Silver Swirl on Sunset Island
written by Princess Silver Swirl

Chew. Chew. Chew. Chew. Swallow. Repeat.

"Silver Swirl?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Why can you not cry?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Sounds like fun," Silver Swirl muttered sarcastically.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Watch what?" he queried.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"They do."

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

"I don't."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Could you always wiggle your ears?"

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

"What magic powers have you tried?"

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

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

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

"Of course," replied Sandstone confidently.

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

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

"And what do you do?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wish nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"How did you know?" she queried.

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

"Thanks again," she told Wish.

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

"You have fun here?" asked Melisande.

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

"Hello, sleep-head," greeted Melisande.

"Cut it out," Silver Swirl groaned.

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

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

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

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

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

"Did you sleep all right?" questioned Sandstone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What's so funny?"

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

"Is something wrong?" asked Wish.

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

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

"Hello, Murmur," greeted Sandstone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Two hundred and forty," replied Sandstone.

"How did you know?" asked Silver Swirl.

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

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

"Yeah!" Murmur started galloping away.

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

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

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

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

"Are you all right?" Sandstone called.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Oh, uh, hi."

"What were you doing?" asked Murmur.

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

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

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

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

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


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

"Well, in my world we measure time. The smallest measurement is a second, which is about the time it takes you to count to one. Then when you've had sixty seconds..."

By the end of her explanation, Leaf was sleeping, Murmur was playing a game with Jade and Melisande, and the twins were trying not to yawn.

"And that's time," Silver Swirl finished triumphantly.

"But what is it good for?" asked Wish.

Silver Swirl sighed. "It's hard to explain, but my world would be chaos without it."

Sandstone looked up at the sky. "I think we should be taking Murmur and Leaf home now," he suggested. The foals reluctantly agreed after Wish promised to visit again soon.

Silver Swirl kept tripping over things on the way back from Mellow's house. Wish kept looking at the unicorn suspiciously. Silver Swirl was terrified that Wish would figure out her secret, but there was no turning back now.

"Ouch!" A thorn scratched her leg.

"Are you sure there's nothing wrong?" questioned Wish.

"No, I'm just clumsy." Silver Swirl explained. Sandstone glanced in her direction with a nervous look on his face. She smiled at him reassuringly. You have to let Sandstone go. You have to let Sandstone go. You have to let--


It was a long walk home.

* * *

Silver Swirl was tremendously pleased to see the house. She almost skipped up the path.

"Do you mind if I rest in my room for awhile?" she requested. Wish nodded, looking rather relieved. Silver Swirl flew into her room, with Melisande and Jade on her heels, and settled herself in the hammock. She had a feeling that she wasn't going to be able to enjoy herself very much for the next two days, but she recognized her duty when she saw it.

Me meeting them so soon, Wish being a magic specialist, my resemblance to Reverie-- it couldn't have been a coincidence, she reasoned. This was meant to be. You have to let Sandstone go. You--

"What are you doing?" Melisande raised her eyebrows as she stared. Silver Swirl's eyes widened as she realized that she hadn't told her two closest friends of her secret plan. Should she tell them? Would they spill the beans? Silver Swirl decided that she would wait until she had been successful to tell them.

"It's a secret. You'll find out in a few days." She smiled in what she hoped was a mysterious manner and closed her eyes again. Jade and Melisande looked at each other and shrugged simultaneously. "And Melisande, don't you dare use your psychic powers to read my mind!" Silver Swirl called out.

"Nuts," whispered Melisande.

In the room across the hall, Wish was beginning to feel slightly strange.

Silver Swirl concentrated as hard as she could, putting her whole self into the plea, or persuasion, or demand. As she focused harder and harder, she began to lose herself in the magic. All that was left were the words.

"Silver Swirl! Silver Swirl!" The unicorn snapped out of her "rest" to find that Jade was shaking her.

"What is it?" she asked irritably. Jade looked shocked.

"What is it? You wouldn't wake up, that's what it is! What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong, I promise," Silver Swirl assured her friends hurriedly.

A voice entered her mind in the same way that Jade's did, except that this time the voice belonged to Sandstone. "Silver Swirl? Is everything okay?"

Silver Swirl sighed. This was much more complicated than she had anticipated.

"Jade, tell Sandstone that I'm okay," she instructed.

Jade nodded. "He says it's time for lunch, and are you hungry yet?" the dragon reported.

"Tell him we'll be there in a moment," Silver Swirl ordered and Jade relayed the message. It must be useful to be a telepath, the unicorn reflected.

During lunch, Silver Swirl tried very hard to multitask. However, it proved quite difficult to eat, converse, and will all at once. Sandstone rambled on, trying to make up for Silver Swirl's awkwardness. Jade and Melisande looked worriedly at their friend. Silver Swirl was very glad when lunch was over. Then she saw dessert being brought out. Her heart sank, not because of the dessert (which was a gorgeous-looking orange-and-strawberry pie) but because she didn't think she could stand another moment of doing three things at the same time. She "heard" Sandstone's voice in her head:

"You should probably take a break. If this is only affecting one pony, it shouldn't require so much time anyway." Silver Swirl grinned at Sandstone and stopped willing. She cut a large portion of the pie for herself and patted Melisande on the head.

"What kind of government do you have?" she asked, trying to get Wish to forget the unicorn's strange behavior.

"Government? Oh, that thing Seabreeze told us about where you have some ponies in charge of all the other ponies. We don't have that," Wish said matter-of-factly.

Silver Swirl was rather shocked. She had never heard of a system in which anarchy worked successfully. "But who do you turn to when someone steals something, or two ponies get into a fight, or things like that?"

Wish shrugged. "We all help. It wouldn't be fair to place a responsibility like that on one pony."

"But what if nobody agrees?" Silver Swirl persisted.

Wish pondered this. "That never happens," she said finally.

Silver Swirl tilted her head in thought (yes, she did that a lot). It sounded like a wonderful way to live, but she didn't really believe it could work. Oh well, she rationalized, at least they're happy for now.

"And do you have a money system?" was her next question.

Sandstone shook his head. "We just get whatever we need from the earth, or sometimes we trade things with each other."

"Seabreeze calls it bartering," Wish added. "Your society sounds a bit odd, if you don't mind me saying so. Rather dangerous, too."

Silver Swirl sensed an opportunity and decided to seize it. "No, not really. My area of my world is quite safe and peaceful. It's really a great place." Believe me, she willed.

"Hmm," Wish nodded.

"In fact..." Silver Swirl began cautiously, but Sandstone's telepathic words interrupted her.

"Not yet. Give it more time," he begged.

Silver Swirl nodded to him almost imperceptibly. "In fact I think there's nowhere I'd rather be," the unicorn ended her sentence.

"That's nice," replied Wish. "It's always good to be satisfied with one's home." For a moment pain shone through her shining eyes, but it disappeared rapidly.

"So do you have any plans for the rest of the day?" Silver Swirl changed the subject.

"I was considering taking the ferrets to the forest so they can run around a bit," Wish responded. "Would you like to come?"

"Sure, that sounds like fun." Silver Swirl imagined playing with the friendly ferrets in the forest, but remembered that it was not to be-- she would have to spend most of her time willing. Some vacation this turned out to be, she thought wryly, but in truth she wasn't too upset. Helping a friend was worth it.

* * *

The forest was a bit more inland on the island, so no sand mixed with the grass and moss of the ground. Silver Swirl found that there were some leaf-bearing trees as well as the coniferous ones. Into one of the former she climbed, finding a wide bough upon which to rest. Below, the ferrets frolicked, Sandstone and Wish keeping an eye on them. The leaves of the trees blocked some of the light, giving the woods an atmosphere that was both calm and mysterious. Silver Swirl gazed at the lyrical scene, reflecting on the fact that Sunset Island looked like an artist's canvas come alive. Then she closed her eyes and began willing. It was an ideal time for doing so, as Wish and Sandstone were occupied with the ferrets.

Please, Wish, let Sandstone go, she repeated over and over, and into these simple words she attempted to infuse so much more: the way Sandstone was always in Wish's shadow, the story of Reverie and how Sandstone had spoken the word "freedom", Sandstone getting iced tea for Wish without being asked, Wish's words "Sandstone goes everywhere I go," the conversation in the kitchen, the look of hope in Sandstone's eyes, the whispered exchange at the beach, the nervous telepathic messages, everything that told Silver Swirl that this was her duty.

Please, Wish, let Sandstone go.

Silver Swirl repeated the words, not even trying to keep track of the time, until Melisande called to her that it was time to leave. Silver Swirl opened her eyes, flew down from the branch (she was not going to risk falling, as she had done quite enough of that for a few days) and rejoined her friends.

Silver Swirl helped Sunray prepare dinner and groomed the ferrets with Wish. She perused the flowers planted years ago by Reverie and kept in meticulous order by the explorer's husband and children. Sandstone showed her his collection of rocks and fossils. She explained Pokèmon to her new friends, and she ate dinner that evening quickly, which rather astonished her laid-back friends. She grinned wryly; she had thought that she was a slow eater, but these ponies made her look rapid.

After consuming her portion of food, she leaned over the porch railing in pretense of looking at the ocean. In reality, of course, she was working magic. Even Sandstone didn't realize how much time and effort she had been putting into her "project"; she had learned long ago that, when helping others, it was important not to make them feel guilty for that help. After all, freedom was something every pony needed and deserved.

Let Sandstone go. Let Sandstone go. Let Sandstone go.

Silver Swirl's head drooped as she repeated the words, and she toppled into the ocean below. Everyone turned at the sound of the splash as the unicorn sheepishly flew back up to the porch.

"Maybe you should go to sleep," suggested Jade.

Silver Swirl consented to do so. "Sleeping" turned out to be willing with the lights out. Silver Swirl knew that she didn't have much time to convince Wish to change her opinion. A real sense of urgency pervaded the unicorn, but it couldn't stop her from eventually drifting off to sleep.

* * *

Silver Swirl's first thought of the morning was (big surprise) You have to let Sandstone go. She shook herself out of magic-mode to look around her. There were Jade and Melisande, peacefully sleeping, and a ferret seemed to have found his way into the room as well. Silver Swirl smiled at the innocence of the scene, allowing herself a moment of relaxation before closing her eyes and immersing herself once more in magic.


She willed throughout breakfast


She willed while Wish and Sandstone (mostly Sandstone) cleaned the house


She willed as she toured the neighborhood


She willed through the smiles and greetings of friendly ponies


She willed during lunch


And finally, that night, she asked.

"You know," she said casually to Wish across the dinner table, "it's too bad you can't come and visit me. I know you're really busy, but maybe Sandstone could come." You-have-to-you-have-to! screamed the unicorn's mind. Time seemed to freeze for a moment.

"Would you like to go through the portal for a few days?" Wish asked Sandstone. The stallion, overcome with emotion, nodded. "Well, I suppose it would be all right as long as he gave me a telepathic message every day," she agreed. "He can go with you when you leave tomorrow."

Silver Swirl, Sandstone, and Sunray were speechless. Daffodil broke the silence by trying to grab Melisande's piece of banana bread, bringing the ponies back to the mundane (or as mundane as Sunset Island could be) world. However, the thrill of success stayed with Silver Swirl. Her magic had worked! Sandstone was free! And most of all, she could actually enjoy the remainder of her vacation!

* * *

Enjoy it she did. Silver Swirl loved every moment of that last day on the island. The sky and the trees and the ponies seemed even more special than they had on the previous days. For the first time in weeks, she had no thought of the mysterious "You-know-who", and the discovery of her power, and her success seemed to give her a new sense of confidence. Sandstone had the look of a pony in a dream from which he never wished to awaken; Wish's uneasiness and Sunray's melancholy attitude were powerless to ruin the delight of the earth stallion and the unicorn mare.

Although Silver Swirl's visit to Sunset Island had been idyllic, she was equally happy about her return to Ponyland with Sandstone. When the time came for them to leave, she strode into the ocean, followed by the stallion, Jade, and Melisande, swimming when the water became too deep. She soon sensed the doorway to her own world. Taking a deep breath, she gathered her friends around herself.

"Here's the portal!" she called. "Are you ready?" Sandstone nodded and together they plunged through the gateway.

Seabreeze was surprised, to say the least, when she saw Sandstone surface with Silver Swirl, Melisande (whose hydrophobia had lessened), and Jade. She quickly helped the foursome into the boat.

"How was your time?" Jade's sister asked the unicorn. Silver Swirl looked around. Jade was looking for fish in the water; Melisande was trying to dry her fur, and Sandstone, who was now dark red with orange eyes and a pale green mane and tail, laughed giddily while staring at the coastline. Silver Swirl grinned.

"Glorious," she pronounced.

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