My Little Pony Monthly Issue 65 (August 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 65
August 2002
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Index of this issue:



1. Letters to the Editor

2. MST3K (by Baby Jedi)

3. Contest

4. Stranger Than Fiction Part Four (by Berry Brite)

5. Just Who Did Kill Cock Robin? (by Tabby)

6. No Need For Clever Clover! (by Clever Clover)

7. Invento Ponies (by Berry Brite)

8. The Crystal Princess (by Berry Brite)

9. “The Bookshop has a thousand books”... (by Starre)

10. Sweet Revenge (by Sugarberry)

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Letters to the Editor


Subj: MLP Monthly...

From: [email protected]



OK, I officially don’t know what’s going on (stamp “out of it” on forehead :P), but do NOT get rid of MLP Monthly. And, um, Berry Brite...? I’m going to try finishing up that MLP/hobbit story... because right now my other stories are horrible, if anyone’s noticed...



So no quitting! ;)



BJ~.^ (Baby Jedi)



Subj: The MLP Monthly

From: [email protected]



Tabby,



I know you’ve considered giving up the MLP Monthly. I know all of us would respect your decision if that’s what it comes to but I’d just like to state my support for the Monthly! Many of us enjoy the stories and funny articles that come out each month.



Just know that we care even though some of us are No good at writing stories! We can still read I promise!



Blessed Be,

DarkSun



From the editor–



Thank you for the tremendous response we’ve had the last two months since I posed the question of keeping MLP Monthly alive! Apparently there is still a lot of support out there, and I’m grateful for it. Let’s keep this newsletter going!

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MST3K (Mystery Science Theater 3000)
by Baby Jedi ~.^ ([email protected])


It was late at night... realllllllly late at night! And I was having a slee-eep over!

OK, the hyper (obviously) baby pony (even more obvious!) writing this is Baby Graffiti. Actually, I wasn’t having the sleep over, my pal, Baby Cotton Candy, was.

So we were at her trailer... which is her house.... and her mom said, “OK, kids, here are the MST3K tapes!” We all cheered and lept at the tapes, then started arguing over which one to watch.

“‘Giant Gila Monster’!”

“NO!! ‘Hercules Unchained’!”

“No, no, NO!!!! ‘Crash of the Moons’!!”

“‘Riding With Death’!”

“Huh??”

“NOOOO!!! Let’s watch ‘The Creature From the Black Lagoon’!”

We took a vote and no MST3K episode won. “AARRRRGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!” My other pal, Baby Ribbon shrieked, hitting her head again the wall.

“Ribbi, stop... you’re denting it...” Baby Cotton Candy said. You could almost see the anime sweatdrop on the back of her head.

“OK, OK,” Cotton Candy said, pulling Ribbi away from the wall. “Now... is there one episode anyone particularly hates?”

“The only funny thing in ‘Riding With Death’ is the glasses.” Tappy, a younger pal of mine, said.

“I watched ‘Giant Gila Monster yesterdayyy...” Ribbi said.

Tappy brandished a tape. “Let’s just watch this tape! It’s got ‘Hercules Unchained’, ‘Giant Gila Monster’-“ Upon seeing Ribbi’s face, she stammered, “But we can skip that one, and ‘Crash of the Moons.’ Whaddya say?”

“Yea!” Most everyone cheered. Ribbi was rubbing her horn.

So we sat there, no one falling asleep... except for Ribbi. She was out half way through ‘Hercules Unchained.’ “Now we can watch ‘Giant Gila Monster,’” Tappy grinned.

When the tape was done, we all sighed. “I’m hungry!” Baby Cotton Candy said, then called, “Moo-oo-oom!!”

“Dinner’s almost ready!” Cotton Candy called. “Wake Baby Ribbon!”

Ribbi was still a bit groggy but woke up when the pizza was served. Actually, it was delivered by Clever Clover- three XXL pizzas! I thanked Cotton Candy profusely. Then we watched the MST3K tape Ribbi wanted to- “Creature From the Black Lagoon.”

We finally all snorrred off... Wow, that night was fun!:)

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Contest


We had a great turnout for last month’s contest, to list as many ponies as possible with flower-related names. Everyone did a really great job, but [email protected] came in the winner with 66 different ponies. She will receive a special pony graphic designed by Berry Brite.



Violet Star Shine’s answers:



Beautybloom

Blossom

Blue Belle

Blueberry Baskets

Boysenberry Pie

Brilliant Blossoms

Brilliant Bloom

Carnation

Cherries Jubilee

Cherry Sweet

Cherry Treats

Chrysanthemum

Clever Clover

Clover

Confetti

Cosmos

Cranberry Muffins

Daffodil

Dainty Dahlia

Daisy

Daisy Dancer

Daisy Sweet

Fancy Flower
Flower Dream

Flower Bouquet

Flowerbelle

Flowerburst

Forget-Me-Not

Frilly Flower

Hip Holly

Holly

Honeysuckle

Ivy

Lavender Lace

Leafy

Lily

Lily of the Valley

Love Petal

Lucky Leaf

Milkweed

Morning Glory

Nectar

Peach Blossom

Petal Blossom

Poppy
Posey Rose

Raspberry Jam

Red Roses

Rose

Rosedust

Rosette

Rosy Love

Seaflower

Snowdrop

Starflower

Strawberry Surprise

Sugar Apple

Sunblossom

Sweet Clover

Sweet Lily

Sweet Blossom

Tipsy Tulip

Tulip

Violet

Water Lily

Wild Flower


Now, onto this month’s contest... it’s the same premise as before, but this time list as many ponies with beach/water/sea-related names as you can think of! (Duplicate names will only be counted once. This includes names with "Baby" attached, alternate versions or spellings, etc.) Everybody can try; don’t feel discouraged or inferior. You can e-mail your entry to [email protected]

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Stranger Than Fiction
Part Four
by Berry Brite ([email protected])


Kathryn Janeway stood up in the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe. The ponies began to panic as large quantities 8472 poured into the shop. “They’ll kill the ponies!” Janeway cried. Drawing her phaser, she fired at one of them, and it fell to the ground.

“Help!” Baby Noddins was in the clutch of one of them. Everything looked hopeless; the security detail was not there yet. Suddenly, a deep, frightening voice came from the door.

“I am a Jedi Knight!” it cried. Everyone turned... to see Bob! The talking Annelid! He suddenly transformed into a tall man. GGRRWWWWSSSHHHHZZZ! His light saber leapt forth. WSSHHZZ It sliced through the 8472. But one of them stood up and hurled large amounts of telepathic energy at, um, “Bob”, and he fell to the ground.

The faint buzzing sound of a transporter was heard! YAY! The security detail beamed down. Led by Chakotay, they proceeded to kick the 8472's alien butts. “Well done, Commander.”

“Bob!” cried Baby Noddins. “Where did he go? He’s gone! He saved me, and now he’s gone! I couldn’t even thank him!”

Tuvok ran a quick scan. “I regret to report,” he said just as stolidly as ever, “that Bob the Annelid/Jedi Knight has fallen through a hole in the plot.”

“Baby Noddins,” Bob’s voice said inside her head, “I’ll always be with you...”

“Wow,” said Baby Noddins. “This story even has a cheesy Star Wars ending!”

“Fascinating,” said Tuvok.

And so, the group of Voyager people (having once again saved the day) beamed up and left the ponies to go on with their happy little (if not ridiculous) lives.



The End
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Just Who Did Kill Cock Robin?
by Tabby ([email protected])


Author’s note: All nursery rhymes quoted in this story are from “Dean’s Mother Goose Book of Rhymes,” 1977 edition.



Tabby flipped idly through the old book of nursery rhymes while Baby Faline played with My Little People on the floor. Agatha had just uncovered the dusty book from her daughter Tabby’s childhood and thought it would now be the perfect thing to be read to her granddaughter Faline. Tabby wasn’t so sure.

“These are stupid,” she said aloud to no one in particular. “They don’t make any sense. I mean, I could write stuff that was just as good as what’s in here! ‘There was an old mare who lived under a hill, and if she’s not gone, she’s living there still.’ Like, what’s up with that, and who cares, anyway?”

Faline kept on playing with only half an ear on her mother’s rambling.

Well, at least the pictures are nice, Tabby decided, staring at the illustrations that were starting to bring on a strong feeling of nostalgia. “Hmm, hmm, hmm... ooh, now there’s a dapper fellow!” Her attention was caught by a cute little sparrow with a bow and sheath of arrows, wearing a green Robin Hood hat.

Faline crawled over to see, too; and as Tabby showed it to her, her gaze went to the opposite side of the page. A robin lay on his back, an arrow through his chest, while a fish stood below catching the dripping blood. Tabby’s eyes bugged out. “My, how violent! I’ve gotta read this.”

The rhyme went:



Who killed Cock Robin? “I,” said the Sparrow, “with my bow and arrow, I killed Cock Robin.”

Who saw him die? “I,” said the Fly, “with my little eye, I saw him die.”

Who caught his blood? “I,” said the Fish, “With my little dish, I caught his blood.”

Who’ll make his shroud? “I,” said the Beetle, “with my thread and needle, I’ll make his shroud.”

Who’ll dig his grave? “I,” said the Owl, “With my little trowel, I’ll dig his grave.”

Who’ll be the parson? “I,” asid the Rook, “With my little book, I’ll be the parson.”

Who’ll be chief mourner? “I,” said the Swan. “I’m sorry he’s gone, I’ll be chief mourner.”

Who’ll bear his pall? “We,” said the Wren, Both the Cock and the Hen. “We’ll bear his pall.”

Who’ll toll the bell? “I,” said the Bull, “Because I can pull. I’ll toll the bell.”

All the birds of the air fell a-sighing and a-sobbing when they heard of the death of poor Cock Robin.



“Wow! What an interesting tale!” Tabby said at the end. Faline clapped and demanded more. They started over at the beginning of the book; and after only a few pages, Faline squealed and exclaimed, “Robin!”

“You’re right! It’s Robin again... and another wren! Maybe it’ll tell more of the story...”



Jenny Wren fell sick

Upon a merry time,

In came Robin Redbreast

And brought her sops and wine.



Eat well of the sop, Jenny,

Drink well of the wine.

Thank you, Robin, kindly,

You shall be mine.



Jenny Wren got well,

And stood upon her feet;

And told Robin plainly,

She loved him not a bit.



Robin he got angry,

And hopped upon a twin,

Saying, Out upon you,

fie upon you!

Bold faced jig!



“Ah-hah, the plot thickens!” Tabby declared. “Robin here was rejected by Ms. Wren. Mayhaps it has something to do with the murder.”

After a gruesome picture of a crow making off with a maid’s nose to feed to her children, the robin and wren starred once more in a rhyme:



The Robin and the Wren

Fought about the porridge-pan;

And ere the Robin got the spoon

The Wren had ate the porridge down.



“There is most definitely a rivalry of sorts between the robins and the wrens,” Tabby noted.

“More!” Faline said.

The last reference to the birds found in the book was ominous sounding for Robin:



The north wind doth blow

And we shall have snow,

And what will poor Robin do then?

He’ll sit in a barn,

To keep himself warm,

With his head tucked under his wing.



Tabby mused over this information for awhile before coming to a conclusion. “I feel certain that Robin’s death was the result of an assassination,” she declared to an intrigued Faline. “The wrens obviously hired Mr. Sparrow to do the job. And, to not arouse suspicion on themselves, of course the wrens pretended to feel saddened at the occurrence and did the job of pallbearers. It’s easy, from the porridge incident, to tell that there was some sort of feud between the wrens and the robins. And, after Robin took the job of nursing Ms. Wren, her family could have feared a misalliance was brewing and henceforth arranged for his death. Robin must have realized they were after him, so he changed his name from Robin Redbreast to Cock Robin– or perhaps his full name was simply Cock Robin Redbreast, so both names were correct– and had to hide out, like the night in the barn. Alas, Robin couldn’t escape his fate, and the hired assassin finally tracked him down. Isn’t that an interesting story?”

“Asswassin,” Faline repeated. She liked the sound of that word; she would have to add it to her vocabulary.

Meanwhile, Thomas had walked past the room in time to hear the later part of this session and Tabby’s interpretation of Robin’ death. Leaning against the wall, he groaned. “To think what she’ll grow up like...”



But the true story behind Simple Simon, whether he was a real pieman or a pieman wannabe, and how Jack Horner fit into the whole thing, will have to wait for another day!

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No Need For Clever Clover!
by Clever Clover ([email protected])


Clever Clover sat at the ice cream shop enjoying a butterscotch and rum sundae. The weather had been unusually hot and humid for so early in the season, and the cold ice cream tasted all the better for it. Normally Belle Star would have joined him, but today she had to stay late and help Spade in the lab to make up for missing a day of work with a cold. It was nice to be able to enjoy his ice cream in solitude for once. Not that he didn’t like Belle Star; she was his best friend at work and one of his best friends in all of Friendship Gardens. But he liked to be by himself every once in a while. Unfortunately, his solitude would not last.

“Good afternoon, Prince Clever Clover. How was your day?” Lady Moonshine sat down across from the purple prince.

“Not bad. Why don’t you sit down?”

Moonshine giggled. “I didn’t know you could be sarcastic. Have you been practicing with your father’s axe?”

“Yeah, from time to time. I’m usually too worn out from work, though. Why are you bringing that up now?”

“Oh, no reason. It just popped into my head. But you should practice more often, if you ever want to grow beyond your need for the axe.”

“Huh?”

“Oh, nothing. So you’ve been seeing a lot of Morning Glory lately. How are the two of you getting along?”

Clever Clover shot an accusing glare at Lady Moonshine. “Why did you have to go and tell her that we were betrothed? My life was complicated enough before. Now that Minoko has decided that she wants to marry me, too, I just don’t know what to do. And I’m not even sure I want to get married; not right now, anyway.”

Lady Moonshine got up to leave. “Well, I’m sure you’ll think of something. I’ve got to be going. Be seeing you.”

“Some days I wish I wasn’t me,” Clever Clover mumbled as he finished his sundae. As he shuffled off for home, he thought about what Lady Moonshine had said. She was a strange one, never quite revealing everything. He had been able to figure out that she was an Isle pony originally. She had lived in Friendship Garden for as long as anyone could remember; but unlike Morning Glory and himself, she had known all along about her heritage... and theirs.

The purple prince had known that he and another pony had been sent to Friendship Gardens as infants to keep them from the curse of the evil imp, Bic. And that they had been betrothed to insure the continuation of his bloodline, the only bloodline that could break the curse. But now that the curse had been broken, that wasn’t needed. At least that’s what he had been led to believe. But if that was the case, why would Lady Moonshine be trying to fix him up with Morning Glory? Or was she trying to fix them up? Maybe she wanted to provoke Minoko into taking an interest in him. But what would she gain from that? Minoko was an enemy of the Isle ponies. Maybe Lady Moonshine wanted to mend the rift between Minoko and the rest of the Isle. Whatever her motives, Clever Clover had no chance of understanding them for the time being.

When he got home, he found Minoko and Morning Glory sitting in his living room, glaring at each other. “I’ve got to get new locks,” he mumbled.

“Clever Clover, why won’t you evict this pirate? You’re developing a bad reputation.”

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe I like my house. And I know that she could level it easily if I made her mad. Besides, you’re spending almost as much time here as she is.”

“You see, the only reason he lets you stay is because he is afraid of you.”

“Hey! You know I’d never do anything to hurt you!”

“That’s not what it looked like when you first got here. If I remember correctly, you were trying to kill me.”

“Yeah, but that was before I got to know you. How could I hurt the pony I’m going to marry?”

“Hey! You can’t marry him! We were promised to each other long ago!”

Clever Clover stepped between the two bickering ponies. “Don’t I get any say in the matter?”

Minoko smiled. “Of course you do. But you don’t need to say anything. Your actions speak for themselves. If you didn’t really love me, you would have thrown me out a long time ago.”

“He does not love you! He is just a compassionate pony who took pity on you.”

A knock on the door gave Clever Clover an excuse to escape the conversation he was really taking no part in. At the door he found a hooded pony with a bobbed tail and a younger pony carrying a heavy-looking pack. “ ‘Allo, how can I help you?”

“Greetings, gentlepony,” said the hooded pony. “I am Lantern and this is my apprentice Lock. We are tinkerers. We buy old broken appliances, repair them, and re-sell them. May we come in and show you our wares?”

“Uh, yeah, sure. Come in.” Clever Clover didn’t really need any new appliances, but there was always a chance that they would have some interesting antiques in their inventory. And hopefully the girls would behave themselves in the company of guests. He led the tinkerers into the living room where Minoko and Morning Glory still argued.

“Minoko, Morning Glory, this is Lantern and his apprentice, Lock. They are traveling salesponies. Please try to behave yourselves.”

The pony calling himself Lantern grinned evilly. “Ah, Minoko. My old apprentice. I wasn’t expecting to find you here. Perhaps I should rethink my plans.”

“Huh?” said Clever Clover and Morning Glory in unison.

“Jack O Lantern. Whatever plans you have, you can leave me out of them. I’m perfectly happy here with Clever Clover.”

“Oh? After what his father did to you? To us?”

“So you are the evil wizard Jack O Lantern?” Morning Glory asked.

“Evil? I guess that depends on your point of view.” Jack O Lantern formed a mystical symbol with his forehooves. Clever Clover and Morning Glory found themselves paralyzed.

Minoko stepped in front of Jack O Lantern and formed the energy horn upon her forehead. “Release him!”

Jack O Lantern seemed unconcerned. “Hemlock.” The young apprentice drew a long dagger and held it to Clever Clover’s throat.

The gems on Minoko’s rump glowed brightly. “You wouldn’t! Call him off!”

“Wouldn’t I? Tell you what, I’ll let them live if you join me. Yes, with your gems, the gems I gave you, I can finally destroy Magus. He created those gems and they will give me power over him.”

Clever Clover strained against Jack O Lantern’s magic. “You know, you talk too much, Jack O.”

Hemlock pressed his blade close to the prince’s neck. “Hold your tongue. Master Jack O Lantern is not concerned with your opinion.”

Minoko’s horn dispersed and she hung her head. “Alright. You win.”

Just then the door burst open and Belle Star rushed in, tripping over Hemlock. “Clever Clover! Spade asked me to tell you... oof!”

Taking advantage of the diversion, Minoko re-energized her horn and rushed Jack O Lantern. The evil pony effortlessly deflected her blow with his own energy-horn. “Hemlock, take us out of here!”

“Ugh, yes, master,” replied the apprentice as he crawled out from under Belle Star. Standing, he formed a mystical symbol, creating an orb of darkness that enveloped himself and his master, along with their captive, Minoko. The orb vanished as silently as it had appeared.

“What’s going on here?” Belle Star asked.

Clever Clover, able to move again, helped her to her hooves. “Jack O Lantern has kidnaped Minoko and plans to use her to take over the Isle, if not the world!”

“Aren’t you overstating things a bit?” Morning Glory asked.

Clever Clover shook his head. “I don’t think so. I’m going to have to rescue Minoko.”

“You can count on my help!” Belle Star volunteered.

“Are you two crazy!” yelled Morning Glory. “Minoko is an evil pirate. Evil people who associate with evil people should expect things like this. I think she deserves whatever happens to her.”

“No. Nobody deserves to be used like that. But unfortunately, I have no idea where Jack O Lantern has taken her.”

“Well, maybe we could ask Ryo. I mean, if she was with Minoko when she was Jack O Lantern’s apprentice, she might know where Jack O Lantern might take her.”

Clever Clover and Morning Glory both stared at Belle Star in disbelief. The tan pony rarely seemed to know what was going on. But then, sometimes, like now, she seemed as clear headed as anyone. Well, almost. Seeing as Ryo was Minoko’s pet rabbit, it didn’t seem like she’d be able to tell them anything.

“Belle Star, how did you know that Minoko was once Jack O Lantern’s apprentice?” Clever Clover asked.

“Oh, she told me all about it while you were visiting the Isle.”

“Was that when she loaned you my iron?”

“Uh huh. How did you know?”

“Never mind.”

“Well, there’s still no way to find Minoko, unless one of you can talk to that bunny rabbit.”

“I’m afraid Morning Glory’s right, Belle Star. We’ll have to find another way.”

Ryo, who had been curled up with Pixie on Clever Clover’s bed during the commotion, hopped up onto the coffee table. “Mrow!” With a flash of light Clever Clover’s living room faded away to be replaced by the deck of a ship.

Morning Glory looked around in confusion. “What just happened?”

“Ryo must have teleported us to Minoko’s ship. We must have to sail to wherever Jack O Lantern is,” Belle Star suggested.

Clever Clover shrugged. “Uh, right. But her ship is impounded. We’d have to pay the back dock fees if we want to take it anywhere.”

“Minoko was only staying with you because her ship was impounded, right? So if we pay her fees, even if we do rescue her, she will be able to sail away and she’ll be out of our hair!”

“That could be, Morning Glory, but unless you have the money, there’s nothing we can do.”

“For such a good cause? Of course I have the money. I’ll go to the harbor master right away and take care of it.” Morning Glory pranced merrily off the ship to pay the overdue fees. Clever Clover set about exploring the ship while Belle Star played with Ryo. By the time Morning Glory returned, Clever Clover had finished looking around and had joined Belle Star on the deck.

“So, how did it go?” the prince asked.

“That harbor master was rather unpleasant. But he did agree to release the boat, as long as he never sees it in his harbor again. Not that I mind. It will hopefully keep that dreadful pirate away.”

“Then we’re ready to set sail. Do either of you know how to pilot one of these things?”

“Uh huh,” Belle Star chimed in.

Clever Clover was shocked. “You do?”

“Sure. My grandpa was a captain and took me sailing all the time.”

“Really? You’ve never talked much about your family before.”

“I guess it never came up.” Belle Star took the ship’s wheel. “Now, let’s see. How did that go again?”

With a little time, a lot of effort, and some help from Ryo, the three ponies got the pirate ship under sail. Ryo had called out the phantasmal crew from their hiding in the ship’s hold. With their help the ship almost sailed itself. Belle Star steered the ship while Ryo navigated.

Clever Clover and Morning Glory had nothing to do in running the ship. The purple prince sat at the bow watching the waves. After pacing the deck awhile, Morning Glory joined Clever Clover.

“Clever Clover, I’m sorry about the way I’ve been acting lately. I’ve had a crush on you for awhile now; and when Lady Moonshine told me about our history, well, I guess I overreacted. I hope you can forgive me.”

“Uh, sure I can. I agreed with a lot of what you said about Minoko; but if you give her some time, she kind of grows on you.”

“Yeah, like a fungus. He-he.”

“That’s one way of looking at it. Hey, there’s a ship out there.”

“Do you think it could be Jack O Lantern?”

“I doubt it. If he can just teleport around like he can, why would he need a ship? Belle Star, there’s another ship coming our way!”

“I see it. It’s one of Grandpa’s.”

“Huh? ‘One of Grandpa’s’? How many ships does your grandpa have?”

“Oh, quite a few. But he doesn’t really own them; he’s just the Fleet Admiral.”

The approaching ship came alongside Minoko’s pirate ship. From its mainmast flew a flag bearing the letters SP and a golden star. A stern looking black maned blue pony with a golden key on her rump stood on the deck. She wore a black, white, and yellow sash from which hung a hanger, the preferred sword of the Sea Patrol.

“Ahoy! Prepare to be boarded by the Sea Patrol! Do not resist!”

Morning Glory stared in disbelief at Belle Star. “Your grandfather is the Fleet Admiral of the Sea Patrol?”

“Uh huh.”

The Bushwoolie crew of the Sea Patrol ship threw boarding lines onto Minoko’s ship. After Clever Clover tied down the lines, the Sea Patrol pony crossed the ropes between the ships, hanger in hoof. “This ship has been identified as belonging to the pirate Minoko. Where is she?”

Belle Star ran up to the blue pony and threw her forelegs around her neck. “Key! It’s been such a long time! How are you?”

“Belle Star? What are you doing here?”

“We’re going to rescue Minoko from an evil wizard.”

“Rescue? What are you talking about? Minoko is the most wanted pirate on the high seas!”

“Uh, Belle Star, would you mind introducing us to your friend?”

“Oh, sure, Clever Clover. This is Key. She used to be my partner when I worked for Grandpa. Key, this is Clever Clover and Morning Glory. They are a prince and princess.”

Key was baffled. “Why would a prince and princess be helping you rescue a wanted pirate?”

“That’s a long story,” replied Clever Clover.

* * *
“Uh hm,” was all Key could say after Clever Clover’s explanation. “I respect your title and position, but I’m afraid that you have no authority in this area. Our treaty with the king of the Isle gives the Sea Patrol final authority on these waters.”

“But if we don’t rescue Minoko...” Clever Clover began.

“I’ll have to insist on escorting you to your objective and overseeing the operation,” Key interrupted.

Belle Star was jumping for joy. “Oh goody! It’ll be just like old times, Key. You and me fighting bad guys, side by side.”

Key seemed less than enthusiastic. “Uh, yeah. Well, if we’re going to find this Jack O Lantern, we should check the files on the Yagamo.”

The four ponies and Ryo boarded Key’s ship, leaving Minoko’s ship to the care of the phantoms. In her cabin, Key rummaged through numerous file cabinets until she found what she was looking for. She sat down at her desk with the file spread out before her.

“Let’s see now. Jack O Lantern, wanted for numerous crimes including piracy and pillaging. He seems to target ancient relics, objects rumored to have magical power. I suppose that makes sense if he is a wizard. Known accomplices: Hemlock and formerly Minoko. I’m afraid we don’t have any information on his current whereabouts.”

“Do you have some maps?” asked Clever Clover. “Maybe we could find some likely places.”

Ryo tried to hop up onto the desk but didn’t quite make it. Her front paws just managed to grab onto the edge of the desktop, but try as she might, she couldn’t get her hind feet up. Belle Star, seeing her distress, picked her up, set her on the desk, and fed her a carrot.

Meanwhile, Key was hunting up the navigational charts. She spread the charts on the desk and pointed to the middle of a vast open sea. “We are right there. The nearest land is here.” She pointed to a small cluster of islands. In the middle of the cluster was the mark of the skull and crossbones.

“Merow!” Ryo hopped excitedly onto the chart and pointed at one of the islands.

Key read the name of the island the rabbit indicated. “Isla Soja. It’s right between Isla Sorna and Isla Nubar. We lost a small patrol fleet there a couple of weeks ago. That could be it.”

And so the two ships set sail for the mysterious Isla Soja.

Belle Star insisted on making the journey on Yagamo, her old friend’s ship. But Key made every effort to avoid the cheerful tan pony. Belle Star didn’t seem to mind. She was satisfied prancing about the ship talking with, and getting in the way of, the Bushwoolies of the crew. Clever Clover tracked Key to her cabin and knocked on the door.

“Go away, Belle Star! I’m busy.”

“It’s me, Clever Clover, not Belle Star. I was wondering if I could talk with you.”

“Sure. Come in.” Key sat behind her desk, shuffling through a pile of papers. “What do you want to talk about?”

“Well, Belle Star, for one thing. She’s never really talked about her past, and she’s been rather evasive when I ask her about it. Since you’ve worked with her in the past, I was hoping you could fill in some of the blanks.”

“It’s not my favorite subject. Why don’t you ask her?”

“Like I said, she’s evasive. Whenever I ask her, she gives as brief an answer as she can and then changes the subject.”

“She’s not being evasive; she’s just being herself.”

“She said you used to be partners. What happened?”

“We got promoted. In the Sea Patrol, you only get a partner for your first year of service. Once you’ve proven yourself, you get your own ship.”

“You don’t seem to like her as much as she likes you. Why?”

Key sighed. “She’s clumsy and incompetent. Her bumbling was holding me back. We were partners for almost two years before her grandpa gave her her own ship, and I got Yagamo, the ship we partnered on.”

“She doesn’t seem incompetent to me... clumsy and absent-minded maybe; but she’s a good worker, once you get past her faults.”

“You’ve got to have a lot of patience to get past all her faults. And her perpetual cheerfulness got on my nerves. She never took anything seriously.”

“That’s what I like about her.”

“What are you two talking about?” Belle Star stood in the doorway to Key’s cabin, which Clever Clover was sure he had closed when he came in and he had not heard open again.

“I was just asking Key about life in the Sea Patrol. She tells me you had your own ship. What happened?”

“Oh, it hit a reef and sank. Grandpa didn’t have any other ships available so he suggested that I go to the mainland and find another job until he could get another ship ready.”

“So you came to Friendship Gardens to do archaeology?” Clever Clover asked. Key had returned to shuffling through her papers.

“Uh huh.”

“That’s it?”

“I took some archaeology classes in collage. It sounded like fun.”

“Yeah, sort of a bait and switch.”

“Huh?”

* * *
Isla Soja loomed out of the sea before the ponies, shrouded in mist. The four ponies and Ryo rowed to shore in a small launch. Key had her hanger at the ready. Belle Star now also wore the sash and sword of the Sea Patrol, which Key had loaned to her. Clever Clover carried his ancestral axe, which he had fortunately had with him when Jack O Lantern showed up. Morning Glory was unarmed, but she insisted on coming along anyway.

Key skillfully maneuvered the launch between the jagged rocks off Soja’s shore. They landed on a gravel covered beach at the base of a towering basalt cliff. The top of the precipice was lost in the mist.

Clever Clover looked up and down the beach. “So, which way do we go?”

“If I was going to build a hideout, I’d build on the high ground,” suggested Key.

Belle Star craned her neck, gazing up into the mist. “You mean up there?”

Morning Glory sighed. “Not straight up the cliff. We’ll have to find a way around.”

“So, which way do we go?” Clever Clover asked again.

“I think we should go that way.” Belle Star pointed down the beach.

Key shook her head. “I wouldn’t... hey! Where are you going?” The others were already gone in the direction Belle Star had suggested. Key galloped to catch up with her companions.

The group continued for several hours along the beach when they reached a broad river flowing out of a deep canyon cutting the black stone of the cliff. The river was too wide to cross and there was no footing to travel up the canyon.

“I tried to tell you...” Key began to say.

Belle Star shrugged. “Oh well, I guess we should have gone the other way.”

And so they went back the way they came, to where their launch sat on the beach and beyond. No more than half an hour past the landing site they found a set of stairs cut into the cliff.

Clever Clover peered up the stairs. “This seems awfully obvious. Do you think it could be a trap?”

“There’s only one way to find out.” Key stepped up and carefully began to climb the steps. “Be careful.”

The others followed Key’s lead, first Clever Clover, then Morning Glory, and finally Belle Star with Ryo riding on top of her head. The stairs were steep and slick from the mist and sea spray. Even without the worries of traps, it was a challenging climb. As they climbed, the mist became thicker. They could barely see the pony in front of them when Key called the halt.

“What’s up, Key?”

“There’s a door.”

The ponies crowded around the imposing doorway. The door was of aged oak, bound with wrought iron. “Is it locked?” Clever Clover asked. Key pulled on the ironwork handle but the door did not budge.

“What do we do now?”

Belle Star stepped forward and lifted the heavy knocker. “NO!” the others cried out in unison. Belle Star released the knocker. The iron knob swung down and impacted on the door with a heavy reverberating thud.

“Well, there’s no way we’ll be getting the drop on him now,” complained Key. Then the door swung open with a loud creak.

Clever Clover hesitantly stepped over the threshold into a vast arched hall. The room was cut from the very stone of the cliff and polished to a mirror-like shine. Columns of white stone accented the darkness of the basalt. The far end of the hall was lost in darkness, such was its vastness. The purple prince took a torch from its sconce, conveniently located right next to the door. “Come on. Whether or not Jack O Lantern knows we’re here, we have to keep moving.”

The four ponies and Ryo started off down the dark hall, Clever Clover’s torch the only source of light aside from the dim glow of sunlight filtering in through the doorway receding behind them. Before long the light of the sun was lost and the rescuers seemed lost, adrift in a sea of darkness.

Morning Glory pressed close to Clever Clover. “It’s rather spooky in here. It hardly seems like we’re making any progress.”

“Don’t look straight ahead,” the prince advised. “Watch the columns; it helps give a sense of progress. A little.”

The other ponies heads turned to the side. “I can’t say that it’s a great improvement,” observed Key.

Belle Star froze in her tracks; her eyes went wide. “What is that?”

The others turned and followed her gaze into the darkness between two columns. Key shook her head. “I don’t see anything.”

Clever Clover stepped forward, holding his axe at the ready. “You stay here. I’ll check it out.” As he proceeded, his torch melted away the darkness, revealing a suit of black pony armor with a whorled horn upon its forehead. The princely pony approached the apparition cautiously, holding the torch in front of him and the axe on guard. He stopped with his nose within inches of the armored face before him. In the hollows of the visor holes, he could see that the armor was indeed empty.

“It’s alright. Nothing to be afraid of.” As soon as Clever Clover had assured his companions of their safety, a sudden gust of wind that seemed to originate from the muzzle of the hollow form extinguished the torch. Acting on instinct, Clever Clover swung with his axe a mighty blow against the armor, severing its lifeless head. The hollow vessel rose a mighty clatter upon the stone floor.

“What happened!?” cried out Morning Glory.

Clever Clover was carefully backing toward his friends. “I’m not sure. Just stay calm until we can figure it ou... UUWWW! Hey! Watch it!”

Belle Star stepped aside, holding her hanger over her head, and out of the way of Clever Clover. “Oops, sorry.”

“Now what?” asked Key.

Before anyone could answer, the hall was bathed in eery light and Jack O Lantern’s laughter echoed throughout the walls. They could now see that they were halfway along the hall and between each of the columns stood a suit of armor. Or rather had stood, for now the empty suits moved as if possessed. And they converged toward the ponies.

“Did you think that you could challenge me within my own home?” Jack O Lantern’s voice boomed. “Now I will finally be rid of you and able to take what is rightfully mine. The throne of the Isle!”

Belle Star looked about in confusion. “If he already has this whole island, why does he want yours, too, Clever Clover?”

Key lunged toward the leading armor. “Shut up and fight these things!”

Clever Clover swung his axe in mighty arcs, slicing through several armors at a time; Key lashed out with carefully aimed strikes and felled an advisory with every blow; Belle Star whipped her hanger about wildly, taking out as many armors as Key. Morning Glory was unarmed, but kicked with her hind legs if any armor got past the others’ blades.

Clever Clover took stock of their situation. “These things don’t seem to be that quick! If we make a fighting advance we should be able to keep ahead of the ones behind us!”

The ponies pressed further into Jack O Lantern’s realm, leaving a trail of shattered armor behind them. Meanwhile, the evil wizard watched from his inner sanctum. “They are faring better than I expected. Though their brutish tactics may be effective against my puppet warriors, there is little they can do against me. However, it is better to be cautious. Hemlock, go to the Grand Hall and make sure they do not escape.”

Hemlock bowed to his master. “As you wish.”

As the apprentice went to do his master’s bidding, the master turned his attention to his captive, Minoko. “It seems your friends have come to rescue you. Even the princess. You seem to have developed a knack for inspiring loyalty in your friends. Although as I recall, you didn’t have any friends when you were my apprentice.” Minoko, who was imprisoned within a magical bubble, simply scowled at her former master.

By the time Clever Clover and the others reached the exit from the Grand Hall, Hemlock was ready for them. “We’ve got to stop him before he can cast any spells!” the purple prince called to his companions. They redoubled their efforts and pressed onward toward the green apprentice pony.

“They have done quite a job on our armor,” Hemlock mused. “But what has been once animated by magic can be re-animated just as easily.” He began to form the mystical sign that would restore the fallen armor. As he chanted the ancient spell, Belle Star tripped on a fallen piece of armor. She tumbled into an advancing armor, knocking it into another. Armor after armor fell like dominos until one, as it fell, jostled Hemlock, altering his sign. And the spell was cast. A burst of magical energy swept across the hall, and in it’s wake the remainder of the active armor collapsed into piles of rusty metal.

“What? That’s not...” Before Hemlock could finish his thought, he found himself facing two threatening blades, joined shortly by Belle Star’s.

“Don’t even think of trying anything!” Key commanded. “You are under arrest in the name of the Sea Patrol.”

Hemlock hung his head, grinning evilly. “Heh, fortune favors you. But though you have bested me, you will not defeat my master.”

“Belle Star, you and Key stay here and keep an eye on Hemlock. I’ll take care of Jack O Lantern.” Clever Clover turned to move on, but Morning Glory stopped him with a hoof on his shoulder.

“Um, Clever Clover, what should I do?”

“Oh, you can come with me if you like. But be careful.”

* * *
Clever Clover burst into Jack O Lantern’s inner sanctum, but the evil wizard was nowhere to be seen. Minoko in her spherical prison floated on the far side of the room. “Clever Clover! Look out!” she called.

The purple prince was already halfway across the room when Jack O lantern stepped out of the shadows behind him. The evil pony formed his green energy horn and lunged toward Clever Clover. The purple pony spun around and blocked with his axe but was knocked back against a stone pillar by the force of the blow. Morning Glory rushed to his side. “Clever Clover! Are you okay?” Clever Clover could only groan in response.

Minoko’s eyes raged with blazing fire. “How dare you!” With a burst of energy she shattered her prison. Her energy horn flared to life, brighter than it had ever been. She charged her one-time teacher with a frenzied attack. Jack O Lantern countered her onslaught with a simple shield spell.

“Come now, Minoko, I thought I taught you better than that. Don’t waste your energy on such unfocused attacks. Not that it will change the outcome of this battle; you must focus your energy. Make it count.”

“Thanks for the advice.” Minoko sank into the floor, disappearing from view. Jack O Lantern grinned confidently. With a sudden discharge of brilliant energy, Minoko rose out of the floor and collapsed.

“I hoped for better from you. How does this speak of my abilities as a teacher?”

Meanwhile, Clever Clover had, with some help from Morning Glory, struggled to his feet. “Alright, Jack O Lantern, it’s time to finish this.”

“Oh, you’re still here? I thought I’d dealt with you.”

“I forgot my line, but it was something dramatic.” The purple prince advanced toward the villainous wizard, barely able to stand, or lift his axe. The heavy blade dragged on the floor behind him, cutting a deep groove in the polished stone floor.

“That would be quite an impressive weapon, if only it had a worthy master to wield it.” Jack O Lantern waved his hoof and the axe flew from Clever Clover into his waiting grip. As soon as Jack O Lantern touched the weapon, however, there was a deafening explosion that knocked the orange pony back and hurled the axe across the room where it buried its head in the stone of the wall. Jack O Lantern quickly regained his composure. “Well, no matter. Though I cannot use the weapon, neither can it be used against me. And without it, you are defenseless.”

Clever Clover shook his head. “No. I cannot let you win.” A sphere of blue light appeared floating above the purple prince’s forehead.

Jack O Lantern recoiled. “What is that?”

The sphere settled upon the prince’s brow and a whorled horn sprung forth, not vaporish and immaterial like the energy horns wielded by Jack O Lantern and Minoko, but apparently solid. “Jack O Lantern, you will not threaten my people again.” Clever Clover lowered his head and charged the evil wizard.

Jack O Lantern had regained his composure and parried the blow. “You may have found yourself a weapon, young prince, but you lack ability to use it. Why not surrender and save us all a lot of trouble and suffering?” Clever Clover didn’t take time to answer. As soon as he recovered from his failed attack, he lunged again. Jack O Lantern didn’t even need to parry; he just stepped out of the way. The evil wizard shook his head at the pitiful attack. He leveled his horn at the exhausted prince. “I will end this quickly.”

“Not!” Clever Clover leapt aside at the last moment and struck Jack O Lantern on his head, rendering the villain unconscious.

Morning Glory threw her forelegs around Clever Clover. “You scared me! I was so worried!”

Clever Clover’s mysterious horn disappeared. “You should know me better than that. They don’t call me ‘Clever’ Clover for nothing.”

Minoko rose to her knees. “Clever Clover. You did it; you saved me. I knew you’d choose me.”

Morning Glory turned red with rage. “He did not choose you! He only rescued you because he knew how dangerous Jack O Lantern would be if he could control your power.”

“Yeah, whatever makes you happy.” Minoko stumbled over to Clever Clover and threw her foreleg around his shoulder. “Now, let’s get out of here.”

“Not quite yet. Morning Glory, could you run down and send Key up here?”

“Hm, I guess so. But you’d better not try anything while I’m gone, Minoko.”

As Morning Glory rushed off to summon the Sea Patrol pony, Minoko snuggled close to Clever Clover. “How clever of you, sending her off so we could be alone.”

“That’s not why I did it. I need to keep an eye on Jack O Lantern until Key can get here and put him in custody.”

“Custody? Is this Key with the Sea Patrol?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, I’d better be going. If I remember correctly there is a secret exit around here somewhere.” Minoko turned to leave but, still weak from her fight, fell to her knees as soon as she let go of Clever Clover.

The purple prince extended his hoof to the battered pirate. “Don’t worry. I’m sure she can be reasoned with.”

Minoko took his hoof. “Thank you.”

Key arrived shortly. “I’ve heard you subdued Jack O Lantern. Good work.”

“Yeah, it was nothing.”

After Key bound Jack O Lantern with special cuffs that inhibited the use of magic, she turned to Clever Clover and Minoko. “Now about Minoko...”

“Don’t even think about it.” Minoko tried to stand on her own but could not.

“Listen, Key, how about you release Minoko into my custody? Since she’s been in Friendship Gardens, she hasn’t caused any trouble. Well, not too much.”

Key shook her head. “I don’t know. She is one of the most wanted criminals on our list, but we do have an extradition treaty with the Isle. I will accompany you to Port Scurvy where we can draw up a proper extradition contract at the local Sea Patrol office.”

“Oh goody! Now nothing will come between us!” Minoko nuzzled Clever Clover.

“Uh, well the harbor master of Port Scurvy has sort-of banned Minoko’s ship from port.”

“Leave that to me.”
* * *
One week after Jack O Lantern arrived at Clever Clover’s door, Yagamo and Minoko’s ship sat in port at Port Scurvy. The paperwork officially remanding Minoko into Clever Clover’s custody was finally finished. Clever Clover, Minoko, Morning Glory, Belle Star, and Ryo were preparing to leave for Friendship Gardens.

Clever Clover threw Key a salute. “Well, Key, it’s been nice meeting you.”

“Likewise, your highness. I just hope you can keep that pirate under control.”

“I’ll do my best.”

Belle Star, who still had her hanger, stepped forward. “Thanks for letting me be your partner again, but I guess I should give this back.” She handed the sword to her old friend.”

Key shook her head. “Why don’t you hold onto it? Considering the company you’ve been keeping, it may come in handy.”

“Oh, thank you! I’ll never forget this.”

Minoko tugged at Clever Clover. “Come on, let’s get out of here. I hate long goodbyes, especially with the law.”

“You’re right to be nervous. With your reputation, she could very well change her mind if you hang around too long. Maybe arrest you for loitering.”

“Clever Clover, Morning Glory is teasing me,” the pirate whined playfully.

Clever Clover shook his head. “Let’s go.”

As the four ponies and Ryo started off for Friendship Gardens, Belle Star cried out, “Oh, Clever Clover, I just remembered! When I came over to your house it was to tell you that Spade needed you to turn in your part of the site report so it could go to the printer on Friday.”

“Friday? You mean six days ago Friday or two days from now?”

“Uh, six days ago, I guess.”

Clever Clover hung his head and sighed. “Well, I’m not looking forward to getting back. Anybody mind if we take the long way?”

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

Invento Ponies
by Berry Brite ([email protected])


Name: Golden Glitz

Body: pale yellow, metallic gold hooves

Hair: golden yellow

Symbol: none

Type: Friendship Gardens

Gender: female



Name: Spindrift

Body: pale, iridescent blue

Hair: white, sparkles like frost

Symbol: none

Type: Friendship Gardens

Gender: female



Name: Mountain Soul

Body: light brown

Hair: chocolate brown

Symbol: snow-capped mountain

Type: Friendship Gardens

Gender: male



Name: Silvershod

Body: white, metallic silver hooves

Hair: light gray

Symbol: silver lightning bolt

Type: Friendship Gardens

Gender: male



Name: Firesong

Body: red, brown hooves

Hair: reddish brown

Symbol: a tongue of flame

Type: Friendship Gardens

Gender: female



Name: Springstrength

Body: pale green

Hair: yellow

Symbol: none

Type: Friendship Gardens

Gender: male



Name: Lightening Bolt

Body: black

Hair: dark blue

Symbol: golden lightening bolt

Type: friendship gardens

Gender: female

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

The Crystal Princess
by Berry Brite ([email protected])


Author’s note: LOL, yes, even after all that yammering I did about no serious stories, here I am writing a fairly serious one! LOL I guess I should learn to practice what I preach, eh? --Berry Brite



CRACK! Lightening split the sky.

BOOM! Thunder echoed across the ground.

WHAM! Sweet Berry’s door swung open as her little sister Honey Berry, whom she cared for, rushed in.

“Sweeeeeet Berrrrry!” she screamed as she leapt onto Sweet Berry’s stomach.

“Oof!” Sweet Berry groaned as the little pony landed on her. “What is it, Honey Berry?”

“I’m scared of the lightening and thunder!”

Lightening? Sweet Berry looked out the window. Being quite the heavy sleeper, she hadn’t even noticed it. “Can’t you sleep?”

“No!”

Sweet Berry sighed. She took the little pony into her arms. “I’ll tell you a story...” she said.

* * *
Once upon a time, before the first great spring came to the land, there was a pony-fairy know as Ice Crystal. She was tiny, as all fairy-ponies are, but she was the very, very last of her kind. She brought snow, ice, and rain to the land. All of the other fairies that brought spring weather, fall weather, and summer weather had disappeared. They had been gone for centuries. The only season that ever existed anymore was winter. It was during this time, this time of coldness, that my story takes place.

Now, all of the ponies lived in this coldness; only the faintest memory of spring, flowers, and the like still lived in their hearts. Food was scarce, but Ice Crystal found ways to provide food. She had found a way to make the trees grow even in the dark of winter. Their leaves were icy white, but were very tasteful, and their fruits were silver, rich, sweet, and sustaining. It was said that at night, Ice Crystal would fly everywhere across the land, filling the trees with fruit.

The only part of the land in which the ponies lived was called the Heartland; all of the surrounding lands were filled with dark and evil things, and the ponies were afraid to go there. Ice Crystal, called by the ponies “The Crystal Princess”, stayed mainly in the Heartland, but she would sometimes leave the protecting boundaries.

Ice Crystal was small enough to fit in one’s hoof, but she was the most beautiful creature that ever lived. It was said that her body was clear, like ice, and that it was cold to the touch; her hair was white like it had been frosted. She was both pegasus and unicorn. But the warmness and love inside of Ice Crystal’s heart would have been enough to make the sun shine, had she had the power to do so. She wished, for the ponies’ sake, that she had that power, because even though she loved the winter, she knew it was never meant to always like that.

* * *
One day, after a heavy snow, a pony stepped out of her home. The pony’s name was Golden Glitz. Her family was fortunate enough to have an Ice-Tree right outside their home. She stepped out into their yard. Her skin was yellow and pale, but her eyes flashed with all the green vigor of spring. Her hair was a deeper, more golden color. Her hooves looked like they had been gilded in gold, and they sparkled with gold light every time they crunched into the snow on the ground. She had come out to harvest ice-leaves and silver-fruits for her family’s breakfast. To her dismay, there were no fruits on the tree, and the leaves were wilted.

“What’s going on here?” she cried, and ran back into her home. “Mother, Father! The Ice-Tree’s dying!”

“What, dear?” her mother said nonchalantly from the kitchen. Her name was Spindrift.

“I said,” gasped Golden Glitz hurriedly, “that the Ice-Tree is wilting.”

“Impossible,” said her father, from the other room. Spindrift looked up, worried. Her father hurried out with Golden Glitz and Spindrift at his side. He stared blankly at the tree with an expression of pain in his face. “Impossible!” he said again. “The power of the Crystal Princess herself is in the sap of all trees! This can’t be!”

Spindrift took a leaf from one of the branches. “The leaves have soured,” she said bitterly. (Ah-ha! Sorry about that, I couldn’t resist.) Golden Glitz tasted one too. They were sour, almost rancid.

“I don’t understand,” she said.

“There is but one alternative,” said Mountain Soul, her father, struggling with indecision. “We must make the cold journey to the center of Heartland, and tell the others. Perhaps something’s happened to the Crystal Princess.” Spindrift, though looking very displeased, went back into the house with Mountain Soul to make preparations. Golden Glitz merely stared at the wilting Ice-Tree with tears in her eyes.

“This can’t be happening!” The whole life of the ponies relied on the Ice-Trees. There was no other food to be gotten. Surely they would all die if the Ice-Trees perished. Holding the branch of the tree in her golden hoof, she began to sing in her clear, pretty voice:



Wither not, white Ice-Tree

Crystal Princess, come to me

Return the life to this Tree’s veins

That our way of life

May stay the same.


Her voice was shaky, as if she was unsure of herself. The rhyme was ancient and had not been used since the great famines of old. Hopefully, the words still had their full power. Golden Glitz sadly turned away from the tree when she heard a low growl behind her. Gasping, she wheeled around. There was a great, shaggy gray wolf. Golden Glitz tried to scream for her life, but no sound escaped her lips.

The wolf sprung towards the tree and bit its trunk. Sap rushed out of the wound, and the wolf lapped it up. The Ice-Tree died and froze instantly without the life-giving sap that the wolf had drained from it. Looking satisfied with itself, the wolf licked its chops and turned its deadly stare on Golden Glitz. The pony did scream this time, a piercing, cutting scream of fear. The wolf sprang and seized her forearm in its teeth. The snow was stained with her blood. Mountain Soul burst out of the door with a cry, and with a sharp twang fired an arrow at the wolf.

“Golden Glitz!” he cried, running to his daughter’s side, and dropping his bow. He helped her up. “Spindrift! Come quickly! Bring bandages!” He brushed Golden Glitz’s mane out of her face. “Are you all right?”

Golden Glitz did not answer. She was sobbing madly, and the sight of the horrible gash on her forearm made the pain worse than it was. Spindrift rushed out carrying several bandages. She rubbed cold snow in Golden Glitz’s wound, and then bandaged it tightly. Golden Glitz screamed when the cold ice touched her already throbbing wound, but quieted as the bandages were tied on. The wind began to shriek and howl wildly.

“This is not the work of the Crystal Princess,” Mountain Soul said, looking straight into the bitter, ice-filled wind. “Her snow is gentle, but this is harsh and hateful. We must go tell the others!”

Spindrift’s face was hardened in concentration. “What did this?” she asked.

“A-- wolf,” said Mountain Soul, as though the word was difficult for him to say.

“What?” said Spindrift. “Wolves do not walk in the Heartland!”

“They have begun to. We must go to the central city!”

Spindrift shook her head. Her pale blue body shivered. “Mountain Soul,” she said shakily, “we can’t make it to the central city in this weather. Golden Glitz cannot walk after such an ordeal, and we can’t leave her here.”

“Then,” said Mountain Soul, “I will carry her. She must come with us. Go inside and fetch some blankets.” Spindrift, shaking her head fiercely, reluctantly headed inside.

“Father,” whispered Golden Glitz.

“Yes, daughter?”

Golden Glitz was silent again. Spindrift came back out from their house carrying blankets and a pack of provisions. She was wearing a belt around her waist; Mountain Soul noticed that there was a knife inside a leather scabbard hanging from it. Spindrift wrapped Golden Glitz in one of the blankets. She gave another to Mountain Soul, who put it around his neck like a cloak. He slung his quiver over his shoulders, hung his bow on it, and then stooped down to pick up Golden Glitz. He lifted her in his strong forearms. Spindrift put a blanket around her like her spouse had, slung her pack of supplies over her shoulder, went to the door of the house and locked it.

“Come,” said Mountain Soul. Spindrift looked concernedly at him, fearing he would not be able to make the journey carrying her. It was at least a three-day journey. Something odd had come over Golden Glitz. Perhaps the wolf had infected her with something. All the more reason to make it to the central city, she told herself. There were healers there.

The three ponies journeyed for two days. Golden Glitz, though she could or would not speak, was able to walk now, and all three of them labored upwind, as if it were blowing directly from the central city itself. Once or twice Golden Glitz stumbled, but refused to be carried. Any other time, Spindrift would have been pleased to go to the central city; she knew many of the families there. They lived relatively close to the city compared to other ponies.

They struggled on for another day. When they at last reached the central city, the wind had died down. Golden Glitz, though they knew she could speak, maintained her eerie silence.

The city was by no means abandoned. There were many ponies bustling about doing their business.

“Spindrift!” a cheerful voice said behind them. Spindrift turned and managed a weak smile.

“Springstrength,” she said. “How are you, brother?”

“Oh, managing, I suppose,” he grinned widely. “And how are you, Mountain Soul?” Mountain Soul looked sideways at him, glaring. He said nothing. Springstrength frowned. “What’s wrong with him, sis?”

Spindrift shook her head. “He is worried,” she said, “as am I.”

“Worried about what?”

“Golden Glitz.”

“What’s wrong with Golden Glitz?” said Springstrength, looking at the yellow pony.

“She was bitten by a wolf,” said Mountain Soul, breaking his long silence.

Every last molecule of exuberance faded from Springstrength’s face. “A wolf?” he said doubtfully. “Wolves don’t walk in the Heartland.”

“Do you call me a liar?” asked Mountain Soul. His face was grave. “Ask your sister.”

Springstrength turned to Spindrift. “It is true?”

Spindrift mournfully nodded. “Yes,” she said.

Springstrength looked at Golden Glitz. “Is she okay?”

“She will be.”

“Why don’t you come to my house, Spindrift? You three look like you need a rest. Come with me.” Mountain Soul, followed by his wife and daughter, walked along to Springstrength’s house. Lightning Bolt, Springstrength’s wife, cheerfully greeted them. Golden Glitz managed a smile when her cousin, Firesong ran up to her. Firesong grinned from ear to ear. She had her father’s good nature.

“Hello, Golden Glitz,” she said.

“Hello,” said Golden Glitz.

Firesong kept her cheerful grin all the while she helped Golden Glitz’s wound. Firesong was training to be a healer like her mother, Lightning Bolt. Lightning Bolt, however, was in the other room talking to Golden Glitz’s parents.

“So,” said Firesong. “How are you? I mean,” she grinned, “other than this fiasco?”

Golden Glitz weakly smiled. Firesong had a contagious grin. “I really couldn’t say.” Firesong rattled on about all the city’s gossip. Golden Glitz, who didn’t know half the ponies Firesong knew, only laughed and shook her head and tried to keep up with which pony had been betrothed to which, who had lied about this, or who had looked amorously at who else. At the end, Golden Glitz was completely lost but feeling much better, and had almost forgotten all about the wolf. Then, Lightning Bolt came into the room.

“Hello, Golden Glitz.”

“Hello, Aunt Lightning Bolt,” replied Golden Glitz.

“Let’s take a look at your forearm,” she said. Lightning Bolt delicately looked at the wound. “Well, you’ve done well, my daughter,” she said. Firesong grinned proudly.

Lightning Bolt poked the wound gently. Golden Glitz winced and a cry escaped her lips. Lightening Bolt put clean bandages on the wound. Her warm, blue eyes looked straight into Golden Glitz’s fiery green ones. “It will heal well,” she said. “I’m afraid I have no answer for the spell that came over you, but it should not recur. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine.” Lightning Bolt’s smile was soft and gentle, not bright and contagious like Springstrength’s and Firesong’s. But it was a beautiful smile that made Golden Glitz feel warm. She hugged her aunt.

“Thank you, Aunt Lightning.”

“You’re welcome,” said Lightning Bolt, still smiling. “I imagine you’re hungry.”

* * *
Dinner was typical, Ice-Leaves and Silver-Fruits prepared in varying ways. But the fruits from every Ice-Tree tasted different; Golden Glitz imagined that the Crystal Princess intended them that way so that the ponies wouldn’t get bored. These silver-fruits were savorier than the ones they had had at home. Firesong grinned and laughed, as if oblivious to every problem the world could offer. Golden Glitz laughed too, but most of the adults were quiet. Mountain Soul, particularly, wore a sour expression of pain. Something wasn’t right with him; he knew trouble was afoot. It was towards evening, and off in the distance a lone wolf’s howl rose up to the moon with an eerie resonance.

The moon darkened, and was gone from sight.



To be continued...

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

Authors Note: Yay! Congratulations, Sugarberry, on being the only one to correctly guess where I found the title for my last month’s story. (All right, fine. It was really hard, I admit, unless you have an enormous dictionary of quotes like me *g*)

If you would remember, it was “I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls”. I took it from an opera written by Alfred Bunn called “The Bohemian Girl” and the specific song it’s in can be found in Act II Scene I. Here is the complete song.



Arline:

I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls,

With vassals and serfs at my side,

And of all who assembled within those walls,

That I was the hope and the pride.

I had riches too great to count, could boast

Of a high ancestral name;

But I also dreamt, which pleas’d me most,

That you lov’d me still the same,

that you lov’d me, you lov’d me still the same,

that you lov’d me, you lov’d me still the same,

I dreamt that suitors sought my hand,

That knights upon bended knee,

And with vows no maiden heart could withstand,

They pledg’d their faith to me.

And I dreamt that one of that noble host

Came forth my hand to claim;

But I also dreamt, which charm’d me most,

That you lov’d me still the same,

that you lov’d me, you lov’d me still the same,

that you lov’d me, you lov’d me still the same,

That you loved me still the same.




But enough with that, and on to the story! But wait! Here’s another title for you to research. This one is a difficult one, too, I’m sorry, so I’ve got a couple clues:

1. The poem it is from is written by a woman

2. And it’s a poem about books (duh)

3. Her first name is Nancy

So, give it a try, and see if you can figure out who wrote the following thing I’ve quoted with all these splendid clues I’ve given you. As always, I can be reached at [email protected]



“The Bookshop has a thousand books,

All colors, hues, and tinges,

And every cover is a door

That turns on magic hinges”

by Starre ([email protected])




It has been about one month since you’ve heard of Ella Fay. So, before plunging into the story for August, let’s just catch you up to what happened in July. Thank goodness, it hasn’t been anything big, or that would be a story in itself! Mainly, Ella has been settling into her new home, Evermoor. Despite many attempts to employ herself, she hasn’t been able to find a job anywhere as of yet, but has become immensely fond of Lady Charlotte and Louise. The little tower room, which was charming enough when you last heard of it, has grown even more so, if it’s possible, and Ella has fully moved into it. Really, everything else has remained the same: the estate is still grand, the parlor still imposing, the library still captivating, and the third floor hallway still as creepy as ever. But the tower room. That merits description, as it is our main character’s main inhabitancy and now fully “moved into”.

(Note: Of course, there is more stuff here then would have fit in her doctor’s bag and backpack. She naturally wrote to her family of her new abode and they felt compelled to send over some of her things which never left the house she grew up in, for she was staying somewhere “worthy of a Fay” as they put it.)



Daylight was just beginning to creep into the tower in the early hours of the morning, casting a rosy glow upon everything, and creeping through the gauzy blue curtains like a ghost. The white washstand still had the whimsical frog pitcher and matching lily-pad bowl and soap dish. The white towel edged in Venetian lace embroidered with the letter “E” had been replaced with an identical one. The new additions included a circular hanging mirror with a floral pattern around the circumference, and on the shelf was a fancy-looking set of silver plated hairbrushes and clips. The four-poster bed next to the washstand housed a familiar dusky-colored mare who slept in the early hours of the morning with a blue “Wedding Ring” quilt tucked up around her chin and blue shimmery curtains that matched the ones on the window drawn tightly around the bed. At the foot of the bed was a quaint old steamer trunk with leather panels adorned with hand painted roses. It had been left open from the night before; and resting neatly inside was a myriad of hats, scarves, and other such useful accessories.

Behind the curtains and lying open on the window seat was a tattered old copy of “The Secret Garden”. Just last night, Ella had been romping around a secret garden with Mary, Dickon, and Colin tending roses and talking animatedly with Ben Weatherstaff; but alas, darkness fell and it was impossible to continue their little adventure. That is, until either morning came, or Ella nipped another five candles from the scary old basement to refill the five-flamed candelabra that Lady Charlotte had gifted her with.

Which brings us to the writing desk which that silver candelabra just happened to be sitting on. Scattered around underneath it were numerous pages of scribblings and ideas for stories and an antique desk set which had been a gift from her Grandfather Avery, the only kindred spirit of her relations. Buried somewhere beneath all this was a desk blotter, but there wasn’t much hope of that ever surfacing again.

On the last wall, the bookshelf had been completely filled up by books that Ella had asked her grandfather to send over for her. If she had asked her parents, she probably would have been ignored because they didn’t quite realize the worth of books. So, all along her bookshelf were old leather volumes of the classics which had been collected over the years as gifts from her grandfather. In fact, the only remotely new thing on the shelf was a very much loved “Booklovers’ Diary” filled with quotations and favorite passages and reflections on the books that had made her what she was, also from her grandfather, of course. The only gifts she really treasured had been from her grandfather, and here a greater part of her resided.

Suddenly, a stirring cut through the stillness of the morning from behind the gossamer bed curtains as Ella’s wide yellow eyes blinked sleepily. Yawning, she dragged herself out of her bed– quite literally “dragged,” as it looked like it took a great deal of effort on her part. She sloshed some water into the lily pad bowl and threw her face into it, scrubbing away sleep with an awful vengeance.

When she finally came back up she looked quite a bit more awake and yanked a silver plated brush through her opalescent tresses before securing her mane back with a seed pearl hair grasp. Then she promptly dashed to the window and flung it open, breathing in the crisp morning air. “ ‘Monday for wealth, Tuesday for health, Wednesday the best day of all, Thursday for crosses, Friday for losses, Saturday no luck at all.’ Well, whomever thought that up had better be right. It’s such a beautiful Monday morning, and I’m certain that I’ll finally find employment! And it would be a shame to be disappointed on such a day,” Ella sang out to herself as she carefully shut the window again and turned to bound down the stairs.

After traveling brightly down through the house and to the foyer, Ella was greeted with a very strange sight. Off in the right hand corner of the room, one of the mahogany panels was rattling quite energetically. Now this would normally appear odd, but to Ella it was even worse, for she knew that behind that panel was a flight of stairs down to a scary and (it was once thought) haunted basement. Was it a ghost– a real ghost– rattling that door? Or an intruder who locked themselves in by mistake?

Quietly, Ella prowled down the main stairway and edged towards the panel. Whatever it was behind that panel, pony or spirit, as tenant in Evermoor, Ella felt it her duty to figure it out. She tried to turn the third rose on the decorative carving to reveal the hidden handle, but twice the door gave such a jolt that she jumped and nearly ran. Summoning up the last of her courage, Ella grasped the rose door handle and wrenched the panel open to reveal Louise, the maid, scowling belligerently and holding a platter laden with muffins and other such breakfast foods. For a long moment Ella stared at Louise, stunned, and Louise stared back.

“What in Ponyland is going on?” Ella demanded. “I thought for sure that you were a robber or a ghost or– and why are carrying that platter? Wouldn’t the dumbwaiter be easier?”

“Yes, miss, the dumbwaiter would be easier. That, however, was not an option as it’s broken and already ruined one breakfast this morning. I had to carry it up instead, but the door is a sticky one; and I couldn’t manage it with my hooves full,” Louise declared crossly and briskly strode across the hall and through the stained glass doors that led to the dining room.

Immediately, Ella recognized this as one of Louise’s sulky fits. In the past month she had grown quite accustomed to them and knew exactly how to handle them. “Oh, you poor dear! If only you would have asked, I’d have been glad to help you,” Ella said in her most cajoling tones.

“And disturb her Royal Highness from her beauty sleep?” Louise snorted. “Not likely. Get an earful then, wouldn’t I? Flouncing around here all high and mighty!” she muttered while spreading the dishes across the oak dining table.

Oh, this was a bad fit of sulks! But not to despair; Ella had seen worse. “Come now, Louise. You know I think you are the dearest, most sweet old mare I’ve ever met, don’t you?” Ella smiled.

“Making snide remarks about my age, are we? That’s just fine for you young folk–“

”Oh, no!” Ella bit her lip; that had been the wrong thing to say. “I didn’t mean it like that at all!” and then switched to a plaintive and forlorn tone. “If I’m really truly that much of a bother to you, I’ll leave, Louise. Because I know that having me around is an awful lot more work and I can be terribly annoying at times...” Ella trailed off with a pout.

This softened Louise’s heart. For normally, she was a sweet-tempered soul and would do anything to please, but when she got into her sulky fits... “Now, now, Miss Ella. You don’t pay any attention to what I say. I didn’t mean any of it– you will stay, won’t you?” Louise’s sulks disappeared and she returned to her normal genial self.

“Well, if you really want me to and are sure I won’t be in the way...” Ella smiled, to say it was all in jest.

“No, no. You stay, and sit down to breakfast now. I’ll go out and get the newspaper for you,” Louise smiled and started out.

“Where’s Lady Charlotte?” Ella suddenly noticed that the room was lacking its usual ivory pegasus.

“Went down to town to see about that dumbwaiter. I offered to wake you, but she said not to disturb you,” Louise said kindly.

Three muffins and a peach later, Ella was pouring over the classifieds section of the Ponyland Gazette; and Louise was staring gravely at her, watching for any thought that might find its way into her Ella’s expressive eyes.

Though she had been in Dream Valley nearly a month, Ella couldn’t find any means of employment! So it became a morning ritual for Ella to study the classifieds as Lady Charlotte thoughtfully drank her tea, and Louise studied her face. After about fifteen minutes, Ella looked up just as the front door was heard to open and shut and the echoes of hooves reverberated around the hall.

Lady Charlotte entered the dining room with none of her usual grace. “They completely ignored me! Saying they’d be around in a week or two! The nerve, speaking to an Evermoor in such a manner!” With this information, Louise looked near diving into the sulks again; but Lady Charlotte cut her off. “Does it look like you’ll have any more luck today?” The grace and eloquence returned.

“Well, we can hope,” Ella offered. “It’s just that many of these positions call for credentials I haven’t quite acquired.” A troubled silence fell into the room. Of all the many problems of the world, broken dumbwaiters and unemployment seemed like the worst.

The three mares grimly sipped tea out of their chintz china tea cups for a few more minutes and then Ella stood up. “I suppose I should be going, then. Is there anything you’d like me to pick up while I’m out?” she said, for recently she had been implored by Louise to pick up numerous things that were on her way.

“No, I don’t believe so... you bought the groceries yesterday. Unless you could find someone to fix that dumbwaiter,” Louise pointed to the corner of the dining room opposite the door where there was a flap in the wall through which could be seen the end of a broken cord.

“Right, I’ll see what I can do, but first I think I’m going to go get a hat...” Ella conceded as Louise gathered the dishes back onto the platter.

* * *
Back in her tower room, Ella was rummaging furiously around her steamer trunk, “Oh, I know it was here! I was wearing it just yesterday!” A series of hats suddenly rained through the air as she tossed them over her shoulder. “Oh, well, this’ll have to do,” she said, and seized a dainty straw hat with a blue-gray organza ribbon that held a bouquet of pansies in place, and a matching impressionistic looking scarf in pastel and airy shades. Then, she was off.

* * *
For the greater portion of that day, Ella walked. And walked, and walked, and walked some more. None of the job opportunities were quite as opportune as they pretended to be, and those that would have been were a bit beyond her reach. Instead, after exhausting all the possibilities within the classifieds, Ella directed her efforts towards finding some mechanic with experience in dumbwaiters. Perhaps even a harder feat then it sounded!

There were quite a few places Ella visited that weren’t even sure what a dumbwaiter was, and even more the flat-out refusal because of the oddity of the situation. So much for “Mondays for wealth, Tuesdays for health, Wednesday the best day of all” . The way this Monday was heading, Ella was nearly certain that she would catch a cold the next day because of that dratted rhyme. Well, if no one would consent to repairing the dumbwaiter, then Ella decided she would have to learn. Perhaps there was a book about repairing dumbwaiters? So the chance was thin, but there was nothing else to be done. The next bookstore Ella saw, she entered.

It happened to be a very antiquated looking store with a green façade and gold lettering that spelled out in very grand script “The Athenaeum”. In the window was a sign that read NOW HIRING - APPLY WITHIN. Ella’s eyes widened. She could work in a bookstore! That would be the perfect employment for one as bookish as her. And anyway, even if they didn’t hire her, she could still see about that dumbwaiter...

Ella strode boldly into the store and stopped in front of the counter. Well. If that wasn’t the best bookstore Ella could have hoped to see, she probably wouldn’t be finding it in Ponyland. The shelves were positively stuffed with all sorts of old and worn-looking books and the shelves were lined up very neatly, but very claustrophobically and stretched up to the ceiling. The lighting was rather sparse, just electric hanging lamps every few yards. Overall, it was rather too dark to be a bookstore, but still it was amazing! The air was still and heavy, as though it was from another time. All that indicated that pony life had ever traversed this store were two very agitated whispers coming from a back room.

“You never consulted me about hiring anyone!”

“We need the help! There is too much here to be maintained by two mares!”

“This isn’t your business– it’s OURS! You should have told me!”

“Well, if you’re that adamant, I’ll go take the sign down– oh! Hello, how may I help you?” Two pegasi stopped dead in their tracks as they looked up and noticed Ella. One was yellow with golden hair and a hot air balloon as a symbol, and the other was blue with pale pink hair and whistles as a symbol.

Ella had heard the entire conversation and burst out, “Oh! You’re not hiring after all?”

“Heh, you heard that?” the yellow one swallowed and Ella looked down sheepishly.

“Well, yes. I had just noticed your sign and came in...” In the seconds that followed, Ella witnessed a silent battle in which the yellow pegasus glared at the blue, and she glared back with equal vehemence. The blue shook her head slightly, frowning. The yellow glared back nodding pointedly.

“Oh fine! Have it your way, but I won’t have anything to do with it!” And with a swish of her tail, the blue one stalked back into the back room.

Triumphantly, the remaining yellow one strode forward with a hoof outstretched. “I’m Lofty, and we are hiring! So... tell me about yourself. ‘Cause, you know, you’re going to have to be pretty good for me to hire you after I just won Windwhistler out.” And so, the next half an hour was spent in Lofty interrogating Ella while Windwhistler skulked in the backroom trying to pick up every word.

That half an hour later, Lofty looked down over the careful notes she had jotted down during the interview and glanced between Ella and the papers every few seconds with a calculating and piercing stare. “All right. You’ve got it,” Lofty broke into a grin and commenced to inform Ella of the specifics in their bookstore.

Lofty and her friend Windwhistler had always loved books, so three years ago they gathered together their savings and took the green building, which had formerly been an art supply shop, and refurbished it. They took in old and discarded books and then sold them to make a small profit. To their surprise, they had become quite popular over the past three years with the bookish ponies of Dream Valley. They didn’t bother getting new books - just what was donated to them; so anything one found would be one of a kind. Hours were from eight AM to ten PM every day, and that wasn’t a problem because Windwhistler and Lofty owned the apartments above the shop. Ella, however, could just come in to work whenever she wanted and would be paid according to the hours she stayed to help. That was that. Ella worked at the Athenaeum. Now one last order of business.

“My coming here was to serve a dual purpose, actually. Do you know Evermoor?” An affirmative nod came from Lofty. “Well, I’m renting a room there, and this morning the dumbwaiter broke, so Louise has to carry everything up out of the basement, and it’s not the nicest staircase. I was looking for a book that might include how to fix a dumbwaiter; do you think there’s anything like that here?” There was a moment of silence and then Lofty burst out laughing.

“Er... dumbwaiter? Well, if you want to fix a dumb-waiter, I suppose you could send it to school? Nope, sorry. Don’t think we have anything like that!”

Ella laughed with her. “No, I didn’t suppose you did. Well, I guess that’s it, then. So, tomorrow morning at eight?”

“Yes, or whenever you want, but you’d better get back now...” Lofty peered out the window. “Looks like rain, and you wouldn’t want to ruin that pretty hat. By the way, where DID you get that hat?”

“A gift from my mother.” Ella looked out, too. Yes, it was true. Her beautiful, sunshiny day had turned gray quite suddenly. “Oh, dear.”

“Well, I’d offer you an umbrella, but it’s broken,” Lofty said apologetically.

“No matter. If I run, I can probably make it before the worst of it,” Ella said, drawing her pastel scarf about her neck tightly and fastening her pansy hat down. “At least I couldn’t find my favorite hat today.”

“See you tomorrow, then,” Lofty smiled as Ella dashed out amidst the first drizzles.

If it rains, it pours. That witty old saying held true literally. Before Ella had gone so much as a block, the rain had begun to pelt down in a drenching torrent. Squinting at the ground, Ella forced her way through the wind and rain, lamenting over her hat. Then, quite abruptly, it stopped– well, it stopped falling on her at least, though it continued everywhere else. Slowly Ella looked up into a pair of twinkling amethyst eyes.

“Need some help?” He smiled at Ella’s strange appearance. Her mane had loosened in the seed pearl clip and was hanging about her face in a most unruly manner, and the pansies in her hat had all but fallen out. Her scarf was more a dingy brown then pastel flowers and her yellow eyes were looking half shyly and half thankfully up into his.

“Yes, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble, sir,” Ella managed.

“Where are you headed? If it isn’t too far out of my way I could walk you there,” this mysterious stallion offered. “I’m in no rush. Oh! I’m Arthur Lovejoy, by the way.”

“Ella Fay,” Ella smiled. “I’m going to Evermoor, but I really wouldn’t want to impose...”

“Evermoor?” Mr. Lovejoy looked very impressed. “Well, I was actually heading the other direction, but perhaps if you’re going to Evermoor Manor...” He chuckled.

“Really sir, you needn’t sound so impressed. I’m nothing but a jangleless author who had the good fortune to rent a room in every author’s dream home,” Ella smiled and started to duck out from under the umbrella and continue on her way.

“I know something of that life. I started out just like that, but I tenanted in an old run-down apartment building in New Pony.” Arthur followed her and kept the umbrella over the both of them.

“Really, if you’re going the other way...” Ella began.

“Oh, no trouble at all. It’s a hobby of mine, helping pretty mares in distress,” Arthur said smugly, looking down at the peculiarly captivating young mare he was walking next to.

“You said you started out like me? Have you succeeded and met with your dream then?” Ella tried to change the subject.

“Yes, in fact I have. I’m the editor of the largest newspaper in Ponyland, The Ponyland Gazette,” he said pompously. Ella gasped. That was the newspaper that had published two of her works! “You said you’re an author? Have you published anything?”

“Two stories for the literature section of the Gazette, actually,” Ella said.

“I knew you sounded familiar. Wasn’t one about a bird? Enthralling! I couldn’t put it down, and we had millions of letters complimenting your style!” Arthur said appreciatively.

“Er– I never wrote a story about a-a bird, sorry. You must have me confused with another of your writers...” Ella blushed. A bird? Their talking ceased and Arthur looked flustered. Just the rain could think of anything to fill the awkward silence with and pattered stormily on the umbrella.

“Well, ahem, sorry about that. I’m sure that whatever you wrote was good too, though,” he offered helplessly, groping for words. “So, you’re renting at Evermoor? The old mares have finally decided to liven the place up a bit?”

“Yes, Lady Charlotte and Louise have been very generous,” Ella replied.

“Sooo... what brought you to this part of town? Bit far from Evermoor,” Arthur said.

“Two things, actually. One, ,employment. Two, some pony to repair the dumbwaiter so Louise doesn’t have to carry trays up and down those rickety stairs,” Ella explained. “I’ve been out all day and had luck in the first item, but not the dumbwaiter.”

“Dumbwaiters? I know a bit about that sort of thing. Maybe I could take a look?” Arthur offered. “My folks lived in an old house as well, and I remember one time our dumbwaiter broke. Probably from my foalhood rides up and down it,” he grinned sheepishly.

“Oh no! I hope you weren’t in it at the time,” Ella laughed. Maybe this stallion was a bit on the arrogant side, but he was kind and entertaining at any rate.

“No, not to worry. But my younger brother was...” Another sheepish smile.

“He wasn’t hurt too badly, was he?” Ella asked concernedly.

“Nah, a scrape or two, couple bruises... it was near the bottom of the shaft when the gears gave out... I know what you’re thinking!” Arthur turned to Ella jokingly. “And I had nothing to do with it. I didn’t tell him to do it; he wanted to because he’d seen me a few times. You see, blame the judgment of young colts. Not me.” He laughed and spun the umbrella around, sending the rain flying off in a spiral.

Ella laughed too. “Well, I don’t think the gears on Evermoor’s are the problem. The cable snapped.”

“The cable? That’s all? Then you just need to get another rope and replace it,” Arthur said knowingly.

“I already thought of that, but when I looked, the gears are up the shaft about three feet out of reach from the door on the main floor. The basement’s are down about three feet too far.”

“Hmmm, well, that is a problem. I’ll see what I can do for you. Do you have any ropes or cords?” Arthur frowned reflectively, sizing up the situation. He was bound and determined to help this enchanting mare.

“Well, I think we must have some somewhere... maybe the attic,” Ella offered. “Oh! We’re already there!” She looked up suddenly to find herself facing one of the two stone unicorns that flanked the gate.

“I hate all times, because all times do fly so fast away, and may not stayed be,” Arthur quoted under his breath as they made their way up to the porch.

“What was that?” Ella asked, rummaging for the house key that was hidden cunningly in a loose piece of trim around the door.

“Oh, nothing. I enjoyed our walk,” Arthur quickly made up as Ella unlocked the door. Stepping inside, Arthur closed the umbrella. “Wow,” he mouthed, looking around at all the finery. Meanwhile, Ella had taken his coat and umbrella and put them in the coat closet.

“Louise? Lady Charlotte?” She looked around, peeking in the rooms off the entrance hall as she went. “Hmmm, wait just a moment. They’re probably in the library. Or maybe the kitchen,” Ella said, dashing up the steps.

A moment later she returned with Lady Charlotte right behind her. “I insist you go and clean yourself up! You’ll catch a cold, child. And what’s this about the dumbwaiter?”

“Lady Charlotte, this is Mr. Arthur Lovejoy. I met him on my way home, and he thinks he might be able to fix the dumbwaiter for us.” Ella introduced. “And Mr. Lovejoy, this is Lady Charlotte Evermoor.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Arthur bowed, trying to seem like he came into Victorian mansions everyday to help repair dumbwaiters.

“You met him on your way home? And why on earth have you brought him back here? We do have rules, you know.” Lady Charlotte wasn’t quite as concerned with being polite.

“Don’t worry; he’s the editor of the Ponyland Gazette, and he simply offered to walk me home with his umbrella since it was raining so hard,” Ella tried to explain. Her trusting nature couldn’t quite understand what Lady Charlotte found wrong with bringing home strangers. Lady Charlotte recognized this, and recognized that this looked like a perfectly respectable stallion and replied.

“Very well, as long as you mind he doesn’t run off with any of the good silver. What exactly do you propose, Mr. Lovejoy?”

“Well, it sounds like your cable snapped, so if you could find me a rope or cord that we could replace it with, that would be a start. And then I’d have to see exactly how difficult it would be to rethread it,” Arthur said, just a bit offended of being accused of running off with the silverware.

“I’ll go get Louise. Maybe she knows where there is some rope,” Ella said, dashing over to the secret passage behind the panel to go to the kitchen, Louise’s usual abode. Lady Charlotte took Arthur into the dining room to inspect the dumbwaiter. Momentarily, Ella returned with Louise and a coil of rope.

“Good, good,” Arthur examined the rope. “It’ll hold up well, and it looks about the right length. Now we just have to figure out how to get it through the gears up there.” And he stuck his head back into the opening. “Some sort of hook, maybe...” The four ponies stood in silence for a few minutes and then Louise timidly spoke up.

“A wire hanger, maybe?”

“A hanger! Brilliant! I can un-twist it and make it into a sort of support to keep the rope steady while threading it through the gears!” Arthur yanked a hoof through his plum-colored mane while Louise dashed off to find a hanger. Soon the three mares were all standing back apprehensively as Arthur tried to thread the rope through the gears halfway into the dumbwaiter shaft. “Almost– just a bit farther and I’ll have it... gotcha!” he exclaimed so loudly that the three mares jumped. “Right, now for the lower level part of it. That should be easier since we aren’t fighting gravity,” and likewise the basement end was soon set back to rights again. The three mares were delighted.

“Thank you, Mr. Lovejoy!” Ella exclaimed.

“Perhaps you will stay through dinner?” Lady Charlotte asked. Obviously, if one fixed dumbwaiters, one couldn’t also be a thief, in her opinion.

“Oh, no, I couldn’t. I should be getting home, still have lots of work to do tonight! I’ll be going then,” and after retrieving his jacket and umbrella, Arthur was back into the rain with a magnificent send-off of “Thank you’s!” and “Goodbye’s!”

As soon as Ella was cleaned up and dried off, the three mares sat down to a dinner of cream of carrot soup, mashed potatoes, and a nice salad (of course, sent up on the dumbwaiter). Ella chose this time to give the news of her job.

After the soup was cleared, Ella cleared her throat. “Now that the dumbwaiter episode is over, I have some good news regarding my employment!” She paused to let this sink in. “This afternoon, I got a job in a bookstore called the Athenaeum!”

For a moment there was silence, and then Louise burst into happy tears; and Lady Charlotte clapped her hooves together in joy. “Then you’ll be able to afford to stay here!” she exclaimed. Louise just sniffled gleefully.

“However, the hours are eight in the morning to ten at night, so sometimes, I might not come home for dinner,” Ella exclaimed, giving a duller lining to a mostly silver cloud.

“Well, never mind that. Louise will set something out for you whenever you stay late. The Athenaeum– I think I’ve heard of it before; is it a well-to-do establishment?” Lady Charlotte said curiously.

“Pretty well, I think. ‘The bookshop has a thousand books, all colors hues and tinges, and every cover is a door, that turns on magic hinges’ if you’ll allow me to quote.” And the rest of the evening was spent celebrating and discussing Ella’s new job happily in the library.

It was well into the night when Ella went up to her tower room; and just before she shut her eyes, she noticed “The Secret Garden” still sitting on the window seat. Silently she padded across the room and picked it up. Searching down the page she found the point where she had left off with only two paragraphs left in the chapter and squinted down to finish it.

“ ‘It’s planted,’ said Colin at last,” Ella read out loud to herself. “ ‘And the sun is only slipping over the edge. Help me up Dickon. I want to be standing when it goes. That’s part of the Magic.’ And Dickon helped him, and the Magic– or whatever it was– so gave him strength that when the sun did slip over the edge and end the strange lovely afternoon for them there he actually stood on his two feet– laughing.”

Yes, Ella thought as she marked her place and slid silently back through the airy curtains, it has most definitely been a strange and lovely afternoon.

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

Sweet Revenge
by Sugarberry ([email protected])


Alas poor ghost!

Pity me not, but lend thy serious hearing to what I shall unfold,” the armored specter replied to the white stallion.

Speak; I am bound to hear.

So art thou to revenge, when thou shalt hear,

What?” queried the stallion posing as Hamlet.

I am thy father’s spirit...” the specter intoned, but Hamlet’s attention wandered as if under siege by some other phantom. His eyes swept the rows of empty seats until they came to rest on a mare sitting in the back row, nearly invisible under the dim lights. Icon stared at her for a second, then shook his head and turned back to the specter’s continuing lines.

But this eternal blazon must not be...

O God!” Icon yelped, his head whirling to again study the form of the mare in the auditorium, his brain registering something about her that was familiar. Forgetting all about Paddock, the other actor on the stage, Icon’s steady gaze centered on the spot where he had seen the mare. There was no one visible now.

“Let’s see if we can keep our concentration, Icon,” Vivi, the play’s director, reprimanded the stallion as he stared dazedly into the nonexistent audience. “You anticipated your line before the ghost was finished speaking. Let’s try it again.”

Icon returned to the present and succeeded in responding with his lines as needed, but Vivi was sharp in her criticism when the rehearsal was over. “Your mind wasn’t on your character, Icon. We could have had a six-year-old reading the part. Let’s try to get up some enthusiasm, shall we?” She stalked off in a huff.

“What happened?” asked Paddock, coming to Icon with a grin. “You looked like you’d seen a real ghost.”

Icon’s gaze reverted to the back of the theater once more. “I did.”

“Well,” responded Paddock, punching Icon in the shoulder, “I hope he doesn’t offer any competition to my representation on opening night.” He looked at Icon closely. “Or was it a she?”

“A real harpy.”

As Paddock moved away, Icon remained where he stood, lost in thought. The mare-- whether flesh and blood or a figment of his imagination-- had a decidedly familiar figure; and if she was in town, there could only be trouble ahead for him. The stallion had not given Splotch a thought for days-- or at least not more than a passing tug at his heart. Why would he conjure up the image of his nemesis now when he had worked so hard to purge her memory from his mind?

The mare in question had smitten Icon the moment her emerald eyes had laughingly fastened on his face that fateful day in Golden City; and after that one encounter, he would have gladly followed her to the ends of the earth. Splotch’s sensibilities, however, had not been similarly engaged.

Sighing in a manner that would have greatly pleased Vivi if it had come from Hamlet, Icon left the stage, ignoring the chatter going on around him, and headed for the exit.

He stopped short, for he came face-to-face with Splotch.

Time stopped for Icon in that moment as his world exploded and his heart thudded in his chest; the emerald eyes were fastened on him, those deep green eyes that could cause him to feel emotions that were foreign to him before their acquaintance; and if there had been any sign of affection, the stallion would have capitulated to the state of a love-lorn puppy in an instant; but, as it was, he saw only a cold and defiant challenge that poured over him like ice water. Clearly, he remembered the last message this emerald-eyed vixen had sent him: “Revenge will be sweet.”

Revenge it was she was after.

So Icon’s words were as cold as her look. “What are you doing here?”

“I was critiquing your acting style,” the mare offered.

Burying a desire to kiss those lips that taunted him, Icon repeated his question. “I ask again, what are you doing in Woodlawn?”

“I’m in need of some fresh landscapes.” The avocational artist’s eyes were twinkling now in such a manner that Icon found his defenses shattered just as they had been at their first meeting; it took all his resolve to hold his true feelings at bay.

“I would find it easier to believe that you’re here to cause more trouble for my company; but the courts ruled against Macrohard, remember? If you don’t understand what that means, I suggest you talk to Anchor.” Icon began to move past her.

Splotch was undeterred. “If you think Anchor will be sorry to see me in this quaint little town, you’ll be sadly disappointed.”

Not waiting to discover exactly what Splotch meant, Icon continued on his hurried way. He, therefore, did not hear Splotch’s conversation with Vivi.

* * *
After a night of fitful sleep dominated by a pair of emerald eyes, Icon high-tailed it to Anchor’s law office the following morning to warn him of the advent of Splotch in their midst and nearly collided with that stallion as he rounded the corner onto Main.

“Where are you headed in such a hurry?” asked Anchor, steadying the younger stallion with a firm hoof.

“I was coming to see you; do you have some time to talk?”

Anchor cleared his throat. “As a matter of fact, I was just on my way to see you; let’s go on to Hood’s Place for some coffee.”

Keeping his news to himself until the two were settled at a corner table, Icon finally dropped his bombshell. “That conniving lawyer of Casale’s is in town; and she’s snooping out trouble for us if her past history is any indication.”

“I’m aware that she’s here,” Anchor said calmly, blowing across his hot brew.

“You don’t seem surprised,” muttered Icon, suddenly remembering Splotch’s warning last evening that Anchor would not be sorry to see her.

“You might say she’s here by my invitation.”

Choking on his coffee, Icon croaked, “Why, for Pete’s sake?”

Now that the moment was here, Anchor seemed to find it difficult to say the words. He flicked several crumbs of muffin off the table before glancing at Icon, then focused his gaze on his napkin. “I hired Splotch to work with me.” Anchor’s body had stiffened as he said the words as if expecting a physical rebuke, but the lawyer was still not prepared for the eruption of Icon’s total shock over the news.

“You what!?” roared the stallion, half rising out of his chair and leaning threateningly toward his companion, causing every pony in the place to send startled glances in the direction of the two.

“Splotch works for me now.” Unsettled by the sparks of pure rage emitted by Icon, Anchor hurried on. “It seems that she found her position with Casale undermined by Justin who never ceased to blame her for H.C.I.’s victory over Macrohard. It became impossible for her to work there; and when she heard that I was looking for a legal assistant, she contacted me to see if I was interested.”

“And you hired that... that... jezebel?”

“I’ve been swamped with work, Icon, since the court case with Macrohard; that was the best advertising I could have. And I know from experience that Splotch is an efficient and dedicated pony.”

“She tried to ruin us!” Icon retaliated. “You’re bringing the wolf into the flock!”

“Her priorities will be with my clients now-- H.C.I. included– not with Casale. I would never question her loyalty.”

“You are making a serious mistake, Anchor.”

Frowning at his young friend across the table, Anchor was having a difficult time understanding this complete abhorrence of Splotch on Icon’s part. It had been obvious that something had ignited between the two ponies in Golden City, even though they had been on opposite sides of the issue under question. Anchor had assumed that Icon would see the possible benefit in renewing his acquaintance with the magenta mare; he had not anticipated this level of animosity. Looking for a neutral point to soften the stallion’s vexation, Anchor said, “Splotch had an exceptional reference.”

“If you tell me that you trust anything from Casale, I’ll truly doubt your sanity.”

“Not Casale, Icon; I’m speaking of Lattice.”

“Queen Majesty’s lawyer? What good things did she have to say about Splotch?”

“She was quite free with her recommendations,” Anchor smiled. “She is Splotch’s sister.”

Icon was stunned. “They couldn’t be sisters! Lattice is an intelligent, compassionate, refined mare... none of which can be said of Splotch.”

“Splotch is some years younger than Lattice and has an unique personality; Lattice assures me that Splotch is capable of becoming a fine associate once away from the influence of Macrohard’s lawyer, Justin, and Guido Casale– and Lattice thinks that is the best thing for her– although from what I’ve heard, Guido has mellowed since he escaped Princess Tiffany’s clutches,” Anchor added judiciously

“That’ll be the day,” grumbled Icon, his mind reeling from the news with which Anchor had floored him. He pushed back his coffee cup and stood. “Time will tell, won’t it? I just hope you haven’t made the biggest mistake of your life, Anchor-- for H.C.I.’s sake as well as your own.”

* * *
Reaching his own office at H.C.I., the software development company begun by Icon and two of his friends, Icon found Hodgepodge and Cachet lingering over the coffee pot. Without waiting for a greeting, he launched into his complaint. “Were you aware that Anchor has hired an assistant?”

“I know he’s been complaining of his work-load; I just thought he was gearing up for an increase in his fees,” grinned Cachet.

“I heard he was considering some stallion from up north, but the fellow didn’t like the small-town atmosphere here.”

“Well, you’re both wrong. You’ll never guess who he’s taken on.” The vehemence in Icon’s voice garnered both co-workers’ attention as well as that of Fidget, the office coordinator, who had just come in with the morning’s mail.

“Then you’d better tell us,” said Cachet, lifting a questioning brow.

“Anchor’s lost his mind, if you ask me,” Icon ranted. “He’s hired a lawyer away from Macrohard... Splotch, by name.” He looked at his friends expectantly.

“Splotch...” mused Hodgepodge. “We met her in Golden City, didn’t we?”

“Met her?” Icon spat. “She was with the opposing side.”

Cachet looked thoughtful. He remembered clearly the night in Golden City when Icon had come back to the motel and confided that he had met a mare with whom he had fallen in love, an emotion which up until that point had evaded Icon. Cachet remembered, too, the severe disappointment Icon experienced to learn that Splotch was of the enemy camp; Cachet had seen the callous attitude of the mare toward Icon and had felt Icon’s disappointment. Now, he wondered what close proximity would do to this tenuous acquaintance. “When will Splotch be in town?”

“She’s here now.” Those words were pronounced as a death knell.

The jangling of the telephone and the arrival of the first appointment of the day ended the conversation; and the ponies got down to business; but every moment when Icon’s mind was not compelled to be useful, he conjured up the image of emerald eyes, sometimes coldly calculating, and at others, warm and welcoming.

* * *
A late lunch found Icon back at Hood’s Place for a quick sandwich and a glass of milk which he was partaking of at the counter when a hoof was placed on his shoulder and a svelte body slipped into the place next to him.

“Jules, give me the same as Icon,” Vivi trilled. Then, turning to Icon, she continued. “You left the rehearsal last night too quickly; you missed an interesting development.” Accepting a glass of cold milk, Vivi took a sip. “We’ve got ourselves a new set designer to assist Stargazer; her name’s Splotch, and she’s new in town... and she has a background in art. She’ll help Candleglow with the costumes, too.”

Vivi’s sandwich was delivered, so Icon could get in a word. “This Splotch just walked in and offered her talents?”

“She said she’s just getting settled– works for that lawyer in town, I believe she said– and read an article in the newspaper about our production and thought it would be a good way to get acquainted with some of Woodlawn’s ponies. Oh, and she said she’d met you once; is that true?”

“Once. Briefly.”

“She has a lot of enthusiasm and energy; I like that in a pony. I think she’ll work out well for our group. She’ll bring in new ideas; that’s important, too. But I keep forgetting; you already met her, so you know what she’s like. What do you think?”

“She’ll definitely have new ideas.”

“And as I said, that’s important. Candleglow is a good seamstress and gets the job done, but she doesn’t have any original ideas. And Stargazer is good, but he doesn’t really have the time to do as much as he should; Splotch will take up the slack. She’s very pretty, too, don’t you think?”

Vivi stopped her chattering to take a bite of her sandwich, and Icon took the opportunity to excuse himself and return to his office. He threw himself down in his chair and steepled his hooves in front of him.

He had to face the facts. Splotch was in town, and it looked like she intended to cement herself with the local ponies. But why did she pick Woodlawn as her destination after leaving Vulcanopolis? Certainly she would have had her pick of jobs in New Pony or Hayton or any other of Ponyland’s major cities. Why Woodlawn? That question irked Icon to no end.

The only possible answer Icon could see was that she had been planted here by Casale so that he could fulfill his vendetta against H.C.I. Casale had already made one underhooved attempt and failed; he surely would not give up that easily. Having Splotch on the scene would certainly give him the leverage to cause untold damage to the operation of H.C.I., Icon was positive of that.

Even if Anchor had fallen blindly into Casale’s web, Icon would never falter. He, of all the ponies in Woodlawn, knew that Splotch was not to be trusted. Hadn’t she used him to further her consequence with Casale (even though she had ultimately failed?) and then tossed him away without a second thought... except that of revenge? No, Icon would never let his guard down for a second. Whatever Splotch’s goal in coming to Woodlawn, Icon would make sure that she had no success.

Icon turned to his computer to resume work on his current project. He stared at the screen for several minutes before throwing up his hooves in exasperation. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes. Would those green eyes haunt him forever?

* * *
In the days and weeks ahead, Icon found that Splotch made herself a very big part of Woodlawn life. He could not avoid her presence; she was at the rehearsals at the theater, of course, and had been helpful in bringing off a successful presentation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. She was at Hood’s Place, at church, at the grocery store, even at H.C.I. when Anchor brought her around to introduce her to Cachet and Hodgepodge. No matter where Icon went, he would hear her energized voice or her lilting laughter, and he did not know which was worse: the days when he could not avoid her or the days that their paths did not cross.

The suspicion and the anger he had felt for her when she had first showed up soon tempered; he found he was no longer watching for her to keep track of what she was up to in connection with her suspected spy work for Casale but was searching every crowd simply because he wanted to see her face, to see those emerald eyes. Yet he did not seek her out on purpose because he could not completely forget that she had tried to ruin H.C.I.-- and in the process, had destroyed his hope that in Splotch he had found a life-mate.

When they did come in close proximity of one another, conversation consisted only of the briefest exchanges that worked as a double-edged sword rife with meaning. Neither pony would relent; neither would admit defeat.

One evening in mid-August, Icon was on the way to his parents’ home to procure a dose of his mothers’s home-baked cookies and was taking a shortcut across the neighbor’s lawn to reach the back door when he saw a pony dash around the corner of the house from the front and stealthily– or so it seemed to Icon– make his way along the side of the house. Icon stopped in the shadowed overhang of the lilac bush to watch the progress of the pony until the trespasser stepped into the ring of light from the porch.

As the light crossed the pony’s face, Icon gasped. The pony was Splotch. After all this time, he had caught her in the act of spying on his family! A part of him recoiled in horror, and the other part beamed with success.

Splotch had heard the intake of breath behind her and turned with a muted scream which soon turned to words of anger as Icon grabbed her foreleg roughly and growled, “I knew I’d find you sticking your nose in where it doesn’t belong if I waited long enough. What are you trying to snoop out at my parents’ house?”

“I was here as a guest of your mother’s, and I left my purse behind and was just going to slip in the back way to fetch it,” a surprised Splotch explained. “And I’d appreciate it if you’d get your hoof off of me!”

Instead of releasing her, Icon tightened his grip. “My mother’s guests shouldn’t feel the need to sneak in the back door.”

“Speaking of which, why are you weaseling your way to the house?”

“We were talking about you, Splotch.”

“Your mother held a craft night to work on projects for the church bazaar,” grated Splotch. “You would know that if you read the church bulletin.”

“Go on.”

Splotch gritted her teeth and tried to step back from the determined stallion, but she could not. “I came to paint some trinkets; and when I was finished and left the house, I realized that I had left my purse in the kitchen...”

“So you felt the need to sneak back in to steal your own purse?” Icon finished for her.

“I came this way knowing that the back door was off the kitchen and I could more easily recover my purse without traipsing through the entire house again!” an exasperated Splotch divulged.

Listening to this explanation, Icon realized that his mother had referred to this crafting bee, and it was possible that Splotch had volunteered her painting ability for the project. He also realized that he and Splotch had not had this long a conversation since they had met in Golden City, or that they had stood this close together since that night. And another thing, her cologne was the same as he remembered when they had talked by the fountain in the plaza, a sweet yet spicy fragrance of gardenia and...

Icon shook his head to clear the memories; he also loosened his grip on Splotch’s foreleg, but he did not release her entirely. “I would prefer that you didn’t encroach on my mother.”

Bristling, Splotch retorted, “Floral Breeze is very much like my own mother, and we enjoy each other’s company; you have no right to dictate who I can or cannot see!”

“It’s too bad, Splotch, that you didn’t inherit any of your mother’s attributes; obviously, Lattice got all the feminine charm in the offspring.”

“Why you miserable, insensitive, obnoxious lowlife,” bridled Splotch, her eyes narrowing. She took a deep breath to continue her litany of Icon’s faults, and the porch light caught the emerald glints from her eyes like green flames.

Whether to live up to Splotch’s opinion of him or simply because of the circumstances, Icon suddenly pulled the mare to him and caught his lips to hers; after the first moment of shock, Splotch found herself returning the kiss when just as suddenly as it had begun, Icon pushed her away. His eyes held the emerald ones. “Revenge is sweet,” he drawled easily. He had the satisfaction of seeing those eyes, which had softened to a gooseberry green, turn to a cold hard jade.

Icon’s revenge was short-lived as Splotch’s hoof came up and caught his cheek in a sharp slap. “You are despicable!” she breathed. Stifling a sob, she turned on her heal and ran.

* * *
His own hoof cradling his stinging cheek, Icon stood looking after the retreating Splotch until she disappeared from sight, then he went up the back steps and across the porch and opened the door. He found his mother standing by the kitchen table with a purse in her hooves. “Did you meet Splotch on your way here by any chance? She forgot her purse.”

“I saw her, but she’s too far away to catch now,” Icon admitted. “I can take it to her... after I help clean-up your left-over desserts.” His gaze settled on what was apparently a snack for the crafters she had hosted.

“Good,” Floral Breeze smiled. “Your father will be here in a minute to have his share, too.”

Icon enjoyed a pleasant conversation with his parents, but he found that he could not get that commandeered kiss off of his mind; nor could he forget the look of distress on Splotch’s face after he had ended it. He was soon on his way to Splotch’s apartment with her purse in hoof.

If he had hoped that Splotch would be appreciative of his assist in this matter, he was sadly mistaken. The mare opened her door only far enough to claim the purse, and that only because Floral Breeze had called her telling her to expect her son with the forgotten reticule. The transfer being made, the door closed in Icon’s face with a sharp snap that mimicked the earlier slap.

Maybe revenge was not so sweet after all.

* * *
His action had been uncalled for, Icon decided in the days ahead. He never should have used a kiss to provoke Splotch; their first kiss should have been wondrous, not the trivial reprisal he had used it for. He could not blame Splotch for despising him now, and it was his own fault.

Unable to face the consequences of his unjust actions, Icon avoided anyplace where Splotch might be; and if they involuntarily ended up in the same room, he stayed clear of her. And Splotch herself made no effort to speak with him. As the days passed, Icon could stand his self-recrimination no longer. He went to his mother for advice.

* * *
“So that’s why you were so despondent when you returned from Golden City,” Floral Breeze said when she had heard the story of Icon and Splotch’s meeting in the capital city. “But why are you still downcast when she’s here now?”

“I’ve blamed Splotch for all H.C.I.’s trouble with Macrohard– she became the scapegoat for me. That night she left her purse here, I was downright rude to her when I met her outside the door. I wanted my own revenge for her not being honest with me up front. Now I’m afraid to approach her again.”

Revenge, at first though sweet, bitter ere long back on itself recoils,” Floral Breeze quoted.

“Milton,” Icon observed. “For what it’s worth, it’s true.”

“You were playing with fire,” said Floral Breeze, and Icon remembered the flame-like appearance of Splotch’s eyes. “I liked Splotch from the first moment I met her; I’m not surprised that she was the one who broke down your resistance,” Floral Breeze said soothingly, patting her son on the hoof. “It was the same with Morning Dew and Sugarberry; my sons choose wisely.”

“But, Mom, I think I’ve lost her because of my stupid pride!”

“Then win her back.”

“How?”

“Slowly. Let her see you at your best for a change. And I’d start with an apology.”

“That will be difficult to do as she’s always in a crowd, and I don’t think she’ll open her door to me.”

Floral Breeze considered this problem. “There’s another crafting night here tomorrow,” she eventually grinned. “Your dad could use some help with those bird feeders he’s building.”

“That would work if I hadn’t told her I wanted her to stay away from you,” Icon admitted sheepishly.

Waving a hoof through the air, Floral Breeze assured her son. “She’ll be here.” Then she grew thoughtful. “I’ve been wondering why Splotch chose to come to Woodlawn with the experience she has; she could have had her choice of jobs after working for Macrohard, don’t you think, and with a much more lucrative salary than Anchor could afford? Surely her choice was determined by something... or someone... close to her heart.”

For the first time in days, Icon truly smiled.

* * *
Sailing across the room, the pillow took out one potted plant, one wooden sculpture, and an empty soda glass before coming to rest against the entertainment center. Splotch did not even notice. She was pacing her living room with angry strides. Why had she ever thought she wanted to live and work in Woodlawn anyway!

After the court case between Macrohard and H.C.I. had been resolved, Splotch had been angry with the ponies from Woodlawn, yes. But she found that she could not entirely forget the enjoyable tete-a-tete that she and Icon had shared. Why did they have to meet under those circumstances? Another pillow followed its mate, merely taking out a stack of CD’s in its wanton flight.

If she had it to do over again, Splotch decided, she would have identified herself as legal assistant to Macrohard as soon as Icon had introduced himself; that would have negated their impromptu supper that night. And if they had not been thrown together in such an enjoyable encounter, Icon would not have shown his charming side to her and she would not have fallen in...

No! She could never love such an egotistical, overbearing, opinionated stallion as Icon! Admittedly, she had found conversation with the less sophisticated stallion from the small town a pleasant diversion. And she had thought he had liked her, too. Well, that was proven untrue when he used something as precious as a kiss so shoddily! He was as uncouth as any stallion she had ever met!

There were no more pillows; a paperback romance on the arm of the sofa served just as well.

And come to think of it, she had always wondered why Lattice had called her about this job in Woodlawn anyway; it was not like her older sister to try to direct Splotch’s life. Splotch wryly grinned. Lattice knew from experience that Splotch would never listen to her advice. That’s what should have warned Splotch about this call; Lattice had actually pointed out the down side of taking the job with Anchor, which she knew would only encourage Splotch to look at it more kindly. Lattice had set her up! But for what reason? How could Lattice have known Splotch’s feelings for Icon? Why did her big sister always have to be right!!!

For several seconds, Splotch was at a loss for something to throw, until she spotted her purse on a chair, and that unfortunate clutch was suddenly airborne. It sailed against the telephone receiver just as that object had begun to ring; and the jolt knocked it flying.

A breathless Splotch ran across the room to salvage the call. “Hello?”

There was silence for a moment, then Floral Breeze’s voice came over the line accompanied by a chuckle. “Is everything okay there, Splotch?” she queried.

Oh! Tonight was the night of the crafting bee. She could not go; she would not go! “Everything is fine, but I don’t...”

Floral Breeze’s voice interrupted. “I’m glad to hear that, because I need your help. Would you stop at the store on your way over and pick up a gallon of milk? I just realized I don’t have a drop in the house.”

“But I...”

“The two percent will do just fine. Remind me to reimburse you for it when you get here. Oh, there’s the doorbell. I gotta run. And thanks for helping me out, Splotch!” The line went dead.

Splotch groaned.

* * *
Surveying the miniature floral scene she had just painted, Splotch cocked her head to envision what the work still needed. The room was quiet as the other crafters had retired to the kitchen for a snack before the evening ended. Splotch had wanted to finish this one last trinket box with a flowery meadow, but something was just not quite right with the design.

“Some white lacy flowers would look good on the left side,” a voice commented from very close range.

Splotch spun around, dropping her paintbrush which clattered across the floor. “You!” she hissed.

Undaunted, Icon rescued the paintbrush. “I have a legitimate reason to be here,” he said as he handed it back to her. “I’m helping Dad with some bird houses down in the basement workshop.”

Underground is an appropriate place for you... worm!” Splotch turned her back on him.

“Would you look at me, Splotch? I only want to apologize...”

“A... apologize?” Splotch turned, looking shocked. Why would this vermin want to apologize?

“Yes.” Icon’s contrite expression was priceless. “I’m sorry...” He hesitated for just an instant. “I’m sorry I broke off that kiss.” The stallion’s eyes suddenly sparkled and a cocky grin lighted his face.

“You abominable wretch!” she hissed scathingly. “You cannot be Floral Breeze’s son!”

Icon laughed. “Relent, Splotch! Can’t we be friends?”

Before Splotch could answer, Floral Breeze peeked into the room. “You two are going to miss out on some awfully good desserts out here if you don’t hurry up.” She smiled sweetly. “I’ll set something back just in case.” She left them to themselves once more.

Icon turned back to Splotch, and their eyes met. There was just the beginning of a twinkle in those emerald depths as Splotch responded. “Friends, then.”

* * *
Why hadn’t he asked her to the dance last night? The answer was easy. Icon was afraid that she would shy off if he seemed to be pushing too hard. Splotch had consented to his walking her home from his parents’ house, which was a major concession on her part; but now the damage was done. Boxwood had asked Splotch to accompany him to the street dance on Friday night during a meeting of the actors’ group, right in front of everyone; and Splotch had no polite choice but to accept. Of course, maybe she wanted to accept, griped Icon to himself, looking at the couple with a dark, brooding gaze.

“You look like I feel,” a soft voice said at his side.

Icon started. “Oh, hi, Candleglow. What’s troubling you?”

“The same thing that’s bothering you, I’d imagine.” She grinned her shy smile at Icon’s puzzlement. “I’d expected Boxwood to invite me to the dance.”

Looking at the quiet mare with cornflower blue eyes and pale yellow coloring as if for the first time, Icon said, “What do you see in that bore?”

“What do you see in Splotch?”

“She’s personable and pretty and...” Icon stopped and grinned. “I suppose from your point of view, Boxwood is a handsome prince as well.”

“I think he and I would get along very well,” Candleglow replied modestly. “If he ever would notice me.”

“Well, as he already has a date for the dance, how about you and I hang out together?” Icon suggested, realizing that he and Candleglow had seldom been in the same company except the theater production since the two of them had graduated from high school in the same class.

“That way, we can keep an eye on them,” Candleglow confided.

“Yeah. Something like that.” With a wink, Icon guided the diminutive mare across the room to join in the camaraderie of the assembled thespians. He never noticed the black look that Splotch centered on him.

* * *
Pending thunderstorms had never materialized, and the evening of the street dance was marked by a glorious sunset that streaked orange and yellow and magenta bands across the horizon just before the sun slipped from sight. Candleglow and Icon had watched the spectacle with other friends from the overhead balcony of the hardware store. Turning their attention back to the street below them, they quickly picked out Splotch and Boxwood getting a soft drink after finishing a dance.

“Come on,” urged Icon of his date. “If we hurry, we can claim our respective intendeds for the next dance.”

They were hindered on their way, however, by any number of friends who stopped to chat including Vivi who was never short on words; so by the time they reached the spot where they had last seen Splotch and Boxwood, those two had already garnered new partners and were once more in the dance.

Icon watched Splotch as she swirled about with Hodgepodge, of all ponies. “Butterfly Blue must be out of town again,” he grumbled to Candleglow.

Candleglow giggled. “She and her mother and sisters went to Hayton for the fittings for her wedding apparel; Hodgepodge may be feeling a bit nervous.”

“Another nail in his coffin, you mean?” queried Icon smugly.

“Why, Icon! What a thing to say!” retorted Candleglow. “If the way you look at Splotch is any indication, I’d think that you would be contemplating matrimony with a more benevolent outlook.”

“One step at a time, Candleglow. I have to find a mare willing to be my wife before I can turn my thought to wedded bliss.”

The music had stopped, and Icon looked up to see Splotch and Hodgepodge standing before him and Candleglow. Splotch had heard only the end of Icon’s comment and rather desperately wondered why he and this pale little mare would have been discussing wedded bliss. But she smiled politely when Icon requested her for his partner in the next dance which ensued without incident, although Icon thought that Splotch was keeping him at a distance with her tone and her actions.

Boxwood claimed Splotch immediately when the dance ended and Hodgepodge returned Candleglow to Icon, so Icon escorted the mare to a spread of bistro tables where they joined several other ponies and were soon engrossed in revelry. Icon was immensely enjoying the evening with his friends and was surprised when Candleglow nudged him, her gaze focused on the crowd behind him. “Icon, I suddenly feel claustrophobic here; could we walk or something?”

Hiding his disappointment, Icon helped Candleglow to her hooves and led her through the press of the ponies and beyond to the path to the park. The mare moved at a fast pace, not at all like someone who was languishing. “Feeling better?” Icon asked as they gained the open vista of the park, softly bathed in the glow of strategically placed lamps. He looked at Candleglow with some concern, never having known the mare to express any kind of discomfort under any circumstances.

“A little better,” Candleglow acknowledged, but she said no more until they reached the arched stone bridge at the center of the park. Once there, unexpectedly, she spilled out her heart to Icon.

“Why doesn’t Boxwood see me as anything but the scrawny little foal that grew up with him? Why doesn’t anyone see me as anything other than a servant? If anyone needs a babysitter, they ask Candleglow; she’s always available. If someone needs a fill-in for lector at church, call Candleglow; she’ll do it. If the diner needs an extra waitress, give Candleglow a buzz; she won’t mind coming in! I’m a doormat, plain and simple.” She blushed at the double meaning those words conveyed, but stumbled on. “Even you are here only to gain a chance at Splotch. I’m sick of being second-best, Icon! I want to be first in someone’s– in Boxwood’s– world.” Her eyes were wet with tears.

Feeling uncomfortable under the circumstances, Icon knew he had to come up with some bracing advice for the forlorn mare. “Candleglow, you’re seeing this all topsy turvy. You’re not second-rate; you’re indispensable. That’s why none of us can get along without you.” He gently put his hoof under her chin and lifted her head to meet his gaze. “Boxwood will come to realize that in time.”

“Do you really think so?” Candleglow said disconsolately.

“We’ll make sure of it,” Icon grinned, bending to give her a comforting kiss on her cheek.

* * *
Approaching the bridge, Splotch and Boxwood saw the tender scene in profile, the two participants like actors on a stage under the spotlight of the park’s luminaries. Gasping and staring wide-eyed, Splotch stopped in her tracks, disappointment sapping her energy and dulling her sensibilities. Boxwood, however, was furious.

“What’s going on here?” he roared, making a hurried rush toward Icon and Candleglow. “You leave your hooves off my girl.”

Icon and Candleglow put some distance between themselves while Boxwood claimed Candleglow’s hoof and glared at Icon. “What do you think you’re trying to prove?”

“I was just...”

“Let me tell you something, Icon. You can have any other mare in Woodlawn, but Candleglow is spoken for; set your sights elsewhere.”

Candleglow looked at Boxwood in adoring wonder.

As those two started off at a leisurely pace entirely engrossed in each other, they brushed past the still frozen Splotch; that mare finally came out of her trance. She looked accusingly at Icon, assuming from the night’s events that he and Candleglow were much closer friends than she had originally suspected. “This is a first; I’ve never seen you take that kind of treatment without some sort of defense on your part. Are you just going to stand there while he walks off with your date?”

Icon only laughed as he came to Splotch and drew her forward to the crest of the bridge where they could look over the balustrade at the flowing river. He was still chuckling as he explained. “Candleglow should be the leading lady in our next theater production; her talent is being wasted in wardrobe. She set the stage for Boxwood’s unsuspecting capitulation to her charms.”

“You mean she planned this rendezvous to make Boxwood jealous?”

“Exactly. And I’m glad for Candleglow’s sake that it seems to have worked splendidly.”

“And you’re not hurt by the outcome?”

“Why would I be hurt? It’s what we set out to do.”

“But you surely appeared to be quite close to Candleglow this evening.”

“Candleglow and I were in school together for years and years; we grew up together, actually. Of course, we’re close.” He saw the confusion in her emerald eyes. “Just friends.”

“Like us?” whispered Splotch.

Icon chuckled again. “Not exactly like us.” He looked at Splotch closely, sorry that his former actions had caused Splotch to doubt his feelings for her. “Splotch, I was very unkind to you when I first saw you here in Woodlawn, and I’d give anything to change that.” An idea burst upon Icon’s senses. “You wait right here. I’ll be back in a minute.”

“Where are you going?” Splotch put a hoof out to stop him.

“I’m going out of sight and then returning as if I hadn’t yet encountered you since your arrival in Woodlawn. I’ll see you standing here staring out over the water, and we’ll have a chance to start all over again... and maybe get it right this time.”

“Then, go,” Splotch smiled.

* * *
It was only a short space of time before the white stallion walked casually up the path to spot the magenta mare gazing dreamily down into the highlighted water of the brook.

“Splotch!” Icon called upon seeing the mare. “Is that really you?” He breathlessly came to her side.

The magenta mare turned her head and smiled at the stallion. “Why, Icon, how nice to see you again!”

“What brings you to Woodlawn?” Icon adopted a stern demeanor. “You aren’t going after H.C.I. again, are you?”

“No, silly,” Splotch rolled her emerald green eyes. “Actually, I’m here because of a job offer from Anchor.”

“From Anchor? He’s always worked alone.”

“Well, no more. He’s hired me to be his legal assistant.”

Impassionedly, Icon responded. “You mean... you mean that you’ll be living here... in Woodlawn?”

“Yes; I’ve taken an apartment at The Willows; maybe you could come over for supper sometime.”

“Better yet, why don’t I pick you up tomorrow evening, and we’ll dine at the best restaurant in town?”

“If you’re referring to Hood’s Place...”

“No, silly; I mean Fernwood; the lights are low, there’s slow dancing, and the food is good, too.”

“It sounds perfect.”

“Good. I’ll pick you up at your place at seven-thirty.” Icon enthusiastically claimed Splotch’s hoof. “I’ve dreamed of seeing you again like this; I’ve dreamed of those emerald eyes of yours, that sparkling voice, your sweet lips...” Icon moved closer to Splotch and lowered his head toward those lips...

A discreet cough sounded behind the two enamored ponies, and they jumped apart as if dealt an electrical shock. Icon turned to see his parents standing a short distance behind them.

“Excuse us for interrupting,” Whirlpool said, a smile on his face. “But we were on our way home, and this is the most direct route.”

“And Splotch and I were just... taking a breather from the dancing.” Icon looked at the mare beside him. “Well, Splotch, are you up to another dance?” Blushing very becomingly, Splotch answered in the affirmative, and the two young ponies went off toward the brighter lights of Main Street.

Floral Breeze and Whirlpool watched them until they were out of sight. Then, with a twinkle in his eye, Whirlpool led his wife to the spot so recently vacated by their son and Splotch; and they continued from where those two had left off.

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My Little Pony Monthly is a publication of Nematode (Electronic) Publishing.
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Our next issue will be sent September 1st.

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