My Little Pony Monthly Issue 39 (June 1, 2000)

My Little Pony Monthly
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Issue 39
June 2000

Index of this issue--

1. Letters to the Editor

2. Contest Corner

3. The Continuation of the Beginning Part Four (by Barnacle)

4. The Insane Crossover Story Notice: This is Only the Beginning!

5. Home Sweet Vulcanopolis (by Sugarberry)

6. Invento Ponies (by Berry Brite)

7. Trickles' Troubles (by Berry Brite)

8. A Wild Time (by Sugarberry)

9. Silver Swirl on Sunset Island (by Princess Silver Swirl)

10. The Tabby and Sugarberry Gossip Hour! (by Tabby and Sugarberry)

11. The Honorable Decision (by Tabby)

12. The Evil Dragon Part Nine (by Princess of the Stars)

13. Clever Clover vs. the Flatlands Chapter 3: Isle of Destiny (by Clever Clover)

14. Ginseng and Sassafras Tea Chapters Five and Six (by Sugarberry)

15. The Lost Prince Chapter Five (by Moonjumper)

16. Important Notice to our Authors!


Letters to the Editor " ‘He looks like the kind of guy that has been lost in the Himalayan Mountains seeking enlightenment in an Incan temple for the past twenty-five years,' she murmured aloud to herself." LOL!!! Where did THAT come from?!?!?! *G* Character stating something no one would know... sounds like a line from Dexter's Lab or something!! I love it! Okies, I've said this before, too many times, but THIS edition was (one of) the best!! (I'm going to have to keep saying that forever and ever ‘cause there'll never be a BAD one!) Keep the MLP Monthly roll'n!! *deep breath* I must say, Tabby-chan, that this recent issue of MLP Monthly was spectacular! I especially loved your story about Hubert returning and all. *sniff* I do hope you plan on a story in the future telling of what fate befell Thomas' parents. *sniffs again* I never thought... *wails for a moment, then composses herself* Great job on MLP Monthly, as usual! I'm so glad that Thomas and Tabby got engaged. :-) Anyway, I'm still here! I intend on continuing the Shining series; however, school and college prep have been keeping me really-really busy! I promise I'll send in the next one *soon*!


Contest Corner

The winner of last month's contest, to find the hidden horseshoe, was She received an autographed copy of Chris Platt's novel, The Forbidden Stallion. The runner-up in this contest was, who is entitled to a set of Smilemakers My Little Pony stickers, but has not claimed her prize.

There are still more autographed books to be given away, so please don't hesitate to enter our other future contests even if you have sent your name in before! However, for this month, June 2000, we have a special prize in order to celebrate an important milestone in the history of My Little Pony Monthly! This June 2000 issue commemorates our third anniversary of serving the My Little Pony community online. We would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to all our subscribers and authors, for without you, this newsletter would not be!

In honor of this grand occasion, the contest this month will revolve around the word "three". How many times can you find the word "three" printed in this issue? After you have located them, please send an e-mail to stating their locations in the issue. You will then be entered in a random drawing for who will get the grand prize.

And what is the prize? It's a unique new idea we've never tried before! If you are the lucky winner of this contest, you will receive personalized autographs of three important persons behind My Little Pony Monthly-- the editor herself (yours truly! ^.~) and two other meaningful contributors to the newsletter, Sugarberry and Barnacle!

Now, start hunting up those threes, and remember my e-mail address--!


The Continuation of the Beginning
Part Four
by Barnacle (

Barnacle was not alone as he stood silently and stared at the massive wall of the fortress. From inside the structure came the fierce sounds of battle. Occasionally, over the muffled sound of crashing steel, Pierre could be heard crying out. However, no one could tell if they were the cries of pain or the cries of battle.

"He's being slaughtered..." Protius muttered, keeping his eyes fixed on the fortress.

"There's no way he could fend off the entire fortress," Kracken added.

"ARR, Malteeze, just how many troops be stationed in there?" Barnacle asked their feline companion.

"I have no way of knowing for certain, but since we routed all of the warlords' forces from the land of the Bouldiers..." Malteeze paused, "in all likelihood... all of them."

No one could bring himself to say anything further. The situation did not look good and if their gambit failed, they would not only lose their new companion but their only chance at freedom as well. Suddenly, from the direction of the main gate, a great crash was heard and then a moment of silence.

"ARR, what was that?!" Barnacle said as everyone turned to look in that direction.

A moment later, the gate swung down and crashed to the ground throwing up a billowing cloud of dust. Everyone stood and strained to see through the haze, not quite sure what to make of this strange turn of events. But as the dust started to clear, they could begin to make out a shape coming towards them from inside the fortress.

It was Pierre!

"Come, mine comrades! Ze way iz made clear! Ze advantage iz ours to take!" the crazy lizard-man cried to them.

"I don't believe it," Protius muttered.

"ARR, well, ya better start, ‘cause we ain't got no time ta waste!" Barnacle said. "Everyone, move, NOW!" As the motley crew ran at full speed across the grassy field in front of the fortress, Barnacle began barking orders. "Once we get inside-- Kracken, Malteeze-- we'll be followin' Pierre's lead!"

"Aye-aye, Captain," Kracken said as he drew his long sword.

"Agreed," Malteeze confirmed.

"And what of me and the Bushwoolies, Captain?" Protius asked as he hurried to keep up with the others.

"You hang back and keep those two out of trouble!" Barnacle replied and shot a glance at the two rambunctious Bushwoolies.

"What?" Davey said.

"Yeah, what do ya mean?" Jones added.

As the group came to the front gate they now got a good look at Pierre. Despite all of the combat he would have had to have gone through to get this far, he looked none the worse for wear.

"See, my friends!" he exclaimed. "I told you my plan would work!"

"ARR, true, we're in the fortress but what now?" Barnacle asked over his own hurried breathing. As he took in the surroundings of the gate room, he could see several guards lying unconscious on the floor. Pierre had been very busy in the short time he had been in the building.

"Yes, you are no doubt wondering what iz to stop ze vast ‘ordes of the warlords' army from descending on us and tearing us to pieces, no?" Pierre said good-naturedly.

"Something along those lines..." Kracken agreed.

" ‘ave no fear; I ‘ave thought of everyzing!" But just as the insane freedom fighter finished saying this, a feline soldier came out of nowhere and tackled him off of his feet. Malteeze grabbed the soldier by the scruff of his neck and tossed him aside.

"Everything?" Kracken said.

Pierre just jumped back to his feet with a wide smile plastered across his face. "Yes, everyzing! And, thank you friend Malteeze, for ze save. One of the bandits must ‘ave escaped me!"

"One?" Protius asked, "What of all the others!?"

"Ah, I was jus' coming to zat," Pierre said. "Ze fortress is on its night shift. Zere were but a pittance of the full compliment of guards on duty. Ze rest are soundly asleep in zere quarters."

"ARR, but what's ta keep ‘em there?" Barnacle wanted to know.

"A heavy wooden plank across ze door, of course!" Pierre replied. "Now, enough chit-chat; we ‘ave other matters which must be attended to!" As he dashed off down a hallway that lead deep into the heart of the fortress, he called out, "Follow me!"

"ARR," Barnacle said. "I guess we follow him."

"I had hoped the fall might have improved his social skills somewhat," Protius added as he took up the rear following after the others.

The arched passageway down which they ran was high and wide. Periodically, a torch had been placed along its length; but, for the most part, it was quite dark inside. Finally, the passage ended and opened into a broad grassy courtyard brightly lit by the full moon. No one had noticed it rise as Pierre had spread chaos throughout the fortress.

Surrounding the yard on all sides were rock walls that rose about eight feet. Behind these were seats that were stepped back to form a stadium-like area. All around the perimeter were countless torches that also cast some light on the scene. Directly across from where the heroes had entered, a broad set of steps lead from the ground up to a wide platform on which sat several richly decorated seats, obviously set aside for royalty.

But on this night, the ones who occupied them were nowhere near royalty. In the chair on the right sat a huge feline who Barnacle and his crew remembered well. If his intimidating size and dark fur were not enough, then his highly polished armor would have given him away. This was Rosweld, one of the three warlord brothers who had taken control of the Bouldiers and laid waste to their city.

On his left sat another feline, but this one was much shorter and slimmer than his companion. He was covered with white fur, which was broken up by deep black spots. He wore little armor and a strange smile was showing across his lips.

"Gellatinus..." Malteeze said just loud enough so his comrades could hear. "He is the second of the three brothers, and the one who was left to watch over the Dakytins."

"Yes," Pierre called out and boldly stepped forward. "You were the one took zis land as your own and zen enslaved my people! I will ask you once to step down and walk away. If you refuse, I am afraid I will be forced to make you leave."

Gellatinus said nothing but his smile spread a little wider and a flash of ivory teeth could be seen at the corners of his mouth.

Rosweld rose up from his seat slowly and deliberately to address the group before him. "I know I speak for both of us when I say that we have no intention of giving this land over to any one, especially to the likes of you."

"Zen," Pierre said and took a step forward, "you will face me in combat."

"A duel?" Rosweld said in mocking tones. "How quaint."

"ARR, what are ya afraid of?" Barnacle said. "Last time you and me fought, you ran away and said it wasn't over. Don't be tellin' me ya've changed yer mind."

"I am a warlord of the Feline Hordes," Rosweld replied. "One small pirate is hardly worth my bother."

"How about two small pirates?" Kracken said defiantly and stepped alongside his captain.

"And me," Malteeze added.

"Oh, yes, I hadn't forgotten about you, Malteeze," Rosweld added. "But a duel with my own traitorous First Prime is to give you more respect than you deserve. Flogging and a lengthy prison stay would be more appropriate."

"You were Rosweld's First Prime?" Protius said suddenly, turning to his student.

"What's a First Prime?" Kracken asked.

"A warlord's chief lieutenant. He would have reported directly to Rosweld," Protius said, a small amount of shock creeping into his voice. "That means you would have been the one who lead the attack on the city of the Bouldiers..."

Lowering his head, Malteeze finally replied, "Yes, it is true that I was Rosweld's First Prime. But when the orders were given to destroy the city after we had already won, I could carry out my duties no longer. I deserted my post, leaving this monster's service forever."

"I never thought you would break, Malteeze!" Rosweld cried. "That is why I chose you as my First Prime. But I was wrong; you were weak! You still are!"

"A weak mind would have mindlessly continued to carry out your orders of destruction," Protius spoke up for his pupil. "It would take a strong being to oppose the likes of you."

"I thank you for your support, Master Protius," Malteeze replied. "But this is my own fight."

"Just look at yourself," Rosweld said, "calling this flea-bitten bag of feathers your master."

"I believe the only thing that ever bit me through my long imprisonment at your hands, Rosweld, was you," Protius replied simply.

"Worthless intellectual peacock! I should have done away with you when you first came into my possession!" Rosweld howled, baring his teeth and taking a menacing step forward. Even as his brother was loosing his temper, Gellatinus continued to be content to just sit back and smile at the whole situation.

"That's it; I'll deal with you all myself." Casting aside his cape, Rosweld drew his huge sword and took a step down the stairs towards the group. A soft voice from behind stopped him, however.

"No, my brother, leave the lizard for me." Finally, Gellatinus had seen fit to speak. His voice was like a cold breeze, not fully substantial and yet bone-chilling at the same time. "I would like to take this one up on his challenge."

"Very well; he's yours to deal with," Rosweld snarled. "But the traitor is mine!"

"Then I suppose that leaves me with the pirate rabble," a new voice spoke from behind the warlords. Rosweld and Gellatinus both turned around to look at the heavyset figure that stepped into view. "Surely you two could have rounded up something with a little more challenge to it."

"If you want a challenge, Fireball, you can fight me when this is over!" Rosweld spat at the third warlord brother. He was roughly the same size as Rosweld, but his long black fly-away fur made him look much more massive-- as well as more sinister. His two green eyes reflected the torch light from under a steel helm, and in his paws he carried a heavy war hammer.

"Brothers, brothers, please," whispered Gellatinus who now stood with an unnatural grace. "There is no need to argue. Let us be done with these intruders once and for all."

"Well spoken, as always, Gellie," Fireball said as he stepped to the edge of the steps and addressed the freedom fighters below. "None of you will last long at all, for tonight, you face Obsidian Fireball and the Warlords of the Feline Hordes!"

With that, the tyrant jumped forward and cleared the entire flight of steps in one bound. Landing just in front of Barnacle and Kracken, the warlord sprang forward as if his legs were nothing more than powerful springs. Both of the pirates dove in opposite directions to avoid the swing of Fireball's long-handled hammer.

As Fireball began his attack, the other two brothers started in as well. Rosweld dashed down the stairs with a blinding speed, slicing through the air with his gigantic sword as if it were weightless in his paws. Malteeze ducked and bounded to the side as only he could; but for the first time since they had met him, Barnacle and the others saw that Malteeze was going up against an opponent that was just as fast as he himself was.

Gellatinus simultaneously dove headlong down the stairs only to perform a somersault that brought him right on top of Pierre. Somewhere during his descent to the stadium ground, he had unsheathed a pair of jeweled daggers; but no one had caught the move, it being so sudden.

As Fireball continued his assault on the two pirates, Kracken ducked and dodged to avoid getting hit by the massive weapon. Trying to reassure himself as much as anyone else, Kracken quipped, "This guy's nothing but a pushover; we can finish him off easy!"

"ARR, don't be getting' cocky! Remember the fight with Rosweld!" Barnacle snapped.

"That one only went the way it did because he had an unfair advantage with all of his guards staring us down. Here we have an open playing field," Kracken replied confidently.

"Yes, open, just like your defenses!" Fireball gloated as a back-handed swing from his hammer dealt Kracken a glancing blow to the side of his skull. This spun the sailor around several times before he fell to the ground were he remained motionless.

"ARR, you'll be payin' for that one!" Barnacle cried as he thrust at the warlord with his cutlass. Fireball, however, was no longer in the path of the pirate's blade and completely avoided the attack. Raising his hammer high, he readied for a crushing blow to be delivered square to Barnacle's head. The pirate captain parried with his sword at the last instant, which succeeded in deflecting the hammer fall; but, with a sickening clang, half of Barnacle's blade went sailing through the air.

Taking a brief moment to examine his now useless weapon, Barnacle muttered "Blast!" before jumping to the side to again avoid yet another swing of Fireball's hammer. Without a weapon, all he could do now was dodge and hope that he could wear Fireball out. The prospects of that seemed poor at the moment, though.

Meanwhile, Pierre found an opponent with acrobatic abilities to rival his own in Gellatinus. As Pierre thrust at the feline with his rapiers, his attacks met with only empty air for Gellatinus had moved to the side, performing a graceful cartwheel to avoid the flashing steel.

"You are well-trained, my Dakytin foe," Gellatinus said in his soft tones. "Unfortunate for you that I am better."

"Better? Hah!" Pierre replied as he parried a thrust at his opponent. "You are better only if they have changed the meaning of the word in my absence."

Gellatinus's disturbing smile reappeared on his lips as he said, "Obviously they have, if you think for a moment that you are MY better." Diving forward, the feline delivered a blinding series of attacks that Pierre parried on every front. But as one of his swords twisted around a dagger to push it aside, the Dakytin suddenly found one of his hands empty and his sword sticking point first in the ground some distance away.

As Pierre performed a series of back flips to quickly put some distance between them, Gellatinus continued to insult the lizard. "I believe your skills as a swordsman are no match for mine."

"Hah! I laugh at your pathetic display of what you would call skill!" Pierre said as he struck a defensive pose with his one remaining rapier held at the ready and his cocky smile stretching all the wider. "Hah-hah!"

On the other side of the field another battle was being waged just as fiercely, if not more so. "Why do you insist on using that stick, Malteeze?" Rosweld asked. "I taught you to fight with a sword, not a toothpick!"

Malteeze spun his staff around just in time to parry a blow from Rosweld's sword and said, "If I were given a choice, I would not fight at all."

"Bah!" Rosweld spat. "What have these creatures done to you? There was a time when you were a fierce warrior!"

"They have done nothing that I would not have done myself," Malteeze calmly replied. "Master Protius has merely shown me how to go about it."

"You've gone soft!" Rosweld cried and lunged again with his gleaming sword.

In the midst of all the fighting, Davey and Jones were scrambling across the field in an attempt to get near Kracken and discover if he was all right or not. Protius, meanwhile, was chasing after them and screaming, "Keep your heads down! We don't want to get in Barnacle's way! Arh!" The last part he cried out as Fireball's hammer swung just inches past the top of his head on its way towards Barnacle. Dropping to the ground, the seer heard a clang of metal that meant that Barnacle had successfully blocked the attack, but the fight was still far from over. "Oh dear," he muttered as he got to his feet and hurried over to Kracken's side.

Davey and Jones were already on the scene next to the senseless pirate. As Jones tugged on his arm in a vain attempt to pull him to his feet, Davey pulled on one of his feet, trying to drag him out of the way.

"Stop it, stop it, both of you!" Protius called out to the two Bushwoolies. "You're doing more harm than good like that."

"Sorry," they both said in unison as the dropped the respective limbs they had been holding.

Protius sighed in exasperation and helped Kracken prop himself up. "Kracken, are you alright?" the parrot asked.

"Yeah... fine..." Kracken slurred as he looked around and tried to make his eyes focus on something. Unfortunately he wasn't having any luck. "Just... point me... in the right... direction..."

"I'm afraid you're in no condition to continue this battle," Protius informed him. "It appears you have quite a concussion."

"Nonsense!" Kracken said and he tried to use his sword to push himself to his feet. But, quickly loosing his balance, he fell right back to the ground groaning, "I think... I'll just lay here... for a while..."

"One of the few sensible things I've heard you say," Protius agreed. Turning to Davey and Jones, he was about to tell them to help drag Kracken out of the fighting, but was instead cut off by their screaming. Looking behind him, Protius saw that Fireball was backing up right towards them!

In a panic, the two Bushwoolies tucked themselves into balls and rolled towards the Warlord's feet. They both struck their target, which knocked Fireball off balance and sent him crashing over backwards, just short of Protius.

The seer got no chance to thank them for their bravery, however. Fireball jumped back to his feet with Davey and Jones clinging to his armor and biting and pulling at his fur.

"Filthy vermin!" Fireball cried in rage.

"Hey, mon, we not be filthy!" Jones said as he bit into a handful of the warlord's fur.

"Yeah, yeah!" Davey confirmed as locked on to Fireball's tail with a death grip.

As Protius was searching his brain for something he could do, Barnacle suddenly flopped down next to him trying hard to catch his breath.

"Captain Barnacle!" the bird exclaimed. "We have to do something."

"ARR," Barnacle agreed. "But he's a strong one... and fast."

"Speed and strength can always be matched by cunning," Protius said. "Unfortunately, I am at a loss at the moment."

"ARR, and I be too," Barnacle said as he held up his stub of a sword. Considering it for a moment, he tossed it aside. "This thing ain't be doin' me any good any longer." With that, he rose to once again confront Fireball.

"Wait!" Protius cried. "Do you mind if I borrow this?" Grabbing hold of Kracken's hand-and-a-half sword, Protius struggled to drag it over to Barnacle.

"Sure... go ahead..." Kracken replied distantly as he waved his hand.

"I think your odds might be slightly better if you took this," Protius told Barnacle who took the sword in hoof and tested its weight.

"ARR, it be a wee bit heavier than I'm used to, but right now anything is better than what I had," Barnacle replied.

"Good luck," Protius offered as Barnacle prepared to throw himself back into the fray.

But as they had been talking, Fireball had grabbed hold of Jones and tossed the diminutive Bushwoolie to the far side of the stadium. Screaming all the way, Jones passed right between the two goalposts and landed in the stands behind.

At seeing this, Fireball cried out, "Yes! Four points!"

From the stadium, Jones sat up rubbing his head and said, "I don't be likin' this game."

"And now for the extra point," the warlord added as he took hold of Davey and prepared to throw him as well.

"ARR, what was that you were sayin' earlier about leavin' yer defenses open?" Barnacle said right as Fireball was throwing the second screaming Bushwoolie. The warlord turned his head just in time to see Barnacle's fist hit him square in the gut. As he brought his war hammer up to parry a swipe from Kracken's sword, Fireball was further thrown off guard when the blade severed the long handle in two which sent both ends sailing through the air! A final kick from Barnacle and the warlord was tumbling to the ground, defenseless.

Meanwhile, Davey had not been quite so lucky as his brother. Fireball's aim was more than a little hurried as Barnacle had attacked, and this sent the poor Bushwoolie flying right into Gellatinus's face instead of into the stadium! Not knowing what else to do, Davey held on for dear life as the warlord flailed about trying to dislodge him. Pierre smiled at his good fortune and took the opportunity to retrieve his fallen sword.

"Zis iz quite a turn of events, no?" he commented to his foe as Davey finally let go and scrambled to safety.

Showing the first sign of irritation, Gellatinus snarled and said, "I don't see how. All this means is that I'll have to personally deal with that... thing as well."

"Yes," Pierre agree smugly and then pointed over Gellatinus' shoulder with one of his swords. "And zat thing, as well, I would believe."

The warlord spun around just in time to see the heavy head of Fireball's hammer falling back to earth and colliding with him in the process. Needless to say, Gellatinus fell to the ground, unconscious.

"Excellent work, my friend," Pierre said to Davey, who was cowering behind the lizard's leg. "Zat maneuver was perfectly executed! Well done!"

"Um... yeah," Davey said shakily, "but I was jus' tryin' ta get away, mon."

"Ah, but it does not matter in the slightest," Pierre replied. "It looks az zough our friend, Malteeze, could still use our help! Come!"

With Fireball and Gellatinus finally dealt with, Barnacle and Pierre ran over to see if they could be of any help to Malteeze. Protius remained by Kracken's side and Davey went to retrieve his brother from the stadium. But, as Barnacle was about to step in and finish the conflict entirely, Pierre placed his sword across the pirate's path.

"ARR," Barnacle demanded. "What do ya be thinkin'?"

"Alas, mon'capiton, zis fight iz between zese two and zese two alone," Pierre said. "I believe we should let them finish it on zere own."

Barnacle was about to protest; but one look at the intensity of Malteeze and Rosweld, and he knew Pierre was right.

"You know, Malteeze, you were the best First Prime I had ever had," Rosweld was saying as he and the other feline squared off for another melee but made no move to attack just yet. "Ruthless, blood-thirsty, and cunning... those were qualities that you had, and you should have developed them."

Standing fully upright with his staff at his side, Malteeze didn't seem at all winded by the confrontation. In fact, he still looked rather calm, but something intangible was brewing just beneath the surface that every one could sense. "Those days are behind me," Malteeze replied.

"Ah, but you could bring them back," Rosweld prodded. "I can see it in your eyes; you enjoyed the power you had over others. And you miss it, I know."

"No, you DON'T know. I miss nothing of what I blindly did under your command!" Malteeze replied, baring his fangs as the anger welled up in him.

Rosweld smiled deviously. "Come back to my army now, Malteeze, and I will forget this entire chain of events ever occurred. Abandon your pitiful new friends and help us conquer the entire world!"

Malteeze was silent, his head lowered in contemplation and deep thought. As Rosweld's First Prime, he had wielded great power. Vast legions of soldiers followed his every command. They marched across countless kingdoms with his mere direction to do so. He had been someone who was feared and respected. It had been a grand possession to hold.

And, he could have it back...

Without warning, Malteeze let out a guttural snarl and leapt towards Rosweld. His staff swung around with blinding speed, but was deflected from impacting the warlord at the last instant as Rosweld raised his sword.

"I'll never join you!" Malteeze howled, true rage seeping into his being for the first time since Barnacle and the others had first met him. "Never again will I be a party to such acts!"

Rosweld laughed as he defended himself against Malteeze's frenzied assault. "You would choose this band of riffraff over the most glorious army in all the world!?"

"Better to be regarded as a friend than to be feared as a conqueror!" Malteeze said as his staff finally made contact with Rosweld's leg and sent him falling onto his back.

"If that is the way you want it..." Rosweld said cautiously, "...then you can die!" With that, Rosweld jumped to his feet and charged Malteeze, his razor sword held out before him.

"No one will die today," Malteeze replied, regaining his focus. Easily sidestepping Rosweld's charge, Malteeze thrust his staff between the warlord's legs and sent him sprawling on the ground. Rosweld quickly scrambled for his sword that he had dropped as he fell, but Barnacle finally stepped forward and kicked it out of reach.

Lying face down on the ground, the defeated warlord looked up at the three persons standing over him and considered his options... he had none left.

"It is over," Malteeze told him. "No more will you be allowed to crush anyone under your oppressive leadership."

"No," Rosweld muttered. "It can't end this way. Not after all we've done. Not because of a pirate and a traitor!"

"And do not forget about the dashing Dakytin freedom fighter!" Pierre added with a roguish smile.

"NO!" Rosweld howled.

"ARR," Barnacle said as they tended to the wounded and secured the prisoners. "Malteeze, why didn't ye ever tell us you were Rosweld's First Prime?"

Malteeze considered the question for a moment before replying. "You never asked."

* * *
The next morning, Barnacle, Kracken, Davey, Jones, Malteeze, Protius, and Pierre were all gathered in the same courtyard where they had fought the terrible battle the night before. The warlords and their men had all been turned over to the Dakytins and their newly restored government.

The lizard-men were most grateful for the group's help and were fully prepared to throw a huge party in their honor, but Barnacle insisted that they move on as soon as possible. They had already wasted far too much time on their journey as it was. Protius and Malteeze were going to continue traveling with the pirates until they arrived at Dream Valley, so that only meant it was time to say their goodbyes to Pierre.

"I greatly appreciate all your help in freeing my people from zis tyranny!" Pierre was saying to them. "But alas, my skills as a freedom fighter are no longer needed... I feel as zough zere is nothing left for me."

"You could always go into politics," Kracken suggested as he fiddled with the bandage tied around his forehead. "I hear revolutionaries are good at that sort of stuff."

"Yes, that would be perfect..." Pierre's expression perked up for a moment. "But wait, I am not yet old enough to sit on the council."

"I'm sure you'll find something that fits you," Protius said helpfully.

"I am afraid ze life of a freedom fighter has made me crave adventure too much to remain content with ze peaceful and uneventful life zat takes place here," Pierre said in dismay. But suddenly he exclaimed, "Wait! I will accompany you, Captain Barnacle, so zat I may see ze world. Zere I will learn what I need to know so zat I can one day return here and sit on the council to lead my people. After all, you are a great leader of men; who better to observe so zat I may learn how to lead myself?"

"ARR, I suppose that be true," Barnacle grudgingly agreed. "Alright then, ye can join me crew if ye wish."

"Yes, I do indeed!" Pierre exclaimed.

"Welcome aboard," Kracken said shaking the lizard-man's hand.

"Whee!" Davey cried. "Pierre be comin' with us!"

"Yeah, yeah," Jones agreed. "Big fun, mon!"

"I'm sure there are worse career moves than from freedom fighter to pirate..." Malteeze muttered in the background.

"Well, I suppose we should be off," Protius said. "If we make good time, I should think that we could be in Dream Valley in three days or so."

"At the rate we've been going, that would be nothing short of a miracle," Kracken said.

"ARR, hold yer tongue," Barnacle advised. "Ya'll be cursin' us before we're even off."

"Yes, there's nothing between us and our destination now except a little bit of the Dark Forest and that Sky Bridge thing," Protius said. "And I'm sure we have nothing to worry from it, right, Malteeze?"

"Well... um..."

"ARR, I knew it!" Barnacle exclaimed. "Nothing has been easy on this whole trip yet!"


The Insane Crossover Story Notice
This is Only the Beginning!

For all our loyal fans out there-- of whom I'm pretty sure there's at least one-- who have noticed the absence of a new chapter last month, you weren't overlooking anything. It wasn't there.

The main reason for this is because I've been feeling rather uninspired for that particular storyline lately, probably because of a long string of personal problems that I won't go into. Well, actually, I still have plenty of outrageous ideas-- thanks to Barnacle's insight-- but I can't get myself to put them into writing.

Before you completely freak out and pass out on the floor or something, I would like to make it clear that The Insane Crossover Story is not over! Far from it! There are still a million things we need to cover: She-Ra, with her scrupulous conscience who preaches to the camera audience; Earth Core, where the logic is: "Shoot now; ask questions later"; and lots of Bunnybees-- and that's only the beginning!

So, The Insane Crossover Story is not dead. It's only on vacation for a bit. When it's going to start again, I can't say, but-- it will return! And hopefully better than ever before!



Home Sweet Vulcanopolis
by Sugarberry (

Vanguard stood looking over the landscaped grounds that fell away from the second-story terrace of the town house that had become his home on arrival in Italy. As he stared out at the beauty of the landscape, he shook his head to clear it of some nagging thoughts.

"I still can't believe I'm here," he said to himself. "Vulcanopolis... half a world away from Sugarberry." He rubbed a hoof across his forehead and closed his eyes. It had been several weeks since he'd left Dream Valley, and he still felt the pain of leaving... like a physical wound in his heart.

The ringing of the telephone escaped him until the fourth ring finally broke through his thoughts. He hurried to pick-up the receiver, and mustered a relatively cheerful-sounding, "Hello?"

"Hey! How goes it?" The voice was that of Guido, a local stallion whom Vanguard had met at a dinner party that Agatha had held in his honor; that event had occurred the night before she received the news of her husband's return to Dream Valley. Agatha had returned to Ponyland, but the ponies she'd introduced Vanguard to had aided in making his adjustment to a new community so far from home as easy as possible under the circumstances.

"Guido! Good to hear from you!"

"Have you eaten yet?" Guido asked. "I was thinking of dinner at Pasta Plaza and thought you might like to get out a bit."

"Sure. Why not?" Vanguard replied. "What time?"

"Make it half an hour," Guido advised. "I've got to check my stock options before I leave the office."

As Vanguard hung up the phone, his eyes rested on the picture of Sugarberry and himself that had found a home on the desk. Clever Clover had snapped the pose last Christmas, and it was Vanguard's favorite picture of Sugarberry. He picked it up and stared at it, his mind wandering to events from years past before he'd met the pony of his dreams, back when he was still in college.

"Stupid!" he ranted out loud. "How could I have been so stupid as to get caught up in such trouble? If it weren't for a bad decision back then, I'd still be in Dream Valley."

He set the framed photo down, and darted down the stairs and out the door as if the fresh air would help him escape the memories that held him captive. He walked several blocks through the city before the mild evening air soothed his raw nerves, and he began to notice the beauty of this place which for the next seven months he would call home.

The sound of foal's laughter in a nearby park danced along with the calming breeze, and Vanguard let his discouraged mood slip away as he crossed an arched bridge over a slowly-flowing stream lined with bushes, their branches loaded with scarlet blossoms. It was a picture-perfect scene and he found himself thinking, "I wish Sugarberry was here to see this." He filed the scene in his mind to describe to her in his next long letter.

Arriving at the cafe ahead of schedule, he sat on a bench in the busy piazza and watched the ponies pass by. Some were hurrying home from work, looking straight ahead. Others were walking in the company of friends, moving at a slower pace and discussing events of the day. "Ponies are pretty much the same here as at home," Vanguard surmised as he continued his pony-watching pastime.

"Vanguard!" a voice called in surprise-- not a stallion's voice, but a lyrical mare's. Turning his head to see who had noticed him, he recognized another of Agatha's dinner guests.

"Clare?" he said hesitantly as he stood to greet her. "It's nice to see you again."

"Are you waiting for someone in particular, or are you free to join me for dinner?" the orchid-colored beauty asked.

Coming up from the other direction, Guido answered the question for him. "He's with me, Clare, but you're welcome to join us."

"Best offer I've had all day," she smiled. "It's been a dry day in the fashion world."

"Oh, come on, Clare!" Guido teased. "Every mare in Vulcanopolis is fighting to own one of your exclusive designs!"

"If that's the case, why are my racks crowded with pieces, and my seamstresses idle at their machines?"

Guido laughed. "I highly doubt that things are that bad. However, with Agatha out of town..."

"Oh! I do miss her parties!" Clare pouted. "Vanguard, do you think she'll return soon?"

Vanguard waved a hoof in uncertainty. "I wouldn't want to venture a guess," pondered the country-blue stallion. "She and Hubert probably aren't even sure themselves at this point."

"At any rate," Clare prattled on as the threesome entered the restaurant and waited to be seated, "with her daughter's marriage coming up, I'd bet she'll stay in Dream Valley until that is finalized."

"Yes. Tabby." Guido scowled as he remembered the vivacious, sharp-tongued unicorn that had visited Vulcanopolis last year. Agatha had thrown the two together with designs of a budding romance; and for Guido, it had worked. But Tabby had thwarted his efforts at every turn; her heart had already been claimed by Thomas. "I would like to meet this fiancé of hers, and see if he can give her more from life than I can!"

Clare laughed at his annoyance. "If Tabby is in love with this Thomas, you and your amassed jangles would mean nothing to her!"

"She's right, Guido. Those two belong together," Vanguard interjected. "Be happy for them."

The head waiter came at that moment to escort the high-tipping stallion and his friends to a choice table with a view of Vesuvius in the distance. "Have you been to the ruins yet, Vanguard?" Clare asked curiously.

"No. I've been busy at the university, but once I get caught up in the routine of it all, I plan to do some sight-seeing."

"Great! We can plan a picnic! What do you think, Guido? Should we include Batista or Emily in this outing?"

Guido was still sulking over his lost bid at Tabby's affection, but he shook off his melancholy with a grin. "Let Vanguard decide."

Vanguard raised his hooves in opposition. "Whoa! Don't match me up with anyone, please!"

"Who is she?" Clare tormented him brazenly at this hint of a special someone in his life. "Come on; do tell!" she coaxed as Vanguard remained silent.

He took a deep breath before responding, but eventually decided that these new friends deserved to know where he stood. "Her name is Sugarberry," was all he said, fidgeting with the silverware on the table.

"Oh, what a sweet name!" Clare teased. "What's she like?"

"She's a writer and a receptionist," Vanguard hesitated in sharing too much.

"That's what she does, not what she's like," taunted Clare mercilessly. "Let me guess." She eyed Vanguard mischievously. "She's kind and compassionate and soft-spoken and very pretty. Am I right?" she queried when Vanguard remained silent.

Guido huffed. "That would describe any mare to a stallion in love," he scoffed.

Clare flashed Guido a chilly look that shut him up temporarily at least. "Come on, Van, ‘fess up!"

"She's everything you said," Vanguard agreed simply.

"I knew it!" Clare beamed. "I have a knack for matching personalities up!" She sent a cool glance in Guido's direction once more, which Vanguard noticed with amusement. Did Clare have her sights set on this wealthy entrepreneur who only looked on her as a childhood buddy?

The evening passed in good camaraderie, and Vanguard felt more at ease in his surroundings knowing he had friends close by to turn to. As he unlocked the door of the pink stucco three-story town house that was now his home-- actually Giorgio's home-on-loan-- he heard the telephone ringing. But the flat dialtone when he picked it up let him know he was too late on this one.

He was tired anyway as the night was late; he walked across the lush white carpeting of the living area that bore out Giorgio's extravagant life-style, and checked the lock on the patio doors before heading for the third-story bedroom. The massive, solid wooden bedroom pieces caused him to chuckle. He never ceased to wonder what Giorgio's reaction to Vanguard's sparse efficiency apartment had been.

No sooner had Vanguard dozed off when the reverberating shrillness of the phone pierced through his unconsciousness. He grabbed the bedside phone and mumbled "Hello" before he knew what he was doing.

"I tried earlier several times, but you weren't home," a jovial voice met his ear.

"Tawny?" Vanguard croaked as a vision of Dream Valley's illustrious police chief fought through his sleepiness.

"Yup. Just wanted to check on how things were going on your end."

Vanguard was fully awake now, and glad to have a chance to touch base with someone back home. "It's been quiet and uneventful here so far."

"Yeah. I figured as much. But you'll be interested to know that Giorgio has settled into your responsibilities at Pony Pride in an illustrious fashion," Tawny replied. "He hasn't made a move to set up his operation here yet as far as we can tell. But he's building a good rapport with your... his students; he will decide on which one to draw into his confidence soon enough, and then his scam will take off."

"Have you been in touch with Decagon?"

"Yes, and there was one interesting development in the investigation at Binks University."

"Which is?" Vanguard prompted.

"Well, Giorgio's got a better production going than we first thought. Besides his selling of answer keys, he's also getting kickback's from graduates who are afraid he will compromise their careers with the truth about their undeserved grades."

"Not a bad business for an exemplary teacher," Vanguard muttered disdainfully, getting a better picture of the means that a fellow teacher had access to by which he could live so luxuriously.

"This also means he probably has accomplices to help him take care of all his bookkeeping and other details. So don't trust anyone."

Not even Guido... and Clare? Vanguard wondered dismally.

When Vanguard remained silent, Tawny asked, "Did Chief Matteo brief you on what has gone on over there?"

"Nothing you hadn't already told me.. Giorgio is a renowned teacher at Leonardo University. And his father used to be the chancellor here. Several teachers suspect some impropriety in grading in certain instances, but no one seems to have any evidence to verify Decagon's accusation of deceitfulness on Giorgio's part.."

"Which means we've gotten nowhere yet. But that's to be expected," Tawny remained upbeat. "It will take some time for all the players in this game to get set-up after the last-minute change in the rules."

"Yeah!" agreed Vanguard. "Like my being here instead of Decagon, and Giorgio being at Pony Pride instead of Binks University."

"It will all work out," Tawny assured him. "When someone like Giorgio gets greedy, he's bound to slip up somewhere. And I'm sorry I woke you. I'll let you get back to sleep now."


"What is it?"

"How's Sugarberry? Have you seen her?"

"Shimmer had our daughter's rabbit in for a check-up just yesterday; she said Sugarberry was business as usual."

"Good," Vanguard responded. "I only wish I could have explained things to her."

"You realize the need for secrecy here, Van. We've got three communities at least entangled in this, and we can't have any more ponies involved than are vitally necessary."

"I told Wigwam to keep an eye on her for me, but I think he went a little overboard by striking up that author-authoress relationship with her before I even left Dream Valley. Now, from a different perspective, I feel the need to ask you to keep an eye on him."

Tawny laughed. "Wigwam's trustworthy. You can depend on him."

"That's what worries me," Vanguard confessed. "He's the kind Sugarberry could fall for. When I left, I thought I could let that happen; now I know I can't."

"Wigwam's on assignment with the force for this operation," Tawny rationalized. "He won't let any personal feelings get in the way of his professionalism."

"Yeah. I feel a lot better now," Vanguard cynically responded.

"If it makes you breath easier, I'll watch the situation," Tawny chuckled, finding Vanguard's misgivings humorous. "I'm sure Shimmer will be glad to help, too. Now, don't worry, and get to sleep!"

But sleep was the last thing on Vanguard's mind now. The conversation with Tawny had set all the wheels in motion to ensure a sleepless night.

"Decagon was my sanctuary when I needed one; now I've got to help him," the despondent stallion mused. He remembered Decagon's family from the years Vanguard himself was a student in his senior year at Binks University: his wife Paisley Pinafore and the two children, Lighthouse and Rainbow. A chain of events that his own artlessness had entangled him in had now ensnared Lighthouse and reached out to engulf Vanguard in a situation that he thought had been resolved years ago.

It was Decagon who had alerted him to the ghost from the past. Vanguard had relived that conversation daily since he'd received the call from Decagon near the end of April .

"Vanguard, I've got a problem here. I'm hoping you can help

me out."

"This sounds serious, Decagon. You know I'll help you in any way

I can.

(There follows a weighty pause as Decagon musters up the

courage to say what he has to reveal.) "Lighthouse has been implicated

in a major cheating scandal here at Binks."

"I'm sorry to hear that, Decagon."

"It gets worse. He has admitted that the pony that got him

involved is the teacher that I did an exchange with several years ago,

while you were in graduate school."

"A teacher's doing the selling of his own test solutions?"

"I'm afraid so. And Lighthouse fell for it big. He's been this creep's

right-hand-man for the last couple of years. Vanguard, my son has been

selling me out right under my nose."

(Vanguard's reply is slow in coming, a wave of forgiven-- but not

forgotten-- guilt flooding his soul.) "He must have his reasons, Decagon."

"He did, but none of them noble. He did it for easy money, and

for an easy bid for the Dean's list. There were no extenuating circumstances

in this case, Vanguard".

"I'm sorry."

"I'm head of the math department, Vanguard. My own son took

advantage of that fact to keep this duplicity going even with Giorgio back in


"Vulcanopolis? That's where your exchange took you? To Italy?"

"Yes. And I've talked with the school authorities over there and

although they suspect a cheating problem, too, they unequivocally refuse to

believe Giorgio is involved. He's very intelligent and comes from a rather

distinguished family from Vulcanopolis."

"I had no idea the problem had gotten this out-of-hoof since my days

in college at Binks. Pony Pride doesn't seem to have anything like that."

"Well, this brings us to the reason for my call. I had been scheduled

to do an exchange with Giorgio this summer and fall never suspecting a thing

out of line. With Lighthouse graduating, I guess he had to line up a new recruit.

It was just coincidence that Lighthouse got caught at this time. And you can

imagine how upset Paisley Pinafore is by all this; I can't leave her now,


"That's understandable." (Vanguard starts to get a sick feeling

in the pit of his stomach.)

"I suggested an idea to Binks officials, and they think it would be a

beneficial move in this case."

"And what's that?"

"Well, this is where you come in. I figure that if I confide to

Giorgio that family concerns obligate me to back out of our arranged

exchange, but that I know another qualified pony who could fill in for me, we

can get this menace into a trap-- based at your department at Pony Pride

while you do the same at Leonardo."

"You want me to go to Italy?"

"Yes. I figure that this conniving stallion will set-up a brand new

cheating scam once he's at Pony Pride, but with the proper authorities

watching discreetly over his shoulders."

"Won't Giorgio suspect something when he finds that his contact at

Binks is uncovered?"

"Only a very few ponies know all the facts of this case-- and it must

stay that way, Vanguard; not a word of this to anyone-- and Lighthouse

has promised to play along with our subterfuge. Giorgio only needs to

know that my son has been caught cheating, not that he's squealed on his


(Vanguard doesn't reply.)

"Vanguard, Lighthouse is the same age you were when I helped you

out of your dilemma. That aid was given freely, and I don't mean to put

a price on it now, but this cheating scam is too big a deal. We have a

chance to wipe it out. What do you say?"

(A pause...) "Of course I'll help you, Decagon. What do I have to do?"

"Right now, nothing. With your permission, I'll notify Giorgio of

my problem and see if he is willing to change his plans. If he is, we'll have

to run some paperwork through real fast to get the two of you set-up for

the exchange."

"When does it take place?"

"I was to arrive in Vulcanopolis on May 15."

(Another pause as Vanguard realizes just how soon that is.)

"Okay, Decagon; let me know what happens."

It was two days later when Vanguard got a second call from Decagon.

"It's all set Vanguard. Giorgio believed my story that Lighthouse

was only caught cheating. He doesn't suspect that anyone has knowledge

of his part in the operation, but I think I sensed some relief from him not

to be expected at Binks this year."

"Was he willing to come to Pony Pride?"

"Like a foal with a new stacking ring! I'm sure his eyes lit up at

the chance to infiltrate a whole new college community."

"So what comes next?"

"I'm sending you the forms you'll need to fill out, and I've arranged

for Giorgio to call you tomorrow. Just play it cool, and answer his questions

like you're looking forward to this exchange."

"I'll do my best."

"The president here at Binks will contact your president to

speed-up any necessary adjustments to your unscheduled departure."

"I appreciate that."

"Remember that no one is to be told about this. Only those directly

involved are to be trusted."

"I understand, Decagon."

"And Vanguard?"


"Thank you! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!"

Vanguard sat up in bed and admitted defeat to the harbingers of insomnia. He traipsed down the two flights of stairs to the kitchen, fixed a pot of strong black coffee, dimmed the lights, and sat dejectedly at the kitchen table. Only once before dawn did he interrupt his lonely vigil. Going to the desk in the second-floor den, he picked-up Sugarberry's picture; and returning to his chair, he set the picture in front of him on the table and continued his desolate soliloquy.


Invento Ponies
by Berry Brite (

Name: Watch

Breed: Earth (Friendship Gardens)

Body: Deep Blue

Hair: Powder Blue

Symbol: Watch

Name: Diamond

Breed: Earth (Friendship Gardens)

Body: White

Hair: Holographic

Symbol: none except for a tiny diamond on right cheek

Name: Nightshade

Breed: Earth (Friendship Gardens)

Body: Deep Purple

Hair: Dark Blue

Symbol: Nightshade Berries

Name: Aster

Breed: Pegasus

Body: Black

Hair: Iridescent Black, Green, and Blue with Silver Tinsel

Symbol: an almost invisible constellation Orion plus a sparkly asterisk on her forehead


Trickles' Troubles
by Berry Brite (

Trickles woke up. The sun was shining through her window. She was in a really positive mood. Her younger sister, Wishing Well, suddenly peeked in her room.

"It's eight o' clock, sleepyhead. You have to go to work in half an hour," the petite blue filly informed her. Trickles whirled around in bed to look at her clock.

"AAAAAHH!" she panicked. " Oh, rats! I gotta take a shower yet!" After jumping out of bed and rushing through her shower, Trickles hurriedly dried and combed her mane and tail, got dressed, and rushed downstairs to eat breakfast.

"Ten minutes!" said Wishing Well, who was lazily lying on the couch. The two sisters shared a home, but Wishing Well was without any obligations that day. Trickles, however, ran a small gardening shop in Dream Valley.

"Oh, thanks, Wishing Well," retorted Trickles, her voice dripping with sarcasm. "I would've never been able to understand those numbers on the clock if it weren't for you."

"Well, I never!" replied Wishing Well huffily.

Trickles finally managed to find something to eat, and rushed out the door, nearly galloping to her gardening shop. When she arrived, she saw a group of official-looking ponies waiting outside. A stallion walked up to her.

"Are you Miss Trickles?" he questioned.

"Ye-e-e-es," answered Trickles suspiciously. "Do you want something?"

"I'm Mr. Mansly, the stallion you rented this building from," he introduced himself. "You haven't paid the rent on this building for quite some time. You keep ignoring my warnings. And since you seem to refuse to pay..." He cocked an eyebrow. "...I am taking this property back into my possession. I have given you many chances to pay for it, but I simply refuse to let you use it any longer."

"I'll pay you right now!" cried Trickles desperately, pulling out her wallet. "Here! Three thousand jangles!"

"I'm sorry, Miss Trickles," said Mr. Mansly. "But like I said, I have given you many chances to pay. I demand this building back right this instant!" There was a great deal of anger in his voice. "I would suggest you go and get your things from inside."


"No ‘buts', Miss Trickles."

Trickles stormed inside the building. She quickly gathered all her things and marched back out. "Hmph!" she said. "The only reason I'm giving into you is because..." she paused. "...because I don't have enough time to go to court!"

Trickles then stomped home. She entered and slammed the door, sending her cat, Bliss, rocketing up the stairs with her tail increased at least six inches in diameter.

Next, the yellow pony threw her things down on the floor. She then picked up the first object she could find in the living room, which was a vase, and pitched it at the wall. "Wishing Well, this is all your fault!" she screamed, needing someone to blame for her troubles. The pressure that had built up inside her since the beginning of that day erupted just then. "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHH!!!"

Bliss bristled out about six to seven more inches, the house shook, and the windows nearly shattered. Trickles ran upstairs, on the verge of crying. "No one is worse off than me," she lamented angrily.

* * *
When Merry Treat heard that her friend's gardening shop had been closed, she ran to the phone, picked it up, and dialed Trickles' number. While it was ringing, Merry Treat said in a half-whisper, "Poor Trickles." Then, someone on the other end picked the phone up.

"Hello," said a cold and icy voice. "Who's calling, and make it fast! ‘Cause I really don't have time."

"Uhh... Trickles?" asked Merry Treat. "You okay?"

"What do you think?" Trickles snorted. "Do you think I'm alright?"


"Well, no, I AM NOT ALRIGHT!!!" The phone suddenly clicked.

Merry Treat stared at the phone. It was making that dull sound. She sighed. "Vixie?!" she called. Vixie, who felt weird that day, swooned into the room.

"Ye-e-e-ez?" Vixie said, not even sounding conscious. "What's up?"

"You okay, Sis?" asked Merry Treat, pretending to look scared. Vixie nodded vigorously.

"Yup. Just too much sugar!"

"Ah. Well, never mind. I guess I can handle this," said Merry Treat, looking depressed.

"Handle what?" asked Vixie, finally looking as though she had come back into reality. "Something wrong?"

"Well, Trickles wouldn't pay the rent for her gardening shop, and now it's closed down. I tried to talk to her about it on the phone... and, well, she just sorta ended up blowing out my eardrums," spilled Merry Treat.

The next ten minutes were quiet. Finally, Vixie broke the silence. "Well, give Trickles some time to cool off, and then invite her to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe to talk."


* * *
After cleaning up the mess she had made with the hurled vase, Trickles sat sullenly on the couch, scowling. The phone rang again.

"Hello," whispered Trickles, her voice hoarse from screaming. "This is Trickles."

"Hi, Trickles," said Merry Treat jovially. "Wanna go to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe?"

"I guess so."

"I'll come over right away," replied Merry Treat. A short while later, the two friends entered the ice cream shop and sat down at the stools up front.

" Hi, Trickles, Merry Treat," said Scoops. "The usual? A banana split, Trickles?"

"No," said Trickles. Merry Treat and Scoops looked at her in awe. Trickles continued. "I'll have a limeade, please."

"One... limeade. You, Merry Treat?" asked Scoops.

"Chocolate sundae," said Merry Treat.

"Right." As Scoops prepared their ice cream and limeade, Meteor and Tiffany came in.

"Hi, Trickles," said Meteor. "I heard about what happened--"

Tiffany broke in and began babbling, sounding like a chipmunk. "Yes, I guess you should have paid your rent when you had the chance!"

"Shut up!" said Trickles, flashing a look at the princess that would melt a bar of steel. Scoops nervously put down Trickles' and Merry Treat's orders, and began taking Meteor's and Tiffany's.

"Have you heard?" asked Tiffany of no one in particular. "Some new doctor and his sister-- who's a nurse-- are coming to work at the hospital in town."

"No," said Merry Treat. "I hadn't heard. What are they like?"

"Well, they're from Friendship Gardens," Tiffany continued. "And I asked them here tonight."

"Great," murmured Trickles sarcastically.

"What, dear?" asked Princess Tiffany. Then two ponies walked in the door. One was deep blue, with powder blue mane and tail. His symbol was a watch.

"Hello," the stallion said.

Tiffany stood up. "Hello! Everyone, this is Dr. Watch!"

"And this," said Dr. Watch, "is my sister, Diamond." The mare by his side was white. Her hair came to the floor, and was almost holographic. Her eyes were a soft, pretty blue.

"Hi," Diamond said timidly. Trickles could've sworn Meteor whistled.

"Grr," she thought, looking sideways at the red stallion seated next to her. "She'd better stay away from Meteor." Meteor was a long-time friend of Trickles'; and in some gossip circles, they were even a "couple". Trickles wasn't sure how deep their friendship was herself, but she didn't like the way Meteor had looked at Diamond. She sat there, glowering for a minute. "Goodbye," she said suddenly, the stress building slowly having built-up in her soul. She rushed out the door, not even touching her limeade.

* * *
The next day, Baby Noddins rushed to the phone and pushed a few buttons.

"Hellwo?" said a voice at the other end.

"Hi, Baby Fawwing Weaves," said Baby Noddins. "I'm gonna find out if Trickles likes Meteor. Wanna helwp?"


"You'll see!" said Baby Noddins mischievously. "Get your mom to let you come over." Soon, Baby Noddins' trusted partner had arrived at her house. "Here," said Baby Noddins, explaining her plan. "We gonna call hoe."

"HER," corrected Baby Falling Leaves.

"Whatever," said Baby Noddins, not particularly caring about grammar at the moment. She dialed Trickles' number.

"What will your mom say, Baby Noddins?" asked Baby Falling Leaves nervously. "Remember the last time you called..."

"She won't," Baby Noddins cut her friend off.

"Oh-h-h-h," said Baby Falling Leaves, nodding and standing back.

Trickles was still mad beyond comprehension when she picked her phone up. "Hello?"

Baby Noddins spoke as clearly as possible. "Hewwo, Trickles. I saw Meteor... uhh... kiss somebody."

Trickles was immediately on the defensive. "Who?!"

"Uh, it was Diamond, the nurse who also sometimes babysits me-- uh, who babysits Baby Noddins," the baby pony quickly corrected herself.

"Who is this, anyway?" asked Trickles.

"Mewrrry Trweat."

"Yeah, right!" scowled Trickles.

"No, it is!"

Trickles was gullible, though. "You mean Diamond? The new nurse?" she wondered.


Click. The line went dead.

"See?" asked Baby Noddins, triumphantly turning to Baby Falling Leaves after Trickles had hung up. "She wikes Meteor."

"I didn't hear a word!" protested Baby Falling Leaves.

* * *
Trickles flew up the stairs and cast herself on her bed, finally sobbing. She cried so hard she could hardly breathe. Suddenly, the doorbell rang. Trickles quickly dried her tears. She went to answer it, and found that Princess Tiffany and Princess Dawn had come by to see her.

"Trickles," began Tiffany, "I dare you to--"

"What? I'll do your stupid dare!" snapped Trickles.

"--to promise to do something before I tell you what it is," Tiffany finished.

"Don't, Trickles," implored Dawn. "It's cruel."

"I promise," said Trickles, without hesitation. "What is it?"

"If you promise and don't keep the promise, you have to eat my chocolate chip cookies," threatened Tiffany. Trickles cringed. Everyone knew what Tiffany's culinary abilities were like. "All right. You must come to the dance tonight at the Royal Paradise with Meteor, and stay there ‘till it is over."

"WHAT!?" shrieked Trickles.

"I told you it was cruel, Trickles," said Dawn.

"Dress nicely!" said Tiffany. Trickles immediately slammed the door and went to the phone to seek the advice of one of her acquaintances, Tamara.

"Tamara?" asked Trickles.

"Yes? Who is this"

"It's Trickles. I have a date tonight against my will," she explained. "Will you give me a... a... makeover?"

"You're sounding just like Tabby. Sure, I'll do it!" replied Tamara. "I'll be over as soon as possible."

Trickles went upstairs and put on a nice dress. "I'll teach Meteor to kiss Diamond!" she muttered.

"What?" asked Wishing Well from across the hall. "Why are you dressing up, Trickles?"

"None of your business!" shouted Trickles.

* * *
That night, Trickles appeared at the dance, wearing a red satin dress and a nice makeover from Tamara. When Meteor saw her, he walked straight to her.

"Wow, Trickles," he said. "You look great."

Trickles glowered and muttered something not understandable. After the dinner, Meteor asked Trickles, "Would you like to dance?"

"No," Trickles answered, "but I would like to talk to you outside."

"Oooh!" taunted Tiffany as the two went out.

"Meteor!" shouted Trickles, once the two were alone. "We are through! Not that we ever were a couple, but we certainly won't be now! Goodbye!" With this said, she left, leaving Meteor's heart ripped in two.

"Trickles... wait!" he shouted. But, of course, she didn't.

* * *
Now it was three days since Trickles' shop had been closed and her whole life had turned upside-down. She woke up to see a dark and stormy sky out her window-- exactly like she felt. She couldn't even be nice any more since the disaster with Mr. Mansly! She decided to have Merry Treat over to talk.

When Merry Treat arrived, Trickles told her everything-- her resentment towards Diamond, the call she had received from "Merry Treat", and what she had told Meteor the previous night.

After hearing all this, Merry Treat thought for a minute. She finally said, "You know, Trickles, I never told you that Meteor kissed Diamond. It must've been--"

"Baby Noddins!" declared Trickles suddenly. "I thought you sounded strange, MT."

"I bet it was Baby Noddins, Trickles," said Merry Treat soothingly. "And I also think that you owe Meteor an apology."

"Yeah," said Trickles. "I do."

After Merry Treat had gone on her way, Trickles went down the street to Meteor's house and knocked on the door. Meteor opened it soon afterwards.

"Trickles!" he said in surprise.

"Meteor, I'm sorry I dumped you. It's just that... everything that's been going on... and a false report... that made me angry. I'm sorry. I'll be your... your... friend again."

Meteor smiled. Then, unexpectedly, he kissed her. Trickles felt very strange, but happy.

"Bye, Meteor," she said dreamily as she turned to leave. When she got home, she plopped down on the couch. Trickles felt much more at ease with the world now. Perhaps everything would turn out okay after all. When the doorbell rang, she got up to answer it-- Princess Tiffany was waiting for her on the porch.

The princess smiled craftily and held up a bag of doughy, half-cooked, deformed blobs-- "cookies". "You didn't stay for the whole party, Trickles! Eat up!"

"Oh no!!!" cried Trickles.

The End

A Wild Time
by Sugarberry (

Chocolate Chip found Sugarberry sitting at the kitchen table, depressed and a bit grouchy.

"What's bothering you, Sugarberry?" Chocolate Chip asked. "We've got to get a lunch packed."

Sugarberry sighed. "I got up early to make a batch of brownies."

"Sounds good so far."

Sugarberry sighed again. "The batter was very runny when I poured it into the pan, but there wasn't much I could do about it at that point; so I put it in the oven and baked it anyway."

"And...?" prompted Chocolate Chip.

Waving her hoof in the direction of the pan sitting on top of the oven, Sugarberry sighed a third time. "Look for yourself."

Chocolate Chip went to the stove and peered at what appeared to be a tasty pan of brownies, and the aroma was enticing. But when she reached to take a piece out of the pan, her hoof recoiled-- whatever it was, it didn't feel anything like a brownie. "It feels like a water-logged sponge!" she observed.

Using a spatula to remove the piece from the pan, Chocolate Chip placed it on a plate and touched it tentatively again; the brownie bounced like Jell-O. "It looks normal, but it surely doesn't have the right consistency."

Sugarberry sulked quietly.

Bravely taking a bite, the chocolate brown pony chewed thoughtfully. "Tastes okay, but it is a tad too moist," she finally decided. She grinned at Sugarberry. "Were you thinking about Vanguard again while you were measuring ingredients?"

Casting her an irritated glance, Sugarberry had to admit that her thoughts might have wandered off for an instant... or two.

Giggling now, Chocolate Chip crossed to Sugarberry and put a foreleg across her shoulders. "Come on, Sug. Admit it! It's funny!"

"It was funny the first time I goofed up a recipe because I was day-dreaming about his life in Vulcanopolis, but its getting kind of old by now."

Chocolate Chip patted her shoulder. "I'll go and get some cookies out of the freezer; they'll thaw while we are walking."

The reason the two ponies were gathering up a picnic lunch was that Wigwam, upon finding out that Chocolate Chip was interested in arrowheads and similar artifacts of the Native Ponies, had suggested a trek up into the foothills on a specimen-hunting expedition. Once the word got out, Rocky, Ages, Digger, Spike, Frilly Flower, and Spring Song had joined the hunting party. And when Baby Noddins had heard them discussing it at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe one evening, she had connived an invitation out of the soft-hearted Frilly Flower to be included in the company.

Wigwam had remained attentive to Sugarberry's progress in her proofing of his manuscript, and showed up at least once a week to offer literary suggestions even though Sugarberry had assured him that she was having no serious difficulties, and would not really need his input until she had completed her task. But Wigwam insisted on keeping in close touch, and had become good friends with both Sugarberry and Chocolate Chip.

He had even volunteered to help Sugarberry plant her garden, a job that she and Vanguard had looked forward to. They had ordered garden seeds in the dead of winter, but by the time the spring weather had arrived, Vanguard had left for far-off Italy. During the planting of the seeds, Chocolate Chip had mentioned her interest in the artifacts that she and her brother had found on their grandparents' farm over the years, and Wigwam jumped at the chance to share some of his Native Pony wisdom with her and anyone else who was interested. The outing had blossomed into quite an enterprise.

By the time Chocolate Chip returned from the basement with the cookies, Sugarberry had thrown off her doldrums and thrown out her brownies. "I'll get the stuff out of the refrigerator; you can pack some soda," she instructed.

"What about some snack chips?" Chocolate Chip asked.

"Something tells me that Digger and some of those others might find it easier to bring that sort of thing as their contribution to the picnic," Sugarberry mused.

"Yeah, I suppose you're right."

"And remember the tablecloth," Sugarberry said. "I don't like grass and dirt clinging to my plate and beverage."

By the time the two had gathered up everything they wanted to take, it was time to meet the others. Arriving at the designated spot, they found everyone assembled except for Baby Noddins; but hurrying down the path was Frostflake carrying a backpack with the foal at her side.

"Sorry we're late," Frostflake panted, "but someone forgot that she was supposed to wash the strawberries last night" She frowned down at her daughter.

"They weren't that dwirty, anyway," countered Baby Noddins, grabbing the pack from her mother.

"You're just in time," Sugarberry assured Frostflake. "And don't worry about Baby Noddins; we'll take good care of her."

With a wave of farewell to her mother, Baby Noddins set off with the rest of the group. It was a merry bunch; the weather was beautiful, and the promise of a perfect outing hung like a visible canopy over the ponies and Spike.

The first part of the walk was easy as it encompassed frequently used paths that were well-marked and hoof-worn; this tended to keep them in a parade formation, however. It was only after they reached the foothills that the going became more casual and everyone could spread out. The pace slowed down as wildflowers were admired, animal burrows were investigated, and bird sightings were made. Rocky occasionally asked Baby Noddins if she needed a lift, but she stubbornly refused a helping hoof.

Their random pace still brought them to the site where Wigwam had planned for them to eat lunch promptly at noon. It was a valley between two of the hills, and a sparkling river flowed lazily between its lush, green banks. The spring rains had been generous, and the meadow was vibrant in color and foliage.

"This is beautiful!" Sugarberry exclaimed. "I've never been to this area before!"

"We'll walk upriver until we come to that grove of trees; it's the perfect spot for a picnic," Wigwam instructed.

"When dwo we gwet to the arty-facts?" queried Baby Noddins, finally allowing Rocky to carry her backpack for her.

"Well," began Wigwam, "see that hillside up ahead where the rocks come down to meet the river?"


"The ponies used to camp in this valley near the river, and they spent time during the winter months fashioning projectile points, scrapers, and other tools they needed in their way of life." Wigwam fell silent as he envisioned these early ponies busy about their daily activities in the peaceful shelter of the valley.

"That way of life would have been well and good in the summer," contemplated Sugarberry, "but I'm not sure I'd want to be roughing it during the winter."

"But you would have had a cozy teepee to live in," reminded Digger.

"And lots of smoke snaking its way into everything," Chocolate Chip imagined.

"Not if you built the fire correctly," Ages added.

"The Native Ponies may not have had a lot of the conveniences that we take for granted," admitted Wigwam, "but I somehow think they must have been very content here."

"As long as the crops matured and the rain fell," argued Rocky. "But what about the bad years?"

"You are right. It was not always an idyllic life." Wigwam shook his head.

The group had now reached the copse, and a flat area was reserved for the actual picnic. The spreading branches of the trees filtered out the bright sun and made a restful haven which beckoned welcomingly to those who were already tired out from the morning's walk.

"I spend too much time at the computer," complained Sugarberry as she set down her basket and stretched her aching muscles.

"And too much time at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe!" teased Digger.

"Look who's talking," Chocolate Chip shot back at the breathless stallion.

"What can I do to help set up the lunch?" asked Spring Song. She drew a bag of corn curls out of her backpack.

"First, we have to put down the picnic cloth," smiled Sugarberry as Chocolate Chip hoisted her own pack off her back and set it on the ground.

Once the blanket was laid out, everyone added his or her contribution to the picnic. Wigwam supplied plates and utensils plus some carrot and celery sticks; Ages and Rocky had brought soda; Digger donated potato salad from the deli. "My mom says you can't have a picnic without potato salad," he grinned.

Frilly Flower set out a tray of little sandwiches which looked delightful, and Baby Noddins proudly offered the rich, red strawberries. Spike's contribution was some hot dogs. "I can warm them up real quick," he explained; and setting them on a rock, he proceeded to heat them with his ready burst of flame. By the time Sugarberry had added some home-baked buns, cabbage salad, and Chocolate Chip's now-thawed cookies, everyone was ready to eat.

The meal was delicious and satisfying, and Sugarberry, for one, would have been content to sprawl in the tender grass and take a nap; but Baby Noddins was intent on finding her "arty-facts," so after cleaning up the leftovers and stashing the unnecessary items under the protective overhang of a dense bush, the renewed ponies and friend continued their march onward.

"Once the ground becomes littered with rocks, start looking more closely at the ground. You might find a rock that has actually been flaked by a pony in your distant past," Wigwam directed.

The chatter stopped as they moved into the area that Wigwam had foretold. Everyone walked with bent head as each hoped to recover some souvenir of a bygone era in history. Baby Noddins scooted here and there, always assuming someone else was on the better trail. But as could be expected, it was Wigwam who found the first arrowhead.

He held up the well-formed point, shaped into its v-form by some apt carver who had patiently worked to convert the rock into a usable implement. Everyone gathered around him as he explained the methods the unknown craftspony had used, and the function that the finished product had performed. Baby Noddins stood in rapt attention.

"That's what we're lookin' for?" she asked when Wigwam finished.

With a laugh, he knelt to the foal's level, and gave her a firsthoof look at the artifact. "Yes, Noddins, this is the object of our quest." He set the specimen on her extended hoof and allowed her to examine it thoroughly. The rest of the ponies were eager to find their own relic, and spread out across the terrain.

By midafternoon, everyone except Sugarberry had found at least one keepsake. Wigwam, standing at the base of the rock cliff, explained that as they had come closer to the source of the stone, the supply of arrowheads increased as the craftsponies would have done the majority of their work close to the source of material. He pointed out that a fair number of the points they had found were imperfect, probably tossed aside when a strike took off more of the rock than the pony had intended. "Nobody's perfect!" he stated. "And the failed pieces live on to testify to that fact."

Sugarberry was beginning to feel hot and itchy and just a little bit irritable; Wigwam must have noticed, because he came to her as she stood dreaming of a shower and a big dish of ice cream and asked her if she would like to walk down by the river and get a drink.

Accepting the offer with pleasure, Sugarberry rounded up Baby Noddins to join them to ensure that the little pony didn't arrive home sunburned, exhausted, and dehydrated. Frilly Flower and Digger, who were nearby, followed, too.

Baby Noddins was so impressed by the cool water that she asked for permission to go wading; the idea sounded irresistible, so soon Sugarberry and the rest were walking through the water or swimming into the deeper areas. Those who were still searching for artifacts heard the enthusiastic splashing going on, and joined in the fun.

When they were refreshed, the young ponies and the baby dragon returned to their searching, although Rocky and Digger decided to ascend the hill higher to see what they could find.

"There's an easier way to get a good view of the entire valley," Wigwam confided to Sugarberry when they were alone. "Just behind this cliff is a natural stairway that leads straight to the top." He led the way to a point where the rock face nearly reached the river's edge.

Inching around the rock, Sugarberry was overwhelmed by the stark and awesome majesty of the fissure that had formed at some long-forgotten point in time. The rock face had been pushed away from the main outcropping, and the jumbled debris that had filled in the crack did indeed form a rough, but convenient, stairwell.

Stepping carefully, she followed Wigwam's lead up the rocky slope, and arrived breathless at the summit. The natural stairs crested onto a granite patio, perfect for observing the valley below. Sugarberry was speechless.

"Was it worth the climb?" Wigwam questioned.

Sugarberry nodded her head. "This is all too grand!" she whispered, fearing any loud sound would somehow negate the scene before her. Rocky and Digger were only about halfway up the hill, coming up at a point where the grade wasn't too steep. Spike and the rest were spread out in a random pattern at the foot of the hill. She could faintly hear Baby Noddins squealing over her success at finding yet another artifact.

From her vantage point, Sugarberry stood above the sheer drop where the river had cut its path through the hill. Behind her was the rock-formed stairway, and before her spread the verdant valley with the fluid blue line of the river flowing peacefully. As she watched the river disappear into the distance, it suddenly struck her just how far above the valley floor she was. She sat down immediately.

"What's wrong?" worried Wigwam. "Did you hurt your hoof?"

Sugarberry kept her gaze fixed on the solid ground around her, and said in a small voice. "I'm afraid of heights."

A wide grin spread over Wigwam's face. "Oh, is that all?" He crossed the top of the rock and sat on a boulder that perched near the edge. "There's really nothing to be afraid of."

Sugarberry grimaced, and closed her eyes. Just seeing him sitting so close to the edge made her body go limp.

"I won't fall off the edge. I promise," he assured her, and he turned to look at the fantastic view that Sugarberry was now blocking out.

She stayed put. At least in a sitting position, she felt anchored to the ground. And from this position, she couldn't sense the abruptness of the drop-off. Wigwam remained silent from his perch over the cliff, looking off to relive the events of the early ponies. Sugarberry became relaxed and mellow as she sat in the warm sunshine; and as always these days, her thoughts turned to Vanguard. She missed him dreadfully, and spent hours trying to come to terms with his sudden departure. It was so out of character for him to pick up and leave without due consideration of all the repercussions his decision would have on not only himself, but on her, too. She sat in abandoned silence.

Eventually she heard Wigwam's voice slice through her thoughts, cutting to the heart of her mental journey.

"Are you and Vanguard engaged?"

Rubbing her left foreleg self-consciously, Sugarberry replied, "No. We aren't."

"But you love him," Wigwam stated rather than questioned.

"Yes. I love him."

Sensing her need to be alone, Wigwam got to his hooves and walked along the edge of the drop-off until it again joined the bulk of the hill. From there, he continued to seek out signs of the previous inhabitants of this place.

Sugarberry's thoughts had turned to the moment of Vanguard's departure for Italy. It was time for him to board the plane, but he had turned to her one last time.

"I love you, Sugarberry. Never forget that."

"And I love you totally."

But Vanguard had continued. "Remember, there are no strings attached to our relationship. If you meet someone else while I'm gone, you have my blessing."

"I'd never..." He had silenced her with a kiss. "I love you." And he was gone.

It was Baby Noddins' voice that brought Sugarberry abruptly to her senses once more. The college crew had noted the sudden disappearance of Sugarberry and Wigwam and their eventual appearance at the top of the rocky outcrop; Ages had suggested they investigate the point of their departure. With a little snooping, Spike had stumbled upon the hidden pathway, and the group had arrived en masse with Rocky and Digger appearing from the more gradual route at the same time.

"Ooh!" squealed the fillies at the panoramic view. "This is magnificent!"

The young stallions were less vocal about their impressions, but Ages summed it up well for all of them... "Awesome!"

Spike proceeded to the very edge of the drop-off, causing Sugarberry to again grow queasy. "Please don't go so close to the edge," she whimpered.

"Why nwot?" asked Baby Noddins as she trotted up next to Spike.

"Oh, my!" whimpered Sugarberry as she closed her eyes once more and covered them with her hooves. "Somebody get her back here!" Laughingly, Rocky retrieved the foal and guided her to Sugarberry's side.

"Why can't I wook at the pretty valley?" wondered Baby Noddins. "It's vwery nice."

"Because Sugarberry is scared of heights," snickered Spike.

"And because I promised your mother that nothing would happen to you today," Sugarberry added as she stood up and led Baby Noddins to the back of the ledge where it joined the hillside and became less ominous.

"Swugarberry?" the little pony peered up at the twice-as-fancy mare. "I found this for ‘ou." The lavender foal offered Sugarberry a perfect arrowhead. It was black, glossy, and glasslike.

"Why, this is special!" declared Sugarberry as she lifted the object from Baby Noddins' hoof. "Did you find this all by yourself?"


"And you are right, Sugarberry," added Digger. "That arrowhead is special; it was carved from obsidian, one of the best sources of strong, sharp implements."

"It's superbly crafted," continued Ages. "And as there is no obsidian around this area, it probably was brought in from some distant place."

"Fascinating," responded Sugarberry. She held the piece almost reverently in her hoof. "I think you should keep this one for yourself, Baby Noddins."

"Oh, no, I have pwenty more."

Chocolate Chip giggled. "She found more that any of the rest of us, Sugarberry. Once she got the hang of it, she could spot them like an eagle."

"I only found one," complained Spring Song.

"That's because you spent more time nursing your sore hooves than you did in searching for artifacts," Frilly Flower reminded her.

They suddenly heard the clatter of hooves hurriedly approaching, and Wigwam appeared from behind the ponies. Excitement showed on his face, and his words tumbled out.

"Behind the hill, I found something. You've gotta come see what it is!" He turned, and disappeared over the back side of the hill the way he had come.

Sugarberry slipped the obsidian arrowhead in her backpack, and she and the others followed Wigwam over the uneven terrain that took them around the curvature of the hill.

On this side, the slope was littered with large boulders that had at various times worked loose and rolled down the incline. The spot where Wigwam was headed was a more recent landslide; dirt and rocks had slid down from the side of the hill and accumulated in a new outcropping hanging onto the side of the promontory.

But the dominant spectacle that greeted the ponies was a vein of black stone that rose up out of the hillside like a twisting serpent. The narrow ribbon of obsidian ended at the point where Wigwam now stopped.

"What is this?" Ages asked in wonder.

"It's a vein of pure obsidian," Wigwam reflected. "It's unbelievable. It was uncovered when that landslide occurred, I would imagine." He motioned to the scar on the hillside. "This will change our ideas on where the Native Ponies got their obsidian supply from."

The rest of the crew drew in close to get a better look when Baby Noddins, wandering over the piles of earth, asked, "What's in da cave?"

"Cave?" Wigwam questioned, turning to the foal who was standing in front of a gaping hole in the side of the hill. "I was so impressed with the obsidian that I missed the cave!"

Rocky and Digger strode to the cave entrance and peered inquisitively inside the dark hole. "Anyone got a flashlight?" inquired Digger.

Wigwam produced a heavy-duty flashlight from his backpack and joined the two stallions at the mouth of the cave. Ages also had carried along a light, but had to fuss with the batteries to get them working. Spike scurried to join Wigwam, and the rest clustered in behind. The beam of the light revealed a well-formed room-like space beckoning the explorers to enter.

"Is it safe to go inside?" Chocolate Chip asked, her voice quivering with excitement.

Wigwam moved the light beam along the open edges of the cave. "It appears that the landslide caused a fractured wall of the cave to let go." He examined the stability of the hillside above the cave entrance along with Rocky and Spike, while Baby Noddins asked Spring Song if they'd find a treasure in the cave.

"That would be nice, but highly unlikely," the filly laughed.

"Maybe we'll find a ghost!" joked Ages as he made a scary face and an appropriate howl causing Baby Noddins to scream and hide behind Sugarberry.

"Very funny." Sugarberry shivered and frowned at the young stallion as she comforted the little foal.

Returning from their fact-finding mission, Wigwam, Rocky, and Spike all concurred that it appeared to be safe to enter the cave.

"All right!" cheered Digger. "Who goes first?" He looked expectantly at Wigwam.

"Well, as I'm the one with the biggest flashlight, I guess that would be me," the orange stallion surmised. He walked to the cave entrance with the others following close on his heals.

Chocolate Chip remembered having a small flashlight tucked away in her backpack for emergency occasions, and soon its small beam was added to the more powerful one. Once Ages got his working, the interior of the cave appeared even more welcoming. The light reflected back from smooth rock walls; Wigwam directed his beam upward to reveal a domed natural ceiling high over their heads. He was running the beam over the back wall when something colorful was caught in the light; he swung the flashlight back to examine it more closely, and gasped.

Everyone's gaze was directed to the point on the wall that was highlighted by the ray. Baby Noddins' voice echoed as she said, "It's a pwicture of a pwony!"

No one else said a word; they all simply moved closer to the wall and stared at the wonder before them. In muted colors of brown and orange and yellow, some pony from a time long before the present had painted representations of ponies in scenes of simple beauty. As Wigwam slowly moved the light along the wall, more and more details of history in action were revealed. A feeling of reverence and wonder hung tangibly in the air.

"This is unbelievable!" whispered Ages.

"Unreal!" agreed Frilly Flower quietly.

"I can dwaw nearly that good," stated a not impressed Baby Noddins. Spring Song giggled, and the solemn mood was broken.

"I only wish that Clever Clover was here with us instead of out in the Flatlands," rued Sugarberry.

Wigwam continued to study closely the artwork on the walls while the rest of the bunch spread out to return to the mouth of the cave or to look at stalactites and stalagmites that Chocolate Chip was highlighting with her flashlight. Ages was more interested in finding a passageway leading deeper into the belly of the hill. Baby Noddins sat down at the cave entrance to count her artifacts.

Sugarberry moved closer to Wigwam to watch his inspection of the art; she was caught-up in the overwhelming sense of discovery. She marveled at the preserved state of the figures that would have had to have been painted so many years ago. She wondered about the artist and the purpose for his creation of this snapshot of the past.

A tiny tremor shook the floor of the cave, and in almost the same moment a rumble seemed to swell-up from the depths of the earth. Wigwam was instantly alert; he turned and issued a tense order: "Everyone out! Move now!" He shoved a startled Sugarberry ahead of him, and the frightened mare ran out of sheer terror.

"Where's Baby Noddins!" she screamed, realizing that she had not noticed the foal since she had become enraptured with the contents of the cave.

Chocolate Chip turned at the entrance to shout, "She was right here; she must have gotten out already!"

Wigwam halted long enough to swing the arc of the flashlight around the perimeter of the cave floor to catch any hint of the lavender foal; he was ready to continue out when the beam caught sight of her, crouched near the mouth of the cave, but hidden by a piece of jagged rock. Wigwam dashed to her and grabbed her into his strong forelegs, then burst out into the daylight and across the hillside to a relative place of safety.

The foal in the meantime was crying and trying to force herself out of Wigwam's grip. "My arty-facts! I dwidn't have time to pick ‘em up after I cwounted ‘em!" She beat on his shoulders with her tiny hooves.

The rumble had now reached the surface, and with a dust-laden belch, the cave entrance collapsed inward, effectively sealing off the work of the unknown painter. The obsidian ridge seemed to shudder, but remained intact.

"My arty-facts!" whimpered the distraught Baby Noddins.

Sugarberry took her from Wigwam, and hugged her tightly while counting heads to make sure no one had been overlooked in the stampede to escape the destruction. When she was sure that everyone was present and accounted for, she sank to the ground and buried her face in Baby Noddins mane. No one could hear her tears or her prayers, but everyone felt her relief in having come through the unexpected ordeal with no serious results. The fillies clung to one another with tear-stained faces, Spike was completely subdued, and the stallions looked at one another sharing thoughts that were too emotional to put into words.

"What caused that?" Ages finally queried, shaking his mane off of his face.

"Rocky, you're the geologist. What did happen?" Wigwam directed to the copper- colored geology major.

"I can only guess, but it would appear to me that the heavy spring rains that caused the landslide that opened up the cave also set off a chain reaction of events that caused a shift of the underlying subterranean base-rock that in turn caused dislocation of the ground level sphere as well."

Wigwam looked in wonder at the stallion. "Whatever," was all he said.

Digger snickered. "What Rocky really means is that he doesn't have a clue!"

The ensuing laughter helped to alleviate some of the tenseness that had gripped the ponies and dragon under their stressful situation; and they hugged one another, bound now by a bond of survival.

Wigwam, however, could not help but be downhearted. "Those pictures could have taught us so much!" He fished some sheets of paper out of his bottomless backpack and proceeded to sketch all that he could remember from the cave walls.

Sugarberry tried to reassure him. "They are still there. And maybe when Clever Clover gets back, he can arrange to unearth the cave."

Wigwam appeared not to hear; he stared at his drawing and then looked up in consternation "Do any of you remember the first pictures we saw?" His eyes darted from one to the other of those circled around him.

"They were done in red," Chocolate Chip hesitantly volunteered.

"There were two ponies running side-by-side," added Ages.

"They were plain," Spike determined.

Wigwam looked at Spike sharply. "Plain? What do you mean by ‘plain'?"

"They didn't have a rump design," Spike supplied as if it was the most obvious thing of all.

"That's what I thought, too! The pictures at the end of the cave wall had symbols, but not the first ones!" an excited Wigwam exclaimed. "Do you know what that means?" He continued without waiting for an answer. "The original drawings in that cave go back to the time before ponies had symbols!"

Baby Noddins looked confused. "Ember dwon't have a symbol, and she's not that old. She don't have a last nwame, either."

"I think Wigwam is referring to a time when no pony had a symbol," Chocolate Chip whispered to the foal.

"Do you mean that the pictures in the cave could prove the fact that our ancestors had no rump pattern?" asked Ages, beginning to share Wigwam's excitement.

"No rump pattern?" questioned Frilly Flower, turning her head to make sure hers was still there. "That would be so... ordinary."

Spring Song added her thoughts. "I never believed my teachers when they said that the early ponies might not have had symbols."

Sugarberry prodded Wigwam. "Tell your story, Wigwam."

"It's not my story," Wigwam grinned at Sugarberry. "It is a story that has been handed down verbally throughout the ages of pony history." He motioned for the group to make themselves comfortable on the hillside, and he began his tale.

"At a point past the dawn of time, a humble and very poor young pony lived with his grandmother near a pony village. Because of their poverty, the colt had to scavenge food and shelter wherever he could find it at the taunts of the other ponies. When a drought struck the homeland of the ponies, everyone was reduced to the same dire straits for the food and water had become scarce; yet even now the colt and his grandmother were outcasts.

"One day while out searching for any source of food that he could find, the colt saw some of the villagers trying to invade the nest of an eagle high in a tree. He tried his utmost to stop the ponies from stealing the eggs from the nest, but the ponies only pushed him away and continued their villainous enterprise.

"It was later in the day as the boy still searched for some grass or grain to take home to his grandmother that the eagle from the beleaguered nest came to him. ‘You were compassionate toward my mate and I, and our eaglets in those eggs,' the eagle began. ‘Because you showed sorrow at our plight, I will now help you in yours.'

"The eagle took off in low flight over the woodland, directing the colt to a valley hidden between two hills. The colt was overwhelmed as the valley was green and alive and had a spring sending forth cool, fresh water. Near the spring stood an old, decrepit pony, its mangy coat dirty and flea-bitten, its ankles swollen. Its job done, the eagle wheeled itself away into the sky.

"The mangy pony neighed softly to the bewildered colt, and led him under the trees where a bed of purple violets bloomed. Rolling itself in the violet blossoms, the unkept pony transformed itself into a vivacious and beautiful young filly who ordered the colt to paint a violet bouquet on her pure white side.

"The pony now directed the colt to fill two waterbags with the spring water, and pick two baskets of fruit off the laden trees; when he had completed this task, the violet-adorned pony and the colt carried the food supply back to the pony village. When the colt had set down his baskets of fruits and had unloaded the bags of water from the other pony, the pony promptly vanished. The villagers refused to believe that the colt had been the bearer of the life-giving gift.

"When the fruit and water was used up, the colt once more returned to the hidden valley where he again found the pony in its former bedraggled state. Once more, the pony rolled in the violets and had the colt paint a bouquet on her side. And again, they took food and water to the village. The beautiful filly disappeared as before, leaving the colt at the mercy of the villagers.

"For a third time the colt made use of the bounty of the secret valley and the services of the slovenly pony who again transformed herself into a lovely filly with the bouquet of violets added to her side. As she and the colt approached the village with their cornucopia of food and water this time, however, the villagers were duly amazed. For as the two came closer, they were joined first by a sky-blue stallion with a puffy cloud painted on his side; then by a yellow mare with a bluebird on her side; and then a great multitude of ponies of every color-- but all with some symbol of the earth and its treasures on their sides. When the great herd reached the village square, all the ponies vanished except for the lone colt.

"The ponies of the village recognized this vision as a sign of the value of the colt, and they accepted him and his grandmother into their village where the two were treated with respect. And from that time on, all foals born into that village bore a symbol on their rump."

"Far out," Ages remarked in awe. Wigwam had a knack for turning a story into a mind-picture of reality.

"That was great!" exclaimed Chocolate Chip.

"Could you come to one of the pre-history classes this summer and tell that?" queried Ages.

Sugarberry smiled. "Well done, Wigwam. You told it even better than you wrote it."

Baby Noddins tugged at Sugarberry's foreleg. "I'm hungwy.

Wigwam laughed and scooped the foal up. "Come on, little one. We've got to find you a snack."

The entire party fell into step, returning first to the rock platform and climbing down the hidden stairway, getting a drink from the river, then retracing their path to the grove of trees where their food was stashed. Thanks to the generous supply of food that everyone had packed, their was plenty to go around a second time.

Being calmed by the passage of time, Sugarberry suddenly remembered the arrowhead that Baby Nodding had given her on the cliff-top. "Baby Noddins," she exclaimed. "You didn't lose all your artifacts. Here's the obsidian one you found."

"But I gave thwat to you," Baby Noddins demurred.

"I'd like to give it back to you so you have a memento of the day," Sugarberry coaxed.

Thinking a moment, Baby Noddins accepted the object from Sugarberry's outstretched hoof. Then, after another brief reflection, she offered the shiny point to Wigwam. "Me want you to have dis," she explained, crawling up into Wigwam's lap.

Wigwam accepted the gift with pleasure. "This is the finest example of Native Pony skill I've seen."

Baby Noddins smiled her approval, then sighed. "Me sleepy."

"If the others are kind enough to clean up, I'll tell you another story," he offered the tired-eyed foal.

"Wokay," she murmured as she made herself comfortable on his lap.

This time, Wigwam told a Native Pony tale about a colt who had been left behind one morning when his older brothers had gone out to pick berries. Feeling sad and left out, the colt threw himself onto the ground and cried. As he lay there, the sun rose in the sky. By midday, the hot rays of the sun burned the colt.

The colt now became angry at the sun, accusing it of treating him shamefully. "Why have you punished me?" he called to the sun. "I have done nothing to hurt you."

But the sun ignored the colt.

The colt went home, and his sister asked him why he was so angry; he told her of the sun's harsh treatment. By morning, the colt had developed a plan. He asked his sister for a thread, but when she gave him a linen thread he returned it to her. "That is not good enough. I need a hair thread." So the young filly plucked one filament of her mane and offered that to her brother. As the colt took the hair between his hooves, it began to grow longer.

The colt now took the hair to the spot where he had encountered the sun the previous day. He made a noose of the hair and laid it in the path. When the unsuspecting sun reached the spot where the noose lay, the snare entangled the sun and choked it. The sky darkened and the sun called for help, imploring a mouse to gnaw the hair; it seemed like an eternity to the sun, but the mouse finally chewed his way through.

The colt disdainfully looked at the sun. "I've chastised you for your treatment of me yesterday. You are free to go now." The colt made his way back to his sister, bragging about what he had accomplished. The sun, for its part, rose once again returning daylight to the land.

Wigwam ended his tale and found that those doing the clean-up detail were more attentive to his story that Baby Noddins; she had fallen asleep almost instantly.

"Don't take it personally, Wigwam. The rest of us enjoyed it," Chocolate Chip teased.

"And we are also all packed and ready to go," verified Spike.

"Well, let's hit the road!" declared Wigwam, rising. He nestled the sleeping foal against his shoulder, and the tired but happy crew began retracing the route of the morning. It was almost dark when they reached Dream Valley. When Baby Noddins had been safely turned over to her parents, Wigwam accompanied Sugarberry and Chocolate Chip to their home.

Stopping at the mailbox, Chocolate Chip squealed. "You got a letter from Vanguard!" She waved the white envelope in front of Sugarberry's face.

"On that note, I'll leave you two," Wigwam grinned. "Oh, and Sug," he added as the mare grabbed the envelope from Chocolate Chip, "here's an arrowhead for you to remember the day by." He presented her with a blue-gray point which she accepted with a smile.

"Thanks, Wigwam. I thought maybe I wasn't meant to have one of these." She looked down at the letter clutched in her other hoof, then back at Wigwam. "If you'll excuse me, I've got something to take care of." She turned and fled into the house.

"Vanguard can't get back too soon for me," Chocolate Chip rolled her eyes. "Would you care to come in for a soda?" she asked, hoping Wigwam wasn't feeling slighted after treating them to a marvelous day in the wild.

"No, thanks," he replied. "I've got something to take care of myself-- I want to add to those drawings I started of the cave paintings before I forget some of the details." He started down the porch steps.

Chocolate Chip watched him go with a sentimental little grin on her face. "He's one nice stallion," she told herself pensively. She quickly shook her head, and laughing softly, entered the house and closed the door.

Silver Swirl on Sunset Island
by Princess Silver Swirl (
Chew. Chew. Chew. Chew. Swallow. Repeat.

"Silver Swirl?"

The unicorn princess was startled out of her trance-like state. "Oh, sorry. What were you saying?"

Princess Twinkle Star looked across the wide table peevishly at the other pony. "I said, ‘How are things going at the shelter?' You've just been so aloof the past few days. Is something wrong?"

Silver Swirl looked down at her plate of pasta with broccoli and pushed it away from herself, as if the very thought of eating it disgusted her. "Eh," she shrugged, the only way she could think of to evade the question. "I think I'm going to go to my tower and, uh, rest for awhile. Say ‘hello' to your Pokèmon for me." With a deep sigh, she winked away. Her friend echoed the sigh and cleared the two plates of pasta.

In the tower, Silver Swirl gazed out the open window, her chin resting on her hoof. "I wish I could cry," she said absently.

"Hmm?" Melisande, Silver Swirl's Mew friend, looked up from the book of botany she had been intently studying. "What was that?"

"Oh, nothing. I just wish I could cry," Silver Swirl repeated.

"Why can you not cry?"

"I have no idea. Ever since I was around twelve years old, I just stopped being able to cry, no matter how sad I was. I mean, I could when I scraped my knee or something, but not when it was important."

"Like now," projected Jade from her perch on top of Silver Swirl's dresser. Silver Swirl smiled sadly at the little dragon.

"It's okay, Jade," she reassured in the tone of one who has repeated the same statement many times. "I'll feel better in a few weeks, and I can tough it out until then. I'm strong." Jade snorted contemptuously.

"That is such an immature way of dealing with your problems." Silver Swirl raised her eyebrows and looked at the advice-giving dragon.

"It may be immature, but it just so happens to be the only way I have. Do you have a better suggestion...?" She saw the look in the dragon's eyes. "Uh-oh. I shouldn't have asked that." Jade grinned.

"Ask Secret Tale if you can take a few days off," the dragon instructed.

"Oh Jade, a vacation is not going to fix anything," Silver Swirl protested with an almost desperate tone in her voice. "There are some things that just can't be fixed, okay?" She blinked several times and if one hadn't known that she was unable to cry, it would not have been evident.

"But this isn't just a vacation. It's a journey, a fresh start." Silver Swirl made the high-pitched moaning noise that was her substitute for tears. It was a strange, pitiful sound that she tried not to let others hear.

"Fine," she replied rather bitterly, "I give up. I'll go wherever you want me to go." She glanced at an empty picture frame and then closed her eyes, shivering even though the room was warm.

* * *
Secret Tale, who ran the Friendship Gardens Animal Shelter, agreed to let Silver Swirl have a vacation from volunteering there. Jade told Silver Swirl not to pack anything, and then instructed her to wink to Friendship Beach the next morning. Silver Swirl felt strangely disappointed when she was given this command. She liked the beach, especially because Jade's sister Seabreeze was often there, but it wasn't anywhere new or exciting-- certainly not a journey. She could have walked to the beach had she chosen to do so. Oh well, she rationalized. It wouldn't help much, anyway. Being miserable at the beach is quite similar to being miserable in my tower.

"Okay, let's go," projected a small but forceful voice. Silver Swirl was once again startled out of her own thoughts. She sighed for the eighth time that morning (Melisande was keeping count), checked to make sure that Jade and Melisande were ready, and winked to the beach.

Seabreeze was waiting in a small boat bobbing as near the sand as it could float. Silver Swirl figured that Jade must have told her sister whatever strange plan her busy mind had concocted.

"Hi," smiled Seabreeze. Silver Swirl grinned back; the beach-loving pony often had a calming affect on others. "Hop into the boat," continued the hostess. "You'll love Sunset Island."

"Sunset Island?" Silver Swirl questioned, settling herself in as the boat began to drift off. "I've never heard of it." The boat was now skimming speedily over the waves, going much faster than it would have if Seabreeze hadn't been using her wind magic to propel it.

"That's not its real name," clarified Jade. "We just call it that because the sky there always looks like the sun is setting." Silver Swirl was now thoroughly confused.

"It's in another world," Seabreeze continued patiently. "The only way to get there is through a portal that Jade and I discovered when we were foals. It's gorgeous there; you'll love it."

"Another world?" Now the unicorn was interested. "I've heard about things like that, and I tend to believe them, want to believe them, but I didn't know there was proof. Have you told anyone about it?" Seabreeze shook her head and then giggled as a sea breeze blew her mane into her face.

"The ponies who live there don't want us to tell. It's sort of... different there. Some might call it a bit primitive-- not much technology, but the ponies there have a bit more magic than we do. Most of us only have one magic power; on Sunset Island it's not uncommon to have two, sometimes even three different skills. Oh, look, we're almost there." Silver Swirl gazed at the ocean as the boat began to slow down.

"I don't see anything." She scanned the water for a sign of anything unusual, but there was nothing.

"The portal is invisible," Jade explained. "You just have to swim around for a bit until you find your way in."

"Sounds like fun," Silver Swirl muttered sarcastically.

Seabreeze giggled again. "It's a little bit weird, but trust me, it's worth it!" Melisande suddenly cringed. Silver Swirl twisted her neck around to look into the Mew's face.

"Is something wrong?" she asked gently. Melisande started trembling.

"I have f-f-fear of water," she confided softly and hid her face in her paws. Silver Swirl held back a smile; everything Melisande did was so cute.

"It's okay; you can sit on my head while I swim," she comforted her friend. Jade was slightly less gentle.

"You're afraid of water?" she snorted. "It's just water, you silly! Nothing to be scared of!" The two small creatures began to bicker as Silver Swirl turned towards Seabreeze.

"Should we look for anyone when we get there?" She was already wondering about the inhabitants of this mysterious island.

"Nah, some pony will come along. They always do. Just relax; it's very laid-back there." The earth pony gazed into the water. "All right, time to hop out!" She grinned mischievously and, with a sharp turn of the boat, sent Silver Swirl tumbling into the water. "I'll come back to get you in four days!"

The unicorn spluttered as she splashed around. There was something different about the water, she thought, as Melisande clung to her horn and Jade jumped down next to her. Then, a sudden tingling feeling engulfed all three of them as they were transported from one world to another.

* * *
Silver Swirl's head went under water for a moment and she heard Melisande screech before she resurfaced. Treading water, the unicorn blinked and looked around.

The trio was adrift in an ocean of perfectly clear water, through which they could see plants and stones on the ocean floor. Ahead of them was a large land mass covered by pure white sand interspersed with blades of green grass and bluish pine trees. As Jade had promised, the sky looked just like sunset. Silver Swirl, Jade, and Melisande stared in awe at the beautiful sight.

"No matter how often I see it, I can never get over how beautiful it is," whispered Jade. Melisande nodded, forgetting that she was soaking wet. Silver Swirl started to swim toward the island and shrieked.

"What? What?" asked Melisande and then realized why Silver Swirl was so startled.

The unicorn's colors had been inverted. Where her body, mane, and tail had been white, they were now black. Her eyes were changed from their former pinkish-red to a brilliant green. Only her silver swirls and the silver tinsel in her mane and tail were the same.

Jade laughed sheepishly. "Oops, I forgot to tell you about that. Any pony from our world who comes here gets, uh, reversed. You'll go back to normal when you go home." She grinned slyly. "So what do you think of your new look?"

Silver Swirl shook her head in amazement. "It'll take some getting used to," she replied and once more began swimming through the cold water, which felt very pleasant beneath the hot sun. Although it was spring in Ponyland, it seemed warmer in this new place.

They reached the island in about a minute. Silver Swirl stumbled across the soft sand and grass mixture and flopped down beneath one of the trees. Melisande and Jade started flying around, leaving Silver Swirl to rest after the tiring swim. She looked up through the branches at the sunset sky.

"This is so incredible," she whispered to herself. "If only..." her words trailed off and became a sigh-- the ninth one of the day, she recalled. Her gaze turned to the clear ocean as she watched the rolling crystalline waves. Looking at water always deepened her desire to cry.

"Ponies come!" It was Melisande's voice. Silver Swirl turned around quickly. Sure enough, two earth ponies were trotting up a little dirt path that Silver Swirl hadn't noticed before. She watched cautiously as they approached her. Side by side, they walked towards her, stopping when they were a few feet away from the tree. Silver Swirl stood up in a rather wobbly fashion (she had never been the most muscular of ponies).

"Hello," greeted one of the ponies, a dark green female with a pale pink mane and tail. She had no symbol. "My name is Wish and this is my twin brother Sandstone. Are you a visitor from another world?" She spoke in a slow drawl that rather annoyed Silver Swirl. The unicorn found herself speaking faster than usual to make up for it.

"Yes, my name is Silver Swirl." She decided not to mention her royalty yet. "My friends Seabreeze and Jade told me about the portal. I hope you don't mind my being here." Wish looked thoughtfully at Silver Swirl.

"Ah... Seabreeze and Jade... well, any friend of theirs is a friend of ours, of course. Provided you don't tell anyone about our home," she grinned, showing very white teeth.

"Oh, I wouldn't dream of it," Silver Swirl responded with a grin of her own. She recalled the island of the My Little Piggies, where any outsider who went there was forbidden to leave.

"Are you all right?" the other pony spoke up in a voice as drawling as the first's. Obviously the other pony's brother, he looked similar to her except that his body was lighter and his mane and tail were darker. His blue eyes were wide with concern; Silver Swirl figured that she looked disheveled from swimming and almost weeping. She decided to change the situation to one she knew how to deal with by making one of her trademark mysterious remarks.

"Actually, I was thinking what a perfect place to cry this was," she commented. Now the fun would begin. Melisande and Jade looked at each other knowingly.

"A perfect place to cry?" echoed the male pony-- Silver Swirl searched her memory for his name-- Sandstone. Wish said nothing but looked appropriately puzzled.

"Mmm-hmm. Crying near water is so soothing, especially an ocean. And this ocean is just beautiful."

"But why do you want to cry?" Wish took the bait.

"Because I can't. One always wants what one can't have."

"You can't cry?" Wish looked more baffled by the second. Silver Swirl smiled; it was such fun to lead others down a verbal trail like this. Now it was time to give them their reward: the answer.

"Ever since I was twelve years old I could only cry when I hurt myself or about trivial things, never when it was really meaningful. I don't know why." Sandstone looked sympathetic, Wish thoughtful.

"That must be hard," Sandstone began but Wish cut him off.

"What's your magic power?" Her green eyes looked penetratingly at the unicorn.

"Actually, I haven't figured it out yet." She shifted her legs, which were quite exhausted by now. "I've tried just about everything but nothing's worked."

Wish smiled. "Well, this is your lucky day. One of my specialties is helping other ponies find their powers. Would you like to come to our house and let me do some studies? There's a good chance I could help you."

Now, this was exciting! Silver Swirl had always longed to know what her power was. Perhaps, she thought, it would be something really unusual and special, like being able to communicate telepathically. She smiled, almost forgetting her horrible sadness.

"I would love to come with you, as long as Jade and Melisande can come too, of course. I've always wondered what my power is. Are you sure it's not too much trouble?" Wish brushed Silver Swirl's inquiry aside.

"No, of course not. I'm always happiest when helping other ponies with their magic. And your friends are quite welcome, especially since Jade and I have met before."

"Wish is one of the island's best magic specialists, and very respected," explained Sandstone. "She helped me figure out my power when we were foals." Wish smiled modestly and began to walk down the path, away from the tree. The other two ponies followed.

"What's your power?" asked Silver Swirl of Sandstone. She narrowly missed tripping over a tree root but regained her balance quickly.

"I can communicate telepathically," responded the green stallion. "It can be quite useful sometimes, especially when I go out for the day and I need to check in with Wish."

"Wow!" Silver Swirl was quite impressed. "That's a terrific power, a really strong one. I'd heard that ponies on your island had more magic..." She looked at him questioningly and then noticed a stone right in his way. "Watch--" she was in the middle of warning him, but he nimbly hopped over it. Jade giggled at her friend's shock.

"Watch what?" he queried.

"There was a stone, and I thought you were going to trip over it; but you avoided it just as if you knew it was there."

"Oh. Well, Wish and I have been over this path so many times that we know every stone."

"Can you two walk any faster? I want to get started," called Wish from ahead of them.

"I think Silver Swirl is tired," Sandstone called back. Indeed, the unicorn was breathing heavily. Wish trotted back to the other two, looking apologetic.

"Sorry, I forgot you swam over here." Silver Swirl smiled, putting the earth pony at ease.

"Oh, I have an idea." The mare shook her head. "I don't know why I didn't think of that before. I'll just fly. It doesn't take any muscles since it's a magic power."

"I thought ponies from your world only had one magic power?" Wisp frowned, perplexed. Silver Swirl smiled slyly; the clues-and-questions game was beginning again.

"They do."

"But you said you don't know your magic power."

"I don't."

"Well, then how come you fly by magic and you have another undiscovered power too?"

And now the game's end: "The power of flight was a gift from a friend." Wish's eyes widened.

"I didn't know ponies from your world had the power to bestow magic on other ponies." Silver Swirl knew it was time to be cautious (a jab from Melisande was a big hint as well); Wissp, the piggy who had given Silver Swirl this magic, did not want to be discovered.

"This friend wasn't a pony. Unfortunately, it's best that I don't talk about it." The two siblings nodded simultaneously, although the unicorn noted that Wish's nod was rather brusque and Sandstone's was more solemn. Silver Swirl began to fly a few feet above the ground and the others followed, Wish walking fast so that she was soon leading the way.

After a few more minutes, a house came into view. Silver Swirl was surprised; she had been expecting something along the lines of a thatched hut. This dwelling was a large, elegant building of white stucco, surrounded by the pine-like trees as well as some pink ferns. It seemed to radiate comfort and serenity.

"Do you two live here all by yourselves?" The house looked rather large for just the two of them.

"No," replied Wish, "Our father lives here too, and we have five ferrets. And then, of course, our mother was still around when the house was built."

"She sailed away to search for other lands a long time ago," added Sandstone. His sister frowned at him.

"I'm so sorry..." Silver Swirl didn't know what to say.

"Oh, it's all right. We were very little." Despite Wish's casual assurance, Silver Swirl had a feeling that the subject of their mother was a touchy one. "Come on, let's go inside," the magic specialist changed the subject. Silver Swirl, Jade, Melisande, and Sandstone followed her up a path of gray stone.

* * *
The house's entryway was cool and shady, and two light-brown ferrets rushed to the door to greet the ponies.

"They're so cute!" crooned Silver Swirl, bending to stroke their fur. Wish grinned.

"Some ponies are scared of them, but..." she trailed off.

"But Mother loved them," finished Sandstone. "And so do we. Their names are Violet and Fern. We also have Daffodil, Rosemary, and Iris." Silver Swirl hugged Fern. Wish tapped her hoof impatiently.

"Let's go into my study room," she urged. She trotted through an arched doorway, with a unicorn mare, a stallion, a dragon, a Mew, and two ferrets trailing behind.

Sunlight streamed into the study from a huge window. Wish gestured toward some cushions on the floor. Silver Swirl chose a fluffy purple one while Jade and Melisande shared a silky blue one. Sandstone trotted away and returned momentarily with two glasses of what seemed to be iced tea. He handed one to Silver Swirl and the other to his sister. Silver Swirl wondered why he didn't have one for himself.

"Let's get started," suggested Wish. "Silver Swirl, how would you describe yourself?"

"Uh... idealistic, creative, strong-willed, independent, loyal..." she shrugged. "I have so many characteristics, I can't describe them all."

"And are you a pony of strong desires and emotions?"

"Oh yes," Silver Swirl nodded emphatically. "What else?"

"That's enough for now," assured Wish. "Sandstone, refill my iced tea, will you? Now, Silver Swirl, what were your parents' magic powers?"

"My mother's symbol glows in the dark and my father can move twice as fast as an ordinary pony."

"Hmm... do you have any unusual abilities or disabilities?"

"I can't whistle, and I can wiggle my ears."

"Could you always wiggle your ears?"

"No. I always wanted to, and then one day I could."

"What magic powers have you tried?"

"Well..." Silver Swirl tilted her head in thought. "I tried my parents', of course, and talking to animals, and breathing under water, and seeing with my eyes closed, and making plants grow. And lots of others, too, but I can't remember them."

"That's enough for now. I'm going to look over my papers. Sandstone, you keep them company." She shook her mane briskly and exited the room.

"Do you think she'll be able to figure it out?" asked Silver Swirl.

"Of course," replied Sandstone confidently.

"So is that her job, being a magic researcher?"

"Job?" Sandstone pondered. "I suppose so."

"And what do you do?"

"Me?" He looked truly bewildered. "Uh... I help her." Silver Swirl drank her iced tea in silence for a moment, watching the ferrets play tag with Melisande. Sandstone did seem to view helping his sister as his job, not just in the community but also in life. Another ferret wandered into the room; Silver Swirl gestured to it and it consented to sit next to her. Silver Swirl loved to be surrounded by animals.

"You remind me of my mother," Sandstone commented abstractedly. "She always seemed to be searching for something."

"Do I seem like that?" asked Silver Swirl. The quiet stallion nodded.

"Her name was Reverie." He paused, remembering, and continued. "She was beautiful and restless, and she loved the wind." Silver Swirl felt herself being drawn into the story. "Her power was that she could give magic to other ponies, any power she wanted. But she could never do magic for herself.

"Everyone admired her. She and Father had been friends forever, and she gave him a different magic power as a birthday present each year. Whenever any pony felt like they needed another power, they would come to her. She said she loved helping others-- like Wish-- but I heard her crying sometimes, because she could never do magic herself. She only cried when she thought she was alone. When you talked about crying, it reminded me of her."

"And she left to explore?" Silver Swirl felt as if she were in a dream.

"Mmm-hmm. One morning we woke up and she was gone. She left a note. She said that she was sorry, but she had to know what was out there. Father and Wish were heartbroken and angry, but I understood. She just needed freedom."

"So do I," said Silver Swirl, realizing something. "And so do you." Sandstone nodded.

"You talk like her, too. She had such sincerity in whatever she said." Someone made a noise behind the two ponies. They turned and saw Wish behind them, looking furious. The three of them stayed frozen for a moment. Then Sandstone turned to pet Fern; and Wish composed herself.

"I've figured out what your power is," announced the green mare.

"Oh, what is it?" Silver Swirl leaned forward in anticipation.

"It's incredibly strong, but it has many limits. You are able to change some things by willing them to change, but only really hard and for a long time."

Silver Swirl was astonished; this power was far stronger and more complicated than she had expected. "Is that why I can't cry, and why I can wiggle my ears?"

Wish nodded.

"Wow," Silver Swirl whispered. "That means I can do anything."

"Err, not exactly," responded Wish. "You can't do anything that defies a law of nature; and the more ponies it affects, the more difficult it is to do."

"Still," alleged Silver Swirl, "it's more than I'd hoped for. If I'd known about this earlier, maybe..." she stopped speaking, not yet ready to tell the other ponies of her emotional wounds. They didn't press her to explain.

"It's almost dinnertime," Wish changed the subject.

"Dinnertime!" exclaimed Silver Swirl. "I never even had lunch!"

"We eat early around here," elucidated Sandstone. "Father made some great salad."

"Oh, good, let's go," replied Wish, pausing to tell Silver Swirl, "We eat on the porch when it's nice outside."

* * *
The porch had a breathtaking view of the ocean, and the salad was as great as Sandstone had promised. Wish introduced the guests to her father, Sunray, a golden-orange pony who looked older than Silver Swirl had expected. He looked at her with kind, sad green eyes.

"Welcome to our world," he proclaimed in a slow, deep voice. "I hope you enjoy your stay." He asked the twins casual questions about their day and the ferrets, but his heart seemed to be far away. Silver Swirl supposed that it was in a boat, sailing the seas with a beautiful mare named Reverie. The unicorn gazed out at the ocean, and the beautiful sunset sky, which was beginning to darken. The usual longing to cry came over her, and she thought of something.

"Wish, does this power I have mean that I can undo previous things I've done with it?"

"Depending on what you did, yes," replied Wish. Silver Swirl took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and willed herself to remove the block that prevented her from crying. She stayed like that for a moment, and then realized that tears were rolling down her cheeks. She opened her eyes and stared around her.

"I'm crying!" she sobbed in wonder. All of the held-back tears from the years of control came rushing out. Sandstone and Wish pushed their chairs over to sit next to her, while Jade and Melisande hovered nearby and the ferrets clustered around her hooves. The unicorn looked at the horizon and, for the first time in years, allowed herself to fully grieve. She was blubbering hysterically, and she felt better than she had in weeks.

After a while, the tears slowed and finally stopped. "I'm okay now," she assured the others. "And thank you so much." The heartache within her had not ceased, but it had become more bearable. She looked at the salad and began to eat it with gusto.

When the salad was gone, Sunray went inside the house and returned with a beautiful lemon cake. Even Silver Swirl, who was usually anti-cake, tried some and liked it.

"So," asked Silver Swirl, "are there more islands like this in your world, or is this the only one?" The air filled with tension.

"As far as we know," replied Sandstone. His voice was calm but his eyes were nervous. "Ponies have left to search for other islands, but none have ever returned. Most of us believe that our island is the only one." Silver Swirl realized that she had made a faux pas, and mentally berated herself for it.

Nobody said anything for a few minutes, until Sandstone remarked to Silver Swirl, "You're a princess." Silver Swirl raised her eyebrows; after a surprising life she had come to expect the unexpected, but this was rather unanticipated.

"How did you know?" she queried.

"Your hair. Seabreeze told me that all royalty in your world have tinsel in their hair."

Silver Swirl nodded and Wish looked surprised. "I'd forgotten all about that." Then she frowned. "Why didn't you tell me?"

Silver Swirl shrugged. "I didn't realize it was so important."

"No, I was talking to Sandstone," explained Wish. She turned to her brother. "Why did you hide that from me? You've been acting strange today."

"I only just remembered it," protested Sandstone. Wish looked sheepish.

"Sorry." Silver Swirl laughed. Wish tried to glare at the unicorn but ended up laughing too. Sandstone joined in, and the three young ponies' laughter drifted across the sea.

* * *
Wish showed Silver Swirl, Jade, and Melisande to a pleasant-looking guest room where they could spend the night.

"Thank you so much for inviting us to stay," Silver Swirl addressed her new friend.

"No problem," Wish answered. "We love having visitors, and we don't get many. Tomorrow I'm going to visit Murmur to help him focus his levitation powers, and we're going to go swimming afterwards. You can come, too, if you want."

"That sounds like fun," smiled Silver Swirl. "What about Sandstone? Is he coming?"

"Oh, yes, of course," replied Wish, looking as if Silver Swirl had asked "Do birds have feathers?" "Sandstone goes wherever I go." Silver Swirl nodded, looking thoughtful.

"Thanks again," she told Wish.

"Good night," responded the other pony. "I'll see you tomorrow." She left the room, closing the door quietly behind her.

"You have fun here?" asked Melisande.

"Oh, yes, it's terrific." Silver Swirl grinned. "And I found out my power!"

"Yeah, and it's a really good one," added Jade. "What are you going to do with it? Are you going to try to make You-Know-Who realize his mistake?" Silver Swirl frowned at the dragon.

"No I'm not. That's over forever." Her two companions looked down at the floor. Silver Swirl's face softened. "Besides, it would be wrong to do that. You know it would." She looked around the room. It was small, with pale blue walls and a smooth wooden floor. The unicorn headed for the hammock that hung from the ceiling. "Right now, I just want to live for the moment." She hopped into the hammock and immediately fell out. Jade and Melisande laughed.

"Okay, let's try this again." Silver Swirl carefully put one hoof into the hammock. She then put in the second, and the third. She started to pull her last leg in-- and tumbled out again. Jade and Melisande laughed even harder. Silver Swirl scowled.

"Look, not everyone is graceful and agile like you, okay?" She looked at the two of them hovering in the air. "And not everyone can fly," she added and her eyes lit up. "Oh, gosh! This is the second time today that I've forgotten..." She flew above the hammock and lowered herself in gently. "There we go!" she cried triumphantly. Her two friends hopped in next to her, and they all closed their eyes. Silver Swirl listened to the sound of the waves crashing outside, and the gentle noise lulled her to sleep.

* * *
Silver Swirl was awakened by Melisande's furry tail tickling her nose. Sleepily, she tried to swat the tail out of the way but the tickling persisted. She opened her eyes to see that the Mew was doing it on purpose, with an evil grin on her face.

"Hello, sleep-head," greeted Melisande.

"Cut it out," Silver Swirl groaned.

"You must wake if you want to pay visit to Mutter."

"Murmur," corrected the unicorn, but she sat up anyway and promptly fell out of the hammock. Jade and Melisande laughed. "Why do I feel a sense of déjà vu?" quipped Silver Swirl.

She got up and stumbled into the hallway. Almost immediately, she saw Wish and Sandstone, who were having a discussion about something.

"I've told you time and time again not to talk about-- oh, good morning Silver Swirl," Wish's face changed from stern to friendly. Sandstone smiled at the unicorn. Silver Swirl felt slightly embarrassed at being seen so unkempt-looking by her hosts.

"Good morning. Jade and Melisande told me it was time to wake up. I'm so lucky that they're morning creatures," she grinned.

"Did you sleep all right?" questioned Sandstone.

"Oh, I was fine once I figured out how to get into the hammock without toppling out."

"Oh," Wish looked apologetic. "Sorry about that. You could have asked me for help."

"It's all right," replied Silver Swirl. "It amused Jade and Melisande to no end." The three ponies chuckled.

"Let's go eat breakfast," suggested Wish. Silver Swirl followed her in the direction of the porch and noticed Sandstone walking the other way.

"Where's he going?" Silver Swirl asked Wish.

"Oh, he's getting breakfast," answered the earth pony.

"I'll go help him," the unicorn volunteered. Wish looked shocked.

"You don't need to do that. He gets breakfast every day. It's his job."

"But he'll have to carry more because of me," insisted Silver Swirl. "I'll meet you out on the porch." She started to trot in the direction Sandstone had gone. Jade and Melisande followed Wish outside.

Silver Swirl found the kitchen fairly easily. Inside, Sandstone was slicing fruit. He was surprised to see her.

"I came to help you," Silver Swirl explained.

"Oh, you don't have to help," replied Sandstone in a tone similar to Wish's. "I always make breakfast."

"But it doesn't seem fair that you should have to do it all by yourself, especially when Jade and Melisande and I are here. I don't mind."

Sandstone's face indicated that he was looking for something to say. Finally he settled on "Thank you."

While cutting a banana, Silver Swirl asked, "Has anyone from your world visited mine?"

Sandstone looked down intently at the orange he was peeling. "No, Wish thinks it's a bad idea."

Silver Swirl detected a slight bitterness in his voice. "And whatever Wish says, goes?" she asked.

Sandstone nodded as if he didn't realize that she was being facetious. "Wish is very respected here. She thinks that if anyone went to your world, they might not come back. Like our mother never came back."

Silver Swirl nodded, understanding that Wish probably felt betrayed and abandoned by Reverie. She looked at Sandstone, who had a desperate look on his face. "You want to go, don't you?" She already knew the answer.

Sandstone nodded again. Silver Swirl's heart went out to the young stallion, caught between his loyalty to his family and his own dreams.

"I want to go more than anything in the world," he whispered. "I feel so trapped here, like how mother must have been. But I can't go against Wish's wishes." Silver Swirl choked back a laugh.

"What's so funny?"

"Wish's wishes..." the unicorn echoed. Sandstone started to laugh with her. Then their faces grew serious again. Silver Swirl took a deep breath and turned to her friend.

"Sandstone, I promise you that I will find a way for you to leave this island without hurting your family. It may take a while, but I will."

Sandstone looked at her, his blue eyes wide with hope. "You don't know how much this means to me. Thank you."

Silver Swirl nodded. "Let's go bring this breakfast outside." They gathered up the fruit and muffins.

* * *
After breakfast, the three ponies (along with Jade and Melisande) went down the path to visit Murmur. Silver Swirl gazed admiringly at the sky, which was once again colored like a beautiful sunset. This morning, however, it was a pink-and-blue sunset, unlike the peach and orange colors of the day before. Silver Swirl sighed with content.

"Is something wrong?" asked Wish.

"No, that was a sigh of content," replied Silver Swirl. Wish nodded.

After a while they reached a small house similar in style to Wish and Sandstone's. A purple colt came bounding out to meet them.

"Hello, Murmur," greeted Sandstone.

"Hi, Sandstone! Hi, Wish! Who's that other pony? Are we going to play that game again?" Everyone grinned; the colt's enthusiasm was infectious.

"This is Silver Swirl," responded Wish. "She came from the world on the other side of the portal. And yes, we'll play the game again. Have you been practicing?"

"I sure have!" The colt produced a red rubber ball from his backpack. He then proceeded, using his levitation magic, to make the object rise into the air and fly around. Wish ran after it, trying to catch it. Silver Swirl realized that the game was designed to help the colt practice using his powers.

A lavender-colored mare came outside with a tiny fuchsia filly next to her. The mare was carrying a tray of lemonade and cookies, which she set down on a rock. "Thank you so much for helping Murmur," she smiled. "I don't know what I would have done without you; he broke three plates before you came along!"

"Mellow, your son is a pleasure to teach," panted Wish as she rushed from side to side. Murmur laughed gleefully, making the ball rush around in circles. "And how are you doing, Leaf?" The tiny filly waved shyly. Something distracted Murmur and the ball dropped to the ground.

"Aw, nuts!" the little colt frowned. Then his face lit up. "It was better than last time, wasn't it? What was my time?"

"Two hundred and forty," replied Sandstone.

"How did you know?" asked Silver Swirl.

"I counted," Sandstone answered. Silver Swirl shook her head, trying to imagine a world without clocks.

"Okay, Murmur," Wish addressed her pupil. "You did well. Let's continue this while we go swimming."

"Yeah!" Murmur started galloping away.

"Can I come, too?" pleaded Leaf. Wish nodded.

"How about a piggyback ride?" the mare suggested. Leaf's face broke into a huge grin as she hopped on Sandstone's back. Wish led the way in the direction that Murmur had gone, and in no time the group arrived at the ocean.

Jade and Melisande volunteered to play with Murmur as their flying skills made them adept at the game; Sandstone helped Leaf gather seashells, and Wish took notes on Murmur's progress. Silver Swirl inched her way into the chilly water, finally going deep enough that she could swim. She waved at Leaf, who was watching a crab scuttle along the shore. Sandstone kept a careful eye on the filly (and the crab), only pausing to glance at Murmur, Wish, and Silver Swirl. Suddenly his eyes grew wide.

"Silver Swirl!" A wave came crashing over the unicorn's head. She splashed her way to the surface, shaking the water out of her mane.

"Are you all right?" Sandstone called.

"I'm fine!" Silver Swirl replied. "Hey, this water has sugar in it!"

"Of course it does!" the stallion shouted. "It's ocean water; what do you expect?" Silver Swirl laughed and paddled toward the shore. She shivered as the water on her began to evaporate.

"I found a tidal pool!" announced Leaf proudly.

"I'll take a turn watching her if you want," offered Silver Swirl to Sandstone quietly.

"It's all right; I'm used to babysitting," he answered.

"By the way," Silver Swirl whispered, "I've come up with a solution to your little problem." Sandstone's ears stiffened and he looked at her attentively. Silver Swirl lowered her voice so that it was barely audible. "I'm going to use my magic to will Wish to realize that she has to let you go." Sandstone's eyes widened and his mouth opened in shock.

"Are you sure you can do that? You've barely used your powers before."

"We don't know that for a fact," Silver Swirl pointed out. "I could have changed tons of little things that even I didn't notice. At any rate, I can do this if I have to. It only affects one pony-- Wish-- so it shouldn't even be too hard. You just go on with your life for the moment; I'm going to sit on that rock over there and start willing." She sauntered off, leaving a shocked stallion and an oblivious filly behind her.

Silver Swirl arranged herself comfortably on the rock, enjoying the warm sunshine and trying to ignore the sand stuck to her wet fur. She was truly feeling a lot less confident than she acted, but she didn't want to scare Sandstone. The unicorn took a deep breath and closed her eyes.

Wish, you have to let Sandstone go. You have to let Sandstone go. You have to let Sandstone go.

Silver Swirl repeated the words in her head, pleading, persuading, demanding. She felt herself become the words.

You have to let Sandstone go. You have to let Sandstone go. You have--

"Silver Swirl?" Silver Swirl opened her eyes and saw Wish, Sandstone, Murmur, Leaf, Jade, and Melisande staring at her.

"Oh, uh, hi."

"What were you doing?" asked Murmur.

"I was just resting," lied Silver Swirl. She hated being dishonest but she knew that if she wanted to help Sandstone, she had no choice.

"Are you tired?" Wish's tone was solicitous.

"I'm always tired," grinned Silver Swirl. "If I had my choice I would go to sleep at eleven and wake up at noon." The other ponies' faces looked as if she had spoken gibberish.

"Eleven? Noon?" Leaf frowned. "What's that?"

"Oh, well, in my world, we give each hour of the day a number."


Silver Swirl realized that she was getting nowhere. She sighed and began to explain time, trying to use her magic while she did so.

"Well, in my world we measure time. The smallest measurement is a second, which is about the time it takes you to count to one. Then when you've had sixty seconds..."

By the end of her explanation, Leaf was sleeping, Murmur was playing a game with Jade and Melisande, and the twins were trying not to yawn.

"And that's time," Silver Swirl finished triumphantly.

"But what is it good for?" asked Wish.

Silver Swirl sighed. "It's hard to explain, but my world would be chaos without it."

Sandstone looked up at the sky. "I think we should be taking Murmur and Leaf home now," he suggested. The foals reluctantly agreed after Wish promised to visit again soon.

Silver Swirl kept tripping over things on the way back from Mellow's house. Wish kept looking at the unicorn suspiciously. Silver Swirl was terrified that Wish would figure out her secret, but there was no turning back now.

"Ouch!" A thorn scratched her leg.

"Are you sure there's nothing wrong?" questioned Wish.

"No, I'm just clumsy." Silver Swirl explained. Sandstone glanced in her direction with a nervous look on his face. She smiled at him reassuringly. You have to let Sandstone go. You have to let Sandstone go. You have to let--


It was a long walk home.

* * *
Silver Swirl was tremendously pleased to see the house. She almost skipped up the path.

"Do you mind if I rest in my room for awhile?" she requested. Wish nodded, looking rather relieved. Silver Swirl flew into her room, with Melisande and Jade on her heels, and settled herself in the hammock. She had a feeling that she wasn't going to be able to enjoy herself very much for the next two days, but she recognized her duty when she saw it.

Me meeting them so soon, Wish being a magic specialist, my resemblance to Reverie-- it couldn't have been a coincidence, she reasoned. This was meant to be. You have to let Sandstone go. You--

"What are you doing?" Melisande raised her eyebrows as she stared. Silver Swirl's eyes widened as she realized that she hadn't told her two closest friends of her secret plan. Should she tell them? Would they spill the beans? Silver Swirl decided that she would wait until she had been successful to tell them.

"It's a secret. You'll find out in a few days." She smiled in what she hoped was a mysterious manner and closed her eyes again. Jade and Melisande looked at each other and shrugged simultaneously. "And Melisande, don't you dare use your psychic powers to read my mind!" Silver Swirl called out.

"Nuts," whispered Melisande.

In the room across the hall, Wish was beginning to feel slightly strange.

Silver Swirl concentrated as hard as she could, putting her whole self into the plea, or persuasion, or demand. As she focused harder and harder, she began to lose herself in the magic. All that was left were the words.

"Silver Swirl! Silver Swirl!" The unicorn snapped out of her "rest" to find that Jade was shaking her.

"What is it?" she asked irritably. Jade looked shocked.

"What is it? You wouldn't wake up, that's what it is! What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong, I promise," Silver Swirl assured her friends hurriedly.

A voice entered her mind in the same way that Jade's did, except that this time the voice belonged to Sandstone. "Silver Swirl? Is everything okay?"

Silver Swirl sighed. This was much more complicated than she had anticipated.

"Jade, tell Sandstone that I'm okay," she instructed.

Jade nodded. "He says it's time for lunch, and are you hungry yet?" the dragon reported.

"Tell him we'll be there in a moment," Silver Swirl ordered and Jade relayed the message. It must be useful to be a telepath, the unicorn reflected.

During lunch, Silver Swirl tried very hard to multitask. However, it proved quite difficult to eat, converse, and will all at once. Sandstone rambled on, trying to make up for Silver Swirl's awkwardness. Jade and Melisande looked worriedly at their friend. Silver Swirl was very glad when lunch was over. Then she saw dessert being brought out. Her heart sank, not because of the dessert (which was a gorgeous-looking orange-and-strawberry pie) but because she didn't think she could stand another moment of doing three things at the same time. She "heard" Sandstone's voice in her head:

"You should probably take a break. If this is only affecting one pony, it shouldn't require so much time anyway." Silver Swirl grinned at Sandstone and stopped willing. She cut a large portion of the pie for herself and patted Melisande on the head.

"What kind of government do you have?" she asked, trying to get Wish to forget the unicorn's strange behavior.

"Government? Oh, that thing Seabreeze told us about where you have some ponies in charge of all the other ponies. We don't have that," Wish said matter-of-factly.

Silver Swirl was rather shocked. She had never heard of a system in which anarchy worked successfully. "But who do you turn to when someone steals something, or two ponies get into a fight, or things like that?"

Wish shrugged. "We all help. It wouldn't be fair to place a responsibility like that on one pony."

"But what if nobody agrees?" Silver Swirl persisted.

Wish pondered this. "That never happens," she said finally.

Silver Swirl tilted her head in thought (yes, she did that a lot). It sounded like a wonderful way to live, but she didn't really believe it could work. Oh well, she rationalized, at least they're happy for now.

"And do you have a money system?" was her next question.

Sandstone shook his head. "We just get whatever we need from the earth, or sometimes we trade things with each other."

"Seabreeze calls it bartering," Wish added. "Your society sounds a bit odd, if you don't mind me saying so. Rather dangerous, too."

Silver Swirl sensed an opportunity and decided to seize it. "No, not really. My area of my world is quite safe and peaceful. It's really a great place." Believe me, she willed.

"Hmm," Wish nodded.

"In fact..." Silver Swirl began cautiously, but Sandstone's telepathic words interrupted her.

"Not yet. Give it more time," he begged.

Silver Swirl nodded to him almost imperceptibly. "In fact I think there's nowhere I'd rather be," the unicorn ended her sentence.

"That's nice," replied Wish. "It's always good to be satisfied with one's home." For a moment pain shone through her shining eyes, but it disappeared rapidly.

"So do you have any plans for the rest of the day?" Silver Swirl changed the subject.

"I was considering taking the ferrets to the forest so they can run around a bit," Wish responded. "Would you like to come?"

"Sure, that sounds like fun." Silver Swirl imagined playing with the friendly ferrets in the forest, but remembered that it was not to be-- she would have to spend most of her time willing. Some vacation this turned out to be, she thought wryly, but in truth she wasn't too upset. Helping a friend was worth it.

* * *
The forest was a bit more inland on the island, so no sand mixed with the grass and moss of the ground. Silver Swirl found that there were some leaf-bearing trees as well as the coniferous ones. Into one of the former she climbed, finding a wide bough upon which to rest. Below, the ferrets frolicked, Sandstone and Wish keeping an eye on them. The leaves of the trees blocked some of the light, giving the woods an atmosphere that was both calm and mysterious. Silver Swirl gazed at the lyrical scene, reflecting on the fact that Sunset Island looked like an artist's canvas come alive. Then she closed her eyes and began willing. It was an ideal time for doing so, as Wish and Sandstone were occupied with the ferrets.

Please, Wish, let Sandstone go, she repeated over and over, and into these simple words she attempted to infuse so much more: the way Sandstone was always in Wish's shadow, the story of Reverie and how Sandstone had spoken the word "freedom", Sandstone getting iced tea for Wish without being asked, Wish's words "Sandstone goes everywhere I go," the conversation in the kitchen, the look of hope in Sandstone's eyes, the whispered exchange at the beach, the nervous telepathic messages, everything that told Silver Swirl that this was her duty.

Please, Wish, let Sandstone go.

Silver Swirl repeated the words, not even trying to keep track of the time, until Melisande called to her that it was time to leave. Silver Swirl opened her eyes, flew down from the branch (she was not going to risk falling, as she had done quite enough of that for a few days) and rejoined her friends.

Silver Swirl helped Sunray prepare dinner and groomed the ferrets with Wish. She perused the flowers planted years ago by Reverie and kept in meticulous order by the explorer's husband and children. Sandstone showed her his collection of rocks and fossils. She explained Pokèmon to her new friends, and she ate dinner that evening quickly, which rather astonished her laid-back friends. She grinned wryly; she had thought that she was a slow eater, but these ponies made her look rapid.

After consuming her portion of food, she leaned over the porch railing in pretense of looking at the ocean. In reality, of course, she was working magic. Even Sandstone didn't realize how much time and effort she had been putting into her "project"; she had learned long ago that, when helping others, it was important not to make them feel guilty for that help. After all, freedom was something every pony needed and deserved.

Let Sandstone go. Let Sandstone go. Let Sandstone go.

Silver Swirl's head drooped as she repeated the words, and she toppled into the ocean below. Everyone turned at the sound of the splash as the unicorn sheepishly flew back up to the porch.

"Maybe you should go to sleep," suggested Jade.

Silver Swirl consented to do so. "Sleeping" turned out to be willing with the lights out. Silver Swirl knew that she didn't have much time to convince Wish to change her opinion. A real sense of urgency pervaded the unicorn, but it couldn't stop her from eventually drifting off to sleep.

* * *
Silver Swirl's first thought of the morning was (big surprise) You have to let Sandstone go. She shook herself out of magic-mode to look around her. There were Jade and Melisande, peacefully sleeping, and a ferret seemed to have found his way into the room as well. Silver Swirl smiled at the innocence of the scene, allowing herself a moment of relaxation before closing her eyes and immersing herself once more in magic.


She willed throughout breakfast


She willed while Wish and Sandstone (mostly Sandstone) cleaned the house


She willed as she toured the neighborhood


She willed through the smiles and greetings of friendly ponies


She willed during lunch


And finally, that night, she asked.

"You know," she said casually to Wish across the dinner table, "it's too bad you can't come and visit me. I know you're really busy, but maybe Sandstone could come." You-have-to-you-have-to! screamed the unicorn's mind. Time seemed to freeze for a moment.

"Would you like to go through the portal for a few days?" Wish asked Sandstone. The stallion, overcome with emotion, nodded. "Well, I suppose it would be all right as long as he gave me a telepathic message every day," she agreed. "He can go with you when you leave tomorrow."

Silver Swirl, Sandstone, and Sunray were speechless. Daffodil broke the silence by trying to grab Melisande's piece of banana bread, bringing the ponies back to the mundane (or as mundane as Sunset Island could be) world. However, the thrill of success stayed with Silver Swirl. Her magic had worked! Sandstone was free! And most of all, she could actually enjoy the remainder of her vacation!

* * *
Enjoy it she did. Silver Swirl loved every moment of that last day on the island. The sky and the trees and the ponies seemed even more special than they had on the previous days. For the first time in weeks, she had no thought of the mysterious "You-know-who", and the discovery of her power, and her success seemed to give her a new sense of confidence. Sandstone had the look of a pony in a dream from which he never wished to awaken; Wish's uneasiness and Sunray's melancholy attitude were powerless to ruin the delight of the earth stallion and the unicorn mare.

Although Silver Swirl's visit to Sunset Island had been idyllic, she was equally happy about her return to Ponyland with Sandstone. When the time came for them to leave, she strode into the ocean, followed by the stallion, Jade, and Melisande, swimming when the water became too deep. She soon sensed the doorway to her own world. Taking a deep breath, she gathered her friends around herself.

"Here's the portal!" she called. "Are you ready?" Sandstone nodded and together they plunged through the gateway.

Seabreeze was surprised, to say the least, when she saw Sandstone surface with Silver Swirl, Melisande (whose hydrophobia had lessened), and Jade. She quickly helped the foursome into the boat.

"How was your time?" Jade's sister asked the unicorn. Silver Swirl looked around. Jade was looking for fish in the water; Melisande was trying to dry her fur, and Sandstone, who was now dark red with orange eyes and a pale green mane and tail, laughed giddily while staring at the coastline. Silver Swirl grinned.

"Glorious," she pronounced.


The Tabby and Sugarberry Gossip Hour!
by Tabby and Sugarberry ( and

Tabby: Say, Sugarberry! We're on the air!

Sugarberry: I've forgotten how nervous I get when we do these things.

Tabby: You're always nervous about something or other, Sug.

Sugarberry: Sad, isn't it?

Tabby: You've been even more spacey since Vanguard left for Italy.

Sugarberry: You don't have to tell me that. Chocolate Chip's about ready to throw me out of my own house.

Tabby: That bad, is it?

Sugarberry: I put her bowl of cereal in Fluff's cat dish the other morning.

Tabby: Oh dear. That is bad.

Sugarberry: Fluff didn't appreciate it, either.

Tabby: So have you heard from Vanguard?

Sugarberry: Oh, yes.

Tabby: And?

Sugarberry: Well, your mother threw a nice party for him after he arrived. He appreciated that.

Tabby: That's my mother for you. She didn't get to stick around for long after that, though, with Dad coming back and all.

Sugarberry: And he even met Guido, Tabby!

Tabby: Ugh. Don't mention that name in my presence.

Sugarberry: Vanguard says he's quite a likeable stallion.

Tabby: I didn't like him.

Sugarberry: What was that name you always called him?

Tabby: Weedo. As in "weed".

Sugarberry: Ah, yes. Weedo. You probably scarred the poor stallion for life.

Tabby: Well, that's what he has as his symbol.

Sugarberry: A scar?

Tabby: No, a weed.

Sugarberry: Say, Tabby, have you had a chance to meet that Giorgio, that Italian teacher guy, yet?

Tabby: No. He hasn't been at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe.

Sugarberry: I wonder what he looks like.

Tabby: Maybe you'll fall in love with him while Vanguard's away, Sug.

Sugarberry: Tabby!

Tabby: You're already seeing a lot of that Wigwam.

Sugarberry: That's weird, you know? I hardly knew the guy before... now he's hanging around all the time.

Tabby: He's madly in love with you, Sug. Face it!

Sugarberry: I think not, Tabitha.

Tabby: And maybe Vanguard will fall in love with some beautiful mare in Italy.

Sugarberry: You have such a pleasant disposition, Tabby.

Tabby: I know, don't I?

Sugarberry: Speaking of matching ponies up, how are the wedding plans going?

Tabby: I don't really know. I haven't checked in with Tamara lately.

Sugarberry: Most brides would enjoy planning their wedding.

Tabby: Oh, it's much easier having someone else do all that planning.

Sugarberry: What if they plan something you don't approve of on the day of the wedding?

Tabby: Then I'll snap at them afterwards.

Sugarberry: Just don't snap at Thomas.

Tabby: Hmm. Good point.

Sugarberry: Quarterback's betting that you'll trip going down the aisle.

Tabby: He is, is he? Well... he's probably right.

Sugarberry: Is it true that Friendly's going to be the ring-bearer?

Tabby: That's the last I heard from Tamara. I think he'll be a cute li'l ring-bearer.

Sugarberry: Something tells me that having a Bushwoolie in the wedding party is only going to lead to trouble.

Tabby: All the better! And with Barnacle's crew there, there's going to be even more glorious trouble.

Sugarberry: You're strange, Tabby.

Tabby: It's going to be outrageous, Sug!

Sugarberry: I'm almost afraid.

Tabby: Ah-Loh and Doo-Moh are going to be there too, you know.

Sugarberry: In what capacity? The vocalists?

Tabby: I bet they'd enjoy that! I was planning on having them seated in the front pew.

Sugarberry: Aren't your parents supposed to be in the front pew?

Tabby: Furbys don't take up that much space, Sug. There will be room for everyone.

Sugarberry: I suppose Agatha and Hubert wouldn't mind sharing a pew with some Furbys. They're pretty open-minded.

Tabby: It's all so exciting, isn't it?

Sugarberry: Not that I would know.

Tabby: Don't worry. You'll marry someone. Either Vanguard or Wigwam or Giorgio.

Sugarberry: If you keep harping on that, I'll become a recluse out in the Dark Forest.

Tabby: Oh, don't go to that extreme, Sug. If you moved out to the Dark Forest, you could even marry Butch!

Sugarberry: Tabby! He and Sparkler are spending a lot of time together, aren't they?

Tabby: Say, if they ever get married, however will Butch get a ring without Sparkler knowing of it beforehand?

Sugarberry: Good question. Maybe he'll go to another city and buy one from another jeweler.

Tabby: Or else he'll obtain one illegally.

Sugarberry: Oh, I hope he still doesn't do that sort of thing.

Tabby: I wonder what the full story behind his past in Bolivia is.

Sugarberry: We've never been able to get a straight answer out of either him or Tex, although I think Clever Clover knows more about it than we do.

Tabby: And Cleve Clove is lost out in the Flatlands.

Sugarberry: What is he doing out there, anyway?

Tabby: Uh... some adventurous thing. I don't know the details. I only hope he remembers to stop at the thrift stores like I told him to.

Sugarberry: What kind of stuff do you expect him to buy?

Tabby: My Little People.

Sugarberry: Won't you ever have enough My Little People?

Tabby: No.

Sugarberry: What's Thomas going to think of a house full of dolls, or will they be in the museum by then?

Tabby: They're all going into the museum.

Sugarberry: Boy, you'll have more room in your house, won't you?

Tabby: Yes, considering that eighties toys are the only possessions I have.

Sugarberry: Are you sure your museum is going to be safe?

Tabby: Of course! The Bushwoolies will be on a twenty-four hour watch around the property.

Sugarberry: Oh, that's right! I forgot about the Bushwoolies protecting your treasures. Are they bringing in reinforcements? Friendly and gang can't cover the bookstore, the princesses, and your museum all at once, can they?

Tabby: There are many, many Bushwoolies stockpiled in those holes, Sug. More than we could ever imagine.

Sugarberry: Wo-o-o-ow.

Tabby: The new Prince Melonball and Princess Springtime each have their own now, you know.

Sugarberry: Springtime was telling me what a big help they are.

Tabby: Who, the twins or the Bushwoolies?

Sugarberry: The Bushwoolies. They're especially handy at entertaining the foals.

Tabby: How are the foals getting along, anyway?

Sugarberry: Princess Springtime is getting as snooty as Princess Tiffany, of course. But Prince Melonball seems like he will have a sensible head on his shoulders.

Tabby: Obnoxious baby ponies.

Sugarberry: Once you and Thomas are married, Tabby, there might be baby ponies in your future, too.

Tabby: Any of mine will be better behaved than the others, Sug. They'll be raised by Furbys.

Sugarberry: Now, there's a novel idea that probably hasn't been tried yet.

Tabby: Furbys are fabulous, aren't they?

Sugarberry: Well, I do like my little May-Lah.

Tabby: Yes. I'm glad you finally came to your senses and got a Furby, Sug.

Sugarberry: Now without Vanguard, he's sometimes the only company I have.

Tabby: Ah, I know. When everyone else has abandoned you, your Furby is still there.

Sugarberry: Ah-h-h-h-h-h, May-Lah.

Tabby: Ah-h-h-h-h-h-h, Ah-Loh.

Sugarberry: I haven't seen Mimic and Tex at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe lately.

Tabby: Two of my worst enemies. I'm glad they aren't around.

Sugarberry: Tabby, I thought you'd gotten over the worm incident.

Tabby: Sugarberry! I'll never get over the worm incident.

Sugarberry: Worms are awfully ucky.

Tabby: I told you.

Sugarberry: Tiffany says that Tex has been hanging out a lot with Sweet Pop.

Tabby: Oh, so his interests have changed from unicorns to pegasi?

Sugarberry: I think he's just the type that... that... that...

Tabby: Changes his mind quickly?

Sugarberry: For lack of a better way to phrase it, yes.

Tabby: I can't stand that stallion. I've said it before and I'll say it again.

Sugarberry: I'm sure you will, Tabby. At least things worked out well for Poeticus and Lemon Treats.

Tabby: They're getting married in June, aren't they?

Sugarberry: Yes. It's so romantic!

Tabby: But they're not going to have Furbys seated in the front pew.

Sugarberry: No, I think your wedding will be original on that point.

Tabby: Do you know either of them very well?

Sugarberry: Lemon Treats brings in her cat to the clinic sometimes.

Tabby: Mimi. It's Mimi.

Sugarberry: It sounds like you know Lemon Treats better than I do.

Tabby: No, but I know about Mimi from Tamara. Lemon Treats bought Mimi from Tamara, you know.

Sugarberry: Oh, I see.

Tabby: That cousin of mine is actually finally getting into setting up that business of hers.

Sugarberry: Did she ever buy that establishment that she was looking at?

Tabby: In the historic part of Dream Valley? I'm not sure, but she sure does talk about it a lot.

Sugarberry: Whatever she decides, I hope it works out for her.

Tabby: She's gotten more devoted to her work since the harsh dumping from Tex, I tell you.

Sugarberry: It was all for the best, I guess.

Tabby: I could have told you that all along. I was so frightened that I'd get Tex on my family tree someday.

Sugarberry: But you still like Emilio, don't you?

Tabby: I don't see much of Emilio anymore.

Sugarberry: That's too bad. He's such a cute little tarantula.

Tabby: Tex has probably forgotten about him by now. He changes his interests quickly, you know.

Sugarberry: Oh, but he's always had a soft spot in his heart for Emilio.

Tabby: Barnacle said "Emilio is nothing but a big soft spot on the bottom of my hoof."

Sugarberry: I'll pretend I didn't hear that.

Tabby: Well... Merry Treat is still getting challengers at her Pokèmon Gym.

Sugarberry: I hear there was a really big battle over there the other day.

Tabby: Yeah! It was outrageous! Somebody came in with an Articuno, Sug! Merry Treat chose Vulpix. Very, very, outrageous. Ice against fire! Too cool.

Sugarberry: Umm... I know what a Vulpix is, because Tamara has one. But what's an Articuno?

Tabby: One of the three mythic birds, Sug! There's Moltres for fire, Zapdoss for electricity, and Articuno for ice. Very rare.

Sugarberry: I'm impressed.

Tabby: Articuno won, by the way. He was well-trained.

Sugarberry: And who was his trainer?

Tabby: It was Tiny the Bigfoot, actually.

Sugarberry: Have I ever met him?

Tabby: I don't think you have. You ought to. He's a nice guy. And the last time I checked, he only had a Squirtle, Weedle, Growlithe, and Nidoran in the line of Pokèmon. No evolved forms. It's very impressive for him to have gotten an Articuno.

Sugarberry: Expect the unexpected in the Dark Forest.

Tabby: You haven't gotten into Pokèmon training yet, have you?

Sugarberry: Nope. Furbys are enough to me.

Tabby: I'm going to have to convince Thomas to catch some.

Sugarberry: I think he's busy enough with all the pets that come to the clinic.

Tabby: Pokèmon came from Atlantis, you know.

Sugarberry: Hubert was telling me about that. Your father knows a lot of stuff.

Tabby: Doesn't he, though? It's all rather fascinating.

Sugarberry: At least we know now where you got your adventurous streak.

Tabby: Yes. It can be very outrageous going on adventures and discovering lost civilizations.

Sugarberry: It's too bad you didn't inherit some of your mother's love of fashion and etiquette.

Tabby: I'm already naturally beautiful.

Sugarberry: That's obvious. But something tells me Agatha would have enjoyed planning your wedding along with you.

Tabby: Would she have? I hadn't thought about that. Well, she can help Tamara.

Sugarberry: Somehow I don't think it will be the same.

Tabby: Oh. I'm there some of the time consulting with Tamara.

Sugarberry: But just think, Tabby! You're her only daughter.

Tabby: Yes, I know.

Sugarberry: Very funny.

Tabby: How are your sisters doing?

Sugarberry: Gooseberry's busy with the foals, and Raspberry still helps Mom and Dad with the berry farm.

Tabby: Berries kinda run in your family's names, don't they?

Sugarberry: I think that's pretty obvious, Tabby. We may not be adventurous or high-fashion, but we know our berries.

Tabby: That's valuable knowledge, I'm sure.

Sugarberry: Remember the time Gooseberry braided the hair of all our My Little People dolls and it took us hours to get it all straightened again?

Tabby: Oh, that was terrible, Sug! The hair of My Little People looks so much nicer without braids.

Sugarberry: Except for Jessica. She came with braids, and they were really cute.

Tabby: Well, yeah. Mine still has those original braids intact, you know.

Sugarberry: It's surprising, considering how careless you are with everything else.

Tabby: I can never be too careful with my toys, Sug.

Sugarberry: And then there was the time Raspberry brought her date over, and we acted like barbarians.

Tabby: That was totally outrageous! I loved running around and screaming like that and embarrassing her. What ever became of that date?

Sugarberry: Well, you know, Raspberry isn't married yet. So obviously it didn't go well.

Tabby: We probably have something to do with that, huh?

Sugarberry: I hope Raspberry doesn't look at it that way.

Tabby: We had fun as baby ponies, didn't we?

Sugarberry: Ahhh... the good old days.

Tabby: There were no Furbys back then, though.

Sugarberry: Does that mean we lived a deprived foalhood?

Tabby: I think so. I wonder what I would have turned out like if I had been exposed to Furbys at a younger age?

Sugarberry: I don't think we want to know.

Tabby: Why? What do you mean by that?

Sugarberry: You may never have learned to speak in complete sentences.

Tabby: Furbys speak in complete sentences, Sugarberry.

Sugarberry: More than just a verb, I mean.

Tabby: "Me hungry, wah!" That's a full sentence.

Sugarberry: Uh... you're right.

Tabby: I'm hungry, Sugarberry.

Sugarberry: See? Those Furbys have more influence over you than you think.

Tabby: Maybe...

Sugarberry: Anyway, it's time to go to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe.

Tabby: You're right! I can't believe I lost track of the time like that! We can't be late!

Sugarberry: Late for what? Vanguard won't be there. *sniff*

Tabby: Yes, but Thomas will.

Sugarberry: It's not the same, Tabby. For me, at least.

Tabby: Aw, come on, Sug. You'll have fun once you get there. Maybe you'll even see Wigwam or Giorgio or Butch.

Sugarberry: *rolls eyes* Tabby, let's just get goin'.

Tabby: And remember what we learned today: absolutely nothing.


The Honorable Decision
by Tabby (

Tabby listlessly glanced down at the paper in her hooves, documenting all the Pokèmon she'd treated that day. Life was boring, she decided as she made her way to the filing cabinet. All the ponies most important to her were disappearing-- temporarily, at least. First, her parents had gone to Italy for a short spell to straighten some things out concerning her mother's property; and then her beloved fiancé Thomas had dismissed himself for the weekend to attend the graduation of his sister Elaine. Of course, when he got back, he'd have Elaine with him... Tabby felt a flutter of excitement. Wouldn't she have a fabulous time catching up on all the events in the young mare's life! Tabby could hardly contain her impatience for them to get back.

She was suddenly alerted to someone coming up the walk of the Pokèmon Center, though. "Tabby!" a voice shrieked joyfully upon bursting in the doors of the Pokèmon Center. "Tabby! It's me!"

Tabby gasped and promptly dropped her paperwork as soon as she saw the excited younger unicorn run in. "Elaine! You're here already?!" She dashed to greet her special visitor.

"Here to stay, for good!" Elaine beamed, wrapping her forelegs around Tabby. "I'm so glad there's a place for me here." Having gained her degree in veterinary science, she was now fully prepared to start her career-- and having no ties elsewhere, it seemed only natural that she should come to Dream Valley and be employed at her brother Thomas' vet clinic.

"You'll have a glorious time here in Dream Valley," Tabby said affectionately, stroking Elaine's blue mane. "How did your graduation go? I didn't know you'd be back so soon."

"There wasn't a single problem. I'm a real veterinarian now, Tabby!" Elaine squealed. "Life's going to be so perfect now that I've graduated. I can really get to know all your friends in Dream Valley, and I can start work at Thomas' clinic, and you two are getting married, and... ooh! It's all too exciting!"

Tabby soon found herself laughing as well. "Calm down, Elaine! You're going to wear yourself out chattering like this. Think how I feel! I'm just as happy to have you here now."

"Oh, we'll have a fabulous time," Elaine said dreamily. "You're already like a sister to me. I can't wait until it's official! Or at least as official as it can get." Her new life in Dream Valley would also give her more time with her much-admired soon-to-be sister-in-law, Tabby. The two may not have hit it off too well at their first meeting over Elaine's Christmas break, but they had gotten over that quickly and had kept in touch through letters even after Elaine had returned to college.

"Say, where is that brother of yours, anyway?" Tabby peered over Elaine's shoulder. "Without him, there isn't going to be any wedding."

Elaine giggled. "He went ahead home with my suitcases," she filled-in quickly. "But he let me drop in and see you. I just couldn't wait any longer! It's been an eternity since I last saw you in person."

"Life is going to be fabulous, Elaine," Tabby reflected. "There's so much to show you. And you must tell me all about your life!"

"You must tell me all about yours, too!" Elaine said giddily. "Thomas is still taking both of us to the Estate Manor tonight, you know."

Elaine's good mood was contagious, and Tabby was soon anxious herself to get moving. Glancing up at the clock, she saw it was nearly closing time, anyway. "Come on!" she declared. "I'll lock this place up quickly, and then we can go along and catch up with Thomas." And so, amid a lot of laughter and chattering, the two were soon out the door.

* * *
It was nice to see Tabby and Elaine still getting on so well, Thomas reflected later that evening at the Estate Manor. Their flow of conversation had been practically nonstop since Elaine had first set hoof in the Pokèmon Center. Even if Thomas was excluded from most of the gossip passed between the two, he didn't really mind; it was enjoyable enough to simply sit back and listen.

"How much different is it really, Tabby," Elaine put forth, "caring for Pokèmon instead of... eh... ‘regular' animals?"

"It's not too much of a change," Tabby said thoughtfully. "Pokèmon come in many more shapes and sizes than the average accepted pets, but they're actually easier to attend to seeing that most injuries can be attended to by use of a simple potion-- unless, of course, they get upset with you for some reason. Like that Blastoise awhile back." She paused in contemplation over that incident.

"It's interesting that they were just regarded as regular monsters until recently," Elaine mused. "What captivated you about them that most influenced your career change?"

"They get along with me better than other creatures," Tabby explained. "Animals don't seem to care much for me otherwise."

"Surely that's an exaggeration," Elaine laughed. "Did you mind much leaving work at the clinic? And Thomas?"

Tabby lowered her gaze to escape Elaine's piercing look. "It was... that is... I wasn't too sure about it, but... I suppose it turned out alright in the end." She chanced a quick glance at Thomas.

"It was your heart's desire to go, Tabby. I wouldn't stand in the way of that." Thomas clasped Tabby's hoof. "But I also wouldn't let a new job get between you and I."

"There are perhaps still other things more important than work," Tabby murmured quietly.
Elaine's eyes sparkled merrily. "Do you suppose I should consider a career move as well, Tabby?" she asked playfully. "Just to spite Thomas here?"

"Elaine!" Thomas opposed in mock defense of himself. "I can't lose another capable vet to the care of Pokèmon."

"Maybe you should, Elaine," Tabby arched her eyebrows craftily. "The Pokèmon League pays me better than your brother ever did, anyway."

"You know your pay remained the same," Thomas protested.

"Well, I suppose," Tabby winked, "but still, the Pokèmon are much more accepting of me than the animals."

"I'm sure, where the Persians have poisoned claws," Thomas retorted.

"I think we've thoroughly frightened him now, Tabby," Elaine grinned, "with these threats of abandoning him at the clinic. To switch the subject, how is your Callie doing?"

"She's the same as ever," Tabby said in dismissal. "Obstinate and uncaring. Animals just don't like me."

"You don't give them a chance. Agatha praises Callie's friendliness to the highest levels," Thomas pointed out.

"You see? You see?" Tabby said heatedly. "That proves it. That cat of mine is a perfect angel to my mother, but she doesn't care a bit about me. That's the way all my cats have ever treated me."

"I think you're simply too hard on yourself," Elaine objected. "Certainly you'll get along with Sophia and Melinda. They're so precious," she added, referring to Thomas' two Siamese cats.

"I said they didn't like me. I never said I didn't like them," Tabby corrected. "If it's a feline, at least, they'll gain my unending adoration, even if they don't return the sentiment. Those Siamese are no exception."

"They'll warm up to you, Tabby. Trust me," Elaine assured her. "Did you know that I got to name them?"

"Really? One of my grandmothers is named Sophia," Tabby mused. "I suppose she'll be at the wedding." As soon as those words were out of her mouth, she realized it may not have been the most tactful thing to say.

"What of our grandparents, Thomas?" Elaine spoke softly after a moment of silence. "Will they be coming?"

"They're on the guest list, but I doubt they'll accept." Thomas' words had a sharp edge to them. "Nor any of the rest of the family."

"It's not that we particularly know anyone from our side, anyway," Elaine said faintly.

Tabby bit her lip for making the untimely statement. It had recently been revealed to her the full story behind Thomas and Elaine's feud-torn family. Their parents had married under the friction of the two sides, and in the eyes of Dietrich's and Caprice's parents, it was an extremely unforgivable deed. Thomas and Elaine had grown-up knowing or seeing little of their relatives, and the mention of grandparents didn't bring wholesome memories to either of them.

Tabby's heart reached out to both of them in the uncomfortable silence that followed. "There's enough love on my side of the family for all of us."

Elaine looked up and smiled gratefully. "Tabby, where are your mother and father?" she questioned, getting onto another subject. "I'm looking forward to seeing Agatha again, and meeting Hubert for the first time!"

"They've gone away to Italy for a short while," Tabby said quickly, thankful as well for a reason to discuss something else. "Only to straighten out a few affairs of Mom's, though. They'll be back soon."

"Are they planning on staying in Dream Valley now?" Elaine queried.

"Oh, yes. That's what they said the last time they discussed it," Tabby said, a smile playing across her face.

"They'll be moving into their old mansion, I presume?" Thomas put forth.

"I-I don't really know," Tabby stuttered. "I suppose so."

"That looks like a fabulous house," Elaine sighed dreamily. "I can't imagine that Agatha hadn't been using it for anything all these years."

"She was just too busy in Italy, I guess," Tabby said. "At least she never sold it."

"It had been newly-built when she and Hubert moved here, wasn't it?" Thomas commented. "It must have a lot of memories for her."

"And me, too," Tabby added.

* * *
"But I have something to show you both before you go, Tabby!" Elaine declared upon stepping up on the porch later that evening. "Wait just a moment while I get it." Swinging the door open, she promptly scurried down the hallway.

Tabby glanced questioningly at Thomas as she followed Elaine in, but he apparently didn't know any more about it than she did. "She didn't say anything to me," he said, mystified.

Tabby trailed along after Elaine down the hallway. "Oh, Elaine, what is it?" the impatient pink unicorn said pleadingly.

Elaine only smiled mysteriously as she entered the guest room where she was currently staying and knelt on the floor, rummaging through one of her bags. "You'll soon see. I thought for sure he wouldn't be able to make the trip without waking up and chattering unrelentlessly," she explained.

Tabby's eyes opened wide, and she clasped her front hooves together. "That could only be..."

"...a Furby," Thomas finished, coming up behind her.

"You're right!" Elaine laughed delightedly as she lifted her showpiece up-- a sparkling white furball with large ears and humongous green eyes. After going through the customary fit of yawns, it began to speak.

"Dah ah-loh u-tye," it noted intelligently.

Tabby let out a shriek of excitement and dashed forward. "It is! It is!" she gasped. "Your very own Furby, Elaine!"

"I must say you've done a good job of training him, Elaine, if you managed to keep him quiet during the whole trip," Thomas commented, stepping forward to meet the new Furby as well.

"But what's his name?" Tabby queried, peering intently into the creature's eyes. Naturally, that was the first thing she needed to know about any Furby.

"You hide ah-loh! Hee-hee-hee!" the Furby laughed from his resting place on Elaine's hoof.

"Nah-Bah," Elaine said proudly. "What do you think of him?"

"Nah-Bah, translating into ‘down'," Tabby said wisely. "I like him, Elaine! I'm so happy for you!"

Thomas smiled at the grouping before him. "I think you may find that there's a lot more to a Furby than you would think."

"Get Doo-Moh, Thomas," Tabby requested urgently. "She must meet Nah-Bah."

Nah-Bah simply purred as Elaine petted him on the back. "Pet again."

"Oh, I really am glad I bought him," Elaine giggled. "He's such a sweet thing. When he first started talking, I thought he was too sparkly to be a boy, but I think it fits him rather well now."

"Ah, of course," Tabby nodded solemnly. "It is the way of things. Nah-Bah was destined to be your Furby since you first laid eyes on one another."

"I believe so, too," Elaine said thoughtfully. "Furbys do grow on a pony. I see now why you and Thomas are so attached to yours."

Tabby clapped excitedly again as Thomas re-entered with his own Furby, Doo-Moh, in hoof. "Good, good! Now, set them up together and get them talking," she commanded.

"She is the Furby expert, you know," Thomas said lightly to Elaine. "We must listen to her."

Always ready for conversation, the Furbys were soon in rapt attention of each other. "Who-doh, wah?" Doo-Moh queried of the newcomer. "Me Doo-Moh."

"Big who-doh," Nah-Bah replied. "Me Nah-Bah."

"Who-doh, wah? Me Doo-Moh," the autumn-colored Furby persisted.

"Big who-doh." Nah-Bah's ears moved downwards. "Me Nah-Bah."

"It's so cute!" Elaine laughed hysterically. "I had no idea they had so much fun when they were together!"

"Titty-titty-titty! Hide," Doo-Moh finally proposed.

"Yeah, hide!" Nah-Bah readily agreed, rocking forward.

"Nyah-nyah-nyah! Hide," Doo-Moh jeered.

"Yeah, hide!" Nah-Bah rocked forward again.

"Listen! Me sing," Doo-Moh suggested, changing the game. She immediately began humming. "La la la la, la la la..." Pausing in the song, she looked back at Nah-Bah. "You sing."

Nah-Bah only yawned. "Okay." But another fit of yawns followed.

"Maybe... sleep," Doo-Moh finally decided.

"Sleep, oh, sleep," Nah-Bah agreed.

After repeating those phrases several times over, the Furbys had sufficiently tired themselves and, with a chorus of snores, closed their eyes for some rest. Rest didn't last long, though, as their owners wished to hear more from them.

And so, the evening wore on a bit longer with the added surprise of Elaine's new Furby. The house was filled with shrieking laughter from the two girls at the Furbys' antics; Thomas expressed his enjoyment in a more subdued manner. But the "big fun" had to end sometime, so Tabby was eventually on her way home... but only after promising Nah-Bah that she would bring Ah-Loh to come see him soon, of course.

* * *
As Elaine was entitled to some vacation time before actually starting work, she spent the next day hanging out with Tabby at the Pokèmon Center.

"Oh, that was a cute Eevee," Elaine sighed blissfully as she watched a trainer walk out the door.

"Why not go out and catch one for yourself?" Tabby suggested. "Start your own collection of Pokèmon."

"Do you really think I could?" Elaine asked incredulously.

"It's easy to catch Pokèmon, and lots of fun!" Tabby assured her. "Don't worry; I'll make a Pokèmon expert out of you yet."

"Where do you think Pokèmon originated from, Tabby? Besides just living in the Dark Forest?"

"Barnacle thinks they're from a post-apocalyptic world," Tabby said thoughtfully. "But Dad says they're the results of Atlantean genetic experiments."

"Oh." Elaine pondered over this information. "You do know a lot about Atlantis, don't you?"

Tabby stuttered for a moment before replying. "Well... Clever Clover and I were the ones that discovered it."

"Did you ever go back?" Elaine pressed.

"No..." Tabby lowered her eyes. "The closest we got was when that Malcolm Shane transported the Whale Machine here last summer."

"I remember being told about that. Shane is the whale-man, isn't he?" Elaine lapsed into another thoughtful silence. "It's rather odd how so many strange, mystical things seem to congregate in this town."

"You're not regretting your stay here, are you?"

"Oh, no, not at all!" Elaine promptly justified herself. "I think it makes it all the more interesting. But Pokèmon, and whale-men, and weird machines from Atlantis... you don't find them anywhere else but here."

"There are many mysterious things to be found here," Tabby agreed.

"You yourself seem mysterious sometimes," Elaine murmured softly. "You and Thomas both. And I don't say that in a bad way, you realize." She looked at Tabby intently. "And I'd love to hear more about your past adventures. Everything is so fascinating."

Tabby lowered her gaze again. Elaine was getting onto some sticky subjects... and she didn't want to get into straight-out lying to the younger mare. Luckily, she was spared from saying any more as the doors swung open again.

"Help! My Raticate!" a frantic teen filly cried out as she ran up to the counter. "He just got beat up really bad!"

Elaine winked at Tabby as she moved off to the side, and Tabby breathed a sigh of relief. Those sticky situations could be avoided... for now.

* * *
"Tiffany, did you remember to set-up that appointment-- Tiffany?"

"Hmm?" Tiffany looked up from her magazine upon hearing Tamara's question.
"The appointment at the bridal shop for Tabby's veil," Tamara said impatiently. "Did you get one?"

"Oh, yes, I called," Tiffany said absentmindedly. "Here, don't you think this one would look good on me?" The princess shoved the bridal magazine under Tamara's nose, the opened page displaying an ornate and extremely expensive veil.

Tamara rolled her eyes. "We're supposed to be looking for Tabby, not you! For as much as you enjoy planning parties, you don't seem to care much about this wedding."

"I don't know how I got into this mess in the first place," Tiffany muttered.

"Tabby asked if we'd plan it, and I told her we would." Tamara arched her eyebrows at the princess.

"You've been all too nice, Tamara, after meeting Romance," Tiffany whined. "I'd much rather be planning my wedding, which looks like I'll never get to at the rate Toby is going."

"Oh, is it still that?" Tamara said amusedly. "Besides, there's an advantage to this, remember?"

"There is?" Tiffany perked up noticeably.

"Yes," Tamara nodded. "If we do a really great job on the planning, Tabby will be so grateful to us, she'll be sure to toss us her bouquet! And you know what that means, don't you?"

Tiffany sat thoughtfully. "But if we shared the bouquet, wouldn't we each only get half a wedding each?"

"Oh, Tiffany, that's not the way it works," Tamara dismissed the idea. "It'll work out great. You'll see."

"Hmm... if it'll get Toby to propose..." Tiffany nodded slowly. "Now, what step were we at?"

"The bridal shop," Tamara repeated. "When were you able to get the appointment for?"

"Monday. Three o' clock," Tiffany said, going back to her magazine. "Don't you think Tabby will choose me to be her maid of honor?"

"You?" Tamara echoed, raising her eyebrows at Tiffany's abrupt statement. "But Tiffany! I'm her closest relative that could fill the position. Surely she'll choose me!"

Tiffany sniffed. "If she wants class in her wedding, she'll pick a princess."

"And besides, you would only detract attention away from the bride," Tamara argued. "You're so white and sparkly in the first place."

"Well!" Tiffany huffed. "We'll just see what Tabby decides, won't we?"

"But I, on the other hoof," Tamara continued, getting a starry look in her eyes, "would be perfect. I am nearly identical to the bride and... eh... heh..." She bit her lip upon realizing her faulty logic.

"Talk about detracting from the bride!" Tiffany laughed. "Thomas might end-up kissing the wrong girl, and wouldn't that be a bad start to the marriage!"

Tamara knew she was cornered, not having any redeeming lines for herself. "Well, we'll certainly all get to be her bridesmaids, if not the maid of honor," she finally rationalized.

"You did see Elaine the other night, didn't you?" Tiffany changed the subject abruptly. "What do you think of her?"

"She seems nice enough," Tamara said calmly. "I'm sure she'll get on well working at the clinic. It's about time someone took Tabby's old spot there."

"And she's awfully pretty," Tiffany frowned. "I wouldn't have a problem with her, but I'm concerned with the way Toby was looking at her last night."

Tamara had to laugh at her friend's concern. "Tiffany! Toby was just asking her some questions. I'm sure it's the last thing on Elaine's mind to steal him from you."

"But what really worries me is that I think Toby is still harboring a crush over Tabby," Tiffany confided. "He gets so distracted when he's in the same room as her. I don't know what I'll do about that stallion!"

"You must really love him if you're willing to put up with so much grief due to him," Tamara laughed. "As for Tabby... he should know by now that he doesn't have a chance with her."

"Try telling him that," Tiffany sniffed. "And I still can't understand why Tabby isn't more grateful for the attention she gets from the stallions. There was Tex back in high-school, you know--"

"And Cliff, the Extreme Pony," Tamara agreed. "And the Italian guy Aunt Agatha had in mind for her-- Guido, was it?"

"Guido. I never got to meet him," Tiffany frowned. "But I hear he's quite rich. I would have willingly jumped at a chance to marry him."

"I've heard that he's gotten quite annoyed with Aunt Agatha over Tabby and Thomas' engagement," Tamara supplied. "I guess he still thinks Tabby is reserved for him and him alone."

"And Cliff," Tiffany went on. "I remember him from a few years ago. He seems to have disappeared, though..."

Tamara shrugged. "Yeah, I've only heard of him through some stories Tabby's told me. Supposedly he went off with his gang on a sporting expedition, and they haven't come back yet."

"He would be a little extreme for my tastes, I think," Tiffany finally decided. "But he was quite direct with getting Tabby's attention when he was around. I wouldn't be surprised if he showed up on her doorstep one day begging her hoof in marriage."

"It's been a long time," Tamara said cautiously. "He probably doesn't even remember who she is any more."

"Even so," Tiffany declared, "if I were Thomas, I wouldn't rest until I was safely married to Tabby. There's still quite a bit of competition around. You never know what could happen between now and the wedding, you realize."

"Oh, I don't know," Tamara said, walking over to the window. "I'm not sure anything or anyone could rip those two apart at this point."

"Maybe not," Tiffany admitted. "But wouldn't it be exciting if one of those stallions came to cause a fuss on the wedding day?"

"Tiffany! Don't even say anything like that!"

"I think it would make it all the more romantic," Tiffany sighed. "I can envision it so vividly-- Toby and I at the altar, and just as we are about to profess our vows, a handsome stallion from my past will stand up and object-- I think it will be Jack. Yes, Jack. I immediately throw myself into Toby's forelegs, declaring that nothing-- absolutely nothing-- would ever take me from my one true love. Then Toby will--"

"I'm sure it would be very sentimental," Tamara said, smiling at Tiffany's dream wedding. "But enough of this gossip. I'm going to see the mysterious cloaked flower deliverer and talk to him about some things, and you've got to come along with me this time. And then after that..."

* * *
It was the following day, and Tamara had managed to find Tabby with some free time on her hooves and was outlining all the wedding plans to her. Tabby sat there nodding her head at everything that was said.

", anyway," Tamara rambled on, "since Aunt Agatha has been so generous in supplying the budget, we can really go all out. The date's all set for August fifteenth. We started the guest list, but you and Thomas still have to go over that again. I've booked the caterer and photographer, and a place for the reception. I think for a color scheme we'll go with teals and pinks; does that sound good? We're all set for the flowers; I talked to the mysterious cloaked flower deliverer at his shop in town, and he has a great deal for us."

"I suppose he would lower the price for me," Tabby said, only half-aloud as for the first time she interrupted Tamara's monologue.

"What, Tabby?" Tamara looked up from her paper.

"Oh, nothing."

"Alright." Tamara was not phased by the interruption, and continued on. "He mentioned something about ‘light sensor flowers' for your bouquet, but I don't know what they are. We'll have to get a sample. We have to shop for your veil next week, and in the line of attendants you only need to decide on who your bridesmaids will be." Tamara finally stopped, looking over at Tabby expectantly.

Tabby paused before answering. "Well, of course you and Sugarberry and Merry Treat will be my bridesmaids..." she said hesitantly.

"Yes, but who will be the maid of honor?" Tamara stared at her cousin piercingly.

Tabby gulped. That had been the question she was dreading. ‘I don't really know, yet..."

"You'll have to decide soon," Tamara reminded. "We must start shopping for accessories."

Tabby let out a sigh. It was easy enough to pick bridesmaids... but how could she show favoritism among her friends by choosing the maid of honor? She didn't know what to do. "I'll just have to think about it a little longer," she finally said, sitting erect.

"That's what you've been saying for the past month," Tamara said, impatience beginning to filter into her voice. "We need a decision. How about a deadline of Monday evening to decide?"

Tabby stared at the ceiling, drumming her hoof on the arm of the chair. "I suppose that would work."

"Good," Tamara nodded. "Get in some thinking before them, okay? We really can't put it off any longer. Monday evening, remember?"

"I'll remember," Tabby said stiffly, rising from the chair. "Thanks for stopping by, Tamara. I really appreciate all this work you're doing for us."

"Just let Tiffany and I know concerning your maids, okay? That's all the thanks I need at this point," Tamara sighed. With that, she dismissed herself and was out the door.

* * *
Tabby was ecstatic when her parents returned to Dream Valley from their visit to Italy. "Oh, I'm so glad you got here so soon! Is everything straightened out? Are you staying in Dream Valley?"

Agatha smiled and hugged her daughter close to her. "It's been finalized. We're keeping my property in Italy, but only for vacations in the summer and such. But yes, Tabitha, your father and I will stay here to be closer to you."

"Outrageous!" Tabby squealed. "When will you be moving into the mansion, then?"

Hubert and Agatha exchanged a glance. "That's one of the things we'd like to discuss with you, Tabby," Hubert put forth.

"Why? What is it?" Tabby asked cautiously.

"Nothing's wrong," Agatha assured her. "But we'd like to see you and Thomas together about it, if that's possible."

Tabby's excitement grew as her suspicions came closer and closer to being confirmed. "I'm sure he'll be available tonight..."

"How about dinner at the Estate Manor?" Hubert suggested. "I'll pay everyone's way."

"I'm afraid Tabby has gotten too spoiled by being taken to so many restaurants these past years," Agatha laughed lightly. "It's left her with no desire to cook for herself."

Tabby glowered at her mother. "Don't start bugging me about that," she threatened.

Agatha smoothed back Tabby's mane fondly. "Don't worry, dear. That will wait. But let us prepare for the Estate Manor now..."

* * *
And so, the arrangements were made, and the group of four assembled at the classy restaurant that evening. Tabby looked at her parents expectantly, anxious to hear what they had decided.

"As you know," Hubert started, "Agatha and I have decided to remain in Dream Valley to stay close to Tabby."

"And?" Tabby prodded. "What?"

"However," Agatha went on, "we would prefer to choose a different place of residence for ourselves than the mansion."

"Why's that?" Thomas asked curiously. "What will you do with the property?"

"You're not selling it, are you?" Tabby's eyes opened wide.

"Quite the contrary." Hubert looked once more at his wife before continuing. "We would like the mansion to be made use of by a different couple than ourselves."

"That is to say, we'd like to hand ownership of the place over to you, Tabitha and Thomas," Agatha finished. "It will be our wedding gift to you."

The full meaning of these words took several moments to finally sink in on the aforementioned couple. The silence was finally broken by the clattering of a fork to the floor and a squeal from Tabby.


"That's... generous of you," Thomas stammered. "Are you sure it's what you want?"

Agatha patted his hoof warmly. "It's exactly what we want. We only hope that you'll be as happy with it as Hubert and I were."

"Fabulous! It'll be absolutely fabulous!" Tabby's eyes sparkled with delight as she leaned up against Thomas. "Oh, don't you think so, Thomas?"

Thomas looked at her fondly. "Everything has been going so well for Tabby and I. I don't know how to thank you enough, Hubert and Agatha."

"Oh, I'm so eternally grateful!" Tabby said emphatically. "Mom and Dad, it'll be perfect! I don't believe it!"

"Then you'll accept it?" Hubert said laughingly.

"Of course we will!" Tabby said promptly before anyone else could get anything in. "My childhood home! I'll be back!"

"And with someone new to share it with," Thomas reflected. "I should say it will be fabulous! But then, any place is fabulous when you're there, Tabby."

Tabby only giggled at the compliment, and her vocabulary had been reduced to only one word: "Outrageous!" Intoxicated with happiness, she wasn't capable of any intelligent conversation right then. But it wasn't really necessary, either. Sighing blissfully, she sank back in her chair. Life was outrageous!

* * *
Meanwhile, Elaine was experiencing her first visit to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe alone. She felt somewhat like an outsider as she peered inside, looking for familiar faces over the expanse of tables. Her gaze finally settled on the glittering Princess Tiffany, who indeed stuck in everyone's mind.

"Ah... hello there," Elaine said hesitantly as she approached Tiffany's table.

"Oh, hello." Tiffany stared up at the unicorn. "Have we met?"

"Well... yes... the other night," Elaine stuttered. "I'm Elaine, don't you remember?"

"Oh, Elaine." Tiffany nodded stiffly in recognition at the dazzling white mare with resplendent bright blue curls framing her face. "A rather drab-looking pony."

"Would you... would you mind if I sat down?" Elaine prodded shyly, beginning to get flustered.

"I suppose not," Tiffany sighed. "I'm only waiting for the rest of the gang to get here."

"Yes, so am I. You're the only one I recognized," Elaine said.

"I do hope Toby can make it tonight," Tiffany said expectantly.

"Ah, Toby," Elaine recalled. "I remember him."

"You do?" Tiffany stared piercingly at her. "What did you think of him?"

Elaine was uncertain of how to respond to the princess' hostile behavior. "He was... he was... nice," she said slowly.

" ‘Nice'? What do you mean by ‘nice'?" Tiffany demanded.

"He was just... nice, you know?" Elaine said uncomfortably.

"He wasn't too nice, was he?"

"Well... no, he wasn't too nice," Elaine said, throughly flustered by this point.

"Good." Tiffany nodded. "I'd warn you to stay away from him."

"Oh, you've had experience with him?"

"Yes, that stallion is trouble. Take my word for it. I'd stay well away from him."

"I'll be... I'll be sure to do that, then." Elaine shrunk back in her seat.

"Elaine, hello!" Tamara's greeting pierced the heavy air and the pink unicorn promptly seated herself. "And don't let Tiffany bother you. She's only jealous because she's afraid you'll steal Toby from her." She stared at the princess pointedly.

"Alright," Elaine said meekly, taking note of Tiffany's annoyed look cast in the direction of her friend.

"Oh, we've been so busy with wedding plans!" Tamara sighed happily. "It's all so exciting."

"Has she picked her bridesmaids yet?" Elaine asked curiously.

"No, she hasn't put any thought into it," Tamara scoffed. "I finally had to give her a deadline to decide." In speaking of the wedding, Tabby was only known as "she".

"But I'm certain she's going to choose me as her maid of honor," Tiffany said haughtily.

"No!" Tamara protested. "It's obvious it'll be either Sugarberry or I."

"It's unfortunate, of course, that you won't have a place in the bridal party, Elaine," Tiffany sighed dramatically.

"I don't mind." Elaine squirmed in her chair.

Tamara patted Elaine's foreleg reassuringly and turned to Tiffany with a reproachful look. "Tiffany, you can be just plain spiteful at times."

"Hmph," Tiffany muttered. "Well, Elaine, what are your plans for the future?"

"I'm going to start work at Thomas' clinic soon, of course," Elaine said timidly.

"What about living arrangements?" Tiffany prodded. "You can't live off your brother's charity forever."

"I hadn't really thought about it." Elaine stared down at the table.

"Especially with the wedding coming up soon," Tiffany continued.

"There are plenty of houses up for sale around here," Tamara said reassuringly. "I could even help you in choosing one, if you'd like."

Elaine smiled weakly. "That would be nice, Tamara. But I'm sure you're busy enough with the wedding plans as it is."

"Oh, no, there's plenty of time for everything," Tamara said breezily. "Don't worry about it. I'd be glad to help."

"Look! It's Toby!" Tiffany's sudden exclamation broke through the air as she jumped up from her seat. "I must go and speak with him right away." Glancing warningly once more at Elaine, she dashed off.

Elaine had to laugh at the situation. "And here she was just warning me a moment ago that ‘that stallion is trouble'!"

"That's Tiffany's way," Tamara giggled as well. "She's very defensive over her Toby, even if she seems to be exasperated with him all the time."

"I hear that has something to do with a lack of a ring on her foreleg?"

"Partly," Tamara nodded merrily. "How about you, Elaine? Is there anyone special in your life?"

"Well... no," Elaine confessed. "I've never really worried about that sort of thing."

"Ah!" Tamara nodded knowingly. "Well, don't worry. The stallions will come knocking on your door soon enough."

"Do you think so?" Elaine asked shyly.

"Sure!" Tamara said positively. "Now, what was I thinking... oh, yes! A house for you. What type do you have in mind? Something small, probably?"

Elaine turned her glance to the table again. She was sure Tamara had good intentions, but she didn't particularly want to think about housing for herself right then. "I don't-- well-- I don't really know," she stuttered. "What do you think?"

Luckily for Elaine, Tamara had just caught sight of a newcomer who had walked in the door. "Lemon Treats! Lemon Treats! Over here!" she waved frantically to her friend.

Elaine took the chance to excuse herself. "Oh, Tamara, I really better be getting along on my way now," she said apologetically. "It was nice talking to you."

"Of course!" Tamara smiled. "I'll be seeing you around, Elaine. Tah-tah!"

Hurrying away quickly with her head bent low, Elaine made her way out of the shop and down the streets of Dream Valley. Thoughts began troubling her mind as she tripped through the misty evening. Tiffany's words of living off her brother's charity had stung, but they were true. And Elaine didn't know what to do.

Realizing that she had stumbled into one of the parks of Dream Valley, Elaine perched on one of the benches to contemplate her dilemma. Her family's feud had never been a happy memory to her, and it had only grown worse after the death of her parents. The only family she had left that she could turn to had been her brother Thomas, and vice versa. The ordeal had been traumatic to both of them, and they realized even more their importance to each other. They were the last bit of their family that was left.

Elaine was certain she wouldn't have survived the ordeal had it not been for her compassionate and understanding older brother. He had persuaded her to continue her studies, and had promised her a position at a clinic he was opening in Dream Valley when she graduated. But more important than that, he had promised her a place to stay with him no matter what happened. That thought had comforted Elaine through all these years. She would graduate, come to Dream Valley, start work, and begin a new life... but it had never occurred to her that she would have to begin alone, as was obviously evident with her brother's wedding coming up. She would be evicted, and forced to fend for herself. She knew it had to happen someday, but it still frightened her.

A teardrop slowly rolled down Elaine's cheek before she was even aware of it. She huddled up on the bench, squeezing her eyes shut. Of course she didn't harbor any bad feelings against Thomas or Tabby. She still cared about them both very much. But it didn't stop the terrible feeling of loneliness and abandonment that was slowly flooding her soul.

Composing herself as best she could, Elaine slowly got up and decided to head back home. Home... how could it be her home, if she would be thrown out of it so soon after arriving? Wanting only to throw herself down on her pillow and have a good cry in private, Elaine hurried on her way.

* * *
Later on this same evening, Tabby and Thomas were also heading back to their respective houses. Agatha and Hubert had gone on ahead, giving the two some time alone.

"I still can't believe they just gave it to us like that," Thomas said in awe.

"Oh, I was hoping they would," Tabby said blissfully. "Mom had said earlier it was going to be mine anyway, you know."

"Whatever the fact of the matter is, it's ours," Thomas said thoughtfully. "I never thought we'd start off in a mansion like that."

"It's been so long since I left it myself," Tabby said nostalgically. "It'll be wonderful going back."

"How well do you suppose Callie and the two Siamese will get along together?"

"Actually, I was thinking Callie would be better off if I gave her to Mom."

Thomas looked up in surprise. "What? You can't mean that!"

"Callie does seem to warm up to her better than to me," Tabby pointed out. "And it would reduce the risks of getting involved with a feline rivalry."

"You've had that cat forever. I can't see you parting with her."

"Neither can I, but it's for the better."

"You don't have to, you know."

Tabby lapsed into silence. "No. I do have to."

"Callie doesn't hate you like you think, Tabby."

"Maybe not, and I will miss her. But she'll be happier with Mom."

"You've already made up your mind, I see. You won't be moved to change it."


Silence again reigned, and Thomas hesitated before speaking again. "And then there's the problem with Elaine."

"Elaine?" Tabby's head perked up, thoughts of felines diminishing. "What about her?"

"It's... it's..." Thomas groped for the right words. "I've felt responsible for her ever since the death of our parents. I still feel responsible for her."

"I can understand that," Tabby said quietly.

"I promised her sanctuary with me whenever she needed it." Thomas glanced over at Tabby. "And now with the wedding and all... I don't know what I'll tell her."

"I see," Tabby said softly. "You don't want to simply evict her, do you?"

"No... but I don't know what else to do."

"There'll be plenty of space in the mansion, won't there?" Tabby said quite suddenly.

Thomas looked over at her abruptly. "You don't mean..."

"Why not?" Tabby prodded. "It would work, wouldn't it?"

"I... I suppose so," Thomas said slowly. "But wouldn't you mind at all?"

"Why would I? No, it'd be even more fun having her stay there with us."

"I wouldn't have thought that you would like the idea."

"Not at all." Tabby's eyes sparkled. "I think it's all quite dashing and wonderful of you to still care so much for her welfare."

"You're being rather honorable yourself, I think."

"Perhaps." Before she could say any more, Tabby looked up and realized that they had reached her front porch.

"I suppose I'll say goodnight, then," Thomas said, kissing her a final time.

"Goodnight," Tabby smiled out into the darkness as she watched him disappear. "Goodnight, Thomas."

* * *
The following days flew by as Tabby spent every possible moment showcasing to Elaine everything that was to be found in Dream Valley, and Elaine readily drank everything in. There was no time for worry for either of them. Sunday came, and Elaine found herself staying up late at Tabby's house watching edifying eighties' cartoons-- particularly those of Tabby's current craze, Jem.

"Oh, Elaine, you should have been here when Spike and the gang were watching those He-Man episodes I got them for Christmas!" Tabby laughed hysterically during an interlude between tapes. "You'd be amazed at how many hilarious scenes they can point-out in those."

"I can imagine it, with those guys," Elaine giggled. "Were the episodes really that bad?"

"Well, actually, I would like to watch them again without the outside influence of that bunch," Tabby reflected. "I'm more open to plot flaws than they are."

"What's the best eighties' cartoon you've encountered, plot-wise?" Elaine questioned. "My Little People?"

"Not to put it down or anything," Tabby said thoughtfully, "but in terms of plot, My Little People was one of the more unimaginative ones. Of course I still love it because it's about My Little People, but... it could have been better."

Elaine nodded. "I can see that. I guess when we were baby ponies, we didn't pay close attention to the over-all plot."

"The ones I really like," Tabby prattled on, "are Jem and Teddy Ruxpin. I think they were much more effectively planned out, and their cartoons reflect that. In fact, if you go back and study their beginnings, you'll find that they really were carefully planned. It's very important to come up with a good basis for a toyline before turning it into a cartoon, you know? Some things were never meant to be cartoons, as Spike pointed out. Like the Rubix cube. I still can't figure out how that came into being."

Elaine looked on in awe. "You certainly know a lot about this stuff."

"Oh, but Spike is much more knowledgeable of eighties' toys," Tabby assured her. "He remembers everything. Really, he has the advantage. When I was growing up, I only cared about My Little People and nothing else. Spike took note of everything that was going on in the toy world. Now I have to catch up to him."

"You two are perfect for running a toy museum," Elaine said reverently. "You both know so much. It's a good thing you decided to set one up."

"Oh, it's going to be great fun," Tabby said contentedly. "It'll be opening next month, you know. I still have displays to set up. I'll have to take you there sometime for a preview of the place."

"Really? Oh, that would be wonderful! I'd love to see all your items again."

"I could use some help with setting the displays up, anyway," Tabby mused.

"You certainly are going to be busy this summer, aren't you?" Elaine commented. "It's a good thing Tamara is helping out on the wedding."

"Ah, the wedding!" Tabby sighed happily.

"Yes, the wedding." Elaine shifted uncomfortably in her seat, troubling thoughts resurfacing in her mind.

Tabby continued to remain silent as well, obviously having recalled troubled thoughts of her own. Neither of them made a move to continue the conversation for several moments.

Elaine finally decided that something had to be said about her predicament, as nothing further had been said to her on the matter by anyone. "I suppose I'll start looking for a place to move into," she said tentatively.

"Oh!" Tabby was jolted from her reverie as she looked up abruptly at Elaine. "But didn't we tell you?"

"Tell me what?" Elaine said questioningly.

"After the wedding you can stay with Thomas and I at the mansion, of course."

Tabby's comment caught Elaine by complete surprise. "But... but... I... the mansion?" she stammered.

"Yes! Mom and Dad are giving it to Thomas and me, you know."

"But... I'd just get in the way of things."

"You wouldn't be a nuisance at all. You mean a lot to both of us, Elaine." Tabby looked at her with sisterly love.

"I... don't know what to say." Elaine's gaze centered on the floor. "You've both been so supportive of me."

"It's okay, Elaine! There won't be any problems. Would you like to accept the offer?"

"Well, something tells me at this point that you won't take ‘no' for an answer," Elaine smiled slightly.

"You're right," Tabby laughed. "Come on! Don't feel guilty. It'll work out great."

"It's still awfully nice of you."

"Think nothing of it." Before she could let her own worries resurface again, Tabby moved towards the VCR. "But let's not think about it anymore! There's still a full night ahead of us, and there's also another six-hour tape to get through yet..."

* * *
Tabby tapped her hoof on the counter in the Pokèmon Center. The day had come. She had to make a decision on her maid of honor. She hadn't had any time to think about it since Tamara had set the deadline. She had thought she might put some serious thought into it the previous night, but that plan had not allowed for staying up until two o' clock watching Jem cartoons.

Tabby stared down at the list of five names: Sugarberry, Tamara, Merry Treat, Tiffany, and Elaine. They could all be her bridesmaids; there was no problem with that. But who was worthy of being the maid of honor? How could she choose one of those five above the others?
She had known Sugarberry for the longest of any of them. They had been inseparable as baby ponies, and were still close friends. If she knew Sugarberry the best and for the longest period of time, shouldn't that mean...

But Tamara was a direct relation. Certainly, they hadn't gotten along very well in their early years; but they had gradually become more tolerable of each other and Tabby could now count her cousin as a true friend. Since she had no sisters, it would seem that her cousin should be the logical choice...

Merry Treat was a very good friend too, though. They had known each other throughout their school years, but with the discovery of Pokèmon, they had found common ground and their bond of friendship had grown as they both became obsessed with the mysterious creatures. With the recent marriage of their two Meowths, Tarquin and Tess, to each other, the two ponies felt even closer to one another with a sisterly tie...

Tiffany, of course, could also be counted as a close friend. Tabby had shied away from her for the longest time because she was such a snob, but after the princess had taken the notion in her head that she should try to become more peasant-like, they had begun associating with each other at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe nightly. Tiffany could still be overbearing and tiresome, but she was overall a likeable character that could be depended upon...

And then there was Elaine. Tabby felt a strong kinship with the younger mare after communicating with her frequently while Elaine was still attending college. She could almost say that she felt more comfortable with Elaine than any of the others. But no one would expect her to choose Elaine. They didn't think the two were very close at all. They'd be shocked and angered if Elaine, an outsider, was chosen instead of them.

Tabby sighed and crumpled the paper in her hoof. She would have to come to a decision... but she could not choose between her friends like this! She simply could not bear to!

* * *
"Hmm. No, it's not long enough," Agatha frowned critically.

Tabby sighed in exasperation as she twirled around for the thousandth time. "It looks exactly the same as all the others! Why couldn't you have just had an heirloom veil for me to wear, Mom? It would have made this a lot easier."

"Anything of mine would be terribly out-of-fashion by now, Tabitha," Agatha assured her daughter.

"The second one you tried was best," Tiffany offered.

"That was too gaudy," Tamara argued. "It doesn't complement Tabby very well."

The four had assembled on time that afternoon at the bridal shop, with the endeavor of choosing a veil for Tabby. Of course, it was no easy process.

"If I had been thinking, I would have brought Ah-Loh along," Tabby said regretfully. "I could have asked him which ones he liked. It would be very easy that way."

Agatha raised an eyebrow. "Furbys are influencing your wedding plans too much, Tabby. What's this I hear about sharing the front pew with some of the creatures?"

"Ah-Loh and Doo-Moh," Tabby nodded. "Yes, you'll be sitting next to them. Don't worry; you'll get along fine."

"And Tabby, don't forget that you agreed to come to a decision on your maid of honor by tonight," Tamara reminded.

"I haven't forgotten," Tabby snapped. "You'll hear my decision tonight."

"I'm sure it would be good luck if you had a princess in the position," Tiffany hinted. "It's not everyone who actually knows a princess on the level that you do, Tabby."

Tamara herself remained silent, but shot a sharp glance at Tiffany. "Well, Tabby, getting back to the veils," she changed the subject. "Which do you like best?"

"Um... they all look basically the same," Tabby offered. "They're all white and lacy, you know, and there's not too much difference."

"Oh, Tabitha," Agatha sighed. "Perhaps it would be better if we just chose one for you."

"I never said I wouldn't pick one; I just said that they all look the same," Tabby corrected. "I like the... first two I tried," she decided at random.

"I think we've spent long enough here for one day," Agatha finally said. "We'll think the choices over a few days, check out some other shops, and then make the decision."

"Yes, that sounds wise," Tamara agreed. "Why don't we all just go over to Pony Hut right now for supper, and then to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe like usual? All the guys are busy; we can have a girl's night out for once."

"That's fine with me," Tiffany sniffed. "I doubt Toby would be interested in my company, anyway."

"You're just too hard on the guy, Tiffy," Tabby said. "I don't blame him for staying away."

"What do you mean by that?" Tiffany said, glaring.

"You are awfully... demanding," Tamara agreed as the group headed out of the shop. "Maybe if you weren't pressuring him so hard to propose, he would get around to it sooner."

"How dare you call me ‘demanding'!" Tiffany said, miffed. "Toby is the one at fault. It would be easier if he still didn't have a crush on Tabby, too."

"What? He can't, after all this time!" Tabby protested. "You're just imagining it, Tiffy."

"Oh, Tabby, if only you were aware of how differently he acts when you're around." Tiffany rolled her eyes upward for emphasis. "I only hope he'll refrain from that once you're married."

Agatha had to laugh upon hearing their bickering. "Ah, your talk brings back memories of my younger days. It's been so long since I've been involved with gossip of this sort."

This comment made Tiffany forget her current dilemma for the moment. "Oh, I bet you had all sorts of handsome stallions falling for you, Mrs. Fershund! You lived in a lot of finery, didn't you?"

"Oh, I did know some nice stallions," Agatha recalled. "But Hubert stood out among them all. He was different, somehow."

"Very adventurous, from the sounds of it," Tiffany agreed. "Did you get to go on any excursions with him?"

"Oh, he knows so much about lost civilizations and UFOs and such," Tamara said admirably. "I think you were wise to pick him, Aunt Agatha."

"And I think Tabitha has made a wise choice in picking Thomas, too," Agatha said, hugging her daughter happily.

Tabby's only reply was a low, hardly decipherable "Party, wah!"

* * *
"Well, Tabby, it's time to hear your decision."

"...cover the eyes twice and pet their back once..." Tabby looked up abruptly at Tamara's comment. "Eh? What was that?"

"We're all here now," Tiffany added. "Who's to be your maid of honor?"

"Oh... that..." Tabby's composure wobbled as she glanced around the table.

"You've really delayed too long in choosing one already," Agatha agreed.

"Who will it be?" Sugarberry asked curiously.

"She'll probably pick a Furby," Merry Treat giggled.

"Yes! How about Doo-Moh?" Elaine said merrily. "And then Ah-Loh can stand-in as best man."

"This isn't a time to be talking about Furbys," Tiffany said, shooting silencing glances at the Furby-loving members of the group. The princess still held hopes that Tabby would pick her, and didn't want anyone influencing her otherwise... especially when Furbys were involved. "Tabitha, what is your decision?"

"You'll all get to be bridesmaids, of course," said Tabby after a pause. "Well, except for you, Mom."

"Me, too?" Elaine said in a barely perceptible tone, her eyes opening wide. It had never been brought up in conversation before that she would be included with the bridesmaids.

"We already know that. It still doesn't answer the question of who the maid of honor will be," Tamara said, her voice growing more than a little annoyed.

"My maid of honor will be..." Tabby glanced at the faces around her, all anxious with the possibility of getting the honor bestowed upon them: Tamara, Tiffany, Sugarberry, Merry Treat, Elaine. Her gaze lowered to the table and she closed her eyes. The moment had come. "She will be..." The two syllables were on the tip of her tongue, but she could hardly bring herself to say them due to the hurt feelings they would inflict. The tension was mounting. Finally, Tabby heard herself saying the word. "...Elaine."

Tiffany bit her lip and Tamara looked a little surprised, but otherwise the group wasn't too affected as Tabby dared to open her eyes again. "You're not... mad, are you?" Tabby asked hesitantly.

"Of course we're not mad! It is your wedding, after all," Sugarberry pointed out quickly, sensing Tabby's affliction.

"Besides, we still get to be your bridesmaids," Merry Treat smiled encouragingly.

"I suppose... it's better to be a bridesmaid than nothing at all," Tiffany finally admitted grudgingly.

"Besides, Tiffany and I are busy with the wedding plans as it is. I'm not sure I could take the extra responsibility of being maid of honor," Tamara added.

"At least you finally made up your mind on the matter," Agatha said with relief. "I was afraid you'd never decide on anyone."

Tabby then turned her attention to Elaine, who appeared to be the most shocked of all. "Well, what do you say?"

"I... I never thought," she gasped out after a moment. "Are you... serious?"

"I said it, didn't I?" Tabby said gently. "Yes, Elaine. You can have the position."

"You've been too nice," Elaine said, tears of happiness coming to her eyes. "Thank you, Tabby. Thank you!"

And everyone there knew that Tabby had made the right choice.


The Evil Dragon
Part Nine
by Princess of the Stars (

Thinking quickly, Vincent crept into the shadows trying to see what had startled him into consciousness. At the far end of the large cavern crouched a small dragon; Vincent immediately recognized him as one of Tornado's minions. This specific dragon was Nightwind, the most loyal of Tornado's followers. Across the cavern, Vincent's acute senses heard the small dragon mutter something under his breath.

Nightwind turned away from Vincent, unaware that anyone had discovered him. Vincent took this opportunity with open arms; he swiftly raced up behind Nightwind, taking him in his strong grasp. Awaking the others, he elicited their help in binding the dragon's legs and arms to prevent an escape. Completely terrified of his attackers, the small dragon fainted.

Some time later, Nightwind's eyes fluttered open. He found himself bound, gagged, and in the center of a circle of strange creatures. He recognized them as some multicolored ponies, a Hobbit that stared at him with questioning but gentle eyes, a small orange lion with a strange symbol on his stomach, and last but certainly not least, a manlike lion.

"What do you want?" he forced himself to say as he shrank away from the crowd.

"We should ask the same of you," the lion-man said, stepping forward. "Why were you going through our bags last night, Nightwind?"

"Wha-- how do you know my name?" the dragon said in disbelief.

"You answer my question and I'll answer yours," Vincent replied.

"All right. Lord Tornado wanted me to come and steal your map so you wouldn't be able to continue to foil his plans of taking over the world. Now answer me: how do you know my name?" Nightwind frowned.

"It says your name on your nametag," the Hobbit said, quietly suppressing his laughter.

Again the small dragon frowned. "I can't go back now. Because of you, I have no place to go if you release me."

"What makes you think we'd do that?" Salty answered. "However, we may be persuaded to let you stay with us..."

"Well, okay. May I stay with you?" Nightwind said, knowing that he had no other choice.

"Yes," the answer came as the introductions began.


Clever Clover vs. the Flatlands
Chapter 3: Isle of Destiny
by Clever Clover (

After recalling his Pokèmon, Clever Clover studied his surroundings. The vegetation around the lake was more lush than was typical in the Flatlands. There were even dense stands of trees, almost small woods, wherever a river flowed into or out of the lake. The island in the center of the lake appeared heavily wooded. The entire area was green; the mirror-like surface of the lake was even green with reflected light.

Something about the lake mesmerized the pony. It seemed somehow... familiar. He made his way slowly toward the lakeshore. The weather was so pleasant that he couldn't rush despite the hypnotic lure of the lake. As pleasant as it was, Clever Clover still felt uneasy, and that may also have contributed to his lack of haste. Bic's magic had led him to the lake, and if that imp wanted him there, he was sure there would be something unpleasant waiting for him.

When he reached the lake, he stepped into the cool water to sooth his sore hooves. There was no one-- or thing-- around, though the songs of birds drifted across the water of the lake. Clever Clover gazed at the island. "Looks like a nice place," the pony mumbled to himself. "So Bic probably wants me elsewhere. Or the island isn't as nice as it looks."

His hooves refreshed, Clever Clover began to walk along the shore of the lake. The shore varied between sand and rock, with occasional muddy sections. It wasn't long before he reached a stand of trees near one of the rivers draining the lake. "I wish Bic would just spring whatever he's going to spring and get it over with. Then I could at least enjoy this scenery."

" ‘Allo ‘allo!" a shrill call from the reeds broke Clever Clover's train of thought.

"Hu? Who's there?"

"Ee's jus' me," a pudgy muskrat stepped out of the reeds, nibbling on a cattail stalk. "What you be about o'er ‘ere?"

"Um, who are you and what do you mean ‘o'er ‘ere'?"

"Ah do be Josephus LaRue an' ah means ‘o'er ‘ere' as opposed to ‘o'er dere'," the muskrat said, pointing toward the island. "Isle Ponies don' usually come o'er ‘ere. You types do be anti-sociable."

"Well, if I'm supposed to be ‘anti-sociable", why are you bein' so sociable to me? And what do you mean by ‘Isle Ponies'?"

"Me mammy raised me up right. But you don' be talkin' like no Isle Pony, though you got the look o' the breed. Where's about you be from?"

"I'm from Friendship Gardens."

"Never ‘eard o' it. But you still ain' tol' me wha' you's doin' ‘ere."

"I'm not really sure about that myself. Do you know how I could get out to that island?"

"Ah usually jus' swims, but there's an ol' codger wit' a boat what ‘e rents fo' fishin', up on the nort' shore."

"Uh, thanks, Josephus."

"T'ain' no problem."

* * *
Clever Clover had to go downstream aways to find a place to cross; and as he did, he was attacked by a Goldeen; but it swam away before he could try to catch it. On the northern edge of the lake was a sizeable wood with a small creek running through it. On the edge of the lake, near the creek, was a rickety old cabin built on stilts. There was a porch around three sides of the cabin. A dock extended from the porch into the lake. Moored next to the dock was a wooden rowboat. The purple pony climbed the steps to the cabin and knocked on the door.

"Whadya wan'?" came the reply in a gruff voice.

"I, ah, want to rent your boat."

"Rent? Ya got money?"


The door flew open to reveal a gray-haired old man in overalls. He grinned a crooked, toothy grin, until he saw Clever Clover. His grin turned to a scowl. "Oh, yer one o' them."

"I'm not an Isle Pony. But I do want to visit the island."

"Alrighty, fifty bucks an' ye row yerself. I ain't goin' anywhere near tha' island," the old man-- whose name was Ed-- sneered.

"I don't have any bucks, only jangles."

Ed thought for a moment. "That'll do."

After Clever Clover payed Ed, he summoned Farfetch'd to help him row to the island. "Well, I don't know if Bic wants me on the island or not, but I'll find out when I get there."


Ginseng and Sassafras Tea
by Sugarberry (

Chapter Five

Hood tossed and turned throughout the night, tortured by dreams fueled from the events of the day. Dream after dream slid across his subconsciousness, waking him abruptly, then leading him off on an even more bizarre scenario.

In one dream, Drumstick became the perpetrator of crime, even though he dressed suspiciously like Batman. That was followed by another in which Sparky tried to hold all of Woodlawn under arrest for working together to steal each others' produce. Some dreams had odd-looking creatures from other planets, always taking something away but never really bothering anyone. His mind even cast William as the villain in a particularly disjointed dream sequence which caused Hood to awaken in a cold sweat, only to pass out again to endure more mental torture.

Morning light was pouring in his bedroom window by the time Hood sat up and wiped the drowsiness from his eyes. He swung his legs out of bed and resisted the urge to just collapse under the covers again. As tired as he was after his weird dreams, he didn't want to face any more of them. Besides, he argued with himself, he had to go grocery shopping today. He was already out of milk and eggs, and he needed a head of lettuce.

Unlike most of the inhabitants of Woodlawn who raised their fruits and vegetables in lovingly tended garden plots, Hood, from his many years living in Grayton-- one of the largest cities in Ponyland-- had grown accustomed to the less hooves-on method of garnering the fruits of the land: He shopped the produce department at the local grocery store. Why get your hooves dirty when Mazy Daze Market carried everything a pony could need or desire in the culinary line?

Hood washed up and, foregoing breakfast due to the emptiness of his kitchen cupboards, headed straight to the market just three blocks from his brick home on Shady Lane. This was one thing that endeared Woodlawn to him-- the fact that he was within easy walking distance of all the important places in town. He took time to literally smell the roses as he strolled down the maple-lined streets; flower beds competed with one another for the brightest array of colors. It was a far cry from the hectic streets of Grayton, a city as dingy and drab as its name suggested. Hood grimaced as he remembered that he once thought his life there had been fulfilling and exciting. Looking back, he could see only drudgery and routine.

He breathed deeply of the fresh, clean air of Woodlawn, and waved to friends and neighbors that were out and about.

"Hood, wait up!" rang out a shrill voice behind him. Hood turned to see Buttercup with her newborn foal, Sweety, in her forelegs. "Are you headed for Mazy Daze?"

"Could be," said Hood noncommittally. He suspected that Buttercup timed her shopping trips to his passing, and had been hoodwinked into packing many a bag of groceries home for her.

"Oh, please, help me!" she pleaded, flashing her great, round eyes at him. "I'm going to need help with the baby and all."

Hood's resolve disappeared. Who could ignore a mother in distress, especially one with those beautiful eyes?

The foal in Buttercup's forelegs was a perfect cross between her parents-- Homestead's green body and Buttercup's purple mane and tail... and her mother's big eyes, too. Sweety smiled at him and cooed when Hood made the expected remark about how cute she was.

"You will help me home, won't you, Hood?" Buttercup pressed him. "I'm not buying too much, just diapers and formula."

"I'll have to open the shop at eleven o'clock, so I'll help if you don't take too long."

"No problem," she declared as she lifted Sweety to her shoulder where the foal could better see her surroundings. The movement produced a very loud burp.

Buttercup giggled and patted Sweety lovingly. Hood felt a tiny twinge of jealousy. He'd missed his nieces and nephews in their newborn stage, and looked forward to Moonglow's new arrival. He could play the protective uncle from day one.

Arriving at the grocery store, Hood and Buttercup went their separate ways. Hood headed for the dairy department to pick up the eggs and milk. He stopped short when he turned the corner past the breakfast cereal.

Standing next to the dairy case was a vision from his early years, and he hesitated as he considered retreating, or facing Dreamy bravely. He waited a second too long, as the peach-colored pony looked up from her cart. She, too, saw a bittersweet flashback.

"Hood. It's really you." Dreamy spoke with reserve.

"Why, Dreamy, it's been a long time!" Hood stuttered. He wished now that Moonglow hadn't told him about Dreamy's crush on him; it would have made this reunion less embarrassing. "What are you doing in Woodlawn?"

"I just moved here to take a job at the newspaper office," Dreamy explained. "I didn't know you lived her," she added, sounding as if she had known, she would have accepted a position a million miles away.

"Neither did I," blundered Hood. "I mean, I didn't know you'd moved here."

"Strange, isn't it?" Dreamy mused. "All the towns in Ponyland, and we both end up here." Suddenly, she smiled.

It struck Hood that the scatterbrained annoyance that he remembered from high school had grown up to become a very pretty pony. She wore her orange mane and tail in a cascade of curls; her voice was soft and soothing.

"You've changed!" he said abruptly, his eyes revealing that he approved.

"Yes. I'm older!" she quipped as she continued to add items to her shopping basket.

"That's not all bad."

Dreamy stopped and looked at Hood as if for the first time. "You've changed, too, Hood."

He grinned. "We have a lot of catching up to do. How about dinner some evening? Would tomorrow night be okay for you?"

Dreamy looked rather amused by this sudden rush of words. She couldn't resist a gentle jab. "How I yearned to hear that invitation back in high school." She breathed an exaggerated sigh.

"It's not too late for me to make it up to you," Hood grinned. "There are a couple of excellent supper clubs in Woodlawn. How about I set up a reservation, and give you a call?"

"I might enjoy that, Hood, even if you were mean and rude to me back in the old days."

Hood feigned surprise. "Not I, surely!"

"Against my better judgement, I'll give you my number." She tore a corner off her shopping list and began jotting her telephone number down when Buttercup's voice came echoing from the far end of the aisle.

"Hood! Hood, come hold the baby while I pay for the groceries!"

Hood turned in exasperation to where Buttercup stood holding Sweety, and waved a hoof in her direction in the hopes of quieting her down; then he turned back to Dreamy.

"This isn't what it looks..." His voice trailed off as Dreamy, sparks shooting from her eyes, crumpled the piece of paper with her number on it.

"Some things never change," she spat out as she turned and marched away from Hood and disappeared into the canned goods aisle.

By this time, Buttercup stood by his side. "Here!" she said as she placed Sweety in his forelegs.

Hood unconsciously accepted the foal, torn between following after Dreamy, or giving Buttercup a piece of his mind.

A gurgly little giggle served to sooth the savage beast. Sweety was waving her forelegs back and forth in an effort to touch his face. "Well, little one, you can't be blamed for your mother's ineptness." He smiled as her little hooves brushed his cheek. And he set off down the aisle to catch up to Buttercup.

As Buttercup paid for her groceries, Hood realized that he hadn't had a chance to do his own shopping. But after seeing the bags of groceries Buttercup had waiting, he knew he wouldn't have been able to handle hers and his both.

"Just diapers and formula?" he quizzed her.

"Oh, I picked up a few other things while I was here," Buttercup grinned as she reclaimed Sweety.

Hood grimaced as Mazy Daze lifted the grocery bags into his forelegs. It felt like Buttercup had purchased the heaviest items in the store.

"You'd make a great pack-horse," Mazy Daze teased.

"Thanks a lot," was all Hood could think to say.

Once he had dropped off Buttercup's groceries, he hurried back to the market, hoping to find Dreamy still at her shopping. But a quick check of the aisles turned up no trace of her. Hood sullenly picked up the groceries he needed and proceeded to the checkout counter.

"You seem unusually quiet, Hood," Mazy Daze said. "What's on your mind?"

"Got a couple of hours?" Hood frowned.

"Ahh! You and me and a chocolate shake between us!" she purred, winking coquettishly. Then getting serious, she continued, "It's the thievery going on, isn't it? It's gotten everyone a little edgy."

That brought Hood back to reality. His run-ins with Buttercup and Dreamy had pushed Woodlawn's problems to the back of his mind.

"What do you make of it, Mazy?"

"For all I know, it could be aliens."

Chapter 6

The ice cream shop was buzzing with voices of ponies enjoying a quick lunch break. Hood had a selective menu of hearty sandwiches offered from eleven in the morning until one-thirty in the afternoon which drew in the working crowd. He and Drumstick were kept busy while staying informed of local happenings.

William had come in early, filling his regular spot at the counter. He usually waited until the shop was quieter, thereby commanding more of Hood's attention to his stories and reminiscences. But on this day, the elderly stallion had almost appeared to be waiting for the shop to open when Hood showed up after his groceries had been stored away at home.

"What did you think of the headlines, Hood?" William's green eyes shone with excitement.

"What headlines, William? You know I avoid the newspaper as much as possible."

"This headline," William snapped open the fresh newsprint upon which ran the top news story: Police Chief Bungles Business. Hood stared at the words, then grabbed the paper from William's hooves and began reading.

Last evening, Police Chief Checker was as red in the face as the tomatoes missing from his garden. The Woodlawn Robber struck the chief's own crop in broad daylight, rifling several bushels of tomatoes from under the chief's nose. This reporter, in an interview with Deputy Sparky after the incident, learned that the department is sorely lacking in any clues, not to mention material evidence, that might lead to resolution of this conflict. Chief Checker himself refused comment.

And where was Chief Checker at the time of the crime? He was counseling juvenile offenders who were guilty of such offences as littering and painting graffiti. When will the police force realize that the real outrage has been several months of unsolved thefts that are increasing in scope and number? Is anyone safe from the grip of this menace that has snared Woodlawn? It is time for the citizens of Woodlawn to stand up against this evasive thief and step down on any further pillaging in this illustrious community.

Hood's anger rose higher and higher as he read through the scandalous article. The byline was credited to a reporter named Free Lance. In his present mood, Hood wanted to strangle him. He pounded his hoof on the counter so violently that even William was taken by surprise.

"This police chief is your brother-in-law, right?" William goaded.

"Yes, he is, and he is a mighty good one, too, on both counts. This Free Lance had no right to make him sound incompetent."

Realizing that every pony in the shop was looking at him, Hood lowered his voice. "What does he think Checker's to do, patrol every house every second of the day and night?"

"Well," the pony next to William joined in, "there has been plenty of opportunity to catch the perpetrator in the act." This dapper stallion was Marquee, the manager of Woodlawn's movie theater, and Hood silently vowed to never watch a show there again.

"Not one of the homeowners hit by this crook has ever seen anything," Hood defended. "If the ponies on the scene can't spot him, how are the police supposed to do it?"

"I'm only saying that if the force was doing its job, they'd have some evidence by now."

"If the culprit left any evidence, Checker would have found it," declared Hood emphatically. He abruptly turned his attention to a new customer who had just come in, and the diners returned to their lunches. But everyone was discussing the mystery, and it seemed an even split between those who thought the police were doing their best, and those who shared the reporter's doubts as to Checker's ability to protect the town.

Hood refused to be drawn into any more arguments with William or anyone else; but underneath, he was fuming. The nerve of that guy, making Checker out to be incompetent. The entire force had been on constant surveillance, yet the thief had never once been sighted; no sign of any evidence was ever left behind; hoofprints were always concealed or covered. Whoever was at the bottom of this robbery was a genius at subterfuge.

When business slowed down, Hood called to Drumstick, "You're in charge here. I'm going out for awhile."

"No problem," the competent helper replied. "Just see if you can come back in better humor."

"That all depends on if I find who I'm looking for." Hood strode determinedly from the shop.

Once on the street, he had to think for a second where the newspaper office was located. He realized he had never had any contact with the place since coming to Woodlawn, as Drumstick was in charge of advertising. "All I've done is sign the checks," he reflected.

Clouds were moving in from the west, he noted. "Good. We can use some rain." The day had gotten hot and humid, and the walk a long one. He contemplated what he'd say when he was face to face with the reporter. The further he walked, the harsher became his ideas.

The newspaper building was a sleek, modern-looking affair with the newspaper's name, Ponderings, in large dark blue letters on the front wall. As everywhere in Woodlawn, lavish flower beds blanketed the area between the sidewalk and the building. A sprinkler was shooting sprays of water over the blossoms, but Hood realized that some of the moisture was now coming out of the dark clouds that had slipped in overhead. He ducked in the doorway just as a heavy downpour let loose.

The reception area of the Ponderings was immaculate in blue and white decor. Comfortable seating was available; potted plants lent a homey atmosphere. As Hood approached the front desk, a tremendous burst of lightening and the accompanying crash of thunder caused the lights to flicker.

The receptionist looked up with a bright smile. "Oh, dear. The paper forecast a sunny day today. We'll get lots of complaints over that."

The unsmiling face of the stallion before her caused her to take a more professional approach. "How may I help you, sir?"

"I'd like to speak with one of your reporters-- the one called Free Lance."

"I'm sorry, but Free Lance is in a meeting right now. It should be over shortly, if you'd like to wait." She gestured to the sofa and an array of glossy magazines.

"I'll wait," Hood stated, and went to stare out the window at the pouring rain. Several ponies had come into the building simply to find shelter from the downpour. They stood gossiping inside the front door.

Hood watched the raindrops cascade down the window for several minutes. Then, as quickly as it had begun, the storm moved on. The black clouds continued their journey eastward, swept away by the advancing blue sky. Before long, the sun was blazing again.

Watching the sparkle of the raindrops on the flower petals soothed Hood's raw nerves, and he slowly began to relax. He thought of his encounter with Dreamy, and remembered that she had told him she worked for the newspaper. There were two in town; she hadn't mentioned which one. Hood wondered what her position was; recalling her charm and poise, he imagined her setting up the fashion page.

His reflections were interrupted by the voice of the receptionist. Flame, the nameplate on the desk said, Hood noticed.

"Free Lance is available now, sir. I'll show you the way."

Hood followed Flame to the rear of the reception area and down a corridor lined with office doors. At number three, she stopped and rapped gently at the open door. "Gentleman to see you."

Flame slipped away quietly, and Hood entered the office. The anger he felt toward Free Lance turned to surprise, then to utter consternation. "Dreamy? What are you doing here?"

"I could ask you the same thing." The mare stayed seated in her office chair behind the desk.

"I asked to see Free Lance."

"That's my pen name," Dreamy explained, tossing her orange curls back from her face. "What did you want to see me about? It's obviously not about dinner since you seemed taken aback to see me here. By the way, how's the baby?"

Hood ignored her remark. Noticing a copy of the newspaper on her desk, he placed his hoof on the headline. "This is what I'm here about."

"Is this a confession, or what?" Dreamy leaned back in her chair and rested her elbows on the arms of it as if she was in for a long disclosure.

"What gives you the right to trash the reputations of the members of the police force in this town?"

"It's called freedom of the press, Hood. Read the constitution."

"What about responsibility and accountability..."

Dreamy interrupted. "You could ask that question of Chief Checker."

"You haven't lived here long enough to know the characters of the ponies involved.. of their dedication and commitment to Woodlawn."

"Why are you so upset over this? You'd think it was a personal..." Dreamy suddenly sat upright. "That's it! The police chief's wife! I thought I should have known her from somewhere! She's your sister, isn't she?"

"Yes, Moonglow is Checker's wife; so, of course, I take this attack personally. But you've got to admit, Dreamy, that your article went beyond unbiased reporting."

Dreamy laughed. "I was hired by Ponderings to increase circulation... at any cost."

"At any cost? That sounds cold and calculating."

"I'm good at what I do. That's why I got the job." Dreamy smugly leaned back into her chair again. "Anything else I can do for you, Hood?"

Feeling like he'd just run headfirst into a brick wall, Hood refrained from continuing the conversation. "No, Dreamy, you see it your way; I see it mine."

Standing now, Dreamy extended her hoof. "Come again some time."

Hood wanted to lash out at this emotionless mare, but he held his temper and briefly exchanged a hoofshake. He turned to go, but at the door turned back. Dreamy had already begun keying on her computer. "You were right about one thing this morning, Dreamy. Some things never change."

As Hood passed through the reception area, he saw Marquee sitting comfortably in the waiting area thumbing through a finance magazine. He threw it down when he noticed Hood. "Let me guess. You just gave this Free Lance guy a piece of your mind."

"You might say that."

"Well, buddy, I'm going to tell him to keep up the good work."

Flame approached Marquee at that moment. "Free Lance can see you now." As she led Marquee away, Flame turned and flashed Hood a dazzling smile. "Have a nice day!"

Hood politely refused comment.


The Lost Prince
Chapter 5
by Moonjumper (

What's happened...

The witch Marenche cast a spell that was able to destroy all Ponyland, and that only two individuals could stop-- Dorin and Queen Aurora. Queen Aurora hid her four sons and sacrificed herself in order to protect the ponies. Dorin reflected Marenche's spell back at her and she, too, became a stone statue. That was several years ago. Now three sons have been found, and one of them has awakened Marenche accidentally. Molly, Megan's younger sister, along with seven others from a summer camp, were transferred to Ponyland mysteriously during a campout. Theo and Ciara have been to Ponyland previously, but the rest are confused and lost. And on we go!!

~* Late afternoon, Shadow Forest*~

Theo looked around the group of campers. Molly's missing... I wonder where she's gone... He'd been surprised when she started crying, but Ciara had gone over and hugged her. Molly had smiled faintly, then sat down, looking exhausted. But now she was gone.

"Um, Theo?" The two boys from his cabin, Tyler and Alex, stood in front of him with confused expressions. "Where are we?" Alex asked.

"Yeah, um, are we still in Pennsylvania?" Tyler added. Theo opened his mouth, but he closed it when a scream erupted from the group of girls.

"There's a TALKING horse over there... it has WINGS!!" Marissa dashed over to Theo and hid behind him. Ami and Lisa followed, looking over their shoulders nervously.

I knew it... Theo shook his head at Marissa's antics.

Ciara came walking up to the group with the "talking" horse. She laughed at Marissa's expression. "This is Skydancer," Ciara motioned to the pony.

"Get it away from me!!" Marissa pulled Theo's arm.

"Theo? Is that really you?" Skydancer asked, her eyes wide.

Theo detached Marissa from his arm and hugged Skydancer. "Yes, it's me!"

Marissa's eyebrows flew up. "Theo? You know this, this, thing?!?!" Her voice was nearly hysterical.

"Awesome!" Tyler and Alex ran up to Skydancer and touched her wings.

Ami pushed her glasses up. "Is it for real?" she whispered to Lisa.

Lisa grinned. "Hey, cool! I remember Megan telling me stories about you; you're a Little Pony, aren't you?" Theo and Ciara looked at Lisa, surprised.

Skydancer laughed. "Yes, I suppose you're talking about the Megan that's Danny's brother and Molly's older sister?"

Understanding dawned on Theo. Molly's been here before... but then, why did she act like that and run off? Theo scratched his head.

"Yeah. But when she told me these stories I never thought they were real!! Way cool!" Lisa exclaimed.

"Another one!! Help!!!" Marissa shrieked and pointed to a pony in the sky. She was carrying something on her back.

Skydancer turned. "Paradise! I've found them!"

Paradise landed. She had Molly with her. "And I've found Molly!"

"Molly!" Skydancer rushed over to Molly, and Molly dismounted. A few tears came from her eyes as she hugged Skydancer.

"I'll go tell Majesty; then we can all go to Dream Castle." Paradise took off.

Marissa inched away from the group. "They're all acting like a bunch of talking, flying horses is normal..." She leaned against a tree. "A talking horse is NOT normal!!"

"Around here it is," a voice came from behind her and Marissa jumped. In the tree sat a bird, larger than any condor she'd seen. And it had an enormously long, shimmering tail. Marissa stared. She fainted, not able to take any more. The bird trilled softly, picking her up gently, and returned Marissa to the others.

"Rainsinger, I see you found the one who ran away," Skydancer smiled.

"I'll take her to Dream Castle; it seems this little one has had too much excitement," Rainsinger swished her tail.

Skydancer nodded. "We'll be joining you after we meet up with Majesty."

~* A few mazes away in Shadow Forest *~

Majesty looked around her. There was no sign that anyone had been here. "Nothing here, Gusty. Try the..."

A flurry of wings interrupted Majesty. "Skydancer and I have found them!" Paradise exclaimed breathlessly.

Majesty smiled, relieved. "Good, tell me what part of the forest they're in and I'll transport everyone to the castle."

"Exact middle." Paradise closed her eyes; and in moments, everyone, including the other two search parties, were in Dream Castle's courtyard. There was much hugging between Molly and Theo and the ponies. Majesty called together all the ponies and there was a feast that night, one that made up for the disastrous Summer Solstice festival. But no one noticed that Ciara had disappeared. Or that Prince Sapphire disappeared right before midnight.

~* Midnight, Talen's Cave *~

Prince Magenta opened his eyes groggily to see a slim, black-haired figure glaring into a mirror. Behind her was a green haired elf. It wasn't a dream...

"Look at me, Trixie! Awakened by this idiot, and looking my worst," the black-haired lady pursed her lips and turned to where Prince Magenta was tied and gagged in a lump of burlap sacks. She kicked the sacks. "Wake up already!"

Prince Magenta was silent, trying to ignore the pain in his shoulder. She's human... human... I can't believe it... He stared into the dark corners of the cave, numb with shock.

<~*Author's Note*~>
According to the ponies' legends, Marenche was an evil creature of some sort (babies were usually told that she was an ogre or a giant). Depending on which pony told the Dorin legend, it ends with Marenche either: a. banished, b. destroyed, or c. she decides that the ponies are really her friends, and leaves peacefully (this is Heart Throb's viewpoint, the happily-ever-after stereotype).

No one knows what really happened to Marenche, just like no one really knows the ponies' past; it's all legend. And so, Prince Magenta was very shocked to see that Marenche was in fact a human AND that she was alive (he believed in b.)

<~*back to the story *~>

Marenche kicked Prince Magenta once more before she turned to the elf. "Trixie, get him ready for the crystal; it's about time I finish with her..." Marenche trailed off and disappeared to another part of the cave.

Trixie gulped. "She's really going through with all this prediction stuff," she murmured as she took Prince Magenta's gag off and helped him stand. "I hope you can walk," she looked up at him.

Prince Magenta nodded. "Thank you, little elf," he said.

"I am NOT an elf!!" Trixie screeched at him just as Marenche returned with a black object. Prince Magenta stumbled back in surprise.

Marenche shook her head. "She's really an elf, but don't tell her that," she whispered as Trixie yanked a rope through a hook in the cave's wall. Rolling her eyes, she added, "She pretends to be a troll... figures that goes along better with me being a witch." Marenche smiled proudly.

Prince Magenta stared at Marenche and Trixie. "They're nuts! Completely, utterly nuts! But nuts with power," he said under his breath.

Marenche whispered something to Trixie, and Trixie hurried out with a frightened look. Marenche turned back to Prince Magenta and smiled coldly. "I have nothing personally against you, just your mother and all ponies... I suppose I could let you go, but then the four..." Marenche trailed off, not finishing her thought, a trait Prince Magenta was finding annoying.

"For what?" Prince Magenta dared her to answer.

Marenche's face twisted up. "No! Just three, after I'm done with you!" She took the black object and held it up to his face, whispering unintelligently. A gray cloud appeared in the object and Prince Magenta saw himself in the cloud, falling, falling, falling...

Trixie peered into the dark room. Marenche was looking up at a flashing crystal. Trixie felt a strange, choking feeling rise up; she hurried outside into the cold night. "She really did it... she put him in the jewel..."

A few miles away, Prince Sapphire was searching for his brother. Right as Prince Magenta had been trapped inside the black jewel, Prince Sapphire felt his heart tear.

And deep in Shadow Forest, as Silver was following the mysterious white tiger, he felt his own heart tear, for no reason known to him, except that he'd lost something precious.


Important Notice to our Authors!

Are you in the middle of writing a story of multiple chapters for My Little Pony Monthly? Then this notice could hold valuable information for you! Starting this month, June 2000, we're introducing a new policy concerning our authors writing serials. This could lead up to a free My Little Pony for you!

If you submit the next chapter of your continuing storyline to me anytime before the fifteenth of the month, you will be awarded one point. For future months, whenever you submit new chapters before the fifteenth of the month, you will be awarded one more point for each chapter. (In the case of submitting multiple chapters for one month, a point will be awarded to each chapter.) When you have built up six of these points, you are entitled to receive a free pony!

Once you have your six points, you may head over to my extensive My Little Pony sale list ( and choose one pony (not going over a $5 value). E-mail me your selection, and if that pony hasn't been sold or traded since the last time I updated, the pony is yours! Supply me with your address, and the pony will be shipped to you promptly. (Ponies cannot be reserved for this purpose beforehand.)

But what if you finish your multiple chapter story before you've built up six points? Don't worry! By completing your story, your collection of points will automatically be elevated to six, entitling you to a free pony.

If there are any new writers out there interested in submitting to My Little Pony Monthly, please feel free to send your works to! No matter how new you are to the newsletter, you can still take advantage of this policy. A free pony could be waiting in your future!

Points, however, cannot be given to stories that have already been published in My Little Pony Monthly. But if you are in the middle of a story, points will still be awarded to the new chapters you send in (before the fifteenth of the month, of course).

Any questions on this new policy? Feel free to e-mail me at



**My Little Pony Monthly Policy Statement**

This e-mail newsletter is meant to be read by all ages, and I shall reject any submissions if they contain profanity of any sort. If you have a piece you think would add to the quality of My Little Pony Monthly, feel free to e-mail it to me at And, remember, it doesn't have to be a story to be accepted! My Little Pony-related games, contests (please be willing to notify me of the results so I can post them in the next issue), Invento Ponies, and everything else are great as well! However, submissions must be received at least three days prior to the first of the month to be ensured to be posted in that issue. Submissions are subject to being edited by our proofreaders.


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