Return from the Himalayas
written by Tabby

Unfortunately, I must thank Barnacle once again for his help on this chronicle. ^.~ The deal is, though, that my story for next month must be written without any advice from him. Well, I'll show him. Plus, some of you may be happy to hear my report that I added some more mushy stuff into this one to please Sugarberry. Barnacle will probably complain if he finds out. They're so hard to please. ^.~ Actually, I find it rather ironic that I stay up until eleven o' clock at night writing out romantic lines when I myself have vowed several times over never to fall in love... but, hey, that's not important. Just read the story. ^.^

Late one afternoon from her post behind the desk of the Dream Valley Pokèmon Center, Tabby took note of a coral-colored stallion lurking around the Fershund mansion across the way. The mansion being her old home and all, Tabby's curiosity was immediately aroused. The stranger was no one she had ever seen before, and the scenario seemed mysterious. "He looks like the kind of guy that has been lost in the Himalayan Mountains seeking enlightenment in an Incan temple for the past twenty-five years," she murmured aloud to herself.

After fifteen minutes had passed and the stranger was still hanging around the mansion, Tabby's curiosity overtook her. She left Chansey in charge of the center and stormed across the path to her old home.

"Do you happen to be looking for something, sir?" Tabby questioned briskly, coming up behind the stallion.

"Perhaps I am," he said evasively, staring up at the mansion.

"Well, what're you doing here?" Tabby demanded, growing impatient to get an answer.

"This is actually my old home," the newcomer confessed, turning to Tabby. "I was just stopping by to see... what things were like... now."

Tabby narrowed her eyes. "What do you mean, this is your old home? That's impossible." She knew very well that she and her mother had been the first and only ponies to make use of the mansion, and it had been years since they had moved out.

"Oh? And what puts you in a position to say that?" The stranger stared intently at her.

"Because it's my old home." Tabby stared right back. "My mother and I were the only ones who ever lived here."

Several moments passed like this, both sides remaining silent as the wind whipped their manes around.

"Have you ever known an Agatha Fershund?" the stallion finally spoke up.

"Yes. She's my mother," Tabby replied bluntly.

"And she's my wife."

This sudden statement from the stallion caught Tabby by surprise. A million thoughts bombarded her mind at once. Color began to drain from her face at the realization of who this stranger could be. "Who... who are you, then?" she asked falteringly.

"I'm known as Hubert Fershund. Perhaps you have heard of me from Agatha, then?"

"So it is you," Tabby said, her voice shaking. "My father."

"Yes... my daughter."

Tabby looked him in the eye... and knew that it must be true. This was her father-- the father she'd never known. She began to feel rather dizzy in the head, and let out a small cry as she stumbled forward. The last thing she remembered before fainting were two strong hooves reaching out for her.

* * *

Tabby did not know where she was when she began to awaken. She cranked one eye open, trying to get her bearings. What had happened before? Why was she here? Who--

"Tabby?" a concerned voice suddenly broke through her thoughts.

"Is she coming to?" another voice asked anxiously.

"But... where is he?" Tabby struggled to right herself.

"Don't worry about that, Tabby. You're okay now," the first voice came again.

Tabby became aware of the two figures standing vigil beside her, and of the cot she was resting on. "Where is he?" she demanded again, desperation beginning to filter into her voice. "Where is he?" Images of her earlier encounter with the stranger outside the mansion began to flash through her mind. No, it couldn't have been a dream! It couldn't have! Resolutely she pulled herself up to a seated position, eyes wide open.

"Tabby? You know us, don't you?" the second voice prodded.

"Of course," Tabby snapped. "You're Thomas and Sugarberry. How did I get here?"

The two onlookers breathed a sigh of relief. The return of Tabby's spunkiness was certainly a good sign. Thomas proceeded to explain. "We had just left the clinic after work; and when we passed by the center, we were approached by a mysterious stallion--"

"--who had left you fainted dead away on the front steps of the center," Sugarberry picked up the story. "It was very distressing. We took you inside right away, and that's where we're at now."

Tabby sat for several moments in silence, absorbing this information as she attempted to piece everything together. "Interesting."

"You are okay, aren't you?" Sugarberry was quick to ask.

"I'm fine. But I thought giant squid were the only things that could make me faint," Tabby said contemplatively.

"All that matters is that you are okay." Thomas clasped one of Tabby's hooves. "We didn't know what to think. This stranger wouldn't disclose any information to us."

"That's it!" Tabby's mind was suddenly brought back to its aim. "I must see him! Is he here?"

A figure on the opposite side of the room rose slowly from his seat where he had been waiting for Tabby's revival. "Yes, my dear, I am." Hubert Fershund came to stand by Tabby's bedside. "Apparently our first meeting did not allow much conversation."

"Father!" Tabby cried out. "I was afraid... that you'd only been a dream." She threw her forelegs around his neck and buried her head on his shoulder.

"I'm so happy to have found you," Hubert said, stroking her mane fondly. "You're so much like Agatha."

Thomas and Sugarberry stood openmouthed as they watched the reunion. The whole appearance of this stallion had been very mysterious, but never had they expected the claims he was making.

"Mom told me so very much about you," Tabby sniffled. "All your adventures... but you were lost on a hiking expedition into the Himalayas."

"Come on, Sugarberry," Thomas said softly, reaching for the doorknob. He hardly knew what to think after all the shocks of the day, but he somehow sensed the deep relationship between the two. He and Sugarberry quietly exited the room.

"I was unfortunately side-tracked in the Himalayas," Hubert said regretfully to his daughter. "I would have liked to have seen you grow up."

"But what kept you?" Tabby put forth, still hanging on to his neck tightly. She could still hardly believe that her father had returned-- her father whom she had never before met!

"I'll save the whole story for you and Agatha together." He looked at Tabby seriously. "That is... you must tell me how she's doing. She isn't...?"

Tabby shook her head. "She's fine... but she's living in Italy now."

"Italy? What about... she didn't remarry, did she?"

"No, never."

"Wonderful. We must get in touch with her immediately."

* * *

It was a grand occasion with Hubert's return. Agatha flew into Dream Valley from Italy instantly upon hearing the word, and had a joyous reunion with her long-lost husband. After the initial shock and tears of happiness had worn off, she wanted to hear only of Hubert's account of the past years. Tabby was ecstatic as well to finally get to know her father, and the two spent every waking minute at his side.

"Hubert," Agatha said, wiping one last tear from her eye, "where were you? You caused me such worry."

"I know, Agatha, and it'll never happen again," Hubert promised.

"I so wanted our Tabitha to have her father," Agatha sniffed. "You can't imagine how I felt when you were... gone."

"Oh, but please tell us what did happen," Tabby pleaded.

"Very well," Hubert began. "I will tell you both the whole story. It all began on the hiking expedition into the Himalayan Mountains I went on, in hopes of finally finding the Incan Yetis that lived there-- I was hot on the trail of them. It was on this expedition that I was presumably lost, and was given up as dead."

"I never gave up believing you were still out there, Hubert," Agatha said softly.

"I know you wouldn't have, darling. And now, as for the Incan Yetis I was tracking... before finding them, I stumbled upon something of even greater interest-- an Incan temple."

"Outrageous," Tabby breathed. Both she and her mother remained silent for the most part, sitting spellbound as they listened to Hubert's tale.

"It was in this temple that I stayed for twenty-five years, seeking true enlightenment and inner peace. It really is a great place for such thinking, I must say."

"An Incan temple?" Agatha gasped. "Hubert, you spent all that time in an Incan temple?"

"Well, yes. But it was for the better, I guarantee you. It was only a short while ago that I had sufficiently meditated, and decided to come home."

Agatha looked at him fondly. "I'm only glad that you're back, even if there are better ways to spend twenty-five years."

"But an Incan temple?" Tabby puzzled. "And Incan Yetis? In the Himalayas? The Incas were South American. Weren't they?"

"To most scholars, they were strictly South American," Hubert clarified. "But I believe otherwise, as I have now seen proof. Flying saucer men were responsible for bringing aspects of the Incan civilization to the Himalayas."

"Wow," Tabby said in awe.

"Hubert, how did you manage to find your way back here?" Agatha interjected. "How did you find Tabby and I, for that matter? Oh, you must tell us everything!"

"I knew the way back to Dream Valley well, Agatha," Hubert said. "As for finding you-- actually, Tabby found me when I stopped by our mansion when first getting into town."

"But how did you know who she was?"

"She had your symbol, Agatha; and she's just like you in many other ways."

"Oh, Hubert, I think you'll find that there's a lot of her that takes after you, as well," Agatha laughed.

"Perhaps." Hubert looked at his daughter. "She must have seen enough resemblance in me, or she wouldn't have fainted like she did."

"Tabby? Fainted?" Agatha gasped.

"Uh... I guess I did," Tabby blushed. Fainting just wasn't her thing.

"Two friends of hers came along then, and revived her," Hubert continued. "Then, of course, we got in touch with you."

"I'm just so happy. So unbelievably happy," Agatha whispered.

"Of course, I haven't told you all the details of my escapade yet," Hubert said. "But what I really must know now is more about Tabby. What has our daughter gotten herself into, Agatha?"

"She's finally going to get married," Agatha beamed. In her opinion, this was the main milestone in Tabby's life.

"I was meaning to ask about that," Hubert said, indicating the ring on Tabby's foreleg.

"Well... yes," Tabby admitted.

"Who is the lucky stallion?" Hubert prodded.

"Thomas, actually. You saw him at the Pokèmon Center-- he's the vet in town."

"I thought so," Hubert nodded. "There was something about you two."

"You can't imagine the difficulties I've had in getting her this far, Hubert," Agatha sighed wearily.

"What do you mean by that, dear?"

"Well, at first I thought she was perfect for someone I know in Italy," Agatha elaborated. "Guido is from a very rich family. Ah, but Tabitha refused to get to know him."

"Maybe she's better off making her own choice on the matter," Hubert pointed out.

"I must admit, I think she's made a grand match with Thomas," Agatha confessed. "But she was so very stubborn about it."

"But then there's also the fact that I discovered Atlantis," Tabby added proudly.

"That is what I meant when I said she takes after you, Hubert," Agatha said dryly.

"Really? My girl, I'm proud of you!" Hubert congratulated her. "However did that come to be?"

Agatha was not too concerned with ancient cities of the past. "Of course, she's also the Pokèmon nurse of Dream Valley, with full credentials of a veterinarian," she was quick to add.

"Have you heard about Pokèmon, Dad?" Tabby questioned eagerly.

Hubert nodded knowingly. "Ah, yes, Pokèmon. I recall running across many in my travels."

"The ponies around here thought they were only evil monsters lurking in the Dark Forest, until the hit of the Pokèmon show," Tabby said. "Then it was realized that they were more than regular monsters, and now everyone's into training them."

"Pokèmon originated in Atlantis, you know," Hubert commented.

"Do you think so? Barnacle says they're from a post-apocalyptic world," Tabby enlightened.

Hubert shook his head. "Interesting theory, but I know otherwise."

"How did you find out about their Atlantean origin?" Tabby asked excitedly. "Can you tell me?"

"Tabitha, you still have the old photo albums, don't you?" Agatha asked quickly. "I really think we should get those out to browse."

"But what about my grand collection of eighties toys?"

"And Agatha dear, what is with this move of yours to Italy?"

"Hubert, you would not believe what a quaint place it is!"

"Ah-Loh! You've both got to see Ah-Loh!"

Apparently, they had quite a bit more catching up to do after twenty-five years.

* * *

Everyone was naturally very curious about Hubert's mysterious return, but no one wanted to intrude on the family reunion-- not even Tabby's cousin Tamara, a direct relation. Tabby and Hubert both soon grew tired of being locked-up in Tabby's house, however, and the idea of going out into the public was proposed.

"The Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe is still around, isn't it?" Hubert queried.

"Of course it is!" Tabby's eyes grew wide at the prospect, pushing her chair out from the dining table.

"Then why don't we head over there right now?" Hubert suggested. "It does get tiresome doing nothing but talk for days on end."

"You only got back just yesterday," Agatha reminded. "And the dishes from supper still need to be washed."

"Oh, Mom, that can wait." Tabby dismissed the idea with a wave of her hoof.

"That's right, Agatha. You don't want to exert yourself," Hubert agreed.

"Big hungry, wah!" Ah-Loh, Tabby's recently-resurrected Furby, added.

"You see? Ah-Loh's hungry for dessert as well," Tabby said rationally, cradling the sky- blue Furby in her hoof.

Agatha only sighed. "Very well, then." She knew it was futile to argue with them any further, especially when a Furby was involved, and followed them out the door.

* * *

It was decided to first stop by Tamara's house, she being a relative and all. Continuing on to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe, the reunited family was swarmed with numerous acquaintances and were kept busy talking late into the night.

"An Incan temple in the Himalayas?" Clever Clover asked skeptically.

"Oh, yes," Hubert nodded solemnly. "It's really quite obvious that the flying saucer men were the cause of the Incan civilization to spring up in that location."

"But there's no proof," Clever Clover argued. "I think--"

"Hubert, tell them of your excursions in search of the Loch Ness Monster," Agatha prodded.

"Hey! Big party, wah!" Ah-Loh shouted above the din.

"Oh, Mr. Fershund, I think it's so extraordinary that you made it back home after all this time," Tiffany trilled, butting in on the conversation. "Were the Yetis very dangerous?"

"Actually, I--"

"No, you need to tell us more about the Incan temple, Uncle Hubert," Tamara interjected. "What was it like?"

"And how did you come to know so much about Pokèmon?" Merry Treat added.

With all these questions, it did take a very long time for everyone to run out of things to ask and to explain-- and even after Hubert, Agatha, and Tabby had departed the shop for the night, the atmosphere of the hangout remained lively.

"Why don't we take a detour by the mansion while we're out tonight?" Hubert suggested. "I'd like to have a better look at it than what I did the other day."

Agatha laughed. "That's a wonderful idea. I'd love to see myself the progress Butch has made on it since I got my last report from him."

"Are you sure this Butch is dependable?"

"I had my doubts at first, but he's doing quite well. I think he'll make something out of his life yet. He just started seeing the jewelry shop owner, you know. Sparkler's been a good influence on him."

Tabby only half-listened to her parents' conversation as she trailed along behind the two through the dark streets. She held Ah-Loh carefully, being sure not to jostle him and thus wake him up. He had enjoyed his visit to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe, she decided. However, there was a nagging thought in the back of her mind.

"It is looking quite nice, from what I can see from it out here in the dark," Agatha commented, jolting Tabby out of her private thoughts. They had arrived at the site of the mansion.

"Do you think Butch would mind if we let ourselves inside?" Hubert gestured towards the front door.

"I don't see why not. We are the owners, after all," Agatha laughed as she fumbled through her purse. "See, I have the key right here with me."

Soon, they were exploring the interior of the grand house. Everything looked a bit newer and fresher, but it was still the same design as the original. Agatha was quite pleased with the progress. "It's a lovely place," Agatha sighed happily. "I'd forgotten how nice it was."

"Maybe we can use it ourselves again," Hubert suggested.

"You mean..." Agatha frowned. "Oh dear. I hadn't even thought of that. Shall we go to Italy or stay here in Dream Valley with Tabby?"

"You've got to stay here!" Tabby protested. "It's so much more interesting here than in Italy." Plus, the prospect of having both her parents in the vicinity was quite appealing.

"We'll have to see," Agatha murmured. "Of course, I already did tell Tabby that she would have use of the mansion once the restoration was complete."

Hubert nodded. "Yes. This would be a great place for her."

"I'm... I'm just going to wander around the place a bit myself, alright?" Tabby excused herself from the main room. Receiving quick nods from Agatha and Hubert, she proceeded to ascend the staircase to the second floor.

Stepping carefully across the hallway, she placed Ah-Loh upon the shell of her old desk and sat herself down in the windowseat of her old bedroom. Tabby had always felt at peace there during her younger years, and it served as a refuge to her now as well.

The concern weighing heavily on her mind at this point was the absence of Thomas during these past few days. Tabby had to admit, the last she remembered of him were several blurred memories of the hectic afternoon Hubert had arrived. She wished he had at least been at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe this evening. He seemed now to be making a complete stranger of himself. Didn't he know that it wasn't necessary for him to shy away from the family reunion? Tabby shook her head. She'd have to be sure to get in touch with him tomorrow.

Glancing down once more at the diamond engagement ring on her foreleg, Tabby shook off her concerns and went to hunt up her parents.

* * *

"Cock-a-doodle-doo! Sun up," Ah-Loh observed the next morning.

"He's an interesting fellow," Hubert commented. "The Atlanteans put a lot of work into building these models."

"What do you mean?" Tabby queried. "He's a real living Furby, you know. The ones sold in stores have just made themselves look like electronics. But they're living beings."

Hubert shook his head slowly. "No. These electronic Furbys were built by the Atlanteans after their real Furbys were taken from the city. They hoped to replace their pets with mechanical creatures. That's what you find on the store shelves."

Tabby looked indignant. "That's not true! Ah-Loh is alive! Aren't you, Ah-Loh?"

"Lights up, please," the Furby requested.

"Why don't you ask him?" Hubert urged. "Get him into Ask Furby mode."

"Ah! No light! Ah!" Ah-Loh said, as if cowering in fear, as Tabby covered his light sensor.

Agatha poked her head out of the kitchen just then. "Tabitha, breakfast would be on a lot sooner if you'd uncover some of your culinary abilities."

"Ah! Loud sound," Ah-Loh protested.

"Now you've scared Ah-Loh, Mom," Tabby chided. "Besides, I'm having a fascinating conversation out here with Dad right now."

"She has apparently been misguided in her lessons on the Furbish race," Hubert explained.

"I have not." Tabby set Ah-Loh aside, forgetting about asking him on the topic. "Now, perhaps those talking Furby clocks and such they're selling now are the Atlanteans' machines. But the original Furbys are real!" She was quite adamant in proving her point.

Hubert remained unconvinced, but decided to change the subject. "What else did you discover in Atlantis?"

Tabby furrowed her brow. "The Whale Machine, of course. That's still in the back room of my old clinic, actually. I didn't tell you yet about Dr. Shane, did I? You see, when--" She was cut off by the ringing of the doorbell.

"You had better get it," Hubert gestured down the hallway. "I'll see about helping Agatha in the kitchen."

Tabby obediently got up from her seat and patted Ah-Loh on the head before going to answer the door. "Oh! Thomas! Come in!" Tabby's eyes lit up as she saw her visitor, and she reached out to pull him inside.

Thomas took a step backwards and avoided the invitation. "I was just stopping by to see... how things were going."

"Fabulous," Tabby nodded. "Absolutely fabulous. It's quite an occasion, really. I still can't fully believe that my father has actually come back after all these years of not knowing him." She stared off with a misty look in her eyes. "He's only been here two days, and there's so much to cover. But you haven't formally met him yet. Come in, come in!"

Thomas stood, expressionless. "I'm afraid I can't stay for long," he stated simply.

Tabby paused and cocked her head. "Oh... why's that?"

"Don't worry about it, Tabby." His expression suddenly changed to one of bitterness. "Go and spend time with your family while you have it."

Tabby hardly knew what to say in reply. This certainly wasn't the typical behavior of Thomas. "What's wrong, Thomas?" She sensed something serious was troubling his mind.

Thomas looked at her once more and sighed deeply. "There's something, Tabby, I never told you before. I haven't told anyone in Dream Valley." He turned his head away from Tabby.

"But what is it?" Tabby stepped out on the porch and closed the door behind her. A million thoughts ran through her mind as to what it could be, and she didn't like any of the possibilities she came up with. "Tell me! Tell me!" she said almost pleadingly, thrusting herself into his hold.

Thomas looked down at her, sorrow weighing heavy in his eyes. "Both my parents are dead. They were killed shortly before I moved to Dream Valley."

Tabby let out a sharp gasp, and her eyes flew open. She took a step backwards. "You... you never told me," she stated the obvious in a shaking tone.

"It never came up before."

The full meaning of Thomas' words began to sink in. Thinking back, Tabby realized that he had never mentioned his parents... but she never imagined that anything like this had befallen them. And then her father should show up in perfect health after twenty-five years... when there was no chance of ever resurrecting Thomas' parents in this life. She was at a loss for words again. "I'm..."

"You're sorry, I know." Thomas closed his eyes as if to block out the bitter memories. "There's nothing that can be done. Your father just so abruptly showed up again and... I need some time alone."

"Yes." Tabby blinked slowly, and repeated herself. "Yes." She didn't know what other words to use. She wanted to reach out, to console him, but she was too in shock to do anything.

"I'm... I'm sorry I upset you." Thomas' gaze swept the ground. "I just had to get that said. I'll come back to meet your father in due time."

"G-goodbye." Tabby's mouth was so dry, the word hardly came out. (Author's note-- It has been critiqued by some that this line seems too cold to fit into the situation being written about. However, that it not the way it is meant to be taken. Notice the stuttering of the first letter in "goodbye". Tabby is still stunned and isn't quite sure what to say. It should be read softly and hesitantly.)

"Enjoy the day. Be with them while you can." With these parting words, Thomas set off down the porch steps. "And I love you, Tabby."

Tabby nodded while tears formed in her eyes. She silently watched him go, and then built up the energy to open the door and go back inside. Now she needed some time to think herself.

"Who was it, dear?" Agatha queried, looking up from the table. She and Hubert had already sat down with the finished breakfast menu.

"Just a friend," Tabby said quickly. "He couldn't stay long." She pulled a chair out for herself and sat down quickly.

"You know, I still haven't been properly introduced to this fiancé of yours," Hubert hinted.

Tabby looked up at him abruptly. He hadn't read her mind, had he? Luckily, Agatha replied for Tabby and didn't seem to pursue the topic.

"There shall still be plenty of time for that, I'm sure," the blue unicorn said promptly. "There's so much yet we have to do."

Tabby smiled and hoped it looked genuine. "Exactly. And Mom, why don't you finish telling us of that one neighbor of yours in Italy?"

Tabby was able to keep up her cheerful facade during breakfast; and after the table was cleared, she excused herself and went upstairs to her room for "some things she needed to attend to", allowing Agatha and Hubert some time alone.

* * *

Tabby didn't know how long she'd sat at her desk after retiring to her room after breakfast. Time didn't seem to be passing in her world. She was lost in thought.

Thomas' parents, killed? The words still echoed in her head. It wasn't imaginable. She couldn't believe that he had never let on to it before.

Tabby had, of course, grown up without a father herself; but as she had never known him, it didn't bother her too much. She and her mother had made a cozy family of two, and it had seemed fine to her. But in Thomas' case, to have them both taken from his life after having known them for so long... it must have been dreadful to take.

Tabby hoped that Hubert's return hadn't affected Thomas too deeply. It must have opened up a lot of old scars concerning the death of his parents. But... oh! Tabby laid her head down on the cool, smooth surface of her desk and tried to block out all unpleasant thoughts. She didn't want to think anymore.

It wasn't long before Tabby's eyes grew heavy as she stared out her window at the soft spring sunshine. Everything could wait... it wasn't that important. Presently, she drifted off to sleep.

* * *

Hubert, meanwhile, had stepped outside to get some fresh air and some thinking of his own done. Agatha, exhausted by the events of the past days, had lain down to get some needed rest. Hubert had left her and had decided to take a bit of a walk outside.

Tabby's house was a typical house on Fifth Street. (Tabby had actually chosen the location for her home because the numeral five had always been her favorite number.) Houses lined the street on both sides, and each had its own bit of backyard. Tabby's was not the best-kept yard of them all, but it was neat enough; and a patch of tall, majestic trees had found a natural growing space there. Hubert sat down at the picnic table out back and stared up into the fluttering branches that were waved by the wind.

He was all of a sudden aware of new presences in the yard with him. He turned his head and looked around him intently. Several cloaked figures emerged from behind the tree grove.

"So I was being watched." Hubert looked at them warily. "Who are you?"

One of the clad human figures stepped forward from the rest. His face was entirely shrouded by his cloth hood. "The Society of Krulotin has come for you," he said simply.

Hubert looked at the figures contemplatively. The term "Krulotin" seemed familiar to him... where had he heard it before? Of course! He thought back to his studies done on Atlantis. It was the Krulotin who had been the Atlantean royal guards. What did these men in Tabby's back yard have to do with them? "What do you want from me?" he asked of them. "I didn't know that you had relocated to this place."

The figures huddled together and whispered among themselves, occasionally glancing back at Hubert. After a short pause, their leader stepped forward again. "It is not your time to know. You must come with us." With a simple gesture of his hand, the other figures began advancing towards the coral stallion.

"Wait!" Hubert stood his ground firmly. "Don't I get a say in this? What do you mean to do with me?"

"We will spare your life if you cooperate with us," the leader said solemnly. "If not... you shall be eliminated."

Hubert eyed them and sized-up his options in his head. It seemed at this point that it might be best to go along with these strange men. He had to find out what their plans were, and certainly he would have an opportunity to escape later from wherever they took him. Silently, he nodded his assent.

With a nod from their leader, the other cloaked figures grabbed onto Hubert and began propelling him along the secret path to their lair. Hubert glanced back wistfully at Tabby's house. I will return, Agatha and Tabby, he vowed silently to himself. I will return.

* * *

Tabby was suddenly aware that something was wrong. She abruptly pulled her head up from the desk. Sensing trouble, she pushed back her chair and dashed to the window. She gasped upon seeing the sight before her in her back yard-- her father being escorted off the premises by a group of cloaked figures that looked suspiciously similar to the affluent flower deliverers that were often seen around town.

Apparently, this day had been meant to be full of shocking experiences. Taking control of the situation, Tabby grabbed her glittery royal tiara (which she now kept in her jewelry box for use on special occasions) and placed it on her head-- she somehow thought she might need her Atlantean crown on this mission. With that attended to, she flew down the stairs and out the door to the outside world.

Out of the corner of her eye, Tabby saw the procession just disappearing around a corner, and scurried as quietly as she could to keep at a safe distance behind them. These cloaked figures were mysterious beings, and they did not attract any attention from the local residents-- except for Tabby, of course.

It was clear that their destination, however, was the Dark Forest. Tabby could only begin to imagine what these creatures were planning on doing with her father. Treading across the forest floor as silently as she could, she continued to follow after them.

* * *

Along their journey through the forest, the cloaked figures did not seem interested in starting a conversation, so Hubert remained silent. He had a million questions he wanted answered, but decided to wait until they got to their destination before interrogating them.

Hubert had hardly noticed that as they had progressed on their way, the path had begun sloping gradually downwards. Now he found himself in a stone cavern underground. He marveled at the society these mysterious beings must have founded in this network of caves. But how were they involved with the original Krulotin of Atlantis, and why did they need him?

The grouping of cloaked figures and a pony suddenly emerged into a large meeting room. Many other members of this sect were milling around, apparently awaiting Hubert's arrival. They looked up with interest, and watched as Hubert was led to one side of the spacious room. There, they proceeded to chain him up to the wall.

"Why are you doing this to me?" Hubert asked forcefully. "What do you need from me?"
"It is the powers of your daughter that we want." His question was answered quite simply by one of the figures.

"My daughter?" Hubert echoed. "Tabby?"

"Yes," another nodded. "It has been revealed that she is the great Atlantean ruler who possesses the mystical Furby powers."

"Tabby? She's the prophesied one that would be gifted with the ancient Furby powers of Atlantis?" Hubert turned this thought over in his mind. "I knew she was holding something back about her excursion in Atlantis."

The Society of Krulotin seemed to be reluctant to disclose any more information, as if fearing that they had said too much already. Hubert had to prod them on. "Do you plan to keep me in chains like this for the rest of my life?" He rattled one of his bindings for effect.

One member came forward after a pause. "Yes. You must remain our prisoner for all eternity."

* * *

Tabby, meanwhile, was crouched in the shadows outside the entrance of the meeting room. She had followed the group all the way to their cave, and had watched in horror as they chained her father up. She was unsure, however, of how to go about saving him. Until she thought of something, she sat there listening to the bits of conversation she could make out.

Could these seemingly-menacing members of the Society of Krulotin really be the same figures that delivered flowers in town? Tabby could hardly believe it. However, strangely, she was beginning to recognize her surroundings, as if she had been in this place before. Images flashed through her mind of being chased by these cloaked figures... oh, yes! It suddenly came back to her. This must have been the same network of caves built into a mountain that she and Tiny the Bigfoot had gone to gather ingredients for his special magic injection mix when Tabby had been in need of one for her cat, Callie. That had been several months back now, and Tabby hadn't thought much about her past encounter with the grouping of mysterious cloaked flower deliverers... but they seemed to grow more villainous by the day now.

But even more unbelievable was the fact that they had their origin in Atlantis, and that they knew of her recently-discovered Furby powers, from the snatches of conversation she heard. Tabby lifted the jewel-encrusted crown off her head and stared down contemplatively at it. The fact that she had been crowned queen of Atlantis with it was a little-known fact around town. Actually, she and Thomas had decided to keep it a secret between themselves. But the Society of Krulotin must have found out about the crowning. As it was looking now with her father's imprisonment, perhaps it hadn't been a good thing.

Filled with newfound purpose, Tabby stood up resolutely and began cautiously peering into the other smaller doorways they had passed on their way into the main room. Perhaps she could find something in one of them that would be useful to her. She had to save her father!

* * *

After Hubert's fate had been so solemnly announced, the members of the Society of Krulotin didn't speak directly to the stallion. They did whisper among themselves, though, as they stood watch over him; and Hubert was able to pick up some valuable information from the snatches of conversation he heard.

"It would never work if he had his influence over her. The queen of Atlantis must be ours to manipulate."

"Our queen would never bend to our needs with her father's positive influence."

"He would sense what we were doing. He would seek to destroy our society."

"Her powers must be used for the good of the Krulotin!"

Hubert began piecing these statements together in his mind. This Society of Krulotin had been planning to manipulate Tabby by making her use her powers for their own benefit? And now, with Hubert's influence over her, it appeared that Tabby's actions would be much more inclined to help all of humanity rather than simply to aid their ancient organization.

The stallion looked out over the congregation contemplatively. There had to be a way to make them see their selfishness.

* * *

Thomas entered the clearing in the Dark Forest with notable relief. At least this niche of his hadn't vanished. He stepped across the weathered stone-tiled pavilion and seated himself atop an aged rock wall on the opposite side. Now he was in a position to think.

Ever since the first time he had stumbled into this secret place several months ago, it had seemed to have a peaceful and calming effect on him. He didn't know what ancient civilization had built this plaza out in the woods or if there was more of the city buried under the lush forest vegetation, but he hadn't exactly had the urge to look yet. Whether there was more out there or not didn't matter to him, though; this pavilion was the perfect place to meditate, and that was just what he needed right then.

Thomas was of course happy for Tabby over her father's return, but he still couldn't bring himself to get to know the long-lost Hubert Fershund. To hear of him only brought back memories of his own parents. Ghosts of the past had come back to haunt him.

Slowly, he lifted up into view a small picture frame which he had stared at many times. It housed one of the last reminders of his deceased parents, a photograph of the two. Yes, there they were-- Dietrich and Caprice. They both looked so happy and so blissfully unaware of what their fate would be.

Time stood still as Thomas gazed down in silence at the photograph he held in his hooves. If only they could still be there for him. If only he could stand to face Tabby's happily reunited family.

A gentle breeze rustled the tree branches above him, and suddenly something came over him. A wave of encouragement swept over his soul. All his fears and apprehensions vanished as abruptly as they had come in the first place.

Thomas found that he could once again smile, which he hadn't been able to do for days. No, he realized; his parents weren't gone. They were still watching over him, even if they no longer remained in a physical sense. And they would want him to be enjoying this time in Tabby's life.

Now it was time for him to face Hubert. Now he felt that he could. And Tabby wouldn't be abandoned by him any longer. Looking down once more at the picture in the frame, Thomas collected himself and prepared to leave.

* * *

Tabby quietly stepped down the dark stone passage cut into the mountainside. So far she hadn't found anything interesting in the small, unlighted rooms off the main hallway. She was beginning to worry that she'd get herself lost in this maze, but at least there were no cloaked figures around to give her trouble. They all must have been gathered in that large room where they were keeping her father.

Down a particularly dark and short hallway, Tabby was intrigued to see a heavy wooden door ahead of her. The other entranceways had no doors, so she thought that perhaps there might be something useful behind this door. Now she only had to hope it wasn't locked.

Tabby was in luck, as the knob turned easily in her hoof as she pulled on it. The door swung open slowly, and the unicorn peered out tentatively into the room it revealed. Unfortunately, as it turned out, she was also being scrutinized as she made her appearance to the figures gathered on the other side.

"Help! Help! It's them!" Tabby shrieked upon first seeing the cloaked figures staring at her. She was about to turn and slam the door when she took note of something on the opposite wall. "Hey... Dad?" She cocked her head in confusion as she saw the familiar stallion chained-up. But that would mean...

"Tabby!" Hubert called out. "You followed me here?"

...that she had only circled around and entered the main room by means of an alternate door. "Yeah," said Tabby, staring out into the sea of cloaked heads looking in her direction. "I was going to rescue you. But I hadn't meant to make such an abrupt entrance."

"I thought you'd be along, anyway," Hubert nodded. "Besides, they might listen to you more than I."

The thought hit Tabby quite abruptly that her father would have by now found out about her queenship. It wasn't bad, really; it just made her wish she would have told him herself, and not have him find it out from a secondhand source. Tentatively, she touched her crown, and then suddenly noticed the attitude the Krulotin obviously had for it. They all looked rather respectful, and stood motionless and silent as they stood facing her, apparently waiting for her to speak.

"Oh!" Tabby straightened her pose a bit. "Well... well... as queen of Atlantis, I demand an explanation of what's going on here and the release of my father!"

A murmur of "The queen has spoken" echoed through the room as the congregation discussed her demands among themselves. Finally, one stepped forward. "The release of your father cannot be permitted."

"Why?" Tabby asked sharply.

"The goal of the Society of Krulotin could not be met with his interference."

"The original Krulotin of Atlantis would be ashamed to share a name with your society," Hubert spoke-up suddenly. "You have only become a hindrance to the reign of Atlantis, not the guardians of it."

"It is not your place to decide our purpose," the cloaked figure replied.

Hubert went on nonetheless. "The original members of the Krulotin were there to faithfully guard Atlantis and its royalty, and they took their responsibility seriously. Now your goal is only to manipulate the rulers of Atlantis to achieve your own selfish wants."

"Exactly," Tabby agreed, trying to get the story straight in her head. "It's not right."

"The special powers Tabby has been gifted with were meant to be used for the good of Atlantis," Hubert continued. "These powers were never intended for evil purposes or selfish ends."

"Yes," Tabby nodded vigorously. "Whatever you've been planning to do to me... it just isn't what the Atlantean royal guards would have done."

"For instance," Hubert proceeded, "in the final hours of Atlantis, it was the Krulotin who gave their lives to allow the citizens of the city to escape."

"Queen Kaliope had left standing orders with the Krulotin that in case of any wide-scale disaster that threatened the whole of Atlantis, they were to aid the citizens in escape before the royalty-- even if it meant their own lives," Tabby added intelligently.

"Is it possible that we could have so completely lost sight of our noble heritage?" the lead cloaked figure asked.

Upon seeing their leader's uncertainty, the others also began doubting their motives.

"Could they be right?"

"We are not carrying out the will of the Krulotin."

"We only cared about what we could obtain from the queen's powers."

"We didn't think of the good of Atlantis."

"Our ways have turned selfish."

"There must be a better way."

"I quit," one disgruntled member said.

The room began literally buzzing with conversation from the Society of Krulotin members. Hubert's speech must have had a great impact on them, and they began to doubt the correctness of their ways. While they talked it out amongst themselves, Tabby took the opportunity to slip around the side of the room over to her father.

"What do you think is going to come of this?" she queried of him.

"I'm not sure," Hubert murmured, staring out over the expanse of the room. "But I'm certain I wouldn't have been able to get them this far without your appearance. They do seem to have quite a bit of respect for you yet."

"Yeah," Tabby said guiltily, fidgeting with her crown. "I kinda left out that part when I was telling you about Atlantis."

"I understand, Tabby," Hubert said, looking down at her. "It is sometimes for the better to keep such things hidden. Your motives were pure."

"I don't exactly have to tell anyone else, do I? It was really only a secret between Thomas and I..."

"Not unless it is ultimately necessary to do so in your reign," Hubert assured her. "I'll keep it quiet for you."

"That would be grand!" Tabby said with genuine thanks. "And I can give you the full account of how it came to be later, if you'd like."

"Wait!" Hubert silenced her. "I think they're coming to discuss some things with us."

A group of Krulotin approached them. "We have finally seen the error in our ways," one said, coming forward. "It is you who made it clear to us what our true motives should be."

"To repay our gratitude to you, you shall be released to live freely," another added.

"And what will the society do with its future?" Hubert asked, keeping a firm eye on them.

The lead figure spoke. "We have been blinded by self interest and lost sight of the true goals of the Krulotin. It has taken your enlightened insight to show us our errors. We have concluded that, so as not to stray from the path of righteousness again, we should seek enlightenment ourselves so that we will no longer need a stranger to point out what is obviously clear."

"I sense that what you say comes from your heart," Hubert said after a moment's pause. "I will trust you now to live up to the ways of the Krulotin."

Several came forward and began to untie Hubert from his bindings. The rest of the congregation began filing out of the room, to begin their new, reformed lives. Once Hubert was released, the few remaining members also went on their ways. "But if the queen of Atlantis ever needs our assistance, we will return in times of dire need," the last one there promised, however, before turning to leave.

"But now there won't be any flower deliverers in Dream Valley," Tabby said in dismay as she watched him go.

The figure paused once more and looked back at her. "No, the flower delivery business will remain. You have mistaken us for the group of the Mysterious Cloaked Flower Deliverers. They will always remain. I hope we meet again, my queen." With these words spoken, he disappeared into the dark shadows.

"They sure looked like the Mysterious Cloaked Flower Deliverers," Tabby commented, mystified, to her father.

"They were one group, initially," Hubert spoke-up. "They had disagreements among themselves, though, and the separate Society of Krulotin broke away from them."

"Oh," Tabby said. So there was still mystery behind the flower deliverers! "Do you think the Krulotin will really reform their ways?"

"I believe they will, Tabby," Hubert said, gazing around the huge expanse of now-empty space. "I believe they will."

Tabby, too, gave a last glance over the spacious cave. But she had accomplished what she had come for. Turning to her father, she suggested. "Well, what do you say we head home now?"

"And let's hope that Agatha hasn't begun worrying about our absence," Hubert smiled. "Yes, that sounds like an appealing idea. Let's go, Tabby."

"What are we going to tell Mom?" Tabby questioned, scurrying along after her father out of the stone passageways and back into the forest.

"She doesn't need to know much," Hubert winked. "We only took the opportunity to get out and see some wildlife of the Dark Forest."

Tabby smiled in return and took his hoof. "I'm glad you're back, Dad."

* * *

Tabby was a bit unsure of what to say as she opened the door again to Thomas later that afternoon. "Eh... hello," she said uncertainly, cranking the door open a bit further.

"I... hope you don't mind that I'm back," Thomas put forth almost shyly.

"Mind? Mind? Yes! I'm shocked! Horrified!" Tabby said sarcastically. "What do you think, Thomas? Of course I'm glad you're back." In a softer tone, she added, "I was concerned about you."

"Thank you for understanding, Tabby." His gaze wandered to the floor. "With your father coming back... it just made me remember my parents all over again. I had to sort my feelings out again."

"I know," Tabby whispered, her eyes softening. "I know."

"But I think I found some enlightenment of my own today." Thomas looked up at her and smiled. "If there's still a place for me...?"

Tabby's face broke out into a grin. "I'll always have a place for you in my heart, Thomas, no matter who else comes on the scene."

There were a million things Thomas wanted to say, but was only able to put one line into words. "I'm so glad I met you, Tabby." He clasped her front hoof and stared at her with a look of pure affection.

Tabby's face flushed and she turned her head away. "So am I, you know."

"Do you still remember the first time we met, Tabby?" Thomas' eyes sparkled. "I caught you and Sugarberry at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe discussing me behind my back right after I'd opened my clinic in town."

"Ah. And I'd just threatened to give you a piece of my mind for intruding on my territory," Tabby nodded, laughing. "We weren't on the best of terms then, were we?"

"No," Thomas agreed. "But we've come a long way." He lapsed into a contemplative silence.

Tabby found the silence rather intimidating as it gave fears on her conscience the opportunity to rise. Thoughts stumbled through her mind for several moments before she spoke again. "And you know," she began in a rush, "and you know, Thomas, that maybe even if I don't say it very often, never doubt for a moment that I love you, because I do and I'll never stop loving you." With this said, she stopped to take a breath.

Thomas turned to her and smiled at the outburst. "Of course. You don't need to clarify yourself. And you must never doubt either that anything you say or do-- or don't say or do, for that matter-- will ever change my feelings for you. It's one of the things that makes you you, Tabby, and I love you all the more for it."

"Fabulous," Tabby murmured. "Because I love you, Thomas." She gently laid her head on his shoulder, both being at complete peace with the world once again. "I'd like to hear more about your parents, too," she put forth tentatively.

"They were wonderful. I only wish they were here now to see you." He paused in thought. "But there will be time later to tell you more. Now..." He pointed her towards the open door. "Don't you think we should be going inside?"

Tabby laughed. "Fabulous idea. They're both anxious to see you."

The introductions went well all around and Thomas' apprehensions over Hubert vanished completely. As it turned out, they seemed to have bonded pretty well by the end of the evening. Life was going rather well and worry-free again for both Tabby and Thomas. As Ah-Loh would have put it, "Hey, party!"

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