I had that mounted in a necklace."

"Hmm," Tabby murmured. She sensed that having Barnacle at the party would only disrupt the evening-- which wasn't a bad thing; it would just make the occasion a bit more exciting.

"What do you think Tex will have gotten me?" Tamara prattled. "Do you suppose he might have picked tonight to propose? Oh, that would be so perfect! I'm so excited. And what do you think Thomas got you, hmm? Really, I haven't figured out yet what he sees in you. No offense or anything, but you're not the most loveable creature, Tabitha."

" ‘Creature'?" Tabby said indignantly. "Do use better terminology on me, Tamara."

Before Tamara had the chance to reply, the two heard the doorbell ring. "That must be Tex!" Tamara squealed, dashing off. "I'll get it!"

It was indeed Tex standing at the door, and he held in his hooves two wrapped packages. "This is yours, Tamara," Tex smiled, handing one to her. "And yours, Tabby. They sort-of go together."

Tamara was surprised by the heaviness of the gift, and pondered carefully over what it could be as she carefully removed the ribbon. Could he have bought a ring and packaged it in this really big box to throw me off? she thought to herself. But it's still too heavy, even for that.

While Tamara peeled off the paper slowly, Tabby took her gift from Tex and tore the paper off in one smooth motion. She stood and stared, at a loss of words, at what she held in her hooves. "Wow. It's a bag of... corn chips."

Tex watched in anticipation as Tamara took the lid off the box. She extracted a decorative stoneware jar and held it up, and looked at Tex questioningly.

"It has salsa inside," he explained. "One of my special mixes. And you can keep the jar for display."

"Salsa and corn chips," Tabby sighed, tossing the lightweight bag to Tamara. "Leave it to you, Tex, to buy something like that."

"The jar is simply wonderful, Tex," Tamara cooed. "I know just the perfect place to set it after it's empty. It's--"

However, she was cut-off as the doorbell rang a second time. She shoved the two objects at Tex and ran to invite the newcomers in. The couple at her door was Toby and Tiffany.

"Ah, Tamara," Tiffany sighed, stepping inside, "I simply adore your house. I was absolutely at a loss for words when we were coming up the walk. Wasn't I, Toby?"

"Of course, Tiffany darling," Toby said promptly. "It certainly is a wonderful house."

"Isn't it glorious? It's so nice having a place of my own," Tamara giggled.

"Such a quaint little place," Tiffany sighed. "But, anyway--" She pulled out two small packages of her own. "These are for you and Tabby, from both of us."

Tabby scurried over from the other side of the room to see what it was that Tiffany and Toby had selected for them. Even Tamara couldn't resist pulling the paper straight off of hers.

Tamara gasped in happiness as she opened the small box inside. "It's a sterling silver heart-to-heart linked bracelet with enamel centers in Valentine red!" she exclaimed.

"Um... yeah," Tabby echoed, staring down with less enthusiasm at her bracelet.

"I knew you'd like them," Tiffany beamed.

After the princess and her escort had wandered off, Tabby was still gazing at the bracelet when someone came up behind her. "Oh, that's beautiful! Who gave you that one?" Merry Treat's voice said.

"Hey, MT!" Tabby glanced up at her friend, who had just entered. "From Tiffany and Toby. I think she's getting him trained!" she giggled.

Merry Treat grinned. "Maybe you'll like this better," she winked as Tamara came up to the two.

"Hello, Merry Treat! I'm so sorry I didn't see you come up. What do you think of the house?" Tamara bubbled excitedly.

"It's really cool. Kinda creepy, though. I just get this odd feeling that it's haunted or something..."

"Haunted? What a silly idea!" Tamara sniffed.

Merry Treat laughed and shook her head. "Sorry, I'm just goofin' around. I have gifts for you two."

Tabby's eyes lit up. "Gifts??"

Merry Treat produced two PokèBalls from behind her back. "Tamara, this one's for you--" She handed the one to Tamara. "--and Tabby, here's yours."

Tamara stared at the ball for a moment. "You got me a Pokèmon?"

"What a great idea!" Tabby squealed and tossed the PokèBall. "PokèBall, go!" A red light came out of the ball, and an aquatic dog-like Pokèmon materialized in front of them. "You caught me a Vaporeon?!" she cried in surprise.

Merry Treat laughed at her friend's reaction. "Well, not exactly. I had a little help, you see," she said mysteriously.

"Wow, now I have two Vaporeon!" Tabby said gleefully.

"You already caught one?" Merry Treat said in surprise.

"Not too long ago, in the Dark Forest," Tabby explained.

"I can find another in place of this one," Merry Treat offered.

Tabby scooped the Vaporeon up in her hooves, who set to licking her face. "Oh, no," she giggled. "I don't mind two. They can be friends."

"Alrighty!" Merry Treat said. "A friend from a friend! And now..." She turned to Tamara. "Tamara, open yours!"

Tamara cautiously tossed the ball in imitation of Tabby, not knowing what to think. "Um... go?" Out popped an adorable fox-like Pokèmon, Vulpix. "Vulpix!" it cried sweetly.

Tamara let out a shriek and dove behind Tabby. "Tabby! What on earth is that thing!?"

"It has such a cute peacock tail," Tabby cooed, petting the small creature who looked somewhat dejected over Tamara's fright.

"A Vulpix?" Clever Clover said in awe, who has just come in the door himself. "Tabby, that's not a peacock tail!"

"It looks like one," Tabby protested.

"It's six separate tails," Clever Clover sighed. "Where did this one come from?" He eyed the Pokèmon enviously, being a Vulpix fan.

"My present to Tamara," Merry Treat spoke-up, determined that Tamara would accept the Vulpix. "Oh, don't worry, Tamara. He won't hurt you. He's just a little sweety." To prove her point, she scooped the creature up and placed him in Tamara's trembling hooves.

"W-will it bite?" Tamara asked in a frightened voice.

Merry Treat giggled. "Of course not! Just look at those big brown eyes!"

Tamara gazed into the Pokèmon's cocoa-brown eyes, and gave in. "Well, he is kinda cute..." she said, and began stroking it fondly. "Do you think Persian will mind?"

"She'll get used to it," Tabby supplied, while admiring her Vaporeon. "Thanks a bunch, MT!"

"No problem! Take care of your Pokèmon, you two!" Merry Treat smiled brightly. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to go find Tess and Spearow. They're around here, somewhere..." With that, she wandered off, leaving her friends to get acquainted with their new gifts.

After that, all the other guests quickly started pouring in. Tamara and Tabby were kept busy opening the presents bought for them-- everyone insisted that their gifts be opened right away. There were two hand-crocheted wide-brimmed raffia hats from Sugarberry and Vanguard; red clay coasters carved with copies of ancient petroglyphs and a round pillar candle scented with spicy clove from Clever Clover; a welcome sign and a windchime set from Lemon Treats and Poeticus, some of Tamara's acquantances; and a dear little painted chest with six drawers and four round feet, and a set of scented soaps in a wrought-iron basket from Tamara's mother and father which had arrived by express mail the day before.

Tabby was actually having too much fun to worry about being left out. There was Tamara's house to explore, gossip to share, and presents to open. It was Tamara's house that was of more interest to everyone than Tamara herself, and the two could enjoy in showing the place off (it was always described by Tamara and Tiffany in terms like "small" and "quaint", when in fact it was rather large). However, the party really got interesting when Barnacle arrived.

"ARR, ladies," he greeted the two after being let in. "Sorry about bein' late, but Davey and Jones slowed me up a bit."

"Davey and Jones?" Tamara furrowed her brow.

"Hey, mon!"

"Yeah, hey, mon!"

The two infamous Jamaican Bushwoolie brothers, Davey and Jones, burst into the room from behind Barnacle and immediately got lost in the crowed before Tamara could do anything about them.

"They weren't supposed to come with me this far, ARR," Barnacle apologized as Tamara glanced after the two in shock, "but their Dream Valley relatives were out, and they had to come with me to the party, ARR."

"Delightful!" Tabby squealed. "Delightful!" She had always had a soft spot in her heart for Bushwoolies.

As it turned out, the relations of Davey and Jones that they had come to Dream Valley to visit were at the party as well. The two Jamaican Bushwoolies were busily chatting with their Bushwoolie cousins. Tamara had actually only invited Friendly (he had purchased some cat supplies from her previously), but as she was fast discovering, you could not invite only one Bushwoolie to a party.

"ARR, but I do be havin' some presents on me," Barnacle offered.

"Presents?" Tamara's eyes lit up and she immediately forgot about the uninvited guests.

Out of a sack, Barnacle presented Tamara with a fine teak box. "ARR, since I don't know you very well, I figured this would go with just about anything."

Tamara excitedly took the box from him and opened the lid, not daring to guess what fabulous treasure was inside. "It's... it's..." A strange look crossed her face. "...full of... air."

"ARR, it be full of sea air," Barnacle agreed. "Can't you smell the salty brine?"

Tamara still thought he was joking, and began to panic. "Someone's stolen my jewel!" she shrieked, noticing a large indentation in the rich velvet inside the box that would indicate that it had once held a valuable jewel.

Barnacle shook his head. "ARR, no, that's the best I could do. There's never been a jewel in there."

"Well, it's a wonderful... box," Tamara said, not knowing what else to say.

"ARR, and now for your gift, Tabby." Barnacle pulled out a second object and handed it to the lavender-eyed unicorn.

Tabby curiously picked the small item up in her hoof and looked intently at it. "Not another!" she gasped. She quickly inspected the copper medallion Barnacle had presented her with. "Wait a second." She read off a small sticker on the back: "Made in Calamidad Island". Okay, so maybe it wasn't an Atlantean necklace like she had thought.

"ARR, from a street vendor," Barnacle agreed. "Now you can have a souvenir of Atlantis with no fear of bein' possessed by a spirit."

"Cool!" Tabby said gleefully, stringing the necklace around her neck. "That's the best present yet!"

Meanwhile, Davey and Jones had apparently gotten their cousins into a game of playing pirates. Currently, they were emptying all the napkin holders in the room and fashioning eye patches for themselves. Barnacle paid no notice to them.

Off on the other side of the room, Sugarberry was fascinated with the turret section of the house, and was having the time of her life sitting there chatting with Clever Clover and Vanguard.

"Oh, a turret room is so... magical!" Sugarberry said as she picked up a ruffled floral throw pillow and hugged it to her. "Tamara is so lucky!"

"My folks' house has a turret," Vanguard disclosed. "But it's square rather than round. Maybe you could visit there with me some day," he directed at Sugarberry.

Before she could respond, Clever Clover confided his ideas of the perfect home. "I'd prefer an underground house," he stated as he lifted the glass of ginger ale high to avoid being spilled by several Bushwoolies dashing past.

Sugarberry giggled as she watched their doings. "I bet Tamara didn't count on this!"

Barnacle was still seemingly oblivious to the Bushwoolies' antics. Currently, the balls of fur were running across the buffet table grabbing up all the plastic knives to brandish as swords.

"No! No!" Tamara gasped, running to shoo them away. "Not in the food!" The Bushwoolies jumped to the ground, but not before falling into several of the dishes. They scurried under the table to plan their next "attack".

Tabby, meanwhile, had been pulled away by Tiffany for a bit of gossip, and Tamara soon joined them. "Those Bushwoolies," she sighed tiredly, collapsing in a chair next to the two.

Tabby eyed the creatures intently. "What do you suppose they're doing with those knives, anyway? I'm glad they're only plastic."

"They're play-acting with swords. I shudder to think of what they'll do next," Tamara moaned.

"Friendly has been well trained by me, Tamara," Tiffany chided. "I'm sure he wouldn't get himself into any trouble."

"Wanna bet?" Tabby smirked as Friendly backed Chumster up into a corner with his "sword".

"Got you, hah-hah," Friendly laughed playfully.

"Monster!!" Chumster suddenly screamed out, causing all the other Bushwoolies to turn their heads. The colorful Bushwoolie took the chance to escape. However, it took the ensemble awhile to regroup after the potentiality of a monster in the area.

"I will have to discuss this with him later, though," Tiffany frowned, watching.

"Well, let's get off the topic," Tamara suggested. "Do you think Persian is adjusting to her new home, Tabby?"

"I wouldn't have an idea," Tabby said in annoyance, "because she hasn't come out and let me see her yet tonight."

"She's just shy," Tamara said smoothly.

"She's just a snob, that's what she is," Tabby contradicted.

"By the way, Tamara," Tiffany interjected. "Are any of the cats you're selling here in the house right now?"

"Cats?" Tabby's ears perked up. "Are they here?"

"Well... no," Tamara admitted. "I've only been dealing with a few so far, and they've all gotten owners-- I'll be finding some after this party is over, though."

"That's what you've been saying for the past year, Tamara," Tabby reminded.

"Don't keep bringing that up!" Tamara snapped.

"Tamara," Tiffany said thoughtfully, "do you suppose Theodora would approve of a playmate?"

"You're thinking about getting another cat?" Tamara squealed. "Oh, I'm sure I can find the perfect one for you. Now, you'd want--"

Tabby took the opportunity to excuse herself from the conversation and wandered across the room. She took notice that Cheery the Bushwoolie had decided to take a swim in the punch bowl-- or else he had been pushed in there by the others as part of the game; it was hard to tell. Perhaps he had been forced to walk the plank. However, Tabby was not too concerned with the Bushwoolies at that point-- she would let Tamara chase them away.

Tabby decided to hunt out Thomas, realizing that she hadn't had much time with him tonight. She found him crouched down next to Tamara's finicky Pokèmon.

"Persian! You found Persian!" Tabby said gleefully.

Thomas smiled as he looked up. "Oh, yes. We've been getting to know each other."

Persian purred her response after getting petted on the head.

"This is the best mood I've ever seen her in," Tabby marveled, lifting the creature up into the air. "I've only heard growling and purring from her before."

"She only has to get used to a pony. She's really not so different from a regular cat," Thomas said softly, taking Persian back from Tabby.

"Except for poisoned claws," Tabby enlightened.

Persian was not to be charmed into submission forever, though. She soon voiced her contempt , squirmed her way out of Thomas' hold, jumped to the floor, and swiftly disappeared.

"There. Now she's acting normal," Tabby laughed.

Thomas switched his gaze to Tabby. "This party isn't going as badly as you'd thought, is it?" he changed the subject abruptly.

"Well, no, I suppose not," Tabby reflected. "I hadn't thought about it-- but you're right."

"You've been flocked by adoring fans all evening, which isn't exactly the complete abandonment you'd counted on getting," Thomas continued. "Disappointed?"

"Come to think of it, none of the presents anyone got me were very interesting..." Tabby said mischievously. "And that reminds me, I don't believe I've gotten anything from a certain someone yet. You gave Tamara something, didn't you? Where's mine, hmm?"

"Actually--" Thomas began, but was cut off as Tamara came running over.

"Tabby, Tabby, it's time for the birthday cake!" the hyper unicorn declared, grabbing Tabby's front hoof. "Clever Clover's lighting the candles now. Come on!" Without waiting for a protest, she began dragging Tabby away.

Tabby glanced apologetically back at Thomas. It really was too bad they hadn't been able to get more conversation in-- it was her birthday, after all, and she'd practically ignored him the whole night. But, there's cake to worry about now! Tabby thought with delight, pushing all other thoughts out of her mind as she saw the gloriously frosted cake on the table before her.

It was flat and covered with a thick layer of creamy white frosting. More frills of cream surrounded the edges, and ornate frosting roses decked the center. Tabby simply adored frosting roses-- and any other kind of frosting decoration, for that matter.

Tabby was not paying much attention to the world around her as she and Tamara blew out the lighted candles. The only thing she could think about was that glorious frosting, and the luxurious cake that must be beneath.

It was only after Tamara had finished cutting the cake when Tabby noticed something odd. What were those orangish crumbs on the knife? Her worst fears were confirmed when Tamara scooped-up the first piece on a plate.

"Tamara," Tabby whispered, clearly seeing now the orange cake beneath the frosting, "what is that made of?"

"Oh, it's carrot cake," Tamara relied calmly. "With cream cheese frosting."

"My heart has been broken," was all Tabby could utter as her face grew pale. She didn't have much against carrot cake-- granted, she had a little more against cream cheese frosting-- but they could never take the place of vanilla cake with glorious, glorious vanilla frosting.

"You can still eat the roses," Spike pointed out shortly thereafter when everyone was gathered around with their slices of cake. "They're still vanilla, I think."

"It's not the same," Tabby sighed, still in shock.

"You should have seen the look on your face when you realized it was carrot," Clever Clover chortled.

"This isn't a laughing matter, Cleve Clove."

Meanwhile, in the living room, the Bushwoolies were living a climactic battle scene under the direction of Davey and Jones. Cheery, Hugster, and several others were bravely defending a small table-- posing as Barnacle's old ship, the Lucas-- from the onslaught of the oncoming army.

"Save the Lucas, yeah, yeah!"

"No! We stealin' it from you, arr, yeah-yeah."

"Never, yeah!"

"Run ‘em down, yeah."

It was a dramatic scene indeed when Cheery was pushed up against the leg of the chair, and Eager lunged on top of him. The table began to totter. The lamp that was placed on it began to fall. There was a very large smash when the lamp and table hit the ground.



"Yeah, yeah, help!"

"The Lucas!"


The Bushwoolies were in turmoil when the rest of the guests in the house came to investigate. The balls of fur were running every which way, bumping into each other, falling down, and stumbling all over the place.

"What-- happened-- here?" Tamara came to the head of the group, her eyes on fire at the sight of her broken lamp and splintered table.

"Lucas, yeah, enemy."

"Charge, and then SMASH!"

"Then Lucas gone, yeah, yeah."

Tamara managed to hold her temper and simply directed the Bushwoolies out onto her porch to wait for Barnacle to take them home.

Tabby gradually got over the shock of the carrot cake (though she was still going to have some words with Tamara about it after the party) and Tamara gradually got over the shock of her broken furniture. After the cake was finished and the lamp and table pieces cleaned up, everyone began clearing out. Tamara and Tabby bid farewell to their friends, and the crowd was soon drastically thinned.

"Tex, thank you again for the salsa jar," Tamara trilled, leading him to the door after Vanguard and Sugarberry. "It's simply lovely."

"I'm glad you like it, Tamara."

And, Tabby and Thomas were finally getting some time together. "And about your present..." Thomas began.

"Yes?" Tabby asked eagerly.

"I'll have to give it to you late this year. There's only one thing I can possibly think of to give and it can't be come by yet."

"Oh?" Tabby cocked her head.

"Tabby--" Thomas put his front hooves in hers and looked her in the eye. "--just know that I really do love you and nothing can change that now." With these parting words, he made his departure.

"That's... nice." Tabby stared after him, somewhat dazed.

"What was that all about?" Tamara was eyeing her cousin inquisitively after saying her goodbyes to Tex.

"I'm not sure, Tamara," Tabby shook her head slowly. "I'm not sure." Somehow, Thomas' words seemed to have a deeper meaning than what she was picking up on.

Whahoo! How's that for an ending that makes you feel terribly incomplete like something has flown right over your head or it ended way too abruptly? No need to panic, because that's the way I planned it. I'm just building up to something, so keep watching for the next installment! And so you don't get completely bored doing that, why not read some of Tabby's past adventures? Go to--


Clever Clover vs. The Flatlands
by Clever Clover
Chapter One: The Game

"Hey, Tabby," said Clever Clover as he entered the Dream Valley Pokèmon Center.

"What did you do to your Rattata this time, Cleve Clove?" Tabby snipped.

"Nothing's wrong with my Pokèmon, Tabitha. I just came by to tell you that I'll be going on a trip. I might be gone for a week or two."

"What! You're going on an adventure without me?" the pink unicorn whined. She actually had nothing against missing an adventure; it was tormenting her friend that she'd miss, and the chance to search distant thrift stores for eighties toys.

"It's not an adventure, I hope; I'm just visiting some friends in the Flatlands," Clever Clover explained.

"Oh, well, remember to keep an eye out for eighties toys."

"Yeah, whatever," replied the purple pony as he exited the center.

* * *
The trip to the Flatlands was uneventful. Clever Clover had hoped to catch some Pokèmon along the way, but he hadn't even seen any. When he got to Jim's Malt Shoppe, all seemed peaceful enough, just like he remembered-- but very unlike the nightmare he had had some time ago.

Jim's had been a popular hangout for archaeologists when Clever Clover had worked at a nearby site a year ago. He had no reason to think there was any trouble here, except for the dream.

The shop was almost empty; the only other customer was a black crow shooting pool. " ‘Allo Jim," said Clever Clover to the duck behind the counter. "How've things been?"

"It's been slow since you shovel bums left,"quacked the duck. "What brings you back to the Flatlands?"

"Just visiting."

"Okay, so what'll you have?"

"Chocolate malt. Eh, Jim, has anything strange happened lately?"

The duck shook his head. "Nothin' ‘strange' happened since that monkey you worked for started dancing on the tables that night. Why, what'd you expect?"

"I'm not sure," said the pony.

After finishing his malt, Clever Clover headed for the edge of town to the site of the dig he had worked at the year before. It had been a cornfield then; now it was a construction site. There was no sign of the excavations or of the vengeful spirit from his dream. "Maybe that's all it was, just a bad dream," Clever Clover mumbled to himself.

Suddenly a flash of motion on I pile of dirt caught the pony's eye, though he hadn't seen any signs of life when he arrived. "Oh boy," he sighed. His muscles tensed as he remembered the terrible apparition from his nightmare and it's bloodcurdling cries of vengeance. The pony held his breath and listened carefully. It was deadly silent, just as in his dream, and though it was a sunny day, the effect was equally chilling.

He stood still and listened for several minutes before he heard it, a grating, scraping sound. It was coming from behind him; he slowly turned to face it, but there was nothing to be seen. The sound seemed to be coming from underground.

Suddenly a small, brown furry head popped up amidst a pile of loose dirt. "Digglet!" it said in a sing-song voice. Clever Clover sighed a sigh of relief. "Ohy, it's only a Digglet. The dream might not have been anything to worry about, but at least I'll be able to catch a Pokèmon." He got out one of his PokèBalls. "Okay, Farfetch'd, let's get ‘im!"

"Fetch far far!" quacked the wild duck Pokèmon.

"Now, sand attack, quick, before he goes underground! Then sword dance and leak slap!"

The Farfetch'd executed its attacks flawlessly. In mere moments the Digglet was stunned and Clever Clover hurled a PokèBall. "Alright, I caught Digglet!"

"Far, fetch fetche'd far!"

When the thrill of the hunt wore off, Clever Clover remembered why he was there. "Well, if that spirit hasn't shown up yet, it's not coming. I guess I'll head home."

As he turned to leave, a chill ran down his spine. He spun around to find a smirking imp sitting atop a pile of dirt. "Bic, I'd thought I'd seen the last of you."

"You should have known better than that," the imp replied.

"You promised not to torment any of us ponies, including me, anymore."

"Hm, well, you see, the thing is, I'm not here. This entire conversation is all in your head! I planted it there during our first encounter. It was programed to activate at a specific time and place, here and now! You see, our past encounters have not been mere chance."

"Oh? What sort of scam are you running?"

"I don't run scams, I play games; and this game began years ago. I made the first move before you were born; now the time has come for you to make your move!" With that the imp disappeared, leaving behind a small red stone.

"I wonder what that was all about?" Clever Clover mumbled as he picked up the stone. "Hm, pipestone. It could be from the site, but the only source of pipestone isn't far from here. I guess I could check it out."

* * *
The next day, Clever Clover went north to the pipestone quarry. It was the only place in the Flatlands to find the soft, red pipestone, which was used by the early Flatland tribes to make pipes, tools, and decorative objects because it was soft enough to be worked much like wood. The tribal ponies still quarried the pipestone from narrow pits beneath a towering red quartzite cliff. Legend had it that the Great Pony appeared to the Flatland tribes atop the cliff long ago and told them to live in peace and to share the pipestone quarries peacefully.

At least that's what it said in the brochure Clever Clover picked up at the museum visitor center. Clever Clover wandered about the museum and looked at the various carved pipestone items they had on display. Then he followed the trail along the base of the cliff, past the quarry pits, and up the stairs cut into the cliff to enjoy the panoramic view from its top.

"Well, this was pointless, but educational. I guess finding that pipestone was just coincidence. But I wonder what Bic's message meant?" As he turned to leave, Clever Clover heard an ominous rumbling sound behind him.


Ain't Love Grand!
By Sugarberry

With her parcel clutched closely to her body, Lemon Treats rushed into her house to escape the frigid cold temperatures that encased her. After finishing her day's work at the fashion boutique at the mall, the lovely yellow earth pony had made a quick stop at Oakly's Grocery for some fresh mushrooms to go with her special Valentine's dinner that she was preparing for her one-and-only, Poeticus. She breathed a sigh of relief as she closed the door behind her and felt the warmth encircle her.

From the kitchen counter came a high-pitched meow as her pale fawn and brown Siamese cat, Mimi, welcomed her home.

"Hello, precious," Lemon Treats greeted the blue-eyed female. "We've got lots to get done before Poeticus arrives. This meal has to be perfect!"

Lemon Treats washed her hooves, and began preparing the main course so she could get it in the oven. Once that was accomplished, she hurried off to primp over her make-up and perfume. Mimi, in the meantime, sat at a cautious distance watching; she was always interested in what her housemate did during this ritual, yet she avoided contamination from the powders and scents that floated through the air.

Once Lemon Treats opened her jewelry case, however, Mimi was front and center. The dangling chains and sparkling trinkets never ceased to amaze her. She purred her approval as Lemon Treats clasped a simple gold chain with a hear-shaped charm around her neck which had been a Christmas gift from Poeticus. Lemon Treats' heart fluttered as she wondered what his Valentine gift might be.

"Does everything look just right?" she consulted as she twirled before the alert cat.

Returning to the kitchen, Lemon Treats checked the pot roast and found it browning nicely. She prepared the salad and appetizers and peeked at the heart-shaped cake she had baked, frosted, and decorated the night before. "It turned out really well," she confided to Mimi, who meowed her agreement.

Next, Lemon Treats concentrated on the table. She had already put down a white lace tablecloth and red linen napkins. A cut-glass vase awaited the expected flowers, and two red tapered candles completed the arrangement.

Checking the time, Lemon Treats gasped. "Poeticus will be here in no time!" Her friend considered punctuality a necessary trait, and was always prompt.

"Mimi, I've got to put the appetizers in the oven on broil, but the main course isn't done yet." She pondered her dilemma, then decided her only option was to leave the pot roast in the oven while she quickly broiled the appetizers. "They only need to be in long enough to melt the cheese," she rationalized. So she turned the dial to broil and put the tray of tidbits on the top rack. "Now I'll light the candles, and by then I can get the appetizers out."

Having lit the candles, Lemon Treats was just blowing out the match when her doorbell rang. "Poeticus!" she breathed as she dashed for the front door.

Opening the door and seeing her special stallion caused Lemon Treats' heart to skip a beat, as it always did. As the light blue pony stepped inside, he drew Lemon Treats close and whispered, "Happy Valentine's Day!" Lemon Treats melted in his embrace, even if the intensely cold outside air had followed him in.

Poeticus stomped his hooves as if to bring life back to their numbness; then he handed Lemon Treats a tissue-shrouded bouquet. "For the love of my life," he grinned, secretly setting a velvet case on the end table near him.

"Oh, thank you!" Lemon Treats squealed. She drew back the tissue from the blossoms and beheld a dozen red roses-- roses that should have radiated life, but instead were edged in sickly brown. "They're frozen!" groaned Lemon Treats.

"Good grief! You're right," frowned Poeticus. "I did hear that the wind chill was minus ten degrees tonight." He looked at Lemon Treats' disappointed face and promised, "I'll get you another bouquet when the weather warms up!"

"That's okay," Lemon Treats hugged him. "They don't look too bad, just a little rusty."

Over her shoulder, Poeticus caught sight of a trail of black smoke. "Ah... Lemon Treats... are you baking something?"

"No!!! My appetizers!" Lemon Treats darted for the kitchen, throwing the tissue and flowers on the table in passing. Grabbing a mitt, she opened the oven door, coughing as a surge of smoke blanketed her. The tray of culinary delights was burned to a crisp; but worse yet, the main course was now topped with a black crust.

In the commotion of the moment, a frightened Mimi beat a hasty retreat to escape the fumes, sending the heavily-frosted cake scuttling off the counter, ending upside-down on the tiled floor.

Lemon Treats broke into tears, sending rivulets of black eye liner down her cheeks. Poeticus, reaching for a napkin to dry her tears, yelped, "Fire!" Indeed, the dancing flames on the candles had ignited the wispy tissue paper around the roses, creating a miniature bonfire atop the elegantly decorated table.

Reacting quickly, Poeticus filled a pitcher with water, dousing the flames. The fire sputtered out, leaving a mushy glob of tortured flower parts amidst a scorched and smoking backdrop.

Stifling her tears, Lemon Treats began clearing the mess as best she could while Poeticus dumped the ruined menu out the back door into the garbage.

"So this is how my perfect Valentine's dinner is to end up..." the mare glumly stated. "Black and frazzled."

"Cheer up!" Poeticus smiled at her, lifting her downcast face to meet his gaze. "We will just go over to Estate Manor, if you're not afraid of the cold!"

Smiling in return, Lemon Treats accepted his plan. "Just give me time to fix my make-up. I'll be right back!"

Finishing with her task in record time, Lemon Treats surveyed herself in the mirror. Her eyes caught sight of the wrapped gift she had gotten for Poeticus. "Now might be the best time to give this to him," she decided.

Returning to the living room where Poeticus waited, Lemon Treats handed him a white box decorated with lace hearts and red ribbons.

"For me?" he jested.

"Yes, for you, silly," she feigned annoyance. "Whom else would I buy a Valentine gift for?" She withdrew the package from his grasp. "However, there was that one cute stallion at the shop..."

"Enough already," Poeticus grinned. "I can't wait to see what you chose for me."

Upon untying the ribbon and removing the lid, Poeticus found a plumed quill pen reminiscent of an earlier time. The feather was a brilliant blue with yellow accents on the top of each barb.

"It's... wonderful," Poeticus declared. He posed as if writing. "This will inspire me to write deep thoughts... and beautiful love sonnets." He kissed Lemon Treats on the cheek.

"For safe keeping, set the pen on the mantlepiece," Lemon Treats suggested. "Mimi gets a little frisky sometimes, and she considers anything within reach as fair game for her antics." She reached down and patted her feline, who meowed a shrill disclaimer.

Braving the arctic temperature, the duo left the house and hurried the several blocks to Estate Manor, being careful to avoid the patches of ice that glistened under the streetlights. "I can't wait for spring!" shivered Lemon Treats.

Arriving at the premier dining spot in Dream Valley, Lemon Treats and Poeticus were dismayed to see that the place was packed with Valentine couples; the maitre d' informed them that all spots were reserved for the remainder of the evening. Lemon Treats looked enviously across the room; it appeared that every pony pair was here: Sugarberry and Vanguard, Tabby and Thomas, Tamara and Tex, Tiffany and Toby, and Butch and Sparkler among them.

"Now what?" a downcast Lemon Treats asked of Poeticus as her plans for a romantic evening disintegrated.

"Well, let me think," pondered Poeticus. After a moment, he suggested, "How about the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe? It has been a favorite haunt of ours, after all!"

Brightening, Lemon Treats agreed. "Yes, that does sound like an appropriate place to spend our Valentine's evening together!" Taking Poeticus' hoof in her own, Lemon Treats and Poeticus continued their trek.

The outline of the slipper was a welcome sight to the freezing ponies, but Poeticus' brow furrowed in puzzlement. "The Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe doesn't look as brightly lit as it usually does," he commented.

"Maybe Scoops is adding to the romantic atmosphere of Valentine's Day by dimming the lights," cheerily suggested Lemon Treats.

But her mood dropped drastically when they got to the door of the establishment. Hanging there was a roughly lettered sign:

Due to furnace failure,

we are closed until further notice.
"This can't be happening," Lemon Treats moaned. "Weren't we meant to eat tonight?"

"We can look at the bright side," Poeticus said.

"There's a bright side?"

"Scoop's ice cream supply won't be damaged by this breakdown."

"Ha, ha," the downcast mare bluffed.

"Take heart, dear heart," Poeticus remained optimistic. "We will be led by the red glow from Tex's neon pepper sign, and find food and fellowship."

His noble attempt to keep his date's spirits up was met with a weary sigh. "Whatever," she acquiesed as they again set off on what was becoming an elusive quest.

Tex's Salsa Shop was a hangout for those ponies who liked hot, spicey food. Not the ideal spot for a dreamy Valentine encounter, Lemon Treats complained to herself. Even Tex bailed out of his own establishment to treat Tamara to dinner at Estate Manor!

Poeticus, however, led her to a corner booth, and ordered enchiladas for the two of them. Realizing how hungry she was, Lemon Treats found herself enjoying the food, even if the mood of the surroundings wasn't what she had anticipated. Atom, one of Tex's part-time employees, kept the conversation among the patrons at the shop lively, which precluded any chance at personal conversation.

Lemon Treats was happy to finally leave the red hot chili peppers behind and begin the walk home. It was cold, but she had Poeticus to herself-- that, at least, beat out the salsa shop.

"Look!" said Poeticus as they neared her house. "You can see Orion just over your place." Lemon Treats looked up to see the constellation, and in that moment stepped on an icey spot, and fell to the ground, landing awkwardly on her back right leg

"Darling, are you okay?" an anxious Poeticus leaned over her. "Is anything broken?"

"Ooww, my ankle hurts," Lemon Treats whined.

"Is that all?" queried Poeticus worriedly.

"Isn't that enought?" snapped Lemon Treats. She was immediately sorry for her irritation. "Just help me up... please?"

Willingly, Poeticus lifted her to her hooves, and supported her the remaining distance home. Once inside, he helped her to the couch, and covered her with a warm blanket before searching out a basin in which she could soak her sprained ankle. With that completed, he headed for the fireplace to start a fire, when he noticed something mangled and frayed resting on the carpeting.

"Lemon Treats," he began, "umm... I think Mimi might have found my quill pen."

"MIMI!" she wailed. "You are a naughty girl!"

Mimi responded by jumping up to the mantelpiece in a fluid motion and sitting down as if she owned the world.

"How about I make some hot chocoate?" suggested Poeticus after lighting the log in the fireplace.

"Yes, that would be nice. And don't forget the marshmallows!" she called as he disappeared into the kitchen. Lemon Treats watched the flames flicker behind the screen, and smiled as she noticed Mimi now curled up asleep on the mantle.

"Here you go!" announed Poeticus as he returned with two steaming mugs of hot chocolate. He handed one to Lemon Treats who held it to her nose to inhale the rich chocolate smell.

"It's awfully..."Poeticus began.

But Lemon Treats had already taken a sip of the frothy brown liquid. "Hot! Hot! Hot!" she squealed, fanning her burnt tongue.

"Hot," lamely finished Poeticus.

Lemon Treats leaned back onto the couch cushions and smiled weakly at her companion. "It's been quite an evening, hasn't it? I wanted everything to be picture perfect, but its been nothing but a disaster."

"It's been an unforgettable evening, if nothing else," grinned Poeticus, crossing the room to retrieve the box he had stashed upon entering the house. Coming to sit next to Lemon Treats, he took her hooves in his. "If I may, I'd like to ask you a question. And, depending on your answer, the item in this case is my Valentine's gift to you."

Her heart racing, her eyes wide in wonder, her lips slightly parted, Lemon Treats listened to Poeticus in rapt attention. Was this the moment she'd dreamed of since she had fallen in love with him? "And your queston, Poeticus?" she whispered.

Looking into Lemon Treat's shining eyes, Poeticus knew he was making the right choice. He knew she would be his soulmate forever. Taking a deep breath, he asked, "Lemon treats, will you marry me?"

And as if on cue, from high on the mantel, came a vile coughing sound as Mimi woke from her nap and retched up a fur and feather ball.

Lemon Treats looked at Poeticus and Poeticus looked at Lemon Treats for a brief second before the two of them collapsed into each others forelegs in a spasm of laughter. All the disappointments of the day were summed-up in that disgusting sound of Mimi's, and the two ponies found it a fitting end to their ill-fated Valentine's celebration.

Wiping the tears from her eyes, Lemon Treats-- when she was finally able to talk again-- answered Poeticus' question, "Yes, I will marry you!"

"Then this is for you," smiled the happy stallion as he opened the jewelry case and removed a glittering diamond ring.

"Oh, Poeticus, it is beautiful!" She watched as the stone caught the firelight and spread rays of brilliant color. Then she giggled. "At least one thing went right. I didn't sprain my left front leg, so I can wear the ring." She held out her foreleg to him.

Poeticus proceeded to slip the ring over her hoof, but to their ultimate dismay, the ring was too large, and wouldn't stay in place. Again, their eyes met. Poeticus shrugged his shoulders. "Sparkler can fix that."

"I'm sure she can," murmured Lemon Treats. She cradled the lovely diamond in her hooves.

"Well, one thing is for sure," Poeticus philosophized. "If we survived this set of events tonight, we can survive a lifetime of marriage together." He put a foreleg around Lemon Treats' shoulder and drew her close.

"I love you, Lemon Treats."

"And I love you too, Poeticus!"

Mimi looked down on the two ponies she had learned to tolerate, and meowed softly before closing her eyes in peaceful sleep.



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