My Little Pony Monthly Issue 66 (September 1, 2002)
My Little Pony Monthly
Established June 1997
This Newsletter is Safe for All Ages
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Index of this issue--
1. Letters to the Editor
2. Ember's Wish Part 1 (by C. Alan Loewen)
3. A School Day (by Melody)
4. "Crossing the Bar" (by Starre)
5. The Crystal Princess Part II (by Berry Brite)
7. Cocklebur (by Sugarberry and Tabby)
Letters to the Editor
Subj: Cock Robin--
Wow Tabby! I loved your Cock Robin! Hehe, hope you do more like that, with the conspiracies revolving around nursery rhymes!
Ember’s Wish (Part 1)
C. Alan Loewen (email@example.com)
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
(Author’s note: This story takes place several months before the events depicted in the 1984 animated My Little Pony video that introduced Dream Castle™, Spike, the Sea Ponies™, and Megan. Your welcome comments and critiques may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Twilight nervously watched the men as they carefully carried in the small iron chest. Princess Merry Aravis Shasta Shalott the Fair, the Sovereign of Dreams and Reverie, had entrusted the ponies at Dream Castle with something she considered so dangerous she thought it best it be permanently kept at the far western reaches of her kingdom.
Twilight thought it best to store the box in the darkest depths of Dream Castle, down in its vaults where nobody ever went. The guards would place it on a heavy table, the door would be bolted, and then nobody would ever have to worry about it ever again.
With a grunt of exertion, the men placed the small iron chest on the table, bowed to the little unicorn, and made their way back up the long stairs and passageways to the welcome warmth of sunshine and fresh air.
Twilight looked at the box sitting there, a twinge of curiosity settling in her mind. Curious by nature, she argued with herself whether it would be safe for one quick peek inside the box before it was sealed for the rest of eternity. She stood for a few moments, looking at the door to the vault and then back at the box.
“Oh, dear,” she said aloud. “This is my last chance to ever see the thing. I’m a unicorn and a smart one at that. I know how to handle a magic item.”
Carefully, she nosed the lid of the box open.
* * *
Sadly, at that moment, two things happened simultaneously the moment the lid was opened. In the first incident, far above the vault in one of the castle’s towers, Ember, the smallest and youngest pony at Dream Castle, was trying to do her chores.
Chores for humans are simple things, but when you are a little black pony, and a young one at that, hooves do not make good substitutes for fingers.
In a moment of frustration, remembering her storybooks and the pictures of little girls with hands and fingers, Ember said out loud to herself, “I wish I was a little girl.”
Meanwhile, in our own world, Rowen lay in her bed. Her mother had just called up with a reminder they had to leave for cheerleading practice in sixty minutes. Rowen sighed and hugged her pillow harder. Having just celebrated her tenth birthday, she felt that with her hectic schedule, she had to be at least forty years old... maybe even fifty!
She thought back to yesterday. After school there had been gymnastics and then one precious hour at riding class. Rowen loved to ride and she loved horses. Twice a week, Rowen went to the stables and saddled Gumdrop, a pretty little Quarter Pony. Even though the stables owned Gumdrop, Rowen liked to pretend the tiny filly belonged to her and her alone.
Rowen groaned and stretched. “Coming, Mother!”
She thought for a moment about Gumdrop thinking how easy she had it. She sighed. “I wish,” Rowen muttered, at the exact same moment Ember spoke her own wish, “I could be a pony.”
* * *
Twilight gasped and jumped back as the wish stone suddenly glowed brilliantly white in its leaden box.
Just as suddenly, the glow vanished.
Nervously, Twilight shut the box and hoped nothing bad had happened.
* * *
Ember blinked her eyes, willing them to focus. She lay on her back on something soft looking up at a light blue ceiling, different from the white plastered stone ceiling at Dream Castle.
As her vision cleared, she reached up to brush what seemed to be long reddish-blonde hair out of her eyes. She squealed when she saw the fingers. The fingers were attached to a hand. She continued following the strange limb. The hand was attached to a forearm and the forearm was attached to an upper arm and the upper arm was attached to... her!
She gasped. And gasped again. That wasn’t her voice!
Ember held up her hands before her. She wasn’t a pony anymore. Her wish had come true!
With a giggle, she jumped out of bed and fell flat on her face.
* * *
Mr. Reynolds, Rowen’s father, sat at the breakfast table finishing off the last of his coffee and enjoying the Saturday morning paper. Hearing a noise, he peeked over the edge to see his only child, still in her pajamas, come into the kitchen on all fours.
Mr. Reynolds loved his daughter, but at times, she was a mystery to him. It looked that like today she would be even a greater enigma.
Rowen went to the kitchen table and crawled up onto one of the chairs where a bowl of cereal had already been poured.
“Hi!” Rowen said.
“Good morning,” her father responded carefully. “I hope you don’t mind, Rowen, but your mother already poured your cereal. She’s getting your cheerleading outfit ready.”
Rowen looked thoughtful for a moment. “Rowen,” she said to herself. Suddenly she smiled. “I like that name.”
“Good,” her father said somewhat puzzled. “Why don’t you eat your cereal? You have to leave for practice soon.”
“Okay,” Rowan said cheerfully. She looked at the bowl before her, shrugged, and went for it face-first.
Her father stared at her open-mouthed. I will never understand my daughter, he thought and went back to reading his paper.
Six minutes later, his reading was again interrupted. “Look,” Rowan said, holding onto her chair and wobbling where she stood. “I’m standing on two feet!”
Mr. Reynolds paused for a moment thinking of a good response. “Well, honey, since you’ve been doing that for the last ten years, I hope you got that one down pat.”
“Whoopee! Now I’m going to walk!” Rowen took two steps forward, staggered backwards and promptly fell on her backside.
“Are you okay?” Mr. Reynolds asked.
“Yup! Just getting the hang of it.” His daughter left the kitchen on all fours.
It’s a phase. Just a phase. With that encouraging thought Mr. Reynolds went back to reading his paper.
* * *
Mrs. Reynolds, Rowen’s mother, brushed a piece of lint off the pristine green and yellow cheerleading outfit and held it up to the light to make sure there were no other defects.
Mrs. Reynold’s turned to see her daughter standing by the door, holding on to the door knob with a goofy grin on her face.
“Rowen, you have twenty minutes to get ready for practice. You need to get dressed.”
Ember sat on the bed, staring at the cheerleading outfit. “That’s pretty,” she said.
“Yes,” her mother said, putting it on the bed, “and expensive. Don’t get it too dirty.” She pointed to a magazine that lay on the bed. “Your cheerleading magazine arrived with the morning’s mail. Now hop to it, young lady.” With that, Mrs. Reynold’s turned and walked out the door, shutting it behind her.
Ember looked at the outfit and marveled at the zippers and the buttons. She opened the magazine and closely studied the pictures of cheerleaders. Biting her lower lip in concentration, she began what was, for a little pony now in a young girl’s body, the unique and complicated process of changing her clothes.
Twenty minutes later, Mrs. Reynolds lost her patience. “Rowen, you’re late,” she shouted up the stairs. “We have to go.”
The bedroom door opened, and Ember came down the stairs as her mother stared in shock. One white sock hung about one ankle while the other had been pulled up to the knee. Her skirt was on backwards, and Rowen’s hair was a disaster.
“Oh, Rowen,” her mother said in exasperation. “Come here. Do I have to dress you too?”
Minutes later, Ember sat in the family car staring at this new marvel in amazement. The drive to the school for cheerleading practice drove an already exasperated Mrs. Reynolds to the point of distraction.
“Rowen, please don’t play with the window controls,” she said. “Rowen, get your head back inside the car! Rowen, leave the radio alone! Rowen, you sound like a horse snorting. Please stop.”
It was with great relief that Mrs. Reynolds pulled into the school parking lot. “Now, I’ll be back in ninety minutes,” she said, giving the startled Ember a quick peck on the cheek. “Behave, take care, and make good choices. Look. Your friends are waiting.”
Outside the school, a gaggle of girls in green and yellow stood and chatted or practiced their moves. A trio of them came over to the car as Ember got out to stand on the curb.
“Rowen!” The girl who had called her name had curly black hair and dark eyes framed in a chocolate-colored, smiling face. “C’mon! We have to get our routine together.”
Of the other two girls, one was a green-eyed red-head and the other a tall, very thin brunette. Ember felt the first feelings of panic. She had no idea who these new friends were.
“Hi,” she said nervously. The others smiled and chatting over inconsequentials, she followed them back to the larger group. Listening carefully, she quickly learned their names through the conversation.
The first girl, and the obvious leader of the group, was named Shayla. Mandy was the red-head; and the tall, willowy girl was Anne. Ember followed them to the rear of the school to a large field where the rest of the cheerleaders had gathered. In front of the group stood a large, deep-voiced woman who barked orders.
“Line up, ladies,” she yelled. “Warm up is not optional.”
“Stand there, Rowen,” Shayla said, pointing to a spot next to herself. “Aren’t you awake yet?”
Ember immediately stood where she was told, watching the other girls intently.
“Okay, now stretch,” the coach cried. “Touch your toes.”
Immediately Ember squatted and touched her toes, relieved to find the procedure so easy.
“Very funny, Miss Reynolds,” the coach yelled at her. “Two points for humor, but none for effort. Now get back up and do it right.”
Panicked, Ember looked around at the other girls who stared back at her. Embarrassed, she stood, bending at the waist to touch her toes so far down. She groaned as she felt the muscles in the back of her legs stretch.
To Ember, it felt like the warm up section went on forever. Carefully watching the other girls, she mimicked their moves and avoided the coach’s further attention.
Later she was handed two frilly balls of what looked like a handful of string. She learned they were called pom poms, and Ember shook pom poms in various positions until she felt her arms close to falling off.
Much later, way too much later for an exhausted Ember, the coach called practice to a halt. Ember’s eyes burned from perspiration. Her back, arms, and legs ached. Tired and hungry, she looked at the thick, green, tasty grass around her feet with longing. Being a girl was not all she had thought it would be.
“Rowen?” Shayla asked. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” Ember said. “I’m fine.” She smiled weakly. “My mom’s coming to pick me up soon. I just want to go home.”
“How about you coming over to my house for lunch? Mandy and Anne are coming.”
“Well...” Ember began, but Shayla had already ushered her into the school to the pay phone.
“Mrs. Reynolds,” Shayla asked after Rowan’s mother picked up the phone. “Is it okay if Rowen comes home with me for lunch? My mom won’t mind.”
Mrs. Reynolds thought for a moment. “Sure,” she said. “That’s fine. I was coming to pick up Rowen anyway. I’ll bring a change of clothes.”
* * *
The trick, Ember realized, couldn’t be more simple: Observe what the people around you do and imitate it.
She marveled watching the girls eat with hands, bringing the food to their mouths instead of the other way around. Fascinated, she observed her own hands and marveled at the wonder of fingers and thumbs.
“Hey, Rowen,” Mandy asked. “Why are you staring at your hands?”
Ember shrugged. “They’re so different from the hooves I used to have,” she said.
The chatter around the table died. “What?” Anne asked.
Ember panicked for a moment, but her heart was not one to hold deceit. “I guess I should tell you the truth,” she said reluctantly. “I’m not really a girl. I’m actually a pony.”
Shayla shook her head. “You and your imagination,” she laughed. “Next you’ll be telling us you fly.”
“No,” Ember said sadly. “Only the winged ponies can do that.”
Anne looked at her slightly annoyed. “I’m surprised with your imagination, you’re not a unicorn.”
Ember sighed again. “I wish I could be, but I’m just an earth pony.”
There was a knock on the door.
“I’ll get it, Mother,” Shayla called. Still shaking her head, she got up from the table and went to answer the knock. Ember went back to eating her sandwich while Anne and Mandy made comments to each other about friends who watch too much television.
A moment later, Shayla came to the door, her normally mocha-colored skin many shades paler than when she went to answer the door.
“Rowen, you have a visitor,” she said, her voice trembling. She stepped aside.
“Firefly!” Ember said with delight. “How did you find me?”
Anne and Mandy stared at the winged pony standing next to Shayla in the doorway. Her disheveled mane made it evident she had been flying fast just moments ago.
Firefly shook her mane into place. “That’s not important now. You and I are in trouble and we have to hide until you and Rowen change back into your regular bodies. Can your friends help us?”
“Sure they will,” Ember said. She turned and looked at the others. “Right, guys?”
TO BE CONTINUED
A School Day
by Melody (email@example.com)
Bright Eyes turned over in bed and opened her pretty pink eyes. She shivered with cold. It was really starting to feel like a typical Ponyland winter. She slowly stepped out of bed, put on her fluffy bunny slippers, and then went downstairs to breakfast. After having two slices of toast with raspberry jam, she packed her schoolbag with her books and lunchbox, kissed her father goodbye, grabbed her coat off the rack, and opened the door.
She set off down the street, pulling her coat closer to her aqua body. Just then, she noticed her best friends Patch and Melody talking together. “Hey, guys! Wait up!” she called, running over to them.
“Hi, Bright Eyes!” said Melody.
“It’s cold, isn’t it?” said Patch.
“Yes, I hope it snows,” said Melody.
“It might. According to my calculations, the weather is almost cold enough for snow,” agreed Bright Eyes.
“Trust our very own science book to know that. I think we’d better believe her,” grinned Patch. Melody giggled and Bright Eyes blushed. “But we love you anyway. After all, what would we do without you?”
The group of friends knew instantly what this meant. With a chuckle, they burst into song. “Where would I be without you as my friend? And what could I do without you!” they chorused.
“How true!” cried Melody. As they rounded the corner, they noticed two other friends, Clover and Bon Bon.
“We could hear you a mile off– and anyone could tell it was you,” said Clover.
The five ponies continued down the street until they reached the Schoolhouse. Sweetheart and Starlight greeted them. Suddenly, the bell rang to go into school. They rushed into the building and hurried to take their seats. Miss Hackney, their favorite fifth grade teacher, walked in. Naturally, the boys, Teddy, Lancer, and Ace, who were always late, followed behind her. Lancer was about to apologize for being late because he was polite and quite nice. In fact, Bright Eyes had a secret crush on him, but she knew that if she admitted it, everyone would probably just laugh. Teddy and Ace quickly said, “Sorry, Miss Hackney. Um... you see, the bus was kind of late.”
“Like anyone would believe that,” whispered Patch. Miss Hackney didn’t but she didn’t tell them that. All she did was mark the role and draw an L for late next to Teddy’s, Lancer’s, and Ace’s names.
“Right, class,” began Miss Hackney, who was always prompt. She pretended not to notice Teddy folding a paper plane and Ace passing notes around. “Listen carefully. This is going to be your first assignment of the term,” she said. A paper plane hit the space next to her head on the blackboard. “Teddy?” she said, her patience running out. “Stay in at lunchtime for a detention.” Teddy scowled but took out his homework book and pencil. “I would like you to do an assignment on a topic of your own choice. It will be two pages long,” she said, but when she saw Ace’s cheeky look, she added, “that is, two pages of decent writing and make sure it’s size 12 or 14 Times New Roman font or neatly handwritten.” Ace’s cheeky look quickly went away.
After a day’s hard work studying English, math, science, and sports, the bell finally rang. “Woohoo!” shouted Teddy and Ace, racing off and pulling Lancer behind them. The girls shook their heads, picked up their books and bags, and then headed off to their teahouse for a meeting.
“So what are you guys doing for the project?” asked Bright Eyes curiously.
“Who knows!” said Patch. “After all, we do have three weeks to do it.”
“Well, I’m thinking of doing mine on Ponyland. You know, how it was settled, its history, some famous ponies, and stuff like that,” said Bright Eyes.
“Good idea!” agreed Sweetheart. “But I’m doing mine on the weather.”
“I’m writing mine on a famous ballerina called Madame Silk Swan,” said Clover excitedly.
“I might write a report about the Cleveland Bays,” said Melody. The Cleveland Bays were a famous pony rock group and all the Little Ponies loved listening to their music or watching their concerts on PTV.
“I’m going to do one on Greenwing Songbirds,” said Bon Bon. That made sense. After all, she, Bright Eyes, Patch, and Ace had rediscovered the species of birds that were thought to be extinct.
Starlight told the others, “I’d like to do my project on the history of our Schoolhouse.”
Patch laughed. “If you say so.”
Bon Bon passed around a plate of cookies and some glasses of milk. “Baked the cookies myself,” she said proudly.
Bright Eyes settled down in a comfy armchair. She loved meetings like this and prepared herself to chat about friends, boys, school, and anything fun.
“Crossing the Bar”
by Starre (OpalStarre@aol.com)
Author’s Note: Right. Last issue, I had the title after my note, which really didn’t make any sense at all. So, from now on, it’ll be on top like it’s supposed to be. Speaking of titles, the answer to the last “Guess the Quote” was a poem called “The Bookshop” by Nancy Byrd Turner. No one took a guess at it, but I don’t really blame you as it was pretty difficult. Since this story centers largely upon the Fays, at the end of this story you’ll find a short story of the story of how the Fays founded Hoofton. Hmm, I think that’s all. Oh! Later in the story, you get the entire poem for this month’s “Guess the Quote.” Major give-away, so I expect tons of guesses this month! E-mail me at OpalStarre@aol.com.
A dull thud came from the front door, announcing the arrival of mail at Evermoor. Louise set down her load of laundry and, brushing a chartreuse forelock out of her face, trotted back down the great staircase she had just ascended and opened the door. Bending down, she scooped up the assortment of envelopes and started to peruse the day’s mail.
“Hmmm, multiple bills, letter for Lady Charlotte, another from the Dream Valley Historical Society, church newsletter, and a letter for Miss Ella. From her father at that!” She squinted down at the letter. “He never sends anything to Ella; that’s odd. Well, I suppose Miss Ella will be pleased when she gets home from the Athenaeum,” she said, referring to Ella’s new job at a local bookstore. Then she looked at a box that all the letters had rested on, and she squinted again. “And that Lovejoy stallion sent something, too. Fixing a dumbwaiter doesn’t make you a superhero, despite what you seem to think!”
To the average pony, that would seem a very odd statement. Not so here. In August, Evermoor’s dumbwaiter had broken and it was like pulling teeth to find someone to fix it! Ella had run into the Ponyland Gazette’s editor on her way home; and by some strange stroke of luck, he had found the means to restore it to working order. Ever since, he had been making a nuisance of himself; popping up at Evermoor at all hours to see our young Miss Fay and sending flowers as if they would all disappear from the Earth the next day! Since that wasn’t the case, and the flowers would indeed stick around for awhile, Evermoor had become quite overrun with these green garden dwellers. Louise washed her hooves of it and left the flowers in their box (as it was most likely flowers, considering Arthur’s tendency towards sending flowers) so that Ella could deal with it when she returned home. Most likely, by then, Arthur would have dropped in as well.
* * *
“Is there anything in particular you’re looking for?” Ella smiled at a young filly who had just came into the Athenaeum.
“I need a book for my mommy’s birthday present,” the filly looked up at Ella who smiled a bit amusedly.
“Are you sure you want a book here? They’re all second hand, and most of them are old and expensive.”
The filly nodded her pink little head gravely. “My mommy likes old books, and I got ten whole jangles to spend!” she said proudly, holding up a hoof-full of jangles.
“Well, if you’re sure,” Ella grinned, kneeling down. “What did you have in mind, little one?”
“The Secret Garden,” the filly said matter-of-factly. “She had a very pretty one of that; but it got left in the rain, and we had to throw it out.”
“The Secret Garden’s one of my very favorite books, too, and I know right where we have a few.” Ella stood up and led the filly over to the bookshelves.
At the counter, Lofty and Windwhistler stood looking after her. As soon as Ella was out of earshot, Lofty spoke up. “See! I told you she’d be a great help! She’s been here nearly a month and just look. It’s so nice and organized. You know, Windwhistler, we’ve made more in this last month then we had in the past three!”
“Yes, I guess you were right,” Windwhistler conceded. “But we could have done it ourselves if you weren’t so lazy!” and she stalked into the backroom.
“Well, aren’t we bright little rays of sunshine!” Lofty rolled her eyes at Windwhistler’s all-to-predictive pessimism.
Moments later, Ella returned with a triumphant looking filly. In the filly’s hooves was a very old copy of The Secret Garden which looked as though it must have been one of the first to come out in 1912.
After the filly left with her book, Ella looked at the clock. “Well, I’ve been here since opening this morning. That’s a ten hour day, so I guess I’m heading home.”
“Right, we’ll see you tomorrow then,” Lofty said brightly as Ella trotted towards the door and grabbed her white beret embroidered with ribbon roses.
“Wait, where’s Windwhistler?” Ella stopped and turned around. Usually Windwhistler was behind the counter, but right now she was nowhere to be seen.
“Oh, one of her usual pessimistic streaks. She had to admit she was glad to have you with us, so that sent her stalking into the back room again,” Lofty sighed. “I wish she’d like you, but she’s determined she won’t!”
Ella smiled, sadly hiding her annoyance at the fact that no matter what she did, Windwhistler always seemed to find something to criticize. “Well, at least she’s admitted it’s nice to have me as an extra set of hooves. That’s something.” Ella shrugged and began walking back to Evermoor.
* * *
“I’m home!” Ella called as she shut Evermoor’s grand old oak door behind her.
“You’re early today,” Louise peeked out from behind the dining room doors. “Mr. Lovejoy sent another box; but if it’s flowers, as I suspect it is, I’d advise you to toss them out the window. There simply isn’t any more room in all of Evermoor for flowers. They are on every flat surface in this mansion, and there are quite a few of them if I may remind you!” And the purple mare dove back into the dining room to resume her polishing.
Ella smiled and called after her, “I’ll find someplace for them, don’t worry!” And she leapt over to the mail gleefully. After all, it is a nice feeling to be appreciated. Especially by a handsome stallion who just happened to run the Ponyland Gazette! Picking up the all-too-familiar box, Ella hardly noticed what lay on top of it as she set it back down on the table.
“More roses!” She smiled upon opening the box, in which she found a dozen red roses tied with a white ribbon. Then her gaze shifted to the letters on the table. “From Father!?” Ella squealed delightedly, dropping the roses on the floor. Though she had nearly nothing in common with her father, Ella did get along with him better than her mother. In fact, Ella was quite a bit more like her Grandfather Avery Fay then anyone else she was related to. Still, getting a letter from Father was an uncommon treat, as he was rather scatter-brained and didn’t really take the time to write letters.
Quickly, Ella snatched up the letter and opened it greedily. It had been a long time since she had gotten any letters from her family, including her Grandfather Avery, which was very unusual, seeing as though they were very close. The effects of this letter on Ella’s countenance were amazing. First, concern registered in her bright yellow eyes which turned to fear, then shock, and finally grief as she sat down hard on the carpet and glanced over the letter again unbelievingly. As the contents of the letter slowly and silently dawned on her, it dropped out of her hoof to rest face down on the floor as she stared straight ahead with her mind doing belly-flops.
Louise heard a thud and– assuming it was Amadeus, Lady Charlotte’s Persian, knocking down yet another expensive vase in the hopes of gaining attention– flew out of the dining room prepared to chastise the cat and mop up whatever mess she had made. However, seeing Ella sitting forlornly in the middle of the foyer rather startled her into stopping still in her tracks and staring rather quizzically at the pretty little mare. Slowly, Louise mustered up her courage and crept softly over to the mare and knelt down beside her.
“Miss Ella? Is something wrong, dear?” Ella’s expression didn’t change in the least, but slowly her foreleg raised to point at a slip of paper lying in front of her on the floor. Frowning suspiciously as though it could be dangerous, Louise picked it up and read it.
I know that you are probably happily surprised to be hearing from me, but I’m afraid I don’t bear good news. I also know that what I’m about to write is going to shock and hurt you excruciatingly, so please sit down before continuing to read this.
Have you sat down yet? Well, you know your Grandfather Avery has had heart troubles in the past. They’ve finally gotten the better of him. Ella, dear, your grandfather passed away this morning, but I suppose when you get this it will be a few days ago.
I understand that you were always much closer to your grandfather then any of us, what with the Fay Artist’s Patch and all; and maybe not even I, his own son, is quite as grieved as you are, my child. Your grandfather loved you very much and has left the greater part of his possessions to you.
I would have called, but you didn’t give us the number to the place you are staying. Please come home as soon as you are able. I know that no pony could replace your grandfather, Ella; but if you’ll let me, I’ll try.
Tears came to Louise’s wizened old eyes as she seemed to remember a similar loss she herself had suffered long ago, and she gently wrapped a foreleg around Ella’s slender form.
“Why don’t you go upstairs and pack, dear? I’ll book a train ticket to Hoofton for you.
Wordlessly, Ella nodded a thanks. Biting her lip and blinking away tears, she fled up the stairs.
Louise found herself blinking away tears herself as she left her work behind and set out for the train station. In the two months Ella had resided at Evermoor, the one thing she talked about most was her Grandfather Avery. Louise had loved to hear about the “Fay Artist’s Patch” when Ella spoke of it. Ella had said that it ran in her family and showed up on any pony in the family that had an artist’s temperament. That’s why Ella got along so well with her grandfather. They shared the artist’s patch and thus could talk their fairy talk and understand each other perfectly as the rest of the world puzzled over their imaginative speeches.
Arthur Lovejoy’s roses lay forgotten on the floor.
* * *
On her way up to her tower room, Ella stopped in the library. She’d have to call the Athenaeum to inform Lofty that she would be absent for the next week, and it would be easier to do it now instead of putting it off. Drawing in a shuddery breath, Ella grasped the ear-piece of the quaint old phone that had stood in the library for ages and dialed, trying to keep her tears in check.
“Hello! This is the Athenaeum. How may I help you?” Lofty’s voice chimed on the other end of the line.
Despite her attempts of stabilizing her voice, it came out tremulous and small. “Lofty? It’s Ella. I’m afraid I’ll have to take the next week off.” Her voice cracked at the last moment and Ella silently hoped that Lofty wouldn’t notice and start asking difficult questions.
Lofty noticed. “Oh Ella! What’s wrong?”
“There’s...” Ella sniffed and tried unsuccessfully to swallow the lump that had gathered in her throat. “There’s been a d-death in the family; I have to go h-home.” She ended up halfway choking on a sob. There was silence on the other end for a moment as Lofty was at a loss for words.
“Oh Ella, I’m so sorry!” And her voice sounded it, too. “Take as long off as you need.”
“Thank you,” Ella’s voice came out in a croak.
“Don’t worry about it... and– well, if you want to talk about it, you know where I am, Ella,” Lofty said softly.
“Thanks; bye,” Ella’s voice trailed off to a whisper as she hung up the phone and continued on to her tower.
The rest of the afternoon and evening all melted together and became vague remembrances. All Ella knew was that the next morning she woke up in her bed with her trunk all packed, and the sun was shining as if in mockery of her grief.
There was a rap at her door and Ella heard Louise call from the stairs beyond. “Ella? I’ve brought you breakfast.” And her bright purple face peeked around the door surrounded by a frizzy yellow mane.
Ella sat up slowly, feeling miserable, but it took a few moments to remember why. “Thank you, Louise, but you didn’t need to...”
Louise shrugged it off and set a tray loaded with toast and fruit on the trunk at the end of Ella’s bed. “I had brought you up your dinner yesterday, but you were already asleep. And a bit later in the evening that Lovejoy stallion called. I wouldn’t let him in, though.” Louise scowled at the remembrance of Mr. Lovejoy trying in vain to force his way into Evermoor and up the steps.
Normally, Louise’s obvious annoyance with Arthur would have made Ella smile, but she just nodded wordlessly and nibbled at her toast. Standing up, Louise sighed at Ella’s sorrow. “Well, your train leaves in an hour and a half. I’ll come up a little later to collect your breakfast.” Then, at the door, she turned around. “I told Lady Charlotte, and she’s arranged for your trunk to be brought to the station by her two nephews.” As this brought no response from Ella, Louise gave up and trudged back down the stairs.
At the foot of the grand staircase in the foyer, Louise found Lady Charlotte pacing restlessly back and forth. At the sight of Louise trudging down the stairs, she stopped and immediately inquired, “How is she?”
“No better I’m afra...” She paused as the doorbell rang. “Must be your nephews here early.” And Louise went to open the door. What she saw made her involuntarily groan. “No! I told you to stay away!” This brought Lady Charlotte to investigate. It was Mr. Lovejoy standing on their porch and looking very harassed.
“And I told you I won’t take no for an answer!” He made to dodge in through the door, but Louise held up her hoof to block him.
“Miss Ella is in no condition to see visitors. I’m certain that she wouldn’t want to see you!”
“But I’m certain she would!” Arthur retorted, trying to dodge the other way, only to be blocked by Louise’s other hoof; and he let out a sigh of exasperation. “If you won’t let me see her, then won’t you tell me what’s the matter? Is she ill?”
“She is not ill, but I insist you leave!” Then Arthur caught sight of Lady Charlotte.
“Now, Miss Evermoor. I’m sure you can see reason. Would you call off your housemaid?” he said imploringly.
Lady Charlotte stared stonily at him. “You have been told that Ella does not wish to see anyone, and it would do you good to believe it.” Louise smiled triumphantly and folded her hooves as Arthur made as to leave.
“Well, then I suppose I have no choice but to–“ And he turned towards the steps with Louise staring after him victoriously; but just as she was about to shut the door, Arthur turned around and dashed inside and up the stairs.
“Trick my way in!” he shouted down as he ran. Louise was just getting ready to chase after him when Lady Charlotte held up her hoof.
“There are some itches that won’t stop until they are scratched, Louise.”
Louise sighed in response. “I suppose you’re right. If he hadn’t been able to see her today, he’d be back every day inquiring after her. It’s best to get it over with now.”
* * *
“Ella?” There was a pounding on her tower room door. “Ella, may I come in?”
Ella, who had been tearfully packing a few last-minute essentials, stopped at the sound of the familiar yet completely unexpected voice. “Arthur!” She choked and mopped her tears off with the end of her bedspread as he barged into her room.
“Ella! Well, I’m glad to see you aren’t ill! The way those two old mares were going on, I thought you were on your death-bed!” he said, blissfully unaware of Ella’s grief. “So, what is it then?”
“There’s been... a death in my family and I must go back to Hoofton,” Ella said, blinking rapidly to dispel the tears that threatened to well up again.
Arthur looked rather surprised. “Is that all!” he exclaimed.
Ella stepped back. “What do you mean ‘Is that all’?! Isn’t it enough?” And she began sobbing all over again.
“Now, Ella, I don’t see what there is to cry about... everyone kicks the bucket eventually.” Arthur was completely at a loss. He had no idea of how perfectly insensitive he was being.
“I was v-very close to my g-grandfather!” Ella choked out.
Arthur was just about fed up. He, despite appearances, was a very shallow, unfeeling sort of stallion when it came down to it. He couldn’t comprehend being that distraught over any pony.
“Now, Ella, do see reason and stop your moping! You are behaving like a little filly!”
This remark shocked Ella. She had not thought that Arthur was capable of such a lack of feeling and having her illusions torn quite straightly in two bewildered her so much that she choked on a last sob and gaped, her yellow eyes showing great confusion. Arthur, however, must have missed this and took it the wrong way and smiled satisfactorily, thinking that his advice had been taken to heart.
Recovering herself enough for action, Ella felt quite betrayed. She had thought that Arthur was wonderful and sympathetic and an overall kindred spirit. But this? How could he not understand Ella’s grief over losing a very dear friend? Ella frowned darkly. “Would you please leave, Mr. Lovejoy,” she said quietly.
This rather took Arthur by surprise. Being quite handsome and successful, this was the first time any mare had bristled at him. “What?”
“I said to leave. I was obviously very mistaken about you, sir. I would appreciate it if you didn’t come back to Evermoor as long as I happen to be under its roof,” Ella said stiffly, tears welling up in her eyes again. To lose two ponies all at once that one had thought quite dear is a very horrible feeling; and Ella, with her sensitive nature, was bordering on hysterics.
“Ella, you don’t mean...” Arthur started out, quite overwhelmed by this sudden change of events.
“If I hadn’t meant it, I wouldn’t have said it,” Ella glared at him so darkly that he stumbled dazedly back down to the foyer where Lady Charlotte and Louise stood waiting.
“And?” Louise started, wishing quite desperately to know what had brought this strange change of appearance. Mr. Lovejoy, however, stared mystified about without answering and then went out the front door like one in a dream.
Though Lady Charlotte and Louise had been quite annoyed with Mr. Lovejoy, they couldn’t help feeling quite sorry for Ella. They weren’t altogether sure on what to say. Luckily, they didn’t have to ponder it long, for Lady Charlotte’s two nephews came to collect Ella’s trunk and she was off.
Being quite overwhelmed by all that had happened, Ella could only mutter a goodbye to the two old mares and stared absently out the train window until it pulled in at Hoofton’s station. There, her father stood waiting. Being one of Hoofton’s famous founding family, most would expect a dashing and stately stallion. Not so, for Mr. Robert Fay was rather disheveled in appearance, with a tousled looking black mane and bright yellow eyes that darted about distractedly. He was a wiry, navy blue stallion with a very complicated math equation written all over him in a twice as fancy pattern. As soon as he saw Ella, he snapped to attention.
“Ella! I’m glad you’re here... your mother couldn’t drag herself away from the funeral arrangements, or she would have been here to meet you, too. She seems to be taking some sort of morbid delight in making this a public affair,” Mr. Fay said grimly. It was a well known fact that Mrs. Fay took care of most of the business of the family and cared only for fame and keeping up the Fay’s spotless reputation.
“Daddy! You can’t mean that this isn’t going to be just a family funeral!?” Ella exclaimed disapprovingly.
Mr. Fay shook his head sadly. “I couldn’t persuade her. You know how she is so decisive and set in her ways. She’s convinced in making it public. I don’t doubt that everyone in town will be coming.” Ella felt her eyes filling up with ears again.
“Grandfather wouldn’t have wanted that,” she shook her head.
Mr. Fay had started blinking rapidly as well and took Ella into his arms. “I know... I know.” And they trudged dejectedly towards the Fay mansion.
Then a thought came suddenly to Mr. Fay, “Do you know anything about a page 492 in a poetry anthology?”
“No... not off-hoof,” Ella said, slowly searching her head for any recognition this number brought on. “Why?”
“Your grandfather... his final words were to tell you to look up page 492 in his poetry anthology. Your mother and I couldn’t make anything of what he meant. It was just a poem called ‘Crossing the Bar’.”
“It sounds vaguely familiar, but I can’t quite put my hoof on it...” Ella pondered, glad for something to distract her.
* * *
When they finally arrived at the Faye Mansion, Ella received quite the welcome. She didn’t have much time at all to think during the next week, which was not necessarily a bad thing. There were many tearful welcomes as friends and relations from all over Ponyland piled into the Fay Mansion. Everything was in a blur as final preparations were made for the funeral, and page 492 was forgotten for the time being.
Finally, the dreadful day of the funeral arrived. That was a very tearful day for Hoofton, but Ella was grateful when it was over. That evening she cried all the tears that had been gathering up for the entire week. She had kept up a “decent public face” for her mother, but now she cried until she had no more tears left to cry and was in a somber repose.
After washing her face, she found her father in the library. “Well, Ella-kins, you look much relieved now. I suspect you’ve finally had that good cry that you needed?” Mr. Fay looked up from his book, relieved himself to see Ella not as pale and withdrawn looking as she had previously.
“Yes, Daddy,” Ella sighed as she sat down in a chair across from him. “I miss him so much, though! The Faye Mansion just seems so empty without him...” She trailed off into silence.
Mr. Faye didn’t like to see Ella reentering this silent mood so he quickly cleared his throat trying to think of something to say. It was in vain, though; Avery Faye had understood his granddaughter much better then any pony else. “Well,” he sighed in return, “your grandfather would know exactly what to say to you. I’m afraid I’m at a loss.”
Ella smiled sadly. “Yes, he would, wouldn’t he? Sometimes when I’m sitting alone, I look up suddenly expecting to see him in one of his old haunts; and then he isn’t there... this house is full of so many memories! Everywhere I look, I can see him in some time prior... for example, one time when I was very young, I had gotten in a horrible argument with one of my friends– I don’t even remember who now– but Grandpa had sat just where you are now and talked the whole thing over. At first I had thought that I was right; but by the time our discussion was over, I was itching to go and apologize! And over by that vase... I must have only been two or three and Grandpa brought in lilacs and set them there– it was a different vase then– but it was the first time I had ever seen lilacs, and they have been my favorite flowers ever since then.” Ella gazed off through the years wishing desperately to go back in time.
Clearing his throat again, Mr. Faye groped about desperately for something to say and then it came to him. “Speaking of memories, have you remembered to look up that page 492?”
“Oh! No– no, I haven’t. Just a moment; did you say it was called ‘Crossing the Bar’? I’ll go find it,” Ella scampered out of the library and Mr. Faye listened to the fading hoofsteps as she went up to find the elusive poetry anthology in Avery Faye’s old bookshelf. Moments later she returned with a very loved and well worn book in her hooves.
Wordlessly she sat across from her father again to read the said poem and decipher it for Mr. Faye who had looked it up himself but couldn’t quite grasp the meaning of it. Slowly, Ella smiled and tears came to her eyes.
“He had meant it as a message for me,” Ella smiled tearfully. It was something quite typical of the late Avery Faye and quite touching as well. “Shall I read it to you?”
Mr. Faye nodded in approval, quite curious as to what this “message” was and Ella started to recite:
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.
Ella quickly dabbed her eyes with her handkerchief. “Do you understand what he meant?”
Mr. Faye shook his head, bewildered, “No, but I think you do. As far as I can tell, it’s about some sailor...”
Ella laughed in spite of herself. “It’s symbolic. Grandpa is saying that we shouldn’t mourn for him. He will be all right, though far off. It’s likening the passage from this world to heaven to the sea. Grandpa is just a sailor traveling across it to meet God in heaven.” Somehow this poem traveled deep into Ella’s being and helped her overcome her grief. In the moments after sharing this revelation with her father, Ella visibly brightened up and added in a murmur. “Eventually we shall all cross the bar and work together on some enormous ship for the best Pilot imaginable...”
Mr. Faye, being not all that inclined to studying literature, was still quite lost. However, if it made sense to Ella and comforted her more then he could himself, that was enough. “Ah, yes. I always supposed being a sailor would be an interesting occupation...”
Ella smiled. “Daddy, I’d turn it into a math equation for you to understand better if I could, but I’m afraid I can’t,” she teased apologetically.
Being quite lost in all this sailing and seafaring discussion, Mr. Faye changed the subject. “Well, how long will you be staying then, Ella? We haven’t even begun to pack up the books and things your grandfather left to you...”
“As long as is necessary. I have to get back to Evermoor and the Athenaeum and...” She had been about to say “Arthur” but caught herself just in time as she remembered the events of the day she left.
She hadn’t devoted one thought to Arthur since her arrival home, and she didn’t intend to now. He had offended her with his compassionless outlooks and, though she had forgiven him in her heart, she could not bring herself to forget what had happened.
* * *
“Ella! Ella, where have you got to?” Mrs. Lara Faye’s voice rang out through the Faye Mansion as she paced restlessly about.
Now, as Lara hasn’t been featured prominently in the story thus far (though I don’t have any plans at present to acquaint you with her any time in the near future– count yourself lucky), permit me to introduce you. Lara was wife to Mr. Robert Fay, mother to Ella Fay, and Professional Busy Body to Hoofton in general. That wasn’t entirely her fault, however. If Mr. Fay had “upheld his duties as an influential and important citizen of Hoofton,” Lara wouldn’t have come off as such. As it was, Mr. Fay didn’t like to concern himself with the matters of Hoofton and preferred to live in a mental world, rather then the emotional or material. This left Mrs. Fay in charge of most matters, which she enjoyed very much as she was very domineering and forceful in opinion. Generally, the Fays were a happy family. Lara had the status, money and authority of the Fays, and Robert (indecisive and docile as he was) could spend his time in the research and study he loved, pursuing his scientific interests.
Lara was also quite pretty. She was a pale yellow pegasus with pink curly hair and a symbol comprised of a circle of lace doilies with a heart in the middle. Just now she was in pursuit of her daughter who was sorting through her grandfather’s books and knick-knacks with her father. Mounting the stairs, Mrs. Fay stalked up to what was Avery Fay’s room and threw open the door.
“I expect to be answered when I call, instead of traversing the entire building in search of my family!” she said, quite miffed. “I have very important news. My cousins, the Sternes, are having a ball which we must all attend. As you’re in town, Ella, it would be considered very rude if you decided to leave before it is thrown,” Mrs. Fay said triumphantly.
Ella had no interest in socializing with the petty, shallow, “Important Citizens” of Hoofton, but now it would appear she had no choice. “Really, Mother, I can’t!” Ella started feebly. “I told you, I’m leaving tomorrow morning; and I already have my train ticket!”
“Oh, don’t worry about that. I am a reasonable mare; and I have already cancelled your tickets and purchased new ones for the day after the ball!” Lara said loftily, waving her hoof about as if it was of no importance. “I’m sure you’ll have a lovely time, and it will take your mind off your grandfather. You can wear that white ball gown I gave you for Christmas, and I’m sure you’ll be the prettiest mare there...”
“I really...” Ella tried again, looking at her father for support; but he started whistling and looking very determinedly out the window. He didn’t like to interfere, as life was generally easier if he didn’t. Lara ignored her and went on.
“I’ll have you matched up by the end of the evening to some prosperous and high-bred young stallion. You’ll finally be able to live up to your name as a Fay, Ella! The Lovejoys’ will be in attendance, as will their son, Arthur...” Ella felt her jaw drop. “He would be probably my first choice for you. He’s the editor of the Gazette, you know. And then there are the Havelock stallions, and the Wards... the Baldwins’, and the Gardeners’ too, I believe...”
“Mother, did you say Arthur Lovejoy!” Ella fairly screeched. This took Lara by surprise.
“Whatever is the matter? Yes, Arthur Lovejoy. A very good friend of my cousins, the Sternes...”
“I cannot go to any ball that he will be at also! I’ve met him, and I despise him!” Ella said, regaining her composure and speaking quite stiffly. This caught Mr. Fay’s attention.
“Good for you, Ella. He’s a pompous one, and...” He trailed off as Mrs. Fay fixed him with a warning stare.
“You can and will go to that ball, Ella. And if Mr. Lovejoy asks for a dance you will be civil!” Mrs. Fay said, putting quite a bit of stress on the words will.
* * *
Well, that was the end of that discussion; and before Ella knew what had happened, she was on her way to the Sterne’s ball, wearing a new ball gown of a white iridescent taffeta that complimented her mane and had a very full skirt. Her mane was piled prettily on top of her head and she had a string of pearls around her neck. According to Mrs. Fay’s predictions, Ella was the prettiest mare there.
Once there, Mrs. Fay endeavored to show Ella off to a very great extent. “Oh, Robert, Lara! We’re so glad you could come! Ella certainly has grown pretty since we last saw her!” Lara’s cousin and the hostess, Delia, gushed upon their entrance.
“Yes, Ella certainly does the Fays credit with her good looks! She was so pleased when she found that she would be in town for your ball!” Lara replied and went off with Delia gossiping as they strolled around the room. Ella wasn’t left to herself for long, though. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw her best filly-hood friend rushing up to greet her.
“Hello Ella! What are you doing here? I thought you were in Dream Valley!” a pretty violet mare said exuberantly. “How long has it been since I’ve last seen you, apart from the funeral? It seems like ages.” She smoothed out her own lavender ball gown. “That certainly is a becoming color on you, Ella!”
Ella laughed. This violet mare, Alura, had always talked enough so as to keep a conversation rather one-sided. “I have been mercilessly dragged here by my mother; and, yes, I do live in Dream Valley. I believe it has been nearly a year since we’ve last met; and thank you very much, I love this color as well!” she sorted out the answers methodically.
“Oh, don’t you like balls any more then you used to? You would find them quite fun if only you would be more outgoing! Now why don’t I introduce you to Mr. Lovejoy over there? I think he’s exactly your type...” Alura said enthusiastically.
Ella paled. “No! Please! I will not talk with him unless it is absolutely necessary!” And so, the two sat down; and Alura was filled in on everything that had happened since Ella went to Dream Valley. By the end, she was scowling darkly.
“Why, that scoundrel! Ooh! You just wait, I’ll give him a piece of my mind! ‘Is that all’ indeed!” And Alura stood up.
“No, Alura. Please don’t. He hasn’t noticed me yet, and I would prefer it to stay that way,” Ella said stiffly.
Just then, Mrs. Fay came up to the two young mares with a young stallion who looked quite toadish. “Ella! Alura! May I introduce you to Mr. Philip Gardener; Mr. Gardener, this is my daughter Ella and her friend Alura!” Ella and Alura exchanged quizzical glances before politely greeting this toadish Mr. Gardener who was beaming and chuckling in a nauseatingly friendly way.
“Oh, Miss Fay! So pleased... so pleased to finally make your acquaintance after hearing so much about you,” he gave a high pitched sort of giggle and took Ella’s hoof.
“Likewise, I’m sure...” Ella tried to snatch her hoof back to no avail.
“Ah, they’re starting up a waltz! May I have this dance, my pretty Miss Fay?” Mr. Gardener bowed in what would have come off as gentlemanly, if he hadn’t been such a sniveling toad of a stallion.
Ella groped desperately for a reason to refuse, “Err...”
“Splendid, Miss Fay! Splendid!”
And without further ado, Ella was dragged out onto the dance floor and had her hooves mercilessly flattened as Mr. Gardener kept stepping on them without so much as an apology. Perhaps he didn’t notice, for he was quite engaged in a one-sided conversation with Ella.
“Ah, Miss Fay! The music is splendid, don’t you think? Of course, I daresay I’m much more accomplished then any of those ponies... surely you must play an instrument, Miss Fay?”
“Well, no. I...”
“Yes, I suppose that not every pony has musical talent as remarkable as my own.”