Chapter 12: Bethany

“Excuse me? Ms. Fershund?” a mare’s voice asked.

Tabby looked up from her sundae, eyeing the newcomer with some uncertainty. The mare in front of her was lanky, tan in color, with stringy blue hair, wearing big round glasses, and a slouchy bag slung around her neck. “Yes?” she asked, a bit coolly, having no idea of what business they might share. 

“I’m Bethany,” the mare blurted out. “You don’t know me… oh, I’m bungling this.” She looked up to the ceiling in despair, then regained her composure. “I was awarded your father’s memorial scholarship!” she explained, a little more coherently.

“Oh… oh,” Tabby said slowly, realization dawning. She had thought her involvement with the scholarship selection was at an end.

“So, hi!” Bethany smiled broadly. “I just wanted to say how grateful I am, and how much I admire your father’s work on Skuspisola, and would you autograph this?” She slid a book across the table to Tabby.

“I mean, I didn’t write it or anything,” Tabby protested, nonetheless taking the bland-looking scholarly publication.

“No, but I figure you’re the closest I can get to the author, right?” Bethany looked at her hopefully.

“I suppose,” Tabby agreed, and took the proffered pen.

“I really wanted to come to this campus because it’s where he did his last research,” Bethany chattered as Tabby scribbled out her signature. “I really thought it would help to connect with him, you know? Get inside his head, see what he saw.”

“Right.” Tabby had never thought of her father as the type to attract fan-girls, but here one was.

“Do you really think he’s dead,” Bethany forged ahead, “or deep undercover on a hippological study?”

Tabby started. She might have her own suspicions on the topic, but those were closely guarded and–so she had thought–unique to her. She frowned slightly.

“Oh, me and my big mouth! Of course you don’t want to talk about it.” Bethany giggled nervously, obviously becoming aware of the awkwardness of her statement. “Well, thanks. I’ll leave you alone now. Bye!” She dashed off.

Tabby pensively stared after the retreating mare; then, shaking her head slightly, got back to her sundae.

* * *

Several days later, Strawberry poked her head into the back room of the clinic, where Tabby was at the workbench. “Tabby, you have a visitor,” she reported.

“That’s never a good sign,” Tabby said with a sigh, setting down the tray of instruments she held. “Guess I’ll get it over with.” She crossed the room and entered the reception area, and found Bethany waiting for her.

“Ms. Fershund–I found something I think you should see,” the young mare said, her face lighting up. “I was in the library archives, and found a box of your father’s research.”

That was all supposed to have been returned to the family, Tabby thought with a frown. She had poured over the piles of dogeared manuscripts often enough growing up, but hadn’t realized she didn’t have the entire collection.

“Well,” said Bethany, “there was one book–more of a journal, really–seemed like the kind of thing that should be with family.”

“Indeed,” said Tabby, wondering who she would have to complain to at the university to reclaim it. Her mom would likely know who to throw money at to make things happen.

But Bethany rummaged in her sack and pulled out a thin book. “Here it is,” she announced proudly, offering it over to Tabby.

“You took it?” Tabby asked, impressed in spite of herself at the young mare’s gumption.

“I thought you should have it,” Bethany said, avoiding the question of legalities altogether.

“Oh. Well… thanks,” said Tabby, marveling at the piece of history in her hooves as Bethany took her leave, departing as suddenly as she had appeared. 

Tabby was definitely intrigued by the journal, and looking forward to sitting down to study it in detail; but she was annoyed that she hadn’t found it, hadn’t even known it existed. As Hubert’s daughter, the one who felt she knew him the best, this interloper Bethany was making her feel disloyal. Why hadn’t she devoted her life to the study of Skuspisola? But Atlantis had always been Tabby’s preferred lost civilization. It was such an obscure topic that she hadn’t thought any researchers would follow in his tracks.

But there were work tasks to attend to, so reading would have to wait. As the day wound down, Thomas gave her leave to go study it, with the agreement that they would meet later for dinner.

Sinking down into her couch at home, Tabby pulled out the journal and settled in for a good read.

* * *

We took the girls to the ice cream shop. Those two are a study in opposites–Tabby approached her sundae with great enthusiasm, and most of it ended up smeared on the table, whereas Tamara took dainty little bites. It will never cease to amaze me how two with identical DNA can be so diametrically opposed.

* * *

Tabby smiled. Her father had never made her feel like the defective twin, instead accepting that they were different individuals. Her mother had always held out hope that Tabby would “catch up” to Tamara in development. Tabby should probably share this with her twin, but it would probably end up in a video, and Tabby wasn’t ready for that yet. She continued reading, mostly innocuous observations about happenings on campus, and reports of family outings. Tabby made special note of one entry, however:

* * *

Tabby has the makings of a scholar–if something should happen to me, I hope Agatha doesn’t extinguish the spark. She means well, but does tend to manage things to meet her own goals.

* * *

Had her father truly been anticipating that something would happen to him? Tabby had enjoyed toying with the notion that her mother had driven him off… but were there other forces at play?

* * *

I took Agatha out for a night on the town–it seems that one of us is always busy with something, and it’s getting harder and harder to make time for just the two of us. She’s driven, but no one compares. Afterwards…

* * *

Tabby’s brow raised. That was a little too much information, she realized, quickly skipping over the remainder of that passage. But it was a stark realization that her father had truly cared for her mother. They seemed too different to truly suit, with all the fighting she had observed… well, for that matter, how often had she and Thomas been at daggers drawn? But Tabby had never been witness to her parents making-up.

* * *

The Krulotin have been in touch. They’ve asked me to look into one of their projects. I’m not keen on the idea, as it would necessitate a long time away from home; but it is one of those ‘fate of the world’ type things, so I suppose I’ll have to oblige. Agatha won’t think much of it, thinks I’m away too much as it is. She’s not overly fond of the Krulotin, but hasn’t taken it to extremes like the Fairfaxes. They may be fools, or they may be smarter than all of us. Only time will tell.

* * *

Tabby started at the mention of that surname. Could it be Thomas’s parents? Agatha had mentioned knowing Caprice as a foal, but hadn’t indicated the relationship had extended into their adult years. What extreme measures was her father referencing–was it the giving up of magic? Her family, Thomas’ family, and the Krulotin (also known as The Old Milk House Foundation) were all connected… what was the story there? The journal was frustratingly light on further details, however, and ended on an innocent entry about a day at the zoo in Hayton. There were no more mentions of the Krulotin and their mysterious task.

* * *

“I think The Old Milk House Foundation is behind my father’s disappearance!” Tabby announced without preamble as she let herself into Thomas’ abode.

“What makes you think that?” Thomas asked, setting down the book he was reading, not overly taken aback. He was accustomed by now to Tabby’s strange starts.

“The journal–look at this–see, he was working with them–well, the Krulotin–but they’re the same thing, you know,” she chattered excitedly, “and I think your parents were involved, too!”

“What?” Thomas was incredulous, but read the passage she pointed at.

“All this time, I’ve blamed my mother–but maybe that was never it,” Tabby said, pacing back and forth, voice rising with great energy. “Maybe the mission is taking this long. What if the same sort of thing happened to your parents?”

Thomas frowned, setting the book down thoughtfully. “That was an accident,” he said slowly. “There were no mysterious powers at work.”

“But how can you be so sure?” Tabby pinned him with a sharp look.

“I trust that the authorities did everything they could, and there’s no way they could have survived.”

“You would trust the authorities,” Tabby said, as if that were such a bad thing.

“I held out hope for a long time. Every day, I thought that this would be the day there would be news. The emotional toll of that, to build up that fantasy every day and have it come crashing down, is exhausting.” Thomas passed a hoof in front of his eyes. “I can’t go through that again. I’m sorry, but this isn’t one of your conspiracies.”

“One of my silly, unfounded conspiracies, you mean?” Tabby shot back. “You’re ignoring the evidence right before your eyes, and tell me I’m crazy!”

Maybe he wasn’t giving her enough credit. He thought back to that last conversation with his parents–our families were known to be powerful magic wielders… those that sought to bend us to their will…

“Good Lord,” Thomas said, the implications sinking in. “What if they’re still out there, being held against their will?”

“We’ve got to talk to the Krulotin,” Tabby said.

For that matter, were the Krulotin friend or foe?

* * *

Tabby called the phone number they had on record for The Old Milk House Foundation, but there was no answer. Next, she scoured the internet for alternate contact information for the mysterious society, and could come up with nothing but an out-of-town mailing address. So, on the following day, Tabby and Thomas closed up the clinic early and walked out to find out what was there. 

They passed through the unremarkable and sparsely populated community known as Moondust Corners. Despite its romantic name, the place had little to offer apart from a rundown tavern and a few nondescript residences. Past this little bump in the road, they veered off onto a gravel path that wound its way through woods and fields. As they progressed, the path gradually became less defined until they arrived at their destination—a weathered fieldstone barn foundation nestled into the side of a hill.

“These are the coordinates,” Tabby confirmed, checking her phone. She had put herself in charge of navigation, even though she was notoriously terrible at directions, and it was a wonder they had gotten here at all.

“There’s nothing here,” Thomas noted, gazing around. They were surrounded only by windswept fields, with no habitation besides the barn remains in sight.

“They’re a secret society; you think they’re just going to have a normal office?” Tabby scoffed. “No, there’s got to be something hidden.” She made her way down cracked steps into the base of the barn. Thomas, muttering something about tetanus, followed her.

They cautiously navigated through the debris of the barn foundation, carefully stepping around the scattered remnants. Over time, the wooden implements had either been removed or completely decayed, and what remained were fragments of rock, concrete, and scattered metal bits. There was no indication of recent occupation.

“There’s nobody here,” Thomas said, “and it’s getting dark.”

Tabby hopped down into the empty grain silo. “Ah-hah, it’s a trapdoor!” she said jubilantly. “With a padlock! There’s definitely something here.” She knocked, and waited several moments, but there was no answer. “Well, what happened to them?” she needlessly asked, perturbed.

“They must be somewhere. They’re still paying the bills,” Thomas pointed out.

“Something’s not right,” Tabby said, shaking her head. “They’re guarding you; they wouldn’t just leave you to the wolves.”

“Maybe they had more pressing matters.”

“They’re the royal guard of Atlantis; it’s literally their job!” Tabby cried out.

“You have no evidence that I’m Atlantean royalty,” Thomas countered. 

“Well, you’re certainly something worth their interest.”

“No more than you are. Your family is at least as much involved, if not more,” Thomas said. “Come on, there’s nothing to see here.”

“Shh!” Tabby hushed, extending her hoof and gesturing for silence. “I can pick this.” She lifted the padlock up in her hoof and focused intently on the object. Suddenly, a spark flickered, causing her to yelp and jump back, dropping the padlock. “It has some magic protection on it,” she said, gently massaging her tingling hoof. “I don’t think I can break through it.”

“Maybe that’s for the best,” Thomas said, looking cautiously around. “Let’s get back to town.”

* * *


“Fall back!” Captain Ravenwood shouted, taking cover behind a fallen tree trunk. Laser gunshots pinged through the air as the cloaked figures regrouped in the forest clearing.

“This isn’t good,” Ming stated the obvious. “The KU have us in a tight spot. But if we don’t force them back now–”

“Their defense is air-tight!” Troz interrupted, bounding up to the others.

“As I was saying,” said Ming with a dark look at Troz, “if we don’t succeed here, the true lineage of Atlantis will fall.”

“Do you think I don’t know that!” Captain Ravenwood snapped impatiently, barely withholding the impulse to stomp her foot. “It’s only our one job!”

“I’m still not accustomed to this laser weaponry,” Troz said, eyeing his gun skeptically. “Give me a sword any day.”

“A sword won’t get you very far out there,” scowled Ming.

“Remember that time we had to go looking for a tarantula, and harassed local shopkeepers?” Klatoo broke-in, thinking of happier instances.

“Those were fun times,” agreed Troz.

“What are you talking about! It’s much better to be seeking glory on the battlefield,” Ming declared grandly, moments before a stray laser beam hit him in the arm. “AHHHH!”

Captain Ravenwood sighed. “MEDIC!”

“Captain, look!” Klatoo pointed at something in the distance, and they all gasped.

“Reinforcements!” Captain Ravenwood marveled as a contingent of their countrymen, the Royal Society of Krulotin, appeared on the horizon. “Father–I mean, the General–actually responded to my request! Into the fray, warriors!” she cried, and they all complied with gusto.

With the arrival of the Krulotin reinforcements, the armies again clashed. Beams of vibrant energy erupted from their laser guns, lighting up the battlefield. The air sizzled as the lethal projectiles streaked back and forth, seeking to dismantle their respective targets. And as the last echoes of battle faded away, the heroic Royal Society of Krulotin stood triumphant. 

As the KU army retreated into the distance and the Krulotin troops celebrated the victory, a tall, domineering individual mounted on a mighty steed rode forward and addressed Captain Ravenwood. “It will not always be convenient to come clean up your mess,” the General said sternly. Shadowbane, the General’s steed, remained silent but looked on at Captain Ravenwood in an extremely judgemental way.

“I understand,” said Captain Ravenwood, clenching her fists to take out some of her frustration. “But when I’m only provided with a small contingent to do the job–”

“The Krulotin have many battlefronts,” said the General, frowning. “We rely on our quick wit and tactical expertise to stay ahead of foes much larger than us. I expected better of you.”

“Is this where I’m supposed to stubbornly pledge to do better to prove myself to you?” Captain Ravenwood demanded. “I did the best I could with what I had!”

The General sat still on Shadowbane, silently regarding her.

“Fine, whatever!” she cried out. “I’ll just beat impossible odds, even though that’s statistically, well, impossible!”

“It’s what heroes are supposed to do,” Shadowbane said snidely.

Captain Ravenwood exhaled impatiently. She had known Shadowbane as a colt, back when he was known as Billy and known for snitching cookies from the barracks kitchen, before he had been chosen as the General’s official war horse and changed his name to something more pretentious. “Can it!” she spat.

“You forget yourself,” said the General warningly. “We’ll be watching.” And with that, he and Shadowbane turned as one and they walked away.