My Little Pony Monthly Issue 70 (January 1, 2003)
My Little Pony Monthly
A publication of Nematode (Electronic) Publishing
Established June 1997
This Newsletter is Safe for All Ages
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1. Letters to the Editor
2. This Month’s Contest
3. Chapter #5: Bright Eyes’ Idea (by Melody)
4. “There was the door...” (by Starre)
5. Dark Regrets (by Sugarberry and Tabby)
6. Magical Pony Girl Enchantment: Midwinter Nightmare (by Clever Clover)
7. Enter the ESL (by Barnacle)
Letters to the Editor
You know I have been in this group for at least a year and I have never read any of these stories. I usually don’t have time to I usually just delete a few I saved to my PC but still never read. Well anyway I printed out the stories and brought them to work. They were pretty darn good. It makes me want to do mine and send them. Anyway I’ll be leaving comments for the authors in the feedback sections.
This Month’s Contest
Wow! Fabulous turnout for last month’s contest! I’m extremely pleased! The winners are as follows...
Baby Jedi (BJ) (email@example.com)
Katharos Drakkina (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Tayba RavenSoul (email@example.com)
Violet Star Shine (firstname.lastname@example.org)
and an Honorable Mention
And they each got a prize graphic for their webpage! You can have one, too, by entering our new contest! Let’s try to keep them going! Just tell me...
Who is Megan’s “special” pony?
by e-mailing TabbyMLP@aol.com or entering through the form at
Bright Eyes’ Idea
by Melody (email@example.com)
Classy gently shook Bright Eyes awake on Sunday morning. “Aren’t you going to the Markets with your friends?” he asked.
“Mmm,” nodded Bright Eyes, snuggling deeper under her warm bed covers.
“Then I suggest you wake up,” replied Classy, pointing to her clock, which read 8:40. “Don’t the Markets start at nine?”
“Oh gosh! Thanks for reminding me, Dad!” said Bright Eyes, leaping out of bed and devouring her cereal in record time. She raced to the door, pulled her parker on, and zoomed out of the door. “Bye, Dad!” she called. Classy chuckled and watched Bright Eyes run down the street.
Bright Eyes was puffed by the time she met her friends at the teahouse. The group set off and soon arrived at the Ponyland Markets. Bright Eyes rarely went to the Markets. Occasionally, she and her father would go, and sometimes she would go with Patch or Melody; so she planned to look around, buy a few things, and have a good time.
“Where to first?” asked Clover, looking around.
“How about that stall?” suggested Bon Bon, indicating a small stall selling sweets.
“Oh, yum!” giggled Sweetheart. The ponies had fun choosing from wrapped candies, toffee apples, caramel creams, lollipops, liquorice, and other sweets until they left the stall, each carrying a bag.
“Ooh, look!” Starlight pointed to a second-hand stall with all kinds of goods being sold. Melody picked up an old Cleveland Bays CD while Clover eagerly spotted a four-leaf clover key ring. The next stall they visited sold jewelry; and even though the prices were expensive, the girls still admired the precious stones and jewels in the necklaces, rings, and bracelets. They picked up some knick-knacks for the teahouse at one stall, and Bright Eyes bought five books on Ponyland at another.
By this time, everyone was feeling quite hungry so they went to the Ice Cream Shoppe, owned by Starlight’s mother. They all loved to hang out there, and Starlight even had a part time job helping her mother.
“What would you like today?” asked Starlight’s mother, Night Dreamer.
“We’ll all have the Special of the Day,” said Starlight. “What about you, Bright Eyes?” Bright Eyes’ head was in a book.
“Helloooo? Earth to Bright Eyes!” said Patch.
“She’ll have the Special, too,” grinned Melody. But Bright Eyes was in another world. She thought of her homework, the report, her daily novel reading, and a new idea she had come up with. At the markets, she had devised a plan to start her own stall. She planned to sell craft items that she would make herself. Bright Eyes loved volunteering for anything. She also loved the environment and hadn’t had much to do with it lately. But that would change soon…
Bright Eyes was woken from her daydreams when a sausage roll and chips were placed in front of her. “Oh, gosh! I’ve been daydreaming,” said Bright Eyes, a little embarrassed.
“Never mind,” comforted Sweetheart.
“Anyway, guys. I just thought up a really good idea,” said Bright Eyes excitedly.
“Go on, then,” prompted Patch. So Bright Eyes explained her idea in depth and detail to the others. “Wow, that’s one good idea,” said Patch.
“But on top of homework, your report, and volunteering to help the environment, are you sure you’ll have time to do it?” asked Starlight.
“Of course. I’m always busy and I like it that way,” replied Bright Eyes.
“Okay. How about we help you?” Melody asked.
“Well, I was kind of thinking that I’d do it all myself and then it’d be a surprise for you all next Sunday! But of course I’ll have to get permission from…” Bright Eyes rattled off a list of names.
“Will you be able to get their permission at all?” queried Clover.
“I’ll find a way,” smiled Bright Eyes. The other girls nodded. It would be fun to see Bright Eyes’ creations. Who knew what she would make?
That afternoon Bright Eyes reached her house loaded with assorted craft supplies. She worked hard all afternoon, making all kinds of things. Sometimes Classy helped, but Bright Eyes mostly worked independently.
Much later, Bright Eyes checked the clock. 10:00 already? She looked over her creations– from paddle pop stick boxes to fluffy cotton ball chicks. There were shell bracelets and necklaces, brightly colored balloon faces, little animals made from beads, nuts and other items, play-dough dinosaurs, and much more.
Bright Eyes looked down over her body. It was splashed with paint and sticky from the play-dough. She took a long, hot shower and hopped into bed. Tossing and turning, Bright Eyes just couldn’t get to sleep. She lay awake for hours feeling ashamed of herself, and more than anything wanting a decent night’s sleep.
Editor’s note: Now, just go to http://mlpmonthly.tripod.com/Contact.htm for an easy way to tell the author that you enjoyed their story!
“There was the door to which I found
There was a veil through which
I might not see”
by Starre (OpalStarre@aol.com)
Author’s Note: Thank you! A thousand times, thank you! I’ve actually gotten five e-mails this month while usually I get five in the span of a year! Thank you! Let’s see, last month my quote was “ ‘Tis the Season to be Jolly!” Obviously this is from the well-known Christmas Carol “Deck the Halls.” This was correctly guessed by Melody J. A little history lesson: the music for Deck the Halls is from an old Welsh melody. Mozart used it in a piano and violin duet in the 1700's. The words are believed to be American from the 19th century. Bet you didn’t know all that! Anyhow... hope everyone had a lovely Christmas!
I must admit I was a bit stuck for a story idea this month– nothing interesting ever seems to happen in January. At least not in my family! So, we’ve got a bit of a mystery for you this month. I was stuck for a quote, too– how do you find something to quote about a mystery?? This is really quite tough so I don’t expect anyone to get it. Anyway, make your best guess and e-mail me at OpalStarre@aol.com
Ella was yawning her way down Evermoor’s grand staircase when Louise burst peevishly out of the dining room. Fuming, the maid went to the hidden door in Evermoor’s mahogany paneling, fiddled with the decorative rose that was third from the right edge, yanked the panel open, and clattered down the steep staircase. Ella heard the kitchen door slam somewhere below her hooves.
Shrugging this off, Ella continued into the dining room. Louise was in one of her sulks again. Already seated was Lady Charlotte, poring over the morning paper.
“Something’s happened this morning, I’m guessing? Louise is in one of her sulks again...” Ella said, sitting down and pulling the part of the newspaper that Lady Charlotte had already read over to her side of the table.
“Yes, I suppose,” Lady Charlotte said without looking up.
“You suppose?” Ella questioned.
At this Lady Charlotte looked up. “Well, there’s always something, isn’t there? She does seem rather out of sorts this morning, but she wouldn’t say what was bothering her. Just stalked up the stairs and into the dining room, and looked around. I asked her what was wrong, but she simply ignored me and stalked back downstairs!” Lady Charlotte said huffily and returned to her paper.
Sighing, Ella stood back up and headed for the basement. Shuddering as she walked the dark, narrow staircase, Ella wished she had had the foresight to bring a candle. The basement was a very creepy sort of place with rustling whispers from the past and shadows that seemed to have no cause for being. Peeking in the kitchen door, Ella saw Louise rushing back and forth, throwing open cupboards, vehemently humphing and moving on to the next cupboard.
“Louise?” Ella said timidly, rounding into the kitchen.
Louise spun around with a frying pan in her hoof, and for one wild moment Ella had a strong compulsion to duck. Thank goodness, the frying pan stayed lodged in Louise’s hoof and Ella strode boldly forward.
“Louise, do tell me what’s wrong!” Ella took the frying pan and put it neatly back in its cupboard.
Louise scowled darkly. “It is gone!” she spat.
“Shh, shh, shh,” Ella comforted while guiding Louise into the chair that sat in an empty corner. “What’s gone?”
“The sugar tongs from our good silver tea service!” Louise cried out in exasperation.
“The sugar tongs,” Ella repeated and stopped herself from laughing just in time. All this trouble for sugar tongs?! They didn’t even use cubed sugar! It was more for looks and the tradition of keeping a complete silver tea service then anything else. Regaining her composure, she continued, “Perhaps you’ve misplaced them?”
“Never in the forty-seven-and-a-half years I’ve been head maid in this house have I misplaced something!” Louise said, looking scandalized at even the suggestion. But then she shook her head forlornly, “It had occurred to me. But I’ve searched the entire kitchen twice over! And they aren’t in the dining room, either!”
Ella thought back across the last few days. “You brought the silver tea service up to the parlor just last night. Are you sure they couldn’t have been left there?”
“I checked. They’re not.”
“What about the library? You bring the tea service to the library often enough...”
“I distinctly remember bringing the sugar tongs to the parlor last night!”
“You’re sure they aren’t there, then?”
“Yes, of course I am! I searched the entire parlor this morning, even though we had only been on the far side without the brass crickets!” Louise said dejectedly. If you’d remember, there are two fireplaces in the parlor. One is right across from the French doors, and another is on the other end of the room, beyond the piano. The latter of the two is lacking a pair of twin brass crickets on the hearthstones.
“Well, Louise darling, why don’t you start breakfast without the sugar tongs? I’ll go and search the parlor for them again; and even if I can’t find them, I’m sure we can survive a breakfast without sugar tongs,” Ella said logically.
Louise looked up. “And never in my forty-seven-and-a-half years here has Lady Charlotte been served breakfast without the complete tea service, either!” She looked as though if that unspeakable thing were to happen, the world might as well just come to an end.
“Oh, Lady Charlotte is plenty reasonable. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind... and, Louise, I’m sorry to say this, but you’ve hurt her feelings terribly! She was very injured when you ignored her this morning,” Ella said sternly.
The violently purple mare blushed, and Ella left this to Louise’s conscience as she climbed back up the steep staircase and crossed the front hall. Into the parlor she went and searched high and low. It appeared Louise was right– the sugar tongs were quite gone. Ella even went so far as to open up a few of the books on a tall bookcase which was situated about a foot away from the corner of the room. Incidentally, it was on the same wall as the French doors leading into the parlor. On the facing wall and right in the corner was a venerable old grandfather clock, next to one of the velvet curtained windows. It also was hoofed through by Ella who was getting just a bit irritated by the missing sugar tongs.
When it seemed the only possible explanation for the missing sugar tongs was that perhaps a brass cricket had eaten it, Ella gave up and joined Lady Charlotte in the dining room. Collapsing into the nearest chair, she gave a loud sigh. “The reason Louise was so agitated this morning was because the sugar tongs from the good silver tea service have gone missing.”
Lady Charlotte looked rather surprised. “That’s all? And I was nearly certain that we had run out of flour... that did it once. She sulked for almost a week over it! Well, certainly they’ll turn up eventually. Has anyone searched the parlor? I recall seeing the sugar tongs there just last night!”
“Oh, yes, Louise and I both have searched it thoroughly. I even went through the book case!”
They sat in silent thought for a few moments until a loud creaking and groaning came from behind a flap in the wall in the corner. Ella got up and retrieved their breakfast from the dumbwaiter, and Louise appeared a few moments later. Seeing Ella’s face, she said, “Then you haven’t found them, have you?”
Ella shook her head, “No, I’m sorry...”
“Well, there goes one of the more annoying Evermoor traditions!” Lady Charlotte said brightly. “I never found those sugar tongs very useful as we never bother with the cubes anymore...”
Louise sat in shocked silence. Perhaps the world really had come to an end and Evermoor would fade into oblivion momentarily...
After a quick breakfast Ella dashed out the door and to the bookstore where she worked. They had gotten a few fresh inches of snow overnight and the world had turned into a dazzling sea of diamonds! All over, ponies were bustling about, going in and out of stores exchanging duplicated Christmas gifts and wading through holiday sales.
Still, the missing sugar tongs weighed heavily on her mind. It made no sense that one day they would be there and the next day gone! And they were quite valuable as far as sugar tongs go, too.
Evidently, worry shone in her expressive yellow eyes, for the first thing she heard upon entering the Athenaeum was “Frowning this early in the morning? It isn’t even nine o’clock!” from a pale blue pegasus halfway out of the backroom. “Someone go and steal your puppy-dog?”
Ella looked up, surprised that Windwhistler had said anything to her. Then it dawned on her– Windwhistler and Lofty were going on vacation the next day leaving Ella in charge. That was reason enough to be sociable.
“Oh, something like that. Sugar tongs, actually,” Ella replied, hanging up her scarf and hat on the quaint barley twist coat rack right inside the door.
Windwhistler stared at her blankly for a moment. “Sugar tongs?”
“Yes, out of the good silver tea service. They were in the parlor just last night but now they are nowhere to be found! Louise and I both turned the parlor inside out. She searched a great deal of the rest of the house, too.”
“Oh, really... sugar tongs...” Windwhistler shook her head. Why even bother? Ella was too strange for her comprehension. Why in Ponyland had Lofty hired such a fruitcake? “Well, if you’ll remember, Lofty and I are both leaving this evening to go on vacation and leaving you the keys! Hopefully, you’ll take better care of them then the... sugar tongs...”
Just then, Lofty came up to the front of the store and Windwhistler decided she ought not continue in that oh-so-pleasant train of speech. The rest of the day passed normally enough and by the time Ella left that evening she had, in her possession, one of two sets of keys to the Athenaeum, the other set residing safely with Lofty and Windwhistler, as they were the proprietors of the store.
Ella made her way back through the winter wonderland that was Dream Valley to Evermoor. As soon as she let herself into the entrance hall, she heard Lady Charlotte call from the parlor, “Ella dear! So glad you’re home! Do come into the parlor– you have a letter.”
And so, before bothering to take off her scarf and hat, Ella obligingly went into the parlor. Waiting there, in the custody of Lady Charlotte, was a very fat envelope addressed to our Miss Ella Fay. Fat envelopes are usually pleasant, for they indicate nice long letters. This one happened to be from Mr. Sheffield, making it all the more pleasant. Forgetting everything else, Ella carefully set the Athenaeum key onto the coffee table and eagerly opened her letter.
Just then she noticed Lady Charlotte looking a bit crestfallen. Seeing Ella glance up, she explained herself. “You know, before you came here my nephew wrote letters to me!”
“Oh! I’m sorry,” Ella blushed. “Here, I’ll read it aloud for you.”
“Dear Miss Fay,
“I only just received your letter yesterday afternoon... strange, don’t you think, that it took nearly two weeks to get here from Dream Valley?
“I just finished The Olde Curiosity Shop– and yes, I didn’t like Barbara all that much either. Little Nell ought to have lived... and Kit was such a nice little fellow! Just yesterday I visited an “Old Curiosity Shop” of sorts and picked up this peculiar little thing I think you’ll like.
“I’ll be in Dream Valley the 8th through the 10th– tell Aunt Charlotte I’ll stop by for dinner on the 8th.”
Listening to this, Lady Charlotte marveled at the friendship that had sprung up in such a short time. Alexander had came for Christmas– he and Ella hadn’t even been aware of each other’s existence three weeks ago! Strange that he should write so familiarly.
As soon as she had finished reading the letter, Ella looked up. “The 8th is tomorrow!”
“And today happens to be the 7th! Do wonders never cease?” Lady Charlotte replied sarcastically.
Ella noticed this, and went up to her tower room just a bit ruffled. Mr. Sheffield certainly was a kindred spirit! But just a bit careless. Perhaps it would be advantageous to tactfully suggest he write to his aunt a bit more often...
* * *
Lady Charlotte’s inimical temper lasted through dinner, and she only became a bit more amicable once she had her knitting and a cup of green tea in the parlor. “Louise, Alexander is coming to dinner tomorrow evening– be a dear and fix his favorites. He’s especially fond of bread pudding,” Lady Charlotte said.
“Oh? What’s he doing in town?” Louise said, just a tad distressed. Suppose he noticed the absence of the sugar tongs...?
“I suppose another one of his music conventions,” Lady Charlotte replied.
Ella sat in front of the fire between the two brass crickets, gazing off into Dreamland. She was penning out a new short story and this was to be her masterpiece! She felt it in the pit of her stomach. And it’s a well known fact that the pit of one’s stomach is rarely wrong! Just then her eyes came back into focus on the coffee table...
The keys! Where were they? She had forgotten them on the coffee table in her excitement over Mr. Sheffield’s letter... but they surely weren’t there anymore. She suddenly stood up, papers fluttering from her lap dangerously near the fireplace.
Louise and Lady Charlotte looked up. “Is something the matter, dear?”
“Oh! Of all the things to happen!” Ella said miserably. “Where can it have gone to?” She started shuffling around the silver tea service, peering into empty cups.
Louise and Lady Charlotte exchanged a concerned glance. “Where’s what gone?”
“The keys!” Ella said wildly, and started crawling around the floor, rummaging under chairs and tables. “They leave me in charge for a few days and the first thing I do is go and loose the keys!”
Louise stared bewilderedly. Then it dawned on Lady Charlotte. “Those two mares who run the Athenaeum– I think Ella said they were leaving for vacation today and gave her the keys.”
Needless to say, Ella spent the greater part of the evening and night thoroughly searching Evermoor for the elusive little silver key. Finally, she decided to go to bed, but sleeping was out of the question as she could only keep traversing the far reaches of her memory for any place she might have left the key.
The next morning dawned bright and beautiful. However, it could have been the brightest and most beautiful morning the world had ever known and ever would, and Ella wouldn’t have cared. To her the world was cloaked in a drab cloak that was bent on concealing the keys to the Athenaeum.
Having no better ideas, she retraced her steps back to the Athenaeum staring determinedly at the ground, wondering if perhaps she could have dropped them– though she was perfectly certain she hadn’t. And then she looked in the paned front window wondering if perhaps she had left them on the counter. But for as much as she could see, she hadn’t. Our dear Ella was getting so desperate she contemplated picking the lock just so she could keep selling books that day. Honesty won out, though, and the Athenaeum remained closed that day.
Evermoor was turned inside out and rifled through most resolutely to no avail, and finally Ella returned to the parlor. Strange that two things should go missing in the same room so close together...
She was still pondering this when Mr. Sheffield arrived at Evermoor and found her there. Of course, being the sympathetic listener he was, he immediately was informed of all that had happened and how Ella was doomed now and would never be trusted again because of the missing key.
He decided he had to help her search again, and search they did. He even removed his silver watch (for fear of scratching it) and reached behind the dusty old grandfather clock.
After awhile Lady Charlotte joined the hunt and the three of them only paused when Louise informed them that dinner was ready. Immediately following dinner, the trio resumed their search and was joined by Louise after she finished with the dishes. It was nearing midnight when they simultaneously collapsed into the four wing-backed chairs surrounding the fireplace. Mr. Sheffield took one look at the mantle clock and promptly fell out of his wing-backed chair.
“Oh! I have to be at a meeting tomorrow!” he grimaced and excused himself from their cheerless company, promising that he’d come over again as soon as he was able the next day to help search some more in case the key still wasn’t found.
Another sleepless night was spent by Ella, and she aimlessly trudged back to the Athenaeum the next morning just to make sure everything was all right. Yes, everything was fine, except for the absence of customers, of course. Ella felt another sharp pang of guilt, and then she sheepishly looked up and down the street. Deftly, she yanked a hairpin out of her mane and picked the lock.
Well, she had done it, and there wasn’t any helping it now. After all, she didn’t need the key to lock up. She could sell books today, and search for the key tonight. But, she sighed, Lofty and Windwhistler would return tomorrow and she’d have to tell the whole story. Oh! Windwhistler would be perfectly unbearable!
Early that evening, Ella locked the door to the Athenaeum once again and dashed home feeling terribly guilt-stricken. Waiting was Mr. Sheffield in the parlor, looking around as he promised.
“You know, in all common sense, both the key and the sugar tongs should be somewhere in this parlor!” Mr. Sheffield frowned, deep in thought.
“Yes, but we’ve searched this room multiple times and came up with nothing. It’s as if they disappeared into thin air!” Ella sighed, walking down to the other end of the parlor and looking through the inside of the grandfather clock once again.
“You know, I left my watch here on the coffee table last night. It’s not here, either...”
“Oh! I’m sorry! But that makes a third. In the past two days, we’ve lost three small silver objects in this parlor!” They sat in silent thought for a few moments, and then Ella turned around and found Mr. Sheffield smiling to himself. “What in Ponyland can you find amusing about this situation, Mr. Sheffield!?”
“Perhaps one of the brass crickets has acquired a taste for small silver objects– they’ve been looking a bit larger than usual,” Mr. Sheffield offered.
Ella sighed again, looking past Mr. Sheffield at the bookshelf. Her gaze traveled down it– wouldn’t it be nice if there were a book on locating missing silver? But then, she glanced down wonderingly at the shadow below the bottom shelf. Was it truly just a shadow, or perhaps a small space?
Wide-eyed, Ella bounded across the room and knelt down. It was a space! But, alas, there didn’t appear to be anything but a... hole? There was a hole in the wood! Just big enough to slip a hoof through. Mr. Sheffield knelt down.
“What is it? Have you found it?” he asked anxiously.
“Not exactly, but there’s a hole here...” She felt around and her hoof found something– not metal, however. Wood. “Strange... there seems to be an old latch of sorts here! Ooh! But I can’t move it!” Ella said disappointedly.
“A latch!? Let me try...” And they switched spots and soon there was a gravelly sort of pop and the bookshelf sprang an inch into the room. They exchanged an amazed glance and then both started dragging it.
After much exertion, it opened into the room as a door! A door to a secret passage, no less! And obviously, a door that hadn’t been opened in a very long time. Just inside on the floor lay the missing silver sugar tongs, the Athenaeum key, and the watch.
Mystified, Ella picked up the three things, handed Mr. Sheffield his watch, and walked cautiously into the passage. The ceiling slanted downwards to the right, and Ella realized that they were standing underneath the great staircase in the foyer! On the other end of the hidden room was another door, and wordlessly, Mr. Sheffield and Ella went over and opened it, finding themselves in the dining room.
Looking back, they could see the parlor. Dumbfounded, the two ponies stared at each other for a long time. Then Ella peered around the edge of this door into the dining room– it was hidden behind the curio cabinet that held Evermoor’s fine china.
“Did you know about this room?” Ella asked.
“No... I spent many a summer here in my youth and thought that I knew all the secrets of this mansion. I don’t even think that Aunt Charlotte and Louise know!”
The two ponies ran gleefully to get Louise and Lady Charlotte, who had much the same response. Lady Charlotte, especially, found it hard to believe. “I’ve lived here all my life!” she repeated at intervals. Later, after they had shut both the doors again, they sat in the parlor, and Ella set the sugar tongs onto the coffee table.
“What I want to know is how on earth these things managed to get shoved under the bookshelf,” Ella said as they sat mulling over the secret room. As if in answer to her question, Amadeus, the huge white Persian, sauntered up to the coffee table and batted the sugar tongs onto the floor.
Right before their eyes, they watched as Amadeus wrestled the sugar tongs around the floor and finally got them shoved back into the secret room.
A shocked silence descended upon the four ponies. Louise was the first to break it. Scowling furiously, she scooped up the burgling-cat and put him out into the foyer. “The nerve!”
Still, Ella wasn’t satisfied, “But why did he just start doing this now?”
The only reply she got was a myriad of shrugs.
* * *
The next day at the Athenaeum the entire story was related to Lofty and Windwhistler, from the missing keys to the secret passage. At last, she finished up with the explanation of Amadeus’ antics.
Windwhistler sat there, the corners of her mouth twitching, and all of the sudden she erupted... into laughter! It was contagious, and within seconds the three mares were howling.
Burgling cat, indeed!
Editor’s note: Now, just go to http://mlpmonthly.tripod.com/Contact.htm for an easy way to tell the author that you enjoyed their story!
by Sugarberry (Sugrbery@aol.com) and Tabby (TabbyMLP@aol.com)
Note: You can see pictures of many of the characters mentioned in this story at http://tabbymlp.tripod.com/GalleryM.htm
The dark-haired, middle-aged stallion stopped with his hoof on the doorknob to the motel room, looking back at the other occupant. “This may take awhile.”
“Let me go with you!”
“No!” He saw the pained expression on the face of the pony standing across from him and added in a softer tone. “No. It’s better if we don’t attract attention. You know that.”
“Go then. Do what you have to do.”
The stallion left the room quickly and quietly.
* * *
Wigwam’s Casino stood at the outskirts of Dream Valley on a plot of land that encompassed enough acreage to insure a panoramic setting for the architectural uniqueness that was the casino. Designed to complement the legacy of the Native Ponies, the casino’s outline, as seen from a distance, gave the impression of a grouping of tepees huddled together– and this against a backdrop of towering evergreens that dominated the property to the north, eventually merging with the Dark Forest.
Behind the casino and before the pines, within a comfortable walking distance down the gently-sloping grounds now cloaked in snow, rested an ice-covered lake, spring-fed, that offered a beautiful respite for the eyes of those who frequented the casino’s enticements, whether those being the gaming rooms, the banquet hall, or the private dining chamber. This frozen wonderland was the scene of much activity on this cold January morning with temperatures in the low teens on the Fahrenheit scale.
“You wouldn’t feel the cold if you worked harder,” griped Wishbone as he and Wigwam moved a sturdy wooden bench along the shore of the lake, passing an empty-hoofed stallion who had taken on the role of supervisor of the beehive of activity around him.
Tightening the muffler around his neck, Hawkley only grinned. “Someone’s gotta make sure this gets done right.”
“The least you could do is help Chocolate Chip and Garnet with setting the fence in position,” suggested Wigwam.
“Now that’s an idea,” agreed Hawkley, heading immediately for the two mares.
Wishbone groaned. “Great! As if he needed inducement to flirt with the girls!”
Chuckling, Wigwam concurred. “That’s one thing Hawkley has a high efficiency rating on.” He could find it amusing when it was Wishbone’s fiancee with whom Hawkley was carrying on his current dalliance.
As the denim blue stallion made his way to the point where Chocolate Chip and Garnet were setting up an array of iron posts at a safe distance around the open area of the ice under which the spring gurgled, he was constantly darting around the colorful bodies of the Bushwoolies who were energetically carting firewood across the ice from the forest to feed the bonfires that would roar into use after dark when the skating party would commence.
“Sorry, yeah, yeah,” said one of a pair of Bushwoolies as they careened into Hawkley, sending him skidding across the ice.
“Yeah, sorry,” said the other.
“No problem,” Hawkley said, brushing bits of bark off his side. “Just try to avoid any casualties.”
But the Bushwoolies were already out of hearing range.
Coming upon the two mares as they tried to embed the poles in the solid ice, Hawkley offered his advise. “You need one of those rigs that ice-fisher ponies use to drill through the ice.”
“And just why didn’t you mention that when we were organizing this affair?” queried a slightly miffed Chocolate Chip.
“I seem to remember the words, ‘How hard can it be?’ spoken by one of you two at our planning meeting,” Hawkley grinned, meriting a scowl from the brown mare and a twinkle of the eyes from the red one.
“Besides,” reasoned Garnet, “an auger would be overkill for this project.”
“What can we do to help?” asked a voice from behind the three ponies.
“Caravel! Petal! Chip!” sang out Chocolate Chip as she turned to observe the new arrivals. “Your timing couldn’t have been better.” She relegated the ice spud in her hoof to Caravel with a relieved smile. “My hooves are freezing.” Without waiting for a reply, she took off for the sanctuary of a warming shelter a short way from the lakeside.
“Fair-weather friend,” muttered Garnet, staring after Chocolate Chip with enough fire in her eye to warm the chilly temperature by a couple of degrees, no matter that the brown mare was simply a volunteer while Garnet was an employee of the casino.
Hawkley was quick to note her exasperation. “Just direct that look at the spot where you want a hole, and you’ll have it melted out in no time.”
“If that’s all the help you’re going to offer,” flared Garnet, “then I suggest that you find someone else to aggravate!”
“We’ll give you a hoof,” stepped in Chip. “I go ice-fishing with my dad when I’m home.” He took the simple tool from Caravel and proceeded to demonstrate the proper use of it, soon creating a suitable hole of the proper diameter to hold one of the anchor poles for the orange plastic fencing that laid stretched on the ground at lakeside.
“So that’s how it works,” observed Garnet, visibly lightening. “You wouldn’t mind if I left you guys to finish this off, would you?”
“I take it we’re fencing the dangerous area of thin ice?” asked Caravel.
“Even I could figure that out,” quipped Petal.
Before the guys could weasel Petal into trying her hoof at chipping out holes, Garnet pulled her aside. “How about helping me to check on the food inventory for tonight?”
Glancing at Chip, Caravel, and Hawkley– and determining that she had no desire to stay any longer than necessary on the cold ice– Petal acquiesced. “There’ll be plenty of hot chocolate, I hope,” she shivered.
“I thought the weather pony predicted a warm front moving in,” grumbled Garnet, rubbing her forelegs as she and Petal met with Wishbone and Wigwam.
“Just be glad it didn’t arrive too soon and melt the ice,” countered Wigwam. “The skating party would have been ruined.”
“Besides,” added Wishbone, “if it holds off until evening, it might bring some snow with it. That would be a nice touch.” He sent a silent message to his fiancee.
As Wishbone and Garnet had found that walking in the falling snow was a prime time for sharing hopes and dreams for the future– as if they were harbored in their own private snow-globe where no one else could intrude– they found the frequent snowfalls in Dream Valley this winter to be a blessing to their spirits.
Wigwam caught sight of several stallions coming toward them loaded down with cables and tool boxes. “Well, finally, our electrical help has shown up.” He waved and called, “Good morning, Quarterback... Sparky. All set to get to work?”
“Just point us to the main power source,” Quarterback stated.
“Follow me,” said Wigwam. “Garnet, you and Wishbone can cart out all those lights.”
“They’re already waiting.” Garnet pointed at the series of wood-stained gazebos that graced the east end of the lake; three octagon shelters rose gracefully, each one slightly smaller than the previous one and connected with suspended walkways. The sloping roofs, pillared supports, and protective railings were already outlined in clear Christmas lights left in place after the holiday, but patio lights to provide illumination and safety for this nighttime party were to be set in place by Quarterback. “I brought them out first thing this morning.”
“You’re efficient,” smiled Wigwam at his assistant.
“Of course I am,” retorted Garnet. “You know you couldn’t get along without me.”
* * *
The dark-haired stranger from the motel walked the streets of Dream Valley in a direct course to 17A Vine Avenue, the address listed in the phone book as Garnet’s address; taking up an inconspicuous position across from the small but functional house, the stallion began a silent vigil, discreetly keeping an eye not only on the blank windows of the first-floor unit but also on the approach of any other ponies. The residential area was fairly deserted at this time of the morning, with most ponies already gone to their day’s destination and the foals waiting for warmer temperatures before venturing forth to play in the snow.
When several young ponies did round the corner and come in his direction, the stallion quickly shifted the attache case in his hoof and set off across the street, scrutinizing the domicile of interest to him with keen eyes. Noting that there seemed to be no sign of activity in the building, he shrugged and continued on his way, headed in the direction of Main Street.
A warm and welcoming eatery called the Café Carousel caught his eye; remembering that he had foregone breakfast when he had the chance, the outsider turned aside to take advantage of the spicy smells emanating from the establishment. Once inside, the stallion surveyed the occupants of the tables with a look that could only be called shifty, then helped himself to a small corner table.
After placing an order for a cinnamon chip muffin and a cup of steaming black coffee, he settled in to listen to the talk going on at neighboring tables and soon came to realize that most of the conversation was centering on a skating party to be held this very evening at the casino. If the excitement of the ponies was any indication, it sounded as if everyone in Dream Valley would be in attendance at the outdoor festivity, whether for the skating or simply to enjoy the hot chocolate around a warm bonfire and the atmosphere of a merry winter party.
On the way out of the cozy restaurant, the swarthy pony noticed a poster on a window advertising the skating extravaganza; studying it for a moment, he seemed to come to a decision.
“Interesting...” he mused.
Smiling a rather wicked-looking smile and taking a quick look around him, the stallion departed and continued on his way, checking out the rest of Dream Valley’s main street, the mall, various hotels and motels other than the one he was registered at, the police station... for some reason, the stallion seemed to be fascinated with and yet at the same time averse to this center of law and justice.
This combination of an attraction and a repulsion delayed him as he appeared to seesaw between the desire to learn all he could about the place and a self-preservation that urged him to a safer– from his point of view– part of the city. It was only after he caught a glimpse of the police chief, Tawny, flanked by two officers, leaving the building, did the stranger melt into the shadowy cover of a neighboring building and slip out of sight.
His wanderings led him to the site of the casino; and again from a discreet distance, he checked the layout of the building and the grounds. Observing that the activity was occurring behind the casino and catching sight of one vibrant red mare who seemed to be in the center of the planning, he grinned his derisive grin; after some time in acute contemplation that focused on Garnet, the stallion departed, taking himself off down the street.
Finding the visitor’s bureau open, the stallion made a stop to fine-tune his knowledge of the city.
“Good morning, sir,” sang out a chartreuse mare with lime green hair. “How may I help you today?” She stumbled over a step-stool as she came toward him.
“Just looking for a way to entertain myself and a companion while we stay in your lovely city,” the stranger said, bestowing the most unnerving smile on Becca as he steadied her, preventing a tumble.
“Why, your timing couldn’t be better,” she admitted, pointing to a prominently displayed poster. “Our town is celebrating winter with an old-fashioned skating party on the grounds of Wigwam’s Casino this very night.”
“That’s the extent of what this town has to offer?” the stranger asked with a lifted eyebrow.
“Oh, but it’s going to be such fun! You simply must attend!”
“Who’s in charge of it?”
“The casino is sponsoring it, but the students of Pony Pride are involved in making it a success; and their young enthusiasm has garnered everyone’s excitement.”
“Wigwam’s Casino,” the stallion muttered. “Is this Wigwam in charge of tonight’s party?”
“Well, he’s at the head of things; but his general manager, Garnet, probably is as much in charge as anyone.”
“His general manager...” Going to the poster and studying it with the greatest interest, the stallion finally asked, “And the casino itself... will it be open?”
“Why, of course. But I assure you, the action will be out by the lake tonight.”
“Yes... yes, I suppose it will,” the stallion said more to himself than to the mare. Then, quickly bestowing his awful smile upon Becca, he thanked her for her time and left the building.
Satisfied with his morning’s work, the stallion returned to the motel. Upon entering the shared room, he was immediately questioned by the waiting pony, “Well?”
“Tonight... tonight, we act.” His infernal grin spanned the distance between them like a portent of doom.
* * *
“Many hooves make light work,” intoned Garnet as she looked with satisfaction over the lakeside activities. Benches had been set at convenient rest spots. The orange safety fence was neatly in place. Stacks of firewood stood ready. Beacon lights were mounted at key locations. The ice was being swept clean by a troupe of Bushwoolies who seemed to be enjoying their work tremendously. Quarterback and Sparky were putting the finishing touches on the electrical preparations. The pony helpers were beginning to congregate around the refreshment area as if in expectation of some commiseration for their efforts.
“Once Quarterback has the electricity on, we’ll fix some hot chocolate for everyone in the shelter,” announced Garnet, smiling gratefully at all the ponies who had so willing given of their time and talent to get ready for the skating party. “And I think Wigwam sent Hawkley out to buy donuts.”
This information brought renewed smiles to the faces of the ponies and cheers from the Bushwoolies.
“Quarterback says that we’ll have power in five minutes,” Caravel conveyed.
“And here comes Hawkley with the food,” said Petal, motioning to the stallion and several cohorts coming across the snowy landscape with a large quantity of bakery boxes.
“Knowing Bushwoolie appetites, I’m glad to see you got plenty,” Garnet said to Hawkley as the stallions approached.
Atlas, Lariat, and Hawkley grinned. “If these donuts taste half as good as they smell, they’ll be gone in a jiffy... even without the Bushwoolies,” Hawkley stated.
Wishbone came on the scene with a message from Quarterback. “He’s taking care of the final details now; he says to watch the lights.”
Everyone turned their attention to the myriad of lights strung around the gazebo and extending outward to encompass the lake and the surrounding parkland and encircling the shelter. A gathering of clouds overhead was dimming the earlier sparkle of the snow-encased landscape, so the lights would show rather well.
If they lit.
After several minutes, Sparky appeared from around the gazebo. “Umm... We’re experiencing some technical difficulties...”
“What’s wrong?” wailed Garnet, envisioning all these preparations spoiled because of a lack of luminescence.
“Nothing to worry about,” Sparky mollified. “Quarterback is checking the wiring; he just wanted you to know that it may take a little longer than he originally expected..” His eyes rested on the donut boxes that looked so inviting.
Garnet was in no mood to feel sympathy. “Well, get back to work!” she snapped, sending Sparky flying.
“Temper, sweetheart,” Hawkley said, patting Garnet’s hoof. “It’s only a minor setback.”
“I’m not your sweetheart,” Garnet growled.
“Of course not, but allow me to dream,” responded Hawkley.
“Garnet, look at the lights!” exclaimed Wishbone, extracting his fiancee to a safer position. “They’re operational!” The area had instantly gone from a drab, colorless environment to one of sparkling brightness that flaunted the overcast afternoon. “And the wind has shifted; the warm front is moving in. I’ll betcha we have snow by nightfall.”
“That will make all this work worth it,” sighed Garnet, imagining the frozen lake alive with colorful skaters, the bonfires alight with orange flames, and the fragrant smell of chocolate hanging in the air, all enveloped by a shower of sparkling snowflakes. She turned her gaze to Wishbone. “Don’t let me get so caught up in overseeing everything that I forget to skate with you.”
“You think I’d let an opportunity like that pass me by?” Wishbone queried softly.
Hawkley rolled his eyes and transferred his attention to several of the Pony Pride fillies nearby. “Libby, Patience, would you like to help me check all the light bulbs to make sure none of them are burnt out?” he asked smoothly, accompanying his invitation with a bright smile.
“Sure! We’d be glad to!” chorused both of the girls, their eyes lighting up as much or more than their electrical counterparts overhead.
Now it was Chocolate Chip’s turn to roll her eyes. As she watched Libby and Patience walk away with Hawkley, one on each side of the stallion, she noted, “Those two were supposed to be helping me with the food.”
“We’ll fill in for them,” said a voice belonging to Memoria; she was with another teacher from Pony Pride, Medallion. “We’d heard so much about the skating party from our students for the past couple of weeks that we thought we’d stop by to see how things were progressing.”
“Yes,” added Medallion, “and it looks like we missed the hardest work.”
“If your offer of helping serve was genuine, I won’t turn it down,” smiled Chocolate Chip. “The cups are in that box behind the counter and the marshmallow bags need to be opened up. When everything is ready, we’ll begin to feed the hungry hoard.”
“Do I smell hot apple cider?” asked Memoria, sniffing the air appreciatively.
“Yes, the Bushwoolies prefer that to hot chocolate... or so I’m told. I’ve seen them put down equal amounts at any gathering I’ve been to.”
The tempting smells were drawing in all the volunteers who had spent the past hours preparing for the upcoming evening’s festivities, and soon the shelter was abuzz with companionable chatter. Quarterback and Sparky were debating on which one of them had been responsible for overlooking a blown fuse; the wide-girthed Lariat was extolling the best points of each type of donut on display with Atlas; Hawkley was continuing his flirt with Libby and Patience... and several other Pony Pride beauties; Garnet was going over the details of the evening with Wigwam; and Petal, Wishbone, and Caravel were mingling with the helpers to thank them for their efforts to ensure a pleasing setting for the winter festival.
Garnet was just helping herself to a mug of apple cider when Hawkley moved to her side. “Now that Wishbone has spoken for you, Garnet, I was wondering if you might have a sister or two somewhere waiting for the perfect stallion.” He accompanied his words with an infuriating grin.
Exchanging a glance with Chocolate Chip, Garnet sassily retorted, “As if this perfect stallion actually exists.”
Laughing, Hawkley persisted. “You know all about my history thanks to Fern’s aunt over the holidays supplying enough stories of my school days to scar me forever; and I wasn’t even here to defend myself. It’s time I heard something about your background. So I ask again, any sisters?”
“One. But she’s older... too old for you.”
Hawkley arched a brow. “I’d be the one to determine that.”
“She’s also married.”
“Surely someone with your qualifications can’t be having a problem meeting eligible females in Dream Valley,” commented Chocolate Chip.
Eying her closely, Hawkley asked, “What qualifications are you referring to?”
Blushing becomingly, Chocolate Chip stuttered. “You... your... ah...”
“You’re cute, Hawkley, and you know it,” assisted Garnet, grinning at her friend’s embarrassment.
But Hawkley seemed not to notice Garnet’s compliment. He was focused on Chocolate Chip.
“And, besides, Patience and Libby both seemed fascinated with you earlier,” Garnet continued as she sipped her cider, wondering about the current– and not an electrical one– that seemed to be running between Chocolate Chip and Hawkley.
“They’re way too giggly and immature for me,” Hawkley finally responded, not taking his eyes from Chocolate Chip’s face. “I want someone who knows what’s she’s after and is still willing to have a little fun along the way.”
“Chocolate Chip, do we have any more of those plastic spoons?” quizzed Memoria, breaking the spell that had somehow overpowered the brown mare’s sensibilities.
“Wh... what? Oh, spoons. Sure. There’s another package around here somewhere.” Chocolate Chip turned her back on Garnet and Hawkley as she busied herself with mundane activities to rid herself of the riotous emotions rioting inside of her.
“Have a heart, Hawkley,” reprimanded Garnet as she led him away, fully aware of Chocolate Chip’s confusion. “Chocolate Chip doesn’t need a practiced flirt like you messing with her mind right now.”
Hawkley grinned. “Does that mean you’re jealous, Garnet?”
“No, Hawkley. It means that Wigwam is both your boss and your friend; don’t get involved.” The red mare patted his hoof, and left him to meditate on her advice.
* * *
“Oh, Wigwam,” cooed Sugarberry. “It’s like a fairyland!” She and Vanguard, with a well-bundled Banderol, stood by the orange stallion on the gazebo overlooking the scene of merriment where ponies of every hue and color milled about in carefree abandon to enjoy the winter festival. “You did good.”
“Thanks to Garnet and Wishbone getting everything organized and any number of other volunteers who got things done,” admitted Wigwam. “And the snow is just an added plus.”
“Chocolate Chip was helping today, wasn’t she? She seemed to be in a pensive mood at supper tonight, and I wondered if something happened to worry her.” Sugarberry held out her hoof to catch one of the drifting snowflakes, large and fluffy due to the warmer temperatures. .
“No. Not that I’m aware of. Of course, she doesn’t hold me in confidence as much as she used to,” Wigwam wryly stated, searching the crowd for the brown mare who had turned down his proposal of marriage on Christmas Eve.
“I saw her going into the refreshment stand a little while ago,” Vanguard volunteered, reading his friend’s mind.