My Little Pony Monthly Issue 26 (May 1, 1999)

My Little Pony Monthly
Established June 1997
This Newsletter is Child-Friendly

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Issue 26
May 1999

Chasing the Rainbows
by Northstar (
© All Rights Reserved

Lastly sighed as she put down her flute. Ember was staring into space, as usual. Lastly smiled to herself. She loved that little pony, even if she was sort-of crazy sometimes. But they all were at some time or another.

"I don't want to play anymore, Lastly!" Ember whined. She shook her white mane out of her eyes. Outside of Star Manor's pink and purple walls, ponies frolicked. Ember longed to be out there with them.

Lastly thought about Star Manor and Ember. Ember had been her friend for only a short number of years, but they felt so close that it seemed they were sisters. Lastly lived with Ember and her family in Star Manor. Queen Northstar and Knight Light had been very generous to Lastly, after her mom had been lost, never to be seen again.

Ember, Northstar, and Knight Light weren't the only ponies in the mansion. Ember's two sisters, Sweet Star and Baby Northstar lived there, too. They were both pegasi like their mother and father, but Ember had ended up a magical earth pony.

"Okay, Miss Ember! Let's go!" Lastly called. Lastly was Ember's flute tutor and the pony had had enough with music for the day.

The sun was shining brightly when the two went outside. Lastly couldn't help but smile when she saw Ember run to an oak tree and lay down underneath it. Ember loves to sleep under that tree, she thought. Lastly left Ember to her own amusements and sat by the cool stream. She waded into it; the water was so refreshing.

She looked at Ember and smiled. The little pony had fallen asleep under the tree, and her tiara was crooked. She looked like an angel. Each princess had a tiara, but Ember had a crown as well. She only wore it on special occasions. Lastly wanted to try on the tiara and quietly stole to Ember's side. Lifting it off the sleeping pony's head, she set it upon her own.

The tiara was stunning and it shone brightly. It was solid gold inlaid with multicolored jewels, but it felt light on Lastly's head. She went over and looked at her reflection. She wished she was a real princess.

Ember opened her eyes and saw Lastly admiring herself. She got up and walked over to Lastly, startling her.

"Oh! Ember! You scared me!" Lastly said.

"Nice crown; where did you get it?" Ember joked. "No, why don't you wear it for awhile? I don't mind."

Lastly grinned. She loved the fact that Ember had remarkable tact and always knew what to say without hurting anyone. Maybe that's why the ponies of Star Valley, where they lived, loved her and her family. They were all wonderful ponies.

Just then, Ember cried out, "Lastly, look at this cool rainbow! I can put my hooves through it!"

Lastly trotted over to where Ember stood. The rainbow was brightly colored and sparkled with a glitter-like substance. Being the practical one, Lastly tried it for herself. The little pony was probably making it up. She put her hoof up to the rainbow and was astonished to find that Ember was not lying! Lastly was curious to see what would happen if she tried to fly over the rainbow. Her horn glowing, she floated up to where it disappeared into the clouds.

Ember ran to where Lastly had gone. She looked up and saw no sign of the silver-haired unicorn. Rolling her eyes, she flew after Lastly after shifting into a pegasus. Where would this rainbow take them? She would soon find out.

Lastly heard Ember talking to her from behind. Silly girl! The clouds were flying past her as she reached the end of the Rainbow. She had figured it would take her to another part of Star Valley, but it hadn't! What was this place? She heard Ember next to her. They were now flying beside each other. Lastly could tell Ember was wondering about this new place, too.

They were in a lush green valley. Ahead of them was a massive pink castle with aqua turrets. Ponies of every kind covered the valley. There were strange looking ponies with butterfly wings, babies, multicolored ponies, and more.

"Where are we?" Ember asked, cocking her head.

"Why, you're in Dream Valley, of course! Where did you think you were? Flutter Valley?" a green pegasus cried as she flew down to the ground.

The two ponies continued to look puzzled. Those names had no meaning to them. Where were they?

"I'm Medley!" the pegasus told them. "This is our home, Dream Valley."

"Whose home?" Ember asked, feeling a bit shy.

"We're all Little Ponies!" Medley cried. "There are all kinds of us-- Flutter Ponies, Big Brothers, and more!"

"Oh! You are called Little Ponies?" Ember asked, watching the other ponies continue with their activities; they appeared to be oblivious to her and Lastly.

"Yeah! You're Little Ponies too, right? Where'd you come from?" Medley asked, her bright eyes shining.

"We are Ember and Lastly. We come from Star Valley," Lastly explained to the curious pegasus. This place looked interesting; maybe they could stay awhile.

"Why don't I show you around and take you to Megan?" Medley asked.

The two ponies shook their manes, having heard more names with no meaning to them.

"Megan is a human friend of ours. She is really kind. By the way, how did you get here? Did you fly over the rainbow?" Medley asked the bewildered ponies.

"Yeah! It was cool!" Lastly answered. "Sure! Show us around, but what is a human?"

"It's hard to explain," Medley answered. "Come on; I will give you the grand tour of Dream Castle! Hey, why is that crown on your head?'‘ she asked Lastly, noticing the glittery tiara.

"Oh! It's mine; I am Princess Ember, but Lastly is wearing my crown," Ember explained.

"Okay, neat!" Medley replied. These ponies seemed very intriguing. One was a princess and the other was a gorgeous unicorn. She had never seen a silver-haired pony before.

The three of them set off through the valley. Medley talked along the way, telling them about the kinds of ponies there were.

"The Flutter Ponies are the butterfly-winged ones. They flutter all over Ponyland."

"Ponyland?" Lastly asked. At last a name they had heard of!

"And the Big Brothers are those ones over there,"Medley said, gesturing to some ponies playing football. "There are babies, and Twice-As-Fancy Ponies. They have symbols all over their bodies. The Sunshine Ponies are like that, too. There are Rainbow Ponies as well. They have rainbow hair."

Lastly was interested. "Boy! There are a lot of ponies!" she exclaimed.

"Yeah, but never any like you!" a new voice joined in the conversation. There, in front of them, was a Rainbow Pony, with pinwheels glittering on her hip. "Hi! I am Pinwheel; I saw you two fly down here. That is really cool!"

The two ponies blushed. They knew that these ponies here might not have the skills they did.

Medley introduced them to Pinwheel and they went on their way.

Inside the castle, the two met Majesty, Queen of Dream Valley. The blue-haired white unicorn was very kind to them. She put them both in a room in one of the wings of Dream Castle. They got settled in and then went back outside to finish meeting more ponies.

They were walking by the Waterfall after meeting the Sea Ponies, when a Big Brother Pony pranced up. "Hi! I heard about you; you're new, right?" he asked.

Lastly smiled at the blue pony with a treasure chest symbol. "Yeah! And you are...?" she asked.

"Barnacle's the name; deep-sea diving is the game. If you want, I'll take you sailing and diving with me sometime," Barnacle told her. "We can invite more ponies if you like."

"Yeah! That would be neat; don't you think, Lastly?" Ember said.

A baby pony toddled up to them. She was a white unicorn with a shooting star symbol. "Hi-I-I... I Baby Glory," she said adorably. She held out her hoof, and there lay a beautiful flower. "For princess."

Ember blushed and took the flower. The ponies were so kind here; it was almost like home. Home... she wished she could stay here forever, but she also missed her home, Star Valley. Looking at Lastly, Ember knew she was thinking the same thing.

By now, all the ponies were gathered around Lastly, Ember, and Medley. Lastly and Ember had never seen so many ponies before. A kind-looking yellow butterfly-winged pony came forward. "I am Rosedust, Queen of the Flutter Ponies," she said, and turned to the other ponies around her. "And this is Cherries Jubilee, Sundance, Sky Flier, Moondancer, Surprise, Tabby, and Sugarberry," she told them, pointing to each pony as she said their name.

Lastly and Ember were only half listening to Rosedust. They were staring at a tall, blonde girl in a blue jumpsuit. She wore a bright red heart-shaped locket around her neck. Was this a hu-man...?

The girl smiled. "I am Megan; Medley told me about you."

"Oh!" Ember said. "She said you were a human; we have never seen one before. Do excuse us for staring."

Megan laughed. "It's all right; I have never seen ponies like you before. Tell me, what kind of magic can you do?"

Before the two of them could reply, a yellow earth pony with a magic wand on her side came running up.

"Oh! Yes! Show us your magic," the pony cried. "I'm Magic Star."

By now, every pony's eyes were on Lastly and Ember. Ember went first, telling them that she could read minds. The unicorns in the crowd looked surprised. They had never met an earth pony who read minds! They hung on to Ember's every word. Ember also explained that she could shape-shift, like Mimic, one the unicorns they had met. Ember tossed her white mane. Her eyes glittered. She shifted into a purple pegasus with a pink flower symbol. The ponies were in awe-- all except for Mimic.

"That's nothing!" she cried, shifting into a unicorn, purple with white dots for a symbol. "What else can you do?"

"Lastly can create music and produce any other sound with her horn," Ember explained as Lastly caused a thunderclap.

But it wasn't Lastly who caused the rain that began to fall. Nor was it Baby Rainribbon, who had that power. The ponies all began to head for Dream Castle. By now, the rain was falling in sheets.

"Hurry, now; everyone into Dream Castle," Magic Star called, rearing up.

Inside the castle, the ponies sighed. What were they to do now?

"I'm cold! And it's crowded here!" Baby Glory whined. She was right; it was cold and crowded. Every space in Dream Castle was filled.

Majesty straightened her crown. "I am the queen and I say everything is going to be all right!" Just then water leaked onto her head. "Can anyone conjure something to help the leaks and stop the rain eventually?"

Munchy spoke out amongst the crowd. "I can help with food!" she cried as a feast fit for a king appeared on the table. Dishes of every kind covered it and the ponies set to eating.

"I can help the rain a bit. Well, I can try," Rainribbon said with food in her mouth.

"It's highly logical for me to start planning how to stop the rain scientifically, while Rainribbon stops it magically. And perhaps Windy could help," Wind Whistler said, gesturing to Rainribbon, who by now had her face buried in a key-lime pie. Rainribbon looked out sheepishly and went back to eating.

"Wind Whistler, that is a marvelous idea!" Windy said as she went to putting on her rain-gear. She opened the massive door to Dream Castle and stepped outside. The rain poured down around her. "Are you coming, Rainribbon?" she called, dripping wet.

Rainribbon had finished the pie and now was eating the pie plate. Her ears pricked up; she put it down and ran after Windy.

Lastly smiled as the two closed the door. "Is she always like that?" she asked. When the rest of the ponies laughed and nodded, Lastly laughed.

Wind Whistler came in the room, her mouth full of graphs. "By my immaculate calculations, the rain should stop in exactly... seventeen days," she said, letting the charts fall to the ground.

The other ponies were surprised, and murmurs went through the crowd. Ember's symbol glowed and she sent a flash of light out through the crowd to get their attention. The murmuring stopped and the ponies were quiet.

"Hear me! If there is anything you can do to ease the discomfort and maybe stop the rain, do it now," Majesty called, after thanking Ember.

Dream Castle became abuzz with activity. Buttons ran to the closet, pulling out linen. "I can help make temporary beds for everyone!" she called.

Cupcake, Taffy, Munchy, and Gingerbread all headed to the kitchen to prepare food for storage. Munchy began conjuring as many non-perishable items as she could. Soon, the kitchen counters were overflowing with fruit, bread, canned food, and more. They heard a sound; the babies were crying!

There were twenty babies in the castle, so Glory, Lily, Mirror Mirror, and Bright Eyes all had their work cut out from them. Munchy conjured up bottles of milk and Buttons sent Moondancer to fetch cradles and buggies from the Lullaby Nursery. She soon returned and the ponies went to work soothing the wailing babies. Glory quickly got her daughter calmed down, but the other nineteen babies were still crying.

Lastly and Ember thought they could be of some help, as well. Lastly and Medley went to creating lullabies with their magic, while Ember started a warm fire in the fireplace. Soon all the babies were asleep and the ponies were exhausted. But something else was wrong; where were Windy and Rainribbon?

Right then, they came bursting through the door. "The weather is too strong!" they both cried. They were astonished at all the activities the others were working at, so instead of talking, they went right to work helping.

Sugarberry and Posey had headed outside to uproot plants and pot them. "Oh, my dear flowers!" Posey cried, as they stepped outside. She and Sugarberry went right to uprooting the plants and putting them in the wheelbarrow they had brought along. If they needed light, Sunlight could help them.

Swinger had wandered into Dream Castle's music wing and was finding tapes to keep them amused while the storm raged on. Suddenly the power went out!

All the ponies immediately stopped working and raced to where the others were. Best Wishes and Ember went to work on conjuring candles, while Megan soothed the babies.

The rain raged on and on and the power was still off. By now, the ponies were restless and bored. Baby Tiddley Winks had made them play game after game, and they were tired.

There was nothing to do but sit in the cold damp castle listening to the rain. "At least the babies are not crying..." Crumpet trailed off.

"Yet," finished Heart Throb.

The door burst open. Sugarberry and Posey galloped in. "We found the source of the rain!" they called.

"The witches of the Volcano of Gloom are causing it," cried Sugarberry as she dried herself off.

"They want to dwown us," cried Baby Cuddles as she ran and hid in her baby buggy.

All the ponies immediately started yelling and Majesty had to calm them down.

"Wind Whistler, you said seventeen days, right?" the queen asked. Wind Whistler nodded.

"Okay, then we have to use lots of pony magic, besides the Rainbow of Light," Majesty continued, referring to Megan's locket. Once more, the castle was abuzz.

"Some will have to go get the Princesses!" Megan cried. "Who is the fastest flyer?"

Whizzer stepped forward. "Gee, Megan, it's me, it's me. I can get you there, quick, quick. I can get you there."

Wind Whistler shook her mane. "I don't think it is logical for Megan to travel in this calamity of the skies."

Lastly grinned at Whizzer and everyone else. "She doesn't think Megan should ride in the rain," she translated. "But Ember can go; she just has to morph first."

"How about it, Ember? Want to go?" Majesty asked. "You are a Princess yourself. Maybe you should not go."

Ember laughed. "It's not that bad; besides, I love to fly!" she said as she morphed into a purple pegasus with a white star symbol and white hair.

Lastly nodded at Majesty; it was Lastly's job to watch over Ember while they were here so she would go, too. She, too, morphed, and replaced her horn for wings. Then they were off.

The three of them-- Whizzer, Ember, and Lastly-- flew through the clouds, the rain pouring down around them. Would they make to the princess ponies' court?

Ember was anxious to meet these princess ponies. They must be really beautiful and magical. She had never met another princess, besides her sisters. Her sisters... she wished she could be home with them and her mother. Queen Northstar must miss her; and her father, Knight Light, would be saddened as well. She missed the dark blue pegasus with aqua hair. She had inherited her fire and light power from him. He had even named her. She sighed.

Whizzer's voice interrupted her thoughts. "There! Just ahead is the princess ponies' court!" she cried.

Ember and Lastly were a bit nervous. Sure, they were used to dealing with royalty, but these were the princess ponies. Ember laughed as she saw little balls of fur scampering under their hooves. "What are those?" she called to Whizzer.

"Bushwoolies-- each of them you see belongs to a princess," Whizzer replied. "I guess I better tell you a bit about the princesses before we meet them. Their names are Tiffany, Starburst, Taffeta, Primrose, Sparkle, Serena, Royal Blue, Dawn, Misty, Moondust, Pristina, and Sunbeam. They are really nice and control the magic of Ponyland."

"I hope they can help us!" cried Lastly, who up to now had been silent.

The three landed. Ember tried to land gracefully, but ended up tumbling over and hitting Lastly, who just rolled her eyes.

Just then, the door to the princess ponies' castle burst open, and the princesses came galloping out. "Do hurry!" they cried, ushering the three ponies into the castle.

The princess ponies stood in a line before Whizzer, Lastly, and Ember. Peeking out from their legs were the Bushwoolies. Each of them stepped forward and introduced themselves.

"What is the problem?" a blue earth pony princess, who had said her name was Royal Blue, asked.

"We came... here to ask for... help," breathed an exhausted Ember. "I am Princess Ember, and this is Lastly."

"Princess? I am sorry, but you don't look like a princess to me!" Tiffany haughtily replied. "Where is your crown?" she asked, pointing at Ember's drenched head.

"My crown is right here..." Ember told her, feeling the top of her head. "My crown! Where is it???" she cried, distraught. Lastly had given it back to her when they left Dream Castle; when they had left, she must have lost it!

"Queen Northstar is not going to be happy with either of us..." Lastly trailed off.

"Hold on a second," Starburst said, holding up a hoof. "Queen Northstar? We know her! But we did not know she had a daughter. Her husband is Knight Light, right?"

Ember nodded. "Yes, and now Mom will be furious that I lost my crown." She hung her head, tears rolling down her face.

"I am sorry you lost your crown, Princess Ember. And that I doubted you," Tiffany said.

Ember sighed. "It's okay. We have come to ask your help in stopping the rain. The witches from the Volcano of..."

"Gloom?" asked Taffeta, and Ember nodded.

"Why, of course we will help you! We must leave at once!" cried Moondust, grabbing her wand. Eager, the Bushwoolie, jumped on her back. "No, you must all stay here," she told the Bushwoolies, nudging Eager onto the floor.

All the princesses followed Moondust outside. Each wore their damsel hat and carried their wand. By then it was so dark, they could barely see.

"Okay, pegasi and unicorns, fly. Earth ponies, if you want to fly, Ember or Lastly can morph you into a pegasus, but only for a short time," Moondust explained.

Princesses Royal Blue, Primrose, and Serena all decided to go by land, while earth ponies Moondust, Dawn, and Taffeta decided to be morphed by Ember. They soon sprouted wings and were on their way.

In the sky, they had no way to know which way to go. Ember grinned, and her symbol glowed as she guided the way. The ponies on ground could look up and follow the light. Ember looked at the others. She knew what they were thinking. Where would this adventure end?

Back at Dream Castle, Majesty was thinking the same thing. She was getting old and soon was to pass the crown to another pony. But who? She couldn't think about that right now; they had to stop the storm.

The storm raged on as if it had a mind of its own. The bitter cold rain pelted the pegasis' wings as they bravely flew through the dark sky.

On the ground, Serena sighed. "We'll never make it!" she cried.

"Yes, we will. We just must have hope!" answered Royal Blue, her reply barely heard over the winds. This storm was getting odder by the minute. All of a sudden, snowflakes began to fall. "Oh, no!" Royal Blue cried. "The pegasi can't fly through this snow!" The snow was quickly turning into a blizzard, and the pegasi couldn't take much more, it seemed.

In the air, they decided to land. At least they would have strength in numbers. They were walking along when Ember saw something sparkle. Digging in the freezing snow, she found it was her crown, missing some of its jewels. Lastly came over to her and asked what was the matter. Ember showed her the crown. She would barely have seen the white unicorn if it wasn't for her silver hair. By now, the snow was up to their knees, but they were almost there.

"Look!" cried Sparkle, hanging her head down to avoid the bitter wind that froze them from head to toe. "It's the Volcano of Gloom, and there is sun there, not snow!"

"I knew the witches were in on this," Tiffany said, a little too haughtily, Ember thought.

"Yeah! ‘Cause we told you," Ember replied.

Lastly rolled her eyes; Ember was getting another attitude. Silly pony! Tiffany should not try to fight her; Ember would always win. Lastly had learned this the hard way, having many an argument with Ember. She was a wonderful pony with all the grace of a princess, but she could argue for days.

"Excuse me?" asked Tiffany, looking down at Ember. " ‘Princess,' you said. More like street rat! You never showed me your crown and you don't have a royal mark, like we princess ponies do." Tiffany showed Ember her left front hoof. There a dark blue tear drop-shaped mark lay.

Ember looked at the mark. She didn't have that in her present pegasus form, but she did have her crown back. "Okay, this means war!" Grabbing her crown, she shoved towards Tiffany. "See?" she cried. "This is MY crown!" The others just stood by, watching.

Tiffany looked at her. "So?" she said rudely. "Prove you are a princess; you could have stolen that crown from Queen Northstar and said you were her daughter."

"You want proof?" asked Ember. "Okay!" She put on her crown and closed her eyes. As she morphed back into her true self, there was a flash of light. There, before the ponies, stood a shimmering pony-- dark blue with white hair. A tiara glittered from upon her head. Ember's star symbol was glowing brightly. She walked bravely up to Tiffany and held up her hoof. "See that?" she asked, not waiting for an answer.

Tiffany looked at the white star on Ember's hoof, speechless. "I am so sorry, Princess Ember. Sorry I doubted you." Tiffany bowed. She was a Princess of Star Valley. Only a true royal from Star Valley could have that mark.

"That's okay," grinned Ember. "Let's go!" she cried, running towards the Volcano of Gloom.

* * *
Far atop the ponies, Hydia laughed. She would get those miserable princesses and their powers; then she could rule Ponyland. She had to thank Draggle for stealing the Moochick's book of weather spells. Those spells had certainly come in handy, she thought. "Start preparing the traps!" she cried to Draggle. Lousy girl-- never was much use. All she did was lay on the sagging couch and eat.

"Yes, Mommy!" Draggle called. She knew the remark would aggravate Hydia. Draggle went to preparing the traps and chains for the ponies.

* * *
The ponies were now running towards Dream Castle, their vision blocked by the snow. Dream Castle was covered in it. The group ran inside, shaking from the cold. "Okay, we are all here!" Tiffany called. The other ponies looked up, startled.

"Come, come. Sit by the warm fire," urged Majesty from her throne.

"Thank you very much for the offer, but we have to be on our way. We need every unicorn we can get, plus any other magic ponies who can be of service," called Princess Sparkle.

"We will go!" cried a pink Flutter Pony with purple hair.

"No, Lily. We cannot go, because the snow is too strong for our delicate wings," answered Rosedust. Lily looked back at her; she wanted to help. Rosedust was firm; she was Queen of the Flutter Ponies, after all.

"No babies are allowed to go, either!" called Majesty, as she saw Clipper heading towards the door.

Reluctantly, the babies and Flutter Ponies retreated from the door. "I don't think we need more than five pegasi," Whizzer said, watching the princess ponies pace.

They decided the best fliers would go. Lofty, Whizzer, Wind Whistler, Masquerade, and Surprise would go by air. They needed all the magic they could use, so Rainribbon would go after she finished eating; Windy, Fizzy, and Mimic would go along with Lastly and Ember, who by this time were exhausted.

They started the long walk towards the volcano. Fizzy went inside first when they reached it. There, waiting for them, was Hydia and Draggle. Her other daughter was nowhere to be seen. "Stupid ponies to be coming here!" cried Draggle. "We are gonna get you!"

Fizzy laughed. "Not if we get you first!" she cried, sending a bubble towards Draggle. The bubble engulfed her and she floated to the top of the ceiling.

"Have a nice day!" Windy called as she blew Draggle out of the volcano.

By now, all of the ponies were in the volcano. It was Hydia against all of them. Surely they would win!

"Hideuous chainus biggitus!" Hydia cried, waving her hand over Ember. Chains appeared on Ember's neck and legs. Lastly gasped. Ember struggled to break through the chains, but couldn't.

"Does anyone want to join her?" Hydia laughed wickedly. The ponies all shook their heads.

Lastly reared up on her hind legs. Her hooves striking the air, she snorted.

"Everyone cover your ears, NOW!" Ember cried to the others. The other ponies raised an eyebrow but followed her example.

Lastly continued to rear and whinny. Her horn glowing, she pointed it directly at Hydia. A sonic boom rifled through the air. A second, then a third, followed it. "Want another?" Lastly asked Hydia, who winced and held her ears.

"No! No! I am sorry! Anything! I will stop it right now," she cried. "Snowus, blowus, rainus tainus," Hydia chanted.

Wind Whistler went back outside. She flew back in, grinning. "The snow and rain have stopped! And the snow is already reaching a liquid state."

"Melting," Lastly translated.

Ember, who had been cowering in the corner, looked at her chains. They lay broken. Lastly's sound boom had broken them!

"Now will you leave?" Hydia groaned. "I made it right again."

"Not quite!" Wind Whistler replied. "Fizzy, do your stuff."

Fizzy bubbled Hydia, and Windy blew it outside. Masquerade flew after the bubble and pushed it into the lava gurgling outside. She left Hydia there, hovering above the lava.

The ponies left. When they reached Dream Castle, all the ponies were laughing in the warm sunshine. "You did it! You did it!" they all cried.

The ponies crowded around Lastly and Ember. "We would love to stay but we have to get home to Star Valley," Ember told them.

"We know, but we would like you two to accept these," Majesty said, offering a wand to each of them. "Rub either of these and you can come here anytime. Oh, and Ember?"

"Yes?" Ember asked.

"Can I see your crown?" Majesty asked. Ember passed to her and Majesty waved her horn over it. The crown gleamed and there was Ember's crown, looking newer than ever!

"Thank you!" Ember cried. The crown's top now came to form a star.

Lastly turned to Ember. "We have to go now. But we cannot thank you enough. We will come back; I promise," she said to the crowd. "But before we go, we would like to leave Whizzer, Fizzy, Masquerade, and the rest of you a gift.

Ember conjured a bunch of crowns. She gave one to Majesty. "This can let you visit us anytime you wish," she told the unicorn. Ember gave the other crowns to their friends and they were on their way.

Megan opened the Rainbow of Light. The rainbow appeared in front of Lastly and Ember. Ember grew wings and Lastly floated to the top of the rainbow. "Goodbye, my friends; we will be back someday!" she called.

Ember waited until Lastly disappeared. She thanked them all and ran after Lastly. She looked down from the top of the rainbow. "Bye!" she called.

The last thing the ponies saw were silver and white strands of hair. And then they were gone.


Ember and Lastly landed on the other side of the rainbow with a thump. They were back in Star Valley.

All the ponies had come to greet them. Queen Northstar came galloping out, with King Knight Light and the princesses in tow.

Everyone went back inside the manor, and Ember gave her parents a short summary of Lastly's loyalty and bravery.

And then Northstar pulled out a crown-- a tiara similar to Ember's. "We were going to give you this one day when you were older. But seeing how brave you were and how you protected our Ember, we have decided to adopt you," Queen Northstar said, placing the crown on Lastly's head. Lastly shimmered like Ember had in the snow.

"Look at your hoof, dear one," Knight Light told her.

Lastly looked down at her hoof, and there was a purple star.

"You are a true princess now," Ember told her, smiling. "We have to tell you the full story of our adventure, Daddy!" she cried.

"Yes, do tell us now," he replied, taking her by the hoof. The family walked up to their thrones, where there was now one for Lastly. Ember began telling the full tale and the others listened intently.

*The End*

Batpony Forever
by Berry Bright

Clever Clover and Berry Bright were walking down the street to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe, hoof in hoof, happy as larks.

Suddenly, a familiar beacon appeared in the sky.

"To the Bat Cave!" shouted Clever Clover. (Lame, isn't it?)

Off they went to the Bat Cave, and in the places of the two ponies now stood two valiant figures (yeah, right), Batpony and Robin. They rushed to the police office and found commissioner Quarterback waiting there.

"Oh!" he cried. "I have terrible news!"

"What?" Batpony asked.

"Three villains are planing to turn all of Ponyland into something horrible!"

"Who, and what?" gasped Robin.

"Poison Ivy, Catwoman, and Joker are turning Ponyland into something unknown to us." Quarterback shuddered.

"What do we do, Batpony?" asked Robin. (DUH!)

"Stop them," said Batpony firmly.

* * *
Comical music played and ceaseless laughter rang out in a room across town.

"I," said a light blue pony, "think she's crazy." Yes, this was Poison Ivy. Her purple and pink mane fell on her shoulders. She wore a tight green dress covered with poison ivy.

"I know," replied Catwoman. "We should give her a chance. After all, she is Joker." This pink unicorn was dressed in a very tight silver jumpsuit. (If any of you have watched Star Trek Voyager, which I know some of you have, her outfit is like Seven of Nine's.)

The two walked over to the sofa where Joker sat. "Sit down," she said and turned off the music. "So, any doubts?"

"How do you know it will work?" asked Catwoman, watching her comrade drink a bottle of Ponypop. (That's the pony-version of Surge.)

"No wonder she's so giddy," remarked Poison Ivy. "All that sugar and caffeine!"

"Delightful stuff," said Joker. She was wearing a hot pink bikini with a large white cape. The pony herself was white, with a pink, purple and orange mane. "I know it will work, dear," she giggled.

"But, what about Batpony?" pointed out Poison Ivy.

"Who would be more perfect to test it on?" suggested Joker.

"Poison Ivy, put on a disguise and lure Batpony and Robin here," Catwoman said.

"All right," Poison Ivy agreed, and swiftly put on a disguise.

* * *
Batpony and Robin were searching for the secret headquarters of the villainesses. A lovely, light blue pony approached them. Her hair was maroon, and she wore a black dress. "Are you THE Batpony?" she asked. It was Poison Ivy in disguise.

"Yes," answered Batpony. "I am."

"Come over to my house for a Ponypop," she invited.

Robin was suspicious. "We're looking for Poison Ivy, Catwoman, and Joker."

"I know where they are," said Poison Ivy. "But first you have to have a Ponypop."

"Okay," said Batpony cautiously. (He's not very bright, is he?) Off they went; Poison Ivy led the way to her house.

As soon as the two heros were in the house, they fell through a trap-door to the basement.

"They're here!" shouted Catwoman.

"Splendid!" Joker said.

Poison Ivy descended the stairs to the basement. Her hair was still maroon, but she was in her normal dress.

"Poison Ivy, bring in the oyster shell," Joker said slyly.

To be continued...


Flashback Fantasia
by Tabby

"Barnacle will be coming home soon!" Sugarberry declared jubilantly as she held up a glass bottle to show her friends gathered at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe.

"Can't wait ‘till he's home!" Friendly said excitedly.

"You heard from him, did you?" Clever Clover questioned.

"Yes, I got this bottle from him in the mail just this morning--"

"I'll read it." Tabby snatched the bottle from Sugarberry's hooves and extracted the piece of paper. "Ah, let's see here." She spread her hooves wide and began to read the note in her dramatic voice. " ‘ARR, Sugarberry!' "

"Tone it down, Tabby!" Clever Clover said, cringing.

Tabby went on, trying to keep the pitch of her voice down a bit. " ‘I finally be a' sailin' home to Dream Valley. Be watchin' for me in June. You can tell the rest of the gang, ARR!!' " She laid the note down on the table.

"It'll be interesting to see this Barnacle," Thomas commented. "Was it his dream all his life to be a pirate?"

"Actually, yes." Sugarberry nodded. "He was always coming up with piratey games as a baby pony. Remember that, Tabby?"

"You know, I only have two more Redwall books to read," Tabby sighed. "Oh! What was that? Ah, yes. Barnacle as a baby."

"There was that time he built a raft," Sugarberry went on. "We saw him sailing down the river on it; you have to recall that, Tabby!"

"A raft, wot? Hmm..."

Sugarberry continued to tell the story:

* * *
Baby Sugarberry and Baby Tabby were racing along the riverbank. "You not ‘sposed to wink, Bwaby Twabby," Baby Sugarberry complained.

"Ain't ‘gainst none o' my rules," Baby Tabby snapped back.

"Bwaby Twabby! Wook!" Baby Sugarberry's attention was diverted to something on the river.

"What that?" Baby Tabby looked out at the object floating on the river.

"It Baby Barnacle!" Baby Sugarberry squealed. "He on a raft, see!"

"Ooh, a raft!" Baby Tabby exclaimed. "Think he'd give us a ride?"

"Wet's see." Having said that, Baby Sugarberry stood as close to the river as she could and waved a hoof in the air. "Baby Barnacle! Baby Barnacle! Come wover here!"

"He floatin' over this way," Baby Tabby noted.

Sure enough, Baby Barnacle had soon paddled his hoof-made float over to the two other babies. "ARR!" he greeted them.

Baby Sugarberry giggled. "Silly Baby Barnacle; you're still pwacticing to be a pirate."

"Maybe he is gwonna be a pirate," Baby Tabby said seriously.

"Me already a pirate, ARR!" Baby Barnacle declared. "Me got a boat, and me gonna sail out to the sea."

"Got no weapons," Baby Sugarberry said.

"Can we come with ya? Pretty pwease?" Baby Tabby pleaded.

Baby Barnacle shook his head. "Nwope, can't. You not pirates."

"We could learn," Baby Tabby suggested.

"Me don't wanna be a pirate and run away from home," Baby Sugarberry sniffled. "Me goin' back to my mommy."

"Don't be a sissy," Baby Tabby chided her friend. "It'd be fun."

"Me not lettin' you on," Baby Barnacle said, and started floating away.

"He's gettin' away!" Baby Tabby shrieked in outrage. "Me got an idea, Baby Sugarberry. We build a raft, and we go after him! We gonna be pirates too, and we hunt him down!"

"Wokay," Baby Sugarberry said apprehensively. "How you build a raft?"

"You just gwet some sticks together," Baby Tabby explained.

"And they stick together on ‘deir own?" Baby Sugarberry questioned.

"No." Baby Tabby sighed. "Me don't really know how to make one."

"Then you lied," Baby Sugarberry said disapprovingly. "Me gonna tell my mommy."

"Wet's just follow him on da shore," Baby Tabby said, ignoring Baby Sugarberry's last comment. She started running after the raft, which was far from their sight by then.

"Wait for me!" Baby Sugarberry tried desperately to keep up with her friend.

After running for what seemed like forever, the two babies stopped. "Why you stop?" Baby Sugarberry questioned.

Baby Tabby pointed to a sight up ahead that Baby Sugarberry hadn't noticed yet. "Wook," she giggled. "His waft broke. See? He tryin' to repair it." Tittering, the pair dashed up to him.

"Hee hee! You not pirate after all!" Baby Sugarberry said to Baby Barnacle.

"Why you say that?" Baby Barnacle said, trying to look fierce.

"Real pirates would build sea-worthy vessels," Baby Tabby said. "We not gonna talk to a fake pirate. Come on, Baby Sugarberry, we goin' home."

* * *
Tabby was laughing uproariously when Sugarberry reached the ending point of the story. "I was an evil little baby pony back then, wasn't I?"

"You still are," Clever Clover said promptly.

Tabby picked up the spoon from her sundae and held it up in the air, pointing it at Clever Clover. "One more word outta you and you're gonna get it--"

"And now he's a real pirate," Sugarberry said, ignoring Tabby and Clever Clover's bickering. "Who would have thought it?"

"And since he's a real pirate, we talk to him again," Tabby tittered, momentarily putting down the spoon.

Sugarberry swatted Tabby lightly. "You know full well we played a game of hide-and-go-seek with him the next day."

Tabby nodded intelligently. "Whenever he was the seeker, he came after us waving a wooden sword."

Sugarberry shivered at the thought. "I remember being scared to death of that sword. Me, I preferred cats to swords back then... and still do." Her eyes glazed over as she told another story:

* * *
Baby Sugarberry sat in her room, combing her cat, Celandine. "You such a pwetty kwitty," she said, hugging the cat.

Celandine purred and groomed her white furr.

"Me could mwake you really pretty!" Baby Sugarberry exclaimed with a happy gleam in her eyes. "You like that, Celandine?" The cat didn't offer any opposition, so Baby Sugarberry pulled a shiny purple ribbon out of her toybox. "This goes around your neck," she mumbled to herself and tied the ribbon in a nice bow around the cat's neck.

"Vwery nice." Baby Sugarberry stood back and surveyed her work. "Nweeds more, though." After thinking, she found another ribbon, this one pink, and tied it on Celandine's tail. Celandine just continued purring. She was a very docile feline.

Baby Sugarberry squealed at a sudden thought. She dug frantically through her doll dresses. "This would look nice on you, ‘Landine." The baby pony held up a light pink dress with a lace collar. "Hwope it fits."

Pulling the cat back into her lap, Baby Sugarberry struggled to get Celandine's two front paws through the sleeves, and then buttoned the front up. Finally, she succeeded.

"You are a bweautiful cat!" Baby Sugarberry breathed in delight. Celandine did make a pretty sight.

Baby Sugarberry dashed around her room, pulling out various other accessories. "Here's a necklace." She strung a string of green plastic beads around the cat's neck, which contrasted nicely with the purple ribbon already tied there.

Then she looped two green ponytail holders around Celandine's ears, to make earrings. And she even got a cologne bottle from her mother's room and sprayed it heavily on the cat's neck.

"You da mwost perfect kwitty in da whole wide world," Baby Sugarberry declared. "Now me gonna show you to Mommy." With that, the pony scooped up her cat and dashed downstairs.

* * *
"I seem to remember doing that, too..." Tabby said thoughtfully.

"I dressed up myself instead of my pets as a baby pony," Tiffany said haughtily.

"Who'll tell the next story?" Spike prodded. "This is rather fun!"

"How about you, Tiffany? Did you get into any trouble as a baby?" Sugarberry questioned.

"Of course not," Tiffany said haughtily. "I was the model of perfection."

"Did you eat spaghetti correctly?" Tabby asked curiously.

"Spaghetti? Oh, my family never ate such lower-class food--"

"Me like spaghetti, yeah, yeah!" Friendly interjected.

"--our cook served dignified Italian food every evening," Tiffany went on, ignoring Friendly.

This comment was met with blank stares. "Spaghetti is Italian food," Clever Clover said.

"It is?" Tiffany exclaimed in surprise, but quickly sobered up. "I mean, that is, I never liked it."

"How about running? Did you run correctly?" Tabby prodded further.

"Running!" Tiffany laughed. "Of course not. I took dainty, lady-like steps. I soon learned that running only kicked up the dust and dirt. It soiled my lovely coat terribly!" She shuddered at the remembrance.

"Well, come on, you've got to have done something bad," Tabby reasoned.

Tiffany sighed. "I suppose I'd better get it out... there was that one time..."

* * *
Baby Tiffany discreetly sneaked out of her mother's room, clutching in her hooves the valuable emerald necklace that the baby pony admired so. She had set her mind on taking it for herself, so she could look at it whenever she pleased.

Running back to her own room, the young princess sat on her bed and held the necklace up to a beam of sunlight streaming through the window. It reflected off the brilliant jewel, casting green shadows across the room.

"I love to dweath," Baby Tiffany sighed happily. But she suddenly realized she had to hide it; if her mother found it, Baby Tiffany would be punished severely, she knew.

Baby Tiffany searched every nook and cranny in her room, but none seemed good enough to hide this secret. So, she got out the frilly white purse she used for dress-up and put the necklace inside. Then she'd be safe to walk around the house without the necklace being spotted while looking for the perfect place for it.

Baby Tiffany walked quietly through the halls. Weren't there any good hiding places in here? The house sure was large enough. As she snuck around one corner, she just about died of fright by nearly running into her mother.

"Baby Tiffany, whatever is the matter?" her mother questioned in concern. "You look as if you've seen a ghost; you're certainly pale as one."

"I-I'm a-a-always w-w-white ‘cause I-I'm a-a w-white p-pony," Baby Tiffany stuttered.

"And what have I told you about stuttering?" her mother chided. "It's dreadfully impolite."

"S-s-sorry, Mother," Baby Tiffany apologized. "I was just-- playing a game."

"Why don't you invite Baby Royal Blue over? It's been awhile since you've had company."

"Oh, Mother, that would be fun!" Baby Tiffany exclaimed, momentarily forgetting about the stolen necklace.

And so, Baby Royal Blue was invited. The two baby ponies walked through the halls of Baby Tiffany's mansion. "What we gonna pway today, Baby Twiffany?" Baby Royal Blue asked.

Baby Tiffany furtively glanced around to make sure no one else was near. Then, in a secretive tone, she confided to her friend what she had done. "We have to find a good hiding place," Baby Tiffany exclaimed.

Baby Royal Blue clapped her front hooves together in excitement. "This be fun! You not find hidin' place yet? This such a big place; there's gwotta be somewhere."

"Just can't find anything," Baby Tiffany whispered. "Maybe you find something?"

A smile suddenly lit up Baby Royal Blue's face. "Perhaps there no place here, but there be great place at my house!"

"Really? Really?" Baby Tiffany squealed.

"Yes," Baby Royal Blue whispered. "I'll take it home with me and put it there. No one will look at my house."

"And if they never find it, they'll never blame me!" Baby Tiffany declared gleefully. "This be perfect!"

And so, when Baby Royal Blue left, she had the purse containing the emerald necklace with her. She waved and winked at Baby Tiffany.

* * *
"So what happened?" Tabby said with a blank stare.

Tiffany sighed. "Royal Blue and I had a fight the next week. I never saw the necklace again, let alone where she'd hid it. And I got grounded for a week anyway."

"Tsk, tsk." Tabby shook her head.

"Haven't you ever asked Royal Blue about it?" Sugarberry said in concern.

Tiffany cocked her head. "No, actually, I never thought of doing that. I wonder if she still has it!"

"Come on, Tabby, what bad thing did you do?" Spike said.

"Ha! She was the terror of the neighborhood as a baby!" Quarterback declared.

"And still is..." Clever Clover mumbled under his breath.

"I heard that, Cleve Clove!" Tabby shrieked, wielding her spoon once again.

"Now, let's not resort to violence, Tabby," Sugarberry said. "Just tell your story."

"And I have to isolate to one bad incident? Man, that's hard. Hmm... but the worst of them all..."

* * *
Baby Tabby was walking home from school one day when someone tapped her on the shoulder. She whirled around to face Baby Flowerbelle. "Baby Tabby! My mommy says I can invite someone over to my house to play with dwis afternoon. Cwan you come?"

Baby Tabby winced slightly, but Baby Flowerbelle didn't notice. Baby Tabby actually didn't like this other baby that well; she was too much into dressing up and having her hair done.

"We can play hair salon," Baby Flowerbelle went on. "Me want my hair done. You style it, ‘kay?"

A smile spread across Baby Tabby's face. She was getting an idea that might make this afternoon worth it. " ‘Kay, sounds fun!" she exclaimed, somewhat over-enthusiastically.

And so, the two babies trotted over to Baby Flowerbelle's house. "You can style my hair under da willow tree," Baby Flowerbelle decided. "We pretend that's hair salon. Me go get scissors."

Baby Tabby waited under the willow tree with a malicious grin covering her face. This was just what she wanted. "Sit on the lower branch thwere," Baby Tabby instructed once Baby Flowerbelle had returned with the scissors. "Then me work on your hair."

"This be lots a' fun!" Baby Flowerbelle said contentedly, taking her seat on the branch.

And Baby Tabby got to work. Snip, snip, snip. Baby Flowerbelle's lovely tresses fell to the ground.

"You not takin' twoo much off, are you?" Baby Flowerbelle said in concern.

"Nwope, not at all," Baby Tabby assured her. "It wook's really nice."

"I can't wait to see it!" Baby Flowerbelle exclaimed as Baby Tabby continued snipping.

"All done!" Baby Tabby announced, swiftly pushing all the trimmed hair under a pile of leaves.

"Me gotta see what I wook like!" Baby Flowerbelle said excitedly as she started to run towards the house, but Baby Tabby held her back.

"First we play a game of hide-and-go-seek," the crafty baby said. "Me be the seeker; you hide."

"You're always the seeker," Baby Flowerbelle said, not noticing how short her once-long mane was.

"That's ‘cause I'm the bwest seeker."

"You are not! You can never find anybody when you play!"

"You only got thirty seconds to hide," Baby Tabby said, ignoring the past comment. She pressed her face to the tree trunk. "One... two... thwee... twenty-eleven... thirty-ten... thirty! Ready or not; here I come!" she cried out triumphantly. She glanced around. Baby Flowerbelle was nowhere in sight.

Giggling, Baby Tabby ran back home. She'd be long gone by the time Baby Flowerbelle found out about her mane.

* * *
"Sure was a good plan, wasn't it, wot?" Tabby said, looking quite cocky.

"Didn't you get in any trouble at all?" Sugarberry asked.

"Well..." Tabby started. "My mother made me clean the house every afternoon for a week. First because of what I'd done to Flowerbelle's hair, and secondly because I hadn't told her that I was going to her house."

Spike, Clever Clover, and Quarterback were all laughing. "You got what you deserved!" Clever Clover said gleefully.

"Yeah! I never would have done anything that got me into trouble," Quarterback said.

Sugarberry looked at him disapprovingly. "Now, Quarterback. What about that time you tried to hang yourself?"

Now it was Tabby, Spike, and Clever Clover's turn to laugh. "Yes, Quarterback! Tell us about that incident again, would you?" Tabby giggled.

Quarterback sighed and began the story...

* * *
"We gonna pwetend we're in da wild west," Baby Tex declared as he and Baby Quarterback hung around in Baby Tex's backyard. "Me be da sheriff."

"And me gonna be the villain that just robbed the general store," Baby Quarterback said contentedly.

Baby Tex shook his hoof at Baby Quarterback disapprovingly. "Then me gotta catch you. You evil willian!"

With that, Baby Quarterback shot across the yard. "Heehee! Me got all the jangles, and you ain't gonna catch me!" he called out gleefully.

Baby Tex ran after the "villain," but Baby Quarterback was always able to get out of his sight. They did this for quite awhile, but finally Baby Tex tackled Baby Quarterback.

"Now you gotta go to jail," Baby Tex said. "Willians never escape the law."

"Nwo, nwo," Baby Quarterback said, coming back to the real world. "Villians don't go ta jail. Dey get hanged."

"Wokay, you get hanged!" Baby Tex exclaimed. "Dat's whatcha get for robbin' da store. Now, how we gonna hang ya?"

"Gotta find a rope," Baby Quarterback said, rising to his hooves. "Den you gotta tie it onto a twee."

Baby Tex found a thick piece of rope in the house and returned outside. "Come over to da twee, you willian!" he shouted as he swung one end of the rope over one of the tree branches.

"Me don't deserve ta get hanged!" Baby Quarterback shot back. "Willians are always smarter than sheriffs."

"They is not," Baby Tex said. "Now, you cwome over here!"

Baby Quarterback finally came over. "Me gonna come back as a ghost an' haunt ya!" he threatened. "And me gonna rob all the stores in twown and you never wever cwatch me ‘cause me a ghost."

Baby Tex ignored those comments and tied the rope loosely around Baby Quarterback's neck. "Now you tied up," he mumbled to himself. Then he tugged on the string hanging over the branch, pulling Baby Quarterback up.

"Such cwruel tweatment for a willian!" Baby Quarterback complained.

"Baby Tex! Baby Quarterback! What are you doing?" called out another voice.

Baby Tex immediately dropped the rope, which dropped Baby Quarterback to the ground as well. "Uh oh, it's Daddy," he mumbled.

"And what do you think you two were trying to do?" Tex's father said in disapproval.

"Baby Quarterback was the willian, and had to be hanged," Baby Tex explained.

"That is no way to treat a friend, Baby Tex. Do you know what you could have done to him? Now, Baby Quarterback, I'll take you home..."

* * *
"Ha! I think that story just proves that Tex is evil, doesn't it?" Tabby declared after Quarterback finished.

"They were just babies," Sugarberry said. "He didn't know any better back then."

"I dunno about that," Tabby muttered.

"Actually, I wasn't allowed to see Tex for a week after that," Quarterback went on. "But by then I got into playing football, and Tex wasn't into that."

"And who's story is next?" Tabby prodded.

"Me tell a story, yeah, yeah." Friendly decided to relate the next experience:

* * *
Baby Friendly hopped home from the library one afternoon. He had just checked out several books on C++ computer programming, and he couldn't wait to start reading. He loved programming on his computer at home. "Fun, fun, yeah," Baby Friendly said happily to himself.

Looking through the book shelves had worn Baby Friendly out, so he decided to stop under an apple tree in the orchard near the Bushwoolie holes and look over the books. He had told his mother he'd be back by supper time, and he still had at least an hour until then. "Jwust stop for awhile, yeah."

Plucking an apple from the tree, he ate contentedly while flipping through the books. The late afternoon sun shown on him, and he was soon rather drowsy. Discarding the remainder of the apple and dropping the book in his lap, he soon nodded off to sleep.

Baby Friendly woke with a start. Cold drops of rain were falling on him, despite the cover from the apple tree. Though the sun had been shining earlier, rain clouds had moved in. "Bwetter get home, yeah, yeah!" Friendly jumped up, and the book that had been in his lap fell to the ground. He forgot entirely about the books, though. He hurriedly hopped back to his hole. "Hwope not too late, yeah!"

Baby Friendly's mother dried him off with a towel and served him supper. "You be okay, yeah, yeah," she consoled him.

The next day, Baby Friendly woke with a start. There was something nagging at his memory... but he shook the thought off. After breakfast, he went over to his computer, and then he remembered.

"My bwooks, yeah!" he exclaimed out loud.

"What was that, Baby Friendly, yeah?" his mother, who was doing dishes, asked.

"Me weft books I got from library outside!" Baby Friendly explained frantically. "Gwotta get ‘em, yeah, yeah!"

Baby Friendly's mother peered out the window. "Sky still gray, but no rain, yeah. You go outside and look for them, yeah, yeah."

Baby Friendly ran as fast as a baby Bushwoolie could back to the apple tree. He looked around in dismay. His books were still there, but soaked through with rain.

"Ruined, me bwad, yeah, yeah," he said dejectedly as he walked back home.

* * *
"What happened after that?" Sugarberry questioned.

"Me had to wash dishes for a week, yeah, yeah," Friendly explained. "Mommy paid library for new books."

"Even Bushwoolies don't get off easy all the time," Tiffany said sympathetically.

Spike sat back in his chair with a thoughtful expression on his face. "I remember one time..."

"What?! What?!" Tabby said excitedly.

"It was before I came to live in Dream Valley, and I was still living with my mom and dad..."

* * *
Spike, who was a very young dragon, had been allowed by his mother to play in the yard for the afternoon. Spike was enjoying climbing trees, swinging, and watching wildlife.

As he dropped to the ground from one of the tree branches, he heard something in the grass in front of him. He inspected the grass closely. It was a snake! Spike clapped his hands together in delight. It was sleek and black, with yellow stripes.

"Hi, snake!" Spike exclaimed, and gently picked up the slithering reptile. "You wanna play with me?"

The snake simply wriggled, and Spike giggled. "Me know. I take you inside for a little while. You like chocolate cake?"

The snake's tongue flicked out, and Spike ran inside with his new friend. "Look, here slice of cake. You have some, too."

The snake slithered around the table as Spike poured a glass of milk. When he turned around, the snake was gone!

"Mr. Snake!" Spike cried out. "Where you go? Gotta have cake!" He ran out of the room.

Spike's search proved fruitless. There was no sign of the snake. He sighed and sat down with his cake and milk.

"Hello, Spike!" Spike's mother came in through the front door. "I'm just back from the grocery store. Can you help me unpack?"

"Okay," Spike consented. "Me found a new friend outside," he said.

"Really?" his mother asked, handing Spike another jug of milk to be placed in the refrigerator. "Who is this new friend?"

"He's awfully nice," Spike went on to explain. "I was gonna feed him a snack, but he disappeared--"

Spike's comment was cut short by an ear-splitting shriek from his mother. "SPIKE! There's a SNAKE!" She pointed a fearful hand at Spike's "friend" who was now crawling into an empty paper bag on the floor.

"There he is!" Spike exclaimed happily. "He's still gotta have a snack. You got anything for him?"

"Spike," his mother said firmly. "You get that... that... creature out of the house immediately."

"Can I feed him outside?" Spike prodded.

"Just get him outside, Spike!"

* * *
"Didja get punished?" Tabby asked eagerly.

Spike shook his head. "Nope. But I never did see the snake again after I took him outside." He sighed.

"Spike's story reminded me of something I did as a Dibbun--" Clever Clover started.

"Now look who's been reading too many Redwall books!" Tabby cried out gleefully. "Dibbun" was the Redwall term for the Redwallers' young ones.

"As I was saying," Clever Clover continued, "I remember the one time I went in search of the bronze snake mentioned in the Bible."

Sugarberry nodded eagerly. "Yes! The one Moses lifted up on a pole!"

"Exactly." Clever Clover nodded. "So, one day..."

* * *
Baby Clever Clover placed his Bible back on his bookshelf after reading the passages on Moses and the bronze snake. "Me wanna fwind dat snwake," he said determinedly to himself. "Me give to museum; then people can see." Baby Clever Clover was fascinated by archeology work; his greatest dream was to dig up historical artifacts.

"Gotta be around somewhere," Baby Clever Clover mumbled to himself, glancing around his cluttered room. "Don't remember seeing it in here." He shrugged and trotted downstairs.

"You seen bronze snake around, Mommy?" he asked his mother who was fixing dinner in the kitchen.

"Bronze snake? You mean a bronze-colored snake?" his mother questioned. "I wouldn't want to meet up with one; it might be poisonous."

" ‘Kay," Baby Clever Clover said and ran outside. "Me be back in a little while!" he shouted back to his mother. He decided the bronze snake must not be in his house.

"Where would bronze snake be after all these years?" he pondered to himself. "Wouldn't just fade away. Gotta be somewhere." He dashed into the forest behind his house, and looked under leaf piles. No bronze snake.

Baby Clever Clover continued his quest, and wandered deeper into the forest, not finding what he was in search of. He finally ventured into the eerie Dark Forest, but he didn't even notice.

Baby Clever Clover angrily kicked at yet another pile of leaves. "Maybe it's not in the leaf piles," he decided. "Maybe it buried wa-a-a-ay underground. Or maybe it in the twop of a twee. How me ever gwonna find it?" He sat down on a rock and thought.

"Birdie, you seen bronze snake?" he called up to a robin who was singing in one of the tree branches above him. The bird just flew away at the sound of his voice.

"Anybody know where bronze snake is?" Baby Clever Clover cried out to the surrounding woodland. A mouse scampered by at that moment, but didn't stop.

"Mr. Mouse, come back!" Baby Clever Clover exclaimed. "You wanna come home with me? Me make you a nice house. You like that... Mr. Mouse? Where you go?"

Baby Clever Clover ran after the mouse, but he tripped. As he pulled himself up and inspected his scratches, he saw what he'd tripped over: a squiggly, light brown stick, which look amazingly like a snake.

"It da bronze snake!" Baby Clever Clover cried out jubilantly, and he picked the decayed tree branch off of the ground. "Hee hee! Me gwonna be fwamous now!"

Baby Clever Clover ran off back home. He didn't need to know yet that it wasn't really bronze...

* * *
As always, Tabby was eager to ask the question, "Were you punished?"

Sugarberry rolled her eyes. "He didn't do anything wrong, Tabby."

"He ran off into the woods by himself," Tabby suggested. "That's worthy of punishment, isn't it?"

Clever Clover sighed in exasperation. "My mother knew I'd gone out... no, I didn't get punished.

Tabby looked crestfallen at this announcement. "Too bad," she sighed.

Sugarberry shook her head at Tabby.

At that point, Merry Treat breezed into one of the seats at the table. "Hi, everybody!" she exclaimed. "Spearow went over by Tarquin and Tess over there," she directed at Tabby, pointing at another table in the shop where the two Meowth Pokèmon were seated.

"I still have to have a Pokèmon battle against you, Cleve Clove," Tabby said, forgetting about the bronze snake story. "Tarquin's bound to win, especially if we have Tess watching. He wouldn't dare admit defeat in front of her..."

"We were just all sharing stories of our childhood," Sugarberry told Merry Treat. "Did you do anything interesting as a baby pony?"

Merry Treat paused in thought, and blushed. "I got grounded for a week once! Here's the story..."

* * *
Baby Merry Treat skipped home from school one cloudy day. She was thinking about the story she had to write for school. She figured a cat would be the main character...

And then raindrops started to fall. "Wo no!" Baby Merry Treat called out in alarm as the raindrops got bigger. "Me get soaked!" She ducked into a doorway, which blocked some of the rain out. "Mwaybe it let up soon," she said to herself hopefully.

As she said that, she saw something cowering in the corner of the doorway. "What that?" Baby Merry Treat said aloud, bending over to investigate.

She saw a straggly gray cat, soaked to the skin, and trying to lick itself dry in the corner. She reached out a hoof towards it. "Poor kwitty," she said sympathetically.

The cat hissed slightly, but it was too worn out to fight back. Baby Merry Treat scooped the cat up. "Me get you home; you live in my room. That be fun, wight, kwitty?"

The cat struggled to get out of Baby Merry Treat's hooves, but Baby Merry Treat streaked along back to her house. Once on her doorstep, she almost rushed right in, but then remembered she had to sneak up to her room, or else her parents would find out about the cat. She wasn't sure if they'd allow her to have a pet, but she didn't want to take a chance.

Baby Merry Treat slowly opened the door to her house, clutching the cat to her tightly. The cat was still squirming terribly badly, and was beginning to use its claws.

"Is that you, Baby Merry Treat?" she heard her mother call from the living room.

"It me, Mommy," Baby Merry Treat said. "Me got somethin' to put in my room; then I be back down." She dashed up the stairs before her mother had a chance to reply.

After depositing the cat in her room, Baby Merry Treat ran down the hallway and got a towel from the bathroom. Using that, she dried the cat off, who was not fighting as much anymore.

Baby Merry Treat dried herself off, then. "You hungry, kwitty?" she questioned. "Me go get you somethin'."

Baby Merry Treat ran downstairs. "Me gonna get somethin' to eat in my room!" she called to her mother.

"That last time you had a snack in your room, you got crumbs all over," her mother scolded, coming out of the living room. "No. If you want something to eat, you'll have to sit at the table."

Baby Merry Treat sighed. "I'll be extra careful, Mommy," she pleaded.

"If you get crumbs on the floor, you'll have to vacuum," her mother warned.

Baby Merry Treat flashed her a smile. "That fine with me. Me want a... a..." She wandered what the cat would like.

"I'll get you some slices of cheese," her mother said briskly. "That shouldn't be too messy."

Clutching several cheese slices in her hoof, Baby Merry Treat ran back up to her room. "Here, kitty!" She handed one of the slices to the sleek gray cat, and kept the other for herself. The cat ate vigorously.

"You need a nwame," Baby Merry Treat said thoughtfully as she munched on her cheese slice. "Rose? Nwope, that's twoo short. Nweeds somethin' added. Pretty Rose? Smelly Rose? Sleek Rose?"

The cat retreated under Baby Merry Treat's bed.

"Bloomin' Rose? Early Rose? Late Rose!" Baby Merry Treat exclaimed. "Late Rose sound nice. Yeah! You Late Rose now!"

Baby Merry Treat carefully closed her bedroom door, leaving Late Rose inside. After supper, she read a book while sitting in the living room by herself, and entirely forgot about her new cat... and she was also oblivious to the noise of the vacuum coming from upstairs.

"Baby Merry Treat!" her mother's voice called out angrily as she stepped in front of Baby Merry Treat. "I seem to have found something in your room... care to explain?"

"Uhh... Mommy..." Baby Merry Treat stuttered. "She a really nice kitty... yes she is!"

Her mother shook her head. "I'll just have to see what your father says..."

* * *
"And I got grounded for a week," Merry Treat finished up the story.

"What about the cat?" Tabby asked anxiously. "What about the cat?!"

"My dad was allergic to cats," Merry Treat said, frowning. "And as it turned out, it was Merriweather's cat that had accidentally gotten locked out of her house that day."

"Did you know," Tabby continued explaining to Merry Treat, "that Quarterback almost hung himself as a baby?"

Merry Treat burst out laughing. "Man! I would've loved to hear all your stories! Is there anyone that hasn't told one yet?"

All eyes looked around the table. "I think that was everybo--" Sugarberry started.

"Thomas hasn't told us anything yet," Tiffany announced.

"That's right!" Clever Clover exclaimed.

"And he's the one that started us on this conversation, in the first place," Sugarberry commented.

"And Tabby'll get you with her spoon if you don't tell us anything," Clever Clover warned Thomas.

Tabby winked broadly and waved her spoon around in the air with a malicious glint in her eyes. Unfortunately, she didn't have a firm grip on it and it went flying. It sounded as if it landed on the table next to theirs, judging from the shrieks coming from that direction. Tabby shrugged. "There goes that plan."

"If Tabby'd stopped talking in between times, I might have gotten a chance to tell a story," Thomas explained.

"He must have done something really awful," Tabby predicted.

"Did you pull wings off flies and set ants on fire?" Clever Clover questioned.

Tiffany looked appalled at the thought. "I should hope not. What a disgusting thought, Clever Clover!"

"He probably liked animals and attend vet school," Merry Treat pondered.

"No, you're all wrong," Thomas declared.

"You mean you didn't like animals or attend vet school?" Tabby tittered.

"You know what I mean! If you really want to know, here's what I did..."

* * *
Baby Thomas stood and stared at the tidy row of sunflower plants that his mother had just finished raking. He grinned demonically as an idea formed in his head.

"Hee hee, I'll pull them all out!" he exclaimed to himself gleefully as he attended to the task of pulling all the young plants out of the ground, one-by-one, down the line.

When Baby Thomas reached the end of the row, his craving for flower-pulling subsided. He ran back inside.

"Hello, Baby Thomas!" his mother greeted him. "What have you been doing outside all afternoon?"

Baby Thomas thought several moments before replying. "Pickin' weeds out a' da garden," he responded.

"How thoughtful of you," his mother commented. "I was getting the weeds out of my sunflowers earlier. They look like they'll be awfully pretty this year."

Baby Thomas nodded.

"I'm going to water them this evening. Would you like to help?"

"Mmm... nwope."

"At least go feed your cat. His food dish was empty this morning," his mother instructed.

Baby Thomas trotted off obediently. Just as long as he wasn't around when she found her sunflowers.

However, later in the evening, Baby Thomas's mother stormed into his room. "Baby Thomas, what have you done to my sunflowers?" she shrieked. "They were your hoofprints I saw, I'm sure-- you're the one that pulled them all up!"

"I decided I no like sunflowers," Baby Thomas said, looking up at her innocently.
"Don't like them, do you?" his mother raged. "We'll see what you have to say after I'm through with you. You are going to have complete responsibility for the rest of the garden this year-- under my supervision, of course! That'll teach you how hard it is to grow things. And on top of that, I'll have you--"

* * *
"How daring of you," Tiffany sighed dreamily.

"All he did was pull sunflowers out," Tabby scoffed. "It was a lot more daring to cut Flowerbelle's mane." She vainly stuck her head up in the air.

"I sure got chewed-out on that occasion," Thomas said ruefully. "I always did prefer animals to plants."

Sugarberry sighed. "I'd hate to have my flowers pulled out."

"It's getting late," Quarterback noted.

"Gotta get home, yeah, yeah," Friendly agreed, hopping to the ground.

"Ah, but we sure were a villainous pack of Dibbuns back then, weren't we?" Tabby tittered as she scooted her chair out from the table.

"And still are!" Clever Clover whooped.


The Evil Dragon
Part Three
by Princess Dawn

A group of ponies from Dream Valley are on a quest to rid Ponyland of an evil dragon, and are just waking up after spending a night in a forest. Now they journey to the Mystical Lake for advice from Merlyn.

The ponies packed up their supplies and started on their way to the Mystical Lake to get advice from Merlyn, King Arthur's instructor. And then they came upon a strange creature.

"Northstar, do you know which way we are going?" asked Beauty Bloom

"At the moment we are going west, Beauty Bloom. Why?" replied Northstar.

"Because we were supposed to turn north at a rock shaped like a bear," Beauty Bloom said unhappily.

"Hey, is there a strange animal besides a bear-shaped rock on the map?" Digger asked, staring ahead at something.

"No... why?" said Beauty Bloom.

"Because there is an orange lion with a heart on its stomach, and walking on his hind legs, coming towards us," Digger said.

"Hey, what are you?" Salty called to the strange creature.

"I'm Brave Heart Lion, a Care Bear Cousin. By any chance, would you happen to have heard of a group of ponies that set off to defeat the dragon that took over the Forest of Feelings?" the lion questioned.

"That's us!" Atlas exclaimed.

"In that case," the lion said thoughtfully, "may I be allowed to join you on your quest?"

"Sure, the more the merrier!" Locket exclaimed.

With a new friend, the group continued on their way.

"Gee, I didn't think it was this far to the Mystical Lake," Opal Dreams said, exasperated.

"Don't worry; the map says that the lake should be right over this cliff," Digger said encouragingly.

Sure enough, when the group of nine reached the top of the cliff, they saw that below them was a magnificent lake.

"Gosh, this lake is beautiful!" Beauty Bloom said.

"Look, there is Merlyn's cave!" shouted Northstar.

As the company galloped down the rocky incline, Merlyn emerged out of his cave. "Hello, my dear friends! And on the subject of friends-- who, may I ask, is your friend?"

"Oh, he is Brave Heart Lion of the Forest of Feelings-- he says it has been taken over by the Tornado Dragon," Locket said.

"I see; very well; I presume you will need as much help as you can get," the wizard said thoughtfully.

"We came for advice from you; that's what the map told us to do," Salty said.

"Yes, I know; unfortunately, the only advice I can give you is this-- don't trust everyone you meet along this weary journey," Merlyn explained.

"Oh, well; thanks anyway," Opal Dreams said as the ponies (and Care Bear Cousin) left the cave and trudged on to the next stop on the map: Tomahawk Valley. As the ponies walked on, they finally reached their destination.

"I wonder why they call this Tomahawk Valley?" Locket said. "It sure looks peaceful enough."

Just then a glimmering tomahawk came whizzing out of somewhere in the forest, nearly giving Salty a buzz cut.

"Are you sure it's that peaceful, Locket?" Salty said, sounding annoyed.

"I say, run for your lives!" Locket screamed.

"I agree," was the response of the rest of the ponies as they galloped away, with Brave Heart running after them.

When the company reached the other side of the Tomahawk Valley, they all collapsed, panting. After recovering, they went on.

"What's the next stop?" Brave Heart asked.

"Let's see; we just passed Tomahawk Valley," Atlas mumbled to himself. "Now it says to look for a spruce tree to find ‘it'."

"Ah-hem, these are all spruce trees," Salty said mockingly.

"This map was written decades ago, so it shouldn't be a problem finding the right one," Atlas said

"Your point being...?" asked Opal Dreams.

"Don't you get it?!" Atlas exclaimed. "The tree we are looking for is the biggest!"

All the ponies had to agree, so they spread out to find the tallest spruce tree.

"Hey, I found it!" Brave Heart exclaimed. be continued in the next issue of My Little Monthly; send any comments or criticism to


An Interview with Baby Fox
by Tabby

Editor's Note: Baby Fox is a red pony with brown hair and a fox symbol.

Time of Interview: 1:00 P.M. April 2, 1999

Place of Interview: Tabby's front porch

Baby Fox: *looks around suspiciously* I'm supposed to be doing some kind of interview...

Tabby: *looks down at the pony suspiciously* Yes, that's right...

Baby Fox: *sits back and nibbles on an apple* Okies. *winks*

Tabby: *hums* Tell me, Baby Fox. What do you do for fun?

Baby Fox: Hmm... I draw anime, write fan-fictions because I'm obsessed with them, talk about the universe on the phone with my friends, and flirt with guys. What do YOU like to do?

Tabby: What do I like to do? I... I... care for sick Pokèmon and read Redwall books.

Baby Fox: Ooh, that's what my friend does. She's a mouse, by the way. She has the entire Redwall series in hardback. She doesn't let anyone's hooves come near them. *rubs the burns on her hooves*

Tabby: Man, a mouse! Does she have her books in mouse-sized editions? I'd like to be a hare.

Baby Fox: Hehe! Nope, she uses really big convex glasses to read them, and a series of pulleys to turn a page. Hares are yummy. *winks*

Tabby: *sniffs* How impolite. I would never dream of eating a hare.

Baby Fox: Eh, sorry. My fox genes talk to me to much. *frown* No insult intended.

Tabby: Are you related to a Marlfox, by any chance?

Baby Fox: Eh, no. Just the common foxes; that's all. *winks, and stares into space mumbling something about her webpage*

Tabby: Marlfoxes are so-o-o cute, even if they're evil.

Baby Fox: Evil? Bad is good. Good is bad.

Tabby: Ooh, the interview! I nearly forgot we were interviewing!

Baby Fox: Hehe, oopsies. *stretches out on the long couch*

Tabby: So, Baby Fox, are you any relation to Merry Treat, who referred me to interview you?

Baby Fox: Unfortunately so. Sie ist meine Schwester. Meine kleine schwester (that is, my little sister in German).

Tabby: *taps hoof on the floor* You said you talked about the universe with friends. What leads you to talk about the universe?

Baby Fox: The normal stuff-- Greek grapes, boy scouts groveling at our feet, and having nothing better to talk about. Same old stuff. Hey, what if the universe is just someone's dream? One day they'll just wake up and we'll never exist again!

Tabby: Huh, I never thought about that. What about drawing anime? Is your work displayed at famous galleries?

Baby Fox: Only in my clean wild fantasies. *winks* No, but they might be on my webpage someday when I get them scanned in

Tabby: And for being a baby pony... aren't you a bit too young to flirt?

Baby Fox: Well, I'm not quiet a baby anymore. *giggles* More a young teen. And besides, it's fun to see guys squirm.

Tabby: How odd. What do you plan to be when you grow up?

Baby Fox: Plan to be? Hmm, I dunno. Maybe a dominator of world nations, or more likely just a writer or starving artist.

Tabby: Cool! *nods vigorously* Will you change your name to just plain "Fox" when you're an adult?

Baby Fox: Nah, it's to kawaii. *winks* I think I'll be Grandma Baby Fox when I'm a hundred and eighty.

Tabby: Back to your mouse friend. What's her name? How did you get to know her?

Baby Fox: Jessitie? Oh, I just met her through a horrid girl scout camping trip. *shudders at the memories*

Tabby: She must have an awfully big house for a mouse, to store those Redwall books.

Baby Fox: Yup, really huge-- like a maze. What's funny is seeing her play her player piano thingy, ‘cause her legs don't reach the ground.

Tabby: That would be interesting to see. Maybe I'll have to interview her in a future issue. So, Baby Fox, what have you been learning in school? Are you still taught by Miss Hackney?

Baby Fox: Eh, school? Nope, no school, ever. Just lived in a hole in the ground most of my life, reading philosophy books there away from the rotting and numbing effects of those facilities.

Tabby: Ah ha. *nods* Do you think you'll be able to dominate the world with that sort of education? Just curious.

Baby Fox: With me and my magical friend Jessitie, I think we can accomplish that and manage to throw in a few "Are you pondering what I'm pondering?" lines.

Tabby: What do you and Jessitie plan to do with the world once you've dominated it?

Baby Fox: Oh, well, nothing much. One of the things we do know is that we'll prove that friendship IS like carrots dipped in cheese. *winks*

Tabby: Carrots dipped in cheese? I wonder what that'd taste like.

Baby Fox: Rather nasty, I would think.

Tabby: So, you think that friendship is nasty? Interesting theory.

Baby Fox: ...and maybe I'll retire in Germany and become fat off of pastries; and Jessitie'll chase off to Australia to find Mel Gibson. Oh! No, no, no-- not nasty. Just that friends are sweet on the outside and strange on the inside. That'd just be nasty to taste.

Tabby: What would happen if someone managed to successfully steal Jessitie's Redwall books?

Baby Fox: *shudders* The world would explode into smoldering flames. And that's the least she would do.

Tabby: Good thing I can get Cleve Clove to loan his to me. Do you got to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe often?

Baby Fox: ...but what you really need to worry about is smudging the text on one of her stories she's writing. Uhmm... not since I was kicked out for starting an ice cream fight.

Tabby: Just as long as you didn't use any strawberry sundaes, it's okay with me.

Baby Fox: Uhmm, I just used everything they had in the freezers. Patch looks rather funny with strawberry sauce dripping down her nose.

Tabby: And why wasn't I there when the fight broke out?!?! I'm there every evening!

Baby Fox: It was in the morning right before school... like before the shop opened...

Tabby: Oooh. Nasty.

Baby Fox: Well, Bon Bon had a craving for ice cream and she wouldn't shut up until we got her a pistachio sundae.

Tabby: Why don't you try going to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe after this interview and see what Scoops does?

Baby Fox: Hehehe-- not good idea. She tried to chop my head off with the ice cream scoop last Wednesday.

Tabby: I didn't know she was so violent! Where do you go now instead of the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe?

Baby Fox: Baskin Robins. I get free samples there. *winks* Flirting comes in handy.

Tabby: Wow. I don't know what I'd do without the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe. What's your opinion on a lettuce-less salad?

Baby Fox: Lettuce-less? Salad with out the salad part? Strange.

Tabby: They're very good. The only things you need are croutons, cottage cheese, cheese cheese, and sunflower seeds.

Baby Fox: *question mark forms over head* Uhm, interesting. Sounds like a bird food mix. Tabby: Approximately how much flirting do you do each day?

Baby Fox: Eh? I dunno, just however many times there's a guy around to flirt with. Jason's the most fun, though.

Tabby: I just thought that would be important for the readers to know... though I'm not sure why.

Baby Fox: Neither am I. *shrugs*

Tabby: Would you say that my Meowth is cute?

Baby Fox: Meowth? That li'l hair ball? Not as cute at Squirtle.

Tabby: Meowth is the cutest of them all. *sticks her nose up in the air*

Baby Fox: Is no-o-ot!! *wails*

Tabby: Mmm hmm. I think I'll just declare this interview at a close. Buh-bye!


Starbow's Chronicles
Part One
by Happy Hopper (Jill)

Starbow, the Baby Rainbow Pony, glared down at the Dream Beauties' beauty pageant. How proud those ponies are, she thought bitterly. How overly proud! Starbow glanced over at her best friend, Baby Christmas.

Baby Christmas was the only other pony in Ponyland who shared all Starbow's views on life. Even the other baby ponies were different from Starbow and Baby Christmas. For example, Baby Christmas was also glaring down at the Dream Beauties as they pranced gallantly across the meadow in front of the pageant judges.

All the other baby ponies were smiling happily, and talking about how they dreamed to be in a pageant one day. Starbow's sisters were even doing each others' manes as they watched the pageant. Baby Rainribbon had a long streaming braid in her mane, and she was doing Brightbow's mane in a ballerina bun. Sunribbon was admiring her coiffure in a hand mirror and adding flowers to her neatly fluffed bangs.

"Let's do your mane, Starbow!" Rainribbon giggled. "You need something drastic done to your hair-style!"

"And while we're at it, we can re-do Baby Christmas's curls," Brightbow added.

Starbow sniffed and flipped her pink bangs out of her eyes. She liked her mane the way it was-- loose and flowing, just like the wind between the trees. "I like my mane the way it is," she snapped. "Excuse me for not wanting to be a prig."

"That goes double for me," Baby Christmas added. Baby Christmas had a long, wavy red mane. It had once been curly, but she liked her mane to look natural... something that Starbow's sisters didn't understand.

"Well, I think you're both being ridiculous," Rainribbon retorted. "In fact, why don't you leave the pageant if beauty disgusts you two so much?"

Starbow and Baby Christmas glanced at one another. "Okay, we will!" they said in unison.

"You'll be sorry!" Sunribbon warned. "Adult ponies don't like baby ponies that get into mischief. And if you don't keep yourself occupied with beauty pageants-- like we do-- mischief is surely what you'll get into!"

"I'll bet you dollars to donuts that Baby Christmas and I can do things more constructive than mane-styling without getting into mischief," Starbow challenged.

"Bet you can't!" Brightbow countered.

"Give us a few months," Starbow replied. "Baby Christmas and I will do something wonderful for Ponyland... something that will go down in Ponyland history!"

"You mean like ridding Ponyland of Pokémon?" Rainribbon asked. "Those ankle-biters get into everything!"

"They do not," Baby Christmas said. "The adult ponies control them. You're just mad because you're too young to have Pokémon!"

"Besides, Pokémon are old news," Starbow sighed. "We need to do something new and exciting!"

"We can explore beyond the boundaries of Ponyland!" chimed in Baby Christmas. "And discover things even greater than Pokémon! Greater than the discovery of Tea Bunnies! Greater than getting Sailor Moon and her violent people-friends to stay off our turf!"

"Ugh! Humans," the Rainbow Babies all "Hmphed." If there was one thing Starbow and her sisters agreed on, it was that humans did not belong in Ponyland.

* * *
"What we need is a team," Starbow said as she paced the floor of her house. She and Baby Christmas were packed for their journey to the land which they called "Beyond Ponyland". Of course, two baby ponies couldn't do everything alone...

"Where can we find anyone who'd want to come with us?" Baby Christmas asked, pacing behind Starbow. "I mean, the adult ponies would never go for this kind of thing. The Dream Beauties have their pageants. All the other babies are into beauty like your sisters, and the newborns are too young..."

"The Big Brothers want nothing to do with us girls," Starbow went on. "The dragons and Tea Bunnies barely know us, and we certainly can't bring Pokémon along... we're too young to control them!"

"There are the Petite Ponies," Baby Christmas suggested.

"Nah, they live in their own little world-- running their carousel and shops and everything..."

"Why don't we ask a Fairy Tail Bird?" Baby Christmas exclaimed. "A Fairy Tail Bird could fly us around!"

"It just might work," Starbow agreed. "It just might work."

* * *
Later that afternoon, Baby Christmas and Starbow entered Fairy Tail Forest. They listened to the sweet tunes of the birds and watched as three of them flew across the sky overhead, dipping and swooping and spinning.

"Which Fairy Tail Bird would want to accompany us on our quest?" Baby Christmas wanted to know.

"I guess we could just ask around..." Starbow trailed off. "Ssh... do you hear something?"

Baby Christmas listened intently. "I hear a song of lament," she said. "It's coming from inside that tree."

Baby Christmas and Starbow raced over to the tree from which the lament was coming, and they peered inside a hollow. A small Fairy Tail Bird was curled up inside on a nest.

"What's wrong?" Starbow called into the hollow.

"Who are you?" The bird answered with another question.

"I'm Baby Starbow, and this is my best friend, Baby Christmas!" she called back.

"Oh." Slowly, the head of a magenta Fairy Tail Bird popped out into the open. "I thought you were another bird. All the birds are mad at me for what I did."

"What'd you do?" the two ponies wanted to know.

"I... I... was showing off in the air by flying upside down and doing loop-de-loops. And I'm not supposed to show off, especially if I'm not in the flight show that I'm showing off in!"

Starbow understood. Flight shows were like beauty pageants for Fairy Tail Birds.

"So... they made me cut my tail off!" the bird finished, showing the ponies her short tail.

Starbow winced. She knew that long, flowing tails were an admirable trait on Fairy Tail Birds. Short tails indicated that a bird had gotten in trouble.

"Why don't you fly away with us?" Baby Christmas invited. "Starbow and I are journeying beyond Ponyland, but we need to get a team together. You can fly all you want without getting into trouble, and when we return home, your tail will have grown back!"

"Okay," sniffled the bird. "By the way, I'm Tricky Tails. Appropriate name, huh? Hop on; let's get on our way... I don't want to stay here for much longer!"

Tricky Tails hopped out of her tree and stooped so that the two ponies could get on her back. Then, without any further delay, Tricky Tails spread her wings and the three rebels set sail to Beyond Ponyland.

Author's note: I hope you like the beginning of Starbow's Chronicles. I hope to continue her adventure in further newsletters, so please e-mail me your feedback at In the meantime, while I think of more places for Starbow to go, could anyone help me with further characters by supplying me with items on my want list? U.K. Best Friends Susie and Spot-- pretty short list, huh? That's all that's there! I need Spot especially-- by buying or trading-- so let me know if you can help!


The Feline Factor
by Tabby

The world will soon be destroyed if I don't go in search of the mystical crystal, Callie, Tabby's pet cat, contemplated to herself as she dashed around the living room. Over the couch, under the couch, onto the chair, hide in the crack between the two shelves-- yes, Callie had mastered the route around the room.

You see, Callie, through her complex intelligence that all cats have, had recently found out that there was a pack of invading creatures out to destroy the world. The only way to stop the horde was to find the special mystical crystal.

I'd have to find the secret underground entrance, Callie yawned as she pulled herself out of the crack and scratched her paws on the couch. How nice that felt! And since she didn't have claws, she wouldn't get punished by Tabby for destroying the furniture. Not that Tabby would bother to punish her, anyway.

And then fight off the hordes of evil that guard it, the fluffy cat went on, running under the chair again and coming out on the top.

Then she laid down on the couch, pulling her tail comfortably around her. Maybe tomorrow, she decided as her tail began to twitch. Callie began nipping at it, and the horde of evil was the last thing on her mind.

* * *
Meanwhile, Fuzz, Friendly's cat, had also found out about the creatures out to destroy the world. We can't let that happen! he thought to himself. And the ponies will know about it too late to do anything.

Fuzz determinedly walked over to his nice, organized corner of the Bushwoolie hole. There were all his toys, lined up neatly on shelves. He sighed blissfully. Many a day he had passed away batting these old favorites around... the round stuffed pea, the roll of Christmas ribbon, the little green pom-pom. All of these he held dear to his heart.

But, he was going on an important mission. He could only pack one. He picked the stuffed pea, and threw it in his cat-sized backpack.

Next, he observed the bag of cat-food Friendly supplied him with. Fuzz himself didn't eat much, but the others he was planning on taking along with him probably would. He filled many sandwich bags with the crunchy X-shaped pieces and added them to the backpack.

With any luck, they'd be able to find fresh water along their journey; but in case of an emergency, Fuzz added several tightly-sealed bottles of water to the pack.

Fuzz glanced once more at his shelf of toys, then turned and ran out of the Bushwoolie hole. He had to gather up help.

* * *
Discreetly strolling through the streets of Dream Valley, Fuzz came across his first stop: Tabby's house. Long and lean as he was, he skillfully stretched up and turned the doorknob on the front door. Unlocking it was no problem; Tabby never remembered to lock it in the first place.

"Callie!" Fuzz called into the house. "Where are you?"

Callie heard the voice from her seat on the couch, and momentarily forgot about her whipping tail. She batted her eyelashes several times before she realized that they were supposed to be enemies. She let out a low growl instead.

Fuzz came bounding into the living room. "We've got to save the world from destruction!" he exclaimed. "You'll come along with me, won't you? I'll need all the help I can get."

Callie turned his back to him. "What do I care if the world is destroyed?" she sniffed.

"You wouldn't be around anymore," Fuzz suggested. "Nobody would." To himself he thought, Hmm, Callie gone. Actually, that wouldn't be half bad...

"Exactly my point," Callie sighed. "If we'll all be long gone anyway, why worry?"

"If you come, I'll let you play with my pea!" Digging into his backpack, he pulled out the precious object.

Callie's eyes gleamed for a moment. She had always envied Fuzz of that pea, but she never admitted it, being enemies and all. "A meager stuffed pea?" she laughed. "It'll take more than that to get me to go, mister."

"It'll be fun," Fuzz coaxed. "You've hardly ever been outside this house. Wouldn't it be nice to go on an adventure and see new lands?"

That made Callie stop and think. Actually, it was pretty boring around here. Tabby was much to loud for her liking, always shrieking out and squeezing her until Callie thought she'd explode. But then, since Tabby had gotten that Meowth of hers, she didn't pay as much attention to Callie anymore, which Callie really appreciated. Still, it would be fun to get out of the house for awhile.

"I'll go on one condition," Callie bargained. "I get to pick up the crystal first when we find it." It was a weak condition, but she had to come up with something to make it sound like she wasn't going willingly.

"Fine," Fuzz agreed. "Now, we head over to Sugarberry's house."

* * *
Fuzz and Callie sat on Sugarberry's porch, staring up at the door. The last member of their team, if you could call it a team, lurked inside: Fluff.

Fluff was even worse than Fuzz, in Callie's mind. He made absolutely no acts of kindness towards her; even Fuzz was nice to her sometimes. Plus there was the fact that he was enormously fat. How could any cat eat that much? Callie shuddered at the thought. She ate only a few morsels of food at every meal.

Fuzz was concentrating hard on the doorknob. Sugarberry, unfortunately, was not scatter-brained like her friend Tabby was. The door was locked.

"Are we going to sit here all day?" Callie yawned.

Fuzz wordlessly slipped off the porch and inspected the small wire fence that Sugarberry had up around her flower bed. He swiftly snapped off a piece of the thin wire and bounded back up on the porch.

"A piece of wire." Callie grimaced. "It's filthy. Look at that gob of dirt on it."

"It'll do the job," Fuzz mumbled as he stretched up to the doorknob and inserted the wire into the keyhole. He began wiggling it around. Callie stretched out in a sunbeam on the porch and closed her eyes.

"Callie, get up!" Fuzz exclaimed a few minutes later. Callie frowned as she looked up. The sunbeam had been so comfortable. Then she saw the open door.

"I picked the lock with that wire," Fuzz said proudly.

"Do we have to take Fluff along?" Callie complained.

"He's my brother," Fuzz reminded her. "We can't leave him out."

"Why do I have to come, then? I'm not related to your scuzzy barn-cat family."

"Like you're any higher than barn-cat-class," Fuzz snorted and he walked through the door.

Callie began making up a fantasy world for herself. "My mother was a show cat; she won hundreds of ribbons. I remember looking at all of them when I was a little kitten--"

"A show cat," Fuzz smirked. "Why didn't you follow in her pawsteps? Or did she evict you from the house for being such a spoiled brat?"

Callie bristled her fur in anger. "A spoiled brat? Don't you dare call me that!" The truth of the matter was that Callie had been a stray. The first thing she remembered of her life was crying pitifully outside of a large building... that building. What was it? Who were her parents? A family had discovered and adopted her, but gave her away at a garage sale several years later. That's when Tabby had found her.

Callie stayed on the porch with her nose stuck in the air while Fuzz went to find his brother. Fuzz was wandering through the rooms in Sugarberry's house. Ah, there was Fluff, sleeping comfortably in a box sitting out in the kitchen. Fuzz sighed dreamily. He wished he had a box like that.

Anyway, he tapped on the side of the box. "Fluff! Get up!"

His fluffy gold brother just stirred in his sleep and grunted.

Fuzz reached into the box and whapped one of his paws on the fat cat's head. "FLUFF!"

That did the trick; Fluff slowly came to. "Fuzz," he said drowsily. "What're you doing here?"

"There's an evil horde about to destroy the world and we have to find the mystical crystal to stop them," Fuzz quickly explained. "Callie's waiting out on the porch to go with us."

"Callie?" Fluff's eyes shown with malice. "I've got a few things to say to that cat. Let's get going!"

* * *
The three cats walked south, as their instincts told them that's where the evil creatures were doing their work. They kept switching between fits of peace and fighting.

"Did you hear that Callie's mother was a show cat?" Fuzz poked his brother playfully.

Fluff chuckled. "Ha! Any show cat would be upset to have a daughter that looked like that!"

Callie looked down at her soft fluffy calico fur, then rolled her ears back and bared her fangs. "If my mother were here, she'd show you a thing or two! She may have been beautiful, but she sure had an attitude!" She paused wistfully for a moment, wishing she had known her mother.

"So that's where you got your personality from!" Fuzz said gleefully.

"And my father wasn't that nice, either," Callie continued. Hey, if she was making up a fantasy world, why stop?

Fuzz finally sobered up. "Now, if we meet up with anyone, we'll have to go by aliases."

"Aliases? Why?" Fluff asked.

"Because that's the way to do things," Fuzz sighed in exasperation. "I'll be Socrates."

"Volstagg," Fluff said after a pause.

That sure sounds like Fluff, Callie thought in annoyance. After thinking about her alias, she finally declared, "Cassiopeia."

"Good choices," Fuzz said in approval. "Now we're all set to take out the evil forces."

And so, the team kept going.

* * *
"I'm so tired," Fluff complained. They'd been walking south for over a day now, after a night's sleep in a grove of trees.

Fuzz twitched his ears. "The evil horde is still a day or two's march from here. You can't give up now, Fluff!"

Callie yawned. "My paws are so worn-out. Can't we stop to rest?"

"We'll just go on a little further," Fuzz mumbled, and shot ahead of the two others. He stopped several yards away from them and sat on his haunches. "Look ahead," he instructed Fluff and Callie after they caught up with him.

Callie looked ahead on the flat plain. "It looks like a tent."

"Yes," Fuzz agreed. "The occupant might be an enemy. Fluff, you go and scout it out. Remember your alias!"

"Okay," Fluff said drowsily. "I'll be back in a little while." He strolled casually along, up to the tent.

Fuzz and Callie sat erect as they watched Fluff's progress. "Look at him," Fuzz groaned. "Anyone could hear those pawsteps coming."

Fluff looked right inside the tent. Callie shook her head. "He shouldn't have looked straight inside like that."

And then Fluff disappeared totally inside. "What happened?" Callie said in surprise.

"He went inside; anyone could see that," Fuzz mumbled. "It doesn't look like he was taken by force. Maybe it's not an enemy. We'll see if he comes back. He is supposed to report to us."

They waited. They waited some more. Callie yawned again. "He's not back," she said bluntly.

Fuzz nodded. "Yes. Very interesting. I'd better go see what's up. You come with me." He headed off, taking a more discreet route to the tent than his brother had taken. Callie hesitated a moment, then followed after.

Sitting with his ear to the canvas tent, Fuzz listened intently. "Can you hear anything?" Callie whispered.

"It sounds like Fluff... licking his lips!" Fuzz exclaimed. "I'm goin' in." He stormed through the door flap. There sat Fluff, eating ravenously from... a can... of cat food? Fuzz nearly gasped. Canned cat food! What a treat!

Sitting ahead of Fluff was a beautiful white long-haired feline, who wore a silver heart-shaped locket around her neck, Fuzz noted. She smiled as Fuzz walked in. "Are you Fluff's brother he told me about?" she questioned simply.

"Yes, but he was supposed to report back to us and not sit around eating all afternoon," Fuzz answered politely. "And he's supposed to be Volstagg, not Fluff." He glared at his brother. Even if this was a fellow cat, you never knew who would turn on them.

"Would you like something to eat, Mister..." the fluffy beauty trailed off.

"Socrates," he stated. "Just call me Socrates."

"You don't have to go by your aliases," the cat giggled. "Fluff already explained that part to me, too. You're Fuzz, of course."

Did he tell her everything? Fuzz wondered, but nodded in response to her question. It was too late to salvage the alias plan.

"And I'm Cataline," the new-comer declared, and graciously pulled out yet another can of cat food and placed it in front of Fuzz.

"Hey, Callie, come in here, and meet Cataline!" he yelled outside before digging into this fabulous treat. Fluff was still too busy eating his to have said anything, but he did look up and mumble something incomprehensible to Fuzz, as his mouth was full of food.

Callie strolled slowly into the tent. "What's going on here?" she demanded.

"Callie... you're the third member of the team?" The white cat blinked slowly.

"I suppose you could say that," Callie sniffed. "It's not very good manners to begin eating before me, though. I'm the lady, after all," she directed at Fuzz and Fluff.

Cataline was staring at Callie intently. "You look so much like... like..." she said slowly.

"Like what?" Callie said impatiently. She wanted to be fed, too... canned cat food!

"My daughter." Cataline wiped away a tear. "My only daughter. She was lost when only a few months old." She unlatched the locket from her neck and opened it, then stared down at one of the pictures. "Can it be possible?" she cried out joyfully.

Callie looked into the locket. On one side, there was a picture of a handsome gray cat with white stripes, along with an elegant white cat which was obviously Cataline. Callie's eyes opened wide when she saw the other picture. It was... her! Yes, it had to be. It was a kitten with a scowling face, and fluffy calico fur.

"Oh, it has to be you!" Cataline embraced Callie lovingly. "Compare the picture with yourself. There are the gray and orange patches on your head, and the white stripe that cuts through it. Absolutely identical."

"Wow," was all Callie could say.

"What became of you after you were lost?" Cataline, now Callie's mother, prodded.

"How'd I get lost in the first place?" Callie wanted to know. "And can I have something to eat?"

Cataline laughed and presented her newly-found daughter with another can of cat food. Fuzz and Fluff listened in on the conversation in rapt attention.

"Now, let's see," Cataline started. "Your father was a barn-cat."

"A barn-cat?" Callie looked horrified.

Fuzz and Fluff both rolled over laughing. "Hee hee! You're half scuzzy barn-cat after all!" Fuzz choked out.

"Ah, but he was a dashing cat," Cataline said dreamily.

" ‘Was'?" Callie asked in alarm.

At that, Cataline sighed. "You see, he was just kidnapped--"

"Kidnapped?!" Callie's eyes flew open.

"We'll get to that part in due time; otherwise, nothing will make sense," Cataline said reasonably. "Now, your father and I took you to a party to meet all his relatives one night, in the barn he used to hang out in."

"A barn..." Callie said contemplatively. Was that the building she remembered?

"Unfortunately, you wandered off." Cataline wiped away another tear. "We only realized you were gone when we got ready to leave. We looked all over, but couldn't find a trace of you."

Callie sniffed. "It's such a heart-breaking story. What became of me? I hope I didn't get killed by some vicious beast."

Fuzz and Fluff started laughing once again. "Callie!" Fluff roared. "If you were killed by a vicious beast, you wouldn't be here wondering about it!"

Fuzz looked at his brother admiringly. "You actually showed some common sense there, Fluff," he commented.

Callie blushed sheepishly. "Oh... yeah."

"We heard the next day from a friend of ours-- he was an owl, but such a dear friend-- that he'd seen a family of ponies pick you up the previous night-- you must have gotten out of the barn. It was too late for us to do anything. The only link we had to you up to now was this photograph," Cataline said, showing Callie's kitten picture off again.

"It's amazing," Callie breathed.

"And that's your father, Charles-- or Charlie, that is." Cataline pointed to the other picture, showing herself and the gray-and-white cat. "It was taken on our wedding day."

"You said he was kidnapped. What's the story behind that?" Callie demanded.

"We'd found out about an evil horde of vermin that has a mystical crystal," Cataline explained. "They're going to use it to destroy the world."

"That's exactly what we're out wandering after!" Fuzz exclaimed.

"Really?... Ah, yes, Fluff did say you three were on a quest... well, Charlie had just about located the secret location. Just a few nights ago, he went out scouting... I was watching from a distance. And... he was captured by the rats."

"That's terrible," Callie said sympathetically. "Now, you said he was a barn-cat. What's your occupation... Mom?"

Cataline smiled. "I'm a show-cat," she said happily.

Fuzz and Fluff had frozen looks on their faces. "A... show cat?" they both stuttered.

"That is, until Charlie and I ran off to get the crystal back from those vermin," Cataline explained. "I do hope my owner will take us back in. It's rather fun being in shows."

Callie shot a triumphant look at Fuzz and Fluff. "Told ya my mother was a show cat," she said, smirking.

"Yeah," Fluff mumbled.

"Now, Callie, tell me about your background. Where do you live now? Who are these two handsome friends of yours?"

Callie sniffed. "They're not friends, Mom. They're acquaintances. I was only forced into knowing them because all our owners are friends."

"They look like fine gentlemen to know," Cataline chided her daughter. She turned to the two brothers. "Were you barn-cats?"

"Originally, yes," Fuzz answered. "We found nice homes in Dream Valley, though. I live in a Bushwoolie hole."

Cataline raised her eyes. "A hole?"

"Quite well furnished," Fuzz continued. "Bushwoolies are good at making underground homes. I have my own shelf for toys."

Cataline nodded in satisfaction. "Are you owned by a Bushwoolie as well, Fluff?" she asked the other brother.

"Nope, I live with a pony," Fluff said. "In a house with boxes... I love boxes." He sighed happily.

"And Callie." Cataline looked at her daughter.

"I'm owned by a pony in Dream Valley as well-- she's a unicorn, though; not a lowly earth pony like Fluff's is," Callie said, in a desperate attempt to sound better than Fuzz and Fluff.

"Is she the one that found you by the barn?"

"No, actually, the ones that found me there gave me away at a garage sale a few years later. Tabby got me then."

"Does she care for you well?"

"As long as she leaves me alone." Callie shuddered. "She's too loud for my liking. If she keeps my food and water dishes supplied, I'm happy."

"With the background info all filled in, let's get to work on recovering the crystal," Cataline said briskly.

"That's right!" Fuzz said. "Where did Charlie think the entrance to the secret tunnel was?"

Cataline ducked out of the tent and pointed further south, where the cats could make out a grove of trees. "In there somewhere. Ever since he was kidnapped, I've been too scared to do anything on my own. But with you three on my side now, maybe we can do something." She smiled.

"We'll head out tomorrow," Fuzz decided. "If we hurry, we can get this thing wrapped up by tomorrow at this time. Then we can go back home."

"Sounds good with me," Fluff said as he curled up on a pillow strewn on the floor of the tent.

* * *
Fuzz woke up bright and early the next day-- yes, it was going to be a big day. "Fluff! Callie! Cataline!" He roused all his friends. "We gotta head out."

"I don't wanna get up." Fluff snuggled deeper into the pillow.

"I never wanted to come on this adventure anyway," Callie mumbled drowsily. "At least let me sleep."

"Mmmm," Cataline mumbled.

Everyone eventually got up though, and had a breakfast of more canned food. Cataline led the way to the tree grove.

* * *
"Here we are," Cataline announced. The four cats stood at the tree grove, with bushes on the outskirts. "Charlie was sure it was around here, but hadn't located the precise location yet."

Fuzz was the most intelligent of the group. He twitched his ears. "Hmm..." he mumbled to himself, poking into the bushes.

"Finding anything?" Fluff asked.

"Ahh... yes... here!" Fuzz cried out triumphantly. "Look. There's a hole leading underground here." He pushed the bushes aside to reveal a well-concealed hole.

"Well, let's get going," Fluff said, plunging straight down into the hole.

"It's definitely where the vermin are," Cataline said. "It's giving off strong vibes."

The rest of the group was more cautious going down than Fluff had been. Callie distastefully wiped dirt off of her fur that was dropping down on her from the dirt tunnel. However, they had forgotten about Fluff, who was no longer in sight.

"Look, there's a door!" Cataline exclaimed quietly. It wasn't a dead end, though; the tunnel kept going. The door was wooden, and strangely enough, it was attached to the dirt tunnel as well as it would have been to any other solid surface.

"What do you think is inside?" Callie questioned.

Fuzz tried the knob. "It's locked, but that isn't really a surprise," he said. "I sure hope none of the vermin are in there; they would have heard the knob rattle."

"Maybe it's Charlie!" Cataline said hopefully. She rapped on the door. "Hello! Is anyone in there?"

A muffled reply came, but not loudly enough to make out the words. However, Cataline perked up. "That's Charlie, all right! I'd recognize his voice anywhere!"

"But it's still locked," Callie wailed.

"No problem." Fuzz whipped out the piece of wire that he'd used to break into Sugarberry's house from his backpack. In just a few seconds, the door swung open.

Cataline immediately rushed in. "Charles!" she joyfully cried out. And it was him, all right-- his paws tied together, and a cloth tied over his mouth, but it was still him. Cataline quickly had her husband free.

"Oh, Cataline, it's wonderful to see you again," Charles declared sincerely. He quickly sprang to his paws again. "But, first we have to attend to the vermin. We'll have to hurry; there's not much time left." He ran out the door, only to see Callie.

"Felina!" he exclaimed. "It's you!"

"Felina?" Callie stuttered in confusion.

"That's right; I've finally found our daughter," Cataline said proudly.

"What about the Felina thing?" Callie demanded.

"That's what we named you originally," Cataline explained. "I forgot to mention that, didn't I? Your pony owners obviously renamed you Callie, but that's fine with us."

The reunited family was getting rather sentimental, and Fuzz was feeling left-out. "Fluff is gone!" he suddenly exclaimed.

Callie jumped back to the present quest. "That's right! We haven't seen him since he started down the tunnel!"

"I wonder why there weren't any guards..." Cataline mused.

"There weren't any guards?" Charlie questioned. "That is strange. We'll make introductions later," he directed at Fuzz, "but I'm assuming Fluff is on our side, so we've got to find out what happened to him.

The four dashed down the tunnel, and they became aware of a noise, growing louder as they went. It sounded like... music?

"I've been hearing that sort of noise a lot since I got locked up in there," Charlie commented.

They suddenly stopped as an amazing sight met their eyes. The tunnel sloped down slightly, and opened into a round cavern. In the middle was a pedestal with a glowing purple crystal placed on it. But there were rats in linen tunics covering the place... some were singing, some were playing instruments, some were sitting on the sidelines tapping their feet to the beat of the music, and some were dancing just for the fun of it.

But that wasn't the most amazing thing. Fluff was right in the middle of the group, swaying back and forth as if they were all old friends!

Callie and Cataline gasped. Fluff looked up to where they were and waved. "Hey, come on down!" he shouted. "This party's fun!"

Then they saw an underground lake, and in front of it, a stone stage was set up. A mysterious-looking fox was standing there, singing in a loud, clear voice. "Running off in search of treasure, la la la la la la la la! Going to find it in large measure, la la la la la la la la!" The fox was a bluish-black color, and wore a dark cloak. He looked to be having as much fun as the rats.

The four cats looked at each other, bewildered. What in the world was going on here?

"Ah-hem, excuse me." Charlie stepped down into the circle of merry-making rats... and Fluff. "Would someone care to explain what's going on here?"

Fluff looked around, and blinked slowly. "Some of the rats are performing their songs, and the rest of us are just having fun."

"What about the crystal that you're going to destroy the world with, rats?" Charlie gestured towards the crystal.

The rats began looking at each other. "He's the one we captured, isn't he?" one of them whispered. "Do you think he likes our music like this fat guy does?"

A darker brown rat in a green outfit stepped forward and looked at the crystal. "Oh, that. Nobody liked our music, and we were getting fed up with it. We got the crystal with the help of Steele over there-- he's a Marlfox, by the way--" He pointed at the fox on the stage. "--and were going to destroy the world with it." He shrugged nonchalantly.

"You shouldn't destroy the world because somebody doesn't like your music," Charlie said sternly. "But why'd you take me prisoner?"

The dark rat paused. "Well, a few of the rats were above ground a few nights ago, and ran across you. They were able to capture you easily, and locked you up in that room. The rest of us figured, ‘Hey, why not?' "

Fuzz jumped down next to Charlie, which made the rats gasp. "There's more of them!" some of the rats exclaimed. Cataline and Callie saw that they were spotted now, and they both waved and smiled at the group below.

"Who were you having listen to your music, anyway?" Fuzz wondered. "It is pretty good." He tapped his paws to the beat.

"Oh, woodland critters-- squirrels, mice, hedgehogs, that sort of thing," the rat said, shrugging. "They just ran off after we started playing. We never did try it on cats, though."

"I think I have an idea!" Cataline called down to the group. By this time, most of the singing and dancing had stopped, and all eyes were on the cats. "First, promise you won't destroy the world!"

The fox, who had been across the room before, suddenly materialized next to Charlie and Fuzz. "Hey, if you guys like the music, we'll forget the crystal," he said agreeably.

"Good," Cataline said. "I think the problem here is that you picked the wrong kind of audience. Woodland critters are supposed to be scared of vermin like you... maybe you should try out your act in Dream Valley."

"Dream Valley? That's the place up north," the Marlfox said. "It's inhabited by ponies. Are you saying they'd like our music?"

Cataline smiled winningly at him. "It's worth a try, isn't it?"

The rats and fox all began nodding to each other and smiling. The general consensus was, "Yeah, sure, let's do it!"

"Chuck that crystal into the lake, would you?" Steele instructed the dark rat, who appeared to be the leader of the rats.

"Wait a sec, wait a sec!" Callie suddenly leaped down into the rats. "When we came questing down here, Fuzz said I'd be the first to pick up the crystal. So I get to chuck it in the lake." She made her way to the pedestal, and picked up the crystal.

"It's pretty," she said.

"The sooner it's gone into the lake the better," Fuzz warned. "It wouldn't be good for anyone else to find it."

Callie finally consented. She tossed the crystal into the lake. It made a plop, and disappeared into the murky depths.

"Well, that's done," Cataline said happily, who had made her way down to the other cats.

"Umm..." Callie started. "You'll be able to talk English to the ponies, won't you?"

Steele rolled his eyes. "What're we talking in now, miss? Of course we'll use English."

"Just making sure," Callie justified herself. You see, all animals in Ponyland can understand and speak English; but in the cats' cases, they never talked in it, except to fellow animals.

The lead rat bowed low before Charlie and Cataline. "I'm known as Joseph. Steele is the lead singer for our songs, but a lot of us do backup singing."

"Yep, I think this is gonna go real well with the ponies in Dream Valley," Fluff said contentedly.

And the happy group went off to Dream Valley, chattering all the way.

"I never did let you play with me pea, did I?" Fuzz said, coming up to Callie's side.

Callie sighed. "That's okay... there really wasn't enough time."

"Maybe I can visit you at Tabby's house sometime," Fuzz suggested. "Then you can have fun with it."

Callie smiled back at him, which was definitely a change in behavior. "I'd like that," she said.

Then Callie went over to her parents. "Where do you live? Will you ever be able to visit me?" she prodded.

"We're owned by someone in Friendship Gardens," Charlie said. "But we'll try to make it over to Dream Valley whenever we can."

"We'll do anything to see our daughter," Cataline said, hugging Callie again.

* * *
"I'm so glad Fluff's back home!" Sugarberry exclaimed delightedly a few nights later at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe, while gathered there with some of her friends. "It's so weird how he just showed up on my porch in perfect condition last night."

"Same thing with Callie," Tabby mused. "At least Tarquin didn't run off like that," she added, indicating her Meowth Pokèmon.

"Fuzz back too, yeah, yeah!" Friendly said happily.

"Hey, everybody! Look at this!" Clever Clover came running over to their table, waving a flier in the air excitedly. He set it down on the table.

"The Steele Rats," Thomas read off the flier.

Tabby opened her eyes wide in alarm. "Rats are starting up singing groups?"

"The lead singer is a Marlfox, though," Clever Clover went on. "From what I've heard, they're not evil; that's good--"

"A Marlfox?" Tabby interrupted him. "I simply love Marlfoxes!" She sighed happily.

"I'm going to have to see this," Sugarberry giggled. "A rat singing group, lead by a fox."

"Are they performing somewhere or something?" Tabby prodded.

Clever Clover picked up the flier again. "They're putting on their first live performance in Dream Valley two nights from now. Admission is three jangles for adults, teenagers, and babies."

Tabby nodded approvingly. "Having the babies pay the full admission as well. Good thinking on the rats' part..."

* * *
Callie crawled under Tabby's couch. Yes, she was back home. But, she actually had something to do under the couch this time.

She looked down at the silver locket she was holding in her paw. Yes, her mother had given the locket over to her, so she'd be able to keep a picture of her parents even if they might not see each other for awhile.

That's why Callie was under the couch. She was hiding the locket there, so Tabby wouldn't find it.

And Callie sighed dreamily. She hoped she'd see Fuzz again soon. He actually wasn't that bad of a cat...


Rainbow of Mystery
By Northstar (
© All Rights Reserved

Lastly looked beyond the stone walls of Star Manor. She was bored with this place; she wanted some adventure. Looking over at Ember moping as well, she knew Ember felt the same way.

"Princess Ember, Princess Lastly-- Queen Northstar requests your presence," Sunset, a lady-in-waiting, said as she pranced into the room.

"Yes, Sunset, sure; we will be there, but lose the formality," Ember told her. "You don't have to call us by our title of ‘Princess'."

"Yes, I know how you feel, my lady; but I have to conform to proper castle etiquette, you see," Sunset replied.

"Yes, yes, we understand; but you don't really have to ‘conform' to anything, dear Sunset," Ember said.

Lastly rolled her eyes; Ember was getting into her ‘ideals' mode.

"Having that said, let's go," Sunset said, ushering the two out of the door and into the hall. She watched them as they walked. A pure white unicorn with shimmering silver hair and a dark blue earth pony with white hair walked down the richly carpeted hall.

Sunset had known Ember since birth, as she had been Ember's nurse-- as well as to Ember's sisters, Sweet Star and Baby Northstar. Now Lastly, Ember's best friend, had been adopted into the family and was a princess, too. Sunset did love all of them very much.

Lastly laughed as they went down the hall. "Nice mode of seriousness back there, Emb," she said, using her nickname for Ember.

Ember tossed her mane. "It was not a ‘mode', Las; but I was serious," she replied, grinning.

" ‘Las'? Good to see your playful mode," Lastly replied, ruffling Ember's mane. "Las" was Ember's nickname for Lastly, but she usually called her "Lassie".

The two reached the grand hall. There, seated on ornate thrones, sat Queen Northstar and King Knight Light. The two pegasi looked very glamorous sitting there, with their heads adorned with bejeweled crowns.

"Ah, daughters, I wondered where you were," Queen Northstar said, reaching a hoof out to beckon them over.

The two young ponies took their places on their thrones, which were identical to the king's and queen's. "What exactly did you need, Northstar?" asked Lastly.

"I need you to listen to me. There is a grand ball in your honor, Lastly. Tonight," replied Queen Northstar. "We will announce that you are a princess to the Kingdom of Star Valley."

"Tonight? For me?" Lastly asked. She looked at Baby Northstar, who was playing at her feet. Picking the baby up and setting her on her lap, she smiled. "Why, thank you, Your Highnesses."

Baby Northstar giggled. "Ball! We get to dress up all pretty!"

"Yes, dear Lastly," King Knight Light said. His dark blue coat shimmered with the royal sparkle. "In your honor. So the two of you stay nearby and get ready."

"Okay, we will just take a little walk to Dream Valley," Ember answered.

Lastly grinned. Ember was very good at getting around chores and stuff she did not want to do-- she had quite a skill for it.

"No, child, stay here," Knight Light said; but Ember saw that he would relent soon.

"Okay... we will stay here, and have fun in the palace. Right, Las?" she asked, winking at the unicorn.

"Yeah! Didn't you want to redecorate the main hall, Ember? With... what is it? Oh, yeah! Velvet paintings!" Lastly said.

Ember laughed. "Yeah, those really tacky ones we saw at the Market of Flea the other day."

Lastly grinned; Ember had definitely clinched it. They would be able to go to Dream Valley. Lasty, as well, wanted to visit her friends and see the lush, green landscape of the valley.

"Alright, alright; just don't be late to the ball," Queen Northstar told her. "Now then, where is Sweet Star?"

Sweet Star came prancing in. "Sorry! Sunset told me to come, but I got... distracted."

Lastly and Ember looked at each other. They knew Sweet Star had been upstairs in her room, playing around with something-- as usual.

Sweet Star was wearing her tiara, smaller than Ember and Lastly's; it glittered star shine. This was the sparkle that all royalty of Star Valley had. The sparkle and their hoofmarks were their distinguishing marks.

"Yes, I heard about the ball as I was walking in," Sweet Star told her parents.

"Okay, you may all leave for now," Knight Light dismissed them.

"A ball, Las-Las; what should we wear?" Ember asked as they walked to their section of Star Manor.

"Clothes, makeup, tiara-- or in your case, crown," Lastly replied, as they reached their wing. She could still not believe that she was a princess and this entire wing was for just her and Ember. They each had their own bedroom, living room, and bathroom.

To Ember, it was no big deal; she had had this life forever. The two went into Ember's room to plan their outfits.

"You know, after we do this, let us go to Dream Valley and share the news with our friends," Ember suggested.

Lastly agreed. She pulled out a stunning diamond necklace. "Ember, go get your crown instead of your tiara; let me see how this looks," she called to Ember, who was hunting around for her golden horseshoes.

Ember came over and Lastly draped the necklace over her head, so the diamond lay between her eyes, and then added the crown as a finishing touch. "Wonderful! It looks great," Lastly said, holding up a mirror.

Ember held up an emerald and ruby necklace. "You should wear this one!" she cried.

"Okay, that's settled; let's go!" Lastly said as she grabbed the wand that would take them to Dream Valley.

The room filled with a bright light... and suddenly the two ponies were in Dream Valley. Lastly and Ember looked around. There was Dream Castle and the Lullaby Nursery, but where were the Little Ponies? Everywhere they looked, they could not see any of the ponies.

"Majesty?" Ember called as she went inside Dream Castle. The throne room was empty--dark and desolate.

Just then, she saw something shimmer. A gold crown lay on the floor, obviously thrown down in haste. "Lastly!" Ember cried. "Majesty was kidnapped, I'm sure. But where are the other ponies?"

Lastly came from the kitchen. "I know; I cannot find Buttons, Cupcake, Taffy or anypony!"

"Where did all the ponies go?" Ember wondered.

Then Ember and Lastly heard a muffled sound. It sounded like someone sobbing. In the corner, crouched behind Majesty's throne, was Baby Milky Way.

"It's horrible!" the baby pony cried. "They all gone; taken away!"

"Who took them all away?" Lastly asked, kneeling down to talk to the shaking baby.

"Dragons!" wailed Baby Milky Way.

Ember bent down and consoled her. "It's alright; we will find them," she soothed.

"But they took Mama!!!!" Baby Milky Way said, trying not to cry.

"Well, then we will just have to find her, sweetheart," Ember said, helping the baby pony up.

Lastly smiled at Ember. Ember had such a way with kids.

The three of them wandered the halls of Dream Castle, calling out. But no ponies could be found.

"Great! What do we do now?" asked Ember.

"I don't know; I guess look for the ‘dragons' Baby Milky Way claims she saw take them," Lastly suggested. So, the trio left Dream Castle and set off on their way.

"I really don't want to bring her along," Ember whispered to Lastly, indicating Baby Milky Way. The baby pony was scampering among the flowers.

"Yes, I know; but we really have no choice," Lastly told her, laughing at the adorable baby's antics.

"Look!" the baby suddenly cried, pointing up at the sky. There, above them, was a herd of dragons, each with a Little Pony in its clutches. The biggest dragon had a net with Megan inside.

"Help us!" cried Majesty, trying to wiggle free from a dragon. But alas, she could not. The dragons flew away, chuckling.

Lastly and Ember ran as far as they could, trying to track the dragons. But then the herd flew beyond the Volcano of Gloom, and the two ponies could no longer see them.

"Ohhhhh... rats!" cried Ember. "Where could they have gone?"

"To tell you the truth, I do not know; but we will find out!" Lastly said.

"You know what? I bet they went to the Darklands," Ember suggested, referring to the place no pony in their right mind ever went. "They looked like Scorpan's dragons!"

"That cannot be. Scorpan is gone-- remember what happened after he captured you?" Lastly asked.

"Yeah," Ember added. "But the weird thing about that incident is that I have no memory of what happened before; only after, and even those are fuzzy. I just remember waking up in a place with my parents. I can't think of where he took me."

Baby Milky Way pranced up to them. "See? Told ya! Dragons!" she told them.

"Well, I am sure you will recall it one day, Ember-- in the meantime, let's worry about what to do about the other ponies," Lastly said.

"I don't want to go to the Darklands with Baby Milky Way," Ember said quietly to Lastly. "What can we do with her?"

Baby Milky Way overheard this. "I go; no trouble-- not me!"

That settled it. They really had no other choice. "She can wink in and out..." reminded Lastly.

They were walking along when Ember heard a sound in the bushes. "Who's there?" she called.

No one answered. Ember shook her head; she must have imagined it.

The three ponies decided to stop and sleep, as it was getting dark. The stars shone brightly as Ember lay on the ground, looking at the sky. She could hear Lastly breathing softly; and Baby Milky Way was curled up at her hooves, sound asleep.

I wonder what had happened before Tarpan captured me. I don't remember; everything's a blur, Ember thought. Lastly, Mom, Dad-- no one has any clue as to what happened to me. All I know is that I live in Star Valley... now. Where did I live before?

Ember finally fell asleep; her dreams were all blurry images... a pony falling into water... a young girl.

* * *
Ember woke up the next morning and nudged Lastly and Baby Milky Way awake. They picked berries off the bushes for breakfast, and set off again.

A little while later on their journey, Ember heard the same sound in the bushes as she had the previous day-- a whinny and a snort. Intrigued, she ran to the bushes; but all she saw was a flash of a pink tail. The creature had run off. Ember rolled her eyes; they were not getting anywhere.

Further along the path, Ember saw that same tail weave in between a group of trees. "Ah-ha!" she cried, grabbing the tail in her hoof.

A sheepish blue face greeted them. "Hi! I am sorry! I just wanted to see if you had any food. We are very hungry."

" ‘We'?" asked Lastly, who had come over to see what was going on.

"Yes, we. It's all right, guys!" the blue pony called.

Two other Ponies trotted out of the trees. Their manes and tails were matted with filth, and they looked like they were starving. Ember ran over and gave them some of the berries left over from last night's poor dinner.

Baby Milky Way wandered over to the strangers. "Hi!" she exclaimed.

The strange ponies looked down at the ground. "Hi, I am Bo-- I am Banner," the blue Pony stammered.

Ember looked at her. There was something so familiar with that pony. Nah, she told herself, shaking her mane. There you go, Ember; imagining things again.

The pink pegasus came forth. "I am Fire," she said, with the lightening bolts on her sides glittering.

"And I am Aps," the yellow earth pony said, with freckles like Banner.

"I am Ember; this is Lastly, and Baby Milky Way," Ember introduced herself and her two companions.

"Nice to meet you; so why are you here? I mean, where is your home?" Lastly asked the three new ponies.

"We come from a place far away; we do not know the name of it, though," Aps replied, still acting shy.

"Oh, really?" Ember said, raising an eyebrow. These "lost ponies" seemed suspicious. She had better keep an eye on them.

"Yes, we have no memory of our former home; we just wander around in this part of the country," Banner told her.

"Oh! You poor things!" Lastly said.

"And what are you planning to do with the rest of your life?" Ember asked.

"Trying to one day find our home," answered Fire, who until now had been silent.

"Well, we are on our way to rescue some Little Ponies from dragons," Lastly told them. "Would you like to come along with us?"

"Last-ly! I don't trust them!" Ember whispered to Lastly.

Lastly stared back at her with a reproachful look and said, "It's all right; I have read their minds, and their intentions are pure."

Ember sighed. "Oh, right!"

Aps stepped forward, ducking her head. "We are truly honored that you asked us to accompany you on your journey, princesses." She bowed before Ember and Lastly.

Ember was taken back. "Princess? But how did you..." she trailed off.

"We saw the mark on your hooves," Banner explained.

"Well, let us get started," Ember said, still having the notion that she knew these ponies from somewhere.

Trotting along, the group quickly reached the Darklands.

"Oohhh! This place is so spooky!" Ember said, shivering.

The Darklands certainly lived up to their name. Dark pits and caverns covered the land. A massive gray stone castle towered above them.

"Scccccarrrryy..." wailed Baby Milky Way.

Lastly looked at Ember; this place was too dangerous for a baby pony.

"If you want, I can take her," Banner offered.

Lastly and Ember nodded. Banner would wait outside the Darklands while the rest of them went inside.

Ember, Lastly, Fire, and Aps began the long trek to the castle. They grew more timid by the minute, but they had to save the kidnapped ponies.

As Ember looked up at the castle, a light flashed through her head... a blurry picture of a pony falling off a bridge clouded her thoughts.

Ember looked at the castle's bridge; dark, murky water lay below. No! This cannot be the same bridge, she told herself.

Lastly looked behind her. Ember was standing there, transfixed, with a glassy look on her face.

Ember shook her mane and ran up to Lastly. "Sorry, got a little out of it!" She blushed.

Aps laughed. "I get like that, too; I have fuzzy pictures appear in my head sometimes," she said, like it was no big deal.

Ember was intrigued; she would have to ask this Aps about the pictures later. Lastly did not seem to notice Ember's behavior, and had reached the door.

"Shooo be doo, shoop shoop be dooo," sang Fire, who was very quiet and soft spoken.

Ember cocked her head. That song! She knew she had heard it before, but where?

Lastly looked at Ember. "Ohh... not again," she groaned. She tapped Ember on the shoulder, and Ember jumped.

"Sorry," Ember said.

Lastly was knocking softly on the door when Ember cried, "Stop! I know a way!" Ember ran to the bridge and pushed a stone. A door swung open, and Lastly gazed in amazement as the four ponies filed inside.

"Wow! How did you know how to open that door?" asked Lastly.

Ember looked at her. "I do not know..." she replied.

The walls of the hall they were walking down were covered with cobwebs, and the whole place was musty. Ember sneezed as she saw a dragon's tail disappear around the corner; the creature had not noticed Ember and her friends.

"Oooh!! More Little Ponies for Master!" cried a voice from the shadows. A silver and green dragon slithered up to the ponies. "Get them," he cried. Two other dragons appeared and cast a net over Ember, Lastly, Aps, and Fire. A fuzzy picture of a scaly dragon appeared in Ember's head...

They were drug to a room where the other ponies were. "Megan!" cried Ember.

"Ember--!" cried Megan, but she was interrupted.

"APPLEJACK!" cried Skydancer, waving a yellow hoof.

Ember looked behind her. Was Skydancer talking to Aps? Nah...

Aps was surprised. "I am sorry; you are mistaken; my name is Aps."

Skydancer shook her head. "No, you are Applejack; and that is... FIREFLY!" she cried, noticing Fire.

Fire was speechless. "I am Fire, not Firefly; sorry," she managed to say.

Skydancer looked over the other Dream Valley ponies. They, too, were shaking their heads in agreement. It had to be Applejack and Firefly.

"We will explain later," Skydancer told the four new ponies.

"Yeah, what are we going to do about these nets?" asked Lastly, struggling with the intertwining ropes.

Ember was in her own world again. A new image had appeared in her mind... this time, a picture of a strange pony... a type she had never seen before... in the water...

Buttons spoke up. "Galaxy and I could warm our horns and burn the ropes." Galaxy nodded.

The two of them concentrated and soon their horns began to glow. Buttons and Galaxy placed their horns on the ropes of the net, and the broken ends fell to the ground. Then they went around to free all the other Little Ponies.

Soon they were all free. The ponies marched to the throne room of the castle.

The head dragon grinned at them. "I am Scorpion, Scorpan's brother," he hissed. "It's nice to see you again, ponies. Too bad it's not for tea, but I do like to see you in ropes and chains." He snapped a finger and a chain appeared from the floor and wound its way around Ember's neck.

"Oh, no!" Lastly cried, running towards Ember.

The Little Ponies gasped. "You cannot stop us!" Buttons cried, lunging forward.

Megan pulled the Rainbow of Light locket from beneath her shirt. She had managed to hide it from Scorpion. Opening the locket, Megan stepped back.

The rainbow wound its way around the startled dragon. It broke Ember's chains and she ran towards Scorpion, using her magic to hurl a fire-ball at him.

The dragon groaned in agony as the fire hit him, and then he was gone.

"Ember! You're okay!" cried Lastly.

Ember grinned. "Of course, Las."

The ponies made their way outside and watched as the Rainbow of Light wrapped itself around the castle until there was nothing left but dust.

"Momma!" cried Baby Milky Way, running towards her mother. The two happy ponies cried at their reunion.

Banner followed behind the baby. "Bowtie!" cried Skydancer. Ember stared at her in disbelief. Why was Skydancer acting this way?

"Bowtie? That's not my name!" cried Banner, but she was interrupted by Megan.

"Applejack! Firefly! Bowtie! You are home at last!" Megan cried, hugging the three ponies.

Aps, Fire, and Banner were bewildered. Who was this girl, and why was she calling them by these strange names?

Ember closed her eyes. A memory-- like a movie-- played in her head... a dragon coming... picking up a frightened baby pony and taking her to a castle... a baby dragon, befriending her...

"Oh, my gosh! I was that baby pony!" she cried.

Applejack, a.k.a. Aps, stared at Ember. "I remember now! Scorpan kidnapped you, and we went to rescue you and the others."

Megan frowned. "How come I have no memory of that?" she asked. "I was there, too."

"Yes, but we had all been hit on the head, and had no memory of the events. We all had selective amnesia," Applejack rapidly explained.

Banner was surprised. "Oh! You're right! So where these ponies come from is our home! Dream Valley!"

Firefly grinned. "After we had been hit on the head, we three wandered away from the castle and all of you. We had no memory of our names or where we came from, so we gave each other names based on our symbols. Aps for Applejack's apples, Banners for Bowtie's ribbons, and Fire for my fire bolts."

Megan sighed. "At least we are all together again."

Ember broke the silence. "I cannot believe this! I came from Dream Valley? Not Star Valley? Does this mean I'm not a real princess? Was I just adopted?"

"We do not know," Lastly told her. "We have to ask your parents."

"Yes, we must; Megan, Firefly, Bowtie, Applejack, Skydancer, and I will go with you," Lastly said.

Ember backed away. "I do not know any of you! Get away! I do not even know myself!"

"You don't know us? Don't you remember Twilight? You asked her if you could be a unicorn like her when you grew up. You loved to be around Twilight," Firefly said.

Ember's ears pricked up at the mention of Twilight. "Twilight? Is she here?" she asked, shifting into a baby pony's anxious voice.

"Sweetie, Twilight is at the princess ponies' court," Mimic told her. "But I can call her with my horn, and she can wink here." Mimic's horn glowed softly; and several moments later, Twilight winked in.

"Oh! What did you need, Mimic?" Twilight asked.

"It's about Ember!" cried Applejack.

"Applejack, Firefly, Bowtie? EMBER is here?" Twilight asked. "Where did you all come from? And where is Ember? I do not see her!"

"I am right here, Twi," Ember said, her eyes big. She could hardly believe this!

Twilight rushed forward to Ember. "But your hair! It's not pink anymore, and you have a symbol! Sweetie, you sure did grow into a wonderful pony."

Ember blushed. "Thanks," she said, hugging Twilight. "I did develop some magic of my own."

Lastly pranced forward. "Some? Ember is the most powerful pony in all of Star Valley!"

Twilight looked at Lastly. "Really? Who are you?"

Lastly introduced herself to Twilight, and then Twilight turned back to Ember. "I guess you want to know the whole story, huh?"

"Why don't you come with us back to Star Valley? Applejack, Bowtie, Firefly, and Megan are all going," Lastly said.

Twilight grinned. "Yes, that's what I will do."

Megan waved goodbye to the other ponies they were leaving behind in Dream Valley, and the selected ponies traveled to Star Valley on the Rainbow of Light.

When they reached Star Valley, Twilight and the other ponies from Dream Valley were in awe. "This is beautiful, Ember," Twilight said.

Ember laughed. "Thanks, but it's not my kingdom. In fact, we still do not know if I am a real princess."

Queen Northstar and Knight Light were coming out of the throne room and overheard Ember and Twilight's conversation.

All of the new arrivals bowed to the royals.

"Come now, you do not have to do that," Queen Northstar said, motioning for them to get up.

"Now, what's all this talk about you not being a princess of Star Valley? And who are these ponies?" Knight Light asked.

"This is Twilight, Applejack, Bowtie, Firefly, and Megan," Ember replied.

"Pleased to meet you, Your Highness," they chorused.

"Nice to meet you, too. Now, what is this princess business about?" Knight Light asked.

"Father, where did I come from? I just discovered that I once lived in Dream Valley," Ember told her father.

Queen Northstar sighed, walked back to her throne, and sat down. Knight Light followed her and did the same. "We thought you would find out someday; we hoped we would not have to tell you," King Knight Light said.

"Find out what? Tell me what?" Ember said, her voice rising.

"Sit down, child," Knight Light said. All the gathered ponies sat on the floor before the thrones.

Sweet Star and Baby Northstar looked up from their playing. They turned to listen to their parents.

"You were born here, in Star Valley. Your mother and I were Queen and King. We really loved you and cherished you," Knight Light began. "But one day, a darkness fell over the valley. You were sent to stay with your aunt, Duchess Nightly. We knew you would be safe there. However, somewhere along the way, you fell from the coach, and Sunset could not find you. We scoured the land for days and weeks. You were only a baby pony then-- not even over a year. Once the darkness was fought off and there was still no sign of you, we figured it had taken you with it."

Twilight spoke up. "I was out picking flowers the day when I found you, Ember. Your aunt must not have lived far from Dream Valley. You were cold and hungry. I took you in and decided I would raise you as my own."

Ember looked at her. "Why? Did you not hear about my parents looking for me?"

Twilight sighed. "The news never reached Dream Castle, so I kept you; and the Little Ponies all accepted you as one of them. However, you were not like the other baby ponies. You had no symbol."

Knight Light cleared his throat. "That's because royals have to be present in the kingdom of their birth to gain their symbol, which is a representation of the royal family. So when you were in Dream Valley, Ember, you had no symbol."

Twilight continued, "But one day, we were lying in the grass and Scorpan's dragons came. They kidnapped you and some of the others. We went to rescue you, but when we were returning home, a rockslide occurred. You and some of the others were struck on the head. You were separated from us."

"Yes, and when we found you, it was a miracle," added King Knight Light. "Your symbol developed and your hair changed color. You asked us a lot about Scorpan, but all we told you was that you had been kidnapped. Not even Sunset knew the whole story. We said that you had been kidnapped but we had rescued you. You accepted that and stopped asking questions. We never dreamed you would learn the whole truth."

Ember's eyes narrowed. "You lied to me? You made me think nothing had happened to me? Why?"

Queen Northstar gazed at her daughter. "Sweetheart, we were afraid it would hurt you."

"Hurt me? Hurt me? Like now?" Ember yelled. Lastly put her hoof on Ember's shoulder, but Ember just shoved it off. "Get away!" she yelled.

Queen Northstar walked over to Ember. "Come now, Ember; you do not need to act like that," she said.

Ember sighed. "Okay, please continue, Father."

Knight Light picked up from where he had left off. "We swore your sisters to secrecy and the kingdom never let on. I am sorry you had to learn this way."

Ember shrugged. "It's okay, now. I am just glad I know the whole story."

Twilight looked at her. "My baby, you have grown into a wonderful princess and I am glad to have known you."

Ember hugged Twilight. Knight Light thanked the ponies, and then pulled out his sword. Twilight kneeled before him as he tapped each of her shoulders. "I declare you, Twilight, Lady Twilight."

Twilight blushed. "Thank you, my lordship."

Megan opened the Rainbow of Light. It sent its magnificent ray of multicolored rainbow beams out and the ponies from Dream Valley stepped on. Whisking them through the door, the rainbow left. The last thing the royals saw was a pink tail, trailing through the wind.


Tamara's Hello
by Tabby

Tabby was in her living room, once again watching the old My Little People cartoons. It was strange how incredibly funny they got after you'd seen them a million times-- she was even laughing out loud at the serious scenes, like when Emily was battling the vicious sea serpent who was going to flood Peopleland.

And then, the Princess People episode started. Tabby laughed uproariously. Princess People were simply too funny, in her opinion.

At that moment, Tabby heard her doorbell chime. She sighed as she pressed the pause button on the remote.

It's probably just Sugarberry wanting to know if I'd like to visit Tex with her, Tabby thought to herself as she made her way to the door. How boring can you get?

Expecting to see Sugarberry standing there once she'd swung the door open, Tabby was taken entirely by surprise. On her front porch stood an identical carbon-copy of herself-- the same unicorn horn, the same pink body, the same red hair, the same cat symbol.

"Oh, Tabby, you do remember your cousin Tamara, don't you?" the newcomer exclaimed as she embraced a not-too-willing Tabby.

"Ugh." Tabby pulled herself free of the pony's grasp. "Yes, I remember, Tamara. It's been ages since I saw you last." As a mental side-note to herself, she added, And man, was that nice!

"Ever since you moved here out of vet collage," Tamara agreed. "Do you still go by that nickname you insisted on being called back then-- Tabby?"

"As a matter of fact, yes," Tabby snarled. "Have you got a problem with that?"

Tamara wrinkled her face slightly. "I'd have thought you'd have grown-up enough by now to use your full name. Tabitha-- it's so dignified-sounding, isn't it?"

"None of my friends see a problem with calling be Tabby," Tabby retorted. "I don't see why you should."

"And are you still running that quaint little vet clinic you started?" Tamara prodded, staring behind Tabby and into the house.

"Well-- no-- not exactly... and my old clinic was not ‘quaint'!" Tabby blustered. "What in the world are you doing here, Tamara?"

Tamara patted her mane back into place and pushed past Tabby to get a closer look at her cousin's house. "You know I started breeding show cats in Ladedaville..."

"Uh huh," Tabby said through gritted teeth. "You could have asked to come in first."

"And I've decided to relocate my business to Dream Valley," Tamara continued. "You won't mind me staying at your house until I'm settled down in one of my own, will you?"

"Surely, it's the least I could do for a dear cousin," Tabby said sarcastically.

Tamara ignored her cousin's tone of voice. "I knew you'd come through for me, Tabby!" she said, clapping her front hooves together in delight.

Tamara then passed by the living room and saw what was on the screen. "Tabby, you're still into those My Little People?" she giggled. "I sold my collection once I got into high-school."

"You told me that," Tabby said sourly. "You didn't even ask me if I wanted them first."

"Now, we'll have plenty of time for catching up later. But I have to run back to the airport and pick up my luggage first-- I needed to make sure I'd be able to stay here before packing it around. She rolled her eyes; and before dashing out the door, she called while giggling, "It's good to see you're still your old snippy self, Tabby!"

Tabby collapsed on the couch and ejected the My Little People tape-- she needed to organize her thoughts before Tamara got back.

"What was that all about?" Tarquin asked, mystified, as he jumped up on the couch as well. Tarquin was Tabby's Meowth Pokèmon.

"Long story, like all stories are," Tabby sighed, and began to unravel the mystery of Tamara's appearance. "She's my cousin-- our mothers were sisters. Strangely enough, we were born on the same day and were nearly identical."

" ‘Nearly'?" Tarquin's ears perked up.

"Our eye color is different," Tabby explained. "Mine are lavender, and hers are yellow. That's really the only difference, except for personality. Anyway, we lived in different towns during our childhood, but I always spent my summer vacation with Tamara." Tabby paused for breath.

"Intriguing," Tarquin pondered.

"I couldn't stand her since I can remember-- but our mothers always insisted on me coming to visit, and there was nothing I could do about it. I never told my friends where I was every summer." She suddenly stopped and groaned. "What a mess this is going to be when everyone else thinks Tamara is me."

"They'll get over it," Tarquin consoled her.

"Like I said, I couldn't stand being around her-- she has such a snobby personality-- too bad it didn't wear off over the years. I suppose she doesn't really mean to hurt my feelings, but still..." Tabby sighed, but continued on.

"Finally, after college, our ways parted. I moved to Dream Valley to start my clinic and the last I heard about Tamara was that she was a show-cat breeder somewhere across the Purple Mountains."

"And then she just showed up on your doorstep ten minutes ago?"

"Yep," Tabby confirmed, nodding her head. "I wouldn't have minded if I'd never seen her again."

"Don't worry; I know just how you feel. When I was still at home with my mother there were these Persians in the neighborhood..."

* * *
Meanwhile, Tamara was leisurely walking back to the airport. Dream Valley was such a nice town from what she'd seen of it; it'd be fun raising show-cats here. She wanted to buy a mansion, and then build a huge complex for cat-shows.

She was hardly a block away from Tabby's house when a pony coming from the opposite direction stopped her.

"Tabby!" the white earth pony with bright red hair and strawberries on her sides exclaimed. "I was just coming over to see you and ask if you'd like to go with me to visit Tex!"

Tamara giggled politely. "Oh, you see, I'm not Tabby. I'm her cousin that just arrived here. Are you one of her friends?"

Sugarberry rolled her eyes in amusement. "It's Sugarberry, Tabby. Come on. I know you're just saying that to get out of seeing Tex. I'm sure you'd want to see Emilio, though!" Emilio was Tex's pet tarantula.

"No, I'm telling the truth!" Tamara pleaded. "I'm Tamara, her cousin!"

Sugarberry just laughed. "Come on, cut the act. I know you're faking. Follow me, now."

Tamara stood undecidedly, then followed Sugarberry. This new acquaintance would see the two cousins together soon enough, and then she'd believe that Tamara wasn't lying. For now, at least she could find out who this Tex guy was. Maybe he'd even be kinda cute...

* * *
Sugarberry knocked on Tex's door, with Tamara standing behind. Tex opened the door and grinned when he saw them. "Hello, ladies," he greeted them.

Sugarberry smiled back. "I decided to come visit, as I haven't seen you around for awhile," she explained. "And I brought you some cookies I baked this morning." She handed Tex a plate.

"And Emilio will be mighty glad to see you, Tabby," Tex said, looking past Sugarberry. "Come on in, you two."

Tamara smiled sweetly at this handsome yellow stallion.

And so, the three ponies sat around Tex's kitchen table, eating the cookies Sugarberry had brought. "I'm sure Emilio will come out once he hears you," Tex said cheerfully.

Giggling, Tamara tried once again to justify herself. "Really, please believe me! I'm Tamara, Tabby's cousin!"

"That voice you're using sounds exactly like the one you use when impersonating Tiffany!" Sugarberry said triumphantly. "We know it's you, Tabby."

"Look, even Emilio knows it's true," Tex observed. Sure enough, the fuzzy spider had crawled up onto the table next to Tamara.

Not expecting Emilio to be a tarantula, Tamara nearly jumped out of her seat. "It's a... spider! A big, ugly one!" she cried out in fear.

"You've never been afraid of Emilio before," Tex chided. "He's your friend. Look, he's hurt that you're scared.

Tamara looked into the tarantula's sad eyes, and her heart immediately went out to him. "I'm sorry, Emilio," she apologized. "But I'm not Tabby."

Sugarberry and Tex winked at each other. "She won't give it up," Sugarberry said in amazement.

"Would you go with me to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe tonight?" Tex asked Tamara as she carefully tried to avoid touching Emilio.

Tamara was taken by surprise. "Umm... me? What?" she stuttered.

"I've always been fond of you, you know," Tex continued.

Tamara regained her composure. "You should really ask Tabby yourself... but if you still won't believe me on that... then I can go with you instead of her."

"Well, alright." Tex shrugged. "Is seven o' clock okay?"

"Fine," Tamara confirmed. "And I'll bring Tabby along; then you'll see for yourself."

As the two girls left, Tex thought to himself, Maybe she was telling the truth... she was a lot nicer than Tabby ever was...

* * *
"Sugarberry, let's go to Tabby's house. Then you'll see I was telling the truth," Tamara suggested as they left Tex's, forgetting about her luggage for the moment.

Sugarberry was beginning to wonder what was going on. Tabby didn't usually take jokes like this so far. "Okay, that sounds fair," she agreed.

* * *
Tarquin was snacking on a can of cherry pie filling, his favorite treat, while Tabby tapped a hoof on the table. "What's Tamara up to? It shouldn't take forty-five minutes to walk to the airport and back."

"Maybe she decided to go back to her old city," Tarquin suggested.

"Hey! That'd be perfect!" Tabby exclaimed brightly.

"She just reminds me too much of those old Persians," Tarquin muttered.

Just as they were beginning to dream about this prospect, they both heard the door open. Tabby sighed and got up from her seat.

"Hello, Sugarberry," she said dully as she saw her friend in the doorway.

Sugarberry's mouth gaped as she saw Tabby, and then whirled around to see Tamara. "I don't believe it," she whispered.

"So you've met my cousin, eh, Sugarberry?" Tabby snapped.

"I told you I wasn't Tabby!" Tamara gleefully cried out.

"I guess you were right," Sugarberry said in awe. "You're both so... identical."

"But I have yellow eyes and Tabby has lavender," Tamara explained sweetly.

"Hmph! Lavender looks a ton better than yellow!" Tabby pointed out.

"Nonsense!" Tamara tossed her mane. "It's a proven fact that yellow compliments red better than lavender."

"Let's just sit down and chat a bit," Sugarberry said cheerfully, sensing the tension being radiated from Tabby. She led the two cousins into the living room.

"So, are you just visiting Dream Valley?" Sugarberry questioned Tamara.

Tamara looked pleased to be talking about her business. "Actually, I'm moving--" At that point, Tarquin walked into the room. Tamara clapped a hoof over her mouth in shock.

"You gotta get more cherry pie filling," he explained cheerfully to Tabby while licking his paws clean.

"What a dreadful looking cat!" Tamara gasped. "It-- talks?" It walks on its hind legs? And those whiskers sticking out of its head--!" She shuddered.

Tabby quickly scooped Tarquin up and began to defend him. "Tarquin's no ordinary cat," she countered. "He's a Pokèmon-- and a very rare one, at that."

"And don't call me ‘it'," Tarquin said in disgust. "My name is Tarquin."

"You certainly wouldn't win any ribbons in a cat-show," Tamara sniffed.

"Uhh, I guess I owe you an apology for not believing you, Tamara," Sugarberry said to change the subject.

Tamara returned to her sunny self. "No problem," she declared happily.

"You see, I saw her and thought it was you, Tabby," Sugarberry explained. "I took her to visit Tex."

Tamara gasped suddenly. "Oh, no! I forgot about my luggage, and now I won't have make-up for tonight! Tabby, you surely must have some I can borrow!"

Tabby blinked slowly. "Huh?"

"Tex just asked me out to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe," Tamara said breezily. "I'll have to look my best. You don't mind me going with him, do you?"

"Ha! Why should I care if you're going out with that creep?" Tabby snarled.

"Settle down, Tabby," Sugarberry warned. "Tamara, you can come over to my house and get done-up. Then we can all head over to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe together."

* * *
"Don't you ever dress-up, Tabby?" Tamara giggled later that evening as the three walked through the cool air to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe. "Not even a ribbon in your mane?"

"I have no need for dressing-up," Tabby said loftily.

"You never would let me give you a make-over when we were younger," Tamara mused.

"Here we are at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe," Sugarberry announced.

"What a quaint little place," Tamara sighed dreamily. "I should have known Tex would have picked a nice restaurant like this."

"It's just your average ice cream shop that we go to every night," Tabby said in despair.

"Look, there's Tex waiting at the counter for me," Tamara cooed. She took dainty steps up to him. Tabby and Sugarberry followed behind.

Tex looked at Tamara, and then at Tabby, in amazement. "There are two of you!" he exclaimed.

Tamara giggled sweetly-- the giggle she was famous for. "Tabby doesn't seem to be too thrilled with you, so if the invitation is still open for me...?"

"Certainly; I'd be honored to buy ice cream for you tonight," Tex said charmingly.

"Would either of you like to join us?" Tamara questioned.

"I'm leaving," Tabby snarled, backing out the door. "I don't want to be in your company any more than I have to. I'll see you when you get back, Tamara." With that final line dripping with venom, she was gone into the night.

Sugarberry quickly declined the offer. "That's okay; I see Friendly and Spike, and I have to talk to them about something."

Tex and Tamara ordered and sat down. While waiting her turn to order, Sugarberry contemplated the current Tamara dilemma. Tabby was none-to-happy with the crisis, which was obvious.

"What's she doing at a table with Tex?" a voice suddenly hissed into Sugarberry's ear. She jumped as she was jolted back into reality. She turned around to see Thomas's annoyed glance. "Really, it's not the way it looks," she said quickly.

Thomas's stare pressed Sugarberry for more information.

"It's actually Tabby's identical cousin, Tamara," Sugarberry said hurriedly.

"And did this cousin materialize out of nowhere?" Thomas continued.

"Their eye color is different," Sugarberry said helpfully.

"Right. And if that's her cousin, where's Tabby?"

"She's mad at Tamara and went home..."

"I see." Thomas finally lightened up. "You haven't lied to me much in the past, Sugarberry-- there's only that one time you skipped out of work to go shopping--"

Sugarberry bit her lip at that recollection.

"--but I'll try to believe you this time," he finished.

Sugarberry breathed a sigh of relief. "Great!" she said enthusiastically. "I was just going over to see Spike and Friendly..."

* * *
Meanwhile, Tiffany had just entered the ice cream shop as well. Her head was drooping a bit, as Toby had an emergency to attend to at the hospital, so he wouldn't be able to accompany her here tonight.

Tiffany deftly scanned the tables for signs of any of her other friends. Her heart stopped beating for a second as she saw the strangest sight of all time-- Tabby and Tex at a table for two, obviously enjoying each other's company?

I gotta see what this is all about! Tiffany thought as she zoomed towards the table in question, not even bothering to order anything.

"Why, hello, Tabby, Tex!" she greeted them cheerfully.

"She's not Tabby," Tex said quickly.

Tiffany was taken entirely by surprise. "Huh?" was all she could utter.

"I'll have to explain this to a million ponies before they all know," Tamara giggled. "I'm Tamara, Tabby's identical cousin."

Tiffany stared at Tamara long and hard before her face lit up. "Of course! Your eyes are yellow; that's different than Tabby's! I have to admit, yellow looks absolutely stunning on you," she gushed.

"Thank you," Tamara giggled. "I always thought they were stunning myself. What's your name? I haven't met many ponies in this town yet."

"I," Tiffany declared dramatically, "am Princess Tiffany of the Royal Paradise."

Tamara gasped in delight. "Oh, Tex! We actually have a princess at our very table!"

"But," Tiffany continued, frowning, "why didn't I find out about your arrival before this? Princesses must keep informed."

"She just arrived this afternoon," Tex explained. "And she deals with show-cats."

"Show-cats!" Tiffany exclaimed. "I have a cat you'll definitely want to see; Theodora is the most marvelous Bombay you've ever seen."

Tamara squealed. "I love Bombays! You mentioned you're at the Royal Paradise? Is that the humongous mansion I saw up on Star Gleam Lane? I was hoping it was for sale."

Tiffany laughed. She was getting along quite well with this Tamara. "We're not selling," she said quickly, "but the rest of the princesses and I are having a little dinner party there tomorrow night."

"I love dinner parties!" Tamara exclaimed.

"Since you're new in town, why don't you come, as well?" Tiffany suggested.

"Wonderful," Tamara gushed. "I'd love to see the other princesses. How many are going to be at the party?"

"Well, there are twelve of us princesses, and we'll each have a date," Tiffany figured. "Twelve times two is about a hundred, and I'll round that down to fifty," she mumbled to herself, and then turned to Tamara. "I say there'll be about fifty ponies there."

"You can come with me, can't you, Tex?" Tamara prodded.

Tex turned red in the face. "Anything for you," he murmured.

"I'll call you later tonight with details!" Tiffany waved as she skipped to another table. She couldn't wait to spread this latest gossip.

* * *
"Tabby! Come help me, please!" Tamara shouted up the stairs as she returned to Tabby's house later that night.

Tabby appeared on the top step. "Is it that important? I'm busy right now."

Tamara shook her head. "Tsk, tsk. No need to get huffy. But my luggage is very important. Come help." She trotted back to the front door; Tabby sighed and followed.

"This is your luggage?" she cried out in dismay upon seeing the heap of suitcases piled on her porch. "I thought you'd only have about two things to carry!"

"I just brought the necessities," Tamara explained. "I'm having everything else shipped out here later."

"How in the world did you get it all here?" Tabby gasped.

"Oh, Tex helped me," Tamara said nonchalantly. "He's such a sweet pony. I still need to get it up to my room, though."

"A room?" Tabby gasped. "Can't you just use the couch at night?"

"Certainly you must have a spare bedroom," Tamara chided. "You have to be prepared for emergencies."

"I did have a spare bedroom, but--"

"You're probably using it for the overflow of your My Little People collection," Tamara laughed. "No bother; we'll just push all those silly things out.

"My Little People are not silly!" Tabby bristled. "And I'm not giving Tarquin's room to you!"

Tamara's expression was one of complete amusement. "You've got to be kidding! Giving that funny looking Pokey-cat-- or whatever you called him-- a room of his own? You do the strangest things!"

Tabby's eyes were alight with fire. "I suppose you'll whine and cry until I hand it over to you."

"I don't see that you have a choice, cousin dear," smiled Tamara provokingly.

While Tabby glowered, Tamara instructed, "You take that small beige suitcase. It has all my make-up and fashion accessories in it."

Tabby unwillingly went for the suitcase-- which actually wasn't very small-- and could barely lift it off the ground. "I am not taking that in," she said stubbornly.

"Tabby!" Tamara giggled. "Not very strong, are you?" She effortlessly lifted the beige suitcase. "I wish Tex was still here."

I hope she doesn't find out I can barely open doors to the shops downtown, Tabby sighed to herself.

"You've got to help me," Tamara coaxed as she made her way up the stairs. "Now, where's my room?"

She peered into rooms one-by-one in the upstairs hallway; most of them were filled with eighties' toys. Finally, she came across a finely-furnished one: dresser, desk, bed, and a big closet. Tarquin lay sleeping peacefully upon the bed-sheets.

"Scram!" Tamara ordered, pushing Tarquin onto the floor. "I don't want a freak like you in my room."

Tarquin was instantly on the alert once his paws touched the ground. He held his claws up, ready for attack. "What do you mean, your room?" he growled.

"It's mine now," Tamara said simply.

The only thing that saved Tamara from painful scratches across her face was her quick reaction. Once Tarquin jumped at her, she swiftly held up the suitcase she was carrying as a shield. Tarquin's claws ripped through the canvas.

"Look what you've done!" Tamara shrieked. "What if you've damaged what's inside?!"

"And that's the least I can do. You haven't seen the last of me yet." Tarquin said coolly as he went in search of Tabby.

Tabby was fuming in the living room. She had no intention of helping Tamara pack her stuff in. "I wish she hadn't come," she whispered to herself for the millionth time.

She nearly jumped to the ceiling as the telephone began to jangle. Tabby tensely picked the receiver up. "Hello?" she said tersely. "If you want to talk to Tamara, she's upstairs right now--"

"Tabby? You need more life in that voice," Tiffany urged. "Now, Tamara's voice, for instance--"

"What do you want, Tiffany?" Tabby snapped.

"Hmm, not in the best of humor tonight, are you? I have to talk to Tamara. Can you get her for me?"

Wordlessly, Tabby set the receiver down on the desk, and that's when Tarquin came in.

"She's taking over my room," he hissed.

"I know," Tabby said venomously. "But we're gonna have to wait until she moves out." Scooping Tarquin up, she ran up the stairs. "There's someone on the phone for you, Tamara!" she shouted at her cousin, who was arranging her make-up on top of the dresser. Then Tabby dashed into her own room and locked the door behind her, dropping Tarquin in a chair.

"This Tamara is even worse than the old Persians," Tarquin muttered. "How long ‘till she'll be gone? I want my room!"

Tabby paced back and forth. "She hasn't even been here a day, so she hasn't found a house yet. Who knows how long it'll take her to decide on a place?"

"A day with her is bad enough," Tarquin groaned.

"I know," Tabby agreed. "I don't think there's a thing we can do to get rid of her quicker."

"And even when she does move out, she'll still be in the same town," Tarquin sighed.

"She takes everything I do as a joke," Tabby mumbled. "Wait'll she finds out I'm nurse at the Pokèmon Center. She'll really rip into me then! She won't get any information out of me, though!"

The two ranted and raved long into the night, but finally managed to get some sleep.

* * *
Tabby leapt out of bed the next morning and cheerily hummed the Pokèmon theme song while combing her mane and tail. Then it hit her-- Tamara was staying at her house.

The humming abruptly stopped at that recollection. "And I'll be late to the center on top of it all," she muttered, looking at her clock. It was nine-thirty, and she should have been there by eight. Hopefully Merry Treat was volunteering today.

"Tarquin! It's late! We gotta get going!" Tabby roused her Pokèmon.

"I suppose Tamara wasn't a bad dream?" Tarquin said hopefully, after stretching.

"Unfortunately, no." Tabby picked up a paper that was stuck under the door. It read:


I was going to wake you up, but your door was locked, and you wouldn't respond to knocking. I got my suitcases in last night; you won't have to worry about them cluttering up your porch. I've gone out to see all the stores in Dream Valley, and then I'm invited to a little party at the Royal Paradise this evening-- that's what Tiffany called me about last night. I'm surprised you weren't invited, too, being a friend and all.



Tabby crumpled up the note. "Let's get to the center," she said to Tarquin simply.

* * *
Tamara stared around in giddy excitement. The dinner party was in full swing, and all the princesses had more-or-less forgotten about their dates. They wanted to hear all about Tamara instead.

"Yes, I'll have this huge building built for showing cats," Tamara said dramatically. "We have to get more ponies in this town into show-cats." All the princesses nodded, impressed.

"Then I'll breed show-cats to sell," Tamara continued.

"How much does one sell for?" Dawn questioned eagerly.

"Oh, about three thousand jangles," Tamara said nonchalantly.

Dawn squealed. "What a great price! I'll have to get one from you!"

"Your Bombay is one of the finest I've ever seen, Tiffany," Tamara said.

Tiffany looked cocky. "I always knew she was special."

"What's Tabby working at now, anyway?" Tamara asked suddenly. "I haven't been able to find out from her yet."

"She's a nurse at the Pokèmon Center," Royal Blue supplied.

"So she's that into Pokèmon? Wait'll she sees what I bring home tonight!" Tamara giggled. "What became of that little clinic she started years ago?"

The princesses and Tamara were in their element when gossiping.

"You see, it went under a while back," Pristina explained.

"That only happened because Thomas moved in and started the new clinic," Sparkle added.

"She didn't work much at the old one, anyway," Dawn supplied. "She's gotten a lot more responsible with her job since switching to the center."

"So, is that when she started at that center thing?" Tamara prodded.

"Not exactly," Tiffany explained. "She worked for Thomas at his clinic for several months."

"Did she get fired?" Tamara asked excitedly.

"No," Tiffany said, taking over the conversation.

"Oh," Tamara sighed. Getting fired would have been so... exciting.

"The Pokèmon craze started, and then the center was built here, and then Tabby actually quit to be the Pokèmon nurse," Tiffany want on.

"Though some Pokèmon are okay--" Tamara stared down at the carrier stashed under the table. "--I wouldn't have quit working with normal animals and switched to Pokèmon." But actually, she was grinning happily. If she couldn't get any information out of Tabby herself, this was her next best source.

"She doesn't seem to think much of Tex..." Tamara glanced around at the guys, who looked like they were discussing football or baseball or something. "...but is she seeing anyone?"

Yawning, Dawn replied, "Oh, you mean she didn't comment on that yet?"

Tiffany rolled her eyes. "Of course she's seeing Thomas, Tamara. Everyone in Dream Valley knows it, but Tabby positively refuses to admit it."

Tamara sat back in her chair, satisfied. She still had a million things to find out, though. The questions continued: "What's her salary?" "What did she used to make at her previous jobs?" "Why ever does she keep up with her My Little People collection?" "Doesn't she have any interest in fashion at all?" And so on. The royalty were only too happy to answer everything.

Around eight-thirty, Tiffany abruptly stood up. "Tamara, we'd like to present you with something," she declared. "Sparkle, get the... thing."

Sparkle obediently ran out of the room, and returned holding something behind her back.

Tiffany took the mysterious object from Sparkle. "Tamara, I and all the other princesses would... well, we'd like to make you an honorary princess!" With a flourish, Tiffany revealed the object: a sparkly yellow damsel hat.

"Oh, you princesses are just too nice!" Tamara exclaimed gleefully. "I'd simply love to be one of you!"

With that, the hat was placed upon Tamara's head. Everyone present clapped, but Tex more loudly than them all.

* * *
Tabby had kept inside her house all afternoon and evening after getting back from work. She simply didn't want to go to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe with the current Tamara dilemma.

She was trying to watch My Little People shows again, but her mind couldn't stay on them. Why-oh-why did Tamara have to come? But at least she felt like she was doing something with the tape running.

Tabby automatically answered the phone this time when it rang. "Tamara's not here; you can either leave a message or hang-up--" And for whatever strange reason, the names of the three mythical bird Pokèmon were running through her mind at that moment. Articuno, Moltrass, Zapdoss, she mentally figured.

"Tabby!" Thomas laughed. "Don't bother with a message for Tamara."

"You mean, it's actually a call for me?" Tabby said brightly. "You can't imagine how many calls for Tamara there've been tonight. And I can now name all three mythical bird Pokèmon!"

"Obviously valuable information," Thomas agreed. In a gentler tone, he added, "Just don't let your cousin get to you."

"But she's evil!" Tabby shrieked, forgetting her train of thought on bird Pokèmon.

"Don't go quite that far with your judgement," Thomas interjected.

"But she's taken over Tarquin's room!" Tabby ranted. "And associates with Tex. I mean, she doesn't even like Tarquin, for Pete's sake!"

"She'll move out soon enough," Thomas suggested.

"It's a disaster!" With that, Tabby threw her hooves up in despair, dropping the receiver to the ground.

"Tabby? Is that a call for me?" Tamara entered the room and began to pick up the receiver. "Tsk, tsk. It's bad form to go around dropping the phone like that." Into the phone she said, "This is Tamara speaking. Are you interested in buying a fine show-cat from me? I'm--"

"Tamara!" Tabby hissed, but Tamara ignored the warning. "Oh! You were talking to Tabby! Sorry about that! But really, are you sure you don't want one of my show-cats?"

"For Pete's sake!" Tabby shrieked. "Give it back to me!"

"Mmm hmm," Tamara continued with the conversation. "I do have something to show her right now, so you'll have to talk to her another time. Remember to call me if you change your mind on getting a cat. Tah-tah!" With that, she gracefully placed the receiver back on the hook.

Tabby gaped for several seconds, but then her expression turned to one of rage. "How dare you do that?!" she seethed.

"It couldn't have been anything important," Tamara said nonchalantly. "Now, come on. I have something to show you out in the hallway."

"What did you bring home tonight? Everything you were having shipped out?" Tabby said sarcastically.

"Of course not," Tamara giggled. "You might even like it this time." She grabbed Tabby's hoof and pulled her out into the hallway. "Look, it's in there." Tamara pointed at a cat-carrier on the floor.

"I suppose it's one of your snobby show-cats," Tabby sniffed.

"Close," Tamara said in delight, unlatching the carrier door. A sleek white cat emerged... with a round red jewel on her forehead!

"It's a Persian!" Tabby gasped. "You bought a Pokèmon?"

"Not quite," Tamara explained. "I ran into Clever Clover this afternoon-- another of your friends, I guess-- and he started telling me about Pokèmon and showed me some of his."

"He never shows them to me," Tabby said dejectedly.

"I didn't particularly care for any of them," Tamara continued, "until he brought out the Persian he had just caught. It was love at first sight."

With Cleve Clove or with Persian? Tabby thought idly. Hmm, but she can even pronounce Pokèmon correctly now.

"When he saw how much I liked it, he decided to give to me as a gift since I'm new to the area." She giggled. "He gave me the PokèBall, too, but I wouldn't dream of making this beauty stay inside one of those little things."

The Persian Pokèmon surveyed her surroundings. "Per-r-rsian," she said, glancing snobbishly at Tabby.

"Just be sure she doesn't get out of the carrier," Tabby declared, turning to walk out of the area.

"Tabby! You let Tarquin roam freely. I don't want anything less for my Persian." Tamara stroked the Persian fondly.

"Not if I have anything to say about it!" Tarquin immediately appeared on the scene with his claws unsheathed. "You've gone too far, Tamara!"

Persian nonchalantly unsheathed her own claws. "Per-r-rsian," she said in a warning tone.

"Those claws look sharp, Tarquin!" Tabby exclaimed.

"Just defending her territory," Tamara laughed.

" ‘Her' territory?" Tarquin seethed. "Who was the first Pokèmon here? Me!"

Persian took a swipe at Tarquin when he was off guard, but luckily missed his fur. That was enough for Tarquin, though. He jumped onto Tabby's back. "I remember how vicious those Persians can be," he muttered to Tabby.

"And did you see this?" Tamara giggled, pointing to her damsel hat perched atop her head.

"So?" Tabby snapped. "Is there anything special about it?"

"The princesses declared me an honorary princess tonight!" Tamara exclaimed. "Princess Tamara sounds lovely, doesn't it?"

Her eyes flashing with anger, Tabby retorted, "Just remember that you're the thirteenth princess, Tamara!" With that, she and Tarquin fled upstairs.

* * *
The next day, Tabby had gotten to the Pokèmon Center on time. She'd just finished dressing a wound on an Eevee. There wasn't anyone else waiting, so she sat down at the computer.

"I found this really cool auction on eBay last night," Tabby commented to Merry Treat, who was staring blankly over the main desk.

"Hmmm?" Merry Treat mumbled.

Daydreaming about Salty, Tabby figured. "It's this huge lot of--"

The doors burst open at that moment. In walked Tamara and Tex.

Drat, she found out where I worked, Tabby groaned to herself.

Merry Treat was on the alert immediately with customers to attend to. "Yes! What can I do for you? Or do you want a badge over at the gym?"

"We were just stopping in to see Tabby," Tamara explained sweetly. "To ask her opinion on my make-up, you see. It's an interesting place you work at."

"A lot more ‘interesting' than showing cats!" Tabby retorted.

"Does it get very boring here?" Tamara prodded. She shuddered. "I'd be so scared working on some of the Pokèmon Clever Clover told me about... like that Catterslice."

"Catterpie," Tabby scowled. "Say it right."

"So, what do you think of my make-up today?" Tamara questioned. "It's very expensive stuff; I doubt you could afford any."

"You're more beautiful than Tabby ever was," Tex complimented her, who had been silent up until this point.

Merry Treat rolled her eyes. "Tex, they're both exactly identical."

"Tsk, tsk." Tamara shook her head. "Don't forget the eyes. And I didn't think you'd comment on my make-up, anyway, Tabby. Tah-tah!" she called as they turned to leave. "I'll be home around five, as I'm looking at houses today. Most of them are dreadfully low-class, though."

Tabby clenched her jaw as she watched them go.

* * *
Tabby arrived home at four-thirty. "I suppose we'd better go to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe tonight," she sighed to Tarquin. "Unfortunately, Tamara and Tex are sure to be there as well."

"Let's find my yarn-ball first," Tarquin suggested. "I think I lost it in my room." He scowled. "Or Tamara's room."

"Where's Persian?" Tabby asked suspiciously.

"Napping in a sunbeam in the kitchen-- the one I always used." He glowered. "You can help me find the ball."

So, the two entered Tarquin's old room. Now there were clothes and fashion accessories all over the place. "Start digging," Tabby sighed.

Tabby sifted through the make-up containers on the desk while Tarquin rummaged around in the closet. Now, how in the world would a yarn-ball be hidden within make-up bottles? she pondered to herself, so she turned her attention under the desk. Hmm, there was something under there. Her hoof extracted a small book.

Tabby skimmed through a few pages, as it didn't have any title on it. It's Tamara's diary! she realized. Hmm, might as well read a little from it while it's here. She simply couldn't resist. She flipped to the entry from the previous day:

I do wish Tabitha and I could get along-- I thought that bringing Persian home might help, with her being into Pokèmon and all. But I just can't stop being snobby about everything... the same way she can't stop being snippy. I don't t hink we ever had a conversation in our entire lives that didn't end up as an argument -- except for that one summer afternoon when we were nine. Tabitha and I we re playing in the park, and found a friendly stray cat. We played with that cat all afternoon (though I have to admit, it definitely wasn't show-cat class). We never saw the cat again, but I'll never forget how happy we were with each other that one day. If only it could be like that now.

Hmm hmm, so she wants to be friends, does she? Tabby grinned mischievously to herself. It was about time--

"Found it!" Tarquin cried out triumphantly. "Behind the bed; I remember batting it back there."

Tabby abruptly closed the book and ended her train of thought. Placing the diary back underneath the desk, she declared, "That's good, now let's--"

At that instant, Tamara trotted in. "Why, hello there, Tabby!" she said brightly.

"Uh-oh," Tarquin murmured and dashed into the hallway as quickly as he could, then went to find a hiding place that was away from both Tamara and Persian.

"Was that Tarquin just in my room?" Tamara demanded. "In fact, what are you doing in here?"

"We had just been hunting for Tarquin's yarn-ball," Tabby informed her loftily, though inside she felt like laughing.

"That's just as well," Tamara said, unusually cheerful for talking to Tabby. That was because she swiftly pushed her cousin into the chair in front of the desk-- which, of course, displayed her make-up.

"What?!" Tabby cried out in genuine alarm. Make-up scared her terribly.

"We are going to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe tonight, aren't we?" Tamara questioned.

Tabby gulped. "What does that have to do with... that stuff?" She waved a hoof over the bottles.

Tamara laughed. "Don't sound so negative. Of course you'll need make-up if Thomas is going to be there as well." She hunted through her supplies.

"And just how'd you find out about that?" Tabby demanded.

"Word gets around," Tamara said breezily.

Tabby winked into the mirror; a wink that Tamara didn't catch. She'd have a bit of fun before giving it up... "And that translates into meaning that the princesses told you everything about my life," she sighed dramatically.

"Well-- no-- I didn't say that--" Tamara stuttered.

"But that's what it boils down to," Tabby said menacingly.

"Of course you can't be mad at me, though," Tamara said briskly.

Tabby held up her head defiantly. "That's what you think!"

"We did get to talking at that dinner party, and..." Tamara confessed.

Tabby attempted to keep her mouth in a straight line for a moment longer... she couldn't talk for fear of... "Woohahahah!" she burst out laughing. "Tamara, did you think I could be mad at your forever?"

"Actually, that's what I was beginning to..." Tamara started, slightly stunned by Tabby's sudden change in behavior.

"You don't know my policy, then, do you?" Tabby gasped out between fits of giggling. "I'm only mad at someone for a certain amount of time... then I just give it up." She might even prove a valuable ally in future schemes, Tabby added as a mental side-note to herself.

"I've never heard of anyone with that policy before," Tamara stuttered.

"Hmm? You haven't, have you? Just get that stuff away from me and I'll act civil towards you... maybe even friendly!" Tittering uncontrollably, she wrenched the tube of lipstick from Tamara's grasp.

"You just smudged what I'd applied!" Tamara gasped. "Tabby! Tabby, where'd you go? I'm not done fixing you up yet!" In the meantime, Tabby had shot off down the hallway. Tamara ran after with the tube and a Kleenex.

Tabby had just reached the bathroom and was drenching her face with water to get the make-up off. "You've ruined my best job yet!" Tamara wailed.

"You'll get over it, cousin dear," Tabby assured her with an insane grin.

"Do you really mean you'll tolerate me now?" Tamara questioned hopefully. "I really did want to be friends... I don't mean to be that snobby..."

"Remember my policy; I'm only mad at someone for a certain amount of time!" Tabby declared gleefully.

"What about Tex? He told me you haven't been civil to him since sixth grade."

"Didn't I ever tell you?" Tabby demanded. "That's the year he put worms in my lunch box! An unforgivable sin!"

"No!" Tamara gasped. "He wouldn't have done that!"

"But it's true!" Tabby pushed past Tamara and dashed downstairs. "Hurry up! We have to get to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe!"

Tamara ran after Tabby, still with the lipstick tube clutched in her hoof. "Wait! At least let me put this on you!"

"Ha! We'll just see if you can!" Tabby cackled as the chase continued into the dark night.

"You can't go make-up-less!" Tamara shrieked. "It's just... terrible!"

Their shouts could be heard throughout the streets of Dream Valley, but at least they were friends now.


Invento Ponies
by Berry Bright

A family set of ponies for Mothers' Day:

Type: Adult

Name: Mom

Symbol: None

Hair: Powder Blue

Body: White

Breed: Earth

Type: Newborn Twins

Names: Cards -- Candy

Symbols: a Card -- a Sack of Candy

Hair: Purple Mane; Powder Blue Tail

Bodies: Pale Rose

Breeds: Earth

Type: Baby

Name: Flowers

Symbol: Flowers in a Vase

Hair: Neon Blue

Body: White

Breed: Unicorn

Type: Little Brother

Name: Hugs

Symbol: None

Hair: Neon Yellow

Body: Neon Green

Breed: Earth

Miscellaneous Invento Ponies:

Type: Twice-As-Fancy Big Brother

Name: Milkyway Lights

Symbol: Pink Glittery Stars

Hair: White

Body: Silver

Breed: Pegasus

Type: Friendship Gardens Pony

Name: Sunny

Symbol: None

Body: Yellow

Hair: Bright Pink and Blue

Breed: Earth

Type: Friendship Garden Pony

Name: May Flowers

Symbol: a Purple Tulip

Hair: Purple

Body: Soft Blue

Breed: Unicorn


An Inside-Look at the New Star Wars Movie Frenzy in Dream Valley
the report by Tabby
with assistance from Spike for being the cameraman

Tabby: Yes, here we are outside the Toys 4 Ponies R Us store at eleven o' clock at night! With all this hype on the new Star Wars toys from the movie-- what's the new movie called again, Spike?

Spike: It's "The Phantom Menace".

Tabby: Exactly-- so, anyway-- this toy store is opening on midnight this evening-- well, it's rather late evening, isn't it?-- to unveil all the new Star Wars toys. They're opening at midnight so they'll be the first place in all of Ponyland to have the toys available. Spike, that camera is on, isn't it?

Spike: Of course it is! Just get all this preliminary talk over so we can start questioning everybody in line.

Tabby: Exactly what I'm aiming for. Now, tons of ponies and other creatures from all around Ponyland started lining up at the doors this previous afternoon right after it closed! Yes, there's quite a large variety of creatures here. Ponies, of course... there's some Troggles up front... a stray Bushwoolie or two... even Sonambula the witch! Our goal here tonight is to give you a live report of what's going on. I'll be asking questions to everyone in line, and Spike is video-taping the whole thing. Now, let's get started. *thrusts her microphone at a stallion who is at the head of the line* Kindly tell me, sir, what time did you get here to be the first in line?

Tex: Why, Tabby, I didn't know you were a reporter!

Tabby: Eek! *jumps back a bit* If I'd seen that you were the first in line, I wouldn't have bothered questioning you. *sticks her nose in the air and turns around* I must remember... look at who it is before thrusting the microphone at them.

Spike: Ask somebody else something!

Tabby: Right. *regains her composure, and turns to a Troggle who is a bit behind Tex* Mr. Troggle, how many toys are you planning to buy once you get inside the store?

Troggle: *straightens up* I'm buying at least three of each item. They're bound to make millions in twenty years if kept in the packages.

Tabby: Tsk, tsk, Mr. Troggle, buying that many if you have no personal interest in them whatsoever. Very bad form, wot? *turns back to the camera* Now, I'm sure just about everyone standing in line here isn't planning on opening their toys. Wouldn't an opened toy be the rarity in twenty years?... well, let's see what some of the others say. Ms. Sonambula! *waves to the witch* You're looking rather young on this occasion. Where've you been hanging out?

Sonambula: *mysterious tone of voice* Somewhere across the rainbow... there's much youth to be stolen from the creatures there.

Tabby: And what are you going to do with the Star Wars items you buy tonight?

Sonambula: I'm going to use them as bait to lure toy hoarders into my circus that sucks your youth out... as seen in the My Little Pony episode "Sonambula."

Tabby: Good idea. *nods, and turns back to camera* So, as you can see, folks, there are some here with honorable intentions. Let's see what some of the ponies are going to do. *holds the microphone up to Minty* So, Minty, it's still about forty-five minutes until the store opens. Will you be able to wait that long?

Minty: I've already been standing in line for three hours; I'll definitely hold out for another forty-five minutes.

Tabby: All right, but I know I'd be bored out of my mind if I had to wait for something just ten minutes.

*angered shouts are heard from the crowd*

Tabby: Oh! Oh! Spike, get a good shot of this. *in a low tone* Folks, it looks like we have a trot-by shooting on our hooves. Someone doesn't like all this Star Wars hype. *waves at the assaulters* Yes, there go Cleve Clove and Butch, with their big Super Soakers. Look at the drenched crowd! Woohoo!! Good going, guys! Look, Cleve Clove even employed the help of his Squirtle Pokèmon. *waves again* Hey, Squirtie!!

Spike: Okay, I got that on tape. It should turn out good.

Tabby: This has certainly upset the gathered crowd. *trots over to Princess Royal Blue* How did you fare in the assault?

Royal Blue: *shrieks* My mane is soaked! I must look like a wreck now!

Tabby: Well, you're not alone, because it looks like just about everybody else had it as bad as you.

Royal Blue: *wails* But I wanted to look good for the cute stallion that's supposed to be one of the checkers tonight!

Tabby: Hmm, yes. *holds the microphone down to Cheery the Bushwoolie* Hi there, Cheery! I have to say that I'm surprised to see a Bushwoolie waiting in line.

Cheery: Yeah, yeah. Me want toys, yeah. Me open and play with, yeah, yeah.

Tabby: *pats Cheery on the head* I knew a Bushwoolie wouldn't let me down.

Cherry: Yeah, yeah.

Tabby: *turns to the camera* The hour of midnight is drawing near. Now, if we had been in the clutches of Grogar, we'd soon be banished to the dark side. As it is, we'll suffer a much worse fate inside Toys 4 Ponies R Us. An employee has come to unlock the doors... a hushed silence falls over the crowd... and then...

*chaos breaks out in the crowd, fights begin, and the shorter creatures get trampled*

Tabby: ...yes, just look at that. Everyone's fighting to get through the doors first. Most are inside the store and running to the Star Wars aisle, but some minor skirmishes are still being fought out here on the sidewalk. It's a good thing Spike and I were out of range of the battle zone; otherwise we might not be here talking to you. It looks like Cheery got in okay. Now, let's venture inside, Spike...

*screaming and yelling comes from the Star Wars aisle*

Tabby: *stands at the head of the aisle* Here's the scene, folks. It looks gruesome, doesn't it? Everyone's carrying a huge pile of toys, and they're still grabbing. *shoves the microphone at Melody* Tell me, have you had much luck finding what you wanted? Melody: AHHH!!!!! Patch just took off with the last Obi-Wan figure!!! He's so cute!!!! I have to get one!!! *dashes off after Patch*

*everyone else hears Melody's shout, and many run in pursuit of Patch as well*

Tabby: Yes, I'd say about half the crowd has taken off after Patch, who, in her hooves, possesses the last Obi-Wan Kenobi in all of the store. Who will come out the victor? I must warn you, baby ponies under three should not be watching this...

*Melody tackles Patch, and the rest follow suit*

Tabby: Will the arm of the law step in to stop this senseless insanity? Well, it's not insanity, of course-- it just sounds so much more dramatic that way, wot? Ooh! Spike, you're filming this, right? *lowers her tone* Chief, the chief of police, has stepped in the fight. He's breaking everyone up, and handing the figure back to Patch... wait, no, what is he doing?

*Chief, with the package in his hooves, runs to the check-outs*

Tabby: Ah-hah! He just wanted it for himself... he's stepped up in line. Let's question him a bit. *runs over to Chief with her microphone* Is it true you just stole that Obi-Wan figure from Patch?

Chief: I had to do it in order to break up the fight.

Tabby: *turns to the camera* As you can tell, he's obviously lying. He's simply going to sell it on the secondary-market... now, the line doesn't seem to be moving very quickly. What's holding it up? Computer problems? Hmm... ah, I see now. Royal Blue is flirting with the cute checker.

*Sparkler joins the line-up at the check-out*

Tabby: Sparkler, is that four Pod Racers you're holding? What are you planning to do with them?

Sparkler: *is in no mood for an interview, and poses to whap Tabby over the head with her pile of boxes*

Tabby: *ducks out of the way* Eeek! Spike! I was nearly knocked unconscious by a pile of Pod Racers!

Spike: *rubs a bump on his head* She got me instead.

Tabby: It's a real battle zone in here, folks. You should be glad you're in the safety of your home if you're watching this. Spike, I think we'd better get out of here. *clears a path to the doors for her and Spike with the use of her battle-cry, "Redwaaaallllll!!!!"*

The next day, outside the Dream Valley movie theater...

Tabby: Well, you thought we were done after getting out of Toys 4 Ponies R Us last night, huh? Guess what-- you're wrong! That's right; me and Spike are back again to brave interviewing these insane Star Wars ponies-- and other creatures, of course. Now, this is the movie theater, of course. See that line of ponies? Most of them have been camping out for a month so they'll be some of the first to get tickets to the new movie-- what's it called again, Spike?

Spike: *rubs the bandage on his head* "The Phantom Menace".

Tabby: Right-- so they've been in line for a month waiting for the ticket to go on sale! Can you believe that?!?! I sure can't. The tickets are going to go on sale in half an hour, so I can question of few of these creatures in line. Of course, even once they have tickets, the movie still doesn't come out until next week. Anyway... hmm. This is odd. I'm seeing many familiar faces from last night at the toy store. Who's at the head of this line? TEX?!?!?! Don't tell me he has an identical cousin! Normally I wouldn't lower myself to talk to him, but this is a special case. *shoves the microphone in his face* Tex, how in the world were you at the head of the line at Toys 4 Ponies R Us last night and also at the head of this line for a month?

Tex: Oh, I had friends stand in place of me a lot.

Tabby: Funny; I wouldn't think you'd have friends. Sonambula's here, too! *turns to her* Are you buying tickets for the same reason as the figures last night?

Sonambula: Yes, the tickets will serve the same purpose as the toys.

Tabby: How could you be in the line at Toys 4 Ponies R Us last night, and still have a place close to the start of this line this morning?

Sonambula: I'm a witch, and I can't reveal that secret.

Tabby: Now we'll see what some of the critters at the end of the line think. *dashes down the line, which takes ten minutes* Ah-hah, there're some baby dragons here!

Prickles: Hey, Spike, buddy!

Tabby: Some of Spike's friends, huh? How do you feel about being at the end of the line for getting the movie tickets?

Spiny: Well, we didn't have anything to do this morning, and we'd heard that Star Wars would be playing today.

Prickles: It is today, isn't it?

Tabby: Err... actually, they're just selling tickets today. The movie isn't out in theaters for another week.

Spiny: *looks at Prickles in annoyance* Aww, we were looking forward to seeing it. Come on, Prickles, let's go home.

*the two baby dragons wander off*

Tabby: Spike, if we don't get to the start of the line soon, we're going to miss the beginning of the ticket-selling! Come on! Run!

*it takes another ten minutes to get back to the head of the line*

Tabby: *lowers her tone* The ticket booth is opening its window. The crowd sounds excited. Tex looks excited over buying the first ticket. Spike, get the camera on this! No one's noticed the pastel blue ball rolling down the hill towards the booth. What could it be?

Spike: It's Friendly, Tabby! Didn't you recognize him?

Tabby: I knew it was Friendly, Spike...! I was just building the suspense! Anyway, yes, Friendly the Bushwoolie has just rolled in front of Tex and unfolded out of tumbleweed form. Hey, Friendly!! *waves* That's odd, though; Friendly thinks the same of these insane Star Wars fanatics as Cleve Clove and Butch. And now he's going to buy the first ticket?

*Friendly purchases the ticket, and walks away from the booth; Tex looks angry for being cheated out of the first ticket*

Tabby: Friendly's heading for home now... wait! He's stopping. What's he saying?

Friendly: *waves ticket in the air* This craze stupid, yeah, yeah.

Tabby: *mysteriously* What's going to happen?

*Friendly has attracted the crowd's attention*

Friendly: Me destroy first ticket, yeah, yeah! *begins ripping the ticket into little tiny pieces, and then puts the scraps in the garbage can*

Tabby: *cheers for Friendly* Good going!! He's even conscientious of the environment, with throwing the shreds away. See ya, Friendly!

*Friendly rolls back to the Bushwoolie holes*

Tabby: *mutters under her breath* Now what are they doing? Several ponies have given up their place in line to gather around the garbage can. They're gathering up the shreds, for Pete's sake! *gives the microphone to Crumpet, who is among those at the garbage can* Tell me, Crumpet, what's going on here?

Crumpet: *reaches with her hoof down into the depths of the can* Ooof! Got the last piece. *straightens up* That first ticket is a collectable. I'm going to preserve the pieces I was able to recover.

Tabby: *turns back to the camera* And there's the Star Wars craze for you, folks. And remember, you're very lucky to be getting this report in the safety of your own homes. And I'll be back on the scene to keep you informed if anything else happens! This is Tabby, signing off! Buh-bye!!! *waves*

Spike: Hey, hey! *jumps up in the air, trying to get attention* Don't forget me! I was the cameraman! I deserve credit, too, don't I? Huh? Huh? Don't I?


The Trials of Hood
by Sugarberry

Turning swiftly toward the ominous-sounding crash, Hood found himself face-to face with the elusive stallion who had been creating havoc and mayhem across the countryside for the past few weeks. Hood was revolted by the villainous stare that met his wondering gaze, and instinctively stepped back away from the aura of impending doom. In that instant, the creaky floor gave way beneath his hooves, and Hood plummeted into the bowls of the rickety building.

Sugarberry was abruptly brought back to reality as an ear-splitting crash sounded from the kitchen. She jumped up from her computer and dashed into the room just as Fluff streaked past her through the doorway in the opposite direction.

"What a mess," wailed Sugarberry as she surveyed the current disaster. What had been a gorgeous bouquet of springtime daffodils and tulips now lay sprawled across the tile floor like the aftermath of a tornado: a maze of mangled petals and stems, broken glass, and a spreading puddle of water inching into ever-lengthening rivulets.

"Fluff, you are a bad cat!" Sugarberry shouted mercilessly as she stepped across the tangled mess. Her back hoof slid through the wet terrain, and Sugarberry herself crashed to the floor.

As she lay sprawled across the debris, she closed her eyes and murmured, "Why do I keep a cat in this house, anyway?" Just then, a cold, wet nose brushed across her cheek, and she opened her eyes to see the huge round golden eyes of Fluff. He licked her face, and purred consolingly.

"Oh, Fluffy," she cooed as she hugged his fat, fluffy body to her. "How can I stay angry at such a handsome fellow as you?"

Fluff kneaded his paws against Sugarberry's shoulder and purred even louder. He slowly blinked his eyes, and his purr swelled into a gentle roar.

"The least you can do is get off of me so I can get up," Sugarberry complained teasingly. She gently pushed Fluff aside and gingerly pulled herself up off the floor. "Oh, I'm going to have a nasty bruise." She rubbed the spot on her hip where she'd landed.

"You can help me clean this mess up," Sugarberry instructed Fluff as she began to sort through the jumble and sop up the water. Fluff sniffed out a daffodil and nibbled on a bright yellow petal. "Figures," giggled Sugarberry.

After sweeping up the flowers and glass, Sugarberry mopped up the floor and sighed in relief. "Finally, I can get back to my writing. It's my Saturday off, and I need to get caught up."

She hurried back to her computer where a screen-saver of dainty cats danced across the screen. As she dropped into the chair, she grimaced as her bruised hip pressed into the seat.

Sugarberry clicked the mouse and her mystery novel in progress appeared. Slumping into a more comfortable posture, Sugarberry resumed her train of thought.

Hood lay unmoving in a tumbled pile of boards, nails, and dirt. He dimly sensed pain throbbing through his left hip, and a blanket of dust settling on his body. "Dare I open my eyes?" he wondered groggily. "It would be easier to just drift off again..."

Slowly, Hood became aware of sounds and movement around him. Flinching as a hoof touched his shoulder, he forced his eyes open to behold an unexpected sight. At his side knelt the most beautiful pony he'd ever seen.

Forgetting his pain, Hood drank in the vision of this yellow pony, her lavender mane curling softly about her blue eyes. "Are you an angel?" he croaked weakly.

A melodious giggle and a disarming smile countered his question. "No. I'm quite mortal, just as you are. Are you hurt badly?"

Hood flexed his legs and gingerly attempted to stand. The mare steadied him as he straightened up, and Hood felt a searing pain shoot through his hip. Looking back along his body, he could see the torn skin and bloodied hair matted with dust and dirt and splinters. "It hurts, but it's not serious," he informed the stranger.

"I'm happy to hear that," she responded compassionately. "Here, let me help you out of this rubble; there's a safe corner over here."

Hood accepted her gentle assistance in extracting himself from the tangled heap of broken lumber, exposed nails, and rotten flooring. "Serves me right for trespassing on someone's private property," he joked weakly as he hobbled to a wooden bench propped against the stone basement wall. He groaned slightly as he lowered his battered body onto the antique seat. "Ah, that feels better," he confided as he adjusted his posture to accommodate his wound.

Ding-dong! The musical sound of the doorbell went unnoticed as Sugarberry concentrated on her story line, but the knocking of an insistent hoof on the front door succeeded in jarring Sugarberry out of her concentration. Testily, she stood up and limped across the room and pulled open the door.

Standing on Sugarberry's front porch was an attractive and vivacious pony, holding an array of tubes and bottles. "Yes?" Sugarberry tartly inquired.

"Good morning!" My name is Willow, and I'd like to show you my line of natural healing herbs. I'll just step in for a few minutes," the pony prattled as she brushed past Sugarberry into the house.

"This isn't a good..." Sugarberry began, but Willow was already seated on the couch and arranging her product display on the coffee table.

"I represent the Healing Helpers line of all natural formulas for better health. I carry all of the latest supplements for..."

Tiring of this tirade, Sugarberry interrupted tersely, "I need something that will help me get my work done."

"Oh, I have just the thing for you!" The fluent salespony didn't miss a beat. She held up one of the plastic bottles from the table. "Ginseng is what you need! It's a safe way to support your endurance. And remember, it's all natural and brought to you from Healing Helpers. Fully guaranteed and..."

"The cost?" asked Sugarberry curtly.

Flashing a saccharine smile, Willow continued, "...our products are of the highest quality and meet the most stringent qualifications..."

Sugarberry mentally calculated an addition five jangles on to her estimated cost of the product.

" this bottle of fifty capsules will be twenty jangles." Willow stopped for breath and Sugarberry quickly grabbed twenty jangles off her desk.

"Of course there is an additional two jangles handing charge and one jangle tax making your total bill..."

Sugarberry rolled her eyes as she retrieved three more jangles from her stash while Willow entered the figured on her calculator.

"...will come to twenty-three jangles!"

Handing Willow the jangles, Sugarberry waited impatiently for her to gather together her merchandise, and hastened to the door to see her out.

"I'm sure you'll be perfectly delighted with the performance of our product. If you are interested in any other items, give me a call at..."

Sugarberry swiftly closed the door behind the garrulous peddler, and leaned against it. Rubbing her hoof across her forehead, she muttered, "And now I have a headache." One thought brought her a moment's relief-- Willow's next customer would be Tabby, Sugarberry's next-door neighbor. "I'd like to see that confrontation!" she mused.

Sugarberry was about to return to the computer when a starving "meow" reached her ears. "Hungry, Fluff?" Sugarberry looked at the clock over her desk. "Oh, dear. It is noon already. Where did the morning go?"

Fluff rubbed his orange fur against Sugarberry's legs and purred reassuringly. "Yes, I'll take time for us to eat. But first, I need an aspirin." One hoof pushed into her throbbing head, the other into her aching hip. "Or maybe two." With a backward glance at the bottle of ginseng on the coffee table, she sighed. "And ginseng, too." She reached down and tickled Fluff under his chin. "I'll get back to work after lunch."

* * *
"Are you new around here?" questioned Hood as his companion opened a first-aid kit that she obviously had stashed in a niche in the rock wall.

"You might say that," she replied briefly.

"My name is Hood," offered the turquoise stallion. "I run the local ice-cream parlor."

His patron remained silent as she expertly cleaned Hood's wound; Hood flinched as the antiseptic seeped into the raw abrasion.

"How's that?" the mare asked as she finished applying the medicated ointment to the injury and covered it with a sterile gauze pad.

"Better. Much better," admitted Hood as he leaned back comfortably against the stonework that formed the foundation of this once elegant edifice. Disinigrating mortar skipped down the uneven surface as he shifted his position.

Watching as his silent comrade restored the first-aid kit to its cranny, Hood prompted, "You have a name?"

The simple question seemed to shake the pony from a personal reverie. She turned to face Hood and after a short pause, she came to a decision. "My name is Shasta."

"Shasta," repeated Hood. "I always wondered what my guardian angel's name was. Now I know."

"I told you I'm not an angel," she retorted. "If you must know, I'm a herbalist."

"A herb doctor? Then what are you doing in this decrepit cellar?"

Seating herself next to Hood, Shasta explained her endeavor. "I'm just using this as a shelter while I'm checking out the area for various herbs I need in my work."

Hood looked puzzled.

"You know-- ginseng, catnip, tansy-- that kind of stuff. They grow wild." Shasta paused as a tiny gray mouse darted out from under the bench and scampered into a hole in the opposite wall. "This old house was fairly comfortable until you came crashing in." She frowned slightly as she peered in the direction of the gaping hole. Dust still danced in a narrow sliver of sunbeam that cut through from above.

Hood shuddered as he remembered the feeling of helplessness as the floor had collapsed under him. His forehead wrinkled in thought as something tormented his mind. His head ached, but it was more than that. What was he missing?

"Hood?" questioned Shasta worriedly. "Is something wrong?"

Coming out of his thoughts, Hood looked Shasta directly in the eyes. "Your eyes were blue before, but in this dark corner they appear more black; like..."

Suddenly, Hood sat up straight. He remembered now what had been eluding him. Just before his fall, he'd looking into eyes black as coal-- hurtful eyes.

"That stallion! Surely you saw him?" he challenged Shasta.

Dropping her gaze for an instant, Shasta recovered quickly. "Someone in this house? There's no one around here for miles!"

"There was someone up there with me. Someone who has been harassing ponies around here for some time now."

"Surely you are mistaken," Shasta spoke soothingly. "If there was someone around, I certainly would have seen him." She placed her hoof on Hood's foreleg as if to reassure him. In that instant, Hood heard the hoofsteps coming his way.

Sugarberry nearly hit the ceiling as a hoofstep sounded from behind. "Eeek!" she screamed loudly as she turned, rising, to face the intruder; her hooves were raised and ready.

"Whoa! It's only me!" Quarterback admitted as he jumped back to avoid getting trounced. "Remember? I'm supposed to fix your printer this afternoon."

"Oh, Quarterback, you scared me nearly to death! I was so absorbed in my writing that I didn't hear you come in." Sugarberry dropped back into the chair, her heart pounding.

"Sorry about that, but you did leave your back door unlocked in case you had to go out before I came," Quarterback reminded her.

"I completely forgot," Sugarberry responded apologetically. "I was wrapped-up in my work."

"You can keep at it. I'll check-out the printhead; maybe it is just dirty." With that, Quarterback began inspecting the printer.

Sugarberry stared at the computer screen and tried to regain her thoughts. She had re-read the last line a dozen times before an idea began to emerge, when...

"I think I've found your problem, Sugarberry." Quarterback was grinning mischievously. "This was in your printer." He held up a matted wad of cat fur.

"A hair ball?" Sugarberry groaned. "That cat! He's not supposed to get on my computer desk."

"He probably sleeps here every night," teased Quarterback. "There are a lot of loose cat hairs flying around inside this thing." Quarterback proceeded to clean the printer, and closed it back up.

"Will it work now?" asked Sugarberry hopefully, as she was anxious to be left alone to finish her story.

"Good as new," promised Quarterback. "But try to keep that overgrown longhair off your printer in the future."

Sugarberry walked Quarterback to the door as he filled her in on all the latest news from the sports world. She was grateful that he didn't notice her limp, as he'd have one more reason to dislike Fluff.

"Will I see you at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe tonight?" he questioned expectantly.

"I'd love to be there," admitted Sugarberry, "but I've got a deadline to meet. I promised myself I'd get this finished today."

Quarterback looked downcast for a second, but brightened as he considered his options. "Steamer was setting-up a poker game for tonight; I'll just look in on that. Don't work too hard, Sugarberry! See ya."

Sugarberry sighed as Quarterback trotted off; she locked the door, refilled Fluff's food dish, grabbed a bunch of green grapes for herself, and returned to the computer. She popped a grape into her mouth, and hit the keys.

As Hood struggled to rise, Shasta restrained him on the bench with her forehooves pressed into his chest. "What gives?" he queried in a steady voice.

Shasta grinned briefly. "I told you I was no angel."

Turning her head to Hood's right, she casually remarked, "Did you find us some food?"

Hood followed her gaze. In the shadows stood a lightly-built stallion holding something at his side. As the mysterious figure stepped closer, the sunlight struck his face, and Hood recognized him as the rogue from earlier; the scoundrel's eyes flashed evilly as in their first encounter.

"Friend of yours?" he asked Shasta wonderingly.

"You could say that," she responded to Hood. To the new arrival, she joked, "Look who dropped in, brother dear."

Yes, we've met, but only for a moment. Sorry I didn't catch your name," said the stallion.

"They call me Hood."

The stallion remained silent; Shasta removed her hooves from Hood and confided to her brother, "I've already told him my name; you might as well do the same."

Looking furtively around him as if expecting an eavesdropper to be standing by, the vagabond finally revealed his identity. "The name's Bilberry."

The name drew a blank with Hood although he got the impression that Bilberry expected him to recognize it. Hood studied the two ponies who stood over him. The two were of equal height, but whereas Shasta's yellow body radiated a semblance of light, Bilberry's forest green body eminated an aura of gloom. Bilberry's purple mane only accented the overall impression of danger. It was in the siblings' eyes that Hood could detect their relationship; both sets of glistening orbs were unfathomable, like bottomless wells of obscurity.

Shasta broke the silence. "You haven't shown me what you found to eat, Bil-Boy." She teasingly ruffled his mane, and Hood mentally noted that Shasta was obviously the older of the two, and she still exerted a big sister's influence on her brother.

Bilberry handed the woven basket that he'd held at his side over to Shasta. She squealed in delight at the offering: sweet, succulent grapes; red ripe apples; and lettuce leaves. "Not bad fare for living off the land. And Hood, to show that we mean no hard feelings, why don't you join us for lunch?"

"Do I have a choice?"


Bilberry pulled-up two dilapidated stools and Shasta set the basket on an upturned bucket between them. "Isn't this a cozy setting?" she remarked smartly.

Bilberry ignored her, but Hood played along. Maybe he could learn something of value while he had the chance. "So Bilberry, are you in the herb business with your sister?" He prodded.

Bilberry glared at his sister. "What have you been telling him?"

"Only the truth," Shasta pouted. Turning to Hood, she explained. "Bilberry and I were born in this house, and spent our childhood here."

Hood nibbled on some grapes as he pondered this information. "I only moved here a year ago, so that was before my time. Why did you leave?"

"Our dad got a job in Shore Town, so we moved. Bilberry and I attended school there, but we always dreamed of coming back here and..."

"That's enough!" barked Bilberry. "Let's get this intruder out of here." He jumped to his hooves.

Shasta opened her mouth to complain, but thought better of it. She stood up and motioned Hood to do the same. "Follow Bilberry," she ordered.

"After you." He bowed slightly.

"I think not," Shasta responded, but a hint of a smile flashed across her face. She prodded him into following her brother to the far corner of the basement where a rickety stairway rose upward. The three picked their way cautiously up the shaky treads.

The steps took them directly outside, and Hood was surprised to see the sun sinking low in the sky. "Time flies when you're having fun," he quipped, reassured by the sound of his own voice.

Shasta chuckled but made no comment.

Bilberry led on until they came to an abandoned storage shed; it was newer than the house, and although the paint was pealing and the roof sagged slightly, the door looked solid. Bilberry opened the door and Shasta shoved Hood from behind so that before he knew it, he was inside the shed and the door closed behind him. He vaguely heard Shasta's voice say, "Not quite an angel, Hood." And then he heard the click of a key in the lock.

"Click." It was a barely perceptible sound but it cut through Sugarberry's subconscious like a thunder-blast. Her eyes widened as she stared at the door; her heartbeat felt like a hammer in her chest. The door slowly began to open.

"Hi, ho, Sugarberry!" called Chocolate Chip as she let herself into the house. Chocolate Chip was Sugarberry's boarder while she attended Pony Pride University. Following closely behind was Tabby, Sugarberry's unicorn friend from next door.

"Hey, Sug! Saturday night! Time to get together with the gang!" Tabby called out merrily.

Sugarberry's heart continued to thump as she grimaced at her cheerful friends. "You two were practically the death of me," she chided.

"Who? Us?" asked Chocolate Chip. "How can you say that when we came to rescue you from carpal tunnel syndrome?"

"Yeah, Sugarberry. It's time to get away from that computer," added Tabby.

Sugarberry shook her head. "I've got to finish this!"

Chocolate Chip and Tabby came up to the desk. Tabby saved and closed-down the unit in exactly one and two tenths seconds while Chocolate Chip pulled Sugarberry out of her chair.

"All work and no play makes Sugarberry a dull pony," joked Chocolate Chip playfully.

Sugarberry looked back at the now blank screen as the two tugged her toward the door. "I've got to rescue Hood," she pleaded with them.

"Sugarberry," Tabby said in exasperation, "it's a perfect spring day out. There's no need for a hood."

As the door closed behind her and the fresh spring breeze hit her face, Sugarberry realized she was starving. "Could we go to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe?" she queried.

"Where else is there?" Chocolate Chip shot back, and they left Hood to his problems as they went off to enjoy Dream Valley's premier hang-out. Hood would have to wait for another day.


Brightblade Warpony
An Epic

Recorded by Clipper as dictated by the bard Ramon

Chapter 15

Brightblade Warpony, flame-maned Epona, and Breeks the raven delved deeper into the dark underworld. Through a narrow, snaking tunnel the trio walked single file. Though they had left it far behind, they could still hear the spirit winds from the bridge of ice and occasionally feel it's chill. As they walked, Brightblade continued the tale of his homeward journey after recovering the Warrior's Horn from the Temple of Light.

The odd wolf was the last encounter we had in the Pack Lands. Soon after, the land became green again and we knew we were nearing the village of the rats who had rescued us from the Valley of Thorns and given us aid on our quest. Ramon and I looked forward to the peace of the village and reunion with friends there. Breeks, who had joined us after we left the village, knew of it but had never visited. "Rats and ravens tend not to get along," he explained. "If I had flown into their village, they would assume I meant to make a meal of them. I saw no reason to cause such an incident."

The rats greeted us cheerfully, and they did not seem to fear Breeks in the least, though that could simply be due to the fact that he arrived in the company of friends. At the village, we decided to rest for a while before setting off through the Valley of Thorns.

Breeks found that he enjoyed the rats' company immensely, as they did his,for they all loved heroic stories. Every evening when the villagers gathered to listen to their bards telling stories, Breeks would join them and have contests with the bards over the best telling of certain tales, which he won as often as he lost.

Ramon spent most of his time with the chief's daughter, Cassandra. They seemed inseparable, and every night they would gather with the others for stories. One night, Ramon was heckling Breeks as he told a tragic story of some ancient war and the raven challenged Ramon to tell a better tale. After his telling of our adventures, all present, including Breeks, admitted that Ramon was the greatest bard in the land.

Much of my time in the village was spent in conversation with the chief, who was a great bard in his own right. I learned much of the history of the Warrior's Horn, as well as all the strange lands through which we had traveled. We also discussed the problem of crossing the Valley of Thorns. The creatures I no longer feared-- I had the Horn to protect me-- but the bridge across the river chasm had fallen in. The rats had investigated the ruins, but had been unable to affect repairs. Eventually they had abandoned the site in hopes that the creatures of the valley, who had been known to use the bridge, might repair it. Otherwise, my only hope of crossing the valley lay in the narrow ledges on the walls of the chasm that might lead to the river at the bottom where I could wade across and ascend similar ledges on the far side.

* * *
Finally the day came when we had decided to set out once more. The rats had prepared an assembly to send us on our way. As we walked to the assembly area, next to the village pond, Ramon said to me, "Brightblade, you're a good friend, and this quest has been a real adventure, but... well... since you've got the horn now... you shouldn't need my help getting back through the valley... I was thinking of maybe staying here in the village... if you think you can do without me."

I was struck dumb for a moment. "But what about your home on the other side of the valley?" I asked, unable to think of anything better to say.

"There's nothing there that can't be replaced, and though it was peaceful and private, it was lonely. Here I'll have companionship, and if I ever need privacy, there's plenty of space outside the village. I think I could be really happy here."

"Well, if you're sure you want to stay, who am I to stand in your way. I wish you well."

"As do I, my friend."

* * *
At the assembly, the chief of the rats gave a grandiose speech praising the three heros and wishing us well on the completion of our quest. After the speech, and much cheering from the assembly, Ramon announced his intent to stay, and again there was much rejoicing. After the assembly, Ramon, Cassandra and an honor guard of rats escorted Breeks and I to the gate in the valley wall. There we made our goodbyes.

"Fare well, brave warriors," said Cassandra. "May the light guide you on your quest."

Ramon was next to speak, "Well my friend, this is goodbye, for now anyway. Maybe I'll visit you in Ponyland some day."

"I'd like that," I replied. "And maybe I'll return here some day. Until then."

"Khaaar!" kawed Breeks. "Farewell great bard Ramon, may your tales never lose their greatness!"

"Aye, and may your talons never lose their points!" the rat replied.

Brightblade ended his telling for the moment as the three reached the end of the narrow passage. The tunnel suddenly opened out into a vast cavern. Along one wall, a great castle-like fortress was carved out of the living stone of the cavern opposite a vast opening.

There were numerous windows over the castle walls, all of them dark; not a single light shone, nor was there any other sign of life. The entrance to the castle was blocked by a massive iron gate.

"How are we going to get through there?" asked Brightblade.

"Not through the front door," Epona said calmly. "There is a secret entrance; the way will be difficult but it is less likely to be guarded."


The Merry Treat and Tabby Gossip Hour!
by Merry Treat and Tabby

Tabby: *hums* MT, what has been going on in Ponyland?

Merry Treat: Uhhhh... there was the baby ponies' Easter egg hunt at the beginning of April. I was there for it, once in my life.

Tabby: *mutters* In March it was a Leprechaun hunt... now it's an Easter egg hunt. Haven't those baby ponies anything better to do with their lives than hunt for things?

Merry Treat: Tee hee! Well, Baby Cuddles found the most eggs, and won a prize.

Tabby: What was the prize? Who supplied it? I don't keep up on the stuff the babies do, you know. *mutters again about baby ponies*

Merry Treat: I supplied it; she got a Serena My Little Person. One of the ones she needed.

Tabby: Oooh! And Serena's one of the hard-to-find people!

Merry Treat: ~picks up her Furby and begins to play with it~

Tabby: MT! MT! We get to have Sugarberry as our guest this time!!

Merry Treat: Yup!

Tabby: Originally Berry Bright was going to be on, but she couldn't make it, unfortunately. *runs down the stairs, screaming* SUGARBERRY! SUGARBERRY! IT'S TIME TO GOSSIP! SUGARBERRY!!!

Sugarberry: *plops down into a chair* Well, it's nice to be back, Tabby! How are you, Merry Treat?

Merry Treat: ~giggles~ I'm fine! Hey, where were you?

Merry Treat's Furby: Hey! No joe wha!

Sugarberry: *cooes* Aren't Furbys adorable? Actually, I was downstairs having an interesting conversation with Tiffany and Tamara.

Merry Treat: Well, at least you're here, anyway. Cool!

Tabby: *rubs front hooves together* Interesting conversations! Ooh! Ooh! I love interesting conversations!

Merry Treat: I still haven't figured out how Tabby and Tamara can look exactly the same.... ~says to no one in particular~

Merry Treat's Furby: ~yawns and rocks~

Sugarberry: It seems that both Toby and Tex have a few things to learn about buying jewelry for the discriminating pony.

Baby Fox: ~wanders by, crunching on dry ramen noodles~

Merry Treat: Tee hee! Go figure about those two!

Tabby: Tamara and Tiffany are still both whining about getting cheap jewelry from those two, huh?

Merry Treat: Yeah, those two have Toby and Tex wrapped around their hooves! But then, so do I with Salty... ~says dreamily~

Sugarberry: It appears that Tex presented Tamara with a special gift during their dinner date last evening.

Merry Treat: Hm? ~says distantly~

Tabby: And it was?!?!?!

Sugarberry: Well, Tamara expected something impressive, like a diamond bracelet. But it turned out to be a gaudy piece of costume jewelry from Pony-Mart.

Merry Treat: A diamond ring... ~not really listening to begin with~

Tabby: *yawns* Who cares about getting expensive jewelry? *shrieks* MT, WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?!?!?! SNAP OUT OF IT!!

Baby Fox: ~shrieks~ Hey-hey-hey!! I got a three hundred and fifty jangle fourteen karat gold ring from my boyfriend!

Merry Treat: Huh!? ~snaps out of it~ What?!

Sugarberry: *continues* ...and then Tiffany is heart-broken that Toby remembered their two-month anniversary of their first date--

Baby Fox: And it's white gold!!!! ~shrieks again~

Tabby: She's upset that he remembered?!?!

Sugarberry: You didn't let me finish what I was saying, Tabby... she's upset he remembered it by giving her a cheap cubic zirconia ring.

Merry Treat: ~shrugs~ Well, I'm not surprised she's mad. You two know Tiffany; she's almost never satisfied with anything.

Tabby: And I suppose Tiffany and Tamara are upset that they never get taken out to that really-fancy-place-no-one-can-ever-remember-the-name-of, huh? *looks smug* Of course, Thomas takes me there quite frequently.

Merry Treat: Oh! Salty took me there! I love it!

Tabby: Hey, Sugarberry! What does Quarterback get you?

Sugarberry: I'd rather not say...

Merry Treat: I think you and Thomas would make a great pair, Tabby!

Tabby: *is intent on hearing what Sugarberry is going to say* You must tell us, Sug!

Merry Treat: Oh! Oh! Beautiful flower bouquets?

Sugarberry: Well, if you insist... he brings me... empty... cardboard... boxes.

Merry Treat: ~claps her front hooves together~

Sugarberry: *weakly* Sometimes they have packing peanuts in them.

Tabby: *doubles over laughing* Tee hee!!! Cardboard boxes!!! Tee hee!!!!

Merry Treat: Empty... ~stares at Sugarberry sympathetically~ Oh, Sugar... ~lays a hoof on Sugarberry's shoulder~

Sugarberry: He knows Fluff, my cat, likes boxes... Barnacle sent me a box once, too.

Merry Treat: The boxes are for Fluff? My cat Whimsey loves boxes, too... so do Twinkle and Smokey and Winston.

Sugarberry: The box from Barnacle was a little hoof-carved wooden box with a wooden drawer.

Merry Treat: Aw! How cute!

Sugarberry: *rambles on* ...and when I opened the drawer, a wooden snake popped out and struck me with his metal tongue. *sighs*

Tabby: I think I remember that incident... it was last Christmas. You knocked over a stool when you jumped, I believe.

Sugarberry: Yes, that's my recollection, too.

Merry Treat: ~laughs~ I have strange friends!

Tabby: *swings head around to MT* And what does Salty get you, MT?

Merry Treat: Huh? Uhh... well... uhhh... ~blushes and sweatdrop~ ...roses.

Tabby: Flowers and jewelry! *mutters* I don't see why all the mares around here are so fascinated by flowers and jewelry...

Merry Treat: Beautiful red roses... ~sighs dreamily~

Tabby: *straightens* Of course, Thomas does get me the occasional necklace or bracelet from Sparkler's expensive jewelry store.

Baby Fox: Hey! I get stuffed toys, and those are wa-a-ay cooler than either roses or jewelry!

Sugarberry: *sighs again* You three are so lucky...

Merry Treat: Ah! I think Thomas has a thing for you Tabby! ~nudges her playfully~

Tabby: *sticks nose in air* What makes you think that, MT?

Merry Treat: oh, only that he takes you out, is very nice to you, and you blush every time you see him!

Tabby: Hmph. *refuses further comment*

Merry Treat: ~snickers at Tabby~

Baby Fox: Hey, don't moan ‘bout it, Sugarberry; the first ring my boyfriend got me cost fifty cents out of a grocery store machine.

Sugarberry: Even a cheap ring would be better than empty boxes. *sniffles*

Merry Treat: Oh, Sugarberry... ~gives Sugarberry a hug~

Sugarberry: I'll be okay... just give me a second.

Tabby: Hey, Sug! You can have some of the jewelry I get, if you like.

Sugarberry: No, it wouldn't be the same...

Merry Treat: So, uhhhh... ~racks her brain for something else to talk about~

Tabby: Hey, did you two know that the noises baby ponies make sound exactly like what Pikachu says?

Sugarberry: Pikachu? That Pokey-man mouse?

Merry Treat: Oh! Yeah! Pokèmon! You're saying it wrong!

Tabby: Right. When I was in church last Sunday, a baby pony a few pews ahead of me finished drinking from his bottle, and said something that sounded so much like "Pika!"

Sugarberry: *looks apologetic* I'll never learn to pronounce that right.

Tabby: *goes on* ...and then another baby ponies responded with a noise that sounded suspiciously like "Chu!" Isn't that odd?!?!?!

Merry Treat: ~giggles~ The other day, the baby pony in the next yard next to mine said something that sounded exactly like "Pikachu."

Tabby: *shudders* This is weird.

Merry Treat: Yeah....

Sugarberry: Are you sure you two aren't just letting your imaginations run away with you?

Tabby: Sug, I don't have any imagination to run away.

Merry Treat: Oh, yeah right! You are very imaginative, Tabby!

Tabby: Hmmm? Me? Imaginative?

Merry Treat: Prepare for trouble....

Tabby: And make it double...

Merry Treat: To protect the world from devastation...

Tabby: To unite all peoples within our nation...

Merry Treat: To denounce the evils of truth and love...

Sugarberry: *silently slips out of the room*

Tabby: To extend our reach to the stars above...

Merry Treat: Jessie! ~strikes a dramatic pose~

Tabby: James! *starts to pose dramatically, but then pauses* Wait a sec! I'm not James! I'm Tabby!

Merry Treat: You're breaking out of character! ~hisses~

Tabby: Sorry. *scowls, and starts over* James! *strikes a dramatic pose*

Merry Treat: Team Rocket, blast off at the speed of light!

Tabby: Surrender now, or prepare to fight!

Tarquin: *jumps in right then* Meowth! That's right!

Merry Treat: ~laughs hard~

Tabby: Say, where're Tess and Spearow, MT?

~just then, those two Pokèmon hop up on the table*

Tarquin: Tess, did you get the flower bouquet from me?

Tess: Yes, I love it!

Tabby: *giggles*

Merry Treat: ~grins, and whispers to Tabby~ Should we leave them alone for a while?

Tabby: Let's move downstairs!

Merry Treat: Okay!

Tabby: ...I hope Tiffany and Tamara have gone out by now...

Merry Treat: Oh! They can be our guests!

Tabby: *walks down to the living room* Ah-hah, they are still here. *whispers to Merry Treat* And still discussing jewelry, by the sounds of it.

Merry Treat: Cool! ~skips over to Tamara and Tiffany~

Merry Treat: Hey, guys! You are now our guests!

Tabby: *trots into the room* HEY, TAMARA AND TIFFANY!! *waves frantically*

Tiffany: *looks indignant* Tabby, why must you make such noise?

Baby Fox: ~hovers in a far corner Buddha-style, with a Cheshire-cat grin on her face~

Tamara: Guests? Guests?

Merry Treat: ~rolls eyes~ My sister is a very weird pony... ~points to corner~

Tabby: *nods head* Yes, Baby Fox is quite weird indeed. *looks solemn*

Baby Fox: *is chanting* Aaaaa-Aaaa-Aaaallll-Lllllllllllllllll-rrrrighty theeeeeeeennn.

Merry Treat: ~sweatdrop~ Err... anyway...

Tiffany: Guests on your gossip hour? Oh!! Does my hair look okay?

Tabby: Tiff, this isn't being videotaped.

Merry Treat: Your hair looks fine, Tiff.

Tamara: It's not videotaped? *looks crestfallen*

Merry Treat: Don't worry! ~holds out a tape recorder~

Tamara: *claps hooves together* Wonderful!

Merry Treat: ~flops down on the couch~ So, what's up, Doc? ~sounds like Bugs Bunny~

Tiffany: We would like to gossip about why Toby and Tex won't buy us decent jewelry.

Tabby: Too late, Tiff. We already talked that over with Sugarberry.

Merry Treat: Ohhh... my boyfriend never bothers with jewelry... ~sighs dreamily~ ...just roses... wonderful red roses... ~starry-eyed look, and appears to have gone to another planet~

Tabby: *snickers*

Merry Treat: ~sighs dreamily~

Tamara: *sniffles* I don't have any impressive gifts to daydream about.

Merry Treat: Hm? ~has stopped listening~

Tamara: All I have is that ugly cheap necklace. *sighs*

Merry Treat: ~blinks back into reality~ Oh, Tamara! I'm sorry! ~gives her a hug~

Tiffany: And then my fake diamond ring. *sobs*

*Tamara and Tiffany sit there, wailing*

Baby Fox: ~suddenly starts gibbering in the corner~ Gibt mir meine underwesse!!! Mein vater ist mein bruder nicht! Meine schwester ist Merry Treat! Quak!

Merry Treat: Uhhh... it's bad when she starts babbling in Germlish... ~sweatdrops~

Tabby: What should we do? Are we going to fade into oblivion? *eyes open wide with fright*

Merry Treat: She's saying something about giving you her underwear, that her father is not her brother, and that I'm her sister. I'd suggest run. Away. Fast. ~streaks upstairs~

Tabby: Run for your lives!! Sound the alarm!!! *runs around in circles, too confused to think straight* Help!! Help!!! I'm fading!!!

Baby Fox: ~shouts after them~ Quak!!!! Gibt mir meine underwesse!!

*Tiffany and Tamara look at each other, but follow MT upstairs*

Tabby: *continues screaming* HELP!!!!

Merry Treat: ~grabs Tabby's hoof and pulls her upstairs with them~

Tabby: *wipes brow* Whew! That was close!

*Tiffany and Tamara are somewhat confused*

Baby Fox:: *shouts reach faintly through the floor* Hackfleisch ist sehr gut!!! Ich mag Furbys bloed!

Merry Treat: She just said that ground meat is good, and she thinks Furbies are stupid. Tabby: But Furbies are so cute!

~they can still hear Baby Fox babbling in Germlish, but only faintly~

Merry Treat: Yes, they are cute... ~hugs her Furby~

Tabby: Back to gossip. *straightens up*

Merry Treat: Yes... soooo...

Tabby: I think that I'm going to fade into oblivion within the next day. Any comments on that?

Merry Treat: ~splashes her face with ice water~

Tiffany: That's what you always say, Tabitha.

Tabby: *blinks eyes* Hmm, I'm not fading? Interesting.

Merry Treat: Ahhh... that felt gut. ~pauses~ Oh, no! Now I'm doing it!

Tabby: Ponywill overcharges on their toys, don't you think so?

Merry Treat: Yeah.

Tabby: Two jangles for an empty Polly Pocket! It's insane!

Merry Treat: What's a Polly Pocket? Isn't that one of those human things?

Tabby: A human thing, yes. Little cases with little humans inside.

Merry Treat: Strange...

Tabby: Tiny little humans that baby ponies like to lose... *mutters*

Merry Treat: Tee hee!

*Tiffany and Tamara have since gone on their way*

Merry Treat: I wonder how Tess and Tarquin are doing... ~changes subject~

Tabby: Tarkie!!! Where are you?!!

Merry Treat: Tess? Where are you honey!? ~calls frantically~

Tabby: *looks around* Ah, they left a note on the desk. *reads it aloud: "Tess and I have gone out to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe. We'll be back in half-an-hour. Tarquin."*

Merry Treat: Oh, phew!

Tabby: *taps hoof on floor*

Merry Treat: Is there anything left to babble about? Oh! Sailor Moon is so-o-o-o cool!

Tabby: I aesthetically arranged Toys 4 Ponies R Us's entire Starcastle display yesterday afternoon.

Merry Treat: Cool.

Tabby: I was waiting there with Sugarberry while she got her cart repaired... Oh! And don't forget, My Little People collectors-- the Ponyton flea markets are beginning soon!

Merry Treat: Tee hee! Fighting evil by moonlight!

Merry Treat: Winning love by daylight...

Tabby: The flea market will be going on in Ponyton every Saturday, May through October. They start early in the morning, so if you want to find the good stuff, you'll have to get up at around five-thirty.

Merry Treat: Ponyton??? What ist Ponyton?

Tabby: It's a little town about an hour and a half from Dream Valley. They're best known for their flea markets. *shrugs*

Merry Treat: Not as good as the Mile High Flea Market!

Tabby: And then there's the local Dream Valley flea markets once in awhile, but this creepy pony hangs out at those ones. *shudders* Where's the Mile High one, MT?

Merry Treat: About two hours away from here... who's the pony?

Tabby: He's this older stallion, and he buys all the My Little People he can find, and he always gets to the Dream Valley flea markets wa-a-a-ay early.

Merry Treat: What does he look like?

Tabby: He's tan, with gray hair. I don't know his name, but he hasn't ventured as far as Ponyton, thank goodness!

Merry Treat: I was just curious, so I know who to avoid.

Tabby: He gives off terribly bad vibes. *shudders again* Say, did you hear that Sugarberry got a raise for her secretarial job at the vet clinic?

Merry Treat: Gah! Not fair!

Tabby: Now she gets five hundred jangles a month, as opposed to the three hundred she got before.

Merry Treat: Two hundred more jangles!? Well, I get paid more for being the Gym Leader. One thousand two hundred a month.

Tabby: *looks cocky* And I get three thousand for being the Pokèmon nurse... oh! Hey, have you given out many badges lately?

Merry Treat: Ummmm... ~sighs~ Well... errr...

Tabby: What?!?!

Merry Treat: Well... yes. I'm sort of losing the spirit to fight. Remember when I had to rush a lot of my Pokèmon to the center?

Tabby: *nods* Yes. Will you be able to keep up the gym?!

Merry Treat: I'm not sure my Pokèmon can handle it... all this fighting is weakening them. I'm worried about my Vulpix; its aim is not as good as it was last month. ~looks sad~

Tabby: *looks shocked* That's terrible! A calamity!! Are you putting extra work into training them?!

Merry Treat: I can't risk it... they are too weak from battling.

Tabby: Have you tried catching any new ones?

Merry Treat: I caught one new one... but that was only by sheer luck. I might close the gym down for a while... until my Pokèmon have more strength.

Tabby: *thinks* I suppose the Pokèmon potions I've been giving you haven't worked at all, huh?

Merry Treat: They worked just fine... but there was only enough for one Pokèmon.

Tabby: Hmm, then I'll have to get you some more.

Merry Treat: Yeah...

Spearow: ~swoops down and lands on Merry Treat's shoulder~

Tabby: Hey, Spearie!

Merry Treat: Hey, Spearow! ~brightens, and hugs it~

Tabby: Were you with Tess and Tarquin?

Spearow: ~nods~ Spear, row!

Tabby: Are they on their way back?

Spearow: ~Spearow thinks for a moment~ Spear.

Merry Treat: He said "No."

Tabby: Am I going insane?

Spearow: ~thinks for another minute~ Spearow; spear... row

Merry Treat: Uhhh... he said, "Yes, you're very insane."

Tabby: All right-- thank you, Spearow! *pats him on the head*

Merry Treat: Hmmmm... we could go over to my house and watch My Little People cartoons...

Tabby: *nods head vigorously* Yes! I love watching those!

Merry Treat: We should wait for Tess and Tarkie; then we can go. Let's draw this gossip hour to a close. Ta-tah, friends! ~waves~

Tabby: Remember, don't think of it as failure; think of it as not succeeding! *says this before dashing out the door*

Merry Treat: Hey, wait for me! ~dashes after Tabby~ Uh... byeeee!!!!


All submissions are expected to stay true to the sweet, innocent nature of the MLPs. This means nothing immoral and nothing violent. I shall reject any submissions I do not think meet these requirements.


Our next issue will be sent June 1st.


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