An End and a Beginning
written by Barnacle

Barnacle let out a mournful sigh as only a pirate could as he sat on the wind-swept beach of Judgement Day Island and looked at the burnt-out hulk before him. Once it had been a proud and tall sailing ship which had traveled the seas with ease. Now it was nothing more than a collection of charred and mangled timbers lying on its side on this lonely beach like the carcass of some great beast, picked apart by scavengers and left to rot in the sun.

Back when it had been a ship, it had been Barnacle's The Lucas! -- the greatest pirate vessel anyone had ever laid eyes on. But now, it was just a shadow of its former self. It sat here day in and day out as a constant reminder that its fine crew was stranded on the deserted atoll of Judgement Day Island. Just when Barnacle was about to get really angry with the situation for the fifth time that day, he heard a pair of familiar footsteps in the sand behind him.

"Hey, mon," Davey, the Bushwoolie, called out with his ever-present good humor.

"Yeah, yeah, mon. You busy?" his brother, Jones, echoed with more of the same.

Barnacle cocked an eyebrow (not that anyone could have seen it with his eye patch covering it) and slowly turned to the two little Bushwoolies. With a good deal of contempt in his voice, more than enough to counteract both of the Bushwoolie's jovialness, he replied, " ARR, and what exactly do you imagine me ta be busy with? Ever since you two blew-up me ship, my hobbies have been a little limited."

"Um..." Jones nervously scratched the back of his head. After that night when The Lucas! had accidently been destroyed, Barnacle had understandably been a little upset. But after a few months, he managed to let it go. Now it seemed like a bit of that anger was seeping back to the surface.

Davey, however, quickly jumped in to save his brother. "Kracken be having something up on the hill that he be wantin' to show you, mon."

"Yeah, yeah, mon, up on the hill!" Jones added.

"ARR," Barnacle sighed. "Very well, let's be goin'."

The two Bushwoolies happily turned and hurried across the beach the way they had come. Barnacle rose to his feet and followed after them at a slower pace.

Back around the cliff which framed off the beach and up the steep tree-covered slope behind, Barnacle followed Jones and Davey up a path they had all walked quite a bit in the past months. As the hill began to flatten off at the summit, the trees thinned somewhat and then abruptly ended all together, opening into a clearing overlooking the beach below.

In the center of the clearing stood a huge chunk of jagged crystal which, even in the daylight, glowed with a faint unearthly glow.

On a large rock a short distance away sat Kracken, Barnacle's human first mate, so intently examining the crystal he didn't even notice Barnacle's entrance into the clearing until Jones shouted out, "Hey, Kracken, we got ya Barnacle!"

"Yeah, mon, Barnacle," Davey added.

"Thanks, guys," Kracken said to the Bushwoolies. To Barnacle's dismay, Kracken seemed to be in quite a good mood as well.

"ARR, so what do ya have ta be showin' me?" Barnacle asked.

Kracken, leaning back somewhat on the rock, said, "I've been thinking about those little Bushwoolies of the Apocalypse we buried in that cave down there." He pointed off to the beach.

"Aye, a fitting end for those evil little creatures," replied Barnacle. "ARR, so what of it?"

"Well, the way I figure it, we didn't really stop them. We only delayed them a while," Kracken explained.

"ARR, and why do ya say that?"

"They're supernatural beings. Just because we sealed them up in a cave doesn't mean anything. Eventually, they'll find a way out; and when they succeed, all they have to do is come up here, recharge their staffs at the crystal, and then unleash their masters, the four Ponies of the Apocalypse.

"ARR..." Barnacle said thoughtfully, "I never thought a' that. So what do ya propose we do?"

"Simple," Kracken said, standing up at this point. "We smash the crystal. That way, even if they do get out, they can't recharge their staffs."

"ARR, an excellent idea," Barnacle agreed. But he would have agreed even if he hadn't thought it was a good idea. After months on that island with no excitement, anything, even smashing a big rock, would be a welcome relief.

Drawing his massive sword, Kracken said, "Would you like the honor of the first swing?"

"ARR, I would indeed!" Barnacle said with a smile as he drew out his own sword and took a hack in the same motion. Much to his satisfaction, a large piece of the crystal cracked off and fell clear and lifeless to the ground.

"That's what I'm talkin' about!" Kracken shouted and lifted his sword overhead with both his hands for a powerful swing. Striking the crystal on its peak, the blow split it wide all the way down to its base.

But in the same instant, the pale blue light that was shining from within the crystal seemed to explode out in a blinding flash. The blue energies arched from the center out into Kracken's sword and then shot out to engulf everyone present!

"Whoops!" Kracken said meekly, and then in another flash, the four pirates vanished and Judgement Day Island was once again a deserted island.


The caverns were dank and cool. Except for the insistent sound of dripping water, the silence was absolute. Brilliant crystal formations, slowly deposited drip by drop over hundreds of thousands of years, covered every surface with their delicate beauty. Few beings had ever laid eyes on this wondrous sight, sealed away miles beneath the surface of the earth.

Well, until now, anyway...

With a sound like crashing thunder, a blue bolt of energy lashed out across the cave. It lasted but a split second, but in that moment, the light reflected off all the crystal surfaces in the chamber creating a veritable kaleidoscope of color. But, as the strange phenomenon vanished, as quickly as it appeared, four persons found themselves standing there in the cave.

"My," Kracken said, almost nonchalantly, "that was... interesting."

"ARR! Interestin' wouldn't exactly be the word I'd be usin'!" Barnacle, the fearsome pony pirate, exclaimed. "ARR, what just happened, and how did we end up here?"

Davey and Jones, the two Bushwoolie crew members, had fallen in a heap upon being deposited in the cave and were just now getting back to their feet. "Yeah, mon," Davey said as he helped his brother to a standing position. "This don't be lookin' like no Judgement Day Island."

"This don't be lookin' like any place we ever been," Jones added, his thick Jamaican accent full of wonder as he surveyed their surroundings.

"Hmm," Kracken muttered as he closely examined his sword which he was still holding. "The only thing I can think of is that when I hit that crystal with my sword, the resulting energy back-lash was channeled through my sword, and pulled us through a trans-dimensional vortex."

Davey scratched his head. "Yeah, that's what I woulda been sayin', mon."

"Yeah, yeah," Jones added, equally confused.

"ARR, and ye be sayin' that like it happens all the time," Barnacle said as he sheathed his own sword.

"Actually, only once before," Kracken clarified. "But it wasn't quite this bad."

"ARR!" Barnacle exclaimed. "Do ye be mad, man?!"

"No," Kracken said defensively, "it's kind of a... magic sword. It does weird stuff sometimes."

"Like gettin' us from stranded to completely lost?" Barnacle cried.

Kracken threw out his hands. "At least we're not on Judgement Day Island anymore... I think."

"ARR, but that don't necessarily make us any closer to Port Scurvy, Dream Valley, or even Friendship Gardens!"

"Yeah, but--" Kracken was about to reply when a new voice came from out of nowhere and cut him off.

"If I tell you how to get to Dream Valley, will you go away and let me have my silence back?" the voice said, rather tiredly, as if he were sick of asking.

Slowly, everyone turned around. There they saw, sitting on top of a large boulder, a figure who had been so still no one had even noticed him before now. But as they looked, they could see that the speaker was some kind of a feline-like creature. Apparently he walked on two legs and had two arms, but his face was definitely that of a cat. Leaning into a spear, he was wearing metal armor and was resting his chin on a crested helm. His entire body was covered in gray and black striped fur except for a patch on top of his head and across the backs of his paws which was a pale orange color.

Under other circumstances, this warrior may have looked very fearsome and intimidating, but as Barnacle and Kracken eyed him, he instead looked only weary and tired. Davey and Jones, however, were scared witless by the stranger.

"Aahhh! Run, mon, it's a monster!" Jones cried.

"Yeah, run," Jones agreed in a frightened tone. Each Bushwoolie took off running in a different direction, but they only succeeded in running head-first into each other with such force that they fell over on their backs.

As they lay there, the stranger just sighed and shook his head.

Stepping boldly forward, Barnacle said sternly, "ARR, who are yee and what are ya doin' here?!"

"Who I am is not important," the feline creature replied, "but, I came here to find tranquility and inner peace in the silence-- however, someone seems intent on not letting me."

"Wait a second," Kracken chimed in. "What did you say about Dream Valley?"

"I said," the stranger said testily, "that if I tell you how to get to Dream Valley, will you leave me alone?"

"ARR, so you know where Dream Valley is from here?" Barnacle said.

Sighing again, he replied, "Yes-s-s-s."

"Great, how do we get there?" Kracken said, cheering up at the prospect of being able to get out of the cave.

"There," the stranger said, pointing to a rather large passage leading out of the cavern they were all in.

"ARR, and that be takin' us to Dream Valley? Why don't I believe ya?" Barnacle said.

Narrowing his eyes, the stranger looked at Barnacle for the first time. "And why would I lie to you?" he asked bluntly.

"Hold up," Kracken said, waving his arms in the air. "Everybody chill out." Then addressing the cat creature, he continued, "So, this tunnel will take us out of here?"

Sighing once again, the anger left the feline's face and he replied, "Not directly. You will come to a fork in about a mile. Take the right passage--"

"And that takes us to Dream Valley?" Kracken interrupted.

"No, shortly after that the passage splits into four and you must take the second one from the left."

"And then..." Kracken hazarded consciously.

"After another half mile or so there will be a side passage to your left. That will turn around and take you in an easterly direction."

"Hold on," Kracken said. "Does anyone have a piece of paper? I need to write this down. So, what was that again, a left and then a right?"

"No, no," the stranger said. "A right and then the second from the left."

"ARR, maybe you should just show us," Barnacle suggested.

Pausing before replying, the stranger said, "As loathe as I am to the idea, it may well be the only way to get you out of my fur."

"So you'll take us?" asked Kracken.

"Yes, I'll take you," the feline replied. "The screams of lost and starving people carry far too well through these caves; I'd never get any quiet."

Standing up in a very fluid movement, the stranger let his helmet fall to the cavern floor with a loud clang that reverberated off the stone walls. Then, as he stepped lightly off of the boulder on which he had sat, he thrust his spear between two large rocks. Barnacle and Kracken both drew their swords, fearing he was about to try something, but all he did was twist the shaft to the side and snap off the point.

Holding up his newly-made staff, the stranger just started slowly for the passage leading out and waved for everyone to follow, saying, "Come on, follow me."

Barnacle and Kracken looked at each other. "Can we trust this guy?" the first mate asked.

"ARR," Barnacle replied. "Right now, we don't be havin' much choice. Just keep an' eye on him."

"Right," Kracken agreed and tried to follow him.

"And, Kracken, don't be forgettin' Davey and Jones," Barnacle added as he motioned to the two Bushwoolies who were still laying on their backs, but were now pointing out interesting crystal formations to each other.

"Right," Kracken said again.

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