Danger in Dark Forest
written by Tabby

A group of ponies were sitting around a bonfire in the Dark Forest on Halloween night. The group included Clever Clover, Sugarberry, Tabby, Friendly, Barnacle, and Spike.

Sugarberry reached her hoof into the marshmallow bag and pulled one out, then placed it on her roasting stick. "Who's going to tell the next story?" she questioned.

"I will," Tabby said promptly.

"ARR!" Barnacle said.

"I thought you didn't have any to tell this year," Clever Clover commented.

"Yeah, but Seabreeze is letting me tell the one she had picked out, since she couldn't make it after all," Tabby explained.

Clever Clover looked at her suspiciously. "Isn't that the cleaver story?"

"Right on!" Tabby exclaimed. "So, can I start?"

At that point, there was a rustling in the bushes behind them. Sugarberry looked frightened. "What's that?" she whispered.

"Must be something." Tabby shrugged. "Somebody'll have to go see."

"Not me!" Sugarberry shivered.

"Yeah, not me, yeah," Friendly agreed with Sugarberry.

Spike was busy roasting a marshmallow with his own flame and was oblivious to the rustling bushes.

"Then I'll have to," Tabby said boldly. She got up from the bench some of them were sitting on and started over to the bushes.

But at that moment, a head popped up from the bushes-- a pony head. Tabby reeled back. The pony in the bushes fully emerged.

"Princess Royal Blue!" Tabby exclaimed. "What're you doing here? You're supposed to be at the Halloween party of Tiffany's!"

"Yes... that's where I was..." Royal Blue started. "But I heard about your bonfire, and I thought that would be more fun than the dance."

Tabby nodded approvingly. "Good choice!"

"Come and have a seat!" Sugarberry invited.

"That would be wonderful." Royal Blue smiled, and seating herself in an empty space on one of the benches. Tabby sat down in her old spot.

Sugarberry noted that Royal Blue was still dressed-up in her gown and jewelry, and was still holding her wand. She didn't think much of it until something hit her... "Tabby," she whispered urgently to her friend. "Royal Blue has her wand!"

"So?" Tabby said, irritated, wanting to start telling her story.

"We're not that far from the Skeleton King's burial ground, are we? What if it..."

Tabby thought back to their past encounter with the Skeleton King. It had been when one of the princesses' had lost her wand in the Dark Forest. Tabby, along with some others, had gone off in search of it, and ended up waking the dead Skeleton King with it. They'd gotten the wand away from him, and therefore he had no power. Tabby, however, was not near as concerned as Sugarberry. "Oh, no, we're not even close to the burial spot... I don't think. Aw, the wand won't do anything!"

"But I'm sure that clearing is just beyond the oak tree there... the wand might be close enough to do something."

Tabby waved her hoof in the air. "It's nothing." Then, turning to the others, she said, "And now, for my story!"

The others stopped their chattering and turned towards Tabby. Tabby started her tale. "Okay, so, a long time ago an ancestor of Cleve Clove's lived in this big Irish castle. And he owned this, like, really big cleaver. Now, this pony who lived in the castle was really insane, ya know? And every time when the moon was full he went out with his cleaver..." Tabby paused to add to the suspense, "and chopped ponies manes and tail off."

Royal Blue gasped in terror. "Oh, my!"

Tabby resumed her tale. "And all the other ponies were getting really annoyed with getting their hair cut off like that. So, finally, they locked the insane pony up in a tower in his castle." She paused again.

"What happened next?" Spike asked, wide-eyed.

"He lived, locked up in the tower, for years. But then he died," Tabby went on. "But it's rumored that on every Halloween night, his ghost arises and goes around scaring people so bad that their hair falls out!"

"Is that the end?" Clever Clover asked.

"Yes," Tabby verified. "Isn't that a cool story?"

Royal Blue shivered. "It'd be terrible to get your hair cut off like that! I'd hate it!"

"Good story, yeah, yeah," Friendly said.

"I thought so myself," Tabby said smugly.

"Now it's my turn!" Royal Blue exclaimed. "I've got a really good story to tell, too."

"Go ahead," Sugarberry said.

Royal Blue started out. "Once there was this really beautiful princess..." Royal Blue went on with the story, and was waving her two front legs around excitedly in the process of telling it.

Tabby looked past the big oak tree Sugarberry had pointed out earlier. Maybe that clearing with the Skeleton King is behind that, she thought.

At one point during the story, Royal Blue waved her legs especially wildly. And out of her one hoof flew her wand!

"Oh, no!" she cried, pausing in her story. "Where'd it go?" She glanced around in the grass.

"I be seein' it fly behind that oak tree there, ARR!" Barnacle said.

"The oak tree!" Sugarberry gasped.

Ooh, this might be bad, Tabby thought.

"Just go on with your story," Clever Clover prodded. "We'll look for it later."

So Royal Blue sat down and went on with her story. Sugarberry looked a bit nervous, but refrained from saying anything.

"...and so, that saved the kingdom, and the princess was really happy," Royal Blue finished.

"Didn't sound much like a ghost story," Tabby snorted.

"Umm... what's that?" Sugarberry pointed towards the oak tree. The group could plainly see a white skeleton pony standing next to it.

"It's the Skeleton King again!" Tabby cried out.

"ARR, that be lookin' like a fake skeleton!" Barnacle said.

"No! We've met up with this guy before; he's real!" Tabby explained.

Spike was just laughing. "This is a good joke!"

But Clever Clover had also been with Tabby when she'd first met up with the Skeleton. "Yes, I'm sure he's real! He looks just like the one we met that one time before!"

"Yeah, yeah!" Friendly exclaimed, hopping up and down.

"It's him all right!" Sugarberry said.

Royal Blue, at this point, was looking quite ill. "I think..."

The Skeleton King started to advance towards the group. "So we meet again," he said evilly. "You have disturbed my grave once more!"

And then, Royal Blue fainted dead away.

"I say we make a run for it," Tabby said promptly.

"And leave Royal Blue here all alone?" Sugarberry exclaimed.

"Aw, somebody can carry her," Tabby said. "What else can we do?"

"We've got to get the wand away from the Skeleton!" Clever Clover exclaimed.

"Oh, if only you had your cleaver with you tonight!" Sugarberry wailed. Clever Clover did, in fact, own a cleaver; rumor had it that it was the same cleaver that had belonged to his insane ancestor in Ireland.

"I don't have my cleaver... but I have my whip!" Clever Clover picked up his whip from the ground.

"Try to catch the wand in it!" Sugarberry suggested.

"ARR, maybe this be a real skeleton after all," Barnacle said.

Spike was looking scared also. "Yeah..."

"Just use the whip, Cleve Clove!" Tabby prodded.

Clever Clover unrolled his whip and stood in front of the Skeleton King. "Ready to take me on, huh, Skeleton King?"

The Skeleton frowned. "You can't hurt me! Not this time, you won't!"

But Clever Clover was very skilled with his whip. He lashed it over to the Skeleton King, and caught the wand in it, ripping it out of the Skeleton's hooves.

"Ahhh!" the Skeleton King cried as he started to fall over, as without the wand he was powerless.

"Hooray!" Sugarberry cried. Royal Blue, hearing the cry, slowly lifted her head. "What..."

Clever Clover picked up the wand and proudly handed it back to Royal Blue.

"Oh, thank you ever so much!" Royal Blue gushed.

"Shouldn't we put the skeleton back in his grave?" Tabby suggested.

"Yeah, I guess we could," Spike said.

So Tabby, Spike, and Clever Clover pulled the skeleton, once again dry and lifeless, back behind the oak tree and dropped him back into his grave.

"Whew, good riddance!" Tabby said. "I'm getting sick of meeting up with him."

And so, the group finished the night at the bonfire without any more very scary incidents.

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