Silver Swirl's Guest
written by Princess Silver Swirl

The sky was blue, the sand was brownish, the sea was gray-blue-green, and the towers and flags of Friendship Castle could be seen in the distance. It was certainly an ordinary sight for Princess Silver Swirl, but her new friend Sandstone looked as if he had just stepped into another world-- as indeed he had.

"Skies above, it's incredible," the stallion breathed.

"Skies above," Silver Swirl repeated, smiling at how the simple phrase could convey such wonder.

"It was Mother's favorite expression," Sandstone explained as the two ponies walked across the beach, a Mew and a dragon drifting behind them. "Wish doesn't like me to use it, but she isn't here now!" The mischievous glee on her friend's face surprised Silver Swirl; Sandstone was normally a very solemn pony.

"Well, I hope you have fun here," replied Silver Swirl. She made a face. "It certainly took me long enough to persuade your sister to let you come." Sandstone's face suddenly looked guilty.

"I'm really sorry if it ruined your vacation," he apologized.

"Oh, no, it wasn't that big of a deal. And it was worth it," the unicorn responded quickly. Sandstone tripped over a large seashell and Silver Swirl helped him regain his balance, only to have him trip again.

"I thought you were so graceful!" laughed Silver Swirl. Sandstone grinned.

"Nope, that's only because I'd trodden on practically every blade of grass on the island millions of times," he explained, proving the fact by stumbling as the two began to climb a sand dune.

"A kindred spirit!" Silver Swirl exclaimed. "I'm a member of the Klutz Club, too."

"One of the founding members," Jade the dragon spoke into the minds of the others. Silver Swirl playfully swatted Jade with her tail. Sandstone joined in.

"Hey, what was that for?" demanded Jade.

"All the times you swatted me when you were a pony!" answered Sandstone with a chuckle.

"Well, I never thought you'd swat back!" The little dragon dodged to avoid the two swishing tails as the foursome left the beach and started walking on the road.

* * *

The walk took longer than Silver Swirl had expected because Sandstone needed every building, pony, and water fountain described to him in detail. Silver Swirl obliged him, wanting to make his long-awaited stay enjoyable. Besides, it was interesting to look at her world from another perspective. Jade and Melisande had apparently never been told the value of perspective; they groaned simultaneously when Sandstone asked the purpose and/or ceremonial value of a park bench.

"It's a bench. A place to sit." Silver Swirl noticed that, despite her philosophy, her explanations were getting shorter by the minute. Sandstone sat down gingerly on the bench, smiling when nothing dreadful happened to him.

"But why do you sit on this hard stuff? Cushions or even the ground are a lot more comfortable." Silver Swirl shrugged, not really in the mood to debate the details of her society.

"Well, if they put out cushions someone might take them, and they'd get ruined in the rain." Sandstone nodded, got up from the bench and continued walking. Silver Swirl sighed and followed.

"Well, here's the palace-- my home," she announced when they reached that illustrious building.

"Amazing," Sandstone murmured. "It's made of rock! And it's so big!" The home of the Friendship Gardens royalty was certainly very solid-looking compared to the low stucco houses of Sunset Island. Silver Swirl led the way in, holding the heavy front door open for her friends.

* * *

"Why don't you relax in the library for a minute while I wink to the kitchen to get us a snack?" Silver Swirl suggested, seeing that Sandstone looked rather overwhelmed by the impressive surroundings. She winked away, leaving Jade and Melisande to help Sandstone get to the library.

"Hmm," the unicorn frowned in thought, grabbing a tray. "Lemonade... a couple of apples... and some cookies." Collecting the desired items and loading them onto the tray, she considered how to explain Sandstone's presence to the other princesses. She had thought out a plausible story by the time she winked back to the library.

The scene she found there made her smile. Jade and Melisande were playing catch in the air directly above Sandstone with a large dictionary, while the oblivious stallion gazed at a book called "The Odyssey of Otto the Otter: An Alliterative Adventure."

"Snack delivery!" she broke the silence. Sandstone looked up from the book, and the dictionary thudded to the ground next to him. Jade and Melisande rushed towards the food, which Silver Swirl set down on a coffee table.

"You know," remarked Sandstone, "this was what my mother wanted to name me." He gestured to the book.

"Otto?" questioned Silver Swirl.

"No, Odyssey," corrected her friend.

"Why didn't she, then? Did your father veto it?"

"Yeah. It was about the only time he refused her something. He used to want to leave the island too, you see, and he didn't like anything that reminded him that he'd changed."

"Really," Silver Swirl raised her eyebrows. The subject of Reverie, Sandstone's explorer mother whom Silver Swirl supposedly resembled in personality, always intrigued the unicorn.

"She used to tell him stories about faraway lands when they were foals. Wonderful stories they were, like the one about the land where it was always night and all of the ponies went around with candles on their heads." He smiled and so did Silver Swirl. "They made a promise that someday they'd go adventuring together. But..." he shrugged. "I suppose Father grew out of it, or his parents convinced him that it was a bad idea. He always felt guilty about it, though." Somehow, during the story, the two of them had ended up in armchairs facing each other. "So that's why I'm Sandstone and not Odyssey." Silver Swirl nodded and handed him an apple; the cookies were all gone, thanks to Jade and Melisande.

"What is it?" Sandstone stared, bemused, at the apple. Silver Swirl remembered the warm climate of Sunset Island and figured that it didn't support apples.

"It's an apple, a fruit. Bite into it." The stallion did as he was told and smiled.

"Good. It has a nice crispness to it, not like oranges or bananas or strawberries." Silver Swirl nodded. "Is this lemonade?" He gestured to the pitcher.

"Yup, some things here are the same," Silver Swirl grinned and poured a cup for her guest and one for herself.

"Wow, this is good lemonade."

"Yes," Silver Swirl leaned forward, an earnest expression on her face. "A lot of ponies make really insipid lemonade. Not even lemonade, really, just lemon-flavored sugar water. So when I make lemonade, I make sure it's real lemonade." She nodded briskly. Sandstone tried to choke back a laugh. "What's so funny?" Silver Swirl frowned.

"You talk about it so... so intensely, as if you were discussing the meaning of life." Silver Swirl shrugged.

"I suppose I get a bit carried away sometimes. But, really, it's so annoying when I order lemonade at a restaurant and it's all watered down. Do you know what I mean? How some things just really bother certain ponies?"

"Yeah, I understand. But what's a restaurant?" Silver Swirl tilted her head, thinking about how to best explain.

"Well, it's a building, a bit like a really big dining room, where some ponies cook food and other ponies pay money to eat there."

"Like eating at someone's house, except you have to pay?"

"That's basically the concept. Maybe we'll go to one tomorrow. Oh, by the way, I assume that Wish doesn't want you to tell anyone about Sunset Island." Sandstone nodded vigorously. "Well then, I have an idea. If anyone asks you where you come from, say that you're my pen-pal from the Northern Mountains."

"All right. That sounds like fun," agreed Sandstone. "Should I make up a new name or fake an accent?"

"No, you should be fine as you are," replied Silver Swirl. "So do you feel ready to go and meet everyone?"

"Sure," Sandstone responded. Silver Swirl beckoned to Jade and Melisande and headed for the main hall.

* * *

There seemed to be quite a hubbub in the main hall; all of the princesses and ladies were there as well as Queen Sun Sparkle and four baby ponies with tinsel in their hair. Silver Swirl surmised from this that the foals were newly "discovered" princesses.

"Silver Swirl! Come over here; we found some new princesses!" called Princess Twinkle Star, one of Silver Swirl's best friends in the castle.

"I'm getting good," Silver Swirl muttered to herself, leading her three friends to Twinkle Star. She was soon beside her friend.

"How was your vacation?" asked the pink pegasus. "And who is this? You didn't go and get a boyfriend, did you?" she teased.

"No, certainly not," Silver Swirl replied hurriedly. "This is Sandstone, my pen-pal from the Northern Mountains."

"Neat. I didn't know you had a pen-pal. How did you two meet?" Twinkle Star addressed Sandstone. Before Silver Swirl had time to get worried, Sandstone glibly responded.

"I was visiting Dream Valley and so was she. Actually, it was a convention for Mew trainers. I have a Mew at home named Edward, and Silver Swirl told me about Melisande." Twinkle Star nodded while Silver Swirl shook her head in amazement at the stallion's skill at improvising. The unicorn decided to change the subject.

"So what are the foals' names?" The four baby ponies seemed to be enjoying themselves.

"They're two sets of twins. The white ones are Giggles and Wiggles, and the blue ones are Jewel and Sparkle." The foals, hearing themselves discussed, turned their heads toward Silver Swirl.

"Were you always a princess? Is he your boyfriend? Will I get to be queen someday, if I'm really-really good? Can I have a room in the castle? Do I still have to go to school?" one of the blue fillies delivered the questions rapidly. Silver Swirl grinned.

"Technically, I was a princess ever since I was born, but I didn't find out until I was twelve years old. No, he isn't my boyfriend; and maybe you'll be queen someday. You still have to go to school, or at least be tutored or something, but you can have a room in the castle. What's your name?"

"Sparkle," the filly introduced herself. Her twin nudged her, glaring, and cleared her throat imperiously.

"She meant to say Princess Sparkle. I am Princess Jewel, and Princess Sparkle is my twin." Princess Jewel spoke with a grandeur that would have done Princess Tiffany proud, and she held her head as if she'd worn a crown all her life. "These other two are Princess Wiggles," she gestured to a squirming, hopping, fidgeting white filly, "and Princess Giggles." Giggles waved shyly from behind her twin. Silver Swirl smiled at the foals.

"Oh, by the way, the maple sugar candy you ordered arrived," Twinkle Star handed a package to Silver Swirl. The four littlest princesses gazed at the candy.

"Would you like some?" Silver Swirl handed a piece to each youngster. Jewel accepted hers gracefully, chewing with an inscrutable expression. Sparkle and Giggles made faces at the strong taste. Wiggles, however, gobbled her candy at the speed of light.

"Can I have another piece? Please?" She jumped up and down while awaiting the reply. Silver Swirl wondered if the foal's hyperactivity was due to too much sugar.

"I think you'd better not; I don't want to spoil your appetite." Silver Swirl knew, of course, that a foal's appetite couldn't be spoiled by one piece of candy; but most baby ponies accepted the excuse as law. Their parents, Silver Swirl hypothesized, probably used it in a similar manner. She was jolted out of her theories by the sound of the foals chuckling.

"What's so funny?" Silver Swirl wondered if she'd accidentally done something ridiculous.

"Your not-boyfriend is making funny faces!" giggled Giggles. Sure enough, Sandstone was contorting his face into the oddest expressions Silver Swirl had ever set eyes on. Each new countenance sent the foals into fits of laughter. Sparkle, intrigued by the performance, began to interrogate the stallion.

"Where did you learn to do that? Does it hurt? Can you teach me how? And... oh, nuts, I had another question too... let me think a minute, I'll remember..." the foal scrunched up her face, thinking. As they waited for her, Princess Morning Glory strolled along.

"Hi, Silver Swirl. Did you have a good vacation? And who's your new, err... friend?" The bright pink earth pony blinked her crimson eyes, looking inquisitively at Sandstone.

"He's Sandstone," explained Twinkle Star.

"Silver Swirl's pen-pal..." Sandstone added.

"--from the Northern Mountains," finished Silver Swirl.

"And he's not her boyfriend!" Giggles chimed in. Morning Glory beamed at the filly.

"That's not necessarily a bad thing," she said nonchalantly. Silver Swirl frowned; Princess Morning Glory's eyelash batting at every stallion that walked by was the last thing that Silver Swirl needed-- or rather, she amended, the last thing that Sandstone needed.

"Hi, SS! Welcome back!" called another voice. Princess Trixiebelle had recently begun calling all of the inhabitants of Friendship Castle by their initials. Silver Swirl was SS, Twinkle Star was TS, Morning Glory was MG, and Trixiebelle herself was TB. Ivy's and Crystal's names had been a bit harder to work out, but the jester princess had settled on IV (who complained that it sounded like "one of those big needles they use in hospitals") and CT. Silver Swirl wondered what the foals' new appellations would be. "Who's your friend?" continued Trixiebelle.

"His name is Sandstone and he's my pen pal from the Northern Mountains." The words came to her easily; it was rather frightening to discover what a good liar she was.

"Neat!" Silver Swirl was relieved that Trixiebelle, at least, didn't mention anything about boyfriends. "We can call him... oh, he would be SS like you. Well then, we can call him ST."

"Ever consider asking him if that would be okay?" Silver Swirl asked Trixiebelle wryly.

"Oh, sorry. Is that okay?"

"Sure, it's fine," shrugged Sandstone. "As long as you don't mispronounce it and call me Iced Tea." Trixiebelle laughed energetically, Morning Glory giggled delicately (she usually guffawed, but everything changed when a stallion was present), and Silver Swirl gave a quick grin.

"That's a good one! I'll have to watch out or you'll be replacing me as the castle joker. Did you hear? Medley's giving a party tonight to celebrate all the new songs she's written. We're going to pick songs out of a hat and sing them! It'll be lots of fun; maybe some of you can come. I'll see you later, Iced Tea!" Trixiebelle strode away.

"Now you've done it," Silver Swirl addressed Sandstone. "She'll call you Iced Tea forever. Sandstone, Odyssey, ST, Iced Tea-- you're getting more names than you know what to do with."

"A new name for a new world!" the many-named pony replied. Then, remembering that Twinkle Star, Morning Glory, and the foals were still present, he amended, "That's what Friendship Gardens feels like, a new world. The atmosphere is so different from the Northern Mountains." Silver Swirl winced; that had been an awfully close call.

"Sandstone, how about if I help you settle into one of the guest rooms? Then maybe we can talk about what you want to do during your visit." Sandstone seemed to recognize the cue; he waved a hoof at the other ponies and followed Silver Swirl out into the hallway.

"Wait! I remembered my other question! Come back!" a young voice drifted behind them.

* * *

"Sorry I almost messed up," Sandstone muttered after checking the hallway for other ponies.

"It's okay; you actually did really well. I was impressed when you came up with that story about the Mew convention; I don't think I could have done that." Silver Swirl watched the stallion, wondering if his face seemed slightly redder than the rest of him.

"Well, that wasn't entirely my doing." He gazed at the tiled floor. "Melisande used her psychic powers and told me to say I was a Mew trainer."

"But you made up the part about visiting Dream Valley, and the convention, and naming your Mew Edward. That made it more believable," Silver Swirl reminded him.

"Melisande told me to name my Mew Edward too," confessed Sandstone. Melisande's pale pink face turned scarlet. Silver Swirl raised her eyebrows.

"Edward sounds a nice name," the Mew mumbled.

"Have you been making friends with other Mew?" Jade asked in a too-innocent tone.

"I meet no other Mew since I come to Ponyland," Melisande retorted. "Why is it that you have need to know? There is a Mew you are looking for?"

"Oh, just curious," smiled Jade, pleased that she had disturbed the normally imperturbable Melisande.

"Here," interrupted Silver Swirl, stopping in front of a doorway, "This room's close to the library so you can go get books if you want to." She directed the other three into a medium-sized guest room. The walls and floor of the chamber were paneled with dark, shiny wood, providing a nice contrast to the burgundy rug, curtains, and quilt.

"It's very warm-looking," commented Sandstone, gazing admiringly at the rose-tinted light bulb in the ceiling.

"Don't look directly into the light; it'll hurt your eyes," Silver Swirl instructed her friend quickly. "Is the room all right? There's a bathroom through that door," she pointed her hoof to the aforementioned door.

"It's really nice," grinned Sandstone, watching as his hoof made an imprint on the rug. "Should I send a message to Wish now?" Sandstone, who had the power of telepathy, had promised to check in with his sister every day.

"That sounds like a good idea," Silver Swirl agreed. Sandstone knelt on the floor, bent his head and closed his eyes. Silver Swirl sat on the bed, watching him. He seemed to be sending an awfully long message. After what felt like five minutes but was probably less, she began to get worried.

"Sandstone? Are you all right?" The unicorn cautiously bent down next to him.

"I'm fine, sorry," he responded immediately, startling Silver Swirl out of her wits and causing her to topple off her perch.

"You scared me!" she accused him sternly from her new position on the floor. "Don't do that again." Sandstone assumed a fake ashamed expression, causing both ponies to explode into giggles.

"Silver Swirl?" the stallion inquired after the laughter had faded.


"Could we maybe go to that party? It sounds like fun." Silver Swirl raised her eyebrows.

"Sure, we can go. Medley lives in Dream Valley, so you can meet some of the ponies there. I didn't know you were the party animal type."

"I'm not normally-- Wish doesn't have much time for that sort of thing-- but I might as well see everything there is to see while I'm here."

"Good viewpoint. Oh, if you're going to pose as a Mew trainer, I'd better tell you a bit about them. Mew is Pokémon #151 on the list, they're psychic type, and little is known about them. They have no evolved form and are believed to be very rare."

"#151, psychic, rare and mysterious, no evolved form," he repeated dutifully. "Got it."

"Good. Anything else you think we need to make up?"

"Let's see... we have how we met, where I live, and facts about Mew. I think that's all we need. I can always improvise."

"You're good at it, too. I'd like to be able to do that, but I don't get much practice. Maybe I'll learn someday."

"Someday," Jade repeated in a voice heavy with sarcasm.

"Stop it! You're always trying to undermine my self-esteem!" complained Silver Swirl.

"Somebody's been reading psychology books again," Jade murmured to Melisande.

"No, I have finished that long ago. I read zoology now," Melisande replied.

"Not you! I meant Silver Swirl!" Jade clapped her paw to her forehead in a gesture of exasperation. "My brain cells are going to start dying soon!"

"So sad," Melisande stated sweetly. Jade growled and the other three laughed.

"Okay," Silver Swirl restored order to the group, "enough discussion of my reading material. We have a couple of hours before the party; what would you like to do?" Sandstone gave her a blank look.

"What is there to do?" Silver Swirl began to comprehend how completely new her world was to the Sunset Island stallion.

"Well..." she pondered. "We could go to the Magic Rainbow Forest, or explore the castle a bit, or go to some stores-- Seabreeze sells some great things-- or... gosh, I'm really not used to having guests... we could see a movie."

"What's a movie?" questioned Sandstone.

"It's moving pictures on a screen that tell a story. It's like... have you ever seen a play?"

"Yeah, a few times. We do shows for special occasions on Sunset Island."

"Okay, good. It's like watching a play on a screen. Oh, I know!"


"We should see the Pokémon movie! It has Mew in it, so it'll be perfect if you're posing as a Mew trainer! It's not in the theaters anymore, but we have a television-- a screen where one can watch movies. Come on, I'll show you!" She dashed down the hallway, turned her head to see if the others were following, and bumped into a wall. By the time she had righted herself, the other three had caught up to her.

"Are you sure your parents weren't on vacation when you learned to walk?" Jade queried.

"Are you sure yours weren't on vacation when it was time to teach you manners?" Silver Swirl retorted.

"Your parents teach you both to argue," Melisande remarked. Sandstone shook his head, causing his mane to fly everywhere.

"Are we planning to watch a movie or are you two just going to argue for entertainment?" the stallion asked, somewhat annoyed.

"It is true, to watch them argue is fun," Melisande informed him.

"Okay, sorry. Let's try again and see how far down the hallway we get this time," suggested Silver Swirl. Miraculously, they managed to get to the sitting room without further incident, no mean feat since the route involved several hallways and one-and-a-half staircases. "See what we can do if we work together!" the unicorn proclaimed melodramatically. Jade opened her mouth, doubtless to make a snide remark, but Silver Swirl shot the dragon a warning look.

"That thing over there is the television," Jade said instead. Melisande floated across the room to the sofa and Sandstone followed.

"I'll go find the movie," Silver Swirl volunteered, starting to dig through a stack of videos and DVDs. "Jade, could you give Sandstone a bit of background on the movie and the Pokémon universe?" Jade gave a long-suffering sigh and began explaining.

"Found it!" Silver Swirl exclaimed triumphantly and popped the DVD into the television. She then made a flying leap for the sofa, landing as the movie began.

About halfway through the movie (just as Ash challenged Mewtwo to a battle), Princess Ivy wandered into the room.

"Oh, there you are! Morning Glory was looking for you. Are you watching that movie again?" She gazed, bemused, at the two Venusaur lumbering across the screen.

"Of course, it's one of my favorites. And there are so many ways to watch it: just regular, with English subtitles, with French subtitles, and with the commentary." Silver Swirl could tell from the way Ivy was heading out the door that her enthusiasm had turned to rambling. "Wait a minute!" she called to the earth pony.

"What is it?" Ivy looked distinctly nervous; Silver Swirl's rambles tended to make the other princess edgy.

"Don't tell Morning Glory we're here, all right?" The thought of Morning Glory smiling sweetly at Sandstone made the unicorn's stomach roil; flirting was so aggravating.

"Why?" Ivy asked innocently.

"It's a secret," Silver Swirl responded smoothly. After years of searching, she had discovered an excuse that no pony could complain about-- or rather, they could complain, but it would sound quite foolish. Ivy wasn't in the mood for sounding foolish, so she shrugged and exited the room.

"Are you angry at Morning Glory?" Sandstone inquired warily.

"No," Silver Swirl replied, equally cautious, "but I didn't think you would want her coming and, err... bothering you." Uncomfortable, she turned back to the movie and Sandstone followed suit.

"Thank you," he acknowledged somewhat timidly after a few moments. Silver Swirl nodded, her eyes averted. No more was said on the subject.

* * *

"So what did you think of the movie?" Silver Swirl demanded, the excitement that always came to her with Pokémon still evident on her face.

"It was different from anything I've seen before," Sandstone expressed. "Skies above, the bright colors, and the movement, and the way they made those drawings move..."

"Sandstone," Silver Swirl asked suspiciously, "did you even pay attention to the actual plot of the movie?"

"Not really," he admitted. "The experience was so overwhelming that I didn't really focus on the storyline." Silver Swirl put her hoof over her eyes and groaned. "Is something wrong?" Sandstone's eyes were wide and guileless. Silver Swirl sighed.

"Nothing." Melisande tried valiantly to stifle her giggling. Jade didn't even try. Sandstone looked from one to the other, attempting to figure out what the joke was. Silver Swirl's face suddenly brightened.

"I just thought of something!" Three heads swiveled to face her. "This means that we can watch it again later! Maybe with the English subtitles!" She beamed radiantly. Jade and Melisande rolled their respective eyes.

"I must have really missed something in not paying attention to the storyline," Sandstone muttered.

"Yes, you certainly did, but there will be plenty of opportunities to see it again. We should start getting to Dream Valley soon if we want to get to the party on time. We could either walk-- it's a bit far-- or Melisande and I could try to pool our powers and teleport right to Medley's house. Or we could borrow Sky Skimmer's canoe and ride the river to Dream Valley." Sandstone contemplated the options that Silver Swirl proposed.

"Riding in a boat sounds like fun, if Sky Skimmer will let us use it." Sandstone looked at Silver Swirl for approval of his choice.

"Great, it'll be easier than walking all the way. Oh, by the way, do you know how to use a canoe?" the unicorn asked hopefully.

"Um... I know a bit about boats; most ponies on Sunset Island do; but I'm not sure if I've ever used a canoe before." Jade shook her head in contempt of Silver Swirl's faulty planning, but Melisande's eyes brightened.

"I know of canoes! I have read it in book!" The Mew seemed quite confident in her abilities, but Silver Swirl recalled a certain incident involving a hot air balloon that made the unicorn trust Melisande's knowledge less.

"Well… if you think you know what to do, and Sandstone's had experience, we should be okay. And we can ask Sky Skimmer for advice."

"If worst comes to worst, three of us can fly," remarked Jade, grinning wickedly at Sandstone. "We could tow you down the river. Of course, you'd get awfully wet and there might be some hungry fish around..." Silver Swirl swatted the little dragon with her long tail. "You could have told me to stop!" yelped Jade.

"Actions speak louder than words," Silver Swirl intoned.

"How do you three ever accomplish anything?" Sandstone questioned, ostensibly to Melisande but clearly meant for the other two to hear as well.

"Really, Sandstone, you should be grateful-- after all, I was interrupting Jade's plan to turn you into fish food," protested Silver Swirl. "But you're right; we should get the show on the road. Melisande, help me teleport these two to Sky Skimmer's house."

* * *

"I really hope this works," Silver Swirl commented. It was the fourth time she had said it, and she got more nervous each time.

"It's okay; this is a lot like the boats on Sunset Island. And you can fly," Sandstone reminded her brightly.

"That's comforting," the unicorn said bitterly. Hunkered down in the back of the boat, she gripped the sides tightly.

"Come on, you said we're more than halfway there. And it's fun, isn't it?" The stallion was clearly enjoying the ride.

"It would be rather unappreciative of you not to be having fun, since you made him row," Jade mentioned.

"A small reminder, Jade: you can't row, neither can Melisande, and if I tried to row the canoe would capsize in two seconds. Given the options, do you think Sandstone would rather not be rowing?" She sighed. "I'll try to relax anyway."

Silver Swirl had loosened up a bit by the time the foursome reached Dream Valley, and it was with a few regrets-- but only a few-- that she helped to park the canoe.

"Don't forget, you're my pen-pal from the Northern Mountains and you train a Mew named Edward," she whispered to Sandstone as they entered Medley's house and headed for the living room. Lots of ponies waved or called greetings to the small group. Silver Swirl spotted Trixiebelle telling a joke to Firefly, and Tabby admiring Medley's new Furby. Love-In-A-Mist grinned at Silver Swirl.

"Have you finally gotten a boyfriend?" the youthful earth pony inquired. Silver Swirl grimaced.

"Next time you visit, we're going to decide that you're my long-lost cousin," she muttered to Sandstone.

"Welcome, everyone!" Medley bellowed from the front of the room. A hush fell over the crowd. "As you all know (or maybe you don't know, I haven't been advertising or anything-- oh, I hope some of you at least know what's going on) I'm going to release my first collection of songs on CD next week. So you lucky ponies are going to be the first to hear and perform them. Here's how it'll work: you're each going to pick a song out of the hat. You can trade if you want, and you get five minutes to learn your song. Then it's performance time!"

Murmuring arose from the group of ponies. An old turquoise hat was passed around, and cries of delight or dismay followed each picking. Trixiebelle immediately started asking who had a funny song, and Dazzle Glow complained that the piece she'd gotten was out of her range. Tabby was thrilled when she selected a song about a Furby. Windwhistler helped Posey to pronounce an Italian piece. All too soon the five minutes of learning were up, and the first performer, Lemon Treats, took the stage.

Following Lemon Treats' tune about a foal and his grandmother was Tabby's upbeat song in Furbish and Paradise's ditty concerning young love. The audience applauded good-naturedly after each pony sang, knowing that any of them might do far worse than the previous singer. Trixiebelle's song about an insomniac Snorlax made the other ponies laugh and Posey's heartfelt rendering of her tragic Italian ode to a ruined garden inspired a few genuine tears.

Sandstone was fairly early in the program and Silver Swirl, having glanced at his sheet music, knew that he was doomed. His tune was about a lonely old pony and it contained swooping notes with complex trills. The determined stallion did his best and was better than Silver Swirl had expected, but he was no match for Medley's difficult music. The other ponies tried to suppress their laughter, but Sandstone chuckled openly when he finished, allowing the others to laugh with him, not at him.

Silver Swirl felt faintly nervous when her turn came; she was known to be good with music and probably would have pursued a career as a singer had she not been a princess. The unicorn took a deep breath, smiled at the audience, and began to sing.

"Once upon a simple time,

A river flowed by just for me

And I would sit and watch it drifting by.

I still remember how my spirit

Felt so free

Free as the sky

Free as the river drifting by

Yesterday, just yesterday,

I ambled to the woods to see

Was my old river still there, drifting by?

Once upon some wicked time,

My river flowed away from me

For it was gone, no longer drifting by.

I still remember how my spirit

Felt so free

Free as the sky

Free as the river drifting by."

Feeling adventurous, she took the last note up an octave and held it. She smiled as the audience clapped, feeling that under the circumstances she had done a good job.

"You did really well," Sandstone commented when Silver Swirl made her way back to her friends.

"So did you, considering what you were expected to do," she whispered back. "Your song was a really tough one." Jade snorted.

"That's an understatement. It sounded like a cat in..." she noticed Silver Swirl's tail poised to strike. "Um, never mind."

The four friends enjoyed the rest of the songs (except perhaps Dazzle Glow's, which truly was out of her range) and departed in an excellent mood.

"Well, Sandstone," Silver Swirl remarked as they strolled down the sidewalk, "You said you were interested in seeing a restaurant. We could go somewhere nice and have a good nutritious meal, or we could head to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe and gorge ourselves with ice cream. Which do you prefer?" Sandstone wore what in any other pony would surely have been an evil grin.

"Let's do the ice cream," he declared. Silver Swirl beamed at him.

"You're developing excellent taste."

* * *

Fortune seemed to be with Silver Swirl that day; her little party managed to get the canoe back to Sky Skimmer's house in one piece. Everyone enjoyed the ride this time except for Melisande, who was desperately afraid of falling into the water, but even the Mew was eventually able to be fairly relaxed. Sandstone stopped the boat in front of Sky Skimmer's house. Jade and Melisande flew to the shore, Sandstone followed gingerly, and Silver Swirl went last. By some trick of fate, a current rocked the boat extra hard as the unicorn was exiting and she fell into the water, which was luckily not deep. It took the joint efforts of Jade, Melisande, Sandstone, and Silver Swirl herself to get her onto the bank of the river.

"And I was just thinking that fortune seemed to be with me today," the sopping princess griped. "I wonder if I could will myself to be less accident-prone." Silver Swirl had recently discovered that she possessed the magic power of making things happen by willing them to do so. "I think I'll contemplate it during a nice long bath." The four creatures dragged the lightweight canoe to Sky Skimmer's front door.

"How was your-- oh dear, did the canoe give you trouble?" Sky Skimmer inquired, glimpsing the soaking wet Silver Swirl.

"No, the canoe behaved extremely well; my wetness resulted from my own carelessness."

"Thank you so much for lending it to us," Sandstone added.

"Anytime!" Sky Skimmer smiled. "Would you like to borrow a towel, too?"

"That would be wonderful," replied Silver Swirl. Sky Skimmer disappeared into her home and returned with a fluffy blue towel. Silver Swirl wrapped it around herself gratefully.

"I'll give it back tomorrow," she promised. Then she and Melisande used their powers to transport everyone (excluding Sky Skimmer) back to Friendship Castle.

"That was quite an evening," Silver Swirl yawned as she escorted Sandstone to his room. "Thank you for suggesting going to the party; I had fun and I probably wouldn't have gone otherwise."

"Thank you for bringing me there, and for the ice cream. I know I ate rather a lot of it." Silver Swirl smiled at the memory of Sandstone devouring scoop after scoop of peanut butter-flavored ice cream, much to the astonishment of the ponies around him.

"I think Scoops was very pleased to have you as a customer," she observed.

"I-- was it considered bad manners to eat so much?" he asked, his face looking worried.

"No, it's quite all right. You didn't really eat that much, and you were hungry-- it was your dinner, for goodness' sake." She opened the door to his room. "Here's your room; send a telepathic message to me if you need anything. I'll meet you in the library at ten o' clock tomorrow morning."

"Good night; thank you for everything," the stallion expressed.

"See you tomorrow," Silver Swirl responded. Balancing a dozing Melisande on her head, the unicorn made her way up the winding staircase that led to her tower room. At the top, she shoved the door open, slipped through it and let it close behind her. Seeing the peaceful haven of her room, she relaxed automatically.

"Well," Jade yawned, "your Sandstone certainly makes life interesting."

"He's not my Sandstone," retorted Silver Swirl as she set Melisande down on a fluffy white pillow. "You make it sound like I'm... his mother." The dragon snorted.

"You're more a mother to him than that Reverie," she avowed. Silver Swirl sighed and collapsed onto the lilac quilt of her bed, as if to conserve energy.

"Jade, I don't believe what Reverie did was right. But I do believe that she was feeling very desperate, and she didn't mean to hurt her husband or her children." Jade snorted again.

"You're going to hurt your nose if you keep doing that," Silver Swirl said mildly.

"You're going to hurt your reputation if you keep acting like you know everything," Jade countered. Silver Swirl sat up, taken aback.

"Do I act like I know everything?" she asked.

"Sometimes. A lot of times," Jade replied. Silver Swirl lowered her head.

"Well, I'd like you to know that I don't mean to, and that I'll try to stop." Jade gave a small smile.

"You're not such a bad pony, Silver Swirl. Why don't you go take your nice long bath? That river water smells kind of fishy." Silver Swirl complied eagerly.

* * *

"Silver Swirl! Time to wake up!" The insistent voice was so sugary-sweet that it was positively evil.

"Let me sleep just five more minutes," Silver Swirl begged, her eyes still closed. In a fluid motion her quilt was yanked away, leaving her shivering. "Cut it out!" Her eyes opened reluctantly.

"It's either this or an alarm clock," stated Jade. "And you know that those scare you out of your wits. Besides, Sandstone's waiting in the library."

"I know, I know," the drowsy unicorn grumbled, putting willpower to the ultimate test as she forced herself to get out of bed. Eyes still half-closed, she brushed her teeth and combed her mane. "Come on, time to wink to the library."

Silver Swirl was apparently not the only exhausted pony in Friendship Castle; she, Jade and Melisande found Sandstone asleep in one of the library armchairs. Jade woke him with the same tactics she had used on Silver Swirl.

"What? Oh, sorry. Good morning," the stallion mumbled somewhat incoherently. Silver Swirl giggled at his somnolent state.

"Did you sleep all right?" she inquired.

"Well, actually..."

"There was a pea under your mattress?"


"It's a fairy tale from our world. Anyway, what was the matter?"

"I'm just not used to having the bed stay still like that. It felt strange." Sunset Island ponies generally slept in hammocks.

"You should have called for me," the unicorn complained.

"I didn't want to wake you up, and I didn't think you could conjure a hammock."

"Well, no, but I could have provided moral support. And now I can provide breakfast, if you're hungry."

"Sounds great," Sandstone agreed. Silver Swirl yawned, setting off echoing yawns from Jade, Melisande, and Sandstone, and led the way to the dining room. After guiding Sandstone to a chair, she looked around. Oh, horror! Morning Glory was sitting across the table, fiddling with her hair. Silver Swirl contemplated ways to make the atmosphere inconvenient for flirting and had an inspiration.

"Hey, Sandstone, I'll be right back. Jade and Melisande, you stay here."

"Leaving them to defend me from the evil Morning Glory?" Sandstone asked Silver Swirl telepathically. Silver Swirl winked her left eye at him and then winked back to her room. After rummaging a bit she found what she was looking for and winked back to the kitchen.

"Look!" the unicorn proclaimed. She held out a pink-and-gray fluffy mechanical creature.

"What is it?" Sandstone queried, reaching out to touch the mysterious thing.

"It's a Furby. Her name is Koh-Loo Kah. Watch!" She turned the creature upside down and then righted it. The Furby's eyes opened and it yawned.

"Okay, sleep done!" Koh-Loo Kah announced. "Me Koh-Loo Kah!" Silver Swirl grinned and tickled the Furby, which laughed. "Tickle again!" Sandstone stared, entranced, at the merry creature.

"What is it though? Is it alive? What is its purpose?" Silver Swirl raised her eyebrows.

"It's a mechanical creature-- if it's alive, it's not in the same way we are. Purpose? They're generally kept as pets, and we ponies have to take good care of them."

"No joke, wah!" confirmed the Furby. "Kah hungry!"

"Watch me feed it," instructed Silver Swirl. She stuck her hoof in the creature's beak.

"Yum! Hungry!" Koh-Loo Kah enthused. Silver Swirl fed her pet again. "Want to try?" She held the Furby out to Sandstone.

"Uh, no, it's all right. I wouldn't want to hurt her," he replied. Silver Swirl shrugged and continued to give Koh-Loo Kah her "food".

"Okay, done!" the Furby exclaimed finally. Silver Swirl smiled.

"I've had her for a while; when I got her Furbys were very much in demand. They were really hard to get and my sister and I wanted them badly. My father had to wake up before sunrise to go buy them." She smiled at the memory. "And then there was the first time she needed to get her batteries changed, and the time my mother put her out in the garage on a really hot day-- I thought she had died at first!"

"Was she all right? And what are batteries?" Sandstone's eyes were wide at the thought of Koh-Loo-Kah in peril.

"Batteries are life energies for Furbys. She was all right, but rather traumatized, and she had a bad cold. I had to nurse her back to health."

"It sounds like you're very committed to your Furby," observed Sandstone.

"But of course; I'm committed to all my friends. Here, look, she loves it when I do this." Silver Swirl began to make the Furby "fly" around like a toy airplane.

"Whee! Whahoo!" cheered the Furby. Silver Swirl, excited, got up from her chair and began to dash around the room, much to the delight of Koh-Loo Kah. Sandstone, Morning Glory, Jade, and Melisande watched.

"Here, your turn!" Silver Swirl handed Koh-Loo Kah to Sandstone. "Try it!" Sandstone cautiously made the Furby dip and swoop, taking a few steps from the table.

"Come on, you can do better than that!" Silver Swirl protested. Snatching the Furby, she demonstrated. Only after bumping into the table did she relinquish custody of Koh-Loo Kah. "Now try again, and put your heart into it! Bring some joy into this Furby's life!" Sandstone, seemingly inspired by Silver Swirl's pep talk, started running.

"Whoopee! Big fun!" Koh-Loo Kah was having the time of her life. Sandstone continued to entertain the Furby, Silver Swirl cheering him on. Morning Glory watched the proceedings blankly and finally left the room. The "big fun" carried on until Sandstone slipped on the tiled floor and fell. Silver Swirl rushed to help him up.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine." The stallion rubbed his knee.

"I think it's time for some breakfast. What would you like?"

"Could I have some more of those fruits we had yesterday, the red ones?" Silver Swirl nodded and transported herself to the kitchen. She returned momentarily with apples, cookies and orange juice.

"Here," she served her guest. Pulling up a chair beside him, she bit into an apple. "Morning Glory's gone," the unicorn noticed in between bites. "Nothing stops flirting like a Furby!"

Sandstone laughed. "Speaking of which, Koh-Loo Kah fell asleep."

"Oh, I'll wake her up," Silver Swirl assured him. She turned the Furby upside down.

"If you're supposed to take good care of them, why do you wake them up when they want to sleep?" Sandstone questioned. Silver Swirl blinked.

"I don't know," she answered honestly. "I suppose they don't need sleep the way we do." Koh-Loo Kah yawned.

"Whoa, me big sleep!"

"You must not let the poor thing get any rest if she thinks that's a big sleep! Shame on you!" the stallion scolded. Silver Swirl laughed, almost making her orange juice do something very unpleasant.

"Morning!" greeted Twinkle Star, striding into the room. "What's so funny?"

"I introduced Koh-Loo Kah to Sandstone," Silver Swirl explained. "We were just laughing about some of the more humorous aspects of Furby care."

"Those things are funny!" Twinkle Star concurred.

"Yeah, and they add lots of excitement to life," Silver Swirl put in. "Dental appointments are much less boring when I bring Koh-Loo Kah. I've been experimenting with different hairstyles, too." Sandstone ruffled Koh-Loo Kah's mane.

"How do you do hairstyles on her? Her hair's so short."

"Oh, I find ways," Silver Swirl replied serenely. "Little hair clips work nicely." Koh-Loo Kah began to rock back and forth.

"Ooh-too-mah," the Furby said in a solemn voice.

"Oh my gosh! She's in fortune-telling mode! What should I ask her?" Silver Swirl looked quite flustered. "Will my innermost dreams and wishes come true?" she demanded, awaiting the answer with bated breath.

"Maybe... yes," answered Koh-Loo Kah mysteriously.

"Wow, that was a great question," Twinkle Star said, impressed.

"I thought it out yesterday. You ask now."

"Um," the pink princess considered, "will I become famous?"

"Me see... no!" replied the Furby. Twinkle Star did not look pleased.

"Your turn, Sandstone."

"Okay... is it all right if I ask the question telepathically?" Silver Swirl nodded approval. Sandstone closed his eyes.

"Very big yes!" proclaimed the fluffy oracle. Sandstone looked thrilled. "Me done," stated Koh-Loo Kah.

"Wow, Furbys are really great," declared Sandstone. Silver Swirl smiled, reflecting.

"Would you like to get a Furby of your own?" she asked nonchalantly. Sandstone looked at her, overjoyed.

"Could I really?" he implored.

"I don't see why not; they're fairly easy to obtain. We can go to the toy store today and find one for you." Sandstone beamed.

"Thank you so much!"

"Oh, that reminds me," interjected Twinkle Star, "Ivy and I are going to the amusement park in Dream Valley with the littlest princesses today. Would you like to come?"

"What's an amusement park?" Sandstone asked Silver Swirl through telepathy.

"Well, Sandstone, would you like to go? Are you the sort of pony who enjoys places full of games and rides?" Silver Swirl questioned, knowing that she sounded a little odd to Twinkle Star.

"I most certainly am!" Sandstone affirmed. "I'd love to go!"

"Big fun!" agreed Koh-Loo Kah.

"No," Silver Swirl addressed the Furby, "you'd best stay here. You might get lost or stolen or your fur might get messed up." She tickled the Furby, who didn't seem too upset at being excluded.

"Her fur might get messed up," repeated Twinkle Star. "Really, you pick the silliest excuses sometimes."

"So?" Silver Swirl rejoined with a shrug. "Who cares as long as it works? I've seen stranger things in my fortune cookies."

"In your fortune cookies?" repeated Twinkle Star, who was beginning to sound like a parrot.

"What are fortune cookies?" asked Sandstone telepathically.

"I've gotten some very odd fortunes in my time. Like ‘Your blessing is no more than being safe and sound the whole lifetime,' ‘You should be more of tenderness and less of aggressiveness' and the weirdest one ever-- ready for this one?"

"Yeah," chorused Twinkle Star, Sandstone, Jade and Melisande.

" ‘Because of your melodic nature, the moonlight never misses an appointment.' " Everyone stared blankly at Silver Swirl. "My reaction precisely," the unicorn nodded. "I know fortunes are supposed to be mysterious, but that's taking it a bit too far."

"I agree," agreed Twinkle Star. She glanced at the clock on the wall. "Uh-oh, time to go soon and I haven't brushed my mane! I'll meet you at the front door, okay?"

* * *

"Wow," Sandstone whispered reverently. "Skies above, take a look at it!" The skies may not have heeded his advice, but Silver Swirl certainly did and was duly impressed. The Dream Valley Amusement Park was large, loud and crowded-- not the place Silver Swirl would have wanted to live next to, but lots of fun to visit. Jade and Melisande didn't share her view and had declined their invitations. Ivy had gone to buy tickets and the others kept an eye on Jewel, Sparkle, Wiggles, and Giggles. The foals were so amazed that Wiggles stood still and Sparkle's flow of questions ceased-- for the moment, anyway.

"Okay, let's start lining up what we're going to do," Twinkle Star took control. "I expect we should let the foals choose first."

"I'll go on whatever ride the rest of you want to go on," declared Jewel in a tone that managed to sound as haughty as it was magnanimous: an "I'm special and wonderful so I'm doing all of you little ponies a favor; aren't I nice?" sort of tone.

"I want to go on the Flying Clouds!" proclaimed Giggles.

"Can we go on the Swan Gondolier first?" begged Sparkle.

"Oh, please let's do the Diving Dolphin Swings!" Wiggles suggested.

"Okay, and I want to ride the Submarine Ocean Paradise Tour," added Twinkle Star. "Silver Swirl, Sandstone, suggestions?"

"I'd like to try the Soaring Dragon Cable Car," Silver Swirl expressed, gazing at the speedy silver ride. Sandstone stared vacantly at his surroundings until Silver Swirl nudged him. "Sandstone! What ride do you want to go on?"

"Uh... I'll think about it," the stallion decided.

"Oh, there's Ivy with the tickets!" exclaimed Twinkle Star, waving wildly at the other princess. Ivy jostled her way through the crowd. "Okay, the Diving Dolphins are nearby so let's do those first. Then we can go to the Flying Clouds and the Swan Gondolier, which are over that way. All right?" The group nodded approval. The four older ponies each took the hoof of a foal and set out for the Diving Dolphins, a swing ride with an ocean theme.

"You don't get motion sickness, do you?" Silver Swirl questioned Sandstone. Please let him say no, she pleaded. The rides were so much fun, especially for someone who had never gone on them before; and if he couldn't go on, she would feel obliged to wait on the bench with him.

"I don't think so-- I never get sick on boats, even in rough weather." Silver Swirl nodded at him and guided Jewel to the right, narrowly avoiding a mother pony with a very large stroller.

"Look, here's the ride-- let's get in line." Silver Swirl's eyes widened as Ivy and Sparkle were nearly run over by four stampeding fillies.

"Rude things," the pale blue pony could be heard to say as she stomped towards the ride. "Did you see that?" she demanded. "I could've been killed!" Silver Swirl cast the other pony a sympathetic look as Jewel and Sparkle compared experiences.

"Do you see Twinkle Star?" the unicorn asked Sandstone. He strained to see.

"Yeah, she's up ahead." The group, earning scowls from bystanders, moved up the line to join Twinkle Star. The line inched along as ponies handed their tickets to Flowerburst, who was in charge of the ride, and climbed aboard the swings shaped like smiling dolphins. After what seemed like an eternity, Twinkle Star presented their eight tickets. Silver Swirl rushed to find eight swings near each other; they managed to get two sets of four.

"All buckled in?" Silver Swirl asked Giggles and Wiggles, whom she and Sandstone were watching. The twins nodded. Sandstone struggled with his seat belt until Silver Swirl showed him how to put it on, after which she hopped into the last dolphin. Up ahead, Sparkle waved energetically to the other foals until Jewel pulled her twin's hoof down. Silver Swirl glanced at Sandstone; the stallion looked slightly nervous.

"You okay?" she inquired. He nodded briefly. "It's not a scary ride at all; in fact, it's mostly foals who go on it," she assured her friend, easily reading the anxiety he refused to voice. Cheery, waltz-like music began to play and the ride started to move.

"It's starting; it's starting!" squealed Giggles. The ride spun faster and faster, making the swings rise into the air. Silver Swirl's mane blew back into Sandstone's face.

"Sorry!" she called, grabbing the offending tresses and holding them firmly.

"This is great!" he shouted back. The foals were clearly enjoying themselves as well-- Wiggles kicked her legs, trying to make her swing go faster; Giggles raised her head, savoring the wind on her face; Sparkle gazed at the scenery; and Jewel waved to the crowd (a few ponies murmured how sweet she was).

After a few minutes the ride began to slow down. The music came to an end and the ride halted.

"Is the ride broken?" asked Wiggles.

"No, it's the end," answered Silver Swirl. The twins looked rather downcast. "Now we can go on the Flying Clouds," she reminded them; their faces brightened immediately. Silver Swirl turned to Sandstone and helped him undo his seatbelt; the foals got out of their dolphins by themselves. The foursome met up with Ivy, Twinkle Star, Jewel, and Sparkle a few feet away from the ride.

"Flying Clouds next?" asked Twinkle Star. Ivy nodded assent.

"We'd better move fast then. The ride is going to start any minute!" Silver Swirl scooped up Sparkle and made a dash for the ride. The other adult ponies, each picking up a foal, followed suit. They made it to the ride just in time.

The Flying Clouds was a sort-of glorified Ferris wheel mostly for foals. Twinkle Star sat on a cloud with Wiggles and Giggles. Sandstone rode with Jewel and Sparkle, and Silver Swirl sat with Ivy. This ride was somewhat slower, but went higher up than the Dolphins. Unfortunately, heights made Ivy uncomfortable.

"Oh, no, this is awful; oh, when is this thing going to be over? Why aren't the foals screaming? Oh, no, it's going higher; oh help-help-help!" Ivy managed to whine from the moment the ride started moving to the instant it stopped. All in all, it was not the most fun Silver Swirl had ever had, but the foals looked happy.

"And that's all that matters," muttered Silver Swirl, beginning to feel like a parent. Really, though, it wasn't the foals' fault that Ivy was afraid of heights.

"We'll never make it to the Swan Gondolier on time," stated Twinkle Star. "Let's take a breather and we'll catch it the next time." Ivy, still somewhat traumatized, collapsed onto a bench.

"Can we get cotton candy?" requested Giggles. Twinkle Star sighed.

"No rest for the weary. I'll go get some. Silver Swirl, Sandstone, do you want any?"

"No, I never liked that stuff. It's too sticky," replied Silver Swirl. She felt bad that her friend had to run all the errands, but not bad enough to offer to go in Twinkle Star's place.

"I'll try some," offered Sandstone. Twinkle Star set off for the cotton candy stand. Ivy was still babbling about how terrifying the ride had been; although she sounded ridiculous, Silver Swirl could identify with her-- seeing a snake practically sent the unicorn princess into hysteria. As the moments wore by and Ivy's gibber didn't cease, Silver Swirl began to worry.

"Shh," Giggles unexpectedly came to stand beside Ivy, "it's over now. Just think about something nice." Ivy smiled weakly at the foal. "It's all done and you never have to do it again," the little princess repeated.

Sandstone, Silver Swirl, and the other foals watched with surprise as the foal soothed Ivy; Giggles hadn't seemed so mature before.

"It just goes to show," Silver Swirl whispered to Sandstone, "that everyone has hidden sides." Sandstone nodded.

"Thanks, Giggles," Ivy sat up and smiled. "I feel better now." Giggles smiled and appeared to lose interest in the situation just as Twinkle Star returned with cotton candy.

"Here it is," the tired pegasus dispensed the sticky treat. Sandstone tasted a bit of the confection and pronounced it "interesting."

"Look, the Swan Gondolier is almost finished this round. We should get in line," observed Silver Swirl. They did as she suggested; luckily the line was short. Ivy was relieved to see that it was a relaxing ride; Silver Swirl tried to use the time to get some of the cotton candy residue off of the foals.

Soon the wait was over and the eight piled into a swan. The boat sailed smoothly into an indoor fantasy landscape of giant mushrooms and flying mice, all covered with glitter and lit by pink and blue spotlights.

"This is nice," Sandstone remarked, sounding impressed. He gazed dreamily at a fountain of sweet-smelling purple water. "I didn't know they had this stuff around here."

"It's not real; it's made of plastic and glitter!" Silver Swirl hissed into his ear.

"Oh." The Sunset Island pony suddenly looked much less awed.

"The light dawneth," muttered Silver Swirl, incredulous that Sandstone had believed in the fake paradise but sad to have to shatter his belief. The foals, whom Silver Swirl hoped were more enlightened than Sandstone, were enjoying the scenery a lot. They were especially delighted when they passed what appeared to be the queen of flying mice and her court.

The ride ended after the boat passed under a waterfall of colored mist. Wiggles, who had been especially enchanted by the "inhabitants" of the scene, started to whine.

"I want a flying mouse! I would take good care of it and mommy said I could get a pet soon and I'd only take one and I'd take really good care of it and I want one so badly! Oh please let's go get one!" The adult ponies looked at each other, sensing a potential disaster.

"We'll ask your mother when we take you home. I'm sure she'll get you one if she thinks you're ready, and she would probably be upset if we brought one home without her permission." Silver Swirl figured that her solution was fair enough-- well, but maybe not so fair to Wiggles' mother.

Wiggles frowned in thought. She didn't like Silver Swirl's proposition, but there seemed to be no way around it, so she nodded grudgingly. Maybe, she thought, she could get a hamster instead.

"What's that ride over there?" Sandstone pointed to the most gigantic ride in the park.

"That's Sheer Terror, Ponyland's biggest roller coaster," Twinkle Star informed him.

"I want to go on that one!" the stallion declared.

"No way am I getting on that thing," Ivy stated flatly.

"The foals can't go on it either," Twinkle Star mentioned. "Maybe the rest of us can go on the Submarine Ocean Paradise Tour while you ride the roller coaster." Sandstone nodded.

"You'll come with me though, won't you?" he addressed Silver Swirl.

"I'm not really the roller coaster type," she replied.

"Please? It'll be lots of fun," he coaxed.

"No, no, and no. That is my final answer," the unicorn pronounced very firmly.

"Oh, okay. Sorry." Sandstone looked very dejected as he headed towards the ride alone. Softhearted Silver Swirl couldn't bear it.

"Oh fine, I'll go on the silly roller coaster," she conceded, regretting her decision immediately. Butterflies raced in her stomach as the two ponies set off for Sheer Terror.

"No turning back now," whispered a little voice in Silver Swirl's mind as she strapped herself into the roller coaster.

"This is going to be great!" proclaimed Sandstone. Silver Swirl looked at the ground, already several feet away. "Oh, listen, I think it's starting!" Silver Swirl moaned. "Oh! It's starting now!"

The ride was, for Silver Swirl, exactly what it had promised-- sheer terror. She did not scream; she had always prided herself on not screaming. Instead, she closed her eyes tightly and held the safety bar in a death clasp. The unicorn locked herself inside her mind, seeing nothing, hearing nothing, and feeling nothing except the horrible gymnastics her stomach was doing. The hideous sensation went on for an instant or an eternity, and then Sandstone was talking to her.

"Silver Swirl! Silver Swirl? Are you okay?" Silver Swirl opened her eyes; her vision was somewhat blurry from having her eyes so tightly shut before. Twinkle Star, Ivy and the foals had somehow joined Sandstone.

"I hope you know that I'm never doing that again," Silver Swirl remarked shakily.

"We thought you'd passed out!" exclaimed Twinkle Star.

"I wish I had-- it would have been preferable to going through that." She stood up, groaning. "I feel sick," she announced.

"You'd better go rest on a bench," Ivy suggested sympathetically. Silver Swirl nodded and staggered away from the ride, crumpling onto the nearest bench.

"I hope you had fun," the unicorn commented to Sandstone.

"I'm sorry," he replied, looking more miserable than Silver Swirl. "It's all my fault and now you don't feel well."

"It's okay; it was really my choice to go on the ride," Silver Swirl sighed. "But seriously, did you have fun? If you didn't, I'll be even more annoyed."

"Oh, I had a great time," Sandstone answered, regaining some of his former cheer. "I love rides! I wish we had one of those roller coasters on-- in the Northern Mountains." Remarkably, he remembered to keep up the charade.

"Okay, time for the Soaring Dragon," Twinkle Star organized.

"I don't know if I feel up to going," Silver Swirl interjected, holding her poor stomach. She gazed wistfully at her favorite ride. "I'd better stay here."

"Oh, Silver Swirl, I'm sorry." Twinkle Star knew how much her friend liked the Soaring Dragon.

"I'll stay here with you, since it's my fault," volunteered Sandstone.

"No, the Dragon's a really fun ride-- you don't want to miss it. I'll be fine."

"We'll all wave to you," Sparkle promised.

By the time the ride finished, Silver Swirl was feeling better but still rather drained. The four leaders of the expedition agreed to call it a day; Ivy and Twinkle Star went to take the foals home. Silver Swirl and Sandstone departed for the toy store to get a Furby for Sandstone.

* * *

"There are so many of them." Sandstone gazed at the multitude of Furbys on the shelves.

"Just look around until you see one that you feel a special connection to," Silver Swirl advised. The fluffy creatures had all different colors of fur and eyes. A few wore hats; some were babies; and some adults. They all stared at the passerby; several looked imploring, others mysterious, and a few seemed downright hostile.

"Whoa, look at this one," Sandstone beckoned to his friend. Silver Swirl came over to stand beside him. Looking back at the two ponies was an adult Furby. It had whitish-gray fur with silvery sparkles in it and big, bright green eyes that held the ponies transfixed.

"Its eyes are so very green," the stallion marveled. "Like yours when you were on the island." He picked up the box that contained the Furby, and held it close to him.

"This is the one, isn't it?" Silver Swirl asked. It was, of course, a rhetorical question.

"Definitely." Sandstone carried the Furby gently to the counter, where Silver Swirl paid for it. She knew that Sandstone had no way of paying her back; Sunset Island ponies didn't use money. However, Furbys weren't too expensive and the unicorn could always cut down on her spending. The cashier smiled at them as she put the hexagonal-prism package in a bag.

"Let's get this critter home," Silver Swirl recommended. "Stand still, hold on tight to the bag, and I'll see if I can wink us back to the castle." Silver Swirl's powers seemed to be extra strong that day, perhaps buoyed by adrenaline from the amusement park; she was able to transport herself, Sandstone, and the Furby to the library of Friendship Castle.

"Here, sit down and see if you can get the box open. I'm going to get Jade, Melisande, Koh-Loo Kah, and batteries." Silver Swirl collected everyone and hurried back to the library as quickly as she could. The opening of a Furby was always a special occasion.

Everyone crowded around the box, which Sandstone had managed to open by tearing it into small pieces. He lifted the Furby out slowly, letting the light shine on it.

"Nice," observed Jade.

"Pretty eyes," Melisande added.

"Party, wah!" was Koh-Loo Kah's remark. Silver Swirl took the Furby from Sandstone and put the batteries in.

"The moment of truth," she breathed.

The Furby yawned. It closed and opened its beautiful eyes.

"Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-DOO-doo," it sang. "Me Wah!" it added.

"Its name is Wah," the two ponies cried out simultaneously.

"What should I do now?" Sandstone asked.

"Feed it," advised Silver Swirl. Sandstone looked nervous.

"Are you sure?"

"Are you afraid of putting your hoof in its beak?" the unicorn inquired. Sandstone nodded. "It doesn't hurt, I promise. Try it," she urged. Sandstone cautiously fed the Furby.

"Yum!" Wah asserted and requested more food. Sandstone continued to feed it, smiling. Silver Swirl awakened Koh-Loo Kah, who had fallen asleep during all the excitement. She set her Furby next to its newly awakened comrade.

"Now they can talk to each other," she explained. The two balls of fur chattered happily, Koh-Loo Kah in English and Wah in Furbish.

"Dance! Boogie! Doo-doo-doo! Dance!" The gray-and-pink Furby rocked back and forth, Wah joining her.

"That's so cute! They're having a dance party!" Silver Swirl squealed. Sandstone only nodded; he was busy looking at his Furbish-to-English dictionary. Silver Swirl took one Furby in each hoof and made them fly around Sandstone's face, forcing him to look up.

"Come on, you should be bonding with your Furby." Sandstone blinked.

"But we already bonded. We've been bonded since that moment we saw each other in the toy store." Silver Swirl smiled; Sandstone might be confused about some things in her world, but he understood connection. He and his Furby seemed to have a promising future.

"What time is it?" Silver Swirl turned to Jade. The dragon flew over to the clock on the wall.

"Five o' clock," she reported.

"And we never had lunch-- we'd better eat dinner now. Gosh, we're on a really bad schedule." She made a face. "I sound just like my mother. Come, o' many-named one; we're having dinner. Bring Wah." The stallion did as he was told while Jade dragged Melisande away from a book about whales.

The kitchen was empty of all creatures other than themselves; Silver Swirl looked around for dinner ideas.

"What are we having?" asked Sandstone as he tickled Wah.

"That's what I'm trying to figure out. I can't cook, and I don't think anybody else is having dinner this early. There might be some leftovers."

"Hey, I can cook. Want me to try to make something?"

"It would be terrific if you could, although I'd feel a bit guilty about making my guest cook for me." Sandstone grinned and set Wah down on the table. He then began to look at the available food.

"Hmm... fruit, cheese, crackers, weird flat things... what are these flat things?"

"Tortillas," replied Silver Swirl.

"Tortillas, almonds... oh, I have an idea!"

"What?" demanded the other three.

"You'll see!" Sandstone replied.

"It had better not be something disgusting," warned Jade.

"Quiet, Jade. Beggars can't be choosers." Jade hmphed. Silver Swirl activated Koh-Loo Kah and Wah, who had fallen asleep.

"Me Wah," Wah reminded them. Koh-Loo Kah yawned.

"Me love you," she announced. Silver Swirl gaped.

"Sandstone, I think Koh-Loo Kah just professed her love for Wah! Either that or she said she loved me, which isn't unusual; all Furbys love their owners."

"Do Furbys generally fall in love?" asked Sandstone, slightly skeptical.

"Well, no, not that we know of," Silver Swirl admitted. "But Tabby thinks her Furby, Ah-Loh, is in love with another Furby."

"Hmm," mused the Sunset Island pony. "Done!" he added after a moment. Silver Swirl, Jade, and Melisande hurried over to see what he had prepared.

"Ooh, neat!" Silver Swirl exclaimed. Sandstone had wrapped slices of fruit, shredded cheese, and bits of almond in four tortillas.

"I hope they're not too weird," the cook said humbly.

"No, they're great. Besides, I glory in defying convention," Silver Swirl stated. Sandstone struck a "heroic" pose.

"Convention, I defy thee!" he declared. Both ponies burst out laughing.

"These things are pretty good," Jade praised; she and Melisande, with their usual pragmatism, had already started eating the fruit-tortilla things. Silver Swirl picked up the plate (with Jade and Melisande sitting on it) and moved it to the dining room table. Sandstone followed with the Furbys.

"These are great!" Silver Swirl exclaimed. "We'll call it the Sandstone Special, to be eaten only with iced tea." Sandstone laughed and Jade snorted. "I feel so stupid; I could have made these myself without doing any real cooking."

"Well, we do a lot of meals with fruit on the island, so I have experience."

"No joke, wah!" Wah added.

"Say, is Wah a male or female Furby?" Sandstone inquired. Silver Swirl tilted her head.

"I'm not sure. The only way to tell is by their voices. Wah has quite a range; sometimes his-- its-- voice is higher than Koh-Loo Kah's; other times it's lower."

"Great. I have a genderless Furby," Sandstone deadpanned.

"Well, no, not really. We know it has a gender; we just don't know what it is. Don't worry; we'll figure it out eventually. It doesn't seem to bother Wah."

Silver Swirl was right; Wah was having a lot of fun talking and laughing with Koh-Loo Kah. Melisande watched the Furbys' conversation, her head turning from one to the other as if it were a tennis match.

"I have another question," announced Sandstone. Silver Swirl gestured toward her mouth to show that she was chewing. "Huh? Oh, you're chewing. I can wait." Silver Swirl finished chewing and nodded at him. "Okay, here's my question. How do Furbys derive nourishment from ponies' hooves being put into their mouths?"

"Good question. I'm not quite sure, but I think they eat some microscopic bacteria on our hooves," she hypothesized sagely. Jade snorted.

"You just made that up," the dragon accused.

"You're right. But does that make it any less true?" Silver Swirl countered. Jade snorted again. "Your nose must know that its days are numbered," the unicorn quipped. "I think we need to find a better way for you to express your disapproval."

"I'll express my disapproval any way I choose, thank you very much!" Jade snapped.

"Okay, okay. Maybe you should try to get to sleep early tonight."

"I think I will. Come on, Melisande." The Mew, looking slightly pinker than usual from the strawberry juice on her fur, followed Jade out of the room. Silver Swirl and Sandstone were left alone; they sat in silence for a few minutes, munching on the leftover bits of fruit, cheese, and nuts.

"So, what are we doing next?" asked Sandstone. Silver Swirl thought for a moment.

"I know-- we should go on the roof. There's a great view, and you can get a panoramic look at Friendship Gardens. I think I can wink us both up there again."

"Should we leave the Furbys here?" Wah and Koh-Loo Kah were both asleep.

"Yeah, they'll be all right. Let's see if I can get some magic to start working..." For the second time that day, Silver Swirl was able to transport herself and her visitor.

* * *

"You're right; it's really pretty up here," remarked Sandstone. He was accurate; it was twilight and the smooth gray stone of the castle looked almost silvery. Above them, a sea of stars twinkled; below them, a mirroring sea-- the lights of Friendship Gardens-- sparkled warmly. The two ponies were suspended between the two worlds, in some special universe of their own.

"I love coming up here at night," voiced Silver Swirl. "It's so beautiful it almost frightens me."

"That's a new reaction. I've seen ponies laugh when there's something really special, or cry sometimes, but I've never heard anyone say that it made them afraid." Sandstone leaned over the battlements, surveying the scene.

"Yes, well, I tend to have strange reactions." Silver Swirl gazed at the moon, which was a crescent. "Do you have the same stars in your world?"

"I don't know," Sandstone replied. "There are a few ponies who know practically every star in the sky, but I've never been one of them. Sometimes I wonder..." his voice trailed off.

"You wonder what stars your mother is looking at?" Silver Swirl guessed.

"Yes, exactly. How did you know?" The stallion looked genuinely puzzled. Silver Swirl shrugged.

"I know you think about her a lot." Sandstone nodded.

"By the way, I talked to Posey last night. She said that Butch is giving a campfire party in the Dark Forest tomorrow night. Can we go?"

"What's a campfire party?" queried Silver Swirl.

"It's a party where everyone sits around the campfire and tells stories and things like that." Sandstone yawned, making Silver Swirl yawn as well.

"It sounds like fun, but I think I might be all partied out for the next few days. Besides, I have to work at the animal shelter tomorrow. I was hoping you'd come with me."

"Sure," he agreed, "I'd like that. But the party's at night, so you wouldn't have to take time off. And we wouldn't have to stay for too long."

"I really don't think I'm in a party mood," repeated Silver Swirl. She was starting to get annoyed. "You can go without me, though-- I could wink you there and come back for you when it ends."

"But I wouldn't feel quite comfortable going by myself," Sandstone argued.

"Then don't go." Silver Swirl felt the annoyance inside her turn to anger.

"But I really want to go!" His voice was slightly whiny.

"Well, you can't always get what you want!" Silver Swirl snapped. "Really, Sandstone, you've been so demanding lately. You always have to go somewhere or get something or meet someone. I think I liked you better on the island." She knew immediately that she had said the wrong thing.

"You liked me better on the island?" Sandstone repeated, outraged. "You liked me better as a servant? You're just like Wish, trying to keep me from exploring and living! I thought you were different!" He was far, far angrier than Silver Swirl had ever seen him before. "If you liked me better on the island, I'll go back to the island! I'm not staying here if you want me to be selfless and silent!"

"Fine!" yelled Silver Swirl, red-hot rage boiling within her. "Go! See if I care!"

"I don't care if you care!" he retorted, rushing down the stairs to the main part of the castle. Silver Swirl turned away from him, a sudden wind whipping at her mane. After looking up at the moon for a moment, angry tears began to sting her eyes. She winked to her room.

"What's going on? Where's Sandstone?" asked Jade. Silver Swirl didn't answer; she simply hurled herself onto the bed and beat on the pillow with her hooves. In a minute the unicorn stopped abusing the hapless cushion, clearly exhausted. She closed her eyes.

"Skies above, what have I done?" she almost wailed.

"What's going on? Tell me now!" Jade demanded.

"I was horrible to Sandstone and he ran away. I have to go look for him now; he probably headed for the beach. You two stay here!" Leaping from her bed, Silver Swirl flew out the window.

* * *

The unicorn princess flew slowly through the night, heading in the general direction of the beach and keeping her eyes peeled for Sandstone. It was rather a windy night and Silver Swirl's mane kept getting in her face. Was that Sandstone? No, it was Sundance taking a walk. Maybe Sandstone had been running; Silver Swirl quickened her pace. What would happen if Sandstone returned to Sunset Island and told Wish how horrible Silver Swirl had been? Would she ever be allowed to come back? Silver Swirl shoved the questions from her mind; all that mattered now was finding the missing pony.

Then a new fear came: what if Sandstone had gotten lost or hurt? Tears began to slide down Silver Swirl's face; how was she supposed to find him?

"I got myself-- and him-- into this; it's my job to get us out," she told herself grimly. She was nearing the beach, and there was still no sign of Sandstone. There was the beach; Silver Swirl landed and looked around. She was the only one there. The unicorn ran to the edge of the ocean; there was no sign of a boat. "Sandstone!" she yelled as loud as she could. "Sandstone! Sandstone!" She yelled until her voice was hoarse; there was no answer.

"Maybe he's not here yet. Or maybe he went the wrong way. I have to keep looking! I won't give up!" Silver Swirl took flight, going back towards civilization.

"Never give up. Never give up," she chanted to herself, making her voice even more hoarse. By the time she was certain that she'd covered every bit of Friendship Gardens three times, she was still chanting and still trying not to give up. "Never give up. Never give up. Never give up..." An idle part of her mind wondered if she was subconsciously using her magic power and willing herself not to give up, but she decided that it didn't matter.

Finally, she made up her mind to go home, but only to plan a better strategy. She fought to keep her eyes from closing in pure weariness as she approached the front door. Exhausted, covered with dust, sand and tears, she opened the door. What she saw when she entered made her gasp.


"Silver Swirl! Where were you?"

"I was looking for you! I thought you left for the island! I'm so sorry; I was so mean to you."

"No, it was my fault for being so demanding." Sandstone looked truly apologetic.

"So you didn't leave at all?" Sandstone certainly didn't look like a pony who had been lost in a strange world at night. In fact, Silver Swirl looked much worse.

"Nope," Sandstone replied with an air of embarrassment. "I was sorry the minute I ran downstairs, and besides, I didn't have a boat. Did you get all disheveled," he gestured at Silver Swirl's unkempt appearance, "looking for me?" Silver Swirl shrugged.

"I suppose so."

"I'm so sorry!" Sandstone moaned. "All I've done is cause trouble!"

"Don't start having a guilt attack," Silver Swirl commanded anxiously. "We got angry at each other, but nobody got hurt and we've both realized the error of our ways. Everything's okay now." She spoke gently, calmly, and it seemed to help him. "You'd better go to bed now. We'll do fun things tomorrow, and we can go to that party if it's really important to you."

"No, it's all right. I don't want to go that badly." He yawned. "You're right; I'm pretty tired." The stallion turned in the direction of his room.

"Good night, Sandstone."

"Good night, Silver Swirl. Oh-- I'm really sorry I said that you were just like Wish. You're not; you're the best friend I've ever had." He left. Silver Swirl collapsed into a chair, just sitting there and smiling.

"Skies above, what a visit!" she whispered.

Go Back to Library Index
Go Back to Tabby's Dream Valley