My Little Pony Monthly Issue 50 (May 1, 2001)
My Little Pony Monthly
Established June 1997
This Newsletter is Safe for All Ages
If you would like to be removed from the My Little Pony Monthly mailing list, simply send a blank e-mail to [email protected]
Index of this issue–
1. Descent into Death Valley (by Berry Brite)
2. The Cave (by Sugarberry)
3. Once Upon Near Future: A Fable from Cerian (by Moon Lightning )
4. Storm in the Heartland (by Sugarberry)
I would like to invite all of you who haven’t done so already to participate in Tickle’s ([email protected]) new 2001 “50 Most Beautiful Ponies” contest. There is still time to nominate your favorite ponies into the contest; but hurry, as the deadline is May 15. This is bound to be a great event in the pony community, so please consider joining in on the fun. For all the details on the contest and how to nominate your favorites, go to the following URL:
And if you have any questions, please e-mail Tickle at [email protected]
The winner of last month’s contest is Berry Brite ([email protected]); she correctly located five discrepancies in the April Fool’s story published last month and will receive as her prize a music CD of all the My Little Pony songs from the television series and the specials. Congratulations, Berry Brite!
A real charming classic, to be passed on through the generations! ~ The New York Times
* * * * * * !!! ~ Wall Street Journal
Builds up great suspense, only to crush it! Perfect! ~ President George W. Bush
What phony comments it got! ~ Berry Brite
Descent into Death Valley
by Berry Brite ([email protected])
“Clever Clover, can we go back now?” Berry Bright asked as she stood against the screaming wind. The wind made her eyes water; plus, it was very cold.
Clever Clover looked back at his friend. “C’mon, Berry Bright! We’re almost there!” he yelled.
She shivered and shook her head. “I’m not budging one inch,” she stated firmly. Like I could move, she thought. My joints are frozen stiff. “Please?” Berry Bright looked at Clever Clover imploringly. The wind whipped her golden mane around her face. It seemed to pierce her skin and go through her entire body, causing her to shiver violently.
“Here,” said Clever Clover. He opened up his backpack and took out a thermos of hot cocoa. He poured some into a mug and handed it to Berry Bright. She hurriedly drank the now lukewarm beverage, but she was so cold it felt hot.
“Thank you,” she said weakly.
He took the cup and replaced it in his pack. “Now can we go on?” he asked. Berry Bright nodded. The two walked into the shrieking wind that lashed across the plateau.
* * *
Morning Glory walked up to a small cottage. She looked around the whole street before entering. She groaned and flopped on the couch inside. Morning Glory immediately noted that neither of her two roommates were home. “Sundance? Berry Bright? Anyone home?!” She shrugged and forced herself off the couch to look around the house for notes saying where either of the missing ponies were. Ah-ha! Luck. Next to the phone she saw a note that read:
Morning Glory or Berry Bright:
I have gone to the Pretty Parlor to meet Sweet Berry and Light Heart. Be back around 5:00. –Sundance
So now Morning Glory knew where one of her roommates was, but where Berry Bright was she had no clue. Oh, she’ll probably be home sooner or later, she thought. She trudged up the stairs, worn out from her twelve hour work shift at Pony-Mart.
* * *
“Look!” yelled Clever Clover. Berry Bright glanced to where he was pointing. Up ahead was a vast crevice in the earth’s crust with no signs of life anywhere. “C’mon! Let’s go get a closer look at it,” he suggested.
“No way!” whispered Berry Bright. “No way.”
“Why, are you afraid?”
Berry Bright looked at the immense fracture ahead with an inexplicable fear. “I just am,” she murmured. “I just am.”
Clever Clover sighed. He seemed to be deep in thought for a moment. “I’ll hold your hoof,” he grinned.
Berry Bright laughed. Clever Clover’s beseeching grin seemed to brighten the whole creation. “All, right, but don’t you let it go!” she giggled.
“Oh, I won’t!”
The two proceeded towards the deep fissure, hoof in hoof. Berry Bright immediately wished she had not consented to go. She shook a little bit, but Clever Clover was so exited he seemed oblivious to her anxiety. The next thing she knew was that she was standing on the edge, peering down into the depths of the abyss. She shivered with pure fear. Clever Clover felt her quaking and wished he hadn’t pressured her so much to come with him. He put his forelegs around her and hugged her.
“It’s okay, Berry Bright. We’re going back now.”
“Thank you,” she whispered. As they turned, a gigantic gust of wind threw them both over. Clever Clover fell over the edge of the crevice. “No!” screamed Berry Bright. She grabbed for him and just barely caught his backpack. She pulled as hard as she could, but the strap on the pack snapped; Clever Clover went careening down the steep valley.
“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!” he screamed.
“Clever Clover!” Berry Bright shrieked. “No!!” He fell so far that she couldn’t even see him anymore. Tears streamed from her eyes. Her face had gone ashen from horror. As scared as she was, she decided to make a futile rescue attempt. She opened Clever Clover’s backpack and pulled out his climbing equipment. She began to make the descent into the foreboding fissure– Death Valley.
She drove the security pole into the ground, fastened the utility belt around her waist, tied the rope to the belt and pole, and adjusted everything, just like Clever Clover had taught her. Berry Bright peered down into the menacing depths and began to lower herself down. She seemed to gain no more than a single inch for every ten minutes she struggled against the cold and altitude. The only sound was the thumping of her heart that filled her head and the pressure in her ears that caused them to ring. Occasionally, the rocks beneath her would crumble and fall. She would lose her grip, and dangle by her waist until she could scramble back to the rock wall. Three hours had passed and the sky was turning a fiery orange-pink, which meant only one thing: dusk. Apprehension gripped her very being.
* * *
Now, to give an idea on how deep this crevice is, I’ll let you in on a little secret. In the three hours it took for Berry Bright to gain twenty yards, Clever Clover had not yet reached the bottom.
* * *
Poof. A soft impact released a cloud of dust. Clever Clover opened his eyes, wondering at his mild collision, not nearly what he presumed his gruesome end would be. He immediately rose to his hooves and looked up. The sky was a barely perceivable crimson line. He could see nothing; the sun’s light could not even begin to reach the depth he was at. He was not calm in the least. There was something wrong about this place; he understood the alarm Berry Bright had felt. Something was wrong.
“What happened? How did I survive?” he mused aloud.
“Because the high one prefers his prey to be alive,” responded an eerie voice. A gruesome looking black hand (remember, now, that Clever Clover can not see a thing) reached out of the sand and pulled Clever Clover in. As he went down, he saw two glittering eyes that emitted a ghostly light. Sand filled his mouth and he went under.
* * *
Morning Glory paced anxiously. “Where could she be?” she nervously blabbed.
“Will you quit pacing?!” yelled Sundance, who was thoroughly annoyed with Morning Glory’s panic attack.
“She’s been gone all day!”
“So she coulda been eaten by a snarling vicious buck deer!”
“Uh, Morning Glory?”
“What exactly is a snarling vicious buck deer?”
The rest of the evening passed in this fashion– Morning Glory would freak out, and then calm down, and then freak out again. Sundance was none too pleased.
“Fine!!! If I call the girls and ask if they’ve seen her, will you shut up?!”
“Yes! Yes! Anything!”
Sheesh, thought Sundance. “And sit down before you have a stroke!” she added before picking up the phone.
* * *
Berry Bright was still clambering down the side of the gap. Rocks crumbled, and everything was getting more and more eerie in the pale light of the moon. She paused for a minute, and her heart was thumping loudly. She glanced to her right. Two eyes glimmered.
“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!” her scream pierced the air. The eyes flew back, and then approached and landed on Berry Bright’s nose.
“Hello,” said a voice that twinkled.
“Who are you?!” screamed Berry Bright. “What do you want with me?!”
“I am Celeste,” said the voice. “I have been condemned to dwell in this forsaken crevice.”
“Why? And what are you?” inquired Berry Bright, now aware that this creature had no intent of hurting her.
“I am a dryad.”
“And that is?”
“A sort of fairy-like creature that lives in the water,” said Celeste. “The river that I dwell in formed this canyon. I tried to bring light and joy to this land, in which I succeeded. Flowers and other fairies lived here, including several nymphs and other dryads. Even sea ponies.”
“What happened to them?”
“A new creature came, one that terrified my very soul. It killed everything! Nothing is left but me!”
“Why didn’t it kill you?”
“It turned me into its servant; or if I didn’t serve him– because I don’t– I could never see the sun again. What brings you here, anyway?”
“My friend, Clever Clover, fell down here.”
“Really? He probably didn’t survive the fall.”
“Maybe a dead stick or ledge caught him.”
“Unlikely,” said the dryad. “But possible.”
“I have to find him! I have to!!” screamed Berry Bright.
“Okay, I’ll help you,” said Celeste. But she didn’t seem convinced that Clever Clover’s rescue was a wise thing. Berry Bright continued to scale down the cliff with her new friend drifting alongside her.
* * *
“Sorry, Morning Glory, they say they haven’t seen her,” reported Sundance, hanging up the phone.
“But where could she be?!” cried Morning Glory.
“They did say that they saw her early this morning...”
“...she was leaving town with Clever Clover. He had all his sports equipment on. Poor Berry Bright. He takes her everywhere whether she wants to go or not. But they usually are back by now. Maybe they got lost.”
“Or eaten by a snarling vicious buck dee–“
“Morning Glory, quit panicking. We’ll go look for them. You beat everything!” Sundance moaned. “Everything.”
The two ponies got a flashlight, watch, rope (“Well, you never know what might happen with those two,” Sundance had said. “Knowing how accident-prone Berry Bright is, we just might need it.”), and a whistle. “Come on, let’s go!” shouted Morning Glory.
“Alright already! Sheesh,” groaned Sundance.
* * *
Clever Clover opened his eyes. There was a faint source of light emitted from a dying torch on the wall. Above him was a ceiling of fine sand, just like the walls that surrounded him. He felt dizzied, and noticed a slit in his wrist, and beneath it was a basin to catch his blood that was being drained from him. In came a tall, cloaked, and dismal figure. It seemed to delight in the malice that was taking place.
“Who are you?” said Clever Clover hoarsely.
“We are who we are. You will accept it,” it said grimly. It raised the basin into its grimy claws, and then touched Clever Clover’s wound. The gash immediately healed. “Wait here. And I wouldn’t stand up if I were you.” The strange thing turned to leave the room. Leaping up on his feet to try to get out, Clever Clover only collapsed due to lack of blood.
“Help! Help! Someone!” the pony screamed.
“And silence!” shouted the specter as he again began to leave.
Clever Clover sat, completely befuddled. “What are you doing with that?”
“Silence!” shrieked the phantom. He turned and walked through the wall, because there was no door.
“Help! Help! Help me!!!” Clever Clover yelled again, despite the ghost’s warning.
Another ghastly figure entered. “Ah, company,” it said in a grim voice. “We have been expecting you.”
* * *
Her heart beating hard, Berry Bright struggled down the cliff. She searched for a rock to grab hold of. She spied a long protruding spike of rock and reached for it.
“No! Don’t!” screamed Celeste. “It’s a–”
“AAAAAAAAAH!” screeched Berry Bright as a blade came from the rock and severed the tether line. She sailed down toward the bottom. “Help!” her wail lingered in the air next to Celeste.
“–trap!” The dryad hovered, not knowing what to do, when she heard faint voices.
“Look! It’s a spike thing! And a limp line on it! Something bad happened! I know it! And did you hear that scream? “
“Yeah, I did. You may be right, Morning Glory.”
“Hello? Anyone down there?”
“Yes!” screamed Celeste. “The pony fell!!”
“Who is this?” yelled Morning Glory.
“I was helping her!” The dryad sailed up to the top of the fissure, or as far a she was permitted. “I’m coming up. Wait!” It was about an hour before Celeste made her appearance. “She fell. She was trying to save her friend; he also fell.”
“I knew it! I knew it!” shouted Morning Glory triumphantly.
“We have to save them!” Sundance said emphatically.
“But how are we to get down there?” pondered Morning Glory.
“The same way she did– scale down the cliff,” instructed Celeste. “But it’s not easy. It’s an extremely deep gorge; and even I, not restricted by gravity, took a long time to reach the top.”
Morning Glory and Sundance exchanged a glance, their minds forming the same idea. “You’re, uh, not restricted by gravity, huh?”
“I have an idea...”
“Oh, no! No! N-O no! No way! Not two mares! No! I couldn’t have done it with her; I can’t do it with both of you. No!”
“Come on, we have to. At least try,” implored Morning Glory. “Please?”
Celeste groaned. She knew what had to be done. After all, she had taken a liking to this pony, Berry Bright, who had immense strength over her fears when it really counted. “I’ll hate myself for it later, but I’ll help you.”
“Yes! Thank you... uh–”
“Come on.” The dryad gracefully swelled like a stream overflowing with water, and she glistened in the moonlight that passed through the translucent waters she was made of.
“Can’t you come up any closer?” Morning Glory asked.
“No. I’m bound in this valley for eternity. I’m afraid you’ll need to jump, ” responded Celeste.
“You’re made of water! We’ll go right through you!” exclaimed Sundance.
“No, you won’t,” said the dryad. “Jump!”
The two mares looked at each other. Morning Glory was skeptical about jumping onto a floating piece of water, especially one that was alive. Sundance, no longer concerned about a potential danger, leapt onto the back of the dryad. Morning Glory hesitated, but finally thrust herself off the edge and onto the back of Celeste, who sank rapidly into the depths of the valley.
“I thought you said gravity didn’t effect you,” commented Morning Glory.
“Well, it’s still faster on the way down than the way up,” replied Celeste.
* * *
Clever Clover sat, now chained to the ground, with the black-robed creatures surrounding him. “We have another!” one of them shouted.
“Bring her in!” said one that was obviously in control of the place. In came Berry Bright.
“Berry Bright!” gasped Clever Clover.
“Help me!” shouted Berry Bright.
“I would, but I’m kind of chained to the floor!” yelled Clever Clover. Soon Berry Bright was also restricted in chains on the floor next to Clever Clover.
After what seemed like an eternity, a strange ghost entered. He was wearing a purple robe and a black crown. A black cowl hooded his face and his voice was eerie. “I have waited years for this! Now, after hundreds of eons, we’ll all have what we want...”
Berry Bright and Clever Clover glanced at each other.
The specters danced gaily about the room. “Yeah!” they shouted. “I’ll bring the chips!” “I’ll bring the Coke!” “I’ll fire up the grill!” “Should I fill up the swimming pool?” “Do we want ranch or onion chip dip?” “Do you like it well done or rare?” “Don’t forget the cheese!”
Now, anyone else would have marveled at this, but not when you’re the entrée. Tears glistened on Berry Bright’s cheeks and she silently cried.
“Berry Bright?” asked Clever Clover. “Are you...”
The nearest specter picked up the ponies and carried them off into a large underground chamber that had a vent of lava pouring out from the wall. “Hoo, sure is hot today,” said a specter. All the others simultaneously agreed.
“Good golly, this is more terrifying than I thought,” mumbled Berry Bright. “No wonder Celeste was scared.”
Suddenly, the roof of the cavern rumbled and water dripped through the ceiling.
“Evacuate!” shouted the lead ghost. The specters vanished, leaving the two ponies alone. A huge stream of water came through. “AAAAAAAAAH!” shouted Berry Bright and Clever Clover. They remained on the bottom, and just as they took their last breaths, the water came rushing over them.
* * *
“This is my kingdom! Leave it at once!” shouted the lead specter.
“Never. It was once my kingdom, and I have come to reclaim it!” exclaimed Celeste, who had caused the river swell. “Release my friends, and leave! I have grown in my strength; you will find me hard to stop!”
“Hah!” laughed the wraith.
Celeste closed her eyes, and a fountain of stars appeared around the ghost. They swirled faster and faster, and a shower of water fell around him. He slowly disintegrated.
“They... are in the... other... room,” he said before he shriveled away.
“Come on!” said Sundance and Morning Glory. They dove into the water which filled the adjacent chamber. Sundance spied them on the bottom and signaled to Morning Glory to resurface.
“Celeste!” she gasped. “Celeste! They’re down there!” screamed Morning Glory.
The dryad touched the surface of the water and melted into it. After several seconds, which seemed like hours to the anxious mares, Berry Bright and Clever Clover emerged, unscathed. They took a deep gasp of breath.
“Hurry! The chamber is flooding!” shouted Sundance, for the room was filling with water. Celeste, who had increased tremendously in size, gathered them all, and erupted through the ground. Her power greatly increasing, the desolate fissure had life restored, and the moonlight again reached it. Celeste rapidly rose to the top, and set down the ponies on the ground where the wind still whistled sharply. Berry Bright had just regained consciousness. “What happened?” she asked. “Celeste?”
“Thank you. Your strength strengthened me. I have restored life to my home, and we have destroyed the specter. By the way, his name was Gorge Before Man.”
“That would explain his desire to have a cookout,” said Clever Clover.
“I wonder if it reduced the fat?” questioned Berry Bright. “Not that I had any fat to reduce. It was Clever Clover who would need it most.”
“Goodbye!” said Celeste. “I hope to see you again some time!” She vanished back into the valley.
“Bye!” they chimed in unison.
“I’m going home!” said Morning Glory. That sounded like a good idea, and the rest followed suit. Upon their return to Friendship Gardens, Morning Glory and Sundance immediately entered their cottage. Berry Bright and Clever Clover stood out in front of the door.
“Berry Bright, I want to thank you for coming with me today. Can’t say it was fun, but thanks anyway.”
“Oh, you’re welcome, Clever Clover. But don’t expect me to come on any more hare-brained trips.”
“Oh, sure! Well, goodnight, Berry Bright.” He gently kissed her before he left for home. Berry Bright lingered outside her cottage, feeling strangely happy despite how hectic the day had been.
by Sugarberry ([email protected])
The river sliced through the springtime splendor of the valley, working its way between the foothills. The water was undoubtedly cold; but the air was mild, and the sunshine was warm. The grass was an emerald green, saturated with life after spending the winter under its blanket of snow; in scattered patches, the greenery was broken by the hues of wildflowers in white, pink, blue, and yellow.
Sugarberry was ecstatic. “This is a gorgeous day for our excursion, isn’t it?” she bubbled. “It was beautiful last year, too, when Wigwam brought a group of us out here.” She flashed Vanguard a smile that let him know that his presence this year made the journey much more delightful.
In addition to Vanguard and Sugarberry, there were two other ponies on this trek. The mare, an orange unicorn with a dreamcatcher symbol, was a relative newcomer to Dream Valley; the stallion at her side was even more recently transplanted to the area. This pale green stallion was Fetish, Dreamcatcher’s friend who had followed her to her new location. Today’s outing was an opportunity for Sugarberry and Vanguard to become better acquainted with their new friends, as well as to visit Wigwam’s prize discovery from last June-- a Native Pony cave with simple yet powerful drawings done years and years ago by some unknown artisan.
“It was after this point that everyone began finding artifacts,” Sugarberry announced with an aside to Vanguard. “Except me.”
“Artifacts should not be arbitrarily removed from their location,” Dreamcatcher stated. She was a very proper Native Pony, living in a tepee in the Dark Forest and following the ways of her ancestors.
“The majority of them were catalogued and are stored at Pony Pride for study until Dream Valley deems fit to build a museum.” Sugarberry wisely refrained from mentioning the arrow point she had at home as a memento of that trip last spring.
“Digger and Ages are pressing Queen Serena to make a decision,” Vanguard added.
“You’ve had experience in museum work, haven’t you, Fetish?” asked Sugarberry.
“I helped to clean artifacts and verify their authenticity at a Native Pony museum back in our home town,” the stallion responded. “I’d be interested in getting involved with plans for a museum here. Who should I talk to?”
“You’ll meet Ages and Digger at the site today. Memoria, the head of the History Department at Pony Pride, is acting as their advisor in this project; and there are several prominent citizens who are backing them up,” Vanguard said.
“There’s the rock cliff ahead. That’s where we go up,” interjected Sugarberry.
“Not up the face of the cliff, I hope,” Fetish said. “I didn’t bring a rope.”
When the four ponies reached the granite slab, Sugarberry led the others to a point where the rock wall nearly met the river. Carefully maneuvering around the seemingly impassible barricade, the ponies encountered a rough natural stairway that had at some long ago time broken away from the main thrusting rock form.
Once at the top, the ponies were rewarded with a spectacular view of the valley which they had just left behind, with the river sparkling in the sunlight. Sugarberry, her fear of heights no better even with Vanguard at her side, held back as the other three walked to the edge of the drop-off.
“This is great!” Fetish enthused. “I’d like to camp out up here some time.”
Sugarberry shivered, and Vanguard returned to her side. “Come over here and we’ll sit on these rocks.” He guided her to a safe location while Fetish and Dreamcatcher continued to gaze over the landscape. “Smile,” he said to his soon-to-be bride. “You’re safe here.”
The mare smiled, but admitted her real concern. “Last year up here I thought about how far away you were and how long you’d be gone. I didn’t want to be separated from you.”
“And it will never happen again, if I’ve got anything to say about it.”
“Enough sitting around!” Fetish called. “Where is this cave I’ve heard so much about?”
“It’s not far now; just around this hill.”
The scenery changed as they rounded the hill; giant boulders dotted the landscape where they had lodged after releasing their hold on the craggy hilltops that reared their barren heads above the trees. The striking feature, however, was the twisting vein of obsidian that ran like a black snake up the hillside and ended at the cave entrance where Clever Clover and Wigwam now stood.
“Hi, guys!” Sugarberry called out, waving her hoof in greeting.
The two stallions responded, and four more came from the cave: Rocky, the copper-colored geology major; Ages, the azure-blue history buff; Digger, the hazelnut-brown paleontologist; and Gene, the light pecan-colored biology major. As the visitors neared the workers, Clever Clover teased, “We were just commenting on how we were sure that Sugarberry would end up getting you all lost.”
“She was an excellent guide,” Fetish responded.
Wigwam said nothing but looked beyond them as if expecting someone else to make an appearance. He caught Sugarberry’s eye, and she shook her head. “She had to work.” Sugarberry had asked the chocolate brown filly to join them on their journey, but Chocolate Chip had pleaded too much to do, even though Prime had recently moved on to New Pony to continue his studies there. Her previous interest in Wigwam was still on hold.
Vanguard introduced Fetish to the crew who had been hard at work at the site throughout the previous weeks. Clever Clover explained how the cave had been opened up a year ago when heavy rains had caused a landslide which had exposed the underground cavern; the unstable conditions had created a near catastrophe when Wigwam and his group of interested explorers had narrowly escaped a second landslide that occurred while they were inspecting the paintings on the cave walls. This second landslide had sealed off the entrance to the cave until this spring when Clever Clover arranged to have official excavations begun.
As Clever Clover educated the others about the project, Wigwam moved to Sugarberry’s side. “Come and see what Digger uncovered.” He led her to a spot just inside the cave entrance and pointed to a pile of arrow points.
Sugarberry gasped. “That’s where Baby Noddins was counting her finds when you rescued her! Those are the artifacts she was so disappointed to have lost!”
“And they were buried under tons of dirt,” Wigwam stated. “Sometimes I wonder...”
“Guardian angels,” Sugarberry said softly. “They really do watch over us.”
After a moment of reflective silence, Wigwam said, “I thought maybe you’d like to work on removing Baby Noddins’ cache. Clever Clover is a stickler on going by the book, so make sure you do it right.”
They returned to the rest of the group where Clever Clover was finishing up an explanation of the wall paintings. “So as you can see, the earliest pictures were done without symbols on the ponies whereas at this point,” the purple stallion directed their attention to a particular drawing on the wall, “they suddenly were put into use. That leads us to believe that the earliest ponies did not have the distinctive rump patterns of today’s ponies.”
Dreamcatcher peered closely at the unpretentious drawings in muted shades of brown, red, orange, and yellow; it was easy to see how deeply affected she was by this encounter with the past.
Fetish remarked on how fortunate they were that the landslide had not completely collapsed the cave walls. Clever Clover steered his gaze to the natural domed stone ceiling that arched over this chamber of rock; the strength of the stone was instrumental in protecting the grotto.
Ages propounded the theory that there had originally been a tunnel at the back of the cave that led deeper into the hill which might have been the only access to the cave when it was actively in use. The landslide had broken through the one weak spot on the outside wall.
Soon everyone was busy helping to clear the remaining dirt away from the entrance, and Sugarberry bagged and labeled all of the points that had been so hurriedly left behind last year. By this time, the sun was high in the sky; it was lunchtime.
Rocky, Ages, Digger, and Gene, however, with the enthusiasm of youth, scoffed at the picnic lunch that Sugarberry and Dreamcatcher had engineered. “We’ve set out fishing lines in the river just like the Native Ponies did,” Ages enlightened them.
“Yeah, and now we have to go check on our catch,” said Rocky.
“We’ll cook you up some fresh fish when we get back,” declared a cocky Gene.
“But just in case, don’t eat everything,” said Digger, hungrily looking over the assortment of foodstuffs being laid out on a picnic cloth.
The mares and stallions watched the college ponies bound off down the trail and then sat down to eat. “What are their chances of catching any fish?” asked Vanguard.
“Catching them isn’t the problem,” Clever Clover snickered. “Cleaning them is where they’ll wimp out.”
“I can do that for them,” Dreamcatcher volunteered.
“You’ll never see the fish,” Wigwam stated. “They’ll release them rather than harm them.” For a moment, tension hung on the air as the old animosity between Wigwam and Dreamcatcher flared up. They were both Native Ponies, but they had opposing ideas on how to best honor their heritage.
Fetish smoothed over the rough spot. “Your deviled eggs are great, Sugarberry. And who made this potato salad? It’s tastier than some I’ve eaten.”
“I got that ready-made at Oakley’s Market,” Vanguard admitted. “I don’t do a lot of kitchen work.”
“And that’s okay with Sugarberry?” asked Fetish roguishly. “Once you’re married, she should make you share the kitchen duties.”
“I’ll wash the dishes,” Vanguard compromised with a grin flashed at his fiancee.
“How are Manitou and his mate faring?” asked Clever Clover.
Wigwam opened his mouth to respond, but Dreamcatcher beat him to it. “Manitou and Halona are fine. They have a litter of four pups who are growing into fat little dynamos.”
“They’ll wear their baby fat off soon enough,” commented Fetish. “Once their parents start teaching them how to hunt, they’ll get into shape.”
“They must be awfully cute,” crooned Sugarberry. “What are you going to name them?” She directed this to Wigwam.
The stallion tossed his head. “Ask Dreamcatcher.”
“The two males will be Yuma and Palladin, meaning ‘son of a chief’ and ‘fighter’, respectively. The two females will be Magena-- because the litter was born at the time of the incoming moon-- and Winona, first-born daughter. I can’t be sure on that one, but Halona doesn’t seem to mind.”
“You put a lot of thought into those names,” said Clever Clover. “Of what significance is the mother’s name, Halona?”
“It means ‘fortunate’,” replied Fetish.
“I named her that because she was fortunate that Manitou found her when he did, and we were able to nurse her back to health.”
Wigwam stood up and walked a short distance away from the group. The rest finished eating, and Sugarberry called him back to have a chocolate cupcake. Wigwam returned and accepted the pastry, but he called Clever Clover’s attention to a peculiar cloud in the sky. “Have you ever seen such a cloud as that?”
Everyone looked up into the bright, blue canopy; off to the west an intensely black cumulus cloud was just becoming visible over the hilltops, the only blemish in the otherwise perfect sky. “Weird,” commented Clever Clover.
Bright flashes of light randomly lit up the menacing cloud as it approached with amazing speed. Dreamcatcher and Sugarberry hurriedly picked up the picnic supplies by which time the cloud was nearly overhead. “It’s going to rain!” shouted Fetish unnecessarily as the first giant drops began to pelt them.
The ponies quickly escaped into the confines of the cave. “I hope the fisherponies can find a place of shelter,” observed Sugarberry as they all watched the torrent of rain which came down fast and furiously.
“It’ll be over soon,” Vanguard commented. “That cloud was really moving.”
Suddenly, at the mouth of the cave, a jagged streak of lightning struck; several more hit simultaneously down the slope of the hill. The boom of the thunder was deafening. After the brilliant flashes, the ponies’ world seemed pitch black. When they could see again, they stood in wide-eyed wonder.
* * *
The first thing that became apparent to the ponies was that the cave was now lit with torches that leaned from holders carved into the cave walls rather than with battery-operated lanterns. Sugarberry looked at Vanguard who was standing next to her and found a rather fearsome-looking stallion with slashes of red war paint on his cheeks; Vanguard in turn saw a strawberry-patterned mare with braids fastened with turquoise beads and turkey feathers. Their mouths dropped open as they turned to stare around them.
Fetish, Wigwam, and Clever Clover now had the ominous markings of war paint, too; only Dreamcatcher had not changed as she had come adorned with braids and native trappings. All was silence as they gaped at one another and pondered the circumstances.
“The door to the outside is gone,” Fetish observed calmly.
“Look at the paintings!” Wigwam breathed. All eyes swivelled to check out the walls of the cave. The paintings seemed to be much clearer, much fresher than they had before lunch; the colors were vibrant instead of faded; they were almost alive.
Still trying to find some rhyme or reason to their predicament, the group heard hoofsteps coming their way from the rear of the cave. Looking in that direction, they now saw the opening to a passageway; and in that instant, a Native Pony appeared in the entrance, a spear clutched in one of his hooves.
“Can you help us?” asked Fetish. “We’ve somehow or other gotten ourselves into a sticky situation.”
The Native Pony did not respond; he stared at them with cold, dark eyes. A rustle in the tunnel behind him soon revealed a retinue of more Native Ponies, each carrying a sharp, pointy weapon. They proceeded into the cave, effectively surrounding the Dream Valley ponies.
“We’re dreaming,” Sugarberry voiced quietly, reaching for Vanguard’s hoof for consolation.
He gave her hoof a quick squeeze before being prodded forward by the business end of a spear. “I wish we were,” was all he said.
The ponies were ushered into the passageway which was not as well lighted as the cavern they had been in; Sugarberry had the impression that there were further openings into other rock-hewn rooms, but they were herded swiftly down the expanse of tunnel until they finally reached daylight. As they burst forth from the belly of the hill, their momentum was stopped by a solid wall of pony bodies that encircled them.
The Native Ponies stood in silent curiosity over these intruders into their realm. No one spoke or moved until a pony of obvious authority was allowed to move through the ranks and approach the Dream Vallians. “What is your purpose here?” he asked.
Fetish spoke up. “We’re lost.”
“Lost in our sacred temple?” the pony chief asked. “Strangers are not allowed there.”
“It was by no fault of ours...” began Dreamcatcher, but she was silenced by a Native Pony brave near her.
The chief looked at her for a moment, then returned his attention to Fetish. “Explain your purpose.”
Clever Clover attempted a response. “We come from a great distance. We were searching for your temple, but we did not know that it was off limits.”
The chief considered these words. “You are wearing war paint for such an undertaking?”
“It’s not war paint,” Wigwam said, rubbing a hoof over his face.
“Explain your appearance so soon after our scouts telling us of the presence of six of our enemies in the area.”
“Coincidence,” spat Fetish. “Would we bring two of our squaws along on a war party?”
Imperceptibly motioning to the braves with their weapons at the ready, the chief made his decision. “We will hold you until our scouts can verify... or refute... your story.”
The braves came forward and separated Sugarberry and Dreamcatcher from the stallions.
“No!” shouted Sugarberry, struggling to remain by Vanguard. But the brave closest to her brusquely grabbed her foreleg and pulled her away. “Vanguard!” she cried. The stallions all bolted to regain the two mares, but the spear bearers knew their job only too well; there was no question as to the outcome. After a valiant struggle, but weaponless, Clever Clover and Fetish were overpowered while Vanguard and Wigwam had blood running from the wounds in their sides. Sugarberry saw the red rivulets and screamed with utter anguish as she and Dreamcatcher were propelled away from the cluster of ponies. “Van-guard!” Her cry echoed off the granite hills in one piteous wail.
* * *
“Shackle them,” the chief commanded, and the four stallions were quickly tied with ropes around a back leg and connected to each other to effectively limit their movements. When they were sufficiently secured, the chief gave his orders. “Set them to work.”
The stallions were none too gently guided to an area higher up the hill where work was in progress to carve out another tunnel entrance into the rocky mass. They were given chisels of stone to work with and instructed to begin their task. “Where are your own workmen?” asked Fetish, scowling at the tool in his hoof.
“Preparing for war,” stated the lone brave who was left to guard them. He moved off to a judicious distance of a spear’s throw away.
“It’s one against four,” muttered Wigwam as the four stallions buckled down to their appointed duty.
“And one well-placed spear will effectively bring us all down from the shear dead-weight, if you get my meaning,” added Fetish.
“We can chisel our way through this rope,” observed Clever Clover.
“If our guard ever takes his eyes off of us,” countered Vanguard, grimacing as the wound in his side rebelled against his moving.
“How did we get into this mess?” wondered Wigwam out loud. “Clever Clover, you’re the archeologist here. What went wrong?”
“It must have been the lightning bolt.”
“Can you be more specific?”
“I was afraid of that.”
* * *
The two mares were taken away and turned over to the control of the Native Pony mares of the village that occupied a level depression between two of the surrounding hills. After a terse conference among the Native Ponies, Sugarberry and Dreamcatcher were taken to a gently sloping hillside where numerous mares were preparing the soil for planting. They were given trowels with which to overturn the matted soil and assigned an area to cultivate.
The mare who seemed to be in charge of them began to work herself, so Dreamcatcher and Sugarberry were free to talk. “What happened to the stallions?” Sugarberry asked of her companion.
Dreamcatcher was slow in answering. “It depends on how far back in time we’ve come.”
Sugarberry stared at the mare. “Back in time?” she gasped. “You can’t be serious.”
“You forget that I’m a unicorn, and I have a magical power.”
“You can... see... into the future.”
“And my vision did predict a confrontation with the past, although I failed to read it correctly.”
“You knew this was going to happen?”
Dreamcatcher smiled patiently at Sugarberry. “I knew that I would encounter the Native Pony culture up-close and personal, but I assumed it would be through the artifacts and wall paintings at the cave. I never suspected such a dramatic rendezvous.”