A New Wind a Blowin' Part One
written by Sugarberry
“Feels good to get your hooves in the dirt, I suppose,” stated Wigwam as he watched Clever Clover removing earth from around an artifact. Digger, Buttercrunch, and Ages were working nearby in the cramped quarters of the tunnel that was being excavated; it led from a spacious cave-like room hollowed out of solid stone that Native Ponies from a long ago generation had labored over, leaving behind a record of sorts of their life and times. Paintings on the wall existed now- to the wondering eyes of those who visited this out-of-the-way site- as a vivid history of pony development. The earliest painted pictures represented ponies without symbols, while the relatively newer pictures sported simple rump patterns.
“I can’t wait to get deeper into the hill,” Clever Clover replied, brushing away the debris he had loosened. “I won’t have a lot of time myself to work here, however, with everything else in my life right now.”
“You mean like Belle Star, Morning Glory, and Minoko?” asked Digger with a grin.
“If you’re willing to take them off my hooves, be my guest,” huffed Clever Clover.
“Why isn’t Belle Star here today?” asked Buttercrunch. “I was counting on having her help with my project here.” The creamy yellow mare with caramel colored mane and tail was recovering a spear-point from the packed earth.
“She’s off with Minoko; they wouldn’t tell me where they were going, so I suppose I’m in for an unpleasant surprise when I get home.”
Wigwam chuckled. “Minoko was in the casino one night; she’s got quite a temper.”
“Tell me about it,” mumbled Clever Clover.
“Hi, Wigwam,” Memoria said, coming into the tunnel. “Clever Clover said you’d be showing up today; there’s something around the hill that I’d like to show you.”
Wigwam greeted the history professor from Pony Pride and followed her down the passage so laboriously excavated by the professional archeologists and their student helpers until they were out in the open cave; from there, they exited into the sunlight beyond, through the gash in the hillside that had first opened up the hidden cave when a wet spring had unleashed a landslide down the hill several years earlier.
The two ponies stepped clear of the Native Pony setting that had a haunting quality about it and out onto the hillside that was littered with large boulders. The striking thing about the hillside, however, was the black vein of obsidian that snaked its way down the slope like some evil slithering serpent. That, too, had been uncovered by the landslide that had taken out the side of the hill, rewriting the facts of Native Pony weaponry.
Memoria and Wigwam headed away from the obsidian, however, making their way around the side of the hill until they stood at a point almost directly opposite the cave opening they had just left. Her eyes glinting with excitement, Memoria pointed out a barely visible arch in the stone exposed at this point; a bramble of bushes masked all but the top curvature of what appeared to be another closed-off entrance into the hillside.
“This is so fantastic, Wigwam; it was you and Clever Clover and Fetish that said there should be an entrance on this side of the hill. I thought the three of you were spouting off absurdities that day in my office; but when I talked to Van and he agreed with your theories, I came to take a look for myself.”
“So Van’s word is worth more than the word of Clever Clover, Fetish, and I all together,” Wigwam stated with a smile.
“Well, he is a fellow teacher, after all,” Memoria smiled back, then continued. “The strange thing is that all four of you talked as if you remembered being here; it’s as if you were all Native Ponies and have now come back to investigate your own history. It makes me feel as if these hills could still harbor ponies from all those years ago.”
His attention having been caught by what appeared to be one of those ponies Memoria was just talking about, Wigwam stared up the hillside to the east. Memoria took one look at his face, then followed his gaze and gasped.
“Why, Wigwam, it’s a spirit!”
Wigwam was willing in that moment to agree with Memoria. The morning sunlight was washing over a ledge of granite that projected away from the incline of the rock slab that formed the bulk of the hill, and on that ledge stood a mocha unicorn mare in profile; she appeared to be intently studying the distant horizon... or communing with an unseen entity. Her long tangerine mane was being wafted on the wind that carried upward, adding to her ethereal presence.
Wigwam and Memoria stood as if spellbound by the apparition... until the beautiful vision tossed her head and began her descent from her lofty perch. The clip-clop of her hooves echoed off the stone heights around her just as it would for any flesh and blood pony; and as she worked her way down, she caught sight of the two onlookers staring at her and smiled.
“Oh, my; I haven’t gone where I wasn’t supposed to, have I?” she asked, her voice as musical as her fluid movements.
“Not a chance,” said Wigwam, shaking his head dumbly. This mare could go wherever she wanted.
Giving the stallion a scowl, Memoria replied with a bit more reservation. “This area is under study by the Dream Valley Historical Society under the direct supervision of Pony Pride University. Nothing should be tampered with in any way.”
The mare came to stand before the steely-eyed mare and the starry-eyed stallion. “I didn’t interfere with anything,” she said, her smile flitting to Memoria but lighting on Wigwam. “My sister lectured me quite sufficiently on that point.”
“Your sister?” Wigwam found his voice.
“I’m here at the invitation of my sister and her husband; they’re around somewhere.” The mare scanned the hillside, then waved her hoof. “There they are... Dreamcatcher and Fetish.”
Memoria and Wigwam looked in the direction indicated by the mare and saw an orange unicorn and a pale green stallion making their way up the hillside between the boulders, skirting the patches of snow that still remained in protected areas. Memoria’s disapproval evaporated like the morning dew, while Wigwam’s euphoria did the same.
“Dreamcatcher’s your sister?” he asked in apparent disbelief. He and the Native Pony mare were not the best of friends, although their animosity had mellowed over the years since they had first met.
“My older sister,” clarified the mare. She grinned as Dreamcatcher and Fetish arrived.
“I see you’ve met Bittersweet,” Dreamcatcher said.
“Bittersweet,” repeated Wigwam. He studied the unicorn’s face and realized that a pony with this face of sweetness could indeed prove to be bitter as well if she shared Dreamcatcher’s unyielding convictions; but he was willing to find out which characteristic had the upper hoof. “My name’s Wigwam and this is Memoria.”
“It’s nice to meet you both,” Bittersweet responded. “I assume that you are both involved with reclaiming the Native Pony heritage evident here?”
Fetish provided the facts for his sister-in-law. “Memoria is head of the history department at Pony Pride; she and a number of her students do hooves-on work at the site. Wigwam is the one who stumbled over the site on a visit here and notified the proper ponies of its existence and the need to research and protect it.”
“And we’re going to need more volunteers,” Memoria piped up. “I’m sure this cavity behind us is the main entrance into the hillside tunnel that leads back to the cave already excavated.”
“No doubt,” said Fetish; and Dreamcatcher nodded her head, too, a far-away look dimming her eyes.
“I’d be glad to help when I can,” offered Bittersweet.
“You’re here to help me,” Dreamcatcher reminded her sister.
“Surely you’ll allow me some time for myself,” Bittersweet grinned.
“We’ll see,” said Dreamcatcher, eying her sister sharply.
“Where’s your little guy?” queried Wigwam.
“Sugarberry’s watching him,” said Dreamcatcher.
“More to the point, she’s running after him as he pursues the cats,” grinned Fetish.
“Dreamcatcher, I’d like to do some more exploring along this hillside; would you and Fetish like to come with me?” Memoria asked.
“I’ve been wanting to go further up this side,” stated Fetish. “There’s something about...” His voice trailed off, and the stallion started up the trail that Bittersweet had so recently come down. Dreamcatcher and Memoria followed him.
Finding himself alone with Bittersweet, Wigwam waved a hoof to a shelf of rock nearby. The mild weather promised an early spring. “Would you like to sit down?” he asked. “Or we could go back to the cave and find some work for you to do.”
“If you don’t mind, I’d like to sit and talk awhile,” said the unicorn, suiting her actions to her words. “Do you spend a lot of time out here?”
“I plan to now that the weather is opening up,” Wigwam said, taking a position on the rock from which he could easily watch this intriguing pony. “I have to keep the casino running, but I’ve got capable help there.”
“The casino in Dream Valley?”
“Yes.” This was it; this was where the bitter side would rail out at him. Wigwam unconsciously stiffened in expectation.
Bittersweet, however, merely giggled. “I won’t give you a lecture, if that’s what you think. Dreamcatcher and I are miles apart when it comes to our philosophy on how best to live the Native Pony culture.”
Wigwam relaxed. “And what is your philosophy?”
“To respect and value what went before, but to study and embrace that which came after... if it’s worthwhile.”
“How come I haven’t met you before?”
“I was away at college; I graduated in December but didn’t find any job that appealed to me. So when Dreamcatcher asked me to come help her with her business, I jumped at the chance.”
“You’ll be working with her Native Dreams shop at the mall?”
“Yup. Dreamcatcher’s been having a hard time taking care of things since Tamarack has become such an energetic toddler... even with Dyani’s help. Dreamcatcher’ll still be in charge of purchasing, but I’ll take over the actual management of the shop.”
Making a mental note to visit the mall more often in the future, Wigwam asked, “You’ll be living with Fetish and Dreamcatcher?”
“For the time being,” Bittersweet responded.
Both ponies fell silent, their thoughts taking divergent paths. The mare was looking forward to making friends in a new city, and Wigwam seemed to be one of her first. She was confident in her abilities to do well for Dreamcatcher’s business; it would be an added bonus if her personal life could blossom as well. She stared openly at Wigwam and wondered why the stallion had such a sadness in his eyes that even her presence could not fully negate.
That sadness, if she had known, was caused by the impending departure of Chocolate Chip in less than two months to a new life in Hayton or New Pony, depending on which of the job offers the chocolate brown mare decided to accept. Wigwam was not putting any pressure on the mare to convince her to stay in Dream Valley; but he hoped that she would see that her life was meant to be with him, not in some far off municipality where she would become rich and maybe famous but assuredly not happy. At least, that is how Wigwam saw it.
He had lost his bid at making her his wife when she had turned down his proposal in lieu of making a life of her own- a life carved out by her own merits and her own struggles. She had no desire to remain with him in Dream Valley, nor did she want him to follow her wherever her quest took her. Wigwam had lost his bid and could now only stand back and watch the one mare that he had loved for what seemed like forever turn away from him and disappear from his life as she searched out her own version of happiness miles away.
Wigwam shook his head and, looking up, saw Bittersweet’s eyes on him.
“Come on,” he said, standing and directing her to follow him. “I’ll show you the pride of this site.”
“Yes. You’ll be impressed.”
And Bittersweet was. She stared in rare rapture at the simply-drawn paintings of ponies in earthy tones of brown and orange and red and yellow, following the mural from its earliest beginnings with the non-symbol ponies to the powerful representation of the two fighting stallions that framed the tunnel doorway. She studied the torch holders carved in the wall of the cave and envisioned primordial ponies gathered in this space with the natural domed ceiling overhead reflecting back their movements in the shadowy vault.
“It’s so intense,” she breathed, glancing at Wigwam. “Thank you for sharing this with me.”
Wigwam grinned. “You insinuated that you’d be willing to help with the restoration. Let me introduce you to some of the workers.”
The stallion led her into the tunnel where Clever Clover and the others were still hard at their labor. Introductions were made, and Buttercrunch soon had Bittersweet making her first tentative efforts at uncovering the treasures that awaited their unearthing while Wigwam helped by moving loose debris. He was dumping a load of assorted rocks when Memoria, Dreamcatcher, and Fetish showed up.
“You haven’t lost my sister, have you?” queried Dreamcatcher.
“Not at all. I put her to work,” responded Wigwam with a wink.
“Just so she remembers that her purpose in coming to Dream Valley was to help me,” Dreamcatcher reiterated drolly.
“Fetish, show Wigwam what you found,” Memoria prodded.
The Native Pony stallion held up what appeared to be a rock; but Wigwam, taking it into his own hooves, soon saw that it had signs of shaping that were done by a tool carver in a long ago time. As he held it, the simple device seemed at once foreign and familiar; he turned it end for end and rested it in his left hoof.
“It’s a chisel of sorts,” Wigwam said, going through the motions of using such an implement.
Memoria beamed. “That’s exactly what Fetish said and did. I tell you, you Native Ponies have some tangible hold on your past that is nearly...” She shivered. “...uncanny.”
“There is a strong presence about this place,” agreed Dreamcatcher softly. “It still harbors the spirits of our ancestors.”
* * *
As the days went by, Bittersweet settled into her new life in Dream Valley. After her day at the Native Pony site, however, she had been allowed no time in which to go back to continue her education in archeological practices. Dreamcatcher was anxious for her sister to become familiar with all aspects of the business venture that had originally drawn Dreamcatcher to Dream Valley, and Bittersweet was equally anxious to convince her sister to modernize and upgrade. When not at the mall selling Native Pony crafts or on the road searching out new products that fit Dreamcatcher’s exacting expectations, the two mares were at the log cabin in the Dark Forest discussing future plans while enjoying the antics of the ten-month-old Tamarack.
One evening as the two were closing up the kiosk for the day, Bittersweet had a proposal.
“Why don’t we go out on the town tonight, Dreamcatcher. Fetish won’t mind having Tamarack to himself for a little longer.”
Stifling a yawn, Dreamcatcher argued against that idea. “I don’t know. I’m awfully tired as it is, and I have to get up early to meet Red Fox in Friendship Gardens. Maybe tomorrow night.”
Looking downcast, Bittersweet begged. “I’ve been here a week and I haven’t seen any of the fun spots in Dream Valley. Couldn’t we at least stop by the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe?”
“I’m not up to it,” admitted Dreamcatcher, but she had an idea. “There’s Chocolate Chip; maybe she’s headed that way.” She called to the chocolate brown mare who seemed to be deep in thoughts of her own.
Hearing her name, Chocolate Chip raised her head and smiled when she saw Dreamcatcher. “Hi! Are the two of you on your way home?”
“I am,” Dreamcatcher explained, “but Bittersweet wants to see some of Dream Valley’s night-life. Would you be going for ice cream so that she could tag along?”
“Sorry,” grimaced Chocolate Chip. “I’ve got some studying to do, plus I have to talk to Garnet over at the casino.”
“The casino?” queried Bittersweet, her interest piqued. “Why don’t I walk with you over there?”
“I can’t stay... only long enough to get some notes Garnet was going to have ready for me.”
“That’s okay. I’ll be fine on my own once I get there. You go on home, Dreamcatcher. I’ll see you later.”
* * *
With an eye for business, Bittersweet watched the proceedings at the casino with interest to see what she could glean about Wigwam’s venture. She had liked Garnet on sight, and the two mares had shared an interesting exchange of life histories before Garnet had gotten swept away to solve some problem or other. Bittersweet had edged her way around the gaming room, an intrigued spectator of the diversions at hoof. She was so caught up in the excitement of the ponies actually playing that she did not notice Wigwam until he spoke.
“It’s even more fun if you put some jangles down,” he said.
“Wigwam! Oh, I’m sure that’s just what you want me to do.”
“You can do as you please... which is what I’m sure you’ll do anyway.”
Bittersweet looked at the stallion with a twinkle in her eye. “Right now I’d like to find something to eat.”
“I can help you out there.” He nodded toward a nearby doorway. “The buffet is that way. Are you here alone?”
“Then if you’re willing to wait for a minute, I’ll be free to accompany you... if you’d like.”
“I would like.”
“Okay, then. I’ll be right back.”
Wigwam crossed to one of the tables and spoke with the pony in charge, then returned to Bittersweet. “This way,” he said, guiding her to the dining area where a splendid array of food stuffs was available. Bypassing the cashier, he informed Bittersweet, “It’s on the house tonight.” He offered her a plate.
“Why, thank you, Wigwam.” She smiled at him. “What are your favorites here?”
“It’s all good or it wouldn’t be on display.”
“That’s a cop-out if I ever heard one.”
“You asked for it.” He took the plate back from her and proceeded to load it with a variety of dishes, giving her a running commentary on the style and ethnic ingredients of each. “Here,” he said when it was laden to capacity.
Bittersweet eyed the overflowing victuals, then looked at Wigwam. “Two forks and we should both be set.”
Chuckling, Wigwam grabbed two wraps of utensils. “Coffee, milk, soda, tea?”
“Coffee will be fine.”
Wigwam gestured to a waiting server to bring a carafe; Wigwam and Bittersweet were soon seated at a table with a view of the gazebo and the lake sparkling under the outside lights. The plate of food rested between them.
Taking a tentative taste of one of the more intriguing looking offerings, Bittersweet closed her eyes to savor the flavor. “Wonderful,” she said. “You have a good chef.”
“Several of them, as a matter of fact.”
“I’ll have to scout them out for my parents.”
“Don’t even think it.”
“You’re not eating,” Bittersweet noted.
“Better things to do,” replied Wigwam, his eyes feasting on the comely unicorn before him; but he unrolled his napkin and retrieved the fork from within and took a bite or two. “You and Dreamcatcher have the same smile, except you use yours more.”
Unable to hold back that smile, Bittersweet responded, “So which one of us sisters do you like better?”
Saved from an answer by the arrival of Hawkley, Wigwam gratefully included the stallion in the conversation. “Hawkley, have you met Bittersweet?”
“I haven’t had that pleasure,” said the denim blue stallion, extending his hoof to the unicorn.
“Nice to meet you, Hawkley,” the mare purred. “Would you like to join us?” Her gaze dropped to the plate of food in Hawkley’s hoof.
“Why, thanks!” Hawkley immediately set down his dinner and slid into a chair near Bittersweet. “What brings you to the casino?”
Before Bittersweet could respond, Wigwam supplied some background information on the mare. “Bittersweet is Dreamcatcher’s sister; she’s in town to help with Native Dreams at the mall.”
“You’ll be living here then?” asked Hawkley, his eyes expressing approval.
“If my sister and I don’t let too much contention build up between us,” Bittersweet replied honestly. “We’re as different as night and day... except for our smiles.” She favored Wigwam with another.
“Are you here for the gaming or just for the food?” Hawkley said in an effort to regain the mare’s attention.
“Just out of curiosity. I had a choice between the Café Carousel, the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe, or here; and as Chocolate Chip was headed in this direction...”
“Chocolate Chip is here?” asked Wigwam, his head swiveling to catch a glimpse of her.
“She was, but she only picked up some research information from Garnet and then she left.”
Wigwam leaned back in his chair and looked disappointed, while Hawkley grinned.
“She was too busy to stay... something about a project due,” offered Hawkley, then felt obligated to explain. “I ran into her as she was leaving.”
“She never has a spare minute,” said Wigwam, pushing back his chair. “And I should get back to work, too. No need to hurry, Hawkley; I’ll cover for you. Good evening, Bittersweet; I hope to see you again soon.”
“Certainly, Wigwam... and thanks for dinner.”
Watching the stallion depart, Bittersweet turned to Hawkley. “Did I say something I shouldn’t have?”
“You? Oh, no. Not a thing. It’s just... well, the fact that Chocolate Chip was here and didn’t bother to look him up probably rankled a bit.”
“Oh? And why would that be?”
“It’s no secret; so I guess no one will consider it gossip if I tell you. You see, Wigwam proposed to Chocolate Chip, but she turned him down. He hasn’t really made his peace with her decision.”
“So Wigwam is in love with a mare that doesn’t return his affection,” mused Bittersweet.
“I’m not sure that even Chocolate Chip knows where she stands; she turned him down, but she doesn’t seem too happy with things the way they are now, either. But she graduates this spring and has been really busy, so I suppose that explains her mopes.” Hawkley hoped it did, for he had tried everything he knew to try to brighten her spirits and make some headway with the mare for his own benefit, to no effect.
Bittersweet was silent as she pondered this information, then she smiled at Hawkley. “Well, Hawkley, if you were to advise me as to which of the tables to take my chances on, which would it be?”
Hawkley swallowed down the last bite of his food. “Come on; I’ll show you.”
* * *
“You were late getting in last night,” Dreamcatcher said to her sister as Bittersweet came into the kitchen the following morning. Tamarack was in his high chair, eating oatmeal as his mother fed him.
“You sound just like Mother.”
“It’s not a good idea for someone new to the area to be walking alone in the Dark Forest once the sun sets.”
“Manitou was waiting at the old pine tree; I don’t think I have to worry with him by my side. But as it was, Hawkley walked me home anyway.”
“Hawkley? You met him at the casino?”
“Yes... him and several other interesting stallions; I also met Garnet, and of course Wigwam was there.”
“Did Chocolate Chip stop to talk with Wigwam?”
“No. He didn’t even know she was there until it came up in conversation later.” Bittersweet helped herself to a glass of orange juice.
“I worry about that girl.”
“Why? From what I heard, she dumped Wigwam.”
“And who did you hear that from?”
“It doesn’t matter who told me. Is it true?”
“In a way.”
Bittersweet raised a curious brow. “Explain.”
“Why are you so interested?”
“Because I like Wigwam, and I don’t want to see him looking defeated when he has so much going for him.”
“Don’t get your hopes set on that stallion,” Dreamcatcher warned.
“And why not?”
“Because... because Chocolate Chip may change her mind yet.”
“And Wigwam is supposed to wait for her to decide?”
“He’s waited a long time already; but that’s just it... Chocolate Chip may find that she’s expected too much of him this time. Even so, I don’t want to see her get hurt if it can be avoided.”
“What about Wigwam if she continues to ignore him? He’s hurting enough already.”
“I’m just letting you know what you’re getting in to if you go chasing after Wigwam; it’s a volatile situation with him and Chocolate Chip, and anyone caught in the middle could get the worst end of it.”
“And for your information, sister dear, I’m not chasing after him,” Bittersweet clarified. “He made a point of noticing me... he likes my smile.”
Fetish came into the kitchen. “Who likes your smile, Bittersweet?”
“Wigwam. And now I’m going to work.” She flashed a look at her sister, turned, and left the house.
“What was that all about?” asked Fetish of his wife as he tousled Tamarack’s mane.
“Bittersweet seems to think that Wigwam needs her tender loving care. If she gets between him and Chocolate Chip, one of them is going to get hurt.” She stuffed another spoonful of oatmeal in Tamarack’s willing mouth.
Taking the spoon from Dreamcatcher’s hoof, Fetish set it on the tray of the high chair. Then, he pulled his wife to him. “You’re worrying needlessly; and when you worry, you don’t smile. Have I ever told you that I like your smile?” Dreamcatcher shook her head, but was unable to restrain an upward turning of her mouth in response to the compliment. “There. That’s what I like to see,” Fetish approved.
And while his parents were busy with other things, Tamarack busied himself with the spoon that his father had so conveniently left for him to play with. It was very entertaining, the foal decided, to watch the spoonfuls of oatmeal hit the kitchen floor the way they did. And Mommy and Daddy did not say a thing.
* * *
“Wigwam! Welcome!” greeted Sugarberry as she found the orange stallion at her back door. “How’d you know that breakfast was ready?” She swung the door wide to admit him into the house.
“I followed the aroma of muffins,” he said after a quick glance at the kitchen table. “Hi, Van.”
“Good morning. You’re fortunate to get here before Wishbone’s up, or there wouldn’t be any muffins left.”
“That lazy bones is still in bed?”
“He worked late himself, what with Garnet at the casino,” Sugarberry said, pouring some hot coffee for the stallion. “Orange juice?”
“No, thanks. I was hoping to catch Chocolate Chip.”
“She’s gone already... some group project.”
“At this hour of the morning?” Wigwam raised a questioning brow.
“It was the only time they could all get together,” Sugarberry stated.
Sighing, Wigwam crossed to where Banderol lay contentedly batting at some colorful plastic butterflies hovering over his cradle. “What’s up, Bandy?” He lifted the foal into his forelegs. “This kid’s getting heavy,” he noted as he offered the small colt a partial bottle sitting nearby.
“He never turns down food,” Vanguard admitted.
“Obviously,” said Wigwam as Banderol emptied the bottle. Having fast learned the rudiments of foal care since the birth of this precious little one, Wigwam proceeded to pat Banderol’s back to prompt a burp. “Good job, brat,” he commended the foal.
Sugarberry rolled her eyes. “He’s not a brat.”
“You talking about me again?” queried Wishbone, arriving on the scene from his basement quarters.
“Brat would be too mild a connotation for you,” Wigwam intoned. “And try as I might to convince Garnet of her folly in marrying you, I’m having no success.”
“So that’s why you’re scheduling her for all these late nights,” Wishbone griped, taking his place at the table.
“Hey! Better now than after the wedding,” Wigwam pointed out. He, Vanguard, and Sugarberry grinned as Wishbone’s rose-red cheeks grew even brighter.
“Speaking of the wedding,” Sugarberry said, shifting the stallions’ attention, “is everything lined-up for the dinner?”
“The casino will be closed for that grand occasion with the dining room serving the finest culinary repast that my chefs are capable of,” Wigwam stated impressively. “And the north room with accommodate the dance.”
“That’s a very special wedding gift for the young couple, Wigwam,” Sugarberry said admiringly.
“Garnet’s a very special mare; and Wishbone...” Wigwam’s eyes rested affectionately on the stallion. “... well, Wishbone’s not so bad... I guess.”
“That’s high praise, coming from Wigwam,” giggled Sugarberry as she patted Wishbone’s hoof.
“What was the final outcome of the arrest of Thorne the other night?” Vanguard wanted to know.
Wigwam let Wishbone answer the question as it concerned his future in-laws.
“It seems this Thorne had an old score to settle with Garnet’s parents; he’d been in love with Sassy before Blackcap came along and won her heart. And it just so happened that he was in Riverside specifically to rob The Wharf, knowing that establishment would have a larger than normal amount of jangles on the premises due to the fund-raiser, when who should he see but Sassy and Blackcap registering for the night at the motel. He thought fate had smiled down upon him, putting him in a position to pay back Garnet’s parents for what he still considered a spurned love.
“He went ahead with the robbery as he had intended; but afterwards he watched the motel to see what Blackcap and Sassy’s plans were. When he saw them pull out so early in the morning, he put it to good use. He waited until the robbery had been discovered, then put in an anonymous call to the police telling them that some suspicious looking strangers had been seen before dawn leaving town heading north. After that, he headed south and ended up in Dream Valley. All the cops had to do was question the motel owner who gave them an accurate description of Sassy and Blackcap, and wham!... they’re suspected of the crime.”
“It was Kyrene’s clever thinking that foiled Thorne’s plans here,” continued Wigwam. “Once he was in custody and his goon spilled the beans on him, he didn’t have much choice but to come clean. Blackcap and Sassy were delighted to be found guiltless, but Garnet said they hightailed it back to New Pony where things would be quieter for them.”
Everyone laughed at the inconsistency of New Pony being quieter than Dream Valley.
* * *
Once Wishbone and Vanguard had left the house, both heading for Pony Pride, Sugarberry refilled Wigwam’s coffee cup and took the now sleeping Banderol off to his own room; when she returned to the kitchen, she found the stallion staring out the window, lost in some gloomy reverie. The mare knew Wigwam well enough to understand his need to talk to someone about what was troubling him; and she could well guess the cause of his distress.
Gathering up the dirty dishes and running water into the sink for the chore at hoof, Sugarberry commented, “Chocolate Chip is driving herself too hard these final months of school; I wish she’d give herself a chance to step back and take a breather.”
“She won’t, you know.” Wigwam picked up a dish towel. “She’s isolating herself from all her friends even while living in the midst of us.”
“I hadn’t thought of it that way before, but you’re right. She doesn’t confide in me anymore, and I know Dreamcatcher is as worried about her as we are. Garnet and Fern and Chocolate Chip used to be close, but I haven’t seen the three of them together for ages. Even Banderol cries when she picks him up because she’s around so seldom.”
“I blame her parents,” Wigwam said, drying a plate with a vengeance. “If they’d valued her when she was growing up, she wouldn’t need to prove herself now.”
“Surely she knows how much we’ve valued her since she’s been with us in Dream Valley,” Sugarberry argued.
“That doesn’t seem to matter to her, does it?”
“Of course it matters to her! It’s just that she’s so caught up in doing the best she can in this final semester of school so she can land the perfect job that she doesn’t have time for fun and friends anymore.”
“Where do you think she’ll end up?”
“There have been several important looking letters from New Pony recently.”
Wigwam ran a hoof through his mane. “If she went to Hayton, at least she’d be close enough that we would be accessible if she needed help. New Pony’s a different world.”
“You took some college classes in New Pony at one point in your life, didn’t you?”
“Yes, I did. And I came back to Dream Valley.”
“Chocolate Chip could do that, too, you know. Let her go free...”
“... and I may never see her again,” Wigwam finished morosely.
The doorbell sounded from the front of the house, so Sugarberry reached for a towel and left the kitchen to Wigwam’s ministrations while she answered the summons. When she opened the door, she found an unfamiliar stallion standing there with soft blue coloring and a white mane and tail. “May I help you?” she queried, uncertain of the visitor’s purpose.
The stallion smiled. “I was told by a reliable source that I might find Wigwam here.”
“You might,” hedged Sugarberry. “But first, I’d like to know who you are.”
His smile broadening to a grin, the stranger looked Sugarberry over carefully. “Well, I’d guess you made a bigger impression on me than I did on you, although I must admit you were just a filly when last I saw you.”
Sugarberry looked at the stallion closely, searching her memory; it was only when she noticed his symbol that it dawned on her who he was. Her eyes widened. “Teepee!”
“Right, my pretty lady. Now, may I see my brother?”
“Please, come in. This is such a surprise... does Wigwam know you’re in town?”
“No... and as I’ve been away for untold years, he may not remember me either.”
“I think he’ll know his own brother; I, on the other hoof, never had much contact with you. You graduated from high school while I was still back in eighth grade.”
“Yes, but I remember the pretty strawberry-covered filly while you had no recollection of me,” he teased.
Finding no suitable response, Sugarberry escaped with the comment, “I’ll get Wigwam.”
That stallion had taken it upon himself to finish washing the dishes that Sugarberry had left behind and was now drying them.
“There’s someone to see you,” Sugarberry informed him, her eyes dancing. Then, seeing Wigwam’s face light up for the wrong reason, she added, “It’s not Chocolate Chip.”
Wigwam glowered at Sugarberry. “Who would come here looking for me?” He stepped quickly to the doorway, the muffin tin and a towel still in his hooves, and went on into the living room with Sugarberry following curiously behind. When he saw the pale blue stallion, his face first registered surprise, then delight. “Teepee!” he bellowed. “What rock did you crawl out from under?”
The two stallions faced each other, both searching for all that was familiar in the other. After a moment, they came together in a boisterous hug with much back slapping, the muffin tin having been relegated to Sugarberry’s care. As the brothers stepped back, Teepee grinned.
“You’ve become rather domestic.” He eyed the muffin tin and the dishpan hooves.
“Sugarberry was kind enough to feed me breakfast; helping with dishes was the least I could do.”
At that moment, the wailing of a foal in need of his mother could be heard from upstairs; Sugarberry excused herself to take care of Banderol, leaving the two stallions to enjoy their reunion alone.
Teepee seemed overwhelmed. “A charming home, a beautiful wife, and a baby? I never expected to find you in such a state.”
“And you probably never will,” said Wigwam. Then, seeing the confusion on his brother’s face, he realized what Teepee was thinking. “None of this is mine... the house, the mare, or the foal.”
“So what are you doing here like the lord of the manor?”
“I came for breakfast, like I said.”
“The last time I talked to Mom, she said that you were serious over someone; when I saw Sugarberry, I thought...”
“You thought wrong. And I don’t have anyone in my life right now.” Wigwam’s tone allowed no questions. “So what are you doing back in Dream Valley anyway?”
“I got homesick, I guess. I’ve been on the road too long.”
“What have you been up to?”
“A little bit of this and a little bit of that.” Teepee grinned. “It would take a month of Sundays to tell you everything I’ve done over the years, so just suffice it to say that I’ve seen enough of the world to finally realize that Dream Valley isn’t so bad after all.”
“There’s someone I’d like you to share that thought with,” Wigwam muttered.
Raising an inquisitive eyebrow, Teepee stated. “There’s a mare involved in that statement somehow.”
“Like I said, there’s no one special in my life right now. Although...” He grinned at Teepee. “... there’s a new mare in town that you’ll have to meet.”
Teepee shook his head. “No, thanks. I’ll be a party to no matchmaking attempts; I like to do my own pickin’ and choosin’.”
“Well, stallions are still at a premium in Dream Valley; things haven’t changed that much.”
“Then I made the right choice to come back.”
The two stallions ended their discussion upon hearing Sugarberry’s hoofsteps on the stairs, and the mare made her appearance with Banderol. After Teepee had made the requisite comments on the size and cuteness of the foal, Sugarberry offered her guests coffee; but both of the stallions seemed in a hurry to be on their way. Sugarberry saw them to the door and then settled down with her little son.
* * *
“The casino looks prosperous enough,” commented Teepee as the two stallions approached the building. “I suppose you don’t need another helping hoof around the place.”
“You’re asking for a job?” asked Wigwam in surprise.
“If I’m going to settle in Dream Valley, I’ll need some source of income. By the way, I left my backpack on your porch.”
“Does that mean you’re planning on taking advantage of my hospitality?”
“It’s either that or camping out.”
“I’m sure Mom and Dad would take you in for awhile.”
“I’m not that desperate yet,” Teepee grinned. “A steady job is my first priority.”
“What are your qualifications?” queried Wigwam.
“You name it, I’ve done it; but I prefer not to be cooped up all day- I like to have my space.”