My Little Pony Monthly Issue 35
(February 1, 2000)
My Little Pony Monthly
Established June 1997
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The Clockwork Cat
A Fairy Tale by the Ponies Grimm
With grateful thanks to Talia for her constructive criticism.
C. Alan Loewen
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
(Author's note: This story takes place several months before the events depicted in the
1984 animated My Little Pony video that introduced Dream Castle (™), Spike, the Sea Ponies,
(™) and Megan. Your welcome comments and critiques may be sent to
In a land not far from your dreams lies a castle, and in that castle live ten wonderful
ponies. And whether they have wings or unicorn horns or neither, they are all magical.
The ponies lay comfortably in front of the huge fireplace as the snowstorm outside
and fumed. The walls of Dream Castle were thick and strong and all the ponies except one felt
safe, snug, and secure within them.
Applejack groaned with pleasure and stretched her legs. "Nothing like eating baked
apples in front of a roaring fire. It makes me feel sleepy."
Ember leaned against Twilight-- her favorite place to rest-- and blinked at the sound of
wind attempting to rush down the massive chimney. "I can't sleep. The wind is scary," Ember
whispered. She snuggled closer to her friend.
Twilight nuzzled Ember gently, the unicorn-pony remembering her own fears when a
young filly. "Would a story take your mind off the wind?" she asked.
Ember looked up with gratitude. "Just don't make it scary," she said.
Cotton Candy, Moondancer, Bubbles, Applejack, Glory, Firefly, Medley, and Bowtie
made themselves comfortable as Twilight's voice wove a tale highlighted by the faint howls of
wind in the chimney and the comforting crackling of the fire.
* * *
A long time ago in a city not far from here, a young orphan girl lived with her
Her name was Briar, and, though her grandfather was a toymaker and made the most beautiful
toys, he was quite poor. The wealthy folk of the city saw little value in toys; and though Briar's
grandfather loved his mechanical creations, most of his income came from repairing broken
To help with the bills, every morning Briar would walk down to the flower merchants
sell flowers for them while standing on street corners. The little money she made went toward
helping her grandfather pay his debts, and there always seemed a little left over for an occasional
treat at the Candy Maker's booth.
Briar's life was not all that unpleasant. Her grandfather was loving and kind, though
sometimes a little forgetful. Many times he would be searching for one of his favorite tools only
to find it already in his shirt pocket or tucked behind his ear.
As for selling flowers, Briar was most happy. The fragrance of the pretty blossoms
made her happy, and she loved the smiles that they brought to those who bought them. Yes,
though Briar and her grandfather did not have the easiest of lives, it was not hard either and there
was love and laughter and contentment.
Yet Briar did have one secret desire. The one thing that she wanted most of all was a
She didn't care what kind; a kitten, a puppy, even a small piglet would have made her
One day as she stood on the street corner, a carriage pulled up alongside the curb. The
carriage was magnificent, the horses were majestic, and the livery men stood in their finest
crimson and purple coats. However, inside the coach somebody was not happy.
"I don't care!" a shrill voice whined. "What made you think I wanted a cheap toy for
birthday?" The head of a little girl, her face ringed in dark curly hair, scowled through the
window, caught sight of Briar standing with her flowers, and stuck her tongue out at her.
Shocked, Briar simply stared at the incredible rudeness.
"Now, Flavia. Calm yourself!" ordered a deep masculine voice. "Your mother and I
bought that from the most expensive toymaker in the Seven Kingdoms and here you've gone and
"Don't care," pouted the little girl. "Don't want the stupid old toy anyway." And with
that, a small black furry lump came sailing through the open carriage window to land at Briar's
feet. It was a cat; a toy cat. The hide of the thing had split open and the insides looked like one
of the clocks her uncle repaired.
With harsh words still coming from the carriage, it drove away down the street and
disappeared around a corner.
Briar picked up the pathetic thing that lay at her feet and tried to smooth the soft silky
The little toy's eyes seemed almost lifelike and even the paws revealed intricate detail. If it were
not for the springs and gears popping through the tear in its side, it would have looked just like a
real cat. "I'll bet my grandfather can fix you up," Briar said and gently placed it in her flower
She sped home with her newfound toy and found her grandfather searching his little
"Good evening, Grandfather!" Briar said.
"I can't find the magnifying glasses that I wear," he said in exasperation. "I've searched
through every square inch of this shop, and they're gone."
Briar gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and slid the glasses from his forehead to his
"Oh, thank goodness!" he said. "What would I do without you?"
"Grandfather," Briar said, lifting her flower basket to the table. "Look!"
Her grandfather gasped at the mangled toy cat, its gears and other bric-a-brac scattered
around it. "Oh, my," he said softly. Carefully, he picked up the limp form and carried it to his
"Would you like some stew, Grandfather?" Her grandfather, already immersed in the
intricate workings of this new marvel, simply ignored her-- not out of rudeness, but because he
had now become so engrossed in this new wonder that he would be oblivious to everything until
he had fathomed the mysteries of the clockwork cat. Briar got herself a bowl and spoon and
slowly ate her dinner as her grandfather worked feverishly. His hands danced over the workings,
placing gears and springs back into place like some mad jigsaw puzzle. Using delicate tweezers
and files, he continued working long into the night.
Briar fell asleep in her chair watching her grandfather, and was finally awakened by the
sunlight streaming through the large glass store window. Her grandfather sat at his old
workbench fast asleep, his head cradled in his arms. In front of him sat the cat.
Briar blinked her eyes in stunned surprise. If she had not seen the cat's inner workings,
she would have sworn the creature was real. Any moment she expected it to blink and begin to
Rising from her chair, she walked to the workbench, her hand reaching out to stroke the
With a gasp, she jerked her hand back. The clockwork cat stood with a whirring noise,
blinked its eyes again and leaped.
Briar cried out in surprise, but the cat merely landed at her feet with all the grace of a
feline and began to wind itself around her ankles in the way of all cats. Briar clapped her hands
with delight and picked up the cat where it snuggled against her chin.
The clockwork cat became the talk of the city. People came from all around to see the
marvel and though many offers were made, Briar and her grandfather refused to sell it. With the
attraction of the cat, Briar's grandfather discovered that his other toys grew in demand and slowly
the money came in. Briar eventually stopped selling flowers on the streets.
Briar loved the clockwork cat as it quickly became the pet she had never owned.
it never meowed, the purring of its clockwork interior lulled her to sleep at night and it became
her constant companion. She named him Sundial.
Her grandfather never learned to duplicate the delicate inner workings of the clockwork
cat. Whoever created Sundial was a master toymaker and Briar's grandfather was no match for
him or her. However, from reassembling Sundial he had learned some new tricks of the
toymaker's trade and his automated dollhouses became the talk of the Seven Kingdoms.
Unfortunately, talk traveled far not only of the old man's dollhouses, but also of the
clockwork cat that prowled the little toy store.
One day, Briar sat at the back of the store stroking Sundial while he whirred and purred
her lap. The bell hanging from the front door jingled, announcing the arrival of a customer;
Grandfather greeted them warmly. Briar looked up and froze in surprise. Though she did not
recognize the man who was dressed in all the finery of royalty, the little girl was the same one
who had thrown Sundial at her feet so many months ago.
The man announced himself as Count Basil of Bontoc and the child as his daughter.
little girl, a scowl marring what could have been a pretty face, stamped her feet and demanded the
return of her toy cat. The Count simply patted her on the head and smiled.
Carefully, Briar moved back into the shadows of the back room, the clockwork cat
dangling from her arms. She made her way to the back door and slipped out into the alley and
began to run.
The streets were busy and it was a beautiful spring afternoon. Briar simply ran, not
where she was going.
She ran for a long time. Finally, out of breath, she found herself in a part of the city she
had never seen before. Tired, she slipped into a quiet alley and sat on an old barrel. Holding
Sundial in her lap, she watched the shadows lengthen and the streets empty. When the full moon
finally blazed brightly overhead, Briar decided that it was time to return home and see what fate
had in store for her and her clockwork cat.
As she stood to go, she heard a strange noise like leaves being rustled by the wind.
Looking down the alley, Briar was amazed to see the streets were alive with cats-- not hundreds,
but thousands of cats in every size and color. Proud Siamese walked next to loping Angoras that
ran beside the more common tabbies and shorthairs. Thousands of cat paws rustled down the
street toward her. Feeling a growing fear, Briar hugged Sundial close to her chest and sank into
the shadows waiting for the strange feline parade to pass.
But cats can see in the dark.
The procession of cats stopped in front of the alley and thousands of glittering green
reflecting the moonlight stared unblinking at Briar and Sundial where they crouched in the
shadows. One lone cat, a Persian, sauntered forward and addressed Briar where she knelt. "The
Queen of Cats," the Persian said, and Briar was too frightened to realize she had never heard a cat
talk before, "wishes to see this imposter, this mechanical cat."
"How," Briar squeaked, "how did you know I was here?"
The Persian simply purred and licked a paw. "We are cats," was all he would say in
Briar saw no other choice. Hugging Sundial close, she walked into the streets where
cats parted in a living wave to make room for her. Except for the gentle whispering sound of
thousands of cats' feet on cobblestone, the cats, Briar, and Sundial silently made their way down
the empty, moonlit streets.
What a story will be told if somebody looks out their window, Briar thought,
there was no interruption as they made their way through the city.
Eventually they came to another alleyway where the procession stopped. The Persian
motioned with a paw toward the darker shadows. "The Queen of Cats," was all it said.
Slowly, Briar walked into the shadows trusting the feel of the pavement and the echoes
her footfalls from the walls to tell her where she was. At the back of the alley, the full moon was
able to penetrate the shadows and, sitting on a makeshift bench in the center of a moonbeam, sat
an old calico cat. Her fur was tattered and dry and her movements were stiff.
Briar sat Sundial at her feet and curtsied. "Your highness?" she asked.
The old cat made no reply but with painful steps left her bench and approached Sundial
who whirred at Briar's feet. After sniffing at the clockwork cat, she finally spoke. "We have
heard of this imposter, this feline mimic. Tell me, do people wish to replace cats with an
invention of their own?"
Briar quickly shook her head. "Oh, no, your highness. Sundial is only a toy."
"Then..." said the Queen, raising a paw as if to strike the clockwork cat.
"No!" Briar cried and swept Sundial into her arms. "Please don't hurt my Sundial. He's
The Queen cocked an eyebrow in question. For the next hour, Briar told the Queen of
Cats the story of Sundial, the clockwork cat.
It was an hour later when the Queen finally spoke. "The cats of this city grew worried
when we heard the story of this clockwork cat, for we are cats and cats are proud. Yet, though it
purrs and loves it does not chase mice and if it does not chase mice then we will still be needed in
this city. Also, it does not meow or sing to the moon and so our nighttime concerts will be ours
and ours alone. You may go and the clockwork cat may go with you." And with that, the Queen
of the Cats turned her back.
Quickly, Briar curtsied again. "Begging your pardon, your majesty, but could I ask one
The Queen turned and again cocked an eyebrow in question.
The next day, Briar and her grandfather stood in the store waiting for the carriage to
arrive with the Count and his daughter, Flavia. All too quickly, the bell on the door jingled and
the tall count stood before them while Flavia glared and impatiently stamped her feet. "I want my
toy cat!" she pouted.
Briar curtsied to the count and his daughter. Though Flavia hardly deserved a token of
respect, Briar's courtesy overrode her feelings. "Of course," she said with a delicate smile. "At
once. If you would please follow me?"
The count, Flavia, and Briar's grandfather followed her through the backroom of the
and into the alley.
The alley was filled with cats. Thousands of them stood on the barrels and doorsteps.
The cats were crowded so tightly, it was impossible to see the cobblestones under their feet.
Briar turned to the count and his daughter and waved her hand toward the thousands of cats.
"I'm sure," she said, "that the clockwork cat is here somewhere."
Flavia glared at her in fury. "It's just a toy cat," she said. "I'll just find the one that
a whirring noise." With that, the entire alley began to rumble as each cat began to purr the
loudest it could purr.
Briar laughed in spite of herself. "I believe it will take quite a number of days to find
which cat is which. Of course, there is no telling that you might take a real cat home in its
"A real cat?" Flavia sputtered. "A dirty, hairy cat?" With that she turned and stormed
back into the store followed by her father. They continued out the front and into the waiting
carriage. With a snap of the reins, the horses pulled the carriage through the streets where it
disappeared around a corner.
When Briar returned to the alley it was empty except for the clockwork cat who purred
and whirred. However, that night and every night after that, Briar always left a large bowl
brimming with cream in the alley and it was always empty in the morning.
* * *
With that, Twilight ended her story. The other ponies yawned and, getting to their feet,
made their way to their warm beds.
"Twilight?" Ember asked, trying hard not to yawn. "You said this story happened a
time ago. Whatever happened to the clockwork cat? Is it still around?"
Twilight laughed gently. "They say that many years later that the cats of the city
the clockwork cat as a full member into their ranks. And just like Flavia in her dilemma, nobody
knows which cat amongst the millions of the world might be the clockwork cat because they all
look and purr the same." Twilight stifled a yawn. "Now let's run along and go to bed. The wind
has died down and the night is still."
"I'll be right up, Twilight," Ember said. "I want a drink of water first."
A few minutes later after getting her drink, Ember quietly walked back to the fire to
the sole cat of Dream Castle lay staring into the dying coals. "Are you the clockwork cat?"
The cat merely smiled and purred.
Twenty Thousand Words Spoken Under the Sea
inspired by Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules
I have reprogrammed myself into Tabby's body, I noted with interest as I looked
at myself in a mirror. "And I can talk like an adult pony now, too!" I said out-loud.
Yes, here I, Baby Noddins (but now I looked like Tabby!) Stood aboard the very
submarine, the Sea Pony. I had been taken captive on it along with my two best friends,
Baby Falling Leaves and Mr. Skidoo. Well, actually, they aren't my best friends because I
decided I didn't like Baby Falling Leaves and I don't know Mr. Skidoo at all.
I walked out into another room of the Sea Pony, this one being sided with
windows that showed out into the sea. Baby Falling Leaves stood there, staring at the
"Baby Falling Leaves, you're supposed to be classifying things," I snapped. "Get to
Baby Falling Leaves immediately pulled her sight away from the glass pane. "I don't
wanna classify stupid Furbys," she complained. "This was your stupid idea. I wanna play with
"Well, he's not here," I retorted.
"Then I'm gonna leave," Baby Falling Leaves scowled.
"But I'm older now than you are, so you have to listen to me," I reminded.
"You're still Baby Noddins, even if you look like Tabby," Baby Falling Leaves
"Classify the Furbys!" I said impatiently.
"But I'm going to escape with Mr. Skidoo tonight," Baby Falling Leaves continued.
"Then I won't have to put up with you."
"Why, what's he going to do tonight?" I questioned.
Mr. Skidoo appeared on the scene. Besides being Miss Hackney's one true love, he also
fished for whales and tried to escape the Sea Pony every night. "The same thing we do
every night," he told me. "Try to get out of here!"
"I already knew that," I said. "What plan are you using this time?"
"It doesn't involve Furbys!" Baby Falling Leaves said as she stalked off with Mr.
"Baby Falling Leaves, you're supposed to classify!" I hollered after them, but she did not
listen. I looked out of the window into the sea myself. There were a variety of Furbys floating
out there. I saw several black ones; many yellow ones; a purple one; a whole ton of blue ones;
some pastel lavender, blue, and green ones; some black and white spotted ones; some orange and
black spotted ones; a group of neon orange ones; some black and purple baby ones; several of the
rare teal and yellow ones; and a single red one.
At first, I had not known what to think after Captain Barnacle had taken us captive
his ship. But I finally realized that it gave me the perfect opportunity to study my life's work-- the
underwater habits of Furbys and their hereditary enemies, the squid.
Just then, Captain Barnacle entered the room. "ARR!" he exclaimed.
You see, Captain Barnacle had developed a very intricate secret language for use
his crew. It consisted entirely of "ARR"s. Plus, he had a neat mechanical leg.
"Oh, hello, Captain Barnacle," I said cheerfully. "I was just studying the Furbys."
"ARR!" he said again. "We be goin' to Atlantis tomorrow."
"Atlantis?" I gasped. "Wow!" Atlantis was the primary breeding ground of Furbys, and
many families made it their permanent home. "I will study all sorts of Furbys there!"
"ARR," Captain Barnacle agreed. "And my crew has just apprehended your two friends
trying to escape."
"They're not my friends," I said. "I don't like Baby Falling Leaves. She wouldn't
"It's time for your supper now, anyway, and then you must take a nap," Captain
"You're sounding just like my mom," I said. "What've you fixed this time?"
"Eat this plate of seaweed and then go off to your room," Captain Barnacle
I stared down at the plate. "I don't like seaweed," I complained. "Can I put ketchup on
"No, ARR!" Captain Barnacle protested. "The ketchup plants do no harm to us, but
ponies are right to eat seaweed!"
"Oh," I said as Captain Barnacle left the room. I tossed my plate onto the window, and
left a sticky green mess. It spread all over the pane. I realized that I could no longer see out to
look at the Furbys.
I decided to go take a shower, because my hair was feeling very lifeless and it was
beginning to look like seaweed. The water in my shower was just beginning to warm up when I
noticed a slimy squid tentacle oozing up out of the drainhole. I stomped on it, but that could not
hold it back. More of the squid came up into the bathtub. Soon, the whole creature was
terrorizing my bathroom. I ran down the hall, screaming.
I found Baby Falling Leaves wandering through the Sea Pony. "Oh, hi, Baby
Noddins," she greeted me.
"A squid just invaded my bathroom!" I explained.
"Can we play with it?" Baby Falling Leaves asked.
"Not until you've classified all the Furbys," I said firmly.
"Oh," she sighed. "Mr. Skidoo was caught escaping again."
"What's he doing now?" I questioned.
"He's fishing for a rare Dewgong he spotted," Baby Falling Leaves replied.
"Ooh!" I said in awe. "The evolved form of Seel?"
"Right," Baby Falling Leaves affirmed. "It's very rare. This will be the first Pokèmon
he's ever caught."
"Say, where is Captain Barnacle?" I queried. "I must interview him."
"ARR, you be wantin' to interview me?" Captain Barnacle came out of the dark
down the hall.
"Yes," I said. "Baby Falling Leaves, take notes."
"I don't wanna," Baby Falling Leaves wailed.
"Captain Barnacle, is it true that you're here to seek revenge upon humanity?" I asked of
"ARR, it be none of your business who I be seekin' revenge on!" Captain Barnacle
"Baby Noddins, this is boring," Baby Falling Leaves complained. "Let's go play in the
I diverted my attention from Captain Barnacle. "What seaweed forest?" I asked
"The one that grew where you threw your plate," Baby Falling Leaves explained.
"Oh! Big fun!" I exclaimed. "Captain Barnacle, it has been a pleasure interviewing you,
but I must be going now. Goodbye!"
Baby Falling Leaves and Baby Noddins ran towards the site of the seaweed forest.
strings of seaweed hung from the ceiling down to the floor.
"Baby Falling Leaves!" I shrieked. "There's a squid in there!" I saw the two
eyes staring out of the seaweed.
"AHHHHH!" Baby Falling Leaves screamed. "THERE'RE MORE!" Several more
of eyes appeared in the forest. All of a sudden, at least five killer giant squids lunged at us.
Immediately, there was panic on board. Bushwoolies, who made up Captain Barnacle's
crew, were scurrying all over. Mr. Skidoo ran up to us and urged, "Now's the time to
The three of us began dashing away when I looked back and saw that a squid had
captured a Bushwoolie in one of its tentacles. The Bushwoolies was crying, "Ah! No again!
Down, please. Ah! Down, down. Ah! No again! Ah! Ah!"
The Bushwoolie's plea echoed in my ears as I prepared to chop-off the tentacle. All of a
* * *
Baby Noddins woke up with a start and lifted her head up groggily. She looked down
what her head had been laying on-- a book titled Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the
Sea. "Ooh, weird," she breathed, realizing that she must have fallen asleep at her desk while
The next thing Baby Noddins was conscious of was her Furby crying, "Ah! No again!
Down, please. Ah!" She glanced around in the darkness and realized that her pastel Furby,
Waylo, had been knocked onto the ground and was now demanding attention. She swiftly picked
him up and placed him right-side-up.
"Hee hee! Party, wah!" Waylo laughed.
Baby Noddins yawned as she began to realize that she was not really being attacked by
giant squid. "Weird dream," she repeated to herself. Waylo, being in such a dark room, quickly
went back to sleep.
The seaweed must have came from the disgusting green beans her mother had served
evening at supper. And Baby Falling Leaves-- well, Baby Falling Leaves got into everything of
Baby Noddins' (including her My Little People collection), so it was really no wonder that she
had wound-up in her dream. But how had Mr. Skidoo, Miss Hackney's one true love, taken the
place of Ned Land from Twenty Thousand Leagues?
Oh, yeah, Baby Noddins recalled. I caught Miss Hackney lookin' at his
picture after school yesterday when I was handing in my assignment, and she had to tell me who
he was. And, since Miss Hackney was responsible for making Baby Noddins read the book,
Mr. Skidoo made sense, too.
Normally, Miss Hackney would not assign such a long book as Twenty Thousand
Leagues Under the Sea to a second-grader, but she had felt that Baby Noddins could handle
it-- or at least, Baby Noddins had been in need of some extra credit to make up for some failed
tests and her teacher had said, "If you can read as many words as you speak, Baby Noddins,
you'll have no problem with this." Baby Noddins had eagerly taken up the task of reading the
novel and writing a report of it.
And that was how Baby Noddins had come to have this strange, delusional dream. She
giggled as she read the top line of the sheet Miss Hackney had written-up giving the outline of the
report she had to write. It read, "Captain Nemo was seeking revenge upon humanity." That was
how the interview with Captain Barnacle came to be! Plus, Baby Noddins' mother had sent her
up to her room after supper, just like Captain Barnacle.
Baby Noddins yawned as she abandoned her deskwork and crawled into bed.
Baby Noddins would call Tabby and tell her how she had dreamed that she was her. And then she
would write a note to Barnacle (the notorious pirate of Port Scurvy) and tell him of what a
wonderful Captain Nemo he would make...
Shining Series #12
by Shining ([email protected])
Expect A Miracle sighed with her pink nose pressed against the glass of the office
of Mended Hearts Farm. Her breath fogged the glass, making the wintry scene outside seem even
colder. Involuntarily, she shivered, feeling the cold of a British winter even through her thick gray
Another boring day. It was too cold to run outside, and there was no one to play with.
The filly frowned, thinking of loneliness. She knew her mother was lonely. But sometimes she
forgot that she, herself was lonely. Mira's father had been killed in an automobile accident even
before she had been born. She had seen pictures of her father, Noble Caesar. His name fit him;
he was strong and handsome, and had been one of the best horses on the show circuit.
Mira sometimes wondered what it would be like to have a father. She knew without a
doubt that everyone around her loved her, and that she would always be happy, but yet, she
wondered. Her mother told her stories about when she fell in love with Caesar. They had
waltzed through autumn leaves and made snow angels on Christmas. Mira had never made a
snow angel. If her father were here, would he have showed her how?
The fog cleared on the window and Mira blinked in surprise as a dark face appeared on
the opposite side of the glass. With a happy shout, the gray filly unfolded her long legs from the
old leather chair and dashed to the door. Quickly she flung it open, barely noticing the sharp bite
of the wintry gale. "Adagio!"
The face from the window came into view with the rest of the body to reveal a
bay stallion. "Hey Mira," the stallion smiled, picking her up in his strong forelegs for a hug.
Laughing, Mira squirmed from Adagio's grasp to close the door. "What are you doing
here?" she blurted out.
Adagio laughed at her unconscious audacity. "I had to drop off my entry forms for a
show in early spring." He rolled his eyes. "Can you believe how early those things have to be
Mira nodded sympathetically. "How's Arrow?" she inquired, referring to Adagio's mate,
a sweet paint mare. The two had fallen in love when Arrow had been in training at Mended
Hearts Farm. Adagio had moved to Arrow's hometown, Ripon, when they had married.
"She's great," Adagio replied. "I'm surprised you're not racing around the track, Mira,"
Mira shrugged and wrinkled her nose. "It's too cold to be outside. And Grandsire
the other day and warned Mom about slipping on the ice. He's worried I'll break a leg."
Mira's grandsire and granddam, Signature Required and Shining, had been world-class
performers and now trained young horses at their barn, Glorified Acres in Dream Valley. Several
years ago, when Mira's mother had been a foal, Shining had a training accident, nearly finishing
"I see. Well, do you want to come to the indoor arena with me and practice? I should
pop over a few fences before I go," Adagio offered.
Mira's ears perked in interest. "Sure! I haven't done jumping in a while. Mom's been
really busy lately, even though it's the off-season, so she hasn't had time to watch me. Let me
grab my splint boots and I'll meet you out there."
Now ready with neoprene splint boots, Mira entered the sandy arena. She scanned it
quickly. Adagio was setting up verticals to her left. On the far side of the arena, Mira spotted her
mother, On My Honor, a beautiful dark bay mare.
Honor was coaching a three-year-old colt on transitions. The mare caught Mira's eye
beckoned her over. Mira broke smoothly into a canter, much to the colt's chagrin, and did a
sliding stop, spraying Honor with sand. Honor laughed and hugged Mira. "Do you mind staying
with Moment and Eva tonight?" Honor asked Mira. "I have to take the entry forms into
Harrogate." Honor looked at Mira with an apologetic face.
Mira knew how stressed Honor could get. Honor had grow up on her parent's farm,
Glorified Acres, and had become a world-famous dancer with Caesar. After Mira's father died,
Honor had sworn never to show again. Honor had found Mended Hearts Farm and ran it with the
help of Smoothie, a roan stallion who had been a close friend to both Honor and Caesar.
"No problem, Mom," Mira agreed.
"Hey Mira!" Adagio called. "Come on over here."
Mira obliged, meeting Adagio in the center of a complicated course. The filly eyed it
suspiciously. "You don't expect me to jump that, do you?" she asked in disbelief.
Adagio shrugged innocently. "Why not?" he said. "I'll time you. Start over there at
oxer." He smirked.
The gray filly took a deep breath and exploded in a sudden burst of speed. She flew
the oxer and spun right to face a vertical. Sailing over every obstacle, Mira concentrated on
speed, flattening her jump and shaving fractions of seconds off by spinning quickly to the next
jump. Mira finished the course with a giant spread fence and looked at Adagio expectantly.
The bay stood staring with his jaw open. "You're a speedy one, aren't you?" he asked
"Time?" Mira inquired.
Adagio shook his head. "Not telling," he refused. "Too fast."
Mira marched over to the older horse with her forelegs crossed. "After I did that crazy
course, you won't even tell me my time?"
"It's faster than I'd ever do it," Adagio quipped. "You could be a steeplechaser,
Mira frowned. "No thanks," she declined.
"What's wrong with ‘chasing?" Adagio asked with a devious grin. But before Mira
answer, Adagio had grabbed her and her reply dissolved into giggles as he tickled her.
* * *
"Moment, can you help me with my homework?" Mira pleaded with her uncle from her
spot, sprawled on the floor of his box stall. In A Moment was a handsome black stallion, Honor's
twin brother. Unlike his twin, Moment never showed. He was an artist, intent on capturing the
beauty of life.
"Sure, darlin'," Moment drawled, contrasting with Mira's pert British accent.
Mira sighed, exasperated. "You're so weird," she said. Moment shrugged in apology.
"Anyway, Mira continued, "we have to make a family tree as far back as we can go. Plus we have
to add photos or draw a picture of what each horse looked like."
"Hmm..." Moment said thoughtfully. "Well, your dad's side should be easy enough."
Mira raised an eyebrow. "Caesar's parents were killed in a train wreck. He never told anyone
who else he was related to," Moment explained.
"My grandsire was Without A Doubt, right?" Mira asked. Moment nodded. "And my
granddam was Sky's The Limit."
Carefully, Mira printed the names on the paper in front of her. "What was my dad like,
Moment?" Mira asked offhandedly.
Moment paused in the sketch of Sky to gaze at his young niece. "Caesar was my best
friend," Moment said quietly. "He was so insightful and so distant at the same time. I think it
was his eyes. You have his eyes, Mira," Moment informed her.
"Was he happy?" Mira whispered.
Moment blinked. "At first, no. The wreck was so traumatic for him. But your mom
brought him out of his shell." The stallion sighed. "He loved your mom so much."
The filly sat still, trying to imagine how life must have been for the horse she never
yet still managed to touch so many lives. "He would love me, wouldn't he?" she asked
Moment scooped Mira into his arms. "Oh Mira, of course he would," he reassured her.
For a long moment, neither one spoke.
"Now we get to do my side of the family," Moment interrupted the silence. "This
should be interesting."
Mira giggled. "In A Moment and On My Honor by Signature Required out of Shining,"
she recited as she wrote.
Moment applauded. "Very good. Can you go back farther?"
The gray filly wrinkled her brow in concentration. "Granddam's sire was Townsend
Pride." She paused. "And her dam was Brite Morn."
"Good, good," Moment praised. Humming, he got up off the floor to grab a box of
photographs. "We can use these instead of drawing them all out," he suggested.
Mira shuffled through the box, pausing at the select photos to smile nostalgically. She
held up a photo of Moment.
"Now there's a handsome-looking fellow," Moment smiled. The stallion leaned in for a
closer look and grimaced. "I think this one will look better upside-down."
Mira snorted and put the picture back. "What was my mom like when she was a foal?"
she asked, staring at a picture of her mother as a fuzzy filly.
Moment chuckled, remembering. "She always tugged on my tail. But we usually got
along." Moment paused, "Except for that cootie episode."
As Mira opened her mouth to reply, Moment's stall door slid open to reveal Honor.
"Are you corrupting my filly, Moment?" she teased.
Moment grinned and held up his hooves. "You caught me, Honor."
Quickly, Mira gathered her possessions. She held up the photo box. "Mind if I borrow
this to finish my project?"
Moment shook his head. "It's all yours," he consented. "Stop by my studio if you need
any more help."
"Will do," Mira agreed, giving Moment a hug.
"Good night," he bade them farewell.
As the two horses walked side by side down the quiet barn aisle, Honor chatted. "I got
new student this afternoon," she informed Mira. The gray filly raised an eyebrow
"He's a three-year-old," Honor began. "A year older than you. His name is
Windminstrel. I think he's a good jumping prospect."
They arrived at Mira's stall. The filly unlatched the door. She reached on tiptoe to give
Honor a peck on the cheek. "Good night, Mom," she whispered sleepily.
As Mira drifted off to sleep, she had visions of a handsome dapple gray stallion and a
black stallion facing off, battle intent in both their eyes. Mira waited for them to begin their duel,
but it would not happen. The war would wait.
* * *
The next morning, Mira awoke to someone whistling. Still groggy, she slid her stall
open to find a tall roan stallion striding down the barn aisle jovially. "Smoothie?" the gray filly
The roan turned and smiled at Mira. "Morning, love," he said cheerfully. Smoothie
strode over and patted Mira on the head, flattening her dark forelock. "Your mother's in the
indoor arena. She wants you to meet her there," Smoothie informed her.
Mira nodded sleepily and yawned. "I'll be right out," she promised. She ducked back
her stall and took up a comb, trying to tame her unruly cowlick. Grabbing an apple, Mira exited
her stall and walked toward the arena.
Mira heard her mother's clear voice even before she had reached the arena. The bay
was giving a private lesson. Quietly, the gray filly tiptoed to the bleachers so as not to disturb her
However, her plan failed as Honor called her. "Good morning," Honor called. "Come
Still munching on her apple, Mira turned around and walked toward Honor, as slim as a
willow. But Mira knew how strong Honor really was despite her seemingly delicate frame.
A short black colt stood next to Honor. Mira smiled a greeting at him, but frowned
he glared back with shifty eyes.
"Mira, I want you to meet Windminstrel," Honor said. "He's from Holland."
"Nice to meet you," Mira said politely.
Windminstrel rolled his eyes looking irked, and turned to Honor. "So you think that I
could make it as a jumper?" he asked, completely ignoring Mira. His voice was low and cold with
a heavy accent.
Honor exchanged a glance with Mira before replying. "Yes, you have a deep chest and
probably pretty strong hind legs. If you can get your speed up, you could really go places," she
The black colt nodded thoughtfully and an uncomfortable pause followed. Mira shifted
restlessly on her hooves, counting the ceiling beams in the arena.
"So," Honor said cheerfully, breaking the silence, "I was thinking that you and Mira
train together since it's too icy for Mira to run outside."
Mira gave her mother a startled look. "Fine," Windminstrel said shortly. "But she
not hold me back."
"I won't," Mira said softly. The colt snorted.
"I left the course that Adagio set up," Honor explained. "Mira, why don't you--"
"I'll go first," Windminstrel interrupted, walking over to the entrance oxer. Quickly,
Windminstrel was over the course, leaping strong and landing firmly. He gloated as he passed the
filly, kicking up the dirt around her.
Mira glowered as she took her place before the oxer. Her pent-up anger pushed her
as she exploded into a gallop, taking the jumps dangerously fast, and whipped around the turns
like a barrel racer.
When she landed from the final spread, she took a deep breath, trying to calm her
Anger wouldn't help anything now. She ignored Windminstrel's penetrating glare and walked out
of the arena without a single word.
Too angry to go back to the arena, Mira wandered. She could hear the wind howling
mournfully outside and shivered. The filly blinked in surprise and stopped in front of a
paint-splashed door. She had made her way over to Moment's art studio. Cautiously, she rapped
on the door with her small hoof.
"Come in!" Moment's voice came through, muffled by the wooden door.
Mira slid the door open and peered inside. Palettes and tubes of paint cluttered a far
corner. A heap of canvases graced a low table. Various paintings in several different stages of
completion were hung precariously on the walls. In the center of the room, a pedestal held a blob
of gray clay which Moment was carefully shaping.
"Hey Mira," Moment welcomed her.
Mira wrinkled her nose. "This place is a mess, Moment."
The black stallion shrugged. "But I know where everything is," he defended. "So by
what circumstances am I graced with your presence?"
Mira gazed around the room. Although she frequently visited her uncle's studio, it
ceased to amaze her how much talent he had. "Adagio's not here," she said distantly.
Moment chuckled. "Thanks, Mira."
Mira realized what she had implied and blushed. "Sorry," she apologized. "I didn't
it that way."
"It's okay," Moment pardoned her. Worriedly, he peered into Mira's eyes. "You
The filly sighed and brushed her forelock off of her forehead. "Have you met Mom's
new student, Windminstrel?" she asked. Moment shook his head. "He made me so angry. He
wouldn't give me the time of day and he's too aloof to realize that he's not a world-famous star
yet. He's so cold." Mira's anger came rushing back to her and she could feel her cheeks flare
"Well, you can always just stay out of his way," Moment suggested.
"But Mom's making me train along with him," Mira wailed.
The stallion raised his eyebrows in amusement. "I guess you'll just have to make the
best of it then," he said diplomatically. "Make sure you don't do anything rash."
"Easier said than done," Mira muttered.
Moment gave Mira a sidelong glance and dipped his hooves in the gooey slip. With a
mischievous grin, he pulled Mira into a hug, smearing the muddy clay all over her gray coat. Mira
cried out in feeble protest. "Don't worry, Mira," Moment assured her, his voice filled with mirth.
"I'll back you up."
The filly wriggled out of Moment's clutches, covered in slimy clay. "A lot of good that
will do me," she grumbled good-naturedly.
Mira quickly exited Moment's studio and headed towards the wash racks. Halfway
she was stopped by an angry black colt.
"Nice look," Windminstrel sneered.
Bravely, Mira stood her ground. "I thought so," she said flippantly.
The black colt leaned in so close to Mira's face that she could see every hair on his dark
muzzle in perfect detail. "Stay out of my way," he warned in a rasping whisper. With a critical
eye, he studied Mira.
Mira jutted her chin out but said nothing. Windminstrel's hard mouth broke into a cold
smile. "There's a good girl," he scorned, roughly tousling her silky mane. With a harsh laugh,
Windminstrel continued on his way in the opposite direction.
* * *
For several weeks, Mira and Windminstrel trained together, both reluctantly.
Dejectedly, Mira slowed her speed, always letting the black colt have the better time by a wide
margin. Windminstrel gloated his success every chance he got.
Finally, one harsh winter day, Mira lost her temper. Windminstrel had been taunting her
all through their training session, and finally, she snapped, unapparent to the colt.
Calmly, Mira took her position at the beginning of a complex course. She cantered in a
circle to warm up, and slipped easily into a fast-paced gallop. Charging toward the first jump,
Mira let all thoughts but the course ahead leave her mind.
The filly was up and over the first jump without a hitch, her mind already focused on the
oncoming triple oxer. Mira was a silver blur as she streaked through the course effortlessly.
After she landed the final jump, a daunting Liverpool, Mira finally took a breath.
Fearlessly, she met Windminstrel's hateful eyes. "You'll be sorry you did that," he said
an even voice that sent chills down Mira's spine. Quickly, he spun on his heel and left the arena.
A cold silence followed the angry colt's departure and all that could be heard was the fierce
howling of the wind.
With a sigh, Mira brushed her forelock out of her eyes and walked to Moment's studio.
She slid the wooded door open and stepped into Moment's art studio. "I think I made a big
mistake," she blurted out without a preamble.
Moment turned from his easel. "Hello yourself," he teased her.
Mira shook her head. "This is important, Moment." She made her way through the
clutter to face him. "I was practicing with Windminstrel and I lost my temper. I ended up flying
through the jump course, trampling his time."
Moment blinked slowly. "I don't really think that he could do anything to you," he
gently. He set down his paint brush and blew his forelock out of his eyes.
Exasperated, Mira crossed her forelegs. "You haven't had to train with him every day,"
she reminded him.
Moment sighed and picked his paintbrush up again, dabbing it in a veridian green. He
brought it close to his face and studied it. "What do you want me to do about it?" he asked