My Little Pony Monthly Issue 64 (July 1, 2002)


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]
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Issue 64
July 2002
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Index


1. Letters to the Editor

2. Stranger Than Fiction Chapter Three (by Berry Brite)

3. Magical Pony Girl Enchantment (by Clever Clover)

4. The Beginning (by Ringlets)

5. Contest

6. Paradise Estate (by Baby Jedi)

7. The Bigfoot Hunter (by Tabby)

8. “I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls” (by Starre)

9. Blind Love (by Sugarberry)

10. The Tabby and Sugarberry Gossip Hour! (by Tabby and Sugarberry)

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Letters to the Editor


Subj: Newsletter . . .

From: [email protected]



Kinda sad the way it’s going down isn’t it? Well, I still think it’s great :) And now since in 5 days I’ll be on summer vacation I’ll try to write something. After all, plenty of lonely time on my hands LOL. Gosh, summer vacation makes me depressed! Talk to you later,



*Rissa*



Subj: Don’t give up!

From: [email protected]



Hi Tabby!



Yes I am still reading you mag and liking it! I think it is one of the most worth while things to come out of the MLP community in a long time. I think since it is summer now more people will submit stories. If you need any submits also a good place to go would be the MLP fanfic group at yahoo and just post a little note asking if anyone would like to submit :) Some thing I would change? Let’s see ummm...I’ve noticed for a little while now that some stories seem to be getting a bit too wordy. I understand it may be just a matter of style and taste but it’s the only thing I can really pick out and even so not truly a bad thing. So please don’t lose faith:)! If you just hang in there I’m sure people and ponies alike will return.

~*~Moonstar~*~



Subj: MLP Monthly

From: [email protected]



Hi,



Just wanted to let you know that I love MLP Monthly, and definitely think it should continue. I’ve even thought about submitting something, if I can ever find the time to actually sit down and write. ;-)



I think what I love best is the fact that everyone who writes stories has a unique perspective on Ponyland, and it’s fun to see those. (I love the current story involving Star Trek-- I’ve always loved throwing My Little Pony into completely unexpected situations like that!)



Just thought you’d appreciate the input.



Jaye



Subj: ?

From: [email protected]



I don’t know....it would be nice to see it continue. But, as you said, it seems that what was once a thriving idea, is starting to wither. I’d like to help, really....but what good could someone who’s more out of the loop, than you are, be?



Subj: MLP Monthly

From: [email protected]



I love checking my email to find new MLP Monthlys. I enjoy reading the stories and using my imagination. You keep MLPs alive! I would love to see many years of MLP Monthly to come.



Subj: Re: [My Little Pony Monthly] ~Part One

From: [email protected]



I love to read your letter every month. I hope it keeps coming! In fact I would love it if you could send me the address to the site where I can read/print back copies! I’d love to add the wonderful stories to my My Little Pony Collection!



Sincerely

Kathy

AKA Mystic



Subj: re mlp newsletter

From: [email protected]



Dear Tabby,

Yes, I like to read the newsletter when the mood so strikes me. I must admit I’m totally lost on all of Sugarberry’s stories because I just have no clue and I doubt I’ll ever catch up (unfortunately) on them. Also we are very busy, as I am sure you understand. If you want my opinion, the newsletter needs more original and independent stories. (i.e., stories not connected to the basic Ponyland plot. For example, Tabby does not always have to be married to Thomas for every story concerning Tabby. I like to follow basic plot sometimes. It all depends on my mood. Stories should be kept pony-related. {duh.}) Another thing that would help is more finished stories. (i.e, what happens to Silver Swirl and Sandstone??? What happens to the hobbits in Ponyland?) LOL, I am very guilty of this. If anyone just is dying for me to finish Alien Invasion, I will try. Point 1: MLP Monthly has a lack of support. It would probably help authors to know that other people besides the editor like their stories. If you (the reader) particularly liked a story, please send in compliments. This encourages continued stories.

Point 2: A story does not need perfect grammar to make it a good story. In my opinion, some of the best stories are haphazardly written, funny stories. (i.e., the less intelligent thought required, the better!) If you notice, very few of the stories I submit are serious. Don’t get confused: I like serious stories. ... Ponies are a lighthearted subject and require bubbly, funny stories to make them most enjoyable.

Point 3: More non-story subjects required. For instance, I liked the invento ponies section. More contests would be nice. This raises, however, another issue. “Who will provide the prizes?” asked the little red hen. “Not I,” said the duck. “Not I,” said the cat. “Not I,” grunted the pig. The prize could be as much as a simple picture that says, “congratulations, you won” or something to that effect. Also, a contest does not require a prize to make it a contest. It can be just a fun thing wherein people compete, like a monopoly game. Various pony hypotheses speculating on various pony subjects always make for funny reading. Also, phony Ponyland news reports are hilarious when you make them up. A good idea for a column would be “Ask So-and-So” having it be similar to a “Dear Abby” or “Miss Manners” thing. Of course, the questions and answers would be written be the same person. Here the basic Ponyland plot is required for things to make sense.



Anyway, that is my opinion of what the newsletter is lacking. I am not perfect, so I realize a may be guilty of a few of the things that I criticize.



Your Friend,



BB



Subj: MLP Monthly

From: [email protected]



I’m very sorry to hear that you’re considering closing down the monthly magazine and I for one would be sorry to see it go. As I am moving into the realm of professional writing, it’s rare for me to find the time to write an MLP story with copyrighted characters, however, I do believe I have one more left in me. Problem is, I may not have it ready for the next issue. :-(



Until then, may I suggest that if you run out of submissions, consider doing a “Best Of” Issue with the stories that you think were the best of the best (or have a poll and get your readers to pick from a list of twenty or so). You’ve had some great writers that have written on a consistent basis and some of the stories, as well as yours, have been quite good (I dimly remember a Christmas story somebody wrote some years ago that was unusually good and I wrote a note to you about it .... sigh. Me and my memory.)



Anyway, let me see what I can do. I’ve written the first five paragraphs of a story where the minds of Ember and a little girl on Earth accidently end up in each other’s bodies. I’ll get on it as soon as I polish off my current project.



C. A. Loewen @ Gettysburg, PA ><>

http://www.angelfire.com/pa/cloewen/



Subj: Keep ‘em coming!

From: [email protected]



Hi Tabby!

In response to your inquiry at the beginning of the newsletter-- please don’t quit! I look forward to MLP Monthly every month and after reading each issue, I agonize over having to wait 30 days for the next one! I really enjoy the stories, my favorites having to do with Tabby, Sugarberry, and everyone else in the Dream Valley/Vulcanopolis world. I’ve been reading for probably about 4 or 5 years now and look forward to being able to continue doing so! My only questions are: what ever happened to the story concerning the pony with a formal name but I believe was shortened to “Moment”? She left the stable that she had grown up in and her parents and went to England. She then got married (I believe his name was “Caesar”), only to have her husband struck by a car and killed. She returned home, heartbroken, and tried to continue on with her life and raise their foal in the stable where she grew up. It seems like all of a sudden the writer just stopped in the middle of the story because I haven’t seen any more chapters in months! I also miss some of the contests.

Anyway, please keep up the fabulous work! I love the Dream Valley page, the Tabby page with the pictures of your characters is wonderful, and I will continue to be an avid reader of MLP Monthly! :)

Hang in there!

Michelle aka Pika-Chan aka Baby Glory

P.S. The infusion of Pokemon into your stories was a great idea!



Subj: MLP Monthly

From: ZdreamspeakerZ



Please keep up the GREAT work with MLP Monthly. I’m a huge fan and I really look forward to seeing it in my mailbox every month. Please keep it going! I would hate to see it go!



~Harmony Pony



Subj: MLP

From: [email protected]



Hi! :)



I LOVE MLP MONTHLY!!! I look forward to reading each issue. I especially love reading about Sugarberry, Vanguard, Tabby, Wigwam and the rest of the “family”. I can’t wait until the little ones arrive this fall. There seem to be some events that mysteriously parallel ones here, such as SNOW refusing to stay within its season. A sign that the dimensional veil is thinning? :)



Ringlets :)



Subj: My Little Pony Monthly

From: [email protected]



Dear Tabby,



I love the My Little Pony Monthly stories! Keep them coming! I like the stories that have a continuing story line-- I like to know what is happening in the ponies lives! But all your writers are good. It’s nice to see the masculine influence, too. Really enjoy Cloewen’s stories (the one where the ponies turned into real girls was way cool!) and Barnacle’s adventures (don’t you love a pirate?); and, let me see, who else... Clever Clover (all those girl problems!) and Steamer and Baby Steamer with their cute little tales. Wish some of your writers would do more, like the one who wrote about a pony whose husband died and she had to raise her foal alone. And the one with Silver Swirl, was it? So many good writers-- Baby Jedi, Sugarberry, Starre, and especially you, Tabby! Thanks for keeping My Little Pony alive!

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Stranger Than Fiction
Chapter Three
by Berry Brite ([email protected])


Janeway, Tuvok, Seven, and Baby Noddins continued down the street.

“Where exactly are we going?” Janeway asked Baby Noddins.

“To the ice cream parlor.”

“The ICE CREAM parlor???” Janeway asked. “What on earth for?”

“Because,” said our equine heroine, “that’s where you go to get all of the latest gossip. C’mon, it’ll be fun.”

“Gossiping,” said Tuvok, “is an illogical waste of time.”

“Agreed,” said Seven. “It is inefficient.”

“No, it isn’t,” quipped Baby Noddins. “You listen to gossip to find out what bizarre things are happening. Duhhhhhhh!”

“Oh, well, we stand corrected,” said Janeway. “Tuvok, Seven, as of this moment,” Janeway quietly added, “you love ice cream.”

“Yes, captain,” they both said reluctantly. Janeway brushed her hair out of her face and sighed.

“Hey!” a voice cried. “Who the heck are you guys?”

“Oh, no!” cried Baby Noddins.

“What? What?” shouted Janeway.

“Meet ‘Bob’,” said Baby Noddins. A bizarre-looking worm crawled on the sidewalk.

“I said,” it squeaked, “who the heck are you guys?”

“Bob,” said Baby Noddins, “meet Captain Kathryn Janeway, Tuvok, and Seven. Guys, meet Bob.”

“Bob,” said Janeway uneasily. She didn’t like talking Annelids. “It’s a pleasure.”

“Hi,” said Bob. “What the heck are you doing here?”

“That’s what we’d like to know.”

“Oh, well, I’ll see you later,” said Bob, and crawled away. And so, the talking Annelid ceases to be of importance to this story. Or does he?

“Well,” said Seven, “I’m sure there is an interesting story behind Bob’s existence.”

“Yeah,” said Baby Noddins. “I don’t like him. He came last year from the planet Mars and ate my mom’s rosebush. Now he walks around complaining about this place and yelling at people and threatening to use his frightening powers.”

“Oh, I see,” said Janeway disgustedly. The four walked into the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe.

“Hi, Baby Noddins,” said Scoops. “Got some new friends?”

“Yeah,” Baby Noddins said. “They are from outer space or some bizarre thing like that.”

“What?” said Janeway. “How did you know that?”

“Well, heck! You guys look like you walked straight out of the sci-fi channel or something.” Silence filled the room. A dark cloud labeled “lame plot” floated in the door.

“I am the foe of lame plots!” it cried.

“AAAAAAAH!” all the ponies cried, knowing their fate was imminent. CRACK! Lightning struck one of the ponies. Tuvok whipped out his phaser and fired on the cloud.

“AAiiiieee” it said less than enthusiastically and vaporized.

“Hooray!” all the ponies whooped. Tuvok had saved them from the foe of lame plots.

“What were your orders?” Scoops sweetly asked, as if nothing had ever happened.

“Four root beer floats, Scoops,” said Baby Noddins. Just then, Tabby and Thomas walked in the door.

“Hi,” said Tabby. “Give me the usual, Scoops.”

“Right.”

“Hi,” said Thomas. “Give me the usual, Scoops.”

“Right,” Scoops said a little nervously.

“Thanks,” said Tabby.

“No prob.”

“Thanks,” said Thomas.

“No problem...”

“What do I owe you?” said Tabby.

“One dollar and twenty-eight cents.”

“What do I owe you?” said Thomas.

“The same. Here, guys, here are your root beer floats.” Scoops handed our four semi-main characters their floats. Then she handed Tabby and Thomas their orders. Thomas jumped when he saw Seven.

“Borg!” he cried fiercely.

“Borg?” Tabby asked.

“Yes!”

“AAAAA!” Tabby cried. She glared at Seven.

Seven screamed and was thrown to the ground by a telepathic force. “8472!” she cried.

Tuvok drew his phaser, but Tabby and Thomas escaped. So far, whatever the 8472's plot was, it either was really bad, or harmless.

Janeway’s communicator buzzed. “Kathryn! This is Chakotay!”

“Chakotay, what’s going on?”

“THE ship was under attack by the 8472. They are in orbit of the planet and transported several people down. They are going to try to take the planet!”

“No!” cried Janeway. “We will free the ponies! Wait until my command. Prepare a security detail!”

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Magical Pony Girl Enchantment
by Clever Clover ([email protected])


Author’s Note: This story parallels the events in“History,” in which Clever Clover vanquishes the Furby from the Isle.



Enchantment rushed urgently through the passages of Malachite Castle toward the magical laboratory of her teacher, the mysterious Magus. She brushed past the ponies of the castle who now wandered aimlessly about, their minds virtually blank. They had been that way when she and Magus had returned from a magical herb gathering expedition on the north slope on the mountain. Raven, the regent and the king’s most trusted advisor, was unaffected as was Enchantment herself and hopefully Magus. Raven had sent word to Prince Clever Clover in Friendship Garden, but Enchantment feared he would not arrive in time to save them.

The young pony knocked on the door of her teacher’s laboratory. “Master Magus, are you there?”

“Oh, Enchantment. Come in, we’ve got work to do.”

She entered the laboratory to find it more cluttered than usual. “It looks like you’ve been busy. Do you know how to deal with that thing?”

“What? Thing? Oh, no, the others will see to it. We have more important things to attend to.” The pink-maned Magus rummaged through bottles and bowls on the workbench.

Enchantment was dumbfounded. “What! That thing is stealing the minds of everyone on the Isle. What could be more important?”

“The force behind our uninvited guest. Our old friend Jack O Lantern has returned.”

“Jack O Lantern? Are you sure?”

“Quite. This is just the sort of thing that he would try. If he’d unleash that vile imp Bic upon his own people, there’s no telling how low he would go.”

“But how will we defeat him? When I encountered him at Clever Clover’s, I was able to catch him off guard. I doubt that will work again.”

Magus grinned. “Don’t worry, I’ve got other tricks up my sleeve.” The master magician produced a small glass vile apparently from out of nowhere.

Enchantment stared in wonder. “Oh, what is it?”

“It is something I found in the laboratory shortly after Jack O Lantern was banished and I became master wizard. It seems to be a base for a potion Jack was making for himself. To insure maximum potency, he concocted this preparation using a sample of his own hair. Any potion we choose to make from it will be a powerful weapon against him.”

“So, what sort of potion are we going to make?” Enchantment asked eagerly.

“That is a good question. Since we don’t know exactly what he’s up to, we don’t know exactly what type of potion to make.”

“So what do we do?”

“We make a general potion, like the one in your pouch. It will lose some power, but the preparation Jack O Lantern left us will make up for it. Now, you get to work on gathering the ingredients while I prepare some special equipment.”

Enchantment went to work gathering the necessary bottles for the potion while Magus disappeared down one of the many winding passages of the laboratory. By the time the ingredients where assembled, Magus had returned with a large chest. The master magician began to carefully mix the potion, with help from his apprentice Enchantment. When the potion was finished, Magus produced an ancient key.

“Oh, is that for the chest?” Enchantment asked.

Magus proceeded to unlock the chest and lift the heavy lid. Inside lay the most gaudy magical device Enchantment had ever seen. Some sort of wand perhaps? But it was too big to be a wand, and it was decorated with pink and red hearts and bows.

“What is it?” gaped Enchantment in disbelief.

Magus lifted the object from its resting place. “It is an ancient talisman of great power.” He grabbed the large heart on the end of the wand and pulled it off, reveling a hollow inside. He proceeded to pour the potion into the hollow and replace the heart. “There, it is ready. But you must be careful how you use it. The potion will only be good for three spells, so use them wisely.”

“Me? I have to use that? Why can’t you?”

“I am going to be busy making sure that this cannot happen again. Don’t worry. I’m sure you can handle Jack O Lantern.”

“That goes without saying. But do I have to be seen in public with that?”

“What’s wrong with it? Besides, the only one who will see you will be Jack O Lantern.”

“Oh good. He’ll be laughing so hard I won’t even need to use magic. I’ll just club him over the head with that doohickey.” Enchantment picked up the talisman and swung it like a baseball bat.

Magus grabbed it away from his apprentice. “That is not a toy! Treat it with respect. Now, I have determined Jack O Lantern’s location in a valley to the east; but I’m not sure exactly where in the valley he is, so you will have to do some searching once you get there.”

“But how far is the valley? If Jack O Lantern is there now, how can we know that he will still be there when I get there?”

“It is far, but I can open a portal. You will be there within minutes.”

“Hey, if you can open portals like that, why do I have to hike all the way to Friendship Garden to visit Clever Clover?”

“This is powerful magic that I reserve for urgent maters such as this. Now, are you ready?” The master handed the talisman back to his apprentice.

Enchantment took the magical item, twirled it deftly in one hoof, and struck a pose. “You can count on me!”

Magus waved his hooves and spoke the ancient magic word, “Adarakadabara!” A swirling, floating disk of nothingness appeared before the ponies. “Now, Enchantment, all you have to do is step through and you can begin your search.”

“And away we go!” Enchantment hopped through the ethereal portal. When her hooves touched ground, she stood on a wooded hillside. Birds sang in the distance and the sound of flowing water filled the air. There was no sign of Jack O Lantern, or anyone else in the tranquil valley.

“I’m not going to find Jack O just standing around, but I have no idea how to find him. If I had been studying tracking instead of magic, I might have a chance; but all I know is magic. And not even Magus’ magic could find his exact location. Hm, I wonder if this thing can help?” The red and white pony held the talisman in front of herself. “It only has three charges; but if I can’t find him, I won’t be able to use any of them. Here goes nothing.” A word appeared in the pony’s mind, and she somehow knew it was the ancient spell she needed to find her adversary. “Hocus Pocus!”

The talisman began to glow and Enchantment was lifted into the air. In a trance-like state, she lowered the talisman and began to swivel on air. A moment later she was once again standing on the hillside, holding the talisman pointing down the valley.

“Well, that seems to have worked. I hope.” And she began to walk.

* * *
Down the valley several miles, in a cave overlooking the river, Jack O Lantern sat hunched over an ancient magical text. He lifted his head as if he heard something. “Hemlock, come here!”

A black-maned, green pony entered the cave. “What do you want, master?”

“I have sensed something. I wondered when my old apprentice would use that preparation I left him. But he sends his own apprentice in his place. He does not even respect me enough to come himself! I had hoped to provoke the Magus himself. I will not even worry myself with this; I shall leave the apprentice to you.”

Hemlock bowed. “As you wish, master.”

* * *
Enchantment strode cautiously through the wooded valley. She knew what direction to go, but she didn’t know how far. She could come upon the evil wizard at any moment. The talisman was held at the ready as she contemplated how to best use the two remaining spells. If she caught Jack O Lantern unaware, she could finish it with just one... a sleep spell perhaps or freeze him in a block of ice. But if he was aware of her presence, she would have to do something to distract or confuse him. Little did she know it was Jack O Lantern’s new apprentice, not the master himself, who would confront her.

An unusual odor met the young pony’s nose. A fire... and something else. A familiar smell. Something magical, a potion of some sort. She was getting close. Focusing her mind on her mission, she crept forward, keeping to the bushes. Up the hillside toward the cave she crawled, preparing her spell. She paused at the mouth of the cave. Holding the talisman in one hoof, she took out her magic pouch with the other. “Mana of all creation, hide me from the prying eyes within.” And with that, she turned invisible.

Jack O Lantern was still hunched over his book when Enchantment entered. She held up the talisman and concentrated on the sleep spell, waiting for the magic word from the talisman; but before she could speak it, Jack O Lantern broke the silence. “Hemlock, see to our guest.”

Enchantment gasped in astonishment, then she noticed the smoke swirling around the floor of the cave and around the voids where her unseen hooves would be. In her shock, the invisibility spell faded. Before she could recover her composure, a handsome young stallion stepped out of the shadows between her and Jack O Lantern. Their eyes met and time seemed to stand still.

Shaking her head clear, Enchantment blushed and held the talisman behind her back. “I have come to put an end to your evil, Jack O Lantern!”

Hemlock still stood slack-jawed before the filly apprentice. “Hemlock!” Jack O Lantern bellowed at his apprentice. “Deal with her!”

“Uh, yes master.” Hemlock formed a magical sign with his hooves and mumbled a spell in an ancient tongue. Tendrils of darkness swirled around him, reaching out for Enchantment. The tendrils radiated cold.

Enchantment felt them come near to her. She could not use the talisman; it was only good against Jack O Lantern. Again she wielded her magical pouch. “Mana of all creation, drive back the darkness with the warmth of your light.” A ring of fire appeared around her. Hemlock’s tendrils evaporated as they neared the flames.

The villain’s apprentice formed another sign, and a heavy rain fell from the roof of the cave over Enchantment. Her protective flames where quenched, and the cave filled with steam. The water vapor was so thick that Enchantment couldn’t even see her hoof in front of her face. Thinking quickly, she twirled the talisman and shouted the magic word, “Alakazam!”

Hemlock was frantically trying to come up with a spell to entrap the magical pony girl. Making another sign he cast a spell of wind, which quickly cleared the cave of steam. It also filled the cave with the confetti-like remains of Jack O Lantern’s tomes, which Enchantment had shredded in the confusion.

“That brat!” The evil pony bellowed. “She ruined years of research! And you, Hemlock, what were you thinking? Why didn’t you deal with her when you had the element of surprise?”

Hemlock hung his head. “I am sorry master. But you didn’t tell me Magus’ apprentice was a…girl! It caught me off guard, but I won’t let it happen again. I promise.”

“See that is doesn’t. Now we have a lot of work to do to make up for this setback.”

* * *
Enchantment returned to Magus’ laboratory through the portal. Her teacher was waiting for her. “Weren’t you supposed to bring Jack O Lantern back? How can we make sure he won’t cause any more trouble if he’s still on the loose?”

“Well, things didn’t go exactly as planned. But I did manage to destroy a lot of his research.”

“I suppose that’s something. But unless you did it without wasting the potion, he’ll be considerably more difficult to defeat next time.”

Enchantment hung her head. “I used two spells.”

Magus shook his head. “Only one left? I suppose it’s better than nothing.”

“We could always make more of the potion,” Enchantment suggested.

“How? Without the preparation or something from Jack O Lantern himself we cannot make a potion to combat him.”

“Would this do?” Enchantment, grinning, produced a large part of Jack O Lantern’s tail. “I chopped it off while shredding his books. I figure we can make quite a bit of potion with this.”

“Ha ha! Enchantment, I’m sorry I doubted you! But if you were able to bob his tail, why couldn’t you defeat him?”

“He had an apprentice (a really cute one).”

“Oh? Hm, I should have expected this. That will complicate matters a bit.”

“The apprentice, Hemlock, is from the Night clan.”

Magus recoiled at Enchantment’s announcement. “That’s impossible. The Night clan never made the great migration. They haven’t been seen in centuries.”

Enchantment grinned knowingly. “True, but neither have the Fire clan.”

“Hu? Fire clan? What do they have to do with this?”

“Oh, nothing I suppose. If you don’t mind, I’d like to go wash up and get some rest.”

“Yes. You deserve some rest. I have everything under control here.”

The young apprentice trotted off to her room. Magus began to return bottles to the cupboards. “That girl is clever. Yes, I made a good choice for my apprentice. Given time, she will figure everything out.” He took off his pointed hat and hung it from a peg. Inside, hidden from view, was a small pin. A silver disk with an emerald in the center. “The lost clans will return soon. But if Jack O Lantern has influence over the Night, I dread to consider the consequences.”



Epilogue


After his encounter with the Furby, Clever Clover made the long trek home and arrived at Friendship Garden early one evening. As he lazily plodded down the path to his house he ran into Morning Glory.

“Hey Clever Clover, how’s everything going back home?”

“Oh, hey Morning Glory. Fine, now.”

“I was talking to Lady Moonshine the other day and she told me the most fascinating things about the Isle.”

“Oh yeah? Like what?”

“Well, like that when you were sent here as a baby, so was another pony, a princess. And she was going to marry you some day.”

“Uh hu, I’ve heard this all before.”

“And do you know who she said the other pony was?”

“No. And as I told Raven, I don’t think I want to know. Not right now any ways.”

“Do you mind if I told you what she said about me? That I’m a princess!”

“Uh hu, that’s nice…” The purple prince froze in his tracks. “Princess?”

Morning Glory threw her forelegs around Clever Clover’s neck. “That’s right. You and me are destined to be together!”

Clever Clover hung his head. “Oh boy.”

The purple pony arrived at his doorstep shortly, followed by Morning Glory, who had been going on and on about their destiny together. Clever Clover opened the door, which wasn’t locked, and headed right for the kitchen. As soon as he set foot inside, his black and red houseguest, the pirate pony Minoko jumped from the couch where she had been reading romance novels and bounded toward the front door.

“Oh, Clever Clover, you’re home. How was the trip? What lies did Raven tell you about me?”

Morning Glory scowled at the pirate. “Oh, you’re still here?”

Minoko returned the pony’s scowl. “Yeah, so what’s it to you?”

“Well everyone knows that you’re a freeloader, and Clever Clover has exceeded every reasonable expectation of hospitality; and you have done nothing to repay him. And while I respect his compassion, I’ll have to insist he throw you out. It just wouldn’t look proper for my fiancé to have another woman living under his roof.”

Clever Clover poured himself a glass of milk, apparently oblivious to the other ponies.

Minoko turned to her host. “Hey Cleve, you’re not going to marry this chick, are you?”

“Of course he is,” Morning Glory didn’t give Clever Clover time to respond. “Our marriage was arranged before we were born!”

Just then the front door swung open to revel Belle Star. “Mr. Clever Clover, I heard you were back and wanted to return your iron. Thank you so much for letting me borrow it. I have no idea how mine bust into flame like it did. Are you having a party?”

Clever Clover drained his glass in one long draw. Minoko and Morning Glory were too busy arguing with each other to worry about Belle Star and Clever Clover’s iron, even though it had been Minoko who had loaned it to her while Clever Clover was away.

“Clever Clover doesn’t have to marry you just because your parents made an arrangement. He’s free to choose whoever he wants, even me.” Minoko had never thought of marrying Clever Clover before, but with Morning Glory threatening to have her evicted with the same breath that she announced she was going to marry Clever Clover made her want to crush all of her ambitions. And if that meant marrying Clever Clover, then so be it.

“Oh, and why would he choose you? I am a princess, and a beautiful one at that. What have you got to offer? You’re a pirate and you’re not that much to look at.”

“Why you…”

“Now both of you,” Belle Star cut in. “There’s no need to argue. I’m sure if we just talked this out…”

“You keep out of this,” Morning Glory snapped.

Belle Star began to pout. “B…but…”

“Shuddup will ya?” Minoko commanded. “Mind your own business.”

As Clever Clover rinsed his glass, Belle Star began to bawl at the top of her lungs. Clever Clover would normally have wanted to comfort her and try to calm the others down, but tonight he was too tired and afraid it would just cause more trouble. So he decided to go to bed. “Good night everybody,” he said wearily as he shuffled off to his bedroom.

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This story is an old legend passed down by the ponies. I heard it one night as Firefly tucked the energetic baby ponies into bed amid the remnants of a large pillow fight. One can only guess that Coco, Sugar, and Sunshine mentioned here are the three ponies we know simply as My Pretty Pony.



The Beginning
by Ringlets ([email protected])


Now listen little ones and gather round, this is a story of how the Ponies and Ponyland came to be. It all began long ago with Coco. She was an ordinary brown pony with tan hair, a white blaze on her forehead and white on her forelegs. She had two peculiar daughters. These two were very unlike the rest of the ponies. Coco believed it was because they were born under the rainbow.

They were very strangely colored. Both shared the same dark pink heart markings on their sides. Sugar was entirely pink with a white blaze on her forehead. Sunshine looked exactly like her sister, except that she was yellow.

They all lived with the other ponies and worked in the king’s fields. Although they had a simple life, they were happy. The elderly king was kind and loved them all. He was fascinated by Sugar and Sunshine and often brought them sweets. He loved his land and the animals in it. The Ponies had little work to do because the king had turned most of the fields into tree-shaded meadows amid rolling hills of grass. Thus it was for a long time.

Then one day the old king died; and, since he had no children, his nephew assumed the throne. His name was Adrian, a cold-hearted man, with a face of etched steel. He looked upon his lands and saw, not the beauty, but what he could earn from it.

Gone were the happy days of the kingdom. King Adrian tore up the trees for lumber, killed the animals for sport, and dug up the rolling hills for the stones within. Soon all the birds and animals had fled; the kingdom was silent. The Ponies worked from dawn til dusk, collapsing when they were finally allowed to rest. One by one they wasted away.

Coco and her daughters saw their land ripped bare and friends dying. Not knowing what else to do, they went to the grave of the dear king and, weeping, told him of what had happened to his beautiful kingdom. Exhausted, they slept at his graveside.

That night Coco dreamt of the old king. She found herself once more in the kingdom as it had been. Coco wandered with wonder under the forgotten trees and beside the laughing brooks. Finally she found him. His face was lined with grief. He had seen what his nephew had done, but there was no way for him to save his land although he had tried again and again to change his nephew’s beliefs. He was weak from his efforts, so could not warn the Ponies from their impending doom.

Yes, doom was coming and soon. Their land was dead. No food would be able to grow there for years to come, but the rain would be there soon. With no trees to hold the soil, the land itself would run like a river. The strong storm winds would blow everything into the muck and bury it.

Coco’s heart burst to know she would never again see the land green and fruitful nor her friends happy and free. She would prefer to die rather than see these horrors; the king offered hope.

“There is a safe place for you if you can reach it. You must travel long and far. I do not know if you can make it or if you will, but it is your only hope. Nor will my nephew let you go. His greed has eaten his soul, so he causes others to suffer rather than feel the emptiness. Everything else is gone; without the Ponies he will have nothing to sell for his supplies or anything to torture to fill the hollow that is his heart.

“When the world was created, all the leftover magic was set aside. Over time, it claimed its own space in the universe, as magic is inclined to do if left alone. Once every millennia it opens its doors in welcome. If someone can enter before they close, the land will claim them as its own. If no one comes,...there’s always the next millennia. So far none have made their way through its gates.

“The easiest entrance is over the rainbow; but since you have no wings to fly, you’ll have to take another path. It is riddled with dangers. You must pass three tests before it will lead you to the door. Then the door itself will test you. Only the worthy can complete the journey.

“Go, time is short. The gates will only be open until the harvest moon. The nourishing power of the planting moon tonight allowed me to enter your dreams. The rains will come soon, and your quest is long. I know in my heart that you are destined for this land.”

“But how will I find my way?” cried Coco.

“Follow your heart.” whispered the old king tenderly.

Coco awoke to the sun peering through a bank of clouds. A light mist was falling. There wasn’t much time to prepare. She woke her daughters and went to gather the herd. When she told them of her dream, many agreed to follow. Coco was a trusted member of the herd and had been closer to the king than any of them. That day they planned their escape.

They would have to leave a few at a time. Those that had decided to stay would cover up their disappearance. Adrian had never paid much attention to the ponies and had never visited the foals. He couldn’t really tell any of them apart, which was a great asset to their escape. But it would be hard on those who stayed because they would have to work throughout the day without rest.

That night, Coco sent the foals ahead to a meeting spot with a mare that was too old to work, but still strong enough to manage the excited brood. Throughout the next day, each pony was replaced by one of similar size and color. Before going ahead, each pony headed back to the stables to make it appear that they were going to rest with the others supposedly there. Eventually all of the escapees reached the meeting place safely, and they began their journey. When no one had ridden after them by the next evening, they knew the plan had worked and that they were free.

The ponies wandered for weeks, searching for the hidden path. At first all was well. The land bordering the kingdom was thriving. There was more sweet grass and clear water than any of them had seen since the old king’s death. Some of the youngest foals had never seen green meadows and bubbling brooks. They rejoiced in the clean air and grew quickly. They seemed to become half-grown in the blink of an eye.

Slowly the land changed. It flattened out, water became scarce, and the grasses became a burnt brown. The summer sun beat down upon their shoulders. The ponies had to travel by night to survive on what little food and water they found.

They had been on the dry plain for almost a week when they suddenly came across a beautiful pond fed by a small spring. The grass boarding it shone a rich green. The ponies ate their full, but were careful only to eat what they needed to keep from being sick.

As the herd prepared to sleep out the heat of the day, a few of the younger foals reported finding a small orchard. They insisted that Coco should see it, hoping she would approve the treat.

It was very small. Four gnarled trees had been carefully nurtured and were just starting to bear small green apples. Coco looked down at a hopeful face and sighed.

“Now don’t you little ones even think of eating these apples. They don’t belong to us.” said Coco.

“But...” whined one of the foals.

“No buts. Someone has gone through a lot of effort to keep these trees alive. We are not going to spoil their harvest.” Saying this, Coco led the reluctant foals back to the herd. She warned all of them to stay away from the orchard. Then everyone settled down to sleep.

Coco awoke suddenly to the sound of a gruff voice.

“WHO TOOK MY APPLES?” it thundered.

Coco stood up, but as she tried to move her hooves became cemented to the ground. Looking around, she saw that the others were similarly bound.

“WHO TOOK MY APPLES?” it shouted again.

The voice seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere all at once. Coco pieced together what must have occurred. She looked for the foals in the dim moonlight and found them huddled together a few yards away.

“Don’t tell me. I can guess what happened. I know at least one of you ate some apples when I specifically forbid you to,” Coco said, giving them all a steel gaze. “Come forward and apologize right this instant.”

Meekly, three foals, two young mares, and a young stallion bowed their heads. Each quietly gave an answer.

“I took an apple,” whispered a foal

“We took two,” said the others

“We’re sorry for what we did,” apologized one mare as the other nodded in agreement.

“We’ll work for you until they’re paid off,” offered the stallion

The voice seemed to consider his offer for a moment, then asked another question.

“Who are these thieves with? Those that came with them here, join them now.” it commanded.

They could move. Coco took one step and another. Then she merged with the frightened trouble-makers.

“I am with them,” she answered

“So am I...” “And I...” said Sugar and Sunshine as they come forward together.

About three-fourths of the herd joined them. As the last pony stepped over an imaginary line toward Coco, all went dark.

“You have passed the test of Truth. We need to be truthful before we can trust and be trusted. Remember, it is never too late to ask forgiveness. You may now continue on your way.” The voice seemed to rebound off stone walls then abruptly silenced.

As the sun crept over the horizon, the ponies discovered a path at their feet. They gasped in joy. They had found the path to the magic! Then voices whispered from all around them.

“What is it?” asked one pony.

“What have you found?” asked another.

It was then that they realized that only those who had stood with the guilty and the guilty themselves could see the path.

After the two groups said their good-byes, Coco’s group continued down the path. The land hazed out around them then reshaped itself into something different. The ponies were soon walking in a swamp. As the land regained its final details, the path disappeared.

“Now where should we go?” inquired one of the older mares.

Coco glanced around her worriedly. Then, remembering the old king’s words, she turned to her heart. Something seemed to call to her. It flashed like a beacon in the night. She knew that they had to go toward it.

“This way,” Coco answered.

The ponies trudged through ankle and sometimes knee deep muck, ducking branches all the way. Mosquitoes coated their faces. The humidity drained even more of their energy. The ponies were exhausted. They found a relatively dry piece of land, but it was too small and damp to sleep on comfortably. They had no choice but to sleep standing up.

The next three days went about the same as the first. The ponies covered what ground they could, snatching their meals along the way. Ferns, lichens, and twigs sustained them along with the rare pools of mostly clean water.

On the fourth day, the ponies came across a group even more miserable than they were. The creatures remotely resembled small, furry foxes. Their legs and nose were shorter than a fox’s and their fur seemed to be tan under the mud. They appeared to be trying to cross the swamp, but the poor things were almost swimming in the mud. They stretched out in a long chain across the wetland.

As the ponies started to catch up to the straggly group, Coco overheard two of the younger fillies talking.

“Oh the poor things....” sighed the first

“No. Don’t you even think about it!” exclaimed the second one.

Coco smiled as the foal stopped to help a mother fox-thing and her little ones onto her back. The other filly soon gave in when she came face to face with a pair of big brown eyes. Coco looked at the poor creatures and decided to help too. They seemed to be harmless and were grateful for the rest.

As the herd past through the cluster of animals, everyone eventually relented and allowed a few of the fox-things on their backs. Although the mud they had soaked up made them heavy, no one had the heart to drop the poor things back into the mud.

Finally the ground became solid again. The trees thinned and the ponies saw the sun for the first time since they had left the plains. When they came to a fresh, green meadow surrounding a crystal blue lake they allowed themselves to drop to the ground. Mindless of their hunger, ignoring the mud, and forgetting all about the fox-things, they fell asleep.

When the ponies woke-up, the fox-things were gone. The ponies ate, drank, and washed away the layers of mud adhered to their bodies. Coco was helping Sugar and Sunshine finish cleaning up when she heard one of the ponies gasp.

It appeared that the fox-things had taken time to refresh themselves too. Their coats were the color of burnished copper and shone brightly in the sunlight. One stepped forward and spoke.

“You have passed the test of Compassion.” he said. “We were nothing to you, yet you took the time to help us. No matter the outcome of your quest, you will always be welcome here. Just wish to return, and you will be here.”

Just as he finished, the meadow vanished. Suddenly they were in a dark, cold place. The wind-driven snow stabbed through the ponies’ thin summer coats. The only thing visible, barely, was a faint path that seemed to be leading uphill. The ponies braced themselves and began the climb.

Their ears burned with cold, and it became harder to breathe the higher they climbed. Even though they were almost full-grown, the foals had trouble keeping up. As the white snow surrounding them darkened with the coming night, they found a small alcove to shelter them. After drying off as well as they could, they drifted off to sleep.

The storm had let up slightly when the ponies continued on their way the next morning. It was little comfort because now they could see they were following a narrow, rocky mountain path. On one side was a rock wall; the other side dropped off into darkness. Rocky spires rose from hidden bases. What little else they could see was either rock or snow.

It was roughly midday when Coco heard a panicked shriek from the back of the herd. She carefully threaded her way back towards the cry. There was little room to spare but the ponies gave her what space they could.

“What’s wrong?!” Coco asked as she came upon a crying mare.

“They’re gone! My twins! They wanted to be with the other foals their age, so I let them drop back. Now I can’t find them!” she cried frantically.

“When was the last anyone saw them?” inquired Coco.

A gray foal stepped forward. “We were talking just a little while ago. I guess the last time was just before that curve when it started snowing hard again.”

“The edge!” screeched the hysterical mother.

After having several ponies restrain the mother, Coco carefully made her way back to the treacherous corner. A few of the stronger ponies followed. Dread overcame Coco as she neared the curve. Her fear was realized when she heard a weak cry. As she looked over the edge, it became apparent what must have happened.

When the storm had blinded them for that instant, the one nearest the edge had slipped and fallen. She was sprawled on a small ledge several feet below. Her brother had tried to help and had only succeeded in getting stuck.

As soon as she had reassured the foals, Coco sent a messenger back to inform the herd about what had happened. Most of the herd returned with the messenger; but with time so short, a few had decided to press onward toward the gate.

The ponies looked at each other helplessly. What could they do? There was no way to get to either of them, and the sky was beginning to darken. They couldn’t leave them there overnight either. The wind could blow them off their perches at any time. Or worse, small predators could easily climb down where the ponies couldn’t. The foals would make easy meals.

Then Coco noticed a vine clinging to the rock and another rooted a short distance away. Although they were too thin to use separately...if they could somehow weave them together like the humans did it, might just be strong enough.

Coco had Sugar and Sunshine gather what vines they could. After some tangles, they managed to twist the vines together. What resulted wasn’t pretty, but it would do. The only problem was the sharp cliff edge. To keep it from fraying, one or two ponies would have to guide the vine over the edge while leaning out into blank space.

The brother was closer, so the ponies lowered the rope down to him carefully. Gripping the line with his teeth, he hung on tightly. As several ponies pulled, two more kept the rope as far from the rocks as they could. Slowly, the foal walked up the mountainside. When he reached the path, the ponies had to pry the rope from his teeth so that they could rescue his sister.

The sister was in a more difficult situation. The slightest move could crumble the ledge beneath her. She was also too far down for the ponies to get the rope to her without snagging it on the rocks. One of the ponies would have to bring the rope to her.

“I’ll go,” offered a small blue-gray foal. As the others began to protest, she replied, “I’m the only one small enough and light enough to carry the rope and not add too much extra strain on it.”

Reluctantly, the others agreed. They carefully lowered her down to the frightened sister. The foal slowly lowered her head just enough so that the bruised filly could reach the rope. She took it in her teeth; and ever so gently, the ponies started pulling them up the slope.

Then disaster struck. As the stranded filly stood up, the ledge crumbled. She went over the edge and the force of her fall carried the other foal over too. It was just too much for the rope to bear; it snapped. The ponies cried in horror as the pair plummeted toward the rocky needles below.

Then before their eyes, the two slowed and came to a stop just inches from the angular spikes. Gradually the pair rose until they could step on the path and join the other ponies.

Below them in the rocks appeared a rugged face. When it spoke the wind hushed to honor it.

“You have passed the third test, the test of Courage and Honor. You honored your responsibility to care for those who put their trust in you. You had the courage to put your own lives at risk for theirs. The right to seek the gate is yours.”

As the face vanished, a cave opened in the rock wall behind the ponies. Quietly they hurried into the dark. The wall closed again behind them. After a time, the tunnel slowly widened. Suddenly the cave opened onto a high plateau. Before them stood a magnificent gate; but just as they neared it, it slowly faded away.

“We’re too late!” cried a foal

“No, we can’t be. The old king believed in us. He believed that we could reach it. It is only another test; the door will come back,” said Coco confidently.

“Stop this. You are reaching for something that just isn’t there. Come, let’s return to the meadow, it is a nice place to make a home,” replied a bay mare.

“No. I will wait for the door,” answered Coco

“You will have to wait a thousand years!” the bay countered

“If I must I will, but I know I won’t have to,” said Coco

The bay mare gave Coco a pitying look as she turned back down the trail. “You will be welcome anytime you are ready,” she said quietly.

Slowly other ponies filtered out of the herd and followed until only Coco, her daughters, and the 6 fillies remained. By coincidence, each of the fillies had played an important part in the three tests. Two had eaten apples, two had been the first to carry the fox-things, one was the sister that had fallen, and the other was her rescuer. As the sun set below the horizon they huddled together for warmth.

A whisper woke Coco. She looked up to see the full moon shining on a silver knocker hanging in mid-air. As she got up, the others woke and watched silently. Hesitantly, Coco took the knocker in her mouth and knocked on air.

Suddenly the door was there. A light airy voice echoed in the still night air.

“You have passed the test of Faith. Many have reached our steps, but all left in despair. You are the first whose faith was stronger than your doubts. Enter and be reborn,” it said joyously.

As the ancient door creaked open, the ponies looked in awe at the land before them. Sunlight streamed through the door beckoning them inside. Sparkling and new, the land was out of their dreams. As they entered, they each felt a strange sensation.

The foals looked at each other in delight. Their coats and hair had changed into different colors of the rainbow. They even had their own symbols, similar to those Sugar and Sunshine had.

For Coco, Sugar, and Sunshine there was no outward change, but they each felt a difference in their being. They couldn’t describe it. A new purpose burned in their hearts as the voice began to speak again.

“You have been chosen for a special task. The magic of this place is lonely. It is useless if not shared. From this day forward, this is a land of dreams for all who dwell in the mortal world. You and your kin shall live here eternally as the keepers of dreams. The children of Earth will need you to guide them here to play,” said the voice.

“You must always take care of one another...for now that the door is open, it will be open forever. Just as you can come and go freely, so can those whose very nature would be to destroy you. It will be up to you to keep the land from becoming a nightmare like your home did,” the voice warned.

“But we are so few!” cried Sugar.

“Not for long, for this is the magic of this place. Love and kindness when given and shared can only grow. Your spirits are awakening this place even now. In time others will come. They will come from the land, water, and air all around you. It will be up to you to teach them wisely. Ponyland will continue to grow for as long as your circle of love exists,” replied the voice.



And so it has, and always will. You know already of the six foals; some of them are your mothers. They remained with us while Coco, Sugar, and Sunshine returned to Earth. If you hear the wind whispering in your ear one day, listen closely. It may be Coco and her daughters returning again to check in on us and to bring new children for us to teach to dream.

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Contest


How many My Little Ponies can you list that have the word “flower” in their name or are named after a particular type of flower? E-mail your lists to [email protected], and the winner, whoever is able to name the most ponies of these specifications, will be announced next issue.

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Paradise Estate
by Baby Jedi ([email protected])


The auction ends in a day and a couple of hours. Wouldn’t it be great if I got it?

So there I sat in front of the computer, staring at the picture of an almost complete Paradise Estate and listening to the soundtrack for Glory. It was only twenty bucks! Surely it would be fought out in the auction’s final minutes. But I wanted it so bad...

I felt like sending an instant message to Dad at work, saying, “Lookie!” and putting up the auction URL. But then again, Mom and Dad would never get me the Estate. When it first came out, it was seventy-something bucks, right? And parents bought that for their kids??

The point was, if it was seventy-something bucks when it first came out, it’s gonna be even more expensive now. It all seemed pointless to watch the auction, but I did it anyway.

Why? I asked myself. I guess I was hoping maybe I would get a treat. After all, I did pass the Maryland Functional Math Test & the Functional Writing Test. And my Japanese Final, AND my Civil War Test-- and I had treated myself to a manga. And if in the 80's, kids got PE on Christmas, why couldn’t someone try for it for me?

My brain wouldn’t shut up. I battled over whether or not to IM Dad. He was working, after all... He wouldn’t want to be bugged. Heck, I was taking care of my friend’s pets while she was on vacation-- but oops, I forgot- I’m getting $20 for doing that. I sighed.

I aced tests. And I’m taking care of my friend’s dogs and cat and hermit crabs in the stifling summer heat. Come on!

Ug, I told myself. You’re such a material girl.

But still! I was having a dry spell. The last time I got an MLP was when my friend got an extra Baby Fifi and let me have her. And now I only get one pony on Christmas. Last year, poor Little Flitter arrived under the tree- all alone.

I decided to IM Dad. It would also give him a nice little hello, too, right? Though I sorta felt nervous.

Depressing news. I learned PE went for $80 or more on Ebay. Nooo!!! Still I IMed Dad to say hi. Why not? He was my daddy. *wiggle*

Then I saw Up, Up, and Away. Standing at the computer. What was she doing here? I picked her up, and heard:

“Paradise Estate.”

I almost dropped Uppy. “What?!” I hissed. Where had that voice come from?? I looked at the pony in my hand. She maintained her pose. I sat her back down.

“Paradise Estate,” the voice said again.

I swallowed. “Uppy, is that you?”

No answer. I guess I was relieved. Besides, little plastic ponies don’t talk, right?

“Paradise Estate!” The voice commanded.

“OK, OK!” I said, clicking back to the Ebay page.

“Paradise Estate,” the voice said again. Then, Uppy started moving!

“Uppy?!” I shrieked.

She turned her head to look at me. “Shh!” she said as Year of Jubilee started playing. “If only...” Up, Up, and Away began. Her voice trailed off. “Paradise Estate... could be ours....”

“It goes for eighty bucks or more her on Ebay.” I informed the pony. Uppy groaned.

“We need it!” Uppy said. She didn’t say why, though. Year of Jubilee faded off.

Then, suddenly, she went back to her pose again. I shook her, but she remained as lifeless as before she had seen the Estate.

“This is getting weird,” I muttered.

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The Bigfoot Hunter
by Tabby ([email protected])


One Saturday afternoon, Tabby heard frantic pounding on the front door. “Don’t they know there’s a doorbell?” she said irritably as she dropped her book and went to see who it was.

“Okay, okay, calm down!” she shouted as she neared the door. The pounding hadn’t stopped. The door might not hold up much longer. She swung it open and before her stood a large, shaggy, short-of-breath Bigfoot.

“Tiny!” Tabby greeted him cheerfully. “What a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t expecting you.”

“He’s on my tail! You’ve got to help me!” the Bigfoot gasped for breath, dashing over the threshold without waiting for an invitation. He cowered, as much as he could, behind the unicorn.

“Oh, Tiny, you don’t have a tail,” Tabby reminded him. “What do you need help for?”

“I need to hide,” Tiny said, desperately searching around him for a better hiding place. “He was right behind me. He’ll catch up any minute.”

“Who’s ‘he’?”

“I dunno. Just some pony. But he keeps chasing me around.”

“Ooh! You mean a Bigfoot hunter?” Tabby clapped her hooves together. “All right. You run down into the basement and take cover; I’ll deal with this guy.”

Tiny gratefully took her up on her suggestion, and took off running after Tabby pointed out the direction of the stairs. Tabby closed the door and awaited another visitor.

In a few minutes someone else started pounding on the door. Tabby was annoyed that no one bothered with the doorbell anymore. She yanked the door open. “There is a door bell,” she stated vindictively, glancing at the young stallion pointedly.

“Sorry, I was in a rush,” he apologized, also rather breathless. “Where did the Bigfoot go?”

“Umm... the Bigfoot?” Tabby feigned puzzlement. “What Bigfoot?”

“But I saw him break in this house,” the stallion argued. “I’d better find him for you before he causes trouble.” He held up a tranquilizer gun and pushed his way past Tabby.

“Hey!” Tabby called after him as he peered cautiously into the various doorways that pointed off the hallway. This wasn’t turning out well at all. “You can’t just come in here uninvited!”

“I’m not sure you understand the danger, ma’am,” the Bigfoot hunter said seriously, peering at the ground. “Hair! I found his track. I’ll get him out of here in no time. Have no fears.” Luckily it was only cat hair that he had spotted, and it took him in the opposite direction of the basement entrance.

“I’ll check the other rooms,” Tabby called after him and made her way down to the basement. She spotted him easily cowering under an old cobweb-infested table. “Tiny,” she hissed, “he’s here. I don’t know what else to do if he finds you. You’ll just have to put up a fight or something.”

Tiny whimpered and peered out at her. “I can’t fight.”

“Well... at least look intimidating and growl menacingly,” Tabby suggested. “It might let his guard down and buy you some time to escape.”

“I dunno,” Tiny said doubtfully. “I’m not sure I can do that.”

“Oh, what kind of a Bigfoot are you?” Tabby was about to chastise him some more for being a wimp (like she was one to talk) when a shadow appeared at the top of the stairs. Hurried hoofsteps could be heard coming down the steps.

“Don’t worry, ma’am, just stay calm!” the Bigfoot hunter cried out, seeing the two of them together. “Step slowly away and try not to startle him. Then I’ll take care of him.”

“What are you going to do?” Tabby eyed him suspiciously.

“This tranquilizer dart will put him out long enough that I’ll be able to get him to the lab and under proper restraints.

Tiny grunted and sat up, his arms held high into the air. “No, don’t shoot!” he said nervously. “I–” But it was too late. Seeing Tiny’s sudden movement as a threat, the hunter had aimed his gun and the dart hit Tiny. The Bigfoot immediately slumped over onto the ground, senseless.

“Tiny!” Tabby cried, darting forward and dragging him out into the open. “Say something!”

“He’ll be out for awhile,” the hunter stated, stooping over the Bigfoot’s inert form and binding his legs together. “Wow, this is incredible! I can’t believe I finally caught a Bigfoot!”

“How could you?” Tabby shot back vehemently. “You can’t just take him away from his home!”

“He’ll be given a completely natural environment when I get him to the lab,” he assured her.

“But someone will have to go lock up his place for him, and his bills will go unpaid if he’s not here; his employers might fire him when he doesn’t show up for work, and he could wind up losing everything!” Tabby said adamantly.

“He has a job?” the hunter echoed incredulously.

“Yes, part-time for the Mysterious Cloaked Flower Deliverers,” Tabby clarified. “And the forest animals won’t be able to get their medicines from him, and...”

“Wow! I never believed the Bigfeet were this advanced!” he exclaimed excitedly. “I can’t wait to study him more!”

“Well, you could have just asked his permission,” Tabby said crossly. “You didn’t have to shoot him down.”

“But they’re wild beasts... and hazardous if they’re not subdued.”

“Oh, come on! You don’t know the first thing about Bigfeet! He came to me for sanctuary; he didn’t break in!” Tabby glanced at Tiny as his eyes started to flutter open. Hoping he got the message, she discreetly pointed her hoof behind her.

“Incredible persuasive powers as well,” the hunter marveled.

“Oh, get off it,” Tabby snapped in order to buy more time. “He’s my friend, and you can’t just take him!”

“What? You mean you know him?”

“Duh! Isn’t that what I’ve been telling you? We go way back!”

“Well, if you say so... I can give you the lab’s direction if you’d like to come for a visit sometime.”

“No, no, no! Why can’t you just ask him if he’d help you, no kidnaping involved?”

“He’s already out cold; it would be the practical thing to take him away now.” He pointed towards the spot where Tiny laid, but gaped when he realized the creature was no longer there.

“Hah,” said Tabby smugly. “He climbed out the window when you weren’t looking.”

* * *
The Bigfoot hunter and Tabby parted on rather bad terms, but they continued to see each other frequently as the hunter had not given up his pursuit of Tiny and had set up a crude base on the outskirts of the Dark Forest. Tabby, after their first encounter, decided that Tiny needed to learn some self-defense. She called up her friend, Clever Clover.

“Hey, Cleve Clove! I have a friend who wants some lessons in sword fighting. Interested?”

“Cool!” Clever Clover had been seeking a sparring partner for a long time. “Who is he?”

“Tiny the Bigfoot,” Tabby said.

“A Bigfoot? Well, that’s kind of unusual, but it’ll work. He has his own sword, right?”

“Well, actually, no. And he hasn’t actually expressed an interest in learning to use one, either.”

“What?! Then why are you calling me?”

“You have to admit he needs to learn some self-defense, and he won’t take the prerogative himself! So if I get him there, will you train him?”

“Um, sure, whatever.”

“Outrageous!”

* * *
When she had the chance, Tabby headed into the Dark Forest to share her plan with Tiny. She found him at the entrance of his cave, sitting with hands over his face.

“Tiny! What’s up?” Tabby greeted him.

“Shh,” Tiny said. “He’s watching us.”

“Who, the Bigfoot hunter? Where?”

“There.” Tiny pointed to a pile of rocks on the opposite side of the clearing. Sure enough, Tabby noticed a video camera perched on top.

“Well, that’s fine.” Tabby turned around and waved at the camera. “Hiiii!” Giving her attention to Tiny again, she questioned, “Has he still been trying to capture you?”

“He keeps setting traps in the forest, so I’m stuck here; but that camera is always pointed at me,” Tiny sighed.

“Tiny, that’s a blatant invasion of your privacy! You’ve got to learn to stand up for yourself. And I’ve got just the thing to help.”

“What?” Tiny said skeptically.

“Clever Clover is going to teach you sword-fighting!” Tabby beamed.

“That sounds hard,” Tiny said.

“Yeah, but you have nothing better to do; and if it could get rid of mister Bigfoot hunter, it’d be worth it, right?”

“I guess...”

“Okay, then follow me! You are able to pick out the traps, aren’t you?...”

* * *
After a precarious walk through the Dark Forest avoiding all the Bigfoot traps, Tiny and Tabby finally arrived at Clever Clover’s house in Friendship Gardens. Clever Clover was ecstatic to have a new student (well, his first and only student, if truth be told).

“Tiny!” he exclaimed, pumping the Bigfoot’s hand enthusiastically. “First, we have to pick out a sword suited to your build. I’m thinking the one over here might work, but then there’s the possibility...” Clever Clover started spouting off tedious technical data on swords and Tabby got bored, though she did want to stick around and see how Tiny did at his first lesson.

Tabby got the feeling someone was watching them, though. Turning around, she gasped. “What are you doing here?!” The Bigfoot hunter was right beside her, filming the entire lesson.

“Keeping tabs on the Bigfoot, of course,” he said.

“You haven’t given up on him yet?”

“No, of course not! None of the traps have worked yet, but I’m getting plenty of footage of him in the meantime.”

“Couldn’t you just ask him for his cooperation or something?”

“What would the point of tracking down wild beasts be if you just had to ask for their permission?”

Tabby raised an eyebrow while watching Tiny drop his sword for the fifth time. “You do this often?”

“Sure, my hobby is researching little-known creatures of Ponyland. This is my first big expedition, though. With a Bigfoot in my portfolio, everyone will take notice of me!”

“Hmm,” Tabby said, her attention being more focused on the fight between Tiny and Clever Clover at the moment. “Wow, he’s a pretty fast learner! He didn’t drop the sword this move!” The Bigfoot hunter gave his full attention to the camera to get some really good shots.

“Say, what’s your name, anyway?” Tabby asked suddenly as it occurred to her that she didn’t know what to refer to him as besides “the Bigfoot hunter”.

“Cazador.”

“Hmm...” Tabby narrowed her eyes. “Acceptable, I guess. I’m Tabby.”

The two fell into silence and for the next hour watched Tiny’s practice progress. Clever Clover finally announced that was enough for one day

“Great job, Tiny!” he said. “You’re a real natural at this. Can you be back tomorrow?”

Tiny shrugged. “Sure.”

“Cool! See you then.”

Tiny lumbered back towards Tabby, and Cazador hid from view. “How was that?” he asked her.

“Very good,” Tabby assured him. “You’ll be able to challenge Cazador to a duel sooner than you think!”

“He’s following us,” Tiny observed, glancing over his shoulder quickly as they headed back in the direction of Dream Valley.

“Yeah, I know. He’s getting as much footage of you as he can until he can capture you. But, of course, you’ll kick his tail before that can happen.”

“What does he want, anyway?”

“Well, I guess to make a name for himself in the field of finding out about unusual animals.”

“That’s a weird occupation,” Tiny said. “I don’t trust him.”

“Aw, don’t worry about it, Tiny. You’ll have him out of your fur in no time.”

* * *
For the next few weeks, Tabby and Cazador showed up daily at Clever Clover’s house to watch Tiny’s sword-fighting techniques progress. Baby Faline came along, too, and greatly enjoyed the show. “Ooooo, fight!” she said gleefully. Tabby continued harping on Cazador’s methods; but as arguing with persons was what she enjoyed best in life, a bizarre form of friendship sprang up between the two.

Tiny gradually became more bold and aggressive. His expression now turned grim in the face of conflict, instead of just wimping out. He yelled confidently every time he rushed at his teacher and didn’t simply stand and look helpless. Clever Clover was extremely impressed at how quickly and well the Bigfoot’s sword fighting abilities had developed.

“I’m getting really sick of being following everywhere,” Tiny confided to Tabby as they headed home one night.

“Well, don’t you think it’s about time to challenge him to a fight? Clever Clover says you’re really great.”

“A fight? Like a duel? Yeah, it is time! I’ll finally be able to get him out of my hair!”

“Go, Tiny!” Tabby cheered.

* * *
“A duel, huh?” Cazador eyed the Bigfoot skeptically the next day after his lesson. Tiny had managed to speak to him before he disappeared to follow him home.

“A duel,” Tiny verified. “If I win, you leave me alone and let me live in peace.”

“And if I win, I get to keep you for my studies?”

“That won’t happen,” Tiny grinned confidently, “but if it makes you feel better, those are the odds. We’ll meet here tomorrow, same time as always.”

“You’re on,” Cazador said confidently.

* * *
The next day, Tabby, Faline, and Clever Clover were assembled at the sidelines while Tiny and Cazador took their places in Clever Clover’s yard. They were expecting an easy win for Tiny, as Cazador didn’t seem to know anything about swordplay; in fact, when Clever Clover had offered to lend him one for the fight, he had refused. However, he had said his dart gun would not be part of the battle. Tabby thought it would be interesting to see him get creamed. These young stallions were too confident.

They stood facing each other on the battlefield, Tiny with his sword drawn and Cazador across from him with seemingly no weapons. However, all of a sudden, he tossed back his cape and withdrew a really awesome sword!

Tabby gasped. “He’s pulled a Richie!”

“What a sword!” Clever Clover said in awe. “I’ve got to get a better look at it afterwards.”

“Okay, guys, fight!” Tabby cried out.

The two rushed at each other with amazing force. Clever Clover kept exclaiming over the superior moves made by both of them, but to Tabby it just looked like a bunch of tangled steps involving a frequent impact of steel-on-steel. “I had no idea Cazador actually knew anything about sword fighting,” Tabby confided to Clever Clover. “What are Tiny’s chances?”

“I don’t know; they appear to be pretty evenly matched. What a fight!!!”

Tabby was beginning to feel rather bored of the whole affair when a shout from Clever Clover moved her from her lethargy. “Yeah, Tiny!! You did it!!”

Tabby looked up suddenly, and realized that Cazador’s sword lay sprawled on the lawn. Tiny stood before him, looking superior. “Ha-ha-ha! That was a good fight, but apparently you were still no match for me. Now you must leave me in peace!”

“Oh well,” Cazador said good-naturedly. “I was getting a little rusty, I must admit. After a bit of practice I could have beaten you easy. But, hey, you won it fair, and a deal’s a deal. You won’t have to see me again, but it’s been great working with you anyway.” Besides, even if I can’t catch a live specimen, all the video footage I filmed is bound to get me a lot of fame... he thought to himself.

Tiny extended his hand, and the two shook in good sportsmanship. Cazador then took his leave of Tabby and Clever Clover (only after Clever Clover had marveled at his sword for some time). Bags packed, he stopped and waved before heading off into the sunset to his next adventure.

“He wasn’t so bad, really,” Tabby mused. “But aren’t you proud of yourself, Tiny? Isn’t it good to be able to stand up for yourself?”

“Yeah, it’s better than cowering in the corner,” Tiny said, scratching his head. “I owe you guys a lot. You were really great help.”

“Hey, Tiny, you’re not going to give up sword fighting now that’s the duel’s over, are you?” Clever Clover asked eagerly. “If you’re still up to it I’d be glad to have someone to work with...”

Tabby rolled her eyes. Clever Clover would always be talking about swords no matter what happened.



The Bigfoot Hunter will return!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Author’s Note: All right, in case you read the beginnings of my Starre series (whether you liked them or not, it doesn’t matter), I have decided to discard that and start anew. I do hope you’ll enjoy these chronicles of Ella’s adventures, and that you’ll tell me so. ;) But I’d like to hear from you readers even if you think it’s horrible. *g* Right, well, I think that I should give you a quick description of my Ponyland and how they interact with other beings, as you might get lost otherwise or become utterly confused. The main things I’d like you to know are:

1) My take on Ponyland is that it’s sort of a parallel universe thing, where for every human there is a corresponding pony.

2) Some ponies have the same names as their human counterparts; specifically, all the ones to whom I make reference to in my stories.

3) History is the same. The ponies had the same Middle Ages, Renaissance, Victorian Era, etc. as us, except for bad history. There is no violence or war in Ponyland. That’ll make for some clashes, but disregard those. Make up your own explanations. Even though our Abraham Lincoln was assassinated doesn’t mean the ponies’ Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. He died of natural causes. So, all the people who died in wars for us met nicer endings in Ponyland. Get it?

Well, I believe that’s all, and I promise I’ll try my best not to quit this one after a few issues like last time. ;) That is, unless all of you think it’s so boring you beg me to stop. And I must admit that these first ones are just introductory so that you understand how Ella came to be where she is, but I already have a ghost story forming in my head for October! ^.^ So, read it, and tell me what you think. Please? LOL, I really would like to know whether my writings are worth reading! You can e-mail me at [email protected] Oh! And I purposefully didn’t bother telling you from whom I have quoted the title; but if you’d like to do a bit of research, you can e-mail me your guess and I’ll give the answer next month. :)



“I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls”
by Starre ([email protected])


All day it had been overcast, dreary, and threatening to rain. Fog was settling around Dream Valley as a mare trudged along one of the rural hills surrounding it.

“I see the lights of the village

Gleam through the rain and mist...”
she quoted absently from Longfellow, thinking about what an uncommon sort of day it had been. This morning she hadn’t the slightest idea that by evening she would be looking over Dream Valley. She expected to be in the dingy little room she had rented in Hoofton, scribbling away at a new idea for a story. No such luck. Around nine in the morning, she had gone to see her landlord to pay up all the previous payments she’d missed. Luck had been on her side before today, and she had finally received a nice sum for a story that was accepted into the Ponyland Gazette. However, the landlord (who will remain nameless) decided that he had had quite enough, and wouldn’t accept the previous six month’s payments, and instead gave her until three in the afternoon to get off his property.

Of all the rapacious and miserly old stallions Ponyland housed, he was the worst. In fact, our mare, Ella Fay, had taken the liberty of tossing her opalescent mane over her shoulder and telling him so. Quite loudly; which led to her immediate removal from the vicinity.

This left Ella homeless and nearly jangle-less (except for the six-month rent she had intended to pay, but couldn’t). Hoofton was quite a large, expensive town; Ella left it, walking since it was cheaper, to go to Dream Valley. That brings us up to date, except you still know nothing of this mare except that she has a pearly, translucent mane and a fiery personality that makes one think she’d be better suited to a bright red mane.

Ella Fay was an author... or that is what she aspired to be. One or two publications in a newspaper can’t count for much. Especially since those one or two publications left her still very poor. She couldn’t borrow any more jangles from her family either, as they had lent her all they deemed decent and wouldn’t lend anymore. Of course, family was family; and being a very rich and very prominent family in Hoofton, they did at least give her very wonderful gifts.

On the topic of Ella’s family, she had inherited a very interesting trait. Instead of the normal symbol that most ponies have, Ella had a yellowish-green foggy patch. It ran in her family, appearing on only those of artistic temperament. Ella liked to call it her “Monet” painting. It offset her grayish-purple (what she called dusk) coat nicely. Her other interesting trait ornamented her wings (being a pegasus). The tips of each of the feathers seemed gilded in the same pearly, opalescent shade as her wavy mane. Going into more detail about her mane and tail (as perhaps you can’t quite visualize an opalescent shade), it was a whitish-silver that was almost transparent, but when the light hit it just right it would flash every color imaginable. Most of these traits (except the Fay’s artist mark) she had inherited from her mother’s side of the family, but she had the bright yellow expressive eyes from her father.

So, now you have a pretty complete visual dancing before your mind’s eye. A youthful pegasus with a dusky coat, opalescent hair, a foggy symbol, gilded wings, and violently yellow eyes that stood out from the rest of her pale form and revealed her every thought. Her eyes could be mild, serene, and loving; or they could be flashing dangerously with anger, mirroring every emotion her vast personality contained.

This is the manner of creature that was trotting reflectively over the hill with a small leather doctor’s bag, an embroidered oat-colored backpack slung over her back resting comfortably between her wings, and a slouchy white beret embellished with a garland of needlepoint ribbon roses cocked over one eye. All of these were gifts from her family, previously mentioned.

Now you’re probably thinking: why on earth doesn’t Ella sell some of these presents to make some money if they’re so nice? Quite simple, really. Though these things were very nice and very stylish, they would hardly fetch many jangles. However, when she did happen to receive valuable gifts that she wouldn’t really have any other use for, she did sell them... for example, a pretty necklace of pearls and other semi-precious stones, and a diamond-studded ballroom dress. What use would they be anyhow? But back to the present story.

“I suppose I shouldn’t have lost my temper...” she conceded, wearily shifting the weight of her backpack. She had crammed quite a bit more then could be expected into it. “Then I might still have had a place to live tonight... well, if worse comes to worst, I could live for a night as a homeless low-life and sleep on a park bench... give me a new interesting perspective to write from!” Her eyes lighted with interest at the strange thought that had assailed her mind. No, sleeping on a park bench wouldn’t be the worst fate imaginable! It might even be pleasant... if it didn’t rain, that is, for it did look a bit rainy out. Though it was only two in the afternoon, the sky made it look more like seven.

Ella jerked her thoughts back to reality as she rounded another bend in the road and came upon the outskirts of Dream Valley. Starting up Mane Street, she decided that she liked the quaint old-town charm Dream Valley possessed.

“Right. The first order of business is to find something cheap and consumable.” She resisted the strong urge she had to bend over and look at the cobblestone road, and looked about for a cheapish looking restaurant. “Aha!” she said aloud to herself, causing a sea of strange stares to be sent her way. “The Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe,” she read. “Looks casual enough...” And promptly she trotted into the shoe-shaped ice cream parlor.

“And how may I help you?” smiled a lavender-haired mare at the counter.

Ella studied the menu for a moment and noticed that water was free: “I’ll just have a glass of water, thank you,” she said, and smiled back.

For a moment, Ella was very afraid that she’d offended the mare, for her jaw dropped open and her eyes widened in mock horror. “A glass of water!” Then she laughed melodically. “No one walks into my Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe and orders just a glass of water! Sure I can’t entice you into anything else, sweetie?” she grinned.

“Oh no, sorry. I want to make sure I have enough jangles to rent a decent place,” Ella grinned back.

“Aha! Not from Dream Valley, are you? I knew it. So where are you from, dear? By the way, I’m Scoops, proprietor of this establishment. You are?” Scoops said this all very fast and enthusiastically, and it took Ella a moment to comprehend it.

“Ella Fay... traveling from Hoofton, thank you.” She held out a hoof which Scoops took in a gregarious shake.

“From Hoofton? I thought just ponies who had too many jangles to keep track of lived there,” she said in a tone that jokingly said And if you come from Hoofton and are rich why only a glass of water?

“Oh, no, I’m just your stereotypical jangle-less author. That’s why I left Hoofton. The rent was too high,” Ella explained, taking the water Scoops held out.

“Well, you’ll have to tell me all about yourself, dear. As owner of the most popular hang-out in Dream Valley, I have to be up to date on all the newcomers, you know. Ponies expect me to know everything about everyone,” Scoops said. Then she continued talking to a rather flustered looking unicorn that was stumbling by under a mountain of sundaes for a table in the back corner of the shop, “Fizzy? Think you could hold the fort for a bit?”

“Sure thing, Scoops!” she gasped enthusiastically, heading for the back corner. Once she almost lost a bowl, retrieving it only just in time from a well-aimed bubble from her horn.

Meanwhile, Scoops was guiding Ella to a table by the wall and out of the thick of things. “Really busy today! I couldn’t believe it when a wedding party stopped in just now and ordered up half our store. That was what Fizzy was carrying by just now, of course. So, you’re from Hoofton. Any family in the area?”

“All of my family lives in Hoofton– they were the founding family,” Ella said, sitting down across from Scoops whose jaw, it appeared, had a habit of dropping.

“Founding!?” she squealed. “The founding family of Hoofton?! Oh wow! You’re almost a celebrity! So that explains your appearance. I thought you were decked out too nice to be the ‘stereotypical’ jangle-less author. If you don’t mind my asking, why can’t they lend any money? Your family, I mean.”

Ella laughed, “Oh, they have! Quite a lot. But they won’t lend any more for they think I should do something sensible... not writing. As you see, they do give nice gifts, though.”

Scoops nodded, already liking the pretty mare. “So, where are you staying? Hehe, just wait ‘till Paradise and Mimic hear we have the daughter of Hoofton’s founding family in our midst who also happens to be a famous author!”

“I’d hardly say famous. I’ve only had two pieces published so far,” Ella blushed. “And who are Paradise and Mimic?”

Scoops snorted. “Only the two biggest gossips in Dream Valley! Of course, excepting me, since I far out-rank anyone in the gossiping department,” she said proudly, as if being known as a gossip was almost as good as being part of Hoofton’s founding family. Then she continued to explain about Paradise and Mimic. “They’ve been known for that since they were foals, always inseparable! And you say you’ve had two pieces published?”

“Yes, one appeared in yesterday’s Ponyland Gazette...” She trailed off as Scoops started slapping at her apron.

“Got it here somewhere... here we go.” She opened it up across the table, nearly knocking Ella’s water over. Ella reflected later that maybe it would have been best to keep quiet about her story, as Scoops seemed bound and determined to find out enough about her to upstage Paradise and Mimic’s gossiping.

“Ooh!” she squealed again. “This one? I LOVED it! I knew your name sounded familiar! I bet you’ll be famous someday... will you sign it?”

Ella blushed crimson. No one had ever asked for her autograph before! And certainly not a vivacious mare from Dream Valley! “Well... er, sure,” she conceded and quickly jotted down her name on the newspaper.

“Back to my question. Where are you staying?”

“I’m not exactly sure yet...” Ella faltered, as Scoops repeated the episode of slapping her apron and withdrawing another folded up piece of newspaper.

“Not even just for tonight? Well, here. Let’s see what’s out there; after all, it’s already two in the afternoon. I know, Opal Dreams already took on some Starr filly from Whinnyberg...” And with that, she folded up the signed story and spread out the classifieds in its place and started scanning its housing section. Suddenly, there came an almighty crash from somewhere back behind the counter which brought Scoops to her hooves.

“Sounds like my assistance is needed, dear. You can go off and look for rooms, but if you can’t find any place tonight, come back right after closing and you can board with me for the night!” And with those parting words, she cheerfully trotted off as if things fell over and made noises that reverberated rather loudly quite frequently in the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe. And somehow, Ella supposed they did.

So, Ella stood up and ducked out of the congested ice-cream parlor to study the classifieds on a nearby bench.

“Fremane S 6209

Large classic 1 BR, hardwood floors, clean, quiet building”
“Wait, ‘that’s unfurnished,’ ” she finished reading. Of course she would need furniture as she brought nothing of her own. As she continued to peruse the newspaper she noticed that all of the apartments were priced quite out of her reach. Seven hundred jangles for one room? Impossible. So instead, she flipped to the rooms to rent. What about

“Hilltop, furnished room, close to Lake Pony,

485 jangles includes utilities”
That had some potential! Or perhaps:

“Mane St

Own room, available immediately

275/month”
Another good one... but then her eyes fell upon one hidden in a corner.

“Evermoor

Victorian Mansion

no pets, preferably mare boarder,

must respect house, not complain

Apply within.”
What an odd advertisement! And a Victorian mansion at that. Ella’s face adopted a glazed and dreamy expression: Evermoor! It spoke the fairy language common to Ella’s kind, as if it had come right out of a storybook! Ella mentally shook herself. It would probably be well beyond her means, so there was no use getting her hopes up.

Ella then reached the decision that she would go inquire at Mane Street and the Hilltop. If they weren’t satisfactory, then she would visit Evermoor, just for curiosity’s sake.

As it was, Hilltop, though it was furnished, was furnished quite shabbily. The bed didn’t happen to be anything more than a mattress on a collapsed frame, and the sofa seemed as though if you looked at it wrong it could topple over. Scratch that. Mane Street wasn’t furnished at all despite the fact that it was in the furnished section. That wouldn’t do, either.

Very disappointed, Ella started heading back to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe. It appeared she was destined to take Scoops’ offer of charity. Ella didn’t even want to bother going to her precious Evermoor, for she was certain it would be just another disappointment. However, she decided that she might just stop by, just to take a peak as it was on her way.

Oh! Did Evermoor live up to its name! Evermoor was located on a corner lot in the middle of the old section of Dream Valley. It was surrounded by a quaint little stone wall about three feet high, which held the venerable moss of any respectable stone wall. There was a wrought-iron gate in the middle of the stone expanse that was twisted into all sorts of vine-like designs which resembled the vines that very nearly hid the mansion from view. This gate was flanked by two stone unicorns, each proudly arching its neck and sporting a red garland of roses that appeared to have been just placed there. The unicorns were probably white at one time, but now they had faded into a dusky shade not unlike Ella. On the gate was an enormous stained glass panel that read “Evermoor Estate” but was split half-way through as the gate was opened and looked as though it had remained open for a great length of time and was not about to be moved.

Silently, Ella crept inside. The mansion looked almost as though it were under an enchantment, and the moment a word was spoken, would shatter into a million pieces and fade back into fairyland. And oh, what a mansion! It rose, as it seemed, right up to the sky! Up through the yard ran a little stone path that was well worn from the hoofsteps of long ago which had long since ceased to echo up to the old house. Along either side of the solitary stone path were gardens. Actually, the gardens were more like a labyrinth than anything else. Once upon a time, they must have been well-kept and pruned rose bushes, but now they tangled into each other and made walls and paths about as high as the stone wall. Right now, the roses were in full bloom, and the yard was a boundless sea of colors. The air was heavily scented with roses and just a pinch of lilac as Ella progressed up to the house. All along the perimeter of the house were lilacs. Demure and old-fashioned purple, they hinted of times long ago. Ella wondered vaguely, why they were still blooming in July, but quickly dismissed the thought. This was Evermoor, and undoubtedly, some fairy had enchanted them.

The quaint little path ended when it came to a very regal set of stone stairs which led Ella to the porch. Above the porch was a railing, so Ella assumed it had a balcony as well. The porch was an old wooden porch just like what you’d expect to see in a book. Roses climbed all over the lattice work, and on the far end of the porch was a wicker swing with two chintz cushions resting on it as if someone had just gotten up.

Ella approached the door in a state not unlike a trance. Slowly she raised her delicate hoof to knock with the grotesque door knocker. It suggested a gargoyle of sorts, or a Chinese dragon. But before Ella’s hoof reached the door it sprang open, causing Ella exquisite terror, and her hoof dove back to the ground.

A very ancient-looking and colorful mare flew out like a jack-in-the-box, adding to the shock of the door and its sudden opening. She had a violently purple body and a very unruly chartreuse mane and tail. Her symbol was a mop and bucket, so Ella assumed her to be a maid. Ella straightened up and raised her head with what she hoped came off as confidence and said, “Good day, miss. I have come here in response to an advertisement I saw in the paper.”

“Indeed? Come inside, then. Lady Charlotte will like to see you.” The mare smiled benignly and led Ella into the foyer, which was every bit as grand as the façade. Ella had just a moment to look around before she was ushered into the parlor, but it was quite impressive. Across from the doorway was an enormous staircase carpeted in red velvet. This staircase took up the entire wall. To the left was magnificent mahogany paneling until one came to a set of French doors embellished with beautiful stained glass roses. Ella could only imagine what finery lie beyond those doors. Wait, right before the French doors was a small and unobtrusive door that was camouflaged into the mahogany paneling. One would scarcely notice it was there if it wasn’t for a shiny, ornately sculpted doorknob. But, this old mare was leading Ella the other way, to the right of the entry and in through another set of French doors with stained glass roses which led into the parlor.

The parlor was a very dark and imposing looking room. Despite the fact that it was a warm summer day, the burgundy velvet curtains were drawn on the windows of the room. Right inside the door was a collection of stately Victorian furniture, all with wood trim, that were arranged around a fireplace. Of course it wasn’t lit at the moment, but nevertheless had a leaded glass fire screen in front of it that carried on the tradition of the stained glass roses. Sitting on either side of the fire screen was a twin pair of polished brass crickets and a set of hearth tools.

Ella was ushered into the wing-backed chair closest to the table before the purple mare left to seek out the master of the house. This left Ella to inspect her surroundings. The parlor was an enormous room. When one came in one only saw the fireplace and chairs in all their magnificence, but as soon as one looked farther down the rectangular room one saw a baby grand piano, shining in the dim lamplight, with a white, Persian cat that had bright blue eyes perched upon it. Next to it and in the center of a lace doily was a vase filled with roses. Beyond that, another fireplace sat with chairs arranged around it in much the same fashion as the first. The only difference was this one lacked the brass crickets.

All along the walls were tapestries and portraits that hinted at Evermoor’s past. One that particularly caught Ella’s eye was of a dashing young stallion from days of yore. In a corner of the room was an elaborately carved grandfather clock that sported many cherub-ponies and scroll work. On nearly every flat service were numerous lamps and candles. Ella decided she’d have to write a description of this room after she found her notebook.

She had just bent down to inspect a curious wooden tube with a colorful disk at one end that was seated on a metal pole with a stand when hoofsteps echoed dully in the foyer and an ivory pegasus strode regally into the room.

“Ah, I see you were examining that old kaleidoscope? We had just taken it down for an antique dealer to inspect earlier today... it belonged to my mother when she was a girl,” the mare explained as she sat down rigidly in the chair across from Ella. “You have come in response to my advertisement to let a room?” This old mare looked nothing short of ancient, but somehow still retained her beauty. Her sky blue mane was still thick and shiny and it was perched atop her head, held in place by a hair comb patterned with enameled forget-me-nots; and her cheek, though weathered and worn, still held a rosy tint.. “I am Lady Charlotte Evermoor. I am in charge of this manor.”

“I am Ella Fay, from Hoofton, and I’m looking for a place to stay,” Ella introduced herself and impulsively tagged on, “This is a lovely place, Miss Evermoor!”

Lady Charlotte smiled as though it were a compliment to herself rather then the house, and continued, “Please tell me about yourself. Do you have any animals?”

“No, none at all, though I don’t mind them,” she glanced over Lady Charlotte’s shoulder at the Persian which was still sitting and surveying them nonchalantly from the piano bench.

“That is good. I see you have noticed Amadeus. He belongs to me, and I couldn’t possibly take in any other animal while he is here,” Lady Charlotte said without a backwards glance. It appeared one of Amadeus’ usual haunts was the piano bench. “And you don’t have any bad habits, do you?” This took Ella off guard.

“I-I suppose it would depend upon what you classify as bad...” she faltered.

“You don’t expect to throw raucous parties? You don’t intend to stay out to all hours of the night and expect someone to let you in?”

“No, I don’t know anyone in Dream Valley... and I don’t suppose I’d stay out all night...”

“Good. You seem like a reasonable young mare... and there aren’t many left!” She snorted. “My price is five hundred jangles a month; will you accept?” Lady Charlotte smiled again.

Five hundred jangles was tremendously less then Ella had expected but still, she couldn’t afford to live at Evermoor for any length of time with such a price. She had been renting in Hoofton for three hundred and fifty jangles. “I-I’m afraid I can’t afford that much,” Ella said disappointedly, looking at her hooves. “You see, I’m just a poor author. All I have saved up is two thousand one hundred jangles and I don’t have a job here yet.”

Now Lady Charlotte looked a bit disappointed and there was silence for a moment. “Perhaps I could lower my price just a bit... after all, I don’t need any more money than I have. There aren’t very many ponies I’d consent to taking in. In fact, I’ve turned away half a dozen who didn’t seem responsible enough to house. If I lowered my price to one hundred seventy-five jangles you could afford to live here for a year. And of course you will have to find a job to pay your own expenses.” She paused for a moment while she watched comprehension dawn on Ella’s face and greatly brighten her features. “I’ve taken a liking to you, Miss Fay. And I would like you to stay if it isn’t too much.”

Ella’s face literally went through a complete transformation. She started out dark and gloomy looking, then her yellow eyes widened with surprise before a slow smile spread across her face. Her eyes still showed the disbelief that she was thinking.

“You really mean it? Only one hundred seventy-five? Oh– I couldn’t! A room in this beautiful mansion is worth every jangle of the five hundred you said first. I couldn’t...”

Lady Charlotte shook her graceful head and smiled. “Accept before I change my mind. It is against my better judgment, but I simply have not been able to find anyone who can live up to my standards!”

“Well. All right... if you’re sure,” Ella said, her whole face smiling .

“Good! Now, if you’ll just sign a few papers... wait one moment, would you please?” And she stood up smoothly and glided out of the parlor in search of the papers to finalize the agreement, leaving Ella in an absolute euphoria.

She was actually going to live in Evermoor Estate! And at such a low price! Ella could hardly believe her luck; and her eyes adopted the starry, glazed look that only an owner of a creative temperament possesses.

* * *
“Well, now that that’s done with, would you like to have a tour of the estate and pick your room?” Lady Charlotte shuffled a sea of papers into their right order and looked up, perfectly mirroring Ella’s elated expression.

“I’d love to!” Ella leapt nimbly to her hooves and all her baggage resumed their previous placements.

“Right this way, then.” Lady Charlotte strode towards the door and turned around nearly bumping into Ella who was close behind. “This, of course, was the parlor if you didn’t know its right name.”

“I figured that much out on my own,” Ella grinned, receiving a bright smile back.

“I don’t hold with any of this ‘living room’ or ‘family room’ nonsense. A parlor this is, and a parlor it will be!”

“Of course.”

“And this is the foyer. That second set of French doors leads to the dining room where all meals take place. And that door set into the mahogany paneling is the coat closet for Dream Valley’s colder weather,” she explained and then did something Ella thought at first quite odd. Lady Charlotte went over to the first mahogany panel on the wall (A bit to the right of the coat closet) and started fiddling with it, muttering darkly to herself as she did so.

“Oh! Stuck again, are you? I must hire someone to put new hinges on this– there we go!” And the panel swept inward to reveal a very steep and narrow set of stairs going downwards. Lady Charlotte noticed Ella’s shocked expression and continued brightly, “Yes, dear, your Victorian mansion even comes with a few secret passages! This particular one leads to the basement where the kitchens and– from days long past when Evermoor required more then one servant– servants’ quarters. I don’t suppose you’ll like to venture down very often– I don’t like to myself– but if you ever miss a meal you’ll have to fend for yourself... and brave the shadows of the Evermoor’s basement. I remember when I was a little girl, the servants were convinced that a ghost haunted the last room!” Apparently Lady Charlotte had at least a little artistic temperament, for she gazed into the past fondly for the next few moments.

Ella knew how it was to have one’s daydream interrupted but she simply could not contain herself. “Did you believe there was a ghost?” she asked eagerly. Lady Charlotte returned to reality and laughed.

“No, dear, I’m sorry. I was the ghost! And a very good one at that! Of course, no one ever found out.” This disappointed Ella a little bit. Oh well, dark basements were better when there weren’t any ghosts if you so happened to “brave” them, as Lady Charlotte said.

Lady Charlotte shut the panel, and beckoned Ella closer. “Here, you count over three roses from the right edge. It does tend to stick a bit, but you try.” Ella studied the panel for a moment. About three feet up from the bottom was a decorative strip of carving. Ella started at the right edge of that panel, counted over three carved roses, and twisted. The third rose from the right then leapt out half an inch to form a handle. Ella suspected there was a spring behind it. She then pressed it back into position.

“I’ve got it.” She turned around.

“All right then, to the second level!” And to the second level they went.

The top of the grand staircase that had so struck Ella when she arrived came to a hallway with a smaller staircase up to the living quarters in the center. To the left at the end of the hall was a splendid library. Just as large as the parlor, it had two fireplaces surrounded by fluffy-looking chairs. In this room, however, the walls were completely lined with bookshelves except for a set of French doors with stained glass roses that led to the balcony Ella had seen upon entering. Scattered around the room were many small, oval tables, and off in one corner was a writing desk. Ella decided that she would have to become better acquainted with this room.

Lady Charlotte pried Ella away from the library and back into the hall. There was another room right before the library that Ella hadn’t noticed before, but nevertheless was a very important one, the bathroom. It was furnished with a quaint claw-footed bathtub and a small linen closet.

Then, on the far right end of the hallway was a ballroom. Lady Charlotte explained that at one time Evermoor was always throwing grand parties. All the guests would put their things in the coat closet on the first floor, eat dinner in the dining room, and then come up the stairs to the ballroom to dance. In the ballroom was another piano, but besides that it was empty with only pictures on the walls, and a set of French doors, the same as usual, on the far end. The floor, Ella found out from Lady Charlotte’s commentary, was in a style called parquet, or patterned. And, as Ella looked down, she saw it was. Patterned with spirals that she assumed to be roses, and it shone so brightly! It must have been a job to polish this floor! She could see her reflection in it.

Now Lady Charlotte led Ella out onto the balcony. She felt like she could see all of Ponyland from there! The view was breathtaking. But Lady Charlotte drew her attention away. “Notice these two staircases.” There were two stair cases; on both ends of the balcony were an identical set of stairs that led up to more French doors. “These stairs lead up to the third level. Don’t ask me why, though. They don’t really serve much of a purpose if you ask me. They go to the hallways by the bedrooms. But speaking of bedrooms, come with me,” and Ella was dragged back through the ballroom to the center of the grand staircase and up the smaller one which opened up into a hallway that could only be called creepy.

“Now, you have a choice between two bedrooms... well, I suppose three. There’s the tower room, too, but that’s rather inconvenient as you have to go up a nearly endless spiral staircase. It’s rather cut off from the rest of the house. Going up and down always makes me dizzy.” Ella was going to ask to see the tower room, for her artist’s soul was tingling at the very name, but Lady Charlotte had already started down the left side of the hallway, for it was split and went two directions just like the second level. “This side has Louisa’s– that’s the maid, you know, the one who let you in?– and my bedrooms,” Charlotte explained.

And down the left hallway they went. It was lined with all sorts of portraits and pictures and was dimly lit by candlelight. Apparently they didn’t have electricity at the time this house was built and it had been too much of a bother to “string up” the hallway as Lady Charlotte put it. If any place in Evermoor was going to be haunted, Ella decided this hallway would be it. All of the portraits glared ominously at her as she passed, and twice she thought she heard a rustle of wings from somewhere. After about fifteen feet the hallway turned left and there was finally some daylight from the French doors that led down some stairs to the balcony. Right after they rounded the corner, a door on the left led up some stairs to the attic. Lady Charlotte wasn’t going to show it to Ella, as it was a bit eerie, but suffice it to say that it was full of old junk and there were twin staircases that led to twin squares of roof which had an even nicer view then the balcony.

After about ten feet of this nicer hallway, Lady Charlotte pointed to a door on the left and said, “This is mine,” and then ten feet later, “and this is Louisa’s.”

With that, Charlotte turned around and went back the way they had came. Then they reached the staircase from the lower level and Charlotte took Ella down the right hallway which was every bit as eerie as the left. When they reached the corner Charlotte stopped and pointed to a painting of a stallion that reached from the floor to the ceiling. “He isn’t a particularly handsome stallion,” Lady Charlotte said. “I have no idea where it has come from but it was the only one large enough I could find. I am sure I can’t recognize it, but the door was such an awful one I thought it was my duty to hide it. Besides, no one ever goes up there anyhow. As I said, it makes me dizzy.” And so Ella decided that this must be the entrance to the tower room.

Lady Charlotte took hold of the left side of the frame and pulled. It swung back into the hall on hinges and on the back it was plain that it had been fastened to a nastily scraped up door with grotesque carvings. Lady Charlotte went on to explain that her great grandfather who had this manor built had a rather strange idea of beauty and he created the tower room especially for himself. That door was his most prized possession with all its creepy carvings, so Lady Charlotte couldn’t justify getting rid of it. It was part of the house. Instead, she covered it up with that strange painting. Of course, the furniture had all been changed. The last person to inhabit that room was Lady Charlotte’s mother, and she had much better taste, as said Lady Charlotte. One could tell that Lady Charlotte wasn’t especially fond of her great-grandfather.

Just then, Lady Charlotte swung the picture back into place and took off down the hall to show her the two bedrooms she could choose from. The first one was the Red Room and everything in it from the walls to the floor was in some shade of red varying from a rosy color to crimson. Ella couldn’t complain about its furnishings, though. It was a large room with a four-poster bed that was high enough to need bed-steps to get into it, and a fluffy arm chair. However, red wasn’t Ella’s color, so she opted to look at the other one before making her decision.

The other one was identical, except instead of being all red, it was all yellow. Ella liked this one even less, and though she didn’t say anything, Lady Charlotte read her face.

“Oh, I see you are bent upon looking at the tower room. Go up and look at it then, but I’ll wait down here. It makes me dizzy, as I’ve said before. I don’t think you’ll like it, though. All those steps to go up and down everyday! And it is the smallest one, but suit yourself,” Lady Charlotte conceded, looking as though anyone who would climb “all those steps” and “up and down everyday” was certainly not in their right mind. But she was right in one respect-- Ella was bent on at least seeing it, so they went back to the painting of the stallion and Ella climbed up the spiral stairs, leaving Lady Charlotte to engage the portrait of the stallion in conversation.

“Yes, you are a very homely thing! I’ll have to find a replacement,” Ella heard Lady Charlotte say to the painting as she climbed the tightly spiraling staircase. Personally, Ella found nothing wrong with the stairs at all. There were exactly thirteen, and that didn’t seem too much. But the tower room! Ella took to it at once.

The room was a hexagon; one side consisted of the door (this one wasn’t carved like the other) and the next side on the right had the bed which was a four-poster, just like the ones downstairs. Instead of heavy curtains, like those, it had sheer, lacy, light blue ones that matched the bedspread. Lady Charlotte’s mother had wonderful taste, in Ella’s opinion! In the corner between the bed and the wall with the door was a short, white washstand. Sitting on the bottom shelf was, to Ella’s delight, a pitcher. Of course, it wasn’t any ordinary pitcher as it caught Ella’s fancy so; it was a frog pitcher! A pale green frog with a yellow belly was sitting upright on a lily pad with its mouth open wide to pour water from! And upon further inspection, in a cupboard underneath the washstand, the frog had a matching bowl that looked like a lily pad with turned up sides, and an identical soap plate in smaller scale. Hanging on a brass side bar was a white, terry cloth table that was edged in Venetian lace. Ella bent closer to study it and then fell backwards with a loud gasp. Embroidered on it in black was the letter “E”! Did Lady Charlotte’s mother’s name start with an E? Ella could feel it in her bones. This was meant to be her room! Eagerly, she went to investigate further.

The next wall was bare, except half way through it stopped being a wall and became a window. And the next wall– there was another loud gasp from Ella– was a window with a window seat! Every young mare has dreamt of having a window seat in their room at some point. Ella had ever since she read “Jane Eyre” and imagined the window seat at which Jane sat and read that book, Bewick’s “History of Birds”. Yes, this was a room of wonders! The next wall was a window, too, that turned halfway through into a wall again. All these windows had the same type of curtains as the bed: a pale, dreamy blue made of a see-through lace material.

But the wonders weren’t over yet. That half a wall mentioned previously had a writing desk like the one in the library. That would be nice for writing her stories at... And then there was one more wall. This one had a bookcase. An empty bookcase! This was a feature none of the other rooms had had, and Ella was sure she could use it, being an enormous bookworm.

Ella was awestruck at this room. It was perfect! Simply perfect! And she descended the stairs with a glazed expression on her face in a euphoria of blue lace curtains and window seats.

Apparently, the painting wasn’t a very good conversationalist. Lady Charlotte leapt up when she heard Ella’s hoofsteps coming down; then she saw Ella’s face and reluctantly sighed.

“Fine, you can have it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, though! You’ll break you neck going up and down those stairs!” She harrumphed and muttered to herself, “And here I thought you had some sense!”

However, Ella was too happy to notice. “Oh, thank you! Thank you! I love the tower room! I really do!” And deciding she had exhausted her supply of exclamation points, she continued calmly, “May I ask what your mother’s name was? Did it start with an E?”

“Yes. Her name was Emily... how did you know?”

“There is still a towel on the washstand,” Ella explained, reading the quizzical expression on the old mare’s face. Just then, however, it turned to disgust.

“After all these years! It must be rotting! I’ll send up Louisa to get the tower ready for you, dear.” Ella nodded a thanks. “Oh, dear me! I’ve been dragging you around this house for nearly an hour! It’s already four-thirty in the afternoon!”

“Oh, it is?” Ella said in surprise. It hadn’t seemed that long. “Would you mind if I went out for a bit, Miss Evermoor? Earlier I had received an offer of charity from the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe owner. I should probably go thank her for offering to house me for the night even though it won’t be necessary... and I still have her newspaper.”

“Of course you may. Just be back for dinner at six or you’ll be going down to the basement,” Lady Charlotte jokingly threatened, eliciting a giggle from Ella.

“I’ll remember that. Could I leave my bags here? Or would they get in Louisa’s way?”

“I’m sure Louisa will manage with or without your bags,” Lady Charlotte said, though she found she was talking to the portrait again, for Ella had dashed back up the stairs coming back with only her beret and a small purse.

Lady Charlotte led Ella out and stared wistfully after the willowy young mare that was gliding towards the gate. “Ah, if only I were young again! I’m sure we would have been the best of friends. Perhaps we will be, anyhow.”

And Ella was still dizzy with elation as she walked down the sidewalk. (Elation, mind you, not the stairs.) “ ‘I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls’!” she quoted as she stepped lightly along.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Blind Love
by Sugarberry ([email protected])


“Sugarberry.”

The strawberry-patterned mare was juggling a bag of groceries, her purse, and several books while trying to open the back door of her home when the sound of her name drew her attention to the backyard. No one was in sight, but she was sure she was not imagining things. Someone had called her name.

“Sugarberry!”

This time the mare not only heard her name but also saw a movement in the arbor-- a do-it-yourself project that Vanguard had finished quite admirably-- that graced her flower garden. Sugarberry grinned at the sight of the rose-red stallion who sat there amidst the roses that trailed up the arbor, the flowers the same deep pink as the stallion.

Sugarberry set her groceries and other items on the picnic table and crossed the lawn. “You’re perfectly camouflaged, Wishbone, amidst the roses.” She plucked a fragrant blossom and lightly touched his hoof before releasing the flower into his care.

Wishbone raised the blossom to his nose and inhaled the sweetness while Sugarberry perched across from him. “Garnet got you to your appointment okay, I take it?”

“Yes, she did; she had to go to work early, though, to fill in for Sammy. She thought I’d be safe enough here alone.”

“What did Dr. Thornby have to say?”

“Same as always-- I’m blind by choice.”

“Wishbone!”

“That’s what it boils down to, isn’t it? All the doctors can tell me is that there is no physical reason for my sightlessness, so I infer they think it’s of my own doing. As if I want to be blind!” he ranted.

“Oh, Wishbone,” Sugarberry commiserated. “This is a difficult time for you, but things will get better... you’ll see,” she ended lamely, her hoof flying to her mouth as the dual meaning of her words hung between them.

To see was what Wishbone wished for.

It had been over a month since the accident had occurred as he rescued Garnet from a falling tree, during which he had incurred a blow to his head that had taken his sight. None of the doctors, however, could find a reason for his lack of vision and advised Wishbone that there must be a psychological reason that needed to be addressed before healing could occur. The stallion was not ready yet to face what that meant.

The young stallion had no desire to share with anyone what Dr. Thornby had surmised after talking with him in private. It was outlandish to consider, Wishbone felt, that his emotional state at the time of the accident could have left him sightless, avowing that if it was in his power to see-- right now!-- he would.

But Dr. Thornby explained patiently that due to guilt over losing Garnet and his hope to win her back, compounded by the stress of the tree falling to endanger her life, had, with the accompanying hit on the head, caused Wishbone to block out the impending doom of losing Garnet by refusing to acknowledge the possibility; he had shut off the sight of what was too horrible to see.

“I would not be sitting here in darkness if I had a choice,” Wishbone murmured, clenching his hoof around the rose stem so intensely that the blossom snapped off and fell to the ground.

Sugarberry reached down to pick it up. “Toby has every hope that your sight will return someday as quickly as you lost it.”

“I’m still waiting.”

“Excuse me, but is this an open meeting?” Vanguard’s voice brought a smile to Sugarberry’s face as she turned her head to watch her husband’s arrival from work; he bestowed a kiss on her cheek and rested a hoof on Wishbone’s shoulder.

“I’m poor company, but this is your arbor,” Wishbone sulked.

“And not too shoddily done, if I do say so myself,” Vanguard grinned as he sat by Sugarberry. “See? The bench only sags a little bit when we’re both sitting on it.”

Sugarberry scowled at him for using the word “see” as she had earlier; how many times did one use that word unconsciously?

But Vanguard went on. “Wishbone, Caravel and Petal are stopping by this evening; they want your input on a group project that you have some experience in from last semester. The summer session is almost over, you know.” He looked now at Sugarberry. “And Petal wants your recipe for those cookies you served on Sunday.”

“Oh, my! Speaking of food, we’d better get supper started!”

“Are you going to stay out here, Wishbone?” Vanguard asked. “It’s a beautiful day to enjoy the potpourri of flower fragrances.”

“Pleasant as this is, I think I’d better do something constructive; my table-setting ability is becoming my crowning achievement.”

Sugarberry giggled. “And all at the expense of only three broken plates and two nicked glasses... to date.”

“I haven’t broken anything in the past two days, have I?”

“Not if we don’t count the fork you dropped and then stepped on.”

“Oh. That.” Wishbone rubbed his still tender hoof. “I wouldn’t have stepped on it if Fluff hadn’t tripped me.”

Vanguard laughed as he guided Wishbone toward the house. “We’ll limit the cats to the basement while you’re about your work; you’re too valuable an asset to endanger.”

“You only say that because you don’t like washing the dishes, and I can do it blindfolded... and you don’t even need the blindfold.”

* * *
Several days later, Garnet arrived at the front door after admiring the display of Sugarberry’s flowers blooming along the porch; she waited impatiently for Wishbone to answer her knock on the door. When the door finally opened, she grinned. “Hi, Wishbone; it’s me.”

“Hi.” Wishbone squeezed the hoof that was presented to him. “You’re just in time to help me find the remote; I dropped it and can’t seem to find where it went.”

Looking puzzled for a moment, Garnet suddenly understood. “Ahh, the music channel,” she grinned. “So that’s how you wiled away your afternoon.” She stooped and reached under the rocking chair to rescue the remote. “Where do you set it?”

“Give it to me,” Wishbone admonished and, taking it from her hoof, pointed it at the television and clicked the appropriate button to silence the music, then calculated the distance to the end table and set the remote down.

“Very well done,” Garnet smiled. “Now, come into the kitchen with me and I’ll fix you a snack.” She entwined a foreleg around one of Wishbone’s, and the two set off together. “Uh-oh,” Garnet said, braking him. “Hairball.”

Wishbone did not move another hoof until Garnet had obtained a paper towel and cleaned up the offending offering of one of the feline occupants of the house. “Is it safe now?” he asked as he felt Garnet’s touch once more.

“The coast is clear,” she giggled. “And Fluff is hiding under the sofa, so I think he’s the guilty party. Raptor is sitting smugly in the window sill.”

“I can well imagine the look on his face,” Wishbone chuckled, “... pure innocence.”

Garnet was pleased to see that Wishbone was feeling more cheerful than he had been; it had been a tough time for him since the lightning strike had sent the tall tree plummeting toward them; and Wishbone had exposed himself to the brunt of the danger, subsequently incurring such a bump on his head that he had awoken without sight.

Robbing the cookie jar on the counter that always contained a ready supply of treats, Garnet thought back to that evening when she had been hurrying to Dream Valley, anxious to make amends with Wishbone yet unsure of what his reception would be. When she had caught sight of him coming to meet her on the path, her heart had soared; he would not have been there if he had not realized that he had been unfair in his conviction of her deeds. But the lightning strike had occurred almost immediately after they had spotted one another, and there had been no time for words, only action... action that had resulted in Wishbone’s injury.

It had been a number of days after the accident before Garnet and Wishbone had a chance to talk to one another about the quarrel that had separated them, and both ponies took the responsibility of the accident upon themselves, almost precipitating another quarrel. Garnet maintained that it had been her fault since she was the one who had left Dream Valley to think things over rather than facing Wishbone; Wishbone clearly condemned himself as totally at fault for doubting Garnet’s integrity when he knew she was the dearest pony he had ever met. In the end, they had wisely decided to share the blame and put the entire episode behind them.

But that was not so easy to do with Wishbone’s blindness a constant reminder of their mistake. Wishbone had gone through stages of hope, anger, resignation, and frustration before he would begin to accept his sightlessness even on a temporary basis. Garnet was thankful, however, that he had not shut her out and had allowed her to help him acclimate himself to his new dark world. She had stood by him and would continue to do so, no matter what the ultimate outcome would be.

“Do you want some ice cream with the cookies?” she asked, stopping by the stallion to smooth an errant curl back into place on his forehead.

“Milk will be fine,” he said, not wanting to admit that he was still too self-conscious about his eating methods to want to chase a slippery scoop of ice cream around a bowl with someone looking on.

As Garnet poured the milk, she made a suggestion. “You have hardly been out of the house except to go to church and to the doctor; I think it’s time that you start socializing again.”

“I’m satisfied with my limited excursions.”

“But wouldn’t you like to spend an evening at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe and have some fun with our friends?” she cajoled. She slipped into the chair next to him and took his hoof in hers. “I was thinking that Thursday night would be a good time for you to get out on the town a bit; I don’t have to work and even Wigwam is going to be free, so we could get together with all the old gang; and you could enjoy a change of pace for once.”

“It isn’t as if I haven’t seen anyone, Garnet. Every weekend brings someone-- my folks and Lollipop, Pepper and family, your two aunts, even Grandma and Grandpa, not to mention Sugarberry and Vanguard’s friends and relatives who always seem to be stopping in. Tabby and Thomas were here last evening with Faline.”

The back door opened as Chocolate Chip came in, her day at Bushwoolie Bargain Books completed. She grinned as she saw her brother and her friend sitting companionably at the table. “I hope you saved some cookies for me.”

“Have you ever known Sugarberry to run out?” returned Garnet.

“Good point,” said Chocolate Chip as she sat down and grabbed a cookie. “And how are things going for the two of you?”

“I’m trying to convince your brother to spend an evening with us at the ice cream shop rather than hiding out here at home; I think it’s time he got out and had some fun.”

“Sounds like a good idea!” concurred Chocolate Chip. “Wigwam and I were planning to be there, and Fern and Toby might be able to come as well.”

“Whoa!” exclaimed Wishbone. “I’m beginning to feel out of my league already. I won’t be able to keep track of where everyone is.”

“We’ll help you out as needed,” Garnet assured the stallion. “It will be good for you to get out for once. Please say you’ll agree to come.”

The pleading in Garnet’s voice tugged at his heart and Wishbone realized that the mare had been denied any enjoyment of her own as she was constantly hovering over him when she wasn’t at work. He doubted that he would enjoy the evening as much as Garnet and Chocolate Chip thought he would, but he did not have the heart to ruin Garnet’s plans.

“I’ll go,” he finally said, accepting a hug from Garnet and then one from his sister. “I’m grateful you two don’t use the same cologne,” he chuckled. “I’d never know who was who.”

* * *
It was a cheerful company that gathered at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe Thursday evening, all of them happy to see Wishbone in their midst although the stallion himself seemed a bit tense in the bustling atmosphere that surrounded his dark and isolated world. Sugarberry and Vanguard’s home was the one place where he felt safe and at ease; here at the ice cream shop, he pictured himself afloat on a choppy sea... and it raked his nerves.

Yet Wishbone knew that Garnet was sitting to his right and Chocolate Chip and Wigwam were to his left. Fern and Toby were across from him and Petal and Caravel were next to them. Wishbone listened to their voices and responded when spoken to; that was not the problem. It was the constant motion around him as customers came and went, and ponies stopped to wish him well, coming up behind him or speaking from across the table that unsettled him as the movement and voices made a confusing kaleidoscope of changing scenes. He became more quiet and withdrawn as time went on, finding comfort only in Garnet’s touch as she occasionally rested her hoof on his foreleg amidst the animated chatter she was engaged in with the other ponies.

If Wishbone could have seen the faces of the ponies around him, he would have noticed that the mares were entirely absorbed in the conversation while Toby seemed to be watching Wishbone with concern; and Wigwam, although joining in the general chatter, was taking worried glances in Wishbone’s direction as if sensing the young stallion’s building distress; even Caravel withdrew from the mare’s conversation as if waiting for something to happen.

The catalyst came in the form of a dapper stallion, denim blue in color with violet hair, who breezed in behind Garnet’s chair and whispered in her ear, “Hello, beautiful!”

The words were spoken discreetly, but Wishbone heard them; and from their direction, he knew they were intended for Garnet. His suspicion was proved correct as an answering giggle came forth from the red mare. “You cad!” she grinned at the blue stallion. “I’ve heard that line from you enough to know it’s an empty sentiment.”

Realizing that Wishbone had not made the acquaintance of this new arrival, Garnet set about introducing the two stallions. “Hawkley is fast becoming indispensable at the casino,” she ended.

“No doubt,” Wishbone muttered under his breath as he acknowledged the introduction with a nod of his head and a frown.

Coming up to join in the revelry, Becca and Roland caught the tail end of the presentation. “I’ve heard talk of you,” Becca grinned at Hawkley. “Something to the effect that Graymare Corporation offered you an incentive to stay with them, but you turned them down to come to Dream Valley.” As head of the Dream Valley Chamber of Commerce, Becca was pleased to have learned that Hawkley was a valuable addition to the business community.

“I’m just a small-town pony at heart, and the chance to come here was irresistible,” the stallion replied.

Hawkley returned Becca’s grin; but Wishbone, sitting in his darkened world, imagined Hawkley casting a wink in Garnet’s direction as he said irresistible; and his face became taut as jealousy fought with his growing tension. But Garnet’s hoof rested on his foreleg, and Wishbone controlled his resentment.

“Where did you grow up?” queried Fern.

“I was born in Hayton, but my family moved to Frostmont when I was five.”

Wishbone felt Garnet’s hoof jerk away from him and knew that her head turned to stare up at Hawkley who still stood behind them. “Frostmont? Did you by any chance have a teacher in elementary school by the name of Burgundy Lace Lamplight?”

“Miss Lamplight...” Hawkley mused, rubbing a hoof thoughtfully across his chin. “Third or fourth grade it was. I cringe to think of that mare even yet; she was rather formidable. How are you connected to the redoubtable Miss Lamplight?”

“She’s my aunt,” sniffed Garnet. “And she’s a kindhearted, genial soul. You must have been a particularly scandalous colt.”

Hawkley’s eyes twinkled as he responded. “And still so as a stallion, or so I’ve been told.”

There was a tone in Hawkley’s voice that put Wishbone on the defensive, but before he could say anything, he heard the laughter of the others around him; realizing that he had missed some action lost to his sightless eyes, he kept quiet; but he ached to be able to see what was happening.

“I can hardly wait to hear what my aunt has to say about you,” Garnet teased Hawkley. “I think I’ll call her as soon as I get home.”

“Ah, but if she is as kindhearted as you implied, she will certainly let the passage of years soften any negative remembrances... I hope.”

There was laughter again as the ponies enjoyed Hawkley’s discomfort over the possibility of his foalhood antics becoming common knowledge among his new friends, then the conversation took on a more general tone as several acquaintances approached Caravel and Petal concerning school-related problems that held their attention while Becca good-naturedly regaled the others about her latest embarrassment; for while Becca was an intelligent and capable mare, she had the peculiar ability to land herself in the most awkward situations.

As the voices continued around him, Wishbone became aware of one voice between him and Garnet. “I’m going to the counter to get a soft drink; can I get either of you anything?” asked Hawkley.

It was a perfectly courteous proposal, but the fact that it was made by Hawkley-- whom Wishbone had come to imagine as competition for Garnet’s attention-- irked the rose-red stallion; “No thanks; I’m fine,” he said, reaching toward his soda which had sat neglected for some time; misjudging the placement of the drink, he bumped his hoof into it, knocking it over and spilling its contents across the table in the direction of Fern and Petal, both of whom jumped up to avoid a dousing of the cold, brown liquid.

Realizing from the commotion around him what had occurred, Wishbone attempted to right the soda, but it was a belated effort and his haphazard motion only succeeded in overturning Garnet’s soda which cascaded over the table and onto both him and Garnet. Garnet was on her hooves in a second; and Wishbone, too, attempted to escape a serious drenching, his chair careening backward as he stood and uncertainly faced a muddle that he could not see.

“I was not responsible,” Becca giggled, attempting to lighten the moment as Scoops distributed paper towels to sop up the mess.

“It was my fault,” Wishbone murmured. He wrenched away from Garnet as she began sponging off the soda that marred his coat. “I just want to get out of this place.”

Wigwam was immediately at Wishbone’s side and Toby came around the table to offer his assistance as well, but Wishbone did not want to be escorted out of the shop like a complete invalid; his sense of direction was correct as he took several long strides to distance himself from the melee, but he did not foresee the presence of Baby Noddins inquisitively standing in his path; and it was only when he collided with the young filly, sending her resoundingly into the back of a neighboring chair, that he stopped to consider his actions.

“Did I hurt you?” he asked of the young filly; his voice was trembling and the hoof he held out was shaking.

“Only a little bit,” Baby Noddins bravely responded, rubbing her side where a bruise was already forming.

“I’m sorry.”

“That’s okay.” Baby Noddins shrugged her shoulders. “You can’t see, can you?”

Wishbone took a quick breath. “Wigwam? Take me home.” It was humiliating to ask for help as if he was a foal, but he felt so utterly inept that he could do nothing else.

Her face lined with worry, Garnet offered her assistance. “I’m here, Wishbone.”

Shaking off the hoof that she had placed on his, Wishbone barked, “No!” then added in a softer tone, “I need some time to think.” He paused momentarily. “I’m sure you won’t have any trouble finding someone else to walk you home.”

Opening her mouth to respond, Garnet was silenced by a telling look from Toby. “Fern and I will make sure that Garnet gets home safely,” Toby assured Wishbone.

“Thanks,” Wishbone whispered; then to Wigwam, he said, “Let’s go.”

Garnet watched as Wishbone and Wigwam left the ice cream shop with Chocolate Chip trailing behind; she wanted to go with them and listened to Toby’s reasoning with fire in her eyes.

“He’s distraught, Garnet; and in his present humor, anything you say to him is only going to get twisted and thrown back in your face. Let him work out his demons himself. He’ll be ready to talk with you soon enough,” Toby ended.

“He’s going to blame me for bringing him here tonight.”

“Maybe at first, but he’ll soon come around when he realizes that he has some good memories of this evening to keep him company along with the bad.” Toby smiled at the red mare. “This is hard for both of you, but things will get better... trust me.”

Garnet wanted to believe Toby, but her past experience with Wishbone caused her to doubt that the friendship between her and the stallion would not be beset by rough waters still ahead.

* * *
“I made a fool of myself.” Wishbone sat on the edge of his bed. “I felt like I was five years old again and about to throw a tantrum.”

Sugarberry patted the young stallion’s shoulder. She had been distraught when Wigwam and Chocolate Chip had returned with a withdrawn and despondent Wishbone who had immediately removed himself to his basement dwelling. Sugarberry had ignored Wigwam’s suggestion to allow Wishbone his privacy to mull over the events of the evening on his own. Once Wigwam had gone home and Chocolate Chip had retired to her room, Sugarberry had announced to Vanguard that she had to make sure Wishbone was okay before she could settle down for the night. Vanguard had only smiled and remarked that he had never thought otherwise.

Having found Wishbone’s room in darkness, Sugarberry had hesitated, then shook herself as she realized that he would have no need of a light under his present circumstances. His world was darkness day and night. Still, she refrained from saying anything, wondering if Wishbone had already fallen asleep and would resent her motherly meddling in his affairs. Her uncertainty was for naught, however, as Wishbone’s voice came to her. “Come in, Sugarberry.” Flipping the switch that bathed the room in light, Sugarberry was met with Wishbone’s statement declaring himself a fool who was close to throwing a tantrum.

“That’s strange; neither your sister nor Wigwam used those words in describing the goings-on at the ice cream shop.”

“Their way of protecting me, I assure you.” The young stallion stared sightlessly to a point across the room.

Pulling up a chair, Sugarberry sat close to Wishbone. “Is it possible that you over-reacted to the situation? I’m sure sodas get spilled quite often.”

“Worse than that, I crashed into Baby Noddins. I felt so helpless... so stupid.” Wishbone dropped his head onto his hooves. “Garnet must have been mortified.”

“I highly doubt that.”

“She expected better of me; I let her down.”

“How? You are still learning how to cope with your blindness; we all admire the way you have handled yourself-- I, for one, would have been much less tenable in the same situation.”

“I thought I’d be able to see again by now,” Wishbone whispered, rubbing a hoof over his eyes. “I can’t accept this, Sugarberry. How long can I continue to hope that the doctors are right, and my problem will correct itself? What if I can never see again?”

Wishbone’s anguish tore at Sugarberry’s heart, but she could think of no words of comfort. She settled for hugging the grieving pony. When Wishbone pulled back, he admitted his worst fear. “Garnet deserves better than a blind pony.”

“Just because you can’t see doesn’t mean you are not the same pony that Garnet looks upon as her dearest friend. She’s not one to desert you.”

“That’s just the point; she’ll sacrifice herself for me. She should move on with her life.”

Sugarberry shook her head. “I don’t think Garnet feels like she’s sacrificing herself, Wishbone. Her eyes light up in the same way now as they always have when she comes into your presence. It’s not misplaced sympathy; her feelings run much deeper than that.”

“Sugarberry, I love her; but isn’t it said that I should let her go?”

* * *
As the days piled one on the other, Wishbone put on a brave front for Garnet when they were together; but when he was alone with his tormented thoughts, he found himself losing ground. All of his hopes were sliding away, and he became obsessed with the idea that Garnet should not be drawn down into his darkness. He had to release her, and she had to accept her freedom.

The showdown finally came when Garnet and Chocolate Chip began talking about the upcoming Rainbow Festival dance that was to be held at the community center. Both mares were positive that this would be a good opportunity for Wishbone to meet with all his friends in a festive atmosphere. Wishbone saw it only as a repeat of the fiasco at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe, only in front of more ponies. To his tangled way of thinking it was time for him to make his move.

Having decided to cast his fate to the winds, Wishbone still hesitated in facing Garnet with his plan to set her free; so he took the coward’s way out by confronting his sister with his scheme first.

“Sis, I want to talk with you if you have some time.” Wishbone looked so forlorn that Chocolate Chip would have found time for him regardless of her schedule. As it was, she wasn’t due to be at class quite yet, so she locked forelegs with her brother and drew him along to the turret room and sat companionably beside him, retaining his hoof in her possession. “So, what’s on your mind?”

“We’re alone?” Wishbone had learned early that it was best to verify that before speaking, to save himself and others embarrassment.

“Yes, just the two of us. Sugarberry and Vanguard have both left for work.”

“Good.” The stallion, however, was hesitant to say what he felt he needed to impress on her.

“Is something troubling you?” Chocolate Chip finally asked.

“I’m no closer to seeing again than I was when the accident happened.”

“That’s not true. Any day now...”

Chocolate Chip was cut off. “If I’m meant to spend the rest of my life this way, I don’t want Garnet to put herself out for me under some sort of misplaced pity.”

“I don’t...”

Wishbone put up a warning hoof, and Chocolate Chip closed her mouth.

“She’s been spending way too much of her time seeing to my comfort rather than doing what she should be doing for herself.”

“That being...?” Chocolate Chip goaded with undisguised loathing.

“She should be out having fun and meeting new ponies... especially some... st... st... stallion that can show her a better time than I can. Surely you know some guys at Pony Pride... and what about Hawkley at the casino? There’s any number of eligible ponies out there, and I’d like you to make it possible for Garnet to spend some time with them.”

“And if Garnet isn’t interested?”

“She can’t want to spend her time with someone like me; she’s too full of life, too beautiful, to waste her time on a blind stallion who can’t even dance with her or appreciate how pretty she is.” Wishbone’s voice faded to a whisper.

“Are you quite finished?” Chocolate Chip queried, a menacing edge to her voice. Wishbone nodded.

“Okay, little brother. Garnet, being the smarter of the two of you, anticipated the direction your deluded thoughts were headed; and she told me, when this time came, just what to tell you. It’s quite an itemized list, so I suggest you make yourself comfortable.” The brown mare drew a piece of paper out of her backpack while Wishbone scowled in his sister’s general direction.

Opening the paper with an ominous rustle, Chocolate Chip began reading.

Dear Wishbone: The following points are for your consideration.” Chocolate Chip glanced at her brother’s face and was delighted to see a look of complete dismay hovering there. She continued.

Number one: As I have already made plans to attend Friday’s dance with you, I will do so regardless of how you feel about it. I will arrive at seven-thirty and expect you to be ready to party.

Number two: As you will not be good company in the interim in that you will do nothing but try to persuade me to throw your friendship to the wind, I will refrain from visiting you until Friday evening. I suggest you use the time wisely.

Wishbone tried to get a word in. “You can tell...” But Chocolate Chip’s hoof came up to rest on Wishbone’s lips, and it was the stallion’s turn to swallow his words.

Number three: If you expect other mutual friends to aid you in putting single stallions in my way, I will be polite but will tell them in no uncertain terms that I am committed to your well-being and will not be available in the foreseeable future, if ever.

Number four: I want to be there when your eyesight returns; and if you can look me in the eye then and tell me that you don’t want to see me again, I will accept your decision and step out of your life.

Number five: I love you.

Chocolate Chip’s voice broke but she managed to add, “Signed, Garnet,” as she brushed a tear from her cheek. “I’ve got to leave for class now; I hope you think long and hard, Wishbone.” Sliding the letter under his hoof, the brown mare turned and left him with his head leaning dejectedly on his hooves.

* * *
Garnet was true to her word and avoided Wishbone’s company which gave him plenty of time to think, but not wisely as she and Chocolate Chip had advised. The stallion stuck to his original strategy to sent Garnet on her way, maintaining in his frequent arguments with himself that she would be better off without him.

When Friday rolled around, Wishbone spent the day contemplating what his future would be like without his sight and without Garnet; he would not allow his thoughts to consider any other options. After all, no one could force him to attend the dance; the very reflection of attending such a social function overwhelmed him. Garnet would have to be satisfied with his ultimatum that their relationship was over, no matter how cruel and harsh he might have to be to get her to come around to his way of thinking.

He waited with a certain amount of trepidation for the hour of seven-thirty to approach; he sat in the relative safety of the turret room while Sugarberry and Vanguard and Chocolate Chip prepared themselves for the dance amidst a discordant amount of chatter. Wishbone stiffened when a knock sounded on the door, but it was only Wigwam; Wishbone breathed a sigh of relief, considering himself fortunate to have his trial delayed even for a few minutes.

Wigwam presented Chocolate Chip with a corsage of flowers; Wishbone could smell their delicate fragrance wafting into the room. Vanguard had earlier affixed a nosegay on his wife’s foreleg and Sugarberry had held it up to Wishbone’s nose so that he could inhale the heady scent of lily of the valley and miniature roses; for a brief moment, he had lost his resolve in terminating Garnet’s interest in him as he remembered other flower bouquets that had commemorated special occasions for the two of them, but he had strengthened his resolve by concentrating on the benefits Garnet would receive by being freed from his constraining presence.

Wishbone was lost in his own memories and was, therefore, unaware of Garnet’s arrival until she was standing in front of him; now it was the smell of her cologne that turned his resolve into jelly and his good sense into a whirlpool of emotion. He tried to collect his thoughts. “This is all a waste of time, you know; I can’t dance.”

Garnet dismissed his words with a wave of her hoof which only caused her fragrance to waft over him causing more debilitation than ever. “Oh,” she purred, “but you can hear the music,” and she leaned into him and kissed each of his ears, “and you can smell the flowers Fern has blanketed the hall with.” She planted a kiss on his nose. “And you can talk to your friends.” This time she kissed him full on the mouth... a long, lingering kiss.

“You’re not playing fair,” Wishbone finally managed to say in a ragged whisper.

“All’s fair in love and war,” Garnet smiled, and Wishbone could imagine the twinkle in her violet eyes.

But he was not about to be turned from his goal. “That doesn’t...”

Garnet interrupted him. “In case you can’t see it, this is love.” She kissed him again.

Wishbone tried to hang onto all the reasons why Garnet would be better off without him, but his resolve took wing and flew out the turret window along with all his plans to set Garnet free. If she was this sure of her love for him even in his present condition, it was he who would have to change. He would have to face the fact that his blindness could very well be permanent and prepare himself to lead a productive life under its limitations. For himself, he did not have the courage; but for Garnet, he would swallow his pride and make the most of the situation.

Wishbone returned Garnet’s kiss and, as she nestled her head against his shoulder, he hugged her to him and murmured, “I love you.”

Garnet’s head came up abruptly as she stared at him wide-eyed and open-mouthed. “Do you know what you just said?” she queried.

“Yes.” Wishbone’s hoof found her face and he traced along her cheek. “I love you, Garnet.”

“You’ve made me the happiest mare alive,” she sighed, snuggling against his shoulder once more.

Wigwam came upon them at that moment, and he chuckled. “I see you’ve made some progress, Garnet. Does this mean you’re coming to the dance?”

Sitting up and claiming Wishbone’s hoof, she conceded, “I guess that’s up to Wishbone.” She looked into his face, and all of the ponies gathered to hear his response.

“That was point number one in your ultimatum, I believe,” he smirked. “I only wish I had a corsage for you.”

Beaming from the sidelines, Sugarberry offered a suggestion. “We’ve got plenty of roses in the garden; it would only take a few minutes for Chocolate Chip and me to fashion a fetching arrangement.” She grinned and winked at Garnet, “And the roses match Wishbone perfectly.”

* * *
“There’s a dip in the path,” Garnet warned.

“More like three dips,” Wishbone grinned smugly in the general direction of the two mares accompanying him.

“Tsk, tsk, baby brother,” Chocolate Chip reproved while Garnet giggled. “Leave Garnet and me out of your snide remarks.”

“Well,” Wishbone argued, “the three of us are making a journey following three days of rain, and I specifically heard the forecaster predict more storms today and tomorrow. But you two would have it that it’s a perfect time to visit Pepper and Rainbow Star, and I let you convince me to go along with your plan.” He groaned as his hooves sunk into the moist ground in the low spot in the path.

“You’re the one who said we owed you a sojourn in the country after you survived the evening of the dance,” Garnet reminded him. “And we have these days that worked out for all of us.”

The dance had proved to be a pivotal event for Wishbone in that he was finely able to face the fact that his unique circumstances might set him apart from the rest of his friends, but it did not need to isolate him from them. Accepting the reality that some of the things he used to do on his own could now only be accomplished with help had been hard for the stallion; but once he refused to become agitated over the necessity to accept assistance, he was able to relax and enjoy the evening out.

Little by little, his friends had learned to put into words what otherwise might have been lost to Wishbone in a facial expression or an action. And in the course of the evening, Garnet had convinced him to dance with her in a quiet corner where they would not be unduly crowded, her gentle pressure on his hoof letting him know when to alter his course to avoid some pony or object in his path. The evening had ended with Wishbone being more confident concerning his abilities under his loss of vision.

“I really do appreciate that you both were willing to grant my wish by coming out to Pepper’s place,” acknowledged Wishbone.

“I’ve been looking forward to it,” Chocolate Chip cheerily admitted. “And I’m glad you needed an extra guide. I’ve been curious to see Pepper and Rainbow Star’s homestead. I picture it like Grandma and Grandpa’s farm.”

“It is similar in a way, but much livelier with the foals running around,” mused Wishbone.

“Your grandparent’s farm was probably that lively when you two and Lollipop were younger and visiting them,” observed Garnet.

“Our visits were all too infrequent,” sighed Chocolate Chip. “I was always much happier with them.” She reflected for a moment, then shook off the hint of melancholy. “Wigwam and I... ah... I’d like to find a quiet country home some day, and Wigwam has a similar dream.”

Grinning broadly, Garnet quizzed the brown mare. “And just what plans do you and Wigwam have?”

“Nothing definite,” Chocolate Chip hedged. “I don’t want to get side-tracked until I have my degree.”

“That won’t be much longer, will it?”

“One more year .”

“Shh... listen!” Wishbone silenced the mares as a vibrant whistle trilled through the trees. “That’s a cardinal!” The three ponies stopped while Garnet and Chocolate Chip scanned the branches edging the path.

“There he is!” Garnet said softly, watching the brilliant scarlet bird. “It’s sitting in the lacy foliage of a cedar tree to the left of the path.” She voiced the scene for Wishbone’s benefit.

“Oh, and there’s his mate,” pointed Chocolate Chip, observing the more drab but still striking female. “She has something in her mouth; it must be feeding time for their brood.”

“And that,” said Wishbone as another cheerful song broke from the overhead canopy, “is an oriole.”

Both mares swung their heads around until they spotted the splendid orange and black bird in the height of an elm tree. “You’re getting good at this, Wishbone,” Garnet complimented the stallion.

“Sugarberry’s an avid teacher when we sit in the flower garden while she keeps an eye on the bird feeder. I’ve done more bird watching blind than I ever did when I could see.”

As Wishbone finished speaking, another sound rumbled from the sky to the west. “There’s a storm coming.”

“There are some grey clouds gathering beyond the treetops,” Chocolate Chip admitted.

“We’ll be at Pepper and Rainbow Star’s before it reaches us, though,” Garnet assured Wishbone, but she picked up her pace, forcing Wishbone, who walked between the two mares, to quicken his steps as well. “We’ll be at the old barn in a couple of minutes, and then the homestead isn’t far at all,” she informed Chocolate Chip, sending her a speaking glance that carried a message of trepidation; Garnet did not want to relive a storm like the one that had taken Wishbone’s sight from him.

“The storm is miles away yet,” assured Chocolate Chip. “The sun is still shining.”

“The sun, however, was engulfed by dark, threatening clouds by the time the rambling house came into view and large, heavy drops of rain were pelting the ponies when they finally reached the welcoming doorway where Freckles, Tasha, and Palette awaited the visitors in anxious expectation.

“Hurry up!” urged Freckles as he held the door, allowing the trio to gain shelter quickly.

Rainbow Star came into the room with towels in her hooves. “You three better towel down,” she grinned. “Welcome to our home, Chocolate Chip. I hope you enjoy your stay.”

“I’m sure I will,” smiled the brown mare, “rain and all.”

“I’m sorry that Wigwam couldn’t have joined us, too.”

“The roof of the casino started to leak, and he felt he had to supervise its repair personally.”

“And Garnet,” Rainbow Star hugged the red mare, “the foals can’t wait to show you their latest acquisition.” To prove those words, all three foals grabbed onto Garnet’s hoof and dragged her into the next room.

Rainbow Star next eyed Wishbone speculatively; and, taking the damp towel from his hooves, she patted his cheek. “I’m so happy that you came. These rainy days have been hard on the foals; they’ve been looking forward to your company.”

“And I will enjoy theirs.”

Pepper came into the house, his coat dripping on the carpet. “It’s raining.” He stated the obvious. “I hope you city folks are prepared to help construct the ark.” He thumped Wishbone on the shoulder and grinned at Chocolate Chip.

“The river looked swollen, but still within its banks,” Chocolate Chip smiled back teasingly. “Do you really think an ark is necessary.”

“Just to be on the safe side,” Pepper winked.

“Are your crops going to be okay?” asked Wishbone.

“I was just out checking the lowest fields along the river; they are beginning to look like lakes. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Garnet returned with the foals to exchange pleasantries with Pepper while Chocolate Chip and Rainbow Star disappeared to the kitchen to prepare a light lunch. Chocolate Chip squealed as she spotted a cage at the edge of the room with an unusual occupant. A prickly-looking creature, huffing softly and jerking with a clicking sound, caught Chocolate Chip’s fascinated attention. “What is that?” she asked.

Rainbow Star laughed. “Meet our newest family member; his name is Hedgie... he’s a hedgehog.”

“Where’s his face?” Chocolate Chip queried, peering at the small animal quizzically.

“Right now he’s upset because he doesn’t know you, so he’s showing off how ferocious he is. Once he realizes you’re not a threat, he’ll relax his spines and give you a look at his adorable little face.”

The kitchen was soon filled with ponies, and the family’s cats joined the fun as Freckles removed Hedgie from the cage and set the seemingly artificial life form on the floor. As the preparations for lunch went forward and the foals described the creature in detail to Wishbone, the shy little animal became less of a prickly ball and more of a personable entity. At first, his compact face appeared only for a brief moment before dropping quickly out of sight in a spine forest. As he became more comfortable, his face appeared for longer periods, and soon he smoothed his bristly appearance and stood on delicate fur-covered beige legs, his nose busily sniffing the surroundings.

“He’s a cutie,” Garnet noted.

Chocolate Chip agreed. “That tiny soft face is at such odds to his rough exterior. What a sweetheart.”

Freckles guided Wishbone’s hoof over the intimidating prickles and Hedgie responded with a quick jump that drove the stiff, needlelike spines into Wishbone’s hoof. “Ouch!” the stallion yelped. “That hurt.”

“Sorry,” Freckles apologized. “Hedgie didn’t mean anything by it; he was just nervous.” The colt soothed the hedgehog’s literally ruffled feelings while Garnet smoothed her hoof over Wishbone’s needled appendage.

The rain continued to fall after lunch, so the ponies spent a comfortable afternoon indoors amidst board games and read-aloud sessions. Baby Palette commandeered Garnet’s lap as the mare read a story about a pirate, lacing it with several anecdotes that she had heard about Barnacle’s real-life experiences, causing Freckles’ and Tasha’s eyes to widen in awe. Palette simply snuggled into a comfortable nap with one small hoof resting safely in Wishbone’s larger one. The stallion was on the sofa next to Garnet while Chocolate Chip sat on the floor ensconced between the older foals.

Pepper paced the room, alternately staring out the window at the ever falling rain. The scowl on his face left no doubt that his thoughts were on the precious crops that were threatened with too much of a good thing, especially if the river crested and escaped its banks, spilling over and washing through the cropland.

Rainbow Star came to claim her husband’s attention. “It’ll be okay,” she assured him, kissing his cheek. “Things always work out.”

Pepper managed a weak smile. “I’d hoped we’d come out ahead this year.”

“And we still might,” Rainbow Star replied. Her gaze left her husband to rest on Wishbone. How could they worry about financial problems when Wishbone confronted a much more serious difficulty? She watched his youthful face as he laughed along with the others over some comment Tasha had made, and the mare sighed deeply.

* * *
A let-up of the rain allowed the ponies to explore the soggy world outside the house after supper; Garnet, Wishbone, and Chocolate Chip accompanied Freckles, Tasha, and Palette on a tour of the homestead so that Chocolate Chip could become familiarized with the barn and its inhabitants and could try her hoof at milking one of the goats. Garnet’s experience with that chore when she had stayed with the family the previous autumn won her the dubious honor of teaching Chocolate Chip the finer points of the art, and both mares were well pleased with their results. Wishbone regretted his inability to witness the scene, but found himself occupied with cuddling a litter of barn kittens that came scampering to play with the foals.

After leaving the barn, the foals led their company up the hillside that rose above the house and outbuildings along a path that curved through the trees and shrubs that dripped trapped raindrops on them until they were soaked and quite ready to return to the dry comfort of the house.

Garnet was impressed with the manner in which the three foals guided Wishbone in the course of their walk and the corresponding ease with which Wishbone responded to their every spoken word or gentle tug. With the complete candor of their youth, the foals extended their help with no accompanying guilt; there was no embarrassment on either side for help offered or received, and the foals seemed to know intuitively when and where Wishbone would need their supervision and the sort of aid that would work most effectively. She smiled as little Palette scampered ahead to tug at a rock that could trip the stallion and the foal’s ready acceptance of Freckles’ help to accomplish his goal. Tasha proved a competent narrator to point out those things that she thought were essential to Wishbone’s enjoyment of the walk.

Were the foals just closer to the time when they had been helpless and had relied on their parents to lead them; and, therefore, were less self-conscious about the need to lean on someone for direction? In their innocence, did they intuitively sense the needs of others and respond from the heart rather than looking the other way to avoid uncomfortable feelings about imperfection? Whatever the case, Garnet could see that Wishbone was more comfortable here at the farmstead than he was when thrust into the social situations back at Dream Valley such as the fiasco at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe and the bittersweet night of the dance-- even though, Garnet smiled to herself, that evening ranked high in her memory because Wishbone had accepted the fact that her feelings for him were based on love, not pity.

* * *
Waking in the night-- which was actually closer to morning for those who could see the pale dawn light through the windows-- Wishbone momentarily wondered where he was. He felt cramped and uncomfortable and could not move his left foreleg; he had the horrifying thought that something terrible had happened to him while he slept and now he was not only blind but unable to move as well. He took a deep breath to calm himself and thought back to the previous evening; he had gone to bed in Freckles and Palette’s room with the two foals roughing it on the floor; he had felt fine then, and the bed had been comfortable when he drifted off to sleep; but now he felt as if he were trapped within himself.

Wishbone concentrated on his right hoof and found he was able to lift it; he searched out his left appendage, wondering about the numbness; his hoof met a mass of fine mane and a diminutive ear.

Wishbone grinned. That was it. He had a vague recollection of a peal of thunder that had propelled Palette from the blankets on the floor into the bed with Wishbone, and the young stallion had drawn the foal into the protective comfort of his foreleg which over the hours in sleep had cut off the circulation. Gently removing his foreleg from under the foal’s head, Wishbone waggled it in the air to return blood flow. He shifted his position as best he could and realized that he was hemmed in on the other side by one of the large cats that had the run of the house; over his back legs, he was able to determine the form of Freckles who had obviously deserted his makeshift bed and tucked himself into the only available space left.

Sending the cat on its way, Wishbone carefully untangled himself and sat up on the edge of the bed, stretching and rubbing his stiff legs, wondering what time it was. The house was quiet, as if none of the other occupants were up yet; unobtrusively, he stood, leaving the young colts to their sleep. He himself did not feel tired, so he assumed that it must be morning. After maneuvering himself through the room and down the hallway, he washed up and began his slow progress to the kitchen. He had no sooner found himself a chair at the table when he heard the back door open as Rainbow Star came into the house.

“Good morning, Wishbone,” Rainbow Star’s cheery voice greeted him. “Did Palette wake you in the night? He’s afraid of thunder and lightning when it’s dark.”

“He crawled into bed with me, but he went right back to sleep.”

“I hope he didn’t crowd you out.”

“No, no... not at all.” Wishbone unconsciously flexed his foreleg, and Rainbow Star grinned.

“You’re not fooling me, but thanks for watching out for him. And now, you can help me get breakfast on.”

“I’m afraid that Sugarberry and Chocolate Chip have been spoiling me when it comes to breakfast, although I’m willing to give it a try.”

“I have just the thing,” the mare said, setting something ahead of the stallion.

“It’s still raining,” Wishbone said as Rainbow Star’s wet foreleg touched him.

“But it’s letting up. I picked some strawberries out of our patch.”

“In the rain?”

“They were ripe,” Rainbow Star shrugged. “You can pick the tops off of them.” She took Wishbone’s hoof and moved it to the rim of a basket that was full to overflowing with the fresh, red fruit. “I’ll get you a bowl to put them in.”

Busy with his chore, Wishbone listened to the comforting sounds of Rainbow Star’s breakfast preparations until he heard the sound of other voices coming through the house; soon the room was filled with commotion as Garnet and Chocolate Chip came into the room with the three foals.

The two mares, in synchronized motion, came to Wishbone and each leaned over a shoulder to kiss him on the cheek. “Mmm, the strawberries look good!” Garnet said, helping herself to one of the juicy morsels. “Good work, Wishbone.”

“Rainbow Star did the hard part.”

“How can I help?” queried Chocolate Chip, donning an apron to validate her intent.

“Turn the pancakes,” said Rainbow Star. “And you foals can set the table.”

By the time the food was ready, Pepper had finished his chores and came into the house with fresh milk and some eggs from the chicken coop, a frown on his face. “There’s another storm moving in; will this rain never stop?”

“It will, and next week you’ll be complaining that it is too dry,” Rainbow Star teased.

“Feast or famine,” said Garnet.

“Well, we have a feast,” Chocolate Chip noted. “Breakfast is served.”

The ponies had no sooner finished eating when the thunder storm broke over them, dumping heavy rain amidst the sharp streaks of lightning and the harsh claps of thunder. Wind drove the rain against the windows in a pelter of noisy droplets. Pepper sat at the table, his head resting on his hooves.

And then the storm was over.

As quickly as it had begun, the rain ended and the rolling thunder moved to the east and the clouds overhead broke, revealing traces of blue sky.

“Let’s go see the river!” begged Freckles.

“Please, Daddy?” Tasha joined in with Palette backing her up.

Reaching to tousle the foal’s manes, Pepper sighed but managed a smile. “Sure. With this last onslaught, it should be rampaging.”

Deciding that everyone should go, the crew set off in the direction of the river that in normal circumstances was a leisurely stream with occasional rapids over rocky terrain; now, having been saturated with days of rain and topped with the latest downpour, the river growled and rumbled along its route, spilling over its confines in careless abandon. Where the banks were high and able to restrain the turbulence, the water raged in angry submission; where the banks dropped level with the river, the water left the courseway and followed its own path.

Scampering ahead but mindful of their parents warnings to stay back from the edge of the river, Tasha and Freckles excitedly watched as the angry flow swept past them carrying dirt, debris, and tree branches. When the others arrived, Palette hung back, intimidated by the roar of the swift flowage; only when his father swept him into his forelegs did the foal feel safe enough to look out over the brown sweep of water that sped along before him.

“The field you helped me in last month is right across the river,” Pepper said to Wishbone. “Right now it’s more like a marsh than a field.”

Garnet, in possession of one of Wishbone’s hooves to keep him well back from danger, described the appearance of the sight he could not see, but could readily hear as the powerful forces at work resounded noisily.

As the ponies continued downstream, skirting the low-lying areas which were filled with the river, the might of the stampeding water was evident in the erosion of the banks as the water searched out the easiest course. Freckles and Tasha were disappointed to find that a willow tree that had marked their favorite fishing spot had toppled into the stream and disappeared. Further along, they spotted the mangled tree where it had been dropped off to the side.

Rising off the lowlands, the ponies now walked along a high bank overlooking the river. “Remember to stay well back as the water undermines the bank,” Pepper once more cautioned the foals.

Chocolate Chip, nervous to see Tasha and Freckles running so freely in such close proximity to danger, left Pepper and Rainbow Star to plod along with Palette while she ran ahead to monitor the energetic twosome, leaving Garnet and Wishbone standing alone on the bank, safely away from the edge. Garnet was mesmerized by the awful force of the rushing water; she found it strangely exhilarating even though it was a devastating power. She clung to Wishbone’s hoof as she peered at the dirty brown torrent and the flotsam it carried.

“It’s invigorating!” she admitted to her companion as she watched a large, leafy branch surge past and described it to him, her voice raised over the sound of the rushing water.

“I don’t hear the foals anymore,” Wishbone replied, a worried expression crossing his face.

“They’ve walked further downstream,” Garnet assured him. “Chocolate Chip is watching over Tasha and Freckles, and Palette is with his parents.”

“Okay. I just wouldn’t want anything to happen to any of them.”

Garnet continued her survey of the river; and as she looked upstream, she caught sight of something that froze her heart. There was a log coming down with the current-- that was unexceptional; but on top of the log, fighting to stay out of the churning dank water, was a small animal. “Wishbone! There’s a kitten trapped on a log that’s coming down with the deluge.” The mare watched in horror as the log tipped dangerously, and the kitten scrabbled to maintain his tenuous hold on the slippery bark.

“How’d a kitten get out there?” queried Wishbone.

“How am I supposed to know?” returned Garnet. She took a step closer to the edge of the river, pulling Wishbone along with her. “This is one time its curiosity...” With a scream, Garnet realized that she had made a mistake in estimating how solid the underlying bank was; she felt the ground shift under her hooves; and with a slow-motion effect, felt herself dropping toward the swirling whirlpool below her; the solid ground disintegrated, making any attempt to engage a solid remnant futile.

As the dirt melted away, Garnet lost her grasp on Wishbone who was borne away from her as the cascading dirt wedged them apart. With a gasp, the red mare hit the surface of the water and slipped underneath, finding herself in a sordid soup that surrounded her and pushed her along the bank, butting her against some jutting rock. Fighting to escape, she finally managed to surface, and as she fought the water and grit out of her eyes, she faced a horrifying sight.

Wishbone, sent on a different trajectory than Garnet, had been caught in a current that was carrying him out to the center of the stream and in a direct line with the oncoming log that still supported the bedraggled kitten. As Garnet watched in terror, Wishbone was hit in the head by the log, sending him under the water in the wake of the partially submerged torpedo.

“No-o-o-o!” wailed Garnet as she saw the stallion disappear. At the same time, she realized that she could feel the ground under her hooves; her eyes never leaving the path of the rampaging log, the mare gained her footing and immediately plunged back into the roiling concourse, aiming for the spot where she calculated she would find Wishbone.

* * *
Downstream at a widening of the river, Pepper had heard something eerie that had made his skin crawl; looking back in the direction of the sound, he saw the bank collapse and spew Garnet and Wishbone into the river. Rainbow Star heard his intake of breath and followed his gaze, catching sight of the crimson and rose-red bodies just before they disappeared. “My God... no!” her agonized cry went out, piercing Chocolate Chip, who was further down the line, with such a feeling of dread that she felt her blood run cold as she, too, turned back to see what was happening.

Pepper thrust Palette into Rainbow Star’s forelegs and bolted toward the river, keeping a wary eye out for any sign of either of the ponies while recalling the lay of the land under normal circumstances in an effort to second guess the route the stream would carry Garnet and Wishbone. He remembered a rocky spit of land that cut into the river and made for that point; seeing Garnet resurface brought him a moment of relief; but just as quickly, she had plunged back into the wild flow. His only consolation was that the current should carry both ponies past his vantage point quite soon; he had to be ready to grab them and...

“Where are they?!” screamed Chocolate Chip as she dashed up to join Pepper, her eyes wild with fright. “Where are Garnet and Wishbone?” A sob broke from her, and Pepper felt it like a knife in the heart.

“They’re in the water,” he said, his eyes never leaving the brown expanse. He was rewarded with a flash of red coming toward him. “Get ready to grab her!” he yelled at Chocolate Chip as he himself strode deeper into the torrent.

Pepper’s knowledge of the river proved correct. The solid rock at this point had not been compromised by the raging flood and held fast, causing a natural blockage for the water pouring over it. As Garnet met the rocky outcropping, she fought with her free hoof to scratch her way closer to the shore. She was unaware of Chocolate Chip’s desperate clutching of her, or of Pepper’s firm, strong grasp of the stallion Garnet was towing beside her. Garnet would not quit fighting until she was sure that she had escaped the pull of the rapids; only then did she collapse on the saturated ground to worry over Wishbone.

A bump was forming on the young stallion’s head where the log had hit him-- at the same location as the blow he had received when he had rescued Garnet after the lightning strike-- and blood mingled with the water dripping down his face. The stallion choked on the water he had swallowed and coughed up the murky substance until he was exhausted and limp on the ground.

Wishbone brought his left foreleg up to rest across his closed and useless eyes, feeling weak as a newborn kitten. He coughed to get rid of more of the river water. “Is... is everyone else okay?” he stammered weakly in a raspy voice.

Pepper looked at Garnet suddenly, realizing that he had taken her safety for granted. “Are you all right, Garnet?” he asked worriedly.

The red mare, her eyes on Wishbone, wanted no attention. “I’m freezing and exhausted; but yes, I’m okay. It’s Wishbone I’m worried about.”

“We can’t do anything until the paramedics arrive,” fretted Chocolate Chip. Rainbow Star, along with Tasha and Freckles, were already on their way back to the house to make the emergency call and collect warm blankets and a first aid kit as quickly as they could.

“A bath would be nice,” sighed Garnet as she smoothed some of the mud off Wishbone’s body. Suddenly, she began to cry. “Oh, Wishbone, you could have drowned!” She buried her face in his mane, and let the tears flow.

Wishbone lifted his right hoof from the ground at his side and patted the mare. “You could have been, too.” He shuddered at the thought.

Palette, who had been possessively standing over Wishbone, tugged at his father’s hoof. “Kitty,” he said, pointing to Wishbone’s side.

“Kitty?” Pepper inquired, looking at the indicated spot. “A kitten!” he exclaimed, seeing the object of Palette’s curiosity lying like a drowned rat at Wishbone’s side. “Where did he come from?” He lifted the bedraggled body and barely heard the tiny meow that the motion caused.

“It’s the kitten from the log!” Garnet exclaimed, unable to believe that the tiny creature had survived its wild ride down the river. She had not given the kitten another thought since she and Wishbone had plummeted into the water. “But how did she end up here with us?” She frowned over the mystery.

“The kitten,” Wishbone said, moving his hoof across his forehead as if trying to remember something. “I saw a kitten floundering in the water just before Garnet latched on to me; I had grabbed out to catch him, but everything was happening so fast...”

“You saw him?” asked Pepper as Chocolate Chip and Garnet stared at Wishbone.

“Just a brown blur of things,” Wishbone admitted.

Garnet’s eyes were huge. “Everything was brown under the water; it was loaded with soil. Wishbone, did you really see it?”

“It was an impression; but...”

“Wishbone, open your eyes!”

The stallion stiffened as he realized what the excitement in Garnet’s voice indicated. Slowly, as if in a trance, he lowered his foreleg from across his face; then, almost hesitantly, he fluttered open his eyes. The staring expression of the last number of weeks looked out from the blue eyes momentarily, then turned to search out those shining violet eyes that he had missed so much. Those two pairs of eyes met and held, an unbelievable look of wonder drenching them in a sparkling luminescence.

Lifting a hoof to touch Garnet’s face, Wishbone whispered, “You are the most beautiful sight I have ever beheld.” His eyes now moist with tears, he pulled the mare to him and hugged her close, then pushed her back so that he could feast his eyes on her again.

Pepper, his own eyes moist, and Chocolate Chip, tears freely running down her cheeks, watched the tender play of events until Palette’s insistent tugging brought his father’s attention back to his prime concern-- the kitten. Gently massaging the little creature’s chest and working his legs soon rewarded them with a stronger meow and some feeble attempts to lift his head. Palette grinned happily at this sign of improvement; and when Pepper entrusted the kitten into his care, he beamed with pride and delight. Tucking the still damp body close to his own, he cradled it lovingly; the kitten responded by snuggling close to the warm body and closing its eyes.

* * *
Much later, after the paramedics had left and Garnet and Wishbone were safely back at the house all clean and warm, Chocolate Chip stood in front of the two where they sat on the sofa-- both swathed in blankets after their dunking in the cold water and Wishbone sporting a bandage on his forehead-- and frowned down upon them.

Wishbone grinned at his sister. “Something wrong, sis?” he asked, feeling so at peace with the world that he could not imagine why anyone would not be celebrating this day with him. His head throbbed where the log had struck him and his limbs were weak from fighting the river, but he could see. His eyes drank in every sight presented to him, and now he studied every detail of Chocolate Chip’s face and form.

“I expect a promise from the two of you that you will not involve yourselves in any life-threatening adventures ever again! You’ve put all of us who love you through enough anxiety for a lifetime.”

“If it was my choice, I’d gladly oblige you; but some things are out of my hooves,” Wishbone retorted. He looked at the mare beside him; and as her violet eyes met his, they sparkled like amethyst. He would thank God for that gift every day for the rest of his life. “How about you? Can you promise my sister to play it safe?”

“My life has never been stagnant, but I’ll try my best to keep a very low profile from now on,” Garnet assured the chocolate-colored mare. Her hoof rested on the sleeping kitten snuggled between her and Wishbone, and she looked down at his peaceful countenance as he purred softly. He was dry and fed and perfectly content. “We’ll have to make sure he doesn’t get caught up in any more escapades as well,” she said softly.

Tasha, Freckles, and Palette burst through the door and rushed into the room; they had been taking advantage of the sunshine that had followed the storm; and by the looks of them, their activity had centered around the puddles of water that abounded. “We’re hungry, Mom!” they chorused.

“Well, there just so happens to be a pan of brownies on the kitchen counter,” Rainbow Star smiled at them. “Go wash up, and we’ll all have a snack.” She looked at Garnet and Wishbone. “Do you two feel like going to the kitchen, or shall we serve you in here?”

Garnet groaned. “If I don’t move soon, I may never move again.” She stretched and grimaced as her sore muscles complained. “Help me up,” she asked of Pepper.

As the two ponies were assisted to their hooves, their blankets fell back on the sofa and brushed against the sleeping kitten. He opened his baby blue eyes, ascertained that life was good, yawned, and snuggled more deeply into the warmth of his bedding.

Yes, life was good.

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The Tabby and Sugarberry Gossip Hour!
by Tabby ([email protected]) and Sugarberry ([email protected])


Sugarberry: Well, the month of weddings came and went.

Tabby: You think maybe we should change the name of this newsletter from “My Little Pony Monthly” to “Ponyland Wedding and Baby Times”?

Sugarberry: There were three wedding last month in addition to two anniversaries.

Tabby: And Faline’s birthday!

Sugarberry: Plus, Fern’s friend Flower Drift had a baby.

Tabby: Like I said, all that happens anymore is weddings and babies.

Sugarberry: Yes, and isn’t it exciting!

Tabby: In any case, whose wedding shall we discuss first?

Sugarberry: Let’s go with the one that was on the first of June, Fern and Toby’s!

Tabby: Yes, Toby finally found a girl that accepted him.

Sugarberry: He did have a run of bad luck there for awhile, didn’t he?

Tabby: Yup. It was funny.

Sugarberry: But he finally found his one true love! And Fern made a beautiful bride.

Tabby: Nothing overly exciting happened at the ceremony, though, so we won’t spend much time on it.

Sugarberry: It was a true fairytail wedding! Toby was handsome, and Fern was resplendent.

Tabby: Weddings still aren’t any fun if no one gets jilted, or no one stands up to protest.

Sugarberry: Well, you must have really enjoyed Tiffany and Guido’s the following Saturday, then!

Tabby: YES! Oh, this is great, everybody!! Those two have been engaged for two years; and the day of their wedding, neither of them showed up at the church!

Sugarberry: Oh, it was sad!

Tabby: Neither the bride nor the groom were there, so you couldn’t really feel sorry for them.

Sugarberry: But they must have felt terrible!

Tabby: But if neither was there, then it must have been a mutual agreement on their part. Anyway, they did each leave a note explaining why they had changed their minds.

Sugarberry: Yes. Tiffany said that Guido was being ridiculous, expecting her to marry him for love instead of money.

Tabby: Isn’t that just like her! Well, and Guido’s said the same thing, in reverse. Gosh, I can’t believe he didn’t figure out her shallow motives earlier!

Sugarberry: I hear they were drinking the night before the wedding. Perhaps they said things they didn’t mean to.

Tabby: In any case, all the guests were there, and it was only the bride and groom missing, so we decided to go ahead with the party after all!

Sugarberry: Rather an unusual situation.

Tabby: Oh, but it was a blast! Don’t you think so?

Sugarberry: It was fun once Guido’s and Tiffany’s parents left.

Tabby: They did rather damped the party spirit while they were there. I couldn’t understand what they were so uptight about.

Sugarberry: Well, Tabby, they had been making preparations for this day for years. Imagine how much money was put into it.

Tabby: And we were enjoying it! What else could they have wanted?

Sugarberry: I think they could have wanted a bride and groom.

Tabby: Go figure.

Sugarberry: Clare felt responsible in a way, for allowing Tiffany to wear the veil she had originally planned for herself when she thought she would marry Guido.

Tabby: Way cool! Guido certainly has changed, though. He’s giving tons of money to charities and being really philanthropic!

Sugarberry: I guess realizing how taken-up Tiffany was with money set him to thinking about his own priorities.

Tabby: I can’t figure out who to match him up with now, though! That’s the real problem.

Sugarberry: Yes, you’re married now, and Clare’s married, so who’s left?

Tabby: Exactly. Well, enough on this–- what was the third wedding?

Sugarberry: Oh, that would be Buck and Columbine’s in Birdsong.

Tabby: Okay, I don’t know therm, so we won’t spend time on it.

Sugarberry: Well, it was a lovely wedding, anyway.

Tabby: Speaking of Birdsong, you went there with Vanguard for your first anniversary, right?

Sugarberry: Yes, we did. And Fetish and Dreamcatcher celebrated their anniversary a couple weeks before ours. You and Thomas’ll have a second anniversary in August.

Tabby: Wow, it’s been that long already? I totally lost track.

Sugarberry: I guess that means you’re having fun, then. I know I enjoy having you back at the vet clinic.

Tabby: Yes, Elaine has left us! She’s run off to Friendship Gardens to set up a new practice with Secret Tale.

Sugarberry: I hear she’s getting lots of business.

Tabby: Yes, and we hardly ever see her anymore! It’s that accursed Alan’s fault, I know it is!

Sugarberry: How could it be Alan’s fault? He’s still in Forest Brook.

Tabby: Yes, but it was after she met him that she started changing! I don’t like it.

Sugarberry: Alan was a good influence on her. She’s got a lot more confidence in herself now.

Tabby: Hmm... I still don’t like it.

Sugarberry: You just don’t like having lost your cook.

Tabby: That’s not true!

Sugarberry: Well, it seems to me that you and Thomas have been to supper at my house an awful lot lately! Not that I’m complaining.

Tabby: Oh, well, it’s just... convenient.

Sugarberry: Having Faline around is good practice for both Vanguard and I.

Tabby: Ah, yes. You’ll have such fun spoiling your own foal.

Sugarberry: I’m sure.

Tabby: Phillipe and Tamara are on tour again. Phillipe will be giving a concert in New Pony this Saturday.

Sugarberry: Tamara seems to enjoy the whirlwind life she’s leading.

Tabby: Oh, yes, it must be so exciting!

Sugarberry: We don’t have much time left, Tabby.

Tabby: *gasp!* Goodbye, Sugarberry! It’s been nice knowing you!

Sugarberry: No, Tabby! The deadline! We don’t have much more time before the deadline!

Tabby: OH!!! Silly me. I get it now. Farewell, faithful readers, until next time!

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**My Little Pony Monthly Policy Statement**


If you have any My Little Pony related submissions, such as stories, articles, polls, games, invento ponies, or anything else, feel free to e-mail them to [email protected] However, as this is a child-friendly newsletter, any submissions containing any sort of profanity will be rejected. Items for inclusion for next month’s issue should be received at least three days before the first of the month to ensure that there is enough time to include them. All submissions are subject to being edited by our proofreaders.

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My Little Pony Monthly is a publication of Nematode (Electronic) Publishing.
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To view our past issues online, simply go to:

http://mlpmonthly.tripod.com/Monthly.htm
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Our next issue will be sent August 1st.

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