My Little Pony Monthly Issue 74 (May 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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3. The Crystal Princess Part IV (by Berry Brite)
4. The Best Day of Her Life! (by Melody)
5. Rockdogs: Part 1 (by Tabby)
6. A New Wind a Blowin’ Part 3 (by Sugarberry)
7. “And memories, he knew...” (by Starre)
8. Of Weddings and Babies (by Tabby)
9. Moonlite by Moon Part Three (by Emily)
10. An Unexpected Visit (by Clever Clover)
11. Fate’s Finale (by Sugarberry)
Happy news! We got eleven whole entries for last month’s contest! Let’s hear it for ‘em!
Baby Jedi (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lil Whiskers (email@example.com)
Violet Star Shine (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The first male pony for the ‘97 line was none other than our very own Cleve Clove (or, if you prefer, Clever Clover).
Now for this month’s contest question!
Who is the intelligent pony from the cartoon series?
Tell me the answer by e-mailing TabbyMLP@aol.com or entering through the form at
Well, we had one entry for last month’s survey... but that’s better than zero, right?
Pika-Chan (email@example.com) says...
Personally, my favorite fanfics so far have been the ones I read each month about Tabby, Sugarberry, and their families and friends. Partly because they’re ponies I know and love, but also because it puts those characters in new situations and new places (like Vulcanopolis) where they meet new ponies, and brings them all together like a very large extended family! It’s like my own monthly soap- and I don’t even like soaps!
Thank you, Pika-Chan, for your response! Now, everyone else, let’s see if you can come up with something this time! Hmm... let me think... okay, here’s one (okay, it’s a bit lame, but...):
How do you display your pony collection?
That URL is:
The Crystal Princess
by Berry Brite (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Synopsis: The young ponies Silvershod, Firesong, and Golden Glitz have met up with their parents and are continuing on with their quest.
For days and days the little troop trudged on across the barren, windy plains. Mountain Soul pushed on, desperate to save the Crystal Princess. Behind him, his wife Spindrift, daughter Golden Glitz, brother-in-law Springstrength, niece Firesong, and the orphan boy Silvershod plodded along. It had been nearly two weeks since the young ponies had joined their parents. Night would fall, morning would come, and still they pushed on through the bitter winds and snow.
One night, Mountain Soul stayed awake keeping the watch. Springstrength and his daughter Firesong huddled together against the wind. Silvershod slept by himself near the dying fire, and Golden Glitz lay by her father’s hooves. Spindrift sat by the fire opposite Mountain Soul.
“Spindrift,” whispered Mountain Soul gently, “take some sleep. You’ll have need of it for tomorrow’s march.” His wife did not look up. She shivered in the wind, and poked at the fire with a stick.
“I can’t sleep, Mountain Soul,” she replied. “Look at our daughter. There are times– times when she looks like she did after the wolf bit her. I don’t think she’s well.”
“Golden Glitz is fine, Spindrift. You needn’t worry for her. She’s strong and well-protected. Yes, it would be better if she hadn’t come, but I think all should go well.”
“You’ve changed, Mountain,” said Spindrift, ice-like tears forming in the corners of her eyes. “How grim and sullen you’ve grown!”
“I was never lively to begin with,” replied the stallion, glancing down at the snow.
“But you were never like this. I haven’t seen you smile at anything for the last four weeks.”
Mountain Soul looked grimly back at her. “There is nothing to laugh at.”
“You’ve become obsessed, Mountain. You think of nothing but this great quest of yours. You hardly eat or sleep anymore, and you seldom speak to anyone. Just yesterday, Golden Glitz said she loved you. You acted as though you didn’t hear!”
“She did?” Mountain Soul started slightly.
“Have you heard anything that’s been said, at all?”
“I’m sorry, I have had so much to think about as of late…”
“That you haven’t thought of me, or of your daughter? I understand the necessity of success, Mountain Soul. I understand how important it is. But now, it seems I can’t remember the last time you told either me or Golden Glitz that you loved us.”
Mountain Soul did not answer. He stared at the fire now, and dark thoughts and worries seized his mind. Worries about the quest, about the land. He had heard Spindrift; but it seemed petty, even silly, that he should consider such a thing when so much was at stake.
“Did you hear me at all? Oh, Mountain Soul,” she said softly. “Please, tell me that you love me.”
Mountain Soul was again silent, and he did not hear Spindrift’s quiet weeping as she fell into sleep.
* * *
The days continued to pass. Miles and miles of plains were behind them.
“Father,” said Firesong, “listen!” Everybody paused and was silent.
Springstrength listened hard, but shook his head.
“Water!” cried Spindrift. The company of ponies ran over the ashen plain.
“Stop!” yelled Silvershod. He reached out and grabbed Golden Glitz’s mane.
The ponies stared on in absolute astonishment. Everything was so white, reflecting the pale sky so intensely, that only Silvershod had seen the immense ravine in front of them. There were seven waterfalls gushing into the valley. The rivers below were frozen over, except where the rushing water poured into them. Faint rainbows shimmered in the mist. “Oh, my,” was all that Springstrength could say. Golden Glitz turned and looked into Silvershod’s face.
“Thank you,” she said. “You can let go now.”
“Oh, sorry,” chuckled Silvershod. Golden Glitz blushed red.
“We have to get down there,” said Mountain Soul. He began to search around the edge of the ravine.
“What about there?” said Silvershod. He walked over to Mountain Soul and pointed to a part of the cliff that had many ledges and bluffs. “We have rope, right?”
“Yes,” said Mountain Soul. He smiled for the first time in weeks. “That will work.”
Spindrift smiled, looking with teary eyes at her husband. “How silly I am,” she muttered, taking a deep breath. “He’s still the same Mountain Soul.”
The group began to prepare themselves for the trip down. They tied the rope around a rock and began scaling down the wall. Mountain Soul remained at the top, making sure the rope didn’t snap. After the others had reached the first promontory, he began to climb down the rope himself. When he reached the others, Springstrength not-so-gently pointed out that the rope was still attached to the cliff. Mountain Soul grimaced and looked up. That was the least of their worries. A piercing shriek wailed through the air, and a griffin swarmed at the little group of ponies.
“Look out!” cried Mountain Soul. He took out his bow and arrow, but the creature’s wing clipped the promontory and knocked it out of his hooves. Golden Glitz yelped. She’d lost her balance and went careening over the edge.
To be continued...
P.S. I’m beginning to wonder if this story is getting kind of lame– place your votes, that is, if you want to. You can email me at email@example.com or by forwarding things through Tabby or however we use that feedback thingy. If you email me directly, be sure to include “Regarding MLP Monthly Story” in the subject line, or it may get accidentally deleted. Vote:
a) Whoa, this story is pitiful.
b) Oh, my gosh! It’s like, SOOO awesome, like, dude! Keep writing it!
c) Take a grammar class, then we’ll consider accepting you back into the MLP Monthly loop.
d) I don’t have email, but I enjoy voting! ~.^
e) Well, um, I’m not sure if my vote agrees with these, so I’ll give you my opinion:
Thanks! Hope you’re enjoying the story; sorry about the grammar, but my brain is rather frazzled as of late.
***Now, just go to http://mlpmonthly.tripod.com/Contact.htm for an easy way to tell the author that you enjoyed her story!***
The Best Day of Her Life!
by Melody (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Bright Eyes opened her eyes groggily. It was Saturday at last. She had insisted on going to school for the rest of the week and was glad it was the weekend at last. In fact, she really hadn’t felt well at all. Today, though, she had had a good long sleep and was feeling much better until…
“Bright Eyes!” called Classy. Bright Eyes buried her head in her pillow. “Your friends are here,” he continued.
At this, Bright Eyes sat bolt upright, leapt out of bed, brushed her mane, and raced down the stairs, panting. “Hey, Bright Eyes! Today we’re going to the movies, the fun fair, the Ice Cream Shoppe for lunch, and we’ll have a play in the snow! Want to come?” said Patch. Melody crossed her hooves behind her back.
Bright Eyes thought that if she went with all six of her friends, she would have the most brilliant time ever! But there was weekend homework to do, plus she had to take care of Amber and design a poster about deforestation. Much as she wanted to go with her friends, Bright Eyes shook her head.
“Too bad, because you’re coming with us!” cried Clover, pulling Bright Eyes out the door, leaving her just enough time to put on her coat and grab some jangles.
Classy grinned at the startled expression on his daughter’s face. “Homework can wait ‘till tomorrow. I’ll take care of Amber,” he called down the street. He knew Bright Eyes could do with a long day off.
The girls skipped down the street together to the movie theatre. Bright Eyes struggled but knew she was fighting a losing battle, so she settled down. After a few minutes, they reached the theatre. Bright Eyes couldn’t keep quiet. “Oh wow! We have to see Rainbow Wishes Two!” she cried. The little ponies paid for their tickets and filed into the movie theatre. The gang shared popcorn and settled into their seats.
After the movie, the group set off to go to the fun fair. By now, Bright Eyes had gotten into the spirit of things. “That movie was the BEST! My favourite part was when Rainbow and Clasp were sharing a tropical punch at sunset on the desert island,” she told the others excitedly.
They walked under the arch and into the fun fair. “Hey guys. Check this out!” called Patch, zooming off to a huge spinning ride. Only Patch and Bright Eyes were game enough to go on. The bright lights began flashing and the ride began. It spun quickly and Bright Eyes gripped the handle until her hooves were wet. But she found she enjoyed the ride and let the wind rush past her face and play with her mane.
After that ride, it was time for something a little less thrilling. “How about the merry-go-round?” suggested Sweetheart. The others had to agree, so they hopped onto the pastel coloured animals on twirly gold poles and the merry music started. The animals bobbed up and down and Bright Eyes hummed to the tune, enjoying the rhythm of the ride.
When the music stopped, the girls ran over to play a game. Bright Eyes popped five balls into a clown’s mouth and won a big soft white unicorn toy. Clover clapped. “Hooray for Bright Eyes!” she laughed. Bright Eyes beamed and led the others to the Ferris Wheel. But the numbers were uneven and Bright Eyes was by herself until the last pony got on beside her– Lancer!
Both ponies secretly could not believe their luck. Lancer blushed. Nervously, Bright Eyes said, “Hi.” The Ferris Wheel took them up and up and up! Lancer and Bright Eyes gasped at the magnificent view of Ponyland they had.
Lancer took this opportunity. “Bright Eyes? I have something to tell you,” he said quietly. Bright Eyes was startled. “I really like you, but do you like me?” he stammered.
Bright Eyes was instantly relieved. “Of course! It’s weird because that’s what I’ve been wanting to ask you,” she said, smiling shyly. Lancer returned the smile. They chatted as the ride went on. Bright Eyes met her friends at the bottom. “Hey guys. Do you mind if Lancer and I go on one last ride before lunch?” she asked.
Melody grinned and gave Bright Eyes and Lancer a little push. “Go on. Have some fun!” she laughed. They did. The couple boarded a swan boat and sat down together as the swan swam down the quiet lake. All around them, palm trees towered over them and pink lights flashed brightly. Love hearts were painted over the walls and a soft, slow song played in the background. The swan emerged from the Tunnel of Love, and Bright Eyes and Lancer waved goodbye.
In a dream, Bright Eyes ran back to her friends, who were waiting for her. “Having fun?” asked Bon Bon.
Bright Eyes nodded. “Fun? You bet! In fact, it’s just like I’m in the Rainbow Wishes Two.”
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The Bigfoot Hunter
Rockdogs: Part 1
by Tabby (TabbyMLP@aol.com)
“Shoot me! Shoot me!” the bright yellow mare giggled wildly as she struck various poses in front of the video camera her friend, Asta, was holding. A mountain peak soared in the background of the dry plateau the would-be model pranced around on.
“I’m shooting! Calm down!” the peach-colored unicorn retorted from behind the viewfinder.
“Mitzi! Asta! I thought I told you to get that footage ready to mail to the studio!” a reprimanding voice came from a nearby parked vehicle. It was the voice of Haiku, who for all practical purposes was the manager of their little entourage. She sat in the front seat, scribbling out more reminders for the coming days.
“Yeah,” Asta said, lowering the camera, “enough fooling around, Mitzi.”
“Ooooh!” Mitzi was undoubtably about to voice a protest when another figure came on the scene. “Hey, Psyche! Hi!”
The sky-blue pegasus raised a suspicious eyebrow as she surveyed the scene. “What are you guys doing with my camera?” As the technical-minded of the crew, Psyche was the only one able to release the full potential of the video camera and didn’t fully trust anyone else handling it.
Asta lowered her gaze and relinquished the camera to Psyche. “Mitzi talked me into it.”
“I was modeling,” Mitzi embellished on Asta’s explanation. “Hey, let’s play back the tape!” Enthusiastically, she jammed her hoof down across the row of buttons. Psyche only rolled her eyes at her friend’s impulsiveness while the camera proceeded to make strange whirring noises.
“Oh my gosh, I think I just pressed the tape destruction button!” Mitzi gasped, wide-eyed.
“Mitzi, there is no tape destruction button,” Asta said rationally.
“Well, then how do you explain it going crazy like this?” Mitzi pointed out with a superior air.
“You pressed rewind and fast forward simultaneously and it ate the tape,” Psyche explained, extracting the cassette and mangled film.
“Ohhh! Cool!” Mitzi marveled at the fete she had accomplished.
Meanwhile Haiku was muttering something along the lines of having to do everything herself after she had thrown down her notepad and was putting together the package herself. Psyche appeased Mitzi by restoring the tape as best she could and allowing her to watch the somewhat-damaged modeling video on the tiny built-in screen.
“Hey, girls, I thought we were here to be filming me!” A stallion appeared over the rise, grinning good-naturedly.
“Cazador!” came the shriek of four simultaneous voices as the girls all dropped their respective tasks and ran to greet their hero.
Cazador took all their adoration in stride. He threw his forelegs around them all and laughed out loud at what a great life he had.
Cazador had, for some time, been a bigfoot hunter wannabe. He had finally run one to ground in the Dark Forest last year; the dedicated hunter wasn’t able to capture the specimen as he had hoped, but he did get a lot of great footage of Tiny the Bigfoot. After some difficulties the two had arranged a truce; Cazador gave up his pursuit of Tiny, but the footage did give him instant fame in the entertainment community. Now he was the Bigfoot Hunter, with his own TV show and adoring fans, not to mention his four intensely loyal groupies who followed him everywhere and took care of all his needs! Yes, life was good.
“Well, anyway,” he said briskly, taking charge of the situation. “I’ve located the pack of rockdogs. They’ve congregated just a little ways down that ravine over there. Shall we go?”
“Yay!” the girls cheered, gathering up their supplies. “Everybody in the car!” Haiku said authoritatively, jumping into the driver’s seat. Soon they were off.
“We’ll stop here and walk the rest of the way,” Cazador decided and Haiku screeched to a halt. “I’m not sure how easily they startle.”
“What are rockdogs, anyway?” Mitzi wanted to know. “I’ve never seen one before.”
“Oh, Mitzi, don’t you remember anything?” Psyche chided. “Cazador briefed us on them before. They’re– ”
“Well, Mitzi,” Cazador broke-in, never giving up an opportunity to show off his superior knowledge, “rockdogs are from the canine family with bodies covered in a thick layer of a concreted mass of stony material. They resemble a bulldog but are much larger, nearly three times the size of a pony! In addition– ”
“Look! There they are!” Asta exclaimed, pointing ahead. A pack of about ten rockdogs were lounging around in the afternoon sun. Some were lolling on their backs, others napping in more dignified positions. None of them appeared to suspect the presence of intruders in their midst.
“All right!” Cazador ran ahead. “Start rolling film, Psyche!”
“Ready!” Psyche shouted back.
Cazador assumed a confident pose in front of the pack and started speaking to the camera. “We’re here in the barren wasteland at the base of the Purple Mountains. This area is riddled with legends; but with creatures as fantastic as the rockdogs in residence, who can wonder at this! Rockdogs used to be quite common; but in recent times they’ve been pushed back, and this is one of their few remaining outposts.” He advanced closer to one of the rockdogs and started patting it on the head. “Legend holds that the rockdogs were created by some mountain spirit dude long ago. The ancestor of all of today’s rockdogs is held in myth to be a certain Crunch the rockdog, the first one created by this mountain guy. Of course this is all just fanciful thinking, but it makes a good story, anyway!”
The rockdog he had his hoof on opened an eye and began growling deeply as he realized there was an intruder. “You can tell this one here is the leader of the pack,” Cazador went on, blissfully unaware of any danger, “due to his larger size. As leader, the others defer to his judgement, and also allow him larger portions of the kills they make. Just look at his strong, thick hide! But remember, folks, if you anger them, these guys can turn you into stone! So you really don’t want to go after any rock dogs unless you know what you’re doing!”
The leader of the pack proceeded to stand up and barked a warning behind him to the others. They were instantly at the alert and began advancing on Cazador.
“Great, Cazador! Just keep going!” Psyche cheered him on.
“Ah... right. So anyway, the hides of the rockdogs are composed of thick deposits of igneous rock. Since stone isn’t much of a fashion statement yet, they’re not in any danger of being hunted for their skins... heh... heh...”
Cazador started to look visibly nervous as the dogs came closer. At a menacingly growl from the leader, the nearest rockdog snarled and made a move to leap upon the Bigfoot Hunter. This was too much for even Cazador. He ran away, screaming. “Ahhhhhh!!! Somebody save me!!!” The rockdogs obligingly gave chase.
“Cazador! Your sword!” Asta shouted as he made no move to defend himself.
“Oh... right!” Cazador suddenly turned around to face the rampant rockdogs and pulled out, as if from nowhere, a really cool sword! At seeing the steel drawn in their faces, the rockdogs looked at each other as if determining if it was worth risking themselves on a guy with a sword.
“Hah-hah! You’re chicken, aren’t you!” Cazador gloated, seeing their indecision. The girls took the momentary opening to move in closer to ensure they had clear footage. But before either side could make another move, suddenly the ground beneath them started shaking and a deep, rumbly voice came from, it seemed, inside the mountain.
“Who disturbs my rockdogs?!” the voice demanded in an angered tone. All the ponies looked around in alarm. Who was it?
“Hmm... interesting,” Cazador said, nonplused. “What do you suppose it is, girls?”
They all shook their heads, except for Mitzi, who shrieked, “It’s the mountain spirit dude!”
“There must be some explanation for all this,” Asta said tentatively. “The voice... the ground shaking... let’s check it out!”
“First we should take care of the rockdogs,” Haiku pointed out. “They’re still aggressing Cazador.”
“Ah... ah... eek!” Mitzi shrieked as, taking a step backwards into what looked to be a cave opening, she hovered in midair for a moment and then disappeared.
“Mitzi!” Haiku peered over the edge of the lowered hollow Mitzi had fallen into. “Are you okay?”
“”Yeah... but my hair’s all dusty!” Mitzi shouted back up in dismay.
“You’re only a few yards down, Mitzi! You don’t have to shout so loud!” Haiku shouted back. “Here, take my hoof.”
“But there’s rockdogs out there!”
“Don’t worry, girls! I’ll get us out of here!” Cazador, who was separated from the girls by the pack of rockdogs, swung his sword around and the rockdogs obligingly stepped out of his way.
“You idiots!” Suddenly the same mysterious voice from before came back, accompanied by much ground shaking. “Didn’t I tell you to get out of here?”
“Who are you, anyway?” Asta demanded.
Letting out a frustrated growl of sorts, the voice caused an even heavier shaking of the ground. The ground beneath Mitzi suddenly gave way, and she and Haiku, who lost her balance on the ledge, went plummeting downwards into an even deeper hole. The remaining three stared in horror as their two teammates disappeared from view.
To be continued...
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A New Wind a Blowin’
by Sugarberry (Sugrbery@aol.com)
“So... it’s settled, then?” Wigwam stretched out his hoof to Dreamcatcher, and the pale orange unicorn hesitated only for a fraction of a second before meeting his clasp.
“I’ll do everything in my power to make sure that you don’t regret your decision,” she smiled.
“With you and Bittersweet running the show, I count on a huge return for my initial investment,” said Wigwam, his twinkling gaze coming to rest on the mocha mare at her sister’s side.
Bittersweet, the driving force behind today’s special meeting between Wigwam, Dreamcatcher, Fetish, and herself, felt a frisson of trepidation course through her body as the finality of the negotiations hit her. She was the one who had hounded Wigwam into embracing her scheme for a new establishment in Dream Valley to be built in the shadow of Wigwam’s Casino and to be occupied by Dreamcatcher’s business, Native Dreams. Her reasoning behind her plan was to allow the Native Pony crafts that made up Native Dreams’ inventory to have a more accommodating home than at the limited kiosk at the mall, thereby increasing sales and profits for Dreamcatcher and her family– and, by default, for herself.
Wigwam had studied her proposal and had found it to be a sound business venture for his already flourishing casino complex, especially with the new art center going in adjacent to his property. Patrons of the arts would appreciate the outlet for Native Pony expertise as well as enjoy the opportunity to try their luck at the various games at the casino. It was a win-win situation.
But, all of a sudden, Bittersweet had butterflies in her stomach.
“You’re quite sure you’re comfortable with this, Wigwam?” she asked anxiously, studying the stallion’s face for any sign of doubt.
Wigwam only laughed. “Getting cold hooves at this late date, Bittersweet? That’s one thing I never expected.”
“What if Native Dreams fails?”
Winking at Fetish before responding to the distraught mare, Wigwam responded in his most masterful voice. “It won’t fail, Bittersweet. I have complete confidence in both you and Dreamcatcher to make this venture a success. I wouldn’t have put my jangles on the line if I didn’t believe in it. Now smile!”
Looking to her sister for support, Bittersweet did smile, although tremulously. “We will succeed... won’t we, sis?”
“I have every intention of doing so. And that means that both of us have to get started right now in lining up merchandise to fill those shelves that we’ll be renting from Wigwam. Fetish and I will be meeting with Red Fox this afternoon while you relieve Dyani at the mall.”
Fetish swung Tamarack up into his forelegs from where the foal played; then, leading the group out of the teepee that graced a natural clearing near the edge of the Dark Forest, he extended an invitation to Wigwam. “We’ll be celebrating Tamarack’s first birthday on Sunday; you’re welcome to join us.”
“Yes, Wigwam; please do.” Dreamcatcher’s invitation joined her husband’s. “If the weather is nice, it’ll be outdoors here; if not, we’ll hold it in the cabin.” She nodded her head toward the rustic log cabin that had been raised last fall to accommodate the family and provide amenities throughout the harsh winter. The family, however, still spent a majority of its time outdoors, especially now that the weather was once again favorable.
“How about it, Tamarack?” asked Wigwam of the little colt; in answer, the foal leaned toward the stallion, his forelegs outstretched. Wigwam laughed as he swung the foal out of his father’s care and high into the air. Tamarack squealed in delight. “And what would a little fledgling like you want for a gift?”
“There’s one of Manitou and Halona’s pups he’s partial to,” Fetish suggested.
“That’s out of my hooves,” said Wigwam, meeting Dreamcatcher’s gaze. Dreamcatcher and Wigwam had crossed swords over the wolves in the past, and Wigwam had no desire to rattle their newfound partnership. “Manitou and Halona will have to decide what they think is best.”
An intelligent and handsome wolf, Manitou had first come to Wigwam as a pup at the conclusion of Wigwam’s dream quest, aligning himself to the stallion as a constant shadow, only to find himself drawn away from his pony companion when a she-wolf, Halona, had appeared in the Dark Forest, wounded and alone and in need of a mate. The Dark Forest now had a veritable pack of wolves that lived free and wild, yet in harmony with the little ponies. It was from this year’s litter that Tamarack had found his boon companion.
“The cub is proving to be a great pal for Tamarack,” explained Dreamcatcher, “as my son is often without the company of other pony playmates.”
“He needs a sibling,” suggested Wigwam.
“We’re working on that,” grinned Fetish.
* * *
Eight days after Tamarack’s natal day, the friends came together once again to celebrate another birthday, this time in Sugarberry’s back yard in honor of Vanguard. A bounty of spring flowers framed the lawn in vibrant color, making a perfect backdrop for the festivities. A tent also lent its brilliantly tinted canopy to the open area of the lawn in case the threatening showers fell. The party was well-attended with local ponies as well as Sugarberry’s and Vanguard’s parents, those couples having stayed over from their Mother’s Day visit to Dream Valley.
“The tent will stay up for the week,” explained Sugarberry, “as Chocolate Chip’s graduation party will be held here, too.” She looked fondly at the chocolate brown mare who had shared her home while attending Pony Pride University and now was ready to take her place in a demanding position at New Pony.
Wigwam, one of the first to arrive as he knew that Chocolate Chip would not skip out of the party for Vanguard and Sugarberry’s sake, beamed at the young mare. “And a well-deserved party that will be, too; you’ve worked hard to earn that diploma, Chocolate Chip, while Vanguard did nothing special to merit this party. If anyone should be acclaimed today, it should be Floral Breeze; she’s the one who suffered the birth pains.”
“I’d be the first to turn the party over to Mom,” Vanguard agreed, looking around the back yard, “if I knew where she was.”
“She took Banderol in the house for a nap; Dreamcatcher’s settling Tamarack down, too.” Sugarberry looked at Vanguard. “But as far as this party goes, it’s my way of showing the world how special you are to me, my darling husband.”
“And you’re going to enjoy it whether you like it or not!” Wigwam chortled, earning himself a dark expression from Sugarberry but a grin from Chocolate Chip. He turned to his companion and invited her to accompany him to where the foals were playing games on the grass. “If we gang up on the smaller ones, we’re sure to win a prize.”
Chocolate Chip rolled her eyes and grimaced, but set off with the stallion in the direction from which the happy shouts of the children were coming.
“The party’s worth it just to see the two of them together,” Sugarberry whispered to her husband, her gaze following their progress across the yard and noting that Wigwam had succeeded in making Chocolate Chip laugh, a sound that was not heard with any frequency as of late.
“I haven’t seen Wigwam this happy in ages,” Vanguard agreed. “And I am enjoying the party, my love; I appreciate all the effort you put into it.” He brushed her cheek lightly with a kiss.
“Van, Van, Van,” admonished Wishbone, shaking his head and his hoof as he and Garnet came to join them. “You’re not being a very good role model for some of the impressionable youngsters around here.” To prove his point, he turned to Garnet and kissed her.
“It’s my birthday; I have rights,” Vanguard countered. “You, on the other hoof, have none.”
“That’s what I keep telling him, too,” laughed Garnet.
“The closer it gets to our wedding, the feistier she gets,” Wishbone mockingly confided. “Will I be hen-pecked or what?” The adoring look he gave his bride-to-be denied any fear on his part.
“How many days is it now?” queried Sugarberry.
“Not nearly enough,” sighed Garnet. “There’s still so much to do.”
“Way too many,” contradicted Wishbone. “It can’t get here quickly enough for me.”
Tabby and Thomas joined the group, overhearing the last of the conversation.
“What are you going to do when both Chocolate Chip and Wishbone are out of your house?” Tabby questioned. “You’ll have, like, two spare rooms.”
“I’m going to miss them both terribly.” Sugarberry was already misty-eyed thinking of it.
“Don’t feel bad, Sugarberry,” Wishbone consoled. “Garnet and I’ll still come often to eat... like Tabby and Thomas.” He chortled.
“I’ll have you know that my wife is becoming quite an able cook ,” Thomas countered, “due to her interest in the Iron Chef shows.”
“Yes,” agreed Tabby. “I’ve learned that I’m, like, totally unqualified to use salt. And I cook meat way too long.” She giggled. “No, it’s only Clever Clover that pays attention to that stuff. But Chairman Kaga’s outfits are sooooo cool, aren’t they?”
“Overkill, I’d say,” Vanguard stated.
Tabby could only stare openmouthed in horror and shock at this blasphemous comment.
“Chocolate Chip will be too far away to come back for meals,” complained Sugarberry.
“Just as long as she comes back for our wedding,” Garnet stated. “She is the maid-of-honor, after all.”
* * *
Chocolate Chip observed the pitcher, Nugget, as the colt waited for his little sister, Cara, to receive some advice from Wigwam on how to hold the bat. A smile curled her lips as Cara swung the bat and hit Wigwam in the leg, causing the stallion to drop to the ground as if he had been mortally wounded, only to grab Cara in a bear hug when she leaned over him, near tears at having hurt him. He tickled her until the little filly was laughing too hard to hold the bat, then wrapped his forelegs around her to guide her; Nugget threw the ball, Cara and Wigwam swung, and the ball dropped lifelessly to the ground.
“We’ll hit the next one,” Wigwam promised Cara. “We’ve got the feel for it now.”
Watching as the duo successfully hit a ground ball past Nugget and ran to first base, Wigwam carrying Cara, Chocolate Chip sighed. He was so good with foals, he should have a house full of them, she thought. As she had turned down his offer of marriage, she found herself wondering who would come along to capture his heart in the future. And, as always when her thoughts followed this path, she felt strangely numb inside at the idea that some other mare would someday claim his heart. I will always love him, her own heart cried out. But it was only a matter of days now before she would pack her bags and leave the town that had become her home... leave the town and all the ponies who had made up her world for the past four years.
As exciting as it was to think ahead to her new responsibilities waiting for her in New Pony, Chocolate Chip knew that the leave-taking was going to prove very difficult. So many things that she would be doing this week were for the last time, and it wrenched her heart to contemplate life without all the familiar haunts and friends and activities in Dream Valley; the only consolation was that she would soon be settling into her new surroundings and meeting new ponies, setting the stage for another series of wonderful memories.
Chocolate Chip’s attention was suddenly caught by the approach of Bittersweet, the mocha unicorn who seemed to be forever dominating Wigwam’s time– not that it mattered, Chocolate Chip assured herself– but Bittersweet was forward to the point of annoyance. Even now, her eyes were following Wigwam’s movements like a hawk. Did Bittersweet suspect that Wigwam was waiting for Chocolate Chip to leave town before he would commit himself to her? If Chocolate Chip had been a cat, her claws would have come out now.
Completely unaware of the path Chocolate Chip’s thoughts were taking, Bittersweet turned her gaze from Wigwam to the mare and smiled.
“I just heard Sugarberry mention that you’ll be graduating next Saturday; I hadn’t realized how fast the time was flying. You’ll be out of here in no time.”
“One day at a time, Bittersweet; I’ve got six days yet.”
“They’ll be gone before you know it! I just graduated in December, and the last several weeks on campus are nothing but a blur to me.” Her attention was averted as the shouting of the foals brought attention to Wigwam and Cara’s successful return to home base. “Excuse me, but I have something I must ask of Wigwam. We’ll talk later.”
“Not if I can help it,” Chocolate Chip muttered under her breath as she waved her hoof at the departing unicorn, then turned away as Bittersweet drew Wigwam from the foals. She could not abide to watch the proprietorial way in which Bittersweet claimed the stallion’s attention... or the accommodating manner in which Wigwam allowed it.
It’s all for the best. Chocolate Chip sighed. He won’t even notice when I’m gone. And that’s what I want... isn’t it?
* * *
“Where is your brother?” Bittersweet hissed at Wigwam when she had maneuvered him away from the crowd. “He was supposed to be here!”
“Hmm... I know he planned on coming; but, now that you mention it, I haven’t seen him.”
“I haven’t had a chance to tell him about the plans for Native Dreams. Or have you told him?”
“I don’t see much of Teepee these days,” Wigwam admitted. “He seems to have turned into a hermit since the weekend promo out at the site.”
“You’re telling me!” Bittersweet rolled her eyes. “He’s been sleeping-over there since Fetish and friends put up that teepee.”
“And how would you know that?” queried an interested Wigwam.
“I don’t know for sure, but I do know that he hasn’t been taking any calls at home, and Dreamcatcher said he bought some mats and blankets from her to put down in the teepee, plus cooking pots and other stuff.”
“Well, when I see him, I’ll tell him you’re looking for him.”
“Don’t bother!” Bittersweet tossed her mane. “He’s probably forgotten I exist!” She turned and stalked off in the direction of the tent.
Wigwam shook his head, but wasted no time in worrying about the mare, not Bittersweet anyway. He looked to where Chocolate Chip had last been standing and found that she was nowhere in sight. For a sickening moment, he thought she might have left the party; but a hurried scan of the area found her talking with Clever Clover, Friendly, and Spike. Wigwam promptly gained her side, although he kept a wary eye on Minoko who was with Clever Clover; he always got the impression from that mare that she was up to no good.
Chocolate Chip, too, seemed nervous in the company of the black and red pony whose volatile temper often set off conflagrations– both vocal and physical– and gladly allowed him to escort her to the refreshment table for a glass of lemonade before finding a place to sit and talk.
The warm look in the stallion’s eyes ruffled Chocolate Chip’s composure; she had hoped they could get through this afternoon without touching on their personal commitment to one another– or lack of commitment, as the case was since Chocolate Chip’s refusal of his marriage proposal last Christmas; but Wigwam could not let the opportunity pass without at least reminding the mare of his feelings.
“Remember, Chocolate Chip, that my offer still stands; at any time you’re ready to take me as your husband, just say the word. The engagement ring is yours for the taking... I’d rather it was on your foreleg when you left for New Pony.” The hopeful look on the stallion’s face caused Chocolate Chip a moment of doubt in her well-laid plans, but she forced her emotions under control.
“Wigwam, you know my reasons for not accepting your proposal. Nothing has changed. In one week, I’ll be on my way to start a new life of my own choosing. Please understand that it’s very important for me to do this on my own.”
“And that’s exactly why I’m having a hard time accepting your decision; I don’t want to see you go off by yourself this way. New Pony isn’t like Dream Valley. You don’t know what you’ll be facing, and who’ll you turn to if something goes wrong?”
Chocolate Chip gave the stallion a condescending smile. “You forget that I do have some friends; I already consider Fabia and Tarn at my new place of employment as such. And don’t forget that Prime is still in New Pony; and Sugarberry’s Aunt Blueberry Baskets is aware of my pending arrival... as are Fern’s folks. It’s not like I’ll be abandoned, and I’m not completely without discernment.”
“I don’t mean to imply that you won’t be able to handle things. It’s just that I can’t help but worry about you.”
“Now you sound like Sugarberry,” laughed Chocolate Chip, reaching out to touch Wigwam’s face as if to wipe his frown away.
Wigwam captured her hoof in his and kissed it. “I’ve never fully understood her penchant for fretting until this moment,” he whispered. “It’s in direct correlation to how much she loves.”
“Oh, Wigwam, please don’t make this any harder than it already is.” She pulled her hoof from his grasp and rubbed a telltale teardrop from her cheek.
“It can’t get any harder,” Wigwam retaliated gruffly, then immediately regretted his words as Chocolate Chip quickly stood up to leave him. His next words restrained her precipitate flight, however. “I’m sorry, Chocolate Chip. I promise not to say another word on the subject.”
“Not ever?” she smiled, though her eyes were moist with unshed tears.
“Not unless you broach it,” he assured her, returning her smile with a weak one of his own. He had the impression that he was burning some very essential bridges behind him.
“Okay, then. Let’s try our hooves at the volleyball net. I see Wishbone and Garnet are already there.”
The stallion had no choice but to follow.
* * *
Wednesday evening found Sugarberry and Vanguard at the Royal Paradise in the company of Princess Tiffany and a number of other ponies who were parents, prospective parents, or interested parties in the birth of Tiffany’s brainchild: the production of a monthly newsletter for new parents to aid them in caring for their offspring.
As the founder and main force behind this enterprise, Princess Tiffany had garnered the expertise of the Dream Valley Hospital– and financial input and technical advice from the Fairfax/Monk Publishing House– to assemble the latest facts on foal development, care and feeding, appropriate playthings, medical facts, and any other information that new parents might have need of to provide their children with the best care they could give. With the first issue now off the presses, Princess Tiffany wanted the advice of actual parents who could give her feedback on the benefit– or downfalls– of her pet project.
“I like the way the newsletters will come at the appropriate age for each new foal born at the hospital,” Snuzzle offered when Tiffany asked for comments. “The parents will have easy access to just the information of which they are in current need.”
“And everything is written so concisely,” added Lemon Treats. “I don’t have to waste time scouring any number of magazines to get the facts I need.”
“I would suggest stressing the fact, however, that not all foals will develop at quite the same rate, so some leeway should be given to allow for individual timetables,” Toby offered.
“I appreciate the information on discipline,” grimaced May Apple as her little colt scuttled across the floor to pull Tamarack’s soft green mane.
“Any information on a foal’s behavior is beneficial to a new parent,” admitted Vanguard.
“How not to spoil them is what I’d liked to know,” confessed the tender-hearted Poeticus.
“And, like... well, I don’t take anyone’s advice to begin with,” Tabby, who was at this meeting mainly to see if “the new Tiffany” was for real, interjected. “But will two-year-olds and stuff be covered?” Faline was fast approaching the advanced age of two.
Bluebonnet, the mother of six, agreed that the toddler years brought many new challenges, and commended Princess Tiffany on the insight that had gone into the project so far.
Gratified with the input on the newsletter’s first appearance, Princess Tiffany was exhilarated and primed to implement the suggestions which would further enhance the project. After discussing a forthcoming rummage sale to earn monies for the disbursement of newborn gift baskets, Tiffany directed her guests to the refreshments that the Bushwoolies had generously prepared.
“Bluebonnet,” Tiffany restrained the motherly mare, “Sugarberry suggested that you would be a good choice to write an article for each of the newsletters on the practical experiences of raising foals, as you have a surfeit of experience in that area.”
The blue mare’s expression took on a hunted look. “Me? Write an article?”
“Yes; nothing professional, mind you. What I’m looking for is some practical, down-to-earth advice or amusing incidents that would correspond to each monthly newsletter, something that would set the new parents at ease and give them something to relate to.”
“But... but I’ve never written for an audience before.”
“Well, give it some thought, Bluebonnet,” smiled Tiffany. Then, coming up with a brainstorm, she added, “Talk to Sugarberry; maybe she’d be willing to aid you in the writing... at least until you become more comfortable with the task.” The princess patted Bluebonnet’s foreleg and left her to contemplate the proposed plan.
“You look stranded,” teased Firethorn, coming to his wife’s rescue.
“The princess asked me to write for the newsletter.”
“She couldn’t have asked a more knowledgeable pony,” Firethorn grinned.
“But the most I’ve written in years are letters to relatives,” complained Bluebonnet. “Who’d be interested in my thoughts and experiences?”
“As to the first part of your objection,” Firethorn pointed out, “you give helpful advice to the children on their school reports all the time. And there can be no doubt that your insight into motherhood would be interesting and educational... I’ve seen that journal you keep of every little thing that any of the foals every do.”
“That’s for me... not for the world-at-large.”
“Well, maybe now’s the time to go public,” Firethorn teased.
Bluebonnet grew thoughtful. Maybe Firethorn was right. Maybe she could do it.
* * *
“Vanguard,” Sugarberry quizzed her husband as they walked home after Princess Tiffany’s meeting, “what are the chances of Chocolate Chip coming to the realization that her place is right here in Dream Valley before she takes off for New Pony next Monday?”
Shifting the sleeping Banderol in his forelegs, Vanguard frowned. “You’re not still harboring hopes that she’ll marry Wigwam without trying her wings first, are you?”
“Of course I am!” Sugarberry retorted more adamantly than was normal for her. “I think she’s making a horrible mistake.”
“If it is a mistake, she’ll have to learn that for herself,” Vanguard pointed out.
“But she’s going to hurt both of them.”
“I hurt you when I left for Vulcanopolis, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it was the wrong choice.”
“No,” Sugarberry grudgingly admitted. “But...”
“Chocolate Chip has to face some hurdles on her own, Sugarberry. Just because she’s leaving Dream Valley now doesn’t mean that she can’t return some day; but it has to be her choice.”
“My mind understands that, but my heart clings to the hope that she won’t leave for New Pony on Monday,” the mare sighed.
“She won’t change her mind at this late date. She’s committed to start work next week. She’ll be gone on Monday.”
In a manner of speaking, both ponies were correct.
* * *
Vanguard and Sugarberry had no sooner walked in the door of their house when they realized that something was not quite right. An inordinate amount of lights were on for the lateness of the hour, and a babble of voices and the click of hooves from upstairs bore witness to the fact that some agitation had crept into the normally serene household. Sugarberry looked at her husband in alarm and snuggled Banderol to her as if she could prevent whatever the upset was from the foal at least.
Before they reached the foot of the stairs, the hoofsteps and voices rounded the corner and began their descent. In the lead came Chocolate Chip, her face flushed, her eyes bright. Behind her came Garnet, excited yet dismayed at the same time. At the rear was Wishbone, his face set in a mulish fashion.
“Sugarberry! Vanguard! You’ll never guess! Fabia called from Worth Hydroshed Firkins and asked if I could revamp my plans; she wants me to report to work on Friday, so I’ll have to leave on Thursday after my last exam,” the chocolate brown mare explained.
Taking several seconds to assess the information, Sugarberry stood frozen, then, concentrating on the one fact she had some control over, wailed, “What about your party on the weekend?”
“I’ve thought of that, Sugarberry, but I can’t let my new employer down. It seems that one of the ponies quit unexpectedly, and Fabia is in desperate need of my help. She offered me a bonus if I could make it in time to help her finish up a project that needs to be completed.”
“You’ll miss your graduation ceremony,” Vanguard argued. “Is this bonus worth it?”
“I’ll admit that I was dismayed at first; but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. This way, I won’t have to face all the emotional goodbyes.” Her eyes avoided Sugarberry’s at all cost.
“She does have a point, Sugarberry,” Garnet defended her friend. “She’ll graduate regardless of whether or not she accepts the diploma on Saturday.”
“But Mom and Dad won’t even have a chance to see her before she leaves for New Pony,” Wishbone disputed.
“As if that matters,” spat Chocolate Chip. “When have they ever cared in the past?”
“That’s not fair,” Wishbone rebuked his sister. “They’ve come a long way in the last few years at settling things with you.”
“Well, maybe it was too little, too late,” Chocolate Chip returned. “And besides, Mom will be impressed that Worth Hydroshed Firkins needs me so badly; she’ll have something to brag about to all her friends.”
“How will you find the time to tie up all the loose ends... your job at the bookstore, for one thing?”
“Friendly will understand if I can’t make it the last few days I was scheduled. And I’m already nearly packed. Garnet will take care of some of the stuff that I won’t be able to handle and the rest of it will just have to fall by the wayside.” The young mare grinned. “Sugarberry! I’ve made it! Worth Hydroshed Firkins needs me, and I’m not going to let them down!” She hugged the mare so vivaciously that Banderol woke up whimpering.
“Oh, Bandy!” Chocolate Chip took the startled colt from his mother’s forelegs. “Little sweetheart, don’t cry.” She kissed the foal’s puckered face and rubbed her nose against his. “Come on, precious. Be happy for your big sister.”
She quickly sat down in a nearby chair and buried her face against the now satisfied foal and hid the tears that had come unbidden to her eyes. It hit her hard in this moment that she was leaving the happiest haven she had ever known, the one place where she had been treated like a beloved daughter and not like a rejected misfit. All of a sudden, her resolve turned to jelly, and she could not restrain the tears.
Dropping to her side, Sugarberry put her forelegs around the mare’s shoulders. “Chocolate Chip, everything’s going to be okay.” She looked up at her husband to draw strength from him, then continued. “Your life is in New Pony now, and you’re going to be a great asset to Worth Hydroshed Firkins. They’d better appreciate you! And as to the party, we can call everyone and cancel it. Don’t worry about that. I’m sad to be losing those last days with you, but that’s selfish on my part. You’ve got to do what you deem is best.”
Chocolate Chip raised her head and sniffed. Garnet slipped her a handkerchief while retrieving Banderol. “I’ll put him to bed,” she whispered to Sugarberry and Vanguard, allowing them a chance to talk with Chocolate Chip unencumbered. Wishbone despondently followed the red mare.
Vanguard pulled up a chair and took one of Chocolate Chip’s hooves in his. “Are you sure this is the right decision, to run off without a chance to glory in your graduation with high honors?”
“Yes, I’m sure. But I didn’t know it was going to hurt so badly.”