Beware the Ides of March
written by Tabby and Sugarberry, with inspiration from Clever Clover

"March is a boring month!" declared Tabby.

"Especially with all the snow melted already!" agreed Clever Clover.

"Yeah! It's just cold and dreary!" sighed Sugarberry.

"And no football," Quarterback groaned.

"How can you think about football at a time like this," Tabby snapped. "We're trying to come up with something to do!"

The depressed ponies were gathered at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe, along with many of Scoops' regular customers, bemoaning a winter season that was becoming way too dull.

"We could have a party," suggested Chocolate Chip, but she quickly dismissed the idea when she saw Tabby glaring at her.

The ponies fell into silence, staring at their half-finished sundaes as if even ice cream had lost its thrill.

Suddenly, the doors to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe burst open, and there stood... a little man, dressed in a blue outfit with a pointy red hat perched on his head and a long white beard. All eyes in the shop swiveled to see this odd creature.

"Beware the Ides of March!" boomed the little man, and then he was... gone.

"What was that all about?" Quarterback questioned as the ponies sat bewildered.

"The eyes of March. Highly interesting," murmured Tabby.

" ‘Ides,' not ‘eyes'," Clever Clover explained. "It looked like it was a gnome that came in. He had the classic pointy red hat on. ‘Beware the Ides of March...' that's March fifteenth."

"The Ides of March is the day Julius Caesar was killed, right?" Sugarberry queried.

"Yes," agreed Clever Clover. "And it's just two days away."

"Good grief!" gasped Chocolate Chip. "I hope this isn't a bad omen!"

Tabby had obviously not been listening to the conversation. "What're we going to do on Friendly's birthday? It's coming up in a few days."

"That's right; it is coming up soon!" Sugarberry exclaimed. "On March fifteenth!" She paused, and then gasped. "March fifteenth! Friendly's birthday is one the Ides of March!"

"So we're to beware of Friendly's birthday," Tabby pondered.

Chocolate Chip whimpered. "I won't want anything to happen to Friendly!"

"Who'd want to hurt Friendly, anyway?" questioned Sugarberry. "This is mysterious!"

* * *

The next day, Sugarberry visited the library to find out more about gnomes. And sure enough, Clever Clover had been right-- the little creature who had appeared so briefly at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe was indeed a gnome; he looked exactly like the pictures in the book: blue coat, brown pants, beige boots, red cone-shaped hat, and a face nearly covered with a white beard and mustache. His cheeks and nose were red, and his eyes twinkling... and all very small.

Going to the counter to check-out the book to show her friends, Sugarberry was amazed to see a gnome standing inside the front door repeating the same refrain, "Beware the Ides of March!" and quickly disappearing.

Sugarberry ran outside to see where the elusive little man had gone, but there was no gnome in sight. She thoughtfully returned to the counter to check-out her book and questioned Streaky, the librarian, "Have you ever seen that gnome around here before?"

"No," responded Streaky, "but I heard from Miss Hackney that one popped into her classroom yesterday with the same message."

"Did anyone see where he came from or where he went?"

"I'm afraid not," Streaky answered. "He came and went so quickly that even the students were taken by surprise."

"We have a mystery on our hooves," commented Sugarberry as she turned to leave, "and these little people are at the heart of it!" Her hoof tapped the book she was carrying; the picture on the cover looked exactly like the gnome she'd seen by the library door.

Returning to the vet clinic where Tabby was just finishing her examination of Medley's canary, Sugarberry shared her knowledge of the gnome sighting at the library and Miss Hackney's report that one had been at the school. Each time, the only words spoken were, "Beware the Ides of March!"

Tabby just shook her head. "Really, I think you're getting worked up over nothing. It's probably just a joke. Maybe those gnomes are throwing Friendly a surprise party and want to throw everyone off track."

Thomas came from his office to listen in on the conversation. After looking through the book Sugarberry had brought from the library, he commented, "Mischief, thou art afoot!"

"Whatever that means," Tabby said as she waved her hoof in dismissal. "If we're going to talk about anything, let's talk about Pokèmon. I wonder what's going to happen in today's episode; Cleve Clove wouldn't tell me..."

Sugarberry frowned. "No, this gnome thing is a mystery, and it needs solving."

"Meowth is just the cutest thing," Tabby sighed. There were no responses. Tabby looked around in annoyance. Thomas had since gone off, and Sugarberry was scribbling notes on a paper.

"Well!" Tabby huffed. "I don't have any pets to attend to for another half hour; I'll just call Tiffany up from my office. So she trotted down the hall.

Once seated behind her desk with the office door closed, Tabby smiled evilly. There was no particular reason for it; she just felt a certain sense of power when in her very own office.

Anyway, she dialed the Royal Paradise's number. "Hello, Pristina... I need to talk to Tiffany."

Tiffany was on the line a few moments later. "Yes, this is Tiffany," Tabby heard, and she could practically hear the princess batting her eyelashes.

"Tiff, it's Tabby. Have you had any--"

Tiffany sighed with disappointment. "Oh, it's you. I was hoping it would be Toby... well, what did you want to talk to me about?"

"Have you had any mysterious gnome sightings at the Royal Paradise?" Tabby asked promptly.

"Gnomes? Ah, gnomes! Why, of course we don't have gnomes over here!" Tiffany exclaimed.

"There've been gnomes popping up all over Dream Valley, warning everyone to ‘Beware the Ides of March.' Sugarberry thinks it's a mystery, but I don't see what she's so worked up over."

"Yes," Tiffany said enthusiastically. "I wouldn't worry about a few gnomes. Nothing bad could happen on March fifteenth, I'm sure."
"You know the Ides of March is March fifteenth?" Tabby questioned.

"Why, of course," Tiffany said quickly. "Being a princess, I did receive a certain amount of education. Now, I've really got to go. Goodbye!" And with that, she hung up.

Tabby replaced the receiver thoughtfully. Something about Tiffany's behavior had seemed a bit off... but she quickly dismissed that thought from her head. Most likely, she had just been giddy over possibly getting a call from Toby.

* * *

Toward the end of the workday while Tabby and Sugarberry were finishing up with the last patient, a little gnome came into the waiting area and repeated the message-- "Beware the Ides of March!" And then he disappeared out the door.

"Ooh!" Tabby fumed. "I'm getting sick of gnomes!" She snatched up a magazine from one of the tables in the waiting area, and held it up as if ready to swat something. Then she took off after the gnome.

As Tabby ran off down the street after the gnome, shrieking, Sugarberry watched, and then took after her friend.

Sugarberry caught up with Tabby at the end of the street, where there was a clump of bushes, though all the leaves were gone, of course. "Did you find him?" she asked breathlessly.

"No." Tabby scowled. "He disappeared when he got down here. He'd better not show his face around here again, or I'm really gonna give it to him--"

"There's Tiffany!" Sugarberry exclaimed. Tiffany was indeed strolling along in the meadow on the opposite side of the bushes. "Tiffany! Come over here!"

After pausing for a few seconds, Tiffany walked over to the bushes. "Why, hello, you two! It was just taking a walk in this wonderful March weather--"

Tabby cut Tiffany off in mid-sentence. "Where's the gnome?"

"Oh, a gnome!" Tiffany exclaimed. "A gnome... uhh..."

"The tiny guy in the pointy red hat! You had to have seen him!" Sugarberry burst out.

"Oh, and he had on the blue coat, too! No, I didn't see him," Tiffany said quickly.

"You're hiding something, Tiffany," Tabby growled. "Spill it!"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Tiffany said loftily, and fortunately for her, Princess Royal Blue happened by just then and pulled Tiffany along with her. "Excuse us, girls, but we're late for an appointment! See you!"

Sugarberry and Tabby watched the two princesses walk a ways down the meadow, and then cut through some more bushes to get back onto the street. "Tabby," Sugarberry said, "something strange is definitely going on with those two. You go close up the clinic; I'm going to follow them."

"Close up the clinic? That's what Thomas is there for!" Tabby protested.

"It's my responsibility to lock it up every day," Sugarberry said.

"I have never closed it up before and I do not plan to start now," Tabby said in annoyance.

"I have a mystery to solve!" Sugarberry explained. "Just this once. You'll never have to do it again."

"Hmph," Tabby mumbled as she walked back down the street to the clinic.

Sugarberry set off discreetly behind Tiffany and Royal Blue, keeping a safe distance without losing track of them. After several minutes, Princess Dawn joined up with them. Interesting! thought Sugarberry.

The princesses headed for the printing shop-- Pony Print-- and entered through the back door. Sugarberry hid herself in a recessed entry across the street and waited to see what might happen. Over the course of the next half hour, Princess Starburst, Princess Pristina, and Queen Serena entered Pony Print, too.

But what happened next made Sugarberry's eyes pop. From around the corner came an entire group of gnomes, so small that Sugarberry became aware of their presence not by sight but by sound. Some of the gnomes were singing, others were talking, and still others seemed to be reciting poetry. They all were in very good humor, and they walked directly to the Pony Print door and were admitted by Queen Serena herself.

Hmm... thought Sugarberry. Whatever the gnomes are doing in Ponyland, the princesses are behind it.

Sugarberry eased out of her hiding place and moved cautiously across the street and around the corner to the front of Pony Print; slowly, she peeped through the front window, but to no avail. Whatever was going on was happening in the back room, out of sight. So Sugarberry returned to her hidden niche to await more action.

Night had fallen and Sugarberry was cold and tired before the door of Pony Print opened, and out filed the gnomes and princesses. They each carried what appeared to be tubes; as Sugarberry watched, the group disbursed in every direction through the streets of Dream Valley. She waited until all but the last princess was out of sight before falling into silent step behind her.

It was Princess Dawn, and Sugarberry had no problem staying hidden while watching Dawn unfold the "tube" which turned out to be a poster. Dawn affixed the poster to the front door of the library and moved off down the street. Sugarberry stayed behind to read the poster from the glow of the street light:

"Beware the Ides of March"
In honor of
Friendly's birthday
the Princess Ponies
are hosting
a theater production
of the
Shakespearian play
"Julius Caesar"
on March Fifteenth at the Royal Paradise
by the William Shakespeare Acting Troop with assistance from the Gnome Theater Group

"Wow! So that's the mystery!" giggled Sugarberry. "A Shakespearian celebration of Friendly's birthday! Leave it to the princesses to try to bring some refinement to our ordinary lives! ‘Mischief, thou art afoot,' indeed! Wait ‘till I tell Tabby!"

Off she dashed to bring the news to her friend. The kitchen light was still on at Tabby's house, and Sugarberry realized she was starving, having missed supper and desert at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe. She rapped on Tabby's door.

Tabby opened the door several minutes later to admit her friend, and started spewing off a steady stream of conversation. "I did remember to lock up the clinic, ya know. Of course, it took me while, because I ran into Merry Treat, who was out looking for Pokèmon, so I joined her. After that we went to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe and hung around awhile. Then after she left I remembered to lock up the clinic. And then I came home and watched today's Pokèmon episode. Ya know, I'm really surprised that it recorded it. I'm an absolute klutz when it comes to VCR programming. Spike and Cleve Clove keep trying to teach me, but I can never remember exactly how to do everything. But it actually worked! So I finished watching that, and then I went into the kitchen for a snack-- hey, how'd your spy work go? What'd you find out? What's going on here?!?!?!"

Sugarberry momentarily pondered how Tabby could talk so long without taking a breath of air. "First get me something to eat," Sugarberry said wearily as she slipped into one of the chairs at Tabby's kitchen table.

Tabby browsed through her food cupboards. "How's cherry pie filling sound, straight from the can? That raw cookie dough you buy in stories? Any of that? No, I didn't think so."

Finally, Tabby found something that would suit Sugarberry. "Here," she said as she tossed a package of brownies on the table.

"Wonderful!" Sugarberry was already ripping into the package.

"Now. What is going on?" Tabby demanded as she locked her eyes in on Sugarberry's.

Between bites of brownie, Sugarberry outlined her night's experience. She finished her story. "So that's it!" she laughed. "The play ought to be interesting to see, though."

"What? WHAT?!?!" Tabby shrieked. "All this gnome business over a Shakespeare play? A SHAKESPEARE PLAY!"

"Aren't you at least going to go see it?" Sugarberry prodded.

"Are those little gnomes gonna get it! I'm gonna-- ooh! A Shakespeare play! That you probably won't be able to understand half the words from! Ooh!"

Sugarberry slipped outside, silently laughing to herself, as Tabby continued her ranting.

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